Saturday, December 26, 2015

Magical Girl Obsession: Teeny Tiny Witch Hat Precure

As sure as family crises and the occasional head cold, the newest Precure series has been announced this Christmas.  Maho Tsukai Precure (a.k.a. Maho Girls Precure) feels like a throwback in several ways - the two-girl team with a joint transformation, the monstrous-sounding villains, the visible age difference between civilian & Cure forms, etc. It also has some fun new concepts, such as having the girls attend a school for witches in training. ANN has info on the overall premise, so I'll direct you there instead of repeating it. Either way, it sounds like a deliberate nod to both Toei's own Ojamajo Doremi series and the "cute witch" roots of the magical girl genre.  Since this past season was really very solid, I'm looking forward to this one.  But of course, I wanna review the new designs.

First, the civilian forms for Mirai (top) and Riko (bottom).  Very cute - I like Mirai in particular, since she looks like she could be related to Haruka with her big, wide eyes.  Maybe they could be cousins or something.  Riko's kind of serious demeanor is interesting, too.

As you can see, the two girls look visibly older as Cure Miracle & Cure Magical (respectively), but only by a year or two. Miracle's design has drawn cries of her being an "Ichigo rip-off" (in case you're unfamiliar, they're referencing one of the mains for Aikatsu!), but really, the most overlap is in the "blonde wearing pink" color scheme & that applies to a lot of pink Cures.  Her dress is cute, but I think it's also kind of generically cutesy, which is probably another source of the "rip-off" accusations.  Cure Magical's dress is a lot more unique - I especially like the capelet - but it's also a tad busy.  I'm also the only person weirdly okay with her bat-wing hair.  
It's worth noting that I am among those disappointed that the girls' witch hats are so very tiny.  I know their civilian school uniforms have standard-size witch hats, but a traditional magical girl with a normal witch hat as an accessory would look pretty amazing.  This way, though, they're tiny to the point of being silly.  Well, this is Precure we're talking about...

One of the "hooks" of this series is that the girls have gemstones that allow them to transform into Ruby, Sapphire, & Topaz variant forms.  I hope these are used more effectively than the form changes in Happiness Charge Precure, which looked really awesome but were only utilized once or twice apiece & solely for crowd control.  

First, there's the Ruby forms. Not sure what the overall theme is besides the striped bows, but there's a common hairstyle for each form change. These are probably my least favorite of the designs; Ruby Miracle just looks sort of generic & Valentine's-y, while Ruby Magical has those awful, awful garters & looks like a Christmas-themed gothic lolita. Pigtails are cute for both, though.

Next is the Sapphire form, which could either be sky themed or ocean themed and has a much softer, more toga-esque feel.  Both look pretty cool, but I like the colors in Sapphire Magical's dress a lot & I also dig Sapphire Miracle's elaborate ponytail.

Finally, there's the Topaz form, which is probably my favorite.  Its theme of sweets is pretty apparent, and it has the signature Precure bonkers-ness that I enjoy.  Also, finally, Cures with braided hair!  The bazillion hard candies on Topaz Miracle's outfit are pretty cute, but I adore Topaz Magical's sublimely stupid flan hat and pudding-themed skirt.  It's ludicrous and I love it.

So yeah, I'm looking forward to Maho Girls Precure. Go! Princess Precure was surprisingly good even with a mid-series creative shift (which worked, because it meant removing Shibata), and it looks like they're going with an all-new staff whose worked on all of the past seasons in different roles.  It should be interesting to see where this season goes and if it's as much of a loving nod to both the series' & Toei's past as the announcement suggests.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Magical Girl Obsession: On the Subject of Leaks

So of course, after I say I can't think of anything to say, I have something to say. And it needs to be said.

You are not entitled to information leaks about a TV show and/or movie.

Again, you are not entitled to leaks.

You are not entitled to leaks.

As much as December info leaks are seen as a sort of Pretty Cure tradition at this point, they are not something the staff of the show actually wants to happen.  They want you to be surprised & interested in the show because of the information they offer, not because someone found an early design in a detail-reduced form on a candy wrapper.  They want you to enjoy the plot twists, not have them spoiled months in advance by copyright registrations being trolled for info.  Have a bit of basic respect for the creators wanting to give you the best experience they can.

