Ongoing Investigations: Case #235

hisui_icon_4040 I think is was easy to dismiss The LEGO Movie as utter trash cinema based on a toy like Battleship or the Bayformers movies. It did seem like something that had the distinct potential to be horribly mediocre. But a careful look at the pedigree of the movie was far more encouraging. Phil Lord and Chris Miller worked on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs which was another animated movie that was easy to dismiss but got a good amount of praise. The duo’s major involvement with the first Cloudy movie and then the lackluster reviews of the second movie (which they were largely uninvolved with) shows that their touch can really make a movie. So the almost universal praise for The LEGO Movie makes far more sense when you know that fact.

The movies signature song Everything is Awesome says everything you need to know. It just sums up the infectious joy that permeates the movie. It goes out of its way to try to make everything just plain fun. At the same time if you think about a lot of the little pieces of the movie are brick jokes that point the way to big events later on in the movie. In fact this is totally a movie that rewards you for paying attention. There is always two or three things happening in the background begging for a re-watch on video with a pause button. Just watching the main character go to work is an Easter egg hunt in of itself. The posters, billboards, and characters in the background are always doing something that will reward another viewing.

In many way the 80’s Space Man sums up the movie for me. As a kid who grew up with LEGO in the 80’s the figure was just something you had. You had to get a space set and you had to get the 80’s Space Man. So him showing up is not totally surprising. But when you see that he has that crack in his helmet that almost every 80’s Space Man got when you removed his helmet wrong struck such a cord in me. That part of the darn helmet always broke because its plastic was so much thinner (especially if you try to take it off with you teeth.) The character totally works if you never had that figure as a kid BUT if you did it is an immediately says with wink and a nod that, “We know” without saying a word.

There are also some interesting meta-contextual themes running through the course of the movie. Like the Toy Story movies it has a simple story that extremely entertaining but there are some deep cogs moving in the background if you wish to explore their mechanisms. I don’t want to give them all away but the loving critique of big budget summer movies it fairly obvious but at the same time never mean-spirited. It reminds me of Hot Fuzz in the respect.

I assume that like 80% of the people who read this part of the blog have already seen the movie and are just nodding at what they are reading. Another 1% just never wanted to like movie and all the hype around it only makes it worse. This really for the last 19% who keep saying, “I know it keeps getting good reviews but it is a film about LEGO. How good could that be?” I’m telling you take that leap you might fall into that 1% but I’m firmly convinced you will be part of the greater 99%. If nothing else, the sooner you see the movie the more likely the movies little final act reveal will not be ruined for you. It is a nice perk to be able to go into the movie and for it to be a surprise.

Also this.

narutaki_icon_4040 As per the entire Internet’s suggestion, we saw The LEGO Movie from Warner Bros. Animation. And it came as no surprise when everyone was right, especially considering some of the team is behind the unremembered, but awesome, Clone High series. The LEGO Movie a really high-spirited film with amazing animation. I want to see it again already!

The way LEGO is used in the film is exactly how it should always be done. Much like the many small productions we’ve seen online, the film uses LEGO for everything including all of the effects. Little details stood out to me during the movie. Like how paint on the LEGO pieces was imperfect, fuzzy at the edges, scratched or chipped; you could see smudges and cracks. It was great to see the movie trying to evoke the actual toys rather than working on making everything super slick. Nevertheless the animation is impressive on a ton of levels.

The humor is a blast as they skewer popular culture, mass media, and grown-ups. They tackle the mythos of being average, showing that being “normal” doesn’t mean being useless. And of course there are plenty of cameos.

I was surprised about the twists the film took near the end and ended up appreciating it all the more for those decisions.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching, reading, or playing outside of our main blog posts. We each pick three things without much rhyme or reason; they are just the most interesting things since the last OI.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #234

narutaki_icon_4040 There is only one thing we like almost equally much as detectives: phantom thieves. Bandette (vol. 1) by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover is a delightful adventure set on the streets of Paris featuring (mostly) good Samaritan expert thief Bandette and her band of merry followers.

Bandette’s goals are a light mystery, her attitude is fresh, carefree, and yet she comes off as knowing everything before it happens. She is really quite a wonder, never seeming affected by all the trouble she runs into and never worrying how she will manage. One thing we do know is she has quite the affinity for rare, and first edition, books. Also candy. She has an oh-so-necessary secret lair and seems to have money and means.

Her friends come off as kind of Baker Street Irregulars, essential to getting her out of jams, setting up means of escape, and alerting her of any information they might find.

Colleen Coover’s art is so lively with a range of facial expressions and reactions which give the story such levity even when assassins appear. Her paintings of Paris give it all the mystique and romance that it deserves so much so I’d like to have her just make a travel guide for the city!

