Sunday, June 21, 2009

Goodbye, Blogger -- Hello, WordPress!

That's right. Blogger was nice for a while. It's integration into Google makes it handy for a lot of things, but it's still severely lacking in customization features and I figure it's the sooner the better for WordPress because the longer I stay here, the more posts I'd have to straighten out when I do inevitably move to WordPress. :P Besides, it's just so much nicer to host your own sites. Much more dependable!

So yes. Opinion Prone has moved over here!

Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds! (Unless you're on my Feedburner feed, in which case, you should have already swapped over.)

For the sake of not breaking anyone's links, I'll still keep all my old posts here, but all new content shall be over at the new site. I hope you continue reading~. :3

(PS. There is no "rest of this entry." That is just one of many roundabout hacks I had to install onto this Blogger because there's no native feature for cuts.) Read the rest of this entry...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nostalgia and Timelessness

So I started rewatching Gundam Wing dub last night. It's a special series for me since, like many others, it was my catapult into the Gundam franchise on the whole. It was one of my first major fandoms, and I'd seen it in its entirety two or three times back in glory days of Toonami, but it's been a good seven or eight years or so since I'd seen it last (and it feels much longer than that). Like some things I've revisited from the past, I was half-expecting it to be terrible, and to some extent, it was. The characters are hilariously unobservant and brash in ways that don't even begin to make sense. The dubbing also offers some choice lines in amazingly awkward voices. There are many logic and realism gaps. I laughed a lot.

And yet, even with all the lulz, it's still so epic when it counts. I'm still enjoying this way too much. Treize takes over the world in seven episodes in one of the most awesome coup de'tats ever. There are so many political things I'm noticing and understanding now that I didn't even notice the first time around, and it's just a lot fun to revisit something while simultaneously gaining a whole new experience. Nostalgia and sentimentality is undoubtedly what's allowing me to forgive all of the more blatant flaws -- I'd never accept such huge logic and realism gaps in a recent show, as evidenced by my dislike of Gundam 00, but for Wing, it's all right.

But I never feel as if the nostalgia factor blinds me. Forgiving the flaws isn't the same as denying they're there, and besides, most good things have their flaws. It's just your perspective that determines whether the good outweighs the bad, or if the bad outweighs the good. I'm only seven episodes into the rewatch, but right now, I honestly still think this is a great show. Wing's storyline is strong and clear, and has many interesting concepts. Its characters are varied and relatively engaging. I still think the music is amazing. I still think the mecha designs in this series are some of the best in the franchise. These are the things that won't change with time, no matter how many years pass. Good stories are good stories. Good art is good art.

The art and animation are a bit aged now, yes, but they still suit the story. That compatibility is much more important than the fact that it's not as shiny by today's standards. Of course it isn't as shiny; Gundam Wing debuted fourteen years ago. But that doesn't matter, just like it doesn't matter that Nosferatu is a black and white, silent, German film. The medium still fits the story, and the story is still good. In that sense, I think that most productions, whether movies or television shows or anime or manga, can be considered "timeless." It doesn't matter when it was made; if it had a good story and the medium suited it, then it can remain accessible to any subsequent generation.

But then, what about the things that don't hold up? Does that imply that they were never good stories in the first place, if the stories aren't as good now as supposedly used to be?

Actually, I can't think of many examples of (once) good stories that don't hold up against the test of time. Most of the stories I loved as a kid I either still love now or still appreciate as something aimed towards kids. Some stories with overt social or political commentary or controversy might be more popular in one century than another, but if there's enough story to go along with the opinion, I don't think it'd have trouble remaining accessible. Just look at The Sound of Music or the Watchmen comic or books like Number the Stars.

Stories grounded in a certain time period also aren't at a particular disadvantage either. As long as people have an understanding of the surrounding history and perspective, it isn't really a problem. Shakespeare remains timeless despite the fact that his plays are centuries old and in a dialect that died somewhere along the way. The language might turn some people off, but the core of the quality of the stories are unaffected by neither time nor anything else. Can the stories still appeal to people if the language was updated to something more modern? Probably. It's the same as when a popular novel is translated into several different languages, isn't it? The story is the same. The story is still good. Everything else is secondary.

It's kind of interesting to note also that there are a lot more things that I like more the second or third time around than things that I dislike the second or third time around. Second and third experiences allow for better understanding of the story involved, and understanding is essential to many experiences.

Many of the best anime and manga I've encountered are neither socially or politically charged or grounded in a specific time period, which will probably help them a lot. Some of them depend heavily on cultural quirks and current fandom (Ouran High School Host Club), and some of them are concentrated on ideas in technology that may well change in the future (Planetes, Ghost in the Shell), but as long as the people in the year 2500 take the time to understand where these stories are coming from, they can enjoy them just as we have. I'm pretty sure I'm going to end up still liking Gundam Wing a lot this time around, and if that's the case, I don't think that will change in another decade or two, or three, or four. Similarly, I probably still won't like Gundam 00 in however many years.

Final conclusion? All good stories are timeless.
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Review: Gundam 00 (second season)

Three months after this series finished, and I've finally finished the review for it. Finally.

I had such a hard time writing this. It's hard to find a reasonable voice when all you can remember is everything that sucked. It isn't an objectivity issue since you obviously can't be objective writing something that's completely opinion, but it's still hard to fashion your opinion in a way that doesn't make you seem like some fanraging idiot. After all, reviews are also supposed to be subtly persuasive, and it's hard to be persuasive if you sound offended or butthurt about how terrible something is. It's the same reason people tend to take the opinions of fanboys with a grain of salt. Don't be overzealous. Write intelligently. Well, I tried.

Honestly, when this series first ended, I wanted to write a long, raging rant about how much I hated the ending and how terribly disappointing the entire thing was on a variety of different levels. But then I put it off and eventually didn't feel like it anymore. I got the urge again as I was writing the review, and subsequently, the review spiraled into a bunch of sarcastic remarks. Some of them got edited out. Some of them didn't. I guess I shouldn't worry too much about it.

I do this for fun! This is fun, see? Fun!
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

On Learning Japanese & My Japanese Coach for DS

I wonder if anyone's actually polled the percentage of otaku that have at some point tried to learn Japanese. I wonder what a follow-up of such a poll would reveal about the percentage that actually attain some level of fluency. Anyone who watches subs on a regular or even semi-regular basis will be able to pick up a wide variety of everyday phrases and a decent slice of vocabulary. The observant ones might even be able to pick up some simple sentence structuring, verbs, and grammar. It's a pretty awesome thing when you first realize that, hey, you know a bit of another language.

