I went back to watch the Shirou vs. Gilgamesh fight in ufoTable’s Unlimited Blade Works anime a couple of days ago, and even though I’ve seen the fight at least a half a dozen times, every single viewing still gets be hype as fuck.
Not only is this a fight that the narrative has been building up for the last 5 to 6 episodes, but the rise and crescendo of Emiya UBW playing throughout, punctuating every sword slash, jump and Noble Phantasm launched sends shivers down my spine.
But most importantly is the motion. The motion of Shirou dipping and diving, of Gilgamesh’s quickly rising rage transferring into his transition from simply sitting back and shooting weapons at Shirou into grabbing a couple of long swords and charging in for close combat.
And then there’s the conclusion of the fight.
That 4 seconds of animation is a masterclass of using motion to impart information. It shows us Shiro’s trajectory, the path of his slash from beginning to end, and even the way Gilgamesh was holding his sword before it found itself involuntarily removed from the man’s body. But what’s most impressive, at least for me, is how the arc of Shiro’s sword also informs us exactly how his body shifted from free fall to his landing position.
Fate/Apocrypha does not have that.
The movement here is not only boring, but it also does nothing to impact the fight itself, no clash of ideals like the fight between Saber and Lancer in /Zero. It does nothing to change the status quo like the Archer and Lancer fight in /Stay-Night does in dragging Shirou into the war.
Red-Lancer attacks the neutral observer Servant Ruler, she fights back briefly, Black-Saber shows up to 2v1 , Ruler says no, she’s gotta be neutral as fuck, Red-Lancer and Black-Saber skirmish for a bit more, the sun comes up, Red-Lancer fucks off, Ruler maintains her Neutrality and nothing else happens.
I mean, we get B-Saber’s backstory and motivation, as told through flashbacks interrupting the fight, but there’s no reason for it to be told at this point. It just kind of happens.
And that is super upsetting, because the Apocrypha story has the potential to illustrate some really gorgeous encounters, especially with how bouncy Mordred has been shown to be so far.
I suppose its just going to remain exactly that, potential.
Wooo, its time for a brand new season of anime. Most everything from last season has now concluded, and we’ve got ourselves a brand new line up dropping. Hell there’s even a new Fate/ series on the docket, to tide us over until the Heaven’s Feel movies start dropping. Based on a video game for the PSP, Fate/Apocrypha is coming to us from the wonderful hands over at ufoTable, the studio that breathed new life into the franchise with their adaptations of Fate/Zero and Unlimited Blade Wo… What? What do you mean ufoTable isn’t handling this?
Who is then?
Okay, think positive J-Dawg, it’s okay. So what if A-1 has released some of the worst shows of the last few years, it’s okay, it’s fine. It’s an adaptation of a Fate/Story, the people involved in writing them out are pretty good at what they do. It isn’t like they’re adapting a Light Novel, hahahahaha.
Okay, look, I’ve watched the first two episodes and I enjoyed them thoroughly. Character designs aren’t nearly as awkward and same-facey as most A-1 productions tend to be, which is probably down to these characters already having a pretty well defined designs prior to this production, and the voice acting is pretty solid all around, especially Shirou, taking a turn at being a scheming priest over his usual schtick as a Hero of Justice.
The cinematography is, adequete. There’s some awkward camera angles, mostly in the fight scenes, but its not bad for an A-1 pictures production.
Even if there’s some pretty… A-1y things in here.
Even with that said, at the very least its MILES ahead of the Studio DEEN adaptations of /Stay Night and /Unlimited Blade Works, so there’s that I suppose.
But, surprisingly enough, my biggest sticking point with this isn’t actually in any of the A-1isms, although I do have a few minor nitpicks such as the fights looking a bit subpar after half a decade of /Zero and /Unlimited Blade Works 2014 licking my eyes with all of the pretty, pretty particle effects and fluid as balls choreography.
No my issue is with the fact that, come the end of episode 2 we know the identity of every single servant that we’ve met up to this point. Which is 12 of them, and that, for me, is an issue.
