Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Thoughts and Opinions: Bloom Into You Vol.1

This is another one that I ended up leaving off my recommended reading list. It was not left off because it an on-going series nor was it because I couldn't get a feel for it. The reason is because after reading the first volume I forgot this series existed even though I own the second volume as well. The only reason I even remembered about this series is because I found both volumes while looking through my manga collection. Without further delay let's get started.
I forgot what this cover looked like.
Bloom Into You is a yuri manga written and drawn by Nakatani Nio and published by Seven Seas Entertainment. The story follows Yuu Koito, a young girl who loves romance manga and looks forward to the day that someone will confess their love to her in a way that will make her heart flutter. However when a classmate from her junior high does confess to her she feels absolutely nothing. Naturally she is disappointed by this. Flash-forward to high school where she meets Nanami Touko, a member of the student counsel. It just so happens that Nanami is in a similar situation to Yuu as even though many people have confessed to her she felt nothing for anyone... That is until she met Yuu. After making her own confession it is revealed that while she is attracted to Yuu, Yuu herself  feels nothing for her. 

After re-reading the first volume I can honestly say I feel bad that I forgot about this series. The plot is decent enough as its a story of unrequited love with the notable aspect being that both sides acknowledge it and are seemingly alright with it.  It serves it's purpose of introducing the characters and setting up character traits. The artwork itself is is passable though somewhat generic. The characters it introduces are portrayed well enough to were I can get a little bit of a feel for them. Out of the two main characters Nanami is the one that stands out in this volume. To me she is a very sympathetic character as she knows her feelings might never be returned and resigns herself to thinking that just loving Yuu is enough. Despite that she still makes an attempt to be close to Yuu even going as far as asking her to help run her campaign for student counsel president so they can spend more time together. As stated before I like reading stories in which one or more of the people involved are open with their feelings or openly pursuing the other. Yuu is also decently developed as well. While she isn't in love with Nanami she is shown to have a bit of remorse for not being able to return her feelings. She also wants to be there for her and to help support her emotionally. She even goes as far as telling her that she doesn't have to be anything special for her. Overall all the story is actually good. It does a good job of introducing the main cast and laying the ground work for later volumes to build off of.  As of the time of this post I have yet to finish the second volume or even purchase the third. If asked my for my honest opinion on this series I would recommend checking it out. As stated before I feel kind of bad that I forgot about this series as it would have at least gotten an honorary mention on my recommended reading list for 2017 (link here). Honestly I want to see where the story goes from here.

In the introduction I stated that I had forgotten this story existed. Some of you may be wondering why I did a post on this series even though I completely forgot about it. The reason is because in order to do these posts I usually have to go back and re-read books in question. Doing so allows me to refresh my memory of them and helps me pick up on things I missed during the first reading. Why is this important you may ask? Well it makes it so that my first impression is not the one I base these posts on. That is almost what happened here. I was ready to give this one a negative review and it really doesn't deserve it. This post was supposed to be out at the beginning of the month. The reason it is late is because after re-reading this volume I decided to completely rewrite it and give it a fair review. The reason I forgot about it may not have anything to do with the book itself. I was reading at least four other series at the time so it's likely that it just slipped my mind.

At the time of this post there are at least three volumes available for purchase. I will eventually get around to finishing volume two as I already own a copy.

I really don't have an idea for the next post. I am leaning towards either a post on my thoughts of NTR: Netsuzou Trap or doing something unrelated to yuri manga. I also plan on doing two reviews for romance series that are near and dear to me though I have no clue when those will be finished.

Monday, January 1, 2018

My Hero Academia Seasons 1 and 2 Review

Lets start the new year off on a positive note. I was seeing really good press for this show before my laptop went down and since I had time to kill when it went down, I decided to check it out. Man, this thing was right up my alley. At first I was afraid this was gonna be show one of those shows that was all hype and no substance like Attack on Titan. I got so engrossed with this thing. Normally I'd give a recommendation at the end of the review but before I go into detail I'll just say this: Give it a watch, you'll probably like it.
I've seen two other superhero anime, those two being Tiger & Bunny and One-Punch Man. This one differs from the other two in that superpowers are incredibly common in this world, roughly 80% of the human population has some sort of special ability (known as Quirks). Naturally, powers being that common leads to villains misusing their powers and heroes rising up to stop them. The show centers around Izuku Midoriya, a boy who grew up idolizing heroes and wanted to become one himself. Sadly, he was born without a Quirk which is almost unheard of at this point. That all changes when he runs into his hero All Might. After seeing Izuku's drive to become a hero and seeing his heroic nature, he decides to pass his Quirk One For All on to him so Izuku can achieve his dream. From there the show follows Izuku's life at U.A.

