Interspecies Reviewers First Impressions (Volumes 1 & 2)

I never cared for being able to relate to characters in order to enjoy a narrative. However, when I caught the premise of Interspecies Reviewers, published in English by Yen Press, I bought the first two volumes on a whim!

“So, what makes you relate to this lewd-ass manga, you perv?” you ask. Well, it’s simple, really. I’m a pretty big fantasy fan, and I’ve always pondered which cute fantasy girl was the best to have as a… really close friend. And guess what, a group of adventurers set off to all the red light districts in order to answer that very question!

Interspecies Reviewers takes this premise and runs like Jesse Owens with it. The creators actually really went into the… s-s-s-science of what it would be like to do, well, you know, with each species. For example, customers to a fairy brothel need to be measured (including the general), so that their employees don’t get crushed to death. It’s actually made me rethink the prospect of… partnering with girls that I would’ve been totally game with in the past. 

Furthermore, the creators also took into account the fact that every fantasy fan has different preferences. Some of the main characters rotate out, but they always go in groups so that you can see how each person reacts to the same… situation. The bulletins they post after-the-fact are actually very well thought out and can be helpful in similar debates that probably take place in this world.

The cast of Interspecies Reviewers is very one-dimensional, making it either a hit or miss. There are technically five(?) main protagonists, however only three of them really get any spotlight. Among those three are Stunk, who’s basically the team leader, and the one who’s the most willing to try anything. He also has a friend named Zel, with whom he frequently disagrees. Lastly is the punching bag named Crim. He’s one of those “looks-like-a-girl” characters, and he ends up suffering in every… interaction that he comes across. I’m fine with their personalities, since the dialogue concerning… events is the big strength of the manga anyway.

Obviously, no ecchi manga is good without great artwork, and Interspecies Reviewers is… a series of drawings, all right. The art is as if Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon put on weight; the girls are in a cartoony, hyper-moe-blob style similar to Kobayashi, but they’re a lot chunkier. The proportions are often very out-of-whack, which might be a turnoff to some people, but I like it. The good thing is that most of these characters are legal adults, so yay for me- I mean- many people that want to project themselves into the story, none of which are me! (Oh, who am I kidding? I previously said that No Game No Life is my favorite LN of all time…)

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Current Verdict: 8.25/10

Interspecies Reviewers is a great ecchi manga that puts a twist on shipping by not causing arguments over which particular character is the best, but over which species is the best. I’d easily recommend it to fans of the genre, but be warned… this is seriously lewd. You better tread with caution if it’s not your cup of tea, or if you just want to complain about it. I just hope the next volume isn’t the finale, because then I’ll look like an idiot with this post.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki Volume 1 Review

This isn’t the first time I’ll say that I don’t like factoring relatability into quality, and it won’t be the last. And despite how much I can relate to the titular character of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki (published in English by Yen Press), I will absolutely not factor it into the final score of this series. Well, assuming I even finish it, since there are a billion things out there right now..

Fumiya Tomozaki views life itself as the Dark Souls of… life itself (great analogy there)? Basically, he ranks humans in tiers, with higher tiers given an unfair advantage over bottom-tiers like himself. And as such, he just plays videogames, which make more sense to him. However, all of this changes when he meets a tough online opponent IRL, who turns out to be top-tier girl Aoi Hinami. After a serious argument, she convinces him to let her give him the “tutorial” for the game that is life, so that he can pick himself up and not be a piece of crap.

As someone who’s content as an introvert, this premise immediately made me uncomfortable on a personal level. While I don’t entirely agree with Tomozaki’s attitude, his viewpoints of life are undoubtedly true; after all, there are some individuals who have more net worth than entire nations in this world. But what bothers me the most is that whenever we have an introverted main character, they are forcibly put through the social wringer until they become an extrovert. I get that there wouldn’t be much of a narrative without the goal of making friends, that at least 99% of the human race actively seeks out relationships, and that Japan is really hypersocial, but the nature of the situation in Tomozaki really irks me.

But like I said, I’m not factoring all that personal-schmersonal crap into the score, no matter what.

The writing in Tomozaki is better than I expected. With the titular character as the narrator, you get a lot of videogame terminology lumped into aspects of everyday life. It’s not very descriptive, but it’s set in the real world, you can just picture where they are based on intuition.

