Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book Review: Mystical Magic



Review: #55
Title: Mystical Magic
Series: The Knowledge
Author: Ivor Baddiel and Jonny Zucker
Read Before: no
My Comments: I would have thought that this would be interesting, I thought it would have more to offer, I was completely wrong about what the content would be. I thought it would reveal the secrets of magic and to an extent is does that, but it’s more about the history of magic and the feats that magicians had done in the past. Maybe the way the words were written weren’t enticing enough, as it made the content a bit boring, nor funny (unlike the Horrible Histories/Science/Geography series). Some stuff were good, in trying to explain what made the magic trick work, but overall it was very plain.
Rating: 5/10
Rereadability Factor: 1/10 (nothing enticing enough about this book to reread)

To Love-Ru Vol. 2

VOL. 2 – STEAMY & HEART THUMPING EMOTIONS OF A TRAVELLER
Trouble 8 – Real Form

A good chapter, we get to see how Rito’s luck once again prevails and wins over the enemy alien. Ghi Bree in reality was a weak being with holographic powers, a bit of a used idea but effectively done anyway. “Poor” Rito, being put into situations that he doesn't seem to know that a lot of his other male classmates would die to be in, but that’s what makes it so much more funnier. Lala’s invention are also quite entertaining but someone always seems to get into some sort of trouble from it, in this case, Zastin. Poor guy was just taking a bath when the alien pops up, freaking him out (seems familiar?), hilarious.

Trouble 9 – Shopping Panic

Another good chapter, we see that Rito starts to develop some tiny feeling for Lala, which is pretty cool. This chapter’s filled with fan service stuff, but at least the costume changing frames were pretty cool, and we see how innocent and simple Lala really is… which I guess, adds to her appeal. It’s funny how many embarrassing situations Rito gets into, particularly in front of his crush Haruna. Awesome chapter.

Trouble 10 – Confession, Again!?

Continuing on from the previous chapter, just where everything is sorted out, we see Haruna and Rito together, and just as he was thinking of confessing his love, one of Lala’s inventions ruin the moment again (to the reader’s amusement). The comedic moments are nicely done, with the effects surprising. This chapter’s cool, and get to see how smart Rito’s sister, Mikan really is, and I really like her character. Also a mysterious person (or alien) is spying on them, rousing some interest, ten chapters in, the story seems to go at a respectable pace.

Trouble 11 – The Workplace a Battlefield!?

We get to see Rito’s dad in this chapter, who is a… manga writer?! Why does so many manga have the protagonist’s parent/s being manga writers?! Other than that, even Rito finds it weird to see how easily his father accepts aliens… and of his (underaged) son living with a girl. Weird, but comical. Also, the mysterious alien that was spying in the previous chapter? Turns out to be very small in stature and gets defeated accidentally by an opening door… talk about anti-climatic… Other than that, great to see Zastin and his helpers again… this time, as manga assistants, lol.

Trouble 12 – Midsummer Paparazzi

Only a build-up chapter, the chapter after this one is the more interesting bit where all this pans out. The appearance of another mysterious figure (that’s secretly taking photos) made me a bit intrigued as to see what alien prospective husband has appeared and how he is going to defeat Rito…

Trouble 13 – The Lust Whirling Underwater

The search for the identity of the mysterious figure continues! But not before Rito has his share of envious moments, for such an overused running gag in the series, it doesn't get old (mainly coz the reactions each time are different). We find out in the end that it was Motemitsu, who’s a pervert, taking photos of the girls. At least it was something that I didn't expect.

Trouble 14 – You Stupid Typhoon

A more of a filler chapter, I find this one quite boring, but we do see how absurdly powerful Lala is compared to us puny humans… The ending leads to the start of a storyc arc that spans a few chapters, so that’s great, it’s better than the one or two chapter episodic stories that we’ve been getting so far (while refreshing, does leave you desiring more).

