Good Scouts Review

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It’s been a while, but time to finally check out the next Disney special. Donald Duck always makes for a pretty good protagonist and this time is no different as he tries to survive the harsh elements of the great outdoors. Unfortunately, he doesn’t tie up his tent correctly so he gets splattered with honey and then a bear attacks him. Can Donald stop the bear and get back to teaching his nephews what being a professional is all about or is he doomed?

The special is super short as always, but it manages to capture the adventure rather well. The plot/pacing felt a lot tighter than usual which was really good as all of the scenes really had a purpose. When you have to tell a full story in roughly 10-12 minutes you really have to think through every scene to decide if it should be there or not. I can’t think of any scene that should have been removed. Donald was perhaps even more sputtery than usual as it could be hard to hear what he was saying, but it just increases the “Donald” effect that you like to see in his specials. His nephews were pretty solid this time around as well. They did at least try to stop Donald from nearly breaking his back on the stone tree. Perhaps they could have tried a little harder, but they did enough.

Donald also recovered from it pretty well which is why he’s such a good character. He took the whole thing in stride and even decided to play a practical joke on his nephews. It may have failed in every sense of the word and I’m not sure about the spelling of the ketchup (Was the word copyrighted back in the day?) but it showed that Donald was ready to spread the chaos. It just didn’t work this time around.

The animation is pretty fluid and consistent like you’d expect it to be. I do like these simple hand drawn days. You can tell that the animators put a lot of effort into it and I still can’t imagine drawing frame by frame. That just sounds like soooo much work. There isn’t much of a soundtrack in this one, but we get all of the classic sound effects for the chase scene. You could feel the desperation in Donald as he struggled to escape before realizing that it was all ultimately futile. There is just no running away from a big bear.

Overall, I enjoyed this special quite a bit. It’s easily one of Disney’s best shorts. The cast may have been a little smaller than usual, but it just meant that we got to see Donald more. I’m waiting for a special where he challenges Mickey to something like Basketball or Hockey so we could see his competitive side come out a little more. We know that Donald never gives up and is always bursting with confidence after all. Putting him in a situation like that would absolutely make for quite the spectacle. If you haven’t seen this special yet, then I’d advise you to do so ASAP. Prepare yourself for the somber ending though. Donald knows that he’s got to keep running because if it catches him….it’s game over.

Overall 7/10

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Azumanga Daioh Review

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It’s time to look at my first pure comedy anime as well as the first one to take an anthology style to it. Unfortunately I wouldn’t say that the mix worked too well. The series got off to a rocky start but was able to at least balance the ship by the end. It’s not the best one out there, but you’ll be used to the characters by and end and will have had a fun ride.

The plot follows a group of teenagers as they go through the various years of high school. Tomo and Yomi are already friends when the series starts, but Sakaki is a loner. The situation changes up when a little girl by the name of Chiyo shows up. She is a prodigy and got to skip enough grades to make it to high school. Another transfer student nicknamed Osaka also joins up. With the gang together, they can go on many adventures and try to achieve glory in the sports fest!

Lets quickly go with why the show had a rocky start. The anthology format is a huge warning bell for me because I just don’t like it. The concept of an anthology just sounds like a bad idea as each story is so short that you can’t fit much story into it. Some of the episodes here were split into 5-6 parts so each one was only 4-5 minutes. At first this was very jarring as nothing would happen and the segments felt like they had nothing to do with each other. I also think the writers didn’t know what to do because they acted like each 5 minute segment had to be as contained as possible. For example, if a segment had a joke, it would just keep on getting repeated and drawn out for the whole time. The show tried to limit itself to one main gag in the segment. It would even recycle animation and use a ton of stock footage to literally repeat the gag.

Another thing is that one of the few aspects where anime may lose to Western animation is in comedy. Westerns seem to prefer snappy dialogue as comedy with characters just rapid firing a ton of puns and subtle burns while anime really like having a perverse character say something crazy and then everyone either blushes or starts yelling at him. The former can be great while the latter is absolutely never funny. Daioh actually has a big problem trying to be funny throughout. I feel like the vast majority of the jokes didn’t work because either they were never funny from the start or they were dragged out way too long. That’s why it couldn’t really pick up til the second half where it started to get more of a plot or at least longer segments.

For now, one last problem is that the series is extremely low budget. I wouldn’t be surprised if the series originally debuted as 5 minute shorts behind various shows and was eventually compiled into a series. It would actually make a lot of sense with how I said that each segment limited itself to effectively one scene/joke. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show with as much recycled animation as this one. The animation can be decent at times, but usually it is satisfied with as few motions as possible. You’ll notice a lot of times that if there are two characters on screen only one will move at a time. If two are talking on screen, they’ll each only use one mouth animation which continuously loops. So, I think the show just didn’t have a budget. Sure, there aren’t any action scenes so I guess it didn’t need much of one, but it should have at least gotten enough to reasonably bluff through it.

Now, here’s why the second half was better. For starters, they gave Kimura a shorter role. Kimura was one of the reasons why the humor was hit hard as his moments were just really bad. He would make scenes tougher to watch by making inappropriate comments and pointing attention to what the characters were wearing. He took advantage of his position constantly so he could be around. The show didn’t really have much in the way of fanservice but by going to the pool and trying to create it, that sort of defeated the purpose. The fact that he is still a teacher is appalling and every scene with him just reminded me of this fact. He was never completely written out, but he didn’t do a whole lot after the opening episodes. After that, the only iffy moments left where when the characters would have quick remarks about someone’s chest and those were slight in comparison. While the show show is pretty fun for the most part, he made it hard to enjoy the early episodes. As I said those just had issues with pacing and writing, but they certainly didn’t need more problems. Without Kimura the show would have definitely jumped up a star and possibly 2.