Since this is technically a rom-com, the characters are gonna be the bread and butter. Unfortunately, they don’t give off a good first impression. Tomozaki is pretty passive; because of his situation, he just ends up getting strung along by Hinami every step of the way. He’s also treated like an idiot because he seriously knows NOTHING about social interactions, not even what one could glean from basic intuition (and I relate to him- Nice job giving yourself a good reputation, Mack). Hinami seems to be the Best Girl, because she is literally the best at almost everything. She has a funny quirk where she minces the word “exactly” and acts like nothing happened, but I see it becoming an old meme quick, especially when the anime airs. Although the interactions between Hinami and Tomozaki are where the series is at its best, the former sometimes comes off as a real b**** to me. The other characters aren’t even worth talking about yet; they are very one-dimensional, and some of them are kinda a**holes.

The art is pretty unremarkable. It’s a nice, tame style for a rom-com, but it’s not my cup of tea. It’s probably still more presentable than the anime will be.

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Verdict: 7.5/10

Sorry, but this is the score I’m giving volume 1, even when I’m not factoring personal input. A lot of people on social media have hyped this thing to be an amazing masterpiece. But so far, Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki is a generic “degenerate boy meets perfect girl, who helps him become an upstanding person whether he wants to or not” but with videogame jargon thrown in for what seems like further pandering. It’s a solid rom-com for someone who’s been in Tomozaki’s position (and of course, wants wish fulfillment). 

Lockwood & Co. Full Series Review

Covers of the books

The U.K. has had a history of really popular writers: From William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens all the way through to the late, great Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. So, is it any surprise that also-English Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series is fan-freakin’-tastic in every way? It was a surprise for me, actually. I read Stroud’s claim to fame, Bartimeaus, over ten years ago. I loved it at the time, but since I was an impressionable teen and a completely different person then, I didn’t expect too much out of Lockwood. However, I ended up falling in love with it.

Lockwood & Co. is basically a British (therefore better) Ghostbusters. A mysterious event called The Problem (it’s got a capital letter, so it’s a big deal- Discworld taught us that much) has occurred. As a result, ghosts have been popping up everywhere at the spots where they died in life. Fortunately, there are agents who investigate the sites that ghosts appear in and send them back to the other world by capturing their Source; a physical object that they’re tied to. This series revolves around the titular Lockwood & Co.: consisting of agents Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins, and Lucy Carlyle.

The basic narrative structure of Lockwood & Co. follows the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson formulas: Self-contained arcs within each individual book, which all help build on the overarching plot that comes together in the final book. Each one makes our cast investigate some haunted sites throughout Britain in two distinct phases: mystery and action. In the mystery phase, they need to study up on the history of the area and the people involved in order to deduce what the Source could be. And in the action phase, they need to go over there and neutralize the Source. 

Stroud’s writing talent makes this stuff really enjoyable. His worldbuilding is well thought-out, really keeping in mind how people would live everyday life with ghosts running around (and the rules are also very simple, unlike something like Keeper of the Lost Cities). He makes the encounters with ghosts genuinely terrifying and suspenseful. He’s also able to spend multiple paragraphs just describing stuff, while not making the pacing feel slow at all. 

But in the end, the real Source of Lockwood’s greatness is in its cast of characters, and this Source cannot be neutralized. Lucy Carlyle, our narrator, is a tomboyish and proactive girl who gains strangely exceptional communication skills with ghosts. The head of Lockwood & Co., Anthony Lockwood, seems to be an aloof idiot, but when sh** goes down, he knows what’s up. George Cubbins is the comic relief guy, but he’s really good at researching stuff. Interestingly enough, these characters’ greatest traits end up playing into their biggest flaws. Lucy’s excellent communication skills cause her to empathize with ghosts, perhaps a little too deeply for what it’s worth. Lockwood, on the other hand, feels the exact opposite way, and there is most definitely a good reason as to why. George’s fascination with ghosts from a scientific point causes him to make some rather stupid and life-risking decisions as well. But despite their different viewpoints, their interactions- for the most part- are amazing. Stroud comes barreling right out of the gate with that nonchalant, sarcastic British humor. However, there is also some drama between the agents. While some of it made sense from a story standpoint, a lot of it felt sitcom-levels of contrived. A particularly sitcom-y development at the end of book three made me roll my eyes, and as a result, the fourth book, The Creeping Shadow, ended up being the weakest in the series for me. 

Other characters outside of the main crew include agents from other companies, like Lockwood’s rival, Quill Kipps, and the salty spirit of a skull in a jar. There is also Flo Bones, Lockwood’s connection to the black market, and Holly Munro, who joins the agency in book three. Overall, this is one of the best casts of characters, of this genre, I’ve ever come across. Their chemistry is priceless, and it felt bittersweet to have finished all of their adventures. And best of all, no cringey romance!

