Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Review: Maria+Holic Episode 1

My Thoughts
As usual, I'll grab first episodes of anime series to see if they're interesting, and with the start of the new year, we're getting the start of the new anime season. The first that I stumbled across is Maria+Holic.

And I've got to admit that I'm truly underwhelmed. The premise here is there's a student at an all-girl's school who, for whatever reason, is a male that's going there dressed as a girl. Enter a new transfer student who discovers the secret and the usual hijinks are supposed to occur.

Frankly, I find the entire setup to be less than thought out. It's one thing to do this scenario if the students in question were junior high kids, but senior? That's pushing my suspension of disbelief just a bit too far.

Of course, if you're just looking at this as a vehicle for the yuri subtext (and by subtext, I mean overt, slap you in the face, yuri) of the main POV character (not the boy, but the transfer student) then you'd probably happy with it.

The artwork is pretty, but it's not on a KyoAni level, and it's nowhere near as good as last year's True Tears. Of course, pretty artwork is often the case for the first episode which gets a bit extra TLC put into it. The amazing thing is when a company keeps the same level of artwork up for every episode.

Anyhow, as said, I was underwhelmed, and it doesn't generate a valid reason for me to suspend my disbelief enough for the hook to work. So, in the end I'm going to have to pass on continueing to watch this one.

Episode Summary
The episode starts out with Kanako Miyame arriving at the girl's school where her parents met. We're then given a whrilwind tour in which all the other girls of the harem are introduced. After all the primary introductions were taken care of, we are then given the prime conflict on which the entire series hinges.

Really, that's all that happens here. Sure, there's a bit of talking, but most of it was them standing around chatting while the background made like this was an ef Memories episode with the bright, abstract patterns behind a siloutte of the focus character. I wasn't that fond of the effect in ef and it's even more annoying here.

Best Of 2008 - Star Wars

The culmination of my "Best of..." series is the Best of 2008 for the Star Wars franchise. Now, Star Wars has had a number of things put out. The long-awaited The Force Unleashed whimpered into our living rooms and libraries via a video game (with slightly divergent game play & story per system), graphic novel and novelization. Legacy of The Force, the 9 book series set a decade after the NJO continued the dark, dreary and depressing Beyond the Saga era. Legacy the comic, and Knights of the Old Republic comics also continued and also continued to excel.

Of course what probably disappointed me the most in the franchise this year was the Coruscant Nights series. It had such potential as the pre-publishing blurbs, and the cover all had a distinctly noir feel to them; a feel which the story itself forgot to utilize.

But again, this is about what was the best thing for Star Wars in 2008, not the stuff that disappointed me, and what was the best thing in Star Wars for 2008 was not a book, it was not the television show (not even the pilot episode on the big screen), and it wasn't even a comic. No, the best thing for 2008 was Hasbro's new Millenium Falcon toy.

THIS is the toy that the original should have been back in '77. This thing at nearly 3 feet long is closer to on-screen accuracy than any Falcon not labeled a prop replica has gotten.

It features a huge list of THINGS TO DO even without the need to put batteries in, and when you do, you get lights, sounds and dialog. Sure, they took a liberty or two (after all, the Falcon doesn't sport a little fighter craft in canon), but the sheer amount of things that they got right negates that.

Here's what Hasbro has to say about the thing:

