The Hooting (I’m so Sorry) Good Time of Owl House Season One

Despite being someone who watches far more varied types of media I have fallen out of the know when it comes to moder cable animated series. I have cursory knowledge about things like Steven Universe and the like but haven’t taken the time to really watch them. As I have said and must continue to say: there is just so much new television that it’s impossible to keep up. But, in the haze of being vaguely aware of shows one caught my eye. A new Disney show focused on magic: The Owl House!

Following Luz, a quirky nerd (who is not all that nerdy when you know anything about teenagers but that’s not here or there), as she is accidentally whisked away to magical world of the Boiling Isles. Once there she befriends the cernudgeonly witch Eda, her pet The King of Demons, and her talking house hooty. After saving Eda and a group of misfits from jail Luz decides to stay on the Boiling Isles, make friend and learn magic. Of course ailing yourself with the outcasts means she will have to work harder than ever.

The series has major Gravity Falls vibes in kind of the best way. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the creator of Gravity Falls is the voice of one of the characters and that the creator of the series worked on that show. But they have so much in common. A fantasy world that focuses just enough on the gross and strange to feel unique but not off putting. A braggadocious trickster as a main mentor, a desire to twist well worn tropes in a way that feels like they’re telling a story and not just trying to be clever, and finally a deceptively deep art style.

The art and animation in this season is actually far better than in Gravity Falls. Which, for all its greatness, does show its age in places (just like Avatar. I mean that two-part opener is rough to go back to). Owl House goes harder on big set pieces that all look great and move super fluidly. They’re a treat.

But that action is a treat in the actual meaning of the word. The season is not one giant epic. It’s not a Shonen battle series in disguise or even a more serialized mystery like Gravity Falls. Instead, The Owl Houses focuses on self contained episodes and stories that work to build the characters. These episodes don’t come from nowhere. Sometimes a villain will reappear but the story is often focused on a character centered stories. Luz trying to learn magic or her friends healing past pains.

They’re not flashy stories, usually. But, when it times to get epic the team does it right by keeping Luz in perspective. She is never the strongest in the room so when she gets to do something epic it feel momentous. Similarly, the strongest in the room get to show off their great power without it looking like they’re over powered.

With the episodes being more character focused it is kind of a shame that the wider cast doesn’t feel as fleshed out. Luz, Eda, and King are well explored and textured characters. But Luz’s friends Willow (sick Buffy reference), Gus, and Amity all feel a little shallow. Not to say that they don’t get their moments. Gus being hyper-confident is great. Amity being stoic just long enough for Luz to show up and become a bumbling wreck, and Willow being nice but having a backbone (I guess) also works. But that is the most I can really pull. They don’t feel totally distinct or as memorable as they could be.

As neat as this all is the series has become notable for its LGBTQ representation. A push for less-gendered pronouns in romantic quips. Characters dressing outside of what they’re usually coded. Luz literally wearing a gay pride outfit as her school uniform. A gay dance sequence where they tango and beat monster (obviously my favorite moment. I mean it’s not like I put a first dance between two love interest framed as a fight or anything… please read Dieous, it’s good), and some gay relationships in the background. Like Willow having two dads. It is all a net positive to be sure, but I’m also dubious of some it.

None of it is bad to be clear, but when you put characters in “wacky” outfits or push for a message of friendship while also having a romantic relationship not being developed and played for laughs it’s strange. I can only think of the reverse. An example is Eda dressing up in a tuxedo. Is a good image. But then I imagine someone like Spongebob wearing a dress in a similar context and it being framed as a joke. It still pushes the idea of dressing for what you feel fits you, but also playing it as a possible joke feels off. It would be like saying just two guys kissing is funny. Even if you’re supporting the position it is still framing the act as a joke.

The series is primarily a comedy despite me not mentioning much of the jokes. They are funny. Very quip heavy like Gravity Falls. Some surrealist jokes, and general gags. But one punching bag it makes fun of is Harry Potter. It saying how sorting hats make no sense or that Quidditch is a dumb sport for the Golden Sntich. This is all funny, and now in context of JK Rowling totally losing her status to people with any social taste, feels like a call out. The series is saying that you can be different while still being good. You don’t need some white kid with glasses to beat a dark lord, it can be a nerdy Latino girl (or is it Latina? You get my point) with a her diverse friend group, no prophecy, and no conformity. It’s a season that says being who you are and working hard is good enough. Standing up for those society doesn’t like good enough. You don’t have to win that fight, but not standing down is a good start.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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The Strange (de)Evolution of Halloweentown

Halloweentown is a very unique series with such a simple and genius premise. What if Nightmare before Christmas was also Sabrina the Teenage Witch. A kid friendly take on all the monsters that go bump in the night along with a celebration of the spoopiest time of the year. It was also one of the few Disney Channel Original Movies to get continuous airplay on their channel around this time of year. It has engrained itself nicely into millennial public consciousness, but seems oddly under discussed. The sequels even less so, maybe it’s time to change that.

The first film, Halloweentown, is kind of perfect for what it wants to be. 13 year old Marnie Piper loves Halloween but cannot participate in it because of her mom. When Marnie’s grandmother, Aggie, turns up she ends up hearing about how she’s a witch and that there is a threat to Halloweentown. Marnie, with the help of her younger brother and sister, stow away with Aggie on her bus ride home only to find out themselves in the mystical of Halloweentown. Goblins, skeletons, and ghouls galore follow.

As an individual film it succeeds really well. Marnie working to learn her magic and uncovering this whole other world is great. She has a strong dynamic with Ethan, her brainy and skeptical younger brother, that is funny without going on too long. The acting from everyone is strong. Debbie Reynolds of well this series fame in Aggie, and being the mom to Carrie Fisher, stands out as the best grandmother ever. A Mary Poppins type that is clearly wise and deadly, but is so effervescent and charming.

