Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Injustice Roster Speculation

Let's talk roster line-ups.  Usually I don't do this but its a Wednesday and I'm trying to find a way to delay doing the three Anime Weekly columns I'm behind on, plus the latest Injustice trailer has me hyped.   DC are my favorite fictional characters after all, and the RPG-esque loot system combined with NetherRealm's penchant for offering decent-sized story modes in their games has placed Injustice pretty high on my list of games for 2017.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Bottom of the Pile: August 3rd, 2016

Crazy behind so I'm gonna shotgun a bunch of stuff.  Articles might be a tad short, but let's go.

Batman
For a moment, Tom King almost tricked me into thinking Bats was going to have a pair of super-powered bad-asses helping him out with crime and wasn't going to go with the very obvious "they turn evil" plot.  And to be fair, there's still time for things to turn around and surprise me...but they probably won't.

In all fairness though, I didn't see the plot twist of them actually being decent people only later being brain-washed by Psycho-Pirate.  Speaking of, when you start seeing that guy regularly in the DC Universe, it means reality has recently been altered/is subject to be "de"-altered.   No, I'm totally not bouncing in my seat just thinking about it, why do you ask?

Green Arrow

Kept this because it's probably the coolest two page spread I read all week.  Too bad Canary botches it up by getting captured.  Time-honored tradition or not, I can't help thinking the hero should never survive that.  
Green Lanterns
There's a really important heart-to-heart Lanterns Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz have with one another that's actually fairly well-done and goes a long way towards helping the two of them start getting along together much better than they have, but the thing I want to focus on is this previously thought impossible thing:

An actually likable Guardian of the Universe.  Usually the best they manage is Ganthet, who started making so much sense they actually banished the poor guy and he had to start his own Corps.  Of course, this guy was banished too but since no one even knows where the other Guardians ARE, he might be the only one left...something I'm actually more than okay with.  It's past time for the Guardians to start making themselves useful to their Corps rather than being a burden.

Also, Rebirth Watch: Yet another cosmically-powered being has noticed "someone has messed with time and space".  Coincidence?   Well, hopefully not.

Invincible Iron Man
Okay, so all complaints about how goofy it is to have Riri take Iron Man's identity when she should totally have her own aside?   It's already too late, 'cause I'm already in love and want her to show up in her own bad-ass armor and wreck everybody.   

And that's before Tony teaches her the tricks of how to work a suit of armor.   So...yeah.  I'm all for her new comic.  (But fuck Doctor Doom.  I don't know who told Marvel fans of Tony Stark would rather read a book about Victor Von Doom, but I'm not contributing to that foolishness.)

Nightwing

Y'know, I never thought Batman actually dropped criminals from buildings.  Mattress or not, I'm absolutely certain that dude will never walk right again.


 Squadron Supreme

It's insane how they keep repeating things like "time is broken" whilst being completely, utterly aware of things like this, and yet despite just having the biggest scale event possible they still continue to just hop about through time like it just doesn't matter.

Transformers
If you guessed this encounter would end with Optimus outright beheading Galvatron and leaving said head on the White House front lawn while uttering the phrase "freedom is the right of all sentient beings", well...you either wrote this or you're a fucking psychic, lol. 

But this issue definitely sets up for the upcoming event Revolution and Optimus Prime's solo comic.  

 


Uncanny X-Men
*sighs*  The dangers of boomerang plot.  No matter how many times writers try to get rid of it with finality, it always seems to come back.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Anime Weeklies: Summer Week Four

If Batman were a psychotic murderer...
91 Days 3: It says a lot that when I started looking at the episodes for the column this week this was the first series I came to; that I wasn't disappointed with my choice says even more. This third episode plays directly off of Bruno’s actions in the second. The killing of Serpente and Vanno have a ripple effect that’s probably going to lead to a war not unlike what the series' opening implies, and watching the dominoes fall is fascinating.

This third episode focuses on the missing body of Serpente--which ended up in the hands of a corrupt Federal agent Scuso, who immediately takes it to the head of the Vanettis and offers them a chance to pay for it disappearing so they aren’t tossed into war with the Orcos and/or risk pissing off the Galassias. Meanwhile, Bruno manages to talk his way out of his own death when Nero Vanetti orders him to find Serpente’s body, as proof that he isn’t secretly helping the Orco family. Speaking of, we’re finally introduced to Don Orco, head of the Orcos.

