Precursor to a Legacy: My Thoughts on Dragon Ball


Thought I might spice up the title of this post because this series is a special watch for me. It is, as the title implies, a precursor to the anime that got me into anime as a child, a lifelong passion that spanned between the anime, its movies, and countless video game adaptations. At one point in my life, I could perfectly describe every arc of every saga in vivid detail of Dragon Ball Z‘s course. Though I never christened it my favorite anime all this time, there would be no other title suited more to challenge the enthusiasm I had for the imagination present within a single series. Until a few years ago, when I got back into anime after a ten year hiatus or so, but that’s old news by now.

Notice, however, that I only mention Dragon Ball Z. I didn’t have the same experience with its previous entry, Dragon Ball, as I did with its successor—in fact, I hardly remember anything of it at all. It never seemed to air as much as Z, which may have been intentional seeing as the original seems to be a lot more, ahem, “risque.” It didn’t have that same serious or captivating mystique that Z had, and I think American networks realized this. I did catch a few episodes of the original Dragon Ball early on in my life, but never in any subsequent chains. It was always random episodes that made no sense to me. Because of this, I recalled a few moments from my recent trek of watching the series as scenes I’d seen way back when, but the moments were very limited. All I knew of the series going into it was what was described to me through the (limited) re-tellings in video game adaptations. I knew major plot points and various characters, but there was a lot of fluff I had to wade through to get to that familiarity.

I will also state now that this series took me nearly twenty-two months to finish. This timeline only included having me drop it soon after the twentieth episode or so, bringing it back about four months later, then putting it on-hold for the 2016 Summer of Anime. Adding that altogether, it still took roughly sixteen months to get through 153 episodes. Through that span of time, not only had the series grown from beginning to end, but I, myself, had seen a few self-transformations. This reflection of changing gave me a deeper appreciation for how long the series had gone while still trying to change the core of its essence or strategy for entertainment. In the beginning, it was fun and not-too-serious. By the end, the world was at stake about five times and hundreds of people died in battle. It was an encouraging strategy that felt like the story was moving at its own pace while simultaneously growing beyond its expectations. I suppose that change intimidated me to some degree. Though, more likely, the series was just weighed down by too many problems.

Believe me, this series has an avalanche of problems. Problems it never seemed to care to fix.


I was taken off guard by how bad this series really is. The humor is so unbelievably juvenile that the age range for the comedy is somewhere between two and six, with a quick jump to thirteen or so with the “boobie puns.” There are two major comedy topics within the first arc or two of Dragon Ball: fan service and pissing. Lots and lots of pissing. Someone once described to me that Akira Toriyama had a pissing fetish. It seems they have some proper evidence to back it up based on how many times Goku had to take a piss before he set off for his journey. As for fan service, hello Bulma. Meet Master Roshi. Hope you like the shenanigans between these two because they never stop. The humor alone completely drains any serious tone the series could’ve had with its atrocious attempts at stirring laughter. Straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. For babies. With fan service. A lot of this is also properly instigated by what is by far, BY FAR, the worst character in this entire series: Pilaf.

Pilaf is not a good villain. Pilaf is not a good character. Pilaf is not a good leader. Pilaf is not entertaining, funny, charming, good, or any other adjective pertaining to any semblance of positivity whatsoever. He is a scourge to this series and makes it more than a chore, but a pain to watch. I hate his voice. I hate his personality. I hate his stupid face. I hate how his henchmen obey his every order without giving into their common senses and dumping the little shit to fend for himself. And I hate that he keeps. Showing. Up. Why does Toriyama feel he needs to resort to having such a horrible, annoying, one-dimensional ball of abomination as a serious threat to Goku when it was apparent from the very beginning that Goku could destroy him by barely lifting a finger in his general direction while asleep at .000000001% of his power. It’s repetitive, annoying, a waste of time, and could be cut out completely for the sake of retaining my, and likely other’s, good graces.

Excuse me. I really had to let that out before it killed me.

In essence, my extreme disregard for Pilaf’s threat as a villain is a running theme within the show. Many times as the arcs play out, Goku shows that he can easily defeat just about everyone so long as they aren’t shooting lasers out of their eyes or grabbing onto his tail. It makes the action sequences listless and dull, with a simple punch or rushing combination to take out the bad guys. And when it comes to those who do pose a challenge, there is a lot of talking. Very few times I can recall where fights are just fights. Someone always has to stop to make a snarky comment such as “Hehehehe. You’re better than I thought. Hehehehehehehe. This should be fun. Hehehehehehehehehe.” (There is a lot of chuckling in this anime.) If not that, they make a bold proclamation then start screaming for three minutes as they charge up an ominous-looking attack, only to have it either not work and look surprised, or have it work and start chuckling again. I would much rather take the latter flaw than the former, as going through the adventures of Goku vs. normal humans was so boring that I always found myself counting down the episodes until a real threat showed up. Even so, the latter flaw still drags out the episodes far longer than they need to be, as well as any enjoyment one had with the fight at hand.

Excluding the first tournament arc, where Goku, Krillin, Yamcha, and Master Roshi participate in the world tournament, there are fifty-seven episodes that feature Goku going up against weak or relatively weak human villains. If I didn’t promise myself to finish this series before moving onto Z, I would’ve dropped it a second time prior to reaching “the good part.” There is no torture quite like subjecting oneself to nearly twenty hours’ worth of Goku fucking around with people who aren’t even capable of harming him for the sake of showing his “adventurous spirit.” It’s really, really not worth it, aside from showing his experiences outside of his humble beginnings. I’d almost recommend skipping all the way up to the Baba saga after the first world tournament arc, because all the time in-between could essentially be filler. Very few characters from that time reappear later on and Goku doesn’t seem to grow much from the experiences—his strength most debatably so. It just goes to show how long this series is and how much of it could’ve been cut to give it more of a focus; I suggested cutting nearly 40% of its mass.


Even after the series gets to “the good part,” there are still problems. Along with the aforementioned “elongated battles via chatting,” there are many times where Goku is tasked with doing something imperative for the world’s safety, only to have him go to a random place guarded by a random evil monster to obtain a random powerful trinket to make him stronger or whatever else. Once again, random filler to further draw out the drama of the series that gives very little impact upon the viewer other than the fact that Goku is wasting his time treasure-hunting. There are occasionally times when he has someone with him that doesn’t make me want to kill myself (Yajirobe), while a majority of the time he does (Bulma). However, I can understand the point of these things, but also question why there are so many “dangerous quests and items” available for him to embark on/obtain when he could’ve been doing all of this from the beginning, instead of when the timing is most convenient. It feels like cheap writing to me.

If you’ve gotten to this point and are thinking to yourself, “Man, this guy is tearing this series to shreds! Is there anything about this series worth praising?” I have a confession to make: there isn’t much at all. Perhaps it’s because the series is outdated. Perhaps my standards are too high. Perhaps my disdain for shounen runs deep within anime’s lore and Dragon Ball is yet another example of everything I dislike of the genre. Whatever it is, my score is one I consider generous for its overall quality. But it’s not all subjective, there are a few things about the series that really impressed me.

First and foremost, its creativity. Now, don’t get me wrong, most of the characters are incredibly one-dimensional and uselessly bland, and the writing needs far more variety. What spurns my enthusiasm for the series is the world that Toriyama creates. The dragon balls, the eternal dragon, the number of creatures present within human society, the number of places to be explored and the denizens within them. Despite the relative unimportance of these places and people, to see that they exist and the care given to make them feel alive is commendable, even if most characters look similar to one another (especially girls/women). It at least attempts to create an atmosphere that employs the adventurous spirit of the series, and I applaud that.

While most characters are hopeless, there are a few who aren’t. Roshi, despite his perverted antics, displays a wide range of knowledge that suits his status. He’s a gross old man, but he’s also an accomplished fighter who always knows what’s at stake and when to be serious. Then there’s Tien, who has slowly become my favorite character of the entire series. I would have never guessed that Tien used to be such an apathetic asshole. I always assumed he was a no-nonsense, wise type of guy, but he’s a lot more of a snarky bastard than I anticipated. His arc was probably the most immersive one, both because I had little knowledge of it and I felt the series actually did something it never tried to do before that point: character development. Tien was pretty properly developed, along with giving some insight on Roshi and his past. Because of this, and the personality Tien embodied afterwards, there’s no doubt that he became the star of the series in terms of roundness of character.


