Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night Review

Sword Art Online is a master class of how to write a great main character, heroine, romance, story, and then balance that with top tier animation, fight scenes, and soundtrack. It’s why the first arc of climbing Aincrad is always considered to be one of the top arcs of all time by me. It just has everything you could want in a story so a movie retelling the events but in an alternate route where Asuna is the main character was a great idea. Similar to Fate it’s basically going to show how making a single choice can take you onto a whole different route and I’m here from it. (I mean it’s a little different since in Fate everything is exactly the same up to the decision while here things are a bit different but it’s close enough) I would definitely recommend this film to anyone looking for an excellent time.

The movie starts out by introducing us to Asuna who is a straight A student who excels in all students. It’s still hard to please her mother though who wants Asuna to keep excelling and doesn’t give her any real praise for this. Asuna’s only time to have fun is when she hangs out with Misumi who is the top student in the whole school but is a professional gamer on the side. Asuna wishes she could balance her time out like that and one day decides to make an impulsive decision of her own and borrows her brother’s nerve gear to play the new Sword Art Online game on its launch day. She meets up with Misumi but then she quickly finds out that there is no log out button.

It turns out that this whole game was an elaborate MMO trap. Every gamer who is in here cannot leave now and if someone tries to take off their virtual reality helmet from the real world then the player will die. The only way to get out of this game is to complete all 100 floors but as any MMO player will tell you, completing these games takes years and years. It’s nearly impossible to get through and you can’t speed run it. There are no revives either.

If you die in the game then you die in real life.

You have to let that sink in for a bit. Asuna was never much of a gamer but her friend Misumi is really good so perhaps the two of them will be able to clear this game. Their bond will be tested in this death game. Of course everyone’s favorite hero Kirito is around as always but this time it isn’t his story to tell, but Asuna’s. As you can probably guess this film can’t cover the entire 100 floor epic so you have to try and guess how far it’ll go and what the ending will be. With this new character, Misumi, in the equation you also don’t know how far the arc will diverge or if it’ll still play out the same.

Don’t worry though, we don’t have a “Chris in Sonic X” scenario here. Misumi isn’t around to steal scenes from other characters and instead she adds extra context and depth to Asuna’s character. I thought the movie did a great job of incorporating her character into the story in a very natural way. It’s part of why I’d like to see them adapt some of the video games at some point where all of the heroines from every future arc also get warped to Aincrad with Kirito and Asuna for the first time but it’s probably a very tough thing to adapt without it feeling forced. Throwing in one character is a lot easier.

Part of the appeal of Sword Art Online is just how cool it would be to be in this scenario. Who wouldn’t want to be warped in there with such high stakes? Personally I would love it and I think that’s why the isekai genre is so big. Living in a fantasy world like this where you have to fight to survive just sounds amazing. Of course you can die but deep down everyone figures they would be able to survive. I’m confident enough in my gaming skills to figure I’d do really well here and Sword Art Online handles the fantasy world angle way better than any other series.

As to the film though, we can go over the technical aspects first which are top tier as you would expect. The animation is really sharp and full on movie quality from start to finish. The show has already always looked good right from the start and the movie takes things up a notch. The fights are all very streamlined and the colors stand out. Then the soundtrack is also top tier with a lot of operatic themes going on the whole time. It helps make the adventure feel even more grand and it’s why music can always enhance a great film to be even greater.

As the main character Asuna is a very fun character. Initially she starts out as a rookie who is eager to learn but eventually it really becomes a matter of life or death. When given the option of fight or flight, she chooses to fight. She really works hard to keep on fighting at the top of her game even if it means putting her life on the line constantly. Asuna pretty much starts to use her cool and reason as she fights over and over again but she gets big props for always fighting.

Asuna is willing to take the high road and help out those who aren’t the best of characters and has more of a conscience than some of the others. She really still thinks of this as real life and acts appropriately. We also see a glimpse of her leadership qualities even if it doesn’t seem like she will be going that route this time. Asuna is a well balanced fighter and a quick learner and that makes sense since she was shown to be athletic and very knowledgeable. The intro scenes in the real world do a good job of establishing her character that way. She grew up with a very strict family but never shows any resentment about this. She certainly gets a little upset and discouraged at times since she is trying her best with no recognition of this but that just inspires her to keep on trying harder.

I also thought some of the mistakes she makes when starting her first VR game made a lot of sense. I could absolutely picture someone using their real name and image when setting up an avatar if they didn’t know any better. It’s all written well so these are rookie mistakes are opposed to them making her exaggerated in what she doesn’t know about the game. Even not understanding the menus to see someone’s name makes sense because sometimes I’ll be watching a Call of Duty stream and the menu is so cluttered with all kinds of stuff on the screen that I wouldn’t know what I was looking at. SAO does seem to have a cluttered screen so even if it seems obvious to see the name, I could see you missing it.

Kirito may not be the lead but he still gets a good amount of screen time here. He is a pivotal character in Asuna’s journey after all. He’s the classic loner who acts cold and aloof but is always the first to run in and help when things get tough. He’s the only one who tried to help the party leader when the guy got greedy for the kill bonus and of course he found Asuna and prevented her from meeting death early on. Kirito is just a great guy and he is very game savvy while also being good at reading people. So he foils the first attempt by Laughing Coffin to disrupt the player base and basically puts everything on his shoulders. Kirito is still the genius that we all know him of and the only difference is that he’s doing this in the background now. He takes more of a main character spot for the second half of the film though and that should continue into the sequel.

Then we have the new character, Misumi. In a way she serves as a role model to the person Asuna wants to be. Misumi is top of her class but still finds time to just have fun and do whatever she wants. While Asuna is burdened by social responsibilities, Misumi has none of that. At school Asuna is way more popular but Misumi doesn’t care about those kinds of things and just has fun her way. She’s a true free spirit and the two of them make sense as best friends.

Ultimately Misumi does make one crucial decision though which will be a big determining factor on if you like her a lot. She reminds me of the main character in The Mist in how she gives up a little too soon. When you have to make a crucial decision you really need to make the right move. When you’re in a situation of life and death you really see a person’s true colors and they won’t always turn out to be bright. So for me Misumi made a big mistake like Madoka’s Mami and that keeps her from being a top quality character.

You’ll still enjoy all of her scenes prior to that but it does leave her in a very tricky spot. It’ll take a whole lot for her to really rebound from that. I still respect her abilities though and it’s clear that she is one of the strongest players. She has a great dynamic with Asuna too and I’d like to see her interact with Kirito. I think there could be a fun rivalry dynamic there too. You could really have the 3 adventuring like a trio and then slowly continue to redeem her character. Misumi has a fun personality and is nice to have around so given enough time she could really rise up high in the ranks. Honestly I already like her more than virtually every arc 1 character so it’s not like she’s very low in the ranks. If she can get enough good scenes then we can start the conversation of her against characters like Yuuki and Alice but those are high bars to clear.

Now while the film is amazing all the way through it still does have minor issues. Mainly one would be that it still does indulge in some fanservice. We get the clichéd bath scene because SAO can’t seem to ever get away from that. Sometimes there will be a drawn out camera angle or some tricky visual choices but at least on the whole it’s nothing crazy. It never gets to Gun Gale levels of the camera being obnoxious or anything like that. It’s nothing drastic enough to hurt the film or anything and honestly SAO has been really good about this in the films compared to the show but it would still be nice if we could bypass that and then the film would be really close to perfect.

