Thursday, March 24, 2011

Song of the Week - Dru Hill - The Love We Had

Bit of a throwback. Enjoy.



I take no responsibility for memories concerning past heartbreaks or "ones that got away".

Captain America: The First Avenger trailer



I haven't seen much about this movie since the Super Bowl commercial, but here's the full trailer, promoting the film adaptation of the origin of Captain America.

I think they put a little too much sauce on the transformation process (...It was, like, a shot.) but I'm not really judging it on accuracy to the comics. This movie's it's own thing.

I love the fact that it's a period piece, but they're not holding anything back in regards to costumes and villains. I'm going to guess that this film will capture most people's attentions, since it's a more "grounded" movie than every superhero flick out there that's not Batman. (I could speculate as to why that is, but it would only sound like an insult.)

Love the little nods to Iron Man films, and I'm excited to see how this and Thor grow the universe Marvel's attempting to create. So, what about everyone else? Who's going to see this opening weekend? (It's July 22nd.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Song of the Week

"And I can't go for that, nigga Hall and Oates."

A little CG humor. (Giving the guy a break for now while I re-familiarize myself with the rest of my music collection, starting with my boy mc chris and these fellows.)



May have done this song before...but it's worth a re-post.

Status Update

Okay. Apologies for getting nothing written. I had plans Friday to get actual work accomplished, but while I was in the middle of doing so, I got dragged away on a shopping trip for clothes.

There literally is nothing else to that story, aside from the universe-is-laughing part where I went into Radio Shack with my mother in an attempt to get a new phone...and she walked out with an iPhone 3, while I walked out with exactly the same phone I walked in with.

Anyway, I've got about a month left to get my grades together for the "wow, these are sure pointless now that I've changed my major" classes, and in the case of Physics it's not looking good. Still, nothing will change if I don't at least make an attempt to try, so that's what I'll be doing for the next five weeks.

As far as the writing...blah...I'm unsatisfied with my work, and I think that's largely because everything I post is first draft material. That'd be fine if everything were simple updates like this, but (for those that actually pay attention to this) it's actually closer to article work, and nobody would publish anything that was only a first draft. As a result, I'm hoping to put more of my work through at least one rewrite each before I submit.

That MAY result in slower updates, but hopefully they'll be less sporadic. We'll see. While we wait, though...a song!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nerd News: Get Your Facts Straight

Even though I've got the Frequent Visits link to your right when you click here, I figured I'd give a little spotlight to geek-related news sites.

Why? Well, mostly because I'm tired of hearing people perpetuate stupid news that reliable sites either didn't report or debunked weeks ago. And also, because it's a good idea to know stuff. If I haven't made it abundantly clear by now, I'm a nerd-of-all-trades, so whether you're a fan of anime, video games or comic books, I've got you covered. Bookmark these links; they're vital to keeping up with their respective fandoms.

Video Games

Destructoid - One of the younger video game news sites, Destructoid is a sister site to Japanator, and one of the most frequently-updated and accurate gaming blogsites on the web. Though admittedly the writers can sometimes get a little...opinionated with their posts, they still deliver gaming news in as straightforward a manner as possible. They cover all games, too--East or West, major or independent, so go check them out. With reviews, news updates, and regularly added features there's pretty much always something for you to read. And if you miss a day they even collect the previous day's posts in a single update for you to peruse at your leisure (something *every* news site should do, really).

Andriasang - I have no idea where this site came from, which I'm sure is breaking some sort of gaming expert taboo, since I've seen it on every other website I'll be linking to as sources for information. AndriaSang focuses exclusively (from what I've seen) on Japanese games, so if you're all about BioWare or something like that, you're outta luck. Still, for those of us who grew up on J-RPGs, Street Fighter/Tekken, MGS, and so much more, it's not necessarily a bad thing to focus on what's new in the Land of the Rising Sun. The most interesting function on the site (something I wish all gaming websites had), is an actual release calendar for all the current systems getting new games.

Siliconera
- Siliconera, essentially, is AndriaSang except it also focuses on what's actually coming to America. Even better, they also get interviews with popular Japanese developers, providing both a glimpse into how the creators of our favorite games think as well as a chance for Western fans of Japanese games to ask about what's coming up next.

RPGFan - For fans of RPGs only, obviously. RPGFan is probably one of the oldest gaming news sites on the web, existing even back when I first got online back in 2000 or so. With frequent updates that focus on reviews, previews, translated interviews, and screenshots, if you like RPGs at all this site is super-helpful.

RPGamer - Another RPG news site. You'd think there would be some overlap, but not really. While it has a similar pedigree to RPGFan (it's actually even older), RPGamer gives it's fanbases a focus on different features, a greater focus on reviews, and even (*gasp*) a release schedule for all RPGs being released in America over a given two week period. Extremely helpful for those of us who don't always have time to keep tabs on games that pique our interest.

