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Childhood End | My Hero Academia Episode 111

…like your heart is breaking.

Well…that was…I mean…that was a lot. I never thought that Shigaraki had the happiest childhood, what with his penchant for wearing disembodied hands as accessories, but I didn’t expect that he accidentally disintegrated his entire family—pet dog included—in a handful of seconds. Oh, this is also after his father made a habit of locking him outside for even thinking about becoming a Hero. So…yeah. I mean, I get it, Shigaraki’s father had deep-seated anger and abandonment issues after his mother died in the line of Hero work, but there’s got to be a better way to convey the simple fact that being a Hero is dangerous and can negatively affect those around you. Hang on, maybe just saying those things in a single sentence? Did you try that one, Shigaraki’s father who is now dead and though I realise that’s still messed up and sad I am definitely less sad that you died compared to the other members of the family? I’m thinking no, otherwise your son wouldn’t have taken a slight as simple as his sister ratting him out to avoid trouble as the final straw that shattered the very foundation of his being and his faith in humanity, compassion, and fairness. So, probably should’ve just had that conversation…you jerk.

Keeping this grim train a-rollin’—because this whole episode is about as dark as MHA gets—seeing a child manifest a ludicrously dangerous Quirk is horrifying. Though the danger Quirks pose to society has been a pretty prevalent theme through a few arcs, the danger they can pose to their wielder has been less so—at least not in this way. Most of our exposure to this concept has been through Midoriya, a teenager who willing accepted the burdens of One For All after undergoing extensive training; imagine if he was born with the Quirk. Imagine Mama Midoriya seeing her child playing in a park…and then his limbs explode. It’s a very real possibility in this world. Uraraka could’ve floated away when her parents weren’t looking; Tokoyami could’ve been overtaken by Dark Shadow; Kaminari could’ve electrocuted his family (in the real meaning of the word); even Shinso could’ve accidentally commanded someone into a deadly situation. Our main cast damn near kill themselves and they’re fairly adept at using they’re Quirks; the earlier possibilities are just…mortifying. Still, does this give Shigaraki a free pass for mayhem and wanton destruction? No. Hell no. But, the failings of Hero society constantly being called into question does show that, maybe, just maybe, there would be a lot less Villains if one bad deed didn’t label someone a Villain with a capital V.

P.S. Case in point of Quirks not being inherently good or evil: Twice can use Double for the purpose of blood transfusion. Very helpful.

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Me, Myself, and Indignation | My Hero Academia Episode 110

No longer shy.

I like Twice. I’ve always found him an interesting character and a pretty raw take on the more psychological side of Quirks. Though his double-talking nature is often played for a laugh, things invariably get real when the mask comes off. So, though I’m pretty sure deep-seated trauma doesn’t just fix itself on a dime, it’s nice to see the guy get a win. Even better, Twice’s victory over himself turns everything around for the League of Villains, who now have an endless supply of soldiers via one of the coolest named techniques ever: Sad Man’s Parade. Though less of a subversion than some other Quirks, seeing Twice swarm an entire town is a pretty powerful image as to how abilities are shaped by their user. Twice has made copies before, but they always acted as temporary decoys and distractions—nothing too dangerous. But if Twice were to truly overcome his trauma, the guy really could take over Japan. Heck, had his life played out differently, he could’ve been an amazing Hero.

Which is where we find this episode’s other message—the one that isn’t “friendship is good even if you’re bad”—the one that’s all about societal “norms”. Twice done goofed…sorta. Some guy walked out in front of him while he was driving his motorcycle and got injured; Twice got a criminal record; said injured party turned out to be a client of the company Twice worked for and subsequently cut ties; Twice’s boss got pissy and punched him in the face. That’s a lot of bad luck, and a lot of what My Hero explains about its Villains: most of them just fall into crime out of necessity. Though he didn’t make the best decisions to help himself, Twice was legally a criminal in a world where Villain is a capital-letter word; where Hero is an enviable, and real, job. Dude didn’t really stand a chance. This goes double for people like Toga, with a Quirk that frightens people. That being said, the Liberation Army’s goal of “freeing Quirks” isn’t right just because it opposes this. I mean, it’s not coincidence that every person who praises “survival of the fittest” just so happens to be one of the strongest people around. Hell if I have all the answers, but I’m sure there’s a solid middle ground between repression and unbridled expression. Would it hurt to let someone with a flying Quirk take the skies to work? Probably not. Would things get messy and dangerous when a thousand people are flapping around and some fly via the power of explosions? Yes. Obviously. Also, what the hell is being able to wave a giant arm around going to do for you in a boardroom, Re-Destro? Scare people? Because I think that counts as unfair business practice and you’re going to wind up sued.

P.S. Never have the opening lines for this particular intro song seemed more inappropriate and, quite frankly, mean.

P.P.S. It’s nice knowing that “Quirk” came from a mother unconditionally loving her child and all of his qualities…and sad to know that it was used as jargon to further political agenda.

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Echoes of Life | To Your Eternity Episode 20

After spending most of its second cour exploring the darker side of humanity and the world at large, To Your Eternity chooses to end on a bittersweet yet hopeful note, focusing in on what ultimately has been the heart of the series in hindsight: the relationship between Pioran and Fushi.

Fushi, now free from the grips of Jananda Island and Hayase, has returned to the mainland and cannot decide whether it is best for him to stay out of Pioran’s life or not. He watches and cares for her from the shadows, before she discovers him despite being in the form of one of the girls from the island that she had never met. She recognised Fushi despite his appearance and, after a heartfelt reunion, Fushi decides that he wants to stay with Pioran.

Fushi concocts a plan in order to protect her from the Knokkers, determining that whenever he gets a warning from The Maker that they are approaching he will immediately take Pioran and leave for another location. He decides that he will go to sleep after Pioran and always wake up before her. For a while this plan works well and together they live peacefully away from civilisation. Pioran muses to Fushi that if she could have any wish it would be to be young again. She asks Fushi what his wish would be? Fushi isn’t so sure.

Things unfortunately take a turn for the worse, as they often do when things seem to be going well in To Your Eternity, and Pioran in her old age begins suffering from dementia. She is struggling to remember things; becoming more and more forgetful and erratic. Fushi is having difficulty understanding why this is happening but remains resolute in his desire to care for Pioran to the bitter end.

And so that bitter end does ultimately come. Pioran tells Fushi she is thankful to have met him. As Fushi is off doing his tasks for the day, Pioran speaks directly to The Maker. She asks The Maker to allow her to be reborn as something useful to Fushi. The Maker tells her that he will do so but he will have to pluck her away before she ascends to Paradise. For Fushi, she will do it.

The next thing we see is Pioran restored to her youth, walking along the beach, her wish seemingly granted. She turns to see The Maker and approaches him without hesitation. She slowly ages to her current self and is absorbed in the Orb held by The Maker, her essence becoming one with Fushi.

Fushi returns to find Pioran had passed away. He lets out a cry of grief and curls up on the ground. He has no one left. Everyone he had ever known has lived and died and yet only he remains, the one tasked with carrying their memory in a way as a testament that they lived—echoes of life.

The Maker tells us that countless decades have passed since that time and we see the a more grown looking Fushi had continued living alone and seemingly fighting off the Knokkers that approached him there. He continues to ponder what he wishes to do with his life, and we are told by a title card that season two will air in Fall of 2022.

All in all, I must say that To Your Eternity has been a truly beautiful series. It has had its ups and downs, to be sure, but the story that it has told and the emotional resonance of it is very authentic and I, for one, eagerly await the next season. Fushi has proven to be a great character, and his tragic journey through time is one I won’t soon forget.

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Skin-Deep | My Hero Academia Episode 109

Love you and be you.

That’s right folks, it’s time for us to learn all about that lovable bunch of murderers who are literally stealing this series. First up to bat: Toga. Though she’s been around for quite a while, we’ve never really known anything about Toga, beyond the fact that she likes blood and that here definition of “love” is dangerous at best. Well, turns out that having an innate ability to drink blood makes for a rough childhood. I mean, growing up is rough enough when the world is made up of regular humans who can do regular human stuff; I imagine having an “evil” power makes things magnitudes worse. It’s not like this is anything new either: we’ve seen the impact a similar, though less intense, public opinion had on Shinso. Everyone decided that their powers were those of Villains, refusing to even consider how they could be used to help people. Shinso could be an amazing hostage negotiator. How perfect are Toga’s transformations? Imagine if she copied a person down to their blood type: the girl could save countless people via transfusions and continue to work with her favourite liquid. She could work as a spy; a body double; hell, she could be a performer. Or she could’ve just been a person who happened to be able to transform. Is her fall to Villainy entirely predicated on people being mean to her and shunning her innate power? I have no idea. But it probably didn’t help.

Beyond the exploration of Toga’s fractured psyche—and the introduction of a Liberation Army reporter you just want to punch in the face—this episode teaches us that the League of Villains have room to grow, which is…good? I mean, it’s cool…but it’s probably bad news for the future. Toga’s life-or-death situation evolved her Quirk so that now she can mimic the Quirks of those she becomes: that’s dangerous. Spinner even briefly notes that it looks like Shigaraki’s Quirk surpassed its previous limit of requiring him to touch what he destroys: that’s even more dangerous. The League has always contained some of the more unhinged characters in the series, and both All For One’s personal psychotic physician and the Meta Liberation Army thought it would be a good idea to push them to the edge. Great planning, guys. Seriously, which Liberation Army bonehead thought it prudent to piss off people with such cheery Quirk names as Decay and Cremation? Is that second one a fan name? Yes. But why would you even try against a guy whose power could be reasonably named that? Also, the other League members are a fanboy of a murderer, a man who debates his own points, and someone who willingly named themselves Mr Compress. Why would you chance it with any of them?

P.S. I’m not saying that Toga is innocent in all of this, but there was probably a better way to handle her Quirk and her quirk than yelling at her and weeping that it would be better if she was “normal”. Pretty sure that sort of thing messes a kid up.

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Good Riddance | To Your Eternity Episode 19

The Jananda Island Arc has honestly been an absolute mixed bag for To Your Eternity. There were some genuinely great moments at times but, for the most part, this arc has been a mess. The pacing has been all over the shop and, while I felt previous arcs really allowed time for character development, I left this arc caring very little about any of the characters introduced in it. So it is a rather ironic moment when the Maker asks Fushi at the end if he liked Jananda Island, because I must echo his sentiment of, “Dunno.”

This episode begins with pretty much the entire zombie-Knokker horde of the previous episode wiped out off screen. While I couldn’t care less about these zombies, it felt very anti-climactic to end last week’s episode with hundreds of zombies surrounding—and even killing—some of our heroes, only for this week to skip past how they escaped from that with pretty much the entire horde dead. It is these moments of skipping the connective tissue that has made this arc overall weak in comparison to the Gugu Arc or the March Arc, for example. Whereas those arcs would allow for contemplative and slow-paced scenes that just let you soak in the character moments, Jananda Island ain’t got time for that.

Without recapping beat for beat the way this episode wrapped up this arc, it was pretty disappointing seeing what should have been the biggest character moment for Fushi of the series thus far completely botch the delivery. The entire series thus far we have seen Fushi fail to save the people he cares about. However, he finally does manage to save someone in the form of Tonari and her friend whose name I forgot. The episode treats this as a trivial note when I feel it should be a true moment of triumph for Fushi, but it just feels like another thing happening in this arc where a lot happens but nothing really feels like it matters.

The episode ends with Fushi leaving the island and Tonari deciding to stay and help make the island a better place, which she seemingly does by delivering a message to the island folk. What is her ground-breaking and inspiring message that changes this island of criminals into a better place? She tells them that killing is bad and they should work together. Seriously, that was all it takes to stop these people who were just a few episodes ago indiscriminately killing announcers at the tournament for being boring. I just don’t buy this turn of events at all.

Anyways, we are left with Fushi on his little boat sailing away with Hayase, who he has tied up and taken with him. She ultimately confesses to being in love with him and wanting to “spend a night with him” to show him her love. He declines, manifests a separate boat, and leaves. We then see a Knokker materialize and seemingly take control of Hayase’s body. We then see Fushi arrives to shore and he is onward to whatever he next destination may be.

Overall, I felt this Jananda Island Arc was a bit of a misfire. The ideas behind the arc were intriguing and at times truly captivating; however, it was the rushed delivery and lack of emotional resonance that ultimately made this arc fall flat compared to previous ones, and with only one episode remaining to wrap things up for the series, I feel if they had possibly made this a twenty-four-episode series rather than a twenty-episode one, Jananda Island may have been able to tell its story a bit better. Unfortunately, it is what it is and we will see how To Your Eternity exits stage left next week in its finale.

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The Lesser of Two Evils | My Hero Academia Episode 108

I’m absolutely worried, when he smiles.

And, just like that, it’s bye-bye Heroes and hello Villains. Forget all of that “peace and justice” malarkey, it’s time to focus on chaos and destruction, on death and madness, on just how sad of a boy Shigaraki is; does that excuse his actions? Hell no, but it’s nice to get the chance to learn a little more about the League of Villains, that enemy that hasn’t actually been relevant in a while. Also, they might not actually be relevant. Remember that Liberation Army thing? Well, it seems like they talk smack about every societally-evil cause that isn’t their own. I mean, they also call themselves “liberators”, so you know there’s some sort of skewed dogma fuelling them even before they do anything. Case in point: they haven’t done anything…but I don’t like them. Re-Destro, the Liberation leader, seems to think lopping off someone’s fingers is an appropriate “how do you do”. What a jerk. Also, he wears a suit and drinks wine, which is, like, classic anime evil.

Anyway, future threats aside, this self-proclaimed start of My Villain Academia is about the passing of the torch…if the torch were a giant with dependency issues and a mean right hook. Though taken in and traumatised by All For One, Shigaraki has to up his game to be granted full access to the resources and staff left behind by his master/father/captor. It’s sort of like when the U.A. kids had to improve…but if the teachers murdered them if they got an F. Still, it’s innately terrifying to see Shigaraki working towards something. Due wants to wreck the world cause it’s mean; imagine what that rage could do if he had any actual idea on how to follow through on that notion. Regardless, the problem of the hour (or half-month) is to bring down Gigantomachia—the aforementioned giant—and prove himself a worthy successor to ol’ No Face. Props to him for deciding to lead Machia to the Liberation Army and have them duke it out. That’s some good evil.

P.S. I like that Twice is worried enough for Giran—their kidnapped ally—that his vocal tick doesn’t come through. Dude cares for his friends.

P.P.S. How expensive was Toga’s new coat? Counter: how little money did the doctor give them for anti-Machia supplies?

P.P.P.S. I’m totally here for casual Spinner. Nice to see the guy not rockin’ the Stain-fanboy look.

P.P.P.P.S. I know they tweaked the episode order so that the Endeavour stuff happened in time for the latest movie, but is it a coincidence that the evil-focused stuff started on episode 108?

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The Dead Comes Knokkin’ | To Your Eternity Episode 18

Well, that was an unexpected turn of events to say the very least. Last week’s episode left us hanging with Tonari on a lifeboat heading back to the island on a rescue mission and Fushi was left locked up by Hayase. This episode isn’t very interested in any of that. Tonari rocks up and finds that Fushi had already broke himself out of the cell and the two decide to escape the island together. It was very abrupt and felt rushed, which is a problem this episode was plagued with.

As Tonari and Fushi are about to escape the island, the Maker appears informing Fushi that the Knokkers have appeared again on the island and are attacking the townsfolk. Tonari tells him to just leave them, as they are not good people anyways, but Fushi feels compelled to help and, as such, runs into battle.

In a strange turn of events, the Knokkers are now raising the dead. The big pit of dead bodies in the middle of the island are all coming to life and this zombie-knokker horde is going ape shit across the island. Suddenly, the kids who had seemingly escaped on the boat in the last episode have returned and decide to help Fushi and Tonari with the zombies.

The episode really goes into rush mode from here, with several of the kids dying and being taken over by the Knokkers. I feel like the show wanted me to feel something here but I couldn’t even remember their names. Unlike the earlier arcs in the series, I felt that, outside of Tonari, the rest of the island folk were really underdeveloped and that applies to these kids as well.

With all prior plot elements regarding Hayase and the escape from the island seemingly on the back burner in favour of this zombie attack, the episode ends rather abruptly in the thick of things. Fushi, Tonari, and the the kid with the bow and arrow are stuck fighting off zombies, and we see the other kids who died entering the afterlife together. It is a bit of an emotional misfire for the series which usually is so on point in terms of emotional resonance. Everything just felt far too rushed and out of nowhere to really leave any impact. With only two episodes left of the series, I am at a loss as to what the series’ end game is going to be. I hope it has more in store for us than these half-cocked zombies.

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Kept in the Dark | My Hero Academia Episode 107

In the heart of an enemy…there will be a light.

Was there a time when this series didn’t try to play kickball with your heart? Because I sure don’t remember one. Just when a literal Ending forced its way into our little Todoroki story beat, MHA decides to introduce a backstory to just really heap the sadness onto U.A.’s resident grumpy dad and fun uncle. Seriously, let somebody not be riddled with trauma: is that too much to ask? Probably. I don’t imagine one throws themselves into the maw of danger without some sort of complex, but I digress. Reminding us all that Kurogiri exists, has been incarcerated, and is a Nomu (not sure if we new that last one), this episode follows Eraser Head and Present Mic’s discovery that said Villain is, in fact, the tinkered-with and reanimated corpse of their childhood friend. Though our knowledge of Shirakumo is limited to this episode, his first mention, he definitely seemed to be the driving focus of this U.A. trio of the past. His introduction also reveals that students have indeed died during their work studies, reminding us all that this is a seriously dangerous world in general. Worldly implications aside, seeing the glibness and zaniness of these two characters crumble is a pretty rough watch. Even beyond the final burst of emotion, Present Mic spends most of this episode telling Eraser to calm down, despite his own body language clearly betraying his thoughts. It’s…it’s a lot.

Outside of the obvious, one of the most interesting things about this episode is seeing how Shirakumo’s death changed Mic and Eraser. It wasn’t that the tragedy altered their personalities—gloomy and loud, respectively—but that it focused their attitudes. Mic kept on being a loud people-person; Eraser did his damndest to make sure his students didn’t throw their lives away pointlessly. I’m not sure if expelling students simply to strike fear into their hearts and make them feel the “death” of their Hero-self is an ethical practice, but it sure seems to work. Also, good on MHA for exploring the issues with teaching students “the spirit of self-sacrifice”. I mean, it’s important when a Hero lays down their life to protect others, but only when it’s absolutely necessary. Eraser almost died to save his students back at U.S.J.: necessary. Midoriya almost exploded his arm to throw a baseball once: not necessary…but kind of metal as hell. All I’m saying is that I’m glad this series explores its own rules to their fullest extent. It makes it a good series; it makes you care about a character who was never known to exist; it makes you want to punch All For One in his dumb whatever-he-has-that-is-technically-called-a-face. For all these reasons, and probably more, damn was it good to see Shirakumo break free, if only for a pained moment. I’m not sure if that’s enough to change a miracle into a possibility, but one can hope.

P.S. I still like the dynamic of Ashido teasing Uraraka about her super-obvious crush on Midoriya. It’s fun. Is that wicked mood whiplash from the rest of this piece? Yes. Yes it is. Enjoy it.

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A Recipe for Disaster | Cooking Mama: Cookstar

When the Nintendo DS released, the touch-pad feature and the amount of interaction the player had with games were super enjoyable and engaging. A kid like me loved playing Cooking Mama games on the DS. The swiping motions, the tapping against the screen, the visual feedback—it made me feel like some kind of chef at the time. The game was an early introduction to cooking, albeit extremely simplified. While I enjoyed Cooking Mama games in the past, this was years ago, I was part of a totally different target audience. I decided to give Cooking Mama: Cookstar a go as, at this age, my love for cooking has transcended the game and moved into my real kitchen. I wanted to see what I could make of the game at an adult age and find out whether it was equally as enjoyable on the PS5.

First impressions were good. I booted it up and along came that nostalgia to hit me right in the face again. There were a couple options to pick, including playing through a regular menu, a vegetarian menu, and some co-op challenges which were just playing through minigames with a friend via local play, to see who could complete the minigame first. I chose to play through the regular menu, or the “campaign” if you will. There are about fifty or so recipes in the game, providing a couple hours of gameplay. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered some issues with the experience.

Firstly, the experience did not quite hold up like it did on the DS. This could have been partly because, as a child, completing all the cutting and swiping motions made you feel as if you were preparing ingredients; it is less immersive to just press a joystick in the upwards direction. This is also likely because as an adult you are less likely to be immersed in games like these where you need creativity and imagination, which is less easily influenced when you age. I didn’t quite feel the impact I did as a youngster and the satisfaction about getting “100%” on a recipe.

Then, after the first couple of recipes passed, the mechanics began to repeat themselves. To be fair, when cooking in reality, chopping, dicing, and slicing are highly repeated through most recipes. The problem is repetition in video games tends to make the game stale, and there is no exception here. In fact, the game itself doesn’t really offer up anything new that the older iterations haven’t already provided.

To top this all off, I found it odd that there were no PlayStation achievements. This was not a massive deal breaker, but a bit disappointing given that I enjoy trophy hunting. In fact, when I searched the PlayStation Australia store, the game did not even exist there, perhaps likely due to the controversy around the game back during its release—where it was claimed that there was a cryptocurrency miner running in the background. Couple that with licensing issues, and the game’s release was quite a mess, with the franchise leaving a bad taste in people’s mouths.

I can’t recommend the game—not for adults anyway. If you want a simplistic game that can be finished in a couple of hours, this may be for you. The game will likely be enjoyable for children who enjoy helping in the kitchen. If you want to grab a copy in Australia, you may have to look around at brick-and-mortar stores.  At its retail price point of around A$50, I don’t think there is enough content here or innovation to justify the cost.

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Hurt | To Your Eternity Episode 17

For an episode that had a lot of major moments, it ultimately feels like a bit of a pit-stop episode on our way to the next major happenings. That’s not to say the episode wasn’t packed full of substantial moments to discuss, it’s more that it is an episode about shifting the narrative direction and lining up all the pieces in their places.

Picking up where last week’s episode left off, Hayase has been declared the winner of the tournament and, instead of declaring herself ruler of the island, she makes a bold plea to the island’s folk: she asks them all to join her in the protection and worship of Fushi. She tells a false story about raising Fushi and convinces many to believe him to be a god—or at least sent by him—which may not be too far from the truth, actually.

To make matters more complicated, she declares that she is abdicating her role of island leader to the girl Tonari. This immediately puts a target on Tonari’s back and she must go into hiding. From here things take a turn for the more grim. Back at her keep, Hayase—who is being protected by her own personal guards—decides to strip herself naked and it is implied that she potentially rapes Fushi in his unconscious state. While the details of this encounter aren’t shown, it is hard to see Fushi in his dream state trying to fight off Hayase but unable to move in the waking world. The brutality and abuse he continues to suffer is hard to watch.

Fortunately, things are interrupted by Tonari and the kids trying to break Fushi free from Hayase’s captivity. However, after being outnumbered, Fushi—now awake—begs Hayase to let them live and leave the island, and in return he will submit himself to her. At this point, the episode kind of plods along as Tonari and the kids all stage their escape from the island; however, Tonari decides to go it solo, sneaking back on a life boat to the island in a final attempt to save Fushi.

This was a difficult episode overall to watch, with the implicated rape scene in particular being one of the toughest scenes of the series to watch to date. With only three episodes left to go for the series, I feel we are heading to a dangerous climax.

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A Turn-Based Love Letter | Cris Tales

There has been a recent renewed interest in the turn-based/command-based RPG genre as of late—with gamers looking to the roots of the genre—and, in many ways, what’s old is once new again. Cris Tales is part of this wave of turn-based revival and while high-profile studios like Square Enix are simply looking to their past and reintroducing classic titles to new audiences as with the Final Fantasy pixel remasters, Cris Tales feels like a love letter to turn-based RPGs of the past—all the while forging its own unique identity in the genre.

At first glance, Cris Tales feels both immediately familiar but decisively fresh. Reminiscent of games like Paper Mario with a modern Cartoon Network–style aesthetic, Cris Tales makes a strong impression from the outset. The gameplay will feel familiar to turn-based RPG veterans: you take turns to decide your commands for each of your characters and then watch as the action plays out before deciding the next course of action in the battle. However, it is through Cris Tales‘ unique time-bending mechanics that the game spices things up.

The time-bending mechanics allow for a variety of complex scenarios to unfold both in and out of battle. Out of battle you must manipulate the past, present, and future in order to solve puzzles and gain crucial information; inside of battles, however, the manipulation of time can prove to be key to victory, with the ability to age or de-age enemies on the fly and the ability to accelerate or decelerate effects and powers, among others. This adds a deeper layer of complexity to the turn-based battle system and gives the game its unique flavour.

Visually, the game is a sight to behold. It is very Western in its style, which is counter to its gameplay which feels distinctly Japanese. This makes for a nice mix of styles that ultimately compliment one another more than you’d expect. The world and its colourful cast of characters are beautifully rendered and realised here and it may be Cris Tales crowning achievement in all honesty.

In terms of the plot, the game does take a while to get the ball rolling but once it does there is plenty of complexity and intrigue to keep the player invested in Crisbell’s journey. The multitude of decisions that can effect the flow of the story make for plenty to uncover for gamers who are keen on multiple playthroughs.

Ultimately, Cris Tales is a superb love letter to the turn-based RPG genre. One that really shines in its attention to detail and fresh take on the genre, all the while staying true to what makes it so great. Cris Tales is more than worth a look in for RPG fans and for those looking to try something maybe a little bit different to what they may normally play: the game is a fun time for all.

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A World of Pain | To Your Eternity Episode 16

Just when you thought that To Your Eternity couldn’t hurt you anymore, episode sixteen comes rolling around—delivering us the darkest depths that the series has gone to yet. Things seemed to be getting back on track and heading into a more positive direction after the successful encounter with the Knokker in the previous episode, but a familiar face from the past rocks up to introduce Fushi to a world of pain.

We start out this week’s episode with Fushi finally relenting and allowing the children of Jananda into his circle; giving them a measure of trust. Through this, we learn more about the girl Tonari and her past. She was taken to the island after her father was accused of killing her mother: imprisoned along with him. However, she held on to the belief that her father was innocent. That all changed after she saw him enter the tournament and his murderous tendencies were brutally exposed. Not long after that, her father was killed by some of the island folk and Tonari started living with the other orphaned children of the island.

As it turns out, a mysterious person had encouraged Tonari to trick Fushi and Pioran to go on the prison boat. That person is revealed in shocking fashion as Fushi’s final opponent in the tournament: it is none other that Hayase, the soldier woman from the beginning of the series who had killed March. It becomes quickly apparent that Hayase has an insane obsession with Fushi and is no longer mentally stable, in any sense of the word. Things really take a dark turn, however, when Hayase reveals that the form of Parona was her gift to Fushi. She reveals that she had returned to Ninnanah Village, slaughtered presumably countless village folk, before ultimately beheading a tied-up Parona—who died painfully as Hayase failed to take off her head on the first swing. Instead, it took a few swings, causing Parona to suffer painfully in her final moments.

Fushi, after learning this information, becomes absolutely incensed—as you can imagine—which allows Hayase to take advantage of his erratic state and tranquilise him, which leaves her crowned as the victor of the tournament and new ruler of the island. Tonari and the other children watch on in utter devastation.

This may be the lowest point of Fushi’s immortal life and, judging by next week’s preview, it’s about to get a lot worse, as Hayase looks to be taking in Fushi as what appears to be some kind of sex slave. I don’t know what to say other than, To Your Eternity, why must you hurt me so?

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Sins of the Father | My Hero Academia Episode 106

Safe and sorry.

So…that got pretty real. I mean, it wasn’t an unexpected turn of events (except for the part that was), but it was still pretty heavy. I know I’ve been rattling off on the issue for a few weeks, but not many Shonen series deal with the realistic ramifications of emotional abuse. Further to My Hero‘s credit, each member of the Todoroki family is handling the situation differently and nobody is saying that any of them are wrong. Endeavor messed up. He messed up bad. His family is in a bad way. But they are trying, in their own ways. Endeavor even points out that, despite his declaration that he won’t make an effort to rectify Endeavor’s mistakes, Natsuo did come to dinner: he tried for the sake of Fuyumi. Everyone is making an effort; they just don’t fully know what they’re working towards. Fuyumi wants a happy family; Natsuo wants some esoteric form of justice; Shoto wants to be able to forgive. Whatever anyone wants, it’ll be a process. Can Endeavor find the atonement he desires? Will he ever be able to sit at the dinner table with his family? Will they ever be happy? Heck if I know. I guess it all comes down to whether or not an unforgivable act and an unforgivable person are the same thing.

