Pride Month: Yuri On Ice

It is LGBT Pride Month, and each week I will have discussions about LGBT media through entertainment. This week’s topic is the anime Yuri on Ice. Yuri on Ice is a figure skating themed sports anime that ran from October 6th 2016 to December 22nd 2016. The story follows Yuri Katsuki who after performing poorly in a national figure skating competition as a result of mourning the loss of his pet dog and performance anxiety. Despite his intentions to retire from figure skating Yuri’s idol Victor Nikiforof approaches him stating he will coach Yuri and turn him into a figure skating legend (completely naked when doing so too).

During the series Yuri grows in both his abilities as a figure skater, and a person as he slowly grows closer to Victor having his feelings towards Victor evolve from a crush/admiration to genuine friendship eventually leading both of them authentically falling in love with each other.

Watching this anime was a very wonderful for me, unfortunately I did not watch the anime as episodes premiered on Crunchyroll due to being unaware of it at the time, but a few months ago I watched and loved every moment of it. Even with the relationship between Yuri and Victor aside the story is very interesting and well told with Yuri frequently questioning if he should continue to be a figure skater despite gaining a considerable amount of skill with Victor as his coach.

The scenes where Yuri and the other skaters perform and compete are very intense and pulled me (and probably other viewers) closer to their tv’s and computer screens with heartbeats intensified. Despite the series being animated I did feel nervous watching Yuri and his rivals skate cringing when the performers had flaws in their routines. In addition to these routines sympathy and backstory is given to each character that aren’t Yuri, Victor, or Yurio (a third protagonist that I’m ignoring because I want to concentrate on Yuri and Victor) in the series. I consider the fact that all of the following was accomplished in the anime within twelve episodes very impressive.

Besides figure skating the main part of the story is the relationship between Yuri and Victor. Despite the original intentions of writer Mitsuro Kubo of having the relationship between the two be one of coach and student where at the end of the anime Yuri would retire so Victor could return to skating and the two could be separated once again, the two fell in love. I truly enjoyed seeing the two begin to synchronize their affection for each other, especially after later episodes hint that Victor was attracted to Yuri and chose to become his coach based on these feelings and emotions alone.

The voice acting in both Japanese and English are very good with parts of the Japanese dub giving the possibility that the voice actors were indeed crying while recording and some parts of the story possibly improved upon with the English adaption. The art and animation can be a little weird at times, but the figure skating scenes are amazing. The music compliments the skating scenes very well, and I rather like that Yuri and his friends tend to be social media junkies at times.

There is some criticism over the fact that there are no homophobic characters in the series despite two other figure skaters being hinted at Christian faith. Although I do understand the criticism over the fact that Yuri On Ice appears to be a world with no homophobia for Yuri and Victor to encounter (Victor is from Russia as well), I prefer the anime to be this way. If said two minor characters are indeed of Christian faith, then that makes things better in my opinion since at this current time Christianity is being hijacked by a bunch of assholes that are making all of us look like monsters that want to lynch anyone who disagrees with them. In my own opinion I think the show could be a form of escapism and provide an example of a happy gay relationship for lgbt viewers.

I highly recommend this anime to both hardcore and casual anime fans and give Yuri On Ice four out of five Katsu Pirozhki buns. Yuri On Ice is produced by MAPPA studio and has been dubbed in English by Funimation and is available on the Funimation website and for free on the Crunchyroll website.

 

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Wishful Drinking Review

I liked Carrie Fisher, I’ve met her by accident and didn’t realize who she was (and her little dog too). Hearing the news of her passing this past December was hard and having a Disney Infinity figure of princess Leia and a Funko Pop figure of General Leia just made me feel sad knowing I’ll never accidentally meet her again seeing as she’s now in a beautiful Prozac pill in the sky.

However this didn’t mean I couldn’t celebrate her life beyond Star Wars and that weird hairdo, so I bought some of her books and just finished reading the hilariously wonderful, Wishful Drinking.

It’s kind of hard to spoil real life.

I loved this book, at first I was scared I was going to be depressed and shocked at the possibility of the darker parts of Carrie Fisher’s life since no one has the perfect life and we all have our own demons to face. And she did have her own demons to face, and she faced them, and as of the publishing of Wishful Drinking (I still need to read The Princess Diarist) she called up her inner demons and they had something to drink and what not every other week.

Hearing about her life as the daughter of two celebrities, knowing how “celebrity life” was like back during the time of her adolescence and teenage years during that time era was interesting. Reading some of Carrie’s experiences in life was interesting and funny. Normally I would go into detail of certain events in a book or movie, but I really don’t want to with Wishful Drinking because I feel they really do have to be read to believe.

The book felt more like sitting down and listening to an older friend (lets say one friend being a baby boomer and yourself being a millennial)  tell you a story. Carrie does talk about drug usage and takes a few loving jabs at Star Wars. I will never know Carrie Fisher beyond our very brief meeting that she probably wouldn’t recall anyways. But reading this book felt like I got to know her a little better and makes me hope that if I must become old, I can be similar to Carrie where I can laugh at the sad and scary parts of my life and joke about drug usage (I haven’t ever used drugs) and depression/anxiety (oh boy those two…).

Finally the main thing I have taken from Wishful Drinking is this; as long as you can laugh at/about your hardships later in life, you’re going to be just fine. There will be alot of bumps and scary parts (look at what happened in London within less than a month as of June 2017!) But anything short of sudden mass extinction via nuclear blasts and having communism take over your country is only temporary.

