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TV Review: Goblin Episode 05

Year: 2016 – 2017
Other Names: The Lonely, Shining Goblin; Guardian: The Lonely and Great God; Prince Maker; Mr. Sunshine
Online: WikipediaMyDramaList,  HanCinemaKoreanDramaAsianWikiDramaFever
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Drama, Romance

After helping out the ghost of a recently deceased student,  Ji Eun Tak (Kim Go Eun) is asked by Kim Shin (Goon Yoo) to move into his place. After returning to the bridge where she first met our resident amnesiac Grim Reaper (Lee Dong Wook), Sunny (Yoo In Na) is finally able to go out on a sort-of date with the clueless immortal. This, unfortunately, results in him feeling more and more out of sorts as he had no name to give her. With Ji Eun Tak’s arrival comes the requirement for both Kim Shin and the Reaper getting a mobile phone for the first time.
Reaper enlists Ji Eun Tak’s aid in creating a name for himself to go by. Over the following days, we see Kim Shin’s growing jealous over the short periods of time she spends with Reaper. It brings to a head an argument between Ji Eun Tak and Kim Shin that adds to Kim Shin’s already difficult problem in being in love for Ji Eun Tak, the Goblin’s destined and the catalyst for his death.

Episode 5 sees the focus moving towards Sunny and Reaper’s relationship. It was neat seeing the awkwardness of Reaper’s character, showing just how inexperienced he is in dealing with living, breathing people. His issues with the forgotten bits of his past life make him a genuinely sympathetic character. He doesn’t know what actions caused him to not move on and therefore cannot make amends. The previous episode also showed that he is capable of being kind to the souls that he acts as a facilitator for. Sunny’s character is still a bit of an enigma but there have been hints from previous episodes that the Samshin Lady has some purpose for bringing the two together. The more that I watch the series, the more that I am convinced that it is less vindictive than I initially believed.
As for Kim Shin, we see his own awareness of his feelings for Ji Eun Tak becoming more and more difficult for him. However, this also makes the choice easier for him. He wants Ji Eun Tak to be happier and the last few scenes of the episode give the audience the impression that there is likely a lot of other stuff that is happening off-screen. We got a glimpse of this during the previous episode as well, with Kim Shin enlisting the aid of Reaper to speak with one of his wards for the last time. I am hoping that the focus on Sunny and Reaper’s relationship allows us a reprieve for a while as Kim Shin’s situation is dragging on a bit.
For the previous four episodes, we’ve seen both Reaper and Kim Shin continually using magic to move around. In this fifth episode, we learn the major problem that both face in regards to the house. Reliance on their magic has resulted in them ignoring simple things like remembering the security code for the house. In Reaper’s case, we also see a steep learning curve when he receives his first phone. As amusing as this is, the odd nature of these two immortals does threaten to distract from some other aspects of the story.

Whilst I enjoyed this episode, some things about it concerned me. This is less about what happened and more about my anticipation about how the writers will address the next half of this series. I am worried that some stuff will be dragged on for too long thus undoing some of the entertainment value of the series so far. I suppose that I will just have to trust that the writers had enough sense when they planned out the main arcs of the story.  Regardless, I will continue watching this series because there is so much to love. It is the attention to small details, the ability for those small details to tell us so much about the characters and their situation.

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Movie Review: Dredd (2012)

Genre: Science Fiction, Action
Online: IMDB, Wikipedia
Cast: Karl Urban (Judge Dredd), Olivier Thirlby (Cassandra Anderson), Lena Hedley (Ma-Ma)

Dredd is the newest film adaptation of one of several comics serialized in the British comic anthology 2000 A.D. The first time that I laid eyes on a volume of 2000 A.D. was back in high school during the early to mid-90’s. I was rummaging through the book section of the local Lifeline store for something new and interesting to read. There, sitting on one of the shelves was a stack of large comics, a new arrival that immediately intrigued me. 2000 A.D. was printed right at the top. Given my interest in comics, I began to flick through. Not far in I was introduced to Judge Dredd, an imposing figure that left a lasting impression on me. Overall, I loved the art style of 2000 A.D. and made a mental note to have enough money to get the volumes when I returned. Alas, the next time I visited the shop, the volumes were gone. Oh well.

