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Monday, 29 February 2016

Editorial: 5 Funnest Video Game Openings.


So this week is a busy week for me, and today the busiest of all, so while there are editorials with slightly more substance boiling (like one on Marvel's casting choices), today we're going with something frivolous and easy to write. Which will also probably be up late, so sorry about that.

I'm going to try and get this fortnight's Ghost up tomorrow, which might mean reviewing it while one of the two episodes is unsubbed. That'll be an experience.


Editorial: 5 Funnest Video Game Openings.


Openings are an important part of a video game, setting the mood and creating hype for the story and action to follow, usually in the form of a dramatic or ominous cutscene or, if you're playing a JRPG, an opening that would not be out of place on an anime.

I actually find that latter type of opening really, really fun, because I love anime openings sometimes more than the actual shows and/or games (apparently) that they're the openings to, so here's five of the funnest.


Persona Q.



Persona Q's opening is basically the opening of an anime that sets itself up to be happy-go-lucky while actually being awful. You know, like how .hack//SIGN and Madoka Magica both had openings that made them look like charming romps even though they were not charming romps.

Fair play to Atlus for including a shot of a woman with her hair falling out and bleeding from her eyes, set to the swelling upbeat music of Shoji Meguro's Maze of Life, just so that you do have some warning of the kind of content the game will start throwing at you somewhere around its latter half.

Prior to that, though, Persona Q's opening is basically every single happy, upbeat anime opening ever committed to screen blended into one brightly coloured sequence about friendship and teamwork and weird, looming doors beyond which lie young girls and teenage boys with dead eyes. So that's good. I like that.

It's really catchy, too.


Final Fantasy XII.



On the other end of the spectrum, Final Fantasy XII's opening is not so much an opening credits sequence as it is an abridged fantasy miniseries covering a political wedding, a war, a funeral, and the occupation of a city. It even has a short bit of exposition on history and local geopolitics, because of course it does.

Setting you up for what is arguably the largest, most epic, and most politically minded Final Fantasy game made, XII's opening makes it absolutely clear what this game is about: Politics, war, and practical armour design, with that last point getting hammered in by the fact that shortly after seeing a man get shot with an arrow through his sexy armour gap, you get a tutorial character stabbed through his sexy armour gap.

Would that the designers had remembered their own lessons there when designing either Fran or Ashe.


Bravely Second.



Like Persona Q's opening, Bravely Second's opening is essentially the opening of an anime, but its focus is less on 'bright colours and ominous imagery' and more on 'everything is epic and fantasy and there's a guy with a sword'.

The opening cycles through showing you various characters being dramatic, culminating in a showdown between Emperor Oblivion (one presumes he picked that name for himself) and protagonist Yew, with them colour-coded purple and orange just in case you thought the man in all black with a mask was good or the boy in bright colours with wide, innocent eyes was evil.

Highlights of the trailer include wondering what on earth Tiz is wearing, enjoying the agreeable music by band supercell, and also wondering what on earth Tiz is wearing. 


Dissidia Final Fantasy.



Dissidia's opening probably shouldn't be on this list, because while it is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous, dramatic, and fanservice-y (in the wholesome 'look at all these characters you know and love being amazing' sense) thing Square-Enix has ever made, it's also basically a seven or eight minute long taunt, because the actual game is not even remotely as dramatic and dynamic as this one sequence.

As you get to your twelfth hour of slogging through virtually identical fights in a handful of arenas, you will perhaps think back on the opening, which shows you sights like Zidane throwing Tidus through the air with his tail, Squall and Sephiroth battling their way up a sheer rock face, and Firion clinging to the side of a floating rock as Golbez suspends it in the air for kicks, and think 'wow, if only the designers had put a tenth of the effort into the game that they put into this one cutscene.'

Dissidia Duodecim, meanwhile, replaces most of that with floating numbers, re-used footage, and brief shots of Yuna dancing? On a battlefield? For some reason? Which seems like an odd choice, given that I'm pretty sure that most people bought Duodecim for the opening cutscene, with the actual game as an optional sideshow.

Still, A++ opening, guys.


Valkyria Chronicles.



Valkyria Chronicles' opening, which might very well also be its trailer, basically revolves around swelling, orchestral music and shots of dramatic moments of the game, and it's amazing. I could watch it for hours. I have watched it for hours.

There's not actually a massive amount more I can say about it. It's just - it's nice. It's really nice. It's nice when things are nice. I like it.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Editorial: Five Characters Who Should Be On Legends of Tomorrow S2


Five Characters Who
Should Be On Legends of Tomorrow
Series 2





So, we're a little under halfway through the first series of Legends of Tomorrow, and I am personally already abuzz about second series, because I have no sense of patience and timing. As part of that abuzzedness, here are five characters who I think should be rotated in to the rotating cast of Legends of Tomorrow for a series.

Incidentally, this editorial does assume that some of the current cast will stay on - Rip and Kendra, at the very least, and quite possibly Stein and Jax as well. I doubt they'd get rid of Rip when he's the one with the whole time travel schtick, and Kendra's too big a name to let go.

This editorial also assumes that any new cast members will be characters we've seen before, since that was true of the first series.


John Constantine.




Okay, I have something I need to say: I don't actually like John Constantine? Not in comics, and not in the Arrowverse, and especially not in his own series, which was so intolerable that I actually struggled to get through a single episode of it.

That said, if written well he can be a good source of conflict, which Legends thrives off: While Rip would have whatsoever his goal is in series, Constantine would clearly have his own agenda, acting as some sort of combination of Len and Mick, only with more magic and less crime, and he'd probably not make much of a secret out of that.

Combine that with the inclusion of, say, Kendra, and you could have something really interesting: Constantine has, after all, surely heard of Kendra and Carter's tale of woe, and equally certainly has both views on it and insight into it.

Also, he'd get along absolutely terribly with some people on his list. Also, he's practically been confirmed for the series anyway, so I do have to make my peace with that.


Connor Hawke / Green Arrow II.




Oh, Connor. Hands down the most interesting part of 'Star City 2046', we barely got to know you before you were snatched away from us by virtue of that episode only being a single episode crossover. But I do want to see more of Connor, and the best way to do that is to have a version of him - not necessarily the one we saw - join the Waverider's second crew.

It'd be interesting, because in a team with more mercenary and self-serving characters like Constantine, Connor would stand out as being both unambiguously heroic and almost entirely concerned with Star City, rather than anywhere else, fitting with the running theme of Green Arrows being heroes of a single city instead of the world.

