Media Month in Review – April 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: Ready Player One, Trigun Maximum, Dead Leaves, Pet Girl of Sakurasou, Dungeon of the Endless, and Netflix’s Daredevil.

Books/Comics:

Ready Player One

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline – This book was a lot of fun. An adventure story that is told mostly within the game-world and a bit in the real world. Made me think ever so slightly of Cory Doctorow’s For The Win with its take against the dystopic nature of rampant capitalism, but this one feels like the main attraction is the adventure tale. The build-up is the best part, and everything once things get “serious” feels a bit rushed, and not as well-written. It was eminently readable and enjoyable, especially to a child of the 80s such as myself who could smile at many of the references, but I don’t feel not knowing what gets referenced will hinder enjoyment much. I did find the romantic part of the story to be not very much “told”, but it also made me think of first loves and being a teenager, so I guess it worked.

When The Changewinds Blow (The Changewinds book 1), by Jack L. Chalker (first third) – Unlike the above book, and the Patrick Rothfuss novels I’ve read the past two months, the prose in this book is so tiring, just like the manga next on the list. I’ve read this trilogy around 7th or 8th grade, and wanted to read it again. This time I’m reading it in English, and the author’s writing doesn’t always make sense, or sentences are awkwardly structured, and the characters have that southern twang and 80s lingo that don’t always flow too well for me. I know it’s a voice, but it’s quite tiring to keep re-reading sentences just to make sure what they’re trying to say.

Trigun Maximum volumes 1-3 – Watching Kekkai Sensen (Blood Blockade Battlefront) which is based on Yasuhiro Nightow’s manga, my mind wandered back to Trigun, which I love, and to Trigun Maximum, which I never finished reading as the volumes came out too slowly, so back to it I went. I always remembered Trigun being one of the more exhausting manga to read, because of how it’s really hard to tell what is going on in each panel, to tell whose limbs you’re watching and where they’re going, but Trigun Maximum is much worse at it. It’s exhausting, and it’s thus far a series of fights, with much less levity than the original run.

Rurouni Kenshin volumes 1-2 – After reading some Trigun Maximum, my mind wandered back to Rurouni Kenshin, another manga series I own and have read numerous times, just to see how much more fluid the visual storytelling in it is. Also, it’s so hard for me to think of those character designs as being something published in Shonen Jump, as they look straight out of shoujo/josei. How times have changed. The mangaka in one of his little sections did mention the series had many more female fans than male ones. Even the storyline, though it’s focused on action, seems to give Kaoru, at least in those early sections, much more screentime.

Chihayafuru chapters 142-144 – Chihaya got some really good lines. She’s finally making a decision to go at something though it hurts, to deal with the ramifications of one’s choices, rather than going ahead without considering the costs. Chihaya is growing up, and so as the characters enter their third and final year, the series is finally entering its final stages. It’s not that the show has matured due to this, as other characters already faced those situations, but it’s certainly helping that now the interactions could be like this, and not just when it comes to sports (such as Nishia and Tsukue-kun arguing over playing in the 2nd season).

Movies:

Dead Leaves anime - Pandy and Retro and explosions

Dead LeavesImaishi Hiroyuki, the director, is mostly known for his work on Gainax shows such as Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, FLCL, and others. Notable as a key animator who also directed Kill la Kill and Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, he certainly has his style, which is often “explosive action.” This little film feels more like a proof of concept, of Imaishi being given free reign to do as he wishes. Explosions! The art-style is decidedly “eh”, but the animation itself is quite smooth when it matters. There’s not a lot to bite into her, but if all you want is gonzo action that ends before it overstays itself, then you could do much worse.

Avengers 1 Rewatch – Rewatched to prepare for Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s a nice film, one of the better Marvel action films, and as usual, the last act with its incessant action gets a bit tired, but I actually liked everything up to it. Held up on rewatch.

Summer Wars Rewatch – Hosoda Mamoru’s upcoming film, The Boy and the Beast, received a new trailer. The trailer excited me enough that I went and rewatched Summer Wars on a whim. I intended only to watch the opening fight by King Kazma and the Koi Koi match, but ended up rewatching it all. Still a great film. The long panning shot midway through is also quite striking in its silent impact.