Dragon Ball has some okay art design, as well as some pretty-colored canvases. While I don’t much care for Toriyama’s design of women, I think his characters earn high praise for uniqueness… on a part of the major characters. A lot of the background characters have similar body structures and faces, humans in particular. Even so, they’re easily distinguishable and bring a little flair to an already flashy series. Despite the pointless adventures of Goku overpowering every obstacle, the characters stand out for their design alone. Animation-wise, there are many points throughout where they re-use animation to draw out fight scenes and scurries. It makes all the more time-consuming and easy to pick out from the batch. Sure, it was the mid to late ’80s and anime wasn’t as big a presence as it is now, but sometimes it was so jarring that it was repeated over and over like it was no one’s business. Some fight scenes were good, while others depended a lot on those repeated motions to simulate a lot going on. It was better later on when, y’know, people were actually fighting instead of Goku kicking someone once and that was it. Still, one will likely leave disappointed by the moderately low emphasis on action in earlier segments. Have to save time for the piss jokes.

It’s bad, putting it bluntly. Dragon Ball is not a series that has aged well, but has spawned a legacy that has surpassed three decades. It’d be hard to find anyone under the age of fifty who doesn’t know who Goku or the Kamehameha wave is. Though the popularity and fan attention has focused primarily on Z, the original still gets tremendous fan support for setting the foundation for future adventures—ones that span greater lengths than Toriyama could’ve imagined when writing his fledgling series. While I find the series a tremendous hassle to watch and ultimately not worth watching at all, I can acknowledge the impact it had on anime and the hearts of millions throughout time and place. Perhaps if not for it, we wouldn’t have as big a selection of anime as we do now, as well as the accessibility we westerners cherish when indulging in our eastern cartoon desires. Thank you, Dragon Ball. You horrible, amazing thing.

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

I’m (Really) Done with the NFL

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a post documenting my frustration with the inadequacy of the NFL’s referees. In a fit of rage, I made an oath not to watch the NFL for an undetermined amount of time, so long as the NFL didn’t take responsibility for their employers. I cracked under pressure and watched the AFC-NFC Championship games and the Super Bowl soon after. It was almost akin to a child throwing a tantrum because they weren’t getting their way.

Fast forward to present time and with two weeks of action, I haven’t found anything particularly troubling about the state of the refs (though that may depend on what game I’m watching). Even so, there’s something unsatisfying about the entire game in its current state. Perhaps its the media overblowing everything. Norman vs. Beckham. Gurley is the second-coming of Christ. Kaepernick sat during the national anthem and now everyone’s joining in on the fun. It seems the game has become less of a game and more of a circus, a gladiatorial type conglomerate that soothes itself on embellishing itself in drama and glory. It’s too much sometimes, and how I’ve been able to stand it for this long amazes me. I love football as a sport that much, it seems. But it’s getting to the point where it’s not worth the time.

I spend a lot of my free time on football. Not just watching football games, but looking up football history, football stats, watching the NFL Network, playing Madden 12, and researching for my occasional NFL Top 10’s. And this is only with the NFL. I also watch College Football, Canadian Football, Arena Football, and had I the chance to, High School and Indoor Football. The only thing I don’t watch is Lingerie Football! That’s ten hours on Saturdays and Sundays, and an additional three and a half on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. That’s thirty hours a week! I don’t even work that much in a week!

I don’t even get much out of football. Just three hours of raw enjoyment and nothing more. I can’t really critique it (outwardly) or make anything out of it as a writer (They want things called “degrees.” Pfft!), and the NFL is pretty strict on their copyrights. It’s something one can only watch and appreciate, assuming the game is actually good. In the long run, I’ve wasted so much time watching games when I could’ve been, ahem, “productive” doing something else. The time when I was writing my picks for weekly games was the least productive my blog had ever been. I was constantly burned out by the pressure of writing long, complicated posts and doing so within a self-reserved deadline. Ever since I stopped doing so, my passion for blogging has increased exponentially. My writing has been more fruitful and my desire to do so at an even pace has (almost) never faltered. I was content watching football on my own time and blogging whenever it was done. But whenever football was concerned, something always took a backseat.

I’ve recently been getting back into video games (Partly due to my own ambition and partly due to my desire to do video game reviews on Youtube). This typically conflicts with a number of things, as video games aren’t something to be enjoyed for short periods of time. Usually, football would always take precedence. In the long run, video games would take less time to indulge in than football, and let’s face it, video games don’t have commercials to hog up that time, too. It’s more beneficial to me, too, as a control-freak and as a reviewer to be able to control the game at my pace and rely on my own to make something out of it. The NFL is big business. It’s controlled like a corporation and advertised like a carnival. After five years of watching, I think I’ve finally gotten over the desire to keep up with it.

This isn’t to say I will never watch (or keep up with) the NFL again. I wouldn’t mind sitting down and watching a game or two every so often, but I’m not going to let it take up nearly as much time as it did in the past. The same can be said for College (Though I care less about College than the NFL). To be “done” with the NFL is slightly exaggerating the point of this entry, but I like harking back to my old, embarrassing posts every once in a while. The point is, I’m not going to be known as “the football fanatic” in my household anymore. I’m moving past that. I may look back sometimes, but I’ll keep moving forward in the meantime.

Quick Thoughts on Senyuu. (Full Series)

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It’s not often that I willingly decide to take up anime shorts. OVAs aside, I think the only other one I’ve seen was Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken, and that was nearly a year ago. Senyuu became intriguing to me after I found a gif of the male “lead” accidentally throwing a dagger into the skull of a passerby, which I found rather humorous. Much to my surprise, Senyuu is one of the more popular anime shorts as voted on by MyAnimeList’s population, with an average score for both seasons reaching higher than the likes of Midori no HibiNabari no Ou, and Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, to name a few. After watching the series in its entirety, I think I can understand why the masses would like this series. But as the story goes, I am not like the masses.

In terms of the style of comedy, its similar to that of Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu. It’s off-the-wall, it’s harsh, and it bends the reality of the world it creates by breaking the fourth wall and making everything less important as it goes on… until a certain point. I wouldn’t necessarily say this anime is “funny,” but it has a lot more going for it humor-wise than most other gag anime. A few of the jokes are clever and made me smirk, while the rest range between not funny and slightly amusing. Had they continued this sort of path all the way to the end, I’d probably be speaking of this series in a better light, but almost like following a guidebook, it decides to take the already absurd story and focuses it in a serious light near the end. This is a gag anime, full of parody and goofy antics and not taking anything seriously. After all that’s been introduced, why try and take it seriously? The characters aren’t serious, the story isn’t serious, nothing really makes any sense, so why try and make any sense of it? It makes the entertainment drag. Though, the series wasn’t really worth the build-up in the first place.

The series is, as I’ve said already, a gag anime. It doesn’t make any sense, the characters are goofy, the plot is goofy. Everything’s a joke. That being said, that’s really all it has going for it. If the comedy doesn’t do it for you, there’s nothing else here for you. No character development, no noticeable sub-plots. It’s a straight line from beginning to end with no sides to indulge in. It’s a series that’ll either work for you or won’t. It really all depends on how tolerant you are.

Lastly, the animation for a short is pretty on-point. For a gag anime, the exaggerated expressions and actions help make the series (the first season specifically) funnier. Designs are weird (they even make fun of it in the anime), and match well with the tone of the series, even if it isn’t always that way. I think animation would be the shining point here, aside from the comedy, but it leaves a lot to be desired by the end.

The series didn’t have a lot of impact on me as a viewer. I like things with a point, even in gag anime. This particular gag anime didn’t provide me with such, so it’s not something I would immediately recommend. But as a time-waster, Senyuu will do wonders, and maybe provide a smile or three throughout the first season. But that’s all I can really say. It’s a good time-waster.

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

Commencing the 2016 Summer of Anime

The time has come.

From this point forward, future posts will be primarily about anime, only they will be adorned with their corresponding list number and have a personal and critical score rating (Traditional grading scale of A-F) placed at the bottom of each page. Also, seeing as I’m trying to race to a certain time period, I would expect posts to become rather regular—likely every two to three days, depending on the length of the series.

