Children Who Chase Lost Voices Review

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I definitely didn’t know what to expect when I started this film. I didn’t know anything about it, from the plot to the characters. Unfortunately, the film wasn’t a pleasant surprise and certainly fell way below what I would have expected from it. It’s a shame since the film could have been good if it just had a better all around staff. The end product is just rather boring and aimless. It drags on and on and on.

Asuna is an everyday kid who knows how to take care of herself. She performs all of the chores and keeps her house in order since her Mom is typically out. One day, she witnesses a battle between a mysterious kid and a giant monster. They quickly become friends, but the kid is murdered soon after. Asuna doesn’t know what’s going on, but then the kid’s younger brother Shin shows up. He wants her crystal so one thing leads to another and she jumps through a portal with him to another world. Her substitute teacher, Ryuji, decides to come as well while he lets his comrades murder a poor monster that chose the wrong place to hang out. Despite realizing that Ryuji is a murderer who sold out his comrades and is keeping her prisoner, Asuna doesn’t take it personally. She hopes they can still be friends, but what is she even doing here anymore?

The film’s pretty aimless as I mentioned. Ryuji’s here to bring his wife back to life. If he can murder enough people, maybe he can get into the under world and find her. Of course, it won’t be so easy, but he is ready and willing to sacrifice Asuna to do this. Shin wants to help his corrupt village get their pendent back and is ready to murder everyone to do this as well. Asuna is really just here for the thrills and maybe she can see the dead kid again this way. There are no likable characters here and once again it is a story where you just feel bad for the animals. They didn’t ask for this, but the humans are always picking on them anyway.

What makes Asuna unlikable is the fact that she hangs out with Ryuji after everything he did. She seems completely oblivious to life in general and makes all of the wrong decisions. She is supremely annoying and grating to watch and if she even had a sliver of personality then she would have been a far better character. Even if the personality made her a jerk, at least it’s be something. She’s like a blank slip of paper in this one. Ryuji is evil even if the film doesn’t always try to portray it that way. I couldn’t sympathize with him one bit even if his goal is one that I typically don’t mind for villains. If he wants to do this, then he should go all the way and accept his role as a villain. The fact that the movie portrays him to still be a decent guy otherwise is just annoying and I didn’t buy it.

Shin’s also pretty generic. At least he helped out when it counted, but he’s just soooo weak. How could he let himself get one shotted so many times in one film? It was particularly embarrassing when he tried to stop Ryuji, but couldn’t. The film went out of its way to mock the concept of a child hero as he thought he was a great warrior, but ended up just being a kid in the end. It was easy for Ryuji to take him down. There weren’t any other real characters here aside from random villagers and Asuna’s human friend. They didn’t get to really do anything.

I’d say that the film was just too long. You’ll get bored after a little while and the fantasy elements take too long to really turn into anything tangible. The nightcrawler things were interesting as they suddenly showed up and kidnapped Asuna. More creatures like that could have been fun, but the sad fact is that the majority of them were animals that couldn’t fight and just existed to get slaughtered by the humans. The animal violence is naturally a huge reason why the film was really bad. They gunned down an animal for no good reason and this was the government. It’s all rather vague which is supposed to be interesting, but I wasn’t invested enough to care. Why does the government want this mystical land and how do people know about it? Why have they not sealed off the exits so the fantasy people don’t just come to the human world whenever they want? You can wait for the answers, but they’ll never come. It was always surprising when someone would get slashed and blood would appear. It always felt a little out of place, but it’s not excessive or anything. I wouldn’t really count it as a negative, but the animal part makes that irrelevant anyway.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the animation isn’t all that good. It’s not bad, but it has that soulless look that you may have come to expect from Westernized anime or as I like to call them “General audience” anime. It’s something that can be hard to describe, but it’s just a style. Look at Spirited Away or this film and then look at the latest DBZ or Naruto film. The latter you can instantly tell is an awesome anime film while the former titles look more see through and American. However you describe the difference, I always prefer the latter. It just looks a whole lot better. This film still looks decent by American standards though. We do get some action scenes here and I suppose the animation tries its best, but it certainly doesn’t do much to help the film. Likewise with the soundtrack as there aren’t any interesting themes here. I can’t say that I’m very surprised though. Not too much of a knock on the film, but you wouldn’t expect it to have any cool tunes. That’s just the kind of film it is.

Overall, Children Who Chase Lost Voices was absolutely a flop. Animal Violence + Annoying characters is always going to equal a loss in the end. The film was way too long and just got to be boring by the end. You’d definitely be changing the channel if this ever comes on TV again. None of the monsters were all that impressive when it comes to their power and the ending is like another laugh to the viewers. It seems to be a running gag that the heroine loves to go back to Earth and act like the whole thing never happened in the end. It was fitting for this film though since we’ll all just try to move on from this title. It’s definitely not one that I’d recommend. You should go watch a Dragon Ball Z film instead.

Overall 3/10

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Puella Magi Madoka Magica Homura’s Revenge! Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall 7/10

Noragami

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I’ve started a new series! Off to a decent start so far. I’m glad that the main character switched partners since the original one was pretty annoying. It’s at the point where the series can go in any direction so I’ll have to wait and see if a tournament starts or if it’s time to go to the demon world Either way, I’ll have a review for it when I finish the series to its completion.

Overall 6/10

The Huntsman: Winter’s War Review

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It’s time to look at the sequel that leaves you feeling a little puzzled. Why did the Huntsman get his own film? I don’t fully understand! Anyway, this film does have some really good action scenes and the plot is also more interesting than the first film. That being said, a really forced romance between the two leads holds this film back quite a lot. I dare say that it would have been pretty good without that, but the romance goes on for so long and takes away from so many scenes that I have to lower the score. Regardless, it is certainly better than the last film that I just reviewed.

The film starts off with a flashback to show us Eric’s origin before he was the legendary Huntsman. He grew up under the rule of Queen Freya and was forced to participate in her wars. It was the only life that he knew though so he worked hard and made it to the top of the ranks. Unfortunately, he broke Freya’s most important rule by falling for another warrior named Sara. As Freya realized that any romance was doomed to an untimely end, she decided to destroy them. To their credit, Eric and Sara put up a pretty good fight. They were heavily outnumbered, but took down a majority of the troops. Unfortunately, Sara was eliminated from behind and Eric was forced to beat a hasty retreat.

It made for a pretty epic opening to the film. The fight scenes were well handled and we got a glimpse of Freya’s true power. This whole scene would be very important later on when you keep Ravenna’s illusion magic in mind. The film then jumps quite a few years into the future as the story now takes place after the Snow White film. The Queen has fallen ill thanks to the magic mirror that she stole from the villain and it was sent away. The problem is that the foot soldiers were all killed off and Queen Freya managed to get her hands on it. I have to say that this was pretty sloppy of the heroes. What did they really expect was going to happen when they left to transport the most dangerous weapon in the kingdom? Eric is tasked with going to find it, but a pair of Dwarves tag around to bring the writing down a few pegs. Also, Sara shows up so Eric has to ask himself some tough questions. Did she really die or did he just use that as an excuse to escape with his life?

As mentioned before, the film squanders its positives by including a lot of negatives. The Dwarves are a good example of that. We get 4 of them to appear as main characters and they spend the entire film making fun of each other only to suddenly turn it into a romance at the very end. It’s poorly handled during the entire film and it’s just annoying after a while. I wouldn’t mind the insults so much if it wasn’t obvious that they were going to get together. As it stands, it’s just a little hard to watch. The film didn’t do a good job with the romance in general though. Eric and Sara’s plot is about as bad.

It follows the same formula so the writer must be a fan of it. Sara spends a lot of time insulting Eric for falling for a simple illusion and leaving her to die. She constantly says stuff like “We can’t be together” or “I’m through” only for the two characters to make up 10 minutes later to the point where we can get whole minutes of them making it up to each other. It was terrible and Eric’s overconfidence actually pays off in this case as he suspected they’d be back together.