If I’m nitpicking a bit here as well, the world feels a little too empty at this point on the story. There is only one floor unlocked in the game right now so the roughly 8000 players left after the first 2000 died are all here. You feel like every area should be swarming with people after a while, especially the meeting place in the main town. I understand from an animation perspective it’s better not to be so cluttered but it’s something you’ll be thinking about the whole time. Beyond that I thought all of the mechanics and aspects of being in the game were really thought out though. Even the small things like stocking up on potions before a boss is addressed which is important. I would absolutely be doing that before any boss especially when you’ll die if you lose.

Overall, The film does a great job of introducing you to the world of Sword Art Online. Whether you’ve seen the series before or not the film is very accessible. You feel like they will have to cover more ground soon since you couldn’t take 100 films to finish the story. The first floor is important as an introduction to the characters though so I think it was the right move to spend the whole movie on it. After this you could probably do more like 10-15 floors per movie as not every floor is important. It would be fun to see all 100 bosses but you don’t absolutely need to have that. Still, if they want to drag this out as long as possible I’m game for that because this will always be the best arc in the franchise. I definitely recommend checking this out.

Overall 9/10

Frozen II Review

The original Frozen was definitely a very fun film with a song that caused a lot of waves around the globe. It’s one of those songs that you don’t really forget because of how catchy it was. The songs here don’t come quite close to topping it but it’s still a good soundtrack and the main singer’s on point. We also get some more action here and so all told this is a sequel that really holds up to the original.

The start of the movie takes us back to when Elsa and Anna were kids. Their parents tell them about how there’s a supernatural forest out there that is very dangerous. It’s asleep right now but if it ever wakes up then they’re all doomed. The parents go die in a boat crash and then we go back to the present where things are going well. Elsa rules the kingdom really well and has a nice handle on her powers while Kristoff is getting ready to propose to Anna. This is all put on ice (Ha!) when the spirits wake up after tricking Elsa into using her powers. The elemental spirits of water, fire, earth, and wind intend to destroy the kingdom and claim their vengeance. Elsa figures that it’s up to her to stop them but doesn’t want to bring Anna along since she’ll be in danger. Anna’s not going to let Elsa go so easily though. Will this all work out for the best?

Throughout the film Elsa is trying to ditch Anna and you can’t really blame her. Anna has done well to keep on fighting and hold her own throughout their previous adventures but at the end of the day Anna doesn’t have powers while Elsa does. So it makes sense not to bring her onto the front lines against these elemental monsters. Even Elsa nearly dies a few times while fighting the formidable water spirit and if she had to protect Anna then she may have lost that battle. I don’t blame Anna for trying to get in either but I’m saying this is not a character flaw on Elsa’s part but is in fact the correct strategic decision.

I liked Elsa’s portrayal here quite a lot. She’s still very mature like in the first film and hasn’t really lost her edge. She is more open to working in a group and hearing everyone out but will make the command decisions when necessary. Her mastery over the ice abilities is also good to see and it’s clear that she has not been slacking off. Elsa has been working to better herself off screen and holds her own in each fight. Having ice abilities would be really cool to have and the film does a great job of illustrating that. Elsa is very determined and never gives up, she’s absolutely still one of the best Disney princesses.

Meanwhile Anna is still a great foil to Elsa’s character. It’s almost like the Batman and Superman dynamic where she has more to prove since she has no powers but always ends up helping out quite a lot. Anna is very creative and can make herself useful in a great number of ways. She may overthink things as she never gives Kristoff a chance to finish his sentences as she runs with whatever the first few words were but it’s because her mind is operating at such high speeds. Anna is quirky but in a fun way and that dynamic between her and Elsa is a big part on why the Frozen films are so much fun. At the end of the day she looks great throughout the movie.

Kristoff also looks really good here and in some ways that’s more impressive than the first two. See, you expect Elsa and Anna to look great the whole time because they are the main heroines. For Kristoff it would be tempting to shelve him for the sequel or just make him comic relief but he’s actually useful the whole time and gets a number of important scenes to himself. He’s never just in the way or slow to catch on but instead he helps out a lot. Whether its herding animals or keeping the townspeople calm, Kristoff does what he can to help. Towards the end he is quick to help Anna with her plan and doesn’t ask questions about it. He just trusts that she is doing the right thing and goes in to help. You can’t ask for much more out of the guy.

Olaf is the comic relief character here and he was good. His song about becoming more mature actually wasn’t as bad as you’d expect. It’s still way weaker than the main songs of course but it was a good song about his character development as he tries to stay brave. Some of his jokes may drag on a bit too long like recapping the first film but it is fun to see if someone who hasn’t seen the first film would be able to understand what happened from his story. Personally I think they would be able to understand because he does still hit the main topics here. Olaf may have a hard time helping out compared to the other characters but he does get some solid emotional scenes. He’s not here purely for the comedy unlike other comic relief characters.

Frozen continues to operate on a higher level than your average musical adventure. Of course a big part of that is because the character cast is on point. This is a much stronger core group of characters than most films would be able to trot out. Additionally having a protagonist with actual super powers is a big deal too since her ice abilities make for a lot of fun visuals. There is a real sense of danger here like with the battle against the water spirit as she actually puts her life on the line. The scene of Elsa being frozen was also intense.

There’s an intensity here that you just don’t see very often from a film like this. You may not care too much about the feud from the past and those people stuck in the forest but you don’t have to be invested on that. At its core this is still an adventure about Elsa and Anna getting through their past and continuing to make the future brighter. It’s a very complete story and you don’t even need a third film. Things are fairly well tied up here although if we did get a third film, I’m fully expecting the parents to return and have a big role. It feels like we are really building up to something like that. And even if it’s not necessary, I definitely want a third film.

It goes without saying but the animation here is also stunning. It’s one of Disney’s best films in that area and the character models are on point. Each of the elements stand out visually and I’ve already talked about how good the ice is. The characters are expressive and so this actually does look like it’s even improved from the first one which should be the standard for any sequel. A lot of detail was put into this movie and it paid off.

Overall, Frozen II is a very fun film. The pacing is good and you’ll have a good time throughout. There are no areas that stall or slow down the pacing in any way. You’ll be invested in the quality characters throughout and the action scenes are played straight as serious moments. I’d be cool with the third film taking on an even more action oriented approach with a ton of big fights but realistically you’ll always have a balance with the Frozen films and this one really nailed that balance. If you haven’t seen this movie yet then you should definitely change that.

Overall 7/10

Oliver & Company Review

It’s time for a fun animated movie that I don’t recall hearing about back in the day despite it seeming like a fairly big deal. The animation is on point and it seems to have a good budget at any rate. It’s a fun film and one that can be surprisingly intense with how things go for the villains. It has aged well and the movie has really good pacing. There isn’t much to find fault with for this title.

The movie starts with a cat named Oliver not being adopted so now he is lost and alone in New York City. It looks like things will be tricky but he quickly meets up with a dog who is very street savvy. This guy’s name is Dodger and he seems helpful at first but tricks Oliver into helping steal a hot dog and then runs off. Oliver corners him at the home base but Dodger has quite a lot of friends there. Fortunately they’re a little nicer and so Oliver is entered into their group. Basically they find lots of little gizmos and knick knacks for their owner Fagin. He is in a tough spot and owes money to a tough guy named Sykes. It’s a fun enough job for the pets but then Oliver ends up meeting a little girl named Jenny who is super rich. He can now have the time of his life but can he really leave these other animals who were so good to him? It’s a tough call.

