Sakura Wars: School of Paris Review


The Sakura Wars marathon continues as we now focus completely on the France division. Aside from Ogami that means it’s time for a completely new team to shake things up. The OVA has 3 episodes so it’s definitely a pretty quick experience but that’s enough time to get all of the characters introduced. It looks like the team will have a fun dynamic. I certainly wouldn’t put these guys above the original Flower Division or the hype New York Branch quite yet but it’s definitely early as I’ve been with those guys for many hours while this group only about an hour so far.

The first episode focuses on Erica and Glycine meeting up for the first time. Glycine has royal heritage from her Viking ancestors so she believes in always holding her ground and behaving in a prim and proper fashion. Meanwhile Erica is more of a spacey person who gets distracted easily. She is a little more capable than she lets on though as Erica is actually a member of the Paris division. A group of secret fighters who protect the country from alien monsters who would attack it. Unlike Japan, Paris isn’t attacked very often but the government wants to be ready as they fear the attacks will soon increase in intensity. It’s why they are looking to bring Ogami in but at the moment their group is pretty small. In fact, Erica may have been the only member.

It’s a pretty fun way to start the OVA. Erica is a fun enough lead and her banter with Glycine is good. We also get a solid action scene in the museum which gets pretty intense. The monster was actually giving them a pretty good fight here. It’s why I always advise not having a gun as your main weapon because it will always be limited in how much damage the bullets can deal unless you are somehow able to augment their abilities. Otherwise you’re just not going to win the big battles. Fortunately for Erica, Glycine was able to use her super strength to turn the tides.

The second episode is more of an elaborate chase. So there is a villain known as Lobelia who seems to have the same spirit energy as the main heroines. Unfortunately she uses it for evil though as she is a burglar although the government says she performs just about every kind of crime. They’ve decided to take her down alive so they can force her to join the other heroes. It won’t be easy though so the two political leaders decide to have a chess match while waiting. The episode has a lot of subtext going on here as the chess battle mimics the actual events. It’s also pretty interesting to see onw of the future Sakura War members actually be a villain. She may be forced into helping them out but it doesn’t mean that she’s happy about it.

While not as solid as the first episode this is still a pretty reasonable follow up. I always like being able to see the actual powers on display since that gets a lot more focus in the game than in the actual OVAs and shows. Lobelia’s abilities are definitely the real deal with her master over fire. It’s pretty impressive how long she is able to elude the heroes and even to the end her reaction times served her well. I may not really be a fan of the character but she would definitely add quite a lot to the overall dynamic.

Then we’ve got the final episode which probably does end up having the most action. So the team is finally all united with the various members. Ogami is running them through a typical practice session when the robot ends up being corrupted by the clown villain. The Team has to then try and team up to take it down but this robot’s actually pretty tough and most of the members don’t have their robots ready. As a result it’s really Erica and Ogami doing their best to take it down. The fight switches between hand drawn and CGI a lot which makes for a pretty interesting action sequence. You definitely couldn’t have ended with a more fitting episode. You’ve now got the team assembled and also got to see what they’ve got against a true villain even if most of them were caught resting on their laurels here.

With only 3 episodes not all of the characters get a lot of development quite yet though. Coquelicot for example joined the group later on but doesn’t have much to do yet. We know that she likes animals but haven’t gotten to see much more than that. I can only assume that she is able to fight pretty well with the spirit power but we’ll have to wait and see that. Then you’ve got Hanabi who seems rather timid and trying to get over a recent death. She’s very polite and seems like a pretty kind hearted soul who’s a little in over her head. She doesn’t get a focus yet either.

Mainly the OVA is trying to give the screen time to the main 3 plus Ogami. Ogami definitely looks pretty good here even if it does seem like he’s not ready to handle this group yet. They’ve already started driving him crazy and he’s brand new there. I can only imagine how it’ll be for him soon. He probably just misses the gang but maybe he’ll warm up to these guys soon. In the meantime his sword skills are as good as ever.

As mentioned, Erica is a fun enough lead. She can maybe be a bit too oblivious at times and doesn’t have her priorities straight at times but at least she is good when it comes time to fight. She’s definitely experienced there. Glycine was definitely my favorite character here. I like her confidence and she was ready to jump right into the action when needed. She also doesn’t put up with Lobelia’s attitude the way the rest of the characters do. One thing she definitely does not tolerate is disrespect.

As for Lobelia, I do typically like when the characters show a lot of attitude and are rebellious. Lobelia fits those qualifications but at the same time her bar adventures are pretty suspect at best. She definitely goes all in on keeping her edge as she refuses to help even when her teammates are in trouble and about to be blown up. At least they definitely know where they stand with her. I imagine she’ll soften up a little more with the rest of the group eventually but for now even Sumire would have to be impressed with how antagonistic she is.