Mega City One is one of several mega-cities created to protect humanity from the irradiated wastelands outside. Home to more than 800 million people, the government has brought into effect the Judge system for the worst crimes. These wandering judges are only able to deal with around 6% of applicable crimes, resulting in many crimes going under the radar.
Judge Dredd is one of a small number of judges assigned to his district. After coming back from a job involving dangerous driving, he is assigned by the Chief Judge (Rakie Ayola) the task of seeing if a new rookie’s insight and psychic ability are enough to make up for some poor grades. Enter Cassandra Anderson, one of the most powerful telepaths on record. Anderson is an orphan with a vested interest in looking out for parts of the city that would otherwise be overlooked. As such, she decides to pick a job at one of the worst buildings in their district for their first job. The job turns out to be a lot bigger than the two anticipate.
Three men have been skinned and thrown to their deaths at a mega-apartment structure. The two judges quickly learn that it is home to one of the biggest drug lords in Mega City One, a former prostitute named Madeline Madrigal, otherwise known as Ma-Ma. What they initially believed to be a simple job result in them being pushed to their limits as they attempt to fight off hundreds of murderous criminals. Many will be killed before the night is through.

The screenplay for this film is apparently adapted from a miniseries that was serialized in the 2000 A.D. comic. The film begins with a quick overview of what has become of the world which leads to seeing Judge Dredd dealing with a job. In this simple sequence, we see how bleak the world is inside of the protective wall of Mega City One, are shown what a Judge is allowed to do and are also given a glimpse of the world of a Slow-Mo user. We later learn that Slow-Mo is the drug that Ma-Ma’s gang manufactures and peddles from their base of operations.
The action and gore are initially confronting but it is appropriate to the dark and gritty world setting. Innocents often get hurt and judges aren’t able to protect everyone. The role of a judge is not pretty because the world is not pretty. They have to make hard decisions and mete out judgment on the spot in most cases. The plot does an excellent job of emphasizing this in several of the scenes without being on the nose.
The film does a great job of making efficient use of each scene. None of the scenes felt wasted or contrived but instead helped moved along the story of this day in the life of Dredd and Anderson. The dialogue was also well-done, showing distinct differences in personality for each person. Dredd tends to internalize his thoughts whilst Anderson tends to be more open. There is a bit of a brain versus brawn thing going on but both characters still come off as perceptive and intelligent. We also see a certain amount of growth for the two main characters over the span of the movie as well.
The action scenes and special effects are well done, showing us some of the tools available for both judges and criminals. Technology such as implants, high-tech first aid kits, gnarly weapons and DNA-locking for judge weapons are all cool but they didn’t distract from the story. Tools and equipment were viewed as simply that. We also see these tools having limitations that Dredd and Anderson have to negotiate as they fight more and more members of Ma-Ma’s gang.
How was gender/sex dealt with in this film? It was refreshing seeing a movie showing a strong female character rather than telling. The reasons for Anderson’s badassery was four-fold. First up, she had training. Second, she was a psychic. Third, she had a unique perspective, allowing her to think outside of the box. She contributed because she felt an ethical responsibility to society to be a judge. Fourth, she was also willing to work with Dredd and take on board his advice without being dependent on him at all times. It didn’t matter that she was female either because she was such a well-rounded character.

All in all, the film has moved into my top ten favorite movies of all time. It is such an awesome film and I highly enjoyed it. I highly recommend this to anyone with a love of science fiction action stories. Given the strategic nature of some of the sequences, fans of Military Science Fiction will likely appreciate the film as well. You also DO NOT have to be a fan of the comics to enjoy this film. I also highly recommend that you check out the CinemaWins video on the film.


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Music Review: Everything You Should Know by Silence is Sexy

Year: 2008
Tracks: 12 (this release)
Genre: Indie Rock, Alternative Rock, Pop Rock, Rock
Similar Artists: Coldplay, Radiohead, Monoral, Screaming Trees
Online: Facebook, Jamendo, Bandcamp, FreeMusicArchive

Dutch band Silence is Sexy is one of the earliest bands that I came across on Jamendo. Whilst the members seem to have moved on to other projects, their several albums remain among the personal favorites of my music collection. Today, I will be focusing on one of the earliest of their releases, Everything You Should Know. Please note that this album is what led to me becoming a fan of their music in the first place. Today’s review is going to be short but I hope it is helpful.

Everything You Should Know is a collection of twelve songs with a gritty acoustic sound that contrasts pleasantly with the occasional orchestral elements. The compositions are solid, backed up by excellent instrumental work and crisp sound engineering. Whilst the rest of the Silence is Sexy catalog is enjoyable, I consider this album to be their best so far.
The album begins on a strong front, with the song This is Our Start?. This track sets the stage for the rest of what appears to be an anthology of musical stories. Whilst the album contains more melancholic songs, we see glimmers of hope throughout. This is made very clear with the second track Stories Yet to Come, the declaration that moments of sadness are not the end as much as it feels like it at the time.
Do have any favorite songs on this album? Yes. The eighth track Reptiles is energetic and a lot of fun to listen to. It is hands-down my top pick for the album. The song resonates with me and I find myself listening to it on its own time and time again.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this album. If you a writer looking for a soundtrack for a modern-day drama or urban fantasy character-driven story, then this album is a solid pick. Artists looking for some melancholic and reflective songs to help with their own projects should probably check out this album as well. I also recommend checking out the album if you are a fan of the musical genres listed above.


