Adbox 1

Monday, 4 December 2017

Fate/Apocrypha E21: Antares Snipe


Fate/Apocrypha
Episode 21
Antares Snipe.



Just a few more episodes. Just a few more.

So, first order of business is probably to say that I'll be winding down this blog for a hiatus soon -- probably not a permanent one, although I realise every blog that goes on hiatus says that, but a combination of a lack of energy and enthusiasm for the blog, plus the fact that Google has now started playing silly buggers with my view count to the point where I have no idea how many people are even reading, means that I could probably do with a break for a little while.

So, I'll be dropping days bit by bit and reducing activity up until this ongoing is done, which should only be a few weeks from now.

If you're wondering why I'm saying this in a Fate/Apocrypha review of all things, it's because I have to fill the space somehow, and god knows I'm not going to be able to fill it by talking about the great mass of nothing that is this and every episode of this godforsaken show.

In this week's episode, Chiron (Archer of Black) and Achilles' (Rider of Red) duel continues when Achilles uses his Noble Phantasm, creating a sealed off area where no outside forces can interfere, allowing the two to settle things with a fistfight. As Achilles wins and they return to the real world, Chiron uses his own Noble Phantasm to snipe Achilles' heel and strip him of his immortality. Meanwhile, Astolfo (Rider of Black) and Sieg (Saber of Black) attack the Hanging Gardens, with Sieg transforming to fight Karna (Lancer of Red) while Astolfo destroys the Gardens' defenses. On one of the planes, Jeanne (Ruler) faces off against Atalanta (Archer of Red), who uses a forbidden power.

Okay, so there are really only two major plotlines to this episode: Capping of Achilles and Chiron's rivalry, if you can call it that, and Astolfo destroying the Gardens' defenses -- and, to be honest, there's basically nothing to talk about for either of them. They're both very dry and by-the-numbers, with no real surprises.

In fact, the show actively works against ever surprising the audience: Before Chiron and Achilles even have their fight, Chiron asks that Achilles do something for him afterwards, basically sealing the deal that Chiron is definitely going to lose, survive just long enough to tell Achilles what he wants, and then die -- because of course he is, that's how 'when this is over, will you do something for me' always goes.

And of course, Achilles then follows through on that promise; and of course, Astolfo just barely takes out the last of the Garden's defenses through grit and determination; and of course, Sieg goes and starts his duel with Karna; and of course, and of course, and of course, always taking the most obvious route available each and every time.

Here are a few ways this episode could have been more interesting:

Astolfo fails to take down the last few defenses. The rest of Team Jeanne must now attempt to board a Hanging Gardens which is weakened, but not undefended. How do they cope with that? What ramifications does that have?

Caules and Fiore die. Chiron now has a time limit to defeat Achilles or make him mortal in, as he will soon dissipate due to lacking a Master.

Chiron dies before he can tell Achilles what he wants from him. Achilles is victorious, but is left struggling with the feeling of his victory being 'incomplete' with a loose end that will now never get tied up.

See? It's simple. Take the route that creates more conflict, not the route that has everything fall neatly into place. This is basic stuff, and Fate/Apocrypha can't even manage that. 

Tune in next week, I suppose, when I guess we'll be getting the end of the Jeanne-Atalanta rivalry (because that's a thing, I guess) and seeing more of Sieg fighting Karna, which may actually end up one of the more interesting fights of the show.

Friday, 1 December 2017

What We're Watching 1/12/2017


What We're Watching
1/12/2017


Final Fantasy Type-0.

I've tried to play this game twice previously, and both times I never made it very far before my interest wavered. This time I'm Let's Playing it, and I've got to say I'm enjoying it: You can tell it was a low budget title released during Square's financial troubles, with FMVs often replaced by still images with narration, slightly low-end (although still really pretty) graphics, and voice-acting that ranges from 'good' to 'hilariously terrible,' but it's a fun, interesting game.

It's also a game that is clearly trying to be a little experimental, at least by Square's fairly conservative standards, combining elements of hack-and-slash, RPG, and real-time strategy (with -- variable amounts of success) as well as fielding a gigantic playable cast of fourteen characters right off the back.

I've no time to level up fourteen different people, so my party is firmly set as Ace, Rem, Nine, Queen, Deuce, and Trey. I think that's fair: Two ranged attackers, two healer-mages, one tank, and one combination tank and healer.


King's Game.

God, this anime is just bad. As is the eventual fate of all hilariously bad anime, it's now slipped into just being more boring than anything, as I've already seen all the weird creative choices it has to offer. 

Expecting me to sympathise with an attempted rapist? Seen it, you've been playing that angle since episode two. Weirdly over-the-top horror committed upon characters we don't know or care about? Practically an every episode occurrence. Bafflingly bad acting and animation? Practically a mainstay of the series by now.

There's just nothing here to keep my attention and yet, bafflingly, I am still watching.


Valkyria Revolution.

Here's a game that's surprised me. I initially dismissed Let's Playing it when I heard a lot of negative reviews for it, but actually, it's pretty good! It's far and away not a scratch on Valkyria Chronicles, but that's in many ways an unfair comparison: Valkyria Chronicles is a very different game, trying to do a very different thing.

That said, I do think that this game would've been a lot better received had it not been released with the 'Valkyria' label on it. As a standalone game, or the start of a new franchise for Sega, it probably would have been very popular -- it certainly looked exciting from trailers. As a Valkyria game, it naturally invites comparisons with a much more daring and interesting game, and that works against it.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Crisis on Earth-X, Parts 3 and 4.


Crisis on Earth-X
Parts 3 and 4.



Okay, let's kick things off by addressing a point I made in the last review, that of there being a lot of absent characters: Happily, a bunch of them return in this one! Amaya, Zari, Ray, Nate, and Diggle all put in appearances, leaving only a couple of characters (Ralph and a few others) left out. So that's good, at least, although we do, unfortunately, have an elephant in the room to address this episode.

Onto the summary, though. We'll get to the elephant.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Crisis on Earth-X, Parts 1 and 2.


Crisis on Earth-X
Parts 1 and 2
(Supergirl and Arrow).



In an odd way, Crisis on Earth-X, being a little more coherently put together than the Dominators crossover, and a little less focused on the individual storylines of whatever show is nominally fielding each episode, feels almost like a very long, very split-up superhero crossover film, ala The Avengers and Justice League. Which is nice, I'm all for the blurring of boundaries between films and television shows.

