Quack Experimental Blog Post

I, Koshi Rikdo, hereby give my permission to have Excel Saga turned into a blog post about Excel Saga.

So you say that you’ve built up a resistance to weirdness. You find Aqua Teen Hunger Force insufferably mainstream. You consider Katamari Damacy trite and conventional. And let’s not even get you started on how linear and predictable a three-hour slog through FLCL is.

My friend, like a marijuana user upgrading to crack, or a Unitarian Universalist converting to Fundamentialist Christianity[0], it’s time to move you up to the harder stuff.

Allow me to introduce you to Quack Experimental Anime Excel Saga. Or, Excel Saga for short.

(Oh $DIETY, you groan, another one of those rambling-about-some-random-anime posts. I promise I’ll try to keep this one interesting. Or at least thoroughly hyperlinked and with some pictures stolen liberated from Wikipedia. Oh, and I also accidentally solve the whole peace-in-the-Middle-East thing in the process.)

Excel Saga has everything but the kitchen sink fourth wall. Robots! Parodies! Aliens! Gangsters! Terrorists! Ghosts! Anemia! Self-Insertion! Dogs! Bowling! Fan Service! Immigrants! Explosions! Exclamation Marks!!

(Fun fact: “Self-insertionsounds a lot dirtier than it actually is.)

Excel Saga, in a nutshell, counts itself a king of infinite space is an off-the-wall gag-a-second anime that parodies and satirizes anything and everything. It spoofs and subverts just about every trope in the book and gleefully genre-shifts every episode. And despite all this chaos and confusion, it still manages to tell a coherent story of love, loyalty, betrayal, and afros.

Yes, afros. Do not underestimate the power of the afro.

Afro Attack!
A cautionary tale: Nabeshin (right, top), Pedro (right, middle), and Sandora (right, bottom) fail to use the power of the afro appropriately, and as a result are about to have their butts kicked by That Man (middle), while the Great Will of the Macrocosm and Pedro’s Sexy Wife (left) watch helplessly.

The world is corrupt! The secret ideological organization ACROSS plans to sieze control of the planet from the ignorant masses. However, “global conquest” is an objective only sought directly by fools capable of grasping only the most general of concepts, so ACROSS is focusing its efforts on Japan. And furthermore, due to limited resources, ACROSS is further concentrating on the conquest of F City, F Prefecture.

And by “limited resources,” I mean “having only two officers”: the eponymously cool saga-worthy Excel (not to be confused with the spreadsheet) and the mysterious, frail Hyatt (not to be confused with the hotel, especially not one in Cincinatti). Excel and Hyatt spend most episodes trying to execute the orders of Ilpalazzo (not to be confused with the, um, palace?[1]), ACROSS’s leader (aside from the shadowy, rarely-mentioned ACROSS HQ in Pogota (not to be confused with Bogotá)).

Even though most of Ilpalazzo’s orders wouldn’t do much to work towards city conquest in the first place, there’s little danger of success with Excel and Hyatt on the job. Hyatt has the habit of dying frequently — not in the “Oh my God, they killed Kenny!” sense, but rather in the “she has a CON of 1″ sense. And as for Excel, what she lacks in basic competence she more than makes up for in enthusiasm and fanatical devotion to Ilpalazzo, willing and eager to do anything for (or to) him. And while they’re carrying out his orders, Ilpalazzo passes the time reading magazines, playing dating sims, and practicing guitar to fulfill his secret dream of becoming a brooding pretty-boy rock star.

ACROSS. Front row, left to right: Hyatt, Excel. Back row: Ilpalazzo (not to scale). Not pictured: Hyatt coughing up blood, Excel being annoying, Ilpalazzo dropping Excel through a trap door for being annoying.

