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

 

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The start of the Fall 2014 TV season: Gotham, SHIELD, How To Get Away With Murder, and Fate/stay night

Gotham

Borrowed from hallels.com

Genre: Superhero

Synopsis: This show will follow the early days of Detective James Gordon, and little Bruce Wayne, in addition to addressing origin stories for Batman villains.

Series: Season 1

I’ve Watched: First 2 eps

Verdict: Not promising

The show is a bit overdramatic, barely holding onto its story, and even a little dull. That’s partly because of the sheer volume of fanservice–there were what, five/six notable characters from the comics in the pilot alone? And that’s excluding the ones in the police department. In short, way too many names were being dropped, and it seriously messed with my suspension of disbelief.

It’s also because the story isn’t particularly grounded. This doesn’t feel like what a story of a cop reforming an organization from the inside would be like. It’s like the storybook version of what someone might dream reforming an organization would be like. Which is weird, because stories set in Gotham shouldn’t feel so sanitized and floundering.

Borrowed from pmctvline2.files.wordpress.com

The only characters who really stood out were Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen (the Major Crimes Unit duo), and they’re not even main cast. If the show was about these two, I’d have a lot more hope. They already have a lot more personality than James Gordon, the cop who magically manages to navigate his way through a corrupt department without getting his hand dirty or compromising his principles (or compromising at all, ever). Maybe Gordon would be more palatable if the show didn’t try to present him as so perfect and right–even Alfred is turning to him for help in raising future Batman. Give the man some flaws, already!

Also, Selina following Bruce around is seriously creepy. Stop stalking the boy, it’s not cool.

The ending of the pilot was a bit better, but it also made no sense. [Spoilers for the pilot:] Gordon should not have been given the opportunity to pull a fast one and spare Penguin. Not from a logical perspective, and not from a story perspective. It would have been immediately more interesting if Gordon really did have to do something against his morality, just to keep his family safe. It would have lent a lot more power to his motivation for reforming the department, and given him some complexity.

And it makes no sense for Penguin to immediately become a mass murderer and try to return to Gotham . I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to create a wonderful story from the main character sparing a villain and inadvertently allowing them to kill and destroy others–Naoki Urasawa’s Monster did just that, and it was brilliant (and Guillermo del Toro is presently trying to turn it into an HBO series)–but I’m calling it now. Gotham doesn’t have the chops to pull it off. It’s no Monster [/Spoiler]. This is a big, complex premise for a story that will never reach it’s full potential in a show so determined to have its main protagonist always do the right thing.

Borrowed from imgur.com. This is how it’s done, Gotham.

Prove me wrong, Gotham. Please.

So yeah, it could become okay, but it’s kinda boring now, and I really wish Montoya and Allen were the main characters instead of Gordon. It is impressive that they included a lesbian and a bisexual (potentially) in the cast. And the acting is great. But the show isn’t doing that any justice yet, and it has every hallmark of something that isn’t going to get better. I’m really not sure I’m going to keep watching this.

SHIELD

Borrowed from pmcvariety.files.wordpress.com

Genre: Action/Superhero

Synopsis: In the first season, our protagonists were one team in a huge organization, until [huge spoiler for season 1 that everyone probably already knows about]. Now SHIELD is in pieces, and it’s up to Coulson and his team to rebuild it (despite their illegal status as an organization).

Series: Season 2

I’ve Watched: First 2 eps

Verdict: Good

Strong pilot, consequences from last season being carried over, and new sacrifices being made. One new character is from the Whedonverse, and it’s great seeing the actor in this role.

The second season is diving right into the interesting stuff, beating up their characters and putting them in bad positions. A way better start than last season (no surprise). We’ve got new characters, and there’s interesting tidbits about their personalities which are already showing. Actually, tidbits about characters we haven’t even met are showing–newcomer Hunter is talking up his ex-wife so much, I’m actually starting to be really interested in meeting the character.