It's also the final capping off point of Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow until they return for their second acts next year, though, so there's a certain drive to tie up plotlines: For Supergirl, those plotlines seem to be Kara and Alex's romantic woes; for The Flash, it seems to be Barry and Iris' engagement; for Arrow, it seems to be Ollie and Felicity's romantic development and the will-they-won't-they query of whether they'll get married; and for Legends of Tomorrow, it seems to largely be Jax and Stein's conflict over Stein retiring. The focus on interpersonal relationships can almost feel jarring at times, especially when coupled with the Nazi invasion plotline.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Fate/Apocrypha E20: Soar Through The Sky


Fate/Apocrypha
Episode 20
Soar Through The Sky.



Some of you may have noticed there was no review of this show last week, and that's because last week had another recap episode. Why a show in which literally nothing ever happens needs not one but two recaps, I have no idea, and I didn't watch it, and I assume that it was exactly as boring and mind-numbing as the rest of this show.

I just keep telling myself that we're almost at the end. Almost. We're so, so close, it's got to be, what, four more episodes, five, until we're done? Maybe even less! And then I will be free of this curse.

(There's a Fate/Extra anime airing immediately afterwards. I will not be reviewing it. I probably won't even watch it.)

Anyway, this week's episode sees Team Jeanne boarding their fleet of plane, and heading out for their flying attack on the Hanging Gardens. With Jeanne (Ruler) and Chiron (Archer of Black) on one side, and Semiramis (Assassin of Red), Achilles (Rider of Red), and Atalanta (Archer of Red) on the other, the two sides do battle in the skies as they wait for Astolfo (Rider of Black) and Sieg (Saber of Black) to arrive and disable the Hanging Garden's defenses. Meanwhile, deep within the Gardens, Shirou uses a command seal to compel Shakespeare's (Caster of Red) loyalty, and enters the Holy Grail itself, intending to use its power in his grand plan.

His grand plan which is totally unclear, actually. I realise that the explanation will just be some idiotic, mostly nonsensical rambling, so I'm not exactly in a rush to get to it, but it would be nice to have some clarification of the villain's plans. Maybe it would help this show have some actual stakes attached to it.

Because honestly, why do I care about the outcome of this battle? When the characters are standing around talking, and Sieg opines that he has to take part in this battle and won't be returning, I have zero appreciation for it, because the show's never bothered to make it clear why Sieg needs to take part in this battle. It just sort of waves its hand and assures us that Shirou has bad things planned, but we almost never see any actual evidence of the cost of what he's doing, or even the potential cost. The entire war seems empty and pointless, because we as an audience don't have anything to care about: Not the flat, lifeless characters, not the world, not the primary school morality lessons at play, nothing.

So, I don't care if Sieg uses too many command seals (which he will), or if Chiron, Astolfo, and Jeanne die (which they will), or if Shirou fails (which he will). I have no dog in this fight. I just don't care.

A lot of the episode, meanwhile, is taken up with two action scenes: Atalanta vs Jeanne and Achilles vs Chiron. They are both very, very boring. A-1 Pictures is still trying to mimic Ufotable's style, and it's still abjectly failing and making those action scenes little more than a bunch of coloured streaks flying around.

I'm so tired of this show. So very, very tired.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Flash S4E7: Therefore I Am


The Flash
Series 4, Episode 7
Therefore I Am.



Well, this is something a little bit new for The Flash: An episode that commits, fully and completely, to humanising its main villains and giving them a compelling backstory that makes them sympathetic to the audience. We've been keeping up with a rough ranking of which episodes are the best and which are the worst so far, and honestly this one has thoroughly blown every episode this series out  of the water, displaying a quality that hasn't been on show since the high points of the first and second series.

It's the last episode before the four-episode Crisis on Earth-X crossover event, so in a way it serves as the closing salvo of this series' first act, and it does so with particular aplomb, placing DeVoe and his wife Marlize front and center and exploring both how they ended up turning to villainy and their personal relationship to each other.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Editorial: 4 Games We're Looking Forward To in 2018


Editorial: 4 Games We're Looking Forward To in 2018.



Valkyria Chronicles 4.

Why did nobody tell me about this? You guys know how much I love Valkyria Chronicles. C'mon, guys. C'mon.

This is especially surprising after the relatively poor reception to franchise spin-off Valkyria Revolution, but I'm certainly not unhappy to see Sega putting out another classic-style Valkyria Chronicles game on a non-handhold console. In fact, I'm overjoyed.

Due to come out in Japan in Q2 2018 and worldwide at some other point in 2018, Valkyria Chronicles 4 will apparently break with the three previous games by having you play forces of the Europan Federation, instead of neutral country Gallia, as they attempt to make in-roads into the Empire.


Vampyr.

Vampyr, a gothic RPG in the vein of Mass Effect, albeit with fewer aliens and more creatures of the night struggling with their dark impulses and Byronic tendencies, is scheduled for early 2018, and at the moment looks like one of the most exciting games of 2018.

We've seen plenty of gameplay for it at this point, so its release date is unlikely to change at this point, but it remains to be seen whether Vampyr will live up to its hype. If it does, it could launch a franchise to rival the RPG bigwigs of Dragon Age and -- well, not Mass Effect anymore, I suppose.


Darksiders III.

I don't think anyone was expecting Darksiders III to be announced some months ago, but announced it was, and given that both the previous Darksiders games were a lot of fun, even if Darksiders II loved fetch quests and busywork a bit too much.

Darksiders III, releasing at some undisclosed point in 2018, will put you in the shoes of whip-wielding Horseman of the Apocalypse Fury (because I suppose Famine isn't game-y enough) as she hunts down the Seven Deadly Sins on a wartorn Earth.

That's assuming it ever gets finished and released, which given that THQ has a history of financial troubles, it may not be.


Detroit: Become Human.

Detroit: Become Human is going to be a mess. A glorious, ridiculous, absolutely bonkers mess. It's going to be game so terrible it crosses into hilarious then back into just plain bad and then back into hilarious again, and I can't wait.

While the game was meant to come out this year, it's been delayed to Q1 or Q2 of next year, and oddly, we still don't really know what it's about, except androids and slavery and crime and cyberpunk and stuff like that.

Still, it should be a whole lot of fun, and I will most definitely be streaming it on release. 

