Friday, July 31, 2015

Die Hard 4.0

Die Hard 4.0 stars Bruce Willis in a story where he single-handedly foils a cyber terrorists plot.  It's not surprising that he's a one man army and the film is actually believable at first.  A group of terrorists hacks into the US's cyber-infrastructure and takes control over them, causing havoc through disabling utilities, crashing the financial sector etc. The first hour was good and intense because it slowly reveals the objective of the villains, and how John McClane is caught up in all this.  However, it slowly starts to degrade into another typical action movie with exaggerated explosions and belief-defying stunts.  It really throws reality out the window at the end where John McClane survives some crazy situations such as a jet fighter exploding from a few feet away.  You start to feel the weight of the film from the one hour mark as it starts to slow down.  However, the film was still enjoyable and the story is passable.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: Sword Art Online 8: Early and Late

Review:  #505
Title:  Sword Art Online 8:  Early and Late
Series:  Sword Art Online - 8th volume
Author:  Reki Kawahara
Read Before:  no
Comments:  Early and Late is the eight volume in the light novel series Sword Art Online.  Similar to the second volume, this is a collection of three side stories, set before the events of Volume 7.  The first short story is “A Murder Case in the Area”, which takes place on Floor 57 of Sword Art Online.  At this point in time, Kirito hasn’t shown off his Dual Blades ability yet and he and Asuna are not lovers, but are slowly warming up to each other.  They investigate a murder case; someone is somehow able to kill another player within a safe area.  As Kirito and Asuna looks into the mystery, they get deeper and deeper, with the result being that they discover a sinister plot of a small guild back in the past.  It was a really good story in which it captures your attention, it makes you eager to find out how the murders were able to be pulled off and the mastermind behind it all.  It was written well and the pacing was good.  While the ending was a little bit weak in the reasoning and motive, this made a good mystery story.  The second short story is “Caliber” which is Kirito along with his friends partying up in ALO to obtain the legendary sword Excaliber.  It’s much more straightforward and action-oriented but it’s also because of this that it doesn’t engage you as much.  There were some funny scenes but nothing surprises you.  The third and last short story is “First Day” which takes place immediately after Kayaba announces the death terms to all players.  Kirito rushes off to gain experience and equipment.  We see Kirito’s first experience in teaming up with another player.  This was actually more interesting than expected and goes into the thoughts of Kirito quite a bit.  Overall, this is a good volume, while the jump in the timeframe can be jarring from story to story, they were all engaging and fun to read.
Rating:  7/10

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Toy Review: Transformers BotCon 2015 Waruders Mudfighter with Thrasher

Review:  #256
Name:  Mudfighter with Thrasher
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  BotCon 2015 - Souvenir Set
Year of Release:  2015
Size Class:  Deluxe with Targetmaster
Variations:  repaint of Generations IDW Waspinator (along with rest of Waruders);  Thrasher is a repaint of the Generations Waspinator that came with Legends Starscream


Mudfighter comes with a bio card which shares the same text as the other Waruders, so it feels somewhat lazy.  The only difference between each of the four cards is the color of the robot.  The artwork isn't the best since it so feral and beastly instead of being robot like.


Mudfighter transforms into a yellow and orange wasp, which works only as well as it sounds, i.e. not very well at all.  The yellow is very mustardy and needs to be more bright to stand out.

Mudfighter's color scheme is based upon the Fox Kids repaint of the original Waspinator toy.  He features transparent green wings and stinger.

This is a good wasp mode apart from the legs, which looks weird due to it being attached to the body at different heights.

This is a Deluxe classed figure and here he is compared with Trailcutter, so he isn't too big after all.

And now a comparison with Waspinator, who looks much better in the normal green deco.

Mudfighter has a gimmick where if you pull back on the lever, it lifts his wings up, so you can mimic the wings flapping.

He comes with Thrasher, a black repaint of the smaller Targetmaster Waspinator.

Mudfighter only came in a set of four "Waruders", and the different decos work well together.

While the mold is good, the colors is definitely the weakest of the set.


