Lucien’s Review: Death Note (2017)

Fuck this movie.  Fuck this fucking movie right up its ass.  This is the worst.  The absolute worst.  How terrible the live-action Japanese versions were should have been a big clue as to why this film wasn’t going to work.  The insanely over-the-top nature of the anime does NOT translate well into film.  So when you combine that with TERRIBLE American writers and a director who clearly has no talent for directing, then you end up with this pile of shit.  Yet-another anime adaptation to add to the pile.  Can whoever posed the idea of Akira being adapted into American take a fucking clue from this?!  They’re all bad!  Every last American adaptation has sucked, without a SINGLE exception.  Just like every video game adaptation has sucked.  When will Hollywood learn?  Wait, this wasn’t Hollywood’s fuck-up.  This was Netflix’s fuck-up.  I don’t have streaming here, but a friend invited me over to see it, and holy shit, it’s bad.  I hate when things I love get turned into shitty adaptations, and this was no exception.  There is so much to talk about, so let’s get to it.

The plot goes that Light…Turner (fuck that name) has the Death Note given to him by Ryuk.  That’s right, instead of Ryuk being bored one day in Shinigami Land and sending the book to Earth not caring who picked it up, in this version he gives it to Light and implies that he is the chosen one.  One of the many ways they fuck over EVERY SINGLE character in this film.  But instead of seeing this book as a way for him to create a world dedicated to his own personal sense of justice and becoming a genocidal monster in the process, Light decides that he’s going to impress a girl!  That’s right, instead of his character being a genius whose sense of morality becomes a twisted nightmare, he’s a pathetic high school loser who wants it is implied is just being used.  More on that later.  Then we get a dumbed-down version of L who is going to stop him.  Who wins?  Do you care?  If you do, you really haven’t been paying attention.

Nothing in this movie is good, aside from Willem Dafoe’s voicework as Ryuk.  Speaking of, let’s go into how every single character is fucked over.  So many people are going to say “it’s an adaptation!  You shouldn’t compare it to the original!”  Yeah?  Well then change the fucking name!  Light is turned from a genius who decides he is going to become a God under the assumed name of Kira into a pathetic angst-y teenager who is almost-certainly being led around with no agency of his own.  Whether it be Mia (their terrible version of Misa), or Ryuk, he always seems to be on someone else’s leash.  Did the idiot who directed this even see the anime?  Fuck this movie.  Light is not some brilliant mastermind.  In the anime, he is a calculating genius, who makes every move according to a plot to best the greatest detective of all time.  Every relationship in his life is part of a calculation, along with everything he ever does.  Part of what makes him so compelling as a character is how his urge to become a god ends up destroying the lives of every single person he touches, and he by the end he laughs his ass off about it.  In the film, he’s a pathetic pawn being used by pretty much everyone around him.  All of the brilliance of the cat-and-mouse game between him and L is gone.

Oh, let’s talk about L.  Do I care that they made him black?  Not even a little.  What I care about is the fact that they made him so pathetic.  I guess the director saw how he is in the anime and took that to mean that he isn’t socially awkward in the extreme and on the autism spectrum.  In this film, they decide to him him so pathetic that he has to have a song played to him to fall asleep.  This version of the character is pathetic.  That’s the only word for it.  You never sense this genius mind clouding a sense of detachment, which makes him believing that he is making a connection with Light so tragic.  He believed he had found a friend, and at the very end he realizes that he was just being used by Light.  In his last moment, he looks into Light’s eyes and sees that it was all a lie, and him and his companion died for it.  There are plenty of ways this character could have been 1000X better and been black.  The color of his skin had NOTHING to do with how pathetic and stupid this character was.  If anything, this actor is very competent.  I bet with better writing, he could have sold this a lot better.

Then there’s Mia.  A spin on the Misa character from the anime, here they make her out to be something of a force acting on Light, compelling him to do bad things with the Death Note.  Because we can’t have any of the morally gray stuff from the anime.  Everything has to be clearly black and white.  Fuck this movie.  The fact that so much of what initially makes Light use the Death Note is to please her just irks me.  In the anime, she was an insane groupie of Kira.  She was in love with him and would do anything, absolutely anything to please him.  To the point that she cut her own lifespan in half to get the Shinigami eyes.  But in the end, she realizes that she was used, just like everyone else, and it’s implied that she kills herself.  Another of those relationships that were nothing but a tool to Light and nothing more.  Can’t have that morally gray stuff in the film.  Doesn’t help that this chick acted like she should be in a sitcom.  Ugh.