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Course Review: Drawing Foundations: Fundamentals

Teacher: Will Kemp
Length: 2h 24m
Provider: Lynda.com (course link)

Some background…
Back in ninth and tenth grade, I decided to do high school art. Both my sisters had done it during their time in high school and I had an inkling that I would as well. As much as I tried, I also had to juggle other things that were going on at the time. I didn’t excel near as much as I had envisioned. In eleventh and twelfth grade, there was a choice between agriculture and art and I ended up choosing agriculture because it came a bit more naturally for me. Still, there was always this desire to one day return to art.
Several times over the decades that followed, I have tried to get back into it. I found some manga tutorials and attempted that but I always felt like I was missing some fundamentals. When my husband got a position in Gympie, I frequented a rather neat art group at the Gympie gallery. I met a bunch of awesome people there and learned a lot in a short period of time. We ended up moving and I found myself in a place where the art community wasn’t as accommodating for people trying to hone their skills. To this day, I still miss that Gympie art group.

When I came across several learning pathways focusing on improving art skills and design on Lynda last year, I decided to give them a run. The first part of the Improve Your Drawing Skills pathway is Drawing Foundations: Fundamentals course by Will Kemp, an entry-level course to get people started as artists.
Will Kemp begins by going over the tools and equipment that you’ll need for the various exercises covered in this two and half hour course. He then goes over some important elements and techniques in a lot of detail. He offers a bunch of exercises to assist with deep learning. Unfortunately, I was missing several of the tools and equipment necessary to participate in several of them which made it difficult to put the lessons to use.
I enjoyed this course overall. Will Kemp does a great job of making the material accessible to both beginners and veterans alike. The exercises are appropriately challenging and relevant to the current stage of learning, also encouraging students to go out and find some of their own studies to draw. Just make sure that you have access to the tools and equipment mentioned in the first module as it will help you get the most out of the course.

In conclusion, this course is great for learning the basic skills of drawing. I highly recommend this course to beginners and a terrific way for veterans to brush up on their skills. If you are innately curious about how to draw, this course will give you an idea of whether or not drawing is right for you. If any of this applies to you, be sure to set some time and money aside to do the course in the not-so-distant future.

Australian residents should check their local and state library services to see if membership provides free access to LYNDA course. In the case of the state of Queensland, the state library and rural libraries program offers this, which is something that I am currently taking advantage of. If you aren’t an Australian resident, check your regional library, college and/or place of employment to see if they offer a similar perk.


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Manga Review: Arslan Senki 001 – 005

Year: 2013 (ongoing)
Author: Yoshiki Tanaka
Artist: Hiroumu Arakawa
Version: MangaStream
Online: Wikipedia, MAL, KissManga
Genre: Shounen, Action, Fantasy, Drama

In lieu of my upcoming writing project, I figured it might be worth reading some manga that more closely reflected the aesthetics that I was looking for. I decided to give the newest manga adaptation of the novel Arslan Senki a run. The first adaptation was in 1986 and the second in 1991. Each had their own unique art style that gave a distinctly different feel. I’d also like to point out that there are also several anime adaptations of the various manga adaptations. So… many… adaptations!

Arslan Senki, otherwise known as The Heroic Legend of Arslan, tells the story of a kind-hearted young prince named Arslan. When one of his father’s most trusted generals betrays the unstoppable Parsian army, the defeats of the Parsians leads the way for the capital to be attacked. As Arslan’s first campaign, he loses so much. However, with so much on the line, fate forces the fourteen-year-old to step up. The first step will be finding some allies to take out hundreds of thousands of soldiers motivated by religious zealotry.

To begin with, this series is drawn by the talented Hiroumu Arakawa. Hiroumu Arakawa is the artist for Fullmetal Alchemist, a series that many of you have at least some familiarity with. The art style may not feature that mechanized contraptions of his Fullmetal Alchemist setting, but it does share similar character designs. In this case, the world setting is based on certain areas of the middle east during the crusades. Given the subject matter, the art shows more gore and the audience is quickly made aware that Arslan and his companions have their work cut out for them.
The plot is a very simple one but it does a good job of showing how much trust many of the characters put into their allies. This doesn’t necessarily work out, a major betrayal causes the deaths of thousands of troops, creating a baptism of fire for young Arslan. He isn’t a particularly good warrior but he has Daryun looking out for him.
This focus on working as a group feels like it will continue on in future chapters. I also anticipate Arslan’s martial training to finally pay off. Given the hint at the inclusion of future allies, how will they affect the dynamic of the party of four? I am also curious if Narsus paints nudes. In any case, the first five chapters have my interest perked. 