People straight up just say the names of their servants, or the servants themselves announce to the world who they happen to be, which isn’t exactly the way things tend to go in these stories. The identity of the servants not only add to the intrigue of the story, they can also be used to craft some beautiful moments of drama and character depth. Concealing Beserker/Zero’s identity right up to the end makes for a gut punch of a reveal, and gets us crying and screaming at the screen, sympathising with the characters on the in front of us.
Its just good story telling, you guys.
Here in Apocypha, nope. Everyone’s names are given, the probably-good guys-and-shifty-Shiro are already aware of the enemy Lancer’s identity and there’s just no drama to these reveals. People are having a conversation, and just randomly blurt out their servant’s identities. That or the servants themselves will just tell people who they are, and that’s just… Just no fun.
Mordred though, now she’s Hella Fun.
Quick Side Note while I’ve got you.Fate/Apocrypha will be officially streaming on Netflix from November 7th, 2017, and while I don’t like advocating piracy, unless you live in Japan proper there’s no legit way to watch it just yet outside of living in Japan and watching it on TV, I’m not going to condemn anyone for going the less than legal route.
Even so, I highly advocate supporting the official release once Netflix pulls the finger out and puts up the first 13 episodes at the beginning of November.
Also if, for some reason, a staffer from Netflix is reading this; (Unlikely) anime viewers want to watch this stuff on release, guys. We exist as a community that likes to discuss these things week to week, to compare and contrast our opinions on the shows as well as positing up some theory crafting on the side. By holding the shows you get the rights to hostage until the entire thing is released (And sometimes not even then *Cough* Little Witch Academia *Cough*) you drive people to a state where they’re more likely to pirate simply because they want to join in on the discussion week to week, like I said. Not everything needs to be released whole seasons at a time. Sometimes its okay to just release shows on a week to week basis.
So the Episode Prompto DLC for Final Fantasy XV dropped a few weeks ago, and I figured what better time to talk about the DLC structure. That in mind I’m not here today to talk about the perceived quality of Square-Enix’s latest entry in its flagship series, that’s an entirely subjective point. Although, considering I have sunk just over 150 hours into this video game as of my completion of Episode Prompto, I feel like for me, it’s been worth the money spent.
But Square is doing something curious with XV, in that it seems to have a plan in place to provide long term support to the game, to keep players returning for months, if not years, to come.
This is already evident in the releases of Episodes Gladiolus, Prompto and the to be released Ignis, story based DLC being slowly released over the course of this year as well as the survey they had up for June, asking players exactly what kind of DLC they would like to see in the future.
Which is cool, I like that a company is looking to support a single player game for a while, it makes me think that this might even be the only mainline Final Fantasy title we get this generation, telling stories within the world of Eos for most of this gaming generation.
And unlike with XIII, that statement doesn’t fill me with dread.
But at the same time, I look at the provided list, and a lot of that story content doesn’t seem supplemental, in fact it seems almost essential. Which is also the issues with Episodes GPI. They tell stories that occur DURING the main narrative of the story, with consequences within that impact the narrative being told.
Lunafreya’s place in the story always felt more than a little truncated, but in that survey list is an option for “Story Content: Lunafreya’s Activities” which, I’m sorry, but most of the middle part of the plot hinges on the comings and goings of everyone’s favourite Oracle. This feels like it should be in the game to begin with.
The adventures of Cor “Mother-Loving” Leonis on the other hand, can easily slide in as something supplemental, same with Ardyn’s backstory, which we get enough of in the main game to tell us exactly what is going on with him, but to add on a buttload of additional scenes and perhaps even a Founding-of-Lucis playable segment, that feels like something that adds to the world, without feeling like it SHOULD have been in the main game.
The best thing in all of the online content that’s currently available though, probably has to be the Timed Quests, offering up unique creature encounters for you to murder your way through, as well as unique prizes to buy with points earned from the quests, including a Great Sword in the shape of a mother flippin’ mixing deck!