Monday, 20 November 2017

What We're Watching 20/11/17


What We're Watching
20/11/17


Supergirl S3.

You know, Supergirl isn't doing terribly this series. After a stellar first series, I really thought that the second series had drifted away from the brightness and joy that really defined it, and had lost something because of it. Series three isn't quite at the quality of the first series, but it's a little closer to it than the second series was.

Of course, the lack of Mon-El certainly helps in that regard, as does the renewed focus on Kara and Alex's sibling relationship. I'm a little concerned that they seem to have written out (for the moment) Alex's and Maggie's romance, but I doubt that that'll last long -- something will happen to push them back together.

(God, I wish the CW shows didn't try so hard to push a boring 'oooo, relationship drama' angle.)


The Gifted.

The Gifted remains surprisingly un-terrible.

I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say it's good. It is, at its core, like someone dumped every episode of Heroes into a blender and then strained the results into thirteen episodes, added a sprinkle of X-Men, and then put it on air.

What it is is surprisingly entertaining so long as you don't try to actually engage with it in any fashion. It's just sort of there, being vaguely fun but not really being noteworthy in any fashion, and I'm actually pretty okay with that.


Legends of Tomorrow S3.

Legends of Tomorrow is also surprisingly good this year. Despite having not yet shown up, Malus has been elevated to a halfway interesting villain by the indication that he's someone who successfully did what Savitar was trying to do in last year's Flash, and the quirky miniboss squad of Darhk, Kuasa, and Eloise works surprisingly well.

Legends seems to have found its niche as a wacky, comedy-action show, and the freedom offered by its time travel premise allows it to flit between various genres while retaining that comedy-action vibe: So far this year we've had an ET-esque 80s sci-fi story, a vampire horror story, and a Red Dwarf-esque sitcom story.

So, that's a lot of fun, at least.


Friday, 17 November 2017

Star Trek: Discovery S1 (First Act)


Star Trek: Discovery
Series 1
(First Act)



Star Trek: Discovery, the first Star Trek series to air since Star Trek: Enterprise ended in 2005, was easily one of my most anticipated shows of this year, not least because there was a long period of time where it seemed like it'd go the way of the Star Wars live-action series -- a cool concept that ultimately just kind of fizzled out before it saw the light of the day. I'm very glad that that turned out not to be the case, and while Discovery's debut series has not been without its problems (including airing on CBS' absurdly overpriced online streaming service), it has nonetheless been one of the most exciting new shows of the year, a well-written, well-produced space opera helmed by a compelling lead character.

In many ways, the show doesn't feel much like Star Trek: The decreased focus on the crew at large in favour of focusing on the Burnham-Lorca-Stamets triumvirate of characters, the fact that the show has any kind of significant budget, and the more serialised and arc plot focused storytelling all combine to make it feel Trek-ish, but something of a far cry from the Star Trek people grew up with. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I admit that it's the source of almost all of my reservations about the series. It is a fascinating, deeply engaging show in its own right, but as an entry in a wider franchise with an established style, structure, and aesthetic, it feels oddly jarring.

Nor am I the only one who has noticed, and unfortunately any criticism of the series immediately becomes grist for the 'ohhhh, Star Trek is ruined now' fanboy mill, that asserts that the inclusion of a black woman as the main character, and of a gay man as a prominent tritagonist, is somehow insidiously 'making political', and thus ruining forever, a franchise that is both not ruined forever and which has always been political (actually political, not political in the sense of 'some characters aren't white and that makes me sad'), giving us such gems as 'the episode in which Kirk discusses abortion politics with a planet of pro-lifers,' 'the episode about the treatment of prisoners of war,' 'that entire series about the politics of colonialism,' 'the episode in which Troi discusses abortion politics,' 'the episode in which Riker fights for the rights of a transgender alien,' and 'approximately sixteen episodes about alien species that are half black and half white, and are inexplicably racist against aliens who are the same but the other way around.'

Just because you were too young to notice the politics, doesn't mean they weren't there, guys.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Flash S4E6: When Harry Met Harry


The Flash
Series 4, Episode 6
When Harry Met Harry.



All right, let's start off by addressing the Elephant of News in the room, because I don't feel comfortable writing this review without at least mentioning it: So Andrew Kreisberg, one of the three showrunners for The Flash (and Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, and Black Lightning) has been accused of sexual harassment and suspended from the show, and one assumes (or at least hopes) that that will be a precursor to his getting fired.

As others have pointed out, the evidence has always been there for anyone who cares to look: A string of female writers who have written one or two episodes and then never returned to the show again, the certain get-away-with-anything kind of high status that Kreisberg had within the CW, et cetera. The news is not nearly as shocking as it could be. I don't want to delve into and start analysing how various stars on the show have responded, but there are certainly indications at this point from what people working on these five shows have said that, at the very least, fellow showrunner Marc Guggenheim was entirely aware of this behaviour and turned a blind eye to it.

It's worth also praising Emily Bett Rickards, Candice Patton, Melissa Benoist, Grant Gustin, and Stephen Amell, who have all been fairly quick off the mark in making statements condemning Kreisberg's behaviour.

Moving on from that to an episode which thank god wasn't written by Kreisberg, but instead by Jonathan Butler and Gabriel Garza. What have they written before?


I need some vodka.

Right, okay, positive thinking here. 'Cuck' wasn't as big a thing back in 2009. Probably.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Black Clover, 51 Episodes, And Why It's So Bone-Crunchingly Bad


Black Clover, 51 Episodes,
And Why It's So Bone-Crunchingly Bad.




Last week, it was officially announced that Black Clover's initial order of thirteen episodes would be expanded to a whopping fifty-one episodes and, not coincidentally, I decided on the same day that I just couldn't do it as an ongoing any more. Thirteen episodes I can handle. Fifty-one episodes I cannot.

So, for now and forever, because it's doubtful this show is ever going to improve, let's break down exactly why Black Clover is so very, very bad.


Glacial pacing.

At this point, the show's horrifically glacial pacing is perhaps what it's best known for, especially considering that the manga it's adapting is so fast-paced.

The pacing is so poor that by the end of episode five, the story was barely up to halfway through the manga's third chapter -- this in an industry where it's not uncommon for a single episode to adapt multiple chapters into a single episode. For a comparison, My Hero Academia's most recent arc adapted ten chapters into five episodes, and did it while literally adding in extra material. 

