Sunday, July 6, 2014

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal

Oh. Man.

My initial reaction, almost two years ago upon hearing there's going to be a Sailor Moon reboot was literally, "I'll believe it when I see it." Yesterday was the premiere of the first Act through various online sources (I watched via Hulu) and I guess I can believe it now and my skepticism is was grossly misplaced. I hang my head in shame.

Can we talk about some serious nostalgia? I was suddenly transported back to when I was kid, sitting in front of the TV at butt-crack o'clock watching the 1992 release in all it's dubbed glory on the USA Network. It was only shown in the morning in those days, and sporadically at best. Some days I'd tune in and it wouldn't be on, or have moved to a different block. Merchandising was also spotty as well, some stores carrying just the ridiculous looking dolls in both sizes, other carrying a full line including characters that hadn't even been introduced yet. The show was also ripped to shreds because of censoring and we ALL KNOW how awful the voice acting was (I'm looking at YOU Naru).

For many people, Sailor Moon was a gateway drug into Anime and I'm no exception. About a year after my initial introduction into Sailor Moon, we got our first family computer (Compaq, represent!) with internets (okay, it was AOL. Shaaaaaameeee), which made it exceptionally easy to discover that there was a vast
Revolutionary Girl Sailor Moon?
array of different anime shows and other fans to connect with. By being able to keep up with different fans, I was also able to keep up with the news of Sailor Moon returning to TV about a year after that, on Cartoon Network's Toonami programming. At that point, I started buying Sailor Moon Super fan subs from some fairly dubious sources I met in AOL chatrooms. I also kind of became a raging bitch with a serious
superiority complex because I was no longer a "dubbie", since building a library of subtitled anime.

Of course, that was 15 years ago and times and technology have vastly changed how entertainment is delivered into our hands. Today, we can just pop on to any number of websites and just tune into whatever show or movie want to watch. Which makes, for me, this new iteration of Sailor Moon somewhat bittersweet, but so very exciting at the same time.

Hey, no more 80's hair OR sunglasses
So, yesterday, Ed set me up streaming the first Act on Hulu on the living room TV. I knew a few things going into this: new theme song, a closer adaptation to the manga, a slightly different art style and Usagi's transformation sequence. That was pretty much it. I was not surprised to see the episode follow the same lines as 92's first episode, since considering they both follow the manga. There was some in-yo-face foreshadowing about the Moon Princess, which was irritating, since the manga kept the subject a better
mystery. The end tease was also pretty great, showing Ami from behind - like how they opened the episode with just showing Usagi the same way. Which also means - a shorter series. Scheduled to clock in at 26 episodes, this is a vast improvement over 92's 46 episodes. Also, less Monster Of The Day nonsense. Again, keeping more in line with the manga, which flew at a swift pace.

The meet-cute
Also keeping in the manga tradition is the style. This could be a make or break piece for some people, since yes, the flat stares can be disconcerting at best. The 92 version gave the characters a ton of expression and let it show on their faces. Crystal did have it's moments, I am happy to say, but not as much as the original anime. Which is okay, at least for me. The manga has such an ethereal, other worldly beauty and an elegance that was not translated on screen in the original. Crystal has done an excellent job of bringing that to the table, with the character's long limbs, flowing hair and sparkling eyes. Other small things that stood out to me
were the Shoujo Kakumei Utena like commercial break plates, and the flowery boarders that appeared around major characters. I also really love the level of detail the animation has, from tiny little creases in clothing, to actually seeing what Princess Serenity's little sleeves look like from the side. The CGI animation on Usagi's transformation was okay - she moved beautifully, and it was pretty to watch, but it just didn't feel right.

A few other points:

  • Fuku is spot on to the manga
  • Opening song is really good, and super catchy. Ending song is a bit of a snooze.
  • Usagi's hair was bat-shit out of control a few times.
  • Moon Tiara Boomerang!
  • Tuxedo Mask, useless as ever, wearing a Tuxedo. 
  • Kotono Mitsuishi, the only original cast member to reprise her role

WTF, bat-shit cray hair.
All in all, I really like the show. I'm curious if there is going to be a modern veneer applied to the show - is Usagi going to get an iPhone? From the opening sequence, I wasn't sure. The girls are sorta dressed like they're from the 90's, but they could also just be dressed like hipsters. I can't seem to make that call. I did see a girl on the street with what looked like a smart phone, but the arcade cabinets look like they're vintage? Either way, it looks like it's going to shape up to be pretty awesome! I've always loved and an in some cases, preferred the manga story line at some points. It's going to be a long time in coming, if at all, but I'm stoked at the prospect of seeing Sailor Cosmos, finally!

