Sunday, October 31, 2010

Anime Reviews: Bakuman Episode 1 - Dreams and Reality

It would seem somewhat stupid for me to recap the events of this episode, when they're exactly the same as the first chapter of the manga. Which I already recapped. So instead I'm going to focus on my general impressions of this as an adaptation of the manga.

I approve of his taste.

The anime begins with a fake opening, that is actually the opening to Mashiro's uncle's anime. It's not too long, a minute at most, and is actually pretty fun, with a catchy tune. After that it switches to his Uncle visiting Mashiro, and then we go on to the opening theme.

Must...resist...Batman Joke...

I kind of like it, it's basically an eighties love ballad, in Japanese, sung by I think two singers who definitely wouldn't have sounded out of place back then. Not my favorite theme song out there, especially when considering the excellent theme songs my favorite action adventure series have, but it fits the show.

Both Mashiro and Takagi's voice actors are well cast. I won't say that they're exactly what I expected the characters to sound like, since I'd never thought about it before. But they don't sound out of place, and play off each other fairly well. This won't be too bad I think.

I need an adult! I think...

They did add in the Uncle's funeral, so we were able to see it, rather than just talk about it. Not a bad little scene, it expands on what was implied in the manga quite well, and tugs at the heart string a more than a little.

Expect a lot of self references.

When Mashiro and Takagi go to visit Azuki I noticed that they omit a panel from the manga where we see Azuki right before she comes out. So far I'm noticing that the anime is keeping a much more consistent point of view versus the manga, but I'll get into that a little more next episode.


Overall, not a bad adaptation. It improves where improvement was required, tightens up the story quite a bit, while expanding where necessary. Can't say I'm too impressed by the musical score, but I wasn't expecting to be. In a series like Fairy Tail music is the lifeblood of action scenes, in a slice of life show like Bakuman it's role is much more subtle, and as such doesn't really attract my attention much. But since it's still the first episode, I'll withhold judgement on the music until I've actually had a chance to hear all of it.

Definitely worth a watch, though if I didn't already read the manga I don't know how likely I would be to watch the anime. As opposed to my taste in manga, where more dialogue is good, I'm a bigger fan of fast moving action series when it comes to anime. But, since I like the manga, and feel the need to expand beyond shows like One Piece and Fairy Tail I'll keep on watching.

"How to Win Friends and Influence People - By Takagi"
"Step 1: Stalk them."

I will give them this though, the anime has got some pretty hilarious imagery.

And thus I leave you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Manga Reviews: Genshinken Chapter 57

Genshiken featured enjoyable, yet flawed characters. I read about them, and while there were times where their actions confused me, and their values were unrelatable to me, I still could understand them and care about what happened to them. Add some good, strong character drama that still had a satisfying conclusion and you've got a good slice of life.

After Genshiken ended while I felt the disappointment that follows the end of any loved series, it felt complete and I could let it rest at that. Then I found out that Shimoku Kio was writing a gaiden chapter, chapter 56. I figured, hey, this should be fun, it won't continue the series, leaving the original intact, so it will be a fun read to see what happened to the characters afterwards.

The gaiden chapter introduced several new characters, which I personally felt all followed the spirit of the manga. Then several weeks later I found out that Genshiken was continuing a limited serialization. I'd like to say that I was skeptical of this new release, like any good reviewer. But instead I was giddy like the fanboy I am. The new characters were interesting enough, and it was worth it to see how the characters who have now graduated were doing.

To start things off, there are several new characters that readers of the original series will not be familiar with. Ogiue and Ohno are still there, as well as Kuchiki and Sue. They are joined by:


A cheerful girl along the veins of Ohno. Not much to say about her as not much was revealed about her character this chapter.


The token grouch for this run, replacing Ogiue who mellowed out after getting a boyfriend and becoming a published mangaka.


Not in fact a girl. Hato is a shy cross-dresser, who promises to be one of the more interesting characters for this run. Genshiken has always excelled in examining the psyches and mental makeup of the otaku, and I have strong hope that it will continue to do so.

