Anime · Cartoons

Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy Chapter 1: Siege Review [Spoiler Free]

I was browsing Netflix the other day when I didn’t have anything to do and this show was recommended to me.  I’m a Transformers fan, so figured I’d give it a go and was pleasantly surprised.  This show has a lot of depth, a well-paced plot, and great characters.  Good voice cast as well, and with audio description too!  But how does the show hold up under a microscope?  Let’s see, on to the review!

 

Technically this one is a trilogy of episodes?  I thought it was going to be a trilogy of movies, but then this first chapter wound up being six episodes so we’ll go with it being a mini series of sorts.  The first chapter of this, I really enjoyed.  Now keep in mind, I’m going in as a casual Transformers fan.  I watch the live action movies and like about half of them, I grew up watching the old franchise but I was super young so don’t remember it super well.  I watched episodes of Cybertron back in the day, and liked it well enough.  I’ve seen people complaining about this show destroying their childhoods, that it wasn’t good because it wasn’t like the old Generation 1 cartoon and can we please just give this a rest?  I get tired of people wearing nostalgia glasses and ruining new experiences for viewers that enjoyed somethings newer take because maybe they just want to watch something and enjoy it without comparing it to the original.  I prefer Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon over Sailor Moon Crystal, but you don’t see me crapping all over people who may think differently, do you?  But ahem I went on a bit of a tirade there.  It’s just that I went to read discussion threads about the series when I finished it because I enjoy doing that, saw people doing nothing but complain about it not being like the original instead of talking about how the show was on its own and it just bothered me so much.

 

But anyway!  I really enjoyed this take on the franchise.  It’s nice to see a robot-centric version of the show when for years it’s been about the humans more.  Optomus and Megatron’s relationship is the focal point of this series, and already I think they’re doing a good job with its execution – though be prepared for some heavy handed handling when it comes to Megatron allegory.

 

There are a lot of characters in the series, and they do a decent job of giving us supporting casts that are fleshed out enough, but not taking the spotlight from the main group of bots.  This is a darker take on the war for Cybertron, with a lot of action and it doesn’t shy away from really heart wrenching plot beats, and deaths.  And for this show, I think it works.  The storytelling is really well done, as well as the character work, and the conflict feels real, and raw, and it just captures a war time story really well.

 

The ending of this six episodes was a bit of a cliffhanger, while at the same time finishing up the storyline set up in this first chapter.  There are enough mysteries laid out for the second chapter, and I can’t wait to see what happens in chapter 2.
This show has audio description yaaay.  It describes the fight scenes really well, and also describes what’s happening in each scene really succinctly.  One thing I have to dock it points for however, is it just expects you to drop into this universe and know which bot is which.  So instead of describing the bots, it says “RC, Bumblebee, and Mirage all stand on a cliff” and it really doesn’t give you a nice grasp of their new designs, or what they would look like other than they are robots.  It also bothered me that they didn’t tell us what Megatron turned into, which is weird?  Like every time a bot transforms, it says they turn into a jet or truck or something, so why not Megatron also?  I’m assuming he has his classic design of turning into a motorcycle, but at the same time there are so many different Megatron designs that maybe it isn’t.  And I had vision when watching Transformers as a kid so would know this, but for a person coming into the series blind, it’s kind of a glaring error to not describe every robot’s look and transformation.  There are also new characters in this, so what do they look like?  I get it’s a huge cast, and it’s hard to cram all the aesthetics into a description when a scene is going, but it took me out of the viewing experience a bit not knowing at least basic details of how they looked in this iteration.  It makes you have to look up descriptions on the wiki, and while doing that extra legwork is something I do anyways when I like something, it’s also avoidable if the description described the characters a teeny bit more throughout scenes.  Other than that, solid plot beat and battle narration.

 

So would I recommend this series?  I really enjoyed it.  I didn’t find anything wrong with the series at all.  Voice cast is superb, plot is really deep and well-paced, character work great.  If you like anime, I’d best describe this as Transformers if we just turned it into a mecha anime, because it hits all of those plot beats from the genre.  If you’re new to the series I feel like you’ll like it more than old timers with the franchise, but who knows?  Needless to say I super enjoyed the first chapter and can’t wait to follow this show to its conclusion.

 

Did you watch Transformers:  War for Cybertron?  Let me know what you thought in the comments!

Anime

Magia Record: Madoka Magica Side Story Anime Review [Spoiler Free]

I got my brother into Madoka recently, and him talking about it so much made me want to rewatch it.  I remembered really enjoying it when I watched a few years back, and remembered decently the plot beats.  But rewatching it, it honestly became my new favorite anime.  The plotting, the pacing, the characters, all so masterfully done and I can talk about the philosophical implications of both it, and Rebellion for ages.

 

On this trip down Madoka once again, I decided to throw watching Magia Record into the mix.  I was interested in it anyways, and I’m a sucker for any Madoka content after this rewatch reinvigorating my love of the series.  But, does Magia Record:  Madoka Magica Side Story stack up to its predecessor?

 

No, but is that necessarily a bad thing?

