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Monday, 30 June 2014

Falling Skies S4E2: The Eye.

Not to be confused with the London Eye, which is delightful.

Falling Skies
S4E2: The Eye.

[Spoilers, obviously.]

 In the last episode, most of the characters ended up in a prison camp, except Matt, who turned up in a re-education camp; Anne, who became a guerilla fighter with a band of rebels; and Ben, who ended up on sale and got picked up by a lovely band of cultists with Maggie, led by his sister Alexis.

At this point, the Espheni might just be Nazis. They've certainly stolen their playbook. Their horrible, horrible playbook.

As we start this episode, Tom lobs a brick at the energy field, because sometimes that's just what you do. Down in the streets, a woman with a baby becomes the victim of the scheduled Random Act of Cruelty by a Skitter Guard, and is saved by The Ghost. I was going to make a joke in this review about how it's really obvious the Ghost is Tom, as nobody else dresses like a history professor who got dragged through a hedge and then made a crude mask, but apparently it's a copycat, in this case, so bedraggled-professor-chic plus that particular pattern of scarf must a) Be all the rage in the prison camp, and b) Be widely stocked at their branch of Primark.

He returns to his room and chats with Dan a little, before the Skitters turn up and throw them out of solitary confinement. Tom reunites with Hal, but a bright light interrupts his standard inspirational speech. A pod descends from the ship, carrying a harnessed child to speak for the Espheni dude up there. He has a simple offer: Until the Ghost is handed over, they'll get no food. 

N'aw, Hal.

Tom wants to turn himself in, because of course, and Dan wants to threaten Pope into giving up all the food he's stashed away. Tom agrees to at least trying it, and then turns his attention to Hal, who informs him that the plan has changed. Tom's enraged by this, which confuses me a little, because dude, you were in solitary confinement. You've not really been around to discuss this stuff with. Just listen to the new plan.

We join Anne, who's apparently marching her fighters to death. She's told, gently, by Anthony, that they can't march all of the time, and Denny remarks that Anne keeps giving her rations away to other people. They're rather rudely interrupted by a Skitter attack, though, although it's only one, and they easily capture it.

(Later, Denny translates for the Skitter, who tells them about the New Espheni-Human World Order, led by the hybrid. She shows it a picture of Alexis, but it's reluctant to look, and just says it doesn't know, prompting Anne to threaten it with a knife and then stab it. The dull 'oh no's in this scene really remind me of someone I know, who will loudly bellow that or 'oh dear' in precisely that tone every time they cough. Anyway, what the hell, Anne, at least wait until Denny isn't telepathically linked with it. Harsh.)

Over to Alexis! She's in a much lighter, more brightly coloured filter than everyone else, which in Falling Skies always translates to evil. She's doing a Disney Princess playing with some water thing, with Kadar – or Socially Awkward Wilson From House, if you like – speculating that it's an escape from the people she's responsible for. 

Stop that, and go find yourself a grey filter.

It's really not clear whether Kadar has drank the Cherry Fanta of the Cultists. He seems to still be of sound mind, and not to believe that Alexis is some kind of divine figure – he does note that he can't figure out her growth spurts, though, and that she's dying, or at least he believes she is. He starts talking about nature's unlikely miracles, and somewhere the cast of Orphan Black awakens from their slumber to peer beadily at him.

Kadar can't get close to Alexis anymore, because Lourdes has put out orders to keep him away, as she says he's a non-believer. Poor Lourdes. She was such a sweet girl when this show started, and probably still is: The last time she was evil, she was mind-controlled, after all, so this time is probably no different.

In the re-education camp, Matt is doing a sterling job of pretending to be a re-educated Espheni Youthling. So that's nice. 

The Nazi Playbook angle is working out better for the show than the American War of Independence angle did, because the War of Independence is a pretty small deal historically, a scuffle between two groups of white English people over an issue of, essentially, division of resources, with Parliament under the control of Duke Grafton and then Lord North pushing for greater and often prohibitive taxes on things that were considered essentials (like tea, which formed a massive part of the American diet) in order to keep taxes low in Britain and to bring more money into the Empire's coffers for the expansion of its trade in India and elsewhere.

I feel like the show in its early series fell into the trap a lot of US media did of vastly overestimating how much of a big deal the War of Independence was. For the US, it was obviously an important historical event, but for Britain, even at the time, it was of a lesser political and economical importance compared to the rise of India in imperial estimations.

Also, the Nazis are just a better comparison for the Espheni, who are after all genocidal in the extreme, masters of propaganda, and obsessed with order, which describes the Nazis very well but becomes a little more fuzzy when dealing with Parliament versus the Revolutionaries, as both those groups were genocidal, neither were good at propaganda, and both were kind of so-so on order.

In the prison camp, Dan follows Pope and nearly gets a baseball bat to the face for his trouble. Dan's pretty upfront about being after Pope's stash, but their confrontation is cut off by some men following them down. As they're not main characters, the men's superior numbers do not avail them in stealing the food, but one of them gets a hold of the baseball bat and, after all his compatriots have been knocked out, somehow manages to flail wildly enough that Dan and Pope just leave. 

Tom, meanwhile, meets Serial Prison Escapist Dude, who has a working radio, which makes Tom instantly his best friend, because Tom is a dork. SRED says that to get through the field, they need one thing – to become Kamen Rider. 

Ridaaaaa jump. Ridaaaaa kick.

Um. I- I mean a Faraday suit. Which is a thing, to be fair, people who make music with Tesla coils use them.  
Tom contacts Cochise with the radio, and they joke a bit before Cochise confirms that the Espheni are definitely constructing a new power station. Cochise also says that he believes he knows where Matt is, and after some persuasion by Tom, agrees to leave to free him within the hour. I am going to be so annoyed with Tom if Cochise dies. With Tom, and with the writers.

In Chinatown, Ben demands to see Alexis, and points out to Lourdes that her actions – denying medical care to an ill woman for religious reasons – doesn't really line up very well with the fact that she's a doctor (or, I think, a medical student), and isn't even from Arizona. You're not from Arizona, Lourdes. Lourdes responds in typical-for-this-series fanatical fashion, but Alexis welcomes Ben into her sanctum – she tells Kadar he can't come in, though. 

Nor are you from Texas or Georgia.

