Top 20 Favorite Anime

A long time ago, I did a post where I discussed my top 15 favorite anime series.  However, now that it’s been a few years, and I have become more familiar with more series, and have rewatched some of the ones on my list previously, my opinions have changed somewhat.  So now I am going to put out the definitive list.  Here are the top 20 favorite anime that I have.

20. Psycho Pass (Season 1)
You know something that I have never seen anime tackle before?  A crime-procedural.  Especially one where you are in a dystopian city that has a legal system that is both cruel and uncompromising.  That is the world of this series.  At least in the first season.  For whatever reason, the second season just totally died.  A crime-procedural in a series where the law is carried out by a soulless computer that judges your punishment based on how much of a threat you are due to the data that it takes in.  And its judgement is the last.  Characters who are fun, morally-gray material, and a genre that I have never seen done before in this medium.  While the second season died so bad, it’s good that at least we have this one.

19. Rahxephon
After the success of Evangelion and what a cultural icon it became, there were a TON of imitators out there.  Most of them never even went past the line of derivative, with people seeing them for the schlock that they are.  However, then you get series like this one.  Which took the formula for Eva and actually went further with it.  In fact, I would say that it perfected it.  A show about aliens who look like us, machines that are golems made of stone, and a focus on music and the power of sound, this was a very grim series that I would argue was better than the series it was riffing on, in more ways than one.  Were it not for the ending which is kind of dull, this show would be able to easily stack up to the more famous predecessor.  But quality animation, a fantastic score, and really good voice acting makes this series shine.

18. Darker Than Black (Season 1)
Another series where the second season just royally fucked the quality, this series was about darkness all around.  In a world where some nameless calamity has stuck the Earth and imprisoned it under a cloud that has stars symbolizing people with special powers, our tale follows a clandestine group who does dirty work for a shady organization who is exploiting those individuals.  Action that keeps you pumped, dark subject matter, and a kind of grotesque nature keeps you guessing.  This series is cold, but for at least the first season you can see where it’s coming from.

17. Digimon Tamers
Given how this franchise had been so light-hearted by comparison, this series in the franchise took a decidedly darker turn.  For a marketing vehicle, this iteration of the franchise was meta, had complicated characters who you like, and took some incredibly dark turns that as a child I was in love with, and as an adult I still can sit down and watch and feel very moved by.  How a show this dark was able to get onto a children’s cartoon block is beyond me, but I am glad that it is, because there is nothing like it.  Whether it is just for the nostalgia, or to just enjoy a children’s show that wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries of what is acceptable, it still holds up to this day.

16. Samurai Champloo
What do you get when you take the creator of one of the greatest anime ever made, add in hip-hop, and enough meta to make Deadpool proud?  You get this series, of course.  A stylistic, badass and overall too fun series about a bunch of travelers, I love this show so much.  It’s not complicated.  This is entirely style over substance.  But that style is just so damn cool!  The creator of Cowboy Bebop comes back to tell a story about three travelers in the Edo Period of Japan, trying to find a Samurai who “smells of sunflowers.”  From the awesome sword-fights to the fantastic voice-work in English, nothing about this series doesn’t stick with me.  Sure, there are some episodes which just die, but overall it is still a ton of fun to watch.  Steve Blum steals the show as Mugen, but the rest are still so cool.  If you can handle some history-twisting, this series is for you.

15. Gundam Wing
I am dying to know when FUNimation is going to re-release this series, now that they have  the Bandai licenses.  Here’s hoping they don’t do a shitty redub of it.  The voicework in this series is classic.  Telling the story of five youths who head down to Earth to get revenge for the murder of a leader of the Colonies, along with strike back at the clandestine Organization of the Zodiac, Gundam Wing is all about big robots and big battles.  But more than that, it looks at ideas about war, the nature of good and evil, and how the changing tides of history can leave people behind.  This series is classic, and while the animation hasn’t aged as well as you’d think, it still is pretty awesome.  I’ll admit that my nostalgia goggles are on pretty tight for this.  It is the first series that I watched as a kid that got me into anime.  But I still love it, and in my opinion it holds up to this day as a gateway series into anime.  Seriously, though, FUNimation, don’t do a redub of this.  It can only suck.

14. Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad
When I watch this series, the whole time I think about what life was like growing up.  But more than that, this series does something that so few stories about growing up does – feels real.  When I see the grungy basements that the band is playing it, I feel like I am there.  I feel like I could watch these shows and hear these instruments.  It tells the story of a young man who is lost growing up, and just so happens to run into the lead guitarist of a band.  From there begins a story of growing up, music, and the hardships that come from knowing that youth is temporary.  Were it not for a totally forced plot later about a mobster which had no reason to be in there, this series would have been nigh-perfect.  But I still feel each string of the instruments when I watch it to this day.

13. Baccano
What do you get when you combine a total lack of chronological order, supernatural powers, and the backdrop of early 1900’s gang warfare?  You get a show that is so damn fun to watch!  This series is a marvel.  It’s a marvel how such an unapologetically violent series can exist but be so fun to watch.  This series is brutal.  You have dismemberment, a gleeful enjoyment of murder, and characters who are pretty much all terrible people but you love all the same due to how deliciously evil they all are.  It tells the story of a train massacre, along with a drug war that goes on because of a substance that grants people immortal life.  Between the phenomenal acting in the dub, and the cool style that it has, this series isn’t about the narrative.  It’s about the crazy ride aboard a train that you can’t look away from for one second.

12. Outlaw Star
Some series are substance over style.  Others are style over substance.  Outlaw Star, on the other hand, is nothing but style and not a lick of substance to be found anywhere.  But dear god is it cool!  Gene Starwind finds himself going from a do any dirty job business owner to a starship captain outlaw who has a mysterious vessel and a mysterious woman who can pilot it in his care.  What this show lacks if any form of substantive elements it makes up in some of the most fun that a series has ever had with its premise.  This is science fiction escapism at its best.  This show knows exactly what it is and doesn’t shy away from it.  Hell, it embraces what it is, and does nothing but have fun with that every step of the way.  If you like all the trimmings of a space adventure story (no joke, they don’t miss a single beat), you need to watch this anime.

11. Vision of Escaflowne
First off, let me say, FUNimation – shame on you for making a redub version of this series.  If you hadn’t have included the original version in the blu-ray, I would be hunting you down.  The redubbed version is just bad, no matter how you scratch it.  A series that also retreads ground that we have seen before, but damn if it isn’t all the execution.  The story of Escaflowne is as predictable as it gets.  You have a girl taken to a mysterious world, who ends up becoming involved in a greater plot that involves fantasy elements in a world with animal people and fighting robots.  Original as my pizza pops idea, but as I said, all in the execution.  This series is incredible to watch!  From the gorgeous visuals, to the fantastic voice-work, it has it all.  Not to mention the soundtrack, which is so damn beautiful.  You know exactly where it will go from beginning to end, but each step of getting there is worth it.  Just wish the ending to the series wasn’t as flat as it is.  I guess they meant for it to go further, but ran out of budget.  Oh well.

10. FLCL
This series is one that I saw when I was much younger, but when I rediscovered it as an adult, it grew on me so much.  The best coming-of-age anime that I have ever seen, this short series tells the story of a young man who is dissatisfied with life, but has his boring days broken when a woman on a vespa with a guitar smashes him over the head and nothing in his life is the same.  While this series does play with elements of eldritch horror and mecha anime, at its core it is about our young hero and his issues with growing up.  He is a lonely kid, and I see so much of my own struggles growing up in him.  Plus, it looks at the problems associated with sex, love, and emotional honesty in a way that feels mature.  The guy who made it studied under the creator of Evangelion, but I would argue that this series does complex emotions better, simply because they capture what it’s like to be a kid better.  If you saw this when you were younger, check it out again and see what you think.