Undoubtedly, that's why a lot of younger fans will insert bits and pieces of what they know into their speech or text online. It's like a secret language, something esoteric to share between friends, and everybody likes thinking they're special. Like Pig Latin though, the language is actually not so secret, or at the very least, the popular tidbits of the language that young fans like to parrot are not so secret, and they tend to annoy everybody over a certain age. Ostracized and mocked by the rest of the community, the young fans reach a point where they stop tacking -chan and -kun after all their friends' names. There is a brief "maturing" period. And then they decide that they're going to knuckle down and learn Japanese... for real this time.

I imagine that most people will take a few shots at memorizing their kana and then give up. They'll retain all the romaji vocabulary and phrases they know, and maybe they'll still use it now and again in a mocking or less-than-serious manner, but that's about it. Some will succeed in memorizing their kana and master some grammar, but kanji stops them dead in their tracks. The last handful plow right on through, kick the JLPT's ass, and then run off to Japan to teach English because that's your stereotypical otaku dream. I wonder, are there any fans that listen to the language on a regular basis, but who have never had any interest whatsoever in learning it? Or is it just innate to want to understand something you find yourself so submerged in? The latter makes sense to me, but it'd be interesting to hear the answers to the contrary.

Being Chinese, I've always felt this persistent guilt for wanting to learn Japanese more than I wanted to re-learn Mandarin and Cantonese since I pretty much lost my fluency in both by the time I was eight. That guilt, for the most part, has kept me from seriously pursuing Japanese fluency. Now, it seems that I have a good chance of being able to go to Japan for two weeks in December as part of a college trip. I guess that's as good an excuse as any to get a move on, right?

So I got my hands on My Japanese Coach for the Nintendo DS because it was easy and convenient. It's far from the most sophisticated learning device in the world, but hey, I still don't know how serious I want to be about this. The game opens with a placement test, which aims to start you off in the right chapter based on your existing knowledge. I found that to be kind of iffy though. Since all the questions are multiple choice, lucky guesses will end up opting you out of lessons you might need. Yeah, I know a bunch of pronouns and the colors, but I didn't know any of the days of the week and I got out of that chapter with some lucky guesses. Not cool. I need to learn this stuff, man. (Still, you can go back and do the skipped lessons, so it's not a huge deal.)

Playing through it, the set-up of the game leaves a lot to be desired. Each lesson is fairly short and will either cover one new concept, like months, days of the week, colors, or a certain verb, or two sets of kana (I'm not that far in the game yet, but undoubtedly, later chapters will expand to include sets of five to ten kanji per lesson). The game won't let you progress to the next lesson until you've "mastered" all the new vocabulary or kana introduced in that lesson. You gain mastery points by playing through games. It sounds decent enough, but I found most of the games to be absurdly easy, thus making it way, way too easy to "master" things.

You can unlock new games as you progress through various lessons, but seriously, out of the seven or eight games I have so far, I only really like one of them, and that's the one that gives you a word or kana and makes you write it. It's useful for forcing you to memorize your kana, but it's pretty annoying for writing actual words (in kana) since you have to write each character one at a time. Longish words like げつようび (getsuyoubi, Monday) or じゅいちがつ (juichigatsu, November) really make me wish the kanji lessons would come up faster. The game also isn't all that great at recognizing mistakes in your characters. As long as you have the right number of strokes and the shape is kinda right, it'll count it correct. It bothers me immensely that it doesn't take stroke order into consideration even though it does mention its importance at some point. The other games are okay as far as drilling in meaning associations, but among other things, having to play the whack-a-mole game makes me feel like an idiot.

Currently, I'm just about done "mastering" hiragana, but honestly, I still don't feel very confident in it. Kanji, in all its apparent complication, makes a helluva lot more sense to me because of my Chinese background, but hiragana doesn't seem to follow any discernable pattern as far as I can tell. I mean, き(ki) and さ(sa) are completely different sounds, but their characters are so similar. ら(ra), ろ(ro), and る(ru) make slightly more sense. Kind of, except that れ(re) and り(ri) don't follow. Incidentally, Mandarin has a pronunciation aid system similar to furigana, but I never learned it, only pinying, which is comparable to romaji. My father says that both hiragana and katakana characters are based off kanji words that start with the sound they represent, but that doesn't really help me if I don't know those kanji words.

My Japanese Coach is an okay aid. It's easy enough to pick up on a daily basis, but you have to play back through old lessons pretty frequently to actually memorize things since you can "master" them so quickly. It's just as well though -- after all, you have to work at any language to learn it. No tool is going to just hand the knowledge to you. I might come back and write about the game some more when I've progressed further into it. At present, I don't plan on getting much else in the way of language learning tools because I'm poor and don't have a lot of time anyway. I would love to learn Japanese, but it's still not a real, hardcore serious goal yet. I really think I need to reattain some level of fluency in Chinese before that can happen.

In the meantime, it's back to the hiragana charts!
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Friday, June 5, 2009

First Impressions: Tommy Heanvely6's I Kill My Heart

I Kill My Heart
Tommy Heavenly6's 3rd album
29th April 2009

Tommy heavenly6 is my favorite of Tomoko Kawase's projects, followed by the brilliant green. I'm not all that fond of Tommy february6, though it kind of reminds me a bit of Nana Kitade. Sadly, all of Tomoko's projects were recently dropped by Sony, along with a few other artists like Sowelu. Doesn't make any sense to me considering the popularity of her numerous anime tie-ins ("Pray" for Gintama, "Paper Moon" for SOUL EATER, "Unlimited Sky" for Gundam 00), but whatever... business is business? Sowelu just signed with Avex, but no word on Tomoko yet as far as I know. I don't really doubt that she has a lot of options though. Regardless, this album was the latest and last released by Sony in late April. I only just got my hands on it, but here we go~.

TRACK 01: Wait For Me There (YouTube it)
Distorted, kinda dark sorta intro. Vocals start plainly, but it picks up nicely -- has a good beat. Some pretty awkward sounding Engrish, but Tomoko's voice is confident and smooth. Sometimes I like to just pretend that she isn't butchering a language she doesn't know that well. The words become less important than the sound and the emotion, and this song has a very relaxed, feel-good mood to be. Did she just say, "Let's have some tea"? Some interesting vocal overlaps in the bridge, though I don't think this is her best example of harmony. Song ends as smoothly and plainly as it starts. All around not a bad go, but not all that interesting either.

TRACK 02: Leaving You
Generic opening. Quiet, contemplative vocal intro. Feels very thoughtful. Percussion picks up nicely, if a bit simply -- really diggin' the melody here. Ohh... not too fond of the sounds in the chorus. The pitch on the high notes feel awkward and almost unintentional. Thankfully, the chorus is pretty short. Second verse has the same innocent, thoughtful mood as the first, but it's pretty short too. Back to the chorus... and a third verse? The mood the vocals make me visualize Tomoko strolling through a park or something. Bridge is really nice -- nothing amazing, but nice. Next chorus sounds quite a bit less awkward. There's minimal Engrish in this song; definitely feel like that's a plus. Smooth outro, fading distortion.