The animation is pretty solid here. You can definitely tell that it’s a bit newer than the last few. The colors are sharp and it’s all smooth. For the fight scenes it is interesting that they’re using more CGI. It’s definitely noticeable but CGI can work well. I’ll never put it quite above the classic hand drawn but it’s still good enough where I’d say the fight scene with the robots was pretty solid. It’s nice to see the mechs looking pretty fast now and having some real fight scenes here.

The OVA definitely leaves you with a good amount of questions to wonder about for the future. The villain appears briefly here as a clown but other than that we don’t really know anything about him. Most of this you’re not supposed to figure out as this is a supplementary OVA to the game as opposed to adapting the whole thing. It’s a pretty fun thing about these materials because if you own the game you can really pop these episodes in and have the complete experience. I’d definitely be down with more series doing this where you get to see the characters a little more in different scenarios.

Overall, The Paris Division is off to a pretty solid start. The Sakura Wars series is still in good hands here. The group dynamic may be a bit weaker but it’s always hard to catch up to the original bunch. I definitely hope we can have a crossover with the original cast from the Japan branch someday. After all we know without a doubt that these guys are in the same universe so I don’t think it’s too far fetched or anything like that. They just need to go ahead and do it. I think it would definitely be a pretty big hit. Hopefully we can also get more Sakura War titles licensed in the U.S.

Overall 7/10

Annabelle 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

The Conjuring verse has definitely gotten pretty big at this point. With the main titles plus two different spinoff series I dare say that it’s easily the biggest horror universe in cinema. It may not have as many installments as some others but I’d like to see any other one have two spinoffs. Then maybe we could have a time travel story at some point that brings them all together at once at their peak and maybe even bring some of the human characters from all of the films along. This one’s pretty solid for a horror film. I wouldn’t say that it’s without fault but I wouldn’t call it a bad movie either.

The movie starts with Mia and John getting ready to finally have a kid. John has the bright idea to give Mia a doll that looks like it was run over several times as a gift. She likes it so I guess maybe this is just the style she’s into but I dunno, I get bad vibes from it right away. That night they are attacked by a bunch of lunatics and Mia ends up getting stabbed. Fortunately they all live including the baby. Now the three of them should be okay but Mia keeps seeing ghosts like the evil lady showing up or Annabelle herself giving her the evil eye. Is Mia going crazy or does the doll actually want to take her down?

The first scene with the home invaders caught me off guard because I was so sure that they were apparitions and weren’t really there. I mean that’s just horror 101 that the heroine thinks she sees something but it’s all fake right? The fact that they were actually here was pretty interesting. It also made for an intense fight scene as John had to try and take both of them down on his own. He handled himself pretty well until the cops were able to show up and fortunately put an end to things. It definitely helped to establish the world as being a pretty dangerous one and also showed us why Mia would be on edge for the rest of the film. She just can’t feel safe anywhere.

It doesn’t help that Annabelle is causing a lot of mischief. She turns the toaster on by itself, loves to turn on music over and over again, and doing other things like that. She rarely ever moves to do anything on her own though. She likes to scare Mia but never presses the issue more than that. In fact when going on the offensive she seems to prefer to summon a ghost of an older lady or even uses a kid form to take names. Seeing her try to fight as a doll would have been a little more entertaining but I guess she didn’t want to chance it. Like the Nun she is technically a demon inhabiting the doll or using it as a medium but I guess she has freedom to do other things as well.

She’s at least strong enough to mess with Perez even when he’s literally in front of the Church and has his full gear on. He definitely should not have looked back though. Why even look back when you could do a Football dive into the Church and be safe? That’s definitely what he should have done if you ask me and then he would have been in good shape. At least he wanted to help the heroes though so I’ll give him props for the attempt. He was definitely a nice guy. Then you have Evelyn who also did her best to help the main characters out. She may have been a little out of her league with these supernatural forces but who isn’t right? At least this way Mia had some support.

John made for a good supporting character here. He was supportive of Mia the whole time and really did everything he could to help her out in the end. Taking the night shift was a bit dicey but I suppose there’s not a whole lot he could have done to stay home. If anything losing his job would probably make things worse for both of them. In the end he also helps prevent her from making the ultimate mistake which would have been really unfortunate. Mia does her best to stay sane the whole time and escape Annabelle’s attacks but they do start to get her on the edge. The most intense trial she probably had to go through here was heading to the basement. The elevator definitely was not in her favor but it makes sense. If anything I feel like it should happen more often in horror films. I don’t know about the elevators they use here but if you’re being chased by someone and jump into an elevator the odds of it shutting instantly are slim to none. At my elevator at least if you click to go up or down it’ll open up the elevator right away before you can move to a new floor. It always has top priority.