9. Death Note
One of the most widely-known anime series, Death Note tells the story of a man’s rise to power.  Light Yagami is a bored high school genius, who one day happens to come across a notebook dropped from a death god called the Death Note.  He then goes from a soon to be lawyer to little Hitler and he fights to remake the world in his image.  This series has zero subtlety.  None.  But dear god is it fun!  The game of cat-and-mouse between Light and L is too much fun to watch.  Too bad that the entire conflict just dies after that point, up until the very end of the series.  Looking back on it now, I don’t have the same love for this series that I do for others on the list, but it is still an incredible show that has one of the best dramatic arcs to follow.  At least for the first 25 episodes.

8. Wolf’s Rain
This series is probably the most thematically dense of any of the anime on this list.  This is a cold and cryptic series that fuses religious allegory with bitter tragedy.  It tells the story of a young pack of wolves, on their journey to find Paradise, all while the world is slowly descending into chaos and the end of everything is near.  Between the truly incredible visuals, the voice acting that is at the top of its class, and one of the most gripping tragedies ever told, this series will make you cry, think, and question all at the same time.  It isn’t for everyone, as the material is dense and there is virtually no exposition to let you know what is going on.  However, if narrative rich in symbolism and with a lore that you have to pay attention to in order to figure out is your game, then check it out.

7. Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
I find it so weird that the most true to the original story version of this series is done in an anime set 3,000 years in the future.  That is just so strange to me.  It follows a young man named Albert, who comes into the acquaintance of a mysterious Count.  What follows is a tangled web of lies, manipulation, and a revenge story that will keep you hooked.  But not only that, it also has a style that is all its own.  This series animation is strange, to say the least.  But that strangeness is what sets it apart.  The style in it fits so perfectly.  This series is almost impossible to analyze, because it is nearly perfect.  Were it not for how bad the last two episodes are, I would almost call it a perfect anime.  Some flaws, but too much fun.  Not to mention having a villain who is just so awesome.

6. Stein’s Gate
When time travel, fate, and the changing of reality collide, you get Stein’s Gate.  Telling the story of a young man and his band of misfits who stumble upon the ability to change time, a young man learns the true price of changing reality, and what it takes to set things right.  So much of what I love about this series centers around the main character.  A lot of people see it as a gripping thriller about time travel, and that is true, but that isn’t what keeps me loving this series the way that I do.  Every single one of these characters all feel like people I could know and love, but as I said, it’s not what keeps me coming back.  The real reason that I love this series the way I do is the character of Okarine.  His anti-social nature and awkwardness in the face of life and the hardships he comes across resonate so much with me.  His fight to be a good friend all while battling his own awkwardness feel so true to me.  Not to mention the fact that he lives in his own head, desperately trying to make sense of it all.  It’s a cold story, but seeing how far he will go to save his best friend hits me right in the heart.

5. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
A lot of people have made comparisons between this series and Death Note, and while I do see those, I believe that this is the better series.  Why?  All because of the main character.  The story goes that Lelouch is a disaffected youth living in the occupied nation of Japan.  He has no thoughts about life and is looking to strike back at the Holy Britannian Empire who he blames for ruining his life and crippling his sister.  As fate would have it, he gets his shot when a mysterious woman gives him the power of Geass.  Now it’s a battle of wits to destroy the people he hates, and manipulate the world on his ultimate chess board, that grows bigger and bigger with every battle.  Light is an interesting character, but his corruption is ridiculously immediate.  Lelouch, on the other hand, is one we can watch grow and slowly become turned by his own power.  To the point that he has to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to bring about total peace.

4. Mushi Shi
Anyone who knows me knows that my first love is animation.  I love to watch animation that has quality and a look all its own.  It’s why I love the film Bambi to this day, even if it is cutesy to a sickening degree.  The animation is a step above.  To that end, this series is much the same.  Telling the tales of the wandering Mushi Master Ginko, this series is just so peaceful.  It’s kind of like a lullaby.  I can watch this series anytime that I need to just feel better about my day, and it works wonders.  But dear Groj, the animation!  This series is a visual marvel.  Each episode seems to play around with a different style, and man do I love it for that.

3. Fullmetal Alchemist (Original)
I honestly don’t think much of Brotherhood, so I’ll head that off.  But the original series is a brilliant character study into the Elric Brothers, and their tragic tale of trying to get their bodies back.  This series is nearly a flawless tragedy.  Telling the story of two brothers and how their quest to get their own lives back destroys the lives of countless people around them.  This series is a near-perfect character study.  Edward and his brother are so likeable, which makes the fact that they are doing irreparable harm to the lives of everyone around them that much worse.  This series is also almost perfect, save for the ending.  I am one of the few people who calls bullshit on that ending.  How does sacrificing memory for Al’s life even make sense.  This series would have been a perfect tragedy if it ended with Al giving his life, and Edward realizing that in the end, he has to accept that some things cannot come back, and he has to move forward with his life.  But it is still a transcendent anime that is another perfect gateway series.

2. Avatar: The Last Airbender
How America was able to create an anime this good is beyond me.  This series did something that few anime have done before – transcended the gap between kids show and adult.  This series is incredible.  There isn’t a single bad episode.  There isn’t a single wasted character.  There isn’t a single frame that doesn’t fit in one way or another.  When you learn the insane amount of research that went into this little masterpiece, then you realize that anime can be more than just a niche market.  The story of Aang and his journey to learn the four elements and save the world combines incredible animation, lovable characters, and so much fantastic story-telling in all the best ways.  I honestly can say that this series is perfect.  Right down to the ending, it gets everything right.  For those wondering what I think of its sequel series, then it can be boiled down to this – Season 1 and 3 are amazing, while 2 and 4 go from terrible to boring.

And my favorite anime is…

1. Cowboy Bebop
Everyone and their brother has said about how awesome this series is.  Most people will call me a sheep for loving it the way that I do.  But so be it.  This series is perfect.  From the very beginning where you see Spike going to what is likely his doom in order to escape his life in the mob, the end of the first episode that sets up the tragic nature of the series.  Taking elements from tons of genres and blending them all together, this series cannot be defined by any one genre.  The story of the Bebop and its crew of misfits goes from pensive look at tragic characters, to beautiful elements of action set-piece, all of which are set to the best music that anime has ever or will ever have.  This series is astounding.  People sing its praises, but you know what, it’s earned that.  No series has ever done it like this, and I doubt another series ever will.

So, what are your favorite anime?  Let me know down in the comments.

Until next time, a quote,

“I’m just in a dream that I can’t wake up from.” – Spike Spiegel, Cowboy Bebop

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR: Legend of Korra: Book Two

Before I get too far into this, I want to preface it by saying that I do very much like this series.  The first season was absolutely awesome, aside from the ending to the first season which was SO rushed.  For real, there was enough plot in the final episode that that should have been extended for at least three to five episodes.  But whatever, what’s done is done.  Now we have the next season, which I just finished watching.  I refuse to do reviews of entire TV shows.  It would take too long, and truth-be-told, I already over-analyze stuff.  No need to make a review that bores you all to tears.  However, I do want to talk about this season, because it has a LOT of problems.  For all the good things, there are a lot of bad ones.

First, you remember how, in Book One, they had good pacing up until the end?  Well, this Book has the exact opposite problem.  The pacing of the first two thirds is so rushed!  All of the plot in this Book could have easily been a 20 episode season.  I don’t get why they constantly rush things in this series.  Did they not have the budget for an additional five to seven episodes?  There was enough plot in the first three episodes to easily be six.  They throw so much at you, and you are stuck thinking to yourself – what just happened?  It is more than a little annoying.

