Ghost in the Shell (2017)

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I wanted to love this movie. I did, truly. I guess you already know how the rest of this review goes but do try to stay with me here, I’m not just a crying fanboy. While I drafted this with minimal spoilers, there still are spoilers ahead so consider this your spoiler warning.

So Ghost in the Shell is a manga from the late eighties, a movie from the mid-nineties, and an anime from the early 2000’s. This franchise has been through a lot, and I’ve been a fan of it for a very long time. The 1995 movie, while slow-paced, is an excellent work of art that conveys the messages that it wants to convey quite clearly. The Major, Batou, and Aramaki are some of my favourite characters from manga. The Major has this playful nature, Batou… is the butt(ou) of several jokes, and Aramaki is a sly fox that you can’t help but admire. Togusa representing the stubborn, older generation. Most of the other members had augmentations that made their job easier (Saitou’s vision, for example). Others augment themselves for fun (Borma’s liver augmentation). I guess the point that I’m trying to get across is that Ghost in the Shell represented a crossroads in our future where all of these types of people coexisted. We weren’t all cyborgs and we aren’t all humans. And the characters are all so relatable, it’s hard for me to pick ones that I don’t like. Even in the older movie, it was incredibly difficult for me to dislike the Puppetmaster, rather I disliked some of his actions (the poor man with false memories).

Maybe this one was a little close to home, and I shouldn’t have gone in because of that. Let’s talk about what I liked about the movie first.

The movie is visually appealing. I can almost see the future with holographic advertisements the size of skyscrapers already. While I see the payphones on the side of the street disappearing (sorry 1995) I can see the idea of more robots in the service industry. Hell, Japan, in preparation for the 2020 Summer Olympics is already constructing hotels run by robots dinosaurs. ROBOT DINOSAURS! Come on man! ROBOT FRICKIN DINOSAURS! There are some great special effects, however I believe the movie failed to capitalize on the 3D. Especially the scenes where The Major is getting painted back to normal, mesmerized me every time.

The acting is fantastic. ScarJo knows how to play her character (most of the time) and there were some great scenes where you could really see how her movements felt robotic, like it wasn’t a natural human body. In the source material The Major is a little more playful, which is what I liked about it, but eh, new adaptation, different direction. I’m not terribly bothered because what ScarJo did do, she did well.

Before I move on, I do want to take a moment to address the whitewashing controversy. Anyone that complains about it doesn’t understand the source material. The Major’s origins are notoriously mysterious (within source material, which this movie dodged for the most part). And I think that anyone that complains about the whitewashing doesn’t quite get the point. See, the major is effectively a human inside a machine and (I believe) the point that Shirow was trying to make with the character of The Major was that none of the external features really matter (and this is very effectively demonstrated in the 1995 movie). Quite simply, there’s nothing in the source material (that I recall) that makes The Major “Motoko”. In fact, there’s nothing that really makes The Major female. Sure, the exoskeleton appears female, but it could have easily been male. The Major itself could easily be ‘male’ (if we’re going by original personality) but again, that doesn’t matter. That’s the point of The Major.

I don’t know where they found Batou (Pilou Asbaek) but he was perfect. I don’t think they could have picked a better Batou. Christ I loved his Batou. He just seemed so buff! Kuze (Michael Pitt) exaggerated the little robotic flairs of The Major. I’m not sure how much of that was CG, but the line delivery was spot on. He really played himself off as the villain we could all sympathize with even if corporates didn’t turn into assholes.

There are some notable exceptions to the excellent acting. Togusa’s character (Chin Han) had like two lines the entire movie and they were delivered in such a way that I felt like it detracted from how naive the Togusa of old seemed to be. But this isn’t just nostalgia bait, he gave the line so quickly and so flatly “I am a human, and I will always be 100% human” that I felt like the line was wasted. I also don’t like exposition that way, especially when that line served no purpose for the entire movie.

I do wonder why Aramaki spoke Japanese for the entire movie. He clearly understood English, as everyone else spoke in English and the others clearly understood Japanese (maybe they had a translator in their ear or something). But with what little screen-time he had, he did exude badass. And while we’re on the topic of Japanese, why was Hanka always pronounced as hay-n-ka? Should’ve been pronounced Ha-n-ka and every time they pronounced it incorrectly I would cringe. Sounds weird when you read and hear Japanese most of the time.

Okay, let’s talk about what I didn’t like. Everything else.