TRACK 03: Do You Know My Heart
Can an intro be calm and upbeat at the same time? Feels like another "stroll through the park" song to me. Vocals are very cheerful, maybe relaxing. Kind of like... the first day of summer feeling. Chorus has weird Engrish... most of it is pretty decipherable, and there are no "don't scary"'s at the very least. Mood doesn't really seem to fluctuate as we go though, and I'm starting to get tired of the carefree cheerfulness. Second chorus is just as awkward as the first. I have a hard time describing Tomoko's Engrish as anything other than "awkward," huh? Awkward Engrish leads into outro and it ends pretty quickly after that.

TRACK 04: Sad End To A Fairy Tale
A more sad kind of intro. Good. More of the thoughtfulness from "Leaving You." I think the guitar in this. Like the bridge from the first verse to the chorus too, though the chorus itself was kind of short and plain. Hm, as nice and calm as the music is so far, I'm really getting bored quickly -- there doesn't seem to be very much in the way of real energy -- just a lot of cuteness and coyness? Where is the forcefulness? Where is the spark? Bridge has more of the nice guitar and some pretty sustained notes. Bridge repeats the same kind of mood and lackluster energy; what I can understand of the lyrics are pretty uninspiring too. Slow outro, buzz out to end.

TRACK 05: Shut Up
More energetic energy... some more serious sounding vocals. Less cute anyway. Melody is catchy, but somewhat repetitive. Chorus brings back the happy j-poppy feeling. Second verse returns to the lower register, but it doesn't last long. Does "lower" mean "more serious"? Not necessarily, but all of her higher notes and melodies are starting to blur here. The best thing about this song is probably it's repetitive drill, which might get annoying after a while, but it's at least memorable. This is a really short song though -- only 2:36. Ends suddenly.

TRACK 06: Flower Crown
Neat bass intro. Another, kind-of-the-same-thoughtful vocal intro. Bass continues to be awesome. Vocals, melody, and mood, not so much. Well, okay, the mood is definitely darker than before. Makes me think we're sneaking up on someone. Chorus has some awkward hooks in the tune, like the pitch is off again. Some of the Engrish leading into the bridge is kind of lulzy. Man, this tempo is putting me to sleep. I want need some of the much more energetic stuff, c'mon...

TRACK 07: Surely
Upbeat, but not upbeat enough! Vocals are soft again, happy and contemplative. God, I just want some variation. T_T These vocals are really cute though... chorus loses it, but the melody is calming. More strolling in a park music. Perhaps playing frisbee. Really, this song could be an insert to any cheesy, happy montage in a movie or series. It's very charming in that way. I kind of wish it wasn't so late in the album -- I kind of think I'd be more happy with it if I weren't so worn with this mood already. The bridge is really sweet. Reintroduction of the vocals don't seem to fit that well, but gaw, Tomoko's voice is so cute. D: I don't even think she's trying to be. Ending is kind of awkward and sudden...

TRACK 08: Gonna Change My Way Of Life (YouTube it)
Generic kind of opening, though it does have some interesting buzzing. Chorus has a lot of Engrish -- automatically awkward sounding, though not too terrible, I guess. This song has a much more forceful melody, especially at the end. Nothing else to really say though...

TRACK 09: Playground (YouTube it)
Hm, immediate vocal intro. Much more energetic! The vocals still seem a bit on the tame side, but the emotion feels clearer. I like the tempo here a lot, and the lyrics string together very well! The Engrish is the best I've heard on the entire album, and for once, they aren't awkward! They actually work pretty well and integrate neatly with the Japanese. Some nice guitar and sustained vocals leading into the bridge -- bridge has a good guitar solo. Vocals ease back in nicely. Once again, the Engrish here is pretty decent. :O I think this is my favorite song on the album so far. Very well done. Sudden ending though.

TRACK 10: Things I Can Do
Seems like we're keeping the more upbeat tempo -- nice intro. Vocals come in rather energetically; tone is still quite upbeat and thoughtful, but she seems much more into it. The melody is pretty nice; Engrish goes back to being a little awkward, but there isn't that much of it. Really enjoying how the rest of the lyrics string together -- keeps a good beat. Verses meld into choruses really well too. Tomoko definitely seems more into this song than many of the others. Final chorus stands out nicely after the bridge; the energy remains steady... ending is again sudden though.

TRACK 11: You Should Live In The Sunny Light (YouTube it)
Dark, slow intro. Vocals seem haunting. Never really picks up though. Very steady and kind of boring. Feels like we're at a funeral service. Damn, it's been half a song already? Nothing ever seems to change, and the guitar is kind of boring too. On another day, I might like this a lot better -- it does have a very distinct mood, after all, and Tomoko's vocals seem sincere at least -- but after an entire album of less-than-stellar songs, I just kinda want it to be over. There's very little in the way of landmarks in this song. I'm not sure where the verses are, where the choruses are -- it's especially hard since I don't have lyrics in front of me. It ends like it begins, and I feel nothing.

OVERALL: This was a pretty disappointing album... I only really liked tracks #9 and #10, but even they're nothing super outstanding. The rest of I Kill My Heart just seems like the same thing over and over again, and none of the songs seem to have the drive and energy that attracted me to Tommy heavenly6 in the first place. I'm also not sure why "Unlimited Sky" didn't make it on this album. Instead, it was released with Tommy heavenly6's compilation album that released in February. I suppose it's a decent strategy to release new stuff on a compilation album to get more people to buy it, but at the same time, it kind of contradicts the definition of "compilation" album.

Then again, "Unlimited Sky"'s mood would have clashed a lot with this album since it actually has the energy I'm looking for. Tommy heavenly6's first, self-titled album is still my favorite. I'm not sure how well this album did on the Oricon charts, but if its performance reflects my opinion of it, then I guess that's at least a reason for Sony to let go. Disappointing.
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pronunciations and Transliterations of Names

So in Code Geass, Emperor Charles zi Britannia is obviously British because Britannia is a glorified, alternate-universe Britain. Thus he has an English name. Makes sense. Since it's a Japanese show though, they have to transliterate the English name into Japanese, and Charles becomes シャルル (Sharuru). This has always bothered me. I just don't see the connection between "Charles" and "Sharuru." Of course I understand that many foreign words translated into Japanese sound strange because of their limited phonetic alphabet, and most of the time, I'd say they do pretty okay. But in this case, I'm thoroughly convinced that they could have picked a better transliteration with the sounds that they have. チャルズ (Charuzu), for example -- not worlds different, but different enough to be closer, right?

