Friday, February 28, 2014

Spice and Wolf Review

Spice and Wolf is a historical fantasy series set during the medieval period of Europe. Unlike most other medieval fantasy works, it is not some epic quest to save the land, but rather, it is about a typical merchant of the era named Kraft Lawrence and his life after he meets a mysterious wolf girl named Holo. While there is some fantasy action, the series is more about medieval economics and the wonderful character interaction between Lawrence and Holo. Also, the series is incredibly short with only 13, 30 minute episode, which makes for a quick watch compared to most other series.
As much as I enjoy epic, action-packed, fantasy adventures among the likes of The Lord of the Rings and Princess Mononoke, sometimes a more character driven story with witty humor and excellent dialogue can be just as enjoyable, and that exactly describes Spice and Wolf. In Spice and Wolf, a merchant, named Kraft Lawrence, that is passing through a village to trade as he usually does, but before he leaves, he finds a beautiful woman sleeping in his craft. He soon discovers that she has wolf ears and a tail. The woman, named Holo, explains to him that she is a Yoitsu from the far off lands of the north where there are others like her. Several hundreds years prior, the inhabitants of the village believed her to be a deity, similar to the Asgardians in the Thor films, and thus the legend of Holo the Wise Wolf was born. Since she is a Yoitsu, she can control how well the wheat harvest goes for the people of the village. Everything else is explained in the few episode of the series, so go watch it if you want to know more about the premise. 

What sets Spice and Wolf from most series, among other things, is Holo. Despite first impressions, she is not your typical tsundere; Holo is a very complex and layered character that is both humorous and thoughtful. While she might not be the strongest or most bada** female protagonist around, she is given a lot of depth and character development. She has her moments of being awesome, yet she has a realistic weak side her to character, which humanizes her. 

My only complaint about the series is the few negative comments by a few characters towards the church, granted, some of the churches during the medieval period were corrupt. 

The Good: Holo is a refreshing and unique female lead, Often humorous, Witty dialogue, Fantastic English dub, Strongly developed relationship, Great soundtrack, Beautiful animation, Entirely original and unique,

The Bad: Some of the economic jargon is dull, 

Plot: 9.4/10- At first glance, you might think that the series is a fantasy romantic comedy, and while there are elements of comedy, and some non-corny romantic elements, Spice and Wolf is really about three things: Lawrence's life as a merchant, medieval economics, and most importantly, the pitch perfect character interaction between Lawrence and Holo. Even though the individual stories are not mind blowing amazing, the originality and uniqueness of the series sets it apart from basically everything else out there, particularly in the genre of animation. Bargaining and making business deals seem boring, but, to me at least, that aspect was entertaining because it was most unique and I have always enjoyed the real life bargaining series like American Pickers and other similar series.
The dialogue is positively perfect; it is well written and full of wit. The setting is well thought out and the medieval aspects are very believable. The series only noticeable weakness is some of the medieval economic jargon, which can make a few plot points difficult to follow since we, as an audience, most likely have no knowledge of the subject. However, being a history buff, the historical setting was great and interesting to learn about (it makes me want to know more about the time period). One odd thing about the setting is that one minor character appears to be wearing modern eye glasses. Additionally, the atmosphere of the series is amazing! The series felt so warm and inviting that I wish I could spend many more hours in its immersive world. It should be noted however that some viewers might find the pacing too slow for their liking, which is understandable since the series is dialogue heavy.

Characterization: 10/10- Holo and Lawrence are two of the most entertaining characters to watch I have seen. Their interaction is not necessarily romantic, but rather playful and fun. You could say that Spice and Wolf is a romantic comedy since a relationship develops between Holo and Lawrence throughout the series, but they more act like they are two people that genuinely enjoy each other's company, opposed to some shallow romance. If I were to rank my favorite female characters in anime, Holo would likely number one on the list, or at least a very close second, because she is such a entirely unique character. She has elements of other characters, but her mix of wisdom, naivety, playfulness, and a deep sense of loneliness makes her both deep and fun to watch. Lawrence is also a very strongly developed character with his own unique character traits. While Spice and Wolf is mostly about Holo and Lawrence, there are other side characters that add to the experience and their time in the series is memorable.

Action: 4.2/10- Spice and Wolf is not an action series; that being said, there are a few fantasy battle scenes that are well animated and fun to watch.

Acting: 9.6/10- Even if you generally prefer subs, at least give the English dub a try. Since none of the characters are actually Japanese, it makes more sense to watch it in English, plus the dub is fantastic! While the exact place in Europe is not specified, I assume it is not England since the characters have American accents, and not British ones. Brina Palencia should be given special praise for perfectly portraying the role of Holo. Her acting added the complexity and humor her character embodies perfectly. J. Michael Tatum is reliable as ever as Lawrence, giving yet another strong performance. The rest of the cast is overall strong without a single weak performance among the cast.
Art Style: 9.5/10- Despite not being the most detailed animation ever, the animation is positively beautiful! It is pleasing to look at with its soft edges and natural looking backgrounds. Some of the characters are a little too angular, but Holo's character design is particularly worthy of praise. In terms of style, the animation does not really have the feel of a typical anime, with the exception of the eyes, which should make the series more accessible to none fans of the genre. Also, the animators do an excellent job of utilizing her tail and ears to allow her to express a wider range of emotions.

