Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

QQ Sweeper Review


It’s time to take a look at a manga about cleaning. That’s definitely a first for me and it’s an interesting concept. I don’t think it’s something you can keep up for long, but the it’s up to the writing and characters to hold the story. Unfortunately the main cast here is fairly weak so they do have a very tough time holding this adventure. It’s only 3 volumes and I can see why it ended so quickly. It feels like it was cancelled with how rushed it is, but a sequel series started almost immediately so maybe it was always part of the plan. It’s not a bad series, but it’s definitely not the most exciting one out there.

The manga introduces us to a girl named Fumi. She has had a tough time of it because everyone has always told her that she is cursed. Fumi believes this as well because bad things seem to happen when she is around. As a result she tries to distance herself from people ansd does her best to ignore the bullying. One day she meets up with a sweeper named Kyutaro. He makes the school clean, but it turns out that he does more than that. He is able to clean the minds of others and destroys the parasites that plague the human world. Fumi is eager to help out and becomes a junior sweeper. Can she help make the world a better place and ultimately use her skills to clean her curse?

As always the classmates and school are all pretty mean here. THey’re very quick to turn on Fumi so I’m glad that Fumi has some friends here. There are two in particular who stick with her throughout the whole adventure even when the class turns against her. There is a bugmaster who is orchestrating this and manipulating the school, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that a lot of these classmates are gullible. You have 2-3 guys who talk against the bullies, but all they do is talk so it doesn’t help a whole lot. I’d like one of them to have been a little more pro-active.

Fumi is a good lead although I feel like she didn’t get a whole lot of character. We see her toughness with how she comes prepared for the bullying without breaking down or attacking everyone. She isn’t super uqick to forgive the bullies either which is realistic because then they’ll just walk all over you. At the end of the day she does want to be the best sweeper she can be and does pretty well in the role. She has some connection to the queen and other vague things, but those plots don’t get to wrap up here. I suppose that will be in the sequel. The manga also hints that she was someone else a while back before losing her memory. It’s likely all connected to this big plot.

Kyutaro doesn’t get along with people at all and that works out in his favor a few times as he helps get Fumi away from the bullies. He acts as if it’s because he needs to clean which drives them away and then he consoles her. He is haunted by the disappearance of another girl he knew a while back so he is determined to protect Fumi. One thing that holds Kyutaro back is how he mixes the two up and gets delirious at times. Obviously this is to lead up to a romance at some point, but it’s not nearly as well developed as it could be and so I don’t think it’s going to end up working very well here.

Koichi is the leader of the Sweepers and along with the lady who can transform into a bird they are the most experienced. Naturally they don’t tell Fumi and Kyutaro much until it’s too late which can always be a bit annoying for those characters. I didn’t really care for Koichi. He can be helpful at times, but not often and does have a tendency to snap at the other characters. The lady is fine, but I do hope that she can fight and isn’t relegated to purely being a guide.

Ataru is the main villain in the series but he’s definitely not one that you will remember for long. His goals are fairly vague aside from causing anarchy. I guess he just wants to mentally destroy Fumi and bring out the queen within her. Of course, the queen can do whatever she wants to this plan seems incredibly risky to the bug faction. Why put such a powerful piece into play when there’s a good chance that she won’t be on your side? He’s also one of those sketchy villains who loses sight of his goals just to go for power plays and humiliation tactics. There’s just nothing likable about this guy and he drags the main cast down further.

All of the themes in this manga have just been done better in other titles. The cleaning angle does at least change things up compared to other titles, but it’s ultimately not that important when you think about it. They clean the area to help make the infected feel better but mostly this is done through talking and the cleaning happens in the background. Take the cleaning angle away and the series really wouldn’t change all that much. I’m glad it’s there since it’s one of the better parts of the series though.

QQ Sweeper’s biggest problem is just that it’s a little boring. I’ve already talked at length about how the character cast isn’t all that good and it’s always hard to make a manga great without them. Especially since this isn’t an action series then the character interactions are very important. You need a good story and characters to proceed and this title has neither. I will grant you that the manga has some promise with some of the story directions they are going in. If the appearance of the queen turns this into more of an action series then the sequel will be hype. The series just has to show me this first and of course it would be helping the sequel, not this one.

The art isn’t bad, but it can be a little convoluted. It certainly isn’t as clear as a lot of other titles that I’ve read. You’ll be able to read it without any real issues, but that does mean it probably won’t be able to keep up with most titles there. It’s only 3 volumes so it’s not like the artist had a ton of time to improve during the series though. We’ll see if in the sequel the art looks clearer or not.

Overall, QQ Sweeper sets up some interesting ideas and the premise is good. The execution just isn’t quite there. You’re never really given a reason to root for the characters beyond being the leads because they just aren’t very interesting. The villain is a flop as well and so that doesn’t make for an amazing dynamic within the cast. There are a ton of plotlines still ongoing which also works well for the sequel, but when you think about it nothing really happened in these 3 volumes. We got to see Fumi help some people but none of the important questions have been answered as of yet. I’d also like to see the Sweepers actually take the fight to the bug users instead of thinking about them as myths. The latter means that the bug guys have been doing whatever they wanted for years now which doesn’t sound all that responsible on the part of the heroes. In the end the series isn’t bad, but it’s not really good either. Check it out if you think the premise sounds fun and then just wait for the sequel.

Overall 5/10

Advertisements
7 Star TV Shows, Reviews, TV Show Reviews, TV Shows

Fruits Basket Review


It’s time to look at the recent Fruits Basket anime. I read the manga many years ago when I was a kid and didn’t really like it all that much. I actually put it down as one of my least favorite Shojo series so it was good to see it in a fresh setting. I actually liked the show so maybe I would like the manga more on a re-read or the show is just directed that well. Either way it’s a title I can definitely recommend. It’s an emotional slice of life title that manages to hit different tones in different episodes, but is careful not to go too far into being tragic.

The show is centered around a girl named Tohru. After her Mom passed away she went to move in with her other relatives, but it wasn’t ideal and so now she lives in the forest. She is found by the popular boy at school (Yuki) and he convinces her to stay at his place instead of the forest. To be exact, it’s Shigure’s place and soon after another kid by the name of Kyo stays there as well. Kyo and Yuki are constantly fighting like cat and mouse (heh) so Tohru quickly becomes the most mature member in the household. Tohru has decided to always have a positive attitude and to do her best to help everyone else out in respect to her mother’s memory.

There are no shortages of situations for her to help out here as everyone in the school has issues. The 3 people she lives with all of things to deal with and then the rest of the family. See, in a larger scale look at the plot there is the Sohma family. They were hit with a curse where if anyone from the opposite gender makes contact with them they turn into an animal. It is from the Chinese Zodiac legend which may be real and of course Kyo is the Cat and Yuki is the mouse so now things make sense. In the legend the rat didn’t send the cat the invite so he was shunned for life. Of course that was ages ago so we’re likely dealing with descendants, but the wound is still fresh.

Tohru is definitely a great main character. I mean she is pretty much portrayed as the perfect heroine. She’s super nice, does well academically, and is always ready to lend a hand. Tohru imparts wisdom whenever she can and even stands by her friends when they literally lose their minds. If Tohru has any issues it is just that she is a little too oblivious when other people are being downright mean to her. It’s great that she turns the other cheek but at least acknowledging this or telling them to stop would be a good idea.

