Saturday, September 28, 2013

Book Review: Girl of Nightmares

Sorry that these reviews are up a bit later, had a few wrinkles with my schedule this week and I doubt that I'll be able to get tomorrow's review up on time so I'm going to apologize for that in advance as well. Other than that, I read Anna Dressed in Blood within the past year and thought it was a good book even with I wasn't completely thrilled with the ending, partially since I wasn't sure if the book had a sequel. As it turns out, yes it does and that both helps and hurts it.

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Summary: Sometime has passed since Anna sacrificed herself to help kill the ghost that had attached itself to Cas's ghost killing blade and he has a bad feeling about it. He's plagued by nightmares and apparitions of her undergoing torture in the afterlife and wants to save her but there's still so much he doesn't know that it's time to find the people do who, the shadowing organization who made his knife and made his family into the people who wield it.

The Good: This is an odd detail but, even though it was a bit frustrating when Thomas and Carmel were fighting with each other (since you just know they'll get back together, plus it doesn't feel like long since I read the first book so it feels like the characters haven't even been together that long), I still appreciated the fact that they seemed to have a rather normal teenaged relationship with some ups and downs. Quite honestly those two were my favorite part of this book, I liked how they made Cas open up more and even came along with some of the ghost hunting, as dangerous as it might be, since I always prefer stories where you have several characters interacting and bouncing off of each other rather than just one on their own

The Bad: To get to the heart of the manner, I don't think this story needed to be told over two books. I felt like a lot of the second book just felt like fluff, I wasn't that interested in the order that created Cas's knife, couldn't exactly figure out how Blake was trying to write new character Jestine (I think she was going for a younger/morally ambiguous character, which would be hard to portray but I still wish it was done better), and then when the story finally got to where Anna was I didn't quite follow what was going on. Perhaps I was just tired or in a rush when I read it, I don't remember, but I do remember just feeling confused about what was going on and didn't like how everything ended for Anna. I wish the story had instead just ended in Anna and left it at that, albeit slightly differently so that it had been a real ending not the To Be Continued one it actually has. 

For this book I'll give it a 3 out of 5 since even though I disliked it it was written perfectly fine and fans of horror will still enjoy it (is there much YA horror out there? I don't see a lot but I'm not looking for it and I'm not sure if that's why then). I am still a bit interested in Blake's latest book regardless of this one, hopefully that one will be a little more to my tastes. 

Comic Review: Zuko's Story

This is a bit of an odd Avatar comic and that's not just because I got it for free at Otakon (there was a booth for a New Jersey anime con, I believe it was AnimeNext who had a box of free stuff and just asked that we spread the word about where we got it so there you go!). When the The Last Airbender movie came out there were two tie-in comics, one that was a summary of the film (which apparently wasn't that great either) and this one which is supposed to be what happened to Zuko between the time he was banished and the events in the first episode. I've actually wanted to read it for a while, I had heard the writer (not sure which one) was a fan of the show and I've always wondered if the story might be considered "canon" for the cartoon show since it sounded like Mike and Bryan liked it fairly well, wonder if anyone out there knows the answer to it.

Zuko's Story written by Dave Roman and Alison Wilgus, art by Nina Matsumoto

Summary: Before Aang awoke from his 100 year sleep in Avatar: The Last Airbender the stage was already being set for a showdown that would dethrone the fire lord and bring balance back to the world. A few years earlier another key event happened, Prince Zuko of the fire nation was shamed in a duel against his father and banished, given the quest of capturing the Avatar. While this was a terrible thing it also gave him a chance to see the world and start to understand what this war his father continued to wage really meant.

The Good: Well I guess you can say one good thing came out of that trainwreck of a movie (I've seen some people say Korra happened because of that but I'm not so sure) because I actually liked this a lot more than the first volume of The Search. This story could fit into the ATLA canon easily, Zuko is consistent with the character we saw in the series and the story fits thematically as well into his overall character arc. Truly I think that's the best praise this story could receive, I don't think this story works well if this is your first introduction to the franchise but if you're already familiar with the show then go ahead and pick it up, it fills in the gap between Zuko's banishment and episode one and actually gives an explanation for where the blue spirit came from.

The Bad: It's a bit jarring to see how quickly the story progresses here considering that it took the better part of two seasons of the show to reveal exactly what happened to lead to Zuko's banishment. I wish it had been a bit longer but I can understand that they just wanted a quick tie in piece of material and it does work fine for it's length, it just could have been better if longer (which funny enough is my exact same complaint with currently airing show Avatar: The Legend of Korra). The story does feel a little limited, unsurprisingly since there's only so much they could do without disrupting the rest of the story, and weirdly enough about a forth of the book is just showing the initial sketches for the first 20 or so pages, but overall it's pretty solid work.

The Art: The art follows the movie's designs (character, clothing, and setting wise) which did make this a little jarring at times, although at least here Zuko's scar looks like an actual scar and not an accident in hair and make-up (well, at points it actually looks like he was mauled by a bear but that's still an improvement over the movie's effects). The movie designs do lend themselves to some nice artwork with all their details and the fight scenes look nice as well, although for some reason I can't quite pinpoint everything does look a little rough, probably due to the pen and ink style of shading.

I'm giving this book a 3 out of 5 for being a nice addition to the franchise yet not a must read for every fan. I certainly recommend it but I can't admit that I'll probably reread it that often, might end up donating it to a library or such sometime soon. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Anime Review: Valvrave the Liberator

I saw a few episodes of this back in the spring when it was first airing, I believe four, and then had to give up since I just couldn't get through the rest of the episodes without the intense urge to snark commentary at whoever was online with me at the time. And some of the things I had heard about the show were far from great as well so I wasn't in any hurry to finish it up. But as fall starts to roll around, the second half of the show hits the internet in just a couple of weeks, I started to get curious about it again and, well, since I only had 8 episodes left and I already knew all the headdesk worthy plot twists what did I have to lose except about four hours of my free time, right?

Valvrave the Liberator

Summary: In the future humanity has enclosed the Sun in a dyson sphere where they live and there are three main factions, ARUS (which seems suspiciously like a militarized United States), Drossia (who pretends they're not actually space nazis), and innocent little Jior who of course wants nothing to do with the growing hostilities between the two. But as Haruto and his classmates discover when their school's module is attacked and they discover power mechs lying hidden beneath it, powerful enough to change the course of the entire war, something doesn't add up here.....