Mia does her best to look into the whole Annabelle situation but ultimately it’s one of those things where there isn’t a whole lot to dig up. There isn’t a way out and she’s basically unbeatable. When you think about it that’s the moral of the story. I can’t say that the ending was particularly satisfying either. We don’t really get a twist ending so instead Annabelle gets a lot of props in the normal one. My real issue here is that one of the characters basically plays Annabelle’s game thinking that this will balance the scales but it has no real effect. Perhaps at most it slows Annabelle down but based on the grin at the end and everything it’s definitely not something that will be a permanent win. Thing is, you can’t trust demons so why even play their games in the first place? Annabelle certainly isn’t one of the stronger demons but she is still a demon nonetheless.

Overall, Annabelle is definitely more of an atmospheric kind of horror title. The demon isn’t going around murdering everyone for the most part. Usually she just causes a lot of dangerous pranks and tries to mess with Mia’s psyche. I’m glad that the film actually incorporated this into the plot though. There are a few deaths but really not all that much when you think about it and close to half the body count here was unrelated to Annabelle herself. I didn’t care for the ending which was a bit sour but I wouldn’t say this film was bad. It didn’t rely on much or any shock value which was pretty nice. We didn’t have to hear some super long and tragic origin story either. Annabelle is just a crazy demon that wants your soul and doesn’t need much more of a background than that. The crazy murderers from the origin got a bit of an origin story which I thought was pretty pointless but I suppose it tied into Annabelle’s origin so we needed it to an extent. I wouldn’t call this film super strong but it’s a decent horror film if you want to check out out. I would sooner recommend Ghostbusters though.

Overall 5/10

The Nun Review

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

I definitely remember this film making the rounds when it came out. After all there’s definitely a novelty to having a film about an evil Nun. Of course the villain isn’t literally a Nun but that’s what the imagery is going for. This one plays out a lot more like a classic horror film than the other installments in the Conjuring franchise. I wouldn’t give this one a thumbs up but I will say that it definitely ends up being one of the most intense installments. Get ready for a creepy trip through their Church.

The movie starts with two Nuns unsealing a door and taking something away from it. This turned out to be a critical mistake as a demon destroys one and the other Nun destroys herself. The poor delivery guy Frenchie comes across the body and lets the town know. This news makes it all the way to the Vatican where the higher ups instruct Burke to go and check it out. They tell him to bring along trainee Irene for this quest. She has not yet taken her vows and wonders if she can really be of help. Still, one simply does not refuse an order from the Vatican so they head to the manor. The place feels quite ominous and the townsfolk are too afraid to even go near the place. Burke and Irene prepare to spend the night over there but surviving to the dawn may prove to be trickier than they thought.

While this may seem like a minor element, I really liked the backdrop of the film. The Church made for a very interesting layout and reminded me a lot of the first Resident Evil film. It’s a great location that’s quite atmospheric and since the Church is rather dark from the start there are plenty of areas for jump scares. Be prepared to see a whole onslaught of them with the demon peeking around every corner. The opening scene of the shady Nun talking to the heroes and then revealing her true form to Irene was pretty fun. The whole adventure is really a setup from the villain after all so she did a good job of setting that up.

Now, I do have to question the Nun (Gonna just call the demon “The Nun” so there’s no spoilers here) in what her real plan was though. It seems like there is just enough holy energy here to prevent her from leaving the premises or doing anything drastic. That’s good I suppose, but at the same time she can clearly destroy everyone in the castle at any time. Is there really a point to toying with them? She probably could have broken the seals and escaped already if she were really trying. Perhaps she has stopped because even without the Nuns she wouldn’t be able to escape. Were the two Nuns from the opening scene the final ones and the rest were dead from the jump or were they all only murdered while Irene closed her eyes leading to the fake out?

The film leaves some things up to interpretation which is nice but I do feel like a little more detail on what the Nun was thinking would be nice. Most of these vengeful demons and spirits just want revenge but put it pretty plainly to the heroes. Others just don’t want you watching their DVD so if you put it in then that’s game over. The Nun was definitely a fun villain though. If you take away the plot armor of the heroes then they were completely outmatched. Probably should have destroyed Burke while he was buried or pushed Irene in as well tbh and that would have ended the movie in an instant.

Usually in horror films you don’t get to have the explosive moment where the hero arrives in the nick of time but this one actually managed to include that in which was pretty neat. Frenchie comes in handy and the fact that he has a gun at the ready was pretty wise. The Nun feels like it actually has an action packed climax which is pretty interesting. The way the Nun is taken on gets a little on the gross side by the end but I suppose that’s what happens when you lower your guard. Getting overconfident has taken down a whole lot of villains over the years.

Frenchie would have to be the most interesting character but in this case all 3 of the main characters were solid. Irene may have been taken by surprise at everything going on but she was quickly able to gather her bearings and contribute a whole lot here. She’s a lot more proactive compared to many horror leads and is also pretty fearless. You have to have a lot of guts to keep on fighting against these demons or walk around the place at night when any wrong step can lead to your doom. Burke is not quite as bold and falls for every single one of the mind games though. Seriously the demon has a field day with him. He has a tragic origin story of course which allows the Nun to get a foothold there. He seems reasonably skilled at least and did bring some holy weapons. Whether they work or not tends to vary on film to film but they can usually at least stall for time. Given Burke’s high rank though I would have liked for his abilities to have been a little more impressive. Show us something he can do that the average person cannot. That would have been pretty neat.

