Ranking the Oscars 2018 Best Picture Candidates

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Two things to clarify:

  1. I have not seen all films nominated—only five of nine. This post will only chronicle those five. I may see Get Out and Call Me By Your Name at some point, and if so, I may edit this list. But for now, it will only be a top five.
  2. I don’t normally care for Award ceremonies and the like, but a friend of mine seems excited for them, so I can’t help but share her enthusiasm. I also enjoy sharing my opinion.

Something else which is interesting to note (perhaps solely to me) is that none of the films I’ve seen that were nominated for the top award garnered more than an 8.5 from me, when three of last year’s nominees received nines (Arrival, Moonlight, La La Land). I could say this year is a down year for top pictures, but I’ve liked those that I’ve seen well enough to feel they should be considered, though are perhaps overrated in the big picture. Without further filibuster, my personal rankings for the five nominations I’ve seen. (more…)

Harry Potter’s Final Scene Destroyed Me

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(Apologies for the slightly-clickbait title.)

Through the last month of two, I watched the entire Harry Potter franchise for the first time with my brother. Only Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix stood as films I’d consider above average; indeed, I did not care for this series. The writing always had this simplicity to it that was almost mocking of how dark and serious its tone wanted to be after the second film, along with random twists to add to the flavor of predictable narrative formula. But this post isn’t a critique on the Harry Potter franchise. It is the result of a powerful emotional response to the final scene in the last movie of the series, a response so sudden and overdramatic that it drove my brother to fits of giggles. Only fitting that a film franchise that left me with little emotional immersion would save its most fitting performance for last.

It was the shining star that guided me to demoting The Deathly Hallows Part 2 to an instant 1/10. Also, huge spoilers ahead. (more…)

My Adoration of Expression Coupled with Anime

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Over the years, phrases such as “It’s too bland,” “It’s dull,” “It’s safe,” and “It’s formulaic” have been ingrained into the wordy musings of this blog. While I can’t speak for everyone, I can only assume that when I say these things, people think I mean they’re boring, bland, or formulaic in a general sense, when in reality, they’re all those things largely due to a single driving factor: expression (or sometimes referred to as “heart”). Now, something as vaguely termed as “expression” is a bit tricky to pin down in an objective sense, so as a small, yet effective example, simply look at the cute gif I have posted above of my favorite vampire waifu: Shinobu, from the Monogatari series. Notice the blended array of colors which supplants it out of its immediate reality, the emphasis on her allure being planted right on her face, and the almost cutesy representation of her original design that creates a distinct mood. This is what I like to call “expression,” something that exaggerates, defies, or simply heightens the norms of character exuberance and/or personality—which bleeds into other aspects of a creative work. (more…)

A Halloween Horror: Mayoiga… Isn’t Terrible?

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An average rating of 5.7 out of 10 on MyAnimeList—ranked 7,657th on the site as of writing this. Numerous “Worst of the Season” awards from fellow anibloggers. Each top review on MAL is a 4 or below (not counting the 8/10, as the entire point of that review is to portray it as an intentionally abstract comedy). A friend of mine recommended that I marathon this series as a Halloween joke of sorts, and with all of these expectations placed on it as a surefire unintentional comedy the likes anime has never seen before, I’ve finished the series and am left scratching my head. Why did I enjoy this series more than Yuri!!! on Ice?

Now that is a scary statement, right? (more…)

The Objectively Subjective Objective

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For as long as I’ve been blogging, it’s curious that I never made a post like this before in the past. When people read my reviews and look at my (low) ratings for various series, they may think to themselves, “Well, what exactly does this guy look for in a series?” I understand only about one in a thousand people actually think that, as most are satisfied with simply looking and forgetting, but I figured it’d be nice to keep note of what makes my ratings my ratings. What makes me think a series is good or bad and, most importantly, why my opinion holds more weight to me than others.

