Kao The Kangaroo Review

I always enjoy myself a good platformer. It has to be the safest genre out there aside from fighting games in that you know you’ll always have a good time here. It’s a very non risky gameplay style because whether it’s high budget or cheap you’ll be having some fun. Now this one may not be AAA but it was good. The game could be a little glitchy but at the end of the day I had a good time. It’s a short game but one that makes the most of each hour.

The game revolves around a kangaroo named Kao who was having a good time in the village but unfortunately his father and sister have both vanished. His mom pleads with him to stay but Kao has to learn what happened to them. He finds a pair of gloves with incredible magic power and decides that he will save the world and reunite his family. He is warned by a wise old man that the gloves may corrupt him and even turn Kao evil but he isn’t worried. Kao knows that he is strong of heart and can accomplish anything.

So the game has 4 worlds and each one has 3 levels and then a boss. You should have the game completed within a few hours max so it’s not very long but the levels are well designed. I had a fun time playing through them and I may even go back for the Platinum at some point. You can run, jump, and punch so all the basic controls are here. You can also wield elements to solve puzzles and of course take down enemies. I would have liked to have seen more elements but it was probably hard to fit too much in before the game was ending.

Now I mentioned that the game is glitchy. For the most part I don’t really care about glitches much as long as they don’t really impact the game. Sonic 2006, Frontiers, and Pokemon Scarlet are all known as games with glitches but they never impacted the gameplay so I wouldn’t really take note of them. The only reason why I note it for Kao is because I had to redo an entire level due to a glitch at one point. Basically the game doesn’t freeze time while you are talking to someone so I got attacked by minions before I could finish the cutscene. As a result the guy didn’t give me the gem and I couldn’t talk to him again so I had to restart.

Then other times the audio would cut out and you would get these loud static noises so I had to really lower the volume on the TV. These things are pretty noticeable so I would say the game could have used some more time on the debugging phase. Fortunately these are still rare in the end so they won’t really hold the score back either. At the end of the day I would have liked the game to have been longer but it still delivered on giving me a fun adventure which is all that I can ask for. As long as I can have fun then that means that the game did something right.

The story may not be the most original out there but it works out. Kao’s sister is one of those tough characters with a lot of personality so I can appreciate that. The old guy is very wise with all of his teachings so he’s about what you would expect as well. Kao’s father looks bad since he couldn’t master the gloves and got wrecked so easily but I’m sure he’s a good guy. The main villain is super forgettable though so you won’t be afraid of him or anything. I liked the gloves though, he made for a fun side kick.

There are a lot of elements here that would lend themselves over to a sequel really well. I can’t say that I’d be there day 1 or anything like that but I would definitely have a good time with a sequel and would buy it at some point. There isn’t a lot of replay value here though. I suppose you can go for the Platinum trophy which involves getting all of the collectibles. This should take you a few extra hours I’d say but even then not a whole lot of them. You’ll be done with this in a flash

The graphics look good. The character models are on point and I do think that they put a good amount of effort into the backgrounds. It’s a game that visually holds its own at all points. Then the soundtrack is also good. I’d give a special shoutout to the voices though. I loved Kao’s accent and he had this gimmick of overaccentuating the accent on every other word. It made for fun listening and it also makes the character more memorable. He’s not afraid to take risks and go after the villain so I’d give him some good props there. He won’t be winning any awards but he’s better than characters like Crash and Knack.

Overall, Kao The Kangaroo is a fun game that I could recommend to gamers of all ages. It’s a fun platformer that is very simple and straight forward. So you can just appreciate the levels as you jump around and get to the end of the game. I’d have appreciated a few more hours of content to really make this one last but at the very least you can’t say that they wanted to pad things out. The game does what it wants and then just ends after that. No dragging things out or just going on to keep going on and I can respect that.

Overall 7/10

Call of the Night

Vampires? Yeah it’s always hard to make a really good adventure revolving around that element and this title is no exception. We’ve got the usual blood sucking here but additionally there aren’t a lot of hype characters to try and counter this. The main guy/heroine definitely aren’t particularly likable yet. If you have an excellent plot like Records of a Fallen Vampire then perhaps you can make it but otherwise you’re in for a tough time. If we start getting a bunch of action scenes then this title may end up improving but for now it feels like it won’t be able to get beyond the premise. I’ll have a review for the series up once I’ve completed it.

Overall 2/10

Tangled Review

It’s been a little while since I saw the Tangled movie. It was a pretty solid film and it actually had some real danger with characters getting stabbed and everything. The manga does a good job of readapting the events and so you do get the movie experience here. You won’t get to fully experience the songs of course but if for any reason you can’t find the movie, this will fill you in on the details pretty well.

The story starts by explaining how there was a magical flower that could be used to cure any illness and so this was given to the queen once she had grown ill. As a result her baby Rapunzel inherited this ability through her hair and so she was kidnapped by Gothel who had been using the flower for many years to stay immortal. Gothel would just cut Rapunzel’s hair and be done with it but the power goes away when that happens so her best plan is to trick Rapunzel for the rest of her life into working for Gothel so Gothel can keep using the power to stay young. This plan works out for many years but Gothel was a little too possessive in keeping Rapunzel in the tower.

So one day Rapunzel decides to leave and her opportunity comes when a thief named Flynn barges in with a crown he stole. Rapunzel hides the crown and says that he won’t get it back until he takes her sight seeing around the kingdom and specifically, she wants to see the mysterious lights that go up once a year on her birthday. (Gothel messed up by not giving her a different birthday) Flynn agrees since he wants his crown but as their adventure goes on he learns valuable lessons about friendship and what it means to value someone over normal jewels and riches.