The next reason why the second half was better is that it had less segments. Episodes would be able to have a longer plot and the segments actually did continue from each other. The characters finally had goals like getting to college or studying for it. The last few episodes were all consistent in this regard. The show also stopped relying on one joke since it had plot to cover. Most of the characters stayed pretty much the same throughout the years, but Sasaki got a considerable amount of development by the end. It was a little hard to like her at first because she is extremely quiet and spends 90% of her time blushing at various animals or anything that she finds adorable. It’s cool to like animals, but it just made for a very limited personality. By the end of the series she starts to speak up more and blush less. She becomes a lot more open about playing with the animals and had a nice bond with Chiyo. She stuck up for the kid during the final sports fest when the other teens started to mock her. It was a nice friendship between them.

Chiyo is effectively the main character even if she doesn’t always feel like it. She’s rich and a genius so that makes it easy for her to be at the top of this class as well. She’s probably the nicest character of the group and constantly tries to get everyone to get along. They make it difficult though since bickering is what they do best, but all in good fun. Chiyo invites everyone to her summer home each year and is certainly popular in the classroom. She gets traumatized after a certain car trip and doesn’t do too well at the sport competitions since she technically is just a kid but Chiyo always tries her best. She’s a nice all around character.

Osaka is a total space case as she can’t think about something for more than a minute. As a result her mind is always wavering and she says random, abstract things at times. She finds studying to be pointless because she won’t remember what she looked at anyway. Osaka is a nice enough character. She’s one of the weaker members of the main cast, but she is a nice contrast from the others. I also like how bold she is like when she decided to take a nap right after getting to Chiyo’s place even though everyone was supposed to study.

Tomo is one of my favorite characters. She was surpassed by Kagura by the end, but Tomo always kept it close. Tomo is very loud and overconfident. She doesn’t do well in school but brags about it instead of stressing. She’s constantly sabotaging the team and failing to win when it counts. She’s effectively trolling the main cast throughout and even rubs it in when something goes wrong for the others. She has fun teasing them all but it encourages the team to try harder. It was infinitely satisfying when she got accepted to college before Yomi since the latter had constantly insulted her and studied so hard. You don’t need to study when you have good intuition ya know? Tomo certainly made all of the interactions more fun.
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Yomi is the most boring member of the group. She effectively plays the straight man in this series as she doesn’t understand any of the jokes and is always wondering what everyone is doing. She studies hard and doesn’t mess around like the others. Yomi tries to act mature for her age and everything but as a result she never seems to really have any fun. This act that she puts up also results in her getting sick before the big amusement park vacation so that one was really all her fault when you think about it.

Kagura is the best character and it’s mainly because of how competitive she is. Kagura is always trying to surpass Sakaki. Honestly it’s like the whole Goku vs Vegeta thing, but even more sad. Sakaki never actually trains or exercises at all while Kagura trains 24/7. Yet, Kagura can never manage to beat Sakaki….at anything. Kagura really deserves the win, but at least she continues trying and never holds it against Sakaki. She’s actually happy when Sakaki wins as it means she just needs to train more. Kagura didn’t become a main character until the first time skip in the series, but from then on she stole the show. She’s essentially Tomo if Tomo was actually good at something and is a little less extreme. She certainly doesn’t mock the others or try to sabotage anything. The two of them do get along quite well though as they both aren’t great at school work. I guess Kagura couldn’t be perfect at everything right?

Kaori is sort of one of the main characters, but she always got the shaft next to the others. Her role is just a whole lot smaller and in the second half her only role is to get harassed by Kimura. I never liked her though as her subplot is that she is admires Sakaki and has a hard time trying to talk to her. It gets old before it even begins. Finally we have the two teachers. Yukari is the main one. She doesn’t like being a teacher and doesn’t hesitate to let the kids know this. I dare say that most of her scenes are the ones that are legitimately funny. At least most of the examples I can think of involve her in some capacity. She’s effectively terrible at her job which is her character arc. Yukari is definitely crazy and she doesn’t mind manipulating her students if it will let her win the contest. I can respect her drive to win even if it’s always hard against Nyamo’s squad.

Nyamo is the other teacher and she is an example of a perfect teacher. She supports her students and is also really good at all things athletic. That being said, she can’t really handle the rowdy things that Yukari likes so if she starts drinking then things get tricky. Nyamo is fun enough. She’s not quite as interesting as Yukari but she doesn’t shut down all of the jokes like Yomi. She does a much better job of bouncing off of the moments such as when she got revenge on Yukari for mocking her students by stealing her money. (Granted, she wasn’t “stealing” it because Yukari owed her money for something else)

An example of one of the jokes that I did like was the donation box. The kids forgot to get Yukari a gift and she was pretty obvious about it so the gang decided to bring her a donation box and then they would throw nickels in it. Yukari didn’t take it well, but it was a pretty fun scene as everyone approached the box very grudgingly. A scene that was more random than anything was when this cat creature would appear. He claims to be Chiyu’s father and only shows himself once in a while. He may have some special abilities, but he’s so abstract that you don’t really need to worry about him.

One big plot that actually had an ending was the cat that would always bite Sakaki when she was in the neighborhood. She certainly fell for its tricks many times, but only once at the end. Fortunately she got her own cat guardian which stopped the bullies from messing with her. I guess the cat was just a mean person because even at the end it seemed to have a grudge with Sakaki. The gag was a little overused in the early episodes, but it was handled a lot better by the end. I also am glad that Sakaki got her own cat since it really helped give her some kind of payoff for being bitten so often.

While the animation was quite limited it did have some good shots. I liked the chibi style it would use when characters gave a thumbs up or be in the background agreeing on something. Their arms would turn into noodles at times and it was a better effect than in some other shows. It doesn’t really make up for all of the stock footage but the actual animation certainly wasn’t bad. It may be more that the character designs were simply solid, but it’s hard to say. The soundtrack isn’t very good though. It’s also quite limited/repetitive and I would have liked a little more variety.