Trouble 15 – Steamy & Heart Thumping Emotions of a Traveller

I’ve got to wonder these days, are those high school students really that, for lack of a better term, ecchi? Some more opportunities with Haruna arise for Rito, yet all comically dashed by Lala. Readers of this manga purely for the ecchi scenes would have a field day here, me? I’m just looking forward to the next chapter where it seems to promise some humorous moments!

Trouble 16 – Dare of Fate

As promised, this is a good chapter, quite a laugh from start to finish, love the sarcastical-type comments from Rito, and what’s this? Rito makes it to the end of the dare with Lala and Haruna together, and supposedly, whichever pair makes it to the end getes to become a real couple, who will he choose? It’s always interesting to see some indecision entering the main character.

Overall
A volume with some hits and misses, thankfully more hits than misses, I feel that it is worth reading and a lot of fans agree with me, as To Love-Ru was fairly popular when it was still being serialized. If you get a chance, don't miss out.

Friday, April 29, 2011

To Love-Ru Vol. 1

VOL. 1 – THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY
Trouble 1 – The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

An amusing first chapter of the manga, with a promising start (although if you’re looking for a good story you’re in for a disappointment), and a heaps of fan service and humour. I developed an instant like to the main character’s, Rito, sister, Mikan, as her comments were quite funny.


A fairly long chapter by the standards in this series, but then again, it’s the debut chapter, and there’s plenty enough action and events to keep you interested. The appearance of Lala (the alien princess) has got to be one of the more original appearances I have read and I just find it hilarious as an alien appearing in the bathtub (while the main character, Rito, was currently having a bath).

Trouble 2 – Great Escape of Love

Possibly the best chapter in the whole series (primarily coz it’s the second chapter and so all the gags are still fresh). The way Rito keeps getting misunderstood by outsiders is really humorous, since they always see something at the worse possible moment. I loved the chase scene, I was laughing out loud so hard at that, one of the best in the series and then the ensuing warp scene, classic, it stopped me in my tracks when I first saw the frame.


The blackmail from Lala is quite amusing in this chapter too (as she refused to warp them out unless Rito agrees she can live at his house). This was what set my mind to read the whole series instead of giving up, coz I thought it was a great series to read in my spare time.

Trouble 3 – Messenger From the Galaxy

A cool chapter, although the trick of the character running away and the attacker gets hurt, then mistaking that it was a well thought out plan is used a lot, it works. There is actually a pretty sweet moment when Lala announces her new-found true love for Rito (he is the hero after all, all good things must happen to him!). There is a running gag happening with Zastin getting lost and a dog biting his leg, sad to see that he’s only really a threat and super powerful in this chapter, he’s just comedic relief from now on.

Trouble 4 – After School Memory

A funny scene first up, in which Rito wakes up to find Lala in the same bed, hehe, and he seems to be grabbing something squishy… thank goodness it’s only the robot Peke! That was a nice joke. The rest of the chapter is more heart touching as we see that Haruna (the one Rito really likes) does have feelings for him, and we start to see the love triangle starting to set up. Love the reactions of the characters, and the ending shows some promise of more fun in the ensuing chapter (Lala coming to school).

Trouble 5 – Approaching

We get our first glimpse of another recurring gag character, the perverted Principal of the school. Even though he appeared in one frame, it was very funny. Rest of the chapter is ok, and a lot of silly stuff happens, as they usually do in a manga, but it’s entertaining. Also another recurring gag character, Motemitsu (one of my more favourite ones) appear, where he always proposes something (like getting a girl to be his girlfriend) only for him to get rejected immediately. Ahh poor Rito, we get to see him being the victim of the start of many of Lala’s inventions… but then again, we’re all envious of him aren’t we?