Toei has, on the whole, gotten pretty good at thwarting the leak-makers.  After the aforementioned copyright searchers spoiled the reveal of Cure Sunshine in the early weeks of Heartcatch, they created whole characters, settings, & plot lines for Suite that were deliberate red herrings to keep the real story & cast from being spoiled.  They've managed to keep merchandise previews with pictures from being released until a week or two before the official announcement.  They've found a way to incorporate the potential leaks into the intended hype cycle.

But the Suite fake-outs wouldn't be necessary if people didn't feel that these leaks were somehow owed to them.  People on the internet tend to be... impatient, and like I said before, they don't have much respect for the human beings behind the stuff they enjoy.  Just look at the people demanding George RR Martin "finish writing before you die", which is wrong & insulting on so many levels towards someone they claim to respect.  Waiting a week or two extra shouldn't be treated as a form of punishment - although for some of you, it's really deserved.

EDIT: So of course the first poster is released the evening I write this.  I will write up a post reacting to the Maho Girls Precure designs once I can view them in a less busy manner.  Seriously, that poster is kinda busy & doesn't give you much of a design idea other than their faces & their fairies. So look forward to that eventually.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Brief Update

So reality just body-slammed my family for the past couple of months. I won't go into details, I'll just say what I've said about this situation, which is that living longer means nothing when the mind continues to die. Also, if your siblings beg off helping you for stuff like fishing trips & beach homes, you aren't as close-knit as you insist you are, and you shouldn't even count them in your decisions. Needless to say, it's been all hands on deck to help with day-to-day living.

I'm trying to think of stuff for an end-of-year wrap-up, but there isn't enough to really cover.

There haven't been any leaks for the new Precure season outside of one nearly unseeable poster, and while I really admire how Toei has managed to keep everything under wraps, it also means I can't do a "get hype" post until the official announcement. That usually happens in late December.

It's hard to plan projects when every day is a sea of chaos & mundane work, so unfortunately, no updates on that front.

But I'm posting mostly to assure you that this isn't a dead blog. Not that there really are any readers who care outside of Eastern European spambots, but I felt the need to post something.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Overthinking Everything: In Which I Talk Muppets

Yes, we're talking the new TV show, so if you're worried about spoilers for what's basically a workplace sitcom & whose whole hype campaign is built around spoiling key elements, you might wanna avoid this post.

As you may remember, I am pretty darn passionate about Muppets. But given my reaction to the revival movie (where it put me off to the point I couldn't bring myself to watch the sequel), I was worried about the new show. Would it be more flailing to prove they're still part of the pop cultural landscape without any sincerity or would it actually be, y'know, good?  So I noted my reactions and concluded that it is... decent.

First, the Pros:
- There is no flailing around and begging for relevance; the show follows the Muppets as the crew of a TV show, not as sad relics. The lack of "OMG, you guys, remember this" posturing alleviated one of my biggest fears.
- Second, they don't try to tie things into the movies, which I was convinced they would do just because it worked for Marvel. I'm sure dull-as-dirt Walter will show up eventually, but for now, it's its own thing.
- There were quite a few laugh-out-loud moments, and they were all largely based around character work. This ties into everyone being properly in character, including Gonzo. For some reason, he hasn't been handled well in the newer stuff, maybe because he has more than one hook (no, I don't mean his nose, either).
- Statler & Waldorf, patron saints of hecklers, are there.
- Lastly, the way they handled the big, ballyhooed break-up was surprisingly heartfelt and touching. It was a make-sense split, and whoever now performs Piggy really sold it. So already it has 100x more heart than the movie.