Even if the comedy may not always have been on point, one thing you can say for the series is that is was pretty much always fun. The negatives I have with the show don’t involve language or being super dark/violent. At the very least you can always leave the show feeling happy since it is so lighthearted. It’s one thing that I always like about uplifting shows because they should be enjoyable to watch. The characters are always having fun even if things don’t really work out. If there’s any reason I’d recommend watching it, this is the main one. To that end, I actually do tend to like slice of life shows. Sonic Boom is a great example of one that’s currently airing and to date it is the best in that genre. It perfectly pulls it off every episode and I dare say that it is the greatest comedy of all time even if that is a little bold. The show hasn’t ended yet so we’ll see if it can keep that up.

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Overall, Azumanga Daioh was somewhat limited from the anthology style it had, but I suppose it was to be expected since the manga was close to a 4 koma at times. Still, with full sized episodes I think it would have been more fun. The cast was solid though and even if you’re skeptical of the show at first you should be able to get on board by the end. After all, that’s one of the points of being a full show, by the end you should be used to the characters which will make the series more enjoyable. You’ll see the characters develop over the 3 years they’re at school so surely you’ll be a fan of at least one by the end.

Overall 5/10

Zamasu vs Kirito



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Suggested by Random Kirito is a famous swordsman who figured out that if you die in Sword Art Online, you die in real life. He had an impressive amount of speed and technique. That being said, it simply won’t be enough to claim victory here. Zamasu is simply too powerful and could just end the planet on a whim. It wouldn’t even be that much of a challenge for him. He also surpasses Kirito in speed. Zamasu wins.

Sonic vs Gamera




Suggested by Anonymous Gamera is a very inspiring monster. He protects the kids from alien invaders and manages to crack a smile once in a while. That being said, Sonic is even more inspiring as he makes the tough calls to keep everyone safe. He has a witty one liner for every occasion and isn’t afraid to break them out. His high speed skills speak for itself. Gamera will ultimately have a very tough time trying to land a hit on Sonic and you can’t win if you don’t deal damage. Sonic wins.

Armorknight Demon vs Demon Inzaidi


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Suggested by Sonic Armorknight Demon is a pretty cool monster. It’s got a nice design and isn’t too shabby in a fight either. That being said, I don’t think he’ll be a match for Demon Inzaidi when you really think about it. Inzaidi can summon an Armorknight Demon on his own so the two will be evenly matched and then the knight will be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. This isn’t really a battle that he can win, only one that he can lose. Demon Inzaidi wins.

Broly vs Punk




Suggested by Destroyer Punk is a pretty strong fighter but he won’t be able to keep up with Broly. As cool and as fast as Punk is, Broly is just a whole lot faster and stronger. One Kamehameha would be enough to take this guy down. Broly doesn’t let his guard down during a fight so Punk won’t even have any openings to land an attack. Broly wins.

Pokemon Go Update

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Time for an update guys! I have finally reached the elusive level 39! Now I just have one level to go until I have maxed out and completed a major part of the game. Completing the Pokedex will be the other big mission left at that point. Conversely I have also managed to capture Articuno (X4) and Lugia. It feels good to be able to activate the top tier Legendary pockets when necessary.

Fairy Tail Review

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It’s time to review another really long running manga. Unfortunately, this one is a far cry from the brilliance of Bleach. It’s almost the polar reverse if we’re being honest. While Fairy Tail originally wasn’t half bad, it slowly devolved into pure fanservice which completely overrode all of the positives. In an alternate dimension, Fairy Tail could have been an awesome manga series with action scenes that were up there with the best of them. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be and it ended as one of the biggest train wrecks in manga history!

You know, since Fairy Tail always put fanservice over plot, I’ll do the same thing and discuss this big negative before I even get into the synopsis. Lets face it, if you know Fairy Tail, you only know about it because of the fanservice. Its entire reputation is built on it and that’s why it has such a negative fan following. I’ pretty glad to see that since the series absolutely deserves it. As I mentioned, it didn’t have much fanservice at first. The series played it straight. Then sometime around the tournament arc or maybe a bit sooner, it just started being more and more frequent. Characters were constantly getting stripped or even strip tortured for added grimace effect. It just got quite extreme to the point where you couldn’t go a single chapter without some kind of fanservice moment. By the end I knew that it was so much that no positive could over ride it. For the majority of the final arc and then some, the series was guaranteed a 1. It didn’t matter how great the climax could have been, its fate was sealed. The climax wasn’t even good anyway so that did not help matters.

So the general plot of the series is that there are various guilds. They’re essentially teams of bounty hunters who accept requests to beat monsters, stop robbers, and other day to day stuff for a reward. The main group is Fairy Tail as you might imagine and they are known as a pretty crazy group who will take on any mission. They are legendary as everyone knows them and yet they apparently are still outgunned by all of the big groups. Fortunately, Fairy Tail has one thing that the other groups do not possess- Friendship! Natsu and friends will use this overwhelming advantage to completely dominate the opposition.

There are a bunch of arcs and plots throughout the series but we’ll just look at a few of them. The first really big arc was the Phantom Lord one. The gang arrived home only to find out that their Guild had been destroyed and their teammates were completely beaten up. Natsu and the others decided to take the other guild down as payback and that led to a bit brawl between the guilds. Phantom Lord built himself a pretty strong team so stopping him was no easy task. This was slightly before the fanservice started getting too bad if I’m remembering right so it was a decently solid arc.

Edolas was an interesting arc since the heroes found themselves in a parallel dimension where they all had doppelgangers. That’s always been a pretty classic setup so I was all for that. The other dimension didn’t really have magic and everyone was super weak so I think they dropped the ball on that one quite a bit. The Promotion trial arc was also pretty solid since a bunch of enemies showed up to interrupt this big festival and it was the first time we got to see big guns like Gildarts and the other big shots get in on the action. The Grand Magic Games was a similar arc as the team decided to enter a big tournament to test their skills and restore Fairy Tail’s honor. The arc may have taken itself a little too seriously at times as they were all humiliated and didn’t take it well, but who actually likes losing anyway right? The battles were pretty fierce, but the arc was very fanservicey which hurt. All of the arcs suffer from this by the end so take it as a given.