Best known as the fastest ship in the Star Wars galaxy, piloted by Han Solo and Chewbacca, this detailed replica of the rebel spacecraft packs powerful secrets and special modifications – inside and out. Measuring more than two-and-a-half feet long, the Millennium Falcon’s uniquely circular style is ready to “blast off” with light-up headlights and loads of electronic vehicle and weapon sounds, including engine boost, cruise mode, fly-by, firing cannons and much more. Open the light-up cockpit and fit up to four figures inside. The vehicles comes with Han Solo and Chewbacca figures and can hold up to 16 more (each sold separately) inside its secret smuggling compartments, pivoting gunner station or missile-firing mini-fighter vehicle. Remove the outer panels to access the ship’s interior. Then, head for the medical bay to “treat” wounded troops. Activate deployment sounds and landing lights with the auto-opening boarding ramp. Or plan your attack against the Empire with a pivoting gunner station, rotating laser turret and 3-missile launcher, with plenty of realistic blasting sounds and projectiles to keep enemies at bay. A pivoting training probe makes lightsaber and movement sounds for those who wish to practice their Force fighting skills. Trigger more than 20 authentic movie phrases and sounds from the voices of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, C-3PO, Chewbacca and R2-D2.Light up the hyperdrive engine lights and fly your imagination into the next constellation – or the other end of your playroom. Add this impressive vehicle to your collection and recreate your favorite battle scenes, or strategize your own endless action adventures. Unassembled vehicle comes with 7 projectiles, mini-fighter vehicle, Han Solo and Chewbacca action figures and instructions.
Truthfully, the only real drawback I see to this toy is the fact that at 2.5 feet long, it would be nigh upon impossible for a 6-7 year old to pick it up and fly it around the house the way I did my old Falcon back in the '80's. But the sheer awesomeness of this thing, makes that almost a negligible concern.

2008 Resolutions Recap

About this time last year I wrote out 10 New Years Resolutions, an action (as described on my blog) which was effectively the first time I had ever done such a thing. Well, that particular page on my website got a hit on it for the first time in months (~11.5 months to be exact) so I thought that since it is time to be creating new ones that I should review those and see just how well I did on them.

  1. Get back into drawing. I know that I've been telling myself this one for years, but it's something that I really want to get back into. My goal is that for this time next year, I'll have the start of a web-comic in place. This got ignored. Flat out, I didn't even pick up a drawing pencil they way I wanted to.
  2. Original Fic. I will finish my original fiction story. Another thing ignored. Jeez, I'm not exactly on a role here. But at least on this one I did add a few hundred words before promptly forgetting it.
  3. Lose 30 lbs. I'm nearing 200lbs these days. Sitting at a desk, being happily married, such things are anathema to maintaining ones weight. Somehow, I will find the time to lose that weight. Which means I'll probably have to get up at 5:30 or some similar God forsaken hour and go running. While this did not get ignored, I didn't lose the 30 lbs. What happened is I actually hit the 205 lbs mark, and then started working out (at the forsaken hour of 6am) and got back down to 193 lbs before the freezing temperature made getting out of bed too much trouble.
  4. Write more for my other blogs. I need to produce more content for both my programming blog and the KrashPAD, and I need to do so without sacrificing content that is generated for No Krakana. Either that or fold everything into one blog. That was something I really had not wanted to do, as I like the thematic separation which distinct blogs provides. Well, I wrote a little bit, but in the end my word count for 2008 across all my blogs was less than the previous year. Hopefully, this is changing now. Still, I'm not folding everything into a single blog, though I'm considering some type of meta-site type concept which would give all my blogs a unified look and feel as well as top level links to one another...
  5. Read the NJO in order from the beginning. Does one really need to explain Star Wars? This I did
  6. Get a pay raise. What can I say, I like money. I did this one as well.
  7. Finish unpacking. We still have boxes hanging out in the garage. I need all of those things out of there, so I can start parking in there, and so we can get a deep freezer. I'm parking in the garage, but we're still not done.
  8. Convince my wife of the need to have a Star Wars ForceFX Lightsaber for the mantle. Yes, I know that I'm dreaming of this one, but hey, I can resolve myself to try, right? My lovely, beautiful, smart and incredibly clever wife did get me one of these things for Christmas this year. Still haven't convinced her that the mantle is the correct place for it though...
  9. Finish my programming project. This one means a lot to me, I have got to get this done, which means I need to focus time to it. Actually, this got put off, as the man with the business knowledge that it was related to realized that he had some fundamental flaw in his concepts and was not able to rectify the issues.
  10. Find a trustworthy baby sitter. I can admit that we're a bit... protective of our kids. Regardless of that, we need to find ourselves someone's teenage daughter that we trust enough to watch our monsters so we can have the occasional night out. How else am I going to get to see all those SF movies that are appearing in theaters over the next year. Well, it wasn't a teenage daughter that showed up, but rather my Mother-in-law got stationed at DHQ here in Jackson, so I guess that counts as a success.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best Of 2008 - Comic