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Final Verdict: 9.5/10

This is one of the best pieces of non-Japanese literature I have ever read. From its strong writing, to its amazing cast, to its British humor, Lockwood & Co. is an underrated treat. If you love Ghostbusters or Goosebumps, then I daresay that this is a must-read. Otherwise, I highly recommend it to anyone who just wants flat-out, high quality literature.

Bakuman Full Series Review

Cover of volume 1

I know that working in the manga world can be harsh; I’m even aware of how it’s literally killed people. That’s why I never read through Bakuman (published in English by Viz) until just now. And wow… where has this been all my life?!

Bakuman stars Moritaka Mashiro, whose uncle died from overworking during his manga career. However, when he leaves his notebook at school one day, a starving writer named Akito Takagi sees it, and says that they should make a manga together. He refuses until the girl he likes, Miho Azuki, who’s trying to become an anime voice actor, promises to star in the anime of their manga. And just like that, boom! End goal established!

Despite my dislike of slice-of-life manga, I have to admit Bakuman does pretty much everything right. The story is fun and engaging, plus the characters are very expressive and have great personalities (more on that later, though). Despite the fact that Mashiro’s uncle died from overwork, which is a real life problem in Japan’s society, the manga is pretty lighthearted for the most part.

Naturally, the big appeal of Bakuman is its theme: manga publishing. This is one time where I’ll admit that I enjoyed something because I related to the characters, even though I hate factoring that into the actual final score of the story. Since they’re publishing manga, the characters of Bakuman spend a lot of time talking about all the topics that I think about everyday: tropes, marketing, mass appeal, and taking risks.

The cast is also surprisingly good. One of the biggest problems I have with slice-of-life is that writers seem to think that characters need to have dull expressions and no interesting personality quirks in order to seem more “human,” which isn’t really true. The characters in Bakuman are “human” done right. While Mashiro is a bit generic, he’s at least very expressive, along with everyone else. I knew that Takagi was going to be my fav the moment I saw him; he’s just so aloof yet driven. They work with one of two editors at any given time: Akira Hattori and Goro Miura. Although the latter is inexperienced as an editor, they both genuinely care about Mashiro and Takagi’s careers. 

There are also a number of rivals in Bakuman. My favorite is Eiji Nizuma, who is a true prodigy, but is a total eccentric. He doesn’t seem to take his job seriously, or even know how Jump works, and he just draws whatever he wants and leaves the pages neatly lying on the floor. He also walks in Jojo poses, which you need to see in order to believe. Along with him are the brash Fukuda and the terminally antisocial Hiramaru, among other people. Although they’re competitors, they’re also good friends, and their chemistry with each other brings out the absolute best in all of them.

My least favorite characters are probably the two main characters’ love interests, the aforementioned Miho, and Takagi’s girl, Kaya Miyoshi. They’re good girls (Miyoshi’s the better of the two, though), but they kind of exist just for moral support. Sure, Miho has plot relevance, but you don’t really get to see her progress that much; you only see the results.

Now for the art. Holy crap. I think that is the best art Obata has ever provided. Sure, Bakuman isn’t as detailed or complex as Death Note or *shudders* Platinum Freaking End, but it brings the atmosphere of Bakuman and it’s characters to life. Also, he has to draw his own characters’ manga, which each have their own styles. This really showcases what an absolute mastermind of art Obata is, and I have the utmost respect for him. If you’re a fan of more chill, CGDCT-type stuff, then Bakuman’s cartoony art style will likely be a turn-off for you.

My one real complaint with Bakuman is the fact that the protagonists want an anime so badly. I get that there’s a specific context behind why they want to get an anime of their manga, but as someone who’s seen so many great works get horrible anime adaptations, I couldn’t help but cringe, especially since their storytelling style is just the kind of unconventional stuff that can only work in the manga medium. This whole thing is a big nitpick of mine, which is why it won’t affect the final score at all.

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Final Verdict: 9.75/10

Bakuman is the best manga by the Ohba-Obata team. Yeah, I just said that. Everything about it is top-top-notch. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves manga in general, and heck, probably those who love anime too. 

Fairy Tale Battle Royale First Impressions

Cover of volume 1

My introduction to the battle royale genre was Future Diary. It wasn’t a good first impression to say the least. But despite that… experience, I decided to read Fairy Tale Battle Royale, published in English by Seven Seas. Let’s discuss if it’s any good.

Aoba Kuninaka is a classic, emotionally insecure high school girl who gets crapped on all the time. But when she signs a strange contract that makes all of her bullies love her, she’s transported to a twisted fairy tale world in a cosplay costume of her favorite character, Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and all the other characters in this world are zombies.