I will end this review with a beautiful quote that I found in this book at the end.

One of the things that baffles me (and there are a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of duty in Afganistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. 

 

Once Upon a Time Near Series Fauxnalie Review

In an alternate universe tonight was the series finale of Once Upon a Time. I loved the series, through awesome first halves of seasons followed by boring second halves of seasons, to amazing seasons with crappy season finales, and through all the tear jerkers, talks of hope, forgiveness, and love.

I won’t review the whole series, because that would take too much typing and I wouldn’t be done for a good eleven hours. I will be concentrating on this episode and any episodes I associate with it will be because of character development.

blah blah blah, spoilers beyond this point, blah blah

As I mentioned earlier there have been seasons that have been good with crappy season finales, and there have been boring arcs with a good season finale to follow. This season gave us a genuinely good and satisfying season finale. Many plots were tied up from Charming and Snow’s life (lets be honest their plot more or less wrapped up around the end of the Queens of Darkness arc), to Regina fighting her inner demons, to Rumple fighting his inner thoughts as The Dark One.

My only complaint is that this isn’t the actual series finale. Rather than giving us two hours of dramatic confrontation between good and evil, we’re given an alternative to one huge fight between light and darkness (don’t worry there is one). The finale was a nice reflection of the events of the first episode of Once Upon a Time where Emma is living a life without faith or belief, but through the events of the episode manages to regain her faith in everything.

I rather like that the final confrontation was not on Emma alone, but also with Rumple. I was happy that Emma took her position as the savior properly and didn’t resort to violence to save the day and (as I predicted in 2011 when the show first aired) died saving the day (don’t worry she came back to life too). It was interesting to see that Rumple was the one to kill the Black Fairy, and that it helped actually save the day.

I like that all the past events of the show were referenced one last time by reminding us that the cast of the Frozen arc, the Wonderland spin off, and other world’s visited were also playing a role in the events happening in the episode. I would have liked it more if the actors and actresses had been able to return for this episode, hopefully they can return for the actual series finale.

Speaking of which, it appears that the seventh season will have to do with Henry regaining his memories about Storybrook and his family because that’s how crappy Disney sequels set things.

I liked that essentially everyone in the series got a happy life, and that the morals of love, forgiveness, faith, and hope were able to aid in this episode and will probably aid the cast in the future.

Let’s hope next season is the last season.

 

Why Not Me Review

Today we are reviewing Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling. I am a big fan of Mindy Kaling as many of you know and I honestly put little to no effort in fighting back against my own rule I set for myself on my book ban until I read ten of the books on my “to read” list. I really liked this book, getting another taste of Mindy Kaling is always a nice thing, you know it, I know it, and Hulu especially knows it!

Hey look bold text, normally that means there’s spoilers ahead, but the joke is on you, you can’t spoil real life.

This book we catch up with Mindy’s life and what she’s been up to since her last book. We get a closer look on her life pre-The Office fame, some last few thoughts on weddings and friendships, and the one thing that led me to her existence. THE MINDY PROJECT! Oh and some nonsense about meeting former president Obama and having a minor fling with someone who works for him.

I’ll be honest and say the main thing I cared about in this book is how she described her life in The Mindy Project; how she got the show on FOX in the first place when NBC didn’t want to give her a pity show after The Office ended, how she had anxiety writing and producing her own show, the horrors of her tv show being cancelled by Fox, and how Hulu saved her show from a horrible fate.

I will admit I was a little disappointed with this book since I was so happy with her previous work. As previously stated I was happy with the background information on The Mindy Project, but other than that the book may fall into “chick lit” for some.

There were two main points of the book that were close to me; Mindy’s mother and her life advice to Mindy. Prior to reading this book I was under the assumption both of Mindy’s parents were still alive and watched The Mindy Project and have a good laugh at their daughter. Sadly Mindy’s mother passed away prior to the premier of TMP, and reading about the kind of woman, doctor, and parent she was made an impact on me. From things like knowing who was a good friend and who were false friends, to removing trophies because “they were given to be nice, not earned”. Even knowing that she managed to give advice to The Mindy Project before passing away is heartwarming.

Then there’s Mindy talking about body image and self confidence. How it’s impossible to love your body, but also knowing to be happy regardless of how you look naked. Finally there was a lovely essay at the end of the novel concerning having self confidence that was really nice.

I give Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling three and a half mcdonalds Mcflurries.

Second Blog

So I’ve realized that my little blog that was originally supposed to be book reviews has evolved quite a bit. This was just a hobby and no I’ve gotten no monitary benefits or even offers to read books ahead of time like a friend of mine who got into blogging last year (YAY SAM!). But I have realized that I do like doing essays, reviewing movies and television as much as I enjoy reading books and reviewing them.

No they’re not stopping, but I’ve decided to create a second blog for my more science fiction and fantasy related interests. Which is a little ironic because I purposely picked the term Smizmar to be in the title as a reference to science fiction.

I will still review books of the science fiction and fantasy genre on this site, however on this other site I will go into more detail concerning franchises like Doctor Who, Star Wars, and my love for the two genres. This blog is called Smizzing, Fantasy, and Science. Here I’ll talk about some of my favorite characters from science fiction and fantasy, make theories, and actually review episodes if they have a particular impact on me.

I will also talk about experiences with cosplay and conventions and how I’m doing with making costumes and my goals for them.

My first post will be over the coverage of this past weekend’s Star Wars Celebration, particularly Star Wars Rebels and my theories for the last season of the series. I really hope that you will follow and enjoy this blog because I’m kind of excited to start it.

