TV Show Review: Arrow Season 4

If you go around the online forums to measure the general feelings on season four, your going to find a consensus on how much this season sucked. I don’t feel as negatively as most online commentators, but it wasn’t a great season.

The main crux of this season focused on a number of things. It focused on Damien Dark, the big bad this season. Dark was really cheesy whereas Ra’s Al Ghul was darker and more menacing. The romance between Oliver and Felicity was really cheesy and just reinforced the idea that this show is on the CW.

The biggest disappointment was that the whole season was about trying to figure out who was in the grave. They showed someone dying in the first episode and the rest of the season was spent throwing red herrings and fake outs about who was going to die. It was such a repeated gimmick that by the end I just didn’t care. You can only watch so many episodes about whose going to die and then getting faked out before you just stop giving a shit.

The side story on the island was also pretty shit. Why the fuck is he still on the island? Jeez show runners, realize that you don’t need to keep telling a flashback plot line anymore. Just tell the story in the present. It’s a tired storytelling gimmick.

Score: 4/10

Manga and Anime Review: Kingdom

The last time I was this obsessed with an anime/manga, it was One Piece (http://onepieceofficial.com/). Anyways, let’s go over the manga first before touching on the anime.

Kingdom isn’t radically different from various properties that have come before. Names like Braveheart, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and any other medieval/war property you can think of pretty much prepare you for what this is about.

The Premise.

Kingdom takes place during the Warring States period in ancient China; the seven states of China are locked in a constant state of war. We are introduced to Xin and Piao (Piao is pronounced Hyou in Japanese), two child-slaves who wish to become the greatest generals under the heavens. Through happenstance, they meet someone with ties to the royal capital and we see a former slave try to work his way from the bottom rung of the military to the top.

It’s fun wandering through history.

There are many aspects of this title which drew me in. Firstly, the history. China’s warring states period is a lot like feudal Japan or the wild west in that it’s an often revisited and romanticized setting for fiction. Like in many other properties, Kingdom use of famous figures (e.g. the first emperor of China, famous generals, etc.) lends it some authenticity and intrigue. In my case, whenever a new character is introduced I would hurriedly go search the character on the internet to see if it was a real person. It’s a lot of fun reading about the real history of a character and trying to predict what the author is actually going to do with the character. It should be noted that the author takes extreme creative license with history, but I feel that that is a positive and adds the entertainment of the story.

Further, reading through Kingdom actually makes me feel like I’m learning something. I’ve never really had that much in interest in Chinese history, but after reading this I can say I’ve gained a great curiosity for it. Things like the politics and relationships between states in that period as well as the military tactics employed at that time. With that said, I’m sure many parts of Kingdom are fictionalized since the author took such creative license. Still entertaining though.

The battles are the best part, along with the art.

The battles are brutal here. Stabbed in the throat, cleaved in half, decapitated, eyes knocked out of the head, heads crushed, it is all drawn in impressive, brutal detail. I remember the first time I saw Braveheart (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112573/) uncensored. The sights and sounds of men dying had never been portrayed so brutally. It was an impressive cinematic feat. The same is true for Kingdom. The violence is brutal and only adds to the visceral nature of the manga.

The character design is also… interesting. Sometimes it leads something to be desired. Other times, it perfectly portrays how large and frightening some of the characters are. These great generals are meant to be larger than life, and the art perfectly portrays that.

The story isn’t bad, but it is a war story so it is mostly action anyways.

As for the parts that are not related to warfare, they are surprisingly inspired by actual historical records. The part involving harems and affairs and the King’s origins, all of that was actually part of the historical record where all this comes from (the Shiji). I’d like to give the author credit, but he merely elaborated and embellished a little what was actually written. Once again, real life can be stranger than fiction… or at least inspire fiction.

In regards to the action parts, they are amazing. My favorite types of story is the one where an individual stands against overwhelming odds and overcomes them. There are many such stories here. The protagonist, Xin, is a looked down upon former slave. Over and over again he must overcome obstacles in order to realize his dream of being a great general. It’s awe inspiring at times and there were many times where I choked up watching him stand against overwhelming odds.

And… the anime, sigh.

All that needs to be said about the anime is that the first season is pretty crap. It is only appealing if you like bad looking computer generated images. In the second season however, the producers probably realized how nasty the computer generated models looked and went back to hand drawn models. Computer generated art is only used in the background while hand drawn art is used in the foreground, where the viewers’ attention is centered. It works a lot better and, as a result, the second season is infinitely more watchable. Accordingly, I hated season one because of the art, enjoyed season two somewhat, and am curious about the upcoming season three. A lot of the violence is also censored in the anime, which sucks since the violence of war is a big part of this story.

In conclusion:

 Watching the anime is unecessary. READ THE MANGA. Kingdom is currently my favorite manga right now. There is no other manga out there right now which I have enjoyed as much as this. The only people I would not recommend it to are people who are squeamish and hate action.

Score: 9/10 This score only applies to the manga. The anime gets a 3.4/10.

TV Review: Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 3, Episode 5

This episode started fine… and then it made me mad. It went down the road of a pathetic, predictable romance instead of introducing some new alien species, or anything new really.

The problem with adding romantic interest into any story is that it is so easy. Need some suspense for that action movie? Add some romance. Mystery story lacking a twist? Add romance. Science fiction unoriginal? ADD ROMANCE. Adding romance because your writers lack better ideas is the laziest thing a writer can do and that is what they did here.

What a crock of shit this episode was. All the crap Simmons went through on the alien planet… was for a man. Not even an alien man. A human guy. Sorry for the spoilers but this was so damn stupid and lazy. And the season was going great with the inhumans and the secret warriors. They had to go and write in a cliche.

I guess the conclusion we can take away from this episode is that in the end, there is nothing a woman shouldn’t do for a man. Also, it’s nice to have two men love you if you can swing it. Nice job Simmons.

Score: 3.4/10 Let’s get back to the superhuman spy stuff. Aliens would be cool, too. Not this crap writing a five year old could come up with.

TV Show Review: True Detective Season 2

I guess lightning doesn’t strike twice. The second season of True Detective is over and I can’t help but feel “meh” about it.

I just don’t care about the story or the characters. The plot is convoluted and a lot of essential beats are just told through dialogue and exposition. It’s the violation of a basic rule: don’t tell when you can show. There was a lot of very boring telling during this season.

I also felt a lot of the characters were miscast or just lacked charisma. I realize now that the main reason why season one worked so well was because of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. Some of the dialogue in season one was kind of fake sounding, but McConaughey and Harrelson carried that season regardless. This season, none of the actors were compelling nor sympathetic. Farrel and Vaughn do their best, but their dark performances just made this season feel like an emo kid’s wet dream.

In the show’s defense, it was nearly impossible to follow up on the wild success that was season one. However, the writing for this season needed a few rewrites and maybe a different direction in regards to casting.

Score: 4.0/10 If you need some crime drama in your life, then this is fine to watch. Otherwise, I would skip it altogether and spend my time doing something else.