Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Gosei Sentai Dairanger Review

This was actually the second or third Sentai I tried to watch back when I was starting out. Sadly I was also in college at the time and class workloads picked up so I had to drop it for the time being. Eventually I just forgot about it. Thanks to Shout Factory's dvds, I was finally able to finish watching this show. Lets get right into it with a show that I've seen universal love for: Gosei Sentai Dairanger. How did it work out for me? Well, read on and find out. Note: I'm not going to cover the Dairanger suits in this review because I've already given my thoughts on them in another post.
Plot: Centuries ago, the Dai Tribe and Gorma Tribe went to war with each other. The war was devastating, leading to the destruction of both tribes. However, the Gorma have risen again. It is up to the Dairangers to defeat the Gorma this time around. Its a pretty simple set up but the show handles it well. Throughout the show it keeps bringing up the war between the Gorma and the Dai alongside this theme of balance. It doesn't just say the war happened and then ignore it to solely focus on the modern day. It makes the conflict feel more "real" for lack of a better term. Evil can never truly be vanquished so good must always rise up to fight it. Balance must be maintained or the world is doomed. A good example of this is when the god-like Dajinryu shows up and almost destroys the world because the Gorma are getting a bit too strong.

Characters: The Dairangers are a pretty fun team. They compliment each other pretty well even if two of them don't get much to do in the show.
  • Ryo/Ryuranger: Ryo is an enjoyable Red and I liked a lot of his episodes. I don't have much else to say about the character. I think what makes Ryo memorable more than anything for me is the actor's performance. Dude brings a lot of charisma to the role. Ryo is half-Gorma yet for some reason, its not brought up when they find out Kou is also half-Gorma. The Jin episodes and the episodes with his father are without a doubt his best episodes in the show. The episodes with his father interest me for a reason you might not expect but I'll talk about that in a bit.
  • Daigo/Shishiranger: This dude is probably my favorite Dairanger. His episodes get pretty intense and he gets a nice love story with Kujaku. The dude values life in every form, doesn't matter if its human, an animal, or a plant. Outside of his episodes with Kujaku, the Key Jester episodes are my favorite eps for him.
  • Shouji/Tenmaranger: Shouji is probably my second favorite member of the team. His episodes are fun and I particularly enjoy his episodes with the 3 Stooges. He'd always take them at their word since he knew what it was like to be considered a joke and worthless given his former life in a biker gang. He pretty much found an outlet when he took up boxing and that got him out of that life. Other than his episodes with the 3 Stooges, the episode where he and Ryo take down the Golden Leg Gorma.
  • Kazu/Kirinranger: I like Kazu but I really wish he had more to do in the show. I rather like that he basically admits to Kameo in one episode that this suave, cool guy persona is just a front he puts on since he is actually from the country. He essentially ran away from home and came to the city. He gets a couple of episodes to himself but the only ones that really standout to me are the Tofu Hermit episode and the one where is looking for Daimugen's crystal. That doesn't actually make his other focus episodes bad. Its just not much compared Ryo, Shouji, Daigo, and Kou. Without a doubt he has the best choreographed fights in the show.
  • Rin/Houhouranger: Rin is kind, caring, and a tough fighter. She can definitely hold her own without the rest of the team behind her. However, like Kazu, I think she needed more to do in the show. Thats mostly because once Kou shows up her stuff kind of gets tied up into his plot-line. My favorite episode for her is without a doubt the Lipstick Songstress episode.
  • Kou/Kibaranger: Kou should actually really annoy me but I'm not really sure why he doesn't. Its probably because he is written really well and he stops the annoying stuff shortly after he becomes Kibaranger. I legitimately feel bad for the kid. I love the parallel between him and Akomaru. Akomaru is legitimately what Kou could've become if he had let the heartbreak of his mother leaving consume him. I legitimately cried when the stuff with his mother ended.
Without a doubt, one of my favorite parts of Dairanger is the stuff with Kujaku. I remember loving these episodes even back when I first the first half of this show. I actually enjoy those episodes more than the Jin episodes. Kujaku's grudge against Gara is just heartbreaking given where it spawned from. I'll talk more about that when I get to Gara and the other two of the Gorma Triumverite.
Something I found really interesting about the episodes with Ryo's father is the reveal that his dad is not only one of the original five warriors who fought the Gorma but that he defected to the Gorma during the war. The timing and the way its handled really interests me because its done over the course of just two episodes. It also happens very early in the show and it lead to me an interesting thought: If Dairanger had been made today, that reveal wouldn't have happened until the late 20's or early 30's and likely wouldn't have been resolved until near the final few episodes. Thats something I think modern Sentai relies on a little too much as they tend to drag out stuff like that a little too long for the sake of drama.