So, let me be honest. This isn’t the first time that fairy tales have been given a darker dark motif, but what I always find hilarious is this is done with the intention of being cool and edgy, when they’re actually just portraying these stories as they were historically. But in Fairy Tale Battle Royale’s case, there is gore and zombies, so it’s at least edgy to some extent.

What actually makes Fairy Tale Battle Royale a true battle royale manga is the trope of many elaborate rules revolving around the royale itself, that the characters end up learning the hard way (i.e. red shirts getting offed early on). In this manga, it is established that killing the character zombies will free their souls and add them to a player’s book of the corresponding fairy tale (Ex. killing the card soldiers from Alice in Wonderland will add them to Aoba’s book). Doing so will also restore the area back to its less-decrepitness. But since this is a battle royale manga, it’s not as simple as that. It never is, and that could end up being the downfall of Fairy Tale Battle Royale. Fortunately, despite the short volume lengths, some semblance of plot progression always happens within each installment.

Unfortunately, the characters of Fairy Tale Battle Royale up being really weak, and by weak, I mean formulaic. One whiny main protagonist who lives off of sheer luck, one badass that you actually care about, at least one exposition dump character, and the rest are red shirts (characters who are obviously going to die, with the term inspired by a running theme in Star Trek episodes). Aoba is, obviously, the first item on the list. There really is nothing to say about her whatsoever at this juncture. The other characters who show up, besides the mysterious badass, are just as dull.

The art for the manga is solid. It does a good job clashing storybook-moe-style with dreariness. I kind of wish there could be more gore, since the edginess is what I’m enjoying most, but that’s just me. It’s basically a weaker Promised Neverland in terms of the art.

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Current Verdict: 7/10

Fairy Tale Battle Royale is, so far, marginally better than Future Diary. It’s not the greatest thing out there, but it’s still a fun, while-sitting-on-the-toilet read.

Dungeon of Black Company First Impressions

Cover of volume 1

Slavery has been a common trope in fantasy since, basically, forever. But when Rising of the Shield Hero came out, the public reception showed that you can no longer use it as a theme without getting massive backlash. Well, the creator of Dungeon of Black Company, published in English by Seven Seas, did not give a crap, because slavery is the driving theme of this manga.

Black Company stars Kinji Minomiya, a corrupt man who has extorted his way to becoming the richest NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) person in the world. However, his perfect life is cut short when a portal opens up in one of his many apartments and sucks him into a fantasy world, where he is forced to slave away in a mine for the Raiza’ha Corporation (run by a super smexy demonness). After learning how he can capitalize on rare minerals found in a much deeper and more dangerous part of the mines, he- along with his lizardman friend, Wanibe, and a cute dragon-girl named Rim- start their own outfit called Dungeon Black Company and try to overthrow the Raiza’ha Corporation that runs this world.

Well, technically that was a spoiler, because he doesn’t form it until after the end of volume 1. But look, is it really a spoiler when the title of the manga is the name of a group that the main character forms during the story?

Anyhow, this is one of those fantasy worlds where there are typical fantasy creatures, but they live in a 21st Century-esque civilization. The world itself really isn’t that interesting, but at least the author takes the time to define the rules for how the mining operations work.

What makes Black Company stand out is its portrayal of slavery, a.k.a. big business. Things get done by hard work, and by making people that aren’t you do that hard work. Black Company definitely wants to test your morality as a (presumably) good-natured human individual. It’s basically Shield Hero without all the JRPG stuff and focused entirely on the slavery and business themes. Even when the story takes a big tonal shift in volume 3, the heart and soul of Black Company remains the same.

As for the characters, we have another instance of the scummy isekai protagonist in Kinji. He’s someone who manages to become filthy rich in our world, even though he’s a NEET, which makes him pretty conniving. Even though he’s against the practices in Raiza’ha, he’s just as willing to enslave and brainwash people (or giant worker ants) without hesitation. While Rim seems to be just a fanservice character (and a damn cute one at that), she is actually a foil to Kinji, because he ends up having to spend a lot of money on feeding her, and if he can’t feed her, she’ll eat him. Wanibe is kind of a third wheel in all of this, so he isn’t too interesting of a character.

The art, drawing-wise, is pretty darn good. The girls are cute, and the characters are very expressive. The only problem is that this manga has the most jarring use of gray tone I have ever seen. I don’t know if it’s the managaka or the publisher, but the texture used in these toners looks… how do you describe it?… like it’s trying to hypnotize you. It seems to have gotten less jarring after volume 2, but that might just be me getting used to it.

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Current Verdict: 8/10

Dungeon of Black Company is a fun, controversial comedy. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys guilty pleasure manga such as Kakegurui, Prison School, and Magical Girl Apocalypse. Let’s just hope this never gets an anime (scratch that; I’d love to see how people would react to an anime of this).