Anime

A/N: Usually, I do *not* allow forum posts to count as legitimate information, but in cases like these, where those willing to translate are few and far in-between, and do not work for "official" websites, one must seek out alternatives. Still and all, the forums I'm linking to all cite their sources and they allow no unfounded posts.

Japanator - For those who like to keep up with anime on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, there's this blogsite. Japanator is the sister site of Destructoid, and shares some of the same staff, but is centered entirely on Japanese entertainment products. The big difference between this site and the others I'll mention, is that they also post anime-related video games, Japanese visual novels, and Japanese dramas. Occasionally they even throw in a Tokusatsu post or two. This isn't the favorite website of mine it was back when I was seeking a replacement for animeOnline (a more beautiful site you'll never find), but it's still good to check out now and again.

AnimeSuki's Upcoming Series forum - (The Upcoming series thread is here, for those who don't care about anything other than announcements.) Years ago, I'd tell you that any anime download site that didn't allow licensed materials was a waste of bandwidth and development time. On some level, I still agree with that statement, but Animesuki found a far more useful purpose than being one of thousands of places to download anime from. With a collection of people that translate blog news posts and Japanese news sites in their spare time, AnimeSuki's one of the center places I go to stay ahead of the curve on anime. The flaw here is that if you only watch dubs (...really?), this place is so far ahead of the curve it's like finding out your Christmas presenton January 2nd, but that's a very small subset of people.

MyAnimeList's News Discussion Forum - I've been a fan of MyAnimeList for several years now, since my OCD-lite forces me to make lists for EVERYTHING. But it wasn't until last year (or late '09), that I realized how useful their News forum was. With a dedicated translator who consistently posts news about releases and general goings-on in the anime world, there's not a day that goes by without me checking this place at least once.


Comics

Newsarama - A comic site I've been following for six or so years now (almost since I got back to comics), Newsarama's a necessity if one wants to keep up with comics. Known for their lengthy post-project interviews (52 Exit Interviews, All-Star Superman discussions and more) and a number of comics history-related features that could turn even the newest comic fan into well-read "comics scholars", Newsarama's worth a visit every other day, if not every day.

ComicBookResources - Again a case in which, generally, there is very little overlap between news from the same entertainment medium. CBR generally does an excellent job in "upcoming series" interviews, putting out nearly a dozen every month at the least (though it says something that Newsarama's Vaneta Rogers can keep up with their output almost by herself), but also focuses on Q&A interviews with major creators, like Marvel EiC (now President) Joe Quesada, or those working on major franchises (Batman and X-Men). In addition, the weekly columns they post generally offer readers an insider's perspective on the comics world in general; a valuable asset considering the number of fanboys that have confused views on how things work. And all of this doesn't even bring Spinoff Online into the equation, a mini-site on CBR that covers genre-based entertainment with a focus on comic-related releases. I actually don't go a day without checking this site.

DCU: The Source - DC Comics' personal news blogsite. Information on DC's games, movies, comics, and cartoons, direct from the horse's mouth.


Tokusatsu

A bonus for my Tokusatsu fans. Check out JEFusion if you want to keep up on Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, or anything related to Japanese superheroes.


Admittedly, I was supposed to get a bit more done today, but eh...stuff happened, and I want to be up early tomorrow for video coverage of C2E2 (Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo), on Newsarama. I'm predicting it will focus on comics, but hopefully they'll catch a few animation panels as well.

Anyway. This is update 3 of 10. I'll try to do another five tomorrow, to catch up on all the crap I haven't done, but for now, I'm signing off to get some sleep. Laters.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Top 20 Anime: #18



Type: Original Video Animation
# of Episodes: 6
Produced By: Bandai Visual, Production Reed, Media Blasters



Sometimes all a series needs is a distinctive style. Iria got it's place on my list for exactly that. As much as fans would prefer to think otherwise, OVAs are generally just testing ground for potential television series. Pilots, really. Eien no Aseria and Gunsmith Cats are examples of how to do this incorrect and correctly, respectively, but they are both examples of this. There's far more story to both of them, but neither saw animated adaptations past the initial handful of episodes.

Iria, possibly, may be different. To my knowledge, there's no manga for it and visual novels were not common back then, and it watches like a film. It's the story of the title character (Iria) dealing with an exceptional case that's a remnant of the days when she worked with her brother, and her battle against the "ultimate being".

The story itself is nothing special. It's not especially predictable, but there are no big plot twists, and the plot itself doesn't stick out in my mind even though I saw it only a few years ago. (I watched other series that made it onto this list around the same time, and their stories I recall.)

But like I said--Iria's not on here for story. It's on here for...well first of all, it's on here for the main character. Seeing this anime as a child is probably the reason why I love kick-ass female protagonists so much. Iria stomps her way through challenge after challenge with each episode with a seemingly endless amount of weaponry, gadgets, and ingenuity, despite her opponents almost always having superior firepower (and occasionally invulnerability >_<).