On a…just as dark note, the Villain of this episode, Ending, is all sorts of specifically dangerous. His obsession with Endeavour is twisted beyond belief and his actions are heinous. Dude was willing to murder people just to piss Endeavor off enough to murder him: he’s like an even more fanatical Stain. His particular brand of insanity is such that seeing Endeavor act responsibly hurt him: he sought nothing but to die at the hands of the monster Endeavor once was. So…I guess that’s some form of proof that Endeavor has changed? Regardless, Ending also serves to show how much Midoriya, Bakugo, and Todoroki have grown in a week. Spoiler: it’s, like, anime levels of growth. Bakugo has seemingly overcome his slow starts caused by cold weather, Todoroki can focus his fire into a powerful blast, and Midoriya can summon multiple tendrils of Blackwhip that are strong enough to hold several cars. That’s…that’s a lot of improvement. I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t cool, though. Also, more than a little refreshing to see some simple Hero work being done after the drama of the Todoroki family…which is pretty weird when you say it like that: watching a guy get assaulted with torrents of fire, ice, and explosions feels normal. I’ve sai it before and I’ll say it again: anime is weird, y’all.

P.S. Bakugo refusing to tell Midoriya or Todoroki the Hero name he’s chosen is absolutely in character.

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United As One | To Your Eternity Episode 15

The tournament rages on in episode fifteen of To Your Eternity, with Fushi’s newfound form of Parona having some rather grim implications regarding her fate. On top of that, we get a better look into the life of the kids on the island and the humanity that lays beneath the brutality of this kill-or-be-killed society.

The episode devotes a lot of time to the building relationship between Fushi and the island girl who tricked him into going there. We learn that her name is Tonari, and it becomes clear pretty quickly that a lot of her more questionable traits are unfortunately something that has been ingrained in her throughout a life lived on this hellish island. She says to Fushi to remember to smile whenever you’re sad. It tells us a lot about this girl, because she seems to wear a permanent smile in the face of the disturbing scenes she is constantly baring witness to.

We also learn from the Maker that Fushi was able to transform into Parona because she had passed away. Interestingly, this confirms that Fushi can only become something that is no longer living. It previously seemed that he had to be at the place of someone’s death and be affected by them, but this implies that if a person left enough of an impact on him, if they were to die years later and on a completely different part of the world, he would gain access to their form after their passing. Sadly, this confirms that Parona is no more—her fate left ambiguous.

Fushi is adamant to continue his plan to save Pioran and once again fights in the tournament. In a show of mercy, Fushi allows his opponent the chance to surrender. This causes various members of the audience to begin firing arrows at the weakened opponent to finish him off. Fushi blocks most of these shots to the rage of the audience; however, one arrow connects and the man is taken away injured. Fortunately, Fushi and company are able to tend to the man’s wounds and Fushi learns that most of the people on this island are fighting to protect the ones they love: the man himself is fighting for his younger brother’s freedom. Fushi is beginning to realise the depths a person will go for the people they hold most dear: it puts the violent tendencies of the island’s folk into a new light.

Things ultimately come to an ugly head as the Knokkers once again rock up and attack. In a moment of solidarity, the island’s folk put their differences aside and help Fushi to defeat the Knokker and regain the forms of March and the giant bear. This moment where the people of the island, along with the group of kids that had been following Fushi about, all unite as one completely flips everything Fushi thought about this place on its head. One’s circumstances can drive them to depravity. It is a lesson that Fushi will need to take on as his journey continues. With the Knokker now out of the way for the time being, Fushi looks to refocus his sights on the tournament and his goal to free the people of Jananda, as well as Pioran. Something tells me that things won’t be so simple.

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Past Tense | My Hero Academia Episode 105

It’s no father–son picnic…

Well…that was awkward. I mean, family drama is never fun, but witnessing another family’s drama is, like, worse? Definitely when said drama involves the hospitalisation of a mother, the scalding of a child, and the understandable emotional turmoil brought about by these events. It’s all just…messed up. It’s also a far more realistic situation than presented in My Hero thus far—which is, in itself, also horrific. People are quick to latch on to the sad backstories of characters who have performed ill deeds. I’ve mentioned it before: fans pine over Toga, a girl who forcibly drains blood and quite possibly murders those she “loves”, and swoon over Dabi, a guy who joyfully immolates people. Why? Because they’re obviously a fiction. Sure they have elements of humanity and a method to their madness, but they’re so much larger than life. Endeavour abused his kid and drove his wife to a mental breakdown. That shit’s as real as it gets. Still, it’s because of that fact that this presents such a complicated situation. Endeavour did wrong, he messed up royal, but he does actually want to try and make amends. Can he be forgiven easily? No. Can he be forgiven ever? Maybe not. But in a series where the protagonist has tried to understand the mentality of the Villains he’s faced, is it going too far for Endeavour to try?

On a less…that note, this episode also pushes us through the next bout of our main trio’s work experience. Not a lot happens, because of the time devoted to Endeavour’s introspection and family situation, but it does show that the boys are pushing themselves to reach their current goal” catching a Villain before Endeavour. Is it as exciting as them showing off new moves and, in one unique case, Quirks? Not really. I think that’s the point, though. Not every day on the job is a fight against Gentle Criminal or Overhaul, sometimes Hero-ing is assisting people who were in a car accident or stopping a mugger. Heck, the aim of being a Hero is to make sure those are the worst things that happen. So, in that sense, it’s good to see the boys pushing themselves so hard. It goes back to the words that made Midoriya All Might’s successor: “You looked like you needed help.” That’s it. That’s all the motivation a true Hero needs. Though, the big anime fights are definitely cool as well.

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So the History Goes | Samurai Warriors 5

A warrior’s castle is their home.

They say that history is written by the victor. What they forgot to say is that sometimes history is also slightly re-written hundreds of years later by a game company, in order to retell climactic moments through the medium of a hack-and-slash. Mustn’t have been enough room on the page for that part.

Oh, Samurai Warriors 5, what knowledge of warring states do you bring? What insights into a tumultuous period of history have you to teach us? What cool Ultimate Moves will your figures perform when slicing through thousands of unnamed samurai? Well…I’m not exactly sure. Okay, I know the Warriors games aren’t intended to be a one-stop-shop for history lessons, but I figured it was still worth mentioning how it seems like this games plot would be far more coherent to somebody with a major in Japanese history. I’ve picked up a few details via anime and their various interpretations of actually-existed-in-the-past samurai, but boy does Musou Mode (a.k.a. the story mode) fly though decades of content. Characters just drop in and out, switching sides, marrying each other, swearing oaths to each other, breaking said oaths they swore to each other, killing each other, declaring themselves the children of each other, yelling their convictions at each other, questioning their convictions in their own minds, yelling their faltering convictions at each other, getting kidnapped, freeing themselves from being kidnapped, betraying their lord, revealing that they didn’t actually betray their lord and are just pretending so that their partner can covertly find the real person who betrayed their lord…also stabbing each other. Lot’s of stabbing each other. It’s just…it’s a lot. And the desire to remain somewhat historically accurate means that the story suffers. Maybe Yasuke was a retainer to Nobunaga, but did you really have to throw a new character in five missions before the end of the game?

Who is that masked samurai?

Speaking of story issues, only two of the character models change. Ever. Was it cool when Nobunaga and Mitsuhide rocked up in their time-skip outfits? Hell yeah. Grow that moustache Nobunaga. But everybody looks the same. There’s even a scene where Nobunaga’s allies are discussing how long they’ve all been working together and they look identical to when they first appeared: which was decades ago. Seriously, one character turns up in a mission and everybody wonders how he survived being held captive for a year. I didn’t realise he was gone. I have no idea how much time passes between each mission. One character claims to be the child of another part way through the game, and it took me a while to realise that they were the baby from the beginning of the game; so, I guess at least fifteen years passed. It’s just…combined with the story’s insistence on hitting the big moments from this period of history, the unchanging character models make it a chore to keep up with the plot. The fact that some characters are introduced with their full name, a nickname, and a title also doesn’t help, but I digress.

Take that, the moon.

As far as gameplay goes, this is a Warriors game. Not a revolutionary statement, but an apt one. You play as a single samurai (frequently with the ability to swap back and forth to an ally in each mission) who has the power to slaughter entire armies. Just absolutely murder them. Mash the buttons to use combos, use Ultimate Moves when the gauges allow, and plough through your objectives. Is it fun? Yes. Can it be frustrating? Also yes. Here’s the thing: I enjoy the Warriors style of gameplay…when I’m overpowered. With an A-rank weapon and way more levels than required, the game is a blast. You are literally a one-person army; it’s cathartically living out your anime fantasy. None can stop you. None can stand in your way. On the other hand, being under-levelled means that the game is an endless sea of chip damage and stun lock, making you curse the series of 1s and 0s that allow such atrocities to occur. What makes this even more of a binary bundle is that those are your two options: overpowered or under-levelled. There is no middle ground. At least, I never found it.

Okay, so as not to be unfair, there are systems that allow you to speed your characters’ growth along for the sake of beating the game. As you play, you accrue a pool of experience that you are able to spend on any character, jumping them up a few levels. This comes in very handy as, dictated by the story, your access to characters periodically shifts. There are a few levels that were difficult only due to the roster featuring characters I had never used. Should I have rotated my selection more frequently? Maybe. But I knew that characters would leave, so why do anything other than toughen up Nobunaga and Mitsuhide? Why not have at least one powerhouse I knew I’d be able to use? To that point, you can utilise any weapon with any character, so even that preference can be worked around. Sure, characters each have proficiencies and are able to level up certain weaponry faster, but so what? You want Sena to use a gun? Why not? Let Nobunaga chase his ambition with an essentially magical drum. The history books don’t say he didn’t.

Nobunaga in reality may be slightly smaller than he appears.

Okay, so that was a little more of a rant than I intended, but I did already sort of give some thoughts on this game before (see, here, I’m not lying); so, you got my second wave of thoughts this time. That being said, my thoughts remain largely the same: Samurai Warriors 5 is a fun time when you are playing as the strongest character on the battlefield. This isn’t a particularly skill-based game, so as long as your numbers are bigger than the AI’s numbers you’re golden. Still, even on Easy the NPCs were more of a detriment and the AI is rigid in its execution. Don’t believe me? Push a boss out of their spawn area and they will divert all of there energy to getting back there. It’s less of a home-field advantage and more of a home-field dependence. Regardless, if you’re in the right mood then this will give you some good times and scratch that Warriors itch…until the next one comes out.

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Gavel-Slammin’ Exoneration | The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

It is time to dig a little deeper into the The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, a game I had a chance to preview late last month on the PlayStation. Some of the things I focused on in my preview (which you can find here) were the following elements: initial impressions, the nostalgia factor pertaining to reminiscing about past Ace Attorney games, the quirky characters, and my love for solving mysteries.

Something I have always appreciated about the Ace Attorney games is the writing: it’s full of quirky puns, witty comebacks, and overly emotive facial expressions. This game is no different. As you play, you see Ryunosuke Naruhodo become a more and more competent contender in the court room; that is, if the player deems it to be that way. Without you actively exhausting all avenues of information and evidence, you will likely make Ryunosuke appear a daft fool in the courtroom, as his competition mocks him for making mistakes. Behave poorly enough in your legal duties and you may see innocent people being convicted. That’s not what you want? Is it?!

I suppose the one thing about the Ace Attorney series to keep in mind, especially for those new to the series, is that if you do not like reading lengthy boxes of text—if all you want is crazy fast-paced action—then this is not the game for you. The title plays slowly and is one that takes a while to get through. The variation within the gameplay is not so different to the point where it feels like a different game in every case. It is very much a story-orientated game for people who care and connect with the characters. I think what would solidify the care that the player has for the characters under threat (as an example, Ryunosuke who is under the threat of prosecution if not successfully exonerated) would be to provide the player more time to connect with them outside of the courtroom. The game does give you brief context as to who these characters are, and connection is built up throughout the courtroom as well, as we see them emotively express their concern and stress. In games like these, I suppose the player is motivated via morals and ensuring that the right person gets locked away—at least that was my motivation.

The game generally follows the formula set by all its predecessors, and there is nothing wrong with that. The series is solid in what it’s trying to provide to those invested in it: so why reinvent the wheel? Just to comment on the graphics, I do enjoy that they get better with every iteration and this is no exception. The package is hard to fault, especially as it offers up ten separate cases/episodes, and this will provide you gavel-slammin’ entertainment for 50+ hours—which is nothing to shake a wooden gavel at. For those who are not adept with the legal system, the game luckily provides an option to play in “Story Mode” which essentially solves the puzzles for you in each case and makes all choices for the player automatically. While I think it’s more fun to actively participate in those things, it’s a nice inclusion for those who are there just for the narrative to play out.

The game reintroduces Juries—something, if I recall correctly, was not actively in the series until Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright. This is a welcome reintroduction, as the jury contributes with their unique viewpoints based off the evidence and argument you have presented. This adds another layer to consider and will have you questioning and cross-examining these jury members as well, to pit them against each other in your quest to achieve exoneration.

Since previewing the game, my opinion has not changed. The game has only solidified—further with its mechanics and the strength within its story telling aspects—that it is another strong iteration for fans of the series. Don’t be afraid to dive into this iteration if you are new to the series! The game will hand-hold you through how it all works, and you’ll sink into it just like the rest of us. If that is not enough to convince you: the great Herlock Sholmes makes an appearance. You know, Herlock. Ahhh, I love appropriation…

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Fun-Sized Doom | Boomerang X

You know if Devolver Digital publishes a new game, it is going to be either insanely fun, quirky, or a mixture of both, and Boomerang X is no exception. Developed by DANG!, a studio who seems to be a newbie to the game-making industry, Boomerang X is their first project released to gamers. All I can say is: Devolver Digital doesn’t miss a beat with their choice of releases and that seems to be the case here. DANG! did a dang good job here, too.

What can I say about Boomerang X? What if I told you that it was an awesome action game that, at first, really appealed to the Australian in me. That’s right: there is a boomerang. You throw it; it comes back to you; it travels at fast speed and slices through enemies along the way. The game makes you feel like John Wick, or some kind of ninja. There is a lot of fast-paced action and it is quite reminiscent of Doom, or just about any arena shooter which involves fluid movement and FPS mechanics. The game perhaps lends itself to speed running, as I can imagine playing it through multiple times and perfecting those reflexes to beat the last run. For those that cannot get enough of the short-but-sweet game, there is a New Game + option which increases in difficulty drastically, so that will definitely pack on the hours. The enemies are well designed and unique, some having weak spots that you need to target, others being simpler in design. The difficulty in regular mode seemed to be consistent throughout the whole game, until about the last two levels, where the difficulty escalated. The enemies became harder to target, meaning you will have to take advantage of their weak spots and require quicker reflexes to down. 

The art style screams that “indie vibe”. Its colourful, unique, and is a pleasure to look at. The package as a whole is lovely, well presented, and a joy to play through. I think the only thing to consider is the price. Boomerang X is a title that can be completed in as little as two hours, and for most people that’s enough. Like many, I like being able to complete a game from start to finish in one sitting, to get to experience the package as a whole. However, the length in comparison to the price upon release is something for the player to consider if they are looking for a longer, more varied title. On Steam, the game retails at A$28.95 and may not be something that satiates a gamer who can’t afford to drop that kind of cash for a short (albeit good) experience. The game is one where it’s easy enough to play, but difficult to master. You could spend time on mastering the game; it does have replayability especially with New Game + being an option.

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Fight For Your Rights | To Your Eternity Episode 14

The tournament has begun! To Your Eternity has taken things up a notch, as the danger level is more intense than it has ever been in the series. Jananda Island is so lawless that even in the tournament as the announcer is announcing the rules, someone in the audience gets sick of him talking and decides to take the dude out with an arrow through the head. Such is the state of affairs in Jananda, a former prison island that devolved into a lawless colony where slaves and prisoners are dumped from the mainland kingdoms.

Fushi decides to enter the tournament in order the win the freedom of Pioran, but things take a turn once the people realise he is immortal. Many on the island begin to worship Fushi as some kind of god, which confuses him. The children he had met in the previous episode continue to try and manipulate Fushi for reasons that remain a mystery, but we know that they had grown up in the lawless island and, as such, they are numb to the brutality that surrounds them constantly.

In a weird scene, we realise that the soldier woman Hayase from the beginning of the series that had killed March is actually still alive and on Jananda island. More strange is that she sneaks up on a sleeping Fushi and licks his face for some reason. It seems she is well and truly mental now and likely deeply obsessed with Fushi.

A lot of the mystery here is whether the kids on the island are being honest with Fushi. The main girl, Tonari, certainly seems to have an ulterior motive to say the least. She claims she wants to leave the island but it seems counteractive to her actions of luring Fushi and Pioran to the island to begin with. So I am going to hold out judgement until we see what she is really up to.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the episode is that Fushi seems to gain more understanding of his transformation ability, learning how to turn into a mole at one point, and in the tournament—after remembering Parona from earlier in the series—he is able to transform into her and use her fighting abilities in his tournament fight. This indicates that encountering a person or being is enough now for him to transform into them, not just having to be there or be affected at the time of their death. I’m curious what this development means for the series going forward, to say the very least.

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Sea Stars | My Hero Academia Episode 104

Seal of approval.

It’s time, once more, to see our ol’ pal Selkie and explore the world of sea-based crime. That’s right, it’s time for a…beach episode? Yeah, that’s what it was, mostly. I mean, I suppose you can’t really gather anime characters near the ocean without there being a beach episode—I think it’s a law. Still, not what I was expecting; also, it wasn’t even that good of a beach episode. Like, beach episodes are all about watching the cast of a series cut loose and have fun (with the heavy-handed inclusion of fanservice; this episode barely does any of that. Uraraka, Asui, Nejire, and Sirius (Selkie’s sidekick) hang out on the beach for a few minutes, have some food, play some volleyball, and then jump into the actual reason Ryukyu’s agency was summoned: to prevent drug smugglers. It’s just a wild tone shift that makes you wonder why they even crammed a beach outing in. Selkie posits that it’s good to remind the interns that there is more to life than an ever-growing wave of villainy, but it still doesn’t really make sense. The celebration after the smugglers are stopped does; have that scene as a reward/lesson. I just don’t know why there were two short beach outings in one episode.

Beaches aside, this episode produces yet another unexpected element: a connection to the upcoming movie. Seeing as both this and the original Selkie episode are anime-only affairs, it does make sense—though it was still unexpected. It would seem that the smugglers of this piece were transporting the chemical components for Trigger, a drug that boosts Quirks, to Europe. Post-credits show the Villain of the new film mildly upset that his shipment was seized, but ultimately fine with moving ahead with his evil plans. How do I know they’re evil? Well, he’s the Villain of the next movie and he had information of his dealings brought to him via messenger as he sat quietly in a room: classic bad-guy move. Though ultimately a loose connection, the post-credits scene does firmly set the film in the current events of the story—which is also the supposed reason that the anime is adapting the manga out of order. So…yeah. This episode is basically a vehicle for a brief movie reference and seeing some of the more popular members of the cast in their swimsuits. Anime, y’all.

P.S. It’s still cool that Ryukyu can, just, turn into a dragon.

P.P.S. Uraraka once again shows us that just knowing martial arts can help defeat, like, any Villain.

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Don’t Fear the Reaper | Death’s Door

At face value, Acid Nerve’s Death’s Door struck fear into my heart. It gave me similar nerves going into it as the typical insurmountable games such as From Software’s Dark Souls or Acid Nerve’s previous, smaller title Titan Souls. The type of games that, while great, I find to have too high of a skill and patience ceiling for me to commit to. In all honesty, my expectations were quite low when coming into the game…

That being said, I was legitimately surprised to find that my expectations were wrong, and I am so happy that I gave this game a shot. Death’s Door shares many traits with one of my all-time favourite game series Ori and the Blind Forest. This game has a beautifully bleak art style, a cute yet deadly protagonist, fast-paced action, witty and humorous characters, and an interesting world. And best of all the gameplay, whilst tough in key boss and wave-based enemy moments, is also very fair. Death’s Door may just be my game of the year so far.

For some context, you are a cute crow—but also a reaper of souls—assigned to reap a soul only to have it stolen from underneath you. You’re then tasked by the thief to venture across multiple locations untouched by death to gather Giant Souls to unlock a mysterious locked door. Each location is vastly different to the others, but just as deadly, taking you across places such as a bleak medieval castle, steampunk dungeons, Mayan-esque temple forests, rich antique palaces, and autumn gardens.

The soft art style is contrastingly vibrant and bleak, shifting depending on the location you’re in, giving the game an oddly soothing and mellow ease which meshes well with its beautiful soundtrack. Speaking of, I’m personally a big fan of atmospheric original soundtracks: I collect excellent atmospheric soundtracks such as those of Christopher Larkin’s Hollow Knight, Austin Wintory’s Journey, Ryan Roth and Halina Heron’s Moon Hunters, and, of course, Gareth Coker’s Ori games—and I’m proud to add David Fenn’s Death’s Door to the list as well. Between the art style, the music, and exploration, I feel a zen experience of euphoric atmosphere, only to be kicked into the mood when thrust into an intense boss battle.

Speaking of intense boss battles, the game was definitely challenging but, save for repeating, not of the cruel harshness of Dark Souls. The Crow swipes quickly and cleanly and dodges when you want him to, only falling by your own immediate mistakes. But with a handful of deaths between boss battles, learning the behaviours of bosses and enemies alike never felt frustrating. It didn’t take me long to overcome some mighty challenges. While I died often, I couldn’t help but chuckle every single damn time at the absurdity of the death scene. Zooming into my limp, face-planted crow body—which might as well look like he’s taking a nap—with big thick transparent letters “DEATH” written across the screen with excessive camera shake and an over-the-top hum. It’s humorous and always diverted my attention from the fact that I stuffed up.

The bosses aren’t the only challenging ones. On their own, the variety of standard enemies are easily overcome, but provide just as equal a challenge when in assorted groups. Having to dodge arrows from archers while navigating suicide potters (they have pots on their head and explode) on your way to the big, burly baddy that’s making his way towards you. The gameplay provides many options to tackle them too. You can use your standard sword, a bow and arrow, quick daggers (if you find them),even a Kamehameha fireball (HE EVEN DOES THE KAMEHAMEHA HANDS!!!). You can use the enemies against each other, ricochet their ranged attacks against them, lure them and shoot explosives close to them, even have a grenade launcher shoot at their own allies while you kite them. The gameplay is magnificent.

The characters and minor added details are just as magnificent, littered with fleeting moments I will always remember: being called a little shit by Grandma, having a song sung to me by a forest dweller because I retrieved their horn, or a guy with a tomb as a head wanting me to hit him as hard as I can to kill him because he wants to die but can’t. My favourite little added detail is when you swipe at the signs: you cut it in half, then can read the half of the sign with the other half missing from the text box. I love touches like this!

If there is one thing that I would change, though, it would be the addition of a map. Too many times did I get lost—particularly in King Frog’s Forest—looping around past the same trees over and over, trying to find out where I needed to go. While I find getting lost is an issue that I have even in the most linear of games, I feel like others may come across the same issue despite exploring. But that’s the only gripe I have with this game and it’s quite a minor one at that.

As a whole, Death’s Door is a brilliantly crafted experience that I’m so glad I took the chance to play. I’ll be putting on my top shelf (that’s what I call my favourite Steam games category) next to the greats, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Acid Nerve.

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Conquering Time | Loki Episode 6

So there we have it folks, Loki just delivered on the promise alluded to in countless references and teases: introducing us to Kang the Conqueror—or at least one version of him. While it may seem a fool’s errand to introduce the mastermind behind it all as a completely new character we had not yet seen, Loki does the smart thing by essentially turning over this final episode to the actor to sell us on who this guy is and why he matters so much; and, believe me, Johnathan Majors was more than up to the task.

I may have jumped the gun there but let’s just cut to the chase, this episode was all about Kang. The big reveal is that Kang was the man behind the TVA, and it seems it is all as part of his personal goal to protect the universes from the various versions of himself which had enacted multiversal war for supremacy. Loki and Sylvie debate about what should be done, and the dilemma they must come to terms with is whether Kang was right to create the TVA and try to prune the timeline—as he had been doing—or if the natural chaos of the multiverse should be allowed to run wild and free, even if it may potentially free countless dangerous variant forms of Kang into the ether.

Ultimately, Sylvie makes the decision for the both of them, sending Loki back to the TVA and killing Kang who delivers a devilish “See you soon” to Sylvie before he dies. The episode then ends on a pretty big cliffhanger, with Loki returned to the TVA realising that the Time Keeper mythology has been replaced with some Kang mythology and Mobius has no idea who he is. This is all in service of setting up what will be a second season of Loki of course.

Overall, I thought this episode and the series at large did well not to repeat the mistakes of the past two Marvel Disney+ series. WandaVision, for example, over indulged in red herrings which left many audience members disappointed when characters like Mephisto or the X-Men–movie version of Quiksilver didn’t come to be a part of the show, instead opting for Agnes—a character we had known all along—having secretly been the villain behind things. Loki does the opposite here, it teased Kang for weeks and it ultimately delivered on that. Sometimes doing the expected outcome proves to be most satisfying, especially when it makes the most storyline sense, and that very much is the case with the Kang reveal.

All in all, I think Loki is the best Disney+ series yet and with the multiverse well and truly running wild now, the future of the MCU just got a lot more exciting—with the possibilities seemingly being endless. It looks like we won’t have to wait too long to find out what will be happening next with Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness both rumoured to be exploring the multiverse and Kang having been announced to appear in Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania. The multiverse is going to be a lot of fun to explorem but here’s to hoping that Mobius can finally get a ride on that jet ski in season two.

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An Unexpected Twist of Fate | To Your Eternity Episode 13

Having concluded the emotional and often times devastating Gugu Arc, To Your Eternity completely shifts gears—with the danger turned up to eleven—but it isn’t the Knokkers that are the only threat to Fushi. Perhaps even more dangerous are cold-hearted humans.

After leaving the village and moving on to retrieve the memory of March that the Knokkers had stolen from him, Fushi finds himself reluctantly accompanied once more by Pioran, his longest-serving companion. The old woman reflects she had regrets about her life and wants to use her final days doing something meaningful, which she believes is helping Fushi on his journey.

Fushi decides that, in his current state, he is too weak to face the Knokkers and needs to train to become stronger. Pioran suggests going to a location free of people to prevent any collateral damage should the Knokkers try to attack. Fushi agrees, and so they set out for an island off the shore. However, they wind up swindled onto the wrong boat by slavers and things take a dark turn.

They are taken to the dangerous prison island of Jananda. Fushi escapes from the clutches of the slavers, but Pioran is now being held captive. The children of the island inform Fushi that there is a way to get her freedom; that is to partake in a tournament where the winner is granted their wish.

I was not expecting this series to take a shift into the territory of a tournament arc, but what better way for Fushi to become stronger? That said, something tells me this doesn’t look good for old lady Pioran. Here is hoping Fushi can overcome the trials of Jananda Island.

I welcome the change of pace to more action and drama because I think there is only so much emotional devastation I can take. This twist of fate for Fushi has potential to take the series into some very intriguing destinations.

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Sights Trained | My Hero Academia Episode 103

Out of the frying pan…

Welcome to the learning portion of our work-study experience. In this module, we will have each individual voice the elements they wish to work on…then a man whose face is on fire will issue the best course of action. Okay, so it might not be the most traditional manner of training, but I’d certainly listen to a man whose face was on fire…by choice, I mean, I’d help a guy whose face was unintentionally on fire. Regardless, this episode sees Endeavour flex his kindness muscles a little, listening to the three students under his supervision and providing well-constructed responses to their self-assessed shortcomings. Does it make Endeavour a “good guy”? Not by a long shot. It does make him an interesting one, though. Endeavour may be one of the most complex figures in this whole damn series. He has done some truly abominable stuff, but he’s also saved countless people. He’s a terrible father and an equally bad husband, but he is trying to be better. Does that excuse his actions? No, of course not. Does he deserve a chance at redemption? Probably; it’s a really tough issue. That being said, this is also an anime, a place where fans unconditionally love Villains who have literally murdered dozens. So, if people can pine for Dabi or think that Toga is cute, then why can’t a repentant man find some manner of peace?

