TOKYO GHOUL Season One Review

Two of the shortest anime I’ve ever seen are Puelle Magica Madoka  and Serial Experiments Lain. Ironically, those are also two of the best anime I’ve seen. They’re only about 12 episodes each, but unlike shows with over a 100 episodes, there’s no filler and no episodes to stretch for time. Each episode gets right to the point in advancement of the story. That’s one reason why the first season of TOKYO GHOUL is pretty great. There’s no filler and the story is definitely very unique like the aforementioned shows. With FUNimation recently releasing the complete Second Season, it’d be good to take a look at the many positives of the first season and why one should go check it out.

In modern day Tokyo, society lives in fear ofGhouls: mysterious creatures who look exactly like humans — yet hunger insatiably for their flesh. None of this matters to Ken Kaneki, a bookish and ordinary young man, until a dark and violent encounter turns him into the first ever Ghoul-human half breed. Trapped between two worlds, Ken must survive the violent conflicts of warring Ghoul factions, while attempting to learn more about Ghoul society, his newfound powers,  and the fine line between man and monster.

TOKYO GHOUL Season 1 has some unnecessary things preventing me from giving it a perfect score. Even in context for the story, the fan service featured in the first episode was brutal. There are some over-the-top writing and questionable content in some of the episodes, but nothing absolutely terrible because these things appear just for a few moments. With that out of the way, let’s start with the actual concept. It’s really cool how in this universe ghouls and humans coexist. It’s dangerous and an interesting status quo the story just drops on the viewer. Rather than taking its time in explaining things, the viewer learns about it as the episodes move along. It’s a tough thing to do since there can be the complaint of not explaining much, but GHOUL pulls it off nicely.

1

One of the greatest things about Puelle Magica Madoka is how amazing it is in developing likable characters in such a short amount of time. In just 12 episodes we have some of the most engaging characters out there. (Some shows take a hundred episodes to make someone likable.) There’s of course nothing wrong with long-term character development, but it’s always a feat when a short show/season can establish much in so little time. For example here, in just two episodes the viewer cares about the friendship between our main character, Ken Kaneki, and his best friend, Hideyoshi. Then, in even shorter time the brother-sister relationship between Touka and Ayato is fantastic. Somehow just one flashback was needed. Of course, this is mainly due to the great writing present throughout the episodes.

An intro can gain or lose a viewer. If the intro is really bad, then it’s farewell. For example, BATTLESHIP’S beginning completely destroyed the movie before it even began. Most intros in anime are great and Tokyo Ghoul is no exception. We open up to an intense WALKING DEAD-like scene with a ghoul “binge-eating” as it’s called before being confronted by another ghoul. It’s scary, action-packed, and with a stellar soundtrack that sets the tone for the rest of the show. What’s great is that what happens here has an effect on the last episode. If one watches the season over the course of say a month it can be easy to forget that, so it’s good to look back and see how everything came together.

A major part of the first act is Ken having to deal with the fact he’s part ghoul. The show does an excellent job showing his inner turmoil. Here we have this guy whom now has an appetite for humans and there’s nothing he could do about it. It’s an inner battle for him as he tries to retain his humanity while fighting this new tendency. It’s a great concept over the course of 12 episodes, and the fact he really wants to stop himself from giving in, which would be the easy thing to do, makes him quite a likable and engaging focus.

There’s a very intriguing dividing of focus. Obviously Ken’s story is at the main, but the show also shows us the human side of things. We follow detectives Koutarou Amon and Kureo Mado, both very different, but engaging characters. Because of their stark contrasts in personalty they make an excellent pairing, even buddy-cop like. They’re part of the CCG, which hunts ghouls. It’s interesting because as humans in this world we would be on the CCG’s side because many ghouls hunt and kill humans. All we would ever hear about on the news is killings. Yet, there’s a small band of ghouls whom refrain from doing as such, because they choose not to. The CCG is not aware of this, so the conflict in the latter part of the season was extra interesting.

tokyo-ghoul-kirishima-touka__1417315806_135-23-138-149

I suppose what the season lacks is a true main villain. There are some that pop up, but not a main antagonist. Of course, things are heavily established in the final two episodes, setting up for Season 2. The notable villains that do pop up here are all well-written and diverse. Tsukiyama for example with his polite demeanor made for an interesting contrast to the sadistic Jason. Touka’s brother was also definitely interesting. While these villain characters are very good, the show also features some really great protagonists. Touka is very good as she too has to go through inner battles. One of the best scenes was when a character made her re-think what it means to be a ghoul. There are many old, wise man characters in media, but that doesn’t stop Yoshimura from being one of the most likable characters in the season.