The Good: The last time I talked about a show which seemed like it was trying too hard to be the next Code Geass I was discussing Guilty Crown and man was it terrible. Valvrave as well isn't quite CG but thankfully it's better than GC by a long shot and actually an okay show by the end. In the last third the show starts to find it's feet and the characters become a tad less ridiculous and more competent which greatly helps and it starts explaining some of it's absolutely nuts backstory (I have to admit, I did not expect the show to turn out to be NEARLY this crazy when I started it and I do have to give it some credit for that). Finally, one large thing this, GC, and CG have in common is that at the heart of it there are two characters who stand larger than the rest and each of them does it a bit differently. In CG we have Lelouche and Suzaku who are formiddable enemies to each other, in GC we have Shu the unwilling protagonist and Gai the leader whose mantle Shu takes up. Valvrave has Haruto, again a bit of an unwilling protagonist and L-Elf, a strategist whose been waiting for a moment like this to launch some plan of his and it actually pulls off that balance much better than I would have expected, they come to depend on each other, plan on each other, and yet don't still fully trust each other (nor should they) and that was an interesting character dynamic to watch unfold and something I had been looking for in anime was curious why no one had done it yet.

The Bad: To be blunt, there is a rape in the show, I don't want anyone to go in not knowing that since it's not anything you could have guessed after just the first couple of episodes. I am frustrated and confused for why the writer decided that the violence against a female character HAD to be rape instead of just, violence (even if it was creepily hinted at a bit earlier on, gaaaaaah). Other than that elephant in the room, the show's main problem is that it thinks it's a serious show with meaningful themes and quite frankly it's not. It's a bit of a mess, makes quite a few things unintentionally hilarious (you know it's a bad sign when everyone tells you you HAVE to stick around after the credits of the first episode), and a number of plot events are just so illogical that it's simply impossible to take the show as seriously as it wants you to. And for some people they might be okay with that, if I had been with friends I would have enjoyed this quite a bit just for all the snark potential it had but if you don't want that then avoid it, there are far better mecha shows out there.

The Production Values: I'm rather curious why the show changed it's ending song halfway through the season since I loved the first ending song, it worked nicely and even though the second song did grow on me I simply liked the first better. And I also loved the opening song, it was catchy, bouncy, upbeat, everything I want in an action OP and I feel like it reflected the show well also since it wasn't serious, just fast paced and a bit crazy. As for the visuals, I'll admit the main reason I watched the show (both times) was because I wanted to see some eye candy mech fights and everything did look pretty good. It was rather colorful, I didn't see too much CGI although it must have been there with all the mechs, and I liked all the designs so all in all this was the part of the show I had the least problems with, hurray!

In the end I can only give this show 2.5 out of 5 stars for the unnecessary rape scene and for just completely missing how silly it is and how that doesn't fit at all with the tone it was going for. Do I plan to watch the second season? Maybe??? There are so many shows coming out this fall that I certainly won't be twiddling my thumbs like I was this season so I'm not sure I'll have time, although I'll likely make time for it at some point and finish it up then and see just how crazy it decides to go (I'm betting on pretty far).

Monday, September 23, 2013

Movie Review: The Secret Life of Arrietty

My life has been a bit fuller than usual lately and that, coupled with the two hour hissy fit my computer threw this morning, is why this is so late, guess I need to start writing reviews on off days as well to build up a buffer huh. As for why I watched this film, it's Miyazaki, I think my anime nerd card would be taken away if I wasn't at least interested by all the Studio Ghibli films that come out. Although, after Ponyo I wasn't in a big hurry to see this film but at least the reviews for it I had already seen were more positive.

The Secret World of Arrietty

Summary: Arrietty and her parents are borrowers, little people who live in the walls of houses and take just what they need from the humans around them. Their lives aren't filled with rules but they do have some including the big one, never be seen by the humans lest they have to move to hide away from them again. For many years they've succeeded and lived happily but when Arrietty begins to venture out into the world she's seen by the homeowners young, sick nephew and they form an odd friendship. 

The Good: I can now safely and easily say that I enjoyed this more than Ponyo and where I would say that Ponyo is a children's film (that is, enjoyable to one age group and not so much to everyone outside of it) Arrietty felt more like a family film (something for everyone that you might want to watch again later) which I think is a great thing. The story was not too simple nor complex, I liked how the characters interacted, it of course looked stunning, and flowed nicely as well. There wasn't anything that particularly stood out to me but I was glad that I had finally seen it and it made me a bit excited again for all the other Ghibli films I haven't seen yet.

The Bad: Like all Studio Ghibli adaptations this one isn't terribly similar to The Borrowers books that I remember (although that would be nearly 14 years ago now) and that wouldn't have bothered me as much except that I remembered after the film that Arrietty and her family don't live by themselves in the house, they live with a good sized extended family and have relatives in the nearby neighborhood as well. This isn't the case in the film and one of the subplots is the three of them wondering, in a bit of a gloomy way, if they might be the only ones left which makes it feel like the movie took bits and pieces of the original setting and then left out others in order to create conflict which feels lazy to me. Other than that, the only part of the film I really didn't like was just how crazy Haru the housekeeper went by the end trying to prove the borrowers were real, honestly I started wondering if it was the end of a long day where everyone in the recording studio was tired and they went "ehhh, leave it in!" since it was so incongruous with the earlier parts of the film.

The Production Values: While lovely I am a bit confused by the setting of the film, there are Japanese esque things (tatami mats, sliding doors) right next rather English looking things (the outside architecture of the house) and I wondered if the setting was as confused as I am about it really was*. Whatever it was it was pretty, I just couldn't tell if it was supposed ot be an homage to the story's roots or not. As for the voice acting, I saw this film with my mom and told her to choose what language to see it in so we went with the English dub and mostly I was okay with it. I did feel like Sho/Shawn was a bit too subdued in places, my mom disagreed saying that since he had a heart condition it was expected that he would sound very monotone and would be trying not to get upset, I said that his actions didn't match up with the tone of voice and felt odd as a result, I regret not checking out the Japanese dub for those parts later on to see if it was the same there.

In the end I'm giving this movie a three out of five, well made and without any large problems but it didn't grab me the way some of the past films had and it'll be a while before I feel like rewatching it and I doubt I'll ever buy a copy for myself. But again, there's nothing wrong with it, I just feel like Studio Ghibli is past it's magical peak and since I saw those films first few will ever compare to them for me.