This by no means makes Magia Record a bad series, but it most certainly doesn’t have the same tone or vibe as Madoka Magica.  That didn’t bother me really, it’s called a side story after all.  But the first five episodes were a lot of meandering, and what I thought to be poorly crafted characters.  The plot wasn’t interesting enough, and it just felt like it was trying to capture aspects of Madoka without realizing that Madoka is a show that is crafted in a way that the sum of its parts make its whole.  And that really bothered me.  Why wasn’t this show trying to stand on its own two feet, and be interesting in its own right?

 

Well, you have to watch this first season to its end, because boy did it prove me wrong.  This show is different in the sense that it has more time to develop its characters, and lay the ground work for an explosive finale by seasons end.  We got to see each characters backstory, see them develop as a team, and then by episode eight or nine, what seemed like bland characters became really interesting and dynamic ones, because we had seen them all independently and acting as only a part of their character, not all of it.  When all the core cast comes together though, you see them bonding, you see them grow together, and it makes the plot and its mysteries set forth in the first few episodes totally pay off.  At the end of season 1, we didn’t get any of these mysteries solved, but that ending just got me so hyped for season 2 and totally got me hooked on wanting to see more of this show, and its characters arcs and the overall plot unfold.

There are cameos from beloved characters in the first series, but they don’t feel forced or out of place.  They all are also going to be playing a bigger role in the series, you can tell, but we just don’t get to see how or why just yet.  I won’t spoil any of the cameos, because for all of them I let out an audible “Yay!” when they happened because not gonna lie, I still love the main cast more than this one.  This new cast has potential to be great characters in their own right (my favorite so far is Yachio) but they aren’t quite there yet.  By series end though, I hope this changes and we see all of them come into their own and be just as epic as the previous series’ cast.

 

Magia Record isn’t Madoka Magica, and that’s ok.  It’s not trying to be Madoka, it’s just a story that takes place in the same universe, and is part of the franchise.  I like both series’ for different reasons, and am excited to see what happens in season 2 of Magia Record.  You definitely have to watch this first season to the end though to get the full effect of whether you’d like the show or not, and the first half of the season is a struggle – it took me a week to go back to the series, because I just really wasn’t interested.  But if you’re willing to give this series a chance, the end is definitely worth it and the cliffhanger and mysteries laid out throughout season1 make it worth watching this to season 2.

 

Have you watched Magia Record:  Madoka Magica Side Story?  Let me know what you thought of it in the comments!

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!

Books

The Spoken Mage by Melanie Cellier Full Series Review [Spoiler Free]

Sometimes you just find a book series you really enjoy.  It may be the characters, may be the world building, may be a bit of both.  It isn’t necessarily the best series, but you don’t care:  it just ticks all of your boxes, and you enjoy it for what it is.  I’m not one of those people who thinks everything should be a literary masterpiece, because that would be no fun.  What I like is an engaging story, that has a satisfying ending, and a great ride to get to said ending and for me, The Spoken Mage series is that.  Does it have story telling flaws?  I think so, especially with some of it’s pacing in the 2nd, and 4th books.  Is it a bit cliché?  Yeah, totally.  But do they do a good job building up the overarching plot, romance, and ending the story well?  Absolutely.  So for that, I honestly loved reading this series and recommend it to fantasy romance fans.

 

The premise of the series is what got me to pick this up in the first place.  In this world, the magic system revolves around writing.  Only nobles can  channel magic in a way that won’t kill them, so the common born are banned from reading and writing, so they don’t channel magic poorly and harm others.  Elena is a common born, who finds out she can use magic through speaking, not writing, and she’s sent to a magic school for noble born children to channel her gifts, and learn how to use them.  Crazy adventures, politics, and romance ensue  as the four book series is Elena’s time at the school.  Basic premise, right?  Other than the magic, I wasn’t super keen on a magic school setting.  I don’t dislike it per see, but there are a lot of tropes built into this sort of a setting and I hadn’t read a school setting since Harry Potter.  But, I had nothing to worry about, as there’s so much more to this world then just going to school.  I really enjoyed the themes set forth in this book, that Elena had to navigate the political landscape she was thrust into, and figure out how to fight for common born rights among a world of nobles.  She realizes however, being common born has its own set of issues, as does being mage born.  She and her classmates learn from each other, as they both had stereo types about each class group in their heads and it was nice seeing the characters grow from one another’s experiences.  Elena herself grows a lot throughout and it was just really enjoyable to read.
The romance is great too.  I love Prince Lucas so much, he was hands down my fav character and him and Elena growing and learning from each other was so fun.  I will say there were some parts in the series as far as their romance that were pretty groan worthy, but overall it was fun to read and I hope we get more stories with them in the future.

 

Now, the nitpicks I have mainly pertain to the 2nd and 4th books.  In book 4, everything was tied up a little too neatly, and there was a stretch in the middle of the book that just felt unnecessary, and only seemed to be an engine for the author to make sure all the plot points she wanted to happen for sure happened.  The book was the longest one, so I had hoped we’d get a bit more fleshing out for some characters, and that we’d get an extra chapter or 2 of wrap up.  I liked how it ended, but just an extra chapter or 2 would have pushed it over the top for me.