In other news, Skye seems to be copying May’s fashion sense, down to wearing ridiculously impractical shoes on missions.

How To Get Away With Murder

Borrowed from b-sidemg.com

Genre: Mystery/Drama

Synopsis: A defense attorney teaching at a law school finds herself and her students involved in a murder.

Series: Season 1

I’ve Watched: First ep

Verdict: Good

This story grabbed me immediately, which I wasn’t expecting. It was a fast-paced, engaging, fluid pilot with a strong focus on characterization. Characters are hugely important, and establishing complex, flawed characters in the pilot episode is really hard to do. I can’t remember the last time a pilot episode was this good.

Suspension of disbelief obviously required (I didn’t know students could just walk into their professors’ houses at any time of night–and for some reason the professor apologized to him for it). And I’m no legal expert, so I could be wrong, but I didn’t know new evidence could just be admitted in the middle of a court session. Don’t both the defense and prosecution have to know about all the evidence ahead of time? It’s like a Phoenix Wright game–well, okay, maybe it’s not that silly.

Here’s an article by someone who knows way more about law school and the legal system than I ever will, on the portrayal in How to Get Away with Murder.

Additionally (and obviously), it’s great to see a lot of diversity in such a promising show.

So in conclusion, this was the best pilot episode I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ll definitely continue with the show for now, despite its sad lack of fantasy/sci-fi elements. Just don’t think of it as a legal primer, or anything like that.

Fate/stay night

Borrowed from madman.co.nz

Genre: Supernatural/fantasy

Synopsis: High school student Rin has been preparing to fight in the Holy Grail War, a recurring fight-to-the-death between powerful magicians (usually from legacy families) and the spirits of historical/mythological figures. The winner gets a wish, any wish, fullfilled.

Rin is from a legacy family, having lost her father in the last Holy Grail War. This time, she’s determined her family will win.

Series: Technically this is the first season of one series. There are non-required associated series, since this is a franchise born from a visual novel (that I haven’t read and never will, considering the…troublesome things I’ve heard about it).

I’ve Watched: Episode 0. Yes, there’s an episode 0.

Verdict: Promising

The first half of the prologue episode is a little slow, starting with the biggest opening scene cliche ever–the main character yelling at an alarm clock. The intro school scene was interesting, but that might have been because I knew that these characters were going to be important later. There was too much exposition, and it was hard to peg Rin’s personality and interpersonal relationships–something just a little off.

Then the second half of the episode happened. The story picked up, and Rin really grew on me.

With the intro cameos from characters that will be important later on, and the establishment of the status quo for this world, all out of the way, the story gets to happen. Rin makes a serious change in her life, and her focus shifts from the mundane to the magical. This opens the door for progressively more magical concerns to rear their heads. And that’s what we want to see.

Rin’s mistakes are understandable for someone of her age, mostly. It’s nice to see both her strengths and her flaws, and how they both stem from the same aspect of her character. She’s prideful and gifted, but still relatively inexperienced. Her impulsiveness works both against her and for her. Both the dumbest and the best thing she did in the episode stemmed from jumping in and following her feelings.

I only know the very basics of the story, having never seen any adaptation of this work before or read the visual novels–though I did see the (absolutely fantastic) prequel Fate/zero. This means I have no idea where the story is going. But it definitely has potential, and I’ll be back for episode 1.

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Review Roundup: Thorn and Mind Games

Borrowed from booksbyintisar.com

Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Genre: YA Fairy Tale retelling

Synopsis: A retelling of the Goose Girl. Princess Alyrra grows up in a cruel household, until she is sent away to marry a foreign prince. However, an attack from without and betrayal from within robs her of her position, leaving an impostor in her place. Alyrra instead ends up as a goose girl, living a different kind of life. She even finds a degree of contentment. But her old life still has ties to hold her down, and the prince she was supposed to marry desperately needs her help–hers, not the impostor’s–against his enemies.

Series: Standalone.

POV: First person single.

Romance: Kind of, yes.