The Nun naturally ends up being ultra powerful to the point where the chants and usual techniques don’t really work. Only the ultimate weapon is able to do anything here. These demons sure do tend to be quite strong, it makes you wonder how the characters would deal with them originally. We get a flashback where the army was called in but I can only assume that their abilities worked because the Nun was a lot weaker back then or because they were just stronger at the time. Either way I suppose the whole war through a wrench into the eternal banishment thing. It’s why whenever possible you need to finish these demons off rather than capturing them. Otherwise they start making zombies and the whole situation becomes even more unwinnable as time goes on.

Overall, The Nun is not really trying to be a very unique experience this time around. It’s really more about the classic jump scares as the heroes try to survive in the haunted Church. It’s definitely got a whole lot of action and a lot of fun visuals. On the other hand it can get pretty gruesome with the Nun shredding through everyone. I wasn’t a fan of how the Nun got taken down in the end, but she was a much better villain than a lot of the recent ones I’ve seen. If you’re up for a pretty intense horror film then the Nun should be right up your alley. If you’re looking for more of an atmospheric horror then you’re better off checking Annabelle instead.

Overall 3/10

Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale Review


It’s time to look at the manga based on the Sword Art Online movie. It’s always fun to read manga based on previous media to see if it’ll follow things 100% or change things up. Other times you have to worry about the quality of artwork since they typicallydon’t put quite as much effort into it compared to brand new manga. Fortunately this one was definitely in a good position and really gave a satisfying recap of the events. I think the movie is still the definitive way to experience this story but the manga is a solid alternative. It’s reasonably long so you really feel like they kept everything in.

The plot begins with Asuna and friends trying to get Kirito to play the Ordinal Scale game. He’s not a big fan of it since Kirito has always preferred VR to AR. The main difference is that in VR it’s all in your head while in AR you have to actually move around and perform the actions. I guess it’s like thinking about Pokemon Go which is AR vs one of those VR Megaman games. It all depends on your preference. Once both styles are perfected I’d definitely say that I’ll prefer VR no question. Still, AR is a lot of fun too and since you actually feel the action it should benefit some genres more than others. A racing game would definitely feel exhilarating although I wonder how they will be able to handle the recoil effects. In my mind AR will always be more dangerous than VR.

Back to the plot though, Kirito isn’t particularly impressed with the game. He’s just not buying into the hype at all. He’s forced to take it more seriously though when Asuna is defeated in a battle and loses her memories. It seems that a man by the name of Eiji is behind this. He wants to take the memories of all the SAO survivors and aims to do it through this game. Kirito will have to take him down but while he may be the world’s greatest gamer, he’s not exactly known for being super fit. He’ll train with Suguha a bit and then go back in the ring. Time’s not on Kirito’s side but there’s no person more reliable to have your back.

Pretty much everyone gets a little something to do here which is always nice. Klein may have gotten stomped but we briefly got to see how his team was able to fight and do well in SAO. Klein, Leafa, Lizbeth, and the others also get to come in. None of them have particularly big roles though except for maybe Sinon who was able to back Kirito up when everyone was out of commission and landed a good hit on the final boss. She’s definitely more of a fighter than most of Kirito’s crew so it’s certainly not very surprising. Her gun skills also make her a very good partner to have since Kirito likes to get up close so this way she has his back.

Asuna looks good here as well. She’s definitely ready to re-enter the fray despite being in a pretty tough spot with her memories gone. The film really tests her courage a lot and she always passes with flying colors. I was also glad she remembered Yuuki’s final combo move and used it to great effect. It works as a very solid power up to be sure. Then you have Kirito who is pretty awesome as always. He may not take things too seriously at first but that’s because there’s no danger. How do you get back into the groove of things for a game with no stakes when you’re used to fighting for your life? Well, that certainly changes once Asuna is in trouble. After that Kirito just takes care of work and puts everyone down. He’s definitely one of the greatest main characters out there and continues to improve with each arc.

As for the villains, I’d say that mileage will vary on this. Eiji is a pretty solid one. At least he has good motivations which makes sense and he can fight. He regrets his inaction in the past which caused his best friend to die so now he’s working on fixing things. This fix would murder a lot of people in the present so it shouldn’t be forgotten that tihs guy is a big villain. He’s not a hero by any stretch of the imagination. The guy is just looking out for himself and at the end of the day that’s really all there is to it. He has a cool design and solid fighting skills. At the end of the day when you mix that together with his character motivation then that’s why I will end up giving him some props. He made for a good foil to Kirito since they were both fighting for the person most important to them.

