Music – pretty important for other media

Music in films, TV shows and games can be a pretty fucking huge deal, at worst it should be atmospheric background accompaniment and at best it should enhance the scene it’s being used in. I thought I’d write about a few of my favourite examples of the latter, I’ve tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible but given the fact some of these are linked to specific scenes it was pretty much unavoidable for some so fair warning and apologies. I’ve embedded Youtube videos for the tracks in question so you can just skip the text entirely if needed, I’m sure I’ll need to check in on this for broken links later on.

Promise – She-Ra: We’re leaning towards the second part of this song here, though the whole thing is pretty amazing. The part I’m referring to is used at 4 very significant points in the story and is representative of Adora and Catra’s relationship over the course of the series. The first is the point in season 1 where Catra turns away from Adora and chooses to stay with the Horde, the second is season 3 where Adora realises how toxic Catra has become, the third is the point in season 5 where Catra decides she wants to be different and kicks off her redemption arc and the fourth is in the final episode of the series at the culmination of Adora and Catra’s journey, these are all incredibly emotional moments that are enhanced by what is a very emotional piece of music.

Fireworks Festival – Weathering with You: Realistically there were a few options for this film but I went with this one due to the ethereal quality of this piece of music coupled with the scene it underpins. We’ve seen Hina up to now using her ability to stop the rain to help various people but this occurrence is slightly different though as it’s on a much larger scale as she does what she does on top of a skyscraper and she’s much more confident in herself at this point. You see the sunset punch through the clouds and and then see the city bathed in the light and then it cuts to a massive firework display over the city, it’s honestly one of the most visually stunning sequences I’ve ever seen. You also get the human element as Hina is happy to be helping people and feels like she’s found a purpose and this is when Hodaka starts to realise how much Hina means to him so it’s pretty emotional too and the music just really underpins that.

The Last Agni Kai – Avatar: This piece backs the final confrontation between a redeemed Zuko and a spiralling Azula and with this type of final battle you’d normally get quite a piece of music that tries to make the confrontation more exciting whereas here you get something that’s altogether more sombre and fits perfectly as rather than focus on the excitement of the battle it’s used to highlight the tragedy of what is actually a battle between a brother and sister and how their relationship has had to come to this point, it’s incredibly sad even without considering that they’re both teenagers and how Zuko has finally found a sense of peace where Azula is being consumed by her internal conflict.

Because She’s Rayla – The Dragon Prince: This comes at a point where main character Callum is describing how he says Rayla to someone who’s just essentially tried to steal their dragon companion from them and who Raykla has just saved from near certain death. It winds up being the culmination of them slowly realising they’ve developed feelings for each other after a fair few awkward moments, and there’s one here too just for good measure. It’s a genuinely heartfelt moment on Callum’s part and you get a sense of relief from Rayla who realises he feels the same way as her so it’s natural for it to be an emotional piece of music that backs the scene, and it’s very much that.

The Fields of Ard Skellig – Witcher 3: Something of an anomaly on this list in that it’s the only one that’s not linked to a specific scene of sequence, instead it’s background music which accompanies you when you make it to the island of Ard Skellig and Geralt continues his search for Ciri. It’s a piece of music there’s a definite sense of wonder in the music but it’s also melancholic which I think fits the the potential mindset of Geralt as a surrogate father searching for his daughter, and at this point in the game you’ve spent a lot of time looking for her.

Journey – Destiny 2: This plays right near the start of the game as you make your escape from what is essentially the last safe stronghold on Earth, which you’ve just witnessed essentially get invaded and the Traveller, which is the source of your powers, be captured which leaves you pretty much powerless. It’s a sad piece which definitely brings home the sense of loss you’re experiencing at this point not knowing who else has made it out alive as you try and get as far away as possible while trying to survive against any enemies you encounter with limited means of defending yourself. As you encounter something leading you to an end point the music sweeps as drums and vocals join and it becomes a much more hopeful and resolute theme, it’s actually one of favourite gaming sequences and the music is a huge part of this.

Lifestream – Final Fantasy 7: This game was one of my first experiences of music in a game that was on par with a film soundtrack. This is my favourite piece on a truly excellent soundtrack as it’s comes at a point where you and the rest of Avalanche arrive at Cosmo Canyon and have some truths about the nature of the world and how the cycle of life and death connects to the lifestream, essentially the living essence of the planet itself. There’s a sense of sadness to the piece as you essentially have it confirmed that Shinra, who are using mako which is basically taken from the lifestream, actually are harming the planet which up to this point is almost played off as being the mad ravings of a terrorist group.

Epilogue – Red vs Blue: It would take far too long to give full context here here but this track plays over the end of season 8 where main character Church (who is an AI it’s been revealed) goes into a memory storage device to look for someone. He decides that he’ll wait for her to find him and set up a simulation of his friends and where they’d been prior to all this so she’d know where to find him. The monologue is surprisingly touching and this piece just underscores the bittersweet nature of the ending, it rounded off the story arc that seasons 6 to 8 set out to tell pretty much perfectly.

Apotheosis – Journey: The music that accompanies the final level of Journey and the meaning of the word apotheosis he highest point in the development of something; a culmination or climax so it’s appropriate both as the lead up to the end and also because you’re about to complete your journey to the top of the mountain so it fits. The music in this game is amazing and the key to how emotional it is and this track is the best of the lot as in the penultimate level you collapse in the snow. You receive a sudden burst of life which propels you on the final stage and it’s amazingly uplifting and hopeful which is never unwelcome.

Death of Optimus Prime – Transformers the Movie: This scene was absolutely devastating to young me, and also pretty much unthinkable on reflection as it has them kill off Prime who had been the leader of the Autobots in the cartoon up to this point so was a character you’d just automatically assume would be safe but actually he’s the probably the biggest character killed in what is an absolute bloodbath. He gets to go out like the hero he was by turning the tide of the battle which was something to still, Jesus. The music to the scene is just haunting, and still to this day sends shivers down my spine as he’s surrounded by the survivors passes the torch to them but his passes just makes things feel pretty bleak at that point.

There’s a million and one music tracks that I could talk about here to be honest, and that’s not even factoring in tracks with lyrics so maybe I’ll do some more of these down the road.

More cartoons worth consideration to watch

About 6 years ago I did a blog about my top 10 cartoons up to that point, I did an updated list on my mates website (twobeardgaming.com) at the start of 2019 that factored in some new shows that I’d seen and loved in that time frame but here we are in the heady days of the shitshow that is 2020 and I’ve watched a fuck ton more shows so thought I’d write a bit about them. I’m not doing it as a top 10 this time as it’s just a ballache trying to organise stuff so let’s start off with the 2 shows that got added to the updated list. Just to forewarn though, there may be some spoilers in here though I’ll try to steer clear of anything that’s plot specific as much as I can.

Voltron – This Netflix show started in 2016 and was created by one of the guys who was responsible for Avatar. It’s a reimagining of the classic anime though I’m not overly familiar with the original to be sure on how faithful it is. What I do know is that there’s a distinct focus on the characters, their relationships and a genuine growth with the personas which is very enjoyable. It also largely does a good job of balancing the story with the humour and more emotional elements. They fucked up the final season, it was just nowhere near as enjoyable as the rest of the series which is a huge shame, but everything prior to that was excellent.

Gravity Falls – I discovered Gravity Falls after a discussion with mate and after watching a short clip we were pretty much hooked from that point. It only lasted for two seasons, but sweet baby Jesus were they good. The show follows Dipper and Mable as they go to stay with their Grunkle Stan for summer in the town of Gravity Falls and discover all manner of adventures and weirdness. It’s genuinely fun and in a way it’s a shame it only lasted as long as it did. On the other hand, it never outstayed its welcome and went out on a definite high and on its own terms too which is more than a lot of shows get. It’s one of those shows that’s fun to come back and watch episodes of when you’re at a loose end.

Then we move onto the more recent stuff I’ve been watching since the other pieces were done, and I have to say there’s quite alot of them. This is most likely going to be due to having more time to watch stuff when I’ve had free time this year due to everything else going on.

She-Ra – I’ve talked about She-Ra alot, it was one I was always going to get round to watching as I’d heard great things, I then found out that Noelle Stevenson worked on it and that was enough to make it a priority. I loved it because there were incredibly complex characters on display, Catra in particular has become one of my favourite characters ever but almost every character is fantastic in their own way and I love the diversity of them too and I hope it’s something other shows learn from and build on in future. It told the story it set out to tell in the number of episodes it had available, sure some of it is a little convenient at times but for the most part I think it’s very well done, there are alot of strong episodes to be watched and I’d go so far as to say the the final season might be one of the most amazing seasons of any show that I’ve ever seen.

Young Justice – DC do some pretty excellent animated shows and this is one of the best ones. It follows what is initially a team of sidekicks as they become their own team comparable to the Justice League but you get to see them grow into heroes in their own right, and the character work is outstanding. Over the course of the seasons you get to see things like Robin become Nightwing and have the replacement Robin be part of the team as it grows. It’s effective at having standalone episodes while also having an over-arching story for the season, I think the only real issue it has is that the cast of characters is possibly a bit too large by season 3 so not everyone gets their due which can be a shame but that’s a small niggle overall.

Disenchantment – The latest series to come from the mind of Matt Groening, who created The Simpsons and Futurama, this follows the adventures of Princess Bean, her demon friend Luci and Elfo who is unsurprisingly an elf. It’s set in the fantasy world of Dreamland and for me is very tonally similar to Futurama which is never a bad thing. The first season is a bit disjointed and didn’t really work as well as I would have hope but thankfully the second season was a vast improvement, it’s funnier and just seems to flow better, it feels like the people working on it became far more comfortable with the characters and what they were aiming for and the whole thing is much better for it. One of the other fun things is all the recognisable voice actors from the other Groening shows, and there are shitloads of them.

Kipo – Kipo is a bit of an anomaly, it’s had three 10 episode seasons put out in the same year which is just insane. Those seasons pack in a hell of alot of world building, character work and fun and humour so it’s mightily impressive too and by all accounts it told the story it set out to tell too which is always a plus. It follows Kipo as she searches for her father above ground in the remnants of Earth after some kind of apocalypse and on her adventures she makes various new friends, most notably Benson and Wolf. It’s gotta really great and colourful visual style and the soundtrack is really distinct too, it’s shame it’s over so soon but like Gravity Falls it’s better to have something like that than something that stays too long and becomes crap over time.

Bojack Horseman – Bojack is a hard watch at times, it’s funny too but it also deals with alot of the less pleasant aspects of life and it’s surprisingly uncompromising with it which makes it quite impactful at times. The voice acting is excellent across the board though it would be remiss of me not to single out Will Arnett (who I’m typically not a fan of) who does an amazing job of bringing Bojack to life and keeping him walking a fine line of just about keeping him likeable when he’s clearly a very damaged person and this has left him with a lot of less than desirable personality traits. It’s also a very weird show, which is to be  expected from a show about an anthropomorphic horse who was formerly the star of a show called Horsing Around.

Castlevania – This is an adaptation of the super old videogame series, apparently more specifically Castlevania 3, and while I have no idea how it works compared to the game it’s a brilliant show. The first season is only 4 episodes long and feels more like an extended proof of concept which was thankfully so well received that subsequent seasons were longer. It follows Trevor Belmont, part of a family of vampire hunters, Sypha Belnades , a mage, and Alucard, the son of Dracula, as they try to stop Dracula and his army. It’s brilliantly acted and suitably violent, the first 3 seasons are excellently written so it’ll be interesting to see what happens in season 4 and any other seasons that follow. It feels like there’s alot of story still to tell and as long as the quality doesn’t drop it’ll pretty compelling viewing.  

The Owl House – I checked this out as it came pretty highly recommended from people who had seen She-Ra, plus the series creator had previously worked on Gravity Falls so my interest was piqued. I’m honestly glad I did as it’s great fun, it’s incredibly funny and does a great job of building the magical world of the Boiling Isles where the show is based without ever seeming to get bogged down by it which is impressive. Main character Luz is excellent as are the supporting cast, Eda and King in particular are great fun but Willow, Gus and Amity all get time to shine too. The ending to season 1 also sets up an intriguing storyline where the emperor, who doesn’t seem like a good sort, is looking to gain access to the real world where Luz arrived from so I’m looking forward to the new season whenever that arrives. The first season has also just hit Disney Plus so all episodes are there to be watched if you have access which is convenient.