Ben and Alexis talk, and she admits in a roundabout way that she brought down the mech. Eventually, Ben snaps at Alexis that she's 'talking like a fortune cookie', and Alexis is clearly upset. There is angry wind. There is snapping back at how clearly Ben knows better than all these people she's researched how she should communicate. It's a nice, sibling-y moment, although most siblings don't have angry wind, and in most sibling pairs one of them isn't an alien hybrid.

He does convince her to see Kadar, though. I foresee this having repercussions: Lourdes is not going to be happy at all.

Hal and Tom begin their plan, and Tom reveals himself as the Ghost. A pod takes him up to the ship, where he meets with the mouthpiece of the Espheni there, whose voice really doesn't match the image of a grandiose overlord, being kind of nasally and whiny.

A lot of interesting plot points come up here. For example, that there is a greater enemy than the Espheni, and that everything they have done has been in service of defeating it when it arrives – they speak of it 'coming', so I assume it hasn't made its move yet, but the reference to a greater enemy always seems to herald the oncoming fall of the current set of villains. He also talks about how they plan to make new front-line troops out of selected human adults, and notes that those who don't come willingly will be brainwashed into essentially drones for the task – and this will happen to Tom's family if he refuses. 

What a lovely fellow.

Other Ghosts start attacking the ship, and while the Espheni leaves to deal with them, Tom takes the opportunity to get the last pieces of information for his map of the camp.

… Oh god, Matt. No, Matt. Don't have a romance with anyone. Look to your brother's example, he had relationships and one of those people became the main villain of Series 3 and the other one is now brainwashed.

It looks like Matt is especially cursed, as one of his resistance crew has 'graduated', which in this instance hopefully means 'killed', but could mean something much worse, and the Team Leader tells him that he'll be keeping an eye on him.

In Chinatown, Kadar takes a blood sample from Alexis. Predictably, this does have repercussions, as Lourdes angrily says that Alexis can't consent, and a conflict starts a-brewin' between her, Ben and Kadar. Alexis is displeased by this, and the angry wind starts, accompanied by sad earthquakes. Eventually, Alexis becomes so afraid that she goes Alien Exorcist on them, shattering her blood on a wall, which then crawls off to places unknown, while producing a shrill noise that hurts the heads of everyone nearby.

Alexis is kind of terrifying.

We cut to her waking up, with Maggie – whose allegiances in this whole thing are very unclear – presiding over her. Ben says that they'll have to keep watch over Alexis and make sure that nobody they don't trust can get to her, and Maggie is pleased to have someone around who hasn't drunk the Kool-Aid.

Maggie, you've drunk the Koo – you've drunk the Cherry Tango. You have drunk three entire bottles of Cherry Tango. You have drunk so much Cherry Tango. The producers of Cherry Tango are out of stock because of yours and Lourdes' excessive consumption of their product. You're a cultist! You were last episode, at least.

Ben and Maggie seem to be sharing a moment, to which I say stop that, Ben, that is your brother's girlfriend, you rake and stop that Maggie, he's sixteen and you're twenty-two. Both of you, just stop that. Stop that right now. 


Alexis is gone by the time Ben got back. I guess she didn't want to see you hit on her other big brother's girlfriend, dude. Bros before obviously brainwashed women who probably wouldn't be reciprocating these moments if they were in their right minds, man.

He does find Alexis, though. She's talking to a tall, hooded Espheni, asking him to take her powers away. He apparently refuses, because this would be a very short series if he didn't. Why do I get the feeling that this is a rogue Espheni?

The Espheni's best Grim Reaper costume.

(As this happens, Denny tells Anne that every time she asked about the hybrid, he imagined a great darkness to the West, like a kind of Anti-Sauron. They figure out that's where Alexis is, because ask any mother about her daughter and she will usually reply with 'a great darkness'.)

As the episode closes, Team Prison Camp reunite, and their plan to get out of the camp is ready to go.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Top 10 Video Game Boss Battles.

Top 10 Video Game Boss Battles. 

As various people have noted, having heard my angry squawking, I'm currently enjoying a rented video game - Pokemon Conquest, which is somewhere between Game of Thrones and Pokemon Platinum, and is ridiculous. It also doesn't really have boss battles - the format just isn't really right for them - which is a shame, as boss battles have always been one of my favourite parts of games.

A bad boss battle can halt your progress, annoy you, or even just feel like they've failed to live up to the expectations the game has made of it. But a good boss battle carries a weight of storytelling behind it, feels sweeping and epic and important, and has gameplay that has you on the edge of your seat, usually screaming profanity at the screen. 

So here's ten of my personal favourites.

Honourable Mentions.

Ninetails and Lechku 'n' Nechku from Okami - both excellent bosses in an amazing game which unfortunately just missed this list, in large part because I drew a blank on remembering they existed. Koloktos from Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, who fell victim to my only wanting one boss from any given franchise on this list. Half the bosses in Tomb Raider, who fell foul of the same. Saren Arterius from Mass Effect, who was considered, then rejected out of bitterness. 

Archimonde – Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos (2002).


“Um,” some of you might be saying, “you never actually fight Archimonde? It's a real-time strategy game, you just fight his armies of the undead, and you've faced them before. This is a terrible way to start a list of best boss battles, and you are terrible.”

Okay, yes. It's true, you never fight Archimonde – you can try, he'll spawn in the Undead camp about a minute before the end of the time limit and storm his way up the hill, killing everything he touches, but you won't succeed.

But this is the final level of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and it shows in how they totally changed the formula for it. Your task is simple: You're on a hill, there's a gate on one side, and three camps in between: Human at the bottom, Orc in the middle, Night Elves at the summit, the last of which you're controlling. Archimonde will send legions of the undead after you, along with demons, including at least one massive Pit Lord. You must defend the gate for thirty minutes.

The first time I played it, I just barely managed to keep his armies away from the gate. The second time, I picked up all of the Night Elves' moving bases, shifted them down to the Orc camp, and started producing as many units as I could, situating my heroes at the edges. That worked a lot better.

Bastila Shan – Knights of the Old Republic (2003).

Don't let the mullet distract you.

There is one dude who's on this list because he's a refreshing change from gameplay that was, at that point, starting to get repetitive, but who carries really no emotional weight and had barely appeared until that point. Bastila Shan is not that guy. She is the antithesis of that guy.

Bastila is a somewhat souped-up version of an enemy you've faced dozens of times before in her game, a Dark Jedi. So is the final boss who comes just after her, with the minor twist that he'll regenerate his health from enstasis'd Jedi when it gets too low. The gameplay is not anything all that special.