The production values, though clearly dated, still give a sense of life to the town. It’s small Main Street America dipped in a fall fair aesthetic is strong. The costumes, though hit or miss, do help sell the town as real. It’s not deep. The politics of how the city works doesn’t matter, but all the diverse costumes and playing the only monstrous on the outside shtick gives it a Gravity Falls vibe.

The biggest weakness the film has is its pacing and plot. Though it gets through a lot quickly, not enough of the stakes are setup. Halloweentown is changing and there is a mastermind with a goal that’s never made tangible. It also ends a little too easily.

What really, I think, helped it standout aside from the aesthetic is the theme of not sepersting sides of the family and personhood. Not having to hide what makes you special because it could also be weird. It’s very whimsical about that, but the struggle to be human and be more than human is real. The cutaways to the mom watching informercials that’s their products is magic and her simply scoffing at that is proof enough.

Halloweentown was a success which meant there were sequels to come. The issue is that Halloweentown is such a simple movie that trying to expand the series is not as easy as expected and they each go in a different direction.

Halloweentown 2: Kalabar’s Revenge, is a very classic sequel idea. On Halloween someone tries to sabotage Halloweentown and make mischief in the mortal world, so Marnie and the Piper family must stop it. This time the machinations are being done by the son of the villain in the first film.

The film is more ambitious but less impressive. This is because it focuses on a couple different ideas that are good but also don’t totally work. One is that Halloweentown is being turned into a generic “Human World.” The whole Main Street and people are grayed out in an amazing practical effect. This is fun in concept, but the whole point of the series is to see this fun magical world. Now you get less of it. Marnie and Aggie have to save it, but that also means being stuck with comically dower characters.

The second focus is on the magic. The film goes into a lot more detail about how magic works. Spells are no longer just wishes but have meanings to be solved. It fun to make Marnie have to solve a puzzle to save the day instead of just wishing, but that is what ends up happening anyway so all that work is pointless.

The film is more ambitious with its effects and stunt work. The whole grayed out city looks amazing considering its all practical. Along with that, the new sets and costumes when they finally appear are defiantly impressive. It’s unfortunate that it feels like it is just all waiting makes the film more dull than intended.

Halloweentown High, the threequel, dives more into the Sabrina the Teenage Witch aspect to the series. It’s closer to a teen drama with supernatural elements than a Halloween movie. It also makes the title a let down.

Set a couple years after the previous film it finds Marnie taking on a group of exchange students from Halloweentown and letting them spend time in the human world at the cost of her family’s magic. Unfortunately a group called the Knights try to stop the progression of magic in the human world.

The idea of the monsters from Halloweentown coming to our world feels uninteresting. Again, the whole point of the series is to see that world and the costumes. The costumes that we see are great. A pink troll, cat girl, werewolf, and giant, are way more expressive and tangible than the past films, but you don’t see a lot of them. Instead they are stuck in human suits in order to push a pretty forward thinking message about tolerance for different people and to not give in to stereotypeing others.

The other big issue with the film is just how much it goes into the Sabrina the Teenage Witch feel. That show was incredibly punny, cheesy, and mushy. Those aren’t bad qualities. That was a great show, but that wasn’t what Halloweentown was about. It takes the fantastical and processes it down for us and then wants to say we need to treat others as people. We already did in the first two films and did that on their terf. It isn’t made better by doing it the other way around. This is also the one I saw the most and have the most nostalgia for. So even though I am harsh on it I think it’s still a fun watch. Just not the direction I would have gone. Also the mid 2000s look is strong with this one.

The final film, Return to Halloweentown, also feels like a misnomer. Not because the title is a lie. It’s true, Marnie and brother Dylan do go back to Halloweentown as college students while their mom is an empty nester and tries to do hijinx to sell a house. The misnomer comes from how this is much more of a classic portal fantasy like Harry Potter (even comes with a prophecy that makes the Cromwell line Marnie comes from ex-royalty and keeper of magical power and Magical Mean Girls). It’s less fall festival and more Ren Fair.

With that said the film is still incredibly charming even with the change from Kimberly J Brown to Sara Paxton. The dialogue feels sharper for one. The expanded costume for background characters is great, and expanding the ideas from the previous film, saying that getting to know others as people is important, but having powers that make you different doesn’t make you better is an important lesson. It’s just unfortunate that it ends with such a flop. The film seeming to want to set up another sequel or mini series to explore and never getting the chance to do so.

The fourth film has a negative reputation and has even less of that Halloween feeling, but taken as a whole series that was on the decline. Just so odd that as the series got better at writing characters and having better budgets they lost more and more focus on what made the first film so good and what they failed to carry over. They are still great watches for younger ones and I think that’s all that really matters

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Mulan 2020 Misses the Point (a Review)

The animated Mulan film is one of my favorite Disney and normal films of all time. It’s got amazing art, characters, the best Disney song until Moana released, and a strong message for not just woman, but people of all types who are held back for one reason or another. That made the announcement and production of a live action version both suspect and intriguing to me. Now, after copious COViD related delays it’s released on Disney+

The plot of the film remains close to that of the animated counterpart. China is invaded by northerners and the emperor conscripts an army in order to fight back. When it comes time for Mulan’s family to send it’s soldier all who is available is her ailing father, so Mulan takes up his sword and armor in his stead. From there it is up to Mulan to keep her true nature secret while training to face the invading army. In the process her secret is exposed but so it’s the Khan armies plan to assassinate the emperor. Mulan must work with her former allies and show she is just as capable as any soldier.

The changes the film tries to make in broadening the story makes sense, and with its similar structure it is able to build what should be a fine enough story. Unfortunately the film fails in every way it was trying to succeed and misses the point in the process.