What comic series that was produced this year could top this chart? And believe me there's a bunch of good comics out there; especially if I include manga and manwha in this list. But in my opinion, there's one that just outshines all the others. Of course I'm talking about All Star Superman.

This was a series created by Morrison & Quitely, and started back in January of 2006 and finishing its 12 issue run in October of this year.

And that length of time was needed to provide a visually stunning, and well-written comic series. And the hardcover trade (at least for volume 1) is beautiful as well.

Overall, this is the best comic I've read in years, and definitely the best Superhero comic I've read in years.. I firmly believe it's up there with (if not surpassing) such great storylines as The Dark Phoenix Saga, The Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns.

Consider, since All-Star is not bound by the standard DC continuity mess, so it's inherently easy for new readers to pick up without having to worry about decades of history. Couple that with Morrisson's simple understanding of the character--down to little things like the fact that he would have the coolest stuff in the universe (things like Kandor and a zoo hiding up in his fortress), and you got the possibility for a great story; a possibility which Morrisson picks up and runs with to good results.

If you've not gotten around to reading this series, I cannot encourage you to do so enough. Go to Amazon get Volume 1 (it's only $20) and go ahead and pre-order Volume 2. I firmly believe that you'll be happy to have done so.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Best Of 2008 - Movie

Continuing my "Best of..." series I now turn my focus onto the movies that were released in 2008. And what a fun year for genre movies this one turned out to be. Such gems as The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Wall-E, City of Ember and Speed Racer were all released this year; which is not to say that there was not a decent amount of drek. Because for every Iron Man there was a Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, and for every Wall-E there was a The Happening. Additionally there were the movies that weren't great and they weren't that bad either, forgettable is probably the best way to describe them and a good example of that would be the Hulk movie.

But this is talking about the Best of the year, and while a large number of folks out there would pick The Dark Knight or Iron Man I have to choose Speed Racer.


Now, I know everyone is probably thinking "What the..." or some similar concept, but bear with me. First off, it's a visually stunning piece of cinematography. It's bright, colorful and full of pretty people--it is after all based on an anime.

Taking a step further beyond that, it also has a good plot, with surprisingly serious subject matters being tackled especially as "morals" to the story. In the overt, there is the simple fact of "Cheaters never win." And if that was the only moral hiding in it, then I'd be ecstatic to continue letting my kids watch it on a nearly daily basis (which believe me, they do).

But it's not. There's also the whole subplot of underdogs who believe in themselves, and practice hard at getting good at something can achieve success. And even beyond that there's the whole thought of doing what is right and good, despite what everyone else is saying.

In truth, I'm amazed that the Academy didn't nominate this movie for an Academy in the Special Effects category. I mean the lackluster effects of Crystal Skull and Hancock managed to get nods, and this one didn't; it's an utter travesty.

So, we have a movie that's visually stunning and teaches a good moral lesson, and it's just great genre in general. Sure, the critics panned it, the elderly were confused and loads of folks laughed it off.

Yet my two sons love it. It sparks their imagination, and they'll both go running about the house pretending to be in the Grand Prix or some other race. And let's be honest, most of us geeks would not be so if there was not a movie, or boook or something out there that grabbed a hold of our imaginations and just would not let go of it.

And it does all of this while being fun and lighthearted. Which is something that you just can't say about nihilistic vehicles such as The Dark Knight.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Best of 2008 - Television

This time around, there was a clear, simple, hands-down winner. We're talking no-contest territory here. Despite my love for Sanctuary, the Middleman has it beat every which way and twice on Sundays.