But from a storytelling point of view, facing Bastila for the second time is a big moment. She's been in your party since almost the beginning of the game – she's a friend, potentially a love interest, and the reason she's fallen to the Dark Side is because she was protecting you. But you have to either kill her or redeem her, because there's a larger battle raging that will be lost if her abilities aren't either turned to your side or shut off entirely.

There's two ways this can end, and either of them are pretty emotional, to be honest, so this boss battle's punch doesn't come from the gameplay, but from the emotional weight of forty or fifty hours of story leading up to this point.

Scarecrow – Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009).

What a trustworthy looking fellow.

Probably a less controversial choice for this list than Archimonde, despite the fact that actually, you don't really fight Scarecrow, either, he just manifests a nightmarish level of Tim Burton-oid fear-platforming for you to work your way through while avoiding his deadly yellow eyelights.

Nobody will disagree when I say that the Scarecrow sections were the best sections of Arkham Asylum, and that the fact that they have failed to show up in subsequent Arkham games is a travesty. The already unnerving environs of the asylum are warped and twisted into crumbling, overgrown platforms floating in a void, or worse, surreal manifestations of Bruce Wayne's fears and sorrows.

Feats of gameplay they are not, they are essentially games of 'avoid the lights, occasionally beat up some guys', and the final battle with Scarecrow more or less consists of entirely of the latter of those two gameplay elements. But they are astonishingly beautiful.

Deus – Asura's Wrath (2012).

Wait, aren't you already on this list, just slightly further down?

The boss battle with Deus, the penultimate battle of Asura's Wrath, is long but never outstays it's welcome – admittedly more for story reasons than gameplay ones, but the gameplay of Asura's Wrath is very much at its best during boss battles. Deus is your boss and your betrayer, the ostensibly weary but increasingly power hungry leader of the Seven Deities, who has spent thousands upon thousands of years putting into motion a plan to save the planet.

You start off as Asura, trying to wear Deus down with the help of your pal Yasha while Deus fends you off with his array of impressive lightning attacks, head into a rail shooter section or two on a flying motorbike in space, before finally facing off with Deus again, this time in a more powerful form. As the battle wears on, you play first as Asura, then as Yasha, then as Asura again before eventually, finally, defeating and killing him.

The gameplay is good – not startlingly so, but good – but the beautiful setting, the music, and the sense of pathos that the story so far has brought to the confrontation are much more so.

Galak Fyyar– Star Wars: Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast (2002).

Look at this dork.

“Who is Galak Fyyar?” Some people who played the game might well be asking at this point. “What did he see?”

Galak Fyyar is the left hand man of the game's main villain, Desaan. Unlike almost every other boss battle in the game, he's not a Dark Jedi. He's just a dude who happens to have a battle suit armed with a shield generator that will electrocute you if you touch it, and a concussion rifle that will never stop firing.

It's a refreshing change after fighting waves upon waves of Dark Jedi, with very little variation between them – and after this, you mostly just fight waves upon waves of them too. Galak harks back to the early parts of the game where you didn't have a lightsaber of Force powers, and his ability to easily keep you at range makes him the most interesting boss in the game, and all the more so as it takes place on an exploding Star Destroyer.

Also, at one point he yells 'Is this insane?!' shortly before snapping down the helmet of his evil orange power armour and cackling madly. Yes, Galak. Yes, it is.

Sophie Leigh – Tomb Raider III (1998).

She has bravely not let having no fingers stand in her way.

There were several candidates from the Tomb Raider games on this list. Set from The Last Revelation, a game I otherwise found utterly dire; the Dragon from Tomb Raider II; Amanda from Tomb Raider Legend. Sophie wins out because she's – different. You can't shoot Sophie to death. Her meteor-crystal-derived powers and sharp sense of business savvy means that she is impenetrable to bullets.

Instead, you must lead her on a merry goose chase, dodging her projectiles, which will kill you on contact, until you can lure her onto a bridge and electrify it, causing her to fry from the feet up and then, like all the meteor-crystal-empowered bosses of Tomb Raider III, explode.

It helps that Sophie is an independent part of something much larger. You encounter four pieces of the meteorite in total, and three of those in boss battles against enemies who can kill you instantly, and it really builds up the sense of the meteor as something mysterious and powerful.

The Mad Hatter – American McGee's Alice (2000).

I hate you.

The Hatter is terrifying, and quite possibly one of the best built up bosses of the game: He's on all the promotional material, just to start, but you also first meet him when he crushes the White Rabbit beneath his foot when the two of you are shrunk down. When next you see him, it's to interrupt your battle with the Tweedles and taunt you before sending you to his laboratory.

As you explore the laboratory, the game shows him pacing about in cutscenes, going to places where you've just been or where you're just about to go, but he's never there when you get there. You encounter what he's done to the March Hare and Dormouse, and you see his creations, the Automatons, which are powered by insane children.

Finally, finally, you meet him in battle. It's not the most original boss battle: He'll hit you with a stick, lob missiles at you, and occasionally vanish and summon smaller enemies to attack you while he watches from his clocktower. It's the little details that make it: The Hatter looms. He is tall, and skinny, and up close gigantic in a way no enemy up to that point has been.

Also, whenever he teleported back down, he always appeared behind me. Every time. Regardless of where I was looking.

Gabranth and Cid – Final Fantasy XII (2006).

Gabranth wearied of 'well, aren't you horny' jokes a long time ago.

“Okay, that's not even one boss battle. That's two boss battles that happen to be very close to each other,” some people might be saying now. “They're two different entities, who you don't fight together.”

To which I say: “Cid comes immediately after Gabranth, and there's no save point or non-battling gameplay between them.”

Anyway, so, there's a - …

“Evrae,” those people say. “You fight a few random nameless soldiers after the Evrae boss battle in Final Fantasy X, and you wouldn't call that 'Evrae and Some Dudes.'” To which I say shut up, hypothetical naysayer who has coincidentally played all the games I have.

Anyway. There's a massive weight of storytelling here: The Pharos at Ridorana, where you face them, is arguably the game's climax, bringing to a close the storyline of whether or not deposed queen Ashe will ally herself with the rather-questionable-gods of her world and use their weapon of mass destruction, or if she will hold with her own morals and take a more merciful route. It's also where you finally find out the details of what happened to Nabudis, and where another party member's storyline reaches a close.