Before I get to the characters and other stuff, I want to talk about the Quirks themselves. I love how the show handles them. They're all unique and memorable. Some of them are extremely powerful but they also have some interesting downsides. There are a ton of Quirks so I'll just talk about some of my favorites. Tokoyami's Dark Shadow gets stronger in darkness and weaker in the light. There is a guy in the festival arc whose body can turn to metal and his downside is that he has to eat a lot of iron or the metal gets weaker. My favorite downside is Denki's. He can generate massive amounts of electricity but if he generates too much, his brain short-circuits and he becomes an idiot for a while. Heck, even though Midoriya has One For All, he can't bring out his full power without shattering his bones on impact. They go into so much detail about how the Quirks work that they actually manage to make characters who would normally be outright broken appear on the same level as everyone else. Whether is a flaw in the Quirk or the person using it, everyone has a weak-point no matter how powerful they are. Considering its in a genre known for being all about broken protagonists just wrecking every opponent, that is an amazing feat.
The characters are fine and enjoyable, I have no complaints about most of them so far. My favorite character is probably Deku since I tend to enjoy that type of character a lot. He is definitely my kind of protagonist. Todoroki is definitely a close second. Erasure Head is probably my favorite of the teachers since he is tough but also knows when to cut someone some slack. His Quirk is also really interesting along with how he fights. With that being said, there is one character that annoys me: Bakugo. Characters like Bakugo are normally fine with me but if this wasn't a show about kids learning to be heroes, I'd be treating Bakugo like a villain. His personality doesn't read like someone who would be a hero in any other context. He classmates even joked about him sounding like a villain at one point. Its an odd thing for me to harp on but he just feels out of place compared to everyone else. With that being said, he doesn't actually make me angry, just annoyed at him when he shoots his mouth off. I know he'll probably get better down the road so I won't hold him against the show itself.
I love that Izuku still has to think strategically even though All For One is technically the strongest Quirk in the show right now. Its sort of refreshing to see that level of power have that big of a downside for him. He is able to come up with so many work-arounds like focusing the power into his fingertips so he can stay in the fight. The dude even has detailed notebooks filled with info on the other students/teachers and their Quirks. He can figure out how an opponent's Quirk works and adapts pretty fast. That resourcefulness and level of analysis is something you'd expect from an admitted superhero fanboy who grew up idolizing heroes without a Quirk of his own. Seeing him train and learn to make One For All his own while learning to control it has been great.

What more can I say? Its a show that has definitely gone beyond my expectations and has a ton of charm to it. I highly recommend it to any of my readers who are fans of anime, tokusatsu, and superheroes in general. There is so much thought put into the show that I can honestly say it deserves every single bit of praise I've seen it get. Its a fantastic show and I can't recommend it enough. This is without a doubt the best show I saw in 2017. Thats pretty much all I've got to say so I'll leave you all with this: Go beyond...PLUS ULTRA!!!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Thoughts and Opinions: After Hours Vol. 1

So unsurprisingly there was a lot of books that didn't make it onto the recommended reading list for 2017. Many stories ended up being left out due to them being ongoing series, stories I read but didn't care for, or there just weren't enough volumes released for me to get a feel for the series. As such I figured I would try something new. This will be the first in a series of posts in which I will give my thoughts a series I am currently reading. My hope is that doing so will help motivate me into doing more posts as well as give the opportunity to go into detail about the issues I have with some series. I will do my best to avoid spoilers though some stories will require me to go into more detail than others.

After Hours is a yuri manga written and drawn by Yuhta Nishio and published by Viz Media. The story follows a woman named Emi Ashiana who has been dragged to a night club by a friend that soon ditches her. While trying to find her she is hit on by some random guy only to be saved by Kei the DJ for the club and one the hosts for the evenings party. After following Kei back to her apartment the two end up spending the night together. Soon afterwards Kei begins to introduce Emi to music and the world of club performances, eventually Emi ends up joining Kei's circle of friends and even helping them with performances. 

As stated in a previous post this is one of the stories that marks Viz Media's entry into the yuri fandom. Overall the story is decent. The vast majority of this volume is about Emi and her introduction into Kei's world and the world of music. It does on alright job of introducing the characters and building the world around  them. The interaction between Emi and Kei is decent though the romance between the two is a bit lacking. The art work, while nothing special, is passable with the author going for a more mature take on typical moe designs. Honestly this really reminds of a manga called Octave (I recommend it.) that I read a few years ago in which a former idol ends up having a one night stand with a musician. One of the things I like about this story is how the romance is handled. A lot of the yuri genre revolves around young love and a lot of they time they end up keeping their feelings from each other. That is not the case with this one as both Emi and Kei are quite accepting of each other though the relationship comes off as more of a 'friends with benefits' type deal. As stated before the romance between the two is barely touched on aside from the one night stand and a few other moments but the characters and story are still being worked on so that is a minor complaint. I like how it explains some of the concepts off the club performance scene though as I am not apart of that scene I have no idea if it is accurate. This in my opinion is a decent start for the series and while it's too early to tell if the story will really grab me I am interested to see how it will continue to develop. If you can find it for cheap give it a shot as there is much worse out there.

