Category Archives: Media Review

The Hollow (2018 Animated TV Series)

Slap Happy Cartoons with Netflix

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Three teenagers find themselves waking up together in a doorless room with no memory of who they are or what their lives were like before that moment. An old typewriter on the floor and names written on pieces of paper in their pockets are their only clues–Adam, Mira, Kai. Accepting that these are their own names and that playing along with whatever “game” or “puzzle” is afoot is their only way to escape, the three begin working together, putting their skills to work in the series of ever-stranger situations they find themselves in. And they’ve got some pretty crazy skills to put to work, too! Which makes them have to wonder, who on earth are they? Because normal people can’t do the things they can do, and they’re freaking themselves out.

The Hollow is a show that I actually watched on recommendation from some family members, and while it’s not exactly what I would normally watch, I did enjoy it. But I feel like I can’t properly review it without totally spoiling it, and it’s one of those shows that you do not want to go into with spoilers. The mystery and watching it unfold is a huge part of the enjoyment of this story. And yes, mystery there is aplenty. The what-on-earth-is-going-on factor is on a level that nearly surpasses that of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and that’s saying something.  It’s such a strange mix of genres and themes that I never really felt like I knew what was going on, right up until the end where everything’s explained. It did kind of feel like some of those kids’ stories where each character has specific skills that are suited to specific tasks and everyone fits just so; I didn’t care for that so much, it’s just not my thing, but it does make more sense once you get the explanations. The characters were good, not great, but good. Normal, if you can consider teenagers with superpowers to be normal. They’re relatable, which given the situation they’re in and how you’re supposed to be getting into that, is what you really want. The art is interesting; an animation style somewhere between an American cartoon and, say, A Cat in Paris, at least in terms of the character design. I think the character designs felt a bit inconsistent between characters, like the styles switched somewhere in between them, but it worked in this context. Overall, for those who enjoy having their head messed with and watching an inexplicable mystery unfold, I would recommend The Hollow.

Created by Vito Viscomi/Directed by Josh Mepham & Greg Sullivan/Starring Adrian Petriw, Ashleigh Ball, & Connor Parnall

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Bleach (2018 Movie)

Warner Bros.

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Kurosaki Ichigo: a normal high-school student with bleached-looking hair, a grumpy expression . . . and the ability to see spirits. The wheels of fate begin to turn as this ability leads to his encounter with a shinigami, Kuchiki Rukia, and spin completely out of control as their encounter with a dark spirit known as a Hollow leads to Rukia’s injury and Ichigo’s subsequent taking on of her shinigami powers. In effect, he becomes a substitute shinigami, fighting Hollows until he’s strong enough to give Rukia’s power back to her without dying in the process. He may even get a shot at the Hollow that killed his mother years ago. Assuming Rukia’s superiors don’t kill them both first.

I was surprised and pleased to see a decent live-action remake of Bleach released this year. This movie takes the first major story arc, all the stuff with Grand Fisher, Ichigo’s becoming a substitute shinigami, basically everything up to Rukia’s return to Soul Society, and compresses it into about an hour and a half of fast-paced action. It’s quite well done and manages to summarize a lot of information into a very brief chunk of time without losing the story in the process. Still, I would recommend this mostly for fans who are already familiar with the story, or at least the basic concepts, because it’s kind of a huge info dump even still. They did a good job keeping the balance, though, with drama, humor, and of course some action-packed fights interspersed. And the fights are properly epic. The CG throughout is very impressive, especially for the Hollows themselves. The casting was well done, especially for Ichigo himself and for Yuzu and Inoue, although I don’t personally love the casting for Renji. Honestly, my biggest complaint is just that, because there are sooooo many characters in Bleach, there just wasn’t time for lots of character development for everyone. Like, at all, in some instances. But still, they did a good job of picking a few key characters and developing them well. I liked that they actually took a proper story arc from the original manga instead of just making a random plot or hugely distorting a main plot, and I honestly do think they did well trimming and unifying it to work as a movie. So yes, I would recommend the live-action Bleach, particularly to fans of the original anime/manga.

Written by Shinsuke Sato & Daisuke Habara/Directed by Shinsuke Sato/Based on Bleach by Tite Kubo/Starring Sota Fukushi, Hana Sugisaki, Ryo Yoshizawa, Erina Mano, Yu Koyanagi, Taichi Saotome, Miyavi, Seiichi Tanabe, Masami Nagasawa, & Yōsuke Eguchi/Music by Yutaka Yamada

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There May Be Some Collateral Damage (Bleach/Harry Potter Crossover Fanfic)

Author: metisket

AO3 ID: 5030443

Status: Complete (3 chapters)

My rating: 5 of 5

Ichigo is convinced that someone lost a bet–although whether it was his boss or the other guy is a bit of a mystery. Whatever the case, whoever thought sending him to some military magic school that’s full of weirdness and politicking to bodyguard some teenage ball of rage should probably be committed. Because seriously. In any case, Ichigo finds himself packed off to Scotland to keep an eye on one Harry Potter (and consequently, Harry’s friends and associates). Meanwhile Urahara and Yoruichi track down and kill off pieces of some “Dark Lord”‘s soul–and seriously, why do these wizards let him get away with giving himself airs when his name is, in fact, Tom?–because apparently Soul Society doesn’t take kindly to people splitting their soul into pieces. Naturally, Ichigo’s presence in Hogwarts is about as much a wrecking ball as you can imagine. But hey, at least the wizard kids are learning to protect themselves, right?