Meanwhile, while all that’s going on, Kabapu (not to be confused with whatever the hell could be confused with Kabapu) is establishing the Department of City Security to defend F City from the forces he imagines are threatening it. (Let’s face it, ACROSS isn’t much of a threat, and Kabapu seems surprised when he discovers there just might be a secret ideological organization out there.) Establishing a team drawn largely from other people living in Excel and Hyatt’s apartment complex, Kabapu turns them from mere civil servants into his dream municipal defense force, whether they like it or not.

Meanwhile, Pedro (not to be confused with a running gag that’s starting to run out of steam), an immigrant worker killed in a fire caused by Excel’s negligence as a part-time traffic cop, wanders the afterlife. After seeing his family quickly replace him with Gomez, Pedro’s former friend, Pedro is seduced by the Great Will of the Macrocosm (a personified reset button). Things get worse when That Man (not to be confused with That Guy), the Great Will’s lover, catches Pedro with her and tries to kill him. Um, again.

Meanwhile, Nabeshin (definitely to be confused with director Shinichi Watanabe, who is in turn not to be confused with Shinichiro Watanabe), runs around with an afro, alternately saving the day or wooing the ladies. Hey, if you’re going to self-insert, why not go all the way? (Yep, still sounds dirty.)

And if all that’s not enough for you, each episode is done in a different genre. Before the opening credits, a fictionalized Koshi Rikdo, creator of the manga Excel Saga is based on, grants his “authorization” to turn Excel Saga into the genre du jour, be it sci-fi (see Episode 2: The Woman from Mars), horror (see Episode 7: Melody of the Underground Passage), romance (see Episode 4: Love Puny[2]), high school (see Episode 11: Butt Out, Youth!), blatant fan service (see Episode 8: Increase Ratings Week), or even a parody of the porn Koshi Rikdo drew in which Excel and several other characters first appeared (see Episode 18: Municipal Force Daitenzin).

(That’s right, in Japan it’s not uncommon for non-pornographic adaptations to be made out of pornography. Oh Japan, it’s like you’re the bizarro United States. What next, cars that don’t suck?)

Municipal Force Daitenzin
F City Department of City Security Municipal Force Daitenzin. (Remind you of anyone?) Blue: Toru Watanabe. Green: Misaki Matsuya. Yellow: Daimaru Sumiyoshi. Red: Norikuni Iwata. Purple: Ropponmatsu Unit 1. Pink: Ropponmatsu Unit 2. I’d tell you which four are Excel’s neighbors and which two are robots designed by borderline pedophile Gojo Shiouji, but this caption is long enough already.

Believe it or not, all this and more does come together somehow in the end.

So, as you can see, Excel Saga is a little weird (in much the same way as Fred Phelps is “a little homophobic“). However, the strangest episode of all is surely Episode 24: For You, I Could Die, as it is played completely straight. That’s right, an entire episode of a gag-centric show is devoid of gags, instead focusing on character development and building up to the big confrontations in the would-be “final” episode.

Though, to be honest, this sudden stretch of seriousness starts at the end of (the otherwise mediocre) Episode 23: Legend of the End of the Century Conqueror, which closes with a surprisingly effective and depressing scene where (spoiler alert) Ilpalazzo shoots Excel. Which is impressive to see pulled off, considering how frequently Ilpalazzo shooting Excel is played for laughs in the first couple of episodes.

Anyway, there are two other episodes in particular that stand out from the rest by virtue of being sheer awesome. If for some reason you decide to watch exactly two episodes, these are the two you want:

In Episode 9: Bowling Girls, Ilpalazzo sends Excel and Hyatt to investigate what sports are popular among the ignorant masses, so as to better woo them into following ACROSS. Excel and Hyatt decide to work part-time in a bowling alley, which (surprise!) is completely empty, save for a local-as-you-can-get TV show filming wannabe pop idols trying to bowl. But then a bowling terrorist group — that’s right, a bowling terrorist group — takes over the alley and hijacks the TV crew to create propaganda to increase interest in bowling by introducing the world to Human Bowling, using their hostages as pins. Excel escapes and hides in the restroom, where she encounters Nabeshin in the next stall over, who mentors her in the ways of bowling (except for the actual sports training montage). She then takes on the terrorists in a combination bowling match / fight to the death to rescue Hyatt and the other hostages.

