Saturday, September 30, 2017

Book Review: Puella Magi Oriko Magica 1


Review:  #691
Title:  Puella Magi Oriko Magica 1
Series:  Puella Magi Oriko Magica - 1st volume
Author:  Magica Quartet
Read Before:  no
Comments:  Oriko Magica is a spin-off of the anime series set in an alternate timeline although it doesn’t make this apparent from the get-go.  All characters from the anime make an appearance here but due to the change in aesthetics, it takes a long while before you even realize that.  Once you realize those two points, Orko Magica has an intriguing story that shows promise.  Oriko is a magical girl that saw the future as a bleak and hopeless place, and a black magical girl is hunting other magical girls.  This first volume does a good job at introducing the characters and hinting at the direction it is going to go.
Rating:  6/10

Friday, September 29, 2017

Sausage Party (2016)


Despite the friendly looking animation style, Sausage Party is a R-rated animation targeted towards adults.  It takes the premise on what if food is sentient (but that humans are unaware of that).  Following a sausage named Frank and his romantic interest, a bun called Brenda along with some other food casts, they discover the real truth of what happens when food is bought and taken outside the supermarket.  Surprisingly, the film presents this concept in an interesting and thought-provoking way, cleverly integrating what is going on in the food's minds compared to what actually happens in reality.  For example, baby carrots running away is depicted as rolling off the table.  The humour is skewed towards the cruder side but almost all of the jokes and gags work, which is no small feat.  There is a tad bit too much swearing for no good reason since every two sentences or so will be punctuated by multiple swear words, it loses its impact after the opening scenes.  The characters are likeable and memorable, although a bit stereotypical in some of their personalities, their individual quirks are cleverly reflective of the origins of their food.  The plot is engaging and keeps the viewers interesting on how it is going to end as how can there be a satisfactory end for both the food and the humans?  The finale wasn't disappointing and was a lot of fun, although bit grim and gory (the film doesn't show gore onscreen but it is implied).  The final scene where the characters become self-aware is a bit out of place but otherwise, Sausage Party is a funny film that doesn't hold back.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Toy Review: Transformers The Last Knight Megatron (Legion)


Review:  #406
Name:  Megatron
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  The Last Knight
Year of Release:  2017
Size Class:  Legion (Wave 2)
Mold Status:  new

JET MODE:


Megatron transforms into a Cybertronian jet and even on this small scale, surprisingly, it looks fantastic.


The rear is fairly obvious the robot legs, but is also molded and painted that it looks passable as thrusters.


In terms of size, above is a comparison against RiD (2015) Starscream (who only looks bigger due to a wider wingspan).


The biggest flaw in this mode and it is not a big deal, is that the robot hands are visible under the cockpit.


A fantastic jet mode, considering the alien and kibbleless looking robot mode, the designer did a great job.

TRANSFORMATION:

A little bit more involved than you would expect of something this size.  The big surprise is how the cockpit is not removable but is on a balljoint that pivots to form the fusion cannon.  The head flipping into the chest to hide in jet mode is also a nice touch.

ROBOT MODE:


Robot mode, again, is surprisingly accurate to the onscreen model, down to the asymmetry.


Apart from the wings on his back, he doesn't have any kibble.


The headsculpt is a little bit undefined but is still recognizable as Megatron.


Megatron is a little bit too lanky proportion due to the longer legs, but still looks good.


Megatron's main weapon is his fusion cannon formed by the cockpit and it doesn't look too bad, it can also double up as a shield.


He has a small-ish footprint meaning he can lose his balance easily if you're not careful.


Articulation is limited to balljointed shoulders and hips, and hinged knees.  Despite that, Megatron is a heap of fun and looks great to boot.

