Onward Movie Review

The movie poster (that I don't own).

It’s been a hot minute since Disney came up with a new I.P. I didn’t know much about Pixar’s Onward, nor did I have high expectations, but I watched it because it was actually NEW. But hey, trailers for Pixar movies tend to not do the actual film justice. Is it the same case here?

In a fantasy world that’s evolved to the 21st Century, two brothers-  emotionally insecure Ian, and history buff Barley- are given an ancient staff, complete with the instructions for a spell that can bring their deceased father back to life for twenty-four hours. Unfortunately, they do a bad, and dad only comes back as pants and a pair of ugly purple socks. Now they must take Barley’s beat up van on a quest to find the MacGuffin that’ll allow them to recast the spell before dad is lost forever.

The idea of a fantasy world with modern technology isn’t even remotely new, but Pixar pulled it off in a way that felt fresh in its own right. It’s hilarious to see centaurs having to drive cars, and pixies being swole and in biker gangs. But even then, this is probably one of the least interesting Pixar worlds. It’s not really the movie’s fault; this movie has Inside Out and Coco to compete with, and those movies were pretty darn inventive. 

But in terms of narrative, Onward definitely exceeds expectations. There is a lot of great dialogue, and most action scenes make a surprising use of insignificant details peppered throughout the film. For the most part. Ian’s magic staff made me cringe, for it was another case of, “Okay, you can be good at magic now. No other time, though. Sorry, bub.” It does make one “death” later in the movie feel like a heap of shock value given the circumstances.

Of course, Disney and Pixar are still Disney and Pixar. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen this one. Onward doesn’t have one, but two of those out-of-left-field drama scenes that I always roll my eyes at. I get that it’s character building and crap, but you can only enjoy something so much after seeing it the thousandth time.

The characters are what you’d expect. Ian and Barley are a solid example of the “two-brothers-who-are-at-odds-with-each-other-then-realize-that-they’re-each-other’s-best-friend” trope. Sure, they’re no Edward and Alphonse, or even Mutta and Hibito, but they have some good chemistry with each other given the time restriction of a feature film. Dad is also enjoyable, despite never having a single line of dialogue beyond a cassette tape. Pixar’s prowess makes his mannerisms in such a way to where it’s easy to understand what he’s thinking. 

Surprisingly, the best character ended up being the mom. She’s not an absolute a-hole, nor is she a burden on the main characters. When she finds out about their quest, she goes full Marlin and becomes a freaking bada** in the process of finding them.

The visuals are stellar as always. They always do such a good job with expressions and movement that it’s not even possible to be blown away by Pixar anymore. Because of that, Onward almost feels like a step backwards, visually. Disney in general is all about pushing the envelope, but in their defense, you can only push it so far until it’s just pushed all the way completely. Maybe they were using some [insert advanced 3D modeling mumbo jumbo here] that a pleb like me wouldn’t recognize.

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Final Verdict: 8.5/10

Onward is a great movie, and a great NEW I.P. It’s not the best Pixar movie, but it’s still better than a lot of crap your kids could be consuming. I recommend it for any tier of Disney fan, and for anyone who likes a feel-good story.

The Witch Boy Full Trilogy Review

I said in my 5 Worlds post that I haven’t had the best track record with Western graphic novels. But you know what, I’m still trying my best to understand the appeal of the medium. Today’s [hopefully not] victim is The Witch Boy series, written by Molly Knox Ostertag and published by Scholastic (the same publisher as Amulet… good sign already).

A boy named Aster comes from a long line of magic, demon-fighting wizards. The men of the family are good at turning into magic, the girls are good at literally everything else. Young Aster sucks at shapeshifting, but he happens to have a knack for girl magic. Too bad it’s forbidden.

The Witch Boy is an episodic trilogy where Aster hangs out until some conflict rears its ugly head, and thank goodness it is! If this was a stand-alone graphic novel, it would’ve felt rushed. While it does spend a decent amount of time setting things up, the plot suddenly kicks into high gear out of nowhere, and the entire conflict of the first book is resolved in a very anticlimactic matter.