*when I was glancing at tvtropes I even saw something about how some scenery had been flipped around, from how it actually looks in Japan, to make it resemble America more or something which I rather doubt since America never crossed my mind, I'd love to see a source or even someone who honestly thought that.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Book Review: Aftershocks

There was no extra-special reason why I grabbed this book to read, just a few little ones. I had seen it for years sitting on the library's shelves and thought it might be interesting because it was historical fiction but something about how the summary was written just sounded so dull that I had no interest in it. But after reading Fire Horse Girl (which is set a few decades later) I came back to it, interested because of the fact that it had Chinese characters from San Francisco's Chinatown in it and it sounded as if there was an multi-racial relationship in there which is unusual even today in fiction (I think, if I'm wrong please correct me, I don't see it that often). Although, I already mentioned that the summary was misleading by making the story sound boring and that wasn't the only way it was misleading....

Aftershocks by William Lavender

Summary: While Jessie might want to be a doctor her parents are trying to raise her as a proper young lady, after all it's the Edwardian era and women of the upper class simply do not work outside the house. She persists in studying books smuggled out of her father's library and defies the family in other ways she she sneaks out to try and find their dismissed maid in San Francisco's Chinatown where she discovers that she has an even more important reason to care about what happens to it's inhabitants during the 1904 earthquake.

The Good: This book was distinctly different from what the summary led me to believe and most of the time I liked that. It had a lot of different subplots which gave it some added realism and while I constantly waffle on my feelings of progressive characters in historical fiction (on the one hand, it's hard to write a believable character in a historical setting who is more progressive than they should be because of their setting, on the other hand these people did exist so why can't the main character be one of them) in the end I did like Jessi and thought it was appropriate here.

The Bad: As alluded to earlier, the multi-racial romance I was hoping to find did not actually occur in the book and that made me sad, sad that it wasn't here and sad that it doesn't happen much at all in young adult even though we live in such a diverse world. As for the actual book, it's a book that's rather hard to describe since while the main even is certainly the earthquake it's not actually the trigger for a lot of the events in the book and only happens about halfway through and I'm afraid my summary doesn't do the book justice either. Also, despite everything she does Jessie still came off as a bit too flat for me (while she does disobey her parents he doesn't have any major failings, perhaps that's why, after all fiction dictates that if someone doesn't have major failings that they can't be a "real" character, even if you meet people who appear to be just that in real life all the time), the other characters did too but they weren't the main character so that was less important. 

Overall I'm going to give the book a three out of five for being interesting while I was reading it but not something I'll remember for very long, given how much trouble I had finding the cover image for it I suspect I'm not the only one with that feeling.

Manga Review: Eat For Your Life (volume one)

Apologies that this wasn't up yesterday, I had a busy week and simply hadn't had time to read my latest e-manga review manga and didn't want to read it and immediately write the review, I wanted some time to digest it first and then talk about it. So now that I've had a chance to do that let's dig into this review and see what such an odd title is about anyway.

Eat For Your Life by Shigure Tsuchiyama (volume one)

Summary: Ohara has a problem, he's such a gourmet that he spends all his money on trips around Japan to sample food that now he's got barely any budget for food to get through the rest of the month. He's then inspired to try a food eating contest but soon realizes that it's a lot harder than you'd think to eat X amount of food within Y amount of time but it seems he's caught the attention of a professional competitive eater whose more than willing to give him some tips to help him save his budget and win the fights.

The Good: This was a surprisingly fast read, I was rather surprised when I reached the end of the first volume since I felt like no time had passed at all* and that's a good sign. The pacing was rather quick, both for the actual contests, thank goodness considering how each eating contest Ohara finds himself in is under an hour long, and for the story in general, it wastes no time introducing Ohara to the world of competitive eating and finding him a mentor for it. I also expected Ohara to be a bit of a snob about the food he eats, after all he is a gormet, but instead I was pleasantly surprised that he's a true food lover and enjoys everything he eats, in one contest he begins to tire of the food so he brings out condiments and proclaims that now the food is interesting and delicious again which I think help sets the tone of the story as well. It's not silly or goofy but it is rather light-hearted and just has fun with the whole idea, which paired with the quick pace makes it much more of a fun read than I expected.

The Bad: I was a bit surprised at how shonen this story felt even though it's labeled as seinen as well as shonen (probably because of the characters, you can't exactly have a story where the point of it is kids trying to beat each other in eating contests without people complaining that you're promoting obesity). I can just feel the story setting itself up for a tournament arc, what with the character introduced later on who wants to make competitive eating into a sport in Japan like sumo, which makes me wonder how long the story can stay interesting. For one volume it was fine, I liked seeing the food and it was fun seeing old shonen tropes (the different styles of fighting, I mean eating, the slightly mysterious mentor who picks the protagonist out of a crowd to succeed and proclaims before contests have started how they'll end with unnerving accuracy, etc) re-used but that's a novelty which I'm sure will soon wear off.

The Art: I was a bit surprised at how detailed the art was, it's no Bride's Story but it has a lot of details in it's food and I actually did get a bit hungry from looking at all of it. The characters were also pretty distinct and the backgrounds didn't look terrible either, no problems here!

I'm giving this one a 3 out of 5 for being a fun, fast read but not one I think I'll follow up on in the future. Much like last time, while this is labeled volume one DMG doesn't appear to have any of the other volumes (I guess that all depends on how well it does, hence why so many people are reviewing the same dozen titles from them right now) but for those interested this volume is available digitally, no print copies however.

*although, last time Obento had been a bit of a slow read so that could have played a role in my surprise

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Anime Review: Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions

I initially started this show when it came out last fall (wow I hadn't realized it had been so long) but since Sentai only puts up the first episode for free on their site I didn't have any way, or motivation, to continue. But it's up on hulu for free now and I wanted to give it another shot before the sequel (and movie) come out later this year/early next year. Although, now that I've seen the show I'm not exactly sure how they plan to make more of it.....

Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions (Chunibyo Demo Koi ga Shitai)

Summary: Back in middle school Yuuta suffered from chunibyo, "8th grade disease" where he was convinced he was actually a super-powered individual and did all sorts of strange things. As a higher schooler he now completely regrets all of this and feels like he'll never outgrow the shame so to help he starts high school where none of his old classmates are. Everything seems to be going well so far until he catches the eye of a classmate whose still fully in the chunibyo thrall and his life once again takes a turn for the weird. 

The Good: I had expected this show to be a bit mean spirited actually, that it would just spend its time mocking all the character with chunibyo but, even though almost all of the humor was generated by just how weird those characters were (or by how much their weirdness embarrassed the rest of the cast) it wasn't mean at all. The show never got preachy about having to leave behind childhood fantasies or anything like that, heck in some ways it seemed to be saying "sure, have a few delusions and live a little, that's what makes life fun!" (it even seems to suggest that everyone goes through this at some point or another, that everyone wants to believe that they're special and, well, maybe there's nothing wrong with that). 