Then we would finally enter the final two big arcs. The first one had the big demons come from Zeref’s book to try and destroy the heroes. All of these villains were extremely tough so defeating them wasn’t easy. By this point we started to see old characters show up to help out and it became more of a big crossover title. This arc was easily one of the most epic ones with high stakes. Finally you had the big war arc. Zeref decides to destroy everyone once and for all which makes for a very explosive arc. Every character in the series joins up so it gets quite chaotic. A very intense way to end the series even if the author seemed not to care anymore by this point. The hype and epic scenes really added up here. I can’t really say what my favorite arc is, but it’d probably be one of the early ones. Maybe the promotion exam.

Surprisingly, friendship is actually a big part of the manga. It leads to a bunch of plot holes as well though. See, the heroes are constantly put up against opponents who vastly outrank them. They are stronger, faster, and have better abilities. Rather than have the characters train and stuff, they simply just harness the power of friendship and win. It happens on many, many occasions. Erza had all of her bones broken during one fight, but with the power of friendship she jumped up and broke a meteor anyway. The villains get so moved during the fights that they either turn good or literally destroy themselves. Almost no villain stays evil by the end of the series and they manage to turn over a new leaf. That part is fun even if it is a little hard to swallow. Some of these guys were so pure evil that when they smile and talk about friendship it’s hard to take seriously. Like are these guys really buying into the whole ordeal so enthusiastically or are they messing with everyone?

At one point people made a bingo board for the final arc because of over the top it all was. Just about everything came true except for Happy saving everyone at the end. I admit that Fairy Tail was usually pretty funny even if it was certainly unintentional. Don’t expect any character to die either. Characters get the death flags constantly but always manage to survive. If they die it is usually just for a few chapters and then it is quickly reversed. The manga is always very dramatic, but the stakes rarely feel too real. The biggest cop out was when Natsu had to make a decision between being a dragon, human, or demon and basically just didn’t decide because he had friendship on his side. The friendship was enough to cure him so he could be all 3 if he wanted too. That was a little hard to buy and that’s just one example of many. Still, the series does take itself seriously, it’s just that it’s hard to believe the writing sometimes. It’s just pretty bad a lot of the time.

At least the art is really good. I mean, that’s actually kind of bad considering that the series uses it for all of the wrong reasons, but at least it also makes the fight scenes look really good. It’s a shame because it actually is high tier art. It really helps you feel the energy blasts and physical attacks from the various characters. It worked quite smoothly and it also helps you remember the characters right away. The author did a good job of not reusing character designs.

Natsu is your classic protagonist who is always up for a fight and tries to be heroic. The main problem with him is that he takes the worst qualities from characters like Luffy and Goku without getting enough of their positive ones. He’s not very smart and is quick to give the OK to Happy’s crazy schemes. He doesn’t mind using Lucy if it’ll help the mission and his motion sickness causes him to be a comic relief character quite a lot. He does have his serious moments too of course and they are handled rather well. Breaking into Sting’s base and taking on the boss was one of the most intense moments in the series. Still, Natsu could be far better. He never really escapes his generic self and while you can root for him in a fight, he’s just not in the same ballpark as someone like Ichigo or Goku. I do like the fact that he has fire abilities though since a lot of protagonists actually don’t have that. His super forms are all pretty sharp as well and I suppose I can get behind the fact that he makes some good friendship speeches during his fights.
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Happy is Natsu’s sidekick and one of the weaker characters in the series. He’s always messing with Lucy and trying to get her into very suspect schemes just for the thrills. He seems to just like irritating her so he’s not in the same vein as someone like Master Roshi, but it’s all still very extreme so I just didn’t like him at all. By the time he tries to get serious it is way too late and he can’t even fight so it’s not like he is ever very helpful.

Lucy is the main heroine. She’s a nice enough person, but Lucy definitely puts up with way too much harassment from the rest of the cast. It seems like everyone is after her at times and unfortunately she barely even feels like a character at times since the series uses her for fanservice so often. Theoretically that shouldn’t affect her personality but since she never makes a real effort to tell everyone to back off I have to say that she is just not strong willed enough to be likable. Lucy also can’t really fight, but she can summon spirits which help her in combat. The ability is quite limited though so she can’t really compete as the series goes on.

Lets talk about the better supporting characters for a minute. Erza is one of the best in the series and was known as one of the stronger characters from the start. She managed to stay ahead of Natsu and Gray for a very long time which is quite impressive. She is a master swordswoman with incredible stamina and defense. She can endure a lot of injuries like getting all of her bones broken and probably takes more punishment than any of the others. She has a variety of different swords and armors which grant her different abilities. Erza is always eager for a fight and managed to make a difference in all of the arcs. She never got overshadowed even at the very end.

My favorite character in the whole series is definitely Gray as he manages to edge out Erza and Acnologia for that spot. He’s an ice type user so as you’d guess he is Natsu’s rival. He is always fighting with Natsu as they exchange insults and all, but it’s in good fun. Gray’s gimmick of constantly taking off his shirt could have been dicey, but it was handled fairly well. (As well as that kind of plot can be handled I suppose) He does have a habit of trying to use his suicide ice attack which destroys him and the opponent, but since this is Fairy Tail it never works out for him. Gray probably gets a little too desperate at times, but he does always try to make sure he protects his friends. He gets a lot of really hype moments and just really stole the show. If anything, I wish he could have fought a little more in the final arc. He never actually got to match up against Acnologia which is a huge missed opportunity if you ask me.