Highlights of the absurdly slow pacing include 'taking a single page flashback and spinning an entire episode out of it,' and 'starting an episode by showing the last four minutes of the previous episode again.'


Terrible voice-acting (and terrible direction).

Every time Asta talks, I lose five years off my life, and he talks a lot. Or perhaps it would be better to say that he screams a lot.

It's easy to blame Asta's voice actor, for whom this is his debut role, for Asta's horrific, crunchy, shrieking voice, but that is rather missing that, actually, all the voice-acting is bad. It's just that most of the voice actors are boring to listen to, not actively painful.

Whether it's down to bad casting or bad directing (let's face it, it's probably bad directing), this show is an assault on one's ears.


So cliche that it's not even remotely original.

Here's what I wrote during my first review:

"It's actually kind of alarming how much this episode tries to just be a crystallisation of every single shounen trope in existence -- and, let's be honest, most shounen anime aren't exactly bastions of originality in the first instance. You've got the powerless main character (My Hero AcademiaA Certain Magical Index), whose personality is hot-blooded and determined (Aoi no ExorcistOne PieceNaruto) and the cold, remote rival who is nevertheless quasi-friends with them (NarutoBleachMy Hero AcademiaAoi no Exorcist). In time, however, the main character is revealed to have a dark power (NarutoBleachAttack on TitanAoi no Exorcist, Fairy Tail, Yu-Gi-Oh) which is the reverse of the powers possessed by everyone else (BleachA Certain Magical Index) but marks them out as special.

Do you see the problem?

I'm fully expecting to see the main character join a team of quirky characters (My Hero AcademiaAoi no Exorcist), with the power trio filled out by a girl who we're told is really powerful but who never really does much (Fairy TailBleach), along with some kind of interim villain appearing."

Well, since then, the main character has indeed joined a team of quirky characters and the power trio has indeed been filled out with a girl we're told is really powerful but who never does much, and we've also had an Exam Arc in which the main character appears to fail but actually succeeds due to a last minute success (My Hero Academia) and a smug quasi-rival who uses underhanded tactics to get ahead (literally everything).

The cliches wouldn't be so bad, but there's absolutely nothing beneath them. For a lot of shows, these are jumping off points to doing something that might not necessarily be original, but has some depth, maybe some interesting twists on those ideas, some kind of soul to it. Black Clover has nothing but a smattering of superficially sketched out cliches masking its deep, deep emptiness.


Bland, boring animation.

It's worth clarifying that Black Clover's animation isn't overtly bad. What it is, however, is bland. Middling. Uninspiring. By the numbers, but by the numbers in the most extreme way, where you could splice scenes from it into any anime, by any studio, produced and published in any year, and you probably wouldn't be able to tell.

It's full of cut corners, but none of those cut corners are noticeable, and the overriding feeling of it is just that it's -- there. It's boring to look at, visually unattractive, and perfectly middling -- and that's already by the standards of Studio Pierrot.


Monday, 13 November 2017

Fate/Apocrypha E19: Dawn of the End


Fate/Apocrypha
Episode 19
Dawn of the End.



You know, these days I'm just tired of doing this ongoing. I never have anything new to say about these episodes, and they're nearly always just boring to watch, with even the show's flights of utter insanity now just seeming dull to me. Even though we're in the final stretch, with only five episodes left after this one, it seems like an absolute eternity.

Maybe the final battle episodes will give me more to talk about, but that seems very dubious. Very dubious indeed.

Friday, 10 November 2017

What We're Watching 10/11/17


What We're Watching
10/11/17


RWBY Vol. 5.

This volume is going from strength to strength, with improved animation, a better paced plot, longer episodes (all between eighteen and twenty minutes, putting it nearly at professional par), and with the voice actors all improving massively between each volume.

RWBY is a very long way from a perfect series, but I do hold that it is an inspiration for other indie animators wanting to make their own work and commercialise it, and I'm always happy to see it improving. I look forward to the rest of the volume, to volume six, and to whatever the team does after RWBY.

P.S. Work in in more faunus. Love the faunus. Yours, Not A Furry.


Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony.

Killing Harmony is the latest entry in the startlingly popular Danganronpa series of murder mystery/legal drama/sci-fi visual novel puzzle game things -- honestly, while the franchise can't exactly be called genre-defying, it is difficult to classify into a single genre.

Centered around sixteen students who wake up in an overgrown school within a giant metal birdcage, with six bears -- Monokuma and his five Monokids -- and the usual killing game shenanigans. So far (and I'm only just at the first class trial), the crimes are a lot less easy to figure out than the first game's, but easier than the second game's, which is a bit of a shame, since I thought the second game's were just the right amount of mystery.

Still, this trial has time yet to surprise me, and there are five more that can shock me too, so I look forward to seeing what this game will throw at me.


Outlander S3.

Oh, Outlander. Having embarked on the point in the story where it swerves violently off the rails, the series has had to struggle with how to show that the characters are now twenty years older. They've done this by not showing it at all: They look the same, act the same, and only occasionally drop references to being old'uns.

This isn't just true for the main characters, either. Supporting cast members are equally un-aging. In the world of Outlander, Scotland is populated entirely by immortal vampires, apparently.

The series has yet to reach the point where it truly jumps the sharks in the books, with the characters going to America and getting involved in the revolution and all that jazz, but it's getting there. Slowly. Avoiding it for as long as possible.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The Flash S4E5: Girls' Night Out


The Flash
Series 4, Episode 5
Girls' Night Out.



It's an odd thing: Out of all the episodes thus far, we were lead to think that this one would be the most comedic of this series so far -- in actuality, it's the second least comedic (with the first episode still being the least by a fair margin), with the Hen Night/Stag Night antics mostly serving as a way to facilitate the episode's main plot: A story about Killer Frost, and whether she is or is not a good person (and her relationship to both Caitlin and the rest of the cast). 

We also get it nominally tied in with the main Thinker plot by way of the macguffin this week being the fourth of the twelve new metahumans -- the Weeper, whose tears are a psychoactive drug -- but let's be honest and say that the Weeper's relevance to the overall plot is probably not going to be all that considerable.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Editorial: Why Puella Magi Madoka Magica Isn't Deconstructing Anything


Editorial: Why Puella Magi Madoka Magica Isn't Deconstructing Anything.


It's been repeated over and over again since the series aired in 2011-2012: Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Shaft's now famous magical girl anime, is a 'deconstruction,' and that this is, somehow, a wonderful thing.