It doesn’t get much better later on, though. The other two books, The Hidden Witch and The Midwinter Witch, are presented in a similar manner. There isn’t enough time to really grow attached to any characters before sh** hits the fan. Each of these arcs would’ve been two or three volumes in a manga. “They would be three or four volumes in a manga, because manga suck and waste time with filler,” you point out. That’s not an inaccurate point; I hate the stupidly long cavalry battle in Prison School as much as the next guy. But a truly good manga will give you the right amount of time to get immersed in the world and the characters in a way that feels organic.

To be brutally honest, I don’t think I would’ve grown attached to the characters even if The Witch Boy was three times longer. They’re all my least favorite character trope; normal human beings. And despite the series being called The Witch Boy, the titular witch boy’s entire arc is concluded in just the first book. The second and third books tackle the character arc of Ariel Torres. She’s better than Aster, but not by a wide margin. While she’s given the most development by far, there is a disconnect because it’s all from the perspective of Aster- an observer, so you never really get to see her tragic backstory in its full crotch-kickedy-ness (professional term). Maybe the series would’ve been better if Ariel was the main character the whole way through?

If there’s any character I disliked the most, it was freaking Charlie. She’s the embodiment of that slice-of-life equivalent of wish fulfilment fantasies: the magical, down-to-earth, hyper-supportive friend who just appears to “save” the depressed main character. In this case, she saves Aster in the first book, and Ariel in the second book, by just compulsively wanting to help them for an undefined reason. While it’s certainly possible for someone this compassionate to exist, it’s not likely- given how unstable most teens are- and as indicated in my Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki post, I don’t think it’s a good element for a narrative.

I don’t feel like there’s any substance put into these characters, but that’s- again- a consequence of how short the whole series is. Also, like with the other Western comics I’ve read, you don’t get any monologue to really know how they feel. “Monologues waste time, like in those stupid battle shounen manga,” you argue. Again, in a bad manga, monologues can get excessive. But sometimes, it’s necessary in order to really get in people’s heads. “How about understanding basic human emotions and non-verbal cues?” Well, in that case, I’m sorry for not being good at social skills.

I get that there’s some underlying theme with genders, given the whole “boys do this, girls do that.” I don’t mean to sound ignorant, but as someone who had a My Little Pony doll for each of his LEGO sets, I couldn’t take such rigid labeling seriously, despite the fact that I do know it’s sadly commonplace. But due to Ariel’s priority over Aster, the series doesn’t even explore that theme in much depth to begin with.

In the end, my biggest issue- like with the other GNs I’ve read- lies in the artwork. I don’t really mind the simplistic, cartoony character designs, but I do mind the sparse use of motion lines. There are some motion lines, but they’re used for very trivial things, like hand gestures, and not during more urgent scenes, such as- you know- fighting a demon or something. “Use your imagination, you piece of crap,” you assert. Look, I read regular novels- which are almost entirely words- every day, and provided that the writing is good enough, I can paint a pretty vivid picture in my brain. The Witch Boy is targeted toward elementary schoolers, and going off of my experience as one, no kid would have the capacity to just “imagine” stuff with so little visual information.

My biggest issue with the art is how it’s used to tell the story, or lack thereof. I could’ve downed each volume in under an hour, but I took my sweet time and really tried to understand how the composition was supposed to, you know, work. But even with how much I stared at pages of this thing, I just couldn’t see it. 

Like with other GNs, The Witch Boy uses half a page- or even an entire page- with a mere establishing shot. Otherwise, most panels are rectangular and arranged in uninteresting patterns. But the author at leasts goes a couple of extra miles; by changing the negative space around the panels to black when it’s dark, and by having “slime-shaped” panels whenever something eerie is occurring. Unfortunately, I still couldn’t get immersed in the story, its characters, or its world.

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Final Verdict: 5.75/10

I didn’t enjoy The Witch Boy. I don’t know what it is, but trying to understand and appreciate these comics has been an absolute hassle for me. I exited my comfortable zone of Japanese culture and busty waifus, tried something unfamiliar, and it didn’t pay off. I’ll admit it, this negative review is entirely my fault. I apologize to the author for insulting something that they poured their heart into. Maybe someday, if I ever can enjoy a Western comic, I’ll come back to The Witch Boy, and realize just how great it truly was.

Top Five Quaintest Spots in Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World is a great place to be, but you gotta make the most out of their amenities when you don’t live in the local area. But you know, in this day and age, there’s- as Elton John would say- “more to do than can ever be done” in life. Sometimes, it’s worth going to Disney just for the brief reprieve from all the noise. In this post, I’ll list off the best spots to do nothing in.


