Shangri-La Frontier

This one’s a pretty interesting title with how it handles the video game worlds. Unlike Sword Art Online or .Hack where death means complete obliteration, this one is actually playing it out normally for now. You log in and have fun. It’s already got good action though and a less intense story could work out here. I’ll be interested in where it goes and it’s off to a fun start. I will have a review up as soon as I finish the series.

Overall 7/10

Sonic the Hedgehog, Vol. 2: The Fate of Dr. Eggman Review

It’s time to continue the Sonic adventures and this time the hedgehog is up against one of the most intense threats yet! Well we’re not quite at saving the world stuff but the series has been building up the mystery of what exactly happened to Eggman. The robots are still running around and attacking cities in a coordinated way but Eggman himself has yet to appear before Sonic which is strange. We finally get the answers here as well as a new character who shows up.

As always with a standard comic volume this brings 4 issues with it. It’s a pretty well balanced amount of issues to bring in for a quick read. The first two issues are a two part adventure with Team Chaotix letting Sonic know that they’ve found Eggman but something isn’t right. See, Eggman appears to be a good guy with full amnesia and doesn’t know what was going on earlier. As a result he has done a lot of good for the town. Either this is all an elaborate act or he really is a changed man. The moral question is if they should throw him in jail or not because he doesn’t remember his crimes. Meanwhile Sonic has to think quickly because Shadow and Rouge have been dispatched to take Eggman down for the count. Can Sonic really take on the world’s ultimate life form?

Shadow The Hedgehog is a being of nearly unmatched power and so it’s great to see him taking center stage again. It feels like it’s been a little while since he appeared in the comics although of course in this run we’re only at volume 2 so it’s more that I feel like I haven’t seen him in a while. He adds a lot of energy to the comic and of course we have a really good fight with Sonic here. I would argue that in a straight fight Shadow should always win because their speed levels are just about equal but Shadow has his chaos abilities. Sonic’s only real edge here is that his speed is completely natural while Shadow relies on the skates so maybe Sonic will have better maneuverability on quick turns. Additionally Sonic can be said to be a bit faster and I’d accept that but it’s still very close.

Sonic and Shadow do end up having a talk on this though and you understand the positions here. If anything Sonic was sort of on Shadow’s side before the rival showed up, but more in a “I don’t trust Eggman” as opposed to just taking him out. That’s not exactly Sonic’s style after all, he will always take things in a very easy going way and so until he was sure of what he wanted to do he was going to make sure and protect Eggman. It was a solid clash of ideologies and Rouge did what she does best which is gathering information and manipulating the others from the shadows. Without her giving the cast a heads up things probably would have gotten very dicey.

In terms of the Eggman situation well I’d have to say that they got it right. At the end of the day taking revenge on him now when he doesn’t remember anything wouldn’t really accomplish anything. I think you could probably still lock him up and wouldn’t resist that order but the idea of having him effectively do community service while being watched by other heroes makes a lot of sense to me. That way they’ll see if he does anything crazy and in theory they can stop him right away. No harm no foul and all. I look forward to seeing Shadow return again in the future though.

In the third issue we get the big return of Metal Sonic which was cool. He’s always a really interesting character and can have some of the best storylines. He’s still in his neo Metal Sonic form similar to Heroes and I like the spiky nature of that design. He is still really powerful as well to the point where Sonic wasn’t sure about finishing the fight there. I look forward to having a more extended fight with the two of them soon but this definitely worked as a solid intro for Metal Sonic to this series and he has big plans. It’s safe to say that he’s going to have a big role for a while now and the heroes are absolutely on the back foot at this point.

The final issue continues the saga but more as a subplot as we focus on Sonic and Silver teaming up with a new character named Whisper. She’s sort of like a next generation freedom fighter. She works alone but has been taking down quite a lot of enemy bases and helping people out. She’s as quiet as a whisper but already has a lot of fans including Silver. She seems like a talented fighter but I admit that the whispering gimmick got old really fast so I’m hoping she will get over that as part of a character arc or something. No reason you’d have to keep that angle up for all of her character appearances right? I mean you could…but I’m ready to break away from that and just have her stand out by saving the day all the time.