I don’t think this is really “Ghost in the Shell”. The original Ghost in the Shell discussed several existential themes regarding humanity and what it means as we merge man and machine. It also addressed how these things would impact our day-to-day lives, and how these things could be abused by corporations and governments. It’s not like the source material lacked things to really discuss. And I don’t feel like I got much of that out of this movie. I feel like it was sorta just mentioned, and then we moved on so we could get to the action scenes. The action scenes weren’t terrible, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not really what I paid for. Other scenes didn’t seem to connect too well if you ask me. I feel like we may have been shown a series of loosely connected stories, which is kind of what the manga did… but I don’t think that a movie should be doing that sort of thing.

The language (Ghost, Shell) seemed very forced every time they were used, to the point where I feel like it would’ve been more natural to use ‘soul’ instead of ‘ghost’ every time they mentioned it. But this is due to line delivery, in the source material ghost is used so matter-of-factly that it doesn’t really leave an impact. But the doctor says “But the important part of you, your humanity, your ghost, is still there” is practically romantic so the language doesn’t seem to fit the line.

They ripped a scene straight out of I, Robot (a beloved favourite of mine), and I, Robot did it better.

My biggest complaint might be the Motoko subplot. It gets introduced about twenty minutes before the end of the movie and is resolved like five minutes after it’s introduced. And quite honestly, I don’t mind its inclusion at all. I have several problems about how it was included. First – why is the effective introduction of the subplot at the END of the movie, rather than towards the beginning? I feel like it would’ve been more effective had it been placed much earlier, perhaps right before the bar scene. And the extra irony about that scene is despite everyone complaining that ScarJo isn’t Japanese, the way they characterized Motoko’s mother looked distinctly Chinese. Just saiyan. The second thing is how very little we have to go on. There’s a glitch that The Major continues to see and it’s really the only thing she has to go on and The Major sort of just accepts that she’s Motoko but I personally don’t feel that the audience has enough information to come to that conclusion. The pieces of evidence she has are the memories of the burning building, watching her allies get kidnapped, and the name she was told by the Chinese lady. Sure, it’s “confirmed” by Kuze but I don’t think he should’ve had the information to make that conclusion either.

Long story short, I believe the movie failed to deliver on its source material, and just became another Hollywood action movie. Which I find depressing because of my attachment to the source material, but that’s fine. I would not recommend this movie. The pacing seems poor and the scenes incoherent. While there is some beautiful imagery, I don’t think that there’s enough of a movie here, let alone Ghost in the Shell. Thanks for reading

Artemis Hunt

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Super Impossible Road

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Steam Page

I write this review as the game is still in Early Access. I say that not because I plan to go easy on the game or something, just as a heads up to those that will consider buying the game. I’ve always maintained that “Early Access” is not an excuse for how good or bad a game is. Once you put it on the marketplace, you’re fair game… in my opinion.

Super Impossible Road is a racing game. There’s really not much to say about racing games in general. You control a ball. You can modify your ball to have the stats that you want it to have but let’s be real here, does anyone ever care enough to min-max perfectly? If you do, please send me a message, I need to know what’s going on in your head.

The tracks have gates on them which fill up your boost bar. Using boost makes your ball go a little faster (obviously). Where this game differs from other racing games that I’ve played is that you can jump off the track to “cheat” your way to finish line faster. That’s why the game’s tagline “Winning is cheating”. Now you can’t just jump off the track and free fall to the finish line for victory. The game would be too easy in that case. Upon leaving the track, you have five seconds to return to the track. If you fail to touch the track in that time, you will automatically respawn at the last boost gate you touched. Which means that you have to be really careful about deciding when to ‘cheat’. Otherwise you may waste up to five seconds. If you see the writing on the wall that you’re not going to make it, you can force respawn early.

The tracks can be fairly complex. At this time, while there are only three ‘tracks’, the tracks are procedurally generated so it’s like having an infinite number of tracks? There’s also a daily track where you can compete with people across the world for the top score.

The game is aesthetically appealing (to me) with that ‘Tron’ feel. I’m not the biggest fan of EDM so there’s only one or two soundtracks that I like but it definitely matches the feel of the game. Excellent job.

While the game does have multiplayer, it seems it only has local multiplayer. Perhaps they will change that as it is still in early access. You can still have CPU racers and you can even race against your ghost. So it has some rudimentary tools.