Yuna is a fun character. She may not really know or agree with what is going on for the most part but she does her best to have fun. There are effectively two Yunas at this point anyway. You’ll see the context of that once you watch the movie or read the manga. I definitely have no qualms with her and in the past she definitely appeared to be a very selfless fighter who always did her best to continue improving her abilities. She may not have been a great fighter but she never let that stop her from doing the right thing and helping where she could.

There’s also a scientist villain but he’s not nearly as memorable as Kayaba. Here’s my problem with the guy, based on how we just need the memories to fulfill his goal, wouldn’t it have been possible to do so without straight up murdering everyone? With how advanced the Sci-Fi mechanics are here, I find it hard to believe that he couldn’t just do that very easily. Maybe it would take longer and he just didn’t want to risk it. Usually I would also question if this was even possible or if it would work but based on the fact that her soul is clearly still around, I think there would be a great shot at success. She just hasn’t moved on yet and that’s a very good sign for the plan. It’s too bad that the plan will basically eliminate the game though since that’s the second controversy in a row related to online gaming in Sword Art Online.

As I mentioned earlier, the art is excellent here. The fight scenes are very detailed and the character designs are on point. You can tell that a good amount of effort went into every bit of the adaption. You could easily not even know that this was a movie first and just assume that it was a really solid spinoff story. The quality is certainly there so I wouldn’t blame you. It’s a few volumes long so it definitely works well as a mini series. It’s 100% accurate to the movie so the experience should be very similar.

Overall, Just like how the movie was pretty close to being perfect I would say the same for the manga. The story itself is just very compelling. Kirito and Asuna have always made for very solid partners and this story shows how nothing will be able to keep them apart. They both do their best to stay strong around each other and keep on pressing forward. Whether you’ve seen the original Sword Art Online or not you should be able to quickly tell what’s going on here and get invested into the story. It never gets slow and there is quite a lot of action. Being able to see the final boss of the original SAO for the first time is also great and all of the guest stars at the end make this feel like a great wrap up to the series. The War of Underworld would ultimately go on to pass it with how huge the cast got, but at the time this really couldn’t be beat.

Overall 9/10

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift Review


It’s time to finally take a look at the third installment in the Fast and the Furious film. Unfortunately this one just isn’t very good. It has a lot of fanservice and the characters aren’t particularly likable. This makes for an experience that’s more of a miss than it ever should have been. That being said, it has its strengths. I enjoyed the visuals and the music this movie had to offer. At the end of the day those factors are never going to be enough to make you a very good film in general, but I suppose it’s a good start so we take those.

The movie begins with Sean getting goaded into yet another race. He simply couldn’t let the bully go after having a rock thrown through the window and decides to mix things up with him in this race. Unfortunately, while Sean won the race he was still picked up by the cops. The bullies get away of course but Sean’s been caught one too many times. His Mom arranges for him to be bailed out and sent to his father in Tokyo. His father only has 2 main rules, go straight home, and no underground racing. That’s not Sean’s style though so he gets his new friend that he’s known for 2 hours to take him to the local scene. Sean gets demolished in this race and since he broke the car he now has to work for Han until he pays it back. Sean wants to pay him back but he also wants Neela to be with him and to do that he needs to humiliate DK in a race. Can he really surpass the Drift King?

When the film started the first thing I could think of was that this film seemed like more of a Need for Speed adaption than the actual film. Sean references racing for Pink Slips which is all that you do in the big boss levels of those games. Then we’ve got the whole Drifting focus here which is huge in Need for Speed. So those were just pretty fun things to note. Then you have the cops nabbing him right away too which is what usually goes down there. So, the racing scenes here are quite solid. I definitely have no problems with them. I suppose Drifting may be a little less exciting to watch than a straight race, but we get plenty of those here too so no matter which style you like, there’s plenty of fun to be had here. If you don’t like driving at all….then I can’t help you here.

Meanwhile the visuals are also really nice. The nighttime races in particular look good and it meshes well with the Tokyo environment. Tokyo is sort of like New York in how it’s always open and active with things going on 24/7. The most intense race was probably the 4 way free for all with the heroes trying to escape and being pursued by DK. It was nice because they were all just racing through the streets. There was no map, you had to drive on instinct. The final race on the mountain is also pretty solid though. As I mentioned earlier, when it comes to action this film couldn’t be beat.

I also enjoyed the soundtrack quite a bit. It’s quite different from most soundtracks that I’ve heard. I can’t speak to the lyrics as you’re more focused on the beat. At the very least the main theme really gets you set for some hype races. It’s got a bit of an ominous feel to it where there’s danger all around. If this counts as rap, then it’s probably one of the few rap songs that I found to actually be rather good. It’s definitely not my genre in general but any genre can have a good tune if you try hard enough. This song just really set the stage every time it was played. So I think we’ve got most of the positives out of the way now. I’ll also say that I enjoyed the ending stinger. I imagine it’ll be pretty annoying for people who saw this day 1 wondering when this lead would show up again though. It does feel like this was just a little tribute for the fans but it was the perfect way to end things off.