As for the positives, the film’s action scenes kept getting better and better. Aside from the opening fight, we also got a battle with Ravenna and Freya. It was nice to see Ice vs vague Dark abilities and any fight with one of the Queens wrecking the heroes was cool as well. Ravenna really didn’t think any of this through though as she could have made it to the top if she didn’t insist on attacking Freya’s people. The film does make the villains a little overpowered though and the heroes really shouldn’t stand a chance. By merging with the mirror, Ravenna gained super strength, speed, and even high speed regeneration. Add to this the fact that she can manipulate the shadows to attack everyone around her and you have a fairly unbeatable enemy.

The effects for these action scenes were also very solid. The film definitely seemed to have a reasonably high budget and it’s easy to make fight scenes with large groups boring like in Warcraft, but this film pulled it off. It was actually a lot more interesting than the Snow White film and the core plot here is fairly solid. I would have liked to have seen Snow White show up herself to defend the kingdom, but I suppose she’s busy recovering from the evil mirror she had in her room. Again…that wasn’t a smart play.

Queen Ravenna is a great villain and probably the best character in the film. Her presence captures the room in every scene that she is in. Ravenna has the disposition of a final boss and when she showed up it was rather unexpected so that was great to see. Freya is essentially a more sinister version of Elsa. Her situation and backstory are fairly similar. Freya certainly didn’t take things as well though and became a total villain, but perhaps Elsa would have as well if her sister was evil. Freya did stand up for her wards in the end though and while her goals were a lot more extreme, at least she was trying to protect her people in her own way. She was a good villain as well.

I already talked about how bad the Dwarves were so lets ignore them. Eric isn’t a bad main character I suppose. Overconfidence is a good trait and he’s capable in a fight. He may be a little too dramatic at times, but he’s a solid lead. His one character flaw is the same with Sara’s, the romance angle. It was just unnecessary. Sara is very similar to Eric as she’s also overconfident and talks a good game. Unfortunately, she can’t back it up quite as well as she loses several times in the film. The one time she looked good was a moment where I have to question the power levels. Still, it happened so that was a good moment for her.

Okay, here’s the moment that I’m talking about. Some guys break into a bar to attack Eric. Eric talks pretty big the whole time as he’s forced into the fight and then he loses instantly. Luckily, Sara shows up and takes them all down. Okay…Sara must be way stronger than Eric then right? No, she never looks all that impressive again so you have to wonder what happened. The actual scene was pretty great though and the most epic part of the movie. The power levels may have been a little wacky, but I’ll take the hype.

Overall, The Winter War is a reasonably solid sequel that is held back by the romance and some annoying characters, but what else is new? Hollywood likes to throw in romance and some crude characters to get the ball rolling, but it tends to have to opposite effect. It’s a shame since the fight scenes actually are really good and the effects are top notch. If you check this film out, it’ll definitely be for the action. That being said, I simply can’t recommend it because of the film’s failings. If you want a better action film, check out the latest Tron film. That one has a lot of action and is heavily underrated.

Overall 5/10

Legend Review

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It’s time for an old Tom Cruise film. Unfortunately, this is easily his worst and you know that a film is going to be dicey when he isn’t at least an entertaining character. How do you get Tom Cruise wrong? This film is old so it couldn’t have taken notes from Jack Reacher or Mission Impossible, but even so….I don’t know what they were thinking. This is a fantasy film that takes the fun right out of itself and instead plays out like a very low budget drama. Stay away…stay far away!

The plot starts off with Lily going to see Jack. Jack is a wild man who lives among the trees and wilderness like Tarzan. He can talk as we see later in the film, but acts like he cannot. He has virtually 0 listening comprehension and just gazes on with his mouth open for the entirety of the film. He warns Lily that she should pet the Unicorns or bad things might happen. She laughs and pets them, not realizing that as she distracts them, the villains shoot one with a poison dart. The villains take away the Unicorn’s horn, which basically stops time and bring about a snowy end for them all. Jack must stop the incarnation of darkness now before it’s too late.

The story isn’t half bad, but the execution is absolutely terrible. Again, I can’t stress enough just how bad Jack was. He’s one of the worst main characters out there when we only count ones that technically should not be bad. It’s not as if he’s a bully, villain, flirt, or anything like that. It’s just that his Tarzan imitation is taken way too far and it didn’t add anything to the film. Whatever the writers were going for simply didn’t work. It made him very unlikable and he also lost all of his charisma. Considering that Jack is the main focus of the journey, this didn’t bode well for the film.

Lily was also not a likable character. Not only did she disobey Jack’s instructions intentionally, but she just didn’t seem to care. Tossing the ring into the ocean just to see if Jack could get it wasn’t her best move either. While Lily did good in freeing the Unicorn, any seen with her and Darkness was pretty painful. Her lack of will power was certainly exposed here and it didn’t do wonders for the villain’s credibility. He had a pretty nice shadow cloak I suppose. Darkness had a great design, but the actual character could not live up to it. Not only is he too infatuated with romance over actually taking over the world, but you never really get what his goals are. I suppose he just wants to make the world a dark place, but that’s not a goal that you can easily get behind. He’s just there to be the villain, but never does all that much more.

There are other side characters, but they’re all pretty bad. You’ve got Oona the fairy, but she’s pretty annoying. Her only big moment in the film is when she tries to use her illusion magic to get together with Jack, but this luckily failed and she just flew away. There were a bunch of trolls and elves as well, but they didn’t add much to the story. The problem is that this film wanted to be a fun little fantasy adventure that would get a cult following at some point and revisits for years, but this just didn’t happen.

The film hasn’t aged well at all and ends up feeling very dated. It looked old right from the start and I didn’t even have to wait to see the effect. The scenery just looks so bad and while the snow is always fun, the film felt more like an 80’s film than a 90’s one when is comes to effects. If only it could have had the 80’s strong writing and charisma. That would have definitely gone far to help this title out. There just isn’t all that much to say about the film when it comes to positives. There isn’t really anything that the film does right and it only doesn’t get a lower score because it didn’t do anything super wrong that would warrant such a verdict.

Unfortunately, time will only make this film appear to be worse and worse. Some titles only grow stronger as your nostalgia goggles form and your old experiences of watching the film cement it as a legend. Others have the reverse effect. I have a feeling that I’ll still dislike this film just as much in 5 years and maybe more so since I’ll have no positive associations with it. What the film needs to do in order to save itself is get a reboot. Maybe it can’t save the 80’s adaption, but a 2020 remake with updated graphics and a complete script overhaul could change things quite a lot. As I said earlier, it’s not so much the plot that is the problem here, but everything else.

Overall, Legend is one of those films that you can definitely live without. Seeing Tom Cruise in one of his younger roles may make you want to see this film so that you can see if he was always a great actor, but it’s not worth it. It’s better to just keep on wondering if maybe he had a bad film back in the day, than to watch it and dispel any doubt that you had. I doubt that anyone involved with this film ever looked back and decided that it was a great film. It’s just boring and with no likable characters, that’s just not going to end well. If you want a pretty solid film with a lot of adventure and action, check out Final Fantasy: Advent Children. That one’s the ticket!

Overall 3/10

Cardfight Vanguard G GIRS Crisis Review

I had finished this review up by the time that GIRS Crisis had finished, but the episode count kept on going so I decided to keep the next season under the same review. I already had the review done though so I decided to keep it instead of scrapping it. As a result, the first half is essentially still a review of the G season with its own rating. I’ll just add onto it once the next season is finished and then add the final rating. Think of this like a doubleheader review!
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It’s time to take a look at the big Cardfight G sequel. This is what G had been setting up for after all. To an extent, this season is also mostly set up as well, but the plot does begin to start up. Think of this as the second film in a trilogy where the villain finally makes a move so more heroes are called in to come up with a plan. The big confrontation hasn’t happened yet, that will be for the third season. The main draw for GIRS Crisis is that the heroes have finally acknowledged that they can’t win on their own so pretty much the whole cast from the older seasons return. The crossover appeal is always strong and we get to see how Try3 handles the likes of fighters like Q4, Dreadnaught, Asteroid, etc. This season is a big improvement from the last one as it keeps all of the positive things from G and throws in more hype moments.