It’s a little disappointing how Season 1 ends. Of course, since there is a Season 2 we won’t count loose ends a negative. Rather, I found the end conflict rather contradictory. The character says one thing but something happens anyway which kind of renders his notable line moot. The fight scenes are very impressive throughout. There’s a certain amount of tension that leads up to each fight, making it even more engaging. (A great example is the dialogue back and fourth with Tsukiyama against Ken, Touka, & Nishiki.) The soundtrack as stated earlier is also very impressive.

Yamori's_mask

Overall, Season 1 of TOKYO GHOUL is very strong . It has a unique story which is filled with interesting characters. Ken is unlike a lot of characters we’re used to seeing. His inner battle against this other side is really engaging. The show has been compared to ATTACK ON TITAN, and for good reason. If you are a fan of the latter, you will like GHOUL.

9/10

Advertisements

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “Stranger than Fan Fiction” Review

After a few months hiatus, My Little Pony returns for its second half of Season 6. By now there’s no need to discuss things generally speaking. If you’ve been following my reviews, then you know I consider Season 6 to be the weakest season so far. This doesn’t equate to bad of course, because the show is still leagues ahead of what is currently on television. It’s just when compared to the early seasons the episodes here have been of lesser quality. Today’s episode isn’t an immensely notable one. It is by no means terrible, or even a bad watch, just more on the average side.

Rainbow Dash attends the Daring Do Convention in Manehattan and meets a pony who hates Daring Do as much as she loves it.

Written by Josh Haber and Michael Vogel

This episode has two main parts, the first being at the convention and the next being the Daring Do adventure. First, the convention scenes were very well done. It’s accurate to how a real life pony, or any kind of pop culture event would be. We can see the genuine excitement on Rainbow Dash’s face throughout these parts. Perhaps the best scene is when she runs into another hardcore fan like herself, by the name of Quibble Pants. Again, this is accurate to a real life convention. When you meet someone whom has a heavy interest in a specific area, whether it be pony, Trek, or Japanese monsters there’s a cool little connection as two discuss things only true fans can talk about. These early scenes were fun. Sadly, the writing takes a dip in quality during the second act.

I applaud the show for talking about a great lesson, and that’s on the subject of opinions. Rainbow Dash thinks all the Daring Do books are excellent, especially the latter entries. Quibble on the the other hand can’t stand the latter ones, and refuses to acknowledge them. This leads to some heated discussion between the two characters. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, because often a lesson is learned after a hardship. The problem is that Quibble starting from the opening argument becomes a very jarring character to listen to. The ironically annoying part is that he proves to be seemingly smarter than Daring Do herself, showing her how to do her job in the climax.

Rainbow_and_Quibble_hoof-bump_S6E13

The overall message is that it’s okay for fans to have differing opinions on their favorite subject. For example, many Star Trek fans seem to agree that Nemesis is one of the worst films in the series, but what if a person says it actually isn’t that bad? Another example might be a Godzilla fan claiming Final Wars to be actually pretty good when many consider it to be one of the worst in the series. Instead of fans attacking one another, they should discuss things in a happy manner. So, it’s definitely a good lesson. A lot of the dialogue in the second half from Quibble, which is the constant mocking of the situation before realizing he’s in real danger was cliche and fell flat. As for Rainbow Dash herself, she wasn’t bad. The only hard-to-believe scene is that she would go out of her way and talk to Daring Do to get the latter to convince Quibble that all the books are good.

Overall, “Stranger than Fan Fiction” isn’t a 5 star episode, but still an okay watch. The message is something any fan of pop culture can understand and appreciate. The dynamic between Rainbow Dash and Quibble was good in the beginning, & in the final few minutes. In-between is where most of the negatives are. The viewers have to deal with the annoying dialogue from Quibble when they want to see more of Daring Do since she has been absent from the show for quite awhile.