Princesses and Femenism

After watching Beauty and the Beast last week, rewatching the animated Beauty and the Beast from my childhood, and looking up actual signs of Stockholm syndrome (apparently it needs to be studied more), I decided to write a bit on feminism and princesses. Not real life princesses, but the animated ones kids and adults of today’s society grew up with. I talk from my own personal viewing experience and talk as much as I can about feminism as I’m allowed to with my Y chromosome (I think I’m allowed to go a little further because I’m gay).

Disney Princesses

I know there are alot of arguments concerning the Disney princesses and how they can and can’t be feminist role models because it took literally ten(ish) princesses for one to NOT get a boyfriend/handsome prince in the end.

I like to think of the Disney princess movies as slowly progressive feminism with Snow White being the worst damsel in distress and Elsa and Moana being able to save their own damn selves.

From Snow White we have Cinderella who takes alot of crap from her evil stepmother and stepsisters and just goes with it because she’s a good girl who feels she will be rewarded for her goodness and kindness one day. She didn’t want to go to the ball to meet Prince Charming and live happily ever after; she wanted to go to the ball to have a good time and to have a night off from her life as a servant to her family. Prince Charming falling for her was just an added bonus. In her live action adaption (which is pretty much a rated G version of Everafter), she’s made an intellect and the ultimate Christian good girl having the ability to forgive the people who wronged her and even let them off with their own happily ever after. Also she has one of the few decent Disney sequels with Cinderella 3.

Aurora from Sleeping Beauty is still a damsel and she longed for someone to marry, but she wanted to date the individual first and get to know him before marrying any old guy. Plus the movie is just the good fairies and Maleficent going back and fourth at each other.

Between the first three princesses and the Disney Renascence we had Princess Eilonwy from The Black Cauldron. She was being held captive along with the protagonist and had some pretty crappy magical abilities at best. She didn’t want a relationship, she just didn’t want to be held captive by the Horned King. At most she kisses the protagonist, but since Disney views The Black Cauldron as a box office bomb Eilonwy, Taran, Gurgi, and Hen Wen and ignored by Disney with DVD releases of The Black Cauldron popping up once every twenty(ish) years. I have a copy.

In the eighties and nineties our princesses started being more proactive. Ariel of The Little Mermaid gets alot of flack because she sold her voice/soul for legs (and a vagina), for the sake of romancing a guy who’s life she had saved. In her defense she could be a “fangirl of humans” and after saving a human, she wanted to experience more human things. As an adult though, Ariel’s efforts to get the attention of a man to make him fall in love with her is an awful message for little girls (and some boys). Fortunately her animated tv show made up for this (I think, it’s been two decades since I’ve seen it).

From there we have Belle, who was the first Disney princess who didn’t want a man in her life. She was literate, and longed for more outside of the jackass illiterate folks in her town who sang shit behind her back. Contrary to what many believe (I was one of them) Belle is not a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. For more on that, look at this neat video essay by Lindsay Ellis.

From there we have Jasmine who didn’t want an arranged marriage, she wanted to actually get to know and love a guy and experience life as a normal person. Like Ariel, Aladdin The Animated Series helps her out alot. There’s also Pocahontas, there’s so many things wrong with that movie, but at the very least part of her goal was to prevent a war between Native Americans and English settlers.

Mulan technically isn’t a princess since she never actually married royalty. She got hugged by the Emperor of China though. I feel like Disney watered down her badassness from her original story; in her original story she asked her dad if she could join the army, he said no, she dueled him, won, joined the army, won a shit load of battles. I like her movie too, she isn’t interested in a man and technically doesn’t even get a boyfriend by the end of her movie.

After Mulan Disney took a break from princesses, then for the sake of tokenism we got The Princess and the Frog; it’s a good movie, there’s also alot of stereotyping. Tiana has a goal and that goal is to have her own restaurant. She is hellbent on it damnit! My only issue with this movie is that everyone and Tiana’s mom keeps on telling her “you gotta get a man in your life! COMPLETE YOURSELF TIANA!” At the same time we also have Charlotte who wants to become an authentic princess and is spoiled…spoiled sweet. Instead of getting mad at Tiana for unintentionally making a mess at her party, Charlotte helps her clean up and lends Tiana one of her many princess costumes without a second thought. When presented with the opportunity to break the spell on Prince Naveen via “princess kissing a frog to get a prince,” Charlotte jumps at it because she’d rather see Tiana’s dreams come true than have her own come true.  Seriously why isn’t Charlotte included in the princess line with Tiana? She’s the closest we’ll ever have to a Disney adaption to Emma!

After The Princess and the Frog failed to meet Disney’s box office standards, Disney thought they would do a few more princess movies then just stop altogether. Tangled was made with Rapunzel as the first CGI princess, she intentionally didn’t want a man, she just wanted to explore her life beyond her tower. Yeah she got Eugene. She has an animated series now that seems to be following in the footsteps of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid.

Then we had Merida, she was a Pixar Princess. She burped, hated fancy dresses, occasionally enjoyed eye candy, and is a badass archer. She also refuses to sing in her episode of Sophia the First. While trailers and marketing wanted to present Merida as a badass who did cool stuff and took names, she technically didn’t do that. Brave focused more on the relationship between Merida and her mother queen Elinor and how both of them needed a better understanding of each other’s worlds with Merida learning to handle a violent situation with pacifism (she ended a civil war in her house with the skills Elinor had been trying to teach her), while Elinor (in bear form) has to resort to action to protect her family from Mor’du and aid in his defeat. Merida is included in some of the box sets for princesses, but she’s usually not in pretty frilly dresses. Her doll at the Disney Store doesn’t even have crowns and jewels, it has an arrow and an ax!

