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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Editorial: Some Stuff What I've Been Watching.


Editorial: Some Stuff What I've Been Watching
(Being a list of recommendations.) 


Heeey, so, after the rather heavy subject matter of last week's editorial, I thought I'd go with something lighter this week, with a short list of some recommendations of things I'm currently watching. Most of these have only just started (or the current series of them have only just started), and quality and subject matter vary.


Aldnoah.Zero.



I almost did Aldnoah.Zero as one of my second bunch of ongoings, but the dates didn't align up right, and I still kind of think that's a shame, because it's a really good series so far. It's getting a lot of hatred from assorted corners of fandom, in large part due to the fact that Gen Urobuchi's name is attached to it, which seems to make a large subset of people believe that anything, no matter the premise, will be a clone of Madoka Magica (followed shortly by getting enraged when it isn't).

Anyway, Aldnoah.Zero is about two boys, Inaho and Slaine, one a citizen of Earth and the other of Mars. When the crown princess of Mars, Asseylum, descends to Earth on a diplomatic trip, a conspiracy of Martian knights has her assassinated by way of missile, before framing Earth and instigating a war between the two planets.

It's three episodes in, currently, with an excellent first and third episode and a good, if somewhat slow, second episode, and I'd strongly recommend it. It's well-written, beautifully animated, and it has a great soundtrack.

Extant.



Iiii was not expecting to watch Extant, in large part because I didn't even know about it until the day after its first episode aired. It's very – Spielberg, which you might expect, given that it is, in fact, one of Steven Spielberg's growing stable of television series.

In essence, it's sci-fi horror/mystery: Halle Berry plays Molly Woods, an astronaut who after a bizarre and unnerving experience while on a thirteen month solo mission in space, returns to find herself struggling to reconnect with her husband and android child; and, more disturbingly, pregnant.

It's slow-paced and slow-building, which is not generally my preferred kind of series, but it's never boring, combining a real-world-with-high-technology twenty-minutes-in-the-future setting with several distinct plotlines, including sinister aliens(?), sinister artificial intelligences, and sinister corporations.


Sword Art Online II.



Sword Art Online II is the long-awaited sequel to, er, Sword Art Online, in which a young lad named Kirito and a young woman named Asuna found themselves stuck in the virtual reality video game of the same name, along with hundreds of others, told that if they die in the game, or if their families or doctors attempt to disconnect them, they too will die, with the only way to escape being to defeat all one-hundred bosses. The first series followed, in skips and jumps, their lives and romance in a game world that had consumed their lives and which, for all they knew, they would never leave.

Sword Art Online II isn't quite the same. In this, Kirito is contacted by a government official who wants him to enter the science fiction game Gun Gale Online, where a player imaginatively calling himself Death Gun has somehow managed to kill players in real life through the game.

It's a return to form for the SAO series after a slightly disappointing (and more than slightly, er, incest-y) second arc of the first series, with an interesting setting, good pacing, and the arrival of a new and engaging deuteragonist, Sinon, a girl suffering from PTSD who uses the world of GGO as a form of therapy.


Covert Affairs.



Iii have liked Covert Affairs for a longish time, having started watching it some time towards the end of its first series. We're about five episodes into Series 5 now, and the show has been – variable, to be honest. Always good, but sometimes in a fun way and sometimes in a 'I want to know what happens, even though this is getting so dark and depressing that I just want it to stop' way. This latest series seems to be the latter.

Anyway, Covert Affairs is about Annie Walker, a CIA operative who does CIA-ish things along with her blind handler, Auggie Anderson, and under the watchful eye of her mentor Joan. I'm a big fan of spy dramas, so all the spy shenanigans were right up my alley. Unlike the other shows on this list, this is probably the highest profile one, but if you've heard of it but not seen it and maybe have some free time, consider taking a look.


Kamen Rider Gaim.



The outlier here in that it's almost over. Gaim is the thirty-something iteration of the Kamen Rider series, a superhero show, this time revolving around dancers who become fruit-and-nut themed armoured motorbike riders. Specifically, it follows dancer Kazuraba Kouta as he discovers that an extradimensional parasitic flora is trying to invade his world and, possibly worse, that the only people willing or able to stop it are worldwide mega-corporation Yggdrassil, whose plans for the world are a little murder-y.


It's ridiculous, and silly, as I think any children's series probably should be. It's also penned by Gen Urobuchi of Madoka Magica fame, who's also (somewhat) behind the aforementioned Aldnoah.Zero, and the man is an excellent writer both on a small scale dialogue and characters level and on a large scale sweeping plot level, so it's worth checking out. If you're an Urobuchi fanboy who expects all of his work to be incredibly dark, then – well, then I'm judging you, but Gaim is probably still for you, as it mostly revolves around Game of Thrones style politicking, intrigue, betrayal and slow descents into madness, between the fruit-versus-fruit battles.  

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