As of the time of this post only the first volume is available for purchase with no release date stated for volume 2.

Kamen Rider Amazons Season Two Review

Yeah you knew this was coming. I despised season one so I was really hoping this would be better. Normally I'd wait until the end to say this but...this was brutal, it was rough to get through. I literally only watched this season because a friend was willing to riff it with me. With that being said, what do I think about it in detail? Just how bad do I think it is? Read on and find out. Its only 13 episodes so...MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD.
Five years have passed since the season one finale. In that time a strange outbreak has been occurring: Humans are now becoming Amazons. We're thrown right into things and introduced to a blue Amazon...Amazon Neo. Yeah thats basically all the setup we get in the first episode. I was legitimately confused at what was going on for the first two episodes because of the time-skip. There are a lot of plots going on this season so I'll just cover the major ones.
Lets get right down to it...I HATE this season. Its worse than season one for me. It took what little I liked about season one and ripped it to pieces. It flat-out ruined the happiness I got from the extermination squad's plot in season one. Mamoru turns evil during the time-skip. He has actively helped in cultivating a new species of Amazons. At first the show plays it up like he is just doing to it to swell his group's numbers so they can defend themselves. Thats understandable given the situation even if it puts the character in a bad light. However, then the show outright admits that Mamoru turned out like this because the extermination squad let him leave. Thats about as cynical as you can get as far as I'm concerned. To top it all of, the end of his plot-line is pretty anti-climactic. Instead of this big dramatic fight with the rest of the squad, the squad ends up killing him accidentally while trying to shoot another Amazon. The show even telegraphs his heel-turn because his first appearance in season two has him wearing all black. I should be heartbroken seeing my favorite character in the show die but all this did was make me angry. This is worse than Kiba's heel-turn in Faiz for me. At least I sort of understood why Kiba turned evil and got to see the transformation on-screen.
I'm gonna come right out and say it, I don't like Jin. However, he did not deserve a single thing that happened to him this season. This was the equivalent of kicking someone in the stomach while they're already laying on the ground. His entire plot this season just has this air of cruelty around it. The man has to butcher his own family in order to stop this outbreak. It would've been merciful if Jin died at the end of this season but sadly, this show does not know the meaning of the word mercy. Jin's actor is also way too good for this show. The show isn't very well written but both Jin and Hiroki's actors give it their all when they're on-screen. I honestly wish the show was better because it feels like the show wasted their performances. Haruka himself really doesn't add much to this season so I can't really say much about him other than that he is back to just hunting Amazons that harm humans. He just kind of shows up to help hunt down the sources of the outbreak. He feels like he was included just because he is supposed to be the overall hero of Amazons...granted I'm using the word hero loosely.
I really don't care about Chihiro and Iyu's plot-line. It doesn't feel like it adds much to me. Not to mention once the show reveals that Chihiro is not only Jin's son but also one of the sources of the new Amazon outbreaks, this plot-line becomes irrelevant as far as I'm concerned. At the end of the day, they both HAVE to die to end this outbreak. Both leads of season two absolutely cannot survive because if they do, more people will die. I know I said Jin didn't deserve what happened to him but neither does Chihiro...he has to die simply because he exists. I don't even like Chihiro and this bugs me.This and the Mamoru stuff makes this entire season even more cynical than season one for me. However, I do get it, both this and Mamoru's plot-line are trying to be complex and offer no easy answer, I just wish the show had handled these two plots better. There isn't a single ounce of happiness in this season to make up for it as far as I'm concerned. Even the final battle of this show just feels like a cruel joke. I'll get to that in a little bit...but for now, lets talk about the visuals.

