Ongoing Investigations: Case #149

I had been waiting to watch Hayate the Combat Butler! Heaven is a Place on Earth since it was announced last year. So when it finally come with the latest volume of the manga I was thrilled to watch it. The movie much like the rest of Hayate is a pleasant and warm helping of comfort food. Heaven is a Place on Earth is a nice little story set right after Natsu-comi and the arrival of Kayura Tsurugino but before the beginning of the next semester. It perfectly captures the feeling of being out in the country during summer vacation. The story focuses on the Hayate/Nagi relationship so I am of course totally behind it. But there is a Hinagiku bath scene so all the fans of the pink student council president will be satisfied. The best part of the movie is it feels like a nice minor arc in the manga. While it is a bit surreal at points it feels like it was taken from the source. Too often these little spin-off movies miss any of that spark that make you love the manga but this one captures that je ne sais quoi perfectly. The oddest thing about the movie is it came out BEFORE Kayura was introduced in the manga but the movie makes no real attempt to introduce her. It goes along like she has always been a part of the cast. At this point it is clear who she is but I am sure there were many a Hayate fan trying to figure out who this strange new girl was. Kayura cosplays as Saber in the movie so she is 1000% OK with me though. I will also say that I cannot deny the appeal of Maria with twin tails in a summer dress. This movie is probably not going to win over anyone who is not already a Hayate fan. They don’t make an effort to introduce you to the plot other than showing some newly animated clips from the first episode during the opening song. Oh Ruka does not take part in the main plot but she sings a song and says a few lines of dialog during the movie’s opening. So if she appears in the 3rd season she now officially has a voice actress. I am now just waiting to watch it again when they release the extended cut on the Blu-Ray.

I went to see Arthur Christmas mostly thanks to an article about its production which also alerted me to the fact that Aardman Animations (of Wallace and Gromit fame) made the film with Sony. It really was everything it should have been: a delightful Christmas adventure with plenty of humor and holiday magic plus top-notch animation. It is the story of the one present Santa forgets to deliver on Christmas Eve which causes endless trouble for everyone. Arthur, youngest son of Santa, along with Grand-Santa take up the mission. Arthur isn’t the successor to the Santa mantle. Oh, he has plenty of enthusiasm but he is also absent-minded, clumsy, and afraid of just about everything; still he has a true heart that inspires everyone in true movie fashion. It even gets a little meta at points as Arthur realizes that Santa isn’t a person, it doesn’t matter who delivers the present, Santa is an idea and a feeling. One of the highlights to the animation production is just how Santa does deliveries which is very high-tech nowadays as they attempt to explain the ways in which it is all accomplished using military precision, thousands of highly trained elves, GPS, and a “sleigh” that functions much more as a space ship with the ability to camouflage itself in many ways. But the olden ways must be dusted off and put to use to fix the gift mistake. It has that classic bridging of multiple generations as a key element along with the realization that we each have a place in the world. While the story has some bumps, I didn’t understand how worrying helped Arthur get to the sleigh or why wrapping the burglar alarm did anything at all, it was a holiday film that left me in good spirits!

If it seems I have dropped off the grid recently it was because I have been playing Mass Effect 2. As everyone who has played the game has said Mass Effect 2 is just a clear improvement over the first game. The first game was incredibly awesome but the second game expands and tweaks so much about the first game. It was not that the first game was horribly flawed. It was just that they improved or smartly streamlined on almost every idea from the first game. They improved the combat, skill trees, and inventory system. There were a few less random missions but they went out of their way to give most of the random mission a unique feel via a combination of original maps and/or unusual mission parameters. Too often in the first game the story for the side missions were unique in story but the maps had a very cookie cutter feel. They layout of the hidden bases or spaceships felt the same unless there were main plot related missions. The layout and style of all the missions usually felt every distinct in Mass Effect 2. I never has a serious problem with the inventory in the first game but the upgrade system is just streamlined in such a satisfying way. The powers are also equally tightened to feel like you get to the core of what you wanted without losing anything vital. The story with the suicide mission feels  epic and fun. It is also just so fulfilling to see the choices you made in the first game pay dividends in this game and now that your choices in both games will have both major and minor impacts on the third game.  It is really everything you would want a sequel to be. I can’t pay to see the end of the trilogy in March. I will only be watching my roommate play through it but that will be good enough. (Plus you get all those nifty completion bonuses  when you are the second person playing the game.)