We don’t see Tohru’s Mom much since she dies prior to the series but she appears through flashbacks a few times. She also seems really good and I’m glad that she still knows how to fight even though she is retired. The flashback where she helps Arisa was handled really well since it’s implied that she basically took down an entire gang.

Yuki is one of the main guys so he naturally gets a lot of screen time. He has a tough time showing his emotions except for when he’s upset at Kyo. Gradually Tohru helps get him out of his shell. We haven’t really seen his true origin but there is a lot of foreshadowing for it. From the main 2 I do prefer Kyo, but Yuki is good. He does step in to help Tohru at times and I do believe he would be able to conquer his fears and help even if Akito was involved. I really hope so at least. Yuki still gets hit with fear and isn’t perfect, but he does his best.

Then there is Kyo who is always ready for a fight. I dare say that Yuki picks the fight most of the time but that isn’t always the case. Kyo always tends to lose the fight, but at least he is enthusiastic. Kyo is not great around people but does his best to communicate with Tohru. He’s come a very long way from the first episode to the last one. His character arc already feels pretty complete and that may help in why he is one of if not the best character in the show. He’s probably the only character to not be openly scared of Akito. While part of him wants to be in the main family, I do think this is an advantage of not being there.

Then we have Shigure, but I can’t get behind him. He’s always trolling his editor to the point where he basically puts her job at stake. Then there’s the fact that he flirts a lot and rarely takes things seriously. He may be the adult in the house, but there is a reason why I said that Tohru is the most responsible. Shigure will have a moment or two where he steps up but that’s about it. The show is hinting that he is planning some kind of big revenge on Akito and is pretending to be a friend for now. He claims that he will avenge everyone else, but he’s sure taking his sweet time. Shigure better do something before the tables turn on him, but that is one of the more interesting plots right now.

Arisa is one of Tohru’s friends. She used to be a juvenile delinquent who hanged out with gangs and was generally on a rough path. Her origin is a bit similar to Tohru’s mom in some respects and that’s also why Arisa always wanted to meet her. Arisa was less thrilled to meet Tohru but along the way Tohru got to show her how to properly adapt to school life. Arisa had a tough road, but now she’s in a good place and has a solid group of supporting friends. Arisa is a nice ally to have. While she may not be as entertaining as some of the Sohma characters she is definitely a good character.

Then you have Saki who is Tohru’s other best friend. She has psychic powers which is cool. Mainly she just uses them for comic relief scenes against bullies and there is actually a story reason for this. She gets a backstory where we learn that her abilities nearly ended Saki. Saki’s origin story was definitely one of the toughest ones in the series, maybe the toughest because everyone was against her. I was glad that she had supportive parents who were there for her at least. It’s a reverse of most situations where you have a friend on your side but the family isn’t. Saki is fairly laidback and quiet so she can’t hold her own episodes the way that others can, but as a side character she’s good.

Kagura is a very persistent character and that’s a good thing since otherwise she probably would get pretty hurt with how Kyo is always ignoring her. Deep down she likely realizes that he isn’t interested in her but will keep on trying until he meets someone else. She’s a good side character. I’m also glad that the show didn’t go down the road of making her jealous of Tohru. That always gets old pretty fast and them being friends is a much better development. Momiji is one of my least favorite characters in the show though. He can be pretty annoying with how oblivious he pretends to act. He trolls Kyo and Yuki about Tohru quite a lot. She may be too oblivious to really take notice but it doesn’t do wonders for his character. I’m not even really interested in learning more about his backstory, but maybe it’ll help to make him more likable. Right now he’s just quirky and not really in a good way.

Ayame is also fairly eccentric, but he handles himself well and with style. Ayame throws himself into every situation and you can admire how bold he is. Even in real life it’s always an admirable trait to be so confident. Nothing throws Ayame and even when everyone is hurling insults he keeps his cool. Ayame and Yuki may never properly bond the way he hoped they would because of how different their personalities are, but at least they won’t be as antagonistic as they used to be. Ayame is a handful, but not in a problematic way. I can’t point to anything he did in the show that was downright bad. Perhaps inconvenient for the others, but that’s about it.

Hatori is a character that I definitely had some problems with. For starters he is very submissive to Akito to the point where he allows the guy to wreck his life. Hatori is basically a yes man and even threatens Tohru into meeting him. We learn that he is a nice guy for the most part, but since he is so weak that is barely a consolation since you won’t be able to trust him when it counts. His origin story is sad, but it’s hard to feel any sympathy for him because of how terribly he handles it. He met someone and they were to be together, but then Akito decided that he didn’t like this and throws a fit. Instead of stopping him Hatori lets Akito claim the win and then even erases the girl’s memories. From there on Hatori lost the will to resist, but he never had it to begin with. If he won’t stand up to Akito there then he never will. The whole origin was just really annoying, especially since Akito is so sickly to begin with. How is he going to threaten Hatori and the guy just takes it? I don’t really have any respect for this character.

Hatsuharu is another one of the Sohma and his dual personality is definitely unique among the others. One half of him is very edgy and definitely wants to be close with Yuki. Then the other half is calmer and more polite in comparison. He can shift gears at any moment and as a result tends to get involved in a lot of fights. It’s nice to have another fighter on the team, but it makes it more and more odd why everyone is so scared of Akito. I’ll get into that more later on. Anyway Hatsuharu would be near the middle of the pack. He’s nowhere near the best members but he’s better than someone like Hatori.

Kisa is one of the younger members. She’s a nice enough kid although she hasn’t gotten much of a role yet. I’m not sure if that’ll change or not later on, but so far she’s off to a good start. The same can’t be said for Hiro. That guy’s real petty and a jerk to Tohru for no reason. She overlooks all of it because she’s so nice, but it doesn’t do him any favors. He seems to be over that now so things will be looking up for him, but he’ll have to work hard to fully get past that terrible intro. Then we have Kazuma who was Kyo’s instructor. This guy seems reasonable. He lives on a mountain probably so he can get away from the main family. Forcing Kyo to transform was definitely a pretty iffy strategy since that could have easily backfired and really made life terrible for Kyo. It worked out in the end I suppose, but it’s hard to see them being quite as close after that. Kazuma seems like Hatori, but with more self-confidence.

Then we have the main villain of the series, Akito. He gets a lot of hype throughout as everyone is scared of him. Everyone shudders at the thought of even meeting him and they all freeze in terror. The guy’s super sick though and needs constant attention or he’ll die. How is anyone scared of him? I think this goes more into cultural impact and the fact that the family is so old. Traditions are strong here and maybe everyone is afraid because he would ruin their reputation. Since everyone else is afraid it becomes circular logic where everyone is afraid because of everyone else. All one person needs to do is stand up to him though and then everyone else could. Maybe the next season will go more into depth on this.

Regardless, Akito isn’t a good villain. The guy just seems really petty and self centered the whole time. I’m sure he’ll have a sad origin, but he’s taking it out on everyone else which is never good. Everyone in this series has had a tough background and I mean almost literally everyone. That means it’ll be very hard for Akito to try and stand there with a straight face and explain why he has to be mean to everyone. I just won’t be able to buy that very easily. Seriously, someone just needs to stand up to this guy and then the rest will quickly fall into place.

