Shirobako: Learn How Things Are Made

It seems that I’m doing a lot of reviews with each of my passing posts, huh? It’s not intentional, it’s just that this is what I consider to be interesting and I think that the titles I feature here are worth sharing. I’m not sure if this is where I say “deal with it” because I don’t do this frequently enough. Eh.

Anyway, today we’re talking about another anime, and this time, it’s Shirobako. This little piece of Japan came out in 2015 and tells the tale of five friends who made an animation in high school together and made a vow to enter the anime industry and work on an anime together. The main aspect of the show is Aoi Miyamori, a production assistant at Mushashino Animation (it’s not a real company, I checked), and the Mushashino team as they work on anime projects and all the obstacles that come with them. Along the way, we also see Aoi’s friends:

  • Ema, an animator at Mushahino
  • Shizuka, a voice actor
  • Misa, a 3D computer graphics operator
  • Midori, a story writer

For the most part, though, we stick with Musashino and the people that work there, which I consider the thing that provides this anime’s biggest positive and negative. The positive is that you get a pretty decent course in the process of making anime. I’m a big fan of learning how things are made, especially when it comes to entertainment so if you’re like me and like behind the scenes featurettes, you’ll get something out of this.

In addition to learning how anime is made, you also see the characters talk about why they got into anime, which to me was a testament to what it’s like to take creative work seriously and pursue a career in the field, and anime can be replaced in this line of thinking with anything creative, such as movies, TV, or comic books. I got that message, especially in the last few episodes, and in a sense, you can put this on and binge it if you feel you need something to kick yourself into gear and work on whatever project you’re on, like me with writing. I also kind of feel like Aoi in the sense that I’ve had that position where I didn’t know what I wanted to know what to do in my field in terms of what discipline I wanted to pursue. It took until my sophomore year of college. So, there’s the connection aspect hooking me.

One of the things that I didn’t like about Shirobako was that for the most part, it seemed focused on Aoi and Mushahino, and the other girls would show up rather sporadically. In addition, that high school animation that we see in the first episode (and the one that got the girls interested in making anime and entering the industry in the first place, doesn’t get mentioned much after it’s introduced, but I think that’s a story thing as it’s more about the girls and their current jobs. That being said, I can’t help but feel that not revisiting that first animation is kind of a missed opportunity. It can help that Aoi is the main character and we see everything from her point of view in that she’s the one that’s undecided about her future in the industry, but the fact that we spend most of the time with one studio where only two of the five main characters are working just screams “wasted potential” to me. I really believe that had Shirobako lasted more than the 24 episodes it did, we could see more of these girls and their careers and the final season could be them working on that high school animation and updating it to be even more awesome thanks to their skills…but since Shirobako isn’t an anime that’s an adaptation of some mega-popular shonen manga, it’s just 24 episodes. And that makes me sad. I’ll just have to deal.

As for the score for this anime, I feel pretty comfortable giving this a 7/10. It’s got a good concept and rolls with it, and it has emotional moments that I believe any person in a creative field would be touched by, but at the same, time I really can’t shake the wasted potential and the main characters that are put to the side by an admittedly decent supporting cast.

If you’re ever interested in learning how anime is made, I’d suggest Shirobako is an anime worth checking out. Alternatively, you can just watch this video. But either way, Shirobako is a pretty cool anime, and I enjoyed watching it.


More Guardians!

I’ll be honest, I’m not the most well-versed person when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ve only seen one Thor movie, I’ve never seen Age of Ultron, and even though I’ve seen two Iron Man films, I don’t remember much. That’s not to say they’re not all bad. I enjoyed Captain America: The First Avenger, I think Black Panther looks awesome after seeing the trailer, and I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy.

And that brings me to my watching and subsequent posting of my thoughts of Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2. In this movie, Star Lord finds himself learning about his past, and the rest of Guardians are along for the ride as the whole movie starts once Rocket Racoon steals from a planet’s government they were hired by. Yeah, it’s pretty insane, but still believable from this team.

I consider Guardians of the Galaxy to be my favorite part of the Marvel universe. The first film I remember as a great mix of humor and music, with some pretty good action. This movie, on the other hand, didn’t have as many jokes in its quiver and it actually presented more emotional moments because this was a movie that really helped to develop mainly Star Lord. Though that’s not to say that this movie is devoid of jokes. I found myself laughing at some of Rocket’s antics and a bit of Groot, albeit with some eye rolling. What this movie lacks in humor, it makes up for in action in what’s kind of a flip from the previous movie. I really think that writer/director James Gunn sees this series as his baby, and I like how he handled this sequel.