There isn't much to be said about the plot, anyone that didn't read the oneshot published a few months ago will be confused of course. The entire thing centers around finding a place for Hato to change into his women's clothing, without Kuchiki attempting to molest him. Yeah...Kuchiki is really skirting the line between entertainingly crazy and genuinely unlikable in this one.

Like I said, there isn't much to say here, it's more of the same with some different characters. Overall things are looking pretty promising. Though Ogiue's new hair style is a welcome relief.

I can't really make any predictions about what I expect will happen, but I do hope that Sasahara, my favorite character from the original, will continue to play a role in this series. Not only that, but I'd love to see a focus on Ogiue's career as a published mangaka. At a monthly release schedule this will take a while to unfold. Though the run for this series will be limited, I predict that with monthly chapters we're in for at least a year's worth of publication. I hope at least. It would be cruel if they bring the series back only to take it away so soon.

If you haven't read the original series, do so. I'll probably be writing reviews for those eventually, but in the meanwhile this is a monthly publication worth following.

If you liked my review, Buy Genshiken Here!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Manga Reviews: Bakuman Volume 1

If you've read Death Note and started reading Bakuman because it's by the same creators then you're coming into this series with the wrong mind set. While there may be some similarities that I am unaware of, Bakuman has none of the supernatural elements, or philosophical overtones that Death Note was popular for.

Though Bakuman has no fantasy or sci-fi elements in it, the story starts off with a strange Evangelion vibe. That probably has to do with Mashiro Moritaka, the main character, being one of the most depressing protagonists I've ever read. He starts off with an internal monologue about how life isn't worth living, and he's given up on life, etc, etc. I'm trying very hard not to start flinging the word 'Emo' around, but I'm afraid I can't make any promises.

Mashiro forgets his school notebook, with a sketch of the girl he likes, at school, and goes back to get it. When he arrives back in his classroom, he finds his classmate, Takagi Akito sitting in the room with Mashiro's notebook. After a little bit of self referencing from the authors Takagi tells Mashiro that he wants him to create manga with him. With Mashiro working as the artist, and Takagi as the writer.

I'd like to take a break here and point out that Takagi reminds me of myself when I was younger. Ask any of my friends from high school, they'll confirm that I went around trying to get any of them that could draw to illustrate comics that I wrote.

Mashiro refuses, citing statistics about how impossible it is for them to become manga artists. While it may seem far too clinical for a narrative, I like how it fits in there, and ups the stakes for the characters later on. Takagi refuses to take no for an answer, and Mashiro only gets rid of him once he says he'll think about it.

The manga goes into a bit of detail about Mashiro's uncle, who was a manga artist who worked himself to death. I like this because it gives Mashiro proper motivation to refuse. Not many people would want to do the same thing that already took the life of a relative.

Takagi calls him, and convinces him to come visit Azuki, the girl Mashiro has a crush on. Takagi says he has something he wants to tell her, and Mashiro goes with him, despite thinking that Takagi plans to confess his feelings to her. When they get to Azuki house however, Takagi instead reveals his plan to become a mangaka, and that he's found out that Azuki wants to become a voice actress.

Mashiro is dumbfounded by how ambitious the two of them are, and face with every man's one weakness, a cute girl looking in his direction, he tells her that he'll be doing the art while Takagi does the writing. Your mileage may vary on what happens next, but personally I like it for dispelling any unnecessary romantic drama. I may be a romantic at heart, but there's a reason I don't read Shoujo.

Mashiro proposes to Azuki, asking her that once they get an anime made of their manga, and she voices the heroine they'll get married. Surprisingly she accepts, and after this Mashiro finds the motivation he needs to become a mangaka, though he has not yet accepted Takagi as his partner.

Now, I know it may sound like I spoiled a good portion of the plot. Trust me, I didn't. This is just the beginning. For me a review that just says whether the reviewer liked the manga or not isn't quite enough. I like to know a little bit about the story before deciding whether I want to invest money into a new series. The only way to do this is to present the story as it is, with a little bit of commentary by me, and let you make your own choice. That being said, I didn't tell you the whole story, there's still much more for you to discover on your own.

