Category Archives: tv

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?

Well, here’s an interesting little anime. An addictive 13 episodes, it’s easy to blitz through in one evening. Despite the whimsical lede of a title, Is it Wrong…? does not actually involve all that much dungeon crawling for the sake of meeting chicks. Instead, it follows the adventures of one Bell Cranel, favored of Hestia (an impressive classical reference, that), whose crush on a much more experienced dungeon crawler leaves him blind to the fact that he’s dropping the panties of everyone around him — including, ironically enough, Hestia’s.

Perhaps the most traditional subversion of the harem comedy genre — the oblivious harem head.

But what makes this anime so enjoyable is that it’s so much fun. Bell Cranel is essentially our Final Fantasy or Skyrim characters turned into an anime, somebody who sucks donkeyballs at the beginning of the first episode (when the aforesaid dungeon crawler saves his ass and he falls hard for her). And after that, he turns into a determinator, whose skills and experience — along with a certain bit of divine favor — compound quickly. By the middle of the anime, he is the fastest person to ever reach Level 2, eclipsing the previous record-holder’s. And by the end, there’s a full-fledged WoW-style raid. Continue reading Is It Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?

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The Expanse

Based on James S.A. Corey’s hard sci-fi series, The Expanse is perhaps Syfy’s best new show in some time. In it, interplanetary travel is common; Earth is run by the UN, Mars is independent, and the asteroid belt and Jovian moons have been colonized. A major colony, perhaps the largest, is Ceres, whose water was stripped away as the asteroid was turned into a shipping hub linking the inner and outer planets.

Meanwhile, far away near Saturn, an ice hauler, the Canterbury, works to deliver ice to Ceres — ice that will be converted into potable water, fuel, and a host of other necessities. It responds to a distress signal from a freighter, the Scopuli, kicking off the plot.

On Ceres, a detective (kept on because of his useful incompetence) is handed the file of a missing person, the wealthiest bachelorette in the system. As his infatuation and obsession with her grows, the only five people who know what happened when the Canterbury answered the Scopuli‘s distress call make their way inward, first via a Martian battlecruiser and then doing contract work for the OPA, an organization whose goal is independence for the Belt and beyond.

And then there is this mysterious blue gunk — which may or may not have been engineered — and which is swallowing people whole.

It’s hard to talk about The Expanse without massive spoilers, but that’s part of the beauty of the show. It has a singular arc, a novel (Leviathan Wakes) turned into a season, and the show is paced like a ten-hour-long … novel. Characters come alive as we follow their interactions, the spacecraft feel realistic for what we would see 200 years from now, and the tension — as it becomes increasingly clear somebody wants to start a war between Earth and Mars — keeps rising, right up to the end of the season when Eros’s fate’s revealed.

Fortunately, Leviathan Wakes is not the only Expanse novel. The next, Caliban’s War, is almost certainly the next season’s framework. That will air early 2017 — better get your popcorn ready!

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 1

In this series, I’m going to try something different. I’m going to review a longer show season by season. Let’s see if this works.

It is one of the most loved and most hated of any Star Trek series, focusing on politics, characters, arcs, and worldbuilding rather than the franchise’s traditional “wagon train to the stars” premise. Rather unusually for a 1990s show, and very unusually for its franchise, it developed a complex story arc leading to continuity lockout in later seasons. It arguably influenced Lost, the mid-2000s Battlestar Galatica reboot, and their latter-day descendants (such as The Expanse). It is Deep Space Nine (DS9), the only Star Trek series ever set on a space station rather than a spaceship, a series where they don’t go to their plots; rather, plots come to them. Continue reading Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 1

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

star-wars-the-clone-wars-the-movie-14870This is, by far, the longest project that I have yet done for this blog. It took me a month to work my way through the whole series, and a bit of will to finish it for this writeup.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a series that, even at 121 episodes and a pilot that was adapted for film, some consider cut short. It follows the adventures of Generals Skywalker and Kenobi during the Clone Wars, as well as introducing a new character: Anakin’s Padawan, Ahsoka Tano.