I will begin with Tamako Market, so be sure to tune in for my final thoughts on that sometime soon, and feel free to keep up with my archive to see which titles I’ll be doing in the future and my scores for every title thus far.

Wish me luck! Have a great summer, everyone.

Thoughts on Yasashii Sekai no Tsukurikata

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Prior to reading this, I had heard a tremendous amount of good things about Yasashii Sekai no Tsukurikata, or Gentle World, as I will now on refer to it. As skeptical as I am to praise, I went into this manga with an extra focus on asserting its flaws. However, the focus wasn’t necessary, as the most flawed aspect of this manga was front and center from the first couple of chapters, along with the reason it’s probably so adored.

Gentle World is a manga about a guy. This guy is no ordinary guy, but a genius, capable of working various scientific and mathematical algorithms with ease. He was originally working on unnamed theoretical research when funding was suddenly cut, forcing him to take up a teaching job at an all-girls high school by the request of an old friend. Within this school houses a number of female characters that will impact the guy’s life and teach him things about himself, others, and what he truly wants to do, even if it means sacrificing other priorities.

Aside from the side chapters, Gentle World is 31 chapters, with each chapter being roughly thirty to thirty-five pages long. With this in mind, do you believe this manga would be capable of developing and giving meaning to five different characters? If you guessed “No,” you’d be half-right. The characters within this manga are given sporadic amounts of importance and development, but not all at once and not all in one particular arc. This is where Gentle World is most effective as a story. A number of different things happen in each particular chapter, especially later on in the manga. It isn’t much like a one-road character arc where the plot only focuses on a single girl and their relationship with the male lead, but rather the characters are woven into a variety of mini-conflicts that are comfortably wedged into a large, overarching story. However, the more the manga continues, the more the overall story becomes less important. By story’s end, the original premise is just a blip in a chameleon-like plot that’s always transforming to suit the conflict surrounding certain characters.

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While the way the story is told is refreshing, the plot development itself is comfortably stale. To clarify, the conflicts themselves are rather uncommon. Teacher-student relationships, dealing with being a gifted student in a normal high school; a number of different themes that are not entirely present in most stories involving high school. However, most of these plots are progressed in a cliché way. Just be honest. Just stay strong. Just go with your heart. Just let go. It’s almost disappointing to see how simply a lot of these conflicts can be settled, but the problems continue to linger due to a character’s inability to speak or think logically. At this point, this is nothing new, but it’s tiring to see things turn out so melodramatically all the time.

The cast that makes up Gentle World is as diverse as anyone would expect from a form of Japanese entertainment media. We have the quiet, smart girl, the fun-loving, playful girl, the innocent romantic, and the male lead. Of course, there is another important male lead later on in the story, and the story has a large array of characters with varying importance, but they’re hardly worth mentioning. Almost like the way the sun will forever rise upon the horizon, each (major) female character is, at one point, interested in the male lead. Color me shocked, golly gee. It’s almost like the male lead is the male lead. Sprinkle in a few acts of residual shounen kindness, and the male lead is one step closer to becoming the king of his own harem. But wait! He’s a teacher! Relationships with students is strictly forbidden! How incredibly erotic!

Before I write an entry purely on how much I hate how easily female characters fall in love in Japanese media, the way the characters are dragged through the story only highlight their strengths or their flaws—most commonly their flaws. After finishing it, the only character I found myself liking was Touko, the aforementioned playful girl. That may or may not attribute to the fact that I like my fictional women feisty and witty. Even so, the characters don’t differentiate themselves from anyone else from any other story. Their personalities are copied and pasted from other characters of their type, even if their backstories and underlying motivations can sometimes be unique. It would seem that no matter how hard I think about it, the only thing really worth highlighting is the storytelling. Oh well.

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The artwork, following the recently formed trend set earlier in this entry, is pretty standard stuff. Characters provide a wide arrangement of emotions and blank stares, but that’s basically it. I was never wowed by any one panel in this manga, but that’s not to say the manga doesn’t look good. I would say I was satisfied more than unsatisfied with the general look of Gentle World, but I was unimpressed with how little it tried to be, I don’t know, out-of-the-box? It’s almost like what one would expect from a military brigade: controlled, clean, and and uniform. It gets the job done, but it never does anything outside of orders. It’s a safe, stagnant look that, when all things considered, ends up becoming unmemorable the more experience one has to their credit. I’ll say this though: the fan service looked odd. There wasn’t a lot of fan service to begin with, but there were two occasions, in the beginning and the end of the manga, where a girl’s skirt is lifted by the wind (ugh), exposing her underwear. It looked… not sexual. There was no accentuation, no shading, no excessive use of lines. It could serve as the subject of “How Not to Draw a Female Panty-Shot.”

Overall, I enjoyed this manga more than I probably should have. There was something about how different it presented itself that got me interested in continuing each chapter that not a lot of manga are capable of. Despite an uninteresting cast of characters and some predictable moral resolutions, Gentle World manages to be entertaining enough to be worth a read, if only for the way it tackles its subject matter. It’s certainly not worth the praise that it receives in some corners of the internet, but there are some good things in place. I only wish that it tried to be more creative with its characters and its art.

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

Thoughts on Bungaku Shoujo: Memoire

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This entry won’t be long because there’s not much to say with this three-part OVA. I will say this, though: I’m not sure if I was supposed to watch this or the movie version first. It’s considered a prequel to the movie, according to MyAnimeList, but the way it’s shown makes me believe it might’ve been more worthwhile to watch after the movie. Regardless, I watched this with a friend and we decided to watch this first.

The episodes play out like this:

  • A girl is introduced.
  • Said girl shows her ambitions, goals, quirks, past, etc.
  • The story shows how each of the three girls (three episodes, mind you) are connected to a certain boy.

And that’s basically it. It’s almost like a one-shot character study while also trying to thread a string of fate between these three girls and the boy. My initial reaction to the end of this three-part OVA was “That’s it?” Otherwise, I couldn’t help but feel that this OVA series was nothing but fan service. Not the type of fan service one would normally think of upon seeing the term, but fan service in the form of “Get to know these characters better before the big show!” It’s essentially a teaser trailer for an upcoming production.

Since the subject of “character study” has shown up twice now, it’s fair to assume that this OVA series doesn’t really have any sort of plot. That assumption would be both right and wrong. The plot differs with each episode, but the plot is predicated by the characters’ actions and desires, rather than having an overlaying plot. What is the plot to Bungaku Shoujo: Memoire? Depends on which episode you’re viewing.

The characters themselves are predictably underwhelming. They each have their degree of initial likability (aside from girl number two), but the lack of any time to develop them only allows for face-value relatability. Each episode is the standard 24-minute-long airing with the inclusion of an OP and ED, so roughly twenty minutes per episode to showcase a single girl. The first girl eats books (not explained) and is wildly curious and romantic. The second girl has a bad home life and is controlling and clingy and dark. And the third girl is shy and incredibly self-conscious. Do those sound like tropes? Because they are. With little time to do anything with them, they’re nothing but that: tropes.

Animation is something that looked well enough to carry the series, but the character design felt a little rigid. The characters’ faces are somewhat scrunched up to a limited area on their face, resulting in a very large forehead covered by vast amounts of hair. Their chins are also very pointed, almost to a tip. If not for eye color and hair style, it might be a tad difficult to differentiate the female characters—hell, even the male character! With what is shown, I liked the characters appearance overall, but the male character left much to be desired. But hey, it’s an implied harem, so the male lead is guaranteed to be bland and uninteresting.

It’s not something I’d personally recommend. My tune might change if I watch the movie and it explains nothing of the three female characters, but for now, it’s time not worth investing. There’s just not enough meat to fill oneself with this OVA series. Though, others may prefer an appetizer before the main course.

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

Thoughts on Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch

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I thought of making this entry longer, but seeing as the “first season” is more akin to a first half of a larger story that leaves its ending wide open, I decided to leave some of the more detailed criticisms for when I finish the second half. After all, there are a lot of unexplained plot points by the end of this season. There’s the entire history behind C.C., along with her connection with Geass and the origin of Geass itself; the fate of Nunnally and all those that Lelouch left behind to pursue his goal, and the answers to Lelouch’s hidden past. Henceforth, I’ve decided to only cover the necessities of what this particular season offers on its own accord.

