Review of Logan

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No one is immune to the effects of old age – not even Wolverine. Thanks to his healing factor, Logan has maintained a youthful appearance for many decades. In the year 2029 he is however starting to look worse for wear. The alloy that coats Logan’s bones is beginning to poison his body and dull the former X-Man’s restorative powers. Injuries no longer regenerate within seconds and even worse his facial hair is starting to turn grey. There’s nothing that reminds one of their impending mortality more than faded follicles. I myself refuse to grow a beard, because the sight of a goatee speckled with white patches depresses me.

OVERVIEW

In the not too distant future, mutants are virtually extinct. Logan has retired from the superhero game and become a limo driver, who chauffeurs douche bags to parties. His income is mostly spent on booze and medication. The pills he purchases are sedatives, used to treat the seizures that afflict Logan’s mentor Charles Xavier. Professor X no longer has control of his telepathic gifts, making him a danger to others. Whenever the bald psychic has a fit everyone in the vicinity is struck with excruciating migraines, which equal the hangover pain I felt that one time I binged on whisky.

Wolverine comes out of retirement, to go on one last adventure, when he is hired to escort a youngster upstate. The destination is Canada, the land of free healthcare and refuge from malevolent conglomerates. Laura, the girl who Logan is tasked with protecting, escaped from a research lab and is now being pursued by cyborg mercenaries who have orders to apprehend her. Comic book readers will be well aware that Laura (aka X-23) is a clone who possesses superhuman healing powers and metal claws. Hmmm, I don’t think we need to administer a DNA test to determine who her biological father is.

VERDICT

My rating for Logan is four stars. It’s easily the best movie from the Wolverine trilogy. Um okay, that’s really not saying much. Let me rephrase that! Logan is one of the better live action X-Men movies to date. If this turns out to be the final time that Hugh Jackman plays the role of Wolverine, it can be said that he bowed out on a high note. One plus that Logan has over other titles in the franchise is its age rating. No longer constrained by a 12 classification, now that Deadpool has popularized R-rated blockbusters, Logan is free to deliver satisfyingly visceral action. Prepare yourself for plentiful scenes were claws impale crania.

Not to be outdone by Jackman’s exceptional performance is Patrick Stewart, as Professor X. He delivers humorous quips and sagely advice with aplomb, in addition to convincingly portraying Xavier’s bouts of dementia. It’s so tragic seeing the once majestic Captain Picard reduced to a wheelchair bound senile coot. Harder to assess is the acting chops of Dafne Keen (Laura) because she is mute for a large portion of the 137-minute running time. At the very least she comes off as vicious, which is no mean feat given her diminutive stature. I would have preferred an older X-23, but must concede that the casting was made to instil the father/daughter relationship she shares with Logan.

Like whisky, Wolverine has improved with age. Given the choice I would recommend watching this feature over drinking said beverage. Take it from me, the hangover will leave you feeling like Logan has sunk his blades into your skull.

Review of Monument Valley

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Ouch! I have just realized that it has been yonks since I last posted a video game review (third of June to be exact). Perhaps the anonymous reader who recently un-followed my blog is a gamer who tired of waiting for new content? Have I given up on gaming? Nope. I play on my consoles and handhelds every day, but I don’t like reviewing a title until I finish it. At the moment I am battling my way through two lengthy RPGs, which will take an age to complete as my current schedule limits me to just sixty minutes of daily gaming goodness.

THE VALLEY “HILLS ARE ALIVE”

To end the video game drought on this site, I decided to play a short but sweet mobile puzzler. Finally I use my tablet for something other than reading comics (if you are looking for graphic novel recommendations I endorse downloading Marvel’s hilarious Gwenpool books.) The brainteaser I decided to purchase (in case you suffer from an ailment that prevents the reading of titles) is Monument Valley. A sequel for this game came out two months ago, but I figured that starting with the original would be best. Like the babe from Sound of Music said – “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

Speaking of music, one of Monument Valley’s highlights would have to be its audio. The soothing tunes and sound effects are a perfect remedy for the stresses of office life. Now that I have finished the game whatever shall I do to unwind during lunch breaks? Guess I will have to go back to sniffing glue. Kidding! The Otaku Judge does not advocate solvent abuse. Inhaling adhesives may cause mental impairment, which would hinder your progress in Monument Valley. Despite wearing a pointy dunce cap, the protagonist of this adventure has to use her wits to advance past each stage.