Anyway, at the time of writing, the game is priced at $12. While I do like the game for what it does, I don’t think it’s worth $12 yet. Do it if you want to support the creators but other than that, I’d wait for it to go on sale or something for $5 or $6. I’m not the biggest fan of racing games so I won’t dump too many hours into it, but in my opinion, it does look promising. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Super Impossible Road

The Testament of Sister New Devil

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[Image taken from CrunchyRoll]

This review covers Seasons 1 and 2. It is implied that there will be a Season 3.

This show is all over the place. So the premise of the show is that Basara (not to be confused with Subaru who was often called Basuru from Re: Zero) apparently always wanted a little sister and his father up and found two sisters for him. I… I’m not making this up. The two sisters wind up to be demons fleeing a war that were attempting to use his father to secure safe lodging. The next part of their brilliant plan is to forcibly oust Basara and his father from their home. Just like the current migrant crisis (political humour… check). Unfortunately for the girls, Basara and his father are in fact not retarded and highly resistant to the charm magic they were using. So they were sorely mistaken if they thought Basara and father were going to take that shit lying down (like the United St…). But get this, Basara is so cucked that he lets the two demons stay in his home after he kicks their ass out. Because… they’re family now? I don’t even…

The redheaded broad is apparently a princess whose power is the envy of the demon realm so she has to hide. Only she’s shit at it because everyone and their dog seems to know where she is. So much so that some people were already observing her from the demon realm and the hero village. Shit man, why even mention that she’s in hiding if it’s all moot three episodes in.

I should probably mention that Basara is a hero village exile because he blew shit up when it hit the fan. This dude stole a sword and went on rampage so Basara blew him up (somehow) and now Basara uses the sword (not sure why). Apparently the sword has a special ability which erases magical power but the caveat is that it can only be used as a counter attack. Which… doesn’t explain why the sword’s power didn’t stop Basara’s explosion… huh. On top of that, the ‘counterattack only’ rule kind of goes out the window by episode 4 or something which is kind of a drag. It even gets mentioned in Season 2 where the dude literally says “I THOUGHT THAT WAS ONLY SUPPOSED TO BE USED AS A COUNTER ATTACK” and I’m shouting at the screen “I KNOW, RIGHT?”

If there’s any consistency in the show, it’s that the rules are inconsistent. The plot is inconsistent. And I think some key pieces of source material may have been left out. Basara’s father saves a poor kid falling out of a building and that kid has one or two lines. And that’s it. Mind you this kid was saved during episode 1 or 2 in a 10 episode season. Like… what was the role of this kid? What point did he serve? Why do I even care? And the fight scenes are absolutely terrible. Jesus christ, a fight scene is poetry through fists and these fights are just a fancy effect or two and done. There’s little to no background to the fights other than “Me gud, you bad”. Our characters are very reactionary. Were it not for the demon realm trying to get their hands on princess, this show would just be a bunch of sex scenes. There’s nothing motivating the characters to move forward. They just seem to want to hold their ground.

Honestly, I’m wondering if the adaptation was made for its sex scenes but its sex scenes are mostly used as plot convenience or dialogue dumps and I don’t even understand what the point of it all is. Most of these scenes don’t even have proper setup.

Anyway I’m trying to think of something good to say about the series but I can’t. This series is terrible and I cannot recommend it to anyone. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

The Testament of Sister New Devil

KonoSuba

Is overrated.

As a nerd that lives in their mother’s basement, true to form I watch YouTube videos about anime. There seemed to be a consensus within the community of YouTubers that I watch that KonoSuba is a pretty funny anime. I beg to differ. Maybe I watched it the wrong way, maybe I wasn’t supposed to wait for the humour. It’s not a gag anime like Gintama.

KonoSuba is the tale of Satou Kazuma after he is killed in episode one Yusuke Urameshi style. In purgatory(?) he is told that he can reincarnate in a fantasy world. He’s an otaku, seems like a pretty sweet deal. So he takes it. The Goddess in charge of his reincarnation says that he can choose anything to take with him. Now Kazuma is a pretty serious guy and he doesn’t want to die again in the next world so he’s taking his time. Goddess gets snippy. He demands that he get to bring her with him. Apparently that was allowed! So in a fashion reminiscent of ‘Ah! My Goddess’ his story begins.

Kazuma is the inversion of the absurdly competent hero trope. Instead of being able to transcend the limits of his world through sheer willpower (*coughBullshitFloor79cough*) he spends his skill points in useless stuff that only become situationally useful. Because of this, instead of winning fights through ability, he often has to pull things out of his ass. The four main characters all seem to have been designed to be as terrible at their job as possible and the story itself has been written in such a way to make their uselessness not so bad as to end the story. In fact, if I had to sum up KonoSuba in a word, I’d say inversions. It seems to be a series that is comprised entirely of inversions and aversions.

