Okay, Flash War. You Got Me.

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Kinda wrote this post…on an impulse.

I love the Flash.  Jay, Barry, Wally, Bart.  The comics, the shows, the eventual movie (I hope).  The allies and the villains.  On the surface, the Flash is a man who can run fast.  Every creator who’s worked on him, though, has taken that idea and, well…run with it.  He can control each of his molecules, he can think through any pattern of a given situation to give himself an almost precognitive power, he can travel through time and dimensions by running at different speeds.  Every bit of the Flash mythos just fascinates me.  I only really started reading Flash comics when Flashpoint happened, and I don’t think I’ve fallen in love with a character’s history so deeply since I discovered Batman as a child.  That being said, I haven’t been the biggest fan of Joshua Williamson’s current run on the book.

The initial arc with Godspeed was a cool concept, but it was painfully predictable.  The stuff with Meena and the Black Hole is also in that same vein of neat but underwhelming (so far, at least).  And, although I enjoyed it, The Button seems almost pointless right now.  Williamson has mainly shone when working with the classic Rogues–Captain Cold, Heatwave, Weather Wizard, Mirror Master, Golden Glider, and Trickster.  I also really liked his story with Reverse-Flash, but it, too, has its own problems.

So, it’s been a good bit of ups and downs, but the lows have been lower than the highs have been higher for me.  That’s why the news of the upcoming Flash War arc hasn’t interested me in the least.  I’m kind of over the “heroes vs heroes” thing.  And let’s be real, everyone:  Wally West is the best Flash.  He embodies everything that’s great about DC Comics.  He’s proof that legacy characters can work if you give them the time and effort they deserve.  Basically, I don’t see “Wally Best” versus Barry or the new Wally as a competition.  He’s just better.  Flash War did not get me excited.

But then Williamson tweeted the first page of the annual that kicks off the event.

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Boy howdy, that’s a loaded image for any Flash fan.  Later tweeted images shows this is pretty much just a wrecked portion of the Flash Museum.  When I first saw it, though, I viewed it as some sort of epic teaser image for things to come.  I kinda still do.

It’s still really murky on what exactly has happened in the Rebirth continuity.  We know there was a Titans team before Tim Drake’s version, some form of Final Crisis occurred, Superman did die.  I think.  It’s weird.  But there’s a lot of amazing stories and characters from Flash’s corner of the DCU that we just don’t know where they stand.  Sure, it looks like Eobard somehow became his pre-Flashpoint and New 52 selves, we’ve finally seen Golden Age Jay Garrick, and the Tornado Twins made their debut.  That’s still so many left out in the dark.  This image, though…gives me hope.

The pictures of Flash and Supes racing from Superman #199, Barry and Wally running together as hero and sidekick, and finally the God of Wind, Savitar.  Those pictures alone give me chills.  The Flash puppet from Flash #133 is an absurd but welcome addition.  Abra Kadabra is one of the few Rogues who’d fallen to the wayside and only returned in the opening story of Titans.  It’s a couple of other things in that image that really got me, though.

never thought we’d see any hint of John Fox again.  The Flash of first the 27th and then the 853rd centuries seemed a lost character, but I’ll be damned if that isn’t his gauntlet in the annual’s opening page.  He’s never been my favorite (who makes a move on a missing superhero’s girlfriend?), but I like all the speedsters and their histories.  Plus, he becomes Flash One Million, and my love for that story and its characters is inexplicable.

The main attraction in that image is easily the busted Impulse robot.  The only Bart Allen we’ve seen since Flashpoint is that freedom fighter from the future or whatever he was…whose real name wasn’t even Bart Allen!  So yeah, to see evidence that the real Bart Allen is out there somewhere and will hopefully return has done wonders for my soul.

Still want my Dark Flash to come back, though.

Image result for dark flash

Come home, Walter West.  Just come home.

As for what’s left in the image, I’m at a bit of a loss.  I thought the broken Flash symbol could possibly be Danny West’s, but everything else is pre-New 52, so that wouldn’t make sense.  It’s more than likely just a bungled up symbol.  It’s that yellow rod that’s bugging the hell out of me.  I’ve at various points thought it was part of Eobard’s wand, the hilt of one of the swords used by Savitar’s speed ninjas (I love comics), part of a member of Speed Metal, a piece of one of the Black Racer’s ski poles, and other random things.  Could definitely be just some random rod dislodged in the attack on the Flash Museum, but I feel like it’s something I should know.

With just that one page, images of the classic Top returning, and other various statues including ones of Max Mercury and Johnny Quick (all of them), I am one-hundred percent looking forward to Flash War.  I hope that a lot of good stuff really does come out of this.  Who knows?  Maybe Doralla Kon will make her long-awaited return!

I’m so excited, and I don’t care to hide it.

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Seasonal Sawce: Fall Back Into Anime 2017, Part 2

Believe it or not, this post isn’t necessarily late.  I actually wanted to write this a year after this particular Seasonal Sawce.  Pretty neat, right?

(How many of you believe that?)

Okay, so, the following anime I watched in their entirety as they aired from October to December 2017.  Gonna be ranking them from my least favorite to my most favorite.  Without further preamble, let’s get into it!

