Category: Reviews

Ultraman: The Universe Hates You

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There is a formula to most Ultraman series episodes that initially seems repetitive and counter to the often weird and interesting setups; no matter what happens, there will be some kind of fight against a giant creature, because ultimately that is the franchise’s core motif. Indeed, the episodic monster-fighting nature of several entries may possibly seem different to viewers (like me) introduced to the franchise by the very interestingly continuity-driven Ultraman GEED. GEED had a shorter running time, and while it frequently had the giant fights to cap off episodes compounded with a veritable stable of heroes and forms, it told a fairly strong plot which itself tied into (in a fashion that used neat metatextual trickery) a wider cinematic universe.

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Is Cutie Honey Universe Good, or a Bust?

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Anyone keeping abreast of the latest news in anime will probably be aware that there is a new Cutie Honey series airing, and it definitely opens with a well-rounded pair of episodes that are significantly more interesting than one might expect from something so self-evidently lurid and lewd.

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It’s a big, in-your-face kind of series with everything on display from the start, which I feel does a fine job of modernising the original concept without quite being so trashy as some of the OVA versions. Of course, this assessment is based only on the show’s opening episodes, amply front-loaded as they are with action and also exposition to provide a firm backstory for the hero.

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There’s no shortage of foreshadowing, suggesting at least there is the intention of telling some kind of deeper story, and I think the decision to hold off on the exposition and origin story until the second episode works.

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What Even is Pluto? (Cherkaoui/Bunkamura)

Not knowing a significant amount about Astro Boy outside of having seen Atom the Beginning, I perhaps entered the stage show Pluto with a very different perspective; one of a true outsider to the source material, aware of it by reputation and not so much from personal familiarity. This open-mindedness will inform this review; I am aware of the debt so much science-fiction anime owes to Astro Boy, but only from this secondary perspective.

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Series Review: Ultraman GEED

Ultraman GEED was the first series in the franchise I had watched to completion, and it proved consistently impressive – not least because of the enthusiasm and love the cast seemed to have for it, which came across very clearly in the performances. It was a series that managed to make something quite continuity-heavy accessible; by this point there is a fairly established Ultraman mythos, so to speak, and the relationships between the various heroes and villains are quite central to the main plot of GEED. Nevertheless, it used various different angles to make itself accessible to its family audience – if anything, Ultraman is interesting in the long-running superhero franchises because it is very focused on referencing and maintaining its canon, but at the same time doing so in a way that attracts, rather than puts off, new fans.

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Because I Am What You May Call An Idiot, I Wrote Nearly 1500 Words About Buddy Complex

Or, Virtue Rewarded, How I Stopped Worrying & Learned To Love the Bomb,

At Least It Isn’t Cross Ange

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It is not accurate to say Buddy Complex is a series that deserves defending, because it is plainly not particularly good, interesting or new. The parts that are good are not new, and the parts that are new are not good. On the other hand, I am finding it a series worth watching because it is so unashamedly unimaginative it ends up the sort of show that epitomises every cliché possible with earnest sincerity. Within five minutes of episode one starting, once you know the jargon being thrown about, any viewer who has seen at least one other military robot anime will be able to predict everything that will happen for at least the first two and a half episodes – and that will happen without any attempt to do anything different.

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Series Review – Special Rescue Police Winspector

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Special Rescue Police Winspector (1990) is a series that regularly has me overreacting to its stupidity; it is gloriously over-the-top, often nonsensical in its approach to science and science fiction, and feels at times like it has perhaps two or three stock plots that are recycled in different settings. At the same time, though, I would absolutely recommend it to people looking for an entertaining and frequently plain daft superhero series. It may be stupid and contrived, even within the standards of its genre, but it is stupid in a very sincere and heartfelt way which manages – often enough – to make the viewer feel like they are laughing with the writing not purely at it.

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Nier Automata.

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There is a lot to say about Nier Automata; it is a game which attempts to cover numerous massive themes, and is generally successful at it. I almost feel that in entering it expecting something in-depth, however, my initial experience was diminished by a subconscious hunt for things which were wrong, things which would give some clue to what I was going to experience. In doing this I think I missed a lot of the less subtle things in it, or did not give them due significance. There are subtle clues and wrongnesses throughout a first playthrough of the game, but they pale in comparison to the massive, unsubtle ones.

Note: This article discusses the mechanics and sidequests of Nier Automata.

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This is a Review of Horizon: Zero Dawn

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There is a good setting, and indeed a good story, hiding in the back third of Horizon Zero Dawn. The first two-thirds make reaching that excellent payoff perhaps a little too frustrating, but at the same time I am not entirely sure how I would have presented it differently. The game spends hours presenting a hostile, superstitious and often annoying world which genuinely feels like the sort of tribalistic society that would emerge in a post-apocalyptic world, but at the same time it plays so heavily on how regressive the world is it becomes difficult – from perspective of the protagonist, and by extension the player – to forgive them enough to save them.

Note: This review also talks about the plot of Turn-A Gundam, as well as discussing details of the story of Horizon: Zero Dawn.

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Tabletop Game Review: Rogue Planet (Brent Spivey, Bombshell Games)

Brent Spivey’s skirmish wargame Rogue Planet plays like the much-loved Games Workshop RPG/miniatures game hybrid Inquisitor; it has similar systems of random activation counts and a focus on interactions with terrain and inventive skill use. It is different in fundamental ways mechanically, but the intent – bringing together the freer mechanics of role-playing games and the structure and campaign advancement of a miniatures skirmish game. It will not stand as a direct competitor to something like Necromunda, as the focus is not on highly granular combat and strict rules (insofar as Necromunda’s rules were strict), but it offers an attempt to emulate, as any niche wargame should, a specific kind of skirmish combat.

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The Beauty of “Your Name”

Your Name is a film about obsession which handles this topic in interesting and unexpected ways; it is about two peoples’ drive to, essentially, solve a mystery. To say more would necessitate discussing the film in much closer detail, and so should best be discussed below. Suffice to say, it is a film I highly recommend, and before reading this article would advise readers watch.

Note: This article discusses in close detail the plot of Your Name, and also discusses in more general terms details of the plot of Steins;Gate.

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