Entry #1: Pupa (SoM 2018)

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It’s difficult to really place my thoughts on this with any sort of certainty, because I’m unsure as to how seriously I should be taking this. A few weeks back I wrote a piece on pretentiousness in animePupa the manga is not an anime, but it fits the bill enough to see itself among the ranks of works that (supposedly) take itself far too seriously. But that’s the issue here: Is it even trying to make any sense? Is it trying to say something? I can only provide my own thought process while reading this, but before getting into the deeper theoretical aspects of Pupa‘s design, I’ll elaborate on some more basic elements. (more…)

Day Two: Paths of Glory (MotM 2018)

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I have seen two Stanley Kubrick films until just now: The Shining and Full Metal Jacket. With the former, I blame the writing style of Stephen King primarily for why I feel it doesn’t live up to the expectations set by fans and critics alike, assuming Kubrick employed much of King’s style. With the latter, I enjoyed it more, but still felt myself doubting this supposed “Legendary director” status that Kubrick has made for himself through cinematic history, wondering if, perhaps, I just don’t “get it.” I saw both of these films roughly a year ago, and for the second day of the 2018 March, I watched a third film from this legendary director. He seems far more legendary to me now. (more…)

Quick Thoughts on Boku no Hero Academia 2

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Keeping this short and sweet. I mean it today. Genuinely pretty short.

Boku no Hero Academia 2 is a direct continuation of the first, so nothing about it has drastically changed, aside from the placement of the heroes within a school-like environment basically the whole season. What has increased, from my perspective, are two things: scope of characters and number of Shounen clichés. (more…)

Blade Runner 2049 Review

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No bullshit.

Impeccable as it is, this film has none of it. No filler, no filibuster. It moves at paces ranging from a bird flying in the morning sky to a snake slithering in the desert sand, yet it does not stop. Always moving, elegantly presenting events that capture some underlying force or ubiquitous mood which keeps the stew boiling in the darkness. That may very well be what I appreciate most from this picture; that it does not do anything to grope you around through heaps of mindless serendipity and glamour. No distractions from some obvious flaws or cute side swipes to appeal to a wider audience. Blade Runner 2049 does what it desires to do with such automated grace that it implements the stylistic intricacy of John Wick’s action sequences and employs it to every other aspect but that. Absolutely. No. Bullshit.

This is what Disney’s Star Wars could’ve been. Had it not been for all of its profound bullshit.

The original Blade Runner was a film dedicated to asking the questions without relaying any obvious answers. Nearly everything was shown, and not once told (at least not explicitly). This created an isolating effect between the viewer and the film; such that it felt more interested in serving as a cinematic enigma of sci-fi psychology and existentialism. Like being presented with a Rubik’s cube with no colors on any side, and being asked to solve it. Intriguing as it is, there’s no context to care, and little reason to identify with the struggles of its characters, aside from what is innate within humankind to be empathetic of those who only wish to survive—and to live among their own freedom. An island’s worth of style, but substance? Debatable.

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Blade Runner 2049 may have single-handedly convinced me that characters are the greatest asset to film or any other similar medium. As toxic as the term “linear” has become in this day and age, the narrative structure of choice here is undoubtedly so. The choice to employ a more straightforward story is something that will no doubt alienate some from this sequel film’s roots. Yet it is a choice that is one of many choices that I not only find to be a true strength, but one that I would rather not have differently, despite other possibilities. It is so that standard structures can harm the worth of creativity, but it may also compliment all that which surrounds the structure in a more fulfilling fashion.

For it is the characters that make this movie what it is. What makes it so powerful, so transcendent in its mental capacity that one can only hope to collect all that is offered in a single sitting (I needed two sittings to write this review with confidence). For the things that the original wanted to convey, it didn’t have the proper connection between viewer and character to connect that link of ultimate empathy, the key to any true experience of extravagance. “Joe” is not only interesting on his own, but his condition, his context, his origins—everything so clear-cut yet shrouded in delicate mystery—become interesting as both he and the audience discovers more as the story unravels. Deckard in the original already had the benefit of knowing so much, being within a position where it was hard for someone without that context to surmise his thoughts and actions. With “Joe,” he’s far less human, far more empty in both humanistic characteristics and input on the larger aspects of his own “soul” that to build upon his knowledge along with him creates an experience that truly puts one in the midst of the dilemma. Immersion is no issue here; even if it was, the aesthetic presentation will alleviate that by itself.

