Thursday, January 25

Blood and Guts

The second and third episodes of Afro Samura from GONZO Animation and actor Samuel Jackson have come out recently, and as promised they ramp up the blood, gore, violence and sex far up from the opening episode of this 5-part series.
Episodes 2, entitled The Dream Reader, follow the titular vengeance-seeking swordsman and Number Two warrior in the world after he is sent hurtling off a cliff by an explosion. Alive but seriously wounded, he is found and tended to by Okiku (voiced by Kelly Hu), a beautiful woman who isn't all that she seems. In and out of Afro's Subconscious and Unconscious, we see his bloody past- the taking of the Number Two headband from him by some brigands, as well as the desecration of his father's remains; to his joining a kendo school and finding other children to call friends, to his first kill on his road of revenge. In between the somewhat lullish moments of the episode Afro manages to have a bit of lovemaking just before the inevitable reveal and attack at the end.
The episode ramps up the violence quite a bit with Kill Bill-esque fountains of blood spouting from more than one character in the course of the 20+minute show, the circumstances made even more dark by the sheer youth of the protagonist at the time. Yes, there's sex before the finale, though not really enough to make this a hentai feature. It's all wrapped up neatly by the end and Afro's off to continue his quest.

I guess I failed to mention the continued presence of Ninja Ninja, Afro's tag-along companion who's about as talkative as Afro is silent. I have to say that while the role gives Jackson (he voices Ninja as well) room to perform more lines in the show (Afro's dialogue wouldn't fill half a page), the character is just wrong. He's irritating and doesn't bring anything to the table aside from being annoying. The lines aren't funny or helpful, and the only mystery I am seeing in Ninja Ninja is WHY THE HELL IS AFRO ALLOWING HIM TO FOLLOW? And for someone named Ninja NInja, you'd think he'd be kinda kick-ass... but he's not. But he is hard to kill though. Does he actually have a use aside from not-comedy relief? We'll just have to see.

Anyway, Episode 3, titled Clan of the Empty Seven has Afro taking on the evil order of monks that has been following and harassing him from the start of the series. The baddies send out their big gun- nothing less than a robotic copy of Afro (apty called the Afro Droid) to take him out. Afro wins the first round and promptly thereafter starts taking out the clan one by one in fights which, while not being too exciting or slick, are certainly very bloody and gory. A return engagement with the Afro Droid follows, with a look at Afro's next opponent (a swordsman wearing, of all things, a huge Teddy Bear mask) ending the episode.

While Episode 2 was a lull and a bit of flashback, Episode 3 is all action. There are some cool animations and some wild fight scenes, perhaps a bit overblown even for this series but still quite cool. Again, blood spurts in disturbing (and by now monotonous) amounts, and Ninja Ninja once again is utterly irritating and useless. Just two more episodes to go and this one is done. Will the last few opponents ramp up the blood even more after all the carnage in the first 3 installments? Get your barf bags ready.

All in all, I have to say I'm not totally impressed by Afro Samurai. Midway in, I haven't been blown away by any revelations, any coolness to the villains (aside from Justice himself in the first episode) or any twists (no twists are coming by now, I guess... this is all a one-trick, one-track simple story). The animation is consistent at least, and the action intense as heck. I guess I am disappointed by the lack of real humor (Ninja Ninja is not funny at all) or any depth to Afro aside from the occasional glass of lemonade.
Despite all the flaws, I guess I'm seeing this to the bitter and bloody end. Maybe there's a surprise at the end. Maybe not. But I do know someone's going to die. Next ep's up in a day or two, so we'll see then.

Wednesday, January 24

Blizzard at the Box Office

For those who play PC RPGs, the name Blizzard is synonymous with addictive, epic gaming. Responsible for hits like Starcraft, Diablo and Warcraft, Blizzard is actually the reason why I got my first computer (I wanted to play Diablo 2. Another thing the company is known for is their incredible CG cinematics which usually bookend their games, lavish and obviously big budget mini-movies that set the tone and mood for the countless hours of gameplay ahead. These CG movies have been so good that many fans have wondered, will Blizzard ever actually do a full-length movie?

Well, apparently they ARE. Well, that's according to one preview where a Blizzard producer goes on record saying that they are indeed working on a movie project (live-action though) that fans of their games will no doubt recognize and get excited about. Most probably the first film will be based on the present focus of Blizzard's efforts, the MMO World of Warcraft, which is currently enjoying mobs of players crowd the servers with the recent release of WOW's expansion, The Burning Crusade. Perhaps once the hubbub over the actual game has sorta died down, we'll be hearing more about the Blizzard movie. Maybe. Probably. And hopefully it won't suck. Expect it to burn into cinemas by next year or so.

Tuesday, January 23

Recognizing Avatar

Despite the great fanbase and fanatical devotion of fans to Avatar: The Last Airbender, I actually find it quite irritating that the series is lambasted a lot by misguided folk who more often than not probably haven't even seen an episode. These cretins mostly see the show as crap simply because (A) it's from Nickelodeon and (B) it has anime influences, making it an obvious 'Anime Rip-off'. Poor fools.

Well, it's great for me to see that at least in the entertainment black market known as Ain't It Cool, Avatar has actually found recognition from one of the writers, who after watching the second season DVD has remarked that the show is 'smartly written' with a continuing story that's going somewhere, and monumental action.

Recognize, people. Avatar is the best animated show (I would say best show, PERIOD) out right now on US Television and it just deserves to be seen. Find the episodes, watch it and get enthralled by this awesome series. Now, when is that darn Third Season coming out???
Comics Thoughts

It's the new year and a new beginning for me in comics. I know that I've been very much into gaming these past several months... and I still am. But once I get the gaming juice out of my system- or at least, sate the raging beast within for a while- I'll be looking to return to the gutter... comic gutters, that is.

As I've mentioned in the past, I've decided against closing the book on Angel Ace. I'm still deciding on whether I should go into the BIG BATTLE story sooner or later. But even after that, I am seeing Angel's adventures continue- whatever form it takes, she'll always be around. I've realized that Angel isn't just one of my comic characters- she's my Muse. So whatever happens, I'll always keep Angel around.
Then there's my dark favorite. Kai will continue to stalk and sneak around in her adventures, though I am thinking to jump-start the title to make it easy to jump into. Perhaps shorter stories, smaller releases instead of big little anthologies is better. Short but sweet stuff in the vein of the recent Afro Samurai anime or the older Spawn cartoon from HBO. I want a continuing plotline but also individual little stories of mayhem, martial arts and fan service. That'll go down soon. A webcomic is also a possibility. We'll just have to see.

Kunoichi Boy continues as well, and I want to see it go through. I'm targetting the next Komikon for the next major release, so I'll have to keep chipping away at the pages of the next issues.

And finally, there's a new project I am aiming for. Nothing solid yet. It's totally new and I have just the smallest kernels of ideas for it. We'll see what happens as I nurture that little grain of rice.

More on this soon. Stay tuned for the next episode...