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Serious Anime Reviews #2: 07-Ghost

“07-Ghost” is a typical example of modern anime. When you break it down, no matter which way you look at it, that’s what it is. The characters, the look of the animation, the voice acting, the music, even the plot: it’s all what we’ve come to expect from the standard that so many anime without good solid original writing and story are cut from.

Let’s start with the plot. This is one area that helps this anime stand out as decent.  Our main character, Teito Klein, is about to graduate along with his best friend Mikage from the Barsburg Empire’s military academy. This is an institution reserved for those with the rare ability to tap into a mysterious power source known as “Ziaphon”, which has both healing and fighting applications. Teito is (you guessed it) unnaturally skilled in the use of the Offensive Ziaphon, being the prized pupil of the councilman Miroku. The twist is that Teito is a former slave (translated as “sklave”) taken in by Miroku, and has little to no memory of his childhood or past to boot. What little he does know comes from intermittent dreams, suggesting that he was the son of some highborn family.

Shortly after both Teito and Mikage graduate from the academy, Teito has a run in with the grim military strike force commander Ayanami, who is apparently looking for an ancient relic of great power called the Eye of Mikhail. In a flash of memory, Teito remembers that this is the man who killed his father, and attacks Ayanami, resulting in his arrest. Mikage manages to break him out, and thus starts a journey in which Teito vows to find out the true history behind his father’s murder and Ayanami’s role in it, and what exactly the Eye of Mikhail is. But Ayanami is in pursuit of Teito, and is willing to do anything to get at him…

While the story is interesting, the animation style leaves much to be desired. Although the characters and backgrounds are clean and well drawn, the character designs show little or no originality. What is especially annoying is the use of CGI to depict the flying transports that the characters use to ride around in. Although you see this animation technique in many modern anime, it isn’t nearly perfected, and as a result is jarring and fake. If the flying “Hawkzicles” were animated just the same as the rest of the anime, the viewers’ suspension of disbelief wouldn’t be shattered every time they are shown along side the characters. It’s all well and good if CGI is used in something like Appleseed, but it still isn’t good enough to be used in the everyday anime episode.

The music is also a source of annoyance. There are only several tracks used in the show, and when they are played, they often don’t fit the scene very well. A good example of this would be towards the end of episode 7 where the dramatic music from a battle scene still plays while the characters talk about something foreboding that may or may not affect future events. Somehow, it seems as though foreboding music would fit foreboding words better, eh?

On the subject of the characters by themselves, they stand out like a sore thumb as being lifted from other series. The best example of this is Ayanami and his crew. Anyone who is familiar with Bleach (and who isn’t?) will recognize the similarity between the antagonist and his crew. Ayanami’s second in command is very much like Gin Ichimaru, who is very snake like and has a cruel sense of humor about him, and two others bear a similarity to the mad captain Kenpachi and his smaller pink-haired second in command Yachiru. Most of the other characters in the show are templates for standard character types: The Tough One, The Caring One, The Old Man, etc., etc…

In short, “07-Ghost” is a standard anime. Nothing outside of the plot is too impressive, and the characters and too standard in look and personality to gain the audience’s emotional investment. It shows some promise to get better as of the latest episode, if only because Teito FINALLY GOT HIS DAMN CHAINS TAKEN OFF!!!

MDNN Media Productions gives this anime:

Two out of Four stars.

June 10, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Serious Anime Reviews #1: Fullmetal Alchemist – Brotherhood

Fullmetal Alchemist has been and still is one of the classics of anime since it’s release in both Japan and the US. It was so popular, in fact, that even after the series ended and the movie was released, the fans wanted more.

What many fans wanted was a series that was faithful to the manga, which the original had strayed far from due to time constraints and the schedule of new manga chapters coming out. Basically, The original Fullmetal Alchemist suffered the fate of many other anime produced around the same time: It ran out of story when it caught up to the manga.

Fortunately, the Manga Ka, Hiromu Arakawa, stepped in and saved the series by writing a completely new storyline for the anime to follow. This new storyline was about as different as you could get from the manga, but still carried the anime for over 50 episodes that were incredibly gripping and entertaining.

But even after this miraculous save that ultimately lead to FMA becoming one of the most popular and well loved anime series in a long time, the fans wanted the manga storyline. They wanted the Fullmetal Alchemist they still read every month. And in May of 2009, they got their wish.

