Roundup: Stormlord Rising and Rage of Bahamut: Genesis

Dragon Age: Inquisition is coming out tomorrow, and I’d like to keep my evenings open to give me some time to play it. So the week’s post is going up today.

Stormlord Rising

Borrowed from glendalarke.com

Genre: Dark Fantasy

Synopsis: With cities lost to the Reduners, our protagonists have to find a way to turn the tide of battle around. Some are enslaved after the fall of their city. Some are free(ish), and determined to defeat the Reduner forces.

Jasper is a Cloudmaster, but there are things he can’t do. He needs to find a way to work despite his limitations, or people will die without water. Terelle has powers few understand, and is trapped by those same powers. She has to find a way to fight her destiny so that she might join a battle that desperately needs her.

Series: Second in a trilogy. (This one does wrap up in a nice ending–odd, that the first book had the cliffhanger and the second was a nice concrete stopping point–it’s usually the opposite with trilogies.)

POV: Third person multiple

Romance: As subplots, yes.

Verdict: Good

Preview: Here.

Oh dear. This book is even less fluffy than the first one, which I talked about here a few months back.

It deals with a difficult topic with more nuance than is typical. Maybe with more nuance than I’m personally ready for. Glenda Larke has guts to go into this territory, that’s for sure.

This book deals with the aftermath of a huge, decisive battle, and the lead-up towards the next one. Since the victors of the previous battle are nomadic, patriarchal warrior types who enslave enemy survivors…

There’s nothing graphic–that’s not what this story is about. It’s about emotions. It’s about how being indoctrinated to a certain type of mentality leads to brutality. It’s about how important it is to have been taught better. It’s even about showing that horrific acts are committed by people, rather than cardboard cut-out villains.

This doesn’t always make for a comfortable read, and it’s not trying to. But it does prompt thought about the kind of issues that we should think about, but often don’t. Because they’re hard to think about.

On the less uncomfortable side, there’s Shale–Jasper now–struggling to carve out some autonomy despite being chained by his responsibilities. And he’s doing surprisingly well. It’s gratifying to watch him succeed, and finally outsmart the people playing with his life in the first book. I suppose it’s a little sad what he has to lose in order to step up to his position. But I did enjoy the creativity he and Terelle employed in figuring out how to hinder and debilitate a superior fighting force. Jasper still feels like the main character of the story, by the way, despite sharing the field with other protagonists.

Terelle has to compromise her morals as much as Jasper to save their people, but she has a harder time with it. Not that Jasper doesn’t have a hard time with it, but necessity gets through to him more quickly than it does to Terelle. He realizes that it has to happen and regrets it, while she has to be pushed into acknowledging the necessity of it, first.

You know how in some stories, you wonder why the protagonists never used a particular power to just kill the bad guy? There’s a nice twist on that here–there was a moment in the first book when she could have killed one of the book’s big bads easily, and was ultimately unable to do it. And that turned out to be a good thing, because said bad guy was needed later. It makes it way nicer not to have to spend the whole story being like, this whole thing could have been avoided. Because, no, it couldn’t have.

This book is heavy on the emotions. The characters have to fight the fates laid out for them, do things they wish they didn’t have to do, and take on responsibilities they never asked for. They fight enemies stronger or more experienced than they are. And it’s a very personal journey for them, to do all these things.

Rage of Bahamut: Genesis

Borrowed from huluim.com

Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis: Favaro is a bounty hunter who makes the mistake of boasting about knowledge that he doesn’t have, and is unfortunate enough that a demon who wants that knowledge overhears him. The demon curses him with a tail as incentive to help her, and now Favaro is forced on an involuntary quest.

Series: Season 1

I’ve Watched: Episode 1

Verdict: Meh

The show starts off with a battle in which I have no idea what is going on. I guess it shows off the nice animation?

But the real fun starts shortly after, when our protagonist is involved in a horse chase. And those are some magic horses, since they run over slanted rooftops as easily as they would on an actual road. That was pretty much the only scene I enjoyed, and everything else failed to grab my attention, at least in a positive way.

