Media Month in Review – March 2015

I use this post to go over all the media consumed/experienced over the past month, with 2-4 sentences per item. A way to give short thoughts on each topic. Highlights this month: Pillars of Eternity kickstarter delivered, Sherlock and The Blacklist, anime of the heaviest and least-heavy sorts.

Movies:

Big Hero 6 - Baymax and Hiro - Non huggable armour

Big Hero 6 – This movie sort of exemplifies the problem I’ve had with the third Harry Potter film. I really liked the book, but the film sort of ticked all the plot-boxes, without actually spending any time on characterization. Likewise, this film ticked all the “Feel good” boxes, the group support, the don’t give into the darkness, believe in yourself, etc. It had beautiful vistas, some good action sequences, and a couple of emotional scenes, but again, everything according to the standardized mix. The film was empty calories, even if enjoyable, in a standardized enjoyment way.

Rain Man – First time watching the film in a long time. Still Cruz’s best role to date, and one of Dustin Hoffman’s finest. Can’t think of a better one off of the top of my head. I remembered plenty of things from the film, such as remembering the cards before going to Vegas, reading the phone book, the toothpicks, the house they stopped at, but didn’t remember Cruz’s character had a significant other, at all, huh. Highly recommended to those who’ve never watched it.

Hotarubi no Mori e (Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light) – Rewatch. Watched it for the first time in September. Wanted something short and sad. It was, though all the cats I take care of started appearing as soon as I began watching it, which hampered the experience.

Anime:

Gundam Build Fighters anime episode 5 - Iori Sei loves Gunpla

Gundam Build Fighters episodes 1-25 – A perfect show for anyone who just needs their shounen action fix. This show covers what others do in a hundred episodes, or more, in 25. All the same messages, all the same themes. It does mean it’s not actually very good, as it mostly ticks the boxes, while being generally enjoyable, and not looking too bad. It could’ve been a blatant cash-grab, and you can feel the commercialism amidst the overt ads within the show, but this show was made with love, and while not great, it’s pleasant enough to watch. Also, really good soundtrack.

Aoi Hana (Blue Flowers) episodes 1-11 – A few months back I asked for shoujo (aimed at teen girls) romance recommendations, and this is one of the shows that was recommended to me. Well, I didn’t like this show much. Aside from not giving me what was promised (a relationship between the two main characters, appearing on both the cover and in the OP), it just wasn’t very engaging. The characters, the pacing, the actual relationships… none of them was very gripping. It was slow, which is fine, but it didn’t feel as if I were watching relationships, but people’s image of relationships, a fragile and rather bland ideal.

To be fair, that sort of is what the story is about, but it’s not very interesting to watch when not only it’s all been done before and done better, but that you can’t actually care for any of the characters involved. The only thing different about the show is the characters engage in lesbian relationships, but eh. Feels like a show aimed at 14 year old girls, if I’m blunt.

Baccano! episodes 1-13, specials 1-3 – Baccano! was an enjoyable show. I’ll likely do a write-up on its non-chronological storytelling soon(™), but it also didn’t leave all that much of an impression on me. Its best aspects were the ones helped by its storytelling, which was a varied and great cast, where each of them not only could have been the main character of the show, but also was, just of a different story, that interacted with others. While the action and characters were much more pronounced than the ones in Durarara!!, I’d say Durarara!! is the better example of telling those converging or crossing storylines. A worthwhile watch, but I feel like I expected more.

Full Metal Panic! episodes 1-13 – Wanted something light and funny when the month started. Remembered watching an episode of Fumoffu a couple of years back. Well, this series is as generic as they come, and its comic moments are pretty meh, unlike Fumoffu. This series does have some good drama moments, especially early on, but it never lets them last long enough, or focuses on them long enough, for it to feel worthwhile in either direction.

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April) episodes 1-5 – Wanted to marathon it once the show finished. I might return to it at some point, and it’s a really pretty show, but the narcissism displayed by some of the characters, and how they use their “friend” to accomplish what they want while passing it as “in their friend’s best interests” is bad, but that the show presents them as right is morally reprehensible, even.

Cromartie High School episode 3 (short) – A 1 min skit stretched to 8 minutes. Unfortunate.

Seasonal anime – Various currently airing shows: Assassination Classroom (Ansatsou Kyoushitsu) 8-10, Death Parade 9-12, Durarara!!x2 Shou 9-12, Log Horizon S2 22-25, Maria the Virgin Witch (Junketsu no Maria) 8-12, Parasyte: the Maxim (Kiseijuu) 21-24, and Shirobako 21-24.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve watched 98 full length episodes, and 1 “shorts” episodes this month, compared to about 70 full-length episodes most months.

