Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Battle Rap Wednesdays: Anubis vs. HA Double

Real talk, I keep trying to watch these Summer Madness battles but the way SMACK set them up makes it impossible.  Pretty much a waste of time to even sit through them, but I'll get to that later.  SMACK still managed to drop a classic between Michigan's Anubis and New Orleans' HA Double.  I can't really call this battle, but damn...Anubis dropped SO many geek references (including a whole scheme about Dragonball Z) that I'm just giving it to him by default.

Anyway, if you a fan of SMACK, at this point you're wasting your time to watch anything but Proving Ground match-ups right now.  Damn near all of them have been insane. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bottom of the Pile: Oct. 16th, 2013

Avengers 21
 The Avengers' epic battle against the Builders finally comes to an end, as the formerly out-of-action Captain Universe awakens to save the universe in its hour of need.  In a nutshell, that's how Avengers 21 plays out, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I wasn't disappointed. The Thanos plot in the main Infinity story just never felt anywhere near as strong or as wide-reaching as the Builders subplot, so to see it come to an end so soon and so suddenly is a little saddening.  The story is missing those big, epic set-piece moments that make a reader's jaw-drop like in the classics Annihilation, Conquest, or War of Kings.  

What's saved it mostly is that its pretty much just a prologue to Jonathan's Avengers epic, a story I'm still curious to see the full scope of, as we head into Avengers World.  But at some point for this epic to truly work they're going to have to slow down enough to make those epic moments happen, or this will end up as a massive 30+ part story that's merely full of sound and fury and signifying, know.

New Avengers 11

Far, far stronger than Avengers in both character and plot, New Avengers remains one of the most compelling books at Marvel for me.   As the Illuminati continue to stave off the utter and complete destruction of all they hold dear, new wrinkles begin to present themselves.  I get that its devoid of action for the most part, but the point is that the Illuminati are so powerful and so influential that their actions are felt across the entire Marvel Universe.  

Nowhere is that more clear than this issue, where the repercussions of their actions finally affect them directly in this title, leaving them in quite a precarious position at the close of the issue.  I confess to being curious as to where this all is really going and what's the source of the "incursions", but for now I'm more than happy to relax and let Hickman's grand epic play out.

Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye 22

Transformers: More than Meets the Eye 22 serves as a pretty decent ending to one of the wildest action-drama series in recent memory.   With a story that's equal parts hilarious and touching, we get to have one last look at the crew of the Lost Light, both those alive and those lost to us, before we get hit with a "things will never be the same" in Dark Cybertron.

What I love the most about this series is how it's never afraid to poke fun at how ridiculous the Transformer universe can be, and this issue epitomizes that fact with the a "recruitment film" the Lost Light created, with the viewers saying the crew was:

"Everyone on board the Lost Light is cracked in the head!"
"Yeah, dysfunctional isn't the word! There isn't a normal 'bot among you!"
"And that wouldn't be so bad if you actually made progress—but as far as I can make out, all you do is argue, crack jokes, and get sidetracked doing pointless, silly things that only you find amusing!"

...Fairly accurate, but I still like them.  I'm hoping Dark Cybertron doesn't wreak TOO much havoc on the crew of these guys, as they've become a truly lovable cast of misfits.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fall Anime First Impressions

Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku ni Naritai! (I Want To Be The Strongest In The World):  It's been two weeks since I saw episode one of this, and I'm STILL not sure what the hell I was expecting when I decided to watch this.  I guess I thought the world of puroresu (Pro Wrestling) would be more interesting if it involved a ton of attractive women.  What I got (and should've expected) was so much fanservice it was damn near a hentai, and moaning fit for the very best porn vids.

The series is about a top level idol singer who, while on a routine publicity assignment, gets mixed up in the role of pro wrestling, and in fact tries to fight a female professional wrestler.  The good part is that she gets her ass kicked and doesn't magically pull off a win like I expected her to in a series like this.  The bad that the wrestler the main character faced was a submission wrestler so the entire thing watched like a beginner course in BDSM, and those moans (and even some of those moves) came directly out of some hentai I'm almost certain I've seen before (don't judge me).     

Outlook: It's got like, two more episodes to at least try to be something more than just a 22 minute spank bank add-on with sexy moans and submission moves before I drop it.  I'm not asking for plot, I'm just asking for a decent show that involves wrestling.  

Log Horizon: I assumed this series would just be a rip-off of Sword Art OnlineBut as one of the few people that actually enjoyed Sword Art from start to finish, I was pleasantly surprised that Log Horizon made enough changes to remain interesting despite having the same basic story idea.   