Then came Frozen. Yes I am talking about Frozen, yes I’m aware everyone is sick of hearing Frozen and parents everywhere are TIRED of hearing their children singing Let it Go, but I’m going to talk about it. Briefly. I love Frozen, I saw it the day after a very shitty day (like crying the whole night shitty) with my best friend. The events of the night of my brother trying to calm me down from what drove me to a point of despair and the bond between Anna and Elsa means alot to me and the fact that for the first time in forever an act of true love was sacrifice rather than a kiss. Also Elsa is not a princess, she’s a queen.

Now we have Moana, for some reason I haven’t seen this movie, but I’ve heard very good things. It’s on my to watch list, don’t worry.

Many (myself included), have complained that there is no Mexican princess. Recently though we got princess Elena of Avalor on Disney jr. Some might see it as a slap on the face that the first Hispanic princess is on tv instead of getting her own movie. My thoughts are this; you bitches have to settle for one movie while Elena has a WHOLE SERIES! Haha, SUCKERS!

Princesses who Aren’t From Disney

Not all princesses are from Disney, a few other people have tried to cash in on it though. In some cases even parody the idea of Disney Princesses.

The Swan Princess is a series of movies about a princess who gets turned into a Swan; I haven’t seen it in a while, but from what I recall the princess is a tomboy most of her life. She had acne as a tween/early teen, and hated the prince her parents wanted to set her up with. Then when she was older, beautiful she was forced into a room with said prince and they noticed they became hot. From there she gets turned into a swan, becomes human, and in the span of six sequels becomes a swan again. I presume Princess Odette is as proactive in this movies as her nineties Disney princess counterparts (possibly more).

Anastasia is constantly mistaken for Disney, she’s from a Don Bleuth/Twentieth Century Fox production though (you will never find her merchandise at the Disney Store. Ever. STOP ASKING!) She was sarcastic, didn’t want a man, was going to con her aunt, and is dead in real life from the execution of the whole Romanov family. In the cartoon though her aunt found a way to save her life because she was her favorite niece (that’s kind of a bitch of her). Anastasia’s story has action and explosions though, and our princess killing her foe in cold blood (Tiana had to “kill” her antagonist indirectly and did it with a smile on her face).

Now there’s Fiona from Shrek. I have mixed feelings about the Shrek franchise because I liked the first two movies, then I discovered they want to make more when ending it on the second movie would have been just fine. Fiona was neat though, she and her father and fairy godmother had “planned” her life to follow a very Disney Princess life. Then Shrek comes along and they both just bond over being different from what is expected. Fiona is action oriented choosing to fight after getting frustrated with being a damsel in care of Shrek. In the third movie she stages her own damn rescue mission with the help of the other princesses encouraging them to fight back against Rapunzel and Prince Charming. In the fourth movie’s weird timeline where Shrek never rescued Fiona she decides to save her own damn self and embrace the life as a warrior princess ogre.

Finally we have the princess who didn’t have a frilly dress and would have killed for a damn bra in space. Princess Leia, okay technically she is owned by Disney now and sadly her actress Carrie Fisher passed away last year. But prior to being purchased by Disney, Leia was sarcastic, she knew how to use a blaster, she killed giant slugs with chains. She even ditched the princess status and became a general and we will see more (and probably the last) of her this December.

Nintendo’s Princesses

Princess Peach and Princess Zelda are known to many video gamers as videogame royalty. They’re also saved by Mario and Link. Alot. It has been described that the stories and adventures in the Super Mario game series as “actors in a movie” to help explain why Bowser is friends with everyone in Mario Kart and that he isn’t really evil. He’s just an actor while Peach is an actress and sole monarch to the Mushroom Kingdom.

In 2005/2006 Peach got her own game called Super Princess Peach. In a strange turn of events it’s now up to HER to save Mario and Luigi from Bowser. To save the day Peach uses her emotions and a weapon called the Vibe Scepter/Rodd. Although I admit it’s interesting to see how Peach’s emotions can solve problems, I can’t help but feel that in a way it’s a step back in comparison to Peach the in the Super Smash Brothers series who is kicking ass in all her finery. Princess Daisy and Rosalina also join the royalty of the Super Mario World (no pun intended), Daisy has been described as a tomboy compared to Peach where while Peach would do something like bake a cake, Daisy would like to do an activity like boxing. Rosalina is older and a more tragic character in comparison. She left her family to take care of the Luma for countless years and realized one day her family had passed on.

In comparison to Princess Peach, Princess Zelda of The Legend of Zelda series has always been more proactive, even in her first game. In her first game, rather than let Ganon get his hands on the triforce of wisdom, Zelda shatters it into pieces to postpone Ganon’s growth in power. From then on Zelda has acted more as a chessplayer against Ganon trying to prevent Ganon and other evil forces from destroying Hyrule. A good chunk of the time things do go south, but Zelda and Link still beat Ganon or whatever malevolent force is before them.

There have even been times where Zelda got her hands dirty; Orcarina of Time had her aiding Link in the shadows disguised as Sheik. After being freed from Ganon, Zelda uses her magic to help free Link from the castle falling around them, then create three split timelines and confuse many, many fans and Nintendo employees when it comes to the timeline.