Let’s talk about Ryuk.  Do you like Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin voice?  Well, he does okay with it here, so you can enjoy his vocal performance.  But here’s what pisses me off – in the anime, Ryuk isn’t on Light’s side.  He isn’t on anyone’s side.  When Light’s gambit is up, and he reaches out to Ryuk to help him, he outright says that he won’t.  Early on in the series, he helps Light out, not out of a sense of loyalty, but because he finds the game that’s going on interesting and realizes that if he doesn’t tell Light about the security cameras in his room, the game will end abruptly.  In the film, he’s painted as seeing Light as the chosen killer, and even compels him to do things.  Once-again, you can’t have all that morally gray stuff about Light seeing himself as a god and believing his genocidal rampage as a way to express that.  That might make audiences question who is the good guy.  We gotta see our protagonist as virtuous at all times.

Oh, and then there’s the book itself.  In the anime, Kira’s chosen method of killing is heart attacks.  There’s a reason – to show that these people are being killed and it’s him doing the killing.  It’s a way to spread the fear all over the world because no one knows who would be killed next.  In the movie, the vast majority of deaths are done through these Rube Goldberg machine ways of dying that REALLY make me think back to the Final Destination ways of dying.  It’s like the film wanted to show off the gore.  Funny, they want to have violent deaths, but no moral ambiguity.  The exact opposite of the show, which had very contained deaths, but a TON of moral ambiguity.  I guess someone assumed American audiences can’t handle that.  Fuck this movie.

As a fan of the anime, this film spits in the face of everything that made it great.  But let’s take that away.  Let’s pretend that the anime that this director halfheartedly riffed on never existed.  This film still sucks.  The performances are boring.  The motivations make no sense.  I’ll give that Light in the anime went from zero to Little Hitler in the span of a few moments.  But the series took the time to explain why he had this viewpoint.  Plus, there was the moral ambiguity of the battle between Light and L, where the body count gets higher and higher, and the audience is left wondering if either one is a truly good person.  In this film, the motivation is that Light is being manipulated by the people around him, with little agency of his own.  That’s boring!  Give me a reason to care why he’s so evil.  L is also a bad character, written to be so incapable of surviving on his own that he has to be taken care of.

I hate this movie, and can someone please make a note somewhere that American adaptation of anime don’t work so we can stop it, already?!

Final Verdict
2 out 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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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. Black Lagoon
What do you get when you combine an 80’s action hero, Studio Madhouse action, and one of the most dark and violent gunplay styles ever made?  You get this series.  Telling the story of a band of mercs for hire – the Lagoon Company.  This series has some of the best dub work of all time.  It has violent shootouts, insane villains, and absolutely zero subtlety.  It’s like someone wanted to bring the 80’s out of its hiding place and put it in the 21st century.  With an amazing cast of characters, all of whom are complete scumbags, you have a series that is morally gray in the extreme, and too much fun to watch.  I miss this style of cinema, but anime is keeping the flame alive.

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: ‘Sherlock’ Season Three

I’m about to have a few spoilers in this post, so I thought I’d give you fair warning.  I have absolutely been in love with the series ‘Sherlock.’  The BBC’s modern interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character was awesome.  Then America had to go and rip it off wholesale with the lackluster series ‘Elementary.’  Yeah, this country does that.  For real, if anything is popular overseas, America wants its own version.  It’s kind of pathetic.  Back to the BBC, it helped that they had the incredible acting talents of Benedict Cumberbatch (and his sexiness) as the titular character, with Martin Freeman playing his fun sidekick, John Watson.  The first two seasons of the series are absolutely awesome.  But then the third came along.