Juni Taisen

Juni Taisen 2

No, Monkey, put your hand down.  You don’t get to be in a better anime.

Oh, man.  This right here…this might be the biggest disappointment in terms of anime for me in 2017.  I saw that Nisioisin name and got excited.  I saw those absolutely awesome character designs and got hype.  I read the death battle set-up and got all sorts of ready.  I watched the whole thing and really, really wished I’d watched something else in its place.

It’s just dull.  And straight-up ugly sometimes.  One episode randomly switched between 2D and CGI animation, and there had been nary a bit of CGI used in the show previously.  There was a two-parter covering the most uninteresting characters in the show, and those episodes looked rushed and choppy.  It’s like they blew their budget on the very first episode and went, “…Who the f**k said we had to do 11 more episodes?  We thought the leftover funds were booze money!”

Pretty cool characters and powers consistently let down by shoddy animation, poor pacing, and just a general disinterest in the source material.  I’m not saying the original is better since I haven’t read it, but the Juni Taisen anime is getting a 4.5 out of 10 from me.  I know it seems a little high for how I was talking, but I’m a generous sort.

Two Car

Two Car 2

And thus begins the crossover with Welcome to the Ballroom.

I can’t really say I was letdown by this show.  I think.  I dunno.  I didn’t expect it to be that good, but I also didn’t expect it to be so boring.  Okay, it’s not always boring, but it could’ve used some tuning up (and I’ll check that off on the pun list for this post).  The two main characters being rivals because they’ve fallen for the same guy is fine.  That was a good joke because we never even see the guy’s face.  He’s irrelevant.  But then he shows up and ruins the joke.  I didn’t think I’d miss the two-parters focusing on different teams and their problems from the first half so much.  Boy howdy, did I, though.

Once the joke is over for the main girls, the other teams are way better and more interesting characters.  Even the two announcer girls!  And why didn’t we get an episode that was just Mao and Hitomi on a date?  Those two are gold.  Sure, I wanted some more sports in my sports anime, but I knew the focus here would be cute girls.  So…focus on the cute girls more.  Give ’em more time and more things to do.  Don’t just throw them to the side once you’ve given up.

I’ll give it a 5.5.  It’s fine for a cute girls doing sports things show, but there has got to be better out there.

Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World 2017

Kino's Journey The Beautiful World 2

Mighty needy for an anthropomorphic motorcycle.

This might have actually been beneath Two Car had it not been for a few spectacular episodes.  In particular the penultimate eleventh episode which is essentially Kino’s origin story.  That was some fine anime right there.  Aside from those standouts, though, the 2017 adaptation of Kino’s Journey is a wee bit lackluster.

Themes and messages tend to get lost in adaptation sometimes, and you’re left wondering what the point of those adventures were.  I also don’t feel Kino’s characterization was consistent.  Couldn’t put my finger on it, but she felt like a different character every now and then.  Also, she was only barely in her own show for a majority of the time.  Another group of travelers tended to take up a surprising amount of screen time.

Either a 6 or 6.5 for me.  There are a handful of genuinely great episodes, but the rest felt middling to decent.

Food Wars! The Third Plate

Food Wars! The Third Plate 2

Going off the rails on a gravy train!

Third Plate was on track to surpass Second Plate, and all in all, it probably did.  The second season of Food Wars! suffered from an incredibly rushed tournament arc and tacked on aftermath.  Season three here had a decent beginning, awesome middle, and then just kinda fizzled out at the end.  Yeah, Souma’s duel with the First Seat of the Elite Ten felt kinda superfluous.  I really don’t think these one cour seasons suit Food Wars! at all.

But, like I said, those middle episodes was Food Wars! at its finest.  Erina’s father returning and overthrowing the current regime, the iron wok of Central coming down on the school, Souma essentially beginning the revolution all by his lonesome…. Good stuff, man.  Good stuff!  Wish what came before and after were of similar quality, though.

It’s a solid 8.  I mean, it’s Food Wars!.  Of course it’s good.

Now, it’s actually time for my number one.  Yeah, that’s right.  Only five this time!  I love it!

Recovery of an MMO Junkie

Recovery of an MMO Junkie 2

In which we are Sakurai, and Sakurai is us.

I like me some rom-coms, but I love me some good rom-coms!  And Recovery of an MMO Junkie is one of the goodest.  Or best, if you want to get all correct-y grammar-y over here.  All joking aside, though, yeah, I love this anime to bits.  The soundtrack, the look, the characters, the relationships, the humor, the set-up, the pay-off, the all the stuff…. I love it.  And it’s about adults!  How f**king weird is that?!

It also helps that Moriko Morioka is one of the top contenders for Best Girl of 2017.  Actually, if she represents the fall season, then we can get Karen Tendou of Gamers! for summer, Akane Hiyama from Love Tyrant for spring, and Sakie “Succubus Sensei” Satou hailing all the from winter in Interviews with Monster Girls and have them all compete in a TOURNAMENT to crown Best Girl of 2017.  I mean, physical strength gives the edge to Akane, so maybe if they have, like, a debate TOURNAMENT?  Maybe?