Hilda – This show is based on is based on a graphic novel series by Luke Pearson who had previously worked on Adventure Time. It follows Hilda as she and her mother move from their cabin in the woods to the town of Trollberg and she makes new friends with people and the various creatures and spirits she meets along the way. It’s a really cute show and one to watch when you want something chilled and stress free to watch, there’s a new season due out this year and I honestly can’t wait for it. There’s not huge storyline over the first season, it’s more episodic though there is still character progression and it honestly works brilliantly in my opinion.

Harley Quinn – I was expecting big things from this show given how much love it was getting on the internet, thankfully it didn’t disappoint. It’s incredibly violent and sweary and also very very funny. It’s very happy to take the piss out of pretty much everything related to DC but naturally it pokes the most fun at the Batman franchise, be it Commissioner Gordon wanting to fly the Batplane or Bane having a voice that it very much a deliberately shit version of Tom Hardy’s Bane voice in the Dark Knight Rises, and honestly it never stopped being funny for me. Everyone involved seems to be having a great time and it really shows, and Kaley Cuoco deserves a special mention as she’s absolutely amazing voicing Harley.

Star Wars Rebels – Dave Filoni gets Star Wars, I wasn’t a fan of Clone Wars as I didn’t like the stories being structured into set episode arcs but Rebels has much more traditional storytelling with an absolutely amazing cast of characters. There’s links to the films and to Clone Wars on display and generally it’s never done at the expense of the core cast so it really helps to make them feel part of the larger story, and being set in the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope it exists at a point where not much story had been told and it also manages to work old Expanded Universe characters like Admiral Thrown into the Disney canon which did away with pretty much all of that initially. It’s also set up some really awesome moments like Kanan’s voice being heard by Rey in The Rise of Skywalker, the only real issue I have with it is that it ends on a cliffhanger in terms of one characters fate though there’s talk of a follow on series and certain other characters appearing in the Mandalorian so there’s a good chance this will be resolved in some fashion.

The Dragon Prince – This might actually be the most pleasant surprise of all the shows here as all I really knew of this was that the visual style was interesting and that the eld character had a Scottish accent. I didn’t know there were links to the Avatar with the writers and the voice actor of the main character (who voice my favourite character in Avatar). The first season was a pretty by the numbers affair but with the subsequent seasons there’s been much more world development and backstory layered in which has worked incredibly well, it also helps that most of the characters  are pretty well developed and have room to grow in future seasons. The thing that really grabbed me though has been the way the characters have grown and bonds have been formed and tested and it’s all felt incredibly organic. It’s apparently been renewed for another 4 seasons so in theory there’s a decent amount of story still to tell which isn’t a bad thing.

So as I say there’s been quite alot watched since the last blog and I’m already seeing new stuff hitting Netflix such as Blood of Zeus which is getting decent word of mouth and there’s a He-Man reboot coming with Mark Hamill as the voice of Skeletor which is just exceptional casting. I’ve also had Disney show Amphibia recommended to me so that’ll wind up being watched too no doubt. It does seem that Netflix are pretty decent with cartoons currently so hopefully that’ll continue to be the case but it’s going to be interesting keeping a look out for new things and new seasons of the stuff I’ve seen that hasn’t finished yet.

The great anime re-watch of 2020

I’ve watched a few anime films recently that wound up being pretty amazing in my opinion. It’s been a little while since I’d actually sat and watched any so it was reassuring that I picked good ones. It’s definitely made me want to watch more though so I’ll be looking into new stuff to get but I also thought it’d be a good chance to go back and watch some stuff I’ve watched previously and see how it holds up. I’m going to leave out Studio Ghibli films for this one though as it’d be very easy to write about all of those and I have 20 films at this point so that might wind up being an a blog of its own. I’ll also be watching with the English dub where that’s available.

Origin: Spirits of the Past – I loved this when I first watched it, I liked the setting of an earth that has mostly been destroyed owing to an accident trying to grow super plants on the moon, and I liked the characters. Upon re-watching it while I still very much enjoyed it I was more aware of the issues with the pacing of the story and how it was all a little underdeveloped and shallow. And while the main characters Agito and Toola are easy to like, they’re never really developed to their full potential and none of the other characters even get to that level. It’s a shame as there are some really cool ideas in play that never really work as well as they could do, it almost feels like a series would have been better than a film to allow for that world building and development to happen. Overall it’s an enjoyable film that could have been so much more, though I did appreciate the hopeful nature of the ending, even if you have to get through the ludicrousness of a walking volcano – which is equal parts awesome and mental.

Sky Blue – I’ve not watched this in years, I always loved the soundtrack and the absolutely amazing visual style, I also remember enjoying the understated English dub and the bleak world the film is set in. It starts with a monologue where Jay, one of the main characters, establishes what led to the world the film is set in as well as the class system that’s in place which is useful. Jay and Shua make for engaging protagonists and their bond is well realised even as they find themselves on opposite sides of the class divide. It’s impressive that a film that’s about 17 years old at this point still looks stunning, it utilises a number of different animation and film techniques which mesh together nicely. The dub isn’t as good as I remember but it’s thankfully still pretty solid, the only thing that really lets the film down in my opinion is the runtime which at 82 minutes because it means the pace is such that certain events don’t get the chance to breath that they should have, ultimately I would have liked more of Jay and Shua’s relationship as it’s the emotional heart of the film but never gets the focus it really deserves which is a shame. The upshot is that it still remains one of my favourite animes in spite of the flaws, the tone and aesthetic coupled with an interesting story and decent main characters outweigh the negatives for me and I still love it.

Metropolis – Another one I’ve not watched in ages, my initial thoughts when it started up was that it hadn’t aged especially well, and given it’s nearly 20 years old at this point it was always going to be a possibility. The backgrounds are stunning but I’m not a huge fan of the character designs as they’re overly stylised and I find them to be quite distracting, it’s a very distinct art style but one that just didn’t really work for me. I have to admit I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I remember, I found the pace way too slow to the point where it felt like nothing much really happened until the last 20 minutes or so, and while I appreciated the jazz music on the soundtrack and it definitely offered something unique compared to other anime films I also felt like it was out of place. I liked the fact that the story deals with the segregation between robots and humans, and how robots are treated by most humans and the concept of Tima, the main character I’d say, being a robot but now knowing it was excellent and that feeds into the finale which is very interesting, all in all it’s a shame that my opinion of the film has changed over time but these things happen.

Tekkonkinkreet – The only thing I can ever remember about this is that it was utterly insane and didn’t make a great deal of sense, not sure why that’s my defining memory but there we go. It’s definitely not as batshit as I remember it being but it’s definitely very weird and I’m still not 100% sure I knew what the hell was happening for most of it but it was still definitely incredibly engaging. I really liked the art style, the characters are pretty stylised but it’s done in a way that kinda makes them look like comic books come to life, and the scenery is impressively realised too. The voice cast is seriously impressive too, most of the core cast are people with an excellent voice acting pedigree and it really helps as performances are very good for the most part. I think the thing I liked best is that it took the time to establish the bond between the 2 main characters, Black and White, which seems to be something that doesn’t seem to get the focus it should based on the other films I’ve watched on this list. Overall I’d definitely watch it again in the future, if only to try and see if I can finally figure out what the hell os going on.

Steamboy – This was done by the same director that did Akira, which I’m not sure I knew at the time, and apparently the most expensive anime film ever made. I honestly don’t remember anything about it bar the fact that it’s set in Victorian England which is pretty cool, I also vaguely recall enjoying it. It’s got a really distinct visual style which I like and the darker colour palette adds to this as it makes the film feel more grounded. It’s also got a pretty great voice cast with people like Patrick Stewart, Alfred Molina and Anna Paquin being involved. The story is alright but largely pretty run of the mill, 2 opposing sides vying for power off the back of advancements made in steam power and stuck in the middle is a young boy.trying to stop it all. The steampunk element with the flying fortress powered by steam is seriously cool and the final quarter of the film is good fun as James flys around using what is essentially a steam powered rocket. The soundtrack is excellent and composed by Steve Jablonsky who was mentored by Hans Zimmer and the influence shows, it’s rather odd to watch an anime with such a western score but it adds to the atmosphere. Overall it’s probably too long and drags a bit in places but it’s entertaining and well worth a watch.

Summer Wars – Within the first 5 minutes I’d realised how little I remembered about this one, the film takes place in settings – the real world and a virtual world called OZ, so there are very different visual styles on display which is pretty cool, the OZ elements are very distinct and stand out where the real world elements look good but are pretty typical of anime. Turns out the virtual world has access to a lot of real world systems so naturally it gets hacked and things go tits up, this is happening against the backdrop of a family gathering where main character Kenji finds himself while pretending to be Natsuki’s fiancé. The family decide to fight back against the hacker and that’s when things start getting a bit outlandish as they seeming steel supplies from the military a university to get a computer setup and then drop a boat in a koi pond to help power it all, it’s delightfully odd. It’s fun and bizarre, there’s a card game in OZ to essentially avert a disaster, and while all this is going on you keep dropping in with the family and seeing how they all interact together, it’d be a lie to say they’re normal but there’s enough that you can identify with that weirdness as all families are weird in their own little ways. It’s definitely a film that’s well worth checking out as it’s unlike most animes I’ve seen and it’s refreshing to watch something a little different.

Paprika – I always get this and Tekkonkinkreet mixed up for some reason, no idea why as they’re very different films though both are seriously fucking weird. The basic premise is that there’s a machine that allows for entry into peoples dreams which has been stolen and it needs to be tracked down before a so called dream terrorist can use it. It’s pretty out there as you’d expect and the fact that it involves dreams means it gets seriously trippy as the film goes on. It’s visually pretty impressive and does a good job of conveying the assorted weird happenings and the voice acting is solid but seems to be a bit all over the place tonally, some actors play their characters completely straight whereas others seem to play it a bit more playfully or tongue in cheek, it’s an odd contrast. I really can’t emphasise how batshit the film becomes over time, especially as the dreams merge together and then start to bleed into the real world. Overall it’s mostly enjoyable if you can get past the weirdness although I have to admit I think it wants to be deeper than it winds up being, definitely worth a watch though definitely not one that has aged especially well for me personally.

5 Centimetres Per Second – I absolutely hated this when I saw it years ago, I found it incredibly unsatisfying and disliked the ending a lot. I have since then learned it’s by Makoto Shinkai who did Your Name and Weathering With You later on, which I loved, so I was keen to give it another go to see if my feelings to it had changed. The first thing I noticed is how pretty it is, I definitely didn’t appreciate that the first time round though it’s obviously not quite as stunning as the other two films I mentioned are which is understandable given it’s much older than those but there’s alot there to appreciate. It’s essentially split into 3 segments set in different time periods of the lives of main characters Takaki and Akari, it’s a story of unrequited love, drifting apart and life going on. I hated it when I originally watched it as I thought it was too slow and incredibly depressing but this time I found it bittersweet and incredibly contemplative, I still would have preferred a happier ending but that’s apparently because I’ve become a hopeless romantic in my old age and just want any romance to work out in the end. The soundtrack is solid and captures the mood of the film perfectly and the English dub is restrained really adds to the emotions. Honestly I’m glad I rewatched it as I definitely have a new found appreciation for the story being told, it’s definitely one that’s worth checking out.