It’s a fairly straight forward story and you can pretty much guess how it plays out but the execution is on point which is the important thing. This is a very low key story but one that will keep you interested. The characters are good and we do still have some danger here as like in the movie Flynn does get stabbed at one point. Gothel makes for a very solid antagonist here. Sure, she may not be the smartest in some ways as she creates a lot of problems for herself but she did keep the ruse up for many years so she gets some props there. She can also fight and isn’t above getting her hands dirty. In some ways that may be the most impressive part of her character.

As for Rapunzel, she is a solid main character. She took matters into her own hands in beating up Flynn and had a nice plan for escaping. While her hiding skills may not be the best, she is able to keep on winning until she gets things right. She’s a very determined character and that’s a good trait to have in any main character. Rapunzel also sticks up for herself when she knows that things aren’t right. When you add that all up I dare say that she is more likable than a lot of the more classic Disney princesses.

Flynn is less heroic than most of the main guys in these Disney adventures but that does mean he gets to learn more lessons. He goes from being someone who will easily betray his friends to someone that Rapunzel can count on. I do think he looks rather unimpressive in the fights though as Gothel easily takes him out and he loses a lot of fights here. He will have the rare moment where he looks tough like when he fought the villains off with his frying pan but that’s about it. Usually it’s still game over for him but he gets some decent banter with Rapunzel.

The art here is okay at best. It’s pretty much what you would expect from a movie tie-in. It’s not going to get the high quality art of a classic ongoing but it does its best to look like the movie so that’s a decent start. Think of this like a Shojo one shot for an artist that’s just starting out. I will say that the paneling is good though and it’s easy to read through the volume. It feels really short by the time you are all the way through it and that’s always a good sign.

One of these days what they should really do is grab one of the movies but instead of ending where the movie ends, just keep on going. Have the series surprisingly become an ongoing where the adventures continue. Now that would be extra interesting and there are a lot of ways that this story could have kept on going naturally. They certainly won’t run out of threats to the Kingdom and having Rapunzel return could make a lot of thieves think about an easy pay day once her powers return. (Because you know that they would!) It could easily be a fun action adventure story.

Overall, Tangled is a very safe manga I would say and that plays to its strengths. It’s very low key and you won’t think about it all that much but at the same time it’s still easily able to achieve a high score because there’s nothing bad about it. It’s just a fun adventure that you read through in no time and have no regrets over. The core story is a solid premise that always works well with good writing. I would recommend reading this manga if you haven’t seen the movie. If you’ve seen the movie then I don’t think there is a whole lot of point to reading the manga but hey if you want to relive the adventure then this is a good way to get a different spin on it. It’s effectively the same but reading will always feel a bit different than watching something.

Overall 7/10

My Little Pony: Spirit of the Forest Review

It’s sure been a while since I read my last My Little Pony adventure so it’s good to be back in the mix. This is a fairly low stakes adventure starring the Cutie Mark Crusaders but it hit all the right beats that made the series big in the first place. It has good writing with likable characters and a satisfying conclusion to the adventure. The issues go by very quickly and you’ll have a good time reading the stories so you really can’t go wrong here. Just like the trio would low key have some of the more enjoyable adventures in the show, that ends up being the case here as well.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders are having a good time as usual when they notice that there has been a big increase in the amount of junk, trash, and litter that has accumulated in the forest. They start cleaning it up but every day it appears again so they have a stake out. Well, it turns out that this is all caused by Filthy Rich’s workers as they are doing a big project in the forest which is cutting down a ton of trees. The trio try talking him out of it but Filthy Rich explains that his hands are tied because he needs money and the Ponies need goods so it all works out. Even the Mane 6 say they are powerless against the world of big business so the Cutie Mark Crusaders have an idea. They will create a ghost Scooby Doo style and scare everyone off of the property. If they can succeed then the forest will be saved. The means may be less than legal but these are desperate times.

If you really think about it, the trio are basically playing the role of your average Scooby Doo villain which is a nice change of pace. I’ll give them props for trying to change things the legal way first but they just couldn’t make a strong enough case to make that work out. It doesn’t help that even popular opinion is against them as people like the forest but they prefer having their furniture and other perks of the trees being cut down. Even the Mane 6 felt a little halfhearted with their assistance.

You can’t say that the CMC don’t try hard here. Ultimately they are able to get pretty far in their tricks and only run into trouble when the Mane 6 get involved. So this was another part I enjoyed a lot because it’s like we got to see an episode from a different POV. Off screen Filthy Rich asked them for help in stopping the monster and of course they said yes. It makes sense that they would help and as good as the CMC are, the Mane 6 are naturally more experienced. Their winning the fight made complete sense and it was a satisfying conclusion.

Another check in the comic’s favor is that the problem was rather nuanced without making Filthy Rich extremely evil as the average cartoon would do it. For example, he is certainly the antagonist but he’s not laughing as he breaks down trees or acts disrespectful to the ponies the whole time. No, he treats them as mature ponies and explains his position. It’s not even an awful position because he explains that he did get permission from the village, signed the right papers, and got to work on giving everyone what they wanted. Yes, the Forest would be removed but he didn’t just start chopping, he had a complete plan first which everyone signed off on. He didn’t cut any corners or break the rules in any way.

In fact when the heroes mentioned the litter to him, he had it solved that very day. He went up to the workers and told them to stop which worked. I enjoyed Filthy Rich here as a result. He just seemed way more reasonable than your average rich villain would be in this circumstance. That only becomes even more true in the climax when more characters including his daughter Diamond Tiara talk to him. Ultimately he sacrifices a little wealth in order to make everyone happy and that was a big move on his part. Definitely a fun character to have around.

