Saturday, December 13, 2014

Magical Girl Obsession: The Princesses Are Here!

Yes, the leaks for the new Precure season, Go! Princess Precure, have been revealed via a candy company, quickly followed by an official debut on the next Precure All-Stars poster.  Here, see for yourselves.

Now, this is another Shibata season, so I'm not super optimistic.  But I just wanna put this out here, since it's apparently a minority opinion - I love these designs.  About the only thing I don't like is the mascot, who looks like 80s Poochie got lost trying to infiltrate the next season of Jewelpet (even then, I'm happy to see a mascot that's specifically a dog).  Here's a quick bullet point of the stuff that I like:

  • The Pink Cure (no official name yet) looks younger & less mature than her teammates, which sounds like a potential plot point.
  • In a nice break from a minor tradition, only one Cure has an eye color that matches her theme color.  This started with Yes! & sort of became an unofficial rule, but a break from this feels like a nice change of pace.
  • The girls' hair continues the proud Precure tradition of being kind of bonkers (see the hair-flower the Pink Cure is sporting) but still looks pretty stylish.  I especially like the hair streaks that each girl has framing her face, but I'm a sucker for two-toned hair.
  • The designs themselves have an old-school-shoujo vibe to them I really like.  Pink Cure in particular reminds me of Honoka from the very first Precure season.
  • I like the fact that the girls' dresses all look unique.  Granted, we haven't gotten much of a look at the lower portions of their outfits, but I like the differences in the uniforms.  Again, it reminds me of the first season, where Nagisa & Honoka had their own looks but still complimented each other.
Basically, all the stuff I like is the stuff the people on Tumblr & PCLJ hate the most.  All I've heard is "The dresses don't match!" or "The hair's too big!" or "The designs are too fussy!"  But these same people hated the vested-uniform look of Happiness Charge when it first showed up, and now they're holding that up as a pillar of good design in direct comparison to these.  Both are solid designs (except Cure Tender's secretarial skirt, but that's minor), and I look forward to seeing more about these characters once Toei officially announces them.

Now if only our inevitable fourth member will turn out to be green Cure instead of the usual purple...

EDIT: Of course after I write this Toei does the official announcement.  So now we have official names & official pictures:

So we have Cures Flora (pink), Mermaid (blue), & Twinkle (yellow) and their mascots Puff (Jewelpet Poochie) & Aroma (the bird).  I still love their dresses - in fact, I adore how they apparently switch between magical girl style & ballgown style.  And apparently, this season isn't totally set on Earth.  Hmmm... This might be as interesting as HaChaPre decided to become once Dark Cure Tender showed up.  I can't let this optimism run unchecked, though.

Friday, December 5, 2014

An Update

Shockingly, this blog isn't dead. I have had an exceptionally hectic private life right now, so I spend time off catching up on necessary things instead of doing fun stuff like blogging.

I have a special thing planned for next year called "Pilot Program", a look at the unsold pilots for merchandising toons that aired in the 80s & 90s as "specials" but never went to a full series (although the subject planned for the finale is sort of a special case).  But that won't be ready until after the holidays.

I don't anything I feel is worthy of doing a year-end wrap-up to discuss.  The same things that annoy & disappoint continue to multiply, and the handful of happy things can probably be predicted if you've read enough of my ramblings.  Smarter folks out there have sung the praises of Ms. Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy (and its amazing stinger guest star), so it's better to just read them.

In magical girl news, the new Precure season hasn't been legitimately leaked or officially previewed, and Happiness Charge continues to be a handful of great ideas emersed in a rancid gelatin mold of incompetence, so there's nothing really worth addressing there, either.  In fact, the only Precure thing I can discuss right now is that the new manga adaptation of every season looks good & I hope someone localizes it.  Sailor Moon Crystal is... good, not the best thing ever but also not the ruiner of childhoods so many say it is.  It just kinda feels... there.  I am looking forward to the new Madoka spinoffs being localized, even if Suzune Magica isn't among them at this time.  And in not-really-magical-girl stuff, I am now addicted to the feel-good world of Aikatsu! and I hope Daisuki localizes more episodes.