That aside out of the way, not only is Moriko a great main protagonist, but Sakurai is a wonderful main love interest.  Guy’s kinda smitten with her and is just the picture of a gentleman nerd most of the time.  Not the bad kind of gentleman nerd.  The actual decent person good kind.  His best friend/foil/romantic rival/wingman Koiwai is a surprisingly fun character, and all their guildmates bring their own set of fulfilled characteristics and lives to the tables.

It may not have had the most satisfying conclusion for a rom-com, but with only ten episodes and one for-funsies OVA, Recovery of an MMO Junkie did a remarkable job of presenting an immensely likable cast in a pretty real and heartfelt yet fanciful story.  This one’s a 9 out of 10 for me.

That’s gonna do it for this round of Seasonal Sawce.  If I’m being real here, I probably won’t write another post until the next Seasonal Sawce, but I always hope for better.  Gonna try and knock out at least one graphic novel a week this year, and I may or may not write about each of them.

Peace out, and stay bizarre.

Seasonal Sawce: Fall Back Into Anime 2017, Part 1

Oh man, y’all, this post is so late (“How late is it?!”) it might be missing a period or two

So, yeah, meant to have this out when everything I’m watching this season hit six episodes, but that took a bit longer than usual because March Comes in Like a Lion 2nd Season started a week later than all the others.  That was problem the first.  Problem B is that when March‘s sixth episode finally aired, holiday hours kicked in at work and…I got distracted (i.e. I’m a professional crastinator).

A small bit of housekeeping before we get into the usual proceedings:  I actually dropped two shows.  Made it three episodes into King’s Game until I called it quits, and then I somehow survived six episodes of Asta’s incessant yellching (that, dear reader, is a portmanteau of “yelling” and “screeching”) in Black Clover before giving up.  Once again, no Elegant Yokai Apartment Life since it’s in its second cour (quickly though, it’s very okay).

Six (or eight) episodes in, so here are my least hype to most hype anime this season!

7) Juni Taisen

Juni Taisen

Let’s play Count the Dead People.

Every 12 years a competition is held where 12 mercenaries–each representing an animal in the Chinese zodiac–gather together to fight to the death.  It’s something of a war in miniature with the sole survivor gaining prestige and one wish granted.  During this twelfth tournament, each of the warriors swallows a poison jewel that will kill them in 12 hours unless they can kill the others and collect their jewels.  Everybody, clap your hands!

This is one that I was gonna pass on…and I kinda wish I had.  Other than those hella cool and attractive character designs, Nisioisin’s name is what got me to check it out.  I love the two Zaregoto books we got over here in the states years ago, the Monogatari franchise, and the Katanagatari anime, so I had to give it a shot.  I love the characters.  I really do.  It’s just after the first few episodes, the action seems to be few and far between and the plot feels like it plods along.  Plus, kinda sucks seeing characters you like die constantly and in brutal fashion.

I hope it picks up near the end.  ‘Cuz right now, it’s not doing much for me.

6) Two Car

Two Car

Gal pals on bikes.

Motorcycle sidecar racing is a unique sport in that it takes two individuals to really function as one as the specially designed bikes require the passenger to balance the machine for all of its turns and brakes and the driver to…drive.  Yuri Miyata and Megumi Meguro are two sidecar racers living on the speed mecca Miyakejima Island.  The two high school girls have one goal–win this year’s sidecar race and go on to compete in the Isle of Mann TT where their coach will be racing.  The two have their fair share of rivals and friends to overcome, though, and it won’t be easy.  Especially since they don’t like each other that much.

Found out I’ve seen a lot of Silver Link anime.  So…yeah.  That’s a thing.  Anyway, I obviously decided to watch this because it’s cute girls doing sports things!  Gotta say, I’m enjoying it quite a bit.  My major complaint is that it’s being really formulaic by focusing on one team at a time in two-episode arcs (which also slows the show down), but I’m hoping that changes real soon.  There are a few deep and heartwarming moments here and there, but I think I find it more humorous than anything else.  The one team that seems to be pretty blatant lesbians are a delight.  They get a gag at least once an episode where they misread each other in fantastic fashion but dance it off afterward.

Also, there hasn’t been a male character with a face show up yet.  That’s just funny to me.  The coach the two main girls are crushing on is a faceless dude who could be anybody.  Classic.

5) Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World

Kino's Journey The Beautiful World

Born to be wiiiiiiiiiiiild!

Kino is just a traveler.  Well, she’s a gun-toting traveler who goes from country to country riding her anthropomorphic motorcycle–known as a “motorrad”–named Hermes.  She’s just out to see the world one country at a time.  She only spends three days and two nights in each one for fear of getting the urge to settle down.  Along the way, she and Hermes encounter a number of odd cultures and even more fascinating people.  “The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.”

Were I in the habit of making these lists pre-season, this new adaptation of Kino’s Journey would’ve been very near the top.  I’ve never seen the others, but I’ve heard enough to know I’d be a fan.  So, I had high hopes going in.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t lived up to those lofty expectations.  It’s still good, but there seems to be a giant disconnect between what’s going on and what the intended message is.  I love seeing the strange countries and each one’s different laws, but I think the point of most of them gets lost in their respective stories.

I still plan on watching the 2003 version despite how letdown I’ve felt about this iteration so far.  Once again, though, I am still enjoying it.