 

Book 2, I have so many issues with.  Like it was my least favorite in the series, it moved the plot forward the least.  I can’t super remember what happened in it?  I remember important things pertaining to Elena’s powers took place, and her and Lucas’ relationship happened as well, but other than key characters popping up and Elena’s powers developing, book 2 feels like a lot of missed potential.  There were moments like that throughout the entire series I feel, but they got glossed over by how much this series did right so it didn’t bother me too much.

 

The Spoken Mage series is a lot of fun.  Like I said, it ticked a lot of boxes in fantasy I like:  A lot of action, great romance, interesting magic and world, great characters and character development.  If you like a fairy tale style page turner of a series, you can read the entire series in this compellation here

 

I hope I was able to share my love of this series sufficiently!  I really enjoyed reading it, it was so much fun start to finish.  I think it’s important to highlight indi authors, and I plan to do so more later on this blog.  I’ve pretty much been reading self-published stuff exclusively for the past few months, I really enjoy the different things an indi author can do in their books as opposed to guidelines traditionally published authors have to follow.

 

Have you read any good self-published authors you like?  Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Cartoons

Steven Universe Future Review [Spoiler Free]

I was waiting for the entire show to finish, and the last few episodes dropped this week.  Steven Universe Future was…an interesting ride, but did it accomplish what it set out to do?  It was meant to be an epilogue series that took place after Steven Universe:  The Movie, so we could see what happened to all of the characters in the show.  While the end of season 5 wasn’t bad by any means, it left a lot of questions unanswered and overall was an unsatisfying conclusion to a show so heavily built on its character’s, world building, and lore.  So, the real question is, did it?

 

I’m going to leave this review spoiler free for the most part.  If you’re not well versed in the show, I’ll be mentioning character names and the like.  If you haven’t watched all of the main series of Steven Universe however, there may be minor things in this you won’t want to hear (it is an epilogue series, after all, that’s rather unavoidable).
So, as I said earlier, did Steven Universe Future accomplish its goal of filling in the gaps the series end left?  And for me, it half did.  There were some characters handled very well in this series, Jasper especially.  But the first half of this series felt pretty episodic, and not in a good way:  To me, a lot of the after effects we saw of the series, didn’t super matter.  Or rather, it wasn’t the questions that had majorly left us guessing.  They were fun, they were cute, and a lot of them were hard hitting, and filled story arcs that we wanted to see.  And, some were just light hearted fun that were like ok, I expected pretty much that end for the character.  But overall, the first half of the series for me left me going, “That’s it?  Really?”.  It was a pretty big letdown not having a decent amount of major plot points answered.

 

I will say, Steven’s arc was really well handled in this.  What he went through made tons of sense, and while in the series itself you’re like no way this isn’t hurting him, we see the culmination of the entire series, and its effects on him emotionally and you don’t realize we’ve been heading to that conclusion with subtle hints from beginning to end with this arc.  From his first interaction with Jasper, to how he handles Connie, you just see everything going down in his head slowly, but surely and it’s a great build.

 

In enters the second half of the series, which is a huge step up from the first half.  We get way more plot points that matter, and there’s a clear through line of events happening to further the plot.  It feels like the second half is leading towards the future, that the characters all have to use their life experiences to help one another out, and Steven’s arc is beautifully realized.  The ending was a bit rushed, but still well realized and the second half of the show made this epilogue series for me.  Just really well done, it felt like the first half and second half were different shows based on how they were paced.
one thing that bothered me the most was the lack of seeing the Diamonds.  When this show was announced, I was super excited that we would get an episode showing us what the Diamonds journey was, and how they reformed.  I really expected to see a flashback episode along those lines, like the ones we got with Rose Quartz in the series.  The Diamonds I think are the biggest point of contention for the fandom, which is something I’d like to talk about in another post, but I think showing us 1 or 2 episodes with them trying to figure out how to be good people and leaders, with Steven as their guide would have been fun, and it was sad not to see that happen.  I’m glad they showed up at all in the series, just wish them as characters were used a bit more after their change of heart.

 

If you’re a fan of Steven Universe, you’ll want to watch this show.  For me, it has a lot of the same problems that Steven Universe the show had:  a lot of filler that is fun and cute enough, but we could have used a lot of the run time to better flesh out the plot.  In this limited run series, I would have liked to see them go all in with character and plot development, no matter how subtle in some episodes, and I feel like we only got that in the second half of the show, aside from seeing Jasper and her growth.  But it’s fun to revisit the characters, and see what they’ve been up to, and Steven’s story arc in this makes him a far more likeable character then I found him to be in the series as a whole.

 

Have you seen the finale, and the show?  Tell me how you liked it in the comments!

Cartoons

Steven Universe: The Movie Review [Spoiler Free]

I was planning to post something else today, but then I was able to find Steven Universe:  The Movie to watch, watched it, and wanted to talk about it.  So time for a review on the movie, spoiler free!

 

I want to start by saying, this movie is going to spoil the plot of Steven Universe for you.  Like, the entire series, so if you want to enjoy the ride of watching the series first if you haven’t watched it yet, don’t start with this movie as your first piece of Steven Universe media. If you don’t mind being spoiled, haven’t seen the show, and are fine with just enjoying the journey of watching, then by all means watch this movie first and see if the show is for you.  It will give you a good indication of what the show is all about, because it has everything good in the show in this movie.  Some of the bad things too in my opinion, but the good outweighs the bad.