Diamond Tiara also looked good here. She has come a long way from being the bully like back in the old seasons where she would just show up to mess with the heroes. Now she is actually helping out and trying to make a difference in her community. Bravo to her I say, that’s definitely not easy. I would even say she ended up outshining the main trio here. It may be a bold take but she was able to make a difference without skulking in the night or using any dirty tricks. Of course she has a connection that the main 3 did not since she is related to Filthy Rich but she merely used all of the tools at her disposal in order to save the day. That’s all you can do at the end of the day righgt?

The main trio were fun as always though. They’re always very lively and have a lot of great plans. The plans may not always work out but they don’t give up and that’s the most important thing. Hopefully they get some more adventures in the future as well and having another battle with the Mane 6 could definitely be fun as well. The Mane 6 may have won this time but who’s to say it would go the same way in the next round?

The art here is really solid and colorful which also makes blasting through the comic easy. It’s easy to see what is happening at all times and the character models are on point. On a technical level there is definitely no issues with the comic and I already mentioned how good the writing is. It’s a story aimed younger but written so that grown ups can enjoy it as well with how rational everyone is and it really works out well.

Overall, I would recommend checking this comic out. It’s a lot of fun and has something for everyone. If you want a fun adventure with good characters then you have come to the right place. It sets a high bar for the rest of the My Little Pony comics that’s for sure. I’ll have a review for another one up fairly soon but I can unfortunately say that it doesn’t quite match up to this one. The bar really was set too high this time and that’s just the risk of being super solid.

Overall 7/10

Lost Song Review

The power of song is definitely not something that you would expect to be the ultimate weapon but this show has characters weaponize it which makes for a pretty interesting story. The show is held back a little bit by rather sub par animation and it feels fairly low budget but at the end of the day the story is good enough to keep this as a good anime. It certainly tricked me a bit on how good I thought one character would look though.

The series starts off by introducing us to a girl named Rin who has the Power of Song. Basically her lyrics can turn into tangible power and so her grandfather forbids her from using this technique. Rin doesn’t get why he won’t even explain his reasoning but mostly agrees but one day while in the forest she runs into a guy named Henry who was attacked by a lot of foes and so she uses her songs to heal him. Unfortunately the villains notice this and burn her village to the ground which destroys her grandfather, sister, and everyone living there. She must now get to the capital and achieve her dream of singing in the choir to at least honor their memories.

Meanwhile in the other plot, Princess Finis has the power of song as well. Unfortunately the army is determined to use this ability in order to win their war. Prince Ruto says he will destroy Henry, the man she loves if Finis does not agree to this. So Finis uses her power to destroy opposing forces and heal their allies but each time she sings, a part of her life is drained away. If she doesn’t stop soon then she will die but how can she get around this hostage situation?

I always like having dual main characters so that you can eventually see the two meet up in a climactic moment. That appeal is lessened a bit in this show since it’s not a full action but either way you still want to see them meet up. The show is rather low key for the most part but things change in episode 7 and then the show kicks it up to another level. That moment is so good that it single handily elevates the show and from there we get some time travel shenanigans and alternate timeline routes which is great. It gets complex like Kingdom Hearts with a lot to think about but it works out really well.

As mentioned, one weak point of the show is the animation though. Sometimes it feels like they pretty much ran out of animation and so characters will barely move and the fights leave a lot to be desired. This show doesn’t look very good even if it occasionally has some decent shots. One that looked pretty bad though was one character burning to death but he looks just fine and you would almost think that he was casually tanking it if not for yelling. With the fight scenes being no good as well there just isn’t much to catch your eye.

The soundtrack isn’t all that memorable aside from the Song of Mortality which is really on point. It is fun how characters will just break into song though. It feels like an old Disney cartoon in that sense with how out of the blue it is. You’re definitely not going to see it coming. The first time it happens it will take you by surprise but in a good way. If it was overdone then it wouldn’t be good but I’d say that it works out well enough.

The most annoying character in the show is definitely Prince Ruto. For starters, he’s your classic prince who is using Finis and Henry the whole time but they don’t mess with him because he’s the prince. I always thought that was an annoying plot because they should just take him out. I never like it when the hero just holds back because of their station or because they don’t want to cause an uproar. This guy is actively murdering Finis by forcing her to sing so all bets should be off and you just stop him. Likewise Finis could take him out and then his threats on Henry wouldn’t work anymore.

The show makes Finis and Henry look really bad on this note though. They know that the guy is super evil. He hasn’t been subtle in this with the threats and forcing Henry onto the front lines. Yet, when Corte tells them that they should escape, they look shocked. They’re absolutely flabbergasted when she starts talking about just how corrupt he is. Then later on Prince Ruto summons a bunch of guards and asks Henry to come with him to his tent. Henry suspects absolutely nothing and walks in there without a care in the world. It was one of the most bizarre scenes I’ve watched in a long time. It’s like the writers left a bunch of scenes on the drawing board to explain why he wouldn’t suspect the obvious villain. Something wasn’t right here.

I did like Henry well enough in the show and he was my favorite character until Finis reached in and snatched that title by the end. Henry’s a good guy who is a soldier and is willing to risk his very life to protect his friends. There’s just one problem I have with him aside from being super naive and being an awful tactician. He is really weak. This is what took me by surprise by the way. Henry loses a whole lot in this show. He starts off episode 1 by losing to the enemy fighters but I figured it was a fluke. From there he is easily kidnapped on multiple occasions, loses every fight to the villainous Bazra until someone else has to literally fly him into the guy, and he doesn’t get any solid wins in the show.