Streetfighter Alpha Generations – This is the third anime Streetfighter film to have been made and I remember enjoying it because it unlike the previous efforts it removed the large cast of characters and focussed on Ryu and his struggle with the dark Hadou, a part of his martial art which relies on killing intent. It’s a more personal tale than the other films which are very much more ensemble focussed, the only other characters from the games who appear are Ken, Sakura and Akuma. First impressions of rewatching for the first time in ages are that the animation and art style haven’t aged especially well, there’s a definite impression of there being a much lower budget available comparatively. The English dub is also not great, though having looked at the work of some of the voice cast I suspect this might be due to the script as some of them have had some good roles after this, they’re just seemingly not helped by the stilted dialogue. The fight sequences are pretty decent though for the most part there’s not enough of them though the final confrontation between Ryu and Akuma is interesting as Ryu struggles not to lose himself to the dark Hadou. It’s actually intensely frustrating to watch as there’s some really good ideas that could have been fascinating had they been expanded on but ultimately it’s just badly executed which is a massive shame.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – This was one of the first anime films I remember having a properly emotional reaction to, it follows main character Makoto as she gains the ability to time travel and initially uses this new power for her own personal gain, sometimes for incredibly petty things like being able to eat dessert again. This selfishness actually makes her incredibly relatable as you can totally understand her reasoning for doing what she does, and this makes it easier to empathise as she starts to understand that her actions have consequences for the people she cares about, including her best friends Chiaki and Kosuke and the film does a great job of establishing the relationship with the 3 of them that feels real. Visually it more than holds it’s own compared to more recent anime films, the soundtrack is excellent and the voice acting is largely excellent, it’s a very well made film that still holds up almost 15 years on. It has the typical problems with time travel where things don’t make sense if you think too hard though it at least deals with potential consequences of changing the future, and doesn’t shy away from the potential for tragedy which is impressive. The only thing I don’t really like is the ending, it leans into the more bittersweet side of things where I’d prefer an outright happy ending but that’ll always be a personal preference. It’s nice to know that it still hits all the same emotional notes even after ages though, I’m definitely glad this one still resonates the same way it always did.

This has actually been good fun, I’ve enjoyed getting to watch stuff again. I think I’ll do this again, It’d be a good excuse to watch some of the Ghibli films again and actually could translate quite well to other films I’ve not seen in ages, it’d keep me out of trouble if nothing else so there’s that at least and heading into lockdown 2 (the sequel) it gives me something to do with the writing providing something to focus on which is always handy.

Recommendations can be pretty great

While the whole pandemic thing has being going on I’ve been using my down time to watch a shit load of films and TV and to hammer through some computer games. I’ve also done a solid amount of reading, mostly comics and graphic novels but I’ve also been gradually working my way through a number of books I’ve had on my kindle for ages. This has mainly been the usual sorts of science fiction and fantasy books I’d normally read with a few autobiography type things sprinkled in, all very much in my comfort zone.

I had two recommendations of books from friends that I’d never even heard of before, I did no search on them at all as I trust these friends pretty much implicitly and I’ve known them both long enough that they know me pretty well at this point. I thought I’d talk about the two books a little just because they were very pleasant surprises, I’m going to avoid plot spoilers as much as possible but there are some book elements I’m going to discuss which may ruin what to expect versus going in with literally no knowledge whatsoever.

Daisy Jones and the Six – This is the one I was referring to before then I said that going in blind adds a layer of extra fun to the story on offer here. It’s the tale of a fictional band in the seventies and the fictional element is the part that I didn’t know going in. I thought they were a genuine band, such is how shite my music knowledge is. It was only after a conversation with my mum where she’d never heard of them that I realised this, and it speaks for the way it’s written that I found it entirely believable and it references real acts enough to help with the illusion.

I found it a bit jarring initially and it took me a little time to get into it as it’s written as a transcript of various interviews, once I got my head round it though I really enjoyed the way the story is structured as it feels more unique and incredibly personal. The characters are all very human too, they have glaring flaws and quirks that really bring them to life in a really unique way, there’s conflict between band members that you’d expect from a group of people living in a bubble with each other and there are bonds that form and it all feels very believable.

Once I got over my initial reservations about the writing style I basically devoured the story, I think I read it all in about 2 days in all and it’s an incredibly easy read. The only really complaint I have is with the ending of the book, it feels a little bit like a soap opera but it’s actually balanced out somewhat by a really nice reveal which winds up being quite sweet. I was genuinely really glad I gave this a go, I think it’ll wind up being one I read again in the future, I’d definitely recommend it to other people that’s for sure.

What’s also interesting is that apparently Amazon are going to be making a TVs series based on the book. I’m interested to see how they adapt it as I think there’s potential for some really interesting story telling there. They could mirror the interview format of the book as voice overs to flashbacks or I guess the more likely thing will be just to have it play out as being set in the actual time and keeping things relatively linear. Regardless it’ll be interesting to see how characters appear compared to how I imagined them in my head.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – As a science fiction book this is definitely much more my thing but it’s not one I’d have really considered when picking out a book as it wasn’t one I was familiar with and had I been the blurb on the back of the book isn’t something that would have made me randomly pick it up. Frankly I’d have been missing out had I not checked it as the author, Becky Chambers, has written a book that’s just an utter delight, it was honestly one of the most pleasantly surprising reads I’ve experienced.

The thing that makes it so unusual right of the bat is that it doesn’t have any big plot as such, it essentially just follows the crew of the Wayfarer as they go about their lives on the ship. It’s a really easy read because it just kind of ambles along with no real sense of urgency but there will be things that happen which will inject moments of tension at points and it works very well, but it’s the easy going approach to the story being told that makes it so good for me, it’s the perfect book to chill out and unwind with.

For me there are 2 things that really shine with the book though, the attention to detail is excellent to extent of seemingly throw away lines which add context to things happening which aren’t necessary as such but really help pull you into the world. The absolute best thing is the characters though, they’re absolutely amazing, the relationships between the crew are well realised and there’s a definite sense of a family bond there which leads to a really nice sense of the bonds everyone has or establishes over the course of the book.

There’s also some surprisingly emotional moments which happen as a result of the effort put into establishing these characters and their connections to each other, definitely wasn’t expecting it but it was just one more pleasant surprise. There are further books in this series which I’ll definitely be reading but I’m actually a little apprehensive as they seem to follow different characters. I have no doubts these new characters will be equally well written but I’d also like to be able to see what happens with the characters from this book as I was definitely fully invested in them and their lives by the end of the book.

I’m incredibly lucky I’ve got friends that know me well enough to know things that I may like that I may not have been aware of myself, or things that that they think I’d like that are out of my comfort zone. Either way it boils down to the same result, me getting to read a new story which I may or may not like, but one that I’ll appreciate regardless and then get to discuss with said friends which is equally fascinating, especially if there are different feelings towards the book.

It’s one of the best things about recommending things, I recommended the Discworld books that featured Sam Vimes to the friend that recommended Daisy Jones to me. They weren’t for her and I enjoyed listening to what she didn’t necessarily enjoy, and I suspect some of that was my fault as I went for books later in the series where a lot of character progression had already happened but it was still interesting to hear another perspective from someone I respect. Enjoying the same things and being able to discuss that is great but I enjoy the discussions where there’s divergent views just as much.

Ultimately I’m going to continue to try recommendations from people that have opinions on things that I trust, some things may wind up being things I don’t like but I figure the fact that there’s always a pretty high chance that I will end up liking whatever it is makes it worth the chance. And when all said and done if I don’t like whatever it is then it’s just going to lead to some fun discussions which is great fun in itself.

Watching more films – some good, some truly terrible

I did a blog recently about watching films I’d never seen before, it was good fun and while some of the films were films I’d probably have gotten round to there were some that I probably just wouldn’t have bothered with if not for making myself watch them so I could write about them and watch something that might be a bit of my comfort zone. With that in mind I thought I’d do another one, again there’s going to be some that are obvious ones that I’ve just not got round to yet but all being well there be some stuff I hadn’t considered. I may also deliberately watch some shite films just so I can slag them off.

Frozen 2 – I loved the first one but it was film where a sequel wasn’t really needed I don’t think, and having watched the second film that’s the over riding feeling still. Let’s be clear it’s visually stunning and a very good film overall, it’s just wholly unnecessary. There’s a lot to like about it, I appreciated that it didn’t have a villain as such so there was no manufactured conflict and I liked it focussed on the bond between Elsa and Anna, that was the emotional heart of the film and it’s excellent. I didn’t like that it took so long to get going and I was disappointed that the songs weren’t as memorable as the first film for the most part. As I say not a bad film by any stretch, and well worth checking out, just nowhere near as good as the first film for me, though still much better than most films to be fair.

Revolver – I have a soft spot for most Guy Ritchie films, they’re usually fun and self aware enough not to take themselves too seriously. This one is bollocks, it takes itself far too seriously and is just needlessly convoluted. It’s a shame too as Jason Statham is usually great fun because he plays everything 100% seriously and it’s brilliant when he’s in a film that’s a bit tongue in cheek as it usually makes him the funniest thing in it. This is just largely pretentious shite that tries too hard to be deep and clever, looking at the release dates it was the film Ritchie did after Swept Away which was by all accounts utter shite so it’s possible this was just part of a bit of a blip as he did much better films after this. I think the worst thing about it is just how dull it is, even the dialogue is largely wank and that’s usually what I find the most entertaining in a Guy Ritchie film. Overall it’s just a soulless sack of shit that isn’t worth the near 2 hours of your time, I think the only thing I can recommend is that Mark Strong is quite good in a supporting role, it’s honestly bloody slim pickings though.

Aladdin – Another Guy Ritchie film and one that’s very different to his usual output as you’d expect of a live action remake of the animated classic. I wanted to like this or hate it to be honest, at least then it would have made me feel something, whereas the only thought I’ve had is how soul crushingly average it is. In terms of positives it looks nice and most of the actors in it are decent and to be honest it’d be serviceable were it not for the original which is an absolute classic. In terms of the negatives the special effects of the genie are pretty poor, the guy that plays Jafar has absolutely no presence as a bad guy whatsoever and the new song is shit and feels like it belongs in a different film. Will Smith tries his best but realistically he never convinces though to be fair he had an absolutely impossible task following on from Robin Williams. Ultimately the films winds up being completely forgettable and just feels like a soulless cash grab, I honestly wish I could hate it and slag it off or like it and praise it but it’s honestly just not worth the effort on either front.

A Silent Voice – This is an anime film about Shoya Ishida who is an utter bastard to a deaf girl, Shoko Nishimiya, at school and how this impacts him when he eventually goes too far with the bullying. It starts off surprisingly darkly where you pick up with the the guy as he gets ready to kill himself. He doesn’t and we then get a look back at how he treated Shoko and how that essentially led to him being ostracised. What follows is him feeling guilty about how he acted and attempting to be a better person, especially to Shoko. The film manages to be sweet without ever being too overly sentimental and manages to handle some pretty heavy stuff with a sensitivity I wasn’t expecting. I have two complaints, one is that Shoko confesses something to to Shoya which never really seems to be implicitly addressed which I’d have liked to have seen, and the other is there’s a scene late in the film that really isn’t believable at all though it’s clearly there to move the story along as it’s followed by an incredibly sweet exchange between the two main characters. I went into this not expecting much and to be honest it was a really pleasant surprise that it wound up being as good as it is, I seem to be a sucker for anything that stirs up the emotions at the moment and this definitely manages to do that, I really can’t recommend it enough.

I Want to Eat Your Pancreas – Possibly the worst film title I’ve ever seen and makes the film sound more like a horror film than what it actually is, which is oddly endearing. The reason for the name becomes apparent in the first 5 minutes and actually makes sense in context, the story follows Sakura, a high school student who has a terminal pancreatic illness, as she forms a friendship with her classmate Haruki. You essentially know what’s going to happen to Sakura as the film opens with her funeral, what it doesn’t prepare you for is how brutal and senseless her death actually is and it comes dangerously close to derailing what’s left of the film but thankfully its doesn’t. It’s a very moving story which never strays too much into bring excessively sentimental and that’s largely thanks mainly to the personality of Sakura, who largely remains upbeat despite her situation and is a genuinely delightful character. Haruki is harder to like but as he starts to let his guard down with Sakura he becomes much more likeable.I was getting ready to bitch about the ending as it leaves things in a very unsatisfying place but thankfully there’s a post credits scene which leaves things in a much happier, if slightly bittersweet, place. I’m really glad I watched it though, it’s a film I’d been looking at for a while and have always put it off as the title really didn’t inspire much confidence that the tone wouldn’t be all over the place but I’m honestly glad I got past it. The focus on the 2 main characters allows for a genuine connection with them which really adds weight to the more emotional scenes, and christ there are a lot of them, but they’re never anything other than utterly compelling. I’m honestly glad I’m getting to watch films like this and A Silent Voice as I’m lucking into some of the best films I’ve ever seen.