Moral quandaries aside, this episode focuses on three training of MHA‘s real Big Three and the realisation that the group who manages Pro-Heroes actively wish for work-study students to be trained as the world’s next line of defence. But not, like, when they grow into the role; like, in case the Pro-Heroes fail in fighting the threat Hawks is investigating. That’s…that’s rough. Putting aside the responsibility of forcing students to fight—because 1-A has already done that a lot—the fact that the threat of the Pro-Heroes falling is apparently more real than we had imagined…unless your imagination is particularly negative. It certainly puts some motivation behind this training arc, doesn’t it? It’s not just about polishing up skills for their eventual goal, these students may very soon be drawn into a war. And though that would certainly look cool from an anime-viewing perspective, it would probably be very bad for the characters. Because of the death and such.

P.S. It’s nice to see that Hawks recognises Tokoyami’s skill and drive, and it’s even more interesting to learn that Tokoyami is the reason Hawks developed respect for the next generation of Heroes.

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Until the End of Time | Loki Episode 5

Loki is incredible. This show is simply amazing, and this fifth episode is its best yet. This has got to be one of the most enjoyable hours of television I can recall in recent memory. The Loki-variant hijinks and the references aplenty throughout the episode were a pure delight, and the epic climax of the episode sets us up for one hell of a finale next week.

This week’s episode picked up where we left off last week, with Loki awakened by some curious looking Loki variants. He is informed that he is in a void at the end of time where a giant smoke monster named Alioth consumes all that remains and all that is sent there. However, the various Loki variants have cleverly found ways to survive in this void, making Loki the ultimate universal cockroach—not even the end of time itself seems to be able to take this bloke out.

Back in the TVA, Sylvie interrogates Judge Renslayer and gets a bit of information from her. Renslayer seems to not know who the person behind the TVA’s creation is—and maybe she genuinely doesn’t know—but pretty much everything this character has said from the very beginning of the series has been complete bullshit, so I don’t see why this would be true.

Eventually, Sylvie joins up with Loki after meeting Mobius in the void and along with the Old Man Loki, Kid Loki, and Alligator Loki, they enact a plan to enchant the smoke monster and find the man behind the curtain. Oh yeah, Mobius is alive; thank God for that. There were also a lot of really fun moments, such as all the Loki variants turning on one another and have a big brawl, but it was the tender moment of reflection between Loki and Sylvie that really struck a chord with me. These two are proof that even a Loki can change.

Now with the end reveal of some kind of castle or mansion behind the smoke monster, I am putting my money down on it being some version of Kang having been behind all this. We won’t have to wait too long though to find out, as we have less than a week until the final episode rolls out and hopefully answers all the questions we have and also do the thing that every viewer wants to see happen: Mobius riding a jet ski off into the sunset, finally happy and free. Please can we have that at least, Marvel?

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I Will Wait For You | To Your Eternity Episode 12

Sometimes predictable storytelling isn’t always a bad thing. Could you predict the outcome of this story arc from the beginning? More or less yes, you could. But it works because it makes sense that this would be Gugu’s ultimate fate: a boy who had everything good in his life taken from him, ultimately sacrificing his life to protect the good things in life that he had later found.

This is undoubtedly the most heartbreaking episode of To Your Eternity to date, and to recap it beat by beat wouldn’t do justice to this episode. The tragedy of life, love, death, and all that lies in between cannot be understated, and To Your Eternity explores this tragedy with nuance and delicacy.

Gugu’s sacrifice may have been foreshadowed and teased for quite some time but the emotional punch it packed was immense. I can’t recall a time in recent memory that I was so moved to tears by an anime series as I have been with To Your Eternity. The final scene with Rean waiting for Gugu, only to acknowledge he is no longer with them and, as tears roll down her cheek, declare her love for him, was truly poignant and beautiful in a way only sorrow can be. The same can be said for the “passing on” sequence where Gugu is living happily with Rean, Fushi, and the others with his face restored to normal; living the life we know he will never get to live, only for him to become quickly aware that his time has come.

With the Knokker having escaped and Gugu now living on through Fushi as one of his transformations, the series will now shift as Fushi sets out to track down the Knokker that took Gugu’s life. Fushi now accepts that what the Maker says is true: he cannot live a normal life, he must continue travelling the world, learning and growing, even if the melancholy of life has started to outweigh the pain of death.

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Catch a Ride | Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin

D’awww.

Monster Hunter. It’s a series synonymous with hunting monsters. I mean, not synonymous,, that implies the title doesn’t just say the thing that it is…except when it doesn’t. Well, not entirely. Is this off to a sensical start? ‘Cause it seems like it’s off to a non-sensical start. Look, what I’m getting at is that Stories is about monsters but not explicitly about hunting them…kinda. I mean, you do hunt monsters but that’s not your express goal. Okay, so it is your express goal but for different reasons than usual… Did any of that make sense?

Rambling aside, Wings of Ruin is about assuming the mantle of a Rider—someone who forms a bond with monsters. Though the world has Hunters who preserve the balance of nature through slaying dangerous and erratic monsters, Rider believe that people can forge an understanding with them and live in harmony. Of course, beliefs on both sides are refuted throughout the story, but the fact remains that monsters are what this world revolves around. More specifically, the plot revolves around Rathalos and their odd behaviour after the appearance of mysterious lights that emanate from seemingly bottomless pits that have appeared in many locations. You, the protagonist, are given the egg of Guardian Ratha, the Rathalos protector of your village, and tasked with learning more about what in the world is going on. Tale as old as time, really.

Shine on, Kinship Stone.

As you journey from place to place, you come across a myriad of familiar monstrous faces from Monster Hunter history. I’m not going to list every monster, since I’m pretty sure they number over a hundred, but I will say that there’s a high chance your favourite will appear at some point. Regardless, nabbing a monster for your team is an interesting affair. Rather than taming a creature you beat, you must find an unhatched version of any given monster. Dens appear naturally throughout the world, containing random eggs of species native to the area, allowing you to waltz in and claim a new ally. Should chance not fall in your favour, each monster has a chance to flee after they’re defeated, creating a den that only houses eggs of that species. Though the chance is fairly low, fulfilling monster-specific requirements will increase said chance—such as using a specific type of weapon or breaking a certain monster part. It’s a unique and pretty fun mechanic, though I will admit some level of frustration towards monsters who don’t return to their den after I’ve met the chance-increasing requirements multiple times. It says there’s a fifty-five percent chance you’ll retreat, Lagombi, why do you refuse to do so?

Rider-wise, you are given the option of six types of weapon; well, three if we’re being honest. Why three? Well, of the six weapons only three types of damage are represented: slashing, piercing, and blunt. Since you are able to carry three weapons to switch through on the fly, you’re probably going to settle on a representative from each category. Personally, I went with shield and sword, hunting horn, and gunlance—forgoing great sword, hammer, and bow. You’re more than welcome to carry one of each and swap between them outside of battle, I just found it better to learn and focus on the abilities of three. For example, though it lacks the multi-target strikes of the great sword, the shield and sword gives you access to counter attacks, should you be ganged up on by foes. The hunting horn gives access to team-wide buffs, as is its wont, and the gunlance allows for rapid charging of the Kinship Gauge. What is the Kinship Gauge? It’s this nifty little thing that grants you access to special skills, most noticeably the ability to ride your Monstie (the term for a monster ally) and unleash an attack so powerful that it gets a cutscene. It’s pretty cool. Even cooler if you time it with your NPC ally, combining both of your skills into a super-combo that damages every enemy. That being said…

Nice rides.

…NPCs can be dumb. If the implication wasn’t enough, you acquire a series of allies throughout the story, joining your team in their respective area and giving your team a little more oomph. Helpful. The AI choosing a Technical attack when the opponent has exclusively used Power? Unhelpful. See, battles in Stories have a scissor-paper-rock mechanic to them. If a line indicates that a monster is targeting a specific character, said character must choose the type of attack that wins that exchange—with Power beating Technical, Technical beating Speed, and Speed beating Power. The AI tends to not do this with any sense of regularity. Though, to be fair, allies lack the collection of Monsties you can acquire, meaning they are locked into their inherent techniques. Still, just because Monsties have types and specialise in one form of attack doesn’t mean they can’t use the others. Any Monsties or ally can use any type of attack…they just don’t. Looking at you, Avmar. Still, it’s nice that head-to-head clashes can end in a draw, which mitigates some of the frustration. Though, why winning one still blast you with splash damage I’ll never know.

Speaking of Monstie types and skills, did you know that they can have any of them? Of course you didn’t, I haven’t explained that yet. Whoops. Through another unique and interesting system known as the Rite of Channelling, you are able to power up your Monsties with the abilities of another. Say, for example, you love your Velocidrome’s attack that can ignore enemy speed and strike first but you don’t want said monster on your team. Well, you can pick another Monstie and have it learn that attack from Velocidrome…at the cost of losing Velocidrome. Yep, you can sacrifice Monsties and have one of their genes pass into another, which is a cool as it is grim. The idea behind this being that you should hatch oodles of eggs and use the resulting Monsties’ genes to create a squad of really tough allies—such as passing on a monster’s resistance to fire to a monster normally weak to the element. There’s also a bingo system involved in Monstie genetics, where abilities are buffed if genes of the same type or element are aligned on the three-by-three board. Or you can just ignore min-maxing and have a fire-breathing Monstie that also breathes lightning, water, and poison…not that I totally did that because it’s really cool or anything. (Note: I totally did that because it’s really cool).

Always a good omen…

So, long story short-ish, is Wings of Ruin a good game? Weird question. Games aren’t good or evil, they’re just collections of code. Is Wings of Ruin a fun game? Yeah. Yeah it is. It’s a cute game that boils down to a combination of Pokémon and Ni no Kuni: you collect monsters and fight to save a brightly coloured and borderline saccharine world. If you’re not the type to trust solely praise, I will say that the story is a little shallow, occasionally preachy, and possesses character inconsistencies that are just present to push the next message of friendship. For example, one cutscene has the squad decide to track down a monster that has been terrorising an area; the next cutscene has half the squad berate the protagonist for focusing solely on tracking said monster and pushing their Monstie too far. What? It wasn’t even the protagonist’s idea. Plus, the squad also decides to question the protagonist’s brashness after they do something that everyone has been doing for the whole game: fighting crazed monsters. It’s not a major issue, it just sort of ticked me off that characters were clearly behaving certain ways just to convey a wholesome message of love and friendship…in a world where people’s lives revolve around slaying monsters and/or stealing their unhatched young. Call me crazy, but that’s some seriously dark stuff. Anyway…fun game.

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Out of Time | Loki Episode 4

Loki may have just locked in its status as the best MCU–Disney+ series yet with this incredible fourth episode. It was one of those episodes that left you thinking it was about to cut to credits but instead it kept on going, unravelling more and more until it reached a fever pitch in its climactic final sequence that amazes and much as it intrigues. Loki really knocked it out of the ball park in an episode that was firing on all cylinders.

The episode picks up with Loki and Sylvie accepting their fate on Lamentis, holding hands as the world comes crumbling down. That is until, suddenly, this appears to cause a Nexus Event which alerts the TVA to their location. This is the first of several implications throughout the episode that Loki has taken a romantic interest in Sylvie, which is a plot thread I am still not sure how I feel about yet. After the Nexus Event hits their radar, the TVA promptly arrest them and what unfolds from here is pure brilliance. Through multiple rounds of conversation, Loki and Sylvie slowly manage to convince certain members of the TVA that they are, in fact, variants that have had their lives stolen from them. This comes a tragic head when Mobius, after discovering the truth, confronts the Judge with that knowledge and tells her, more than anywhere in space and time, he wishes he could go home to wherever he originally came from and possibly ride a jet ski if he could. The Judge orders him to be erased by her guards, which had this writer exclaiming “No!” sadly over and over until the reality set in that Mobius was no more.

That seemed like it would be the end point of the episode, but instead we are treated to a meeting with the Time Keepers themselves—with the Judge taking Loki and Sylvie to the Time Keepers in order to be erased in their presence. Things don’t go exactly to plan for the Time Keepers, thanks to one of the guards that Sylvie had enlightened about her reality earlier in the episode. Loki and Sylvie manage to fight their way through, taking out the Judge and all the guards. The Time Keepers threaten and warn Sylvie, but she responds by lobbing a blade at them and beheading their leader. Things aren’t quite as they seem though. As it turns out, the Time Keepers themselves are robots. So who exactly is running the TVA if not these fabled Time Keepers and why? It’s a question we will have to find out next week it seems, but not before one last twist hits us: with the Judge erasing Loki.

This was an episode that just kept on blowing me away with reveal after reveal. But now I am well and truly curious: what exactly is going on here? My new theory is that Kang is still behind this and had created the TVA, which is controlled by the Judge who probably is a fanatic in love with him. Kang’s goal I would imagine is to prevent a future multiverse war that actually hasn’t happened yet. He does this by trying to create a single timeline. I don’t believe at all that there is one Sacred Timeline as the TVA describes. But perhaps there is one timeline where the multiverse war doesn’t happen and Kang is trying to eliminate all other timelines to prevent it. Just a bit of a theory tossed out there.

Also, before I go, there was an awesome post credits scene here. I need to know: what is the deal with Crocodile Loki? Please tell me he gets a lot of screen time in the next episode.

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No Objections Here | The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

I’m a self-proclaimed aficionado of solving mysteries of any type. There is a great draw in finding out the who, what, where, and why. I simply can’t keep away from documentaries and games revolving around mysteries and the journey to obtaining justice. Which is why when Capcom offered me early hands-on access to The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles on PlayStation 5, I jumped at the chance.

While the collection seems to be huge in terms of many cases being available to play, all of varying lengths, even in my preview of the first case was I taken aback by the nostalgia of these series of games. Back when I owned a Nintendo DS, which seems so long ago now, the Ace Attorney games were a staple for me. Playing this, the memories flooded back. The game is set in Victorian-era Japan and Britain, with a clash of these cultures presenting itself strongly in the first case. I found myself back in the courtroom, playing as young Ryunosuke Naruhodo—a university student caught up in an unfortunate scandal—standing on trial accused of murder. It was my job to defend myself, a rookie in the system; luckily with Kazuma Asogi, defence attorney at my side to show me the ropes.

It had been years since I played a game of this nature; luckily for me, the game held my hand along the way, teaching me the concept of courtroom battle once again. Within every case, you will encounter such quirky witnesses, and will need to cross-examine each one of them in order to uncover the falsehoods within their statements. To do this successfully, you’ll also need to examine pieces of evidence brought forward within court and present these at the right time to support your claim to innocence. Throughout even just the first case, there were many points of climax where I had thought, “Here we go, I’ll finally be able to prove Ryunosuke’s innocence! They can’t possibly refute this evidence!” but boy oh boy, was I wrong. The game threw many a curveball my way, and just when you think you have hit the final nail in the coffin, something new transpires and poor Ryunosuke is left distraught at the thought of having to dig deeper within witness testimonies to prove his innocence once again. The pacing of the case is excellent with dips and crescendos in its narrative, leaving the player wondering if Ryunosuke is actually going to make it out the other side as an innocent man.

The game is similar to its predecessors: full of quirky characters, puzzling evidence to decipher, witness testimonies to breakdown and refute, over-the-top but delightful emotive animations delivered by the characters, the changing and increasing tempo of the background music when the intensity of the accusations in the courtroom grow, and—who could forget—the resounding “OBJECTION!” which the series is so well known for. The game is full of humour and witty character remarks, and I totally appreciated this amongst all of the resounding tension. This preview is but a mere scratch into the surface, but I have already experienced the series’ most beloved attributes have returned to engage us yet again. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles releases on July 27, 2021 (in Australia) on Steam (PC), Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4 (compatible with PS5 too!).

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Between the Lines | My Hero Academia Episode 102

Read it and plan.

With halls decked and bells jingled, it’s time to move on from holiday cheer into the stressful world of what it actually means to be a Hero in the world of MHA. Sort of. With the big three of 1-A all doing their work study at Endeavour’s agency, chaos and a jam-packed schedule are to be predicted. Our crew barely gets a full greeting before a self-proclaimed oracle manipulates a bunch of glass and spouts proclamations of doomsday. It’s a little bit weird. Though played for a joke, and to showcase how badass Endevour is, it proves an example of how even the low-tier threats of this world are pretty dangerous. Did Endeavour easily best Starservant (the glass guy)? Yes. Did Starservant also manipulate entire skyscrapers worth of glass into a sphere of destruction? Yes. Does that still sound dangerous? Yes: I said sphere of destruction. Still, it’s a good way to show the scale of the Pro Hero world. Case in point: that scale is terrifying.

Despite the promise of more work-study adventures to come, the bulk of this episode revolves around Hawks, who is still playing undercover Villain. Though we know little of the threat that looms on the horizon, Hawks hands Endeavour a coded message that reads: “The enemy is the liberation army. They number over a hundred thousand. In four months to action.” Sounds pretty grim if you ask me. Over a hundred thousand threats? That’s pretty bad. Remember when a dozen or so attacked the U.A. training camp? That was bad, and that was, like, less than over a hundred thousand. Also, these people expected Hawks to straight up murder a Pro Hero to prove his loyalty. I mean, I’m assuming he didn’t actually slice up Best Jeanist to the point that he could fit in a duffel bag, but these Villains are tracking Hawks every move. They new how he hesitated in deciding which coffee to buy, chances are they’d notice him not murdering someone. Let’s just all imagine that he found away around that particular obstacle and that Best Jeanist is just on a nice, denim-based vacation. You know, before the harsh reality of a “liberation army” crashes down on everything. Remember when this series was about students throwing a baseball really well? That was nice.

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With Disadvantage | Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance

Four’s a party.

Kane

Dungeon & Dragons is a fun game. You can build your own hero and delve into a world of mystery and combat coming out on the other side as a hero. But what if you don’t want to imagine all of that stuff in your brain? Well, Dark Alliance promises a more focused D&D experience, complete with pictures. I mean, it promises this, but it does fumble the delivery a little.

Okay, so this game is buggy. There’s no way around that. Playing with friends more often that not results in someone being dropped from the game, losing any loot they had collected in that run, then being unable to rejoin until the host resets the session. And that…sucks. I wants my loot, Dark Alliance, Drizzt Do’Urden has been running around with default bracers because you keep kicking me from the game. What’s up with that? Also, Dark Alliance, would you mind not preventing me from using my abilities, and also resetting my controller to default settings? ‘Cause that’d be swell.

Anywho, with that out of my system, I kinda dig this game. It’s fun. Ignoring the connection issues that will (hopefully) be patched, the gameplay is enjoyable—especially with a full party. Running around as D&D lore characters in Icewind Dale (the only level we managed to complete without issue) was cool, as was seeing a visual interpretation of these elements in motion. I mean, I’m all for imagination and building your own personal interpretation of the lore, but it’s still cool to see all of the pieces on screen. Plus, this is one of those games that actually adjusts your character model when you acquire new gear—which I always enjoy—furthering the notion that your looting ways are beneficial…and make you look like a fashion nightmare.

So, is Dark Alliance good? Maybe. I know that’s a bit non-committal, but I’m really not sure. The parts that actually worked were fun and made me want to play more, but the parts that worked were few and far between. Which sucks. So basically, wait a bit. When this game gets patched, give it a go. Until then, play some traditional Dungeons & Dragons. It’s fun, and you can tweak the rules to suit your group…assuming your DM is cool and not hung up on rules as written. All I’m saying is that there could totally be mechs in a fantasy world, and I will fight a source book to support that belief.

Nice hat.

Luke

As probably the least well-versed of the SnapThirty team when it comes to Dungeons & Dragons lore, I went into Dark Alliance as pretty much a blank slate. While I knew nothing of the lore of Dungeons & Dragons, I found myself quickly immersed in the world of Dark Alliance and its four heroes. I could go into detail about the bugs and glitches that I encountered, and believe me they were quite plentiful, but I’m going to look at the positive aspects of Dark Alliance. The biggest positive of this game, to me, was the rich detail of the world both graphically and plot-wise. There was a multitude of fine details to the plot and characters themselves, and the game explored them in a simple yet intriguing manner without hitting you over the head with exposition and endless dialogue. Furthermore, the visuals of the game are quite a sight to behold. I often found myself running off ahead of my crew just out of sheer delight to explore every inch of the world.

I found the gameplay to be straightforward and very easy to grasp. The only concept that went over my head was the small ice that apparently hurts you. I thought this was just a visual aspect of the terrain. As it turns out, I done goofed and got myself killed on multiple occasions at the hands of my icy foe. That said, the game is very accessible and there is plenty of controller customisation to be done should you desire to do so.

What ultimately stood out to me the most out of my experience with Dark Alliance was that it was, despite its bugs and glitches, a very fun game. The game has somewhat of an addictive nature to it and the combat is very satisfying. For a game that I had multiple disconnection issues with, I found myself eager more and more each time to continue playing the game simply because of how much fun it is at its core. Once this game is patched and the issues are fixed, this will no doubt be an incredible and very enjoyable game. The foundation of greatness is there, it just needs that final coat of polish.

Death is in the eye of a beholder.

Matt

I feel like Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is like a cake masterpiece where some ingredients had to be substituted and the cake was taken out of the oven a bit too early. It looks brilliant, the cake is solid and moist—sweet even—but it has an odd aftertaste…and someone keeps taking the piece of cake away for me just as I’m starting to enjoy it.

Let me explain. The visual design of the game is stunning and, despite my tabletop D&D experiences being completely in the theatre of the mind, connects like-for-like in how I pictured the D&D world to be. From the molten-lava-encrusted underground of the dark dwarves to the Goblin Pits. The combat animations feel smooth and flashy too; but, from there, that’s when the cake starts to go a tad off.

Sometimes my attacks or dodges wouldn’t properly register during heated moments of combat. A tad annoying, but I can deal with this, and it seems like it would be an easy fix/tweak. The AI combat feels like it’s working in a turn-based manner while my party is working real time, which is easily hidden when working against higher level enemies but bares its teeth when you occasionally get one-shot unexpectedly. The thing that frustrated me most about the game was the disconnects. Each mission the SnapTeam and I played, at least one person was randomly disconnected from the party. And they weren’t able to rejoin. And they didn’t get any of the gear they picked up along the way. This is one of the biggest issues we faced, and the one that made me not want to play anymore.

Which is a pity because, despite the issues listed above, the game seems like a fun four-player co-op game. It just needs more time to bake. Improve the AI, fix the critical bugs and (most importantly) the issue with the net code, and I can see a great game. Truly a diamond in the rough that could achieve enjoyment levels similar to how I feel about the Warhammer: Vermintide or Divinity Original Sin series. I don’t see myself playing this much at this current state, but I am very hopeful for the dev team to improve it over the coming months. Then I will be back, with my hours possibly upped to the triple digits.

Loot, glorious loot.

Sali

The basis of D&D: Dark Alliance is spectacular—both in lore and gameplay. I love what the game is trying to provide to the player. It is as if someone took Vermintide-ish gameplay mechanics and intertwined it with some D&D lore. The keyword here though is “trying”. The game thrives in its multiplayer environment when it functions as intended, but that was a rare occurrence. I don’t want to only focus on the negatives, but I will mention them first and get them out of the way so I can discuss the stuff I enjoyed.

Firstly: bugs, bugs, bugs galore. Like, I’m talking random disconnections from your party, settings for audio in the menu constantly resetting to the default randomly (consequently causing the audio to be deafeningly loud), abilities and ultimate moves becoming unusable mid-way through a level, many visual glitches, and poor AI. I could clearly see the potential the game had underneath all this, and kept playing for hours despite having to play around these issues. The problem here is the game is best when played in a multiplayer format with a group of friends, but with how many issues we encountered we eventually gave up. Many of us got disconnected, even once during the end-boss battle; we were booted to the menu screen with nothing to show for the last hour of battle. It was extremely discouraging and, by this point, our resolve to keep fighting these issues caved. We stopped playing.

But, all this being said, there are glimpses of really cool things in between all the mess. The lore and characters are interesting; being based within the D&D universe really had us interested from the start. The abilities are really satisfying and the satisfaction of downing a boss when playing on a higher difficulty and escaping with some substantial upgrades is there, and made me want to keep playing for more. Graphically, the game is vibrant and easy to look at. I really enjoyed learning the mechanics of making it through levels, including finding out what would harm and hinder us, and how to gain resistances to counteract this. There is so much potential, but all of it squandered by a simple inability to play the game at even a basic level. In its current form, the game requires a lot of patching. I cannot recommend the game in its current state, as I feel as though even its potential isn’t enough to save the player from the disappointment of what seems to be a lack of quality testing in the development stage.

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Not So Low-Key | Loki Episode 3

In case the premise of an near-omnipotent group of intergalactic overlords overseeing and manipulating time to their whim and will didn’t remind you of Doctor Who already, Loki‘s third episode is about as classic a Who-esque episode of television as you’ll find. Loki and his new companion Sylvie, the female Loki variant, are marooned in the year 2077 on a distant planet’s moon that is soon to be destroyed. So, how was Loki‘s take on a Doctor Who episode? Well it was pretty good actually; but, much like most Doctor Who episodes, it ended in a somewhat frustrating fashion.

The episode primarily focuses on Loki and Sylvie getting to know one another and examining the differences in their individual variant lives. As it turns out, the two seem to have lead rather different lives. We get glimpses of Syvlie’s backstory, but the show doesn’t reveal its hand fully just yet. What it does do is make it clear that Sylvie isn’t the big bad here. In fact, she seems to be rather noble in her cause because, as I had predicted in my previous write ups, it looks like the Time Keepers are bad news.

While it was interesting to dive into the psyche of both Loki and Sylvie as they traversed this desolate wasteland of a planet, and even get confirmation of Loki’s bisexuality, it felt like this was ultimately a bit of a filler episode. A lot of it featured some fun character moments—like drunk Loki on the train or the cool single-take scene at the end—but bar the big reveal that all the TVA agents are variants themselves, it felt like a somewhat unsubstantial episode that meandered its way to that big reveal moment. Furthermore, it frustratingly ended without Loki and Sylvie getting out of the situation, which means more time will be dedicated to it next week. I hope that we can move on quickly from here and back to exploring the more interesting aspects of the story.

Now that we are at the halfway point for the series, it looks like Loki will now be heading towards the ultimate end goal of confronting and revealing the Time Keepers. There are plenty of theories floating about online about their identity/identities; I’d like to posit a different theory, however. What if Mobius were actually a variant of Loki’s mother, Frigga? There has been a lot of emphasis put on the relationship between Loki and Frigga in this series and I for one think it would explain Mobius’ trust and interest in Loki. That said, it is a bit of a stretch and Mobius is most likely just some bloke that loves jet skis. Either way, now that we are starting to get some answers, I hope that Loki continues to pull back the curtain on the TVA, going forward.

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Knokkin’ on Death’s Door | To Your Eternity Episode 11

After the shocking time skip that closed out last week’s episode of To Your Eternity, I was surprised to see that the episode that followed it spent most of its run time catching up with the characters and having them finally connect the dots of their shared histories. This “Gugu Arc” has proved to have some major highs and lows and just as it has started to feel as though it is spinning its wheels, the episode ends on a very literal cliffhanger as the deadly Knokkers decide to rock back up again.

The majority of this weeks runtime is dedicated to building a false sense of security. The Knokkers have apparently not attacked in the four year time skip and the characters have been living peacefully ever since. Rean has come around to her feelings for Gugu and with her imminent sixteenth birthday party on the horizon, her parents will be forcing her into marriage, as is the tradition. There is a bit of back and forth of both Gugu and Rean trying to get the message across to the other that they want to be together, but naturally they can’t quite spit it out.

Eventually, things take a turn at Rean’s birthday party where the truth comes out about just about everything. She learns that Gugu was the one who saved her as a child and, in doing so, permanently disfigured his face in the accident. She learns that Gugu was the boy she had given her ring to at the marketplace when they were both children. All of these miraculous encounters have a feeling of fate: almost as if they are destined for one another. Just as they are about to come to some kind of common understanding about their mutual love, the Knokkers suddenly attack and break the balcony they are standing on. Gugu pushes Rean to safety and we end with Gugu literally hanging from the cliff, seemingly about to fall to his death on the rocks below.

I think we are well and truly in the final stage of the Gugu Arc now, with everything out in the open and the characters’ emotional journeys at their natural end point. I think old mate Gugu may not survive next week’s proceedings, judging by the series’ history thus far. Fushi will need to put what he has learned in those 4 years to use if he hopes to save Gugu and Rean from what seems to be an even more powerful Knokker than ever encountered thus far. I know Gugu has been waving a red flag above his head for the past couple episodes now, but I would like to see him have a happy ending. Is that too much to ask? Or is pain all I can hope for?

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But Once a Year | My Hero Academia Episode 101

Eat, drink, and be rowdy.

