Thursday, September 29, 2011

Comic Review: Journey Into Mohawk Country

Still having trouble with my google account but I've at least worked out a way to log on here, it only involves four steps and two websites which is three more steps and one more website than it should be. It's funny how much effort you're willing to put into something, sometimes you won't want to put in any effort and sometimes you'll put in tons since you know you'll like what you get in the end. Here I'm perfectly willing to walk to the local library (about 15 minutes each way for me, not bad at all) if it gives me access to more comic books yet I hate taking those extra few minutes to log into this blog. And this wasn't even the greatest comic I've read this year, just an average one, although this could be explained by just how much I love that I can even go to libraries and have the chance to read awesome and not so awesome things.

Journey Into Mohawk Country original text by Van de Bogaert and art by George O'Connor

Summary: With text taken directly from the translations of Van de Bogaert's journals, an Dutch explorer early in America's colonial history, O'Connor adds to the story with images

The Good: At this library the young adult and middle grade comics are all put in the same place and I feel like this work was aimed at middle grade readers and that I would've liked reading this back in the fifth grade when we were just starting to learn American history. Actually, all of the American History classes (and World History sadly) I've had since have always focused on the same pieces of history so it was nice to read something a little different, the Dutch colonization of America was never discussed much. It was very interesting to see a happy relationship between the colonists/traders and the Native Americans, one where both sides seemed to respect each other and be interested in each other, I only wish that's how things had continued during the rest of history.

The Bad: I'm sad that there aren't more historical comic books (either educational in nature or merely using a historical setting) for both MG and YA audiences, this book reminded me of how much I enjoy them. As for the story itself, as much as I liked O'Connor's additions to the story (I would have missed a few innuendos otherwise) there were times when he started adding in bits and I couldn't see where he had gotten the inspiration for them. At times it made me feel like I was reading two versions of the same story at the same time which isn't a good thing, basically I wish he was a little less creative in some of his interpretations.

The Visuals: The art is on the "cartoony" side but I think it would appeal to middle school kids which makes it a good thing. The art is consistent, colorful without feeling unrealistic and everything flows well. There are times when the font is hard to read so I wish they had either used a font that looks less like old fashioned handwriting or had simply made it bigger (each page was crammed full of panels so larger text could have presented a problem) but by and large it was readable and interesting to look at.

And okay book but I think that people much younger than me would enjoy it more and I think it would be a great thing for them to read so I'm happy with it. Been getting a lot of comics out of this library recently actually so I should be set for reviews for a while now, well, if I can find time to read them all that is.....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: No. 6

Sorry this is so late tonight, partially because I've had a busy day but mostly because my school email account (which was my google account) but got updated(?) and it's making logging into blogger really tricky. Trying to fix this but it could be a few days and I might just have to go yell at the tech services at my school for this problem, since I think it's a problem on my end, but hopefully I'll at least be able to put up the second diversity post in a few days.
Anyway, to the review! The noitaminA timeslot has had a lot of original works this year (there will be four and a half-ish original works) but both of the summer shows were based on exisiting works, in the case of No.6 it was based on a nine volume young adult series published in Japan (not a light novel, no pictures and a bit higher up on the vocabulary scale I'm told). I'll be blunt, I've read summaries/partial translations of all the novels now (I actually read the bit for the final two after I saw the last episode which covered them so I went into that unknowing) and I really prefer how the novels went. It seems like this was the first time this director has directed and entire series (instead of just an episode or a unit) and it seemed to show.


Summary: After a global war decimates most of the planet, Sion lives in one of the few remaining cities, No.6, where he is an elite, chosen based on his test scores when he was young to become one of the leaders of the city. But one night Sion leaves his window open and the young escaped criminal Nezumi (literally mouse/rat) spends the night in his room and Sion befriends him. Soon afterwords the city discovers what happened and Sion is stripped of his position. Life is quiet for the next few years when the story starts there are some mysterious deaths in the city which intrigue Sion and Nezumi has reappeared as well.

The Good: No.6 is has a classic looks-like-utopia-but-is-really-a-distopia set up and reminded me of both The Giver and Brave New World, two really good books in the genre. And, as much as I complain about the changes from the novels, there was one change that the anime made that was for the better, making Nezumi and Sion meet-up with the old man in the cave before the final arc, in the novel that happened during the final arc (the novel readers all agree that that didn't make much sense to start with). Also, since this seems to have been the intention, I must congratulate Atsuko Asano, the original author, for writing what is possibly the most ambiguous relationship between two characters ever. If you like BL then you'll probably see Sion and Nezumi as a couple, if you aren't so sure then you'll just see their relationship as a bromance, I have yet to find two people who have the exact same view of their relationship and my own opinion on it changes depending on what part of the story I'm thinking about, I don't think I've ever seen a relationship that has had me thinking about it quite that much.    

The Bad: The pacing had some issues and, in a series this short with so much source material to adapt, that spells problems. The pre-timeskip part took too long, one episode early one (I believe it was episode 4) was 90% filler that never had an actual impact on the story and the final episode combines the final two volumes, sort of anyway, the strange bits were all the anime's doing (basically both versions got to the same end point, minus the epilogue, but the anime took a much different route to do it). That's not a good plan and it cut out quite a bit of the explanations, I found myself having to explain some details to anime readers that the novel had explained quite clearly early on, and sadly it also cut down on the conversations between Nezumi and Sion which are vital for their character development. That was an understandable change but there were times when it seemed like the characters were acting differently than how they had in the novels.

The Audio: I've seen a lot of people either love or hate the music in this show for reasons I didn't quite get (apparently it sounded 80s ish at points?) but aside from a few tracks (such as one that had been used in the trailers) none of the music really stood out to me. I did like the opening song because of the way it sounded happy at first but sounds creepier each time you hear it (much like the city No.6) although I haven't been able to find lyrics for it. I have been able to find lyrics for the ending song which I didn't like as much and again, a lot of people found the lyrics to be incredibly sad but I didn't think so. I did like the few instances when Nezumi sang which unfortunately does bring us to a problem. Nezumi is an actor, in the books he's supposed to have an androgynous voice to start with (and have an incredible range) but here he sounds quite male which made a few scenes awkward. It was a nice voice ( Yoshimasa Hosoya was the voice actor) and the acting was good, it just didn't exactly work the way it needed to.

The Visuals: noitaminA shows in the past seasons have shown that just because the shows have a low episode count (ie, not as much to stretch the budget across) doesn't necessarily mean they're good but here we have Bones and the show looked very good. There was a lot action, very few still shots if I recall correctly, and lots of detail in all of the backgrounds. It was a very clean looking show, although there were one or two more "artistic" scenes involving Sion that I didn't like as much but only a couple of scenes in 11 episodes still means it is a very good looking show.