4) March Comes in Like a Lion 2nd Season

March Comes in Like a Lion 2nd Season

All that shogi and depression just makes you feel warm inside.

Rei Kiriyama is still recovering from his loss in his last major tournament and his new mentor’s loss against the Meijin at the end of the previous season.  His school life is going surprisingly well as he enjoys his club and confides more in his teacher.  The main light in his otherwise depressed life, though, is the Kawamoto household.  Although fairly poor, the three sisters and their grandfather are full of warmth and love.  This haven isn’t as sunny anymore; however, as the middle sister, Hinata, is dealing with bullies at school.  In order to repay the sisters for all they’ve done for him, Rei is more determined than ever to win all of his matches and become a true shogi master.

Okay, so maybe “a true shogi master” is stretching it a bit for someone as normally unambitious as Rei, but it had a nice ring to it.  Dawns on me now that I didn’t talk about March Comes in Like a Lion when I watched the first season last year (guess I started it way late).  So, here it is:  I really, really like it.  It’s Shaft doing a shogi anime that thoroughly explores depression and familial bonds.  Boy, oh boy, has my heart ached quite a few times during this show.  But, I’ve also laughed quite a bit, too.  This second season has surprised me by focusing on Hina’s story and the very real and serious problem of bullying in schools.  I already liked her, but damn if she isn’t becoming one of my favorite characters right now.  The Kawamoto sisters are just the best.

If you haven’t watched the first season, then you should definitely check it out.  And then, of course, get in on that good season two ish.

3) Recovery of an MMO Junkie

Recovery of an MMO Junkie

WOW, it’s good!  (I love bad jokes.)

At 30 years of age, Moriko Morioka makes the odd decision to quit her job and become a NEET.  Tired of dealing with the stress of the real world, Moriko returns to an old love of hers–MMOs.  She joins one called Fruits de Mer as a male character named Hayashi.  She has a rough time at first, but an absurdly cute character named Lily starts helping her and introduces her to more players.  Moriko finds herself fulfilled in her new online life, but the real world comes back for her once again as she literally runs into the handsome businessman Yuuta Sakurai.  What seemed to be a one-off meeting quickly starts to become something more, as Moriko and Sakurai can’t help but find each other very familiar….

I’ma be real here, it was difficult arranging these top three.  Recovery could easily have been second or first if I’d done this earlier or later.  I’m really enjoying this show.  Moriko is definitely Best Girl of Fall 2017, and the other characters are pretty great, too.  It does a great job of showing how important relationships built online can really be in this day and age.  No one completely neglects their real lives (well, maybe Moriko a bit), but their lives online are shown to be just as fulfilling and healthy as ones outside the internet can be.  Plus, it’s got that good romance stuff in there, and y’all know how much I like that romance stuff.

It’s a standout this season for me, and I hope more people give it a watch.

2) Food Wars! The Third Plate

Food Wars! The Third Plate

COOKING IS SUPER COOL, YO.

No rest for the wickedly good at cooking as the students of Totsuki Academy must now prepare to run food stalls at the annual Moon Festival.  It’s not mandatory, but Souma Yukihira recognizes a challenge when he sees one and vows to beat the Seventh Seat of the Elite Ten Terunori Kuga in sales over the festival’s four days.  It all seems to be standard shenanigans for the culinary masters of tomorrow, but something dark lurks around the corner.  The man who honed Erina Nakiri’s God Tongue–Erina’s father–Azami Nakiri is returning to the Academy, and he plans to rule it with an iron pan.

(Look, I wanted to make a cooking joke at the end of the paragraph, okay?)

Gotta admit, I wasn’t feeling Third Plate at first.  It was good stuff, for sure.  It just felt very re-introductory.  It’s at the end of the Moon Festival arc and the beginning of the next one where this season really starts to feel like Food Wars! again.  I had genuinely forgotten what it felt like to need the next episode of Food Wars!.  The introduction of an actual Big Bad certainly helped, I think.  Azami is a despicable person, and I eagerly await his downfall.  God bless this show.

If I find Third Plate to be a true return to form for one of the best modern shonen, then what could I possibly be enjoying more this season?

1) The Ancient Magus’ Bride

The Ancient Magus' Bride

Single woman seeks good, horned demon skull-faced ancient man.

By the age of 15, Chise Hatori has faced so much trauma and seen so much darkness in her life that she’s sold herself into slavery hoping to find someone who actually wants her.  Enter the tall, impossibly old British mage Elias Ainsworth.  Elias purchases Chise for an incredible sum since she is a Sleigh Beggy–a being with limitless potential for magic–and intends to make her both his apprentice and bride.  Where before Chise’s powers brought her only misery and heartbreak, she’s now entered a world where she’s not only useful, she’s one of the most desired beings around.

If there’s one anime that tries to make love to your eyes and ears with its visuals and soundtrack, it’s The Ancient Magus’ Bride.  It’s just so pretty, and that music is so damn good!  I was interested in it after checking out the prequel OVA, but it was actually reading the creator’s other translated work Frau Faust that got me really hype for this anime.  I’ve been loving it to pieces.  It’s a pretty neat version of a “Beauty and the Beast” story, and it’s world and its inhabitants are so varied and realized.

