Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Shopping Bag: Walmart, 4/8/2014

Welcome to a new feature on this blog called Shopping Bag! This is where I, like a total whore, how off whatever I've gotten through monetary purchases, either through brick-and-mortar stores or Amazon and the live.

Today, I walked over to my local Walmart and picked up four DVD sets First up is The Ren and Stimpy Show, Season Five and Some More of Four.
Now, if you want full details on the original show, Ian Lueck, a.k.a. Classic Speedy, is your guy. Anyway, I hear that the quality really nosedives in this set, but hey, I'm a completist.

The next two sets are DuckTales Volumes 1 and 2.
This show is one I remember a lot, since I used to watch Toon Disney religiously at a young age. So now I finally have it in my collection. I may collect more Disney cartoons later, but anyway, the last of the four. Drumroll, please!

Yesiree, it's that all time anime classic, Ranma 1/2! Admittedly, I've never seen this, but surprise, I found it at Walmart!

And that's all for now. Join me next time when I get more cartoons!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

ToonZone April Fools Threads

Here's some threads I've started for the shits-and-giggles celebration of April Fools Day over at the ToonZone forums:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review: Golden Time - Not Golden, But Still Good

No, this is not my review series. This is just where I wrap up my thoughts on a series I just finished watching for the first time from start to finish on TV or online. My opinion may change from time to time, but it's just to provide closure anyway...

UPDATE 4/22/14: I lied. This really is the start of my text review series. So count this as my first "official" review.
Golden Time finished today in Japan. The show, based on the series of light novels by the author of Toradora (note to self: try to watch that sometime) and directed by Chiaki Kon by JC Staff, airing for two cours starting in October. The anime was pretty hit or miss, but I enjoyed it overall.

The story revolves around college student Banri Tada. He lost his memories one night after confessing his feelings for Linda, his high school classmate, being knocked off a bridge and having to spend a year at the hospital as a result. The story starts as Banri heads to law school for the first time. There he gets acquainted with Mitsuo Yanagisawa, who he immediately befriends. Unfortunately for Mistuo, his childhood friend Koko Kaga has chosen to attend the same university as the two, despite having been set to go to a private college. She immediately makes her mark as an obsessive self-proclaimed love interest even Lola Bunny from The Looney Tunes Show would call loco. When looking to join clubs, the two guys, plus classmate Chinami Oka, have a trial at the film club. But the tea club is being held at the exact same place. By the way, love the tea club girls. Best characters on the show. Anyway, the drunks capture Banri, and he gets acquainted with another guy they manged to capture, Takaya Sato, a.k.a. 2D. Later, another student invites Banri, a lonely Koko, and 2D to come to her club meeting. Turns out, it's a freakin' cult. Banri and Koko barely escape, and the two exchange tidbits of themselves: Koko discusses her crush on Mitsuo and how she handles it, while Banri discusses his amnesia. Eventually Linda, who came to the same university unaware of the fact that the guy who confessed to her also applied to the same school. Later still, Mitsuo decides to talk with Chinami, causing Koko to head on into full on bitch mode and go apeshit on the poor girl, the final straw that pushes Mitsuo to tell her off and break it off with her. Koko takes it rather hard at first, but she soon accepts it and joins Linda's festival club with Banri. Okay, this is getting a little long. Just Google a plot synopsis, because if I just continued, this would take forever.

When the first episode aired, many people I knew were ready to write it off, claiming Koko to be too unlikable and Banri to be too boring. But it turned out better than most people thought it would be by the end. The characters are serviceable, and manage decent relationships. What I also enjoy is that it tends to avoid a lot of the usual romcom cliches. Now, I don't have much experience with the genre, but any American with at least a fraction of a brain like myself are aware of the inevitable tropes. Thankfully, Golden Time tends to not most of them. No forced misunderstandings, the love triangles are downplayed immensly, no shitty pop songs-well, except for the second opening. Oh sweet cocksucking Christ, the second opening. And of all things, I actually kinda liked the Ghost Banri thing as well, as it did act as a decent storytelling element, though his appearance at the end, which I'll cover later, didn't really work for me.

That said, the series does have a fair bit of flaws. First of all, the storyline is all over the place. One moment the characters are discussing their pasts, the next they're at a nightclub, then they go to the beach, and then Banri dresses like a woman. I'm not kidding; that actually fucking happens. Also, sometimes there's several moments that come off as really corny, especially whenever Banri and Koko affirm their love.

I think my biggest problem with the series, however, was its handling of its moral. Don't get me wrong, it's a great moral with a great setup. When Banri's memories start coming back at random, at the same time risking the new Banri, he's forced to find ways to prepare for his complete change. Koko even breaks up with him, and he finds ways to make sure none of his friends forget him, even if he forgets them (except Linda, of course). This lead to our moral, one about how while some memories will be lost, the best thing to do is to move on and make new ones. Even if you lose friends, you can find new ones without having to completely forget about the old ones. That's absolutely brilliant! That would really be a great note to leave off on. It's a bittersweet note that proves that life goes on, and while the past shouldn't be forgotten, the future is just as important. Unfortunately, there's one little problem: remember how I said I liked Ghost Banri as a viewpoint? He also worked as a hallucination of Banri's, foreshadowing his returning memories. Well, as it turns out, he's goddamn real. And Banri never really moves forward, he just sticks to his old friends! He gets a cheap "get back the girl" ending, Linda never really cares about her own confessed love for Banri, and everything gets a reset button. What the fuck!? That's not giving us a good moral, that's just a moral committing suicide! That's right, the moral fucking kills itself!
Okay, all in all, despite a bad ending that fucked up its own message and a host of other problems, Golden Time falls in to the "good" pile. It's not a great show by any means, but aside from the finale, I never felt like I was really wasting my time on it. My score would probably be a Thumbs Up.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thoughts on Video Quality & Aspect Ratio

Whenever a DVD or Blu-ray comes out, no matter if it's live action or animation, the reviewer will generally look at video quality. Usually, the less pixels there are, the happier they'll be. And it's not just reviewers, either. A lot of people on forums I go on will argue about video quality. The people on the Anime News Network forums in particular appear to absolutely hate DVDs with a passion, only buying Blu-ray anime, whether or not the release includes a dub. I had a Digital Video class in my high school during the first half of my Junior year, and my teacher was going on about how video quality should be as high as possible. My point is this: what's the big idea?

