1 Oct 2017

Tsumitsuki by Hiro Kiyohara - Review

Photo: Cover

Title: Tsumitsuki
Author: Hiro Kiyohara
Publisher: ECC
Number of pages: 192

The general plot of this story is very easy. A young man hunts demons that slowly take over human bodies and use them to kill others. Therefore, they have to be stopped, so the main character monitors this demon activity and kills them before they can harm more innocent people.

The premise was amazing and I had high hopes for the book. Unfortunately, the execution wasn't that good in my opinion. The truly amazing cover and the blurb suggest a great hunt and gory mysteries. The problem is that none of it is actually in the book. Well, there is some gore, but it can hardly be called a mystery. Each chapter is a case for the main character to solve and they're all more or less connected. However, the chapters are way too short to develop the characters enough to make them at least a bit round and this lack of development affects the plot as well. What could be a great mystery if each case were longer becomes a group of almost magical deductions because the investigation is never shown or otherwise explained. The result is that I never cared about any of the characters. Not even a little bit, which is a shame since precisely the emotions play a big role, if not the biggest role, in this story.

I suppose that this complete lack of roundness and the resulting apathy for the reader reflects the point of view of the main character in a way. I don't know if this is what the author wanted to make the readers feel because there is no indication for it, as, for example, the plot is not exclusively told from the point of view of this character. It was a funny coincidence though that apathy is a good word to describe the main character's life. He's not human and his destiny is to hunt tsumitsukis, demons that take over the body and soul of some people, for all eternity, so he never gets close to anybody, with the exception of his talking wolf. Sadly, we don't see much of his interaction with this wolf either. We only know that they are somewhat friendly, with the animal acting as an older colleague.

Tsumitsuki does get a plus point for having an epilogue explaining who the main character is and how he became who he is. It was really needed after reading one disappointing mini plot after another.

This manga is a stand-alone, but I wonder if it started as something much longer that the author had to shorten later. I didn't know that there wasn't a second volume when I finished, but I thought that there was one. The whole manga has a prologue-feeling. While it disappointed me a lot as a stand-alone, it would be a great first volume of a series.

If you know of any good stand-alone mangas, please let me know in the comments. While this one wasn't a great first experience with stand-alone mangas, I'd love to read more!

24 Sep 2017

En nombre de Luna, te castigaré - El universo mágico de Sailor Moon - Review

Photo: Cover

Title: En nombre de Luna, te castigaré - El universo mágico de Sailor Moon
Author: Andrés Argal Sotés
Publisher: Diábolo Ediciones
Number of pages: 320

I was so happy to find a book about Sailor Moon in my local library, that I read it in one evening. It's not actually that difficult because there's a picture using the space of half the page in almost every page. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as Sailor Moon is a very visual story, whether you're considering the manga or the anime, there is something to see.

Unfortunately, this book was a huge disappointment. Most of the book is just a detailed summary of the whole manga/anime and the films, both animation and live action. It includes the openings and endings and it mentions the differences between the manga and the anime, but there is very little extra information. Sure, the author mentions the differences between the manga and the anime, but this is the only information that stops it from being just an extensive summary.

There are also some character files at the end, but they only cover the main good characters. There isn't even a short file about the most important baddies. People who, like me, don't speak Japanese might find it curious to see how the names of these characters fit with their role in the plot. This is really the only useful thing if you've already watched the show. If you haven't, don't read this book, as it will spoil everything.

The only part I found truly worthwhile is how the book starts with an explanation of anime and manga in Spain and how their situation was in the 90s. This is interesting because access to Japanese media and merchandising has changed a lot since every person got internet at home. This chapter isn't very long and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning about the 90s. The information isn't overly detailed, but it paints a very clear picture of how people watched anime.

I have read other encyclopaedia-like books about tv series (Lost, X-Files, Doctor Who, Harry Potter) and they all had something that made them worth reading. Some had all the complicated details of the characters and their relationships in one single place. Others, some essays and articles that went beyond the plot, such as how the series fit within the genre at the time or how it changed the genre. Unfortunately, this was not the case of this book. En nombre de Luna, te castigaré - El universo mágico de Sailor Moon doesn't have enough extra information to make it a great read for fans of Sailor Moon unless all they're looking for is an episode guide and a summary of what happened in the series.

This book suggests that there will be a second volume, as it's called Vol. 1, so maybe that second volume will have all the things that I missed reading in this one.