Twilight Princess had Zelda also be more proactive in the defense of her kingdom. Granted she probably should have been more careful when picking a competent militia for defending Hyrule. But she joins Link in the final battle against Ganon because she honestly wasn’t in the game that much. In Twilight Princess we also have Midna, the ACTUAL Twilight Princess who got her hands dirty with Link, had character development, and caused what is known as the most bittersweet ending in any of the Zelda games.

Prior to Twilight Princess The Wind Waker also had Zelda joining Link in the final battle against Ganon firing light arrows while Link fought Ganon with the master sword. Before the final battle Zelda was known as Tetra, a sassy pirate who didn’t know what the big deal was about her lineage. For some reason she becomes nicer after discovering she’s a princess and also somehow changes her skin color too.

Zelda’s damsel in distress status is actually mocked a little in Spirit Tracks where Zelda’s spirit and body are separated and Zelda loaths the fact that she has fallen victim to the same fate as all her ancestors before her. She does step up from there by being Link’s companion for the story and even possessing armor to fight with in the game.

In the most recent Zelda game Breath of Wild, Zelda has become a scholar and could care less about being a princess. She wants to be Belle and put herself to usage beyond “oh I’m a sacred princess with holy powers,” because she can’t access these holy powers. It’s not until that she’s pushed to her limit and her feelings towards Link and wanting to protect him (and probably believing in herself and embracing her scholar tendencies) that this incarnation of Zelda is able to harness the powers of the goddess Hylia that flows through her blood and spends one hundred years fending off Ganon alone and NOT being a damsel. So I’d say Zelda has definitely more proactive than Peach as both a capable monarch and ruler of her kingdom. Plus it seems she always gets better dresses.

Are Princesses Bad?

I suppose they’re not, but we don’t exist in a fantasy world where there’s an abundance of princesses. There isn’t much monarchy left to marry into as well, but there’s also nothing wrong with reality. People (I guess in this case the target audience of little girls) don’t necessarily need to be badass princesses like Zelda fighting off the ultimate evil by themselves, and they can’t constantly have the image of Prince Charming coming to sweep them off their feet (sweeping is a woman’s job 😉 ).

I don’t think princesses are dying any time soon, not with the fact Disney makes an easy 50$ per princess dress and God knows how much more with merchandising. I think things can evolve and with many parents being aware that there’s more to life besides being a princess they can encourage their children to be more independent from what is presented to them in the media. Unless your child wants to be Hermione, always encourage your child to be Hermione.

Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Review

Another season of Star Wars Rebels wrapped up tonight with Zero Hour where the rebel alliance literally got it’s ass kicked by the Empire. I really enjoyed this episode and most of season 3 of Star Wars Rebels. There were some filler episodes I didn’t (Iron Squadron…)

Sorta Spoilers from this point on, I’ll kind of be conversing with this blog post. For reviews for each episode individually, please watch the reviews on Star Wars Explained. I really like this channel and find it very informative for both new and old fans of Star Wars.

Characters

So this season was advertised as Ezra being tempted by the dark side, Kanan discovering new powers in the force despite being blind, Maul being a big threat, Sabine having her own character arc, Kallus taking Ahsoka’s position as Fulcrum, and so much more.

The season brought more of Star Wars Legends back into canon with the characters Thrawn and Wedge. Thrawn poses as a major threat by allowing minor victories with the rebel alliance to happen in order to better study them and defeat them. I can’t speak too much about my opinion of Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels because I didn’t know of the character or his book series because the old expanded universe was too large for me to handle.

The season kicked ass in so many ways; the first thing fans noticed was that characters besides Sabine got new models to be used with Ezra and Kanan getting the most dramatic changes and Hera and Zeb getting the least changes in design. Ezra’s physical puberty finally caught up with his voice! It was nice to see all the characters given a redesign sooner in the series since the events of the season 2 finale left it’s marking on the main cast both physically and mentally.

Ezra’s journey this season starts off with him being seduced by the darkside; Ezra had been studying from the Sith holocron and through it gained some impressive battle tactics through it. At the start of the season Ezra has confidence and arrogance that concerns his friends since he willingly kills Stormtroopers in very dark ways and was reckless on missions leading him to almost getting killed. As soon as Maul came into the picture, he more or less snapped away from the dark side and the rest of the season is Ezra just being himself.

Kanan has issues at the start of the season due to losing his eyesight and feels incompetent as a person, Jedi, teacher, and soldier. It is after meeting and learning some wisdom from a force sensitive known as the Bendu does Kanan return to his normal self.

Hera is a slightly more stressed out version of herself, Zeb is more relaxed and brudes less, and Chopper continues to stir shit up in a comical way for fun. Sabine got her own character arc and I am very happy for that. Sabine’s past of working with the empire is slowly brought up again until she gets her hands on the dark saber from Maul. I liked her journey this season and how we learn of her backstory and the pain she had to live with knowing that she could never return home without the traitor brand being lifted from her.

I liked seeing Sabine wield a lightsaber, I actually had her wield one in Disney Infinity a few times so there was definitely something cool about having her actually use one in canon. My only complaint is that Sabine’s character arc was about three episodes in total this season, but with news that there will be a season 4 of Rebels and the Mandalore plotline still open I’m very confident that her story will continue on.

Maul’s arc this season actually got on my nerves a bit; I felt he just popped up to annoy Ezra and Kanan because they were the only force users left for him to annoy since all the other jedi that he knew of were dead and because he knew Palpatine would destroy him with ease. This led up to Maul meeting Obiwan one last time and the two having a duel with obvious results. All I can say is, that’s what he gets for killing Satine.