The Bad: While I did enjoy the series (I've seen a lot of people say lately that they enjoy Watamote since they relate and even though I was never a chunibyo I feel like I relate in a similar way to Yuuta here) I just never quite fell in love with the series or got really excited watching it day to day like I do with my favorite shows. There was always just something that kept me from connecting with it, I don't know if it was the characters, the story, or what exactly but I think my decision to drop the show last fall was a fair one. I didn't hate the show and there are many other worst shows out there but I don't feel like I was missing out for not finishing the show after all and in some ways, even with it's flashy fantasy battles and the family drama, it felt just a bit bland. 

The Production Values: This is a Kyoto Animation show which means that it looks completely fine, although I must say that after Hyouka I'm not sure if any of their shows will impress me as much. Everything looked fine but nothing about the designs really stood out to me, they just came across as a little bland and even the "magical fights" look like ones I've seen half a dozen times before (although, considering the characters were probably inspired by those exact same fights that would make sense). As for the voice acting, Jun Fukuyama grew on me a bit as Yuuta but for a lot of the show sounded way too old for a tenth grader. I know why he was cast, because everyone knows him for being able to do big, hammy voices*, but you guys know that he's not the only voice actor who can do that right? Right? 

I'm going to give this show a 3 out of 5 since it was fun by the end but I don't see myself rewatching it anytime soon, or even remembering it a couple of years down the road (although I wish there was an English word equivalent of chunibyo, I half want to use the word to describe half of tumblr). However, I don't see myself watching either the movie (which I believe is a retelling from Rikka's point of view) or the second season since, well, this wrapped up really well and I don't see what there's left to tell. From what I've gathered, this anime was loosely based on a currently running series of light novels (I'm not even sure how those books worked since it seems like the anime took a lot of liberties) and the second season will be based on the second volume, so there is material, but I really do feel like everything was already wrapped up well and don't see a need to continue with the story. 

*heck, a couple of manga series I follow have gotten drama CDs lately and cast FukuJun for just that, being able to switch between a nicer persona and a crazy one, and in all of these cases it frustrates me since he just doesn't fit the role in any other way which is why I'm grumbling more than usual over this. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

TV Series Review: Ashes to Ashes (season two)

There's not much to say here that I didn't say in my review for the first season, if you haven't seen the first season of Ashes to Ashes don't start here, you'll be lost, and at this point if you haven't already seen Life on Mars you can still follow it but I still recommend watching LoM first.

Ashes to Ashes (season two)

Summary: It's now 1982 and Alex Drake is still stuck in London a police officer more than 20 years before she should be on the force. But she's not the only one with problems, it's become apparent to her and Gene Hunt that the force is practically rotting from the inside out with corruption and the more they try to just find the root of the problem the larger the problems become.

The Good: I'm not sure if the show found it's pace or if I did but I liked this more than the first season and about as much as I liked Life on Mars which is what I was hoping for. It helped that Alex isn't constantly chomping at the bit to get home, she's started settling in which is pointed out repeatedly to the viewer, and some of the elements in this season change even more what Alex and the viewers knew about this strange alternate (or past) world from LoM. That's interesting, the mere existence of A2A shows that not everything was revealed in LoM and I suspect that's why I've seen some places say that it's hard to understand the last season if you haven't seen both, bring it on is all I have to say!

The Bad: I can only hope the story has a good explanation for what was going on at the very end since otherwise that last scene could completely wreck the setting, although I think it's hinted at what's going on a bit with one of the new characters in this season. And I was a bit frustrated by the betrayal by another, long running character this season, since we've now seen them for multiple seasons it just felt completely out of character (even taking into account that there has been a several year time difference between LoM and A2A). That detail I think I'll just have to accept and move on but hopefully the show will be able to wrap up all it's other details satisfactorily.

The Production Values: It only took me a full season but I started recognizing some of the music, wahoo! Other than that, like before I don't have much to say, I barely know anything about the 80s so I can't comment on how accurate or no the settings, props, and clothing is, although in this show I'm always surprised at just how many songs they manage to find that are both apparently period accurate and reflect what is going on in the show.

So for this season I don't have much to say, it's the middle of a trilogy and often it's hard to find something to say about those stories no matter what medium they're in. But I'm giving this season a 3.5 out of 5 and can only hope that the ending doesn't let me down!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

(Audio) Book Review: Scarlet

Back in the summer, around late June early July I believe, Marissa Meyer was hosting a contest where the winner got an audiobook copy of her latest book, Scarlet, and while I'm generally not that interested in audiobooks it sounded like she really liked how this one had turned out so I tried the sample clip and wow, I really did like it! I didn't win the contest but then I remembered, there are a number of podcasts/youtube channels I follow which are sponsored by Audible so if I was to say, take advantage of their free one month subscription and listen to the book within a month (and I had two big family trips coming up within that month) I could do that and support other things I loved, perfect! Plus, most of the time when authors have a book out they'll link to reviews of it, that's fairly normal. This book came out this past winter so I wasn't surprised to see that many reviews of it, what was worrying me was that Meyer was also linking to a lot of reviews of the ARC for her next book, Cress, which isn't due out until next winter and I was starting to get seriously worried that I'd be spoiled for Scarlet and/or Cress at this rate. So that was a bit motivator, and I have to admit this is actually the first time in all my years of media consumption that I've been worried about that, even when almost all the anime I follow is a week behind and I'm dodging spoilers daily as a result.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer and narrated by Rebeca Soler

Summary: Scarlet has been raised by her grandmother on her farm for most of her life so she's quite distressed when she suddenly vanishes, and utterly frustrated with the police when they say that they can't find any evidence of foul play. She's determined to find out what happened but could never have imagined the kinds of secrets her grandmother was holding. Meanwhile, a certain lunar princess is breaking out of jail cells and dragging other criminals around with her in stolen spaceships, trying to find out answers to her secrets as well.

The Good: Hmm, well, this time around the little prologue that Meyer released wasn't as critical to the plot as I felt like the one for Cinder was, but on the other hand is a bit spoilerly (so perhaps it shouldn't be considered a prologue but an additional side story? But if you read it after the book there's not much point, everything in there has already been revealed). Honestly I can't say if I preferred this book or Cinder since they both had weaknesses but they were different ones, here I felt like the twists weren't as dragged out (especially if you disregard that other story) but didn't like Scarlet as a character as much. I did like the additional world-building in this book and was surprised yet happy to see that Kai was as important a character as he was, it's funny but adding that plot thread made the book seem tighter and made it a lot easier to keep the overall story focused. However, it does reinforce the fact that a lot of events will need to happen in the next two books in very short order and I'm worried not about the pacing of the individual books but about how far I can suspend my disbelief that world-shattering events all keep happening within about two months of each other.