And now the thing that makes Guardians of the Galaxy pretty awesome: the music. This movie didn’t have the big hits that the last movie had, but at the same time, there’s a good sense of using the songs to make a good soundtrack. That is something that I like a lot in a good movie and it’s something that I do when I write, mainly for fight scenes. The way the songs play, you see how the songs make the world tick, as if the songs are specifically chosen for a particular thing. Maybe that’s how soundtrack songs are, but it’s probably one of those things that you have to talk about when it’s done very well.

Guardians of the Galaxy is my favorite part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s currently the only thing out of Marvel I put a mental note to try to go see in the theater, or watch it on Netflix or TV the first chance I get. That being said, this movie wasn’t as good as its predecessor. It’s not really knocking the movie, I just think between the two, I’d pick the first Guardians film over this one.

I’m going to give Guardians of the Galaxy: Vola 7.5/10. Good action, great music selection, just not as good humor, which is kind of a letdown when these movies are what I feel the comic relief of the MCU.

What’s going to happen when the Guardians of the Galaxy return? I’m not sure, but it’s going to be hard to be a better Marvel path for me than the Guardians of the Galaxy series. Your move, Black Panther 

Dickens. What a man.

It’s been a while. Too long, some of you may be thinking. I really need to do something to make this have a set schedule before I think about apologizing, should I? Well, I know one way to make up for the lack of material: a movie review! And boy, do I have a movie for you. Today, I’m going to review a movie that I’ve wanted to see for a while with The Man Who Invented Christmas.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is a movie about Charles Dickens and the process he went through to write his enduring classic A Christmas Carol. As somebody who tries to write often enough to consider himself something of a writer, I can say that this movie tried to speak to me. Seeing the characters come to Dickens as he struggles to write is something that I think most writers go through. I haven’t been fortunate to see the characters come to me, so maybe that’s something that only happens when you’re in a situation Dickens is in in this movie: on a deadline and having to deal with the fact you’re reeling from flops.

The thing that makes this work the most is Dan Stevens, who plays Charles Dickens. He’s having so much fun in this role and you can see him just beaming like this gigantic ball of kinetic energy in every scene he’s in. While I haven’t heard anything about Charles Dickens in his personal life, I feel that this may be something that’s just for the movie. I guess this may be one of things that falls under “it is what it is”. Also, there are some things that Dickens does in this movie that made me go, “You can’t spell Dickens without ‘dick’.” Another great aspect is Christopher Plummer as Ebenezer Scrooge. He and Stevens play off each other really well and you get that character/creator relationship coming off well. He’s also got some funny lines as well. One character that struck as entertaining is Tara, one of Dickens’ maids. Keep an eye out for her, because she was really cool.

If there was one thing I had a problem with this movie, it was how they had some of the A Christmas Carol aspects may have been a bit too on the nose for my liking. One scene has Dickens see a kid with a crutch similar to the one Tiny Tim has and you’d probably know where that goes. They also have the line “God bless us, every one” line a few times, and that’s not the only thing that they take from the book. Having only seen small adaptations of it (read: vague memories of reading it in picture books as a kid, and one of them was with Disney characters) so I can say I know the story. It feels like some lines were taken verbatim from the book, but as the movie went on, I felt myself not being bugged by it.  I think that has to do with me having seen Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, I can safely say that when it comes to taking direct lines into a work, you can do much worse. Also, the fact that the dialogue fits the time period helps a lot.

Another issue I had was that in some parts, it felt like it was going for the typical second act low point that you see in a lot of movies, and Dickens had to get out of it. However, the way that that’s resolved is actually rather clever, and if you’re a fan of A Christmas Carol, is pretty damn cool.

And now the score. I’m a fan of historical stuff, and a fan of learning how creative things are made, I was excited about this movie when I saw the trailer for it. And I can safely say I wasn’t disappointed. Even the problems that I had made were persistent which is admirable in that it can correct its problems quickly. However, those problems are still there, as small as they may be. Me nitpicking? In the long run, maybe.

I’m going to give The Man Who Invented Christmas a 9.5/10. If you’re a fan of Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, that fluffy holiday feeling, or if you’re just looking for a great movie this season, this is a great movie for you. It’s an amazing story of how a classic came to be.

Talking RWBY

So, it seems we’re getting closer and closer to the Volume 5 premiere of RWBY. And while it seems that I should be excited about this upcoming premiere, I’m writing here from a position of…looking forward to it, but not super hyped.