Admittedly Silver could stand to look a bit cooler as well. I miss the days of Sonic 2006 when he was basically Future Trunks. An unstoppable fighter trying to avenge his forsaken future and doing what needs to be done. He’s lost so much edge since then that he may as well be a completely different character. You would just never guess that he is the same guy if not for the design being the same. I need Silver to have his big comeback and quickly because I always liked that guy a lot back in the day.

Still, Sonic is on point as always and that’s the most important thing in the end. The art is really good as expected and it makes for an easy read. You never have to pause on a page to wonder what’s going on because it’s all really clear. If you’re pausing it is only to appreciate how good and streamlined the art is. A lot of work was absolutely put into this one and the Sonic series continues to operate at a high level. I would even say that it beats volume 1 since this time we got Shadow and Metal Sonic into the mix which always elevates things.

Overall, I definitely recommend checking this comic out. The Sonic comics have not disappointed and we are setting up the seeds for a lot of fun events in the future. At this rate Sonic is going to need some back-up and maybe even his Super Sonic form won’t cut it this time. Might it be time to bring in Infinite? Well, it’s not like Sonic even knows where that guy is or if he even still exists but it’s something to dream about at least. Sometimes you need overwhelming power to stop another powerful fighter.

Overall 8/10

Fire Emblem Engage

Probably thought this was for the game for a minute there right? I’ll have a review up for that one soon too but in the meantime the manga has started and it’s off to a good beginning. I’ll have a review up once it finishes but the art is good and the story is on point so I see this being a smooth journey.

Overall 7/10

The 39 Steps Review

The 39 Steps is definitely an interesting movie but it is one that is held back by the main character. He’s annoying to watch the whole time and will just grate on your nerves. The guy isn’t the nicest fellow that’s for sure and leaves the worst possible first impression with the main heroine so while you expect that the romance is still coming, you are just hoping that it won’t. Just skip it….so I enjoy the story in the film and how everything is really mysterious but the film also has a lot of unnecessary moments and a weak lead that distracts from this.

The movie opens with Richard enjoying a show where a guy called Mr. Memory confirms that he knows everything. Ask him any serious question and he can get you the answer on the spot. It’s really quite impressive to be honest. Well suddenly a lady runs into Richard and asks him to take her home. He agrees but the whole thing is rather odd. She says that she is being chased by a bunch of ruffians who want to murder her and while Richard doubts this at first, she is promptly murdered. The only clue he has left is a paper she was holding with a map. He is now the primary suspect in her murder so he has to find the real villains and solve this case quickly.

So far so good. It’s a pretty interesting plot. One unique thing about the movie is also that this guy is completely out of his depth for the entirety of the movie. Yes, not just the beginning of the movie or for part of it but the whole thing. This guy really has no clue what he is up against and even we as the viewer don’t know a whole lot. This is done effectively since we’re seeing the world through the lead’s eyes. There is no time for info dumps or twists about what is going on. Yes, we get some answers by the end but not a whole lot of them. The majority of the film is Richard running around and getting himself into trouble.

For example one of the best parts there is when Richard finally makes it to his destination and meet up with a Mr. Jordan who he thinks can help him. Unfortunately this guy turns out to be one of the main villains so not only is he not going to get any help from this guy but it’s actually the reverse and he might be in trouble now. I like how Jordan plays along for a bit before just dropping the act. The film also has that retro style of talking where everyone is being super polite even when talking about how someone is going to get murdered. Jordan says Richard has to die but gives him some options and tries to be nice about the whole thing.

Then while they’re in the middle of talking he just shoots Richard out of the blue. I just like how nonchalant the whole thing was. He just shot him in the middle of the living room and walked away. Now granted, this also leads to the cheesiest part of the film which is that he didn’t check to make sure that Richard was actually dead. Cmon now that’s the first thing you have to check. It turns out that the bible he stole from a domestic abuser saved his life. Richard’s luck gets no better as he runs off to the sheriff who doesn’t believe his story at all and things continue to escalate.