The first episode juxtaposes what the MMO game world (entitled Elder Tale) was like against what the new, updated version is like, often to hilarious effect.  (Like a female playing a male character needing a potion to alter her body to her true self, and the main character constantly tripping over himself because he's taller in game than he is in real life.)  Still, Log Horizon never pushes itself into the realm of parody, managing to keep a semblance of serious action under the veneer of comedy.  The end result is a series that manages to strike a balance Sword Art Online never could: something with the potential for a fun adventure without taking itself too seriously.  That's good enough for me, at least right now.

 Outlook: Pretty good.  Nobody pissed me off, I actually LIKE some of the characters.  Whether or not the story is good remains to be seen but as long as the world remains interesting to explore and the characters keep being likable, I'll finish this.

Samurai Flamenco: Well.  This came totally out of left-field.  I had assumed Samurai Flamenco was going to be about an actual superhero and a cop, attempting to define justice for themselves.  Not an idiot model who pretty much sucks at life attempting to be a superhero with no powers and no gadgets, and a cop who's probably going to have to save him from certain death at least twice before this (presumably) one-cour series is over with. 
Expecting an action-oriented series only to find something that was much more cerebral in nature, I was honestly tempted to drop it mid-episode.  But if you've follow JiH at all, you already know that heroes, what makes a hero, and the purpose of one in everyday society are all things that I've discussed before.   For that reason alone I'll stick with this series, but if the main character ("Samurai Flamenco") remains a cornball and doesn't actually grow into something more, I'll have to ditch it.

Outlook: It's got 3 more episodes to do something interesting or I'll Rider Kick it into the land of lost and forgotten anime.   (Same place things like Blue Gender and Wolf's Reign go.)

Gundam Build Fighters: Build Fighters is one of those series that lets you know just how detached some fans can be from reality.  Everywhere I've looked there are ton of people claiming that "Bandai just made this to sell Gunpla models!".   No shit, idiot.  That's the purpose of literally every Gundam series that's ever been created. That's why Jerid Massa continued to be a fuck up in Zeta and yet seemed to get a new mobile suit every four weeks.   It's not that bad, and if you hadn't noticed it before now just pretend this is just a Gundam Shonen series and move on.

To me Gundam Build Fighters has a lot of potential, if they really embrace the Gundam lore unabashedly.  Things like stopping to give us the backstory on older Gundam series, and having old Gundam characters make covert guest appearances (mothafucking Ramba Ral in the first episode!) are things that I can't really get mad at, and overall the characters and the basic idea are inoffensive enough.  The main character is a little beta for a non-UC main character, but so long as they don't have him have a panic attack over battling 1/100 Master Grades, I think we're good.  

Outlook: I'm most likely going to finish this series since it started out good and I have what I think is a reasonable belief that it'll improve.

Tokyo Ravens: I gave this series 50-50 odds that it might be decent after seeing the PV, but damn did it fail:

  1. Typical "I'm lazy" main protagonist - 20 points
  2. Evil lolita-type character - 100 points
  3. Beating me over the head with oral sex references with said lolita -500 points
  4. "Shy" osananajime character - 200 points
  5. Pathetically juvenile romantic interactions - 1,000 points
  6. "Quiet, school life" - 100 points
  7. Having a tsundere character - Fucking Infinity 

It was guilty of all these sins (and probably more I'm not thinking of), ending in a final score of Fuck This Show.  

Outlook: Dropped before the opening of the second episode, then picked up when I heard someone that was annoying me died, then dropped again when I realized it wasn't going to improve even with that.

This is getting kind of long, so I'll be back next week with part 2.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Battle Rap Thursday: Real Deal vs. Rone

Yeah yeah, I know I'm late.  I was busy watching the Battle of the Bay 6 bouts, most of which are pretty freaking good, and I forgot about Bad Soundcheck 4, while SMACK pretty much forgot he was running a business and is too busy making blogs apparently.  Because that's what's hot in the streets.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bottom of the Pile: Oct 9th, 2013

Astro City 5

Any week in which Astro City comes out is a good one.  No other comic series displays this much love for superheroes and continuity despite remaining accessible and interesting month in and month out.  This month we revisit the Broken Man; introduced in episode 1, the Broken Man has been our guide into the latest volume of Astro City, telling us about goings on both old and new since our last visit.   Obsessed with a far-reaching conspiracy theory, the last page of issue 1 showed us that the Broken Man could just be like those whackjobs who see triangles and immediately think Illuminati.