This season does actually have some practical effects but there honestly isn't enough of them compared to the CGI. The CGI is even more awful than season one. There is a five minute massacre where Chihiro goes berserk and butchers an entire squad. There is so much bad CGI in that scene that it took me and a friend of mine more than 15 minutes to watch it because we kept pausing and laughing at the CGI. My favorite bad effect though is that there is a weapon that can obliterate any Amazon that it hits. The effect is so bad that it looks like it turns them into orange juice. These effects are so bad that I legitimately have to ask who on the staff looked at them and said "thats good enough, use it".
The Amazon Neo suit is meh. Its a nice shade of blue and I do like the contrast with the red highlights but thats about it. It looks slightly like a mix of of Alpha and Omega but it still looks a bit too cybernetic so it doesn't read as an Amazon suit at first glance. I also don't care for how the driver looks. Sadly Neo also relies on a sword to cut and slash when he should be using his claws so the cybernetic aspect kind of takes away from the impact of the show for me.
The New Omega suit is just awful. You know what I think when I think Amazon? Cybernetics and no. This takes my problem with the default Omega suit and just doubles down on it. The silver, green, red, yellow, and black don't blend very well. The driver also looks a little distracting on this suit to me. It might look better if the driver was a shade of green or silver. The form itself is also utterly useless to the show's story. I'd understand it if the belt makes him stronger but it doesn't feel like it. I don't even understand why Omega is the one to get the new form when its not even remotely his story this season. This is the worst design in all of Amazons as far as I'm concerned.
Despite all my complaining, I do have one positive for this season other than the hilariously awful CGI. Its the Rose Amazon. His design is actually pretty good and his story is pretty solid as well. He fights solely by decapitating people. I like his story because he was having his girlfriend bring him victims so he could control his urge to eat her. Its actually pretty heartbreaking for me because for one moment, we see the full extent of this effect from the Amazon's point-of-view. His girlfriend gets mortally wounded and she lets him eat her before she dies. We do actually get some interesting tactics used by some of the Amazons this season in general.

The action in the show is underwhelming to say the least. I don't actually remember very many of the moves in most of the fights. Its also not edited very well. In one fight scene there are legitimately 10-12 different cuts of Omega throwing a single punch. I do not envy the editor for this show. The fight physics are also kind of iffy during one of Chihiro's rampages...blood spatter doesn't line up with the angle of how he cut them. In one instant, a soldier he slashes also flies in a direction thats physically impossible given how he hit them. Though I will give the show a bit of credit. Jin got blinded by Haruka during the time-skip so he sort of fights like a blind man. Now for the final battle in the show...
Hope you like that picture cuz thats seriously all you get from that fight. The final battle of the season, the showdown its been building to...happens off-screen. We don't even get to see Chihiro die despite him being the main character this season. I sat through this season thinking that at the very least I might enjoy the final battle and This was beyond disappointing and its the most anti-climactic thing I've ever seen.

This was even less fun than season one. I just...felt sad, angry, and empty after watching it. I shouldn't feel like this after watching tokusatsu. I went into this season expecting it to be bad and cynical...but not this bad. It doubled down on the depressing tone of season one. If I wasn't riffing it with a friend, I probably wouldn't have even watched it. The friend who was riffing it with me sounded like I did when I finished Megaforce. This season had so many plot-lines that I couldn't even cover them all in this review. Now, all my complaining aside, I am up for seeing the movie for two reasons: 1. I'm always up for shredding horribly written cynical shows and 2. I've seen the first two parts so I might as well see how it ends. Overall, this is still my list favorite rider show and I still dislike it more than Faiz.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Legendary J's Recommended Reads: 2017 the Year of Yuri.

For those of you unaware I am a fan of the yuri genre which is a subsection of the romance genre that primarily focus on a romantic relationship between two or more female characters. Why bring this up? Well it just so happens that this year there are many series coming out as well as multiple on going series that are getting updated and one series that I have been waiting seven years for it get a physical release. With so much coming out I figured that I might as well give my opinions. So without further delay here are my recommended reads based off everything I have read. Also I am a firm believer that the 'journey' is just as important as the 'ending' and since a lot of these stories are mainly about how the characters interact with each other I will do my best to avoid spoilers.

The Kase-san and series:

I have a particular fondness for slice of life type shows/ manga. what can I say I am sucker for likable characters and character interaction. It is written and drawn by Hiromi Takashima and published by Seven Seas Entertainment ( the publisher is a pretty big name in yuri fandom). The Kase-san series basically a compilation of one-shot chapters revolving around the characters Kase and Yuma. Yuma is a member of the Greenery Committee while Kase is the star of the schools track team. As stated before each volume is a compilation of one-shots as such there is nothing I can really say about this as the main meat of the story is their interactions with each other in each chapter.

Overall I really like the interactions between the two and the comedy mainly revolves events in life such as days at the beach and picnics. The two are very likable. The art work is nice and the exaggerated style really helps to complement the happy and goofy nature of some of the chapters. This is a series that helps me feel and an makes me smile.

As of the time of this post there are three volumes of this series and I think a few OVA's as well.

Secret of the Princess:

This was quite possibly the most surprising story I have read this year (with the exception of a series that I will talk about later.) This story is both written and drawn by Milk Morinaga ( Girl Friends; Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink; and a ton of other works that I can't possibly list due to the sheer number of them.) and published by Seven Seas Entertainment. Interesting fact: this was the first writer I followed when I got into reading yuri manga and I do enjoy a majority of her works.