The rough part is the show acts as if this guy is a super strong prodigy fighter but we never see that. The show definitely made some questionable decisions and this had to be one of the big ones. Then the supporting cast is a big weak here. We have Doctor Weissen as the quirky scientist character but there’s not much to him. It’s great that he was able to invent some good items but at the end of the day I wouldn’t say that he did much. There are several allies who follow Rin in order to help her but two of them don’t really contribute.

They are Monica and Allu. Monica is a girl who falls asleep whenever she is in danger. Yes that’s her entire gimmick here and it’s not a good one. Then there is Allu who has the amusing gimmick or hitting her legs like a drum whenever she talks but beyond that doesn’t have a whole lot of character. I really think the show could have left these two behind and kept the core hero group a little smaller which would have worked out better.

Finis has one ally in Corte but unfortunately she isn’t a great strategist just like Henry. She figures she can poison Prince Ruto but keep in mind that the guy knows she can’t stand him since she works directly for Finis. So one night an attendant is bringing Prince Ruto a drink and Corte quickly grabs a poisonous one. Okay this is brilliant, switch them out and the attendant will bring Ruto the wrong one right? Wrong! Corte says she wants to bring it herself and that’s where the plan died. Why would Prince Ruto accept a drink from her now of all times? Then she’s not subtle in staring him down to the point where he asks why she is so interested in him drinking this wine. It’s clear that she doesn’t usually act like this and that’s too many mistakes to come back from. She meant well but handled this really badly.

I’d also say that Rin’s grandfather Talgia didn’t handle his side of things very well. He should have just told Rin that if she used her powers then the army would come to kidnap her since they are kidnapping all users of the power of song. That’s it, just give that quick explanation and at least the odds of Rin listening go up dramatically. By acting like he just didn’t like songs and not giving a reason, it made him look completely unreasonable.

Now lets talk about the characters who were a lot more on the solid side. First up is General Bazra who is actually a really solid villain. He also uses Finis in order to attack the other armies but is a lot more strategic about it. He isn’t just randomly being petty and super evil but is doing it strategically in order to win. He has his reservations about her and is always on guard but in general he does well. It helps that I gained respect for his fighting ability every time he beat Henry over and over again. That’s not easy after all but he made it look easy.

Then we have Rin’s friend Goodlight. She’s a travelling singer and can be a little selfish with how she doesn’t want to pay for her room but as the series goes on she is a nice character who helps the heroes out. She is always ready to fight which is a good thing and really comes in clutch. Her fighting abilities may not be enough to get them out of trouble most times but it is a good start and the kids would be in trouble without her.

Rin’s best friend here is Al and he’s not really my kind of character ordinarily but I thought he did a good job of holding it together. When he gets emotional he breaks off from the group so that they won’t notice and while his inventions aren’t very good at the start, he does contribute later on. He definitely had a rough path in the show but did about as good as you could reasonably expect him to without any super powers that he could use.

As for Rin, she’s a decent main character but definitely a lot less interesting than Finis. Rin wants to sing as it was her dream but the dream doesn’t really feel like a big deal compared to most. With her village burning down, you’d almost think that she would be on a quest for revenge or something like that. Maybe it’s for the best that she didn’t go that route but singing still feels like it would be really low on her list of priorities.

Her songs are quite strong though and it is fortunate that she is able to keep on singing without losing her life force the way that most do. Rin gets a lot of big moments as the series goes on. The way her character arc ends isn’t particularly satisfying but at the end she made the hard calls and was a trooper throughout. I just think there should have been more to her character. There’s not much you can say about her beyond the fact that Rin was a good person and that’s more of a statement than a whole personality.

Finally we’re up to Finis and I have a very high opinion on her character. Now she didn’t start out great. At first she is rather clumsy, naïve, and tends to get into trouble. She may be a royal but she doesn’t really know much of what is going on around her. She is super popular and everyone looks up to her but she isn’t really able to leverage this into political power because of her lack of experience.

So at the start it’s annoying because she lets the prince do whatever he wants with her. This all changes in episode 7 and from there on she becomes a great character. I’m now going to get into spoiler territory here so if you haven’t seen the show then you can skip the next 6 paragraphs but it involves timelines and such which is always way too much fun not to talk about. So again this is your last chance and I’ll see you at the ending.

In episode 7 Finis is tricked into murdering Henry via being burned to death. She wasn’t able to react quickly enough to dowse him with water but in part this is also because she ran out of songs. This was the last one that she could use and now she would die. At least…that’s what everyone had said and Finis believed this as well. Desperate times call for desperate measures though and she decides to sing the Song of Mortality. This is a song that will cause doom and devastation and Finis intentionally uses it on a global scale to try and destroy the world. It’s her last big revenge against everyone who has wronged her.

The whole plot of the show changes a bit from this. Finis succeeded in a sense but the song also granted her complete invincibility. Now she has to live through life over and over again and each time it ends she wakes up in a new timeline. Each timeline is similar to the first but different in some ways. In one of them Henry became a scholar for example. But no matter how many times she lives, dies, and repeats she can never be happy. It seems like it just never works out for her. So her plan is to find a timeline similar to the original one but this time she will sing the song while being powered by the choir and can destroy everything absolutely. This can break the chain of immortality and put her at peace.

The plan isn’t foolproof because it’s possible that her immortality just can’t be broken but it’s a plan at least and so I suppose you’ve got to go with that. She has to cling on to some kind of hope at this point because otherwise living out countless lives while never being able to age or die is rough. It doesn’t help that people are corrupt in every timeline and always try to attack her. She also found out that her abilities didn’t have a limit and now she can freely use them to attack others. She puts this to good use in working for the villains as a means to an end.