Gabranth and Cid, too, have loomed large in the story so far. Gabranth, the game's resident vaguely-Vader-oid antivillain, is on all the promotional material, and has often had his viewpoint used to explore any political intrigue taking place amidst the antagonists. He's a character who, at that point, it's easy to have mixed feelings about, as his actions are reprehensible but he himself is clearly broken. Cid, meanwhile, is just plain hammy, in an incredibly Shakespearian way. You've fought him once before, and he has a familial connection to one of your party and has been a major power player, but more than that, he's just so delightfully grandiose.

In terms of gameplay, it's not as striking as some of the ones on this list, but it's not bad either. Both enemies – all three really, as Cid will partway through his battle summon an angelic superbeing to help him – force you to strategise and make good use of your party's abilities, and Cid especially will often force you into desperate positions where you're scrambling for a foothold, and that's more or less what you want from a boss battle, especially an RPG boss.

Of course, like all of Final Fantasy XII, it would be better if Vaan wasn't there.

Ganondorf – Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006).

Yeah, you beat up that diminutive teenage boy, man!

Ganondorf's a classic, isn't he? Even people who don't play Legend of Zelda know, at least distantly, who Ganondorf is, he's a cultural icon. He enters Twilight Princess at the eleventh hour, with very little warning beforehand, and you don't really properly meet him until literally just before the boss battle. He should feel like some manner of giant space flea from nowhere, but the game handles his sudden appearance with such grace that, combined with the amount of cultural weight he carries, it feels epic.

The battle is one of the longest ones on here, matched maybe only by Deus. First you face him in a Zelda-staple, the game of energy tennis, while he possesses the body of Princess Zelda; then you face him as a monstrous boar, and in a nice twist, the game gives you multiple ways you can go about defeating him here, either trying to shoot him between the eyes as he charges for you, or turning into a wolf and doing animal-versus-animal battle. Taking the battle outside, you chase him about on horseback, before finally you face him in a duel, you with your Master Sword and him with the massive sword of light used to execute him centuries prior.

Twilight Princess has some of the best gameplay of the Zelda games, and the Ganondorf fight is ridiculously fun from start to finish, and really feels like an earth-shattering final battle in an already epic game. (I'm using that word a lot). Also, if it gets too difficult, you can always just produce your fishing rod. Doing so will make Ganondorf become confused and alarmed, allowing you to hit him a few times with your sword.

Bogey Alpha and Bogey Bravo – Vanquish (2010).

Fuchsia suits you. It brings out your eyes.

Frenetic third-person-shooter Vanquish is sorely underappreciated. It was introduced to me by a friend, who showed me and another friend its gameplay at one point, and I was immediately entranced. I rented it out the next day and played it, and it remains one of the games that'd almost certainly end up on a Top Ten Video Games list.

In the final battle of the game, your attempt to shut off a microwave emitter before it fries a city are, alarmingly, cut off by two men in enhanced, flying versions of your own power armour, swooping around after you. You've fought one before, as a boss a third of the way through the game, and it was the most difficult boss battle you had. Now there are two, and the station is getting ready to make a bunch of people crispy.

Like every battle in this game, this battle is a frenzy of movement, as you zoom about the arena and throw a hail of bullets at your enemies to try to bring them down. This time, though, they can zoom about too, and they can do it in the air, forcing you to engage in a game of cat and mouse where you're switching roles, zooming close to try to get shots in before trying to find shelter from their attacks. After you take down one, you'll start seeing pistons move, hearing ominous remarks from the station's announcement system about how it's just about to fire, the whole place will begin to intermittently glow orange. I'm not sure if I actually was on a time limit, but it felt like I was.

The game has some excellent executed quicktime events, too – this is one of the few games that uses them well – and finally ends by switching to first person as you desperately try to stumble to your feet and fire off one last shot, as your armour fails. 

Friday, 27 June 2014

Knights of Sidonia.

I think this is going to be a Thing. Since masterposts aren't really proper reviews, every time I do one I'll also post up either an actual proper review or an editorial. They only come around once every ten or twelve weeks (or more), so it's not exactly the greatest burden on my workload.

In that noble spirit of 'eh, got a schedule to obey', that one Muse song. Or the anime that sounds a lot like it.

Knights of Sidonia. 

 Wait, wait, wait. That's a Muse song. It's a really popular Muse song, except it's spelt slightly differently, and that song had slightly fewer gigantic robots. Slightly.

'Sidonia' is actually a female name, meaning 'of Sidon', but I'd be surprised if that's the etymology for the titular ship in Knights of Sidonia. Very surprised indeed. As it is, the name is suspicious, but only slightly, as the show's title in Japanese is actually 'Sidonia no Kishi', which I think might not also be the Japanese name of the Muse song in question.

Knights of Sidonia tells the story of Tanikaze Nagate, a 'moleman' who has lived with his grandfather in the labyrinth of tunnels and maintenance shafts that run through the great spaceship Sidonia all his life. Emerging to find food, he is swiftly arrested, and finds himself thrust into the strange society of Sidonia, where genetic engineering and cloning has led to identical clones, a genetically engineered third sex, and an immortal cabal that rules over everything. 

Random Clipboard Dude is so done with your moleman ways, Nagate.

It's at this point I note that I'm not sure if the writer, Tsutomu Nihei, was gunning for a point here. With the exception of the immortal cabal of unscrupulous immortals – one of which is a bear with a robotic arm – the genetic meddling of the Sidonia crew seems to not have produced any harmful effects. Humans now only need to eat once a week, there's a third sex, there's a family of about nineteen clones: It's all a little odd to our sensibilities, maybe, but none of it is actually harmful, and it's not clear whether Nihei just threw in these things to create the sense of a futuristic society for which the limits of biology are no limits at all, or if he is flapping his hands and loudly yelling 'JUDGEMENT' at us.

His previous work, none of it very well known but apparently fairly popular in Germany, has apparently dealt with similar themes in a cyberpunk setting, so there's that. He also wrote a Wolverine miniseries for Marvel.

Now a part of this society, Nagate is quickly pushed by his new legal guardian, the masked ship's captain, to become a pilot and fly the legendary antique Tsugumori against the horrifying fleshy flesh monsters that fleshily threaten them. 

Heh. I should make a joke about 'sins of the flesh'.