It’s Christmas! Well, not really, not here in the real world, but it is in the not-exactly-real-but-we-wish-it-was world. Though not the crux of the episode, it’s still nice to see the 1-A crew having some fun. I mean, the fighting is cool and all, but all work and no play makes people go a little batty—which is probably particularly bad in a world of Quirks. Regardless, the crew has a merry old time and parties hearty…while Narrator Midoriya ominously mulls over the tragedies looming on the horizon. Fun. Still, we know some serious business is up ahead since the head honchos of Hero society have decreed that work experience is now mandatory. Though an excuse to get our cast back into some cool action sequences, I like that the teachers of U.A. discuss the reasons behind the decision. They know there must be some terrible threat, they know that society is about to need every able body it can get, they know that they’re throwing their students into peril…but they don’t exactly have a choice. It’s…it’s pretty dark.

Flipping to the more light-hearted aspects of this series, Mt. Lady makes a surprise appearance, along with Midnight, to teach the students about camera presence (and also to fan service the hell out of their introduction, because anime). Though initially appearing a vain as ever, Mt. Lady actually reveals some character development, expressing how a Hero’s confidence and charm during television appearances can calm the public, warn off Villains, and allow other Heroes to consider them for team ups. The whole situation is still played for laughs—with Midoriya freezing up to the point that Kirishima wonders if he also has Hardening, and Bakugo’s…Bakugo-ness—but knowing there’s a method to the madness puts a fun, new spin on things. Speaking of madness, it looks like the work studies will see Midoriya, Bakugo, and Todoroki all working with Endeavour…and that can only go well…right?

P.S. Shigaraki destroyed and entire town.

P.P.S. Shigaraki wasn’t wearing his hand-mask.

P.P.P.S. Did I mention that Shigaraki destroyed and entire town?

P.P.P.P.S. 1-A all have individualised pom-poms on their Santa hats…it’s adorable.

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Under the Hood | Loki Episode 2

We didn’t have to wait long to find out exactly who was beneath the hood on Loki. As it turns out, it isn’t Loki as we know it. In fact, it appears to be a female variant of Loki who is hellbent on the glorious purpose of nuking the Sacred Timeline and making a right mess of the work of the mysterious Time Keepers.

After a failed mission and a heaping helping of scheming, our Loki seems to uncover the true location of the rogue variant: hiding in the chaotic nexus null points of apocalyptic events. This was a pretty clever discovery by Loki who, in comparison with the agents of the TVA, seems to be quite a genius. The TVA agents honestly seem like complete fools. Did no one ever consider some kind of projectile or range-based weapon? That probably would help a lot more than the effectively useless time batons.

Things ultimately lead to Loki and Mobius leading a raid on an apocalyptic event in 2050 which, as it turns out, is the hiding spot of the variant Loki. The variant uses their powers to enchant multiple people and converse with Loki before enacting their plan to drop reset charges to various time points across the Sacred Timeline. We learn that the variant isn’t like the Loki we know and doesn’t even like to be called Loki—she is a lady as well, don’t you know?

What exactly being a female variation of Loki means for the story going forward is anyone’s guess. We see our Loki escape into a portal with the female Loki at episode’s end, and it seems almost like Lady Loki had intended for him to follow. My guess is that Lady Loki isn’t so bad after all, and perhaps it is the Time Keepers who are Wizard of Oz-ing everybody and enslaving the people of the TVA as the braindead agents of their control over time.

One way or another the TVA does not appear to be all its cracked up to be, and Loki pokes countless holes in the reality presented by the TVA during a conversation of Mobius. Things certainly aren’t so simple and, as Loki references earlier, the bad people aren’t truly bad and the good people aren’t truly good. I’m willing to bet next week we will get a bit of a explanation from Lady Loki about what is actually going on here. For now, my money is on the Time Keepers being the real big bads of the series.

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Growing Up | To Your Eternity Episode 10

This is what you call a turning point episode. Last week left us hanging, as Fushi and Gugu were in a perilous situation as they were confronted by an “unknowable enemy” in the forest. Things kick off in hot fashion here, as we dive head first into the battle with Fushi trying to protect Gugu from this otherworldly monster.

This is without question the most dangerous situation Fushi has found himself in thus far, and he is keenly aware of the threat this “unknowable enemy” poses. Fushi orders Gugu to run, but that’s just not the type of bloke that Gugu is. Instead of running, Gugu formulates a plan to fight back and after a brief retreat to the brewery to stock up on alcohol for his belly, Gugu returns; aided by a flaming torch and the liquor in his belly, Gugu takes down the monster in the woods with the power of the flame—restoring Fushi’s various forms to him.

Among all this violence we get Gugu confessing his love to Rean, her family discovering she had been living at the brewery, and the Maker naming the unknowable enemies as “Knokkers”. These all pale in comparison to the surprise that is a four-year time skip. This took me by surprise but, as far as things from a story point, it was a necessity to progress things forward now.

The time skip shows that Gugu has become jacked to the rafters, as he is now a buff, muscular man. Rean doesn’t appear changed too much, other than being a bit taller. The most intriguing change, however, is in Fushi, who has actually aged over time in his main form as the white-haired boy. While previously he had shown no signs of aging in his forms, it appears in his time spent as a family with Gugu and the brewers he has grown like a regular human being.

This time skip has certainly shaken up the very foundation of the series, but it was the mysterious conversation between Fushi and the Maker that left me most curious as to what lies ahead. The Maker demanded Fushi to leave Gugu and move on. Fushi denied him. He defied his creator. The Maker did not seem pleased. What he has planned is anyone’s guess, but something tells me it can’t be good. These happy days seem to be fleeting.

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Filling in the Blanks | My Hero Academia Episode 100

It’s the sincerest form of flattery.

The matches are over and it’s time to roll on into our next story arc…soon. Not this week. This week is a bit of a wind down, with characters mulling over the important moments of the 1-A–1-B clash. The most pressing issue touched upon is, of course, the emergence of Blackwhip. Since this is the first indication from any holder that One For All has latent Quirks within it, nobody has any idea what to do—even All Might is at a loss. The deepest we get is Bakugo’s statement that this new development links One For All and All For One even further, noting One For All’s existence is because of All For One and that they are the only known Quirks that allow people to wield multiple abilities. It’s an astute observation, one that furthers the notion that these Quirks are still almost alien concepts in a world of insane powers. Midoriya’s ability to seemingly lock parts of One For All away is also a fairly unique skill. Todoroki, for example, simply didn’t use his fire powers, he never actually sealed them away; Midoriya willed Blackwhip to recede. It’s a difference that places One For All in a more spiritual category than other Quirks. It is a part of Midoriya’s body, but it’s also separate from him in a way. It’s still cool though.

This episode also gives us a check in with Eri, everybody’s favourite bundle of emotionally healing joy. In order to help train her in using her Quirk, Aizawa organises for Monoma (everybody’s least favourite) to try and copy it. Though the attempt fails, it does show an interesting aspect of Monoma’s Quirk, being that he could be a fantastic teacher. What better way to teach somebody to wield a strange Quirk? Copy it and learn with them; use your wisdom to help them develop it. Heck, Monoma could use it with his classmates to create new moves. I mean, he probably won’t, but it’d be cool and more than a little redemptive. Regardless, the failure to copy also details what the “blanks” that Monoma has been talking about are. If a Quirk requires the accumulation of something to work (such as One For All’s stockpiling of power) the it won’t work for Monoma. He copies the Quirk at its core: at its base level. This does two things: it tells us that Eri’s Quirk requires a fuel of sorts, and it shows us how the first wielder of One For All existed. How the first learnt that the Quirk accumulated power I’ll never know, but it’s a good thing he did. Also, how does an accumulation Quirk work if it is locked in one body? Would the first have gotten stronger over his life? How strong? I know it’s a bit late in the game to be asking these questions, but Blackwhip just changed the game; so, maybe we do need to go back to the beginning, Cocomon-style.

P.S. Bakugo and Todoroki got their Provisional Hero Licences and immediately beat-up a bunch of Villains. Good for them…for Bakugo and Todoroki I mean, not…not the Villains.

P.P.S. Calling back to the Sports Festival via Todoroki’s worry that Midoriya was holding back in their fight was a fairly understated moment. That fight changed a lot for Todoroki; it was nice to see the series, and Midoriya, briefly recall that and assuage Todoroki’s worry.

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A Trickster in Time | Loki Episode 1

Loki’s character arc had always been defined by his quest for one thing above all else: glorious purpose. This first episode of Disney Plus’ Loki makes it clear what that glorious purpose ultimately was: that being to help unite The Avengers and set them on their path to eventually save the universe from Thanos. As Loki watches his entire life play out in the final moments of the episode, the reality sets in that that glorious purpose was achieved, but this version of Loki now stands purposeless.

The series picks up where we last saw Loki in Avengers: Endgame as he teleported away from the Battle of New York using the Tesseract. He is quickly picked up by Minutemen of the TVA (a.k.a. The Time Variance Authority). The TVA is an organisation that exist outside of time and space and monitor and maintain the “Sacred Timeline” as determined by the three great Time Keepers. Loki has become a variant and, as such, the TVA have now put him to trial for his crime against the Sacred Timeline.

We learn that there is a variant that is causing dramas throughout time, and we are introduced to Mobius as played (by Owen Wilson) who is tasked with investigating the case. The chemistry between Owen Wilson and Tom Hiddleston is absolutely fantastic here, and the scenes between their characters, Mobius and Loki, were a joy to watch. Mobius sees that Loki isn’t simply a villain and concocts a plan to use Loki to assist with his rogue variant problem.

One thing that stood out to me about Loki is that the show doesn’t make the same mistakes that WandaVision and, to a lesser extent, Falcon and the Winter Soldier made. It makes it pretty evident from the get go what this series is about and what you can expect. WandaVision took a few episodes to get going and it did ultimately turn off some viewers. Loki bursts out of the gate and hooks you in immediately.

The big twist reveal at the end of the episode has certainly got me excited for what is to come and, I must say, Tom Hiddleston really did an incredible job selling his range of emotions as he watched the various moments of the life that this Loki will never get to live. It was very poignant, and the tragedy behind the characters is understated in Hiddleston’s brilliant performance. I am very keen to see how this variant of Loki finds his own glorious purpose, and I think this may be an absolute home run for Marvel if they manage to stick the landing here.

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Here Be Dragon Clan | Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection

Of course I want to bloody continue!

In the list of things that everybody thinks are cool, ninja rank pretty high. I mean, they probably definitely committed a lot of murder, but fiction seems to really enjoy a lot of murder. And, ethics aside, it usually makes for some pretty compelling stories. Case in point: Ninja Gaiden. If you’ve ever wanted to experience what it’s like to be a legendary assassin who commits legendary amounts of carnage, then have I got a collection of games for you. More specifically speaking: Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.

Full disclaimer: I have never played a Ninja Gaiden game before; so, any element present in this re-release collection is new to me. So, while it might be well known or nostalgic to you, I had no idea that Hayabusa Village is the most flammable collection of buildings in either hemisphere. Seriously, better construction and a more thorough fire-prevention plan would’ve cut Ryu’s need for adventures dramatically. Also, Ryu is the main character: I assume you know that, but maybe you’ve never played these games either. Long story short: bad guys burn down his village, steal some object and/or person, Ryu goes out and murders everybody for the sake of revenge and/or justice. That’s the story. That’s all of the stories. Not the most original premise, but Ninja Gaiden certainly makes up for that by throwing everything it thinks is cool into the mix. I was not expecting these elements.

Ironically, the dragon’s name means “human”.

The prologue of the first game would have you believe that this is a series rooted in the world of ninjas, of honour, tradition, and ancient techniques. Then you finish the prologue and wind up on a blimp fighting a guy straight out of Warhammer. It’s quite a shift; one for the better. The unexpected pivot immediately grabbed my interest, interest that was kept and tested throughout the trilogy. I don’t want to give everything away, but the second game may or may not feature a demon who uses lighting to animate the Statue of Liberty…it does…it does have that. Does the third game have a one-on-one fight between Ryu and a futuristic jet? It does. It does have that. Why? I have no idea, but it’s awesome. The games consistently ramp up the spectacle, and I’m kinda down for that. The increased focus on drama and spectacle also lead to the franchise providing Ryu with slightly more personality, transforming him from a faceless vessel of fury and murder into a vessel of fury and murder who occasionally takes his mask off. The third game also has him question his penchant for murder somewhat, though it does this in between missions where Ryu carves his way through an entire mercenary force; so, that message gets a little garbled.

Speaking of murder…the gameplay is mostly murder. As a skilled ninja, Ryu has access to a tremendous amount of tools that aid in his quests for revenge/justice/world safety. More than skins for the thematically important Dragon Sword, Ryu can utilise nunchaku, tonfa, a staff, a scythe, a kusarigama, a bow, a cannon, and various forms of swords to slaughter his foes. In addition to being awesome, these weapons alter the combos you can perform, granting some variation to the combat. Though these weapons likely perform better against certain enemies, chances are that you’ll just find your favourite and roll with that. The second game makes this element of the franchise even cooler by staggering weapon upgrades throughout the story. Certain shopfronts in the game allow you to upgrade on weapon a single time, leading to a more vested interest in your gear. The third game relegates this, and all upgrades, to a point system which, while more convenient, takes some of the charm out of things. Also, the fact that the weapons change design as they level is fun, though said change in design generally means adding excessive amounts of spikes and blades to an already spiky and blade-y weapon.

Everybody needs a little time off…from murder.

In addition to weapons, Ryu also has the ability to use ninpo: a series of magical(?) skills to aid in murder. Usually elemental in nature, these skills can be used in conjunction with weaponry to truly decimate foes. Basically, put up a whirling vortex of fire and smack guys with a staff while they burn. Brutal, but effective. Outside of this, Ryu’s ninja skills allow for dramatic traversal in designated locations. This basically boils down to plot progressing wall runs, wall climbs, and sky dives (Though that last one is an addition of the third game). The mechanics behind these movements also generally improve as the games progress, as controlling Ryu’s direction in the first game can be…frustrating. Also, Ryu can run on water, which is neat.

Now, not trying to bury the lede or anything, the playthrough of this collection may or may not have involved use of Hero Mode…although it definitely did. For those unaware, Hero Mode grants Ryu a period of unlimited ninpo when his health is low, whilst also auto-blocking for a period of time. This mode saves the game for people like me: people who aren’t very skilled at video games and would prefer to not ram my head through a concrete wall in frustration over how often I’m seeing a game-over screen. Though the soul-crushing difficulty somewhat eases over the trilogy, there is no way I would’ve made it through the first game without Hero Mode. The combination of difficulty and dated controls is a real roadblock to enjoyment. Those damn sewer worms are a prime example of how frustrating this game certain;y is on higher difficulties. A one-hit kill move? Why do they even exist in games at all? Also, don’t have a multi-phase boss fight in a franchise known for difficult boss fights. I mean, you can, some people enjoy that kind of torture, but gee whizz. So, yeah…Hero Mode is good.

Ryu, where are my pants?

So, Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection, should you play it? I don’t know, I’m not you. Do you have nostalgia for the franchise? Then give this a go. Have you always wanted to give Ninja Gaiden a go but have been afraid about the difficulty? Then give this a go and proudly play Hero Mode. Sure this is a franchise known for highly skilled play and an unforgiving difficulty curve/spike, but it’s also a franchise where a ninja avenges the (first) burning of his village by killing the flame-headed fiend/ghost samurai who commits said burning…after having already been killed himself. Also, that’s the tamest storyline. You know, /cause the lightning demon who brings the Statue of Liberty to life is the second game’s first boss. The first boss. Yeah, this collection is utter bedlam…and that’s pretty darn cool. Oh, and Ryu definitely improves on his heroic timing after the first game’s prologue. Because, wow, that guy was not good at arriving just before a woman he knew succumbed to her injuries. Yikes.

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An Unknowable Enemy | To Your Eternity Episode 9

After what has been a period of relative downtime for the series, it looks like we are well and truly about to see things kick into gear once again. While this week’s episode largely revolves around the developing relationships between Gugu, Fushi, and Rean, it’s the climactic return of the “unknowable enemy” that truly shakes up the status quo the show has been building.

Through a bit of backstory, we see that Rean and Gugu had lead complete polar opposite lives. Rean was always doted on by hired help in her family’s mansion estate, whereas Gugu spent his years as an orphan working as hired help for the rich never truly knowing a family of his own.

There are some sweet moments where the two bond over their respective wounds. Things quickly get out of control, however, as Rean’s family have finally come to find her—after we learn she had run away from home to live with Gugu and Fushi at the brewery. Just as it seems our heroes may have avoided capture, an onslaught of danger suddenly sends this episode into a darker terrain.

The Maker suddenly appears before Fushi and criticises him for having learned nothing in his time here—warning him to proceed with caution from here. Fushi fails to do so and the “unknowable enemy” returns, leaving Fushi bloody and laying in a precarious position. The situation becomes more dire as Gugu runs to Fushi’s aid, unaware of the otherworldly being that has just slain his perhaps not-so-immortal brother.

The episode concludes in this shocking fashion with The Maker watching on as Fushi and Gugu must somehow survive an attack from this relentless foe. Waiting for the next episode of this show always feels like an eternity and with things heating up like this it is even more so.

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Thread and Thrum | My Hero Academia Episode 99

And he thought using this Quirk was a pipe dream.

And so, the battle continues. Confident that that the students’ determination will carry them past the hurdle of Midoriya seemingly exploding with darkness, Aizawa allows the fifth match of the 1-A–1-B struggle to continue. Is that the most responsible choice? Probably not, but nothing about this entire school is responsible. Remember the entry exam? There were robots the size of buildings. Things have been shady since day one. Regardless, the continuation allows us to see the characters we care/know about to do their thing. Midoriya wills his way through yet another One-For-All-based hurdle, Shinso resolves himself to show the results of his training, Mineta pervs all over both teams, and Uraraka beats the crap out of people…also Monoma acts like an annoying jerk. Also also, isn’t it against the rules for a captured student to interfere with the battle? Did I imagine that, or is Monoma a cheater in addition to being insufferable. Sure, the guy had a rough go with accepting his Quirk only lets him copy people, but man does he suck. If a positive could be taken from him being around, it’s that he makes Shinso seem even nicer and stronger willed. That’s it. God, I dislike Monoma.

That aside, this episode serves to tease us a little in regards to Blackwhip. Amped up by One For All, Midoriya himself notes that he won’t be using it for quite some time. It’s like when a video game starts you with all of a character’s powers, only to flashback to before that point in time. We know where we’re heading; we’re just not sure how long it’ll be until we get there. Also, One For All has six more Quirks bumping around in there; so, things are going to get pretty wild. Speaking of, I was surprised that Mineta had a pretty decent moment to show of his skills. I mean, he obviously ruined it by being a creep, but it’s always fun to see how joke characters can be formidable. He certainly doesn’t stand up to Uraraka’s ability to judo chop people into unconsciousness, but it’s something. Also, why doesn’t everybody learn Gunhead Martial Arts? That stuff is dangerous. Seriously, is Uraraka the one person who learnt to fight in a way that doesn’t rely on her Quirk? It’s a good idea. I mean, everybody expects Iida to run and kick; imagine if he just strolled up and used karate or something. Throw everyone for a loop it would. Okay, let’s meet in the middle and say muay Thai: immediate spike in threat level. Think about it…or don’t, I’m not the boss of you.

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To Be a Monster | To Your Eternity Episode 8

What makes us human and what makes us monsters? Perhaps both are intrinsically linked as if two sides of the same coin, only a flip away from one becoming the other. This week’s episode of To Your Eternity explores this thought in great detail, as we see Gugu continue to come to terms with his new existence as the monster beneath the helmet.

Things kick off with a rather strange turn of events with Rean, the wealthy girl that Gugu had saved from the falling log randomly, asking to move in and work at the brewery they are all living in. The old man who runs the brewery quickly accepts her request. Why she has asked to move in and work there remains a mystery throughout the episode.

Gugu and Fushi later have somewhat of a fight when Gugu is testing the extent of Fushi’s abilities, which causes him pain. However, things take a turn when Gugu realises the extent of which the old man had altered his body when he saved him. Other than Gugu now having some kind of monstrosity of a face (which we haven’t yet seen), the old man had also implanted some kind of alcohol distillery device inside of him as some sort of twisted experiment. Gugu, upon learning this, decides to leave the brewery and return to his tent he once shared with his brother.

Fushi having had the fight with Gugu earlier on refuses to look for him and tries to take on Gugu’s duties and tasks at the brewery, to disastrous results, and without Gugu he begins to fall into a depressive state. Meanwhile, Gugu has returned to his old life and tries to continue his farm work and selling vegetables in the local marketplace. However, the young boy who was once welcome in these places is now treated as a monster by the townsfolk. The only person who, after seeing his true face, doesn’t push him away is the farmer who employs him. However, due to the bullying and hostility of his fellow workers and the farmer’s son, Gugu is run off from the job as well.

Stranded with no job and no money, Gugu is stuck on the streets of the town begging for work of any kind. In desperation, he tries to sell the ring that Rean had given him in the previous episode but ultimately decides against it. After some more wandering, he finds his brother that had abandoned him drunk and passed out in an alley way looking like he is on death’s door. Gugu gives him the ring in hopes that he can sell it and become a better man. He reflects that selling that ring won’t do any good for a “monster” like himself. This is a moment of kindness that Gugu extends to his brother who had shown him nothing but pain; who left him alone to fend for himself. It shows that Gugu, despite his appearance, isn’t the real monster, it is the people who judge him and treat him cruelly that are the true monsters.

The episode reached its climax with Gugu being kidnapped by some of the guys who bullied him earlier in the episode. They are planning to sell him to some kind of “monster” collector, that is until Fushi appears and saves Gugu. Fushi admits that he can’t grow up and learn without Gugu, and the two brothers make amends with Gugu remarking that they are both monsters and that shared trait is what bonds them.

Overall, this was a nice episode exploring the tragedy of Gugu’s existence that did a great job at portraying how crucial he is, and will be, to Fushi’s development. Where the plot goes from here is anyone’s guess, as there wasn’t much hint at a direction following that final reunion moment. I am still concerned that Gugu may not be long for this world considering the series’ history; but, regardless of that, it’s clear that this monster boy has made his mark on Fushi.

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A War of Lords | Samurai Warriors 5

This will be on the test.

If history class has taught us anything…it’s history. More specifically, and less obviously, it expresses how people have pretty much been the same throughout the ages. You’ve got mean people, nice people, people who flip-flop between the two, innocent people, guilty people, cool people, weird people, people who are really loud and obnoxious, people who give stern looks to the obnoxious people, and at least a handful of people who think their era could really use some tidying up. Samurai Warriors 5 gives us all of these people…and, like, a really high body count.

Delving once more into the much-explored Sengoku (Warring States) period of Japan’s history, this latest instalment in the Samurai Warriors spin-off franchise is set to explore the rise of a fairly prominent figure: one Oda Nobunaga. Having never played a Samurai Warriors title before, I was rather intrigued by this, as my only experience with this tumultuous historical period had Oda pegged as a villain. To be fair, said experience came from other video games and anime, so take my knowledge with a grain of salt. Still, it’s always interesting to see how history is utilised, tweaked, and romanticised to make an entertaining property; so, the question then becomes: is this an entertaining property?

…this isn’t going to end well for you.

Short answer: yes. Samurai Warriors 5 is a fun experience if you are looking for some mindless chaos. In my brief preview of the game—being the first two chapters of I don’t know how many—I tore through roughly ten thousand samurai…a chapter. There is, just, so much wanton destruction…and I kinda dig it. This isn’t a game devoted to realistic violence, or blood, or gore; instead, swinging a sword can create a shockwave that quite literally decimates an opposing force. There’s a sense of catharsis in actually being as powerful as video games claim a protagonist is: knowing that you can stroll into a literal war, claim that thousands of opponents against you makes it a fair fight, and mean it. The game also knows that this power fantasy is what people want, as immediately after starting it up an option appeared asking if I wanted to activate Easy mode. I can’t think of many games that don’t use that option as a punishment/insult after you fail enough times, let alone ones that proudly display it as an option. Personally, I’m a fan of Easy. Let me frolic with reckless abandon; don’t tell me that my aversion of hair-tearing challenge is a weakness.

Pivoting to the specifics of the aforementioned slaughter, Samurai Warriors 5 provides you a handful of characters and weapons to cause it. Your primary vessel into battle is, of course, Nobunaga: the man of the hour and the one around whom the story revolves. He rocks a sizable sword—an odachi, to be specific—allowing for sweeping swings that tear through enemies. That being said, the sword is not king in this world; at least, not gameplay-wise. Provided through the opportunity to play as Nobunaga’s various allies, you will also be able to fight using spears, naginata (which is, like, not quite a spear), bows, katana (like an odachi, only smaller), ninja blades (smaller still, plus a shuriken side-arm), hammers, kusarigama, and talismans/shikigami. Though the wide-swathing destruction they cause is all pretty similar, their combos vary enough that you’ll find a favourite. Personally, I found that the ninja sword provides a fun blend of melee and ranged combos and lends itself to a feeling of speed over power. Still, no weapon or character will play well if you skimp on the upgrades.

I’m on a horse.

Oh yeah, there’s levelling…like, a lot of levelling. And frankly, it’s a double-edged sword. There will always be a joy to seeing your character’s numbers and stat bars increase, but it’s also a necessity in this game. Increasing a character’s level, their skills, their mastery with a type of weapon, and the skills on said weapon are what stand between this game being mindless fun and a chore. Unfortunately, the story’s tendency to make you play as characters before you have a chance to upgrade them put a limiter on your freedom from level to level. New characters also enter your roster at a decent enough level, but chances are you just spent your accrued experience on the characters you already played; so, tough luck. And I’m not even talking about the lack of skills or upgrades to speed and defence: it’s attack power. Not upgrading that will leave you hacking at a nobody for way too long to fell them. Your Oda could tear through a map with the gear you’ve built up, but you have to play as Akechi and you’ve never used katana before: good luck. I mean, it’s not game breaking or anything, but playing as Momochi for the first time in chapter two left me with an average impression of what kusarigama can do. Also, that was an escort mission: which leads me to my biggest complaint about this game…

Everyone who isn’t you is terrible. Every NPC ally, ever playable character you’re not currently playing as, they all just stand around and get beat up by regular foot-soldiers…on Easy. For this reason, missions can devolve into you simply running around to keep your allies alive, lest you fail the mission. Multiple times I would see an ally stationary on the map, only to discover that they were stuck behind a barrel or running into a wall. That’s not even mentioning the mini-map littered with red and blue dots, meaning you may not even know where an ally is being attacked, or that there was even an ally there in the first place. Yes, important characters provide you with information mid-battle, but I can’t speak Japanese and the text boxes can become a little lost in the chaos of slaying five-hundred men with one sword swing. I guess this all definitely makes you replay maps at a later point, since you’ll need late-game upgrades to compensate for the AI and achieve that coveted S-rank in every objective, but that’s putting a very positive spin on my grievances.

How’s that for a combo, Devil May Cry?

All that being said, I enjoyed playing the early chapters of Samurai Warriors 5. Yes, it has its issues which can gnaw at you—especially when you’re tasked with protecting an NPC who seems programmed to run into harm’s way and then escape by running away from the objective—but that was only overtly prevalent in one level. For the most part, I simply enjoyed being an overpowered combatant in a world of possibly accurate historical war. Again, my knowledge of the period is sparse, but everyone probably wasn’t actually that in-shape and attractive. Although, good for them if they were.

Do battle.

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Legacy Weapon | My Hero Academia Episode 98

Cool whip.

And so, we now return you to your regularly scheduled Midoriya drama. Yep, not five minutes back in focus and Midoriya is already busting up the 1-A–1-B matches with some new, decidedly interesting lore. Remember how Midoriya is the ninth wielder of One For All? Well, turns out the previous eight weren’t all Quikless…who’da thunk? I mean, the idea probably should have crossed our minds (congrats if it did for you), but it’s a pretty neat twist on what has already been established. Thisis what I love about this series: none of the twists and revelations seem tacked on, like they’re new ideas that forcible retcon everything. Each discovery feels like…a discovery. A piece of information that we didn’t know but was always true. Our data was based solely on All Might and the first wielder: they were Quirkless, just like Midoriya. It was an assumption that One For All was a torch passed on to those who were born without the power to fight the Villains that plagued it. We were wrong.

And so, it turns out that Jack from Madworld was a previous holder of One For All, with his Quirk, Blackwhip, explosively manifesting and kicking this whole legacy shake-up off. As rough-and-tumble as the guy looks, his lingering spirit seems genuinely supportive of Midoriya, giving him advice on how to begin wielding his new power. I’m personally a fan of how he tells Midoriya that anger isn’t an innate evil that he should avoid, but a source of strength he should learn to control. I’ve just never been a big fan of anime that insist that characters should never, ever fight angry: half of the time their friends and family are in mortal peril, characters are going to be a touch irked. Anyway, it’s also interesting to see how One For All is far deeper than we assumed; not only in its multi-Quirk nature, but in the strengthening presence of the previous holders within it. These spirits span back to the dawn of the Quirk; throughout the history of All For One: that’s gotta be useful. Also, probably pretty terrifying, given that All For One was able to sense One For All’s awakening. That…that’s probably going to come back in a big way.