Kekkaishi 29 is the falling action from the major battle in 28 which makes it more of a transitional book in terms of forward motion, but we are flooded with information and characters. There is still much speculation within the pages about what the supreme leader’s final intentions are and how he is carrying them out. Still you get the feeling that Masamori is finally on the right track though I don’t trust everyone that is close to him. And while we do get better explanations about Karasumori the book continues to leave us in a bit of suspense. Yoshimori’s frame of mind swings wildly as he tries to control his new power and feel responsible for something greater. He gets back to cake baking with a lot of faked vigor hoping to negate his fears. The only thing rather unfortunate is that of late Tokine has really taken a major backseat to the proceedings. I don’t think it will stay that way as we make our way into the final arc, but it is a little frustrating.

As I was covering the Haruhi movie so I did not get to see the first Mardock Scramble movie at the NYAF. But for everyone who did not have a chance to watch the movie then you can watch it now on Hulu. I will say for the amount of nudity and violence I was flabbergasted that they did not require me to log in for an age check. I had to log in to watch Spice and Wolf and that ridiculously tame compared to this. On that note this is really a 80s OVA that just happened to come out in 2010. It has all the gritty ultra violence, dark introspection, and nudity that you remember from those old OVAs. They also do the old 80s-tastic by lightly touching on some philosophy but making sure not to go in too deep because there are action scenes to be had.  The Bandersnatch Company alone feels like a group that should have been in Ninja Scroll. Welldone sums it up succinctly. I would explain but his introduction is something you have to see for yourself. Since I saw it on Hulu is was dub only. The dub was decent but some of the Bandersnatch Company comes of as far more silly than creepy because their dub actors were a bit too hammy. Also I know that oeufcoque is just french for a soft-boiled egg but  it really leads to some odd accidental innuendo in the dialog. This is a great little throwback series that really caters to a type of anime fan that does not get as much attention anymore. The movie ends on a big cliffhanger that just dares you not to watch the next one and knows that you won’t be able to refuse.

Batman was one of my favorite relaunches from the New 52 and the second issue only enhances that feeling. We beginning again with Bruce explaining a piece of Gotham, this time the architecture of a tower and it places in the city before he is thrown out of it. There is some good action in these pages, and you get the feeling this version of Batman rather enjoys himself and the theatrics. This book also continues to feel like the detective portion of Bats that balances things as he goes over an autopsy and gets answers that he already knew from Dick. The page layouts sing! The art is spectacular of course, but it also has well placed breaths in the action as well as places with simple text on blank background that sent a little tingle through me. Bruce is cocky in this book but it feels like he is on the edge of having things pulled out from under him.

2 thoughts on “Ongoing Investigations: Case #149

  1. Shinmaru says:

    Mass Effect 2 addresses basically every problem I have with the first game. It’s such a satisfying sequel — I love the characters, the story is a good video game story, the action is a huge step up from the first game. I love everything about it.

    For me, aside from the combat, the biggest improvement is that if you beat the game ideally (i.e. do all the important side missions), you grow that much closer to all your teammates because you have to use them all at least once. In the first game, once I found my team (Garrus and Wrex), I stuck with them the whole game, and grew closer to them at the expense of everyone else. But ME2 gives you many more opportunities and valid reasons to use a mix of characters and get closer to them.

    Garrus is still the best, though. I love the weary buddy cop role he has in ME2. Screw Miranda — Garrus the real second-in-command!

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