Scooby Doo! and WWE: Curse of the Speed Demon Review

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All right, time for one of the latest Scooby Doo adventures. The first WWE adventure was actually pretty fun. I’ll take any excuse to throw in some fight scenes to the classic Scooby Doo formula you know? The problem is that this one takes the wrestling out of the WWE for the most part as it tries to be a racing film. That’s a verrrrrrry odd strategy if you ask me and it really didn’t make any sense. Sure, we still had some fights, but not as many as you would expect. The writing is a clear step under the last few films, but it’s still a reasonably enjoyable film.

Shaggy and Scooby have finally realized their dream of owning a burger joint. Now they can take customer orders and then eat the burgers instead of serving them. They’re still in business somehow, but hey…that just shows how strong the economy is at the moment right? Their favorite wrestler is the Undertaker and they’re rooting for him to win it all. Unfortunately, his partner was attacked by a mysterious foe and now they will have to take part in the race since Undertaker needs a partner. Can they win the race and stop this interloper or are they completely doomed?

I have to give myself numerous pats on the back here as I correctly guessed who was the villain within the first 10 minutes of the film. I don’t like to brag, but I just have that knack for this kind of thing. The person seemed rather suspect. Not in an obvious red herring way, but in a more legitimate fashion. Lets talk about the suspects. There is Undertaker and his sidekick. The sidekick may be doing this to make Undertaker look good and this is a nice way of taking out the competition. There’s the Russian team who may be using this as a way to undermine American confidence in racing. There’s the All American hero who loves messing with his hair and his tough female co-rider. They bicker a lot, but it could be an act. There’s the crazy twins who can teleport and throw dust at their opponents. They’re clearly not ordinary humans so they could have a stake in this. There’s the daughter of the president of the company who enters against his wishes along with her partner so they’re suspect. Finally, there’s the president who always wanders away right when the ghost shows up. Suspicious? Not at all! He makes it way too obvious to be suspicious.

There are quite a lot of suspects here and the cool thing is that most of these characters are real so that ups the stakes. Can you picture these celebrities actually doing this? Although if you’re a Pro Wrestler I suppose you’re used to acting. The actual race isn’t bad as anything goes so all of the cars work on bumping each other out of the way. There aren’t a whole lot of gimmicks to most of the cars, but Fred built Undertaker one that has rocket boosters so that helped to give him a bit of an edge. Not to mention that he could eat on the go with the original food truck. 3 day races like this are always interesting since the first 2 days barely matter since the winner of the final stretch takes it all anyway.

Before I talk about some of the negatives, lets keep on talking about the strengths to get them out of the way. One thing I really liked here was that the “civilians” actually fought back. Usually everyone just runs away from the ghost in a Scooby Doo film even if he/she isn’t all that threatening. That’s not the case here. One guy sees the ghost approaching and actually decides to hide behind a pickup truck to plan his attack and then launches at the guy. He actually puts up a really good fight even if he ended up being defeated instead. Likewise, nobody cowers at the sight of the villain aside from Shaggy and Scooby and I loved this change of pace. Imagine how awesome it would be if this became the norm.

The animation is as good as always. The Scooby Doo formula is certainly written in stone at this point and animated as such. I don’t think they need to worry about switching up the style because it just works so well. Unfortunately, there aren’t really any good music themes this time. The main theme was pretty solid I suppose, but we only got to see it very briefly. The writing is fairly bad though and that takes us into the negatives.

This first one may not really be the film in particular, but I have to address it. Shaggy and Scooby get more and more annoying with every film that passes by. I can’t really say that their antics are funny and they are easily the worst members of the Mystery Gang. I wish they wouldn’t be so scared all of the time and they’re very over the top. How can the Undertaker be their favorite wrestler if they’re completely terrified of him? The whole thing just doesn’t make any sense. Their food gimmick is good, but that’s where the buck stops at this point and the rest of their character is just sad.

Next, the characters are too gimmicky in this film. Every character is extremely exaggerated like the Russian guy or the American who was focused on his hair, but actually wasn’t very tough in the end. They’re all caricature at this point instead of real characters. Most films have quirky characters of course, but you have to do it with some tact in order to be really effective. The twins with the dust were just as bad as they were constantly waving their arms around and talking nonsense. I can’t picture their fans being very thrilled about their portrayal because it was just pretty disappointing on the whole. There were very few reasonable characters in this film.

It also reused the Daphne/Velma plot for what must be the 6th or 7th time at this point. Daphne gets a new friend so Velma gets jealous, but the new friend turns out to be shallow so they become buddies again. It’s a really old plot at this point and shows that they’re running out of ideas. At least the ghost was cool though. I mean, he barely even pretended to be a ghost this time around, but a physical opponent makes sense so the heroes have something to fight. The design was good and he was decently formidable so that was satisfying.

Overall, This film was a bit of a step down from the last few Scooby Doo films and just most of them in general. The positives are quite good at least like the fact that we got actual fight scenes. They weren’t as solid as the first WWE film, but they were still fun and that’s why I want more WWE films. We just need to focus on the wrestling and the fighting instead of trying to throw in races and all of that. Also, where was John Cena? I was really surprised that he wasn’t in the film as that seemed like a no brainer. If you’re a big Scooby Doo fan then you should check this out, but otherwise the first WWE film is just better in every way. It’s a better way to start off with the series. I expect the series to make a recovery with the next one.