For instance, you find out that Aang wasn’t the greatest dad.  That’s kinda cool!  For real, it’s nice to find out that he wasn’t totally perfect.  That even as an adult, he did things wrong.  Why couldn’t we have heard more about that?!  It was getting interesting, but they keep cutting away to stuff that wasn’t nearly as interesting.  Then there was the disintegration of Korra and Mako’s relationship.  It was kind of believable, but I really thought that needed more time to flush it out.  Not to mention – what happened with the Fire Ferrets?!  You see the team suck and then it’s just done.  When did Mako and Korra decide to opt out?  A lot went unexplained in this season, partly due to the rushed pace.  As good as the Book got towards the end, it had a beginning that almost gave me whiplash.

Then there was the villain.  Maybe it was because of the rushed pace, but this guy goes from likeable to evil WAY too fast.  It was almost ridiculous.  Then he goes from kind of evil to REALLY evil in a way that doesn’t feel realistic.  And then there is the evil spirit.  It’s weird, because in the original series, while there were unpleasant spirits, like the face-stealer, there were never any genuinely-evil ones.  The Darkness Spirit is so stereotypically evil that his evil laugh is almost too much.

What worked in the Book?  Well, this may sound weird, but I really like Wan, the first Avatar.  He was actually a very sympathetic character.  He starts out as a bit of a rough kid, but with a kind heart.  In one episode, you see his growth from a troubled youth to an old man who dies, believing that he failed in his mission to bring balance to the world.  And you know what, it is actually kind of heart-wrenching.  It’s weird that this series has so many poorly-paced episodes, yet they have one episode that is almost perfectly-paced.  I don’t get that.  Maybe they need better writers.

All in all, this wasn’t a terrible season, but it wasn’t a very good one either.  I have heard glowing reviews of Book Three, which I am watching now.  Thus far, the pacing is great, the characters are great.  The villain is great.  This feels like they got better people, and you know what, I love it.  I look forward to seeing how this Book turns out.

Until next time, a quote,

“But you will hold a special place in the organ that pumps my blood,” – Eska, The Legend of Korra: Book Two

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONL/R: Legend of Korra – Season 1

So, having finally gotten the chance to sit down and really go through the first season of the follow-up series to Avatar: The Last Airbender, I can officially say a couple things.

First, this is an awesome show!  It measures up to the original, but it has the potential to surpass it as well.  This series has good writing, awesome characters and a nice conflict.  The new location is cool too.  Republic City is awesome!  The design, the tempo and the feel is great.  I love how it actually looks like culture has progressed.  It is like a mix of fantasy world and the 1920’s.  It makes me all warm inside when I hear old-school music playing on old-school radios, while I see Korra doing bending training.  With that said, I wouldn’t mind if they occasionally had forays to other places in the world, to see how the rest of the world has advanced.  But that can be done later.

Oh, and while we are on that – the art design is incredible!  The pastel look of the backgrounds goes perfectly with the gentle edges of the more mystic places.  The jazzy music inside the city, and the clever mystical touches from the original series soundtrack go off perfectly!  The city looks incredible!  The use of color in the fight sequences, especially at night, is glorious!  I could gush about this for hours, but let’s look at a couple of aspects that bugged me.  Don’t worry, I am going to be nice about this.

The first major problem with this series is that it is rushed.  I think I know why – they didn’t think they’d get a second season.  I remember reading that this was supposed to be a mini-series that would be done with only one season.  But, it got popular, fast.  I wonder why. 😉 But when the series grew to a point where it had enough backing for more, the next season was announced.  But, with that said, the first season had WAY too much happening in each episode.  My favorite ones were the ones devoted to the pro-bending arena and the tournament.  There, they took their time and spaced it out.  I’m not ragging on the series for this.  I get why.  But I am hoping that the next season, Spirits, can take its time and work on this.  I know that nobody from nickelodeon will probably ever read this, but it is my advice all the same.

My other major problem is that the ending to this season was WAY too short!  There was enough plot in that episode for at LEAST three episodes.  Maybe four or five.  It needed to be spaced out.  A problem that more episodes than I’d like had.  You may think that I’m ragging on it, but the truth is – this show has a fuck-ton of potential!  Once the Spirit World comes into the picture, the possibilities are endless!  And it was GREAT to heard Donnie Basco in this show, with the name Iroh!  Clearly the son of Zuko.

The last problem is – where does the series go from here?  It looks like all the major problems were resolved.  So what happens next?  I am curious to see how they are going to answer that question.

This first season serves as a template, if you ask me.  Seeing where it all went right, to then look on where it can go in the future.  The first season of the original series was rough too.  I see a lot of potential here, and I look forward to catching the next season.

Until next time, a quote,

“I hate this being patient thing.”  -Avatar Korra, The Legend of Korra

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 10 Avatar: The Last Airbender Episodes

Avatar: The Last AirbenderAs the second season of Legend of Korra is slated to appear soon (I will do a later post on why that series has the potential to be better than the first later), I thought that I would go back and talk about the series that started it all.  Avatar: The Last Airbender was an amazing series.  It was a show that the young and the old could enjoy.  It had amazing characters.  The heroes were all likeable, the villains were all intriguing and often sympathetic and the side-characters always had a TON of personality.  The setting for the series was fresh and different, which was a nice touch in a TV climate that is swamped with mediocrity.  This was a show that was ahead of its time, teaching good lessons but also being a great character study.  It was American anime at its finest.  And I thought that I would give you my top 10 favorite episodes.  Now, there are some two-part episodes on here, but I count them as one since they follow the same arc.  With that said, here we go.

10. The Ember Island Players
Book 3
I love this episode because it does something that few shows or movies do – it makes fun of itself.  It is a feel-good episode looking back across the entire series and giving a comedic outlook on all of the characters.  It points out Aang being in touch with his feminine side, Sokka being kind of an idiot, Toph being a complete thug and Katara being a preachy crybaby.  But it isn’t mean-spirited about it.  It plays it like a comedic roast, which is hilarious.  It also looks at the villains in a pretty funny way too.  It points out how Zuko has a habit of being over-dramatic and self-centered, and Iroh can sound like a buffoon, even though there is wisdom beneath it.  It gives a lot of respect to the characters that it portrays and it is fun to watch.  As the episode before the last episodes, it is a nice way to wrap things up.  But it isn’t all comedic.  They do have some character moments, like Aang and Katara confronting their feelings but having no resolution, and Toph and Zuko reaching an understanding about his uncle, at a time when Zuko is worried that his uncle hates him.  All-in-all, this was a nice feel-good episode that made you all warm and fuzzy.

9. Zuko Alone
Book 2
Zuko was probably the most developed character in the series.  He was an awesome villain.  Instead of him just being evil, you find out that his chasing the Avatar is because of some very powerful forces at work inside of him, trying to find peace.  This episode encapsulated it perfectly.  Zuko leaves his uncle to go off on his own, trying to find his own place in the world.  Trying to come to terms with how his life has changed.  He meets up with some kind farmers in a small village.  But this village is being run by a detachment of the Earth Kingdom military who are nothing but thugs, using their power to lord over the people of that town.  When a young boy that Zuko befriends is taken by the military as punishment for Zuko’s behavior, he goes after them.  This episode gave a lot of insight into the forces at work within Zuko, along with some interesting back-story about his mother and how close the two of them were.  You see how ugly his history was and how conflicted he is now.  This was a quiet episode that kept things very tight, which was a nice change of place.  And how Zuko stands tall against the thugs and defends who he is is a nice touch too.