I'm not entirely sure what made me start reading this series. It wasn't because it's by the same guys who did Death Note, I never read that series. What really got me interested in this series was the relatable goal that the two protagonists have. I'd love to make my living as an author, which to me is exchangeable with comic artist or writer, artist, mangaka. Anything that is creative really.

In fiction there are generally two types of protagonists. There's the role model, the character who we look up to and want to emulate, commonly used in Superhero Comic Books and Action Movies. Then there's the Everyman, the character that is just a regular guy, who the audience can relate to due to his regularity. Bakuman manages to have both of these archetypes in its main cast.

Mashiro is the Everyman, who, while he may be a bit over the top with his depressing attitude, is still voicing the feelings of many in the target audience. Namely that there isn't anything to life other than living an ordinary life, working at an ordinary job, etc. I can't speak for anyone else, but I know for a fact that I've felt like this every once in a while. While it may come off as heavy handed at first, I find it helps to think of his depressing monologue in the beginning as a summary of his attitude up to that point, rather than everything that's on his mind at the time.

Takagi is the role model character. Not an action hero or anything like that, he's a more down to earth version of the role model. He's not perfect of course, there is still plenty for him to learn that Mashiro actually knows, allowing the two of them to trade role model and everyman status as the situation warrants. What makes Takagi the role model character is that unlike Mashiro, Takagi is the one who initially has a goal, as opposed to the despondent Mashiro. And in a genre where reaching your dreams is a main theme, this is what sets Takagi apart as the role model character.

Volume One has a fairly tightly contained storyline. It follows the proper rising action and climax, while somehow being very sparse on the action itself. A lot of talking happens in this manga. It makes for a much longer read than say, Bleach, but may not be for everyone. Personally I like having to do a lot of reading, so that doesn't bug me at all.

What does bug me is how many times Death Note is referenced by Takagi. Three times. That goes beyond self reference to self advertisement. It's like Ohba is trying to remind people that he wrote Death Note.

"Hey, remember Death Note? Did you like it? Well I wrote that, now read my new series!!"

The cover is nice, a simple illustration that tells you what you need to know about this series. It's about creating manga. Don't like, don't read. Or read and complain, far be it from me to take that right away from you. In-between each chapter we get to see sample storyboards, known as Names in Japan, from both Ohba and Obata. Very appropriate for this series, and fun to look at.

I can't tell you whether you'll like this series or not, hopefully by now you've made up your own mind. All I can say is, I love it, and think you should at least give it a chance.

If you liked my review, buy the manga here: Bakuman., Vol. 1

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Reviews: Grave Peril

I put my hand to the base of my stomach, pressing there, and felt my eyes go wide.
Bob winced. "Oooooo, chakra point. That isn't good. Got you right in the chi."

(Grave Peril, 150)
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Harry Dresden:

The Headband is hiding his lightning bolt scar.

The spirit world is in an uproar. Ghostly disturbances are wreaking havoc in Chicago, when Harry and his friend Michael, a Knight of the Cross, discover that someone has been casting a curse on ghosts, causing them to rampage. Harry is approached by a girl, Lydia, who is afraid for her life, saying that something is coming after her. When a cop friend of Harry's is attacked by a violent, powerful spirit, Harry begins to realize that there is more going on than just a disturbance of the spiritual realm and one frightened girl begging for protection.

Grave Peril takes place a year after Fool Moon. The events from that book to this are unrelated, but it is here that we start to see threads that will connect on to the rest of the series. You could say that this is where the plot starts. While Fool Moon was a fun read, Grave Peril takes that fun and ramps it up, while at the same time showing significant improvement in plotting and prose that I can only assume will continue to improve.

