Saturday, August 22, 2015

Shurken Sentai Ninninger Episode 20

Well it certainly didn't take long to break my vow of two episodes for every Ninninger entry. No this isn't some fear of commitment. The advent of Windows 10 required this old laptop to restart from square one and I've yet to get everything back up and running. Didn't even have VLC installed until this afternoon. It's actually kind of nice as the whole process has made for some quick file clean up. Believe me, there was a lot of loose baggage to clean out of this thing. In a way it's all rather fitting as this installment of Ninninger had a very similar goal.

If you recall, our last visit left the kids in a conundrum as they'd found the flying ninja ally who was rather reluctant to offer his aid. Being of the stubborn variety they continue to try and win him over. First they get a little backstory on Saika the monk. He's the son of the guy who built all the ninja allies & fancy tools and he aims to continue the family tradition. First on his checklist is teaching Takaharu what he needs to tame the flying ally who's been the kids guardian ever since pops died.
Somewhat debatable. 

As you might guess, most of the team is sidelined to action duty this week while Taka tries to figure things out. It's not a bad trade though as the action is pretty good with the actors doing some out of costume stuff for a change.

Meanwhile, Saika teaches Takaharu by stealing his ninja sword for a grand game of keep away. It's established early on that Taka is in fact kind of an idiot. Like the show just straight up admits it now. While attempting to retrieve his weapon, dumb dumb must consider what he can truly offer to his friends. Reflecting on the old dude's insults from last week he realizes that the team is comprised of two smart and calculating types, two fast & clever kids, and a strong man who doesn't know how to work in a team setting. What he offers is his wild uninhabited idiocy that helps everyone be they're best. It took 20 episodes but the show finally came up with a proper reason for why he gets to be the leader other than wearing red tights. For a series predominantly aimed at kids it's also a surprisingly sweet message. If you're a dumb kid, use your energy to help others succeed. It's like the origin story of Tony Robbins.

The old man finally sees a ninja he can “run wild” with and offers his aid. That means it's power-up time with a new super armor and giant robot named Lion Ha-Oh. Normally I'd be concerned that only Taka would be able to use the new gear but from what I've seen of following episodes, he has to share the new toys every so often.

Having gained an ally and defeated that Chimera from last week the kids return home. We're treated to a brief conversation where Saika jumps up right next to Fuuka as the show's best character simply because he has the balls to criticize gramps. Speaking of the old bastard; since the team finally surpassed him in one small way, he finally relents and allows Kinji to become his student. Everything isn't quite so happy elsewhere as Kyuuemon seems to be reviving yet another evil general.

All in all I'm pretty satisfied with this tale. It introduced some good potentially recurring characters, flat out admitted that Taka's a moron, albeit one with leadership skills, and even had someone bash on grampa for once. Combine that with some decent action and shiny new tools & the next batch of stories are sounding pretty good.

I'm planing on at least two more entries for August, including the start of Halloween goodies (already bought some yesterday). Also want to try and improve the site a little as well. Not to mention I've got a job interview on Monday morning. Yes indeed, this blogger/contractor/handyman may add recycling center goon to his list of titles. Wish me luck.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Show and Tell August 2015

Welcome to a new feature everybody. This will serve as my monthly chance to write about items that don't warrant an entire entry of their own. Yes I've done these sort of grab bag posts before but from now on it's going to be a monthly tradition. It's the perfect kind of feature for August as it's allergy season which makes me tired and loopy as all hell. Just keep that in mind in case I veer radically off topic during this article. This month we've got some toys, snack food, and the big cinematic blunder of the summer.