I was very excited to see the Bendu in the show since he is voiced by Tom Baker and I am a very big fan of Doctor Who. I was satisfied with the character of the Bendu because he was a neutral in terms of the light and darkside of the force choosing to be like nature. Instead of taking a particular side the Bendu chose to let let things fall as they may and help Kanan and Ezra (and maybe even Sabine) in their emotional journeys providing wisdom. In the series finale he is pissed at both the rebels and the empire for messing around with his sleeping patterns. After Kanan pisses him off further, the Bendu takes his anger out on both sides with Thrawn barely being able to guess a weakspot to defeat the being…or not.

Finally as mentioned above Kallus took on the position of being Fulcrum; at the start of the season he is pretty incognito about being a double agent with even the rebels not knowing who he was. It was interesting to see how he would continue to throw off suspicion that he was the spy for the rebels and staying clear of Thrawn’s suspicion of who he was. He gets discovered in the end, complete with a physical beating and being held hostage (oh how I wish he had been shirtless with his unkempt hair in that scene…), and at the end of the season he finally joins up with the Rebel alliance.

Favorite Episodes

My three favorite episodes would be Double Agent Droid, Secret Cargo, and Trials of the Darksaber. Double Agent Droid brought focus towards Chopper, AP-5, and Wedge. I thought it was a nice episode at how it was finally acknowledged that Chopper frequently went into Empire territory with nothing more but a paintjob and no one ever noticing it. Then in this episode, IT BACKFIRED! It also showed that AP-5 is significantly more observant and a more valued part of the rebellion than most of the rebels are giving him credit for. Also, WE GET AP-5 SINGING! I swear I fell off my chair laughing at the tragilarious sight. We also get to see what happens when someone truly pisses off Hera, and how she probably has the highest headcount of the Ghost crew. Also there’s space toilets!

Secret Cargo and Trials of the Darksaber were two emotionally driven episodes on two opposite spectrums. Trials of the Darksaber showed Kanan and Ezra training Sabine to use a lightsaber since she would have people coming after her because of her possession of the darksaber. The acting from Tiya Sicar and Freddie Prince Jr. really got to me leading me to relate more to the character of Sabine.

Secret Cargo was an interesting episode to watch, particularly considering the current time political situation we live in and how Mon Mothma was able to unite all the rebel cells into the rebel alliance.

The Season as a Whole

I will admit I wasn’t feeling it this seasons as much as I was last season, I think it’s because the mystery of the fate of Ahsoka Tano interested me significantly, I do have my favorite moments and episodes though. There are some concerns that next season will be the last for Star Wars Rebels and I wouldn’t be shocked if that were true. I was hoping the series would end with the Rogue One storyline, except through the perspective of the Ghost crew.

I liked the development of the characters, the voice acting, the fact that not all fallen allies are forgotten too. I look forward to the next season of Star Wars Rebels, hopefully I’ll be in graduate school then.

I give Star Wars Rebels season 3, three and a half space toilets out of five.

 

Beauty and the Beast 2017 Review

Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, or rather twenty-five(ish) years old. In continuation with live action adaptions to their classic movies Disney adapted their animated classic Beauty and the Beast to live action film staring Emma Watson as Belle, because let’s be honest we all secretly wanted it that way and didn’t know it, I didn’t even know I wanted it that way.

Unless you’re just barely born, or just escaped North Korea or some other communist regime there aren’t really any spoilers beyond these bold texts. Okay fine there are SOME spoilers.

For the past few weeks I had been teasing my dad that if I ever had kids I would make him watch this new Beauty and the Beast with them countless times since I made him sit through the animated Beauty and the Beast countless times growing up. Yes I apologized to him for doing that and thanked him for being such a patient parent with me growing up.

This morning my dad got back at me by sarcastically saying “how different could the story be this time?” And he was right. This new live action Beauty and the Beast is nearly an exact live action remake of the animated film. There are some differences though.

In the beginning of the film rather than having stained glass windows and narration tell the prologue, we see the Enchantress do the deed of placing the spell on Prince Adam (Dan Stevens) with narration and the same score from the animated film. From there with some tweaking it is more or less the same movie.

Plot holes were addressed (such as the timing and pacing of events seen in the animated film) and corrected in this version. Characters are fleshed out, Belle is not a victim of Stockholm Syndrome (Emma Watson made damn sure of it).

I like that Belle was upgraded from just being a bookworm who longed for more. I know Belle was unintentionally the entry drug for little girls in the nineties to get into feminism. But to me growing up her ‘longing for more’ didn’t exactly scream ‘strong independent woman’ since she was living off her dad still. Now Belle is a book worm, one of the few literate people in the village, and a bit of a engineer since her dad makes music boxes. During the movie though part of me was searching more for Hermione in Watson’s performance as Belle. I then sighed and told myself that Emma Watson is not Hermione and that Hermione is not Belle.

Speaking of Belle’s dad, he too is upgraded from strange elderly person who is an adult child to balance the MAN the Beast is in Belle’s life. He has been downgraded from wacky inventor to heavily respected music box maker. His decisions in his and Belle’s life stem from the fate of Belle’s mother (I honestly don’t know why so many parents were killed in Disney movies up until recently).

The Beast is more or less the same, except he too is literate, so in this version when he gave Belle a library it really did mean something. It’s because of their love of books, his distaste for Romeo and Juliet, and bonding with Belle over stories that they do fall in love.