Overall 6/10

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Speed Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative.
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It’s time for a classic thriller film. With a title like Speed, you’re definitely expecting a lot of action and intensity throughout and the film delivers. While there may be a moment or two that will stretch your disbelief, the film did a good job of covering its tracks for the most part. One thing that these films typically have a problem with is making the villain too powerful. He is somehow everywhere, has plans for everything, and ends up performing feats that make you question the logic. That’s not an issue here as Howard’s (The main villain) twist covers all of the bases.

Jack is one of the best swat officers in the business. He likes to go on gut instincts and always makes the villains pay for their criminal deeds. It’s just another day at the office when he stops a crazed bomber from destroying an elevator full of people. Unfortunately, the criminal has been nursing a grudge about this and shows up one day to even the score. He has planted a bomb on a bus so if it ever dips below 60 (I believe it was 60) mils an hour, it’ll blow up. If someone tries to leave the bus, it’ll blow up. If anyone other than Jack tries to get onto the bus, it’ll blow up. Etc etc. Howard seems to be able to see into the bus at all times so the heroes have to be careful. The fuel won’t last forever so Jack is going to have to rely on his instincts one more time.

Howard definitely has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. He has planted cameras in multiple areas and can tap into the police communicators. This all makes sense given what we know later on. He’s definitely psychotic and the film never tries to make him sympathetic. (That’s good since I wouldn’t have bought into that) He does a pretty good job although the heroes should have been able to defeat him a little sooner. There are two main points where he should have been taken down. One was immediately after the elevator incident as Jack could have shot him. The other was when he first implemented his plan. A security officer walked over and instead of calling for backup, he proceeded to get one shotted. It wasn’t his best moment. So, Howard’s plan was definitely risky throughout and I’m also wondering how he got out of his bomb suit in time. He definitely did raise the body count by the end of the film though so he did some damage before going down for the count.

I was a little surprised that a certain death towards the middle/end of the film wasn’t played up more. It was essentially skimmed over, but given the circumstances, I suppose they didn’t have much time to dwell on it. Jack’s a solid main character as you’d expect. He’s really good at his job and while he’s seen as a hot shot, he does take the time to think things through. He’s just a very reasonable character and it’s good to see the main lead have as much confidence as he does. Annie made for a good main heroine. She always had the witty comebacks at the ready and wasn’t intimidated by all of the chaos around her. She also did a good job of getting away from the troublemakers on the bus very early on. Those guys certainly didn’t help matters at all with all of their bickering. One lady was particularly bad as she just cracked and decided to ignore the obvious bomb as she tried to escape. The cops were almost as bad there though as they were trying to help her. Not a good move.

As always, I do have to say that the romance in the film was a little rushed and cliche though. Jack and Annie quickly bond because of this emotional experience. Annie even points out that romances this sudden and nonsensical rarely last which will probably be the case. Even ICarly had an episode about this where the main lead’s life was saved by the guy so she mistakenly thought that she liked him for a little while. You always have to be careful not to mix up feelings of gratitude with love. It’s not like it took much time out of the film though since it was only a quick moment at the end, but Hollywood has to squeeze in its romance somewhere.

I did mention that I had to stretch my disbelief a little before. I’m referring to one scene in particular as a large part of the road is gone so Jack decides that they have to drive over it. He figures that if they drive fast enough, the momentum will allow them to make it. This definitely should have not worked in the slightest. The gap was way too big and the camera angles had to quickly switch all over the place to make it seem even slightly realistic. So, that part was a little iffy, but the rest of it was all on point. The cops all picking obvious hiding points may have been a little sketchy, but I don’t blame them for not noticing the hole under the trash because that was pretty clever. They should have had the tracker on from the start…but that’s how it goers I suppose.

The soundtrack was pretty solid. The themes definitely worked really well for the film and kept up the energetic atmosphere. The writing was reasonably good. The edited version cut out most of the iffyness. It’s nothing to write home about, but at least the characters weren’t constantly running around swearing. While they were annoying, the people on the bus were also pretty realistic because I can picture everyone being super petty like them even in such a dangerous situation. It’s just how people are on a bus…even the guy with a gun. Shooting the driver was pretty iffy though and I felt bad for the guy, he didn’t ask for this! It’s also not every day that you get a bus thriller instead of the usual car one. I like car chases as much as the next guy, but adding a bus certainly changes the dynamic quite a bit.

Overall, Speed is a pretty good film. Jack was a good lead and the film played out like a fun action blockbuster. It may not be something that you’ll remember as an all time great but it didn’t really have any big negatives. The villain was tough and it made for some good mind battles between the two, but the film never went out of its way to make him extremely psychotic or intimidating with super violent scenes. The film was actually fairly tame in that regard and it’s been a while since we had a villain who was just in it for the money. It’s probably still the most iconic goal for an antagonist. I recommend checking this out if you like a fast paced action and the film is pretty long so a lot happens along the way.

Overall 7/10

A Charlie Brown Celebration Review

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It’s been a little while, but time for another Charlie Brown review. This one was pretty big since it was celebrating one of Charlie Brown’s big anniversaries. Unfortunately, the special fell a little on the flat side. It decided to basically be one large anthology instead of containing one full plot. Doing something different for this special makes sense I suppose, but this was definitely not the right call. The Anthology format has never been all that good and this special doesn’t change my mind on that.

