Hey guys, I’m back! I just watched The Punisher and to my great surprise, I absolutely loved it. (I was mainly expecting lots of shooting and death, and I was only watching it because it's Marvel Netflix and I am a completionist. But holy crap is it amazing.) I loved it so much that I’ve been marathoning all of Marvel Netflix all over again just so that I can rewatch it with better context. Which means I have another chance to review the ones I didn’t. So here we go. Iron Fist.
So I've had a lot of fun doing these reviews, and I achieved my goal with them, which was to force myself to pay attention while rewatching some of my favorite shows (Luke Cage obviously being the exception, since that wasn't a rewatch) because my tendency has been to just have them on as background noise, but I wanted to really enjoy them again. Mission accomplished! They're all still fantastic. I also accomplished another goal far better than I expected to: learn more about characterization, character development, metaphors, themes, and all that good storytelling stuff by forcing myself to squeeze every episode I watched for every drop of it I could find. I don't think I would've come up with my theory about how characters of different temparaments tend to follow specific patterns in their arcs. I've had a lot of fun with that one. Oh! And Pushing Daisies inspired me to up my pie-baking game, so even more bonus points there. (I will never again make an apple pie without baking gouda into the crust for the rest of my life, and I just made a lemon icebox pie, which is freaking delicious. At some point I intend to attempt pear with gruyère.)
But this is a post about me explaining why I'm not going to be doing reviews anymore, at least not on a regular basis. As much as I've enjoyed them and as much as I've gotten out of them, they've also taken a lot out of me. At the very best, they were a full hour out of every day. At worst, they were the only productive thing I managed to do in a day. I got far less fanfiction and original fiction written (and artwork done) since I started doing these reviews than I have since I started writing when I was fifteen, and that's a problem, because my career goal is to be a writer, not a film/literary critic. Also, I kind of just want to be lazy with my rewatches for a while (I blasted through the first half of Avatar S1 today with my roommate, for instance, and it was awesome). I might pop back in to review new Marvel Netflix stuff, but for the most part, I think I'm done. I hope anyone who's been reading has found my reviews moderately amusing and/or insightful. If you're interested in other reviewers, my favorites are Passion of the Nerd (who is currently just starting his reviews of Buffy S4 and Angel S1, and appears to be bringing some serious academia to his analyses--but not in a snobby way, because I would despise him if that were the case) and Chris Stuckmann (who mostly does new movies as they come out).
Now, as a parting gift, and because I don't want to go to sleep yet, I'll very briefly tell you about other shows I've watched.
Comedies I highly recommend: Malcolm in the Middle, The Office (US), Parks & Recreation (so, so much, guys, but maybe skip season one for your first watch, because that was when it was trying to copy The Office, and it's kind of terrible), Community, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Galavant, and Fresh Off the Boat. Blackadder is also fun, and I think I'm warming up to The IT Crowd, but I can't freaking stand Seinfeld because of that super obnoxious guitar riff thing between scenes. It might be a fantastic show for all I know, but I'll never find out, because that sound is enough to make me violent. I also hate The Big Bang Theory. The laugh track is a poor disguise for how unfunny it is. It pretends it's a show for nerds, about nerds, but if you're an actual nerd like me, especially a *female* nerd, then it is very plainly a show that is for people who still use "nerd" as an insult, about a group of horrible nerd stereotypes. (Except Sheldon. I love him even if he has so little proper nerd cred that he calls the Doctor "Doctor Who" instead of "The Doctor," which is the very most basic litmus test to determine whether or not someone has seen a single episode of Doctor Who.) They do a better job with the science than the fandom stuff, but that does not make the show salvagable.
Other live-action shows I recommend (not including the ones I've reviewed, because I obviously like all of those a great deal): Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD, Orphan Black (holy crap this one is amazing), iZombie, Supernatural, Grimm, The Vampire Diaries (if you're looking for a guilty pleasure show about vampires, because it's incredibly irresponsible and soap-y, so I can't honestly claim that it's good, but it does have some compelling character arcs, storylines, and twists), The Originals (which is significantly better than The Vampire Diaries, but still has many of its parent show's problems), Sleepy Hollow, and BBC's Robin Hood. Oh! And Downton Abbey and Doctor Who, although my interest in both has faded lately.
Live-action shows I do not recommend, which, weirdly, disproportionately have Tony Head in them:
Dominion. Really strange show about angels taking over the world, so it's all post-apocalyptic and Michael is on Team Humans. Watched the first season. It was dumb. Tony's character has a really hilarious moment in the S1 finale, but it's not worth it.
Merlin. Love the actors, the production values (especially when compared with Robin Hood's dreadful chainmail sweaters and horrible half-modern, half-medieval dresses), and the buildup of Arthur/Gwen, but holy crap. So much wasted potential. Partly because the writers refused to relax their death-grip on the status quo (characters don't die when they should, other characters don't survive when they should, Arthur stays prince for way too long, and Merlin doesn't tell him he has magic until the FREAKING SERIES FINALE), and partly because most of the times they did change the status quo, they did it with a time-skip, which is a complete cop-out. Also, Morgana's arc was utter garbage. It could've been the best gradual, sympathetic, complex face-heel-turn in modern television. Nope! Ugggggggh. If I ever watch this show again, it will be to figure out exactly what not to do in my own retelling of the Arthurian legend.