I'm a big fan of Madoka Magica -- it's a truly excellent show in which the individual elements (strong writing, striking animation, a characteristically sinister Yuki Kajiura soundtrack, et cetera) all just work together to create something much greater than the sum of its parts. There's a good reason why the show is so highly regarded among anime fans.

It's not, however, any kind of deconstruction, nor does it have any pretenses of being so.


Monday, 6 November 2017

Fate/Apocrypha E18: From Hell


Fate/Apocrypha
Episode 18
From Hell



Rather than ramble over-long about the episode itself, this week, it being a pretty boring episode that tries and fails to tug on the audience's heartstrings and ultimately builds to a fairly dull ending in which people ramble about war and god as Jeanne peacefully exorcises the spirits that make up Jack (which I suppose means she can never be summoned again, so small mercies), I'm going to lean a little out of my wheelhouse and talk about Fate/Apocrypha's animation and how and why it's distractingly bad.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

What We're Watching 4/11/17


What We're Watching
4/11/17




King's Game.

King's Game is putting in a very earnest attempt at being the worst anime of the season, and were it not for Dies Irae, it would be succeeding, even in a season where we have Fate/Apocrypha and Black Clover. 

It's rare that you see a show which is this much of a mess: So nonsensical, so poorly structured, so frequently creepy in all the wrong ways, with such an unlikable and unengaging protagonist, feeling so fundamentally low-effort and yet filled with such a smug sense of self-satisfaction.

Honestly, watching it is a highlight of my week at this point, just because it keeps finding new ways to be awful.


.hack//G.U. Last Recode.

So, after ten years of waiting (actually more like eleven years, but who's counting), I'm finally getting to play .hack//G.U., courtesy of its HD re-release, Last Recode, getting a European release. I've got to say, so far I'm really enjoying it: It got off to a rocky start with a fairly insufferable tutorial section, but it pretty quickly got into the swing of things, with player character Haseo being de-leveled to level one by the assault of the mysterious Tri-Edge.

(It was also at this point that I changed the audio from Japanese to English, which made it seem like Haseo had been hit so hard he'd changed languages.)

The graphics are surprisingly good-looking for what is effectively a decade old game, the characters are a lot of fun, the gameplay is smooth and enjoyable even without the RPG elements that will become more important later, and the story is very interesting already. For anyone so inclined, I'll be streaming more tonight.


Kekkai Sensen & Beyond.

Having Kekkai Sensen back is delightful, and several episodes in the show has delivered plenty of variety, with a political thriller comedy episode, a battle action comedy episode, and a heist episode. There's no trace of an overarching plot yet, but that may be for the best: While I personally very much enjoyed the Black and White plot of the first series, it didn't go over quite so well with a lot of other people.

(Although I'm sure we'll see the King of Despair again, sooner or later.)

Most of all, Kekkai Sensen is just fun. It's not deadly serious, it doesn't have any grim or thoughtful messages about the human condition, it's not trying to be a seminal piece of high art: It knows that it wants to be a fun, lively piece of comedy, and it fulfills that role superbly.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Black Clover E4+E5: The Magic Knights' Entrance Exam & The Path to the Wizard King


Black Clover 
Episode 4 + Episode 5
The Magic Knights' Entrance Exam & The Path to the Wizard King.
A Comparison with My Hero Academia S1E4.



You know what? It's getting pretty boring just reviewing these episodes and saying the same thing over and over again, so this time around, we're going to be doing something a little different: We're going to be comparing entrance exam arcs.

Because episode four and episode five of Black Clover are not dissimilar to episode four of My Hero Academia: They both involve the formerly-powerless-and-still-massively-disadvantaged underdog protagonist and their rival both taking part in an entrance exam to gain admission to the institution of their choice. While they both appear to fail the exam, it's later revealed to them that they passed through unconventional means.

The big difference is that one is an effective episode that not only has tension and a decent story arc, but also organically introduces several new cast members and sets us up for the style of teaching we'll be seeing going forward, and the other is Black Clover, a show that would be the worst anime of the season if this weren't a terrible, terrible season.

Let's start with the length: It's a pretty obvious place to start, because while My Hero Academia only uses up one episode for its entire exam arc, Black Clover strings it out over two, despite the fact that the pace of Black Clover's manga is lightning fast. This fits the pattern we've seen from Black Clover before, with small moments being turned into lengthy, drawn out ones, and in this case it means that we spend about forty minutes just repeating the same motions over and over again: Yuno takes a test, then Asta takes a test, then the captains comment. Yuno takes another test, then Asta takes another test, then the captains comment. Asta fights someone and easily wins, then Yuno fights someone and easily wins, then the captains comment. Yuno is picked by everyone, and Asta is picked by nobody, and everyone comments.

This could be effective if it was a bit more smoothed and streamlined, or if it served any kind of thematic purpose, but all it does is continue to hammer in points the show's already made: Yuno is great and everyone admires him, while Asta is cripplingly overspecialised and people mock him (even though he is, by the standards of this world, disabled, and however bad ableism is, you at least don't usually get crowds of people openly mocking someone for being in a wheelchair everywhere you go, it's a little more subtle than that). Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat.

This reaches its absolute zenith when, having already re-shown Asta's battle with Bronze-Dude in its entirety in the 'previously on' segment, the episode proceeds to start by showing Asta's battle with him again, once more in its entirety bar for a few shots swapped out to show Yuno watching, in the most hack-handed and half-hearted 'and now for Yuno's side of things.'

My Hero Academia, meanwhile, actually cuts out what might be interesting story elements in order to keep the time down: We see Deku in the exam, struggling to beat any robots, and eventually saving Uraraka, but we only see Bakugou, his rival, for a single shot -- because while Bakugou screaming and killing robots would be fun to watch, and his interactions with the other people in his test group might be compelling, we already know how it's going to turn out. The story has thoroughly prepped us for the idea that Bakugou will definitely pass, and so it decides we don't need to see that.

Similarly, we don't see Bakugou getting accepted, nor do we see Iida or Uraraka be accepted -- it is taken as read that they will be, and attention does not need to be lavished on that fact. The focus remains squarely on Deku, as he's the only character whose success is (in-universe, at least, out-of-universe we know he'll succeed somehow) not assured.