Well now Kurt is doubling back on us and showing that there may be more to the Broken Man's accusations about what's really going on than we thought, with a lovely story that plays with traditional narration techniques to tell us readers that there's definitely something fishy going on in the world of Astro City, though exactly what it is remains to be seen.  All-in-all though, its a beautiful comic book with gorgeous illustrations from Brent Anderson, who can bring to life everything from a pulp-y 1940's Jonny Quest-like tale to a cult deep in the rainforests of a country we've never heard of.    Comic book superheroes at their finest.

Superman/Wonder Woman 1

I approve of Superman/Wonder Woman both as a couple and as a comic.  As a couple because DC needs to show me at least one new thing to justify why we lost so many great characters and why their line overall is so weak.

I approve as a comic because...its actually good.  Writer Charles Soule's story is brought to life by Tony Daniel's beautiful pencils.  It's nothing special; but it does a great job of introducing us to the lives of Superman and Wonder Woman both in and out of the costume.  It doesn't feel ancillary, nor does it drown itself in so much continuity that you're lost as to what's going on with these characters.  Superman and Wonder Woman are a couple, they're together both in and out of costume--that's really all you need to know with this opening issue, and they hit the ground running after that.

Already the book has set up the couple's first big challenge (their polar opposite stances on secret identities and Clark's insistence that they keep their relationship a secret), while also presenting an idea I've wanted to see for ages: someone training Superman.  Not only does it just make sense as there have been so many times where Superman hasn't been the strongest guy in the room that its actually becoming irresponsible that he doesn't know how to fight, but it also clicks from a relationship standpoint.  In every couple each person has something to offer the other; Diana can teach Clark how to fight, and hopefully Clark can help Diana learn how to mute that warrior temper of hers, just a bit.

Oh, and that ending?  HYPE.  

Transformers: Robots in Disguise 21

I don't know how many times I've said this, but both Robots in Disguise and More than Meets the Eye are consistently two of the best titles in comics, every month.  Continuing the ramp up into their next "Crossover", Dark Cybertron, Robots in Disguise contrasts the two unbelievably similarly named Soundwave and Shockwave.

It starts out slightly confusing, but as Soundwave's odd form of Decepticon hope and idealism makes itself plain against Shockwave's cold objective plans for the future, the two characters suddenly become impossible to mix up, as the future of a planet recently freed from war starts to become dark again. 

It's my hope that we never see another full-on Decepticon/Autobot war in this continuity, but at this point, both John Barber (RiD) and James Roberts have both earned more than enough faith from me to follow them where ever they go. 

Meanwhile Andrew Griffith and Livio Ramondelli create a perfect contrast of "past and present", with Ramondelli's somewhat scratchy artwork seeming cold and distant (the way the past is often viewed) while Andrew Griffith's art is bright and vibrant, both thanks to beautiful colors by Priscilla Tramontano

X-Men 6

Battle of the Atom is proof of just how stupid (in a good way) comics can get while still being immensely entertaining.  There's enough time jump craziness packed into this crossover to make your head explode, and yet I still can't stop turning the page to figure out what's going to happen next.

With the X-Men now learning that the "future" X-Men aren't who they claimed, it's full-on war, as we learn just what these new X-Men are truly capable of.   With the good guys largely rendered unable to act, we are soon introduced to the "good" future X-Men, who come back to keep their enemies from achieving their goal.  It's complicated and dumb, but it makes sense so long as you start from the beginning, and most importantly?  It's crazy, crazy fun.  I can't wait to see how it all turns out. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Kamen Rider Gaim First Impressions

So yeah.  This finally happened.  My friends and I spent about two or three months cracking wise about this break-dancin', sword-slashin', fruit-lovin' crime-fighter, but now that its out, it's not so bad.

What I Liked: 

- The Fruit: I know, right?!  Like I said, my friends and I had a billion jokes about Kamen Rider Toucan Sam, but in the end I actually liked the way they implemented it.   While in theory not really much weirder than USB memories or say...grasshoppers, in practice, using fruit as a major theme for Kamen Rider Gaim was weird, and most everyone thought so.  The reason why I liked it is because the writers let us know from the moment they were introduced that this isn't normal.   

The Lock Seeds themselves are seen as mysterious, strange objects that came from nowhere, and anyone who actually, y'know, thinks about it for longer than 3 seconds knows it.   And later, when they get transferred to the dimension where the Lock Seeds come from, it's presented as this weird, almost ethereal place that takes place in an entirely separate reality.  By making the fruit a central point and explaining that, "hey, the characters think this is weird, too" rather than glossing over it and acting like, "lol fruits are normal, what's wrong with you", the concept comes off as more intriguing and it actually settles better in my head.