Smallville. Same major problems as Merlin: death-grip on the status quo, botched execution of the friend-turned-archenemy arc. Of the two, I find Smallville the lesser offender. Merlin was inspired by Smallville, but that shouldn't mean they don't learn from Smallville's mistakes.
Once Upon a Time. To be fair, I only saw the first two seasons before I quit watching, but as early as season one, that show had a major problem with trying to juggle far too many characters. And they kept adding more. The acting is pretty mediocre except for a couple of stand-out performances. Also, nice job making your version of "Beauty and the Beast" actual Stockholm Syndrome, guys. (People say that about the '90s cartoon, but they're wrong.) Overall, it just seems like a massive ego-stroking project on the part of Disney. No thanks.
Bones. It was good for the first few seasons, but the murders-of-the-week eventually started getting a bit preposterous, and the characters aren't interesting enough for it to still be worth it. Supernatural has had similar problems in its later seasons, but the reason I'm still watching (aside from my obsession with urban fantasy) is that it's obvious that the actors and writers are still having a blast. Not so with Bones.
Cartoons I highly recommend: Avatar: The Last Airbender and (to a substantially lesser extent, unfortunately) Avatar: The Legend of Korra, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (I am dead serious), Danny Phantom, The Powerpuff Girls (the original series--haven't seen any of the reboots), Teen Titans (definitely the original series), Gargoyles (I'm still only in S1, but I already highly recommend it), Jimmy Neutron, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors.
Animes I highly recommend: Fullmetal Alchemist and (yes, and) Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. I like the music better in the first anime, Al's voice actor is actually a young boy, the beginning is fleshed out a lot better, and the ending is pretty good. Brotherhood is better on the whole, and I love how the story builds in scope--which really doesn't happen in the first series. I also recommend Cowboy Bebop, Madoka Magica (a deconstruction that's actually good), Death Note (even if the second half is rather truncated), and Sekkou Boys. I enjoyed Naruto a lot, but holy crap is it longer than it's worth, even after you skip the filler episodes. Bleach has a similar problem with length, but it was awesome through the end of the first arc. Attack on Titan is gory yet intriguing (I get the feeling it's kind of the The Walking Dead of animes), but it's very annoying how hard the creator is trying to milk the suspense for all his surprisingly successful new franchise is worth before he'll release the second season).
Animes I've started/that are on my list: Monster, 91 Days (it's set in the Prohibition era, which is pretty much all I need to know to at least check it out, and the animation is beautiful), Re: Zero--Starting Life in Another World (it's Groundhog Day except that instead of Bill Murray or Sam Winchester, the main character is this kid dumped into a fantasy world, where he keeps dying), Your Lie in April (all I know is that there's apparently a really good twist towards the end, and spoiling that twist makes you a terrible friend), Erased, Seven Deadly Sins, Log Horizon, Twelve Kingdoms, Wolf's Rain, Escaflowne, and there was this one really new one about a school for witches that had really interesting-looking magic, even if most of the characters were annoying so far and their school uniform is incredibly fetishy. I might give that one a shot, if I can figure out what it was called.
Animes I anti-recommend (meaning they're somewhere on a spectrum between "boring/pointless" and "I FREAKING HATE THIS HOW DOES IT HAVE FANS"):
Sword-Art Online. The only good things about this show are that the premise is intriguing, the core romance is at least not dragged out forever as often happens in anime (so I found that refreshing), the animation is crisp, the art style looks good, and the character designs are cool. Everything else about it is terrible. The MMOs the characters play are very stupid, the show's premise is utterly wasted because the pacing destroys all suspense, the main character is an insufferable edgelord who is ludicrously OP, there is no real sense of peril for the important characters, and it's extremely anticlimactic for the main character to beat the game by breaking the rules in a way it was never established was possible. Also, 90% of the female characters are in love with him INCLUDING HIS ADOPTED SISTER/ACTUAL COUSIN. GROSS. The only reason to watch this show is to get more enjoyment out of the far superior parody abridged series.