Western animation is still as frustrating as ever.  The usual reasons, of course - I don't feel like repeating them.  I am hoping that someone does an English version of Lolirock, as the French subs have  shown it to be Marathon's most solid show yet, and I'm excited to see Star Vs. The Forces of Evil next year, since it looks like a mix of the current style of comedies with magical girls.

Lastly, I'm hoping to resume the Omnicommentaries after the Pilot Program is finished. They aren't exactly well-read, but dammit, I'm gonna do 'em.  Alas, X-Men 2099 will be on hold until the line's mass creator walk-off can be confirmed or denied in a solid, non-hearsay way.

This... wasn't my most productive year, again for private life reasons.  Hopefully that will change in the future.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ink and Paint: Flowers for Saturdays

As of today, the major over-the-air networks have stopped broadcasting Saturday morning cartoons.  A few of the digital sub-channels have shows (my father now knows who Jerry Beck is thanks to something on, I believe, MeTV featuring him talking about Columbia/UPA shorts), but as for the main five non-PBS stations, Saturday morning cartoons are no longer a thing that will exist.

A lot of my early tastes & influences can be traced directly back to Saturday morning.  My love of superheroes?  Earliest was watching the DePatie-Freleng Fantastic Four with my father (yes, the infamous series with H.E.R.B.I.E.), but most formative was watching X-Men & Batman TAS on Fox Kids as a preteen.  Love of supernatural stuff?  Direct line to Real Ghostbusters.  Introduction to the Muppets?  Actually started with Muppet Babies.  Saturday morning cartoons really were tastemakers, at least for me, and they showed that a variety of genres & eras of animation could exist together and keep kids enthralled.

On one hand, I envy the access kids have today to cartoons.  Saturdays were it, except for maybe some UHF stations that had after-school blocks in the late 80s like The Disney Afternoon; even if you had cable, the best you could do without a premium channel was the block of Hanna-Barbera stuff that aired on Sundays (yes, kids, Disney Channel used to be a premium channel a la HBO - preview weekends were freaking holidays in my household).  You have networks with shows on the lion's share of the time and streaming services & apps devoted to making sure you can watch your favorite cartoon* when you feel like it instead of waiting for one designated day.  On the other hand, it feels like animation is pretty much limited to "comedy series from the past decade", and I would not want to live in a world where there's no Looney Tunes, Dynomutt, Jem, or Batman.

Access isn't what I feel ended Saturday morning cartoons - I tend to blame both the CTA that legally required networks to air "E/I" content & the major networks' obsession with having at least 7 hours every day of their schedule occupied by bad local news mixed with 5 hours of bad morning chat shows.  Between a law no one in TV production really wanted to enforce and the discovery that you could pass off questionable "consumer reports" from your local talking heads as "E/I" content, it was no wonder that a traditionally low-rated block would be the first shuttered.  That's a thing people don't realize - Saturday morning cartoons were a weird sort of favor that was done for families, and once it was no longer needed, there was no real financial reason to continue.

RIP Saturday morning cartoons.  Thanks for warping my generation, along with a few others, by giving us something fun to watch.  Thanks to Bill & Joe, Hal & Lou, Ken & Joe, Dave & Friz, Mr. Henson, the folks at Sunbow, Mr. Heyward, the folks at Disney, the folks at Warner/MGM/Paramount vaults, Mr. Saban, and Ms. Loesch & your Fox Kids partners.  You all made it worthwhile to get up early on a weekend.

*Provided it's not action-adventure or targeted to a female audience.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

MGO: Let the Precure specula begin!

Because it's a genre I like & talk about a LOT, I've decided to create yet another sub-category.  Welcome to the inaugural Magical Girl Obsession (MGO) entry, not the first of its topic but the first to bear the name.

Since October is traditionally when news about the next Precure series starts to be found (usually by people combing patent info), I've heard some folks start speculating what they'd like to see in the next season of Precure.  I usually reserve full judgement until I at least hear a title & see one bit of imagery (increasingly, it's from merchandise listings rather than releases), but given the past couple of seasons, I am making a short wish list of things I want from the next season of Precure.