Our awesome household appliances also get screen-time, but not much of an increased role. The stakes are raised that if the spell cannot be broken they will literally turn into plain objects. What was interesting was that this time around there were family and loved ones of the castle staff who were unaware of what became of them due to the Enchantress’ spell.

Gaston (Luke Evans)  and LeFou (Josh Gad) also have extended roles. Gaston has a backstory of being a war hero and LeFou is confirmed to being in love with Gaston. Other than that they’re just the same, I won’t spoil what becomes of LeFou’s ‘gay old time’. Yes there was the gay controversy concerning LeFou, but let’s be honest you all don’t want to read ANOTHER blog post about that. And if you do, go google it somewhere else then.

Finally, there’s the Enchantress herself. She is actually present in the now unlike the animated film where she’s just illustrated on a window (we don’t speak of Enchanted Christmas here). Part of me was hoping it would be Helena Bonham Carter from the 2015 Cinderella film continuing her work as a fairy who gives a test of character to the people she’s watching and connect the two movies, but Hattie Morahan does a lovely performance as the Enchantress though, even if she doesn’t say a damn thing.

Artistically the film is beautiful, and the costumes are amazing to look at. Of course the music is a wonderful experience too, yes some of the original score from the animated film was kept in and there is nothing wrong with that at all.

Beauty and the Beast was a huge part of my childhood, it made me interested in becoming an artist (how many three year olds do you know have the ability to stick to a dream to their early twenties and sort of accomplish it?) Seeing it on the big screen adapted to live action was great and I intend to watch it again and maybe buy the Beast at build a bear workshop, unless a wonderful (mentally healthy, book obsessed) man on the internet wants to propose to me with said Beast doll.

I give Beauty and the Beast 2017 three and a half places of The Grey Stuff out of five. (it’s caviar?????)

Toonami Twenty Years

Like some kids who grew up in the 1990’s I watched Toonami. It wasn’t my introduction to anime (that was Sailor Moon), but it had a major influence on my life. It exposed me to anime and the unique form of story telling that it brings.

As I’ve mentioned before I learned to draw and became an armature artist because of anime, so I have Toonami to thank for gaining these skills and abilities. Anime was unique to me; before anime the only cartoons I had were either comedy based which wasn’t artistically appealing at times to me (hey look at that, I was a kid who couldn’t draw for shit critiquing the artistic abilities of others!) or they were Disney. Alot of the times unless the animation was a movie, there was no closure to a story. In the 90’s you were lucky if you got a season 2 to your animated show. Anime and Toonami changed that for me, the first anime that I saw in completion within twenty six episodes was Outlaw Star.

It was intense to me because characters fought pretty violent fights and when someone died, they died for good. There was alot of attention to detail in the animation too. I stayed a loyal fan to Toonami because I slowly began to like anime more and more and all of the variety provided to me through Toonami exposed me to genres like Mecha, Magical Girl, Harem, etc. I also indirectly discovered my favorite anime and manga CardCaptor Sakura through Toonami.

When Toonami was cancelled I was a little shocked, but not terribly surprised since all they showed Naruto (I don’t care for Naruto). I was a little annoyed that I missed the final airing, but i accepted that it was time to move on with life since I was going to start college at the end of the month anyways.

THen on April 1st 2012, Toonami came back bitches. I remember the night that I just had the tv on in the background as I listened to what was happening. At the time and even now alot of my tv watching is me listening to what’s happening while reading an article or chatting with a friend unless I particularly like something. Then I heard Steve Blum’s voice. And that Voice saying “bitches”. It was kind of like hearing one of your parents swear for the first time. I stayed up the whole night watching anime and loving it.

You’re all probably thinking that this strange adult in his late twenties now spends his saturday nights watching Toonami. Sadly no because I now have a social life, okay not as much of a social life as I once had in the past few years, but I don’t watch Toonami anymore. But I’m happy it’s on.

These days I’m probably asleep Saturday night because old people just fall asleep the second they’re in a comfortable position in bed. And sleep is awesome, I try to get as much as I can (this might explain how I can function without coffee at my age). I’m happy Toonami is twenty years old and I hope it stays on for a few more years.

Legend of Zelda Breath of Wild Review

Last Friday after realizing what day it was and doing some quick calculations I got myself The Legend of Zelda Breath of Wild for the Wii U (I traded in a few games. Kind of on a budget.) I had been happily waiting for this game since it was announced in 2014 and after one week of exploring Hyrule, going through dungeons, and creating a drinking game out of dying (essentially it was a shot each time a died, two shots if it was a boss fight, down a cup if I was doing something really stupid), I have finished the game. Also BEHOLD THE FIRST (and probably only) GAME REVIEW ON THIS BLOG!

Spoilers from this point on

It was a fun game and very unique in comparison to other Zelda games starting with the fact that there is voice acting and you can’t change Link’s name. Another major change is that the game functions mostly as an open world environment meaning little to no loading screens unless you’re doing a special challenge or decided to warp to a different area in the game.

Gameplay

I was a little disappointed to see that Nintendo wouldn’t continue using motion controls with Breath of Wild after having so much fun with them in Skyward Sword. Using the Wii U gamepad wasn’t a bad experience, however as soon as muscle memory kicked in things went along more smoothly. There was still parts of the game that involved using the gamepad as a motion control that didn’t quite go as smoothly and almost resulted in me throwing the darn thing out of a window.

Having this game be an openworld game was an interesting experience since I never had played one before and didn’t fully get the concept. There were a few times I was lost in the game and had to backtrack some steps and take things more slowly rather than running around gliding from place to place for the sake of doing things the fast way.