Gajeel is another rival to Natsu, but one that I couldn’t take seriously. For starters, he was completely evil when he was in the other guild, but “turned good” in the blink of an eye and nobody seemed to care. He strung up some of Natsu’s friends crucifixion style at their base, but it was yesterday’s news. I wasn’t thrilled at how quickly he became one of the gang with comic relief moments and everything. From there, I just never felt like he caught up to Natsu either or that he was even in the same ballpark. I suppose he is meant to be, but I just wasn’t seeing it. From Natsu’s rivals (Gray, Sting, etc) he is definitely the weakest one. He has metal powers so he can make himself more durable and it can also be used as a projectile. It’s not a bad power to have.

Juvia is one of the main heroines of the series and she is a water type user. Her attacks are quite potent as you’d expect since she can drown her opponents and affect the weather itself. Once she is a hero she doesn’t get to fight quite as much, but Juvia is always around. She’s another character who is always willing to make the tough calls to help someone out and really helps Gray out in some of his tougher battles.

Wendy is one of the legendary dragon slayers like Natsu and Gajeel. She looks like a kid because she never got her growth spurt which leads to her always getting annoyed at everyone for pointing this out. She’s typically a chipper character though who is always upbeat and willing to find a peaceful solution to a problem. She has wind powers and more importantly she can heal injuries as well. There are very few healers in the series so the others are lucky to have her. She got a Super Saiyan esque form towards the end of the series which was immensely valuable and helped her catch up to the others in the power department. Like Natsu, Wendy has a partner named Carla. Carla is much better than Happy as she actually does a good job of being a partner by offering sound battle strategies and tips to Wendy. She is also a lot more serious and would have absolutely down voted all of Happy’s plans if he tried them on Wendy.

Mavis is the original leader of Fairy Tail and quite a historic figure in the series. She gets a lot of hype, but can’t really fight. Technically she is dead (Frozen solid so maybe not totally dead) before the series even starts, but she is effectively immortalized as a spirit. She comes and goes as she pleases and still retains her illusion magic. It’s pretty powerful stuff and since she is the best tactician in the series the heroes use her plans quite a bit. I just wish she could have had more offensive magic. She’s a fun character and partially thanks to her well done spinoff manga, I can say that she is one of the better characters in the series.
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Makarov is the current leader of Fairy Tail. He retires pretty often if you ask me, but usually finds himself back in the chair at some point or other. He can be annoying at times as he follows the rules quite a lot. He is definitely ready for a fight when one of the team is kidnapped, but on the whole he is too laid back. He rarely gets into fights and he has one of the worst fights in the final arc. He gets to go up against nameless minions. How impressive for the group leader eh? I expect better from this guy. He is seen as one of the strongest members and all, but I was never too impressed with him. It helps that I never liked the whole “I can turn into a giant!” ability. He could have used more speed if you ask me.

Hades is one of the first big villains. He’s fairly generic as far as personality goes, but I suppose he was all right. He had a decent design I guess and he did give us a good fight scene. He was very overshadowed by the villains who would arrive later on, but as a first big boss he wasn’t bad. He reminded me of Zabuza in the sense that it was the first time the kids got to fight a boss on the level of their sensei. This is almost the same situation as the team has to fight someone who is on par with Makarov. With a name like Hades, you certainly do expect great things.

Zeref is the big villain of the whole series. He seems to show up in every arc as he says ominous things and walk away. He’s the big mastermind behind just about everything and his ability is fierce. Everything around him dies. If he is standing next to you, then you’ll just suddenly die. If you have a strong life force it’ll happen a little slower as you accelerate through the years, but there is just no defense against it aside from the power of friendship. Zeref essentially wants someone to destroy him because otherwise he’ll end up destroying the world. It’s actually a pretty tragic plot if you think about it as Zeref keeps on creating extremely powerful demons and weapons, but none of them are strong enough to defeat him. The strongest of these monsters are Natsu and the Book of END demons, but even they are too weak. Only Acnologia stands a chance and by then Zeref has given up. Instead, his big plan is to become all powerful so he can go back in time and destroy himself so he’ll never have had the chance to hurt so many people. At the same time, Natsu and friends can’t let this happen because then their current memories would disappear. Also, no matter the reason, they can’t just let him die that way. Zeref’s definitely still a villain through and through as his plan involves destroying a ton of people even if he plans to bring them back someday. He did a good job of avoiding people for decades, but I suppose he couldn’t hide out forever. It really is a sad existence.

Laxus is one of the big hype members of Fairy Tail. He has electric abilities and his status got to his head at one point so he became one of the big antagonists of the series. He doesn’t do much after turning good, but he’s a reasonably solid character I suppose. The betrayal still felt so random at the beginning. This is one of those characters that I think the author could have done a little more with to be honest. Same with Gildarts. Gildarts is known as the strongest Fairy Tail member and he got some insane hype. Then he only got a small handful of battles during the series and none of them were against the big threats. His fight against August was fairly good I suppose, but even then he was basically losing. I don’t think he ever quite lived up to his own hype and that’s the problem about waiting so long to have the character to anything. Enough’s enough after a while and the extra hype just starts to get you worried about when the character will actually do anything. Gildarts is also a big flirt who is irresponsible the whole time so that also hurt my opinion of him quite a lot. He’s a bad character.

Mirajane is a Fairy Tail member who can turn into a demon. She’s usually a really nice person, but gets a lot meaner and more aggressive once she transforms. Her demon modes are pretty cool and each of them come with cool stat upgrades. She’s a character who never got a lot of screen time compared to the main characters, but she actually did well when she got a chance. I can’t really recall her losing a major fight. She was likely defeated at some point, but for the most part she did a great job of always coming through when it counted.