Skeletor Funko Hikari
As you all may have noticed over the past few months, I've rekindled my old love for toys. Never became a toy collector as an adult due to the fact that most figures are just too damn pricy. There are a few exceptions here and there like the few Funko Pops that I actually like (just wait until you see the one on pre-order). There are a few other Funko product lines out there ranging from the fairly inexpensive to the somewhat extravagant. This belongs to the latter category.
The Hikari line is made up of taller figures with some truly wacky paint jobs. On top of that, each one has a limited amount of figures from 200 or so up to around 5000. As you might expect from a limited figure, there's a pretty mean price tag attached unless you've got the patience to search out a deal. As someone with a very slim budget, it was important to stay as far away from the $50 MSRP as possible. Spots like ebay and Amazon can provide much more reasonable marks in the teens and twenties. That's a checkbook saver as I had to have this Skeletor. Not quite sure why, just really wanted it. $15 and a few days shipping made it happen.
There was a downside to the low price point as wherever these things had been stored dried out the glue holding the box together. This means that if I want to keep him in his very pretty packaging, sticky surgery will be required.
All in all, he's a beauty and a highlight of the corner shelf. Not sure what the chances are of me ever getting another Hikari but at least I got my neon sorcerer. Skeletor was a sorcerer, right? Necromancer maybe? Somebody help me out here.

Fantastic Four (2015)

Oh yeah, I couldn't resist going to the tiny local theater to check out this steaming pile nor was I disappointed by its awfulness. This seems like a product of the 90's. A time when unfaithful, miserable comic movies were the norm. Nowadays when something as relatively low-profile as Ant-Man warrants a good movie, flicks like Fantastic Four are downright inexcusable.
I was tempted to write a full article on this one, possibly comparing to the past attempts at bringing FF to the screen. I even watched the unreleased 1994 version (thanks internet) and for all that film's weaknesses it may actually be the most faithful and loving treatment the team has gotten on film. The reason I didn't go through with the full article is that as we continued discussing everything we'd seen, more and more issues would present themselves. Deconstructing this mess is a never ending chore. Much as the director may want to blame studio interference for the failings, he deserves just as much blame. How can I feel so confident saying that? Because you can easily distinguish which scenes are his and which are reshoots (usually thanks to hairstyles like Kate Mara's terrible wig) and all of them are lame. The story structure is anemic, character development is non-existent, issues and plot points are brought forth only to disappear with no resolution of comeuppance. Pacing, tone, art direction, special effects, it all ranges from sub-par to downright horrific.
Don't get me wrong though, we had a great time watching it. Haven't laughed that much in a theater for quite some time. Since it didn't need to be seen in a spiffy theater, we were able to support our little local joint in the process.

Food and Drink

There must have been a distribution shake up in my area recently as seasonal products are actually hitting the shelves on time. Naturally this has me extra excited for the oncoming assault of pumpkin spice and caramel apple treats guaranteed to invade this fall.
Finding Ice Cream Pebbles at the local Wal-Mart was an absolute revelation. More than any other foodstuff, seasonal/specialty cereals frequently pass by my neck of the woods. Last year I didn't encounter the summer pebbles until Thanksgiving, and never saw a hint of the candy corn variety.
As for this new flavor, it's good so long as you've still got a youthful taste for abundant sweetness. I mean this stuff is off the sweet charts and delivers sherbert flavor in full. I was tempted to make treats out of them if not for the fear of having to eat an entire pan by my onesies.
Lay's is in the heart of another chose-a-flavor competition. Overall this new batch is a significant improvement over previous incarnations. Nothing quite so vile as the cappuccino chips. Here's a brief rundown.

Rueben – Pretty tasty but fails to give you a complete Reuben sandwich flavor. Leans more towards cheese with just hints of the other ingredients.
Gyro – Now this one lives up to it's name. They hit all the notes of Gyro flavor from the crazy sauce and farty meat down to the lettuce. It's good but difficult to eat in mass quantities.
Biscuits & Gravy – If any one variety needed to marked as a failure, I'd go with this one. It's not a terrible chip by any means. It just falls so short of what it could be. Every time I eat one, I just wanna head downtown for real B&G.
Truffle Fries – Honestly these are my pick of the litter. There's an abundance of flavors and aromas within this bag, making for a complex and nearly overwhelming chip experience. If you don't really care which variety wins, could you do me a solid and vote for this one?

