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?

So, Let’s Talk about Scoring.

On this blog, I have a section called “Martin’s Reviews”. It’s basically me talking about different things I encounter and my thoughts about them. There’s one thing though: There’s nothing about it that screams “review”. So, that’s where I hope to change things in the probably never ending mission of mine to make this blog look something like I made something out of my college education. And with that, I will introduce a new element: scores!

Yes, I’m bringing in a scale that pretty much every single respectable critic in a field would have to make me talking about things have something resembling weight. So, how am I going to do this? How about a 10 point scale? Everyone else does it. Hell, I do it on the website MyAnimeList, which helps me to determine my favorite anime and manga.

Here’s the anime list I have on MyAnimeList, and here’s the manga I have on MyAnimeList. Fair Warning: If it looks shitty, I’m sorry. I don’t watch anime or read manga as frequently as some other people, so updating it is kind of on the infrequent side. And here is the scale they have on MyAnimeList:

10: Masterpiece

9: Great

8: Very Good

7: Good

6: Fine

5: Average

4: Bad

3: Very Bad

2: Horrible

1: Appaling

Another scale I found comes from a Tumblr blog that focuses on reviewing old video games. Here is that blog, and here’s what the blog is all about and the methodology.

And here is that blog’s scale:

1 (Abysmal) You should avoid at all costs. An exercise in masochism.

2 (Terrible) A really bad game that nostalgia cannot save.

3 (Awful) An objectively bad game that a select few people might like anyway.

4 (Bad) A game that sucks that may still have value for fans.

5 (Okay) Neither good nor bad or a healthy mixture of both.

6 (Decent) A fun game that’s held back by some of it’s negative aspects.

7 (Good) Was fun to play and will be enjoyed by most people

8 (Great) An exceptionally good game that should be near the top of your to do list

9 (Amazing) One of the best games ever made

10 (Perfect) A game so good it’s in a league of it’s own.

I’d say that my scale would be a mix of these. The only difference I’d make is that rather than “best ever made”, I would rather say “best I’ve ever seen” because my Film & Video degree kind of causes me to think of technical makeup and composition when I see the words “best ever made”. The other reason I like these scales is that it kind of spells out what can get a 10/10: things that go above and beyond and give you a true experience that’ll make you change for the better once you finish. As for 10/10s I have the following in that rare air:

  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica (The series, not the Rebellion movie, that gets a 6)
  • The Rocky series
  • Samurai Champloo
  •  The Death Note manga (the anime adaptation would get a 7.5-8)

I hope that this scale and explanation is to your liking. It’s to my liking at the very least. Though I really feel that a rewatch may be needed for something to get at least a 9, mainly because it’s hard to say something is a classic upon watching it a first time. And if you’re wondering why in the future you’re reading about something I watched on Netflix or HBO, that’s why. Anime and manga may not have this problem because a lot of the stuff I read will have the bulk of the episodes or chapters at my disposal, if not all of them.

Anyway, this begins the new era of the reviews section of my blog. This’ll be fun.

Grease Is The Word

Believe it or not, I’ve never seen the movie Grease. Well, now that’s changed (thanks, Netflix), and I can actually say that Grease is actually a pretty damn good musical. The story of Danny and Sandy and how they get together is a tale that’s been told at theaters of varying levels across the entire country, and watching the movie I can see why. A lot of the songs in this film are just so good. “Grease”, “You’re The One That I Want”, Greased Lightnin”, “Summer Nights”, I never came across a song I didn’t like while watching this movie. I think the next thing I’m going to do is put these songs through my “ultimate soundtrack test”:  listen to them devoid of any context from the movie and see if I would be willing to buy them on iTunes and listen to them when I’m just chilling. Isn’t Spotify a beautiful thing? And if you have a better name for this test, I’d love to hear it.

The other thing about this movie that I loved about this movie is that it feels pretty real, albeit a 1950s version of real. What I mean is that I can see this as an actual high school that actually has these groups of people as friends and it was written by somebody that went to a school like Rydell High, unlike Mean Girls where it feels like it was written by somebody who’s going by some exaggerated  horror stories they hear from their friends or by what they see on TV…or from a movie. Is this some kind of “full circle” thing? All I know is that I’d rather go to a high school where the popular kids go out for burgers and shakes and wear leather jackets than a school where the popular girly-girls take pride in spreading dirt behind people’s backs. And where one of those popular girly-girls is just SO STUPID. ( -.- Sorry, I just really, really hate that movie.)