Jellal is one of the mysterious figures of the series. He starts out kind of evil as he wants revenge on everybody and eventually becomes an anti hero before becoming a total hero. He also has an alternate universe version of himself that starts out as a hero. He’s a reasonable character for the most part although his romance with Erza is pretty bad from the start. He was also another character who was lost in the shuffle as he assembled a big team of hype characters for the final arc, but they were all taken out off screen. He likes to work alone so that he didn’t cause any trouble for the heroes, but it felt like he never really accomplished anything. He did his best to stop Acnologia and bought a little time, but it didn’t really help much. His super speed Meteor attack and the ones that he can shoot make him a fairly powerful opponent so he’s got that going for him. I also thought he had a pretty good design. While he’s not the best of characters, I didn’t really mind him as a rival.
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Cana is the drunk of Fairy Tail and that’s her main character. She doesn’t do much besides that for most of the series. She helps out in the fight against August and has a big moment near the end where she learns some of the Ancient Fairy magic, but boy does she get the shaft in this series. I’m pretty okay with that since her running gag of fanservice with Lucy was pretty bad and she never has on much of a costume to begin with. She did help the series give us a lot of “It’s Miller Time” moments though so there’s that.

Elfman is probably the blandest member of Fairy Tail and it’s easy to forget that he exists. His whole character is that he’s really strong, but also a nice guy deep down. He comes through for his friends and basically manages to beat much stronger opponents just because he believes in friendship. Sure, you could say the same for many characters, but he’s just so weak that it’s really hard to take him seriously. He stretches the credibility of the moment every time he appears and I just never ended up liking him at all. He doesn’t even have any real bad qualities, there just isn’t anything cool about him.

Jose was a big villain of one of the early arcs, but I can’t really remember him much. What I do remember I can’t really differentiate from Hades so there’s not much to say about this guy. I can’t even say if I like him or not, but if you’re called the Phantom Lord you’ve got to be good right? Cobra is one of the dragon slayers, but not only does he not get a lot of hype, but he never seemed particularly powerful next to the others. He’s such a minor character that I forgot he even existed for a while. He technically has some decent stats and all, but the other slayers are just in another league and he doesn’t get to do much against Acnologia. The series practically breaks the third wall with him as he states that he also has friends to protect, but doesn’t even get a flashback. Meanwhile the rest of the characters are talking about friendship and we’ve seen their bonds throughout the whole series. It’s kind of sad for Cobra.

Ultear is a pretty good villain. She gets into quite a few fights with Gray thanks to their backstory. She’s pretty confident at all times and is capable in a fight. She can control time and even unlock the true abilities that a person possesses within them. This makes her a good fighter as well as a good support member to have at the ready. Her jump from villain to hero was more believable than most of the others and was also handled a lot smoother. Meredy is another strong warrior who can link two people’s senses. This is unfortunately an ability that rarely guarantees victory as it just brings about mutual destruction. If one person feels pain than so does the other so it becomes a battle of who is more durable. The injuries are also linked and this makes for a battle that both combatants won’t enjoy. Honestly, it’s a power that I’d never want to have to be honest, but it’s nice to have when you’re a hero. There are so many great applications for it like being able to feel like you’re eating two different things at once.

Mard Geer was one of the strongest villains in the entire series. Gray and Natsu had to team up to take him on and even then they were just barely able to overpower him. He had a pretty fun personality and his arrogance made the battle more enjoyable. He has thorn abilities so he can hit you with plants and then his demon mode made him a very fierce physical fighter. It had a nice design and just felt like a final boss. In that respect, only Zeref and Acnologia could match him which makes sense since they were the only two big bosses after him.

Kyoka is one of the big members of the END Demons, but she’s not a good villain. She likes torturing her opponents and revels in the pain that she causes. It makes for a terrible sequence with Erza that was one of the low points of the series. She can fight decently well aside from all of that and had a decent design, but just doesn’t make for a good villain. It’s not like you ever end up hoping for her fight to come. Jackal was a good villain though. He was essentially the vanguard of his villain grouip as he attacked first and took on Natsu in an epic fight. While he was seemingly nerfed later on, it was a very impressive opening scene. It started the arc out with a bang and may have been one of the first big fights of the series. He reminded me of Grimmjow a little and I was definitely impressed with him throughout. He was a surprise hit.

Silver is Gray’s father and appears out of nowhere towards the end of the series. There are a lot of plot twists during that fight, but suffice it to say, Silver made for a good villain. His reasoning by the end was pretty wonky, but I suppose when you have everyone jumping from villain to hero, some of the occasions will end up being a little sketchy. This was one of those, but as long as we get the fight I’m good.

Finally we’ve made it to Acnologia, the big bad of the series. You knew he was serious from the start when he managed to take out the whole cast in a single shot. They only survived thanks to a bunch of convenient things occurring at the same time. The characters never quite got up to his level and Acnologia was just in another class. He was able to take on all of the Dragon Slayers teaming up without any effort at all. His conversion to the good side was probably the most cheesy though. He went from talking about bathing in blood and murdering everyone to friendship in the very next chapter. He also ended up going down in one punch which was extremely plot haxy. I think the author just made him way too strong and didn’t think about what to do afterwards. This is a running theme throughout the series. Acnologia is definitely the best villain in Fairy Tail despite this and you always knew that things were going to get real when he showed up.
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August is one of the big fighters in the final arc. He gets a lot of hype and is strong enough to even take on Gildarts. That being said, he has one of the worst ends as he ends up destroying himself. He had a slightly better reason than Irene at least as he finally learned who his mother was and had to destroy himself to stop his spell from destroying the planet. He didn’t completely turn good or anything like that, but it was a good enough reason for him to stop the attack. It was just completely anticlimactic and not how you want to see a big villain go down.

Irene is Erza’s mother and another villain who got a bunch of hype. She was easily overwhelming both Wendy and Erza during the fight. Unfortunately, she also ended up destroying herself instead of finishing the job. She saw the power of friendship and was inspired so she had to end her wicked ways. This is one of the main reasons why the final arc became a joke. If the villains are all destroying themselves or any other villains in their path…then what’s even the point? The heroes couldn’t stop them and the author had to choose one of the worst ways to end it. Irene’s origin story is also unnecessarily dark to the extreme.