Well, there’s not much of a plot here since the segments keep cutting to another one. The one that probably appeared the most was Peppermint Patty being tricked into graduating dog school and then getting beaten up by a cat. To her defense, the cat was extremely powerful and definitely wasn’t playing around. You gotta love that level of dedication eh? Snoopy was around to back her up at least so that helped quite a bit. This was easily the best plot in the special if you ask me as it was fairly entertaining.

Other plots included Charlie Brown getting humiliated in Baseball as per usual and the Piano kid getting upset as always. In Charlie Brown’s plot, he was actually a little tougher than usual as he didn’t let the other kids know how they could buy caps. His discretion worked pretty well if you ask me as he can’t give the other kids all of the answers all of the time right? They probably wouldn’t be very grateful anyway. For the Piano kid, his instrument was flushed down the sewers so it was a sad day for him. He called in to get a replacement, but it’s safe to say that Lucy had the last laugh this time. The replacement wouldn’t come for quite a while so the piano kid would have to hang out with her now. (Or just cry in his room)

As always, Snoopy is the best character in the special. He’s a professional lawyer who may trick his clients from time to time but he means well. He did ultimately go back to help Patty so you have to give him some props there. Charlie’s definitely the next best character as he’s consistent as always. Linus surprisingly didn’t get much of a role here at all. Considering that this is a big anniversary project, that was a little bit surprising. They basically got everyone else back though so I guess that’s good enough.

The animation is consistent as always. The Peanuts style has certainly aged well and the animators have always done a good job of keeping everything on point. It’s definitely going to be interesting to see other styles like if we get another modern Charlie Brown special or the infamous flash one. I can’t see them being quite as catchy as this one although CGI works well enough. The modern film was proof enough of that.

The only thing holding this film back is the format. Each story ends way too quickly and it would have been better off picking a few stories and just stretching them out for a while. The Patty plot could have easily been the main plot of a special with the Piano kid one being the subplot. That would have worked a lot better if you ask me. At least the special was a little longer to help compensate for that, but this should be a lesson to all franchises…never do anthologies. It’s just not worth it. There will always be a story that’s better than another one that you’ll want to see more of and a weak one that you’ll wish they had excluded. It comes with the territory.

Overall, It’s still a Charlie Brown film so I wouldn’t call it bad or anything. My only gripe with it is that the film can be a tad bit boring at times. There’s not really anything happening after all so it’s like seeing a bunch of Charlie Brown gags without the actual plot to back it up. It comes across as a little odd and dare I say low budget? Still, the writing was good and the film is still pretty short so I wouldn’t say that it drags on or anything. If you’re a big Charlie Brown fan, then you should check this one out. If not, then this isn’t the best way to get into the series. I suppose it could work as a preview of the franchise, but it’s still not worth it. I’d recommend watching the Christmas special first.

Overall 5/10

Little Battlers eXperience Wars: All Star Battle Review

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It’s time to look at a little special that LBX Wars got after the series finishes. It gives us the crossover that we had long been waiting for; the big battle between Ban and Sena. It’s a little under 10 minutes so the special really has to hurry to the fight, but we got two quality fight scenes so I’d say that it did a good job of getting right to what I wanted to see in a crossover.

The premise is a little sad for Sena though as it turns out that he never got the proper approval to leave the island at the end of the series. Luckily, this is how he meets Ban, who has stopped at the island to teach the kids. Sena challenges Ban, but the old hero quickly brings along Jin for support. Sena gets a teammate as well, but ends up getting back stabbed (accidentally) and loses. Sena isn’t totally satisfied so he gets another rematch against Ban and this time it’s one on one. Can Sena squeeze out a win?

Don’t expect anything decisive as the special decides to play it very safe at the end. I’ll still give it credit for having a real victor in the first set though. At the very least, we know which tag team is better. While it was written to show that the loss was really Sena’s fault for rushing in, I don’t blame him. His robot’s specs should be vastly superior to Odin’s by this point so rushing in is a good strategy. Not to mention that being aggressive in combat is usually the best approach as opposed to the “wait and see” tactic that was suggested. I’d also say that Sena did a good job of holding his own for the most part.

It’s still a little hard to get used to Ban’s new design. (Yes, the glasses count as a whole new design) At the very least, he does seem to still have his old personality in tact. He was already drifting from the LBX game in the second series and it seems to be complete here as he mentions that he hasn’t played in a long time. It’s regrettable, but sometimes you live long enough to see yourself turn into the old man of the series. I can’t say that I’d like Ban much based on this, but he was great in the first two series so he still has that going for him. The supporting cast members like Jin and friends all seemed in character, but naturally there wasn’t enough time for them to do all that much here.

One thing that’s noticeable is how the special decided to save as much budget as it could. As such, we get several scenes where it’s just a giant head floating around or a sky view of the island. It’s not bad, but you can definitely see what the special is doing. I’m guessing this was made really quickly with a limited budget so they wanted to save it for the fight. I’d say that was a smart decision and it paid off since both action scenes were quite good. The animation has aged really well as with the rest of the series. We also got to see a lot of the classic tunes return for this special which was nice and nostalgic.

