It’s difficult to catch lightning in a bottle twice, and that’s exactly what James Gunn tries to do in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The word “Marvel,” as in comic books or movie studios, has become a foundational term of our culture. Yet you could sit through almost every one of today’s comic-book movies and not find a whole lot to marvel at.

That’s where “Guardians of the Galaxy” came in. In an era of overstuffed, taped-together blockbusters, it was supremely funny, exciting, and well-made — a rock ‘n’ roll space opera, spectacular yet lithe, without a stray shot or sequence out of place, and with a wildly caustic yet devotional interplay among its motley crew of renegades that recalled the original 1977 “Star Wars” (obviously its chief influence). The film wielded the machinery of big-budget franchise filmmaking and trumped it at the same time. So the question of what “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” can do for an encore isn’t really, “Can it top the first film?” It’s more like, “Can it be as good?”

It’s the same combination of cartoony action and intergalactic screwball with some ambient production design recalling the photorealist sci-fi imagery of Roger Dean or Chris Foss in a bygone age, creating a visual sense of earnestness to offset the archly retro pop culture gags. Again, it has its own supercharged Heart FM playlist of 70s and 80s music. The early 70s track Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) by Looking Glass is laid on the soundtrack almost ecstatically in the opening sequence, and some tongue-in-cheek dialogue later invokes it as the greatest piece of music ever to have emerged from Planet Earth. This film rattles along and there’s a lot to enjoy.

The old gang are still together: as well as Quill, there is the green-faced Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana, and the mighty, slab-like Drax, played by Dave Bautista. Vin Diesel provides the voice of Baby Groot, and Bradley Cooper voices the foxy, weaselly figure of Rocket; he is the louche and disreputable character whose job is to get the group into trouble.

The Guardians get into some serious trouble pinching some energy sources from a certain golden empress named Ayesha, very amusingly played by Elizabeth Debicki. She has a haughty, queenly manner and an air of frozen displeasure whenever one of her many courtiers make a mess of things: Debicki’s Ayesha would be a great returning character, and on the strength of this Debicki would be strong casting in any new film about Elizabeth I, stealing Cate Blanchett’s crown.

The ensuing cosmic affray brings Quill and the Guardians back into contact with Yondu (Michael Rooker), the hated freebooter who kidnapped Quill from Planet Earth when he was a child, and with Gamora’s fanatically driven and malevolent sister, Nebula, played by Karen Gillan. But most pointedly of all, there is a new character, worryingly named Ego, played by Kurt Russell, whose “prequel” relationship with Quill is signaled pretty clearly in the opening scene. There is something unsettling in his buttery tan and bouffant splendor as a digitized young man and in the gravitas of his facial hair in the present day: he is a character with no small opinion of himself.

There are, once again, some funny lines, very often given to Drax, who has a way of oversharing. Pom Clementieff is very entertaining in the role of Mantis, a helpmeet of Ego; she has the gift of being an empath, someone who can intuit how someone else is feeling by laying hands on them but is in every other fantastically naive and un-insightful about the way human beings behave.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2..L to R: Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Drax (Dave Bautista), Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Ego (Kurt Russell) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017

Can Guardians of the Galaxy avoid the perils of the threequel?

Ego himself introduces some apparently huge Freudian issues to the film, which on paper would seem to take the film’s emotional impact up a notch or two. But they are dealt with insouciantly, even flippantly – far more so than in something like Star Wars or Superman. That’s in the keeping of course, with the distinctive comic flavor of this franchise, but the revelations about Quill’s background just zing and ping around with the same pinball-velocity as everything else in the film. It’s fun, though GOTG2 doesn’t have the same sense of weird urgency and point that the first film had. They’re still guarding, although the galaxy never seems in much danger.

Funny fact – Stan Lee

The Stan Lee cameo is a special part of every Marvel movie. Everyone always knows that it’s coming, and yet it’s always delightful to see the co-founder of the comic book company deliver a silly line or play in a funny scene. That being said, his appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is special. Not only does it turn out that Lee is working with The Watchers — beings who always keep an eye on the multiverse — but also that every single one of his cameos has him playing the same character, as opposed to different ones each time out. It’s a fantastic and funny moment in the blockbuster, but what makes it really fascinating is the implication that it may have worked for all Marvel films, not just those in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

First of all let me say, this anime is not for the faint of heart. If this were a live action adaption, not an anime, I would be surprised if telecommunication companies would even permit it to adults. The gore and the violence are rife in this anime, the level of hardship our character endure, nothing is left to the imagination. Do not watch this anime unless you are over the age of 18, and even then it still might be unsettling to some to get through.

The opening theme, strangely enough, an English dubbed song, fully encapsulates what you are about to witness in this gruesome anime adaptation. The hard metal rock band rhythms and electric guitar might make you jump up in excitement, but the imagery that follows is anything but inspiring. And on the topic of inspiring, not many of the characters in this story are actually anything of that at all. The only character in this story you actually might connect with is a cop who was arrested for killing murderous criminals. Everyone else in the story is pretty forgettable, but that’s more due to the own flaws of the production team rather than the writing.

