Review of Justice League

justiceleague

A horny new god named Steppenwolf has returned from exile and plots to take over the world. Unfortunately for the citizens of Earth, after the events of Batman versus Superman, the Man of Steel is no longer around to save us from peril. In his absence, the responsibility of guarding Earth from invasion falls to DC’s Caped Crusader. His only super power is wealth though, so Bruce Wayne will have to recruit beefier allies to help him fend off the impending alien threat. The group that answers the call are known as the Justice League. For all intents and purposes they are Warner Bros’ version of the Avengers (only not as cool.)

OVERVIEW

After the convoluted plot of Batman v Superman, Justice League elects to keep things simple. The narrative is a straightforward tale of heroes banding together to stop the villain from collecting three MacGuffins. Steppenwolf is no Lex Luthor, so audiences are spared from schemes that pit protagonists against each other and tricks that dupe rivals into drinking pee. The antagonist of this tale is a generic evil conqueror who looks mean, akin to Thor’s enemy Malekith the Accursed. Justice League might fail to mimic the box office success of Marvel’s motion pictures, but its script does at least replicate the competition’s two-dimensional baddies.

Debutants Aquaman, Cyborg and Flash join Batman and Wonder Woman, who have previously been established in other films. Aquaman reminds me of Drax the Destroyer (Guardians of the Galaxy). They both look tough, but don’t do much other than make silly remarks and get smacked about by the opposition. Cyborg is the half man, half machine token black guy. His sole purpose in the movie is to hack Steppenwolf’s gizmos. To be fair, overriding extra-terrestrial tech with mechanical appendages is more plausible than Jeff Goldblum uploading a virus. Flash is the unfunny comic relief. His displays of speed lack the creativity found in the X-Men scenes that feature Quicksilver.

VERDICT

My rating for Justice League is a three out of five. An average superhero flick that fails to match the standards set by Marvel Studios. Thank goodness that I didn’t pay to watch this at the cinema. It’s mediocre and the CG effects lack polish. For fans of spandex crime fighters, I would however say that the DVD is worth a rental, as the action is decent. I also appreciate how Justice League is less serious than its predecessors. The biggest beneficiary of the lighter tone is Superman, who returns near the end. He makes some quips and is finally presented as a beacon of hope. What a relief. In prior movies it was weird to see how the last son of Krypton was grouchier than Batman.

Now that Superman is back (not a spoiler given that he is on the box art) I wonder how he will be handled in future sequels. The biggest issue with Superman is that he is too darn strong. In this movie, for example, the entire Justice League is powerless against Steppenwolf. Superman on the other hand can pwn him without breaking a sweat. Perhaps they can reduce Superman’s strength by cutting his hair. That worked against Samson. First up they can start by shaving his facial hair. It amazes me that digital effects had to be used to hide Henry Cavill’s moustache. How dare you refuse to shave for a role? Who do you think you are? Only Cesar Romero’s Joker can get away with that.

Review of Juni Taisen: Zodiac War

junitaisenzw

Western calendars are so dull. I think it would be much cooler if we switched over to the Chinese system. We could then name the years after awesome animals! To coincide with the upcoming year of the dog, I have decided to review Juni Taisen: Zodiac War. Based on Nisio Isin’s novel, this twelve-episode anime is currently available to watch on Crunchyroll. I would best describe the series as a Fate like battle royale, where various warriors compete for the prize of any wish they desire. Rather than being based on historical figures, the cast of Juni Taisen are styled after the critters that make up the Chinese zodiac. Sadly we missed out on a sexy bunny girl. The rabbit fighter is a barely clothed male psychopath!

OVERVIEW

Every twelve years the Zodiac War is waged. This event allows the wealthy elite to wager on the outcome of a contest, which pits the planet’s twelve mightiest mercenaries against each other. Just like a Scottish swordfight, in the end there can be only one. Each competitor is forced to ingest a poisonous gem, at the start of the competition, so fleeing the brawl is not an option. To avoid a toxic demise one needs to exchange eleven gems for the antidote. Easier said than done though, because rivals are naturally unwilling to surrender the gem stored within their gut. You want to disembowel me for a Gem… that’s outrageous truly, truly, truly outrageous.

At first I thought the series would follow the pacifist Monkey and dozy Rat. The pair appeared to be the good guys, as they banded together to determine a way of ending the conflict with zero casualties. Juni Taisen however is an ensemble piece that shares the spotlight between all of its characters. Each episode focuses on a particular combatant. Viewers see the instalment’s protagonist scrap in the present, and glimpse into their origins courtesy of flashbacks. It’s an effective way of fleshing out the cast, without sacrificing action. The narrative however falls into an Akame Ga Kill cycle. Whenever someone is humanized, via backstory, you can practically see their death flag being hoisted up.

VERDICT

My rating for Juni Taisen: Zodiac War is a four out of five. If the series were just eleven episodes long it would be a contender for best anime of 2017. The cast are a diverse bunch and the action is top notch. Unlike the Monogatari franchise, which is heavy on dialogue, you cannot accuse this Nisio Isin adaptation of being slow paced. When the warriors clash it’s exciting to see who will triumph. Some characters outwit their opponents with subterfuge and others rely on brawn. The special techniques on display include Snake’s power of flight, Horse’s impenetrable defence and Boar’s Tommy Guns (which have infinite bullets.) I wonder if she stole said weapon from the Resident Evil 4 merchant.

The thing that prevents Juni Taisen from getting five stars, from yours truly, is its ending. Some people might consider the finale to be clever, as it illustrates how someone’s biggest strength can also be their biggest weakness. For me however it was anticlimactic. We witness such a high death toll just for things to play out like that? Given how serious and grisly the preceding episodes were, the story’s resolution comes across as a bit silly. My misgivings with the conclusion aside, I would still rate Juni Taisen as an excellent show that animation fans will enjoy. In hindsight, given that the series was produced during the year of the rooster, I should have expected that they would “cock” up the last episode.