All right, so here’s where the film falters. Lets get the obvious things out of the way. First is the obnoxious amount of fanservice here. The camera zooms in quite a bit, Sean goes to various clubs and Discos that are pretty edgy. All of his teammates seem morally dubious as well. Even Han who is the most charismatic member of the crew doesn’t actually seem like a good guy if you think about it. All of the heroes here live free and loose. By that I mean that I wouldn’t trust any of them in a serious relationship for a second much less to have your back in a fight. They would turn at the first sign of danger. The romance in the movie is also handled pretty poorly. It’s hard to see why Neela would fall for Sean after everything that goes on. I suppose getting rescued in a sense by the villain helps since people can mistake gratitude for love, but then you recall that Sean gets distracted by every girl he meets and you know this relationship can’t possibly end well.

As for Sean, he’s just not a good character. I tend to like the rebellious character type but this guy takes it way too far. You’ve always got to try and hit the right amount of edge for these characters since they should still feel like a good character in general who wants to do the right thing. You never get that feeling with Sean. As I mentioned, he ignores his father and immediately goes into underground racing. It’s not like he was pressured into it or someone was in trouble. He chose to get back into the game and didn’t care about the consequences. I already mentioned how he seems to be quite flighty and goes after girls. The guy also stood around as someone got bullied. I think the film was trying to say that he would have stepped in if the hazing was more intense. He put down the wrench once he saw they were “just” spray painting him. You could also interpret it as he saw the numbers and decided he couldn’t win.

I don’t think it matters much what reasoning you chose. It’s still horrible that he let the guy get bullied like that. Physical damage isn’t the only kind of bullying there is. Being held down and spray painted all over would be an incredibly traumatizing experience. From that point it would be extremely difficult for Sean to become a likable character and he didn’t even come close to pull it off. His best friend Twinkie is a lot better in that respect. I do think it was a bit much for him to get upset when Sean came to his rescue but otherwise he’s consistently helpful. He takes a lot of risks to help Sean as well so it’s not like he’s just giving moral support. Sean would have been in trouble without him.

DK made for an intimidating villain. The guy definitely didn’t mess around and wasn’t afraid to make the fight physical instead of waiting for the race to begin. He got some good shots on both Sean and Han prior to the races. His skills were also pretty good. He may not be a real mafia member but he had the act down. As for Neela, she was a solid heroine who definitely got herself wrapped up in the wrong crowd. I suppose she underestimated how possessive DK was based on how she was acting at the start. She can apparently drive pretty well but sadly we don’t get to see her race much at all. In general she isn’t given a ton to do here but I liked her character. She had a lot of depth going for her and by default destroys most of the cast in that respect. The film doesn’t go overboard in explaining her backstory either. You understand the crux of it with the context we get.

Then you have Han who really just wants to mess everyone up. He’s fairly laid back, always eating snacks and such. The guy doesn’t really fear anything and stays smug even when he is being beaten up. You have to respect that level of dedication. He was a highlight from the start just with how he would stand up to DK and got Sean into the race. He gives the film a sense of humor as well. Again, when you think about it he’s not a great guy or anything but since he’s on Sean’s side I suppose you see him in more of a positive light than you would for the others. He’s certainly not malicious the way someone like DK is. To Han this is all just a game.

Overall, Tokyo Drift definitely takes the series in a different direction. It’s not even a bad one to be honest, the execution just wasn’t on point. I liked Tokyo as a backdrop, it’s always pretty interesting to see a different locale like that. It must be incredibly hard to transfer to a high school there when you don’t know any Japanese. That’s one area where I can understand why Sean was having such a tough time even though he didn’t exactly try very hard anyway. There are other interesting background elements as well like Sean’s father who seems like he may have had a racing background. He doesn’t get a lot of development here but has one pivotal moment with a gun that I thought was executed really well. I also like the idea of focusing the film around Drifting since it’s something unique. So many good ideas and opportunities but the film just kept on taking the worst choices and limiting its potential. I’d like to see these characters come back some day though and give this another shot. If you really love racing films then it may be worth checking out but otherwise there are certainly better ones out there.

Overall 4/10

ARMS Crazy Arms Gag Fight!


This manga isn’t particularly long but I don’t know when it’ll all be translated. I’ll have a review for it as soon as it finishes. I’m not a big fan of 4koma style in general but maybe this one will be able to shatter all previous limits of the genre!

Overall 5/10

Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce Review


It’s time to look at a Dynasty Warriors spinoff. The concept behind this is pretty interesting. What if you took the usual Dynasty Warriors setting and then added a bunch of supernatural elements to it. I’m talking full dragons, super forms flight, energy blasts, etc. It’s definitely going in a different direction here. You’ve also got a few different crossover missions you can tackle and even a whole new section after the credits. Unfortunately a game is only as good as its gameplay and that’s where this one faltered. It was ultimately unable to live up to its true potential.