Trouble 6 – Targeted Girl

Something interesting finally happens at the end of this chapter… Other than that, it’s the typical delivery of jokes and a mild dose of fan service. This chapter is a bit mysterious as we get to hear from the King of the galaxy (threatening Rito, that guy has it tough…), and also the suspicious character. It’s enough to get you wanting to read the next chapter (and that’s why this chapter seems kinda dull, as the preceding and following chapters overshadow this one).

Trouble 7 – Intruder From Space

We get to see the entrance of the first of Lala’s prospective fianc├ęs in this chapter, Ghi Bree! He was the suspicious character from the previous chapter; I feel that it’s a bit bordering onto Hentai for this one with all the hidden innuendoes. Nevertheless, many funny moments, all stemming from Rito’s fright of the current situation (alone with a seemingly powerful alien holding his lover, Haruna, hostage, it’s enough to scare anyone’s pants off! Before they get used to it that is). Other than that… nothing else to comment on, except it ends with a bit of a cliffhanger.

Overall
A strong and promising start that blends the many elements together in just the right amounts to kept various readers interested. I got hooked right from the start and so I am always going to be a bit biased, but I’m glad I started reading this manga.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

To Love-Ru (Latter Half and Ending)

Something I started reading earlier this month, and continuing on, I've finally finished reading the last chapter tonight. Ahh, I'm going to miss the manga, it is a fun manga to read, with a lot of comedy (and ecchi, I guess if you're into that sort of thing...), it was very enjoyable. Yes, I am aware of all the flaws like no real character development, nor an ongoing storyline (they seemed to have forgotten all about it after roughly halfway... that was disappointing), but like I have said before, it is just fun to read without thinking too deeply into it.

The latter half was still as funny as the first half, so it doesn't disappoint there, and the stories get more interesting, and they are different enough to warrant reading them. It helps with the much larger cast that each arc can focus on a different person. Conversely though, a lot of the earlier recurring running gag characters are now gone, which is sad (Ren and Motemitsu). The ending is open, leaving it up to the reader to interpret, just saying that these adventures will surely continue for the main character Rito. Wished they made an absolute end (like him becoming King of the Galaxy or something, and not leaving that storyline hanging) rather than what they have done, and its a bit contrived with him expressing his love to most of the cast.

Although there is a sequel (or spin-off, not sure what it is right now) called To Love-Ru Darkness, so I shall go and have a read of that. Also, don't even bother reading Chapter 162.5, doesn't add anything. Still, I recommend this series, and I'll be posting up some comments on each individual chapters shortly.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Review: Return to Del



Review: #54
Title: Return to Del
Series: Deltora Quest - 8th and last book
Author: Emily Rodda
Read Before: yes
My Comments: A great end to the first series, with everything wrapping up quite nicely. Even if there were no more sequels after this, you don't feel that it’s an incomplete end (there were two more sequel series after this). This plot of this book could be said to be very basic and simple, find the heir to the country Deltora, but the way the heir was revealed was quite mysterious. There were a lot of false trails and places where you are completely thrown off, with one thing revealed after another, it is quite well done. It gets really intense and interesting near the end, with a final surprise, seriously great.
Rating: 7/10
Rereadability Factor: 5/10

Monday, April 25, 2011

Toy Review: Transformers RtS Turbo Tracks



Review: #8
Name: Turbo Tracks
Brand: Transformers
Allegiance: Autobot
Line: Reveal the Shield
Year of Release: 2010
Size Class: Deluxe (Wave 1)
Variations: United Tracks has a more G1 inspired flame on his hood and metallic blue paint. Also retooled into Generations Wheeljack

VEHICLE MODE:



Tracks transforms into a blue car that doesn't seem to be based on any real life car to date. It's very angular, and I'm not really a fan of the shape of this car, but it's a plausible representation of Tracks. The missiles on the sides are really awful, and does a really bad job as pretending to be exhausts.



As much as I don't like the overall shape of the car, the back design is quite nice, and I can't fault it. It would be nice if the grill-like pattern at the back and the exhausts are painted, but it could have been worse. At least the hubcaps are painted silver, which is more than I can say with Reveal the Shield Jazz.