Our main protagonist is Favaro, and I kinda hate him. I think he’s supposed to be a likable rogue, but there’s nothing likable in the way he treats people. Other than that, not enough material to get a real impression of the show yet. But I’m already put off, and I honestly can’t work up the energy to force myself to watch another episode. I’m out.

Posted in Media | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

TTT: Top Ten Characters You Wish Would Get Their OWN Book

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is, “Top Ten Characters You Wish Would Get Their OWN Book (minor or just maybe a semi main character you wish a book was from their POV)”.

I actually did not manage to come up with a lot of books where I wanted more of non-main characters. But here’s what I did manage.

Borrowed from ilona-andrews.com

Kate Daniels series (urban fantasy): Kate Daniels is a mercenary in a world where magic and technology come in waves, and when one of them is dominant, the other isn’t working. Kate lives in Atlanta, and the series follows her as she becomes embroiled in the problems of the shapeshifters, necromancers, and the magical police.

Derek, the werewolf who’s gone from being an adolescent to a young man through the course of the series, and a steadfast ally of Kate’s. He’s been through a lot, what with being scarred and all. Getting a book from his perspective would be amazing because he doesn’t tend to say most of what he thinks.

Desandra, the new werewolf alpha with a penchant for inappropriate comments. I did not like her when she was first introduced, which is understandable, given that she was not exactly at her best. Now free from the machinations of her abusive father and less than ideal ex-husbands, she can finally shine in her own right, without having to hide her competence. It’s a drastic change and she’s owning it, moving up in the ranks of the pack while raising two infants.

Borrowed from tamorapierce.com

Provost’s Dog trilogy (YA fantasy): Beka Cooper comes from a poor family in the Lower City that got lucky–the Lord Provast of the city’s guardsmen took them in. Since then, Beka has been in training to be a guardswoman, or Dog.

As much as I love Beka and would never trade more books from her point of view for anything, there are a lot of pretty cool characters in these books.

Rosto, Aniki, and Kora. They’re essentially unofficially ruling the lower city now, in a quasi-illegal way. Thy aren’t Lawful the way Beka is, but they do have their own sense of morality, and have helped deal with anything from serial killers to interfering with abuse that Beka could not legally do anything about.

Other stories I wouldn’t mind seeing from this world include Goodwin and Matthias’ early days as dogs/enforcers in the lower city, though that might also hurt, knowing what I know. And the knight Sabine’s future adventures after the last Beka book.

Borrowed from seananmcguire.com

October Daye series (urban fantasy): October (or Toby) Daye is a half-fae living in San Francisco. She’s a detective, and frequently gets tangled up in solving fae problems. Especially when missing children are involved.

The Luidaeg, the sea witch, and a powerful fae with restrictions on her actions. But those restrictions, which make her less suitable to being a protagonist due to the limitations they put on her actions, couldn’t have always been in place. And she’s got centuries of history to draw on. Present day, she’s snarky and jaded, with a terrifying reputation. What was she like before she’d lost so much?

Quentin and Raj, Toby’s squires. They’re best friends and teenagers primed to one day be influential in fae politics. It might be fun to watch them become those people, and try to maintain their friendship against inevitable pressure from social norms. It might have to be a different type of story than the usual in this series, but it could be interesting.

Rayseline Torquill, a young fae who’d been kidnapped and imprisoned during her formative years. She would likely be an anti-hero, and have a redemption arc if she were ever to have her own story. Which is definitely an if. But it’s possible. She was a teenager who’d done some pretty bad things after a tortuous childhood, and after she hadn’t gotten the support she needed to recover from her experiences. One of her disadvantages has been taken away, and who she’ll be in the future remains to be seen.

Borrowed from girlgeniusonline.com

Girl Genius (steampunk/gaslamp fantasy): Mad scientists rule the world, and the legacy of one family in particular threatens to tear it apart as a lost heir moves to claim that legacy.

There are so many amazing side characters in Girl Genius. I want to pick all of them. But here are some highlights.

