Indiana Jones and the Archives of Inconsistency

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I’ve seen ’em all. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, Last Crusade, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The amount of fan adoration this franchise receives is unlike many in modern Hollywood, rivaling that of the Star Wars franchise or many of Disney’s animated classics. Because of this, many are subject to a very heavy bias when looking at this franchise through an objective lens. While I was made aware of various scenes from Jones’s adventures through parodies and references in other media, never have I actually sat down and watched the films until about a month ago, so there’s no nostalgic bias to be found here (for once). With the occasion of finishing the franchise (until 2020), I felt it’d be interesting to share a fresh perspective as to the weight of these (mostly) ’80s classics. And as the title implies, the theme here is inconsistency.

Referenced somewhat recently here, I did not care much for Temple of Doom. While user ratings for the film are fairly divided, with the more general perspective being positive, I found it to be a fairly insipid viewing. The inclusion of Short Round and Willie completely tampered any potential the film may have had if it didn’t focus so keenly on gross-out humor and silly popcorn theatrics. They ultimately had no place in the film, provided little chemistry with Jones himself, and had as much depth to their personality as characters from Sesame Street. This harshness towards these two characters specifically is due to their influence on the film’s tone, providing more of a comedic approach instead of a serious one. This would be excusable if the comedy was at all funny, but it’s not.

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Kingdom of the Crystal Skull gets a lot more backlash from fans for “ruining” the franchise. Critics gave it decent marks, but user score is typically fairly low, and it was even desecrated on an episode of South Park. Once again, this bunny with no nostalgic bias watched the film with an open mind, and while I think the film is bad, I thought Temple of Doom was worse overall. I thought Temple of Doom’s second act was better than Crystal Skull, but its first act was so horribly misguided that it nearly destroyed the whole experience for me. Crystal Skull has a sort of quality that almost hides behind the greatness of its prequels while trying to be so over-the-top that no one would ever accuse it of being so similar. It’s this absurdness that brings its quality down for many trying to take the film seriously, which it does a decent job at in the first half. Still, with enough references to fill a house, it can’t quite shake the foundations of a soft reboot, catering to newcomers while titillating fans of the franchise.

In my mind, two of the films in a four-film franchise are bad. Two out of four; that’s half the franchise. Not only that, but they’re the second and fourth films, respectively, causing a wave-like effect of turbulent highs and lethargic lows. One is good, one is bad, one is good, one is bad. Without the perspective of a diehard fan that grew up on the films proclaiming Crystal Skull to be the black sheep of the franchise, one can say that the series has always been flawed to some degree, and its consistency is seriously questionable, both in terms of overall quality and the pace of such within each individual film.

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What made the Indiana Jones films so enjoyable was the constant focus of thrilling action, the wonders of adventure and mystery, and the human drama that came with the characters along the way. This is fairly common knowledge to many, but pulling this off effectively is no easy feat. Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade have a good number of things in common, including the factors mentioned above. With lots of semi-realistic action, lovable character interaction, and a nose for gritty attitude, they both accomplished a mixed tone of light and dark that boded well for characters to behave as well as they did, with a lot of focus on memorable scenes and noticeable, subtle development. Not to mention, the bond between characters in both pictures, specifically Jones and Marion, as well as Jones and his father, almost single-handedly carry the torch for emotional appeal, seeing as both pairs have some friction between them. There’s a potent humanistic element that makes the adventures feel real and all the more grand for it.

Any more on Temple of Doom would be ad nauseam. Crystal Skull harbors a little character enthusiasm, though struggles to find any balance with the realistic qualms of Jones’s antics. Surviving a nuke by sitting in a fridge. Killer ants with a penchant for human flesh. Aliens. It goes above and beyond to entertain, however, it becomes more of a chore to take any of it to heart when it feels so jadedly superficial. The Indiana Jones movies were always somewhat silly, but Crystal Skull takes it to such levels of ridiculousness that Kali-Ma! seems like a morning stroll in the park. Everything about each scene feels so forced, so maniacally enthusiastic about being able to appeal to everyone that it loses some of its identity. In this sense, I can understand how the latest entry “ruined” the franchise to many. For me, the franchise couldn’t be ruined because it was never a stable library of greatness in the first place.

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Wrapping up, there is an indistinguishable charm that the Indiana Jones franchise manages to capture half the time. Even in the worst of times, there’s enough of a semblance of good merriment to hold over any person not so sternly idolizing of the whole product. I suppose the point of this post made into simplest of explanations is that the franchise isn’t perfect prior to a certain point. It’s important to look at things as single products, then add the outside context later on. How much this context influences one’s opinion is dependent on the individual, but one shouldn’t disregard one or the other entirely. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull isn’t great, but neither was Temple of Doom, and some didn’t even care for Last Crusade. Whatever shoots the sword-slinger is for anyone to decide. Just don’t be so picky.