Anyway, I’m not into the “theater scene” or “musical scene”, if you want to call it one of those things. What I do know, however, is that Grease is held in pretty high regard when it comes to musicals and musical movies. And now I understand why. Everything about this was fun. Great songs, great acting all around, there was great choreography in the sequences for the bigger songs (especially for “Beauty School Dropout” and “Greased Ligtnin'”), the world felt real, the songs are freaking amazing, and I’d watch it again.

I realized that this is going to be in a section called “Martin’s Reviews”, and when I talked about Wonder Woman, I never gave a score. I’d say that this is an 8/10. It’s really good, but I never really found myself thinking that this breaks into that upper echelon of greatness.

But anyway, you should watch Grease sometime. You’ll be glad you did.

As a parting gift, here’s a funny Grease video from CollegeHumor.

 

 

My Thoughts On Ready Player One

Ready Player One is a 2011 science fiction novel written by Ernest Cline. I read it my senior year of college as it was one of the required books for one of my classes. The particular class was called Literature for Screenwriters. I’m not making that name up and here is the description of the class on the academic calendar:

This course provides exposure to literary traditions from the classics to pop culture, analyzing how the selected books have affected the film industry, both in terms of direct adaptations and by influencing generations of filmmakers and screenwriters.

And I’m glad to say that I got a chance to read this story. Because it’s really freaking good.

What is this about?

In the year 2044, the world is gripped by an energy crisis and mankind escapes this Hell by immersing themselves in a virtual world called the OASIS, which is best described as having an intense rooting in the pop culture of the 1980s. The main story is that OASIS creator James Halliday has died and he has left an Easter egg somewhere in the OASIS and whoever finds it first will inherit his fortune. Five years after the hunt for the Easter egg begins, our hero Wade Watts has made a huge breakthrough in the hunt, and the adventure goes on from there.

Why should you read this?

This story is really interesting. The book itself is actually a pretty quick read, and I finished in a few hours, though I was listening to the music on my phone as I was reading so it may have felt faster for me. Reading the story, I thought that the world was really cool and the plot was something that I didn’t see that often. As an anime fan, I think the best way to describe the story is “Sword Art Online meets One Piece“, which is surprising considering I’m not a big fan of Sword Art Online. I’m also reminded about the Animaniacs film Wakko’s Wish, which was about the entire Animaniacs cast racing to get a wish granted by being the first one to touch a wishing star that had fallen to Earth. The other thing I thought was cool and what I think sets it apart from anything else is just how much the 80s pop culture oozes out of every chapter. You can tell it was done by a guy who loves this decade.

The other thing I thought was cool and what I think sets it apart from anything else is just how much the 80s pop culture oozes out of every chapter. You can tell it was done by a guy who loves this decade. And the one thing I took away from this was if it was possible to do this for other decades. I can see this being done for the 90s or even the 2000s. So, in a way not only is this book really good but it has the possibility to be influential as well.

On another note, as I work on my writing, I find this to be a helpful guide on how to format my work because I can see how well a published book is put together, so I have a bigger appreciation for this book now than what I had a year ago. And that’s something I feel is something you could consider special.

Ready Player One is a book is a story that you don’t want to put down until you’re finished once you pick it up for the first time. It’s widely available on Amazon and in bookstores all over the country, so do yourself a favor and pick up Ready Player One, put on some 80s songs, and start reading. I recommend that “Africa” by Toto be in your playlist.

What’s My Favorite Anime?

I haven’t really told this to anyone, but I’m an anime fan. I just love the out there worlds that they can create and when the good ones are good, they are REALLY FREAKING GOOD. It’s actually kind of hard to talk about what good anime really is unless you’re some kind of anime critic with a YouTube critic, which I’m not. However, I can tell you what my favorite anime of all time is. That particular title goes to Shinichiro Watanabe’s 2004 work Samurai Champloo. A year ago, I presented my case to the r/anime subreddit.  If you don’t want to go there and read the comments, I’ll put my case here,

If you read a lot of “Best/Greatest Anime of All Time” lists, Cowboy Bebop will surely be a regular fixture. But I’m not here to talk about Cowboy Bebop or how cool Spike Spiegel is or anything that can be summed up with “See you, Space Cowboy”. I’m here to talk about another anime directed by Shinichiro Wantanabe. An anime that is one of the only two anime that I have given a 10/10 on MyAnimeList. And my favorite anime of all time. I am talking about Samurai Champloo.

What’s This About?