I’ll admit right now: the last five episodes or so are a lot more enjoyable and immersive than the rest of the season. Its focus becomes a lot more straightforward and one no longer has to worry about trivial banter between meager characters or events surrounding said characters. It also puts a heavier emphasis on the weight of Lelouch’s actions throughout the series and an even bigger strain on his conscience. There are a lot of interesting, thought-provoking themes that arise near the end of the series, and aside from a few useless characters acting like psychopaths for no reason, I think the characters behave in a realistic and respectable manner. It is through this chain of episodes that Code Geass‘s strengths are most highlighted, but also hide some of its flaws as well.

Before this point, I felt the series had struggled with attaining a consistent pace throughout. There are segments where Lelouch is organizing things behind the scenes as his alter ego and working towards his goal. However, as he tries to maintain a stable home life along with this, it is here where the anime begins to drag along the surface. Lelouch as a character has no chemistry with his classmates. Only with Suzaku and Kallen, the two characters present in the school that mean something by the end of 25 episodes, does Lelouch show any emotional attachment towards. But that doesn’t mean the series tried, heavens no. There are constantly little breaks with Lelouch’s culture-changing antics to focus on the artificial lives of the students he interacts with on a daily basis, whether they come off as shallow (always) or not (never). They spend an entire episode chasing a cat. They spend an entire episode trying to develop C.C. and her relationship with Lelouch by bringing in some insane asshole who means next to nothing but vague foreshadowing. They spend an entire episode pretending Euphemia isn’t a princess so Suzaku can have a love interest. This series tries, but it hardly succeeds. Only the major characters left an impact on me by season’s end. Seriously, fuck that red-head. It left me wishing to continue with the war between Britannians and Elevens.

The art is an interesting specimen. In some cases, it’s unique in a sense that it doesn’t look like any other series. In others, it’s odd and makes some scenes unintentionally hilarious. Honestly, who hasn’t seen that contorted picture of a crazed Nina? Their body types in particular are also very perplexing. Lelouch and Suzaku are almost like walking skeletons. Their jaw lines are very “v” like. They’re sharp, almost like my tongue. I, personally, wouldn’t necessitate this art style as “bad,” but I certainly wouldn’t compliment its superiority compared to other series. It’s just another style of representation. It didn’t bother me to any extent, but I would hesitate to praise it. It’s serviceable. Nothing more.

code geass 2

Characters are very hit and miss. Off the top of my head, Lelouch, Suzaku, Kallen, and Euphemia are the only characters I would consider “Strong,” but even then, Kallen and Euphemia’s development rested solely on a single event or philosophy. Honestly, Kallen’s “development” was contained within half an episode, and felt so forced it almost becomes a detriment. This is furthered evidenced by the fact that her mother, the key catalyst in her development, never appears again beyond this episode. It was episode… ten? I believe. Still, there weren’t many characters I found dislikable (except maybe Mao), only characters that felt more like tools to a means. I really use this analogy a lot, don’t I? Suzaku and Lelouch alone are enough to carry the weight of the show’s heavy themes. With the relationship that these two share (which feels genuine), I feel the series becomes stronger when they’re either working together or working against one another. It helps when their morals and means of justice seem to clash on every occasion. C.C. is somewhat of a thing, but I’d rather save more talk of her for the sequel entry.

The enjoyability of this anime shifted up and down throughout the course of the season. I found the more light-hearted or character-developmental episodes weaker than not, but adequate enough to hold my interest. Fortunately, those focused on “Zero” (What a non-cliché name) served the series well, especially near the end when things began to unravel. I’m hesitant about the use of Geass and the otherwise unmentioned consequences that arise from its overuse, but that’s more to be discussed in the sequel entry. However, I’m satisfied with the foundation currently present with how the Geass functions and its conditions. I was worried early on that Lelouch would become an ancient One Punch Man. The power acts more like an upper-hand than a God Mode function, and has drawbacks as well. Whether or not the timing of those drawbacks occurring within the anime makes sense or not… is yet to be seen.

Code Geass is an anime I held a grudge against for a long time. I likely would’ve watched this anime sooner had it not been for my internalized disdain of its (perceived) unwarranted popularity. I don’t regret watching it, though, as it turned out to be better than I expected it to. Then again, I half-expected it to be garbage. Nevertheless, there are a lot of unanswered questions that need to be confronted before I mark this a series as anything worth spending time on. But as a starting place, Code Geass‘s first season proves to be an entertaining, albeit inconsistent, platform for the weight of human justice and its impact on society as a whole.

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

Top 10 Worst Individual Quarterback Seasons

In today’s NFL, the quarterback is undeniably the most important position on a team. If the quarterback doesn’t perform well, it throws off the functioning of just about every other offensive position. Not to mention their inadequacy puts more pressure on the defense to perform at a higher level just so the team doesn’t fall behind. As the years go by and the passing attack of each team grows more and more vital, a quarterback’s worth has skyrocketed to levels of almost mythical proportions. This past year saw Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and Nick Foles almost as detriments to their team’s success, despite a good core around them, whether offensively or defensively. This got me wondering: has there been anything worse than these three this year?

This list will take a look throughout NFL history for the quarterbacks that, for lack of a harsher word, “underwhelmed” when given the chance to perform. Of course, this list would be painfully hard to sort out if I were to look at quarterbacks with only one or two abysmal starts in their career. Therefore, I added a stipulation that a quarterback must have started at least six games in a single season to be eligible to compete for this list. There are a few people that definitely would have made it had it not been for this stipulation, but alas, they probably don’t care to re-live it.

10. Vinny Testaverde – 1988

Vinny Testaverde


• W-L record: 5-10
• 47.6% completion rate; 3,240 passing yards
• 13 touchdown passes; 35 interceptions
• Total QBR: 48.8

Some would argue that Testaverde’s sophomore season wasn’t all that bad. He had three decent games that season against Indianapolis, New England, and Detroit, and otherwise kept his team within a score’s reach of leading the game. But there’s one factor about this season that made me want to put Vinny on this list out of sheer astonishment: number of interceptions.

35 interceptions in 15 games. That’s just insane. Even more so when you consider the era. This was 1988. This was well past when teams started passing the ball more. This was after Dan Fouts. This was after Terry Bradshaw. This was during the era where Joe Montana and Boomer Esiason were taking the league by storm with their innovative passing offenses. To throw 35 interceptions this close to the turn of the new millennium is worthy of being put on a list like this. It’s the second-most interceptions thrown in a single season (George Blanda owns the record with 42 in 1962) and no one has even thrown more than 29 in a season since then.

9. Bob Lee – 1974

bob lee


• W-L record: 2-6
• 45.3% completion rate; 852 passing yards
• 3 touchdown passes; 14 interceptions
• Total QBR: 32.4

Now the list becomes really fun.

Meet Bob Lee. Fans of this era may remember him as the longtime back-up quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. In 1973, he signed with the Atlanta Falcons and led them to an 8-2 record as a starter. Up to that point, he was 13-3 as a starter for both the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings. Things were looking good for Atlanta leading up to the 1974 season. Until it actually happened.

In the first game of the 1974 NFL season against the Dallas Cowboys, Lee was 4 of 22 passing for 28 yards and an interception. They lost 0-24. It was only a sign of what was to come. The team put up two wins against New York (Giants) and Chicago in consecutive weeks, with Lee playing moderately well, to put their overall record with him as a starter at 2-2, but it all went downhill from there. With four more starts and another game participated in, the team went 0-5, with Lee only throwing a touchdown pass in one of those games, while accumulating 5 interceptions. They would finally bench him after a week 10 loss to Baltimore in favor of back-up Pat Sullivan, who didn’t perform much better.

Looking at his numbers on their own paints an ugly picture. Even for 1974, only 3 touchdown passes in almost nine games is unacceptable. His rock-bottom QBR might be the most telling part of his whole season. Absolutely nothing went right.

8. John Skelton – 2012

john skelton


• W-L record: 1-5
• 54.2% completion rate; 1,132 passing yards
• 2 passing touchdowns; 9 interceptions
• Total QBR: 55.4

What a funny season it was for Arizona in 2012. They started the season 4-0 and even defeated the mighty New England Patriots in week two. They finished the season 5-11. Mr. Skelton was their starting quarterback for six of those games.