 

Now if you’re a Steven Universe fan like myself, this movie is just for you.  All the characters you know and love are in character.  There’s one new character that is a great addition to the show’s lore that I hope we see more if we get more Steven Universe content.  The movie itself, I think has a nice beginning and end.  Like the end is stellar.  It hits all of the emotional beats it should have, brought the character’s arc specifically for the movie to a close.  The character made specifically for the movie by far was my favorite.  She goes from being annoying, to you feeling so much for her, and hoping she has a happy ending.  Her ending was very satisfying, and her story in particular didn’t feel nonsensical or rushed, which is prone to happen with movie specific characters.  Her story ties into the lore perfectly, and I hope we get to see more of her if we get more Steven Universe content.

 

The middle of the movie was the weakest part for me.  I thought the plot we went through for the main set of characters was rather tropey, and although they handled it better than most, I would have preferred to see the rest of the Crystal Gems be a bit more active in the story.  The B team had it’s time to shine, and that was nice to see, but for the first half of the movie I wish the main cast had been a little more there.  It was mainly Steven’s journey, which I get he’s the main character of the show, but having the Gems come into play at the end of the movie instead of being active players throughout I was a little disappointed happened.  Like I said, the mid-section of the movie wasn’t bad, I just wish it had been handled a little differently.

If you’re a fan of Steven Universe music, oh boy are you in luck!  This movie is packed with songs.  For me, I wish there were a little less songs, even though I liked every song in the movie:  At a certain point, it felt like they just were padding the movie instead of filling it with character interactions, which is what I prefer in Steven Universe.  I think cut maybe 3 or 4 songs from the movie, add more character moments, and there would be a nice balance between story and music in the movie.  As it stands, it feels like they filled the movie with songs to fill out a soundtrack.  Which is fine, but when it hinders the story telling a bit I think is when you need to cut down, and it personally got there for me music-wise.

 

As far as watching it blind is concerned, Steven Universe has never been tooooo great at making it obvious what is happening when the characters aren’t talking.  During some of the songs they have important plot points happening, and sadly Wikipedia doesn’t really go into in depth detail about what is happening in the movie for it to be perfectly clear.  I wish there was a bit more description in the show, or at least have audio description for the show so it’s easier to follow without watching with sighted friends.

 

All in all, I enjoyed the Steven Universe movie.  I think about 30 minutes could have been cut from its run time because of the previously stated tons of  music, but said tons of music didn’t make the viewing experience any less enjoyable.  I really hope we get more content in this Universe (I really want more of the Diamonds please) and I think this movie is a great addition to the universe of Steven Universe.  I highly recommend watching this movie if you’re a Steven Universe fan, and if you’re not worried about major spoilers for the show, give it a watch if you’re curious.  It gives a good indication of the show’s highs and lows, and overall is super fun to watch.

 

Have you seen the movie?  Let me know what you thought of it in  the comments!

Cartoons

She-ra and the Princesses of Power Season 3 Review [Spoiler 3]

I’ve been skeptical about She-ra for a while guys, I’m sure you noticed in my season 1 review.  I was fresh off of Voltron and the train wreck that was that ending, but I loved the old She-ra and had always mentioned to friends and family that I’d be on board with a more dramatic reboot with more fleshed out characters.

 

Seasons 1 and 2 were good, but I was still on the fence about it at the end of season 2.  There was potential, but the plot, pacing, and characters just weren’t quite there yet for me.

 

But season 3, season 3 you guys!  It was only a six episode season, but season 3!  UGHHH it was so good!  If you want my TL;DR opinion:  go watch season 3 right now.  If you’ve also been on the fence about giving this show a try, watching up to season 3 is going to make you decide whether or not you want to be into this show for the long haul.  For me, season 3 took me from being mildly interested in the show, to being heavily invested and willing to recommend other people watch it.  With my gushing out of the way though, onto my spoiler free review of season 3!

 

This season was one of Netflix’s infamous half seasons:  6 episodes for a full “season”.  For once, this didn’t bother me though, because the pacing of the episodes was done so well, and a lot of plot relevant  information was given to us in an even pace.  None of the episodes in season 3 were filler which was nice:  I felt like season 2 tried a little too hard to balance the goofy with the serious, and didn’t do a great job.  In season 3 however, each episode had some comedic beats, but they didn’t take away from the serious parts of each episode.  The character work still is a tad shaky, but it’s definitely improving and I think the balance between character development and plot progression has been fixed.  It doesn’t feel like either is suffering, like in previous seasons.  I’ve said before that the show needed to either be plot centric or character centric, but it’s somewhat proven me wrong in season 3 by doing both well.  I’d personally like more character growth, but if this is going to be a slow burn character wise, which it seems like we’re going for, then I’m all on board for this amazing scifi/fantasy epic story that season 3 has started to give us.

 

I feel like She-ra is having the opposite  effect Voltron did.  Voltron season 3 was the last amazing season.  In She-ra, season 3 is the start of it being a fantastic show that I can’t wait to see more of.  Certain characters still erk me, but now it seems like they’re doing so because of a clear vision for the story to go and it’s not just a case of characters fitting tropes.