See, one of the best things in the series was the battle against Moriarty.  It was the driving force behind Sherlock Holmes and it gave the series its guiding light.  The game of cat and mouse between them.  Granted, since the series only had three movie-length episodes per season, it wasn’t a very deep exploration of the mind games between them.  Still, it shined when it needed to.  The ending of the conflict in the second season was pretty awesome.  For real, major spoiler here.  You’ve been warned.  Moriarty is killed and Sherlock supposedly died with him.  It kind of felt all wrapped up.  But like I said, the third season came along.

I’m going to digress a bit and talk about another favorite show of mine.  It is called ‘Death Note.’  I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you all what that is.  Alright, for the five people who don’t know what the series is.  It’s about a young man named Light, who finds a book called the Death Note.  With it, he can kill anyone, so long as he knows their name and face.  He uses it to try and become a god, killing off the world’s criminal element en masse.  A detective named L is tasked with stopping him.  The driving force of the series is the conflict between the two of them.  It is an unbelievably-intense mind game that constantly has the two pitting their mind-powers against one-another.  There is an argument to be made that ‘Death Note’ has the greatest mind-game of all time.  I would make that argument.

However, while the first 25 episodes were nothing short of over-the-top brilliance and hyper-drama, after that episode, the series went almost completely to shit, save a last episode that is so brilliant that it has to be viewed again once it is done.  What happened after episode 25?  I warned you about spoilers.  L dies.  In a brilliant movie, Light finally kills L.  I won’t spoil how, if you haven’t seen it, but it is the culmination of their mental battle and it feels so unbelievably-cathartic.  Though maybe that’s because I was rooting for Light.

Following L’s death, the series lost almost all its forward momentum.  Were it not for how good the last episode is, then it wouldn’t be NEARLY as lauded as it is.  It got that bad.  That driving force made the series work.  The series simply couldn’t work without it.

Which brings us back to ‘Sherlock.’  Without Moriarty, the entire driving force behind the series was gone.  And the third season was an absolute mess.  Not only were the episodes not particularly interesting, but there felt like no direction.  A real shame, to see this happen.

A lot of shows have a moment where they lose their momentum.  Their mojo, as it were.  Most every series does.  It’s the express few that can get it back.  Some can even not have too much and get more as the series goes on.  It’s always a shame when it happens, because it’s very rare to come back from that.  For me, I think I’m done with ‘Sherlock.’  It was a good ride, and thankfully it got Benedict Cumberbatch elevated as an actor.  So, all’s well that ends well.  That’s how it goes.

Until next time, a quote,

“Listen, dammit!  You step outside, your risk your life.  You take a drink of water, you risk your life.  And nowadays, you breathe and you risk your life.  Every moment now.  You don’t have a choice.  The only thing you can choose is what you’re risking it for.”  -Hershel Greene, The Walking Dead

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONL: Raymond Reddington

A new show that I am just getting hooked on is called “The Blacklist.”  A major reason that I am watching the show is because it has one of my favorite actors in it – James Spader.  In fact, Spader plays the role of the series primary protagonist – Raymond Reddington.  And his role is the fundamental glue that holds a series that is becoming more convoluted than Lost together.  The reason for this is because this is quite possibly one of the best anti-heroes that I’ve ever seen in any series.  Ever.

Raymond ReddingtonReddington, or Red, as most people call him, is a former officer in the American Navy who, seemingly out of nowhere, turns on his country and deserts.  He appears some time later, having become one of the most powerful criminal masterminds on the planet.  He is nearly at the top of the FBI and CIA’s most wanted lists, with a record of being a kind of intermediary between criminals.  He knows who to talk to and can get things done.  This kind of business is what his empire is built on, with Red being viewed as one of the biggest traitors to his country in history.  There is a larger story to what happened with Red, but as of now, you don’t know what it is.  As is typical with him, nothing is as it seems.

Twenty years into building his empire, Reddington comes back to the FBI on a mission that is both complex and confusing.  More than anything else, it is confusing because it has him betraying fellow criminals, some of whom he has personal ties with.  But again, nothing is as it seems.