Soundtrack: 9.2/10- Spice and Wolf's soundtrack perfectly suits it medieval setting with tracks that make you feel as though you are in the middle ages. The score ranges from upbeat and fun, like the one below, to slower and drama, and to epic, depending on the context.

Opening and Ending: 9.4/10- Spice and Wolf's opening is nothing short of beautiful. It perfectly fits the series' tone and overall style. It is slower than the usual opening, but great to listen to nonetheless. The ending is catchy and fun with its nonsensical Engrish lyrics.

Humor: 9.5/10- Spice and Wolf is not a series that will make you laugh out loud all the time with its humor but, it is witty with its humor. Holo's teasing of Lawrence and her general character traits provide the main source of humor. For me at least, I was smiling throughout most of the series since almost the entire series is entertaining and all around fun becasue the characters were so likable.

Overall: 9.5/10- With its slower than usual pacing and a heavy reliance on character interaction, Spice and Wolf is not for everyone. That being said, those looking for a fun medieval fantasy with lovable characters and a generally unique story, Spice and Wolf might be for you.

Closing comments: For non-fans of the genre, if you can get past the one thing that I explain below, Spice and Wolf might be a fun and short series that you should consider watching since the entire series is on Hulu in both the sub and dub.

Note: One potentially off putting element of the series that should be noted is the inclusion of what could be considered fan-service. During a few parts of the series, when Holo transforms into human form, she is not wearing clothes, however she only appears to have the shape of a female human but with the physical detail of a doll. With the exception of one very brief scene, that aspect is generally not depicted as fan-service. I generally think of it like Mystique in the X-Men movies.

On a personal side note, Spice and Wolf is the type of series that makes me happy just watching it, which was especially noticeable since, at the time of watching it a few weeks ago, I was under a lot of stress with college. So, Spice and Wolf helped me calm down and be happier, therefore I am inherently biased towards it because it is my kind of entertainment.
Recommended for: Fantasy fans, Comedy fans, Anime fans, Animation fans,

Note: This is a review for the first season of Spice and Wolf, not the second, which is named Spice and Wolf II. At the time of writing this review, I have not seen the second season (I have seen it now but not when writing the review).

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Coming Soon: March 2014

Jordan is back again with another preview of the upcoming movies of the month. 

Howdy readers! Welcome to the March issue of Coming Soon! February was a pretty standard month with scores not deviating from the average that much. Let's recap the month of love in which I didn't see a single romantic movie (mainly because they were all terrible).

The Lego Movie: I called it! Destined to be one of the best animated movies ever and a film that is not only mesmerizing to watch, but funny as could be. The Lego Movie is a hit and it's the year's best film so far. (Rath's Review Score: 9.5/10)
The Monuments Men: Slightly disappointing given the stellar cast involved but after letting it sit with me for a couple weeks I was really glad I saw it. The story it has to tell is pretty incredible. It's just a shame the technical aspects of the film couldn't be as well. (RRS: 7/10)
Robocop: Not nearly as bad as everyone expecting. Despite boring action scenes, the reboot of this 80s film updates/translates very well to the modern day and has a stellar cast. (RRS: 7.5/10)
3 Days to Kill: A film that I decided to pass on and it seems like for good reason. I can't stand generic action and it seems like 3 Days to Kill was all that and not much more.
Pompeii: It certainly could have been worse, but Pompeii doesn't do anything special with its Titanic/Gladiator mashup. The main reason is that there is zero emotion tied to a film that so desperately needs it. The destruction sure is fun to watch though. (RRS: 6/10)
Non-Stop: At the time of writing this I haven't seen the film but fingers crossed that it ends up being what us Liam Neeson fans are hoping for!

Most Disappointing: The Monuments Men (slightly)
Most Surprising: Robocop
Worst Film: Any of the romance movies
Best Film: The Lego Movie (by a mile)

Now let's take a look at what looks to be an exciting March!! As always, click the titles for the trailers.

Why It's Worth Seeing: Because it's more 300...that's why. I'm a HUGE fan of the original. It certainly is style over substance but it's darn good at what it does. I was weary of this one until I saw Eva Green (Vesper from Casino Royale) acting totally bada** in the trailers. She is a great actress and as long as the movie utilizes her correctly, we could be in for a special treat...again.
What Could Go Wrong: A lot could especially with it being a sequel for a movie that came out many years ago. I'm concerned mainly that it will tell a story that wasn't necessary after the events of the first. I'm also a bit weary that this movie wont have its "King Leonidas" that made the first so special. But then again, we had never heard of Gerard Butler before the first film so...

Why It's Worth Seeing: Wes Anderson takes a lot of pride and time to craft his cooky, fun films. Personally, I think they are a tad overrated, but you can't deny the noise they generally make around the time of their release. Budapest Hotel looks exceptionally quirky and the cast is to die for. It could possibly be one of the funniest films of the year.
What Could Go Wrong: Early reviews indicate that nothing has gone wrong and that its fantastic. But sometimes with these silly movies I find they tend to try too hard to be unique and end up coming off kind of hipster.

Why It's Worth Seeing: Aaron Paul and those glorious, sexy, multimillion dollar cars. There has been a lot of press focused on the fact that the film uses hardly any special effects and goes for more practical effects. That's great news if you are an action fan.
What Could Go Wrong: Well its a videogame adaptation so the track record isn't in its favor. The stories tend to be useless and the attempts to capture the spirit of the game usually fall flat on their face. But who knows, maybe this will be the one to break the mold?