Now, that last sentence may seem conceited, which I wouldn’t argue isn’t. Everyone has some sort of pride to them within their work or hobby that allows them to feel more confident in their ability to share their thoughts or opinions with others. Especially noteworthy of critics (or those who aspire to be) is the sense of “Elitism” that is stereotyped into the persona of anyone who doesn’t have a systemic average rating of, say, seven or above. I am no different, as while I’ve never been directly insulted through the term “elitist,” I have often called myself, in jest and seriously, more aligned with the elitist mindset than otherwise. There is a reason to this, and one of the major reasons I decided to write up this post.

I will not deny that every opinion is inherently subjective. I will not deny that the differences in perspectives and priorities for each individual person will affect what they find good or bad about a particular subject.  I will deny that these opinions and theories cannot be objective, especially when dealing with a purely artistic or creative medium such as anime. I’ve dedicated my entire critical life to studying the standard guide to what makes a work good or bad based on the context of the subject. Anyone has seen it in a typical review set-up: Story, characters, art, sound, etc. These things are what I would argue can make an opinion objective in nature, though not concretely. I believe in the objectively subjective, that things can be argued into being more true than not; that, say, Toradora!’s characters are more realistic than unrealistic, or One Punch Man’s story is too comically one-dimensional to be given credible weight to its drama. Not that these become established facts, but become credible enough with substantial evidence to be able to be understood by the general public.

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One of the most irritating phrases I’ve heard in my time online is “Everything is subjective anyway, so why make such a big deal about it?” If everything is subjective, why even bother critiquing? Why even bothering distinguishing what is good and bad? Why even blog? Why even watch? Why even be different? Why not just release a bunch of shit for no reason because it’s all subjective anyway and nothing matters? Please bear with my snarky attitude, but it’s something that I feel is too slippery a slope to be said so easily. It almost sounds nihilistic to me; nothing in life matters and we all die in the end, so why put any effort into anything? The beauty of critiquing is so that we can appreciate what makes things good and bad, what resonates and what should be worth one’s time. We critique so that we can continue to attempt to shape the works of others into something bigger and better for more to be able to enjoy. That’s why being more objective than subjective matters to me. So that I can distinguish what makes a series worth not only my time, but your time.

I can enjoy the living hell out of something and still think it’s shitty on a technical level. Take my review of Custom Robo. I love that game to death, but it’s not great in any sense of the word. The gameplay is fine, but the story is incredibly standard, the characters are beyond cheesy, and the graphics are absolutely putrid. It’s not something I would actively recommend if it weren’t for the off-chance that it could allow people to enjoy the game as I did so many years ago. Basically nostalgia. Despite the fact that I adore it so, I only gave it a six out of ten, and that may be generous of me. I could absolutely rate it higher based on enjoyment, but I don’t think the qualities of the game are good enough to warrant so high a score just because it means a lot to me. That would be unfair of me to reward a game for being special to me, for being overly subjective with a topic on my own bias. That’s another reason why objectivity is a large part of what I try to embody.

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On the opposite spectrum, mother! was an incredibly intriguing and thought-provoking film, with great attention to tone and tension. Yet, by the end, I was left with an unsatisfying feeling, especially knowing that it all had one, all-encompassing meaning. I ended up not really enjoying the experience, aside from the fleeting question of “What does it all mean?” I awarded it a seven out of ten. Something I genuinely love gets a six while something I barely enjoyed gets a seven. That would almost seem blasphemous to some, but it’s something I feel strongly about—it’s the type of integrity I try to apply to myself for the purpose of critique. I want people to know what a film, a game, or an anime is worth on its own, while filling in the little details that make it what it is (through my own lens). That is what it means to me to be objectively subjective: to judge a topic based on its core parts and what it succeeds in doing regardless of personal preference or enjoyment. And I expect those who come to read my posts to know that that is what I strive for. All of my ratings are still my own, and I can rate something higher or lower than what it deserves, but I’ll do what I can to explain myself past a simple number score.

So with my brain fried and my fingers slowly bulging with every clack of my keyboard, I’m hoping this makes enough sense for people to acknowledge what makes my ratings my ratings, and how my religion of objectivity is a means of genuine worth rather than a stubbornness to avert societal norms. I’ve felt this way for a long time, and it’s taken some time for me to really develop as my own mental self has grown. To be more open and inviting of ideas; for a long time, I wouldn’t accept that everything was inherently subjective! While something of a personal case, it’s not something I feel more should do, but I would encourage others to take a more intrinsic approach to series and what they’re worth in terms of general characteristics. Of course, I never really delved deeper into that, as what makes characters good or bad is, again, fairly subjective, but I feel it’s the thought that counts. People should just think more, y’know?