I wasn’t sure if Magus would be my number one, but I find myself really needing every episode.

Not the best season I’ve been around for, but those top three tick so many of my boxes.  Don’t know what my next post will be, but as always…

Peace out, and stay bizarre.

The Book of Sawce, Chapter 22 – A Book That Scares You

22 The Light at the End

Eat fresh.

I’d be willing to bet you didn’t know this about me, but I love vampires.  Stories about them are just much more interesting and entertaining to me than ones about werewolves, zombies, etc.  I can probably trace my fascination with the lore back to one wonderful, kick-ass television show–Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Even now, after all these years, it’s probably my favorite live-action show.  Everything about it was awesome, but the cast especially stands out more to me than even the stories.  My favorite character of that bunch is by far and away Spike.  So, when I found out William the Bloody was based on a vampire novel from the ’80s, I knew I had to read it someday.  And here we are!  Let us now join John Skipp and Craig Spector as they show us The Light at the End.

Rudy Pasko isn’t a great guy.  In fact, he’s kinda an ass.  He’s tall, slender, handsome, and fully aware of it.  He’s also a punk artist with a massive chip on his shoulder almost as big as his ego.  Still, he didn’t fully deserve what happened to him the night he stepped on the train to go to his friend Stephen’s place after a huge fight with his girlfriend Josalyn.  Rudy was attacked by an ancient vampire who’d already massacred another ten or so passengers on the train.  This powerful entity chose to turn the angry, arrogant youth into a vampire as a bit of fun.  Although he warned Rudy not to draw attention to himself, the punk awakened and embraced his new lifestyle with murderous glee and reckless abandon.  A wholly unlikely crew of messengers, artists, and other random citizens band together to combat this new malevolent force.  The city of New York knows something’s up in the subways underneath, but no one could possibly know the unholy bloodbath they’re about to face.

No, I didn’t really plan to read a scary book in October this year.  Believe it or not, my procrastination is just that magical.  Every year I want to read and watch more “spoopy” (as the youth say) things when October rolls around, but I never do.  That’s a personal problem, though.  Like I said earlier, I love vampires.  I’m not one of those people who wears all black and only drinks red beverages, but I am pale and rarely go out into the sun.  I have a real connection to the myths, you see.  Okay, enough tomfoolery.  Let’s talk about The Light at the End.

First things first, I definitely see where Spike came from now.  He definitely has Rudy’s look in the modern day and sheer vileness in his early years as an undead.  That’s probably the thing that surprised me the most in this book.  I knew going in that it’s considered the progenitor of the splatterpunk genre, but I did not expect Rudy to be as big of a monster as he becomes.  He rapes and murders his away around the New York boroughs and subway tunnels in damn near giddy fashion.  He was unlikable as a human, but he is downright detestable as a vampire.

As weird as it is, the heroes of the novel aren’t too terribly likable themselves.  I don’t know if that was intentional or if it’s dated smartass edginess or what, but I found myself not caring too much about who lived or died.  The messengers Joseph (“Mr. Aptly Named”) Hunter, Ian, and Allan are among the best of them, but they have their own set of problems that prevented me from getting fully behind any of them.  Rudy’s pre-vampire friends Stephen and Josalyn probably have the best character arcs, and it was great seeing those finally come to fruition.  Shop-owner Danny, vampire fan-girl Claire, the two transit workers, and the other messengers ranged from just being there to being head-slappingly annoying.  By far the best of this vampire-hunting group was the Van Helsing surrogate, Armond.  It’s stated repeatedly he’s lived through some unspeakable stuff, so although he realizes he needs to see to it that Rudy is killed, he doesn’t fear him in the least.  One cool old dude.

The story itself is your pretty basic vampire stuff: Vampire’s in town, so it’s up to a handful of men and women to take him down.  The desire to see Rudy taken down is the driving force, but I do wish we’d found out more about the vampire who turned him.  Just know he’s more evil than evil and that he was Dracula’s mentor.  I did find it really weird that crosses and holy water do the trick here, but the book seems almost angry that Christian iconography can combat vampires.  It felt like the authors hated they had to use that stuff.  Couple that with almost every main character being a pothead, and you have some odd choices.  I mean, sure.  It was the ’80s.  Be rebels and punks and hell yeah and whatnot.  Seemed weird, though.

The Light at the End was an extremely easy read for me when it finally got to the hunt, but it was a bit of slow going since there are only a handful of genuinely likable characters in the book.  I can safely say it won’t make my top five from this reading challenge when all’s said and done.  I’d still suggest it to fans of vampires or just horror in general, though.

Kinda considering getting halfway through that first reading challenge before I call it quits and try a different one next year since this was supposed to be done in 2015.  Or maybe I’ll just try and soldier through to finally finish this one before 2019 rolls around.  Either way, the next book is one that’s more than 100 years old.

What will it be?  Stay tuned to find out.

2017 Summer of Anime – My Hero Academia 2

32 My Hero Academia 2

Go beyond.

Woohoo!  Finally wrapping up the 2017 Summer of Anime, and we’re wrapping it up with a bang!  Not the post itself.  The anime.  The anime is the bang.