So yeah Richard is doing a lot of running here which is why we don’t have time to learn much about the two factions of secret agents going at it with each other. You just need to know the key facts here which is that one side has some intel that they shouldn’t and they will get away unless the cops get involved. By the time the film is over Richard may be safe for a bit but I feel like nobody’s actually going to stop the 39 Steps because where do you even begin with that? We don’t even know how big the organization is or how many members they have. The possibilities are really endless.

If this was the extent of the film then it would all be swell but one of the weakest aspects of the film is the whole subplot with Pamela. So they first meet on a train where Richard tries to use her as a disguise when being chased by the cops. His bright idea here was to go all the way for a kiss instead of a hug or something. I was glad when she ratted him out because if a random person shows up and does that this should absolutely be your first reaction. He holds that against her though and the whole scene is just wild because it also doesn’t feel like something the hero would do. I thought that was a really weak scene.

She tries to get him into trouble for a long while after that but eventually they get handcuffed together and now she really has no escape. He forces her to pretend to be married to him and whenever she tries to yell for help he’ll just grab her by the neck so she can’t talk or threaten to shoot her. This is the hero? Now it’s not like the film is portraying him to be demented or anything and the scenes aren’t meant to be crazy but they’re not exactly played for laughs either. I think he just goes way too far in trying to scare her. He fears for his life but making her fear for hers really isn’t helping matters in the slightest. He still takes time to flirt and start a relationship as well so he needs to get his priorities straight.

The guy is all over the place and so by the end you have no sympathy for him. It’s a shame that people think he is a murderer but he’s starting to act like one anyway so that’s maybe just how this will end up going anyway. The film also has a very random pitstop near the middle where he bumps into a rather shady guy who prays a lot but seems like a phony and his poor wife who doesn’t really know what to do. Things get dicey for her after Richard leaves and it’s like…did we need to see this? Yeah it’s generally understood that this guy seems like he may get abusive and has a chip on his shoulder but it’s a bit of a dark element that has absolutely nothing to do with anything.

This film feels really unfocused which is fine for the story but it also just means that any bad elements which show up also feel like they have no real point in being here. The film would just be better off without these moments being included at all and there is no real incentive to watch this over another thriller. I’d recommend most of the other retro titles I’ve seen higher than this one. The ending is pretty clever and ties in well to the intro but ultimately this film barely breaks even. That’s quite the feat considering that with the solid writing and tone this would usually be guaranteed to be a 7 at least so you know the title definitely did something wrong.

Overall, That main character just needed to be arrested after a while and you feel worse for the heroine who gets swept up into all of this. If this ever gets a remake I think we just need to have a bigger focus on The 39 Steps and what they really do. They certainly have a lot of plans going on and operatives around the world but what is their end game really? I just want to see more of how they operate in this world while living double lives as millionaires having fun in society. Those questions are the most interesting parts of the film.

Overall 5/10

Tarzan Review

Tarzan is definitely a very well known Disney film from back in the day. It has a lot of adventuring and has grown to be rather iconic over the years. That being said, I’ve never been a big fan of the jungle landscape. Give me the big city anytime as it just ends up feeling a whole lot more exciting. The big buildings and everything is really what gets me pumped and Tarzan is not one of my favorite Disney leads either. Still I have to say that the animation here is exceptional and holds up very well. I dare say that most of the modern titles can’t touch this one and this came out before 2000!

The movie starts with Tarzan’s parents being obliterated so he is adopted by a gorilla known as Kala. He grows up with her family and the tribe and becomes quite talented. His English isn’t great as he is used to talking with the animals but it all works out reasonably well either way. One day a group of humans show up to study the gorillas but the chieftain Kerchak warns Tarzan to stay away from them. Humans are often awful creatures who destroy everything in their path after all so associating with them would not be a good idea. Tarzan can’t help himself though. Will his infatuation with Jane cause destruction to all those he knows and holds dear?