The Bad: As mentioned above, the side story this time around presents a bit of a problem since it could be spoilerly, the story this time around plays around with "oh is it this thing or is the twist really this!" a lot more (both for Wolf and Cinder) which is good but depending on how you interpret it at first you could already know all the major reveals before you even start reading. I didn't like Scarlet a lot in some cases, she's a bit of a hot head and headstrong and wish that Wolf had been a better foil to her, hopefully that will happen in the later books now.

The Audio: Like I said, I got this because the preview clip really did sound nice and I liked how Soler was able to manipulate her voice enough to make all the character's sound distinct and easy to tell apart. It was a bit odd to hear what voices she used for some of the characters that had first appeared in Cinder (ie, not the voices I was expecting) but I got used to them fairly quickly and one or two of them, like Iko, seemed like a much better fit than the voice I had previously had. And thankfully this book is much shorter than Shadows of the Moon, I had at first been worried about trying to finish a whole book in a month but it's only a bit over 11 hours so it was much easier to manage, although it was frustrating that while on my ipod I can go to individual chapters to listen to I couldn't manage that on itunes on my computer, which is less the books fault and more a problem I have with Audible itself. 

So, for this book I'm going to give it a 3 out of 5 for having different problems than Cinder but being strong in other ways as well. That said, I feel like I'm still not enjoying the series as much as I should, it's setting itself up as this sweeping, sci-fi almost fantasy story with a large cast and politics yet something is just missing to make me love it, I'm just hoping that Cress (or Winter, the last protagonist, whom I'm trying to remember if we've already met) will be more up my alley and let me really enjoy the series).

Friday, September 13, 2013

Comic Review: Ivy

For this final comic book I checked out of my local library I went with one just because it looked nice. The cover was nicely done (both art wise and how the binding blended in) and I liked the size of it in my hands. That was it, a purely superficial reason and given that comic books are half art anyway it felt like a pretty good reason to me.

Ivy by Sarah Oleksyk

Summary: Ivy lives in a small town and like all small town girls she has big dreams, to be a world-famous painter someday. But between her friends hanging out with other people, her mom telling her she has to go to college for business, not art, and the reps for art schools not liking her art it seems like the whole world is against her until she runs into a guy and suddenly it seems like a whole world of possibilities open up.

The Good: Well, if for some reason you haven't seen any of the many other stories out there about a teen in a small town who wants to be an artist (truly amazing how many want to be artists/writers versus any other career out there) then, well, this is a thing. It's got a solid beginning, middle, and end and a main character with a more complicated life which I feel like is more "realistic" than the many stories out there where a character has only one problem in their life instead of many. I'm sure many people would like it but Ivy just rubbed me the wrong way and since this is a story about her that means there wasn't much I did like about it. 

The Bad: I believe that high school is one of the harder settings to do right since so many high schoolers are, well, asses, so you must portray that and yet still make them sympathetic to the reader so they care about what happens to these asses. This book does not succeed, while it's understandable that Ivy is under stress and is going to lash out she does it so often and with so little provocation sometimes that I just got frustrated with her, she's the not the kind of character whom I want to read about and root for (the chip on her shoulder is so big I wonder if there's any shoulder left). I was actually more frustrated with her mother than Ivy, I'm not sure if her mother was supposed to come off as a complicated person with a lot of issues or if Oleksyk didn't realize she had made her do a 180 by the end of the book but either way Ivy's mother came off as a rather flat character who was more plot device than fleshed out. Towards the end of the book there's a scene where Ivy is talking to another character, Charolette, who says that she had a lot of the same problems Ivy has gone through and all I could think was "but she at least seems like a more interesting character, why not make the story about her instead?!"

The Art: I liked the art, it had a rounded style to it that I prefer and some screentoning and shading to it, although when I saw the cover I did hope for a minute that it might be full color since I loved how the colors on the cover were done. It's not and oh well, it looks fine without it, I especially loved all the detail but into the scenery (especially how consistent it was) and the paneling flowed nicely as well.

I'm only giving this story 2 out of 5 stars since by the end I completely disliked Ivy and while I didn't feel like "she got what she deserved" I couldn't help but think that her wake-up call to what the real world was actually like was a long time coming. If you'd like to try out the book at least some of it is up on Oleksyk's website here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Anime Review: Tweeny Witches

So, normally I say that I don't really have a tsundoku but given the sheer number of things I'm watching at any one time it usually takes me quite a while to get around to watching older things. Like this show which I picked up during a Right Stuf sale last Christmas, considering how unsteady Media Blasters has been over the past few years I didn't want to risk not picking up a show I was sure I'd like and did a semi-blind buy on it. Funny enough, one of the few other times I've done that was for another Media Blasters show, Moribito, although that one I enjoyed more than this one it turns out. And I'll note that while I have the last DVD with the extra episodes on it I did not have a chance to watch those before the review, I've heard they don't really change the story but if it turns out they do I shall edit the review accordingly at a later date.

Tweeny Witches (Mahou Shojo Tai Arusu)

Summary: Arusu is a normal human girl who can do a bit of slight of hand yet wants to be able to use real magic and sees the book her father once gave her as the way to do so. In a way she's right as she discovers one day as she falls down the rabbit hole into the magical world where witches and warlocks reside but they're nothing like she expected, meaner and more hidebound, and Arusu decides to stick around for a little bit to learn magic and to try and teach everyone that anyone can do magic if they believe.

The Good: Well that ended up going in quite a different direction than I expected, the show does use one of my favorite story-telling structures (start with one problem/quest and have it become part of an even larger story by the end, to the point where it's odd to look back from afar and see how small the story really was in the beginning) so I ended up enjoying the second half much more than I enjoyed the first half. From there the world just built and built and managed to introduce new characters easily, more factions, and keep the story on a good pace as well. Amazingly enough the show was not aired in a half hour format, much like the second half of Princess Tutu each "episode" is only about 12 minutes long which were then stitched together on the DVDs to make regular sized ones. I have no idea if the show was created with that format in mind or if it was merely another obstacle the writers had to deal with but I think it was managed as well as it could be and except early on when the show it clearly finding it's ground it all flows together well.