Maybe I just like this episode because I bowled for three years back in high school. Or maybe I like it because this episode is hilarious. Either way, bowling is definitely the optimal way of fighting terrorists. Hmmm…. Memo to Hezbollah: take advantage of the cease-fire, change your name to Hezbowlah, and challenge the Israelis to a three-game no-handicap match at Golan Lanes. Man, if this takes off, we could bring peace to the Middle East and give new meaning to the Arab League!

But what does everyone[3] want even more than peace in the Middle East? That’s right: gratuitous sex and violence! And Episode 26: Going Too Far is happy to oblige. This episode was made specifically so that it can’t be shown on TV, with nearly every scene (including the opening credits!) packed with something to make the Family Research Council foam at the mouth, including but not limited to nudity, decapitation, soaplands, hot mannequin-on-mannequin action, hourly-rate hotels (wink wink nudge nudge), hot rabbit-on-rabbit action, dogs pooping, hot robot-on-girl action, gushers of blood, and hot girl-on-girl action. (All of which, for the record, is played for comedy, not prurient interest; got that, Justice Stewart?) Plus it ties up the loose ends left over from the preceeding “last” episode, and it even opens with a musical number!

Broken Image???
Yeah, I don’t think my server’s AUP would appreciate a screen capture from Episode 26. But Wikipedia might have a little something for you….

A word of advice to anyone whose appetite has been sufficiently whetted: you’ll probably want to check out the translation notes on each DVD, which will pop up explanations of the various cultural references or inscrutable Japanese puns Excel will babble while you watch. Though since these explanations can sometimes cover the entire screen, you may want to watch the episodes without it first, at least so you can always see what’s going on.

So, as you can see, Excel Saga is hardcore weird. And entertaining. But mostly weird. And entertaining.

It’s just like one of our era’s great philosophers once observed, “Japanese cartoons are weird, man.

Post 552

Quack Experimental Blog Post

Today’s Experiment…………Failed

– Footnotes –

[0] Both examples with no supporting evidence, and one of which I pretty much just made up on the spot, but I won’t let that stop me from using them anyway.

[1] Yes, I know Excel, Hyatt, and Ilpalazzo are all actually named after hotels in Japan.

[2] I’m told it’s a pun in Japanese.

[3] OK, almost everyone.

Die Busting a Gun

As you may recall, not too long ago I watched Gunbuster in preparation to watch its sequel: Gunbuster 2: Diebuster. If you’re wondering what would possess me to want to watch a sequel to something I hadn’t seen the original of, well, you clearly didn’t read that earlier post. It’s because Gunbuster 2 is being directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki, the lunatic/genius responsible for FLCL.

Well, now that I’ve watched the first five (out of six) episodes of Gunbuster 2, how is it? Does it live up to its predecessors? How does it stand on its own? When will Gainax release the final episode? Read on, as I will expound on 75% of those questions below.

At first, the connections between Gunbuster 2 and its predecessor are unclear. While they both involve people piloting Buster Machines to fight enigmatic space monsters, for the first few episodes the plot similarities end there. Gunbuster 2 takes place hundreds, if not thousands, of years after the original Gunbuster. The breakneck pace of technological advancement seen in the original series seems to have abated, and mankind has resigned itself to staying within the confines of the solar system. Nevertheless, space monsters have infiltrated the solar system and continue to threaten mankind. And the only people capable of repelling the alien menace are topless.

Wait, it’s not that kind of show. Let me explain.