Patience Is a Virtue, Except When It Comes to Ongoing Scanlations

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I will be busy within the next ten days, so posts may be a tad infrequent/shorter than normal. I’ll be back off my feet come Christmas time.

For those unaware, I like to partake in manga whenever anime feels too loaded to sit through. Manga, I feel, is an easier hobby to partake in due to the reader determining their own pace, while anime runs on its own, expecting you to keep its pace. Not to mention, reading a single chapter of any manga will inevitably be much faster than a single episode of a standard anime. As a critic, it’s nice to be able to consume things at a pace I’m comfortable with, which allows me to think without having to worry about constantly remaining vigilant for more information. There’s a catch, however, to the slow and steady approach to scanlating manga over streaming anime: consistency is not guaranteed.

Look above at the picture of Sekitou Elergy via MangaHere and the rate of its scanlation. It’s a surprise the fiftieth chapter is even there at all, as the series seems to be all but abandoned by this point, despite its ongoing status. With no official English release for the books that I can find, I’m left to sit and wait, hoping that someday something will come of it. Though I’m pessimistic, there’s always that slight chance that someone will pick it up. It’s all a matter of popularity and feedback, so it seems Sekitou Elergy isn’t as popular as I feel it deserves credit for.

More than lamenting upon lost series, however, is the prospect of reading a manga through to the end with infrequent updates. I can’t count the number of times where I’ve read a manga when it’s more than halfway scanlated, come to the end of the scanlation, then have to wait anywhere from a few months to a few years to finally see its ending come in English form. Aside from the frustration of waiting extended and unpredictable periods of time, it also becomes harder to retain everything about the series worth noting.

A memory of something significant or similar can only stretch so far within the subconscious, depending on its importance to the person. When it comes to manga that one has been reading for years, reading a new chapter may as well be reading the first chapter, as while the characters and settings may ring familiar, the impact of their actions and intrigue have all but been lost. This is especially so for manga that are updated with new chapters once every month or so. Manga like Haji-Otsu, which I’ve already reviewed, and Tonari no Kashiwagi-san, which I plan to review, become harder to analyze in their entirety when all you recall clearly is the last fourth of the manga’s bulk. Being patient with scanlations shows a definitive interest and commitment to following through with something, but it can also prove to be an internal storm of questioning how much you can emphasize when deciding on a particular score. This problem escalates when the manga is fairly uninspired.

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The quick fix to this would be to only read manga with consistent updates. Take Noblesse for example. An update every week, more or less. Not all manga get this kind of treatment, unfortunately, as a large number of less popular titles get pushed to the backseat to make room for what brings in the crowds. There may be some intriguing, relatively unknown manga with an interesting premise that is hardly being worked on, because Shounen Jump’s latest shiny scrap piece is hogging all the more efficient scanlators. If you happen to enjoy the more publicized works of popular mangakas, then you’re in a safe spot. For those like me who enjoy venturing out into the world unknown, you better pray that someone else is just as dedicated to it. Or you could learn Japanese.

Another solution to this is to only read completed manga. But I know how hard that can be. Some stories just feel too filled to the brim with potential that we can’t help but start them early on. Even I was hesitant to start Sekitou Elergy knowing it had been updated once in the last four years, but I don’t regret reading it in the slightest. Of course, now I have this lingering longness reminiscent of a princess in a secluded castle… One could also simply buy the English-translated versions via bookstores and what-not, but that usually entails that the series was finished scanlating regardless—that or it’s just that popular.

Exceptions will always arise, as so with almost every correlating string of events. The point of this post wasn’t to have the reader take my ratings for manga with a grain of salt, but to provide a sort of justification for why it may seem harder for me to accurately describe in detail the rights and the wrongs of a particular story. I have a number of upcoming manga reviews that deal with this elongated wait of upcoming scanlations, and going back for new updates almost feels like stepping into a new world entirely, which is entirely off-putting. I could always re-read them from the beginning, but Nana to Kaoru has somewhere near 150 chapters. Re-reading that from the beginning is something I will spend an eternity on. An eternity, I could say, that feels the same as waiting for a manga to finish.

Flame Which All Others Compare

“Stay back!” the funny little jellybean yells towards nothing in particular. “The flame is mine! Don’t anyone come near! Nobody!”

Quickly scanning his surroundings, the funny little jellybean eyes a few pieces of oxygen here and there. The dirty little infestations are hovering around the premise of the sacred flame and he would not have it! Not one bit!

