Supergirl Volume 3 Sanctuary Review

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Time to check out the third volume of the Supergirl series! This collection is mainly just made up of tie in issues so the main plot doesn’t move all that much, but what is the main plot? Debatably it’s just about Supergirl getting used to life on Earth. In which case, you can make a decent argument that this all helps to further that aim a little. At the very least, she can learn more about Earth’s superheroes through this debacle.

Supergirl heads underwater to discover that her ship has made it to Earth in one piece. It only responds to her commands so it’s a fairly safe headquarters. Unfortunately, a villain has broken in and his physical abilities are almost on par with Supergirl’s. How will she be able to take this guy out and reclaim her base? It’s a fun one shot story and the ship plays a big role in Supergirl’s series after this. The villain was one of the first ones to appear in the series as well so it was a pivotal issue and was handled well.

After that, the H’el arc started. Naturally, a lot of it is covered in the Superman series as well as the Superboy title so we only see bits and pieces here, which makes for an intriguing read. Unfortunately, Supergirl looks bad in these stories as H’el plays on her emotions quite easily. Supergirl never really questions the fact that he is randomly teleporting everywhere and messing with the headquarters that she found as well as the Fortress of Solitude. He seemed to be rather evil from the start and I feel like Supergirl should have realized this. Of course, this may not have happened if Superman had tried to get along with her a little more, but things are still really rocky between them so that was out of the picture.

While the H’el arc was all over the place and made him look seriously overpowered, it also gave us some of the best fights in the volume. First, Supergirl challenged the Flash. Given that the Flash was holding back against her, he did very well and was actually defeating her. Supergirl was actually trying to destroy him so that shows just how skilled the Flash is. He’s always been an underrated fighter and at his best, he could easily take on any DC fighter including Superman. While my money’s on the Man of Steel, it’s a fight that I’ve always enjoyed no matter who ends up as the victor. I wouldn’t even need to worry about plot hax here.

The second fight was Supergirl vs Wonder Woman. I may have called a little more plot hax here as I feel that Supergirl is definitely stronger than Wonder Woman, but in the New 52, Wonder Woman is very impressive so I don’t mind her claiming victory here. She certainly does have more experience than Supergirl and it was a close fight although I feel like Supergirl would have done better than she was given credit for. These were two power packed battles and they were definitely a lot of fun to watch. Supergirl didn’t get to fight Superman, but they already had a scuffle a while back I suppose.

Finally, there was another comic, which starts to get us back to the main plot. Power Girl arrives to help Supergirl fight a major powerhouse. They manage to escape, but then Supergirl’s headquarters turns against the two heroines because it believes that one of them must be a clone. It was a very entertaining comic because the ship has a nice sense of humor. It burns the Supergirls logically with its witty comebacks. The ship never gives up or backs down and I loved its dialogue. I dare say that it instantly became more likable than Jarvis or Batman’s computers. (Although they never really talk….) It may have been a little rude considering that it works for Supergirl, but that’s just the way that these things go right? I like for A.I. programs to have a little personality!

That being said, I didn’t care for the fact that Supergirl and Powergirl had to retreat from the new villain. Someone sent him to test their strength so he’ll probably be back, but there’s no way that he could stop those two. I feel like Supergirl is criminally underpowered in this series. The villains should be as weak as play dough when compared to her incredible feats of power. Whoever this guy is, the author is clearly making him out to be stronger than he should. I’m all for new villains who are tough though so maybe he’ll be likable.

Still, it seems to be something that the writer just likes doing. Look at H’el. He is apparently strong enough to fight off Superman and Superboy at once. Plus, he can teleport and do all kinds of things. He effortlessly beat the Flash and his master plan nearly succeeded. I don’t care for the guy and his sob story wasn’t great, but he does make for a very imposing villain. Perhaps a little overpowered, but that beats being underpowered though. As long as Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and Superman are able to give him a good fight, then I’ll be satisfied. If any of them ended up losing to him very quickly in the main series, then I would definitely be a little sad at that outcome.

In the end, I’d actually say that this was the best Supergirl volume because of all the cool guest stars. Even Batman had a cameo as he warns the heroes that it’s almost too late to stop H’el. The Flash and Wonder Woman were both portrayed well and Power Girl also made for a nice assist. Since Power Girl really is Supergirl from an alternate timeline, it’s cool to see them interact. I’m still waiting for Supergirl to really get to meet the other heroes though as she still seems to be so separate from them. She regards them from afar as if she’s never even seen them before. The sad truth is that Supergirl may not have seen them since she is so new to the superhero gig. Still, she can’t stay a newbie forever so that experience will come at some point.

The art is fairly streamlined although the character models can still get a little iffy at times. Particularly the faces. Maybe I’m just taking a harder look at the art now as I’ve been saying that more lately like with World War Hulk, but there are some panels that are clearly off. One of them was when Supergirl was talking to H’el as her pose made her look terrified for some odd reason. It’s just one example though. Naturally, the fight scenes are quite good though and I still like streamlined art a lot as it makes the action scenes that much better.

Overall, Supergirl continues to be one of DC’s better comic book titles. I enjoyed the addition of her Sanctuary, which will make for a very good supporting cast if it can be recovered. Let’s just say that the heroes had to use some rather drastic measures to stop him from destroying Supergirl. Now that H’el’s arc is over, the series can get back on track without worrying about tie-in issues although they were quite good this time. What I’m looking forward to the most is the return of the World Breakers from volume 1. That group had a lot of potential and they were awesome. Of course, being stronger than Supergirl doesn’t seem like much of a feat anymore, but they were still a fun group of new/powerful super villains. This series has always been very interesting and I do like Supergirl’s portrayal even if she is a little naive. Hopefully she won’t be falling for any more romance traps in future volumes. If you want to see some nice action and even some well written humor, this is a comic that you definitely want to check out!

Overall 8/10

World War Hulk Review

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I remember this arc when it first came out. There was a lot of hype around it and I still consider the plot to be one of the best concepts from all Marvel events. Only Civil War may be able to top it. Nothing beats a good Heroes vs Heroes story, but one that comes close is when the hero turns evil and decides to destroy the heroes. It’s sort of like the Doomsday story in the comics as Superman has a long monologue about what would happen if he finally met a villain that he couldn’t defeat. It’s a story that has a lot of potential. World War Hulk doesn’t live up to all of it sadly, but it’s still a fun comic.

As mentioned, the plot is very simple. The Hulk was shot into space and deserted to die on a planet full of gladiators and aliens. He managed to survive and lived a happy life there, but then his rocket ship came back into orbit and crashed on the planet, destroying everyone on the planet. The Hulk blames the Illuminati for placing the bomb on the rocket and he has now returned to Earth to destroy them and make the Earth suffer for what has happened. All of Marvel’s heroes will have to set aside their differences if there is any hope of stopping the Hulk.

It should be noted that the Hulk picked a great time to launch this attack. For starters, Thor isn’t around at the moment, which takes away a really large threat right from the start. Also, the Civil War is still raging on at the moment or at least the post effects so the heroes have to reluctantly work together at the risk of being arrested. Yes, this is definitely the Hulk’s moment of glory and the heroes may not know what hit them! It should be noted that some heavy weights like Ghost Rider and the X-Men are noticeably absent, but they end up fighting the Hulk in tie-in issues. It’s too bad that they weren’t included, but I did review the X-Men one a while back.

If you wanted a comic with nonstop action, then this is definitely the one to check out. The 5 issues are basically showing the Hulk take down the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and all of the loners who tried to join the fray. Even the military stood no chance against the Hulk. Granted, The Hulk had about 5 teammates known as the Warbound who are apparently about as strong as the Hulk pre rage. That’s a lot of hype for those guys, but they did manage to defeat Spiderman (Off screen naturally……he never gets any respect in the modern comics!) so I suppose that they lived up to their reputation.

The Hulk has never been madder than he is now so his power is really skyrocketing. By the end of the comic, he starts to grow so powerful that he could have destroyed the Earth with a single stomp. That’s some insanely good strength. Naturally, Hulk is a total villain here who only cares for revenge. It’s a motive that works for most villains so why not for him right? He’s not mindless here by any means and he just believes that the Avengers need to pay for their crimes of genocide. An eye for an eye is his strategy. It’s been a while since we saw the Hulk portrayed as a villain so that was neat. He even uses his intelligence to trick Dr Strange at one point since he’s totally in control here. You have never seen a more deadly Hulk.

The Sentry’s role in this is also quite big as he gets hyped up right from the start. One problem that you may have with this is the fact that everyone acts like the Sentry and Hulk are best friends. Since when right? The Sentry is also a little insane and completely unlikable, but you still have to respect his incredible power. He’s said to be the strongest hero in Marvel and while I completely disagree with that, he’s certainly one of the stronger members and not someone to be taken lightly.