The reason that I absolutely love this character so much is because of the fact that James Spader is playing him.  For real, I genuinely don’t believe that any other actor could have pulled off this character with the style and grace that Spader does.  Reddington is probably the most hard-to-read character there is.  This series would die in a SECOND if he were ever to leave it.  Indeed, because his character is so central to everything and so pivotal to the plot of each episode, he is given far more development than all the rest.  The only one who comes close to his level of depth is the other primary protagonist, Agent Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keen.  A lot of that is because of how closely she is tied with Reddington, both in their work and outside it.

But back to Spader’s performance, it is as I said.  No other actor could truly pull this off.  It is amazing how difficult it is to gauge this character’s motives and reactions.  He will laugh at the most random of things.  He will have a very serious moment with a character and choose to not treat it seriously in the slightest, only to have a sudden burst of anger at the most jarring moments.  But even his rage is really off-putting.  This character has a facade of nonchalant amusement most of the time, yet when he gets serious, you pay attention.  He will often devolve into a story from his past when a serious moment comes into play, which put both is foes and the audience at a loss because you have no idea what he is going to do next.  The very few times in the series when he loses his repose are almost frightening, because you have to wonder how much rage is in the guy if he is dropping his character.  Though his happiness is also a little off-putting, because it always feels disingenuous.  The only character that I have seen in something that is this unpredictable is the Joker.  With both of them, you never really know what they’re feeling, and each time I hear them laugh during a serious moment, it sends a shiver up my spine.

The series itself is not always completely engaging, but sometimes having a good central character is enough to make up for that.  Think of Death Note after L died.  The series got REALLY terrible for a long time, until the last episode, which was a masterpiece.  You can have a series modeled after a single strong character.  It’s what kept House MD going for eight seasons (yes, I also like that show.  So sue me).  I do very much enjoy this show and look forward to seeing what happens next.

So, what are some main characters who made an entire series work for you?  Let me know down in the comments section.

Until next time, a quote,

“People think it matters who occupies that house. It doesn’t. Multi-national corporations and criminals run the world.” -Raymond Reddington, The Blacklist

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 Pieces of Choir Music in Film

There’s a really cool cliche that has come into the fold of modern cinema.  It is something that I love very much.  Whenever a film is trying to make something epic, they add a choir to it.  But I have also found additions of it that are quiet and beautiful poetry.  Here is my list paying homage to some of the best scenes, either epic or quiet and beautiful that had a bit of choral touch to them.  I hope you enjoy.  Links to each song will be on the title of it.

10. Flight to the Ford
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
This was a piece that was a nice mix of quiet and epic.  And I actually really love that.  The scene in which it happens is when Arwen comes and takes Frodo to Rivendell after he is stabbed by the Nazgul.  The introduction of her is beautiful, not to mention that she has one of the most badass lines ever – “if you want him, come and claim him!”  Arwen is a pretty cool character in the first film.  This was a series that had a lot of choir numbers, but this one in-particular comes to mind.  A really cool note is that all of this song is in Elvish.  Most choir numbers are just made up language, but here, it is in the actual language of that Elves.  That’s kind of cool.  In any case, a cool scene, with a badass line.  What more can you ask for?

9. The Battle
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
This was just a pure epic scene, but the setup was brilliant.  It really had a great introduction to this song.  It’s kind of a pity that the sequels have all been kind of boring.  This was a very good film.  The scene where this song plays is where the army of the now-fallen Aslan have gathered on the field of battle, ready to finally settle things with the Witch Queen of Narnia.  It was so epic.  One cool addition that wasn’t on the soundtrack was that the song suddenly cuts off right before the two armies collide and you can only hear a heart beating.  That’s pretty sweet.  This isn’t in an actual language, but that’s okay.  The scene carries more weight than the song could have.  But it was most definitely a very nice addition to it.  This was a cool battle, if one likes the old-school epic where people are charging over open field and beating the shit out of one-another.

8. The Great Migration
The Land Before Time
This is on the totally opposite spectrum of what this song was trying to capture with it’s style and tone.  It is very quiet, very subdued.  The choir here is soft, adding to this scene by making a very mysterious and whimsical atmosphere that was made to make you think.  This song was played right at the beginning of the film.  It shows this world that Don Bluth made.  It’s kind of ironic that he became such an awful filmmaker after being such a brilliant one.  This song very subtley added so much to this movie.  I bet most people don’t think about it, but it is part of the reason this is such a great film.  Each aspect was just perfect.  One of the most beautiful and tragic of films, this was a great opening to it.  I seriously recommend you check it out, if you ever have the time.