Let me elaborate a little backstory. Deadman Wonderland is a 12 episode series with 1 special episode. Yes, it’s very short, but it’s also, incomplete. Even episode 12 ends in a way so that the viewer would expect there would be another episode. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, nor a conclusion, nor a plot-twist. It’s a little hard to even like this series from a story-driven standpoint, to be honest. Especially when you get more invested in the side characters rather than the main cast.

I suppose that this might be a fault of mistaken identity. Adapting a manga into an anime isn’t always the easiest thing. Deadman Wonderland largely seems to be based on a fictional-fantasy story of the real-life events of the Japanese 2010 earthquake. I say this because a lot of the setting depicts a truly cataclysmic disaster that changed life around the island forever. It would be interesting if the original manga writer was a survivor of that natural disaster and that’s how they draw inspiration into their artwork. Now transferring that into an anime, obviously isn’t the easiest thing to do for an animation studio. Then when you do a little googling you find out they were run out of production, and never got the funds to finish anything.

Needless to say, the overall tone of this anime will turn most people off. The only reason why I finished watching it was to see if everyone made it out of the madhouse alive. But when the payoff seems like it’s never going to come, or the characters aren’t interested in seeing it come, then how can I be motivated to keep watching? I don’t think the only factor that should make me want to watch a show should be seeing people express pure hatred for the sake of hatred based on past hatred. It gets agonizingly redundant and soon you’re just watching characters die and get raped in bloody battles that really lose meaning when the heroes, like our main character, just feel like constantly crying.

And that right there is actually the weakest point of this anime itself. The main character. He is the depicted as the most worthless, weak, and small-minded child right up until the very end. It might be a burst of fresh air when we finally get to see him at his full power, and finally, save the day, but it feels pointless when the final shot isn’t used to free everyone from imprisonment. Moreover, a lot of the stuff is left up to the viewer’s imagination and assumption as to the backstory of the promoter, director, the wretched bug, and many more crucial characters.

The last piece of advice I can give you on this anime is if you don’t have the stomach then don’t watch. If you thought Parasyte -the maxim- was full of blood and gore, well that show is tame compared to this. And if anything, Parasyte -the maxim- was more interesting too. With no “deeper meaning” or “moral to the story”, no lessons learned for the viewer or the protagonist, this anime might be better off reading as a manga, or just waiting until it’s picked up by another production studio.

Continuing from part 1 – you cannot have a hero without a villain for them to fight. Well, if you enjoyed our round-up of the first group of baddies, you’re going to love this next bunch as they are the ones that are the most iconic!

THE SILENCE

Rather than a specific race, The Silence are a religious order. Their agents on Earth have been there since before the dawn of mankind, directing human evolution. Through the use post-hypnotic suggestion, The Silence makes people who see them instantly forget their existence. After an incursion with The Eleventh Doctor, Amy, Rory and River Song, the Silence became known to mankind, temporarily halting their plan.

They used their agent Madame Kovarian to kidnap a young Melody Pond and raised her as the Doctor’s perfect assassin – otherwise known as River Song. In a time-shifting and parallel universe-creating ruse, the Time Lord managed to sabotage the plan.

Upon receiving an impossible message, the Eleventh Doctor made his last journey to Trenzalore where he found his old friend Tasha Lem was working alongside the Silence.

Here he discovered they blew up his TARDIS and created the very cracks in the universe which had followed him around (and from which the Time Lords would come calling). Despite trying to kill the Doctor, the Silence ended up as part of a Destiny Trap – “You can’t change history if you’re part of it,” claimed the Doctor. The Silence helped ensure the Daleks didn’t win the Siege of Trenzalore, thus fulfilling their prophecy.

WEEPING ANGELS

Known as “The Lonely Assassins”, the Weeping Angels are quantum-locked alien killers, as old as the universe itself.

Little is known of their origins or culture. When observed, they freeze like stone, but in the blink of an eye, they can move vast distances. The touch of an Angel hurls their victim back in time – allowing the Angel to feast on the energy of their unlived days.

Initially, the Tenth Doctor encountered four Angels, who sent him back to 1969. He left clues for Sally Sparrow to find and help trap them – releasing him and the TARDIS. Later encounters have seen a whole mausoleum of statues, tiny cherubs and even the Statue of Liberty transformed into Weeping Angels. Both Amy and Rory were trapped by a Weeping Angel when it sent them back to 1938 to live out their lives together. In the 51st Century, the Doctor trapped the Angels in a crack in time, erasing them from history.

 

ICE WARRIORS

Described by the Tenth Doctor as “a fine and noble race who built an empire out of snow”, the Ice Warriors were a species of reptiles from the planet Mars. They were twice encountered by the Second Doctor – first, when their crashed ship was thawed out of a glacier during a future Earth ice age, and then when they tried to take over the Earth’s trans-mat system. On both occasions, the Warriors were dangerous aggressors. In a subsequent meeting with the Third Doctor on Peladon, the Ice Warriors had renounced violence and entered the Galactic Federation.