P.S. I still don’t like Monoma. Though the match wasn’t cancelled after Midoriya’s outburst, the dude still leapt at the chance to attack an obviously rattled, possibly injured person. Also, his “bonding” with Shinso over their perceived-as-evil Quirks cam across as a much less likable reflection of when Aoyama did the same to Midoriya.

P.P.S. I just…I just really don’t like Monoma.

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Brotherhood and Family | To Your Eternity Episode 7

It looks like Fushi may be entering into a period of peacetime following his dangerous encounter with the monster in the woods in the previous episode. We learned a lot about the Maker of Fushi and the behind the scenes omnipotent beings pulling the strings, but things slow down a bit now as Fushi meets the curious young boy named Gugu.

Gugu is a poor boy living in a small tent on a hill with his elder brother. He makes money by working the fields and selling fruit and vegetables in the town marketplace. It’s a small yet simple existence. Both Gugu and his elder brother watch out at a mansion beyond the hills and dream of a different life. Despite their struggles, Gugu admires his older brother, and as long as they have each other they will be alright. Then he returns one day to find his elder brother has taken all of their money and hit the bricks. Gugu is devastated.

What unfolds next is a moment that could only be described as the wheels of fate turning. Gugu saves a young wealthy maiden who had shown him kindness at the marketplace earlier; as a massive log has begun rolling down hill, he pushes her out of the way but winds up having the log crush his head. He is discovered and saved by a quirky old man who repairs his face, but Gugu—horrified by his “ugly” appearance—decides to permanently don a mask.

Eventually, Fushi and the old woman rock up and Gugu and Fushi quickly build a brotherly relationship, with Gugu taking on the elder brother role and teaching Fushi about life and the world around them. You can see that Gugu wants to be the elder brother his own blood brother wasn’t able to be for him. This is somewhat reminiscent of March taking on the mother role with Fushi—a role she would not live to fulfil otherwise.

The episode ends with the young maiden appearing and encountering Gugu and Fushi; however, she has no recollection of Gugu, likely because he now obscures his face with a mask/helmet. It’s evident this is the beginning of the next story arc and, judging by the pattern that seems to be forming, I’m somewhat concerned for the well-being of Gugu, since he may as well be wearing a red shirt at this point. I’d like to be surprised though, so let’s see what direction they take.

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Existential Crisis of a Rodent’s Mind | Biomutant

The premise of Biomutant is interesting to say the least, and with it being Experiment 101’s biggest (and only) title yet, there is a lot of promise to live up to. If you consider the amount of RPG’s out these days, especially those with open worlds to explore, there is an abundance of competition that Biomutant is going up against. The real question is: what sets this game apart from the rest, and is it enjoyable enough to recommend?

As I entered into the menus and was prompted to create my own character, I was delighted. Apart from being the most adorable fox-like persona my heart could wish for, I really appreciated the character creator. You see, when creating my character, the system provided to you dictates that the body type of your character is dictated simply by the attributes you have chosen. Simply put, if you choose to play a tanky, highly-damaging character, your body shape will mutate into a broad-shouldered, buff type. If you choose to be ninja-like and quick on your feet, your character will appear more lanky and nimble. Most would say this is a negative, and would say that they would want to dictate how their character appears down to every miniscule detail; I for one am glad that I do not have to go through a list of finicky sliders to choose every little aspect of how my character should look. I can appreciate that “mutating” your character against some chosen attributes makes the choice at the beginning easier and quicker, and allows you to get into the game a lot faster. No matter which class you end up choosing, you will still be adorable after it all…and isn’t that what really matters?

The game really impresses with its environment and aesthetic. The UI is simplistic and clear, which makes things easy to navigate. The world itself is super vibrant, almost like someone cranked up a saturation filter over the entire game—but this is a good thing in this case. The environment is one of the game’s strengths, in terms of its visual appeal and vibrancy. Although being pretty, the environment itself leaves a bit to be desired, in terms of feeling a bit empty. With such a large map, there is often many places to go but nothing to be found. When you enter buildings, items within the environment that you can collect are highlighted for you to see. This is nice, as opposed to searching any and every environmental item which may or may not have something to pick up—which is something a lot of games do. The thing is, some location feel empty; apart from having a couple collectable items strewn about, there is not much to see or do. Building sometimes are quite empty, and travelling between points of interest can sometimes be a bit boring. Luckily, there is fast travel, so that becomes less of an issue with time.

Now to the nitty gritty: the game’s message and overall tone. Within the first five hours, the game absolutely charmed me. With its adorable designs, different approach to character creation, and what looked to be a promising start to what could be an interesting journey. The narration, performed by David Shaw Parker, is performed excellently. Everything is eloquently said and in such a reassuring manner. Unfortunately, after the five-hour mark, I began to notice the narration would kick in at times and would state something generic and almost “preachy” in a way, as if to say we should be searching for enlightenment at all times, even in the most of mundane moments like walking down a dirt path. Simply travelling between two points of interest, when nothing substantial was occurring, the narrator would talk at me. Without any context, this narration encouraging me to live “in the moment”, which was trying to be profound, really just became annoying and exhausting. Luckily, I discovered that this impromptu narration can be disabled in the settings. 

Further to this, the narration was reflective of the agenda or storyline within the game which, in my Humble Opinion, was a struggle to find an interest in. The story focuses on the need to save the Earth from the corruption that has befallen the Tree of Life. You do this by visiting all the roots of the tree, and endeavouring to take out the World Eaters which are causing this corruption to spread. As the protagonist, it was hard to connect with the story and take the mission seriously, as the game exudes silliness on almost every level. Don’t get me wrong, some of it is well-placed and appreciated; however, the game is reminiscent of Ratchet and Clank in the fact that due to the tone being set; the humour being used; the silly names given to characters, objects, and locations; and the cartoon aesthetic crossed with the comic-book style; the game exudes a juvenile feel. Maybe this would be more impactful on a younger audience, but I struggled the see the importance in the story, and it did not encourage me to be engaged by the story or be impacted by what was going on around me. Much like a Ratchet and Clank game, my approach was to have fun; kill stuff; get better gear. I did not expect an intriguing story, nor did I get one, which I think is to be expected by a game which presents itself in the way I have outlined.

Something that was counterintuitive to my immersion within the game and having the opportunity to form a connection with the protagonist and his objectives to “cleanse” the world of this corruption were the dialogue trees within conversation. The game provides dialogue trees when interacting with others, often giving you the chance to learn something about someone or a piece of history. Once you select one option, the other option is bypassed and disappears completely. This makes sense in terms of having the player decide to be “good” over being “bad” by selecting a sole response; but, if the game is simply providing context and information in the form of dialogue to the player, why not let me hear both options? This would have helped strengthen the connection between the player and the world, as what is provided to the player in terms of the story itself could use some bolstering.

Something I did enjoy was the chopping and changing of armour and weapon types. It was really enjoyable to have the ability to customise both the ranged and melee weapons to perform to how I preferred. This was done through finding weapon and armour parts, which are strewn across most locations and are quite easy to find. The starting weapons were quite bland and slow, and it took about five to eight hours to start finding interesting attachments that would turn some boring weaponry into something worthwhile to use. The game, like most, suffers from the trope where a lot of the “high-end” armour and gear don’t make any sense if all equipped at once, nor do they form a cohesive look. I ended up choosing gear that fit a “ninja” aesthetic, instead of min-maxing our gear. Priorities, right?

This is Experiment 101’s first big title, and it is a promising start. Unfortunately, the hype has been building for this title for a long time, but that is a risk developers and publishers take by announcing something they are working on years before release. I think there was an expectation that this game would be unique, and immersive, and polished. It is some of those aspects in small ways. The character designs are unique, the crafting system is immersive and really enjoyable. The polish is not quite there, but I did not encounter any noticeable bugs or glitches: the game was playable. The title did not quite live up to the expectations, but that also is in due part to the AAA price tag. The game is not a “bad game” at all; it needs more work; it needs refinement. There is a lot of potential here, and as an introductory game from Experiment 101, it’s a commendable attempt at an open-world RPG. There are some wins to take from the development in this game to whatever they choose to produce next. Oh, and thanks for having the hindsight to let players turn of the narrator: my sanity has been redeemed.

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Explosive Gel | My Hero Academia Episode 97

And boom goes the dynamite.

Extra! Extra! This just in: Bakugo can work well with others! Yep, it’s the shock of the century, folks. Well, everybody certainly acts like it is. Now, to be fair, Bakugo is a bit of a loud jerk…who acts selfishly and uses the force of his personality to draw others into working to support him. You know what? Everybody is kinda right: this is breaking news. We’ve seen Bakugo mature slightly in his relationship with Midoriya—coming to accept him as a legitimate “friendly” rival—but this is the first time we’ve seen his heroic impulses so openly displayed. I mean, he’s still a bit of a jerk about it, but his notion of a “total victory” now includes the safety of his teammates; that’s a big change. Enough of a change that Class 1-B was entirely flummoxed. Bakugo’s exploits also showed how, with a little tempering, his unyielding bravado can serve as quite the morale boost for his allies. We all know that Bakugo is dangerous and confident to a fault; imagine how good you’d feel knowing that all of that was pointed at your opponent.

I also want to give a shout out to Jiro and Sero—two of my personal favourite characters. They’re not the flashiest of 1-A, but their Quirks are fun and can have a real impact when used cleverly. Specifically, Sero restraining the separated pieces of Lizardy was a cool as it was funny and gross, and Jiro shattering a shield with sound was dope as heck. I still feel pretty bad for Sato, not just because I always have to look up what his name is, because his Quirk is probably the least unique in 1-A and 1-B. The dude is strong: that’s cool…so is Midoriya. I know that’s not the fairest comparison, but most other characters can also use their Quirks to perform insane feats of strength. Case in point, Iida literally tore up the ground with his jet-powered legs. True, super-speed isn’t the freshest idea, but the manner in which Iida achieves it makes it quirky. Sato powers up with sugar, that’s fun, but we’ve never really seen any quirk to his Quirk. Still, it managed to get me way off point; so, maybe that counts for something…but probably not.

P.S. I rescind some of my previous negativity towards Class 1-B, solely due to the existence of the Hero name Jack Mantis.

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A Grand Purpose | To Your Eternity Episode 6

Well this certainly turned out to be a truly eventful episode of To Your Eternity. Not only do we see Fushi make major progression as he learns to speak and communicate with the aid of the old woman he had previously encountered in the Yanome prison, but we also meet Fushi’s creator: the mysterious “Maker”. There was a lot to sink our teeth into with this week’s episode, and we get our first glimpse at the deeper plot at play with the Maker hinting at a grand purpose for Fushi.

The episode picks up with Fushi fleeing the Yanome and heading into the forest and meeting back up with Pioran, the old lady they saved from the prison in the prior episodes. After a bit of back and forth, Pioran begins teaching Fushi language. We then see a bit of a montage of their travels as Fushi learns more and more words and, ultimately, we see he becomes capable of conversation. This gives us a look into Fushi’s mind for the first time, with Fushi recounting his journey up until now and the impact of meeting the boy in the first episode and his desire to fulfil March’s dream to grow up.

The two travel across the sea at Pioran’s request, in order to return to her home village. However, upon landing they are confronted by a dangerous monster that seems to be the antithesis of Fushi. The monster appears to be made out of plant roots and violently stabs Fushi, absorbing some of the vessels and memories from within him. In the thick of the fight, a mysterious hooded figure appears before Fushi, guiding him to victory against the monster and to regain the different forms he had. After the battle, the hooded man informs Fushi that he is in fact the one who created him, and the monster he fought against was sent by another being whose goal is to prevent Fushi and the Maker from achieving their grand purpose.

The Maker vaguely explains that Fushi was created by him to, in a way, record the events of the world before “the end” arrives. It is very ominous to say the least, but it gives us an idea of the greater spiritual workings at play here. The Maker bids Fushi farewell for now and promises to meet him again. The episode ends with Fushi and Pioran returning to her hometown and meeting a strange boy with a bizarre helmet. It looks like we will get to know a bit more about him next week. As for this week, it was an awesome episode, to say the very least—with a great fight scene between Fushi and the monster—and we finally got some answers as to what exactly is going on with this immortal being that we know as Fushi. The thing that is lingering with me, however, is the Maker’s foreboding warning about “the end”. For now, let’s put a pin in that until future episodes.

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I’ve Got to Hand It to You | Resident Evil Village

Resident Evil Village has returned, with some first-person survival horror intertwined with the expected puzzles and out-there characters we have seen previously within the series. Reminiscent of Resident Evil 7 playstyle, this new iteration continues the story of Ethan Winters and his wife Mia. The game introduces some twists and turns, and some extremely imposing and interesting character designs.

To give a brief understanding of the plot as it continues from Resident Evil 7: you play as Ethan Winters, who is trying to live a somewhat normal life with his wife Mia. The beginning of the narrative sets the scene in the family home, where Ethan and Mia are discussing life and going through the rigmarole of the evening. We are introduced to Rose, the couple’s baby, who will become the centre of the story and the motivating force that drives Ethan to going through absolute hell to get her back. Thus begins Ethan’s bloody and stressful trek throughout what can only be described as European vampiric castles crossed with horrific dollhouse tropes, eventually turning into a Half Life–inspired factory of horrors. Ethan traverses through these horror-set environments, constantly being poked, prodded, stabbed, and amputated by everything around him. His hands take most of the beating, and may make you flinch out of the pure gory obliteration of his digits along the way. There is a lot of blood in this game, but you would expect this to be so if you are familiar with the series. I don’t want to give too much away; the story is interesting and best experienced throughout the gameplay.

The gameplay reflects what the general experience was in RE7, but the highlight of the game is definitely the wacky characters and the setting. Although teased the most in gameplay releases, Lady Dimitrescu only appears within the first quarter of the game. The first time I witnessed her walking swiftly after me, and then ducking to fit through the doorways within her own castle, that’s when her height was realised; and boy, was it super imposing and terrifying. The way she does not even flinch, even with a bullet to the head, proves her to be an unstoppable force. Even more so, the fact that she chases after you in such a calm manner is somehow more unsettling than if she was running at you with full speed. Her confidence and sheer size make her imposing and threatening, and it is clear why she was featured heavily within early promotional content. Her part of the story, including the setting within the castle, feels very reminiscent of old school Resident Evil.

There are a slew of other interesting characters, such as Heisenberg and Mother Miranda—two of the five antagonists which you will go up against. Lady Dimitrescu and Heisenberg are quite heavily focused upon, and the sections featuring them are well developed. The environments are truly unique to each of their character archetypes, and there were puzzles and small attention to detail given to these areas to make them engaging to play through. There are smaller sections strewn in between for some of the other antagonists, but they felt short and somewhat undercooked. I was excited about the prospect of facing up against Donna Beneviento, the puppet master. It seemed there was so much potential, based upon her creepy residence filled with shaking and talking dolls. Taking her down was anti-climactic at best, as Ethan simply chased her possessed doll around the house and attacked it simply with the press of a button; it seemed like what could have been a cool boss fight was turned into a press-one-button cinematic, and that was the end of that. We moved on.

A distant cry from uniquely designed main characters are the basic enemies within the game. There isn’t much variation within the basic enemies, with Lycans being one of the consistent enemies you will see throughout the game. Later on, when you experience Heisenberg’s chapters, you will encounter more variation—with some enemies having weak spots you’ll need to target, armed with drills for hands. Generally, the combat entails shooting enemies, with the most effective hits to take them down being headshots. The combat and gameplay has not really changed from the known Resident Evil formula, but it did not really have to. The highlight here is the experience as a package, and most notably the continuation of the story in a well-designed environment. If you take a look around, there is a lot of environmental story-telling, and it is done well. Chunks taken out of houses indicating that some monster has smashed through, pots of soup exuding steam and still on the stove top. The village itself feels like life was once there, but was recently chased out.

I was super impressed by Village on the PS5. The visuals were stunning, and I was constantly stopping to admire the textures on walls and the beams of light streaming through windows and cracks. There was no sense that I was missing out on any visual fidelity for picking the PS5 version over PC. HDR enabled, raytracing enabled, and 4K textures made this game a pleasure to look at. And it ran smooth, with not even a stutter during the whole experience. In fact, the experience itself was smooth—there were no bugs, glitches, obvious clipping, or freezes. Our playthrough took us 9 hours and 48 minutes, and that was at a relaxed (not rushed) pace.

Overall, the experience was enjoyable and what we were expecting from the franchise. The game, even though very similar in mechanics to RE7, brought the next part of the story to fans tied in with some new and interesting characters and settings. The game introduces some twists and turns in the plot and keeps the player engaged with some really good pacing and storytelling, intertwined with puzzles which were never too difficult to figure out—after a couple of minutes at most. As a highly polished product, it’s hard not to recommend the game, especially for fans of the series.

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Dash and Burn | My Hero Academia Episode 96

Striking while the steel is hot.

It’s that time again, Academia nuts, when the environment explodes into cubes and characters blur into smears. And it’s just as awesome as ever. I’ve always been a fan of super speed, so watching Iida cut loose is quite a sight to behold. Plus, he’s got that whole too-fast-to-turn thing going on, which is neat. Sure, sure, being able to control his Quirk would be top, but seeing him dash and ricochet around the battlefield is just so…exciting. Also, it counters Mudman’s ability to soften the ground, which has literally bogged down the fight for two episodes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool Quirk, but boy does it overshadow everything else. Every single second is spent wondering when the ground will melt and interrupt a cool moment—which it almost always does. Also, Pony straight up stabs Ojiro. Yeah it’s in his tail, but still: this inter-class class has consistently made me question U.A. High. This is possibly also due to the fact that I don’t really care about 1-B, and their overpowering of 1-A seems to undermine the fact that the main cast have actually fought real Villains. That being said…

Todoroki, dude, you gotta get some therapy. Every time we delve into his head, Todoroki is reliving some beating that Endeavour laid down. Also, Endeavour, you should probably be in gaol or something, because you beat up your kid. I mean, this is a society where students are constantly put in life-or-death situations, so…that might be more like a finable offence. Damn, Hero society might actually be pretty messed up… Anyway, shelving that for another day, ol’ Todoroki is back to testing/pushing his firepower, burning hot enough to set Tetsutetsu on fire. Does this mean Todoroki can definitely kill a person who isn’t composed of steel strong enough to survive an oven? Yes. Definitely. Endeavour killed a High-End Nomu and, by his own flashback admission, Todoroki is an upgrade of him. These kids are, just, so damn powerful. Todoroki set an industrial area (and a guy) on fire, Iida knocked a guy out with one punch, Mudman can melt the earth and swim in it…Ojiro has a tail. One can only dream of what will happen when they all learn to control their Quirks to the fullest… Pain. It’ll probably be pain to whoever they fight. Pain and burns. Pain and burns and pebbles in their shirts from softened debris that re-solidified.

P.S. The match was a draw. I mean, that’s kinda important; but, let’s be honest, we’re all just waiting until Midoriya’s match—maybe Bakugo’s. This is all just the warm up.

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For March | To Your Eternity Episode 5

This was an utterly heartbreaking episode, to say the very least. It was an emotionally devastating turn of events that has completely reshaped the trajectory of To Your Eternity going forward. Such was the importance of March, the rambunctious little girl who had become the heart of the show.

Picking up immediately where we left off last week—with Parona staging a prison break—it isn’t long before the Yanome soldiers have caught up with them, and things quickly take a turn for the worse. As Parona is fighting off the onslaught of soldiers and arrows flying her way, March, noticing a stray arrow about to hit Parona, jumps in the arrow’s path—sacrificing herself in the process.

As she lay dying, she asks Parona to become a mother in her stead, to fulfill the dream she never could. As she departs this mortal coil, Fushi becomes incensed and transforms into the big Oniguma bear and absolutely unleashes on the soldiers. As Fushi rages, Parona breaks down as she is confronted with the reality that she could not save March from her fate. March will never get to grow up. March has died.

At this point, we see a gut-wrenching vision of the life March will never live. We see her as an adult with children, and then we see her as a spirit watching on with the spirit of Oniguma, coming to realise her life is over.

Grief stricken, Parona takes up a blade and is going to kill herself so that she can “join March”. Until March, as a spirit begging her not to, acts through the body of Fushi—grabbing the blade and preventing her from taking her life. March doesn’t want her to die: she wants her to live the life she never will.

From here, Fushi and Parona return to the Ninnanah village and recount the events to March’s distraught parents. Try as she might, Parona couldn’t save March and it weighs heavily on her. Things don’t stay quiet for long, as the villagers report that the Yanome soldiers are coming. Parona tells Fushi to run; he appears to understand. We see that Fushi can understand and will remember March as his mother. The episode ends with Fushi transforming into March as the narrator tells us that the rambunctious little girl had became a mother to Fushi, and thanks to her he learned a lot about what it means to be human. Taking on March’s form, she lives on through Fushi.

Ultimately, this was a beautiful yet sorrowful episode of To Your Eternity. March was such a lovable character, and with her now exiting the series stage right, what happens next is anyone’s guess. But if I were to guess, it seems the series will continue following Fushi through different locations and times as he slowly but surely gains more knowledge and understanding of the world around him. Perhaps Fushi’s ultimate goal will be to remember these people who have so profoundly impacted him. We shall see.

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Full Throttle | My Hero Academia Episode 95

Well, that’s one way to break the ice.

Another week, another match. This time around, it’s Todoroki and Iida’s time to shine and show us all what they’re made of. I mean, there are other participants in this match but, let’s be honest, those are the only two the series really cares about. Even then, Iida hasn’t had much play since he went after Stain, and that was an annoyingly long time ago (given that it makes you realise how fast time has passed since then). Regardless, it’s nice to see Iida in the spotlight again, given that he is, ostensibly, the third member of the main-cast trio. It’s also nice to see that he has made progress with his Quirk, ripping the mufflers from his own legs in order to perform a “tune-up” of his engine. Is it as horrifying as it sounds? Pretty much. Especially since it’s a technique handed down through the generations of the Iida family. How exactly did his grandfather discover that self-mutilation led to a speed boost? I mean, the mufflers grow back, but still…

As much as this match is also about Todoroki, it won’t be until the next episode that anything pays of. So far, Todoroki has frozen half of the battlefield and mulled over his ever-tumultuous memories of his father’s “training” regimen. The seeds have also been planted regarding a new move Todoroki will unleash—the particular topic of this batch of childhood memories. And in case that wasn’t enough, we even briefly cut over to see Endeavour Hero-ing all over the place, before wondering—aloud—why Todoroki hasn’t text him back, since he wants to pass on “that move”. Long story short: Todoroki is going to burn some stuff next episode. Probably other students, most definitely an industrial battlefield, hopefully not himself…hopefully not the other students as well, I suppose. I thought the in-airway mushrooms from last episode were bad—which they were; gross too—but fire that burns hot enough to maim is probably worse. No, it’s definitely worse. It’s fire. U.A. is a seriously dangerous place.

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Locked Away | To Your Eternity Episode 4

The being now has a name. After determining herself to be the being’s surrogate mother, March has named the being “Fushi”, which is derived from the Japanese word for Immortal. It is a pretty fitting title, and one that was put to the test this week.

After earning their freedom last week when Fushi defeated the giant bear, also known as Oniguma-sama, we see that freedom was short lived, as the Yanome folk ultimately lock up March, Parona, and Fushi—despite promising to free them.

We learn that the Yanome people have been intentionally manipulating and controlling the information flow and educational growth of the people of Ninnanah, in order to keep them subservient and under the thumb of the Yanome. How long this has been going on for is implied to be for generations.

While locked up by the Yanome, Fushi is experiemented on as countless prisoners are sent in to attempt to kill him—to no avail, of course. Throughout all this, Fushi is slowly learning more and more. Parona had pondered earlier in the episode: what is the meaning and purpose of life if one can never die? Perhaps we will come to see as the series progresses.

The episode comes to its climax with Parona staging a breakout; looking to be about to free March and Fushi from the castle. It seems there will be some back and forth between both sides in the coming weeks as our heroes seek their freedom.

I found this to be a bit of a cool-down episode, but one that posed interesting scenarios and ideas worth contemplating on. Next week seems to be following the group as they evade the Yanome folk, which is sure to be interesting. Overall, I am enjoying the slow and deliberate pacing of the series and eagerly await the next instalment.

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Breathing ‘Shroom | My Hero Academia Episode 94

Oh shiitake…

Okay, full disclosure, I’m a little biased towards Class 1-A. I mean, they’re our crew, our buddies, our chums; I don’t really care about Class 1-B. Whilst I don’t despise the characters, it is easier for me to note their flaws and question their actions. Why am I telling you this? Because I feel like I’ve been ranting a lot about 1-B, and I think it’s best to be honest…and because I’m probably not going to stop the ranting. Case in point: Mushroom Girl grew a mushroom in Tokoyami’s windpipe. Let that sink in. I know this series is about teenagers frequently engaging in perilous activities, but that’s just…wrong. Again, cards on the table, organic/biological combat has always squicked me out, but I can’t be the only one who was really thrown off by this. Kendo also punched Yaoyorozu with enough force to crush tungsten; so, these kids aren’t messing around. To be fair, Class 1-A also doesn’t hold back in combat—what with the last match’s lightning and mind control—but I stand by my convictions that that mushroom thing was gross…and that Mushroom Girl may need a talking to.

Fungi-based horror aside, this episode amounts to a mental tug-of-war between Kendo and Yaoyorozu: who is the better tactician? Victory teeters between both sides a few times, before falling on the side of “Class 1-A can’t win all of the matches because, like, that wouldn’t be fair”. Invisible Girl doesn’t really add much to either 1-A’s chance to win or lose, as her invisibility is initially nullified by the fungus sprouting on her body and then—once the fungus is cleared via Yaoyorozu’s ability creating disinfectant—she simply punches one of her opponents a few times. I mean, she’s not as useless as Aoyama, but her contribution isn’t great. Essentially, Kendo’s team beat Yaoyorozu and Tokoyami; the other two didn’t really add anything. So, fairy play 1-B, chalk up your victory and let’s all see who whiffs it next.

P.S. I enjoy that Sato has the forethought to question how Manga’s ability to make comic sound effects manifest will play out in countries that don’t speak Japanese. It’s a solid question.

P.P.S. I still don’t understand why anime creates characters who finish sentences with a word relating to their physicality and/or ability. Is it funny that the girl what makes mushrooms says the word mushroom a lot?

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Arigatou | To Your Eternity Episode 3

Through the countless connections we make in our lives, we learn and we grow. Connection is one of our core instincts and desires. This week’s episode of To Your Eternity explored the way the connections that the immortal being has made has influenced its growth and evolution. In particular, we see how the connection it had made with the rambunctious little girl March had impacted it.

After fleeing from her ritual sacrifice and encountering the being, March is eventually found by the soldiers tasked with carrying out the ritual and—resigning herself to her fate—she farewells the being which had, in a way, become her surrogate child: the child she will never get to have. Her dream of becoming a grown up and, one day, a mother are dashed as she is soon to be sacrificed.

As it turns out, the beast that she is to be sacrificed to is, in fact, the bear that had repeatedly attacked and killed the being in the prior episode. Once March had been taken and placed upon the sacrificial stage, the bear once again appears. Parona (the woman who had desperately tried to save March) appears once again, only to be launched into the distance by the bear’s colossal paw. Things look truly bleak for March until the being rocks up and protects her from the bear.

The being jumps in and is torn to shreds, but is instantly regenerating now. It continues to fight and fight for March and even transforms back into its wolf form from the first episode. It fights over and over, refusing to let March be harmed, and ultimately manages to take the bear down.

The soldiers are in a state of shock and consider this all to be some kind of divine intervention from God and choose to let March and Parona be free, with the caveat that they will inform the villagers of March’s death via the sacrifice and the two will never return there. Thankful to the being, March once again gives it a pear to eat as she had done earlier when it was near death due to starvation. The being eats the pear and, still in the form of a wolf, turns to March and says, “Arigatou.”

The connection formed between the being and March is a truly sweet one, and I’m curious what happens next from here. I presume the being will continue to connect with other people and learn more and more, little by little. The way the being defended March here was a true sight to behold and reminds us that kindness and compassion may be the purest form of sincere connection there is.

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Under the Shadow | My Hero Academia Episode 93

In the arms of a Dark Fallen Angel.