Kuzu no Honkai: A Case of Sexual Timidity

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Not to sound unsure of myself, but I would like to briefly note that my opinions and thoughts on this particular criticism of Kuzu no Honkai to be somewhat incomplete. It’s more of a gut feeling that I had watching the anime and having experience with other forms of dark, introspective series. This argument is something I don’t actually have too much evidence for, as some of the things I’ll go more into detail about can be debated against with ease. Consider this a messy opinion piece, something that I feel is present without the sort of solid foundation to legitimize its bearing on the quality of the series.

And I felt I needed to say this before I go on, as I feel it’s important to be honest with my readers about how I feel during such debatable pieces as this one. Too often I wonder if people who make extraordinary claims and back them up with such flimsy details aren’t conscious of how it makes them appear. Call it my own pride, but if a claim I make sounds sketchy even to me, I feel it should be noted before it’s said. It could also be a defensive mechanism because I’m too honest and I’d feel too bad about “deceiving” people.

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Now then, the claim in question is that Kuzu no Honkai is too naive. The manner in which it tells its story and the way it introduces sex as a means of showing the emptiness of the characters is incredibly simplistic and immature. Sex itself is something of a hot topic within the world of anime, but the fact that Kuzu no Honkai has it so prevalent within itself shows some lenience that rarely comes from mainstream anime. Unless, of course, the sex is used for laughs and giddy temptation. Really, one simply need to look at the ocean of harem anime, or anime that simply have characters show sexual attraction to those around them.

One could praise Kuzu no Honkai for portraying sex in an artistic or mature way, however I would disagree. The way it portrays sex is simply a refreshing spin within a medium where sex is taken too lightly. To have one go through a marathon of To Love-ruHigh School DxD, and Sekirei, then watch Kuzu no Honkai, one would definitely appreciate the change of pace. It’s not only limited to these types of anime, either, where sex is a blatant device to entice viewers, but others where even the prospect of holding hands is considered too risqué. A fellow blogger once made an intriguing point about how Kirito from Sword Art Online‘s quick path to OP status was a refreshing spin from the typical Shounen protagonist’s zero to hero approach. While that may be true for certain eyes and times, it’s something that doesn’t always work to make characters or stories better (further referenced for my disdain for SAO), as is the case here.

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Through another perspective, there’s the fact that while sex is led up to and hinted at, sex is never actually shown. Natsu no Zenjitsu shows plenty of sex, and not just the interpretation of it, but the act of it. The sights, sounds, movement of characters’ bodies and faces. Kuzu no Honkai‘s use of sex is little different to me than the way ecchi uses sex; both are used for enticement, only Kuzu no Honkai‘s intentions aren’t to lure viewers to drop their shorts, but to drop their hearts. I found it humorous that, try as the characters might, not a nipple was shown, never anything past foreplay, and the characters, despite how empty they seem to be portrayed, have enough humanity within themselves to cover up at the last moment. This could almost sound like a positive for the show’s characters, though not so much for the argument. This gave an air of the author knowing this would be shown on TV at some point, so they cut their losses and went for what would be most suitable for the general mass, instead of pushing it further.

Something that could be used in association with the previous point is the anime’s penchant for telling, not showing. While not always the case, there’s definitely a lot of telling within the plot, particularly by whoever is the focus of the individual development. Whether it be Hanabi, Mugi, or Akane, (though usually more Hanabi and Akane) the dialogue is definitely something one cannot help but feel overwhelmed by. Whether this overwhelming is good or bad depends on the viewer. For me, it was obviously very bad. Too often I felt what was being told to me was very clear based on their prior actions and train of thought, something I feel the series took too much advantage of. Watching Kuzu no Honkai was like listening to a teenager in high school monotonously overexplain the story of their first Facebook lover. Lots of angst, lots of self-reflection, lots of crying/cringing, and not a break in sight.