Many years later, the Eleventh Doctor and Clara met sole Ice Warrior Skaldak aboard a Russian submarine, the Firebird, on Earth in the Eighties whilst the rest of his race were scattered across the universe (including one hidden in a Trap Street in London). The Twelfth Doctor and Bill met Ice Queen Iraxxa on Mars in 1881 which led to contact with Alpha Centauri and the dawning of the Martian Golden Age.

CYBERMEN

Originally born on Earth’s twin planet Mondas, the Cybermen were created as the Mondasians replaced parts of their dead bodies with plastic and steel. Eventually, they added emotional inhibitors, suppressing all feelings – love, hate, even fear. Cybermen can convert humans wherever they go, and take orders from a Cyberleader, whose data can be downloaded to a drone if the leader is destroyed.

Like the Daleks, the Cybermen have dogged the Doctor through space and time. He has prevented them destroying Earth’s weather system, getting their hands on the Nemesis statue and taking over Victorian London with their Cyber-King.

The Tenth Doctor visited a parallel universe, where Cybus Industries had developed Cybermen to prolong John Lumic’s dwindling life. Shortly after, these Cybusmen came crashing through to our own universe – and battled with the Daleks!

Invasion is always on the Cybermen’s minds. Whilst traveling with Clara, the Gallifreyan discovered an army of the silver soldiers at the “biggest and best amusement park there will ever be”, Hedgewick’s World.

At the end of his time, a wooden Cyberman (along with Sontarans, Weeping Angels, and Daleks) came to defeat the Eleventh Doctor at Trenzalore. It wasn’t long before the Twelfth Doctor was up against his old foes. This time the Cybermen were recruited by Missy, formerly known as The Master, as she turned the dead into a new Cyber army on Earth.

THE MASTER

A childhood friend of the Doctor, the Master was driven insane after looking into the Untempered Schism on Gallifrey at the age of eight. Like the Doctor, he fled from the Time Lord’s home planet in a stolen TARDIS. However the Master’s motives have never been pure – frequently seeking alliances with aliens like the Daleks, the Nestene Consciousness and the Rani in an effort to conquer the galaxy.

Running out of natural regenerations, he began assimilating other bodies, before eventually dying. Resurrected by the Time Lords as the perfect warrior, he fought in the Time War before hiding – first as Professor Yana then as Harry Saxon. Shot by his wife but being once more reborn, he was last seen forcing Rassilon and the Time Lords back into the hell of Time War-ravaged Gallifrey.

A gender-changing regeneration took place (where and when we do not know…, yet), and then Missy then sought out her old friend, the Doctor. She meddled in his doings for some time before revealing herself to him in London’s St Paul’s Cathedral flanked with her own Cyberman army. Typical of the renegade Time Lord, Missy had set a trap for her foe but he was not to be beaten. Not only that, the naughty Gallifreyan also lied to the Doctor about the location of their home planet.

A swift escape ensued and Missy attracted the attention of UNIT, who sent Clara Oswald as their negotiator. But peace was not on the Time Lady’s mind. She had brought the Doctor’s Confession Dial and used Clara to track down the Doctor. Her plan worked, though Missy would end up at the end of a Dalek sucker and Davros to deal with.

After some time, Missy was sentenced to execution and the Gallifreyan’s regenerative ability was to be disabled. Due to her Fatality Index, the sentence had to be carried out by another Time Lord – in this case, the Twelfth Doctor. Thankfully, for Missy, her old friend didn’t feel like killing her but did, instead, agree to keep her in a Quantum Fold chamber for 1,000 years – she was placed in The Vault in St. Luke’s University, Bristol.

But the Doctor couldn’t go on without trying to improve his old friend and took Missy out of The Vault and into space and time. Unfortunately, this resulted in the Doctor’s former ‘crush’ (his words) coming face-to-face with an earlier incarnation of The Master, last seen alongside the Tenth Doctor.

Ever the prankster, Missy fatally wounded The Master and vice versa…

DAVROS

Davros was Chief Scientist of the Kaleds towards the end of their thousand year war with the Thals on the planet Skaro. Confined to a mobile life-support system, Davros developed a final solution to end the war: The Daleks – mutated Kaleds robbed or morality and with added aggression, placed inside armored shells called the Mark III Travel Machines. However, his own people rejected the notion, and in retaliation, he gave the Thals the formula to destroy the Kaled dome. Safe in the bunker below, Davros released the Daleks on an unsuspecting world. However, the Daleks turned upon their creator and left him for dead in the bowels of the city on Skaro.

Years later, the Daleks sought his help to defeat their logical stalemate with the Movellans and then again to defeat the Movellan virus. Later he became The Great Healer, turning the bodies of the dead into food, or new “Imperial” Daleks. His grip on the Daleks weakened, as a renegade faction grew up – loyal to the Supreme Dalek – plunging them into civil war.