This is one of those movies that feels like it’s always moving. Each new plot development doesn’t take much time to stop as it just keeps going. It’s a good thing and so while this may sort of be the basic plot, there’s always more going on but you don’t want to give away too much. At the end of the day it is a bit of a tough call but you could make the case that Oliver didn’t have many doubts. And he shouldn’t. He got into this situation because he wasn’t adopted so finding a nice owner is really perfect for him. Sure it’s rough for the other pets not being able to have an easy out like that but they shouldn’t begrudge Oliver his opportunity.

Things worked out perfectly for him and that’s a great thing. Hopefully the situation will continue to go like that and then maybe the others will have their shot. Dodger was the most petty about this. For the most part the other members of the crew were actually understanding on this but Dodger just got way too offended. I get that it was a shock but I would have liked him to have been a bit nicer about this right up front. It did hurt his character a bit with how hard he made things on Oliver.

Oliver was a good kid. He may be young and not know as much about city life but he still did his best at every opportunity which is what counts. His owner Jenny also did her best. She takes a big risk in heading outside to try and help Oliver when he’s held for ransom and she is a nice kid. In the end that’s why this is such a nice situation for Oliver.

As for Dodger’s friends, Tito is more on the annoying side. He’s one of those guys who talks really tough and is always picking fights but he can’t really fight. So it’s closer to just being full of hot air. Look I do like confidence in general but you have to be able to back it up. His flirty nature can also get out of hand a whole lot. Einstein is a decent dog but doesn’t do a whole lot in the story next to the others. Georgette is the spoiled dog who is Jenny’s first pet and doesn’t appreciate having another member of the family there.

You get it since that would be a big change and she has always lived a really pampered life. It would take a lot of adjusting and so she wasn’t really my favorite character but gets better as the movie goes on. Rita seems to be the wise member of the hero group who never really panics and tries to de-escalate things. She did a good job there and then you have Francis who is a bulldog so you know he can fight but unfortunately he is usually outmatched against Sykes’ two dogs.

Sykes is the main villain here and he has two rottweilers that are powerful enough to threaten the entire group. They’re definitely not to be messed with and make for very intimidating villains. At any point they could crush the heroes if given the order by their boss so the group always has to hope that this doesn’t happen. Occasionally the heroes will try to hurl some kind of insult but they usually regret it right after.

Then Sykes himself is a very impressive villain. He has complete control over the situation right from the start and is clearly not someone to be trifled with. He was really close to winning it all and he didn’t get to be the top mobster around by being nice. This guy earned a lot of respect from the underworld and rightfully so. He made for a very entertaining villain but perhaps because he was so mean the film didn’t mind really going in against him during the climax.

As I mentioned before the climax is really serious for this film. They definitely weren’t trying to scale things back for the kids. At the end of the day it’s a level that I think is fine for a kid’s movie, I was just surprised by it. The film is never too detailed or anything so it avoids my usual animal violence issues. Would I change a few things about the climax? Sure I definitely would but it’s still a fun film that I could easily recommend. It doesn’t even try to force a bunch of songs into the mix to destroy the pacing.

The animation for the film is also fairly sharp. It’s very expressive which I like to see and you can always tell what is happening. I appreciated the detail here and the movie really got a good budget backing it up. It’s very smooth and so I definitely have no issues with it. It really helps to enhance the movie which was already solid.

Overall, Oliver & Company is a good movie. It has some fun humor and quality characters but at the end of the day the main strength is that it’s a well written title. It doesn’t have any real issues that would end up hurting it down the stretch. It’s the kind of movie that you can watch at any time so whenever you have a good moment you should check it out and see what you think. Maybe eventually this one will be more popular and be widely known across all of the animated movie circles.

Overall 7/10

Klaus Review

It’s time for a Santa Claus origin story. You’ve probably seen some of these around and Santa always makes for a fun character to watch. Well, this one takes a bit of a different look at the classic tale and switches some things up. It’s a fun way to readapt the legend and you should have a good time with this movie. It’s a classic feel good film.

The movie starts with Jesper failing at being a mail man. He just can’t seem to do anything right but his father is wise to this and realizes that Jesper is failing on purpose so he can go back home to slack off. His family is rich after all so being at home just sounds more fun. Well now his father has sent him off to the coldest, smallest village out in the middle of nowhere. Jesper needs to have sent out 6000 letters if he ever wants to leave and that will be difficult. For starts the village is in the middle of a civil war and a lot of the kids don’t know how to write a letter anyway. It may take some Christmas magic to get this mission completed.

Jesper goes through a fairly classic character arc here where at first he’s spoiled and mean but gradually learns how to be a better person. He stays in the mean phase for quite a long time though so if anything holds you back from liking him it would be that you may feel the arc took him a little too long. Even by the end he is being mean to one girl because she doesn’t speak English and he doesn’t want to take the time to understand her. For a while he is only focused on the letters so since she wasn’t going to help him get closer to his goal, he had no time for her. It was rather a cruel moment on his part.

He also makes some big mistakes near the end. Inevitably you know there will be a moment where he has to decide to stay in the village or leave with his father and it plays out pretty much the same way in every film but for once you’d like him to just say straight up that he’s not leaving. There are a whole lot of ways that he could have gotten himself out of the sticky situation but he didn’t go with them.

So he definitely has his share of issues. That said, Jesper does give us a lot of the fun comedic moments in the film so you wouldn’t want to miss out on that. He may not be my favorite character but the character arc is still a big staple of the film. The village absolutely needed someone to help out and even if his motives weren’t the best, he did get the job done. It’s like when you see someone doing a good deed online for clout. Yeah they may not have the best reason for helping out but if they actually are helping someone then I can overlook the motive.

Alva is one character who ended up being helped out a lot thanks to Jesper’s selfish actions. She had grown quite disillusioned with the world but when the kids started being eager to learn then she was finally able to find her purpose. Likewise Klaus wasn’t in a great spot in his life and this whole adventure helped to snap him out of it. Jesper definitely did help a lot of people even without meaning too. There was a really solid scene in the movie where we see exactly how much the village has changed. It was worlds different from back when they were always fighting.

The village really couldn’t get much worse from how it was when Jesper first got there. It’s hard to imagine just how sad the place would have been to live in for all of those years but at least now there is no need to worry about any of that. The film has a lot of good musical themes to help back the scenes up as well. Some fun modern titles and then more classic Christmas songs. It all helps to keep a lot of energy within the film and the fast pacing is one of its strengths.

The humor style here is usually about quick wit. Characters talk really quickly as they get the jokes in and usually they’ll already be telling another one while the first is ending. That’s the kind of humor style I like because nothing is dragged out. You either get the joke or you don’t. There are also a good amount of visual gags as well. The animation style here is fairly unique. The characters are all off model but in a stylistic way which is usually used to amp up the humor as the designs are actually referenced once or twice like when Jesper meets Klaus. It may not be a style that you would want to overuse but it’s always tough to look unique in this day and age so props for pulling that off.