6.5/10

Batman: The Killing Joke (Film) Review

The Killing Joke by Alan Moore is called by many the greatest Joker story of them all. It also has the honor of being known as one of the greatest graphic novels of all time. It has influenced portrayals of the Clown Prince of Crime, such as in The Dark Knight. An animated adaption was always highly wanted, and finally this year it has seen release. There are a few things stopping this from being the masterpiece the comic was. Still, while not being a perfect adaption, it’s a very good watch starting after the 30 minute mark.

From executive producer Bruce Timm and based on the acclaimed DC Comics graphic novel, take a journey into the dark psyche of the Clown Prince of Crime. Follow his humble beginnings as a struggling comic to the fateful encounter with the Dark Knight that changed everything. Now escaped from Arkham Asylum, The Joker sets out to prove that one bad day can make anyone just as insane as he is. With his sights set on Commissioner Gordon, can Batman stop The Joker’s demented plan in time? With a gripping prologue spotlighting Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon and featuring the return of Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as The Joker and Tara Strong as Batgirl, witness the birth of a super villain, the fortitude of a hero and the punchline that will leave you speechless

Apparently, the content in the graphic novel would have translated to a very short film. To compensate for this, the movie added a 31 minute intro starring Batgirl. This unfortunately was the film’s biggest mistake. The intro adds absolutely nothing to the story. About 15 minutes in and the viewer is wondering if he/she is seeing the wrong film. It would have been far better and more powerful for it to start just like how the comic began: with Batman arriving at Arkham Asylum only to discover that his adversary had escaped. By the time we get to that scene the viewer has grown tired of the proceedings.

The main problem is that the intro feels completely disjointed with the rest of the film. (Not to mention it lasts almost half the run-time in a story that’s supposed to be about the Joker.) Paris Franz, a made up character, is given a lot to do and made out to be someone important. After the intro he’s never seen again. What’s worst is the controversial romance between Batman and Batgirl. This comes right out of the blue and is truly unnecessary. They have never been a couple in the comics, (not to mention that Batman’s relationship with her there has always been one of mentor/parental) so I’m not sure why it was added here. Really, most of Batgirl/Barbara’s scenes in the first 30 minutes were painful to get through.

After the beginning is when the story finally starts to adapt the graphic novel. From here the viewer starts to become focused and engaged as Mark Hamill steals the show as Joker. Just about all his lines are lifted straight from the comic, and translate well onto the silver screen. If you’ve read the story, then you know exactly what to expect. The plot here is about the Joker attempting “to prove a point,” and that’s that anyone can go insane like him because of “one bad day.” The dialogue is excellent and provides a nice look into the head of the madman.

batman-the-killing-joke

Of course, perhaps the most well known aspect of the graphic novel is that it served as an origin story for the Joker. (Or at the very least, a possible origin.) The flashbacks in the film are lifted straight from the pages. It’s surreal seeing them come to life. They are fascinating to watch, because very few pieces of media have provided a look at the Clown’s past. Most of Batman’s dialogue is lifted straight from the comic as well, so there aren’t really any negatives to be stated here. Like I said earlier, after the intro the story adapts the graphic novel almost word-for-word. Batman’s encounter with Joker in the climax was epically engaging as the two go back and fourth in blows & dialogue. It’s tempting to call this their best encounter in animation, but it very well might be. The soundtrack is pretty standard. There are no qualms about it, nor does it stand out. Maybe that was the point, to make sure the music is in the background so it doesn’t distract from the film.

Overall, The Killing Joke adaption isn’t fantastic, but still very good. The beginning sadly takes the viewer out of it with a lot of bad dialogue and a jarring romance between Batman and Batgirl. This wasn’t needed, and I would personally say a shorter movie cutting that out would have been better. The actual adaption of the story is very solid. It isn’t quite as powerful as the source material, but does an admirable job bringing it to life. Unfortunately, the controversial ending is even more confusing than the comic’s and leaves the viewer feeling slightly unfulfilled.