Tarzan had a tough time fitting in with the other Gorillas throughout the movie so that’s part of why he looked forward to spending time with some other humans. They were people he could really understand and hang out with after all so it really did make a lot of sense. That said, it is still a shame since he had finally gotten the reluctant respect of Kerchak and people didn’t mess with him anymore. Putting his family in danger was just not good and ultimately Kerchak is the one who has to pay a heavy price for it. He should have just said his hellos to the humans without selling out the rest.

As I always say you can risk your life if you want to but the instant you put other people in danger is when you have officially gone too far. You just can’t be doing things like that, it’s not a good idea. Even if there wasn’t a villain like Clayton in the mix, the risk itself is the problem and you can’t rely on hindsight to fix that. He has to hold the L here. I did like Tarzan more once he was really able to talk in English with the others. He actually learned a lot quicker than I expected since I’m used to him still being in the trying to adapt phase. I guess that may just be a popular part of his character since in the film he changed rather quickly.

Tarzan can also fight so that’s always handy. He’s not someone that the villains can take for granted. He does lose quickly on the boat but he was outnumbered so I will cut him a little bit of slack there. Meanwhile Jane is a good main heroine. She may panic a lot at first but ultimately she does help out and gets used to the current situation going on. Her father Porter is trying his best as well and doesn’t have any malicious intentions with meeting the Gorillas. Porter and Jane really just want to learn more about them and of course there’s nothing wrong with that. They just needed to be careful who else they brought along with them on the trip.

Clayton does make for a very imposing villain though. The guy is quite good at his job. He may be an antagonist but he’s not slacking in any areas as he is able to climb trees almost as well as Tarzan. Their fight in the climax is really intense because this guy is crazy strong, almost inhumanely so. If he lasted longer he would have made for a powerful recurring villain but either way he is not someone that you will be forgetting anytime soon. No shot of that, the film really shows why this guy is such a threat.

As mentioned earlier, the animation here is fantastic and they use a lot of strong lighting to really make Clayton appear as imposing and intimidating as possible. It’s part of why he leaves such a lasting impression whenever he is on screen. Even simple tasks like climbing vines are more fun in this movie because of the sharp animation. There is just so much energy to every action and it’s why I miss when we had such top quality animation like this. I think if this style had kept up then America would even be able to contend with anime right now on a consistent basis.

The supporting characters are a bit on the weaker side for me. You have Tantor who is an elephant who learns from Tarzan’s example and ends up finding himself a home in the gorilla tribe. He is someone who comes through for Tarzan even when the others don’t so I give him points there. He’s just not super entertaining. Then you have Terk who may be one of Tarzan’s best friends but she’s not super loyal. She turns her back on Tarzan at one point and then early on was quick to dismiss him while hanging out with the bullies. Both of those scenes started her off on the wrong foot for me.

Kala did well the whole time in bringing Tarzan into the tribe and integrating him into the mix. She defended him for years and then when he was old enough to defend himself she was still there as a good supporting character. Kerchak was more on the stubborn side since he really didn’t see Tarzan as being quite tough enough to fit in and felt he would always be an outsider. I’ll give him some credit for at least giving Tarzan his due respect once the hero took out the tiger who had been attacking them and defended the tribe against Clayton. I mean the latter was his fault but at least he tried to remedy his mistakes.

There are some songs here but none that I would say would end up going down as all time classics. They don’t seem very nostalgic to me compared to other songs that I’ve heard in the past so it at least feels like they weren’t super huge. They could be fast paced but weren’t big game changers for me either. The animation stands out as more impressive than the ost here. It helped to redeem what could have otherwise been a very boring jungle backdrop.