I dare say the film almost didn’t need any antagonists. We do have two villain groups here (The ones always fighting) and they continue to get involved all the way to the end but I don’t think they added much. Yes they create a little drama at the end but it’s fairly brief. You could cut that part out and get the same effect by having Klaus or the main heroine walk into his officer and see his notes about getting the letters and leaving. It would have the same effect and I dare say that it would work a bit smoother. The villains were okay but just a bit forced.

Klaus has a good ending so things really work out quite nicely. The ending is important for all movies of course but it’s massively important for a feel good film like this one. You need to feel good or it’s just not going to go over well and would spoil the whole thing. So the ending here is very satisfying and caps off a very nice experience. This is a high quality film that is a lot of fun. I don’t expect you would have any significant issues with the film. It’s got a nice amount of polish and it’s the perfect time to watch this one.

Overall, Klaus is a fresh take on a classic tale. It’s a good amount of fun from start to finish with good character arcs and a fun cast. Jesper may take a little long to get with the program but the important thing is that he does by the end. The movie has a lot of humor throughout and it’s all executed really well. Seeing how the film incorporates each bit of the Santa mythos by the end is always fun. It tackles the Reindeers, the cookies, the naughty list, etc. It was really quite clever at smoothly incorporating them in. You would understand the references each time but it never felt forced.

Overall 7/10

One Piece – Defeat Him! The Pirate Ganzack Review

It’s time to jump far into the past with this one for a retro One Piece adventure. It’s a full original story with just the first 3 Strawhats so that’s pretty fun. The team has grown a lot over the years but there’s still something special about seeing the first crewmates team up to take a villain down. The special goes by very quickly but makes the most of its roughly 30 minutes. We get some good action here and Luffy gets one step closer to being the King of the Pirates!

The story starts with Luffy and the crew chilling on a boat when they are attacked by a giant monster. Unfortunately they are at sea so Luffy isn’t able to fight once he hits the water and this prevents Zoro from claiming the easy victory because he has to save Luffy. So Nami is kidnapped and eventually Luffy finds himself on a mysterious island. He saves a girl named Medaka from two pirates and finds out from her that the pirate known as Ganzack has taken down the whole village. They no longer have enough food to survive and need someone to save them. Luffy may not be a traditional hero but he likes his food so he is ready to help.

Ganzack actually does rather well as the villain here. For starters he actually takes down Luffy twice which is likely way more than anyone was expecting here. He just takes him down like it’s nothing and you may expect that once, but twice? Granted Luffy was much weaker back then but it’s still fairly unheard of to be taken out like that. Ganzack also talks about being the King of the Pirates several times which helps to really establish him as a big threat. He’s not someone who’s just playing around here but trying to accomplish his dreams.

There isn’t much more to his character beyond this but it’s enough to still make him a solid villain. I liked his fighting style with the little crab arms. It wasn’t something that you’d quickly forget. I dare say Zoro would have had a tougher time beating him though. This was early enough in the series where you could make the case that Zoro was stronger than Luffy. Some would say Luffy didn’t truly pass Zoro until he obtained Gear 2 but it would be a fun debate either way.

Regardless Zoro definitely looks great here though. He commands a lot of attention as the pirate hunter and pretty much takes down the whole army on his own. He didn’t need any help and he didn’t take any Ls. He was just around dominating the whole time with his 3 sword style. Meanwhile Nami is surviving as bet she can with a little trickery and it makes sense as a strategy. When you can fool the villain really easy then you may as well do that right? Luffy and Zoro should still have enough confidence in her not to think that she has actually turned evil or anything like that. I’m cool with the plan because it didn’t seem super risky and it’s not like she had to do anything villainous in order to gain Ganzack’s trust. So it worked out pretty well.

Meanwhile this is probably not Luffy’s best appearance since he was getting wrecked so often but I guess we can chalk it up to him being overconfident. By the end he was ready to make his comeback and start winning. It just took him some time to really get settled. Luffy gets credit for not backing down from a fight although that’s the bare minimum for any good lead.

It’s definitely interesting seeing One Piece with such a different animation style. It feels extra retro and not having the same sound effects when Luffy does his attacks will take a little getting used to. Still, I think this group could have done a fine job with the series. I liked the speed showings they gave to the characters and the action scenes are on point. I wouldn’t call this high budget but it has aged well enough so it works on that level. The soundtrack is more on the forgettable side for the most part. There are a few scenes where it feels like the music is about to pick up but then the scene ends real quick before that can happen.

The special is really short as I mentioned but it does work well. You’ll be engaged from start to finish and it’s really just a chance to see the characters get to fight some villains. It would have been nice if Ganzack had a right hand man or something so Zoro could fight him instead of the normal minions though. That would have helped make the film even cooler but this way at least they had Zoro taking on the whole army.

The original character here was also not bad. Medaka may just be a kid who wants to help her town but she doesn’t get in the way and actually saves Luffy twice. Once directly and the other indirectly by triggering his rage mode. So she really did a good job here and was likable which isn’t always easy for the heroes made up for the movies and specials. In general the writing here was on point which really goes a long way to making this a solid special.

Overall, If you’re looking for more One Piece content then this is a special you will want to check out. Ganzack makes for a memorable villain and there is a lot of action here so that’s all you really need. There is never a dull moment here and everyone gets something to do. It’s too bad they don’t make short specials like this quite as much nowadays. Personally with how One Piece sells I’d be trying to generate one of these every year. I’m sure the profits would be enough to cover the expenses each time. Maybe have a dedicated company that would handle these so it doesn’t impact the show.

Overall 7/10

Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons Review

Now you might be thinking…wait is this film CG? Well the answer is yes so DC decided to try a little something here. As I always say, CG isn’t even bad, but it is a step down from traditional animation. It beats the more experimental types like flash, stop motion, claymation, etc. but traditional animation is the GOAT of getting hype content across the board. So that starts this one off at a bit of a disadvantage next to its peers but ultimately it’s still a pretty good movie. It doesn’t quite top the last one but if you’re looking for some fun action then this movie has you covered.

We start off with Krypton blowing up again as Superman’s dad can’t catch a break and we then fast forward to the future where Superman and Lois are married with a kid named Jonathan. For years he hasn’t displayed any super powers so they figured maybe it wasn’t going to happen but all of a sudden he starts to develop them. Superman is at last able to reveal his secret identity but is promptly taken out along with the rest of the Justice League. Jonathan will have to finally become the new Superboy as he teams up with Robin to save the world. Are these two kids ready for such a big challenge or are they about to get absolutely destroyed as they try to fight off the big fighters?

Now you may have some questions about how the League is handled and we can quickly just write this off as a little plot hax/power level issues. You’re not sidelining Superman this easily but hey we can’t have him stealing the show right? The film wisely kept the Flash out of this as well since he’d be tough to take down. The villain of the film isn’t revealed immediately but I will say that he’s fairly cool. Not powerful enough to take out the Justice League levels of cool but he gets a good amount of hype dialogue and talks a big game. I always appreciate when a villain talks really big so I did like that about him. The film doesn’t really have any bad characters so even if he’s weaker than the heroes, I rather enjoyed the villain. I just wish he could have fought some more.

Jonathan works as an okay main character once he gets his head in the game but it does take a while. At first he’s really just your average kid who is getting picked on at school and gets upset since Superman keeps missing his big games/moments. Once he gets his powers and starts fighting then he quickly improves as a character. He is a solid contrast to Robin as they both fight off the villains. I think Jonathan should only continue to improve as a character the more he becomes accustomed to his powers. In theory once he learns them at 100% power then there are very few characters here who will be able to defeat him.

