Friday, September 30, 2016

Quick Anime Review

The Wind Rises (2013) | Rating: 3.5/5

As an anime fan, it's natural to succumb to the charms and whimsy of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli at some point in your life. I try my best to watch as many of these films as possible and while I haven't seen them all just yet, it's something I try to accomplish. Being late to the game, I finally got around to checking this one and the one below out. I remember seeing previews for both of these movies in their respective years and mentally made a note to catch them at some point. This fictionalized biopic of Jiro Horikoshi was something I normally wouldn't watch if it were live action, but since it came from Studio Ghibli, it was a mandatory watch. Even then, I normally don't care too much for war stories, I knew in the studio's hands, it would be an enjoyable and most likely emotional journey. I definitely got that and also learned some things about Mr. Horikoshi as well as the time period he contributed to. He had a fascinating life, whether it reflected on the real person or not, and I thoroughly enjoyed his struggle to balance his love life and his ultimate design vision.

When Marnie Was There (2014) | Rating: 4/5

While watching this movie, I glanced through some comments on IMDb and wondered if this took an unusual route of sparking a romance between two young women or something else entirely. At times, the comments read that way, but the movie had nothing to do with romance in the slightest. The story was more about finding yourself and the confidence within you. This film features the usual emotional depth and intricate, colorful scenery and animation that Studio Ghibli is known for it. It touches on a subject matter I don't see too often in anime which is adoption and feeling out of place or not wanted. Certain elements of the story spoke to me on a personal level and I can see adoptees and families really enjoying this film. It has a somewhat mature subject matter and probably won't speak to a lot of children easily, then again some Ghibli films can be a little up there with its content. Nonetheless, I found it very enjoyable and it really knew how to pull at your heartstrings and keep you engaged throughout the journey. This definitely made me confident about the future of Ghibli post-Miyazaki.

Show by Rock!! Short!! (2016) | Rating: 3.5/5

To hold us over for the second season of Show by Rock!!, the fans were given these lovely shorts. These 5 minute episodes of amusement takes a break from the main story that the first season presented to us and treats each band like a real group by showing us the members playing together, the origins of their band, and getting to know them (kinda) through a television program. These shorts are not required viewing for the second season, I'm assuming, but it's something fun and fanservice-y for the fans who are really into these characters like a real life group. Obviously, I really love this show, so seeing ShinganCrimsonZ playing an over the top, fierce game of ping pong or acting like high school delinquents makes me very happy and gives me plenty of cosplay ideas. For me, I thought it was successful in keeping me entertained until the second season airs.

Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu (2016) | Rating: 3.5/5

Most people in the anime community are more familiar with the term fujoshi, so fudanshi is pretty much the male equivalent. This is another anime short that conveys just enough information to know who these characters are, their quirks, and the humor of this series in roughly three minutes. The show disproves the notion that fudanshi are gay or personally attracted to same sex relationships. Sakaguchi, the main character, became attracted to the yaoi genre due to its storytelling and intriguing content...or something like that. He does take this addiction/obsession to the extreme by posting on fujoshi forums daily and rushing to buy the latest yaoi manga in the shop. His friend tolerates his behavior and his obsession with pairing every day men he sees around town or creating romantic scenarios for them; sometimes his friend becomes victim to these musings. Obviously, this isn't for everyone just like yaoi and shounen ai isn't for everyone, but for those who are part of fujoshi/fudanshi culture or are familiar with it and casually enjoy the yaoi genre will find this short series entertaining and amusing.

Hatsukoi Monster (2016) | Rating: 3.5/5

There's an ongoing joke of how anime characters never look their age and this series takes that joke and runs with it. When I first started this series, I was very confused and pretty much had the same expression as Kazuo (the one facepalming). It took me a few episodes to accept what was happening...well, more so the whole age difference between our two main characters Kaho and Kanade...and Kanade's friends, but that was the whole joke of the series was their age and appearance contrast. First loves are already a nerve-racking feeling, but this makes things more amusing and difficult. It also proves that you have to have a lot of patience once you enter such a relationship. Sure, the humor may be immature, but its a bunch of fifth graders who still think "w*iners" and "p*op" are hilarious and fascinating. [If you've seen the show, you would get the censorship.] It does have some serious moments to break up the immature and perverse humor and they don't seem out of place either. I wouldn't mind checking out another season of Kanade and the gang, but on the other hand, I also feel very satisfied with this single season and upcoming OVA.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Quick Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond (2016, USA) | Rating: 4/5