The story takes place in Japan during the Edo period. The first episode introduces us to the three main characters: A wandering swordsman named Mugen, a ronin named Jin, and a waitress named Fuu. The setup is that Mugen and Jin meet at the tea house where Fuu works, and they get into a fight. In the process, a magistrate’s son is murdered and Fuu’s tea house is burned to the ground, resulting in Mugen and Jin being sentenced to death. However, the two are saved from death by Fuu. And Episode 1 ends with the setup of the anime: Fuu asks Mugen and Jin to accompany her to find a “samurai who smells of sunflowers”. And over the course of 26 episodes, we see their journey.

Why Should You See This?

You ever hear of the saying “It’s the journey, not the destination”? That’s one of the best ways I can describe this anime. Because the fun of watching this anime comes from seeing a Japan that isn’t like the one from history. We have a version of Edo-era Japan that has rap, graffiti taggers, and in Mugen, a swordsman that isn’t a swordsman that’s unlike anything you’ve seen before (at least I haven’t). Not only that, but you get to watch the development of the friendship between the three main characters on what’s basically an awesome road trip.

But let’s talk about what’s the strongest asset Samurai Champloo has going for it: THE MUSIC. This has one of the best scores I have heard in anything ever, not just in anime. The soundtrack was headed by the late Nujabes, who helps to bring the hip hop feel of Samurai Champloo to life. Music has always been one of the high points of any Shinichiro Wantanabe work, and this is no exception. And just like how jazz, blues, science fiction, and film noir mesh together seamlessly in Cowboy Bebop, we see hip hop and samurai mesh seamlessly here.

But don’t just take my word for it, here are some tracks:

The opening track, “Battlecry” by Nujabes featuring Shing02

The main ending track, “Shiki no Uta”, by Nujabes featuring Minmi

The ending track from the final episode, “San Francisco” by Midicronica Personal Note: listening to this while rewatching this solidified Samurai Champloo as my favorite anime of all time.

Where Can You Watch This?

Samurai Champloo can be watched both subbed and dubbed on Hulu, subbed and dubbed on Netflix (at the time of me writing this, Febuary 16th, 2016), and episodes can be bought on iTunes (though I can’t find any information regarding being subbed or dubbed on iTunes).

Samurai Champloo is my favorite anime of all time. And at the very least I hope you find this to be a great anime and a great title from a great director. It’s very rare that I come across something that I want to see again and again without getting tired, but this is one of those things. So if you want to see a great tale of swordsmen, a great tale of samurai, a great character driven journey, watch something with great music, or any combination of the aforementioned things, check out this anime. You’ll like what you find.

In the time I made that post to Reddit and now, I must sadly report that Samurai Champloo is no longer streaming on Netflix.com and is DVD only. It’s still on Hulu though, but Hulu has gone to the point where you HAVE to create an account and create a plan, so if you want to take that plunge, that’s up to you. The series can still be bought on iTunes.

Another thing I forgot to write originally is that in episode 12, there’s a recap of what’s happened in the show so far…and the final scene is so funny and unlike anything I’ve seen before that I’m not going to spoil it here.

What I WILL say is that Samurai Champloo is an amazing anime (it’s one of the few things I’ve given 10/10 on MyAnimeList) and everyone needs to see it. That’s when you know something is good: when you have to tell everyone to go see it.

So yeah, I’m an anime fan. And Samurai Champloo is my favorite anime

So, my mom and I went to see Wonder Woman.

NOTE: WHILE THIS WON’T HAVE MAJOR SPOILERS, THERE WILL BE DISCUSSIONS ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MOVIE. SO, IF YOU WANT TO SEE WONDER WOMAN, I RECOMMEND THAT YOU SEE THE MOVIE BEFORE READING THIS. IF YOU SAW THE MOVIE, I HOPE YOU ENJOY WHAT I HAVE TO SAY.

Ah, Wonder Woman. DC’s Finest Lady. I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a comics fan. I don’t read comics and I don’t get super excited for every comic book movie that comes out. But I’ve seen some. As for Wonder Woman, I’ve only ever seen the 2009 animated film and a few episodes of the 1970s show with Lynda Carter. But I know enough about them and their powers and their enemies thanks to pop culture, and this movie was one I was super excited for. And oh my God this was awesome. If you get to know me, it’s kind of rare that I get super excited that I want to see it either on opening night or in the days immediately after. And 2017’s Wonder Woman is one of those rare movies. I’m glad I had this hype, and I’m glad this movie delivered. Wonder Woman is a pretty cool hero, and people have been wanting her to get a solo movie for years. I can see why. This movie had great action, great characters, and surprisingly great comedy.