Well, to be honest, actual video quality doesn't concern me. Honestly, most people can't actually tell image quality unless they sit very close to the TV. My main concern is, well, preserving the aspect ratio.

I hate to sound like a stubborn purist, but displays like the above really bother me. The top image is fine, but the bottom image makes the poor bastard look like a hippo! And the next image is even worse; at least the one above keeps the whole image.

Now, for context, the cleaner-looking part is from the recent Blu-Ray release sets of Dragon Ball Z. As you can see, part of Nappa's been cut off. It's even worse with the old trend of pan-and-scan releases, where sides of the image would be cut off, costing us even more of the image. I won't give an image, but I will show you a Turner Classic Movies promo detailing this bullshit, and why the network prefers to air movies letterboxed and/or pillarboxed.
See what I mean.

So, in short, I have no problem with actual video quality, just with aspect ratio. And thankfully, aspect ratio usually isn't a problem anymore.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Animation Recommendations: Who Killed Who?

Okay, for my third edition of "Animation Recommendations", we head back to America for a film from animation god Tex Avery. I'm not gonna beat around the bush: I love Tex Avery. One of my all time favorite animators. Now let's look at one of his funniest cartoons, Who Killed Who?.

Tex Avery - MGM 1943- Who Killed Who by ochiulpesticla

Now I love seeing the full potential of what animation can do, and so did Tex. He used the nature of the art to give us hilarious drawings with quick silver timing, great voice acting, and fourth wall jokes (which I'm always a sucker for). This cartoon combines all of these, and the twist ending is absolutely gut-busting. The score being done almost entirely on organs only enhances the feel. Even if you're unfamiliar with the genre it's parodying, you'l be guaranteed at least one laugh.

Oh, and one more thing: anime fans will probably be aware of the trope where Santa appears right out of nowhere for comedy. Well, a similar gag happens here. So HA, people who hate American cartoons but love anime! Tex Avery did it first, motherfucker!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Vortexx: Losing its Shit?

On August 25, 2012, after years of stagnancy under the bankrupt 4Kids Entertainment, The CW's

Saturday morning lineup was given an overhaul by Saban Brands, the owners of the Power Rangers franchise. The initial lineup was one that gave promise; shows like Yu-Gi-Oh! and Dragon Ball Z Kai were now complimented by Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy, Justice League Unlimited, Rescue Heroes, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, and even a new WWE show under the title Saturday Morning Slam. It was a pretty impressive lineup. During the first holiday, they even aired the Tiny Toons Halloween special, plus three CG Christmas specials. Granted, only Night Ghoulery was any good (and the less said about that godawful Gummibar special, the better), but it was still a nice surprise. Sadly, in recent months, the block's hit a bit of a halt. WWE is gone, a number of new shows just came and stayed in reruns, and Sonic X, which 4Kids played to death, found itself being run to the point of pissing off nearly everyone. So the question is, has Vortexx thrown in the towel?

Now before we answer that, let's go over some background information. Saban Brands is basically the spiritual successor of Saban Entertainment, a company some 90's kids may remember as the people who brought us Power Rangers and Digimon. They were also one-half of the team who ran the famed Fox Kids block (no points for guessing who was the other half). Thanks to some, in hindsight, crappy business decisions (not the least of which was Fox Family),  Haim Saban was forced to sell the empire he'd built to Disney, who proceeded to treat PR and Digimon well at first before eventually shafting them. In 2010, Saban Brands was founded under Haim's new company, Saban Capital Group, to buy back the Power Rangers series and breathe new life into the franchise (they'd get Digimon back two years later). Later, noticing 4Kids was on its deathbed, they chose to take their Toonzai block on The CW and give it a makeover (and make a contract with Konami to continue airing Yu-Gi-Oh!). Making the connection, fans of SatAM cartoons immediately hoped that they would get a better block. Sadly, it wasn't to be. Lost Galaxy was booted before it got to finish its run, and other developments took place, namely repetition of proven successes in favor of newer, fresher programming. One of the promised new shows for this year, Sendokai Champions, has even been thrown out the window, at least for this season.

So this brings us to the answer. To be honest, I'm leaning towards the block being in trouble. Here are some potential reasons for this:

  • Censorship: Thanks to the FCC becoming trigger-happy about broadcast programming for kids in the past decade (Janet Jackson, you fucking showoff!), cable shows inevitably have to be edited; JLU and DBZ Kai were hit especially hard with this.
  • Ratings: From what little I've seen, the ratings weren't exactly the greatest, and it was routinely getting its ass kicked by the major cable networks. And while we're on that topic...
  • Cable and Internet: While the cable subscriber count has been falling a bit, over-the-air networks won't be getting back ground thanks to Netflix, Hulu, and the like.
  • Being a SatAM block: Sad but true. Restricted to one single day of the week, kids would be forced to watch for only five hours a week.
Whatever the reason, Vortexx has hit a low. Hopefully it can turn itself around, but if not, dammit.