Ongoing Investigations: Case #207

So we enter the final batch of episodes of Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated S2 with 16-17. While I will miss the show I’m glad they were give the chance to end the series in a tidy manner. Plus I feel overall two seasons feels like a good length for the series. While I would have liked more I don’t feel like I was robbed of anything. But we shall see how much those feelings remain when the series is actually over. Until then we have Aliens Among Us and The Horrible Herd.

After a show goes on break it is always nice to transition back into the series as if you had just watched the previous episode last week. Mystery Incorporated transitions from its big “should have been accompanied by an ominous pipe organ” revelation from Theater of Doom with a general mystery that they solve pretty quickly so they can add in some detective work on the overarching mystery.

Aliens Among Us proved that the funny was still in the series as well. Sheriff Bronson Stone seemed to be taking lessons from Giorgio Tsoukalos this episode. Also Scooby seems to imply that he is so frequently asked to dig up graves as part of their investigations that he has become slightly tired of it. Also the fact that the villains of the episode apparently lives in Frodo’s house for no well explained reason is a quick blink and you miss it gag.

Random Trivia: It seems that the GPS coordinates for Gatorsburg would put in a Warner Bros warehouse in Burbank, California which is amusing little inside joke.

The Horrible Herd on the other hand proves that Professor Pericles is playing for keeps (although killer German Stormtrooper robots is not exactly kid gloves.) There were an interesting amount of subtle Aliens homages in this episode. I am curious how much they are going to deal with the fact that a good deal of town was destroyed in this episode or will they mostly just hand wave it away. With this series either scenario is possible.

I glad to see the series is still going strong entering the endgame. I think this is really destined to be a series people look back on and wonder why it did not have a bigger fan following when it was on the air. Its lovely mixture of parody and homage make it far smarter than you would assume at first glance.

Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated how I’ve longed for you!!! Even after a long break, the series hasn’t lost anything. Fred still has the most amazing moments, Daphne is still awesome, and all the mysteries and oddities just keep getting piled on.

Easily the best part in either of these episodes is when Fred and Sheriff Stone have a sleepover because the gang is trying to protect the Sheriff from aliens he believes abducted him. Fred’s insights about love and how the only thing better is traps is full of sage wisdom.

Daphne’s cheese expertise, which I had totally forgotten about, comes back into play when the mass of skeleton-bee-piranha-cows descend on the town.

Throwing in the Space Kook was an excellent nod.

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 #168

I picked up The Story of Saiunkoku vols. 1-7 recently and my goodness has this only renewed my passion for the series. I fell in love with the anime a few years ago, so far this manga has followed it quite closely (both being based on a novel series which I have no way of reading, I don’t know if it follows the books closely as well).

Saiunkoku, put simply, is about a kingdom and a romance, but the series is far from simple.

In these volumes, we meet a large cast of nobles and get caught up in assassination schemes, courtly politics, syndicate wars, and various governmental situations. Shurei is a smart, hard-working, but poor, noble who is brought to court in the hopes of helping the new emperor. She not only forms a close relationship with Ryuki the emperor, but also many others in his circle. Shurei not only helps guide the emperor but begins gaining friends and influence in the politics of this large kingdom.

And that is what is so special about Saiunkoku; the political and societal struggles of Shurei and women in this ancient land. A good portion of the series after the first two volumes is Shurei dreaming and applying herself to become a civil servant which no woman has been allowed to do.

While the series also wears the hat of reverse harem, to its credit all the men are fascinating characters with their own places in the court and politics. And by and large they are not in love with our heroine. The story is pretty clear this is about Shurei and Ryuki. But on that note, it is amazing how little time these two actually get to spend together because of their stations and duties.

The story has a clipped pace never lingering too long on any one thing. At times I found myself really yearning for more time for Shurei and Ryuki to no avail. There are moments with a bit too heavy exposition but they seem to lessen as the volumes go on. All in all, it is a great world with a great cast that you want to know more about.