Note: As far as I know, this book only exists in Spanish.

9 Sep 2017

Find the Force Weekend

I have never thought of myself as the biggest Star Wars fan. I mean, I like the films and have a few action figures and videogames, but I haven't seen the newest set of films yet and I'm not counting down the days until the next one. Do I want to see it eventually? Yes, of course. I'm not in a hurry though. But when I heard on the news that my home town was among the chosen for a cool AR weekend promotion, I had to download the app and try it.

It was very easy. I downloaded the official app from the Play store and then clicked on the right place in the app to download the option. I really liked that there was a warning that this second download was data-heavy and to use WiFi or an unlimited data plan if possible. I never use all my data, so I wouldn't have had any problems, but it was a nice warning to get.

The actual AR experience wasn't that awesome, but I already knew that. The news programme had shown what it was going to be. Just a static spaceship and two smaller ones that moved away from you in just a couple of seconds. It took me a few tries to get a picture with both kinds of ships in it, but I got one. The good thing was that the app had an option to take pictures, so you didn't have to take a screenshot.

Photo: Taken by me with the Star Wars app

Something I noticed is that the GPS location of the app was a bit off. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but I tried the app while I was running a few errands around town, about a thirty-minute walk away from the correct location and I could see the ships.

There are more things that you can do with the app, such as scanning codes in a few shops to get some AR characters, but I'll explain all this in a few days.

Note, in case someone wants to go out and take pictures of space ships: The space ships were a time limited event that took place last weekend, but you can unlock the AR characters until the end of the general event.

4 Sep 2017

Jessica Jones 1x06-1x07 Review

Photo: Promotional poster (Netflix)

The general plot of the series moves forward a bit faster in the next two episodes. As the relationship between the characters has already been established, there is more room for the plot. It starts moving forward bit by bit, especially after Jessica decides to be hero and take down Killgrave. It's an amazing growing moment for this character because she had tried to stay away from any heroics since her last encounter with this villain. So, you might ask yourself what changed her mind. It was the girl Killgrave manipulated into killing her parents. The missing girl from the very first episode. She reminds Jessica too much of herself. The difference is that this girl doesn't have any powers and that she can't do anything to stop the villain. However, Jessica can. Also, Killgrave threatens her neighbour and kills someone who, while not exactly emotionally close to her, is an innocent person. She also accepts, not without complaining, that she can't do it alone and that there are other people who want to help and, more importantly, are able to help, even though they don't have any superpowers.

As for the rest of the characters, I'm glad that Luke Cage is out of the picture for the moment. Unlike all the others, I find him rather boring and very flat so far. I hope to find him more interesting in his own series though, as I don't actually dislike him. Having more screentime and time to become a rounder character is something that would benefit Luke a lot. Other than the small connection his deceased wife had to Killgrave -she was just a random victim- and his on and off relationship with Jessica, Cage hasn't done much unfortunately. After watching the first few episodes I had been hoping that there would be a bigger mystery surrounding him, as Jessica had a connection with him and he had superpowers too, but it has turned out to be a bit of a let down.

Her drug-addicted neighbour, however, turns out to be hiding something. Trying to find out who has been taking pictures of her, Jessica realises that the nice, but otherwise apparently unimportant man, has been spying on her for Killgrave. Before meeting him, the young man wasn't even addicted to drugs. Clearly, Killgrave has been following Jessica for a long time while she believed that he was dead, which begs the question of what other pieces he has moved.

Unlike Luke Cage, Killgrave becomes more and more interesting. His reasons for targeting Jessica -or, at least, what seem to be his reasons- are explained, which makes you want to know more about this character. I would have never guessed his confession at the end of the seventh episode! He apparently has a heart and feelings now, but his methods remind you that he's far from being a guy who has made a couple of bad life choices. He makes a man throw a cup of hot coffee at his own face and then makes one of Jessica's neighbours kill himself, probably for being romantically interested in her. I often like the story arcs that follow the cat and mouse game between the good guys and the bad guys and Killgrave might be one of the best bad guys that I've watched recently. If you like good bad guys, watch this series!

30 Aug 2017

The Dragon and the Wolf (Game of Thrones 7x07) Review

Photo: Promotional poster (HBO)

This review contains spoilers for the finale, including the fate of some main characters.

