Sage's Stray Thoughts 15: Free-for-all

This, is just something I needed to get out.  Peruse at your own peril.  Think of this as my way of addressing the states of all the various fandoms I'm involved in. 


Arakawa's Heroic Legend of Arslan
Unsurprisingly, this Winter's season of anime was pretty dull.   Yes, my beloved Dog Days is back in a third season with its cute nonsense plots and more explosively ridiculous fights between adorable kemonomimi, and the JoJo clan have continued their bizarre adventures.   I even got to see what all the fuss was about with newcomer Shonen Jump series and modern fantasy GTO riff Assassination Classroom.   (Between this and My Hero Academia, I think Shonen Jump will be alright with the end of Naruto and Bleach.  Now what they do when One Piece ends, well..)  But it seemed as if everything else noteworthy about anime this year...came from last year's series.   The latest Yu-Gi-Oh finally got past the obligatory introduction phase and has hit its batshit, but quite interesting, serious plot that involves a lot of dimension hopping and shout-outs to past series.   Gundam Build Fighters Try is barreling towards either its finish with the last three episodes, or a possible third (I can only hope) arc, with all the episodes so far being even more solid than the original Build Fighters, which I loved to death.  And of course there's Magic Kaito 1412, an even better Case Closed than the actual Case Closed.   It's not a huge deal, since with my last semester of college my attention has been elsewhere, but it's definitely not going to be a noteworthy season. 

But not to worry, as this Spring appears intent on making that up in spades, with a host of highly anticipated series, either new or sequels/remakes to classic shows from the past.  First up on that list is a rendition of The Heroic Legend of Arslan by manga creator Arakawa Hiromu (of Full Metal Alchemist fame), a series of fantasy novels that already boasts a manga adaptation as well as an animated OVA series.  I get the feeling that good or bad this is going to be one of the most talked about anime of the year, as Arakawa's...unique trademark designs seem to be driving purist fans nuts but the quality will likely be high enough to create a fanbase of avid supporters who will only have seen the this new version.  I don't look forward to the arguments, but I do hope we get a quality fantasy anime series from this. 

Blood Blockade Battlefront
Undoubtedly conversation worthy as well is Kekkai Sensen (or Blood Blockade Battlefront), the brainchild of Trigun and Gungrave creator Yasuhiro Nightow   With a suitably dark atmosphere and beautiful animation supplied by BONES, the preview alone had me pretty excited.  With the manga itself already being released by Dark Horse comics, look for this one to get announced for a dub not long after airing, and possibly/probably for it to make an appearance on Toonami either later this year or next if it catches on.

On the subject of sequels from famous manga creators, it seems Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2, Inuyasha) has a new anime coming out this season as well-- Kyoukai no Rinne.  Judging by THAT preview, it seems the creators are fully aware of what a powerhouse name they're adapting--as the first twenty seconds of a 90 second promo are devoted to reminding you of all her creations, while the rest set the tone for what looks to be something more along the lines of Ranma 1/2.  The main character certainly looks serious enough, but everyone else seems to look at him like a big weirdo.   As someone who can either take or leave her work, I'll be watching this one with a very cautious eye.

Lupin the III
Of course, we also have some fairly high-profile sequels on the way, including one to Lupin the III (who hasn't seen a mainline television series in thirty years), and a follow-up to the original Digimon Adventure.   That is, if either of actually happen.    There's been a disturbing lack of information from either of them and we're only a month away from the premiere of the earliest Spring series.  They all roll out over the course of April, but that's still cutting it close.

There's rumors that Digimon Adventure Tri would be taking over Dragon Ball Kai's slot, which isn't anywhere near finished yet.  If so, that'd make Tri a summer show at the very earliest.  As far as Lupin, no one's heard anything about that series since the initial reveal, which is rarely a good sign.

Still, even without that there's a pretty huge host of series coming out--new series, sequels, and remakes--that will keep most of us busy during the Spring months.  Probably a little too busy.

Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha ViViD  ...Promise it's not what you think.
And, if all else fails---I've still got Nanoha ViVid.  I know how it looks--but looks are deceptive. The Nanoha universe is the classic Defeat Means Friendship trope crossed with World of Badass where nearly everyone involved is either a good guy or misguided, and conversations solve problems just as often as ass-kicking.  Basically, take a Sailor Moon series about Chibi-Usa and combine that with Dragon Ball Z explosions and the less creepy MS Girl designs, and you've got it.  I was shocked this was getting an adaptation, until I remembered that Nanoha was incredibly popular in Japan, and so now I'm eagerly anticipating movie 3 and the inevitable Force adaptation as well.  (Yes, I know it's probably awful.  I still have to see it.)