The other reason it's on here though, is it's setting. In the same way that CB combines westerns and space opera to create the first "space western" (the only space western...but hopefully that will change), Iria combines pre-Industrial Revolution society (with both Native American and Chinese influences) with science-fiction aesthetics to create a unique look that I've never seen anywhere else.

The opening gives a glimpse of what I'm talking about; it feels like more work went into developing the setting than everything else. The weapons, the transportation, the houses--everything has a distinct, coherent "feel" to it that immerses viewers into the world. Above all else, the world is why I wish Iria became a television series. I would love to have had more time to explore the inner workings of this universe, to be shown how and why things developed this way.

But that could just be me. A lot of people love this series, and this is probably one of the strangest reasons anyone has ever cited. (I bet you want to watch, or re-watch the series to see what I'm talking about though, right?) Either way, Iria's a good watch; it's 80's animation at it's finest and one of the best space action series to ever be released.

Top 20 Anime:
19. Seitokai Yakuindomo
20. They Are My Noble Masters

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Recent Addiction: Mahou Sensei Negima

Whee. Spring Break. So, writing time!

(Note: This article is all about spoilers. I'll try to white them out where possible, but I'm not sure how feasible that will be.)

Recently, I started reading Negima, the story of a ten year old school teacher, Negi Springfield (who's secretly a magician in training searching for his father, the legendary Nagi Springfield, the Thousand Master), and his class full of fourteen year old girls. It was supposed to be notable for it's rapid change from dull harem to Awesome Shonen Series, and I'm a sucker for Rapid Genre Change and Awesome Shonen.

Still, it's very rare that I take interest in a new manga; particularly when it's so long-lived. Setting school aside, I'm so far behind on other things that it's quite difficult to find time to devote to a new manga series...particularly when the ones that catch my interest are usually ongoing.there's no endgame I'm working towards, other than catching up to the newest chapter so I can eventually forget about it for a year until they get enough chapters to warrant me spending time reading it again. (I prefer a good deal of story progression, which doesn't usually happen in manga in a single chapter.)

But TVTropes, yet again, sucked me into a series through descriptions of awesome stuff the heroes did. (Last time that happened was Nanoha, which...I'll get to that soon.) I tried my best to just dip my proverbial toe into the depths that is this massive shonen series by merely watching the two television series and the OVAs, but as I made my way through the first major arc, it quickly became apparent that I would need to completely immerse myself into this universe to fully enjoy it.

I started a few volumes in (to skip what I had already watched on the television series), and at first found little more than a harem series with a shota playing the center of attention.

All of this changed as the series entered it's third arc in the early 40's--the series' Kyoto Field Trip arc, where the characters go on a field trip while the hero attempts to find clues concerning his father's whereabouts. Hints had been dropped with the previous arc's introduction of Evangeline A.K. McDowell and Kaede Nagase (a "true" vampire and a chuunin-level ninja, respectively), that Negi's class of normal teenage girls weren't quite so normal, but the Class Field Trip arc drops one bomb after another, as the true nature of the characters Setsuna Sakurazaki, Ku Fei, and Mana Tatsumiya are revealed. Suddenly, Negi's class goes from quirky class of misfits to bad-ass RPG army in the space of possibly a dozen chapters, and Negima makes it's entry both in this fan's mind and in the manga fandom itself as a Series of Notice.

The "harem" nature of the series is very suddenly ditched completely, as each new chapter adds a successively cooler fight scene between the Negi and his companions, and the mysterious villains, culminating in the reintroduction of a former villain as one of the most powerful "allies" of the series and one of the most bad-ass scenes in this or any other manga, that I simply refuse to spoil.

Eventually the school field trip ends, and the series tries to return to it's harem roots, but...it's too late. Having already introduced the backstories of several of Negi's students, they've become actual characters now, rather than two-dimensional "character types" attempting to win a contest that rewards them with the affections of the main character.

In fact, the brief respite between the field trip and the next arc only serves to give us deeper connections to all of the characters, giving us more reasons to care about them and the goings on of their school, Mahora Gakuen. As the series enters it's second major arc--the much-praised (and rightfully so) MahoraFest arc--it becomes apparent that the mangaka's (Ken Akamatsu) intent is to completely and totally flesh out all thirty one members of Negi's class, a herculean task that Akamatsu surprisingly accomplishes with, if not ease, certainly the appearance of ease, as you realize there's not a single character he actually develops that you don't develop some level of affinity for.

