Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Book Review: Black Cat Volume 14: Alliance


Review:  #145
Title:  Black Cat Volume 14:  Alliance
Series:  Black Cat - 14th volume
Author:  Kentaro Yabuki
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  An excellent volume that furthers the storyline quite a bit.  Carries on directly after the thirteenth volume with the fight against River, it didn't disappoint, and the idea of a Sweeper Alliance is okay (not what I would have preferred).  The chapters when Train and Eve are trying to find out the meeting place by playing a game was kinda lame, but the big thing was that Glin turns out to be Number X Shao Lee, I didn't see that one coming (although he still looks like a girl to me).  Then it slows down again as they all gather up at the meeting, but the final two chapters or so were excellent.  I was shocked that some of the Sweepers died such gruesome deaths even before they set foot onto the island.  It has a good ending, where they are all separated on the island.  I was just surprised at the deaths in this one.
Rating:  7.5/10

Monday, January 30, 2012

Transformers: Robots in Disguise (Episodes 37, 38, 39)


37 – Surprise Attack!
A really nice episode, the beginning may be a bit boring and seemed to be a bit lame and weak in the plot (Sky-Byte following Koji to find the Autobot base has been done before) but the ending was great.  The second half, in which all the Autobots grouped together and fought off all the Predacons and Decepticons were awesome, I loved the fight and how Galvatron is able to combine with the Megatron, wow, really really awesome episode.

38 – Galvatron’s Revenge
I don’t know why but I just couldn’t really get into this episode, it’s not bad, but it was fairly boring at the beginning.  From the middle to the ending, it was fairly decent, and interesting, it leaves a good cliffhanger and seems to set up for a final epic battle, I do hope it doesn't disappoint.

39 – The Final Battle
It’s a good finale, the battle between Galvatron and Omega Prime could be better, instead of the short scene it was.  The idea for the Matrix Blade is awesome, although its execution is lacking.  I liked how Sky-Byte got off the hook in the end, that was pretty awesome, and the ending is not too bad.  Overall it is a good episode, but I really just don’t like how Galvatron (and when he was still Megatron earlier) does nothing, just stands there and talk, my only gripe.

Overall
As one of the first Transformers series I have ever watched, I will always be partial to this, but I will give it one thing, this gave us the best combiner teams ever, with Rail Racer, Landfill and Omega Prime being so awesome.  The story was okay near the end, but overall was a bit lacking, however it was still an engaging watch  There was some great humour in the series and it is not overly long, a good series.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book Review: Black Cat Volume 10: Big Changes


Review:  #144
Title:  Black Cat Volume 10:  Big Changes
Series:  Black Cat - 10th volume
Author:  Kentaro Yabuki
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  Even though I know what is going to happen (since I’ve read volume 11 first) this was still a great volume, and a couple of things I had learnt (which would have made some of the future volumes a bit easier to understand).  I am surprised that I was a bit moved when I learnt that Number XI Beluga died, even though he was introduced only in the last volume, probably coz he died in honour.  Creed’s escape was a bit cheap but I’m starting to like his Level 2 Imagine Blade more and more, finally, I feel that his Tao power is formidable (before I thought an invisible blade was kinda weak for the main antagonist).  I had to laugh at Kyoko’s sudden love for Train, but it somehow fits with her character.  Again, this volume has a nice combination of suspense and humour, making it a very enjoyable read.
Rating:  7.5/10

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Toy Review: Transformers RtS Legends Starscream


Review:  #65
Name:  Starscream
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Reveal the Shield
Year of Release:  2011
Size Class:  Legends (Wave 1)
Variations:  there are two versions, one with a painted black head, and the other with an unpainted grey head, also repainted by TakaraTomy into Thundercracker and Skywarp

JET MODE:


This particular version of Starscream is based upon his Generation 1 self, so obviously, the jet mode resembles a F-15 Eagle.  To be honest, it isn't exactly the best jet mode, with a lot of seams and transformation joints protruding here and there.


Considering it's a legends classed figure though, many of the compromises are forgivable.  He has decent paint applications, the only major bit missing is the blue on his tail fins.