Though what helps in Joe’s development as a character and source of human connection is Ryan Gosling’s performance, which, in my humble opinion, should garner him every award. All of them. What are replicants supposed to be? How are they supposed to feel? Baseline; no distractions, no bias, no physiological or psychological fluctuations. Ryan Gosling is stone-faced for a good portion of this film, flushed in the embodiment of a character that is not expected to feel desire or passion. Yet it is the subtler movements of his face, the slow accumulation of tears flowing in his eyes, the sudden, one-time burst of ferocity, that really brings “Joe” to life. With more time comes more opportunity for him to question his capabilities and his “humanity,” masterfully performed by Gosling. His mannerisms alone provide a spark of residual intrigue into every scene.

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Thankfully, it is not just “Joe,” but a variety of characters that allow further insight into the plot and basis around the world presented in 2049 to flourish into a sea of conflicting moods and ideas. Joi, Luv, Deckard, and those whose names aren’t even important (as ironic as that sounds given their importance) all help present the importance of character within not just this film, but films in general. There are complexities, multi-faceted personalities to every character, and the way they bounce off of one another creates not just an interesting connection, but a realistic connection. Connections that transcend the standards of machines with human clothing. And the fact that some of these connections even exist says more about the characters than the interactions themselves.

Joi, for example, is the cybernetic encoding system that projects and mimics the personality and mindset of a real female partner—perhaps the “model girlfriend” would be a more accurate description. She, as a character, is worth liking, as she is programmed to be liked and irrevocably loyal to “Joe,” but she isn’t real, and oft-times throughout the film it is shown that she is simply a projection of everything “you” want to see and hear. I’ve seen various critics criticize Joi as a self-indulgent submissive female stereotype, and that through her desire to be real to Joe, the film becomes inherently “creepy.” Through my take, all I can say is THAT’S THE POINT! Joi isn’t real, but Joe wants her to be real, because he wants something real. He’s both submissive to the idea of having someone who loves and supports him while ashamed that he may never have that feeling of genuine connection with anyone aside from a company that manipulates that. It’s. Character. Building! Further acknowledgment that his humanistic desires are beginning to envelop his cerebral duties as a baseline “retiring” machine. Joi is, in a sense, a scapegoat to further build upon the ideas of the plot’s presence and the intricacy of the lead character’s inborn desires.

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I could go on for hundreds of thousand of words about the characters and what they mean to the story, what each line could possibly allude to or how it all connects to the larger summary, but I’ll spare the reader my uncontrolled ramblings. What this means to show, however, is that the world within Blade Runner 2049 is filled with detail and substance, something that isn’t quite as noticeable in the original picture. Every scene, every character, almost every line has some deeper meaning to it. Packed with a keen sense of direction that seems to lead to a multitude of different destinations, finding every piece of the puzzle is as much an experience as the film’s surface messaging. That, I can absolutely believe, can be a hefty and off-putting task for the casual viewer. Not quite as much as with mother!, but enough to warrant those who fear the mounting expectations that become noticeably gargantuan within the first fifteen minutes of the film a passive regard.

Profound characters, a straightforward, yet immersive story. What more can one ask for? Why, captivating visuals and atmosphere, of course! Indeed, the colors are not vibrant as, say, Guardians of the Galaxy, nor are they as focused on grabbing one’s attention. The tone of 2049 is intrinsically dark and depressing; a dystopian world full of casual pleasures and leisure, without a shred of empathy or individuality. Everything is, as already said a number of times before, clear-cut, meticulously organized, and gray. Everything is in the state of decay, the death of humanity itself, or its drive, should one prefer. It makes the more focal points of color, whether the red lights of a police cruiser, the purple-pink skin of the projection of a nude female advertisement, or the orange mist of an abandoned city full of radiation, far more instilling. What 2049 manages to do, apart from creating a visual world that shows the capabilities of current-generation special effects, is embellish the more bombastic features by showing patience. When one is accustomed to three hours of special effects, those effects are no longer special, but a norm of the visuals. Here, those pinks and oranges and reds glow with an intermittent fascination that reminds the viewer of what it means for effects to be special.

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Last, but most certainly not least, is the soundtrack that accompanies the film, taking a fairly similar lead as the special effects. It picks its moments of heightened hostility and intensiveness. Silence is not often heard through this film, though it is most certainly very quiet. The action scenes are as far and few between as the music that accompanies them. The most scandalous realizations are accompanied by harrowing, mind-numbing impacts of heavy synthesizers and sheer volume. Not only setting the tone, it sets another course for the story’s direction, and the mood of a character, and the breaking, the recovery, the peace, the frustration, or the reconciliation of a person. So simplistic in its nature, the heaviness of the soundtrack becomes heavily embedded in the already masterfully-woven intricacy of the film’s core parts. Everything plays a part and works beautifully together to not only provide insightful think pieces, but valid entertainment as a whole.