It is hard to deny the films beauty. Every frame is gorgeous, every shot unique and expressive, and clearly has a form of passion brought into it. That makes it all the more sad that it wastes every gorgeous set, costume, angle, and frame. Part of this is the film’s frinetic pacing. In an attempt to be impactful but fails so many shots are made to be quick and hit hard. The best example would be Aquaman. That too could be called frinetic, but that same energy is used to make sure the picture is clean, readable, and given time to process. This is most noticeable in the action scenes. In a film that looks like an epic and should want to show off incredible fight choreography to match other martial arts and kung-fu films it instead is often too close or too cut up to give the action full, fluid movement. It is not the same as a jump cut or shaky cam. Instead it is closer to losing frames between shots.

This editing style hinders the broad, mostly slapstick comedy, making it near unintelligible. So many quick cuts to pan to a large gag feel off. The comedy outside of that is all stale, bargain basement war buddy shtick with no flare. It is all the worse that the film has very little comic relief in it. There has been much made before the films release at the lack of Mushu, but now that the film is out his absence is the symptom of a larger problem.

Most of the characters in the film are dull. An argument could be made about many in the original, but the animated feel and exaggerated voice acting allows for some personality to filter through. This movie seeks to fix that by giving everyone no personality. Instead most characters are wrapped in talking about virtues, honor, and truth over any substance. This leads to what little chemistry and romance that exists to be so far in the background it could have been cut out all together.

Those problems make a bad, inconsistent movie. Unfortunately it gets worse because it didn’t seem to get the point of the story it’s a remake of. Mulan is about honor, but it’s more about how anyone of any gender can bring honor by following their path. This film thinks it’s about that. The problem is that it overcomplicates everything making Mulan special.

The only thing that set Mulan apart in the original was her sex, and a not all that helpful ancestral dragon. She could do everything a man could do, proved her worth and then put a twist on it with the climax where they had to do something only women could do in order to save the emperor. That’s now changed to Mulan having magical chi that is good for men but bad for women to have. So, now Mulan doesn’t do everything a man can, but can use magic to help. This is tried to play in contrast to the witch the invaders use. She too is a woman of high chi that was exiled for it and decided to turn against China. Only it fails.

The reason the compare and contrast between Mulan and the witch fails is what feels like missing scenes or unclear filmmaking. The big push that sets Mulan apart, supposedly, is her bond with the army and how she is such a great and brave soldier. The problem is that there are no scenes of that, that the rest of the garrison saw. There is one fight where she uses chi and it impresses the soldiers but that is it. Outside of one scene it’s played like she is a tight part of the army despite hardly being with them. This all makes the redemption arc for the witch character make no sense because she was clearly not accepted and it is unclear what the difference is other than the side they chose to fight on. It would have made more sense if it was against oppressive people, but that’s not discussed. It’s just that Mulan is working for the emperor and people like her. In fact, she was expelled from the army because she lied, not because she was a woman. That makes it feel all the dumber she had to cross-dress since once the final battle comes not even the emperor seems to mind.

The focus on her lying over her gender could be interesting if it was drilled into the viewers heads that women shouldn’t be soldiers. Though, in retrospect that seems more like a garrison rule to not fraternize with women and her father’s restrictive world view. It would help if the society was explained more and given a context and not just told. Because, as the movie is now, the bigger lesson is that it’s bad to lie to your family and it’s more important to be devoted to them even if they hold you back until you do something big to prove them wrong… which you shouldn’t have needed to do.

This must be how people who cares about Lion King or Beauty and the Beast, or Dumbo (haha I kid, no one cares about Dumbo) felt. I had no drive to see those films because I didn’t care about the originals. I saw the originals but they aren’t important to me. Mulan is important to me, and making it a war epic is such a strong idea that is totally squandered by the lack of characters, societal world building, hacked up editing, and no coherent thematic through line. A

lso it’s about protecting China and clearly hyper-made to appeal to their market. (Mandatory thing about how Chinese people are not bad, but they are under a repressive regime that uses communism in the wrong ways) A push to make movies marketable in China makes sense as it is a growing industry and world market, but forcing changes to fit with what they (by they I mean both audiences and the content review board that makes sure the government likes the film) like removes any authorial creativity and keeps companies subservient to a country that regularly abuses human rights.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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The THIRD best thing Disney+ Can Do (A look at Heroman)

Since the release of Disney+ they have done a total of two good things, both of which I covered. The first is making the forgotten X-Men Evolution available in full for all. The second is releasing a version of Hamilton for everyone… with the service. But there is a third thing they can do: dub and release Heroman.

Oh, you don’t know what Heroman is? Well strap in!

Heroman, an anime series created by Bones studio, of FMA, Soul Eater, and My Hero Academiafame and along with other great series, associated with Stan Lee’s Pow Entertianment is everything that combination sounds like it would be.

The series is a mix between a classic Marvel ongoing drama and boy and his dog (if the dog is a giant robot) story. When a school teacher sends a radio signal into space it gets the attention of an insectoid race of conquerors who found their next watering hole. When they arrive they create a storm that awakens best-boy and resident protagonist, Joey Jones’s newest animatronic figure into a Hulk-sized hero. With his new hero he teams up with teacher, Mr Denton, friend Psy, a love-interest Lina to help save he world once the aliens, called Skruggs, land. Of course everything gets more complicated when tech-billionaires, high school jocks, and government bureaucracies get in the way of saving the world.

The series feels like an early progenitor of what future series like My Hero Academia would become. It’s an exceedingly earnest series through and through, and that’s where the fun comes from, but feel superhero inspired all the same. However, instead of being an X-Men a-like, it’s closer to an Iron Man, Hulk, or Spider-Man series.