Preview: Couldn’t find a working link to one, though Amazon should have a preview.

This is pure fairy tale (in the traditional style, not Disney style), told in a compelling and believable way.

I have a soft spot for compassionate protagonists who still have a healthy sense of self-respect. Alyrra takes responsibility seriously and is willing to help people even at her own expense, but she doesn’t want to compromise her own happiness, either. She isn’t a martyr–she wants to be able to do the right thing, but she also wants to live her own life. When these things come into opposition…well, that’s the point of the book.

Throughout the story, Alyrra learns who she is and how to stand up for what she believes.

Some gruesome things do happen in this book (fairy tale, remember?). They illustrate concepts like elitism, justice, and vengeance. Some characters are driven by things that have been done to them, and plenty of characters experience injustice of various sorts. Still, the overarching themes of the book are forgiveness, compassion, and mercy. And it’s nice to still have that.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys fairy tale retellings. This is a really good one.

Quotes:

“The next time you walk around looking like a rainy day, I’m taking you to find another youth to save.”

Mind Games by Carolyn Crane

Borrowed from authorcarolyncrane.com

Genre: Urban fantasy, with some elements of paranormal romance

Synopsis: Justine is a hypochondriac, and it’s on the verge of ruining her relationship. Through chance, she meets a man named Packard who can help her by teaching her to weaponize her condition and having her join his psychological hit squad. Justine isn’t exactly thrilled at the though of hurting people–even psychopaths, even with the ultimate goal of rehabilitating them–but the potential for a life where she can form connections with people who understand her is a powerful enticement…

Of course, Packard has secrets of his own, and a long standing nemesis with whom he has unresolved business. And Justine is thrown right in the middle of it, trying to figure out what the right thing to do is.

Series: First in a trilogy.

POV: First person single.

Romance: Notice, up in genre, where I say that this book has elements of paranormal romance?

Preview: I have no luck today–I can’t find a sample chapter for this book either.

Wow. That was not what I was expecting at all. When I think UF, I think gritty and violent. This book wasn’t at all–it was crafty and hopeful. Most of the action was more of the psychological/manipulative sort, rather than the physical sort. Justine is kickass in an emotional capacity, rather than a physical capacity, and manages to play to her strengths very well. This book is different, and it owns it.

The opening scene is great, by the way, establishing Justine’s character and narrative style. I loved her immediately.

The story can work so well because of her. She’s genuinely concerned with doing the right thing, and expresses doubts about what Packard’s tactics from the onset. However, she desperately wants the acceptance and the peace of mind that she would get from accepting his offer. She wants the friends who would understand her. She wants to be able to say what she’s feeling without being ridiculed.

Those are very human desires, and eventually they win out enough for her to start rationalizing what she’s doing–it’s not that bad, because she sees proof that she’s targeting a bad guy. Or, this is only temporary anyway, and she’ll get out as soon as she’s able. The whole time, she remains understandable and sympathetic. She’s put in some difficult positions, and she makes the best of them while ultimately striving for something better in the long run.

And Justine being a hypochondriac also makes for an interesting narrative, especially since the plot continually delves into how these kind of fears grow and always treats those fears with sympathy.

Also, not a standard plot line in several ways, though going into specifics would be telling.

Great read, great narrative voice, and a very interesting and unusual story.

Quotes:

“If you become frightened, you can throw yourself out of car.”

“Fashion magazine disease articles. My personal kryptonite.”

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Roundup on Diversity and Equality in Sci-fi and Science

Somehow, this turned into an equality roundup.

Here’s an interesting essay that won a Hugo this year: “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative” by Kameron Hurley, at A Dribble of Ink. I like it because it acknowledges that trying not to be prejudiced is hard and ongoing, while buying into the the prejudices around us is easy and the default. As anyone who’s ever tried to take a long hard look at their instilled beliefs will know. We all start off believing the things we’re told, right or wrong. That isn’t anyone’s fault, and we all do it. The important question is, do we ever stop?