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Through the use of sex, this tell-a-thon mixes in with the fact that sex is never actually shown. It combines with the type of storytelling that relies on the viewer to fill in the blanks themselves, taking sex at face value as a symbol of one thing depending on the situation. It would be really nice to see the characters actually react to the sex, rather than the build-up to sex. Many times the characters fantasize about the idea of sex and what it would mean to them to have sex with the one they love or “love,” but fantasizing about sex and having sex are two completely different beasts. Not just foreplay, either. If Hanabi is wincing and in tears at having her genitals fondled, I would like to see her reaction to actually hitting the home run. That sentence sounded incredibly disturbing. Still, it would be intriguing to see if she continues to fight her overwhelming negative emotions or if she’d abandon them and simply let it happen at the expense of comforting pain. If only I had that chance.

On its own, Kuzu no Honkai is a decent series with an intriguing premise that can stand with the best of teen dramas. What the series lacks in subtlety, however, it more than makes up for with dialogue straight from an early Linkin Park album. Its dedication to its craft is admirable, though many (including me) could be easily turned off by how painful the amount of depressing self-deprecation the characters spew at themselves, to the point where they can’t take it seriously. It doesn’t surprise me that the series is so highly-acclaimed, taking into account that the average anime watcher is in their teens and are attuned to sensitive jargon. Still, I can’t help but wonder what the series could’ve been if it hadn’t been directed so heavily at only that demographic.

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

K.O. Course! Why Mario Golf Is Superior to Super Smash Bros.

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The inspiration for this article came upon replaying Mario Golf for the first time since I was about seven or so. My love for the game even went so far that I dedicated a homework assignment to one of the game modes present within it. My inherent love for golf games was directly inspired by it, which translated into my continued love for the game so many years later. The essence of “classic games” is that no matter the era, one can have great fun playing them. Mario Golf is a classic in my eyes, while another, more popular franchise seems to be the case for everyone else.

I took it upon myself to replay Super Smash Bros. as well, going from beginning to end in both games, unlocking everything I possibly could before moving on. By the end of each game’s “end,” it was clear to me what the superior title was, but I seem to be in the minority based on user score comparisons. As shown by Metacritic and Gamefaqs, the user score for Super Smash Bros. is much higher than that of Mario Golf (Though I acknowledge not many users rated Mario Golf on Metacritic). However, critic consensus agrees that Mario Golf is the better title. I suppose my critical aspirations would fit well enough, huh?

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Not without reason, of course, would I make a claim that one game is clearly better than another. I’ve observed a number of different things, both objectively and subjectively relative to people’s expectations of fun, that give an edge to Mario Golf. Some of these things are directly correlated to my own biases, as is typical for any reviewer, but I’ve tried to limit the amount of ego-inflated elitism that one might expect from a comparison piece such as this one. Disclaimers aside, my reasons for why Mario Golf has a noticeable handicap over Super Smash Bros.

1. There’s More to Do!

In Super Smash Bros., one has the option to play in Training, Classic, Bonus Stages 1 & 2, and Vs. Mode. One could also argue that they could check out the character profiles in the Options menu, but that’ll take little out of the player’s time overall. When replaying Smash Bros., I played the game in two sittings—both spanning within an hour’s time—before I unlocked every character. After that, I felt no motivation to continue playing, as the only other mode worth playing was Vs. Mode, and that’s a lot more fun with other people. It says a lot about a game when after two hours, there’s little more for the player to do. It takes a huge risk, relying on the gameplay alone to keep the player enticed enough to keep playing after every goal’s been checked off the list. In this case, it isn’t quite enough.

In Mario Golf, one can play Tournament, Training, Ring Shot, Get Character, Speed Golf, Mini-Golf, and a number of Multiplayer modes. Not only does it have three more modes than Smash Bros., but each mode takes longer to complete than its competition. By the end of a sitting in Mario Golf, a few hours can go by without a second thought, so long as you haven’t rage-quit before that. When normal golf gets too stale, one can participate in Mini-golf, where putting is the only factor and the courses are giant numbers. This was the mode I felt inclined to write about in my schoolwork. It’s also, ironically, become my least favorite mode in the entire game.