My Hero Academia 2 is better than its first season in almost every aspect.  The character work, the pacing, the arcs.  And I’m not just being a shameless shill for tournament arcs this time either…even if the tournament arc is one of the best since Yu Yu Hakusho‘s Dark Tournament, and you should all watch it.  It did a lot for the growth of Izuku and Todoroki.  Izuku becomes more of the hero he wants to be in helping Todoroki, and Todoroki is finally able to overcome his hate boner for his dad (for the most part).  Bakugo gets a decent bit, too, but it’s mostly just him getting angrier and angrier that no one wants to be his rival (I’m reading between the lines here).

We get a bit of a training arc after with all the students doing hero interning, but it’s what comes after that that really did it for me.  As a child of the ’90s and someone who’s delved into comics, Stain is a genuinely fascinating character.  He’s the dreaded Hero Killer who goes from city to city injuring or murdering the heroes he goes after.  But when he takes down Iida’s older brother and draws the wrath of the speedy class rep, we get to find out more about him.  Stain only kills those he deems as unworthy of being heroes.  He is eerily similar to Izuku in that he sees All Might on this pedestal towering above all others, but unlike One For All’s successor, if any hero doesn’t try to live up to those standards, Stain takes them out.

In all aspects, Stain is a ’90s comic book character striving for the values of the Golden Age.  His power allows him to paralyze anyone whose blood he’s ingested, and he views killing as necessary to carry out his goals.  Visually speaking, he looks like he’s taken straight out of Todd McFarlane’s sketch book.  The wild hair, bandages on his eyes and his arms, missing nose, impossibly long and jagged red scarf, covered in spikes and blades, and favoring a hunched brooding stance.  To see such a gloriously Dark Age American character as an important and powerful antagonist who worships the morals of heroic ages long since gone in an anime is seriously something I never thought I’d see.  I love Stain.

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Somebody get this man some pouches.

After Izuku, Todoroki, and Iida run afoul of this amazing man, the anime goes back to its less life-threatening ways.  The students wind up taking their finals by fighting in pairs against different teachers at UA.  The pairings and their opponents all make perfect sense, and it was a very welcome breather arc while still containing a good bit of action and character growth.  The season then ends on one hell of a sequel hook, but did you really need it, Academia?  We all know you’ll get as many seasons as you want.  You don’t have to bait us like that.

My one complaint about season two is the beginning of what seems to be a worrying trend:  Ochako is getting relegated to the background.  Now, she was still fairly prominent throughout the season, and I appreciate what scenes she did get.  Tsuyu and Yaoyorozu also got some good moments, but it looks like the female characters who could easily take spots as main protagonists are taking backseats to Todoroki and Iida.  Not saying those two guys are bad characters.  I love all these crazy kids (except for the little grape piece of sh*t).  But diversity is important.  That’s an issue for another post, though, and I’m holding out hope Ochako becomes a major player in the story again.

Also, right quick, those two OPs and EDs are great.

So yeah, I love MHA.  I’m giving it a 9.5.  Aside from that one complaint, this second season just clicked with me so much.  And it gave this comic nerd a vastly more interesting character than I’d expected to find in one of these Japanese cartoons.

Though hella belated it may be, the 2017 Summer of Anime has officially closed!  When next we meet it will probably be a Digi-Rambling or something spoopy related.

I will catch y’all later.

Seasonal Sawce: This 2017 Summer Animain’t No Bummer, Part 2

This is the second of three posts that will close out the 2017 Summer of Anime.  Don’t worry; I’m not cheating.  All of these have been finished.  I’m just slow when it comes to writing stuff.  *Looks at the Drafts tab and apologizes to Digi-Ramblings again.*

This time around we have seven anime to talk about.  No Elegant Yokai Apartment Life since it’s still going, though.  Without further ado, let’s get to the anime I watched during the summer season of anime and rank ’em from worst to best.

Knight’s and Magic

30 Knight's and Magic

If only we’d gotten more D…wait.

This was a consistently underwhelming show.  I hate to say that because I normally really enjoy isekai and mech series.  Knight’s and Magic was just…there.  I guess the only thing that struck me as neat was depicting the two weapons engineers as the driving forces of the war.  Even then, there’s something a bit wrong with that, right?  Like, our main character, Ernesti, never bats an eye when he kills people.  He’s smiling and laughing and reveling at piloting a mech better than the soldiers he’s massacring.  And he’s a kid.  Everything rang dissonant in this anime.

Hell, the most fascinating character arc was relegated way into the background.  Dietrich “D” Cunitz ran like the coward he was in the first big fight of the series.  Thought he was just a spineless creep, but by the time the series ends he’s become one of the finest knights in his order.  Fleeing that fight haunts and drives him to become better and never abandon his allies again.  But he was the least important protagonist of the, like, ten or so.  The most interesting part about the show was a sidenote.

I dunno, y’all.  There’s nothing glaringly bad here, but it’s all mostly just been done before and better.  I’ll give it a 5.5.

My First Girlfriend Is a Gal

25 My First Girlfriend Is a Gal

That’s the show.

Did I expect better?  Oh, heavens no.  Did I want better?  Well, yeah.  My First Girlfriend Is a Gal just didn’t succeed as the sex comedy it wanted to be.  Much like with Knight’s and Magic, pretty much everything the show has had been done much better elsewhere.  But, this anime actually entertained me.  I wouldn’t call it good, but I did look forward to it every week.  Sure, the girls are mostly great, but the main draw for me was the main couple.