“Shoo! Shoo! Nasty little things like you would only let the flame wear thin!” The funny little jellybean flails his body up and down and all around, trying to smash the invisible pieces of existence into nothing. His grunts and groans echo throughout the abandoned forest, with the trees holding firm and the sky giving birth to the encompassing moon. The trees’ afros and pretty little extensions cut segments of the darkened sky into a picture of individual perception. If from here the moon looks down upon the funny little jelly bean and his rambunctious raucous and bouncy bustling, one might be familiar with this scene.

The funny little jellybean, satisfied with his pummeling of powdered puffs, retreats back to his treasure, his reason, his utmost passion beyond everything: the flame. How enlightening, how strengthening, this particular flame is. A flame so massive it could defile any material, yet so controlled that one could mock its most sensitive areas and still remain unsinged. The quivering ferocity furnished deep within the body of the flame holds steady the constant and unwavering base magnificently. A timid maroon tucked inside, surrounded by flashes of hot pink and flickers of deep orange and light purple embody the distinctness of the flame’s beauty in color. Its warmth and inviting sensation colors the funny little jellybean with its own color of hot pink. However, the most amazing of all feelings are contained in the roar of the fire’s silence, that which sends waves of coldness and hesitation though the body of our dear funny little jellybean. “Truly,” it thinks to itself, “this is the flame to compare all flames.”

“Say here, bean!” A voice echoes through the murky woods. The funny little jellybean turns its being towards the source of the hoarse voice and gasps. It cannot be! Beyond his sugary frame lay before him yet another flame! A flame whose magnificence radiates from its kindling frame, with strength to steady its turbulent uniformity. A flame which sparks and overflows with a decadence known only to royalty. It shines with a vivid blue hue, that which cuts into the image of the darkened sky with a feeling of insightful melancholy. “Must you waste your tasty tarts on this flacid flame? I am more suited for your jolly jelly!”

“W-What is this? How can this be?” The funny little jellybean looks from flame to flame. “Is there another that cannot compare? Is there another whose embers red flare?”

“I am that with which you seek! And if I be late, let me fight my way through! Let me warm your soul with my illuminous persona! Give me the chance to show how bright I may shine, how high my body may soar, with your precious embrace to power my core!”

The newcomer glistens in the darkness. A warmness that’s familiar, yet bizarre. A feeling so queer it leaves the funny little jellybean isolated and in fear. It’s something so recognizable, yet so sudden and foreboding that the funny little jellybean flutters from side to side. Its mind, or lack thereof, races like bees preying upon a garden. It cannot think, it cannot will. It sputters and spurts until it goes away. The thought of this, the thought of that, the thought of thoughts to thoughtfully distraught. Who is the flame? What is the flame? Am I flaming the flame I possess now for a flame that beckons me further? The flame is all it knows. The flame, the flame.

“How do I know?” the funny little jellybean beckons. “How do I know you are the one to which all flames flicker?”

“Do you not see? How radiantly I glow? The power that I embody? Do you not feel the spark between us? The friction that bequeaths us towards each other? I am everything which you already have, only more! I am the superior flame! All other flames use I as a comparison to their beauty!”

“It is true… you call unto me like no other. Even my own flame does not show the same compassion, the same fire, with which you embody for my affection, my attention, my companionship.”

“So you admit you belong to me! That we are destined beyond our current situations!”

“It may be so…” The funny little jellybean turns and gazes upon the flame with which he once held the utmost regard. The flame that dazzled his vision without as much as any excessive burst. The silence cut deep into his bouncehouse heart. “Do you not wish for us to be together? Are you truly the flame for me? Have I been wrong all this time?”

The first flame remains solitary; working itself with the same precision that was flowing within it throughout this entire story. Its simplicity works with its efficiency. However, it remains silent to the beckoning little jelly bean, who regards it with a look of puzzlement.

“Ha! Not a single word on its defense. I am clearly the better of the two!” The new flame laughs maliciously, spreading a line of fire from its body to the ground below.

“But are you?” the little jellybean coos almost mechanically.

“I am! Do you disagree?”

The determined little jellybean rolls over the the old flame’s side, taking in the comfort that used to compel him so. “I disagree. It may not be as powerful, it may not be as beautiful, and it may not have as sly a tongue as thee, but let it be known that this is the flame for me!”

“And for what reason?”

“The reason that I know in my heart to be true; this flame is the flame for me, if only for the fact that its the only flame I care to believe in. The only flame I care to beckon, to comfort, to caress. The only flame that I feel comfortable with! This is the flame for me because you are not the flame for me!”

“What nonsense! How could you possibly know without any determination?”

The funny little jellybean turns toward the new flame, whose body burns with heightened ferocity and disgust. The color goes from a mellow blue to a frightening neon glow, like the moon’s mighty eye within the form of a solitary flame. If not for the trees and the moon in the sky, only this new flame would be visible in the withering eyes of this fidgety little jellybean.

“I don’t know.”