91 Days is utterly unafraid to introduce utterly unsympathetic characters--Don Orco is a bastard who literally has someone killed because his lasagna isn’t completely perfect. His head enforcer Fango is so deep into BDSM last episode he was having a woman beat him bloody while this episode he nearly burns a guy’s eye out and was clearly getting off on it. Even the series’ “main” character Bruno Avillio is completely heartless. This isn’t the story of the rise of a Batman-esque hero: he’s a guy who has a singular main goal: kill the people who took his family from him, and he doesn’t seem to have any qualms about how it happens or who he has to go through to get it done. It’s only the third episode, he’s just barely dodged being killed by the Vanettis, and yet when Nero has to leave town as a result of what’s happened with Serpente, Bruno immediately decides to go with him to have a shot at ending Nero as well. He doesn’t even seem to have any regrets as he watches Nero at Vanno’s funeral, clearly torn apart over the loss of his best friend. Look at the image above--that’s the face of a remorseless monster.

Having said that, it’s my hope that the series only has Bruno kill three people: Vanno, Nero, and the head of the Vanetti family. And even though I give it two episodes before they ruin that, that’s the sort of perfect poetry that would give this series a perfect ten in my eyes.

In any case, my thoughts in the first episode remain semi-accurate--as new factions arrive and they take steps to introduce more visual flair to make each character stand out, I can’t help thinking a bit of extra variety to the colors to make things more “anime-esque” would’ve done wonders (especially in helping some viewers tell characters apart), but then that might take away from the stark realism of this show. I haven’t been this into a “non-anime” anime since Shingeki no Bahamut.

...I feel as if this wouldn't be information you'd share with the troops.
Alderamin of the Sky 3: Okay, now we’re finally settling into something I can get with. This week’s episode sees the main cast, princess included (...for some reason…), inducted into a military academy. The early half of it is pretty rote stuff, with the most stand-out bit being Ikuta impressing everyone with his vast knowledge of strategy and tactics while also literally sleeping his way through most classes. Well, that and the idea that even in this new environment where one would expect these kids to be marvelled at for their achievements, all of them are still encountering problems with their fellow students.

Granted, most of their problems are because of their earlier accomplishments with the notable exception of our main character, once again: when they’re all given platoons to lead, he discovers his second-in-command is the daughter of a woman who’s marriage he may or may not have “ruined”. In addition to easily being the funniest scene in the episode, I’m kind of glad Ikuta’s actually living up to his role as a “ladies’ man”. All too frequently characters will claim the job only to end up being rebuffed by every woman they approach, which usually makes me question not only the author for giving them that title but find the character to be more of a joke.

In any case, it’s unfortunate that just as the episode’s getting good it comes to a stop: the entire episode, Ikuta and the others have been dealing with a group of upperclassmen bullying them. There’s even a point where the confrontation gets physical and in the first time across three episodes Yatori makes herself useful for more than beating up the main character for stating truthfacts by taking on all the bullies solo. But then the team get their first big assignment as members of the prestigious officer’s school: a mock battle pitting them versus their upperclassmen. It’s the kind of thing where you expect to finally get a real sense of Ikuta’s battle genius, but the episode ends before we can get to it. But it does leave me excited for the next episode, and so far from this show that’s all I can ask for.

If you guessed that these words were spoken by someone living in utter, decadent luxury...you were correct!
The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Fuujin Ranbu 4: This week's episode of Legend of Arslan has the feel of filler, but in reality probably seeded at least one important plot point and brought back into discussion another major theme of season one, as the heroes visited the sea port of Gilan with the intent of filling their coffers in the hopes of getting one step closer to recruiting the remaining soldiers they need to gain the 50,000 strong army Arslan's father requested.

Before they can even make it to Gilan, the group is attacked in the middle of the desert by a group of thieves with some rather familiar markings on their faces.  When it's revealed that they're members of the Zot Clan that Alfreed was once apart of, things go from tense to friendly, with the bandits even promising their help to Alfreed and Arslan if they ever need it.  This will doubtlessly become important later, as things are pointing towards Arslan not being king over just Pars, but being a leader who can unite multiple groups of people under one banner.   At the same time, mention is made of Alfreed's brother, the rightful leader of the Zot Clan...who's now indebted to Hermes.   Uh-oh.

In the meantime, while the trip to Gilan starts out cutely enough (the team gets to go shopping!), things turn far more serious when the group strategist Narsus meets up with his old friend Shagad, a fellow scholar now turned merchant.  One of the major discussion points for Arslan season one was seeing the prince get to a point where he realized that slavery was wrong, and abolishing slavery throughout the lands of Pars.  It took some careful speeches made by Narsus (plus the whole "the slaves took the crown city from you" thing), but ultimately he realized that for Pars to continue as a nation they had to accept that all men were born free, and should remain that way.

