Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kiddy Bleh...

Actually, I had intended to write a summary of some anime I’ve finished recently, as well as ongoing anime that I’m currently watching. Then I decided to split that post into two: one with the anime I’ve finished, and one with the ongoing ones. In the end, this anime got it’s own post, because it’s so special… it makes me want to puke.

I had written two posts about the sequel to my beloved Kiddy Grade, one in which I discussed the awesomeness of the teaser, and one (not so long ago), in which I talked about how bad it turned out to be. I still wanted to review it, so I forced myself to watch it through till the end. It actually took me a while, because the subbing group I was originally following decided to drop it. Since my PC doesn’t run HD, I had a hard time finding a decent SD sub. It seems like no one wanted to sub this. Reminds me of another series, whose sequel was so bad that people avoided touching it with a ten-foot pole. Yes, I’m talking about Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-. The thing is, that was a much better sequel to the original than this anime is. However, deep inside my broken heart, I am very much in denial, and keep believing that this is actually a spin-off, and the true Kiddy Grade 2, Kiddy Generation (or whatever title it was supposed to have) will one day surface to shine.

Ok, let’s jump head first into this juicy pool of crap… Let’s start of by analysing the characters. When I first saw the teaser, I couldn’t tell which character is which. I mean, I expected a hot-headed Éclair-wannabe and a rational Lumière-copy. But the teaser showed two girls whose personalities you couldn’t make out just from their looks. I was expecting magnificent, new characters, with unique personalities. Instead, I got one-dimensional blandness. Let me explain: Éclair was indeed rash and tomboyish, but she changed so much throughout the series, and had a compassionate motherly side to her which made her lovable; while Lumière was not just some stuck up smartass damsel in distress, but was genuinely elegant and would many times take initiative to act.

Q-feuille and Ascoeur are nothing like that… in the bad sense of the word. Asceour is not hot-headed or rash, she is outright stupid and fumbling. Nothing she says can be taken seriously. There are some really strong moments in the series (surprisingly), which are ruined by her bad personality (I’ll get to these later). Q-feuille seems like a character added only to balance out the stupidity of her partner, and she’s not doing a good job at it. They seem more like a Japanese comedy duo, Ascoeur being the boke and Q-feuille providing the tsukkomi. It is pathetic… Also, since Ascoeur is supposed to be the silly one, I guess that’s why they changed the character design, since she originally looked too much like Lumière, and wouldn’t do.

Then, at one point in the story, we are introduced to Di-air. She is the third member of the team, and is pretty much a third wheel, to the entire story no less! I think the whole series would have been better off without her. She seems so useless, providing nothing but comic relief, the introduction of her pet TAMA seriously destroying character interaction and conversations. I want to forget about her as fast as possible.

I’m not going to talk about their ship and robot, because quite frankly, I didn’t think much about them. Unlike La Muse/Wirbelwind and Donnerschlag, which you become really fond of, and feel the characters’ sorrow at their loss, Mistral and Typhon strike no emotional importance and are seen, at least through my eyes, as disposable machinery.

I am going to talk about the villains, however. They seem like the most interesting characters in the story. Sure, Geacht’er has a serious sister complex, making every girl (possibly even Shade) around him his sister princess, but besides that, they seem like really interesting characters. They each have tragic backgrounds and owe Geacht’er their life, which is repaid through their unquestioned loyalty. It is interesting to see, however, how some villains defect from his cause when they find out the true nature of his actions, while some remain loyal.

Now, I’m going to go into the story somewhat, since that’s all that’s left to talk about. The general story is almost ok, but there are some really annoying filler episodes. If you watch Kiddy Grade carefully, you’ll notice that there are virtually no fillers. The sequel has some, and they are all very annoying. In one such episode, the girls travel to a holiday planet, and wear swimsuits throughout the entire episode, as if it were the obligatory seaside episode of a harem anime. Once again, it is pathetic…