Will I be continuing this series? Well, I like the artwork and I like the characters so far. The action sequences are cool and the plot is interesting. Whilst there were some goofy moments in chapter five, it was more of a way to contrast the large amounts of bloodshed seen earlier. So, the answer is a resounding yes.


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Music Review: Cinematic Volume 1 by Grégoire Lourme

Year: 2012
Tracks: 18 (this release
Genre: Soundtrack, Classical, Orchestral, Electronic, Ambient, World
Similar Artists: Celestial Aeon Project, MuswayStudio, Epic Soul Factory
Online: Jamendo, IMDB

Grégoire Lourme is a French composer that is one of the more prolific artists on Jamendo. Whilst his web presence is somewhat lacking, one gets the impression that the time that he would otherwise be spent social networking is directed to composing his rather expansive music catalogue. His albums are usually tied together by a theme, such as his 2017 release Spy. Today, I am discussing the first in his lengthy Cinematic theme series.

Volume 1 is a collection of instrumental tracks perfect for action, suspense, drama and science fiction sequences. The tracks are full-length and well-composed, making use of a big orchestra sound. It also utilizes pacing to great effect. I would usually go into vocals and lyrics, but given that it is an instrumental album it is not applicable. What I will say is that each track is a pleasure to listen to.
Favourite composition? If I had to chose a favourite track, I think it would be the ninth track The Empire Burns. The composition has a wonderful build-up and ability to elicit emotion from the listener that is prevalent in many of Lourme’s songs.

Whilst the tracks are geared towards film and television, they also work well as the soundtrack for writing science fiction, fantasy, action and adventure stories. If that interests you, I’d recommend checking out this album as well as Grégoire Lourme’s other releases. There is a lot on offer, so be sure to check out his music. 


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Anime Review: My Hero Academia Season 1

Year: 2016
Episodes: 13
Online: MAL, Wikipedia, IMDB, Crunchyroll
Genre: Shounen, Science Fiction, Superhero, Action, Drama

I first discovered this anime by chance whilst checking out the AnimeLab website a few episodes into the first season. Those first ten minutes perked my interest and I decided to put it in my watch list. Late last year, I finally persuaded my spouse to watch the English dub with me. As expected we both loved it.

My Hero Academia follows the life of a boy born without special powers, also known as Quirks. This is unusual in that Quirks powers are the norm rather than the exception. Izuku Midoriya wants to be a hero like his role model All Might, something that becomes especially relevant when he meets the man himself. In lieu of some “personal issues”, All Might is looking for a protégé to take up his mantle and sees something special in Midoriya. After some deliberation, All Might decides to train young Midoriya and offers to transfer his own powers to the lad.
After managing to pass the entrance exam, Midoriya manages to gain entrance into an academy for getting a hero license. Although he manages to develop friendships with most of his fellow classmates, he also has to contend with a kid that he used to look up to. This will become one of several major points of conflict for the series. There are also forces at play that have plans beyond harassing members of the academy. Plans that have larger implications on the world as a whole.

I really like this series. Midoriya is a really likeable protagonist that is surrounded by a cast of interesting characters. These characters are given time to shine throughout the series, allowing us to see growth. We see failure being used as a catalyst for change, showing the willingness for certain characters to learn from their mistakes and try different things in order to overcome difficulty.
With any good series, some characters are also immune to change. This is played out time and time again with Katsuki Bakugou, a character that is arrogant, spiteful and prone to violent outbursts over the pettiest things. He might have some neat abilities, but his attitude makes him understandably disliked by those around him. It also emphasises how different he is in mindset to Midoriya.
The plot and pacing of My Hero Academia is masterfully done. As the first season moves on, we see genuine threats for Midoriya, his classmates and teaching staff. This conflict from external forces the characters to work together and to adapt to a very real threat. It allows us to see limitations of several of the characters and also results in the viewer realising that this is only the beginning of trouble for the characters.
The world setting for My Hero Academia is well-fleshed out. Information about the world is rationed out in manageable bites so as to be relevant to the flow of the storyline. The timeline of the arrival of Quirks is something that fascinated me, the affect of which had understandable ramifications for this alternate Earth. We also see this timeline becoming more and more relevant to the conflict of the heroes over time. It was really neat how flawlessly this is woven into the plot.
Many people will likely comment on the art style. Whilst it isn’t your usual crisp anime art, it is perfect for the narrative of the series. The over-the-top design that works really well and offers a very unique viewing experience. Probably the closest series in art style in Gurren Lagann, which I don’t consider a bad thing.

In conclusion, whilst this series is not necessarily my favourite it is certainly up there. It is highly enjoyable, with a really neat story and cast of characters that I genuinely cared about. I highly recommend this series to fans of shounen action and the superhero genre.