Looking back at the second installment Star Trek: Into Darkness and the quick review I wrote for it, I feel like I should dock it half a point or a full one in its score. While I don't disagree with what I said about it, there were dialogue moments that could've been executed better and certain things didn't flow as seamlessly. Nonetheless, it wasn't a terrible movie. So, what about this third installment? Well, this movie is the reason I had to rethink on my thoughts of the second and glance over my words from the past because honestly, this is what the sequel should've been like. I think the best thing about this reboot is creating a new adventure for a new generation to attach to and for an old generation to marvel at how much the franchise has grown over the years. This third movie brings back the joy, excitement, and freshness of the first movie and something mostly new to the fans. The problem with already established franchises is when you touch something that already exists and when you tweak things that don't need tweaking, you get some wary fans attending the next edition. With J.J. Lin in the director's seat, we get more fast pace and smooth action with some simple, but fun story. There's no annoying lens flares or awkward changes to things that existed previously. What we have is a ruthless villain performing the usual vengeful task that isn't that new to the average moviegoer, but is occupied by a new exciting female character joining the ranks of great minds and astounding bravery. I enjoyed that we got to see a different grouping of characters to follow this time around to fully understand the relationship the crew has aside from the obvious. It also tried its best to pay tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy and his character in the movie in an uplifting way to give not only Spock hope, but its audience. While the movie was nowhere near perfect, it was highly entertaining and felt like a true fan exploit that tried not to take things too seriously. It was also a great way to convey that not only was the late Anton Yelchin's character was part of great star fleet family, but off camera was a Trek family of its own. I continue to look forward what they have planned for this franchise and hope that they try not to touch old ideas.

Lights Out (2016, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

The lovely Ophelia was gracious enough to show me the short to this full length thriller, after I expressed interest in seeing it in theaters. I can't remember if something major was out around the time of release, but by the time my co-worker friend and I saw it, we were the only two in the theater...which honestly is one of the best way to watch horror movies in theaters sometimes. Well, at least, a horror movie like this. To me, there are certain movies I take seriously like James Wan flicks and others I feel like it will be a fun experience like this movie. In the end, we were not disappointed. Between our lighthearted humorous commentary from time to time, we admired the suspense and entertaining story. There were some cliches, but the story had fun with said cliches and surprised us when it didn't follow the usual plot points in these types of movies. As someone who is accustomed to the darkness, I wasn't too phased by the dark play, but it still kept me on the edge of my seat of what bad thing was hiding in the shadows and when it will attack. So, if you're wondering, this isn't a completely paranormal adventure or possession movie...kinda, but it does borrow a few elements here and there to keep things thrilling and suspenseful. Small note, the gun effect used in this movie was pretty cool!

Green Room (2015, USA) | Rating: 4/5

Before the unfortunate passing of Anton Yelchin, I had an interest in this movie, but it wasn't playing anywhere near me or stayed in theaters long enough for me to travel a little. I was happy to learn that my workplace was receiving it, so I put a request in and made some time to watch it at home. Reading and rereading the synopsis for this movie proved that this would be an interesting journey. This slightly unusual thriller pits a rock band to a group of Neo Nazis in a plan to escape from a club. Watching this movie made me realize that you really have to pay attention to what's going on or you'll miss some important information in the dialogue. It's not a constant action pack chase at all; it's more of a slightly slow building movie that eventually leads to some satisfying fights. The band stays stuck in a green room [hence the name] for a good majority of the movie, but the story doesn't get boring in the least. The believable acting among the band members and newly met ally really keeps things moving, especially when the enemy is near. Once these two different worlds collide, it gets crazy intense and you'll have to take some time to adjust after witnessing nefarious Patrick Stewart. He's wickedly likable and that's the catch to his character! Definitely check this one out, you'll be very pleased with the direction.

Estranged (2015, UK) | Rating: 2/5

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this in other horror movie reviews, but I've been checking out sub-par horror movies purposely. Sometimes mediocre horror movies can be quite entertaining and create some amusing conversations among friends. This movie is another edition to what I've been watching lately of movies that just look not so good. Usually, my expectations are set pretty low with these straight to DVD releases or unknown titles, but one thing I do expect is sub-par content that unintentionally creates humor. Reading the back cover of this DVD actually seemed a bit promising, but once you start watching, you're sitting there wondering when something good or at least notable begins. My timing may be wrong, but it almost felt like about 45 minutes to an hour in when something interesting actually was happening. It all occurred after a rape scene, so trigger warning if you're interested in checking this one out. It was a completely unnecessary scene that sparked a thought in my mind to write a potential post on how I'm tired of rape being used as a catalyst in revenge films starring female leads (especially). After that scene happened, I couldn't turn away as easily as before. I still didn't care about the main character at all and the inconsistent audio levels didn't help keep me engaged either. My interest and the movie went from zero to thirty and some elements were a bit cliche, but the execution was...intriguing. Honestly, I think the best interactions were between the main character and her sister, especially after that one scene. She knew how to shift the atmosphere around them and create some tension. By the end, they try to cause a twist within a twist, but I was completely unfazed due to my lack of character connectivity. Overall, this slow burn of a movie barely burns, but somehow flares up toward the end half after an unnecessary controversial scene, which you can mostly witness in the trailer.