The story follows Miu, an average high school student who from a young age was raised to always look her best in case she meets her 'prince'. After witnessing Fujiwara, the captain of the volleyball team, accidentally break one of the principles most prized possessions she agrees to keep it a secret... On the condition that Fujiwara go out with her so that she can get some experience dating. Throughout the story Miu starts to feel bad for blackmailing Fujiwara and starts to develop actual feelings for her.

Overall this story is alright. It's pretty much par for the course with most of  the authors work though it stands out as for the most part both parties are open about what they want and don't try to hide their feelings for each other. Once she realizes her feelings Mui tries to pursue these feelings while Fujiwara is fully accepting of them and trying to make the arrangement a pleasant experience for Miu. The art work is alright, its standard fare for Morinaga as its fairly consistent with her other work except for her early stuff. If you can find this for a cheap price its worth a look and if you have never read/ seen yuri before you could do worse.

Sweet Blue Flowers: 
Just look at the water colors on this cover.
It's gorgeous.

This is the series mentioned at the start, the one I have been waiting seven years for it to be released. Now before I go any further I will admit right now that I am biased towards this book because I am a fan of the anime that spawned from it. The anime itself never got finished. This is a series for which not only did I buy the anime on DVD but I went out of my way to avoid scanlations and spoilers. That's right I was willing to wait years for this to get an official English release so that I could support it to find out the ending. As such I was hyped as hell for this series because I finally get to see the ending.

Sweet Blue Flowers (Aoi Hana) is written and drawn by Takako Shimura (Wandering Son) and Published by Viz Media. It follows a girl named Akira Okudaira who is a high school student starting her first year at Fujigaya Woman's Academy. While one the way to school she meets a childhood friend, Fumi Manjome, who she wasn't seen in years  and the two start to rekindle their friendship. Though technically the story starts off with Akira the first volume is more about Fumi then anyone else. At the start of the story it is made clear that Fumi is going through some issues. Basically she is dealing with her sexuality and the fact that not only was her first love another woman but said woman is also getting married. As such a majority of the first volume is her trying to overcome these issues and live her life while Akira tries to help her cope as best she can. I know this one is vague but I don't want to spoil this for anyone as I recommend others read this story.

Overall I do like this story, Fumi is a very sympathetic character and her plight really helps the reader connect with her. Akira is likable enough though as stated this volume is mostly about Fumi. Be warned though if you have seen the eleven episode Aoi Hana anime then you basically know what will happen in this volume.

As of this post only the first volume is out though volume too will be out soon and the third and final volume will be available in March of 2018.

This story and another , After Hours (which I will talk about later), mark Viz Media's entry into the yuri genre and if these are an indication of the work they are planning on releasing, they are coming out strong.

Cover from the first volume of Sunstone,
Drawn by Stjepan Sejic
(Lisa left, Ally right)
Ok I know this is technically cheating as this is neither a manga nor did this come out in 2017. That being said the reason that it is on here is because I didn't find out this series existed until the beginning of this year ( saw it on one of Linkara's unboxing videos and decided to give the series a shot.) and it also is getting re-released in two hard cover volumes this year so technically it counts.

Sunstone is a lesbian romance comic created, written, and drawn by Stjepan Sejic and published by Image Comics and Top Cow Productions. The story follows Lisa and Ally, two women who meet on a BDSM forum. Lisa is a submissive who is an aspiring writer trying to make ends meat being a waitress and writing smut fiction. Ally is a dom who, when not planing out scenarios, is a programmer with a penchant for spending tons of money on fetish gear and related products. The two find each other through the forum and bond over Lisa's stories and eventually decide to meet up in person to help each other "scratch" their respective itches so to speak. As the two spend time together they proceed to learn more about each other and develop deeper feelings for one another.

As someone who mainly reads stories about young love and first time romance this story was a nice change of pace. Most of the yuri genre revolves around first time love and usually involves young adults as such the genre has certain tropes that when seen over and over can get a little grating. One of the tropes for instance is when one character will hide their feelings for the other. Though that happens to some extent in this story for the most part they are quite open with each other about what they want and it feels kind of like watching two friends hangout. Both Lisa and Ally compliment each other very well and the romance itself feels very genuine. The two have great chemistry and the interactions with each other are both amusing and adorable. The artwork is just gorgeous (see image above). One of the things I like about this book is that while sex and sexuality is considered a major part of their relationship in the story for the most part the sex is pushed to the background and a lot of emphasis is given to their interactions between each other and their group of friends. Given the subject matter there are many instances of nudity throughout the book but nothing too graphic and they are tasteful.

Overall I personally liked this series and I highly recommend it as it's probably the best story I have read this year. Though series itself has already finished there are plans for a few sequel series focusing on some of the side characters and I think as of this post part of the first sequel series is up on Stjepan Sejic's deviant art account.With all that being said, due to the amount of nudity and the mature content/ subject matter I feel I have to issue the following statement: DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU ARE OVER 18 YEARS OF AGE!