Why It's Worth Seeing:'ve read this entire series. It has an atrociously-written romance in it, that is true. Over the course of the three novels the author tones it down quite a bit which I appreciated and the underlying story/plot is riveting. It went to places that I really didn't think it would go and, at least in my opinion, its certainly not "another Twilight". So, much like with The Hunger Games films, if it balances the love story and the main story there is certainly potential here, especially with someone as talented as Shailene Woodley at the helm.
What Could Go Wrong: From the previews it looks like they are marketing it is a romance. This story's strengths are certainly not in that department and I pray that they are doing that just to get butts in the theater seats. Look for this one to either surprise or disappoint a lot of people.

Why It's Worth Seeing: The Muppets are hilarious 9 times out of 10 and the previous film was no exception. This one looks to be just as much fun and its got a pretty awesome cameo-filled cast too.
What Could Go Wrong: The jokes have to be witty like the last one and the film must cater to children and adults. The Muppets are always really good at accomplishing this but it's a potential pit-fall.

Why It's Worth Seeing: I sincerely can't make up my mind about this one. On one hand, it looks like it might be average as can be. On the other hand, it is from director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) who is awfully talented behind the lens. And we all know that Russell Crowe can lead a film.
What Could Go Wrong: How do you make a tale that most of us know backwards and forwards, interesting again? Do you deviate from the source material a lot or do you make a word-for-word adaptation? Going too drastic in either of these directions could really hurt this film

Why It's Worth Seeing: It's an Arnold action flick that actually looks to be a tad realistic/make sense. The supporting cast is pretty fun and it looks like it could be a great watch-it-when-youre-bored action flick.
What Could Go Wrong: DEA and cartel movies have been done to death lately and I worry that this one's plot will not be anything more than a good guys vs bad guys shooting spree.

Must See (In order): 300: Rise of an Empire, Muppets Most Wanted, The Grand Budapest Hotel
On My Radar: Need for Speed, Noah, Sabotage
Predicted Dud: Divergent (sadly)

Have a great March everybody! See you again when April roles around and we get our first Marvel movie! *screams like a pre-teen girl* Be sure to come on over and follow me through Blogger at RATH'S REVIEWS and like me on Facebook HERE! I follow-for-follow 100%. Thanks again! 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fight Like a Girl (Marvel Females Countdown Part 2)

Ashley returns with her second entry in her guest post series about the best females characters in Marvel.

Ashley Tara here! Part 2 of 3 of my Marvel Females Countdown guest posts features a lovable Intern, a sassy Asgardian, a woman of science, and a tough agent.

8. Darcy Lewis

A lot of people are torn whether or not they think Darcy is humorous to a fault (plain annoying) or a much needed character for comedy relief. I think she can tend to be a bit too overt at times, but for the most part I enjoy her character, especially in the first Thor movie. She's just a human (in a good way, though with an inclination toward tasers), worrying about her iPod songs and how to handle "cut homeless" gods dropping from the sky. She's not at this place on my list because she's necessarily strong, but she's a great character with memorable one-liners that add the needed laugh in the middle of all the gods and monsters. I'm also glad she found her perfect match in Ian the intern in The Dark World, I definitely ship that now. ;)

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7. The Lady Sif

Although we haven't seen as much of her character like the other Marvel ladies, Sif is a tough chick who royally kicks backside wherever she goes. She seemed to be inserted The Dark World more for looks and an underlying jealousy toward Jane Foster instead of for a more substantial part in the plot like in the first movie, so I hope her character gets a little more focus in the future sequel if they're going to go with that love triangle dynamic. Even still, she's a loyal friend and warrior, and I'm guilty of favoring her with Thor more than Jane. Also, her sword fitting into her shield is one of the coolest things ever.

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6. Jane Foster

I like Jane Foster, just not that much with Thor. Why do I say that? That's a whole other post in the making. (I don't like their relationship, meaning I tolerate it, because it has felt forced from the beginning to me) But like I said, I do like Jane on her own. She's a pretty and smart woman of science with a passion for what she does and the integrity to keep doing it. That alone I admire a lot, considering she has no "powers" or training other than her knowledge and her profession as an astrophysicist. She does not make brains look weak in any sense of the word. Along with her intern, she too has many humorous moments in both films and she is extremely loyal to Thor which is a quality I can definitely admire. 

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5. Agent Maria Hill

Maria Hill is exactly my personal favorite Marvel female, but number 5 on my list because the others are better qualified to be at the front! ;) Maria hill is strong in personality and conduct, being the vigilant, tough, and top agent under Fury's command during The Avengers. The alternate opening and ending of the movie actually featured narration from her point of view, which gave better insight into her character and how she learned to trust Fury. I love her no-nonsense attitude and her example as a capable leader and agent in a world filled with males. The pilot episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still my favorite, mainly because of her cameo and interaction with post-death/Avengers Coulson. I can't wait to see more of her in the future, starting with The Winter Soldier in April!

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The final 4 coming your way soon!

Thanks Ashley for another great post!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


J and J Production's first giveaway will be coming to a close at the end of the week, but there is still plenty of time to enter the giveaway for a free copy of Iron Man 3! If you already follow the blog, that gives you 10 entries, you can also Like J and J Productions' Facebook page and Tweet about the giveaway. There are many ways to enter!