I still think that this method of continued support could ultimately be a good thing, so long as the extra content provided really feels like its EXTRA content. For now I’m enjoying the stuff that XV has added so far (With the exception of Snow Mobiles and the Score Attack in Episodes Prompto and Gladio respectively) and I look forward to seeing what Square decides to give us in the months, and potentially, years to come.
Fiction, for the most part, is all about connecting with the characters at the forefront of the story. The people we, as readers, watchers or listeners are sitting down to follow for however long it takes for the story to reach its conclusion. We connect with the trials of Captain Kirk and the rest of the Crew of the Starship Enterprise, because discovery is fundamentally hard wired into the human condition and we, as viewers, are able to connect to that moment of euphoria when the crew stumbles across something truly monumental.
Peter Parker’s feelings of guilt and loss surrounding the loss of his Uncle Ben, might be a bit played out by now with how many times the story has been told in the last 16 years, but it still remains as one of the most relatable moments of loss in all of comic book history.
So, when you look at a character like Superman, it seems a little hard to make a connection between the character and the consumer of the story. The Übermensch known as Clark is a near perfect being. All powerful, all good, the Superman is a totem, an ideal for the human characters to look up to and to emulate.
But these attempts of emulation will fail, because humanity is not perfect. We are not compassion incarnate, with all of strength within our fists to maintain the ability to be that compassionate.
Its what makes Superman: American Alien such a damn good read, because it doesn’t try to connect us to the Kryptonian Guardian of Earth, but instead cuts to the core of the character and gives us instead a look at the unsure boy that is Clark, son of Jonathan and Martha Kent.
Probably the one thing that the movie, Man of Steel did correctly, was frame us up some of that sweet early life in Smallville Kansas. Of course it fucked it up something fierce, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
American Alien wakes up on a young Clark, hovering in the sky at night, Martha clung desperately to his leg, both are panicking, and Martha slips, right as Clark swings around and grabs her by the arm. Martha tells him to focus on going down, which he is but then he loses it, and they both plummet.
The next panel shows us in the Kent kitchen, a bowl of soup in front of Clark and Martha bandaging up Jonathan’s foot, prompting Clark to ask what happens. That’s the moment the emotion starts.
I’ve always been a sucker for good human emotion, and by that measure I’ve always been a sucker for Superman stories that manage to cut past the Super part of it and straight to the man.
But even regardless of how well done the characters are, regardless of how well the story has been written neither of these are my favourite parts of the book.
No, my favourite part is that through all of this, even though Clark is keeping mum in Metropolis and the wider world about his identity, Smallville itself?
Smallville is in on the secret.
Ma and Pa Kent did the best the could for Clark growing up. Instead of trying to hide Clark’s differences from the world, they embrace it. Smallville slowly learns that there is something different about that Kent boy, but no one treats him any different.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in a Superman story, where the town is in on it from the get go, and quite frankly that is pretty neat.
It gives Clark some sounding boards, and sucks away some of the stress that is, more often than not, his teenage years.
Although I love it, the Earth-One books falls into this particular pitfall as well, distancing Clark from those around him to an almost ridiculous degree.
Of course, he gets better later on. Earth One starts with Clark moved to Metropolis and the entirety of issue 1 is him getting over that particular hang up, which is good, but it definitely takes me out of the experience a little bit for the short amount of time its on the page.
American Alien doesn’t suffer from any of that, it cuts through the melodrama for a more human core, which connects us, the reader, to Superman so much more.
Also this happens and I love it.
-/- American Alien and all 3 Volumes of Superman Earth One are all available to purchase from all good Comic Book Stores -/-
Episode 8 of Armed Girls is out, and its all about dealing with the fallout of episodes 7 and 8. Problems are solved, tangents are set up for future conflicts and the comedy is still really good.