Since that story got me clicking links, F— Yeah SciFi/Fantasy WOC also posted a comment by Scott Lynch where he responds to criticism of one of his characters, a “widowed black middle-aged pirate mom,” quite forcefully.

At Scientific American, the post What makes a Good Scientist? What makes a Thug? Reflections on how young men like Mike Brown are perceived by the public went up last month. The same author has another good post from last year, A Dream Deferred: How access to STEM is denied to many students before they get in the door good, about obstacles that present themselves early on.

For statistics, here’s the 2013 Digest on diversity in Science and Engineering from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

And of course, there’s the recent paper dealing with Women in the Sciences Report Harassment and Assault that’s causing some buzz, especially when accompanied by a truly horrifying personal account of harassment in field research. (How can these things even still be happening? Why aren’t we way beyond that yet?)

To end on a positive note, there’s the response Bioware writer David Gaider made back in 2011, to a critic complaining about bisexual characters in Dragon Age 2. I have lots of reasons to be a fan of Bioware, but this definitely contributes.

Feel free to point out anything on the topic that stood out to you in the comments, or anything that I might have overlooked.

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Favorite Moments from Legend of Korra: Book 3

Genre: Fantasy/steampunk

Synopsis: Korra is the Avatar, charged with bringing balance into the world, and she just made a huge decision that changed everyone’s reality. Now she and hers have to deal with the consequences of that decision, good and bad, before those consequences deal with them.

Series: Third season.

Watch: Here. (All episodes available temporarily.) 

Is it just me, or are the season finales getting better and better?

Despite Nickelodeon’s best efforts, this show is awesome. This season’s a little slow, but after watching the finale, I can’t bring myself to really complain about anything. I’m just too in awe of where it went. Book 3 was more of an ensemble show, with Korra sharing a lot more of the spotlight and the action. I don’t know how much I can talk about without spoilers, so I won’t even try (and if you’re in danger of being spoiled, you should probably just go watch the show. Every single episode is up on nick.com right now, and I don’t know how long it’ll last.)

So without further ado, some of my favorite moments from Book 3, big and small.

Borrowed from edgecastcdn.net

Korra bleakly looks at the prospect of not recovering from this battle: Remember Book 1, when the writers didn’t even know if they were going to get a second season? Because of that, Korra ended up getting over a major hurdle way easier than she should have. Now, the writers know they’re getting a fourth season, so they’re unafraid of leaving Korra in a vulnerable position, where she’s paid a price for winning the day and she’s going to keep paying it into the next season. It’s amazing, and I can’t wait to see where they take her personal journey now.

Borrowed from i.kinja-img.com

Jinora becomes an airbending master: Like almost everyone else, I love Jinora, and this was an incredibly heartwarming moment. For Jinora personally, and also for the way Tenzin declares the new mission of the air nomads. I’m glad Jinora got to shave and tattoo her head like she always wanted.

Borrowed from recentlyheard.com

Borrowed from mediaite.com

Tenzin takes on Zahir and his people: Tenzin’s good. The whole fight was great.

Borrowed from blogspot.com

Zahir and P’Li: All season long, we get to know these two characters a bit, get to know what they’re capable of, and find out about their relationship. And the show waits until the end to show their height difference, and treat it like it doesn’t even matter. Which is perfect, and right, and makes for a nice moment.

Borrowed from mediaite.com

Mako being awkward around his exes: If any good came out of dreaded love triangle of season 1, it’s the stance that it allowed the show to take on friendship. Korra and Asami are great friends, despite having dated the same guy. And they’re both friends with Mako, and make sure to point out to him that he doesn’t have to be so awkward about it.

Borrowed from cdninstagram.com

Eska and Desna go visit their secret prisoner: Everything about this conversation was hilarious, including Zuko’s contribution. And Eska and Desna’s reaction to finding out they even had a secret prison.

Borrowed from mediaite.com

Meelo the drill sergeant–seriously, the kids are hilarious. (And Jinora just rocks, but the rest of the kids are really entertaining too.)