7/10

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time Review

There have been quite a few notable anime films. We have ones such as Spirited Away and Akira, both of which many consider to be some of the finest works of fiction. Does The Girl Who Leapt Through Time deserve to be counted among these greats? Since its release back in 2006, it hasn’t gained quite the large amount of attention as the aforementioned films. Still, as the 2016 re-release says on the cover, it won best animated feature of 2007, and many other awards. So at the least while maybe not attaining classic status as others it’s still very well known. Of course, one shouldn’t judge a film by the awards it gets or how well known it is. Many will be seeing Girl for the first time thanks to FUNimation re-releasing it. I am happy to say that it’s definitely worth a look if you haven’t seen it before, or if you saw it back in 06 and want to watch it again in crisp Blu-ray HD. While there are a couple of factors stopping it from being a masterpiece, Director Mamoru Hosoda’s film is still an excellent watch from beginning to end.

After waking up late, flunking her pop quiz, embarrassing herself on numerous occasions, and starting a fire in her home economics class, high school student Makoto Konno figures she’s just having one of those days. And just when she thinks she’s made it through, the brakes on her bike malfunction putting her on a collision course with a speeding train. The life-ending accident would have been the perfect end to the worst day ever, but the strangest thing happens—she leaps backwards in time.

After unlocking her new ability, Makoto does what any teenager would do. She re-takes tests, corrects embarrassing situations, and sleeps in as late as she wants, never thinking that her carefree time traveling could have a negative effect on the people she cares about. By the time she realizes the damage she’s done, she only has a few leaps left to make things right.

With so many fantastical and action anime roaming around, it’s good to take a break and watch something a little different. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a drama, romance, and thriller with no fantastical elements. (Well, besides science fiction of course.) Makoto isn’t a chosen one, warrior, or anything resembling the sort. She’s just a normal school girl. The situation she’s thrown in is something we’ve seen before in various forms of media: being given the ability to travel through time. In this case, she’s able to do something called “time leap.” A question one always has to ask in these time travel scenarios is how far does one go with it? It usually starts out with simply fixing a recent problem, but then you have to ask yourself why stop there? As Reed Richards put it, once you have that ability what’s to stop you from “Knocking the apple out of Eve’s hand?” That’s why time travel stories can be tricky. With Girl’s case however, the time leaping only goes short distances in time backward, managing to avoid any of these truly tough questions.

TheGirlWhoLeaptThroughTime-2

So, we have a simpler version of a time travel story, and that’s certainly welcome. We have Makoto going back to fix problems only to realize that something bad is going to happen, even though she might have fixed something else. The film manages to keep going with the time leaping without it becoming a running gag. (An example of annoying repetitiveness is in the film Edge of Tomorrow.) At first her ability to do so is unexplained. As the story went on part of me worried we wouldn’t get a concrete answer as to how she’s able to do this. In the climax we’re finally given reasoning, and it’s definitely an interesting, unexpected twist. One might argue it kind of takes away from the overall story, but I think the writing did a good job making sure it wasn’t an outlandish, final minute twist such as in 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Since this is a drama, heavy emphasis is put on the interactions. Makoto is a likable character with a humble heart. Her relationship with her family is organic, especially with her younger sister Miyuki. (One of my favorite scenes is when the latter catches Makoto seemingly about to jump from a window and pulls her back in, thinking it’s her fault for having Makoto’s pudding.) The best scenes however are with Makoto and her two best friends, Chiaki & Kōsuke. At first a complaint was going to be that the friendship just appears with no development, but as the film goes on the viewer sees how real and genuine it is between the three. Kōsuke and Chiaki are very likable characters, being diverse and having a high sense of morality.

The film is set in high school, which can sometimes be a very bad thing. Thankfully, the film showcases it in a real, but not annoying way. We have bullies being dealt with, friends helping their friend with a crush, and other things here & there. This might be the best story set in a high school, at least in the last ten years. Are there any substantial negatives with the writing? There aren’t any big ones, just minor things. For one, the twist at the end calls into question the overall timeline with Makoto and her two friends. This wasn’t explained properly. Another thing is a slight deus ex machina maneuver at the end. Makoto is given one more time leap after running out. The story explains how this happens too quickly, which is unfortunate because how she gets it is actually quite smart.