The series feels closer in pacing and structure to those above series (also, does it bug, no pun intended, that Spider-Man is hyphenated while Iron Man is not), and a closer comic pacing in general. Each episode focuses on overcoming a specific challenge, a related character arc attached to that challenge, and a longer story running throughout all of that. It’s 26 episode run is also reminiscent of conics in that way, since most runs on books only last around 20 issues anyway.

It’s pacing is not the only comic book element about it. The flowing nature of the series, as it weaves through different arc types, villains, and structures is all very comic book. Starting with a weighty and dramatic alien invasion, to a mad scientist story that focuses on character drama, to smaller one offs like an island infected by monster vines, or a kidnapping plot by the remnants of the aliens, to its final conclusion with everything coming to a head, and tease that being a hero is never over. It all screams comic book.

Just because it screams comic book doesn’t make it good. The characters are what bring the whole story to life, and how those characters are both archetypes and subversions of said archetypes weaved into one. Joey is the prime example of this. He is the all too earnest and eager kid thrust with great power. Instead of a Peter Parker arc where he learns to use his power for good, he already knows it needs to be used for good, but doesn’t know what that means. Thankfully evil aliens show up to make that an easy solution, but following that he remains steadfast in his conviction to help people even if messes with his personal life from time to time.

The changes and evolutions don’t stop with him. Lina, the love interest, though a cheerleader is not a typical love interest. She starts outwardly interested in timid Joey and throughout the series grows to have a deeper interest in him because of his good heart and bravery. She is also far feistier than she looks, leading to great moments. Similarly, Psy, Joey’s best friend is a jock who was injured in a football injury, but charges into battle all the same, and acts like a realist. There is also their teacher-friends Prof. Denton and Ms Collins, along with Joey’s sister Holly, and Agent Hughes from the NIA. Each one has a little more under the hood, and are revealed to be far more thoughtful than first expectation seem. All of them led with amazingly striking character designs.

The show isn’t perfect. Though it is still gorgeous, it’s age is showing in some places. Mostly with the use of CG vehicles. The comic pacing is also hindered by the overly-long initial invasion arc, and a reliance on new powers coming too easily. The powers are centered around Joey’s resolve, but they do feel contrived at times. Even those problems don’t hinder the great, earnest time this show brings forth.

It’s a great series. So what? Many shows are great and don’t need to be on Disney+. Same with stuff created by Stan Lee. He did an entire series with DC about reimagining their big characters. Doesn’t mean they need to be on Disney+. So what sets this apart? It was supposed to air on Disney XD!

The series was planned to be dubbed and aired on Disney XD, with many different dubbing houses across Asia and America creating pilots to test, but none of them making it further in development than test dubs. It’s unclear why they did not move forward, but it is a shame because it feels so much like a show perfect for Disney.

On top of that, there is precedent for it. On Disney + sits the Avengers anime series. Marvel’s Future Avengers or Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers. Was a sub only anime series done by Toei and released on Disney XD only in Southwest Asia was in a similar boat as Heroman, but was ported over to Disney+. This shows they can get the rights to a work only named after a Marvel series, let alone a series created by the father of the Marvel universe. It screaming out to be taken just like that was and dubbed!

Additionally, the series needs more anime options. I know that might seem odd considering it’s for all Disney properties. But, considering even the most normie streaming services like HBO Max and Amazon Prime also have anime to some degree. That makes it all the stranger Disney, one of the most massive conglomerates doesn’t. It’s also fairly child-friendly which would work out well too. And if a scene is not it can often be edited either in dialogue or physically remove to match. I wouldn’t love that, but it would make some sense.

In th writing of this it was revealed that Marvel got the rights to make an Ultraman comic. Ultraman being one of the longest running tokusatsu series in Japan, is getting a Marvel comic adaption. That’s breaking news. It reminds me of the days when the Transformers and GI Joe were all part of the same universe as well. It’s. Far more interesting direction, especially is Ultraman stays as an Avenger or something. And that, that is what I want for Heroman. The characters, designs, and story transcend the barrier or location and could be something just as fun and exciting for people over here, and give them a true, perfect hero.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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The BEST Summer Tradition

I don’t think anyone would say that this was the best summer that went exactly as they planned it to be at the start of the year. A pandemic that limits our ability to go outside, be around people, and explore new places has put the kabosh on many a person’s plan, mine included. It’s a good thing one of my newest traditions is one that can be done from the comfort of your own home. That is: watching Gravity Falls

Gravity Falls, a series about twins who visit their great uncle in a sleepy town that holds interesting characters, dark secrets, and mysteries the world has never seen. When male sibling Dipper finds a journal about the weirdness he teams up with sister Mabel, handyman Soos, and coolest girl ever: Wendy, and eventually their great uncle Stan in order to find out the truth. It’s an incredibly simplistic series that has many great draws. A near perfect mix of Scooby-Doo, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars (we’ll get to that), X-Files, and Twin Peaks makes the show something special.

There are so many special elements about this show. The characters are all well defined, grow, and fell fleshed out for cartoons. The animation and art direction is stellar, the overarching story is engaging, and the music is fine. But what really sets it apart is how the show is a layered experience with each rewatch.

This is the third time I have watched the series, making it a new tradition, but a tradition all the same. Each watch of the series has felt so different, yet consistent. The first watch of the series was just to take it all in. It was purely experiential. It was watching to enjoy the characters, the fun-but not always unique- episodic adventures the Pines family would get themselves in, and of course being so wrapped as to what all the mysteries are and how they’ll pay off (and boy, for a show that aired on Disney, they really do push that envelope). Watching the show the first time was just a fun experience.