There May Be Some Collateral Damage is absolutely the Bleach/HP crossover that I never knew I needed. It’s taken mostly from Ichigo’s perspective, although we occasionally get Hermione, Ron, or the Weasley twins’ perspective on him as well. And yeah, it’s basically hilarious from start to finish. Ichigo is sooo not into his role, as he tells Toshiro over the phone repeatedly. And of course, he completely fails to keep stuff a secret from Harry &co., while at the same time, telling them basically nothing about who he actually is or about Soul Society or anything. Ichigo, being the man of action he is, manages to stir up all kinds of trouble with Umbridge, trouble the castle ghosts, rope the twins into his schemes, and generally baffle the student body–all while theoretically trying to keep himself in check and well-behaved. I really loved the characterizations presented here. Ichigo himself is full of snark and having none of this political rubbish. And seeing the HP characters through his eyes is just fascinating; the author did a great job with that. The one thing I didn’t care for was the presentation of Dumbledore, because I actually like him; and yet, I can totally see Ichigo seeing him as he’s presented here, so I can’t even really complain about that. Also, just the writing itself is quite good, managing to be enjoyable and seamless even though it’s written in present tense. I found There May Be Some Collateral Damage to be both insightful and funny (like, I was laughing aloud basically through the whole thing), and I would recommend it to fans without reservation.

Note: You can find There May Be Some Collateral Damage at https://archiveofourown.org/works/5030443/chapters/11562568.

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The Forest (2016 Movie)

Gramercy Pictures

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Rated PG-13/Trigger warning for suicide

Sara Price receives a phone call from Japan informing her that her twin sister Jess was last seen entering Aokigahara Forest–a place legendary for people going to commit suicide–and is presumed dead. But Sara knows better. Ever since they were kids, she’s been able to sense Jess’s existence, tell when she’s in trouble. So she knows that Jess is still alive, and as so many times before, that she needs Sara’s help. Arriving in Japan, Sara is warned off numerous times, told of the yūrei that haunt the forest, driving people to madness and luring those with sadness in their hearts to kill themselves, even if that wasn’t their intention. But Sara refuses to be dissuaded, and teaming up with reporter Aiden and trail-guide Michi, she sets off into the forest in search of her sister.

I initially picked up The Forest for the simple reason that Eoin Macken is in it. For the record, don’t do that. His role here isn’t that big, and while I liked his character, the writing here simply did not do justice to his immense skill as an actor. Having said that, I very much do not regret watching this movie. It’s an unexpected horror/thriller that refuses to fall into any of your typical genre niches neatly. There’s an Asian horror feel to it that goes beyond just the setting, but it’s not strictly an Asian horror film. Nor is it your typical jump-scare, blood and gore fest that so many horror movies are. In fact, although it seems strange to say this in regards to any horror sort of movie, The Forest is remarkably clean. Still not family friendly, obviously, what with the scariness and allusions to suicide that are prevalent, but it’s not all the sex and language and blood that so many movies of this sort seem to stoop to. Rather, this movie is a slow, atmospheric build of emotional, mental, and psychological horror over the course of the entire movie. If you’re not a fan of the slow burn, it will probably drive you crazy; give this movie a pass. But if you’ve got the patience, the atmosphere of tension that builds is quite well done–the lighting, music, acting, sets, backstory, everything working together quite brilliantly. There’s a sense of mystery that plays in well, and of course, the supernatural element as the yūrei here are real . . . at least in Sara’s head. And that’s where things get really interesting as we have this slow descent into madness from her perspective, so we as the viewers aren’t always able to tell what’s real and what isn’t either. I’ve seen a lot of controversial ratings for this movie–some very positive, others negative in the extreme–but personally, I feel The Forest is one of the best horror/thriller movies I’ve seen, period. Recommended, at least for those who have the patience for the slower pacing.

Written by Ben Ketai, Sarah Cornwell, & Nick Antosca/Directed by Jason Zada/Produced by Tory Metzger, David S. Goyer, & David Linde/Starring Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, & Eoin Macken/Music by Bear McCreary

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Torchwood: Forgotten Lives (2015 Audio Drama)

Big Finish Productions

My rating: 3 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience, because Torchwood

It’s been years since “the miracle,” and Gwen and Rhys have settled into a quiet life with their daughter, far, far away from Torchwood, aliens, and any such things. So it’s with a bit of trepidation that they respond to a late-night phone call claiming that Jack Harkness (whom they haven’t heard from in years) needs their help . . . and yet, how can they help but respond? Leaving their daughter with Gwen’s mother, the two drive to a nursing home in northern Wales, hoping to find Jack and save the world (again). But what they find is enough to leave them more than shaken, even with all they’ve seen in the past.