8. Sokka’s Master
Book 3
Of all the characters in the series, Sokka is another that I think is the most developed.  Sure, he has his comedic idiot moments, but there are also some powerful forces at work within him as well.  He was the last man of the southern water tribe.  His father is fighting in a war that he wants to be a part of.  Now, he is teamed up with the Avatar, his powerful water-bending sister and probably the greatest earth-bender who has ever lived.  He finally confronts how useless he feels in this episode, by trying to find a teacher who can guide him.  He finds a sword master in the Fire Nation and asks him to train him.  When the teacher says that Sokka will have to impress him, it is kind of cool that he has a genuine serious moment saying that he doesn’t think he can.  He confronts how useless he feels.  The teacher respects this and offers to train him.  It is a nice episode to see how devoted Sokka becomes, while keeping his comedic edge in some of the lessons.  And there is a nice little twist at the end about who Sokka’s master actually is, which comes back later.  Nice way to set things up for the future.

7. The Southern Raiders
Book 3
Probably my least-favorite character in this series is Katara.  She’s whiny, she’s preachy and she is CONSTANTLY telling everyone want to do, because she knows best.  But this episode let you see some of the darker forces at work within her as well.  She was there when her mother got taken away.  She always blamed herself for what happened.  It didn’t make things better when an old witch told her what became of her mother in prison.  But when Zuko approaches her, wanting to know what bug crawled up her ass about him, he finds out the story about how her mother got taken.  And he knows who took her.  So, him and her go off on to find the person who led the attack on her home and bring him to justice.  This is an awesome episode because it not only shows that Katara can be REALLY violent when she wants to be, but you get to see her and Zuko bonding over the experience.  The final showdown with the commander of the Southern Raiders is nothing short of nail-bitingly intense.  But the resolution it comes to feels natural.

6. The Desert
Book 2
One of the few characters who you ever see get anything approaching angry is Aang.  He always has this upbeat attitude that can sometimes be annoying.  But this episode looks at him when he is at his most desperate.  His oldest companion who has been with him since the very beginning, Appa, has been taken away.  Aang is scared, angry and desperate to find him.  Seeing how much this affects him is more than a little sad-making.  You can feel his grief at the loss of a friend and a pet.  A companion who was always loyal and always tried to help.  My favorite parts of this episode were when the wasp takes Momo, and you see Aang air-bend a blade that cuts the creature’s head off.  The rage in his eyes is beyond intense.  Then, there is the part with the sand-benders who stole Appa.  He immediately goes into a rage-filled Avatar-state, destroying their boats and very likely about to destroy them as well.  How Katara goes over and embraces him, not saying anything to him, when he is at his most angry is a powerful moment.  And one of the few times I liked her character.  There was also this awesome comedic side-plot of Sokka drinking the juice from a cactus and it making him high as a kite.  I don’t know if that was a “don’t do drugs” metaphor, but even if it was, it’s still funny.

5. The Blue Spirit
Book 1
One thing about Zuko that most people ignore is that he isn’t just a powerful fire-bender.  He is also quite the swordsman.  This episode brought his skills to bear when he disguises himself as the Blue Spirit, in order to get Aang away from Admiral Zhao, who would take him to the Fire Nation and doom Zuko’s chance to go home.  While this episode not only has some cool action sequences, it also has some interesting subtle moments.  The fact that Zuko will attack his own people to get what he wants is interesting.  Seeing him becoming desperate as well is a nice touch.  But the best part, for me, is when he is injured and Aang rescues him.  He wakes up to see Aang with him, looking after him, and there is an interesting one-sided conversation where Aang tells him some of his back-story, wishing that they didn’t have to be enemies.  It is a small moment when you see that Zuko isn’t just evil.  But the action sequences in this episode were awesome.  Some of the best, without a doubt.

4. The Avatar and the Firelord
Book 3
This episode was great for a whole lot of reasons.  The first is that it finally gives some back-story into what happened between Avatar Roku and Firelord Sozin.  Seeing how they were the best of friends, but grew apart due to irreconcilable differences is an interesting look.  Then, years later, after having left things in such a bad way, when his friend is in trouble, Sozin comes back.  He comes back to help someone who mattered to him more than any other.  But then, when he has a chance to save his oldest and best friend, he betrays him, seeing his chance to rise to power.  It’s a powerful performance, with Ron Perlman doing the voice of Firelord Sozin.  But there is another part of this that was pretty awesome – Zuko and his uncle talking again.  Until this episode, every time that Zuko tried to talk to his uncle, Iroh never spoke to him.  I don’t know if this was done to give viewers a gap to get used to the new voice they got, following the tragic death of Mako, or not.  But it still works.  For so long, Iroh had been looking after Zuko.  He regarded Zuko as a son.  And he regarded Iroh as a father.  Then, Zuko betrays his trust and I think that the character came to a realization – he had to do this alone.  For a large part of the second season, Zuko was trying to get rid of Aang, dealing with the reality that Azula lied to set him up to take the fall, and he just might end up taking that fall.  He had to feel that there was no way out.  Finally, when he is at his most desperate, Iroh comes back to help him once again.  It was a great character arc that worked really well.  I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but either way, it was a great piece of character development.

3. The Siege of the North
Book 1
I think you all will be able to tell where this is going.  The episodes that brought the first season to a close, and it was awesome.  There were a lot of arcs in this episode being addressed.  The first was Sokka and the relationship that was forming between him and Princess Yue.  Yue was already engaged to someone, but he kept going after her anyway.  It was a nice plot to humanize both of these characters.  Both of them wanted each other, but it wasn’t the right thing to do.  The next was Aang and his connection to the spirit world.  When the Fire Nation ships come and the battle begins, he wants to make a deal with the ocean and moon spirits to get some help.  So, he goes into the spirit world to find them.  There, he is confronted by Koh, the Face Stealer.  There is also the plot of Zuko finally having a chance to regain his honor.  You also see him confronting his own past in a pretty intense moment of personal reflection, talking about his sister and himself.  You have Katara finally facing an enemy who has always frightened her and being pretty badass.  You see that the balance of this world is a lot more delicate than we might think, when Zhao takes the moon spirit and kills it, which takes away the water-bender’s ability to bend.  But the best part of this episode is the climax.  Watching Aang finally achieve the Avatar State and team up with the ocean spirit to destroy the Fire Nation forces.  Seeing all the water tribe members bowing to him is just awesome.  I would bow to a giant water monster too.  And while that is going on, you have Zuko face off with Zhao.  A battle an entire season in the making, it is SO cool to see.  This was an awesome way to close out the season, and set up the awesomeness to come.

2. The Crossroads of Destiny
Book 2
See, it was going where you thought it was.  Another awesome closing to a season.  This time, it was a lot more personal than the last episode.  Azula has cleverly manipulated the head of the Dai Lee agents into taking over the Ba Sing Se.  When he tries to double-cross her back, his agents don’t even move.  They know the score as well as Azula does.  They know that she could kick his ass and who the victor is.  That line she gives when he bows to her, stating how she beat him at his own game is just great – “You weren’t even a player.”  Awesome.  Then, you have Zuko having finally come to peace with where he is at in the world.  He actually seems to look at the future with hope.  Then, his past catches up to him at the worst time, and his effort to face it ends in failure.  You have him tempted to finally put his past behind him, only for Azula to prey on his internal conflict and manipulate him into not only helping her take over the Earth Kingdom, but also to betray his uncle and father-figure.  Then, you have Aang, who had previously been told that the only way to control when he goes into the Avatar State is by letting go of his worldly attachments.  He doesn’t want to believe it, but when the battle gets desperate enough, he resigns himself to doing it, to save the girl he loves.  Then, it backfires on him when Azula actually kills him.  So, it all ends with the Earth Kingdom falling and the group fleeing, with Aang being brought back to life by a woman he chose to give up.  This episode is INTENSE, in every sense of the word.  It makes for a great climax to the second season and worth checking out.