Chrono and friends may have stopped Kanzaki, but the hunt for the Depend Cards is still on. Chrono has 3-4 of them in his possession and he can only awaken them through strong emotions. He must engage in powerful duels to do this so he decides to enter the G quest with his team. They will need to conquer 6 areas to get enough points to be known as Generation Masters. Chrono will use this to learn what he wants to do with his life. Shion has been in a difficult situation as well. After losing to the mysterious fighter known as Ace, his family was thrown out of his company. Shion went from being very rich to barely scraping by and his parents had to move away. Shion wants to get revenge and to exonerate his family. He is entering the G quests to get closer to Ace and also just to keep up appearances. Tokoha has decided to go aboard so her goals are set. As a result, she can enter the G quest with a clear mind.

Meanwhile, the GIRS Crisis has begun. A mysterious man named Myoujin has started to summon monsters from Planet Cray to the real world as slaves. They will be his personal army for some kind of master plan. Kouji has started amassing a group of skilled cardfighters of his own to counter this. Mainly, his group consists of the best and brightest Cardfighters from the original series. To determine if Chrono and his friends are up for this task, they decide to test them through and G Quests and Cardfights. Can they prevent Myoujin from summoning his final units and bringing the world to ruin?

As you can tell just from the summary, things are really happening now. In a sense, the filler episodes now are the ones where the heroes go through the G quests, but those are technically important. Not to mention that they are all tournaments in one shape or form and those are always hype. You know a series is doing well when the tournament matches aren’t always the hype moments. Also, the tournament sagas are always the crossover episodes as Chrono’s team duels with the likes of of Ren, Leon, Kai, Kamui, and other big shots. Each tournament is definitely great.

As for the non tournament episodes, those typically follow the trials that the heroes are facing individually. For example, Shion decides to gather information on Ace the old fashioned way. He beats up a lot of thugs and keeps on breaking into strongholds until he gets the answers that he is looking for. He starts to get a little unhinged and Kai also takes him down a few pegs to remind Shion why he is doing all of this in the first place. Kai helps Shion shed his former self and just start from scratch. His riches are gone so Shion has to adapt or fail. Shion does a great job and I don’t mind him getting into a slump again because it is for good reason. Anyone who goes from being insanely rich to losing it all in a day would be crushed. Not to mention the fact that you know it was all your fault because you lost a duel when everything was on the line. Shion gets back up and is poised to be a much better character than he was. I already liked him in season 1, but I can safely say that he is much better now. His upcoming fight against Ace is definitely going to be great. They’ve both taken a win so the next and probably final encounter between the two is surely going to be something great.

With the black coat that he inherited from Kai, Shion’s also able to pull off this new personality quite well. He’s suddenly become the “expert” of the group and you could argue that he may have surpassed Chrono. I’m tempted to say that Chrono’s still the best since he keeps dispatching incredibly strong Card Fighters, but I feel like Shion should definitely be the strongest after all of the training he’s gone through. He’s been put through the ringer, but these tough scenarios have only made him stronger.

As for Chrono, he’s heading into a dangerous spot now. Being Miyoujin’s adversary can be fatal if he truly did have something to do with his Chrono’s father’s accident. Chrono warns his friends as well, but he had to deal with a more personal ally. His mother was never thrilled about Chrono starting to Card fight and lets him know that she’d rather he doesn’t do this. Shin backs her up and challenges Chrono to another serious duel. It’s a tough battle, but Chrono decides that he has to go further and his Mom ultimately gives him her support. It can definitely be tough letting someone know that you’re about to go into an extremely dangerous situation, but it is the right thing to do and Chrono knows it. Now that Chrono’s sure of himself it’s been good to see him just get set in his duels without having to worry about anything. He can really go all out at this point and he continues to be a strong lead character.

Tokoha doesn’t really have any more trials left at the moment. She wondered briefly about what she should do in the future, but after deciding on her goal that was basically it. As a result, she’s sure of herself in the duels pretty much from the get go. One source of drama may be coming up though once she found out about Ace’s plot twist. I don’t think that she’s handling it very well, but I suppose it is good to have an optimistic approach. She just needs to be careful not to let it become a liability and endanger the team. That’s where you have to draw the line.
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Kamui returns as a regular once again. He even gets his own episode where he attacks an enemy strong hold. It was one of the big plot episodes so it was cool to see Kamui getting such a big role. He did good when it counted. His duel with Chrono was particularly intense as he did all that he could to win. If he won, then Chrono would not be allowed to join them to fight Miyoujin. Kamui doesn’t want to put Chrono in danger so that’s why he has to win. Yes it is a bit of a selfish wish since Chrono has decides to fight on his own, but it is one that I can definitely get behind. After all, who doesn’t want to keep their friends out of trouble? Kamui had to watch Aichi and Kai go through a lot of trials and even turn evil during them. It makes sense that he would do everything that he could to stop that from happening a third time. Plus, he was just trying to win. He didn’t try to do anything crazy like kidnap Chrono the way that Chris tried to nab Sonic in Sonic X. Kamui may be around a lot so it can be easy to underrate him, but as he showed in this series, he is still one of the best.

Kouji’s role is surprisingly small in this one. He doesn’t have a whole lot to do here, but he is technically the mastermind behind Plan G so that is a good enough role I suppose. He has embraced his role as another mentor figure to Chrono so there is no case of mistaken identity this time. He is still not as cool as he could be though. There is just something about him that I can’t take seriously. I dunno what it us, but at least he isn’t a bad character though.

Kai is pretty epic as per usual though. He is the hardcore rival that I remember and he managed to take down Shion rather easily. Seeing him take Shion down numerous times was definitely impressive and awesome. He still proved that he is still a nice guy as well though as he did all of that to help Shion get out of his situation. Kai has always been good at encouraging people after all. He is great and still my favorite character. Having him back as a main supporting character is definitely going to be awesome and nostalgic. The other guest stars are cool as well, but their roles are a lot smaller. Ren and Leon are among the big characters who show up.

The only problem with these guest stars is that they are a little underpowered to make the new fighters look better. For example, Chrono actually manages to defeat Ren and Leon. I don’t really think he should be portrayed as quite that powerful at this point. Kai lost to Shion as well. I get that they’ve got to hype the main characters up, but it goes a little far. Still, it was awesome to see the old cast and the crossover factor was handled really well in G. I look forward to all of them getting serious fights soon the way that Kamui did.

Luna is the new beginner of the show. She’s a pop idol, but she wants to learn how to play Cardfight so she can duel with her friend Am. Luna has improved quite a bit. She’s not a big threat just yet, but dueling a lot always helps out and she’s at the point where she is no longer a novice. She really wants to be friends with Am and as a result she is quite hyper. Ultimately, I’m sure that they will become friends and Am is lucky to have Luna around. That being said, hopefully Luna is brave enough to stand up for herself once the plot entangles her in its web as well.

Am is much more laid back and keeps to herself. While on the job Am will throw on a smile and get to work, but she can be a little too serious. It’s often hard for Luna to get Am to relax and Try3 has to have a little chat with Am as a result. Am gets a lot of character development and she will likely have a major role in season 3. Her role will be even bigger than Luna’s and 90% of the supporting cast as well depending on how they go with this. Hard to say what I think of her here without spoiling the twist. Before the twist she was a solid character and I prefer her to Luna. After the twist, she is still a cool character…but in a different way and I’m hoping that the mask doesn’t come back on so to speak so the post twist Am sticks around. That version is cooler.