Tweet, tweet, y’all: it’s time to focus on Class 1-A’s most avian student. Normally I’d feel bad about jokingly referencing a character’s physicality, but neither Hawks or Tokoyami are above it; so, let’s see how well our resident edge lord can flock shit up. Case in point: dude can sorta fly now. That’s dope. Well, it isn’t so much flying as it is floating with style, but the effect is realistically the same. The technique isn’t quite as dramatic as the name Dark Fallen Angel would lead you to believe, but I’m always keen to see the U.A. lot utilise every detail of their Quirks. As Midoriya points out, Dark Shadow is capable of floating under his own power; always has been. Why not think of a way to use that? Heck, one of the series’ biggest turning points came from Midoriya remembering that kicks were a thing. I’m not entirely sure how well Tokoyami’s new ability will serve him in this battle, though, as his opponents seem rather well prepared for various contingencies. Speaking of…

…can 1-B get some more characterisation please? I know these episodes can’t entirely be devoted to learning about 1-B, but I wouldn’t mind a little more depth. As it stands, eighty percent of their motivation is wanting to beat Class 1-A. I get it, 1-A are the spoilt class…but I also don’t really care. Shinso rocked up and wanted to better himself to achieve his own dreams; 1-B won’t shut-up about 1-A for more than two seconds. Even the damn teacher has a chip on his shoulder, commentating the matches with a heavy bias for 1-B. I know most of it is played for humour, I get that, but I really don’t want 1-B to win. And that’s not just bias for the main cast: I just don’t care about 1-B in the slightest. I mean, Kendo’s cool and I like Tetsutetsu, but—if you can believe it—it’s because we’ve gotten something more out of them than “I don’t like 1-A ’cause they’re all, like, popular and stuff”. Also, why do 1-A keep falling for obvious traps? These kids have fought actual Villains who wanted to kill them: are they really so naïve as to be lead into an obvious trap/ambush? Evidently…yes, yes they are. I’m just not sure what we’re supposed to be seeing here. One would imagine that this test would show us how these two classes differ; how they have evolved down different paths (you know, ’cause All Might thought-spoke that exact sentiment). All I’ve seen so far is that 1-B are conniving and 1-A are gullible. That being said, this is a Shonen series; so, stuff doesn’t really count until Midoriya or Bakugo are involved. Such it is ordained.

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Answering The Call | The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Episode 6

After spending its first five episodes exploring both sides ideologies and philosophies, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier comes to a decisively centrist view point in the end. It’s not about left wing or right wing, both wings together are what makes things fly. The series had been critiqued as being “too woke” by some in its early episodes; however, this finale takes an ultimately anti-woke agenda in the end. Sam rejects the ideology of the Flag Smashers, but he also rejects the uber-nationalism of John Walker and the United States Government. Instead, he realises that both points of view are valid and—while he understands where people like Karli and Isaiah Bradley are coming from—he also believes that America is still a great country that is worth fighting for, despite its flaws.

The finale sees Sam Wilson finally taking up the shield and mantle of Captain America while rejecting the idea of being defined by his race. In an earlier episode, when he is referred to as Black Falcon he says, “No, I am just the Falcon.” He doesn’t believe that race should matter and that, much like the great Martin Luther King had once said, a person should be judged by the content of their character not the colour of their skin—and this is clearly a creed that Sam lives by. While people like Karli and Isaiah Bradley would have him believe that the “white man” is bad, Sam doesn’t believe it. He loved his friend Steve Rogers and knows that the colour of one’s skin is irrelevant in comparison to whether they are good person or not. This is something that Karli, for instance, has no concept of, as she devolves here into comically evil. A bit of a disappointing direction for the character but there is only so much time that we have here.

It’s clear that Marvel was wanting to say something with this series, and having John Walker ultimately redeemed in this final episode was a surprising choice to say the very least. Ultimately, Karli and the Flag Smashers served as the series stand-in for real world activism and violent riot movements like Antifa and some extreme sects of BLM. The idea of open borders in the world and the overthrowing of the government and rule of law is one that matches up in striking parallel to the real world counterparts and, much like the many who have lost their lives in the wake of these movements, the Flag Smashers ultimately resort to violence and killing in order to get their message out into the world. It makes it all the more curious that the uber-nationalist that is John Walker is portrayed in a heroic light in the end here, choosing to save innocents rather than get his revenge on Karli.

Ultimately, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is a show about accepting who you are. Just like Sam had to accept that he is Captain America now, Bucky had to accept that he was the Winter Soldier, and we have to accept that our world and our countries aren’t perfect places—there are countless issues that people of all walks of life face each and every day. These are complicated issues, but these problems and flaws aren’t what define us. There is still so much good in us and focusing on the good and using that to resolve what’s wrong: that is how we move forward united, rather than divided. It’s all about accepting our faults, our differences, yet choosing to rise above them, instead of simply choosing to be a victim. All in all, I found this to be a fantastic show despite the underdeveloped Flag Smashers characters, it was a great character study for Sam and Bucky and even John Walker. I, for one, look forward to what comes next for these characters as they continue to try to right the wrongs of the world one day at a time.

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Not Ready to Die | To Your Eternity Episode 2

After spending the past week eagerly awaiting episode two of To Your Eternity to be released on Crunchyroll, I was pleased to see the series continue on strong as it edges slowly forward. There is no doubt about it that this show is intended to be a slow burn, but I am all for it—especially when it is this good.

Picking up where things left off last week, the mysterious immortal being has taken on the form of the boy from episode one. The being has been wandering slowly but surely for an indeterminate amount of time, and we learn that they had died several times—each time regenerating faster than the last. Eventually, the being makes its way into a forest area before being killed yet again, somewhat unceremoniously.

Things shift focus from there to a small tribal village, where we meet a rather rambunctious girl by the name of March. She really wants to grow up and be a mum, but unfortunately, as fate would have it, she is selected to be sacrificed as part of some ritual that the town, for reasons unknown, must follow. March, of course, isn’t too fond of the whole being-ritual-sacrificed-and-killed business and decides to flee.

She eventually runs into the immortal being who has died countless times for a variety of reasons. The being learns how to eat after March teaches them and she comes to take on a motherly relationship with the being, who still is unable to speak.

The episode ended on a bit of a curious note, as we are left hanging with March on the run with the being and some agents of the village out to find her and carry of the ritual. It was, overall, a slow-paced episode that is laying the groundwork for things to come. I am quite curious to see what will happen to March and the being; hopefully, for her sake, it doesn’t end up like the boy in episode one, but we shall see.

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Building Upon the First | Dragon Quest Builders 2

We’re currently in the midst of a Minecraft-terrain generation overhaul—where developers are coding away to create the “Caves and Cliffs” update—which has caused me, an avid player of the game, to cease playing until the full update is released. This, we have been told, won’t be complete until late this year. So, what’s a girl to do to satiate the desire for crafting and building games? Well, I decided to take a look at Dragon Quest Builders 2 on the PlayStation, as I came across a bargain-bin copy at my local brick-and-mortar store. Prior to this, I had minimal experience with Dragon Quest Builders, the first game released in the series by Square Enix. I recall playing it on the Switch during my commutes to work, but as I no longer commute, I defaulted to playing more games on PC and PS5—so that went neglected. Let’s get stuck into what I think of the game, already at forty hours in.

Similarly to the first iteration, there is minimal character customisation, which did not bother me and was to be expected. The game begins with what is clearly a tutorial, as you find yourself on a ship following instructions in order to keep it afloat. Things devolve into madness, and you eventually find yourself ship wrecked, ready to start your life alongside your companion Malroth,—who was also on the ship and has a penchant for fighting everything he sees, apparently. If you thought the tutorial ended with the ship, oh, you are so, so wrong. The game itself is almost all a tutorial, but not in a monotonous way. You see, the game works tutorials into the gameplay; so, while you are aware that some of the tasks you are completing are tutorials, they also serve a purpose of actually progressing you through the game. Quests assigned to you are usually in the vein of collecting certain types of items or blocks in order complete builds and progress the settlement. There are a lot of fetch quests; but, for the most part, they are made quick and easy with the use of fast travel points. In regards to story, if you are not a fan of reading through dialogue, you may find yourself skipping a lot of text. There is no voice acting; in my humble opinion, I would still gladly play the game without the story element present. The story is not the game’s strength, and it simply pads it out with the huge amount of settler dialogue, which can get monotonous.

One of the first major mechanics you’ll learn: how to grow those tasty, tasty cabbages!

The game takes you through many varying environments as you progress through the campaign: plains, deserts, caves, mountains, ruins, and more. The overall goal is to build up your settlements. Quests guide you through this naturally, and you’ll find on completion of these that the people living within your settlements will drop little hearts on the floor for you to pick up. Think of this almost as a satisfaction rating: the more you collect, the more the settlers are enjoying the structures you have built. Once you have collected enough, you can level up your settlement, which gets you further into the story but also makes the town more susceptible to enemy attacks, which typically come in waves. Combat is similar to the first game: highly simplistic. The game allows you a basic attack: a slashing attack. Further into the game, you unlock moves that you can combo, on occasion, with your fighting partner Malroth and a heavier swipe attack—but don’t expect much variation or a complex system. I found myself going into battles with a plethora of cooked food, ready to spam the “eat” button for heals. The combat is simplistic, but that was okay, as that’s not where this game shines. 

Basic sword slash is all we need…and mostly all we get.

What more could you really want out of a game like this than a good building experience? This game provides that. There are hundreds of stylistic blocks and items, so you can build to your heart’s content. The game explains early on that everything you build can have a purpose if you place the correct items within the room that you construct. For example, creating a small room (say, 4×4 blocks) and placing a pot and towel in there will create a toilet room that your settlers can actually use (and create a useful by-product: nightsoil). The game has many purpose-built rooms, which it allows you to discover through experimentation of furniture placement. This can be a lot of fun: figuring out what items belong together to create useful sets. The game provides lots of blueprints for unique buildings, too, that you end up creating during the campaign, one example being the Silver Bar you construct in the settlement in Khrumbul-Dun. Once you build the structure outlined on a blueprint, it remains with you to build anywhere else you’d like to in the future. You can really take each settlement as far as you wish outside of quest progression. You can simply just complete the quests to progress in each settlement before moving on to the next, or you can take your time and build extra-functional buildings in every town—improving the infrastructure and making the town to your aesthetic before moving on.

Don’t know what to build? Put down a blueprint: problem solved!

Dragon Quest Builders 2 provides a lot of value within the price you pay to own it. For fans of sandbox games where building is the key to providing the bulk of your entertainment, this game is a no-brainer. It was built for creativity, and is the type of game to sit back and play at a relaxed pace. The game definitely satiates the need to build and create but is accompanied by some other things to do. Notably, across each terrain, you’ll find puzzles to complete and difficult monsters to defeat. There are always new blocks to be found out in the wild to collect for your builds, and monsters to come across which drop items for you to cook up in new recipes. I recommend picking this up on Switch, especially for commuters (just make sure to not miss your stop…) and on PlayStation for those who want a laid-back couch-gaming experience.

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Weighing Words | My Hero Academia Episode 92

Sticks and stones…

What did the potential transfer student say to the Hero-in-training? Whatever he wanted, because he had a device that allowed him to alter the pitch of his voice and trick them into falling for his Brainwashing Quirk. Man, that joke is a classic; it’s also cool to watch. Shinso has always been an interesting tilt on the respect and fear that Quirks can impose all on their own. Brainwashing is a frightening power—there’s no getting around that—but to think that Shinso was almost denied even an attempt at his dream because of this: MHA society has a lot to answer for…like, seriously…some messed up stuff goes on in this world. Still, it’s nice that our blue-haired boy gets his time in the spotlight. I want him to stick around and blaze his way to the status of Hero. Also, he’s way cooler and more likable than, like, half of Class 1-B. I mean, I don’t want to step on any spiritual landmines, but shouldn’t someone have a chat with Vine? The girl thinks it’s her God-given duty to punish evil; she threatened to whip her classmate for the sin of using her as bait. Though, I suppose Bakugo yells that he’s going to kill every opponent he faces… U.A. needs to have a long talk with their entire student body: there’s some issues that need to be sorted out.

Anywho, this episode featured the conclusion of the first inter-class battle. Since Class 1-B has been largely unexplored for a long while (or at all), this fight was mostly about how Class 1-A could adapt to opponents with drive and teamwork. Case in point, destabilising teamwork works wonders in beating a team. In addition to showcasing how unnerving Shinso can be in combat, 1-A’s plan revealed just how Tsuyu and Kaminari have learnt from their previous losses and mistakes. It was nice seeing these characters get their own moments to shine, whilst also showing how much further they can go. Kirishima, for example, was considered the largest threat in the battle. Remember, the guy who lamented his simplistic Quirk? Yeah. That guy worked hard enough to be more intimidating than a guy who can expel lightning. So, work hard, kids, and one day you too can be…a substantial threat in a combat situation? …what’s the moral of this series? Does it need one? Did I even talk about the plot of this episode enough? If I didn’t can I distract from that fact by asking enough questions? …that Shinso guy is cool, right?

P.S. I guess Koda was also in this fight.

P.P.S. Somebody finally pointed out how confronting it is that Tsuyu constantly wraps people up in her tongue. Also, does that means she’s constantly tasting, like, rocks and people and stuff?

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I Am The Captain Now | Falcon and The Winter Soldier Episode 5

Picking up immediately after where we left off last week—with John Walker straight up killing a man with the shield—we open the episode with an intense bit of an altercation between Sam, Bucky, and John, which is reminiscent of the two-on-one beat down that concludes the Civil War film. It is quite clear that John Walker has lost the plot here, and Bucky and Sam need to get that shield out of his hands before more damage can be done.

After that rad opening fight sequence, the episode loses a lot of steam as we return to the worst storyline in the show—that being whether Sam’s sister can fix the family boat. These scenes were hard not to just treat as filler, they did little to add to the events, and they also bring a lot of the story to a screeching halt.

Outside of the boat repairs, we also see John Walker’s trial, where is he discharged from the military and basically named and shamed—alongside being stripped of the title of Captain America. John doesn’t take this well, but then he meets Elaine from Seinfeld who basically says he is a good boy and she wants to work with him. John seems to like this.

On the other side of things, it looks like Karli and the other Flag Smashers are more resolute than ever in their goals, and we get a bit of a hint at their ultimate plan: which is set to unfold in the finale episode. I still feel like there was a lot of missed opportunities with these characters and, overall, they just don’t feel like that much of a threat. I feel like they would have been better served as a film antagonist instead of having their barely concocted plot dragged out slowly over the course of a series.

Ultimately, I do question if there was enough substantial story here that this had to be a Disney Plus series. I feel it could have been movie length and accomplished the same things overall. Anyways, with Sam spending a good portion of the episode training with the shield in preparation of the final confrontation with the Flag Smashers and Walker—as well as Bucky and Zemo putting a nice bow on their storyline—it certainly seems we are heading quickly into the series’ conclusion, for better or for worse. I’ve found this series to have a lot of great moments but the connective tissue between them has been lacking, to say the least. One more week to go; take up your shields, everybody. We may be in for a bumpy ride.

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Remember Me | To Your Eternity Episode 1

I’ve contemplated a lot about what I’m going to write for this article. After watching the first episode of To Your Eternity, I felt that I had watched something truly special. Over the course of a single episode, I had experienced the highs and lows of the entire emotional spectrum. This is an anime that has something to say, and in an ever growing anime industry which rewards series that don’t, To Your Eternity feels all the more precious.

This first episode was a thoughtful and meditative experience, the likes of which has become rare in the medium. Without spoiling the first episode, because I do truly encourage you who is reading this to watch it if you have not yet done so, To Your Eternity looks to be a series that will ponder the questions of life, death, and the pursuit of meaning.

This first episode is a largely enclosed story but there is the makings of an overarching plot, to be sure. Some higher power sent an orb down to Earth and that orb began to take various forms over time when stimulated, and with each new form this being is discovering about life on this planet. This episode explores the orb taking the form of a snow wolf as it accompanies a young man trying to find his people, who had set out to find a supposed “paradise” beyond the mountains.

What unfolds is both beautiful and heart-wrenching: the tragedy that is life itself and the endless endeavour to find purpose and meaning within it. As we learn more about the young man and his relationship with both his people and his wolf friend, Joaan, it is hard not to be swept up in the emotion of it all. Through the beautiful animation and incredible soundtrack, I was completely transported into the world of the series and absorbed in the tale it was telling.

After the tragic yet solemnly beautiful conclusion to this episode, I was left with many questions. I am very intrigued by where this series is going. It has a similar feeling to series like Mushishi and Casshern Sins, albeit very different in setting. The episode explored the idea of how we can keep people alive as long as we remember them; I for one won’t be forgetting this first episode any time soon. I think it may, in fact, go down as one of the all-time best first episodes of an anime series—in this writer’s humble opinion. Next week feels like an eternity away right now.

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Back in Action | My Hero Academia Episodes 89–91

Class 1-A, assemble!

MHA is back, baby. So excited by this fact was I, that I neglected to write about it for three weeks. Chalk it up to pure, unadulterated excitement…or the fact that I was busy. Regardless, I’m talking about it now. So…let’s skip the first episode. Not the most heartening of opening statements, but the kick-off for this season was essentially a re-introduction to the main cast. We’re closing in on triple-digit episodes, we know who they are. Who we don’t know are the previous holders of One For All. It would seem that Midoriya has surpassed expectations once more, as he has now developed connection with his Quirk beyond what even All Might had achieved. Via a dream/vision, Midoriya learns that the original holder of One For All was actually All For One’s younger brother: a frail man who vehemently rejected his older brother’s worldview. Though we’ve always know these two prominent Quirks are destined to clash, it’s pretty interesting to see just how linked they are. Heck, All For One is seen giving his brother the Quirk, as he was born without one of his own. Fraternal rivalry aside, what interested me the most was seeing how a younger All For One used charisma to acquire allies: using his own Quirk to empower those who desired strength and free those from Quirks they didn’t want. It’s a damn fine way to show how this Villain has walked his way through history, whilst also expressing how the tumultuous society created from the appearance of Quirks facilitated him. I mean, the only thing that really impacted AFO’s presence is All Might punching his face off…

Cranial obliteration aside, our third episode deals with the return of Class 1-B. Like, all of them. As is MHA‘s wont, it seems we’re delving into another training arc, with 1-A and 1-B clashing directly. Although, as it so often is, attention is directed away from 1-B and towards an unexpected competitor: Shinso. Remember, the kid what has Brainwashing? Well, he wants to switch to the Hero course and joining the fray is his ticket in. What interests me the most about this development is that Aizawa seems to have taken a mentor role with Shinso. Though we only saw them together briefly, the fact that the Shinso/Aizawa duo met the Midoriya/All Might duo seems intentional. Also, Shinso has some of Aizawa’s Binding Cloth—implying a more involved mentor/mentee relationship. From my own supposition, I figure that Aizawa relates to a kid whose Quirk seems to possess an inherent darkness. That’s part of what I love about this series: flipping expectations and also exploring why expectations needed to be flipped. Shinso isn’t a bad guy, people just assumed he would use his Quirk for mischief and evil. Heck, it’s this societal pressure that All For One manipulated in his youth, gaining power by appealing to the mistreated and abandoned—as we learn from Midoriya’s dream/vision/history lesson. Though a dark aspect of this series’ world, it is one that I fear will only become more prevalent as the story unfolds. You know, to supplement the punching…because there will probably be a lot of punching…maybe even a few kicks.

P.S. Without trying to sound sociopathic, watching the…complicated family dynamic of the Todorokis was rather interesting. The fact that each member has a unique manner of coping with what has happened in their lives shows a true sense of character and a strong sense of writing for the series. I hope it all works out, but it’s nice to see different perspectives are being presented. Endeavour messed up bad; he doesn’t get to will that away with a heel–face turn.

P.P.S. It feels a little weird to reveal the truth of Hawks phony double-cross so quickly. Unless…is the series faking us out? Are you, Hawks, merely pretending to be pretending to be evil? How deep does this rabbit hole go? How deep do normal rabbit holes go? Deep enough to warrant an idiom, I would assume, but I don’t actually know. Do you know, Hawks? Am I talking directly to an anime character? When did that happen? How deep does this rabbit hole go?

P.P.P.S. Togata’s acting in the first episode is the high point of perhaps all anime ever. Just look at him float down that river “in peril”. He’s just the most lovable marshmallow.

P.P.P.P.S. Shinso’s Persona Cords are awesome, in both design and funtion.

P.P.P.P.P.S. …I don’t have anything else to say, I just wanted to see how many postscripts I could put on this thing.

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To Infinity and Beyond – SK8 the Infinity (Episode Twelve) – Season’s Writings

After some ups and downs throughout the course of its run, SK8 the Infinity reaches its climax, and what better way for things to conclude than in a skateboarding deathmatch? Yes, you read that right. Langa and Adam take to a new course for their tournament final, and it is a deadly track designed by Adam himself where one wrong move could mean certain death.

The race itself takes up the majority of the focus in this final episode, with very little time for other things, but it may very well be the most exciting race in the series—only the Reki vs Adam match rivals it.

There isn’t too much to say about the race itself. It is basically a dangerous new stage where you can fall off a cliff and die, and of course Adam is repeatedly trying to assault Langa and kill him with his skateboard—which is okay, I guess? I never really understood why this is allowed and why no one has pressed charges against Adam for the grievous bodily harm he is so frequently inflicting in skateboarding races.

Of course, Langa ultimately overcomes Adam here and shows him “the light”. He reminds Adam that skating is fun and why he fell in love with it to begin with. We see a vision of Langa’s dad, who asks him if he is having fun, which Langa replies that of course he is—which was a sweet moment. Things all wrap up nicely as Langa wins and Adam, I guess, stops being a piece of shit kind of guy, maybe?

After the race concludes, we get a montage showing what everyone is up to. It seems Adam is now friends with everyone since he now sees the fun in skating. I guess we can all forgive him for brutally assaulting and hospitalising half of the main cast and attempting murder on Langa merely five minutes prior to this.

In case you were wondering about the government corruption storyline that has existed in the background of things for the longest time; well, it all is wrapped up in a brief scene showing that Adam has bribed someone in the police to get them off his case about being a corrupt businessman and what not. The woman who was investigating him is basically told to bugger off, and that is that—Adam gets off without any consequences by chucking money at his problems.

The episode finally wraps up showing Langa and Reki skating around town, about to have a race amongst themselves. It is a nice way to put a cap on the series, with Langa narrating over the montage about finding your happiness and what not, a sweet bit of thought that sums up what SK8 has been all about from the very beginning: finding happiness and meaning through the pursuit of what’s fun.

All in all, SK8 the Infinity has been a fun show. It has had some absolutely incredible moments—and some pretty damn shitty ones as well—but even at its worst it never forgot to be fun, and I think that’s what I’ll remember most about this show: it was truly a fun watch each and every week, without fail. That’s more than I can say for a lot of other series. Here’s to hoping we get a second season because I have come to really love these characters and I’m not quite ready to stop having fun with them. Keep on skating, boys.

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Blood, Serum, and Tears – The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (Episodes Three and Four) – Season’s Writings

Well, after a brief break we are back with yet another Season’s Writings article for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. For the sake of brevity, we will be covering both episode three and four in this week’s write up—and there is quite a bit to get through, to be sure.

Episode three picked up on the cliffhanger ending of episode two, with Bucky and Sam confronting Baron Zemo in gaol, to get more information from him regarding the Flag Smashers. Without Sam’s approval, Bucky aids Zemo in busting out of prison and we are off to the races. Zemo makes a fantastic foil for our heroes and it is hard not to like the guy—despite his being a bad guy and what not.

Zemo guides Sam and Bucky to Madripoor, which in the Marvel comics has a lot of significance in relation to the X-Men, but that isn’t of importance in this show. Instead, Madripoor is the location of the mysterious Power Broker, a shadowy figure who had ordered the manufacturing of a new super-soldier serum. After things go awry, our heroes reunite with Sharon Carter, who aids them in finding the scientist making the serum. Which is great and all, until Zemo decides to straight up kill the man.

We learn a bit more about the Flag Smashers and their motivations, but I still can’t help but feel like they are a relatively underwhelming group of antagonists for Sam and Bucky. I also find it strange that these Flag Smashers are considered a big enough threat that Sam and Bucky can’t help themselves but try to get involved. We know that the Flag Smashers want things to return as they were during the Blip, but why? There is a lot of vagueness in regards to the Flag Smashers, and it is hard to empathise with them—especially when their actions lack logic.

Episode four is where the series really kicks things into high gear. John Walker is back on the scene with his buddy Battlestar and is growing increasingly frustrated by the lack of respect and reverence he is being shown from Sam and Bucky. Both men don’t think John is up for the job of Captain America and the bloody finale of this episode paints that picture pretty clearly.

The bulk of the episode revolved around the gang trying to get information on the whereabouts of Flag Smashers’ leader, Karli. Zemo proves to be excellent in this regard, whereas Bucky just seems cold to those he tries to extract information from. This all leads to Sam meeting with Karli; however, just as he is making progress with her, John busts in and completely blows the entire mission.

One thing leads to another, and Zemo winds up destroying pretty much all of the serum vials, except for one—which John quietly pockets. I must say that Wyatt Russel is doing a fantastic job portraying John Walker as a sincere man with an inner turmoil he is barely containing.

The episode reaches its shocking climax with John Walker—having injected himself with the serum off screen—losing his shit and decapitating one of the Flag Smashers, after his mate Lemar is killed by one of them. This all happens in full view of the public, with many filming the incident on their cameras. With blood splattered all over the shield, one can’t help but wonder what fate awaits John Walker from here.

All in all, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is really starting to hit its stride. While I feel the Flag Smashers are relatively weak antagonists with poorly defined motivations, the character arc of John Walker is proving to be must watch TV. Wyatt Russel is doing a fantastic job in the role, and I eagerly await our final two episodes. Let’s see how things play out now that this new Cap has been exposed as a bit more of a bad boy than initially thought.

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A Real Nail-Fighter – Jujutsu Kaisen (Episode Twenty-Four) – Season’s Writings

She doesn’t even need the hammer…

Well, this episode just kicks all kinds of ass, doesn’t it? I’m pretty sure you could count how many times the audience blinks on one hand…you can count zero on one hand, right? The action kicks in immediately and it really never stops until that metaphorical bell rings. Even the villain’s gloating is swiftly ignored for a flurry of blows to the face: it’s awesome. What’s doubly awesome is that Kugisaki gets a chance to go all out and also make it to the end of a fight. Seriously, I feel like she always gets taken out before victory is assured. This time, however, she pulls some seriously metal moves and damn near intimidates her opponent into giving up. Okay, maybe the pain feedback loop had something to do with it, but ol’ Face-Back (the elder, though not oldest, of the curse brothers) wouldn’t have undone his technique had he not been convinced Kugisaki and Itadori could live up to their threats. Oh, Kugisaki uses her technique to ricochet Back-Face’s decomposition, causing all involved a tremendous amount of pain. Not sure if people weren’t aware what happened; figured I should explain just to be safe. Also, why are you reading this without having seen the episode? That’s not a slight against you, I just think you should watch it…because it’s awesome. Like how Itadori pulls off another Black Flash; you know, that super-duper rare move that most sorcerers never achieve? Yeah, that one. Damn this episode was cool.

…I’m going to keep talking about the fight. Normally I switch things up in the second paragraph, but whatever. Sukuna eats another finger and Gojo is planning a party and/or mission: that’s what happens after the fight. Anyway, back to the fight. Though I know animation isn’t a one-to-one indication of a series quality, Jujutsu Kaisen looks bonkers good. The sheer speed of the battle in this episode is insane, as is the fact that you never feel lost in the action: you know who’s doing what and why. This is also supported by the handy reminder that Sukuna, being the King of Curses and Deadly Poisons, gives Itadori a resistance to all forms of poison (which is what his opponent’s technique just happens to entail). On top of that, Kugisaki acknowledges that if a technique only bestows pain, Itadori will always power through: which is, like, metal as hell. It’s also a nice reminder that Kugisaki also respects Itadori as a sorcerer and acknowledges his strength, separate to that of Sukuna’s. Itadori returns this favour by trusting in Kugisaki to turn the battle in their favour with Resonance (her technique) and checking up with how she feels after their trying ordeal. It’s just cool to see characters who aren’t one-note caricatures of what Shonen posits “strong” means. I like them. And this series is dope as heck.

P.S. Itadori and Kugisaki’s definitive strikes on their opponents are synced to the soundtrack of the fight. I mean, do I have to say anything else? Because I will, if I haven’t made it clear just how awesome that is to watch….because it’s awesome to watch…you should watch it…have you watched it yet? If so, why did you stop reading this sentence, watch it, and then come back to finish reading this sentence? That’s weird…but it was awesome, right? I’m glad we agree…what was I writing about? Oh yeah, this series is cool.