And my all-time favorite episode is…

1. Sozin’s Comet
Book 3
How could it be anything else?  These four episodes end this series in the best way possible.  Not only does it tie almost all the plot points together, but it also has the most intense action sequences ever.  The battle to destroy the Fire Nation fleet that is using the power Sozin’s Comet has given them to burn the Earth Kingdom to the ground is unbelievably intense.  The point where Sokka and Toph are sure that they are about to die is awesome.  The final battle between Aang and Phoenix King Ozai (the new title he gives himself) is breath-taking.  How it ends is one of the most amazing points of animation in the entire show.  But, from my perspective, the best duel in these episodes is between Azula and Zuko.  Azula’s insecurities finally catch up to her and her sanity is slowly falling apart.  Zuko and Katara go to face her down and finally defeat the Fire Nation.  But Zuko can see that she is cracking, and challenges her to the definitive duel of his people – Agni Kai.  A duel to the death.  Both of them know the score, and are prepared to take it that far.  What I love about that battle is the AMAZING use of color.  The blue flames of Azula, countering the orange flames of Zuko, with both of them amped-up by the comet looked unbelievable.  It is beautiful.  And the subtle tragic music that goes with the duel encapsulates how this isn’t an epic duel.  It’s a sad one.  These two are family, but only one of them can walk away from this alive.
Another interesting plot point of this episode is Aang facing the legacy that he is supposed to have.  Jennifer Hale provided her amazing voice talents as Avatar Kyoshi, one of many spirits he meets with, when he is debating with them as to how he can stop the Firelord without killing him, which is a central tenant of his people’s belief structure.  Aang actually actively rebels against what his titleship is supposed to do in this situation.  It is an interesting dichotomy.  Overall, this is an amazing episode.  It truly does bring this series to close, giving us a nice little send-off with all the characters that we grew to know and love.  It was the perfect ending to the series.

So, what are your favorite episodes?  Let me know in the comment section.

Until next time, a quote,

“Firelord Ozai!  You and your fore-fathers have devastated the balance of this world!  Now, you shall pay the ultimate price!”  -Avatar State Aang, Avatar: The Last Airbender

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 15 Anime Series

Now, I’m not talking about the top 15 series ever, just my personal favorites.  I’m not some kind of otaku.  I am a story-seeker.  Wherever I find a good story, I run with it.  And anime has given us some really great stories.  Of course, like with film and books, a lot of what I have seen in junk, but when I do find diamonds in the rough, I am really grateful.  Now, some of the series’ that I have on here are ones that I grew up with, and if I watched them now, I might have a different opinion.  But I doubt it.  I had a pretty good sense of story even when I was younger.  In any case, any of these series’s would be worth checking out.  Hopefully you have!  Enjoy.

15. Outlaw Star
So, there are going to be a few shows on here that are style over substance.  I don’t mind that, so long as the style is cool.  But this series is a little different.  This series has no, and I mean NO, substance at all!  It is entirely style, but for what it is, it is very, very cool.  This is science fiction escapism done right.  The universe is very neat, the characters are all over-the-top, but it is never boring.  The story is almost nothing but vignettes about the adventures of the crew of Outlaw Star, going around the galaxy, trying to find the Galactic Layline.  For real, that is as deep as it gets.  No personal journeys, no great introspection, just kick-ass action and bizarre adventures.  And bless this little show, because it does it just perfectly.  The animation for the series has aged incredibly well, and the universe is all sorts of fun.  Check it out, if you want something that is high on action, low on brains.

14. Digimon Tamers
A series that I saw when I was younger.  I was around 12 when I saw it for the first time.  And man, for a show that was made for kids, I don’t think it is possible for this to have possibly been darker!  For real, for being a kid’s show, there were a LOT of shit-your-pants scary moments in it.  This show dealt with some pretty heavy stuff.  There were the personal insecurities of the characters, which often manifested in the most harsh way possible.  There was the ugliness of what they were doing, deliberately destroying living creatures to make themselves stronger.  Even up to the end, this show never lets up with its subject matter.  And it does so very well.  It is cool when something that is made for kids doesn’t talk down to them.  I think that kids can handle the darker stuff, so long as their is a happy ending.  What makes this series especially interesting, to me at least, is that I don’t actually think it was a happy ending.  It was rather cold, in a lot of ways.  This show isn’t one of my favorites because of great animation or great music, but because of great characters.

13. BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad
I never thought that I would be a big fan of slice-of-life shows.  I mean, why would I want to watch something like real life?  I get to see it enough as-is.  But this show is a total exception to that.  The characters in this show are 100% believable.  This isn’t Disney Channel trying to interpret what being a teenager is like.  This is life experience we can all understand.  I love every minute of this show.  You can feel the strum of the guitar strings as the chords play.  You can smell the dusty basements where the music is playing.  You can identify with the young man as he is trying to find a place that he belongs.  Every single element of this show works, and it works great.  I love it.  I haven’t enjoyed a show like this in a long time.  Now, because it is slice-of-life, this isn’t for everybody.  It doesn’t have a perfectly happy or perfectly unhappy ending.  It is like life – a little good, and a little bad.  And it makes for a masterful show.

12. Baccano!
Whenever people talk about Lost, they make a point about how ridiculously convoluted it all is.  A lot of people have the same thoughts about this series.  To their credit, yeah, this series is REALLY complicated.  It takes more than one run-through to catch everything.  The series tells a whole bunch of stories, all centered around the massacre aboard the train, The Flying Pussyfoot.  This series involves so many characters, so many plot points.  You would think, with how incredibly complicated it is, that it would fall flat on its ass.  But it doesn’t.  This series paces everything so perfectly that even though you may miss some stuff here and there, you will hardly mind.  Every single character, even if you only see them for a scene, plays a part.  You feel like they all have a purpose in the series.  There isn’t a single waste scene, sentence or second of the series.  It is only 13 episodes long, and the creators of the show took advantage of every gory and deliciously odd moment of it.

11. Rahxephon
Man, this is one of those series that is so thematic that one has to sit down and think about it.  There are so many thematic elements at play that it is almost like a study in the subject.  The story tells of a young man named Ayato.  He finds a giant mecha-like golem, and it takes him outside the city of Tokyo, which in this world is its own reality.  It is inside of its own universe.  Outside, Ayato has to do battle with other golems.  Over time, he realizes that reality isn’t as simple as he thought, and that his destiny isn’t as kind as he had hoped.  Everything about this series flows so well.  The music, the visuals, the character growth.  It is very subtle, and very beautiful.  There are a lot of points in this show that don’t make a whole lot of sense, but it is such a pure descent into a fantastical world that you scarcely mind.  It isn’t about the science fiction element, which isn’t the show’s strong point.  This is about questioning reality, and questioning yourself.  What more could one want?

10. Samurai Champloo
Made by the creator of Cowboy Bebop, this series is one of the strangest pieces of historical fiction that I have ever seen.  The benefit of it being completely inaccurate, historically speaking, is that this series knows it.  It is making fun of a whole bunch of time periods and cultures, yet still having not only a cool action story, but also deep characters and some really cool fights.  It is kind of strange how you are having to constantly shift back and forth from not taking this series seriously at all, to finding it almost too serious.  The characters have stories, and like Cowboy Bebop, they all find that by trying to outrun their pasts, they eventually become consumed by them.  This series mixes samurai era with hip-hop style and the same level of good visuals that is to be expected from the creators of Cowboy Bebop.  I will admit that this is a style over substance series, but if that is your gig, you’ll find something to love.  If you don’t take history very seriously, pick it up and enjoy!