Ace is a fairly hardcore villain and one of the better characters in the show. Since Shouma barely appeared, I’d say that Ace took over the spot as the best villain. This is partially due to the fact that he came out of nowhere and took over Shion’s company like it was nothing. His successful mind games are also impressive since Shion was supposed to be over the whole thing and their first big duel was one of the best in the series. After all, it doesn’t get much more high stakes than having millions of dollars on the line and your whole financial future along with it! While Ace may not have done quite as well in the rematch, he didn’t completely crack either. Rest assured, Ace will likely continue to have a powerful role in the next season although his confidence may not be as absolute since his standing in the villain organization is in jeopardy after the loss.
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Myoujin is the big villain who will make his move in the next show. He hasn’t done anything as of yet though. His design isn’t that good as he is very old so I don’t think he can be a very menacing villain. Still, I am glad to have a villain who is lasting a while and for all we know he isn’t the mastermind behind the operation. With someone like Shouma still in the fold, I could definitely picture a betrayal. Shouma doesn’t play well with others after all. Still, I want Myoujin to put up a fight if that happens. Shouma’s role is small as he just makes a few cameos to remind us that he is still around. I was rather annoyed that Kouji stopped Shion from beating him up though. Shion was winning and taking a villain out of the picture this early would be incredibly helpful. Ironically, it seems like he’ll be the first boss of the third series. It’s not as if Shion was going to destroy him or anything. The heroes could have quickly captured Shouma and that would have been awesome. At least they forced a retreat though.

The animation is solid as in the last show. The characters all stand out and the battle scenes are fun to watch. There may have been one or two low budget episodes where physics started to get a little wild, but for the most part is was all consistently good. I’ve always liked the animation style of this company. It feels modern and I think the animation will hold up quite well. It’s not overly flashy, but that’s why the fundamentals will age well. The soundtrack is better than the last season’s. Perhaps it is because the stakes are more intense, but it could also be the crossover effect. For example, Kai’s theme returns briefly during his fight with Shion and we finally also have a bit of a villain’s theme for some of the duels. It’s still not quite at the level of the original Cardfight, but we’re definitely getting there. Good themes can always elevate a series.
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Overall, GIRS Crisis added the excitement and stakes that I had been waiting for. This series was still more set up for the big battles to come, but it set the more interesting plot elements as well. Shion’s ongoing fight to restore his company (Although that isn’t really his goal anymore or so he claims) and Chrono’s quest to find his father should be pretty interesting. The father better have a good excuse for just wandering around unless he is a friend of the Dad or something. Seeing the old characters actually get to duel should be awesome and I’m fully expecting Aichi to finally get in on the action as well. The return of Psyqualia would be a nice added bonus as well. There’s a lot to look forward too and the third season should end up being the best G adventure.

Overall 8/10
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Well, not all of that ended up happening in the next part, but we did finally get all of the big battles and the epic climax that I was waiting for. The heroes made their big move and the GIRS Crisis finally ended. It definitely was the best part of Cardfight G so far. If the first season of Cardfight G was to establish all of the characters and the world building and part 1 of this season was to bring back all of the old characters and get the main characters some training, then this is the big payoff where the heroes finally confront the villains.

Just about the whole second half is a gauntlet of battles against Ryuzu’s chosen warriors. Things don’t go well for the heroes at first as the season couldn’t be around 26 episodes if the heroes just won everything right? Chrono and Shion may have reached a really high level where they can fight with the best of them, but the side characters like Taiyou and Mamoru still want to help and that gives the villains some opportunities. Plus, the main characters can’t be everywhere all the time.

Unlike the last half, there is also an immediate sense of danger. The villains go as far as to blow up all of the empire branch headquarters and seriously injure all of the leaders as well. As part of Ryuzu’s plan, they also use Luna as a power source and prepare to destroy the world of Vanguard. The heroes have to move fast this time and while Chrono is the first to take charge as per usual, the others aren’t far behind. The climax involves a giant laser knocking everyone out as they prepare to enter a never ending dream state so it comes down to the main heroes against the big villains. They each get their own episode which makes for a lot of epic fights.

Not much has changed for some of the characters so I’ll keep those brief. Chrono is still a very solid lead. Ryuzu comes close to tricking Chrono, but the young hero stays strong. Shion stayed on his vengeful path, but ultimately decided to help Am and the heroes to rescue Luna. He wasn’t thrilled about it, but at least he made the right call. Shion’s still really close to Chrono with who the better main character is. I may have to say that Shion has the slight edge and likewise in terms of dueling skills. It’s always cool to have two leads at similar strengths.

While Tokoha didn’t have too much of a role in part 1, she gets thrown into the fray here since the situation with Luna and Am is personal. I think she was probably a little naive with how she handled it though since at least Am was actually evil for a while. It turned out okay since Am had a change of heart, but she could have put everyone in danger by meeting up. A hostage situation would have been sad. Kamui doesn’t really have a role this time. He maybe gets 1-2 duels, but part 1 was really his final hurrah.

Taiyou gets a big role here since Hiroki is his rival. He’s gone through a lot in the series and has become one of the sleeper members of the team. The show treats him as a semi weak-strong fighter depending on the episode. I consider him to be underrated considering how skilled he was back in his evil days. He does a good job of taking on his opponent. He’ll likely never become an outstanding duelist the way Shion and Chrono are, but he’s definitely a guy that you can root for. His rival Hiroki was also a decent villain although he came across as completely delusional. At first he would stand up to bullies, but then he became the bully. After that, he convinced himself that everyone who opposed him was evil while he was the true hero. It was an interesting point of view, but one that didn’t follow any logic. It made for a lot of nice crazy ramblings though. I’d say that Hiroki was one of the weaker villains, but he was tough enough to still be a threat.

Luna is an example of a nice character who allowed herself to make a bad friend. Trying to save Am only led to her being turned evil and being put in a bad spot. I definitely prefer AM a great deal to Luna. Luna isn’t bad, but she’s just not all that tough and lets everyone use her. She never really gets a moment where she stands up for herself or becomes a great duelist. Am was a great villain as I mentioned earlier, but I felt like the writers dropped the ball with her character a little. I just don’t see how she was so naive with the villain’s true agenda when her whole gimmick that she knew the world better than Shion since she wasn’t rich. Her turning to the hero side was a little cheesy, but now that it’s the status quo she could potentially become a cool hero. It’ll be hard to match her days as a villain though. She was easily one of the best villains in all of G.

Kouji still tries a little too hard to be the mysterious character, but I suppose he’s not bad. He’s just not very good at the role, but he spends less time on that here since he ends up focusing on actually fighting this tie. He puts up a pretty good fight against Ryuzu and more importantly, he’s able to give Chrono a new card which is critical in the final fight. Ryuzu doesn’t change much from part 1. Perhaps you will sympathize with him more after the back story, but I dunno. He just ended up going off the deep end and probably still would have done so even if not for Chrono. Chrono’s Dad probably should have done more to stop him though. Ryuzu is a cool villain whether he’s in his kid form or adult mode. I missed the latter, but the former was pretty catchy. I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing him return some day.
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Shouma remained a really epic villain. His gimmick about chaos and discord seemed rather plot convenient as the villains had the whole thing sewn up otherwise, but seeing him sabotage everyone was pretty entertaining. He’s definitely not the kind of guy who blindly follows orders. That’s Wakamizu’s job and he’s probably the blandest villain of them all. He just wants to see what will happen to satisfy his scientific curiosity. There really wasn’t much to his character and he wasn’t a particularly strong duelist either so I was never all that interested. He’s probably the most evil of the members though as most of the others had their reasons for doing this or had some conscience about the whole thing. Wakamizu was happy to go along with all compared to the rest.

Finally Enishi was the last member of the group. They tried to make him sound noble as a villain with his whole “I’ll protect you” attitude towards Luna. The problem is that he still allowed her to be used as a power source and wasn’t going to do anything about it. That’s a pretty lousy way to protect someone and she would have died if the heroes hadn’t stepped in. It’s a little hard to see him hanging out with everyone as a good guy after that. How I see it, Enishi let the villains push him around and didn’t have the strength of character to stop them. I definitely was not a fan of this guy.