Therein lies the main twist which is that the timeline we’ve been following was not the original but the latest one which is why there were two of her. The original timeline failed a long time ago, it reminds me of Eden Zero where they do something similar. I do like the idea that for once the original timeline wasn’t the chosen one or anything like that. We’re in a whole new one at this point and in a sense it’s the final one if her plan doesn’t work. Finis makes for a great villain, much better than as a hero. She was a lot of fun to root for as a capable opponent for the heroes.

Realistically if she went all out then they would have been doomed from the jump so don’t expect a real fight. It’s more of a conversation with hope and all. Rin also gets a big role to play but that’s why the ending of the show is no good. It turns out Rin was a song and so she ends up dying at the end to bring Finis back to full power as her role was over. It’s not the ideal ending and you were hoping that she would just come back to life. Instead, she is reborn as a baby where she can now grow up. Of course this means that Al is out of luck since their romance isn’t going to happen now.

This is the only part of the loop that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Rin ended up being the baby in the timeline she came from that wouldn’t have been possible. Song or not, the age of the event wouldn’t have added up. Perhaps there is an essay somewhere to explain it but I definitely thought that was a little on the sketchy side. The show tried a little too hard to make everything interconnected with lots of twists and such there. This time they probably just should have let that one go.

Overall, Lost Song is a fun show. It starts off a bit quiet but the second half is on point. Episode 7 is the turning point of the show and where things get good. The Song of Mortality scene is easily the highlight of the whole anime and you won’t soon forget the music or the animation there. On the whole the show doesn’t look or sound like anything special but they put out all of the stops. The ending may not be very good but it’s also not awful so it’s not going to completely derail the show or anything like that. I’d recommend checking this show out if you want to see a fun music based title. It’s only 12 episodes so it won’t take long.

Overall 7/10

Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun Review

Assassin’s Creed is back with another adventure. This one is a bit longer than the last one at 4 volumes. Still rather short in the grand scheme of things but this means that we have more time for the story. Like with the last one we’re jumping between the past as Shao Jun and the present with Lisa as the two leads. It’s a fairly good manga, I’d say that the artwork is on point although the story in the past isn’t super solid. Half the time you’re waiting to get back to the present to see what Lisa is going to do about her current predicament.

The story kicks off with the past as Shao Jun is the main character. Basically her group of assassins was betrayed by The Eight Tigers, one of their top ranking members was a guy named Gao. At this point Shao just wants to avenge her fallen comrades and prevent this group from succeeding in their goal with the mysterious box. In order to accomplish this, Shao will need to take down all of the 8 tigers. This will be difficult though as most of them are either expert fighters or have hired whole armies with which to protect them. Shao is an assassin by trade so her objective is usually to end the opponent in an instant before they actually know that she’s there.

That advantage is removed when she has to fight straight on which becomes an issue at several points in the manga. Meanwhile in the present, it is Lisa who is using the animus in order to relive the memories of Shao. She is being used by a shady scientist named Kaori who is hoping to find the location of the box in the present time. At this point, both the Assassins and the Templar agents have no idea where it is. I wonder if this is the plot of every Assassin’s Creed game because that’s basically what happened in the movie as well as the other manga I read. I suppose it’s a classic plot but I have to assume the games eventually have a bit of a different story in there. Ezio makes a cameo here which is cool though.

So Lisa doesn’t realize that this is the task and is here because she was always getting into a lot of trouble in school and this should help to rehabilitate her. She quickly sees how realistic the visions are and that she is even retaining some skills but Kaori tells her that this is normal. Lisa’s cousin Mari finds this rather suspicious but can’t convince Lisa to walk away from the experiments. Meanwhile Kiyoshi is a mysterious wild card here who is watching Lisa and Kaori from afar. What is his game and whose side is he on?

Now if you’re really enthusiastic about the present story, remember that the past is the focus here. It’s at least a 70-30 split I’d say and the present timeline usually doesn’t move much until the end. It’s probably something that could be expanded upon if this ever became a complete ongoing anime or something like that. Still, what we do get is always fun. Lisa makes for a good main character. I don’t think her plans are the most sound but at least she does have a plan.

I just feel like getting into the animus is giving the villains way too much power. No matter what plan you might have for when you wake up, that assumes that they’ll let you wake up. The instant the helmet is on, you have no idea what is going on in the real world and I don’t see how you could possibly trust them not to do something while you’re out. Keep in mind that they see everything that she sees through their monitor so the instant that she discovers the location of the box, they can just bump her off and that’s game over.

It’s very fortunate that Lisa has her cousin Mari here to help. Mari is really critical in coming in to help near the end and also working with Kiyoshi on getting intel. You always want to have a dependable ally like Mari on your side. Meanwhile, while I wouldn’t trust Kiyoshi at all, his interests to align with helping out Lisa for now so it’s good that he’s around. He actually has combat skills and training as well so he can mix it up as needed. Lisa will also be able to say that she can fight now that the memories will be permanently stored within her.

The manga and movie always seem to end right before we can really see what the lead can do though. I’d love to get a whole sequel manga about the adventures in the present. Evidently the Assassins and Templar agents are still around so lets see how it goes in the modern day. I think that would be a very exciting thriller series with both sides making big moves in the shadows. You already now that both groups have probably infiltrated all kinds of groups from the shadows already.