The second watch was more of a detective investigation. It was still easy to enjoy the first (and best) season of the show, but instead of passively watching I would be tracing all the mysteries, and setups and payoffs attached to the show. It gave a pretty clear line of where everything started and how it would pay off once the team decided how they wanted the story to go.

This last rewatch, though I did enjoy it and saw more strands of setup and payoff, was far more of a thematic and character experience. Most of the thematic elements feel very relevant with much of the protest of statues and such. In other words, this watch of the show illuminated just how economically underdeveloped Gravity Falls the town is. This watch highlighted how being so cut off from many people caused all but one family of proven liars to keep power and lord it over others, and how that cycle is perpetuated and eventually broken by the introduction of Mabel and Dipper into their world.

As impressive and interesting it would to go through the systemic problems plaguing a fictional town (oddly cops not being one of the issues) that’s not what really stood out to me. Instead it was just how strongly character driven most of/the best episodes often were. The majority of the first season and the first half of the second season are all focused around the basic wants and needs of the characters. Dipper wants to impresss Wendy but finds out how hard that might be, gets in his own way by overthinking, or realizes that his sister’s happiness is more important than his own are all traits he learns through work. Mabel, similarly, learns the problems that come with trying to run a business, the price of helping friends, and how rivals should build each other up over tearing them down.

The above dissection could be done for just about every character in the series, but the reason it works so well is how the series balances the wonderful wish fulfillment of the setting (fighting monsters, solving mysteries, and going on adventures) with the grounded lessons and real world analogs. Mabel saving a genetically engineered boy band from their monstrous manager and coming to realize they need to go out into the world and experience life is a strong analog to finding a hurt creature and needing to let it go free. This exercise, too, can be done for every episode. I’ll just end by saying that this is taken to the extreme in the final episode, and makes the pseudo-sacrifice work (it is a Disney show, but that could have been played better). It’s the ultimate culmination of Stan’s character arc done through its own analogous life event.

Another element that helps the series is, despite it set primarily in the woods, feels very much like summer. That’s not to say woodland adventures aren’t summer-like, annually I go up to the mountains and lake during the summer (not this year, but now you may see why I like that show). But it allows the characters to experience the classic summer experiences through the heightened supernatural lens. Going on a fishing trip that turns into searching for a sea monster, a strange local festival that is all about finding the secrets of the town, or playing mini golf but finding out there are mini-golf ball people that exist. These are a few examples that help sell the summer vibe.

Despite everything I have said, having not even broached the nearly perfect comedic tone and senses the series has, none of those (or maybe all of those combined) bring me back. Instead it is the last shot of the series (discounting a panning to scenery or credits with skits in them). In the last shot, as the summer ends and the Pines twins board the bus home we are left with Dipper opening a letter with the simple phrase “See You Next Summer.” That single, inviting phrase feels incredibly powerful. It diagetically tells the twins that they are welcome back, but outside the narrative it tells us, the viewers to come back when you’re free for summer. It’s powerful, just like the show.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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A Look Back at My X-Men: X-Men Evolution Season 3

The title of this series is now automatically wrong for I have not seen the rest of the show before this viewing. I thought I did, though it’s hard to tell when you’re a kid just how much or how little you’ve seen of a show with constant reruns (for a great polar example I thought I only saw a little bit of Cowboy Bebop as a kid only to buy the DVD set and realize that was the whole how) but this is all new. Though, I guess these versions of the characters are the ones, or voices, I think of when I imagine these characters so it stick… Barely.

The season picks up immediately at the end of the last, mutants exposed, Mystique completed her elaborate plan, and the X-Men are decimated. From there it becomes both the series I imagined the second was trying to be, while also feeling incredibly calculated in a way the past seasons did not. We’ll get more into that, but I find this period of mutant history interesting and could be explored more. I had not read the very first X-Men stories or Ultimate versions of them, but the idea of seeing the birth of people dealing with mutants is interesting. This Hickman/ Dawn of X books try a similar idea with Karkoa but the idea of looking at the first mutants coming out to the world is a great idea and concept to move the series forward.

On the whole this season is not as thematically consistent at what each episode is trying to convey. The season starts very strong. The first episodes do focus hard on mutants coming out to society, and how the X-Men try to show that they are not monsters, but heroes. From there it spends a couple episodes in the micro, showing how the X-Men and other mutants are treated by people who once knew them and were friends with them.

This should be a season of success. It does what I wanted last season to do, spend time with each group to build up to a finale while not forgoing the character episodes and arcs. It does that, unfortunately the arc they decide to go with for this season does not match with the stated theme this season wanted.

This Coming Out season starts strong. It has some misses, Spyke’s mutation changing and choosing to live with a group of underground mutants could have used more fleshing out, but it works. Outside of that each episode does a good job of showing the mutants as being helpful, getting pepole to see they aren’t monsters, but still aren’t respected or liked. The token government hearing feels underdeveloped, but since the show makes mutants feel like they are on a small scale it works better.

Where this all goes a little off the rails thematically is with the big finale (not the final episode, but two-parter). The finale starts from a good place, going back episodes earlier to when Rouge lost control of her powers, and her growth back to feeling normal is strong, but her getting mind controlled so early seems like a missed opportunity to do more character work. This feels especially true when Rouge finds out Mystique was part of the reason she got adopted. Unfortunately Rouge being mind controlled takes that away from her and makes it just a prolonged chase to find Apocalypse and free him. There could be something about Apocalypse being freed to tie into mutants being publicized, but other than just that idea nothing more is done. Maybe there will be next season, but as it is most is not done great.

Another weakness of the season is the balance of going to each group to see what they’re doing is fine, but since Apocalypse takes over whatever schemes Magneto is planning feels just kind of left, even after doing one of the most horrible things he’s ever done.