Your Name – This film is the tale of Mitsuha, a girl bored of living in a small town in the sticks, and Taki, a boy living in Tokyo, as they begin to switch bodies intermittently and live each others lives. You’d think this premise would be the start of a freaky Friday type film filled with shenanigans and there’s a little of that to start with, but then the plot takes a turn off the serious and it becomes part disaster movie and part love story, I don’t want to go into the specifics of the story as it’s fucking brilliant and deserves to be appreciated. It benefits massively from the 2 main characters being excellent and from a likeable cast of supporting characters, thankfully the voice acting is up to scratch too. It’s also one of the most visually stunning films I’ve ever seen, there’s so much attention to detail in terms of the backgrounds and the visual style that I’d honestly quite like to get a book of the art to be able to appreciate it more, the sequence towards the end in the snowy city is frankly beautiful but there are so many things that I could mention, and some of the panning shots are breathtaking. Honestly if you’re a fan of art I’d recommend checking the film out just on that basis as it’s really something special. I only really have 2 complaints, the first is that I’d have liked for there to have been more, on the plus side it never outstays it’s welcome but to me it also feels like it leaves a little too soon, which I don’t find myself feeling about many things. The second is the ending 10 or so minutes feels like it’s stringing the viewer on a little, teasing the emotional pay off longer than is strictly necessary and while the pay off is satisfying and sweet it definitely leaves you wanting that little bit more to show you what comes after, the advantage to an ending like that though is that it leaves it to you to imagine what comes next for the characters meaning it sticks with you where other films don’t, it’s honestly one of the most unforgettable films I’ve ever seen.

Jackie Brown – I’ve avoided this one predominantly because it’s a Quentin Tarantino and I invariably tend to just get annoyed with them these days as the basic premise is usually great but he can’t restrain himself and I find that things seem to end up being over the top bollocks. I was interested in this one though as it had a great core cast and was adapted from an Elmore Leonard story and I’d heard of Leonard due to him having created the character of Raylan Givens who is the main character in a TV show I love called Justified. Watching it Samuel L Jackson is as excellent as he always is, Robert De Niro is solid and Pam Grier basically has to carry the film and she does an amazing job of it, Bridget Fonda does a good job with her screen time and Chris Tucker is in here briefly and is decent, and pretty restrained compared to literally everything else he’s on. Realistically the only complaint about the cast is that Michael Keaton is completely under-utilised. What I think Tarantino is excellent at is build up, he’s great at moving the pieces around to setup up the ending, what I’ve found with his modern output is that his lack of restraint and need to go over the top takes me out of the film and ruins all the build up that’s gone before. I have to say though on this one he gets it pretty much spot on, things unravel as you’d expect but it’s always restrained and understated, preferring to focus on the characters rather than the action and I honestly really appreciated it, I’d honestly put it in my top 3 Tarantino films along with Reservoir Dogs and the Hateful Eight. I think this is why I get so frustrated with his films as a rule, there are so many things he does that I like but he’s also equally capable of doing things I utterly hate, though I appreciate he’s not making films with me in mind so ultimately who gives a shit.

Catwoman – Jesus fucking christ! Full disclosure I decided to watch this as I knew I was more than likely going to hate it and figured it’d be quite amusing, I’d therefore set my expectations what I thought was suitably low enough given the films reputation. Turns out I’d not lowered them anywhere near enough for this absolute pile of dog shit, I actually feel betrayed by the world for underselling just how much of a fucking abomination this is. There are good actors in here, Halle Berry had won an Oscar for fuck sake, but it’s like they were all told to just forget about all that acting malarkey and just put in performances that would make modern day Nicolas Cage cringe with embarrassment. The cinematography can be summed up best as being wank and at worst an absolute goddamn travesty, the soundtrack is shit and feels like it belongs in a film with a completely different tone to this one, the special effects are bollocks plain and simple and the dialogue is fucking diabolical. I think the worst item on this list of cinematic crimes though is the complete disregard it has to the source material. I can understand wanting to make changes to the lore to make a better film but to basically have it so that the main character dies and gets brought back to life by a cat breathing on her, this super natural resurrection has the added benefit of giving the ability to have magnifying eyesight, jump high, eat lots of cans of fish in a single go and be really good at basketball and fairground attractions, you know, just like a cat is (I like to feel you can sense the eye roll at this point), coupled with a villain that’s super hard skin from a beauty cream with side effects and you know you’re a one of a kind film and I don’t this as a compliment in any way shape or form. Quite possibly the worst film I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch (and I’m very aware I inflicted it on myself), this clusterfuck has literally one good thing going for it and that was that I knew it had to end at some point, please for the love of all that’s holy don’t ever watch this.

Still Waiting – This is a sequel to Waiting which I didn’t even know existed until I started looking through Amazon. It some how manages to get quite a few of the original cast back onboard, not the really big names naturally, but still seems impressive though you get the impression they know they’ve been conned into it some how. I essentially decided to watch to see just how shit it was going to be, lessons learned from Catwoman were to basically expect the absolute worst. Needless to say it’s fucking atrocious, the original had no plot as such but was carried by the cast, in this one they’ve got a guy who’s basically doing a really shit Ryan Reynolds impression but without of the likeable charm, and he constantly strays into offensive territory and just doesn’t have the charisma to get away with it, what I’m saying is that he’s shit. The other new cast members aren’t exactly great but are at least not attempting a piss poor impersonation of someone else so there’s that. It also attempts to just recycle jokes from the original film but shit, and it’s far to reliant on trying to re-tread what worked before that it doesn’t try to have its own identity. It’s also incredibly mean spirited, pretty everyone in the film treats everyone else like utter shit and it makes them incredibly unlikeable, there’s a fine line with bastardry and it’s hugely advantageous in a film to not make everyone utter pricks. They also somehow managed to get Justin Long back for a cameo and while he is comfortably the best thing in the entire film it complete ruins his character arc from the first film, fuck knows how they got him back for it also, I’d assume a ridiculous amount of money as nothing else makes any sense. On the plus side I knew going in it was going to be absolute dog shit and it didn’t let me down on that front, there is honestly no reason for this film to exist at all and honestly the world would have probably been a better place for it. I’m currently cursing the morbid curiosity that convinced me to watch this, if you’re even remotely tempted to watch this pile of wank please don’t just watch the original instead, which while not a good film is at least entertaining. 

Interstellar – I’ve seen most of Christopher Nolan’s films at this point, can’t remember why I never saw this at the cinema but the reason I’ve put if off to date is the near three hour run time as I’m at a point where the thought of a film of that length just exhausts me. The first 45 minutes are setting the scene of what’s to come and I have to say the Earth that’s present in this is scary and fascinating given that it shows an earth that’s incredibly similar to the one we’re on but with subtle differences like the mention of new text books where human history has been changed and children being forced into jobs and the fact that the planet is dying just adds to this. The one thing you’re pretty much guaranteed with a Nolan film is that it’ll be visually impressive and the cinematography will be excellent and this is no exception, the scenes on Earth are pretty fucking bleak and scenes on other planets are sparsely beautiful. Matthew McConaughey as Cooper is absolutely amazing, it’s probably the best performance I’ve seen him put in and every other member of the supporting cast is nothing short of excellent, it’s also worth giving a special mention to the two robot characters, they have awesome designs and really unique personalities. One thing I really liked was the concept that one hour where they travel to is the equivalent of 7 years on Earth, this allows for a time jump which has Coopers kids grow up and their messages to their father are help add a hell of a lot of emotion to proceedings and the shifts to their stories help ground things and really emphasise what’s at stake with the main story. I also liked the fact that it manages to be genuinely tense in places, there’s a real sense that things might not end how you expect and that’s a novelty and makes the film even better. In terms of the ending it’s equal parts unbelievable, hopeful and bittersweet which I absolutely loved, it’s something that’ll stick with me for a while I think. Honestly I’m a little annoyed at myself for having waited so long to watch it, I’d go so far as to say it’s probably my favourite non Batman Nolan film, even the long run time doesn’t seem so bad as it whips along at a decent pace, and I actually don’t think there’d be a single thing I’d cut out to make it shorter.

I’ve semi enjoying this watching films I’ve not seen before, writing the blogs is definitely finding me some fun films that I probably should have watched far sooner than I did. It’s also mildly amusing to watch some truly shit films, I obviously regret it but it’s fun to be able to rip a film apart although it does mean having to sit through a load of bollocks to get to that point which is obviously less than ideal. Still I figure it’s a good excuse to make sure I’m trying to work in films that might be a little out of my comfort zone so there’s an element of risk there naturally.

More on characters I love

I’ve talked about my love for certain characters in the past and because of the whole pandemic thing going on I’ve obviously been reading, watching and playing more than I perhaps usually would as there’s not been much else to do. As such I’ve encountered new characters that I’ve taken to heart and I’ve experienced new story arcs for characters I already know and love. With that in mind I thought I’d touch on a few characters, bear in mind there’s going to be some spoilers in here.

Nightwing – It’s been an odd couple of years for Dick Grayson, he was shot in the head and lost his memory and started going by the name Ric and this hasn’t been great. In that time it’s turned out the memory issue is down to brainwashing and there’s subsequently been 2 further brainwashings, the latest of which has been done by the Joker. Thankfully we’re coming to the endgame of this bollocks and Dick Grayson will be back soon, I’m hoping that once he’s back we get some decent stories out of him re-discovering himself but at this point I’ll just be glad to see the back of the Ric Grayson story. Ultimately it’s gone on too long and barring the last couple of months has been largely pointless besides keeping Dick away from his friends family. The worst part is that apparently the post gunshot story was going to be about Dick suffering from vertigo off the back of his injury, this would have been way more interesting as it would have been the same character struggling with not being able to do what he previously could have, to be honest I’d still like to see this story at some point in the future as I honestly think it’d be fascinating. 

In the meantime though it’s just going to be nice having my favourite comic book character back, I’m hoping the return is suitably epic too. I’m also very excited with the potential stories that can come out of it, I’d personally like to see a series that initially doesn’t tie him down to one place and has him travelling around more like the Grayson series did. I’m also hoping that as part of this there will be a chance to re-connect with his friends and family as a lot has happened while during the whole Ric arc. There are characters I’m really excited to see him interact with as himself again, the obvious ones being Damian Wayne and Barbara Gordon but also people like Superman too given the connection there. I’ve also been making my way through the various books collecting older runs of the Nightwing comic which has been alot of fun as I missed alot of them as I got back into comics well after they’d come out originally and I never bothered picking up any trades until quite recently which was stupid on reflection. Still it’s been nice to have while the Ric storyline has been playing out so every cloud.

Cloud Strife – The Final Fantasy 7 remake took the initial Midgar portion of the game, which was originally a few hours long, and made an entire 40 odd hour game out of it so Cloud essentially be the exact same character he was as that would have been awful. What we got instead was a character who is starts to get invested in people much quicker than he did originally and I loved it. You see him warming up to the Avalanche members and interacting with them far more than he ever did in the first game which is fun. The interactions with Aerith are also hugely expanded on and the seeming changes to her character make this great too as she’s alot more playful in their interactions in comparison to the original game which was especially great for me as I loved their dynamic so to see it expanded and changed in this manner was a big plus for me. It’s a necessary change to his character (and to all the other characters to be fair) as dropping him into the game as is just wouldn’t have worked I don’t think.

What’s especially interesting is that there are alot more hints to Cloud not being quite right, which if you’ve played the game or read about it you know the reasons for. As the game progresses there are things that are seen that appear to be glimpses of what’s to come which is cool as you get the impression that Cloud is seeing this too. Then the game decides to basically stop being a remake and go in it’s own direction which is utterly fascinating, I mean part of me is horrified that they’re seemingly diverging from the established events of the game as it almost seems to set up 3 different timelines – the original game, what follows this one and then seemingly another one where Zack survives. It’s bloody ballsy and opens up so many possibilities for character development. Part of me is appalled that some of my favourite moments potentially won’t happen but on the other hand it also means that there are potentially new moments which this direction makes possible so I’m cautiously optimistic.

