Monday, February 29, 2016

Some Cool Stuff

First, the classic anime Vision of Escaflowne is being kickstarted by Funimation. You can see that here. Normally I wouldn't bother with something like this, but Ecaflowne is a series that has been adrift at sea for years in licensing limbo. This HD director's cut release will include a new dub as well as a Blu-Ray and DVD simultaneous release. If you have any interest in fantasy or old school anime (like I do), then you might want t check this out. It's on its way to hitting its stretch goal.

I don't usually spend that much on something like this (and I will be hurting in March because of it), but I feel classic anime deserves it.

On the other end of the spectrum is modern anime. My currently favorite running manga, My Hero Academia, which I have posted about many times here finally released an animated trailer for its release in April.

This is the trailer:

The mixture of east and west comic art is masterfully kept in the anime. The music and voiceovers, as well, really hit the pitch for the characters. I'm particularly glad the voice for the main character, Izuku Midoriya, doesn't sound whiny. The character might start off frail and weak, but that is more of a physical handicap than anything else. Those who read the manga know very well what he becomes.

Also really digging the music that sounds just like classic superhero shows and old school anime as well. Not to mention, this being written by the writer of the anime version of Trigun has me even more pumped up for it.

Anime fan? You'll want to keep an eye on this one. Trust me.

Something tells me this will be big.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Daredevil Season 2 is almost here!

I've posted before about what a huge fan I was of Daredevil season 1. It really felt like the right way to make an adult and mature superhero show. And season 2 looks to be even more in that same vein.

First we have out hero dealing with the rise of an anti-hero known as the Punisher, Frank Castle, who had his family murdered by criminals and took to making them pay in return. This is a moral battle our hero, Matt Murdock will have to wage as Frank Castle kills every criminal he comes across as ruthlessly as possible. He is a broken man, and Matt is two steps away from being like him.

The first season had him up against the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk, who was Matt's opposite in every way, both in ferocity and in end goals. This time Frank Castle is a mirror image of who Matt could be should he make the wrong decision.

But that's not all.

An old flame of Matt's is back in town and informing him that he didn't actually beat the criminal element down. More merely arrived to try and take their place.

Now Matt might be fighting an endless war and there's no guarantee that he can win.

To be perfectly honest, this is exactly what I was hoping for from a second season of Daredevil. Continuing on from the themes that made the first season so great, this looks like it might actually outdo the first season. And that's a tall order.

March 18th can't come quick enough!

Monday, February 15, 2016

And Burn They Do! ~ A Review of Declan Finn's "Honor At Stake"

I'm a pretty simple guy. I can enjoy just about any story as long as it is well done and is grounded in a good moral base. That's probably why despite being a big fan of fantasy, I barely read any vampire novels.

Now why is that? Well, it's pretty simple.

I consider Bram Stoker's Dracula one of the best horror stories ever written and thought Stephen King's modern take in Salem's Lot one of the best usage of vampires and the myth I'd ever read (outside of some sticking points like what happened to the priest in a scene involving a crucifix), and the comic book Crimson provided a very fresh take on their origins, with sticking points of its own, but otherwise I really hate the blood suckers and just about every story with them present.

The reason I detest them is simple. They get the rules wrong. Constantly. The stories take away their weaknesses which is the one thing that makes them the most interesting creature and puts them above other monsters. They turn them into little more than walking tanks with an overbite and a skin condition. Then you get to ridiculous stuff like Anne Rice removing all the rules for no reason and the Twilight series not even making the monsters vampires but calling them that regardless, and you have successfully neutered their appeal in every possible way.

Even Joss Whedon lost points by allowing vampires into churches (despite holy water and crosses burning and killing them, I might add) and letting them move over running water thereby allowing them full range of movement. Without the rules, they're too boring to read about and it makes them almost as dull as zombies.

I have read a few of Declan Finn's books before, enjoyed them a good deal, but he managed to hit something with Honor At Stake that I haven't seen in a vampire story in years. Using the religious roots of the monsters, he highlights Bram Stoker's rules in Dracula (which were echoed to an extent in Salem's Lot), and makes the mythos what it was meant to be from the start. He adds his own touches such as in how the vampire's soul is affected by the transformation, which was honestly never clear in Stoker's work, and how they are able to turn into vampires in the first place.

More than the rules, he hits vampires with his own style of action and suspense, bringing about a sense of fun with the creature that hadn't been hit at a similar level since probably something as old as The Lost Boys. (Keep in mind, I mean enjoyability. Not accuracy. It's not a great film.)