What's fascinating here is that in Gilan, a city that is overflowing with wealth, the point is made that society cannot be as prosperous without slaves as it is with them.  It feels like a discussion that's largely history-based and not terribly relevant to today, but in reality Arslan was probably the most relevant episode I watched this week.   "Slavery" in the strictest sense may no longer exist, but Gilan was an example of a society that allowed the few to profit off the backs (literally, in this case) of the many, and the many are often far less fortunate.   Narsus' friend swore that Gilan was only as successful as it was due to slavery, but was ignoring how he basically was living in the lap of the most excessive luxury.  It's the ninety-nine versus the one percent: sure the rich could totally be a little less rich so the poor could be less poor, but then how could they enjoy the proper level of decadence they're shooting for?

Anyway.  That was probably totally unintentional, especially since Arslan's source material is decades old, but that bit of relevance was still welcome.

Well, no wonder you can't pull the sword out. You can't even tell this girl to wake up, 'cause she's sleeping in front of everyone.
Tales of Zestiria 3:  Sorey and Mikleo finally reach the city of Ladylake, home of Princess Alisha and capital of the Hyland Kingdom only to find that things are even worse than Alisha said they were.  The land is drenched in malevolent energy, but not only that--Alisha's desire for peace and holding back bloodthirsty generals has left her targeted for assassination!

The bulk of the story for this episode is focused on the Sacred Sword Festival, which leaves most of the inhabitants of Ladylake disgruntled after no one is able to pull the sword and Alisha announces that she's refusing to declare war on any of their neighboring nations.  The resulting negative sentiments gathered together in such a small area raises a powerful monster, and...that's about where I end up having a problem with this ep.

See, much like the seraphs, no one can actually SEE the monsters in question.  So it just looks like the church is randomly falling apart and no one's smart enough to escape.  It's undoubtedly a question of pacing, as I should be so focused on Sorey and his attempt to finally pull the sword out and attain the approval of the Lailah the Lady of the Lake, but they spend so much time showing the "idiot villagers".   Fortunately, the result of this is that Sorey's initial merging with Lailah isn't dragged out and his first fight as the Shepherd is finished strongly enough that he looked impressive.    Making sure the main character looks more powerful after a power-up/resolve-strengthening flashback/whatever is a small thing, but it's the little things that count.

Having said that, I'm kind of back to my initial problem with this series: it's taken us four episodes just to properly get out the gate.  The whole bit with Sorey becoming a Shepherd and learning to fuse with Seraphs is basically the start of the journey, which leaves us only nine for the rest of the story.  Here's hoping for a second cour.  


Active Raid 3:  Dueling Sentai teams, go!   ...At least, that was the plot I expected when they reintroduced series overachiever Kazari Asami and her frequently-hinted Unit 9, protectors of West Japan.  She gives an entire speech about how great they are, how they're all "elites" and that they're actually better than Unit 8, so I was expecting something along the lines of Power Rangers' SPD's "A-Team" or Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue's Cyborg Rangers--where the show tells a story about how being "elite" doesn't necessarily mean being the best.

The show actually takes a hard right on that trope: Unit 9 is ironically worse at things than Unit 8, mostly because Kazari is a horribly ineffective leader. After a training session ends in disaster, she outright says that the team doesn't need to build up teamwork but should instead merely focus on giving her support.  This becomes an issue when later in the episode Unit 9 is called into East Japan in order to help the flu-stricken Unit 8 with a case.  Kazari's team suffers a hilarious string of failures that we would've never seen from Unit 8, as they try to stop a group of Willwear-using otaku that have holed themselves up in a building because of complex seiyuu politics.  (Which end up being a misunderstanding in the first place.)  Have I said how much I love this show?    It manages to be so unquestionably anime without employing most of what drives me nuts about anime.