M. C. ESCHER SIMULATOR

Princess Ida is the heroine who players must guide through a total of ten stages. The dainty monarch is trapped in the titular Monument Valley – a mysterious place constructed out of sacred geometry. With the aid of touch screen controls, players must find the hidden route leading to the level’s exit. To achieve this Ida will have to stand on panels and manipulate the isometric landscape. You have to think outside the box when forming paths, because the roads Ida travels are akin to Penrose Stairs (click here). When three-dimensional objects are represented in 2D the results sure can be funky.

A solo quest would feel quite sterile, but fear not because Ida encounters several entities during her pilgrimage. Phantoms that haunt the halls reveal titbits of lore about the structure you are navigating. Hostile bipedal avians will sometimes halt Ida’s march with a tirade of squawks. Thankfully not everyone you meet is so mean. A friendly golem makes an appearance, in some of the labyrinths, to assist Ida with overcoming certain obstacles. The golem is nothing more than a one-eyed pillar, but I still got attached to him. Who says that you can’t form bonds with inanimate objects? Rest in peace Weighted Companion Cube.

VERDICT

My rating for Monument Valley is four stars. I can see why this game won awards back in 2014. People often decry the quality of mobile gaming, but if you avoid the free to play garbage there are some real gems waiting to be found in the Apps Store larder. Monument Valley is an accessible puzzler that can be enjoyed regardless of your IQ. I am a complete blockhead and still managed to finish the game with little trouble. The well-crafted levels are designed in such a way that frustration is kept to a minimum. Despite the lack of challenge there is enough thinking involved that I felt satisfaction after sussing every conundrum.

Like I mentioned earlier, Monument Valley is a short but sweet experience. Some critics would say that it’s too short. I estimate that clearing the story took me between two to three hours. That’s fair when you consider that its current retail price is four quid. A fast food meal costs about the same and will last you a lot less, to put things into perspective. Quality over quantity is something we should all herald, especially in this age were everyone’s free time is at a premium. If you can think of other classics, which don’t require a Witcher 3 commitment to beat, let me know in the comments section below. Maybe I’ll check out your suggestion and not deprive the blog of gaming posts for another two months.

Review of Girls Beyond the Wasteland

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Girls Beyond the Wasteland sounds like the title of a show starring an all-female team, who travel across a desert, in a dystopian future. Sadly the series is more down to Earth than its name implies. What we have here is a twelve episode visual novel adaptation, about a high school club that have banded together to create a… visual novel. So, the source material is a visual novel revolving around the production of visual novels? Blimey, how Meta. If you ask me, my idea about babes navigating sandy dunes sounds way cooler. VNs are all the rage these days though (Steam and the PSN store are full of them) so perhaps the premise will resonate with some of you, more than it did for me.

OVERVIEW

Teenage student Buntaro Hojo is a jack-of-all-trades who is still deliberating what career path he should follow. Hojo’s extensive resume of part time jobs includes ramen waiter and amateur playwright. Although he is talented at serving tasty noodle dishes, it is Hojo’s skill at penning scripts that catches the eye of classmate Sayuki Kuroda. The younger sister of an established VN creator, Sayuki hopes to follow in her brother’s footsteps by producing a visual novel of her own. She enlists Hojo’s services and then proceeds to scout the school halls for other helpers, who will hopefully aid with the realization of her creative venture.

Hojo’s childhood pals Atomu Kai and Yuka Kobayakawa are hired for the roles of assistant director and voice actress respectively. Meanwhile first year student Uguisu Yuki is recruited to draw the game’s artwork, after it is revealed that she is a famous online illustrator. The person responsible for programming is a bespectacled lady named Teruha Ando. I guess Ando is qualified to code because she is a hardcore geek who attends conventions and reads boy love manga. For the record, not every otaku is proficient with computers. People assume, just because I play video games, that I can somehow mend their broken laptops. In actuality, I can’t even suss out how to set the clock on my oven!