Meanwhile Robin looks great here. This is Damian specifically as from all of the Robins he always has the most attitude which leads to a lot of great one liners and character moments. You just have to appreciate this guy’s confidence. He may overrate himself just a little bit but considering how strong he is at such a young age you can absolutely see how it would happen. He does get a lot of good moments to shine though like diffusing a situation with a bully twice and holding his own against fighters with actual super powers. It’s always fun to watch him fight even if you don’t believe things would really turn out this way.

I already talked about the animation so you’re still going to have good fights here. The soundtrack is a surprising hit though with a lot of themes that sound like they’re straight out of the DCAU. You get some hype themes for the battle moments and also some nice eery ones for when the villains are around. It makes for a well balanced collection of tracks and that’s definitely what you want to see here.

Where the film has to do a bit of a balancing act is having some emotional scenes for Jonathan while also trying to throw us into the action quickly since it’s not like the film is super long or anything like that. I probably would have sped up some of the intro scenes with Jonathan so he can get his powers and take names quicker. It’s always tough since you do want to introduce the character completely but that would be my take. Once the story really gets going then it’s pretty much nonstop from there. The villain’s plan was a little too good so realistically he should not have been stopped but we’ll see if they can top that for next time.

This movie also seemed to take some elements from the new movies with some of the character designs/general roster, Justice League with one character’s role and even Young Justice. As a stand alone it worked really well there in just grabbing a bunch of elements from all sorts of places. I was surprised that Alfred didn’t make a cameo but otherwise just about everyone is here. I think the general premise of the story really lends itself well to a big cast like this. In fact, you could do a whole movie series or a full saga with this plot. There are so many different directions you can go with it so I’d be cool with this villain returning for another stab at it but this time focus on the adult heroes. Even for them this wouldn’t be a walk in the park depending on how far it goes.

You could switch out the villain if you want to keep it fresh though. It’s the general concept/premise of what’s going on that really kicks things up a few notches. Keeping things rather vague since I forget if they even showed the villain in the trailers but if not then this way you can still go in fresh. Meanwhile Superman and Lois get good roles as well at least during the intro. Lois also gets some more to do near the end so I enjoyed her character here. She got to show off why she is still the top reporter around town, willing to take on extra risks to save the day. If she had super powers I dare say she would become a vigilante really quick but that’s a complement in this case.

Overall, Battle of the Super Sons didn’t get us a battle between the Super Sons but their teaming up to stop a common enemy is always a classic way to go. The film has a good amount of action and story here so you should have a good time watching this one. You may wish you could see the League more but I suppose the kids have to get their fun sometimes. Whether you’re a DC fan or not you should enjoy this one. It’s just a fun experience and you should walk away satisfied as the ending is good and there’s a lot of room for a sequel. I’d be cool with the kids showing up again in the future for more action but wouldn’t mind a little time skip.

Overall 7/10

One Piece Film: Red Review

“The hierarchy of the One Piece franchise is about to change” Well this film definitely pulled it off. Eventually every great franchise has its definitive movie. That one installment that you feel will never be surpassed. Some do this multiple times like Dragon Ball Z (Original Broly movie, Resurrection F, Dragon Ball Super: Broly) but most will at least do it once. Justice League Crisis on Two Earths, Bleach: Hell Verse, Avengers Infinity War, Spider-Man 3, the original Mortal Kombat, Transformers G1 the movie, etc. Well this has finally happened with One Piece as it’s hard to see this one going down. Film: Red delivers on every front from action to music and it gets a massive bump in the theatrical experience. It’s a film that you have to see as soon as possible and it’s relatively new audience friendly so you can jump in and have a blast.

The movie starts out with a bunch of people yelling for help and they’re sad because the world is going to the pits and nobody is there to help them. The world is in the great pirate era after all so villains are everywhere and the government is so completely corrupt that you can’t really count on them to help you out either. Well, one girl has a dream…a dream of world peace! Her name is Uta and this is her story. In the present she has invited all of her fans to an island so that they can see her sing in person. Throughout her career she has only sung virtually through the cameras so this is a big deal. Just about everyone has come to watch her songs and 70% of the entire planet will either be watching her on TV or on the island. She almost literally has the world at her grasp and now she can try to achieve her dream. Is the dream really possible though?

Luffy is glad to see her because they used to be childhood friends until she mysteriously vanished one day. There’s a lot of questions about where she went and why she vanished but there isn’t much time to ask her at the concert. Things take a turn though when she announces that the concert will never end and she’s not letting anyone off the island. Is it even possible to have a never ending concert and how will this bring about world peace? All Luffy knows is that he needs to stop Uta but it won’t be easy as she has grown tremendously powerful over to the years to the point where there are few on this planet who can challenge her. He will have to go full force because if he can’t defeat her then he will never become King of the Pirates!

Right off the bat I can say that the movie absolutely delivers on the big songs here. One of the things the movie was getting a lot of hype for was how many songs it was going to have. Instead of calling it part musical I’d call the film part concert. Even as the battles are going you will usually have some kind of song going. It really helps to pump up the scene. One of the villainous songs sounds like something out of Lost Song and then you’ve got a ton of really peppy songs like in Sword Art Online. Hearing these in the full Imax settings was excellent. My ears were still ringing long after the film had ended and I was back home. I don’t think I’ve heard a movie with such loud decibels before but it’s perfect for a concert film.

You really felt like you were in one and that’s why the theater experience is a good boost to the film so I recommend seeing it in that setting at least once. The songs will hold up even after that though and I look forward to finding them online to listen to. Meanwhile the animation is also the best that it’s been in the series. It’s not surprising as One Piece’s animation grew quite noticeably better during Wano. And if that’s how good the show looks you can only imagine how good the movie would appear. They didn’t hold anything back here and every scene really shines. The colors are bright and there is a ton of movement in the fights.

Everyone looks powerful here and it also helps to really show just how powerful Uta is with her being able to block so many hits. In general I also liked the way her powers worked. Yes it seems incredibly broken but why shouldn’t there be a Devil Fruit that is this good? Eventually someone needs to have the best fruit out there and why not have hers be the best one? Because I think it’s fair to say that no other fruit can compare. It does have its own weaknesses of course but in most scenarios you figure that she will be able to defeat her opponents without a problem. The power levels in the film were all handled really well so I don’t have any issues on that front. I did find it a little funny that some randoms would actually challenge Luffy though. He’s one of the emperors now, would they actually try to challenge Kaido or Shanks? I feel like Luffy doesn’t get a lot of respect right now, maybe he just looks too young?

People who start their One Piece experience with this film may find Luffy to appear a bit on the weaker side but he is holding back for almost the whole film so he doesn’t really get to cut loose. That’s probably one difference compared to the previous films which is that Luffy doesn’t get a lot of action. It helps the movie avoid the usual power level concerns though. Keep in mind that Luffy is already Top 10 in the verse by this film so if he was having trouble with anyone then that would be hard to really make sense of. This way that isn’t really messed with.

Luffy also looks great in general here. He handles things very maturely and also does his best to respect Uta’s wishes even if they disagree on things. When she starts talking about how she doesn’t like pirates and how he should stop being one, he just walks away instead of trying to talk her out of it. He’s just not planning on having an argument and is ready to walk away. Perhaps confronting her would be best but they’re both super determined characters so he probably realized that it wouldn’t amount to anything. He also just doesn’t want to fight her since they’re still friends.