He commanded Dalek forces during The Last Great Time War and was seen flying into the jaws of the Nightmare Child. Rescued by Dalek Caan, Davros constructed the Reality Bomb but was foiled by the Children of Time.

Escaping the burning wreckage of the Crucible, Davros traveled to Skaro where he used his servant Colony Sarff to lure the Twelfth Doctor to his lair. Predictably, as ever, his scheming was undone though the scientist was last seen in the company of Missy. What treachery could they be planning…?

DALEKS

Daleks are merciless and pitiless cyborg aliens, demanding total conformity, bent on conquest of the universe and the extermination of what they see as inferior races. Their catchphrase, “Exterminate!”, is a well-recognized reference in throughout space and time.

Within the programme’s narrative, the Daleks were engineered by the scientist Davros during the final years of a thousand-year war between his people, the Kaleds, and their enemies the Thals. With some Kaleds already badly mutated and damaged by nuclear war, Davros genetically modified the Kaleds and integrated them with a tank-like, robotic shell, removing their every emotion apart from hate. His creations soon came to view themselves as the supreme race in the universe, intent on purging the universe of all non-Dalek life. Collectively they are the greatest enemies of Doctor Who.

The Doctor first encountered the Daleks on the radiation-soaked planet of Skaro, waging war with the peaceful Thals. The Daleks were the mangled and mutated remains of the Kaled people, placed in metal war machines by the Kaled’s chief scientist Davros.

Pursuing the Doctor across space and time, the Daleks invaded the Earth, developed the Reality Bomb and tried to imprison the Doctor in the Pandorica. They fought the Time Lords in The Last Great Time War – a conflict so powerful and destructive that the universe was said to convulse.

Of course, just like the Time Lords, the Daleks escaped too and the naughty little tanks teamed-up with their creator Davros in a bid to use the Doctor’s regenerative powers to enhance their race.

Money can’t buy happiness, and chasing after it forever will surely end in damnation. For a show such as this that deals in such “real world” problems of the 18th century it’s a big surprise, it captures me in such an elegant way. There is so little action or violent imagery. Even when our characters are in the deepest of troubles it feels downplayed because of the lack of blood. I suppose many of us anime nerds are spoiled some.

The second season of Spice and Wolf is definitely a step up in quality from the last. Better animation, better scenery, we even get a nice opening to listen to! Unfortunately, unlike the last season, we do not see Houlu transfer into her wolf form unless by frequent flashbacks from last season. This will turn most viewers away as seeing her wolf form was the main selling point of the first season. So pray tell what could be the selling point of this season?

As you can imagine the love circle between Lawrence and Houlu continue to weave and curl like a dog shielding itself from the cold. We get a few people often vying for her attention. Even an eager young merchant tries to woo her with his promise of being her princess. Though we are never told why Houlu denied him her love, we can only be thankful that it carries the story a few more episodes. But leaving empty answers like that knocks a few brownie points down for me. I rather enjoyed seeing Lawrence duel the pesky young merchant for Houlu’s love. I might’ve even picked up a few tricks on how to wheel and deal myself. It seems such a shame I was robbed of an interesting plot point.

Then again another thing that always drags this series down is the number of subplots. We only visit 2 towns in this season of Spice and Wolf instead of 3 from last season. The show wastes half of its season in a subplot of Lawrence fighting for Houlu’s love with another merchant only for it to turn out to be a giant McGuffin that was pointless. You get the feeling as the series goes on that Houlu does not want Lawrence to love her nor grow old with her.

“Give thanks for the day you met”

Houlu fears that their journey must end at some point. She cannot age in her young human form but Lawrence will. Even for the lusting attempt at mating with a Pagan God like Houlu, is it really worth it? We meet a fine woman in a town who lost her husband to old age and mistrust because she did not age and yet he did. A bit of foreshadowing to what the dreams Houlu has of Lawrence.

Houlu never really returns her debt to Lawrence. Even up until the very end when he is betrayed by a sly fox, and Lawrence confesses his love to her she punches him calling him a fool. Though it’s no surprise to anyone that all men are fools. This series still captures a very “slice of life” style to it so likewise if you watch it don’t come for the action of the drama come for the characters and the setting. You’ll get a good taste of what pre-colonial Europe was like for people.

However, the subplots and the missing conclusions of this series will not earn it a high score from me. The supposed big bad monster that destroyed Houlu’s hometown is never revealed and instead, we’re treated with a last minute antagonist that is just shoehorned in much to my chagrin. Though I was flattered when I found out the voice actress of this antagonist is the same person who played Olivier Mira Armstrong in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Hearing that voice her voice struck a chord with me, I liked seeing a returning talent like Stephanie Young to the scene.

The aspect of religion, though a point of contempt, is never explored in this anime. I would assume the fact that a series like this that centers around a Pagan God like Houlu to become attracted with a merchant like Lawrence. That there would be a greater focus on the concept of a higher power in control of everything. They do bring it up but only in the last 2 episodes when everything seems to go awry. There never seems to be a sense of real danger in this season up until the last episode. Which isn’t that much of a payoff if you ask me.