Kaori also makes for a solid villain in the past. She is quite devoted to her goal and really goes all out on being a crazy evil scientist. I’d say she underestimated Lisa just like Lisa underestimated her so it all events out. She was a lot more interesting than the villains in the past. Gao and the rest of the Tigers just felt like fodder for the most part. Technically a few of them even had the upper hand on Shao on a few occasions but none of them had very unique designs or personalities so they still felt like throwaways even when they were doing good. It’s hard to describe but they didn’t stand out.

It’s part of why the past setting is never quite able to match the present for me. It’s a lot harder to care about all of these guys. The previous manga did a better job of expanding the character cast in the past and giving them a lot of personality but in this one Shao is really one of the only characters with a lot to do. She is a great character and her quest for revenge is exciting. She gradually learns how to fight better in hand to hand while also keeping to her role as an assassin.

Shao’s the kind of fighter that you can’t count out and she also believed in her friend right away when the villain tried to frame her as an accomplice. Shao isn’t easily fooled and so she’s pretty much forced to carry the whole past story on her own. I’m not sure exactly what you would do to make the past a lot more interesting though. See, another issue is that it’s all in the past so it feels like it doesn’t matter much. It’s not like a flashback in a long running manga where you care because of the world building or you know these characters. These are brand new characters, most of which will die by the end and it’s all to locate the current spot of a box. (And usually the story doesn’t actually let us know where the box is)

I guess the first thing to do would be to have better villains but that’s easier said than done. On paper the story isn’t even bad. It’s a classic revenge tale and she has to steadily defeat all 8 Tigers one by one. That’s a great plot on its own and an exciting summary. How you make the villains more interesting is really up to the writer. Still, while this may not sound too positive, the story is still good. I’d say that the manga in general is a good one. It may not reach the next level but I had a good time reading it and it also has a decent amount of replay value.

There is a lot of action here and the volumes move very quickly. The 4 volumes have so many fights and quick plot developments that it feels like you only read 2 volumes and that’s good. Additionally the art got better as the series went along and I thought it was pretty solid by the end. Everything’s very streamlined, it actually reminded me of Papercutz a bit. The action scenes could get a little violent with people getting stabbed through the neck. The series would not let you forget that these are Assassins, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t say it crosses the line or anything but it’s a bit more than you may expect.

I can also say that you don’t need to play any games to understand this one. I forget if it was based on a game or if this is a completely original story but it doesn’t really matter. It’s completely self contained and you always know what’s going on here. It’s just the ending where you wish that the manga could have kept going for another volume or 2 because effectively it’s like the real story is starting now and that’s the present timeline that I want to see!

Overall, Blade of Shao Jun is a good title. I still wouldn’t call myself the biggest Assassin’s Creed fan and the very premise of always having to go to the distant path is a bit at odds with what I want to see since I’m really big on the present and the future. It’s all executed well enough though and if you’re looking for an old school story about Assassins then this should be up your alley. After all it’s not like there are a ton of stories like this so you want to grab the ones that you can get. Maybe you’ll find the villains more impressive than I did. If you do, then that would instantly jump the series up to the next level but I wouldn’t get my hopes too high there.

Overall 6/10

The Dark Crystal Review

This film was trying really hard to be a Lord of the Rings type adventure but unfortunately….it succeeded. Yes that’s the worst part of this because as a result I just can’t say that it’s very good. It is a little on the boring side and everything is way too drawn out. Mix that in with the visual style of the movie and it was a thumbs down.

So a long time ago there was a big great battle and the ultimate crystal was broken. Jen’s entire clan is wiped out by the villains and as the last survivor he is told that the only way to save the day is to heal the crystal. He can do this by finding a shard. Along the way he meets up with a girl named Kira and they have to overcome many powerful obstacles in order to survive. This world is huge and brimming with all kinds of creatures and other forced out there. Will they be able to claim victory or will this be game over?

Now this is an ambitious film so I’ll grant it that. There are a ton of new terms to memorize and of course you have to watch out for all of the different races running around. It is a full story in that sense as this could even be 2 hours plus with all of the content in here. The problem is that just having a story is not enough, you need to have a very good story.

After a while you just aren’t very invested in Jen’s journey. For starters I didn’t think that he was a great character. He felt a little weak and helpless to me, even dropping an easy catch near the climax. Sure, he ends up doing decent by the end but he’s not a main character that can really drive the film. Then you have the main heroine Kira who is a quality character. I thought she was consistently better than Jen. She was more helpful in combat and had better situational awareness as well. You could count on her.

There was one villain who stood out though and he was a bird that was a lot like Starscream. He was always plotting and thinking of ways to rise to the top. I like to see that kind of ambition in a villain so I liked him quite a bit. He wasn’t good enough to save the movie or anything but his scenes were the most engaging.

At the end of the day what hurts the film is the visual style. So this one is going for a puppets style where all the characters are puppets that are running around. It is definitely not my favorite style and would actually be one of the weakest ones for me. It’s hard to get too invested in what is happening because it all looks fake. I’d even take CGI and a lot of other styles over this one.

It really doesn’t help the plot which was already on the dry side. Now when there is nothing all that fun to look at, the whole film ends up suffering. Just like how good animation or camera angles can help elevate a film to the next level, the opposite can be true as well. A good chunk of why I’d give the film a negative ranking is because of this. It couldn’t keep my attention and would have needed some really drastic positives to change things up.

For example, if the soundtrack was incredible then that’s one way that you can bounce back. Have a lot of rock themes or something like that. Usually I’d throw in fight scenes but we did have some action segments here. They just didn’t work because of the puppets style so that’s a no go. There’s only so much that you can do with this style and the cracks were showing immediately. It’s a shame but that’s just the way that these things go sometimes. I think this could have potential with a remake in full traditional animation.