I do have to mention that the art isn’t very good here. It’ll look all right at times and then the character models will just start to shift and tumble. I dunno, there was just something a little off putting about it, but the art still wasn’t downright bad. We still got some fun action sequences out of it (Which is the whole point of World War Hulk right?) and the scene where the Sentry finally makes his move is pretty epic. The guy definitely seems to think of himself as a Superman level fighter and maybe he has some valid reasons for this. He does end up looking really good here after all.

As this is one of the more modern events, you can tell that you are missing some things by not reading the tie ins, but it’s not as big as in some other graphic novels where it’s in your face. The pacing is good. The Hulk gradually defeats everyone and by the end you will be wondering how the Hulk can possibly be defeated. You have to wonder if even the Sentry will be able to stand up to such a powerful threat. Most of the other heroes do feel like light weights here. Even fighters like Ms. Marvel and She Hulk are shown to not even be a threat to the Hulk. Seriously, they just watch Iron Man get taken out and only jump in to help at the very end. Not very heroic eh? I was personally disappointed that Spiderman was taken out off screen by one of the minions. I don’t buy that…at all.

In fact, as cool and tough as the Hulk is, I don’t buy any of it. The heroes badly outnumbered Hulk and his little group and I feel like they really should have won this round. I think that Ms. Marvel could give the Hulk a good fight. When she’s with She Hulk, Ares, Spiderman, and many more fighters…that should really be enough to end things. The Fantastic Four didn’t look too good, but I have to admit that those guys would be outmatched in an instant. Only Mr. Fantastic can hope to save them all and things didn’t go according to plan for him. It was fun to see Iron Fist and X-23 jump into the action and Iron Fist did all right against one of the Warbound, but he was soon put in his place.

Dr Strange entered a type of rage mode to stop the Hulk and nearly destroyed innocent civilians in the process. It was the only time where the heroes looked bad as the Hulk had to save them before stopping Dr. Strange. It was still a fun super form to look at though. Even the government gets some hype as General Ross explains that he always knew that the other superheroes could never stop the Hulk. Naturally, his weapons aren’t that effective and he doesn’t stand a chance, but you really have to admire his confidence. Ross has no doubt that he will stop the Hulk and he fights on right up til the very end. He was actually a very likable figure here and he has certainly known the Hulk much longer than anyone else.

The Warbound don’t really have much of a personality as they carry their baggage from Planet Hulk. I didn’t like any of the members and I doubt that the film would change my mind. One of them admits that what they are doing is wrong, but he doesn’t care since he just wants revenge. Better to be a villain than to knowingly act like a villain. Seriously, the guy is constantly talking about morals and justice while he’s attacking the heroes. Definitely not your typical superhero behavior eh? The justice concept would have been pretty interesting had the Illuminati actually placed a bomb inside of Hulk’s rocket, but a plot twist nullifies that. Most of what the Illuminati did was unintentional, but they still deserve a lot of blame for what happened to the Hulk. His time in space was certainly not a pleasant one.

You have to wonder what would have happened if Thor and the X-Men had been here from the start. Would the Hulk have been able to come out on top like he did here or would the heroes have stopped him? I feel like the heroes should definitely have won and with Thor and the others, that should be a guarantee. I would love to see another arc like this pop up soon where one powerhouse takes on the whole Marvel Universe. Not in a single blow or eventually, but a gauntlet run like what happened here. Those scenarios are always a lot of fun.

Overall, I was hyped to read World War Hulk from the start. I just love the concept of it and greatly enjoyed the X-Men vs Hulk tie-in. That being said, it was maybe a little less enjoyable than I had been expecting it to be. The gladiator ring part of the saga wasn’t great and the art was definitely a little sub par. The nonstop action was great though and the dialogue was engaging as well. This is definitely a solid read for all Hulk fans and especially if you just want to see some big hero against hero fights. There is a cliff hanger, but it’s not that great. Especially when you know who the mysterious figure turns out to be. Still, this was a fun event. Smaller in scope than most of Marvel’s big specials, but it was still impactful and showed us the Hulk’s true power! (Albeit, slightly over hyped…)

Overall 8/10

Naruto Gaiden: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring Review

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After Naruto ended, it’s safe to say that the fans were not pleased. We had been reading the series for years and finding a replacement would be difficult. Luckily, the author did a sequel series that ran for an extra 10 chapters which bought the world some time. It was a fun title and while it was incredibly short, it was still long enough to give us some hype and introduce new characters. Nothing can ever top the classic Naruto series in this franchise, but Naruto Gaiden is a sequel that is worthy of the Naruto name.

It’s been years since the final battle and you should be aware of Naruto’s current role, but I won’t spoil it in case you do not know. Sasuke was roaming the outside world when he was attacked by a kid who possessed the Sharingan. He quickly calls in Naruto to deal with this threat as he hints that a new villain who may be even stronger than the final boss of the Naruto manga could be around. Meanwhile, Sarada realizes that she doesn’t know much about her parents and decides to follow Naruto for some answers. Her friend decides to tag along and now we have the main cast for the series!

The art is quite good and it feels just like the main series. That’s a good thing as it gives the title a sense of continuity and this could easily have just been an epilogue volume to the main title. The action scenes are a lot of fun and the character designs…are not quite as good. They aren’t bad from an art stand point, but I still just don’t care for the new looks of Naruto and Sasuke. Most of the characters just look too old at this point. It’s just an age issue though and not every character was meant to become an adult.

It’s a little infamous that the villains in Naruto typically turn out to be heroes deep down. This title takes that even farther as Kabuto’s essentially seen the light and he’s allowed to be the teacher of a school. Orochimaru’s even gone past his evil days although it’s heavily implied that he’s still conducting illegal experiments. I don’t understand why Naruto and the others haven’t taken him down yet. Surely it wouldn’t be too much of an issue for the heroes right? Maybe he has diplomatic immunity or something like that. Even the ending continues this tradition. Now, it’s cool to see that the villains are able to turn over a new leaf and that they’re not totally evil, but such a thing needs development. The series didn’t have a whole lot of time to use on that, but it certainly would have been worth it if you ask me.

Naturally, Naruto and Sasuke are ultimately powerful at this point. So, how are any of the villains actually a threat? Well…they aren’t. The series tries to give the villains some hype and they do manage to look decently good against the two heroes at one point, but it’s only because they had plot hax and surprise on their side. In a fair fight, they wouldn’t last an instant here. Sarada is basically able to take these guys on with minimal effort so I wouldn’t put them on Akatsuki level, much less Uchiha tier.

Still, I did enjoy the fight scenes here. The artist is certainly experienced with them by this point and you’ll see a lot of epic speed effects during the fights. Everything has a good amount of detail and the intensity of the fights is the main reason as to why I enjoyed the series a lot. The actual plot about finding out who Sarada’s parents were wasn’t quite as interesting since I’m sure that we suspected who they were from the start. Especially once the series was confirmed to only be 10 chapters as it had to wrap up quickly.

Perhaps, a little too quickly. The ending is very rushed and the main villain goes down in a single hit. I would have liked a bigger fight, but it’s implied that the true villain is still out there. Sasuke had been mentioning that this could all just be part of a bigger scheme. The Boruto movie is apparently an epilogue to this series in a way and the trailer did look fairly awesome so it’s safe to say that the true fights are just beginning. Naruto and Sasuke may have finally met their match this time!

Naruto was a good main character here. He was sympathetic to the villains without actually letting them get by him. Naruto shows why he is still one of the strongest characters in the series even if he has apparently stopped training and grown weaker like Gohan from DBZ. While Sarada is the main character of the series, Naruto gets a good role and he looks good aside from one loss. Likewise, Sasuke manages to be a decent character, but I don’t like his generic design. One of the plots also just doesn’t work since he’s a loner and I can’t really see that changing anytime soon despite what the manga would have you believe. He’s the Shonen Rival and that’s how he should stay. For the most part, he does a good job of handling that reputation and his Sharingan powers are impressive as always. He doesn’t get to fight as much as Naruto, but Sasuke still gets his props.

Sakura doesn’t fight as often as the other two members anymore, but we see that she still has a decent amount of power at her disposal. Would she have defeated the villains without Naruto and Sasuke? I don’t think so, but she was badly outnumbered so we can let it slide. Sarada’s partner was one of the weak links of the series. Her gimmicks just aren’t funny and she’s constantly hoping that someone else is her father. The ending helps to wrap this up so that plot is over, but her attempts at humor didn’t really do the series any justice. Luckily, her role is rather small so it doesn’t really affect the series in a negative way. It’s a very minor con.

Boruto’s role is incredibly small, but he’s getting his own movie so he didn’t need to appear here right? He seems decent in this title except for the fact that he doesn’t run away from the village to help everyone. That’s what a real hero would do. Sarada can be rather unreasonable and dramatic at times, but she’s a good character for the most part. She’s certainly adept at fighting and Sarada appears to be turning into a hot blooded rival type of character. That would work out quite well and I’m hoping that’s how her character develops. She may still overreact at times, but it’s manageable and she’s still better than Boruto and her friend for now. While she probably can’t hold her own series as much as Naruto, she won’t need too since Naruto and friends will still be around.