Not to mention, the first series of Legends was notably lacking in heroes from - well, any time other than 2016, apart from Rip himself. If you have a time travel plot mechanic, you should make full use of it by having at least one character from either the future or the past.


Mari McCabe / Vixen.




The biggest disappointment of the Vixen/Arrow crossover was how terribly under-used Mari was, and I demand that we see more of her. In all honesty, I've been disappointed with how little the Arrowverse has used Mari for a while now (especially given that her own series came up to barely twenty minutes in length), so giving her a starring role in a series of Legends would be a dream come true for me.

It'd also make a lot of sense. Mari has headlined her own series, however absurdly short, had an appearance on Arrow, and could easily (and should) have an appearance on The Flash. At this point, she's a fairly recognisable character for audiences, and Legends seems to have a fondness for characters that the audience already knows and loves.

She's also, like Connor, fairly unambiguously heroic, and when placed up against more morally flexible characters, that can only lead to interesting things.


Dr. Harrison Wells.




'Murphy, you are just saying this because you really like Wells, in, like, every incarnation, you just really love Tom Cavanaugh's acting,' I hear you saying, and that is completely true.

But consider this: Much of Rip Hunter's authority in the first series of Legends comes from being the smartest man in the room, at least in regards to things like time travel - as a Time Master, he's able to speak with more or less uncontested authority on matters relating to the timestream and history. But that would change if Wells - either Earth-2 Wells or Thawne!Wells - were to show up.

That would mean instant character conflict, not least because we've yet to see a situation in which Wells isn't the smartest person in any given room, but because no matter which Wells you're dealing with, they're always abrupt, irascible, and impatient. Into what's already a volatile mix of personalities you would throw someone whose response to anything he perceives as foolishness is total scorn.

Also, it'd be interesting to see what kind of relationships he would form with everyone. Assuming it's Earth-2 Wells, would he became somewhat parental over Connor? Would he absolutely hate Constantine for being essentially the antithesis of a rational scientist? Would he just plain adore Kendra? It'd be fascinating.


Linda Park / Doctor Light.




Look, every Legends series should have a criminal who likes shooting people with some manner of CGI element. Having already covered 'cold' and 'hot', the logical place to go is 'shininess', with Doctor Light, the Earth-2 version of Linda Park.

Short stint of working for Zoom notwithstanding, Light was apparently not keen at all on killing, preferring to just steal and get away without casualties, which might make for an interesting situation where she's both the only criminal on the team and one of the more ethical members of the team, making a stand against any senseless murder.

Not to mention, if we assume that everyone on this list is in the show, you have the potential for some interesting interactions between her and Wells - Wells, after all, enabled her to become a highly successful thief by making her a metahuman. Is she grateful, or angry that his experiments altered her into something not wholly human anymore? Has she ever stolen from him before? Is he suspicious of her? Is she angry about him being involved in her kidnapping and extrajudicial imprisonment as bait for the most dangerous speedster we've seen yet? Because I'd be angry about that.

Better yet, she'd interact interestingly with the others, because like Len and Mick, she'd be out for some kind of score, and I doubt she'd bother keeping that a secret. How would characters like Connor or Mari deal with that? What about Constantine? So much potential.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Legends of Tomorrow S1E6: Star City 2046


Legends of Tomorrow
Series 1, Episode 6
Star City 2046



Crossovers are always a slightly risky proposition in Arrowverse shows, with their quality ranging from 'loads of good superhero fun' to 'actually a little bit torturous to watch', and with both The Flash and Arrow having both had some pretty enjoyable crossovers this week, it was always likely that Legends of Tomorrow would be the show to draw the short straw and end up with something barely watchable.

In this crossover episode, the Waverider crew ends up in a potential future version of Star City, which has been taken over by Slade Wilson's evil son, Grant (try not to laugh). With the help of the new Green Arrow, Connor Hawke, half of the team sets out to find a device built by Felicity Smoak, which they need to repair the Waverider and leave. Len and Mick quickly separate from the group, with Mick setting himself up as the leader of a local gang, much to Len's chagrin. Meanwhile, on the Waverider, Jax develops a romantic interest in Kendra, but swiftly finds himself in competition with Ray for her affections.

Okay, first things first, I hate the Kendra-Jax-Ray subplot in this episode. Hate it. The actors all do marvelous jobs, but good god, writers, Kendra's done nothing for most of the series and now you're having her be the centre of a tired, cliche romantic sitcom plot for an episode? No, stop that, have her go out and have an action-y, character-development-y plot of her own. She is your headlining character, she's the one with more brand recognition than every other member of your team put together, so use her. 

Also, Connor is very good-looking, so there's that.

I did, in point of fact, enjoy Stein's bumbling attempts to play matchmaker, and Jax and Ray being puppyish and adorable, but I would have enjoyed it so much more if the object of their affections hadn't been someone who'd been horribly under-used up to this point. Have them pining after Len or something, I don't know.

The Len and Mick storyline, meanwhile, was much more to my taste, not least because it builds on a character arc that Len's been having since the first series of The Flash: Mick still wants to be a criminal of the chaotic self-serving sort, whereas Len is starting to realise that he doesn't have to be, and maybe doesn't want to be. It's been a very well-written arc for him, and I suspect we're liable to see tensions between the two of them come to a head towards the end of the series.

I did wonder, for a moment, if latter parts of the series might even see Mick join Vandal, but I think that after Vandal killed one of his 'crew', he'd never even consider it.

Sara looks much better with that coat, I really didn't like her costume before.

The main plot, sadly, is somewhat less inspired, and actually was pretty dull. Grant Wilson does not make an especially compelling villain, unfortunately, coming off less as a Mirakuru-enhanced gang leader who controls a ruined city with an iron fist, and more like the bully jock character from an 80s high school film. There's a moment where he and Connor are exchanging barbs, and Grant says that Connor is a punk kid, and Connor says he'd say the same about Grant, and it's true - Grant does come across as just a teenager throwing a tantrum.

Elderly Ollie doesn't impress much either. The old man make-up looks ridiculous, and while Stephen Amell puts a minimal amount of effort into sounding like an old man, he doesn't even try to move like one, instead giving the impression that somebody glued the head of a sixty year old onto a twenty-something's body. Since we barely see him in the episode, his decision to come out of hiding to take down Grant feels totally unearned.

