S.W.A.T. Reviews: Spring 2015 Pt. 1 (Did I Say That Out Loud?)

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The premise of these reviews is simple: watch the first episode of a series and then immediately sit down to record a review mini-podcast. The reviews are five- to ten-minutes long and entirely off the cuff. As always we only review new shows (so no sequels or continuations) and try to avoid anything that just looks outright awful.

These are the first batch from the new season and now we’ve broken them into (helpful?) categories:

Sentence: Free to Go

Listen – First impressions of The Heroic Legend of Arslan from Liden Films. It is streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Listen – First impressions of RIN-NE from Brain’s Base. It is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Listen – First impressions of My Love Story!! from MADHOUSE. It is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Listen – First impressions of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches from Liden Films. It is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Sentence: On Parole

Listen – First impressions of Re-Kan! from Pierrot+. It is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Listen – First impressions of Show by Rock!! from Studio Bones. It is streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Listen – First impressions of Seraph of the End from Wit Studio. It is streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Listen – First impressions of Sound! Euphonium from Kyoto Animation. It is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Listen – First impressions of Saint Seiya: Soul of Gold from Toei Animation. It is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Listen – First impressions of Blood Blockade Battlefront from Studio Bones. It is streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Sentence: Lock ‘Em Up and Throw Away the Key

Listen – First impressions of Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma from J.C. Staff. It is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Listen – First impressions of Punch Line from MAPPA. It is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Listen – First impressions of Urawa no Usagi-chan from A-Real. It is streaming on Crunchyroll.

 

Ongoing Investigations: Case #229

hisui_icon_4040 And so another season of the larger Index series ends with the conclusion of A Certain Scientific Railgun S. Kate and I were recently discussing the series as a whole and she found it odd that despite how big the whole Index thing is in Japan it never seems to have caught on here in the US. It always just seems like a franchise that happily chugs along in Japan season after season doing very well with almost no real vocal fanbase in the States. Just one of those cases where it clearly shows the difference in tastes between the two fanbases for the same medium.

The first part of this story was interesting as we finally got to see what Misaka Mikoto was doing during the Sisters Arc. It was clear from A Certain Magical Index that Misaka was already neck-deep in trying to stop the Level 6 Shift experiment by the time Touma got involved. Here we get to see how she became aware of the Sisters and tried to stop Accelerator from killing any more of them. Eventually the plot caches up to what was presented in Index and then it is just the original Sisters Arc with some new perspective as it is all from Misaka POV instead of Touma.

After that there is the original Silent Party Arc that builds on a lot of the themes presented in the Sister Noise Arc and at the same time resolves what happened to Nunotaba Shinobu, who was recently introduced. The Chemicaloid Project seems to once again prove that Academy City is just filled with some of the least ethical scientists who ever lived. But I guess that is what happens when you put Aleister Crowley is charge of a city of research.

In the original Sisters Arc Misaka Mikoto comes off as an aloof loner. Someone who knows lots of people, is known by even more, but does not have any real friends other than maybe Kuroko. But as the Railgun series has come into fruition it has given Mikoto a small circle of dedicated friends and well as some rather constant allies. Therefore they had to go out of their way to explain why she would specifically not ask for their help and therefore why we never see anyone like Uiharu or Saten. It does add to Mikoto’s gloomy martyr complex that was present, but nowhere near as prominent, in the Index version of the story.

Thankfully the Silent Party Arc helps balance out her character again so that Uiharu, Saten, and Kuroko can be more than cameos in the show again. It also lets Misaka teach this same lesson to Shinobu. Kongo, Wannai and Maaya also make a pretty prominent appearance. It even had a cameo with Haruue Erii and Edasaki Banri actually be critically important.

But all of that is sort of pat the course for the end of a Railgun season. There was one event that was almost “a unicorn high fiving a dragon in the middle of Times Square” rare: Anti-Skill and Judgment were actually useful. They got stuff done and where not just the useless army guys in a monster movie. It is crazy talk but it was true. Anti-Skill and Judgment members who were not main characters were actually effective. Insanity.

Side note: For as much as Kiyotaka Haimura says that Shutaura Sequenzia looks almost exactly like Fukiyose Seiri I have to say Kongou Mitsuko is far more a dead ringer for her.

They really made Nunotaba Shinobu much more attractive in the anime. She is a really strange-looking woman in the manga. They go out their way to show her extra freaky fish-eyes in the manga while she just looks a little dead eyed in the anime. I guess they wanted to cute her up for figures.

I did find it a little odd that Shokuhou Misaki was so prominently in a few scenes for the small amount that she did. I know that she eventually becomes very important but for now she seems disproportionately significant. I think it is partially to have her be established so she does not seem to pop up out of nowhere when she does become important. Also she does seem to have become rather popular so they might have just had her show up for her fans to be happy. But I never read the manga so she might have also just shown up his much in the manga as well.