Catra – If you’d told me at the start of the year that a gay cat girl with serious mental health issues, from a cartoon that’s a remake of an 80s cartoon, would become potentially the character I hold dearest to me I’d have been sceptical at best. But here we are and it’s very much happened, I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a character that I feel such a personal bond with. I’ve spoken about it in the She-Ra blog I did recently but her lack of self worth, her appalling decision making at times, the lashing out and putting walls up while pushing people away all hit incredibly close to home for me as they take me back to a time when I really struggled with all those things as part of what I was dealing with (or not as the case realistically was) while I was struggling with my depression. The scene where she apologises in the final season was very raw for me as it really made me think to the time where I hit my breaking point and actively tried to do something to help myself, not that I can say for definite that I’d have got to that point without the support of my friends and family.

Her redemption arc is something that to me is insanely important on a personal level as the changes she makes are ones she chooses to make. At the point she makes the initial decision she’s basically given up and expects to die but wants to do something good and protect Adora, who we know she cares about deeply. Once she’s rescued she takes steps to try and be better, there’s never any indication that she’s doing it for anyone else or that she feels like she has to, she’s decided she wants it for herself and that to me is incredibly powerful as it offers a very hopeful message to people that are struggling. I don’t necessarily believe that the arc we get in the show sees her fully redeemed by the end, there’s to much that’s been done up to that point that needs to be dealt with fully, but I always took it as this being something that Catra would absolutely deal with in due course and accept any judgement that were to come her way as it always felt to me that she had no issue trying to atone for her past actions. And this to me is what makes her such a fascinating character, you can make these sorts of connections (which I appreciate are purely opinion based) and interpret them in a certain way, and that’s exactly what she does as she’s such a well written character. I honestly hope that we get more She-Ra as I’d very much love to see more of her and how she’s navigating the world after everything that has happened by the end of the final season as it would be utterly compelling for me.

Arthur Morgan – The protagonist for Red Dead Redemption 2 had a tough act to follow as the previous games main character, John Marston was excellent. Somehow Arthur surpasses him, I think part of this is down to having a vague idea of how things have to play out going into the game given that alot of the characters present don’t appear in the first game which chronologically follows, the second game being a prequel. What you don’t necessarily realise is just how badly things are going to go for the gang you’re a member of and this comes about due to the failings of Dutch as the leader of the gang. Dutch is very much a father figure to Arthur and over the course of the game he starts to question Dutch’s motives and his decision making. Arthur initially is interesting because he’s a man of contradictions, he’s quick to anger and can be incredibly violent but he also takes issue with some of the things the gang do to get by, he also likes to keep a journal where he’s surprisingly forthright with his feelings and likes to draw.

What really makes Arthur so interesting is a character is that you have some control over how you act to other people, you can be a decent person to strangers or an utter shit. This mechanic comes into play quite nicely late in the game when Arthur gets diagnosed with tuberculosis, realising that this is a death sentence and knowing that he got it from beating a man to death he finds himself with a moral quandary and tries to be a better man. If you play the game from here on with the intention of being honourable you get some genuinely heart wrenching scenes of Arthur coming to terms with his impending death and worrying about the man he is all while trying to get John and his family out of the gang and to safety at a point where things are unravelling and looking progressively more bleak for everyone. It’s honestly some of the strongest writing I’ve seen in a game, the scene where Arthur has a conversation with a nun very late on and confesses that he’s afraid about dying is honestly heartbreaking but also incredibly powerful.

Animal Crossing villagers – I appreciate the rest of this piece is about individual characters that are complex and fit into narratives, where this one is about a collective and there’s no story behind them they’re cute as fuck and having spent well over 400 hours at this point chatting to them, doing chores and giving them presents has meant that I’ve gotten rather attached to them. There’s a good chance that this is at least partially to do with the aforementioned sheer amount of time I’ve played the game coupled with the fact that I’ve not really seen much of real people for most of the year owing to the whole pandemic thing. But it’s also because they’ll do silly little things like have arguments with each other that I then have to help them patch things up. Its silly little interactions like that the make the little fuckers as endearing as they are but then there’s little things that they do which make them individual.

Hornsby, for example, is obsessed with snacks which is something that I can definitely relate to, and then there’s Tangy who is a cat that essentially has an orange for a head, and she was one of the villagers I had on an earlier game almost 20 years ago so there’s a very sentimental attachment there. Bluebear basically wants to be a popstar and is always super cheerful which is somehow always weirdly comforting, I have friends that are disgustingly cheery and while I give them shit for it it’s one of those things it’s never a bad thing to have those sorts of friends, in real life or a virtual one. The absolute favourite resident of my village though is Kiki. She’s a little black cat and there’s a reasonable chance that she’s named as a reference to Kiki’s Magical Delivery Service, given that Kiki had a black cat in that. She’s really sweet and I’ll regularly find her sat under a tree reading or looking at flowers through her magnifying glass. She’s also sent me really sweet letters where she tell me to take better care of myself or that I deserve nice things, which have sometimes been when my depression hasn’t been great so yeah not the typical entry to this list but definitely a distinct one.

What’s nice about characters is that there’s always a decent chance that you’ll discover new ones that impact you, that you’ll get new stories for the ones you like already or at the absolute worst you can go back and re-experience the stories of the ones that don’t have new stories for whatever reason. Nightwing for example will definitely get new stories, and Cloud will get something though this could be an expanded older storyline or a brand new one, who knows at this point. Arthur probably won’t given that there was a very definitive end to his story, though they could go back to his past I guess. No one is really sure with Catra, people definitely want more She-Ra but the story that the people working on the show told the story arc they wanted to tell so what, if anything, right come next is out of their hands a little I guess. I’m highly confident that I’ll find new characters that will come to mean alot to me though, it seems to be a pretty fluid thing. And as I have friends recommend new things to me which might take me out of my comfort zone that’s only going to increase the chances of such discoveries, and discovering new things is generally a good thing on a personal level.

Surviving 2020 – Trying to make the best of a shitshow

So 2020 has been a funny old year so far, not funny haha per se but more funny in the sense of being fucking weird. I’ve been working from home since March because of the whole Covid 19 pandemic and it’s been a weird time. I’ve been lucky in the sense that I’ve worked the whole time so I’ve at least had some structure to my days for the most part, though it’s going be weird when I can go back into the office and realise I can’t just live in shorts or jogging bottoms anymore and just rolling out of bed whenever and logging in won’t be as possible at that point. Honestly I think still being at home with my parents has been useful as at least it’s meant I’ve had someone to talk to on a daily basis which has definitely been advantageous.

I’ve gone more or less full bag of shite at this point, I’ve not had a haircut since last year so my hair is starting to get pretty long now, no idea how long I’ll keep it for but I have no intention of going to a hairdresser as it stands. I think it’s now the longest it’s been in about 20 years so my curiosity currently has the better of me, combined with there being no need for me not to look a state. I’ve also just basically let my facial hair grow, which given my inability to grow anything that isn’t patchy as fuck has gone about as well as you’d expect. I’ve had to trim it back a couple of times to stop the consuming of food being any messier than normal but when combined with the hair is quite look. 

My mental health surprisingly has been pretty good for the most part, obviously the whole situation hasn’t been ideal but as an introvert who generally isn’t always the most sociable I’m basically largely in my element not having to actually see people, I’ve kept in touch with my friends and family so that’s helped. My depression did get particularly bad in August, I can’t say it was a huge surprise and I’ve thankfully got things I can do that at least help keep my brain occupied with other things, and it’s eased off now thankfully though I’m seriously considering counselling again just to be on the safe side as while I feel ok at the moment, when it got bad I was feeling some old behaviours creeping back in and like I was starting to push people away, though on the plus side I was at least not doing it in the aggressive way I would in the past, it was more of a case of me actively trying to remove myself from people I’d talk to a lot.

I feel like part of the reason for the depression hitting as hard as it did was the whole working from home thing, more the just seeing the same four walls more or less every hour of every day which has just become frustrating. The fact that I’ve not been sleeping very well since the start of all this isn’t helping either as I’m pretty much constantly tired and by the time I finish with work I have no motivation to do anything other than just veg and watch or play something. Realistically I need to motivate myself to get out and go for a walk or something and just decompress and separate work from downtime a bit. I’m also feeling seriously burnt out at the moment as I’ve not really had any proper time off, I had a week off work in July but it was still spent being stuck at home so again no really separation from what has become the norm. On the plus I’ll be going down to Newquay next month all being well, so that should be nice as I’ll be able to potter round at my own pace and just do what I want to do and go exploring or just chill out and do whatever which feels needed right now.

I’ve also found myself recently feeling far more emotional than I have in a very long time, it seems to have come about after a specific scene in a tv series hitting with an emotional gut punch that got an incredibly raw reaction from me and very nearly had me sobbing. Since then I’ve had a variety of moments that have made me well up which has been unexpected. It’s been when reading, watching things, playing games and even when listening to specific pieces of music and I’m not really sure how I feel about it. On the upside it’s kinda reassuring to know that I’m not a robot and am capable of emotional reactions to things beyond rage but it’s also a little scary as it’s not something I’ve really been used to over the last 20 or so years. I think that’s another reason for considering counselling, I feel like I want to try and make sense of it and try to cultivate it almost as it feels like it’s something that’d be beneficial to me in the long run.


In terms of what I’ve being doing to keep busy I’ve watched alot of TV shows on the various streaming services. Highlights have been getting to rewatch the Mandalorian and Cobra Kai on a huge TV where I’d seen them on a much smaller screen before. She-Ra and the Owl House were both absolutely fantastic, with the former being something I’ve written about at length and the latter reminding me of Gravity Falls which is never a bad thing. New seasons of Bosch, Lucifer, After Life and Altered Carbon have been hammered in quick time and I’ve started the new season of The Boys recently though the weekly release schedule is irritating. It’s been nice to finally get round to watching things like Castlevania and Kipo and trying new things like Space Force too. There’s still loads I want to watch, the intention is to watch Bojack Horseman and the Dragon Prince next as I’ve had them both recommended to me by friends. I’ve also been keeping up with Last Week tonight which is always incredibly informative while being very funny.

I’ve also watched a shit load of films, I’ve been trying to make a point of watching films I’ve not seen before so that I’m not just watching films I’ve seen loads of times before. It’s been a good call for the most part as it’s given me a chance to watch films that I’ve bought at various points when they’ve been cheap and just not bothered watching them, and also a good chance to finally watch stuff on my watchlists on the various streaming services I use. This has worked out pretty well as I’ve watched some good stuff and some truly terrible stuff which has been fun to then rant about afterwards. What’s been nice has been kinda re-discovering anime, I hadn’t watched any for absolutely ages, I always keep any eye out for interesting stuff to get and then never actually bothering with it. Well I’ve watched a few of those films lately and they’ve stuck with me way more than I was expecting so I’m making a point of re-watching stuff I’ve not seen in a while and also trying to be a bit more active in looking for new films that might be of interest.

I’ve read alot, initially it was comics as again I had a few books that I’d not gotten round to reading, there’s been stuff like Lumberjanes which I prioritised after watching She-Ra due to the Noelle Stevenson link and a shitload of Batman stuff as starting points and I’ve bought other comic books and graphic novels that have looked interesting as I figure I’ll actually get round to them as things are. I’ve also read a butt load of books on my kindle, most have been spin offs of games tv shows that I’m interested in but I’ve read some autobiographies too. The highlight book wise though was Daisy Jones and the Six which was recommended to me by a friend, it’s not something I’d normally read but it was excellent so I’d definitely listen to recommendations in future and actually the next book I read, after the one I’m currently on, will be another recommendation called The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. I’ve also hammered through a manga series in the last couple of days which has been interesting as I’d seen the film that had be made that was based on it and wanted to see how much of the series made it into the film.

There’s been quite alot of gaming too. I’ve played a fuck ton of Animal Crossing to the point where I’ve hit well over 400 hours at this point which is fucking ridiculous whichever way you look at it. I’ve also finally gotten round to playing Assassins Creed Origins, which was great, and the Final. Fantasy 7 remake which was as enjoyable as I’d hoped it would be. I think the biggest things that’s helped keep me sane has been the online gaming with my friend, it’s been good to be able to keep in contact with them while playing as the chatting shit, bickering like dickheads and just generally having other people to talk to has been very helpful for me. We’ve also played a fairly large selection of games, some of which have been fun and some of which have been utterly fucking awful. Sea of Thieves and Golf With Your Friends are the games that tend to be played the most, and Forza Horizon 4 too which is a surprise as I don’t tend to enjoy driving games that much on account of me being want at them as a rule.