At the end of the day Fruits Basket is really about moving on from your past. That’s the main theme of the show and Tohru helps the characters come to terms with it and move forward. The origins are all sad and dark in different ways which allows her to give many different kinds of advice. It’s definitely a moving series in that regard and that’s why it’s a fun watch. You should always feel pretty good upon finishing up the episode. It can get heavy at times as well so make sure you are prepared. It’s worth noting that the romance here isn’t terrible so far. I still don’t think any romance should ultimately happen here since Tohru is just too heroic and oblivious to get into that, but it does feel inevitable that it’ll happen soon. We’ll see how the show handles that.

It’s also just plain fun most of the time. The cast can handle themselves pretty well and that’s extremely important for a slice of life show. There aren’t going to be big action scenes here so the show has to hold its own with pure writing and fundamentals. The pacing is on point and the writing is good so it’s all set there. The animation is pretty good as well. I wouldn’t say it’s anything particularly special, but it all looks smooth and vibrant. Then you’ve got a reasonable soundtrack here as well. It may not be the most memorable, but it does get the job done.

Overall, Fruits Basket season 1 is a pretty good show. It’s the kind of all around title that you can easily recommend to someone who doesn’t really watch a lot of anime. That’s because it touches on a lot of themes that a live action show would with regard to the origin stories and characters trying to find reasons to keep on living or to re-experience what it’s like to enjoy their day to day existence. The show can get pretty sad, but there is always a happy ending. I can’t think of any episode that ended on a low note. It’s not a perfect show and I’d say that a drama will always be limited in how high it can ultimately reach. That being said, the execution is basically ideal and we’ll see if season 2 can match it. I don’t know if season 2 intends to cover the rest of the series but you can already see how not everyone can get their perfect ending here. Multiple characters are interested in each other so someone will have to take a back seat. I also better see more people stand up to Akito because that’s the one part of the series that makes no sense so far.

Overall 7/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Star Wars: Lost Stars Review


It’s time to look at a recent Star Wars manga that had quite an abrupt end. I didn’t even realize that the manga had just ended after reaching the final chapter. In my defense there was no real closer page or a big “The End” to close things out. I suppose there couldn’t be too much of an ending since the films have to continue things, but I can’t help but feel like there should have been more here. I heard that there may be an epilogue floating around somewhere, but for now I’ll have to treat this as the ending.

The series follows a pair of characters Thane and Ciena. They both grew up on different planets, but eventually grow to know each other thanks to the time they serve in the Empire. Both of them rise up the ranks, but one day the Empire decides to destroy Ciena’s home world to prove a point. This is too much for Thane and he deserts the empire. Ciena stays but figures they can still meet up once in a blue moon as long as Thane doesn’t join the resistance or anything. Well…Thane joins the resistance and now the two who used to be close friends may end up being each other’s worst nightmare.

The series is mainly told from Thane’s point of view so for the most part we’re always seeing Ciena as the antagonist. That being said, he never stops seeing her as a friend so his goal is simply to convert or capture her in order to break Ciena’s tie to the empire. It won’t be easy, but he is one of the most talented fighters in the rebellion so that certainly helps.

It’s hard to deny that Thane is on the right side here. We know that the Empire is evil and they don’t really bother trying to hide that fact either. They’re just playing on the fact that everyone wants a ton of power and it works with Ciena. I don’t think there are any great reasons given as to why Ciena stands by them the whole time, but again this is mostly from Thane’s perspective. He’s a reasonable character with good goals. Thane won’t leave much of an impact on you but he’s not bad, the guy’s worst trait is simply that he’s generic.

Then you have Ciena who has essentially been brainwashed by the Empire. No matter how much they threaten her or commit evil acts she is on board to stop what she believes is the greater evil. By the time she is ready to pull out it is simply far too late to really make much of a move. Even to the end she is ready to go down with the ship. Hopefully the rebellion is as nice as they seem or the series doesn’t have a great ending for her. With Thane there I don’t think it’ll be a problem though.

The only other big character here is Nash. He was also friends with the other two characters, but he can be very fanatical about the Empire. They can do no wrong in his eyes and he just wants to climb the ranks. Interestingly he doesn’t waver from defending Ciena and would be a good friend if he was on a different side. It’s almost a shame that he grew up in the Empire environment since he doesn’t seem like a bad guy, he just made a lot of the wrong choices over the years. The ending sets him up to be a pretty big villain so if this ever gets a sequel that would be pretty interesting.

I enjoyed the artwork for Lost Stars. It is pretty detailed but manages to stay clear as well. You can always tell what is happening and makes for a pleasant read. There aren’t too many real fight scenes so the artwork doesn’t get to really test its hand there. Regardless this would be one of the positives in the series for sure.

There’s a lot of romance here and while it’s not terrible, it does have its off moments. One such time is when Ciena and Thane meet up again after being apart for a super long time and decide to hook up again. It’s basically the equivalent of a one night stand as they dash off again and the whole thing felt a little pointless. I think the story could have focused more on their friendship and it would have been a better dynamic than the romance angle. Stories of friends choosing different sides is always intense.

Regardless it is an interesting story and at the end of the day that’s the most important thing. It’s sort of like looking at how the war affected your average joe characters as opposed to focusing on the heroes each time. Despite having over 30 chapters I wouldn’t say that a ton happened here. Fortunately the writing was pretty strong so that’s not really an issue. You’ll have a good time as you read through it. It also does set up the potential sequel really well which is where we would get a nice payoff for all the character development here.

Overall, Lost Stars is a solid Star Wars title. I would have liked to have seen more Jedi and Sith getting some action scenes here. That would have really sealed the deal to make this a super solid Star Wars title. As it stands, it is pretty good and I would recommend checking it out. I’m not ready to say that it is the definitive manga experience though as it should likely be surpassed by other Star Wars titles. It’s definitely more of a drama/romance than what you would usually expect from the series, but it works out well or at least better than expected. We also do get the space ship fights so don’t worry about that. This review’s a little shorter than the average manga look through because there just isn’t a lot to talk about here. Doesn’t take away from the quality though.

Overall 7/10

Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

West Side Story Review


It’s time to look at another popular musical from back in the day. This one has not aged nearly as well as Footloose and ends up being a pretty bad film. It has some interesting storylines and characters, but ultimately the movie falls apart because it is lacking in true heroes. There really isn’t anyone to root for by the end and while the film left the door open to a team up in the second half, it ultimately never happened. The ending isn’t really satisfying for any of the characters.

The movie starts by introducing us to two gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. These two do not get along and have been fighting over turf for a very long time. Both groups are roughly equal in power so nothing ever changes. One day the leaders of both gangs decide to end things once and for all with a big fight. Bernardo and Riff shake on it and prepare for battle. A wrinkle to this is that Tony has fallen in love with Maria and they are both in different gangs. Maria pleads with Tony to put an end to this fight and he decides to do so, but it won’t be so easy. In trying to stop this confrontation he may just end up making it worse.

