It’s time to take a look at another Lego Jurassic World special. This time it’s a two part adventure so there is a little more content here as we get time for two little adventures although both parts are connected to the same plot. I’d still have to give the edge to the last special I saw in the series, but this is a good follow-up. I think you’ll have a very tough time trying to guess what the secret exhibit is so the movie did a good job of hiding that.
The movie starts with Owen flying in some dinosaurs for Claire who is working on new projects in Jurassic World. It’s pretty tough for Owen to land safely, but he pulls it off and prepares to get paid. Unfortunately Claire hits him with the technicality that he won’t get paid until the dinosaur is actually on the right section of the island. In all fairness, she does have a point that he only semi delivered the dinosaur but I think there was a breakdown in communication between them early on. Now Owen is going to have to help Claire get all the way through but with the deadline getting crunched and some dinosaurs on the loose, they may not be able to make it in time.
The main focus of the special is really the banter between Owen and Claire. The two of them are bickering and debating throughout so you get to choose whose side you’re on. Either way it is entertaining though which does help the film maintain a fun tone as the adventure goes on. The special really feels like it goes by in a flash even with two parts although I did watch one part as a time so it felt like a good miniseries.
I was with Owen for most of the film, but ultimately I had to side with Claire. What gave her the edge here in the end was the fact that she was so close to making it back to base in time, but then Owen had to take a shortcut and of course it didn’t work out and nearly sabotaged their entire adventure. That is completely 100% on Owen and it’s not the kind of thing where you could say it was a misunderstanding. He simply messed it all up and when the stakes are this high (Claire could be fired) he probably should have reigned it in a bit.
Beyond that he was definitely a fun lead though. I always like his confidence and how he just jumps into every adventure. You always want to have someone like that on your adventures even if he won’t necessarily think things through all that well. Meanwhile Claire is definitely the more practical member of the group. That means she isn’t always as entertaining, but she does have some gusto. She does her best to be a go-getter from the start and is always trying to accomplish the mission and impress the boss. Claire does use a little deception to get her way which is a bit tricky so I can’t defend that, but it’s still a fun move. At the end of the day her boss is pretty crazy so it’s probably the best way she could have handled that anyway. She also had a good line at the end to satisfy the boss while also technically not lying about anything.
Meanwhile the boss definitely looks pretty bad although it was certainly intentional. He’s the comic relief character who is very absent minded and doesn’t really think things through all that well. Giving the villain the password to his computer was definitely his biggest mess up. I liked the boss’ enthusiasm but he definitely isn’t doing a great job of running the park. He really needs to step up his game or that’s really going to be it for the place.
Finally, the reveal of what the secret exhibit was turned out to be pretty fun. It’s definitely not exactly what I was expecting but it worked all the same. It actually made sense with the other bits we knew about the boss such as the fact that he thought the dinosaur cookies would be a really good idea. The whole time he was aiming the park towards kids so this exhibit/ride made a lot of sense. It doesn’t seem like the safest option out there, but since they’re all made of Legos I wouldn’t say it was a huge risk either.
Overall, The Secret Exhibit is a good follow up to the first special. It’s always nice to see the characters trying to navigate through this dinosaur infested world and the dinosaurs even try to help Owen and Claire out this time which was very wholesome. If you enjoy the Lego specials in general then you’ll definitely like this one. It’s got good humor at the ready and there’s even a cliffhanger for the next one. I’m not sure how serious the cliffhanger is, but I’d definitely be up for some more adventures.
It’s time to look at the Bendy novel that came out a while back. The first Bendy game was definitely a lot of fun with how atmospheric it was. There was always just a lot happening and everything had a second meaning of some kind. The spooky atmosphere is really what helped make the game so good and it’ll be hard for the second game to match it. Well, the book is a way to bridge the gap and it actually has some important information so I’d recommend giving it a shot. It really turns up by the end as any good horror book should.
The book follows a kid named Buddy. He has grown up in a fairly poor neighborhood where everyone struggles to make enough to stay in their houses and get food. It’s just Buddy and his Mom, but they’ve done well enough so far. That’s when Buddy meets up with Joey Drew and somehow manages to get a job at the Bendy art studio. As someone who has always wanted to draw, this is perfect for Buddy. Joey is pretty eccentric and quickly seems to forget he hired Buddy, but the kid is just glad to be making a steady wage. He even becomes friends with a girl named Dot who also works there. Unfortunately this studio may be hiding something sinister within. Will Buddy have to risk his life for this job?
There’s really only one thing that holds this book back from being solid all around. That’s…Buddy. He’s the worst book main character that I’ve ever seen (Not counting light novels) and he just never becomes a good character. He’s surprisingly mean to his grandpa throughout the book and is always super defensive. I don’t even totally understand why Buddy was always so petty. They hint it’s something about his being Polish and catholic or something but the book doesn’t delve into it and I’m not so briefed on foreign policy that I was able to pick up on it. Maybe if I thought about it more but it didn’t even seem relevant to the book all that much so I don’t know why Buddy was always getting steamed. Couple that with the fact that he isn’t very smart and super timid and you’ve got a truly terrible combo.
Dot is nice enough to be his friend and he always gives her a hard time. Then you have the fact that he allows everyone to drag him along for a ride. Joey tricking Buddy into paying for dinner was the single worst scene in the book because his family really needed the money and Buddy didn’t think about that. It’s definitely surprising that Joey would have him pay, but Buddy should have taken no chances. He should have been celebrating such a big day with his family, not with his boss. This came back to bite him rather quickly. Buddy also tends to be quite dramatic through the narration and isn’t even a reliable one. He admits towards the end of the book that he isn’t even sure how much of this is real since he may have mixed up events. Yeah….Buddy’s no good.