So yeah, that's my recommended reading list/ personal favorites that came out this year. Its not everything as there are some updates to on-going series, some stuff I haven't read, and some stuff I have read but didn't care for.

Also an honorable mention to the comic Wayward. The story was created by Jim Zub and Steve Cummings and published by Image Comics. I have no idea if the main female leads are going to end up getting together but given some of the stuff that happened in volume 4 I have a hunch they will. And even if it's not yuri check it out anyway it's damn good. 

The story follows Rori Lane a girl of Japanese- Irish decent who moves to Tokyo to live with her mother. After arriving and meeting with her mother she decides to got out and explore her new home. While exploring the city she finds herself in a back ally and is attacked by Kappa disguised as humans. With the help of a mysterious girl named Ayane she is able to hold them off and escape. As the story continues she learns of the existence of yokai and that she is connected to something called the 'Weave of Fate', something that the yoaki have been using to control the world from the shadows.

One of the things I like is that at the end of each volume there is a compendium of the yokai that are  shown in the volume. It lists what each monster is, some of their lore and origins, and some history associated with them. Overall as a fan of Japanese lore and history, I recommend you check out this series.

Monday, December 11, 2017

My Kamen Rider Concepts

Sorry for not posting for a while, I had a lot of issues with my laptop these last 6 months. Anyway, thats not the point. Naturally when you're watching something, you tend to get influenced by it. Sometimes those influences spiral out into ideas. Before you know it, you're bringing those ideas together and creating your own show/character concepts. I tend to take inspiration not just from toku but from anime as well. I'd like to share some of toku concepts with you all. I'll give the basic description of the premise and then list their powers.

Kamen Rider Transer (placeholder name): The Oroboros Council is dedicated to researching the Philosopher's Stone. Their research has pretty much led them down a dark road. To try and further their research, they kidnap a man for one specific purpose: They want to see if human transmutation will lead them to the stone. They kill him and use alchemy to bring him back thinking that at the very least they'll get a new servant out of it. However, something went wrong with the transmutation and he ended up keeping his free will and gained the ability to use alchemy himself. He is a homunculous and due to the partial failure of the transmutation, his body is slowly disintegrating. He has to seek out the stone himself to trying and repair his body. His final form uses the power of the stone and uses his own body as fuel for the transformation, effectively speeding up the breakdown.

His main weapon is a spear that is basically transmuted from whatever material is on-hand and it fades when the transformation is undone. He can change the composition of the metal to give it different properties. Essentially the overall theme I'm going for here is what it means to be human. There is no secondary rider for this concept at the moment because I couldn't think of a way to implement one. I'm thinking of making the council's monster forms rider-like. If you haven't guessed yet, this one was primarily inspired by Fullmetal Alchemist.

Cop Rider (no actual name at the moment): This was sort of inspired by the detective aspect of W. This one is essentially just a cop rider and his team investigating a mafia-like organization called the Helix Syndicate. Helix's whole deal is that they alter their genetic structure to make it easier to commit crimes. This one doesn't have a gimmick since I wanted to take a page from Faiz and have him be more gadget based. His support staff studies the data from the monsters he fights and makes counter-measures for them. His main weapons are a lazer pistol and an electrified nightstick. His fighting-style is more active and melee intensive (cuz I'm a big Dekaranger fan). He basically uses the nightstick like a tonfa to block attacks and counters with a few shots from the lazer pistol or pistol-whipping them. His second form is basically a crowd control form accessed through a brace called the Riot Buster. It basically generates a riot shield for him. His final form is an armored SWAT/high firepower form. It is something along the lines of G3 from Agito and needs a power source separate from the belt. The secondary rider is called Mimic. He is basically an undercover cop infiltrating Helix and he uses their splicing technology to make his belt. I can't think of a good name so feel free to pitch one in the comments. As for Helix, the regular members splice themselves to gain the powers of animals while the higher-ups have elemental powers. I can't think of a name for this rider at the moment so if you have a suggestion, please leave it in the comments.

Kamen Rider Grim: This one basically spawned from a simple thought: A scythe is a cool weapon. It spiraled out from there. As the name suggests, he basically acts as a grim reaper. He ferries the souls of the dead to the next world while dealing with corrupted/evil spirits that threaten the living. My plan is to introduce 3 other riders, each one based on different concepts of death from other countries so there will be others showing. Each rider's powers and weapon changes depending on the reaper. For the reapers, there will be a chinese-inspired one whose weapons are bladed fans and there is a gunslinger whose powers manifest twin revolvers that fire purple flames. Strangely Grim is the first rider in centuries whose powers manifest a scythe. There is no gimmick for this rider. I've actually got a henshin sequence planned out for this rider. He puts the Skull Driver on and hits a button on the side. The skull's mouth opens and shoots out purple flames. The flames engulf his body and cool to form the suit. He holds out his hand and the smoke from the flames forms the scythe. I unfortunately don't have any forms planned for this rider at the moment, if you can think of any please suggest them in the comments.