And really, at the heart of things, playing with your expectations and subverting tropes is where Negima truly excels. Usually by this time, a shonen series' villains are evil, twisted beings that stop at nothing to achieve their goals, killing and ruining lives in the process, to attain their goals that usually involve either ruling or destruction.But the true "villain" of the MahoraFest arc is nothing of the sort, instead going out of her way to set up victory scenarios that neither involve her battling the heroes or taking lives at all. The stakes are still high, but they are more emotional rather than physical (relationships in peril over lives), and the villain's goal is one that forces the heroes to question their resolve to stop her...or even if they have the right to.

Most recently (where I am, at least, which is chapter 250), the series even gave us a bit of meta-commentary on the shonen genre itself. As Negi reaches a point where his current strength, impressive though it is, is no longer enough, he begins to wonder just exactly what he lacks that makes him unable to equal his father, and some of the other truly strong people around him. Eventually, he comes to the conclusion (thanks to one of his teammates) that the difference between him and those unreachable, exceptionally powerful people is...idiocy.

By itself, this seems rather silly, and certainly not a reason for a gap in strength. However, for long-time fans of shonen series like myself, it forces you to notice a trend in a large number of protagonists in this genre: Yusuke. Goku. Naruto. Luffy. Ichigo (somewhat). Natsu. All of these and more--over everything else, the common trait shared is a stubborn idiocy. A refusal to accept something as "impossible" (even if the reason it's impossible is because "no one has ever done it before in x number of decades/centuries/millenia")--and that refusal is what leads them to make exponentially more and more impressive leaps in strength over the course of their series.

But Negi's not like that. In fact, several times over the course of this mini-arc, people mention that someone like him would be more suited as a "side character". He's not an idiot. He's a genius that overworks himself and overthinks even the smallest situations (compared to what is REALLY important) while carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders (even though he has around a dozen teammates). To have characters actually point out that he shouldn't be the main character actually makes the reader realize just how much Negi stands out from other shonen protagonists, and acknowledge that (hopefully) the series is better for it.

The truth is, I could go on forever about this series. About how much I love the girls of Class 3-A. How well the emotional moments resonate even better than most romance manga I've read (actually seeing characters CONFESS? WTF when did manga start doing that???). How EPIC the fight scenes are, even though most of them are supposedly between spellcasters who should be reciting lengthy incantations. How sick it is for Akamatsu-san to actually catalogue the spells he creates for the series, even writing them in Latin and giving them descriptions and putting them at the end of the volumes they're introduced in. I could talk about how I think it's ridiculous this series doesn't have a faithful anime adaptation while other shonen that aren't nearly as well-developed have them...

But I won't. Instead, I'll just leave you with some references. Negima is a series that goes from this:























To this:










Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Feel the magic, hear the roar...

Cartoon Network's put up a trailer for the new Thundercats show. I gotta say...it looks SO much better than the new Transformers toon OR the G.I. Joe series airing right now. I can't believe it...but apparently I'm rocking with the Thundercats for this generation of 80's revivals.

Don't you know that I'm a rapist? Ask your tracks.

I was told in Composition I, a title should grab one's attention. How was that?

Anyway. Lupe Fiasco's L.A.S.E.R.S. and Childish Gambino's Fuck Rap Cool dropped today. I spent about and hour and a half listening to both; everyone else should too.

Star Tracks on L.A.S.E.R.S. :

Letting Go
Till I Get There
I Don't Wanna Care Right Now
The Show Goes On
State Run Radio
Break the Chain

Words I Never Said is dope too, but it's along the same stuff I've been hearing in conscious rap for a few years now. It can be a downer after awhile, so it's not a song I can put on repeat like the ones above.

All-in-all, LASERS is well worth the money, though apparently the internet disagrees (surprise).

On the other hand, my boy Childish Gambino (who conscious rappers wish they could be, since they keep whining about being put in a box that he actively avoids)'s EP is only five tracks, but all of them are stellar work.

My favorite two are definitely My Shine and Not Going Back, two songs that both exemplify who Gambino is as a rapper, what makes him different, and why his fans are such staunch supporters.

But nevermind what I think. Go. Cop this stuff. Seriously. Good music is a necessity for developing your mind.

Edit: Apparently, there's some hate for CG's EP too. Personally I think the guy's full of shit, but the fact that he's a music reviewer for the Baltimore Sun (if you're writing media reviews for a newspaper...you're irrelevant) says that all on it's own. Then again in general I think reviews are useless. ("How's it feel having a job I can do tomorrow?")

Monday, March 7, 2011

Song of the Week: Bobby Caldwell - What You Won't Do

My friends wonder what is wrong with me...but I'm in a daze, from your love, you see...


Bobby Caldwell is one soulful dude. I had a discussion last night with some of my friends, and we were talking about how back in the day you'd put on some R&B music when you were with your girl, to set the mood...but you can't really do that now, 'cause no girl wants to fuck to these new cats. (No girl I'd date, at least.)

I pointed out...you really still use old-school shit, like this cat right here, 'cause the classics are never outdated.