Meanwhile, Shin is basically the main villain along with a lot of clone versions of him. (He’s already a clone though) I like the design, but he’s not very interesting. His goals are generic and he basically just wants to destroy everyone. His goals and motivations barely make any sense and when you have to beg the enemy for help…you know that you’re in a tough spot. With his Sharingan abilities, you’d think that he would be an impressive fighter, but the way that he goes out is rather anticlimactic. He’s not really meant to be likable, interesting, or cool since this is such a short series, but I still feel like he could have been better. Ah well, at least he wasn’t a downright bad villain.

Overall, Naruto Gaiden was a fun little sequel to Naruto. As it was only 10 chapters, the pacing was nice and quick. We got to see the old characters once again and had a chance to see the aftermath of what happened during the main series. It was a lot of fun and there really wasn’t anything wrong with the series. The ending was a little rushed and the villain wasn’t too cool, but the series couldn’t be perfect. Given the length constraints, I thought that Naruto Gaiden was a blast. If you enjoyed Naruto, then you should definitely like this one. If you’re entering this series fresh to the Naruto franchise, then you’ll still have a blast with all of the suspense and intrigue throughout. Now, I’m ready for the Boruto film!

Overall 8/10

Spider Men Review

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Yes, technically you would usually use a hyphen here, but I actually prefer not to use hyphens. It’s a bit of a personal preference. I saw this comic at the library a long time ago, but I didn’t have time to flip through it. I finally read it now and Spider Men is a fun crossover. There may not be a lot of action, but it’s always fun to see the 616 universe meet up with the Ultimate one. It’s safe to say that 616 proves its superiority in this volume.

Spiderman was beating up on Mysterio like usual when he got sucked into a portal which took him to the Ultimate universe. He was quickly subdued by that version of Spiderman and reluctantly decides to work with the Ultimates to get back to his universe. Is there a way back or is he stuck in this universe for the rest of eternity? It’s hard to say, but at least Spiderman can meet some of his old friends who are still alive in this universe.

As I already mentioned, there isn’t a lot of action here. It’s actually surprising that this was a whole 5 issues as it felt more like 2-3 by the end. It’s a fun way for Peter Parker to have a final meet up with Gwen and to also talk with Aunt May a little. It reminds you that the Ultimate universe definitely switched things up a lot when you consider Spiderman’s history. Gwen isn’t coming back in 616…ever, but we do have the Spider-Gwen series so she’ll still be around. That will also be a fun meet up…as long as Slott isn’t writing the comic.

I was a little disappointed with the fact that Miles defeated Spiderman. I mean..are you kidding me? I have nothing against Miles….well, I don’t really care for the guy all that much. His personality irks me a little, but beyond that, I don’t see how he could take down Spiderman. Miles has his own spider sense and venom blasts going, but Spiderman is physically stronger, I’d say that he’s faster, and it goes without saying that he has more experience. In the fight between the two Spidermen, they made Peter Parker look like a rookie. He got careless and it cost him big time when it came down to the fisticuffs. Even without prep time, I’m confident that the original Spiderman would win this round.

The art looks fairly good. Peter Parker looks a little off model, but the artist was likely just trying to point out just how much older Peter is when compared to the ultimate version of himself. It certainly is a contrast to see Peter next to the other characters. The art’s not great, but it’s fairly good. The action scenes are just a little stilted and everyone looks stiff. Marvel can learn a thing or two from looking at DC’s more streamlined art. Now, that’s how you suck the readers into the fight scenes!

Spiderman is still a likable lead even if he’s portrayed as being inexperienced and a little weak. He heads over to Aunt May’s house and then panics a lot as everyone beats him up. He keeps telling himself that he shouldn’t have come…but he is already there. It was a little late for the second guessing and Spiderman definitely overdid it. Still, as Spiderman, Peter Parker was a good character. He has the quips ready and he certainly did his best to make Mysterio look bad.

Miles is still a little annoying for me. Maybe it’s because he’s so young, but he constantly acts like he’s a big shot while pretending to be modest. Kind of hard to wrap you head around that right? It’s hard to explain, but that’s just the way it goes. Give him a few years of experience under his belt and I’m sure that Miles will grow up to be a likable character. He’ll certainly be better than good ole Mysterio.

Mysterio looked pretty weak and helpless, which is what I would expect from the guy. He’s not quite in the same league as the average Spiderman villain. I did like the twist that there never was an Ultimate Mysterio and the real one just used a robot to troll the characters in the other universe. Now, that’s the kind of plot twist that I like to see although I need to check out his older appearances to see if this twist really lines up or if it was just made up for the lolz.

I do think that there were some missed opportunities here though. Think about it, there’s so much potential about having the original Spiderman in the ultimate universe. Extending this arc to around 20 issues would have been great. Spiderman could have fought some of the villains and interacted with the supporting cast members a little more. We could have really seen the contrast between this world and 616. The fact that everyone considers Peter to be a hero in Ultimate is a plot line that could easily hold 5-6 issues by itself. It’s awesome to see since Peter will never have such a rep in 616.

There was one moment where I felt like there was a lot of plot hax. Mysterio was in a room with the Ultimates and the two Spidermen. The heroes just watch as he gets up and whacks Spiderman over the head. Talk about slow reaction times right? Luckily, Miles was ready to challenge Mysterio and take him down for the count. Also, the comic tries really hard to show us that the Tony Stark in this universe is not even close to as smart as the main one. He can barely even comprehend the universe travelling tech and we know how much the heroes like to universe hop in 616. He also seems a little more sinister, which would fit when you consider how Ultimate Reed Richards acts. The Ultimates definitely aren’t earning their keep so maybe they should have tried harder to recruit Spiderman into the fold. Also, does this mean that the Mysterio will never appear again? That would be awesome, but it probably doesn’t matter all that much with the big Secret Wars arc that’s currently happening in the comics.

Overall, Spider Men was a fun little crossover. The hype was deserved since this was really the first time that the two universes had a proper meeting. From here on out, the meetings would certainly get larger in scope. The comic could have used a better villain as Mysterio is super overused, but I was pleased with the fact that the heroes could effortlessly beat him. If they needed to actually try to beat someone like this, they would have been better off giving up right away! If you’re a big Spiderman fan, then you should check this comic out. If you don’t care about Spiderman, then that’ll certainly hurt your chances of really enjoying the collection and then you should just take a pass on it. Either way, it’s an enjoyable/quick experience and you won’t be losing much time if you decide to give it a whirl. With this, you will be ready for the Secret Wars and the battle between Ultimate and 616 that nearly happened, but mostly finished off screen. It was still a moment of incredible hype and you’ll need to track down the Free Comic Book Day issue to find it.

Overall 7/10

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Review

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At this point, who hasn’t heard of this show right? It became a pretty popular title back in the day and I’m sure that the fanbase is still strong right now. I had heard of the show and knew that it was supposed to have been very different from the average magical girl title because there were some dark twists. This did worry me to an extent especially when I saw one of the big names behind the show, but Madoka Magica actually ended up being a fantastic show and one of the greatest anime of all time. It’s not something that I had expected (To put it mildly) but it just goes to show that any show has the potential to be great if it plays its cards right. The show starts off with a bang and never lets up!

Madoka wakes up one day to witness the end of the world as a magical girl fights against a powerful deity. The girl appears to be losing and a creature asks Madoka if she wants to help change this fate by becoming a magical girl. Madoka thinks long and hard about this and then wakes up from her dream. Was it really a dream though? In the real world, she has had a perfect life. She never lies or does anything wrong and is essentially as good a person as one can be. The girl from her dream appears one day along with the creature and the Witches start appearing. Magical Girls must hunt and destroy the Witches to keep people safe and the creature is really determined for Madoka to become a magical girl although everyone else tries to stop Madoka from making such a decision. What could possibly be wrong with becoming a magical girl?

I’ve mentioned in the past that a few shows have managed to really feel like movie quality titles with a great soundtrack, writing, and animation staff. Unfortunately, the three shows that pulled this off all ended up being pretty bad by the end. (Attack on Titan, Fate/Zero, and Sword Art Online) Aside from those three shows I can’t say that any other title has ever had that big budget movie effect for me. Even shows that I love like Yugioh GX and Digimon Data Squad while they are amazing, still felt like classic anime and not necessarily that mainstream theater effect. Well, now I can finally say that I’ve found a great show which pulled it off. If you can imagine how I enjoyed the overall development of the previously mentioned shows when they didn’t end up turning out well, you can imagine just how great this was for such a good show.

First of all, Madoka Magica has the greatest opening in anime history. Not the opening in terms of music, but the opening scene. Within the first 2 minutes, the world is already on the brink of destruction and we see a big budget fight between a deity and a magical girl. I have to quickly pat myself on the back here as I knew that the magical girl in that scene would be my favorite character in the series immediately. One glance at her and I knew that this was a character who wasn’t going to mess around and who would be a deadly fighter. I’m glad to say that my instincts paid off and she was definitely a shining point of the show although the writing was so good that virtually every single character was great so she did have some steep competition. (Never a doubt though)

When your first scene is that epic, you know that the show is going to go places. Seriously, name a better opening scene to an anime. There is none and I doubt that there will ever be a better one although it is always possible. (Like an opening scene to a new Megaman EXE show where Bass is fighting someone with a high budget. That would be amazing) Immediately you can tell that this isn’t going to be the next Sailor Moon. Sailor Moon’s a fun show, but this one destroys it in an instant. This show is a better Sailor Moon than Sailor Moon, a better Fate/Zero than Fate/Zero and a better Serial Experiments Lain than Serial Experiments Lain.