Now because of all the animals running around here and the jungle there is some animal violence going on. There are at least two main deaths here which was unfortunate. Neither one is particularly cruel or drawn out but I would have much preferred a clean win for the hero and then the animal either runs off or turns good. It was just unfortunate that it had to go this way. Particularly the heroic animal’s death because it just makes Tarzan’s mistake feel a lot more irredeemable because of the heavy price paid for it. At the very least he will need to work really hard to try and mount a comeback after that because this isn’t something that’s super easy to come back from.

Overall, Tarzan does feel like a grand movie because the budget for it was so high. They did a good job of making it as sleek and intense as possible. At the end of the day there are just parts of the premise that will always make it hard to be very good though. With the origin out of the way I could see the sequel being a lot better. The romance was rather weak so I’m not sure I’m ready for much more of the Tarzan and Jane pairing but otherwise you could probably have a fun adventure coming up. I’d put this around the middle. It’s not a film I would look forward to checking out again but the animation keeps it from dragging out and the fights are intense. Check it out if you do enjoy the Jungle setting.

Overall 5/10

The Most Dangerous Game Review

It’s time for a very old thriller title that’s also super short. It could have stood to be a little longer because I enjoyed the concept and there’s more you could do with it. Still, you should have a good time either way and it serves as a reminder to always be on your guard. If you let your guard down for an instant then things can get very tricky.

The movie starts with there being a big boat crash and Bob finds himself washed ashore a mysterious island. Everyone else died due to powerful sharks roaming the area. Bob is a pretty big animal hunter himself and on the boat they had been asking him what it would feel like to be hunted. He had figured that could never happen but now what can he do? Well at least the owner of the house, Zaroff appears to be a nice guy even if he’s a little eccentric. There are two other survivors here in Eve and Martin. Eve seems quite afraid of Zaroff for some reason while Martin is super drunk but pretty happy about everything going on. Martin explains that Zaroff is a great guy and has good food. Is there more to this place than meets the eye?

Of course you can probably piece some things together based on the title and the poster. This is going to be a hunt like no other. I will say right off the bar that Martin is the most entertaining character in the movie. He’s just so drunk that it’s really quite impressive. You would think that he would sober up at some point but he doesn’t. He just keeps on going and has one of the most shrill voices that I’ve head in quite a while. One thing’s for sure, you won’t be forgetting him afterwards. Once he’s gone the film gets 100% serious since this guy was the only one brightening things up.

He wasn’t particularly smart or quick on the uptake so it makes sense he would go fast. As soon as people vanished and never returned you’d figure something was up ordinarily but the beers really threw his mind for a loop. Eve suspects that something is wrong but she isn’t really able to do a whole lot about it on her own. Her own physical power isn’t super high after all and running off by herself into the island wouldn’t end up doing a whole lot. She is by herself on the island so where would she even go? Bob arriving is really her only hope to get out of here in one piece.

As for Bob, he’s a reasonable main character. Definitely a little slow on the uptake as well but at the same time it’s not like he has any real reason to trust Eve over Zaroff. He just met both of them so they’re each suspicious in their own ways. At least once it’s time for a fight then he can defend himself as well as anyone else. He is used to hunting animals and so trying to take down a human hunter isn’t as big a deal as it would be for many fighters. Of course Zaroff set things up so he has the advantage with his hunting dogs and minion all around.

This guy has been doing this for a long time after all so he has a plan for everything. Ultimately Bob was fun and for the most part Zaroff was a decent villain. At least his hunting philosophy is interesting but once he started viewing Eve as a trophy then he felt more like a generic bad guy without a whole lot of honor codes and rules to keep himself grounded. That’s my main issue with the guy. It doesn’t line up with his overall character of being so sophisticated and wanting a higher challenge for himself in going after people. By wanting to get the girl then suddenly he was just another guy and it hurt his character quite a lot. It was definitely disappointing to see that’s for sure.

The main climax of the film is Zaroff and Bob going at it as they try to hunt each other in the forest. It really lends itself well to being a fun sequence although the heroine does hold Bob back a lot. I would have preferred this to have been a true 1 vs 1 so we can see how they do. The film presents Bob as being far superior both in planning and experience but maybe if this was a straight forward fight we could have made things be a bit more balanced. It would be a lot of fun to see them laying down traps and all as the entire film.

