[personal profile] jtniehof
Ranma 1/2 OVAs, FMA: Brotherhood, Ramen Fighter Miki, YuruYuri 3, Working!!! Lord of the Takanashi, Appleseed 1-4, Ghost in the Shell 1/1.5/2, The Great Book of Amber, The Man Who Sold the Moon, The Green Hills of Earth, Doubt, Master of None, Man on a Ledge.

Ranma 1/2 OVAs: And so we come to the end. Definitely a step up, particularly having the budget to bring back more physical comedy, but fatigue from the TV carried over and they weren't quite as fun as I remembered. The two-parters in particular drag a bit.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood: I don't think we've watched an episode in six months, so officially calling this one dead at 24. There's nothing particularly bad about it, just never looked forward to an episode. Part of the problem is the original sticks around in the head, so this doesn't feel fresh a few years later.

Ramen Fighter Miki: Didn't really get into this (up to ep. 3); it had the occasional smile moment but the slapstick didn't quite work for me and the characters were pretty flat.

Yuru Yuri Season 3: More YuruYuri! This season captured more of the wacky season 1 magic than season 2 but still dragged occasionally. Seems like this is the end, and that's probably just as well.

Working!!! Lord of the Takanashi: Cute, basically resolves the dangling threads from the end of the TV and calls it a day.

Appleseed v1-4 (reread): After starting out okay, the plot gets lost in the second volume and never really came back. Instead of plot, or characterization, we get characters spewing great page-spanning gouts of political pseudo-philosophy, heavy on might-makes right. It's also hard to tell the actors apart when they're all in identical powered armor.

Ghost in the Shell 1, 1.5, 2: GitS 1 is a fine, fairly focused, mostly comprehensible story. Still too much explanation in the author asides, but it's functional. The stories in 1.5 are okay but isolated; they seem like they are going to build into 2 but don't. 2 is a mess, descending into Appleseed levels of incoherence.

The Great Book of Amber (Roger Zelazny) (reread): Nominally ten novels, but the five Corwin novels and five Merlin each flow into each other, so two volumes would have been really nice and maybe make it readable in bed without a strained neck. The Corwin arc is substantially better: it ends abruptly and with a few loose threads, but forms a coherent single story, with a strong main conflict (that shifts subtly, but rationally, over time), where the multiverse of Amber is slowly revealed in a way that makes sense. The Merlin arc is a lot more haphazard. I think it was most of Blood of Amber where I lost track of why anybody was going anywhere or doing anything. All of the books descend pretty frequently into weird dream sequences that may have some meaning buried in there but mostly serve to burn up pages. The ending of the second arc is also very abrupt, with lots of dangling threads sticking out all over the place. I haven't read the shorts (except Hall of Mirrors, ages ago, and apparently the rest should be read first), so maybe they help, but they're hard to get. The writing in the Merlin arc is crisper; the dialogue, a bit punchier, although really all ten books have Whedonesque verbal sparring. It's just the plot that's a bummer for the back half.

The Man Who Sold the Moon (Robert A. Heinlein) (reread): I was considering getting rid of the RAH "future history" collections but this made me hesitate. The Roads Must Roll remains one of the best shorts. Characters are a bit thin...they're more bundles of motivations and ideas...but the man puts together such a driving story of just about any length. I think the particular brand of libertarianism that has picked up Heinlein's flag needs to look back at things such as his respect for labor--although his political affiliation did change over time. There's a quote I couldn't dig back up, disparaging businessmen who expect the government to guarantee the continued success of their business model, a real indictment of robber baronism. Another good one: "Functionalism was particularly popular among little people everywhere who could persuade themselves that their jobs were the indispensible ones, and that, therefore, under the 'natural order' they would be top dog. With so many different functions actually indispensible such self-persuasion was easy."

The Green Hills of Earth (Robert A. Heinlein) (reread): A bit gloomier portion of the future history. Logic of Empire is definitely a classic, and a good cautionary on entrenched heinous institutions (although I don't recall the n-word from previous readings, wonder if it got expunged at some point). We Also Walk Dogs is tight, original, and hilarious. Unfortunately there's some of his casual, paternalistic sexism coming through, too (e.g. Delilah and the Space Riggers).

Doubt (Acme Theater): A short show that packs in a lot: not only the obvious issues of clergy child abuse, but what it meant to be black in America in 1964 (and today), what it meant to be gay, the power dynamics of the Catholic Church, how traditional institutions navigate a changing world, the cost of justice, and on. Nick asked afterwards what people thought of his character, and although at first the answer seems obvious, pulling some threads makes it clear it's a lot more complicated than first appears. That may be the only downside: it would be easy to walk away at the end thinking it's simply a good play, but this one requires the post-show coffee and chat. This is my only exposure to the material (not even the movie), so no comparisons here, just a fantastic production.

Covert Affairs S5: Of course it got good just in time to be cancelled. The final "cliffhanger" works fine artistically, even if unintentional. The obnoxious characters are gone and all the good ones step forward: Joan, Arthur, Calder. The new Mr. Ambiguous is truly ambiguous. The "good guys" are all in tension, pulling in different directions, yet still on the same team without back-stabbing. It's not the same show as, say, season 1, but it really works for the first time in awhile. Worth the slog of seasons 3 and 4? Hard to say. I think it tips the series into the category of worth watching as a whole, but skipping the whole thing is also reasonable.

Master of None season 1 (I hope): Wonderfully done. The first episode is a little uneven, relying on comedy of the awkward more than I like. Episode 2 is a beautiful look at first and second generation immigrants in America, folded in with parental relationships and the difficulties of people who genuinely love each other still managing to hurt each other. Hang on through the first episode and if the second doesn't tickle your fancy, it doesn't change much from there. The last two are a bit of a downer, while pulling out the themes implicit throughout. This is a really funny, really earnest show.

Man on a Ledge: Sam Worthington is one of few men who can actually rock the mullet. (The rest of the list is pretty much Richard Dean Anderson.) The promos did a good job of hiding what the movie's about...Cassidy out on the ledge is only one of three main threads. This is a very nice "reveal" movie: no exposition, relationships between the characters and plot lines uncovered gradually and naturally, with minimal repetition. We start with no information: we don't know what Cassidy wants, or why, and slowly both his plan and his reasons become clear. On the weak side, every time we move off the ledge, the movie loses the emotional tension and the events are simply less credible (getting less so as the film progresses.) Worth a watch but not life-changing.



March 2017


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