Anime

NiNo Kuni Movie Review [Spoiler Free]

When I saw a NiNo Kuni movie on Netflix, I was super excited.  I’m a fan of the game, and the premise is really good, so it’s story translated to a movie made perfect sense to me.  The trailer made it look like it would be the games story, but upon watching the movie, it’s more one of those movies based on the concept of the game.  Does that mean the movie was bad?  Well let’s get into the review and find out!

 

The basic concept of the movie is pretty much the basic concept of the game.  Two worlds coexist and the lives of both influence the other.  That’s honestly where the movie and games parallels end, because after that point we’re all in original character territory.  Initially, that bothered me a bit, because I was looking forward to a game adaptation.  But after the setup of the movie, and we got transported to the alternate world, I was all in on this fantasy adventure.  I’m not going to say it’s something new and spectacular: the plot plays out like your average fantasy movie, with the added flare of going from world to world.  But there’s just something about the characters, the plot, the setting and music, that make me really be invested in the outcome of this story.  If you’re a fan of really good character beats, then this movie will be for you.  Because other than the relationship between Haru and Yu, and Yu and Astrid, there’s not much more to this than epic fantasy being epic.
The villain was soooo predictable.  Like second scene they were in, I called it and was right.  But somehow, this doesn’t detract from the charm of the movie: it actually adds to it.  Since it plays out as a generic fantasy adventure, it just adds to said adventure and it was nice to see that this movie didn’t try and do anything new and risky with the plot.  A lot of times, people rag  on stories for “sticking to clichés” or not trying something new.  But if we have good characters, good plot, great music, fun action, I’m all in for a generic fantasy story if the payoff overall is good and fits with the story.
And the payoff was so, so well deserved.  A genuine plot twist at the end I wasn’t expecting, but was led up to with little things sprinkled throughout the story.  When they dropped this twist, it was just super satisfying and made sense to the narrative.  It wasn’t one of those what the heck did I just watch? Ends, but it added a cherry on top of this really enjoyable movie, and I left it with a big old smile on my face.  Just a really, really well done movie start to finish.  It knew what it wanted to do, wasn’t afraid to do so, and landed with every story beat it set forth.  I can’t always say that about media I watch, so this was a pleasant viewing for sure.

 

Surprisingly enough, this movie had audio description!  It’s not that Netflix isn’t good with its audio description library, it’s more that it’s rare to see anime have audio description.  Unless it’s a Netflix original, I don’t see too many anime going the route of audio description, so it was nice to have it on here.  It definitely added to the viewing experience, as there’s a lot of action that’s well staged in this, and the audio description does a great job at making sure you know every important thing going on in each scene.  It even describes the after credits scene, which is really nice!  Sometimes, you can watch a show without audio description, and feel like you wouldn’t really be missing too much with it off.  It’s always preferred to have, but you can figure out what’s going on without it in a decent amount of shows.  With this one though, I feel like you’d  miss a lot without audio description, so it was nice to have it available for the viewing experience.  Scripting was well done, no real problems or errors with characters names changing or anything like that.

 

This movie is a lot of fun.  If you’re a fantasy fan, you’ll definitely like it.  I think it does an original NiNo Kuni story well, and if it wasn’t going to be a movie based on the game, I’m glad we got this instead.  It’s a great way to kill 2 hours, so I’d definitely say give it a watch!

Books

Night Shift Dragons [DFZ, Book 3] Review

DFZ book 3 released a while ago and I finished the audio book.  I have to say, hands down this was one of my favorite series.  I liked it more than The Heartstrikers books, if I’m being completely honest.  This is going to be one of my shorter reviews, because I really don’t have anything bad to say about it.  Loved it from start to finish.  But as I am prone to do, let’s get into some gushing about the book!