For starters, let’s go over what the series is. RWBY is created by the production company Rooster Teeth and its been airing on their website, first to their subscribers and then to the general public a week after release including on their YouTube channel, since 2013. Here’s a plot summary that comes from the show’s Wikipedia page (Warning, here be a sliver of spoilers):

The story takes place in the world of Remnant, which is filled with mysterious and malevolent creatures known as the “Creatures of Grimm.” Prior to the events of the series, mankind waged a battle of survival against the Grimm, and their opposing kingdoms, before discovering the power of a mysterious element called Dust, which allowed them to fight back against the monsters. In the present day, Dust is used to power abilities and weapons, but a more archaic form of this is weaving it into clothing. Those who use these abilities to battle the Grimm are known as Huntsmen or Huntresses. The series focuses on four girls, each with her own unique weapon and powers. Together, they form team RWBY (/ˈrbi/, “ruby”) at Beacon Academy in the city of Vale, where they are trained to become Huntresses alongside team JNPR (/ˈunəpər/, “juniper”), team SSSN (/sʌn/, “sun”), team CRDL (/ˈkɑːrdnl/, “cardinal”) team CFVY (/ˈkɔːfi/, “coffee”), and various other named and unnamed student teams.

Volume 1 focuses on the introduction of the characters of the story, marking the events that lead to their team formations. All the while, mysterious thefts of Dust are occurring around the city of Vale, notably organized by the show’s antagonist, Roman Torchwick. Volume 2 follows up from these events of Volume 1, and team RWBY sets out in order to investigate the meaning behind these thefts. They aim to discover the villain’s plans for the city of Vale before the Vytal Festival—a festival between the four kingdoms of Remnant where they have their best students demonstrate their skills and abilities in celebration of the peace between all four kingdoms. Volume 3 starts with the beginning of the Vytal Festival; however, a sinister plot lurks behind the celebratory events, and the heroes can only do so much to prepare for the evil that is coming. Volume 4 takes place six to eight months following the events of Volume 3, with the members of Team RWBY separated and in different parts of the globe, mainly trying to get to “Mistral” (another location in the series) where another Huntsman Academy is located, to prepare for a new evil.

 All I did was correct what I thought was a typo.

I got into this show after watching an episode of DEATH BATTLE! featuring Yang Xiao Long, one of the main characters of this show, where she fought Tifa Lockhart from Final Fantasy VII. This followed reading tons of fan-written Death Battles featuring Yang from DeviantArt. This was right before Volume 3, when every RWBY fan will tell you shit got real and the story began in earnest. I’ve seen everything this show has done and…I feel like I’m not as hyped as other RWBY fans.

I think I know why that is: I got started with this show pretty late.  I started watching this show two whole years after the show began, forcing myself to catch up by watching the first two seasons on Netflix, where the first two seasons (the entire show at the time) was broadcast like a movie instead of 10-30 minutes episodes, which probably helped to explain the pacing issues I felt when shit hit the fan in Volume 3. Maybe I would have felt it if I followed it week to week back then as well. And I also felt it this past Volume 4. I know I shouldn’t be so hard on Rooster Teeth for episode length because of the many reasons that go into production, but maybe pacing could be an issue that can be addressed, especially if this show continues the cycle of using volumes to build up to an event in a volume that becomes a MAJOR plot point. Even with that in fact, I don’t think I’ll rush off to watch the earlier adventures as opposed to other titles I’m fond of like Fairy Tail or Attack on Titan.

Because of this, I’m not what you’d consider up to the times with the RWBY fanbase. Even being subscribed to the r/RWBY subreddit, I can safely say that I’m nowhere close to being the biggest RWBY fan, nor am I likely to gel with any other fans. Let me explain the reasons:

  • I have never been a fan of the music. While I have listened to the theme songs, nothing has made me inclined to listen to any of the songs outside of the context of the show, let alone listen to any of the songs on the soundtrack. Nothing there really pops out as super awesome.
  • I’m not what you’d call a “shipper” I have found no two characters that have clicked romantically AT ALL. Most of it may stem from not looking for romantic hints and hoping for a connection deeper them wanting to see them bang, but all the ships I’ve seen have either not hooked me in, I don’t see what the shippers see or I see them as friends at best. As for what happens in terms of romance on the actual show or what other people ship…do your thing, people. I ‘m not gonna stop you. I’m just some loser.
  • I don’t really care for any Rooster Teeth content besides RWBY. It seems that a lot of the people that are fans of other Rooster Teeth shows migrated to RWBY. I never cared about Rooster Teeth, nor even knew about them before discovering RWBY, so I probably have nothing in common with a lot of RWBY fans.