Beyond that the book does a good job of slowly building up the tension. There are some fake jump scares at the beginning of the book but eventually we start to get some real horror in there. It starts off pretty subtly as things just don’t add up or you see some shadows. Of course part of it is Buddy literally jumping at shadows, but it can get very real. Right off the bat I can tell you that the book ends on a high note. The ending is quite solid and makes for an exciting climax. It’s really a great payoff that helps make the rest of the book succeed as well. This is the kind of book where a weak climax would have hurt quite a lot. I don’t want an ambiguous ending that tries to stay realistic instead of being like the game. The Bendy game showed us that the dangers are quite real so I’m glad that the book embraced that.
I haven’t read a lot of books lately, but it’s always good to get back into them because they really do help you jump into another world. Not having any images really lets you make up the pictures yourself and visualize everything without assistance. In a way that’s probably what helps make the immersion so complete and powerful. This book is certainly as interesting as any other that I’ve read. With a better main character it would be able to hit the next level but as it stands I definitely had a good time.
I talked about Buddy a lot, but we do get a few other characters. First up is Dot who is a solid heroine. She’s always thinking ahead and doesn’t mind pushing the rules a bit in order to satisfy her curiosity. She isn’t just about to accept things as true just because someone told her that this was the case. Her persistence is solid and she is also willing to put her life in jeopardy to solve a case even if Buddy is too scared. Her attitude of not wanting to beat around the bush with pleasantries the way everyone else does is also admirable.
Then you’ve got Joey Drew who is shown to be rather absent minded the whole time. You can see the chinks in his psyche early on though. The guy definitely appears to be a little corrupt and also close minded which is surprising for an artist. Of course we don’t know if the guy can really draw, I’ve got my doubts. Sammy is also around and he’s pretty insane like in the first game. He’s always doing something crazy but it’s tough to deal with him because the heroes don’t know if he’s insane in a quirky way or a dangerous one. If you wait too long with someone like that you won’t know until it’s too late.
Buddy’s Mom is a good character although she also keeps too many secrets. Not telling Buddy that the grandfather was coming over was a bit last second. It’s not like she should need to let him know, but a heads up would certainly help him not panic the way that he did. Buddy is quite jumpy after all. As for the grandfather, it’s not his fault that he doesn’t know a lot of English but it does make his scenes a bit annoying at times. He loves to beat around the bush and takes Buddy on a journey before getting to the answer. Heading to Buddy’s job was a bad move though because it really got Buddy into trouble and he could have been fired for something like that.
Overall, I’d recommend checking this book out. If you haven’t played the Bendy game or are unsure of how you would enjoy it, then you should read this book. If anything it makes sense to read this book before you play the game because it’s just a great introduction to the game. The book takes place before the game as well so it makes sense to do the prequel first. It’ll also make you look at the game a lot closer. The book really does a great job of expanding the franchise. So long as you can get past Buddy you’ll be in for an enjoyable adventure here.
Time to look at another Pokemon one shot manga. This one’s a lot more recent than the Giratina one I checked out last time. It’s also a lot thinner as this is basically a mini manga so it goes by in a flash. That being said, it’s actually considerably better and one of the best one shot Pokemon manga that I’ve read. Surprisingly it beats Giratina in every aspect. I also have to give this volume some kudos in the art. The simple style actually ended up working really well for the fights.
The volume starts off with Ash running into town and bumping into the mayor’s daughter. The two of them head over to the nearby lab and put on some VR goggles so they can learn about Zeraora’s origin. It seems like the Pokemon was born out of a thunder storm and then he decided to protect all the nearby Pokemon. Unfortunately poachers show up so Zeraora has to stay sharp and keep on fighting. It feels like people are always trying to fight this guy. You can see how the volume is pretty short though because the whole volume is basically the professor showing them the story and then they go home. Interestingly the manga ends with a preview which basically recaps the first few pages almost word for word but with a few changes.
Back to the volume though, Zeraora is a fun Pokemon. He clearly loves to fight as seen by his smirk after being attacked. I’m also glad to see him actually take a hit and keep on going. It’s always sad when a Legendary Pokemon gets wrecked by random poachers or gets caught in a cage. None of that was happening to Zeraora. He took down all challengers and I dare say that he had the upper hand against Lugia as well. That fight was the highlight of the volume, but admittedly it was Zeraora’s fault. Lugia just came in to get rid of the fire. Zeraora blamed him for not coming sooner, but that’s hardly Lugia’s fault. The Pokemon can’t be everywhere and at least he saved some people.
It would have not been good if Elekid had perished, but fortunately the manga didn’t go down that route. That would have gotten a bit dicey if you ask me. With Elekid safe then we could really enjoy the fight. This is where I have to go back and talk about the art. The fights are very smooth here. It actually seems like a similar style to Bleach where you feel the impact beyond every hit. The characters may look a bit chibi at times, but it’s worth it for the action scenes. It’s really going for the opposite of Pokemon Adventures. That series has a ton of detail and epic fights. It works really well, but the same can be said for the flip side where this one is really focusing on the hits. This doesn’t feel like a cash-in level of art, but that of a real title.
If there are any negatives here it’s just in how short the volume is. Hopefully the going price would be a little lower to compensate. So long as that is the case then there are really no negatives to be found here. The manga has a direct plot and goes about it with no delays or distractions. You don’t need to stretch out the volume just to pad out the pages. This one just gets right down to business and it’s also probably Lugia’s best showing. It may be a little sad that we don’t get to see Ash fight, but he got his match in the actual movie. This is really Zeraora’s time to impress us and he was quite impressive. I’d take him over quite a few Legendaries. He may not be as intimidating as some of them, but his speed and power are still forces to be reckoned with.