Why did I pick those three shows in particular? Sailor Moon is self explanatory as they are both magical girl shows where the heroes fight villains with their powers. Fate/Zero tries to be really deep and philosophical with a lot of dark themes like Madoka, but Madoka pulls them all off so much better without going overboard. Finally, Madoka can also be very abstract at times like Lain, but it’s far more interesting. You could make a case for Madoka being the greatest anime of all time, but Yugioh GX still holds that honor. However, it’s impressive in and of itself that Madoka could be so great in only 12 episodes while GX had 180. If GX had ended after the first 12 episodes, it’s safe to say that Madoka would win. No other 12 episode start to a series can match up to this title.

I’ll start to actually discuss the show and the characters in a minute, but let’s cover the rest of the technical information. The soundtrack is incredible and easily a 10/10 for the show. The opening theme song is the only weak part and the actual music is still really good. The images just aren’t that exciting and while that is the point, I could do without the metaphysical Madoka meeting herself as that was a little on the fanservicey side even if it was all meta, which I am slightly more lenient with. It’s still not really needed. Beyond that, look to the ending theme as it is one of the greatest pieces of music in all of anime. It’s a great opera styled theme that is similar to what you would hear in Tsubasa and it really sets the tone for the battles. There are also many more opera themes as well as fight themes, which makes for a very epic soundtrack. It doesn’t get much better than this and the end theme will probably be my favorite theme to listen to for the next year or so until I find another really cool theme. I never keep a favorite theme forever due to a mix of hearing it extremely often so that I am ready for a new theme and the fact that there are always new themes to listen too.
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As you would expect, the writing is impeccable and the series wouldn’t have been able to have been as thought provoking or interesting if the writing was not as good. The characters are all typically polite or politely rude (Think of it as being passively aggressive in their manner of speaking) so they don’t resort to swearing. The logical loops and deep thinking will make you think as well and you’ll have to choose a side many times since the characters disagree with each other. It’s all handled very well and you will definitely be engaged at all times.

There is only one moment when the writing falters and it is to make a point about how the Earth may not be worth saving. Several characters come to this conclusion and I’ll go into that more in a moment as some of the points are fairly valid. Still, you should SKIP THE SCENE. It’s really the only bad scene in the entire anime and while it is trying to prove a point, you can still skip it and you won’t miss much. Just have the remote ready when Madoka’s friend Sayaka is on the train and you hear two guys talking. They essentially try to cram in as many swear words as possible in that minute and it’s a pretty terrible scene. They are cut off before they can say that dreaded f word and they presumably don’t live through the experience, but you don’t need to hear their dialogue. They’re just being generally gruesome and skipping the scene will allow you to enjoy the episode a lot more. It’s only about a minute or two so you seriously aren’t missing anything.

The animation can be a little hit or miss depending on what style you prefer While the characters are not in combat, the animation can be a little abstract and the characters always have lines in their eyes. It’s odd and the characters feel like they are in a sketch half the time, but I quickly grew to enjoy the style. It’s not something that will fit with all titles, but this one pulled it off. I wouldn’t call the animation amazing though as it is simply good. However, once the fights starts, the animation quickly rises up to epic levels of awesomeness. I would call the animation amazing during the battle scenes. They are very fast paced and trying to keep up with the action is one of the fun parts about watching the show. The heroes seem to have limitless variations on how they can use their abilities, which fits the abstract style. Their abilities are certainly great and I’ll talk about their powers more later as the series is definitely fairly high tier.

The abstract scenes are always fairly interesting. Usually, it’s just a bunch of unrelated images that hit the screen and if there’s some kind of meaning to them, you likely won’t get it. It does make for a lot of very interesting backgrounds and minions though. Everything just looks so crazy and insane that you’ll feel like it’s all in some kind of acid dream. If handled poorly, this could have been bad, but it’s very interesting to see what the animators can think of. It’s not overdone and it does show how chaotic the Witches are. Between the creepy laughs and the cotton balls with mustaches, there is always something to capture your attention.

Madoka is the main character of the show and she’s certainly the most innocent of the bunch. She’s essentially led a perfect life as she has never lied or really done anything wrong. Not literally of course as she has likely made mistakes, but she has always made sure to do what is right and never lost sight of that. Once she finds out about the other magical girls being hurt, she wants to become one and help out, but everyone gives her a tough time about it. Let’s just say that her becoming a magical girl would present a dangerous situation for everyone. Also, it would mean breaking her ties with family and friends since there are a lot of circumstances that would be tough to explain in her situation and her life would certainly be changed. It would also force Madoka to make a lot of tough choices. She tries to please everyone, but that is impossible due to how everyone wants something different.

She does a lot of crying during the show as a result, but it’s a lot more genuine than the average lead. Madoka does a great job of fulfilling the lead role. She doesn’t actually get her powers for the majority of the show so if you’re waiting for that, it will be quite the wait even though the theme song spoils what her costume looks like as well as all of the posters. Her final decision in the show is great and she really thought it through on all angles, which shows how intelligent she is. Her ending can be seen as sad depending on who looks at it and you need to have strong emotions and believe that what you are doing is right if you don’t want to fall into despair. Madoka had complete confidence in what she did so the ending turned out to be a happy one for her. You don’t come across a main character like this very often. I would mention Madoka’s abilities, but they mostly don’t come until the end. I can say that she fired pink arrows, which are fairly powerful. Her main powers are tougher to describe and while I could give you the general idea, I don’t want to spoil them because it could hint at her overall wish. You’ll need to watch the show if you want to figure it out!

Sayaka is Madoka’s best friend and she gets a fairly large role in this adventure. She ends up getting super speed as her main ability along with unlimited swords at her disposal. She has less raw attack power than the other members, but she makes up for this with her high speed regeneration. She ends up being the weak link on the team for sure, but she means well. Unfortunately, she decides to use her wish to help someone else anonymously. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but she ultimately starts to realize that this may have not necessarily changed her life for the better and that’s when the doubts start to come through. Her ending isn’t quite as happy as the other characters, but she still got closure and she meant well. She was a good friend for Madoka and her strength allowed the lead to make it so far through the adventure. Sayaka was very outgoing and always ready for a fight.
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Homura is easily the best character in the show and it’s not even close. As I mentioned earlier, I knew that she would be the best before 2 minutes had even passed by in the show. First impressions are important and Homura started out strongly with her first fight scene. She ended up being one of the strongest characters in the series as the only one who can really hope to challenge her from the heroes is Madoka. Most of the villains are child’s play for her except for the ultimate evil. Homura’s ability isn’t revealed for quite a while so I’m a little hesitant to say exactly what it is like with Madoka’s. Needless to say, she can control one of the elements of reality, which allows her to put up a good fight against anyone. Thanks to the extent to which she can control this, there is literally no other super power in this show that can counter her. Homura could defeat the rest of the magical girls in an instant thanks to this and the whole show is essentially a constant reminder of her strength.

Watching Homura mop the floor with the rest of the cast is always very satisfying and even the ending is fairly accurate. I can safely say that there is no plot hax in the ending as the villain being too powerful makes sense. Homura’s ability is great, but the one thing that she is lacking is offensive power. If something is strong enough to block all forms of conventional weaponry, then there is nothing that Homura can do. That is essentially her limit and while she can still outclass most of the opponents that she fights, there will be some that even she cannot defeat. Homura is very powerful, but she’s not insanely overpowered and that’s always a good mix. (Although I like overpowered characters as well.)

From all of the characters, you could argue that Homura has the toughest road. It’s even sadder than Madoka’s as Homura has a very tragic history. She is always trying to help out a friend through her actions, but the task proves to be nearly impossible. Despite all of this, Homura manages to resist the feeling of despair for quite a while and ends up helping a lot of people along the way although she acts reluctant about it. For her purposes, Homura must put on a mask of coldness so that others will find her to be calculating and unfeeling. In reality, Homura cares a lot about what is happening. Still, she is not Madoka. She does not care about what happens to the world, she simply wants to protect her friend. Homura is a very deep and interesting character. She’s certainly one of the best characters that I have seen in a while.

Mami is my least favorite member of the magical girls. She has the least amount of willpower and she is quick to take drastic measures that never help out the situation. She has mastery over strings and also has unlimited guns. From all of the members, she seemed to have the widest arrange of techniques and it was fun to watch her take down whole armies with a single combo. She was certainly powerful and while she wouldn’t be a match for Homura or Madoka, it’s safe to say that she could beat Sayaka and Kyoko. As a villain, she’s a good character, but I’m not crazy about her as a hero. Her latter scenes really destroyed the character even if Mami meant well. Mami just didn’t know all that much about the contract so she was mostly just leading the other characters astray unintentionally. Mami is not necessarily the kind of friend that you want to have by your side although it was definitely happy for her that Madoka showed up as fighting alone for eternity definitely does not sound like a fun thing to do.