It starts slowly. Anakin, when we first meet him, is barely more than the same bratty Padawan we first met in Attack of the Clones, one who doesn’t want an apprentice of his own. And Ahsoka, when we first meet her, is very similar: two stubborn personalities dueling with each other.

Yet the series finds its groove. As Anakin teaches Ahsoka, both their heads cool. Ample time is given to explore his relationships with Obi-Wan and Padmé here (though, as in the films, that relationship remains forced and hobbled by a fundamental lack of chemistry between the two. For a quick primer on what real chemistry in the Star Wars universe looks like, look no further than Kanaan and Hera in Star Wars: Rebels). Obi-Wan, too, as a character becomes more developed, and we start to see the sacrifices he made to be a Jedi–specifically the romantic sacrifice Anakin has been utterly unwilling to make.

Continue reading Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Dollhouse

Dollhouse is, after Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Firefly, Joss Whedon’s third major TV show. Like Firefly, it did not last long — two seasons as opposed to Firefly‘s lone outing, but unlike Firefly, it was able to tie as many strings up at the end as possible.

The Premise

Considered a cyberpunk genre, Dollhouse follows an eponymous dollhouse: A large, shadowy corporation offers a fantasy-fulfilling service with people whose original personalities have been wiped and with whatever personality their clients demand temporarily installed in their place. Dolls can be anything — but are, most often, very, very high-end prostitutes … or action-y types.

Cool and creepy, the show lets us inside the house and its day-to-day workings, following a popular doll, Echo, as well as her handler, Boyd Langton, the programmer, Topher Brink, and the head of the house, Adelle DeWitt. It also follows Paul Ballard, an FBI agent put on its case largely as way to keep someone perceived as an incompetent agent out of the way.

From there, the show just gets more and more tangled. Apocalyptic overtones snarl in, Echo increasingly resists imprinting, and her handler gets an arc of his own.

Click that “Read More” button if you don’t care about massive spoilers.

Continue reading Dollhouse

Firefly (and Serenity)

A Joss Whedon classic.

Joss Whedon has had a troubled history as a creator and executive producer. The man who hit it big with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he built up a cult following with two dark, screwed-by-the-network short-lived shows before Cabin in the Woods, a horror parody with a twist all its own.

Still, of all of Whedon’s work, Firefly remains the best-known. Buffy, despite lasting seven seasons, seems to have been relegated to the 90s’ version of SupernaturalFirefly, by contrast, lasted but one. And what a season it was!

Despite being relatively simple in conception — a horse-opera space-opera* — the show is remarkably tight and narrow, focused on the Firefly-class light transport Serenity‘s crew: Mal and Zoe, a pair of war vets who were on the losing side; Wash, a talented but quirky pilot, and another such mechanic, Kayley; Jayne, a mercenary who’s basically a leashed sociopath; and Inara, a whore Companion who leases a shuttle. In the pilot we add: Shepherd, a monk with a murky but unrevealed past; Simon Tam, a talented surgeon running from the law, and his runaway, wanted-by-the-government sister, River. The Serenity engages in petty thievery and smuggling, and the show follows their dealings with a variety of untrustworthy characters in a crapsack star system (also known as “the galaxy” or “the ‘verse”) run by a corrupt, totalitarian government (the Alliance).

Planned for seven seasons, it was royally screwed over by its network, running episodes majorly out of order — they managed to go beyond the impossible and run the pilot near the end of the season — resulting in a lack of cohesion leading to dismal ratings. Combined with a very dark plot arc, the show was canceled at the end of the first season: “The Message” is the last show produced.

Too bad, because direct-to-DVD sales prompted a movie three years later, Serenity, which seems to have basically been meant to distill six seasons’ worth of plot arc into two hours. Hard, but not impossible. Beautifully choreographed and executed, even the movie offers but a taste of the storytelling power the Firefly ‘verse was capable of.

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* That is, a soft sci-fi show (space opera) with classic Western (horse opera) elements in it. Continue reading Firefly (and Serenity)