The story follows the same plot as the rest of the Dynasty Warrior games. You are tasked with uniting the kingdom under your rule using whatever tactics you need too in order to do this. I went with the classic Team Wu of course since those guys are always pretty neat. From there you’re off to the races. The game has 5 main chapters which each tend to have around 7-10 levels in them. After the credits you unlock a 6th chapter which which I would assume probably has another 5-7 levels in it but hard to say. Looks like you need to beat at least some of the request levels before you can tackle the story one. Not sure I’m a fan of that concept but it applies to the other chapters as well so the game is consistent.

As mentioned, my main gripe here is with the gameplay. Gone are the classic beat em up controls where you would go around and take down whole armies. This one plays out more like a mobile title as you have to take down enemies in small locations. Once you beat all of the enemies in one square then you can go into another room. Mind you, you don’t have to always beat everyone in the room. It depends on the mission and sometimes you can bypass rooms all together. I’m not sure if this would be a different genre or still just called your usual beat em up. There’s a lot more platforming in this game to be sure though as you have to jump around a lot and dodge the water. No swimming in this game.

The enemies are all pretty difficult including the minions. They’ll readily interrupt any kind of combo you try to use. The minions in level 1 have a higher A.I. than the minions in the final levels of the main games. So that’s pretty impressive but when you couple it with how unrefined the gameplay is then what you get is a scenario where you’re never actually able to cut loose. Everything you try to do is interrupted by the opponent without missing a beat. It makes the combat not very satisfying at all. You don’t even have a parry system or anything like that to stop them. You just have to eat the damage or waste a super. Unlike the main games the minions will never drop items either so restoring health just isn’t done unless you can find the rare vases scattered around.

In the end I had to resort to some cheese tactics. I bought the best bow money could buy and loaded it up with poison orbs. Poison deals a percentage of the opponent’s health which is incredibly helpful for bosses since it effectively bypasses health. It’s also good for staying afar since going up close is just asking to be completely wrecked. I was able to buy a bow with 268 attack power at the end and that was able to get me through the end. I did need to stock up on 30 potions and 10 Max Ether type items in order to do it though. You’ll be going to the shop quite a lot to make it through.

Strikeforce has a full hub world which is different from the others as well. You are able to manage a bunch of shops in the city and you level them up after waiting a while. Time passes in the game whenever you finish a level so the quickest way to get time to go by is to start a level and immediately surrender. Rinse and repeat as you watch the levels go up. Once a level is maxed out you have to use some items to upgrade the store further. Try to have the stores to at least level 3 so you can get some good items to buy. For the weapon shop, the higher level you can get it the better. I think you can’t get the 268 bow until it’s at level 4 so keep that in mind. There’s a lot to watch out for.

If you opt to fight with a sword instead of cheesing through with an arrow then just know that you’re going to need a lot of level ups. Earning levels isn’t the easiest thing in the world but by the end of the game I was nearly at level 50 which is the max so I guess it wasn’t so bad. The first level is the easiest one to grind. Just make sure you defeat 1000 enemies there and then clear the level. If you do it on hard mode then you’ll get 1000 EXP each time you do it. Not a bad deal right? Still, I can’t really picture beating some of these guys using a sword. In particular the various dragons and monsters you fight seem like they’d be a nightmare or the levels where you have 4 bosses running at you at once. Divide and conquer is always your absolute best strategy as long as you have some items with you.

The graphics are pretty good although they’re definitely a cut under the main games. It also feels a bit lazy at times because they actually reuse animations from the older Dynasty Warrior game for the cutscenes. They actually play the same cutscene after each chapter except for the final one where we get a new one but no voice acting from the characters. For that you have to wait until the after credits scene which is admittedly pretty hype. Now that’s a good way to really get the blood pumping I’d say. The soundtrack is pretty good. Maybe not too memorable but it gets the job done.

In terms of content this game will last you a while. The story mode took me around 10 hours and I didn’t do the extra chapter at the end. Trying to beat that game should add quite a bit more time into the playthrough and same for maxing out all of the shops. Achieving 100% completion status in this game definitely would not be very easy. Still, that means it’ll be around for a while at least and the going rate is pretty low. I’m confident they would be able to improve upon this one quite a lot if we ever got a sequel.

Overall, Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce is definitely one of the weaker ones in the series. It really takes out a lot of the positive elements from the series. It’s a spinoff though so I suppose that’s the best place to test out these new gimmicks. They didn’t work out but this was the right way to do it as opposed to risking it on a main installment. If you want to see a very different kind of Warriors game then it may be worth a shot. The gameplay just isn’t all that fun to me which is unfortunate as a beat em up but it can be satisfying to finally get the feel of the bow and start launching some counter offensives of your own. I also like the whole superhero aspect they went for here with all the powers being thrown around.