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Top 10 Novels: Part 2

Here is the continuation of my Top 10 Novels of all-time. Please remember that this is a list of my personal favorite novels and that the visual medium of film is more my forte than the written word. For a full explanation of my how I made my choices, you can click here to read the first part of the list, if you have not already.

At Number 7: Watchmen
Blasphemy you say!? How can a comic book make a list of best novels, you say!? Well, if Entertainment Weekly can include it at 13th their list of 50 Best Novels of the last 25 years, then I can surely include it on my favorite novels list, however no other graphic novels will be included. While the Watchmen film was a general disappoint in comparison to the novel, it did serve to spark my interest in the novel. Watchmen is an intelligent and though-provoking deconstruction of the superhero genre that ushered in an era of more mature storytelling in comic books. The story itself is rife with symbolism and metaphors, as well as strongly developed characters with understandable motivations. Too bad the movie could not have the same intriguing characters and thought-provoking themes thanks to Zack Sndyer's lifeless directing, however, he should be credited for bring the novel to life visually, albeit with an excessive amount of sexual content and profanity that is mostly not present in the novel.

At Number 6: Star Wars: Dark Force Rising
The second book in the Thrawn Trilogy, Dark Force Rising was not really The Empire Strikes of the trilogy, however, it was a nice followup that follows everyone's favorite Star Wars heroes. Too bad the trilogy can never be adapted into films, or at least live-action films, but please Disney, do not forget the years of these fantastic Expanded Universe stories in your upcoming films!

At Number 5: Star Wars: Heir to the Empire
Considering that Luke, Han, and Leia are basically my three favorite characters ever, it should be no surprise that a continuation of the greatest story ever told is something I would enjoy. The books capture the great feel that made the Original Trilogy classic, while throwing in some political intrigue, espionage, and a deeper exploration of the characters makes for a story that surpasses the prequels for sure (which I like more than most). Also, Heir to the Empire was my first introduction into the Star Wars Expanded Universe books, and it is where I believe everyone should start if you love the Original Trilogy. Of course, the novel introduced the first iconic EU (Expanded Universe) character to make an impact on the Star Wars universe, Grand Admiral Thrawn.  

At Number 4: Star Wars: The Last Command
The Last Command concludes the Thrawn Trilogy perfectly with shocking revelations and a climax that completely satisfies. The interplay between Mara Jade, one of the best EU characters, and Luke Skywalker was a lot of fun, and so was reading more about Han and Leia. Even though some of the plot conflicts with the prequels, which were made several years afterwards, the story is fun with the classic Star Wars feel, and Timothy Zahn really knows how to capture these iconic characters on the page. As a whole, the Thrawn trilogy felt like a blast from the past that reminded me how much I miss these characters, and the unabridged audiobook by Marc Thompson is positively magnificent! 

At Number 3: The Fellowship of the Ring
If it was not obvious enough, the first part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring takes one of the top three spots on the list. It is one of the best work of fiction ever written. Tolkien created a mythos that set the standard for all fantasy works to come. The difficult part about writing the Lord of the Rings trilogy is that everything can be said about the trilogy has already been said. 

At Number 2: The Two Towers
As enjoyable as the Fellowship of the Ring was, The Two Towers bested by the slightest of margins. Even though I might rank one Lord of the Rings book above another, they really are one giant story that was originally intended to be one book. You cannot read one without the other.

At Number 1: The Return of the King
How could I choose any other book for the number one spot? It's the Return of the King, the epic conclusion of one of the greatest stories ever told. The Lord of the Rings trilogy are undeniable classics, and there is almost nothing that can be said that has not already been said. Sure, Tolkien can be a little wordy and the books are not light readings, but he crafted a brilliantly realized world that has few rivals in terms of scale and detail. It is essentially perfect. If you have never experienced the Lord of the Rings, go watch the movies and read the books, like right now!

What did you think of my list? Please comment below and check back soon for my review of on Friday for my review of "Spice and Wolf" and a couple of guest posts on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Walking Dead "Inmates" Review

After a less than satisfying mid-season premiere episode, The Walking Dead has a return to form with "Inmates."
*Spoilers Ahead*
Finally! Daryl has returned! In general, season four has had a severe lack of Daryl and while he is barely featured in this episode, the little bit we did get to see was more than welcome! After watching Beth's opening monologue, I actually turned to Jacob, my brother and fellow critic, and said, "That opening monologue was better than the entire previous episode!" While I did not hate "After," for a mid-season premiere, it was less than satisfactory, especially compared to "Inmates." Why wasn't "Inmates" the mid-season opener? It was fast paced, suspenseful, and it had all of the characters that we actually care about! The reason as to why "Inmates" was not the opener is that we, the audience, still had to believe that Judith was dead. Speaking of which, even though I was not surprised she was still alive and that Lizzie saved her, I am mostly indifferent about her surviving. Maybe when Rick and Carl find out, they will not be as mopey and conflicting. Here is a breakdown of the different groups and my thoughts.

Daryl and Beth: Despite being brief, more Daryl is always a good thing! Beth has been one of my favorite characters that has yet to be given enough screen-time, so the team of Beth and Daryl was good to see.
Tyreese, Lizzie, Mika, and Judith: Seeing Tyreese trying to take care of the kids was great! Lizzie continues to be an awesomely psychotic little girl. When she started to smother Judith was almost thought for a minute that she was going to end up killing her! That would be one sick way of doing it, but I would not put it past the writers on the Walking Dead. Mika is okay, but her sister is the real star. When Carol turned out to be the one that saved the children and then met Tyreese, my first thought was: "Oh crap, this is going to get interesting!" For the first few minutes, I kind of forgot that Rick never told Tyreese what happened, so it was a little more suspense than it would have been otherwise, but it still a great scene.