5) Wilderness Lodge Lobby

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is one of the best-themed resorts on Disney property. This massive log cabin made out of real, dead trees towers almost endlessly. This place is filled with insanely accurate Native American motifs and huge totem poles. There’s nothing quite like crashing on one of the many sofas (preferably in front of the ornate fire pit), and lull off to sleep with the unending raucous of the Whispering Canyon Cafe in the background. If you can find the secret room on the second floor, you won’t be sorry.


4) Outside Davy Crockett’s at Fort Wilderness

Are you sick of standing around Fort Wilderness waiting for the Hoop-Dee-Doo to let people in? Well, don’t worry; there’s a way to sit around instead! Davy Crockett’s has a first-come-first-served set of comfy rocking chairs that you can recline on all day (or until someone wakes you up).


3) Boardwalk at the Boardwalk

The Boardwalk is one of my favorite Disney Resorts. It has the great atmosphere of an early Twentieth Century boardwalk, but now with good service, good food, and the FDA! It has a gorgeous view of the lake area and the neighboring resorts. Grab a pizza by the window if you want. Just don’t think you can laze around here at night, for street performers and other events will turn this relaxing place into a rave.


2) Pandora… at Night

Pandora in the Animal Kingdom can be enjoyed at any time of day. But it’s particularly special at night. If you wait from about dinner time, depending on what time of year you go; it gets dark later in spring and summer. As dusk turns to nightfall, you’ll see the plants slowly begin to glow one by one. When they do, chillax on an Alpha Centauri Expeditions patented bench and gawk at Pandora’s multicolored splendor while you laze off. The Wind Traders shop also has a nice atmosphere, but it gets cramped in there easily, so be wary.


1) Elvis Beach at Polynesian Village

This isn’t the official name, but it is the sole place in Disney’s Polynesian Village where they play some good ol’ Hawaiian-inspired, Elvis Presley tunes. Lounge in a hammock or a beach chair, and gaze out at the Magic Kingdom across the lagoon. And if you stay in one of the bungalows hanging off the coast, then you’ll be able to relax knowing that you now have no money.


In conclusion, Walt Disney World is truly a place where anything is possible. Despite the massive crowds, insane planning needed, and very pricey food and merch, it’s more than possible to relax and soak it all in. In fact, I think the people who DON’T do that once in a while miss the whole point of being there in the first place. So, if you ever find yourself hoofing it over to Walt Disney World, give yourself some time to take a chill pill.

Arc of a Scythe Full Trilogy Review

Speculative fiction isn’t my favorite genre, but I can appreciate its importance. It’s important for people’s ideas to be challenged. Some of the best speculative works I’ve ever read are Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles and Chinese SF author Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem. But for some reason, putting out something truly speculative for younger audiences seems to be much harder than for adult audiences. Works like The Giver and Chronicle of the Dark Star set the groundwork to challenge young minds into questioning the world around them, but fall short and end up ham-fisting easy answers in the end. The Arc of a Scythe trilogy, written by Neal Shusterman and published by Simon and Schuster, seems to try to challenge the young mind as well. But does it succeed?

Arc of a Scythe is set in a world where humanity has achieved total bliss; all knowledge has been learned, and anyone who dies instead comes back in fresh new bodies at a clinic. However, the population is still a thing, so they hire people called Scythes to off folks, which results in what is called gleaning: the true, final death. Two plucky teens named Citra and Rowan are recruited as apprentice Scythes, and go on adventures in life and death.

Immediately, this idea is really neat. Scythe‘s premise could’ve asked a lot of questions about morality and the greater good. Unfortunately, it’s not so much the case in execution. Murder is a horrible act, and the idea of hired killers being able to arbitrarily murder whomever they want is inherently scary, but the world in Scythe could’ve been a genuinely good solution for mankind. However, Scythe doesn’t reach that potential, at least not from what I could GLEAN off of the dialogue and worldbuilding.