Junichi is established early as a sh*tty dude who only asked out Yukana because she’s hot and his friends pranked him into it.  So, it was a little off-putting to see her being genuinely interested in him while he remained kinda sh*tty.  But, credit where credit’s due–he grows as a character and comes to love Yukana for the actual person she is on the inside.  Not the best start to a relationship, but I like where it’s heading.  Just wish it was in a better anime.

And, honestly, most of my disdain for this anime stems from Junichi’s friends.  Especially the fat one.  He’s a pedophile, and it’s played as a joke consistently throughout the show’s ten-episode run.  It’s not funny.  It’s gross.

It’s a 6.  Objectively, it’s worse than Knight’s and Magic, but subjectively, it had more than one character I cared about.

A Centaur’s Life

29 A Centaur's Life

This is not the snake girl Monster Musume promised me.

The previous two anime on this list are ones I wouldn’t recommend to anyone.  Yeah, I gave them positive-ish scores, but I’m usually pretty nice when it comes to that stuff.  I would suggest checking out A Centaur’s Life, though.  Probably to very specific people, but still.  For such an easy-going slice-of-life show, it has some really cool world-building.  Everything looks like nice and pristine, and there’s so much put in there to accommodate the various body types of the world’s denizens.  But, it’s continually hinted that such order is only maintained through strict laws about racism and prejudice.  There’s even an episode that follows a young boy in World War 2 to see how it played out there, and another that follows a frog-man visiting his home country after he’d been raised abroad.  Legitimately solid world-building.  For reals.

That’s easily the biggest draw for A Centaur’s Life.  I do mostly like the characters.  They’re a fun cast of teenagers who happen to have tails, wings, horns, etc.  There’s just something missing, though.  I can’t put my finger on it.  Maybe it’s just not as funny or as feels-y as I like my slice-of-life shows to get.  I guess they just put all their efforts into building the world and forgot to give the characters the heart they’d need to carry the show.

I think I’ll go with a 6.5 leaning toward a 7 here.  I love the world-building a lot, but it doesn’t have that special something to make it fully click with people.

Restaurant to Another World

26 Restaurant to Another World

Amen.

When the isekai genre meets the food porn genre, you get Restaurant to Another World.  I never necessarily looked that forward to it every week, but I enjoyed every episode.  The world-building isn’t as in-depth as A Centaur’s Life.  Restaurant succeeds with its characters, though.  They have the heart, stories, and lives that the former anime was missing.  I appreciate the history and culture in Centaur, but Restaurant always knew to give enough to get me interested in pretty much everything in the other world.  That’s unfortunately a double-edged sword here.

The little snippets of the characters’ lives and homes are good.  But, you always want more.  Not enough happens.  Everyone has a little story of how they find the door to Nekoya, they eat some food, they love it, and then they leave.  That’s pretty much every episode.  Each of the cultures the beings come from are neat from what we’re given.  It’s just never enough.  I desperately wanted to see more than two of the legendary dragons and to explore more of their world.  This isn’t that kind of anime, though.

I’m giving Restaurant to Another World a 7 because I really like what it did right, but I can’t get over how much I wish it would’ve done.

Fastest Finger First

27 Fastest Finger First

Nerding is serious business.

First sports anime I’ve ever watched where I actually competed in said sport…even if it’s just quiz bowl.  It’s still real to me, dammit!  Yes, obviously Fastest Finger First struck a chord with me, which might explain why I loved it much more than I assume most people did.  It made me remember the days of memorizing questions from year to year, trying to predict how certain questions will go, and practicing every week with my school’s academic team.  Fun times, y’all.  Fun times.

I thoroughly appreciated the unique rules of the tournament in the show’s second half.  The written exam, the two-person teams, the semi-free-for-all where you could subtract another competitor’s points, and then finally, the classic fastest finger first showdown.  Loved it.  Loved the characters, too.  Pidge (I’m just calling him Pidge) is a solid lead whose background makes him both well-suited and a little handicapped when it comes to competing in quiz bowls.  I’m glad Mari is more than just the romantic interest in that she can more than hold her own in competitions, but I wish her voice actress had more experience.  Too often her line delivery felt stiff.  I also love all the rivals that are set up in a dominating yet reachable fashion.

Since I lived the life of a high school quiz bowler, this one’s an easy 8 out of 10 for me.  I love the subject matter and characters, but I wish it’d been longer and had more time to develop its whole cast.

Classroom of the Elite

31 Classroom of the Elite

He’s not exactly a people person.

You could accuse Classroom of the Elite of being up its own butt.  I, however, had a lot of fun watching it.  I don’t think Kiyotaka is the best “better than everyone else at everything secret badass” main protagonist out there, but I do think he holds his own.  He’s not really out to help people (or he believes he isn’t), and he’s not looking to make friends.  He’s here to win.  However he was raised, he seems to have this compulsion to succeed at any challenge presented to him.  I’m genuinely curious to see how his story–and those of his classmates–plays out in a second season I really hope happens.  Given his tactic of remaining in the background while allowing others to take credit for his victories, you can’t help but compare him to Hachiman of Oregairu.  Actually, the two main-ish female characters seem to be subversions of Yukino and Yui’s character types.  Probably wasn’t intentional, but they are strikingly similar.