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal is pure nostalgia, but it's not all just nostalgia. It's bringing a new shininess to what really was a dated show, doing it with grace and class. It's also introducing Sailor Moon to a new audience of little girls of a new generation, a different generation than mine. My gripes are minor, and my praises are major. I'm really excited to see what the rest of the series brings!

In The Name Of The Moon!


Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Reconciliation, Part Two

It's been a while, but I've finally fleshed out my concluding thoughts when it comes to Marvel.

Again, thar be spoilers ahead. Ye Be Warned.

So, we picked up Thor 2 because I had an overwhelming urge to submerse myself back into the Marvel Universe.

Thor 2 was...good! I won't say it was the most amazing Marvel film, however, it held up very nicely in it's own right. The movie had an easier time of being integrated with the rest of Marvel Universe, as it had The Avengers preceding it. The stand out, was of course, Tom Hiddleston and the depth of character and pathos he brought to Loki this time around. Hiddleston truly owns that character. The story line was great, the action was great, and of course...well, the ending was awesome. I still have issues with Natalie Portman's existence in the Thor films, as a charter member of Team Lady Syf. Not to say I am a mindless fangirl - I do see the necessity of the changes made all the way back in the first Thor. All together, a well written tasty piece of the Marvel Universe.

Now. The movie ends, and the credits roll, and we hold our usual inclination to hit the remote. Oh, no. We wait for really, what is often at times the best parts of Marvel movies - the "teasers" at the end. These have a great history of being awesome, from simply tying up loose ends to giving tantalizing hints at what's to come. Iron Man 3 being the exception, they have all been amazing. The best, in my opinion was the one at the end of The Avengers. On the opening night,  Ed and I were leaning forward, falling out of our seats, and when we realized exactly who that was we collectively shit our pants. I grabbed on to Ed's knee and squeezed the life out of him, I was so excited, desperately containing squeals of delight. Some girl to the right and front of us asked in general, "who's that?". As if on cue, a guy in the higher up seats jumps up, both fists pumped in the air and bellowed "THANOOOOOS". It was magic.

The teaser at the end of Thor 2, while not as a magical experience, it still jazzed us up. After a fast paced conversation that included phrases such as "OH MY GOD, THIS MEANS THE GAUNTLET" and "Will Adam Warlock show up?" we simmered down. I picked up my current cross stitch as Ed played around with the Blu-Ray special features. I was feeling pretty good, if a little chagrined, considering that I had completely forgotten about August's upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. Derp, de derp. Ed was engrossed in watching some behind the scenes things, which I would cast covert glances at when Hiddleston was on screen.

"Hey, there's one of those one shots on here. It's called "All Hail The King". Oh! It's got Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin again." Ed says, hitting play on the short.

Ugh. Really? Now they're making shorts featuring that disaster? In spite of myself, I watched it.

It was a proverbial "I'm sorry letter". It was better than the bouquet that contained The Collector, better than the sweets box featuring two very special twins at the end of Winter Solider. For me, this was the breaking of the ice, the first apology. It wasn't complete, since to repair the damage done by Iron Man 3 would take much more than just this one particular short. But it was good, and very entertaining.

I took away an understanding that the powers that be realized that not everyone would accept or like their version of the Mandarin. Like it or not, it was the comic fans that made Iron Man so successful to begin with. This was their overture to us. It certainly doesn't make up for the other shitty things about Iron Man 3, but does start to scab the wound caused by the Mandarin. It was well acted, and actually very funny. The short also brings to bear more questions as well - what does this mean now? Are the Ten Rings going to make an appearance?  Will there be more Iron Man movies? Questions I don't know how to answer, but I like being able to ask them.

So, Marvel and I are taking it easy. Some tentative hand holding, and maybe a peck on the cheek every now and again. I'm seriously looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy - maybe we'll get to 1st base - as the theatrical trailers look very promising. Ed and I also had another pants shitting moment when we saw X-Men: Days of Future Past, at the very end. In addition to being a superb comic movie, the secret ending on THAT one was just too good, leaving me eagerly anticipating the next X-Men installment. And, of course, we  have The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Something tells me with Joss Whedon at the helm once more, Marvel and I will go on to have a happy, healthy relationship again. No relationship is without it's bumps, but with all this great content coming up, I'm not ready to throw in the towel completely.

For more info on what's going on in the Thor 2 secret ending, this video is a great resource.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer
Guardians of the Galaxy
Info on "All Hail The King"
Speculation on Captain America 2's secret ending
Marvel One Shots

Stay Frosty,


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Reconciliation, Part One.