Now, if I clench my teeth together really hard, I can bear with the stupid characters, the useless comic relief and everything else, up until episode 12, when something unforgivable happens. They break canon. That’s right, they break canon, something unforgivable for a sequel or spin-off or whatever. They say that Éclair’s ability is that of Space Manipulation and Lumière’s is that of Time Manipulation. Bullshit!!! Not even Lumière’s G-Class ability, Particle, has anything to do with time manipulation, all it does is manipulate matter at particle level, and she can’t use it for a prolonged period of time anyway! So yes, they break canon, and from that point on, the whole series talks about space/time manipulation, as though it were as simple as walking a dog. Also, space/time manipulation becomes the central plot point, and it gets mentioned as much as nuclear weapons in Metal Gear Solid. It is a serious letdown in the story. If they had gone with the original Teleportation for Ascoeur and Precognition for Q-feuille, it would have been interesting, however, when they obtain these awesome Space/Time Manipulation powers, it seems like they move to a wholly different league, yet still get beaten up pretty bad at times. It’s like watching a bad X-Men episode. And another thing about abilities, they emphasise “resonance” a lot, which has to do with partners sharing abilities, or boosting them. Nothing of that sort was discussed in the original series. A-ou and Un-ou could share their abilities, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum could combine their abilities, but that’s it, there was no generalised concept of such a thing.

Another annoying thing was all the kissing. I’m really not against kissing. I’m not a child that goes “gross!” whenever they see someone kiss, but it’s just too much! Di-air regularly kisses both Ascoeur and Q-feuille to boost their powers, Geacht’er kisses Ascoeur to bring back her memories, Ascoeur kisses Q-feuille to join their powers, it’s really disgusting after a while. I actually ended up turning away from the screen during the last episode, when it got too much. Only in the last episode, they kiss four times! Mind you, in Kiddy Grade, they only kissed once, and that was a truly heartfelt moment. Not the case here…

And another thing I can’t forgive them, the way they destroy the coolness of old characters. I’m going to point out three things here: One, during one episode, you find out Hiver and Sommer’s true identities, and it’s really awesome, but the mood is ruined by Ascoeur’s stupid behaviour. It would have been so nice if they worked on it a little more.

Two, during the last episode, you get to see Viuola/Cesario and Dextra/Sinistra teams joining the fight. This is awesome in itself; however, you get no explanation where they come from. When I first saw the teaser, I noticed some really awesome things: the logo has changed from GOTT to GTO, the headquarters has changed, the Director has changed, some teams have changed, however, some teams have remained (Tweedledee/Tweedledum and A-ou/Un-ou). I wondered, why did these teams remain? What happened to the others? Apparently, nothing, since they join the final fight; but they didn’t serve under GTO during the series. Why? Explain movie! Explain! (ß paying homage here). My guess is that they were also frozen in time during the accident, and got unfrozen when all hell broke loose, but it’s really not explained.

The third and worse crime is that they bring back Éclair and Lumière during the last episodes, and they each have only 2 lines. One line is them presenting themselves, and the other is each of them saying their catchphrases… … … Seriously? Is that the only thing Éclair and Lumière mean to you? Catchphrases?! You know what? Fuck you! Seriously, I hope there’s a special place in hell for the people who made this awful sequel (I think they can burn in the same pot as the guys who make really bad remakes).

Well yeah, that’s the Kiddy Grade 2 we’ve been so wholeheartedly waiting for. Kiddy Girl-and… just saying it makes my face contort in all sorts of painful expressions. The people responsible for this should pray that they never cross paths with me. I’m now going to purge myself of this vile excrement, by watching the Kiddy Grade movies.

Next time, A Hell Made of Bullets!

Friend Fact:
What anime-related song makes my eyes water whenever I listen to it? That would be Shiroi Kisetsu, the theme from the Kana ~Little Sister~ eroge. Granted, it’s not anime, but it’s anime-ish enough to answer the question. I’ve yet to work up enough courage to play the game through a second time, despite my brother’s encouragement to do so. If you don’t know about it, play the game, it will change your life.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Machol Romania is Born!

Well, here I am, writing about Machol Romania. Honestly, I don’t even know where to start.

We arrived before the appointed time, at ten in the morning, and were worried that we’d have to wait in the lobby till we could check in. It turned out that it wasn’t so. The organisers were already there, and they were very nice to welcome us with bread and brandy. I checked in and loitered around, helping the organisers when I could. We were waiting for the rest of the people to arrive. As they started pouring in, the organisers were really too busy to stay with the instructors during lunch, so I ended up keeping them company. I had known Oren, from Machol Ungaria, but I didn’t know anything about Eran. It was really nice having lunch with them (I use that phrase, though actually I didn’t eat myself), since this close encounter allowed be to get to know them both better. They both gave me a positive impression, and I was looking forward to the sessions with them.