Overall, If this had been the plot of the actual movie then things would have been quite different. This would make for an excellent TV special so I hope it is animated in some way or form. If you watched the movie then this is a must read to really see more of Zeraora’s character. He may be a little too quick to jump into a fight and doesn’t have the cool head that you’d want your ally to have, but his heart’s in the right place. At least he’s actively protecting Pokemon from poachers since the Officer Jenny’s of the world don’t seem to be around when you need them. It’s still really something to see how many poachers exist in the Pokemon world. Throw in Team Rocket and all the other teams and the world is actually quite dangerous. Hopefully Ash and friends are ready for them, but with Pikachu at his side I suppose I don’t even need to wonder. I hope that whoever the artist of this was gets another chance at more Pokemon manga in the future.
It’s time to venture back into the world of My Little Pony! Legends of Magic is a spinoff series about the old timers and other magic threats. This one is a prequel about Stygian and how he gathered Equestria’s mightiest defenders. It’s a fun volume and while you may miss the Mane 6, these guys aren’t so bad. They may not have as much charisma but they are all pretty strong and it’s like looking at an ancient version of the ponies. It also helps tie in an element from the Equestria Girl film.
The comic starts off with Stygian doing more studying as always. He runs across 3 Serpents who ask him to bring them to the town so they can play for the people. Stygian refuses because these girls are super shady and does some chores for an old pony. When he gets back to town he sees that these Serpents have already made it into the village and cursed everyone with their singing. Stygian barely escapes and decides that in order to stop these guys he will need the strongest Ponies around. Will Stygian be able to find these guys and stop the villains in time to save the day? Only time will tell.
There are 6 issues here and essentially each issue is about recruiting a different Pony and getting one step closer to being able to return to his village. The first member he recruits is Rockhoof. Rockhoof is the power member of the team and he’s so strong that he can create a path to divert the river in no time at all. From there he can take on Bears and do all kinds of things. At first his super power appears to be raw strength but the more you read the comics the more it seems like determination is his special skill. That ultimately makes more sense since he isn’t able to even block a bunch of bunnies from entering the room in a later comic. I’d argue that he is still the most powerful of the group though. He’s a nice guy and it’s good to have someone on the team who is always ready to stand up for Stygian.
Another member of the group is the speedster Flash. He was dealing with some dragons and so at first he didn’t have time to deal with this impending danger. Fortunately the gang was ready to take it out with the dragons and that all ended up going well. Flash is very confident and he’s a good foil to Rockhoof. I dare say that he was necessary in order to make the group a true threat to the villains. Mistmane probably had the most embarrassing adventure since she was kidnapped by her own plants. Ultimately they may have listened to her, but if the others hadn’t shown up when they did I fear that she would have been truly doomed. I just don’t think she would have been able to stand up to the others for very long otherwise.
Meadowbrook had to deal with a lot of violent animals thanks to some poison in the plants. She’s a nice enough pony even if she isn’t a fighter. Her medical expertise could certainly come in handy during a fight. Then we have Somnambula who was dealing with Zombies. She’s the Pinkie Pie of the group due to how cheerful and unpredictable she can be and yet she manages to do so without being completely over the top the way that Pinkie usually is. It is a welcome change to be sure. Somnambula is actually charismatic and while she does enjoy poking fun at the others more than actually helping out, it’s not as if we ever considered her to be a hero.
Finally we have Star Swirl who is as self absorbed as ever. His only goal is to stop the menace threatening Equestria and it’s something that he believes only ponies with power can accomplish. As a result he brushed Stygian to the side the whole time. While he isn’t as exaggeratedly mean as in the TV show, you can see how the seeds are already planted with his character arc. He may be powerful, but the guy isn’t particularly likable. Too bad Starlight wasn’t around yet to show him what true power really is.
These are a fun batch of issues leading up to a satisfying climax. Each issue gave us a nice little threat and then the actual climax delivered with the big confrontation with the Serpents. (I think they were known as the Sirens in the issue, but they look like Serpents) I’d be down for a battle between the Pillars and the Mane 6 at some point. That would definitely be a blast. The writing is solid here and the pacing is good. Each issue feels like it is over in a blast as a result so you are always ready for more adventures. The artwork is quite solid and looks like it came right out of the show. The character designs are on point and the comic excels with the technical aspects.
Overall, Legends of Magic is a very good volume. It gives us more character development on Stygian and it is easy to see how he became the Pony of Shadows. There’s not a lot of gratitude here considering that he saved not just a town, but multiple towns by the end of this mini series. People really didn’t give him much of a chance just because he didn’t have powers. At least this helped the other ponies to learn later on that it’s not the powers that make the Pony but the other way around. I’ve got quite a few more MLP comics on the way so you can expect more reviews in the near future.
Looks like we’ve got another Conan spinoff in the works! This one continues to show us more about Zero which is always good and the title is definitely off to a great start. The guy is just an excellent lead and now he has a good rival too. I’ll have a review for this series up when it finishes.
It’s time to look at the second Fantastic Beasts film. I’m really still not sold on this series. Try as it might, this title just isn’t nearly as fun or interesting as Harry Potter. I can’t think of a single way in which it matches up. The title doesn’t even make any big mistakes like animal violence or being super violent. There isn’t even any fanservice to speak of. The main problem with Fantastic Beasts is just the fact that there currently aren’t any real likable characters. Everyone’s just fairly annoying and so without anyone to root for the film becomes less engaging than it should be.