So, for the third season in a row it's the noitaminA show I like less that's been licensed and I just don't know if I want to buy and rewatch this series. It was good in many places but when it was bad it was really bad, honestly I wish the novels were licensed since I enjoyed those overall. I suppose in the end it will just determine on how much the show costs but, since it's a Section 23 release, it might be a while before the show it at a price level I'm willing to pay. Those who want to check out the show (and are in the US/Canada) needn't worry about that however, it's still streaming for free over on crunchyroll and if you have a paid account it looks quite nice in HD.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Movie Review: X-Men First Class

Sorry if my movie reviews are a bit unbalanced these days, I haven't actually seen much so I don't have much variety to put up here, hopefully the reviews will still be interesting/useful to some people out there. I mean, it was reviews of this movie that made me decide to see it, I haven't seen any of the other X-Men movies over the years (I've been curious about them but not enough so to go out and watch them) and yet I felt like I heard enough good reviews of it to check it out when it came to school with friends. I couldn't remember however if the reviews mentioned an after the credits scene or not so we stayed for that and I shall say it now, there isn't one. True it was cool to see all the other people who had also waited in the theater were fellow nerds I knew but everyone else can skip the credits and just head on home by that point. 

X-Men First Class

Summary: The origin of the X-Men wasn't a single event but a series of events involving an unlikely alliance between who would eventually become Professor X and Magneto and how the Cuban Missile Crisis really happened.

The Good: As someone who hasn't seen any of the other movies (or even know more than random facts about the X-Men) this wasn't hard to follow at all and made me want to check out some of the other movies which I would consider a success. I was a bit confused by Mystique when the movie started (since I did know some stuff about her) but I thought her arc was done well and fairly sympathetic and understandable, Magento and Angel's felt a bit more forced but both of them were foreshadowed sufficiently. I was also surprised at how much screen time Moria, the CIA agent (and one of the most prominent non-mutant characters), got, although I guessed at her eventual fate before the movie ended.  

The Bad: While this film may have a historical setting it plays havoc with it, I would love to see the textbooks (or wikileaks) from that world concerning the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was a bit awkward to look at the eventual make-up of the "good" and "bad" mutants though, for a series that has long been seen as a metaphor for racism/homophobia (I've seen people claim both and they both make sense), the "good" team was all white and male and the "bad" team had all the PoC and female characters, I think everyone on both teams was straight as well. If the story is already messing with some of the continuity (which is sounds like it is) then couldn't they have at least rearranged the teams so they weren't as, awkward?

The Audio: My friends and I were joking that one mutation most of the cast must've had was the ability to speak multiple languages, I don't think I've seen one character speak so many languages since Night Raid (although I think the accents here were better). Aside from not being able to see the subtitles as well from my seat I thought everything, spoken and soundtrack wise worked, although some of the music was a bit too dramatic and over the top at points.

The Visuals: There was some sloppy editing in a few scenes which really surprised me, I wonder if they were shooting on tight schedule and didn't have a chance to catch these problems while filming. I saw this happen at least twice where a scene would switch back and forth between two angles and an object in the scene would be in a different place (like a few inches, a noticeable difference) in each shot and it was easy to tell that they were combining two takes together. Also less than great was Beast, however they did the special effects on him just did not work and one of my friends (who has seen the other movies) said that he liked more the way they've done him in previous movies. Mystique seemed to be done well however and all the other special effects seemed solid so most people won't have any trouble with the movie.

A good popcorn flick and something I enjoyed more than I expected I would which is what I hope to get out of these one dollar movies, next one in that series will be Super 8 which I didn't see this summer since it sounded so completely dumb to me, let's see how right or wrong I was....

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Book Review: Revolution

Not quite related to this review but a few weeks ago one of my friends on twitter told me about the read 50 books in one year challenge and I went back through my reviews here, counted, and discovered that (including this and Incarceron which I hadn't yet reviewed) I had already read 42 books in one year. That is including a few light novels and that might be including some non-fiction I've reviewed here as well, although all of this seems to confirm that I read ridiculously fast (I think I read this 400 page book in three or four days while I was on vacation, a good chunk of that was in airports admittedly). Not sure I'll be able to keep reading books of this size now that school is in full swing again but I am glad that I got a chance to read this book over the summer (checked it out towards the beginning, had someone place a request, found it again in early August and checked it out again).

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
 There's a surprisingly amount of symbolism in this cover, some of which carries over to the book spine which isn't shown here. I really liked the cover a lot, it shows the basic premise of the story (modern day girl becomes interesting in the story of a girl centuries earlier) and after I read the book I understood the cover better, I don't like the paperback cover nearly as much, so kudos to the designer of this.

Summary: Andi, a genius who is still deeply grieving over the death of her brother two years earlier, is about to fail school when her father takes her to Paris for the winter break to make her work on her senior project. While she's determined to get her project done as soon as possible and get back home she becomes interested in two people over there, Virgil a local musician with his own fears about the future, and Alex, a girl much like her living in the French Revolution and who has a surprisingly tie to her father's research in Paris.

The Good: It's unusual to see historical fiction in YA (it's much more common in MG, or at least I found a lot to read when I was that age) and it's does a good job balancing the historical and modern parts of the story, I enjoyed both equally. I also liked Virgil a lot which surprised me, as soon as he was introduced I knew he was going to be the love interest for Andi but I really liked how he was well fleshed out and how their relationship progressed. It grew the way a platonic friendship does, with two people who become friends and try to hold each other up in bad times and that let the ensuing romance feel very natural and like a moment of triumph for both of them.

The Bad: While Andi's time spent in NYC is important to the set-up of the story, in the end it feels like that section was too long and several parts feel useless in retrospect. I also had some problems with Andi (and her mother) in these early stages that were probably exasperated by having recently read A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend. Both of those stories deal with grief over having lost a loved one but ALSSMDBF starts very soon afterwords and Cassie is actively trying to go through the stages of grief and be able to continue with her life. Andi and her mother having been grieving without moving on for two years and without thinking that this is unnatural, I was just so frustrated with them (and with Andi's father for not doing anything earlier) that I wanted to hurtle the book across the airplane. I have problems in general with characters who don't do things and Andi really tried my paitence here, another reason I wish the earlier section of the book was shorter.