Luffy will fight his friends if he has to like when he took Usopp down but for the most part ever since then he tries to handle things peacefully like when Sanji would try and attack him. So it’s a solid character moment here and Luffy ended up fighting when the time was right. His best film appearance is likely still in Stampede but overall he has looked great in quite a few of the movie and this one would be near the top as well.

Uta also looks great here and is an excellent film original character. Film original characters usually have had a negative rep over the years although recently it hasn’t been much of an issue. That’s because they tend to be rather annoying and hold the cast back but that isn’t the case here as Uta is close to being the main character and a lot of the film is about her dream. We get flashbacks scattered throughout the movie on her childhood and what led her down this path. It’s all really emotional stuff and her plan is actually a very interesting one.

Make no mistake, she is a villain here and has gone off the deep end, but I do appreciate films where the villain is following their own sense of justice. It’s much easier to follow a villain who is at least trying to do the right thing and has strong ideals than one who is just evil for no good reason. (There’s a place for those villains too of course) Uta can handle herself in a fight and also really thought things through here. She had a strong plan that was nearly unbreakable so you really can’t ask for much more than that. It’s fair to say that she was the greatest threat to the planet in terms of sheer numbers and I’m not sure any future One Piece villain will top that.

At the end of the day Uta was by herself for many years aside from the old guy at the kingdom and she never lost hope. She just kept fighting until she got to her own answer on how to achieve world peace. It wasn’t the right answer perhaps but at least it was one. Now the film got a lot of hype for Shanks showing up but of course you shouldn’t expect him to do a lot here. It’s a fairly small role for him but it’s still nice to see the guy. He does leave an impact in his few scenes and you can tell that he is powerful. I have my doubts on if he could really take on Luffy right now but either way he is in the upper ranks.

I did disagree with Shanks’ decision to leave Uta though. You can watch the film to see how that all plays out but at the end of the day I think he needed to trust Uta to choose her own future a bit more. He may have thought himself to be doing something noble but I did not agree with it. It was not the right thing to do imo. It’s also nice to see his crew even if they don’t look as impressive as the Strawhats. Personally I think Luffy’s crew is easily the most powerful in the series by this point.

They get their own subplot on finding out a way to try and stop Uta but for the most part they aren’t as big a focus. You get to see them get some action and all though so everyone uses their special abilities. Zoro continues to prove why he is Luffy’s strongest fighter during this as several characters even react when he does his ultimate attack. Even Yasopp was impressed and that guy has seen Shanks fight up close and personal. Zoro was also the first one to react when Luffy’s crew was attacked and I appreciate that. You have to defend them right away. I give Bartolomeo similar credit because he was the first one to step in and try to help Luffy when he was nearly captured while a lot of other characters just froze.

There are a lot of guest stars here so be on the lookout for them. Some like Katakuri should have gotten a bit more to do if you ask me though. You almost wondered what the point of Katakuri was here since he didn’t end up adding much to the fight. It was still nice to see him though. Oven and Brulee were some of the more random ones initially but it did help to make the film feel a bit more ambitious. Having the canon characters show up to fight will do that to a movie.

The film does ultimately resort to a giant CGI monster as the final boss though so that still seems to be a curse in the anime movie industry. Why can’t we end with a humanoid battle? So many of them love the giant monster at the end and it’s just not as exciting. The movie’s top notch animation makes the most of it but having Uta as the final boss herself would have been a lot of fun. I’d say that would have absolutely been the best way to go here.

This movie has a ton of replay value either way. The pacing is really fast, I remember being surprised when the film goes to the present and we see that Luffy and the gang are already at the concert. No time is spent on them travelling there or an opening montage to set up. They’re just ready right from the jump and we get into the singing. It probably happens within the opening 10 minutes and things just keep escalating from there. The film doesn’t take many breaks either. We get some lore and flashbacks but always very briefly until we jump to the next big scene. The film is just really high energy and that fits in with the series always being a colorful adventure.

Fans of the government/navy who have lasted this long will probably be fine but if you’re someone who was on the fence about if they were good guys or not will want to step back here. They look so evil that it’s almost funny. They basically figure at one point that they should sacrifice millions of people to take one character down and you can probably guess who. At that point it’s not even cracking a few eggs to make an omelet. You’re destroying the whole farm for one. They just have no justification at this point and seem to just be trying to murder people for no reason. Kizaru was ready to destroy people without a second thought and the pirates have to stop them. Yeah the government definitely appear to be the true enemies here which is why anyone working for them feels complicit after a while. Just look at how they serve the Celestial Dragons who are still as evil and petty as they come.

Overall, One Piece Film: Red is excellent and one of the top anime films. I’m confident that it will be remembered as a big game changer for a long time to come. The writing is just excellent and set up a really great rivalry/friendship with Uta and Luffy from the jump. They have a better dynamic than most of the Strawhats to be honest. I can see why she was an instant fan favorite in the franchise. They should really drop Brook off the crew and replace him with someone cool like Uta. I wasn’t a fan of the way the film ended which is the only sour spot there but it’s not a horrible ending or anything like that. (After all, that would have kept this from being the best One Piece film) It’s just not how I would have done things, I would have gone with a slightly different ending because all you need to change is one thing. The scene after the credits is pretty fun though as one character gets re-energized. If you haven’t seen the film yet then it’s definitely time to change that.

Overall 9/10

Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam Review

It had been many years since I saw this one so it was nice to check it out again. The special really holds up quite well though as the animation is still very good and we’ve got some good fights here. Who wouldn’t want to see Black Adam take on Superman right? It’s one of those heavyweight battles you’ve got to see. Now in terms of power levels I do have some issues…but lets dive right into this.

The movie starts by introducing us to Billy Batson who is still doing his best to be a nice guy but it rarely seems to pay off. He gets beat up for his troubles and has been bounced from foster home to foster home. Clark Kent wants to interview him and this may be at a good time since Billy was starting to get disillusioned with everything. There isn’t time to finish the interview though as Black Adam shows up and immediately tries to murder Billy. Clark transforms into the mighty Superman in order to battle him while Billy learns about great power and what it means to be a champion of the people. Will a brand new Shazam and experienced Superman be able to stop Black Adam?

This is definitely one of the best portrayals of Billy Batson that I’ve seen. Fans of Shazam will appreciate his portrayal here as he’s a good guy just trying to do the right thing. Billy is courageous enough to defend the homeless guy from a bunch of bullies and doesn’t back down from those bigger than he is. As Shazam it takes him a little bit to get used to his powers but once he does then it’s off to the races. Ultimately he avoids taking things too far and listens to Superman even when it’s a stressful moment.

This is Shazam as a super capable hero and he looks really good throughout. I also appreciated Superman here as he has a lot of great lines. This is Superman at his best, a protector of the innocent and guardian of the planet. There’s a certain reverence to him here and I like that he is super experienced at this point and knows how to handle powerful opponents. This works great as a first meeting between the two with Black Adam and Superman initially gauging each other’s abilities. It was also nice that Adam just broke in and started fighting right away. No trash talking or anything, just going right into the action.