The Bad: It's rather rare for me to say this but I wish that Arusu had encountered a few more set-backs in regards to her overly cheerful worldview (since this does involve some end of series spoilers I'm putting the rest in a footnote*). I did also say I enjoyed the second half more than the first half, however since in a way that story doesn't truly reveal itself until the halfway point that's not exactly a good thing. I don't recall seeing any foreshadowing earlier on, if there was enough to show there was intentional preluding to what would happen that would change my feelings on the show more than a bit. And the ending itself is a little bit of a mess, suddenly characters are traveling great distances in a fraction of the time it took earlier, some logistical details are never even handwaved away, and as I mentioned in the footnote, I'm still not entirely sure HOW the resolution was brought about, I really feel like the story just forgot to show an entire step (either that or it's exactly as it appears and it was an amazingly silly, in character with Arusu but not in character with the setting, solution).  

The Production Values: Visually this show runs the whole gamit from pretty, nicely animated scenes to some rather crappy looking ones. We've all seen screenshots where a background character with a silly, simplified face is blown up but here you sometimes don't even have to look for the background characters, I don't want to know what the schedule for this show much have been like. Heck, there are even a couple of episodes where they make a rather determined attempt to never show any of the characters actually talking and cut away every time they would have to open their mouth (some people might call that an artistic choice but having seen it in context it wasn't). The art designs never quite clicked with me but I still thought some of the designs were quite creative (although there was also some rather conspicuous CGI in the show, I must image the show had a rushed schedule and practically no money since again, in context these weren't stylistic choices). Music wise the only piece that stood out to me was the piece that was also used as the main theme (erm, the second theme, not the very first piece played in each episode but the other one) which had a bit of a reedy, Celtic sound to it so of course I liked it.

In the end I'm a bit conflicted, I liked parts of the show and thought a lot of it had flaws, at this point I'm not even sure if I'll keep my DVD box in the long run or if I'll sell it off to buy something I enjoy more and free up shelf space for it. I feel like a 3.5 out of 5 rating for the show is fair however, for becoming much more than I could have expected when I first started watching but taking a bumpy road with potholes as large as the one my bus hits everyday on the way. 

*so by the end of the show Arusu is literally supposed to be the savior of the magical world, although I'm not exactly sure how it was saved since it seemed more like bad stuff stopped happening, and she's the only human (that they know of) who could use magic and is able to inspire other people to use magic by believing in it. One could make a case that the societies in the show treated magic so differently than how Arusu viewed it that that's why they had so many people who failed, that they were scared of failure and then perpetuated it, so when Arusu gave them hope of course it worked since that's how their magic actually worked all along. I  feel like that argument is on rather shaky ground. I'd like to compare Arusu to Hajime of the currently airing Gatchaman Crowds for a moment, since this was on my mind the entire time I saw the show; in Crowds we have a character who lives in a world much like ours with good bits and bad bits and Hajime both questions why the world works as it does (why does she have to have a secret identity as a superhero after all) yet seems to understand the world's limits and rules (people bad-mouthing her online? Turn off your phone, don't spend your time arguing). In the long run what she's trying to do is both logical and actually for the betterment of the world, create more communication between different crowds of people, whether it's government officials or warning the public about a bat-shit alien on the loose. Arusu however challenges years of traditions with no other explanation of "but magic should make people happy!" and somehow it works. In Crowds we see a flawed world, and see both why it needs to change and why it hasn't yet. In TW we see an another world which probably needs to change yet no reason that it hasn't yet, the fact that it was so easy in the end for Arusu to do magic and to convince others to believe made it really hard for me to take a lot of the show seriously (especially since it's even twisted against another character in the end and I'm still not 100% sure why it was different in her case, if the show had just done a few things differently I probably wouldn't even have this setting-breaking problem).

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Movie Review: Colorful

Initially I had no plans to see this movie, it just didn't sound like my thing, but when I came across it at the local college's library I grabbed it anyway since, once it was sitting in front of me, I was just curious enough to see what it was like and if my initial guess on whether or not I'd like it was spot on.


Summary: The spirit of a recently dead person is slowly trundling towards the afterlife when they're stopped and told that miraculously god has chosen to give them a second chance in the body of a boy named Makoto who just committed suicide. The spirit doesn't remember anything about their past life but figure out what great crime they committed to end up dead and to unravel what was going on in Makoto's life that made him kill himself.

The Good: Do you like complicated characters that feel wholly realistic for their failings?Then you'll most likely like this film, the story shows that Makoto's life before his death was more complicated than you would first expect and how the new spirit reacted to dealing with family problems and school felt rather realistic (even if he was an ass for at least half of the movie and unsympathetic because of it). I suspect that many people's enjoyment of the film will depend on how much they can sympathize with "Makoto", personally my middle school (and high school) life was complicated in rather different ways so while I could see why he was lashing out to all those around him I wasn't rooting for him to figure everything out for the first half of the film or so.  

The Bad: Clocking in at just over two hours I found this film a tad bit too slow for my taste. I understand why it was so deliberately paced, to show how "Makoto" was reconnecting with the world and finding a reason to live again (which helps set up the answer to why both of them died in the first place, and thankfully the movie doesn't treat either of those reveals as some great twist but rather as something the viewer should have figured out as they went along too). But I still wish it had been a tad snappier, it just seemed odd to have the main character's life at stake and see them not actively doing anything to figure out what happened even if that was their personality. 

The Production Values: I thought the film looked fine for a DVD playing on my computer but I seem to recall that Justin from ANNCast (for the life of me I can't recall which episode) saw the blu-ray version and said that some of the scenes at the very climax looked terrible. I'm not sure if these were simply BR only problems and that's why I didn't seem them, or if because I'm not as sensitive to flaws as someone who works in the BR authoring business is but I would encourage people who are thinking of buying the BR to look more into that. As for what I did see, again I thought everything looked fine from the character designs to the backgrounds, for a movie that starts with a supernatural event it's rather down to Earth and grounded and I was glad to see that the movie reflected that in it's attention to details in the setting. I found it rather appropriate that Purapura looked bright and colorful in the underworld but rather grayed out in the real world considering his non-mortal status, heck the fact that the movie is set in winter, when the world seems gray and lifeless was exceedingly appropriate and helps to highlight how much thought went into every aspect of it.

In the end my initial guess was correct, I didn't hate the movie but it isn't one that I'll go out of my way to recommend to others (unless someone asks for a rather specific recommendation) or even rewatch anytime soon. I'll give it three out of five stars however since it's more than competently done, just not my thing. And for those in the US the movie just popped up on Hulu (literally, I found it yesterday and saw someone else who normally keeps me up to date on those things mentioning it after I had found it, perfect timing!).

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Book Review: Without A Summer

So, I know I had said I wasn't particularly interested in reading more novels in this series since I suspected that nothing was really going to change from story to story but, well, it was sitting in the new books section of my library and looked really nice and shiny! Plus it had a colorful cover, yep I don't have a really good reason for why I picked it up anyway.