(I'm also a bit confused by the 'we could have stopped this army if you had been here, Ray and Sara' because I'm not sure the addition of those two would have helped much, especially if we presume that Barry and Mari would presumably have helped out as well.)

"No, it's just that this is London's Burning, and you're very impressionable."

Connor, meanwhile, actually is quite interesting, and I wish we'd seen more of him. Joseph David-Jones plays him with the perfect amount of gruffness, uncertainty, and humour, and I'd actually really quite like to see him come back as a regular character in the next Legends of Tomorrow series. I'm not sure how I feel about him being Diggle's son, though - it grates a little that he isn't Oliver's, as he is in the comics. I understand why, because having Ollie cheat on Felicity and fathering another child would feel like a gigaantic shark-jumping moment, but it still bothers me a bit.

Also, why is his assumed name 'Connor Hawke'? In the comics, that was just his name, but here it's a name he's assumed, but nobody in his family has the surname 'Hawke', and we have no idea where he got 'Connor' from either, giving the impression that he just picked the coolest name he could think of.

Overall, a rather less than enjoyable episode, easily the worst of the series so far. Next week sees the crew run into time pirates, though, so that should be interesting.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Flash S2E15: King Shark


The Flash
Series 2, Episode 15
King Shark.



I think last week I labelled this upcoming episode as being essentially fun filler-y crossover shenanigans, and boooy, I was wrong about that. Not completely wrong - the bulk of the episode genuinely is just fun filler stuff, a metahuman of the week plot that would have felt completely at home in the first few episodes of the series, or during the first series - but mostly wrong, as we get at least one significant plot twist towards the end of the episode.

Coming off from a great two-parter about Earth-2, this episode sees Diggle and Lyla arrive in Central City with bad news: King Shark has escaped ARGUS custody and is on his way to Central City, driven by a need to obey his orders from Zoom and kill Barry. Meanwhile, Barry is still reeling from Jay's death and the death of Earth-2's Joe - something that gets in the way when Joe and Iris try to have him befriend Wally, who is suspicious and resentful of Barry and the praise of Joe and Iris lavish on him. Meanwhile, as Caitlin withdraws into herself out of grief, Cisco becomes increasingly concerned that she's becoming like Killer Frost.

Okay, so I foolishly looked at what fans were saying prior to writing this review, and it turns out that there are a lot of people hating Wally for his being resentful of Barry, and I admit, I'm not sure why. Wally already feels abandoned by Joe, after all, hence the whole guff about him being a detective who can't even detect he has a son, were people really expecting him to be okay with Barry, a man he doesn't know and who he shares no relation to but who basically had the upbringing that Wally feels was denied to him? Especially when Barry is being standoffish and unfriendly? Not just in this episode, either, where Barry does have the excuse that he's miserable over Jay and Earth-2 Joe's deaths - remember, both Joe and Wally have made reference before to the fact that Barry's not only barely talked to Wally, but might even have been deliberately avoiding him.

Wally is an actual ray of sunshine.

(Which also makes sense for Barry's character, who has always felt insecure about his relationship with Joe, and might not be dealing too well with Joe's biological son showing up.)

That's not to say that Barry is to blame either, but to be honest, this particular tangle of issues was always going to take a while to sort out, and I'm glad the show is addressing it, and not just because I love Wally and I want to see more of him. I've been craving some interaction between Barry and Wally, and while I really want them to get a proper brotherly relationship, I appreciate that the show didn't shy away from having that be a difficult, awkward thing.

As far as the King Shark plotline goes, it was a lot of fun. King Shark is a gloriously absurd villain of the week. I was kind of hoping that he, as someone who's personally fought Zoom, would give us some kind of interesting information about him, but no such luck - nevertheless, I really did like him as a villain, and he has potential, I think, if the show wanted to use him again. Barry running in a circle on the water to electrocute him was one of the most striking images of the series so far, as well, so that's good too.

Shark hunting.

That plot also gave us a chance to see Wells and Jesse interact, and I liked it, but I want more. I want to see Jesse prove, once and for all, that she is, as Wells claims, the smarter of the two. I want to see them doing science together. I want to see them teaming up to troll Cisco.

(Speaking of trolling Cisco, there's a moment at the end where Caitlin pretends to be Killer Frost to freak Cisco out, and he accuses her of working with Barry to prank him - but the line she references 'If you know me, you'd know I hate the name Caitlin', was a line she said when Barry wasn't there. Wells was there. Conclusion: Wells and Caitlin teamed up to mock Cisco.)

Of course, the big thing of this episode was finding out at the end that Jay - or someone who looks very much like him - is Zoom. I admit, I didn't really see that coming until last week, and I'm a little disappointed by that as a twist, something not helped by Andrew Kreisberg alluding to him actually being Earth-2's Hunter Zolomon. 

Diggle and Lyla.

I would note, however, that a lot of people are asking how Zoom managed to be zipping about Earth-2 when Jay was in Earth-1, or how he managed to impale himself through the chest, and for them I would point them to the beginning of the scene, where Zoom drops the body of the Jay we all know onto the floor. The Jay hanging out with the gang and the Jay/Hunter who is Zoom aren't the same person. Who each of them are and how they relate to each other and the man in the iron mask remains to be seen, however.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this episode. Next week, we apparently have Trajectory, another speedster, making an appearance. I'll be interested to see what happens there, but I suspect she'll end up de-speeded by the end of the episode.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Teen Wolf S5E18: The Maid of Gevaudan.


Teen Wolf
Series 5, Episode 18
The Maid of Gevaudan.



I think that going into this review it's very important that we all remember that I was right. I'm talking, of course, about the reveal in this episode that Mason is the Beast, which I did call quite some time ago. Not that that was exactly a difficult thing to guess, I'll grant you, what with him being more or less the only possible candidate for the Beast, but still, go me. Now Zoom just needs to be revealed as Earth-2 Barry and I'll have a full house of Being Right About Villainous Identities.

In this week's episode, as Scott battles the Beast around the school, Gerard and Chris tell Lydia the story of the Maid of Gevaudan, the first hunter and the ancestor of the Argents, who killed the Beast of Gevaudan with a silver-tipped spear.

The ongoing Scott vs Beast battle is fun, with Scott getting progressively more exhausted and bloody as it goes on, but it's really just a sideshow to the main story, which is Gerard talking about the Beast and the Maid, complete with Period Drama Flashbacks. 