As much as I detest Transformers with both transparent and painted windows (I hate the inconsistency), it's pretty well done on Tracks. His front and side windows are transparent, while the back is painted black. Thankfully, the dark smoky transparent plastic and the black are a close enough match that it's not hideously obvious (it doesn't ruin the look).



Instead of the flaming decal he had in his G1 toy and also included in his Binaltech release, he has more of a tribal pattern on his hood now. Many fans have complained but it has grown on me, and I think that it does look quite nice, at least it makes Tracks unique.



Being in the Reveal the Shield promotion, Tracks features a rubsign instead of an Autobot insignia. In his case, the rubsign is found on top of his hood. Rubbing it will reveal the Autobot shield, I wouldn't recommend rubbing it too often or too hard, as the whole roof of the car is paint on transparent plastic and you risk eventually rubbing the paint off. Also, you will see by far the biggest panel line in the car is the whole back, even when pushed as far as it will go, and sitting flush, it is still very obvious.



The grill design is alright, I'm not a fan on how low it sits and how far the grill protrudes. He rolls well though.



A rarity nowadays, the underside of Tracks doesn't have much empty space, because of this I feel less 'cheated'. Only looking at the underside, you don't really see how Tracks transforms, which is great.



Comparing against Binaltech (BT) Tracks, I infinitely prefer BT Tracks more, it's sleeker and better proportioned, with a much nicer, richer, blue. Still, it is a nice vehicle mode, and is really subjective to the person's taste on whether they like it or not.

FLIGHT MODE:



Like the G1 toy and cartoon, Turbo Tracks features a flight mode, obtained by flipping a panel from the back, attaching the missiles, and pulling apart the doors and flipping out the wings. Very simple. Only looks good from the top down angle looking from the front (shown in the above pic).



From any other angle, and it really shows how much of an afterthought this mode is. The detaching of the doors leave an unsightly gap, and the car can't even sit flat on the table now.



One nice thing they did add specifically for this mode is a small panel at the back that you can flip over to attach the missiles. They didn't have to add it (and ruin the aesthetics in the process), so I'm glad they put in that extra attention.



The missiles takes some force to push into the slots, but holds very securely once attached, they rest too close to the car to look good though.



The flight mode can be improved by changing the configuration a bit, bear in mind that this is now a fan mode. Basically you're just pulling out the arms to cover the gap, and this makes a lot of difference.



It feels a lot more solid and displays a whole lot better as it's hiding the weird bits behind the doors. Plus, the back wheels fold up like on the original toy, there's still some problems like not being able to sit flat, but this is a third mode after all.

TRANSFORMATION:



One really nice aspect of his transformation is the way his gun is stored inside the back of the car, quite ingenious.



His gun, and two missiles detach for transformation, and uses the clip system. Track's transformation is very simple, yet quite elegant and fun, it does the trick, not too complicated, yet enough twists to be interesting. This is a toy that you can have fun going between the modes, sadly, the fun can be hampered by some loose joints like mine was. His automorph is well done, pushing up his chest will push out his shoulders, it's really fun when you activate it.

ROBOT MODE:



Robot mode is where Tracks shines the best, although there are still a few flaws. First of all, his chest, which is the hood of the car, is huge, and feels a bit too big for him. To be fair, it isn't as pronounced in real life and is fairly sleek. The cartoon model for Tracks and the original toy was really sleek, it's not replicated well here, and we see the liberties taken to ensure this mold works as Wheeljack. To be honest, I would rather prefer a smaller false hood like on BT Tracks than the huge thing on his chest here.



Don't look at him from the back! Looks very clunky and kibbly, particularly the legs (looks really weird with the whole hood of the car there, it's for the Wheeljack retool). Sadly, his wings isn't attached on his shoulders, but rather, on panels attached onto his back. They are adjustable, but just doesn't feel right and I feel cheated.



