Ongoing Investigations: Case #223

hisui_icon_4040 Recently the Binbougami ga! manga came to an end. It was just a series we randomly decided to watch during the SWAT reviews on the off-chance it might be enjoyable. But since then it has become a staple of my comedy manga diet along with Hayate and Yamada and the 7 Witches. But it seems just as quickly as I found the series I discovered it was coming to an end. Overall 15 volumes is hardly a series cut short. But when you enjoy something like this it seems to come and go in the blink of an eye.

But in the end that might be for the best. 15 volumes distinctly lets the plot play out nicely with some mystery involving why Sakura has all the fortune energy she does. The pace let each story arc have a big reveal towards slowly but  surely building up Ikari and Kana’s story and then how it fits in the present. When Ikari is finally revealed he does not seem to be teased for too long but at the same time he does not just pop up out of nowhere.

The final storyline is fairly conclusive. All the major plot lines are tied up strongly while still leaving some things moving in the background. I was a little surprised that the ending had a distinct bittersweet quality to it but it is a wonderful send off to Sakura and Momiji’s awkward but delightful friendship. It was probably the best way for those characters to say goodbye to each other.

It is interesting that the story did become a bit of a fighting series by the end. When Ranmaru and Nadeshiko are really integrated into the storyline they tended to get an opponents they needed to fight at the end of every major story arc.  That really started with the Tanpopo story arc but in many ways the Tanpopo arc is not just a major turning point it is the official start of the middle of the manga.

I still think chapter 23, the photo booth story, was my favorite chapter. It was a simple one chapter story that perfectly encapsulates the main characters personalities and what makes them great.

If anything Sakura’s mother probably gets glossed over the most. Her father gets a whole storyline devoted to him so I assumed the same would happen for Sakura’s mother. But the closer to the end of the series I got the more I realized it was just not coming. Sakura’s mother clearly appears at the end of the manga but overall she just never got a chance to be in the series.

Just an odd observation.

Man. Binbougami ga! was a really fun ride. Sadly when the anime ended they never even got up to the point where Nadeshiko formally became a cast member and was not just some odd rich ninja girl who appeared in side segments. I really hope that now that the series is over they will go back and animate the rest of the series. Some of the later stories are just begging to be adapted. Also nothing else I am sure that Narutaki wants this and this. And we can all agree that is a good thing.

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narutaki_icon_4040 Limit vols. 4-5 made me say both “AHA! I knew it!” and “OHO! I didn’t think it happened that way!”

The intensity really ratcheted up once one of the survivors died because everyone was already on edge and suspicious. The added new death just tore the already precarious truce apart. I of course enjoyed the added mystery element of this part of the story as well.

The next volume is the last. I’m very curious what kind of ending Limit will give us, will it get a tragedy or will rays of hope pierce through the gloom?

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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hisui_icon_4040 This was an extremely short season of The Venture Bros. at only eight episodes.

My only real complaint is that the last episode feels more like a strong mid-season episode than a season finale. There is some distinct character growth and some interesting revelations but overall it did not have the impact that previous seasons finales did.  But I suppose with a short season like this it is better to aim for minor accomplishments and succeed rather than trying to bite off more than you can chew and feeling rushed or messy.

I will say that I assumed that they would have had Brock come back as the Venture bodyguard by now. I just assumed that Brock leaving was just going to be a temporary thing like Henchman 21 not being a flunky for the Monarch. Something they play around with for a bit and then reset back to normal. But if that was the initial plan they have clearly thrown it away. Then again Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer really seem to enjoy messing with viewer expectations so it might have been the plan from the start.

The best part of the season was the expanded focus on Hank and Dean. While they are ostensibly the main characters they mostly feel like supporting characters most of the time. They were always around and prominent but they rarely felt like the primary motivators of their own fate. This season brings them to the forefront more than any other season. Now that they are no longer replaceable clones they have a better opportunity to grow and change even more than previous seasons.

Also for some reason I can’t get Colonel Gentleman’s silly obsession with Salem from Sabrina, the Teenage Witch out of my head for its sheer absurd but believable ridiculousness. Maybe because I know the type of people who would catalog how often Salem is a real cat and how often it is a puppet in real life.

Overall despite my criticism of the last episode I really feel a revitalized spirit in this new season. I think some time to really brainstorm along with a shorter season really helped the show have an energy it lacked recently. I will take half seasons if they make them tighter.

Oh I do have one minor last complaint. Only ONE episode with Dr. Orpheus? And even then mostly just as a cameo. Clearly season six should have at least one solid episode devoted to him.

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narutaki_icon_4040 The first Hawkeye Annual issue came out this week. I was delighted to see Kate be the star of this particular story. When last we saw here she was winding her way out to L.A.