 

Season 3 is sosososososo good guys.  Like I said, it got me over my Dreamworks Voltron burns and makes me have hope for this to be a fantastic show.  Please don’t prove me wrong She-ra!  With the amazing pacing, epic plot, and fabulous characters, I highly recommend watching season 3, and giving this show a chance.
Have you watched She-ra and the Princesses of Power Season 3?  Would love to hear in the comments!

Cartoons

She-ra and the Princesses of Power Season 1 Review

In my older years, I got into watching old 80s cartoons.  When I watched She-ra, I was like “This show is so great, I’d love to see it redone as a more dramatic, fantasy show” so when She-ra and the Princesses of Power was announced, I was beyond excited.  Reboots are something the internet is so divisive about, but I don’t really care about the whole “It ruined my childhood shows” garbage that tends to spew when they’re announced.  The old version exists, you can still watch it.  The new version is made differently in most cases, so you can enjoy it, and it’s older counterparts equally, for different reasons.  Did She-ra and the Princesses of Power pull that off successfully?
I think so!

 

Let’s break this review down into 3 different parts:  Plot, characters, and my overall thoughts of the 1st season of the show.  I won’t be comparing it to the 80s version, because it’s such a different entity from the 80s version that you can’t really compare them.  I will say that what they did with the plot works, and they do a wonderful job of paying homage  to the themes of the original show, while modernizing them at the same time.  Both stand alone as their own thing, so if you’re in the mood for some glorious 80s camp that has a lot of heart, watch the old She-ra.  If you want a really good fantasy/sci-fi narrative, with fleshed out characters, watch the reboot.

 

PLOT

 

The plot of She-ra is very much like the plot of the old version.  Adora finds herself as part of the Horde, the bad guys, only to find out during a mission that she’s been chosen to be the next She-ra to defend the planet…from The Horde.  She decides to turn against her home and join the Rebellion to stop the Horde, and that’s the basic plot.  Now She-ra and the Princesses of Power takes this premise further, because She-ra doesn’t have He-Man to play off of in this.  So in this one, Adora is just an orphan, and still turns on the Horde.  I find this to be extra interesting, because this way she’s turning on her family that she grew up with, and they really drill that home in the narrative, both with Adora’s arc and how the members of the Horde treat her.  This more adult handling of plots and themes is prevalent  throughout, and it just shows a major care for the source material, and wanting to expand on it.
I kept on explaining the show to my family as “This is basically fantasy Buffy” and I still hold to it.  The characters are slightly different, but the core group of characters you can easily point at and be like “Adora is Buffy, Glimmer is Willow, Bow is Xander”.  This isn’t’ a bad thing, but the theming of the show in general just feels like it borrows a lot from that.  The supportive friendship between those three, to the final decision Adora makes in regards to holding the mantel of She-ra:  everything is very Buffy-esk, but in a fantasy setting and it culminates into this really interesting, dynamic story.  If you like a fantasy world, with some sci-fi thrown in, and really good character building, then defs give the plot a try.

 

CHARACTERS

 

I find this problem with most Dreamworks shows, but the good guys are all good, and the bad guys are all bad.  They try to use the dynamic of Adora and Catra’s relationship to make it more of a character piece for the bad guys, but still at the end of the day Catra is bad, Adora good.  Now that’s not to say that the characters don’t have their own arcs, and aren’t interesting on their own merits, but I do hope that we get out of that mold that is very noticeable in Dreamworks shows.

 

They did a really good job updating the characters though.  No longer is Glimmer just the annoying fairy, and Bow the incompetent archer.  They aren’t sidekicks by any means, but them and Adora stand together as their own friendship unit, or “Best Friend Squad” as Bow puts it, and it totally works.  You can see why they are friends, and how they strengthen and grow each other, and how individually they are fleshed out characters on their own.  The supporting cast are no slouches either:  all have super defined personalities, and I can’t wait to see how we expand on them more as well.  Just a really well done job modernizing the core concepts of the 80s  characters, once again the writers knew what they were doing.

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

And that’s the biggest thing I can say about this reboot:  It modernizes everything that we loved about the old She-ra.  Like I said earlier, both stand alone on their own rights as shows, but you can see the love and care put into this reboot with the plotting and character development.  If you like a dramatic, fantasy/sci-fi magical girl adventure show, definitely check out season 1 on Netflix!  Fingers crossed we get an animated Jem and the Holograms reboot XD

Disney · Editorials/Opinion Pieces

iTunes Rental and Audio Description Review

I hear a lot of flak given to Apple products nowadays, and especially, iTunes.  Honestly, I don’t understand why, because a lot of the reasons – the DRM protection, only able to use it on one device – is rather cross platform for any sort of digital media.  I don’t use it too much, but if I want to buy something digitally, I tend to use iTunes as an option because it’s nice to have the software just right on my computer for me to open and browse the store.
My main reason for keeping iTunes when I rarely use it however, is the sheer amount of audio description content that is on iTunes.  It far trumps Netflix, and you can actually own the things with said audio description if you’re so inclined.  I’m not one for buying movies and TV shows, but I’ve been wanting to try the audio description features, and iTunes rentals, for a long time and have a lot of movies I’ve been wanting to watch, since I don’t really go to the movies and pretty much I haven’t seen a loooot of stuff from the past six years or so.

