Monday, January 30, 2023

Revue Starlight (2018)

Revue Starlight is a 12 episode anime. It follows Karen, who attends a prestigious performing arts school in Tokyo. As part of the 99th graduating class, they are to perform the play Starlight. The anime has a big cast so it can be hard to catch up on who is who. Karen is easygoing but tardy, while her best friend Maya lives in the same dormitory and helps her out. Karen’s childhood friend Hikari transfers into the class and is a prodigy but is cold and distant. And then there are the rest of the students in the class.

The anime goes along as you’d expect except that at the end of the first episode, there’s a weird plot development and it makes the whole thing kind of weird. There’s a sort of secret audition happening that Karen accidentally stumbles upon and here is where the unique songs play (which are pretty decent) while the characters are dressed up and “battle” against each other. They literally fight using weapons, and it is supposed to reflect a performance of a musical theatre revue. It’s a weird concept and one that doesn’t quite fully make sense, especially with the talking giraffe.

The secret auditions at night, the talking giraffe and the physical combat accompanied by the insert songs is not really something that’s properly explained. All we see is that these auditions are a way for the characters to get things off their chest against each other, and also understand themselves. As a result, the structure of the anime can be quite typical as it cycles through each of the ensemble class, going over their backgrounds, their motivations, and their current situation.

As most episodes take place during the normal everyday of the characters’ school lives, the plot boils down to ordinary problems. Karen’s best friend Mahiru may get jealous at having lost Karen’s attention and doesn’t see any worth in herself. Or the pair of good friends Futaba and Kaoruko have an argument after having settled into a routine for so long. Through these interactions, we can soon get familiar with each character and recognise their individual strengths and weaknesses. This makes it all the weirder whenever the auditions continue as it clashes so significantly with everything else.

The structure of the anime and even within the episodes can be confusing. It’s messy and seems to jump all over the place, physically and temporally. However, about just over halfway into the season, we finally get the first real explanation of the secret auditions (which at first seemed pointless being kept a secret given that everyone’s participating in it anyway), and it goes a long way into putting things into perspective with that one simple sentence.

There’s surely some sort of allusion or hidden meaning behind all the events, but on the surface of it, the anime is confusing and messy. The pacing is off, and the general gist of it is a simple premise. Basically, Karen and Hikari had a promise from when they were little to perform the play Starlight together, and this is a story of them fulfilling that promise. The ending is as expected, but rather unsatisfying all the same due to how it played out and how convoluted it ended up being. It’s melodramatic too.

Overall, Revue Starlight is a mediocre anime. You might go in expecting a typical idol type of anime, but this is not it. Instead, it has a sort of abstract element to it that doesn’t quite work. The pacing suffers as a result and the editing makes it feel choppy, skipping from here to there to all over the place. The characters don’t particularly standout, especially since with the short amount of time and the large-ish number of characters, it couldn’t flesh out many of them.


For other anime reviews, have a look at this page and this page.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Studio Series Hot Rod (Deluxe)

Name:  Hot Rod
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Generations - Studio Series
Year of Release:  2022
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 18)
Mold Status:  new


Hot Rod transforms into a Lamborghini Centenario, and the best thing is that he is not a retool of Lockdown.

He's got all the curves and details of the actual vehicle but is let down by one thing, the panel seams resulting from the transformation.  So he does not look as sleek as he should be in this mode.

Hot Rod is an okay size, above is a comparison with TLK Bumblebee.  Hot Rod feels a bit smaller due to how sleek / slim the vehicle mode is.

He sits quite low to the ground, but has enough ground clearance.  The only gimmick here is rolling him on a flat surface.

The robot gun can peg into a slot at the back and this is the only storage option in vehicle mode.

There are some neat little features, like the painted orange highlights.  The back is a tad bit messy, but that's also the case on the real thing.

Despite the seams being a major flaw, since it nails down the silhouette, it still looks awesome.


Surprisingly, Hot Rod isn't too bad of a shellformer.  The front splits to form the torso, but there is a panel, which also with the roof, forms the backpack for the robot.  The sides form the arms, while the back unfolds to form the legs.  It's actually a fairly interesting transformation because a lot of the robot is folded up tightly for vehicle mode.


Robot mode is leaps and bounds better than any previous figure, and he's somewhat screen accurate.  There are some inaccuracies here and there but it is good enough.