Makoto’s aunt Kazuko is an interesting character. Just about all her lines are excellent and serves as the moral standpoint for the main character. Sadly, Kazuko is also at the same time underdeveloped. Why is she known as jokingly a witch? And why does she seem to know a lot about time leaping? The story hints at something but it’s never made known. With a little more backstory this wouldn’t have been an issue. The soundtrack is strong throughout. The end credits song nicely ends the film with an emotional touch. The actual animation looks solid. It seemed to be aiming for a retro Astro-Boy look, which isn’t a bad thing. (Though some scenes looked a little choppy.)

Girl-Leapt-Time-Main

Overall, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a fantastic film. It’s very well written with great character focuses. There’s a large amount of genuine emotion throughout. The romance aspect of the plot is also handled well. It’s one of the best time travel stories in the modern generation. The plot twist at the end was interesting, but needed to be explained a little better. Besides that, we have a movie every anime and non-anime fan should check out.

9/10

Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign Season One, Part One Review

Seraph of the End has been compared to Attack on Titan quite a bit. The comparison is certainly justified. On the onset the two shows appear very similar. The ongoing plots center around a resistance attempting to survive and take back the Earth from a challenging threat. This kind of story is nothing new, but is always a blast to see what kind of unique spin a writer/director can put on it. Instead of giant monstrous zombies, this time we have, as the subtitle puts it, a reign of vampires. There are quite a few things so far stopping Seraph from being an all star show such as the first season of Psycho-Pass. It is however still an engaging entry in the ongoing Shonen library.

In a world overrun with vampires, humans have been hunted to the brink of extinction. The only way they can fight back is with a series of demonic weapons known as Cursed Gear. Reserved for soldiers with exceptional talent, these weapons require humans to form pacts with ancient demons in exchange for their power.

Yuichiro Hyakuya is a young member of the Moon Demon Company, a prestigious army squadron armed with Cursed Gear and tasked with exterminating vampires. After the blood-sucking monsters killed his family when he was a child, Yuichiro vowed he wouldn’t stop fighting until every last one was dead. But when a familiar face from his past appears sporting a new set of fangs, the line drawn between good and evil begins to blur. There’s something special about Yuichiro—a dark power that the vampires call the Seraph of the End. When that power is unleashed, will he be the key to humanity’s salvation or its complete destruction?

It’s not that difficult to start something out engaging. The hard part is continuing and living up to that very first episode. This is something Seraph struggles with: continuing to deliver the emotion and intensity from its first episode. “The World of Blood Legacy” is a perfect example of how to start a story with this kind of plot. It begins on an average day. Then the adult population starts to fall due to some kind of virus. It’s atmospheric, genuinely scary, and grabs the viewer’s attention right away. The twist is that the virus has not affected anyone under the age of 13. All the kids are put in vampire strongholds, which are basically concentration camps. We’re introduced to our main character Yūichirō and his adoptive family soon after the virus hits. Yū is bitter, but in this situation it’s justified. The relationship between him and his family is organic and the viewer feels for them. It’s impressive when any type of media can establish true emotion in less than 15 minutes.

seraph-of-the-end-episode-08

The turning point of the episode is when Yū’s best friend Mikaela devises a plan to escape the stronghold. The viewer roots for these kids to escapes, and can feel their dread when they walk into a trap. As each of Yū’s friends are stabbed by the vampire known as Ferid, the viewer is thrown in a loop. It’s hard to believe, after having these characters introduced, seeing them die off one by one. This is the emotion I was referring to earlier, which is one of the most intense scenes I’ve ever seen in an anime. The viewer can see the sadness on Yū’s face as the only family he’s ever known is destroyed right in front of him. What also adds to this is the fact that Mikaela gives Yū the go ahead to escape. Once again, the viewer can see the emotion as the main character has to decide whether to stay with his family to the end or escape and not let their sacrifice be in vain. Yū’s heartbreaking run into the outside world accompanied by a chilling soundtrack was greatly effective. In those last few moments we were given the perfect setup. We have the reason why he wants to slay all the vampires.

Well, as stated earlier, the rest of Part One doesn’t quite live up to that emotional setup. There are a few reasons for this. Episode 2 has a big time-skip as we see Yū in what is apparently a part of Japan that is not infested with vampires. This episode shows that everyday life is still going in. School, people getting ice cream, etc. The first episode gave the impression that everything is bleak and the humans are on the losing side. The status quo set in Episode 2 was poorly established. The main character is tasked with “making friends” in order to join the vampire extermination. It seemed like most of what was going on was just to stall for time until the main conflict.