I don't see myself rereading this anytime soon (aka, buying it) but it was a good book and I ended up enjoying it fairly well. There was a twist involving Andi and Alex which I'm sure really bothered some people but I was alright with it and that whole section of the book, that was one of the places where the added length came in handy, although I feel like people need to stop writing about the French Revolution now (since I've seen just so many stories set during it) and write about some other really bloody period of human history.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Manga Review: Adolf (volume one)

I was browsing through my (college) library's comic section (the one in the nonfiction, not the one near the kids books) and came across this book and I was wondering if it was the same manga I had heard about online (I had heard that the first volume was really hard to find in English) but didn't think so since it looked like it was a one volume series. I then noticed that it was by Osamu Tezuka and decided to check it out since I need to read more of his work anyway (I believe his only other work I've read is Buddha and I didn't care for it that much). When I got home I found someone else mentioning this title online so I went to amazon, found a cover that matched mine and holy guacamole, it's going for $44 used online! It appears that my library doesn't have the other volumes in this series sadly but thankfully they can all be bought for less than MSRP on Amazon, really wonder why that first one is so limited.

Adolf by Osamu Tezuka
Summary: The story of three Adolfs, it begins during the Berlin Olympics of 1936 when visiting Japanese reporter Sohei Toge gets a mysterious phone call from his brother (who lives in Berlin) and by the time he meets up with him he's been murdered. Toge soon finds his investigation blocked at every possible point and starts to realize that there is something much bigger going on behind the scenes, something that has a connection with the death of a geisha months earlier back in Japan. A couple years later the other two Adolf's are introduced to the story, Adolf K whose German father is a main suspect in the geisha's death and Adolf K who accidentally learns the secret that has set in motion all of these events.

The Good: One thing Tezuka does well is pacing and balancing multiple points of view without every boring the viewer. The first volume focuses on a few, only slightly connected characters but there are already hints about how they will all play an important role later on in the story. The first volume is build up but it's build up done right, never boring enough to make the reader leave and genuinely important to the story, something that many writers today don't seem to grasp.

The Bad: There is a bit of melodrama in this work which made me roll my eyes and didn't seem to fit the more serious mood, such as the typhoon which caused all the dramatic flooding and landslides, and the villains can be a bit over the top as well (such as the associate of Adolf K's father). Honestly, there are a good number of over the top moments in this volume which can be grating on some readers, hopefully they will either become less common as the story goes on or the reader will be able to get more used to them.

The Artwork: As the introduction in the front of the book notes, Tezuka is using a more realistic style than normal in this work (it's also one of his later works) and I enjoyed it more than the art style used in Buddha (I think it was the general lack of over the top, cartoony reactions that many of the character in Buddha had). However, the introduction notes that this art style is still not going to appeal to many, non-manga reading Westners which makes me wonder why they bothered to flip the book (especially since flipping the book does make it a bit harder to follow the panel layout sometimes, plus it's rather insulting to change the artist's vision so that, theoretically, more people can enjoy the work without having to think about it as much).  Overall however I liked the art here, although I am also puzzled why they decided to make a composite image of actual photographs for the cover. 

I really enjoyed this story and I would love a chance to read more. Like I said earlier, the other volumes of the series are avaliable for much more reasonable prices although I think I'll poke around at all my libraries to see if I can read them there first.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Anime Review: Steins;Gate

And here we go, the first of the spring/summer anime reviews! Got a lot of series finishing up at once, had four finish up last week, one later this week and then I believe five next week, needless to say it's going to take me quite a while to get through all of them. But let's start with a good one, one whom I only tried because (my exact thought process) "well, I watch Doctor Who which involves time-traveling in a blue box, clearly this means that I need to watch a show that involves an even more ridiculous method of time travel, ie, sending text messages through a microwave through time."  The first few episodes didn't grab me though, it wasn't until I was behind on my anime and asked my friend to choose what I should watch next (they choose "the anime with the gel bananas") that I really got into the groove and then halfway through the show I realized that I was watching one of the most plot-heavy shows of the season which was exactly what I wanted to watch, so glad I stuck with it.


Summary: "Mad Scientist Houuin Kyouma" (Okarin "Okabe" Rintaro) enjoys his life of inventing weird, useless objects with his friend Hasida "Daru" Itaru while his friend Shiina "Mayushii" Mayuri hangs out in the apartment he calls their lab. But one day at a lecture discussing the theory of time travel a series of events unfolds and Okabe realizes that one of their inventions, the phone microwave (name subject to change) really does work and he's the only one who can see that it's changed the past. At first this seems like the perfect way to grant wishes and goof off but soon they realize that all of their actions have created some very big consequences. 

The Good: Unlike the aforementioned Doctor Who, time-travel is at the heart of Steins;Gate and the careful attention to it and that helps make it a very plot-heavy show, possibly the best show in that regard this year. And even though it's plot heavy it still manages to focus on it's characters much of the time, especially in the down periods between big events, and because of all the character interaction it's an insanely quotable show. Funny enough, it's one of the more "realistic" depictions of time travel in fiction and shows very clearly the butterfly effect and discusses a few different theories of time travel and parallel worlds as well, hardly scientific but after seeing so many shows use time-travel as a means to an end, not exploring what could really happen as a result of their actions, it's a nice change. 

The Bad: If you don't like the characters then you're going to have a hard time liking this show, it's the kind of show where the plot is started and constantly affected by the characters actions and feelings. Not all the characters get an equal amount of character development either (Daru is the most underdeveloped of the bunch, all of the girls and Ruka get their own arcs which helps) which is more going to bother fans of those particular characters than anyone else (also, since the anime follows the "true route" of the game there are other game routes people can look up to find out more about some of the characters).

The Audio: There may be only one opening and one ending theme for Steins;Gate but this show knows how to use it to maximum effect. They use the old trick of "playing the credits and music over the final scene for extra impact" at one point but they also do a few more unusual themes. At one point it seems like the show is completely wrapped up but an attentive viewer will hear that the ending theme is different and, if that tips them off, they'll notice the animation is subtlety different as well, something I've never done before. Likewise, for those final few episodes afterwords the second verse of the opening song is used instead of the first (again with a few differences in the opening animation) and they also play the game's opening song (for the Xbox 360 version, the name of the song is "Sky-Clad Observer" for the ending song instead. Technically no new music is used there but that makes it all even more clever and I wish more anime would mix up their tracks like that as well (the lyrics themselves also work brilliantly, even though all of them have female singers it's clear that the songs are about Okabe and his struggles through the show). As for the voice acting, there is some incredibly emotional acting in the last few arcs and it's among the best I've ever heard in an anime. 