There is a decent amount of undercarriage junk (primarily his legs), and it looks bad because of the thin upper body of the jet.


You can Starscream's body contorted from the underside, his head is very visible, and if you have the black head version, it's even worse.


Starscream also features a rubsign, heating it up will reveal a Decepticon insignia, that's the only play value you'd get out of him.  An okay jet mode, but clearly not his stronger mode.

TRANSFORMATION:

This is the part where it justifies the mediocre jet mode.  They've tried out a different transformation scheme for Starscream (thankfully), so it's much more interesting to play with him the first time you get him as it's not what you would expect.  Surprisingly, it works really well at this scale.  You would have to be careful that there are pegs everywhere, so should take care not to damage him while transforming Starscream.   There are some really nice aspects on how the designer incorporated the jet mode bits into iconic robot elements (the fuselage into null rays is an example of this).  Funnily enough, Starscream has two cockpits, and in robot mode, the real one is behind the fake one.  Also note that you don't have to fold the nose cone back, so you can get an unofficial 'conehead' mode (future remolds?).  Very satisfying transformation for such a small figure.

ROBOT MODE:


Starscream's robot mode is the stronger one, with all his iconic elements present, from the back wings to his null rays (so he's a rare Legends classed figure with weapons).  This is where the black headed version is superior, breaking apart the dull grey.


A surprisingly clean robot mode, he is not kibble except for the small nosecone behind his head (understandable).  He is well painted, since his whole chest is red paint.  Poseability is restricted, Starscream's head can turn and his shoulders are balljointed, but where he falls down flat is his hips.  They're only swivel joints that swivel out to the side (for transformation) and they limit his leg poseability a LOT, not even balljointed knees will help.


The head sculpt is okay, a bit undefined, but you can see his smirk, and I don't know if this is intended or not, but one eye is bigger than the other.


A great robot mode that is quite fun to play with, since he features inbuilt null rays.  Granted, they don't look much like weapons, but it's nice that they incorporated it.  There are many molded details, that, if painted, would make Starscream even better.

OVERALL:

A neat little figure, the transformation scheme and robot mode is what makes this a winner.  Personally, I think it's the second strongest (after Megatron) in the Reveal the Shield legends.  Highly recommended.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Review: Black Cat Volume 5: Spark of Revolution


Review:  #143
Title:  Black Cat Volume 5:  Spark of Revolution
Series:  Black Cat - 5th volume
Author:  Kentaro Yabuki
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  This volume has got it all, humour and action.  The first couple of chapters deal with the Apostles of the Stars leading their attack, and it is awesome.  Finally, they have carried out what they said they were going to for the past few volumes and it didn't disappoint.  Although I was looking forward to Train fighting with Lugart again, that didn't happen and it got pushed towards a later time when Lugart ‘gets ready’.  The second half of the volume is more comedy than anything else, as there’s an imposter of Train, and surprisingly, I found it really amusing to read.  It was funny, it was lighthearted, but it worked and I enjoyed it a lot.
Rating:  7.5/10

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Negima! Magister Negi Magi Volume 17


VOL. 17
150 – The Great, Heated, Close Combat!  Mahora Mage Order vs. Super Science from the Future!!!

This one has just a long title…  Anyway, the chapter was pretty good since what was happening in the battle was interesting.  Chao showing up was a surprise, and she looks suitably evil, just like the antagonist she should be.

151 – Recharge Complete, the Return of Negi!!

This chapter was okay too with the confrontation of Chao.  So, as the title states, Negi wakes up and goes to the fight, although for some reason, I can't help but feel he is kinda overrated right now, maybe it’s coz he’s 10 years old, I just can't take him seriously.  Anyway, I quite like the idea of 3 hour displacement magic that’s been used, pretty cool.

152 – I’ve Got My Sights Locked On You

The situation hasn't improved or changed much from the last chapter, so it felt like it was dragging on a little bit.  The ending was good though, and it’ll be good to know how Negi gets out of that little trap in the next chapter.

153 – Go!  Negi-bozu!!