I like the Gorma Triumvirate. They're nice and threatening powerhouse villains. Though its a little distracting hearing the Imperial March from Star Wars play whenever they show up.

Gara's grudge against Kujaku is actually a lot deeper and more heartbreaking than I thought it would be. They used to be friends until Gara's face was scarred while projecting Kujaku. The scarring itself isn't caused Gara to hate Kujaku as she admits that she would've been proud to have that scar as a memory of the time she protected her friend. She hates Kujaku because she thought Kujaku abandoned her while Kujaku was really just looking for away to get rid of Gara's scar. Its two friends turning into mortal enemies over a tragic misunderstanding. Normally that would annoy me but Dairanger handled it extremely well. Its heartbreaking when you consider that one misunderstanding lead to Gara joining the Gorma. Gara is probably my favorite out of them due to how personal her grudge with Kujaku was. She is played by Akiko Amamatsuri who played Mazenda in Liveman. Her performance is great and she really captures the anger, bitterness, and heartbreak that Gara needed to work. She will definitely be making my revised villains list whenever I redo that one.

I like Shadam's relationship with Akomaru. Its a nice case of father and son really despising each other and being at each other's throats. You really get the feeling that Shadam deserves every single bit of hatred that Akomaru has for him. Its a rather nice contrast to how Kou feels about his mother so seeing both relationships in the end works out really well. The big revelation about Akomaru's connection to Kou is just great. Shadam is just awesome overall and the dude is legitimately Long levels of manipulative and I love the reveal with him at the end of the series.

Zydos unfortunately doesn't really do much in the show compared to Gara and Shadam other than create Jin and fight the Dairangers. He is still a powerhouse so I suppose I can't fault the character too much for that. His actor just seems to love mugging for the camera. He always seems to make the weirdest face whenever the camera does a close-up on his face. It never failed to make me snicker.
Without a doubt the standout side-villain in the show is of course Jin Matoba. Yutaka Hirose always makes a great villain. It was always a joy to see Jin show up in the show and his episodes always kept me at the edge of my seat. When you get right down to it, Jin is a relatively simple villain: He just wants to prove that he is the best fighter there is. Zydos even gives him magic hoping to sway him to the Gorma's side but even then, Jin is way out of his league and kicks Zydos to the curb. Despite using his martial arts to outright kill his opponents, he still has this sense of honor as a fighter. He also has one of the best villain deaths I've seen in Sentai. I won't say what it is here because I'd rather people find out for themselves. I will say that it is without a doubt Jin's best episode in the show. At first I was afraid Jin was going to be overblown due to all the hype around him but I'm so glad he is as awesome as my friends were telling me. All in all, its a great performance by Hirose and its one I won't soon forget. He gave the character a nice air of malice yet also got the honorable nature across. It makes for a really intimidating villain. I'll probably be adding him to my favorite villains list the next time I update it. While watching Jin and Gara, a thought crossed my mind: Jin played Kemp in Liveman and Gara played Mazenda, if Gou's actor had showed up as a Gorma, we could've had mini-Volt reunion.
I normally wouldn't talk about individual MOTWs in detail but Key Jester is probably my favorite. He just hits that level of creepy that sends a chill down my spine. The actor does really well in the role imo. I particularly like that he gets around by roller-skating. This dude's plot is one of the creepiest plans I've seen in Sentai. He basically uses his keys to steal children's souls and put them into dolls so they can wreak havoc. He also played Dora Sphinx's human form in Zyuranger.
Speaking of actors I've seen before, Kubota's actor from Megaranger shows up as General Cactus. Its a bit weird seeing him play a character that likes to turn little girls into dolls after seeing a few episodes of Megaranger. Thats mostly why this Gorma stands out to me so I really don't have much else to say about him. There are probably other Sentai actors I've seen before who play Gorma but I can't think of anyone else.

Mecha: They're all pretty well designed and there is an amazing amount of detail on the models. My favorite of all the mecha is probably Won Tiger. I love how short and swift the mecha fights in this show are. They don't feel tacked on or dragged out. They're simply being used as the final blow against the Gorma.