I’ve done a bit of writing too, I did a couple of blogs quite early on and I’m currently working on about 5 other blog type things where I’ve had a few bolts of inspiration and have cracked on while I’ve been feeling motivated as I know I can be really damn fickle with that and it’ll start to feel like a chore and I don’t want the when I write as I want to be able to enjoy it as I see it as a bit of an outlet for me. I think the weirdest thing is that I’ve started revisiting an idea I had for a story back when I was about 16, it was just a fan fiction type thing that followed on from a game I love but written a fair bit though it was a small fraction of the story I had in my head. It’s been kind of fun re-reading it now and seeing what I’d change now that I have different story telling ideas in my head from where I’ve learned new narrative techniques over the years, to the point where I’ve thought about how I’d change things up and how I’d mitigate the fact that I’ve always been shot at writing dialogue. It may be something that I gradually start working on again, the interest is definitely there at least.

I’ve been semi glad of work while all this has been going on to be fair, as I’ve been working all the way through. It’s been hectic and hard work as we seem to have been busier than we were before this all started but it’s also made sure that my days have some semblance of structure to them which has been necessary as I remember what I was like when I was on gardening leave and off work for 3 months, I basically became nocturnal and had way too much time with my own thoughts which can be less than ideal for me. I have made the mistake of not really taking any time off which meant that when I got to July meant I’d run myself into the ground which wasn’t helped by the issues I’ve been having sleeping the whole time. A week off helped but the fact that I couldn’t get away and have a proper break wasn’t so good. I’ve got a week off in October as it stands and I’m aiming to go away to Newquay for a week so hopefully that will help me recharge a little.

I think the sleep issue is the biggest thing I need to sort at the moment, I’m not getting anywhere near enough at the moment and it’s pretty shit, I’m having trouble getting to sleep and then having a broken night which is naturally less than ideal. I’ve not helped myself either to be fair as I’m not doing anywhere near enough exercise, which would probably help with my mood too. It’s been nice being able to get out of the house of late and I’ve been able to go out for walks with my brother and nephew so need to try and do more of that. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle at this point though as by the time I’m done with work I’m tired and all I want to do is sit and watch or play something without wanting to do anything too intense as I have no motivation to do anything else. It’s probably going to have to be something I’m going to need to actually force myself to do in spite of everything else as ultimately it’s going to be in my interests to do so.

So yeah the year to date has been weird and hard, I’ve been lucky in the sense that I’ve managed to stay safe and all my friends family haven’t had any health issues with is the most important thing when all said and done. There are things I need to do in order to make sure my health, mental and physical, is properly looked after but keeping myself busy has definitely been a plus. We’ll see what happens with the rest of the year but being able to see people and just get out and go to the shops has been great, even with having to wear a mask which I’m not a fan of but will do as it’s just a sensible precaution. Hopefully things will go back to some semblance of normalcy but ultimately it’s just going to be a case of making sure I keep myself safe and do my best to make sure I minimise the risk anyone I interact with too. It’s ultimately a pretty modest goal for the rest of the year but it’s been that much of a shit show already that it’s about all that can be hoped for.

She-Ra – I absolutely loved it (Caution there are spoilers here)

She-Ra was something I’d had on my Netflix list for a while, I didn’t know much about it beyond it being a remake of a cartoon from when I was a kid and how people were initially bitching about the design of She-Ra for a variety of reasons. I added it to my list when it started getting really good reviews and word of mouth, it was one of those things that I intended to get round to at some point but it wasn’t exactly a priority. That changed when a friend was craving to me to me about it and also mentioned that it was created by Noelle Stevenson who I was familiar with having read Nimona (which is utterly fantastic and well worth checking out).

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Knowing who was in charge of the show and how I knew that they could bring genuine emotion and solid humour to the show, coupled with the fact that I had nothing else I was currently watching I decided I’d give it a go. I’m very glad I did as it’s one of the best things I’ve watched in a very long time. I’ll get into the why of what has made me think this, which is going to lead to going to lead to a lot of spoilers as it’s impossible to go into why I loved it so much without touching on plot points over the five seasons so that’s something to bear in mind if you read this.

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Let’s start with the fact it’s essentially a remake of a cartoon from the 80s, unlike the original though it avoids any links to the He-Man universe. In that Adora is the sister of Prince Adam who is stolen away and sent through a portal to join the Horde. The key points around the portal and the Horde are maintained but that link is never established which makes the Grayskull link a little odd all told and they never really explain it though there are little throw away things that are said over the course of the season that may offer an explanation. To be honest I think the clean break is actually really good thing as it allowed the show to be it’s own thing without having to have those sorts of constraints attached to it.

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A very basic overview of the plot is that Adora is part of the Horde who are trying to take over Etheria, she’s grown up with her best friend Catra. She goes out of the Fright Zone and finds She-Ra’s sword and meets Glimmer and Bow who capture her, but while they head back to Bright Moon Adora begins to see what the Horde are really like and how brutal they are to innocent people which is against what she’d believed them to be and decides to join the rebellion. She tries to convince Catra to come too but Catra refuses and thus begins the antagonistic relationship between the two that’s a big part of the plot for the next four seasons.

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The absolute best thing about the entire show are the characters, obviously Adora is the main focus as the hero so thankfully she’s brilliant, and Glimmer and Bow as her friends are also excellent. The supporting cast are fantastic, the various princesses are all very unique and while most of them don’t get as much time as you’d like when they do get screen time it’s nearly always brilliant. There’s also Sea Hawk who walks a fine line between endearing and annoying, Scorpia who starts off very two dimensional but by the end of the series is probably the sweetest character there is and Entrapta is  but again stays just the right side of endearing. It’s testament to the writing how likeable everyone is frankly.

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We move onto the villains and you have Hordak, Shadow Weaver and Catra in the first four seasons and then Hordak Prime in the final season. There’s a lot to say about Catra so we’ll get to her, Shadow Weaver and Hordak are both very underdeveloped in the first season but they’re progressively built on as you get back story and they grow as characters. Shadow Weaver is shown to have been abusive to Adora and especially Catra throughout their childhoods and final act aside never really goes beyond that but she continues to manipulate people even after she changes sides. Hordak is revealed to be a flawed clone and he’s largely one note until his interactions with Entrapta start to change him and give him little more personality. Horde Prime is effective as a big bad but it feels like he’s deliberately kept as a bit of a mystery so as to try and not humanise him at all which is a solid choice and cuts down on the need for his backstory which was able to be used for other things.

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Adora is an excellent protagonist, she has so many good qualities while you also get the humour of her having to learn what life is like away from the Horde. Her relationship with Glimmer and Bow is really well developed, even when things get decidedly more tense in season four, they’re very natural which is an utter delight. Her relationship with Catra is considerably more complicated and clouded by the abuse they bother suffered growing up and the very different ways they handled it, we’ll get into that later though. What really makes Adora stand out is just how selfless she is, she literally puts the safety of her friends and the planet before herself at every point with no thought of what it is she actually wants. This comes to something of a head in the final season when she’s ready to die as she sees that as inevitable and almost won’t let herself that selfish, it’s only when her friends and Mara (the previous She-Ra) are encouraging he to want more for herself that she begins to and it leads to such a truly amazing pay off.

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Now onto Catra who is the most fascinating character for me in the entire show. Very much impacted by her abuse, she has no sense of self worth at all and the only value seemingly bestowed on her in the Horde is that she’s good at hurting people. When Adora leaves she feels abandoned and refuses to leave her home behind but as the series goes on she continues to lash out at the people around her, some who are clearly on her side, to the point where more and more people walk away which just makes her worse and keeps this vicious cycle that she’s trapped herself in going. Part of what makes her eventual redemption so impactful for me is that it’s a decision she makes for herself, she doesn’t do it for anyone else and she owns what she’s done, she never blames anyone or anything else and she tries to make changes to herself like trying not to get so angry. There’s missed opportunities too as there were definitely some elements like dealing with Mermista and Scorpia that feel like were taken off the board conveniently though that’s understandable given all the ground they were trying to cover.

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Catra is my favourite character by a long shot, I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt such a personal connection to a character before. When she’s pushing people away, lashing out and just generally burning bridges with people who care about her it really reminded me of when my depression got especially bad because of my refusal to acknowledge there was a problem. Her feelings of lacking worth also resonated, I can’t say I have to deal with it that badly but it definitely flares up and has an impact. The scene where she apologises to Adora hit me incredibly hard, it again evoked personal memories of where I got to a point where I needed to make changes and went to counselling while also apologising to people. It was her acknowledgement of what she’s done and the foundation to trying to be better, I can understand that it didn’t land for everyone based on everything she’s done unto this point but for me it was a huge deal. It was probably the most viscerally emotional response I’ve had to anything in about 20 years, I was practically sobbing as I watched it. Going into the series I was expecting to have a clear favourite character, I just didn’t expect that favourite to mean quite so much to me.

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I personally loved the relationship between Adora and Catra, it’s super clear early on just how important they are to each other and how badly Catra took Adora leaving. Adora keeps trying to break through to her uptown the end of season three where Catra has become so bitter that she’d rather end the world than listen and it’s tragic but has become such a toxic situation at that point that you completely understand Adora taking the stance she does. Season four is Catra spiralling to the point where she essentially hits rock bottom, realising she’s pushed everyone who cared about her away, followed by season five where she starts trying to change and after Adora rescues her they start to reconnect which is just utterly fantastic. Catara learns to open up her heart gradually and accept that she has worth and Adora realises that there is something she wants for herself and I really loved it, they have to gloss over the consequences of the past behaviour quite a lot which I suspect is more down to the time needed for everything else than just ignoring it. I utterly loved the scene where they said I love you to each other, it was perfect – heartwarming, emotional and just generally sweet as hell, and just monumental in terms of the culmination of their arc, I genuinely can’t stop thinking about it.

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In terms of She-Ra herself I know there was some initial push back on her design given it’s quite different to the original but I never really had any kind of issue with it, it’s functional and distinct though I did prefer the season five design significantly more but we’ll get into that. What I didn’t enjoy was the transformation sequence, and to be honest my main issue with that was that I felt like it was over used though my hammering through lots of episodes at a time didn’t help I’m sure, though I did also appreciate that the show runners seemed to realise this too so came up with some fun and creative ways of having her transform off screen. What I really did enjoy was the back story for She Ra and for Mara who was the She-Ra around thousand years before Adora, and how that added a new dimension to what She-Ra is in this universe.

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It’s established early on that Mara supposedly went mad and broke the She-Ra cycle while pulling Etheria into a pocket dimension, the implication being she’s something of a villain. It’s gradually implied over a number of episodes that this may not necessarily be the case and that she had a good reason. Bright Hope, who is a first one AI of sorts and who has been training Adora, is given moments that establish that she’s not being entirely. It eventually comes to light that Mara learned that Etheria is actually galactic weapon and She-Ra is the key to activating it. Essentially while She-Ra doesn’t actually need the sword, the first ones made the sword as a key and a way of controlling She-Ra. Upon Mara learning this she essentially sacrifices herself to move Etheria into a dimension away from the rest of the galaxy so that the weapon can’t be used.

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While Adora is learning this and trying to prevent it Glimmer is trying to use the weapon as she has been mislead into thinking that weapon, the heart of Etheria, is something she can use in the war against the Horde rather than the doomsday weapon it actually is. She succeeds in activating it and quickly learns that it wasn’t the best idea in the world. Meanwhile Adora has learned that it was Bright Hope that pulled her through a portal from wherever it is that she came from purely so that she could activate the heart one day, where you’d been led to believe it was the Horde that had done it. Adora, not wanting the weapon to go off, shatters the sword and stops the heart though in doing so seemingly loses her ability to transform in She-Ra. It’s a brilliant little subversion on what you’re told prior to all this kicking off and really does emphasise the advantage of not linking it to He-Man, as I’m not sure you could tell the story this way in that scenario.

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This brings us onto the second She-Ra deign which we get in season five, I much prefer this look, and the transformation sequence is amazing for this one even though I think we only get to see it the once. Part of what makes it amazing is that you get little references to each of her friends as part of the process and kinda spells out to you what allows her to transform. As mentioned earlier it’s mentioned that the sword and She-Ra were separate initially and this hammers that message home. Though she manages to transform it’s shown that Adora can’t fully control it and as the season goes on and she becomes more confused and scared of what she sees as her destiny it becomes more and more erratic.