Note that I mention Iida and Uraraka here, because the exam arc of My Hero Academia isn't just an exam arc: It also introduces two more members of the central five-man-band of the story, and it makes the most important of them, Uraraka, a prominent part of the story. In contrast, Black Clover really doesn't properly introduce us to anybody except Yami, the captain of the Black Bulls, with his character being sketched out in such broad, boring strokes that his presence in the episode feels more like an imposition than anything else.

Ultimately, Black Clover's exam arc doesn't aid the story at all: It is a two episode long 'point A to point B' scenario to show how Asta gets into the Magic Knights, but it doesn't effectively introduce anyone, it's not interesting to watch, and it doesn't give us any plot information that could be useful going forward. It is an empty, shallow arc that provides us with nothing of worth and is more just irritating than anything. My Hero Academia's exam arc, meanwhile, does a lot with a much more limited amount of time: It shows off UA's slightly madcap style of teaching, it gives us our first look at Deku's use of One For All, it introduces two major characters, and it effectively caps off Deku's arc about whether he's suited to be a hero, freeing him up to have a new arc about how to be the most effective hero he can be (Asta, meanwhile, already knows he's suited to be Wizard King, and there's no arc there).

Also, Black Clover is dull. It's just dull.

In conclusion: Go watch My Hero Academia, I'll see you in two week for more glacially slow magic knight shenanigans.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Fate/Apocrypha E17: Traumerei


Fate/Apocrypha
Episode 17
Traumerei.



You know what, I admit it. I am impressed. Every time, every time it seems like this show has reached the very deepest depths of the suck, it asks Black Clover to hold its beer and then proceeds to prove that, no, there are hitherto unknown depths of absolutely absurd terribleness that it has still to plumb, like a deep sea diver rocketing directly into the Marianas Trench.

In many ways, this episode is awful in a quieter way. It's episode seventeen, at this point we're mostly deadened to how bad this show is, but gosh darnit if this episode doesn't set out to show that it still has its ways to make me feel like I'm wasting my life.

I am so, so tired.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Flash S4E4: Elongated Journey Into Night


The Flash
Series 4, Episode 4
Elongated Journey Into Night.




I had no idea Jim Carrey had a son!

What's that? Hartley Sawyer, who plays Ralph Dibny, has no relation to Jim Carrey whatsoever?


That sounds fake, but okay.


He's even doing the Jim Carrey jaw thing.

Okay, back on topic. We left off last week on what might be The Flash's most comedic episode yet and barreled into another really comedic episode, this time directed by Tom Cavanaugh who, it's worth noting, cut his teeth on sitcoms like Scrubs. It shows. It really, really shows.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Editorial: Four Underrated Horror Video Games To Enjoy This Halloween


Editorial: Four Great Horror Video Games 
To Enjoy This Halloween.



Project Zero/Fatal Frame.

Project Zero, developed by Koei Tecmo, is a bit of a slow-starter, but the brooding, tense game about exploring a haunted house armed only with a camera that can damage ghosts by taking pictures of them is a surprisingly good horror game.

If Silent Hill leans heavily into psychological horror and a healthy amount of gore, and Resident Evil jumps back and forth between action and horror with a sci-fi twist, then Project Zero finds its mileage in traditional Japanese horror -- ghosts of kimono-wearing aristocrats, Shinto monks, and shrine priestesses haunting a massive traditional mansion. 

It ramps up the horror slowly at first, sending ghosts at you only infrequently and making it pretty easy to defeat them or get away, before the game swerves onto a difficulty spike that borders on unfair at times, but is never impossible, and eventually ends with a really quite stunning ending set-piece.


Deadly Premonition.

Deadly Premonition is the best game ever made, and also the worst game ever made. It occupies a quantum superposition in which it simultaneously possesses the qualities and flaws of every game ever made. Also, you can go fishing, and the soundtrack is composed predominantly of sinister banjo tunes.

A game which is purportedly a satire but is actually too genuinely scary to be one, while also being too silly to actually be a serious game, Deadly Premonition also boasts graphics that were five to ten years out of date for the year it was released, controls that are nearly unusable (including the most needlessly complicated driving controls of any game ever), and voice acting which is just weird.

It's so good.


Alien: Isolation.

Alien: Isolation, or 'the only good Aliens game' as it's known, has a pretty simple concept: You are on a spaceship, and so is a Xenomorph. You can't fight it, and you can't run away from it. The only thing you can do is use an echolocation device to know if it's nearby, try to predict its movements, and hide.

What sets it a step above other games of its ilk is that Alien: Isolation manages to build suspense with almost no scripted scares, and with just the simple idea that there's a (usually unseen, as it can be hours before you get a good glimpse of the titular alien) monster out to get you. What's more, the alien learns your tricks, so if you have preferred hiding places, it'll start checking in those places, and lingering in spots you prefer.

Arguably the game's biggest flaw is that the 


Killer7.

Killer7 is generally classed as an action game, on account of how it's an action game, but its disorienting levels, unsettling and mysterious storyline, strange and unnerving enemies, and the way it plays with player perception to put them on edge tips it over into being at least quasi-horror.

From Suda51 (the developer who had previously made several pure horror games with no action elements at all, and would later go on to create several pure action games with no horror elements, making Killer7 an odd transitional point in his career), Killer7 puts you in the shoes of seven assassins as they attempt to thwart a conspiracy by the bizarre Heaven's Smile cult of suicide bombers.

Reviews of the game are very mixed, with some reviewers going as high as 8.5 out of 10, while at least one other reviewer gave it one and a half stars, but there's no denying that it's an interesting game. There isn't really anything else like it.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

What We're Watching 28/10/17


What We're Watching
28/10/17


Middle-Earth: Shadow of War.

You know, I've surprised myself, I actually really enjoy Shadow of War. This doesn't make its business model any less grotesquely unethical, in fact it arguably makes it worse by tarnishing a game that would otherwise be a contender for one of my best games of the year, but it does come as something of a surprise.

The game is actually really addictive, largely because of the nemesis system: Not every nemesis is especially interesting, but a few -- an orc captain who killed me and then, after I burned them to death as revenge, came back as 'the Flame of War', referring to me as their 'little moth' and ranting about the power if fire; an orc titled 'the Agoniser' who ponders philosophical questions during the fight, and accuses Talion and Celebrimbor of being racist; and one particular orc who referred to us as 'my love' and begged us to 'kill him slowly.'