Kamen Rider Pantheon: This is my most developed one so pardon me if this gets a little long. Centuries ago, Hades led the Titans in a war against the Greek Gods. In order to end the war to protect mankind, the gods summoned all their powers to seal away Hades and the Titans. This came with a great cost. The gods were stripped of their powers and their powers crystallized into gemstones. Fearing the Titans would return, the goddess Athena had Hephaestus forge a weapon to combat them: The Pantheon Driver. The man rider is a man haunted in his dreams by memories of lives he is not sure he has even lived. He finds a red gemstone and hears a voice calling out to him. He gets attacked by a Demi (human corrupted by the Titans and given the powers/forms of monsters from greek myths). Before the monster can kill him, he is transported to a room filled with white light. There Athena gives him the Pantheon Driver.

His forms are based around the four elements: Apollo (Fire), Poseidon (Water), Gaia (Earth), and Aeros (Wind). His final form is of course accessed through the Zeus gem and gives him power over lightning. Apollo gives him control over fire. Poseidon form lets him control water and gives him a trident that lets him freeze it. Gaia form is kind of heavy and hard to move in so he has to manipulate the ground underneath him to fight more effectively. Aeros form lets him fly and fire blasts of compressed air or use it to enhance his punches/kicks. This form is a little weaker physically than the others but its mobility makes up for that. Zeus is his most powerful form and it basically electrifies his punches and kicks. Its basically a hand-to-hand combat form. Its so powerful that every time he uses it, it electrocutes him if he uses it for too long. There are two secondary riders, one empowered by the Ares gem and one empowered by the Athena gem. Ares has enhanced strength and fights with a sword while Athena can glimpse echoes of the future and fights with a shield. The over all idea with these two is that they fight as a team. The Titans' powers have diminished over the years. They're seeking out the gemstones themselves to restore their lost power. There is also a dark rider empowered by the Hades gem. He basically has power over black flames.

Those are all I have so far. I do have a few more but they're not developed enough to warrant mentioning at the moment. I may do a post on the full Pantheon concepts. If you've got your own riders, I'd love to see them so feel free to post them in the comments.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Power Rangers 2017 Movie Review

If you've read my posts regarding the news surrounding this movie, you know I went into this movie with massive reservations. Somehow I managed to separate my critic-side from my PR fan-side while watching this movie. Surprisingly, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. With that being said, I do have some issues with the movie How do I feel about it? Well read on and find out. I can't really talk about this much without doing spoilers so: SLIGHT SPOILERS INCOMING!
I've already complained about the visuals plenty in the past so lets dive right in: I'll sum it up here and say that I still don't care for how this movie looks. Oddly enough, I went through this film with this calm feeling. It didn't bring out the same instinctual rage that the news and trailers did. I do actually like that they gave the rangers more character. However, I still don't care much for the problem child setup for most of them. Its something that bugs me because it feels a bit too cliche to me at this point. I liked Zack's backstory about him being the way he is to take his mind off his mother's illness. Though before he mentioned that, he sort of just came off as an adrenaline junkie to me. Kim's secret is something I'm very iffy on as its something that someone who is worthy to be a ranger should never do. It feels like its just there to make the movie feel more "real". I actually like how they handled the reveal that Trini is a lesbian. The movie doesn't actually treat it as all that big of a moment but its handled really well imo. It comes up during the camp fire scene and the other rangers acknowledge it and just move the conversation forward. It felt pretty natural. Billy's autism sort of felt a bit jokey at first but they ironed that out pretty quickly once the rangers show up. I do not care at all for Jason being "a jock who ruined his one-shot". Its just so boring in a movie like this. They literally could've picked anything else for him and I'd have probably liked him more.

