Thursday, May 28, 2020

TV Roundup, Episode Three

Welcome to Episode Three of TV Roundup! If you've seen either of the first two episodes, then you know that in addition to anime and sports (well, not so much sports right now), I watch a truckload of "regular" shows as well. Here's some of what's been on lately:

Killing Eve
I was a huge fan of this show from the beginning. Now, Season 3 is wrapping up, and I have to say that it's reached that certain point - like The Magicians and some other shows before it - where I don't really know what's going on half the time but I enjoy it anyway. Some of you more savvy viewers are probably following along just fine, but for me, I need a scorecard to keep track of who's working for The Twelve, who used to work for them, and who's still working for them but doesn't want to any more. Also, obligatory SPSU reference #1: I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I had Jodie Comer in mind for the role of Thana when I was writing the scripts for the Nobody's Hero trilogy. I know that that particular piece of fantasy casting will probably never happen (unless, by some improbable miracle, the films get greenlit and put into production within the next couple of years or so), but, hey, I just wanted to mention it here for the record. Obligatory SPSU reference #2: when the show introduced Dasha (Villanelle's mentor) this season, I was like, "hey, that's kind of like The Matriarch and Gloria!" Because, you know, older mentor has love-hate relationship with their younger prodigy whose primary skill is killing people...anyway, moving on.

(on BBC America)

The Mandalorian
I said basically everything I wanted to say about this awesome show in last week's post.

(on Disney+)

After Life
A dramedy in which Ricky Gervais plays a character who is mostly a jerk to everyone after his wife dies of cancer but tries to become a better person as he slowly works through his grief. I have to admit, I'm a sucker for any kind of dark comedy featuring a lonely, grouchy, middle-aged single man, which I why I also enjoyed novels like We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman and One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper. I mean, not that I'm one of those kinds of people myself, mind you, but...anyway, moving on.

(on Netflix)

A fun action-comedy whose premise is that, in the near future, those who can afford it can get their consciousnesses uploaded into a digital afterlife (this show is more about a literal afterlife than After Life, discussed above) where there is an unlimited supply of maple bacon doughnuts - that is, until breakfast ends at 10am, at which time they all disappear. I have to say, this show checked all the boxes for me. Cool science-fiction-y concept? Yep. An "A" plot involving mystery, intrigue, and betrayal? Check. A "B" plot with an awkward but fun love triangle? Got it. Potty humor? Oh yeah. The funny thing is that I actually had a similar idea for something called "Uploaded" which was meant to be an episode of 200BPM back when 200BPM was going to be more of a Black Mirror-ish anthology before it turned into something resembling Killing Eve (see how we came full circle with that), except that it was going to be full-on psychological horror. Because, I mean, as appealing as computerized immortality may sound at first, you have to realize that you'd be at the mercy of the programmers of your world, who could change it into a complete hellscape at any moment if they so chose. Like, you know, getting rid of the doughnuts. P.S. I loved the blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment when the TV at Nathan's funeral was showing the Los Angeles Rams beating the New England Patriots, 45-17. I think someone may still be bitter about Super Bowl LIII.

(on Amazon Prime)

Living With Yourself
I wonder if this whole Avenger-actor-in dual roles thing is going to become a trend? I mean, first you had this dark comedy with Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) playing some everyday dude and his clone who is an improvement on himself in every way, and now there's this HBO miniseries called I Know This Much is True featuring Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk) as identical twins. I mean, what's next, Don Cheadle playing a rebooted version of Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager in which he visits the mirror universe and confronts the evil mustachioed version of himself? Actually, I wouldn't mind seeing something like that. Heck, I'll even write it. Hire me, CBS!

(on Netflix)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Okay, So I Finally Signed Up For Disney+

I had resisted signing up for Disney+ for the longest time (well, maybe not that long, compared to my Netflix holdout). My main reason? Because I really didn't want to add yet another monthly bill to the pile. I'm sure you know the feeling. Plus, I had been accessing my streaming services through my Wii U, which didn't support the new offering from the House of Mouse.

I knew it was inevitable, though, because I mean, c'mon, the forthcoming Obi-Wan series is mandatory viewing for all card-carrying nerds like myself once Lucasfilm finally figures out their scripting issues and actually produces the darn thing. Not to mention all the MCU shows that are in the works, as well as this. In the meantime, I knew there was already The Mandalorian, which I had heard nothing but good things about and had even managed to catch the first few episodes of over at my bass player's house.

There were some other factors that really cinched it as well, including (1) the fact that I was getting tired of my Wii U running out of power after a couple of hours at most, prompting my desire for a new interface (I can't leave it plugged in because my cats will chew on the charging cable); (2) a credit that I got from Amazon that I could apply toward a Fire or Roku stick, which would both replace my Wii U as a streaming device and allow me to access Disney+; and (3) the stay-at-home orders brought on by the current world situation you may have heard something about.

So I took the plunge and signed up, after which the first thing I did was to binge the aforementioned Mandalorian. Man, is that show good. To be honest, unlike most fellow Star Wars fans, I was never really into any of the Mandalorian-related story arcs in both the Expanded Universe/Legends canon or in The Clone Wars or Rebels series. I mean, Boba Fett is a great character, as is Sabine Wren, but once they started going into the whole background of their culture and civilization I was just like "meh, let's get back to the Jedi and Sith stuff. Lightsabers, Force powers, woo!" But this show turned all of that around for me. Maybe it's because its Western-style plot is reminiscent of Glorified's volume one arc. Or maybe because the main character is a middle-aged single dad just trying to make a living in an unfair galaxy. I mean, it couldn't just be all about Baby Yoda, now, could it? Anyway, can't wait for Season Two (as much as I'd like Ashley Eckstein to play the live-action Ahsoka Tano, you have to admit, Rosario Dawson looks like the character).