Action: The action in this show is outstanding. You can really feel the amount of effort that the choreograpers and suit actors put into it. Kazu probably has the best fight scenes in the entire show for me. The movements he does are insane and his fights always flowed so well. This show probably has the most movement intensive fight scenes I've ever seen. It just shows how valuable suit actors are in toku. As someone with an eye for fight scenes, I just can't rave enough about how happy this show's fights made me. I don't normally mention the role-calls in these reviews but I absolutely love Dairanger's. It is the most intricate, precise, and movement intensive role-call I've ever seen, especially Kazu's. I'm still amazed that the actor himself can actually do that. They all look so simple but I've tried doing them now and then and they are much harder than they look. I can barely do Rin's without messing it up. I can't even attempt Kazu's without falling over.

Music: Outside the Imperial March playing when the Gorma Triumvirate hits the scene, the music for the villains is really effective. It managed to creep me out quite a bit. The shows opening and ending themes are great. The opening has a lot of power to it and I always found myself singing along. The ending theme is nicely addictive and happy sounding.
Final Thoughts: I like how the show continues to remind you just how long this war has been going. I love the twist at the end when we discover whats up with Shadam and the rest of the Gorma. It really helps sell the show's idea of balance. I'd mention it here but I don't want to spoil it since its an interesting bit of lore for Dairanger's world. Not sure where I'll put this whenever I re-do my Sentai rankings but I'd probably put it higher than Zyuranger.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

My Thoughts On Hasbro Shaking Things Up For Power Rangers (Also The Gobusters Adaptation)

Ok, normally I don't speculate on things when it comes to Power Rangers in general. This is usually because I tend to have no idea what a season is going to do until it actually airs. I'm talking about this because in a short span of time the fandom has changed its tune on the franchise so I figured I might as well weigh in. I will talk briefly about the toys and then move on to how this might affect the show.

Hasbro buying up the toy license for Power Rangers is a good thing. I can see that even if I'm not that big on the toys myself. BoA has let the quality drop quite a bit over the years. The quality of the Ninja Steel toys in particular have been awful from what I've seen on the shelves. I fully expect Hasbro to up the quality of the toys since from what I've heard they're really into making quality stuff. This is a great thing for toy collectors and the toys for Gobusters adaptation are probably gonna end up pretty good. Hasbro pays a lot of attention to the little details in their toys as far as I can tell. However, I don't know much about toys or toy collecting so thats all I'll say on that.

Now this is probably going affect the inevitable sequel to the 2017 Power Rangers movie. This probably means that the sequel is going to become a reboot. I can totally see Hasbro wanting to redesign everything from the ground up. That would be a very good thing and it would be a change I welcome. I cannot not stand the suits or megazord from the 2017 movie. Those were wide misses as far as Power Ranger designs are concerned. It could even lead to us getting a movie that both looks and feels more like a Power Rangers movie.

Now for the next season...Beast Morphers. I don't like the name at all but moving on. I did not care much for Gobusters so I really hope that I enjoy the adaptation more. I honestly thought Gobusters wasted some really cool Sentai suits. Looking at the plot-synopsis, I'm a bit iffy on the Morphing Grid being a plot-point. You run the risk of over-explaining how it works and punching holes in it. Personally, I'm off the mind that the grid is best left as this vague power-source that people can tap into. With that being said, if they do bring in Enter's Dark Buster form and keep its origin the same, they had better apply the no duplicate powers rule since its basically a copy of Red Buster's abilities. Thats basically all I can speculate on with the info we have right now.

There is one last thing I want to address about the Gobuster's adaptation. The second it was announced the fandom brought back the idea of making it a sequel to RPM. I like RPM but my overall question is why make it a sequel to RPM? The thing about RPM is that its a send-off to the franchise in general. Thats why 90% of the human race is gone in RPM. Thats why all the other teams are presumed dead. Thats why the crossover with Samurai wrote it off as being in another dimension. Making a sequel season to RPM undercuts the impact of that season.

So yeah, thats basically all I have to say on the subject. Will it be a good show? Who knows, only time will tell. Will I watch it? Its Power Rangers so of course I will. I get why people are hyped but I just can't bring myself to get hyped until the show actually airs. For now, I'm going to keep my hype under control so I don't get burned like I did with Megaforce.

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.  

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 its 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.

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.