He has the car roof, part of the hood, and the windows as his backpack.  Since it is thin and light, it isn't a problem in robot mode.

The head sculpt is good, with plenty of sculpted detailing and also painted detailing.

Size wise, he's not quite as tall as the average Deluxe, and he's also slim to boot, so he may not feel like he's the bulkiest of toys.

As part of the Studio Series line, he comes with a cardboard stand, depicting a scene of London.

Articulation is good, with joints for his head, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees and ankles.

He comes with a gun, as seen in the film.

He can hold the gun in either hand.

The gun can store by pegging it onto the side of his hips, like a holster.

One slightly annoying thing about the robot mode is that the small pieces behind his ankles are prone to popping off.

A nice robot mode and the best rendition of the character we've had yet.


Hot Rod is a good figure, even if you're not a fan of the character.  He has two good modes, and a fun transformation that isn't too bland, but isn't too complicated either.  The orange highlights in both modes against the darker grey color scheme really helps make it pop.  He's a tad bit on the smaller side, but thanks to everything else, he does feel like he's worth the price tag.


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

Friday, January 27, 2023

Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs (2018)

Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs is a 12 episode anime that is based off the manga series. To date, there are four OVAs that were released with special editions of the manga. The protagonist is Fuyuzora Kogarashi, who has psychic abilities. He’s able to see ghosts and had enough training to be able to exorcist ghosts by punching them. That’s the extent of his abilities though. Having had a tough childhood, he travels to Yuragi Inn, where the rent is cheap, and attends high school at the town. We quickly learn he’s been possessed by many ghosts in the past and gained a lot of random skills as a result, which he puts to good use at times.

Yuragi Inn is infamous around town as being haunted, and Kogarashi sees firsthand the ghost that has been haunting the place. It’s nothing to fear though as it’s just a high school aged girl named Yuuna. This is probably the most interesting part of the anime because five minutes in, it shows its hand as a generic anime that’s mainly for the fan service.

Yuragi Inn has other occupants and naturally they’re all attractive girls, so Kogarashi has quickly built himself a harem. They’re of varying ages and appearances but Kogarashi will often find himself accidentally having a peek here or touching something there. It’s to the point where it constantly happens, someone will get angry, and then rinse and repeat. It’s almost immediately tiring and way too predictable that it feels very lazy in its execution. The anime isn’t even trying at this point.

Yunna herself has the typical airhead qualities, such as accidentally revealing herself in front of Kogarashi, finding herself embarrassed and always having her thoughts flow towards him. It’s noted that she’s still lingering on as there is something she wants to do, as there is a risk of ghosts who stay too long on Earth will fall into Hell. She ends up partnering with Kogarashi, going wherever he goes, and helps him up with various supernatural stuff that he naturally finds himself in.

It gets more and more apparent that the whole purpose of the anime is the fan service. It leans towards quantity over quality, so the quality isn’t great. There’s so many of it, pretty much every scene, that you get desensitised quickly. It doesn’t help that it cycles through each heroine, and it’s always the same generic sequence of events that way too predictable. Characters will awkwardly move or fall into certain positions, so it ends up cheapening the whole effect.

There’s really not much of a plot going on, not that you’d expect something complex or amazing for this genre, but definitely more than this. As a result, we only have Kogarashi going on about his normal life, with various girls popping up and unconditionally fawning over him. There may be a rival here and there, but all in all, it falls very flat. There are no stakes here, Kogarashi is surprisingly powerful as a character. He also plays the part of a pure innocent boy that’s just about to step into adulthood but not quite there.

The other characters are equally forgettable, because that’s what happens when it’s just about style and no substance. We barely get any backstory or their motivations, which is a shame. The character designs and potential are there, and it could have facilitated both the fan service and actual real character development but it looks like the author went the easy lazy route so all we get are one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs. Despite the flaws, there are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments and nicer moments where Kogarashi shows off his good side.

The OVAs, as they did not have to be aired on TV, pushes the limits on what it can do with its fan service without crossing the line. It comes very very close though, and the framing devices for the fan service remains weak, but gets worse with each subsequent OVA. The initial ones fill in some of the gaps in the anime while the later ones jump ahead and so there will be characters we haven’t seen before in the anime, and spoilers for several of them. The fourth OVA in particular throws all pretence away to bare the characters completely and have them in sexual positions (it’s not even suggestive anymore by this point).