I'll be honest, I nearly didn't get through the first episode. The CGI animation is fine when it's animating things like robots, and space ships, and cthulhoid monstrosities, but when it comes to animating people, they end up looking rather clumsily done. The lines aren't sharp enough, everything is a bit too flimsy and soft, it's like watching octopi wearing human skin suits, flailing their way around the beautiful landscapes. The attempt to combine a hand-drawn looking style with CGI is not done well here. It's no Legend of Sanctuary, whose trailers I strongly recommend looking up for an example of how to combine the two to create something truly gorgeous, although possibly a little beyond Knight of Sidonia's budget, which does after all have to stretch twelve episodes. 

Why did you put an asteroid on your ship, guys. Guys.

The first episode is also slow. The series picks up the pace quickly, but until the end, the first episode is so turgidly dull that it feels like an entire television film of people standing around doing nothing. First episodes have often had a tendency to not accurately represent their series, though, and as a whole, the series is – good. I'll admit, despite looking forward to it every week, it didn't make the same impression that Nobunaga the Fool, which is objectively worse and which I was watching at the same time, did. 

It's tough to say exactly why. I don't like the animation, that much we've already established, and to be honest, the the world didn't seize my interest, save for some elements – I was and remain genuinely intrigued by the Gauna, the aforementioned fleshy monstrosities, for example. The worldbuilding often felt like it was taking itself too seriously, trying to shoehorn its fantastical concepts into the limits of 'hard sci-fi', and I have never liked hard sci-fi. 

I do like robotic rings, though, so.

I find the entire concept of hard sci-fi to reek of pretension. These fields of science are fascinating, but I don't think most writers understand them, I don't think most readers understand them, and only rarely do I encounter a hard sci-fi piece of fiction that doesn't take pains to try to explain just how much effort and research they put into this, at length, for paragraphs or minutes or what have you, to an audience which cares less about the actual science and more about saying that there's actual science there.

Knights of Sidonia isn't really that bad at all, although on occasion you do have a character cartwheel by and talk for thirty seconds about something I just don't care about, because the episodes are twenty minutes long and nothing would get done if it was. I almost fear reading the manga in case it is that bad, especially since the seriousness with which the world is treated clashes at times with the moments of quite banal and by-the-numbers humour.

As for the characters, I profess that none of them really interested me either. Nagate is just kind of – there, a very weak-willed and quite retiring character who doesn't really have any force behind him. That kind of character can be done well, and has been many a-time, but Nagate isn't done well, and he didn't hold my interest as a protagonist. Other characters, like Izana, Kobayashi, Hoshijiro, et cetera, I liked well enough, but also didn't find especially compelling or memorable. 

Spoiler: He drinks her urine. I'm not joking about that. It is
an integral part of their romantic arc.

Where the series really shines is in its action sequences, which are stunning, and its ability to build tension for those action sequences. The fights between the frames (the titular Knights of Sidonia) and the Gauna are never not amazing, and each one feels like a nigh-apocalyptic situation, with the knights rushing to do enough damage to a Gauna to stab at its core with their special spears – a task complicated by the Gaunas' absurdly fast regenerative factors, combat tentacles, and ability to assimilate anything they come across into them and take on.

The Gauna battles are also varied: The first few are against giant, flailing fleshstrosities, the next one against a massive structure of several Gauna, and the one after that against a team of three small, light Gauna, zipping about while using the voice and mannerisms of a dead pilot (and Nagate's sort of love interest) to wage psychological warfare. When the final battle of the series comes, against a gigantic mega-Gauna carrying a dwarf planet, protected by a light zippy speaking-with-the-voice-of-a-dead-pilot Gauna, there's a genuine sense of threat, since every battle we've seen has involved loss and the characters fighting desperately for their lives, and often finding themselves massively outmatched. 

Also, outcreeped.

I've been very critical of this series in this post, and to be honest, it didn't make the impression on me that I hoped I would (although it wasn't nearly the disappointment that Break Blade is, and oh we shall talk about that at some point in the future), and I am left looking back on it as an objectively good series that didn't really strike me or leave me with any particular sense of emotion or impact.

It has been renewed for a second series, though, and this makes me very glad. There is nothing I hate more than when a manga adaptation just stops, because it's run out of episodes. Attack on Titan did that, Accel World did that, and it's annoying, and people should plan out their adaptations better.

Also, this series has a great theme tune, so that's nice too. 

Orphan Black Masterpost.

Orphan Black Masterpost.

I do adore Orphan Black. This was definitely a very good series, too. At the end of a series of a show, there's a certain amount of glancing back at the beginning, looking at the state of affairs there, and seeing how much has changed in the interim, how much movement there's been on the plot. 

At the beginning of series 2, Kira had been kidnapped, Alison and Cosima had a deal with Dyad, Helena was presumed dead, and Sarah was basically alone, with the only thing she had approaching an ally was Paul in Dyad. By the end, Kira had been kidnapped again and she and Sarah had escaped, any deals with Dyad were basically off the table, Helena had come into the fold fully as their resident murder wizard, Cal was in the picture in all his suspiciousness, we'd discovered two new clones (Tony and Charlotte), Paul had returned to the weird military faction, Leekie was dead, and we'd just discovered the existence of Project Castor, or to give them their their true names, the 'brones'. 

I remain stunned at how densely plotted Orphan Black is. It's not the sort of series I could marathon - even when I had the opportunity, when I was watching Series 1, I rarely watched more than about three episodes at a time. It's heavy going: A lot happens in every episode, the status quo is always changing, and often the atmosphere is very heavy, and only grows more so. As each series progresses, the pressures pushing at Sarah build and build, and it often makes for quite difficult viewing. Difficult isn't bad, though.

(I've said before that I might not review it next year. I might, or I mightn't, it'll depend what projects I have on: If I don't, it'll at the very least get a full series review, it's just that there is so much plotting that I feel that to do it justice I'd have to let my reviews double in length or so.)

So, a quick run-down of the pros and cons of this series for me. Pros, some of the new characters were great. Rachel - not technically new, but only really entering the picture properly this series - is a joy to watch, Ethan Duncan easily became my favourite character, I adored Tony, I like ERTB, and I do like Cal, despite frequently stating how suspicious I am of him. Returning characters were excellent too - Mrs. S is great, so are all the clones, and Tatiana Maslany's acting remains inspirationally amazing. The plot moved quickly but never felt rushed, the series set itself up well for next year, and it's just genuinely nice to see a series that isn't driven by a White American Dude Protagonist, but instead predominantly by women. 