This story jumps back just a bit to what pushed her to suddenly decide to visit the West Coast. It really is basically a whim as she wants a break from her crazy family and her crazy mentor. Of course, she can’t escape crazy as all as Madame Masque plots revenge against her and turns her L.A. vacation into a series of unfortunate events.

It was great seeing Javier Pulido drawing this book since he also drew the Kate’s previous confrontation with Madame Masque. The two stories felt perfectly connected because that air of theatricality flows through both. The way he plays with flatness and space adds to that stage feeling as does his love for silhouettes.

More than any other issue we get to see Kate’s mind at work which is both smart but also still a touch silly and young.

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hisui_icon_4040 Since I briefly touched upon them last week I decided I would talk about the Street Pass Mii Plaza games this week. Some are little games some which come with the 3DS and others are new material that you have to buy. They all use characters you get from StreetPass by having the WiFi turned on and passing my another 3DS with WiFi on. You can also get coins to play the game every day but the things you get from the coins are always on weaker than what you can get from other players.

It is a slightly insidious way of making sure that you carry around your 3DS as often as possible. I don’t have a huge problem with that but it is a distinct form of behavior control. It is generally benign but any form of behavior control by a corporation is always slightly worrying. Que Sera, Sera.

The two free games are very simple. Puzzle Swap lets you build 3D pictures by getting pieces from other players. There is no real skill involved. It is just a matter of patience. The only real annoying part is if you use play coins you get a random puzzle piece and sometimes they will give you duplicate pieces. It just leads to that always annoying phenomenon where a frustrating mechanic is added to a game to extend its length. It always feel like the game cheated you out of something whenever you get the same piece again. That sort of game design is something you should always avoid as it takes away one of the greatest powers of a game. The fact that players feel in control of their experience.

StreetPass Quest has a little more depth to it. It is a dungeon crawl RPG where you send the Miis you collected to fight monsters. But the fighter just roll out in the order you collected them so your only real control over anything is if they use melee attack or magic. While this game is more interesting it does have a lot of that game stretching feel to it. There are several obstacles and enemies that can only be taken out by specific colored Miis. So your often just waiting for the right character to show up. It can be incredibly aggravating to watch your warriors just waste their rounds waiting for a bit of fortuitous providence. Apparently you can buy specific warriors in part 2 of the game but you can’t do that in the first game.

The new downloadable games on the other hand feel much more skilled based. Y have a bit more control and skill involved with them. They still mostly rely on the randomness of the people you happen to pass but at least you have more control once you get those random characters.

Mii Force is a shmup where each of your options are determined by the characters you collect. It is probably the most skill based of all the games because your progress in all determined how well you use the weapons you are given. Anyone used to bullet hell games will probably breeze through this one effortlessly. But for an “old man” like me there is some challenge to this. This game is not that long but there are a lot of accomplishments to get in each level like never getting hit or collecting all the treasures. There are a few stages where having a specific weapon makes things WAY easier. They can be beaten without them but the right weapon makes the far more manageable.

Warrior’s Way is a strategy game were you gather soldiers to conquer countries. The strategy part is mostly a game rock, paper, scissors but it is a little more complex and nuanced than that. I think my roommate put it best when he said it reminded him of the old army battles in the Suikoden series. It is probably the fairest of the games.

Monster Manor is part puzzle game and part action RPG. The player is given puzzle pieces by other players to build mazes. Strategic placement of the pieces can can unlock items. You then use those items to fight ghost you encounter in the manor. You can place pieces haphazardly and still progress (especially if your really good at the action RPG parts) but careful placement will wield great rewards.

Flower Town is by far the most sedate of all the games. You just raise flowers which the other Miis help you grow. If anything most of the excitement will come from the fact that you can really pretty up your gardens with accessories you buy with coins you earn in the game. Much like Puzzle Swap it is a game of patience. There is much more choice than Puzzle Swap but in the end it is all just waiting for things to grow.

Despite the complaining I made about the unfair game design at points the game are usually addictive. I think some of the game design flaws are easily overlooked by the fun of collecting random people on the street and using them for games.  Plus if you already regularly walking or commuting around it just seems like a bonus on top of your normal activities. And that lets you forgive a lot of minor quirks.

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narutaki_icon_4040 Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo was uhm interesting! Right after I watched it, I didn’t know how I felt, but I knew I didn’t hate it. It was one of those movies that I had to sit with.

Things I liked: Misato; the music choices and the piano sequences; the design of Shinji’s room; and the slow, sinking feeling that something isn’t right.

Things I didn’t like: Mari; and while the battle sequences were visually stunning, I also found them to be visually confusing.

What struck me as really excellent about this movie was it was the first time I can remember being on the same page as Shinji. Coming off the second film, I felt Shinji’s reactions and mindset mirrored that of the audience. This was the first time I could really relate to him and I found that to be a big achievement.

2 thoughts on “Ongoing Investigations: Case #223

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