 

So, put your hands together!  This will be a review of both the iTunes rentals and how it works, and the audio description on iTunes, and how it works.  Let’s get into it!

 

The Rental Process

 

Renting on iTunes is just like buying anything else on iTunes.  Search for the title, and results will pop up.  You can also just sift through categories, but what’s the fun in that unless you want to just hunt down something you may not have known existed before for a good watch.  For me, I’m very behind in my Disney and Pixar watching, and had seen a review about it recently critiquing it a bit harshly, so I wanted to see what all the hub bub was about Brave and decided to rent that.  I enjoyed it far more than I expected, if you’re wondering, but that’s another topic for another post.

 

So I searched for Brave in the iTunes store, and went to the page.  It has two options:  To buy, or to rent.  Buy is the first option, and the far more expensive option, and rent is underneath it.  Underneath all of the buying functions, there’s an HD and SD option for the quality of the video.  I want to point this out especially to blind and visually impaired viewers, because SD is 1 dollar less.  If you don’t have enough vision to see the graphics and animation of the movie, I’d suggest saving the extra dollar and getting the SD quality.  Every penny counts, right?

 

 

After that you’re prompted to buy the media, if you have the prompt set in your preferences.  Then buy it, and you’re good to go!  If you go back to the movie page, then it shows you how many days you have left to watch the movie.  Go into your iTunes library, check movies, and pick Rentals, and bam your rental is there!  A very easy process, if I do say so myself.  I had to reset up my iTunes account so it took a bit longer, but when actually having everything setup, renting was a breeze.

 

Playing and Watching the Movie

 

Go down to the section where all of your movies are when you’re ready to play it.  If you’ve left that section selected and closed iTunes, it will still be on that tab which is nice.  There’s a section that says “Grid” and that’s where the movie is.  You have the option to simply play the movie, which is streaming it via iCloud, or to download it, which gets it directly to your hard drive, so you can watch it offline.  I didn’t do download, so I assume that’s what it does, correct me if I’m wrong.

 

It’s pretty straight forward from there, hit play, the movie takes a while to load, then play. The movie has its own window independent from iTunes, so you can use all the normal media controls over there.  I didn’t want to chance anything until the credits, but I played around with it when it got there and hitting pause or rewind and fast forward does nothing to affect your rental.  I rented something from iTunes a loooong time ago, and that wasn’t the case before, so it was nice to see they had fixed that with the new version of rentals.

 

How Rentals Work After Playing Them


This is another feature of rentals that wasn’t here when I rented before, but you don’t only get to watch the movie once, which is nice.  When you go to hit play, a pop up dialogue shows up and says “If you start playing this, you’ll have 48 hours to watch the movie.  Are you sure you want to play?”.  Hit yes, and you get to watch the movie as many times as you want within that 48 hour period.  I’m not one to watch a movie more than once, but I just thought it was a nice feature.  Like I said, I really did like Brave, so I’m tempted to watch it again before I lose it in my rental library.

 

Before you hit play, you have 30 days to watch the movie.  If you hit play is when the 48 hours start, so if you just don’t have time to watch something and rented it, you have 30 days to do so before you lose it.  I personally don’t rent a movie unless I know I’m going to watch it soon, but figured I’d mention it for anyone who has a busy life and wants to make sure they have ample time to watch a movie rental.

 

Audio Description

 

Now for what I was most excited to try, the audio description feature!  iTunes has made it really easy to make sure you know something has audio description before you buy it.  On the movie or TV show page, it has an icon that says “AD” on it, underneath where it would say if it has closed captions.  This makes it really easy to see if you get audio description, when on other platforms like Google Play, when I’ve looked to see if movies had audio description, it was impossible to see if something had it or not.  iTunes has the info right up in your face, so there’s no if, ands or buts to whether or not it has audio description – see AD, and you’re good.  Knowing what companies do audio description on their media helps tons too:  I picked a movie from the Disney conglomerate of media, because I know they all have audio description.  So you’re pretty much safe if you want to watch a Marvel, Disney, or Pixar movie.

 

To make sure audio description plays when you start streaming your movie, first go into Edit:  Preferences.  There’s an option that you check that says “Play audio description when available” and all you have to do is check that, and it works on your PC or Mac.  Keep in mind, I did all of this on the PC, so your experience  may be different, depending on what sort of device you’re using.  For me, I had no issues on the PC simply checking the box, hitting ok, and having it work when I streamed the movie.  I made sure to double check preference’s just in case, but I’m the cautious type.  Absolutely no issues with the audio description not working throughout the entire movie, and no issues with the movie stopping midway or anything:  was a 100 percent smooth experience, and I really enjoyed every part of the process.