My only real disappointment here was that the old characters didn’t get to do anything. Apparently, they only showed up to train the next generation and to get their cameos in, but that was it. There’s no real narrative reason for them not to help. The heroes should have been protecting the Empire branches. Of course, the villains would have been stopped right away if that had been the case, but it’s still something to think about. It would have certainly made the whole thing even cooler. I’m waiting for the day when the old characters are heavily involved with the plot again or at least get some more fights in a serious setting. The tournaments were awesome of course and I could always use more of those, but seeing them help against a world ending event is what I want to see next.
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Overall, Cardfight Vanguard G GIRS Crisis does a good job of improving on the first and making its way to the original series and its level of greatness. Essentially, everything that G did, GIRS Crisis did better and upped the ante. Better fights, more intensity to the duels, higher stakes, better animation, better soundtrack, etc. It did exactly what a sequel is supposed to do. It’s not quite ready to beat the original Cardfight series yet, but lets see where it stands after 4 full seasons. The first season was a lot of fun, but my one complaint was that it didn’t have a huge climax like the other seasons. This one fixed that and just generally had a lot more action and intensity. The tournaments for part 1 and then the big battles in part 2. That’s a great way to pace a season. The animation and soundtrack were certainly on point. I dare say that they got even better during part 2 and at the very least, I’m positive that the soundtrack improved. It’ll be tough for the next season of G to top this one with the new animation studio and all, but I’m sure that it’ll give it a fair shot. NEXT has a pretty interesting premise and plot at the moment. Plus, I’m sure that a lot of elements have yet to even appear. I highly recommend this show and you can get into it even if you haven’t watched the original G. Of course, you’ll be missing out on a lot of character introductions and development since that was the point of the original. Also, you won’t understand why it’s so hype when Kai keeps on crushing Shion. Allow for a little plot hax at the end of that subplot, but it’s pretty real otherwise. The show also ends with a big status quo change so prepare for that!

Overall 8/10

Kubo and The Two Strings Review

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It’s time for another 2016 film to add to my list. I feel pretty modern after having watched so many of the recent hits. Kubo’s the first stop motion film that I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s still not my favorite style to say the least, but I do think that the film pushed the style as far as it could. The battles scenes are certainly the best that I’ve seen and this one definitely takes the crown as the best film of its kind. Prepare for a rather quick beginning as the best character takes the stage.

The film starts off with Sariatu fleeing from the villains, but her son Kubo’s eye is still taken. Kubo’s grandfather wants the other eye for certain reasons and Sariatu is determined not to let him get it. For years, the two of them hide in a cave in a fairly isolated area and Kubo grows up while knowing just one rule- Never stay outside past nightfall. If he ever does this, the villains will spot him and they will come to take him down for good. Kubo obeys this rule for a few years as he goes outside to entertain the inhabitants with his telepathic paper abilities, but one day he takes a little too long. He made a detour to engage in the paper lantern ritual and the villains find him.

The villains in particular are the two Aunts. They are the highlights of the film and their entrance is amazing. Their designs are easily the scariest in the film and I’d also say that they are the strongest villainss. Sariatu is basically said to be stronger than them, but they have the numbers advantage and Sariatu was seriously injured during her big fall in the intro. After the villains make their move and take Sariatu out, Kubo must now find the legendary items from his story in real life. Once he has assembled the invincible armor, he can defeat his Grandfather…the Moon King!

As I mentioned, the film starts off really quickly. It can be a double edged sword when you use up what could be the best scene in the film so quickly, but it is a surefire way to engage the audience. I knew that the Aunts would be my favorite character once they showed up and started taking names. Kubo was completely outmatched and the visuals for this really captured the intimidating aura that the villains wielded. The Aunt also returned for a second fight scene, which is the other contender for best scene in the film. She easily holds her own against Beetle, Monkey, and Kubo all teaming up. Her skills are certainly formidable and it’s a shame that she could not have appeared more. Her presence was definitely felt throughout the film though.

I was surprised at the fight scenes in general because I really wasn’t expecting all that much. Coraline and Nine are really the only other big stop motion films that I’ve seen, but neither of them really had fight scenes because it’s hard to do in this style. At the very least, you wouldn’t expect hand to hand fights with energy effects, but this one pulled it off. Whenever an energy blast or energy attack would appear, the animation could really shine. I’m not sure exactly how that works, but I imagine that they add CGI on top of the animation or use an advanced form of Movie Maker to throw the effects on top of what they filmed. Regardless, I’d say that it worked very smoothly and it definitely did help to amp up the experience.

The second half does slow down a bit compared to the beginning. After seeing the two Aunts, it’s hard to go back to trekking through the areas and fighting large monsters. I’ll admit that I was a little dismayed when the Moon King decided to shed his really cool human form in favor of that of a giant monster. It was instantly a downgrade and of course Kubo was able to slice and dice him. The Moon King should have had more confidence in his own abilities. It never gets all that slow though as every major part still adds in an action scene. The opening had the first Aunt moment, the middle had the rematch, and the ending had the battle against The Moon King. Overall I’d say that the pacing is pretty good.

Kubo is a good main character. It may have been a bit naive of him to stay out so late after all of the warnings, but maybe he was just ready for a status quo change. He certainly got that if this was the case. He acted like an ingrate for a while after meeting up with the Monkey, but eventually he got better. I also don’t totally blame him since the Monkey was being pretty mean for no reason towards the beginning. When the going got tough, Kubo took out his sword and steeled himself for battle. I’d definitely say that he did pretty good. He’s not as charismatic as the lead from Zootopia, but I’ll take him over Dory.

Sariatu is certainly strong and probably one of the stronger mothers from recent films. It’s a shame that we couldn’t get to see her fight more while at full power since she was evidently powerful. I didn’t totally get her long coma like appearances though. Especially given her later scenes and twists. I guess the injury was so bad that she had to go into those meditation esque moments, but it still felt rather odd. Certainly not her fault though and I’d say that she was the best hero.

The Monkey was a little on the annoying side. She talked tough and kept all of the vague answers to herself, but there wasn’t really much of a reason behind this. The Monkey gets a twist which actually makes the whole thing worse. Honestly, I think that the film shouldn’t have added the plot twist in. Not only does it not make any sense, but it makes all of the Monkey’s scenes out of character. The Monkey’s a good fighter though so she’s got that on her side.

Beetle barely needs any introduction as he is easily the absolute worst character in the game. It’s hard to emphasize just how bad this guy is. He’s the token comic relief character, but isn’t handled well at all and the plot twist just makes it even worse. The twist also hurts another character which is unfortunate. I just don’t know how the Beetle ended up being so bad. He can barely fight at all and he’s just annoying the whole time. He’s the kind of guy who feels like he’s always flirting and doesn’t really know boundaries so he just goes around annoying everyone. I grew tired of him minutes after he first showed up. He’s the only really bad character in the film so I was glad that he missed a lot of the first half.

Finally, we have the Moon King. He made for a pretty good main villain even if he made the risky move of turning into a giant monster. I definitely don’t recommend trying something like that when you go up against a serious main character. His motivations were a little strange. He wanted the eye so Kubo would join him in the afterlife and become a god of sorts, but in the opening scenes it seemed like he just wanted the eyes so he could see again. Is it just a coincidence that he had one eye when he first showed up? I figured that he had stolen Kubo’s so he could see again. Regardless, he was interesting and certainly strong. The scene where he just walks through the sword stab was definitely pretty hype and was sort of like a Superman moment.

Overall, Kubo and the Two Strings is a film that I definitely recommend. It has more action than you would expect and that’s always a big plus for me. It may not be the best animated feature of 2016, but from the theater ones that I’ve reviewed, it’s easily the most epic. I don’t recall any of the others having large scale mystical fights in the dead of night against denizens of evil after all. I want to see more action animated films in theaters so hopefully this one can pave the way for that.

Overall 7/10

The Vision of Escaflowne Review

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It’s time to look at a recent anime that I saw. This one’s an old school action fantasy romance (Wait…what’s romance doing here?) with lots of danger and dragons. It’s a pretty solid show that may have an annoying main character and a lackluster ending, but hits most of the right notes with the plot and action scenes. The animation has aged pretty well and the music is very memorable. The most important part though is that I can add this title to my mecha list alongside Heroic Age, IGPX, and Transformers. (Probably another one or two somewhere in there)

The plot follows a girl named Hitomi who is on a search for true love, but only finds rebound guys and people who want to use her powers to save their kingdom. So…Hitomi runs. She runs and runs and ultimately becomes one of the best track and field athletes at her school. The main guy from school decides to move away so Hitomi confronts him and wants to prove that she can run really fast. Her big moment is interrupted when a giant laser shows up from the sky and brings her to another world along with a kid named Van. They slay a dragon and Hitomi realizes that she is now on another planet.