The Middleman & Wendy WatsonSure, it started its life out as a comic book, but truthfully that just made it all the better. It was a smart, funny, and fun series. Sure, the effects were a bit daft at times but ultimately that didn't much matter. After all, the absurdity, comedy and just flat out great writing of the show begged you to suspend your disbelief in that regard.

Now here's the thing about the Middleman, it was a good enough show to get me to remind my wife that it was time to watch an episode. That alone tells pretty much anyone who knows me just how good I think this show is.

And to put it into perspective, I DVR episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and sometimes leave them waiting there for days (or in the case of the Jar-Jar episode two weeks). Sanctuary does get watched the week it airs, but I usually need to be reminded about it by my beautiful wife.

Now, the bad news about this is that they're not certain if they are going to get the green light to produce a second season. Which utterly flummoxed me, and makes me wonder just what the folks over at ABC Family are thinking. I mean, it's supposed to be Fox's thing to destroy wonderful geek-fare on TV.

Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if they did something stupid like base it on sales of the DVD--if that even gets produced. Sometimes, the things they do to us that like genre items makes me wonder why I couldn't geek out about one of those odd sports things...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Best of 2008 - Anime

As stated earlier, I'm forcing myself to go back and review everything geek that was put out this year. A hard job I know, but I suffer for my readers--even if I don't post nearly as often as I should. The first in this series will be Anime.

There were a number of animes that I adored this year, and for a number of different reasons. Shugo Chara, Macross Frontier, Eve No Jikan, and Soul Eater to name a few. But the anime that I enjoyed above all the others, the one which made me go "wow" the most this year would have to be True Tears.

It's a great story between a guy and three girls, and more importantly it touches on so many other subtexts. Things about freedom and the difference between those that inspire us and those that we love.

It also doesn't hurt that one of the main characters just flat-out reminds me of my wife. It's a mixture of the character design and the character herself, but Noe reminds me of her. Noe was a bright, cheerful innocent type character--and she was eclectic. All of which are traits she shares with my beloved (naming the school's chickens is something I could see my wife doing).

Speaking of characters, they were all beautiful here. As were the backgrounds, and quite frankly all aspects of the animation. One technique involved here, which I really enjoyed, was how the backgrounds were painted scenes which the animated characters were in front of. In my opinion that add quite a bit to the scenery.

Now, I feel the need to point out that the title True Tears started out as a Visual Novel. A Visual Novel which I've never viewed, nor will I have a chance to unless they decide to translate it. This anime has nothing to do with that, despite them sharing the same title. The visual novel features different characters and a different plotline all together.

Anyways, in the anime there were 5 primary characters: the main protagonist Shinichirō, his friend Miyokichi , and then the three girls, Noe, Hiromi and Aiko. The story itself revolves around the relationships between these 5 characters.

Additionally, it brings to the front such concepts as growing up, living with your choices, liberation and the loss of innocence. These things are pushed, not overtly, but through subtext and makes the viewer think.

But above all, it was fun. I haven't enjoyed a anime this much since Sōkō no Strain. Which is saying quite a bit, because that is my favorite mecha show ever (it slapped down the previous place holder in that category, Voltron, like so much useless junk it's not even funny).

If you've not seen it, I highly recommend it. Additionally, if it ever does get released here in the States it's one of the shows which I do wish to add to my collection. For now, just watch the opening:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Best of 2008 - Books

There were a lot of books that were released this year. Looking at my shelves, I see quite a few Star Wars novels, and then a good handful of other books which managed to make it into my buy stack that appeared over the last year.

And that's not counting the ones I read from the library, while sitting in the bookstore or just plain never got to read.

Unfortunately, I cant' talk about them all, and this is a BEST OF... series, so of course that means I can only pick one. Out of all these things I've written, this had to have been my hardest choice. After all, books is one of the main reasons I created this blogs. Literature (and yes, genre novels are literature) is one of my biggest passions. I love the stuff. I love the feel of books, their smell, and just reading the things.