Moloch von Zinzer, a mechanic who somehow manages to survive the craziest situations. He’s finally become resigned to his new role as a snarky minion for mad scientists.

Da Boyz, three Jägermonsters, unusually independent for their kind, but just as cheerfully violent.

Zola, a professional damsel in distress, master of the art of pretending to be an idiot, who only wants you to think she’s completely incompetent. So that you underestimate her while she goes about being a spy/ninja/whatever.

Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer, a hero(?) dedicated to protecting the world from mad scientists (despite technically being one himself), he’s sure he’s the hero of this story. Even if he gets his own story to be the hero of, I foresee him misinterpreting everything.

Violetta, a reluctant spy/ninja who says she’s worse at her job than she actually is. And likes pretty dresses, though she hasn’t gotten to wear one yet, what with all the enemies to fight.

Ardsley Wooster, a secret agent just a tad out of depth, now that he’s surrounded by evil geniuses…But when he’s in his element, we get brief windows on a completely different story.

That’s all I got, and weirdly enough, it was easier to come up with multiple characters for one work than multiple works. Not including TV shows/movies this go around, but if anyone can think of side characters from other media which could really work their own story, let me know!

Posted in Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Title Change: Bardic Impulses

When I first started this blog–okay, full confession. I started this blog as a project for a digital media class, my last semester as an undergrad.

However, the point of the project was to create a blog that we would continue to use, and I knew in the back of my head I would have to start blogging sometime if I was going to eventually distribute the work I was writing. So I originally conceived of my blog as an author blog, only to find two years down the line, that I’m very comfortable with it being a genre fiction review blog. (And occasional science-in-media critique blog.)

I haven’t yet published my original work in any form, and though I will eventually, I have no idea when “eventually” is going to be. In the meantime, I’m totally happy having a space where I can talk about my likes and dislikes in genre fiction, or point out cool stuff I’ve come across, or rant about the portrayal of science on TV. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

The title “Marie Erving” has served its purpose–it got me used to the pen name, and it got me thinking of the name kind of like a brand. But it’s always felt a little weird to me as a title, and I think I’ll be much happier renaming the blog into something less arrogant-sounding.

The URL will remain the same and I have absolutely no intention of changing it–hopefully that won’t be too confusing.

So without further ado, “Bardic Impulses” is on.

Posted in Writing/Publishing Perspective | Tagged | Leave a comment

Fall 2014 TV: Constantine, Garo, and Legend of Korra

This Fall 2014 TV thing is getting a little exhausting, but I persevere.

Constantine

Borrowed from comicbook.com

Genre: Supernatural/Horror

Synopsis: John Constantine is an exorcist, who’s tried to leave the game after a demon attack went horribly, horribly wrong. But something big is coming, and he doesn’t have the luxury of sitting it out.

Series: Season 1

I’ve Watched: Eps 1-2

Verdict: Promising (?)

I think it might take a few more episodes to really get a feel for the show, but so far, not bad. Hopefully, it isn’t going to settle into a too-procedural routine.

Borrowed from blastr.com

It’s refreshing to get a world-weary antihero whose past mistakes haunt him instead of an idealist somewhere in this TV season. Constantine is the character we see the most of at this point, and there are some interesting faucets to his personality. He has this sardonic humor that he pulls out in serious situations, not to be a jerk (though he can totally be jerk when he feels like it), but because he’s just so jaded from everything he’s seen. He wants to care less than he does. And unlike at least one of his allies, he cares more about giving others a choice than he does about how useful they might be to him.

Although, let’s be honest. A whole bunch of bystanders died during Constantine’s attempts to save one woman. That’s a lot of collateral damage.

As for Constantine’s companions, Chas has the potential to be interesting, but has yet to have his character explored (or even established). Ritchie had an intriguing start, with a very disillusioned outlook on exorcism in general and Constantine in particular–I definitely want to see more of him. But the most extensively explored companions so far are Liv and Zed. Liv is a newcomer to this supernatural thing, and very much what I’d expect from an everyday person type of character. Zed is…not.