9. Gundam Wing
Now, this series has kind of become one of the classic pieces of otaku fanbase, but I am not among them.  Those people creep me out.  I love this series for reasons all my own.  This is a series that gets me because of the story.  The story goes that many years into the future, humanity has started colonizing space.  When a pacifist leader was vying for independence from Earth, the United Earth Sphere Alliance cracked down on them.  Eventually, the colonial leader was assassinated.  Now, many years later, five machines are being sent to Earth, to get revenge.  This series follows the five young pilots in their mission to get revenge.  In the process, they become embroiled in a battle with shifting political sands, different allegiances, and finding that they are not only figuring out the destiny of the stars, but of themselves as well.  The animation for this show wasn’t especially great, but this was more about characters and story.  It has a broad arc, and you never feel bored watching it.  This is a show for a very specific fanbase of sci-fi lovers, but if you are in the mood, and got some popcorn, take a watch.  I think you’ll enjoy it.

Wolf's Rain8. Wolf’s Rain
Alright, I’m just going to level with you – this show is incredible.  Truly, unbelievably incredible.  This anime is probably one of the greatest of all time.  This show is perfect.  Absolutely, utterly perfect.  There is not one thing that was done wrong.  A genuine tragedy about wolves who are searching for paradise, a divorced couple who is caught up in the web of things, a man who has vowed to hunt all wolves to extinction and a noble who has his own nefarious plot, all of which revolves around a young woman called “The Flower Maiden.”  The animation of this series is incredible.  The voice work in English has pretty much every anime all-star voice actor and actress.  It’s an incredible cast.  But the best thing about this show – how smart it is.  This series is an allegory.  The world that it exists in is incredibly complex with a very rich history, however, there is one caveat to that – there is no, and I do mean NO exposition.  All of this history is stuff that you, the audience has to pick up from bits and pieces.  But what makes it better – you don’t have to go through it with a fine-toothed comb to enjoy it.  This series is one that you can enjoy, regardless of if you are aware of the level of depth or not.  If it weren’t for personal preference, this series would be right at the top of this list.  It’s what a great tragedy should be.  It will warm your heart and it will also make you cry.  A lot.  But it is still beautiful.  Take it from me, you won’t be disappointed that you watched it.

7. Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – what the hell?  How could an anime about The Count of Monte Cristo possibly be any good?  Well, for a lot of reasons.  The first is that this adaptation, believe it or not, is actually both the most faithful, and the most different adaptation of this story that I have ever seen.  I could go on for hours about that, so I won’t, but it is almost surreal how close to the story it is, even though it is set in a futuristic universe.  But the real selling point for me, aside from the great writing, the great story, and the coldly good acting are the visuals.  This series is a visual mind-fuck.  I don’t think that I have seen anything like it.  Ever.  You can get lost in how they do everything that they possibly can with this series not to make it feel understandable or comfortable.  The use of color, the use of lines, the use of faces and voice, they are all totally bizarre, yet entrancing at the same time.  It’s hard to look away when you are watching, because it is that gorgeous to look at.  But of course, the story is great too, and it is cool to see the story take place from the son of the noble that the Count is trying to get revenge against, rather than from the Count himself.  Like the story, in that regard.  If you’ve never seen the story played out before, I would recommend this version first.

6. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
One thing that I love is a story about intrigue and deception.  This series is rife with that.  Code Geass has been compared to Death Note, another series that you’ll see on this list, but to be honest, I think that they are very different shows.  For one thing, their style is 100% different.  Code Geass is a very traditional anime.  I would say that I don’t think that their animation is anything special, but that’s okay, because the story is very engaging and interesting.  It tells the story of a prince who is hiding out from the totalitarian empire of Britannia, who is gradually taking over the world.  Through sheer chance, Lelouch comes into possession of a Geass.  For each person, this power is different.  In Lelouch’s case, it allows him to be able to make anybody follow a command he gives them, so long as he has direct eye-contact with them.  This allows him to begin his efforts to overthrow Britannia, and to get revenge for his mother, who was murdered, and for his sister, who was mutilated at the same time.  This series isn’t has harsh as Death Note, either.  It is definitely an action series, though it does have some good moments where Lelouch’s brilliant mind gets a chance to shine.  This series has a LOT of really harsh moments, and when the characters shine, they shine brilliantly.  Plus, the cat-and-mouse game never lets up.  Overall, a great story, with some badass action.

5.Mushi Shi
Anybody who knows me knows that I am a HUGE fan of animation.  I think that when it is done well, it can bring a story to life in a way that nothing else can.  It can make a world seem more enriched, and it can make characters feel closer.  Honestly, I think there is more that can be done with animation that live action.  And this series is a perfect example.  I like JesuOtaku’s description – that it is a lullaby.  This show truly does feel like a lullaby.  I could go to sleep watching it.  The stories are quiet, very melodic.  You feel very calm, even when this show has incredibly gory and gripping moments.  It tells the story of spirits called Mushi that live with humans, and there is a special magician who can interact with them.  The animation in this series is perfect.  Were it not for the fact that I don’t just judge this by animation alone, this would be right at the top of my list.  Each episode has a new style, a different way of animating.  It never stop being impressive.  I am consistently feeling like I am diving into an unknown world.  Now, there is the fact that this series has absolutely no, and I mean NO, over-arching plot.  Each episode is a vignette.  This is a show for a person who loves animation.  For real, if you want something that will tease your mind, and dazzle your eyes, this is the show to watch.

4. Death Note
Yeah, you knew it was coming.  I LOVE this series.  I truly don’t think that a single element of this series fell flat.  Except for all the episodes after 25.  Yeah…that got pretty bad.  I won’t spoil it for the 5 people who haven’t seen it, but yeah, it got a lot less exciting.  Up until the last episode, which is so incredibly good that you’ll want to watch it again the moment it is done.  But the premise is simple.  Yagami Light is a lot like Lelouch.  He is a brilliant young student who is profoundly dissatisfied with the state of things.  He sees all the prisoners who get out of jail, not having to pay for their crimes of murder or worse.  He wants to do something about this, but can’t.  Then, by sheer chance, he comes upon the Death Note.  This is a notebook.  With it, he can kill any person, however he pleases, so long as he knows their name and face.  Now, Light is using it to kill the world’s criminals, and create a peaceful utopia with him as the new god, under the assumed identity of “Kira.”  Enter the brilliant detective, L.  L wants to catch Kira, and is willing to do anything to accomplish this.  While he has a very strict sense of right and wrong, L will also do absolutely horrible thing to get Kira, making it a good argument over which of them is the actual monster.  The pacing and characters are brilliant, and the animation is amazing.  The use of light and shadows is just great.  The character models and environment animation is also among the best that I have ever seen.  This series never lets up, and the intensity keeps building and building, right to just the right moment, and explodes in a way you never thought possible.  All up to the very, very bitter end.