Borrowed from mediaite.com

Ming-Hua waterbends her arms: Because she doesn’t have any arms, so makes herself some water tentacles.

I can’t list every moment, but all of the characters are just awesome.

Borrowed from tumblr.com

Korra’s been very restrained this season, though she is pushed into breaking loose. Whenever she lets out her inner thug, I’m just like, there she is. That aggressiveness is always somewhere in there, even when she’s subduing it for a more effect strategy.

Lin Beifong and her sister both rock, in different ways. And make sure to get in on the action.

Borrowed from recentlyheard.com

Bolin is in fine form for comedy, but still always hold his own with the main cast in action scenes.

In short, while I might have complaints about the season, this show in general makes me happy enough that I’m just going to bask in its glory for this moment.

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Anticipation for Fall 2014

Fall 2014 has got a lot going on at the TV stage. I’m going to be trying a lot of things–I anticipate dropping a lot of shows quickly, and keeping a solid few. Some of the shows I intend to watch at least one episode of:

Agents of SHIELD

Borrowed from media.comicbook.com

Premise: In the first season, our protagonists were one team in a huge organization, until [huge spoiler for season 1 that everyone probably already knows about]. Now SHIELD is in pieces, and it’s up to Coulson and his team to rebuild it (despite their illegal status as an organization).

Genre: Action/Sci-fi/Superhero

My Thoughts: Presumably with all the set-up stuff out of the way in the first season, there’ll be a lot more interesting things going on now. Especially with assorted new SHIELD agents joining the cast, including Lucy Lawless. Whatever happened to Fitz is liable to make for a good story, too. Oh, and Ward’s back.

Chances I’ll Stick with It: Guaranteed

Ascension

Premise: In this new miniseries from Syfy, a spaceship was launched with 600 people during the Cold War, not to return for a hundred years. There’s a murder, and that’s all I know about the plot.

Genre: Sci-fi/Alternate history

My Thoughts: Syfy’s programming has been getting much better recently, and Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica is in it. That’s pretty much all I know, so I have no idea what to expect.

Constantine

Premise: Magician John Constantine is an exorcist, who’s going to get up in the dark supernatural drama going down whether he wants to or not.

Genre: Supernatural/Horror

My Thoughts: I’ve been hearing really good things about the Hellblazer comics for a long time now, though I’ve never actually gotten around to reading them. I really do hope this is good, though there’s already been one odd thing–Constantine won’t be portrayed as bisexual, and creator David S. Goyer’s comment on the topic left his stance kind of ambiguous. In the comics, most of his romantic involvements are with women, but he has them with men as well. Hopefully, someone will change their minds at some point and at the very least verbalize it.

Fate/stay night

Borrowed from crunchyroll.com

Premise: High school student Shirō ends up drafted in the Holy Grail War, a recurring fight-to-the-death between powerful magicians (usually from legacy families) and the spirits of historical/mythological figures. The winner gets a wish. One wish, that could be anything at all.

Genre: Supernatural

My Thoughts: I’m excited for this one (though not nearly as much as I am for Psycho-Pass). Mostly because of the fantastic (if at times horrific) Fate/zero anime, whose story is a prequel to this one (also the work of Gen Urobuchi, though he doesn’t seem to be personally involved in this one).

Flash

Borrowed from moviepilot.com

Premise: A forensic scientist gets superpowers (speed), and uses them to combat others who also gained powers, but decided to misuse them. Meanwhile, the case of his mother’s murder in his past continues to haunt him.

Genre: Superhero

My Thoughts: It’s genre, I’ll at least try out the premiere. Though who knows, maybe I’ll drop it as fast as I dropped Arrow (which was before the first episode even ended). Or maybe not.

Also, forensic scientist, huh? Am I gonna have more bad science to complain about?