VERDICT

My rating for Girls Beyond the Wasteland is two and a half stars out of five. The series would best be described as average. Not terrible enough to drop, but not great either. It provides a cursory glance at what visual novel development involves and can be amusing at times. Large portions of the show are however dull. Whilst watching the DVDs I kept pondering what else I could be doing with my time. Rather than sitting through a dozen episodes of mediocrity I could be doing something more constructive like tackling my PS4 backlog or ironing that pile of recently washed jockstraps. My mind kept wondering because the content onscreen was so generic.

Seasoned anime viewers will instantly recognize the uninspired character stereotypes that make up the cast. Yuki for example is the token timid girl, Ando is the overzealous fujoshi and Sayuki is the impassive beauty. At least Atomu stood out by having a dark side. Whenever someone describes him as “nice” a black miasma envelops Atomu and he flies into a furious rage. The word nice triggers painful memories, because Atomu’s ex dumped him for being too nice. Like they say, nice guys finish last. That’s why there is an endless supply of single gentlemen out there, whilst beautiful women queue up to become Chris Brown’s latest punching bag.

Things weren’t much better in terms of plot either. Every so often the club faces a hurdle that may wreck the visual novel project, such as Hojo suffering from writer’s block or Ando quitting in a huff. The drama gets resolved quickly though, robbing the narrative of any tension. We don’t even get a bit of romance to spice things up. Yuka seemingly has a crush on Hojo, but the potential relationship goes nowhere. She gets jealous over Hojo and Kuroda spending time together, causing her to sulk briefly, but in no time at all she gets over it. Perhaps she realized the futility of competing in a love triangle? Childhood friends seldom ever come out on top in those things.

Review of School-Live!

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Warning: Be aware that this review contains spoilers. I don’t like giving too much away in my posts, but it’s impossible to discuss this series without spoilers given how episode one concludes with a “twist” that is bigger than Godzilla dancing to a Chubby Checker tune.

At first glance School-Live appears to be another “cute girls doing cute things” anime, albeit one about an unusual club. Rather than dance Yosakoi, perform music or hunt espers the members of the School Life Club spend all their time at Megurigaoka High. Even when classes have ended for the day Yuki, Kurumi, Yuri and Miki stay inside the academy building. They even sleep there! Are they a rare breed of student who can’t get enough of school? Nah. The group is barricaded in there because the surrounding area is infested with carnivorous zombies! Oh man, why can’t shambling corpses switch over to a more peaceful vegan diet? Grains are tastier than brains after all.

OVERVIEW

The first episode of School-Live is both terrible and brilliant. I wasn’t too impressed watching protagonist Yuki Takeya attend lessons and chase after a cute puppy for almost twenty minutes. Not too original and more Moe than a Simpsons bartender. The payoff was however worth the tedium. Just before the end credits roll it is revealed that viewers have been watching events through the perspective of a distressed girl, who is deluding herself to cope with the trauma of living in a zombie apocalypse. The classrooms she sits in are vacant, aside from the imaginary pupils in her head. Megurigaoka’s pristine looking halls are in reality blood stained corridors.

Now I was invested. A sweet story transforming into a complete nightmare is one sure fire way of grabbing my attention… reminds me of the time I lost my head over what occurred in Madoka Magica. The series never abandons the lighthearted elements found in the inaugural episode though. Instead the script bounces between comedy and horror, which should be tonally jarring but somehow works. Given how heart wrenching School-Live’s narrative can be I welcomed the respite afforded by Yuki’s hijinks. Her friends seem to be of the same opinion. Rather than finding Yuki’s behaviour odd, they appreciate how her carefree spirit wards off the doom and gloom.

Speaking of friends, let’s segue into talking about Yuki’s chums. First up is the buxom club president Yuri Wakasa. She gives the air of unflappable leader, although deep down is suffering from stress. If Yuri is the brains (watch out dear, zombies love brainssss) then Kurumi Ebisuzawa is the brawn. She is always seen gripping her trusty shovel, which Kurumi uses to crack undead skulls. The newest member of the School Life Club is a Stephen King reader named Miki Naoki, who the group rescued from a zombie-ridden mall. Last on the list is club advisor Megumi Sakura. Despite being a teacher no one gives her much respect. The girls refer to her as Megu-ne, instead of Miss Sakura, much to her chagrin. Even worse, everyone always ignores her suggestions.