The way the world is put together comes off as Shusterman going out of his way to make it as corrupt as possible, so that it can’t be interpreted in any way other than “bad”. First off, the fact that TEENAGERS become apprentice Scythes is utter bullcrap. Of all the people to give the power to commit murder willy-nilly, teens aren’t the best choice. Secondly, how come this world lacks that real-world thing called background checks? Maybe some like that might be important when hiring someone to ARBITRARILY COMMIT MURDER. And don’t get me started on the Thunderhead! This thing was built to oversee everything that happens in the world and run all machinery. It does its job well enough, except for Scythes; it is forbidden to interfere with them. You’d think that maybe, just maybe, it should do just that, especially when someone gets a BIT drunk with power? 

Speaking of drunk with power, the biggest disappointment in Scythe is the main antagonist, Scythe Robert Goddard. It’s natural to think that anyone who has the power to murder without punishment (among other ludicrous perks of being a Scythe) would be a raving lunatic, and Goddard is said lunatic. He and his lackeys save all their gleanings for the last day of their quota so that they can perform literal acts of terrorism just for fun. Like in Marissa Meyer’s Renegades, he has no motive, and he apparently doesn’t need one because “Absolute power corrupts absolutely herpaderpderp.” They wait until the third book to give him any real backstory, but it doesn’t help much.

The other characters aren’t that much better. The two leads are just classic YA tropes; Citra’s the brat, and Rowan’s the edgelord. Their relationship is a load of bullcrap because they inevitably get romantically involved despite the fact that they spend more than 80% of the story separated. I don’t mean a long-distance relationship; I mean that they hardly even communicate with each other! Introduced in book two is Greyson, who is basically the emo. Unfortunately for him, all he does is join some cult and have conversations with the Thunderhead that aren’t really that interesting IMO (at least until the third book). In fact, at least half of the series is uninteresting conversations. 

So what are the positives? It’s entertaining. The writing is solid, and when the story gets going, it gets going. There are also some good one-liners as well, and some parts that are unintentionally funny. And even though Goddard ruins all sense of moral ambiguity in the story, he’s still got some charisma as a try-hard, edgy villain.

Most of book two, Thunderhead, was a boring blur for me, except for the climax. It was a really intense string of events, and the author had done something genuinely ballsy. Unfortunately, 95 pages into book three, The Toll, he once fails to commit to that risky move. But other than that, The Toll is actually a [somewhat] satisfactory finale. It still fails to touch upon any speculative narrative themes (it damn well tries, though), but it’s definitely the best of the three.

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Final Verdict: 7/10

I wanted to give Arc of a Scythe a 5 or lower, but I couldn’t. It’s my fault for expecting something more intellectual, when that might not have been the author’s intent. But for what it is, Scythe is decent at best; not the worst YA book series out there, but be wary that it will not explore any gray areas whatsoever.

Radiant First Impressions (Vol.1-7)

I’m not a very good artist. What’s worse, whenever I’ve tried to draw manga, it somehow comes out looking Western, even though I don’t like how most Western GNs look! Maybe I should take lessons from Toni Valente, a French mangaka, whose ongoing series, Radiant, actually managed to get an anime adaption in Japan. Viz Media has brought us English speakers this series, so let’s see if it’s any good.

In Radiant, the world is plagued by Nemesis, who is not a hungry waifu, but a hungry race of demons. These demons are repelled by wizards, who sadly, only earn blatant disrespect from citizens and the Inquisition. But hey, Seth has a dream, and it’s to defeat the Nemeses at the source; the mythical, titular realm known as Radiant.

It’s not surprising that Radiant is a battle shounen, which is the most internationally recognized (and almost synonymous with) anime genre of all time. Fortunately, Radiant actually manages to capture the spirit of the genre in a way that doesn’t come off as mockery.

In fact, it feels almost too shounen-esque, as in- say it with me- it’s a bit generic. Valente doesn’t really put any “French”-ness in this manga at all (I know that Hiro Mashima said that there is in one of the afterwords, but I have no clue what he’s seeing that I’m not). The comedy and personality are all there, but it’s stuff you’ve seen before. I guess I’ve learned that humans really, truly all have the same desires and interests when it comes down to brass tacks.

Some of the characters are pretty uninspired. Seth is a generic battle shounen boy, Doc is comic relief, and Grimm is the mysterious guy. The series is at least graced by the presence of Best Girl Melie, who is a spiritual successor of Lunch from Dragon Ball in that she has a crazy good and crazy mean split personality. She’s just about as much of a hoot as Lunch was, and she’s still pretty powerful even when she’s in nice mode. Strangely enough, most of the minor characters seem to have the more interesting personalities, such as the conman headmaster of the Artemis Institute, or this old guy who can never list off two reasons for anything without mumbling the second one. 