Of course, there are always Cons:
- While she's a flat character right now (it is only the first episode), I wasn't really bothered by Denise aside from her awful, awful design. Her eyes just do not look right. Don Salein would not approve.
- This is, at its core, a workplace sitcom. A majority of the gags are backstage bits & they mostly work, but don't expect an actual variety show like the original. Comparisons to shows like The Office really are apt.
- Also, this first episode had a good mix of plot lines to focus on, but they have set things up in such a way that it could turn into a show all about the break-up. And if you're anything like me, that's not something that would be enjoyable.
- The celebrity guests were mostly filler. Tom Bergeron didn't do anything but show up for one scene, Elizabeth Banks had a little bit to do in her two scenes, and the musical guest, well, see below. Either make them a real part of the show or dispense with guests entirely.
- Speaking of musical guest, you couldn't find someone livelier than Imagine Dragonzzzzzzzzz...
- Not really the show's fault, but I wish ABC had scheduled it with their actually funny Wednesday shows and not a show about a horrifically abusive mother that Tumblr thinks is totes empowering. I really hate Fresh Off the Boat, and watching actually funny characters shill it is just painful.

So as far as first impressions, The Muppets didn't really disappoint me, but it didn't really wow me either. It's better than anything with the characters outside of YouTube has been, but let's be fair, that's a low bar (and if we factor in the YouTube shorts, nothing here surpasses the pretty high bar of "Muppet Bohemian Rhapsody"). It's good so far, though, so I'll keep watching. I just know my personal track record with network sitcoms that make a big deal about romantic plotlines, so you can understand why I'm wary.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Magical Girl Obsession: Tales of Fan Senshi Past

For a number of reasons, I've been thinking lately of old Sailor Moon fan senshi series.  I created some (they're down, so don't bother looking), and they're still one of my favorite things about the online Sailor Moon fan world.  So I decided to list off a few that are gone or dormant that left an impression on me.  If any of these are still standing or you can fill in any blanks, please let me know.  These are strictly ones that no longer exist; good stuff like the stories at Sailor AsteraTower of Time, and even the inactive Sailormoon Millennia Trilogy are still available to read.

The one I cannot remember the name of no matter how hard I try: This is what I mean about filling in info blanks. There was a fan series built around the premise of a now-grown Chibi-Chibi, who had become a separate person, traveling to other worlds and gathering a new team of senshi to fight with her against a great threat.  One was an elf-like woman who was a technological genius from a world where women were expected to be glorified servants; another was Android 18 from DBZ as Sailor Columba (don't ask me why I remember that).  It was mostly profiles, notes, and art without much actual story, but what was there was pretty well done.

Sailor Crystalstars: A really well-drawn, well-designed collaborative fan senshi team, they had a double-layered team of regular senshi & adviser senshi whose names were all "Sailor Crystal____" and had snazzy skirts where there was trim on the bottoms echoing whatever their powers were (for example, Sailor Crystalfyre had flames on her skirt).  The site maintainer and main artist was Crystalfyre, and she also offered free commissions (I ordered one for the main three heroines of a collaborative fan senshi series that my friends & I worked on in college, but I was the only one that liked the end result).  I think it dissolved largely due to her leaving to go to animation school, which is a damn fine reason.

Sailor Orion's Refuge: One of the first fan senshi known to have been released, this one built on a mix of anime & English dub continuity and was built around a group of characters who existed in one of three realms that held balance between reality.  This was taken down probably because Meghann McCall is now a published author herself.  Here's some lovely art of her from Sakky explaining just how big of an influence McCall's story & character are.

Sailor Sirius: Another super-early fan senshi, she was a blind African-American girl whose companion disguised himself as her guide dog and who regained her sight when she transformed.  Eventually, she had her own Chibi Moon analogue, and the Starlights returned, permanently stuck in their male bodies, with Yaten as her love interest/future husband.  This was up pretty much until the shutdown of Geocities.  But you can still find art of her in her cool three-color outfit and some nice art from UnconventionalSenshi.

Bunny's Stories: These are the ones I wish had survived the most.  These took fairly standard fan senshi concepts such as Sailor Sun, Sailor Earth, and the adventures of Chibi-Usa as an older senshi and gave them new, interesting twists.  Paired with the excellent artwork and character designs, they were some of my favorites, and I'm sad people can't still enjoy them like I did to appreciate just how good they were.

The first Sailor Sun I stumbled on: I wish I could remember more about her other than they were a dub-based team themed around named stars and the heroine had a truly impressive red-orange ponytail in her character design.