A strong point of this book is the introduction of several new characters to the series. Michael, Harry's friend, and a Knight of the Cross, is the conservative Christian character that no other writer seems to be capable of writing, the kind of Christian character I would love to see more of in literature. The humble believer who is stalwart and resolute in their beliefs, without being overbearing. Of course it helps that in The Dresden Files faith is power, and Michael's strong faith translates into the power to strike down evil with the literal Power of God. I can't help but love this character, simply because he is portrayed with dignity, rather than derision that devout Christians are too often subjected to in fiction. Besides, Power of God and a Holy Sword. What's not to love?

Thomas, a Vampire of the White Court, who is introduced later, is an interesting one. I won't go into too many details, lest I spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that he's one of those outrageous characters who is just too bizarre to hate. It's almost like someone took the stereotypical effeminate, self centered Vampire stereotype that is so common these days, and made a parody of them. In fact, that's what Jim Butcher has done, he's parodied modern Vampire stereotypes, while at the same time making him a sympathetic character. Well done!

Unfortunately this next section is going to contain some spoilers, as I have an issue with this book that needs addressing. So if you haven't read the book yet, please skip this next section and come back after you've read the book. If you want to read it, but can't see it, just highlight the text.


I'll be honest, I don't like Susan. Harry's Girlfriend. She really isn't all that developed, and exists solely as a stereotype of the liberated woman, while at the same time being there as a character that we are meant to be emotionally invested in because Harry cares about her. Nothing wrong with this really, even if it is a bit amateurish. The problem I have with her is that she's stupid. Very, very stupid.

Now, you may say that she's intelligent, career driven, and observant, but I'm afraid her actions speak otherwise. It's one thing for an author to say a character is a certain person, but when they have that character do something contrary to what they've said the character is, then that's poor characterization. And Susan, like it or not, is stupid.

I can overlook the fact that she spends most of her time digging into a world that she doesn't understand, which could put her in danger. We all want to know what we don't know, and I'm sure everyone reading this would jump at the chance of discovering a magical world hidden from our own. But when Susan ignored Harry's warning about attending the Red Court's Ball, and went with a fake invitation, because she's a "liberated woman" and won't stand for any man telling her what to do, I realized that she really, really isn't very smart.

Sure she comes with an arsenal of items meant to protect her, but in the end they would have done her no good. In fact, they did her no good. She was able to fight off a few vampires, even taking out one, before being overpowered and taken hostage. I know that scene is meant to show how capable she is, and maybe she is, if it weren't for the fact that she failed to realize that coming alone and uninvited to a gathering of Vampires probably isn't a great idea. In fact it's a suicidal idea.

Of course, the obvious happens and she gets turned. Not yet a full vampire, but under their curse. I can only assume that this will lead to some more character development, because she needs it. I don't mind romantic interests, in fact I'm a fairly big fan of romance in fiction. As long as the characters involved in a romance are first developed as their own characters. I don't really like romance for the sake of romance. That's really what Susan is for me so far, a character who exists to give the main character a romantic interest. There's a reason why I like to imagine romance in series where there is none (often shonen manga series) because I see characters whose interactions would be entertaining, or touching if romance was introduced. I only do this because I like the characters.

Hopefully Susan will get some proper development later on. I can only imagine that she must, given her current condition. But for now I'm not going to be putting her on my list of favorite Dresden Files characters.

*End Spoilers*

It was after finishing this book that I realized I need to finish the Dresden Files as quickly as possible. Whatever comes next, I now trust Jim Butcher to do right. I've been interested in Urban Fantasy for a while, but haven't really come across any series that interested me just right. I've finally found a series that is exactly what I've been looking for.

While I enjoyed Fool Moon it didn't quite drive me to finish the series. It wasn't till halfway through Grave Peril that I realized exactly how much I like this series. The blend of mythology and fantasy with the real world makes for a perfect combination that I can't help but love. I for one can't wait to see how Butcher manages to tie practically every mythology together into one whole that makes sense. You know that when you've got werewolves, vampires, fairies and gods, including the christian god, co-existing that you're in for a crazy read.