At the very least, Radiant is set in a lovely world. Every town is situated on a sky island of some sort, like in Zelda Skyward Sword, and each island has its own distinct personality. There are also some fun setpieces down on Earth itself, such as a forest which acts as the hyperbolic time chamber from Dragon Ball.

The art in Radiant is great. Valente clearly understands the subtle distinctions that make a manga a manga and a comic a comic, and is able to make something that is clearly the former while also giving it its own style. The character designs are great and their faces are super expressive. If only I could be just as good…

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Current Verdict: 7.75/10

Radiant is a good manga from an unexpected source, but said unexpected source is really the only thing it has going for it. If you just handed this to me with no context, I would’ve seen a fun but typical battle shounen manga. Read it if you want, but there are many better works from Japan: the country that understands manga better than anywhere else.

Star Wars Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker Movie Review

I am not a particularly big fan of Star Wars. I saw the main six movies when I was a kid, and for a while was very into them, including the animated Clone Wars, but as an adult I hadn’t thought much about the franchise until they announced this new trilogy. In essence, I think the series is wholly entertaining, but it baffles me how it has become so interwoven into humankind. I even blitzed through the Original Trilogy last year for the heck of it… And you know what, they’re NOT these flawless, transcendent creations. I’m sorry. But hey, I still cared enough to have seen Star Wars Episodes 7 and 8 in theaters, and I found them decent. Despite a heavy premonition of demise in my gut, I went to see Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker, the day after it’s premiere. Potential mild spoilers ahead, but no big reveals.

This movie jumps right in, with Kilo Ren going to some Sith planet and finding- of all people- EMPEROR PALPATINE, still alive. He’s been busy the past thirty years building the biggest fleet of Sithheads ever, and it’s up to Rey and her motley crew to stop him once and for all.

Most of this movie is a mixed bag, I admit. First off, they spend a lot of it finding the MacGuffin that they need to get to Palpy Boy, and this whole arc is probably where the movie is at its worst. There are also TWO instances of fake character deaths that really ham in the plot armor a bit more than usual. Oh, and also there are some big suspension of disbelief issues, like “Where did Palpatine get all the resources to build these things?” and “How did he feed all the people on that planet? It’s clearly a barren wasteland. You can’t plant sh** down there.”

But that’s poppycock compared to the whack stuff that they do with the Force in this movie. I haven’t seen 7 and 8 since their theatrical releases, but I don’t remember Kylo and Rey’s connection allowing for such… BS. I got they could mind meld, but also mind-battle and mind-give-things-to-each-other? I don’t recall the Force being that capable. Sure, I can write it off as “because magic” like in most modern fantasies, but the Force has been relatively consistent, even in the prequels, up to this point. I guess if Leia could fly, then anything’s possible.

The characters are pretty weak, too. In fact, I didn’t even remember that guy- Po, was it?- from the previous movie at all. Well, he annoyed me, but not as much as Rey. She might be the hero of the story, but there are like eight times that she does something stupid by herself, and it ends up costing the whole group dearly almost every time. There’s one time- ONE TIME- that she helps, but that’s still only one time. However, 3PO, R2, and Chewie are still lovely folk, even if there are a number of characters I prefer over them in other franchises. Oh, and there’s that unicycling droid named D-O that isn’t going to be a meme whatsoever because its name is definitely not phonetically similar to a famous, memeable anime villain.

But you know what, the climax makes it all worth it. That sequence has the right amount of grandiose battles, nostalgia, and corny nakama power to make it all amazing. With the contentious way things generally are in the Star Wars community, Rise of Skywalker seems like a pretty good way to end this beloved series. But we all know they probably won’t. Personally, I’m going to tap out of this series on a good note.

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Final Verdict: 7.75/10

Rise of Skywalker is a good movie. It’s got great stuff, and it’s got stuff worthy of fanfics. It’s not perfect, but that’s Star Wars itself. It’s a corny, sci-fi battle shounen power fantasy, and it’s hard not to love it even a little bit. As long as you have a HEALTHY love for Star Wars, then there’s nothing wrong with watching Rise of Skywalker and its predecessors. I hope that this was a helpful and insightful review for you.

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.

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.