Cons: Not enough Art. Art is great. Love Art. I - will be honest, I'm struggling to come up with any more cons than that, so I'm just going to leave that there. More Art. More Art for all. 

Future plans: Well, I've got my two new ongoings, Falling Skies and Teen Wolf, and the first reviews of those are here and here. My review of Nobunaga the Fool seems popular enough, and I loved the series enough, that I might check out the manga adaptation, which will apparently have a different plot, and do an ongoing for that. A review for dystopian space opera CGI anime Knights of Sidonia will be going up either today or tomorrow. I have Pokemon Conquest and Vanquish to play, so those will both be getting reviews. On the literature front, I will be reading Persepolis sometime within the next month, and I fully intend to review that. 

(I did see an Andy McNab book, but it was long and the blurb made me nauseous, so - we'll keep that one on ice for now, maybe.)

Long term, I'm looking at what ongoings will happen in Autumn, starting around September or October. Gotham is looking possible, as is Arrow, but I think for obvious reasons I can only do one of those. If anyone has any suggestions, then by all means tell me. 

Okay, on with the title cards. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Orphan Black S2E10: By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried.

Well, I'm going to be using exclusively pens from now on.

Orphan Black
By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried.

 So, finale. Yes. Right.

We ended the ninth episode of this series on Kira having been kidnapped by Rachel, Helena on her way to find Sarah, Cosima drastically sick and in the process of working with Ethan Duncan to have her illness cured, and – and Alison and Donnie doing the … doing the thing.

This episode opens on a disorienting note, cutting between Felix's confused recollection of an argument between Sarah and Mrs. S, and Sarah receiving an examination from Dyad scientists, along with a string of invasive questions, a lot of which are about her reproductive history. Sarah is then seen giving her unconditional surrender to Dyad, and the credits start.


We saw that in the previews, but I had kind of assumed the episode would end on that, not start.

In a dark room, Sarah is met by Doctor Nielen, who is so creepy he's practically incapacitated by the slime pouring out of every one of his orifices. As he's rather too eager to note, this is not the first time he's encountered her, as he examined her in her sleep. He brushes off her desire to see Kira, as well.

As it turns out, Kira is having samples taken by a rather over-nice researcher. Over-nice and unobservant, as Kira pockets her phone and gives Cal a call.

Meanwhile, Cosima finds out much to her and everybody else's chagrin that Doctor Nielen is her new physician – Delphine, it turns out, is being shipped off to Frankfurt unwillingly, but she has a vague parting threat for Rachel. Oh, Delphine, I'm sorry I ever thought you were evil. You are amazing, and you and Cosima must enjoy a long life together doing science and having scarves knitted for you by a small army.

Many scarves. Many jumpers.

Cosima receives an e-mail from Delphine containing Rachel's itinerary, and butters Martin – who I genuinely thought I recognised, but IMDB informs me that I've not seen the actor in anything, he just looks unnervingly like Tom Mison – up, getting him to leave and pushing to see Kira, as she's beginning to formulate a plan.

Using the possibility of seeing Kira as a kind of crude emotional cudgel, Nielen compels Sarah to sign consent for a medical procedure, and then takes her to see Kira. It's through a one way window, though, so all she can do is watch Rachel speak to Kira. 

Still not liking the pastels.

Meanwhile, at Mrs. S's safehouse, she's arranging for a car bomb with the manner of someone who specifically ordered a pizza with extra mozzarella, and jalapenos and a firm, yet moist hot dog stuffed crust. This pizza has no extra mozzarella, and habanero peppers, and a flimsy and dry sausage and mustard stuffed crust. This is unacceptable.

A moment later, Cal arrives, with all the awkwardness you'd expect from a man meeting his girlfriend's mother and his daughter's grandmother for the first time.

You can sympathise with Cal in this scene. Meeting his girlfriend's mother. Seeing an argument between said mother and his girlfriend's brother. His girlfriend's mother has a gun. Having to explain that you figured out that your girlfriend is a clone. It's awkward.

Art calls, as Helena has arrived at his flat, and Felix heads off to meet her, with strict instructions not to let her know about Kira or Sarah.

(Back at Dyad, Sarah encounters Duncan, who is also a prisoner and tells her not to despair.)

When Felix reaches Art's place, Helena is talking about what happened to her, and it's a mix of truths (there was a man called Jesse who she had some kind of romantic connection to) and fantasies (he had to go to war). She denies burning down the Prolethean ranch, although she's clearly quite happy about it (as are we all) and Felix doesn't believe her. 

Note well: Their body language does not suggest credulity.

Cal and Mrs. S are, meanwhile, talking shop, with the shop in question being the Spy Shop that sells espionage, lies and secrets, and I am feeling completely justified in not trusting Cal. He reveals that he has an insider, and Mrs. S instructs him to tell him that she's there. The insider immediately tells him to ask about 'Castor'.

Since Mrs. S makes a mythology comment here, let's talk about mythology.

Leda, as we discussed in a previous review, was a Spartan queen who was seduced by Zeus in the guise of a swan and on the same night slept with her husband Tyndareus, giving birth to two eggs which hatched into four children – two divine and two mortal. The children were Helen (of Troy), Clytemnestra, Castor and Pollux.

Castor and Pollux were twins, the Dioskouri. Pollux, however, was the divine son of Zeus, while Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus. They were both Argonauts – the Argonauts being essentially a Massive Ancient Greek Mythology Crossover Fic – and Castor would later ask Zeus to share in his brother's immortality, a request Zeus would grant. Some traditions held that after they died, they would switch being dead, with one dwelling in the underworld while the other stayed living.

Anyway, Mrs. S also has an inside man, Paul. She meets with him – although he seems to have rejoined either the military or some kind of military-oid group.

Ethan Duncan, in Rachel's Evil Home Cinema, is watching some of her home films of Duncan reading to her. Rachel arrives with tea, but he insists on just hot water, as he has his own teabag. She tries to convince him to give her the key to the non-repeating Vigenere cipher, and he refuses.

Another history lesson! A Vigenere cipher, so named after Blaise de Vigenere, is a set of multiple Caesar ciphers – ciphers which shift the letters slightly further along in the alphabet – dictated by a key. For instance, I code 'SARAH' with the very simple key 'FELIX' and get 'YFDJF', as each letter has been shifted along the alphabet by as many letters as its key letter is from a hypothetical zeroth letter. Similarly, I can obfuscate it further by adding random gaps into the output, making it 'YF DJF'.

