Category Archives: Cartoons

No “Battle Angel” Because of “Avatar?!!!!!!!!!!!”

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I hate James Cameron.

 

I’ve never had particularly strong feelings toward James Cameron before. “Titantic” was okay, “Alien” and all the sequels were AMAAAAAAAAZING (some more so than others, but I think it’s totally fair to shove them all under the “Amazing” heading). “The Abyss” was incredible, and ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day” didn’t lack (even the Frankenstein-esque turnabout of the Terminator worked, which is a miracle in and of itself.)

 

“Avatar”–and tear me apart if you want–was a flat, unemotional take on a very old template. The graphics were mind-blowing, yes. But if “Speed Racer” and “Van Helsing” (I did like “Van Helsing” more than it deserved, by the way) taught me anything, it’s that graphics are a worthless tool if they are the main focus of a feature. Graphics and special effects are supportive. Like any supportive item, they need a foundation. It should go without saying that a story is the backbone of any film.

And “Avatar” lacked it. Poor “Avatar.” It has flawless skin, piercing eyes, straight white teeth, lustrous hair–and no spine. All that would-be beauty just kind of melds into a formless puddle. Oh so sad.

Now, I don’t hate James Cameron for “Avatar.” Everyone screws up. It was inexcusable on the part of the studio to advertise “Avatar” as the “greatest adventure of all time” or whatever it was. But then, 85% of the films out today have that tagline or something similar. So. “Avatar” wasted a 3 1/2 hour chunk of my life that I will never ever ever ever ever ever return. But so did “Speed Racer”. There’s nobody to blame but myself. I get that.

What I don’t get is why there is a sequel.

What is NOT my fault is that there will be TWO sequels.

Jeez Maria cross me twice, TWO.

TWO sequels for an emotionally bankrupt film about stereotypical noble savage aliens that have ferret faces and splotchy blue skin.

TWO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What is unforgivable is that Cameron will be putting off an adaptation of “Battle Angel: Alita” for TWO sequels for an emotionally bankrupt film about stereotypical noble savage aliens that have ferret faces and splotchy blue skin.

I’m not going to go into the plot for “Battle Angel.” All you have to do is Google it. It sounds awesome. The manga surely was (is). Done correctly, it would be a fantabulous film. Blockbuster proportions epic sci-fi thriller. Millions of dollars in profit. With the right advertising, the revenue would be incredible.

Don’t get me wrong. I know “Avatar” will bring in the bucks. Ridiculous sequels for undeserving blockbusters always do. But COME ON. The absolute SOONEST “Battle Angel” would go into preproduction is 2016. (And it probably won’t even happen then.)

AND ALL BECAUSE OF “AVATAR”.

Jeez Maria cross me thrice, “Avatar” is directly interfering with the production of much better films. It’s tragic. And James Cameron doesn’t care. He prefers stereotypical noble savage aliens with ferret faces and blue splotchy skin.

Three times in a row, apparently.

THREE.

My only revenge are the paltry following acts: I will never own a copy of the film of, or soundtrack to, “Avatar” or any of its sequels. No costumes or clothing or toys or other merchandise. And I will NOT be wasting 6-7 more hours of my life watching the sequels. “Avatar”, we are done. If only you hadn’t been emotionall bankrupt. And full of blue ferret faces. And bad acting. And unimaginative writing. Then maybe we could’ve had something special.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Yes, Fullmetal Alchemist IS Better Than Just About Anything

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Displaying my knack for being painfully behind the times, I started watching Fullmetal Alchemist about a year ago. I was immediately enthralled. I’m a sucker for a good story and an even better sucker for awesome characters. In fact, when it comes to characters and story, FMA exceeds just about every standard. It  is a spectacular TV show, a good movie, and a wonderful series of graphic novels. If you wanted to try, it’d be a great novel, mini-series, micro-series, film trilogy, comic strip, radio show, live-action show, or anything else. “Fullmetal Alchemist” would succeed in any forum, because it is a spectacular story. And if you’ve got that, you have everything else in the bag.

The show follows the adventures of Edward and Alphonse Elric. They live, not in this world, but a close parallel called Amestris, where science has diverged from ours–though far more sophisticated in its way, the science of alchemy has superseded all our sciences in importance. It’s easy to see why: if you understand the composition of matter, alchemy can produce anything out of anything–as long as you abide by the law of equivalent exchange: to obtain, something of equal value must be lost.

The one exception to this rule is life.

But when their mother dies, the distraught brothers ignore this rule and do everything they can to bring her back, with disastrous consequences. The resurrected monster is nothing like their mother; Alphonse loses his human body; and Edward is literally ripped apart, left with an arm and a leg.

Torn by guilt over his brother’s condition, Edward sets off–with his brother, in a strong but inhuman form–to correct the travesty he has committed. He is determined to bring his brother’s body back, but the only way to possibly do that is to find the legendary Philosopher’s Stone–the only object on earth that can surpass and ignore the law of equivalent exchange.

In order to obtain the Stone, however, the Elric brothers have one option: they must become State Alchemists, working for the military, doing everything they are bid, whether war or destruction or murder, as the military is the only organization with information on the Stone. It’s equivalent exchange all over again.