Anime:

Girl Pet of Sakurasou / Sakurasou no Pet no Kanojo anime episode 3 - Kanda Sorata has sexy bath times with Shiina Mashiro

Girl Pet of Sakurasou (Sakurasou no Pet no Kanojo) episodes 1-14 – This show has good comedic timing and plenty of amusing gags, it also has some non-obnoxious fan-service which I enjoy. And then we get to the story. The first “issue” I have with the story is one often found in Light Novels, or at least their adaptations, when they go more towards the drama route – the first five episodes feel as if they’re the show’s finale, with the characters explicating all of their issues (it’s about comparing yourself to success and not giving up), and supposedly moving on. The show blew its entire load there. And then we have misunderstandings, or just repeating the same “conflict” again, and again, with different characters, and different character compositions, but also with the same characters, and it gets frustrating, and that’s where many “drama shows” have been failing me lately in the anime-sphere. It’s getting quite heavy, because there’s no real progress, and because characters are working hard to wallow in their non-progression, and the story wallows too. The jokes are more hit and miss as well. But still, it’s not terrible, but it could’ve been better as a five episode OVA, or had it cut those early episodes altogether, because the episodes that follow feel like adding insult to injury, of going back and undoing everything the first 5 actually did.

Rewatch Section: Rewatched halves of shows, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann episodes 10-27, Claymore episodes 9-22, and 3 hours’ worth of various Fairy Tail Episodes (mostly around 100-120 and 150-175) – Wasn’t in a very anime-watching mood, so just went and rewatched some stuff I knew I liked, which improved my mood. I usually only rewatch Claymore’s Theresa and Cutters’ arc, so this was a nice digression.

WataMote (No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Unpopular!) episode 1 rewatch – I want to finish this show sometime soon, and someone brought it up recently, and I remembered how much I laughed the first time I’ve watched the first episode, so went back to it. I laughed, though less, and not as hard as the first time. I knew some of the jokes were coming. And yeah, the best parts as far as I’m concerned involve Tomoki (the younger brother) having to deal with Tomoko, and where we get to hear his inner thoughts.

Seasonal anime – Various currently airing shows, the new season’s bounty: Arslan Senki (The Heroic Legend of Arslan) 1-3, Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) 11-13, Denpa Kyoushi (Ultimate Otaku Teacher) 1-2, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works S2 1-4 (13-16), Kekkai Sensen (Blood Blockade Battlefront) 1-4, Ore Monogatari!! (MY Love STORY!!) 1-3, OreGairu Season 2 1-4, Plastic Memories 1-4, Punchline 1-2, Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma 1-4, Knights of Sidonia (Sidonia no Kishi) Season 2 1-2

In case you’re wondering, I’ve watched 87 full length episodes this month, compared to about 70-80 full-length episodes most months. I guess it only felt like considerably less because much of it was half-rewatching shows, rather than new content.

Games:

dungeon-of-the-endless

Dungeon of the Endless – This roguelike really reminds me of FTL. I still haven’t beat it. I’ve given it about 10 attempts on normal difficulty, and 1.5 on easy. There are a lot more decision points, or at least, ramifications to decisions compared to other roguelikes, and in this sense it’s more like an RPG/strategy game’s tech-tree. Every room you open, every “turn” you keep playing to power up is a greater risk than before. Unlike, say, The Binding of Isaac or FTL where each room/node on the same “floor” are of equal difficulty to the last, on average. No, here each single door opens greater risks.

Easier difficulty is mostly so in that you need to heal less often as you keep opening additional doors, and the same resource is used to heal as well as grow your characters stronger. This is combined with needing to spend less resources on defense, and thus having more resources to upgrade your characters/tech tree. Later levels though are still so hard, because you not only face tougher enemies, but are required by design to open more doors, which invites more trouble. Oh boy. A tough game, but so are roguelikes.