Let's take a quick look at the "pilot", Thrasher, which is mainly black with a grey head and silver wings.  It's a decent wasp mode.

Getting him into robot mode is as simple as standing him up and folding the beast head down, yay...

He has limited poseability, being his shoulders and hips which swing forward, not meaningful in any way.

Thrasher has a third gun mode but the downside of this mode is that it doesn't truly lock into place, and the pieces feel thin and fragile enough like it'll break.


Mudfighter has an easy tranformation, the most interesting aspect is when you push the shoulders in, which splits his beast mode into two.  The legs are also fun in how they fit.


Mudfighter's robot mode is decent but once again, the color scheme fails to work very well.  It's too drab and ugly.

There is a bit of kibble (but accurate to the character), being his insect legs hanging off the limbs, the wings on his back and the abdomen sticking out.

The head sculpt is fantastic and his teeth are painted black, giving it some emphasis.  The green lightpiped eyes work well too.

A comparison with Trailcutter, Mudfighter isn't too tall.

A comparison with Waspinator who still looks better in this mode.

Poseability is decent but Mudfighters shares a fatal flaw with his fellow Waruders, the heels are extremely weak to the point that they flop.  This makes even standing him up a massive pain.

You need to lean him back a little bit in order to keep him upright, this is quite annoying and frankly, unacceptable.

Mudfighter comes with a stinger gun, which looks great.

He can hold the gun in either hand and you can still pull off some good poses.

His knees are somewhat restricted in that they cannot bend a full 90 degrees, otherwise the articulation is as great as you'd hope.

A comparison with Thrasher, both in robot mode, would be nice if they had shared the same color scheme so that it can be more unified.

Mudfighter with the rest of the set, they look nice together and FunPub should have really sold the set as Waspinator drones instead of this super obscure Diaclone made-up scenario.

He can hold Thrasher in gun mode too.  While a nice robot in terms of sculpting, the colors takes some getting used to.


As you can probably tell, the biggest thing holding Mudfighter back is the colors.  Considering he comes in a set, there's not much you can do.  He is very expensive, partly due to the inclusion of Thrasher.  Even so, it's hard to recommend Mudfighter on his own unless for some reason, the colors really appeal to you.


For other Transformers reviews, have a look at this page.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Die Hard with a Vengeance

Die Hard with a Vengeance is the third movie in the Die Hard series.  As the title implies, the film has a revenge theme, in which the antagonist takes revenge upon John McClane.  The film starts off well, diving straight into the plot without much filler material to pad it out.  The police gets a call about a bomb that will be detonated unless John McClane is involved.  The antagonist then starts to give unreasonable physical demands and giving riddles.  It was interesting and kept things clever until the real motive is revealed halfway into the movie.  From then on, it returns to be the action packed film that is synonymous with the title.  It is this part where it feels that the film is padded to fill out the 128 minutes running time.  The vengeance theme gets lost and it becomes another predictable film.  While definitely better than Die Hard 2, it pales in comparison to the first.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Knights of Sidonia (Sidonia no Kishi)

Knights of Sidonia takes place far into the future, where Earth has been destroyed by giant enemies from space known as the "gauna".  Gauna can take many forms and can shapeshift but are usually red with many tentacles used to attack.  In order to survive, humanity created self-sustaining spaceships to travel to a far away planet to recolonise, basically, these are seed ships.  The anime follows once such ship known as Sidonia.  However, gauna continues to target the humans over the centuries, coming close to annihilating Sidonia several times.  Sidonia is travelling solo, having lost contact with all the other ships, it paints a bleak future.

To defend against these gauna, Gardes has been created.  These are giant robots and at the start of the anime, they are using the 18th generation model already.  What makes this interesting is that gauna can only be defeated by one substance, known as kabizashi.  Once the gauna's core is exposed and pierced by kabizashi, the gauna disintegrates into bubbles.  There are hundreds of these gardes and the story follows a trainee pilot called Nagate Tanikaze.  The first episodes beings by showing that he was living alone underground, having been trained by his grandfather on how to pilot gardes using a virtual reality simulator.  He gets into contact with the other humans after a failed stealing attempt for food and is formally drafted into the pilot program, eventually becoming a fully fledged pilot.  He was given the honor of utilizing the legendary 17th Generation Garde, Tsugumori.