Overall, Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs is an unremarkable harem comedy. Its biggest flaw is how all its fan service, and the way it occurs, is completely unoriginal. It’s stuff that has been done plenty of times in previous harem anime so it just loses too much impact. That’s not to mention the huge rays of light acting as censors (but there are uncensored versions from the Blu-Ray release). The plot is non-existent, and all the characters are forgettable. There are some genuine moments but all in all, it’s forgettable.


For other anime reviews, have a look at this page and this page.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (PC)

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is an action game developed by the same developers behind Deus Ex. Unfortunately, while this is a fantastic single player game, it was hindered by the terrible reception of Square Enix’s previous Marvel release, Marvel’s Avengers, and didn’t sell too well. Anyway, right off the game, you’re treated with how great the game looks, made even better thanks to the colorful and vibrant aesthetics.

You control Star-Lord for the whole game and the combat system is easy to pick up with a few options. He has his melee attack well as his signature pair of guns. Firing is done by holding the right trigger while you can lock on to an enemy with the left trigger. He’ll eventually gain the ability to use one of four different elements that enemies may be weak to. There’s a health bar and a shield bar, and the other major combat element is that he can activate the abilities of the rest of the team. He can order Groot to use his roots to trap enemies into place, or Rocket to use his cluster bombs to deal damage to many enemies at once. They’re on a cooldown so you cannot just spam them.

The team’s abilities are probably the most interesting part of the combat as they’re flashy and powerful. Each team member gets up to four abilities which are useful. However, you need to go through two sub-menus to execute any one of these abilities so it can be slightly annoying in the heat of things. After each battle, Star-Lord will earn experience points which are used to unlock those abilities you use in battle. Since there are only four in total and you only unlock two additional ones, you don’t accrue them as fast as you would expect.

There’s an interesting mechanic where Star-Lord can command the team to huddle up. This’ll pause the battle as the team gets together and gets a pep talk to buff everyone up, complete with 80s music. It’s so corny and charming that it just works even if it is out of place. The combat, while basic, is frantic and in the end, heaps of fun. When there are a lot of enemies, there’ll be explosions and shots everywhere. The chaotic battlefield fills you with adrenaline, although the aiming and ability usage can be awkward in the frantic action. There are plenty of encounters where it isn’t a standard battle, as in, you’re not supposed to defeat all the opponents. Instead, you need to listen to what your teammates are saying as they’ll give hints on what to do, but can be annoying when it is not immediately clear what you have to do.

Outside of battle, you’ll be going down linear environments. There are simple platforming where Star-Lord’s rocket boost come in handy as it’ll give him a height boost whenever he jumps. There are the typical things such as climbing platforms, shimmying across ledges and squeezing into small gaps. It’s never quiet in the game though as there is always some sort of excellent banter between the characters in the team. Everyone feels perfectly at ease and they play off each other so well. They’ve already worked together for a while so there’s none of the awkward get-to-know-each-other phase to go through. While it is hard to separate these characters from their Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnations at first, you’ll get use to them and the chemistry is spot on.

The game is split into chapters and yes, the game is completely linear without even any sidequests. However, it’s not a straight corridor and surprisingly, you will go across many different types of settings and planets so it is always something different. There ae some side paths leading to collectibles but it’s impressive at how much the developers were able to pack into this. Furthermore, by being a straightforward action-adventure game, it cuts out all the pointless fluff and filler of open world games. It keeps up the pacing of the story so this type of structure is superior is many aspects.

There are many times where the way forward may not be too clear and you’re on a short time. Thus, you may end up failing and having to repeat that section. It doesn’t take up much time but can feel somewhat unfair at times. On the whole, the game doesn’t obviously point out the next objective, there’s no mini-map and if you wanted to see the objective marker, which only marks the general direction, you have to press the right stick to activate Star-Lord’s visor view. You’ll probably also fall off the edges much more often, particularly in combat, but the only penalty is some health lost. All this makes the game more immersive but also more annoying and pace breaking if you couldn’t figure it out.