In Gunbuster 2, “topless” (a noun) refers to someone with the innate ability to pilot a Buster Machine to its full potential. The unusual name is a twist on the original Gunbuster’s “Top Division.” It’s not fully explained what toplessness consists of, but there are a few clues offered. Toplessness fades with age, it emanates from the forehead, and can be blocked by wearing a seal on said forehead. Topless abilities include perfoming “exotic maneuvers” with a Buster Machine (your typical called attacks) and the ability open a portal and warp your Buster Machine to your present location. Toplessness and one’s state of undress are orthogonal, despite one character’s initial confusion.

At this point, fans of FLCL will find this brand of toplessness familiar. One of the many unusual plot points in FLCL was using people’s heads to open up interstellar portals that robots or guitars could emerge from, and one of the characters tried to prevent this by wearing obviously fake eyebrows at all times. While forehead portals aren’t the only FLCLism to appear in Gunbuster 2, their appearance, along with other fanciful elements and designs, drops off sharply after the first episode. For example, cats being used as communications devices and main character Nono’s ability to accidentally break almost anything in half (from dinner plates to industrial refrigerators) both get left on the cutting room floor after the first episode. There’s still creative and unusual designs to be found, of course, but it’s toned down considerably. One wonders if the creators thought the first episode’s strangeness was too deliberate and forced, and scaled it back afterwards. You could even say that it becomes less FLCL and more Gunbuster as the series progresses. This is Gunbuster 2, not FLCL 2, after all.

And being Gunbuster 2, while the storyline connections to the original series aren’t elaborated on until several episodes in, there are plenty of nods and references to Gunbuster to be found throughout, the aforementioned use of “topless” being just one example. Besides passing references, there are several scenes that parallel ones in Gunbuster, though frequently they end up playing out quite differently. The plot does tie in to the original eventually, and like Gunbuster takes a turn for the darker about halfway through, though the details are definitely spoilers I shan’t divulge here. And despite taking place long after the events in Gunbuster, there is continuity to be found; for example, Jupiter has been replaced by a massive space station built out of an old spaceship, and there’s a small trans-Plutonian black hole named Exelio in the outer reaches of the solar system. Despite initial appearances, this isn’t just a giant-robots-versus-monsters show with the Gunbuster name bolted on as an afterthought.

Back to the plot, which I got sidetracked from talking about toplesses. The story follows Nono, a naïve, starry-eyed (both literally and figuratively) girl who runs away from home with dreams of piloting a Buster Machine and fighting the space monsters. Of course, she’s lacking in everything that Fraternity is looking for (namely, toplessness), and she ends up cleaning dishes at a nearby diner. There, Nono crosses paths with Lark, the lead topless, who saves her from being harassed by some grunt mech operators. Nono sees Lark as her role model, despite Lark’s not caring and seeing Nono as a nuisance at best. Nevertheless, Nono manages to help Lark defeat a space monster discovered on the Martian surface, and as a result finds a place in Fraternity doing, well, janitorial work. After that, Nono keeps trying to become a Buster Machine pilot so she can be a Nonoriri, something which nobody has any idea what she’s babbling about (and not until episode 5 are any hints presented). To avoid dropping any spoilers, that’s all the plot summary you’re getting.

So, in the penultimate analysis, Gunbuster 2 is entertaining in its own right. The visuals look great, the music’s pretty good (complete with an annoyingly catchy opening theme), and the story, once it gets into gear, is pretty decent. You don’t really need to have seen Gunbuster to enjoy it, though it’d help you at least catch the numerous references to it. It’s certainly no FLCL (but then, what else is?) and, especially considering the initial confusion as to what it’s trying to be, doesn’t top the original Gunbuster (whether or not that’s its aim[1]). Nevertheless, it’s a good series in its own right.

Now I just have to wait however many months it takes for Gainax to release the final episode (late August, apparently) and for it to get fansubbed to see how it all ends.

[1] You see, because the Japanese title of the original series is “Aim for the Top: Gunbuster”, and I said that if it aimed to top Gunbuster, it… oh, forget it.