But I just want to continue on from last week, in saying that the only reason these jokes work and the story flows so well is because of Nomura himself and how he continues to still be the best protagonist I have ever encountered in a Harem show, and what evidence do I provide this week?
Well, a couple of episodes ago, his roommate chose to drug his food, so that the latest abuse victim for the harem pile can enact her dastardly plan to get his 2 closest benefactor’s to turn on Nomura and get the boy expelled.
We’ve heard nothing from him for a few weeks, so with the set up of this episode, we know that it should be coming, and in the last minute or so, its comes, it resolves and its done.
And its probably the best emotional payoff of the episode.
Nomura walks in, fully intending to not bring it up. He’s already forgiven the dumb lump, so feels no need to talk about it.
The first few times Masukodera tries to bring it up, Nomura ignores the issue, until Masukodera brings up the idea that he’s a bad person. He did a terrible thing, and should be punished for it.
Nomura swerves though, acknowledging that, yeah, he got served roofies by the one guy he should be able to trust in the school. But at the same time, he acknowledges that it was most likely in an attempt to protect every other boy there in the dorm, and that isn’t the actions of a bad guy, in fact, that guy is probably a pretty good friend.
In just under a minute (54 seconds) the conflict is done without any giant screaming matches, there’s no heartfelt crying and people blubbering that they’re sorry and there’s no one whinging “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND MY PAIN, NARUTO!” (Huh, where did that come from?)
They end up sorting through their shit like normal people. Nomura cuts through the melodrama, and that’s pretty neat.
Armed Girls Machiavellism is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 came out in cinemas a couple of weeks ago, and my face still morphs into the goofiest of grins every time I think about it.
I suppose my cheeks are going to hurt a bit after I’m done here.
And while people have been giving it a bit of flak for not being better than the first movie, I don’t think that’s very fair of a comparison. In fact, it’s one I’ve heard before, in relation to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Specifically on the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron and how that didn’t manage to exceed what had come before.
Which I mean, isn’t an incorrect statement, but the first Avengers movie was a hallmark moment for these interconnected shared universe movies.
That being said though, Age of Ultron is still a very good movie, which is in itself is comparable in quality to that which came before, and for my money there is no topping the skirmish in South Africa between The Hulk and Tony’s Hulk-Buster Armour.
But again, these same comments are cropping up around Guardians of the Galaxy, the first volume of which was also a hallmark of sorts, proving definitively that the MCU was capable of adapting even the insanity of Jack Kirby’s Drug Fuelled Outer Space.
And that carried over to Volume 2 as well, in fact I would say in terms of the sheer scale of things, Volume 2 did this even better than the first, giving us not only a Living Planet, but an entire species of test tube babies, Robo-Prostitution, Interdimensional Squids and Sylvester Stallone’s voice.
But I do admit that Vol.2 is not a perfect movie. Its flawed, just like every other piece of creative work out there. So, I’m going to take a couple hundred words out of my day to talk about 3 of these flaws, and about how I would change them.
EGO: THE LIVING PLANET
Kurt Russell’s Ego is a bit of a duality in terms of how he slides into the movie. On the one hand, he is a significant step up from the previous movie’s Ronin as a primary antagonist. On the other hand, because of that step up in terms of quality and his more intimate ties to our heroes, as expected as the heel turn was, it happens way too quickly for my own comfort.
As expected as Ego’s turn is here, I feel like it came in one movie too early. Peter has just come into learning who Ego is, this is his dad, right? So he should be safe here. Ego should not have turned full on villain here, that particular story beat should have remained for Vol.3, with Ego here throwing in on his Son’s side to batter away an assault by the Sovereign at the climax of the film.
As it is, Vol.2 feels a little full on the villain side, with the Sovereign, Yondu’s Mutinous Ravager faction and, temporarily, Nebula coming into play.
ADAM WARLOCK vs EGO THE LIVING PLANET
Throughout the showing of Vol.2, the secondary villains The Sovereign, don’t seem to offer much in the way of threat. They’re there to firstly, establish Ego and just how absurd the Celestial is and secondly, to make it so that the final confrontation between our Heroes and Ego isn’t over too quick or too easy.