Kyoko is the tough member of the group and she uses a spear. Her abilities were probably the most limited as she was mainly just good at slashing at high speeds. She’s quick and still proved to be more than a match for Sayaka, but she never looked overly impressive. It’s safe to say that Homura would have crushed her had the battle kept going. Kyoko’s personality shifts the most from the members as she goes from being a cold blooded killer to remembering what it means to truly be a magical girl. Her character got a lot of development and by the end it’s safe to say that she even passed the main character for me. She was really likable at the end and she was certainly willing to risk her life to save Sayaka. Things may not have turned out so well, but Kyoko never backed down and stood by her beliefs. I also like her policy about not wasting food and her wish was pretty selfless. Unfortunately, the people affected by the wish did not respond very well to it.

As for the Witches, a lot of them have names, but you won’t remember just about any of them since they come up so quickly. It doesn’t matter as it’s not a big deal, but the designs are still fun to watch. Typically, the Witches just get curbstomped as the heroes open up a clinic of combos onto them. The exception is the final boss, Walpurgisnacht. Walpurgisnacht is an incredibly powerful Witch who is immune to all methods of conventional weaponry and her attacks come in very quickly. Given how many minions are available to Walpurgisnacht, it is said that no single magical girl can defeat her. It’s safe to say that this is true for the most part and that’s why the Witch makes for a great final boss. She’s even got a really cool evil laugh that you’ll want to watch out for.

The new villains who replace the Witches aren’t quite exciting. They are the Wraiths and as far as we know, they all look more or less the same. They may appear in the film or maybe they just won’t be a focus anymore. They appear to be very slow, but there are thousands of them so their quantity helps to overshadow their lack of quality. I don’t see any of them being as powerful as Walpurgisnacht, but maybe they’ll surprise me. Either way, their designs aren’t bad as far as minions are concerned.
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Even the supporting characters are fairly likable in this show. Hitomi is another friend of Madoka’s, but she is not chosen to be a magical girl. As a result, she is typically only around for the slice of life scenes, but I like to think of her as the Fluttershy of the series. As polite and sincere as Madoka is, Hitomi is even nicer typically. She does end up stealing someone’s potential boyfriend, but she does it in a fairly nice way. Hitomi never lets up with her polite lines and she’s a good friend to the other girls. You would typically expect at least one bad influence as most shows have a classmate who’s terrible, but not this time. Madoka’s mom is also very nice and she was an entertaining side character as she tried to rise to the top of her business. She gave Madoka encouraging words whenever the situation called for it and she opted to trust Madoka up to the very end. Madoka’s father got less of a role, but he seemed to be a nice guy as well. The only supporting character who wasn’t that good was the love interest for Sayaka and he still wasn’t as bad as I expected. He’s the kind of character who overreacts a lot and never seems grateful, but even he apologized for his behavior later on, which is something that you usually wouldn’t expect. A little more gratitude would have been great, but this is better than nothing.

Kyubei is a very deep character and a fun mascot for the series. Upon first glance he seems like a very innocent creature who’s just looking out for the heroines, but you quickly find out that he has some ulterior motives. He needs energy to save the universe and that’s where he starts to come to odds with the humans. He is essentially just using them and he knows that they will ultimately be destroyed and their souls will forever be lost. He knows this, but he doesn’t really care as he is the embodiment of a population which can feel no emotions. As a result, if each life that is lost can save another thousand, it is certainly worth it in his book and the final death will save an entire universe. Looking at it that way, his motives make sense. Many of the characters dislike him by the end and they feel hurt by his choices, but I never actually disliked him.

See, most of his points actually made a lot of sense. Now, I’m not justifying his decisions and saying that he is a hero because he is not. Kyubei still did not tell the main characters all of the details, but I do agree with him about the fact that he told them enough. Kyubei did warn that making a contract with him means that your life will be at an end, but you could gain whatever wish you desire. In a sense, he is asking if any wish is worth losing your soul and living the rest of your life in nonstop battles against Witches. This is a deal that is naturally not worth taking no matter how you look at it. Trading your life for a wish is an interesting matter and one that could work. If you knew that you could save your family or a friend in exchange for your life, a lot of people would be willing to do it.

Your soul is another matter. Luckily, we don’t have to worry about that in the real world as no one can snatch your soul away from God provided that you have given your life to him. Only you can choose to take your soul back and ultimately lose your right to Heaven. Still, you can redirect the example. Would you be willing to go to a dark path in order to keep a friend or relationship? Hopefully you won’t make the wrong choice there and the characters are forced to make some tough choices. Luckily, there are themes of redemption and second chances here and Madoka helps the other characters to have a happy ending although they all go through some tough battles with despair. In short, one’s soul is infinitely worth more than their life and you should be wary of making any sort of deal with it here.

Still, Kyubei did make sure that the terms of the deal were clear and he always gets the character’s permission before undergoing the contract. Kyubei is quite fair in this matter and he always talks very eloquently. He also got me when he brought up the classic animal debate. The sad part is that he is not wrong. He explains that he gives humans much more respect than they give their animals. This was the only part of the show where I was legitimately worried. For a moment there, I thought that the show was going to jump the shark with animal violence, but luckily the show narrowly avoided this as we got some abstract images and then some peaceful ones with animals. That being said, the point was valid.

Many animals are slaughtered each and every day in order for us to keep consuming meat. It’s why I’ve always had great respect for the vegan lifestyle as it does save many animals. If everyone were to live like that, many more animals would be alive. Unfortunately, it’s not something that will ever realistically happen and I do eat meat myself. I love animals so it may be a little hypocritical to eat meat and it’s a tough debate. Perhaps it seems futile to not eat it or I just like to hope in the back of my mind that the animals were at least ended in a humane way. I don’t think that I will ever stop eating meat, but I do feel bad about the consequences of such an act and recognize that it does hurt the animal race. Hopefully some day, there will be no need for animal violence in this world with technology. At least in Heaven I won’t have to worry about animals being hurt anymore. This argument nullified most of the points that the main characters brought up about them being tricked with the contract completely so I give Kyubei a lot of credit here.

I also thought that the main characters overreacted with some of the twists. What happens when their soul gems turn completely black felt a little obvious given that it is literally their souls. The plot twist about their bodies also wasn’t that major if you ask me. It was a twist all right, but it doesn’t actually change anything about what status their body is in. So, I understood Kyubei’s confusion at their reaction even if he doesn’t completely understand the concept of emotion.
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Another concept that the show deals with is whether or not the human world deserves to be saved. Naturally, the heroines are magical girls who fight to save the humans and thus the world from the Witches. Many of them begin to wonder if the mission is something that they are interested in and most of them come up with different answers. Homura doesn’t care what happens to the world and she just wants to help her friend. It’s a bit of a natural response and one that makes a lot of sense. When you turn on the news each day, something terrible is constantly happening and you can easily understand the argument of how humans are plaguing the world. Acts of unspeakable cruelty are likely happening this instant and you wonder if we would all be better off if the world just blew up.

Kyoko just fights to help herself and it’s another attitude that many take. As long as you help yourself and get the best of life, your life will have been satisfying right? Of course, many people figure out the hard way that it just isn’t that simple and end up being unfulfilled. Others will end their lives thinking that is was great until they see what is in store for them next. Sayaka wants to help others, but when you fight your whole life just for the sake of helping someone once, you risk being depressed on the outcome. For example, if you work overtime for many hours to help the boss finish a project, but then get no recognition in the end, you may feel like the whole thing was just a waste of time. Helping others is always great, but you do have to think of yourself a little as well.

Naturally, Madoka does the best job with this. She essentially represents the purity of someone who just wants to help everyone have a better life and she is satisfied with doing so. She essentially gives everyone a second chance and they can hopefully find redemption. You can draw many similarities to the Cross and the death of Jesus. If I wasn’t a Christian, I would honestly just agree with Homura’s view. The world really can seem like a bad place at face value with terrorists everywhere and you are essentially living in a corrupt world. When you look at how our world is turning away from God and how so many people just believe that there is no God, it’s easy to wonder what the point is as many people will not be saved. Luckily, with the Bible and its teachings, we know that there is always a chance for redemption and you can never give up.

Redemption is one of my favorite themes in media. No matter what your past is, you can always turn things around as Jesus always gives you another chance. It’s not to say that you can abuse this by constantly sinning and going back since Jesus can sense what is in your heart, but if you generally want to turn your life around you can do so. You’re not saved by acts, but through submission and trust in the Lord. Madoka saw the world and instead of focusing on the bad, she saw the good parts of life and tried hard to help everyone. She definitely experienced a lot of sadness as you certainly will when you care about everyone so much, but she never lost faith in the fact that she could help everyone. Nobody is every beyond hope and so long as you believe that, you will be willing to keep on trying to help people. There are many people who will never be saved and who will keep on committing vicious acts, but you need to focus on the fact that you will be able to save others. Even if you only save one person during your journey, that is one person whose future has been rewritten and it will have made your life worth the journey.