I'm not very far into the game: I've played it for about eight hours and am just creeping up on the end of the first act, and I gather it becomes a bit more repetitive and frustrating later on, so my opinion my yet change.


Once Upon A Time S7.

So, Once Upon A Time is trundling along, this time with an episode tying up the loose end of Rumple and Belle's relationship. Long story short, they build a house at the end of the world, eventually Belle dies, and Rumple discovers that he's meant to give the Dark One's knife to either Alice (of Alice in Wonderland) or Henry.

Thus far, the story is very much in the mold of the first series' story, and one presumes it might well end the same way, but the introduction of the 'guardian' of the Dark One's knife is an interesting one. If it's Alice, this could potentially set us up for a new villain, and if it's Henry, it might be setting us up for him struggling with the powers of the Dark One.

Either way, it likely means that Rumple isn't going to survive past the end of this series -- most likely he'll end up passing on the knife to someone and then immediately dying.


Garo: Vanishing Line.

Garo: Vanishing Line is -- definitely an anime that's airing currently, I suppose.

It's odd, but I have no strong views of any particular type on it. It's there, it's perfectly enjoyable to watch, and it really leaves no particular lasting impressions of any kind. It has neither great highs nor great lows. It isn't memorable, but it isn't boring either.

I've never encountered a series before that's so aggressively just there, doing nothing in particular and failing to be worthy of commentary of any sort.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Thor: Ragnarok


Thor: Ragnarok.



I do like the Thor films. They're a far cry from my favourite films in the MCU -- that goes to the Guardians of the Galaxy films -- but they're consistently good fun, even if they tend not to be especially brilliantly made fares. The original Thor remains one of my top MCU films, while the sequel is somewhere comfortably in the middle.

All of which goes some way towards explaining why I did something I almost never do, and went to see Thor: Ragnarok more or less on release day. That, and someone asked me if I wanted to. So there's that.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The Flash S4E3: Luck Be A Lady


The Flash
Series 4, Episode 3
Luck Be A Lady.



Okay, I'm just going to come out and say it: Wally was robbed. This series has always struggled with incorporating more superheroes, staying almost slavishly devoted to the idea of being a one hero show even as Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow dealt with teams much more effectively, and so there was never really much of a place for Wally to fit into the show -- the writers seemed reluctant to give him any relevance outside of specific focus episodes, lest he interfere with their formula of 'Barry encounters a metahuman related problem, Cisco and Caitlin figure out a solution, Barry puts that solution into action' formula.

Ideally, I'd love to see Wally get his own show, but that's definitely not happening, so I'm left to grumble instead at how the writers mishandled him and, realising their error, eventually clumsily wrote him out of the show altogether with some guff about finding himself.

At the same time, they've clumsily written Harry Wells back in, and I'm not as excited about that as I could be, if only because I feel like Harry's storyline was over and done with a while ago. I want more Tom Cavanaugh, certainly, but I think I'd prefer to see him as a new Wells variant.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Fate/Apocrypha E16: Jack the Ripper


Fate/Apocrypha
Episode 16
Jack the Ripper.



Well, would you look at that: We're nearly at the end of this god-forsaken show, which is to say that we're about two thirds of the way through. After an episode where very little happened, I was all geared up for another episode in which basically nothing changed -- which is more or less what I got, but I won't say it wasn't somewhat entertaining in spite of that.

Or, well, it could have been, were it not for my many, many problems with this show's Jack the Ripper. We've talked about the bevy of bad writing decisions in that regard once before, but let's recap them for anyone who's forgotten: Jack the Ripper, a serial killer infamous for a series of brutal attacks on Victorian sex workers, is re-imagined here as a little girl who is the -- sigh -- the aggregate spirits of children aborted by Victorian sex workers.

If that sentence didn't make you cringe, I honestly don't know what to tell you.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Voltron: Legendary Defender S4


Voltron: Legendary Defender
Series 4.



It must be exhausting being one of Voltron's production team, given what the fandom is like. Honestly, while a lot of groups of fans have been rightly mocked for their excess, I do struggle to think of any fandom quite as bad as Voltron's.

Arguably, the current release schedule, where a small smattering of episodes are released at a time, but much closer together, only amplifies that by leading to a situation where by the time the fans have calmed down from the hype of the previous series, they're getting hyped for the next one, with all the excitement, charged emotions, and attempts to blackmail the writing staff that that involves.

When series three left off, the team had tangled with Lotor a few times, and we'd discovered that Zarkon and Haggar were a married couple, with the two of them having been victims of (or somehow possessed by) creatures from the void between universes.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

What We're Watching 21/10/17


What We're Watching
21/10/17


Hey, guys, guess who didn't sleep at all the night before yesterday and so was slowly dying yesterday and did not have the energy to actually write a post.

Yes, it was I. This is probably a sign that I should write more of these posts in advance. Let's move on quickly and do a What We're Watching.


Star Trek: Discovery.

Star Trek: Discovery continues to be a very enjoyable space opera, even if it still doesn't feel much like Star Trek. It has managed to give itself a bit more of a Star Trek bent, though -- Star Trek always had occasional episodes about Federation ships that had gone rogue and betrayed the Federation's code of ethics, and Discovery feels like a show about one of those ships.

It gets points, also, for an actually surprisingly creepy moment at the end of the last episode. I'm still not sure why that scene with the mirror unnerved me so much.

The one problem with Discovery right now is that it feels like it doesn't have much longevity in it -- it really does feel like a show that can only last two or three series at the absolute most, and is doomed to have a tragic end.


RWBY Vol. 5.

So, after a wait that felt surprisingly long, RWBY is back on our computer screens, with longer episodes (the first and second episode both weigh in at around twenty minutes), slicker and more professional looking animation, and the continuation of the split-four-ways story: Team RNJR and Qrow at Haven trying to get their hands on the Spring Maiden, Yang looking for Raven, Weiss on her way to Haven, and Blake and Sun trying to take down the White Fang in Menagerie.

It seems likely that Weiss will meet up with Team RNJR first, followed by them encountering Yang when they go after the Spring Maiden (who's currently working with Raven), and then Blake and maybe Sun joining them last -- although honestly, I'm not rating Sun's chances of survival very high right now.

The first episode was a lot of fun, and the second one dropped today, and so far it's looking like this might be the series that takes RWBY from semi-professional quality to out-and-out professional quality.


Bleach (S) Abridged S4.