In the evening, we had the opening party. I was surprised to people from so many countries (Bulgaria, Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, Israel, Serbia, Turkey). We had a menorah put up, and we all placed our blessings for the machol inside. It was a very nice moment. Here’s a video of the first day:

The next day, we started the dance sessions. They were awesome. Both the songs and the dances, the instructors and the young instructors, everything was very nice. We were split up into three groups: beginner, advanced, and seniors. Most of the participants were in the advanced group, so we used the largest hall, which was actually the hotel’s restaurant, after having cleared out the tables. We barely fit even there. It was awesome. This second day, we had the baby party. Honestly, at first I thought this was a stupid idea, but in the end, it turned out really well. Here are the highlights:

The third day, once again, we had dance sessions. I think this was the day we had a debka session, and it was awesome! Thank you Lena for the great dance you’ve taught us! In the evening, we had a very nice Kabalat Shabbat, followed by an amazing Shabbat meal. I was really impressed by Eran’s sefardi-style kiddush, and even though we didn’t have music, we would sing and dance along, well into the night. It was a very memorable Shabbat experience, and I’m sorry for not praising it in the feedback (hope someone from amongst the organisers is reading this post). Here are the highlights:

The next day, we went to Brasov and Bran, and it was a lot of fun… or so I think. Honestly, I was sleeping the whole time. I got wasted the night before, and was resting up, as well as working on a project I had due the day right after machol ended. This was the last night, in which we had the Yom Haatzmaut party. It was a huge success, and surprisingly, a lot of people stayed up, dancing till morning. At seven, we went to eat breakfast, and it was very funny, since the rest of the gang had already gone to sleep, so it was only Dana, Eliza, Erwin and myself, all four of us almost collapsing due to lack of sleep.

Then, we had to make our bags and go home, and everyone was “I’m so sad it’s over!” And it’s true, we really were. It was a really amazing experience overall. The place was good, the food was good, the people were good, the instructors were good, the atmosphere was good, everything. I do have a few complaints, but those are of a technical nature: the internet connection was miserable, and at one point the whole system crashed, and we couldn’t enter our rooms, since they were using magnetic cards instead of old school mechanical locks. But those are small details, compared to the real fun I had there. I also think that everyone else agrees with me. Congratulations to the organisers for making the very first Machol Romania such a huge success! Looking forward to next year!

Next time, Kiddy Bleh...!

Friend Fact:
You know about those annoying Friend Facts on Facebook? Well, I've decided to add some facts about me at the end of every post. This way you'll get to know me better. It's easier than dedicating a post to what kind of ice cream I like or who my favourite bass player is. However, don't get startled if these facts turn out to be a bit weird (read "anime-related"). Today's fact? I've added the "Jewish" tag, and this is the first post to wear it. Will I update the past ones to have it? I don't know. Probably not. Why? I'm just lazy! :P

Monday, May 10, 2010

Clash of the Giant CG Monsters... in Pseudo-3D

NOTE: I want to finish this entry fast and get down to more important things (i.e. Machol Romania), however, I promised you I’d do this review, so here goes, but I’ll keep it short.

You knew this would happen sooner or later. If you know me, then surely you know how much I loved Clash of the Titans. Not only is it my favourite movie using Ray Harryhausen effects, it is one of my favourite movies of all time. It keeps the story of Perseus simple, yet engaging, truly capturing the epic feel of Greek mythology, with solid acting, amazing effects (for the time) and a very well-paced story.

When I went to see Alice in Wonderland and saw the trailer for the remake of Clash of the Titans, it actually left a bad taste in my mouth. I knew the movie would suck. Not because I have a prejudice against remakes, but because I honestly loathe bad remakes, and from my own experience, remakes nowadays tend to be really bad. So what were the chances of this one actually being good? Pretty slim. Well, it didn’t disappoint in any way… it sucks so hard that time and space get distorted around it.

So, let’s make a comparison between the two, shall we? And let’s hope I won’t get struck down because of this blasphemy.