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Bust a Gun

[Editor's note: Let this post be a lesson to anyone who complains I haven't been posting enough lately. You know who you are.]

Not too long ago while doing some idle web surfing, I stumbled across the name Gunbuster 2. In itself, that wouldn’t have much meaning for me. However, things changed once I noticed who was directing: Kazuya Tsurumaki. And if that name doesn’t mean anything to you, that’s quite unfortunate, for Kazuya Tsurumaki is the genius behind FLCL, regarded by anyone with taste as one of the greatest things ever.

So, needless to say, I found myself very interested in what Tsurumaki’s newest creation is like, in much the same way as seeing Brazil made me want to check out Terry Gilliam’s other work. (Fun fact: Time Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen are pretty much the same movie.)

But there was one problem. I mean, besides the fact that Gunbuster 2 isn’t even finished yet, let alone released here, thus requiring locating fansubs, but the Internet makes that pretty easy. Rather, even though anime titles are often inscrutable, the “2″ at the end does indeed indicate that it is a sequel to — hold your breath — Gunbuster. And since I’m one of those people who has to see things in order, the course of action was clear: give up watch Gunbuster first.

[Editor's note: Spoiler alert from here on out, probably. But you should've figured that out by now.]

Is Gunbuster a “classic” anime? I have no idea, as that sort of things isn’t something I typically follow closely, or at all. But it was created back in 1988 by Hideaki “Evangelion” Anno, if that means anything.

Gunbuster is a six-episode giant robot show. In 2015, mankind encountered giant (as in, “bigger than a huge spaceship”) insect-looking aliens who seemed none too pleased about our existence. Protagonist Noriko’s father died fighting them, so now she’s training to battle them too and defend Earth. Of course, since these creatures live in space, the obvious weapon of choice are humanoid mechs. (Why do my plot summaries always come off sounding snarky? Stupid Internet.)

Pretty much every sci-fi TV show or movie I’ve ever seen that incorporates space travel — I can’t readily think of any counterexamples — ignores the time dilation effects of near-light-speed travel and strong gravitational fields. They always assume a constant universal temporal reference frame. Not so with Gunbuster; not only does it acknowledge time dilation, but it even serves as a prominent plot point. Although only about a year passes during the series from Noriko’s perspective, decades pass back on Earth. As a result, part of the cost of fighting the aliens far off in space is leaving behind everyone and everything you know back home.

So, Gunbuster gets major bonus points for reasonably realistic use of general relativity. I’ll even overlook how a sub-light-speed ship can catch up to a FTL rocket (yes, rocket) from Earth to Neptune in a matter of minutes.

And this may sound weird, but there’s another thing the series does that I really liked. The eponymous Gunbuster, the ridiculously huge two-pilot mech that dwarfs the merely several-story-tall mechs in the earlier episodes, is composed of two transforming spaceships creatively named Buster Machine 1 and Buster Machine 2. However, a non-negligible amount of time during battles is spent as the two separate ships instead of always joining together into Gunbuster. It always buggged me in cheesy Power Rangers-type shows how they always team up their robots immediately instead of ganging up five-on-one against the monster. Yes, of course you’d want to be able to spread out when fighting a massive alien fleet. That just seems like common sense.

Of course, it also seems like common sense to arm all of Earth’s spaceships with powerful weapons instead of putting them all on the single Gunbuster, but hey.

And speaking of things that are cheesy, Gunbuster also has its moments here. Some of the names used in the series are painfully bad. For example, the Soviet pilot (hey, it was made in 1988) is named Jung Freud, and one of the trans-Plutonian planets is named Jupiter 2. (Fortunately, the other trans-Plutonian planets do have better names, but they’re foolish enough to have a syzygy going on when the good guys open up a mini black hole near Jupiter 2 to swallow an alien fleet.) Pilots have a habit of calling their attacks, especially in the big fight scene at the end of episode 5. And there’s more Gainaxing than you can shake a… well, you can finish that joke yourself.