As much I love the characters, it’s the miniature battlefields they compete on that really sucked me in.  There’s so much politicking and strategizing going on, it’s fun to figure out what exactly all the students are up to.  Hell, it looks like even the teachers are playing a larger game.  The second half’s big story sees the four first year classes left on an island to survive for a week, and it was great wondering how each of the leaders were trying to out-maneuver the others.

I’m actually gonna leave this one at an 8.  I enjoyed it and Fastest Finger First about the same amount, so I had to struggle deciding which one to put ahead of the other.  Classroom just edged it out because of best girl Airi Sakura.

Gamers!

33 Gamers!

Where is the lie, though?

And to think I wasn’t gonna watch Gamers!.  Yeah, it stayed my favorite show from beginning to end.  I love rom-coms, but the tropes can get tired after a while.  Keeping true to its name, Gamers! plays with all the cliches and ups them as far as they can go.  And the misunderstandings that would normally make a drama instead make this a genuinely funny comedy.  Different characters think there’s a love pentagon when there’s only a love triangle…or love square, really.  Like I said last timeGamers! is Shakespearean.

I love the main characters and want the best for them.  Even while I’m rooting for Keita and Karen in their odd relationship where they clearly like each other but they’re both convinced the other’s just going through the motions, I can’t help but hope Chiaki can somehow win over the impossibly desirable Keita.  And Aguri and Tasuku’s budding love (even though they’ve been dating for some time before the show begins) is delightful fun to watch.  Chiaki’s little sister Konoha showing up as her wingman was also a welcome addition.

Although a lot is taken to extremes for comedy, Gamers! remains one of the more realistic shows I’ve seen since teenagers do always misread each other and try to figure out what everyone’s up to.  Gamers! also has my favorite soundtrack and art style of all the shows featured in this post.  It gets a 9.  Everything just clicked for me here.

That’s it for all the shows I started and finished this season.  There are still a few short series I plan on checking out now that they’re over, and I’ve got one more post on the way to wrap up this year’s Summer of Anime.

Plus ultra, y’all.

Peace out, and stay bizarre.

2017 Summer of Anime – Sakura Quest

28 Sakura Quest

It’s hard trying to run a tourist trap.

Talked about the first bit here, so I’ll just give a basic gist.  Yoshino Koharu was unable to land a job for the longest time, but after a mistake with one agency, she winds up being the “queen” of the slowly dying town of Manoyama for one year.  With the aid of her four new friends and ministers, she tries constantly to find ways to revitalize Manoyama and ensure its culture lives on in the future.  It’s pretty hard to do when most of the townsfolk have accepted the way things are.  These five won’t give up, though, as they try to throw festivals, invite film crews, and even set up a vacation for singles!

Right quick:  This is the first of three posts that will close out the 2017 Summer of Anime.  The other two will be Seasonal Sawce and My Hero Academia 2.  These are so late because I was at Anime Weekend Atlanta, and had a wonderful time.  But, let’s continue talking about Sakura Quest.

It’s hard not to compare this show to Shirobako.  They’re pretty much companion shows.  Both deal with a group of young adult women trying to find their respective ways in the world while maintaining hope for the future.  And they’re really good-looking shows.  Sakura Quest is a feast for the eyes with its cute, pleasing character designs and small town scenery.  It’s theme of embracing outsiders and their ideas and cultures and adapting them to ensure the future of your own ways is also a very important message today.  I feel like it pales in comparison to Shirobako in pretty much every other aspect, though.

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Except for for best girls.  Sakura Quest wins there.

As much as I like the five main heroines, it felt like two of them never got the attention the other three did.  Even though she is the most physically appealing of the five and, thus, top contender for best girl, Sanae didn’t get to do much.  She was hot, she was there, she did computer stuff, she was scared of bugs…and I think that’s it.  True native Shiori was also similarly under utilized.  She often spoke of her love for her hometown and stepped up once or twice, but she never felt too necessary.  Again, I still really like both of them, but when you see Yoshino become the leader she never knew she could be, Maki realizing she could live out her dream anywhere as long as she’s willing to give it her all, and Ririko coming to terms with her weirdness and desire to see more of the world, you can’t help but feel like Sanae and Shiori fell a bit to the wayside.

The story and its messages also seemed to get bogged down once in a while.  I’m from a ridiculously small town myself, so I get the lackadaisical lifestyle and desire to return something to its former glory (even though I genuinely hate my hometown), but it got tiresome once or twice.  Nothing wrong with it.  Just wasn’t feeling it sometimes.  The whole accepting outsiders thing is legit, though.  That always struck a chord with me.

Other positives of note are the rest of the villagers themselves (especially Sandal-san), and the soundtrack (especially the first ED).  Even though the story felt lacking and some of the main characters felt almost unnecessary, I’d still call this a good slice-of-life show.  The main five are a great group to follow, the show looks really good, and there’s one very important theme running throughout.  It may not be on Shirobako‘s level, but I’m giving Sakura Quest a 7 out of 10.

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