Lacking a good sign-off, I'll just put the picture I got of my old college-collab team from Sailor Crystalfyre. My character was the purple-haired girl in yellow.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Where Do We Go From Here?

So once again, real life has been kicking me repeatedly in the butt.  But I still want to keep this going.  I plan to finish the Bierbaum Legionnaires this year (friggin' finally!), but after that, I have a list of possible subjects to address.  The only thing I wanted to review that I've put on the back-burner is X-Men 2099, and that is entirely because the Great 2099 Creator Walk-Off still can't be verified/refuted/what-have-you.  If it's true, it's important to address; if not, I don't want to keep repeating it as fact.  When it's a comic rumor and Brian Cronin can't help you verify or deny it, you're in trouble.

So here's a list of potential projects to review:

- Several comic series are on the proverbial docket.  I have a couple that are either notoriously bad or have hidden potential buried in layers of badness - namely, Marvel's Mutant X for the former and DC's Son of Vulcan mini for the latter.  I wanted to do a review that looks at what works, what doesn't, and what would need to be fixed to make these not awful.

- I also have some not so much bad as odd animation stuff I want to review.  Shout! Factory put the first season of Captain Planet on DVD, so of course I have that; I'd probably give it the usual dissection of what does & doesn't work, since I think we've moved past the point where just straight up mocking a series for mis-executed good intentions is funny.  Then there's the just plain weird attempt to revive Jonny Quest from the 1980s, wherein they thought nothing would freshen the series up more than a childlike rock golem voiced by Jeffrey Tambor.  (It's so much weirder that I remembered, folks.)  I'm trying to stick to relatively short things so I don't get overwhelmed.

- There's also short things. Do you want stupid X-Men headcanons? Random lists? Reviews of newer magical girl series like Yuki Yuna Is a Hero or Wish Upon the Pleiades? I have notes for things in cartoons that aren't funny (inspired by some of my Pilot Program experiences), along with a bad-live-action Pilot Program sequel including such winners as JLI and Poochinski.  Hell, I found notes from years ago when I tried to see how to make Alpha Flight work in the X-Men Evolution universe because I'm just that dorky.

Let me know if any of these sound remotely interesting. I'm a bit adrift, and picking one thing to focus on once the long, sad slog that the Omnicommentaries became finally conclude will help.  That includes you, Eastern European referral spam links.  I know you love me.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Pilot Program footnotes: Useful Links

So, in case you wanted some supplemental links and side opinions to go with the Pilot Program, I've created this endnotes page.  It's a little sparse - for some reason, even the internet doesn't care about 80s failed toy-derived cartoons even as its wallows in nostalgia for them - but what I can share is pretty entertaining.

For anyone interested in watching the Pilot Program subjects, I've compiled a YouTube playlist in order of the write-ups.  The only multi-part subject is Poochie, but the rest are the full shows.  Enjoy and then let me know your impressions of the subjects, if you feel like it.

In what may be a case of "something in the water", this past month has seen two of my favorite video game related places cover the last two subjects on their respective platforms.
  • First, we have the Retronauts podcast and a career review of Rare, starting with their ZX Spectrum days as Ultimate Play the Game. As someone who knows little about British gaming other than Jet Set Willy existed and was super hard, it's quite educational.
  • Then, Juan "SomecallmeJohnny" Ortiz has the misfortune of reviewing the entire Bubsy series. Whoever donated the game to him is... not a nice person. It's made me very glad I never made it to that canyon land, though, and he is spot on about that pilot.
Lastly, a bit of explanation.  This was originally a seven-part review series, with the Pryde of the X-Men pilot/special being slated for the final subject.  However, while it was an... interesting subject, there was nothing new I had to say about it that others haven't.  And what I did have to say deteriorated into fannish "well, actually" comments about the show versus the 80s X-Men comics versus the 90s Fox Kids series.  There's enough of that online already.

With that, the Pilot Program project has completed. I hope everyone who wasn't an Eastern European spambot enjoyed it. And to the person(s) who keep googling for "Star Fairies reboot", I'll keep you posted if I hear anything.