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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Star Wars Crucible: I Have Made a Terrible Mistake

I am very behind in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Chronologically, the only book I have read that is set after the New Jedi Order is X-Wing: Mercy Kill. That is one book in the primarily focused on time period of the galaxy in over ten years.

Until now.

Recently I liveblogged my reading of Troy Denning's Star Wars: Crucible, the book that was meant to be the final adventure of the main trio of the Star Wars books before handing the main focus of the series off to the younger generation. A few days later it was announced that the Star Wars Expanded Universe is getting a fresh start and the previous books would now be "Star Wars Legends." This effectively makes Crucible not only the final adventure of Luke, Leia, and Han but also the final book in the timeline of the Expanded Universe as we know it (not including the Legacy comics, which are kind of their own thing).

This was not a good sendoff book, either for the Big Three much less the EU as a whole. I did not find it to be a good book in general. Before getting into the issue that really stood out to me as a poor way to end this universe that I am rather attached to, a quick rundown on some of my thoughts about the pros and cons of this book. There will be spoilers.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ryorin's Ramblings: Now With More Tumblr!

I did it.  I gave in.  I now have... a tumblr.

If you want to see me comment on things that I don't think I could write a whole post on or the things I don't think would fit this blog, that would be the place to look.

Or twitter.  Both work pretty well for that.

Webcomic Wednesday: Bad Machinery in Book Form and Johnny Wander Does Lucky Penny

Hey guys, been a while!  Quick update, first of all: I'll be posting at least once everyday for the rest of this week before moving on to a new, improved, and significantly more flexible schedule.

On to webcomics!

Volume 1 of Bad Machinery, which I have previously discussed and you need to go read, was released today in book form by Oni Press!  It's really very pretty and I highly recommend picking it up.  It collects the prelude and the first story, as well as some extras, including year book photos of the main characters, a helpful (or at least entertaining) glossary for us non-UK folk, and the fictional history of the fictional Tackleford Football Club, presented as clippings from a fictional newspaper.

This is my copy. No you cannot have it. Nor can you have the other comics I picked up today.
If you haven't read it before, now is the perfect excuse to start.  I got my copy at my local comic shop, but it is also available at Amazon, so don't fret if you can't find it!

Another webcomic that you should check out that I haven't talked about in this feature before is Johnny Wander, a comic about various ridiculous things that happen after college is over.  I really enjoy this comic; it has great humor, perfect pacing, and really fun art.  While it's for the most part autobiographical, it occationally also includes fantastical short stories, such as Girl With the Skeleton Hand and Delilah & The Basilisk.  At the moment, they're posting Lucky Penny, a book they're doing with Oni Press.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where's Ryorin, What's Up With The Schedule, and How About Some More Eva

You may remember when I previously mentioned that my shiny new schedule got a wee bit thrown off when unanticipated things that make up life happen.  This past week I've learned that when said unanticipated events include musicals, jet-lag, and illness, schedule get eaten whole.

So!  I will spend the next week making up the five posts I missed while laying in bed trying to digest my oh-so-hardy breakfast of a single sip of water before I move on to a new and improved schedule for March!

For those of you keeping track, that's one Fiction Friday, one Animated Tuesday, one Webcomic Wednesday, and two posts about whatever-I-kriffing-well please.  And, yes, I am counting this as today's official post because I'm still recovering and don't have the energy for this.

If you simply must have content, I watched the second Rebuild of Evangelion film, Evangelion: You Can (Not) Advance (the first of which I discuss here) and it was fantastic.  It felt much more coherent as a film than the first one and it changed a lot.  It even had a father-son moment, which caused me to flail about, grab my phone, and ask my brother if I was still watching something involving Eva.  It changes pacing, character development (oh my Waru, Rei!  You grew a personality!), when events happen, who the events happen to, etc.  It is still Eva but, to me, it felt the way Eva should have been.  And it adds a little things called "foreshadowing."  So much.  So.  Much.  So if you were let down by the ending of Neon Genesis Evangelion or just want to see an alternate take, check it out.  Also, it ends with a Hikaru Utada song that I am beginning to suspect is the theme for these movies.  Take that as you will.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Webcomic Wednesday: Bad Machinery, Good Comic

Today's Webcomic Wednesday, for reasons that should be fairly clear, will be another short recommendation: John Allison's Bad Machinery.  A spin-off of Scary-Go-Round (which was itself a spin-off, but I don't feel like talking about that at the moment), Bad Machinery is a fun, humorous, sometimes dark comic following the misadventures of a group of youths as they stumble upon and solve supernatural mysteries.  You do not have to be familiar with Scary-Go-Round to enjoy this comic, though if you are you'll be treated to some familiar faces and learn the fates of a few characters.  I highly recommend it.

(Belated) Animated Tuesday: You Are (Not) Alone in Thinking This Movie Was Long Overdue

Today I watched the film Evangelion 1.0: You are (Not) Alone.