A New Showrunner:  This one should be obvious.  Ever since Hiroaki Shibata took over starting with Doki Doki, the series has been known more for its wasted potential & gross missteps than actual decent plots/characters.  HaChaPre should straight-up be retitled Wasted Potential Precure, since it seems to take great ideas (the international Cures, Cure Honey's fight-song method, the form changes) and ignore them in favor of bad ones.  We've got everyone having a love interest or being part of a love plotline, and no one learned from Yes! that the series just cannot do romance.  We've got the wasted potential - or at least tone-deaf portrayal - of the international Cures, who apparently come from a world where everyone is pale.  We have Queen Mirage's plotline, which is a skeevy "woman scorned" cliche.  Even the stuff that's improved - like Cure Fortune settling into "kind of annoying" after being actively unlikable for so long - hasn't improved by much.  The player that had the most unique approach, Cure Honey, is a one-note character obsessed with food who rarely uses her cool singing tactic, let alone awesome giant clover from space attack.  Also, between that episode about Yuko & Phantom and the Doki Doki movie, it's pretty clear that this guy fetishizes dead dogs the same way Batiuk fetishizes cancer; it's seriously disturbing.  And that's not even getting into Doki Doki, whose reputation as The Mana Show at the expense of way more compelling characters speaks for itself.  If Precure is going to be not frustrating, Toei needs to get someone else in charge of it.  Alas, since like American execs their main concern is the sale of plastic crap, it probably won't happen unless the toys are as uninspired as the seasons.

A Popular Theme Used:  Nearly every fan (guilty as charge here) has used a theme built around jewels, desserts, and/or seasons for fan Cures.  These seem like obvious choices for a magical girl theme, but they haven't really been used by Precure officially yet.  It'd be cool to see them use these themes, since they're (a) full of built-in potential and (b) already popular.

Singing Cures:  Maybe it's because I'm bummed Cure Honey hasn't used singing as her primary fighting method or maybe it's because I've gotten hooked on shows like Aikatsu & AKB0048, but having Cures who are singers & have to balance their careers with their superheroics or integrate music/dance into their attacks properly would be pretty fun.  And there's your tie-in, Toei - singing Cures equal music sales.

Underused Colors:  If nothing else, I'd appreciate it if we had another green Cure.  We've had two.  Both have had the worst hair of their seasons, too.  I'd love it if they used an under-represented color like green or orange or aqua/teal for a change and not as an accent color like Rosetta had.

Precure is the Super Sentai of magical girl shows; if you love the genre, you have to at least respect it and want it to keep going.  I'd like it to do so better (see the first item on my wish list), and seeing it just be good TV is really what most viewers want, even if they don't say it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Not-So-Brief Update

Huh.  It's been since June that I've had time to update this?  Yikes.  How do Gentlemen of Leisure do it?

My life has been its usual mix of mundane craziness that leaves little free time, so now I'm going to make some time for a brief to-do list.

I am still continuing my Legionnaires Omnicommentaries.  I wish I had a scanner I could trust to show you why the next few issues are going to be a slog, but they are (I'll do my best the next time I get actual non-pseudo-emergency time to myself, which is rarer than any commodity).  I plan to do Legionnaires through the Zero Issues (a.k.a. the start of the Archie Legion), along with a few annuals.  Then it's on to something that's at least fun-bad - Howard Mackie's Mutant X!  So many missed opportunities, so much bizarre dialogue... Unlike the waning days of Legionnaires, this one might actually be fun.

I've been trying to get some original stuff written, but my brain keeps going back to something I had hoped to accomplish by now.  Back in high school, I read Leonard Maltin's Of Mice and Magic, which was last revised around the time The Great Mouse Detective had been released.  In the original edition (which was available at my library), he had expressed a desire that this book about theatrical animation would be the first in a series that would also cover TV, independent, & foreign animation; however, by the time the revised edition was released, Mr. Maltin had decided that these other volumes would not be written and expressed hope that someone else would one day write these volumes in his stead.  In my high school naivete, I declared "Challenge Accepted!", having been raised on TV animation & been disgusted with my first animation history book's utterly dismissive attitude towards it, and made writing the definitive history of TV animation a life's goal.

It's a life's goal that I really should've completed by now.

The thing that people don't realize when you talk about "TV animation" is that the simple term covers a vast range of topics.  It would, no doubt, have to be a multi-volume series that would either have to be divided by subject (animated ads, prime time shows, syndicated shows, cable shows, and/or SatAm shows) or maybe by studios (bigger ones like Hanna-Barbera would need more than one volume).  Or even divided by decade, so that wider trends of those eras could be traced.  And me being me, I'd want to do a bit about puppetry & "costume" shows, since they've always felt like a cousin to animation in my mind.  It's a daunting task, and that doesn't even get into the topic of stuff being readily available even with the brass ring of rightsholder cooperation.  So now that I'm old enough to complete it, I'm old enough to realize how damn near impossible it might have been.