It is also interesting to see how much we get to see Frenda Seivelun in this series. As someone who is almost completely later defined by her death later in the series it was a little nice to see her before she was Fre nda even before the whole Mami Tomoe craze.

I wonder how long until they adapt the Accelerator manga. You know it is coming. So it will just be another turn in the cycle between seasons of Index and Railgun. But I’m glad just to see more of the franchise as a whole.

sep-manga

narutaki_icon_4040 I read the first two chapters of the new Saint Seiya manga Saintia Sho. It is written by the original manga-ka of Saint Seiya Masami Kurumada with new artist Chimaki Kuroi. This series is going to follow the women Saints who are guarding Athena after a civil war.

Shoko’s older sister Kyoko left five years ago to attend an elite school but hasn’t been in contact since. More recently, Shoko has been having a recurring nightmare involving an apple and a warrior dressed in golden armor. Things come to a head when her dream starts to come true at school and who but her missing sister is the golden saint. It seems like Shoko may be the descendant of an evil entity which will certainly complicated the story.

Shoko is a strong martial artist and smart from what we’ve seen so far.

I liked what I read so far, it is pretty straight forward Saint Seiya in the Prologue. And then the first chapter is all setup so we’ll see where it goes. Even the artwork seems like it is from a past era which is a nice touch.

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 #172

I had the pleasure of playing a bunch of games of Penny Arcade: Gamers VS. Evil which is a deck-building card game. As an ex-Magic player, I have a high interest in games like this. It takes out the more expensive and sometimes difficult aspect. Plus, from the few I’ve played they are very fast paced as you build your deck on the fly. Gamers VS. Evil was all that with the bonus of being hilarious.

Using a dungeon-like component, you and the other players build up a deck of creatures and abilities which you use to attack the bosses. Boss loot and some other cards have point values which is how you win the game at the end.

There are different strategies to the game, but there are two basic types of cards: tokens and powers. Since tokens were green and so was the boss character of Gabe as Cardboard Tube Samurai, I decided I wanted to use tokens as my base. It took me a while to figure tokens out but I was determined to get them to work for me. From my experience they are a slower build as you start making your deck. Powers were strong going out of the gate.

Each character you play as some neat ability and it is one way of figuring out your strategy for the round, too. I had a blast playing as Gabe (since he helped my green deck hopes) but the best was Rex Ready! Because he is Rex Ready. He actually let me purge cards from my hand which is really helpful in a game like this.

Games flew by which I loved! With a rule that once six card stacks run out the game end, you are on a tight schedule to make your points count. Highly recommended and I can’t wait to play the expansion.

I have always enjoyed CCGs but hated the immense cost involved in playing them. There is a certain joy in buying booster packs but if you want to be in any way competitive you need to throw down a considerable investment. Anyone who has played Magic: The Gathering can attest to that. But with some good friends and a solid library you can have games that are radically different each time you play them. This makes the deck building game is a wonderful child of the CCG. While it is not as flexible and its parent it is far cheaper. You simply buy one box and you have a complete game and you have a game that plays much like a sealed booster match. A great compromise for those who like CCGs but also like eating regularly.

I recently played the Penny Arcade deck building game called Gamers VS. Evil. It is a solid version of the deck building formula with cards based on the various silliness from the web comic. You have everything from the Cardboard Tube Samurai to Pax Pox. Each player chooses an avatar that determines their starting hand and molds their play style with their special ability. You then take turns buying card to put in your deck. You can buy either red cards that mainly revolve around attacking and green cards which tend to have more indirect effects. Certain cards are worth points for buying them but mostly you want to build up your deck so you can buy from the Boss character piles. They have the cards with the best abilities and highest point values. The game ends when either types of cards are all sold out or one of the boss piles is empty. The player with the deck with the highest point value is the winner.

The game itself is lots of fun. We had 4 players and after 2 learning games we played several games in quick succession. If you know what your doing you you can play a game rather quickly. Since the cards you can buy are random much of your strategy comes from which Avatar you have and what is available to purchase. As with any deck building game or CCG deck control cards are worth their weight in gold. Any thing that lets you discard cards from your deck or draw more cards is powerful. Other than that most of your decision come down to how do you most effectively use your Avatar’s special ability to get boss cars as quickly as possible.

I did notice one oddity. The game is rather passive when it comes to other players. Despite the fact that there are PVP cards that let you give players negative points there is little to do to interfere with other players. In fact the most active and powerful strategy you have against other players is buying out the cards they need for their strategy. But the PVP cards do earn you a bit of ire anytime you play them none the less.

The game was really fun and each round felt slightly different. Apparently there another version called Rumble in R’lyeh. It same the same mechanics but all new cards. You can play that as a stand alone game or combine both sets together. That is a great way to keep the game alive but keep the price sane. I can’t wait to play it again.

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