Crystal Reed's back as Jeanne-Marie, the eponymous Maid, in a role that really just hammers in how nice it would be to have Allison back on the show. The Maid is basically Allison, after all, only with the addition of a terrible, terrible French accent, to the point where she even goes through roughly the same character arc as Allison - being betrayed by a family member, and through that embracing her role as a hunter of supernatural beings. Accent notwithstanding, Reed gives a good performance as the Maid, in a storyline that is concise, well-paced, and actually has a pretty good twist towards the end.

I like that shade of blue.

One thing that has me tilting my head in quizzical confusion is the explanation of how Sebastien became the Beast in the first place. We get an offhanded mention to 'drinking rainwater from a wolf's pawprint', but that's never been brought up as a way to become a werewolf before this? Especially not a shadowy, phantom werewolf, which we know now isn't the result of the Doctors recreating it, but how the Beast has always been. I'm left very confused now, because nobody seems to be commenting on how the Beast is nothing like a regular werewolf and apparently wasn't even turned in a normal fashion. 

I've seen various theories about this - that the Beast is actually from Hell, a literal demon in the form of a werewolf, with the Hellhound having come to essentially drag it back; or that the Beast is the ancestor of all current werewolves, and thus they're lesser in power than it. Both those theories are viable.

The other interesting hint we get is that Sebastien refers to becoming the Demon Wolf, and we've heard someone else reference that: It was Deucalion's end goal in killing his betas and forming the alpha pack (with intent to kill them as well, probably) - so maybe the Beast is just the natural end point of all werewolves? I don't know, and nothing has been explained very well.

I'm going to remain incredibly frustrated about that, incidentally, until it is explained. Incidentally, I will also need everything about the Dread Doctors to be explained, along with precisely why Theo killed his sister, and why he thought Deucalion could help. You have two episodes, show.

Harsh.

We also found out that Chris and Gerard want Lydia to be the new Maid, hoping that she can defeat the Beast instead of Parrish - but wouldn't Kira make a lot more sense? I get that she's a shapeshifter, which is apparently a big no-no for those two, but she's also the team's weapons expert, and can generate electric shocks, which we know werewolves are vulnerable to. Out of all of them, I'd give her the biggest chance of defeating the Beast, and her set of abilities match up closest with what hunters usually use to take down werewolves. But no, it's Lydia, apparently, even though she'd be a better match to go up against the Doctors.

(Actually, where was Kira in this episode? She didn't show up at all. Neither did Stiles, granted, but his absence was at least referenced, and we can presume he's probably been kidnapped by the Desert Wolf.)

Lydia's response is that she's not Allison - which, I mean, true, although oddly I saw one recap describing her as 'yelling' despite the fact that she didn't even raise her voice - and that Jeanne-Marie had the help of the town and her friends, and that she was going to go convince Parrish to help. I'm actually not sure why the Argents are so against Parrish helping - the Hellhound has been pretty benign so far, going as far as engaging them in civil conversation without trying to murder anyone. That's more than can be said for Gerard on a bad day.

Running and stuff.

Also, our current villain count to deal with now stands at about six: The Beast, the Doctors, Theo, the Desert Wolf, Gerard and Deucalion. The Hellhound has been taken off the list on account of seemingly not being antagonistic.

In next week's episode, it looks like we have Deucalion coaching Theo on how to steal Mason's power, a confrontation with the Desert Wolf, and the Doctors showing up to basically wreck Theo's hideout as punishment for taking their science project, because seriously, Theo, what did you think would happen?


Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Martian (2015)


The Martian
(2015)



To be quite honest, this film did not catch my attention at all when it was being advertised. The trailers seemed intent on setting it up as a dark, brooding study into the nature of solitude, and I will literally never be interested in that as a concept. It wasn't until I saw some extracts from the book, and later a few short clips from the film itself, that I found out that the film actually has a pretty good sense of humour, which made me interested enough to check it out.

('Check it out' in this instance meaning 'watch all two and a bit hours and then write a review on it', apparently.)

During a manned mission to Mars, a group of astronauts are caught in a storm - and, believing that one of their teammates, botanist Mark Watney, is dead after being hit by debris, they leave, heading back towards Earth. Watney is alive, however, and faced with the possibility of it being four years until anyone arrives to pick him up, sets about working to survive on Mars for that long. Meanwhile, on Earth, the ground control team for the Mars mission realises that Watney survived, and set about trying to get back in contact with him and come up with a plan to rescue him - a plan which might end up endangering the rest of his crew.

I did really like Donald Glover's brief scenes in this film.

The film's adapted from Andy Weir's novel of the same name, and my word did Weir put a lot of work into research and having his story be scientifically accurate, and it shows in both the book and the film. There were moments where, even knowing that this was pure fiction (there have never been any manned missions to Mars, after all), I had to remind myself that this wasn't based on true events, and the fidelity to real-world science and real-world space agency operating procedures was a big part of that - and has enough of a strong presence throughout the film that when it does start to dip slightly more into the unbelievable territory towards the last twenty minutes or so, it was fairly easy to just roll with it.

(It helps that while Weir had to do all his research off his own back for the book, for the film he put the filmmakers in touch with NASA, who consulted fairly heavily on the film.)

The characters also feel very real - and a significant amount of the praise for that has to go to Andy Weir again, who has a real talent for writing characters that feel entirely like real people, but it certainly didn't hurt that the film has an impressive cast, all of whom are giving their all. Matt Damon is in the lead role as Mark Watney, played with a wry, deadpan sense of humour; meanwhile, Jessica Chastain plays Melissa Lewis, the Ares III mission commander, in a performance inspired by real-life NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson; Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Vincent Kapoor, the Mars mission director, as determined, sharply intelligent, and a bit of a dork; Sean Bean plays his counterpart, Mitch Henderson, as - to be honest, basically as Sean Bean's standard down-to-earth Northerner - and, actually, if I listed all the cast members I really liked, we would be here all day.

NASA.

While the film has plenty of ups and downs, with situations often appearing hopeless and with both Watney and NASA having to come up with new plans to compensate for some fairly catastrophic failures, it never feels depressing. Part of that is that there are threads of comedy running throughout, meaning that you're never too far away from a comedic moment (and it's noteworthy that all of the comedy comes from characters saying deliberately funny things, as it generally does in real-life, meaning that the film is funny without ever compromising on realism), and part of that is that it becomes fairly clear early on that they're going to succeed - the relatively hopeful, optimistic tone of the film means that it can't really end any other way.