The question of whether an omnipotent one would care that a merchant loves a Pagan God, or that a Pagan God would be jealous of an entity to replace her importance in the world, is just as suspicious as a woman of noble birth trying to scam people out of their money. I wouldn’t rate this anime to be the best I’ve ever seen but it’s charming and it’ll teach you a thing or two. Good things come to those who wait.

If the Doctor is the force of light and good in the Universe, his enemies are truly what complete him. Here are the 13 Villians that make the Doctor so special.

THE FAMILY SLITHEEN

The family Slitheen are outlawed criminals from the planet of Raxacoricofallapatorius.

Wearing skin-suits of members of the British government, they planned to ruin the Earth and sell it on as rocket fuel. The attempt was foiled when the Doctor, Rose, Mickey and Harriet Jones (MP) diverted missiles into 10 Downing St.

Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen was the sole Slitheen survivor, and – wearing the skin of Margaret Blaine – was elected Mayor of Cardiff.

Foiling her Blaidd Drwg project, the Doctor caught her and threatened to return her home to her death. After a long negotiation, and taking Rose as a hostage, she stared into the heart of the TARDIS, and was reborn as an egg.

VASHTA NERADA

Meaning “the shadows that melt the flesh”, Vashta Nerada occur naturally on most planets – including Earth – in small clusters, like the dust in sunbeams.

In The Library, the Doctor encountered an entire swarm of Vashta Nerada, stripping the flesh from numerous members of Mr Lux’s unfortunate crew.

This episode was a particularly poignant one as while it was in reverse order, it was also the last time we saw River Song “alive.” I know – that sounds really confusing – what can I say – it’s Doctor Who!!

The Doctor brokered a deal with the creatures (who were using the animated remains of the crew in their flight-suits): if he could get the humans off the planet, the Vashta Nerada could remain in the “forests” of books.

 

 

 

THE BLACK GUARDIAN

A “classic villain” and the physical personification of the forces of chaos and destruction in the universe, the Black Guardian is ranged and balanced against the White Guardian’s force of order.

When the White Guardian tasked the Fourth Doctor with reassembling the Key to Time, the Black Guardian’s agents were close at hand.

After Princess Astra sacrificed her life to become the sixth and final segment, the Black Guardian posed as White to take the Key.

His casual disregard for human life enabled the Doctor to see through the ruse and destroy the Key.

Later, the Black Guardian tried to use Turlough to destroy the Fifth Doctor, luring him with a promise to return him home. When faced with a choice, Turlough hurled the Enlightenment crystal at the Black Guardian, consuming him in flames. However, as the White Guardian warned, both Guardians would continue to exist as long as they were needed.

SILURIANS

An advanced race of reptilian humanoids, tribes of Homo Reptilia were the dominant life-form on Earth before the evolution of humanity.

When a large object appeared in the sky the Silurians retreated underground or escaped Earth in an Ark (the object harmlessly entered Earth’s orbit as the Moon). The Doctor has encountered three tribes of Silurians whose hibernation had been disturbed by human activity. Whilst honorable warriors, they often found co-habitation with humanity impossible, due to war-like factions on both sides.

In 2367, the Eleventh Doctor found the remains of a Silurian space Ark, which – after a pirate trader called Solomon had murdered the Silurians aboard – contained only dinosaurs. The dinosaurs were settled on a new world, named Siluria.The same regeneration befriended a Silurian by the name of Madame Vastra, who would assist in the Doctor’s battle against Madame Kovarian’s army at Demon’s Run. Vastra also helped the newly-regenerated Twelfth Doctor recuperate in late 19th Century London.

SONTARANS

An aggressive clone-warrior race from Sontar, who travel in spherical ships, the Sontarans were engaged in a war lasting many thousands of years with the Rutans. In pursuit of the advantage, Commander Linx of the Fifth Sontaran Battle Group tried to invade 13th century Earth, until repelled by the Third Doctor.

Later meetings with the Doctor saw the Sontarans invading the Time Lord home planet of Gallifrey, forcing the Sixth Doctor to build them a time travel machine, and trying to covert Earth’s atmosphere into one suitable for warrior cloning using the ATMOS machines. Sarah Jane Smith later encountered – and defeated – the last survivor of that invasion, Commander Kaagh.

A Sontaran by the name of Strax befriended the Eleventh Doctor and fought alongside the Time Lord and his allies at Demon’s Run. The diminutive warrior from the planet Sontar teamed up with Madame Vastra and a human by the name of Jenny Flint and accompanied the Doctor on numerous adventures.

ZYGONS

An amphibious humanoid race, the Zygons are notable for their ability to metamorphose into other living forms, as well as their use of organic technology. Centuries ago, a spaceship full of Zygons crash-landed in Scotland. Unable to return to their native planet, which had been destroyed in a solar explosion, they planned to make Earth their new home.