That’s not to say it’s all negatives. I enjoy reading the fanfics, though a lot of them tune me out because of the combination of romance and an unappealing premise that serves to help that romance. Although I’m not opposed to all romantic RWBY stories, I pass on a lot. In addition, I like seeing great fanfiction for this show, and I’ll admit some of the fanfic helped in making Ruby Rose (the main character) my favorite out of everyone on the show. And I will admit that some of the things that when it comes to shipping, I may come to ship something, though that probably won’t happen in the foreseeable future.

What does this mean for me and my small place in the RWBY fandom? Hard to say. Does anything I wrote here impact my feelings toward RWBY in the long run? I just hope that they fix the pacing issue and Rooster Teeth doesn’t drill the “two volumes of buildup for 1 mega moment in the third volume” into the ground, which is a fear I have considering Volume 5 is coming up. Aside from that, not really.

I guess you could call this an editorial or a mini-review, so I’m going to put this in my review section.

If there are any RWBY fans that read this, I hope I didn’t piss you off too much and I hope we can be something resembling friends.

Let’s talk Ninjago

First off, I’m sorry that I’ve been away for so long. I have no excuses, and I hope that this blog can somehow continue to grow.

That out of the way, let’s get into the meat of this thing.

I got to see The Lego Ninjago Movie. After seeing The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie, I came to the conclusion that this Lego film franchise is my favorite film franchise. Why does this take the cake over the stuff offered by the likes of Marvel, Dreamworks, and the Disney Animated Canon?  Mainly the fact that every movie in this series is a movie I look forward to seeing as soon as I can, and this was no different.

What’s this movie about, you ask? The Lego Ninjago Movie takes place in Ninjago Movie where a teenager named Lloyd leads the charge to protect the city from the evil Lord Garmadon as the Green Ninja. There’s a little wrinkle to this: Lord Garmadon is Lloyd’s father. That’s a big source of humor for this movie, although that aspect can take a while to see some payoff. Also, as the movie goes on, the interactions with Lord Garmadon and Lloyd lead to the emotional moments that this franchise has beneath the comedy. These emotional moments also take some time to show up, although when you see them, you’ll probably get the feeling that they’ve been earned given what you’ve seen Lloyd and his friends have gone through. The other thing I can say is that if you’re going to mix comedy and emotional moments, you need to know when to apply each, and this movie knows when to do that most of the time. I’d say that this franchise knows how to do that particular skill pretty damn well.

And now let’s talk about what I loved the most from this movie: Jackie Chan as Master Wu, Lloyd’s teacher in all things ninja. Jackie Chan had the best lines in the movie, I was just smiling in every scene he was in, and in terms of the best character, I’d say it’s a toss-up between him and Lord Garmadon. When I walked out of the movie, I told my mom that I think Jackie Chan makes everything better, while my mom said that Jackie Chan was the best part of the movie and was pivotal to the movie’s success. I will say that I came into this not knowing who the cast would be, so I don’t think I’m in a position to talk about this aspect, although I will say that Jackie Chan was a good call to have in this movie if I could say so myself. I don’t think this is one of those things I can explain. I honestly can’t think of someone who could take that role and play it as well as Jackie Chan did.

In terms of how good this is compared to the other Lego films, I’d say that it’s not as funny as The Lego Batman Movie, but it’s still pretty good when it comes to providing laughs. Compared to The Lego Movie, I’d say that it’s kind of a different situation in that this movie is more for the Lego connoisseur as it’s based on a particular Lego line instead of something the general public such as the fun of playing with Lego blocks or Batman. I honestly don’t know anyone that knows Ninjago, though that may have to do with the fact that Lego Ninjago started when I was in high school, and I don’t know anyone that plays with Lego, let alone knows of the Lego Ninjago franchise.

As for score? I’m going to give The Lego Ninjago Movie a 7/10. This movie may take a while to find its groove, which may have to do with the fact that it kind of needs to establish the world it’s in, but once it does hit its groove, it’s super enjoyable. Also, Jackie Chan is the man. Jackie Chan is a treasure. Jackie Chan is the best part of this movie.

And now, I leave you with Jackie Chan singing “I’ll Make A Man Out of You” from Mulan. In Chinese.  