OVERALL:

It seems that after so many duds for Megatron figures in the Movie lines over the years, we've finally got to a movie where all of the molds are fantastic.  This Legion figure is impressive at how well is translates the alien jet and the kibble-less robot mode into toy form and at such a small scale too.  For his price, Megatron is well worth purchasing.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Book Review: Puella Magi Kazumi Magica: The Innocent Malice 5


Review:  #690
Title:  Puella Magi Kazumi Magica:  The Innocent Malice 5
Series:  Puella Magi Kazumi Magica:  The Innocent Malice - 5th and final volume
Author:  Masaka Hiramatsu
Read Before:  no
Comments:  Despite a generally messy plot up until now, the finale of Kazumi Magica is actually pretty good.  The action sequences seem to be easier to decipher what’s happening and the plan of Kanna, and Kazumi’s role in it, was quite riveting.  Kazumi embraces the fact that she is a clone and finds a way to accept and rectify that.  On the other hand, the scale of the Pleiades’ plan of cloning Kazumi was much more intense than initially hinted at.  The flashbacks served went a long way in clarifying what had actually happened in order for things to get up until this point.  The ending was on the tragic side due to the numerous deaths but a hopeful one too.  At the end of it all, Kazumi Magica manages to expand meaningfully on the Magica universe.
Rating:  6/10

Monday, September 25, 2017

Infamous 2 (PS3)


Infamous 2 is the sequel to Infamous, and exclusive to the PS3.  It is a superhero game in which the player controls Cole MacGrath, who wields the power of electricity.  Upon starting the game, you immediately notice an improvement in the graphics compared to the original.  Cole himself has also been redesigned and his voice actor changed, which can take some time to get used to as his voice is not as gravely now.  A neat thing is that it plays on Cole already being somewhat adept at his powers, so that a few of his abilities are now already available from the start such as Static Thrusters (hovering), electric grenades and shockwave.  Of course, there are plenty of new abilities that will gradually unlock over the course of the game.  They're fun to use and there are variations such as picking up and hurling objects, various types of electricity blasts and grenades, and a new simple melee system which helps with close combat.  Abilities will unlock as you complete sidequests and progress through the story.  However, once unlocked, you need to fulfill certain conditions (such as defeating enemies a certain way a number of times) before you can use your XP to purchase it for use.  XP are gained from defeating enemies and completing missions.

While the game has a robust tutorial, it doesn't introduce you to all your abilities that you can perform at that time.  In that aspect, it assumes you have already played the first game and know the controls to try out what you retained.  The story commences soon after the ending of the first game in which it teases Cole's nemesis, The Beast.  It has arrived and proceeded to destroy Empire City, which kind of made the ending of the first game somewhat redundant (since you end up either being the protector or the dictator of the city and now it was all for moot).  Cole was not powerful enough to defeat The Beast and travels to New Malais to gain more powers.  At New Malais, he meets Bertrand, who is against people like Cole, otherwise known as conduits (i.e. have powers).  Monsters also pop up in the city, so in addition to The Beast looming closer, Cole has to deal with Bertrand as well.

The story is surprisingly good and it builds upon the relationship between Zeke and Cole, as well as the new characters Kuo and Nix.  All of whom end up becoming familiar to the player and you care about their fate.  It leads to a solid ending with some truly emotional moments.  The story is mostly told via in-game rendered cutscenes, along with some comic book styled panels.  The morality/karma system returns where at certain points in the story, Cole can pick the good karma choice or the evil karma choice.  Picking one path will change Cole's appearance and some powers are exclusive to one path.  It doesn't change the story much, the biggest change is the ending.  The differences between the two paths are even less than the first game so it ends up being underwhelming.  Different paths do give Cole different powers though.  While New Malais is a new city to explore, the building aesthetics and style remain similar.  Apart from one or two new traversal methods (mainly just pipes that shoot Cole straight up), the city can feel repetitive if you have played the first game and that it doesn't add enough new things.  There are two islands to New Malais, with varied environments.  There are three main portions:  a traditional city, a flooded area and an industrial area.

Cole himself is nimble and able to climb buildings and jump from rooftop to rooftop, which makes up a lot of the fun in playing the game.  Cole generally does what you want him to although there will be a few instances where he refuses to cling onto the narrow-ish object (such as a ladder) you were aiming for.  There are plenty of sidequests which doubles the amount of time to finish the game if you complete it all.  Thankfully, the sidequests contains some new objectives compared to the first game.  While similar objectives are still around, at least there's something new, although they still usually revolve around killing specific enemies.  As you complete each sidequest, you seal off a portion of the city, which prevents enemies from respawning too frequently.  Random sidequests also pop up from time to time, such as saving hostages or silencing protestors, to help with increasing your karma level.  There are nice touches to boss battles, which give a sense of scale as the enemies can be huge.  They aren't unfair and while the battles can be predictable, it is also easy to figure out.