Review of Battle Chef Brigade

battlechefbrigade

Match three isn’t just confined to puzzle games you know. Years ago, for example, we saw how HuniePop would simulate romantic dates via the mechanic of lining up like-coloured tiles. In a similar vein, cooking dishes in Battle Chef Brigade revolves around match three gameplay. The tastiness of the meals you prepare is dependent on how well one combos the various blue/green/red ingredients. Said ingredients are harvested in 2D fighting stages, where players need to slay beasts to procure their meat and yummy organs. How violent! The chefs in this game rival Gordon Ramsay when it comes to aggression.

OVERVIEW

In Battle Chef Brigade players assume the role of Mina Han, a teenage chef who has left her village in order to compete in a cooking tournament. Think Food Wars, set in a fantasy kingdom, minus the food orgasms. Mina’s participation in the contest is chronicled across six chapters, which will take the average person around ten hours to clear. The story shows how Mina ditched her family restaurant, fought against rivals and investigated a plague that is contaminating the local wildlife. Apart from the main campaign there are also daily challenges to tackle, where players can see how their culinary skills compare to others in the Switch online leader boards.

One of the reasons why I downloaded this title, for my Nintendo handheld, is because of the eye-catching visuals. Although the game’s animation would benefit from some extra frames, one cannot help but admire the gorgeous hand drawn graphics and character designs (that resemble The Legend of Korra.) Indie developer Trinket Studios has done a fine job of combining puzzle segments, which play like Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, with fun 2D combat. Mina hunts for food by using martial arts, casting magic and hurling daggers. I enjoyed the action, even if I cannot comprehend why Mina doesn’t forego bloodshed in favour of buying ingredients at the supermarket.

VERDICT

My rating for Battle Chef Brigade is four Michelin stars out of five. The game isn’t too difficult, but I can’t say that the simplicity ever got repetitive. Every match feels unique, as you can’t rely on churning out the exact same dishes all the time. Different judges oversee each encounter. If you wish to get maximum points, from them, Mina needs to tweak her menu to appeal to their distinct tastes. The game also keeps things fresh by introducing new mechanics on a regular basis, such as poisonous ingredients that explode when stirred. A toxic dinner, that detonates, sounds like something I would make in my kitchen. I suck at cooking, so when it comes to satiating hunger I stick to microwavable meals.

A gastronomic brawler sounds like a weird idea for a game, but somehow Trinket Studios have managed to make it work. My only grievance with Battle Chef Brigade is that the story is a bit short. Sadly there’s no multiplayer mode to extend the title’s shelf life or unlockable characters to encourage additional playthroughs. Perhaps that is something to consider for a potential future sequel? Either way, I can highly recommend Battle Chef Brigade to anyone who owns a Switch. The game is on the Steam store as well, so the PC master (chef) race can play it on their hardware too.

She and Her Cat: Everything Flows Review

sheandhercat

She and Her Cat: Everything Flows is a four-part anime based on a 1999 short created by some complete unknown named Makoto Shinkai. Huh? What’s that Makoto? You are actually a big shot movie director? No way! Let me check your IMDb page. Ah yes, I recognize some of those films. Silly me. My memory is so bad. How could I have possibly forgotten your name? Anyways, this short but sweet series gives us a glimpse into the life of a young lady named Miyu, who is currently going through some tough times. Viewers see the tale play out through the eyes of her pet kitty Daru.

OVERVIEW

Liden Films’ catalogue of work is quite varied. One minute they are making an artsy series, like this one, and the next they are animating a show that stars a big-breasted honey badger (Killing Bites in case you are wondering). She and Her Cat begins with Miyu’s roommate moving out of their apartment. Miyu’s pal has decided to vacate the premises in order to cohabitate with her boyfriend. Although Miyu wishes her friend well, she is worried about making future rent payments now that she is on her lonesome. Miyu’s financial situation is dire, as she has been unsuccessful in securing full time employment.

From the four episodes on offer I would have to say that the second one was my favourite. It chronicles how Miyu and Daru first met, back during her childhood. Although the pair are now inseparable that wasn’t always the case. Years ago, when Miyu’s mom gifted Daru to her, she moaned that black felines are bad luck. Daru also aggravated matters by accidentally shattering a mug belonging to Miyu’s deceased father. He tried to make amends by presenting his young owner with a lizard he had just killed. The scaly offering seemingly energized the languid Miyu, as it caused her to sprint away – shrieking in terror.

VERDICT

My rating for She and Her Cat: Everything Flows is four stars. See everyone? My taste isn’t limited only to lowbrow animation. Yours truly can appreciate arty cartoons too. If the script is solid I’ll enjoy a series, whether it features cat-girls or regular cats. What impressed me, about She and Her Cat, is how much emotion director Kazuya Sakamoto managed to squeeze into each seven-minute episode. I really got a feel for the relationship between Miyu and her mother. At first it seems to be hostile. Later on however, we learn that Miyu is keeping her distance, so her mum can find happiness with a new husband.

I must caution prospective viewers that She and Her Cat: Everything Flows will affect your tear ducts, in the same way that pealed onions do. Miyu is a fragile lonely girl, who is dependent on her pet for support. With that in mind, it gets rather worrying when several characters make unsubtle comments about Daru’s advanced age. The risk of potential tragedy is worth braving though, as the series is beautiful. Be sure to stick around until the end credits finish rolling by the way. Nick Fury shows up and makes a surprise appearance! Okay maybe not, but trust me you don’t want to miss out on the finale.