Borrowed from hypable.com

Actually, Zed is kinda creepy, as a consequence of her magic. A more light-hearted show would have trouble pulling her off. Here, she’s discomforting and just a bit endearing all in one. Because of her visions and the inexplicable feelings they induce in her, she’s both an otherworldly, unpredictable presence whose power changes how she experiences reality, and a resourceful woman who’s nonetheless innocent to the demonic world Constantine moves in. She doesn’t quite fit in the normal world, and she doesn’t quite fit in Constantine’s demon-hunting world (yet). But she can hold her own against John, which is really impressive for someone who’s new to the dark arts business.

In short, I want to like her. She fits into the story in a fairly unique way. But yes, she does still totally creep me out.

As an addendum, an issue I take with one quote from episode 2: “There’s nothing blacker than gypsy magic.” –well, that’s kinda racist. If the show was going to create a type of magic which is inherently bad, it certainly didn’t have to be associated with an ethnicity.

Garo: Honoo no Kokuin

Borrowed from blogspot.com

Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis: Makai priests and knights are tasked with defeating horros (demons) and possessed humans–but they’re hunted by the rest of humanity, in a witch hunt driven by the machinations of the king’s advisor. Now, a boy whose mother was killed in the witch hunts fifteen years ago, his knight father, a usurped prince of the land, and a priestess with a hidden agenda will cross paths to save the country.

Series: First season

I’ve Watched: 4 episodes.

Verdict: Good.

Borrowed from wordpress.com

I love good fantasy, and this might just be it for this season.

Some spoilers for the first two episodes.

Garo starts of with a witch burning. The witch in question is pregnant, and magically manages to give birth to the child in way that destroys herself but protects the baby from the flames (none of the other characters get it, either). And then a mysterious knight in a magical metal suit launches an epic rescue of the baby. It’s a good scene, immediately grabbing the audience’s attention, though I do wonder why exactly the woman couldn’t have been saved (other than Because Plot).

Borrowed from movieanime.com

I’m impressed so far. In episode 2, the main female character came into play when the show revealed she’d been captured by the inquisition and our main guys were off to rescue her (which did get an instinctive ugh reaction from me, yes). But then we actually see the character, and she’s…oddly confident for someone who’s tied to a chair in a torture chamber and has clear bruises on her face from being hit. And we find as our heroes bust in to rescue her that she could have escaped at any moment, and was there for information (like Black Widow in the Avengers movie, but with less interrogation skills).

Thankfully, when our heroes bust in to rescue her, she doesn’t ridicule or attack them for it–because obviously, they had no way of knowing she wasn’t actually in danger. Instead, she thanks them, but lets them know it was unnecessary. It’s one sentence, but I am just so happy that line was in there. Everything about this character’s intro is perfect. I was waiting on pins and needles for it to be fumbled somewhere, and it never was. This character–Emma–doesn’t come off as incompetent or hyper-competent or ungrateful or irrational. This is how a confident character with nothing to prove to anyone should react to an unwanted rescue.

As the fight with the horror commences, it becomes clear that Leon joining in on this battle is actually a hindrance. He has unresolved issues that make him unreliable in a fight, and Emma finally manages to finish off the enemy only when his dad physically removes him from the fight (so he can’t hit her with the area of effect attacks he throws at the enemy). These three characters all have strengths and weaknesses that have the potential to compliment each other–but as of now, they grate with each other. They’re all very different people.

And I’m interested in seeing how the dynamic shifts when we add in the kindhearted exile prince, sometime in the future. Leon is a serious, frustrated character with a chip on his shoulder. His dad is irresponsible and barely takes anything seriously. And Emma has a generally sarcastic demeanor. A gentle character might round out the group nicely.

Also of interest–German’s irresponsibility manifests itself in a few ways, one of which is abandoning his son to go sleep with prostitutes. The show ties in his promiscuity with his irresponsibility and portrays this as a negative aspect of his character. He isn’t even remotely ashamed of himself, but he’s called on his behavior (especially by his ever-abandoned son). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a portrayal of promiscuity like this in media before, for any gender. It seems to be uniquely suited to his character’s particular situation, rather than a broad idea of how people should behave.