You may have heard of the obscenely popular mid-nineties anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.  It was incredibly influential in shaping the giant robot genre as we know it and it is one of the most well known examples of genre deconstruction.  It had distinct imagery, memorable characters and dialogue ("I mustn't run away; I mustn't run away."), intriguing direction, and a director who was plagued by fatigue and depression, causing the show to culminate in an incredibly disappointing finale that was then replaced by an infamously gruesome and disturbing film.  It also had a really, really great theme song that haunts karaoke parlors to this day.  If you want my full feelings on the show, this review by JesuOtaku is one of the very few reviews of anything which I fully and emphatically agree with.  Basically, I think it had an enjoyable first half with lots of potential and then devolved into a pseudo-philosophical mess with pacing issues over the course of the second half.

This film is part one of a four part series to "Rebuild" (and hopefully reconstruct) the story of Evangelion.  Which is to say it's a reboot of the franchise.  I will never escape reboots, will I?  In this case, though, it is a sorely needed restoration of a series that shows its flaws more and more as time goes on. 

This movie retells the first several episodes of the series with updated animation, improved pacing, and minor story tweaking.  It also feels like a retelling of the first several episodes and the structure and pacing don't do anything to hide this.  This movie feels nothing like a movie; make of that what you will. 

The Rebuild Evangelion project has been called "Evangelion of its meds" by many (all of whom seem to be quoting some unnamed Mysterious Reviewer X) but this first film doesn't get far enough into or change enough about the story to reflect that.  On the other hand, it does tweak just enough to vastly improve one major element: the main character.  Let's talk about Shinji Ikari.
  • Shinji's character design and facial expression are subtly tweaked from the original so that he looks less like an innocent, young, gender ambiguous waif and more like a weak, troubled fourteen-year-old.  It took me a while to notice it, but through changing minor details in his hair, eyes, and facial structure (and major details in his facial expressions) he no longer comes off as a wide-eyed innocent and this helps to contribute to my next bullet point...
  • This film is fully aware of how much Shinji sucks.  He is a whiny, unstable brat.  He was always a whiny, unstable brat, but the TV series didn't seem quite aware of this, at least at the beginning.  This movie makes no bones about it, though, and it is wonderfully refreshing to hear characters say it and to see Shinji portrayed as such.  Somehow the acknowledgement of his loser nature and his cowardice (not in wanting to run away but in his inability to make his own decisions) manages to make him less annoying and more sympathetic. 
  • The streamlined pacing of this film allows for more robots and less Shinji being whiny.  There's definitely enough Shinji time to get the gist of his whiny-ness, but the film seems to cut out some of the more redundant whiny internal monologuing and whatnot.  And  I am grateful.
  • That scene at the end where they noticeably change the pacing of the overall series.  Okay, this has nothing overtly to do with Shinji, but I like that they put this in the first film and can't wait to see how it impacts Shinji's characterization.
It's been a while since I last saw the show and when I saw this beginning episodes I was busy looking forward to the episode where Shinji and Asuka go through intense dance training for our blue blood-red planet Earth humanity (more properly known as The Best Episode), but from what I remember, I would definitely recommend watching this film to someone interested in the story that made such an impact (Impact! Get it?) on anime and popular culture.  This film has me really looking forward to the second film, In Which They Make Obviously Changes.  The only problem was the lack of fantastic theme song  mentioned earlier, but at least there's a nice Hikaru Utada song at the end.

Experiment Update and Some Recommendations

Hello, internet.

Do to various circumstances, my shiny new schedule seems to have been thrown of from being dutifully updated every weekday due to me flying home and visiting relatives and a certain person falling a tad bit ill (it's not me for once!  that almost never happens!).  I am still planning on completing all the posts for the week, but they'll be up later than they had been and I'll either post twice on some days or put up posts this weekend to make sure I get all five.  I do still plan to cover all three of this week's features, but they won't all be able to be on their assigned days.

That said, having a set schedule seems to be working out so far, though the daily schedule doesn't seem maintainable in the long run, both because it can't stand up to unexpected surprises like this week and because it's just difficult to take the time to write good, substantive posts on a daily basis.  Also, I'm supposed to be focusing on writing a thesis or something and I have personal writing projects I want to work on as well, so once February has passed I'll probably cut down the schedule a bit.

In other news, I've been spending a lot of time in bookstores recently.  Along with picking up the third Cobra War book (how did I not know it was out in paperback? how??), I've been reading A Devil and Her Love Song, a shojo high school drama manga that avoids turning into another generic, cliche series.  The title and cover don't really stand out to me and I would have completely overlooked it but for this glowing review on Anime News Network.  If you are interested in a high school drama with a story outside the typical "average girl attracts the interest of popular boy" and with a leading character with a very strong, distinct personality, I would recommend tracking this series down.

I've also bee reading Bride's Story by Kaoru Mori (whose mad skillz I've mentioned before) and will gladly recommend it to everyone.  It's currently available in deluxe, hardcover volumes and I would say they are worth the price.  It's set in 19th century Turkic Central Asia and if you're familiar with Mori's work, you know she's good with historical details.  You can read a plot synapses on Wikipedia, but the characters are interesting and likable, the chapters are enjoyable, and the artwork is gorgeous because it is by Mori and historical details are not the only details she's good with.  I am pretty much guaranteed to talk about this series (and Mori) in greater detail some other time and I'm typing this several hours earlier than it's being posted, so I'll go to bed now and just trust you to read this series.