The introduction of several unresolved plot threads gave the book a strong feel of potential. Jim Butcher introduced us to several things that he could at one point examine. While the ending leaves you with questions, it resolves the important plot threads, and leaves you hungry for more and ready to start the next book. In fact, I'm almost done with Summer Knight so be expecting that review soon. I probably won't be reading any other books till I finish this series.

That's it for now, I'll probably have the Summer Knight review up sometime next week. I have it scheduled for next Tuesday, and should easily be done with it by then.

If you liked my review, buy the book here:
Grave Peril (Paperback)
Grave Peril (Hardcover)
Grave Peril (Kindle)
Grave Peril (Audio CD)

If you want the Audible Audiobook you can get that from Amazon as well. I'd provide a link, but Amazon won't let me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Anime Reviews: Fairy Tail Episode 51 - Love & Lucky

A single man arrives in Magnolia...I think the translation might be a bit off there.

He likes walks on the Beach and crushing the hopes and dreams of his only daughter.

Lucy is still worrying about her rent, while this is an ongoing thread in the manga, it's much more obvious in the anime. Which may or may not be a good thing, I'll leave it up to you to decide. Natsu decides their team should go on a job.

While walking home Lucy, who has been feeling like someone has been watching her, is accosted by the stranger. Turns out it's her father, who has fallen on hard times and lost both his company and estate.

Chronology in this series is really weird, I have a hard time believing that enough time has passed for him to have been able to grow his beard and hair out like that. And if it did, then we sure haven't gotten an indication of that. Maybe he just decided to get a hobo makeover.



I can't find any information, but I swear it sounds like the same voice actor.

He tells Lucy that he plans on starting over in a trade guild, and that he needs to borrow some money. Lucy of course doesn't have any money of her own, and tells him this. He starts getting angry when she refuses to give him the money, thinking that she's just holding out on him. Lucy tells him to leave, and runs away, in tears that her father really hasn't changed at all.

There is a scene added that wasn't in the manga, of Natsu and Happy waiting for her outside her house. Kinda out of character, normally they would have just been waiting inside.

The next day they are about to leave on their job, when Lucy hears rumors about a dark guild attacking a trade guild in the town her father was headed to. Despite herself, she abandons the job and heads out to save her dad.

This was one of those episodes where, while there was nothing stellar about it, it was still a good episode. The animation was slightly different from past episodes. I can't really put my finger on it, whether it's just the effect of a lower budget, or if there was a change in the art direction. Either way, I'm noticing some differences, and we'll see whether these continue or if it was just them saving the animation budget for the next arc.

There's a trope in shonen manga, where a great majority of the villains are redeemed in one way or another. Whether they become allies, or just become a little bit more sympathetic towards the end. This can annoy some people, but then again those people probably shouldn't be watching shonen anime in that case. I won't dock Fairy Tail points for this, because then I'd have to dock points from practically every shonen anime. And since it doesn't really bug me I see no point to make a big deal of it. Just expect to see it in this episode

A good adaptation is more than just a beat by beat translation of a story from one medium to another. Despite purists clamoring for it, a completely loyal adaptation of a book to movie format would make for a boring movie. What many people don't realize is that there are considerable differences between narratives of different media.

Converting a manga to an anime has the advantage of mostly being able to avoid many of the adaptation problems. Since the graphic novel medium is basically a story board in the first place it makes for a smooth adaptation into animation.

The major difficulty faced in this process, however, is that it takes a lot more than nineteen pages of manga to fill an episode. To get around this animation studios often combine multiple chapters into one, or they insert extended scenes where the characters do little but stand around. Dragonball Z is especially infamous for this.

Another way to extend the episode out without taking too much material away from other episodes, is by adding in scenes not originally in the manga. Fairy Tail has so far made pretty good use of this. Two particular examples of this are Natsu and Happy and Gray waiting for Lucy outside her apartment, and Lucy trying to sneak into the captive guild, while a guard keeps removing her. These scenes may not have been in the original, but they help to extend the length of the episode, while at the same time bringing something new to the table.