None of this is bad (it’s kinda bad that they leave Scarlet Witch the way they do, and don’t address it more. Feels underdeveloped). It all just feels very formulaic. This might come from binging a show that wasn’t made to be, but it just feels like every episode is just a continuation of a previous one in one way or another.

The big departure from this is the introduction of X-23, recently seen in Logan, but started here. That is one of the best episodes of the show. The episode has the best animation by far. It uses so much movement and strong fights to show her prowess. On top of that it is really well written, and gives Logan something new to deal with since his whole Weapon X deal ended so soon into the shows run.

Speaking of Logan, it’s also clear the movies got big and were exerting influence onto the show. The biggest example is the loss of Wolverine’s outfit. He has just a simple black shirt with some yellow stripes. Not a great, but does bring him into line with the other X-Men. But making Rouge such a big character, and teaming her up with Logan often really feels like the network wanted the show to look more at the movies. I mean there is a showdown in convenience store in a wooded area where Logan helps Rouge escape (I think that was in the first movie. I actually don’t know them that well. I know First Class and Days of Future Past very well, but I only know bits of the others).

Despite the big villain plot of the season not matching up with the theme the final episode of the season does. It has the X-Men on a cruise where they accidentally use their powers and have to use them again to fix the problems they caused all while centering around Samara, a magama user from season 2, trying to understand her powers. There is some questionable race relations stuff in this episode (white savior is the thing I’m thinking of), but I think it’s a good example of how the media biases people’s outlooks. That isn’t explicit, but it’s clear the ship passengers are scared of what they are while, and calling them mutants means they had to have seen the news. Meanwhile the islanders accept them and their help and from their very stereotypical portrayal probably haven’t watched the news. Even with that it works well, and is a good closing point on the season.

Next season is the last, and shortest. There are still plots up in the air that I’m interested to see how they resolve them!

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Looking Back at my X-Men: X-Men Evolution Season 2

The first season of X-Men Evolution was a very simple, straightforward teen action/drama show for kids. Simple, if important lessons and ideas that children need to understand while also being fairly faithful to the comics. Considering the era it was made in, and even now, it was faithful and wanted to push some ideas forward. The second season goes bigger.

The second season pushes to be bigger and better than the first season in ways that make me think this is the show they always wanted to make, but uses the time wisely so it wasn’t jarring. This season starts off with the Xavier institute getting a fuller cast of students aside from the main six. The Brotherhood, now directionless, feels more bold and daring without their leader Mystique. The first big change comes in getting mutants out in the open to add an extra layer of tension, possible stories, and political theming to everything. That pays off almost immediately with the how that intersects with the new principal and his own schemes. It is just overall bigger and better.

When I started this little series I knew X-Men Evolution was my idea of X-Men, what I didn’t know was that my idea of X-Men is basically just this season. I had seen a couple episodes of season 1, but upon watching season 2 I had seen most all of them, and looking ahead at 3 or 4 I don’t recall anything.

Overall, though, this season is overall consistent with last season. Much of the writing, animation, and adaptation done to the X-Men carries over. Oddly enough dialogue has increased in quality over anything else. There are many, many lines that are very good and help build character or theme more than last season.

The episode structure is very similar from last season. It’s a majority of one off character episodes that have a story developing subtly in the background with a climactic two-parter at the end. However it is both better and worst this time around. It is better based purely on how much more thematically consistent the season is based on the first episode’s thesis. In that the Brotherhood wants mutants out in the open and every episode deals with people’s reaction to mutants when they see them. It is worse because many episodes are just fine and make the season uneven.

This unevenness comes from the increased cast, and the New Mutants specifically. Many high school shows have to deal with younger characters coming into the show but that usually happens much later. Starting in season two here the cast grows quite big with staples like Beast joining the crew while the New Mutants like Jubilee, Iceman and other I’ve never heard before like Samara, Wolfsbane, and Cannonball are also added. These new characters just do not have a whole lot of personality to them, and often have the same arc of being cocky but put in their place. They also take away from the core cast as the new characters are given the spotlight. This leads to the shows biggest problem.

With having thematically consistent one-off episodes that don’t dedicate their time to background stories going on it makes parts of the status quo, or character motivations unclear. Scott, Jean, and Rouge have a love pentagon with two high school classmates that kind of just stews. Both Jean and Scott are too timid to really take the next step so they both settle with who comes to them. That could be an interesting story but the show doesn’t seem to realize this. Similarly, Mystique and Magneto are is doing their own work in the background but it’s not clear on their goals or motivations till the last episodes.

Most of the season is good, enjoyable X-Men fair. They build the world in fun ways, like Logan working with Captain America in WW II, and save Magneto from a PWO (Cause I guess Concentration would be too dark) camp, or have interesting stories on abusive parents who take advantage of their children’s gifts. They’re good, but last two episodes really show how interesting the season could have been. In the final episode it has Xavier and the X-Men dealing with Magneto while Mystique and her gang have their own plans, and humans have a faction of their own at play. It shows a series with a nice scale that balance all those different stories, goals, and arcs well that it makes the fact most of it hasn’t been concretely setup unfortunate. Magnet just shows up with his own team, and Trask is around now. Both could have used more setup overall and shows how much better the season could have been if it juggled the different stories better.

There are more connections I noticed from this series that spread out to the rest of the Marvel universes. Scarlet Witch shows up, and when she gets her outfit it seems really close to the MCU version. Kitty, again, feels like she was part of the inspiration for the Joss Whedon version of that character as well. And finally, a group of female mutants creating their own team is something revisited in the comics often.