So ultimately, a very promising show, that isn’t afraid of being a little more nuanced in the portrayal of its characters than I tend to expect.

Legend of Korra

Borrowed from hallels.com

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk

Synopsis: Korra is the Avatar, tasked with bringing balance to the world. She’s a little battered and bruised from her past adventures, still recovering both physically and emotionally. But the world needs her as a new dictator is rising in the Earth Kingdom–one who is a former ally.

Series: Season 4

I’ve Watched: Eps 1-5

Verdict: Great

Oh, wow, what an opening!

Last season’s adventure took Korra out of the action for three years, and life has moved on while she wasn’t capable of doing anything. The Air nation has been trying to fill her role, but there’s too much to do, especially with the chaos in the Earth kingdom. Bandits galore, and an awesome villain with a history with our protagonists.

Borrowed from edgecastcdn.net

Kuvira has a strong army and is using some less then reputable tactics to get it–and she’s trying to reunify the Earth kingdom by offering security against serious bandit problems in exchange for the independence and natural resources of these regions. Now, on the surface, a lot of this is pretty standard national protection stuff. The citizens of Kuvira’s territory get her protection, and those who aren’t citizens don’t. Outright refusing aid to nearby territories in desperate need of it when she clearly has the resources to do it is a pretty jerk-ish move, especially by modern standards, though even that is not too far removed from political reality in real life.

But of course, she’s obviously in it for power, and commits questionable actions behind the scenes to get it. This puts her in a murky dark grey area of characterization, and the fact that she has so much history with many of our protagonists–and has even recruited one of our protagonists–makes this a very interesting set up.

So tons of potential for conflict here, which is awesome.

Borrowed from overtice.com

In parallel to Kuvira’s rise and the lives Korra’s friends have been living while she’s been unwell, is Korra’s own story. She’s been through a lot, so she’s not quite up to speed yet–and it’s kind of awesome that Korra’s journey of self-discovery happens so late in her story. She has her sense of self beaten down for three seasons before she needs to find a way to go on. Normally, this kind of thing would happen before the big fights, but for Korra, getting into the big fights was just something that happened. Her impulses drove her there. It’s after she’s been hurt repeatedly that she finds it hard to get back up again, and that’s when she needs most to grow and change. So I found the switch around interesting.

So far, Korra’s problems and Kuvira’s ascension have been separate storylines. Kuvira was a problem for those who are out in the world dealing with her, and Korra’s focus has been on recovering. But now that Korra’s going to get back into the action, we’re about to see where this goes. I have a lot of trust for this writing team, so I’m sure it’s going to be amazing.

Posted in Media | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fall 2014 TV: Flash

Genre: Superhero

Synopsis: A forensic scientist gets superpowers (speed), and uses them to combat supervillains. Meanwhile, the case of his mother’s murder in his past continues to haunt him.

Series: Season 1

I’ve Watched: Episodes 1-2

Verdict: Okay/Decent

Borrowed from docbrowntv.com

Some spoilers for the first two episodes. 

The first half of the pilot is really bad, and the second half is much better. How on earth this kind of dichotomy is possible in a single episode, I don’t know.

The beginning of this show wants Barry to simultaneously be the admirable guy everyone wants to be, strong and heroic, and the everyday normal guy, stereotypically nerdy and downtrodden. Barry is supposed to be both the audience stand-in and power fantasy at the same time. For obvious reasons, this doesn’t work.

In the opening, Barry as a little kid got beat up by bullies for sticking up for those others the bullies were picking on, “just cause they thought they weren’t cool”.  This is a cheap shot. It’s instantly trying to set up Barry as a victim and a hero for maximum sympathy and admiration, and it undercuts the real difficulties and emotions involved with sticking up for people–Barry doesn’t express any doubts, or fears, or even real anger. He just sits there all angelic-like. Putting yourself in danger to protect someone else is hard, and this show is presenting it as easy. They do better with this same theme later on, but this first scene drove me crazy.