I mentioned that there aren’t any characters to really root for. This is because they tend to be corrupt or make terrible decisions, but one solid character was Riff. He’s the leader of the Jets and seemed to be a lot more capable than the others. He was ready to fight at any time and always kept his cool. If not for Tony’s meddling he definitely had the win pretty decisively. He actually looked a lot like a younger captain Kirk and fought like him as well. His long skit which poked fun at the justice system was also solid and one of the best songs in the movie. It’s a shame that he didn’t get to appear more since I also think he would have kept his gang from crossing the line with Anita later on.

There’s little reason to root for the Jets because of that scene. There’s a moment later on in the film when Anita is sent by Maria to deliver a message to Tony. She is stopped by the gang though and while it is reasonable for them to stop her from meeting with him, they also decide to attack her. It’s basically 10 vs 1 and very quickly gets into downright villain territory with how they try to degrade her. There’s just no coming back from that especially since everyone was in on it. So, that means that not a single one of the remaining Jets was a decent human being.

The film also gives you reason to root for the Sharks if anything as the dialogue implies that the Jets started the fight with them just because the Sharks are outsiders. The cops are also more on the Jets side even if they just don’t like teens in general. The deck is stacked against the Sharks. Bernardo also seemed reasonable at times even if he definitely was not when Tony showed up. At that point he wasn’t helping matters and that’s why Riff had to step in. The rest of the gang doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time.

We’ve got Tony who is the pacifist, but he comes across as more annoying than anything else. I never liked the trope of the character holding back his ally from fighting while allowing the villain to get a cheap shot in. If you’re going to try and stop a fight then you’ve also got to make sure you stop the other side from attacking as well. Tony’s final move to try and get himself destroyed is also not a good one. You’d expect him to at least try and avenge Maria instead.

As for Maria, she was giving Tony a lot of pretty unreasonable demands the whole time. Ultimately she is the one who is getting him into all of this trouble. Why should it be his responsibility to stop two gangs single handily? That’s just very hard to do and so she definitely takes some of the blame for the ending as well. Anita was a more selfless character if anything as she put aside her feelings to help Maria time and time again despite knowing that this was a bad idea. Her character arc is definitely one of the most tragic ones as she ends up losing almost everything with nothing to gain.

There are quite a few songs here, but they aren’t very catchy in comparison to other musicals. The “Keep it cool” song was very surreal though and was fun in an ironic way. It was cool to see the characters dancing around silently in the garage. The dancing was handled pretty well in general. The opening scene might have been a little slow with all of the clicking and silent moving, but it did ultimately lead to a fun little confrontation. The film is at its best when it tries to throw a little humor around like with the skit that I mentioned earlier.

The serious moments don’t work nearly as well. This includes the romance which ends up being more annoying than anything. One such scene is when the characters are meeting by the balcony. Both of them make a lot of noise considering that they are supposed to be doing this in total secrecy. Then you have the ending which definitely doesn’t work for me either. At the very least you would expect Maria to take a shot. Knocking out both gangs would have been very interesting.

Really, this film wasn’t very good from start to finish, but what really made it cross the line into distasteful territory was the scene of the gang attacking Anita. It’s the straw that broke the film’s back so to speak. This is just a very mean spirited film which is almost surprising after you’ve seen the first few scenes since you would expect it to be fairly happy. The tone just shifts throughout which is impressive, but ultimately it did not work in the movie’s favor this time.

Overall, I would recommend staying away from West Side Story. Not only is it a fairly bad film, but it really drags on. The run time is incredibly long and that’s mainly because the pacing is so slow. You can go through long periods of the film with absolutely nothing happening and that’s never a good sign. If you want to go watch a good musical then I recommend watching Footloose. At least that one has the iconic hero song which works well to this day.

Overall 1/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

I Am Here Review


It’s time to look at a pretty short romance series. It’s a fun little read that I could recommend. At the same time, some of the characters can get a little tricky which I’ll get into in a moment. I’d say that the main takeaway here is that you can’t always trust the advice you get, but some of it will be legit. You gotta then act on it or the whole thing will have been a waste. It’s a tough situation for the lead for sure, but at least she has supportive characters at the ready.

So Hikage has never really stood out in school. People don’t notice her which makes her sad since she would like to have some friends. However it isn’t that everyone at school is mean, they just don’t notice her because Hikage is always hiding. It’s a bit of a loop as Hikage is too scared to approach anyone and nobody can approach her because she’s always hiding. Fortunately Hikage has two online friends who are always cheering her on. They encourage her to go and make a friend. Hikage takes a chance and actually manages to catch the attention of the two most popular guys at school. This leads to troubles with their respective fanclubs, but Hikage is determined to finally become a more pro-active person.

The message here is pretty good about escaping your shell and joining the rest of the world. Hikage is also less exaggerated in this regard than you would expect from most other leads. It’s handled pretty realistically and she seems like a nice person. Perhaps a little indecisive but that’s also something she tries to improve on as the series continues. While she’s not going to be a scene stealer nor is she my favorite character in the series I can’t really say that there is anything wrong with her. She’s just not really my kind of character.

Hinata is the main guy and his whole gimmick is that he’s really nice. He’s also the most popular kid in school because of how oblivious he is. The guy just wants to make everyone happy and fortunately for Hikage they seem to have a connection. He’s a little too oblivious though which holds him back a little. He really doesn’t notice what is going on around him and as a result is left in the dust at times. He should really have a clue as to what’s going on considering what he knows of Hikage but I suppose I should cut him some slack.

Then you have Teru who is Hinata’s best friend. Naturally that means he shouldn’t even try to start anything with Hikage because best friends don’t do that…right? It would be pretty sketchy and unfortunately the manga goes down that road which is unfortunate. I would have loved for Teru to have stayed as just a loyal friend to Hikage. It would have been a much nicer dynamic as well as a fresher one since the two main guys always happen to fall for the same person. This inevitably leads to a falling out between them which is unfortunate. I have to put all of the blame for this on Teru though. He gracefully chose not to pursue Hikage so to go back on that is basically a betrayal. I was disappointed in his character for doing something so underhanded.

As for Hikage’s online friends, they’re pretty reasonable. You’ve got Black Rabbit who is the nice one. He’s always encouraging Hikage and tries to keep her spirits up. Black Rabbit even gets a spinoff story at the end of the series where we see his point of view. Then you’ve got Mega Pig who is a little more direct and to the point. He wants to help Hikage as well, but speaks his mind and doesn’t beat around the bush. In general Mega Pig gives better advice even if it isn’t quite as calming. He tells you what you need to hear vs what you actually want to hear.

I Am Here isn’t a very subtle series though so you can probably guess most of what is going to happen right away. From all of the twists I’d say that only one of them really worked. One character’s plot didn’t end exactly like how I expected it to. For the rest this one is really going by the books which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’d say that the writing is pretty good here for the most part. You’ll be engaged enough to keep going and will want to see what happens next.

I also enjoyed the art for the series. It looks pretty clear and the artist doesn’t draw characters too similar in appearance so you don’t have to worry about mixing them up. That’s always the kind of thing that will make me drop the grade of the art. As it stands you won’t really have a problem trying to understand what will happen next.