This is probably going to sound odd since I just complemented the movie for adding more character to them but, I think the movie focuses too much on the teen drama in the beginning. It made the first half a bit of slog for me to get through. Its a movie based on a show about 5 people in bright spandex whose daily lives include fighting monsters and I think that should've been the main focus throughout the movie. I'd much rather get to know the heroes while they're out there being heroes. Now with that being said, I really love the scene where the rangers are sitting around the camp fire and telling each other about themselves. Its a nice little scene that tells you that these guys are growing closer as friends.
My biggest issue besides the visuals is actually Zordon. The dude was kind of being a jerk and he even insulted the rangers for not mastering powers they just got. I get wanting to give Zordon another character trait alongside "wise mentor" but Zordon shouldn't be insulting the rangers. It irks me that "just make him a jerk" is Hollywood's go-to method of giving more character to someone. I don't care if its a reboot, Zordon doesn't do that. I also unfortunately don't care much for Alpha's voice. Its kinda forgettable and didn't leave much of an impression on me. I mentioned this in the concerns post but I'm gonna mention it again here, why does Alpha need eyes? Its a bit distracting.
Rita was actually handled decently enough and the actress did well. Unfortunately, I don't find her all that frightening. She is creepy but she definitely isn't frightening to me. She was also a little too gollum-y  for my tastes in the beginning but they sorted that out rather quick. She plays up creepy rather well but the most uncomfortable feeling thing she did was swallow gold necklace whole and force the gold through her skin to add to her outfit. It was also an unintentionally hilarious scene. One detail I really like is that she steals some dude's gold teeth in a scene and in all the close-ups on her staff, you can see the teeth embedded in it. Her "I've killed rangers before" line from the trailer actually works better given the way the movie opens. I won't say what it is here but the change to her connection to Zordon is something I actually like about the movie.

The music for the movie doesn't fit imo. There is a little too much pop and rap in the movie for me. Its off-putting because rock and roll feels more natural for Power Rangers to me. Its a minor thing for me but its kinda distracting for me to hear rap in something related to Power Rangers. I didn't care for it when Mystic Force or Overdrive did it either. I absolutely can't stand the Kanye West song they used in the trailers. I can't even remember if it was actually in the movie. Maybe it was and my brain blocked it out. It really doesn't help that the music doesn't feel like it has any power to me.

The product placement is so blatant that I'd swear it was a parody if I didn't know better. Krispy Kreme donuts are a plot-point in the movie. There is even a scene during the climax where Rita walks into a Krispy Kreme and eats a donut while the camera zooms in on her face. Seeing Rita eating a donut while the city is being destroyed is surreal. A friend of mine is also fascinated by that scene because its so weird to him. Its that sort of thing that the scene from the Wayne's World was making fun of. There is actually a line where Rita asks if Krispy Kreme is the source of life. It is a gloriously stupid line.

I keep seeing people say that this movie is "serious". I unfortunately don't see it. The tone flip flops too much for my tastes. I can't really call it serious when the movie features masturbation jokes, Rita eating a donut during the climax, and Rita swallowing a gold necklace. I was expecting juvenile humor but not that juvenile. I also couldn't help but roll my eyes at the drug test joke after Trini tells her parents. Some fans have told me that its not supposed to be a joke but the scene ends on that line and cuts to other stuff. Neither it or the masturbation jokes belong in a movie that calls itself Power Rangers imo.
The action is ok but sort of forgettable. It really doesn't help that the one in-suit fight scene is so short. It happens during the climax of the movie and its only a couple minutes long. After that the rangers just summon the zords and run toward Angel Grove. The ranger suits look slightly better in motion. The suits unfortunately look CGI in some shots. That is probably due to the lighting of the fight scene along combined with the CGI over-layed on the glowing portions of the suits. The mecha fight is purely CGI which is what I was expecting. The individual zord portion of the fight is enjoyable enough. Unfortunately, it feels off when they form the Megazord. It doesn't feel like it or Goldar have actual weight to them during their fight. I actually enjoy the training montage. I'm always a sucker for those and I actually got a chuckle from Trini kicking a Putty hologram in the groin.

I'm going to have approach this in a different way than I usually do. In each of my concerns posts, I posed a question that I'm going to reiterate here: Is it a Power Rangers movie? Unfortunately, it doesn't feel like one to me. The basic elements are there but I don't think the movie is meshing just quite right imo. I can't exactly point to why its not meshing though. There is only one scene in the movie that feels like Power Rangers to me. It is a brief scene where the zords are running toward Angel Grove while Go Go Power Rangers blasts in the background. I had a big ol' smile on my face at that moment. However, that was far too short and I think they should've let the song continue to play during the mecha fight. Now, with that being said, is it a bad movie? No. Its not a great movie but I don't hate it. It is simply ok for me so it gets a pass. Do I recommend it to non-PR fans? Definitely, its enjoyable enough that you'll probably get your money's worth at a matinee. Do I recommend it to Power Rangers fans? Sort of. There isn't actually much here for actual PR fans except a few easter eggs but they're all "blink and you miss it" style easter eggs. I can't recommend it at full price but if your theater has bargain days like my theater does, go for it. Its definitely worth it if you can get the tickets for cheap or a rental when it hits dvd. I hope it gets a sequel because it honestly needs one. It feels a tad incomplete since its simply an origin story. I enjoyed it enough so I'll probably be in the theater to see it.