Ongoing Investigations: Case #186

So there have been a lot of talk about CBS’s Elementary ever since it was announced. There have even been some harsh warnings from BBC’s Sherlock staff on the concept of the show. Personally, I was looking forward to, at the very least, Lucy Liu as Watson. Finally, last night we were able to see for ourselves just how this NYC-based Holmes would fare.

This version of Sherlock is after all of his adventures across the pond and rehab; they were really able to sell me on this premise. He is still that aloof, detached observer but he can stop, pause, and realize people have feelings. That doesn’t restrict him once he is on a roll as things start clicking in his brain but he is also able to apologize.

Waston holds her own happily. At first she is understandably dragged along into Sherlock’s crazy but finds herself curious and capable of investigation. Her training as a doctor and a companion for recovering addicts allows her lots of insights. In fact, Sherlock and her go toe to toe rather well when analyzing each other.

One thing I’m curious to see is how well they can create a platonic friendship between these two. With the exception of their first meeting, I thought the first episode did an excellent job of it. But I also think this will be one of the harder aspects to keep up, it seems very difficult for television series to not add sexual tension between two good-looking people. But I earnestly hope they can do so here.

The first mystery is a murder, my (everyone’s?) favorite kind! It had good twists if slightly predictable ones at first. However the final conclusion was fantastic and Sherlock’s roundabout way of getting to the point made my jaw drop. I won’t take issue with the criminal admitting guilt to Sherlock privately out of confidence (a staple of the genre) as long as it doesn’t happen every time.

Random note, I was really impressed with that subway scene. That could not have been easy to film!

Natsuyuki Rendezvous was an interesting series in the fact that I think I saw just as many people proudly claim that they stopped watching the series as I saw enjoying the ending. Which is really a shame because it was a fine show that had a very refreshingly mature look at relationships, love, and selfishness and their interconnected nature. If anything I think a lot of the disconnect had to do with people Natsuyuki Rendezvous to be a different show. A show that it never wanted to be nor should have been.

First of all I am a little perplexed by people who were caught off guard by Atsushi being so prevalent in the series. I think Narutaki put it best when she said, “I can’t understand how anyone would hear the premise that the protagonists romantic interest is being haunted by her ex-husband that only he can see and NOT see how the ghost is going to be a prominent character.” In my opinion it is like being perplexed why they talk about the robots so much in Gundam. I don’t think Rokka and Ryosuke are ever ignored in the series. They just share the title of main character with Atsushi.

Second of all I am greatly perplexed by people who don’t seem to understand that selfishness and love are not mutually exclusive. On a certain level some of us wish to believe that absolute pure love means that you will always put the needs of those you love before your own. While this can be a noble sentiment reality shows us that first off the bat there are few people who are that are so buddha-like that they can shed their selfishness for another. You will be surprised how selfless you can be when you are in love but a selfish core remains within all of us.

I am also a little bit concerned by exactly how selfless they want Atsushi to be. It is not as if Rokka was cursing him on his deathbed. His attachment (no matter how selfish at times) to a woman he still loves and still loves him is perfectly understandable. Much like Kyoko Otonashi part of Rokka’s appeal is her devoted nature. It is only natural for Atsushi to somewhat greedily wish to have his own life back. It is not like a large portion of Atsushi does not wish to just see Rokka happy and free. But Atsushi is still human with all the frailties of such.

If you ask my opinion weighing in at only 11 episodes I don’t see any reason not to watch Natsuyuki Rendezvous unless you just dislike romantic dramas. It is a nice slightly supernatural love story for adults. It is a series that proves that letting go is an easy concept to embrace but a far harder concept to execute.

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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Ongoing Investigations: Case #178

I like nerdy documentaries, even if (or maybe especially if) they are about hobbies that I only just have knowledge of. Afterall, that seems like what documentaries are for, learning. So when I saw the trailer for Indie Game: The Movie, I knew I wanted to see this movie.

I am not much of a gamer and I’ve never played or even knew about any of the games in this movies, but that isn’t important. What matters is the connection they build with the audience as we watch and hope for their success. Though if you do know the games a bit of the suspense is taken away, still the filmmakers do a great job of building the tension regardless of their outcome.

To me, the movie is about three tortured artists and one guy who loves games. IGtM really shocked me with how delicate the balance of these developers walk, teetering on the edge of losing their sanity and being penniless. They truly are like painters desperate for success, acknowledgment, and a paycheck. By their own admissions, they were likely to do something rash should these games fail at this point.

And then there was Edmund, the guy who loves game which I mentioned. Thank God he was in this movie to ground the entire thing otherwise it would have been a real downer. Edmund is tired, brain drained, and worried about money but he is also excited for his game with a positive energy about him. It came across clearly how much Edmund loves video games and the movie needed that. The other guys clearly loved their games too, otherwise they could never dedicate so much of themselves to it, but they let the fun be taken from them whereas Edmund still shows that joy.

I would have liked to see more about the community surrounding indie games. They mention a few little things off-hand, like Johnathan Blow responding to any comment anywhere on the net about Braid, but overall they don’t give the community a real voice in the movie. I assume they are an important aspect, and seeing a player talk about and waiting for a game would have been a nice touch.

I really enjoyed this documentary, I felt that sense of impending doom as the approaching release date of Super Meat Boy; I felt the heartbreak of a glitchy demo with Fez. I don’t know much of anything about indie games, but now I know that the phrase “this isn’t as easy as it looks” applies to this scene like so many others.