Live action probably wouldn’t fare much better. Again the plot seems like something out of LOTR and the main character is fairly young. So if this was live action then I don’t think the film would really be able to do too much with this concept. The old school fantasy adventures need a little extra boost than that. Most of my favorite fantasy type titles have some sci-fi thrown in or really cool visuals. Despite being popular, LOTR and films of that nature have my least favorite kind of fantasy.

Everything looks really old all the time and everyone fights with old swords. It doesn’t feel fantastical at all and just an AU of how the old era would have looked. It’s not what you want to strive for in a story like this. I understand this movie eventually got a prequel series so maybe that improves upon things but unless it looks considerably different then I think it’s going to be in for a world of trouble. To make this work you need a whole lot of special effects and CG.

Overall, The Dark Crystal wasn’t for me. It’s a film that will end up being very forgettable with no real good characters to surpass the limits of the medium. You can blame 90% of this on the puppets though. You just aren’t able to convey any kind of emotion or excitement when using those. So it’s like you’re watching an adventure from a very detached position and that’s never what you’re aiming for. I would recommend most fantasy adventures over this one. Watch a title like Final Fantasy Advent Children instead. That one delivers on the action and also has a very interesting story. It may be hard to follow at times but you’ll know that things are getting intense.

Overall 3/10

Dr. Stone Special: Ryusui Review

As the wait for season 3 continues, it was time to check out the quick special for Ryusui. I’ve been looking forward to seeing that guy show up for quite a while now so it was neat to see him in the mix here. It’s a fun special all around and should be nostalgic for Dr. Stone viewers. You get some more adventure here and a solid amount of plot development so you will absolutely want to watch this before you officially check out season 3. Unless they decide to readapt this part I suppose.

The special starts with Senku and friends realizing that they are going to need a good ship captain for the voyages ahead. They’ll be dealing with some rough waters with a ship that isn’t ideal so not just anybody can pilot it. Fortunately there is but one man who can get them safely across any storm no matter how turbulent. That man is Ryusui, the pirate captain of legend! The downside is that this guy is rather egotistical and a huge fan of capitalism. He’ll bring back the currency system and could even take over the world. With another top notch mind around, Senku will have to be extra careful how they handle this guy. One wrong move and it could be the end for the kingdom of science.

The special’s a little under an hour so it’s a good way to fully introduce him into the mix. The characters prepare to build their first boat and before that they even build a blimp so they can see what the terrain is like. At that point is when Ryusui really gets to prove himself although Chrome looks really good as well. You definitely can’t count that kid out. He even has a little rivalry going with Ryusui since they are both explorers. Ryusui just focuses on the oceans while Chrome is a land guy. Immediately you can see how Ryusui is a good addition both for his skills and then also for the dynamic.

With the whole blimp scare near the end, the special does a good job of having a little danger in the mix while also being fairly low key. Ryusui’s introduction arc is actually perfect for a TV special like this because it has a beginning, middle, and end structure. I don’t think it would have been as easy for other points in the series to be used like this without some big cliffhangers. This way the story wraps up perfectly.

Gen is also useful for a change. One issue I always had with him is it felt like his skills as a mentalist never worked. The villains would always see through it or tell him not to talk so they wouldn’t get confused. That doesn’t happen here and aside from Senku, Gen successfully tricks the entire cast. It may be a small thing but I thought it was important because that’s Gen’s whole angle so you do want him to succeed at some point. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a point to keeping him around.

In general it was a good time for the supporting cast to shine as we saw Yuzuriha get to work on the sewing. She also showed a lot of other characters how to do this and before long it was a full community effort. Even Magma got to show off his boat skills even if he wasn’t the top ranking guy around. Everyone got to pitch in and help out which is a nice way to built unity within the kingdom. They have to savor this now too as not everyone will get a big role in the next arc. The series is finally at the place where the hero size is just big enough where you can’t bring everyone all of the time.

If Senku’s team had died on the blimp that definitely would have been a sad way to go out. Like you survived all kinds of threats and tough situations only to die like this? Yeah there couldn’t be much more disappointing news than that. In a way you could say that going on the blimp was an incredible risk that they all took. Personally I’ve never been tempted to go on a blimp myself for that reason. I always felt like it just wasn’t as secure as the others.

Overall, This was a fun special. At the end of the day this special gives you a chance to see all of the characters again and that’s always a good thing. It’s a pleasant little adventure. I’m almost a little surprised we didn’t get some foreshadowing for a villain showing up but maybe that would be going too far ahead. Ryusui is immediately a likable character and adds a lot of fun to the series. Senku and friends should definitely be real glad to have him around and of course now you want to see what Tsukasa says when he gets up since he was against all of these profit schemes right from the start. He may have a big “I told you so” coming to Senku. Still, Senku made the right choice here because as he said, skills have to trump personality right now. You need the best of the best to survive in the stone era. It’s worked so far so why change approaches now? This may be a special but it’s fairly important to the rest of the story so I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

Overall 7/10

Ragna Crimson

Ragna Crimson’s got an interesting premise off the bat with a time travel redo of sorts going on. It’ll be interesting to see how this one goes and the power levels already look like they should get high. The humans are gonna want to stay out of the way on this one. I’m fairly early on after 1 volume but it’s off to a solid start and I’ll have a review up for the series as soon as it’s finished.

Overall 7/10

King of Fighters Gaiden: Origin of the Flame Review

King of Fighters seems to get a whole lot of manga titles. I haven’t been able to finish most of them yet though so interestingly one of our starters gets to be a time travel story. You can’t really go wrong with that though and it’s a fun adventure. I wouldn’t say that I’m a big fan of the main character but we’ve got a good story here with some action and adventure before it all ends.