Fairy Tail: Looking Back

So, It’s over. It’s all over. After eleven years, Hiro Mashima’s manga Fairy Tail has published its final chapter. I started watching the anime adaptation of this title during my junior year of college, and once I finished all the episodes that were available for watching at the time, and then I read the manga volumes that the Free Library of Philadelphia had in circulation. Something that took me to three different branches because some volumes were only in one branch. And I fell in love with these characters. I followed this story week after week after week until this final week.

So what is this about? Fairy Tail takes place in the Kingdom of Fiore and follows the adventures of the eponymous guild of wizards (some usethe word “mages” to describe the Fairy Tail characters) and their adventures and mishaps. The first chapter introduces us to our two main characters Lucy Heartfilia and Natsu Dragneel and it ends with Lucy heading to Fairy Tail to join the guild. And what follows is adventure. The following story arcs introduce us the many other members of Fairy Tail, the other guilds in Fiore, and story arcs that deal with loss, redemption, adventure, and friendship. That’s the big word when it comes to Fairy Tail: friendship. Reading Fairy Tail, there were a lot of times when it seems that all hope was lost, there would be a speech about friendship and the power they have from their friends believing in themselves that would seemingly give them some sort of powerup to defeat the villain of that arc. Especially with this final arc, it had this as well as the display of Fairy Tail wizards taking out enemies in one shot. If you were in the subreddit r/fairytail,  you would have found discussions and comments calling out what could be seen as an absurdity. At least you can say that Fairy Tail has a fanbase willing to call out flaws.

Anyway, that’s enough of that. Why do I love Fairy Tail? What made me want to read this manga on a weekly basis? For one, I’d say that the big thing was the sense of unpredictability. Every week, there was this sense of “what’s going to happen this week?” that I haven’t felt in anything in a long time. The Fairy Tail wizards always had this sense to get into mischief in their quests and while the stakes got higher as time went on, their was still a sense of innocence. Also, the fights. They were freaking awesome. The reason I say this is because of the different types of magic that were used by all the characters. It’s just something about the fact that very few wizards are similar in they fight, so the ice wizard Gray Fullbuster will be totally different from Erza Scarlet, who’s never seen without a sword in battle. It’s totally different from Dragon Ball Z where it’s just seemingly beams and punching.

Also, it’s pretty funny and lighthearted. Something about Fairy Tail always makes me smile. And I found something that made me happy with every arc. Maybe it’s a joke, maybe it’s just the song that’s used as a theme song for the anime that I bought off iTunes, but there’s something about Fairy Tail just puts a smile on my face, and it always has, and now it always will. It has its heart in the right place, and I think Hiro Mashima is a great guy and a great part of the manga industry.

As for a score, what should I give it? Well, I’ve given all my positives in the above paragraphs, so why don’t I acknowledge its flaws? the whole “friendship” thing can get hammered in at times, and defeating in one shot may get old for you after a while. In addition in the last arc, stakes may get high for some characters, only for them to come back down again, and some things are brought up and aren’t really addressed with the proper weight and gravitas. That’s all I’ll say without getting into spoilers.

For that reason, I’ll give it an 8.5/10. It has some drawbacks stopping it from getting it into the 9-10 crescendo, but the feelings I get from it are great enough to make it one of the best manga I’ve read/one of the best anime I’ve watched.

Fairy Tail will always have a special place in my heart, and if I can afford it. I hope to buy all the Fairy Tail volumes and maybe the anime DVDs. This is a title worth having in your own two hands.

Best Ever Seen

So, I posted recently about my plan to revamp the things that’ll go into the review section of this little blog I have. And I talked about how in order to get at least a 9/10, what I talk about has to be super special, enough to call it “the best I’ve ever seen. But I think I may have been too vague. What do I compare it to? So I think the idea is to compare it to the rest of its field. So, I’d compare an anime to an anime, a film to a film, and a TV show to a TV show.

As for animated vs. live action? I don’t think animation is lesser than live action. In fact, I think that animation is capable of doing great things. That’s one of the reasons I like DEATH BATTLE!  However, I think I have to because if it’s just film, it’d be too much of a big pond. And then there’s genre. Clearly, a comedy is worlds away from a crime drama, so what do I do there? I’m not sure yet. I think I may just go with the idea of “movies in general” mainly because I don’t watch enough movies nor do I watch movies on a regular enough basis to get into conversations about a genre.

As for anime/manga, I think I’m comfortable enough in that field to give definitive rankings. I mean, I don’t have a YouTube where I talk about the bigger themes of particular titles, but I think I’m comfortable in my skills to talk about titles and get my opinions across.

What do you think of my methodology?