I had been interested to see Indie Game: The Movie ever since I heard about it when it was raising funds through Kickstarter. Like most nerds the creation of video games has always been an intriguing process but indie games in particular have a much more raw and personal feel. Plus indie games, sort of like writing a book, is something a lot people secretly want to believe that if they just sat down and really put in a crazy effort they could do themselves. And much like writing a book for most people it is something that mostly remains a theoretical concept or an eternally barely started project.

This documentary does provide a remarkable amount of insight into the chunk of your soul that goes into making any decently ambitious indie game. It very clear how much time and energy goes into making a game and how perilous it can all seem. None of the people profiled has large teams or companies backing them up. That sense that these guys were taking a real risk to follow their dreams was very apparent.

The contrast between the two guys working on Super Meat Boy was fairly interesting. Edmund McMillen seemed fairly positive and energetic whereas Tommy Refenes seemed very dour about the whole project. It sort of reminded me of another duo. Edmund McMillen game philosophy and off beat sensibility seems the sort of aesthetic that would only be allowed in an independent environment. But overall despite several setbacks and grueling deadlines Super Meat Boy eventually crosses the finish line as a winner.

Fez on the other hand seemed more like proof that Murphy’s Law always finds a way. Phil Fish’s story seems to be more about how every time he gets somewhere it seems like there is a bear trap waiting for him here. When he tries to show off the latest demo of his game at PAX he has a major legal snafu with an ex business partner it only gets cleared up so he can realize that the demo he is presenting is very buggy. So he is forced to baby the machines running the demos for no end of agita. I will say that Phil Fish did come of as slightly unhinged. Not “he needs to be locked up” crazy but definitely “we only invite him to certain parties with certain people” nutty.

I do have to agree with the guys from Fast Karate. Jonathan Blow does come off as an enormous tool. Especially in contrast to the other creators who are profiled in the movie that really seem to have to pay a pound of flesh for their creations.

Overall I think while the documentary did focus on projects that came out on top it did present the struggle fairly well. I think it also proved that very often more than anything these indie game’s worst enemies could be themselves. With often no one rein them in they can get absorbed in the minutia and lose site of the grander picture. At a professional studio there is usually someone to keep the creative types in line. But without that a vital limiter projects can spin their wheels with no one to just pull the trigger and say “good enough.” That can lead to unique products but seemingly with much wasted energy. It seemed like the people in documentary got the most done when they were under the gun to get something out for an event.

It reminded me a lot of the eternal delays on Type-Moon games. With no one to keep Nasu in check the games seem to take forever as it always seems something can be tweaked or fiddled with. The vitriol from the fans about those delays was also the same in both cases.

The biggest complaint I usually hear about the movie is that it only focuses on success stories. It did seem like they picked games that already had a decent amount of buzz for the film. They did not pick any one who was a complete unknown and all three games profiled were big successes when they were finally released. Considering how many indie games never go anywhere I know some people felt the documentary made it seem like all you needed was an idea and some hard work to be a success.

Might the documentary shown a bit more of the struggling  indie game developer? Sure. In fact I think that would make an excellent follow-up documentary by either James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot or someone else who wishes to follow in their footsteps. But what is presented here is a fascinating insight to what goes into making a game outside of a major studio. It will crush some people’s casual dreams but strengthen others.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #164

When they finally announced a SGFiguarts Sky High from Tiger & Bunny, I was poised and ready for that pre-order; I had been waiting none too patiently. It finally arrived last week.

This is my first Figuarts purchase and I’m very happy with what I see. This looks dead-on like Sky High, I’m a real stickler for that authenticity. The paint job is flawless without a bad seam to be found. Somewhat like a Revoltech you have many hand options and other little details such as jet pack blasts as well as number of points of articulation. The possibility is good, though I did have some trouble getting his shoulder armor to stay on, after I settled on a pose I was really able to keep it. This is also thanks to a sturdy stand.

Even though this figure is on the smaller side for me, the craftsmanship makes me really happy with my choice.

I watched Another with my roommate partially because he likes horror stuff and partially because someone recommended the series as a good mystery. In a way, the series is both a horror anime and a mystery so I can discuss how those parts work individually and together.

As a horror series the plot works much like a Final Destination movie with a classmate dying every episode in some gruesome manner with an absolute bloodbath in he final two episodes. Not everyone dies like a Final Destination movie but the body count is high, the deaths near the end are gruesome, and some serious sacrifices are made. In that regard, the series pretty much gives you what you want.

The mystery is decent. I have a feeling that some people are going to find the identity of the ghostly classmate as brilliant and others are going to pass it off as a bit of a cheat. I think parts of the reveal have clues pointing to them and other parts are pretty much a surprise. The show does not cheat by say making the extra student someone you never saw but it is a bit of a major misdirection. I was glad they brought up and then quickly disapproved most of the super common twists you would have expected about the extra student early on.

My only real complaint is that one person essentially has a ghost detector and does not mention it to anyone until the last possible second.  That was a plot convenient bit of withholding information.

Overall all it was an enjoyable little show. It is very much more a horror show than a mystery. The show revels in its deaths and mostly just plays in the detective aspect. Watch it for a horror show with a mystery element and not the other way around.

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