The weakest part of the manga is definitely the romance though. First we have Hikage’s side of the story. She’s already with Hinata so as soon as Teru tries to get into the picture she should shut him down right away. In this case she was oblivious for most of it, but once she realized what was happening she should have flat out declined him. It may have made him sore for a while, but it was the right move. Then you have Teru who knew what he was doing from the start. He should have simply gave up on Hikage since he made his move way too late. Once the girl is taken that should be it. You can’t try to steal someone away. Even if you succeed you have to live with the fact that if you stole her away so easily then someone else can do the same. The only innocent one here is Hinata even if he’s fairly bland.

The plot of Hinata and Teru getting into it is also a bit iffy. They’ve been friends for ages so I like to think they should have figured out the plot a lot quicker than they did. I guess they were blinded by their emotions and all that but I feel like they still shouldn’t have jumped the gun this quickly. I suppose I should mention that there is a villain here. She tries her best to mess up Hikage’s life after being knocked out of the inner circle. It gets a little cheesy by the end, but I suppose she was a decent villain. Her plan may not have been amazing but it worked pretty well so you gotta give her some credit there.

Another thing I liked about the manga is that the classmates are actually realistic this time around. When they see that people are messing with Hikage later on they step in. They may not have done anything at first, but later on they are at least active participants. That’s a big upgrade from the usual guys who just stand around shaking their heads as things happen. These guys would actually talk even if they were super gullible during other scenes.

Overall, I Am Here is a decent manga. The romance definitely isn’t all that good, but otherwise it’s a decent story. It’s pretty short since there are only 2 volumes, but they’re large ones so a lot of content is still covered. I think the story would have been more interesting if it had gone in different directions but it is what it is. At the end of the day it still had an interesting dynamic with the online friends and there are enough unique aspects here to separate it from other Shojo titles. If it ever gets a sequel series I expect Hikage to take charge and be the confident lead she was meant to be.

Overall 6/10

Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

The Main Event Review


It’s time to look at an old comedy film that threw in a little boxing. It’s not a film that has aged particularly well though and rarely ends up being funny. The characters aren’t particularly likable and it definitely has one of the worst endings that I’ve seen in quite a while. This film definitely doesn’t feel like the main event and I’m not even sure that I would book it as a side show. As far as I’m concerned this one just ended up dropping the ball at every turn.

The film starts off by introducing us to Hillary who has been doing pretty well for herself as a perfume expert. Unfortunately her accountant runs off with all of her money so now she is poor. All of her assets are sold to pay off her debts and the only thing she has left is the rights to a boxer that she owns. The problem is that he has been living off her money without actually training or boxing for years. Hillary forced him to get in the ring since she still has bills to pay, but can he really win enough matches to actually make a difference? Also, this Eddie fellow isn’t the nicest of guys so she’ll have to keep him on a short leash or he is liable to run away as well.

There is a big problem with the film’s plot from the start. Since Hillary was an excellent perfume mega star why didn’t she just try to regain money by staying in the same field? The competitors are happy to get rid of her by paying for some of the debt along with an agreement of hers to leave the business for good, but I feel like she could have stayed in the career path and made the money back again. It would be difficult but certainly not more so then entering an entirely new field with a boxer who’s never won a fight. Seems to me that she put herself through a lot more trouble than necessary.

Then you’ve got Eddie who is portrayed as being a pretty terrible person from the start. He’s lazy and doesn’t actually want to do any work. There’s really no excuse for this though since he basically lives in a gym and knows that he is getting money to work out. He chooses to waste it away instead as he chases after his dreams, but that isn’t endearing. It just shows that he is self centered and you can’t really root for him. It also makes the second half rather cheesy as this out of shape boxer is suddenly able to take on everyone including the current champ. How is this guy so good after just training seriously for a little while? Something doesn’t add up here.

Then we’ve got the ending. I can’t go into depth with it here, but throughout the film a running gag is that Hillary doesn’t know anything about boxing despite reading books on it and attending all of his fights. She will jump into the ring and do a lot of crazy stuff that gets everyone in trouble. It’s unrealistic and bad writing, but at least it’s accidental. Then she makes a choice in the end that is completely terrible. There’s no positive effect of doing this and I can’t imagine anyone actually doing this. It ends the film on a pretty low note.

You’ve also got to take into account the poor romance in this film. Naturally the two characters don’t like each other as the film starts, but the more they hang out the closer they get. It’s all very generic and obvious, but it really makes no sense. Eddie is also far too pushy the whole time and was beyond the point where you could root for him. The whole plot of Hillary having to stay at the same inn as the rough boxers was also terrible. They’re portrayed to be downright villainous and you’ll just feel bad for Hillary the whole time. She’s the one who’s had a rough time of it. In comparison Eddie is really just whining when he has no right to do so.

Overall, The Main Event is not a film I’d recommend. The writing really isn’t that good. With enough jokes thrown in I’m sure some will land, but ultimately you could do a lot better with the Streisand films. The plot starts off flimsy so throwing in a crazy ending was really the decisive blow. There isn’t really anything positive to say about this film. I suppose the fights were okay, but they were definitely no Rocky. That’s an impossibly high bar to compare with of course, but I haven’t seen a whole lot of boxing movies so I don’t have too many options to use. Hopefully her next film is a little better.

Overall 3/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Shuriken and Pleats Review


It’s time to look at a recent manga from the creator of Vampire Knight. One glance at the cover and you’ll likely recognize her style. I definitely was not a fan of Vampire Knight and the sequel also hasn’t been too good so I can’t say that my hopes for this title were too high. Still, I figured it would be better since there were no vampires and I was right. After all, no vampires is always a win in my book and this title was no exception. It’s not great and the main romance is pretty dicey, but for 2 volumes it did a reasonable amount to make the characters decent.

The manga introduces us to Mikage who is a ninja protecting Mr. Rod from the various assasins who wish to have him taken out of the picture. The reason for this is that he has a grain of sorts that will end world hunger or something. The specifics aren’t all that important as Rod would much rather talk to Mikage about how she should be living a normal life. She does not want to do this though as it would be against the ninja code and additionally she would rather be by his side. Well, one day he is murdered and in his final will he had put for Mikage to live a normal life as his last wish. She heads to a school, but gets mixed up in the same case from another angle with a guy named Mahito who wants to continue Rod’s work. Can Mikage now get some closure on this whole thing?

Mikage may not have wanted to leave the ninja biz, but it’s probably good that she did. The organization definitely seemed dangerous in how seriously it took itself. Her father basically said that the ninja are expendable and has a very old time look on things. Mikage’s mother is a lot more reasonable but also very oblivious as she somehow doesn’t notice the whole ninja business. I don’t get how she wouldn’t realize what is going on, but her role is extremely small so I suppose by living in another state/country she is just kept out of the loop the whole time.

Mikage’s a solid heroine who means well and does her best to fulfill her role as a bodyguard. Her skills are quite sharp as she seems to be among the top 3 ninja across the organization. She is always ready for action and while she may be oblivious to day to day activities like being a school girl, she has definitely mastered her craft. I’d say there are some similarities with Yuki from Vampire Knight, but Mikage’s a more pro-active lead. She’s always doing something and is pretty heroic as she does jump in to help others even when she is off the clock.