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Of course we as an audience have figured out what Adora hasn’t yet and that it’s love that enables her to transform, in the transformations earlier in the season it’s always situations where the people she cares about are threatened that she manages to focus. But as she accepts this destiny to stop the heart once and for all, when Horde Prime means to use the weapon, regardless of whether that means her death or not she becomes more afraid and it becomes harder for her to focus. Over the season various characters are encouraging her to look beyond this seeming fate and to want something for herself, an echo of Mara at one point telling her she deserves love too and isn’t just defined by what she can give to others. It’s a strong message and when Catra declares her love she’s able to accept it and give it back which allows her to transform and stop the heart once and for all, it’s genuinely moving.

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I could go on for hours about how much I love the whole thing, the story is amazing, the characters are great and its easily one of the most emotional things I’ve ever watched – especially the final season where I don’t think there was a singled episode where I didn’t well up with tears at one point or another. There’s lots of silly little things that make me love it even more too, things like being able to hear Catra purring when she’s content or Adora snort laughing which I will never not find endearing when someone does. The additional of Melog is also a delight, a magical being who assumes the form of a cat and bonds to Catra and echos her emotional state, it’s fun watching how he interacts with Adora after he arrives as it just further shows how much Catra cares for her. I’ve also found out that some of the first one writing on items apparently translates, like the data chip that Entrapta gives Hordak which has LUVD (loved) on it and the apron Wrong Hordak gets given says kiss the cook. I love these sorts of things and finding out about them.

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The voice acting is utterly fantastic with Aimee Carrero and AJ Michalka, as Adora and Catra respectively, have to do a bulk of the heavy lifting given that they’re the main characters and they absolutely nail it, the sheer emotion they bring to their characters is amazing. Lorraine Toussaint is excellent as their abusive mother figure Shadow Weaver too, imbuing the character with a sense of arrogance, selfishness and disdain, which make it easy to accept that she’s a terrible person. To be fair to all the other actors not a single one of them is anything less than excellent and what’s awesome is that everyone gets to show off that talent to at least some extent as while the core characters get the bulk of the focus the supporting characters do still get their moments to shine and when they do the voice acting is suitably impressive, I literally can’t find any fault with any of it. A special mention has to be made for Keston John who voices Horde Prime, Hordak and Wrong Hordak, the latter of whom are clones of the first. He takes these 3 characters who in theory should be exactly the same and manages to make them all unique while also maintaining that link, the guy is seriously talented.

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In terms of what I like and dislike about each season I’ll start with the first season. I really liked the showing of the initial relationship between Adora and Catra and how much they meant to each other, and I really liked the humour of Adora experiencing all the new things she does when she leaves the Horde. Seeds that would really bear fruit in future seasons, such as Razz and how a lot of what she’s saying doesn’t initially make any sense. In terms of what I didn’t like that’s largely what I’d expect from any first season of a show, there’s usually a necessary but sometimes heavy approach to world building and there isn’t a clear tone that’s been settled on so it struggles to balance that a little in my opinion. Also the way some characters are introduced and don’t get too much to do, though that’s a product of having a large cast of characters in the rebellion, the Horde struggles a bit less with that given there aren’t as many important characters comparatively as the Horde is an army so can have more faceless grunts where the Rebellion starts off smaller so bringing the other princesses in requires them to have more characters. All minor niggles that being said, there was nothing at all that stopped me enjoyed the first season.

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My biggest issue with seasons two and three is that they should essentially be the same season. Netflix seems to have this thing where they split out seasons on animated shows, they did the same thing with Voltron. And while I get the point that it’s to reduce the wait between seasons it’s also a bit annoying as there never seems to be a natural drop off point. That said that’s just general complaining as I didn’t have this issue given I waited til all seasons had dropped so this was never a factor. It also feels a little crowded, there’s alot happening in this season and it sometimes feels like there’s not room for some events to breath to an extent. That being said these are once again minor complaints as there’s a hell of a lot to love about this season, there’s back story for Shadow Weaver and Hordak and a start of making Hordak a more sympathetic character, Shadow Weaver not so much and that works really well too. Catra continues to become progressively more angry and further damages her relationships and Adora gets to a point where she has to fully walk away from that bond to Catra even if she doesn’t want to, such is the toxicity between them at this point. The portal element to the season and Angella’s sacrifice are excellent and it sets up the future arrival of Horde Prime nicely, Also it’s worth noting that Scorpia is an utter delight.

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Season four is excellent, my only real complaint is that it relies on a really cliched arc where Adora and Glimmer start to disagree more and more and tensions continue to rise, with the newly introduced Double Trouble helping to stoke those tensions further, on the plus side to this its not something that’s neatly wrapped up by the end of the season so while it’s been done before it’s at the very least well written and impactful. As is quickly becoming standard there are alot of plus points, Scorpia finally leaves the Horde and joins the rebellion, which is great for her but not so much for Catra as it’s just another person leaving her. Catra has essentially hit rock bottom which was personally hard to experience as I’ve alluded to already, but knowing what comes next for her it was necessary. The heart of Etheria is the key plot point for this season though and it leads to some fascination plot points, the first being that you gradually learn that the first ones weren’t as benevolent as you’ve been led to believe, the sword is a way of weaponising She-Ra and Bright Hope is slightly sinister in parts as she manipulates Glimmer into activating the heart, there’s the reveal of Mara actually being a hero and moving Etheria into the dimension it’s now in so that the heart couldn’t be used to cause harm to anyone else and Bright Hope forcing Adora to essentially fire the heart. The latter of which leads to Adora shattering the sword to prevent this from happening and seemingly sacrificing her ability to change into She-Ra, but not before Bright Hope moves Etheria back out of the pocket dimension and into it’s original place. It’s such a fantastic storyline and adds in some excellent character development, I’m looking forward to going back and rewatching earlier seasons to see what foreshadowing there was to some of these events. I think this is also the main storyline which I think would have suffered had it needed to be tied into the He-Man lore.

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Season five is, in my opinion, the closest thing to perfect that I’ve experienced in a season of a show. There is so much that happens aver this 13 episode runtime, and I think that’s where my only really complaint about the season lies. Because there’s so much happening the pace is pretty breakneck, I think it would have benefitted from more episodes to tell the story and to allow things to breath a little. especially with some of the big plot points that happen. What I appreciated was that there’s almost three plot threads at the start of the season – Adora, Bow and Entrapta going after Glimmer, Catra’s existential crisis and Horde Prime’s conquest of Etheria. The former two essentially lead into Catra’s redemption arc, which I’ve already stated my love for, and becomes quite a hopeful plot thread where the latter becomes the darker thread as you see how things on Etheria become progressively more hopeless as Horde Prime succeeds in his goals, it’s a nice counterbalance. You also have Adora being able to transform into She-Ra again and that’s handled really well I think and ultimately her saving the world, which is ultimately down to the shared love between Adora and Catra which I think is incredibly hopeful and I loved that too. Ultimately I thought the whole season was brilliant and had an incredibly satisfying ending, while also leaving things open for a return to the universe should the creators of the show want to and be able to. As I say I think a higher episode count would have been helpful for things like Catra’s redemption, Adora’s re-established link with She-Ra and her gradually coming round to the idea that it’s ok to want something for yourself and not just accepting that she has to sacrifice herself for everyone else. That being said I’m not sure my heart could have taken anymore emotion on top of what was in there already.

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What truly makes the show special though is the sheer amount of representation on offer, as a straight white male I have no shortage of media to consume that represents me and having been able to reflect on this over the years it sucks that there are people that have never experienced that. Having Adora and Catra declare their love and kiss feels like a huge moment and in my opinion it never felt forced, there were clues as how important they were to each other in the first episode so for it to end with them becoming a couple just felt like a natural progression to me and from what I’m read online it feels like alot of people agree and also loved it. Aside from that pairing there are all sorts of characters that were written in a certain way, Entrapta was apparently written as autistic and Double Trouble being non binary being obvious examples, and couples that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see in a kids tv show like Netossa and Spinarella and Bow’s dads and there’s also apparently a transgender man in a season five episode which again I’ve found out from reading up on the show since watching it. I approve of it, I like that people are getting characters that they can truly identify with and I hope that this will be become normal so that it isn’t a big deal when it does happen. Ultimately to my mind everyone being equally represented increases the amount of stories you can tell and also hopefully sucks in more diverse audience who are then inspired to go out and create stories of their own which can only be a good thing I’d say.

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Overall I went into this expecting it to be a show I enjoyed and that it’d maybe hit the same sorts of standards as Avatar and the like. I was not expecting it to wind up being quite as excellent as it turned out to be and I also didn’t expect it to become as important to me as it has done. When my only real complaint is that there isn’t more then that’s something, and I’m desperately hoping that there will be a continuation of some kind, be it another season, a movie or a comic series. What’s nice is that it’s the perfect ending if there isn’t to be anymore but it’s also nicely positioned if there’s a decision to do more. I also definitely never expected to feel such a close attachment to Catra and for the sheer level of emotion her character arc brought out. But this is a sign of good writing and I honestly can’t wait to see what Noelle Stevenson does next, hopefully more She-Ra but if not then I’m sure whatever it is will be awesome too. It’s also allowed me to discover new things from reading up on stuff online, I’ve found a fanfic apparently written by Noelle and I’ve also learned of a show called The Owl House for which Noelle’s wife has written which is fantastic. It’s been an intensely emotional experience for me, which has been odd given I wouldn’t say I’m very in touch with my emotions, but it’s something I wouldn’t change. All I can finish up with is that it’s well worth the time to watch and I hope that anyone who does loves even a fraction of the amount I do.

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Watching films – Fun to watch stuff I’ve not seen before (in most cases)

I’ve been working from home for at least 4 months at this point and not being able to really go out and see friends and do normal things has started to take a bit of a toll. I’ve been lucky that I’ve had computer games to play and books to read, as well as work letting me keep some structure to my days which has been a definite plus.

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That being said I’m starting to get a little bored so I thought I use the time to make the effort t watch some films I’ve had for a while and never gotten round to watching for whatever reason.  I thought I’d then write a little bit about what I thought each of them.

Isle of Dogs – This was not the film I was expecting at all, I thought as it used stop motion animation that it’d be a kids film which it very much isn’t. It’s definitely not that and actually much darker than I was expecting, which is somehow made darker by the animation choice and the fact that the human characters are largely not understandable and the overall fact that the dogs have essentially been exiled to a garbage dump. I did very much enjoy it though, it looks awesome, there’s some dark humour sprinkled in and there’s some really sweet story beats so I’d definitely recommend it as one to check out.

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Stuber – I remember seeing the trailer for this and wanting to see it as the chemistry between Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani looked to be very amusing. That much holds true but the film overall is a disappointingly generic buddy movie where the everything is largely very predictable and the twist can be seen a mile off. It has a cracking cast but wastes talent like Mira Sorvino, Karen Gillan and Iko Uwais which is a massive shame. It’s definitely watchable but realistically it’s probably a 5 or 6 out of 10 type film.

The Disaster Artist – Based on the story of the making of the film The Room, if even half of what’s in there is accurate then the real story is utterly mental. Directed by James Franco, who also stars as Tommy Wiseau, and co-starring Dave Franco as Greg Sestero it follows Gregs meeting go Tommy and them making the film together. It’s utterly ridiculous and weirdly compelling, it’s made better by the side by side comparison of scenes from this film and The Room so you can see how faithful they’ve tried to be.

The Dead Don’t Die – This was marketed as a horror/comedy starring Bill Murray and Adam Driver, and that was fundamentally enough to get me interested. It was largely a middle amusing distraction, played mostly straight with an appreciation of the ridiculousness of it all. That is up until the last 15 or 20 minutes where it takes an utterly mental change in direction that’s never actually touched on and therefore makes no sense what so ever, to the point where my initial reaction was to wonder what the hell had just happened. It’s definitely worth a watch but I’m genuinely not sure how I feel about the whole thing off the back of that ending segment.