Overall 6/10

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

Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy Deluxe Edition Review


It’s been a while but I finally managed to get a hold of the spinoff which concludes the Professor Layton series. Someday I hope we still get another Layton game though since I don’t want the franchise to end. It’s pretty interesting to be playing as a different character for once. The developers did a good job of making sure that this one also feels very different next to the main games with new mechanics and such. Ultimately the changes aren’t enough to help this game match up to the earlier ones but I did end up liking Katrielle well enough. She isn’t afraid to talk back to the other characters more than the polite Professor Layton would.

This game has more of an episodic plot compared to the main Layton games which had a core story. Still, there is an overarching plot in the background. Katrielle is the head of the Layton Detective Agency although not too many people know about her yet. She has a dedicated assistant named Ernest who is always ready to attend to her every whim. One day she bumps into a dog that she nicknames Sherl. Sherl isn’t pleased about this since he doesn’t think it’s a name for a guy, but Katrielle can’t be bothered with this. She also isn’t particularly impressed with the fact that he can talk. She’ll solve his case at some point but she’s more interested in helping the community with their issues as well as trying to find Layton who vanished many years ago. As Layton’s daughter, Katrielle has dedicated her life to finding him. She’ll have to put that on hold though as she solves various crimes fro theft to murder. Will Katrielle ultimately build an even bigger reputation than Professor Layton?

As with the rest of the series the main gameplay revolves around puzzles. As you go through the campaign the characters will often have various puzzles to challenge you with. There is a lot of variety with the missions as some will be solving a maze, math problems, logic questions, etc. It’s always a pretty fun way to test your mettle. There are well over 100 puzzles but to clear the game you only need to clear around 67. That leaves a lot of room for replay value after you complete the game. You are bale to warp between the various cases and the game even tells you exactly how many puzzles and hint coins are left in each section. I appreciate how thorough the game is in its reporting.

There is one thing that holds this game back compared to the other Layton titles aside from the story though. That’s the puzzles themselves. The movements in the puzzles ask you to be way too specific at times. That’s my main issue, the very first puzzle took me a while to complete as it is. I think they needed to allow for a bit more movements here. I think it may have been something about the transition from 3DS to Switch I imagine. The puzzles occasionally have an issue like that but for the most part the rest are all solid so I would hardly call this a big issue or anything like that.

Katrielle’s mission to find her father is probably the most engaging part of the story so the whole time you’ll be waiting for that to come back. It ties into the ending pretty well with a rather massive twist. It definitely makes you double think everything that has happened previously. If you’ve played River City Girls then you’ll understand the effect. She’s definitely a solid lead even if it feels like she may be taking advantage of Ernest quite a bit. They’re really close friends but she certainly must realize that Ernest doesn’t quite see it that way. I imagine that plot will likely move a bit if we ever get a sequel.

As for the talking dog Sherl, I’m not totally sure how that’ll work out. My personal theory is still that he is Layton because that would be pretty cool. His personality will certainly have changed quite a bit but memory loss will do that to you. Meanwhile Ernest is a solid side character. He’s a little older than Luke so you can take him a little more seriously but puzzles definitely isn’t quite his thing. He’s more helpful to Katrielle in daily tasks and such than with his puzzle skills. Another supporting character is Inspector Hastings who is pretty solid. You do feel like he should have more confidence in Katrielle after a while though since she’s always saving his career and reputation. Without her he would be quite doomed.

The various cases are pretty fun. In general the rest of the supporting cast is a bit on the weak side but since the core characters are good that’s the important thing for the cast. Meanwhile the graphics are definitely really good. I was glad to see the full anime cutscenes make a return here. Level 5 has been very consistent with including those. It always helps to give the game a bit more of a cinematic feel to it and I’m always going to give this kind of thing a thumbs up. The soundtrack has some new tunes and some returning ones. The music is pretty fitting with the game’s setting and keeps things rather peaceful.

The main campaign should take you around 15 hours or so and I think you could probably add another 6-7 in order to complete everything in the game. There’s definitely a lot of content here. Even outside the puzzles and main story experience you have a ton of different minigames. I didn’t really try them out but there are many options. I think there are more in this game than in any of the others which is pretty impressive. Every bit adds up after all.

Overall, This Mystery Journey makes for a pretty solid adventure. The title is a bit surprising since it gives you information on a plot point that you don’t otherwise learn about (or even hinted at) until the final chapter. I suppose it’s always good to have some foreshadowing though. At the end of the day this is a pretty pleasant story with solid characters and good gameplay. I’m not usually much of a fan of puzzles in games but I’ve found that games built around the premise tend to be better. You can’t even compare something like the Layton adventures to Flip’s Twisted World. Now all we need is a Katrielle and Professor Layton crossover and we’ll be set. If you haven’t gotten this game yet then you should definitely check it out.

Overall 7/10