Using their shape-shifting powers and a sea monster called the Skarasen, their plans were foiled when their leader Broton was shot by UNIT. The Skarasen returned to live peacefully in Loch Ness.

As an anniversary present, the Eleventh Doctor took Amy and Rory to the Savoy Hotel on 26 June 1890. Unfortunately, half the staff turned out to be Zygons in disguise.

Their obsession with Earth continued when they managed to infiltrate UNIT causing a stand-off between humanity and the alien race. But this peace accord did not last long, and Zygon factions split off causing a possible war. Thankfully, the Twelfth Doctor managed to talk down Bonnie (a Zygon who had taken the form of Clara) and UNIT’s Kate Stewart.

 

 

Stay tuned for part 2 where we continue examining the best of the villains.

I can hardly put my thoughts into words after the conclusion of an anime like this. How best to describe it? Truly heartwarming. A magnificent tale of loving your life no matter how hard it was to live it. Getting a second chance at paradise with friends who share your struggles. Forgiving God for the punishment fate dealt you. Learning that no matter how little time is spent nothing is wasted when you’re with friends and family. To tell the truth, this anime almost had me in tears a few times.

Angel Beats! Follows a group of regular high school students who are sent to a sort of limbo world where they must disobey the orders of Angel to be good students so that they might live a happy high school life. A  kind of life that was absent from their own. Because if they choose to befriend Angel they will pass on, and not too many of them are keen on passing on when every one of them has endured such hardship. However, Angel does not welcome them defying her rules and fights them for control over what could become an Eternal Eden.

A big criticism of this anime is that because it is so short only, 6 of the 15+ cast of characters actually get a nice backstory. It’s almost a shame, to be honest. Every character in this anime has a story that tells how life punished them. How they lived an incomplete life. How their life was unfair. So they are sent to this limbo world because they choose to believe God granted them something they did not deserve but once they accept their emotions and their turmoil, they are at peace and are obliterated.

I found myself becoming so invested in each character. I hate that I didn’t get any answers to what every character went through that put them in the limbo world with Angel. Might I say that this anime doesn’t even have a fulfilling ending? The climax is very sad. Our main character never ascends even though he lived both his life and his afterlife devoted to saving people he never was able to move on. An ending that would make some people cry.

Moreover, the villain of this series isn’t clearly defined. You come to believe Angel is the antagonist but later find out she was just trying to show everyone that their lives were worth living and that they should be thankful they were sent to limbo and granted a second chance before passing on. When it becomes clear that there is no point in fighting Angel though a new enemy emerges and the story takes a turn for acting like a video game, which didn’t settle well with me.

The soundtrack and the animation of this series are by far astounding. I can see why this series is only 13 episodes because with quality like this I’m shocked they even made it this long. The blend of visual effects, 3D animation, and 2D animation make for some truly stunning scenes and visuals. The soundtrack and opening is something you could listen to all day. It’s tranquil and jovial to listen to. The only thing that spoils this anime is its length really.

If you’re looking for an anime with a deep philosophical message then try again. While Angel Beats! Does tend to border on sadness and regret in the later episodes it focuses a lot more on comedy and parody in the earlier segments. So much so that I found myself laughing hysterically when Yuri was launching her friends up into the ceiling with rocket boosters underneath their school desks. It’s fortunate that the series makes a ploy out of every character not being able to die in the limbo world. So all their deaths are used as pure comic relief.

Watch Angel Beats! for the characters not for the story. Because the way its structured is confusing. The plot holes are blatantly obvious in this one. I assure you you’ll find that the need to know each of the character’s backstories will carry you farther than wanting to know how the anime ends. Be sure to keep that box of tissue near you in the last episode too. You’re going to need it.

Overall I recommend this anime to anyone. It’s heartwarming and sweet, short and visually stunning, a beauty to listen to and watch. And although its ending is less than to be desired, the message behind it and the feels you will get from watching make it a true spectacle to behold. An anime anyone can enjoy watching. It teaches people that no matter what hand God deals you, you can make the most of it by giving back to others that were less fortunate than you. No life is wasted if one life can be saved.

Oh, baby! Sit down and strap in cause I promise you this series has the fastest first 12 episodes of your life. Which afterwards it just slows down.

Yeah that’s pretty much the best way I can describe this series. Parasyte – The Maxim – it’s so pulse-pounding and adrenaline pumping that you just keep watching and watching without really stopping. Even though this series only has one season and doesn’t really deliver a conclusion nor does it have an admirable climax I feel that all the build-up you feel in the beginning leaves you with questions unanswered that keeps you from putting it down.

There were genuine times watching this anime when I just had to know, “How will it all end? What’s it all mean?”

I guess that’s the kind of questions that remains when the villains of series are just as vulnerable as the protagonist. Or so it is believed to be by some. Even for the ones who are truly invincible, they hardly pose as appealing villains with believable motivations. No matter how small or how big their origins it seems everything and everyone are so small and insignificant. Aliens are no different from humans so it seems.