Kouta: After the assured quietness of the static character that was Haruto/Wizard, its nice to see someone like Kouta.  They could've gone any number of wrong directions with the guy--made him spineless, or a jerk, or worst of all, just indifferent to everything--but they didn't.  The introductory scenes for Kouta are of him helping people, meaning this is something that's central to his person.  
But unlike Haruto, who never questioned his lot in life or even looked like he was wavering from his purpose or even the way he went about his purpose, Kouta has doubts.  He wonders how he can improve, how he can better help those around him.  It was a little "cheesy" when he outright said "I want to transform!", but it summed him up pretty well: sure it takes time to grow into the person you really want to be, but Kouta needs to be that person NOW because there are people that need him NOW, which is why he went for being Gaim so quickly.  (And that his hasty actions may very well have reprecussions later.)

The Rider Suit: For one thing, as with every Rider suit except Fourze (which seemed to drain out every ounce of visually appealing or logical aesthetic design for the main character and distributed it to everyone else in the series), Gaim Orange Arms looks better in motion than it did in still shots.  But that's not what I mean, really.

I like the way they took the time in the fight to show Kouta gradually getting used to his powers.  He didn't instantly know how to do everything, like other Riders do.  The fight scene went through great pains to show him gradually figure out his powers, from learning to activate his belt, to realizing his greater strength and agility, even down to his weapons.  And for things that would've been outright impossible for him to figure out like his Kaleidoscope Fruit Splash special, they introduced a new character to show him what to do.  It's one of those little things that went a long way in terms of setting up believability to this new series that I really liked.

The World: Not since W has a Rider series so carefully set up a genuinely unique world for its characters to live in.  Yes, there's Fourze, but in his case that world could be summed up as SCHOOL, and while it was a different school from most, it was still a nice framework to creatively maneuver inside of, while Gaim's world is created pretty much whole cloth.

Gaim's world is one in which a massive corporation appears to provide everything of major infrastructural importance (something you just know is going to come back to haunt them).  It's one in which a colorful DJ is a major celebrity, because he tells you about the results of these giant breakdance battles between different clans.  And its one with a seedy underbelly that we just saw the barest glimpse of in episode 1, with the shady Lock Seed dealer.   It all works together in the first episode to create a distinctive world for the adventures of the cast of Gaim to take place in.

The Bad:
...Honestly?  Nothing so far.  The show managed to do all of that and fit it into roughly 22 minutes, while simultaneously sneaking in some nice foreboding for the overall direction of the series.  I'm really not sure what else you could ask for.  

So yeah.  For now I'm considering the first episode of Gaim as a big success in that it at least didn't fail, in my eyes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Battle Rap Wednesdays: Sno vs. Ty Law

This battle is NOT the new JC vs. Chilla Jones.  Ty Law was consistent but not super impressive, and Sno's first is INSANE but his second is just okay and his third is forgettable.  Still better than most of those fucking NOME 3 battles.

Favorite Line: "You 0 and 12 (owing 12) like that Swave Sevah and Head Ice bet." (Ty Law) 

" 'Cause I don't care about X losing to Goodz, Calicoe getting killed, or that Lux ate Miles (8 mile)--if you find yourself in front of that white boy from Michigan?  It ain't Marshall, Law.  You gon' see so much firing going on, you gon need more than the fire marshall, Law!  My soldiers will run in your shit like the Martial Law!/They gon be like this white boy's flipping when he brought this tech in (Tekken) and bullets started kicking like Marshall Law!"  (Sno)

That scheme (and the In Law/Out Law) shit was fucking bananas.  At this point, I really just want to know what they feed the boys from Pontiac to create battle rap monsters.   Fans on the internet talk about who got the "best cities" all the time, but with JC, Ill Will and Sno I think right now Michigan got the strongest team (still performing) in the game.

Because the Internet

Briefly I saw the name of this project and thought Donald Glover was going to be fucking around.  And then I pressed play on this freestyle.  It's nice to be wrong.

After what most of his hardcore fanbase thought was a creative mis-step with his mixtape Royalty, I was actually left pretty excited.  I thought Royalty was what a mixtape should be: stretching one's creative muscles and experimenting before getting refocused for your next album. 

From what I heard with Centipede and with this freestyle, that's exactly what he's done.  He got that Li'l Wayne/Kanye out of his flow and came up with something that's uniquely his own and he's sounds a lot more comfortable on the mic.   And if the beat he had on this is any indication of what he's got planned for the album, the music is going to sound fucking amazing.

To me Childish Gambino is one of the most interesting rappers in the game right now, and he's still got a ton of potential left untapped.  I can't say for sure if this will be the one classic that cements his name, but I can say I'll definitely be one of the first people to cop his new album.  Even though he's the worst rapper ever.  (Listen to the song.)