Batman: The Killing Joke (2016, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

Similar to Captain America: Civil War, this was another movie that I actually read the comic to before watching it. I haven't gotten around to writing a review for it on Goodreads, but, and I'm probably gonna get some hate on this, I wasn't super impressed with it. The story was alright, but I wasn't super excited about this movie being made at all. I was curious about it because I did read the comic and I heard some controversy about upset fans over Batgirl and Batman sleeping together or whatever. I agree that it was completely unnecessary and I have no idea why they added it to the film, other than filler or to fulfill the time quota. For the most part, it followed the comic book, but it lacked life. So, I was less engaged in this animated retelling, which is quite unfortunate since I usually hear a lot of high praise for DC animated movies. The hypothesized backstory of the Clown Prince was interesting and gave him a borderline human personality and watching the dynamics between him and Batman is always an interesting devlopment. For the most part, I felt sad for the die hard fans of this comic and just for the franchise as a whole. Even though I wasn't crazy about The Killing Joke comic, I still found it an intriguing take on their relationship as well as one author's perspective on Joker's story. I suppose the Honest Trailer sums it up best from a more knowledgeable mind.

If there's something you want me to review (or want a more in depth review of the movies above or previous ones), check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fair Shake Review: Leo Rising - Karmin

Leo Rising - Karmin
(Genre: Pop/Alternative Pop)

The journey of Karmin has been one that I've been interested in for quite a while. Most popularly known for the duo's YouTube covers, especially the breakout "Look at Me Now", brought them to my attention. I instantaneously began diving into their budding catalog of indie pop originals on their second channel and continue to watch them grow into Sony signed recording artists. I was pleased with their Hello EP which was a preview of the sound they were crafting for the Pulses major label debut LP. Although the feedback was divisive on their new mainstream polish, I leaned toward a favorable opinion of the eclectic mix of styles they called hip pop. Yet, I also didn't mind them splitting from Sony for sole creative control of their future projects. That surprisingly took much longer than most Karminites expected, but the eventual reveal of this album got many filled with anticipation.

The road to this album was one that is strange when you don't understand how their YouTube career can blend with their music one. After Karmin's separation from the label, they took to the internet to share the creative process of their new pieces as well as the occasional Karmin cover upload. Fans enjoyed many versions of songs they released, but left confused with all that would actually be included in the next project they would drop. Then suddenly, they became less inclusive in the songwriting process with sparse singles released from time to time, until they announced the concept behind Leo Rising. Following an experience with an astrologist, they were inspired to make an album dedicated to each sign in the zodiac. Finally appeared an increasing amount of music videos solidifying this album's upcoming release date.

The singles showcased various styles of pop music as Amy and Nick have in the past, but it was notably more wholly their own voice. "Along the Road" was a ballad with a folk flair that brought one of Amy's most heartfelt performances. "Didn't Know You" brought an upbeat alternative pop jam to the table. "Sugar" has that sultry sound with an irresistible groove. Then "Come with Me" brings the fantasy to life as a new take on "Pure Imagination" of Willy Wonka fame. Karmin truly reach all influences in every track they introduce on Leo Rising.

I, personally, loved the array of soundscapes they played with throughout the album as they honestly bring their own flavor to everything they present. Some favorites outside of the singles they've put out include "Dance with Me", "Everything", "Blame it on My Heart", & "Can't Live". "Save Me Now", despite not being my sign's dedicated song, would probably be my absolute favorite song as it harkens back what made me fall in love with the duo in the first place. It provides an alternative approach to a rap song as it tells the tale of Amy heeding the call to leave her small hometown to follow her dreams while the guy she left behind never could take that chance.