I guess it’s to be expected that when they start with a huge party, they are going to split up at each obstacle, with some staying behind to let the others get ahead.  I shouldn't mind this but I feel that it’s a bit overdone and defeats the purpose of having such a good variety of members in the team.

154 – Fight!  Magical Girl Biblion!?

The chapter skips back to Chisame’s situation with her computer warfare against Chachamaru.  It was funny with some of the terms and what happened.  It is weird that Eva is sitting there doing nothing and just watching the show, I would have expected her to help or help (in her indirect way) Negi.

155 – Negi Cometh!!

Kaede’s fight was an extremely good read and Negi’s appearance was impressive (but how long will this last?).  Chao looks really evil now that her plan is almost complete.

156 – Everyone’s Strength Will Save the World!

Good chapter.  Negi’s actions in this chapter were pretty cool, and I liked how all the other characters were helping him, not because he was weak or his resolve was not strong enough.  So the final showdown between Negi and Chao is beginning.

157 – Where’s Justice!?

The fighting in this chapter was pretty intense, although the explanation on how Negi managed to avoid those time displacement bullet attacks are stretching it a little bit.  Although it’s probably just me who cannot fully understand the explanation given…  We also get a glimpse on what Negi and Yue talked about, and although Negi’s opinions are sound, I can't help but feel he is quite stubborn (thus making him an annoying character for me).

158 – We All Carry the Burden of the Future!

Those two are still at it, although Negi managed to take out the two time watches.  The ending was where there were some nice developments, with the revelation that Chao is able to use magic.  I guess we all thought that since she relied so much on science, she wouldn't use magic but that is wrong…

159 – Justice Sides with the Victor!!

This chapter was… exciting, and intense.  The dialogue was well written and it was really fun reading it.  The showdown was nice, and the art is good.  I really love how Chao was portrayed in these last few chapters and especially this one.  The ending is a bit of a bummer with the cliffhanger.

Overall

This volume was pretty good, and the tension escalates.  The final few chapters were the cream of the crop of this volume though.  The fights in this volume were the best that I have seen in the series so far.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review: Creep from the Deep


Review:  #142
Title:  Creep from the Deep
Series:  Goosebumps Horrorland - 2nd book
Author:  R.L. Stine
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  Not very scary, actually, I find myself more creep out from Rowan of Bukshah than this book, purely coz the way it was written was much better in Rowan.  Anyway, there are two stories one, from what I could gather, the first one is the main one, while the second shorter one is the multiple book story arc where there are a few crossovers from other books in the series in Horrorland.  The first story was okay, but the plot twist has been done to death, so that was really disappointing, didn't get scared that much.  The second one poses some mysteries as well, and that’s where I find it is the more interesting one.  Anyway, it is a mediocre book, but it is above average as the content is interesting enough to keep you going.
Rating:  6/10

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Transformers: Robots in Disguise (Episodes 33, 34, 35, 36)


33 – Maximus Emerges
Wow, seriously, the series is getting really good; I’m quite addicted to it by now.  It was a really good episode showcasing Fortress Maximus, which is impressive in size, but lacking in the action department he doesn't do that much.  As we get answers about him, more questions pop up, hopefully answered in the next few episodes as well.  I loved how they had planned in the beginning where Scourge scanned Optimus and worked it into the story, as it was a pivotal role, loved it.  There was a lot of stock footage and I was expecting it since it did add to the atmosphere and theme so it wasn't bad.

34 – The Human Element
Things just keep getting better, with more revelations now, pretty much all the questions about Fortress Maximus is answered.  What’s great is that when Scourge scanned the truck as a protoform he scanned a human as well this was used in the plot for him to control Maximus (who only listens to humans), very well done and clever.  The ending was a bit… I don’t know, weird, with the human kids there, it seems the Autobots are willing to risk innocent children, what happens if Dr Onishi was wrong?  Anyway a great episode to watch and I enjoyed it very much.

35 – Mystery of the Ultra Magnus
It is disappointing that they put in a third clip show (as if two isn’t enough!) when it was getting intense and in the last few episodes of the series.  Needless to say, it is as boring as the other two if you have been watching all the episodes.  This episode focuses on Ultra Magnus with the clips mainly taken from the first two episodes he had debuted in.