7. King of Pride Rock
The Lion King
This was a number which was featured at several parts of the film.  The one that I like most was the bit that accompanies the scene where Simba takes his rightful place as the King of Pride Rock.  It was so beautiful and tragic.  The choir may have just been making up words, but you know what, I don’t care.  This was beautiful.  This film was kind of ironic in a lot of ways.  For one – Mufasa was kind of a dick.  Think about it – the hyenas didn’t want power, they wanted food.  If he hadn’t of banished them to a wasteland, they wouldn’t have stood with Scar.  Nice little irony that Disney put in there.  In any case, this was a nice piece that has a large build-up and then explodes open in a kind of joy.  It starts with tragedy, and leads to joy.  That’s pretty nice.  But all in all, still a good movie.  If you have a chance, listen to the song Be Prepared.  There are two people who are singing that.  It is amazing how you can’t tell when one ends and the other begins.

6. The Final Decision we all Must Take
Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance
This was an powerfully epic number to this film.  This piece was featured as one of many great choral pieces during the final battle sequence of the film.  Well, the final prolongued battle sequence.  It is when the pilot who has stolen Unit Two realizes that she isn’t going to be able to beat the Angel she is fighting with her Eva without letting go of all restraint.  So she used a backdoor code in the Eva to unlock it’s “true form,” thus enabling her to fight ten times better than before.  However, it is not enough.  Then Unit Zero joins the fight, and the to team up to unleash one last attack against the Angel before finally failing.  In the end, it falls to Unit One to beat this monster.  This song adds a lot of epic awesomeness to it.  Add to that – it’s in English, so you know what they are saying.  It’s amazing.  Another part of one of my favorite movies.

5. Angel of Doom
Evangelion 1.0: You are (Not) Alone
This was a perfect song for this piece.  It captured every element of the scene that it was in perfectly.  It captured the hopelessly tragic situation that the main characters find themselves in.  It captures the ugliness of the battle they are fighting.  It also captures the triumph of Shinji overcoming his own weakness to protect the person he cares about.  It is featured in the last battle sequence of the film, where Shinji is trying to destroy an Angel.  He is using a powerful energy rifle to hit it, but the first shot missed.  Now he has only one more chance to destroy it, because the Angel has already blasted them with an energy weapon that nearly leveled a mountain.  He knows that if he misses again, it’s all over.  Humanity is doomed.  The Angels will merge with Lilith, the creator of all life, and will destroy the Earth.  This song was incredibly powerful, and actually sucked you further into this part of this film.  Like the previous selection, this one is also in English, so you can understand it.  But like the last one also, you don’t care.  The action is too entrancing.  Seriously, this was a good reinventing of this film series.  For sure.

4. Ave Maria
Fantasia
I know I’ve praised this movie to death, but this scene was such a perfect merger with the sequence that came before.  The final number was a mix of Modest Mussorgski’s “A Night on Bald Mountain,” and Franz Schubert’s immortal classic “Ave Maria.”  After the incredibly raw and powerful scene that had come before it, this was such a perfect merger.  Ave Maria here is used to show the people of the town below Bald Mountain going off into the woods.  What they are going to do, you don’t know.  It is a song showing the coming of dawn after the devilish beast Chernabog had been beaten, for a time.  This is not epic, but calm.  The soothing gentle tones of the choir here were so beautiful and so harmonious that it just makes this scene so great.  The visuals in it were also amazing.  The pieces of ruin that are littering the landscape and the fact that all you can see of the people are robed figures with lights, walking in a line to an unknown destination.  It’s beautiful, quiet, and mellow.  Everything a good scene in a film should be.  It was a great way to close out an amazing film.