John Skelton lifted a struggling Cardinals team in 2011 in relief of starter Kevin Kolb by leading them to a 5-2 record. Going into the 2012 season, Skelton and Kolb had a quarterback controversy all throughout the preseason, with head coach Ken Whisenhunt finally picking Skelton as the starter just before the regular season debut. In his debut, Skelton won the game against Seattle, but had a mediocre game. Even worse, he sustained an injury during the game that kept him out of action until week six. And by week six, the Cardinals’ season was all but falling apart.

Skelton did not throw a touchdown pass until week seven in a losing effort against Minnesota, in what many would agree was his only good game of that season. Otherwise, it was like he wasn’t there at all. John’s placement on this list isn’t for how badly he played on a consistent basis—though he did anyway—but more for how little his assistance paid off. In his six starts, the most his offense put up in points was in his first game against Seattle, where they scored 20 points. However, Kevin Kolb threw a touchdown pass in that game after Skelton was injured, so one could argue that John only put up 13 in that game. Otherwise, his offense put up 19 points or fewer, with his offense failing to reach more than 14 points in three of those starts.

His season ended in week 13 when he threw four interceptions in a rematch against Seattle; he was benched for rookie Ryan Lindley. In roughly six full games on the season, John Skelton only managed to throw two touchdown passes. Two touchdown passes in six games… in 2012. In as pass-happy a league as the NFL is now, that’s just embarrassing. It’s not surprising to know he flamed out in the NFL soon after.

7. Mike Taliaferro – 1968

mike taliaferro


• W-L record: 3-4
• 38.1% completion rate; 889 passing yards
• 4 passing touchdowns; 15 interceptions
• Total QBR: 26.9

The most amazing thing about Taliaferro’s worst season is that he won three games.

To some degree, Taliaferro may not deserve to be listed after Skelton or Lee, but there’s something special about the lowest total QBR in a single season I’ve ever seen. 26.9. Even for 1968, a monkey could do better. Even more ironically, Taliaferro would follow the worst season of his career with his best. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1969.

Similar to Lee’s situation, Taliaferro was a back-up for the New York Jets before signing with the Boston Patriots to become their starter. Unlike Lee, his first season with his new team wasn’t nearly as successful. The Patriots won their first game against Buffalo, but flip-flopped from there. Taliaferro would go on to have good games against Denver and his second round with Buffalo, but those were squished in-between games where he would throw 3, 4, and 5 interceptions in a single game. It’s not hard to imagine why his QBR was so low when he’s throwing so many errant balls. He was benched after his 5 interception performance against his old team.

Taliaferro’s season may not stack up with how consistently bad those before him were, but when he was at a low, he was far further down than anyone could imagine. It’s hard not to put him at least this high with that QBR of his for that season. 26.9. I still can’t believe it can even reach that low.

6. Alex Smith – 2005

alex smith


• W-L record: 2-5
• 50.9% completion rate; 875 passing yards
• 1 passing touchdown; 11 interceptions
• Total QBR: 40.8

The only person on this list still on an NFL roster—and starting, for that matter— is Alex Smith, the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.As with any first overall pick, Smith was expected to perform well almost immediately. He did not.

Keep in mind: this is 2005. Once again, far past the times when the focus of an offense is running the ball. The quarterback is essential and his malfunction could lead to a lot of disaster. Such is the case with Alex Smith, who was thrust into the starting role in week five. It didn’t do the offense any favors, as Smith was a turnover machine. He threw five interceptions in his first two games as a starter. He was benched until he was forced back into action in week twelve, and would finish out the season as the starter.

In his second phase of starting, Smith played marginally better, but still turned the ball over multiple times a game. He would not throw his first touchdown pass until the last game of the season, against the Houston Texans, in an ultimately pointless game for both teams.

To his credit, Alex Smith’s last two games of the season were by no means bad. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 131 yards against St. Louis and his performance against the aforementioned Texans wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately, his bad far outweighs the impact of his good in this case. Much like a combination of Skelton and Taliaferro, he was consistently bad and gave his team little chance to win, while his lowest lows were gravely so. His 40.8 QBR, for 2005 standards, is almost as bad as Taliaferro’s 26.9. His 1 touchdown pass in 9 participated games is the proverbial cherry on top of an otherwise nightmare season.

5. Joe Namath – 1976

joe namath


• W-L record: 1-7
• 49.6% completion rate; 1,090 passing yards
• 4 passing touchdowns; 16 interceptions
• Total QBR: 39.9

There’s chatter among new-age NFL fans about the legitimacy of Joe Namath’s “greatness.” Ask anyone who watched him play during his era and they’ll tell you how amazing he was. Except maybe Colts fans. So, was he great or not? One thing’s for sure: he was not very great in 1976.

What’s intriguing about this year is that his numbers are interestingly deceptive. You compare them to the statistics that have been shown from guys earlier on in the list and they’re favorable by comparison. Once I reviewed his games individually for that season, placing him this high on the list was a no-brainer. How’s this for inefficiency: in six of his eight starts, Namath failed to put up more than 7 points. That’s astounding. Sure, you can’t blame all of this on him, but he didn’t help by throwing his first touchdown pass in week five.

Namath played so poorly that the team benched him after a two interception performance in a 0-20 loss against Baltimore. Here’s where things become interesting. Three weeks later, New York blows out Tampa Bay 34-0. Namath played during the latter half of that game, and played better than he did the entire season, going 7 for 12 for 94 yards and a touchdown. The next week, New England blows them out, leading to Namath coming in and taking charge… by throwing 5 interceptions. He was benched yet again and wouldn’t start again until the final game of the season, where he would throw 4 more interceptions in a 3-42 loss against Cincinnati. He started poorly and crashed to the finish.

Taking this into account, for the games Joe Namath actually started, he went 88 of 174 for 814 passing yards with 2 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. This was through eight games. Ouch.

4. JaMarcus Russell – 2009

jamarcus russell


• W-L record: 2-7
• 48.8% completion rate; 1,287 passing yards
• 3 touchdown passes; 11 interceptions
• Total QBR: 50.0

JaMarcus Russell is considered by many to be the biggest Draft bust of all time. He was selected first overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and faced a mine field’s worth of behavioral problems and struggled with limiting his weight all throughout his career. All of these things eventually contributed to his downfall and outright release from Oakland, which was made possible by his 2009 season.

It began with a lackluster, but not excruciatingly terrible, outing in a loss against San Diego, where he would throw a touchdown pass and 2 picks. From that point, he would not throw another touchdown pass until week six. In between that, he threw another 2 picks and completed less than 40% of his passes in two games. His win over Philadelphia in week six would be the last touchdown pass he throws as a starter, as he went on to throw 3 more interceptions in 3 more games. He was finally benched for his inadequacy after going 8 of 23 for 64 yards in a loss against Kansas City. He finished the season with another touchdown pass and 2 more interceptions as a relief player.

Another thing to note is that through his 9 starts, Russell threw for 1,064 yards. Had that trend continued, he wouldn’t even reach 2,000 passing yards on the season. This is 2009. That is as bad a statistic as I’ve ever seen from someone who’s started over half of the season in the modern era. Not to mention the 2 touchdown passes and 9 interceptions. He’s not guilty of throwing a lot of picks, but he’s guilty of not doing hardly anything to get the offense going. Almost like an advanced type of John Skelton, JaMarcus Russell failed to amass 14 points in all but 2 of his starts. For Joe Namath in 1976, that’s bad. For JaMarcus Russell in 2009, that’s humiliating.

3. Marty Domres – 1974

marty domres


• W-L record: 1-5
• 50.3% completion rate; 803 passing yards
• 0 passing touchdowns; 12 interceptions
• Total QBR: 33.2

You read that right: 0 touchdown passes.

Starting six games during the 1974 NFL season, Domres threw exactly 0 touchdown passes. He ran for two touchdowns, but he threw for exactly 0. The team knew he wasn’t worthy either, as they benched him twice throughout the season for back-up Bert Jones. Domres was so inadequate that they simply didn’t rely on him to throw it that often. He only had 136 attempts through the air in 6 starts. That’s between 22-23 attempts per game.