Parasyte – The Maxim- takes place in modern day Japan. With the looming threat of what starts out as a zombie invasion but later devolves into an extermination plot. To be clear the series is actually a lot more enjoyable in the earlier episodes than the later ones. But this series takes the unfortunate route of killing off nice characters. The waifu of this series for me actually died which I found very disheartening.

The supporting actress, though a Mary Sue, actually redeems herself, albeit in the last episode of the series, but hey better late than never.

This series will be dearly relatable to some but could also make others feel incredibly uncomfortable. The gore while animated is still gory and the imagery in the series can cause nightmares in the youngest of kids. It’s very much a PG-13 show, which is fine in the sense I mean I’m halfway surprised there’s not an excessive amount of swearing given the amount of violence and gunfire.

But oddly enough in the conclusion of this series, it takes a much more philosophical turn. Questioning how the aliens or parasites, as they are called, are any different from the humans. When animosity and murderous intent are the only emotions that bring up since it seems fitting, that when a new feeling is felt, no one knows what to think of it. Perhaps it is a feeling that vanished when someone died.

I think you’re getting the gist that not many of the characters are enjoyable in the story. But that’s okay because the message behind it is one pretty much everyone asks themselves in their early adolescent lives. For the people that are lost or confused or have lost a loved one, this series might hit home a little too hard. For those that are lively and want some popcorn action drama, this one will be for you.

Don’t expect any character to leave a lasting impact on you except probably the one that goes to sleep a lot. And while that might seem strange to say I assure you it’s all a part of a learning process.

Overall the speed and pacing of this anime are well played, incredibly enduring, and wonderfully set-up. There are obvious time breaks in between and while not everyone will get their own backstory it’s nice to see a clear focus on what our heroes want to accomplish so dearly. Because if there’s one thing this anime succeeds at the most it’s showing a clear fight for survival. A true depiction of natural selection and survival of the fittest. Everyone likes to believe all life is sacred, everyone wants to keep creating and building bigger and bigger, but when people refuse to see that you can build a bigger and stronger human it’s shunned and discredited.

I actually laughed when they referenced “the Americans” as people who want to study the parasites for medicinal and weapon purposes. Japan always portraying us as the enemy gets old sometimes, but it’s a great nod to history.

So I leave you with this, choose your path, good or evil, life or death, find your purpose watching this anime. Because without one you really won’t enjoy it all that much. For me, I just wanted to see how it would end because it’s all one season. For others, people will want to see it for the action and animation. But if you’re coming in for the story or the characters then leave because there’s only one guy that matters, you’re dominant hand. The one you always trust to do the right thing in the end. Look out for yourself and look after others, be yourself and never forget who you are. And when your tears finally dry up I promise you’ll be in a better place.

There’s no such thing as an absolute and final ending for a series as glorious as this. Even the faintest attempt at conceiving an ending seems futile as it leaves the audience inevitably wanting more. However, I believe the ending that this show produces should suffice enough to satiate my hunger for wanting to know the truth.

This series is tiring to get through at times, the speed at which it moves is incredibly slow, you could say the pacing of it is scatter-brained. I believe though that it’s conclusion does it justice. A lot of lives are lost in the series finale of the show. Loved ones die, future husbands, and bloodlines lost in the ravages of war. Some soldiers choose a noble path and refuse to take life for the sake of saving their countrymen from the pain it will cause their families. Other soldiers from the north take a darker path and kill anyone they see opposing them, quite possibly leading to their own demise as well. It’s ironic when you still see the Elric brothers fighting so hard and swearing on their dying breath that they’re “Not letting anyone else die.”

I wish I could say that the series end with all the loose ends tied up but unfortunately it does not. There are still many questions left unanswered much to my chagrin. There’s a much higher focus on the aspect of religion in the finale of this series. Who is God? What is Truth? I find it rather inspirational such an insignificant Japanese cartoon show would tackle subjects that deal with such immense cultural beliefs in our society. There might be some that would find this series offensive to their beliefs as it naturally collides and challenges that with which we believe as truth in our own world. I honestly expect no less from a show that tries so hard to reimage 19th century Germany in such a light-hearted manner.

We get a firsthand look at this season of what the homunculi truly want, what the deepest desires are of such vile creatures. I wish I could say that all of the homunculi make it out alive. Though, such a thing seems foolish to say given their reputation throughout the entire series. But I assure you, your mind about what you think of the homunculi might change if you show them a little mercy for their actions. It might feel wasteful to you what Ed’s actions are to dispose of the homunculi. I’m not sure every viewer would agree with how the homunculi die in this story.

For the ones that keep living though it is a very happy ending after so much turmoil and I feel the opening theme of season 5 covers that very well. Though it might come across as annoying to hear the opening theme is played at the major end and opening points during the episode. It really messes up the moment when the theme starts playing during moments of dread or triumph. I think the final season would have benefited from not overusing the opening theme so much.