"Dad, are you space?" "Yes, son. Now we can be a family."

While in another film, that might kill the sense of tension a bit, in this film I was more interested to see how they did it than whether they did it, and what kind of lasting effects the whole experience would have on Watney and the rest of the team. The film was certainly never boring, not even for a moment, which is impressive when you consider that it's ninety percent people standing around in rooms talking.

All in all, this was a really fun, well put-together film, and I'm very glad I watched it. I do recommend it to anybody who's interested, if you have two and a bit hours spare and feel like a fun film about people getting trapped in space.

Monday, 22 February 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)


The Man From
U.N.C.L.E.
(2015)



This film has never been all that high on my radar. I never watched a single episode of the television series it, and knew only vague things about its premise (spies, the Cold War, a Russian and American), so I was not among the people jumping with excitement over the idea of a film adaptation. I am, however, always up for some good spy fun, so when I found out that the film had been released (due predominantly to people I know extolling the virtues of Ilya/Gaby/Napoleon as an OT3), I set aside a bit of time in my schedule to watch it.

Set in 1963, the film follows Napoleon Solo, an American art thief recruited by the CIA to serve his prison sentence working as a spy; Ilya Kuryakin, a KGB agent and the son of a disgraced Soviet bureaucrat; and Gaby Teller, an automechanic and the daughter of Nazi nuclear scientist Udo Teller. When Udo Teller, who defected to America in the years following WW2, goes missing, both Solo and Kuryakin track down Teller, and end up being recruited for a joint mission to locate Udo and retrieve the nuclear bomb he's building for the Vinciguerras, a couple of wealthy Nazi sympathisers.

I guess this film was okay?

I actually don't remember this scene.

No, no, strike that, it was definitely okay. You could never describe it as bad: The scenery is beautiful, the Cold War aesthetic is out in full force, there's plenty of fun action scenes, and the performances - which is really what the film sold itself on - are all very good. 

Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, and Alicia Vikander all perform excellently, and their characters all contrast with and play off each other well - Cavill's Solo is totally unflappable and charming; Vikander is cynical and fed-up as Gaby; and Hammer pitches Ilya perfectly as taciturn, angry, and somehow still fairly warm despite that. When Hugh Grant eventually joins the cast as Waverly, an MI5 agent, he manages to play off everybody in the cast perfectly, bringing cheerfully sarcastic humour to the mix.

(Grant also gets some of the best lines in the film, including my personal favourite "Kuryakin, for a special agent you're not having a very special day, are you?")

Stylish.

Where the film really falls down is its plot, in that it barely seems to have one. What plot it does have - 'Nazi sympathisers have kidnapped a scientist to build a bomb' - is unoriginal and, frankly, bland, with very little to sustain the interest of a viewer. The villains are supremely forgettable and failed to command any of my attention in any scene they were in, which didn't help, and it often seemed like the film could barely be bothered with them. The plot's poorly paced, as well, with the third act starting something like halfway through the film and then just stretching on and on.

It's not as if the film didn't have material that could have made for entertaining watching, either, if they'd made the most of it. One terribly underused part of the film, despite the fact that many writers have managed to spin interesting stories out of the idea even without the addition of Good Spy Fun, is Ilya and Gaby pretending to be engaged. That could have been a goldmine of entertaining sequences, both comedic and dramatic, and instead the writers seem to barely remember it for most of the film, before basically writing it out altogether in the third act.

Alternately, the conflict between Solo and Ilya could have been made more out of, with them slowly learning a grudging respect for each other. Instead, the film has them work together a couple of times without liking each other, before the third act rolls in and they're suddenly begrudging best friends. It's a crying shame, because Cavill and Hammer certainly have the acting chops to play the two slowly becoming friends, but the filmmakers apparently decided it wasn't necessary to show that.

Also stylish.

Which is especially odd, since much of the final part of the film depends on the two of them having become friends, with Ilya being torn between his duty to Russia (and the threat of shame and a gulag) and his friendship with Solo, despite the fact that we've seen nothing that would make us invested in their friendship.

All in all, this is an okay film, but it's mostly carried by its charismatic cast of actors, rather than good writing or directing or anything like that. It really has no substance, and is more the kind of thing that you put on in the background while you're doing something else than something you'd actually sit down and commit to watching. To my knowledge, no sequel has been announced, and it doesn't really need or deserve one.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Kamen Rider Ghost E17+E18


Kamen Rider Ghost
Episode 17 + Episode 18



And at last, eighteen episodes in, which is - actually surprisingly few, come to think of it, we've seen all of the Heroic Eyecons in action. I admit that it's a little strange that there are apparently only fifteen heroes in history, with at least one of them being a criminal who murdered and stole in the name of self-interest, but I'm not going to argue with Toei, they clearly did their research here and if they say there's only fifteen heroes in all of history, they're probably right. That's just how it's going to have to be from now on.

Anyhow, this fortnight's episode sees the team approached by a woman who can see the future - and who is, in fact, possessed by the Himiko Eyecon. With a new Superior Ganma, Igor, on the scene; a Ganma armed with twin knives that can remove people's souls with a single cut; Alain still at large as Necrom and Makoto having disappeared, the team is out of their depth - and Akari and Onari attempt to ease the pressure on Takeru by taking on some of the burden of defeating Ganma themselves, even as they clash on the best way to do that.

I admit, I had actually thought the whole Makoto-as-Necrom-Specter subplot would be over and done with - he'd be a monster of the week, functionally, and the situation would be resolved by Takeru using the Himiko Eyecon and purifying him with her various shamanistic abilities. I'm kind of glad I was wrong, though - two episodes in and while there's been significant movement on that plot, in the form of Takeru and Kanon both finding out what happened to Makoto, and Makoto showing some semblance of free will in spite of Alain's best efforts, the plot is still very much ongoing, and it's providing some great character conflict. Takeru now has to deal with having to fight his best friend, and with the possibility that he might not just be able to hug the evil out of Alain; Kanon has to deal with her brother having been enslaved by someone she respected and thought of as a friend; and Alain seems entirely torn on whether he actually did the right thing.

Um. Subtle.

(Here's a hint, Alain: You didn't. You didn't do the right thing. That's just not how friendship works.)

In a way, I expected a bit more from Kanon finding out that Alain is a wrong'un. This is, after all, someone she clearly trusted and thought of as a friend, or even a kind of second brother figure. For her, this must be an enormous betrayal, and maybe we'll see that being conveyed in the next few episodes.