Amazingly enough, the one start he made where his team won was against none other than Bob Lee’s Atlanta Falcons. Even then, he went 4 of 11 for 74 yards and an interception. He ran for a touchdown, though. Otherwise, he had individual games where he threw 2, 3, and 4 interceptions. He didn’t throw an interception in only 1 of his starts. 11 interceptions and 0 passing touchdowns in 6 starts.

One could argue that for 1974, his statistics aren’t exactly worthy of being this high on the list for a 6 game stretch. But for me, it’s really an accumulation of his worth to the offense. With 0 passing touchdowns, 2 rushing touchdowns, and 720 passing yards in 6 games, he isn’t much of an asset on the practice squad as opposed to a starting offense.

2. Matt Robinson – 1980

matt robinson


• W-L record: 4-3
• 48.1% completion rate; 942 passing yards
• 2 passing touchdowns; 12 interceptions
• Total QBR: 39.7

Another batch of statistics that are misleading. Matt Robinson was absolutely a detriment to his team. He was so much of a detriment that it’s amazing he managed to have a winning record as a starter! Matt Robinson’s production, as the season rolled on, slowed to that of a purr. It’s not that he played any better or worse, the team just put the reins on him.

In his first game as a starter, he went 18 of 41 for 178 yards and 2 interceptions. The team lost to Philadelphia 6-27. In his next game, he went 10 of 20 for 198 yards and ran for 2 touchdowns. His team won against Dallas 41-20. Notice something here? When the game falls behind, he falters. When he’s got a huge lead, he lets his defense do its job and settles down. It happens all throughout the season. In his next start, the team lost to San Diego 13-30. Robinson threw 4 interceptions in that game. From that point on, the team put a leash on Robinson’s control of the offense. In his next three starts, he had a combined 37 pass attempts for 183 yards… with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. He won two of those starts by a combined 6 points. Amazing how once he starts doing less, the team starts winning more.

Despite winning his sixth start, the team benched Robinson in favor of Craig Morton. It wouldn’t be until the final game of the season that he would start again. Even so, with a 7-8 record, going up against a 4-11 Seattle team, the results didn’t matter. They let him loose and he played okay in the sense that he didn’t turn it over. He also went 9 of 23 for 99 yards and a touchdown in the air and on the ground. A nice way to end the season, but it does little for his season overall. When he was expected to perform, he didn’t. He had his hand held for a majority of the season and he struggled without it. That’s why he’s this high on the list. Not because he had horrible stats, though that helps, but because they could have the same record with just about anyone. Even an aging and broken down Craig Morton.

1. Ryan Leaf – 1998

ryan leaf


• W-L record: 3-6
• 45.3% completion rate; 1,289 passing yards
• 2 passing touchdowns; 15 interceptions
• Total QBR: 39.0

Some say JaMarcus Russell is the biggest Draft bust of all time. I say that honor belongs to Ryan Leaf, and his rookie campaign is the ultimate evidence to back up that claim.

It started off alright. His first two starts netted him a 2-0 record and he performed okay enough for a rookie. But his first start against Kansas City proved to be the point of no return. He went 1 of 15 for 4 yards and 2 interceptions as the team lost 7-23. The scene in the locker room afterwards was not pretty.

His performance on the field would not improve either. In the next 6 starts, he had a completion rate of over 50% once, threw for over 200 yards once, and passed for 1 touchdown and 9 interceptions. The year is 1998. Peyton Manning is about to terrorize the league for over a decade with his passing attack. To not be able to throw for more than 2 touchdowns in 9 starts is pathetic. Leaf was benched after week nine and came in one more time during the season as a relief player, where he threw 2 more interceptions to finish off the season. I’m not sure his 39.0 QBR has been matched since.

Leaf’s time in the NFL flamed out soon after and the Chargers suffered for their second overall pick greatly. I’m not sure anything could match his first game against Kansas City as an indicator of poor quality. They gave him a whole other season to improve upon himself and he didn’t. Though, frankly, after his 1998 season, I’m not sure how you could give him another chance, especially after his off-the-field antics and attitude. He may not have had otherwordly numbers, but his influence was enough to have me put him #1 on this list. He performed badly, he behaved badly. He was essentially the entire package of bad. He paid for it dearly, as his life after the NFL wasn’t too clean, either.

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane Review


Gregor 2

I considered not reviewing this simply for the sake of avoiding repetition, as this book is almost entirely the same as its predecessor. However, I feel I should review every book in the series as it is, perhaps for lack of experience, my favorite book series. That being the case, a lot of what I’m going to talk about are summarized versions of what I already stated in my review of the first book, so if you find yourself wanting more clarity on the points I bring up, go read that one.

Prophecy of Bane leaves off a month or two after the events of the first book, with Gregor and his family coping with <first novel spoilers>. At some point (about twenty or so pages in), Gregor takes his sister, Boots, out to a park to go sledding in the winter snow. He drifts off into deep thought until he realizes the sun is setting, then calls for Boots to go home. The only problem is, she’s nowhere to be found. This triggers a series of events that lead Gregor back into the Underland, and much to his horror, there is a new prophecy that he’s destined to be a part of.

Right off the bat (ha), one can look at this plot and look at the plot for the first book and go “Oh. These are pretty similar.” I’ve got news for you: most books in the Underland Chronicles are the same. Gregor gets dragged to the Underland through one way or another, he finds out a prophecy tells him he has to go on an adventure, he goes on an adventure, he comes back, then realizes his work isn’t finished with the Underland, whether through another prophecy, the people outright telling him, etc. It’s somewhat like Super Mario Bros., except in novel form and the endings aren’t always happy. This in of itself is an issue for people (like me) who enjoy a variety of things from a particular series. Through Gregor’s case, one can say that the experience makes up for the lackluster storyline, but even so, it’s not always a great experience.

One of the things that the Underland Chronicles does well is provide new issues that follow Gregor throughout the series as a whole, as well as pace them well enough so that they work in terms of foreshadowing. Prophecy of Bane has a wide variety of these issues, such as echolocation, a “Rager” sense, and the identity of the Bane itself. Normally I wouldn’t speak of any of these issues in a review as they are technically spoilers, but the “Rager” sense is an issue with this novel I must discuss, but more on that later. There’s something about the incorporation of these seeded issues that make Prophecy of Bane more enjoyable, and give further interest to later editions of the series. In a sense, Prophecy of Bane is a more intriguing and better shrouded in mystery, while the first book was more about simply showing what the Underland and its denizens strive for. “The set-up,” if you will.

A crucial part of each story in the Underland Chronicles is the adventure Gregor and his comrades set forth upon. Much like the Super Mario Bros. analogy, the adventures tend to re-enact in almost the same way in each title. The humans shove off to fulfill the terms of a prophecy, with a number of returning and new characters making the trip, including, but not limited to, humans, rats, roaches, and bats. They run into one or two key issues during the trek, that may or may not injure/kill a few of the members of the group, leading the rest to either move on slower or have them be sent back to safety, with Gregor feeling bad about how useless he is. All of this leads up to some crucial moment where Gregor’s decision/realization could change the outcome of the trip and the state of the Underland itself. Of course, not all trips play out exactly like that, but they’re all pretty similar to that. Prophecy of Bane is little different, but still enough to feel as though it’s a real adventure. Although, there is one key issue about this particular adventure that has always irked me, even upon my first reading of it: its pacing is weird.

In this adventure, Gregor and co. have to travel by boat into what is referred to as “The Labyrinth,” where the rats are keeping the Bane. They take two boats and fill their capacity with capable members and shove off onto “the Waterway” in the direction of said Labyrinth. The next, oh, hundred pages or so focus on that boat ride. During this time, the novel focuses on dialogue between characters and Gregor thinking. A lot. Add in a few key events here and there and you have yourself half an adventure. On a slow boat ride. With talking and thinking. It’s far too dragged out for its own good and it makes the adventure feel dull. I’m all for character interaction, but a good majority of it seems to be Gregor and co. complaining about the fireflies, who join the quest to make use of their light and are intentionally written as rude and egotistical. Ha ha. There’s too much attention on comic relief and not enough crucial development between characters, aside from Gregor, Luxa, and Howard.