For the animation, it pops out as I mentioned. The colors are a little less sharp than something like the DCAU but we get a lot of solid hand to hand. It’s rare to see Superman actually engaging in combos like this as his strength is usually enough but against an opponent of similar strength it makes sense to handle the fight like this. The movie did a good job with that even when it was the 3 of them fighting. They would use their aerial momentum to keep on swinging and things like that. It was just nice to see. I can’t say that the soundtrack was as memorable unfortunately but you don’t really notice because of how hype the whole thing is.

Now I did say that I had some power level concerns so lets get into this. Superman just looks too weak here. Yes, Black Adam is powered by magic, but Superman routinely takes his eyes off of Black Adam leading to sneak attacks. I also thought Superman should have leveraged his experience more in the way that he fought. Like one tactical error was grabbing Billy and just taking a lot of shots when he should have instead tackled Adam away from the area. Superman just letting himself get buried by the giant tower was another miss.

While I’m sure Superman was holding back initially, after a punch or two he should be able to tell that Adam is strong enough to take the hits and then go all out. I just don’t see Superman being completely overwhelmed the way that he was here. Make no mistake, the fight was not close. Without Shazam there Superman would have lost rather easily in this movie without dealing much damage at all. Even if Black Adam could defeat Superman (And my money is always on Superman) it would be after a long hard fought match. It would be relatively even as opposed to a one sided massacre.

Still, I did like seeing the two heroes combo him. It made for a fun fight and I do think that Adam is one of the strongest DC villains out there. He makes for an excellent opponent to Shazam in the mythos and that guy does have a lot more experience so you can see why he would typically have the edge in their confrontations. The more Shazam fights the closer their battles will be though. To date this is easily one of DC”s best stand alone projects out there. It’s very short at less than 30 minutes so there is no time for fluff. We just jump right into the action. There isn’t a lot to say beyond that, just that it’s great all around so you really shouldn’t miss it. Power level issues very rarely hurt a film as you have to go out of your way to make things too crazy. I can buy into Superman having an off day or this just being a weaker portrayal of him. Maybe he just fought someone under the Red Sun and so his powers are weakened. Enjoying the fight is the most important part either way.

Overall, The writing is fantastic and it really helps to support the great fight scenes. When you grab 3 of DC’s strongest characters you know that things are going to go well and this movie does not disappoint. I highly recommend everyone to watch this one and with Black Adam the movie just coming out a few weeks ago, now is a good time to revisit this one. It’s also interesting seeing Adam as more of a pure villain as opposed to being more of a Punisher type character. This one took being banished rather personally and seemed to already be evil before that. Admittedly an evil Black Adam like this one is the version of the character that I’m the most used to but his character has been more nuanced for quite a while now. It would be nice if DC ever went back to these individual specials like this again. Not instead of the full animated movies of course but in addition to them like how they used to do it.

Overall 8/10

Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog Review

Scooby Doo has returned for another feature length film but unfortunately this one is rather weak. Usually I love crossovers but I felt like for this one they decided the film barely needed a plot as a result. Most of the movie is really just the characters hanging out until the climax. The script isn’t particularly great and the characters aren’t able to hold a story like this up on their own. As a result what you have here is a very unfocused movie with scenes that drag on quite a bit.

The movie starts with the Mystery Gang taking down another criminal when Scooby Doo suddenly runs away. He seems to be possessed due to this weird sound reaching his ears which causes him to dance and move around in rather weird ways. It’s definitely not something he has encountered before and meanwhile this appears to be happening to Courage as well. The two groups meet up and have to try and figure out what’s going on here. This will be one of their toughest cases yet though as the monsters here are very real.

Right off the bat I have to say that I found the sound gimmick to be really annoying with Scooby Doo just having a seizure the whole time. Perhaps it was an excuse for the animators to really show what they’ve got but the scene was dragged out immensely. It was the first hint that the movie was not going to have great pacing this time around. Far from it, instead the movie was going to take up as much time as it could. We then get the same scene with Courage and later on we see it happening to both of them.

It may be quirky and all but it’s not very interesting to watch. It’s just something where you’re waiting for it to end. Unfortunately Courage isn’t a very interesting guest star either. Pretty much all he can do is repeat what someone else has already said. He’s not mindless but he doesn’t have a whole lot of character on his own which hurts the character quite a bit. I was hoping that we would get to see him do something really cool but you have to wait until nearly the very end for that. I was glad he got something though but in the end I can’t say I’m a big fan.

Muriel is nice enough but there isn’t much for her to do. She’s the really pleasant character but that’s the extent of her character. At least Eustace has a lot to do since he’s the super mean/grumpy character who is always complaining about everything. I can admire the consistency there if nothing else. The guy is so over the top that it actually gets to be fun as you try to see what he’ll say next. That said, his character is hurt quite a bit by a random song that comes up during the movie. The song wasn’t even remotely good and was just a waste of time.

When your movie doesn’t have a big focus then you have to throw in scenes like this and it’s a really bad sign. It’s the definition of a filler scene. I also thought that the running gag of him grabbing a mask to scare the characters was a bit overdone. They are short scenes each time but you didn’t have to recycle the same joke over and over like that. At most you do a joke twice but when you do it more than that there better be a really good story reason for it or something. Otherwise it’s just obvious stalling again.

It just felt like the movie didn’t have many ideas for this film. There were some brief things I did like though. We had a nice action climax at the end with Courage and the monster. The various creatures reminded me of the Brood with how many there were and how they would hide underground. It was nice to see Daphne, Fred, and Muriel taking them down during the movie. That probably could have had more of a sense of danger but I’ll take a fight whenever I can get one.

We got some nice visual effects during the climax as well like one character turning 8 bit. In general the animation here was really solid as always for Scooby Doo. I’ve always liked how sharp the colors were and it really has a similar style to the DC movies. So on that end the movie hasn’t faltered. The music is okay, I did like the opening credits song at least even if Eustace’s song flopped.

So there are good things in this movie and ultimately it’s fairly short. So even though some scenes dragged on and it had some issues, I wouldn’t call it a bad movie. It’s absolutely one of my least favorite Scooby Doo movies and it has very low replay value so I probably would not end up watching it again but if I had to, it’s not like it would be a big ordeal or anything. It all just feels like a big missed opportunity. A crossover absolutely needs to relish in that fact and just have a lot of fun with the character interactions.

There just isn’t much time for that since Eustace and Courage don’t talk much. Meanwhile Muriel doesn’t have much to contribute in the banter department so we’re not getting far there. The rest of the mystery gang are around but nobody gets any big spotlight moments for the most part. The movie is by the numbers but executing on a lower level than it should have and it’s one of the only Scooby Doo movies where you may even start to get a little bored at some points.

Overall, It’s a fairly harsh time for the film but the positives are still there. It may not have met expectations but it’s still a decently good movie and I’d recommend it to people if they wanted more Scooby Doo to watch. Perhaps it’s a film that will age better in the future although I have my doubts. I’m eagerly awaiting the next Scooby Doo movie to get us back on track. We’ve had so many subversions, crossovers, and themed movies so maybe we should go back to a classic mystery. A haunted library or something with a few suspects and the heroes have to follow the clues. I may not be remembering a movie but I feel like we haven’t had a straight mystery adventure in quite a long while and that’s something I’d like to see.

Overall 6/10

Tiger & Bunny: The Rising Review

All right, we’re back in action for another Tiger & Bunny movie adventure! This time it’s a brand new story with updated visuals and everything so it’s already showing some different improvements there. I would say this movie is definitely better than the first one. It’s fairly low key and does suffer from throwing the giant opponent who can’t fight back cliché in the climax but aside from that you can tell that it’s trying this time.