The Visuals: While Steins;Gate might not be as visually interesting as one of Studio White Fox's other work Katanagari* but mostly it has solid artwork and a few really neat scenes. However, towards the end of the anime some of the voice actors are giving really emotional performances but the characters faces look very flat and don't match the intensity of the scenes at all. This happened a few times in the later episodes, not just once, and it bugged me to hear the voice actors trying so hard yet it didn't match the characters facial expressions at all.

 I went in not expecting much at all and ended up watching one of my favorite shows of the year, not bad! Funimation licensed this a few months ago in a bit of a new anime licensing spree so I'm hoping that the DVD/BRs come out sometime late next year and I fully intend to buy and rewatch the show, I'm sure there are some details I missed on the first go through and some that will make so much more sense now that I've seen the whole show.

*for those wondering, this is White Fox's third work that they have produced instead of helping out on

Monday, September 19, 2011

Movie Review: Thor

Sorry that last night's review was up late, I was actually out seeing another superhero movie with friends, I really love my school's one dollar movie night ("Bum a dollar. Catch a movie"). Actually, that was the whole reason why I didn't see that many movies in theaters this summer, I knew if I could wait a few months there was a good chance I could catch them at school with friends for a fraction of a price and for me superhero movies are ones that I have to see with friends, I just can't take them seriously enough when I'm by myself.

 Summary: Thor, god of thunder, is next in line for the throne in Asgard but his father Odin thinks, rightly, that he is too arrogant to make a good king. So he is exiled to Earth until he is deemed worthy to regain his powers all the while his brother Loki is maneuvering behind the scenes while he discovers his own problems.

The Good: The scene after the credits, while it's not important to the movie (it is important to the upcoming Avengers movie) was short but worth the wait, I found it more satisfying than the one at the end of Iron Man 2 (which ironically was the one foreshadowing Thor). I liked a lot of the side characters in this movie; Darcy was just a fun character in how she was never phased by any of the situations (also, anyone who tazes a god is good in my books) , Sif I was expecting to be the token female warrior (who isn't very competent and you wonder why they're there in the first place) but instead was very competent and even fought better than some of the guys in some scenes and the movie was actually very good in general at making all the warrior side characters seem capable and strong, just not as strong as the main characters of course. Heimdall, the gate keeper, was also an incredibly badass character and I just loved the one moment when all the S.H.E.I.L.D. men are completely unphased by everything going on around them, I just love little moments like that in movies and often much more so than the big dramatic ones.

The Bad: When I was first introduced to Norse mythology (in book form, not the Thor comics) Loki was usually protrayed either as a sympathetic character or at least a neutral one so naturally I get annoyed whenever he's made the villain of a story instead. I still don't quite get his motivation for it which made much of the plot feel very weak in the end. I also did not like Jane that much (she came off as a flat character to me) and found her romance with Thor a bit strange actually, I couldn't see any real reason for them to be interested in each other since Thor was also a flat character earlier on in the movie (which was expected however since this movie is his hero's journey). In short, I enjoyed the earlier half of the movie more than the later half which is odd for me but it was far from terrible.

The Audio: Honestly, aside from the nice touch with Thor using more old fashioned phrases I don't remember much about the audio aspect of this movie, I think I really need to start taking notes on these things since the music from movies just never seems to stick with me.

The Visuals: Even if the idea of a bridge made of rainbows joining the worlds is a bit silly, essentially everything in this movie looked good. There were points when I thought the rain during the fight in the rain scene look odd (probably because artificial rain lacks the variety that nature gives real rain) but other than that everything looked fine, even if it wasn't completely perfect, although I suspect the CGI will probably look dated in five or so years. 

So, a movie that was worth spending a dollar on especially since I got to see it with friends (whom I've already made plans with to see Captain America when it gets to my school sometime in November) and it was fun to see one of the people working the movie have to run down the auditorium, jump on stage and run behind the curtains to turn the lights back off for the after credits scene.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Book Review: Incarceron

I remember coming across this book a year or so ago at a local bookstore and not being really interested in it but was interested enough to check it out of the library when I saw it this summer (I was puzzled however by the author's name, I had gotten it into my head that this was Cornelia Funke's latest book so I was a bit puzzled). Funny enough, I was actually reading the first part of this book at the same time another person on twitter was and we exchanged a few emails with theories on the book (I had a crazy one that wasn't right, she had one that I had also noticed, we agreed it was too obvious, that was right, even as much as the story later tried to make it ambiguous) and it was funny to see someone, who until then I thought had fairly different readings tastes than mine, feel exactly the same way about the whole first part of the book. 

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
 Interesting choice in font, I'm surprised I haven't seen any steampunk books or websites using it since it really evokes the feeling of clogs and clocks.  And, considering what's on the rest of the cover, it all fits very well. It was nice to have the key from the book on the cover since, even though it's described so often, it's nice to have a visual to see what it really looks like.

Summary: It may be the future but the world is stuck in the past, trapped by traditions enacted after the world nearly destroyed itself but the protocol that binds Claudia doesn't seem to be doing her any good either. And her's isn't the only messed up part of the world, Finn lives in the great prison Incarceron, initially created as a place to nurture and provide for every need of thousands and thousands of people but instead is a living hell for all it's inhabitants. Finn wants out and Claudia wants out of her arranged marriage with the crown prince and in the process discovers an interesting link to the mythical prison.  

The Good: Claudia turned out to be a much more interesting protagonist than I expected and was a very nice mix of clever, curious and yet not too impulsive, the kind of character who goes out and does things but not the kind of things where you want to yell at them for being an idiot. Also, even though this book is part of a duology, most of the plot threads are wrapped up at the end of this book so it feels very complete which is very nice. That's not to say that there aren't a few sequel hooks, some of them rather large ones, but if the book wasn't quite working for you (like it was for me at points) then it's easy to feel satisfied and stop reading at this point.

The Bad: I mentioned earlier that both FelicityDisco and I both figured out a fairly major plot point within the first hundred pages of the book and, since the book tried to make it ambiguous for the next 300 or so pages, that's not a good sign. It's entirely possible that the second book will prove that we were actually wrong but still, I like books with plots so it's annoying to read one where it uses such an obvious trope that I can figure it out so early on. What bothered me more however was how the logistics of Incarceron worked, from minor ones (where does such a large place get enough power to work?) to more major ones (people being born with machine parts in them because "the prison recycles everything" except they were conceived, erm, in the normal way, ie one that doesn't require outside sources). There were other things about the setting that bothered me as well* but this detail cropped up so often that it bothered me throughout the entire book. 