What can I say about this episode, very aptly named The Dragon and the Wolf? Another one of my favourite characters bites the dust, so I find it a bit sad that he won't be part of the game until the very end. However, it was done in a wonderful way and the actor, Aidan Gillen, was amazing in that scene, so Littlefinger's was not an unsatisfying demise. The unfortunate thing is that we never find out whether Arya and Sansa were playing Littlefinger at least a bit. There are some things that point to one option, but at the same time there are other things that suggest the exact opposite.

First of all, Arya does seem a bit on edge when she enters the room of the trial and the door is closed behind her, leaving her unable to make a quick exit if necessary. Her face is very guarded though, leaving room to imagine that it's just an act, especially when she smiles once Littlefinger is accused. Also, the Tully commander does nothing to help Littlefinger when he's first accused, making me wonder if he was in on the plan as well. Not necessarily from the very beginning, but he could have been debriefed at some point before the trial. Or maybe he's just a very careful man who prefers to listen first instead of acting rashly. We know that he can't stand Littlefinger, but not defending him even one bit from Sansa's accusations would have left him in a very vulnerable position had Baelish found a way of getting out of the situation alive. Actually, nobody in the room is the slightest big surprised to hear who Sansa names. They just turn their heads towards the man, but there aren't any gestures or sounds of surprise. I found it quite fitting that he dies trying to speak, seeing as words had been his weapon during his whole life.

But this only happens towards the end of the episode. It starts with Bron still alive preparing to defend King's Landing against the army of Unsullied that is at its gates. And prepare they should because Daenerys' army is very impressive and huge. It's not just the Unsullied. A few minutes later the Dothraki make their appearance and it's obvious why people fear them. You know the danger is very real when even Bron looks worried. I had been worried that Cersei might have killed him, so it was good not only seeing him alive, but also still being one of the leaders of the Lannister army. Cersei's threat had apparently been just that, a threat, but I hope Jaime told him how careful he has to be now.

My favourite part of the episode were probably all the conversations once the key players have arrived at King's Landing and are being led to the Dragonpit, which, by the way, was filmed in an Ancient Roman archaeology site that I hope to see soon. It starts off as a very awkward moment, but it soon moves to conversations among people who are pleased to see that the others are still alive.

Daenerys, of course, makes a grand entrance riding a dragon closely followed by the other one. This is a fact that is not lost on Cersei, who later remarks that the absence of the third creature is proof that dragons can be killed. She is definitely observant, but we clearly see that she has gone too far. Her grand plan is to let everybody -the White Walkers and her enemies- kill each other and then she will be able to deal with the few who are left alive -or dead, I guess, in the case of the zombie-like enemies- after the war is over. All this after saying that she would join Daenerys, Jon and co. in the fight against the undead.

Photo: Promotional photo (HBO)

Then there's the conversation between Jon and Theon, which could foreshadow Jon's future point of view. He is, after all, going to learn at some point that Ned Stark was not his biological father now that Sam and Bran have put everything together after talking to each other, so what he told Theon was very interesting. He tells Theon that he doesn't have to choose between Greyjoy and Stark and I guess it could mean that Jon is not going to choose between Targaryen and Stark. Theon can be both and so can Jon. This ends Theon's internal debate and allows him to grow into his own person, free of people's expectations. His first decision as his own person is leading instead of following. He defeats the new leader of Yara's Greyjoy men and convinces the rest of them to help him find her. I really hope we see Theon fighting and beating Euron next season.

Theon is not the only one who makes a big decision in this episode. Jaime has finally had enough of Cersei's plots and abandons her when he sees how close she gets to executing him. The few seconds before he walks away not believing that she will actually have him killed are the best part of this scene. Jaime looks truly heartbroken, as if he can't believe that the woman loves is willing to get rid of him so easily. It turns out that he is right. Cersei isn't capable of executing him. Yet. He leaves the town quickly, probably before she can change her mind, while snow starts falling in King's Landing. Winter is clearly here! So where's Bron? Who knows, but with Jaime leaving and, from Cersei's point of view, committing treason, the danger he is in is growing more and more. Let's hope she doesn't kill him off screen and the next thing we see is his body hanging from the walls of the city as a warning. The music and the scenes of the empty places in King's Landing while we see how the snow falls and the day gets darker were wonderfully chosen. You can feel how everything has changed in just a few seconds. A beautiful sunny day has turned dark and snowy and not in a nice white Christmas kind of way. And it's oddly calm, but it's just the calm before the storm. This isn't a war for a throne anymore. Instead, it has become a desperate war for survival. As Jon said a couple of weeks ago, "we're all breathing".