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Feeling Infinite – SK8 the Infinity (Episodes Ten and Eleven) – Season’s Writings

After taking a break last week, we are back with a double-header write-up for SK8 the Infinity—covering episodes ten and eleven. Thankfully, episode ten put a cap on one of the most frustrating storylines in the series, that being the discord in the friendship between Reki and Langa. After several episodes of miscommunication and bouts of jealousy, the boys put that all aside and—instead of having a big apology between the two—decide to just shut up and skate together. I thought this was actually a really poignant and satisfying way to conclude the storyline here and reaffirm our leads as best buds heading into the series climax. Sometimes moments like this, of simple character connection, speaks more than any monologue ever could.

There were also a few strange moments in the episode. Not only was Cherry hospitalised after Adam’s assault in the previous week, but Shadow is also randomly assaulted by some dude with a bat, saying that his girlfriend broke up with him because of Shadow. Did I miss something? For the life of me I could not recall who this guy was or what this was in reference to, but it opens things up for someone to replace Shadow in the tournament: that someone being none other than Reki.

Which leads us to episode eleven, which features the aforementioned tournament race with Reki taking on the sinister Adam. I must say, for a show that in its middle portion was losing the plot, it really brought it back in a major way here. The race between Reki and Adam is hands down the best the series has produced thus far. Reki having to use his intelligence to overcome Adam’s brutality and evil ways was a sight to behold. When Adam fails with his skateboard-to-the-face technique and falls face first into the mud, it was a truly cathartic sequence that made it all the more worth it having to deal with this piece of shit character for the past however many episodes. Although he beats Reki by only a mere centimetre, Reki has completely humiliated Adam and won the admiration of his fellow skaters in doing so.

While the ongoing business fraud and political corruption storyline remains the worst part of the show, the backstory scenes showing Adam and Tadashi as children was quite nice, although I find it to be a hard stretch to believe that his dad chucking his skateboard in the bonfire was the one moment that made Adam into such an awful guy. It just seems ludicrous. That said, the Adam and Reki race was the ultimate pay off for this villainous character, and we have one final race between Adam and Langa to look forward to for next week. I feel the series has, for the most part, redeemed itself now, but we will have to wait and see if it sticks the landing.

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Keep on Walking, John – The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (Episode Two) – Season’s Writings

I have to give it to Marvel here: they really pulled a fast one here. While it would have been easy to make John Walker an awful human being and completely undeserving of the shield, they did the complete opposite—presenting him not only as a man trying to do his best and fulfil the role of Captain America, but one who genuinely seems to be a good man, not so different from Steve Rogers.

This flipping of the script places our heroes in an interesting predicament. While it’s clear that John Walker is not a bad man implicitly, and he is simply trying to fulfil his responsibilities and do his best to follow in Steve’s footsteps, Sam and Bucky can’t help but not like the guy. After all, Steve chose Sam, and not this John Walker bloke.

There were a lot of interesting elements on show in this episode, but the crux of the episode is the reunion and newfound partnership of Sam and Bucky—who both decide to team up together to investigate the Flag Smashers. We see a bit of a skirmish with the Flag Smashers and meet their leader, a girl named Karli, all while getting a bit more of an understanding into their ideology.

What Bucky and Sam come to realise is that the Flag Smashers have some how been “enhanced” like super-soldiers; this leads them down the path of investigating other people who had been made into super-soldiers in the past. This is where we meet Isaiah Bradley, who had scuffled with Bucky (as the Winter Soldier) during the Korean War. Isaiah was ultimately screwed over by the very same people who made him and is not too pleased to see Bucky again. The interesting thing, however, is that it appears the super-soldier program never really stopped, putting into question how many other super-soldiers are out there.

Throughout the episode, John Walker and his good buddy Battlestar try repeatedly to get on the good side of Sam and Bucky, to no avail. John seems to be a man who is driven by duty, and he is a true agent of the United States government. He wants to do things by the book and follow his orders, as the good soldier that he is. This just doesn’t jive with Sam and Bucky, who prefer to skip the red tape and bureaucracy—much like how Steve had handled things in the past. Their final rejection of John seems to have an ominous air to it: John warns them not to get in his way. Something tells me that things won’t end well when that inevitably happens.

Running out of clues, Bucky and Sam decide they need to turn to someone who knows the history and inner workings of Hydra better than anyone. This leads them to the cliffhanger ending of the episode, as it seems to imply they will be seeking the help of none other than Baron Zemo—who remains, in this writer’s opinion, the best villain ever in the MCU (sorry, not sorry, Thanos).

Overall, this was an awesome episode—with the show fully kicking into gear here. There are many moving pieces to this story, and I’m sure they are bound to collide in the coming weeks in glorious fashion.

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Indulge the Snyder – Zack Snyder’s Justice League – Humble Opinions

After years of fan campaigns and hashtags aplenty, Zack Snyder’s Justice League—also known colloquially as The Snyder Cut—has finally been released in all of its 3 hours and 52 minutes of indulgent glory. Was it worth the wait? Yes and no.

Anyone who has ever watched a Zack Snyder film would note that he has a very particular style and directorial vision for his films. That vision and style come to its natural endpoint here, in what is both Snyder’s magnum opus and a love letter to himself. This is without a doubt one of the most self-indulgent films perhaps ever released. With the shackles of Warner Bros. executive oversight removed, Snyder makes the most Snyder-esque film he possibly could have. There are slow motion shots in excess, very few (if any) moments of levity, and a dark colour palette that is ultimately personified in the film through a Superman costume change.

If you are a fan of Snyder and his work, this may be the greatest film you’ve ever seen. However, if you found his previous work to be not to your particular tastes, you may actually find the Joss Whedon cut of Justice League to be a bit more palatable. While the Whedon cut undoubtedly left a lot of Snyder’s vision on the cutting-room floor, it basically serves as an abridged version of Snyder’s cut—with added Marvel-style humour and some brightened tones. That said, it cannot be understated that this is a much more cohesive and coherent film with Snyder at the helm.

The movie simply makes more sense in Snyder’s version: the characters get room to breathe, in particular Cyborg and The Flash—both of whom have fully realized characters and arcs in the film. However, there is still many of the same issues that plagued Snyder’s previous instalments in the DC universe. The Justice League here have no qualms with killing and gratuitous violence. Wonder Woman in Snyder’s version completely vaporises a terrorist, which is rather unnerving when you consider the fact that this all occurred within the view of children.

Without spoiling the twists and new footage in the Snyder cut, one of the major differences is the way in which Snyder presents these heroes. There is very little humanity to them; very little relatable qualities. That’s not to say you can’t understand them or their motivations, it’s just that Snyder views these characters as gods walking among men; they are above the small issues of humankind; they deal in the grandiose, and that’s exactly how Snyder likes it.

Ultimately, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a creator’s vision fully realised. It may be painfully long at times, but it is truly an epic film. It may be self indulgent on Snyder’s part; but, unlike the Joss Whedon chop-job that was the theatrical release of Justice League in 2017, this feels like a complete movie with one true vision. Fans of Snyder will love it, but it may prove to be a difficult length to overcome for the casual audience. Where the DC film universe goes from here is anyone’s guess, but I, for one, am happy that Snyder and his fans got to have their moment in the sun.

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One Little Push – Jujutsu Kaisen (Episode Twenty-Three) – Season’s Writings

It was at this moment the special-grade realised he had made a mistake.

With the usual explosion of energy and animation that makes Jujutsu so damn cool, this episode throws us into the whack-a-mole battle of the century. Apparently, that curse what done killed all those people at their doorways pops up in a multitude of bodies (though all the same doofy/scary shape). Fushiguro even notes how this curse is far weaker than they expected, tearing through its forms with the help of Kugisaki. All’s well that en—and Kugisaki’s being pulled through a portal. And Itadori jumped in too. And one of Sukuna’s fingers is here. And one of those creepy special-grades…this situation is wack. Still, this cavalcade of chaos does give Fushiguro the push he needs to become stronger. Sure dire-moment power-ups can be a tad cliché, but this one makes thematic sense…and is really cool. With unexpected confirmation (for us) that his ultimate technique is a sacrificial one, Fushiguro realises that he never truly pushes the limits of his skill and imagination. If his skills don’t work, he always has a trump card that’ll take him and his opponent out—even Sukuna took note of whatever this technique is. So, for the first time, Fushiguro fights to live…and it rocks.

Chimera. Shadow. Garden. That’s it. That’s all you need to know to understand how cool Fushiguro’s Domain Expansion is. It’s got monsters; they’re made of darkness…there’s possibly some hedging involved. It’s just cool. The victory this technique seizes him also allows us a glimpse into Fushiguro’s past—like when he beat up a literal pile of bullies. We learn that his brand of justice involves hating both bad and good people, as the bad people infringe upon the rights of others and the good people forgive the bad out of a false sense of nobility. It’s…it’s not the worst philosophy I’ve ever heard, though Fushiguro can be a right jerk about the whole thing. Still, it’s nice to learn a little more about the quietest member of our main cast. I mean, he’s even quieter now, with the over-dramatic status pop-up informing us that he fell asleep. Here’s hoping nobody sneaks up and pilfers that finger of Sukuna’s he’s holding. It’d probably have to be yet another character, as the two special-grades who have appeared so far look like they’re going to be busy with Itadori and Kugisaki. I imagine the curse with the face on his back might prove the bigger threat, considering that the first few minutes of this episode revolved around Itadori pummelling the ever-loving crap out of the two-faced one. Like, he punched him a lot. Like, a lot. I’d almost feel bad for the guy, you know, if he wasn’t a violent abomination hell bent on destroying our main cast and stealing an item that could help destabilise the continued existence of humanity. Bit of a jerk move if you ask me.

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Not Quite Captain Falcon – The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (Episode One) – Season’s Writings

We didn’t have to wait too long for our next dose of Marvel, as The Falcon and The Winter Soldier launched on Disney Plus after only a week’s break since WandaVision ended in climactic fashion. Immediately, it becomes clear that The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is more in line with the MCU’s expected style than WandaVision was. It is action, intrigue, witty banter, and some authentic emotional beats throughout—all staples of what makes the MCU so successful.

The episode takes place several months after the events of Avengers: Endgame and, after a heroic mission that felt very Top Gun-esque, we see that The Falcon has refused Captain America’s wish for him to take up his mantle and shield. Instead, he opts to hand the shield over to the government—who put it into the Captain America museum we saw back in Captain America: Winter Soldier. This decision feels like the furthest thing from what Cap would have wanted, considering his entire story arc was about not trusting in the government and believing that the “safest hands are still our own”. More on this later though.

Without recapping events beat-for-beat, we learn about Falcon’s family who are having financial troubles; furthermore, we get the interesting tid-bit that he isn’t being paid as an Avenger. I have seen many people discussing online, thinking that this is some kind of a race issue; but, to me, the implication seemed more to be that—considering the storyline events of the MCU—Falcon had gone rogue with Team Cap back in Civil War; so of course he is no longer on the payroll. On top of that, the guy was Snapped for five years, which implicates him as having no income for that period of time. Obviously it’s bullshit, but I can understand it being one of those stupid bank policies. I don’t believe the show was implying that Tony Stark and the Avengers were just not paying Falcon because of his race like some seem to think, but maybe I’m wrong. We will see.

On the other side of the series title is the Winter Soldier, who we discover is trying to right the wrongs of his past and is undergoing therapy to try to deal with these matters. I particularly liked Bucky’s storyline in this episode—much more than the Falcon family’s boat dramas. The kicker that Bucky has befriended an old man because, in the past, he had killed his son actually did surprise me, and it felt like one of those hopelessly tragic moments that the MCU likes to pull out every so often.

While we didn’t see our two leads meet up with each other just yet, we did learn a bit about the conflicts they may face in the coming weeks. Namely, the super powered Flag Smashers and the newly government appointed Captain America who rocks up in the episode’s climax.

It is hard to tell whether this new Captain America is going to be some kind of super-powered nemesis or merely a comedic foil for our heroes. I had a thought that perhaps he would be used similarly to how Cap was used at first for propaganda purposes during WW2, but something tells me, considering this character’s comic book origins, there may be more to this guy than meets the eye. This reveal, of course, stings for Falcon because his trust was broken by the government,—something that Steve Rogers also had happen to him. Perhaps getting screwed by the government is the first step towards becoming a true Captain of America?

Other than that, I think the Flag Smashers is an interesting idea because I imagine there would be people who actually did think Thanos was right and the world was better during the Blip. I’m curious to see what they will do and what their deal is in future episodes.

All in all, this was ultimately a bit of a setting-the-stage kind of episode, but a fine one at that. Now that the foundation is laid, let’s see where this adventure into the wild world of Marvel will take us.

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Tales Out of Middle School – Jujutsu Kaisen (Episode Twenty-Two) – Season’s Writings

Just what every embarrassing moment needs: an audience.

If ever there was an anime episode for fans of both extreme sports and haunted locations, this would most certainly be one…also, what a very niche Venn diagram to be a part of. Regardless, this episode sees our lovable trio off to investigate a series of grisly murders, wherein victims were found brutalised at their own front doors. We do actually get to see one such murder in action, as a man loudly yells over the phone that his automatic door is on the fritz—a sign that the murderous curse is drawing near—before threatening to kill the inspector for not having already fixed the issue. He dies (the yelling guy, not the inspector). It’s not that sad. Did he deserve to be violently rent asunder? Probably not. But he did seem rather unpleasant, so I didn’t feel that bad. Also, we eventually learn that the curse targets people who underwent a “trial of courage” by venturing under a bridge in the dead of night. I don’t think that warrant his death either, but it definitely shows a capacity for bad decisions. Anyway, this paragraph is more attention than he even got in the episode…so let’s move on.

…to something else? I’ll be honest, not a lot happened in this episode. We learn that Fushiguro beat up an entire district of ne’er-do-wells back in the day, we learn that he has a bedridden sister who is also at risk from this episode’s curse and we see Mahito implanting one of the special-grades he stole from Jujutsu Tech into some guy he was torturing. Important little tid-bits, to be sure, but all setting up for events to come. I did enjoy the return of the Kugisaki/Itadori duo of jovial idiocy, and seeing Fushiguro turn his head almost entirely backwards to avoid explaining his past was pretty funny. I’m also a fan of the sorcerers that pop up to ferry our main cast around. This particular sorcerer seems to follow in the Gojo school of things: abrupt outbursts of childishness that are usually to conceal a more serious motive. Also, her stunned shock/frustration when she learns that the group’s primary witness/suspect is also dead is rather funny…in a macabre sort of way. But hey, if you weren’t into that sort of thing then how have you made it this far into the series? They sort of talk about death a lot. Like, a lot, a lot.

P.S. This week’s “Jujutsu Stroll” told the heart-warming tale of a woman who has kept her family’s restaurant running out of sheer kindness and a desire to see its flavour live on…and that flavour is bland. It’s a touch mean, but seeing Itadori and Kugisaki immediately drop their content expressions when Fushiguro mentions the meatless gyoza was pretty dang funny. Is that a mean thing to say? Am I mean?

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Out of Left Field – Jujutsu Kaisen (Episode Twenty-One) – Season’s Writings

Tokyo need a witch err.

Oh my, it’s a baseball! Yep, for reasons known only to Gojo—and us once Gojo himself reveals he did it for the sake of mixing up tradition, as is his wont—the second day of the Kyoto–Tokyo Exchange Event is not a series of individual battle: it’s a baseball match. That being said, the match is ultimately a collection of small skits that happen to take place on a baseball field. Arrow Guy strikes out after musing too long on Itadori’s reasons for becoming a sorcerer (undermining the sombre backstory playing out on screen), “Mechamaru” rocks up in his baseball-pitching-machine backup body, Broom Girl flies around to catch fly balls, and Todo gets walloped in the face by a pitch from Maki—which she did on purpose and literally every student praises her for. It’s a definite hard turn from the high stakes of last episode, but it’s a much needed situation: if things kept unfolding at the pace they had been then we’d all have exploded from the sheer outpouring of awesomeness. Not that this episode doesn’t maintain the same level of energy and animation as previous—a great amount of effort was put into showing Todo get beaned in the dome. It was totally worth it, by the way: that *bleep* was funny.

On the less…baseball side of things, the plot progresses with the Jujutsu Tech faculty discussing the full extent of the recent attack. They know the special-grades made off with some serious cursed materials, they know a bunch of sorcerers were killed, and they know this isn’t the end of things. Their hostage, Crazy Furniture Guy, made mention of an androgynous monk with a bob cut, making us all question just how many humans are helping the special-grades destroy all of the humans. Seems pretty counter-intuitive if you ask me, but I don’t think all of these people are in the category of rational thinkers—what with the lack of interest in the survival of their own species and all. The special-grades do, however, continue their stalwart focus on keeping Gojo contained when their plans fully unfold: Ol’ Blindfold is just that powerful (case in point, he blew Hanami’s arm off with one attack). The principals of both Jujutsu branches also have an issue with Gojo, though that’s just because he’s a pretty annoying guy. Still, it’s nice to know the principals do have some manner of common ground between them. Oh, they also seemingly agreed to watch Itadori without murdering him for being the vessel of an apocalyptically strong curse…so that’s nice.

P.S. The lower-third factoids about each student that popped up during the baseball match were as funny as they were nonsensical. Panda wants to punch a zebra, Mai recentley got over her dislike of mangoes, and the mango that Miwa was saving mysteriously went missing recently: how peculiar. Also, I wonder if they’ll pay off the storyline of Kugisaki awaiting approval for a credit card?

P.P.S. It seems Todo legitimately believes he has a past with Itadori, with even his baseball factoid claiming they won the middle school nationals together (though it also makes not of Itadori’s denial of this). Even Itadori is weirded out by his “brother’s” behaviour, claiming he wasn’t in his right mind during their fight/bonding. I wonder if it had anything to do with all those blows to the face?

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With the Subtlety of a Skateboard to the Face – SK8 the Infinity (Episode Nine) – Season’s Writings

This was not an episode filled with subtlety and nuance; I’m beginning to see some troubling trends in SK8 the Infinity as it powers through its second half. While the first half of the series focused on falling in love with skating and the wonder of it, the second half seems to be more focused on melodrama and ridiculous skateboarding stunts that are as dumb as they are unbelievable. While it’s fair to say that sports anime often have somewhat of a fantastical take on things, SK8 the Infinity began as a very grounded show that focused on skateboarding in a realistic and authentic manner, but that seems to have gone out the window as time has rolled on.

This episode sees two of the tournament matches take place. First off is Joe versus Langa, which was fine for the most part and despite some ridiculous moments—like Joe removing his feet off the board and riding it from his hands in a Superman-like position. This manoeuvre could not possibly be performed in reality. That said, it is anime, so it’s fair to give it a pass. The race is a bit back-and-forth, before Langa ultimately wins after some sideline cheering-on from Reki.

The Reki and Langa drama is still going on but is largely put to the background of this episode, as it explores the history between Adam, Joe, and Cherry. It seems that they were all skating buddies back in their high school days, but somewhere along the way Adam became the awful piece of shit that we now know him to be for reasons yet to be explained.

We also get the main event match of the episode, with Adam and Cherry going head-to-head. Adam attempts his stupid Love Hug move, and when that fails Adam literally hops off his board, runs full force at Cherry, and beats him over the head with his skateboard—which somehow means he wins the race. Cherry is hospitalised and Adam faces no repercussions for hopping off his board mid-race and physically assaulting his opponent. This was, for me, the jump the shark moment for SK8 the Infinity. It just makes no sense that this would happen, nor that it would be an acceptable thing to do in an S race. We knew that Adam had injured other skaters by “out skating” them and causing them to crash or fall off the boards, but to see him just swing his board at Cherry’s face like a baseball bat was beyond my suspension of disbelief.

All in all, I thought that this was not a great episode for the series and one that ultimately just lost the plot completely and devolved into a moment of utter nonsensical violence. I hope that SK8 the Infinity can get back on track again after this episode, but I am feeling more and more that the series is skating away from what made it so great in its early episodes, and my enthusiasm for it is starting to grind to a halt.

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Until Next Time – WandaVision (Episode Nine) – Season’s Writings

A part of me left the final episode of WandaVision feeling underwhelmed; but, after some thought and contemplation, I realise that a lot of the reason I had felt that way was due to unreasonable, great expectations that I had ultimately conceived in my own mind. Not unlike Wanda conceived the reality of the Hex in her mind, I had conceived several notions about what and who I thought should appear in this series. However, this was never meant to be a show about Reed Richards, Mephisto, and the X-Men universe’s Quicksilver, this was always meant to be a show about Wanda Maximoff and The Vision, and it is only fitting that this final episode gives them the spotlight—no surprise cameos or shocking twists to steal their thunder.

Ultimately, most everything is wrapped up neatly as the episode concludes, leaving the major plot lines of the series resolved. Wanda defeats Agatha at her own game, Vision and White Vision have a big CGI fight (and then a philosophical debate), Fake Pietro was just a dude named Ralph Bohner, Director Haywood fails in his plans and is put to jail, Monica is no longer “grounded” by S.W.O.R.D., and tragically Wanda must say goodbye to her family in order to free all the people she has held captive.

I found it rather interesting that the show chose not to shy away from the fact that what Wanda had done was nothing short of villainous. In many ways she was the “bad guy” of this series. But not unlike Thanos, Marvel’s greatest villain, we can understand and to some extent sympathise with their feelings and motivations. Wanda was stricken by grief and didn’t mean to do what she did; but, at the same time, even after becoming aware of the situation she was reluctant to undo matters. She has to bare the consequences of her actions now. Can she be a member of the Avengers going forward? One could argue that she doesn’t deserve the title of Avenger anymore.

While the episode was largely made up of CGI battles, it was in the final moments—which saw Wanda saying goodbye to her children and to her husband—that the episode really shined. The final conversation between Wanda and Vision is some of the most beautiful dialogue ever shared in the MCU, and it’s hard not to feel your heart break with them.

Now that Vision and the kids are gone, Wanda has isolated herself in some unspecified cabin in some unspecified mountain location, and we see her astral projecting similarly to what we had seen Doctor Strange do in the past. We see her in her full Scarlet Witch garb learning from the Dark Hold book. We hear her children screaming out for help and we cut to black. This seems to imply that she may be able to some how retrieve her children. How exactly that would happen is anyone’s guess at this point, but I got a feeling that we might get more of an idea in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.

Overall, I thought that WandaVision was a beautifully heartfelt show with some incredible characterisation for our two leads that many could argue was much needed. There were countless memorable moments and there are some serious ramifications for the MCU’s future. With the now-reprogrammed White Vision out in the wild and Wanda potentially finding a way to bring back her children, could we possibly see a reunion of the Scarlet Witch’s family in the future? Time will tell. But for now we can look forward to the next stop in the MCU which is Falcon and the Winter Soldier—stay tuned for our weekly Writings of that series. Until then, I will leave you all with a quote from our favourite Marvel couple:

Vision: I have been a voice with no body. A body, but not human. And now a memory made real. Who knows what I might be next? We have said goodbye before, so it stands to reason-

Wanda: We’ll say hello again.

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Infinity on High – Demon Slayer: Mugen Train Movie – Humble Opinions

It goes without saying that Demon Slayer has proven to be quite the phenomenon, both in Japan and around the world. The fact that a Shonen Jump adaptation film wound up being the highest grossing Japanese film of all time, surpassing the likes of such cinematic greats as Your Name and Spirited Away, is an impressive feat to say the very least. So, does the film live up to the ridiculous level of hype that has surrounded it? Yes. Yes it does.

A big part of what sets Demon Slayer: Mugen Train apart from other Shonen Jump anime films is that it actually adapts source material and is canon to the ongoing story of Demon Slayer. Often these anime film takes on anime series either go the abridged format, adapting a popular story from the anime in abbreviated form, or they go for a completely original story that takes place outside of the canon of the main series. Perhaps the crucial element that led to the success of this film is that it is compulsory viewing for fans of the series, as this film will bridge the gap between the first and upcoming second season of the anime series.

Considering that the film is canon and adapting directly from the source material, the events of Mugen Train have a true sense of weight to them. What happens in this film genuinely matters and will have serious repercussions and consequences on the plot of the anime series going forward. Beyond that, it proves to be an absolute spectacle of a film, highlighting all of the great aspects of the Demon Slayer series whilst telling a focused and pointed story throughout.

The film picks up right where the first season ended, with Tanjiro and company boarding the mysterious Mugen Train. From there on, our heroes must team up with a member of the Hashira (named Rengoku) and solve the mystery of the disappearances occurring on the train. I will keep plot details light, as it is canon content and will ultimately be spoilers as we head into the second season of the anime. What I can say, however, is that the story takes many twists and turns and there is plenty of signature Demon Slayer action to satisfy fans’ need for swords clashing and demon heads rolling.

Beyond just being a fantastic Shonen Jump anime adaptation, the film has some truly powerful themes and messages it explores, and the philosophy of the character Rengoku proves to be a powerful part of the film. Ultimately, it is a truly moving and affecting piece of cinema, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house at my screening.

Overall, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train more than lives up to the unprecedented hype that has surrounded it. The hype train for Mugen Train was well deserved. If you are a Demon Slayer fan and eagerly anticipating the second season later this year, don’t miss out on seeing this film because it is a critical part of the story of Demon Slayer—and mandatory viewing. If you have never watched anything to do with Demon Slayer, you’ll still no doubt find yourself enjoying this film as it actually doubles as great entry point for the uninitiated. To put it simply, no matter who you may be, go and watch this brilliant film.

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Pound of Applause – Jujutsu Kaisen (Episode Twenty) – Season’s Writings

A standing decimation.

Boom! Clap! The sound of a punch: the fight goes on and on and on and on and. Boom! Clap! Beset by petals and wood: switch out with me, switch out with them. And now that you’ve got that tune stuck in your head, let’s ruminate on the sheer spectacle of this episode (which is just pompous talk for, “Holy crap. Holy crap. Did you see how sweet this episode was?”) Not content with being a figurative brick wall made of literal muscle, Todo busts out his cursed technique: Boogie Woogie. But don’t let the name fool you, it is as awesome as it sounds. Long story short, this skill lets Todo swap places with a target—a fact he quickly lets Hanami know. He then uses this ability to rapidly switch places with Itadori, throwing Hanami off balance and allowing the best friend duo to pummel the special-grade into the dirt. The episode maintains this furious energy by slowly revealing the hidden depths of Boogie Woogie. Not only can Todo switch places with an opponent or ally, he can also cause two targets to swap with each other—allowing him to throw Hanami into danger whilst simultaneously saving Itadori. On top of that, Todo can also swap beings with inanimate objects, allowing him to trade Itadori for Maki’s three-sectioned staff and slap Hanami right good across the face. It’s such a simply explained ability, and yet it is used with such fluidity and creativity that an episode-long fight scene never lulls. It’s quite awesome.

The episode does bust out of fight city central every now and again, showing that Shrine Maiden Teacher comes across a bad guy with a real creepy sword (the hilt is a hand that holds his hand and was made by the other bad guy who turns people into furniture and, apparently, tools), Old Guy Jerk plays his guitar real loud at Crazy Furniture Guy, and Gojo straight up busted the dome designed to specifically keep only one being on the planet outside of it (that person being him). These asides are over rather quickly, however, Creep the Swordmaster legs it, Crazy furniture Guy has all of his limbs instantly destroyed by Gojo, and then Gojo carves a trail of destruction and possibly obliterates Hanami (via a technique known awesomely as Hollow Purple). It really makes you understand why the villains are so scared of this blindfolded bozo: he wrecks shop. Seriously, the guy turns up and everybody’s instinct is to run. Hanami murdered nature—hypocritically—to power an ultimate attack and then just stopped, immediately vying to leave. Even Itadori using Black Flash four times in a row—tying the record set by Nanami (though he claims his own success a fluke)—is completely overshadowed by Gojo simply existing. I do not want to see what could push him to use his full power…except that I do. Because that would be awesome to watch.

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The Tournament Begins – SK8 the Infinity (Episode Eight) – Season’s Writings

And so the tournament has begun. Reki and Langa are still painfully “broken up”, but we are starting to see the beginnings of some kind of reconciliation for the pair. I, personally, am not the biggest fan of relationship dramas between characters in anime, other than a few exceptions (see Luffy versus Usopp in One Piece), because most of the time it just feels like drama for the sake of drama rather than a genuine emotional reasoning to cause their conflict—and SK8 the Infinity is straddling that line somewhat dangerously at the moment.