Supernova Review

Cover of the book

Last time, on Archenemies, Adrian’s squad beheld the Council’s new Agent N drug. Agent N is a Quirk-sealing drug that Renegades are expected to use against criminals. This causes a TWO-HUNDRED-FIFTY PAGE moral crisis for Nova and Adrian, and those two go on and on and on and on and on and on about how unjust it is without allowing the reader to make their own interpretation. Meanwhile, Nova is introduced to the superhero artifact room, which most notably contains Ace Anarchy’s helmet, sealed within a box of All Hugh Evermight’s chronium. Also meanwhile, Adrian discovers a Vitality Charm within the artifact library, and it makes Agent N and Max’s power useless! AND IT WAS THERE THE WHOLE TIME?! *facepalm* When Nova finds out, she visits his house (on a date) to steal it. While having some cringe-inducing romance with her, Adrian is able to use his Quirk to paint a depiction of a dream of Nova’s that she told him about where she’s in some sort of post-apocalyptic world and finds a statue with a glowy thing in it. When she steals the Vitality Charm at night, she heads into the dream room, that’s still there while Adrian’s asleep, and she picks up the glowy thing and it goes into her special bracelet. When preparing to infiltrate HQ to steal the helmet for good, one of Danna’s butterflies comes into her friends’ base, so they capture it so she can’t reform (not gonna make Adrian suspicious at all). After a boring gala, she infiltrates HQ and makes it to the artifact room, where the glowy thing allows her to break the indestructible chronium and free the helmet. However, the high school bullies attack! Nova uses one of the Agent N gas bombs that her friends made and seals Gargoyle’s Quirk. Max shows up to try and fight her, along with Frostbite, but Max ends up taking the L. And since Nova IS A FRICKIN’ MARY SUE DESPITE HOW MUCH SHE’S SUPPOSED TO HATE THESE PEOPLE, she helps Max by making Frostbite sacrifice her Quirk. Adrian is able to show up as the Sentinel and take Max to the hospital. Nova returns successfully with the helmet, just to find that Adrian’s friends broke into her base (no way!) and captured Ace! 

And here’s the REAL clincher. *Inhale* ADRIAN STILL DOESN’T KNOW THAT NOVA IS NIGHTMARE! However, that doesn’t last for too long, because after an admittedly contrived incident early on, my new favorite character, Danna, manages to reform and FINALLY SPILL THE BEANS! And mah boy Adrian arrests her and is all, “You’re under arrest… Nightmare,” LIKE A BAWSS! Knowing YA, this development is meant to be considered the end of the world, and the fact that I consider it the point where Renegades gets good again shows what kind of person I am. 

So, this final volume is gonna have Nova break out of jail, she fights Adrian to the death, and it’s a generally awesome time, right? Well, not quite. Due to the Renegades only having circumstantial evidence, among other things, Nova ends up getting released from prison about as fast as she’s thrown into it. And as a result, the book returns to the cringey romance that should have zero place in the final book as everything builds up to the climax of the whole trilogy.

Oh, and kids, did you know that Nova hates the Renegades because they didn’t show up to help her family when they got slaughtered by a gang?! Did you know that everyone should have human rights, and not be bogged down by society?! Did you know that all convicts should be allowed a fair trial in a court of law?! Well,  even if you did, Meyer still expects you to have forgotten because she repeatedly reminds you at least every other chapter! GAAAAAH! The redundancy in this whole trilogy really puts the “nausea” in “ad nauseum!”

Well, at least things ramp up in this final volume. After around the halfway point of Supernova, the Renegades Trilogy finally takes the kid gloves off and becomes the pulse-pounding series that it promised to be. If Meyer’s good at something, it’s finales, and that’s something that most YA authors, even the good ones, can fail at. Supernova might actually be the best installment of the three. 

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Verdict: 8/10

Final Verdict (Whole Series): 7.4/10

The Renegades Trilogy is a series of ups and downs. The fact that Meyer went from something as consistent, high-octane, and inventive as The Lunar Chronicles to something like Renegades, which is so by-the-book and a let down thematically by comparison (I bet that American Dragon isn’t on Disney+ because the whole secret enemies romance theme is stupid). I get that not every author has to have a masterpiece, but this is a far cry from what she wrote in the past (but hey, Platinum End‘s existence will suspend my disbelief on that one).