VERDICT

My rating for School-Live is five stars. I’m probably overrating the series slightly, but bear in mind that I am a cowardly wuss who normally avoids scary movies. As a result zombie yarns still feel fresh to me, which may explain why Walking Dead was my favourite game of 2012. I think School-Live was at its strongest during its flashback episodes. Miki under siege at the mall, how Kurumi became proficient with a shovel and the origin of Yuki’s fantasies will make anyone root for their survival. The comical present day tales weren’t as good, but still enjoyable. After witnessing their tragic backstories, it was nice seeing the girls enjoy life for a change.

I seldom mention OPs/EDs in my reviews, but will make an exception for School-Live. The ending theme titled Harmonize Clover is a beautiful ditty, whilst the opening’s animation was cleverly put together. Episode one’s overly saccharin opener gets darker with each passing instalment; mirroring Yuki’s state of mind, as she begins to question the make believe world she has hidden herself in. Other highlights include Taromaru, the pup that Yuki pursued in episode one. Said doggie is my new favourite anime mascot (sorry Pen Pen.)

Viewers seeking an alternative to Highschool of the Dead may want to give School-Live a try. They both tick the girls versus zombies box, even if stylistically they are very different. HOTS is mostly action and eye candy whilst School-Live is psychological yet humorous. That’s not to say that School-Live is free from fan service though. Shower scenes, posterior close ups and swimsuits are all present. Even when characters are trapped in a decrepit building, anime finds a way to shoehorn a bikini episode. I wish I was kidding about that, but like a zombie I am dead serious.

Review of One Punch Man

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Some people think that Superman is a boring hero, because he is so powerful. I can only imagine what they would make of Saitama, the bald headed protagonist of One Punch Man. The Man of Steel is at least weak to Kryptonite and magic. Saitama on the other hand is nigh on invulnerable and can down any foe with a single thump. As it turns out boredom is a two way street. Easy victories are not only dull for viewers to watch, but also for the hero as well. A crime-fighting career may sound exciting, but it really isn’t when evildoers take less effort to dispatch than earning a platinum trophy on a Telltale video game.

IT TOOK ME A FULL 3 YEARS TO GET THIS STRONG

One Punch Man is a thirteen-episode anime based on the manga created by the chap responsible for Mob Psycho 100. This comical take on the superhero genre stars a caped crusader who possesses herculean might. Forget super soldier serums, mystical mallets or getting zapped by lightning. Saitama earned his strength by following a strict daily regime of squats, push-ups and ten kilometre jogs. Sounds exhausting and not worth the hassle when you consider that the physical strain will make your scalp resemble the chrome dome of Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

The series takes place in City Z, a metropolis that is routinely harassed by giants, humanoid chimeras and effeminate sea dwellers. You’d think the citizenry would appreciate how Saitama protects their homes from danger, but alas his efforts seldom get noticed. It’s tough to make the local news when you reside in an area boasting an overabundance of vigilantes. There’s so many of the buggers that a union has been established to coordinate their activities. Media coverage is normally reserved for S-Rank guardians of justice. Saitama meanwhile is a lowly C list hero, because he flunked the written portion of the Hero Association exam.

I’M JUST A GUY WHO’S A HERO FOR FUN

Despite the lack of recognition Saitama manages to earn the admiration of a teen cyborg named Genos, who he eventually takes under his wing. Genos is for all intents and purposes the show’s Vegeta. He’s a powerful fighter in his own right, but more often than not gets beaten up by the villain of the week – in order to illustrate how mighty the antagonist is. Saitama can then step up to the plate and save the day with one uppercut, whilst the scrap pile that is his protégée looks on in awe. Over the course this collection Genos is “killed” so many times that he may as well wear a parka and start calling himself Kenny.