While the first episode can be confusing and the pacing being slow, once they encountered the first gauna at the end of the episode, the anime shines.  The properties of the gauna is interesting, as well as how humans has adapted over the years.  Humans are now able to photosynthesize as a result of genetic modification, meaning they only need to physically consume food once a week.  The fight scenes, while limited in frequency, are fantastic since each gauna encounter is different.  They serve as eyecandy highlights of the series.  The other thing that hooks you in is the constant discoveries and revelations of information, from the gaunas to what happened in the past to Tanikaze himself.

After each episode, you will be left with some food for thought and you'll come to realize that you will think about it again and again afterwards.  The other thing that Knights of Sidonia loves to do is jump ahead in time at the end of an episode to show the consequences of a battle or action, which is usually a massive shocker.  Then it doubles back in the next episode to show how it happened or lengthen the scene with more details.  These types of cliffhangers are used to great effect and as a warning:  no character is safe in this series.  You will encounter brutal and saddening deaths, it depicts casualties of war and how this affects the characters.

Not only that, characters that you've come to understand and bond with will die, it is disheartening at times.  The loss of each character is felt deeply and while characters will spend time reminiscing about the characters and regretting their deaths, it does so in a meaningful way and does not spend a large amount of time doing so.  Therefore, no part of the anime feels like it is filler or boring.  As per usual, there is the inclusion of an extremely annoying antagonist who sees themselves as a rival to Tanikaze.  They will sabotage and set Tanikaze up during battles, even it if means killing other teammates.  What is frustrating is that there is no justice in the series.  The rival gets away with it and Tanikaze is forced to wear the blame.

As the season goes on, a more sinister plot is revealed and acted upon.  The motives of some characters are shown in a clearer light and no one is as they seemed.  It gives the feeling of a complex plot without it being so intricate as to be convoluted.  Naturally, the last two episodes are epic in terms of the gauna that Sidonia is forced to battle again.  It makes for some great scenes and hooks you right in.  While the ending to the season was weak in that it ends quite quickly without much wrap-up, at least you know there is a second season to continue the story.

So while you can say that Knights of Sidonia all boils down to giant robots battling againsta giant space monsters, it is so much more than that.  It shows the brutality of war and lasting consequences of every action the characters take.  It is also not violent in the sense of it being mindless or gory.  The aesthetics are unique and it is beautifully animated with some good music as well.  Background environment can look empty at times but the rendering of the Gardes are amazing and some scenes make for great screenshots.  You will definitely side with the main character and cheer him on, which makes this a good anime to watch.  12 episodes is definitely not enough!


For other animation reviews, have a look at this page.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Book Review: Missions of Love Vol. 4

Review:  #504
Title:  Missions of Love Vol. 4
Series:  Missions of Love - 4th volume
Author:  Ema Toyama
Read Before:  no
Comments:  The volume starts off as corny and cheesy as it has ever been when surprise surprise, Mami isn’t the sweet innocent girl she was originally made out to be.  She starts to devious a plan to get Shigura and Yukina away and while it hasn’t degraded to underhanded tactics just yet, it is looking to be that way soon.  Representing Akira as Yukina’s knight and Shigure as a vampire lord feels very cliché and there’s even a cringe-worthy moment when this is visualized.  By the end of the volume, Shigure ends up confessing that he might have feelings to Yukina.
Rating:  6/10

Friday, July 24, 2015

Toy Review: Transformers BotCon 2015 Waruders Parasite with Ripper

Review:  #255
Name:  Parasite with Ripper
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  BotCon 2015 - Souvenir Set
Year of Release:  2015
Size Class:  Deluxe with Targetmaster
Variations:  Parasite is a repaint of Generations IDW Waspinator (along with the rest of the Waruders); Ripper is a repaint of the Generations Waspinator that came with Legends Starscream


All "Waruders Marauders" come with a bio card, the text is exactly the same between all four which is somewhat disappointing.  Therefore, the only difference between the four cards is the color scheme of the robot artwork.  I'm not really a fan of the artwork since it looks too feral instead of a robot that turns into a beast.