Most of the rest of the plot focuses on Akari and Onari tangling with Igor and the Knife Ganma, paralleled to a similar conflict between Newton and Himiko, in which one represents science and the other represents magic. I do adore Akari and Onari's interactions, I think they make a wonderfully warm and engaging double act who are equally capable with both comedy and more serious drama, so this was a treat for me - even if I was left a bit sour by the end.

Still, Himiko is a really nice form.

Sorry, but 'science and a belief in mysticism can work togeeetheeer' as a message just doesn't work. Superstition and science aren't compatible, and the presence of unexplained mysteries doesn't change that - science knows it can't explain everything. If it could, it'd stop. A big part of science is acknowledging those unexplained mysteries, and not filling those blank spots in with fiction.

It works even less in the world of Kamen Rider, where magic is an empirical fact, and usually one that can be explained with science, at least to a degree - the idea of using science to explain magic has been a prominent theme in the series so far, and if you believe that all the Neo-Heisei series take place in the same universe (which I do), then even our last big magic-focused series, Wizard, had its Most Wizardly Wizard du Jour be a professor of physics.

Which isn't to say I didn't like the character-related symbolism of Newton and Himiko, representing Akari and Onari, working together to achieve what they couldn't alone. It's just, you know, I wasn't keen on the broader message.

Beyond that, we got a couple of new forms this episode, namely Himiko Form for Ghost and Sanzo Form for Necrom. 

Sanzo just didn't impress me.

I admit, I'm not all that impressed with Sanzo - much like Grimm, it comes off as a little overdesigned, and I can't really see a way that it changes things up from how regular Necrom fights. I mean, he has a telekinetically controlled wheel now, but it's not as if he ever really needed one, you know?

I do like Himiko Form, though. It's so elegant and graceful, and the pink and gold works surprisingly well with the black and red of the Fighting Boost suit. Also, this form seems to actually give us something concretely different from the other Fighting Boost forms - namely, 'she can use magic', even though it hasn't been made at all clear what this magic actually entails or what it can do. So this will probably be our occasional Deus ex Machina form.

So, a fun pair of episodes, basically. I do worry about the series starting to get a bit stale now that we don't have a constant stream of Heroic Eyecons, but then we do have two new forms for Ghost and a new form for Specter coming up before too long. Coming up more immediately, we apparently have an appearance by Alain's father, and a Ganma who just wants to paint.


Friday, 19 February 2016

Legends of Tomorrow S1E5: Fail-Safe.


Legends of Tomorrow
Series 1, Episode 5
Fail-Safe.



You know, as a Gen X-er, by which I mean 'as someone born in the nineties', not 'as a member of Generation X, the youth X-Men team whose title met with critical acclaim', I always find myself slightly bitter about the Cold War. Quite apart from it being an oddly grandiose name for what was essentially not an actual war, it's also today almost always insulting used to add weight to baby boomer's claims that their lives were difficult and tortured, as they start actual, non-imaginary wars.

So, I mean, bit apprehensive for these two episodes, I admit. But they've been fun! Almost no navel-gazing about the terrors of the Cold War, just good old fashioned 'we've got to break someone out of a Russian gulag' fun.

In this week's episode, with Stein, Mick, and Ray imprisoned in a high-security Russian gulag, Valentina Vostag and Vandal Savage attempt to force Stein to reveal the secret behind Firestorm, thus allowing them to build an army of Soviet Firestorms that would eventually take over the world. Meanwhile, Rip, Sara, and Len come up with a plan to rescue Stein and the others, with Rip leaving Jax and Kendra on the bench and urging Sara to kill Stein should freeing him become impossible.

This is the second shirtless man with burns I've seen this week.

First off, I'd like to note just how great Stein was in every scene he had this week. Victor Garba managed to pull off Stein's iron will perfectly, as he sees through (kind of shoddily put together, and never explained) illusions of Cisco, flatly refuses to be intimidated by Vandal, calmly tells Vandal to 'get on with it' when being threatened with torture, and even, when faced with Mick and Ray being tortured, tried an ultimately-doomed play at pretending he didn't care about them. When he eventually breaks, it feels - well, believable by tv-land logic, even though we all know that torture and intimidation tactics don't work in real life.

(Extra credit for then not giving Vostag the most important part of the Firestorm-ery process, forcing her to figure it out on her own.)

In general, this episode was full of great character moments. Sara deciding not to shoot Stein, Ray drawing a torturer away from Mick, Mick insisting on rescuing Ray, Jax shaking off Firestorm blasts as he makes his way towards Stein and Vostag. Lots of characters got chances to shine in this episode, and the only ones who didn't, really, were Kendra and Rip.

Science.

I still like Rip, but he has spent the last few episodes being - not inactive, as such, but unhelpful. He's done plenty, it's just that none of it has ever really helped the team, advanced their goals, or progressed the plot at all. It's getting to the point where Len's hatred for him makes more sense than the fact that the rest of the cast don't hate him, because at this point in the show he seems to mostly be a narration-and-uselessness machine.

Kendra, as well, has been mostly sidelined for the past few episodes, and that's - odd given that she is undoubtedly the biggest name on the cast list. Hawkgirl has an impressive history behind her and is fondly remembered by pretty much anybody who watched the Justice League cartoon, so having Kendra spend most of her time on the Waverider makes very little sense from a meta standpoint.

I also kind of wish we'd gotten to see more Ray and Mick stuck in a gulag antics. We get pretty much two scenes, and then their subplot is subsumed by Stein's. I mean, we all knew it was going to happen, to be honest the biggest surprise is that it wasn't what Vandal and Vostag started with. I mean, why bother with the illusions and the pain stuff, Vandal pretty much said that this is what he was planning to do in the first place. They didn't need Mick and Ray for anything else, after all.

The distant sound of fanfic writers typing furiously.

Nevertheless, I would have liked more to have happened in that particular subplot. A bit more development, a bit more time spent establishing that Mick knows how to navigate prisons.

We get Chronos showing up at the end too, to once again basically wreck everyone's day by forcing them to crash land. This was what happened when they arrived in Russia too, remember. It seems to be Chronos' hat: Not actually killing his targets, just making them non-fatally crash. Apparently, this time they've crashed in Star City of the future, where the Green Arrow is a mysterious - okay, it's Connor Hawke, alright? It's Connor Hawke. God knows how he exists when Oliver is in a happy and presumably monogamous relationship with Felicity.