Like the first game though, it can overstay its welcome with tedious objectives in story missions where you have to repeat multiple times when once or twice would have been enough.  Enemies also end up becoming bullet sponges, they take way too many hits before they die which sucks a lot of the fun out of it.  To extend the life of the game, there are 305 Blast Shards to collect once again, as well as 29 Dead Drops, which provide backstory to the first game.  Collecting Blast Shards benefits you as it increases the amount of attacks you can use before you need to recharge by siphoning electricity off something.  Furthermore, user generated content is implemented into the game.  Although as per usual with these kind of things, there is a lot of bad stuff to sift through in order to get to some better user generated missions.  Overall, Infamous 2 improves upon every aspect of the first game.  It's nowhere near as repetitive, with heaps of fun, new powers and a surprisingly good story.  Although the morality system doesn't make much of a difference, the game is still fantastic.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Toy Review: Transformers Robots in Disguise (2015) Twinferno (Warrior)


Review:  #405
Name:  Twinferno
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Robots in Disguise (2015)
Year of Release:  2017
Size Class:  Warrior (Wave 11)
Mold Status:  new

ALTERNATE MODE:


Twinferno transforms into a bright orange stealth bomber with a dragon head on either side of the cockpit.


The rear has jet flames.  It is a unique alternate mode and design choice for sure...


Twinferno is your typical Warrior size, feeling somewhat light due to the focus on hollow sections wherever possible.  Above is a comparison against RiD Stormshot.


Everything about this stealth bomber doesn't suit a stealth bomber from the color scheme and dragon head, it's just very unusual and looks weird.


An "meh" jet mode.  It would have been better if they managed to hide the dragon heads underneath the wings out of sight.

TRANSFORMATION:

As you'd expect, it's very simple converting Twinferno into robot mode.  You fold the cockpit back, bring the dragon heads to the sides for his arms and extend the legs.  Uninspired and no surprises.

ROBOT MODE:


Twinferno's robot mode is heavily inspired by G1 Doublecross (of which a recent Generations homage was released) with the dragon arms and wings.


He carries all of the jet mode on his back, he is a typical jet Transformer where the alternate mode is a folded up robot with jet parts on top, and doesn't integrate them into robot mode.


The headsculpt is average.  It has a swivel for side to side movement.


Size-wise, he is once again of average height, fairly unremarkable.


Poseability is also normal.  The way his elbows are jointed means that his dragon-head-hands face upwards, which isn't too bad.


He lacks a waist swivel.  The RiD Autobot insignia is on his shoulder, which allows you to scan it in the app to use the character.


Weapons-wise, he has the two flames from jet mode.


You can peg the flames into the hands so that it looks like they're spitting fire and doesn't look half bad.  The heads also have a 5mm hole on the bottom such that you can use more conventional weapons as well if you have some spare.


The biggest thing against this robot mode is the ugly orange used, just makes him look tacky.


An average robot mode that doesn't really do anything special.

OVERALL:

Twinferno's strongest aspect is the jet mode with the unusual design choice.  Frankly, Twinferno isn't anything special and is a very average toy.  He doesn't even have the RiD design quirks that makes the line interesting.  Only get him if you like the character or if you see him heavily discounted.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Your Name (2016)


Your Name is a Japanese anime romantic drama film.  The premise is that two high school students, one living in Tokyo and one living in rural Japan, swap bodies each day.  The first time this happens, both are confused and not sure what is happening.  The next day when they return, they find out what the other was doing in their place.  They start leaving messages to each other to inform of what happened and lay some ground rules.  This makes up the first half of the film and was enjoyable and funny to watch.  You can see that they start to develop a closer relationship even though they have never met each other face to face.  The big emotional impact, and the plot twist, happens midway and it will affect you.  Thanks to the set up until that point, it drives it home to the viewer.  It was a neat plot device and throughout the whole time, you are cheering for the protagonists.  There are some small details that might make you wonder why the two didn't just meet up in person since surely phones have a calendar but most of it is acceptable.  The idea is just too good to resist.  The protagonists also lose their memories soon after they wake up, leaving in its place that they are searching for something or someone, and this longing is presented so strongly that it feels tangible.  While the ending can be predicted, it doesn't dampen the enthusiasm and emotional impact of the final scene, especially when you consider that so much time has passed.  Your Name is a wonderful film that is enjoyable every step of the way, that somehow creates a sense of nostalgia.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book Review: Puella Magi Kazumi Magica: The Innocent Malice 4