The first installment of Bandette does everything right; it is a bright, whitty, fun jaunt while introducing a villainous organization out to get Bandette, presenting a rival thief who begrudgingly helps her, tip-toeing around a possible love interest, and painting Paris as both light and dark. There are many mysteries and adventures ahead, I can’t wait for the next volume!


hisui_icon_4040 Yankee-kun na Yamada-kun to Megane-chan to Majo is a delightful cross over comic letting the cast of two of Miki Yoshikawa’s most famous works have a bit of a meeting. Since both series are goofball comedies it is clear that their combination would be equially flippant but just as amusing. The plot uses the body swapping powers from Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches but most of the story revolves around the cast of Yankee-kun to Megane-chan.

Due to your standard meeting of characters running in the street while late to school there is the toast being carried in the mouth. But instead of the normal boy-girl collision this leads to Daichi Shinagawa and Ryu Yamada kissing and thereby changing bodies. This means that they are both desperately trying to find the other one to get back to where they belong.

For the most part this is a Yankee-kun to Megane-chan story. They definetly get the lion share’s of the attention in the story. Even Ryu spends most of the chapter in Daichi’s body which makes him practically a character who is half Yamada-kun and half Yankee-kun. Then again Ryu’s series is still ongoing while the Mon Shiro High School has not had a chance to shine in a while.

Also I accept any excuse to see Rinka Himeji again.

The story does highlight the fact that Daichi and Ryu are similar enough that no one at Mon Shiro High School can tell there is someone else in his body. If Adachi and Shiraishi had switched bodies that would not have been the case. You can tell that Miki Yoshikawa really likes a certain type of male delinquent as her main character. But I don’t think Kate would disagree with her choice of protagonist.

It is a fun little story that should be a treat for fans of either series. If you like both series it is even better.

Also is has a whole bunch of guys kissing.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching, reading, or playing outside of our main blog posts. We each pick three things without much rhyme or reason; they are just the most interesting things since the last OI.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #233

hisui_icon_4040 The Flowers of Evil was a series that seemed to either be on peoples best anime of 2013 list or something you acknowledged existed but had a strong reason it was absent. Quite a few people just could not watch because they hated the look of the rotoscoping. In their defense it is rotoscoping. It is one of the few animation techniques that I can think of that you either just accept (and maybe even enjoy) or gets under your skin like nothing else. Interestingly enough after reading volumes one through four of the manga my critique would be much different.

The more subtle difference between the anime and the manga is the pacing. The Flowers of Evil anime has an almost glacial movement in the story. It spends so much of its time building up tension that the actual story seems secondary. I expected the manga to have that same ponderous weight to its cadence. But I was surprised by what I read.

The Flowers of Evil manga seems to have two paces. It can be almost breathlessly frenetic but in contrast it can also be meditatively ponderous. When Takao Kasuga is caught up in things the flow of the pages are almost delirious as events seem like they are out of his control. But when he is a master of his own fate the pace slows down. It clearly highlights when Kasuga could escape the spiral he is in but refuses to do so due to either cowardice, fear of being hurt, or plain desire. That anime seems not to care much for that first mode.

It is not to say the anime is doing things incorrectly. It is clearly made decisions to revel in one half of the story and downplay the other. When you adapt a title to another medium you sometimes have to change things to make them work. Other times you can modify things to make them your own. I feel like the anime is somewhere in the middle in this respect. Some of the changes are out of necessity and others are a personal flourish.

I will mention that I read through more of story what was in the three volumes of manga than the time it took to watch three episodes of the same 13 episode anime. While there is not necessarily a better version there is one that is in fact more expedient.

In that respect I feel that anime and the manga of The Flowers of Evil are the beginning of discussion and maybe even some insight into what different people want out of pacing and adaption of manga. It seems like people who would normally despise such a reduced speed in a translation love this series. There is clearly a greater alchemy at work here worth looking into.


narutaki_icon_4040 As you might gather from the cover of Blade of the Immortal vol. 27, we finally get the return of a familiar face (actually faces!) as we draw ever nearer to the final showdown. The volume focuses more on the greater cast as Rin and Manji recover from their latest clash with Shiira and slowly start their journey again.

We finally get to see Habaki’s daughter show her skills in some competent sword work but much more in her ability to think ahead. A good portion of the book is taken up by her and Ban (one of Habaki’s woefully underdeveloped death row soldiers) fighting in the woods against one of the Itto-ryu’s oldest members. Ban uses a gun which takes the ridiculous nature of the fights in BotI to a different level.

Remember those familiar faces I mentioned? Well, don’t get too excited since they literally make a 8-page appearance. Still it bodes well for things to come.

Magatsu had my favorite moment in the volume though as he lays down some wisdom about the path of revenge:

“It’s like the wheel of fate rolling right over us. All we are required to do is accept being hated our whole lifetimes by the relatives of those we’ve killed. Even thinking about wanting to forgive or wanting to be forgiven is foolish.”

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching, reading, or playing outside of our main blog posts. We each pick three things without much rhyme or reason; they are just the most interesting things since the last OI.

Continue reading