Hope and Despair naturally play big roles in the show as well. Once you feel despair, it is all over and your soul is lost in the show. Homura was my favorite character and she tried to cling onto hope right until the end. She went through unimaginable hardships trying to help her friend as she relived the same month over and over again watching helplessly as the future kept on happening. Still, she tried and tried to save her and this showing of friendship and loyalty was very well done. Having a friend like that is certainly an amazing privilege. Even Homura began to feel despair towards the end and we’ve all gone through similar times of doubt and hopelessness, but so long as you remember the positive points of life you’ll be okay. Even at the very end of the show, a message plays stating that someone is always fighting for you so don’t give up hope. For us Christians, we know that God is standing by our side through tribulation and strife so we must never give up hope even when things look bleak.

It’s one of the reasons why the show probably has the best ending in anime history as well. While I can’t say that I am 100% positive of this like I am with the opening scene, I can’t think of an end scene that beats this one. That inspirational message at the end was great and the ending turned out to be happier than I would have guessed. Homura has not quite bought into the redemption message and still believes that the world is not worth saving, but she continues to fight for her friend. She is truly a loyal individual and I hope that she can see the world as Madoka sees it someday. After all, the second chance opportunity applies to her as well and she is such a great character that I’m hoping she will see the light. She is still fighting the villains so there is always a chance and we know that she will never give up.
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One of the good things about the show is the fact that it manages to avoid the fanservice trap for the most part. There is a scene which you can describe as fanservice in the opening that I thought wasn’t needed even if it is trying to be meta as the main character meets herself. It then takes a break until the final episode (Unless you count transformation scenes like in Sailor Moon, but even then, most of them are simply skipped or pass by very quickly) where two characters meets each other on the astral planes. There bodies don’t have any defining features so it’s fairly safe, but it can still definitely be called fanservice. I’m slightly more lenient on the meta stuff, but it’s also a scene that didn’t really need to be handled like that. Still, it could have been much worse and was still not that bad. Actual fanservice would have forced me to have taken away a star from the show so I’m glad that it didn’t come to that.

I mentioned earlier that the series is pretty high tier so let’s talk about where it stacks up. Madoka vs Sailor Moon is certainly a classic debate and I’d say that the overall consensus is that Madoka has the slight edge. I would agree with this although I don’t think that it’s too slight. Most of the magical girls in this show could easily crush the whole team of Sailor Scouts and I can’t think of many magical girls who can oppose them. All of the heroes are incredibly fast and very durable. While they wouldn’t be able to overpower the opponents in titles like Naruto and Bleach, they are still skilled and stronger than I had been expecting. Homura and Madoka in particular were much more impressive than I could have thought. There’s also one character in the show who grows so powerful that she makes the One Above All from Marvel look like chump change by the end. She was basically able to alter the universe itself and perform time paradoxes with ease. This is power on a multiversal level and it’s safe to say that I hadn’t been expecting anything like that. It was a pleasant surprise and her meta feats were much better than the usual ones.

While Madoka Magica does deal with some dark themes, I would ultimately call it an inspirational story full of hope. While things look bleak many times, it also shows us how hope can always make a difference and we see many characters who have strong bonds with each other. The ending is a little on the uplifting side even if the memory plot is always a little sad. I prefer when everyone knows everything that has transpired. At least one character remains in the know which is more than I would have usually expected and that’s definitely a good thing. The character even gets a power up out of the deal, which is always a fair trade.

The show is also very mature with its themes, but it’s handled appropriately. We don’t get any gritty moments or overly violent scenes just for the lolz. It’s mature in the sense that the characters are dealing with serious problems, but the show is rather tame. In terms of violence, it’s less violent than the average shonen show and there are only some moments that have blood. None of it is excessive and it never gets bad. The romance plot that is around is also handled delicately and is nothing like what you would see in current films. The rival in the romance plot is even polite about the whole thing, which is fairly rare to see nowadays. This is just another check mark for Madoka Magica.
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Overall, Puella Magi Madoka Magica was an incredible anime. Of course, you could probably tell that from how positive this review was. The show was very moving and every part of the anime was fantastic. From the soundtrack to the writing to the fights, Madoka Magica can hold its own against any show. All of the characters were very well developed and it’s amazing how the show could accomplish so much in 12 episodes. It accomplished quite a few things like having the best opening scene of all time, the best ending theme of all time, one of the best final scenes of all time, and just being one of the overall greatest anime of all time. I have a feeling that the movie won’t be able to match up to this show, but few things can. This is definitely one of the most unique anime titles out there and I highly recommend checking it out. Whether you are a fan of action, slice of life, or you just want to watch something thought provoking, this will fit the bill. You won’t have seen a show quite like this one.

Overall 9/10

Madden 25 Review

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All right, it’s time to review my first PS4 game! The Madden series is still one of my favorite video game titles out there because it is consistently good. It has many fans and many anti fans as you would expect from a series that sells so well. Sometimes the game doesn’t seem to have changed all that much, but when you’ve got a good thing going, why wreck it right? This one may be a step down from Madden 13, but it’s still a really good title and it’ll tide me over until I eventually buy Madden 15. (Potentially sometime during football season)

The game has quite a few modes. Naturally, we have the classic Play Now title, but there are also other modes like Ultimate Team and Skill Trainer. Skill Trainer is sort of like the Minicamp Mode from Madden 2004 and I thought that it was nice to see it brought back. The drills can be a little difficult to complete as you have to do the correct action 9 times out of 10 in order to get the gold trophy. I got all of the Golds for passing, defending and Pre Plays but I didn’t go and complete the rushing ones yet. Perhaps at some time, but I’m not aiming on getting the Platinum so it could be a while. They are also decently difficult as rushing is the trickiest to complete for some reason.

Speaking of which, that gets into my one big negative for Madden 25. It’s more of a negative for the PS4 than the game though since this appears to be the case for just about every online title. You can’t actually use the online battle services unless you buy PS+. A lot of the fun that I had in Madden 13 was when I was fighting other players online. The fact that I cannot do so now without buying the subscription is pretty sad. I don’t plan on getting PS+ anytime soon so the game will have to lose some replay value there. It also means that the Platinum is unattainable, which is unfortunate.

Ah well, beyond that, the game is rock solid as you would expect. The graphics look stunning and EA has always done a great job of making sure that their games were ahead of the curve. Of course, it also helps that I’m finally experiencing what the power of the PS4 can really do. There are few games that look quite as good as Madden and you can just stand back and appreciate the textures and backgrounds as the announcers start to set up the game. Otherwise, it can be a little bit of a hindrance because you can’t skip the opening for a few seconds, but what’s a few lost seconds here and there right? I still appreciate the huge amounts of effort that they put into the game.

I can’t really comment on the soundtrack as it was strangely absent a lot of the time. Either that or it was simply too subtle to notice. That’s a decently good thing as older Maddens typically had a pretty underwhelming array of themes. All you need is the main theme for when the match is about to start as that one is always great. Beyond that, I wouldn’t mind if there wasn’t any music here as it’s not really needed during the gameplay. The theme for the main menu is quite catchy so that’s better than nothing.

As always, there is a lot of replay value to be found here even if you can’t get the Platinum. You can go through the Connected Career mode to battle through various seasons. Honestly, just that mode alone can give you enough things to do for 50-100 hours. Skills Trainer will buy you a little more time and then you can try collecting as many trophies as possible. Trust me, Madden has never been lacking in content and that doesn’t change with this title. The no online hurts, but it’s certainly not a game changer.

I haven’t really talked about the core gameplay. If you are familiar with the NFL rules then you should be okay. If not, the basic goal of the game is to score points and stop the other team from scoring. The actual controls are fairly simple to use, but tough to master, which has always been a good mix. Running the ball can be great if the opponent is not expecting it, but you typically won’t go far. Like the real NFL, passing the ball is where all the action is and you have to be very careful about what throws you decide to go for. The defense is incredibly skilled and they will always beat your receiver to the ball if it is between them so you should almost never go for deep balls. Once you are really experienced at the game, then it’s all right to try these throws since you can take control of the receiver and beat out the defender yourself. It’s incredibly satisfying, but also difficult to pull off.

Madden 25 also constantly updates so the stories that play on the bottom of the screen are similar to the ones on the NFL’s official site. It’s cool to see how current the title is and it even updates the roster for you. Seriously, Madden 25 seems to have thought of everything and there are even Papa John ads throughout the game where the announcers will talk about how good it is. That was pretty neat and it’s not distracting from the actual gameplay so it’s a fun addition. The commentary may be a little limited, but it’s still a great feature during gameplay and it’s fun to hear them talk about what you’re doing on the field. It would be essentially impossible to make it perfect so I’m also satisfied with this.