Games:

Pillars of Eternity – I still remember playing the first Baldur’s Gate. BioWare’s Black Isle games are a large part of my adolescence, and I loved them to bits. Pillars isn’t an easy game, though going at the first dungeon before enlisting the third party member, or hiring an extra helper probably had something to do with it. I also like sometimes going back and trying things I succeeded at again, and this, alongside all the places I do fail stretch things out. But it never feels unfair.

There are massive amounts of text to read in this game, lore and characters’ “memories”, and I’ll admit after the first two hours I stopped reading most of it, because I could probably spend hours reading that and not actually playing. The new anime season got somewhat in the way, but I hope to get many more hours into this game, that demands many hours, especially when like me you do all side-missions.

Guilty Gear Xrd Sign – I sat down and did the tutorial, twice, then sat in training mode and challenge mode, and tried to get used to the control scheme, and the more rigorous controls. First with my pad, then with my arcade stick. Most things work fine, but that damn up! I always mess up trying to move from one quarter-circle to the next as there’s a small up that doesn’t stop the first quarter circle’s special, but definitely stops the next. Didn’t actually do PVP or even much Arcade. Just me and the training mode. It does get frustrating when you fail a certain combo for 20 minutes straight, let me tell you. It’s also somewhat the opposite of what I play these games for – getting into the zone by actually playing.

Road Not Taken – Supposedly a Roguelike, but eh on that front. So you get some stuff that goes with you between games, and you should try and make it all the way through through several levels, or start all over again. It’s a nice little puzzle game, and that’s all it really is.

League of Legends – I actually played games! Dominion games with people I used to play with back in 2012-2013, and some ARAM games on my own. It felt good. Need to dip my toe back into Summoner’s Rift, but as a jungler main, will need to relearn map awareness and how the jungle works, since it’s been over a year.

Hearthstone – Must get card-backs! Also want some extra gold for the new expansion, but I don’t actually enjoy the game enough to farm said gold, so… eh.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate – Played one hour, dealt with the basic control tutorials. Didn’t get much farther yet, hopefully this month.

Diablo 3 – A major patch was expected in April, and I was busy with other things, so barely played any. Also waited for a season to end.

Books/Comics:

The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicle, book 2) – I’ll begin with a quote from the novel:

When she spoke her voice was clear. “I do this so you cannot help but hear. [a] wise man views a moonless night with fear.”

The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man’s Fear (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This series’ strength being its absolutely excellent prose continues in this novel. The prose is just gorgeous. I can only imagine it’s one of the better series to listen to as audiobooks. The story sort of falls at parts, or rather, each part isn’t that well connected to the others. Just as in the first book, the series is at its weakest when Kvothe leaves the University, and when it tries to tackle his sexual awakening, both of which get considerably more time here.

It’s not terrible, and it’s not even average, but it feels uneven, though some bits feel great, often by dint of the prose rather than the storytelling, such as the moment just as and just after the bandits. There’s also the show addressing its inner-story “veracity”, where you’re being purposefully led to think the character is lying, but also given reasons to question it (changing his name). It’s very enjoyable, and I’m having a hard time seeing how they’ll wrap it up in but one more book.

Sword Art Online vol. 14 (Alicization Uniting) second half – Finished it! Book 15 is half-translated, so I’ll wait with that. Interesting, our final villain in this novel is again made into a “non-human”, via atrocities, but for once, not through anything that is sexual. It’s interesting to compare Administrator to Kayaba Akihiko, as both played with others’ lives in order to make real their dreams, in a virtual world.

There were moments I was surprised at Reki Kawahara going with things the way he did, or as far as he did, but come to think of it, it makes perfect sense, considering how several other arcs ended. So this book is very much Sword Art Online. Not “better”, but more refined, certainly.

Television:

Sherlock - Sherlock Holmes doesn't care

Dr. House, is that you?

Sherlock episodes 1-9 – An interesting scheme, 90 minute episodes, formatted as a mini-series, you could watch an episode whenever you have time and mood for a movie-sized piece of entertainment. Well, that’s the general idea, though I ended up marathoning the show.

What did I think of it? It was nice. Seeing the take on multiple classic Sherlock tales such as The Hounds of the Baskervilles (I think I’ve read that in 2nd grade? 4th maybe?) was interesting. But many of the episodes did feel a tad too long. Not in length as much as it felt like several different thematic threads that have been stitched together. Either like 3-4 episodes’ worth, or yes, a somewhat disjointed film. The wedding episode was a great example of it, with one half where I laughed a lot, and then it was attached to something weird.