36 – Mistaken Identity
This episode didn't really add anything to the overall story, it’s now getting repetitive, you can see a pattern here, the robots find Fortress Maximus and try to control it, but they end up failing and Maximus disappears to another location for the cycle to start again.  Sky-Byte was pretty cool though, and a good comedic relief, otherwise, it’s a very boring episode.  Scourge betrays Galvatron, he fails to defeat him though, but I like how Scourge is changing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Review: Rowan and the Ice Creepers


Review:  #141
Title:  Rowan and the Ice Creepers
Series:  Rowan of Rin - 5th and final book
Author:  Emily Rodda
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  An excellent end to the Rowan of Rin series, this book tied everything together really elegantly.  The story itself was great, with suspense along most of the way, and I must say, the ice creepers are fairly freaky; the author has done a great job in portraying them as threats.  The rhyming riddles are well written and executed, and all the events are structured perfectly.  What I think is the best out of this is that links the Rin village people up with the history of that land, it was great, and ingenious.  You can see how much the author had planned throughout the whole series.  She had also created a great chain of how the things are run around there, it’s self-contained ecosystem.  I keep finding myself amazed, this is truly a great book.  Only gripe is that I wish there was more…
Rating:  8/10

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book Review: Black Cat Volume 4: One-Day Darling


Review:  #140
Title:  Black Cat Volume 4:  One-Day Darling
Series:  Black Cat - 4th volume
Author:  Kentaro Yabuki
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  It’s probably coz I’m reading this out of sync, but this volume wasn't as exciting as the latter ones.  The back story of how Sven got his vision eye was quite good, in fact, I think it’s better than Train’s story with Saya.  It got quite exciting when Train started to face off Lugart Won, the fight scenes were good, but it was kinda ruined when the dinosaur appeared.  Yes, there was a lot of fights (and Eve uses her Angel Wings transformation for the first time) and it was fairly good, but I just find that a dinosaur appearing didn't really fit the mood of the arc.
Rating:  7/10

Friday, January 20, 2012

Transformers: Robots in Disguise (Episodes 29, 30, 31, 32)


29 – Fortress Maximus
A great episode, with a lot of suspense and mystery, it hooks you in, and you’re waiting for everything to be revealed.  I guess the title gives is away if you recognise the name, but otherwise, you won’t know what the title is referring to.  I loved the whole episode as it was just so good and interesting the whole way through.  The ending has stock footage for all the combiners in the series which was a nice touch, haha.  It ends on a cliffhanger and you really want to see what’s going to happen in the next episode.

30 – Koji Gets His Wish
I think the series is getting more and more intense in the last ten or so episodes, this was another great episode.  The majority of the episode was still robots fighting robots, but unlike other earlier episodes, there is a proper reason that contributes to the overall story.  The humour was great, with many places that gave me a good laugh, Sky-Byte is getting hilarious, now I see why he is such a fan favourite.  I can't wait until I can watch more of this as the story developing is great, and Ultra Magnus is turning into a more favourable character.

31 – A Friendly Contest
A good blend of action, story and humour, it was an excellent watch.  I found myself really enjoying it, although the ‘race’ to get the O-parts was a bit overdone and typical, doesn't feel that original.  Also, the way how Megatron always runs away (and laughs evilly like he’s won) without fighting is annoying, particularly coz he doesn't appear much in front of the Autobots anyway.

32 – Peril from the Past
The race to the secret of Fortress Maximus escalates, and as a viewer, that’s great, I finally feel that this series is starting to be worth watching.  The change of Megatron to Galvatron was different, as in, he didn't achieve it in the ‘normal’ way, well, it was only slightly changed, but it was still interesting.  I liked this episode, and it’s nearly all put together… can't wait.  The only thing that irks me is that Ultra Magnus always appear conveniently in the needed location and combines with Optimus, I mean, if he was part of them team then yeah but… such appropriate coincidence?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review: Black Cat Volume 13: Dear Friend