Review:  #689
Title:  Puella Magi Kazumi Magica:  The Innocent Malice 4
Series:  Puella Magi Kazumi Magica:  The Innocent Malice - 4th volume
Author:  Masaki Hiramatsu
Read Before:  no
Comments:  The fourth volume of Kazumi Magica continues to convolute the plot to the point where you may give up.  Just when you are slowly starting to understand some of the characters, the group known as Pleiades started to be eliminated.  The real nature and background of Kazumi is fully revealed here but this is also the point where things start to go crazy and confusing.  You get the feeling that the events that occur and characters that appear, are supposed to shock you but either the character isn’t developed enough to have an impact, the revelation is confusing and you don’t understand or their actions just doesn’t match with what you understand, that it doesn’t quite have the same emotional impact that it should.
Rating:  5.5/10

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Toy Review: Transformers Robots in Disguise (2015) Bludgeon


Review:  #404
Name:  Bludgeon
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Robots in Disguise (2015)
Year of Release:  2017
Size Class:  Warrior (Wave 11)
Mold Status:  repaint of Blastwave (which itself was a retool of Megatronus)

TANK MODE:


Bludgeon, as you'd expect of a homage to the character, transforms into a tank with an unlikely color scheme of orange and green.


From the front, the tank mode looks good but it falls apart at the back since it feels unfinished with the huge amounts of gaps which doesn't help when the back treads are half the width of the front portion.


While a repaint of RiD Blastwave, Bludgeon is also a retool of Megatronus with everything except the treads being a new mold.  Thanks to the large shielded front and a wider and longer turret, Bludgeon looks much more substantial.


Part of the Warrior class, Bludgeon is approximately Deluxe sized but a fair bit lighter due to the hollow parts.  Above is a comparison against RiD Warrior Stormshot.


The turret can rotate and due to the way the cannons work, it can tilt upwards but looks awkward.  There are plastic wheels underneath allow Bludgeon to roll on a flat surface.


This is a fantastic remold that improves upon the original usage of the mold.

TRANSFORMATION:

The transformation is near identical to Megatronus but has a few minor changes due to the remolding.  First off, the fists do not flip out now, they are already exposed at the back of the turret.  The second part is that the turret can remain attached behind his head.  The most interesting part still remains to how his legs form by collapsing the treads together.

ROBOT MODE:


Bludgeon's robot mode nails the character with the samurai-esque armor and the extra orange and red.


He has a chunk of kibble behind his waist but it is solidly attached  and doesn't get in the way.


The headsculpt is fantastic with heaps of intricate detailing, including pupils inside his eye slots.


Size-wise, Bludgeon is a typical Warrior height but appears bulky thanks to the wide shoulders.  Compared to the rest of the line, Bludgeon's usage of hollow parts isn't too obvious and not too bad.


You can see via the comparison with Megatronus that apart from the core legs (since the kneepads are new), everything else is completely remolded so it is more of a case of saving money by reusing the engineering rather than saving money by reusing all the parts.


Poseability is excellent and while he doesn't use it for transformation (rather inheriting it from Megatronus's usage of the mold), he has a waist swivel.


The large feet does wonders for helping to keep him stable in all poses.


His weapons include a gun made from detaching the tank's cannon from his back, and also a sword.


The gun can be held in either hand and for a tank cannon, looks decent as a handheld weapon.


Unfortunately, Bludgeon suffers from a reliance on friction joints rather than pin joints.  It affects him via his chestplate and the panel his head is attached to since a little bit too much force while transforming him will mean that they will detach.


To be fair, the sword is a tad bit too short to be perfect.


The tank cannons can also be tilted forward to form shoulder cannons.


Bludgeon has an excellent stature and looks amazing in person.


A very well done robot mode that has a lot of versatility with the weapons.

OVERALL:

Bludgeon is a case of a remolding done right.  The Megatronus mold was already one of the better ones in the line and Bludgeon just makes it one of the best Warrior figures in the series.  It nails the character and improves the look of the tank mode, and having a fabulous robot mode, Bludgeon is highly recommended.

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