Van’s kingdom was exterminated by the Zaibach empire and so he is now the King by default. He intends to exact his revenge, but it’ll be tough since their technology is centuries ahead of the other kingdoms. While people from the hero side still fight with sticks and stones (With a few low tech robots as well) Zaibach has electronic assassins, people with shape shifting abilities, and robots that can burn whole cities to the ground. Luckily, Van finds a robot named Escaflowne. This robot is the strongest robot in history and it is the one thing that can tip the scales of this one sided war. Together with Hitomi’s ability to see the future (Wait, when’d this happen?) they will save the world!

Hitomi may have just been an ordinary runner at first, but travelling to the other world strengthened her pre cog abilities. She was already good at reading fortunes, but now she was the real deal. Hitomi can sense dangers before they occur and her predictions are 100% accurate. They can be changed of course, if she uses this knowledge to warn people ahead of time. Her very existence also works to nullify fate alteration weapons and if she becomes strong enough, she can heavily influence destiny as well. After all, any future that she sees will be in jeopardy since Hitomi can change it if she wants. If she were a strong main character, this ability could have really helped the heroes even more.

Unfortunately, being strong willed is not one of Hitomi’s abilities. She consistently makes the wrong decisions and is certainly one of the weaker characters in the show. For starters, she is really the symbol of the rebound character. She starts off liking one guy, then goes to a second, and finally a third. She goes back and forth between these guys throughout the whole show and simply cannot make up her mind. By the very end of the show, she finally makes a choice and everyone else made theirs anyway, but it was hard to sympathize with her plight. She also lied to one of her friends, which doomed that person to a failed marriage. Hitomi only deserves half of the blame since nobody should ever leave their marriage up to a fortune reading though.

The worst strike against her is that Hitomi ultimately decides not to use her powers to help everyone. She doesn’t want to see the terrible visions and would prefer the armies to just destroy each other than to end the war quickly. The joke’s on her since the visions come true regardless and will keep on popping up, but Hitomi does help to increase the body count dramatically. Yeah, I definitely didn’t like Hitomi and it felt like she just kept making things worse. A pet peeve of mine is that when she returns to the past…Hitomi decides to do everything in the same exact way. It defeats the purpose of getting a second chance if you’re not going to do anything about it right? It’s like if I could go back in time to my first Super Smash tournament. You can bet that I’d wreck everyone since I’d be ready for the attacks that they’d throw out.

Moving on, Van is a pretty good hero. For a while there, he was losing to Allen but ended up passing him due to a whole host of reasons. Van’s your typical action hero. He’s pretty head strong and is always ready for a fight. He craves battle even more than some leads since the whole matter is pretty personal. Once he unlocks the true power of Escaflowne, he really reigns down chaos on all of the villains. He becomes so powerful that they simply can’t hold a candle to him anymore. While the romance isn’t really handled all that well, it doesn’t become much of a factor for most of the series. For the most part, Van is just focused on taking everyone down. Even with the emotions machine making everyone a little more upset, it was odd to see Van and Allen go all out in the final episode. It was a good fight though and Van was definitely doing well. I didn’t care for Van too much in the first half as he was just mean for no reason and was surprisingly weak considering all of his tough talk. Gradually, Van did prove that he was a nice guy when out of his shell though and he became a good fighter. He’s definitely the best character in the series by the end.

Allen’s a good rival and for a wile there he was easily the best character in the show. Unfortunately, his character took a bit of a nosedive by the end as the show had to prove that Van was the only acceptable answer. For starters, Allen couldn’t make up his mind on whether or not he actually liked Hitomi or not. Once he decided, Allen was very heavy handed about the whole thing and seemed to just treat the whole thing as a contest where he could one up Van. He never seemed all that serious and since he would still be flirting around Millerna and had another affair in the past…it’s sort of hard to like him by the end. He never turns evil or anything so there’s always that.

Folken is one of the big villains who has one of the most unbelievable turnarounds out there. He’s behind the wheel, destroying all cities and villages to try and get to the goal. His own homeland is one of the first to go and he never looks back. See, Folken’s a pacifist who didn’t like that his village forced you to destroy a dragon at one point so he decided to become a mass murderer to end war. You know, it’s the classic “Take over the world and murder all the leaders so they can never start a war again” train of thought. It ultimately won’t work and will just make a lot more conflicts in the mean time and Folken eventually sees this. So….he becomes a good guy who is all about peace. Lets just say that this doesn’t end well for him, but he 180 turnaround was extremely sudden and I can see why Van wasn’t very accepting of this. Hitomi was way too accepting of this if you ask me as she instantly jumped on his side. I can’t say that I ever liked Folken, he was constantly using everyone so I can’t believe the turn around.

Dilandau was easily the more interesting villain. He likes to cause carnage and picks fights everywhere. He does get an identity/gender crisis by the end which is really weird and out of left field. I can’t say that I was thrilled about the twist at all. It was a little humorous with how sudden it was, but did nothing for the character and just felt unnecessary. Side stepping that land mine, Dilandau worked perfectly as the main rival for Van. He got completely outclassed once Van learned of Escaflowne’s true power and never put up a good fight again, but he had a solid run. I guess you can say that he’s like Allen as they both started out very strong and ended on a whimper. He’s still the best villain in the series though.

Finally, we have Zaibach’s leader, Dornkirk. He’s a really old man who can’t move anymore so he just sits down and looks at everyone through a telescope. He has McDonalds Wifi so the connection is always very distorted and blurry. No matter, he wants to build a Utopia where everyone is in a dream and living in harmony. He’s mad at the fact that Hitomi’s existence makes this just about impossible. The way that he goes out is definitely laughable as it’s how I picture The One Above All getting wrecked in a fight. It was rather clever to make sure that he met his end at the site of the reverse fate manipulation weapon though since that means that his death is flipped around. It was ultimately pointless though since he stayed in a ghost like state though. There’s nothing really interesting about Dornkirk, but he’s probably the funniest villain of the bunch since he literally cannot move. It’s hard to take a villain like that seriously. Especially considering that Dornkirk panics at least once an episode since fate cannot see through love and this is a romance series so that happens a lot.

Millerna was a decent supporting character. She’s a princess who is also a little confused in matters of the heart. She goes for the rebound character because everyone expects her to do so and naturally it leads to one of the quickest divorces in anime. That part definitely made her look bad since she was just lying to herself the whole time, but at least she’s not the one who broke it all off. Then again…maybe it would have been better if she had made the decision. She can’t really fight since Van and Allen are the only ones with mechs, but she’s always around to encourage Hitomi. Merle is another heroine who is always around and she’s a cat creature who’s very loyal to Van. She makes sure to insult Hitomi all of the time and is one of the main comic relief characters of the series. She’s not all that bad although her “romance” with Van doesn’t really add anything to her show. All of Merle’s scenes are basically filler although at least she called the guards when Hitomi was kidnapped for the 4th or 5th time.
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Eriya and Nariya were two villains who showed up towards the second half of the series. They’re skilled generals who work for Folken. Their mechs are pretty speedy and they make for good opponents. They only got to battle Van in a fair fight once, but that round didn’t go well for them at all. Choosing to fight a rage mode Van is definitely not the best call. Their luck enhancements were seriously powerful and made them the toughest threats of all, but in the end the weaknesses of it were a little too grand. They were good villains, but mainly because of their mechs. Their roles were a little too small to do much other than that. They do beat a lot of the other villains like Folken though.