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A common struggle now a days with games is money spent vs. length one can get out of a game. With these two, Mario Golf is the clear winner in long-term replayability. Unlocking everything takes anywhere from twenty to thirty hours, while Smash Bros. has everything behind a thin layer of a few hours.

2. It’s More Challenging!

I’m not saying Smash Bros. isn’t hard, as that is far from the truth, but taking into consideration the work it takes to unlock everything, it’s a breeze compared to Mario Golf. The most Smash Bros. requires the player to do to unlock things is simply play the game. Unlocking Ness is probably the hardest challenge, as the player has to go through Normal difficulty in Classic Mode with three lives and beat it without continuing (Which I did on my first try).

Unlocking Bowser in Mario Golf took me umpteen tries, with the winning round requiring me to land four Eagles in eighteen holes in order to beat him by a single stroke. There’s no adjusting the difficulty in the Options menu, either. You’re going to have to play the game of your life to survive and it’s all meticulous planning and taking advantage of the weather conditions. It can be frustrating, for sure, but once you beat it, your sense of accomplishment rises like a four-ton weight being lifted off your foot. I’ll say this, though: the final course is nothing short of bullshit. So many rough patches and bunkers placed throughout each hole that screwing up is a likely scenario no matter how careful your shot is.

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There’s a point where a game can be too frustrating to call it “competitively challenging,” and Mario Golf passes this to some degree in later portions. However, Smash Bros. doesn’t feel all that challenging at all, especially what it requires to unlock everything needed to be unlocked. Without that challenge, games can feel like a monotonous drag that ultimately serves as a waste of time, with limited fun.

3. It Requires More Precise Player Input!

This is probably the most subjective point, as one could argue that what I’m about to explain is more characteristic of what’s more enjoyable to some than others. Super Smash Bros. isn’t simply a button-masher with results being better suited for those who blend the controller for a minute or two. Still, as a fighting game, one can take advantage of one or two moves to desecrate the competition without a second thought. It feels almost like hammering a single button over and over again in order to win. Again, not usually the case, but it tends to happen more than one might expect.

One could also argue that Mario Golf is simply golf, so its controls don’t have to be so varied, to which I can agree. Even so, to have the buttons be so limited, yet so indicative of the outcome of the match feels so much more controlled than otherwise. I enjoy not having to worry about all sorts of different button maneuvers and outdated tactics improved by sequels when I could just have a near-mastered limit of control available upon my own accord. Only drawback to this is that it becomes hard to top in following sequels. In any case, my love of tight controls in video games shines through brightly here.

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I could make other arguments, but they’re more nitpicks about Smash Bros. than anything worth making a valid, objective argument about. With my own interpretation in mind, why is it that Super Smash Bros. is so much more beloved? I’d argue a few different things, such as “Mario Golf is just golf” and “Super Smash Bros. has a larger cast of Nintendo characters from all sorts of titles.” Fighting games in general are far more popular than golf games, and people are more accustomed to playing them, since golf is a game with more of a narrowed demographic. Does this mean we’re all a bunch of violence-loving savages?! A post for another day. And who doesn’t love crossovers? If The Avengers is any indication, people go gaga over characters within the same universe interacting with one another.

Nostalgia is also a very likely candidate in deeming the popularity of one title to another. I grew up more with Super Smash Bros. than Mario Golf, but I’m able to distinguish the quality between them with a clear head. In the end, Mario Golf has given me a lot more trial and error, frustration, and tear-inducing joy than Super Smash Bros did, and the feeling of enjoyment really isn’t that close. There’s more to do, more to endure, and more to strategize for. It’s just golf, yes, but it has that Nintendo charm and polish that gives it more appeal than others within the same genre. That appeal trumps even others on the same system.

What is your input on the matter? Is Super Smash Bros. the better game? Or is Mario Golf an underappreciated spectacle as I’ve tried arguing for? Feel free to leave a comment, and I appreciate everyone for taking the time to read! Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

The ratings for these titles and more can be found on MyVideoGameList.