Again this is where a longer length could have helped the movie. This one’s only about an hour so by the time the characters go outside a large portion of the film is already done. At the same time you couldn’t really cut out much of the intro because that was all needed for the characterization and setting up the plot that was to come. So the only solution is making it longer but I would still recommend checking the movie out. The script is good and you get a lot of good banter the whole time.

The only real issue here is as you can guess with this being a hunting film there can be some collateral. The rest of the hunts are never on screen so you don’t see animals going down for the most part but one does go down near the end. It’s totally off screen or pretty much all off screen but you still know what happened. It’s handled more tactfully than most so I wouldn’t lower this to a negative score but it’s still not quite as high as it could have been.

Overall, The Most Dangerous Game is fairly suspenseful. It takes a fairly simple plot and makes it engaging all the way through. Make a 2 hour movie on this and invite just a few more guests. Then the setup would be absolutely perfect for a true thriller with a lot of chases going on. Yes that would definitely be right up my alley and I would have a lot of fun with that. Of course a remake would have to be careful and not add a bunch of animals in there to fill up the time. That’s exactly what you don’t want to do and I admit that I would be a little nervous about that angle the whole time. Nothing ventured and nothing gained though so I’d check it out and hope for the best. In the meantime treat this film like a proof of concept. Put yourself in Bob’s place and imagine being hunted. It’s definitely a scary situation to be in and the shark infested waters also mean that there is no easy way out of the island. One way or another you need to take down the ruler.

Overall 6/10

Pokémon Journeys Review

Pokemon Journeys was a really ambitious anime that brought a ton of old characters back. It was like a trip down memory lane and really worked well as the final big stop on Ash’s journey. A lot of people who stopped keeping up with the series made sure to come back for this one and you can absolutely understand why. It was such a big deal for Ash to be competing against other champions and the nostalgia was off the charts. This manga series chronicles those adventures to an extent but it’s only 4 volumes long so it ends up being a very abridged version.

The series starts off by introducing us to Ash and Goh (Go, Gou…it’s spelled so many different ways but I’m used to Goh the most so I’ll use that one for this review) as they set off on their journeys. Ash wants to become a Pokemon master, a trainer who is without peer. To this end he is gearing up to enter the World Coronation Series which is a massive tournament with around 1000 trainers. You have to keep winning to rise up the ranks until you are in the top 8. Only at that point are you entered into the bracket segment of the tournament where you will be fighting with other opponents with the highest of stakes.

Meanwhile Goh wants to catch every Pokemon that ever existed. This includes Legendaries and of course it is a very ambitious task. I don’t think anyone has ever caught all of the Pokemon in this world and it’s hard to picture that changing. There are so many hundreds of Pokemon and then a lot of them need to be evolved as well so you will need to spend time to train them up. I’m not sure if Goh has that kind of time although of course it would be great if he could pull this off. The two of them meet up and form a duo as they go along the region and have their big adventures. Will they be able to accomplish their objectives and get along?

Right away you can see how the series is moving at a super high speed though. Some Pokemon captures are basically off screen and I’d say this feels more like a “Best Hits” collection than anything else. It’s sort of like the manga is adapting all of the stories they felt would be the most exciting and that’s absolutely a valid approach but at the same time that also means if you are reading this without watching the show then you won’t get the most impactful experience out of it. It just goes by really quickly the whole time. In some ways it reminded me of the Dinosaur King manga which may feel a bit random but it was also a really quick adventure. That one did have more of a focused plot though because it chose to take a different path than the show.

That probably would have been the best way to go with this one if they knew that the volume count would be limited. Still, it’s always fun to see Ash around which is why I’d say that this series is pretty good. I don’t think you will find it particularly memorable in the end but Pokemon adventures are typically always good by default. You get some fun fights here and Ash is always a solid main character. By this point in the series he is very experienced and has a lot of good tactics. You can count on him to do well with Pikachu and so of course they do tend to shred most of the competition.