There isn’t much of a supporting cast to bounce off of her though. Again, it’s only 2 volumes so I guess there isn’t much you can do about that, but the cast still feels really small. First you’ve got Mr. Rod who is shown to be a nice father type figure in Mikage’s life. He wants her to be happy and just seems like a noble spirit. He gets bumped off right away, but they were building him up to be pretty good. He’s decent for a while, but I have to give him a firm thumbs down by the end. It’s because of the romance plot but more about that later on. Then you have Mahito and he has the same issues as Rod. He seems nice enough but the romance part, while less dicey doesn’t really help his case much. I do prefer him to Rod though as he at least tries to fight and support Mikage. He takes a lot of Ls, but better to try and fail than not to try at all right?

Then you’ve got Suzuki who is a kid from school. Had this been a longer series I would have expected him to actually be one of the villains or something, but he turns out to literally just be a classmate who is bullied all the time. He likes Mikage, but surprisingly the manga doesn’t really bother with this romance. Suzuki is literally too bright for Mikage to look at so they don’t hang around much. I think he’s mainly around as a good segway to introducing the school and so Mikage will at least have someone to talk to. Finally we have Ichinosuke who is a skilled ninja who works for the side branch of the main family. He’s pretty skilled in his own right although he definitely can’t beat Mikage in a fight. The guy’s a decent villain, but he’s not the one calling the shots so for the most part he is just being manipulated. You won’t rise up to the top that way.

The manga isn’t really about the action, but we do get some good scenes during its run. The final fight against the main villain is pretty good and the manga did establish this guy as a solid threat. In general the art is pretty good. I think the artist did a better job of making sure that all of the characters don’t look too similar unlike good ole Vampire Knight where a bunch of people seemed to be identical half the time. I don’t think there were any characters here that I would mix up which is definitely solid.

Now for the romance. Well, this was definitely not going to end well from the start. Mikage likes Rod who has got to be at least double her age if not older. There’s no way to turn that into a solid romance. At least making it one sided isn’t the end of the world, but Rod’s answer isn’t as definitive as a no as I would have liked. I wanted a closed and shut “never” response from him. Then you’ve got Mahito and Suzuki who are vying for Mikage’s affections with no results. It’s a Shojo manga so at least the romance is handled more traditionally than a Shonen and nothing actually happens, but it’s definitely a plot that I would have cut out personally.


Overall, Shuriken and Pleats is a manga with one of those titles that I don’t totally get. Maybe Pleats is the kind of uniform that Mikage uses. Yeah, I could have googled the term, but I didn’t so I’ll leave it to guesswork for now. It’s a fun enough title to check out and 2 volumes isn’t going to cost you a whole lot of time anyway. There’s not a whole lot here to offer you beyond a good time though. It’s definitely not a game changing Shojo manga, but I do like the premise and it definitely doesn’t drag on. The ending may have fallen completely flat for me, but up til then it was a solid experience and I’d lightly recommend checking it out. At the end of the day it didn’t make any of the big mistakes like fanservice or animal violence so there’s no reason to give it a thumbs down. I don’t read a whole lot of one shots/mini series so it’s always good to add another one to the roster. Maybe the author can make a sequel to this one someday. There’s a lot of fun themes that could be expanded on here like Mikage just hanging out at school or rival ninja groups coming in for fights.

Overall 6/10

Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

It’s A Bikini World Review


It’s time to look at another beach movie. These don’t tend to be all that good so I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear that this one didn’t exactly hit it out of the park. Interesting the main plot is something that I’ve already seen twice recently so that didn’t really help matters either. I suppose it’s the kind of plot that all of the writers want to take a shot at during their careers, but you really don’t need to give it a try. Having the movie take place on the beach doesn’t help much either.

The film starts off with the characters hanging out on the beach as per usual. They’re surfing and all until a new girl arrives on the beach for a visit. Her name is Delilah and Mike decides that he wants to hang with her. She won’t give him the time of day though because he is generally not a great guy and is always going from one girl to the next. He’s currently with 5-6 different girls as it is. Mike won’t take no for an answer though and decides to pretend that he’s a kid named Herbert who happens to be Mike’s nerdy brother. In this form he gets along with Delilah, but things get complicated when Delilah decides to try and compete with Mike in a lot of big competitions. Can Mike manage to be in two places at once and also keep the deception up? It’ll be difficult, but the main thing is that we’ll be rooting against him.

That’s the tough part with these beach movies. How can the film work when you’re actively rooting against the main character? Mike is everything that’s wrong with the beach movies. He’s always going from girl to girl and has no sense of loyalty about him. Even by the end he starts a big montage about how he’s free once his secret is out and it seems like he’ll be going back to his old roots. Hopefully Delilah doesn’t actually fall for this and gets out as soon as possible. It’s just a bad idea to hang out with Mike for very long.

As for Delilah, she’s a nice character but you kind of know how her plot will end from the start which is a bit of a damper. Really Delilah should be able to stay by her lonesome without having to get a partner and it’d be nice if she could actually beat Mike. Unfortunately that never happens and Mike just keeps on winning throughout the film. It does make sense since a few days of training won’t be able to stop years of it, but you end up feeling bad for Delilah. Nobody seems all that sympathetic either since everyone else likes Mike. It is his home field court so that makes sense I suppose.

Then you’ve got Woody who is the exaggerated comic relief character. He’s basically around to keep getting Mike in trouble. The guy can’t pick up a hint, but at the same time I wonder why Mike would even be remotely surprised because he’s surely been living with this for years by now right? He’s got to know what kind of guy Woody is and I think he didn’t plan things out right. Meanwhile Woody’s friend doesn’t like that he keeps having her cook the meals and pay the bill, but the way their plot ends is pretty bad. Woody’s just not the kind of guy you want to have around and while his silly type of humor can be decent, in this case it ended up falling flat.

As per usual the film also loses a bunch of points due to the poor writing, bad romance, and fanservice throughout the film. As far as beach movies go it isn’t nearly as bad in the last area as some others, but I ultimately still gotta give it a thumbs down here. There’s not a whole lot of substance to the film so it can’t really hold its own for very long at all. The film could and should have ended way sooner than it did.

One such instance of this is seen in the final challenge exhibition. There are like 15 rounds and it’s the characters doing everything from driving to hitchhiking to swimming. There’s no rhyme or reason to the sports though and winning each individual segment doesn’t even seem to matter. It should at least give you a head start to the next event or something, but that didn’t seem to be the case. I don’t think the film thought that part through and probably should have done something else for the climax.

The subplot of the photographer and the editor helping in the event also didn’t really matter at all. They don’t impact the plot one way or the other and were likely just here to set up the final race. The grownups in these films are rarely all that good but I guess that’s not saying much since the whole cast is pretty suspect in general. What the film needs is a bunch of other supporting characters in a New York subplot far away from the Beach. Something to distract you from what’s actually happening.

Overall, It’s a Bikini World basically checks all of the boxes for a beach movie and that’s not a good thing in this case. There’s nothing particularly compelling about this movie nor is there any reason to actually stick around. It’s just a movie that feels very long and will remind you why people don’t go to the beach very often anymore. I’ve gone once, but opted not to go into the water because of that virus going around lately. Sometimes it’s best to just play it safe and dodge the risks much like you’ll want to dodge this film. I guarantee that you’ll have a better time with just about any other title.