Maggie, Sasha, and Bob: Maggie has always been another personal favorite character of mine, especially that Hershel is gone. Her frantic search for Glenn and killing the Walkers on the bus was a great, for the most part. Her smashing the head of the Walker into the side of the bus was a little odd in how it was filmed and portrayed, but the rest of that scene was great. As usual, it was freaking suspenseful! But more on that next.

Glenn and Stupid Girl: One compliant many viewers have had is that the reveal that Glenn is not dead was spoiled in the previews, which is somewhat of a dumb argument. First off, if you do not want to be spoiled, just do not watch the preview! I never watch the preview for any TV show since I know it will likely spoil something. The only time it is unavoidable is when there is a commercial on TV, but other than that, it is really your fault. As for the reveal itself, it was not surprising in the least because we know Glenn cannot die yet, but that did not prevent me from being on the edge-of-my-seat in suspense and the reveal that Glenn was still at the prison was great and unexpected. What I did not like about his part is that he saved that woman from the Governor's camp. While he had his reasons, she is a character that I wish would just die because she is incredibly annoying!

In general, you could say that the episode was emotionally manipulative and that the creators of the show were just toying with us, and if it was any other show out there, I would be inclined to agree, but The Walking Dead's great suspense relies on the fact that we do care about (most) of these characters, which drives the suspense. No other live-action has put me on the edge-of-my-seat as much as The Walking Dead has, and now that I am watching it week to week without having any inclination of what is going to happen each week, the suspense is raised to even higher levels.

The ending with the brief introduction of Abraham, Eugene,  and Rosita from the comic will surely please those that have read it (myself not included... yet).

Overall: 8.8/10- Despite not having quite enough time to devote to each group of characters, "Inmates" was an excellent return to form that reminds us why we all love watching The Walking Dead in the first place, the characters! And it actually answered all of our questions, in one episode!

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Star Wars: Rebels New Trailers

The long awaited trailers for the upcoming Star Wars: Rebels animated series are here! Even though I am hoping beyond hope that this series is not going to suck since it still has the talent from The Clone Wars and other top animated shows from the past, I have a bad feeling about this. While I normally do not pass judgement on something for seeing it, I am not sure if Rebels is going to be anything more than a cash grab to sell toys to kids or is it going to be an awesome look into the darker times of the Star Wars universe like The Clone Wars was. My first impression of the art style is that it is a major step back compared to The Clone Wars, it is lower quality than rudimentary style of the Clone Wars' first season. Well, at least the character models are severely lacking with a cheap looking animation that looks as though it was made ten years ago! During the last few seasons of The Clone Wars, the animation positively amazing! Now we are getting this crap!? Hopefully they are not entirely finished with it yet. Maybe I should not be that disappointed since the series is airing on Disney XD (but they did air the Spectacular Spider-Man and Avengers series, which were very good), therefore my expectations should be tempered. My number one question about Rebels right now is: Are people going to die? The Clone Wars had a higher body count than most series in general, not mention an epic triple decapitation in one episode. On a side note, my opinion of western animation has become cynical considering how far ahead Japan is than the rest of the world in producing high quality stories using the medium of animation. 

Here is the second teaser about the Rebellion, but the sling shot thing looks stupid! 

Thanks T.M. Hall for updating me on this yesterday on her blog. You can check out here post here.

What did you think of the teaser trailers? Please comment below and check back tomorrow for my review of The Walking Dead episode "Inmates"!

If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to

Friday, February 21, 2014

Neon Genesis Evangelion Review

As I said in yesterday's review of Pacific Rim, here is my review for the series that obviously inspired it, Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Neon Genesis Evangelion (or NGE for short), is a critically acclaimed animated series about several teenagers who pilot large robots named, EVAs, to save the world from the mysterious monsters named "Angels." While the description of the might sound generic, clichéd, and juvenile at first glance, Neon Genesis Evangelion is far from any of those things being one of the most mature and mind-bending series I have ever seen. The series revolves around the character Shinji Ikari, a fourteen year old kid that is chosen to be the pilot of the Eva02 because he was the best match to the unit's unique control system. Even though the overall plot of NGE is about him and the other kids stopping the Angels, the real story is Shinji and the other character’s inner struggle to overcome their psychological issues, but more on Shinji and the other characters later. As Shinji and the others must discover how to defeat all of the angels, there is a darker mysterious subplot going on behind the scenes, which adds much intrigue to the series (even if the resolution is less than satisfying).

The show starts relatively slow with the first four episodes being good, but not great. However, by about episode five I was invested in the characters and story and until, episode 24, I loved the series. Many of the episodes range from lighthearted and humorous, to dark and dramatic, and even though the series features many characters, most of them are well developed and unique.
Unfortunately, NGE's biggest weakness is the show's ending, or lack thereof. While I did enjoy the mind-bending and philosophical ending, there was almost no true ending. No resolution to anything, just two strange episodes that are not related particularly related to the rest of the series, granted, I did enjoy them more than most. However, due to fan outcry, the creators of the series did make the film The End of Evangelion, which provides the series with a more definitive, albeit no less nonsensical, conclusion that retcons the final two episodes of the series. Obvious, The End of Evangelion is a must watch if you watch the series, however it is rated "R" for a reason.