In summary, I feel that anybody who enjoys some alt pop with an indie approach should definitely check out this project. Leo Rising is bound to at least have a handful of songs you can leave happy with. The fact they can bring such a range of soundscapes with only the two of them is amazing, even with a little help on just a couple of tracks. It's a really fun listen that music lovers and can truly get behind, including those who can't see it in the stars.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Q&A: Nightmare

At Anime Matsuri 2014 in Houston, TX, Nightmare held a Q&A for the fans and here are the questions asked by the fans, during this event. I want to thank their management for bringing Nightmare to Houston and allowing the fans this opportunity. Not all of the questions asked and other shenanigans in this Q&A were written during this event as I felt they were irrelevant for one reason or another. Pictures were allowed, but mine are sadly blurry. I'd also like to apologize for the massive delay on these Q&As and concert reports, I am slowly but surely working on them one at a time. Please enjoy this fan Q&A with Nightmare.

Band Members
Yomi - vocals
Sakito - guitar
Hitsugi - guitar
Ni~ya - bass
Ruka - drums

Have you taught music?
Sakito: No

What happened to Zennin (former drummer)?
Yomi: disappeared

[This question really shouldn't have been allowed. It's kinda disrespectful, so make sure you never ask about former members.]

Who takes the longest to get ready?
Hitsugi: (in English) It's me!

Do you like fishing?
Ni~ya: I love it

What's your favorite thing about being in a band?
Yomi: They are my partners.

What's your favorite food?
Ni~ya: Ramen
Yomi: Yakisoba
Ruka: Rice
Hitsugi: Beer

Someone asked Yomi about his swan underwear. I didn't quite get what the question was about, but it took some time for him to remember what the fan was talking about.
Ni: Yomi is a very crazy boy.

What's the difference between performing for the first time and now?
Ruka: It was a long time ago, but we're less nervous now.

What's your favorite thing about America?
Sa: I love America and I wish I could live here.
Fan: (interjects) You can become a citizen by marriage!
Sa: I'll look around.

Do you have any pets?
Hi: I have 2 dogs.

To Sakito: How was it working on the Dead End Tribute Album?
Sa: Really fun!

What kind of hobbies do you have?
Sa: Video games
Ni: Fishing
Yo: Gundam models
Ru: Internet
Hi: Beer

What do you expect at tomorrow's show?
Yo: We have a lot in store for you, guys!

If you weren't in a band, what kind of job would you like to have?
Sa: Programmer
Ni: Fishing
Yo: Farmer
Ru: I wouldn't work.
Hi: Bartender

To Hitsugi, How did it feel recording "D.O.D" for the hide Tribute Album?
Hi: I was nervous, because hide was inspiration for me getting into music, but I felt very honored.

Where do you get your inspiration?
Sa: In the shower or bathroom

What's the difference between American bands and Japanese bands?
Yo: American bands are very honest with their emotions and love.

How did you do the opening and ending song for Death Note?
Ru: We talked to the produce and then we just wrote it.

To Sakito, How did you feel doing your nude shoot for Shoxx?
Sa: Very excited.

Outside of music, what is your inspiration?
Ru: I usually get inspiration from what we do.

Who gets drunk the most?
Hi: (in English) It's me!

Are you planning on doing a U.S. tour?
Yo: Right now, we don't have any plans to, but we would like to do one.

To Hitsugi, How is different working in a band compared to working solo?
Hi: Nightmare is family and being solo is like playing with friends.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: Captain America: Civil War

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Language: English
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 147 minutes

Like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, this movie is coming out soon on DVD. So, I figured I should jump ahead and review this one, since I'm still terrible at getting these out immediately after seeing them in theaters.

With many people fearing the actions of super heroes, the government decides to push for the Hero Registration Act, a law that limits a hero's actions. This results in a division in The Avengers. Iron Man stands with this Act, claiming that their actions must be kept in check otherwise cities will continue to be destroyed, but Captain America feels that saving the world is daring enough and that they cannot rely on the government to protect the world. This escalates into an all-out war between Team Iron Man (Iron Man, Black Panther, Vision, Black Widow, War Machine, and Spiderman) and Team Captain America (Captain America, Bucky Barnes, Falcon, Sharon Carter, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and Ant Man) while a new villain emerges. [Source: IMDb]

Despite not having a review for Captain America: The First Avenger, I have written a quick review for 2014's sequel Captain America: Winter Solider. Like most Marvel movies, I was looking forward to seeing what would happen to the Avengers after adding some new members, dealing with some unexpected threats, and adjusting their dynamics as a team. This was also the first time I've read a comic book related to this story, although the other one had more content featured in the film that I read later. So, it was kinda nice to have something to compare the movie to and understand a little bit more of what was happening on screen. I believe my mom and I caught this either the week after opening or not too long after that and we were both pretty excited since so far Marvel has been pretty good with their cinematic universe.