3. Whispering Winds
The Land Before Time
I didn’t want to include the same film twice, but in this case, I kind of found it unavoidable.  This song was so beautiful and so tragic that I cry even when I hear it.  Something about Don Bluth in the 80’s was that a lot of his movies were UNBELIEVABLY tragic.  This film was no exception.  If you look at the cover to your right, you’ll see a happy bunch of dinosaurs, but the truth of the matter was that this film had a lot of horribly sad moments.  The one this song features, along with the scenes it features afterwards was no exception.  Littlefoot’s mother dying was so beautiful and heart-breaking.  Then the scenes following where he is alone.  There is one where he think a shadow on a wall is his mother and goes joyfully running over, just to find out it is his own reflection.  It makes you cry buckets!  The choir here is also mellow, like in the other pieces, but it really is great because it adds to the tragic animation and the tragic tone.  You want to feel so bad for this kid.  He is alone in the world, totally and completely alone.  There is one part of this song that is uplifting, where a little pterodactyl is finding a cherry.  He sees how sad Littlefoot is, and tries to cheer him up.  It fails, and it just is so sad!  This was a great song, and the only reason it isn’t on the top of this is, well we’ll get to that.

2. Requiem
Death Note
Now, this is from a TV show, but I am making an exception here because this scene was amazing!  It really was.  The visuals were great, the song is incredible.  It is just one word, but that word captures everything about it.  I think that the lead-in to this scene was what made it even better.  It shows Light and L having an actually very emotional sequence between them.  It is hinted very strongly in this scene that L had a great deal of respect for Light, seeing him as his equal, but also hinted at there being a deeper connection, that perhaps L was romantically attracted to Light.  If you watch the episode this came from, you’ll see.  Disagree if you will, but I caught a glimpse of it.  In any case, this song plays when L is killed by Rem.  He looks over to Light, who had orchestrated this dead, and there is this moment between them.  No words are spoken, they are just together, looking at one-another.  L is dying and he realizes the truth – Light is Kira.  It was a great scene from a really good show.  If you are ever going to get into anime, this is one I would definitely check out!

And the best piece of choir music in a film is –

1. The One-Winged Angel
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Now, a lot of you will lose respect for me because I put a really, really badass action sequence above a tragic moment like Littlefoot’s mother dying or something like that, but honestly, this was so cool!  Sephiroth is a great character.  I really wish they would remake Final Fantasy VII because it could use it.  The thing about this song and the scene that it’s in is that it is one of the few saving graces of what was an otherwise boring movie.  But this song saves a lot of it.  The battle it is in is very cool.  The animation is gorgeous.  But it is so lifeless aside from that.  It reminds me a lot of the previous Final Fantasy film that that respect.  The original game, FFVII was basically telling the story of why Sephiroth is the ultimate badass ever.  The moment you fight him, you’re dead.  It’s just established.  And this version of the song recaptured that in a really cool way.  Of course, this film wasn’t that great, but this song was amazing.  The harmonies are perfect, the fight that goes with it is just as epic, and it is just cool.  If you see the film for no other reason, see it for this fight.  It’s freakin’ awesome!

So, what should I tackle next?

Until next time, a quote,

“I will never be, a memory.”  -Sephiroth, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Peace out,

Maverick

Lelouch vi Britannia vs. Yagami Light

I decided that I would do a character comparison.  Don’t ask me why, the idea just came to me.  Now, I thought about these two characters because not only is their character archetype similar, but the very series that they are in and the plot points are similar.  But there are some comparisons to be made, and it seemed a worthwhile thing to me to do.  Before I begin, let me say that both of the shows that these two come from are shows that I genuinely love.  They are brilliant done, visually arresting, and both of them will keep you at the edge of your seat until its over and you are able to take a breath.  The two characters that I am comparing are Lelouch vi Britannia, from Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, and Yagami Light, from Death Note.

First, let’s introduce these characters.  The first we’ll talk about is Lelouch vi Britannia.  He is a prince of the totalitarian empire of Britannia.  However, he, and his little sister, Nunnally, are in hiding in Japan, which is renamed Area 11 after Britannia conquers it.  Lelouch hates the Britannian empire, because they have a doctrine that only the strong should be allowed to survive, which means that people like his little sister have no place in the world.  One day, by chance, he is given a special power.  It is called a Geass.  His Geass gives him the power to give an order to another person, so long as they are making direct eye-contact, and they will obey it.  This is absolute.