The Legion and Booster back? Can this just be DC from now on?

If I can be honest, for just a second...Convergence has really bummed me out.   The main mini-series itself doesn't seem like it will ruffle too many feathers creatively--I daresay it might become a slightly more important version of DC's 1997 crossover Genesis when all is said and done.   That is to say, probably not that important at all.  After all, it is mostly being published to essentially put the company on "auto-pilot" while they complete their two month move from their old New York offices to their ones on the West Coast.

And it certainly isn't the tie-ins.  Or maybe it is, but not in the way one might imagine.  DC's attempt at recalling past eras has actually sent me down memory lane in the best way possible--from Matrix Supergirl (who I hope is legitimately Linda Danvers and not just "Matrix") and "The Kid" Superboy to mentions of the Justice League One Million, it's as if everything I ever loved about DC's vast chronology has made a comeback.  But it's a trip that's all too brief, as the entire Convergence event only spans two months, so just as I'll find myself enjoying having characters like the Renee Montoya Question back, they'll be snatched away from me, and that's the real bummer.  It's like running into your ex...except you realize that breaking up with them really was a bad idea because they were great, you just needed more time to work things out.

No matter how hard DC tries, I'm never going to care about Damian Wayne.
After that, it's a very quick, very sudden snap back to the "New 52" New DC.  Where Black Canary's in a band and everyone's "Batgirling" and everything just seems to be a little too "cute" for my liking.  To be sure, we're three months out from actually seeing what the June mini-relaunch is actually like, so these are just my initial feelings but they definitely aren't all that positive. 

I know all of this is a part of DC's attempt at better diversity.   (And to be fair, some of my favorite comics have been things like Genevieve Valentine's Catwoman, K. Perkins' Supergirl, and even the new Batgirl.) They've mentioned how their audience is changing rapidly and they want to suit that changing audience...but on some level I feel like I'm being left out.   I lost so many characters I loved and cared about, and this "diversity" you seek could have just as easily been achieved in the original DC Universe--you know, the one with the Jason Rusch (Firestorm), Jaime Reyes (Blue Beetle), Ryan Choi (Atom), Question (Renee Montoya) and Batwoman, Lightning and Thunder, etc. etc.  It's been two years and I still don't see what we gained that couldn't have been added to what we already had.  You certainly could have hired all these creators and allowed them to work in the same universe. 

The discussion that "story will trump continuity" is a two-edged sword that would even make Darth Maul wary.  It hints at the idea that some of the worlds we saw during Convergence may not be entirely "gone" when the event is over.  On the other hand, it just reminds me of how much more like Vertigo DC is starting to look.  And I know, I said I missed the indie comic books last year...but that just meant make more indie comics.  Or bring Vertigo back to its former prominence, not turn DC Comics INTO Vertigo.  Yeesh.    (Plus, the Image Expo basically accomplished what I asked for anyway.  Which as it turns out just broke down to "give me more Phonogram", honestly.)

With half of DC's line becoming Vertigo-lite, it's leaving me wondering whether the other half can live up to my (frankly) quite high expectations of what I'll need from them.  Time will tell I suppose.

Still wacky, but I'm getting into this.
 If I'm being honest, Marvel's kind of winning again here.   Battleworld's going to last at least for the next year, and by then I'll either want more but understand that it has to end, or be dying for it to end.  Either way, I'll have gotten my fill.   Still, with books like 1872, A-Force, Spider-Verse, Future Imperfect and Master of Kung-Fu, I just don't see myself getting bored with Battleworld anytime soon. 

Obviously, I reserve the right to completely change my opinion three months from now when DC's back to normal and Marvel's in the second month of their crossover.

Video Games

Ugh.  Well, it's the beginning of the year so we're right back to the "backlog months", where we wait out the slow months by playing games we haven't finished until new titles we're interested in come out, same as last year.  And, much like last year we had a few games come out to try and spice things up--but neither of them were long (or good) enough to keep people's attention.   I beat The Order last week in about eight hours, and that was with tons of distractions while at my friends' apartment over the weekend. 