One of the remarkable things about watching the series about 20 years after it was created is how ridiculously optimistic pace of technological advancement is. You have the invention of warp drive by 2015 (less than a decade from now!), the ability to build and rebuild huge fleets of interstellar warships after that, a laser cannon on Gunbuster that can bisect an alien twenty times the size of one of those ships at one go, and so on.

But the climactic final battle outdoes even those. The aliens’ home is in the center of the galaxy, so in episode 6 Earth takes the fight to them with Buster Machine 3: a.k.a. the supermassive Black Hole Bomb. The core of the bomb is Jupiter — yes, the planet — which gets flown to the center of the galaxy with the intention of collapsing it into a black hole that will destroy the center of the Milky Way. This all happens in the mid-21st century, mind you. And the plan works. Well, not at first, so Gunbuster has to go down into the Jovian core and jump-start the black hole with one of its reactors, and the time dilation its pilots experience results in them not getting back to Earth until the year 12,000 or so. (And no, I won’t spoil what they find when they get back.)

You can also tell Anno’s directing, because the series shifts gears from being playful and somewhat stereotypical to being serious and character-driven about halfway through, even so far as dropping the intro and ending sequences after episode 3 and making the final episode black-and-white. But at least this ending didn’t get him death threats.

So, the overall verdict? Gunbuster’s not bad at all, as long as you don’t think too hard about the science underlying things. (Memo to Michelson and Morley: you guys were wrong.) But I suppose that goes for most science fiction. Of course, considering the roughly 20-year gap between Gunbuster and its sequel, I doubt watching this was even necessary to follow Gunbuster 2. But if you’re going to only watch things that are necessary to watch, you may as well sell your TV now.

Except for FLCL, of course.

Advent Children

Unless you’re either (a) living under a rock or (b) not a hopeless dork, you’re probably aware of Square Enix’s recent efforts to exploit the rabid fanbase of revive the Final Fantasy VII franchise. Along with a handful of video games that tie in to FF7, they also created another computer-animated movie: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.

But wait, you say, didn’t Square’s last attempt at a Final Fantasy-derived movie, The Spirits Within, utterly bomb and do enough damage to Square’s bottom line that they got acquired by rival Enix? (Or maybe you’re saying, “stop putting words in my mouth.”) Pretty much, yeah.

So, the big question: did Square learn from the earlier experience in filmmaking and create something that’s actually good, or is it just a forgettable effort to exploit the presumed FF7 cash cow?

Simply put, this movie is bad. Really bad.

For starters, unless you’ve played FF7, don’t even waste your time. The movie makes no effort to explain any of the backstory; it just assumes you’re intimately familiar with the characters and the storyline. And even with that knowledge, things don’t make a whole lot of sense.

To briefly summarize FF7, angsty amnesiac Cloud and company are trying to stop crazy white-haired pretty-boy Sephiroth from merging with mysterious alien creature Jenova and summoning a meteor to destroy the planet. You see, Cloud and Sephiroth were both members of a militia creatively named SOLDIER and were experimented on by being injected with Jenova cells. Apparently side-effects of the treatment can include angst and wanting to destroy the planet. There’s other stuff going on too. Oh, and Aeris dies.

I’ll also now try to summarize the plot of Advent Children, which only really serves as a loose way to segue from one fight scene to another (I’ll get to that later). (I’d say “spoiler alert,” but you can’t really spoil a movie this bad.) Apparently killing Sephiroth in the final battle just spilled those pesky Jenova cells all other the place, because now a bunch of eponymous children are infected with them and well on the road to being detached and angsty. Meanwhile, a trio of Sephiroth wanna-bes are going around to round those kids up so the Jenova cells can reunite. But more importantly, the Sephiroth Imposter Trio are looking for Jenova’s head, which I guess was left over after FF7′s pre-penultimate battle. Rufus and the Turks (from the aforementioned “other stuff going on”) are somehow involved with that, though it’s not explained why or how, especially when you find out that Rufus’s whole wheelchair-bound thing is an act and he’s got Jenova’s head in a box on his lap under his blanket the whole time.