The Good: Excellent character development, Impressive giant robot battles, Great soundtrack, Fluid animation for the era, In-depth psychological study of characters, Good sense of humor, Mostly likable characters, Intriguing mystery, Mind-bending,

The Bad: Odd character change in episode 24, Lack of resolution,

Plot: 8.5/10- Being a deconstruction of the mecha genre, Neon Genesis Evangelion effectively puts a spin on the usual tropes of the genre. As much as I like NGE, the series conclusion and overall plot do not make a lot of sense and End of Evangelion does not help make things any clearer. For whatever reason, I enjoyed it, but the creators were obviously making things up as they went along. Despite the lack of coherency in the plot, the themes covered throughout the series are great and thought provoking. Also, NGE’s tone can be all over the place at times, and while that is a bad thing for me, it can be jarring to some. Even though going into detail is not possible, the series is filled with tons of symbolism. One last thing to mention is that the series is completely messed and sometimes disturbing. There is a lot of psychological torment and horror that the characters go through. 

Characterization: 10/10- NGE has one of the most unique and deep cast of characters from any anime. Unlike most series where at least one character is inspiring and strong willed, all of the characters in NGE have some kind of psychological issue that was caused by their past that they must overcome, even if that does not happen for all of them. If you want an uplifting story and characters, NGE is not for you. Every character is screwed up in the head. Now, let us take a look at a few of the main characters of the series. 

Shinji Ikari: Shinji's character is often criticized for always as whining and being an around wimp. While it is certainly true that Shinji is a wimp most of the time that is one of the best aspects of his character since he develops into a different character by the end of the series. He is the underdog type character that is never sure of his self, but that makes for a great hero. Actually, Shinji's being a wimp makes him one of the most realistic characters I have seen. Consider if you were thrown into his situation when you were only a fourteen year old, do you really think that you would do much better? He is a deep and complex character is a lot of personal issues. Despite being a generally well crafted character, he goes through some strange changes near the last four episodes of the series.

Rei Ayanami: Rei is the first pilot of an Eva, and she is often referred to as “The First Child.” She has a robotic, emotionless personally and her character’s background is steeped in mystery. Rei’s generally emotionless character traits has created one of the most used archetype in the genre.

Asuka Langley Soryu: Asuka (gif on the right) is introduced in episode 13 of the series and she is the pilot of Eva Unit02. Even though she is somewhat the stereotypical "better-than-everyone/mean girl," (aka tsundere) that is what makes her so much fun to watch. She often provides humor and her character is well developed later in the series. Asuka is probably my favorite character of the entire series.  Despite her proud exterior, she is a troubled and complex character with a dark past that she tries to overcome. Also she is one of the only non-Japanese characters in the series.

Misato Katsuragi: Misato is not one of the Eva pilots, but one of the lead commanders of NERV, the military unit that protects the world from the Angels. Misato is another often humorous character, with a dark backstory. Her character has some great development throughout the series.

Action: 8.9/10- While NGE is of the mecha genre, the series is not always action packed with many episodes focusing on the characters. That being said, around half the episodes feature some awesome giant mecha vs. monster battle that are more than just generic punch until the monster died. Many of the battles require clever tactics, which is something that I always enjoy seeing.

Acting: 8.0/10- At first the English Dub of NGE was difficult to become accustom to, however, many of the actors grew on me as the series progressed. Spike Spencer as Shinji did a convincing job with the character showing the character’s progression effectively. Tiffany Grant as Asuka was perfect for character with her snarky wit and humor. Most of the main cast did a fine job in their roles considering the time. However, there are a few minor characters that have positively atrocious voice acting, and they could have been better, but that only lasts for about 5 minutes throughout the entire series. As usual the sub is fine and always a good option if that is what you prefer.

Art Style: 8.9/10- At the time of me watching it, NGE was the first relatively old anime that I had watched, and while becoming accustom to it was difficult at first compared to the bright and crisp animation of most modern series, it grew on me and I started enjoying NGE’s style. Sometimes the animators took shortcuts like having something strategically placed in front of a character’s mouth when talking so that the lips did not have to animated, and there were other scenes with literally no movement for a solid minute or two. But other than those scenes, the animation in the action was impressive.

Soundtrack: 9.2/10- The soundtrack is another strong point of NGE. The "Decisive Battle" track is a particularly strong track that adds an epic bombastic tone to the battle scenes. In the more lighthearted moments of the series, the score is equally fitting with Misato's theme being light and fun. 

Opening: 9.6/10- NGE had one opening song throughout the series and it has to be the best one I have seen for an anime. "Cruel Angel's Thesis" is one of my favorite songs and one that have listened to many times outside the series. While the visual aspect of the opening are kind of mind-bending and trippy,like the series becomes later in its run, the music is fun and catchy.

Humor: 8.2/10- Although many episodes featured no humor, just as many of the episodes had at least some humor, mostly from Misato and Asuka, who added the levity needed to balance the often dark themes.

Overall: 9.1/10- Despite a less than preferred conclusion, Neon Genesis Evangelion is a one of my favorite series with some of the best characters in all of anime. It combines a mature and complex plot with epic action to great effect. To me, everything except for the last 3-4 episodes and End of Evangelion would receive a score 9.3/10, and even though I would like to forget the worst parts of the series, I cannot, therefore the overall score is a little lower.

