Ongoing Investigations: Case #175

I think I have always had a bit of a heretic opinion when it comes to the Space Battleship Yamato. I realize the enormous impact the series has had on the industry. It changed the game for anime on a variety of levels. It certainly helped cement the idea that anime was not just for kids in Japan. I just don’t think it is as timeless as the old school fans. But that aside I feel that if you have any interest in the history of anime it is an important show to at least be familiar with for how much of it inspires what comes after it. So with that in mind I decided to watch the first episode of the new Space Battleship Yamato 2199 OVA.

Space Battleship Yamato is now almost 38 years old. Anime has come along way since the first voyage to Iscandar. I was curious to see how much they could modernize the story while still keeping the magic that made the original so popular. It is far too easy to make something bland when you reinvent it for contemporary audience. There are a pile of 90s OVA rermakes that will attest to that fact. Space Battleship Yamato 2199 changes certain things for the better, one or two for the worse, but most of them are lateral moves that have a very “Your mileage may vary” feel to them.

The most notable are the animation changes. Being a show made in 2012 all the ships are CG. It is never brilliant but it is usually serviceable. But gone are the hand-drawn feel of the original. The other major shift is in the character design. The more realistic the character design in the original they less they changed. Captain Okita is pretty much untouched from this original design while Kodai and Yuki have the distinct sheen of modern character design but are still instantly recognizable as their originals.  But some characters like the very cartoonish Dr. Sado get a complete makeover. Sado looks more like Heaven Canceller than his original design. They also seem to have added a bunch of new character who look much more like modern anime characters than updated Leiji Matsumoto characters. Shockingly enough there might be more female characters than just Yuki now.

The beats of the plots so far are largely unchanged. It is all in the details that the difference lies. I found it a good move that they upgraded Yuki from being a bridge bunny nurse to a more Misa Hayase styled military professional. Also Kodai is still impulsive but a great deal less whiny. When he confronts Okita about the death of his brother it comes off as much more natural. At the end you know he still takes issue with how his brother died but he comes off much more as a military man than a bratty child. He is still running off with experimental fighter craft during an emergency but even then he seems a bit more properly restrained.

I will say that one scene near the beginning where that one young engineer dies calling out for his mom is tremendously ham-fisted. It just comes off like amateur hour drama. And it is not like the series can’t pull off cheesy but strong. The part where Mamoru’s crew sacrifices themselves while singing comes off more like a WWII movie tribute than cheap emotional ploy.

I am curious what the die-hard Yamato fan think of the first new episode. Since I am not super attached to the first series I think I can be a bit more objective about the changes. Where they go with the show from here? I think it has some distinct potential to be a strong re-imagining. The real question is how much the fan base approves of the modernization? Do they still think it contains the heart and soul of the original?

I watched the live action movie adapation of Kimi ni Todoke and it renewed my love for the series.

I haven’t read the manga yet, but the movie covers roughly the first season of the anime with some minor changes. We see the girl that everyone is scared of slowly make friends and open up. We see Kazehaya fall in love with her and Sawako learning what love is. You also get more of a solid conclusion between Kazehaya and Sawako happily. It is a simple story that is very satisfying.

I really liked the casting for everyone especially Sawako and Kazehaya. Haruma Miura is not only a good fit for how cute Kazehaya is, but his expressiveness really added a lot to understanding how Kazehaya felt. He also has a killer smile which is essential! Mikako Tabe also lights up when she smiles so they really fit together.

I cried the last 15-minutes and while I don’t measure all films based on this, it proves how very much it got into my heart. It was really lovely.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #173

Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated has finally started season two! Considering the ending to season one if they did not have a second season I am fairly certain Narutaki might have been prompted to do something drastic to the executive board of Cartoon Network.

After the end of season one of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated it was clear they would have to begin with getting the gang back together. So when a terrifying clown baby starts to wreak havoc in Crystal Cove the new mayor decides to try to resurrect Mystery Incorporated with the help of a mysterious stranger. As always such things never go easy with one member being far harder to win back than the others.

The first episode of the new season hits the ground running. The news season has that same wonderful mix of dry and zany humor that made the first season such a loving tribute to everything that has been wrong and right with the franchise. Scooby saving Private Hippy, Dawn of the Doughnuts, and Shaggy’s speech to the town council all showed they were firing on all cylinders. The ending was even a bit of an unexpected twist of the Scooby-Doo formula.

Crazy hobo Fred stole the show. There is no doubt about that. The only bad thing about crazy hobo Fred is I am not really sure how they could top that in the rest of the season. But if everything is just one or two levels below that then we are looking at a great season. Highly recommended.

Okay, I seriously just had an inkling that somehow the new season of Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated had started. And I was right! Only it is running in on Cartoon Network . . . in the UK. And the U.S. has not announced anything about it.

The beginning where a mysterious stranger in a trench coat and hat tells the new mayor she better get Mystery Inc back sets a great tone for the episode. The subsequent parts of what everyone has been up to since they were separated are a delight. As Hisui said, nothing beats Fred in this episode but then again he was consistently been an amazing piece in the series. Pleasepleaseplease let Fred stay HoboFred for at least a couple more episodes.

I also had some really good laughs with the hot movie star guy who is in town, he is famous for playing a were-turtle! The comedy was going full force in this story all around.

The mystery itself surprised me at the end but wasn’t really the focus or all that interesting during the rest of the episode. And I’m curious if there is going to be a new over-arching plot along with tying up things from the last season.

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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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