3. Fullmetal Alchemist
This series only did one thing wrong – the ending.  Other than that, every aspect was perfect.  For real, it is perfect.  The only reason that it isn’t at the top of my list is because of personal preference.  The story goes that Edward and Alphonse Elric use the power of alchemy (taking one substance and changing it into another) to try and resurrect their dead mother.  Their efforts fail, and Edward loses and arm and a leg, Alphonse loses his entire body.  Now, both of them join the military and become State Alchemists, using their position to try and research the all-powerful Philosopher’s Stone, which they hope will be able to create a new body for Alphonse, and new limbs for Edward.  This is an incredibly tragic series.  It is heart-breaking and sad right up until the very end.  The idea of a tragedy show is incredibly difficult, and this series pulls it off perfectly.  From the very start, you are invested in the struggle of these two boys, who have become involved in something far bigger than themselves, and in the process grow up very fast, and very harshly.  There is also an expansive cast of recurring characters, all of whom have a plot and feel like they are a key part of the story.  The voice acting is top-notch.  This series is on par with a great animated film.  Of course, it is also dark, violent, and very horrific at times, so this isn’t a show for the younger crowd.  But I guarantee that if you like a good story, you won’t be able to stop watching.  Not for two seconds.  And if you are wondering what I thought of the reboot series – Brotherhood.  Well, I’m not a fan.  It was rushed, clearly an action show, and on top of that, there were WAY too many people, none of whom was flushed out enough.  But there is the first, and the best.  Enjoy.

2. Avatar: The Last Airbender
I know, why am I putting a kid’s show above Fullmetal Alchemist?  Well, to be honest, this was an incredibly well-done show.  I think that this is like most any of the animated feature films that Disney has done.  It is able to be enjoyed, by both the young and the old.  The story goes that there are four types of elements – Water, Fire, Earth, and Air.  They can be manipulated by “Benders.”  There is one bender, though, above them all – the Avatar.  This person can bend all four kinds, as opposed to only one, which is the way it is for everybody else.  Things were all well and good in this world until the Fire Nation began a campaign to take over the other nations.  Only the Avatar had the power to stop them, and he vanished.  For 100 years.  Now, he has returned.  It is a young Airbender, the last of his kind.  The story picks up from then, when he has returned, on a mission to stop the Fire Nation and restore balance.  It’s a pretty basic plot, but man, it shines in this series.  The characters are all fun and all grow throughout the series.  The bending elements aspect was clearly thought through entirely, as you can clearly say that each style was based on a different form or two of martial arts.  The animation also is great.  It starts out pretty basic, but after a while, it is incredible, outright gorgeous.  The voice-work is top-notch.  All in all, this show may have been made for kids, but it is easily able to be enjoyed by adults.

And my top anime series is –

1. Cowboy Bebop
Don’t accuse me of following trends.  This is one hell of a show.  The premise is that the crew of the Bebop is a bunch of social misfits who are trying to find a way to get by, in a universe that is without law and order.  They work as bounty hunters, ever-working to hunt the elusive paycheck.  Not an easy thing to catch.  But it is the growth of characters in this show that is just amazing.  My favorite is Spike, and not because he is cool or because he can fight.  His outlook on life just marvels me.  He views life as a dream, that he is waiting to wake up from.  All the risks he takes and the tempting of fate that he does is purely so that he can justify his own existence.  Of course, the rest of the cast is great.  So, the characters are great, but what about everything else?  The animation is the best that I have ever seen in any series.  The darkness, the detail at some points, and abstract at others, the noire quality of it, while at the same time the science fiction style, it’s all perfect.  And the music is just great.  Blending western themes with jazzy beats, it is almost a perfect soundtrack, and compliments its universe in the best way.  The reason that this show is so loved is because it is just that good.  I don’t think a single element fell flat.  Except that one episode…Boogie Woogie Feng Shui.  That was the only real time that this show failed.  And it did fail badly, but still.  Overall, this series has perfect music, perfect characters, perfect writing, perfect voice-work, perfect animation.  It is the best that I have ever seen, and I love it to death.

Until next time, a quote,

“Look at my eyes, Faye. One of them is a fake because I lost it in an accident. Since then, I’ve been seeing the past in one eye and the present in the other. So, I thought I could only see patches of reality, never the whole picture. I felt like I was watching a dream I could never wake up from. Before I knew it, the dream was over.”  -Spike Spiegel, Cowboy Bebop

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 10 Villains who missed the Point of the Source Material

There have been a lot of villains in a lot of films.  The villains are usually the most interesting part.  You can admire them, aspire to be them.  They have no rules, no inhibitions.  They do what they want, when they want.  It is a really awesome thing to look up to.  If you’re me, and weird as all hell, anyway.  But then there are those villains that totally missed the point of what their original material was trying to convey.  And what’s more, they sucked.  Well, almost all of them, anyway.  But anyway, here are my top ten villains who needed a director who understood the source material.

10. Green Goblin
Spiderman
Okay, so, right off the bat, we see something really wrong.  This is Green Goblin.  If you take a look at the image on your left, you’ll see what I’m talking about.  This guy is genuinely creepy.  He looks like the type of dude who, if you ever met him on the street, you would shit your pants because you kind of know that he is going to fuck your shit up.  He’s an interesting villain, for the most part.

But take a look at the Green Goblin from the film.  This guy doesn’t look imposing in the slightest.  Now, I should say that I am not much of a Spiderman fan.  He always seemed to be just a smartass stalker.  But in this movie, they took a concept that could have been really badass and turned it into something that you can get a joke at.  There is nothing threatening at all.  The movie even seemed to realize that, when you have all the citizens of New York throwing shit at him.  If you saw the dude from the other pictures, you would be running.  that’s smart.  When this dude comes at you, you don’t stick around to see what he is going to do.  The people in the film, they were throwing shit at him.  That’s not something very good for a villain.

9. King Koopa
Super Mario Bros.
How can I start with this guy?  I think I’ll show the image of the films first.  Take a look at that guy.  Does he even look the least bit threatening to you?  But the worse part about him is that, if you are familiar with the source material, it makes no fucking sense why they had this guy as the king of mushroom bad guys and turtle people.  For real – the original games were about bright colors, little mushroom people, cute dinosaurs, flying capes, and lots of other stuff.  The movie was like a bad version of 1984.

Now see this guy.  Does he look a whole lot more interesting than that other clown?  He looks like a dude with some giant tumors growing out of his head.  This dude looks like something that Godzilla would have a tough time with.  This guy can breathe fire.  He commands a funny little army of mushrooms, turtles, hammer-wielding turtles, ghosts, fire-breathing flowers.  That is really cool.  Instead of letting us see that in a film, which would have been really cool, they decided to shit all over one of the most beloved video game franchises that exists.  Oh, and they also totally missed the point of their source material, but in this instance, that’s beside the point.

8. Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin)
Batman Returns
Now, I want it on the record that I really enjoyed, and still enjoy this movie.  but come on!  Take a look at this guy.  This looks like something that crawled out of the sewer.  Oh wait, it was something that crawled out of the sewer!  This creature is a total freak.  Now, in this instance, he was done well.  I’m not bashing the performance, just the representation.  I get what Tim Burton was going for, and I like this movie, but it does miss the point of its source material.

The Oswald Cobblepot of the comics, on the other hand, was nothing like that.  This guy was charming, had definite charisma.  He was an educated man, who employed his knowledge into the field of crime.  He ran a pub, and was a beacon in the underworld.  There were times when Batman came to Cobblepot for information, but he always had to pay a price.  This was a cool character.  I like what they did with him in Arkham City.  They showed that he wasn’t just a creepy monster, he was a gentleman.  He was a man of talent and ambition.  It was a cool character.

7. Asher “Sarge” Mahonin
Doom
Now, this is going to be more of a criticism of the film itself, rather than of a certain character.  But yeah, this made NO sense why they had this guy as the final boss of the Doom film.  The game of Doom was an awesome game.  Low on plot, high in action.  You’re a marine.  You live on Mars.  A portal to Hell opens, and demons come out, causing all kinds of hellish mayhem.  That’s it.  It’s simple.  But the film decided that a portal to Hell may offend a soccer mom, so they did bad movie science.