With this power, Lelouch is able to begin his efforts to destroy Britannia.  Over time, Lelouch becomes corrupted by his power, and he begins to care very little about the people who follow him.  He starts making very heartless decisions that often hurt those who follow him very substantially.  He assumes the identity of Zero, and forms the group The Black Knights, who actively fight against Britannia.  However, he chooses to keep his identity a secret, even from his closest comrades.  This inevitably comes back to bite him.  Eventually, he uses his power, and more that he gains from his actions, and takes over Britannia.  I won’t spoil more from there.  It is very, very cool how he eventually proves that he truly was the smarter of anybody with his last plan.

Next up, we have Yagami Light.  He is very similar to Lelouch.  He is a student in Japan.  Like Lelouch, he is also extremely dissatisfied with the state of the world.  He looks at the legal system, and how many criminals get out from under the system, and is deeply upset by this.  He is looking to becomine a detective, like his father.  He wants to make the world a more lawful place.  By sheer chance, he comes into possession of a Death Note.  A Death Note is a kind of notebook.  It allows the holder to kill anybody that they see, as long as they have a name and a face.  He assumes the identity of Kira, and begins killing off the world’s criminals, en masse.  This quickly attracts the attention of the world’s greatest detective, who goes by the name L.

The cat and mouse game between Light and L is nothing short of brilliant.  It was a perfectly made series.  Light and his cold-hearted usage of people, become a brilliant character to watch grow.  Also, the character relationship that grows between him and L is also a very deep and emotional.  The very noire feeling of the series is very cool, and makes the audience feel very captivated, like they cannot escape.  Light is an almost perfect character.  He wants to be a god of the new world.  I won’t say how the cat and mouse game between L and him turns out, but I will say that it is definitely worth checking out.  For somebody who enjoys this genre, it is almost perfect.

Now, the similarities of these characters are very obvious – they are both young men, both exceedingly excel academically.  Both of them are horribly dissatisfied with the state of the world, and chance brings them into possession of a way to become major players.  Both of them end up using people in openly cold and calculating ways.  They both end up accomplishing great things, and both of them leave a mountain of bodies in their wake.  But the differences are the more interesting parts.

I favor Lelouch over Light, and people seem to feel that I need to justify this.  Well, to be honest, it is pretty simple.  Light is a fascinating character.  I am torn to think that Death Note is the superior series, but only because some of the imagery is better, and the game between him and L is very, very edgy.  However, his corruption by his power is ridiculously immediate.  He never really looked back.  He jumped into his role and decided that he would be a God.  He would lord of his new world, and it would be what he wanted it to be.

Lelouch, on the other hand, wasn’t immediately corrupted by his powers.  Sure, he did use people, often in extremely cold ways, but he often looked back on what he had done, and there were times when he felt genuine remorse for his actions.  You see, the way I see it – a character who will work toward a single goal, regardless of how it affects others is always going to be fun, but with Lelouch, he just had more depth to him, because he didn’t immediately lose his humanity.  He saw the ability to change the world, and he took it.  Another point of interest was some of the things that Lelouch said.  His monologue about how pointless his life had been prior to the obtaining of a Geass was actually one of my favorites in a TV series.  His character had a much grander scale to work on.  Light wanted to be God of the world, but he worked alone, doing everything he could to avoid a human connection in his efforts.  Lelouch had a small and arguably elite army.  He had to think critically, and the battles that his genius intellect won him were very interesting.  Discovering how his astute mind had gotten him there was moreso.

Look, both of these shows are incredible, and I recommend them both, but you see, Lelouch just seemed to be the more interesting character.  For real, check them out, if you have the time.  Animation shouldn’t shy people away from something, and it isn’t all made for little kids.  A kid shouldn’t watch either series, really.  Both of them are horribly violent, often personally gruesome, and some of the character interactions are just a little too hardcore for kids to understand.

Check them out.  Both of these shows are AMAZING.  I think that both of them are almost perfect.

Until next time, a quote,

“A character who obsessively pursues a single goal, at the cost of his own soul, and the detriment of those around him is always going to be interesting, but I think it’s more interesting when they have some awareness of it, and it causes them some inner turmoil.”  -TJ Kincaid, Top Ten Anti-Heroes 

Peace out,

Maverick