The original story is pretty straightforward. Perseus falls in love with the princess Andromeda, who is under a curse and can’t marry anyone else, but the one who answers a mysterious riddle that changes every day. Using gifts from the gods, Perseus frees her from her curse, but when they would get married, due to a slip of her mother’s tongue (because she’s overwhelmed by joy, nonetheless) which ends up offending the goddess Thetis, Andromeda is fated to be sacrificed to the kraken. Perseus goes in search of Medusa, whose head can turn anything to stone, even the kraken, an immortal titan. Of course, Perseus succeeds, the kraken is defeated, he marries Andromeda and they live happily ever after. It is an appealing story of love and courage typical for Greek mythology.

The remake focuses a lot more on the war between gods and men (when did that ever happen?). Perseus’ parents and sister are killed by Hades when he makes an attack on the city of Argos. Andromeda insults the gods out of vanity, not ecstasy, and Andromeda ends up being cursed the same way as in the original. Perseus finds out that the kraken was made from Hades’ flesh (what?), so he decides to kill it, in order to weaken Hades and ultimately defeat him, to get his revenge. The outcome is very much the same as in the original, except instead of the wedding, Perseus banishes Hades back to the underworld. Now, my question is: isn’t love a strong enough force to drive this story forward? Is revenge really that much more appropriate? Does it have to do with the violence surrounding us in our everyday lives? Does revenge feel more authentic than love? In the end, it might, but I think it doesn’t involve the viewers enough to warrant a change of the classic erotic theme (and by this I mean love, not something pornographic you’d find on 4chan) so deeply enrooted within the mythology we’re talking about.

I’ve talked about Perseus before somewhat, by saying that he’s driven by revenge rather than love. However, that alone makes him a completely different character. The original Perseus is innocent, somewhat naïve, much like Zeus describes him. He always learns things, from the owner of the amphitheatre, from the captain of the guards, from the Stygian witches, and he is confident, in a childish “I’m playing the hero” manner, which I think you would expect a mythological hero to be like. The remake Perseus is filled with rage, listens to no one, shows no interest in anything but his revenge. You’d think “this sounds like a baddass Kratos”, but sadly that’s far from the truth. Deep inside, remake Perseus is weak, and I think overall he is pathetic. His confidence comes from stubbornness and the love interest he develops for Io (what’s she doing in this story?) is more than superficial.

The other characters are very different in the two versions as well. The owner of the amphitheatre takes the role of the wise mentor, however, when he sees things of legend (such as Perseus’ gifts, or the Pegasus), he is genuinely surprised. In the remake, this role is somewhat undertaken by Perseus’ adoptive father, whose only important role is saying that he loves Perseus like his own son and somewhat justifies Perseus’ rage when he is killed. Also, at one point, he says “Perseus, I am your father”, at which point everybody in the cinema laughed; you can’t use that line seriously since Star Wars.

The princess Andromeda and the queen Cassiopeia are very nicely outlined in the original movie. Andromeda’s despair when no one would show up as a suitor is so clearly read on her expression. Cassiopeia, although having a small role, is shown powerful and proud, yet understanding of her place. When she compares her daughter’s beauty to that of the gods’, she immediately realises her mistake, but it is too late. In the remake, these two characters are bland. Andromeda as Perseus’ love interest is replaced by Io, who pretty much guides him throughout his adventure, but seems just as one-dimensional as the other two characters.

The captain of the guards pays an important role in both stories. Given, he gets more attention in the remake, however, I think it has the opposite effect on his character development. I felt a much stronger connection with the original captain of the guards, without knowing things like how he lost his child to the wrath of the gods (or should I say “days of judgment”?) and without his heroic (yet utterly stupid) sacrifice in the face of Medusa.

The remake has a cast of extra characters which are just too stupid to even touch on. Seriously, it includes two hunters which remind me of something from the Conan the Adventurer TV series, as well as djinns. That’s right, djinns. I’m certain the people who wrote the script didn’t spend any skill points in Knowledge (Mythology). Honestly, I think the remake has less to do with Greek mythology than the God of War video game trilogy… and that’s a huge offence in case you didn’t catch it.