So, Bleach (S) Abridged is back, with the start of the Hueco Mundo arc (and I assume they're not going to do the Forest of Menos, but you never know, maybe they'll get an episode or two out of it) and an episode that was a lot of fun, although far and away not their best or funniest episode.

A few jokes fell entirely flat (like the ongoing How I Met Your Mother parody, although maybe that's just my continuing bitterness at HIMYM's ending rearing its head), a few jokes really worked (everything with the two Hollows was excellent, as were the bored Aizen sequences), but honestly I'm just happy for new content, because Project Mouthwash's Abridged series are still far and away my favourite.




Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Flash S4E2: Mixed Signals


The Flash
Series 4, Episode 2
Mixed Signals.



With all the guff about getting Barry out of the Speed Force and the speed madness and such out of the way, this episode -- a forty-two minute long comedy about relationships, communication, and technology -- is the first real test of The Flash's writing staff insistence that this series will be much lighter and fluffier than the two preceding it. It's the point where they have to prove that not only can they do that, but that they can do it well

When Kilg%re, a metahuman with the power to control technology via a bio-digital computer virus, starts killing off wealthy tech moguls, Barry and Iris are given their first chance to test out the new Team Flash dynamic. Barry's over-enthusiasm and his unwillingness to listen to Iris, either on the job or in their relationship, swiftly causes problems, however, resulting in Iris insisting on taking Barry to several awkward sessions of couples counselling. Meanwhile, Cisco, wrapped up in figuring out a way to stop Kilg%re, misses a date with Gypsy, earning her ire -- since on Earth-19, the day is 111 Day, their equivalent of Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Black Clover E2+E3: The Boys' Promise & To The Royal Capital Of The Clover Kingdom


Black Clover
Episode 2+Episode 3
The Boys' Promise & To The Royal Capital Of The Clover Kingdom.




Man, I think the last time we did a fortnightly ongoing was when we were doing Kamen Rider Ghost. In this case, as in that case, this is the result of there simply not being enough content in a single episode to get an entire review out of. That, and I need at least two weeks to recover from each occasion where I force myself to listen to Asta's ridiculous, crunchy voice.

So, episode one finished on the suitably dramatic note of Asta receiving his weird, demonic grimoire, with a five-leafed clover (the eponymous black clover, even) on its cover, vindicating him when he said he wasn't powerless after all.

Episode two plunges us straight into a flashback, showing Asta and Yuno's upbringing -- and the event that made both boys wish to be the Wizard King: A night when Yuno was attacked while out on an errand, forcing Asta to come and save him. In episode three, both boys prepare to set off to the capital, intending to take the examination to become Magic Knights -- but while everybody has complete confidence in Yuno, they doubt that Asta can cut it.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Fate/Apocrypha E15: Differing Paths


Fate/Apocrypha
Episode 15
Differing Paths.



Well, we had a good run of episodes wherein things actually happen, but now we've slipped securely back into 'absolutely nothing is going on' mode. A more charitable soul might call this a character development episode, but with the exception of Sisigou and Gordes, nobody's character actually gets developed at all -- and let's face it, nobody cares about Gordes. Even the writers don't care about Gordes, they just needed a way to fill up some time.

Look, I'm not saying that I want there to be action all the time, that'd be boring. What I am saying is that every episode needs to have some kind of arc, and some kind of conflict: You can't just have an entire episode of people pottering around and doing basically nothing. You need some kind of structure, and some semblance of plot.

Anyway, in this week's episode, in the aftermath of the battle with Avicebron, Jeanne (Ruler) bestows new command spells on Sisigou and Sieg (Saber of Black), and warns Sieg to never use his third command spell. With the Shirou Faction making an escape on the Hanging Gardens, the Jeanne Faction attempts to figure out how to pursue them, and Sisigou tells Mordred of his past.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

What We're Watching 14/10/17


What We're Watching
14/10/17


Once Upon A Time S7.

It's odd to say this, especially since I still don't know exactly how I feel about the old cast being reduced to just Henry (who's functionally a new character now), Regina, Hook, and Rumple, but this soft reboot was exactly what the show needed, I think.

The new location, characters, and conflict (even if that conflict is, in many ways, a rehash of that of the first series) has revitalised the show in a way that it was difficult to imagine -- but at the same time, I do also find myself missing Emma and co, and the comfortable familiarity of the old show. It hadn't been good for a long time, but it was fun, at least.

Still, I'm interested to see where the show goes from here, and setting up a power trio of Henry, Hook (revealed to be wishverse doppelganger Hook), and Regina is an interesting turn.


Marvel's Inhumans.

Inhumans is a strange, strange show, from its high-budget-but-everything-looks-really-low-budget-and-it's-not-even-intentional production style, to its oddly flat and yet incredibly unsympathetic characters, to its weird political themes that seem to amount to 'sometimes slavery is good, and sometimes people who say they want social change are just jealous and petty.'

Odder still, the show seems intent on just digging its whole deeper and deeper. This week's episode decided to forego any trace of subtlety by having Maximus loudly proclaim that his sole motivation for everything is wanting superpowers; and meanwhile, we had the odd situation with Medusa, a double punch of 'Medusa acting like she has a right to invade people's privacy and personal space, and this being treated as a hi-larious social mishap even though she's from a culture that does have notions of personal property and space,' and 'Medusa's backstory being alluded to as her family wanting some kind of social change, and Medusa realising this is Bad and distancing herself from it.'

This is a really strange show.


Arrow, Supergirl, & Legends of Tomorrow.

So, most of the CW's DC superhero lot have started for the year, with only newcomer Black Lightning yet to premiere, and so far, there's been a definite turn towards the lighter and chirpier -- with the singular exception of Supergirl, which appears intent on plunging to more fraught and angsty depths.

(God, please don't let Mon-El come back. Nobody likes that guy.)

Legends of Tomorrow has gone from a silly drama with a heavy comedic elements to an out-and-out comedy with dramatic elements; Arrow makes it as clear as possible as early as possible that every main character (bar Thea, who's in a coma) escaped from the explosions just fine; and Supergirl marks itself out as the odd one out of the bunch by having an episode about Kara being depressed, and mercenaries attacking the city on the whims of Nathan Petrelli from Heroes.

Coming up next week, it looks like we have Ollie navigating a political scandal, the Legends visiting the circus, and then Kara in a brooding episode about fear. The trend of having Supergirl be the odd one out seems set to continue, then.