That’s the one example, but I don’t have the energy to go into every little problem with the show’s beginning. Suffice to say, if I had made a drinking game out of every stereotype that appeared in the first half of this episode, I would be dead.

It got better after Barry got his powers. A lot better. There were a bunch of plot holes, but I can live with that. And Harrison Wells’ speech to Barry, about how trying to play hero is actually the selfish thing to do, was actually quite good. That entire scene was miles ahead of anything in the first half of the same episode. What happened? (Of course, the other guy’s pep talk in this episode kinda sucked, so it’s not all roses.)

By episode two, Barry’s flashbacks are portraying a much more realistic little boy than they did in the previous episode. And now that adult Barry’s not being pegged into either an angelic or nerdy stereotype and is being allowed to be an actual character, the show’s way more interesting. He’s doing normal things now, like hurting his father figure and disregarding good advice. It’s the flaws that make characters relatable, and that works as much for the selfless, compassionate characters as it does for the anti-heroes.

Borrowed from eonline.com

So it’s a decent show now, but still with issues. People change their stances at the drop of a hat. It’s making it hard to remember what everyone’s motivations are, because they keep saying contradictory things. Wells wants Barry to stay safe because he could be the key to developing new medical therapies, then he’s okay with Barry fighting meta-humans, then he wants Barry to take it easy until he learns his limits, then he wants Barry to push himself beyond his new-found limits. What do you want, dude?

Some of the character work makes sense, but some doesn’t. And some of the arguments that people make are good arguments, and some are pretty bad arguments. And both kinds are treated similarly by the show and it’s characters. Seriously, there is some crazy non-logic going on here.

For example, in episode two, the villain can make clones of himself that he mind controls. The strategy is to figure out who the real one is and take him down. And then people are suddenly arguing that Barry’s the only one who can handle this villain–how does super speed make him more likely to identify the real one and take him out? It doesn’t matter who IDs the guy, and the cops are fully capable of shooting him. Or just shooting down all of the clones, because the real one’s somewhere in the mix (presumably–but even if he wasn’t, Barry still wouldn’t be better for the job than an actual detective).

These clones are not super strong or super skilled or invincible. One good sniper might be able to end the whole thing, if the original is identified. What I’m saying is, there’s no reason Barry would be more qualified to do any of this than the cops. And yet this is portrayed as a strong, definitive argument by the show.

Stop making things up that don’t make sense and pretending that they do, show. Stop it.

Borrowed from cwtv.com

Still, Flash has that undefinable something that makes the show better than the sum of its parts. Even as I criticize it and get frustrated, I’m not tempted to drop it in the middle of an episode (anymore–the first half of the pilot was really, really bad). And anytime Joe gets all paternally happy and when the teamwork is on a roll, it tugs on my emotions. Barry’s fairly charismatic. And Caitlin is starting to stand out for me as well.

So I’ll keep watching for now, though it is up against stiff competition–I’ve got to drop some shows this season, because right now there’s something like twelve potential shows on my list. Even with half of them having shorter episodes, I don’t have time for all of them.

Favorite quotes:

“I have been wrong a lot this week. You’re going to have to be more specific.”

Posted in Media | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fall 2014 TV: Morganville and Psycho-Pass

Note: I was going to include my thoughts on Flash here, but they’re too long. I’ll give that show it’s own post sometime later this week.

Morganville: The Series

Genre: Supernatural/Urban fantasy

Synopsis: Based on the young adult urban fantasy book Glass Houses, the story follows college freshman Claire, who inadvertently chooses a university in a vampire town–the vampire town. Like every other out-of-towner, she’s blissfully unaware of the existence of vampires. Until she gets targeted by a local mean girl with a vampire protector and moves in with a group of humans staying out of the vampire sphere.

Or at least, that’s what Claire thinks the plot is. She seems to be the only one with that opinion.

Series: Season 1

I’ve Watched: Episodes 1-3

Verdict: Promising

Borrowed from tumblr.com

Urban fantasy author Rachel Caine’s YA series, Morganville Vampires, is being adapted into a web series by Geek and Sundry. I’m pretty sure this is some kind of milestone in media. A bestselling book series is going to be a web series. And Geek and Sundry has pulled off well-produced sci-fi/fantasy before.