Sorry for the delay, busy afternoon and night for me, wasn't expecting certain things (coughbusescough) to take up so much of my time (and I have yet another head cold which always makes writing slightly tricky). Tomorrow's review should be up at a more reasonable time tomorrow and, as normal, I plan on glancing over this when I'm more awake, hope there's nothing major I need to correct....

*I suppose this would actually count as a lying protagonist except it's by accident, having a character who has never seen the real world be the point of view usually means that things get described differently than how someone with a regular worldview would (a good example is The City of Ember) always bugs the hell out of me. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Manga Review: Akira

A few people here might remember that I reviewed the first volume here back last spring and are probably wondering, why the wait? What happened is that I got through volume four before somebody went ahead and requested the entire series from the school library (one thing I don't like about this library, if someone requests something you have you have a new due date that's MUCH sooner) and already checked out five and six before I returned four. Of course five and six didn't get returned before the school year was over (and of course no one else had checked out these books the entire semester leading up to when I did it) so believe me I wanted finish up this series several months ago. But once I got back to school one of the first things I did was snag volumes four, five and six from the library  (wanted to reread four just in case, thankfully each volume has a pretty detailed "what happened previously" section as well) and finished up this epic sized manga.

Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo

Summary: The setting is Neo-Tokyo a few years after World War III destroyed the original Tokyo. Kaneda and Tetsuo are punks in a local motorcycle gang who enjoy causing havoc but ultimately staying out of trouble themselves. But they find a lot more than just trouble one day when they accidentally come across a decades old government experiment involving physic powers in children, Tetsuo becomes a part of the experiment and decides to use his new powers to cause as much havoc as he possibly can, starting with releasing the most powerful of the children of all, Akira.

The Good: The ending of the Akira movie was rather, odd (that darn journey-t0-the-center-of-the-mind sci-fi ending variant) but the ending here was much more solid and enjoyable. Also enjoyable was how Kei, a girl from a resistance group in the early volumes, continued being an important character throughout the series and had a lot awesome moments in the end. I had been afraid that she (and the other prominent female characters, actually all the characters except Kaneda and Tetsuo) would be less important later on but thankfully every important character in the good sized played at least a small part in the ending. It takes real skill to write a climax where it's clear that the final battle will come to just two of the cast but still find a way for every other member make a legitimate contribution.

The Bad: The ending may make more sense than the movie's but it's still a bit, strange. Thematically it makes sense but I couldn't help but feel cynical and couldn't up a lot of enthusiasm for it. Honestly, as interesting as the manga was, I never managed to connect with any of the characters or get really caught up in their struggles. It was like watching a really interesting documentary but not being able to sympathize with the characters since you already know how it ends and there was never any doubt in my mind how this series was going to end. 

The Art: One thing I've noticed is that older manga series tend to have much more detailed (insanely detailed even) and epic artwork that most modern series don't and with very few screentones as well. The level of detail in every panel is astonishing and you really need a few minutes to soak in the many double page spreads. It's no wonder that the manga took nearly ten year to be finished, nearly 2000 pages of that kind of detail takes a while. Impressively, there are no instances when the art looks sloppy or like anything was drawn by a different person (I have no idea if Otomo used assistants at all) and the start of each volume has several full color pages which take even longer to do. The manga is worth a look just to take in all the art, it's on a level that few comics today are (as a warning however, the English edition is flipped which I found irritating). 

In the end, this was a good story but for some reason I just couldn't connect with it and felt a little hollow when it ended. I'll certainly admit that this was an amazingly badass story which I think was better than the film and that plenty of people should check out but I don't think I'll be rereading it anytime soon.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Anime Review: Trigun

Hmm, I spent a lot of my summer watching old school anime didn't I? Funny enough this wasn't one I was checking out from the local college library (although they did have it), I saw the first bit of the show dubbed on Netflix, saw the movie, found that the show was removed from Netflix, moped, and then discovered that it was avaliable subbed and dubbed in it's entirely on hulu. Whew, but hurray for having a variety of legal sources out there (even if the fact that some of  hulu's commercial breaks are oddly placed which always manages to bug me) and it's especially nice since the show is a relicense and for one reason or another those shows normally don't get streamed online, really wish Trigun wasn't a rarity in that respect.


Summary: Vash the Stampede, aka The Humaniod Typhoon and the bane of insurance companies everywhere, is actually a really nice guy who just happens to get involved in a whole lot of trouble everywhere he goes. Then again, normally it's because he's such a nice guy who can't stand by and watch people get hurt that he gets involved and gets hurt himself, as well as causing damage to everyone around him. So Meryl and Millie are sent from a local insurance company to try and find this man and keep his damage in check, although as the series goes on it turns out they aren't the only ones who want to find Vash and deal with him, most in a more permanent way.

The Good: It may not have a lot of space in it but it's a fun space western with plenty of shoot-outs, improbable shooting skills and the hero always saves the day kind of fun. There is a central plot thread for those who don't like strictly episodic series and character development that is vital for any series (interestingly enough, Vash probably isn't the character with the most but he has so much backstory to start with that this makes sense and his backstory answers a lot of questions about the series). It's a good mix of those things so it's easy to see why a lot of American fans loved this series and why Funimation decided to rerelease it.   

The Bad: For me, the shift between the more light hearted episodes early on in the series to the darker ones later one was a jerky one that could have been paced much better (a problem that is partially explained by the fact that the manga was currently running as the anime was airing, it wouldn't finish until almost 10 years after the anime did). It seemed like the Gung-ho Guns subplot was introduced too late into the series and a lot of backstory was revealed in the last episode which, as a general rule of thumb, isn't a good way to go about it. I also disliked how Meryl's growing feelings for Vash made her go from a capable and cool character early in the series to someone who couldn't do much at all, why couldn't she be capable and in love? Similarly, Millie's attraction to Wolfwood came out of nowhere and only seemed to be around to make certain events more poignant and by that point in the series I was just getting more and more annoyed at the characters and these little details didn't help.  

The Audio: The opening and ending song for this series actually fit rather well although I prefer the instrumental opening to the slightly odd ending song myself. As mentioned earlier, I watched this dub (mostly because I simply wanted to) and it's a pretty good dub for the early 2000s. Some of the characters always sound a little flat (and a good number of the one-off background characters simply sound awkward) but the main cast is solid and improves as the show goes on.