Forgotten Lives is a pretty solid contribution to the Torchwood canon. It’s a full-cast audio drama set a few years post Children of Earth, and it does make allusions to that, so mild spoilers there. As for the cast, the only main-cast members to show up are Gwen (Eve Myles) and Rhys (Kai Owen). Jack does show up as well (naturally), but not in his own body, so no John Barrowman appearances here–bummer that. The acting is solid, and the flow of the story is easy to follow. I did find it interesting that the story focuses on a nursing home and the vulnerabilities of the people who live there–definitely some social commentary going there, despite the main threat being (once again) an alien invasion. As is typical for Torchwood, this leads us to some dark places, so fair warning there–as with literally everything related to this series, I would recommend avoiding if you’re prone to depression. But yeah, for those who enjoy the series, Forgotten Lives is an interesting continuation going beyond what we got in the show and is worth checking out.

Written by Emma Reeves/Directed by Scott Handcock/Produced by James Goss/Starring Eve Myles, Kai Owen, Philip Bond, Valmai Jones, Seán Carlsen, & Emma Reeves

 

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The Storyteller and the Thief (Voltron: Legendary Defender Fanfic)

Author: Laura of Maychoria/Maychorian

FanFiction ID: 12404441/AO3 ID: 10239332

The Cycle of the Five Lions, vol. 1

Status: Complete (7 chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Rated T/Dungeons & Dragons-based AU

In her quest to find her missing father and brother, Pidge has gone through a lot–giving up her career to become a rogue, leaving home, going by a fake name since she’s wanted under her own. But through it all, she’s taken comfort in the presence of the green fairy lion, Holly, who has been by her side, unseen by others. Or at least, unseen until one day when an annoying (to Pidge), flamboyant bard named Lance–also accompanied by a fairy lion, a blue one, that no one else can see–reveals that he can indeed see hers. He then proceeds to drag her to the inn where he’s staying with two elf friends, Coran and Allura, only to be told that they, and their lions, are part of something big–something that just may save the world from a threat so old and so awful that Lance and Pidge had always thought was only a fairy tale.

It’s an established fact that Maychorian is an amazing writer. But it’s only just recently that I’ve gotten into her VLD fanfics, and I’ve got to say that her work in them really shines. She’s got a good feel for what the fandom generally tends to enjoy, her style suits the series well, and her understanding of the characters is phenomenal. But even in light of that, with The Storyteller and the Thief,  I feel like she does something really special. Here we get almost a retelling of the Voltron story, but set in a D&D-based universe. So, for instance, Coran and Allura get their tragic backstory of losing their whole nation of Altea and being in stasis for years and years, only they’re elves and the stasis is effected by a spell. Pidge is still looking for her father and brother, but they were lost in a mission to the Dragon Waste as opposed to on Kerberos. Lance still deals with homesickness and livens everyone around with his words, but his family are sailing merchants and he’s a bard. And of course, the lions are fairy-like creatures of mysterious origin as opposed to giant magic robots. In an interesting meta sort of way, we get some D&D mechanics coming into the story as well, like named spells, classes of adventurers, and limits on arcane energy per day. In essence, the idea behind this story is one that sounds pretty weird at first, and yet in execution, it’s basically brilliant. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of this story cycle!

Note: You can find The Storyteller and the Thief on FFnet at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12404441/1/The-Storyteller-and-the-Thief-The-Cycle-of-Five-Lions-1 or on AO3 at https://archiveofourown.org/works/10239332/chapters/22716101. You can also find some awesome art created for this series by karovie at https://archiveofourown.org/works/10239131/chapters/22715762.

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If At First You Don’t Succeed (Miraculous Ladybug Fanfic)

Author: Leisey

AO3 ID: 12852174

Status: Complete (oneshot)

My rating: 4 of 5

Rated T–mostly for language

Marinette Dupain-Cheng and Adrien Agreste are madly in love with each other. Duh. It’s so obvious that it’s driving their classmates crazy how oblivious the two are and how resolute they are about not pursuing a relationship with each other. So, they do what any good (and exasperated) classmates would do–band together and try to find a way to get Marinette and Adrien together. Whatever it takes. It might go a bit better if they had a complete set of information to work from . . . like knowing that Marinette and Adrien are secretly Paris’s superhero duo, Ladybug and Chat Noir. Or knowing that Marinette and Adrien know each other’s secret identity and that that’s a major reason for their hesitation. As it is, the class is going crazy . . . and poor Nino just has soooo many questions!

If At First You Don’t Succeed is the sort of fanfic that I can just re-read over and over. It’s cute and fluffy and super amusing. The sheer level of involvement from the class and the increasingly ridiculous strategies they come up with are both impressive and very funny. Almost the entire story is told from the class’s perspective, as opposed to from Marinette or Adrien’s, which is the usual. So kudos to the author for the unique perspective; I really enjoyed that. I also liked the Chloe-redemption aspect of this story–it’s nice to see her growing up a bit. Also loved the group-chat parts of the story. They really bring out the maturity of the whole class (ha ha). But seriously, this whole story is pretty hilarious, definitely good for some serious laughs. Add to that some pretty adorable Adrinette scenes and general awkwardness on the part of our heroes, and you’ve got a great story. Recommended.

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