Their quest for the Philosopher’s Stone run a close parallel with Edward’s career as a State alchemist, with hilarious, uplifting, awe-inspiring, and often tragic consequences.

In the second season, the consequences grow more dire, the storylines deeper, more emotional, more moving, and more tragic. Pursued by evil, inhuman creatures known as the Homunculi who are also after the Stone, Edward ends up separated from Alphonse, and the two brothers embark on individual, parallel courses in order to do what they must, courses that could end the life of one or both before their goal is reached–or before they ever see each other again.

“Fullmetal Alchemist” has a brilliant story populated with brilliant characters. Both the plot and the people are among the best I have ever encountered in a fictional work of any kind. I’m not even an anime fan; I stumbled on this because I thought the story sounded cool. It’s beyond cool; I don’t often use this word, but I will repeat: it is brilliant. I can’t recommend it enough.  It contains a powerful story, thought-provoking,artfully-rendered themes, amazing storylines, and the richest characters I have ever encountered in film or television. Character depth actually rivals many good novels. 

 If you have a soft spot for brilliance (and don’t we all?) “Fullmetal Alchemist” is a must.

Nobody Can Beat the Indigo League

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I’ve got this serious thing for Pokemon.

I don’t know how many readers (if there are any, heh heh) are familiar with this erstwhile phenomenon. I’m going to assume pretty much anybody with an internet connection has some familiarity with Pikachu, Ash, and the gang, but I suppose anything’s possible.

Anyway.

To repeat, I’ve got a serious thing for Pokemon.

The games, the cards, the manga, the TV show….I adore it. The only possible exceptions are the later seasons of the show. Actually, the only season I really enjoy is the first. You can’t beat the Indigo League.

Now, until recently, I’ve done a fantastic job hiding this weird little passion of mine. I have managed not to brag about my card collection for seven years. (At the height of the craze, when I was 11 0r 12, it was assessed at a $6,000 value. For a kid, that’s impressive, right? Misplaced determination is still determination.) I have not played any of the games since I was 15. The reason for that? I started playing Pokemon Red about midway through my sophomore year of high school. Great student, 3.8 GPA, the teacher’s pet you all probably disliked. About two thirds through my sophomore year of high school, my GPA was about a 2.7, and my parents staged a casual form of an intervention. That game was like crack. I couldn’t stop. (Well, I probably could’ve, but I didn’t.) I strongly suspect, after several years, that the games are probably still like crack. I’m going to test that over the summer with Pokemon Black. Wish me luck. No, better yet, pray.

Now, backtracking here, I want to tell you a little bit more about my card collection. About the time of the Pokemon Red intervention, I stashed that bulging folder away. I didn’t look at it for a looooooong time. In fact, I forgot I hid it (I forget things a LOT) and assumed it had been stolen. This wasn’t an entirely unfounded fear. One particular summer, a lot of things disappeared from my parents’ house. Having forgotten about my mad skills for hiding stuff, I naturally assumed this bizarre paean to an obsessive childhood–I would call it the sum of my pre-adolescent life–had gotten stuck to a couple of sticky fingers and slid away.

A few months ago, maybe February, my youngest brother unearthed this collection. I was ecstatic. Wild. Never mind a couple of card slots had emptied in the intervening years. Of once-$6,000, I probably still had once-$5,800. All my favorites were there. It made my month.

My youngest brother was just as excited. In fact, he was developing a nice little Poke-obsession himself: he’d amassed a good 300 cards over the last year, no mean feat for a kid with no allowance and sporadic earning potential. Even now, booster packs cost anywhere from $3 to $6. I was proud.

That pride morphed to shock when he asked if he could have my collection.

“No way!” I cried. “You know what these mean to me?”

To cut a long story short, my Scroogey sensibilities persisted. My brother’s obsession did not wane, however, and culminated with some thievery on his part. However, it was kind of a joke. He is, by the way, a joker, and filmed himself (on my camera!) taking them. He also hid them in the bathroom. I confiscated the cards, but I was so amused, it was all in good humor.

I did feel kind of guilty, which was definitely warranted. I mean, think about it. I couldn’t even remember WHY I loved Pokemon so much. I have been an adult for a few of years now. I haven’t touched the game since high school, the show even longer than that. So what was up? Not to brag, but I’m normally a very generous person. I do develop weird attachments to inanimate objects, true. Things like Carls Jr. cups, water bottles, coffee mugs, old coats, frog sculptures, empty lotion pots, 5-year-old homework notebooks, bolts of fabric, pieces of deconstructed music boxes, cracked aquariums, headless figurines, plastic meal buckets  (also from Carl’s Jr, incidentally) and stuffed animals. (Regarding stuffed animals: until I was seven, I actually believed they had feelings. Isn’t it nice when you can pinpoint the origin of a particular neurosis?) Naturally, I assumed my thing for Pokemon cards was along those lines. Not that it excused anything, and I did make a vague promise to gift him some lesser cards.