If you’re a teenager who’s just had the corruptness of the world thrust into your face in social studies class and is questioning morality, then Renegades– although preachy- would be a good wake-up call for you. The action- when it happens- is also fun, and the romance is admittedly a good cringe-fest. But in all honesty, if you want a truly creative exploration of a superhero society that has real depth, instead of just going off of Benjamin Franklin’s saying, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” then read or watch the superior series that I’ve been comparing this to since book 1: My Hero Academia!

March of the Wooden Soldiers Retrospective

Promotional artwork for the movie (on IMDB)

Holiday movie traditions have been a thing since television. But over the years, I’ve come to question the quality of some of these “classics.” On this Thanksgiving Day, let’s take a modern look at a Laurel and Hardy favorite: March of the Wooden Soldiers (or Babes in Toyland, originally), a Thanksgiving tradition on the East Coast that started since 1963, when WPIX11 would broadcast this film every year since then. There will be spoilers.

So, the premise (even though we should all know it already). In the fantasy world known as Toyland (that was built right in front of the gates of hell. Great location, guys), the local tax collector, Silas Barnaby, is more than willing to evict the Old Lady who Lives in a Shoe from, well, her shoe, unless she sells her daughter, Little Bo Peep, to him. Well, not if Stannie Dum and Ollie- Ah, screw it, we never call these two by their character names. They will always be Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, and they set out to stop Barnaby!

The movie starts out with Mother Goose singing the most cynical opening ever about how adults lose all semblance of childhood without exception as a big book opens up and introduces the cast of characters. The little video-pictures give a good visual clue of what each person is like, but it gets undermined by captions like “Barnaby’s the meanest man in town, just so you know, in case you were too stupid to tell from the fact that he’s an old hunchback creepozoid.”

Man, this movie was sure state-of-the-art for the time period. I’m sure the kids these days are watching this and being all like, “Wow, the CG was really bad back then!” Well, guess what, movies back then were filmed on “sets,” which means, a physically existing site, where they- yes- had to BUILT all of this crap. I always admired when people actually had to make magic with science back then, instead of just doing it on a fancy machine. I’ll never understand the appeal of those films that are done entirely with a green screen.

Watching this movie again really shows how unremarkable most of the actors are. Key Word: MOST. Similar to Hocus Pocus, we put up with all this crap (like that cringe-inducing Tom-Tom and Bo Peep subplot) just to see the actors that were on the poster, with this case being the irreplaceable Laurel and Hardy. Any scene that doesn’t have these two in it is really boring, but unlike Hocus Pocus, these guys are actually in most of the movie. It’s really amazing how well their humor holds up, with scenes like Laurel’s amazing pee-wee skills, to him dropping a rock on Barnaby and telling him to look out, and- of course- “So far, so good.” “It wasn’t so far!” “Goodnight Ollie.” “Goodnight Stannie- OOohhhhhhh…”

Out of the actors besides Laurel and Hardy, Barnaby’s actor really takes the cake. People were still coming out of the Silent Era, and this guy’s expressive mannerisms help make Barnaby a real conniving mo-fo. Well, okay, maybe there are better antagonists in more modern works, but he’s still a fun character (Side Note: The real bad guy is that stupid toymaker. Screw that guy).

Speaking of other actors, I wanna bring up the cat and the mouse. Screw the bogeyman; THESE are the stuff of horrors. The fur on the cat is just not fluffy enough, plus- GAH!- he still has his human eyes. Wh-why?! The less scary of the two is the monkey-mouse. This is perhaps the first instance of riding on someone else’s success that I personally have experienced in cinema. It was 1934, and Mickey Mouse was just starting his world conquest (with Snow White three years away from following suit). So, the most logical move for competitor M.G.M. was to take a monkey, dress it up as Mickey Mouse, and pander to the kiddies. Since the costume sucked, the creature looked just derivative enough from Mickey so that it wouldn’t violate whatever copyright laws existed at the time, but still looked enough like Mickey so that the kids would think it really was him. On a side note, the Three Little Pigs also look really creepy. The bogeymen that we were all scared of still look scary in a way, but nowadays it’s more of a “It’s scary that a design team actually gave the okay on such bad-looking costumes.”

Let’s also discuss the background music next. I think truly good background music had sort of died, with John Williams and the peeps at Disney seeming to be among the few who actually know how to make it work. The whole “sound” thing was still new, and at this point in time, music had to convey everything, and March of the Wooden Soldiers is no exception. I’m sure you still have an earworm playing Laurel and Hardy’s “doo-doo-doo-doo-DOO-doo-DOO,” or Barnaby’s “duuuuuuuuuh-DUH, duuuuuuuuuh-DUH, duh, duh-duh-duh-duhduhduhduh.” It’s such a good example of show-don’t-tell, but that’s also undermined by the captions in the picture book in beginning.