So that’s what’s going on. See how the plot centers around getting those Jenova cells? Yeah, none of that’s actually explained in the movie; you just have to know what Jenova cells do from FF7. Not that it really makes the storyline make more sense, but there you are.

What’s truly amazing about Advent Children is how brazenly cynical an attempt it is to shovel fan service into the mouths of drooling FF7 fanboys. (“Fan service” in the broad sense of the term; unlike in FF7, Tifa’s actually wearing clothes this time around.) You’ve got fight sequences (wait for it…) every 12 minutes. You’ve got the entire FF7 party show up for one of them, despite the fact that most of them appear nowhere else in the plot, and their sudden arrival in time to fight a summoned monster tearing up the town square isn’t explained at all. A cell phone ringtone is the FF7 victory theme (and it rings right after Tifa finishes fighting one third of the Sephiroth Memorial Posse. Speaking of which, one of them suddenly turns into Sephiroth when he gets Jenova’s-head-in-a-box, because, um, then Sephiroth and Cloud can have a big extended fight scene set to a metal remix of One-Winged Angel. Plus, there’s regular glimpses of fanboy favorite Aeris, who shows up in full in the last scene.

There’s not really any rhyme nor reason to why anything happens. It feels like Square Enix rounded up a bunch of FF7 fanboys, asked them what they wanted to see in a FF7 movie, and threw together a rough plot to try to tie everything together.

And then there’s the battle scenes. You’d think anything with more fight scenes than an American action movie has got to be exciting, right? Hardly. Remember that big long fight on the highway in The Matrix Reloaded that you thought was going to be cool but turned out to be drawn-out and tedious and even the characters in it seemed bored the whole way through? (You don’t? Lucky.) The fight scenes in Advent Children are worse.

Most video games aren’t known for particularly realistic depictions of violence. For example, in FF7 you can get shot by machine guns and stabbed by ridiculously huge swords and only suffer a few HP worth of damage. That literally happens in Advent Children, and it works about as well as you think. People get thrown through thick stone columns and don’t even seem to notice. People can jump hundreds of feet into the air — thousands if other people jumping in midair at the time grab their hand and throw them upwards even more. Several times. In a row. The stuff going on in the fight scenes is so ludicrously over-the-top it’s painful to watch.

So, combine a seemingly endless sequence of unbelievable battle sequences, chain them together with an unexplained plot that doesn’t make sense even if you know the backstory, and add a heaping helping of fan service, and you get Advent Children.

Needless to say, if you’re not a foaming-at-the-mouth FF7 fanboy, avoid this movie like H5N1. And if you are a foaming-at-the-mouth FF7 fanboy, not only do you probably think all of the above makes the movie good, but you probably didn’t bother to read all the way to the end before flaming me in the comments anyway.

If Advent Children is typical of Square Enix’s other FF7-related efforts, at least now I know I have absolutely no interest in any of them.

(Also, memo to Square Enix: next time you want to cash in on FF7′s US fanbase, don’t release your films in Japan several months before in the states. I don’t think I’d ever seen a torrent with five digits’ worth of people connected to it before.)

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I just watched Steamboy with some of the improv crew. Which was a good idea, because being able to give the movie the MST3K treatment made it enjoyable.

The animation looks pretty good, but the dialogue is mediocre at best and the plot is brain-damage-inducing. The story’s set in an industrial revolution-era-ish Britain, and the plot revolves around this “steam ball” invention that seems to be a Zero Point Module for steam. It’s Icelandic, apparently. Various groups are after it so they can use it to power their steampunk war machines they’re going to show off at a vaguely-defined tech expo in London that’s largely a front to sell arms to a bunch of international stereotypes.