Going into this movie, I heard nothing but good things and people joking or half joking about what side they were on. For the most part, I've been rather pleased with the direction the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken, despite my complaints about their villains. In short, I was fairly optimistic going into this movie. After reading Civil War, I knew that this movie would be about whether superheroes should be accountable for their destructive actions. Some people thought this plot was a commentary to the destruction of Superman in Man of Steel, but this storyline existed before that movie did. The divide between these two groups: Team Iron Man and Team Captain America, had to deal with government control and also a bit of trust in their friendship. Fortunately, this feud, at least in my eyes, didn't cause too much of a series fan war compared to the ridiculous Team Jacob and Team Edward bout in the Twilight franchise. Sure, there might've been a couple comments here and there of not understanding why you would side with one and not the other, but nothing serious. As someone with the ability to understand both points of view, I can understand why anyone would choose either one. They both had valid points in their stance, but the way they went about proving their point seemed to cause more damage than harmony. The movie also provides us with pros and cons in both of our heroes' decisions.

Normally, I would go somewhat in depth with what I thought about the characters featured in the film, but majority of them we were introduced to in previous Marvel films. Whether I explicitly said whether I enjoyed these characters or not in their respective reviews, I can concisely say here that I enjoy all of the characters presented more or less, although I wish Quicksilver was part of the group currently. The newest addition to the universe and probably one of the most anticipated characters was Black Panther. Ah, you thought I was gonna say Spider-Man, but I'll give him his time soon. Black Panther is someone I'm not completely familiar with and I'm sure there are plenty of people who are on the same boat. I believe the movie gave him just enough backstory and reason for him to exist in this war between Captain America and Iron Man (or should I say Steve Rogers and Tony Stark). Every time he came on screen, whether in costume or not, I enjoyed watching him transform and interact with our cast of heroes we've been following for years. He definitely fits into the mold quite well and gives a more serious attitude to counter the short wit banter and commentary that are usually featured in comic based least in Marvel ones. Which leads me to our newest Spider-Man. I agree with most people who complain that Marvel should've kept the webslinger secret for audiences to cheer and gasp in theaters than outwardly displaying the new young actor in the trailer. His appearance would've been quite an exciting treat, although I am going to miss Andrew Garfield. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the little bit of background we got from Peter Parker and Aunt May without retreading the same territory we've seen twice. I will admit it felt a little disjointed when his story is introduced, but it did come together gradually when all the players were in place.

Going back to the story, it was mostly clear what the conflict was about and why Steve and Tony felt so strongly about their decision. It suited their characters and I never questioned their reasoning to either sign or not sign this new government act for the superpowered. The alliances also made sense as well. Although I found it interesting that their allies knew how to separate their beliefs and their friendship during battle with each other. It created some humorous banter and displayed their varying personalities very well, especially our newcomers Black Panther and Spider-Man. On the other hand, the situation affected Steve and Tony's friendship to the point of distrust. Ultimately, it created another problem that helped steer the story to "this is almost a third Avengers movie" to a "Captain America story". Bucky Barnes a.k.a the Winter Soldier was the bridge to that gap or potential blur. I admit at times it almost seemed too much like an Avenger movie with the inclusion of so many heroes from Avengers: Age of Ultron that it could almost seem a tiny bit cluttered. While I do believe that Marvel does a great job of compartmentalizing each character's own subplot, there were moments where I wished there was a bit less. But if you compare it to the Civil War comic (the one I linked above), it's actually a good thing there weren't as many heroes and villains going in a hundred different directions, because honestly it was hard to keep up with everyone in the comic, especially since I'm not familiar with every single character. What we're given in variety or scope was satisfying enough and contained itself with characters fairly well. The story knew which characters to focus on the most to possibly bridge to future installments such as Vision, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, and Spider-Man. For the most part, it tried its best to keep the spotlight on Captain America and everything he's dealing with, which can be a bit of challenge with Tony Stark's big personality. With these various conflicts and large cast of characters, I didn't feel lost or bored. The pacing was pretty good and the story felt mostly balanced between the initial conflict at hand as well as with what to do about Bucky. It knew when to give us a breather with developmental dialogue and when to move things along with some fantastic action sequences. It never really felt like things dragged along. Also, Marvel finally got an actual villain that I'm pleased with. If you don't know what I'm talking about or forgot from previous posts, majority of the MCU villains have been built up to be these huge threats to be disposed of quickly by the climax, which is very disappointing. This time our threat is not only fleshed out, but actually puts up quite the fight for our heroes while adding fuel to the fire of their own disagreements. Hopefully, this will be a practice that will continue in further MCU installments.