Adam here is an artificially bred human, one who not only stands on the same kind of power level as Thanos but sometimes even exceeds that level himself. In one of the post credits stingers of Vol.2, it is revealed that the Sovereign High Priestess has begun developing the next step in their evolution, a being she designates as Adam.
If we were going to go this route, and in line of making Ego a hero for this instalment, why not just have Adam around already. As one of the leaders of the Sovereign, when the High Priestess fails to breach Ego’s defenses, Adam steps in, glowing bright gold, an Orange Stone mounted on a ring on his hand, vanishing out to Ego’s location to punch out a planet.
This not only shows off exactly where the final of our six Infinity Stones is, but it also gets to show off the spectacle of a man who is at the level of Thanos fighting off an entire Planet, wielding the power of a single Infinity Stone, creating intrigue for Thanos who is going to be throwing around the power of the entire set.
Somehow they wrest control of the Stone from Adam, Peter tapping into his control of Ego’s light, and trap him inside of it. (The Soul Gem being able to trap people’s souls within it being its main power) The Stone being hidden within Ego’s core.
But of course Ego being a bad guy, this also leads to the potential of him handing over the Stone to Thanos before the beginning of Infinity War, they both want to eradicate life across the Cosmos in their own particular way, right?
It also brings Adam into the Infinity War and gives us the chance to see him punch out Thanos a couple of times, and really, who doesn’t want to see that?
This fix, I feel, is pretty straight forward. Don’t have them in the movie.
Hear me out.
If you’re going to have Ego remain as a hero until Vol.3 (Or Infinity War at the earliest) you absolutely cannot have Yondu know that Peter is anywhere near Ego, let alone that they’re getting along so well. The first thing he’s going to do is hightail it out to Ego to fight him a planet, and that’s just not something we can have.
So instead you regulate Yondu to a post credits scene at the most. Adam is MIA, the Sovereign are PISSED, so, with no other options they come to Yondu.
“The Guardians of the Galaxy kidnapped our greatest hero, retrieve him, and carve our warning into their flesh.” So says the Sovereign Council to Yondu.
“Where are they?” Yondu shoots back, all cocksure and smug as he always is. And then they tell him exactly where they are, and the confident look slowly transforms into anger and fear.
“We will send you the co-ordinates.” The Sovereign begin, before Yondu intterupts them. “Don’t bother, I know where they are.”
And you cut back to credits.
-/- Guardians of the Galaxy is now screening in a cinema near you.
It will be on DVD and Blu-Ray From September 27th 2017
Look, I’m not here to shit on Armed Girls Machiavellianism, in fact I’m actually going to compliment it quite a bit. That said, I went into episode one with the lowest of low expectations.
This show is nothing special to look at, and the character design is pretty meh-diocre to go alongside it. I don’t look at AGM and find my eyes being fellated by beautiful landscapes or pretty colours.
Hell, I look at the girls and they too seem to just slip into the background as just another group of A-Typical Harem Girls. This show should have really either been average as unbuttered toast or a train-wreck of hillarious proportions.
But then our main dude walks in, and the jokes start coming in and I start to find myself slipping down the rabbit hole of actually giving a shit about this show.
With half of the show aired and our first mini-arc concluded, I thought that now was the time to come out and discuss the particulars of what, exactly, makes Armed Girls Machiavellianism work so well.
THE WORLD OF ARMED GIRLS
So, this private school, Aichi Symbiosis Academy, used to be an All-Girls school, but when the school became co-ed the girls were all scared of these new “boys,” like ridiculously so. In response the faculty decided that instead of A/ reverting the school back to it’s previous All Girls status or B/ just tell the girls to suck it up, they decided to take the unlisted option of; C/ give Weapons to teenage girls, with which they might ensure their personal comfort, and see what happens.
I’m pretty sure the adults in the world are not the smartest individuals to breathe that sweet, sweet oxygen.