My thoughts on it?  See the review above, as it literally covers every single flaw that I can think of bringing up, and discusses the few good points the game series had.  I wanted this to be good, but it doesn't even succeed in being the week or two time-burner that inFamous: Second Son was, even if it is prettier by far.

And so now, we sit and wait.  I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if the month weren't slow for both releases and reveals, as we just wrapped up GDC AND Pax East and the most exciting thing to come from it was a trailer for a mobile game, the thirty minute video explaining Xenoblade Chronicles X's battle system, and an announcement that Cyber Connect would be revealing a new game this week.

Oh.  And a new trailer for The Witcher 3, which I should be playing right now, but apparently the new gen means absolutely no one has their shit together--no matter how well respected the developer is--and they needed more time for bug fixing/getting graphics and framerate right.  Ugh, maybe all the people making do with pixel art and 3DS graphics have a point.

It's sad--if you're a fan of console gaming there's literally nothing to play that you shouldn't have run through already.  (Nintendo fans are, of course, immune from this.  Enjoy Kirby, guys.) I finished Dragon Age: Inquisition, Watch_Dogs, and The Order in three weeks, and smart money says I'll be finished with Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor before my first full week back at school is over with.   For me, that'll leave Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition (a game I already got the platinum for on PS3) and the very last bits of inFamous: Second Son.   With school ending three weeks before The Witcher 3 even hits the shelves, I've got a feeling my PS4's got some sad, lonely nights in its future.

The worst part is that they're going to drown us in games and reveals once it hits.  Arkham Knight is a mere two weeks from The Witcher 3, and barely two weeks after that there's E3.  Just once I wish video game publishers would stop trying to "compete" for everyone's money and work together to make sure there's an actual steady stream of titles coming out over the course of the year instead of just jamming everything into one or two different areas.


Even if my interest in Tokusatsu has ebbed a bit (hence my no longer working at the Network), I don't think there's ever been a better time to be a fan of the genre.  When I came into the fandom ten years ago, it wasn't really a tokusatsu fandom so much as there was "the Power Rangers fandom...and the toku subculture inside it".  We were a niche fandom of a niche fandom.   There were all of two tokusatsu forums, one fansub group, and everyone watched either RAWs or HK-subs if they wanted to see anything older than what that one group was doing at the time.

The growth its experienced since then--both here and in Japan--is astounding.  Ninninger had a fairly decent opening episode (I'm afraid I haven't seen the second), and Drive has done a pretty good job of avoiding the whole "skip theory" thing that I'm actually a pretty firm believer in.   It's certainly no Gaim, but Gaim is a rare miracle that we hadn't really had since since W, and Agito before that.  Toku writing just isn't that great usually, but it's a good sign that the gap between "amazing" Rider series seems to be shrinking.

The only thing I really hope for in the future is a wider variety of new series.  For the longest time it was just Super Sentai, with Kamen Rider appearing periodically when Ishinomori had an idea.  Then in the Heisei era, Rider sort of became a second pillar of henshin hero and helped propel the genre to greater popularity.   Most recently, Garo has caught on with the populace enough to become another yearly installment sort of series and will most likely become the third pillar unless they fuck up massively...but I was actually hoping for something that could give Toei more of a run for its money with the kids section.  While Kamen Rider is usually a quality product, I can't help but feel like most years Super Sentai makes money in spite of itself.     Even though I think Ninninger looks great, the mecha continue to be some of the laziest design work I've seen in ages.  Keep in mind, this is what Bandai can do when they try:

This is the model for a character from a novel you'll never read.  Bandai is REALLY good if they want to be.

That's just a random image I pulled off Gundamguy in barely a minute of searching. And yet, someone saw fit to make the Ninninger's first mecha, Shurikenger, a robot where Red's mecha sits in an infant high chair and flails his legs about like an imbecile.  Seriously, I know we're not supposed to apply too much logic to Super Sentai lest the universe shatter to pieces....but what's stopping the MotD from just yanking Red's mech off it and leaving the whole thing inert?

This is total armchair executive, but I honestly think Toei doesn't try with Sentai because they don't have to.  The only tokusatsu that competes with it is Kamen Rider--their own product.  So hopefully within the next few years something arises that vies for the children's attention (and their parents dollars) in a way that forces them to improve.  Until then, we're going to be stuck with cheeseburger morphers and tires across chests.

*exhales*   Okay, that was a LOT of words.  If you read all of this, you...had way too much free time, but thanks.  


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