The acting, especially by Martin Freeman in Watson’s role felt a tad, well, not wooden, but as if the players are re-enacting shticks, rather than characters. I wonder if the yearly mini-series nature doesn’t have something to do with it. It’s an overall enjoyable series, that’s sometimes breaking at the seams. The BBC style, or Moffat-style witticism is clearly on display as well.

The Blacklist Season 1 episodes 1-22, Season 2 episodes 1-17 – This is fun trash. The characters often act in ways that don’t make sense or are flat out stupid, plot holes or utterly nonsensible and indefensible actions by CIA agents abound. The actors, with the exception of James Spader often do less than convince. The plot twists are sometimes very thin and heavy-handed.

And yet, I couldn’t stop watching. The plot-twists, even if they made me groan, did make me want to watch what happens next. I mean, I usually knew what would happen next, but I still wanted to say it. Very fun diversion. Not actually good for anything beyond raw entertainment value. It sometimes reminds me of Fringe.

Pushing Daisies Season 2 episode 2 – Just one episode, and not one of the strongest in terms of plot, but it truly was a pleasure in terms of puns and the flow, the witty banter that makes watching this show feel as if you’re enveloped in a warm feeling.

Watched a total of 43.5 hours’ worth of western television this month, that’s about 130 episodes’ worth. Damn.

So, anything from the past month you’d like to speak more of? A play, a book, something not necessarily anime-related, or which you hadn’t blogged about?

8 comments on “Media Month in Review – March 2015

  1. exof954 says:

    Glad to see you enjoyed Gundam Build Fighters! The second season is done, but it’s not nearly as good as the first- where the original exceeded expectations despite being technically a cash grab, season 2 crashed and burned almost every time, going to the trouble of introducing a team mechanic only to resort to overpowered DBZ energy beast battles most of the time.
    I had the same problem with Big Hero as,you, but it was also really enjoyable for me- just like you said. Of course,They did have a whole lot of stuff fit in as is.
    I’ve never seen any Harry Potter movies except for 1 (but read all the books), and you’ve just confirmed my suspicions about them. I’m not watching 3 now.

    • Guy says:

      Considering I considered GBF just a single step above “Average”, yeah, it either sounds like I wouldn’t like Try at all, or would consider it just as “averagish” as the first season. I mean, most who seem to not think highly of it did “like” GBF, and I can’t really consider myself one of them – I find it enjoyable, but nothing special. GBF in no way “exceeded expectations” for me, outside of “was more than a rank money grab”.

      I might try Try one day when I’m bored. Mostly as I did with the first season. Then again, I had other shows that were likely better that fit the same purpose which I did not watch. Sometimes you just want “Average”, LOL.

  2. iblessall says:

    Yessss someone else who thinks Durarara!! is better than Baccano!. You do have good taste once in a while, huh?

    • Guy says:

      You mean, your taste is not terribad every so often :P

      Though to be honest, it’s not like I’d begrudge people liking Baccano! more. It’s more focused on the fun and action, and less on the more personalized feel of being connected. I think its storyline weaving is weaker, but that’s because it’s still telling more organized and stand-alone stories.

  3. Anonymous says:

    For Full Metal Panic, episodes 15-17 may be worth watching, probably the best dramatic part in the 1st season.

    • Guy says:

      At this point it’s a coin flip whether I’ll make it through or it’d remain on hold indefinitely or forever. The more serious episodes had been the best ones up to now, like in the first 5 episodes.

  4. arbitrary_greay says:

    Do you mind talking about Fringe?

    I’d also tentatively recommend Person of Interest. Its discussions of the surveillance state, AIs, and related implications and ethics, has really picked up this season, almost to a Psycho-Pass prequel level. And I was able to cherry-pick my way through the more procedural early seasons without any problems, with my emotional investment in the main cast getting strong enough to consider going back to watch episodes previously skipped.

    • Guy says:

      I’ll keep Person of Interest in mind, but it looks more fun than interesting? I still need to watch Almost Human. I’ve barely watched western television in recent years.

      As for Fringe, I only watched the first half of the first season. Along with Community. Then I decided I’d watch them on my own rather than weekly on TV and never got to it. Fringe is weird, it’s like Alias had a child with The X-Files. Weird cases, some characters being well-acted and others flat. It’s interesting. Dunno. You can also really tell what they’re building towards, at least one major reveal, from pretty early on.

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