The movie takes place after the show so Tiger’s powers are all but gone at this point since he can only use them for super short amounts of time. He and Bunny are now a part of the second division for heroes so in a way you could call them the B team. It doesn’t earn a lot of money though and Bunny can’t help but feel like they should get back into the A league. The test is coming up soon but things take a spin when corporate gets involved. The companies are all bought out by Mark and he wants to change things up. He’s axing the second league and is now pairing Bunny with a new hero called Golden Ryan. Tiger is left out and he’s starting to wonder if he should retire. First he’ll have to stop a new villain group that is re-enacting tragedies from an old play. Can he do it?

For the main plot, it definitely feels like Tiger has to struggle with confidence issues a lot. In the main show when he was losing his powers that became a big thing and now it is resurfacing with how he’s holding Bunny back. He really needs to get his powers back to 100% or this is probably going to keep on happening with him. He handles things mostly well though and tries to make sure that Bunny is set up at least. Although I think the right move would have been to make more of a scene and convince Bunny to stick to the B league. Call Mark’s bluff and maybe he would have gotten Tiger back to the A team.

As for Bunny, well as always he is the big standout hero here. We see how he spends a lot of his free time helping out the orphans and making sure that they have a lot of stuff. Now that’s high quality hero behavior and he even gets them all tickets to the biggest party of the year. Bunny is all about giving back to the community now and you love to see it. He’s also still the top strategist among the heroes and easily the most powerful. He may never end up being the main character as long as Tiger is here, but you couldn’t ask for anyone better as the #2.

The rest of the heroes don’t get a ton to do for the most part. You have Sky High who is still one of the top heroes and he gets to be in the fights. There isn’t much of a character development arc needed for him though. Same for Dragon Kid but it was nice to see her fight more here. We didn’t get to see her have too many serious battles in the main show. She’s always a loyal ally and a fun fighter to have at the ready.

Blue Rose is still acting like a tsundere a lot but fortunately she always makes the right calls at the right times. I was glad that she wasn’t sidelined for the whole fight with trying to put out Fire Emblem’s flames because that would have been a shame. She still gets less action than the others but does contribute in the big fights. Rock Bison has a bit of a subplot where he isn’t feeling like he sticks out very much. So he starts ripping off other characters’ catch phrases and everything. It’s not a good look and starts to just put more pressure on him.

I feel that this plot still isn’t actually finished yet so we’ll see if the next season picks up on it. I feel bad for the guy but at the same time it is true that he is usually lagging behind the rest and taking a lot of Ls. Then we have Origami Cyclone who wants to be able to fight straight up instead of always going for surprise hits from behind. It was an interesting plot although there wasn’t a lot of time for it. Ultimately he did get to try fighting up close and personal but for the most part the opponents here are just a little too high tier for that to work very easily.

Now onw hero who does get a big role here is Fire Emblem. In the show he was easily the worst character as he was always messing with Rock Bison no matter how much the guy told him to knock it off. It was very in line with a character like Puri Puri Prisoner or even Master Roshi with how he would get physical. So fortunately this film doesn’t have any of that as it decides to tackle his plot on a more serious note. Of course that brings up issues of its own and I can’t say it’s the kind of plot that I’m a fan of.

It’s a bit late in the game to try and save his character. Hopefully if he keeps the development then in the next season things could work out but sometimes it’s just a bit too late. Like I never got around to liking Gajeel even though he’s been a hero for over 10 years now. Sometimes it’s just too late and then it’s all game over. Here Fire Emblem is taken out by the villains for most of the film so he’s indirectly causing another hero to be indisposed the whole time and then when he does return for his big fight…he gets taken out rather quickly. I was at least expecting a big win for him. I can’t say that Fire Emblem really works yet and we need more screen time to see if he has really changed or if he’s just going to be acting the same way when he returns.

Finally we have Golden Ryan who is a new hero who has shown up and gets a good amount of hype here. He has gravity powers which is always super useful in any context. I love gravity powers and consider it to be one of the most high-end elements that you can use. He does look really strong here too and automatically became the second strongest hero after Bunny. He can be rather arrogant and all but I’m liking this guy so far. He add a lot to the dynamic and doesn’t feel like just another guy. Actually enhancing the dynamic and changing things up is absolutely what you want to strive for with a new character.

As for the new corporate guy Mark, well he’s just your classic shady CEO. The guy’s so over the top that you will keep wondering whether he is super evil or just shady. Sometimes the line can be hard to distinguish in these things. The rest of the supporting characters are around as well and it’s always nice just seeing everybody again. The movie does have a huge issue with power levels though.

So you’ve got a few villains here, the 3 main ones and the big mastermind. The movie doesn’t bother to give the main 3 names but it was nice to have a full squad. My problem is that none of them should be all that tough. Take the disc throwing girl. She has to go up against Bunny and Ryan which should be the worst matchup for her. Gravity will negate her discs and Bunny has the speed to catch her no matter how many illusions she has. The film has to actively make Bunny and Ryan look awful for her to last so long.

Then you have a guy with super voice going up against Bison, Cyclone, and Sky High. That’s all this dude has, a super sonic voice and yet he’s crushing them with ease. I’d like to see some team work here or even some common sense like dodging the attack and countering with a quick energy hit from Sky High. It seems to me like this really shouldn’t be asking too much. How are these villains who have never really fought before taking on seasoned veterans?

Finally we have the third guy who is a literal old man with a staff and he is crushing Fire Emblem, Dragon Kid, and Blue Rose. I liked his memory abilities which are kind of OP but in hand to hand he should be getting crushed. It is a running gag that the pro heroes are super weak, what with their having trouble with random bank robbers the whole time. Yes, we get that scene again here as the opener where the entire cast of heroes can’t beat one random punk. It’s extremely embarrassing at this point and shows how low tier the fighters are.

I have to blame a good amount of this on the writing though because it just doesn’t make any sense. At least the final boss has a giant form where he’s huge and everything. It may not make for an interesting battle scene but you can see how he would be putting up a fight. That’s the kind of energy that we should be seeing. While I thought the fights didn’t make a lot of sense, I will at least say that the villain motivations were good. I liked how the film executed the reveal on who the mastermind was and why they’re doing this. I thought the motive was quite sound and that goes a long way for a villain. Same for the other 3 who were working for the leader.

So that part was good. Lunatic even gets to appear for a bit but the role was mainly filler here. He doesn’t actually contribute anything to the story except to appear a bit for the fans. It’s really just a cameo that comes out of nowhere, but I appreciate it all the same. As I said earlier, the animation is also greatly improved here which is good. It’s still not going to hold its own against many of the more mainstream anime titles but at least now I can say that it looks pretty good. The soundtrack is still on the forgettable side though.

Overall, It’s nice to have another movie for the series. Even if the stakes might be a little higher here than in the first film, I would say that it still feels like more of a calm movie. Maybe it’s just because you never feel like they’re all in a lot of danger. It still executes just about everything on a higher level than the first film. It’s also nice that each of the heroes at least got a bit to do here even if it wasn’t much and we got to follow them down their paths. I could see some of these plots continuing in the future as well. So if you’re already in the series then this is a good movie to check out and see the characters. You’ll probably be a bit lost if you jump straight into this one though.

Overall 7/10