I have to admire Fairy Tail for how they've handled extending the episodes to the proper length. Fight scenes have so far flowed well and avoided the stereotypes of shonen action series made famous by Dragonball Z.

Filler comes in many forms, and despite the intense hate it garners from fans, it is still a necessary evil. Fairy Tail has definitely proven itself capable of using filler where necessary, and avoiding the negative sides of this two bladed sword.

That being said, next episode is the start of the next major arc. Depending on the length of season two this next arc may or may not take up the rest of the season. Either way, this is a crucial time for the series, if they intend on making it a long running anime. According to what I've been able to garner, the series is popular in Japan, and if that popularity grows there is a chance that the anime will keep going indefinitely.

Again, the problem is that there is no guarantee Mashima will be able to keep far enough ahead with the manga. I know I've made this prediction before, and I'll probably keep making it, but if the series extends past this arc I have a hard time seeing how they could continue without a longer filler arc. Granted, filler is inherently terrible, but I think I could tolerate it for a while if it means I get to see the rest of the manga animated.

While the past few episodes have been the longest run of filler in the show, it was still an incredibly short run. It's clear that the animation team understand how hated filler is, and are avoiding it like the plague. While I can't say how they would do with a longer filler arc, the filler episodes that I have seen have been entertaining and comedy based, so I think I can make a leap of faith and trust their writers to pull off something good when that inevitable filler arrives.

And, for the record, the ending theme is still strangely appropriate for whichever mood an episode ends with. I think the music team learned their lesson about mood whiplash.

If you liked my review, Watch the Episode Here!

Disclaimer: You will need to purchase a membership at Crunchyroll to watch this series. They do have a two week trial you can sign up for, and at least this is a legal way to watch the show.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Writing Update: Avalon Locke Chapter 16

Didn't go as well as I'd hoped. I think I'll be able to continue finishing this book with just a little more effort. The problem is that I've been playing around with this idea for so many years that there is no right idea anymore. I just need to get this book done so that I can say I have a finished book, instead of several unfinished books. Even if it sucks.

Sorry if this is a bit depressing, but there really isn't much to say other than I'm stuck on this idea, and the characters don't make sense anymore. I try to discovery write and it doesn't come out right. So frankly, I'm going to go back to planning more as soon as I get this done and start work on my next book. I just need to finish one and then I'll have passed that first hurdle.

My word count was 538, though the section will be much longer as I have a bunch of stuff that needs to be moved down here. The main problem is that I was discovery writing a bunch of what was happening and it was coming out at the wrong time. So instead I need to plan my work out and whenever I think of something at a point where it doesn't belong I can put it in my notes where it needs to be. My dialogue could use some work. Though really what I need the most is to work on making my characters interesting. That's what's making this entire thing drag, I don't have a clear vision of who my characters are. It's frustrating me to the point that I'm starting to hate this whole thing. So it will do me good to abandon it for a few years and work on different projects. Improve my ability to think of good new ideas for books.

NaNoWriMo: Collaborative Project

Well, it's almost that time of year. To be honest I wasn't sure whether I would participate this year either. On the one hand I have a hard time keeping on top of the word count, on the other hand I should be writing a ton anyway. But this year I'm going to be doing something special. Along with Jason and Nathan we're each going to write our own story, set in the same world, for 30,000 words. And then for the finale we'll bring our separate plot lines together into one book. So we're basically going to be working on a collaborative piece. We'll see how this goes, and whether me and Jason will be able to keep up with Nathan's insane writing speed.

My part in the story is going to be a little interesting, since I'm going to be on a completely different continent from their plots, and have to develop my own separate plot. On the one hand that keeps me from being able to rely on their help too much, on the other hand I have a lot more freedom with what I do. Either way, it should be an interesting practice, and by the time we're done we'll have a 110,000 word collaborative work.

I'm definitely going to have fun with this, already have an idea for the main viewpoint character that should be a lot of fun. Either way, I'll keep you updated on my daily progress here. For those of you who care.