The second series of Fullmetal Alchemist, or as the American owners of the show are now calling it, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, had been announced several months ago as being a remake of the old FMA, more specifically it would follow the events of the manga, which now has almost 100 chapters of content in the bag. Everyone following it had great expectations for the new series, and it most certainly does not disappoint.

The Series starts off with a completely original episode that has nothing to do with the manga, but this is nothing to worry about. The first episode is a spectacular piece of animation, and gives new viewers and old fans an instant thrill as all the familiar characters form the manga, and a few new one shots, engage in an all out brawl to save the military’s Central Command.

After the first episode hooks you in, which it does quite well, we are reintroduced to the characters and their troubled situation. Edward and Alphonse Elric are brilliant young alchemists, possibly even geniuses. However, in a horrible experimental transmutation meant to resurrect their dead mother, Al’s entire body and Ed’s left leg are consumed as punishment for attempting things beyond human understanding. Ed is given a brief glimpse at “The Truth” of all things, and uses this new knowledge to retrieve Al’s soul and affix it to a suit of plate armor. They pick themselves up, however, defying all odds and setting forth on a journey to find the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, which may be able to restore their ruined bodies.  Armed with new limbs of steel, known as “Auto-mail”, and the mysterious power to perform alchemy without a transmutation circle, Ed becomes certified as a State Alchemist with the military in hopes that this new authority will aid in his search for the Stone, and his younger brother’s missing body.

The next several episodes may annoy some viewers, due to the fact that they cover a good chunk of material that was depicted very well in the original series before it deviated from the original storyline. The new series seems to rush through these “shared events” between the two series so that it can get on to the unaltered storyline of the manga. As a result, the pacing of episodes 2 through 5 is all off. Fortunately, the first real split in the events between the first and second series appears in episode 6, and the series settles into a very comfortable pace.

As for the look of the new series, the addition of the widescreen format ups the dramatic feel, and the animation style is not quite as stylized as the original series. The characters are almost exactly as they appear in the manga, as well as their more comedic and distorted chibi forms. The voice acting is superb, although the guy saying “Fullmetal Alchemist!” at the beginning and end of every commercial break gets annoying after a while.

Be warned, this series is not for those with weak stomachs! Many horrible things are revealed in the Elric Brothers’ search for the Philosopher’s Stone, many more horrible than the Elrics’ own origin story. The flavor of this series is indeed rich, and each episode only leaves you screaming at your computer for more. It’s that good. In short, this series is looking to be one of the best anime produced this season, and now is the perfect time to jump in! For episodes 1 through 9, go to www.fullmetalalchemist.com.

MDNN Media Productions is proud to give this anime:

Four out of Four stars!

Go watch it! Do it now!!

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Anime, Review | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Libsyn Subscribtion – No More

Alright, everyone. I am coming to you from a small cabin up in the woods of Nowhere to tell you that the Podcast element of this “production company” is on indefinite hiatus. I do not have the time nor the money to keep the podcast up and running along with college and other aspects of my life.

Do not fear. I will still be making videos for my YouTube channel, which can be found here. This is mostly because it is free, and I may yet find ways to do the kinds of things that I used to do on the podcast.

So untill I have more drive and purpose for podcasting, I am shutting it down. I don’t know how long the episodes will still be up.

May 16, 2009 Posted by | announcment, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Blake Back in Black? Big things on the horizen…

Ok, now I normally don’t get all hyped up about the new Anita Blake novel. I pretty much stopped reading in the middle of Blue Moon, and I won’t go into the details. If you’re a fan, then you’ll know why. But there was something about this new piece of news that made me want to jump out of my chair and yell with excitement – waking up my suite mates in the process.

Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter is apparently good to go on a made-for-TV movie

This is big news. But is it big enough to garner a sufficient amount of interest from the viewers? Some people wrote on their facebooks saying how they had never heard of Anita, and that they weren’t sold on the premis given by the producers. While I respect people who don’t give in to all the crap that comes out everyday, you also have to realize that the announcement was only posted today, and there will obviously a PR campaign for this project. Considering the level of fame that Laurell K. Hamilton has gained from her books, this will most deffinetly be handeled very well, considering that the studios working on it are Lionsgate, After Dark Films, and was adapted by Glen Morgan (“X-Files”).