Without A Summer by  Mary Robinette Kowal

Summary: Jane and Vincent are back in England and taking private glamural commissions again which takes them out to London during the season and Jane invites her sister along. While trying to make sure her sister has enough to do Jane begins to hear rumors of something involving the Catholics which may or may not be related to the overly chilly year they are having, a bit of misfortune that same have started blaming on the glamourists.

The Good: I can safely I've never seen fiction set during "the year without a summer" before, although knowing the true cause of the bad weather (I was already familiar with the disaster and figured it out as soon as I glanced at the summary) did take out some of the tension. I did like how Kowal used it to recreate similar protests and social upheaval of the real 1800s, most of which I hadn't been aware of until I looked at the notes in the back and that's one of my favorite things about alternate histories, taking a real world issue, changing it a bit to fit the setting and yet in the process informing the reader in such a way that they don't realize it's happening.

The Bad: I was more or less correct, after the charming first volume it seems as if the books are starting to fall into a routine (Jane learns of a plot, suspects the worst, it turns out to not be the worst but more communication could have helped even more) and I don't like routine in my books, if I want to read the same idea over I'll go reread a book I already love. So yet again, technically and story-wise there's nothing wrong here but character wise I am starting to get bored, although I'm not sure how much character development actually is appropriate for fully grown adults.

In the end I'm giving this book 3 out of 5 stars since while I did enjoy it more than the previous book I still feel like the original book stands strongest on it's own. I've heard that Kowal plans to have even more books, I suppose it must be selling well, and I guess that if I come across any more of them in the library I'll pick them up but otherwise I won't be going out of my way to read them. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Manga Review: Takasugi-San's Obento (volume one)

About a month back Digital Manga (also known as eManga) sent out a tweet asking if anyone would like to review their works and, especially since I had no idea what my book situation would be for the next few months, I said sure and now have quite a few things from them to review. So for the next couple of months I'll alternate every week between one of their titles and one that I found at the local library, turns out I shouldn't have been worried about having enough to read but that's a problem I can live with.

Takasugi-San's Obento by Nozomi Yanahara (volume one)

Summary: Harumi is a 30 something university researcher who has yet to be hired on as a full time staff member anywhere due not so much to a lack of drive but simply getting too scared to do anything when the opportunity arise. Thus he would have refused the care of his younger cousin Kurui if he could have but, since it was in the will of his favorite aunt who helped raise him, he does and slowly the two get to know each other and navigate through life.

The Good: At first I couldn't work out how the title was supposed to connect to the story but slowly it turned out to be a rather appropriate title for how both Harumi and Kurui cook (bentos in particular) to become closer to each other and to remember Miya (and then technically the title could refer to a lunch made by any of them). I'm not sure how long the entire series is, the website only has this volume, so while I wonder if the entire story could have been told in a single volume I thought that the pacing was fine since we can already seen changes in both Harumi and Kurui which is what I was hoping to get out of a character-driven story.

The Bad: There were a couple of moments in the manga that came off as a bit, creepy, to me. Namely little things like Harumi half wishing Kurui was younger so he'd have an excuse to wash her back and then a short scene where Kurui counts out how far removed she is from Harumi (you need to be at least three removed to be able to marry) and smiles when she sees that he's four removed. Little details like that killed the good vibes the story was putting out before that, it just felt a little too skeevy for me. Oh and I was frustrated to see that Harumi's two, rather close, female coworkers were in fact not a lesbian couple just really close friends but that's just personal bias talking there. 

The Art: The art is okay, for a story with the word "obento" in the title you would think that it would spend a lot of time focusing on the food with meticulously detailed drawings but that wasn't the case (although, as noted earlier, the bento is more a symbol of how the characters are becoming closer and that bond is more of the focus than the food). I was looking forward to some well drawn food so I am a tad disappointed there, otherwise the characters are distinct, the paneling flows well, et cetera, there's nothing to complain about.

For having both sweet and a few skeevy moments I'm going to give the manga a 2.5 out of 5. It's the kind of thing which I would check out from the library, read, not feel like I wasted my time, yet not pick up the next volume in the hope of finding something more interesting to read next time. Interested folks can check out to purchase, although it appears that it can only be read on their online e-reader (which is alright, I wish it gave the option to display manga as single pages a-la scanlation sites however, zooming in and then moving around a two page spread gets a bit awkward), not downloaded at this time.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Anime Review: Mushi-Uta

I remember when crunchyroll added this to their catalog a few years back, it was unusual since it wasn't a simulcast but a completed title (which was obviously passed over by American licensors for a physical release) and it sounded like a really cool work of fantasy and I always meant to see it. Cleaning up my queue recently I found it again and realized that I had never seen anyone actually review it which meant two things, one either it was a hidden gem or that it was absolutely terrible (there's a reason people don't talk about some works of fiction after all) and that if I did I'd probably get a fair number of views on my post. And I'll admit it, that's an appealing thought so I jumped into the show and then realized that this one sadly wasn't going to turn out to be a hidden gem*.


Summary: In a small city winter is coming and while most people are concerned with Christmas that's not the case for government group SEPB and the rebel group Mushibane. Ten years ago some people started having their dreams turned into literal, physical insects with strange powers that eat off their hosts dreams and if things progress too far can kill them. SEPB tracks down these people and offers them a choice, join them or have their insect killed and live out the rest of their lives as mindless drones in a secret facility, Mushibane tries to rescue as many people as they can from that fate but it's not an easy task. SEPB's top operative, Daisuke has just received an odd mission though, to enter a high school and sit tight waiting for more details, and in the meantime meets some characters whose roles he could have never guessed but plays right into the SEPB's hands. 

The Good: Alright, this show did one thing very well and it was it's female characters**. Rina and Shiika are both main characters without a doubt, get more fleshed out than Daisuke (although I have a theory on that in the section below), and while part of their stories do revolve around falling in love with him and the resulting accidental love triangle that's far from being their only character traits. They become close friends which is a bit of a rarity in a non-shojo story, and stay friends once they realize that they're part of a love triangle, and really balance each other out by showing that you can find strength in your convictions, it doesn't matter if your instincts are to fight and willingly walk into traps or to try and avoid conflicts even if would be so easy for you to win a fight. They meet and connect around the middle of the story and honestly that period, between the halfway and two-thirds mark was the best part of the story by far.