After that, I rewatched Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, and Rise of Skywalker, which I said in December I'd be seeing again, but I didn't say where! Turns out, it wasn't in the theaters, it was in my living room. I've also started on the Disney Gallery series featuring - what else - The Mandalorian, which they've been releasing single episodes of every Friday. Oh, and of course, I watched the final season of The Clone Wars, which was also pretty awesome and further reinforced my newfound interest in all things Mandalore. This is the way.

So, yes, Disney+ has been quite worth it so far, and I imagine it will only get better as it goes along especially since Disney basically OWNS EVERYTHING I LOVE (I wonder how soon it will be before they buy a Japanese anime studio?)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Glorified Issue #2 Released!

Great news - Glorified, Issue #2 ("Ragged Town") is now available on IndyPlanet!
For those of you who are new here, Glorified is the comic book series written by me and my fellow members of Second Player Score and wonderfully illustrated by the awesome Jenny Ho (aka Jenny Ling). It tells the story of an elite soldier in a post-apocalyptic future who goes on a rogue search for both her home and her humanity. If you like John Wick or The Mandalorian but with a butt-kicking female lead a la Kill Bill or Mad Max: Fury Road (because, let's face it, Furiosa was the main character of that film, not Max), then you'll probably like Glorified.

In Issue #2, Gloria - after escaping from Fort Storm in a stolen ship - crash-lands near a settlement called Ragged Town, where she's rescued by a benevolent machinist named Gage. The problem is that in Gloria's former role as an Enforcer for Fort Storm, she conducted raids on Ragged Town that involved her killing a bunch of people, so naturally, if the townsfolk found out she was in their midst, you can bet that there would be trouble.

For them, that is.

Because, you know, if they tried to get their revenge on her, she would go all Beatrix Kiddo on them. Gage, being the pacifist that he is, wants to avoid all of that, so he tries to sneak Gloria out of town quietly. Of course, that doesn't quite go as planned.

Anyway, the issue is available in both print-on-demand and digital formats, and you can get it at this link here. You can also catch up with the story by getting Issue #1 here. As for Issue #3, it's currently in development and is slated for release later this year!

(P.S. Glorified the comic book series is a tie-in to Glorified the music album, which you can find here. Each issue corresponds to a track on the album.)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Anime Roundup: Love, Baseball, and Darkness Edition

Welcome to yet another edition of Anime Roundup, where I offer brief comments and random thoughts on various anime shows and films that I have watched. What? You're saying that you already know what Anime Roundup is? Well, then, ikimashou!

After the Rain
This is a wistful slice-of-life comedy/drama that, on the surface, is about a teenager who develops a schoolgirl crush on the middle-aged manager at her part-time job. Trust me, this is not as creepy as it sounds, because actually, the show is more about themes like loneliness, friendship, broken dreams, and, ultimately, discovering - or rediscovering - one's purpose in life.

Teasing Master Takagi-San
Netflix kept recommending this one to me, but I kept resisting, because it starts with Season Two. I mean, who wants to begin watching a show with Season Two? I finally gave in, and it turned out that it didn't really seem to make a difference, because this cute rom-com mostly consists of little vignettes featuring a girl who teases the boy she likes and his futile attempts to get back at her (she's Master Takagi-San, by the way, not him). There's continuity as far as the passage of time is concerned, but there's really no plot per se, so it was easy to pick up what was going on. I imagine that Season One was basically more of the same (apparently it was shown on Crunchyroll and Funimation but not on Netflix because the latter only picked up the show with the second season).

Eromanga Sensei
This quirky comedy is about a high school student who moonlights as a professionally-published (albeit not overly successful) light novel author who discovers that his reclusive younger stepsister is actually the person who illustrates the erotic pictures that go into his books and then they...develop sort of a crush on each other? Trust me, this is not as creepy as it sounds...okay, maybe it is a little creepy, but the show is obviously aware of that, playing up its "erotic" nature while never going too far over the edge. In other words, if you're fine with most Piers Anthony novels, then you should be okay with this. Underneath it all, there's a heartfelt message about how books and reading can bring happiness and joy to people's lives, which is a theme I totally endorse.

Battery the Animation
Do you miss baseball? I miss baseball, which is why I decided to give this one a shot. What I ended up finding was a quiet, contemplative, slow-paced show that is not really about baseball, but more about the complexity of interpersonal relationships. So, yeah, a typical sports drama, this is not. Plus, the protagonist was unlikable and everyone seemed much too tall and sulky to be middle schoolers. Still, though, the time went by pretty quickly as I was watching it, so I must have been having fun (either that, or I'm more starved for anything baseball-related than I thought).

And now for something completely different. This feature-length animated film, which follows the real-life career of legendary manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi (intercut with segments based on his short stories), is not what you would expect from contemporary fact, it wasn't what I was expecting even after reading the description and watching the trailer. It is, however, a perfect representation of Tatsumi's gekiga subgenre, which typically deals with darker, more mature themes. It's a bleak and harrowing journey (I had to take several breaks) that may not be good to watch during challenging times...or maybe it is, because of the perspective that it provides. I'm not sure. Either way, if you decide to brave it, just know that the adjectives most commonly associated with this film are "sad" and "beautiful," which pretty much sums it up quite nicely. Trust me, you'll be thinking about it long after you finish watching.