The very end was predictable after seeing how the Night King turned the dead dragon last week. He obviously uses Vyserion to destroy a big chunk of the wall, leaving the fate of Tormund Giantsbane and Beric Dondarrion a mystery to be resolved in the final season. I personally don't think they're dead, as it would be a bit anticlimatic for them to die so soon after having survived the big battle beyond the Wall. All this without any last words or actions other than giving the order to run and trying to flee themselves.

As good as the episode is, hearing a line or two about Dorne would have been nice. And I'm not saying this just because it's been my favourite kingdom since it appeared. We know that the oldest Sand Snakes are dead, but what about the rest of them and what about the rest of Dorne? We know what happened to Highgarden, but I don't remember hearing anything about Dorne after Ellaria's capture. For all her faults, I don't imagine Ellaria leaving her five younger daughters without any protection, so I assume that there are at least some skilled warriors left in Dorne. Unless of course the rest of Oberyn's children have been retconned, which I suppose is not impossible. Maybe something will be mentioned next year.

To end with a mysterious question, why do you think that Tyrion looked so disappointed and/or worried when he was watching the door behind which Jon and Daenerys were sleeping together? For a moment I wondered if he knew about Jon being Dany's nephew. I don't see how he could have known, considering that nobody other than Ned and Meera's father knew. And I suppose that the woman who helped Lyanna give birth must have known something about it too. But everybody else who was part of that scene died before they knew that the baby had been born alive and that he was a boy.

27 Aug 2017

Death Note (2017) Review

Photo: Promotional poster (Netflix)

I've never watched the anime and, while I read the manga years ago, I never finished it, so when I saw that a Death Note film was going to be released on Netflix, I thought it would be the perfect time for my little experiment of judging a remake without knowing or remembering much about the source material. I will read and watch the original Death Note and will post my comparison of the two once I'm done.

First of all, this is a remake set in Seattle and, from what I've read about it, it doesn't follow the original story. It just takes the basic premise and adapts it to a US setting. The important thing is that you don't need to know anything about the plot to be able to follow the story. We see how Light finds the Death Note and how he learns what it is, so the film gives us all the information we need to understand what is going on.

The film starts like an average high school film. American football, cheerleaders and high school students that look too old to be in high school. My first impression of Light was that he was an average smart guy taking advantage of his knowledge to earn a bit of money solving Maths homework for his class mates while half-watching the cheerleaders practice. Everything changes when a storm delivers him a book, the Death Note. He starts writing down the names of bad people, but, as you can imagine, things quickly start getting downhill, especially after he tells a girl he likes about the book.

Photo: Promotional photo (Netflix)

I liked the plot, but it would have work so much better as a short tv series rather than as a film. A few things feel a bit too rushed with just 90 minutes to develop the story. For example, we learn that L and Watari are close and the reason is explained very briefly, but we don't actually see the depth of their friendship until Watari dies. Until this moment, L was a very flat character and because of this, the mystery surrounding him seemed to be less interesting. Also, L figures out who Kira is way too quickly. He has pretty much narrowed everything down when he first appears on screen. I realise that he is an amazing detective and a very mysterious person, but I would have liked to see more of him and his investigation while it was happening. His past sounds even much more interesting than the Death Note plot, but the film gave us just a couple of sentences about it. Mia is rather underdeveloped as well. Not just her part of the plot, but her as a character in general. She goes from being a girl with good intentions to a ruthless killer who will kill anybody who stands in her way within minutes.

The cliffhanger at the end of the film is very well written though. It leaves the door open for a sequel, but at the same time leaves the main plot closed in case another film is never done. I find it extremely frustrating to finish a film or a tv series and then find out that a big part of the story will never be finished because the project has been cancelled.

All in all, I thought Death Note was an ok film. Not a masterpiece or even close to one, but not something I would consider a waste of time either. I enjoyed it and I will definitely watch the sequel if one is ever filmed.

24 Aug 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017) review

Photo: Promotional Spanish poster (Disney)

I didn't have the chance to watch this film when it was first released at the cinema, but I finally watched it and... it was ok, but nothing special. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. The original Disney film is among my favourite and I was hoping to enjoy this live-action remake a lot, but this wasn't the case. The problem with these films is that it's very difficult to judge them on their own if you've watched the source material.