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What If – A romantic comedy starring Daniel Radcliffe that I’d never previously heard of but picked up on the cheap. It follows the usual romcom story formula so no real surprises but it does boast some interesting characters which makes the whole thing much more enjoyable. Radcliffe particularly is engaging as the lead and Adam Driver is a lot of fun though somewhat under-utilised. My only real complaint is that there are a number of character relationships that could have been expanded upon or made deeper, such as that of Radcliffe’s character and his sister, that I think would have benefitted things. I did like that the ending didn’t tie things up in a neat little bow but on a hopeful note which is further hinted at in the credit. Overall it was a pleasant little surprise.

Bad Boys 2 – Jesus Christ this was fucking atrocious, I enjoyed the first film as it was at a point when Michael Bay was capable of restraint. This on the other hand has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the bollocks, the Bay trademark mass explosions and quick cuts are on full display backed up with slow mo that is wholly unnecessary. The villains are shit, the dialogue is total wank and the attempts at humour are largely cretinous. When not even Will Smith can make a film even halfway watchable you’ve got a serious problem, this is genuinely one of the worst films I’ve ever sat through and making myself endure it was an act of pure masochism, please for the love of all that’s holy don’t ever watch this shitshow.

True Romance – This is a film where I genuinely don’t know how I’ve never seen it before, especially given how often my mates quite it. You can tell from the ending it was written by Quentin Tarantino, an over the top shoot out where almost everyone dies. It’s a weirdly paced film, it feels like it started out as ideas for a few set pieces that were then stitched together into an entire film. Big name stars such as Gary Oldman aren’t in it as much as you’d expect and Christopher Walken is essentially in one scene, he’s superb in it naturally but then he just vanishes for the rest of the film which is a shame. Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette anchor the film with solid performances and I’d say overall I enjoyed it but it just felt a bit disjointed and oddly paced. Definitely worth watching if nothing else.

Zodiac – This was not the film I was expecting at all, obviously I knew going in that it was a film based on the Zodiac killer though didn’t know more than that so was expecting it to be a true crime film and while the first half is, the second half is more focussed on the obsession of one man to uncover the truth. Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr are all superb, Gyllenhaal in particular is excellent as Robert Graysmith whose book is what the film is based on. It’s a film that is never going to be truly satisfying given that the killer was never actually officially identified though the film end up pointing to the best suspect, though does also point to conflicting evidence there, it also drops some really tense moments in where you get a genuine sense of foreboding as to what’s going to happen next and this never feels cheap, it definitely adds to the story being told. It’s a genuinely fascinating film and it’s got me wanting to read the book it’s based on too.

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The Family Fang – The second film to be directed by Jason Bateman, he stars in this alongside Nicole Kidman and Christopher Walken. The core of the film is basically about the bond between a brother and sister, played by Bateman and Kidman and how they were raised by their parents who turned everything into a performance, which we get to see glimpses of with flashbacks. It’s understated and bittersweet in essence because of how it deals with the family bond and how parents can fuck you up a little bit. Bateman seems to be the kind of actor and director that’s seriously talented, he can do comedy and serious equally which is solid accomplishment. I’d also recommend checking his first film Bad Words which while having a little pathos running through it but is a straight up comedy definitely worth checking out.

The Godfather – I’ve some how never seen this despite being nagged about it for years so figured I’d give it a go. First impressions were that at just under 3 hours it’d be way too long and to be honest having now watched it I’d stand by that. Too be clear it’s a very good film, Al Pacino is excellent in it as are the rest of the cast. I’m glad I’ve now watched it and I’ll be getting to the sequels at some point but I have one main issue with it which is that it’s very much a slow burner which when coupled with the run time does make it drag a bit in places. It’s well made, aside from some slightly iffy blood effects which I appreciate is me literally just nit picking. I can’t say I was a huge fan overall but I think that’s more down to me not being a huge fan of the genre rather than there being anything wrong with the film itself. 

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This has been a solid plan so far in terms of finally watching stuff I’ve not gotten round to as yet, sure there’s been some disappointments so far but I’ve also found a couple of gems as well as finally being able to not take shit for not having seen some of these. And to be honest it’s been fun watching stuff that I might not ordinarily have bothered with otherwise as I’d have just kept putting them off indefinitely so this might be something I keep doing as time goes on, even if it’s just to allow me to right bits in small segments over a period of time rather than pressuring myself to do it all in one go.

Things coming in 2020 I’m excited about

With 2019 done and dusted it’s time to turn our attention to the incoming goodness that’s on the horizon for 2020. I thought I’d go into some of the things I’m looking forward to as it stands, obviously this could change as I see more of stuff and it starts looking shite or new stuff comes into the picture that I’ve forgotten about or wasn’t initially aware of.

TV shows

5 – Y: This is based on the comic series Y: The Last Man and while showing as being due to land in 2020 there is no air date currently so it’s entirely possible that it gets delayed or something. It gets the nod on the basis there’s a chance it arrives this year as I loved the comic and its tale of Yorick who is essentially the last man on earth after men essentially die out leaving women to pick up the pieces of the world and the human species.

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4 – Picard: This is an interesting proposition as it brings back Patrick Stewart 20 odd years after the end of Star Trek the Next Generation. It looks like it’s bringing back a fair few characters too and as Next Generation was the only Star Trek show I was ever especially familiar with it’ll be intriguing to see what the state of that world now is and where the story is going to take it. I’ve not really seen much on it barring a couple of trailers so I’m going in pretty blind which usually a good thing as it leads to plenty of surprises.

3 – The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: The first TV series for Disney + that fits into the MCU and I think it’ll be the first thing out that directly directly follows on from Avengers Endgame. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out as Falcon was passed a pretty gigantic metaphoric torch in Endgame which you have to assume will be addressed and bringing back Zemo from Civil War as the main antagonist has potential too.

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2 – The Boys: Season 2 will likely hit Amazon Prime around the same sort of time as the first season did as an educated guess. The main questions for me as it stands are will it diverge from the comic book it’s based on significantly and will they attempt to make the season even more violent, which you think would be hard for a show that had a super character blown up with a bomb that had been shoved up his arse. However it pans out it should be suitable bloody and ridiculously entertaining.

1 – The Mandalorian: Once the announcement was made that season 2 would land late in 2020 that was always going to be the TV show I was most looking forward to. There are a couple of plot threads carried over from the first season but there are also questions about whether any familiar characters are going to show up at all now that the main character is a bit more established, given Dave Filoni’s involvement there’s always the possibility of animated characters could get brought in on some level which has the potential to be awesome.

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Movies

5 – Sonic the Hedgehog: Is it going to be an utter train wreck is probably the biggest question with regard to the Sonic film. It’s already been delayed to completely overhaul Sonic himself after everyone collectively lost their minds about his initial design. I was always a huge Sonic fan growing up so I want it to be good, plus he’s being voiced by Ben Schwartz who was Jean-Ralphio in Parks and Rec so I’m really hoping it winds up being good.

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4 – Bill and Ted Face the Music: It’s been 29 years since Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey was released so that’s quite a big gap between that and the third film. I know literally nothing about the plot synopsis and I honestly don’t need to. Bogus Journey was the first film I ever saw at the cinema so the new one is a must see on that basis, but it’s also coming at a point where Keanu is doing some of his best work so hopefully it’ll be great.

3 – Ghostbuster Afterlife: Speaking of third entries following years after the second, this is going to hit cinemas 31 years after Ghostbusters 2. It has the surviving original stars in it and is directed Jason Reitman who is the son of the original director. The first trailer doesn’t really show a whole lot but it’s the fact that it’s a true sequel has me excited, especially as it’s getting the original team back together. That being said I’m also interested to see how they pay tribute to Harold Ramis.

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2 – Coming to America 2:Just the 32 years between films for this sequel, it really feels like a bit of a theme with films coming out this year. Coming to America was Eddie Murphy at his absolute funniest, I think he also managed to play about 10 characters or something ridiculous. I’m hoping the new film can re-capture the magic of the original, I’m looking forward to seeing how things went for the characters in that time period and also whether McDowells became the fast food restaurant to go to with their signature burger – the Big Mick.

1 – Black Widow: It’s a Marvel film and it’s set at some point before the events of Infinity War and Endgame, though I’ve not seen any confirmation of when specifically it’s going to be set. It’s also got a decent cast as you’d expect, obviously Scarlett Johansson returning but you’ve also got people like David harbour and Rachel Weisz in there too. All in all it’s an intriguing prospect for a film and at this point with the MCU there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to be fun at the very least.

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Gaming

5 – New consoles: 2020 is the year we get the new Xbox and Playstation consoles. Not a huge amount is know, though more has been revealed about the Xbox so far. I’d assume there’s going to be a lot of games being announced over the course of the year, particularly at E3 this year assuming Sony actually attend this time. I’m currently leaning towards an Xbox as it stands predominantly because of Halo, though I’m reasonably sure I’ll end up with them both at some point.

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4 – Halo Infinite: Speaking of Halo this will likely be the first time I ever get a console on day one and it’ll largely be because of how much I want to play this. The early signs are that they’re going to try and adopt a back to basics approach, even down to the music which is obviously going to be awesome if executed well. `I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes as while Halo 5 was flawed it opened up a fair few narrative possibilities, it’ll also be interesting to see how the new Slipspace engine looks in game.

3 – Final Fantasy 7 Remake: The original PS1 release remains one of my favourite RPGs of all time so I’m naturally incredibly excited to play this remake. It’s been rebuilt from the ground up and looks like there’s going to be a more Kingdom Hearts style of combat rather than the turn based battles of the original, though apparently that option is available. It looks absolutely stunning, and from the bits of footage I’ve seen the music sounds like it’s going to be epic.

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2 – Animal Crossing New Horizons: I like Animal Crossing games, they’re just chilled out games where you get to do largely inconsequential stuff like fishing and making friends with the local animal villagers. Hopefully this iteration will offer even more things to do but frankly I’m very much looking forward to digging up fossils, catching bugs and fishing. It’s one of those charming games where it’s nice to just drop in for a quick go, dick around for a bit and then play something a bit more intense.

1 – Cyberpunk 2077: This a futuristic first person RPG from the company that made the Witcher 3 so it was always going to be pretty high on my list of games but then at E3 last year they revealed that Keanu was going to be in it and I was even more interested. It could wind up being utterly shite of course but there’s pedigree there with the Witcher games and it looks absolutely stunning, it has the potential to be the game of the year but we’ll have to see how it pans out.

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Assorted other things

4- Uncharted: I was going to add this into the movies section as it’s still showing as having a 2020 release as it stands but literally the day I started writing this they lost yet another director. On that basis I’d say it’s unlikely it’ll be out this year so it’s making this list just to see if it continues to be an utter train wreck that keeps losing directors, and you have to assume that Tom Holland is going to have to drop out at some point too if this continues.

3 – Wrestling: I’ve dipped in and out of wrestling over the years but my interest took a massive hit back in 2014 when CM Punk left the WWE. I’ve continued to follow it to a certain extent just to see what’s happening but I’ve not been tempted to watch really. That may change this year as CM Punk is working for a Fox show that covers the WWE so there’s now much more of a chance that he’ll make a comeback at some point which would immediately pique my curiosity.

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2 – E3: This could have gone in the gaming section but E3 has become a little bit more than that over the years. Obviously there’s the announcing of all the new games and such which is obviously superb or appalling depending on the announcements but it’s been more about the chatting shit with mates element that’s made it great the last few years. Be it all of us in person having a few drinks and chatting about what’s shown or doing it over a WhatsApp group it’s just become something of an annual ritual now.

1 – The return of Dick Grayson: Nightwing got shot in the head over a year ago in the Batman comics and has had amnesia, this has lead to Ric Grayson being a thing and him not being Nightwing either. This has largely been less than ideal as Ric isn’t very easy to like and it’s gone on too long really. That being said the writers have started to make this decision seem like a bigger deal rather than the shite holding pattern it’s felt like and apparently this year is when Dick Grayson and Nightwing return which is a huge deal for me.

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So yeah essentially that’s a selection of the things I’m looking forward to as the year goes on, I’ve almost certainly forgotten about stuff and there will no doubt be stuff that hasn’t even been on my radar that I’ll discover but this is a pretty solid starting point. As always I’m always interested to hear what other people are looking forward to as it might help me discover some of the things I’d not thought about.