But, Miko, how does this compare to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice...or even why bother with another versus superhero movie? Other than the obvious that this movie was clearly more successful and the other obvious point that I didn't write a 50 page essay on how problematic it was, there are some legitimate elements that both universes can learn from each other. It's something that came up after the movie between my mother and myself. The MCU knows how to have fun and when it needs to be serious. It doesn't try to be dark and gritty; it's a comic book movie! It knows how to make its audience laugh, cry, and think. It really gets us to invest in all of its characters, excluding most of its villains, which is something DCU excels at. Well...somewhat excels at. I admit I enjoyed the over the top General Zod and his right hand lady; Lex Luthor on the other hand, I didn't care for. But if you count the villains from the Christopher Nolan trilogy, they've had some downright memorable and fleshed out villains. I know, I know it's an unfair comparison, but they don't have much to pull from at this point. What I'm saying is, that I want those threatening villains to be threatening villains instead of jokes. Putting our beloved heroes in danger is thrilling and makes us cling even closer to them. There's also that tiny (or maybe not so tiny) part of us that want to like the villain or at least enjoy how big and bad they are. I think those two things are the major points they can learn from each other. Along with that is the writing and pacing, which is something I've already touched on at least to some extent in this post and the "BvS" review. Both movies are over two hours long, but when you have action that moves along smoothly and stimulating dialogue, it doesn't feel like you're sitting in a theater for 10 hours. Pretty much, when you're having fun, it doesn't matter how long the journey is.

Captain America: Civil War continues to be an exciting installment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as a step in the right direction on what to do with their newly introduced heroes Black Panther and Spider-Man, along with a better development with their villain. The story not only continues to be consistently balanced between entertainment and overall development, but remains exciting and engaging throughout its over two hour running time. The movie also doesn't feel too cluttered with its extra characters and various subplots and maintains focus on the greater issue revolving around Captain America, Bucky Barnes, and Iron Man. While at times it can lean a little toward another Avengers film, it does overall feel like a third installment to the Captain America series and makes me excited to see what they have in store for not only the characters we're familiar with but with our new heroes Spider-Man and Black Panther. Also, if you haven't already, check out BlipMasta5's review.

Rating: 4/5

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Couple of Album Reviews (Avalon Young & Futuristic)

 Shift - Avalon Young
(Genre: R&B)

I became aware of Avalon Young through Creator's Radio on Dash Radio. First I heard her cover of Oui by Jeremih, but soon I watched her on one of their livestreams. That's when I learned that she actually was on American Idol. I then was intrigued and decided to keep an eye on her after that. So recently I saw her teaser trailer on YouTube for this album and anticipation grew.

I really was surprised slightly by her sound, since she was definitely an R&B artist rather than a mixture like Ariana Grande which is what I was expecting. Her style is actually more akin to Kehlani with a smooth production with an ear pleasing vocal performance that's pretty without being overbearing. The songs touch on various aspects of having a love life to needing closure from a break up to finding the love you don't mind making time for. Folks who dig contemporary R&B should certainly give this a listen and I recommend "Closure", "Favorite", "I Know", & "Complicated".

As Seen on the Internet - Futuristic
(Genre: Rap/Hip Hop)

Exposure to Futuristic came to me by means of the YouTube channel TeamBackPack and their many cyphers of up-and-coming emcees. Futuristic caught my attention with his quick witted style and I slowly became more aware of his huge internet presence that was still growing. Last year, I finally snagged a couple of projects from the rapper and saw him as what I feel what radio would need. Futuristic manages to ride that balance of fun party music that's catchy, but not entirely ignorant as radio would showcase back in the day.

Thus, this album picks up exactly where The Rise & Coast 2 Coast left off with more tunes to jam to with plenty of replayable quips and dope production. The cool twist he brought with As Seen on the Internet is his use of collaboration with YouTube and internet celebrities, planning to make a video for nearly every song in the tracklist. Whenever I need something to rock to that's easily digestible and riddled with fake gun clapping & drug pushing, this is a go-to album to play. For hip hop heads who don't mind something light, this is what I'd recommend and for those partygoers, this is perfect for you! I enjoy these joints the most: "Do it", "Anti-Social", "Scrollin", "Nudes", "Alone in the City", & "Hashtag".

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review: K-ON! Seasons 1 & 2

Title: K-ON! Seasons 1 & 2
Language: Japanese
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Comedy, Music, School, Slice of Life
Episodes: 39

Along with all the sports anime I've been exposing myself too, I've been delving into the music or idol genre. From the underappreciated Shounen Hollywood to Sanrio's Show by Rock!!, I've enjoyed what I've seen of the music/idol genre. Currently, I'm watching the Uta no Prince-sama series along with the two newest idol series of the summer season, Tsukiuta The Animation and B-Project Kodou Ambitious. Obviously, there's a lot of testosterone and pretty boys and I wanted to mix things up with this series.