That’s not to say that it’s bad for setting itself up like that. I just don’t see the direction. Normally these ‘standstill’ anime are comedies. You stay in one spot until the comedy is done and then you all take a bow. But those often rely on being… ya know, funny. KonoSuba isn’t funny, at least not to me. And I’m someone that rolls on the floor laughing at Gintama. There are plenty of other anime that are funnier and much better executed than KonoSuba with more consistently good humour.

Maybe my hopes were set up too high thanks to the YouTubers I watch. That’s not to say that KonSuba is terrible. I’d say that it’s even a little fun. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible. I’d say give it two or three episodes and if you’re not sold, drop it. Because the formula doesn’t change for the other 17. That’ll be it from me though, thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

KonoSuba

Renai Boukun

I was skimming through the upcoming anime season, looking for anime of interest that I was never going to watch. I mean, I read Danmachi back in November of 2015? 2016? And it apparently turned into an anime without me knowing. Suddenly all of my friends are talking about Breastia Hestia and I’m just sitting there like “I read it before y’all even knew about it. Goddamn newfags”.

Anyway, so I came across Renai Boukun’s image. (I do this on MyAnimeList btw)

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Cute girl, check. You have my attention. Then I start reading the synopsis.

A Kiss Note is a powerful notebook that makes anyone who has their name written together will instantly fall in love if they kiss each other regardless of any circumstances…

Wait, what’s that? A Kiss Note is a powerful notebook… A KISS NOTE? SOLD I AM FUCKING SOLD. You see, terminology like that indicates that this will probably be some trashy manga with references to other anime and manga that I enjoy. So I decided that I had to read it.

And I read it. All of it. In two days. It’s beautiful. I like to imagine that I am some sorta monocle wearing, mustachioed critic of high society. But I love my trashy romance novels just like anyone else. The synopsis really sells the series short. Here’s your spoiler warning.

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The manga focuses on the life of Seiji Aino (English). He’s just minding his own business one day when Guri crashes into his life and says he needs to kiss someone or he’ll die. Guri is a cute cupid, a cutepid if you will, that acts as a catalyst for the story (as noted literally last sentence). Guri is actually lying, and she is the one who will ‘die’ if Seiji doesn’t kiss someone, but Seiji would be cursed with being a virgin forever. Not exactly desirable so he kisses Guri. Whoops, Guri forgot to mention that she just wanted him to give her the name of someone so she could complete the couple pairing in her… sigh… Kiss Note. So he still has to kiss someone anyway. He points out the super attractive girl with giant tits (of course) and she turns out to be TOTALLY FUCKING CRAZY.

I mean, it’s not like I don’t enjoy a nice girl with giant tits, but I kinda knew she’d have giant tits because of the harem anime formula. There’s always a girl with giant tits. And if has to be one of the first girls. And Guri looks pretty petite, so it had to be one of the next two girls.

Upon discovering Seiji kissed the Guri the Cutepid. So she tries to kill him but Guri has paired Seiji with Tits and with Guri herself so they’re share fates. Guri is immortal so they’re all immortal (but Seiji can still feel pain). Guri is your stereotypical yaoi-loving fangirl so she spends all of her time making boys fall in love. She thinks it’s fun, it’s a game, so she looks for more (male) members to add to the Seiji Harem. The rest of the manga are the hilarious hijinks that result from mixing yandere bait with looking for more harem partners.

The manga has a lot of references and with its fourth wall breaking moments and delightful atmosphere, it reminds me of that Cthulhu girl anime I watched a couple of years ago. (Google search) Apparently it’s called Nyaruko: Crawling with Love. I’m legitimately surprised by how little fanservice the manga has.

My personal opinion, the manga is pure pleasure… for someone like me that likes these trashy pandering manga. It’s a harem manga for people that are culturally invested in manga overall, rather than the harem itself. Contrasting this with a harem giant like To Love-Ru. To Love-Ru is about the harem .This manga is probably more accurately described as being about the industry. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I can readily recommend it to other people. I think it’s a very niche manga, but if you think your interests are similar to mine, give it a whirl. That’ll be it from me though, thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Renai Boukun

Jotun: Valhalla Edition

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Steam Page

You know, I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for Norse stuff. I’m actually wearing my Fenrir necklace as I write this up. There’s just something so… raw and inspiring (and on occasion, messed up) about Norse legends. When I imagine myself a viking warrior, I feel so powerful. I’m a huge Berserk fan, and the word Berserk comes from the Norse language meaning “bear skinned”. Berserkers would wear a bear’s skin to signify that in combat, anyone was fair game. And there’s just something about that I can connect to. So when I saw Jotun, I knew that I would eventually purchase it.