The dungeons in this game are Divine Beasts you have to purify from Calamity Ganon’s control. My only complaint is that at times going through the dungeons themselves seemed too short with boss fights essentially being “stab it until it dies” rather than using strategy the whole time to fight the boss. Fighting bosses at times could be breezy so long as you timed dodging an attack perfect to unleash fury on the boss, or just came fully prepared. The lack of finding hearts and rupees in grass was a very welcomed change in Breath of Wild bringing in a new challenge of how to prepare for boss fights by cooking specific food dishes out of the ingredients you find around Hyrule and creating very useful potions out of the remains of monsters you kill in battle.

The game also takes a step away from other Zelda games by not having specific items and weapons needed for dungeons. Weapons could also be broken with the sole exception of The Master Sword, and even then it would need recharging at times. This got annoying at times since very useful weapons got destroyed out of sheer anger with minor enemies.

One item of importance is the Sheikah slate; it’s Link’s smartphone. It can be used to download maps from various areas, take photos, become a makeshift pokedex for enemies, wild animals, and other things, set reminders on quests, and everything but make a phonecall.

Another nice twist is that the start of the game involves you avoiding most of the monsters in the game similar to one would do in the first Legend of Zelda game (well that’s how I played it anyways). You couldn’t just barge into a room killing all the enemies without some serious consequences of either nearly being dead, losing a valuable weapon, or just plain dying.

I also liked the inclusion of the environment affecting Link in the game; you had to change Link into different clothes to suit the condition he was in. Hot volcano area? Special Goron armor. Wanna swim faster? Zora armor. Wanna sneak around? Use the Sheikah clothing (which was THE BOMB to use when exploring while wanting to avoid enemies).

Finally a love and hate thing I had with the game was the fact that the game didn’t hold your hand while you were playing it. Unlike in Orcarina of Time and Skyward Sword, Breath of Wild gives you little to no hint of what to do outside of “go to these places” which was kind of bad for me since I would rush to marked areas, die, and start over. It was when I slowed down and took the rout to areas marked on the map that the game became easier to play.

The Story

I’m still having trouble trying to figure out where Breath of Wild takes places in the timeline of The Legend of Zelda. The only clue given is that there is still reference to the goddess Hylia still being worshipped, but in the stages of being overlooked by the citizens of Hyrule. There is no ill will to the Gerudo tribe and the royal family, oddly both the Zora and Rito tribes coexist, the Kokiri have become the Koroks, there is still a Sheikah population beyond Impa, and the royal family is all but dead.

The game starts with Link awakening from a hundred year slumber to Zelda calling out to him. From that point on Link is placed on his quest by the spirit of the King of Hyrule (who now slightly resembles the late Robin Williams) to save the land. Link is giving the Sheikah slate instructing him to go to Impa to figure out how to save Hyrule.

The story concentrates mainly on Link and Zelda’s relationships with the citizens of Hyrule in the past and their fallen comrades at the hands of Calamity Ganon. In this version of Hyrule things are not going good at all with the castle destroyed and Zelda being the sole survivor of the royal family.

The background of the story is that Hyrule has gone to shit with Calamity Ganon corrupting ancient technology the Hyrulians and other species were using to banish him once and for all leading to not only Link being mortally wounded, but all of Link and Zelda’s allies being killed. As mentioned in gameplay Link is required to purify the Divine Beasts and free the spirits of his fallen friends in order to bring peace back to Hyrule.

A major theme in the story is doubt and having the ability to overcome doubt and what others think is destined for you. During game flashbacks Zelda heavily questions if she, Link, and their allies can defeat Calamity Ganon constantly thinking Link isn’t skilled enough to win against Calamity Ganon and hating herself for not having the power of the goddess Hylia despite Hylia’s divinity flowing through her blood. Another key point is that Zelda is more interested in doing research and studying the past rather than her role as princess and relying on prayer and meditation to use her powers.

There is a better explanation on some background events seen in Orcarina of Time and other games when it looked like there was friction between the Sheikah and the royal family by introducing the Yiga who are Sheikah who broke away from the clan and seek to kill Link.

There is no mention of the Triforce, it is there, but I’d rather not say what happens for the sake of a lovely twist in the Legend of Zelda series.

Artwork

Breath of Wild is beautiful; the game continues using the same cellshaded artstyle seen in both Wind Waker and Skyward Sword leaning more towards the later. The game also seems to lean more towards Wind Waker HD with a beautiful combination of cellshading and HD. I will admit I was hoping the game would be like a watercolor painting the same way Skyward Sword tended to be at times, but I got over this desire pretty fast.

I played the Wii U version so I think I got the less fancy one. If I ever get a Switch I’ll do a comparison of both games to see which system brought out the full beauty of the game.

The music also compliments the artstyle of the game very much with music increasing in tension at times of danger and turning light and soft in times of normality in the game.

Final Thoughts

Waiting two and a half years for the game was worth it, trading in Pokken, Professor Layton, and Animal Crossing was worth it, literally spending all of last Friday playing the game and making some friends think I’d been kidnapped may have been going a little overboard.

But the game brings out the best of the Wii U and possibly the best of the Switch (I’ll probably have to buy one if Nintendo kills off the 3ds). There is so much to do in the game both in the main story and side quests and even just screwing around and exploring Hyrule is worth playing the games at times considering how huge it is now.

I give The Legend of Zelda Breath of Wild for the Wii U and the new Nintendo Switch five out of five Sheikah Slates.