Overall, This was a pretty good special. It’s a shame that it was so short, but finally getting to see the main characters fight each other was fun. If anything, it probably hints that Sena would be able to beat Ban since he didn’t even use his full synchro mode in their fight. That makes sense since Sena was never a fan of it and the world isn’t in danger this time, but it’s something to think about. LBX did about all that it could in the 10 minutes and the one thing that I would have changed was to have a decisive victor in the last fight. That would have definitely been nice to see. I’d definitely recommend this special. You’ll probably enjoy it more if you’ve seen the show, but it could also be a nice way to get into the franchise as a whole. After all, it has the main strengths of why I like the series so much. The high quality action scenes and the solid soundtrack make for a good combo. Hopefully we get a Hollywood LBX movie or a nostalgic anime movie sequel at some point. We just need LBX to live on!

Overall 7/10

Sengoku Basara Review

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It’s time for an anime that is nostalgic in a sense. I played the original Devil Kings game a while back which is what this arc is based off of. Admittedly, I can see how the game would sell better with that title over Sengoku Basara as it just seems a little more intense. The anime did a great job of adapting it and was just about perfect. It was a really well done anime all around and I look forward to seeing how good the sequels are. This will be a tough season to follow though so I can’t say that I’m expecting it to be surpassed. I look forward to seeing it try to prove me wrong though.

The series takes place back in the really old days of warring nations of Samurai. There are many factions along the land and they feud over territory all the time. Despite this, many of them have fairly friendly relations with each other. They don’t hold grudges over destroying each other because it is simply their way of life. Whoever wins, there are no salty losers. That being said, it all changes when the Oda army descends onto the battlefield. They are led by the infamous Devil King who has no such compassion or morals on the battle field. His army doesn’t play by any set of rules and believes in winning at all costs. The heroes of each warring faction must either team up or face annihilation.

This is one of those series that has multiple protagonists through the different factions. Some of them are clearly evil while others are more heroic. You ultimately have to decide which group to root for. There are 3 main heroic factions to choose from with Yukimura’s getting the largest focus. That was where my allegiance was since he is easily the best character in the series. I did like Masamune a lot as a runner up though and the show did a good job of giving everyone a good amount of screen time.

Before talking about the show any further, lets delve into the characters. Yukimura is the headstrong protagonist whose fire abilities really enhance his fighting style. He has absolute confidence and never backs down from a fight. In fact, the moment that solidified him as the best character for me was when he didn’t even back down from the Devil King even when Masamune was frozen in fear. It was the deciding moment between the two and Yukimura passed the test. He may not have done too well against Mitsuhide, but you can’t win em all I suppose and the power levels were wonky by the end. More on that in a bit though. Having Ichigo’s English voice actor also helped a bit as well. Yukimura is one of the best main characters that I’ve seen in a while. He’s honorable, a great warrior, and he has fire abilities. Fire is the best element so that’s always a good sign.

Shingen is Yukimura’s boss and he’s a reasonable leader. He definitely gives Yukimura quite the beating over the series, but the main character is very tough so he can take it. I can’t say that I ever found him to be all that strong compared to Yukimura and Masamune since he is really lacking in speed, but he is still one powerful dude. It would have been nice if we could have seen him get a full fight as Shingen never really got the opportunity. Sasuke is the ninja in the fire squad and he gets a lot of subtle hype. He’s very quick and knows how to get out of a dangerous situation. He never gets into any danger or even ends up nearing a loss. Sasuke is essentially untouched during the whole season so I’d like to see him help out more next time.

Masamune is the big rival in the series and the second best character. His design is really good and his intense personality is fitting for Yukimura’s rival. He also enjoys combat quite a lot and it’s impressive that he’s the leader of his clan at a relatively young age. He gets a very large role during the course of the show. While Masamune may have overreacted at his first defeat and had to be snapped out of his stupor, he made a full recovery. I dare say that the show even hints that he may be slightly stronger than Yukimura. At the very least, he did look a little better against Mitsuhide, but Yukimura wasn’t in the right mindset for that one. Masamune’s 6 sword style was definitely unique even if it’s hard for me to imagine someone using it effectively. That’s a lot of swords after all, but it shows just how good he is.
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Kojuro is Masamune’s general and the two are pretty close. Kojuro will defy Masamune occasionally if he thinks that the leader is going down the right path. The leader may not like it at the time, but that’s exactly the kind of person that he wants as his second in command. Kojuro is also a pretty strong fighter in his own right. I don’t think he should really be a match for someone like Mitsuhide, but he’s probably the strongest secondary fighter in the series. His strategic knowledge is just as useful during this war even if Masamune does ignore it for a more direct plan.

Kenshin was another one of the leaders, but he was a little disappointing. He only got to very briefly fight for about a minute or so before being taken out of the equation and all he did was talk. His rivalry with Shingen even felt out of character with the rest of his personality. Honestly, the guy was just a little more on the annoying side and while he may not be a bad character per say, it did feel like he was stringing Kasuga on for a while. Kasuga is his 2nd in command and the head ninja. While she could have had potential as a strong mercenary like Nina Williams of Samus Aran (Bounty Hunter anyway) the show mainly just uses her for fanservice. She is out shined by Sasuke whenever the two characters meet and she also just ends up failing in all of her fights. As she is a professional ninja, you’d think that she could defeat the Devil King’s wife. Kasuga even got her in a choke hold, but then she allowed Nohime to get free and shoot Kenshin. Honestly, that was probably one of the most embarrassing moments in her career. The only moment that may have been worse was when she got one shotted by Nohime again while trying to avenge her master. Kasuga fans definitely won’t be pleased with her portrayal and rightly so. She’s usually a pretty strong character, but she wasn’t given any respect in this season.