The film starts off with a flashback as Grindlewald escapes confinement along with one of his henchman and begins to amass his army of followers. We cut to the present where Newt refuses to join the Wizarding army and has his VISA denied. He makes contact with Dumbledore who tells the kid that he must do one of two things. He needs to either take down Grindlewald (HA!) or he can find Credence and prevent him from turning to the dark side. Newt agrees to do this, but quickly gets sidetracked by a romance plot involving Jacob and Queenie which takes up a large chunk of the film. Meanwhile Grindlewald has to get Credence to he can destroy Dumbledore. To accomplish this he prepares to unleash some spectacles on the world which will wow the people with low will power to his side.
Quickly we’re gonna jump way out of order and talk about the ending. The film had the perfect chance to salvage the whole 2 hour experience with a single line. Grindlewald is explaining to one character what his true name. The final line of the film should have been “I now dub you…VOLDEMORT!!!” and then have the film end with an extremely loud guitar solo followed by some fast paced rock music. The revelation would have shocked everyone to the core because of how little sense it would make but it would have been absolutely amazing. I would have gained so much respect for the film. It would have finally tied into Harry Potter.
See, that’s one of the big problems here. This spinoff is like Attack of Titan Before The Fall. It really has almost nothing to do with the real series. Sure, Dumbledore is here and Nagini finally gets to appear, but their roles are pretty small so far and it’s not like they were huge characters in the main series. I want to see Harry or Snape! Too bad the prequel takes place so far in the past right? So, really the prequels need to try and develop their own series so they can be a solid entry in their own right without tying into the present. the problem is that the story’s just not interesting.
It’s a shame because at the same time I do appreciate the ambitious nature of the film. It may sound contradictory, but I think the overall plan for the film wasn’t bad, it’s just that the execution was painful. This film is clearly trying to throw in a bunch of plot threads which will all get wrapped up in the future. It can work out really well like in the old Spider-Man comics where at one point you had almost 10 different subplots going on in the background. When handled right it makes each issue a whole lot more exciting or in this case it would help the future films. There would be so many characters running around in the background that it would keep you really hyped. The problem is that this only works if you really enjoy the characters or find the plots engaging which is what the film fails to do. It’s more focused on the plot than the characters and you gotta have both. I do think huge fans of the Harry Potter lore may still be excited about all this, but it really wasn’t doing much for me.
The Ministry of Magic is really stuffy and antiquated. There’s no reason to root for them because their rules aren’t very sound. They are determined to keep the magic and human worlds separated to keep the balance so it’s no wonder why people are betraying them. They are trying to rule over everyone and that never goes well. All they do is hold each other back like when they shackled Dumbledore. The cabinet leader admitted that the principal was the only one who stood a chance against Grindlewald and even then he did this. The group makes no sense so I agree with Newt on not joining them. Still, they are the lesser of two evils so lets keep that in mind.
Then we have DUMBledore. All right, maybe not all of this is his fault, but we can blame him for quite a lot. That bloodpact he made a long time ago is really causing him trouble here. Even if he can’t attack Grindlewald directly he can still attack his troops. After all, Grindlewald has absolutely had no problems attacking Newt and every other hero here. Seems to me like Dumbledore is hiding when everyone was counting on him the most. He gets a tremendous amount of hype here, but he has yet to do anything of note. All he does is teleport and run around a lot. He also needed help getting the cuffs off. At this point in his career Gandalf had done more to prove himself so Dumbledore better shape up.
As for Newt, I still don’t like the guy. He’s constantly acting petty and being a downer in every single situation. He never explains himself and always has a sulking expression on his face. The guy’s too timid to be the lead and his magic skills don’t seem terribly advanced. He seems like a nice enough guy, but someone who should really be a member of the supporting cast and not trying to be Harry’s successor. Tina is the main heroine (Well, debateably. In the first film it was unquestionably her, but her role is reduced here) and she is a lot more interesting. At least she is actually being very pro active in trying to stop the villains even if her progress is quite slow like the others.
Then you have Jacob who gets mind controlled in his first scene. Don’t worry, he’s not being used as a hostage or anything, but he might as well be since he was nearly forced into marriage. By the time the spell breaks he tries to recover, but I think he could have been a little stricter with Queenie about not doing that again. He’s just not safe as she can dominate his mind at any point. Meanwhile, Queenie makes no sense here. Why show up at Newt’s place when he would obviously know that a spell was active? She should have gotten married first if she actually wanted to get away with the plan. She also has low will power and makes all of the worst decisions in the film. She definitely had a very different character arc than what I was expecting. It’s handled pretty well, but there’s no way I’ll be a fan of hers after this.
Then we have another plot with Credence and Nagini. Credence is one of those characters that everyone is hunting for different reasons. That can go down an interesting path of course as it’s always interesting seeing what side the character will choose. Unfortunately Credence has about as much agency as a pawn in Chess and just goes where the flashy colors are. In this case they belonged to Grindlewald so that’s it for him. He seems like the type of character who will be manipulated with ease. Nagini’s certainly a lot more interesting although I can see this being the start point for her descent into darkness.
Then we have the main villain Grindlewald himself. The film sets him up as being the big villain right away as even children aren’t safe from his terrors. He’s certainly got big goals, but is taking his time in going about them. Since he’s apparently the strongest sorcerer out there I’d like to see him make some more direct moves soon. I know that with magic there are a lot of convoluted reasons on why they must wait, but he needs to take the stage more. Just look at the climax. He murdered a bunch of spell casters with ease just with a single spell. He nearly took down all of Paris! If it’s that easy he should just keep blasting away. I get the feeling that he’s going to have some pretty big fights coming up.
The effects here definitely look really good. The magic spells are on point and the aerial fight with the lightning bolts coming down was definitely handled really well. More fights like that and the film definitely would have went up. The movie is at its best when we’re getting magical battles like that. Unfortunately they are few and far between. It does show the potential of the series though as we could potentially get more moments like that which would be very cool. It’s definitely jumped up visually from the last film. That’s a good thing since the average scenery in this film isn’t all that fun to look at. It does take place in the 1970s I believe though so that’s likely intentional. The effects are what you’ll be looking forward to.
Overall, I would have liked the film to have had some court scenes given that the title is literally referencing Grindelwald’s crimes. Instead he doesn’t do a whole lot after he escapes. The big climax at the end is pretty great and certainly the best part of the film. The characters all have to make a choice and it does set the stage for the third film to be the big payoff moment for a lot of characters. At the same time, this title really dragged its feet the whole time and still hasn’t given us a reason to root for most of the cast. I dare say that most of the Harry Potter characters had more personality after 1 film than these guys have after 2. I’ll stop comparing the two titles now, but Fantastic Beasts really needs to step it up. The review probably sounds pretty negative, but I’d still give this one a positive score. It just feels like empty world building right now and so there’s very low replay value. It still makes for a good initial watch though. I’d recommend checking it out if you like fantasy titles or are a big Harry Potter fan. That’ll let you really get the most enjoyment out of this title.
It’s time to look art the two part Itachi adventure spread across these two novels. At this point you are likely familiar with Itachi’s story as it was explained around 10 times in the anime and is constantly brought up. These novels add more details to the period before Itachi actually ended up murdering his clan. This way you can better understand his rationale and what caused him to tip over the edge. How much you enjoy the novels will likely depend on if you can buy into any kind of justification for murdering a whole clan and as there is none it can get tricky. Prequels like this tend to suffer from one tricky element that is hard to get around. The ending is written in stone and can’t be changed so no matter how heroic the character tries to be, it is ultimately futile. I remember another prequel being like this, but I can’t recall which one.
Well, the novel starts with Itachi growing up. At first he is a kid who is forced to learn about the outside world and the brutal realities of the Ninja War. Eventually he grows to accept it, but decides that when he is strong he will be able to change the world. He’ll become Hokage and end all of this. In the mean time he has to be careful because the Uchiha clan want him to be a spy on the Hidden Leaf Village while the Anbu want him to spy on the Uchiha. He obtains a high ranking position among both groups. Both groups intend on murdering the other so Itachi is unsure what he can do. No matter what he will end up betraying somebody.
I’m quickly going to jump into the ending here because it’s really the main problem with this duology. Throughout both books Itachi is painted as being a very nice guy. He’s apparently quite the pacifist who even acts timid for quite a while. The only scenes where he becomes a lot harder and more out of control are the ones from the manga which have to be re-adapted. As such, the ending really comes out of nowhere. It never feels like the narrative was building up to Itachi murdering everyone until it happens. The justification for it is still as weak as it ever was. Danzo and his group are effectively blackmailing Itachi at the end, but why should he obey them?
Danzo ordered the execution of Itachi’s best friend and has been doing everything he can to ensure that the Uchiha clan would be destroyed. He eliminated the only option for peace by getting rid of Shinsui. Itachi even half heartedly tried to avenge his friend. Why go from there to suddenly agreeing with Danzo and murdering his family? The only reason for this is that it had to be that way. That’s how the story is supposed to end. It’s still the biggest problem with prequels like this. The story tries to have him save face by placing his friend in a genjutsu as he destroys her so she doesn’t feel like it, but that’s not even a silver lining. To ease his own conscience Itachi lets Madara destroy the women and children, but that is still as guilty as doing it yourself.
The ultimate rationale for this is that if Itachi didn’t wipe out the Uchiha then both sides would have had many casualties. While that seemed very likely if not inevitable, it’s still not a choice that he should have made. I also wouldn’t trust Sasuke’s safety with the village after this. Sure, he had their word, but what’s to stop Danzo from setting up another “accident?” Itachi could try to out him with his info, but that wouldn’t do much at that point. Clearly the best thing to do would have been to just make the situation known to everyone. A civil war would likely occur but at least some people would live rather than none. Of course the other villages may attack as well, but with this many ifs it isn’t as if there is an option that is risk free.
So the second volume definitely finishes the series off on a low note, but overall the duology is fairly well written. Itachi’s story makes for a pretty good parallel to Kakashi’s. Both of them are prodigies who quickly joined the Anbu and started to turn the tides of the war. The leaf village was really lucky to get so many highly skilled ninja at their disposal. I think the series is at its best when Itachi is on missions with the Anbu. I think focusing on that part is certainly best, but as I mentioned the rest of it is very interesting too. Just cut out the ending and then this story would be complete.
Danzo and his group are just very annoying. They get away with everything including literal murder. The Hokage is heavily implied to know what is going on, but simply doesn’t care enough to help. That’s why I never liked the Third Hokage and I was rooting for Sasuke to take down the village. The place is just so corrupt and everyone always seems to get away scott free. Even not arresting Orochimaru in the Boruto series is highly suspect at best. The guy is responsible for countless crimes, why are they being swept under the rug? These novels show just how shady the village is and why it’s hard to like any of those guys.
Naruto gets a cameo which was cool. Apparently Itachi was also able to be nice to him back in the day. Before he ended up snapping Itachi is shown to be one of the nicest guys around. He’s a genius while staying humble. If you don’t like it when a character gets too much hype then this could annoy you, but I’m fine with it. Some characters just are that perfect, it’s fine. It also does make for a very intimidating villain since it’s not as if Itachi lost those skills when he turned over to the other side. Given how Itachi’s mission was to look out for the Leaf though, I do think that hanging out with the Akatsuki was super risky at times though. It’s good to be close to the villains of course, but I feel like after a while Itachi’s goal shifted from protecting Sasuke and the village to purely be focused on Sasuke. Not a bad thing of course and the village doesn’t deserve his protection anyway, but time probably clouded his thinking.
Overall, The Itachi novels definitely add a lot of details to his sob story. Even though we’ve been through this many times in the show already, it definitely does add some insight that you couldn’t already know. How much that matters will depend on the person. I have to shave some points off for the terrible ending, but beyond that the books are solid and I’d recommend checking them out. Itachi may be gone in the present day stories, but his sacrifice did ultimately help Sasuke become one of the greatest Ninja out there. The village also seems to be in a better spot than it used to be so at least things won’t always be corrupt there. Naruto needs to keep everyone on a short leash and he has the power to do so. We better not get another Danzo type situation. With this one done I’ll start on the Sasuke novel soon. I expect that one will triumph. After all, Sasuke’s the main character!
It’s time to look at the new Transformers prequel/reboot that came out. I’ve never been a big fan of the live action Transformer films. The franchise is still awesome and the G1 animated film was excellent, but for some reason it just couldn’t make the jump to live action. A large part of this could likely be blamed on Michael Bay and the Transformers not getting enough the respect a franchise of its caliber should have. A good adaption should be amazing. This one isn’t quite there yet, but Bumblebee is certainly an improvement and is actually a good film overall.
The film starts with a really nice action scene on Cybertron as we see Optimus Prime and a lot of the classic Autobots dealing with a Decepticon invasion. They are being pushed back though and Prime decides that they have to fall back. He sends Bumblebee to Earth to protect it and ultimately they will all converge on the planet to set up a counter strike. Bumblebee manages to make it to Earth, but a Decepticon follows and breaks his voice box. He has also lost most of his memories. We then cut to the main heroine of the film, Charlie. Charlie’s going through a pretty tough time as her father died and was quickly replaced with a new one. She has yet to warm up to him and has started distancing herself from her family. Her life begins to change when she finds Bumblebee and he becomes her first friend. Can she help him protect Earth from incoming Decepticons or is this all too big for one person?
I can’t stress enough how awesome the first scene is. I would certainly watch a movie all about the Cybertron fights and I think it would very quickly go down as the best Transformers title. It would basically be a CGI film at that point but the human characters really aren’t necessary so that’s not a bad thing. There’s no reason why Transformers has to be live action, especially if it’s a prequel. It’s almost a bit of a tease since you know the bulk of this film will be on Earth, but a strong opener is always a good thing to have for any film so I think this was the right move.
Also, the action does stay at a high level even on Earth. The previous films didn’t really have any choreography. The characters would typically just slam each other with normal hits but there wasn’t much to the fight scenes beyond that. In this film you actually see a lot of good hand to hand combat. Bumblebee is a really small Autobot compared to most of the others so as you would expect he needs to fight with a lot of throws and judo combos. The film shows that to great effect and the fights here have so much more energy than previous films.
The special effects are also much better. The characters actually look like Autobots and Decepticons here as opposed to being generic robots in the last few films. The designs are very faithful to the source material. Cybertron itself looks amazing and all of the visuals are just top notch. The soundtrack is also quite good. A lot of big 80s songs pop up here. Sometimes back to back in the same scene. It’s always nostalgic to hear these tunes. I can’t say that I knew too many of them, but the style itself just feels very nostalgic right from the start. It helps make the human scenes more fun.
Jack steals the show here as far as the human characters are concerned. From the start he suspects that the Decepticons are up to no good and is pretty reasonable about it. As he explains….their name is the Deceptiocns! That should be the end of the story. Unfortunately he is outvoted by the top brass so he is forced to work with the Decepticons, but I like that he voices his displeasure over this constantly. He doesn’t even pretend to play ball with them which is good. If you’re that confident that they’re up to no good you can’t shake on it. I hope he will return for a sequel.
Charlie is the actual main character here and she’s pretty reasonable. Naturally she is going through a tough time so she isn’t in the best of moods, but she isn’t nearly as sour as other main characters who were in a similar predicament. She does a good job of doing what she needs to and even her inevitable blowup moment isn’t nearly as dramatic as you might expect. She also ends up helping during the climax. The only moment where Charlie doesn’t look particularly good involves a diving situation. Granted, she never agreed to anything but the way she handled the situation wasn’t amazing. Also, I probably would have kept the window closed in the next scene. Memo is the next door neighbor who shows up and acts as the comic relief here. He’s not nearly as bad as he could have been, but I can’t say that I was a big fan. He seemed a little too desperate to hang out with Charlie the whole time and I don’t think it was just so they could be friends considering how quickly he was going.
So the film had a lot of positives, but it certainly wasn’t perfect. I do think that some of the humor scenes could drag on a little too long. Bumblebee stumbling through the house and breaking everything is definitely an overdone trope. After breaking a bunch of stuff you’d think that he would learn and adapt quick enough to stop making things worse. That doesn’t happen and he almost completely totals the place. I also think Bumblebee being so scared during his first appearance was a little odd. That subplot seemed to stick around as he didn’t even put up a fight towards the climax. I suppose the damage from the opening scene may have also prevented him from fighting, but I was still a little puzzled the whole time. Other humor scenes worked fairly well though like the Ricky Roll theme getting a quick cameo.
Charlie’s family also wasn’t too bad. I can see why she wouldn’t get along with them, but I thought the parents did a reasonable job of being annoying while still feeling genuine about looking after her. They weren’t trying to be annoying and at the end of the day they were a little helpful. The new dad more than the Mom, she could be a bit much at times since she was more reluctant to help. The bullies were certainly dramatized, but I did like the fact that they didn’t recognize Charlie outside of her job. In movies a lot of time they seem to have perfect memory but realistically I doubt they would remember everyone they make fun of. The revenge against the bully was a bit drastic though and I think that scene could have been cut. I didn’t find it particularly funny.
Overall, Bumblebee was pretty good. It was certainly a lot better than I had expected it to be which helps its case quite a lot. I think it will hold up to repeat viewings as well even though I certainly don’t plan on re-watching it anytime soon. The pacing is on point with an action scene always being around the corner. The film can try a bit hard with the humor at times, but at least it never devolves into dirty jokes like the old film. Whether you find them funny or not, I wouldn’t say that any of them are terrible. If you are avoiding the film because you have had poor experiences with the previous installments don’t let that stop you from watching this one. Bumblebee really feels like a brand new start for the series and if the quality stays at this level then I can finally start looking forward to these Transformer films again.
It’s time to look at a prequel to one of the best mystery manga on the block, Spiral Alive. A long time ago I had read most of the series but then the last chapters took a few years to get scanned. I decided to re read the series from the beginning since there were quite a few gaps in my memory. This was definitely a good move since I forgot about 95% of the plot. It’s definitely a great series that I’d recommend as the cast is solid and the art is really good. Those are the solid foundations you need for a good series.
The series starts off as a typical school drama. Imari has been trying to get Shirou to notice her but it’s tough goings as she has to work up the nerve and whenever she does something happens which gets in her way. Months pass and she finally has a chance when a mysterious girl known as Yukine lets her know where he is. Unfortunately this girl is currently his girlfriend so Shirou has to turn Imari down. Imari is pretty upset of course since she was trolled so thoroughly but finding Yukine will be difficult since the girl is the lead suspect of a string of murders that have begun to occur. Shirou vows to stop her, but he will be in a race against time with the police as well as the world’s greatest detective Kiyotaka. There are also a bunch of third parties who aim to get involved as well. The series definitely changes quite a bit from the happy beginning.
Naturally as this is a prequel there are quite a few characters from the main series who show up. The main character even makes a cameo in the final chapter and the heroine also appears as a guest star two or three times. Most of them don’t get too large of a role except for a handful of the blade children who are always popping up. For reference, there exists a group of teenagers known as the Blade Children. They are all around the same age since that is when the period of experimentation was until it was stopped. Kiyotaka and the special ops have a list of all the Blade Children to ensure that they keep tabs on them. The sad fact of life for these children is that once they turn a certain age a trigger is unlocked which turns them into murder weapons. Effectively they are all sleeper agents and they know this, but are unable to stop it. One group seeks to destroy all of them before this happens, another group aims to save them and finally we have Kiyotaka’s group which just observes and steps in when things get messy. Given that he knows all about them anyway, a good number of the Blade Children work for Kiyotaka in exchange for safety.
There’s a lot more to all of this, but you get the general idea. Imari is the main character of the first bit of the series, but then the role switches to Kousuke. All of the characters are after Yukine because she holds within her the information on the missing Blade Children. There are a few who actually managed to keep their names out of the official database which is a huge concern for the government since just 2-3 would be enough to take down a whole country from the inside. (Yeah, I feel like this is hyperbole, but maybe they become that dangerous?) Kiyotaka is determined to get the list and this begins his long game of cat and mouse with Yukine. Yukine will have to stay sharp throughout though because Kiyotaka has yet to ever be defeated in a game of wits.
By this point you may be wondering who to root for. Well, it’s a tough call because none of the sides are objectively all that good. I suppose Shirou is probably the least shady and Imari is shady, but in a comical way to you can root for her. It’s hard to particularly root for Yukine or Kiyotaka. Lets get into some of the tough issues the manga presents and where I stand. Hint, I don’t side with Kiyotaka on anything.
One of the big situations that happened in the past is a Blade Child took Shirou hostage. She murdered a bunch of other people as well, but seemed sad about it. Shirou tried to help her and things were looking all right, but then Kiyotaka granted her permission to destroy herself so the girl did and Shirou held a grudge about it ever since. He wants to find his own answer so that he can tell Kiyotaka what other option there was that day. Unfortunately, the manga ends with Shirou seemingly believing that Kiyotaka may have made the right choice after all. Kiyotaka’s reasoning was that the girl was going to be destroyed as soon as she left the building anyway or would have done the same act at a later point so he simply let her go out peacefully.
Definitely a lot of justifying going on there, but I definitely couldn’t roll with it. Encouraging the girl to destroy herself there is never the right answer. The lives of the Blade Children may be tragic since they have a short life span and lose control of themselves, but as long as they live there is always a chance for a cure. Dying prematurely like that just destroys any possible hope that was left. As you can guess, Kiyotaka could never bounce back from this.
Either way he was never going to though as the guy just isn’t likable. He knows everything and is always a step ahead of the rest, but always likes to act as if he isn’t very smart anyway. He jokes around a lot and likes to dress up as various animals. It’s heavily implied that he just does all of this because he is supremely bored from being right all the time so he may as well amuse himself. The series does go all out in trying to show that this guy is barely even human with how effectively he plays everyone. He starts his plans years in advance and they still turn out all right. The guy’s annoying and definitely not the kind of genius that you want on your side. Even the cops get fed up with him since the guy always does as he pleases.
You’ll feel bad for the other characters as well since they all try to out think him. Almost all of the Blade Children also possess above average intellect and so they make thorough plans of their own, but it always seems as if Kiyotaka is still in their heads somehow. From the Blade Children, the worst character is probably Kousuke. That’s not to say that he is a bad character, but he’s just a little more bland than the others. He is sent in as Kiyotaka’s right hand man (Totally not why I’m not a fan of the character of course) and he is dealing with his self esteem as the guy is always getting played. He also wants to get along with Ryoko but can’t stop himself from insulting her every time. I can’t say that I have too much sympathy for that kind of character so I was rooting for the inevitable friend zone. Kousuke can fight to a reasonable extent but even then the final fight is rather cheesy.
As for Ryoko, she is definitely a lot more reasonable than Kousuke. She has led a normal life so far despite being a blade child which is admirable since it appears like she was the only one able to do so. Her role wasn’t all that large, but she was a reasonable character. She did her best to foil Kiyotaka’s plans and seemed more heroic than the others. At the very least she wasn’t as interested in fighting as the others. Kanone was her polar opposite as he thoroughly enjoys taking down the human oppressors. He takes on a whole base on his own. His role here is strictly limited to a handful of cameos, but as he gets a big role in the main series that makes sense.
Now it’s time to look at the actual main character of the series. Imari almost feels out of place here with how energetic she is. Imari doesn’t care about thinking things through of all this Blade Children stuff. She just wants to defame Yukine so she can have Shirou all to herself. She goes to rather extreme measures for this like challenging Yukine to a death match and constantly trying to get Shirou to two time Yukine. While this could have been a little dicey if it was played more seriously, Imari’s comedic subplot ends up working really well. When she shows up at the end of the series it’s a pretty intense moment since she had been gone for a while. It would have been nice if she could have put up a better fight but technically she is only human so I guess this was accurate. Definitely a unique main character.
Shirou is also one of the main characters although his quest seems to get less screen time than the others. He wants to save Yukine and has the brains to achieve this plan but isn’t very strong. There are a few similarities to the main character of the other Spiral series here. Shirou is typically a little annoying though since he relies on others quite a lot considering that he makes a bunch of speeches about being a total loner. He is willing to lose himself in his journey and acknowledges that dying is a real threat, but takes no steps to protect himself. Even when some guys break in and hold him hostage the guy doesn’t really react. He’s rather bland in general so I’m definitely fine with him getting the shaft for the most part. I will give him some credit for staying loyal to Yukine though.
We can’t forget about her of course since the whole series really revolves around her and her quest. Yukine has begun murdering everyone yet leaving a lot of clues so she is playing the game both ways. Some of her actions are rather hard to rationalize, but the in universe reason seems to be that she was hoping someone would stop her which makes a little more sense than usual since the blade persona within her also has some control. Her backstory is certainly tragic and explains her quest for revenge pretty well. Naturally I was rooting for her in this case. Arresting the villain is the best move of course, but since all of the “heroes” were trying to protect the guy then I have to go with the vigilante. That’s another reason why the heroes are pretty annoying half the time since they aren’t actually interested in stopping the villains. Too much politics between the 3 groups so they all have diplomatic immunity, but just putting them all behind bars would be effective if you ask me.
Regardless of her reasons, Yukine is still firmly an antagonist of course. 2 wrongs don’t make a right and even if you root for the character trying for revenge of course they aren’t actually in the right. Yukine is definitely a compelling character though and I do like how she intentionally trolls Imari the whole time. She just makes life hard on the lead for no particular reason and admits that it is just for amusement. It’s nice to have the villain get a sense of humor.
Madoka is another one of the Blade Children and she gets along with Kiyotaka more than the others. They are actually friends and maybe that is because she seems to be the smartest of the group. She is seen as one of the best fighters as well and is a good all around character. Madoka tends to have a bit of a rivalry with Imari so their banter is fun. I’d say that Imari always has the edge though. Then we have Imari’s friend Moeki. (Possibly spelled as Moiki but the scanlation made the letter hard to see) Imari technically has another friend but that person never actually did anything so there’s no need to talk about her. Moeki didn’t do much either, but was always fun in her brief screen time. She was definitely the smart member of the trio and did a good job of keeping Imari in line. If any of the normal characters could keep up with the blade ones it would be her. Still, her role is very minor so don’t expect the character to do much. She’s just a low key hype character.
Finally we have Professor Sheffield who talks a good game, but seems out of his depth the entire time. Kiyotaka is always one step ahead of him and I believe you could even say the same for Yukine. His plan in the past backfired just as horribly as in the present. He does a lot of panicking and I can’t say that he was ever a likable character. He may not be threatening, but he does give the series a real villain to oppose so I guess that’s good.
The art is really good as you would expect from this series. A lot of thought and detail clearly went into it. The fight scenes are great as well when they show up. Naturally this is a series that is more about the dialogue and story than the fights, but we still do get a few of them. The art does a good job of keeping the exposition interesting and it’s never hard to follow. The writing is also quite solid so there is really nothing to hold this series back. There are no real negatives to be had here. Even the tragic backstory isn’t really gritty or anything as it’s mostly off screen and just handled as business per usual kind of thing. At most I do have an issue with nobody
destroying arresting Kiyotaka or at least pointing out that his reasoning was wrong. In the end everyone basically agrees with him and it’s heavily implied that he got the last laugh. A shame, but of course the big villain couldn’t lose in the prequel.
Overall, Spiral Alive is definitely a fun series. It’s certainly got a very intense plot that will keep you guessing all the way through. It does a good job of mixing together the light Imari plot with the more serious Yukine one. Everything here is high quality from the art to the writing and you’ll breeze through the volumes. It’s definitely best to read the main series first since this one spoils some things, but if you read this one first you’ll still understand what is happening. One day I’ll be sure to review the main series as it’s been a very long time since I’ve read that one.