Besides, how could my hobbyist self try to compete with real animation historians?  Let's face it, I'm no Jerry Beck.  It probably would wind up being a series with an "editorial history" bend, but I would definitely not be as dismissive towards works/studios I don't care for as much as the book Serious Business was towards, oh, the entire careers of Bill Hanna & Joe Barbera!  That's just disrespectful & unprofessional.  I might not be a Seth McFarlane fan, but I'd still make an effort to see what in his work connects with others instead of one paragraph of insults & then done.

So yeah, I'm realizing that my life dream was really a pipe dream.  But still, I'll try to keep to my review schedule in lieu of this ridiculous nerd endeavor.

UPDATE: Attention reading-comprehension-deficient deleted comment poster - I am not a Baby Boomer.  I am not a fan of Baby Boomers.  Being a fan of media that existed prior to my birth is not an indicator of my age.  Save the rants for Facebook, child.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ink and Paint: In Which I Get Angry at Magical Girls

The last couple of seasons of Precure have been... rough.  Doki Doki was a carnival of wasted ideas that were thrown out throughout the series (Cure Sword's world having a standing army of Precures to defend it, the existence of Cure Empress & her unnamed teammates spring most readily to mind), and it chose to focus on a main character in Mana who was dully infallible.  And while Happiness Charge started strong & has addressed many of the character problems with The Mana Show (along with giving fandom a gift on a silver platter as far as creating new fan Cures), one character & said character's impending story arc has more than soured me on watching the rest.  But then I encountered this translated interview and one quote in particular:

...Speaking of which, Pretty Cure is separated into three periods by which producer is doing the show. 
First is the Washio era, starting from Futari wa to Yes! 5 GoGo.
Second is the Umezawa era, lasting Fresh to Smile (currently, the producer of Sailor Moon Crystal, if you are curious). 
Third is Hiroaki Shibata's era, which is also what we are currently in and began from Doki Doki onwards.
Okay, this explains quite a bit.  I would argue that Washio's signature is how grounded his three continuities feel; everything in there feels like an attempt to reflect the lives of the audience, aspirational or otherwise, while still telling a fantasy superhero story.  Umezawa seems to focus more on character showcases, either by highlighting growth or just letting the fully-formed characters react in dramatic situations; notice how two of his seasons, Fresh and Suite, have major redemption arcs, how the "minion" villains in all of these seasons turn out to be decent people by the end, and how much these series are remembered for their characters and drama as much as, if not more than, anything else.  Shibata's theme is simple - characters who put Mela's teeth on edge.

You think I'm kidding?  Until his run started, there was never a character I actively hated in any Precure season.  No matter how whiny Nagisa got, no matter how bratty Milk was, no matter how much Kanade was sidelined into being Hibiki's naggy girlfriend, I didn't hate them; sometimes they made me laugh, and sometimes I even related to Nagisa's "why me" annoyance or Kanade's eternal frustration.  But Doki Doki gave us Cure Ace, a joyless scold of a 10-year-old whom everyone just rolls over to obey & who straight up wants to murder her "dark" sister Regina until Mana talks her out of it.  And then there's Cure Fortune, a.k.a. Cure Bully, a.k.a. Cure Selfish Asshole, a.k.a. Cure Lack of Basic Empathy.  Horrible character.  She wages an out & out harassment campaign against a girl who is the last survivor of her people, both as a Cure and as a civilian, and actively tries to turn Hime's friends against her.  Why?  Y'see, the villains who are causing chaos & destroyed Hime's homeland/people were accidentally released by Hime in a Pandora's Box sort of situation; Cure Fortune's sister was another Cure who tried to fight them but got caught by the villains.  So in Cure Fortune's rat brain, her pseudo-dead sister trumps everything Hime has lost & any/all efforts at making amends that Hime is doing; it also justifies trying to drive her into alienation.  That they're setting her up to be a proper member of the team and have everyone just... forget her complete & utter lack of empathy/decency/heroism/redeeming character traits has made me rage quit a Precure season.