Overall 2/10

Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Allegiant Review


All right, it’s time to finish off this trilogy. Divergent has had a good start, but all good YA movie titles must end at some point and now this one is over. The true finale was cancelled though so it ended a little sooner than expected, but that’s all right. Unfortunately it does end on a bit of a whimper compared to the first two. There are a lot of good moments here so it’s still not a bad movie, but it really does feel like this arc is a bit of a re-tread in a lot of ways. You’ll start to see how futile the main characters’ rebellion is.

Tris and Four have finally stopped Jeanine and brought the world to a more peaceful place. That was the plan at least, but the new leader Evelyn already seems to be as corrupt as Jeanine. She has shut down the borders so everyone is locked in the tower once more and has decided to execute all of the people who were under Jeanine’s regime. Tris decides that she has had enough waiting and along with Four, Caleb, Peter, and Christina they break through the border to the outside world. This world promises to be a utopia, but is it really so perfect?

This is the kind of plot that can be quite frustrating most of the time. For starters, Tris and Four have already been through quite a lot. Whether or not you think the romance has been handled well, you’d expect them to have complete confidence in each other by now. Unfortunately the villains are able to create a bit of a rift between them and sucker Tris throughout the movie. Usually in these situations I would say that both characters deserve 50$ of the blame, but in this case I have to say that it is all Tris. Tris has been shown to be a very smart character in the past two films and doesn’t just believe what she hears.

Instead she falls for every trick in this book. She comes across as very naïve and nearly costs Four his life by walking away with the villain. She doesn’t even seem to consider that he is actually right and we do the whole “No time to talk” part where if she just stopped to listen then the whole thing would be over. This is definitely Tris’ weakest film. Now, even if she had listened to Four there is no guarantee that she could have done a whole lot to stop the villains of course, but at least she would have been in a position to do something. By ignoring all of the issues it just gets worse for everyone else.

Meanwhile, this is Four’s best film yet though. Throughout the series he has been portrayed as one of the best fighters in the series and this one doubles down on that. He takes out a whole plane full of armed guards and tends to beat up everyone who gets in his way. He just leaves a wave of destruction in his wake and it’s pretty satisfying. He figures out the truth about the place very quickly. In part it’s because he didn’t trust them from the beginning, but that is the right outset. Look, you’ve grown up in a dystopian future where everyone’s been lying to you from the start. Why would you go somewhere else and assume that it would be better? I’m sure Four was hoping the place would be great, but he didn’t just suddenly take them all at their word. That was the right call here.

Meanwhile, this is Caleb’s film to try and make a big comeback. He looked really bad in the last film to the point of being borderline irredeemable. In this one he knows that he owes Tris his life several times over and is doing his best to atone. It’s clear right now that he does regret his actions so he looks a lot better here, but I’m still not a fan of the character. Even now he gets a little too absorbed in the data part of what’s going on and loses sight of what’s important. He does come through when it counts though so you do have to give him some credit.

Then you’ve got Peter. He’s been super manipulative throughout the films and has been a fun villain. I don’t think it’s likely that you will like the character, but I do enjoy him as an obstacle for the heroes. He’s consistent with how overconfident and arrogant he is. No matter which side he is helping you can bet that Peter will be doing his best to tick everyone off and play them against each other. You can’t even say that his role here is all that unexpected since he has made it clear in the past that you can’t trust him. It’s a shame that we aren’t getting the next film because they’re definitely setting up for a really big fight between him and Four. As it stands Four would crush him if it’s a fair fight so Peter will have to come up with a plan. Peter’s a jerk, but that’s a trait that works really well for a villain.

Then you’ve got David who is the main villain here. The film kind of toys with the idea of him being an old man who just doesn’t know what is going on, but never really goes for that because almost immediately they make him look shady. The problem is that you can’t really take him all that seriously as a villain because he’s just an old guy who can’t really fight. He has the country in his pocket so he is tough to stop, but that’s about it. As a result his final scene is more humorous than threatening. I dare you not to crack a grin as the film ends because it is definitely going for a very ominous moment that will keep you up at night getting ready for the sequel, but it’s hard to take seriously.

That being said, the heroes really should have no chance in a 4th film if you ask me. What can they possibly do? The heroes are outnumbered by an insane amount and are also outgunned. They have basic guns, but the villains have high tech robots that can do just about anything and even come complete with barriers. Still, having a cliffhanger is better than not having one so even if I couldn’t take David seriously, I do like that the film made the attempt.

Then we have Evelyn and her civil war plot. She may protest quite a lot, but at the end of the day she basically is Jeanine 2.0. She may have different views, but she goes about them in the exact same way so you can’t really say that there are a bunch of differences between them. I do think she is a more interesting villain than Jeanine though and she is pretty serious about her goals. Evelyn does get manipulated a little easier than Jeanine though so if I were comparing the villains in terms of who is better at the role, Jeanine is definitely more successful.

Evelyn somehow manages to blow her lead against the Allegiant so badly that they outnumber her at the end and are about to claim victory. That’s pretty crazy since she should have easily been able to win even without using the gas at her disposal. I feel like it was just an excuse to quickly throw in why the gas was necessary, but it didn’t add up. Maybe something was cut out from the book here.

Going back to why this film was weaker than the others, I really think it’s all about how Tris was handled. She’s one of the highlights of the series and I felt like her character took a few steps back. Right when David started not allowing Four to accompany her she should have known that something was up. She also should have protested and just not met up with David in that case. There are many way she could have handled this better. I’m also not sure about her just sitting back and not even speaking out against the trials near the beginning. Inaction is never a good thing.

Also, as I mentioned it’s like we’re back to square one. The heroes beat one dictator, but now they’re up against another and are outnumbered again. They’re going to be the rebellion yet again only with double the trouble this time. They can handle this plot reasonably I’m sure, but not much would probably happen until the next film. The pacing here is good, but it all just feels futile because you never feel like they’re going to come out on top here. There’s not much they can do as just a city against the rest of the world. Even the random jello scene (Completely unnecessary) at the beginning shows how they could have easily choked all of the heroes right there and it’d be game over. Their tech just doesn’t play fair.

As always the fight scenes are definitely top notch though. Pretty much any scene with Four in it is a great moment. The airplane fight where he uses all of the enemy weapons against themselves is particularly brilliant. Those guys definitely didn’t have a chance. Surprisingly I’d say that the little drones didn’t really make for more enjoyable fight scenes likely due to the fact that the barriers are extremely overpowered against ordinary guys with guns.

Overall, Allegiant continues to build the world and does introduce a lot of new elements into the mix. Unfortunately, they don’t always feel necessary and this is a story that really feels like it wrapped up pretty nicely in the last film. I’m not really sure we needed another civil war to bring the factions back. Of course it is realistic because people never want to ditch the old ways. It probably should have picked one plot (Outside world or civil war) and stuck to that though, have the other plot pick up afterwards. It may not have been the big finale we may have hoped for, but at the same time this trilogy was considerably better than I was expecting so that was good.