All I’ll say is that I’m interested to see what they come up with, but I don’t have high hopes for it. Just look at waht happened to Watchmen.

April 1, 2009 Posted by | announcment | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scribbling On Scrap Paper Just Before Going to Bed Reveals Deep Wisdom to Un-Man

conan-wishes-he-could1

With apologies — however insincere — to Barry Windsor-Smith.

February 1, 2009 Posted by | Art, Un-man | Leave a comment

Project 4 Awesome: Heifer International

Well, yesterday was the official YouTube “Project 4 Awesome” day, where as many youtubers as possible made videos promoting their favorite charity and flooding YouTube with anti-World Suck.

I made my video about the “Heifer International” food project, in which people can fund the purchase of animals for a starving village in the world. check out their site at www.heifer.org

December 18, 2008 Posted by | discusion, episode, Un-man, vidcast | Leave a comment

Now That’s What I Call Art

The Un-Man has discovered culture theft!  Bittorrenting, I find, allows any entity with a broadband connection and sufficient patience to acquire a comic-book collection of stunning clarity and completeness going back to 1940.  Thousands of issues.  I hear sick, bad rumors that my co-blogger, the Benjamoid (a.k.a. the BenT One and other questionable pseudonyms), has downloaded the complete Archie Comics archive and is refusing to leave his computer except for potato chips and water (muttering something about “Veronica”). 

Anyway, among these free digital treasures I have found a number of well-ripened science fiction comics from the 1950s. Some even pre-date the nastiness-suppressing “Comics Code Authority,” a self-censorship mechanism created by the comics industry to forestall government controls on content.  Among these SF treasures are the superbly drawn and inked comics of EC, short fror Entertainment Comics, the folks who also brought you MAD Magazine, with many of the same artists.  (I’m talking the old, good MAD, not the predictable, repetitive product it had evolved into by about 1970. “After MAD, drugs were nothing”—Patti Smith.)

Example: the following cover art from Incredible Science Fiction No. 31, Sep./Oct. 1955:

 

incredible-sf-no-311

Incredible (heh) what pencil, brush, and India ink can do in the hands of a skilled comics artist.

Scholarly notes:

   1)  Boots! Shin-protecting, real space-leather boots that break at the ankle!

   2)  Side-stripes.

   3)  Shorts over tights: very half-a-century later, eh?

   4)  Gender roles: securely defined, fun for all.

Man, the future just ain’t what it used to be . . .

The Un-Man

December 15, 2008 Posted by | Art, Sci Fi, Un-man | Leave a comment

What is Podcasting?

Hello everyone! I can’t tell you all how excited I am to be podcasting again! It feels like a dream from some other time. But you’re not here to listen to me rave about my joy at returning to the Podosphere, you’re here to learn more about podcasting.

In this blog post and the ones found below, I will be addressing three things:
•    What is a Podcast?
•    Rhetoric use in Podcast Promos
•    Big name podcast novelists / who they are & why the podcast

Part 1, What is a Podcast?

Audio Companion Episode direct download

The first thing you have to understand about podcasts is that they’re relatively new. Most podcasters have been creating content for more than three years, and they’re still going strong. Some podcasters like DragonPage have crossed the internet/real world barrier, and have their shows nationally syndicated as radio broadcasts or on online radio networks like Sirius Satellite.

But that doesn’t really answer the question that most people ask you right off the bat when you tell them about this awesome podcast novel you found the other day: what is a podcast? It’s a simple enough question, and ironically, the most confusing and difficult one they can ask. Most professional podcasters will tell you that a podcast is “the automatic delivery of media (audio, video, PDF, etc) using RSS feeds”. They will also follow this explanation up by telling you a podcast is free. All of these things are true, but the average Internet user doesn’t even know what an “RSS feed” is, or what the format of a podcast really is like.

The best “what is a podcast” explanation I have found is by the Podcast 411 podcast. In his tutorial, podcast411 takes the stance that he is explaining podcasting to someone who can’t even operate his or her VCR (yes, the reference is a little old, but those people probably haven’t bought a DVD player because the very thought scares them to the core of their soul). After you finish reading his tutorial, even if you had never opened iTunes before, you would understand what a podcast is.