 

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

A few things I’d like to mention that I couldn’t fit in some categories are the volume of the movie.  I thought it was a bit low, and that’s a major pet peeve of mine.  It wasn’t hard to hear without headphones with nothing on, but if you were say, doing housework and wanted to have a movie on while working, you’d have to hook it up to some sort of Bluetooth speaker to be able to hear it with any sort of volume.  I had everything maxed out and it was still kind of annoying how low the movie was, but not enough for me to feel the need to put on headphones.  I watched it in bed, so was rather chill and doing nothing while doing so, but if you like to multi task take that into consideration.
The audio description was very well done.  There are a lot of visual things in Brave, and the way the audio description described it, paired with the audio of the movie really made the mannerisms of a certain character come to life in my mind.  Whoever Disney Pixar uses, their studio is great and I can’t wait to watch more.  Next on my list is Coco, really can’t wait to catch up with what I’ve missed animation wise.

 

I hope that if you don’t like iTunes, or don’t use it, this review lets you see one of the benefits to doing so.  For blind users, I hope this info is useful to you if you’ve been on the fence about trying iTunes audio description, and to sighted users, I hope this was interesting information to read!

Video Games

Let’s Talk About Dissidia Final Fantasy NT

The internet as far as gaming goes is very, very toxic at its worst, and kind of tolerable? At its best.  I enjoy having so much access to gaming content, but as far as dealing with actual communities, there are more toxic ones than positive ones out there and it makes me want to stay away from online gaming most of the time.  That, and online gaming doesn’t really have an appeal for me unless I’m playing with friends, but that’s another topic for another post.
The problem with the internet is, there can be huge bouts of bad press for something before it’s even released, or the opinions of the loud minority become what’s heard and people who may have differing opinions feel like they can’t speak up.  This causes major bouts of games that perhaps don’t deserve a ton of harsh critique, or simple statements of “This sucks” directed towards them.  I mean, at the end of the day, all gaming is subjective:  You like a certain genre of game, I don’t, vice versa.  You saying a game sucks will mean absolutely nothing to me if I pick it up, play it, and enjoy it.  That’s why it’s super important to play a game yourself  Or, look up videos of actual gameplay on YouTube, and decide if you’re willing to give the game ago.
Final fantasy:  Dissidia NT is honestly a game I think got entirely too much of this bad press for no reason.  For the reason that people, for some reason, were upset that it was labeled Dissidia and not like the past 2 Dissidia games, when every FF game labeled “Dissidia” is just the franchise for FF crossover games.  You don’t see anyone complaining about Dissidia Opera Omnia, do you?  I mean maybe they are, who knows.  But I think people are letting their disappointment that this game isn’t exactly like the first 2 Dissidia games overcloud their view of Dissidia NT.  I never played the first two Dissidia games, so have no frame of reference for this one.  But honestly, to be blunt:  If you want to play old Dissidia, then play it.  Please stop harping on a game that exists that people like.  If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but don’t attack everyone else that does.

 

I went on a bit of a tangent there with my intro haha.  But onto my review of the game!  Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoy it.  I’m not going to go into major gameplay details about it, because I feel like you know the basics of the game if you’re familiar with it.  But simple version:  It’s a 3 v 3 team based brawler, where you play as 1 of 4 classes and run around on stages fighting with characters from all of the main line Final Fantasy games.  You have lots of fan favorite attacks, and the summons from the series act as a sort of Super Smash Bros stage hazard each team can summon once per match to trip up your opponents.

 

So far, the summoning is the only major beef I have with the game.  At times it makes the matches way too chaotic, and from a blindness standpoint, if I’m close to the summoning range I rarely can hear my character and can’t tell what’s going on.  That being said, I think that would just happen in general, whether you’re sighted, or blind, and that’s part of what’s so refreshing about this game.  Other than the menus, which are always a hurdle for any blind player without reading vision, once you get into a battle, the playing field is very even and it’s a matter of skill, team composition, and all in all having lots of fun playing as your favorite Final Fantasy characters.

 

When first loading up the game, it can be majorly overwhelming.  I still haven’t figured out all of the menus, and have been working my way through them.  A good example is the customization menus, for putting on EX skills, and changing chat messages.  I had to Google how to pull up the menus, and when I figured it out, it was a sea of other menus that I’ve yet to care to navigate.  Now EX skills, in my opinion, aren’t a necessity to mess with if you really just want to pick up the game and play like I did, but once you get past that point, and start leveling up characters, and hearing your little Moogle assistant tell you you have a ton of EX skills to customize with, you’ll want to work on figuring out how to use the EX skill and chat menus.  I’m lucky enough to have a pair of eyes that’s generous enough to help me read things when I go “Mom, can you read a menu?” but I can see it being a problem for a blind user who doesn’t have any sighted help.  You definitely need that to get your baring’s in this game, because every menu is designed differently.  When you figure them out, they’re easy to navigate, but it’s just that blindness learning curve that comes with picking up a new game, plus the abundance of menus that makes this game a tad overwhelming after coming from the ease of BlazBlue:  Cross Tag Battle’s menu system.