As an aside, I can admit that a secondary reason for my hesitance in adopting an e-book reader is the fact that I would no longer have a physical copy of the book. Oddly, I think that's the main reason my wife wants me to get one.

Digression aside, there were 3 books which I ultimately narrowed it down to: Zoe's Tale, Little Brother and By Schism Rent Asunder. What's odd is that two of those are classified as "young adult novels."

While looking for random reasons to cull two of these, I cut By Schism Rent Asunder from the running because it's a sequel novel. So that was one down. The other two were both great, and fun reads. Good stories with good characters.

It was hard to choose.

And I don't like hard. So I got a quarter and flipped it.

Random, I know.

Fortunately, I'm joking. The story I chose to represent the best book from 2008 was Little Brother. After all, Mr. Doctorow's novel had something which Zoe's Tale lacked. Little Brother scared me. Sure that fear was because I can SEE Little Brother happening, but it was still there.

And while I have much love for Mr. Scalzi's novels, Doctorow just won hands down this time out. Earlier this year I had this to say about the book:

This is a novel that combines technology with common, daily events, and then shove them out until you reach their ultimate conclusion. The fact that Big Brother is watching you. Using everything from wifi sniffing to Bayesian statistics, Mr. Doctorow spins a story about the DHS and its crackdown on the civil rights, all in the name of security, in the setting of San Fransisco.
I'm still terrified that it's going to come to pass. It scares me on a fundamental level, and that's probably made worse because we're getting another Big Government/Socialist President in office come January.

If you've not read this book yet, buy it. If you don't have the budget to buy a hard copy, or you've never read a Doctorow novel and want to try it first, then go here and download it. Mr. Doctorow has a tendency to give out free electronic versions of his books. He's just that internet savvy that way.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Best Of 2008 - Overview

Over the next few days I'll be posting up a series of entries on what I saw as the best of the various geek-doms which this blog caters to, and were put out this year.

This is a hard, hard task for me, as it means that I've got to pick through all this stuff that I love and adore and find just that item that slams me and says "THIS ONE!" But, easy isn't for Jedi and I'm more than willing to suffer this particular treachery in order to provide this service.

As I put up the articles, I'll add links back to here. Now, without further ado, the categories:

  • Books
  • Anime
  • Television
  • Movie
  • Comics
  • Star Wars

Christmas 2008

The child in me, like in most of us, loves Christmas. I mean it's a time of the year that just appeals to those base natures we all hold within us: greed, gluttony, sloth, & envy. The adult in me rails against it emphasizing the other components of the season (joy, generosity, caring, & fellowship), because I know that without that counterpoint, that's half the 7 deadly sins right there bundled into a nice, little holiday package (complete with blinking lights).

But as I said, the child in me loves it.

And I fear that my beloved wife encourages it.

After all, she gives me the best gifts out there. Case in point, this year's gift: the ForceFX Lightsaber. I've got to admit that this was a "sqeee" worthy gift.

Now, if only she hadn't made me go on a treasure hunt to find it. But that's okay, I'm patient and creative, so I'll come up with some fun way to return that particular favor.

As it stands, I'm happy about the gift. Okay, I'm really, really, happy about the gift. And every time I turn it on and it lights up both my boys come running to see it as well.

Gotta love raising up two brand, spanking new Geeks.

Which brings me to what the boys got for Christmas. The eldest received a Rancor, Jedi Secura's starfighter and then a host of other figures. The younger got a number of the Galactic Heroes, including Vader's Tie-Advanced, and a Jabba play set (it's odd to see a cute representation of the "vile gangster" Jabba the Hutt).

What we did give to the both of them though were the Christmas stocking stuffer versions of the Galactic Heroes figures. This is the cuteness of the figures coupled with adorable Christmas motifs attached--when I first saw I knew I must provide them to my children.

I love being a parent, especially at Christmas. After all it means I can get my boys all these geek toys and then play with them.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin