Black Widow Review


Black Widow is a film that feels like it’s been in the works for ages. After the Avengers 2012 film there was already talk about a potential solo film. I know a lot of people wanted a whole film about Budapest, others wanted a prequel even further back in the red room. Ultimately we would finally get the solo film now, which takes place after Civil War. It’s a pretty good place to put this film in, I would say the only other area that would have worked would have been the multi-year gap between Infinity War and End Game.

The movie starts off with showing Natasha as a child where she grew up with her parents and younger sister. Their life was pleasant for a while but one day they had to suddenly sneak out and head back to base. Her life was thrown upside down and then she went to work as a Soviet agent until eventually she was able to break away into the Avengers. I would say this was the best way to handle her early childhood.

Personally I would say the film starts off slow. It doesn’t really pick up until we go to the present which is precisely why I never wanted a full prequel film about her childhood. It could be interesting to see her as an assassin and you could pull off a film like Salt but in general I’m always a lot more interested in seeing the present. Yes, this isn’t the exact present but it’s not too long ago. This way you still see scenes of her past without having a 2 hour experience about it which seems like a fair balance.

So the movie truly picks up with Widow on the run from the government after Civil War. Aside from Captain America, the rest of her team was already captured. Widow has had enough of this and intends to vanish forever into another life but suddenly gets thrown back into the fray when she is attacked by the Taskmaster. After suffering a complete defeat, she heads over to her sister Yelena for some answers. Turns out that the Red Room is still in operation so Widow is going to have to confront her old ghosts one more time.

The opening action scene with Taskmaster is definitely solid. Taskmaster gets to show off his good hand to hand skills and copy abilities from the comics and Natasha fights well as always although she is definitely out of her league in this battle and goes down quickly. It’s a good way of getting her back into the fold and effectively forcing her into the action. It also showed how she would still make the heroic call in the end such as when she went for the vials even though she had been looking forward to some down time.

Lets start with the film’s strong points. The action and effects are top notch as always. The hand to hand fights are on point and I like how the objects as used in combat. Taskmaster has his shield while Natasha uses whatever items she has on hand. The different locations all look really good and there are a lot of different environments here to be sure.

The soundtrack is also pretty good. We get some Russian opera styled music here during one of the opening montages and some classic action tunes. While I wouldn’t say any might be a complete standout, they work out well for the scenes that they’re in and help to enhance the moment.

Yelena is a great new addition to the universe. Historically I’ve always liked her a lot more than Natasha as the Black Widow. She tends to be more of an antagonist but I’m nowhere near close to being caught up with her character so maybe she is usually a good guy now. Either way she brings in a lot of the witty lines in the film. While it’s clear that Natasha is more skilled, she is also older than Yelena and got a lot of great experience with the Avengers. Give Yelena some time and she can catch up at some point.

Yelena loves poking fun at the other characters and it works really well for the dynamic here. She was definitely the standout character here. I also liked Natasha’s mother Melina. As a strategist she also has a lot of good plans and is integral when helping the other characters out. That said, she did have a really suspect scene involving a pig as well as the implications that this has. While they play the sympathy card a lot, I can’t see her as anything other than a complete villain.

There’s some good setup to the rest of the universe as well although this is squarely a Black Widow film. The after credits scene is pretty low key for the most part but the final part has a lot of solid implications for fights coming up. Lets just say that the person who is about to be hunted should be in a lot of trouble since I think he’s outmatched here. Maybe he’ll surprise me though. I’m not really feeling the new Nick Fury type character yet since I prefer his mysterious approach to the “fake friend” tactic this one likes to try. Still, should make for an interesting confrontation down the road.

Finally, I’ve always liked the concept of the rogue agent who goes back to their roots. It could be someone who used to be evil or just someone who needs to do an impossible task. It’s the very concept of Mission Impossible, but I’m thinking of more solo operations like Salt, Resident Evil, John Wick, and other titles like that. They can get rather intense but the story itself is always very compelling. The same goes for Black Widow as Natasha has to tap into her old skills which may be rusty at this point.

After all, as a kid even before growing up in the Red Room she was a tough fighter and even more so after completing her missions. As an Avenger she had to learn how to fight as a hero which means no lethal moves and as a result she couldn’t go all out anymore. Hawkeye even gave her a straight fight in the first Avengers film which likely wouldn’t happen in her prime. That said, with how easily she handled Yelena, it’s clear that growing rusty is not a problem in her case.

Black Widow is definitely in the top half of the Marvel Cinematic films. There are enough films now where it’s tough to rank them all but it’s squarely under the top tiers like the Avenger films but above all the Phase 1 titles (Not counting Avengers) and others scattered across the phases. It’s a great film and only the 6th 8 star film I’ve seen in 2021. There’s a lot to like here.

Now for the film’s weak points. I thought it went way too far in making the Red Guardian as useless and comedic as possible. Sure, his personality can be fun and some of his humor moments do land, but couldn’t he have looked good at least once? Strength is his whole thing but he fails in his break out scene, gets humiliated by Taskmaster, and ultimately doesn’t win a single battle. I’m not familiar with him in the comics so maybe he always gets wrecked but it felt a little overdone. He deserved at least one quality moment without the rest of the team constantly dunking on him.

I was also underwhelmed by Taskmaster. I wouldn’t say he was a bad villain, but…he’s just not Taskmaster. We’ve seen Marvel do this with several big villains like Mandarin and Ultron where they just don’t feel like their normal selves and this would have to be put into that category. The first red flag is when he doesn’t talk at all during his opening fight. Seems like a robot with no personality. I can get behind the costume being the weakest Taskmaster design yet since it’s passable but this guy just doesn’t feel like Taskmaster. Where’s the bragging, witty dialogue? I’m used to a fairly talkative Taskmaster.

His role is also a lot smaller than you’d expect so he doesn’t the time needed to look particularly impressive. You have 0 doubt that Captain America, Black Panther, Bucky, and a bunch of other hand to hand fighters would crush this version of him with ease. So he was on the disappointing side, good in a vacuum but I think they just should have called him something else and kept the Taskmaster title open for the future. Who knows, maybe there will be a twist and we’ll get another Taskmaster soon.

Now lets talk about Natasha, I was a little quiet about her in this review so far if you’ve noticed. Retroactively this movie really makes her character look shaky at times and downright bad at others. Now, you know a big part of the plot is that the red room is still around, but Natasha was super sure it was gone. So the film goes into why she thinks this is the case…and it makes her look a bit naïve.

She really didn’t do much inspecting to see if this was really the case. She went to extreme lengths in her quest for vengeance as well. Now you can put some blame on Shield and her partner for believing someone who just turned to their side without having someone else watching the situation but at its core this is Natasha’s issue. Characters make mistakes in their past and this was a long time ago…but it’s a rather huge mistake. The film will explain what I’m talking about here with her plan to destroy the red room but I’m keeping any specifics out for spoilers.

Even more egregious is the fact that afterwards she never actually tried to find Yelena or any of the others. This feels a little convenient since that would have also told her that something was going on. A lot of the film is about Natasha trying to correct her past and trying to be a better person now. It’s what she was talking about with her ledger being red a while back in the early Avenger films so we see exactly what she was talking about. I’ve never been a Black Widow fan and this film doesn’t help matters.

It’s part of why I was glad to see Yelena showing up since she’s always been more fun and this film keeps that up. Still, Natasha does do well in the fight scenes and still proves to be the critical character needed to stop the villains. Without her here there’s no way the others would have been okay. She’s started her first step on the redemption journey by finally thanking the guy who gets her all her equipment and tech. I felt bad for him the whole film so at least it’s a start because that guy deserves a lot of gratitude for always coming through.

That’s it for weaknesses. I mean, the main villain is pretty bad but he’s really a non factor here. The guy is just around since we need a head of the red room but that’s the extent of his room. He can’t fight and can only rely on Purple Man type powers to keep himself in the fight. It’s also another chance to make Black Widow look bad since you’d think she could resist this but I guess the powers of science cannot be defeated.

Costume-wise, I preferred Natasha’s outfit here to the usual Black Widow one. Granted, the old version is a lot more fitting to the title but I do like to have a change of pace once in a while so this was a really good way to flip things. Also, it worked well for the snow scenes. I missed the sky fall gunfight scene from the trailer though. I wonder if it was made only for the trailer or if it got so much bad press about the bullet dodging physics that they just scrapped it. I hope it’s the former because it’s still a great concept for a scene and would have worked really well at the end. Maybe just tweak the scene a bit to show her dodging but then we’re good.

Ultimately my favorite action scene in the film was the opening battle with Taskmaster. Part of why it’s so effective is because of how sudden it is. Taskmaster just appears out of nowhere and starts the fight right away. If not for the fact that he can only focus on his objective, Natasha would have been completely finished off there. The match has a lot of tension and the night time background works well since it feels like there is absolutely no backup. If Natasha were to die here, it would be easy to cover up and even the Avengers may be at a loss.

Widow was also caught off guard so it’s not like she had her gear. You really see how tough a hero is when they just have to fight as they are. You think of moments like Steve being attacked at his home by Winter Soldier, Tony’s house being attacked in Iron Man 3, or Catwoman breaking into Bruce Wayne’s house in Dark Knight Rising. Usually the hero is caught flat footed and gets wrecked but when they’re able to put up a good fight you gain a lot of respect for their survival instincts. I’ll give Natasha credit here, she did put up a good fight even with no prep time despite the combat disadvantage.

The writing is really on point as well. While the Red Guardian may be the comic relief character of the film, I thought Yelena had all the best jokes and funny one liners. The conversation about how Natasha is always posing before and during her fights was fun. Yelena even gives it a shot on her own at one point and the fact that the pose is immediately recognizable does support her point there. Whenever she is around you can expect a lot of fun dialogue. You do get a very genuine feeling from the Guardian in his lines too but I don’t believe his talk about Captain America. He would get folded like an old lawn chair if he tried to defeat Steve. The other characters could have probably cut him some slack since he’s been trapped in jail all this time though.

Overall, Black Widow’s definitely a great film. It’s may have the slowest start to an MCU film but really turns up once we get to the present when she’s trying to evade Ross. That’s when the film gets great and then it keeps up that momentum the rest of the way. The action is on point and as always Marvel has a ton of great backgrounds and environments to fight in. The film may be 2 hours long but it really ends in a flash. You won’t even notice the time and it’s a title you can safely recommend even to people who have not seen the other Marvel titles since her story is fairly stand alone.

Overall 8/10

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative

Underworld has returned for another title. This time we’re travelling to the past though so you won’t be seeing Selene and the hybrid fighter running around. While I would say this one’s weaker than the last two, it still delivers on what you would expect to see in an Underworld title. There’s a lot of action here and of course with the Lycans being main characters you can expect them to get a lot of screen time.

The movie begins by introducing us to the vampires dominion which is ruled by Viktor. At the very least he owns the strongest cabal from the Vampire bases and he rules it with an iron fist. The humans all have to bring him their riches and supplies if they want to keep being protected. That said, the Lycans have made this more complicated lately. They continue ransacking these places which undermines the people’s faith in Viktor.

Then you have his daughter Sonja who is having a secret affair with Lucian, one of the Lycan. Lucian is the only one allowed to have at least a little respect and power within the vampire ranks. He shows more reason than the rest of the werewolves and he has agreed to serve Viktor. The other vampires don’t like this though and do what they can to make his days as uncomfortable as possible. This could have been the end of it, but Viktor continually shows that he will never respect the Lycans so Lucian decides they will need to escape. Can he really break all of them free from the vampire shackles?

What this film really underscores is that Viktor is 100% responsible for the war that ends up breaking. His advisors warn him to treat the Lycans a bit better or there could be an issue. They tell him that patrols are needed to watch over the human villages so they don’t revolt either. Viktor won’t hear any of it and continues to say that his way is the best way. Of course this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Then you have the way he treats Lucian. You’d think that he would want to keep Lucian at least a bit comfortable since the rest of the Lycan will follow his lead. That’s not the case though as he punishes Lucian for saving Sonja since the werewolf had to transform in order to do it. Really? So you’re penalizing him for saving your daughter. We all know Viktor would have murdered Lucian if something had happened to Sonja so the game just felt rigged in that sense.

Viktor absolutely sped up the time table of the revolt and he was as oblivious as can be. I thought he made for a pretty hype villain in the first film but here he just looks incompetent at his job. If he had even a little sense of strategy he would have been able to have put the vampires in a good spot.

Meanwhile, Lucian makes for a decent lead. The fact that he basically works to destroy his own kind at the vampire’s orders hurts him for the first half though. It takes a while for Lucian to effectively decide to stand against them and that’s really only when the issue is forced. He does make the right call in deciding to go back to try to save Sonja though. Ultimately there wouldn’t be much meaning in escaping if it meant leaving her behind.

Here we see Lucian fight as more of a warrior than a beast and he looked rather impressive. It’s still hard to see him taking on most vampires but it does look like you keep some of your strength in human form. Ultimately I think his fans will be satisfied with his portrayal here. As for Sonja, you know how her story will end from the start and the film’s more about seeing how the situation unfolds. Her skills were impressive as she even overpowered Viktor. It would have been nice if she would have made a move to escape earlier with Lucian since that started leading things on the wrong path but in a mansion of vampires the mission can be difficult.

The cast is fairly small here as the rest of the characters are mainly just supporting figures who don’t really get much of a role. We do get to see more of Raze here who was the loyal right hand man to Lucian. He’s dependable here as well and you can see why he earned the role. The guy doesn’t fear his opponents the way that most fighters do.

The action scenes here are pretty solid. You definitely have a lot of back and forth and the best battle is either Lucian or Sonja against Viktor. Not surprising since he usually makes for the best fights. The effects are on point and the mansion visuals are good. I do miss the modern aesthetic of the earlier films though. Looking at the forest and a medieval setting just can’t beat a modern city.

There’s not a lot to say about the soundtrack though. This film also gets held down by all the same negatives of the first two films so it’s nothing new in that respect. The film really goes over the top with all the violence everywhere. Characters are eaten, ripped apart, and drained dry. You can expect a high body count here of course. The lucky characters are the ones who are instantly destroyed as opposed to being roughed up first.

The romance with Lucian and Sonja also ends up falling here. It all happens rather quickly although presumably the affair’s been going on for a long while in secret. How they ever got together is not something the film has time for since it’s not the longest. Taking out that subplot and redirecting that to some more politics with the humans would have been nice.

For me the highlight of the film is the ending scene as we get a glimpse into the present timeline. It’s an old scene but with 1 new word of dialogue which was probably cropped from the climax of the first film. It’s just a nice way to end things off with a character being in complete denial at the end. Of course that would soon change in the sequels.

Overall, Prequels are a good way to build lore and many franchises use this tactic. Personally it’s very rare to find a prequel that is super engaging because I’m always more interested in finding out what’s going on in the present. Effectively this would delay that journey 3 more years if I had been watching live. Still, now we know the full origin of the war. I’ll also have the review of the next film up pretty quickly. If you liked the first 2 films then you’ll want to check this one out but otherwise you will already know if this is a series that you’ll want to skip. It really plays out very similarly to the others.

Overall 2/10

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Stats and Records

Stats time!

Play Time 14h 44m

Contribution Levels

All Hyrule 34%
Central Hyrule 38%
Hebra 37%
Akkala 29%
Eldin 28%
Lanayru 38%
Necluda 34%
Faron 43%
Gerudo 27%

Character Levels

Link 61
Impa 38
Zelda 55
Mipha 37
Daruk 49
Revali 29
Urbosa 27
Hestu 29
Sidon 41
Yunobo 41
Teba 40
Riju 42
Master Kohga 53
King Ghoam 54

Challenges

Level 1-10 All Clear
Level 11-20 All Clear
Level 21-30 8/23 Complete
Level 31-40 6/10 Complete
Level 41-50 0/9 Complete
Level 51-60 0/8 Complete
Divine Beast Challenges 0/7 Complete

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Review


Hyrule Warriors was one of the best games I played on the Wii U back in the day. The game had a whole lot of awesome gameplay mechanics at its disposal and the levels were intense. To date I consider it to be one of the best beat em ups I’ve ever played. The whole thing was just so seamless and I do love me a good crossover plot. This one is a very worthy sequel though setting us in the Breath of the Wild continuity. Finally we can have a big story with these characters. The story is a pretty solid length at over 10 hours. It took me around 14.5 although I did a lot of the side missions and bonus content because the game was so fun.

The story picks up right before the actual Calamity started. Link is a chosen knight of Hyrule whose mission is to protect Princess Zelda. He does so magnificently as he saves her from an enemy energy blast. Zelda needs to awaken her abilities foretold by prophecy in order to stop Calamity Ganon from wiping out the world. Her best bet in the meantime is to find the 4 guardians and have them awaken their machines of power. If they use these then the prophecy says they will win but has Ganon already accounted for them? We know that in Breath of the Wild the heroes lose so what can tip the scales here? We have a time travelling robot from the future who shows up in the first level so perhaps he will come in clutch.

There are quite a few twists and turns here as the game goes on so the story is always adapting. It’s a very engaging one and we have a lot of cutscenes here. As always Link proves himself to be an excellent main character. It’s hard not to like the guy because he really does have an incredible amount of skill and is always ready to jump into the fray. With Link by your side you can’t help but feel that everything is going to be all right. He’ll step up to the plate each time we need him to do so. Zelda is also a solid heroine. Her voice will take a little getting used to but as a character she is brave and does what she needs to as Princess. She can also fight on the battlefield alongside the others which I’d say is crucial. You’ve always gotta be able to fight, especially in a ruined world like this one. Otherwise you may just hold the others back.

Her father, the King actually gets a good role here as well. It’s rare to see him step up, but he does and it turns out that the guy can fight really well with a sword. I liked him quite a bit throughout the game. I can see why some may find him to be a bit harsh with Zelda but I don’t think he ever crosses any kind of line and had some good points. Zelda was quite nervous at that point and seemed to be dodging her duty. I wouldn’t say it was intentional and I don’t think he thought so either. He just wanted to get her back on track and the stakes were quite high because if they failed then that would be game over.

As for the villains, we have 3 main ones aside from good ole Calamity Ganon. The first is Master Kogha. He’s definitely trying for a charismatic comic relief kind of role here. He can fight decently well but doesn’t take things seriously a whole lot. He didn’t grow on me but I wouldn’t say he was bad. He may make you crack a smile once in a while but he’s not as funny as you need to be for this style of villain to truly work. Fortunately his sidekick Sooga is great and really holds up the villain side here. He’s a talented fighter who even gives Link a run for his money. The guy is incredibly loyal as well so Kohga is lucky to have him by his side.

The main villain here would be Astor though. It’s almost odd to call him the main villain because it feels like the guy doesn’t appear a whole lot here but he is the central focus. He wants to awaken Ganon and end the world. He doesn’t have much personality beyond that but he’s okay. I’ll definitely take most of the other evil Legend of Zelda mages over him. I did like his ability to conjure up shadow versions of the heroes to fight though. That’s a pretty handy trick especially if they are close to as strong as the real deals. Meanwhile Ganon doesn’t do much but it’s always fun to see the blight versions and the final boss has a pretty great design. I do look forward to having more of a sentient Ganon make his return at some point though. He’s just such an interesting villain when he can talk.

Meanwhile the graphics here are naturally top notch. The energy effects all look really good and you can feel the power behind each attack. It makes you have a blast while you’re running around each level. The cutscenes also look really good. In particular there is one cutscene where Link is in a 4 on 1 battle that is great fun to watch. It’s definitely as intense as it gets. Then you’ve got the soundtrack which is also excellent. The soundtrack has a lot of different themes with a good range of action themes to emotional ones as well. In particular there’s one action theme I like a lot which tends to show up when the villains appear. It builds up the suspense quite nicely.

As for the gameplay, it’s sort of like the first game but a bit different. The game adds a new mechanic to the usual beat em up style which is the ability to use 4 skills mid-battle. Stasis, which freezes an opponent; Magnetism, which can manipulate metal; Freeze, which is pretty self explanatory but if you use it on the water it gets to be super effective; and Bombs, which blow stuff up. I really just used the bombs and stasis but both are incredibly useful. Bombs allow you to instantly chip away at an enemy’s stagger meter without having to worry about perfect dodges. Stasis freezes an opponent for a few seconds and you can use it every 10-15 seconds so I recommend spamming that one. It is useful in every different fight so not using it would just be a waste. This new mechanic is quite powerful though to the point where you will be using it incredibly frequently.

The game puts a bigger emphasis on this than your actual final smash which is probably why this is the first warriors game where it can be very hard to replenish your meter at times. I think they’re hoping you use the new mechanic a lot. Well, it’s definitely a fun one so no complaints here. All of the characters have very unique gameplay styles although that is the one area where I would say the game does falter compared to the first one next to the story. While it’s great that the characters have their own unique styles, some feel very difficult to use for battle. Zelda is the biggest character who’s like this. It’s hard to make heads or tails of what her attacks are actually doing in gameplay. Half the time it would be faster for me to just have Link cross the entire field to go and make a last second save rather than letting Zelda or any of the other characters fight in his place. I did like Goruk’s fighting style for example, but Link’s was easily the best.

As mentioned the game’s length is over 10 hours but there’s a lot of replay value that will extend this length. For starters there are over 100 quests to fulfill by gathering ingredients and rupees. Outside of that you will unlock shops where you can level everyone up and upgrade your weapons. These quests even boost all of your characters with more combos and hearts so I highly recommend doing some of these quests. They will help a whole lot when doing the campaign. I did just enough where I was able to go through the main story without dying but I came very close in the final level. If I hadn’t completed 100+ quests I am quite sure I would have died there. Not to mention that completing challenges also helps with increasing your level. There are a wide range of challenges to beat which are separated into categories for every 10 levels. I beat all of them for the first 2 sections and then randomly beat some in the next two. There are still a lot left for if I were to ever go back to these.

Overall, Age of Calamity is a fantastic game. There is a wealth of content here to play through and that’s always good to see. It’s clear that there was a lot of effort put into this game. The story is engaging and the characters are fun. The gameplay is top notch and the same is true of the graphics and soundtrack. When you have a game this balanced there just isn’t anything to bring it down. I do hope they continue making more Nintendo Warrior games because so far they have all been quite excellent. It’s a formula that you can’t go wrong with. If you haven’t bought this game yet then you should definitely change that.

Overall 9/10

Megaman 10 -Extra F Review


It’s time to look at a very obscure Megaman one shot from back in the day. It’s only 16 pages so this is also just a very quick story in general. It’s cool to have a story that is focused on Bass though. That alone makes it a pretty notable entry. This is a pretty fun short story and the art is reasonably good. You should be able to knock this out in a few minutes but it’s a few minutes of your life that you’ll be glad you used.

The plot is that there is now a Robot flu thanks to Wily messing up on an invention. Mega Man is tasked with finding pieces of the cure so that he can make everyone better. Meanwhile Bass wants to find Mega Man for a rematch but gets his directions mixed up so he ends up going against most of Wily’s new and updated robots. This doesn’t faze him as Bass easily crushes those robots but he is no closer to finding Mega Man. Gradually he realizes that this is still fun though and even gets his revenge on Wily. So the story is pretty comedic in that sense although the action scenes are pretty fun. There’s only so much you can do in 16 pages of course.

I like the idea of Bass taking everyone out simply because they were in his way. It’s definitely something I could see him doing. He has often been overshadowed by his EXE counterpart so it’s easy to forget that he’s a pretty hype character in his own right. I think Mega Man and Proto Man would have had a hard time with him. The guy also acts heroically at times like with how he made Treble take the only cure they had. On the outside he acts like he did it for himself of course but we know better. I don’t disagree with the logic though. What can a mere flu do against someone as mighty as Bass? He would definitely just laugh it off and that makes perfect sense. He’s the ultimate robot in the series after all.

As I mentioned, the art isn’t bad. It’s not super detailed or anything but I would say that it’s a solid step above cash-in art that you see from time to time. The final page has Bass drawn in a rather odd way where I’m not sure what the intent was but every other page and instant is pretty good if you ask me. The action scenes while brief are also pretty good. I definitely would have liked it if this could have gone on for longer than a single chapter. There’s a lot you can do here if you really think about it.

Overall, This is a short review but that’s because this is a very short story as well. There’s only so much you can talk about to cover 16 pages. At the end of the day you’ll enjoy this story if you like the Mega Man series. If you haven’t followed it then you’ll probably just be lost here or wondering what the point of the story is. There’s not much of a focus after all so it all really just rides on whether you like the Mega Man series or not. It’s always fun to see them in extra little adventures here and there. This was the last classic Mega Man manga on my radar though so next up it’s time to enter the world of Mega Man X. That should definitely be fun. His stories have already been more plot based than the classic lineup and a manga should delve into that even further.

Overall 7/10

Kimetsu no Yaiba: Tomioka Giyuu Gaiden Review


It’s time to look at a quick prequel that takes place pretty early on in the Demon Slayer series. Based on some flashbacks here I’d say its probably around season 1 of the show. I still haven’t reviewed the manga yet so in a way I’m reviewing another spinoff before the main thing like with Sakura Wars. Unfortunately this prequel was pretty bad. It’s the kind of event that might happen in the main series but without the length and positives that an ongoing has to try and counter this kind of thing. This prequel is only two chapters long and squeezes in some animal violence which is definitely not a good thing. It means that this title was doomed from the start and just wasn’t able to pull ahead.

The adventure starts with Giyu murdering some more demons. Unfortunately it does seem like he’s murdering civilians so the cops try to take him in. Fellow pillar Shinobu shows up in time to rescue him. The two of them agree to team up briefly as there appears to be a demon on a nearby mountain. Unfortunately the only witness is a young girl who refuses to talk. She claims there is nothing here but the heroes know better. Will the Slayers be able to stop the demon or will it claim one more victim before they can stop it? It’s always rough when you have to deal with demons in an isolated area like this since they can hide just about anywhere.

Ultimately they just have to follow the girl and eventually find the demon. The story is going for grim dark right from the start. See, here’s how it plays out for her tragic origin story. Her father became a demon and murdered everyone except for the girl and her dog. He was able to control himself enough to escape but instead of telling anyone the girl vowed to destroy him herself. She trained for years and finally thought she was ready. Unfortunately that was not the case and the dog ends up getting murdered. The pillars show up and save her but it feels like too little too late. After beating the demon they head off.

So this is really just a quick story about taking down another demon. Why did it have to be to grim dark though? It seems like this tends to happen a lot with demons but for a quick one shot (Technically 2 chapters) this wasn’t a good move. Especially having the dog die the way that it did. There’s no reason for that. The art is good at least. It looks like the main series and the action scene isn’t bad. Of course, it’s not much of a fight because the two heroes here are pillars and this is just a random demon. It’s not like it would have been able to do much of anything against them.

Giyu is one of the more reasonable pillars. He’s not quite insane the way a lot of the others are and at least seems to have some compassion and empathy. He’s also one of the more skilled fighters if you ask me. Then you have Shinobu who is pretty fun. She’s definitely quite ruthless when it comes to demons but with other humans she is nice enough. She doesn’t really get to fight here as she mainly watches but would be able to destroy the demon in a hit if needed. I guess having both of them double team the demon would have felt like overkill.

There’s not a whole lot more to say about this one because it’s so short. I’m always up for expanding the series with different prequels and side stories. This one may have fallen flat but I still appreciate the idea behind it. The final page had an afterward hinting that we would get a bunch of others but either that fell through or they just haven’t been scanned yet. I’m confident that we could get some stories that are way better than this one so I’ll just keep on looking forward to those. The world is vast and the main series only covered part of it so there’s still a lot they can do.


Overall, This was a short story that was pretty bad. The plot is paper thin and the adventure relies on a ton of shock value. It’s a shame because the art is god and the two main characters have some decent banter. A good idea would have been to have the whole story be a clash of ideologies or something. A day in the life of the pillars would be fun and we don’t necessarily need demon slaying here. If you do have it in, just have the characters fight them in the background while talking. Keep the pets out of it and you’re good. Ah well, better luck next time. Even if you like Demon Slayer I recommend skipping this one. There’s really no point to the story and as a result there’s no reason to ever read it.

Overall 2/10

Deku & Bakugo: Rising Review


It’s time to take a look at a quick manga prequel to the recent My Hero Academia movie. It’s two chapters long and each one’s about 15 pages so it’s like 1 monthly chapter. It’s a fun little story about Deku & Bakugo going after their first ever villain. It underscores why you should be able to use your powers if you need too. The series isn’t totally explicit on how this works but I assume you are allowed to use your abilities in self defense. If that’s the case then we’re good although I am glad to see Bakugo just charge in anyway.

The basic premise is that Bakugo and the bullies are walking around town and having a good time. Deku shows up reading one of his superhero magazines so they pick on him for a bit. Bakugo is surprisingly the nicest one of the group as he gives Deku the magazine back. That’s when a cloud villain shows up and tries to flee the scene. Bakugo realizes that this is a good chance for him to finally be a hero and get into UA so he gives chase. Deku is worried about Bakugo because he has figured out that there is more to the villain than the cloud abilities. The only trouble is, how can he gives Bakugo a heads up about this?

Since this is a prequel and we know that the two still don’t get along at the start of the series this one naturally ends with the rift continuing to grow. Bakugo is pretty upset that Deku was able to figure things out so quickly while Deku is impressed that Bakugo was ultimately able to figure it out as well. It’s a fun dynamic between them and one that has been solid since the start of the show. You can definitely point out that their dynamic isn’t nearly as friendly or healthy as other rivals but the sheet animosity from Bakugo to Deku makes it pretty unique.

As far as one shot stories go this one was also pretty good. We got a little fight scene and the art was pretty solid. The plot twist about the guy’s powers was pretty neat although I do feel like they should have figured it out a little sooner. The sheer difference in element is pretty big so it’s something that you should be able to determine both visually or physically. That’s just how it goes I though I suppose. They were still kids when this happened. We also got to see a pro show up which was pretty neat. We don’t usually get to see a lot of the more obscure pros engage in a fight so when that happens it’s pretty neat.

This one incorporates the villains from the movie for a quick page at the end but this definitely isn’t their story. It’s really about connecting more details from Deku and Bakugo’s past. It accomplishes this goal rather well. The artist does a good job of making this feel like it could have been a chapter from the main series and the writing is on point. You’ll definitely read through this adventure in a breeze.

Overall, Deku & Bakugo Rising is definitely worth checking out. If you’re able to then you should read it before watching the movie. It’s always nice to have a little more context on the manga. Hopefully Viz puts this story at the back of an upcoming My Hero volume or something. I always think it’s a shame to lose these stories to the remnants of time. Every one shot should get put into physical form at some point. I’m definitely up for more My Hero Stories. I’ll be starting the My Hero Team Ups soon so that’ll be a good way to get some more My Hero action. There’s certainly a lot of different team combinations the series can try out.

Overall 7/10

Cardfight!! Vanguard: Shinemon Review


It’s time to take a look at the next season of Cardfight Vanguard. The franchise has definitely been going quite strong for many years now. It’s easily outlasted Buddyfight at this point and now there are over 10 seasons of the show. That’s pretty crazy when you think about it. When’s the last time you had a show go all the way through, do the big next generations series with a new cast, get several sequels to that one, and then do the modern reboot of the original? Well, that’s what Cardfight has done and now we’re getting the prequel to the reboot and it looks like we’re getting close to a reboot of the next generation show. It’s really quite impressive and this is definitely staying up there as one of my favorite franchises of all time. Shin actually holds his own show quite well. While this one can’t match some of the earlier seasons for sure, it’s still a great anime.

The show starts by introducing us to Shin, possibly the youngest cardshop owner out there. However, his ownership of the place is a bit questionable. See, he decided to take it over when Misaki’s parents died as a last wish in order to keep her safe. Shin feels like he owes it to them and has quickly found his place in the cardshop setting. The problem is that he is still attending school and so he can’t be at the shop most of the time. A rich lady by the name of Esuka also wants to own the shop for personal reasons of her own. She has a fair argument for why she would be the best person for the job. She’s not a random villain or some petty person that wants to make some cash. She knew the parents as well and to be honest she seems like she would do a much better job. The show debatably has 2 main arcs, the fight against Esuka and then the G prequel arc about dimension hopping.

For most of the first half of the show Shin does his best to fight against Esuka and her corporation. The thing is, are you even rooting for him? Neither side is evil so you don’t have to worry about that. At the end of the day you have to think about who would run the shop better and I have to give the nod to Esuka here. Fortunately for Shin she also looks after him quite a bit and goes easy on the lead. For most of the series she seems to be way more skilled than he is and definitely has more resources. I have to admit that I was rooting for her the whole time. Shin’s a solid lead and all but he was too young to run a cardshop and I think this begun to sink in a little later on. Shin can be pretty stubborn though.

Then for the climax of the series we have Ryuzu showing up. Fans of the G series will remember him as one of the big villains. The guy is a little less crazy at this point in time though so this is sort of seeing how he went off the wrong path. He wants to harness energy from the other planet in order to make Earth a better place. The warning bells that trigger with statements like that though is that when you take energy from one place to make the other one better, it’s inevitable that one of the worlds won’t be doing so well at this point. It’s a conversation that he doesn’t seem willing to have at the moment. None of the other characters are really persistent about bringing it up though so it’s hard to blame him. How does Shin even fit in to all of this? Well, Rive is on Shin’s team but he may have to miss the tournament because of all this so now Shin has been roped into finding out what’s going on. It’s a pretty fun climax even if the characters could be a bit annoying at times. I think Ryuzu could have easily been encouraged to keep doing his research in a safe manner but nobody was really trying.

Going back to Shin, it’s amazing how far he has come from the original series. The other way of looking at it is how far he has fallen since his younger days I guess. This version of Shin is a lot more fiery and isn’t afraid to pick a fight. He does lose his motivation pretty quick when defeated but he always starts out strong. He has a great fight against Esuka in their first round and shows similar energy in most of his duels. I also like his go to card. It’s incredibly strong and also shows how one powerful card can take you a long way. Shin uses this as a crutch for a while in the series before eventually improving his all around skills.

While I wasn’t on Shin’s side in the debate against Esuka, at least his reasons for doing so were good. At the end of the day he just wanted to make sure Misaki could retain ownership of the shop and he needed to keep custody of it until she was old enough to do so. Shin’s always thinking about how he could help Misaki. Really my only problem with Shin is how he basically threw away one of the tournaments. After Mark had gone to the trouble of exceeding his limits and winning so many battles I thought that was just disrespectful. It’s a horrible way to lose the tournament if you ask me.

Mark is one of Shin’s best friends and so he gets a pretty big role here. Like Shin I was never particularly a fan of the guy in the main series. He is reasonable here though. While the series tries to make him look a little too powerful towards the end for plot convenience, the guy always had Shin’s back which is definitely important. Without him the heroes would have been in trouble during the tournament. He’s also a lot more reliable than Rive, who is mainly just here to be annoying most of the time. He participates in risky experiments and flakes whenever a big match is coming up. Shin and the others cut him a ton of slack but the guy is really not trust worthy. It just comes across as a betrayal when the team is counting on him to win the big tournament and he just ducks out of there. That’s completely unreasonable and I never liked him in the main series either so it’s pretty consistent. His big moment at the end also feels pretty pointless because he could have jumped to the monster along with Chrono. Deep down he didn’t seem to care a whole lot about getting back to Earth. That ending was rushed in quite a few different ways. It makes the monsters in Chrono’s deck actually seem a bit on the evil side with how they just allowed Rive to be trapped when they clearly could have done something.

Tatsuya’s role here is definitely a lot different than what I would have expected. He starts out as a nice enough kid who looks up to Shin and gradually gets a much bigger role. By the end of the series he’s a solid genius who has his own goals. Tatsuya makes for a solid antagonist because his motivation is a solid one. If anything the counter arguments that the heroes give in return are quite weak. It’s at the point where you are likely to be rooting for Tatsuya for a while. The heroes’ arguments all rest on hypotheticals and things that they can’t actually prove. Either way it’s a pretty fun battle though.

Mikuru is another one of Shin’s best friends and gets a big role. She never really gets to duel which does limit how much she can contribute compared to the others. Still, I did enjoy all of the crazy nicknames she would give Shin. His name rhymes with a whole lot of adjectives and she makes sure not to miss a beat. Misaki and Chrono don’t get to do a whole lot since they’re kids in this version. We briefly see them back to normal age at the end though and they should be quality characters as always. This just wasn’t their story this time.

Esuka’s a really fun character and she goes in a much different direction than what I would have expected. She’s definitely not your average rich tycoon. If anything it’s a bit of a subversion because to the characters she acts in much the same way as most rich villains. She uses some bribery and tricks to get her way so the heroes never trust her. The thing is, she usually means well and just has a hard time not acting like a rich tycoon. For example, she offers to make one of the characters rich and famous. The heroes assume she has some kind of ulterior motive and get out of there but she actually was going to try and make that happen. It’s fair that the other characters are suspicious though, it’s just a fun thing to note. She also isn’t afraid to go into the front lines herself like when she infiltrated Ryuzu’s base.

Nanami is Esuka’s main fighter and she gets a pretty big role in the series. She’s effectively a child prodigy and can keep up with the pros. Her deck’s pretty solid and I definitely like her confidence. Tonori is another one of Esuka’s top fighters alongside Nanami. His thing is that he gets stronger the hungrier he is. It’s a bit of an odd gimmick but it works well. He’s a bit underused though as he gets maybe 1-2 big fights in the series and that’s it. I also thought he was really nerfed because he shouldn’t have lost the final fight. The plot demanded it but I wasn’t able to buy that. He’s fun enough though.

Kanzaki got a big role in G and while his role here is a lot smaller, it’s a nice throwback to the G days. He still only thinks about power and yells that weakness is a crime. It can be a bit hard to take him seriously with that at times but he does win most of his fights here so I guess he earned it. He also paid Mark some respect in their close fight which was pretty solid. I probably would like his character more here if I hadn’t seen G first. He’s a bit one note though and his cool design can’t save him. Ryutarou is one of the members of Kanzaki’s team. I think he tries too hard to be Kanzaki’s opposite. He doesn’t really care about winning and just likes a good fight. That’s fine, but he tends to lose a lot so it almost seems like an excuse. The whole “I only lost because I didn’t care about winning” thing doesn’t tend to go well. To be fair, he never uses that excuse but I do think he should take the fights more seriously.

Ruga is definitely one of the most tragic characters in this series. All he wants is to have a serious fight with Rive and yet the guy always runs off. I don’t get why Rive is being so cold here. They used to be best friends and then Rive grew distant as soon as he got married. Yeah, both of them agreed not to get married but Ruga would have been a lot more understanding if Rive didn’t suddenly ditch like that. The only reason Ruga was opposed to this was because he felt like it would take up all of Rive’s time…and then his fears came true. Rive could have absolutely mended the bridge with Ruga if he wanted too and as a result Ruga became even more obsessive.

Finally we have Ryuzu who has always been a fun villain. His goals are pretty interesting. In this series at least I wouldn’t consider him a villain since he is still trying to help the world. Things don’t always go his way but at least he tries his best. His deck is solid and he is usually one step ahead of the other characters. At least he is actually doing something important. Towards the end of the series they try to make a case that playing a normal game of Cardfight is just as important as making research that can save the lives of millions. Ryuzu is really at a loss for words at this and I kind of was as well. Ryuzu may not be perfect but at least he is trying to better society, can Shin and the others really say the same?

Shinemon is definitely the right way to do a prequel. Each episode is a lot of fun and it develops the characters rather quickly. You know the setting and everyone in it within the first 3 episodes. From there we are able to jump into the duels. The series doesn’t really have high stakes like some of the other seasons but that’s fine. In a prequel you already know most of the characters are safe anyway and it would be difficult to jump to end of the world stuff so quickly. That’s why the series focuses more on powerful character moments and sharp duels. The series is just a lot of fun and taps into the early G feels. Shin’s also a very different main character from Chrono and Aichi which helps to differentiate him. I really had no complaints with the title. If anything I wouldn’t have minded if it got more episodes but in a way I like the short seasons because it helps the franchise keep going further. I want to see how many seasons it can churn out.

As expected the animation here is quite sharp. The animations are very clear and smooth. Whenever a monster is summoned it also looks quite crisp and it’s clear that they’re not phoning it in for any of these episodes. I’ve always liked the style that they use for Cardfight. It’s pretty simple in terms of design and such so they’re able to put a lot of effort into the colors. I’ve greatly enjoyed anime with detailed or simple designs so both can definitely work as long as you put the effort in and this one definitely did. Meanwhile the soundtrack is pretty great as always. I’m not really sure if this one added any new themes but at this point the series has so many that you barely need to do that. It grabs some themes from G and the reboot seasons so that’s already a good amount of variety.

Overall, Shinemon is a great season and a nice way to handle the prequel. It really shows us that Shin used to be a cool character as opposed to being one of the blandest characters I had ever seen in the main seasons. I’d consider that to be a bit of a soft reboot since it’s impossible to picture Shin being this great back in the day. The final episodes even try to give a reason for why he changed so much at the end and it’s a nice attempt although you will still have a tough time buying it I’m sure. Since this is a bit of an origin story you can easily watch it without seeing any of the previous seasons. It is one of those prequels made to be watched after experiencing the originals but that doesn’t matter much until the final 2-3 episodes. Either way you should have a blast.

Overall 8/10

Lego Jurassic World: The Secret Exhibit Review


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.

Overall 7/10