Also, since I want to emphasize the writing aspect of my blog, I'm going to be posting updates on my own writing until we start the NaNoWriMo project.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Movie Reviews: Toy Story 3

Andy is leaving for college, when all his toys are accidentally donated to Sunnyside Preschool instead of being put in the attic. Woody wants to return to Andy, but the rest of the Toys stay in Sunnyside, which by all means is a paradise for them. But things aren't as they seem, and soon Woody has to return to save his friends and make it back before Andy leaves for College.

Hard to believe that it's been fifteen years since Toy Story first came out. I haven't seen it in a few years, but I remember the CGI being good back then even by today's standards. Granted, I'd have to check it again and compare it to recent Pixar releases to be certain. Either way, back then Toy Story was a groundbreaking achievement, and now Toy Story 3 stands strong as going beyond child movie into something enjoyable for all.

First off, yes it is as good as people say it is. It follows the same spirit as the previous Toy Story movies, and develops on the themes presented in them. You will cry at the end. A lot. The climax is tense, and actually has you thinking that things won't go according to plan. But when they do go according to plan, it feels satisfying rather than a copout.

The movie follows the basic three act structure to a T. Even a novice like me was able to pick up on the specific plot points and general flow of the plot. That being said, just because it was so noticeable didn't detract from the movie. Instead I enjoyed it even more because I was able to see how well they used the three act structure. But that's just me.

For everyone else the plot structure may feel familiar, but not intrusive. You won't sit there thinking this movie is the same as every other movie (and frankly, from a basic plot element, most of them are) because Toy Story 3 has taken these characters we love, and adopted its tone slightly to suit Toy Story's original, now young adult, audience.

There is a depressing tone overall, but in the end it's not about how everything we love will come to an end. Instead it's about change. How change is unavoidable, and there's nothing we can do to stop it. And maybe that's not a bad thing. Toy Story 3 suggests a way to come to terms with this. While everything changes, and nothing will always be the same, not all changes are for the worse. Perhaps they are heartbreaking because we no longer have what we once had and loved. But in the end the changes are just a part of life. Toy Story 3 is about acceptance. Being able to accept the change, and finding happiness despite that change and because of the change.

Toy Story 3 was not only the obvious ending for the Toy Story franchise, it was an ending that gave us the answer to fear of change that has colored the franchise from the very first movie. If you're over twenty you will love this movie, and if you're under twenty you will love this movie. It really is a movie for all ages.

For those of us that are over twenty and were the kids who were the target audience for the first movie. For the parents that saw the movie with their kids when it first came out and loved it. For the teenagers that saw the movie later when their older siblings or parents made them watch it, or when they watched the first movie right before the second movie came out. And for those kids that are the same age we were when we first met Woody, Buzz and the rest all those years ago.

This movie is for all of us, for the child still living in us, whether on the surface or down in the deepest part of our hearts. There may be more "sophisticated" or "adult" movies out there that some would consider more worthy of acclaim, or deeper pieces of art. I say that there are no movies worthier to be considered art than the Toy Story franchise. Like all great pieces of art, they don't hit us over the head with symbolism or philosophy. Instead they choose a simple theme, and tie it in throughout all three movies, where it lies, ready to be recognized, but not intruding on the story in any way. For putting deeper thought into their movies, I salute you Pixar.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Anime Reviews: Fairy Tail Episode 50 - Special Request: Watch Out for the Guy You Like!

It all starts with Juvia going to a suspicious looking magic shop in the rain. Her old expression is back, which might have something to do with the rain, while she also seems much paler than normal. Her skin is Succubus possession level white.

Also, for some reason she's back to her old catchphrase, which makes me wonder if the writers for this episode bothered to watch the show past the Phantom Lord Arc.

While Juvia is buying a potion of undescribed powers, Lucy is back at the guild, complaining about being bored. Mira asks her why she doesn't go get a job, and Lucy tells her that Natsu doesn't want to go. When asked why she doesn't go on her own, or with someone else, Lucy states that she feels responsible to only go with Natsu since they're a team. This prompts Mira to suggest that she thinks Natsu might be in love with Lucy.