 

The character select is pretty easy to figure out, but make a note that it’s laid out differently in the tutorial than in any other menu.  In the actual game modes, the characters are in a descending list and you can just scroll down and count in chronological order, because the characters are laid out according to franchise.  So the first character you start on is Warrior of Light, the last one in the list is Ace.  It’s fun to put my Final Fantasy know how to the test with my counting, but sometimes I count wrong because I forget of one game or another, or forget some games have 3 characters.  But to me that’s no big deal – I’ve gotten a lot of crazy parties made that worked surprisingly well because of that.  Today I accidentally made a team of Rinoa, Kain, and Kefka and it worked super well, won five matches in a row with it.  Would it work online?  Probs not, but it’s still fun to see what parties work, and a lot of fun to be able to use characters you may not want to physically use yourself by having them in your party.

 

I really like how story mode is formatted.  Instead of having to sit through a 2 to 4 hour story like most games, you unlock cutscenes and battles by playing Gauntlet mode.  You go to story mode, and then use Memoria to unlock cutscenes and battles, and if you want you can do 1 battle, watch the cutscenes after it, and move on.  Leveling up characters in Gauntlet mode is a must for some fights, as the first two story mode battles I’ve done were a bit of a hurdle because I haven’t been using certain characters, so went back to Gauntlet mode to level up and see how it goes.  But I prefer this format over the sit and watch a ton of scenes then do like eight fights and really without cutscenes story mode would be like twenty minutes.  Set up in the way it is in Dissidia, you can play multiple modes at once and enjoy them all equally, and not feel obligated to sit through story mode.  You can’t unlock any cutscenes out of order either as far as I can tell, so from a blindness standpoint, it’s easy to just pick a scene and see that you unlocked it – because when you unlock something new, it makes a special unlocking noise.

 

 

 

I really like the leveling up system too.  You play the offline Gauntlet modes to get EXP.  You get EXP no matter if you win or lose a battle, which is also nice.  So you really can just go to Gauntlet mode and grind and test out characters and parties and earn experience to unlock story mode cut scenes, EX skills, summons, treasure.  Pretty much everything that’s an add on to the game, you win by battling.

 

The battles feel like you’re playing an actual active time battle in a Final Fantasy game.  I will say there’s some lag sometimes with moves, and the load times between fights and character selecting can get a bit much for me.  Because the battles are so chaotic, Dissidia NT has a targeting system that works super well for blind gamers.  Just lock on with L2 and R2, and you instantly are directed to the closest enemy.  You’ll want to practice listening in for someone coming close to you so you can react accordingly, but the sound design is great in this, so you’ll have no problems with that.  I tend to fight as the marksmen, because that’s been my playstyle since before I lost my sight, and it’s very easy to just walk as far as hearing far away voices, and start launching off attacks.  I’ve used some closer range characters and they’re a little more tricky, but I’m sure you could get them down if you worked on it because like I said, the sound design in this game is superb.  You can tell what’s going on all around you with no major issues, and all you have to do is be attuned to your surroundings and fight, just like any other gamer would have to do.

 

 

And that’s my biggest take away from this game:  It’s addictive, fun, and levels the playing field for anyone to play.  Other than the menus, which will always be a chronic blind gamer issue unless companies start integrating text to speech in their games, the gameplay itself is strategic, enjoyable, and I find myself playing it for hours on end without any major issues.

 

The game has a lot to do in it, But I will say the pricetag of 60 dollars is rather high.  I waited to get it used for 20, so I could get the season pass for its 30 dollar price and spend 50 dollars on the game.  But to have the game be 60, and the season pass be 30, making getting everything in the game if you buy it new be 84, then to me that’s a bit much for what you’re getting in the game.  But I paid 70 for Cross Tag Battle so…I guess it just depends.  All in all, games nowadays are going for 60 dollars, so I’m sure it’s a fine price but if you’re on the fence about the game I’d say buy it used, you can get it cheap.  But honestly the argument of “I want more content” is a little silly, because if you want to play a game and it’s at a certain price, then you’re going to buy it lol.

 

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is the only other game I have for the console, and as far as content goes, I feel like Dissidia has more to offer.  As I stated earlier, I think the distain towards it was far too unwarranted.  Like why compare a new game that’s built from the ground up to an old one anyway?  There was plenty of footage of Dissidia NT before it got ported over to the US of what the gameplay was, so saying it’s not what you expected is silly.

 

Accessibility wise, get past the menus, and you’re good to go.  The selecter stays on the last character you were on, so make a major note of that if you’re a blind gamer.  Also, in the offline play modes, it saves your party so the last characters you were using are the ones selected when you reload the game.  Which is nice when you know it’s happening, but when you don’t it’s baffling haha.

 

The menu layout is very aesthetically pleasing for sighted gamers, but for the blind it’s a little weird, because it’s set up in 2 columns of 3 options, instead of just a descending list of six options.  It’s workable for sure, but know that your first load of the game is going to be figuring all of that stuff out before you can play, along with figuring out the character select screen.  It’s easy enough to get to the tutorial though,  and just figure out characters and have fun with the game.

SO if you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend this game!  I’m a huge Final Fantasy fan and seeing my favorite characters 3D rendered with voices, and seeing them interact with each other in story mode is a huge kick for avid Final Fantasy fans.  If you want a fun team based game, I’d suggest giving it a go! This isn’t even remotely close to all of the features of Dissida NT, or all of the accessibility tips for NT because I’ve been playing it for about 2 weeks now, so feel free to talk about your tips and experiences playing it in the comments below!