Nobunaga or maybe I should say the Devil King, makes for a great villain in the series. He doesn’t appear right away, but still manages to make his presence known the instant that he appears. His theme is absolutely amazing and he is really a perfect villain. He’s absolutely ruthless as well as a brilliant tactician. He didn’t get to where he is by being naive and manages to double cross his lieutenant before he was back stabbed. It was a great moment because being outsmarted would have really hurt his character. I also like the fact that he actually has super powers of his own and that allows him to fight with his gun, cape, and a sword of course. A gun wouldn’t be very useful against most opponents, but since the Devil King is naturally powerful already, he can make it work. He’s one step ahead of the heroes for the bulk of the series and it was even a little surreal to finally see him take to the front lines at the end. Nohime is his wife and probably the only person that he can count on. She’s pretty skilled as she infiltrated one of the hero groups and took out the leader. She also managed to defeat Kasuga pretty easily and just did a really good job of backing up the Devil King overall. She only went down due to plot hax. Unfortunately, that meant that we could never see her get a full fight as her other battles were mere skirmishes.

Mitsuhide Ranmaru really got the shaft from the villains. He’s a kid who is working with the villains, but his backstory isn’t developed here. He can shoot arrows, but that’s about it so he is incredibly out of his depth here. I can’t say that I liked the kid at all so I was glad that the writers threw his character to the curb. Oichi is Nobunaga’s sister and he used her to entangle the clan leader Nagamasa into their ranks. As her husband, Nagamasa decides that he has to help the villains even if his whole shtick is that he fights for justice. It’s a shame since he is always talking about justice, but his honor gets in the way. That was pretty terrible to be honest and then when he finally decides to betray the Devil King, Oichi is used as a hostage. She puts up no resistance though and constantly makes things tough on him. I actually liked Nagamasa so his whole plot was pretty tragic.

Oichi’s a pretty terrible character though. She spends the majority of her screen time on the floor telling everyone to forgive her and asking the Devil King to turn into a good guy. Naturally that was not going to happen and he makes it clear several times that she is expendable. She almost dies a number of times as well. Oichi does have some Devil King abilities within her as well like when she destroys one of the main villains, but it quickly vanishes in time for her to be shot. Her character arc was very poorly developed and never went anywhere. Her powers were also odd as they just randomly appeared for a single scene and then never showed up again. It was as if the writers needed a way to take down one of the main villains and they decided to just make this up. If the powers had transformed Oichi into a good character then I’d be okay with it. As it stands, she basically got her husband murdered and then she went down shortly afterwards.
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Tokugawa is the worst clan leader. He can’t fight for beans and he continues to work for the Devil King even when he knows that the guy is evil. Naturally Tokugawa gets back stabbed and he would have lost the battle anyway if there wasn’t any interference. While Tokugawa may try to act as if he’s not a villain, he’s just as guilty as the others if you ask me since he’s working with the villains. He may use honor as a justification, but it’s just an excuse. His main general is Tadakatsu, a giant cyborg. This guy is physically very strong and Shingen even claims that Yukimura would not be able to defeat him. I don’t buy into that and I didn’t really believe the fight either, but the general seemed like a decent character.

There’s also the wandering warrior Keiji. He’s apparently extremely strong, but prefers to goof off and enjoy life while he can. This guy is critical to uniting the various factions to oppose the Devil King as they probably would not have worked together otherwise. He’s not really my kind of character, but the show portrayed him decently well. A lot of times this character trope ends up being a lot worse. There were some other minor characters in the show like a few clan leaders who showed up out of nowhere, but they’re really not all that important. They got a little bonus OVA episode that explains their involvement a little more, but it just shows that one of them is a villain and the other is another battle hungry leader. I actually liked that guy at least. It makes sense that there are more clans across the sea, but the show really didn’t need to add these guys.

While I have some issues with the show that are coming up, they don’t really hurt the show all that much. They’re just things that the writing could have worked on and some viewers may not even notice. The only one that was a little aggravating was the fanservice that would pop up once in a while. It was pretty mild and not too frequent at least, but Kasuga was basically used purely for fanservice. Her outfit is pretty outrageous and I can’t picture a ninja actually using it. I know Marvel’s reasoning for costumes like this for assassins is that they can distract the target which makes the job easier, but that seems more like an excuse than anything else. Whenever Kasuga talks to her boss she makes exaggerated poses as she exclaims her delight. It’s a pretty sad running gag and it’s the only part of the series that has fanservice in it. Take this away and that angle would have been perfect. So, that was definitely a little unfortunate, but I realize that it certainly could have been a lot worse. At the very least, the show never puts any real emphasis on her costume aside from these moments, which could have certainly been a disaster.