Of course, now-a-days, the boys sent into Aichi-Sym aren’t just your everyday, run of the mill boys will be boys kind of gents, but instead Delinquents of only the highest order. Sent into the school with the idea of the Weapon-Wielding-Woman within will be able to beat a modicum of restraint and respect into these boys, and for years, this system works pretty well.
The Ex-Delinquents find themselves as the lowest creature on the totem-pole here at Aichi-Sym, and quickly correct their behaviour as a course of both repentance and, more prevalently, a desire to not ever draw the attention of the 5 biggest badasses here at the school; The 5 Swords.
Enter our protagonist; Fudou Nomura. (Emphasis on the No)
DEFYING THE CURSE OF “YUUJI EVERY LEAD”
If you’ve never heard of the concept of the Every Lead, you’ve almost certainly seen him if you’ve watched any significant amount of anime, especially Harem shows.
He’s the unassuming, average looking dude in front of a cast of cute girls, who all start circling him because his dick apparently produces the Elixir of Youth. He usually possesses powers of a significant magnitude, or insights into the ways of the world that far outstrips their contemporaries.
These are your Tenchis, Shirou Emiyas and Negis. The boys who all of the cutest girls want to nail like a broken deck. The boys who have the personality of slightly wet sand.
When Fudou walks into the frame for the first time, he looks every bit that standard, milk toast Harem Lead. There is absolutely nothing about his design that is even slightly memorable. The most interesting thing about him is that he’s somewhat taller than most Harem Leads tend to be.
But then he starts talking and his personality kicks in, his honest to god, human emotions slap you in the face, and the curse is broken.
This ain’t no Yuuji Every Lead, this is a real boy. This is Fudou Nomura, and he’s going to shake your world to it’s core.
THE JOJO SCHOOL OF PUTTING MY FIST IN YOUR FACE
The fights on display aren’t the best for visual spectacle, the movement is fairly basic and on occasion, kind of janky. But the mechanics behind how these characters move and attempt to murder each other is actually kind of neat. Each fight introduces a level of lateral thinking into the mix. Beyond simply punching each other harder, its instead a contest of how can I hit you smarter?
Can I wear you down, before you can pull off your big fuck-off one hit KO? How can I maximise the power of each of my strikes, to best put you on your ass? Can I shake your confidence and your state of mind enough, so that I win the fight before I even throw a punch?
It’s this philosophy which makes each fight in AGM a joy to watch, even though you know the main dude is probably going to win, the strength of the girls is never undermined in order to demonstrate Nomura’s strength. If anything, the show goes out of its way to try and do its best to show him and the 5 Swords as operating on a fairly even plane, in terms of their individual strengths.
The first fight of the show goes out of its way to switch in and out of the heads of both fighters, showing the process of them slowly breaking down each others style and both of them figuring out that it’s essentially going to come down who fucks up.
The enforcer, Rin Onigawara only needs to time Nomura out, keep him on the back foot until the end of their homeroom if she can’t get in a clean hit to put him down.
Nomura on the other hand, needs to work his way around Onigawara’s seemingly impenetrable offence, to find a moment of still in her stance with which to handily put her down and win the fight.
Nomura’s moment of victory comes simply because Rin get’s jumpy at a crucial moment, his footing slips and she jumps back, expecting him to be prepping something. Drawing her sword up to take a breath and get ready to leap back into it, Nomura takes the chance to slide in past her guard, placing his hand on her side, winning the match by blowing her away with his mysterious “Spirit Bullets”
SHOWS GOT GOOD GAGS
By no means am I saying that this is some sort of hidden gem of a thing, or even that its a seminal classic. I’m probably enjoying this for a lot of the same reasons as I enjoyed Keijo!!!!!!!.
Both shows have some pretty solid comedy, and all of the fights are really well paced and planned. Sure, the stories are both kind of on the meh side of good, but in each instance, the main character saves the day with their sheer charisma.