Berserk. Holy crap do I wish I'd been warned about what I was getting into when I sat down to watch this with some friends. (The trust is seriously broken.) I don't care that this anime/manga is widely considered to be amazing. I hated it and the fact that it has fans at all is baffling to me. Entirely aside from the fact that it's in incredibly poor taste to spring a super X-rated show on someone without telling them, I didn't even like the story or the characters, which are the parts my friends said were good. I do not, as a rule, enjoy stories where every single character comes from a horrifically abusive background, so we're already off to a bad start. What happens after that didn't have to suck, because it's entirely possible to do a good job of showing a character go from magnificent manipulative bastard respected by all the good guys to broken shell of a man to evil mastermind. But you have to keep it within reason at all three stages, and Berserk does not. At all. Particularly if this is supposed to be a relatable character. Stage one should not involve sexual favors to powerful enemies to gain resources, stage two should not involve gratuitous body horror, and stage three...let's just say stage three would work better if the hentai had merely been implied. Or, you know, absent. And on an unrelated note *cough*, I also find it completely unforgivable that the lead female character, who was a pretty competent high-ranking military officer for the entire story up to this point, ends up mentally shattered (and still hasn't recovered by the current point of the manga, which has been running for quite a few years), seemingly just to provide more fuel for the protagonist's hatred against his former bro. UGH. I don't have anything in particular against the protagonist, Guts (except for how stupid that name is--as a nickname it's fine, but it's his actual name), but he's a lone sort-of-okay element in an otherwise appalling piece of fiction. Oh, and another major issue: maybe drop a few more hints than, like, two, that this is a story capable of going from gory medieval battles to EXTREME ELDRITCH HORROR in a split-second. Just a thought.
Neon Genesis Evangelion. Here's another one that enjoys a degree of hype I will never understand. Anime in general is rife with things like gratuitous skimpy outfits, butt-shot or crotch-shot camera angles, and just so, so much sexualization of blatantly underage girls. This is a large part of why I'm such a picky anime fan. I freaking hate that crap. Bleach and Naruto are both offenders to a typical degree (so many female characters with ridiculously huge boobs and nowhere near enough support to be able to comfortably fight around them), but they have enough other good stuff going on that it's not quite a deal-breaker. NGE has a lot of it and very little good stuff to balance it out. It breaks some extremely important rules for storytelling: if you're going to make a metaphor, it has to work on the literal level before it works on the figurative one. For the first few episodes, NGE's story kind of works, but it gradually breaks down while the metaphors awkwardly shamble ahead anyway. Also, emotion in a story is supposed to rise and fall. You're allowed to break characters, but it's not interesting to watch someone beat a dead horse. Most of this show is about beating a whole herd of dead horses (most of whom are CHILDREN), because every single character gets mentally destroyed by the end (well, by the middle--hence the dead horse metaphor). Characters can be used to explore mental illnesses, but in order for them to be *good* characters, they need to be fully rounded with other traits. Repeatedly and more thoroughly breaking a group of flat mental illness archetypes is not deep or profound storytelling, it's pretentious grimdark misery-porn garbage, and I don't care if it's more realistic an outcome than what usually happens in mecha animes where fourteen-year-olds are always the pilots of the suits for some reason. I don't care about mecha animes in the first place, so I don't need to see them deconstructed. A self-aware lighthearted mecha parody would be far more enjoyable. Also, the show creators have been quoted as saying they just tossed a handful of Judeo-Christian symbolism in there because they thought it seemed exotic and cool, not because they had anything profound to say about it, so getting all excited about the symbolism is like admiring the emperor's new clothes.
.hack//sign. I was told that this would be an effective palate-cleanser after Sword Art Online. Nope! SAO is definitely worse, but one thing SAO (mostly) wasn't was tedeous. .hack//sign moves at a snail's pace and most of the main characters are extremely dull. Roughly 90% of the show is people sitting around and talking or standing on a gondola and brooding. When a story is set in an MMO, the first thing the writers and animators need to do is make sure we believe people would actually spend time playing this game. "Sword Art Online" might be a broken game that would hemhorrage every player who likes being a tank or healer immediately because it's only designed for DPS players, but at least there are plenty of monsters to fight and the stakes are theoretically high. "The World" in .hack//sign might as well be a chat room. They open like one treasure chest and fight two monsters in the entire series. There's no sense of urgency to the main plot and no sense of either fun or intensity to the game they're all playing. WHAT IS THE POINT? And that's before we find out the answer to the mystery, which is lame anyway.
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. Just...what? I get the vague impression that its appeal is its over-the-top-ness, but I mostly just found it baffling, and not in an enjoyable way like Adventure Time or Sekkou Boys.
FLCL (Fooly Cooly). Like Jojo, this one is super over-the-top. It also makes zero sense, which I'm pretty sure was deliberate. I think the missing ingredient that makes Adventure Time work is that insanity needs to be at least as fun as it is weird. This is not. This is obnoxious.
Eden of the East. I barely remember what happened in this show even though I watched it less than a year ago, but if I recall correctly, it's something about a bored old billionaire with a grudge against millennials and is trying to manipulate them with a Westing Game-like "here's money, now go do stuff with it" proposal. Most of the millennials portrayed are the lives-in-mom's-basement-and-has-disgusting-hygiene-habits manchild type, but we're still supposed to side with them, I guess? Don't watch it. I didn't loathe it like the first three on this list, but I definitely felt like I'd wasted an afternoon. Intriguing premise, but the characters are annoying and the payoff is irritatingly lame.
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.