“Explain to them that Podcasts are like Magazine Subscriptions.  With a magazine subscription you register for a magazine (podcast) and then every so often the publisher (podcaster) will send one to your house  (Granted with podcasts the aggregator goes out and fetches it – But you are talking to a Flashing 12 – So stop trying to confuse them with Geek Speak).  Now after the Magazine is delivered, it sits in your Mailbox (aggregator) until someone removes the Mail and puts it on the Kitchen Table (iTunes).  You then decide when you want to read that magazine (Daily Source Code) or some other magazine (podcast411) or you can just throw it away because it no longer interests you (Yeast Radio).  You can also cancel any subscription at any time.”

A podcast is usually an audio recording, usually in the form of a talk show, with one to several hosts. Like other radio shows, podcasts sometimes have advertisements in them, but these are promos made by other podcasters trying to promote their own shows. Sometimes podcasts are video shows, like Ask A Ninja. Podcasts can be downloaded from various places on the Internet, usually from the websites, or “blogs”, that host the files, and most can be found in podcast directories such as iTunes. But the most important thing to remember about podcasts is that they are FREE.

That’s right: you don’t have to pay a single cent for your podcasts. The producers, or “podcasters”, of their show are giving their work away for free. Many people in mainstream media frown at this practice, but the facts don’t lie. When an author like Scott Sigler can give his books away through podcasting, gain over 40,000 loyal viewers, and snag a three book deal and a movie option for one of his hardcover releases, then this “free content” must be working.

Part 2, Rhetoric use in Podcast Promos

Everyone who pitches something uses basic rhetoric tools to spice up their offer, even if they are using them instinctively. Podcasters are no exception.

The perfect example of successful rhetoric use in a podcast promo is Scott Sigler’s promo for his podcast novel, Nocturnal.

First, he uses edgy music, which feels vaguely threatening. It almost seems to be building up to something, just like the opening lines of the promo: “Beneath the streets of San Francisco, they are waiting…”

He also has the lines for the promo read by a man using the classic “movie trailer” voice, that deep husky one that utters, “In A World…” that you are so familiar with from the countless trailers you have seen in the theaters. But this is what Scott is counting on: this voice gives impression that the subject of the narration is something interesting and good enough to merit an announcer, not just the author’s voice.

Then there is the element of the text itself. The opening hook describes a very vague aspect of the story, but you really want to know what the announcer is referring to. Creatures that drag you away in the night, what’s up with that? Who are they? And who is this “Queen”? Next, there is the description of the other book that Scott Sigler has released, Ancestor, which is described as a #1 Bestseller. That line really grabs your attention. You may be thinking to yourself, “oh, he’s a best selling author!” Lastly, there is the closing line, “get your scare on at scottsigler.com”. This line helps reinforce the overall tone of the promo: creepy but exciting.

December 10, 2008 Posted by | discusion, podcast | Leave a comment

J.C. Hutchins: Social Media Master and Evil Clone

J.C. Hutchins can best be described as a cheery optimistic fellow with a smile bigger than his face will allow, but don’t let this exterior of sunshine fool you: his head holds the mind that created the 7th Son Trilogy, a gripping podiobook thriller in which 7 men meet their makers… literally. In a epic quest to save their families, their friends, and their country, these men uncover a world wide terrorist organization bent on world domination, government secrets blacker than the most top secret folder with the reddest stamp, and a secret about themselves that will change their lives, or what they thought of as such, forever.

J.C. Hutchins got his start in journalism, but quit in 2002 and began work on his aforementioned thriller trilogy, 7th Son, unaware that it would be one of the most brilliant career move of his life. His trilogy quickly became one of the most popular podcast novels of all time, but J.C. didn’t stop there: he forged onward, creating the first ever podcast anthology set in an existing universe, 7th Son OBSIDIAN. J.C. is also the host of another innovative podcast, The UltraCreatives Interviews Series, where he interviews movie producers, indie artists, and podcast novelists, including author Cory Doctoro and film producers Patrick Lussier and Matt Venne, creators of the movie “White Noise 2”.