Like clockwork, we've gotten our......what is it...forth? Maybe fifth special Oreo for the year in the form of Brownie batter. These one were a tough sell for me due to a bad experience with pot brownies a few years back. As you might imagine, even the smell of the things can make me a lil ill. The cookies are ok though, not up to the level of some others, but still a good treat. Have yet to try them with coffee as is my ritual but I assume they'll pass that test swimmingly.

Birthday fun

There's a few birthdays to work into the budget this month. A tough prospect when one hasn't been paid in weeks. Got a few fun items for people. The different Buffy figures are for my sister as is the art book which will probably garner it's own individual post soon. It's by an odd guy named Brandon Bird who does lots of pop-culture influenced paintings involving Nick Cage, the cast of Law & Order, Mr. T. You get the point. It's fun stuff, and there's one print I really want from him. Might be a reward to myself once I finally get a second job.
Already started on a birthday box for my nephew who turns..Christ, 16 next month! And he's the youngest one since his cousin just reached that number a few days ago. Haven't gotten anything for her yet but seeing as she's not getting back from California until a week after the big day tardiness can be excused.

So that's some of the random junk that's been flying through my life this month. You'll have to excuse me now as I'm at a critical juncture. I'm either going to sleep for maybe five more hours...or mow the lawn and sleep for ten. Oh and now I just remembered the three e-mails and job app I have to take care of but my head's so itchy! See you all soon with....honestly have no idea. With something. Until then, you all have a good time.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Comic Bento July 2015 Unboxing

Your eyes do not deceive you, dear reader. This is in fact the July unboxing article appearing almost a third of the way through August. Let this intro serve as a spoiler that this month's candidate is not for the impatient among you. Earlier in July I had to cancel my subscription to Your Toy Box as it seemed likely that mystery boxes were out of reach for that month. Some decent budgeting and a few less beers than usual allowed me to give one a shot so I went with Comic Bento which was running a theme of “The Little Guy” no doubt inspired by Ant-Man. Was it worth my time? Let's take a look.

Comic Bento is a mystery box of 4-5 collected volumes (both paperback and hardcover depending on the month.) The package originates in Montreal and costs $20 for the box itself and $5 for shipping to the U.S.A. If you're in Canada however, the shipping makes a step climb to $12! Yes it actually costs less for them to ship boxes across the border than within their own country. Silly bastards. The reason they can get it mailed down here so inexpensively is good old media mail which also means it takes a decent bit to show up on your porch if you live anywhere other than New England. For example; there were unboxing videos posted to youtube five days before I received my box on the 3rd. Combine that with reading the items, and helping my sister get settled back into Michigan turned this article into a slug. The wait seemed even longer since they mailed out the tracking numbers a week before the boxes.

Enough about package logistics, what about the real meat of this box? Upon opening you're greeted with a plastic sealed stack of comic goodness. This is a fine idea as it keeps the books from sliding around and getting damaged. There's also a downside as they use clear plastic wrap which means you can blow the whole surprise with one quick glance. Isn't there any cloudy plastic wrap up North? Whether or not you spoil it all in one look, what truly matters is what's in the box? And is any of it worth your time?

Ant-Man digest
Given the theme for the month and the release of Ant-Man it seemed like a given that there would be some love for him in this box. I'd really been hoping for the first volume of Nick Spencer's current series as it's new, inexpensive, very well reviewed, and focused on Scott Lang. Instead we got a mismatched assortment of all-ages comics mostly focused on Hank Pym. None of it is in mainline continuity so kids will learn absolutely nothing of value from reading these stories.
Thankfully, the majority of stories in here are at least fun to read despite the weird alternate origin for Hank. In this he's a down on his luck inventor who creates an ant communication helmet for pest control, only to be recruited by his neighborhood ants to fight invaders from the microverse. The micro ship is where he ends up finding his shrinking technology. It's fun but there's just not enough of interest or importance here. Basically it's a book you'll read on the toilet and then toss.