Once the Labyrinth has been breached, it only spends about fifty or so pages within, and some of that is trying to find the Bane and escaping from it. Which leads to Gregor escaping back to Regalia. Great, more traveling. There seems to be a huge amount of time dedicated to traveling in this book. Sometimes it’s drawn out, like the boat ride, and sometimes it’s lightning fast, like after visiting the Labyrinth. There’s not enough action, I feel, within this particular book. Not enough meaningful conversations between secondary characters. Not enough spice to add onto the in-between scenes; the traveling, the planning, the filler. And worse yet, this is when Collins feels she needs to overindulge in description. Unfiltered description with little to no weight is the worse kind of description.

Speaking of description, Prophecy of Bane offers a little more of it than in the first novel, however, as I said above, a lot of it is unnecessary. Describing things like areas that Gregor has already been before. Describing things in the most basic of manners. Fortunately, there is also a good amount of self-description and description of character emotions, which was for the most part lacking in the first novel. Injuries and bruises are detailed spectacularly, enough to make me imagine horrific kinds of things. Crying and anger and anguish. I genuinely feel these characters care about their losses this time around. A lot of carry-on feelings from the first book return as well, which is a nice touch.

The writing, aside from some more description, is still as pragmatic as ever. Gregor does this. Gregor does that. This happens. That happens. Rats do this. Bats do that. Fireflies are dumb. The only real insight given are insights within the mind of Gregor, who is eleven, so he will only think the most mundane and simplistic thoughts ever. Are all rats bad? Are all humans good? Is killing wrong? Am I a monster? Should I be gentle with others’ feelings? Can I judge people from their backgrounds? How is my family? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I realize this is a book for middle schoolers, but c’mon.

I think I may have said it lightly in my review of the first book, but I just can’t believe Gregor is eleven. His mindset and intellectual capabilities paint me the image of an almost grown teenager, maybe sixteen or seventeen. Sure, he doesn’t swear and he’s been through a lot, but really, I don’t know any eleven year old that behaves and thinks as eloquently as Gregor does. Same goes for Luxa. She has a better case as she’s raised under a different culture and she’s shown signs of rebellion and inexperience, but she’s eleven. Eleven year olds shouldn’t act the way Luxa does. Or Gregor, for that matter. It’s not realistic.

Now then, the “Rager” sense. This sense allows Gregor to pick up a weapon and instantly be incredibly skilled with whatever and mow down enemies like he’s playing Dynasty Warriors. This is dumb. Why does he have this? How does he have this? How does this make any sense? How can someone instantly be fine-tuned to know everything about combat with any fighting experience? Is he a robot? Is he a superhero? Why is this just now coming up? Hasn’t he ever been in a fight? When does this sense kick in? Whenever he’s focused? Whenever he has killing intent? Has he never been so mad at anyone that he’s never felt this sensation come upon him? Does he need something in his hand? Why? Why can’t he just activate it? If he can, how does he activate it? Can it be anything in his hand? What about a notebook? A laptop? A plate with a piece of cake on it? A lot of these questions are fucking stupid, yes, but they’re legitimate questions about some made-up sensation that doesn’t have any guidelines. And that’s the issue: it gives Gregor a superpower that makes him more useful than anybody, and, to some extent, invincible. It drops suspense and it encourages fantasy bullshit explanations and resolutions. This isn’t a complete flaw as he only uses it once in any real combat, but it’s the beginning of something that gives him a handicap despite not putting hardly any work into it. Don’t you hate perfect characters?

I wouldn’t call Prophecy of Bane a worser version of the first title, as it has (barely) enough separating it as a “new” adventure. As a kid, Prophecy of Bane was always my least favorite title in the series, however, upon re-reading it, I think it slightly edges out the first book in most ways. My enjoyment of the first book is still intact, but Prophecy of Bane is an overall improvement objectively in regards to what the first title in the series set for itself. There’s better suspense, better description (to a degree), better character interaction (between major characters), and more reason for the reader to continue the series by book’s end. If I were scoring these, I’d rate it higher than the first book, but I feel the first title had a sort of magic that made it more enjoyable. Nevertheless, Prophecy of Bane is enough of a kick for the Underland Chronicles to progress the series in the right direction.

Top 10 NFL Players Never Elected to the Pro Bowl

Fun fact before I start the list: this was originally written for, but they rejected it, stating it was “not something they think readers would be interested in.” Who the hell needs the NFL when you could read about… 10 Normal Things Accused of Causing Moral Panics? The fuck? My frustration aside, let’s venture on.

The NFL is full of impact players on every level. Superstars are typically honored with awards and accolades, but what of the players that may have been overlooked throughout their career? This is a list focusing on the players that made the most of their careers, but were never given the same recognition as their counterparts, for whatever reason.

10. Jim Plunkett

jim plunkett


New England Patriots, 1971-1975

San Francisco 49ers, 1976-1977

Oakland/L.A. Raiders, 1978-1986

The quarterback leading the charge for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders’ two Super Bowl victories in the 80’s, Jim Plunkett was selected first overall in the 1971 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. After a semi-successful rookie season, his career spiraled downwards, getting the boot from both New England and the San Francisco 49ers after failing to record a winning record with either of them. He signed with the Oakland Raiders in 1978 as a back-up and rode the bench for the next two years. It wasn’t until 1980 after starter Dan Pastorini was injured that Jim Plunkett, at the age of thirty-three, would lead his team to the Promised Land.

While his regular season performances are nothing to brag about, with only three seasons of more touchdowns than interceptions, it was his postseason heroics that put him on this list. With an 8-2 postseason record, two Super Bowl victories, and a Super Bowl MVP award, Plunkett did enough to win, without having to do too much.

9. Kelly Gregg

kelly gregg

Defensive Tackle

Philadelphia Eagles, 1999

Baltimore Ravens, 2000-2010

Kansas City Chiefs, 2011

Much like Jim Plunkett, Kelly Gregg’s chance at NFL stardom came through replacing a starter due to injury. Once he assumed that position, he never gave it back. A sixth round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, Gregg never made it off the practice squad, and was released soon after being drafted. After being signed by the Philadelphia Eagles to finish out his rookie year, he would be released from that team as well. Fast forward to 2002, Gregg is the Baltimore Ravens’ starting nose tackle after former starter Tony Siragusa retired from the NFL.

Known for his brute strength, Gregg became one of the more effective run-stopping defensive players in the NFL. When starting for a majority of the season, Baltimore’s rush defense was ranked within the top ten in the league for seven straight years. To top it off, he accumulated nearly 550 total tackles and 20.5 sacks in ten years with the Baltimore Ravens and a year with the Kansas City Chiefs. Not bad for a guy over 300 pounds.

8. Keith Hamilton

keith hamilton

Defensive Tackle

New York Giants, 1992-2003

Speaking of guys hovering around 300 pounds, Keith Hamilton made an impact for the New York Giants as a defensive end and defensive tackle throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Affectionately referred to as “The Hammer,” Hamilton had the benefit of playing around hall of famers such as Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan, which may have attributed to his lack of recognition on the line. Nevertheless, his impact on the field was anything but lacking.

During a twelve year career with New York, The Hammer recorded five years with six or more sacks and forty tackles, including two double-digit sack seasons. He is also one who has surpassed 500 career total tackles. Hamilton even made Second Team All-Pro in 2000. Hamilton’s contributions in the postseason also deserve recognition, recording four sacks in six career postseason starts. If not for the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, he may have a Super Bowl ring to show for his effort. Despite the loss, it does little for his impact upon the traditional strength of New York Giants defensive linemen.

7. Johnnie Morton

johnnie morton

Wide Receiver

Detroit Lions, 1994-2001

Kansas City Chiefs, 2002-2004

San Francisco 49ers, 2005

Before there was Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, there was Herman Moore and Johnnie Morton.

A first round draft pick in 1994, Morton spent most of his twelve-year career with the Detroit Lions. While he doesn’t have many touchdowns to his name, his route running and skills after the catch have net him 624 receptions and 8,719 total receiving yards in his career. He’s third in Detroit Lions history in receptions (469), receiving yards (6,499), and tied for third in touchdown catches (35). He’s even responsible for a kick return touchdown during his rookie year.

What’s more impressive about his performance on the field is when taking into consideration the selection of quarterbacks throwing the ball to him. The two quarterbacks that threw the ball his way the most during his career in Detroit were Scott Mitchell, who was recently on The Biggest Loser, and Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh’s favorite back-up quarterback. To give Mitchell credit, he played moderately well during the regular season, but had a tendency to melt down during the postseason. This, in turn, affected Morton’s play, who’s only responsible for ten catches, 105 receiving yards, and a single touchdown in three postseason games with Detroit.