I actually liked the plot and the added backstories. While it's not something that I had ever missed in the animated version and therefore I wouldn't have felt that there was something missing if it hadn't been in this version, I think it adds something to some of the characters, especially Belle's father. He is no longer completely out of touch with reality. In fact, having lived in Paris as well as in rural France, he understands how they're very different places and why Belle doesn't fit in with the local population.

In general, the first part of the film, the one that takes place in the village, was amazing. It made a lot of sense for the bookshop to be something much smaller. So small that the books would fill half of a shelf. I had always wondered how that man made a living if the only person who seemed to like books was Belle. Unless, of course, the owner had been the castle's main book supplier when he was younger. It's a small detail, but it improved the village.

I also liked the hopeless feeling of all the characters at the end, just before the Beast is turned back into a human being. It's very sad how they all say goodbye to their friends and how Mrs. Potts is so desperate to see his son one last time, even if you know what is going to happen in just a few moments. It makes sense from their point of view. They don't have any reason to believe that the curse has been broken, so this sad scene fits very well within the situation. In the animated film they're just sad, but you don't get the feeling that there are going to be any big consequences other than not becoming human again.

Something I think this film did really well was to explain how the villagers didn't know that there was a castle so close to them. However, at the same time, having some villagers be related to the castle furniture inhabitants was a bit odd, seeing as the prologue scene mentions that years had passed. Was the village stuck in a time loop? And if so, how did Belle never noticed that? She did grow up and Gaston and Le Fou came back from the war. And fish has to be brought from the sea and even if the town is close to the sea and there are fishermen that belong to the village, they're likely to meet other fishermen from nearby villages. Unless someone can give me a perfect explanation, I think it would have been better if they hadn't had Mr. Potts and Cogsworth's wife live in the village.

Photo: Promotional photo (Disney)

What I didn't enjoy so much were the parts between the village and the end, aka the castle. When I heard that there was going to be a live-action remake of The Beauty and the Beast and that it was going to be made by Disney, I got very excited to see how a less cartoony Lumière would look like. He was my favourite character in the animation film, but I have to admit that I didn't like him so much in this film. He went from adorable and funny to very metallic. The same thing happened to Cogsworth. There was something sweet about him that didn't work so well here. Not because of the voices, but because of the design.

I was also looking forward to the new version of Be Our Guest. It did disappoint me though. It was careless and fun in 1991, but it's much gloomier and serious here. The darker lights play a huge part here, but it's not the only element. The Eiffel Tower has been replaced with Lumière chopping a piece of leak in what is a clear reference to the guillotine. It might be why Belle looked much less fascinated by the dinner show.

I found it very curious how this was in direct contrast with the Beast. He was a lot less terrifying when he scared Belle into leaving the castle. Or when Belle first arrived at the castle. To be honest, the castle in general was not that scary either.

On the plus side, I liked this Gaston a lot more than his animated counterpart. I really wouldn't have minded if Belle had ended up making him a better person instead of the Beast. He didn't look as scary as he did in the animated version, which was especially obvious in his last song. This Gaston's danger is much subtler, as if it was hiding inside him until the moment when he asks the mirror to show him the castle. Minutes before, he had threatened Le Fou with sending him to prison too if he didn't do as he said. The result is that the song is not as powerful out of context, but works well in the film because you could see the development that leads to the end. I hadn't expected to like Gaston so much. What I had enjoyed so much about the 1991 version had always been his voice, but I had never understood what the women in the village liked so much about him. This aspect is much more believable in this film. He is very handsome and wears nice clothes that are clean and ironed.

Photo: Promotional poster (Disney)

Also, for someone who needed his sidekick to bribe people to be liked, he was very good at convincing everybody to follow him to kill the Beast and it was hinted in this song that he could be very dangerous beneath the good looks. I can definitely imagine him leading a small regiment into battle and lifting people's spirits. He must have done something good in the past for Le Fou to be so loyal until pretty much the very end of the film. Unfortunately, Gaston's hidden beast is not so clear in the Spanish version of the film, as the new lines of the song have been replaced with the old ones in the translation. It looks so well in the song, that you don't notice that something has been changed if you haven't watched the film in English.

What I would really like to see now is a film about Gaston's life. Like Disney did with Maleficent, but about Beauty and the Beast's antagonist.