InuYasha, the fourth big work by Rumiko Takahashi (56 volumes long) has the same weaknesses as some of her other series, but also the same strengths. It’s about a present day girl (Kagome) who gets transported to the past and has to collect shards of a magical crystal. Along the way she meets friends, especially the half-demon InuYasha, with whom Kagome fells in love, and enemies, first among them Naraku, who soon becomes the main villain of the series.
Typical for a Takahashi series there are moments when you feel like she’s drawing things out for far too long, introducing new elements instead of going on with the main storyline. But despite her tendency to do that, most of the series manages to be entertaining. Part of the appeal are her characters, easily her biggest strength. There a fun and horrific moments, emotional scenes and fast actions sequences, and yet the characters work well in all of them.
In the end it’s that what makes InuYasha such an addictive experience. Despite the drawn out plot, the characters makes you come back again and again. Also for the first time, unlike in her others series, Takahashi actually manages a grand finale and provides an ending that truly satisfies on every level.
This is exactly what the variety of movies known as b-movies once looked like: a simple concept (put a killer from a known slasher series onto a spaceship) and bad acting. But due to a brisk pace and generous action entertaining enough to sink some time into it. At times I was reminded of alien one and four, which sports similar action, despite the difference in acting quality. Jason X is quite effective in squeezing the last drop out of its concept, but once that runs dry you realize its merely the same old story. And the armor-upgrade for Jason toward the end of the movie promises more than it actually delivers.
Very entertaining slasher that crosses the Nightmare on Elm Street series with Friday the 13th series. While slashers aren’t generally known for their smart plotting, I thought how the movie linked the two series and gave a justification for Freddy and Jason to fight with each other was rather well done and followed a convincing logic. Otherwise the movie follows the common pattern: numerous young teens get killed until only a few remain and find a way to fight back.
I also have to mention the solution the adults of Springwood have thought up to contain Freddy, which is rather ingenious. Sure, from the point of view of those who suffer under the solution (containment in an asylum) it’s not very nice, but to treat Freddy like an infectious disease is excellent out of the box thinking.
Amazingly good looking side-scrolling shmup for the Mega CD. When I started this puppy I knew I had a winner. It has all the common elements of shmups: a weapon upgrade system with four different types to choose, a science fiction setting that sees an overwhelming force trying to ground humanity down. But like other near-perfect shmups (Gates of Thunder for PCE or R-Type for SNES for example) the execution is where the game really shines. Perfect handling, beautiful 2d-graphics, a wide variety of enemies and bosses. This is just fun to play.
The learning curve is also rather moderate and only the last two levels provide a real challenge. Especially the final boss can be a bitch if you’ve chosen the wrong weapon system.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect of this novel, as it’s description made it seem more like a historical novel than a science fiction novel, yet it was made out to be the first part in a new trilogy set in the Xeelee setting. I also wondered why Baxter saw a need to revisit the setting.
I’m still not exactly sure where Baxter is going with this story and what role it plays in the overall scheme of things concerning the Xeelee setting, but it’s an interesting direction. Basically Coalescent depicts the more or less natural creation of a human hive, starting some 2.000 years ago. There are also hints that this tendency to create human hives is not an exception, but will happen again and again when the right conditions are met. There were moments when I thought the book strained credulity, for example when the creator of the hive discovered the rules that would shape it by instinct. But overall the book really works.
Part of it’s appeal is that the main character in the storyline in the present is both drawn to the hive and what it promises and chilled by his own attraction to it. Compared to some of Baxter’s earlier works the quality of the writing and characterization has really improved. This is the first time that I enjoy a Baxter book not merely for the plotting and the ideas, but the writing too.
This also prompted me to buy Herbert’s classic Hellstrom’s Hive, which covers similar ground. Hopefully it’s as good.
This animated adaptation of Darwyn Cooke’s comic is good, but has some elements that stopped me from fully enjoying it. The bigger story is about the Center, an eon old entity that wants to erase humanity from the face of Earth. This happens against the backdrop of an USA that’s began to mistrust its first generation of superheroes and most of them have stopped acting, went official or became vigilantes. But when the Center appears a new generation of heroes has to step up.
The first half of the movie is concerned with introducing the main players, six of the seven standard Justice League members. Of them Batman (vigilante), Superman (state employed) and Wonder Woman (retired) embody the old generation of heroes, while Green Lantern, Flash and (arguably) the Martian Manhunter are part of the new generation of heroes. The character designs and their portrayals harken back to original conceptions of the characters and feel quiet different than for example their depiction in the DC animated universe.