It's not often I get to really geek out (It's also not often I actually get to blog....), but when I do I try to make it good.

WARNING. This post contains spoilers for a buncha things, but mainly Iron Man 3. If you haven't seen it yet, for the love of God, get thee to a computer and Netflix that shit.

The Reconciliation, Part One: The Break-Up.

Almost exactly a year ago, Iron Man 3 came out. This was my penultimate movie, with expectations running amok as I was coming off my high from The Avengers, this was to be the grand finale in the Iron Man saga. We had a phenomenal cast lined up - the obvious, principal players - Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Don Cheadle, but we also had Guy Pierce and the amazing Ben Kingsley rounding out this final installment. The trailers and posters looked amazing, leaked pictures and the media frenzy was promising. I did myself a service and took the advice from River Song and stayed away from spoilers. I wanted this to be special.  I had taken the journey, all the way from the beginning - the opening night midnight showing all those years ago to now, wearing the very same "Mrs. Tony Stark" shirt I had made up for the first occasion. I was a different person, and a different fan, but my love for shellhead was stronger than ever.

The depths of my disappointment was vast. I sat there with Ed, as the credits rolled and tried so hard to smile and say it was perfect. But I couldn't. Because it wasn't. I was let down badly because I felt the movie trashed everything that was exceptional about the comics. The Extermis story line was terribly mishandled, and the epitome of Iron Man villainy - the Mandarin - was turned into a bumbling, lecherous failed actor. A shameful misuse of the amazing talent of Ben Kingsley as well. Iron Man 3 was a nice action movie, over the top, complete with cute kid sidekick and pretty girlfriend, but it was missing heart and soul - that Marvel polish and panache - that defines not only the Iron Man movies but most Marvel movies.  It was a betrayal on a Shakespearean scale. My trust was so broken, I shied away from comics and Marvel all together, weary and leery of anything bearing that red and white logo.

I broke up with Marvel.

It wasn't a fitful break, there was no screaming, crying, gnashing of teeth. No 2 AM texts, drunkenly tapped out in a fit of despair and alcoholism. No shame spiral after realizing what it was you actually texted to the ex. It was quiet, done with a shake of the head, and a firm walking out. It still hurt, but there just wasn't any passion or desire to still be in this quasi-love affair. I was failed, terribly so, and I felt it was best to step away.

In the intervening year I have been able to extrapolate some decency from the movie, find the good things, the silver lining. The ending, and not being snarky here, was well done as it exemplified something that has happened to Tony many, many times in the comics. Losing everything, and building from the ground up. Good. Many suits of armor. Also good (but bad too, since the collection was implemented fairly lamely). Lots of tech, also good but bad too, as we've seen Iron Man up against tech and prevail. Why can't we see our technological wonder up against something he's never seen before, something he hasn't prepared for and will have to use every shred of cognitive skill that brilliant brain of his holds to overcome? Like, say, magic or the supernatural or...something not of this world. Oh, right, because that would have been the realm of The Mandarin (or Doctor Doom, a girl can dream...), and we wouldn't want to follow those silly comic books because that just wouldn't be clever enough.

That, there is the crux of my issues with Iron Man 3. The loss of The Mandarin was a heavy blow as I was really super psyched as I followed the tantalizing hints and clues laid out in the first two movies. I could happily accept The Mandarin as the head of a terrorist organization - it was perfect, really. But was left bitter, disappointed and distrustful of Marvel.

Fast forward to this past weekend.

About a month ago, I made Ed take me to see Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. I got guilty about it and decided to take Ed out to see Captain America: The Winter Solider, as he'd been dying to see it for over a month now. I had felt guilty because I was willfully ignoring the existence of a new Marvel movie, as I had done with Thor 2. Ignoring Cap was harder though, as he is Ed's main squeeze. It was a great movie, in all honesty, still working hard to tie in those threads from other Marvel movies but maintaining an identity. Also introducing The Falcon, yes! It was nice, it felt good. But my instincts were screaming to not fall into a trap, I would get hurt again.

So, instead of being cautious, I decided that instead of waiting for Netflix, we were going to pick up Thor 2 right after the movie, because I was just in that mood.

Suddenly, and in spite of everything, the game was suddenly changed because of that one Blu-Ray disc.

Continued in Part 2....

I'm not going to expostulate further on why I thought Iron Man 3 was terrible. However, here are some articles that articulate my thoughts fairly well:
10 Reasons To Hare Iron Man 3
4 Reasons Why Iron Man 3 Was A Horrible Start to Marvel's Phase 2  (a "normal" movie-goer perspective)
Iron Man 3 Just Isn't Just Bad, It's Downright Insulting