Madden simply feels like a next gen title. Unfortunately, the game maybe starts to cross the line of being too realistic as turning while running with the ball can be a bit of a hassle now. For example, in an older Madden, you would turn and your player would crisply just keep running in a diagonal direction. Now, he has to actually turn to make the cut, which will briefly make the player stutter and that makes turning a little less effective. This change isn’t terrible and there are many new features to help compensate for this as you can use super stiff arms and other techniques, but the open field running was better in older titles. Once you learn all the tricks of the trade, you’ll be ready to do great things, but I can’t imagine that you will be running the ball very often.

If you want to know a good pass play that essentially works in every single Madden game, I highly recommend screen passes to your running back. It’s almost 100% guaranteed on 1st and 10 or 2nd and 10. The only times where it is dangerous to use it is in a short situation like 3rd and 1 as the cornerbacks will be a little too close for comfort. Alternately, you can use screens to your wide receiver occasionally to keep the opponent off balance. It’s not flashy and you will be fighting for each yard, but it works quite well. Slants are your next best option, but you have to be watching carefully before you release the ball.

Overall, Madden 25 is a very fun game. The no online is regrettable, but older Madden titles didn’t have this feature and I still enjoyed them a lot so this game is safe. The graphics are great and the soundtrack has noticeably improved since the themes are typically instrumental now, which works better with the game. Skills Trainer is fairly difficult, but it’s also a lot of fun and not much of a grind although I would expect some of the trials to take several efforts to complete. There’s a lot to do in this game so it’s well worth the initial 60 although the new price of 13-15 makes it even better. It’s not quite as good as Madden 2004 or Madden 13, but it gives 12 and 11 a good run for their money. Now that we are getting close to Football season, this is a good game to buy to get you in the mood and then you can trade up to Madden 15 once 16 comes out.

Overall 8/10

Batman’66 Meets The Green Hornet Review

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The classic incarnation of Batman is back once again in a crossover with the Green Hornet. As soon as I saw this collection, I knew that I had to check it out. The Adam West Batman show was pretty great and the comics have done a good job of capturing why this series is so much fun. As good as the first two Batman collections were, this one is the best. Whether it is the added hype of the crossover effect or just the fact that the writing has gotten better, this is one collection that you don’t want to miss.

It was just another day for Batman and Robin until they learned that some rare items were leaving from Gotham to another city. Bruce Wayne felt personally responsible for this and decided to go onto the train as well. Gotta keep up the Wayne reputation right? The Green Hornet in his alter ego also decided to come along under the pretense of a story for his newspaper. The two heroes try to out hype each other as they brag about the local heroes (or villains in the Green Hornet’s case) until someone breaks into the train. The General has arrived and his glue weapons could mean the end for the Dynamic Duo. Batman and Robin prepare to stop him, but the Green Hornet is in their way. As far as Batman and Robin know, the Green Hornet is just another criminal. Can Batman drop him while also dealing with the real villains? Speaking of which, the General is not alone. He is joined by the Joker and stopping both of them will be difficult.

This comic is a blast to read from start to finish. It really feels like you are looking at a new Batman episode from the good ole days. The heroes are constantly making puns, but also reminding each other about defending the law. Batman can barely even stand the thought of working alongside the Green Hornet since the masked man is a known criminal. Seriously, the comic is incredible and the dialogue is easily top notch. You’ll thoroughly enjoy the issues and even the villains have honor as they outsmart the heroes using technicalities instead of tricks.

It almost goes without saying that Batman makes for an excellent main character. He really embodies truth, justice, and the American Way in this collection. He always stands up for what’s right and he gives everyone a fair shake. It’s just what he does and Batman never backs down from a fight. The Green Hornet may have surprised him in round 1, but it’s safe to say that Batman bounced back from that. In a fair fight, I don’t think that the Green Hornet would last very long. Batman also proved that his Batcave and its gadgets are better than the Green Hornet’s.

Robin is essentially the Yes Man on Batman’s group. He always agrees with Batman although you can hardly blame him since the Dark Knight tends to always be right about everything. Robin’s a good sidekick and this is really how he should be portrayed. He can fight and he’s also smart, but he’s just not ready to match Batman in those categories yet. Give him a little time and then he’ll be all ready to roll. His counterpart in the form of Kato wasn’t quite as likable. I found him to be rather arrogant and undeservingly so since he’s not a great fighter. I’d say that he’s weaker than Robin when you think about it. He likes to quote philosophers to psych out the opponents and get some subtle burns in. Kato’s not a bad character per say, but I do find him to be rather annoying. Of course, it helps that I’m on team Robin so the burns get personal.

As for the Green Hornet, he’s a fun hero to have around. He’s similar to Batman although he’s not nearly as heroic. The Hornet is still a hero, but he pretends to be a villain to deal with the crooks. I wonder if it’s a plan that Batman would approve of since it skirts the lines of the law. Telling Batman his secret would have saved them all a lot of hassle, but I can see why he wouldn’t want to divulge such a big secret so easily. So, I don’t blame him for that. The Hornet is a fun foil to Batman and I’m guessing that his old comics would probably be a lot of fun as well. I wonder if he has an ongoing at the moment to match up with the Batman’66 stories.

The art on the covers is trying very hard to look like it’s a live action piece to match the TV show. I’m not crazy about how it looks so I’m glad that the art inside of the issues is normal. It flows rather easily and while Batman’s uniform can still take a little getting used too, it looks sharp. Likewise with the rest of the cast. The art is simple and managed to pull off the TV show vibe that they are going for. The fights are certainly fun to look at.

I almost forgot to mention the villains! The Joker definitely looks like the mastermind of the operation even if he doesn’t get as much screen time as The General. The Joker can hold his own and I was satisfied with his portrayal as he showed a good amount of wit and skill. The General isn’t quite as charismatic and comes off as a generic villain. That being said, his plan was quite good and it would have succeeded against the average hero although the final demand for the millions was rather suspicious.

Naturally, Batman and Robin ended up fighting Green Hornet and Kato on one occasion. The battle was a quick one hit knockout so Batman and Robin fans would likely be disappointed by it. I can safely say that I wasn’t thrilled by it either. Although things essentially equaled out by the end, I just don’t see such a tactic working on the Dynamic Duo. If you ask me, Batman and Robin would win the fight quite easily and you could say that they had the upper hand in all of the other skirmishes. While the outcome wasn’t quite as accurate as I could have hoped, I appreciate the fact that the crossover actually picked a winner instead of making it a generic stalemate. Nothing’s worse than a tie…

Overall, This is a great crossover! From how the characters are portrayed in the collection, I have a feeling that each comic title could holds its own. I’ve already read two Batman’66 volumes so I can say with confidence that it is a good series. I haven’t read any Green Hornet issues so far, but if there are any retro styled ones where the characters act like they do in this collection, it would definitely be a lot of fun. If you’re a Batman fan, you really need to pick this title up. The constant stream of quality dialogue will keep you going and the art is sound. This is a style that I hope more comics emulate in the future and hopefully the library will pick up more collections for the Batman series.

Overall 8/10

Thor Sunlight and Shadows Review

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It’s time to look at a Thor collection and this one actually brings the final issues of the 500 issue Thor series. The story moved onto another title and Thor fans may be a little disappointed in how the series ended as it doesn’t wrap a whole lot of things up. Still, 500 issues is quite the milestone and while I have not read all 500 of the individual issues at the moment, I’ve read a lot of them. This story is bogged down by several factors, which keep it from being a good collection.

Thor has mysteriously lost his powers so he must now learn to live and fight as a mortal. It’s pretty bad timing for him, but luckily he gets his powers back for an issue…only to lose them again. What is happening and why are his powers affected so heavily? He has the Enchantress to help him out, but more questions continue to arise and no answers can be found. Thor ends up bringing back and unlikely ally to tip the scales.

These issues came out during a time when Marvel’s comics were rather chaotic. The art would result in a whole lot of splash pages and everyone constantly looked off model. The fights were typically glorious, but that was about it although the art could be unintentionally humorous. This definitely happens to Thor, but the art just isn’t good. Thor doesn’t really look (or act) like Thor and a lot of the characters do look rather strange. The art is definitely under average although I wouldn’t call it terrible. It could just be more consistent and easier to follow.

Still, the main issue that I have with the comic is that all of the characters are just unlikable. I’m not sure about all of the circumstances surrounding the characters, but it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t like them. Thor fans in particular will be dismayed at how the title character is portrayed. Gone are the days when he was a very smart combatant who knew when to fight and when to talk. Now, he just fights the villains for fun and he actually hangs out with the Enchantress. This wouldn’t be a bad thing if she was totally reformed, but she still has slaves who attend to her every needs and Thor doesn’t care at all. That’s the oddest part about the whole collection. It’s why the relationship between the Enchantress and Thor has never worked out and shouldn’t ever work out. Thor is a hero so he shouldn’t tolerate such things.