The Visuals: It seems that the Japanese release of Trigun featured an altered opening sequence each time to reflect what characters would be in each episode but the English release didn't do that (or if they did I didn't see, normally I don't watch through the credits more than a few times). However, what people are going to notice the most is that this isn't a new show and it looks like one. It's a bit low quality when viewed full screen, the aspect ratio is different from today's anime which means that it's going to be letterboxed (which funny enough is less noticeable if you view it full screen) and it's all hand drawn, cel art so the colors look a bit different as well (although, unlike many mid-90s anime, it's all plenty vivid on it's own). I have heard that it doesn't look that nice played through a PS3 or on a nice big tv screen today but the way I was viewing it it doesn't look awful. Far from it, it doesn't look like the most amazing thing Madhouse has ever produced (considering they make some amazing things these days that's hardly a surprise) but all the animation seemed solid so I think it's alright. 

Much like Wolf's Rain, I started out liking this series, took a break watching it, returned to it and then just didn't like the series as much until the very last few episodes and then found the ending kind of unsatisfying, it's eerie how close my opinion on both shows is. Also, and this one is bugging me, I feel like Vash and Knives embody a trope (I have no clue what the name would be, The Chosen One perhaps) that really bugs me: a generally low tech/magic world but the main characters have these incredible powers which could destroy the world and therefore it's their actions that become the climax of the series and that one just rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps it's because I hate series which fleshes out the secondary characters and then they never get to do anything in the climax, that's always felt silly to me and I was frustrated when Trigun didn't use some of it's characters to the fullest in the end.   

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Movie Review: Ghost in the Shell

I've never seen this movie before actually (as some people have probably guessed, I'm a relatively new-er anime fan and didn't have any older fans around me to make me watch all the classics, I'm the one making my friends watch them) which seems a little ironic considering how much science fiction I was reading this summer and this is a classic sci-fi film for sure. I don't think the movie needs much of an introduction, I will note that I saw the original 1995 version, not the remaster since I heard that they made some dumb changes to how the film looked and I got it off of Netflix streaming.

Ghost in the Shell

Summary: Not far into the future the world is still much the same as it is today but robots and cyborgs are much more common and are part of many people's ordinary lives. Major Kusanagi is a cyborg who works for Section Nine, a covert operations department in the Japanese National Public Safety Commission who are currently trying to track down "The Puppet Master," a genius hacker who hacks into the ghosts of people with no known motive. 

The Good: So when I read Brainjack apparently I was expecting to get this movie instead of, that, so I was quite happy to see that this movie lived up to everything I had heard about it over the years. It feels a lot like old school science fiction, a view of the future that is neither positive nor negative, plenty of technology that looks cool even though it comes off as slightly dated and philosophical musing about what this technology means plus a fairly strong, if a bit strange, plot*. The action scenes and the quieter ones are nicely balanced, the pacing in general is strong, the plot is interesting without being overly complicated and I really want to try out the tv series now.

The Bad: Another similarity many classic science fiction stories hold in common is having a really strange, journey to the center of the mind/generally trippy ending and GitS has elements of that as well. My problem with this trope is that, even if the characters have deep, philosophical moments earlier in the story, everything that happens and all the actions they make are grounded in reality and what actually exists, it makes for a rather jarring transition and generally an unsatisfactory ending to me. GitS didn't bother me as much as it has in the past, and there is a second film I haven't seen yet, but that did bother me a bit. That and the fact that while the fact that one of the (male) minor villains gets a cool, thermal deflecting camouflage coat the Major (female) is either wearing nothing at all or a skintight body suit, it's really strange fanservice that contradicts the logic present in the movie and it just irked me^.

The Audio: Since this was streaming on Netflix I saw the English dub and I thought it was a pretty strong dub (it's the original dub so the Puppet Master has a male voice, I agree that changing the voice to a woman's defeats the purpose a bit). There are several times when the lip flaps don't match up perfectly with the actors speaking (and it probably happened even more when I was looking away) but the flow and the tones sounded natural so I'm happy that went that route instead of matching up the flaps more and making everything sound stiffer. The music in the movie is a bit unusual since, instead of the traditional techno music used in cyberpunk films, it features more instrumental pieces and it's most memorable piece is a distinctive, haunting choral song, one that just seems to match the film's more philosophical feel in places very well.

The Visuals: The film is from 1995 and it shows, everything is hand drawn, the aspect ratio is a little different and the colors seem a bit muted and the whole picture a bit fuzzy. The film struck me as one I would love to see a remaster of so I could see it in it's full glory, an ironic thought since the Ghost in the Shell 2.0 rerelease from 2008 instead of simply restoring the film added in a lot of CGI that many fans didn't like (although it sounds like there is a straight up remaster on one of the blu-rays). Those details aside, the film looks fine with highly detailed backgrounds, a level of detail you just don't see as much in more modern films and amazing looking fight sequences. 

Strangeness of the ending aside (and let me say, before people jump on me, it wasn't as weird as it could have been and hasn't been as weird as I've seen, see the footnote below, but that trope is still one I don't really like) I absolutely loved this film and am now trying to figure out how to get the "good" version of the remaster, if not I'll just get a DVD of the old release some day. I don't know when I'll get around to the second movie or the tv series but they're both on my to-watch list now, yay for good sci-fi!

*the movie actually reminded me a lot of a book I read most of a few years back, The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson. Lots of similar elements, didn't read it all the way through since I peeked ahead at the ending and it seemed to end with an orgy that lead to a higher level of existence, nothing too strange for sci-fi in general but too strange for me.
^that and I'm recommending this movie to my dad, the guy who got me reading strange science fiction like the above example, and I feel really weird telling him there's robot nudity in there and I really don't want that to turn him off from watching a really good movie.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Book Review: Rosebush

Another book where it was the cover that drew me in but this time it wasn’t the title but the blurb talking about a girl figuring out which one of her friends tried to murder her. Wohoo, a mystery and a(n almost) murder one, those are the best kind! Sadly this was not the whodunit I was expecting, although it had a lot in common with a standard mystery story nevertheless (which reminds me, where are the YA mystery novels these days anyway? I remember reading tons as a kid but the genre is lacking in the YA department, can’t be an age thing since there are plenty of mysteries in the adult section of any bookstore or library).

Rosebush by Michele Jaffe

The cover does a great job replicating Jane's crime scene and makes it clear how the title ties into the book.

Summary: To an outsider Jane seemed to have it all, money, loyal friends and loved by everyone else. When she turns up in the hospital after what appears to be a suicide attempt it's clear that this isn't the case but Jane is slow to catch on. She knows she didn't try to commit suicide and she thinks her life is great so who tried to murder her?