Even after Detroit, Morton played a valuable role with the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2003 season. His play would decrease soon after, ending his career with a forgettable season with San Francisco. With four seasons of over 1,000 receiving yards under his belt, it’s hard to imagine why this Lions receiver’s roar was never heard outside of Detroit. Touchdown receptions, maybe?

6. Reggie Williams

reggie williams

Outside Linebacker

Cincinnati Bengals, 1976-1989

Ever the model of consistency and toughness, Reggie Williams was one of the key defensive figures to the Cincinnati Bengals’ rise during the 80’s. A full fledged starter right out of the gate, Williams played well in every way, whether it be rushing the passer or stopping the run. His 206 games played is second in Bengals’ history behind only Ken Riley (207).

Officially listed with 41 career sacks, unofficial team records state he had 62.5 over his career, which would put him second in Bengals’ history behind Eddie Edwards (87.5). His durability, while not perfect, also showed in the later portion of his career, playing in 118 of 119 possible games to close out his playing days. And if you care for safeties, he has not one, but two recorded in his career. If not for the Joe Montana led San Francisco 49ers, he could have also added two Super Bowl rings to his resumé.

In the present, Reggie is fighting to save his leg from amputation with the same spirit and optimism that he had during his playing days. Like Toucan Sam, he followed his nose to the ball and striked whenever necessary, and did so for fourteen seasons. Hopefully his drive pays off for him with his health deteriorating, much in the way his play spoke for him on the field.

5. Plaxico Burress

plaxico burress

Wide Receiver

Pittsburgh Steelers, 2000-2004; 2012-2013

New York Giants, 2005-2008

New York Jets, 2011

Say what you may about his legal struggles and off the field attitude, Plaxico Burress was something else when his feet hit the turf. A first round talent out of Michigan State in 2000, his career began with a purr, providing little for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ passing game. Combining his second and third season numbers, he had 144 receptions, 2,333 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns. His quarterbacks during that time were Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox.

Eventually fizzled out of Pittsburgh, Burress joined the New York Giants in 2005 and revitalized a dwindling career. If not for 988 receiving yards in 2006, Burress would’ve posted three consecutive 1,000 yard receiving seasons, along with double-digit touchdown receptions in 2006 and 2007. His final touchdown reception of the 2007 season proved to be the dagger in what is commonly considered the greatest upset in Super Bowl history, when the Giants defeated the then undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

It wasn’t smooth sailing soon afterwards, when legal troubles and controversy chased Burress off the Giants’ roster and away from the NFL for two years after the 2008 season. It wasn’t until 2011 when the New York Jets gave him another shot that he was able to play again, but his ability was all but failing at the age of 34. He still managed to produce eight touchdown receptions, however. After two forgettable seasons back with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Burress would call it quits.

With all the numbers in place, it’s hard to imagine why Plaxico Burress never received a Pro Bowl nod. He was one of Eli Manning’s key targets in his early career and played well enough to be considered among the top group of wide receivers in his hey day. Some might say that his off-the-field issues and personality “triggered” his absence from the All-Star game. I’m sorry.

4. Dave Edwards

dave edwards

Outside Linebacker

Dallas Cowboys, 1963-1975

I don’t need to tell any brazened Dallas fan how great the Cowboys were from the mid-60’s to the early 80’s. History shows they’ll do it for me. But for those wondering how great they really were, we can start with Dave Edwards.

Edwards doesn’t get a lot of credit for his work, but I’m sure in the big scheme of things, he gets a pat on the back from most people. His work as one of the original strongside linebackers in Tom Landry’s revolutionary system has warranted him respect from many players and Dallas fans, but perhaps not from anyone on the outside. He doesn’t have flashy numbers or a very “Cowboy” name, but his consistency is staggering.

Outside of his first two seasons, Dave Edwards started all but one game in the following eleven seasons. And when he began starting every game on the season, the Cowboys’ defense got much, much better. A rugged and consistent cog in Landry’s “Doomsday Defense,” Edwards has played in some of the biggest games in NFL history, such as the Ice Bowl and Super Bowls V, VI, and X. Flashy or not, he still had 13 interceptions and 17 fumble recoveries throughout his career.

It might be a little easier to understand why Edwards never made a Pro Bowl. He was one of many great defensive players on the early Cowboys squad. With names like Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan, Chuck Howley, George Andrie, and Cornell Green playing around you, it’s hard to get lost in the shuffle. Despite the packed selection, Edwards was a consistent and mighty force on a squad full of consistent and mighty forces.

3. Don Shinnick

don shinnick

Outside Linebacker

Baltimore Colts, 1957-1969

Curiously enough, you won’t find a lot about Don Shinnick online. Not even his Wikipedia page has a lot on him. One thing’s for sure though: he had quite the impact on the field.

The one shining statistic that Shinnick has in his favor is interceptions. Shinnick has 37 career interceptions. Doesn’t sound all that great, right? See that position header up there? Suddenly, 37 becomes a whole lot more impressive. In fact, that’s the record number of career interceptions by a linebacker, a mark cemented in 1968 that has yet to be broken to this day. One other statistic that he shares with most players on this list is longevity. He played in 159 of 174 possible games throughout his thirteen year career.

One thing individual numbers won’t say is the impact he had on the team. Before Shinnick arrived in Baltimore, their defense floated around the bottom two in the league. Once drafted, Baltimore’s defense was consistently within the middle or upper portions. Not to mention, with the help of Johnny Unitas on offense, brought Baltimore from a struggling franchise to a two-time NFL champion by 1960. His handiwork was televised to everyone in what is considered by many as The Greatest Game Ever Played.

2. Jethro Pugh

NFL Historical Imagery

Defensive Tackle

Dallas Cowboys, 1965-1978

Remember Dave Edwards? You read about him two numbers before now. Meet Jethro Pugh, another teammate of his that was lost in the Doomsday chaos. An eleventh-round draft pick in 1965, Pugh played defensive tackle beside Bob Lilly and Randy White later on. What separates Pugh from, say, Dave Edwards, is his ability to produce numbers in addition to his longevity. According to unofficial team data, he produced 96.5 sacks, as well as two safeties, over his fourteen year career. As a defensive tackle.

He was a part of two championship teams in Dallas, with an additional two more championship appearances. While never achieving a Pro Bowl nod, Pugh did receive Second Team All-Pro in 1968. He’s missed more games than most on this list, but 183 games out of 194 is still impressive in of itself. And as disruptive as Bob Lilly was, Pugh is cited as leading the team in sacks for five straight seasons between 1968-1972. Only DeMarcus Ware did the same.

Like with Edwards, Pugh likely got lost in the shuffle of great Dallas defensive players during the 60’s and 70’s. His oversight may hurt some, but his results on the field were all that mattered in the long run. Two championships shine brighter than a Pro Bowl vacation.

1. Ken Riley

ken riley


Cincinnati Bengals, 1969-1983

Ken Riley is so beloved that some people aren’t just steamed he never made a Pro Bowl, but that he hasn’t been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame! His body of work is similar to those already in, but one crucial stat definitely stands out: interceptions.

Ken Riley is responsible for 65 career interceptions throughout his fifteen year career. That’s tied for fifth all time in NFL history. He has seven seasons with five or more interceptions and two seasons with eight or more. He’s played 207 out of 222 possible games and has five defensive touchdowns. Like with Pugh before him, he has never reached a Pro Bowl, but has attained not just two Second Team All-Pros in 1975 and 1976, but a First Team All-Pro selection in the final year of his career.

He played in one Super Bowl and lost against San Francisco. He would see many one-and-done playoff trips for his team, but was never rewarded the championship he most likely deserved. So why was he never elected to a Pro Bowl, despite earning the respect of his peers and The Associated Press? Some might say he wasn’t popular enough. Perhaps the NFL had a vendetta for Cincinnati Bengals defensive players? Who’s to say? Whatever the case, he is, in my opinion, the best player to never be elected to a Pro Bowl.


Honorable Mentions: Tom Rafferty, Rubin Carter, Matt Lepsis.