If the series was nothing more than a cour worth of one joke tales, were Saitama knocks out baddies, it would quickly lose its lustre. Thankfully the script is consistently funny thanks, in part, to the quirky support cast. Characters of note include an arrogant esper named Terrible Tornado, a high-speed ninja called Sonic and Puri-Puri Prisoner the camp strongman. Most of the heroes are goofballs, although I have to say that Mumen Rider succeeded in earning my respect. He may just be a regular Joe who travels to crime scenes on a BMX, but his heart is in the right place. Wow. It’s not often that someone with a driver’s licence has a good word to say about a cyclist. You should be proud of yourself.

VERDICT

My rating for One Punch Man is four stars. One of the funnier UK anime releases of 2017 and the opening theme song is a contender for manliest OP of the year. Given the current popularity of Marvel movies I imagine this satirical take on superheroes will be a big hit with many viewers. Action plays second fiddle to comedy in this series, but the fisticuffs we get are decent. Akira Toriyama clearly influenced Studio Madhouse both in terms of enemy character design and the high-octane nature of the show’s brawls. Unlike DBZ, One Punch Man does however resolve conflicts in a speedy manner. Evidently the duration of a fight is directly proportional to the length of the hero’s locks.

Review of Castlevania (Netflix)

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Greetings and salutations everyone. The Otaku Judge here with another animated series review. Usually I focus on anime from Japan, but this time round my critique is on Castlevania – a U.S produced cartoon based on Konami’s video games. Scripted by comic book scribe Warren Ellis, Castlevania’s four-part first season is presently available to view on Netflix. After finding success with superhero adaptations, the popular streaming service is now tapping into console games for TV show ideas. Whether the experiment works out remains to be seen, but at the very least Castlevania convinced me to finally take advantage of Netflix’s free trial. I like trials… and I’m not just saying that because I am a judge.

A BETTER LOVE STORY THAN TWILIGHT

One thing that surprised me about Castlevania is that it dedicates all of episode one to Dracula. The inaugural chapter, of this series, explains why the legendary vampire hates humanity. Years ago a doctor named Lisa Tepes braved the bloodsucker’s mansion in search of medicinal knowledge. She found what she sought and a new husband in the process, as Lisa tied the knot with Dracula shortly thereafter. Unfortunately the couple’s romance ended in tragedy, when the church learned of Lisa’s research. Mistaking the drugs Lisa concocted for witchcraft, she was burned at the stake. Dracula vowed revenge against mankind for his beloved’s execution. The evil clergy have doomed us all! Religious folks may want to avoid Castlevania, as it doesn’t paint priests in a good light.

The only man who can save us from Dracula’s demonic army is monster slayer Trevor Belmont. He has however given up on the family business, after the pope excommunicated his clan. These days Trevor is more likely to fight drunkards than creatures of the night, as he drifts from town to town looking for booze. Episode two for example sees Belmont brawl at a tavern, whose patrons include a family of goat fuckers… I “kid” ye not. Trevor cannot escape his destiny though and eventually gets embroiled in the Dracula conflict. In search of grub our whip-wielding hero stumbles into the city of Gresit, which is presently under siege by Count D’s legion of winged fiends.

DRACULA I AM BACK-ULA TO SMACK-ULA

We don’t get to see Trevor go all out until episode three, when he allies himself with a sect of mystics known as the Speakers. Much like Trevor, Gresit’s religious leadership hounds the spell-casting faction. Although benign, Speakers are reviled by the populace as their sorcery is deemed to be dark magic. One of the group’s members has vanished inside the local catacombs, where a fabled saviour is said to slumber. Trevor enters the crypt in search of the wayward Speaker only to find a Cyclops guarding the mausoleum. A battle ensues between Belmont and the hulking beast, which possesses a petrifying stare. Those unfortunate enough to get caught by the monster’s gaze will get more stoned than Snoop Dogg.

In terms of action, Trevor versus the Cyclops is an appetizer of things to come. The season finale is twenty minutes of non-stop carnage, as Belmont attempts to liberate Gresit from the clutches of tyrannical holy men and protect the citizenry from a horde of gargoyles. Blood and dismembered body parts rain down from the sky, reminding viewers why the show carries a sixteen plus age classification. Once the dust clears one more opponent remains for Trevor to overcome, although I will keep their identity a secret for the sake of spoilers. My lips are sealed, although I will divulge that ladies who admire shirtless pretty boys will approve of the final adversary. Hey can’t you spare some fan service for us guys too? We deserve a consolation prize after losing the gender war for Dr Who.