Closing comments: Neon Genesis Evangelion is mandatory viewing for any and all anime fans since it has made such a large impact on the genre. For non-anime fans however, and you want to watch something like Pacific Rim, providing you do not mind something that is weird, complex, and sometimes disturbing, watch NGE. If not, wait until you are more familiar with the genre and then watch NGE. 

Recommended for *Mature*: Action fans, Animation fans, Robot/Mecha fans, Sci-Fi fans, Psychological thriller fans, Anime fans, Pacific Rim fan,

Unfortunately, copies of NGE are incredibly difficult to find, but you can the entire series here at this link.

For another opinion of the series, you can check out Arvin Saints' review of Neon Genesis Evangelion here. If you have reviewed the series, please let me know. I would be interested in reading it.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pacific Rim Review

You voted for it, so here it is, my review for Pacific Rim.

Pacific Rim is everything you could ever want in a fun summer flick. Gigantic robots fighting huge monsters, that is exactly what Pacific Rim promises and that is exactly what you get.

In 2013 giant monsters named Kaiju (Japanese for strange or large beast) come from under the ocean, and in response, mankind builds giant robots named Jaegers (German for hunter) to battle them. With a film about extraterrestrial (or extradimensional in this case) beans, one would expect to see mankind's early days of battling the great beasts and building robots to fight them. However, director, Guillermo del Toro, takes the Star Wars approach and throws the audience right into the action with a quick recap of how the war started and then the audience gets to see the giant mecha throwdown with the Kaiju. After that, something happens which sets up what will happen during the rest of the movie and the story turns out to be rather interesting. Any fan of robots or mecha, or the Kaiju genre needs to watch Pacific Rim. It is a fanboy film if there ever was one. Guillermo del Toro did not try to appeal to the masses, which is why it failed at the domestic box office, like the Transformers movies, which I enjoyed more than most. He makes the film for fans of Japanese anime, Kaiju, and mecha, which is exactly why I enjoyed Pacific Rim so much. While any fan of action owes it to themselve to watch Pacific Rim, the film is heavily influenced by anime and Japanese monster flicks. Even though many parts of Pacific Rim are reminiscent of various anime mecha series (there is a Japanese chick with anime blue hair highlights), the most clearly noticeable influence has to be Neon Genesis Evangelion. Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of my favorite television series, and Pacific Rim takes many cues from the series, including the overall concept, mecha design, and weapon design. The biggest difference is that NGE is about mentally disturbed teenagers and NGE is a lot darker and more complex than Pacific Rim. If you like NGE, watch Pacific Rim, if you like Pacific Rim, you might want to give NGE a try, providing you do not mind a confusing mindfreak of an ending and dark themes. To go along with this Pacific Rim review, I will be posting my review of Neon Genesis Evangelion tomorrow.

On a side note, there are two ways anime will likely react to Pacific Rim.
1: It is an awesome live-action homage to the mecha genre!
2: It is an unoriginal rip-off of the mecha genre!
My reaction was the first one, since seeing anime in live-action was too cool.

My main problems with the film are that some of the characters are overly cartoony and the movie contains some logical flaws like *Spoiler* majorly overpowered sword *End Spoiler* but other than that, Pacific Rim is great. Also, why is there a environmentalist message in my epic robot movie? It was brief but completely out of place and unnecessary.

On another geeky sidenote, Ellen McLain voices the Gipsy Danger's AI, and if you played the fantastic Portal video game series, you may recognize her as the voice the crazy AI GLaDOS. Guillermo del Toro is a big fan of the video game and wanted to include her voice in the film, which I have to give del Toro some major geek points for that.

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Mecha, Kaiju,
Release Date: July 12, 2013
Running Time: 132 minutes
MMPA rating: PG-13

The Good: Epically awesome robot vs. monster battles, Heavily anime inspired, Tons of fun, Idris Elba is freaking epic, Rinko Kikuchi gives a strong performance, Gets right to the action, Geekfest of nerdy awesomeness, Impressive special effects and creature design, Fantastic soundtrack, GLaDOS!,

The Bad: A few small plot holes, Overly cartoony characters, Darkness obscures some action scenes and effects,

Plot: The following plot summary is copied from
In 2013, human cities come under attack by the Kaijus colossal beasts who come through an interdimensional portal on the Pacific Ocean floor. To combat them, the Pacific Rim nations build the Jaegers: equally colossal humanoid warmachines. Each Jaeger is piloted by two people whose brains are linked to share the overwhelming mental load of operating the machine. The Jaegers are initially effective, but many are destroyed as the Kaijus grow more powerful and their attacks more frequent. In 2025, the involved governments deem the Jaeger program unviable, and discontinue it in favor of building massive coastal walls to protect humanity from the Kaijus. The four remaining Jaegers are redeployed to Hong Kong to defend the coast until the wall's completion. Jaeger commander Stacker Pentecost (Elba) devises a plan to end the war by destroying the portal with a thermonuclear bomb.
Watch the movie to see what happens next.

Plot: 7.0/10- Despite the premise of Pacific Rim having logical errors and a few plot holes, the movie manages maintain perfect pacing throughout. For a live-action English speaking film, Pacific Rim is rather original. Surprisingly, the characters are actually likable, particularly, the Japanese girl, Mako Mori, and Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost. The movie may have been better if Raleigh was not the main character and instead replace him with Mako and Stacker. However, Raleigh was a solid leading character in his own right. The two scientist guys were overused and sometimes felt unnecessary, and there was one clichéd bully character, who was poorly developed.
Some people have complained that the science used in Pacific Rim was confusing and difficult to grasp, like why two people have to pilot a Jaeger, but I never found the concepts presented difficult to understand, and easily accepted them as standard sci-fi fare. While the story is there to deliver the big robot vs. monster action, Pacific Rim brings up some intriguing science fiction ideas as well.