The episode ends with Kazari's Unit 9 being brought in on a secret case, which is actually kinda concerning.  We're three episodes into what's only a twelve episode show, and whatever the criminal element is this time they haven't made any solid moves yet.  I'll reserve judgment for another couple weeks but by episode five if nothing significant has happened we may be in for a bit of a rushed ending.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Bottom of the Pile: July 27th, 2016

New installment.  Next update on Thursday.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Anime Weeklies: Week Three Summer 2017

Week four coming up either this weekend or Monday.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

NX Thoughts

It’s mid-morning and the first thing I woke up to was this Nintendo NX “leak” that I wanted to get into for just a bit.  Now, this is all presuming the information is true, which I guess should be re-capped first:

The Nintendo NX is supposedly going to be a hybrid portable system that can be taken with you anywhere yet can be plugged into a television and used as a more traditional console system.  There’s some mention of how the controller works as a thing that’s detachable from the system but honestly I can’t envision it in my head so I sure as hell can’t explain it, which is why I linked to the original Eurogamer article in case you wanted the more in-depth information.  In any case, the rumor is that it’ll either be using the Tegra X1 chip (which will make it a sight more powerful than the Wii U but not a huge leap) or that they’re waiting on a version of the X2 which would potentially put it on par with the current XB1 model.   It’ll revert back to using cartridges because lol Nintendo, and the whole thing is set to be properly revealed in September.  That part tracks, since it’ll be the end of summer, TGS will be approaching and Nintendo never attends but this will also get them some of that same press since gamers will be focused on that event once again.

In my eyes, Nintendo is always the most puzzling of the three console developers.  Sony and Microsoft could make a billion dollars a month selling chocolate chip cookies, with potential growth for another two billion and Nintendo will still tell us it makes sense that they’re trying to sell us gingersnaps.   

What my incredibly awkward analogy is trying to say: Nintendo will always try to do something different, no matter how much money there is in following the crowd.  They’ve gained quite the rabid fanbase for this behavior, even if said fanbase seems to dwindle with each console.  (Fun fact: Did you know that, aside from the Wii, every Nintendo home console has sold ~10 million less than its predecessor?)   So while there’s already a significant number of people lauding Nintendo for this NX leak, that isn’t necessarily going to translate into the numbers Nintendo needs to do if they want to compete with Sony/Microsoft.   And whether Nintendo likes it or not, those are their competitors--claiming they’re competing with mobile gaming is both laughable and an impossible goal, as gaming consoles by necessity can’t be as ubiquitous as telephones are.

In any case, I’m popping up with this article just to make a few points real quick:

  1. This leak is still just that: a leak.  Taking this as absolute confirmation before Nintendo’s NX reveal, is getting ahead of ourselves.  
  2. No matter what you think now, the presentation is going to be everything.  By the end of it many people will be sold that weren’t before, and those that thought this was everything they wanted will be pissed and “done with Nintendo forever”.   If Nintendo’s properly thought this out--with the first-party and third-party support to back it up at release and in the months following, they will move consoles.   In numbers enough to avoid going full mobile?   Well, that’s a different question.


As far as how I personally feel about it….

With what little we know, if it’s true, I’m kind of behind it.  Again, the follow-through is going to be everything, but if they get it right then I’m currently interested.  One of the things that bugged me as a former Wii U owner was the 3DS.   A number of the titles I wanted were trapped behind an entirely different console purchase--and worse yet, has substantially worse graphical performance.

I’ll confess to being a graphics whore.  Not enough of one that I’m constantly looking for the newest Titan card to upgrade my box so I can run all my games at 1440p/120fps while anxiously awaiting the power boost that will allow me to upgrade to 4K gaming once and for all, but enough of one that being asked to play 3DS games bugs the hell out of me.   And as the most popular console in Japan, the 3DS has become the de-facto “floor” for Japanese video games.   If this means going forward the new “floor” is the Vita or even this, a system that could be more powerful than the Xbox, I can’t help regarding that as a good thing.

But far more noteworthy is that this system if it existed would mean Nintendo no longer has to compete with itself, forced to develop games for both its console and handheld systems, but can rather focus all of its attention on a single device.  

Imagine the launch event: Nintendo confirming this information, then following up by saying the NX’s launch window games would be a new Mario, ports of Mario Kart 8, Smash 4, and Splatoon (with added support for all of them), Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and a revised version of Pokemon Sun and Moon.  As a quick side note, any argument that The Pokemon Company is largely autonomous can be put to rest now.  The NX is meant to be a handheld, and yet somehow TPC couldn’t wait a few months to launch Sun and Moon on it to help move more consoles??    There’s no way Nintendo pushed for that, and the only logical conclusion I could come to is that TPC simply wanted to take advantage of the 3DS’ enormous base to satisfy their own bottom line.

From there, it’s easy to see Nintendo’s once sparse release schedule appear much more crowded, as the developers focus on a single console going forward.  Third-parties abandoned the Wii U due to lack of sales, but if Nintendo can prove the NX will have both the power and the potential sales to make it worth their time, that can easily be 180’d.  

Of course, again none of this is certain and it won’t be for at least another month and a half, but it’s fun to speculate.