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Wily & Light’s RockBoard: That’s Paradise

It’s amazing what you can find if you look through one of those lists that purports to be of all NES games ever. Not only will you be reminded of games you used to love, and games you played once and found they were terrible, but you’ll also find a bunch of Japanese games that never made it to the United States. Some of them you might be aware of, and can be pretty good. There’s also plenty that you’ve never heard of, probably for good reason.

And then there’s some whose title takes you by surprise. Such as a game whose title translates to “Wily & Light’s RockBoard: That’s Paradise.” As in Dr. Wily and Dr. Light, you wonder? Could it be, a “new” (to you, at least) Mega Man game? But what does the rest of that title mean? And more importantly, where did I put that emulator?

Read on, and all most some will be revealed. With pictures. Lots of pictures.

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Xeno Phobia

Back in the day, Square used to be known for its role-playing games, in particular the Final Fantasy series. But that’s certainly not to say that that’s the only set of RPGs it produced. For example, you’ve got Chrono Trigger, but this post isn’t about that. No, it’s about Xenogears. And spoilers.

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Review: Xperts: The Paranet

I got a copy of this book for free when I attended the author’s talk at the CERIAS Symposium last March. So that’s why I happen to have a copy of it. I finally got around to reading it while travelling to and from last week’s Cyber Corps Symposium.

The executive summary: Xperts: The Parasuck.

Details (and spoilers, as though you were going to read this anyway) inside!

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Batman Begins

Well, what do you know, the new Batman movie is actually pretty good. It’s not just a good Batman movie (which, given what I’ve seen of the more recent ones, isn’t saying much), but a good action movie, which just happens to have Batman in it.

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Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Looks like I’m in a posting mood right now — hey, it beats sleeping or getting stuff packed! — so now’s as good a time as any to ramble a bit about the recent addition to Adult Swim‘s Saturday lineup: the oddly-named Samurai Champloo.

For one thing, it has little to do with hair-care products for feudal-era Japanese warriors. At least, not yet.

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Review: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Last night I went with most of the Fools and some other friends to go see Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on opening night. As any self-respecting geek would, I did bring along a towel. Some of the harder-core geeks even wore a bathrobe, which I thought was a nice touch. My towel did come in handy several times that night. For example, I was able to properly dry my hands after using the restroom, and it makes a reasonable makeshift weapon when some people wouldn’t stop singing the intro song to the movie when leaving.

Oh yeah, the movie. So how was it, you ask?

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Review: Rockman and Forte (aka Mega Man and Bass)

You may think that the last game in the “classic” Mega Man series was the SNES game Mega Man 7, whose sequel (cleverly titled Mega Man 8) was released for the Playstation. But did you know that in 1998, Capcom released another game in the series, for the SNES no less? Rockman and Forte never was released in the US (and if it had, probably would have been renamed Mega Man and Bass), since by that time the SNES platform had long been dead and buried.

You can easily find people on the Internet who will bemoan the Japan-only release of the game, claiming it to be the best game in the series. Are they right, or is this opinion, like most found on the Internet, completely bogus?

[EDIT: March 4: Added an image of you-know-what.]

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Review: Super Milk Chan

Recently they started running this show after their A-list material Sunday nights on Adult Swim. I’ve seen a few episodes of it, and I still can’t quite figure out if I like it or not.

Hmm, maybe if I try writing a review of it, I’ll be able to figure it out. Here goes nothing.

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Review: Lufia and the Fortress of Doom

Or, more properly, Lufia and the Fortress of Tedium.

It should be telling that even though I started playing this one early in the summer, only this weekend did I finally finish.

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Reviews: The Fog of War, Azumanga Daioh

It’s a good day when you can avail yourself of 2-for-$3 day at the local video rental store and wind up with two excellent DVDs. It’s even better when those two DVDs are such complete opposites of each other that you fear putting them next to each other, lest they annihilate each other in a ferocious release of energy that leaves you on bad terms with the video store.

Anyway, on to the reviews.

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