We see he has a huge protruding backpack, which is the whole back of the car. It only looks bad, as it's completely hollow, and it doesn't affect his balance. This backpack doesn't cause Tracks any liabilities.



His wings flip from behind his doors, they are a bit small, but from head on, they are in the right spot and looks pretty good, you don't notice that it's attached to some blue panels.



The head is well sculpted, but it just isn't to my tastes, it's too round, maybe if they didn't sculpt the side bits that makes him look chubby I'll like it better. He retains his red face and white head that seems out of place amongst the blue, his missiles hang overhead.



Speaking of the missiles, they clip onto some posts on a panel behind his head, which is slightly disappointing, I would rather they had incorporated it into the transformation and made it non-detachable. The missiles have shrunk in size, more than proportionally required, but at least this doesn't overwhelm the head. You can independently aim the missiles and point it to the air if you wish.



The biggest flaw by far is his feet, you can just see the major compromises they had made to be able to retool this into Wheeljack. The feet looks terrible, like flippers, or as others have suggested, duck feet or frog feet. It isn't helped that there is a hollow space in his shins. His feet look flimsy, and they are, you have to be careful when posing him as you'll find it easy for him to tip over due to the ball joint placement.



Being a comptemporary toy, Tracks is very poseable. I see people saying that the leg articulation is restricted, but I don't really see that. His chest piece can even lift up to allow a better range of motion. He has ball joints on both his feet/ankle and heelspurs, allowing him to stand flat on the table at whatever angle. One thing to note is that his gun fits tightly into his hands, you have to get the right angle and use some force to push it in, although it's a perfect fit, it won't leave any stress marks unlike Wreck-Gar...



Tracks not only looks short and stubby, he is shorter and stubbier than most deluxes! Comparing to the Henkei Alert (or Universe Sunstreaker) mold, it makes him look really really short, which is a big shame. I forgot to mention that the rubsign is now on his chest, and looks great there (that is, if yours is put on straight... mine is wonky).



Compared to BT Tracks, even though they're representing the same character, they really do not look anything alike aside from the white head and red face.



I must say I like the BT Tracks robot mode better, it's way more awesome in so many degrees.

Even though I mentioned all these bad things about RtS Tracks, I'm just being overly critical, and unfairly comparing him to BT Tracks, who is my most favourite Transformer figure ever. RtS Tracks' robot mode is decent, with many things done right, but his legs and feet really leave a lot to be desired.

OVERALL:

With a decent, if mediocre, vehicle mode, and a bland robot mode, there's really not much going for Reveal the Shield Tracks. Why get him, I hear you wonder? It's because he is Tracks! He has a kickass character model design, and I can see how the extremely kibbled BT Tracks will put some people off. RtS is a great low-kibble alternative to a representation of G1 Tracks, and is great, great fun to play with. I brought him initially just because I like the character (and he was on sale), but I'm glad I did, as he displays well and is a bundle of fun, I heartily recommend this toy.

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If you feel like seeing more pictures of this fabulous toy, check out seibertron.com's gallery.

Credits: I linked a few tfwiki.net and seibertron.com pages in the review, but all the photos and text is mine.

Last but not least, check out my other toy reviews in this page.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book Review: Dread Mountain



Review: #53
Title: Dread Mountain
Series: Deltora Quest - 5th book
Author: Emily Rodda
Read Before: yes
My Comments: Beginning was boring, and there was nothing captivating at the start, but it does set up the plot of this book quite well, and introduces some critical characters and abilities. It picks up somewhere around the middle, where the main characters start to go on their quest, with a big bit of excitement. The monster villain for this book is really interesting (a giant toad). There aren’t many riddles and puzzles in this book, which dulls the excitement a bit, but the ending is really well done. I love how the villain didn't get defeated by force, but by thinking.
Rating: 6/10
Rereadability Factor: 5/10
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