Further, "Sharuru" seems to be some kind of universally accepted Japanese version of "Charles" because Code Geass was not the only series where I heard the transliteration. Who decided that "Charles" should be "Sharuru"? If someone else decided that they wanted to transliterate it as "Charuzu," would they be wrong? Are there multiple ways to import a name into another language?

For the reverse case, Japanese names into English, the answer seems to be yes. For FUNimatioin's recent license, Spice and Wolf, they've decided to transliterate ホロ as "Holo" rather than the fan-preferred "Horo." Since the Japanese use the same sound where Westerners distinguish between L's and R's, either version can technically be correct. Nevertheless, the らりるれろ sounds are more often seen as R sounds (ra, ri, ru, re, ro) than L sounds (la, li, lu, le, lo). And for Horo's case in particular, I can't shake the idea that "Holo" will invoke "holographic" first and "awesome wolf deity" second. Meanwhile, "Horo" is kindasorta similar to "Horus" an Egyptian falcon god.

And then there is the fun thing they do when they have English names transliterated into Japanese only to be transliterated back into English. Except that the two English versions don't match. The best example of this is probably Simon from Gurren Lagann. The Japanese have no character for "si," only し/シ ("shi"), and so, Simon was pronounced シモン ("Shimon"). When Gurren Lagann was dubbed by Bandai, they kept that pronunciation, presumably because of perceived fan pressure. The same can be said for Viral, which retained the "vee-rall" pronunciation instead of "fixing" it back to "vhai-rul."

In Horo's case, fan preference may be more legitimate since the name isn't English to begin with, but in Simon and Viral's cases, should Bandai have given in? Would it really have been that weird to hear the names pronounced "correctly"? I don't really think so. And if they were going to play it the Japanese way, why didn't they go all the way with Viral and leave it as "V/Biraru"? That'd be pushing it too far with the lip movements, I guess? It can be debated whether or not Simon and Viral were intended to be English names to begin with -- even though they're obviously not Japanese, it's possible that they could be fantasy names instead. But they seem kind of plain for fantasy names, don't you think? After all, Japanese fantasy has come up with names such as Zelgadis Greywords, Filia Ul Copt, and Yozak Gurrier, and even those are Western-based. I wonder if there really is a "right" or "wrong" way to pronounce Simon and Viral since it's been passed through languages the way it has. I'm sure fanboys will swear to "Shimon" and "Vee-rall," but are they just subscribing to the Japanese's limited phonetics?

Still, as far as natively Japanese names go, I'm glad for the shift towards preservation of pronunciation. The Sakura in Card Captor Sakura was dubbed as "Sa-kuur-ah" with a long "u" sound. The more recent Sakura of Naruto has been dubbed more correctly as "Sah-kuu-rah" with a short "u." And yet, Akira was dubbed years ago correctly (with a soft "i" sound), and most people I know still pronounce it with a hard "i"?

One last thing... who the hell decided that they could name their child "Light" -- an obviously English word -- and then assign it the kanji for "moon"? (月 "tsuki") How does that even work?? Obviously, no one will intrinsically understand that "tsuki" should be read as "Light" (or ライト"Raito" since they can't actually pronounce "Light") because Misa didn't know offhand. So did Light just spend his life '"correcting" teachers saying, "No, ma'am, you're wrong, it's not 'tsuki' like it is in the dictionary, it's 'Raito'!"? Says who?? Your crazy parents?

Why do they get to decide that "Light" can be represented by 月 "tsuki"? Why didn't they just use 光 "hikari" which actually means "light"? Because Hikari is actually a legitimate name? (A female name, but a name nonetheless!) I guess they didn't want Light to go through life being mistaken as a girl during rolecall, so instead, they made him special by giving him the wrong character for the translation? Maybe that's why he turned into such a megalomaniac.

The mystery of Light Yagami, solved!

Then again, the forcing of kanji for an English word has happened for things other than names.
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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Review: Star Trek (2009)

My friends are always shocked and appalled at just how much modern pop culture I seem to have missed out on. Music, movies, and a few decades worth of references and jokes all go over my head. Before this, I had never seen a Star Trek movie. It wasn't avoidance; it was just a matter of no one ever sitting me down in front of a TV and saying, "Hey! Watch this movie!" I had seen an episode or two of Next Generation once while wasting time in my roommate's room, but that was about it. I liked that episode or two (because Patrick Stewert is kind of awesome), but it wasn't enough to make me go out of my way to see more of it, especially since I don't have a TV myself.

The aforementioned roommate is actually a closet Trekkie, but I guess "closet" negates any evangelical aspect. Still, roomie's [also Trekkie] parents were in town last weekend and offered to treat, so why the hell not? Let's go see a movie. Who cares if it's finals weekend?

(this review contains no spoilers!)
Star Trek

STORY & PACING - The story starts off hard and fast, but it's straightforward and easy to follow. The introduction builds up rather quickly, advancing through several years and characters in a short span of time, but despite me literally not knowing anything about this extensive franchise before walking into the theatre, I was never lost or confused. Everything that happens is intriguing, and the fast pace keeps you continually entertained -- there is never, ever a dull moment and everything connects together wonderfully. Star Trek takes itself seriously, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of hilarious shenanigans either. The kind of hook the movie has is impressive in itself, but I was mostly happy with the fact that I could follow it perfectly so well without any prior knowledge -- something that I always worry about for movies with established fanbases.

Of course, I couldn't personally catch all of the bones they were tossing the existing fans, but the others I saw it with definitely could and spent the car ride back from the theatre raving about it. So not only was the movie completely accessible to a new fan, but older fans had the pleasure of catching tons of references and seeing their favorite characters on a shiny new screen full of shiny new effects.

As the story goes along, a few plot holes inevitably come up because of the nature of the story, but the excellent pacing disguises those holes well enough that you don't really think about them until well after the fact. That makes the story solid enough on its own, especially since it's a very character-driven narrative. What actually happens to the characters is secondary to their personal development and emotional pull you get from them, and those are always my favorite kinds of stories.

CHARACTER & ACTING - My friends tell me that the casting job for this movie was amazing. They had the previous versions of the characters to consider, but even without knowing those, I could tell that the casting job here was amazing. As far as physical appearances go, I could kind-of recall what the original actors for Spock and Sulu looked like and found their new actors to be incredibly impressive, fitting, updated versions of their previous incarnations. I didn't bother doing post-movie comparisons of the others since I seriously had no knowledge of what the others looked like (yes, including Shatner's Captain Kirk because I lived under a really, really big rock). Appearance isn't as important as personality anyway, right?

