April 30, 2015

Shadowcon Mini-Views- Avengers: Age of Ultron

It was very okay.

I actually have to give Joss Whedon a lot of credit here. In recent interviews, he's been saying just how much of himself he poured into this film, and it shows... but I'm not sure that he poured in all the right bits.

April 23, 2015

Robots in Disguise Windblade Thoughts

Okay, so this isn't really going to be about the show, because, well... I haven't seen it. It looked interesting to me at first, but then all of a sudden it was mid-April and I hadn't realized that the first season was already pretty much over, so y'know, I kinda missed my shot. But I'm sure it will be available on Netflix or some other site soon.

Also, the more I saw of the ads and the more I thought about how this connected with Prime and that stupid film that came after it, the less inclined I was to see it. From what I'd read, all of this sounded really neat, but then the animation and some of the characterizations threw me off, so much so at points that I just found it a bit obnoxious.

But then, just recently, USA Today released an article talking about how the writers want to bring IDW Transformers Comics- original character Windblade into the show, saying:

"'Our female fans have demanded to be part of the story... To have them be represented as well is something that's only natural.' In crafting Windblade on the comics page and debuting her in upcoming Transformers TV episodes, [Mairghread] Scott focused on making the Autobot as real as possible even though she's a mechanized being. 'Our female characters really do have faults,' she says, 'they have things that they aren't necessarily always good at and they have things they're trying to overcome, and that makes them real people with a real drive.'"

Okay, Scott and Carroll, you now have my attention. I especially love the bolded section (that was bolded by me, just so you know). This is what we call character development, it's what we call representation, and it's what we call an idea. Some of you will probably be quick to point out that Strongarm herself was a main character before any of this happened, so why am I getting all excited for this? Well, from what I've read, Strongarm seems to be almost like a younger version of Arcee, more strict and less individualistic in her approach to battle or companionship (I could be completely wrong on that, though). So her character didn't really seem to do anything new for me. While I'm always happy to have women characters on primarily male-oriented shows, I would prefer if those women were included because their characters suit the story or they add something to the work beyond just being there to have women in the story. And I can sense that this is something that they're wanting to go for with Windblade. I love her comic book character, and if they can take the core of that character and transplant it onto the show, that'll be pretty awesome.

I'm also thrilled to see that there's going to be a female combiner team coming out! And that combiner was also created by fans, showing that at the least, fans are demanding more women representation in the Transformers mythos. I mean, yeah, it's still women for the sake of representation, but you have to start somewhere, right? Having an all-female combiner team should be interesting if only as a representation-boost, and with the worthy goal of getting young girls to become fans of the show, I think that's okay.

This development is super exciting for me as Windblade is a pretty nifty character in the comics, and I'd love to see her come to life, especially as the animation style oddly seems to work wonders with her design; just look at the promo art for this! Those reds and blues spark interest, and something about it just works for her where as for, say, Bumblebee, it just doesn't (at least for me). I now really want to see this new series, because if this is the kind of storytelling and character crafting that the writers are aiming for, then color me a happy camper!

April 19, 2015

5 Shows I Love (That I'll Likely Never Review)

Hey gang.

So, in the wake of my review of "Deadlock", I've been thinking about what other shows to review. I know I still have a lot of Prime to look at, and I intend to do so (though the schedule will likely have to pushed back; school work is really starting to pile on). But despite me having a lax work ethic anyway to the point that I might not finish with the show until like three years later or whatever, I've thought about other animated shows I love that I might consider doing something for on the blog. And if nothing else, I'll be able to put my thoughts on them down here, so that's good if I don't get around to actually talking about them in an Overview manner. But besides that, I did want to write about just a few shows I love that don't frequent this site. So without further ado, in no particular order, here are five shows that I love.

1. Justice League and JLU
Technically these are two shows, but I don't care. This series has been talked about and lorded over for quite some time, and it's easy to see why once you begin watching. Unlimited in particular really struck my fancy when I was a kid, and going back and rewatching it just has me still intrigued as hell. The characters are all pretty good, and the plots are excellent for the most part. The animation is top notch too! What makes this series work for me is really just the writing. The Cadmus arc specifically is one of the best animated tv arcs I've seen, and the more mature themes running through it and the rest of the show bring out a lot of what makes the DCAU so great- it's a kid's show, but there's more than enough in here to make it enjoyable for adults as well.

2. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Yeah. So, I have no experience with anime at all; I'm really a guy outside the fandom looking in, and from what I've seen, only a few shows have really sparked my interest. This is one of them, and it's the one that continues to be my personal favorite, and I'd even go so far as to say that it's one of the best shows I've seen, animated or otherwise. I watched the English dubbed version on Netflix for those wondering if I'm an anime purist- I'm not. However, despite the potential risk in a translated work like this, Madoka turns out great! It's unique, its animation is staggeringly awesome and attention-grabbing, and you really care about the characters on screen. The themes of the work are also awesome, and the moral and ethical questions raised both within the show and even outside it and about the genre that this is in (for as I understand it, this is more of a deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre than anything else, which is awesome), fascinate me to no end. If anime isn't your thing, then no, this won't work for you. But I would say that if you haven't really checked out anime before and you're on the fence, then this is a fantastic gateway piece, and as someone who's only seen this and like three other shows, I have to say that this one still stands up as the best in my opinion.