VERDICT

My rating for Castlevania is a three and a half out of five. Some reviewers are overrating the series slightly, but I can’t blame them given how rare watchable video game adaptations are. Overall I was impressed with the script, voice work and visuals – although the animation could have been stronger in places. The stiffness of Trevor’s cape is especially noticeable in certain scenes. When the end credits rolled I was left wanting more, partly due to the low episode count and partly because of its abrupt conclusion. Netflix are promoting Castlevania as “season one” but they aren’t fooling anyone. This is clearly a movie chopped up into four parts. Based on this impressive showing I can’t wait for season two. Like a Sesame Street vampire I will “count” the days until Dracula return.

Review of God Eater (Volume 1)

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Gods are tasty, but I couldn’t eat a whole one. I mean, just look at Thor. That guy is huge! In all seriousness though, no divine beings were consumed during the creation of this show. God Eaters are the warriors who protect Japan, in the year 2071, from creatures known as Aragami. These guardians of humanity charge into battle wielding God Arcs – a transformative weapon that can don the shape of a bazooka or colossal blade, depending on the needs of its user. Based on Bandai Namco’s video games, this first collection contains seven of the anime’s thirteen episodes.

OVERVIEW

Fans of the God Eater games are probably wondering how faithful this anime adaptation is to the source material. The answer to that question is I don’t know. Although I own God Eater 2 on PS4 I haven’t played it much. Monster hunting games sound like fun on paper, but I usually lose interest in them pretty quick. The endless cycle of farming bosses, for a 1% chance of acquiring materials I need to upgrade my gear, gets old really fast. One thing I can say however is that God Eater is one of the better shows based on a console title… even if admittedly the competition isn’t fierce in that genre.

Lenka Utsugi is the show’s protagonist. Over the course of this DVD set we see how he grows from a hothead rookie to a member of the elite First Unit. There’s action aplenty, as Lenka fights to protect his city from attack and participates in hunting missions. God Eater’s battles are visceral and gravity defying, but in terms of visuals the CG effects lack the polish of other Ufotable works. Sometimes character models look off and on other occasions there are noticeable animation blips. For instance, free flowing locks turn rigid in certain scenes. That’s what happens when you use concrete as a hair gel substitute I suppose.

Another thing that’s distracting about the series is the fashion sense of its cast. Lenka works for an organisation named Fenrir, who employ guards that dress in sensible military garb. The same cannot be said for the God Eaters though. All the guys look like they purchased their attire at Hot Topic. The ladies meanwhile have opted to go into combat braless. Russian beauty Alisa Illinichina Amiella has no shame, as she somersaults across the battlefield with no undergarments and a tiny top that barely covers her breasts. Given the proportions of anime women you’d think they would be well versed in the benefits of adequate chest support.

VERDICT

My rating for God Eater (vol. 1) is a three out of five. First impressions weren’t good, as the series is really generic. An insubordinate male lead that defends a walled city from carnivorous giants has been done before and done better. Thankfully it gets more interesting as it goes along. Regular flashbacks, which drip feed lore, helped to flesh out the narrative whilst the episodes featuring the plight of defenceless refugees succeeded in getting me emotionally invested. Alisa also surprised me by being more than mere eye candy. Her debut presents the character as an arrogant badass, but when denied medication in episode six it’s revealed that she suffers from Shia Labeouf levels of mental instability.

I had high hopes for God Eater, as the makers of Fate/Zero animated it. Sadly the series lacks Fate’s substance. All things considered though it is entertaining enough, especially when you consider its chequered production history. Back when God Eater aired on Japanese TV the release schedule suffered from more delays than a London Underground train. Not ideal, but somehow Ufotable have managed to salvage the anime. If volume two continues to improve with each instalment my hunger for a good video game cartoon will be satisfied, just like how a snack of Odin’s son satiates my appetite.