If the cipher is non-repeating (as in, it's at least as long as the information it's encrypting) and random, being just a string of randomly generated letters instead of being a word, poem, etc, then it essentially becomes impossible to decode without the key. Doubly so if you then obfuscate it with randomised gaps.

Anyway, Duncan doesn't approve of Rachel's plans to make more clones, especially as nobody seems to know why they're being made. He informs her coolly that he didn't write the key down – he can recite Pi to six-thousand places, he can easily memorise a cipher key. He asks her if she remembers the emotions of the events in question, and Rachel tells him she can't, before realising that he's poisoned himself. This scene really affected me, actually, as Rachel's breakdown, and her pleading with him not to leave her, shows that despite everything that's happened to her, she did genuinely love her father. 

My eyes are sweating.

Back with Mrs. S and Paul, Cal arrives. The two of them measure roosters for a while, before Paul meets Cal's insider – and it's Evil Team Rocket Boss! She wants information on Castor, and in exchange she'll get Sarah and Kira out.

Cosima finally gets her meeting with Kira, where they discuss The Science – specifically, the science of force, wherein force exerted is determined by surface area and speed. Cosima uses a pencil to demonstrate this, first having Kira sharpen a pencil to reduce surface area and increase pressure, and then having it driven through a piece of paper at great speed.

This is intercut with Cosima and her Science Buddy rigging up a device using a fire extinguisher. Eventually, Kira wins science, and Cosima draws a picture. Man, Cosima makes such a good aunt when she's being moderately diabolical. 

Like Einstein before them, Cosima and Kira have subjugated The Science.

Sarah is awoken by orderlies tying her down and taking her to an operating theatre, where Cosima's Science Buddy meets her, Nielen informs her that she will be undergoing an oophorectomy, a surgical procedure to remove an ovary. Creepily, he also adds that he hopes Sarah looks forward to another pregnancy. Rachel arrives and clears everyone out of the room to speak to Sarah, giving her the drawing Kira made.

Rachel then demonstrates that she has Kira's bone marrow, intended to treat Cosima, and informs Sarah of Duncan's suicide, before accusing her of having the key. As Sarah repeatedly says she doesn't know what Rachel is talking about, Rachel smashes the bone marrow samples, effectively dooming Cosima. Rachel starts to storm out, but Sarah calls her back, claiming that she'll give her the key.

As Rachel approaches, Sarah activates the fire extinguisher device and shoots a pencil into Rachel's eye, before fleeing. As it turns out, she didn't have to: Evil Team Rocket Boss is waiting for her in Kira's room, and says she's free to go. ETRB says she's impressed with Sarah and Mrs. S, and would like to meet her tomorrow, saying that Cal can arrange it.

Sarah flees, and all the clones (and Felix) gather at Felix's attic-flat – even Helena, who finally meets Cosima (who is ridiculously sweet towards her) and Alison (who is more reserved).

The party scene is long, and to be honest doesn't really develop the plot any, but since I've managed to fit an thirty minutes worth of plot recapping into the space I would usually use for an entire episode, because the plotting in this episode is even denser than normal, I'm not going to harp on about that.

Besides, it's character development, and Orphan Black is nothing if not character focused. 

Also, dancing!

The next morning, Helena leaves early, leaving behind the nitrogen tank that I think contains her embryos. On the bright side, this probably meant she didn't pump liquid nitrogen into a man's urethra, so those – those sites can stop sending me pictures now. They can do that. On her way out, she is grabbed, tased, and taken away by several men.

Later that day, Sarah goes to visit ETRB at her shiny mansion. I feel it is important to remember that people with shiny mansions should never be trusted. Never be trusted.

(While this is happening, Cosima, who I genuinely feared was going to die in this scene, is woken up by Kira to read to her. They eventually end up reading The Island of Doctor Moreau, the copy that Duncan gave her. It, of course, as most people probably figured out a while ago, contains many of his notes – and quite possibly the key to the cipher.)

In the mansion, Sarah encounters a little girl, Charlotte, who she swiftly realises is another clone of her, despite the fact that apparently no more were made. ETRB explains that Charlotte was the only survivor of the attempts. ETRB seems genuinely invested in Charlotte's welfare, and tells Sarah about Topside, the cabal she's a part of that funds, invests in and profits from genetic engineering, and that controls Dyad.

She explains that Project Leda was never shut down, it was just compartmentalised, with Dyad working with the female clones and a military faction – who we see now have Helena, and who have Mrs. S working with them - working with the male ones – which is what Project Castor is. She shows Sarah one of the clones, a man working out in a cell.

Sarah realises that she's met one of the male clones – the clonebros, or brones, if you will – before. Creepy-Eyed Prolethean is a brone, and we see the one in the cell lean in close and give a very creepy, not entirely sane grin. 

What a charming young man.

Phew. Another series done, and with it, another ongoing series of reviews. It's been a great series, and series 3 should be really good as well, although I don't know yet if I'll be doing reviews of it. Orphan Black has a density of plot that overwhelmed me at first, and although I think I got the hang of it by the end, it was often quite a struggle fitting everything into one review.

I do adore the series, though, so I'll be counting down the days to the next one.  

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Nobunaga the Fool.

Nobunaga the Fool.

 So, Leonardo da Vinci meets Jeanne d'Arc, and the two of them take a spaceship piloted by Portugese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to the Eastern Planet that their own Western Planet is paired with, where they encounter Oda Nobunaga, Akechi Mitsuhide, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

By piloting a giant robot, Nobunaga proves himself to be Jesus, thus earning the ire of King Arthur, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, and others, and the allegiance of shaman queen Himiko.

Hannibal of the Carthaginians is a French woman in a BDSM relationship with Charlemagne.

Schrodinger's Box is a pocket dimension in which the land of the dead overlaps with the realm of the living, protected by the Gordian Knot. 


At no point in writing this so far have I made any jokes. At all. Ever. Nor have I exaggerated, drawn inference, or applied my own interpretation to events. These are just a few of the literal facts of this anime, laid out bare, to make a point.

Which is that you should watch this anime, because nothing like it will ever be made again.