My friends tell me that the acting was pretty spot on as well. My roommate mentioned Bones being a particularly well done portrayal, and numerous others cite Spock. For me, I just enjoyed the characters and acting for what they were. All of the actors portraying characters aboard the Enterprise succeeded in making their roles engaging and interesting. I would have liked to know more about Kirk's childhood, but his development from late teens and onward was very well done, especially considering how little of it we actually see. Spock is probably the most interesting character in the movie though -- we see more of his childhood and consequently, his conflicts and personality are easier to understand and relate to. (Halfling characters are also supremely sympathetic by nature.) Nevertheless, Spock and Kirk mature and grow equally as characters, and their interacting is probably what makes the movie's finale as awesome as it was.

The only character that I had issues with was Captain Nero, who contributed most of the plot holes in the movie thanks to the huge gaps in his logic. He was too much of a stereotypical villain -- the awkward timeframe made the beginning of the movie more forgiving than the end in terms of motivation, but it was just all around pretty plain. Still, with so much of the movie focused on the development of Kirk and Spock, the fact that they had quite the lacking antagonist wasn't that important.

The rest of the supporting cast was a lot of fun. Having an Asian, a black woman, a Scot, and a Russian on board was hilarious in its own right, especially since the former two had outrageous accents. It's a cast that's reminiscent of the time the franchise was conceived, but the humor that comes with such a cast is one that has successfully transcended time. All the stereotypes were positive and tongue-in-cheek stereotypes, making all the characters positively endearing. Good times.

ART & ANIMATION - This is a beautiful movie. Most of the special effects looked amazing without being so over-the-top and extravagant that it distracted you from the issues at hand. The ships all looked great; the lasers, the warping -- seriously, everything looked gorgeous. The only two things I can think to nitpick are 1) lens flare made a huge comeback in this movie. But if you wanna technical, sunlight would be a helluva lot more prominent in space, so it makes sense there?? Sorta kinda maybe? And 2) the Romulan ship looked similar to many casual 3d renders I've seen people make -- it's mostly just shininess with very little comprehensible structure. The zoomed in views of the ship looked markedly better, but it still didn't make a lot of structural sense to me. Oh well. Aliens, right?

The aliens themselves were all well integrated into the cast. Whether or not they were important characters, none of them seemed too out of place or particularly ridiculous. Like many other things, I understand that a lot of the aliens were probably cameos, thrown out as treats to the established fans, but for a newcomer, these things weren't distracting at all. Star Trek took itself seriously, but that didn't hurt it one bit. Yeah, most of the important races are just humans with funny ears, but believability was never an issue. It looked great.

MUSIC - Excellent. Star Trek has one hell of an epic soundtrack. For movies with lots of action, it isn't unusual for me to be so engrossed in what's going on that I completely forget to take note of the music, but the soundtrack here was impossible to ignore. It was very strong and almost overpowering for some scenes, making everything that much more amazing to watch and look at. The music for the less adrenaline-pumped sequences is a little less memorable, but such is the nature of the beast... not that there were all that many scenes that weren't action anyway.

OVERALL - Going into it, I already knew that the general consensus amongst fans was that this movie was fantastic, which would likely translate well for a newcomer. Despite that though, it's always weird walking into a movie blind -- I don't know what I was expecting. Suffice to say that I was blown away. I wanted to see the movie again as soon as the credits started rolling. The positives far outweighed the negatives here, and I would recommend this to anyone.
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dropped: Shangri-La

Took me long enough, right? Seriously, who else is still actually watching this crap?

I really hope this doesn't become some kind of annoying trend. Aside from this season's two big remakes (FMA and DBK), Shangri-La was the only series I picked up. And like last season's Kurokami, it's now getting its lame ass dropped for pretty much all the same reasons.

When I read over all the summaries of the series set to debut for spring, Shangri-La was the only thing that really caught my eye. It's premise sounded really interesting, and you can't say the idea of using a country's carbon emissions as a currency isn't awesome. Unfortunately, that's this series one and only merit. The premise doesn't even translate into a plot because I watched seven, long and arduous episodes, and I still don't know what the plot is. That's the only reason I stuck with it so long -- I really, really wanted to know what the plot was, but I guess if I can't find it in seven episodes, then the whole thing's just a waste of time.

Since there's no actual plot, each episode is just a string of events about uninteresting characters that the audience is unfortunate enough to be following. This was especially painful for me since I much, much prefer character-driven stories over plot-driven stories, but I didn't give a damn about a vast majority of the ensemble cast, and the few that do seem kindasorta interesting don't have very many scenes. I could not sympathize with Kuniko, especially since she seemed so purposeless while also being popular for no reason. It didn't make sense to me, and all her subsequent struggles were just incredibly boring.

Her supporting cast was similarly unsympathetic, especially since we're given no background on how the current government system has been mistreating the populous. Nobody's motivation was clear. The grandmother's secrecy and decision not to tell Kuniko anything was a frustrating and probably pointless excuse to delay the plot. Ryoko was more of a poorly done evil caricature than an actual character. It really annoyed me that they created another character named Major Kusanagi. Momoko's antics seemed too forceful to be humorous.

The only character that interested me was the lolipop girl; unsurprisingly, that was because she was the only one that seemed to be involved with the plot, whatever it is. Naturally, she only ever shows up briefly and is cryptic with a lot of things she says. Like Kurokami, the main problem with Shangri-La is that it's difficult to relate to or sympathize with any of the characters. What makes Shangri-La worse than Kurokami is the fact that we don't even know most of the characters' motivations. Why are they doing what they're doing? What are they trying to accomplish? Why should we care?

You can maybe infer that Metal-Age is trying to expose whatever government conspiracy took place however long ago, and you can also maybe say that Kuniko wants to find a way for everyone to "live happily," but the former is too much of a given, and the latter is too general to be interesting.

I guess GONZO really is ready to kick the bucket then. Maybe I should have known it would be bad when we get really bad fanservice in the very first scene of the first episode? What a disappointment. Crunchyroll's subs were good, too, and even though the character designs were kind of shoddy (Japan, please stop trying to pass twelve year-olds off as legal), the animation was pretty nice, and the music was decent too. But we all know that those things don't hold up a show.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Review: HYDE's HYDE

HYDE's 1st compilation album
18th March, 2009

Usually my album reviews are labeled "first impressions" instead of "reviews" because I think it's an interesting angle to compile my first thoughts on an album during my initial hearing of it; impressions of music are more prone to changing over time and a tenth hearing may very well be different from a second hearing. But that theme doesn't really apply here as its a compilation album! HYDE's first solo compilation album, uninspiredly entitled HYDE, contains all of his singles, as well as a few popular tracks from his four existing albums.

So that portion of his discography isn't really isn't something I listen to often. There are a few songs I like, sure, but the majority is kind of just "eh." Still, compilation albums are a good way to revisit things, right? I figure, what the hell.