One thing that the show is comically bad at is the power levels. You get glimpses of this early on, but it gets worse and worse. All right, we know that Yukimura and Masamune are about equal since all of their skirmishes are completely deadlocked and have to be interrupted. They are seen as the absolute strongest warriors even if the leaders would beg to differ. Then we get Nagamasa who is also able to match up to Masamune. Then we get Mitsuhide who has the upper hand against Masamune (He was weakened though) and later on starts to beat Yukimura. The two of them team up and Mitsuhide is still holding his own. That’s when Kojuro shows up and says that he’ll take care of it. He beats Mitsuhide pretty easily, but that shouldn’t be possible since he’s weaker right? Keiji was also shown to be at around the same level and he also took down one of the big hyped leaders.

The problem here is that the show wanted to give everyone a bunch of hype which resulted in all of them being at the same level. It just didn’t make sense and as a result some characters would suddenly look weak for no reason. Yukimura losing to the cyborg for a while in the fight didn’t work for me and Shingen looked really bad against Mitsuhide. It reminded me of LBX, but that show’s probably The most extreme when it comes to power levels so we’re not quite there yet. You’ll also just be able to tell since the visuals are so exaggerated for the two main heroes. They’re making twisters with every hit to launch hundreds of soldiers away one second, but then they can’t dodge a bullet the next. The heroes are cornered by conventional weapons at some points and it makes you wonder how this is possible. Well, that’s because the visuals are more just for entertainment. They’re not actually jumping and staying in the air for whole minutes or cleaving mountains in two, it just feels like they are. At the same time, that’d be kinda sad and some scenes don’t support this as other characters see the battle and feel the tremors. The other explanation is that they can only awaken their powers at some points like in a video game and their normal mode is just really weak. My own theory is just that the power levels are inconsistent and the writers could have handled it better.

The show made some odd decisions towards the end. The story was really good and this isn’t necessarily a negative, but the ending had a lot of cop outs. At the beginning, characters were dying left and right, which kept amping up the stakes and it felt like a show where 90% of the cast would die off and there wouldn’t be any room for a second season. I’m inclined to think that the writers just wanted more money and season 2 would give them a chance of that. As such, a ton of characters just randomly survived at the end even when it felt like they should not have. Yukimura’s boss, the ice boss, Masamune’s henchmen, they all felt rather artificial when these characters survived. Allowing them to die would have made the ending a lot more impactful. So, I think this decision did hurt the tone of season 1 a bit, but it could help season 2 a lot since not having all of these characters could have been a little tough. Even Masamune may have died if there was no season 2. Fans of these characters should also be happy since they may get a chance to fight more thanks to this.

Finally, I have to point out that the characters in this show have a very distorted version of honor. It’s an old school kind of honor where if you make a deal, you have to stick to it even if nobody else is. An example is how several heroes made a pact with the Devil King and then had to stick to it even while he was murdering their allies and stabbing people in the back. At that point, I’d say that the honorful thing to do is to stop him yourself instead of standing back and aiding him. A lot of characters were confused about that, but at least Shingen and Masamune knew better. Honor like that just isn’t worth it, but you’ll be surprised at how many characters in this series are paralyzed by it.

Sengoku Basara definitely doesn’t disappoint with the epic soundtrack. The tunes are all very high octane and full of action which makes all of the scenes that much better. Nobunaga’s theme is absolutely the best one as you’d expect. It’s very atmospheric and perfect for all of his moments. That being said, the hero themes are also really good and the battle themes are exceptional. There are also some lyrical themes which occur during big fights. Basara’s animation was also the real deal. At times it could maybe be a little too stretched out with the attacks though. It’s like watching a 90’s Marvel comic in anime format at times as it’s all very Topsy Turvy. It may seem odd at times, but overall I’d say that it worked really well. The colors are very sharp and it felt like the anime got a pretty high budget overall. At the very least, you could tell that this was as video game adaption right from the start and I do think it should embrace that fact.
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Overall, Sengoku Basara is a pretty great anime. It has a lot of action nonstop and the pacing is really good. I’ve said this many times, but that’s one of the things that I love about 12-13 episode shows. They don’t have to bother with a lot of fillers (typically) or drawn out scenes to buy time. This show just goes all in and never gives you a break to relax. The only real negative here is the fanservice which is fairly limited and the fact that the heroes have horses that they ride into battle. I didn’t really get into it, but there is one scene in particular where a horse dies and that was unfortunate. If it had happened more often, that would have definitely been enough to have really hurt the score. It’s why I heavily advocate against heroes having animals in any capacity as it usually ends up being targeted. Kind of a downer to end the review on that note, but essentially just brace yourself for that scene and the Kasuga shenanigans. Beyond that, the show really hit all of the right notes and I look forward to the next season.

Overall 8/10

Fire Emblem If: Invisible Kingdom Comic Anthology

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Looks like another anthology is being scanned. I’ll have a review for the series when all of the chapters have been scanned. It’s off to a decent start as the art is good and each story seems like it’ll get a decent amount of pages. Hopefully it can keep it up!

Overall 7/10

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Homura’s Revenge! Review

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It’s time to check out another Madoka Magica manga title. I wasn’t crazy about the first two because the art wasn’t so good and the plot wasn’t the best. This one has a much better premise and the artwork has certainly improved, but it feels like the author is worried about doing anything too drastic. The series ends up feeling like a cop-out for several reasons and while the ending is mostly satisfying, there is one element that holds it back. That’s enough foreshadowing though, lets get into the review.