It has plenty of other virtues I could extol. It's very well-animated, it has an excellent soundtrack, the mechanics of making an impressive looking and sounding series are all there. On a technical level, it's worth checking out, just for a very good example of a very high quality production where a lot of care was clearly taken to make something very beautiful.

As far as character, storyline, all those things we really watch something for, it is – it is … Okay. Okay. The above facts make it sound ridiculous, and it is. Nobunaga help me I cannot deny that the premise is totally absurd. But those facts also make it sound like a very shallow series, a flashy spectacle whose main selling point is that it's so out-there and ridiculous in that very anime way that people tend to use when they want to decry an entire nation's cartoon industry.

It's a series driven very much by theme, and message, rather than spectacle or sales – and given how slowly paced many of the episodes are, someone tuning in for an action drama will come away very disappointed, as many people did. The beginning of this series' conception was clearly an ideal, not a sales pitch. 

Thank you, Arthur.

The story is a meditation on religion, faith, doubt, destiny versus free will, inevitability, dichotomies of nature versus circumstance versus expectations: Which makes the usage of a mish-mash of historical characters make a lot more sense, especially since the characters we see are meant to be reincarnations of their historical selves, something that is referenced both in the opening scene and in the ending.

How much of these characters' lives were due to their nature, the series asks, and how much due to the circumstances they were born into. What would happen if they met? How would they influence each other? 

Here's the key problem with that, though: The writer isn't very good at characterising his cast as actually being at all like the historical figures they are meant to be.

Take the title character. In history, Oda Nobunaga was a peacemaker and modernist whose circumstances forced him into war. While he was brutal in war, he also set aside land for Christian settlers to build churches, attempted to create a political authority free from religious influence in a very early example of separating faith from state, freed a black slave from Dutch Jesuits and appointed him to a high-ranking position, promoted people based on meritocratic ideals, opened trade unions to the peasantry, built roads, opened trade. His ruthlessness and brutality was extraordinary, not just to modern minds but to the time he lived in, but he was not a man ill-suited to peace. He was, in fact, a liberal futurist with a keen interest in science, the arts, and the economy.

So while Fool!Nobunaga's characterisation as a stoic, unpredictable, chaotic warrior whose violent and destructive nature is so inherent to his person that he literally cannot exist in a peaceful world is consistent throughout the show, and narratively provides a great contrast to his allies and his main antagonist, it is utterly inconsistent with the man we know Nobunaga was in history.

Put the evil aura away, Nobunaga.

Or take Jeanne d'Arc – or Ranmaru, as the show also has her as the reincarnation of Nobunaga's sandal-bearer and lover, a young man who Nobunaga did have genuine affection for (and who, in a nice touch, the series shows in its very first scene). Jeanne in history was certainly a pious figure, although whether by belief or by strategy it's entirely unclear. She was also ruthless, and an expert at psychological warfare and propaganda: She once sent a letter to her enemies ahead of her arrival, saying she was coming, and that everyone who had stood in her way so far were dead or imprisoned. She listed their names. She would ride into battle with a banner instead of a sword often, but not because bloodshed was somehow anathema to her, but because she recognised her power as a symbol and because, if worst came to worst, you can gore a man on a banner.

Jeanne in the show is very – gentle. She is set up early as someone who is willing to go into battle, but who is a fundamentally gentle and pure soul committed to the defence of innocents. Her peaceful nature is meant to contrast with the Nobunaga's fiercer and more warlike persona. In real life, it would probably be the other way around.

You can also kill them. Do that.

Or take Leonardo da Vinci. In real life, visionary polyglot, artist, weapons designer, scientist. In the series, undeniably my favourite character, but also a Machiavellian (ironically, as Machiavelli is in this series) manipulator and prophet figure armed with a deck of tarot cards. 

Potentially the most diabolical man in the series.

Leonardo's deck of tarot cards provides one of the main thematic thrusts of the series. Every episode, someone draws a card from his deck, with himself drawing last. The card summarises the events of the episode and its meaning, while also often providing a new angle through which to view them. It's one of the most well-executed themes of the series, and it serves the general idea of a conflict between destiny and free will very well, especially as both Jeanne and Leonardo are imperfect prophets: Leonardo misinterprets his cards several times, or else hands off interpreting them to somebody else, while Jeanne repeatedly denies her own visions.

The series' commitment to its theme does sometimes cause it to struggle narratively. I mentioned that it has several very slowly paced episodes earlier, and it's true, it does. It also often seems to forget that it is a seinen anime, and in the same way that if I'm writing a young adult novel I might endeavour not to dwell too long on my philosophical quandaries before cutting in some action to keep the reader happy, the show could have done with splicing in more action into its navel-gazing.

It's a shame that it doesn't, because the more action heavy episodes are often the best ones, both on a narrative and a thematic level. Episode 23 is probably the best episode of any anime I've seen all year, and it's an episode which is almost entirely action: But it manages to keep an excellent pace, is beautifully animated, has more emotional punch than probably any of the other episodes, and manages to impart the same amount of philosophy much more concisely than either the episodes before or after it.

It's a twenty-four episode series, and 23 sets up a lot of expectations for a finale that was very – thing. Very thing. It was twenty-two minutes of thing. Stuff happened. People were eaten. Things were said. Sometimes people had arms, and other times they walked places. Animals did appear, on occasion. 

As did giant drinking containers.

I sound like I'm making a joke, but I have watched that finale twice now and I cannot marshal any coherent thoughts about it. It's – there. But thematically, it's confused and tangled, and narratively it's unsatisfying, and while it's a very pretty spectacle, it is almost overwrought in its beauty. I cannot decide if I like that finale or if I hate it. I can't decide anything about it. 

But taking the series as a whole, the narrative is inconsistently paced, confused, comes to an abrupt and unsatisfying end, and often seems to just tug new plot points out of nowhere and fling them haphazardly into the wind. Thematically, the series raises interesting questions, but its attempts to answer them are at times bewildering, and it finds itself let down by a lack of historical fidelity.

I adore this series. I really do. I will unreservedly recommend it to everyone, and I will defend its worth as an artistic endeavour. But that having been said, I can't pretend it's not a failure at almost everything it tries to do. An admirable failure, but a failure nonetheless.

Oh, also, it's based on a play.

Just – process that for a while.

He, Gaius Julius Caesar, is also in the play.

(Anyway, for anybody interested, Nobunaga the Fool does have an officially licensed sub, which can be found for free at Crunchyroll.)