He still is the hero of the story, but this just seems like a huge oversight and it compromises his position of being someone who tries to stamp out all evil. I also didn’t care for the plot where he is losing his powers and the tie ins just make it feel even worse as Thor had to quickly regain his powers for an issue so that he would be ready for the event and then he lost them just as quickly for the sake of the main story’s plot. I definitely don’t think that the comic planned that part out too well.

During the story, a major part of the plot is the fact that everyone from Asgard seems to have vanished and the next Ragnarok appears to be happening. Loki’s behind the scheme, but it’s rather vague and constantly gets thrown aside for the tie ins. The actual graphic novel ends with a tie in about to begin as Onslaught has gotten ready to destroy everything so Thor must join the fray. That fight sounds like it would be fun, but that is sadly not included in this collection. Back to the Asgard plot, Odin makes an appearance and things aren’t looking well for him.

He seems to have lost a match while trying to stop Asgard from being destroyed so he was stripped of his powers and sent back to the 1970’s or something like that. Tired of everyone ignoring him, Odin succumbed to beer and whiskey. He is now a drunk old man who is a shell of his former self. It’s a very sad drop for him and he definitely looks pretty bad. As I mentioned, the Enchantress has not reformed her ways so I would hardly call her a good character either. She also doesn’t have much of a role here although she helps out while in the background.

The only decent character that I can think of here would be the policewoman who helps Thor out. I don’t believe that I’ve seen her before and I guess she was just added to give Thor a contact who was on the force. She doesn’t do a whole lot, but at least she can fight and takes the whole trip to the savage land in stride. The comic had a guest star in the form of Red Norvell and I read the classic comics that introduced him. Unfortunately, he is definitely not likable here. He fell into hard times and went into some shady businesses to keep himself afloat. Thor gives him another chance to have super powers and Norvell takes it, but then the comic is essentially at its end so he doesn’t get to do anything with his new found power. Either way, he just doesn’t seem like hero material.

The comic is actually interesting while you’re reading it, but not a whole lot happens when you look at it in retrospect. Thor fights a lot of average humans, but we don’t get to see any real super threats. It makes sense since Thor is depowered, but the issues needed someone who could fight. As such, we only got a few brief fight scenes, which is too bad since you would expect more than that from the Thor comics. With better characters, the story could have gone places. Instead, it feels a bit like it’s in an alternate universe, which is how I feel about a lot of the 90’s stories in Marvel. Superman had a similar identity crisis over in DC at the time.

The rest of the Avengers make a cameo at one point when they recruit Thor and you can tell that the teamis at a rough spot. When Black Widow is essentially the leader of the group and there’s only one other member, you realize that the villains have likely already won. I believe that Dr. Strange made a cameo here although if he did, I’m pretty sure that he didn’t look so great. I suppose that you can’t win every battle right? As a send off to the Thor series, this definitely wasn’t a great way to do it, but the actual comic series was a lot of fun. It just jumped the shark towards the end of its run.

Overall, This is a very odd Thor comic. It simply doesn’t feel like it could take place in the Marvel universe and Thor is seriously out of character. There isn’t a lot of action to be found here either although the fight scenes are okay. I wouldn’t call this a good comic, but I don’t think that I would consider it to be a bad one either. It’s just around and it made some mistakes. It’s an interesting read, but you should keep in mind that it feels like an alternate universe title the whole time and the actual plot doesn’t get to advance that much throughout the whole graphic novel thanks to the tie ins and a long visit to the Savage Land. If you want to read a good Thor comic, I suggest heading back and reading the classics from the 1960’s. The Marvel Masterwork collections is a good way to find them.

Overall 5/10

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life Review

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After a long time, I have finally gone and seen the sequel to the first Lara Croft film. The first one wasn’t exactly a thrill a minute so this one really tried to add in as much action as possible. The Cradle of Life shows many glimpses of a world where it could actually have been a solid film, but these glimpses are simply too brief and the film is ultimately plagued by a few negatives.

As for the plot, Lara Croft has finally met a challenge that is too much for her. To get to Pandora’s Box, she will need to get into villainous territory. Her two assistants are already out of the picture thanks to the enemies so Lara is forced to free an associate from prison. This man is there for a reason so this is a pretty big gamble, but the two characters have a long history between them. Now that we’ve got the drama in place, the adventure can really start!

The actual plot isn’t bad and Lara is essentially just embarking on a new quest. Unfortunately, bringing someone along was definitely not a good move as the guy drags down the film. His name is Terry and he’s definitely not a good character. For starters, he’s a total criminal who clearly has not reformed in his ways. He talks tough right from the start, but he still gets beat up a few times and Lara also tricks him on more than one occasion. It becomes very evident as to why the two of them ended up parting ways. They definitely can’t trust each other and both prefer riches to companionship. Terry goes off the deep end rather unexpectedly at one point although I didn’t care for him anyway.

He also gives us the worst scene in the film as he and Lara decide to see if they’re still meant for each other. The long romance scene is an example of a very poorly developed plot and one that is completely unnecessary. After not seeing each other for years and parting on bad terms, I find it hard to believe that they would get back together so quickly. If so, the characters are definitely too easy and it hurts any chances that they had of being likable.

Likewise, the scene also hurts Lara’s character and I definitely don’t care for her here. She’s a character who tries to get in as many one liners and burns as possible, but that also means that they don’t all work. While she claims to be a professional, she nearly dies by staying in a crumbling ruins for too long and her banter quickly dies down when held at gunpoint. She’s a decent adventurer, but she’s hardly a great fighter. (Although, she’s good enough to beat her partners at Kendo) Using her feminine wiles to get through the adventure was really the last straw for her character.

As such, there weren’t many likable characters to be found in the film. I actually didn’t mind one of her partners as he was really petty. In the kendo match, he finally got a hit towards the end of their bout and started celebrating a lot. It’s like fighting on For Glory in Smash Bros where the opponent will taunt numerous times after finally getting an elusive KO. The other member is fairly weak and doesn’t add much to the story. He does try to warn Lara about the fact that the villains are on to him, but she is evidently not the sharpest tool in the shed and misses all of the warnings that he gives.

I need to quickly take this time to mention the fact that it’s not really wise for a treasure hunter to have a very well known mansion in the middle of such a big landscape. Lara doesn’t have any real defenses so any villain organization can just bust in as we saw in this film. She really needs to think about adding some much needed security to make the place a little tougher to break into.

The film was surprisingly a little more violent than I had expected it to be. One of the scenes in the climax involves a man burning to death with surprising detail as he melts. Another scene, which I found to be more intense involved a guy who was poisoned. From the way that the scene played out, it started to look like he was literally spitting out his guts. That likely wasn’t what was happening….likely, but it sure looked like that, which was pretty gruesome.

Let’s quickly look at a nice positive for the film, which is the fact that there are monsters to be found. Towards the end of the film, we find out that there are monster guardians which watch over Pandora’s Box. They can phase through objects and their speed isn’t too shabby. It almost goes without saying that there physical strength is very good. Watching them take down the group of humans was like watching the Raptors take everyone down in Jurassic World. The monsters take their time and methodically take everyone down one at a time. It’s very impressive to watch and it was a fun scene as monsters are just what we needed. They were a little too powerful so we never get to see Lara fight one of them, but the plot hax would have likely been too immense so I suppose that it’s fine.

Some of the special effects don’t quite hold up here though. One scene in particular comes to mind as Lara glides across a city. It clearly looks like she is just being held by a string with a background picture that is moving in the background. That definitely looks fake, but I suppose that we can’t have too many films with good effects right? On the bright side, it’s bad in a bit of a campy way so I wouldn’t call it a huge issue. Just something that it fun to note.

It’s really too bad that the film crumbled as it went along because I did find it to be interesting. For example, the opening scene was fun as Lara infiltrated an underwater temple and the plot began. That was the film’s first missed opportunity as Lara should have fought the villains. A nice fight scene at the beginning of the film is always a fun way to start off. We got a fight later on between Lara and another villain that was fun though. Even if the collateral damage did end up destroying the guy’s “priceless” statues. A film just needs more good qualities if it wants to be good. The plot isn’t enough, you need good writing, good characters, and more. This film couldn’t really pull off any of that as I’d call the writing decent at best. Even the final scene’s humor is a plot that’s probably been overdone a little at this point. You will feel a little bad for the two assistants…but very little.

Overall, The Cradle of Life is definitely not going to be the film to give video game adaptions a good name. It had a fairly interesting plot and the monsters at the end were cool, but that wasn’t enough to make it a good film. Making the poison scene a little less graphic and cutting out the make out scene between Lara and Terry would have helped the film a lot and that probably would have put the film in the clear with a 2 star boost. That being said, the could have/should have case can be applied to just about any film. So, when it all boils down to it, The Cradle of Life simply couldn’t stay afloat and Pandora’s Box just wasn’t meant to be found. If you’re looking for a good adventure film, then you should probably watch Indiana Jones…although I haven’t seen those in a while. Be on the lookout for the CGI ants! As for Lara Croft, we’ll have to wait a long while before we get a film that does the classic games justice.

Overall 4/10