Next week seems to be the 'slightly unusual crossover' week for all three Arrowverse shows: Legends of Tomorrow is crossing over with Arrow in the form of a future Star City; The Flash is crossing over with Arrow in the form of Diggle and Lyla visiting Central City; and Arrow is crossing over with Vixen, previously only seen in animated form.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Teen Wolf S5E17: A Credible Threat


Teen Wolf
Series 5, Episode 17
A Credible Threat



This episode was odd. The entire thing, from start to finish, came off as an odd reminder of how much this show has changed. Lacrosse games with the high possibility of people dying due to some kind of supernatural attack, comic relief from Coach Finstock, one of the characters going nonlethally berserk on the lacrosse pitch, Stiles trying to convince his father to do his job in a competent fashion? That's all kind of textbook series one or two, and seeing it again felt - weird.

In this week's episode, Mason realises that the Beast is being drawn and forced to change by high frequency transmissions. As the Beast becomes steadily more intelligent, remembering more and more the man it once was, the gang's attention falls on a charity lacrosse game - one broadcasted by local news networks and sure to cause a transformation in the Beast, putting hundreds of people in danger. Things swiftly go wrong, though, with Malia, in charge of taking out the news cans, ending up confronting her mother; Kira losing control on the field, with her fox side taking over; and Mason, left to search for a size eight shoe with a bloodstain on the heel that would allow them to identify the Beast, finding nothing. Meanwhile, Lydia, Gerard, and Chris try to reconcile Parrish with his Hellhound alter-ego.

Okay, let's start with the one thing that got my goat about this episode: Did I miss something, because I have no idea why a) The gang assumed that one of the lacrosse players was the Beast, and decided to have Mason search the locker rooms and the buses for this size eight shoe, and b) Why it occurred to nobody, nobody, that the Beast might have changed shoes. Or washed his or her shoe, because ew red gunk, not realising that they're destroying crucial evidence.

Lacrosse.

I am totally confused by this entire chunk of the subplot, and while the whole 'size eight shoe' thing is obviously going to pay off when it's inevitably revealed that Mason is the Beast (because he is definitely the Beast and his invisi-boyfriend is probably dead by now), it's an odd thing to have an entire subplot of the episode revolve around when there are literally hundreds of people who wear shoes at Beacon Hills.

The stuff with Parrish and Lydia was good, but felt kind of confused, as if the writers couldn't decide whether they were having the Hellhound say Parrish was dead in the literal sense (as in, he died in the explosion and the Hellhound is just wearing his body) or in the figurative sense (as in, he is fundamentally unimportant now that the Hellhound is there). If we could get some clarification on that, that would be great, but at the very least, it seems that the Hellhound is yet another result of Scott, Stiles, and Allison having that evil ice bath to stop Jennifer.

This entire episode also felt kind of unfocused. It didn't really build to any kind of climactic moment, or come to any real conclusion, it was just characters mucking around with a lacrosse game for a while. Whenever we had the Standard Lacrosse Episodes in earlier series, they were focal points for the plot, with people dying, character conflicts coming to a head, and so on. This just felt flimsy and filler-ish, like twenty minutes of content had been stretched to fill forty plus minutes.

Also lacrosse.

And I say that as someone who didn't even like the lacrosse episodes in the first two series. They were not overly to my taste, but they were still generally more plot heavy than this one was, and we're very nearly at the end of the fifth series.

I am also officially starting to get weary with Kira's 'fox taking over' subplot. It has the potential to be interesting, but rather than being used in interesting ways, such as showing Kira trying to find ways to control or commune with the Fox, we instead just get her going berserk every so often at inconvenient times, and that's just not very interesting. The Fox is a trickster spirit, could we not get some more tricksy antics up in here?

Malia's plotline with the Desert Wolf also came a bit out of nowhere - while it didn't really go anywhere, either, I can forgive that, since it's clearly going to be carried on to the next episode with her trying to kill Stiles, who I think at this point we have to sorrowfully admit is not going to be whipping out Nogitsune powers.

Featuring this scene involving a dude with lots of burns, and also Mason flirting.

All in all, this was an episode. Clearly a set-up episode for the next (or possibly even next two) ones, but it was an enjoyable watch, even if it felt a bit aimless and floundering. The next episode will apparently have the Beast rampaging through the school, along with Gerard narrating a flashback to the first time the Beast died - when it was killed by the Maid of Gevaudan, played by a returning Crystal Reed. Man, I miss Allison. 

Delayed Review Today.



Hey, guys, due to real life circumstances, my review today for Teen Wolf is going to be delayed until later this evening. Thanks for bearing with me on this one.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The Flash S2E14: Escape from Earth-2.


The Flash
Series 2, Episode 14
Escape from Earth-2.



Well, thanks, episode. I had theories, you know, but not only did you single-handedly prove those theories wrong (and pretty thoroughly, as well), you also hinted at an entirely different theory while simultaneously showing that it couldn't possibly be true, and I'm now more confused than ever. I'm just very, very confused, and I blame you, writers.

Here's the editorial I did a while ago on possibilities for Zoom's identity, incidentally, and I post it because we now know two of those are wrong.

In this week's episode, Wells, Cisco, and Earth-2's Iris and Barry scramble to find out where Zoom keeps his prisoners so that they can rescue Jesse and Barry, while Zoom launches a city-wide manhunt for Wells. Allying with Killer Frost, they find Zoom's prison, located on Ascension Cliffs outside of Central City. Meanwhile, in the prison, Barry attempts to decipher what the man in the iron mask is trying to tell him, but only gets one word out of him: 'Jay.' In Earth-1, Caitlin works on Velocity-9, hoping that it'll restore Jay's speed long enough for him to face Geomancer, who has decided that if he can't kill the Flash he knows, killing another speedster will do.

Ah, the mysterious man in the iron mask.

Okay, so I was so sure that Earth-2 Barry was Zoom, but it seems like he can't be. For starters, we see Zoom and Barry in the same room multiple times, not to mention seeing Zoom threatening people in the STAR Labs lobby while Wells, Cisco and Barry try to find a time vault. Unless Zoom has the ability to functionally split himself in two in a way that's much more complicated than Thawne's speed mirages, he literally can't be Barry. 