The Good: Some authors don't know how to write crazy characters but Jaffe seems to do it with ease, most of them even have sympathetic reasons for being crazy! She also manages to juggle a large cast fairly well and all of the important characters were distinct from each other, although I did have some trouble remembering the character names at parts. Jane's little sister was a very nice character and one of the better done "smarter than they appear but still a child" character's I've seen in a while, she may seem to be the strangest character to Jane but I was always happy when she got page time.

The Bad: When everything is said in done in a thriller or a mystery novel there should be no reason for the audience to doubt that the culprit was in fact the culprit and the other characters should have been cleared of suspicion as well. Here however Jaffe did such a great job at making everyone seem suspicious and like they had a reason to hurt Jane but none of them are ever “cleared” in the end. There is an actual culprit in this story but it could have been any one of the characters and the story wouldn’t have been any different in the end, that’s not good writing. Another complaint I have utterly clueless Jane is about seemingly everything in her life. Jaffe was clearly going for the “rich and popular girl discovers that all is not as it seems” trope but there’s no reason Jane should have believed that some things was alright in the first place. Through flashbacks the story shows that there have been hints for years that nearly everyone is unhinged and it’s unbelievable that Jane never noticed something and at least wondered about it (the flashbacks show her actively dismissing such thoughts).

In the end I was just so frustrated at how stupid Jane came off (it takes talent to not realize that there is something wrong with nearly everyone around you), who the culprit really was, how Jane found out, and how the day was saved that I really disliked this book. If there is a mystery I want logic in it, a reason for everything that is shown and then a reason for why things aren't quite what they seem in the end and this book provided none of them. I actually checked the author bio to see if this was the author's first book (since maybe they just didn't have a grip on their writing yet) but no it isn't and the fact that she wants to be a CSI investigator (something that would involve more logic than present in this book) worries me, think I shall avoid her books in the future.

And apologies that this is late, long day, paper kicking my butt and tomorrow looks to be more of the same so expect that review later in the day as well. But at least I like tomorrow's subject so that should make writing it take less time than usual.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Comic Review: Trickster

I feel like I had seen or heard about this anthology before I found it at the local library, possibly as part of the Diversity Challenge since it's a collection of Native American tales and (presumably) all or nearly all of the storytellers who contributed the tales are at least part Native American themselves. There are too many contributors to list them all here but I assume you can find them all somewhere online (Amazon doesn't list them and I forgot to take a picture of the table of contents which listed all of them), I can probably track it down if anyone wants me to. 

Trickster Edited by Matt Dembicki
Summary: A comic book anthology featuring all kinds of myths and legends from various Native North American cultures.

The Good: A note in the back of the book says that, as far as the editor can tell, this is the first collection of Native American tales in comic form which seems like a shame, especially considering just how important Native Americans have been in American history*. All of the stories were fairly short, making it easy to pick up and read a story or two when there's not a lot of time, and each story seemed well paced and, as odd as it sounds when talking about mythology, logical. There were barely, if any, deus ex machina endings (many felt like traditional European fairy tales where it's the cleverness of the protagonist or supporting character that saves the day) or other strange cop-outs that would leave the reader feeling dissatisfied. That's more than what many of the world's mythologies can say and does make this feel like a stronger work.   

The Bad: Since the stories come from a variety of groups living all over North America there were a lot of overlapping characters which seemed more like a bad thing than a good one. Having some reoccurring characters (such as Coyote) appear in neighboring stories with completely different personalities was really jarring and immediately makes you prefer one story over another, something I'm sure the editor didn't mean to do. It was also strange to see how the tone could completely switch between stories as well which makes me think I would have enjoyed this story a bit more if it had been edited slightly differently to flow smoother.    

The Art: In a page in the back of the book that says how this project came together, Dembicki mentions that all the storytellers involved in this work chose the artist (I believe from a group of people who had said they were interested in the project) so the art styles were all intention. There's a real range of art styles, from more sketchy ones to ones that wouldn't look out of place as a Saturday morning cartoon. None of the styles could be called realistic, although some were certainly more so than others, and unfortunately I only liked a handful or less of them. There wasn't anything bad or wrong about the styles, some of the more cartoony ones irritated me however, but I simply wasn't drawn in by the art and that's half of a comic, that's not a good thing. 

In the end, I didn't enjoy this anthology as much as I had hoped (anthologies in general seem to be very hit or miss with me, emphasis on the miss) is it was aimed at a younger audience than I expected, found the tone a bit jarring and just wasn't interested in many of the stories. I do think this book would be better shelved in the kid's room comic book area instead of the teen comic book area since I think that elementary school kids, the ones who haven't gotten tired of hearing how Thanksgiving happened over and over, would enjoy this more than someone closer to my age would.  

*just in case you guys hadn't picked up on it, yes I live in the US so therefore I think learning about the culture that was here before the current mish-mash is pretty important.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Anime Review: Break Blade

Well, at least I warned that this review would be late. For those who haven't seen my twitter, I had double club meetings Tuesday and the mandatory second part ran much longer than I was expecting so believe me, I would have rather been writing this review.

In any case, I first heard about this series at an end of the year wrap-up some of the staffers on ANN wrote and one of them mentioned a series of OVAs he wanted to see brought over which were an interesting mix of fantasy and mecha which they hadn't seen before (to which the forums responded, "um, Escaflowne?"). Initially I just read the manga online (which I didn't even realize had been licensed by CMX at one point) and didn't have the urge to try out the OVAs but eventually I did and watched them at my own pace (hence why this review is so much later than everyone else who has also covered this series). The structure is a bit odd, it's six OVAs (which covers roughly 50 chapters of the manga, almost everything that has been currently published) which were released in theaters first and then put on DVD/BR which I've seen a few other series do lately (Towa no Quon and I think Gundam Unicorn might be doing something similar). I've seen people speculate that we might start seeing fewer tv shows and more OVAs since that's easier on people's budgets and I wouldn't mind that change as much if they had more OVA series like this.

Break Blade

Summary: Set far into the future when Japan is mostly desert and people have gained the magical ability to levitate quartz, a skill they use in almost every aspect of their lives, Rygart is unusual because he can't and lives with his similarly un-gifted brother as outcasts. He is an old friend of the king and his wife however and comes to the capital when they summon him to look at a strange and ancient golem (mech) which might become the key in the war that was just declared against their country.