Gotham

Borrowed from oyster.ignimgs.com

Premise: This show will follow the early days of Detective James Gordon, and little Bruce Wayne, in addition to addressing origin stories for Batman villains.

Genre: Superhero

My Thoughts: We’ll have to see if the show finds a good balance between storytelling and fanservice. But it is a superhero show, so I’m in for at least the pilot.

How to Get Away with Murder

Borrowed from awardswatch.com

Premise: A defense attorney teaching at a law school finds herself and her students involved in a murder.

Genre: Mystery/Drama

My Thoughts: Not my usual genre, and hype (no matter how substantial) by itself is never enough to convince me of anything. But it does feature a non-white female lead, so I’m at least going to try it initially. If I like it, great, but it’s possible it might not be my thing.

Legend of Korra: Book 4

Premise: Avatar Korra is tasked with bringing balance back into the world, and last season, she restored the airbending nation. However, she has also failed to recover from the action of the last season, and the new airbenders have decided to pick up the slack.

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk

My Thoughts: I haven’t even reviewed Book 3! Korra is always really good, even when it goes in a direction I didn’t see coming. Seriously, the team behind this is amazing.

Chances I’ll Stick with It: Guaranteed

Mushishi

Borrowed from ogeeku.com

Premise: Ginko has the ability to see supernatural like creatures that most people can’t, and he spends his time resolving issues relating they create for the people around them.

Genre: Fantasy/Supernatural

My Thoughts: I have needed to start watching this show for a long time, and I’m putting my foot down. I probably won’t be able to watch the earlier seasons in time to prep for this, but whatever, I’ll catch up as I go along.

The Originals

Premise: New Orleans is teetering on the edge of a witch/vampire/werewolf war for control of the city. The presence of the powerful Mikaelson family, the original vampires, complicates things–they’re not exactly a pacifying force, and no one ever really knows what side they’re on. The only thing that matters to the (incredibly messed up) Mikaelsons is family. (Okay, power comes in a close second.)

Genre: Supernatural

My Thoughts: Let’s be honest. A supernatural drama about family, and failing family, and loyalty as a matter of principle rather than genuine belief in a person. About broken people living as best as they can, even when their best really sucks. I’m obviously going to keep watching this, even though I miss Rebekah as the female lead (and Hayley isn’t exactly capable of filling her shoes).

Chances I’ll Stick with It: Good

Psycho-Pass 

Borrowed from pinimg.com

Premise: 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. I have no idea what we’re going to see this season, but it’ll be awesome.

Genre: Dystopia/Seinen

My Thoughts: Psycho-Pass is back! Yes, Gen Urobuchi’s dark cyberpunk dystopia’s second season is on, and I’m going to be watching it in broad daylight with all the curtains open while at least one person or dog is in the house.

Whoa, this puts me in agreement with the majority when it comes to this fall’s most anticipated anime. When does that ever happen? Psycho-Pass wins, though it only places second with men–which is kind of funny given that dystopian cyberpunk isn’t the stereotypical preference for female audiences. (Could it be because the female characters don’t suck?)

Chances I’ll Stick with It: Guarenteed

Sanzoku no Musume Ronja

Borrowed from dramaticreviews.files.wordpress.com

Premise: Ronja is the daughter of a bandit leader, and spends her time having adventures in the forest or in a castle.

Genre: Adventure

My Thoughts: It’s Studio Ghibli, oh my god, it’s Studio Ghibli! (For those who’ve been living under a rock, that’s Hayao Miyazaki’s studio, renowned even in the Western world for movies like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle). Guys, there’s no way I’m not watching this if it’s Studio Ghibli. And look, no princesses.

Chances I’ll Stick with It: Good

Anyone else know what shows they’re planning on giving a chance?

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Terrier, Bloodhound, Mastiff: Tamora Pierce’s Tortall

Eventually, I’m going to get around to all of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books. They’re just so satisfying.

Borrowed from tamorapierce.com

Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis: 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.