Shortly after this first round of the Thief Game (there were several more) my brother managed to wheedle a DVD set of the first half of the first season of Pokemon. Those of you in the know will remember it as The Indigo League.

Shamefully, I was every bit as excited as my brother.

Working around my employment schedule (which was pretty minimal) we settled in for a marathon that week.

Within ten minutes, I was stunned.

Not long after, I was swept away.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Pokemon is almost crazily childish. Cliches abound.  The situations are, with very few exceptions, kind of laughable. Even the bad guys aren’t scary. Team Rocket is cringingly inept, and provides comic relief much more often than conflict or even tension. It turns out they even play for Ash’s team every once in a while. Damian, Charmander’s former trainer (you remember this episode, my fellow nerds?) is much more sickening than dopey James can ever hope to be. Shoot, his and Jessie’s determination, perpetual ingenuity, unswerving loyalty is moralistic in itself. (I might be biased in their favor, though, as they both dropped out of the academy. I’m not a dropout by any stretch, but I hate school.)

Moving on, the show’s morals are overwhelming. Their perennial “preserve the enviroment!” message don’t even make an effort toward subtlety. Nor do the themes of friendship, patience, personal development, responsibility, respect, or equality. Ash is a stubborn, pigheaded, often idiotic example of a child, but this kid can’t go five minutes without learning some lesson or other. He doesn’t even get a free pass for stupid, poor thing. Every time he’s silly, arrogant, self-centered, or displays a lack of empathy, he’s punished in some way or other. Even when he’s overcoming an obstacle, he gets bashed if he doesn’t overcome it with complete selflessness and humility. It was kind of embarrassing. I remembered why, as a child, I felt stupid if my parents were in the room watching it with me. It was a fun, addictive show with good lessons, but jeez maria.

My brother and I kept on watching, though. We weren’t about to be deterred. We were INTO it. We were basking in the silliness and adventure and the awesomeness of the Pokemon universe. A world filled to the brim with adorable, intelligent creatures, with tons of adventure and just the right amount sof danger–how does anyone with a childish heart stand a chance? Even the bad guys don’t want to hurt you. They just want to take your Pikachu. That in itself can be traumatic, of course, but think. No matter what, it always turns out well.  Even when Ash loses his battle, even when Charmander is abandoned, even when Team Rocket is on the cusp of success,  it always turns out okay. But not simply, or without work. The ghost in the machine is present, but it requires some sacrifice. These characters have the passion, the honesty, the ingenuity, the creativity, the drive, the courage, and the pureness of heart to always do what is right, and thus to always come out happy. Think about it. Ash is soooooooooooo not a winner in the traditional sense. The only way he works his way up through the League is through unusual means. In fact, this clueless child usually ends up risking his life for others. The desire to win dissipates in the face of threat to his friends, Pokemon, and even strangers. In the end, after everything, Ash can’t even get into the Pokemon League. All that work, all that heartache and danger and grueling work, and he can’t even achieve his dream. Lack of skill or not, this boy has earned this. But he still can’t get it.

Does he give up?

Of course not. He accepts this defeat, this crushing disappoint, with the ultimate grace. And he sets out to try again.

About halfway through the season, it started to hit me.

My craziness regarding cards and games actually tuned the show out. I really didn’t even watch this cartoon after I turned eleven. But to be honest, I think that was my loss. Not to write over the childishness, the simplicity, of the thing. But it was those things–always do what’s right; take care of your world; face adversity with graceful courage; respect your enemies; take care of those who depend on you; put yourself last; never, ever, ever give up–that captured my imagination as a child. And it recaptured my imagination at an adult. (To be fair, I haven’t really matured. Obviously.) And what was so wrong with that? “The Lord of the Rings” is jam-packed with similar themes. Narnia? Don’t even get me started. Harry Potter, same deal. The Dark Tower? Well, maybe subtract the “respect your enemies”, but yeah. (Oooh, on the subject of Stephen King’s work, pick up his and Peter Straub’s brilliant collaboration, “The Talisman.” In fact, stop reading this and go do that now.) To be honest, Pokemon’s not doing anything but putting forth the messages, morals, and themes held up by the best works of fantasy since the inception of storytelling. Pokemon did what it was meant to do, and it suceeded wonderfully.

Now….is Pokemon among the greatest works of fantasy? Of course not. It’ll never be. It’s a cliche-ridden cartoon that’s honestly seen better days. Most of you probably don’t even think it’s worth your time. And it probably isn’t. But it is worth mine. And I’m very, very glad.

Tragically, very recently there cropped up a situation that required me to leave my precious cards. I had to resort to a Spartan amount of possessions (and oh boy, if you’re anything like me, you can imagine the agony.) I’m kind of humiliated to admit that I did consider packing them, but it was impossible. And I’d been promising to trade cards with my little brother for a long time by then. Somehow, I never got around to it.

So, I offered that bulging, messy, crazy folder that, once upon a time, had been worth thousands of dollars. That, to me, is still worth thousands of dollars, pathetic as that may be. And I gave it to the one person who valued it as much as I do. A person who just might value it more. And the funny thing about it? It didn’t feel like a loss. Honestly, I think I was probably just a little bit happier than he was.