The Bad: As to my theory why Daisuke got much less development than Rina and Shiika, this is actually based off of a series of light novels (still ongoing I believe and it looks like a long one too) so his probably came later since he's supposed to be The Main Character. However, this also means that the show ends on a total non-ending, there's a major character death and the actions leading up to it I thought undermined what the character has been doing and changing up to that point and the other two characters come back practically from the brink of death (with no explanation for how for either of them, going by what the show had previously explained they should be dead). Also, the true conflict of the show is only hinted at in later episodes, Daisuke's goal to kill off the original three who create the insects, heck a side character mentions that if he told some of the others about his plan they would help (a group of rather over-powered, cliched side characters who pop up for a couple of episodes and then vanish again which was so aggravating) but that doesn't happen. Normally I don't get as frustrated by "go read the original material to find out the rest!" stories but this one got under my skin, it's the worst example of "introduce the real plot and then not advance it at all" which makes the entire show feel like a waste and like you just wasted your time watching it. Plus, I've described the plot of this show and it's a bit hard to take a show seriously that involves people having insects which eat their dreams which they fight with like pokemon, the show plays this completely straight and tries to be "grimdark" which made it even harder to take seriously, it's such an out there concept and takes so long to explain that this show really failed to be an engaging story.

The Production Values: I was a little curious why the show chose to translate nearly everyone's insect code name (cicada, winter firefly, ladybird) except Daisuke's, guess that Crunchyroll correctly guessed that no one would be able to take a main character with the name "cockroach" seriously (although since it actually explains a few things about his powers I would have liked it if they had chosen to translate it). They also didn't translate either the opening or ending songs so, while pretty, I have no idea what either of them meant. Voice acting wise, only one thing stood out to me which was Daisuke whose voice changes so much in his different roles that I actually did doubt at first that it was the same character. Which is both good and bad, bad since it did make me wonder how I was supposed to believe that a highschooler would have that range but for once there was a reasonable reason for why the other characters didn't catch onto the charade. As for the art, it's a Studio Deen work from 2007 and while they've started making some pretty works in the past year this was when their stuff looked rather generic and boring, it probably doesn't help that I've grown so accustomed to watching shows in HD that watching a show in standard definition didn't help it either.

I'm giving this show a two out of five for having a few characters that turned out much better than I expected but failing in just about every other aspect of the series which means I can't recommend it either. If you like bad anime and want to watch a full 12 episode series then go for it, it's on crunchyroll and I'm sure you could even make a great drinking game to go with it and I do slightly regret not live-tweeting this show on tumblr because it does provide plenty of material for over the top reactions as well.

*something I figured out as soon as the title screen appeared and I saw what the show's subtitle was, Dreamer's Hopeless and Intense Desire and "dreamer" is often shorthand for my handle "wandering-dreamer
**which makes me go "really the one thing you did well, when everything else was terrible, was one thing that so many shows CAN'T do well? I don't get you at all" and makes me more frustrated at everything it did wrong.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Webseries Review: Welcome to Sanditon

So a few months back I gushed about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a take on Pride and Prejudice in the 21st century using video blogs (and it got an Emmy guys, hurray!). Well the creators decided that they wanted to do a little more in that universe (possibly because their kickstarter did so great that they also had the money for it) and took one of the characters, Georgina "Gigi" Darcy and had her star in an unfinished novel of Jane Austen, Welcome to Sanditon. I didn't follow it as it was coming out but when I saw that the last episode was out, and started hearing a bit about the next series (Emma Approved, which shouldn't make it hard to figure out which book that one is based on) and heard that unless they have to reuse any of the cast that it'll be in the same universe I grabbed my computer, grabbed my mom again (whose read two author's interpretations of the book before, not sure of the titles but she liked one and didn't like the other) and sat down to marathon it in an evening.

Welcome to Sanditon

Summary: It's summer vacation and after having an interesting year Georgina "Gigi" Darcy is continuing to experiment with the new software created by Pemberly Digital, named Domino that she used a bit in LBD, in a town in California called Sanditon which is going through a bit of upheaval. Her goal is to see how well the technology works with the town and use that in her graduate school applications, but as usual things don't play out quite as expected.

The Good: Easily the bit of LBD that required the most suspension of disbelief was that 60% of the interesting/plot relevant parts happened "live", on camera and the story here takes a bit of a different approach which works a little better. Here Gigi is actively engaging people most of the time or playing recordings and it makes sense that she would have access to them considering she's the project instigator. That plus the overall smaller scale of the story (fewer people, less episodes, shorter plot threads) I think worked in the story's favor.

The Bad: Two big things here, number one is that my mom and I ended up watching only a third of the episodes. What the show did, to keep updating regularly enough to keep people interested I suspect, was have one "plot" episode a week, one that was sort of a cooking episode with one of the characters each week, and then an episode which was mostly a collection of video clips sent in by "citizens of Sanditon" (aka viewers). If there was any plot in the cooking episodes then it obviously wasn't enough to keep us from getting the story (if it had been interesting I would have watched it, I like cooking youtube channels, but the first episode was "let's make candy ice-cream! You do it by folding in candy into ice-cream!" which felt really boring, uninteresting, and like they were stretching the concept) and for the viewer submitted parts, ehhhhhhhhh let's face it, most people do not have super great cameras (and when you watch the videos enlarged in HD you notice that immediately) and most people do not have enough experience with acting or even public speaking to be interesting on camera, a lot of it is just experience they don't have. And since I am watching this to be entertained I don't feel like sitting through tons of episodes where people are just a bit unintentionally awkward, it's like reading other people role-play when they don't quite get the characters. The second major problem is a bit of a carry-over from LBD, Gigi is simply written as the least interesting of all the characters who had a spin-off series. I'm not sure if it's just the writing or if the actress just acts a bit more wooden as well (since whenever she was appearing in the main series everything felt just fine) and the way this story is told, that Gigi does have a small character arc of her own but the series focus first and foremost is on the town of Sanditon, does not help out this problem. 

The Production Values: Much like the first series this show makes no bones about the fact that the characters are sitting in front of sationary cameras whenever they're on-screen and while that's limiting I'm okay with that. This show also used more sets which was good and everything looked fine, this connected with the format I think was a bit of an improvement on LBD and I'm interested to see what EA will do differently if anything.

It's a bit hard to assign a rating to this since it's a spin-off series that only fans of LBD would be interested in seeing. If you really liked that show then sure go watch this, if you're hesitating then I say wait and see if Gigi and/or Domino appear in the new series (and if they do then go back and watch it, there are only about 27 "plot" episodes so you can get through all of this in an evening easily so it's not a large time commitment either way). And now I must remember to steal my mom's DVDs (when they come in from the kickstarter that is) and re-marathon LBD as soon as I can.