This week’s episode largely focuses on the beginning of the tournament being held by Adam, and we see a few of the races along the way. Frustratingly, Reki chooses not to enter the tournament and continues to wallow in his misery. I feel we are starting to lose sight of the Reki we know and love, and it is starting to border on being out of character here. I understand that Reki feels jealous and hurt, but it honestly feels like the happy-go-lucky Reki we met at the series outset wouldn’t be doing this. I feel like that Reki was more focused on the joy of skating than he is on being the best at it.

With all that said, the tournament races were pretty fun, albeit brief, thus far. Notably, Tadashi (the character who was randomly introduced last week as the assistant of Adam in his business) decided to enter the tournament and says he will defeat Adam and make him renounce skating and never skate again. This feels completely out of nowhere and this whole side story regarding Adam’s dodgy business dealings and supposed past with Tadashi really isn’t doing anything for me, personally. It just isn’t very interesting, to put it simply.

Ultimately, I for one hope that the Reki and Langa break-up storyline wraps up soon because these two characters are at their best when they are together. I’ve had enough of the melodrama, and I want to see these boys carving it up on the streets of Okinawa together again. Let’s hope things resolve sooner rather than later.

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A Trip Down Memory Lane – WandaVision (Episode Eight) – Season’s Writings

“What is grief, if not love persevering?”—poetic words from Vision that tell us everything we need to know about WandaVision. At its core, this is a series about grief, what it means, and how it can affect us all.

This week’s episode is focused in on giving the answers we have been looking for. As we saw last week, Agatha Harkness has been manipulating things in the background in WandaVision and we learn here that although she has been pulling some strings, she is not the one who created the Hex, nor does she have control over it. Instead, she is a curious witch; an ancient one indeed, as we see her during Salem in 1693. Agatha is simply curious about how Wanda has done this spell-to-end-all-spells, and so she forces Wanda to take a trip through her memories in order to get to the bottom of it.

We see Wanda’s childhood and come to understand why the reality of the Hex is in the form of sitcoms; it is honestly the most simple answer, really, and the one that makes the most sense. Wanda grew up learning English watching sitcoms with her family in Sokovia. Sitcoms are intrinsically linked with her life through both joy and sorrow. In the darkest of times they were a comforting escape and it makes all the more sense why her fantasy life is manifesting in this way.

More curious to note is that we learn that Wanda’s interaction with the Infinity Stone during the Hydra experimentation wasn’t exactly what gave her her abilities. In fact, we learn here that she had latent abilities that were amplified by the Stone. Just as she unconsciously cast a probability hex which prevented the bomb from going off in her childhood, saving herself and Pietro, we learn that Wanda has always had magical powers. The question now is why and how?

After a few different stops in memory lane, we have a tender moment between Wanda and Vision at the Avengers compound—not long after her brother’s passing during Age of Ultron—and it’s a moment that really makes you understand why these people love one another; it’s an important scene. Vision delivers the aforementioned line and Wanda knows that he implicitly understands her in a way few others do. It makes it all the more tragic when we see the memory of Wanda storming S.W.O.R.D. HQ to acquire Vision’s body. We learn here that Director Haywood actually lied about Wanda stealing Vision’s body: she did nothing of the sort. She came to the facility and saw Vision had been dismantled, and she was unable to feel his life any more. She accepted this reality and left.

From here we see that Vision had, prior to Infinity War, purchased a plot of land in Westview for Wanda and himself to settle down in and hopefully grow old together. Wanda treks out to this location and, upon seeing the grounds where their home would of and should have been, utterly breaks down and, in her grief, loses control of her powers and, in an explosion of sorrow, manifests the reality that is the Hex—and most notably recreates Vision from nothing.

All of this information has made things clear for Agatha, who has now determined Wanda as too dangerous to live. Holding her children hostage, Agatha declares Wanda has been using chaos magic as the mythical “Scarlet Witch”, and we cut to credits. There was, however, a very important post-credits scene which shows us that Director Haywood, using energy from the Hex, has managed to switch his now-reassembled Vision back online; however, this one doesn’t look too friendly.

There are still so many questions to be answered and only one episode left. I have no idea how they are going to possibly resolve all the hanging plot threads with only one episode remaining, but I am hoping they can pull this off. WandaVision has caused me to rethink a lot about what the MCU can and will be, going forward, and I am very excited to see things come to a climax next week.

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Tree Slugger – Jujutsu Kaisen (Episode Nineteen) – Season’s Writings

Black Flash! A-ah!

Damn, nature, you are indeed scary. In case that previous statement wasn’t eminently know, Hanami (formerly referred to, by me, as Branch Eyes) continues to absolutely decimate the forces of Jujutsu Tech. They smack Fushiguro and Arrow Guy (still don’t remember his name) around like it was nothing, and the sheer power gap between them and Inumaki (that guy what talks magic) is enough for the rebound of the latter’s technique to take him out of commission. Oh, and did I mention that even Maki gets beaten up swiftly? Remember, she’s that sorcerer who bested two powerful opponents with ease. Plus, just for good measure, Hanami also stabbed Fushiguro with a cursed branch that threatens to destroy his body. So…yeah. I’m pretty sure this all counts as dire straights. But, what’s that? On the horizon. Why, yes, it’s those lovable best friends: Itadori and Toudou!

Yep, it’s finally time to see our protagonist jump back into the fray and put his intensive, albeit brief, training to the test. Inspired by the encouragement of his best friend (and the threat that Toudou will let him die if cannot utilise a specific technique), Itadori begins his punch-offensive. Long story short, Itadori manages to almost immediately perform the Black Flash, a technique that involves imbuing cursed energy within a trillionth of a second of a strike’s impact. It sounds awesome. It looks awesome. It’s apparently something many sorcerers have never even accomplished. Of course Itadori nails it: he’s got that Shonen power. Still, a technique that bends the very fabric of space and time through sheer power is undeniably awesome. What’s also awesome is the speed and choreography that permeate the fight when Toudou jumps into the fray. The two zip around like nobody’s business, visibly impacting an opponent who trounced all previous contenders. Seriously, y’all should watch it. It looks dope.

P.S. Fushiguro’s shikigami straight up die if they’re killed: that’s sad. But their powers merge together: that’s good. And is dogs have now combined into one super predator: that’s cool.

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The Break Up – SK8 the Infinity (Episode Seven) – Season’s Writings

Well, it had been teased in the previous episodes, and everything comes to an ugly head here: Reki and Langa have officially broken up. What does this mean for our favourite skater-boy duo? I, for one, hope this is only a temporary separation because I love seeing these two skating the streets of Okinawa together. It just doesn’t seem right for them to skate alone.

This week’s episode was rather significant in its goings-on compared to last week’s breather beach episode. A lot the focus here is on the slow but sure divide growing between our two leads, as Langa improves and surpasses Reki as a skater. Reki feels jealous and like Langa is leaving him behind. Langa, of course, is just having fun and loving skateboarding, blissfully unaware that the more he improves the more distance he is creating between himself and Reki.

Reki goes into a bit of a depression spiral over the course of the episode trying to replicate tricks Langa had done and even chooses to not attend the reopening of the S race. He misses out on the announcement that Adam will be hosting a skateboarding tournament to determine the King of S.

There is a side plot here regarding Adam’s real life business dealings which, personally, just did nothing for me and I couldn’t have cared less about if I tried. We are also introduced to Adam’s assistant Tadashi, who I can’t remember being in any prior episodes, who is suddenly an important character in this side story—where Adam may be charged with perjury due to his illegal dealings with some politician. It seems Adam is going to pin it on Tadashi, which he strangely accepts. We see a very brief flashback of Adam and Tadashi at a younger age with some old man having burned their skateboard in a fire pit. I don’t know what was going on there. All I could think while these scenes were happening was how much I wanted the show to get back to the skateboarding.

The episode comes to an emotional climax with Reki and Langa meeting up in the rain, where Reki loses his shit at Langa who confirms he is entering the tournament with hopes of defeating Adam. Reki is incensed because Langa had promised he would not skate against Adam again. Langa says it’s just exciting to skate with other good skaters, to which Reki replies that he is scared of doing that. He then officially ends his friendship with Langa, brutally, stating that they aren’t a good match anymore, leaving Langa to shed tears in the rain.

Overall, I thought this was one of the better episodes of the series so far. The emotion surrounding the Langa and Reki relationship is a highlight and there is a lot of intrigue there as to where it is going. However, this episode was bogged down by the unnecessary and completely random Adam side plot regarding the political corruption. I couldn’t have cared less about that. At the very least, it looks like next week the tournament will begin, so we can look forward to some skating action.

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Agatha All Along – WandaVision (Episode Seven) – Season’s Writings

Well, it looks like the theories were right. Agnes is Agatha Harkness and—as we learn in the chilling musical number that concludes this episode—when it comes to many of the series questions and mysteries, well, it is was Agatha all along.

Fans of the Scarlet Witch comics would be familiar with the character of Agatha Harkness, a super-powered witch who has both served as a mentor and antagonist to Wanda in the comics. Many had theorised that Agnes was an abbreviation of Agatha Harkness and we learn here that that was correct.

The episode opens in what is now a 2010s-style mockumentary sitcom, in the same vein as Modern Family or The Office. We discover that Wanda is slowly losing control of the world around her, as items are changing appearance without her say so, and things generally just seem to be falling apart. Lucky for Wanda, Agnes rocks up just in time to take care of the kids and give her some “me time”.

On the other side of town is Vision, who is back to life and retains his memories of his journey through the Hex barrier. He meets Darcy Lewis, who was trapped in the Hex, and the two have some incredible comedic banter—with Darcy rejecting the unintentional come on from Vision. Soon enough, Vision uses his powers to awaken her to reality and the two decide they need to get to Wanda and try to stop her. The comedic moments between these two are honestly a highlight of this episode. If you had told me five years ago that Vision and Darcy Lewis would commit grand theft auto after punching out a clown, I would have thought you were out of your mind—but hey, it happened.

Along the road back, Darcy gives Vision a bit of a run down on his life prior to Westview which he had forgotten. He comes to understand why Wanda is doing this and Darcy remarks that, despite all of this, she knows that they both really do love each other. Anywho, despite their attempts to get back into town, it seems that Wanda is putting up countless roadblocks that are preventing them.

Back outside of the Hex, we see that Haywood is planning to go full frontal assault on the Hex and retrieve his asset. It seems that during that five year time skip, S.W.O.R.D. had been trying to reactivate Vision and potentially turn him into a weapon for them. Their attempts all appeared to have failed, but seeing that Wanda has brought him back to life seems to spark the curiosity of Haywood.

The episode doesn’t give us the “aerospace engineer” reveal, but instead we see Monica Rambeau gain super powers. She receives a space rover from her “aerospace engineer” friend—who we don’t see in this episode—but it fails to break through the Hex, which has now become more dense and hard to traverse through. Monica, however, decides that she will make her way in herself. Having already went through the Hex twice, going through the third time completely scrambles her DNA make-up, seemingly giving her some kind of energy manipulation abilities.

Monica makes her way to Wanda’s house and confronts her. Wanda loses her shit, of course, and tries to attack Monica. However, Monica is able to reverse her powers with her own, which shocks Wanda and sees Agnes suddenly come to Wanda’s aid. Agnes takes Wanda to her house and demands Monica to leave. This is where the big reveal comes.

As everything seems to be falling apart, Agnes lures Wanda into her basement to find her kids—who are nowhere to be seen. The basement looks like something straight out of Salem, and there is some kind of demonic book that is glowing, and the whole place is just generally spooky. Agnes introduces herself as Agatha Harkness and magics a musical number into Wanda’s head, revealing that she was behind everything in the series up until now.

I am left with so many questions after this episode. What does Agatha want? Who is the fake Pietro? Who is the “aerospace engineer”? What in the world is going on? Will Vision make it in time before shit hits the fan even further than it already has? WandaVision has just taken things to another level of insanity, and we still have some more surprises ahead according to some of the actors from the show. My guess is that the fake Pietro is actually Mephisto and he is working alongside Agatha. The only problem I have is, I have no idea what Agatha wants here—and what is her endgame? Is it all just to fuck with Wanda or is there some deeper motivation that we can’t yet comprehend?

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An Unexpected, Lasting Cultural Impact – The O.C. – In Retrospect

It was August 5th, 2003 when 7.5 million people tuned in to the first episode of The O.C.—a series which would unexpectedly go on to have a lasting and wide-reaching impact on pop culture in the West. But you wouldn’t have known that at the time. The marketing and advertisements put out by the Fox Network would have you believe you were signing up for a 90210-style teen drama about rich kids and their rich-kid problems. While that is a part of what The O.C. explored, it wasn’t really what The O.C. was all about. The O.C. took the glitz and glam of rich white life and put it through the lens of the social outcasts. A line from series’ lead Ryan Atwood sums up The O.C.‘s perspective on that world: “You know what I love about rich kids? Nothing.” It was a defiant flipping of the bird to every rich-kid teen drama on television and one that would become the series’ mantra throughout.

The series was an instant smash hit on television, raking in tens of millions of views on average each week. With such a massive audience, The O.C. proved to be truly influential on the landscape of popular culture. While the series focused primarily on our lead Ryan Atwood, a kid from the wrong side of the tracks adopted into the Cohen family, it was through Ryan’s adoptive brother Seth Cohen that the series made its arguable greatest impact—it made nerd culture cool.

Seth Cohen was presented as your typical geek who loved comic books, video games, obscure indie bands, skateboarding, and movies. Unlike typical geek characters, however, Seth was presented as having good taste—he was into the good shit. This geek got the girl. Heck, he even gets the girl into reading comics! The presentation of this character was completely unlike what had been seen before in TV and Josh Schwartz, the series creator, would go on to replicate the cool geek archetype with his show Chuck.

The show was witty, referential, and smart. It presented the world of nerd culture in a positive light and lead the revolution of legitimising and popularising geek culture in the mainstream. Seth Cohen was a nerd through and through, but he was also cool and able to interact and engage in meaningful relationships with women and other people. He wasn’t some nerd who didn’t know how to live life because he read too many comic books. Instead, the comic books helped shape him as both a good person and someone who is passionate about the things he loves and the things he pursues. He was presented as every bit as much of a desirable guy as the brooding and more typically attractive Ryan.

The popular movement of nerd culture becoming mainstream undoubtedly has its roots here in The O.C., and there would be countless other programs that would come along to try and tap into this emerging mainstream movement, to varying levels of success. There would arguably be no Big Bang Theory without Seth Cohen. Take that as you will.

One of the other major impacts The O.C. had was on the music industry. Creator Josh Schwartz has remarked in interviews in the past that he would often hear a song, and then write a scene for the show to be backed by that song. It was an integral part of his writing process. This is something that is evident in all of his shows, including Gossip Girl and Chuck. The inclusion of a band’s music on The O.C. actually had skyrocketed multiple artists to fame and even lead to some bands getting record deals, such as in the case of the band Rooney.

The influential nature of the show on the music industry did not go unnoticed. By the second season of the show, record labels were approaching the showrunners to have their music featured. One little known fact was that the global premiere of Coldplay’s iconic song “Fix You” was actually in an episode of The O.C. Yes, a song which has gone on to be touted as one of the greatest songs ever written was launched as part of an episode of this show.

Countless musical acts had guest appearances on the show, including bands that would go on to massive acclaim, such as The Killers. The sonic landscape of The O.C. was one that simply could not be understated. Every musical choice had a purpose and point. Schwartz would view stories and moments through song and would go out of his way to secure the music rights to tracks, all in order to score the scene with the perfect song. There may be no better example of this than the now-iconic second season finale which features Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek”.

I could probably write an entire article just on that second season finale and the ramifications it had on both television, music, and even the modern comedy landscape. But I’ll touch on the importance of the moment as best I can here. The second season finale begins with a funeral, where we hear the first part of the “Hide and Seek” track, but it ends before we hear the familiar strains of “Mmm Whatcha Say”. That is saved for the closing moments of the episode, where the use of the song at the funeral serves as a perfect parallel to the deadly shooting that concludes the episode and season. The gunshot rings out and suddenly, after being left hanging for an entire episode, “Hide and Seek” kicks back in like a punch to the heart. “Mmm Whatcha Say” indeed.

This moment would become one of the most well known and iconic moments of the series as a whole. This moment would even unexpectedly go on to launch The Lonely Island to comedy stardom. Many of you have probably seen the SNL digital short “Dear Sister” which parodies this scene and uses the “Hide and Seek” song as well. Before making this short, Andy Samberg would, as part of Lonely Island, make a web series parody of The O.C. called The Bu. This would get him noticed and hired to SNL, where he would go on to appear in “Dear Sister”. It has been argued that “Dear Sister” was, in fact, the origin of modern comedy and Gen-Z humour. The strange, wonderful, and bizarre TikTok comedy you see of today likely had its roots in the “Dear Sister” short, but that is a topic for another article.

To put it lightly, The O.C. was far more than just a sappy teen drama. It was that, but it was also unexpectedly ground-breaking. It lead a far-reaching movement of empowering geek culture and bringing it to the forefront. It revolutionised the marketing and presentation of music through television and popularised the indie genre. Furthermore, it may have indirectly shaped the very face of modern comedy. But more so than all of that, it’s just a great show that, even nearing twenty years since its debut episode, is every bit as relevant as it was then. The O.C. was a truly monumental television series and one that’s impact has endured the test of time.

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Hurt Not the Trees – Jujutsu Kaisen (Episode Eighteen) – Season’s Writings

Violent things can happen in the woods.

In this stage of our weekly roundup of what Jujutsu Tech students done fight who, Fushiguro and Arrow Guy rock the scene (and no, I’m still not very good with remembering these people’s names). Surprising absolutely no one, Arrow Guy uses a bow and his namesake to fight. However, he also infuses them with his own blood, a medium which he is able to manipulate due to his bloodline curse technique—an irony he himself notes. This technique allows him to kick physics to the wayside and have his arrows bend it like barbarian Beckham and hone in on his target. It’s pretty cool. On top of that, the dude’s strong. Like, punch-a-tonfa-in-half strong. It’s pretty scary. That being said, the reason behind his raw power is a tremendously creative utilisation of his technique: doping. By controlling his blood while it’s still in his body, he can manufacture the effect that is a no go in the world of sports. Simply put: the dude makes his blood carry more oxygen to his muscles, and this boosts his muscles. Sure, Fushiguro learnt how to summon an elephant that fires torrents of water that’s style makes Demon Slayer‘s legal team twitchy, but the creative application of an ability always impresses me more. So, good on you, Arrow Guy, dope away.

Moving away from that morally dubious statement, this episode also contains the slightly dramatic plot element of derailing the entire inter-school competition. Yes, those loathable special-grades are back and boy do that want to kill everybody. Mahito, as always, seems to be the instigator of conflict, enlisting the help of a sorcerer who is most probably definitely a serial killer. Seriously, all the dude talks about is turning Gojou into a coat rack…that’s messed up. On the flip side, the manifestation of nature (a.k.a. the special-grade what’s missing an arm and has branches for eyes) simply wants nature to heal…by giving it some time where humanity is dead. It’s a valid motivation, humans aren’t exactly the nicest to nature; still, they’re probably not going to take too kindly to being genocided. To their credit, Branch Eyes does acknowledge that some humans are kind to nature, though they also note how there aren’t enough of them to offset the damage and pain already inflicted. It’s a small detail, but it goes a ways to showing that not all of these special-grades are evil for the sake of evil; some have decently thought out motivations…that all involve murder. Still, the arrival of these villains means that what’s left of Jujutsu Tech can now band together and kick some serious butt. Which is nice. Also, the jerkbag principal has an electric guitar…and it annoys me how cool that is.

P.S. I love that Gojou’s ego is one-hundred percent founded, seeing as the villains devised a barrier that focuses solely on keeping him out, whilst having no effect on literally anybody else. In addition to showing off the mechanics of cursed techniques further (increasing power based on specificity, jack-of-one-trade and master-of-that-one style), it also shows us that, yes, Gojou really is that damn cool. Maybe the special-grades just get all distracted by those baby blues of his. I think he may legally have to wear that blindfold, to keep all of Japan from swooning.

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A Beach Episode – SK8 the Infinity (Episode Six) – Season’s Writings

I must say, it has been quite a while since I’ve seen the classic “beach episode” anime trope pulled out by a series. SK8 the Infinity does just that here in its latest episode, which (despite feeling like a bit of a filler episode) did manage to include a few moments of importance and progression.

The premise behind this week’s episode is that after the S race had been discovered by the cops, no one has been able to hit the trail since. This leads our crew to decide to go on a bit of a vacation while, hopefully, the heat on the S race and its participants dies down. They decide to head to an island off the coast of Okinawa and, as expected, some beachy shenanigans unfold. There isn’t too much remarkable to comment on here. The guys try to pick up chicks and fail spectacularly, they play beach games, mess around in the water, and just have some fun in general.

However, there was a really pivotal moment in this episode. Reki examines Langa’s board and remarks upon how quickly Langa has progressed as a skater, and it becomes clear that Reki is perhaps feeling a sense of jealousy. He had, of course, failed to defeat Adam whereas, before the police intervention, it appeared Langa had Adam’s number on the S race.

Reki later confides in Joe that he is worried about being left behind and enlists Joe’s help to train him and help him learn some more tricks. Of course, Reki is still injured from his S race with Adam, which is contributing to him feeling this way. After this moment, there are some more island shenanigans and some hot-springs time, but it’s all ultimately just some filler fluff before the episode’s big ending: now that the S race is no more, Adam announces that he is going to launch a skateboarding tournament.

With this episode, we officially have passed the half-way point for the series, and it looks like we will be barrelling ahead into a tournament arc—which may very well be the main focus of the series going forward. At times, the series can appear to be more flash-and-style than substance and this episode definitely felt like that. That said, now that we know these characters and their motivations, I am keen to see some substantial storytelling kicking in here going forward.

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Spooky Scary Scarlet Witch – WandaVision (Episode Six) – Season’s Writings

Shit has well and truly hit the fan on WandaVision. Following last week’s shocking cliffhanger ending, where we were introduced to the recast Pietro (as portrayed by Evan Peters), we are now in a Malcolm in the Middle–style sitcom, and it is Halloween in Westview.

The episode makes great use of the unique style of Malcolm in the Middle and gives some great material for Tommy and Billy to work with, as we see them breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience, much like Malcolm would do. While Malcolm in the Middle was an overall positive-vibe show, this episode is utterly fuelled by an undercurrent of dread. This reality that Wanda has been happily living in is falling apart at the seems and it seems to have devastating implications ahead.

Wanda had planned for the family to go trick-or-treating together but Vision decides to go off script, claiming he is going to be part of the neighbourhood watch. Wanda knows this isn’t the plan but she loves Vision and doesn’t want to fight with him; so she leaves him to his own devices. This, of course, does not go to plan, as Vision discovers that the closer to the outskirts of town he goes. He finds that all the residents are frozen in place as if, when they are not part of the story, they are simply waiting until it is their turn to be part of the show.

Vision gets to the outskirts of town and finds Agnes frozen behind the wheel of her car. This seems to throw into question whether there is more to Agnes than we had thought, as this seems to imply she is another victim of Wanda’s and not some greater being at play. She asks Vision if she is dead because he is. This all throws everything into question for him and he defiantly decides to make his way out of Westview.

Meanwhile, the S.W.O.R.D. agents outside have decided it’s time to go the nuclear option and enact a full frontal assault on the Westview anomaly and take Wanda out. This doesn’t sit well with Monica Rambeau, Jimmy Woo, and Darcy Lewis, who have become quite the rad trio. Haywood orders them removed from the location when Rambeau declares, “If Wanda is the problem then she needs to be our solution,” which is an idea Haywood doesn’t quite like. He says to Monica that she doesn’t know the struggle of those who had to live through the five years of the Blip—and the apparent resentment many of them now bare towards “super-powered individuals”.

Monica and company manage to escape from the S.W.O.R.D. agents, and we learn, through some keen hacking by Darcy, that Haywood is tracking Vision with hopes of “reacquiring his asset”. This certainly makes things interesting, and one has to wonder what experiments had been done (by S.W.O.R.D.) on Vision during the five-year time skip. We also learn that having been in the Hex is causing Monica’s DNA and cells to change. Something that she brushes off. This leaves me to wonder if we might be seeing the introduction of Mutants into the MCU here. Could Wanda’s Hex be causing the DNA of these humans to mutate? What if we have a reverse–“House of M” situation where instead of removing all Mutants, Wanda actually creates them—possibly extending her Hex across the entire planet, even? Regardless, Monica and Jimmy decide they need to bring in her “aerospace engineer” friend to help with this situation. Could this be Reed Richards?

Back inside the Hex, Pietro and Wanda are having an interesting conversation—with Pietro clearly knowing a lot about what is going on here. He does not appear to be under Wanda’s influence and even compliments her work on the Hex and the town of Westview. I am pretty much convinced that this Evan Peters–version of the character is none other than Mephisto. He has made countless remarks that seem to indicate as such. For example, in this episode alone he calls the kids “demon spawn”, says Westview is “as charming as hell”, and describes himself as “devilish”.

While they are having this conversation (with Pietro just generally saying a bunch of weird shit), Vision breaks out of the Hex and it becomes very clear that he cannot survive outside of it—as he is slowly dying the minute he walks out of it. Vision begs the S.W.O.R.D. agents to help the people inside of Westview. It’s at this moment that one of Wanda’s children, I can’t remember which one, telepathically hears Vision’s painful pleas and informs Wanda. Acting immediately, she begins to expand the Hex to massive proportions. Haywood and the other S.W.O.R.D. agents begin to flee, but many are caught in the Hex and immediately transformed into clowns at a circus. Vision is safely back inside the Hex, but he now knows the truth of the situation. It’s also worth mentioning that Darcy was also trapped in the Hex during this expansion, along with presumably thousands of others nearby.

Overall, this has got to be the most insane episode of WandaVision yet and there are many curious questions left here. Who is Pietro really? Is Agnes really just a normal citizen of Westview? Who is the “aerospace engineer” friend of Monica Rambeau, and who is the supposed person that Jimmy Woo had in witness protection in Westview? There are so many questions here and, as we barrel ahead into the final three episodes of the series, I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

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A Fall Indeed – Gods Will Fall – Humble Opinions

Another dungeon-crawler is among us; with so many to choose from, what exactly makes this the choice over the plethora of others available? Well, in my humble opinion, you’d be hard-pressed to choose this over many similar games out there. The game does some things nicely, but, for the most part, what it does do well is dampened greatly by some of its downfalls. And in a genre like this, where there are so many strong contenders, you pretty much have to make an exceptional title to really stand out. Unfortunately, there are some issues present within the game which prevent it being part of those iconic dungeon-crawlers we know and love.

The basic premise of the game is of a methodical dungeon-crawler. Enter the game and you will see a randomly generated group of eight fighters, each wielding a certain weapon type (maces, swords, spears…).; though, this ragtag bunch is barebones to begin with—no special armour, equipment, or weapons. As you begin, your quest is to track down and destroy the ten Gods, and you’ll have to enter and trudge through dungeons throughout the map to do so. When entering dungeons, you’ll be able to select one character; with this choice, you’ll have to make your way through it, fighting enemies and working your way towards the boss. These dungeons often house items you can find along the way to upgrade your basic gear into something more likely to take down a powerful foe. If you die within the dungeon, that character disappears from your party and you are left with the remainder to continue on with. It feels a bit rogue-like, as the characters and attempts you have at making it through different dungeons are limited, but this makes for more of a challenge. It also should become less and less of an issue once you are able to gear your fighters up a lot more. I did find loot drops within dungeons to be quite a rare find at the beginning, so perhaps take it slowly and tactically once you begin.

Now, the thing with this game is—even though it is a hack ‘n’ slash of sorts—it is a slow paced game. The strikes and movements you will complete with your character are very much methodical and timed. You need to dodge enemy strikes constantly. It’s almost Souls-like in its approach: you don’t want to just run in and attack blindly, especially when you begin the game, as you are quite weak and the enemies blows will take you out quickly.

The issue that I found with the playstyle has nothing to do with the fact that I don’t particularly care for the slow, methodical Souls-like experience. The problem is that the combat that does exist is what I would describe as “clunky”. With a game like Dark Souls, it is slow and methodical but it controls precisely—typically any movement made by the player translates promptly and smoothly within the game. Here, there is a level of latency between the controls and the time it takes to prompt an action within the game, which is a weakness in its enjoyability. For a game based on dungeon-crawling, the combat needs to be refined much more, as, at the moment, it feels disjointed and clunky. Even jumping up onto other platforms and walking along thin planks can prove to be annoying to control, with constant slip up likely to happen. For a game centred around combat and progression, the controls need to be tighter. I found them to be a little frustrating through my playthrough and a bit of a deterrent to playing long term.