Larcade was an okay villain. He never really gets to fight Natsu which is unfortunate, but he has a pretty good fight with Sting. There are a lot of plot hax with his fight but that’s to be expected. His powers are also pretty iffy as he can essentially make you feel great joy to the max during a fight which makes you distracted and unable to fight. It’s a pretty creepy power to be honest but fortunately it wouldn’t work on many main characters due to its limitation. I didn’t really mind him as I liked the lore and his character design, but the power was certainly a let down.

Serena is another big villain who has the power of 8 Dragon Slayers. I actually mixed him up with Larcade quite a bit because their character designs are way too similar. He couldn’t live up to the hype too well since he had the misfortune of going up against Acnologia, but the series did make it clear that he was a formidable threat. I believe that the main Fairy Tail squad of Natsu and friends would have certainly had a lot of trouble with him and maybe they would have even been defeated. For what it’s worth I did think he was a pretty good villain.

Brandish is able to alter the size of her opponents and herself. These kinds of abilities are usually not seen as a threat so kudos to Fairy Tail for using it in a way where she was able to be one of the big threats. It loses that credit almost instantly though as she quickly becomes an ally who is extremely weak and can’t even stand up to her subordinates. Ah well, I suppose the series made an attempt. Invel is essentially Zeref’s right hand man although his role isn’t nearly as big as you might expect. It’s a fairly small role and I don’t recall him doing anything of importance. His ice abilities are certainly powerful though as he was able to give Gray a good fight. Not just anybody can pull off such a feast. Invel may be a little generic as a tactician, but he performs the role well so I have no complaints.

Ajeel is a sand user who is incredibly powerful as he had the upper hand against Natsu and Erza. Having sand abilities always seemed pretty useful to me since they are so versatile and Ajeel supports that argument. It’s just really tough to even land a hit on him thanks to his impressive speed. He was one of the first guys to fight in the final arc and you can draw a lot of similarities between him and Jackal.

Lyon was one of Gray’s original rivals. He never quite kept up though so he doesn’t do much for the second half of the series. His ice abilities are solid, but after a while everyone’s ice abilities just feel more or less like the same thing. Lyon needed some kind of edge to surpass the others and he just never got it. Sting was one of Natsu’s rivals and he did a better job of staying relevant. At the very least, he was around to help against Mad Geer and while he started out antagonistic, he eventually became one of the allies. His turn around wasn’t too cheesy as he never seemed all that ruthless and he was very strong. The scene where he almost took on the whole Fairy Tail squad at once was hype. Too bad the power of friendship brought him to his knees without a single punch being thrown. Sting may never get to surpass Natsu, but I can respect his abilities.

Rogue is essentially Sting’s counter part. Instead of light blasts he uses the shadows. He’s slightly weaker than Sting, but still a really powerful warrior in his own right. The two fighters can even combine their powers to make themselves even stronger. He never had as much personality though and can be hard to trust since his future self ended up turning evil at some point. No worries, his present self will not go down that dark path.

There are several dragons in the series, but Igneel is the only one who really got a role. As far as mentor figures go, I was never too impressed with him. He had a pretty decent fight with Acnologia and he is certainly strong, but he stayed away from the action for way too long. The whole series you’re wondering when he’s going to do something and it takes him too long. I wasn’t too satisfied with the reason for why all of the dragons seemingly died many years ago either. It was an odd decision and the many plot twists that followed made the situation more complicated than necessary.
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Minerva is a skilled fighter who started out as one of the meanest Sabertooth members, but eventually grew to be an ally. She was able to get between Natsu and Jiemma which is no small feat and consistently hid her abilities until the time was right. In close quarters combat she proved to be a match for Kagura and Erza as well so throw in her projectiles and you really have a versatile fighter on your hands. She made for a pretty good villain. Jiemma is a fairly minor villain in comparison, but he gave us one of the most epic batch of fight scenes in the manga so that was cool. As a character he is definitely pretty bad though and is just another “Everyone needs to be strong!” character as he values power above all else. Too bad he didn’t realize that three of his subordinates had already surpassed him.

That was a bunch of characters, but in a series this long that is to be expected right? It managed to get over 60 volumes of course so that was plenty of time for a bunch of different arcs. You really get used to all of the characters during that stretch of time as well. It may be a meme to say that you read Fairy Tail for the plot, but honestly it was pretty good. As I mentioned, there were a ton of really hype moments. Take away the fanservice and this is easily a 9 star manga title. The art was downright amazing and one of the best in the business. The fact that Natsu is a close up fighter makes his fights more engaging since they’re like those that you find in Reborn!. I always like seeing a character who can move at super speeds and virtually fly by the end. It’s a lot more fun than projectile fighters even if their battles can be fun as well.

Since you get used to the characters and there is a lot of foreshadowing for some villains, it also makes the payoff seem that much more grand. After seeing Zeref get hyped up for over 50 volumes, it was really cool to see him fight at last. There are also so many volumes that it lends itself well to a re read since I can barely even remember most of the early arcs to be honest. The tournament and the final arc are easily the most memorable ones to me. Even considering the fact that plot hax was constant and that the villains all kept turning good or destroying themselves, it was easy to stay invested in the story. While it could be cheesy, the whole power of friendship thing was just a lot of fun.

The author built up a very detailed universe with cool power standings and a lot of guilds all over the place. By the end of the series, there were enough pieces on the board to properly do a good invasion arc. You can’t really pull something like that off without being a series that has run for at least 40 volumes. It’s why Naruto and Bleach were able to do it so well since they had also developed everyone by then. One Piece did a reasonably sized one as well in Marineford, but much smaller in scope. That’s a series that could certainly do a big war arc and I’d love to see that be the finale. Hopefully they make the power levels a bit better for those though so there’s less plot hax.