Overall 6/10

Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Insurgent Review


Time to jump into the sequel to Divergent! As you likely read in my last review, the series is off to a good start so the question is really whether or not the sequel could manage to keep up the momentum. Well, I can safely say that it did. It continues to harness the same level of energy and makes for a pretty fast paced sequel. I do feel like the third film is going to be the one that has a hard time keeping up since this film basically ends the main plot. The third film would be starting a whole new arc and since it’s the last film there isn’t a whole lot of time to finish it.

The second film picks up pretty much right after the first one ended. Jeanine isn’t happy about how things have turned out so she has just made it plain and clear that she is taking over the world. She does so under the guise of justice though so people are pretty cool with it. The only faction that didn’t like her has been wiped out anyway so they don’t care much. Four and Tris are still on the run and decide that they need to meet up with the rest of Dauntless to regroup. Along the way they’ll have to deal with faction-less gangs as well as get past other factions and a peace group to reach their goal. Once they make it they’ll have to then decide how to handle this situation. Do they start a civil war and take Jeanine down or just flee the country and risk seeing what is hidden beyond the borders? I don’t think I mentioned it in my last review, but in Divergent the world is surrounded by a lot of large walls. Supposedly there is nothing beyond those walls except for deserts, but most of the characters don’t believe this.

The film starts up with the characters hiding among a group of peaceful people who don’t want to take a side in the current situation. That’s rarely a choice in these things though so they are just prolonging the inevitable. The heroes can’t stay long though since Peter picks a fight and Tris nearly murders him. It does help them see Peter’s true colors though and the heroes fight their way out and onto a train. This leads to another action scene where they are forced to take on the whole crew. Both of them do a good job of holding their own here. Tris and Four take down a significant amount of enemies, but ultimately are not on the winning side here since they are simply too outnumbered. They would have been in a better spot if Tris’ brother Caleb had actually been helping more, but he was too scared to act. It’s a solid action scene though and definitely gets the film off on the right note. That’s already quite a few fight scenes and the film had only barely started.

Caleb never quite recovers though. I didn’t like him in the first film and he is significantly worse here. Being afraid of the villains isn’t a bad thing, but when you’re so afraid that you’re willing to let them murder your family that’s when things have gone too far. He should definitely be pretty ashamed after that and then he makes all of the wrong calls as the film goes on. By the end of it you just can’t like this character. He quickly sinks to being one of the worst characters in the movie.

Meanwhile Peter gets a bigger role here and he continues trying to be as unlikable as possible too. He antagonizes Tris quite a bit, but since she is such a quality character she shuts that down real quick. Not only does she completely overwhelm him in combat, but she scares him enough where you know he won’t try picking another fair fight with her again. An extra second and he would have been down for the count. Peter comes across as fairly petty though since most of his latter scenes seem to be direct retaliation against her. He never seemed like a trust worthy ally though so it’s not like this is surprising.

If you think about it there are probably more antagonists than heroes in this film. You’ve also got Eric who returns again and is still the villain who appears the most. While he isn’t the best fighter compared to the others, he usually has some kind of advantage to help him. The mind control serums and knock out gas still work as well as ever and he’s always got a gun. His fight with Four goes as you would expect though and was handled really well. It definitely made Four look good. Jeanine is still a solid villain, but she does appear to have lost a lot of her intelligence here. She’s very obvious about how she doesn’t care for her lackeys and that’s not a good idea when you put one of them in charge of your entire security system. At least pretend to be looking out for that guy or just destroy him otherwise. That felt like the beginning of the end for her.

Four and Tris are pretty consistent with their first appearance. Four still makes it clear that he’s here to protect Tris first and save the world second. I’m glad that he doesn’t hesitate in heading over to save Tris and just leaves the compound. He has the right priorities there. While I’m definitely still not with the romance now that it’s already a thing it’s naturally less forced than in the first film. It’s more or less just how things are so it’s not really a matter of questioning its inclusion now. Tris goes for the classic action star haircut here which seems to happen to most protagonists at some point or other. I’ll definitely miss the more Metroid esque look, but it’s not like it changes her personality. She’s still just as tough as always. Just as she was ruthless in combat during the first film she definitely doesn’t hesitate here and continues to be one of the better heroines. She definitely goes through a lot here since her allies keep dying left and right. That’s why it’s tough being the toughest person in the room since its inevitable that you’ll see some allies get taken down along the way.

Christina gets less of a role here than in the first film. She spends a lot of it being fairly upset, but ultimately handles it well. It’s hard to blame her since being directly lied to is never any fun, but at the end of the day she still helped out when necessary and didn’t try to get revenge on Tris or anything like that. I don’t think you could ask for a better reaction to her situation. Four’s parents show up and his Dad is still pretty bad. He’s the kind of character who absolutely can’t be redeemed at this point and I think the film knows it. He half heartedly attempts to bridge the gap to no success. The Mom in comparison doesn’t seem nearly as guilty. Of course leaving Four wasn’t the right call and she should have found a way to take him, but at least she wasn’t actively being a villain. The film is definitely hinting that she is a dangerous character though so it’ll be interesting to see what she does in the third movie.

All of the strengths from the first film carry over to this one. The writing is pretty solid and the core characters are good. We get a lot of nice action scenes which definitely hold up and the pacing is solid. The film doesn’t drag on and it avoids making any big mistakes. It does have more emotional moments than the first film which do slow the film down to an extent, but I don’t think it’s overplayed. You do feel bad for the random dude who shows up to talk to Tris when she’s down though since you know that he’s dead right away. This is the kind of film where you just know that the no names are doomed as soon as they start to talk. Any divergent who isn’t Four or Tris is also typically doomed since none of them are all that smart. If you notice that everyone is acting evil and mind controlled you should probably pretend to be under the spell too instead of wandering around looking confused. One of the kids also doesn’t look good since she disobeys orders, but as she’s a kid you can’t be quite as harsh I suppose.

The dream sequences for the trials are still pretty fun. We get quite a few of them and Tris gets to show her determination each time. Even when there’s one simulation that is obviously not the real world the film handles it pretty well so people who are new to the genre could potentially fall for it. Tris also gets random nightmares throughout the film. These aren’t quite as interesting visually or even in context, but it does show up the events are messing Tris up. In such a hopeless world I imagine that most of the characters are pretty messed up by now. The best of the training sequences is definitely Tris trying to save her mother from a burning building. It depicts her determination pretty well and I still remember seeing that part in a trailer which is what made the series look interesting in the first place.

Of course the best sequence in the movie is also in the dream world. You can call it the final test/sequence, but basically Tris has to fight herself in the simulation. The effects here are awesome and it’s like a fight out of Man of Steel. You can feel the intensity behind every hit and by the end of the match you are definitely fully on board with that being the definitive scene. I’d like to have more fights like that, but realistically it isn’t likely. I’m just glad they were able to put in such a cool fight.

Overall, Insurgent continues to keep the series on track. Again, I do think the third film may have a tough time since I feel like the upcoming plot wouldn’t be as interesting, but there are countless ways the movie can go from here so I suppose I can’t really say that with any confidence. I’ll go into the next movie with an open mind ready to see what they’ve got in store. While you could probably watch this film and understand everything without the first it’s definitely the kind of trilogy where you are meant to watch it in order. More so than most of the other trilogies these 2 films at least feel like one big story that you’ll want to watch almost back to back for the maximum experience.

Overall 7/10