Hirasawa Yui, a young, carefree girl entering high school, has her imagination instantly captured when she sees a poster advertising the "Light Music Club." Being the carefree girl that she is, she quickly signs up; however, Yui has a problem, she is unable to play an instrument.

When Yui goes to the clubroom to explain, she's greeted by the other members: Ritsu, Mio, and Tsumugi. Although disheartened at Yui's lack of musical know-how, they still try to convince her to stay to prevent the club's disbandment. After playing Yui a short piece which re-ignites her imagination, they succeed in keeping their new member and guitarist.

Along with the tasks of school and homework, Yui begins to learn the guitar with the help of the other band members, experiencing many mishaps along the way. However, with the school festival drawing near and Yui getting stuck with her practice, will the Light Music Club be ready in time for their debut?
[Source: MyAnimeList]

I'm sure I've expressed somewhere that I do enjoy slice of life anime. This series was one I've seen pop up from time to time, so I knew it was a fairly popular title. Getting into the first season, I was a tad bit skeptical on whether I would enjoy it or not. When it comes to Asian pop music, specifically idol groups from Japan and South Korea, I tend to lean more towards male groups than female ones. They usually are too cutesy or their voices are too high, so that thought kinda sat in the back of my mind when I began the first season. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed these characters and found myself identifying to an extent the lead girl Yui, while also seeing traits in my own friends...if we were to start a band. Yes, there are tons of cute moments, but it was infectious and fun. Honestly, I enjoyed watching these characters develop their musical skills, teamwork, and friendship over time. Something about their diverse personalities and friendship made me excited to watch the next episode while at the same time putting a smile on my face.

Since Yui is the character I identify with the most, but not completely, I'll start talking about her character first. Yui is kinda ditsy and tends to have a one track mind...or at least, she can only focus on one task at a time. She lacks instrumental skills, but is determined to reach the same level as her bandmates and make their band successful. Despite her being an airhead and kinda lazy sometimes, Yui is a very loyal friend and very dedicated to the group. I love watching her interact with her younger sister Ui, who mostly plays more of a motherly role to Yui. That's part of the cuteness of the show I enjoy. Easily scared Mio takes over the leader position of the group. When the group gets sidetracked with sweets, tea, and other club shenanigans, Mio takes charge and brings the group back on track...unless she gets reeled into it as well. She's very modest about her musical skill set, but she has a great voice, a creative and innocent mind for lyrics, and her own fanclub. Of course, you can't have Mio without her long time best friend Ritsu. Ritsu is a loud and energetic tomboy that encourages Yui's lazy habits as she'd rather goof around and enjoy tea time than study for finals. Like her bandmates, she's very fierce on the drums and is not afraid to make bold choices with the band's image or sound. She also likes to tease Mio whenever she can with creepy and spooky things. Moe keyboardist and hostess of tea and pastries Tsumugi is the grey area of focused leader Mio and sweet consumers Ritsu and Yui. She's a rich girl with the sweetest and purest personality. She loves to give to her friends and helps Yui out in her beginnings of purchasing an instrument and equipment. I also feel like she helps encourage each of her bandmates to improve and boosts their self confidence. Yui's childhood friend and student council member Nodoka takes a backseat to the Light Club's crazy antics. She's rather normal compared to Yui and is very well mannered and responsible. She can be seen being part of Yui's support system, keeping Mio company in homeroom, and getting annoyed at Ritsu when she forgets to turn in club forms on time. Lastly, we have their club adviser and undercover metalhead Sawako. Sawako is loved by everyone and honestly, I think some of the students have a bit of a crush on her too. She is an amazing mentor to our group and mostly knows when to get serious and when to have fun. Although, she does occasionally indulge in their tea time and always tries to get them to wear cute costumes for a promotion or live performance. Sawako has the perfect personality to bring out the best in the group and hone their developing skills. In the second season, the band gains a new member Azusa who's very skilled with guitar and a close friend of Ui's. She is the future of the club once Yui, Mio, Ritsu, and Tsumugi graduate. Her personality tends to be serious and she becomes embarrassed easily if she participates or is pointed out as being cute, but she blends in quite well with her seniors.