3. Person of Interest
It's interesting how this show has become both really popular and has remained largely under the radar for most social media sites. It's not quite a cult show like Firefly, but it's certainly not a mega hit like Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead. It has an interesting following, and it's easy to see why as this show gets its audience thinking about government surveillance, the Patriot Act, ethical privacy, and how all of these things reflect on individual people. Originally starting out as a "suspect of the week" show, its evolving story and nicely solid characters have turned it into a greta mind and moral puzzler. The cast is great! I love Michael Emerson, Amy Acker always brings her A game, and say what you will about Jim Caviezel, but he does fit into the role of stoic military man quite well. The plots are what drive this show forward with character development coming in at a close second, but that's not to say that the characters are flat. Indeed, some of the best moments come when the characters are tested by the machines and forced to wrestle with their inner demons as a result of external forces. It's a niche show, but I love it! Check this one out if you can!

4. The Spectacular Spider-Man
Oh, how we loved you. And oh, how your passing led to even greater evil than we ever could have imagined. Frankly, DC rules the small screen. The DCAU, while now no longer running, certainly has better plots, more character elements, and just an overall more mature and professional feel than much of Marvel's TV ventures. While I've not watched any of the Avengers shows, I've heard some of them are pretty great. But the thing that made me turn my head and pay attention to Marvel's TV ventures was Spectacular Spider-Man. The show is just so great! While the '95 show had decent adaptations of stories from the comics, this show has a great fluidity to it, a modernization that and maturity to it that, from the trailers, I would not have called at all. This draws on several story elements from the Ultimate universe comics, and Josh Keaton imbues Peter Parker and especially the Spider-Man wise-cracks with all the life and personality that Spider-Man should have. He's great! I also love all the twists and turns that the show takes. Season Two is excellent, and it really just makes you want to weep at the end, because it'll never be coming back. This is, in my opinion, something that Marvel should really be proud of- this is up there with the DCAU in terms of quality, storytelling, animation, and just plain excitement and engagement.

5. Transformers Animated
I've said before I think how I'm not this show's biggest fan. Well, that's not to say that I don't like it. I do like it; I just think that it's a bit too lorded over. What this show does right, it does amazingly right. I think what makes it work is how frankly surprising it was when this first came out that it had actual story and character to it, in light of the then-recent Cybertron series, which, y'know, didn't. Also, after the first Michael Bay film, well, this was a welcome return to form. There are a lot of references to previous lore in this show (and its ancillary material), which I think is what turns me off to a lot of it. I'm all for easter eggs, but good god, find some restraint. Anyway, that aside, the characters are quite good; three dimensional and full of personality, both the Autobots and Decepticons in this world come to life. The animation, another element of great contention among the fandom when this first came out, quickly becomes one of the make-or-break elements of the show. I didn't like it, frankly, but I think that serves just to remind me how amazing the story and character elements were, and indeed even when rewatching this, those elements continue to impress. Prime remains my favorite Transformers show, but most would say that this or Beast Wars is their favorite. And hey, there's nothing wrong with that; both are excellent examples of how to write Transformers well, and Animated in particular delivers a strong punch of solid writing and characterful animation.

So, those are five shows I love. Might come back to one or two of these at some point. I'd love to give each of these an Overview treatment, but I have no idea if that'll ever happen. Anyway, what shows do you love? Have you seen any of these? What did you think of them? I'm always on the lookout for new stuff, so if you have any shows you'd recommend, let me know!

April 17, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Deadlock

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 3, episode 13, “Deadlock”

Well, here we are at last, looking at the series finale to Transformers Prime. This is it, this is the end of the entire series, with nothing coming after this. At all. Right? Good. I did a first impressions type of thing when this first came out, and since then I've had time to properly digest and think about everything, all the story elements and character beats that this episode was able to have, and how successful this was as a finale. I have a great love for this episode, and the reason for that is because this does what so few Transformers finales have done in past: actually close up the show. We don’t just end with a huge battle and then credits; there’s actual story and finality to this one with characters and themes, and above all, this episode has heart.

This is all in contrast to how the studio handled the promoting of the finale, not caring that stuff actually happened here that was supposed to be important and/or exciting, so in typical studio execs fashion, they plastered promo material out there that pretty much spoiled everything that this episode had going for it. Bumblebee getting his voice back? Spoiled by promo material for this very episode. Megatron dying? Spoiled by synopses for… that thing that didn’t happen. The restoration of Cybertron? Spoiled by the Beast Hunters comic book series tie-in… which incidentally was written by two people who wrote for this show. It’s like Hasbro wanted fans to hate Prime, so they just put everything up for grabs well in advance of the final episode’s airing. Nice.

However, to the writer’s credit, even knowing all of this stuff, there was still much joy to be had when watching this for the first time, and even now two years later, I still get chills when seeing the big fight and still smile when watching everyone’s goodbye scene. And I think it says a lot that even having most of the shock events spoiled, the heart and soul of the work wasn’t diminished at all. There is still plenty to enjoy here, so let’s jump right in.