This season is far bolder than the previous one. For one it gives a dangling plot thread with Apocalypse on the horizon. On top of that it ends on a very interesting cliff hanger that gives the show a lot of potential now that we are reaching less well worn territory for me. It is exciting, and maybe they can balance the individual and season long stories better.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Looking back at my X-Men: X-Men Evolution Season 1

Jonathan Hickmans whole revolution of the X-Line has gotten me back into X-Men since, despite it being one of my favorite series, is only one of my favorite series in concept. I love the idea of a half teen drama/half super hero drama and social commentary. The problem is that there were never runs liked enough or current enough for me to latch onto. I’m finally finishing my Brian Michael Bendis grade collection to read that. But that was not my X-Men. Neither were the movies or the 90s show.

No. My X-Men was the 2000s era reboot of the series with an actual Canadian as Wolverine, and Miroku from Inu Yasha voices Cyclops, and new character Spike that everyone forgets exists. That’s right, X-Men Evolution. And thanks to Disney + (one of the two good things it has done. No Mandalorian isn’t one of them. That show sucks) it’s finally available to watch online. All 4 seasons.

This first season is a mostly episodic character episodes in the first half. Those episodes establish the hometown the X-Men live in, Bayville, where they attend the local high school by day, and train to master their mutant powers or find new recruits by night. During the first episodes they encounter new mutants Quake, the Blob, Rouge, Spyke, and Quicksilver. However, unbeknownst to most of the team they must also deal with Mystique, who poses as the Principal of Bayville, and her silent partner Magneto as they try to recruit the mutants for their own goals. The back half of the season focuses on individual skirmishes between the mutants, and building more of Wolverine’s backstory. All of this comes to a head in the two part season finale where Magneto shows his true plans for mutant kind.

The seasons pacing is really interesting in how it relates to the fact the x-men go to a high school and live with Xavier, Ororoa (yeah, this show does the same as the movies and just calls her Storm which is always weird), and Logan in their mansion like it’s a boarding house or something. The clearly delineated lives gives the show more of a classic Marvel feel where the drama is both separated and important because many fights come from high school drama taken too far. For a early 2000s kids action show made pre-Avatar it feels all very character driven when it comes to the fights.

It also feels very Marvel comic in the ways it does overarching drama and pacing. Though each episode has its own plot to it there are arcs and threads that run through all of them. The biggest ones being Wolverine’s history with Sabertooth, Rouge’s loyalties, Kurt and Mystique’s relationship, and the building conflict to Magneto. These all have their moments to shine in episodes and give it light serialized elements, but none too overbearing.

The best examples are Rouge and Wolverine’s plotlines. Each has a few episodes dedicated to them but has that conflict always act as a b-story to another episode with its own mini-arc until it comes to a head in one episode. For Rouge it is her will she-won’t she with joining the X-Men. She has many episodes where she sees them do good but is pulled back until she finds out the truth. Similarly Wolverine constantly battles with Sabertooth for unknown reasons until the Weapon X program is revealed and is taken down in the same episode.

Both arcs, with their slow build and decisive execution make it feel naturally paced. This pace goes for the whole season. Everything feels isolated until it comes together with the two parter finale, just like more classic comics. Mostly one off issues with some stuff in the background, and rare but heavy two part stories.

As great as that is, none of it would mean anything if the characters weren’t great, and they are for the most part. The first thing that stands out is how great both the civilian and team suits are for the X-Men. Sure, the shirt tucked into boxers that are sticking out of the pants is a weird look for the guys, but the girls all have a real nostalgic look that feels very 2000s in the best way. Jean’s crop top and giant cargo pants with flip flops is so much that era that I love it. In addition the team outfits are my favorite versions of those outfits. They all have a solid, unified look but with enough flare to seperste them. I could see it being too much leather if it was live action, but as a cartoon it feels very natural looking. Out of the designs though Wolverine in his orange and black look stands out the best.

But these characters are more than their looks. Each of the main team have distinct personalities that all work well. Scott and Jean feel like very honest portrayal that people know. It helps Jean is actually caring and not held up with all the Phoenix nonsense for once. Nightcrawler is a good comedic relief character. Kitty, a preppy but super smart valley girl feels like the inspiration for or got the inspiration from Brian Michael Bendis and his Ultimate Spider-Man run. Spyke is a brand new character that was never used outside of this and feels very 2000s cool. A skater/thriller seeker with spikes is a good concept and helps bring energy to the group.

Finally, Rouge shouldn’t work. She does, but shouldn’t. She is an amalgamation of the emo movie and southern belle Tv versions. She dresses and looks like a goth, but has a nice southern accent. It’s a strange combination but the portrayal of a cynical goth who also happens to be from Mississippi feels really fresh. She also has the best designs (for obvious reasons).

Where the show does fail is in the animation and sometimes writing. The writing can be very on the nose and written to children teaching lessons in a way that, as an adult, can be groaning to sit through. The animation meanwhile feels very stiff. The use of more realist models for the characters gives their movements a stiffness that more cartoony ones wouldn’t have. This also leads to very bare rooms, or rooms where the space is not well used as a background. It’s more noticeable now as shows are upscaled and makes it harder to watch. Especially some early CGI work and after effects.

In the end, what makes this show feel special is it’s modern mix of using classic X-Men stories and lore to build a new status quo that should not work. The X-Men and Brotherhood going to school, playing nice by day, and fighting at night feels too TV. Too easy, but as the story grows it shows why doing that way works. It allows mutants to exist and show what they can be like in normal society. It gives both team natural rivalry and animosity to build normal high school stories around but taken to a mutant level. In the end it works and has a satisfying ending for one season. However next season may hold something more in store.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Something is (Artemis) Fowl (a Review)

I should have been a big fan of Artemis Fowl. I grew up at the exact right time as the books were coming out, they were popular at school (ignoring Harry Potter, Alex Rider, and Bone), and I read the first chapter of the first book (I think. It has been decades since that happened so I couldn’t tell you for sure) but didn’t like it. Well decades later Disney has us set with this (reluctant) Disney+ Original movie.