Jotun is the story of a young girl that has died on the seas, being sent to Ginnungagap to prove herself. She does this by going through several worlds, collecting runes, and conquering the Jotun that live there. All of this is for the purpose of “proving oneself to the gods”. There isn’t really any dialogue, just narration that I assume is in the nordic language. I wouldn’t know for sure though, I don’t speak it. The narrators are suitably… husk sounding. Tough sounding. Maybe it’s the language, I dunno.

The game is beautiful. Straight up beautiful. ‘Nuff sed.

The combat feels clunky at times. You have an axe. You have blessings from the gods that give you various buffs when active. You have a fast, weak attack and you have a slow, strong attack. The strong attack feels too slow. I took kendo for a year and the amount of time you spend with your axe above your head for the strong attack is unrealistic. If your weapon is above your head, it’s not protecting your body. This is just unreasonable. It also does less damage than the weak attack does in the time it takes to use. I’d only ever use the strong attack when my enemy was in the air so I could hit them as soon as they land and then switch to weak attack. Freya’s blessing also speeds up the weak attack so it becomes even more useful. You can get Thor’s blessing to power up your strong attack but… too slow.

The game is in 2D but the characters have 3D hitboxes. This becomes especially frustrating in boss fights with enemies that stand (so, almost all of them). because the hitbox when they’re standing is half the size of the one when they’re on the ground. Which, sure, it’s realistic, but it can become difficult to judge whether or not your strike will hit because the hitbox is so weird. The devs were nice enough to show us a shadow of our character when it’s behind a boss, but they weren’t nice enough to show us shadows of things falling from the sky that are behind the boss. So quite a few deaths of mine were caused by attacks I literally could not see coming. Not to mention that if your character is where a titan will stagger, it will get knocked back into those hazards you were avoiding. Extremely annoying.

Overall? Great game even if some fights are exceedingly frustrating. Definitely recommend. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Jotun: Valhalla Edition

Momodora III

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Steam Page

It’s weird how memory plays tricks on you. About a year ago I played Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight and I reviewed it.When I bought this game I was under the impression that I had left a glowing review of it. Looking back, not so much. I even said it was overpriced… Huh. Anyway, that was the fourth game in the series. I figured I may as well play the third game. Without further delay, let’s move on to the review.

Momodora III is a platformer action game. I’m not too sure on the story, but again, I haven’t played Momodora I or Momodora II. So maybe those games cover the pieces. You actually do meet Kaho from Momodora IV (and presumably, an earlier Momodora?) and help her with some shenanigans. There’s a mini-story where you can save/kill a fellow Kahonese pilgrim. I usually try to save her but I’m not the best at beating the bee boss so of my three play-throughs I only saved her on my 37 minute run.

Graphics are simplistic but nice. Enemies can be a pain. Especially the ones with bombs. I think bombs do damage every frame after they explode, so I got instagibbed by bombs a few times without realizing what was happening. What annoyed me the most is that when you attack, you’re locked in place. Playing games in… the current year, in almost every game I’ve ever played I’ve been able to move and attack at the same time or at least to some degree. There’s also no roll button which I tend to favor over jumps (because muh invulnerability frames).

So Momodora III feels like it was designed to be a speedrun game. It has six bosses (if I recall correctly) and it can easily be finished within an hour. My first playthrough took me… 1 hour? The second 37 minutes and the last, an hour again. Just depends on which bosses ruin your day. A perfect run can likely be done within 20 minutes, including the time travel section. The characters have limited interaction, though there seems to be a bit of a sidequest if you want the “good” ending. I won’t spoil the endings, but I will say that there’s not much of a difference in terms on content and it’s pretty easy to get both endings in a single play session.

Overall, the game wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either. I did genuinely get engaged in some of the boss fights even if I was annoyed that I had no roll button. The game’s a little too easy though. You can obtain an item that doubles your damage shortly after the first boss and you can increase your basic attack’s damage after the fourth boss. I don’t feel like the enemy setups are terribly interesting and at some points seemed outright unfair. I’d say that this is a case of you get what you pay for. It’s a $2 game (at the time of writing). It’s worth it. It certainly makes the sequel seem far more valuable in comparison. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Momodora III