A bit of perspective.  I didn't quit Max Heart or either Yes! season because they were boring.  I didn't quit Smile when I started to lose patience in the stock attacks.  I didn't even quit Doki Doki when it was clear that the showrunners weren't going to do anything with their best ideas and continue to dwell on their worst instead.  But none of those have a character who is downright offensive.  Anyone who has ever been the subject of bullying & gossip campaigns or knew someone who was will recognize Cure Fortune's behavior and should be appalled that Shibata & Co. are basically giving it a pass.  I know Japan has some... wrong-headed ideas about bullying, but this is beyond the pale.  Hopefully this showrunner will move on relatively soon, because if he stays longer than either of his predecessors, I will not hanging around.  It's clear that the "character who sets teeth on edge" will simply increase in unpleasantness if this continues.

Life's too short to hate-watch, in my view.

Friday, May 16, 2014

X-Nonsense: Three Headcanons I Refuse to Drop

So I'm home sick, and I've been catching up on a great new podcast: Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men.  Their last episode talked about "Deadly Genesis", and it reminded me of one of three things that, no matter what the actual books say, will always be considered 100% true in my nerd-heart.  I'm going in order from when the stories/characters affected were first introduced.

Wolverine is a father who outlived his young daughter:  One of the things I always liked was that Wolverine always has a surrogate daughter figure, no matter what era.  This led me to believe that, somewhere in his then-unexplained past, he had a like-aged daughter who died young.  Maybe illness, maybe not, but either way, he outlived a daughter he loved & now he doted on surrogates to make up for that loss.  Now that so much of his past has been revealed I don't think it's likely that will ever apply, but it doesn't change the fact that I find Wolverine's fatherly behavior towards Kitty, Jubilee, & Hiroko (among others) any less endearing.

The real Monet is dead, with the twins taking her form out of self-loathing:  The origins/story of Monet St. Croix are, putting it politely, a mindfuck.  I never liked the explanation we were given for her or for Penance's origins, especially since after it was all resolved a third Penance just sort of... showed up.  It was a total mess.  My theory was that the Monet that signed on with Generation X was the twins merged into her form, but they did this because the original Monet was murdered by their evil brother.  Why would they do this since it would mean the St. Croix would now have to deal with two missing children?  Because the twins were the unfavorites - one was a locked-in autistic & the other refused to leave her side.  Whereas Monet was beautiful, smart, and confident - clearly, the family would rather have her back than have the twins.  Any family that could spawn both Marius & Monet would be that shallow & heartless.  And they keep up the ruse because, with them as Monet, everyone seems to be happier; whether the twins themselves are, that remains to be seen.  I'd be miserable playing a masquerade my whole life, though.  As for Penance, she is exactly what her initial origin was - a Bosnian refugee & deaf-mute with zero ties to the St. Croix family.

The Krakoa at the Jean Grey School is Petra:  Here's one that came to me while listening to Rachel & Miles.  In "Deadly Genesis", we learn that four earlier students trained by Moira MacTaggart were killed by Krakoa in a failed rescue attempt before the canon second X-team showed up.  Naturally, not everyone actually was dead but of course, the two girls - the ones who had the most interesting powers & potential - stayed very dead.  Even a "What If" storyline where a writers' interview showed that they put some real thought into how Sway & Petra would work as characters failed to deliver on that, making the story yet another Kid Vulcan tale.  But after the "good" piece of Krakoa showed up that guards the Jean Grey School, I realized something - that piece of Krakoa houses Petra's consciousness.  Petra basically had the same powerset as Terra, and as she was dying, she burrowed herself & her surviving teammates into the soil to try & protect them; instead of dying, her body merged with the soil & her consciousness with it.  While her ability to communicate - and maybe much of her human memories - were lost, the fragment where she was merged landed on where the Jean Grey School would be built.  Driven by an instinctive desire to protect her fellow students, possibly out of a form of survivors' guilt (since this would be the second time she lived when others didn't), she takes it upon herself to guard the school in her new form with only a vague inkling that she may have once been human.

So yeah, those are my headcanons.  Even if what was printed contradicts it, I don't care.  I just like these better.  If anyone wants to share their own, feel free - these are usually more interesting than what we get.