But that would be selling this book short if getting the rules right was enough.

In Honor At Stake there is a growing romance, ninjas, gang fights, explosions, and a pace that never lets up once it starts rolling. The characters are fun to follow, leading with a duo in which one is a psycho and the other a vampire and you might get an idea of how the dynamics between the pair work. The setting, New York City, really comes alive here in the setting where vampires might not be the worst thing you could possibly run into on a bad day. The book's got a cracking sense of humor to go with the drama and action, as you can see.

The plot involves the two main characters, Marco Catalano and Amanda Colt, slowly getting closer to each other while realizing they don't actually know as much about each other as they thought. At the same time, violent attacks seem to be popping up all over the place involving bite marks and drained blood, signs that something bad is on the way to New York. But I really don't want to explain more than that to avoid getting into spoiler territory. The book unfolds at such a good pace that you'll be hooked in really quick.

It's a shame that vampires no longer inspire works like this, usually being little more than allowing erotic fantasies to come to play for the author in place of characters or plot. Declan Finn shows that not only does he get the appeal of the vampire monster, but doesn't miss the point of why they're a threat in the first place. Just a good job all the way around.

About the only fault is a bit of a slow start, but once you get past it, it never lets up until the end. I had a lot of fun with this book.

One of the best vampire stories in recent times. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Heroes at the Top

You know, I don't read much manga these days. I mostly stick with the old school where heroes are heroes but they also have brains in their heads to think out problems instead of rushing in unprepared. I've probably posted about that before, but it needs to be restated.

So getting into volume 3 of My Hero Academia made me more than bit worried. Sure I enjoyed the first two volumes, but would it continue its fresh yet traditional take on heroes and old school action manga, or would it devolve to a formula of mindless fight after fight where nothing really matters at all.

However, there is nothing to worry about. Volume 3 of My Hero Academia is even better than the first two. As Izuku Midoriya, our main character quickly learns, the world of being a superhero is more challenging than even he thought it would be. Not only does he have to fight off a group of villains coming for his personal hero, All Might, thirsting for blood but he has to prove to the hero world that he has what it takes to rise to the top.

While volume 1 was more of an introduction to the world of My Hero Academia, a world where 80% of the world's population has a power (called a "quirk") of some kind and how some rise as heroes with their quirks to protect people, and volume 2 went deeper into the characters and their quirks, volume 3 one-ups them both. Kohei Horikoshi showed that there is definitive good in the world with his heroes in the first two volumes, and now we meet definitive evil as the villains introduced want nothing more than to tear the world of heroes, and the world of good, to pieces.

Not only that, but the fight scenes are very thoughtful for an action series like this. Midoriya thinks things out the whole way, trying new paths with his quirk, using the environment to his advantage, and building up the courage he never had to become better. The fight scenes show that the villains are for keeps, and that there is no playing around when they're involved.

But outside of the villains, there is something called the Sports Festival that U.A. Hero Academy holds every year to let young aspiring heroes show their stuff. It's a bit like an Olympic event to let them cut loose and compete to become number one and get offers in the hero world for various things. There are multiple events where more participants get eliminated until only one left standing, though we only see the first in this volume. Just based on that, though, we are in for a treat.

So all in all, three volumes in and My Hero Academia is only improving. I can't wait for the anime to come out in April and hopefully lead more people to this great series. As far as superhero comics and shonen manga go, this is one of the best at both out there.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Slow Week

Today I picked up a handful of books at the hospital not only for me, but for my mother to read as well. A couple of Crichton and Janet Evanovich books as well as the Caine Mutiny are now on my shelf. I suppose they'll match my copies of Nethereal by Brian Niemeier, Honor At Stake by Declan Finn, and Burn Witch Burn! by A. Merritt on their way in the mail as books I'll hopefully get around to reading soon.

I say hopefully because I've been slowly editing my novel back from November which has cut into my reading time quite a bit. I'd like to say that's my only problem, which is actually one of being too easily distracted, but I do hope to have something out by this year. My lone short story from last year (which wasn't even professionally edited) isn't going to cut it, I know.

Finally, I realize most of my updates have been on Fridays recently and I couldn't tell you why other than I tend to forget about this blog when it comes to writing. I usually devote the time to that instead. It's also, as you can tell, because I'm a very boring guy who just doesn't have much to say a lot of the time. Still, that's something I also hope can change this year. We're out of the worst month of the year so at least there's that.

As for right now, well, I've got a Doc Savage to finish off.