Titan Souls (demo) – Try the demo to tell whether you want to play it. You get to fight 3 bosses. The game’s concept is neat, with how each and every fight is a boss fight and one shot is one kill. The “fists” boss was extremely “safe”, as you can defeat it without ever risking being killed, but you need to figure out the trick to killing it, so serves as a good introduction. And that’s part of the issue, while each fight is a puzzle and interesting, death can come swiftly until you figure out how to defeat the boss, then numerous times until you actually manage to execute it, and each time you must slog your way back to the boss. Being “punished” for losing in a puzzle game by wasting time is not very enjoyable, and since this criticism is everywhere, I hope they fix it. Might buy it when it’s on sale.

League of Legends – Hadn’t played much, mostly some first win of the day games, and an ARAM or two.

Diablo 3 – New patch with all of its new shininess appeared. Started farming some of it, then realized neither the farming nor playing with the set when you have it aren’t all that fun. Eh.

Hearthstone – The new solo expansion/campaign is out. Earning gold/ranked backs is still a chore, but I like the atmosphere of those solo experiences, and even though the class challenges aren’t hard, they give a breath of fresh air when you only receive Unstable Portals, and actually trying to defeat the hard challenges is fun. It’s not fun enough to actually pay the amount they want to unlock the wings with real currency, though.

Yomi (card game) – Talking about David Sirlin’s fighting game using decks with preconstructed decks. I played Graves, first game against Satsuki, close loss. Then got utterly crushed by the rock fella, though post-match thought of something I could’ve done, but a tough match-up. Hadn’t played in a long while.

Star Realms (deck-building card game) – From the people who’ve brought us Ascension. There are still two currencies, one to buy cards and one to score points directly, except this time you attack the other side. Also, like “Artifacts” in Ascension, it actually matters for all colours that you get cards from the same “colours” to get the most out of them. I quite like it as a two player game. Not as many “options” as Ascension, but it feels better.

Quarriors! (deck-building board game) – Played as three people this time. Man, the dragon is tough. 3 players did mean the third player was stuck with only one portal, which greatly slowed down their economy compared to the other two players.

Netrunner (card/board game) – Played at my friend’s place. Didn’t have patience to make a deck on the spot there. He, like me, only owns the starter set. So Anarchist versus Netrunner it’s been. He’s been playing the game some online, so it was pretty close. Managed to get lucky by picking the agenda from his hand and won. I love the Virus setup.

Television:

Daredevil (Netflix) Wilson Fisk and Vanessa - Fisk feels lonely

Daredevil (Netflix, 2015) episodes 1-13 (Complete) – Is this a drama? Is this an action show? The drama wasn’t the best, but I’d definitely say it was a better drama show than an action show. The action wasn’t always the best, to put it mildly. I also found Foggy to be too much of a one-note comic relief character for how much screen time he received, and Leland, don’t get me started on Leland. I did like how they depicted The Kingpin, and managed to perfectly convey his small tics, his loneliness, and his insecurities. They actually made The Kingpin a character, and made his motivations, not just his causes for them, make some sense as well. An uneven, but mostly enjoyable show. They did nab the cliffhanger aspect perfectly and made me want to keep watching.

I did find them neutering the actual moral conflicts, while giving them so much lip service to be very disappointing. Matt never really had to sacrifice himself to not hurt innocents, as whenever such a situation arose, we found out the so-called people he might hurt were crooked, so he had cause to actually hurt them. That was very disappointing. The aspect of “price”, and remorse, only spoken of, but never actually had an impact.

The Blacklist Season 2 episodes 18-19 – The pre and post-Easter break episodes. Cliffhanger, but also finally, and slowly, spelling things out for us. Was ok.

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?

One comment on “Media Month in Review – April 2015

  1. exof954 says:

    Just found a copy of Ready Player One in a local bookstore. A lot of the 80’s jokes are going over my head, but I’m still finding enjoyment in the vast, futuristic semi-utopia of OASIS. To be honest, it reminds me a lot of a better (Or American, note the two aren’t synonymous) Sword Art Online with its mysterious creator and his huge legacy. Still only halfway through the book, but I remembered this post and came back to talk about it.

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