TRACK 01: Made in Heaven
As Faith is my least favorite HYDE album, I don't remember this song very well at all. There's a nice guitar opening; intro vocals are pretty typical of HYDE's solo work, though a bit rough and forceful. This is in Engrish, but I can't understand much beyond a word here and there. I kinda feel bad because it sounds like he's trying so hard. The chorus doesn't stand out much and sounds pretty awkward with the poor Engrish. It leads into the second verse with little pause; meanwhile, the music in the background isn't very interesting as it isn't changing up much. Most of this song blurs together for me, including the end.

TRACK 02: It's Sad
Another song from Faith. Really neat guitar opening... opening vocals are again forced and rough, not my favorite style for HYDE, but the guitars remain interesting, uptight, and suspenseful. Chorus is a more typical sound, but I'm much more interested in the guitars at the moment. Vocals lighten up a bit in the second verse; the Engrish feels more casual and confident, but I still can't understand most of it without a lyrics sheet. Bridge includes a female vocal mixed in with some speaking parts from HYDE and then another chorus. I find it more jarring than anything else though; HYDE's goal with Faith was to stir some deep, soul-felt emotions, but I'm too caught up in the technicalities here. This is not HYDE's best vocal work, and the guitars don't really save it in the end.

TRACK 03: Evergreen [Dist.]
"Evergreen" from ROENTGEN is actually a solo song I like! And the Engrish version from ROENTGEN.english is actually mostly understandable. This rock version is also in Engrish and was first released as a B-side on the "Countdown" single. All the guitar distortion masks over the vocals though, making it harder to hear. Not sure if I like that, but it does give the guitars a solid limelight. The chorus guitars seem to be a little off from the vocals. ...It really bothers me that HYDE doesn't pronounce the "m" in memory... it's kind of an important sound. There are some drawn-out sounds in the bridge and it fades into a nice guitar solo and then end. Ehh, neat, but not my favorite version of Evergreen. I'll stick with the original.

TRACK 04: Jesus Christ (YouTube it)
Another one from Faith. I've always remembered this one as my least favorite from the album. The Engrish is also pretty understandable in this one, but that makes me uncomfortable to some extent since I'm not too fond of the subject matter. The vocals don't seem to match up well with the music and there doesn't seem to be much of a melody. The falsetto in the chorus is beautiful, but there's still no melody. There's a lenghty solo between the first chorus and the second verse, and then they add a nice piano tune. Unfortunately, the piano really just adds to the chaos of other sounds and still, nothing sounds particularly cohesive. Still... as we move into the second chorus and that lovely falsetto, the emotional power of the song starts to really seep through. HYDE is really into it and that shows. I'm not into religious music, but I guess it is somewhat moving to hear someone else invest so much energy into it.

TRACK 05: Countdown (YouTube it)
Next song on Faith. Geez, way too much of this album is stuff from Faith! D: This is the first song with Japanese in it though, so hurray for that. I much prefer HYDE's vocals in Japanese because they sound infinitely more natural and therefore not distracting. That isn't to say there isn't still Engrish here, but it isn't overwhelming... and because there is Japanese, we can pretend that his Engrish is still Japanese and not try to decipher his words. Vocals are pretty typical here and don't change much as the song progresses. I'm not too fond of the music here; it's like the previous song in its mish-mash of sounds without a distinct melody. Outro has some spoken parts that are out of place, then buzz out to end. I'm remembering why Faith is my least favorite album.

TRACK 06: The Other Side
Hey, I have no idea where this song is from! Hard guitar intro, though it still sounds muddied. Strong vocal intro, but the energy fades quickly. Melody is a bit clearer now though, and the first verse sounds pretty nice. Guitar and vocals match up nicely; lyrics are in Engrish, but fairly understandable (not quite up to Evergreen's level though). Chorus is forceful and energetic, but I don't like the music there until the vocals end and it's a solo to the second verse. Vocals and Engrish are very clear at the second verse; I really like the rhytmn guitar here, but the lead is distracting. Second chorus is slightly less conflicting than the first as the music in the background matches up a bit better. Buzz out to end. Wish I knew where this song was from?

TRACK 07: Shining Over You (YouTube it)
Finally! A song from 666, my favorite HYDE solo album! (Is it too ironic that my favorite and least favorite HYDE albums should be titled as they are?) Awesome violin intro and sweet vocals full of falsetto. There's a nice countermelody in the background music to match the main melody of the vocals. Verse is Japanese to counter the Engrish in the chorus, which is actually what the song starts off with, and there are some pretty awesome parts where HYDE is harmonizing with himself. Again, I enjoy the Japanese a lot more than the Engrish, and the Engrish goes back and forth a lot in this song -- sometimes it's pretty clear, and sometimes I have no idea what he's saying. There are some neat bass lines in the verses too though. Bridge is kind of drawn out; slow outro and then fade out. Oh, hey, this thing is six minutes long, but I didn't notice at all.

TRACK 08: Horizon
Another one from 666. Nice and calm intro with relaxed guitars and a strong voice; lyrics are in Japanese. I like the forcefulness of HYDE's voice here -- in songs like "It's Sad," I feel like he's trying too hard, but here, he just sounds really, really into it. Verses have some gorgeous falsetto, and I really like the beginning of the chorus. Love, love, love the guitars in the bridge; the drums there are pretty fun too. The verse after the bridge is probably the best part of the song. There's some vocal distortion and canon leading into the final chorus that's pretty badass too. Not too fond of the repeating lyrics in the outro, but ah well.

TRACK 09: Season's Call
Back to Faith. This is the fifth song from Faith and we're only on track nine. Oh well. "Season's Call" has a nice, soft guitar opening that leads into some more energetic riffs. Opening vocals are also good, energetic in that reserved kind of way. HYDE's voice is really beautiful here; lyrics are in Japanese. Falsetto seems kind of random though, and I'm not too fond of the melody as we get halfway through the verse. It just sounds kind of awkward. Kind of blah chorus, but once we get to the second verse, everything's spiffy again... until about halfway through! Oh, weird, random Engrish after the second chorus as we get into the bridge... the sounds in the background are getting chaotic again. It's creates an uncomfortable, kind of itchy-scratchy feeling. Ugh, not fond of the continued Engrish. Kind of just want the song to end now... why is this five and a half minutes long.

TRACK 10: Sweet Vanilla
Back to 666. Rock guitars are rockin' out. Oh, man, I love how the vocals in this open. It's Engrish, but wonderfully understandable, and then it moves back to Japanese. The difference in sound between this and the previous are so obvious, and it's the difference between the two albums. The chorus goes back to Engrish, but again, it's understandable, and the lyrics are really sweet in that cute sort of way, which is particularly amusing since the Japanese portions of the verses are really badass sounding. The vocals in this song are pretty much everything I love most about HYDE's voice. Everything sounds genuine. The "believe me, believe me," are probably the best part. The guitar melody in the bridge isn't really that interesting, but it's fun and works well for the mood of the song. Final chorus ends on kind of a forceful note and the song ends soon after that, but I definitely remember this being a great opening track for 666. I still like it a lot.