Lucy rejects the idea, but as events unfold in the episode she starts thinking of Mira's suggestion more and more, and realizes that maybe Mira wasn't wrong after all. The final straw comes when Natsu asks her to meet him later that evening and she notices he is blushing when he asks her.

The Lucy/Natsu storyline for this episode comes from an omake that Hiro Mashima did. While the Juvia arc is an anime original story. The omake plot stands up fairly well, but at the same time the filler actually manages to hold its weight and did a great job of improving on the comedic feel of the Lucy/Natsu story.

What sold me on the Juvia subplot was when her potion failed to do what she thought it would, namely make Gray look at her passionately. She ends up hitting almost everyone in the guild, leading to hilarity. The explanation for why the potion doesn't work is pretty hilarious, but it can't match what is easily one of the best screen shots I've taken while watching this show. See if you can spot it when you watch the episode.

Until then, have some of the other funny screenshots.

Context: It won't help.

In most, if not all, anime filler is a necessary evil for any long running series. Due to the nature of the production, the fact that one episode generally includes material from multiple chapters of the manga, it is unavoidable that the plot of the anime will progress at a faster pace than the manga is released. When this happens the anime runs the risk of overtaking the manga and running out of material. Sometimes the production team will end the story their own way, such as Fullmetal Alchemist. The most common tactic is to write episodes, or even entire story arcs of material not taken from the manga. This is filler.

Filler has had a reputation of being unbearable for fans of the original manga, and fans in general to watch. Part of the problem with this is that it is written by writers whose primary job is to adapt someone else's story for the medium of anime. When the are suddenly needed to come up with an original story it often comes across as being generic an uninteresting.

Bleach filler is particularly egregious in this case, as it has interrupted the main story more than once, breaking the flow of the narrative and damaging its chances of keeping its viewers interested. Granted this is a weakness of the source material, since Kubo's pacing makes it so that one episode of the anime covers several chapters of the manga.

The worst part of longer filler arcs, in my own personal opinion, is that there is no chance of character development. Nor are any of the canon characters in danger of dying. Because I already know that nothing will happen to them and they are all going to make it out alive, there is no sense of urgency in the story, nor is there any satisfaction in watching it. The story is there just to waste time in order for the mangaka to get far enough ahead with the manga. As such, it's almost impossible to appreciate anything the filler story has to offer.

The best filler is the kind that is either only a few episodes, or standalone episodes. If it doesn't take itself seriously, and focuses on comedy, in the series that allow for it, instead of trying to tell an epic story, then I can appreciate it more. The only way to make me forget that I'm not watching something that matters is to entertain me. The easiest way to do this is by making me laugh.

Fairy Tail filler succeeds in doing this. While I haven't seen too many examples because of the filler free nature of the show, I've seen enough to know that the Fairy Tail staff knows its strengths and is sticking to simply entertaining the viewers while they buy time. I can respect this.

While this isn't as well written an episode as the arcs with a lot at stake, the production team stick to their strengths and make me laugh. They play around with the shipping a little bit, mainly steming from the source material and the fact that Juvia's main motivation to do anything, when it isn't as being part of Fairy Tail, is Gray. The Natsu/Lucy storyline was fun, and the original filler not taken from an omake was top notch and worth the twenty minutes it takes to watch the episode.

There are a few weaknesses that need correction, but if you can make me laugh, you have my approval. As long as the filler doesn't try to take itself serious then we will have a great relationship. Overall I have to say that if all the filler is at this level of quality then I have great hopes for the continuation of this series.

The next episode is based on a mini arc from the manga. It's only a small interlude between major arcs, but it isn't filler. There will be some important points brought up in Lucy's character arc, and it should be good to see. Since it is a canon episode, there's no telling if the next arc starts right after this, or if there will be a little more filler to pad out the season a bit. I won't know till next week, but I have to confess that after this week's episode I won't mind a little more filler.

If you liked my review, Watch the Episode Here!

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"Sorry I'm late. What'd I miss?"