 

Night Shift Dragons takes place 2 months after Part-Time Gods.  Opal and her Father are dealing with a lot of their issues, and Opal is also dealing with being a Priestess to the DFZ.  I thought it was really interesting seeing the DFZ and how her personality has developed over the 25 year span since the Heartstriker series.  It isn’t something you need to have read the first series to get, but if you have it’s just a nice touch seeing her develop  into  who she is in the story.  There were some really entertaining cameos in this book as well, which once again you don’t have to have read the first series to get, but it makes them all the better if you have and if you plan to read the Heartstrikers series, major spoilers from things in that series by these cameos.
But what I love about this series, is how grounded it is.  Sure, we’re dealing with demi-gods and magic, and dragons.  But at its core, it’s the story of Opal and Yong trying to figure out how to have a relationship with one another where they aren’t just shouting at each other all the time, and Opal realizing that her actions have major consequences, and she’s just as much at fault for the bad things going on in her life as dealing with her Dad is.  It was really refreshing seeing Opal own up to her mistakes, while at the same time acknowledging that Yong was also in the wrong.  Yong also has to realize Opal isn’t a kid anymore, and what he’s been trying to do to keep her close has only driven her away was huge character growth for him as well.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first few chapters, where they just talked things out and figured out how to be a Father and daughter again.  After that, the scenes with them having more tender moments, and their action scenes together, were just so amazing and I loved seeing them lean on each other for strength, and support.  Of course their mannerisms don’t entirely go away, but they’re both working on building this relationship, and it’s beautiful start to finish.

 

I was a bit worried after reading the blurb for the book that Opal and Nick’s relationship would suffer.  Especially after what happened at the end of book 2, I was seriously stressing that there would be an obnoxious will they, won’t they lovers on opposite sides of a battle thing going on.  Lucky for me, that didn’t happen at all.  Once again, Rachel Aaron demonstrates her depth in understanding of how her characters work, and uses a realistic dialogue between the characters to set up plot points for the book.  Never did I feel like either side didn’t trust each other, never did I feel that their relationship wasn’t strong enough to weather any storm.  It was just really well done, seeing the depth of care they had for each other, and super refreshing for a genre plagued with irritating romance tropes.

 

The overarching plot of the story was interesting enough, but honestly it was mainly the backdrop for the characters growth and development.  I pretty easily predicted what was going to happen, though there were certain curveballs In the last few chapters that genuinely had me surprised.  The final battle was epic, and the true culmination of Opal and Yong’s relationship.  And the ending after that was super satisfying, and open-ended enough  to have some novellas featuring Opal and Nick.  Which, I hope is what happens, because if I’m being honest, I like them waaaay more than Marcy and Julius.  There’s just something about Opal that’s so much more engaging, and makes me like her far more as a character.

 

I read this in audio book format, because that’s how I started the book, and I tend to stick with how I started reading a book.  Emily Woo Zeller is fantastic, her voice for Opal especially is super well done.  Opal, Yong, and Nick were very well defined as characters in her narration.  There is a certain point, where the voices don’t get super distinguished, but the characters personalities still shine through so well that it doesn’t bother me so much.  My main gripe is with the characters from Heartstrikers, but that’s mainly because I’m so used to the voices from the Heartstrikers books that the ones in this book throw me off a bit.  I just put those voices in my head and imagine the other narrators deliveries with them, and it doesn’t bother me too much.

 

But yeah, this was a fantastic finale to the series.  Like I said, this story has always been grounded in the simple struggle of a young woman wanting to live her life, but not wanting to strain her familial relationships to do so.  Both sides having to adapt to one another’s wishes, while still loving and respecting each other was perfectly portrayed in this 3rd book. I always thought Yong was a great character, but seeing him fleshed out in this book was great, and his character arc along with Opal’s was fantastic.  Like I said, I really hope to see more of all of these characters, because I prefer them to the cast of the Heartstrikers series.
I recommend this story to anyone who’s an urban fantasy fan that has a strong like of character based stories, and quirky humor.  These books are well rounded with drama, action, character and plot, and I thoroughly enjoyed this being a one on one character story, instead of evolving into the end of the world scenario Heartstrikers did.  Both are great series’ but I prefer this one to that one, no contest.

 

Have you read Night Shift Dragons?  Let me know what you thought in the comments!