I’ve discussed a lot of the positives, but since the analytical process has skyrocketed to such heights in recent years, it’s impossible to not notice some issues in March of the Wooden Soldiers. It is a lot of small suspension of disbelief stuff, but it stacks. Why is the King such a dictator and an idiot? Why is the toymaker an ass? Why are there TAXES in such a peaceful kingdom? Why does attempted larceny result in ducking and banishment to Bogeyland, but kidnapping and murder- a far worse crime- result in just the banishment? And WHY IS BOGEYLAND RIGHT NEXT TO TOYLAND?! If it’s symbolism of the adult world (“Once you cross its borders, you will never return”), then- geewillickers!- this is such a dark movie! Other issues also include Tom-Tom and Bo Peep. Uuuuugh… I’m pretty sure nobody liked their chemistry, and it still sucks today (but hey, it’s still a better love story than Twilight). And why oh WHY did Tom-Tom think that falling asleep in that hellhole was a good idea (yeah, I know the sandmen did it but he started serenading Peep way before then)?!

But in all honesty, the movie’s biggest flaw is probably its age. The movie is still great and all, but the evolution of cinema and entertainment in general has transcended March of the Wooden Soldiers. I also don’t enjoy movies as much anymore; I’d rather read manga or play videogames. Also, the climax of the film isn’t really as cathartic to watch anymore, in comparison to something like an epic One Piece moment. It’s still a good scene, though, and it’s at least foreshadowed properly. The only real flaw is that it makes no sense that it showed the first soldier only being able to walk forward, while the others are perfectly autonomous golems that can easily fight off an army of hairy old men.

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After All These Years: 7.5/10

March of the Wooden Soldiers is still a good movie, but it’s not an indisputable masterpiece. Heck, I don’t even think it’s the best Laurel and Hardy movie (that one’s called Way Out West). It doesn’t hit like a cannon full of darts anymore, but out of all Thanksgiving traditions, March of the Wooden Soldiers still beats that parade in New York by light-years (especially if you’ve seen a Disney parade, like me).

Frozen 2 Movie Review

Poster of the movie, WHICH I DO NOT OWN. DISNEY OWNS IT!

PREFACE: I did not see a single review, rating, or opinion regarding this movie; I went into it with a completely open mind. So, the opinions you are seeing have not been influenced by anything besides the movie itself. Also, minor spoilers ahead. Nothing too bad, though.


Disney sequels have come a long way from straight-to-VHS cash grabs (that, admit it, we all loved when we were small and innocent), to theatrical releases that they put more chutzpah into. How does the sequel of the meme-able animated sensation that is Frozen measure up?

Frozen 2 starts with a flashback about the nobles of Arendelle and the people of some magical forest meeting up, having a BIT of a falling out, and the Anna and Elsa’s dad being saved by some mysterious voice. Years later (and after the events of the original Frozen), Elsa hears that voice, and it’s not long after that until Arendelle gets wrecked. Now, the original cast must go to that forest and see what the heck’s going on. This all somehow ends with the origin story behind Elsa’s powers.

Well, it’s not anywhere near as mind-bending as MatPat’s original theory on the subject, that’s for sure. In fact, everything about it seems too simple. When the actual reveal of her powers comes up, it’s like, “Yeah, so that’s it,” and the other characters kind of take it in their stride. However, as I will mention in a future post about the appeal of Disney movies in general, the narrative ends up being the most trivial matter.

The characters are what sell these things, and it is no exception this time around. As you’d expect, Elsa, the character who became synonymous with THAT song, is the one who is given the most character development. She, basically, well, learns about herself and that she should REALLY trust her buddies, just sayin’. Anna and Kristoff end up mostly involved in a subplot where the latter repeatedly tries and fails to propose to the former. This ends up creating some very cringe-inducing scenes, but they’re offset by something I’ll get to in another section of this review. Despite getting almost (key word) no further development, the kudos once again goes to Olaf, who has perhaps cemented himself as the greatest supporting protagonist in Disney history. His one-liners are cleverer than ever, including a hilarious abridged recap of the first movie.

Despite this, it seems that only the main characters were given any love this time. There are a lot of newcomers in this movie, and I already forgot their names (I literally just got home from the theater at the time of writing this). The worst offender by far is the purple Pascal clone; it is the Porgs of Frozen 2: cute, unnecessary, and marketable.