Since this series is part slice of life and part music, then you know that there isn't a strict storyline. The story goes back and forth on the daily lives of our characters either dealing with typical high school academia such as midterms and college entrance exams and their lives as musicians of After School Tea Time such as creating a music video, practicing for lives for orientation or school festivals, and writing lyrics together. Between these two lives we follow with our group of girls, this slice of life never ceases to be entertaining. There's plenty of comedy from episode to episode and even some emotional moments, especially in the second season. The pacing is quite smooth and realistic, so you never lose track of time as the seasons change. There's plenty of opportunities to watch the group's bonds grow over time during holidays, exam time, and club activities. The story does a great job including you into the group and it's easy to feel every emotion they feel. I must admit that I got a little misty eyed in that second season. The story really made you feel like you grew up with these characters and you're their biggest fan in some ways. I also was very impressed that the seiyuu's (Japanese voice actors) did their own singing vocals. I can't really comment on the dub to this series as the site I was viewing it on did not have a dub option, but I know it exists.

K-ON! was an unexpected series that I easily fell in love with. The story was simple, fun, and very entertaining! The characters are easily lovable and give you plenty of chances to connect with them throughout their daily activities. I really enjoyed how inclusive the story became for me and it always felt like an adventure with each episode I watched. The music was surprisingly not too poppy or cutesy. It had a good balance of fun rock and sweetness. I'm looking forward to checking out the movie at some point and enjoying more adventures with After School Tea Time!

Rating: 4.5/5

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

4 Hip Hop Reviews (Mighty Jai, MC Kenna, Pryde, Wax)

Dreams $old Separately - Mighty Jai
(Genre: Rap/Hip Hop)

This dude has been on my radar since last year after seeing his performance at HipHopalooza 3 in Tampa. This St. Petersburg emcee captivated me with his down to earth style with exuberant confidence. I then scoured the net to find his projects and came across a SoundCloud with a few singles attached. Therefore, I waited patiently for a full length LP or mixtape while putting his underground hit, "I'm Tellin' Ya", on repeat.

Finally, this came out and made me jump with joy! This album allowed me to finally pinpoint what his style reminds me of: 8 Ball & MJG, Scarface, Big KRIT, and my hometown's Stik Figa. His ability to relate his story and mix it with braggadocio-laden tracks gave this perfect balance. I highly recommend this to lovers of southern hip hop greats, for he can definitely be one in the future. Favorite songs include "Peachy Keen", "King Solomon", "Live it Up", & "One Time".

Stylistica - MC Kenna
(Genre: Rap/Hip Hop)

Since his last projects HYDU and HWY '98 earlier this year, to hear that he had more to release this year was a surprise. With this EP, MC Kenna continues to bring his signature rhyme style inspired by 90's rap while expanding the production he displays it on. This was a nice addition to his ever-growing discography as he continues to grow his name in the area and make moves towards the industry. If you've been enjoying watching the journey of this emcee, I recommend giving this a listen. I personally enjoy the tracks, "27", "VooDoo", & "Wood Tip".

Are U There? - Pryde
(Genre: Rap/Hip Hop/R&B)

Not too long after the release of Pryde's last album, i don't belong here, he showed signs that grief and depression were overwhelming him. After finally taking the time away to grieve his mother's death, the announcement of a new EP aside from the formerly scheduled album, Russell, had many curious what its outcome would bring.

Are U There? marked the signature sound he maintained since the name change with a single, "Piece of Me", that almost resembles his older style of production. He mixes rap and r&b as he has in the past, but has a more focus on the r&b side on the latter half of the EP. Though, he still manages to give his bangers as usual with the second single, "Pour", and "Jheez it's Lit". Some of my favorites include the latter, "Grand National" and the very personal, "Beautiful Life".

The Cookout Chronicles - Wax
(Genre: Rap/Hip Hop)

Wax is someone I've always loved as an emcee being that he's always been a lyrical genius. Plus last year's album, Livin Foul, made me giddy since I knew he was back to making music more frequently. His fun and witty approach to songwriting always pleased me especially since he would use his talent to speak on relatable topics as the every-man.

This album is no exception to that M.O. as the whole project is the perfect BBQ soundtrack cohesively transitioning to funky hip hop, boom bap, and bossa nova & blues influenced rap. Wax brings his trademark punchlines in songs like "Chunky", "Bike Rap", & "Bulletproof". Then he questions love in "First Love", "Love Will Make You Do Dumb Sh*t", & "Never Thought I'd Be in Love Again". Then you're able to kick back and relax to the grooves of "So High" & "Inner Tube". People who enjoy heavy wordplay with a little bit of funk should enjoy this greatly. I have and definitely repeated these tracks: "Bike Rap", "A.O.", "Lackadaisical", & "Wet Brain". I really can't find any tracks skippable!