The Good: Sometimes it bothers me when a series involves a lot of fighting and there either is no collateral damage at all or it never bothers the main characters at all. Break Blade averts this hard with several side and important characters dying and from the start the series seems to show, without beating the viewer over the head with it, that war is not a cool thing. It's hardly a realistic depiction of war but that added bit of realism that many anime lack is a nice thing. Speaking of added realism, finally a mecha story where the characters are actually in their 20s! Several of the characters are even in relationships, happy and non-happy ones, which again is so odd to see in this genre that it's refreshing. Also refreshing is seeing several female characters in both militaries who aren't just the token female character but competent soldiers. Again, this shouldn't be something unusual but it is and it's details like that that help me enjoy a series more. 

The Bad: Since the story compresses 50 chapters of the manga into the equivalent of 12 or 13 episodes it's understandable that some stuff had to get cut, especially towards the end, but unfortunately it was all stuff I liked. Several character deaths were altered (and felt much less powerful), one arc involving Rygart's brother was cut which resulted in a bit of an odd ending and in the end the mood was just different from the manga. Both of them start in the same place but the manga has been steadily getting more and more subdued and depressing, many of the characters have been at least a bit broken by this point, but the story here doesn't change from the slightly happier feeling the story started with. In a sense, the characters just don't grow as much here than they did in the manga and having people grow and change is a major point of any story. 

The Audio: These OVAs are a bit strange since they have an actual opening sequence that is played every time like a tv series does and it was that opening song that convinced me to try out the OVAs. It's a beautiful song and while it might seem odd to have a ballad as the opening to a mecha series the lyrics really work, singing about fate and destiny which is a theme the series has touched on a few times. I didn't find any of the other music in the series quite as nice but since that song (Fate by KOKIA) is one of my favorites of the year that's understandable.

The Visuals: Break Blade is an interesting collaboration between Production IG (who is one of the bigger anime companies right now with a lot of well produced and good looking shows, Bunny Drop, Eden of the East and the Blood franchise ) and Xebec, a lower tier studio that has done some okay work and some bad work (some of their better titles are Pandora Hearts, Legend of the Legendary Heroes and The Third: The Girl With The Blue Eye). The result of this collaboration is that the work looks much better than a regular Xebec production and rather like a regular Production IG work. All of the fight scenes are very well animated throughout the series and everything else looks consistently good. One small advantage this series has over the manga is that, with everything in color, it's a lot easier to keep the armies/soldiers separate, something I had trouble with in the manga. The mechs and uniforms for both sides are drawn rather distinctly but the cast was simply so large that I couldn't automatically remember who was on which side and giving both sides very different colors really helped in that regard. 

In the end, it's hardly a bad OVA series, it certainly looks gorgeous, but by the end it had diverged too much from the manga that I just don't see myself buying this in the future. The manga I would buy except again, it's OOP and I am going to collect all that was released in the US at some point, I don't suppose some other English speaking licensor is putting it out? 

And again, apologies that this is up so late, as you guys can tell I'm still getting used to my new schedule and it's just different enough each week to make the transition a bit more difficult. Maybe I'll get the hang of this before I take a break in November, I certainly hope so!  

Monday, September 5, 2011

TV Series Review: Doctor Who (Remembrance of the Daleks)

The final Classic Doctor Who serial I was able to get through this summer, this time featuring the Seventh Doctor and fan favorite companion Ace (for reasons that become clear in this episode, it involves daleks and baseball bats). This is one of the later serials in the shows initial run (1988, the show was "put on hiatus" in 89) and the last time the daleks would appear until the 2005 episode Dalek (funny enough, the daleks in this episode can already float to get up stairs, I thought that had been an invention of NuWho) and it's a good episode for their last appearance, especially when I started reading about some of the other, not so great dalek episodes.

Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks

Summary: Set soon after the First Doctor left Earth in An Unearthly Child, the Doctor and Ace go to Earth where they become entangled in a dalek civil war who are fighting over a Time Lord weapon that the Doctor left on Earth when he was first there. 

The Good: Even thought Ace comes across as a bit of a dated character she's yet another cool and proactive companion who certainly keeps the story interesting when the Doctor is planning something in the background. Speaking of planning in the background, this serial was the first hint that the Seventh Doctor was a bit darker, more of a schemer, than his previous incarnations and it's a nice twist on the Doctor's previous character*, instead of just getting caught up in the action he now actively tries to manipulate it from the start. Finally, one nice detail about this story was how the dalek's civil war (which revolved around how one group was a tiny bit genetically different than the other) was also reflected in the 1960s setting with a "No Coloureds" sign in a window and a black man in a cafe musing with the Doctor that, if it wasn't for sugar cane, he wouldn't even be in Britain. It was a nice detail to throw in especially since it is un-politically correct history and I'm happy that the show was true to it's setting^.  

The Bad: At times it's a little hard to keep track of what the side characters are doing (there seems to have been a Nazi sympathizer plotline that I completely missed) and they are fairly important to the story. Another complaint I had was, as interesting as it is to see a darker Doctor, why is it that he didn't tell anyone about his plans until they were well under way? I would hope that he trusts Ace enough at this point and normally it's easier to have a plan work correctly if other people don't screw it up (because they understand the plan and know what to do/not to do).

The Audio: The theme music has changed slightly once again and, like the logo, manages to sound more dated than any of the other changes so far. Some of the sound effects also sound dated but that would be the case for any sci-fi show produced in the late 80s, especially one with a lower budget. So what was there worked, sorta, but is going to date the series for modern viewers. 

The Visuals: The logo for Doctor Who has changed some over the years but the logo for this time period looks especially strange (and screams "hey guys, we can do some computer art now!"), some parts of the show look really dated. Wasn't able to tell how period accurate the costumes were but the daleks all looked fine and like, well, daleks. There were a few special effects that looked like early CGI in the episode but nothing really special happened visually.

Sorry for the delay here, I had almost all of that written up last night but I have a head cold which is making me feel out of it. Review should go up tomorrow but I'm not sure when, I have double club meetings and a bit of homework that I didn't get to this weekend because of said cold (and you know, school in general). Later in the school year I might get around to seeing more Classic Doctor Who since it turns out that one of my friends has a lot of the DVDs but currently I don't have any plans to, there are more than enough movie showings at the school to keep me entertained for the moment.

*especially since some people have pointed out that the current Doctor is starting to act more and more like a schemer who keeps others in the dark about his plans until they actually go off (although I'd argue that Seven seems much better at planning things that work than Eleven, Eleven makes his a bit too over the top which is a genuine character weakness). I always find this kind of continuity between Doctors cool and also feel like it makes the story stronger, even though I'm sure some people don't like it.
^also since the serial after this one is the infamous, critical of Margaret Thatcher (the then-current PM of Great Britian) serial which, having seen Nash's review of it, was pretty bad, makes me appreciate how this one was done even more.