Review:  #139
Title:  Black Cat Volume 13:  Dear Friend
Series:  Black Cat - 13th volume
Author:  Kentaro Yabuki
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  An important volume in terms of the story, well, not the current story arc, but in terms of Train’s past.  We get to finally, after hearing snippets of it, of how Saya Minatsuki died, and how this event had deeply affected Train.  To be honest, it was a bit of a disappointment, I was expecting something more heart wrenching, I think the author had built up too much anticipation that when he finally revealed the past of what happened, it didn't live up with the expectation.  The relationship of Creed with Train and why Creed killed Saya was superficial and weak, there was no compelling reason, and the explanation given in the chapter was that Creed is hard to understand, maybe there is something else to be revealed later as he did not go into his relationship with Creed.  It ends in a cliffhanger for the next volume (which I have to skip… L, can't find it in the library) where Train and Eve finds a lead as to where Creed is.
Rating:  7.5/10

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Negima! Magister Negi Magi Volume 16


VOL. 16
140 – Top Secret Rescue Negi Operation!!

An interesting chapter, and I liked seeing what the group was doing and planning to save Negi and fix up this whole mess.  I’m glad that Kaede and Setsuna couldn't defeat the two mage teachers (even though I kinda wanted them to), since it shows that the teachers are pretty pro and not easily defeated by even novices.

141 – Critical Hit in the Naked Battle

A pretty exciting chapter as Asuna’s group head off towards Negi and fights the other mages.  Despite the title, it wasn't like that at all, it was fairly serious and the ecchi was normal (very minimal actually).

142 – Infiltrate!  Charge! Negi Rescue Team!!

The team is getting closer and closer to Negi, hopefully by the next chapter they would have actually saved him and started the plan of changing the past.  The ending was a bit more fantasy with the appearance of some mythical monsters, so it can be hard to swallow.

143 – Terror!  The Truth About Death Specs!!

Wow, now the second half of this chapter was interesting, and for a moment there, I thought the whole situation in which the time incident was an illusion too.  It peaked my curiosity when Yue started going on about stuff.  That’s about it though, and the culprit is an unimpressive looking thing.

144 – Friendship!  Victory!  Reunion

Seems like a bridging chapter, with nothing much happening.  At least the group’s progress didn't get prolonged by the real Takahata.  Negi is still annoying as ever, with his style of thinking that he is the one to blame, wished he would just stop blaming himself and start doing something about it.

145 – The Clock’s Ticking for the Time Machine

That time travelling watch is very different and unusual.  I thought it could have gone back only one day, but apparently not so, and the gang’s all here and time to go back to the final day of the festival to stop Chao’s plan.  A dragon pops up, randomly, which doesn't really fit into the theme of the chapter.

146 – Top-Secret Operation:  Defeat Chao!!

Well, the title is correct, the team had thought up and started executing a plan that they’re not revealing.  I guess we’ll have to keep reading to find out what’s up, but the suspense it quite a bit much.  It seems like it would be a good plan, and an unexpected one.  Even from the preliminary actions by some of the characters right now, they’re quite unusual so it really does make you wonder what they are going to do.

147 – The Complete Annihalation of Chao’s Plan!!

The chapter reveals the plan that Negi thought up, and at least it’s plausible and sounds like it will work.  I mean, it’s not what you would expect of someone like him to think up…  This chapter is all about the preparation of the plan, and the end of the chapter brings a start to the battle, so it’s pretty good in the end.

148 – The Great Mahora Shootout

I love this chapter.  The battle gets into full swings and it gets quite exciting.  I loved the appearance of the mages as ‘helpers’, and starting to use their powers to defeat the enemy.  There were some humour as well, but a good chapter overall.  I’m surprised at how much the teacher mages are helping and it’s good to see them on the ‘good’ side rather than the obstructing side.

149 – Welcome Negi Party

Oh, what a hilarious chapter.  The beginning was kinda like apocalypse what with the menacing giant robots coming down at night, it looks familiar but I just can't nail where I’ve seen it before.  I liked the part where Chisame was debating against herself whether to make the provisional contract or not, that was funny.

Overall
I thought the beginning of the volume was dragged on for far too long, the whole saving Negi part could have done with some shortening.  However, the latter chapters focusing on the actual event in the final day of the festival were great.
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