The movie is a story recounted by one of the characters and recalls the events of boy genius and son to an antiques dealer, Artemis Fowl, as he must find a magical object in order to save his father, Artemis senior from a fairy terrorist. To do so he must navigate the world of fairies with the help of rookie fairy, Short, and large troll Mutch, along with his butler to find the Aculos and save his father.

There is some very, very off with the film, and that off-ness grows as the film progresses. I think the central reason is that for a film titled “Artemis Fowl” he vanishes from the movie a lot in order to spend time with Short, and get accustomed to what the world of fairies is like. That, on top of what feels like clearly chopped up or missing scenes gives the movie no sense of weight to it. Artemis goes through no arc to speak of even, gains allies (one of which is his butler’s niece who feels like she was cut, but then put back in for no reason), and is a genius but never really shown as much as the film wants us to believe it did.

That is only bad because it is just so terribly distracting and contrived. Artemis needs a fairy? It is very lucky one decides to try and clear her father’s name. The fairy and human need to like each other? Give them a very vague connection with only one scene of them together and showing no growth toward that goal. Need a dumb action scene (the action scenes are so bad in this film too. They are so frantic, have no pace or focus and are just all over the place)? Have the commander be arrested for a scene only to reverse it when you need someone not to die, and act like Short was some traitor when she was not, and was never treated any different by her peers to start with.

The best way to describe it is that it tries to hold your hand while also just randomly tossing you into traffic and be frogger.


It’s just a film of bread crusts.

That’s a shame too because the bread (production I guess I mean in this analogy) is really good. Kenneth Branagh is a great director for this kind of movie. The direction is clean, the sets look amazing and well realized, and has inventive use of freezing and slow motion. The worlds and magic also feel fleshed out. The political system makes no sense, but all the fairy technology and different creatures feel like they have their own logic that is consistent and accounted for. It really feels like he’s grown since his time on Thor.

Along with that, the cast is solid. They all feel like they know what kind of movie they’re in, they just are given no time to show their potential (poor Collin Farrell. That man is the best part of any movie he is in, and is always shafted. Does not give me hope of his role in The Batman because you know he’ll be wasted).

Looking at this movie visually I got a lot of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets vibe. That movie is equally crazy in its visuals and world, but that movie , for all its flaws, knows to focus on the title character, and does something with the world. This movie could really be that kind of wacked out experience, but is just too chopped up to satisfy anyone (also, apparently it is a terrible adaption).

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Onward, Magic Brothers (a Review)

Pixar’s reputation is well known and respected. They have dipped their toe into every genre except full on fantasy. Always seemed like a strange omission to me, but makes sense in retrospect. They always try to bring a new angle to standard genres and two brothers on an 80s movie style road trip in a pseudo-modern world feels exactly like the pitch they needed.

In specific, Onward follows Ian and Barley, elves in a world where magic because of the ease of technology. On his 16th birthday Ian and brother Barley are given a magical staff and gem to help revive their father for one day. When the spell fails they must partake in an old school quest to retrieve a new gem, but threats of all kind lay ahead.

Is it hacky to say the film is magical? I mean I try (and fail often) to be succinct, and to that end saying “magical” feels right. Like the magic used in the movie it isn’t perfect, but gets the job done.

It feels unnecessary to say that it is gorgeous and a giant step up in animation quality, but that often feels true for every Pixar movie. The blend of classic fantasy with modern city/suburban planning and design is wonderful. The landscapes are gorgeous, and small character details and animation really pop. It’s an obvious thing, but it’s obvious for a reason. They are still one of the best studios in the business for their artistic sense.

The team also really nails the main dynamic between brothers Ian and Barley. Tom Holland really disappears in the voice work while Chris Pratt can only do his Andy routine. This time he lands on a spectrum of college kid with no sense of direction but quest for adventure. It feels very real and they bond well. Similarly the brothers’ mom has a great bond with adventurer turned Chuck E Cheese manager, The Manticore. They bring out some very real adult friendship energy to counterbalance the brothers’ growth and travel. The one character that does fall short is the mother’s new boyfriend, a centaur cop. He is not really explored enough other than to show how he impacts the brothers and indirectly helps in their journey. We get some personality from him, but he doesn’t get a lot to do and makes him kind of unmemorable. That comes from the right place of focusing on the main characters, but in a well drawn cast he is the closest to a stick figure.

The most impressive part of the film over just the teams love of fantasy is how much personality, comedy, and genuine heart out of a character being only a pair of legs. The team does everything they possibly can with that concept and it is great. We get a good sense of who their father was quite literally without a full picture. He dances, bonds, and saves their lives only with the part they got. It’s very clever and well worth the watch all on its own.

There are more great things, the comedy is great. There is an amazing car chase with a group of fairy bikers across a highway. There is a spectacular final battle against a dragon to really show how much the characters have grown. And the conclusion for the brothers is really solid and overall well earned.

If there are any problems outside of the mother’s boyfriend it would be that we do not get a lot in way of setup. They establish the character arcs well enough, but then thrust us into the journey before fully giving us a real sense of their normal. It only really impacts the third act, but it felt hollow in a way the rest of the movie did not.

Now, I’ve been avoiding this part because it’s personal. So, the last Pixar movie to make me really feel something was Toy Story 3 (oh wow, big shocker). They got close with how Toy Story 4 ended, but still didn’t nail it. This movie really got me. That’s because the ability to see someone you never really got the know or spend time with is something that really resonates with me. So, when the characters get what they want in certain ways it can only hit me hard. That makes it harder to judge, but it is something really special.

You should totally see it.

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