Meanwhile for Goh he’s not my favorite character yet but he has potential. Mainly he gets teased a lot by Gary and tends to lose those fights but Ash was also verbally defeated by Gary all the time back in the day. It’s not really something to feel bad about as a result. It’s just how it goes and of course Gary has way more experience on his end than Goh does. I like Goh’s goal of trying to catch all of the Pokemon though. Even if I think he’ll never pull it off, it’s something different than the previous rivals and helps to really switch things up. If he can just be a bit bolder and more ready to fight then that would help him out instead of making excuses that he’s just not used to battling. Nobody’s buying that after all.

The artwork is good but not great. The manga likes to go all in with the facial expressions and it’s clear enough but at times there aren’t a lot of details. To me this looks more like what I would consider a cash-in manga to be. It works out since that’s effectively what this title is but I’d still like to be surprised with something a bit more high end like Pokemon Adventures. The fights are on point though and that’s what counts.

It’s also nice to see Leon a bit even if he only has time for two quick matches. The guy would go on to become one of the strongest of all time after all so you really want to see what he can do early on. I remember when this fight happened in the anime as well. Ash definitely did pretty good all things considered and I like to think that if Pikachu had just a bit more time that he could have pulled out the win. He still has a lot of speed and experience on his side after all. At least it wasn’t a blowout. At this point I just don’t think that any Pokemon can possibly hope to crush Ash like that.

Raihan, Bea, Lance, and other trainers are all around as well. One strong aspect of Pokemon has always been the really solid supporting cast and that doesn’t change here as well. All of these guys are fighters and have made it this far for that reason. Seeing Ash be able to brush shoulders with all of them is great and shows how far he has come. Honestly I wouldn’t have minded if they just cut right to the giant tournament and just adapt every battle. In a way that’s really what put Journeys on the map although I know people enjoy the normal episodes as well. It’s just that the World Coronation Series is too exciting to miss out on and it’s a shame that the manga couldn’t adapt more of it.

Of course Gary also shows up here which is nice. It’s still too bad that he’s not as much of a fighter nowadays since he was so good. I hope he gets a big fight at some point in the future. He has grown up though which is impressive in itself since Ash hasn’t really changed all that much. It does help the theories that someone froze Ash’s time somehow and that would be an intense plot point to explore. As one of the last Ash adventures I suspect this manga will grow even more nostalgic over time.

I feel like almost all of my complements to this series feel like they are back handed ones. It’s just not trying to do anything special or be anything more than a standard Pokemon manga though. It’s going through the motions and that’s really all that you need it to do. It’s a very easy read that you can pick up at any time and just blast through. There aren’t any big character arcs to speak of or any big overarching plot to complete like in Legendz. So that’s also why there isn’t a whole lot to say because it’s just quickly adapting episodes and moving fast. How much you enjoy it will depend on how much you like Pokemon. At the end of the day I do like the series a lot though so even a mini manga like this will be fun for me and I would still recommend it to anyone out there. You can’t really go wrong with more adventures for Ash and Pikachu after all. They’re still the classic Dynamic Duo for a reason.

Overall, Pokemon Journeys is a good manga but one that almost feels like a commercial for the show. If you like this title then you’ll want to go and watch the episodes to see how things end. Of course if you pick up from where this one left off then you will be missing some adventures since the manga does a lot of skipping around. I think the skips make sense to some degree but they could have done it a bit smoother so that it wouldn’t be obvious that something was skipped. For example I don’t think the manga should skip any Pokemon captures or battles that are referenced later on. We get that with one of the rematches here where it’s odd since we didn’t see the original. You’ll have a good time either way though and if you see this on the shelf you may as well pick it up. It’s a nice way to zoom through the early parts of Journeys and then you can jump ahead to the big part of the tournament.

Overall 7/10

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

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