The best part was the chemistry between Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) and Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine). Whether it was in the scenes in London or on the battlefields of World War I, you can see that they have this unbreakable bond, and you can see it forged. My favorite scenes between them were when Wonder Woman was adjusting from Diana, Princess of Themyscira to her secret identity of Diana Prince. There are a lot of jokes and fish out of water scenarios that had me cracking up. I don’t want to give them away because when you see an amazing movie, I think that the best way that you can sell this movie is when somebody asks you about a particular thing, you can only respond with “I can’t tell you. You have to see it for yourself.” I’ve only seen bits and parts of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but I’ve heard that Gal Gadot was the best part of that movie. With her own movie now, I can’t wait to see what Gal Gadot does in the future.

The other thing that really worked in this movie was surprisingly the World War I setting. And I think it was because of how naive Wonder Woman was when she left with Steve and how she grows throughout the movie and sees more, and I don’t think that naivete works as well as it does if there was a performance as good as Gadot’s. Let me explain: I’m a bit of a history fan in that I like to read and watch stuff about history. And when you immerse yourself in history as much as I have, you notice something: the two World Wars are great at explaining subtexts and bigger things, and works will take the chance to use them as a backdrop. World War II is great at showcasing the ultimate conflict of good versus evil and all the derivatives that come from that. World War I is great at showcasing the horrors of war, mostly in the forms of what a soldier sees on the battlefield, the suffering a soldier endures, how much it sucks to realize you’re stuck in a war where you don’t really know what you’re fighting for (which can be said is the subtext of stuff that showcases the Vietnam War, I’d say World War I takes away anything that could be considered subtlety), and how generals and officers in cushy positions just don’t care about how every second the war continues, they prolong the suffering of civilians and grunts on the front lines. And with Wonder Woman, the crux of the character development comes from learning that there are times when war isn’t as black and white as World War II movies make them out to be, and being exposed to the shades of gray. And I’m in my seat going between riffing it in my mind and thinking, “Oh dear God, please don’t let Diana learn about The Holocaust”.

The only gripe I have is minor, and that the action scenes reminded me a bit about Batman v. Superman, and from what I’ve heard and seen from that movie, that’s not a good sign. But that’s a nitpick because the fight scenes in this movie are freaking awesome. I really like Wonder Woman’s fighting style and the way they were shot really makes me think wielding a sword and shield is pretty badass. Here are the action scenes I loved the most, though you have to see the movie to truly appreciate them:

  • The fallout of Steve Trevor arriving in Themyscira.
  • Wonder Woman going over a trench into No Man’s Land.
  • Also, there’s a move where you jump on a shield and wreck everything. It’s done in this movie, and it has to be seen to be believed.

That’s all I have to say. Here’s my mom to share her thoughts. She was looking to this as much as I was, if not more so:

Growing up a Wonder Woman fan, I was very excited to see this movie.  I had my reservations about Gal Gadot being cast as my favorite superhero but she more than did an excellent job in this role.  She made the warrior princess come to life.

What I truly liked about this movie was that Wonder Woman was portrayed as a woman – strong, intelligent, confident, fearless but with a soft, vulnerable and innocent side.  She had to learn about herself, her strengths and to truly believe she was powerful.  

This well written, well directed and well-acted movie makes you face the truth about humanity, how painful the loss of innocence is and what the meaning of true love is.  Fighting for something bigger than you requires strength, courage and a mental toughness that not everyone has.  Wonder Woman was forced to grow up emotionally and learn the harsh realities of the world her mother tried to protect her from.  Like many young women, the first time facing the real world alone is scary, confusing and heartbreaking.  Wonder Woman is no different.

The refreshing part of the movie was that Steve wasn’t the punkish weakling that continually needed to be saved like in the 70’s series.  Instead, Chris Pine’s Steve tried to protect Wonder Woman and help her accept the reality of the world off her island while still allowing her to keep her hope for a better world without war.  Even Wonder Woman needs friends.  She had a motley crew of supporters but they had her back every step of the way.

The action scenes were great, the light comic relief scenes will make you chuckle and the cliche that love always wins is done in a not so sappy way.  

Still a Wonder Woman fan and can’t wait to see her in more movies!

Martin’s Mom

So there you have it. Two recommendations in one blog post. I’d honestly say that you will not be disappointed if you see Wonder Woman. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to listen to the theme that Lynda Carter made famous.