In my interview, we discussed many subjects, both new and old to podcasting. As summarizing the entire one hour long interview is nearly impossible, and contains enough material to base a thesis on, I present a list of topics we discussed, in chronological order:

•    Who is J.C. Hutchins?
•    Digital technology in the Mainstream Media scene
•    Building your “platform
•    Why did you decide to start podcasting?
•    Why do you podcast?
•    How do you approach podcasting?
•    What type of audience are you trying to reach?
•    How are you appealing to these audiences?
•    How are you trying to target different audiences to bring in new listeners/readers?
•    How are you including the audience in your podcast?
•    When promoting your podcast(s), what kind of approach do you take?
•    What decisions do you make in the presentation/rhetoric of your podcasting?
•    When writing, do you write with the podcast in mind?
•    If yes, do you find yourself writing differently than for traditional print? What decisions do you make?
•    When writing specifically for the podcast medium, what decisions/changes do you make in your writing?
•    When producing/recording your novel, what decisions do you make in the presentation of the text?
•    Did you decide to create a character for yourself to show to the podcasting community?
•    How do you promote your character?
•    What is your definition of a Podcast / Podiobook?
•    The Future of Podcasting: the possibilities

J.C. Hutchins one of the leading innovative names in the Podosphere, as well as a well informed authority on social media and networking in relation to podcasting. All of his work can be found at jchutchins.net.

Be sure to look for J.C. Hutchins’s hardcover debut, Personal Effects: Dark Arts in June 2009, and the first printed installment in the 7th Son Trilogy, “Descent” in the Fall of 2009 from Saint Martins Press.

•    J.C. Hutchins’ definition of a Podcast

“The 101, Part 1: What is a podcast?

Podcasts are free audio and video files that can be automatically downloaded to your computer, thanks to a technology called RSS.

RSS connects audiences and content creators in an innovative and worry-free way. Using a computer program called a “podcatcher” (iTunes being the most popular), you can subscribe, for free, to episodic video and audio programs like the 7th Son trilogy. Downloading this content is easy, requiring a few mouseclicks.

This free content is stored on your PC, and you can experience it any way — and at any time — you wish: at your computer, on an MP3 player … you can also burn it to a CD. Better still, new content will automatcially download to your PC when the author releases it.

iTunes is J.C. Hutchins’ “podcatcher” of choice due to its ease of use. Download it here, and read on to learn more about podcast fiction.”

Audio Companion Episode direct download

December 10, 2008 Posted by | discusion, interview, podcast | Leave a comment

Chris Lester: Story Teller and Mad Scientist

Chris Lester is a soft-spoken man with a genuine love for story telling. Although he has a masters degree in Biology and is currently employed as a science teacher in California, and refers to himself as a “Frustrated Scientist”, Chris id quickly making a name for himself in the Podosphere with his anthology of short stories set in the techno-magical modern fantasy realm of Metamor City, but most notable for his current podcast novel which blurs the line between podiobooks and audio drama, “Making The Cut”. This production features over 30 voice actors and fellow podcast novelists, and won the Podcast Peer Award for Best Produced. Chris has also lent his voice to many other multi-voiced podcast productions, including Babylon 5: Three Edged Sword, and Chasing the Bard.

Due to some thoughtlessness on my part, the first half of Chris’s interview was cut off, and was rerecorded at the end of the interview. As a result, the questions will be out of order until I can put in the 2+ hours it will take to fix the file.

You can find the majority of Chris Lester’s work at MetamorCity.com, as well as links to his other podcasting contributions, as well as a full cast listing with bios for the Making The Cut audio production.

•    Chris Lester’s definition of a Podcast

“A podcast is an audio program that is distributed over the Internet. Podcasts are similar to radio programs in many ways: they are usually focused around a topic or theme that is consistent from episode to episode, which may be anything from alternative music to a hobby-oriented talk show to a full-cast audio drama. A podcast usually has a regular format, episode length and release schedule that the producer attempts to adhere to. Many podcasts contain promos for other podcasts, similar to the commercials on radio shows, which help to introduce listeners to new programs while also providing variety in the listening experience.

The main difference between a podcast and a radio program is that you can listen to a podcast whenever you want to; all you need to do is download the episode and you can listen to it whenever you wish. Some people play podcasts directly from their computers, using music software like iTunes; others burn episodes to CDs to listen to them in their cars, or download them to portable audio players like the iPod or Zune. This power to listen to an audio program whenever and wherever you want is the chief advantage of a podcast over radio, and it is this advantage that gives the podcast its name — the “POD” is an acronym that stands for Portable, On-Demand.”

Audio Companion Episode direct download

December 10, 2008 Posted by | discusion, interview, podcast | Leave a comment

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