I will say that they wrapped up the first season of Young Justice quite nicely. I did feel that one or two of the slow building plots were quickly resolved in the last 2 episodes but that is more of a stylistic issue than a major complaint. Over all they did a good job of having everyone one in the main cast having some noticeable character progress while at the same time tying all the episodes together into one cohesive plot. I do find it a bit odd that all the new animated DC series seem to be utterly in love with Vandal Savage. While he is decently old character I myself had never heard of him before recently. But he makes for a good foil to teams as opposed to some villains who are better off as either pawns of a bigger villains or as the nemesis for solo heroes. I also have to applaud them for adding more women to the team with the addition of Zatana and Rocket. At the same time while Zatana gets a decent amount of screen time for a late addition Rocket sort of gets thrown in at the last second. So I thought, “Well she can get more screen time and character development when they come back for season 2.”

Then very surprisingly the next week went straight into season 2. And people HATED it. While I can’t say I was in any way as angry as other people I do feel their pain. The season starts after a 5 year time skip. Most of the Young Justice team is new, half the old team is nowhere to be seen, and most of the team that we see is remarkably different with no explanation.  I recognized all the new team additions but is mostly because I have a solid albeit firmly intermediate comics education. Well I recognized everyone except for Lagoon Boy. But all those underwater guys who are not Aquaman are super-duper high level nerd territory anyway. I am sure the average viewer would at least need some explanation for who the Blue Beetle is. The problem is unlike The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes they don’t do the greatest job of introducing people without exposition.

I get that they are going for the risky payoffs of the in medias res plot revelations but the execution is somewhat off.They did such a good job of building up the first team. If they just skipped ahead but kept the team the same it probably would not have felt so jarring. Both changes combined really throw off the flow of the story. I will continue to watch but I feel that the choice was a major misstep and apparently most of the audience agrees. Hopefully they payoff for the reveals of what happened during the time skip will make this all worth it.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #142

I along with thousands of others rejoiced to hear that Sailor Moon would finally be rereleased in English and thankfully with a new translation to match. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, there are also lovely color pages! Rereading something with such nostalgia for so many of us can be precarious sometimes because there is always the possibility of being let down. Sailor Moon is not that type of title if you are going in with the knowledge that this is a title meant for little girls; a mighty entertaining fantasy adventure that hits all the right notes for little girls. The strength of friendship is central to the series and it really takes hold of that right away. Equal is the intrigue (totally transparent to the audience) of Tuxedo Mask. The pace is happily brisk as Usagi whisks through villains and gains new guardians. The dialogue is rather stiff at times but not sure whether to attribute that problem with translation or not. The art of course shines and doesn’t feel aged though you can see Ms. Takeuchi getting better as the story goes which is only natural. Sailor Moon is a legendary title that changed a genre so that also means that it isn’t a perfect piece. But not being perfect doesn’t prevent it from being point of delight full of naive fantasy. It is great experiencing it all over again.

Well, if Natutaki is talking about the mother of fighting magical girls shows I might as well talk about one of its most modern grandchildren. I have been enjoying Suite Precure even if I have not mentioned it since episode 12. But since episode 35 is the accumulation of a lot of reveals I think it is worth talking about again. In that time the show has had the birth of Cure Beat,  a major power-up, the many reveals around Cure Muse, and of course the unmasking of the true villain of the series. The birth of Cure Beat was in itself pretty cool but as Narutaki mentioned the transformation from Siren to Ellen was sort of lame. It is like after she officially became a Cure some one switched her from evil to good like she was Krusty doll. The reveal of Cure Muse was better of it does require some Superman/Clark Kent and Batman/Bruce Wayne levels of ignorance. Also the reveal of Mephisto not being the big villain was pretty important as he would have made far to weak a foil especially as compared to previous masterminds. Overall I am still enjoying Suite Precure but 35 episodes in it is clear it will never be as strong as Heartcatch. But I am OK with that.

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