The series starts with Homura failing to save Madoka yet again. She’s been through this point in time on many occasions, but no matter what Homura does differently, it all ends up being futile. This time, she decides to take Madoka back in time with her. This way Madoka will remember everything that is going to happen as well as Homura so their chances to change the future should be drastically increased. Theoretically, this plan should be foolproof right? Unfortunately, Homura made the mistake of also bringing Kyubey into the past so he knows what is going to happen as well. It’ll be a battle of wits between them and being witty has always been one of Kyubey’s strengths.

Honestly I don’t think that Kyubey should have come along for the ride. This is where the cop-out part happens. The whole point of the series is that Homura and Madoka are going to try and change things so that they can save the future this time right? Well, they fail at every turn. Mami is still murdered by the demon, Sayaka is still turned to a witch, etc. They really didn’t change anything except for at the very end with Kyoko. They did beat the monster which at least made the future a bright one, but it wasn’t good enough for Homura or for myself. What’s the point of a what if story where only the ending is changed? I was expecting more drastic changes all around, but the heroes let Kyubey mess with them the whole time.

He was constantly messing with them and tricking all of the side characters. Everyone was unreasonable which ensured that nobody listened to Madoka or Homura. I also find it a little suspect how Mami was beaten twice. Surely she would have kept her guard up after almost being eaten the first time right? Mami is supposed to be super tough and all so she really shouldn’t have lost this battle. The manga even gave her some hype as usual by giving her the edge over Homura. I still say that Homura should be able to defeat her with time hax, but Mami’s abilities are certainly better when in close quarters combat.

The other iffy part was the ending. Homura explained that even though she saved the world and Madoka this time, she would go back in time because Madoka turned into a magical girl. That seems a little extreme since she actually managed to save the day after such a long period of trying. It seems to me like she would have been content to stay this time. Ah well, it was still a good ending though. For a while there is looked like the ending would have been another failed attempt and then Homura would have to head home by her lonesome.

As mentioned earlier, the art is definitely a lot sharper this time around. It feels more like how you’d expect the show to look in manga format. The fight scenes are a lot more engaging and it was fun to see some fights that never happened in the show like Kyoko and Sayaka vs Homura. Both of their battles were pretty fun and their plan actually wasn’t half bad. Overwhelming Homura with speed is the only way to really neutralize her time stop ability and preventing her from leaving is another good strategy. Of course, Homura could have stopped them easily if she was using fatal methods, but she couldn’t since she is technically a hero. The others never gave her much of a chance to explain herself though.

I have to say that Homura and Madoka’s plan wasn’t really well thought out. They should have approached Mami together as allies instead of allowing Mami to see Homura as an enemy. Their reasoning was that they should try to get everything to happen the same way so it’ll be easier to know when to diverge, but this reasoning didn’t make sense. It was an excuse for the author not to go down a very different path. The whole point of this manga is to try and go a different path so the series should have embraced this.

You can probably tell that I was less than pleased with how this was executed. Still, missed opportunities don’t make up the whole story in this adventure. It’s still a well written title on its own and the plot is engaging. It has some pretty good action scenes and the characters are likable enough. At the very least, I’d say that Homura and Kyoko are good. Mami comes across as a little arrogant and Sayaka is just gullible. Madoka isn’t all that helpful either the whole time and Kyubey makes for a good villain with how he pushes everyone around. At only 2 volumes long, the series goes by in a flash. The pacing is never a problem and the series gets from point to point with ease.

I also just enjoy the Madoka universe so seeing the characters was fun. The atmosphere was pretty tense and the characters were all pretty serious. I could definitely see this being turned into an anime or maybe some kind of OVA. I’d take it, even if just to see Homura wreck Kyoko and Sayaka. We really needed that fight in the anime, but there’s only so much you can do in 12 episodes.

After reading the manga, it’s safe to say that the power levels are: Madoka>Homura>Mami>Kyoko>Sayaka. Now, Homura and Mami are debatable I suppose since Mami does have a lot of experience and her abilities are a nice counter to Homura’s, but they only work if she is able to land a hit before time is stopped. I don’t see that happening. Meanwhile, Kyoko’s abilities are just a poor match up for Mami’s to start with and Sayaka is just the weakest by far. She doesn’t have a lot of experience and while her regeneration is great, it does consume energy so she can’t keep it up. Each member is pretty strong in her own way though which is what makes the team so formidable. What I really want is a series where we can see the whole group team up against an enemy. That’s what I need to see and that’s why we need a manga that introduces Dark Magical Girls. The other manga title came close, but didn’t go all the way. (I’m sensing a trend here eh?) Bringing that in could make for a definitive Madoka Magica series someday.
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Overall, It’s a clear improvement over the last manga. There aren’t any new characters this time around, but the TV show was already interesting enough where a What If story is certainly welcome. There are many ways that the show could have gone after all even if this one didn’t actually step into any of those paths. I’d definitely recommend checking this out if you want to read a nice little action story. If you haven’t watched the TV show then you may not really get what is happening at some points, but you should be able to understand enough. If anything, the added mystery could help make the series more enticing to you. At this point, we just need a season 2 so there will be more material and these spinoffs can think up more adventures for the main cast. It’s been quite a while so there is no excuse not to have a second season by now.