*Spoiler* Even though the movies does have some romantic tension, I was glad to see that the film did not end with a clichéd romance just because they are the two leads. How often does it actually happen that the leads do not kiss throughout the entire film? *End Spoiler*

Action: 9.7/10- Ginormous Jaeger bashing huge Kaiju is just as awesome as it sounds. Unfortunately, a few of the actions are obscured by darkness or weather, which makes seeing what is happening difficult at times. However, the choreography and the CGI battles are impressive. Considering that most CGIed fight scenes usually end up being dull and lifeless, Pacific Rim manages to give the Jaeger mechs a real sense of weight and heft, which makes the battles feel more realistic.
My question is why do all of the action scenes have to take place at night? The brief news footage of one in Australia was in the day, therefore the Kaiju do not have to attack at night. The second big battle was probably aided by the fact that it was at night since you could see of the cool neon lights, but the other ones would have been better in daylight.

Acting: 7.4/10- Surprisingly, Pacific Rim has several strong performances. Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket is decent, but never really owns the role with an American that he struggles to maintain. As expected, Idris Elba owns every scene he is in. In terms of epicness, there are few equals that match Elba. Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori is one of the best parts of the film. Aside from giving a mostly strong performance, her character's backstory is probably the most interesting. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman play the two scientists and they are occasionally fun to watch, but are also distracting at times. Ron Perlman has a small part, but he is fun and over-the-top. The rest of the cast is fine.

Special effects: 9.7/10- The Jaegers are highly detailed and contain well developed designs, and the effects for them are mighty impressive. The Kaiju are also designed well. However, much of the CGI is obscured due to dark lighting, which is a real shame.

Soundtrack: 9.7/10- While watching the film, I noticed that the soundtrack reminded me a lot of the score from the first Iron Man film, which is one of my favorites, and sure enough Ramin Djawadi composed the score for both films. His score really gets you pumped and into the action. Actually, the track posted below helped me study for my math exam last semester, which I aced.

Comedy: 7.2/10- Some humor worked, other parts did not. Overall, the humor was a mixed bag.

Would I Watch This Again: Yes, Pacific Rim is too much fun not to watch again.

Overall: 8.2/10- Overall, Pacific Rim knows exactly what it is, a ridiculously fun action packed summer popcorn flick, and while some audiences may not find the film particularly interesting, fans of action, anime, sci-fi, mecha, and Kaiju will find a ton to enjoy about Pacific Rim.

Closing comments: While Pacific Rim might not be a smart or deep action movie like Iron Man 3 and it certainly has its flaws, Guillermo del Toro knows his audience and delivers exactly what we wanted to see. If, however, you are not a part of his intended audience, you will likely find it dumb.

Recommended for: Sci-fi fans, Action fans, Anime fans, Kaiju fans, Mecha fans,

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Full Trailer

The full Guardians of the Galaxy has finally arrived! Wow! That was awesome! It was hilarious and it looks so cool! It looks witty, fun, and entirely different than anything else I have seen; Guardians of the Galaxy has risen up my list of most anticipated movies of the year list. The tone and look is different than any other comic book movie out there and I hope the movie does well because this looks more like Star Wars combined with Doctor Who and other sci-fi franchises than the usual comic book movie. And that music is great, who doesn't love some good old 70s music! The humor is spot on  with comments like "what a bunch of A-holes" and "I'm Star Lord man, legendary outlaw...." and the "Obscene Gesture" blocker. My only disappointment is that we did not get to hear Rocket Raccoon's voice! Why?! I need to know if the movie is going to have a cockney accent! Also, the lineup reminded me a lot of The Usual Suspects, which I watched recently. If, for whatever reason, you do not know, Guardians of the Galaxy is apart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which means they could make an appearance in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron. Closer to the time of when the movie is going to be released, I will review the first issue of the new Guardians of the Galaxy comic book. My first impression of the trailer is that it is impressive and I give it two thumbs up! What did you think of the trailer? Please comment below and check back tomorrow for my review of Pacific Rim. 

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Guardian of the Galaxy Trailer is Coming

Marvel's Guardian of the Galaxy trailer is going to be released tonight on the Jimmy Kimmel show! In preparation of the the new trailer, here are a teaser pictures that were released. My first impression of the pictures is that they actually look kind of cool! The effects for the fully CG characters are top notch and Chris Pratt looks very cool in his Star Lord costume. Groot, the tree guy in the back, looks significantly shorter and smaller than his comic book counter part, but other than that, he looks almost exactly the same. While I will have to see Rocket Raccoon in action before making any final judgement, he actually looks well done. I just hope he has a cockney accent! From what little is shown, the sets looks great and they have a Star Wars Original Trilogy feel to them. What do you think of the new pictures? Are you excited for the new trailer? Please comment below and check back tomorrow for the trailer, Thursday for my review of Pacific Rim, and Friday for my review of Neon Genesis Evangelion. 

Here are the Guardian of the Galaxy

This is their spaceship.

This is obviously Chris Pratt as Star Lord.

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