It’s understandable what the show was trying to do: development for the main character as he’s given a new family. In some aspects this works. But, the way the story progresses just doesn’t mix with the first episode. We actually have school bullies, making fun of a 0 school test score, and meaningless arguing all the while the world is in complete turmoil. The show is aiming for the usual Shonen-like feel combined with a very dark situation. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and maybe some feel differently. I personally think the story would have benefited from a more serious tone and focused more on the “take back the world from vampires” plot than the main character’s school adventures.

 

Yū ranges from slightly engaging focus to unlikable. He’s nothing we haven’t seen before and many would compare him to Eren Yeager. Unlike Eren however, there are quite a few things in the 12 episodes stopping Yū from being a likable focus. He’s often a complainer, (though interesting enough but probably unintentional he represents the viewer’s thoughts of why most of the stuff is relevant to the conflict at hand) and being downright mean, such as stating to the class, “You can become vampires for all I care.” He never quite recovered from that line. Not only that, but his quest for power was annoying to watch. This is not to say the writing did an outright terrible job with him. Development is still not bad, and finally at the last episode he seems to have emerged as a likable focus.

Seraph-of-the-End-9-3

I don’t want to keep bringing up comparisons with Attack on Titan, but it’s almost impossible not to with Yoichi. He very similar to Armin, to the point where you can almost interchange them. Unlike Armin’s organic friendship with Eren however, the friendship between Yoichi and Yū  was very forced. The former is introduced in Episode 2 and by the end he’s calling Yū his best friend. This was very awkward and even cringe-worthy to watch. The writing tried too hard to establish the friendship early on rather than develop it. A lot of the focus is also on Shinoa. Her playful personality was fun. (Though parading around with the main character’s 0 test score was a bit much.) Her backstory with her sister is interesting and hopefully in Part 2 we’ll see it expanded on.

Later we’re introduced to Shihō  and Mitsuba, which makes up the team you see on the cover. The group forms rather suddenly, and the chemistry takes awhile to build. By the last episode they’re fun to watch together, so I’m looking forward to seeing more of them. To talk about the two briefly a bit, Shihō isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. What stops him from being painfully generic is the touching backstory with his sister. Still, it feels like he’s only there just to hurl one-liners at Yū. Mitsuba is more interesting. At first it seems like she’s a rather strict leader because that’s just her character. She’s given tragic backstory which explains her decisions in the present day. If it’s one thing Seraph is good at, it’s delivering quality backstories.

Aside from the main character’s arc, much of story is focused on Mikaela. At first I thought it was a mistake to bring him back after seemingly being killed in the first episode. (Since it might have taken away from the sacrifice.) But what the story has done is something that perfectly parallels what the main character is going through. Mikaela’s story is the most fascinating and engaging part of the show. As Ferid (whom is a pretty solid character as well) puts it, “You hate vampires and now you’re starting to hate humans. I’m curious as to which one you will choose.” Mikaela’s character is truly complex because while we know he’s not a villain, he’s also not quite the hero either as we see his thinking is  a little unhinged in the last couple of episodes. His encounter with Yū was expertly done with an extra emotional touch. I’m really looking forward to seeing this conflict take a bigger role in Part Two.

The battles are very well done. Episode 2 had a fun fight in the school room. Unfortunately after that there’s a serve lack of important battles. The best one is probably when Mikaela runs into Guren. As it stands, there aren’t any hugely notable battles, which should hopefully change in Part Two. Besides the vampire story, there’s a subplot involving demons. The humans apparently make contracts with demons for “Cursed Gear,” which gives the user a weapon powerful enough to slay vampires and monsters. I suppose it’s sort of like in Naruto with specific characters having an entity within them. This plot has only been briefly explained sadly. Another (though less notable) plot point is the pills Shinoa has the team take. This steroid/drug aspect was definitely not needed and could have been written out. The final two episodes delivered a couple of shocking plot twists, one of which makes the viewer question the morality of the humans. This should open some very interesting plot lines for Part Two.