So yeah, definitely surprised to hear this is happening because it’s kind of unprecedented, but it makes sense to give this to Geek and Sundry and I’m excited for it. Also, Amber Benson (from Buffy) is in it. She’s amazing. So now not only do I see awesome geek casting in Whedon projects, but also on Geek and Sundry.

Claire works well as a protagonist. She’s got a lot of personality, and the narrative makes it clear when her gestures are futile. There’s an underlying humor that still manages to respect the gravity of the situation. Not having read the books, I don’t know the story and I’m intrigued to find out what’s going on.

I have no idea what the release schedule is, but the first two episodes went up yesterday and the third one went up today. So I’m guessing we’ll get episodes pretty often.

Psycho-Pass

Borrowed from livedoor.blogimg.jp

Genre: Dystopia/Sci-fi/Seinen

Synopsis: Everyone’s psychological state is constantly monitored, to catch the potential for violence before it happens. Unhealthy psychological profiles are met with therapy, incarceration, or execution depending on the circumstances.

Last season, we got to know the world, how it affected people, and what the system really meant. We saw several perspectives on how to handle the situation, short-term and long-term. We saw where the system failed.

This season, Akane knows the truth of the Sybil system, which monitors everyone’s psycho-pass. She’s the only one who does. And a new enemy is emerging, one who’s threatening to collapse the entire system society has developed to prevent violent crime, all at once.

Series: Season 2.

I’ve Watched: 3 episodes

Verdict: Absolutely amazing.

Borrowed from tumblr.com

I love this show so much. How is it so amazing?

The beginning of season two parallels the beginning of season one nicely. Inspector Akame is still focused on saving people, understanding them, and giving them a chance to recover. She has come a long way as a character, from the unsure rookie to the experienced cop, but this core aspect of her personality remains unchanged. She’s interested in helping people instead of punishing them. And it’s a beautiful theme to open up to.

It’s also nice to see Ginoza and Akame getting along so well. In the first season, Ginoza was struggling with his own psycho-pass, but now that what he’s been afraid of has happened, he’s much more at peace–ironic, since legally, he’s considered a darker personality. It’s really nice to get to see who he is now that he’s settled into his life and accepted it. I love his character development from his introduction in season one to here.

And of course, there’s already a nice set-up for friction within the team. Akame is a very unusual Inspector, following her own sense of right and wrong before trusting in the Sybil system–she’s doing a great job of that, obviously, but it’s a very radical approach.

Her junior Inspector (Mika) is already set-up as disagreeing with her. Maybe she isn’t handling it in the most tactful way when addressing her superior, so she’s pretty lucky Akane doesn’t have anything to prove. Still, we’ll see how this goes–Mika was a minor character last season who went through a lot, so it’s not like she doesn’t have a reason to have strong opinions. I can even buy that her otherwise sheltered background and youth means she doesn’t know how to express those opinions appropriately.

Borrowed from animenauts.com

Another parallel to season one–two new team members are coming along on an overly dangerous mission for newbies, much like Akame’s first mission way back when. This time there are two new Enforcers. They seem promising. One is nervous and uncertain, a not particularly stereotypical attitude for an Enforcer. The other has an interesting philosophy, with how he joined Akane in trying to talk down a criminal. What we’re told about him by the Sybil system doesn’t quite mesh with how he comes off as a character–not that this isn’t a major point the show has a tendency to explore, or anything.

And of course, we’re all waiting with bated breath for Kogami to come back. The show is putting together some extraordinary circumstances, which seems like good first step towards paving the way for his return.

I’m so happy this is getting another season. It is an absolutely fantastic show.

Posted in Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2

Borrowed from thequantumcretin.files.wordpress.com

Dragon Age: Inquisition, part of one of my favorite series of games, is coming out next month. This is part of a character-heavy fantasy series of Western RPGs that let you create your own character, assemble a party of unique companions, then take on the world in a way uniquely suited to the personality of your character.