Dryden is a prince who shows up to get married and remind the characters that having a lot of money is handy in this series. He’s pretty annoying and while the show tries to present him as a likable guy by the end, I wasn’t buying it. He definitely doesn’t seem genuine and maybe I just don’t trust rich salesmen in these kinds of things all that much. I mean, who doesn’t remember the happy salesman from Majora’s Mask? There’s also a Mole Man who is very annoying throughout the series. He breaks into people’s rooms, steals things, and is generally just a bad guy. Despite this, the heroes never do anything about him because they just figure that he could never do anything too terrible. They don’t take him seriously, but if you ask me, he should still be brought to justice. The guy gets away with wayyyy too much. I do like the fact that none of the characters ever bothered to ask his name though. He literally doesn’t have a name, which is fitting.

The screenshots here don’t really do the animation justice. It’s definitely held up really well and the fight scenes are excellent. The colors stand out and you can feel the blows. There aren’t many energy blasts or weapons to be found here, but Escaflowne’s energy jewel stands out. The character designs are all solid and while I haven’t actually seen the movie, I can already tell you that the designs here are many times better. The best design is probably Allen’s robot, it always looked very regal and majestic.

The music makes sure to keep up as well. I can still remember most of the soundtrack clearly, which is something that I can’t say for other shows. The themes were also very good. We had an epic opera theme, a really good villain theme, a good thinking theme, and a whole bunch of others. The overall soundtrack is definitely a lot better than I had been anticipating. It has an old feel compared to most of my favorite soundtracks, like the techno Cardfight Vanguard, but it works really well with the show. It’s old, but it’s not boring and that’s an important distinction to make.

Escaflowne’s fight scenes are definitely pretty good. We get a few hand to hand battles, but most of the action scenes are with the mechs. Any battle with Dilandau is sure to be entertaining and I also liked Allen’s fight style. Since he is a great sword fighter outside of the mech, it makes sense that it would translate well to the robot. It’s a shame that his robot couldn’t fly or use any projectiles though. That would have helped him a lot. As it stands, he was still beating Van most of the times that they fought. Right now, Van would easily defeat Allen thanks to the fact that his robot is 100x better, but Allen still has the better fundamental skills.

Escaflowne is also pretty unique with how long it takes for the heroes to do anything. The first 3-4 villages that they go to are all destroyed by Zaibach. Each time, Van and Hitomi try to warn the locals, but they don’t listen and as a result, they’re all destroyed. This happens to them over and over and over again. Finally, they are able to make a counter offensive by the end. The whole dynamic goes from the situation being hopeless for the heroes to them being overpowered by the end. Without Van’s robot, there is definitely no way that they can win. The villains are more prepared in every area and also have the large advantage in numbers. By the end, Van’s so powerful that he can basically take on the whole army on his own, but all of his teammates are still in trouble.

That’s why the villains could have easily won so many times had they not made the mistake of listening to their old leader. They were winning drastically, but he told them not to make a move. Well, it cost him since one of the heroes decided to fire a nuke. The scene was super unexpected, but also pretty interesting. Once again, it was just not something that an anime would typically do. Usually, you have the heroes win the big final battle or something, but the main heroes didn’t actually do much this time around. They actually would have been overwhelmed if not for the nuke, although it was a rather sour ending to the alliance and got everyone fighting again. The ending showed everyone’s true colors after the dust was settled.

Escaflowne’s one weakness is definitely the romance. It plays a rather large role in the show, but none of the characters even know what they want. Hitomi chases after several guys, but loses them all. Millerna goes after one, but winds up with another. Allen goes after one, but it doesn’t end well so he leads on a second while he tries for a third and eventually comes away with none. Van tries for one, but loses her in the end. Two villains aim for one, but they lose their lives first. One guy gets his girl, but then breaks it off because he’s not ready for this. It goes on and on with these guys and none of the romances really matter in the end. Everyone just keeps on spinning their wheels and hurting the others emotionally while also getting hurt by someone else. It feels like the romance is just a distraction and should be treated as such instead of being the main plot for a while. Trust me, it does become the main plot as the main villain’s plan involves pairing up Hitomi with her second choice as it will let him take over the world. His plan was too vague to work anyway, but the fact that he has to help encourage a romance is also rather strange.

There’s no need to talk about the ending much since it’s hard to discuss without spoilers. Needless to say, I was not thrilled with it. It would work if someone had pulled the friend zone card before leaving, but since the character made the opposite move…it makes no sense. It’s one of those head scratchers where you just have to wonder what the writers were thinking. I certainly thought that it was a bad ending at any rate. One more thing you will question during the film is why the friends and the Mom don’t care about Hitomi being missing for months as much as they should? Hitomi gets one text/fax from the guy she was trying to impress and that’s it. Maybe they tried to send more and they didn’t get through the dimensional firewalls, but since one did I have to believe that others could. The Mom’s only reaction is that she’s sure Hitomi will be fine. That’s not the best reaction. There’s a plot twist about Hitomi’s grand mother which may have helped to bring this reaction out, but it was still rather unrealistic.

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Overall, The Vision of Escaflowne is a solid anime. In its 26 episodes, the show managed to cover a great deal. We had several big villains, one shot villains, etc. The heroes got to visit a lot of different landscapes and even went into a portal where they met vague high above beings who built Escaflowne. It has a good amount of action and the plot is solid as well. While the cast may not seem all that great from the character profiles, they can hold the show with ease. Most of them may be unlikable individually, but at least they’re interesting. Boring characters are worse for a show than unlikable ones and while Dunkirk may have not been threatening in the slightest, he was a memorable main villain. (For all the wrong reasons) The show even got to try out several tones as we had a few dark and intense episodes, but also several light hearted ones. The pacing was always nice and fast and you could never tell when the next tragedy would occur. Be prepared for a lot of it though as the villains leave no stone unturned. They make sure to get to everyone by the end. I definitely recommend this anime and don’t let the romance scare you off. It’s definitely the weakest part of the show and it’s omission would have made the whole thing better, but it doesn’t drag it down all that much. Now you can safely compare it to titles like Transformers and Gundam. Winning that battle is another story though!

Overall 7/10

Jack Frost Review

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After watching the animated Jack Frost movie a while back, I had to check out the live action one. Don’t let this intimidate you…but Michael Keaton is Jack Frost this time around. He may not look like the Jack from the animated film, but it doesn’t really follow that plot anyway. It’s a fun film that breezes by, but the ending holds it back a little in the replay value department.

Jack is the lead player in a band. The problem is that it means he doesn’t have a lot of time to spend with his son Charlie. One day, Jack is called away on Christmas, which is the last straw for Charlie. Charlie gives up on being a musician in his downtime from being a hockey all star in training. As Jack drives away, he decides that the gig just isn’t worth missing Christmas for. Unfortunately, he had already set things into motion and is murdered taken out of commission on the way home. Charlie doesn’t take the news of his dad’s death very well and keeps to himself for the next year. When a snow man barges into his front yard the next Christmas while claiming to be Jack, Charlie is understandably skeptical. Could Jack have really been given a second chance to watch Charlie score a goal?

The film takes a while to get to the actual Snowman part and it isn’t a very long movie to begin with. Luckily, the first half is still pretty interesting. Jack wasn’t written as an extremely bad Dad or anything so it made the role more realistic. He did have a bad habit of cancelling his promises and it was definitely an issue on his side since he completely forgot about it in the movie as opposed to being called out for work. He should have turned down the Christmas gig on the spot since that was something that could be avoided, but nobody’s perfect and he made the right call in the end. Jack was a likable main character and if anything, you may want to see more of him than the Snowman. Speak for yourself if that’s the case though since I liked the snow form.

It felt like something out of Frosty and the movie even references this. The film runs into a major snag here though. Jack doesn’t want Charlie to let anyone know that he has come back from the dead…this includes Gabby, Jack’s wife. So, why does he not want her to know this? Well, that’s tough to say because it doesn’t make any sense, especially with Jack’s personality. There’s no way that he’s just ashamed to see her as a snow man. For one thing, the snowman was well made aside from its head being too big, also Jack just has too much confidence for that. My guess is that they didn’t want her to know because it adds an extra level of drama to the film as you have to question whether Charlie is actually making this up or not. The whole cast should see the snow man talking, but only 2 of them actually react to it. So, either everyone has bad eyesight or maybe this is actually fake. Luckily, the film doesn’t go down that terrible path, but I feel like that’s what the film was going for. It wasn’t worth it though.