April 15, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Synthesis

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 3, episode 12, “Synthesis”

Okay, so as some of you may know, I’ve been doing these reviews ahead of time and then just scheduling them to be posted… at least, that’s what I’ve been doing for the majority of Season Three; before that, yeah, I’d just write one and stick it up here right after writing it. But here, I’m doing everything about a week ahead of when it’s due, to stay up on my school work and definitely not so I can play Dragon Age: Inquisition all weekend (it's so I can watching Daredevil). So anyway, right now, I’m pretty sick, so I apologize if this review is crap and if it doesn’t flow with the tones of “Persuasion” or “Deadlock”, which I hope to have up on Friday, but depending on how I’m feeling and all that, I may push it to Saturday, I don’t know. Anyway, let’s get on with this episode so I can go back to bed. I actually really hate reviewing stuff when I’m like this because it does a disservice to the episode and to my audience, but here we go.

April 13, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Persuasion

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 3, episode 11, “Persuasion”

As we begin our final leg of the Transformers Prime series, there is a definite sense of finality to a lot of this, helped in no small part by the fact that several story elements saved for the finale had to be pushed back simply because the final episode just didn’t have room for everything. This gives the final three episodes great cohesion as a whole chunk of arc, even if the episodes themselves are a bit light. “Persuasion” in particular feels like a solid Prime episode with more arc-related benefits than any actual stand-alone successes. Ratchet’s capture and manipulation by Megatron has some excellent character work to it, and I do want to talk about that, but this is what I mean when I say that every episode of Season Three has a point- this one is a great example of that, giving us a solid character episode while also relating specifically and heavily to the main push towards the end of the show.

April 8, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Minus One

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 3, episode 10, “Minus One”

So, on a whim I just searched Netflix streaming for Transformers Prime, and lo and behold, there it was, available for instant streaming. So I guess that whole “we’re taking down the show” didn’t work, because here it is! That’s kinda cool (though it means I brought my Season Three blu ray for nothing, but that’s okay).

This episode is honestly one of the weaker ones coming out of this season, made all the more glaring by the fact that it’s coming directly after “Evolution”, one of the strongest in the season. And I’m pretty sad to say that, because this episode has elements that could all actually gel into a fairly awesome story: Soundwave gets captured, Magnus struggles with a prosthetic hand, Optimus has his first fight with an intelligent Predaking- now, these all sound awesome, but in execution, many of these things fall flat, and I think the reason for that is the pace, it really drags this episode, and thus it makes everything feel less coalesced and more like the various plot points are swimming around without any clear idea of what exactly it is they want to do, but with enough conviction to make themselves feel important (kind of like people at the Phoenix airport.)

April 6, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Evolution

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 3, episode 9, “Evolution”

If Season Two had three years’ worth of story shoved into it pell-mell with little regard for flow or common sense, then Season Three had about a years’ worth of story chopped up, drained of all the excess crap until the most essential ingredients remained, and then plugged into a half seasons’ worth of space. This particular episode draws the first big arc to a relative conclusion- after this, the Decepticons will refocus their efforts on the restoration of the Omega Lock, the Autobots will become a more cohesive unit with Wheeljack and Ultra Magnus among their ranks, and the final four episodes focus more on a big bang-for-your-buck ending than anything else. All of this results in a really tight season because each episode had to be relevant in some way to the plot, characters, or direction of the show at this point. “Evolution” is vital to all three of these areas, and because of that, this is one of the strongest episodes out of the season, and one of the most solid in the show in my opinion.

April 3, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Plus One

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 3, episode 7, “Plus One”

Was taking a look at my stats the other day, y'know for the blog, and I discovered that the country second to the US to view my website is France! So shout out to France! Why am I making a shoutout here? I don't know- I don't look at this kind of stuff very often, and every single person out there who reads my shit deserves to be appreciated by me and I have been woefully lacking in that department, so thank you everyone who's been reading the things I have to say! And once again, thank you to France for being a staunch supporter!

Welcome back to another episode of Transformers Prime! I’ve mentioned before about how comedy is an even more subjective art form than others because of how versatile and personal comedy can be and often is, and that makes reviewing an episode with comedy as a semi-main focus difficult for me because what I might find works about this episode might not be anything inherently objective— character- or story-based— but instead is probably something completely subjective. I know I’m more of a subjective reviewer than most, and that’s fine; I’m just saying that this time I’m subjectively reviewing an episode who’s goal is to play with our subjective experiences and make us laugh in doing so. Unlike “Thirst”, this episode isn’t really a comedy-centered work, but comedy is a main force in it, alongside a surprisingly effective character arc, which is good because a few little niggling problems also hamper this one. Let’s jump in and find out what’s what!

April 1, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Chain of Command

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 3, episode 6, “Chain of Command”

Alright, so all of those suggestions that I mentioned last episode about how to make cloning easier? Well, Shockwave, you better take my cue, because this episode’s teaser is the Predacon breaking free of the ice and flying back to your ship! That’s it, and I will credit them this, it’s a nice, quick, and effective teaser.