When some truly unbeatable enemies emerge from the depths of the Central city our heroes find it almost impossible to stop them. Frankly, it’s almost a loophole in the story how they eventually stop attacking and causing havoc. And on the other hand, it seems like cheesy writing when the characters have such ceaseless motivations to not give into madness. I can only guess that their efforts to atone for their sins can only be accomplished by winning peacefully. This ideal is often mocked by the homunculi and our main antagonist Father. So then I find it so satisfying when the whole thing is turned on its head and revealed to Father what the real truth is for the ones that try to play God.

This series is agonizing to watch a second time. In particular, because it is so long to get to one simple conclusion. I suppose the only thing the series finale carries for the viewer is that it takes place all in one day. That’s right. The final season, 13 episodes all take place within 24 hours. It’s almost a reflection of TV shows like 24 how every episode ends on a cliffhanger pushing the viewer to keep watching and keep going. It really ruins the feeling when it’s your second time viewing the show. But recalling my first viewing of season 5 of Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood I can tell you I was never further from falling off my chair staring at the screen. There’s a lot to say when a show like this can make you instinctively sit in a chair for up to 5 hours with no end. An anime series like this can’t be all fighting and honor and glory. But what it does try to do is tell the viewer what the real price of ultimate knowledge is, and how it would be of your best benefit to staying as you are. A simple human living out their lives with their family and friends forever bound to the great gifts bestowed upon you.

There are very few anime series that can accurately capture what life was like in the times before technology. In the times before the advent of Christianity when the people referred to as the Pagans were in power. They would normally be known as the Vikings or Northmen. My guess is this anime series’ setting would be about 1700’s Northern Europe. That’s mostly due to the scenery of castles and open fields full of cattle and farmland. There are no cars, only carriages pulled by horses.

The storyline follows a middle-age peddler named Lawrence, dreaming of once owning his own shop and becoming a famous merchant. Unfortunately for him, he has not fallen on good fortune, but this hasn’t stopped him from mastering the art of doing business or the many foreign currencies of different countries. Still, to his dismay, he hasn’t found a wife yet either, but this doesn’t stop him from falling for a young shepherd girl before a faithful friend. Reluctantly, it would be impossible to find a wife until he settles down and stops traveling, but in order to do that he has to open up a shop and have a place to live so he isn’t constantly paying for the inn.

Luckily for him, on a routine traveling path delivering some fine wheat to a Pagan village, he picks up a wayward traveler. A very beautiful young woman with wolf ears and a long bushy tail. She claims to be Houlo, the Pagan’s God of good harvest, and it is to her doing that the Pagan village has prospered so much when in comparison to the other villages. Unfortunately for her, she has realized that the Pagan’s no longer need her assistance in caring for their food or their wellbeing. So she feels alone. After hearing this sadness, Houlo declares she wishes to return to her homeland, in the north where everything is glistening in snow crystals and magnificent trees, and Lawrence promises to accompany her on her journey. So the two set off on a grand adventure to Houlo’s homeland.

To me personally, I have never watched an anime that is so “Slice of Life”. Everything that happens in this anime, with the exception of Houlu, follows events that really would happen in colonial Europe. Still, though, I wish there was a tad more action. Very little blood or gore is shown even though there are clear deaths in the series. To its credit though it keeps your attention with real-world problems about the uncertainties of living in an environment so devoid of law enforcement like policemen. The point in time this series covers, there very little stopping marauders or bandits from threatening our main characters. The series had me going a few times when I thought death was right around the corner. The reluctance of Houlo to show her true form is understandable because she wishes to show the humans that she can still be a kind God, but eventually, she is forced to protect Lawrence so he can lead her back home.

In terms of cliffhangers from episode to episode, this show has none. Which leaves very little incentive for the action of binging through it. Each episode has its own subplot leading into the next one that covers the bigger story of what life is like for Lawrence and Houlu traveling together. And that’s something that I find rather upsetting. The anime focuses more on bonding the characters rather than the character’s goals. The goal is to reach Houlu’s homeland and yet the series takes its time with the subplots of money management and financial scams happening in the markets. It only makes sense though that a man like Lawrence gets involved in these greedy exchanges because money is a necessity to travel. He should be so lucky that Houlu is often there disguised as his wife to bolster his profit margins with his clients. Although being so overzealous with gain might lead to imprisonment or eternal shame.

While the pacing of this first season is awful it tells a very compelling story about what it is like to live in colonial Europe and to embark on such a harsh quest to the north. Although I get the feeling that before I even see the series finale that I already know the ending. And that’s bad. I hope in hindsight that there is a twist that perhaps when Houlu does indeed payback Lawrence for all the debt she owes him something goes wrong before it goes right. It’d be a shame for this series to lack an epic climax because watching such a chill and relaxing first season with very little going awry for our main characters was upsetting for me. And I don’t exactly view chase scenes or money laundering as exciting and action-fulfilling plot points. The first season hardily ends on a cliffhanger but rather a happy note that leads into the next season. Overall I wouldn’t recommend this anime series to anyone with a lust for action or adventure. I would give it to someone with a hefty degree of patience and a passion for soap operas.