Terrier follows Beka as she first becomes a Puppy, or a Dog in training. There are two serial killers in the Lower City, and Beka cares very much about stopping them. Luckily for her, her informants are capable of bringing in special information to help bring them in. That is, if Beka survives her first year patrolling the streets of the dangerous Lower City.

Bloodhound follows Beka as a new Dog, on a hunt for counterfeiters. The counterfeiters are threatening to collapse the country’s economy, so much bad money are they dumping into the market.

In Mastiff, Beka goes on the most important Hunt of her life. A kidnapped child of no small importance must be found, and very powerful enemies want to prevent that from happening. Beka, her team, and her scent hound will track the scent over the country until they find the kid is found, or until they’re all killed in the attempt.

Series: Three books, each following a standalone plot at different points of Beka’s life.

POV: First person, journal-style.

Romance: The novels cover sweeping sections of Beka’s life, and so sometimes she’ll be in relationships. But the emphasis of each book is very much the current Hunt that Beka’s on.

Preview: Here.

Borrowed from tamorapierce.com

These are great. They follow Beka as she investigates, as she patrols the city keeping order, and in her personal life. Each of the investigations is very different, too.

Terrier has Beka in her local district, where she knows how things work, but against big and secretive enemies. In Bloodhound, Beka is more out of her element, having to follow the leads for the counterfeiting enterprise. She even needs to do some undercover work and playacting, things that make her uncomfortable. Mastiff has Beka on a tracking mission, where she needs to find a child being trucked about the country, and play nice with nobles trying to get top secret information out of her, or hinder her investigation. (Playing nice with nobles is hard when you’re a commoner and they have all the power. You can’t even investigate them properly.)

The plots themselves are a lot of fun, and I love the supporting characters. Beka’s training dogs, Goodwin and Tunstall, are good at their jobs in different ways, balancing each other. Beka’s breakfast friends are a steadfast group with great chemistry, even as they avoid certain topics of conversation so as not to upset each other. Sabine, the lady-knight who doesn’t mind slumming around in the Lower City and doesn’t care much for rank, is a good addition to the eclectic cast. Pounce, Achoo, and Slapper–the animal companions of the story–are compelling in completely different ways.

Beka herself, I loved. She takes her job very seriously. She’s shy in company, and it takes her a while to connect with people. But when she’s working, she’s much more able to interact with people to get the job done. She doesn’t generally seek people out but ends up with a nice core group of people around her anyway.

Borrowed from wikia.nocookie.net

Compared to other Tamora Pierce heroines, she’s almost as good as Keladry from the Protector of the Small quartet. Alanna from Song of the Lioness, who started it all, is more temperamental. She’s a good character, but of the three Pierce heroines I’ve read about, has to be my least favorite just because the other two are so good and so much more personally compelling, for me.

Keladry is my ideal person. She stands up for people who need it, without taking rank into account. She knows who she is, and her biggest problem is other people refusing to accept that. She doesn’t have the same kind of turmoil about her gender as Alanna has (though that turmoil is understandable and realistic)–she even takes to wearing a dress on her off-time during squire training, so that her guy classmates wouldn’t forget that she was a girl and unashamed of it. She amasses a group around her by being loyal, brave, caring. And she doesn’t have much of a temper.

Beka is very relatable to me. Her introversion, her adherence to the rules. I love how much she cares about what she’s doing. And how much she loves doing it.

Another nice thing that crops up constantly in Tamora Pierce books is the idea that the protagonist, usually starting out young and ending still fairly young by the end of the series, isn’t necessarily going to end up with her first boyfriend. Relationships end. Some people might have passionate romances that may or may not end. Some might have steady relationships. Some might not even end up in relationships at all. Others might take a while to find someone who works for them. It’s different for all of these girls.

I’m writing about all three books in the Legend of Beka Cooper series all in one post, because I couldn’t stop reading in between books long enough to write a review. This is always the case with Tamora Pierce books. I can never stop reading until I’ve finished the series. All of the books I’ve read by her so far have been fantastic.

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