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I really haven’t been keeping up with my weekly writing regimen, but oh well. I’ve been swamped with homework and barely been able to breathe at all this semester. As I write now, we are in Seattle for SakuraCon - our yearly Spring Break adventure. Trevor (my husband) and I watched the premier of the Dragon Age animated movie. The creators of Dragon Age worked with Funimation to put it together, so we were pretty stoked. Right after that we went to a panel about sexism in the geeky-nerdy community and how we can fight it – so that definitely has colored our review of it. After the feminism panel, we went to a fantastic Indian restaurant called A Taste of India. As we waited in the incredibly long line to get in, we discussed the movie at length and jotted down notes for this article. Therefore, it really is from both of us. This will be heavy in spoilers.

 

Spoilers! )

 

Voice Acting

It was kinda obvious that there hadn’t been much in the way of directing of the voice actors. They were supposed to be so-totally-not-French accents, but the voice actors’ accents were all over the place. Many of the actors ended up blending accents or going back and forth between three or four different accents. Some actors gave up and just went British or their American accent. Other than that it was pretty good.

Animation

Definitely a low-budget production. The motioncapture looked great, but there were a few times that they didn’t use it which ended up looking really bad – especially with the horses. They cut a lot of corners, including almost never animating facial expressions. In fact, Cassandra’s face was left in a blank, emotionless state for most of the movie, which jarred with the voice acting often. The design of the scenes went for wow-they-were-in-a-hurry to Oh COOL!!!!, and there’s a lot more cheap shots than nice looking ones.

The animation of the magic was sometimes awesome, and sometimes lazy. The fire spell was really, really cool. The fight scenes – not so much. It basically consisted of throwing balls of light around like water balloons. We’d thought that the magic they’d use for fighting would involve making the environment fight for you, since the Templar can shrug off magical attacks with ease. Things like making the ground turn into quicksand to impede their movement or making lightening strike them or pieces of buildings fall on them. That would have been so cool! But, we get magic glowing water balloons instead.

In Conclusion

The cheapness doesn’t bother us near so much. Cheap movies can be awesome if the rest of the movie is well done, and this wasn’t. It really feels like a lazy, last-minute slapped together project built to cash in on Dragon Age – but it could have been a lot cheaper and a lot more offensive as an addition to the canon. This was mediocre, but at least it had a great main character and an a few admittedly awesome fight scenes.

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So, I just watched The Season of the Witch.

I’m still trying to hash out what I think of this movie… but I’m pretty sure that I don’t like it.

The first thing I noticed was that the music was all wrong. The music is a bombastic, heavy, orchestral, with screaming choirs (imagine listening to the Nazgûl theme from LotR for 97 minutes) and very much NOT 1300s sounding. It’s hard to put my finger on why exactly it bothered me so much. Maybe it was because it didn’t match the emotions on screen, and never tried to build a setting. There should have been at least a little madrigal music in there, but there wasn’t. The music was flailing its arms and yelling, “This is epic, dammit!” but the problem was – it wasn’t.  “Epic” is thousands of orcs attacking Minas Tirith. It isn’t four guys and a girl in an abbey.

The dialogue I could forgive for not being archaic. English at that time was pretty unintelligible to us. The catch phrases, I couldn’t forgive. “Tonight, you’re buying!” was repeated way too much, and I was left gritting my teeth every time I heard it. I get it. These are Men Of Action. I can see they are kicking ass. Can’t they do it with less banter? Also, the smell joke was really lame. It’s a supernatural horror movie set in the dark ages. They wouldn’t be making modern observations about the smells that they lived with daily.

 

Spoilers! )

 

I don’t know why, but I really wanted this movie to be good. I heard that it did poorly and that the critics didn’t like it, but I wanted it to have been good. It feels like it could have been. Maybe with a different score, and a few more months working on the script so it wasn’t so holey and hokey.

To give it an arbitrary value, I’d say that it’s two out of five. Parts of it were entertaining, but the excuses for the entertaining parts were so badly flawed that they drowned them out.

Also, WTF is with the title? Seasons had nothing to do with the story at all!

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So, I just marathoned it, and figured I'd write a review for this week's bit of writing.

Whew, where to start? Where to start if I don't want to give off too many spoilers? I guess I'll cover the basics. (and yes, there will be spoilers. Not many I hope. I'll try to warn you before hand.)