But hey, at least the soundtrack rocks. This time around, they seem to be pushing one of Elsa’s new numbers, “Into the Unknown,” as the next meme (even though “Show Yourself” is better…). However, the crown jewel of Frozen 2 goes to Kristoff of all people. His ridiculous power ballad, “Lost in the Woods,” rivals the timeless Spongebob classic, “Sweet Victory,” in terms of its amazing stupidness. It will not get nominated for Best Song at the Oscars (*cough* ‘cuz they suck *cough*), but I know in my heart that it’s the best. Regardless of what song I like and what you like, the soundtrack came out before the movie, so give yourself a listen if you end up liking it.

And lastly, the visuals are as astonishing as ever. The models don’t really look that much different (going off of memory), but they definitely did some new stuff with particles and lighting that they didn’t do in the first movie. I’m glad it wasn’t a downgrade from the first movie.

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Final Verdict: 7.6/10

Frozen 2 is something, all right. While I think that the first movie is better put together, and has some hint that they tried to build genuine tension, this movie has certain isolated moments that wholeheartedly surpass the first one. The soundtrack is also more consistent, so you can always look forward to another number, instead of the first one, which was like “Well, ‘Let It Go’ is over, it only goes downhill from here.” Due to many references to the original movie, you will need to have seen and enjoyed it get the inside jokes of Frozen 2 at all, so keep that in mind. 

Eighty-Six Overview (Volumes 1-3)

Covers of volume 1-3

I’ve been reading Eighty-Six since its English release courtesy of Yen Press. Due to the fact that volumes 2 and 3 all happen during the epilogue of volume 1, I decided to cover all three of them in one blog post because it’s technically still a review of volume 1(?).

Eighty-Six is set in the Republic of Mongolia, in a world at war with the Legion: surviving robot weapons of an empire long gone (supposedly). The pale-skinned people of Mongolia live in paradise within the 85-sector city, leaving the dark-skinned people in the 86th sector to fight the Legion. It’s justified because the Eighty-Six (the derogatory term for this people) are considered pigs, and nobody cries when pigs are killed. …Yeeeeeeah, this is a light novel about racism. 

Racism is such a universal issue that it can also be used, in writing, as an easy emotional hook to make something that sucks seem good. However, the portrayal of racism in Eighty-Six is executed really well. The writing is so evil and devious, it’s as if each passage is like firing a railgun bullet straight into your throbbing aortic pump.

The biggest strength of Eighty-Six lies in the main protagonists.. Like in classic forbidden romance fashion, the lead female is a white girl in the military- Lena- who is assigned as an operator who corresponds via some kind of brain-Skype to a squadron of Eighty-Six soldiers, captained by the male lead Shin. The experiences that they have with and away from each other are very engaging, and makes their relationship one of the better romances, despite how they don’t communicate in person (at least not yet). 

Unfortunately, they are marred by a lackluster supporting cast. It seems you need to be SERIOUSLY emotional and not analytical, because the rest of the characters are either blatantly wearing red shirts, or are of almost no consequence. These people tend to be really one-note and forgettable. The only character I liked besides Shin and Lena was Frederica, a military loli introduced in volume 2, but that’s only because she actually has plot relevance. You’d think that the characters who are higher-ups in command, such as *takes out notes* Lena’s supervisor, Karlstahl, or Ernst Zimmerman from the city introduced in volume 2, would be very important. However, these people just end up twiddling their thumbs, stalling out the story discussing different strategies when we KNOW that Shin’s squad is going to just tackle any given conflict head-on because Shin is a lead protagonist. If that’s meant to be a commentary on the actual military’s competence, then I applaud the author on that one. 

Due to this miserably sad cast (both in the emotional sense and the writing sense), a lot of Eighty-Six really drones on. The basic formula seems to mainly be slice-of-life and drama, followed by actual battles. However, since I didn’t grow emotionally attached to these characters, I got bored fast, especially in volume 2, which didn’t even have a fight. There isn’t much character development outside of Shin either; most of his squad complains about how miserable they are, while other people complain about how unjust it is for kids to be in the military (yet Shin ends up getting sent out anyway). In a manga very similar thematically, Attack on Titan, I could at least grow attached to the characters because there were more defining traits, and instead of Shin being the only one who matters, everyone in Attack on Titan (well, mostly everyone), has some important role to play in the story. Shin could literally be a one-man squad and nothing would change in terms of what actually goes down on the battlefield.

The art is middle-of-the-road for me. The characters look okay, but the real juicy stuff is in the schematics of various Legion and other machines as well as maps of the areas where strategies are being planned. The color art’s also great.

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Verdict: 8/10

Eighty-Six is torture porn, but damn good torture porn. Despite the low quantity of good characters, the series has great worldbuilding, and great tryhard writing to boot. Now that volume 3 has contextualized volume 1’s epilogue, maybe we’ll FINALLY GET TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT IN VOLUME 4!!