Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ward Talent Show

My Church Ward is having a talent show, and this year I'm showing off my blogging skills. I'd like to welcome anyone who is visiting the site because of it - and I'd like to give a little explanation of what I do with this blog.

I began blogging with my Super Sentai Images Blog, but eventually I wanted to talk about other stuff besides Super Sentai. So I began this secondary blog for everything else I'm interested in. I occasionally try my hand at reviewing comics. I point out Japanese movies I've seen. I talk about video games, comics, and have a few rants here and there. (Please forgive me, though - when I wrote those rants I usually was very angry about something. Usually I managed to write something coherent, so I decided to keep them up instead of deleting them.)

I feel like sometimes I wane between writing something good on this blog and then later writing something very poorly. This blog is really an example of anything that's on my mind at the time - and it might reflect that in the quality. I also resist going back to change a post, even when my position on it has since changed - so things where written very much for that moment. In that sense some posts have the feel a journal. So please forgive that.

I think I had some good success with my Super Sentai Blog, gaining lots of hits each day, and amassing over 90 followers. With this one, I quickly found out what it was like to run a much less successful blog. It's improved a lot since I started, but it's a simple fact that there is a glut of Anime and Comic blogs - so it's not surprising mine might get lost among all the others. I do have about 30 followers her. I have 58448 hits in total, from 4/11/09 to now. If my counter is to be believed, I get an average of 60 unique visitors each day.

You can find all the subjects I cover listed on the right of the screen, where you can see all of the posts about Comics, or Anime, ect. There's also the "Master List" where I list all the posts I have made so far.

I also want to note another Tokusatsu (Japanese Special Effects) series I watch, called Kamen Rider. (Translated as Masked Rider) It aired alongside Super Sentai for many years. The series always seemed like it appealed to an audience, as each Kamen Rider series has been more of a Soap Opera, with the character's personal lives being the center piece of the show. The current series, Kamen Rider OOO, is a tremendously fun series. (Of note, some people might remember an attempt at bringing Masked Rider to America alongside the Power Rangers. It was nothing short of a travesty, outraging the creator and fans when they tried to turn it into an inane sitcom; it's nothing like that.) TV-Nihon translates the series, and you can find Direct Download links here. A series like Kamen Rider Kiva, or Kamen Rider Kabuto are good places to begin. Just to let you know, the series isn't legally licensed over in America. Yet in an odd stroke of luck, there is a rare legally available Kamen Rider movie that can be found on Netflix. It's called "Kamen Rider: The First", and is a retelling of the original Kamen Rider series. It's much more mature than the regular series, and features some great action. They specifically tried to keep the movie grounded by not using digital effects like they typically use in the TV series.

Here are some of my better Posts which I wanted to highlight.

Comics

Anime


Video Games


TV


Tokusatsu (Japanese TV)


Other Stuff on the Web I Wanted to Point Out


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sym-Bionic Titan


This last year Cartoon Network aired a fantastic original cartoon series called Sym-Bionic Titan. The series was created by Genndy Tartakovsky, who previous created and worked on shows like Samurai Jack and the Star Wars Clone Wars mini-series -- so immediately the series had clout to take a lot of risks. The show decidedly seemed to aim for different takes on the giant robot and high school genre, to some spectacular results.


The series starred three protagonists: Lance, Ilana, and Octus. Lance and Ilana are on the run from their conquered home planet of Galaluna. Lance has been charged with keeping Princess Ilana safe and out of enemy hands. They arrive on Earth to hide, but they are continually followed by monsters sent through a Rift Gate to destroy them. Luckily they have a robotic companion, Octus (noticeably voiced by Brian Posehn, from Mr. Show and Just Shoot Me). Along with Octus Lance and Iluna are able to merge together to form a powerful giant robot called Sym-Bionic Titan. The series heavily drew inspiration from 80s Anime series like Voltron and Speed Racer.


The giant robot action was noticeably different than what you might typically expect. From the very beginning of the series it's shown that these monster battles do have repercussions. The second detailed this by showing the characters traveling through the ruined crater still in the center of the city from their first battle. The show never got too much into the detail of the damage - or lives lost - but this small slice of realism showed a great new perspective on the series. Watching the giant battles you even ended up hoping they would able to have the fight out in the country side, just because you knew there would otherwise be city wide damage - and repercussions for our heroes. It's not inaccurately noted by a General, who wants to stop Titan, that it's because of Titan's presence on Earth that the monsters are coming at all.

Yet what really sold the series was the high-school drama of the characters. Lance and Ilana pose as brother and sister at the school, while Octus is able to take on a holographic appearance of an oversized nerd named Newton. (He also doubled as their father in certain instances as well.) There are various inspirations from high school movies, like Ilana trying to sign up for the cheerleading team, Lance getting involved in local drag racing, and Octus even winning the heart of the most popular (and stuck up) girl in the school. There where several instances delving into the traits of all the characters, and there where two episodes pointedly going back in time to show the history of the cast. Lance's story, in particular, seemed especially sad - showing how he lost his father at an early age, and was subsequently being raised in the Royal Military. All of these tales may have been inspired by movies and TV - and often followed the same themes -- but the hand drawn animation and superb directing of the series simply made the most mundane events shine.

What I'm most disappointed with, though, is that the series has apparently been canceled. Genndy Tartakovsky has apparently already moved on, and weak toy tie-ins ultimately sealed the show's fate, even though it was receiving respectable ratings. I really take issue with a weak toy-line being a factor, as there was pretty much no attempt at having a toy line. I know the series, with it's stylized art and primary focus on human characters couldn't have helped - but there was no reason some kind of figure like could have been developed based on the giant robots of the series. Simply put, if there where plans for toys - they never materialized. You simply can't complain about a weak toy line when you don't release a single piece of merchandise.

The series seemed to end on a happy note, at least. The final episodes showed Lance and Ilana trying to revive Octus, who was severely damaged and effectively dead. The dangling plot threads of the enigmatic Solomon and his alien intervention organization G3 where dealt with, but not brought to a conclusion or explanation. We're probably never going to find out who the shadowy figure was who reinitialized Octus - and the plot-line to reclaiming the conquered Galaluna would obviously have been dealt with in season 2. It's hard to say, if the series did continue, wether I'd want it to without Genndy Tartakovsky at the helm. His style of directing and animation has simply astounded critics and fans, and simply raised the level on what the art form can do. So if he really has moved on from the company, then perhaps the end of Sym-Bionic Titan is for the best. Still, for what it showed us in one season - this was a fantastic show.