Also, as mentioned before, the ending is pretty underwhelming. It’s not a terrible ending like Bridge to Terebithia, but it’s not a brilliantly out of left field ending like Madoka Magica Rebellion. It just ends on a flat note while you wonder why Charlie isn’t a little smarter. Considering that a few sounds from his magical instrument were enough to set the events in motion…couldn’t he have just played a little more with a different wish? Not only does Charlie not try this idea out, he doesn’t even consider it. I mean, you’ve got to be kidding me. You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me. Now I know why Charlie couldn’t hit the J shot, he never thinks outside the box.

Charlie…wasn’t a good main character. I couldn’t sympathize with him much at all. He definitely has good reason to be a little upset at Jack choosing his job over the family for Christmas, but at least Jack was hoping to earn some money for all of them since the family was on the poor side. For the rest of it, Charlie could have taken it all better. At least he helped stick up for the little girl during the snowball fights with the bullies. It was great…until he left her to fend for herself when there were two bullies towards the end. He flat out just left her and the character never really recovered from that.

Gabby was a good heroine. She was pretty reasonable the whole time and didn’t jump to a lot of hasty conclusions like some other characters have done in the past. She took the snowman plot in stride. We also had the Hockey coach. I just have to mention him because he had one of the most motivating speeches I’ve ever heard in Hockey and really helped the team get their competitive spirit back. Never winning is definitely tough so I’m glad that his team pulled it out in the very end. Another character was one of Jack’s band buddies, but he didn’t do much. He mostly just slept on the job and attempted to have some witty dialogue, but he forgot the wit part of it. The side characters didn’t have much to do, but again…it was a fairly short film. There wasn’t a whole lot that they could do so the film just developed them all a bit and kept it moving. Hey, it still had time to fit in the “cheesy bully turns good” moment.

The best moments in the film were probably the snowball fights. These action moments were a good contrast to the rest of the film. There were a few solid rounds and they all had very serious themes playing. Yes, the film actually had a soundtrack and it was actually very good. I was pleasantly surprised to see this. Watching the kids all get defeated by a Snowman was also pretty rich. Hey, Jack’s a natural at this. The animation for the Snowman wasn’t bad I suppose as they got the permanent glare that Frosty always had, but the actual design could have been a little better. I would have liked fists instead of twigs for the hands since it would have let Jack fight a little more. I suppose that was good news for his opponents though.

Overall, Jack Frost was a fun film. It’s not the kind of film that will end up being particularly memorable, but it hit enough of the right notes. I wouldn’t say that the film did anything wrong and while the ending was underwhelming, it wasn’t terrible of anything like that. A bad ending can go a long way, but this ending is good enough to not hurt the film. I’d recommend this to someone that just wants to see a nice film for Christmas. It’s mostly pretty uplifting and while it tries to have a somber plot, I’d say that it is less successful in that department. Maybe it’s about time I check out those Santa Clause films again. It’ll help pass the time by until they make a Jack Frost vs Mummy 2018 film or something. That’d be a fun match up although they’d need to power up Frost a bit. This version was not too strong to say the least.

Overall 7/10

Pete’s Dragon Review

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It’s time for a film that really fell under the radar. It’s the kind of film that you knew was coming out soon, but would still end up missing it. I always forget that this film existed because nothing about it really stands out. It’s an okay film, but there are definitely some issues with it. They mainly all come back to the main character, which is expected. We have another kid lead and I just don’t think that he can hold his own film very well. The cast isn’t very good as a whole anyway though so I suppose that Pete doesn’t stand out in that regard.

Pete was raised in the forest after his parents were taken out during a car crash. He was raised by a dragon, but luckily still remembered enough of his humanity to still be able to speak in English. This setup worked for a while, but one day a park ranger noticed the kid and quickly brought him to the hospital. She sort of adopted him and naturally didn’t believe in the dragon. Pete wants to head back to the forest, but he’ll need to hurry since Elliot is really weak and the villagers want to nab him for bragging rights. It’s a race against time and Pete isn’t the fastest kid on the block.

Pete is actually worse than the kid from Jungle Book. Pete’s very annoying and takes way too long to make a move. He helps out Elliot, but after waiting for many hours and letting the dragon get stressed out. It’s also annoying that he is so young because it means that every conversation with him is a little grating. If he was older, then the dialogue would have been a lot more engaging. I think I’m just about done with jungle kid character types. They’ve been done to death already.

Elliot is a decent dragon, but he’s really weak as I mentioned before. He has some mild fire breath, which is used in one scene. Unfortunately, he doesn’t use it quite enough and Pete is always there to yell at Elliot to stop. Pete was a little unreasonable, but at least he helped to save the hunters. If Elliot had not been captured, that would have helped his case a great deal. Grace was one of the main supporting characters and I guess she was okay. At least she believed in the grand father’s tales in the end. I guess her character was just a little on the empty side though. She was supportive and around to help Pete, but you never got much of a read on her. The film just didn’t have much time to develop her personality. Likewise, Jack is played off as a villain for a little while before the roles completely switch and we find out that he is the hero. It’s just hard to see that though since he doesn’t seem to be a great boss and even when he helps out at the end, it’s rather half hearted.

Gavin is the main villain of the film. At first he was easily the best character in the film, but he went downhill fast. He got a little too obsessive with capturing the dragon and also became very unreasonable at the same time. Even once he was put in his place and saved during the bridge showdown, he still wanted to hunt the dragon. This is my main issue with the ending. Elliot is essentially forced to move away and fly with the dragons instead of living with Pete and the others. The reasoning for this is that the humans are just too tough and cannot be reasoned with. It’s essentially a defeat and that’s not a great ending. It could have been a lot worse though. At first, the film hints that Elliot will have to move far away and they’ll never see him again. Instead, he just moved up to the top mountain so they can still visit him from time to time. It’s an improvement, but certainly not the optimal ending if you ask me.

Natalie was a nice enough character. She helped Pete realize that humans aren’t all bad. It was tough for them to become friends though since the humans kept doing mean things to Elliot and then not caring enough to offer up a pretense. Natalie would have to try and defend them, but it wouldn’t work too well. She helped Pete save him in the end though so that was a good move. It’s just too bad that the rest of the village was so unrelenting, it made the whole place seem pretty mean spirited.

Well, that’s the cast in a nutshell. Certainly not the strongest bunch that I’ve ever seen. Aside from the lackluster cast, the film itself just wasn’t very good. Some of the scenes don’t even make that much sense as the kid lived in the forest for many years, but none of the rangers ever saw him. The dragon makes a lot of noise, but they evidently never noticed him either or the cave where the characters would hide. Grace even said multiple times that she knows the forest like the back of her hand and has been everywhere. Pete calmly takes them to the base and while it is a quick walk, Grace somehow never noticed it. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Beyond that, the writing is only okay. The film tries too hard to be cute and happy, but doesn’t offer up any real depth. The film doesn’t really drag on, but it’s just not all that fun either. Between the somber ending and the scenes of the humans picking on Elliot, it’s just not much of a feel good film. You’re better off checking out just about any of the other big animated movies like Finding Dory or Zootopia. It’s not a bad film, but Pete’s Dragon also doesn’t do many positive things either.

Overall, Pete’s Dragon is fairly bland. It follows a very obvious plot and ends without any sudden twists or turns. You can correctly guess everything that is about to happen. This may not bother you and it can still be an enjoyable experience, but it could have just been so much better. This trend of having main characters who are still kids is something that has definitely got to go. If there aren’t any other options available, check this film out. Otherwise, just go re watch Frozen. That film has emotional characters and a solid soundtrack so you will certainly not get bored. Now, if we get a sequel that takes place 10 years later and involves evil dragons showing up to claim revenge, I can get behind that. A little action would have gone a long way for this film.

Overall 5/10