Divinity vol 1
Now this was kind of a decent surprise as I'd heard very good things about this title though it doesn't fit the little guy theme at all. The story is about an orphan raised by the soviet government during the cold war who is chosen to travel to the edge of the galaxy, only to return decades later as a superpowerful messiah figure. Think of him as a Russian version of Dr. Manhattan. Couldn't help but find it odd that even though he's from the Soviet Union, he doesn't have an eastern European name or accent, and he's apparently black. I love seeing more diversity in my heroes but the character would have made more sense if he'd hailed from another region.
Since I've never read any Valiant comics before, the guest appearances by characters like X-O Manowar and Ninjak made for a more haphazard story than I would have liked. Still; it peaked my interest in that universe and makes for a pretty good, yet almost too short read. Probably hold on to this one since a second volume is coming in 2016.

The Life After vol 1
Had zero knowledge about this one going in but it ended up being the best item in the crate. It's about a guy named Jude who discovers he's living in Limbo, only to team up with Earnest Hemmingway and start causing panic across a really cruel version of the afterlife. This definitely isn't something for religious types as it has a downright nasty view of angels, demons, and god who comes across as an even grosser variation of Jubba the Hut.
One thing that did bother me is a classic problem I've had with indie comics. One I like to call the “for fucks sake effect.” That's when swearing is a constant element to the tale yet nobody remembers any curses other than fuck. It's just a little lame when coming across shit or damn feels refreshing.
Still: I really enjoyed the scope of the story along with the twisted universe in which it plays out. I'll be holding onto this one and keep an eye out for the second volume down the line.

Project Superpowers 2 vol 1
Now here's where the box took a turn for the worse. I'm not complaining about receiving a second series without the preceding storyline as Comic Bento was actually thoughtful enough to provide a code for a digital edition of the original Project Superpowers. My complaints lie solely with this book being lame.
The series is about WWII era heroes who were locked up inside Pandora's box only to be let loose in modern times to fight an Illuminati style group with control over the world. That may not sound too bad but the hordes of underdeveloped characters and nearly incoherent plot lines make for a such a boring read. To top it off the art, while still passable is just sorta meh.
The whole thing feels like an attempt at something like Watchmen or Squadron Supreme only not as good. Which is saying something from a guy who hates Watchmen.

Witch & Wizard
I'll admit to you right up front I'm still reading this one and I feel fairly certain that my low opinion isn't likely to change. It's about Whit and Wisty Allgood. If those names didn't send your eyes skyrocketing then take heart. You've got a higher threshold for nonsense than I do. These two suburbanites are on the run from a corrupt government run by The One who is the One. He's called that since there are other ones, like the one who makes weapons. All of them serve under the one who is the one though. Christ, this is painful just to write about.
Ok, so the kids used to be an A-plus student/football player, and a music loving wall flower. One day they became Curves. No; not weight loss centers for lonely women. Curves are magic users, and magic is strictly against the law except for anyone but the One One. Our sibling pair join up with other kids like Byron Swain (oh god, these names!) in order to outwit and overthrow the ruling class. As far as this story is concerned, they have to stop soldiers from invading the afterlife which makes no sense. Like their gonna show up and do what? Shoot the ghosts?
The Characters are all dull cliches, the dialogue is awful, and the story is plain uninteresting stuff. Art however is pretty good though it seems more cartoonish than what this series is aiming for. Avoid this.

So that was Comic Bento. I actually cancelled my subscription before the box even arrived as it looks like boxes are out of the budget this month. Which is a shame as there are a few on my raider. Loot Crate has really been stepping their game up lately, the Dinosaur Dracula fun pack has a nice looking mix of items, and the marvel collector corp might have two exclusive funko pops.
Comic Bento itself is a decent box, just not amazing. Service seems good enough though nowhere near as personable as Your Toy Box. Shipping is kind sluggish and the ration of good to bad items is a bit off. If you're trying to get into comics, it'd be a great way to get started since you get to sample so many different writers and publishers, For me; it's good but if I could afford one consistent subscription, I doubt it'd be this one.