There are things about this film that many can criticize, break apart, or question upon the logical foundations with which it means to present itself. Perhaps the pace is too slow, the violence too prevalent, the diversity too white (Ha!). For me, and the way this film evoked the inner workings of my emotional turmoil is something that cannot—and will not—go unnoticed. Much like my most treasured possessions of the visual medium, in which my memories paint the perfect, picturesque brilliance of a modern masterpiece, Blade Runner 2049 is, without any single shred of doubt—two times over—the closest a film could ever be to perfect in my mind. Production values, character intricacy, narrative potency, atmospheric sincerity; everything and more is there for me, for you, and for anyone to indulge in to their utmost pleasure. And I, as one who always clamors to share my wondrous, oft-times contradictory feelings, urge anyone reading to not only watch this film once, but twice or thrice, so that one can experience what it means to truly be in the presence of human passion.

Final Score: 10/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

I’ve Kinda-Sorta Become an Official Video Game Reviewer (And Another Update)

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Longer than anime, longer than football, the longest-tenured pastime activity in my life has always been video games. I started playing before I could even fathom a thought as to what video games even were. A time when I saw a screen with bright lights, a character sitting idly, and a controller in my hand, when fondled with, made the character onscreen move. It started with Donkey Kong Country, and has no end in sight. Despite the hiatuses and breaks I’ve taken to pursue other interests, video games are something I will always love and eventually come back to no matter what.

Completely on a whim, settled within a mindset of “What am I doing with my life anymore,” I decided to Google “video game site jobs.” Lo and behold, the Gods of fate smiled upon me; a listing of available jobs became available in an “Indeed.com” style of structure. Sifting through the debris with a heightened sense of urgency, I came across an opportunity that seemed almost too good to be true. An up-and-coming gaming journalism website that pays and provides various new-release games free of charge? I applied immediately (after checking out the site). Better yet, I used this blog as part of my resume. And it ended up being in my benefit! This rotten blog, which for years has brought me nothing but intrinsic self-indulgence and the camaraderie of the ani-community, actually ended up being useful in future endeavors.

I applied and I was accepted, though I started on a trial period, so I delayed the announcement until now, when everything became prime and proper. I am officially a video game reviewer for KeenGamer. I’ve had two reviews published as of today, should one be interested in how I’ve fared.

With this now established, there are a few things I’d like to provide via update. The first being that on Twitter, I will now be addressing myself by my real, full name. I contemplated giving myself a real picture, as well, but I couldn’t say goodbye to the bunny persona I had created for myself, so that will stay. Plus, it’d be rather drastic for my (INCREDIBLY LARGE AMOUNT OF) followers to suddenly see a bunny called “Kopo” turn into a real boy named “Dakota Gordon.” The entire basis behind this change is a manner of consistency, seeing as I will now be very vocal about my new job via Twitter, and any potential followers could make the connection that the “Dakota Gordon” on Keengamer is the same “Dakota Gordon” on Twitter.

The second is that this blog will likely not be as active (or lengthy in its content) as it once was. I’ve already been debating as to whether or not I should scrap my second blog, seeing as I hardly write there anymore even without this new development. Anime output will still continue, as well as various pieces from other visual media, but it won’t be as, how should I say, weighty? Or even as consistent. My focus now is on what’s more beneficial, and this reviewing job is nothing short of my dream job—I AM LIVING MY DREAM—and it takes priority. I also said this before with going back to school and all, but now it’s held twice over. I am more busy with life now than I have ever been.

Let this not be a farewell, but a greeting to a new beginning. Old things come and go, steadied by a consistent desire to hold it afloat, and I assure any follower that despite the workload, this blog will continually be updated until I say it’s done with. I thank everyone who has read any one of my hundred pages of musings on whatever topic, and have continued to support me in my years on WordPress. I’m unsure if I could’ve gotten this far, or taken this many opportunities without the aid of those who continue to interact with me here, on Twitter, or elsewhere. The times are a changin’, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been happier with it.

Thoughts on Boku no Hero Academia (Season One) (Spoilers?)

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I am so very tired of superheroes flooding the mainstream. Marvel/D.C. Studios seem to release a film every four months with substantial box office victories. Animated films such as Big Hero 6, the latest Spongebob film, and the upcoming Incredibles 2 are becoming more common. Even anime has gotten the hero fever with the quick green-lighting of One Punch Man and Boku no (or MyHero Academia. First hearing about it, I could only sigh and huddle into my own mindset of “Superheroes are cliché now,” ignoring something that fits the shounen tag to the dot. As the years went by and the hype of the series continued to grow ever bigger through its second season, I ended up succumbing to my curiosity and decided to watch it after completing the latest Summer of Anime. Sitting here, typing this out, I’m both impressed and cautious of what the future may bring.