Parasite is the purple and black repaint of Waspinator, the inspiration of the colors being the unreleased Universe Horrorcon Waspinator.

Parasite has one of the better color schemes out of the set, and the metallic gold is amazing, contrasting and complementing the black nicely.

Like Waspinator, this is a good wasp mode, albeit with unrealistic colors.  The legs are still situated on different height levels which makes it look weird and bad from certain angles.

Parasite is a Deluxe class figure, and here he is with a comparison against Crosscut.  He is a decent size, the wings help create the illusion that he is bigger.

Now a comparison against the original usage of the mold, Waspinator.

There is a gimmick in this mode in which if you pull back a level on the back, it lifts the wings so you can recreate a flapping motion.

Parasite comes with Ripper, which is a miniature version of the core design, it would be nicer if these pilots (as they were included as a reference to Diaclone pilots) were the same color.

A shot of the set of four, which were really expensive this year.

A great wasp mode with fantastic colors.  The purple, black and gold works very well with each other.


Let's now focus upon the Targetmaster, errrr, sorry, I meant the pilot:  Ripper.  This is a blue and grey version.

Transforming him into robot mode is as easy as standing him upright and folding down the beast head.  Considering the small size, the simplistic transformation can be forgiven.

What cannot is the fragility of the figure, with the thin insect legs sticking out all over the place, it is annoying.  His arms can swing forward, as can his legs.

Ripper has a third weapon mode, which is a gun.  However, it doesn't lock into place that securely and with the legs sticking out all over the place, it doesn't look that great as a gun either.  It somehow manages to feel even more fragile in this mode.


Transformation for Parasite into robot mode is simple.  Even in beast mode you can tell how the arms go, however, there is a neat sequence in which you pull the arms out to separate the beast head.  The legs are also need in how they unfold from the bottom of the beast mode.


Onto robot mode, which is still striking with its purple and black combination, but loses some gold (being regulated onto the thighs and chest).

Parasite has a decent amount of kibble, but this is all accurate to the character:  the insect legs on his arms, the wings on his back and the abdomen.

The head sculpt is good... too bad any details are lost in the black plastic used.  There are some gold highlights such as his crest and teeth but what a waste of a such intricate sculpting.

Comparison with Trailcutter, also a Deluxe class figure, Parasite isn't too tall.

And now with Waspinator, there's not as much intricate paint detailing on Parasite unfortunately.

Now, the Waruders 4-pack has a massive flaw, for some reason, their ankle joints are really weak, to the point where they just flop and this makes standing and posing problematic.  Even in a neutral standing pose, you need to lean them backwards a little bit.

Apart from the ankles, all the other joints are sufficiently tight.  As the wings are on springs, you cannot angle them upwards that well.

Parasite has an inbuilt weapon which is comprised of a portion of his abdomen, transforming into a stinger gun.

It can be held in either hand and he can pull off some nice poses.

The red transparent plastic used is a good choice.  Parasite has a good range of joints, although he is noticeable missing a waist swivel.

Naturally, he towers over Ripper when they are both in robot mode.

As a set, the Waruders look really nice, it's too bad that FunPub tried to sell these guys using a Diaclone theme instead of Waspinator drones with color schemes inspired by Waspinator toys of the past.

He can also hold Ripper in his weapon mode.  Not a bad robot mode, the weak ankles and the black head are the main complaints here.


Parasite is a nice figure, but whether he is worth US$68 is up to you.  It's very expensive for what he is, even when factoring Ripper, who is not a great mold.  The colors stand out, the mold is good and if not for the absurdly weak ankles, Parasite would have been stellar.


For other toy reviews, have a look at this page.

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