TRACK 11: HELLO (YouTube it)
This is the second track on 666 and thus correct follows the previous song. Annnd... "Hello" is my favorite HYDE song overall. I love the energetic guitar intro and the mood it creates -- it's very nostalgic feeling. HYDE's opening vocals really pick up that mood well; it's forceful in bursts, but eases into more relaxed notes in between. The lyrics are in Japanese and just feel good. I love the way it moves into the chorus here~. <3 The melody in the chorus is also very memorable. The verses here really show off HYDE's lower registers, so it's a nice break from his falsettos. Second verse leads into a bit of distortion and some typical synth stuff, but it's a nice intermission before we get to the build up to the final chorus which contains a bit of Engrish. The final chorus feels a little less energetic than those before it, but the sincerity of the voice doesn't fade. Wind down, wind down. Ends with the name of the song.

TRACK 12: Hideaway
This is the closing track for 666, now we're even with five and five for both Faith and 666. This opens with a really homely sound. Japanese and Engrish interchanged frequently; love the energy, liveliness, and sincerity here. Guitars are simple but effective. Some steady drums into the second verse. The Engrish is only understandable in bursts, but it isn't very distracting. The overall feel of this song is very American punk rock to me. It has the same kind of challenge the world mood to it somehow, and honestly, the lyrics don't make it seem that far off. Really enjoyable song overall.

TRACK 13: Prayer
Sixth song from 666 now, oh snap! Kind of an awkward opening: heavy guitar in between long silences. Then, consistent heavy guitars and a vocal intro you don't really notice until several seconds in. Serious business kind of sound... at least until the next punctuated silence, then it just sounds kind of normal? Still lovin' the vocal quality here, though the Engrish lyrics aren't as nice as far as understanding go. Subject matter-wise, this song probably wouldn't do too terribly on Faith, but the sound is much more classic HYDE than the rest of the stuff on Faith. The melody is solid and cohesive, though the guitars aren't all that interesting. Really... even though HYDE's vocals are pretty nice here, the rest of the song really bores me.

TRACK 14: Midnight Celebration
Seventh song from 666! As much as I do like 666, this is kind of silly since 666 is only a ten-track album! I've always found "Midnight Celebration" to be kind of a hilarious song because it's just so stereotypically... vampiric. Still, it's a fun and energetic song with a strong opening and very understandable Engrish lyrics. The chorus is my favorite part; it's great 'cause HYDE sounds so darn serious, but the vampiric overtones of the entire song just make me laugh. Bridge is pretty typical, but the guitars are nice to listen to regardless. The energy throughout the last round of choruses wraps things up nice and neat at the end too.

TRACK 15: Unexpected [Dist.]
Rock version of the original song on ROENTGEN; similar to the version of "Evergreen" above, this version was released as a B-side on the "Season's Call" single. Kind of a boring intro that leads into some awkward, distorted vocals. Vocals remain distorted and music remains boring -- it's really hard to even tell if the lyrics are in Japanese or Engrish, but I know them to be Engrish. Finally get to something resembling a chorus about halfway through the song; vocals become undistorted, but the Engrish is still difficult to understand. The vocals do have some nice energy here, but the music isn't really helping. It slows down significantly again and almost seems to end, but then it leads on into the bridge, which sounds kind of odd because it actually has a decent melody. HYDE's vocals echo through it, but the longer the bridge goes on for, the more boring it gets? Kind of just want it to end now, but it's another five minute song. Argh. Outro takes forever to fade out too.

TRACK 16: The Cape of Storms
Third song from ROENTGEN, but not a later released rock version. Intro has a very classic feel to it. Lyrics are in Engrish and pretty hard to decipher except for a word here or there. Melody and vocal quality are pretty nice here, though I also find the melody to be kind of plain and uninteresting. Tempo slows significantly as we get into the first verse; mood gets very mysterious and suspenseful. There's some interesting use of different instruments here as well, like harmonica and something that sounds kind of like a marimba? Chorus returns with the uninteresting melody; HYDE's vocals are emotional and feel sincere enough, but it's bordering on that "trying too hard" kind of feeling. Second verse is slow and I'm really getting bored. Five minute and forty-five second song is so long~. D;

TRACK 17: glamorous sky [English version] (YouTube it)
This is probably the song I was most excited about when I glanced over the track list. I love "glamorous sky." I love Mika Nakashima's vocals on it, but hearing HYDE sing the song was really interesting too. I didn't know there was an English version of it though?? Excitement here! Intro is odd and disorienting for all of a moment, and then the vocals start. The sound is very, very different here -- the music is much more rockish, the tempo's faster, and HYDE's vocals are weird! The lyrics are strange and I can't understand anything that wasn't already Engrish in the original. Well, I guess "ano" in the choruses turned into "I know" something, but beyond that is beyond me. The difference in the guitars in the back is really, really throwing me off -- it sounds a lot more like a DDR song because the melody is so much more forceful. I have mixed feelings about the vocals; the quality really isn't HYDE's best and the lyrics continue to sound strange.

Haha, "nemurenai yo" turned into "I won't be sleeping." I guess that works out?? It's always interesting to see how much of the original meaning carries over since they're usually more concerned about preserving syllables than translation. The bridge sounds really weird this sped up; the lyrics get a little more understandable, but ... not really. The parts that match up well with the original translation are the parts I pick up more easily. The last round of choruses are all right; the slightly slowed tempo doesn't particularly help the awkwardness of both the lyrics and the guitars though. What a weird way to end this album. What I really want to hear now is Mika Nakashima singing this version of the song though... and perhaps we can wrestle some kind of duet out of them. That would be hot.

OVERALL: Really, I don't know what the point of releasing this compilation album was... HYDE only has three albums to his solo name! This compilation was unnecessarily long and contains more than half of both 666 and Faith. Really, you might as well pick up those original two albums! It doesn't have nearly as much as ROENTGEN, which might be legitimately harder to find, except that two of three included tracks were re-released rock versions, so that's kind of a moot point? The only real point of interest was the last track, which would have probably done just as well released as a special single or as a B-side to another single. The timing of this release also feels weird -- I mean, HYDE just got together with K.A.Z to make VAMPS and they're touring, so why's he reminding fans of old stuff instead of pushing his new stuff? (Oh, man, VAMPS cover of "glamorous sky," why is this so awesome.)