In anticipation of the latest addition to the series, I want to talk about the first two games–Dragon Age: Origins (DA:O) and Dragon Age 2 (DA2).

It should be noted that a lot of Bioware fans love the first game, while reactions for the second one are much more divided. Personally, I love both of them. Having both DA:O and DA2 exist storywise–two very different games–makes for a richer experience, since they complement each other well. I’m not sure what exactly made so many fans of DA:O hate DA2 so bad… It was rushed out of production, and yes, that showed. Nonetheless, the core of the story was plenty interesting.

As such, I’ve decided to put together a comparison of the two games–in some cases these are pros and cons, in others, they’re just differences.

Borrowed from pbs.twimg.com

Dragon Age: Origins Dragon Age 2
Plot Traditional quest fantasy–the playable character goes on a journey to defeat an evil villain and save the land from destruction.Pro: Has playable origin stories. I love that each origin gives you a different perspective on the action in the game–you have familiarity with different characters depending on what origin story you play. In once case, two of the origin stories each predispose you to take different sides in a conflict later in the game. Hero gets caught up in the events of a city that’s going through serious social and political turmoil. Things progress from tense to calamitous, and you’re along for the ride whether you like it or not.Pro: Has a cool story-within-a-story element. We’re hearing one of the characters retell the story under duress while playing through the action. It’s a nice way to use foreshadowing and add a sense of weight to the story. And also to introduce a character from the next game.
Character Companions are okay, interesting during the game, but they don’t stand out the way DA2’s character’s do.The villain/hero story is black and white, though there can be grey morality in how some decisions are handled. Pro: Companions are memorable and unique and quirky. I love all of them, except for the one I hate with a fiery passion–but they all elicit stronger emotions from me than the ones in the previous game. They’re more interesting, and less typical.Pro: A lot more grey morality with respect to the villains.
Choices Offers a wider array of choices and more varied endings.Your choices are far-reaching and powerful, but that also means you don’t feel what it’s like to have things happen out outside of your control as much. For some people, this is a huge plus in a game–being able to control not just the main character, but also how multiple aspects in the story play out. Has choices, but is more linear than the first game. Plenty of micro-decisions on how to play through the story.Less choice, and not all conflicts can be resolved, which means you won’t necessarily get the satisfaction of having a “good ending” for all of your quests. Your decisions aren’t necessarily more important than those of other influential characters.
Combat Have control of all four party members, can strategize party moves or play as a single character. Same, except easier to play with a single character.Con: More enemies pop out of thin air in the middle of battle–it’s a little annoying.
General A longer game.More varied environments.

No voice acting for the player character. More control of the dialogue options. I initially preferred this, but the dialogue wheel from DA2 grew on me with time, so I see the value of both.

Character customization is more extensive.

No continuity issues, because it’s the first game.

 A shorter game.Con: More limited environments, with some repeated areas due to rushed production.

Voice acting for the player character. This adds more personality to the character, while limiting control of the dialogue.

Your character’s customized appearance affects how your relatives look. Not just skin color, but a bit of facial structure, too.

Con: Some continuity issues with importing decisions from the first game.

Borrowed from gameinformer.com

Again, I loved both. Now, a few comments about the upcoming game, Dragon Age: Inquisition.

I’m definitely disappointed that we get 6 male companions and only 3 female companions. Yeah, yeah, I get that the flip-side of that is female playable characters have two more romance options than male playable characters, which is kind of unprecedented–but I’d personally rather have a more gender balanced party. To finish, a few impressions on the upcoming game, Dragon Age: Inquisition.

On a positive note, DA:I has two straight, two bisexual, and two gay romance-able party members. I was totally fine with every romance-able character being bisexual, because that would probably be the easiest way to create romances in the video game medium. But what’s nice about this decision is that it focuses not as much on what makes game creation easier, but on characterization. Seriously, characterization taking precedence is awesome.

I love this series and I’m excited for the latest game.

Borrowed from neoseeker.com

 

Posted in Media | Tagged , , , ,