This is where I had the most fun, as the characterization is top-notch and the slow approach is really suited to rediscover some of the heroes in the context of this alternate DCU setting. The best sequence had the Martian Manhunter, whose attempts to find a place on Earth worked really well. The moment when you see him watching TV and changing into various characters from TV is pure gold. But the best line of dialog had Batman, who upon hearing that the Martian Manhunter wanted to leave Earth because of its unpleasantness dryly answered that some don’t have that choice.
The second part of the movie is devoted to the conflict with the Center entity. It has some truly excellent actions scenes and some truly awful speeches by the good guys. I thought the movie too easily glossed over the problems raised in the first part (the mistrust towards superheroes). One moment the movie managed to evoke the paranoia of the McCarthy era perfectly, the next moment it turned into another bright superhero action-fest with simpleminded, gung-ho and can-do speeches. Still, the action in the second part is good.
While it’s basically another variation on the big evil computer going bad template, this miniseries by Frank Miller is probably my favorite comic by him. Miller infuses the story with some ingenious devices, first and foremost his decoy plot about a ronin, a blood drinking sword and a demon from the past who are reborn in the present. In a way he’s playing with expectations, as most readers grown up with superhero comics won’t hesitate to accept magic and technology in the same setting, until one of the characters doesn’t let himself be blinded and finds out the truth.
Beside the smart plotting one of the strengths of Ronin is the art. This is Miller at his best: energetic, grandiose, impressive and never mundane. The setting is typical for the 80ties, a decayed, overcrowded, dystopic future where technology and wealth is very unevenly distributed. In that it’s more or less a mirror of the present, a mirror that condenses the worst and the best in one place. Due to the story (big bad AI) the ending doesn’t offer something interesting, but getting there is truly a tour de force.
Almost all old Disney movies evoke similar reactions. I love the art, but I find the narrative and the characters completely unappealing. Yet unlike Snow White (for example), whose story merely bored me, a moralistic play like Pinocchio is certain to rise my ire. Not really hot ire, but enough to annoy me. It’s about a puppet made from wood that gets a chance at real live if he proves himself worthy (brave, truthful and courageous) of being a living boy. Blaargh. Such simpleminded concept never present themselves in real life. Real humans don’t get too make such clean cut choices.
The movie has three parts, with the first two presenting each the choice between conforming and going to school or getting tempted. Obviously each time Pinocchio flunks the test, which allows the movie to poke you in the eye with its unintentional hilarious conviction of how boys should behave. But the third time’s the charm and Geppetto gets his real boy (I really wanted to step into the movie and point out that there are other ways to achieve that).
This should have been great, having a similar approach as Spider-Man: a teen gets powers and starts the whole superhero gig. It’s an animated version of a character from the Dakotaverse, a superhero universe with a focus on black characters as superheroes. The comics were published by DC (due to a publishing deal between DC and Milestone Media), but initially the comics took part in their own, separate universe, until their company Milestone went under. Presently the Milestone characters have been merged into the DCU. This is just a long-winded way to explain why this was set in the DC animated universe.
Together with the Zeta Project this was the least interesting series of the DCAU. Too much trimmed to get the label kid-friendly. Too much political correctness. Often they even tried to incorporate some lame morals. Not that I have something against convictions, but there’s wide difference between hitting you over the head with something and trying more sophisticated approaches.
And to be honest, the show was often boring. Always the same, lame villains, unchanging character cast and generic plots. Also, for a show about a school kid playing superhero, mundane school interactions were rarely seen, something that’s been used quite effectively in the Spectacular Spider-Man show or the new Iron Man: Armored Adventures show or the various animated X-Men shows. Apart from the black angle, there’s not much the show had going for it. Sadly, the best episodes were crossovers with other DC animated universe series, and even those episodes weren’t that good.
An all girls beat’em up for the PC-Engine. There’s nothing really outstanding about this one, but the game has very solid handling, is well balanced, has okay graphics and is all in all very enjoyable to play. The story mode is especially fun with its mostly humorous cut scenes. Only the ending feels a bit disappointing, as it seems to be a cliffhanger (since it’s all in Japanese I’m not sure, but that’s what the visuals imply), something that’s never a good idea in a game.