Oh, well. It's not a bad album if you're looking to hear a decent cross section of HYDE's solo work, but if you're already familiar with his solo work, then there isn't really a long enough history to reminisce over here.
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Review: Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Menace

Bucky O'Hare was one of those awesome cartoons from the 90's that almost no one seems to remember nowadays. Bucky was the underdog beating up toads in space while the Ninja Turtles beat up foot soldiers in Manhattan. I have many fond memories of it, though I don't think I actually ever saw the entirety of the thirteen-episode series back in the day. Still, the fondness stayed with me, and I was excited when I found out that the TV show was based on a comic series.

The comic was written by Larry Hama and penciled by Michael Golden. Hama is a third-generation Japanese-American, but that doesn't really explain why I've always thought Bucky O'Hare had a very anime/manga feel to it. The original comic ran in the late 80's and only had one plotline; more were written to coincide with the TV series when it debuted in 1990. The original comic along with two of the later, additional issues were collected together in a manga-like graphic novel released by Vanguard in 2007. I have no idea why they didn't include the rest of the additional issues, but it doesn't really matter. I ordered my copy of Vanguard's release of Bucky O'Hare when I ordered my copy of Viz's releaseof DOGS vol. 0, and I gotta say: Bucky's comic is very disappointing.

(this review contains no spoilers!)
Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars

STORY - Bucky O'Hare presents an intriguing story. In an alternate universe populated by various anthropomorphic animals, the toads have developed their own Skynet named KOMPLEX which then proceeds to enslave not only their race, but uses them them to begin enslaving the rest of the universe. The mammals are bound together by a haphazard political system that refuses to recognize the severity of the toads' threat; thus, they are only willing to fund one defense ship: Bucky's ship, The Righteous Indignation. Of course, there's also lots of other weird stuff, including your human that's transported from our world for one reason or another, but hey, it was the 80's!

For the most part, the first two or three episodes of the TV series followed the comic's original plotline, which is very engaging and fun. The comic's conclusion for the arc differs greatly, however, and honestly, I found the comic's ending to be pretty weak, far-fetched and anticlimatic, but that could just be my bias towards the TV show. The two additional issues that are also included in the volume follow various things that were introduced in the TV show, but they don't connect very well to where the original story left off, so I really wonder why they bothered? Especially since they didn't include the other ten issues that were produced and it doesn't really seem like they have plans to.

The things that struck me most about the story though, was just how it was told in the comic. The "chapters" within the original arc seem to mimic episodes of a television series in that they had recaps at the beginning of every chapter that repeated the same half dozen panels of the previous chapter. This threw me off so much when I read the chapters back to back and saw the repeated panels, which were often reframed so that they were cropped or zoomed in differently. Even if the comic was published in separate issues originally, I find the practice of reframing panels really strange -- Western comics don't do that. You either bought the previous issue or you didn't! Maybe you'll have a quick textual recap on the opening credits page, but not the exact panels from the last issue! What kind of lazy filler crap is that??

There were also really, really awkward two-page spreads. Awkward as in, you had to turn the book around sideways because they were giant, vertical panels. It is so incredibly jarring to be reading through and suddenly there's a huge spread's sideways. Who's bright idea was this?

CHARACTER - Most of the characters don't really get a chance to develop in the original arc. In fact, I found it woefully ironic that Bucky was probably the least interesting of the lot. He's the captain of the ship! And... that's about it. There's very little character beyond that -- he takes information offered by his crew and makes predictable decisions, failing to demonstrate any higher thinking or commanding abilities that have him earn our respect. Thinking back, the show's version of Bucky wasn't that much different to begin with, but he developed a lot more as the series progressed -- should I hold it against the original that it wasn't long enough to work that out?

Willy faced a similar problem and felt like a huge Gary Stu character admist the animals. Blinky seemed like more of a gimmicky mascot than a character. The Air Marshall and most of the toads were also rather flat, and the creepy mouse was just creepy and unexplainable. The most interesting characters in the comic were Deadeye and Jenny, who actually exhibited personality. They had an interesting dynamic between them that suggested backstory, and in Jenny's case, she got further backstory via her "witch powers," which begged many questions and therefore made her interesting. If the duck and the cat could get that kind of thought and treatment, then why not everyone else? Further irony? Deadeye and Jenny are the least developed characters in the handful of episodes of the TV series that mirror the comic.

Vanguard's release inserted short character files in between some of the chapters that included characters' full name, rank, and weapon of choice, as well as a completely stupid, pointless, and superfluous "biography."

ART - Michael Golden's style is a strange blend of Western and Eastern, which is pretty peculiar considering Bucky's age. That style conflict is something we talk about frequently now, but back in the 80's? Most of the animal characters have gigantic eyes and outrageous expressions and the backgrounds, props, and environments are exhaustively detailed. The graphic novel is in plain black and white; the inking job is very Eastern. With minimal spot blacks in most panels, it really seems like it'd be suited for tones. For the most part, the art is enjoyable, but many of the zoomed out long shots are confusing because of the detail.

Here's the thing that disappointed me the most with the comic though: in addition to the aforementioned repeated panels at the beginning and end of chapters, and in addition the sprawling, awkward vertical spreads, several panels are recycled throughout the volume. These panels were not reused to rehash events in the last chapter. They were flat out reused because the artist was too damn lazy to draw the same or similar expression again. The first time it happened, I did a double take. It was a, "Wait, didn't I see this exact panel several pages earlier...? Holy shit, I did!" moment. And I would flip back and forth, confirming that it was indeed the same panel, just flipped over, as if that would make it less obvious. And the worst of it? Sometimes panels were repeated not only once, but twice, and for this one shot of Jenny, it was repeated THREE TIMES after its initial debut. Are you freakin' kidding me??

Not only is this just ridiculous, but it also emphasizes that Golden really didn't have too many ways to draw the same kind of expression -- even when he did actually draw a new panel, many of them were remarkably reminiscent of others previous. It's like watching a one-trick pony. He'll perform the trick multiple times and usually there will be slight variations, but you know, at the end of the day, it's still the same damn trick. Super, super disappointing.

The two issues in the back by a different team of artists don't suffer this problem and they mimic Golden's style all right; still, the inks are noticably thicker and there are far less details.

OVERALL - The Bucky O'Hare comic has become one of those things that I'm glad I personally bought and read, but that I would never recommend to others. I was curious and now my curiosity is satisfied; I do vaguely wonder about those other ten issues that were adapted from the TV series, but it's not a burning curiosity. The best thing that the comic had going for it was undoubtedly its premise and concept, which was successfully adapted into a wonderful TV series, so that's what everyone should check out. The story in the television show is much better thought out because there was more room; similarly, the show's characters were more three-dimensional and well thought out. The comic's art is impressive in its detail and style, but I don't think I can forgive Golden for his lazy, recycled panels. The cartoon's art is much simpler and decidedly not impressive to any degree, but it wasn't terrible, so whatever, eh?
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