Ongoing Investigations: Case #166

From well-known documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (you’ll probably know him best as the guy who did Super Size Me), comes a look into the biggest geek convention in the U.S., San Diego Comic-Con. A Fan’s Hope follows a few different people through the convention which wasn’t abundantly clear in the trailer I saw but now after seeing it, the title makes much more sense. There is a lot more of a personal journey to this documentary than a real focus on the con as a whole and its development and history. While that wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, the film isn’t a disappointment but more an incomplete tale.

Unlike some other films, Morgan is only behind the camera for this one, which is a shame since he would have been the perfect person to give us tidbits of information and bring context to scenes. The people we do follow are generally interesting if not experts on the con. Two artists trying to go pro, a comic book dealer who hasn’t had a good year for profits, a costume sculptor wanting to show off her skills, a toy collector on the hunt, and a couple where the guy is going to pop the question make up our merry band.

Equal attention wasn’t given to everyone, sometimes this was good (the couple), sometimes this was bad (the artist from the military), but most of all it felt like they should have cut back on the group as a whole or make the film longer. Though the public proposal I could have done without altogether, it makes me so uncomfortable! And I had gotten a little worried about the guy since his girlfriend seemed attached to his hip. Interspersed between these stories are celebrities saying a line or two or telling a story about the convention and these were a lot of fun. Kevin Smith does an especially good job while telling a story about what would happen if his now self could travel back and visit his 11-year-old self.

This film is a celebration of fandom, it is not an expose, but it really needed to be a bit of both.

I did not realize that this was a Morgan Spurlock documentary until after I saw it. Or I should more precisely say that I did not realize Morgan Spurlock was also the same director as Super Size Me until after I watched the movie. As a long-term nerd I can’t say that I learned anything particularly shocking about Comic-Con as a whole. It is distinctly more of a celebration of Comic-Con and a look at how it affects certain people rather than an in-depth expose of the grand mechanisms behind the convention.

If you’re looking for parts on Twilight fanatics vs. Comic nerds or the sickly side of the cosplay community you won’t find it here. They do touch on the fact that the convention had become much more of a general media con than a solely comic focused event though the eyes of one of the oldest remaining comic sellers but even that is mostly played as a positive. The real meat of the documentary was the experiences of the people who attended the con. You had the collector, the cosplay girl, and the dealer among others. Their stories were all interesting. The Mass Effect cosplay group was undoubtedly skilled. That animatronic Krogan outfit was a marvel. You cannot see that outfit and not be impressed. (You can but your mostly just a jerk who likes to pat themselves on the back for how “worldly” they are).

But the most interesting stories were the two men trying to get professional jobs in the comics industry while attending Comic-Con. It was a good look at someone who makes it and someone who was clearly not ready. I wish they had focused a little more on the artist who got a job through the event. As a married man in the military I felt he really contrasted the image of the lonely super spaz you associate with comic fandom. He was clearly seriously into comics with the skills to back up that love but I felt he was a fascinating example of the diversity of the community. The gentleman who was rejected was also compelling. As someone who has never taken rejection well his story hit very close to home even if he dealt with his setbacks with a good amount of grace.

The real question this documentary answers is why do people go to Comic-Con. It is a wonderful examination of what makes people come back year after year and why the convention has become the phenomenon it has. I am coincidentally listening to the Freakonomics audio book. Since Spurlock worked on the film based on that book I might give that a look soon as well.

Kekkaishi vol. 30 sets us on the road to the finale. Yoshimori comes face to face with Karasumori and begins the training needed to seal him away. It has a very melancholy feel since getting to this goal means leaving other things behind. It is also really disappointing to imagine Tokine not appearing in this arc as pivitol character so I’m hoping that will change. While Yoshimori’s mother has appeared, we still know little about her, and if you thought Masamori was a suspicious character, their mother is even more so.

The Moon Moth is strange by the fact that how the book presents itself and how it reads are very different.

The book is billed as a science fiction murder mystery and none of this is incorrect per say. It takes places in a future with interplanetary travel and ray guns. There is an assassin and the protagonist has to discover who he is. But the book plays out much more like a fantasy book that is about a stranger in a strange land learning to play a very alien game of manners. The world building just has a vibe that is more consistent with a fantasy novel than science fiction. The masks, the games of manners, and the musical elements to conversations all feel more at home in a fantasy story than anything else.

It’s not that science fiction could not toy with any of these tools to tell a story but the presentation feels like something I would see from George R. R. Martin rather than Robert Heinlein. Also the story is much more the story of a foreigner making many mistakes with an extremely formalized culture where the wrong bit of social faux paux can lead to your death.

When Edwer Thissell discovers who the assassin is it has less to do with you solving it along with him and more to do with the story demonstrating how he is getting a hang of the complex rules of this Byzantine social hierarchy. It was a very odd story. I can’t say I loved it but I do feel it was an unusual read. I think the uneven pacing does hold the story back a bit as the engaging parts of the story sit in between slower parts that seem to spin their wheels. But it is a story that translates well into a comic and does not feel like a story you have read before.

That unusual flavor alone might be why you check it out. Just realize what sort of story it is.

I will admit to knowing nothing of the source material on which The Moth Moon is based. I agree with Hisui that the description of this book is rather misleading especially the mystery element. If you’re going to call it a mystery, I expect to be able to follow along and make some sort of at least mild deduction.

In the Moth Moon, all of Thissell’s research is done off page or in a montage without words so we don’t know what he learns. His big reveal is equally difficult to follow because despite his evidence we don’t get to know the characters or their masks much prior to it. Thissell himself has just come to this planet and is slowly learning its very foreign customs, but I really couldn’t tell you much about him. He is either a genius beyond measure or the luckiest man based on the final conclusion.

I talked about the bonus stories on the Fate/Zero Blu-Ray Box 1 last week but not the actual content of the show itself. The other big selling point of the box set was that each episode had unaired footage. I guess the real question is what does this new footage add. Well for one thing I can say that I almost always noticed the bits they added so it is not like additions were so inconsequential that if you blink you miss them. They definitely have substance.

They come in three types. The first are scenes they were edited for gore. Usually a scene where a kid was being murder was edited in the TV you can now see in full graphic detail. The second type was a bit of expanded dialog to certain scenes. The third were a few minor linking scenes.

The problem is they all feel like too much like the minor scenes. While they often add a bit of additional flavor or emphasis but none of them add any major revelations. You distinctly get the idea that all these scenes were cut to move things along. If you are one of those people who gets very angry whenever an adaptation removes even the smallest amount of nuance you will love these cut scenes. But at the same time if you already thought the show was a bit too talky than these scenes will only add to that feeling.

I liked them but I have a feeling for most people they are hardly something they need to hunt down with extreme prejudice.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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