The story at first feels like a random collection of encounters. The Guardians of the Galaxy travels from place to place without too much connection with each other. They go from trying to track down a monster in a quarantined area in space to getting arrested by Nova Corp and then having to pay off a fine. However, by the middle of the game, these events start to link with each other and you can see what the main plot of the game is. Of course, it’ll eventually lead to the Guardians having to save their galaxy. The second half of the game was actually really clever as it turns out all of the commentary in the first game was basically foreshadowing, and it was amazing when it slotted into place.

There are dialogue choices throughout but a lot of it only just changes the banter. There are a few that will slightly change the events. A scene might play out in one way instead of the other and it gives enough consequences to your actions without massively changing the game. It’s not different enough to replay the game though as the general events and the ending stays the same. It leaves one last surprise at the end of the game but unfortunately, the final boss battle is ultimately lacklustre. It had the potential and did start off being appropriately grand and epic but then it ended up being a fight against normal enemies. Despite that, the story on the whole was fantastic and surprisingly personal since the characters really help sell the game.

Overall, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is an awesome game. It’s rare that we get such a high-quality AAA single player story driven game that’s this well polished and well done. It’s the perfect length, not outstaying its welcome in the 17 or so hours it takes to finish the story. There’s not much to do afterwards although there is a New Game Plus mode. The chemistry of the team, with their banter, personalities and attitude towards everyone else being so consistent and coherent, makes it one of the best displays of camaraderie in gaming.


For other game reviews, have a look at this page and this page.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Legacy Inferno (Voyage)

Name:  Inferno
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Predacon
Line:  Generations - Legacy
Year of Release:  2022
Size Class:  Voyager (Wave 3)
Mold Status:  new


Based upon his Beast Wars appearance, and the first update to the character we've seen since the original toy that's based on Season 1, Inferno transforms into a red ant.

It's a decent ant, but instead of a smooth metallic texture, we get a lumpy surface, and a dull-ish red, so it doesn't match the TV show that much.

Inferno is a Voyager figure, and he is fairly big as a result, especially for an insect.  Above is a comparison with Siege Optimus Prime.

The robot weapon can peg on his back, facing forward.  Unfortunately, there's no space in his abdomen to store it in ant mode.

The mandibles can open and close, while the antennae can also move up and down.

Unlike the original toy, the ant legs aren't the robot legs, so there's good and bad relating to this choice.  It benefits ant mode though.

A good solid beast mode, with the only thing that could improve it is making it a smoother texture (it's the same conscious choice made by the designer, since Optimus Primal also had fur instead of a smooth surface more akin to the show).


Inferno is a good difficulty, as he is not too difficult and also not too simple.  The abdomen opens up into three pieces, with a four faux piece for robot mode.  The robot legs then fold down, while the head splits open to reveal the robot head.  Once you've fold the arms out from underneath the main body, the ant head can fold down to form the torso.


Inferno's robot mode is good, and it conveys the big bulky look that he had in the show.

The back may look kibbly but it is Inferno's iconic design element, especially since he used it to fly in the show.  What's more, it can manually rotate (there's no spring loaded spinning gimmick this time around).

The head sculpt is perfect, accurately capturing Inferno's crazed personality, it's also painted a nice metallic blue.  The mouth can open, and it's just so perfect for the character.

In terms of size, he's about standard, although there are a few hollow parts.  Rather, they're not visibly hollow, just that he feels lighter than you'd expect for something this size.

And with Inferno, we've finally gotten an update for the whole Season 1 Beast Wars cast (over two lines, Kingdom and Legacy), and that is an amazing feat that sometimes, you don't know whether it would have been able to be reached at all.

Articulation is good, he has joints for his head, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees and ankles.

He has his gun, which is a piece of transparent red plastic with a lot of paint over it.

He can hold the gun in either hand, and the disproportionately large gun in his hand is exactly how it was in the show as well.

The gun's storage is at his back, which is designed to mimic the propellant / engine that he used to fly in the show, which is a nice touch.

The only thing negative here are the ant legs, which just stick out oddly and in the way, especially the ones on his back.

A strong robot mode and a great update to the character.


This is a figure that's long overdue.  For a Season 1 cast member who had a sizable amount of screentime, it was a shame to never get any new toys for him.  Finally, we get an update and it's one that, while not perfect, is still very nice.  Inferno is a solid figure that's worth purchasing.


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

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