For real, why would a human being be the final boss in a film that should have been about a portal to Hell?  I mean, take a look at the thing to your right!  Wouldn’t seeing something like that have been MUCH more interesting than a poorly choreographed fight sequence?  I mean, there are so many cool choices of monsters.  That’s the fun part about it being a portal to Hell.  I’m going to dwell on this, because if a movie is going to adapt something, you had better at least TRY and make a good effort.  Instead, they feed is really bad movie-science, and the action sequences are boring.  That was the biggest failing of this film – it was boring.  Really boring.

6. Dorian
The Mask
Here’s another post that is going to be more of a criticism of the film it came from than about the character itself, because honestly, while I like this film, it could have been a LOT more interesting, especially if it actually kept to the source material.  But yeah, this villain was awful.  He has a mask that grants him unbelievable power, and he does absolutely jack-all with it.

The original comic was about a loser nobody who was given this mask.  It grants him with unbelievable power, but also takes away his inhibitions.  Without those, this guy goes off on an insane rampage.  He occasionally does good, but even when he does good, he does it in such a destructive and insane manner that he gets the ire of others, and has the cops constantly chasing him.  Every person who claims the Mask gets the raw end of the deal, because it makes all of them go completely insane, and do untold amounts of destruction.  And I really think that could have been done very well by Jim Carrey.  I think he could do the sociopathic anti-hero, if he wanted to.  He has been shown to be a very versatile actor, so this would have made a much more interesting concept.  Granted, the one time he has played a villain, he was awful (and we’ll get to that one, don’t worry), but still, I think he could have done this role very well, if it kept to the insanity and carnage of the source material.

5. Harvey Dent (Two-Face)
Batman Forever
What…were…they…thinking?!  The character of Two-Face is one of the most famous in comic book history.  He is one of the most tragic characters ever created.  He starts as a gifted attorney.  He is on a mission to crack down on crime in the city.  At the same time, he is also a friend of Bruce Wayne, aka Batman.  The two go out to dinner, have good times.  There is a clear bond between them.  Harvey Dent is a very good example of a tragic hero.  And even after he becomes a villain, the remnants of his intelligence still linger.  He is still a thinking and feeling person, tortured by what he has done, and by the madness that now has taken control of his life.  It’s an awesome character.

But then Joel Schumacher came along, and fucked it up.  I don’t know how they got Tommy Lee Jones to play this guy, but I’m sure it is a role that he looks back on with shame.  This guy is nothing more than a petty crook.  All of the intellect, the conflict, the intrigue, it’s all taken away.  The tragedy of the interaction between Bruce and Harvey is gone, too.  In this film, Batman doesn’t seem the least bit upset that he has to fight this guy.  There isn’t any struggle.  You never see what happened, either.  The film shows some events happening, but since there is no context, and you never feel even the least bit bad for him, there is no catharsis in it.  This wasn’t the worst thing to happen to Batman, but Joel Schumacher definitely deserves some lambasting for what he did a very tragic and very cool character.

4. Victor Fries (Mr. Freeze)
Batman and Robin
Now, I need to make a concession here that the original source material for this character wasn’t that great, but nobody pays attention to that.  We all look at the character from The Animated Series for who Mr. Freeze has become.  In that, he became a tragic character.  His wife is dying.  He is desperately trying to save her.  His experiments are interrupted, and he loses her.  Mutated into a being that can only survive at freezing temperatures, you grow a great deal of sympathy for him.

That is, until you see him in the OTHER Joel Schumacher Batman film.  I’m not a big Arnold fan.  I don’t get where a lot of guys find the enjoyment from him.  The endless one-liners in this film were so ANNOYING!  You just wanted to grab a loaded .44 and blow his brains out!  Of all the villains who were in this film, and they all sucked and paid NO attention to their source material, by the way, this has to be the worst, in my eyes.  If you watched The Animated Series, or played Arkham City, this was a cool character.  He was smart, witty, clever, and ruthless.  He was on a mission of revenge.  He was your ally one minute, then your enemy the next.  But in this movie, he was just a typical bad guy, who wanted to take over the world (Of course! [Unless you watch The Nostalgia Critic, that won’t make sense to you]).

3. Edward Nygma (The Riddler)
Batman Forever
I love this character.  When I was younger, and I got to see him for the first time, this was the villain that I wanted to be.  He was smart.  He was clever.  He was cunning.  The man was a genius who wanted to use his knowledge to create hell for everybody else.  He was using his intellect to make puzzles for others to figure out.  There was just one catch – the wrong choice, and you could die.  He didn’t want what other villains want – power, money, all that jazz.  He wanted to create hell fore everybody else.  He was in the villainy game just for the fun of it.  And that is, what’s the word?  Oh, right, BAD-ASS!

But then you have Jim Carrey, in this movie.  Sigh…
I can’t tell you how much I hate this character.  He is devoid of all the intellectual merit that his original character had.  All of the charm, too.  Not only was the comic Riddler smart, but he was also very charming.  In this movie, he is a giant man-child, who has to make a bad joke out of EVERYTHING!  Not only that, but all the spandex suits were a real turn-off for me.  I mean, nobody should ever wear that.  Ever!  But seeing a character who always had a cool fashion sense that was modeled after a question mark being reduced to this, it illicits some of my gag-reflex.  But yeah, he was awful, and a shame upon a very cool comic book villain.

2. Venom
Spiderman 3
Do any of you remember Venom?  Fuck yeah you do!  Venom was the absolutely awesome and badass villain from the comics.  He was all muscle and teeth and claws.  He was Spiderman’s arch-enemy.  This dude’s sole occupation was finding heroes and  fucking their shit up!  This was a guy who was cool, in every single possible way.  Sheer size alone makes this guy awesome.  So when I saw that he was going to be in a full-length film, you can imagine that I was pretty freakin’ stoked.

Alas, my hopes were dashed against the wall, when I saw who was playing him.  Topher Grace.  The little nerd from That 70’s Show.  Yeah, this is who they got to play one of the most awesome villains ever.  A man with absolutely NO muscle on him, at all.  Now, while I give that the Symbiote did amp up Eddie Brock’s strength, they didn’t even do THAT in this movie!  Instead, they have Venom still as a skinny little nerd.  No hardcore claws, no giant teeth, nothing.  This was just a total shame upon everything that made this villain cool.

But you know what, I still have respect for a lot of these villains.  But I HATE, viscerally hate, the one that is at the top of the list.

1. Zuko
The Last Airbender
There are so many levels that this character in this film failed.  I love Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender.  His character in that show was nothing short of awesome.  This was a really good tragic hero.  A fallen prince, who has been banished from his kingdom, Zuko is trying to reclaim his honor, so he can go home.  To do this, he has to capture the Avatar.  Dead or alive.  Over the course of the series, he gradually realizes that his goal is wrong, and his nation is destroying everything.  There is tragedy to his character, and therefore, honor to his redemption.  It is a great study of a tortured heart.  Every minute he was on the show, I liked him.  And he got better and better with each passing season.

The film character, on the other hand, was nothing but a joke.  I laughed when I first saw him.  I loved the article Cracked.com which pointed out how dumb this character is, along with how he is vaguely racist.  In the first season, two of the three main characters are natives, not white people, while Zuko is a white guy.  In the film, the heroes are all white people, while Zuko is not.  Yes, because all heroes are white people.  Obviously.  But that aside, this guy was not interesting.  At all!  He was nothing more than a whiny bitch.  Now I will say that Zuko did do a lot of bitching in the first season, but you know what, he was still tough, and he had a rather tragic back-story, so you felt for him.  This guy, you wanted to beat with a hammer.

Until next time, a quote,

“My father said that my sister was born lucky, while I was lucky to have been born.”  -Zuko, Avatar: The Last Airbender

Peace out,

Maverick