That’s what really makes the manga so disappointing. It’s one thing for a title like Black Bird to sink its own grave because even if you take away the terrible romance and such, the series wasn’t going to be very good anyway. I doubt it would even reach a 5. So to have a series that is actually really good with a lot of effort behind it get completely destroyed because of all the fanservice, now that’s a tragic shame. Especially since it had such a modest beginning. What’s done is done though.

Finally, how was the ending? Well, it’s basically what you’d expect. It goes with a generic time skip, we get pairings for just about everyone (Romance always was a priority for the series) and you probably could have accurately predicted the ending quite a while ago. It’s not as bad as it could have been honestly. It was a fitting way to end and I’m sure that nobody is really going to be walking about it. People will remember the series, but the ending has nothing that will really wow you.

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Overall, It’s really a shame, but Fairy Tail dug its own grave. There was just no way the manga could redeem itself. It prioritized fanservice and that led to its destruction. I certainly can’t recommend this manga since there are plenty of epic titles that don’t resort to such tricks. Stick to classic titles like Dragon Ball Z or Bleach if you want a lot of epic scenes without the negatives that surround Fairy Tail. You’ll be all the better for it and if necessary, there are Fairy Tail spinoffs like the Mavis one which are better than the main title. This one can just fade from our memories.

Overall 1/10

Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet Review

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It’s always a little unfortunate when having a story mode isn’t a positive for a game. It’s not as if it’s bad enough to lower the score (Although it was close) but the game doesn’t benefit at all from having it. That being said, this is Super Hero Squad so you have to enter the game with reasonable expectations I suppose. I didn’t mind the show too much when I watched it although it is certainly one of Marvel’s weakest titles. I played the first game a while back so it was about time that I got to try out the sequel. It’s about as good, maybe slightly better. The gameplay is more diverse, but it doesn’t really do a whole lot to make a name for itself.

The plot is about how the Infinity Stones have surfaced. Iron-Man tells the Sqauddies that they cannot let the villains take them so they decide to collect them all. Unfortunately for them, Dr Doom and his army of henchmen are after them along with Loki and his cabal and even Thanos and the Skrulls. With 3 different factions after the stones, the heroes will have to keep their guard up at all time. They’re not too good at that though.

I mean, it is a comedy storyline since it’s in the Super Hero Squad universe so I never expected anything serious. That being said, the characters talk a lot during the game. I don’t mind this when it’s witty banter like in Spider-Man or Sonic, but when it’s these characters it just isn’t quite as fun. They all only seem to have 2-3 phrases as well so they end up repeating them over and over again. I think some more variety could have helped them out. The comedy is also pretty weak so the game won’t be getting any laughs out of you. The only scene that I actually thought was pretty fun was the final one where Thor puts on dancing boots and is forced to dance for everyone’s amusement. It was pretty mean of the others to just let that happen, but it is what it is.

The gameplay is your standard Ultimate Alliance/Lego style where it is mostly overhead as you dish out the pain. Each character has their standard punch and projectile. You can charge up these attacks and also use Ultimate Attacks when you have enough meter. The meter builds rather quickly so you can use the super attacks constantly. Button mashing your standard attack will work for just about the whole game as well since the enemies will just run into your attacks. It’s a pretty simple, but repetitive style since all of the enemies start to be the same after a while. I don’t really mind that per say as I love beat em ups and button mashing is one of my strengths.

What is annoying is that all of the bosses and big enemies have super armor so they hit you as you hit them. When your character is launched it takes a few seconds to get back up and the bosses also deal a lot of damage. You can expect to die a lot if you’re rushing through the bosses but it doesn’t count as actually losing unless both characters die at the same time. The A.I. is terrible so this may occur once in a while, but usually it’s not a big deal. So I like the actual combat for the minions, but the bosses weren’t really a lot of fun to beat up. I did enjoy getting a chance to spam my projectiles for such a long time though.

The game was clearly developed with co-op mode in mind. When playing single player there are some levels that just don’t work well. The ones where you have to shoot at objects approaching from the skies comes to mind. The A.I. couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn so you end up having to hit both sides on your own which gets really tricky. It made these levels tougher than they should have been. Same with parts where you have to use both character’s skills as the A.I. will follow you and forget what they’re supposed to do. It’s not really a problem if you choose to play co-op, but be warned if you’re a solo fighter.

The graphics aren’t bad even if they don’t look quite up to par with what you’d expect from a PS3 game. The character models look good enough and the level designs aren’t bad. It looks like a mobile game if I had to make a comparison so take that as you may. It’s acceptable while not being impressive. The soundtrack is less impressive as we get the classic theme song, but not much else. I wasn’t expecting much in this category to begin with though.

One part of the game that is pretty mild but annoying is that if a character is blocking your way, you can’t move. The A.I. has a habit of cornering you if you go into a tunnel so if you want to back out the only way is to switch to the other character and move him out of the way. It’s such a random little thing that you may have to do a double take at some points. Just one of those things that they probably should have picked up in quality control if they had been playing the game more.

The main campaign is 11 levels long and they vary in length. It’s not a very long game so I think you could reasonably complete it in around 5 hours or so. Perhaps a little less but the cutscenes do make a difference. The replay value here are the Challenges you can tackle and the large array of trophies available. I don’t imagine that this would be a very difficult game to Platinum if you were ever so inclined. There is certainly enough here to give the game some reasonable replay value.

Overall, Super Hero Squad was a little glitchy and the story wasn’t particularly engaging, but not everything can be Sonic Adventure 2 Battle right? I think the game could have used some more quality control, but it worked well enough. It had its issues, but I’d still say that it was a good game in the end. If it had dragged on too long that may have been an issue, but it didn’t happen. The gameplay is good and I did enjoy throwing everyone around with my special abilities. I think what makes this game seem a little worse than it is at times is how good most other games are. Comparatively speaking this game isn’t great, but if you look at the game on its own then it works pretty well. That’s a win in my book. So, buy this game if you want some classic Marvel action, but you should probably just grab Ultimate Alliance instead.

Overall 7/10