Nor can he be Jay, although I admit when we found out that the man in the iron mask was tapping out Jay's name, I thought he might be - and even moreso when we got a brief shot of the back of his head and saw that he has the same hair colour and hair style as Jay, suggesting almost that Zoom has replaced Jay, somehow. People have made much of the fact that Jay's 'asleep', apparently so asleep that he can't hear an earthquake, when Zoom is doing much of his shenanigans in Earth-2, but during the final escape sequence, where Zoom is holding Wells hostage, Jay's standing with Caitlin and the others. Moreover, Zoom seems to consistently have his speed, whereas Jay - who speeds about with yellow lightning, not blue, anyway - doesn't.

So, while there's certainly something shady in the extreme about Jay, he can't be Zoom, unless Zoom has mastered cloning - in which case he could just as easily be Barry. Of course, there is one other option, one that a main villain in The Flash has prevailed themselves of before: The Jay we know could be Everyman, the metahuman who briefly impersonated Wells, whose Earth-2 counterpart we haven't yet seen. Notably, Earth-1 Everyman was romantically interested in Caitlin (or assumed Barry would be, at least), and Jay has been pretty unsubtle in pursuing Caitlin.

Iris looks like she has no idea how she even ended up in this situation, and
I don't blame her.

So, since we're at risk of this review turning into an editorial on Zoom theories (he's just so interesting, you guys), this episode was actually really good. We got a great character arc in the form of Earth-2 Barry, clearly worried that Iris prefers Earth-1 Barry over him, trying to prove his heroism and being very earnest if also hilariously inept at it, and every moment of that is sweet and adorable. I'm kind of glad he's not Zoom, even if I'm also a bit vexed over it. It was just incredibly sweet, and to be honest, I am now just hoping, even though it'll never happen, that Earth-2 Barry becomes his Earth's Superman.

He has the glasses for it.

There was also a pervasive sense of dread to the whole episode that hammers in just how menacing a villain Zoom is. I was constantly expecting him to show up, the tension was, at times, unbearable - every time the characters wasted time, I was about two seconds from screaming at the screen, wanting them to just get on with it and get out before Zoom turned up. That speaks wonders for how they've set Zoom up as a threat, one that both comes across as unstoppable and as nearly ever-present. This entire episode was like a slasher flick, except instead of it being one haunted house where the killer might jump out at you at any time, it's everywhere.

N'aww, Barry.

My only problem with this episode, really, is that it left things feeling oddly inconclusive. Jesse's been rescued, sure, but we're no closer - in fact, we're further away - from finding out who Zoom is, more questions have been raised than answered, and with the last breach shut, any other visits to Earth-2 are off the table, at least - and indeed at most, because we still have ten episodes left this series - for the moment.

Still, I loved this episode, and I'm looking forward to more. Next week, it looks like we have a bit of a fluff episode, as the writers throw as many Jaws references as possible into one King Shark episode with Diggle and Lyla.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Rec Post: RWBY Series 3.


As a preamble to this rec post, I do have a bunch of RWBY reviews and editorials up, so here's: RWBY Series 1 review, RWBY Series 2 review, 5 Things They Should And Shouldn't Do In RWBY S3, 5 Fights We'd Like To See In RWBY, and Fission Mailure's Top 5 RWBY Characters.

Rec Post:
RWBY Series 3.


I said before this volume of RWBY even started that I wasn't going to do a review, largely because recent (well, not too recent anymore, a little over a year ago now, but recent at the time the volume started) events meant that I couldn't assure my own objectivity, as, had the volume been bad, I wouldn't have felt comfortable leveling the amount of criticism and vitriol that I usually do at things that fail to reach my standards.

As it turns out, I needn't have worried, because this volume has been top-notch, but I'm still not doing a review: Instead, I decided I would do a rec post, since those have always been meant to be less 'objective reviews of the strengths and flaws of a piece of media' and more 'Murphy squees about things he likes.'

So, I think like everyone, I came into the third volume slightly apprehensive. Nobody knew - we still don't really know - how much work Monty Oum had done on the volume before his death (bar that he'd written story notes far enough in the future for a dozen or so volumes), and more importantly, I think it was important to a lot of fans that this third volume be good, that it be a worthy tribute to Oum and his work. If it had been poor, or even if it had represented a significant reduction in quality from the second volume, it would have been quite tragic, in a way.

As it turns out, the third volume was really, really good. Mechanically, this volume sees RWBY edge closer to the standards that professionally made cartoons with the backings of massive studios have, with longer episodes (the average episode was about seventeen minutes - I'd say that the professional standard for that is about twenty-two minutes); beautiful and sharp animation at a professional standard; voice actors that have improved significantly over the course of the show so far (Miles Luna and Jen Brown do excellent performances as Jaune and Pyrrha), along with some veteran voice actors added to the cast (Vic Mignogna, Yuri Lowenthal, and Elizabeth Maxwell all join the cast in major roles, and Jen Taylor, famously the voice of Cortana, sees an increased role from the small narration parts she got in the first tow volumes); and an excellent soundtrack that shows a marked improvement from previous volumes.

That's a massive step forward from the standard of previous volumes, and it's not as if the previous volumes were low quality - RWBY has always been a marvel of indie animation, and it remains such, but the fact that we see noticeable and marked improvements with every volume that comes out is fairly astounding.

This volume also kicks the plot into high gear, with the Vytal Tournament, or 'Fighty Eurovision', which has been being set up since the middle of the first volume, finally beginning. While the tournament is a lot of fun, where the plot really shines is in the menacing events brewing beneath, as Ozpin and Cinder make their moves against each other. In the process, we end up finding a lot more about the world and getting possibly the best idea we've had yet of where the plot is going - and when, in the final three episodes, all that set-up and menace pays off in the form of three explosive, rocks-fall episodes, it feels horrible, but earned.

While the end of the volume - which is also, functionally, the end of the first arc, with the show all but guaranteed to be drastically different when it returns (hopefully) later this year - is bleak, and miserable, and violent, with no less than four characters, one of whom is a fan favourite and a major main character, being killed off, it's clear that this is only the proverbial disk one. There's more to come, happy endings to be earned, and, it's just been revealed, an even more major villain than the one we already know about to defeat.

While I'm apprehensive as to whether this will still be the show I've enjoyed up until now, I will be fascinated to see where the series goes from here, both in terms of story and in terms of how it continues to improve upon its production values, and I highly recommend a watch to anyone reading who hasn't yet seen the first three volumes.