Overall 7/10

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones Stats and Records

The game uses an old password save file system so there are no stats. That being said, the main game wouldn’t have had any either since there are no collectibles or anything like that.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones Review

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It’s time to take a look at the latest Star Wars game that I managed to beat. This game’s really short as it’s only about an hour long tops. That being said, the game’s poor level designs will ensure that the game could take you a little longer. Several levels took me more than one try, but there is one big trick that will save you a bunch of time once you learn it. Read on and I’ll explain it towards the middle of the review.

The game’s plot covers the second film. Good luck figuring out what’s happening from the cutscenes though. It’s not as if you’ll get confused or anything, but you’ll never get all that invested. You just see guys with swords fighting each other and that’s not a bad premise, but the story certainly isn’t trying very hard to be exciting. This is one of those games that you’re really supposed to be playing for the gameplay anyway. The title couldn’t even be bothered to give us any really cool screencaps in the mean time.

This game is a classic 2D beat em up. Think of the old X-Men games from back in the day and you’ll get the idea. Most levels consist of you beating up on robots and other enemies so you can move forward. Naturally, you’ll just get stopped by another group of enemies and you have to fight them as well. You need to really like the gameplay in order to be content. Honestly, I thought that the gameplay itself was pretty good. Blocking and reflecting energy blasts was a lot easier than I would have expected. The transition between attacking and reflecting is typically smooth and the only part that doesn’t work well is turning around. Do so at your own peril.

You can use a super jump when you have enough meter and you have to obtain energy orbs to use any other force abilities. You can learn the Force Push for example, but it takes a lot of energy. So, here’s the trick. Enemies will only give you force energy when you defeat them if you’re not maxed out yet. They’ll only give you health once you force is maxed out. The trick is to simply never use your Force abilities. Several levels require them and there will be moments where you need the super jump, but if you can resist the urge to use them otherwise, then you’re set. See, the tough levels were the ones where robots would constantly attack you and your health would be whittled down. It’s incredibly difficult to defeat them all without being hit after a while.

That’s where the health drops come in handy. If you haven’t been using your Force abilities, then the enemies will be dropping a lot of hearts for you to pick up. That results in an endless supply of health. If I had known about this from the start, I would have breezed through the game a lot faster. It won’t help much for some levels as the second to last one has a one hit KO attack for example. Still, it is of great value if you ask me. Don’t be intimidated by the final boss either, he looks like he’s tough stuff, but he’s actually not that bad. Hold the A button and keep alternating between low and middle strikes. Do it fast enough and he’ll be virtually helpless. This is also a good time to use your Force abilities if you haven’t done so already.

While most of the levels have the same format, there are 2-3 levels where the game turns into a 3D racer. It was a nice change of pace, but it was hard to keep up with what was going on. I just kept on turning and somehow made it to victory. On the last race I don’t even know how I won, but I guess my missile hit a weak spot or something since the win screen came up almost immediately. We take those. There are 11 levels total and each one is only a few minutes even if some feel much longer. There is absolutely no replay value since there isn’t anything to collect or achieve. The game uses a very old password based system so you don’t even get to keep a save file. This game gives you about an hour of entertainment so you really have to think about whether or not it’s worth the money.

One issue I have with the game is that there are no checkpoints. If you die, then you go all the way back to the beginning. That may not sound all that bad since the levels are short, but it’s very annoying. Keep in mind that some of the levels have you on a roller or in a set path where you have to wait for the enemies. You could end up waiting for a minute or two as you roll around in boredom. The levels like to start slow and ramp up later on which doesn’t work very well the second time around. Checkpoints would have made the game so much better and I dare say that it would have bumped the game up to a 7. It’s bold, but it definitely could have worked.

I do like beat em ups for the most part. Hyrule Warriors was amazing and I really enjoyed Devil Kings as well. I haven’t played as many 2D ones, but the X-Men game was entertaining. These titles also tend to be pretty difficult so I was ready for it. Without the health trick, I’m not sure if I could have beaten the level with the winged creatures. It was a really long one and I had to stop and grind out the health several times. I applaud anyone who can get through the level without it. The game really needed to lighten up on the repetition with these levels. If the gameplay had been worse, it could have severely hurt the game. As it stands, I enjoy taking down scores of enemies over and over again.

The graphics weren’t bad. The 3D levels tried to cram in too many things at once so the graphics did suffer quite a lot in this set up. The beat em up segments were a lot better though. While the Stormtroopers looked a lot chunkier than usual, there was a noticeable improvement here. Likewise, the soundtrack wasn’t half bad. The game over screen certainly had a pretty thematic feel to it and since we got very well acquainted during the course of the game, I was glad that it wasn’t a boring tune. I do think the developers put in some real effort to these areas of the game so I can appreciate that.

Overall, This is one of those games that you buy for a single playthrough and then it vanishes…never to be seen again. I can’t imagine buying this on launch day for 20-30 dollars, but for a few bucks? I’d say that it’s worth it. Some parts of the game are clearly low budget, but others age fairly well. The final boss was pretty neat even if it could have been annoying if I had lost more times since I’d have to replay the whole level. Luckily, button mashing never fails in this kind of game. I have a feeling that the next Star Wars game will be better or at the very least, longer. Still, this game was fun in the end and that’s what counts.

Overall 6/10