As for the main antagonist, Krul the Vampire Queen is definitely a fun character to watch. Unfortunately she isn’t given much to do. In fact, she never comes into conflict with the humans in the 12 episodes. The viewer is left wondering how powerful she is. At the very least, the flashback to her enticing the newly vampire Mikaela to drink blood was pure villainy at its finest. Also, the idea of a vampire council is interesting since it means she isn’t the sole leader. Hopefully in the next part that aspect of the story will be explored more. Another interesting villain, Crowley, also doesn’t get to do much. That could be the point however, since it makes the viewer especially excited for Part Two. The soundtrack is strong throughout. The theme song in particular is one of the best I’ve heard in awhile.

Screen-Shot-2015-04-18-at-7.45.25-PM

Overall, Seraph of the End starts out with excellent promise, but becomes not too much different than other Shonen shows. This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, and there’s definitely fun to be had throughout the 12 episodes. But, it’s hard not to think how much better it could have been if it contained the same amount of emotion, darkness, and intensity of the first episode. The main character isn’t particularly great, and much of the early school scenes feel like filler. The friendship between Yū and Yoichi was very poorly established. The positives still compete with the negatives of course. The vampire backdrop is engaging to watch unfold. Mikaela is an excellent character, and probably the best part of the entire thing. Even though Part One had quite a few rough patches, the final episode makes sure to excite the viewer for the remainder of Season 1.

7/10

THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR Review

The concept for THE PURGE has definitely been an interesting one to watch unfold. The films introduced the idea of a futuristic America where killing has become legal for a day in order to “release anger.” It’s a startling what if scenario as that very first film attempted to inform the viewers while not totally explaining how it all began. (Because it would probably be too hard of a process to detail due to its rather extreme nature.) The idea of the government using this annual Purge to eliminate the poor was a fascinating backdrop the first two films had, and is once gain explored in the latest installment, ELECTION YEAR. Director James DeMonaco continues to explore the intriguing idea while adding in some new concepts. It however doesn’t have the great quality of the first two.

As a young girl, Sen. Charlie Roan survived the annual night of lawlessness that took the lives of her family members. As a presidential candidate, Roan is determined to end the yearly tradition of blood lust once and for all. When her opponents hatch a deadly scheme, the senator finds herself trapped on the streets of Washington, D.C., just as the latest Purge gets underway. Now, it’s up to Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), her head of security, to keep her alive during the next 12 hours of mayhem.

The first Purge was a contained story: it took place entirely in a house. The viewer however was aware of what was going on in the outside world. It worked greatly, having not only a unique concept (the actual Purge) but ended up being one of the best home invasion stories of the modern generation. The second film naturally went bigger, showcasing up close what goes on in the streets of the annual Purge. It was a great followup, and one of the things I personally like about this series is that while there is of course a lot of violence, it isn’t overly excessive. The first two didn’t live in its violence, rather opting for more of disturbing look to it all rather than gore all over the place. It left much of the happenings to the imagination of the viewer, which can actually be more scary. Election Year brings the government plot full circle this time around, since it’s almost time for a new presidency. It contains some of that disturbing imagery the first two had while as stated earlier adding some new ideas to the mix. There’s a few problems to sift through however, one of which is the writing/cast.

should-you-cast-a-vote-for-the-purge-election-year-leo-barnes-ready-to-protect-senato-1043261

The first Purge didn’t have fancy, notable characters. And that was the point: the story wanted to portray real people in a situation like this. That’s why the first film still stands above the rest. The second film’s cast weren’t written as well, but still not bad. The viewer still got a sense of realism from them. Election Year decided to bring in characters to the mix, not real people. For example, almost all of Joe’s lines are for comic relief. This was bizarre and unneeded. The first two films didn’t contain comedy, or at the very least not constant like with Joe. We have lines such as “I’m not a superhero…ah well, forget it let’s go get them.” The character at times took away from the serious nature of the story.