Here's the current mystery box power rankings.
  1. Your Toy Box
  2. Comic Bento
  3. Box of Dread

Hope everybody's having a good weekend. I've gotta catch up on some sleep and figure out which job to apply for this week. Probably have another post up in a couple days with an assortment of items. Until then you all stay classy.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Shuriken Sentai Ninninger Episodes 18 and 19

Welcome to August everyone. The ending of summer for most but the beginning of Halloween prep season for me. There was a sad part to the first day though as it marked the one year anniversary of my Corgi buddy Oliver's unfair and unwarranted death. There was a chance I'd forget the date if not for watching the last few episodes of Cowboy Bebop. Christ almighty that scene from #24 between Ein and Ed nearly had me blubbering like a baby. Perhaps I should make a note to avoid dog-focused entertainment around this time of year. Maybe watch something about ducks.
If you're looking for the unboxing I'd hinted at during the previous post, that's been a tad delayed due the mail taking its sweet time. For now we have two more ninja tales to sort through. I'll tell ya right upfront that one of em is just awful.

Episode 18

And here it is. Easily the worst episode of the series so far. After all that progress too. Ya know those jokes on Popsicle sticks? The ones nobody thinks are funny. Imagine that for 20 minutes and you'll have a good idea of how 18 played out.
There's a lawnmower monster with the ability to temporally control a person mind. Why would a lawnmower have such a power? Who knows but that's the least of our worries. His control usually lasts a few minutes until he takes hold of Yakumo who stays under the spell. Or does he?
Long story short, Yakumo is pretending to be brainwashed in order to protect the monster as it was formerly his beloved lawnmower.....yeah. I don't get it either. As an idea it's too stupid to be legitimate yet it didn't come across as funny either. When it comes time for giant robots, the team summons surfermaru again which brings Kinji back to Japan. Oh and the team finds a way to turn the monster back into it's original form so no sacrifices are required of our heroes yet again.
Afterward the whole team convinces Kinji to stay while they try to convince grandpa to finally take him on as a student. Not only was it a bad episode in itself, but it reverted the overarching storyline to where it was in the previous installment, thous dragging that one down with it. I'd say say we should be nice and pretend this didn't happen but it did and it was horrible. Now let us never speak of it again.

Episode 19

As if in a blatant attempt to make up for that whole lawnmower fiasco, this story is packed with almost too much to report on. I'll try to get it all together.
The kid's are pestering grandpappy about taking on a student. He's still acting like a pickled turd and claims that if they ever surpass him by even a little, then maybe, just maybe he'll consider it. While this is going on, Kinji runs off to fight Kyuuemon since he feels like a fool for ever thinking about teaming up. It's during this fight that he learns how the old man was never able to tame the flying ninja ally despite the distinct advantage of being it's designer.

With all that out of the way for the time being, the big bad himself actually creates a monster for once. This time we've got a chimera made up of tools and hardware. Not the worst idea but it is pretty fugly looking. Big beast gives everyone a righteous whooping and breaks several of their weapons. In desperate need of repairs they go searching for the machinesmith who made all this badass ninja gear to begin with. Kinji knows roughly where the guy lives since they'd done business over the internet (so that's where he got those robots.) Along the way to the old shrine, our group encounters a wild old drunk and a young monk. Said old man gives them another sound beating while criticizing their flaws. Guy must be a fan of the blog. It's almost like the writer's sat down and decided some things needed to get aired out so this show can get moving.
Before you can say Onomatopoeia, the chimera rears it's ugly head and initiates the token giant robo fight. The kids are loosing yet again when the flying ally shows up to help em out. Our monster of the week retreats for now as the old man reveals himself to be the spirit of the giant robot. I guess this answers my rant about the machines having emotions.
The team asks oldey magoo to join up with them. He asks why he should bother to which they respond “to protect everyone on Earth.” An answer that doesn't settle with him apparently as he runs off yelling “that's not enough!”

Thank god this was a quick recovery after such a colossal stumble. The only real issue with this one is that the action scenes were a bit bland, consisting mostly of explosions and reaction shots. It's a shame since we know the show is more than capable in the fighting department. Perhaps they're saving the budget for something special.

That's all for the ninja stuff today. The new mystery box should be here this afternoon, finally giving me the chance to plumb its depths and return with a review. See you soon.