The series starts with Shingo still being really weak and wishing that he could compete with the big shots like Kyo and Iori. His family is a big mixed on his chances but he knows that one day he will be the best. Unfortunately he falls into a portal that leads him into the distant path in the days of Orochi and the original ancestors of Kyo and Iori. Now Shingo realizes this is a unique opportunity to learn from them but unfortunately nobody trusts him. When the villains start to make their move, Shingo will need to step up or all hope is lost.

It is an interesting way to have Shingo get stronger by fighting people who are just like the ones he aspires to be like. I can see why they’re all a bit suspicious too since Shingo isn’t great at actually conveying all of this. He’s a bit slow on the uptake in regards to his having travelled back in time but eventually he gets it. This feels like a classic Isekai adventure because now he’s in the wilderness with mysterious creatures/monsters and it all takes place in the old times. Of course I do prefer a more modern backdrop but it works out well enough.

The series is only 10 chapters long, however some chapters are split into 3 parts so you could say that this is closer to about 25 chapters. It’s enough time to quickly get Shingo some skills and then throw him back out. I wouldn’t say this one feels rushed or anything like that which is good. The story is balanced all the way through and the art is really solid. At least, the art for the fight scenes is great. I like how the flames are handled and the action scenes have a lot of weight to them. That’s important because there is a lot of hand to hand here so if the animation wasn’t up to par then that would be really bad.

My only issue is that some characters look way too similar. In particular Yasakani and Kusanagi are almost identical at times. They have almost the same uniform and hairstyle as well. The only difference is usually that Kusanagi tends to be smiling while the other guy is always frowning. With the context in the show you’ll usually be able to tell them apart but it’s a little close for comfort if you ask me. So the artist could have done a little better there.

As the main character, I never thought Shingo really rose up for me. I do want to underscore that he’s not really bad or anything like that but at the end of the day he’s a comic relief character trying to quickly transition into being a full fledged hero which is a tough road. It’s not something you can just say that you’ll do and then it’ll be accomplished. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. When he has his serious moments, I can’t always take them seriously and usually he doesn’t either as he’ll go back to yelling after that.

In a power levels sense it also hurts the final fight just a bit because you have a hard time believing that Shingo could pull this off. This is probably the only area where being so short hurts the series because there wasn’t enough time to properly show him getting stronger. We do have a little montage where he remembers the opponent’s skills and starts to adapt to them but it’s a little rushed. Particularly since he was fighting someone with Orochi abilities. I feel like Shingo should have gotten wrecked there.

Kusanagi was a lot more interesting. He’s a guy who likes to fight and protects the villages as best he can. His role grows bigger in the second half once Yasakani is kidnapped and he has to fight off the Orochi opponents. The guy has a lot of confidence and style, both things that I appreciate out of my main characters. His skills were the real deal and he didn’t have to act as gruff as Yasakani the whole time. He just went with the flow.

Yasakani is a good character who is actually a nice guy even if he can’t show it. My only issue with him is that it ultimately feels like he goes down real quick and he doesn’t have a ton of willpower. The way his plot ends was also rather unexpected if you ask me. I didn’t think it had to go that way. He basically decides that he can’t defeat the power within him and runs off in a complete retreat. This dooms everyone to go through the cycle of violence which lasts through to the present. Why not fight against that and control the darkness? Sure, that may be easier said than done but you have to at least try.

Kaya is Yasakani’s wife and she has a solid role here as she can see into the future. Unfortunately this also makes her act rather complacent about the future since she thinks that it can’t be changed but it’s not as egregious as Yasakani because she can’t really fight. Her two opponents would have been too much for her either way. She helps to give Shingo more confidence which is always appreciated though and I would say that she was a good character.

Finally we have the main villain Yakumo. He gets quite a lot to do near the end with all of his scheming. The guy can fight too beyond just being a mastermind which is really good. You always want someone who can do a little of both. Ultimately he doesn’t even let defeat get him down and I appreciated that he took everything with a lot of dignity. To the end he was still really amused and he also helped to raise the stakes of the series as soon as he appeared. Now that’s a good way to make an entrance.

There are two other fighters who appear that are controlled by Orochi but they are almost literally dead bodies that are reanimated with his power. They have some character but appear super briefly. It does remind you that seeing Orochi bring together 8 warriors would have been really awesome but it just wasn’t in the cards this time. I guess the series wouldn’t have been quite long enough for all of that but it would have been a great battle.

I would say the biggest strength of the series is that it’s engaging all the way through. Even though the past isn’t always my thing, the series had a good plot right from the jump. The small character cast allowed everyone to be built up really quick and you could expect a fight in virtually every chapter. Some of them would be training fights of course but the hand to hand was always good. While Shingo wasn’t my favorite lead, I did like that he always had a positive attitude about things.

This was a short series that always felt like it was going to be short so it wraps everything up and does have a very definitive beginning, middle, and end. Whether you’re a fan of the franchise or not I think you would be able to appreciate the series on this basis. It’s just good storytelling even if again, Shingo probably should have gotten wrecked in the final fight.

Overall, This is a solid King of Fighters title and worth checking out. The story itself may feel random but that’s the fun thing about spinoffs. You can pick a character and just drop them into any setting or situation that you want. I imagine Shingo fans in particular would get an extra kick out of this. Why not go all out if you’re going to make a story right? I feel like that’s what this series did and it worked really well. I look forward to finishing some of the other KoF titles as well.

Overall 7/10