Another example is Laney. Now, I’m not saying she was a bad character but she is another instance of the film going for more of a summer blockbuster feel than serious dark thriller. After running over some Purgers, she stands over the dead bodies and says (this is the PG version I’m typing) “la pequeña muerte (her apparent nickname from back in the day) is back fools.” No one would say that in real life, it was purely written for a “hardcore” movie effect. This might work in a film like The Expendables, but not for an atmospheric story such as The Purge. Frank Grillo’s character from Anarchy makes a return here. He was definitely needed, because I don’t believe the cast would have been strong enough to hold the film together without him. Like the second movie, he’s an engaging focus.

The biggest new character is Senator Charlie Roan, whom is running for president with an anti-Purge campaign. She was definitely a likable character throughout the almost two hour run-time. The plot point of the government wanting to silence her from talking about anti-Purge sentiments was very interesting to watch as it was the main backdrop of the story. This also served as a reminder that one can make a difference when you stand up for the right thing. With that said, the writing doesn’t do the best job with showing how she’s able to win so many voters by the end. Based on the film it seems like most people would all be for the Purge continuing. That’s why the ending seems rather sudden and almost anti-climatic.

The writing continues to be more on the exaggerated side in some areas. For perhaps the biggest example we have these kids that want to attack a deli for not letting one of them steal a candy bar. These scenes go for laughter instead of a serious look from the viewer. This is mainly due to the main one of the group. When they arrive a second time, instead of the viewer being filled with anticipation it’s more, “Oh, these clowns again?” That’s one thing the film suffers from a bit, a lack of truly well written antagonists. The one on the film’s main poster sadly is just an expendable in the story. The minister was more jarring to watch than engaging. It however was interesting to see how easily people can justify actions, and the minister himself claiming (wrongly) that it’s a God-given right to Purge.

purge-election-year

As for the new concepts, an interesting one was that apparently people travel from all over the world to Purge. The brief scene with people internationally arriving and being interviewed about coming to America was comedy actually done right. To once again mention questionable writing however was Laney’s plot point of driving around on Purge night helping people whom are injured. This isn’t a bad thing of course but for awhile the writing was very vague on what exactly she was doing. The clear cut answer should have been at the beginning.

The film takes place mostly on the streets like in Anarchy. As expected, we get to see some of the disturbing happenings on Purge night up close. Even then it felt like something was missing. The second film featured a lot more disturbing content as more often than not it was regular people that were trying to sadistically kill the cast. In Election Year it’s mainly just government officials whom we see trying to catch them. The story assumes that with the first and second films the viewer has enough knowledge of what transpires that we really don’t need to see much of Purge night. Because of this, the film sort of morphs into an “escape the the evil government chase movie” with the Purge as a backdrop.

This is not to say Election Year was a terrible followup. There are quite a few things to like. One of the greatest scenes was when we see the word “Purge” in bloodied letters over pillars where the famous giant statue of Abraham Lincoln sits. Not much technically happens in the scene but sometimes it’s the simple things which prove to be the most disturbingly atmospheric. The escape the house sequence was also intense. Although, it was completely obvious a betrayal was going to happen. (At the least, Ethan Phillips and Adam Cantor played that role well.) On a more positive note, the film once again succeeds in building up tension and genuinely creeping the viewer out with its unhinged mask designs. The intro for example started the film appropriately disturbingly. Later we see Joker-like masks and even a pig one. The soundtrack is solid. There’s nothing really standout about it but perhaps that was the point. In this type of situation music should only be used to complement a scene rather than be a focus.

519488454_7_o

Overall, Election Year ended up being a disappointing followup (and perhaps finale based on the ending) to the Purge series. This is mainly due to questionable writing, deus ex machina maneuvers (because of a random whistle the group is saved from getting beat up by a gang) and the non-realistic nature of some of the characters. Nonetheless, this is The Purge and there’s a lot to like. The concept is still fascinating to watch on screen. Although the excessive language was distracting at times. (I just don’t think people actually say some of the things often said here.) The ending, while a good closure technically, felt a little rushed. At the very least, credit must be given to Elizabeth Mitchell for delivering an honest, likable portrayal of her character Senator Roan. The interesting themes of government and law once again play into the premises well. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right. It’s amazing how many people will justify their actions knowing inside they’re wrong yet using the law as a basis for its acceptability. That’s why one always has to take a stand for something that is right, even when everyone else is on the other side. This theme is perhaps the best aspect of the film.

6.5/10