The art was pretty run-of-the-mill shounen blather. Not great, not horrible. There were a few scenes that ended up looking really weird - I think they were aiming for a humorous tone, but the sudden downgrade in the art wasn't cute or comedic, just ugly. The digital animation wasn't as oppressively obvious as it is in a lot of similar shows, but still really obvious when they switched from drawing to digital. In the end - decent but not exceptional.

The character designs were pretty good... some of the secondary characters ended up looking really over the top weird. The main characters were designed to look as boringly normal as possible - with no injuries ever. No scars, nothing to remind us that they repeatedly throw themselves into insanely dangerous battles with demons. The bad guys were fun to look at. There were a few improbable hairdos and more than a little gravity-defying garments but you can excuse those as magic. Really - clothing doesn't work that way. As a seamstress I suppose I notice these things more than other people. Character designers should spend some time sewing and designing patterns.

I kinda want to meet the demonic seamstress who makes these fantastic outfits possible. Imagine a demon standing in his tightywhities talking to the demonic seamstress, saying, "And could you put spikes in it? Rows and rows of them? And the hakama must be both gaudy and tattered - with skulls!" The best villain dressing was the normal people who were given demonic powers. They looked reasonable.

Their school uniforms seem to be the off-the-shelf typical anime uniform designs, complete with mini-skirts that magically never show underwear and are worn no matter how cold the weather is. These uniforms never get damaged or bloody either. And, they wear the uniforms all the time, especially when demon-hunting. Because the ideal clothing to go demon hunting in the middle of the night in is your mini-skirt school uniform. Not like any adults would spot you in your uniform wandering the streets in the middle of the night and recognize which school you go to, and call it to let them know that their students are wandering the streets in the middle of the night. Have I repeated that enough yet? It's just stupid. Why is it such a common trope? I've seen real Japanese school girl uniforms. They're ugly, baggy, and shapeless. Real ones are designed to make everyone equally ugly, so that kids will focus on school instead of clothing. They're also supposed to cut down on teasing because no one can tell how wealthy or poor you are based on your clothes (which doesn't work, but that's the idea).

That rant aside... the music.

It was really nice. I loved the violin theme they had playing through the beginning of the story, and the more orchestral music really complemented the story, and made it much more dramatic. If a sound track comes out, I suggest getting it. I've always been a sucker for orchestral sound tracks, but the solo violinist managed to not sound kitschy. The best part of this violin theme is that it has something to do with the plot, but not how these themes normally are worked in. Not like in Blood+, where Diva's singing was pretty much the entire plot, but much more subtle, in a way that tugged at my heartstrings. The first victim of the demons that we meet is a highschool girl walking home, carrying her violin. We don't know her name, we just know that it's her that's playing the violin throughout. It's the theme used for the victims, and it's really really effective. It gives the hundreds of thousands of deaths weight and meaning.

The plot is nothing special. It's quite clichéd, and very predictable.

Spoilers Ahead! )

Yeah, the plot's pretty typical shounen fodder.

What makes this series worth watching is the characterization. When I started watching it, I didn't have high hopes for it at all. It looked like mildly amusing background noise to work on my website to. The characters start out as tropes, but turn out to not be. At first glance, you have the easy-going guy, the delinquent, the jock, the class president girl, and the sheltered rich girl. Look a little deeper, and ...

Spoilers! )

I was really, really glad that the girls didn't get the short end of the stick in the characterization. So often they do in shounen anime. Most of the time, they're just there to be lusted over, to be saved, or to be the totally amazing supernatural beauties that have an inexplicable attraction to the incompetent male lead. Here, they're supernatural beauties - whose lives don't revolve around the boys' lives, but instead have an equal part in fighting to save Tokyo from the rampages of demons. They're equal players, with their own personalities. It's so refreshing to see female characters done well for a change.

I recommend this series. The boring, clichéd plot is made up for by the excellent characterization. The animation is watchable. The character designs are nothing new and no worse than everything else out there. The music is very good, and the use of the violin theme is very effective. There's a lot of violence and swearing in show, so don't show it to your grandmother. Or little kids. It appears to be aimed for teens 16 and up, but the rating is a good deal higher in the 'States. Like I said, lots of violence and swearing. No sexual violence though, and the gore isn't very graphic. I think it's fine for teenagers to watch, but leave that to the rules of your households, teens.

All in all, it's not something that you can't go without seeing, but it's pretty good. If I were to put some sort of arbitrary value on its worth as literature, I'd say it's 3 out of 5 stars. Just barely above average magical-shounen-saving-Tokyo fantasy.

Mata rainen, sayounara!

July 2015

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