Long has it been since an anime has pulled me into its world as well as Hero Academia has. Planning to watch two episodes, I would zoom through six straight without skipping a beat. If I really wanted to, I could blaze through the entire anime in one sitting, though not without difficulty, but more on that later. Though I often scoff at the notion, the aspect of one destined for great things is something that’s hard to ignore, especially when done in an endearing way. I was enthralled by Wonder Woman and I was charmed by Deadpool, though both suffer from a similar evil as Hero Academia does, which makes its whole tragically underwhelming. Hero films at their core appeal to the emotional side of a person’s heart, that in which is relegated through the psyche of characters and their ambitions. Here, this is done splendidly.

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Imperfect as it is, the manner in which Deku, as he’s so affectionately referred to, goes about his tragic life as a Quirkless is invigorating for those in a similar position. Yet, as I have said many times in the past, the weak, cowardly character is by far the easiest character in all of fiction to develop. Such was the case for The Good Dinosaur, such was the case for Yuri!!! on Ice, such is the case presently. On top of this, his crybaby persona, along with his peers’ personality quirks, feel a little too hamfisted. One can almost be justified in saying this cast is one-dimensional, as there’s a fine line between having a distinct personality and having a singular personality. Deku cries all the time, is scared all the time, has a lot of monologues with himself trying to dispel doubt, but always displays the most heroic attitude in the most pressing moments. One can easily grow tired of constantly being reminded of who he is and what he’s fighting for. We. Get. It.

What helps is that Deku, while clearly being the main character, is not the only character to receive attention. In a class full of powerful, supernatural kids, many of them receive enough attention to embellish both their powers and their temperaments. There are times when one isn’t aware that Deku is onscreen, as other characters take full control over a scene with their own power (both figuratively and literally). It really aids in making a series feel bigger than one or two characters when despite the main group’s exclusion from the spotlight, the series continues to showcase side characters and their own performance with the trials facing them. I often complain that a cast can be far too big to allow everything and everyone to be developed in a way that makes the group feel whole. Not only is the effort shown in Hero Academia, it uses that effort in the most efficient way imaginable. There aren’t many characters I don’t like.

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Pacing and progress are also good features, as the weight of situations and their accumulation feel natural, aside from a very quick ten-month montage in the third(?) episode. Perhaps I’m too used to slice-of-life flicks where a span of months can go by in only a few episodes (Looking at you, Acchi Kocchi), but Hero Academia has a smooth and consistent timer that knows when to put things to an end. Somewhat formulaic in its structure, admittedly, though I suppose that’s to be expected from a shounen flick. I almost never checked the time in an episode nearly throughout, as the key pieces were enough to hold me over on their own basis, which makes for a satisfying viewing—one I haven’t had since Berserk, and who knows since before then.

But… there is something that drags Hero Academia down to the level of my mortal enemy in anime: the typical shounen. It comes in the form of the last four episodes.

Evil. Out of nowhere. Infiltrates with ease and starts spouting garbage evil jargon for the sake of it. Heroes are caught off-guard and can’t thwart them easily. A large battle ensues. All hope seems lost, when suddenly help arrives! The situation becomes lighter, then darker as circumstances turn for the worst, when suddenly help arrives! The situation becomes lighter, then darker as circumstances turn for the wo—WHEN SUDDENLY HELP ARRIVES! This goes on for four episodes. Constant use of deus ex machinas and the most cliché quick-thinking solutions and THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! make it a very irritating experience that quickly grew tiring. Up to this point, I thought the series would only use these tools minimally. Much to my chagrin, they use them as a crutch in the most important of situations. And this isn’t to say these episodes were devoid of good, as a lot of variety in character spotlight makes the situations rich in development, but there’s far too much “Been there, done that” to compensate for the helping of character interaction.

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Perhaps I expected too much from a high-profile shounen series, but the overall animation is only decent here, with series like One Punch Man destroying it in nearly every regard. There was one particular scene in the final episode that was flashy and fun, but aside from that, I can’t recall any particular moment that really “wowed” me. One really shouldn’t complain, however, as the animation and design is clean nearly throughout, so it tops the typical romcom any day. On the topic of design, I really enjoy the way the designs speak from the characters. Bakugo’s spiky, disheveled hair and wide, fanged grin displaying his chaotic nature. Iida’s trim face, thin spectacles, and proper attire showcasing his authoritative demeanor. Ochaco’s blandness showing her no-personality character. There’s something for everyone here.

I can assure anyone that, despite the miscues, I’m excited to indulge in more heroic adventures once the second season wraps up. I’d even go as far as recommending this title to, well, anyone, as I feel the most overused of clichés won’t bother general people as much as it does me. Even with those in place, cynical viewers can latch onto the carefully planned narrative progression and plethora of likable characters. While not necessarily a challenging series, it’s simplicity done almost entirely right, and I for one applaud it.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.