Actually, there are no real villains in the original story, per se. Perseus’ main foe is the fate bestowed upon Andromeda by the goddess Thetis. Note, I didn’t say that Thetis herself is the foe, by no means, what she does is legitimate, so much that even Zeus can’t get in the way (apparently the gods respect each others’ vanity more so than the happiness of their demigod children). Of course, this dooming fate combines with the creature Calibos, who is Thetis’s son, punished by Zeus because he kills off the majestic winged horses (leaving only the stallion, Pegasus). Calibos is the one who cursed Andromeda in the first place, and when Perseus lifts the curse, he cuts off the beast’s hand. Even though Calibos demands vengeance, Thetis is unable to act until she is mocked by Cassiopeia. The original story subtly outlines the rules that exist in the world of the gods.

The remake has one clear villain: Hades. He wants to overthrow Zeus, because he tricked him into ruling the underworld, while he got to rule the heavens (really now, can anyone take this joke seriously?). Of course, he enlists the aid of Calibos, whose true identity is replaced in the remake by Acrisius, the husband of Perseus’ mother, who in the original was destroyed by the kraken. I really don’t understand; what do people have against Hades? Sure, hell sounds bad, but the underworld wasn’t really hell. Hades isn’t Satan, people! He’s not a bad guy. He contributes to the balance of life and death existing in Greek mythology. Also, he is a badass. He is the supreme ruler of the dead, and not even Zeus can stand up to that (in certain aspects). However, here, he is pretty much a pussy boy, though you have to give him credit for scheming instead of a direct attack. Heck, they should have made him Loki instead of Hades; that would have fitted with his personality. What’s that? It’s a different mythology? It doesn’t matter in this movie; we have djinns for crying out loud!!!

Granted, the effects of the remake are far superior to those of the original, even if they were state-of-the-art back then… … … … that’s what you expected me to say, right? Wrong! Truth be told, some effects are really good, especially the kraken, Calibos, and the aura of Hades (even if he is a useless character). However, that doesn’t mean much. The giant scorpions, for example, move very robot-like, unlike real insects. The stop-motion used in the original befitted the giant scorpions a lot better. Also, Medusa is beautiful until she tries to turn someone into stone, which seems to happen at will, instead of automatically. If that were the case, it wouldn’t be much of a curse, now would it? The original Medusa looked a lot more frightening to me, though that might be because I saw the movie when I was a kid. Also, there were a lot of useless effects (i.e. the lightsaber), useless characters (i.e. the djinns), and useless scenes (i.e. fighting the head djinn and the Stygian witches). I didn’t know where to put those complaints, so I added them here.

Also, I have a complaint, which may sound weird. Technically, this movie was supposed to be 3D. I’m not dying over seeing movies in 3D, but it seems to be the norm, so whatever. The thing is, even though it was marketed as a 3D movie, the actual 3D content is well under twenty percent, and even those scenes suffer from blurry character edges, rather than 3D effects. My take on it is that it was originally supposed to be a regular 2D movie, but when they went into post-production, Avatar came out, and its huge success determined the staff to turn this movie into 3D, in the last minute. It failed miserably. (NOTE: I later learned that this is in fact true…)

Now, before anything, I have to admit that I liked two things a lot. One of them was the kraken. It didn’t have the fish-like look of the original one, but still retained its monstrous nature. It took a few whole minutes for it to completely emerge from the water, which was really cool. Then, it roared, which really sent shivers down my spine, and it was awesome. Then two minutes later it was dead, which was lame. They should have given it more screen time; it was by far the coolest thing in the movie. The second thing I liked was Calibos. Not the fact that they changed his nature, but the design and the badassness of the character were awesome. When he took on Perseus and his entire band single-handedly, even killing some of them (if I remember correctly), was really sweet.

Besides those two points, the movie sucked and blew all over. If it were up to me, I would have either made a remake of the original abiding by the story and just spicing up the effects (even though you still need good acting, which this movie lacked horribly, despite the fact that the original wasn’t in the award-winning category when it came to acting either); or I would have made a completely different story, turning Perseus into a badass Kratos ripoff, where he would rape Andromeda while choking Calibos with his own bowels.

Next time, Machol Romania is Born!

NOTE: In God of War 2, you actually face Perseus as a boss. It’s a really funny battle, where Kratos takes no break in showing off his awesomeness.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Machol Romania

I'll be off to the first edition of Machol Romania tonight. I was actually hoping to post something today, but was busy packing and shit. I hope I'll finish it there, and post it when I get back, or maybe even sooner. Next time, Clash of the Giant CG Monsters... in Pseudo-3D. Look forward to it!