One Piece: Chapter 868- Review

Of course they failed! In all honesty, I feel like somewhat of an idiot for believing that Oda was done addressing Big Mom’s backstory for the time being. The way he intertwined her continuing past narrative with the current action was outstanding. Although this chapter wasn’t quite as potent as its predecessor, there is still quite a bit to discuss. For simplicities sake, I will be addressing the backstory first, and finishing up with the minimal main narrative progression we did receive.

It was revealed that Linlin, Mother Caramel, and the rest of the orphans weren’t alone on the day of the cannibalism incident. Unbenounced to each other, two spectators witnessed this gruesome event, both equal in importance for current affairs.

The first was a giant from Elbaf, who came to check in on the new Lamb’s House. So disgusted by what he witnessed, he immediately fled back to Elbaf, where he informed the rest of the giants of the horrors he had seen. Big Mom became such a repugnant figure amongst their community that they do not even speak of her by name. Oda was quite clever in including this witness. As we now know Big Mom will probably not be killed during this arc, it is very likely she will be an extremely relevant character in the inevitable Elbaf arc. This giant, as well as the giants he informed, may be the ones to provide this crucial context to the Straw Hats once they arrive in the kingdom.

While the first witness was there to be a conduit for future events, the second helped to shape the basis for the current circumstances. Big Mom’s head chef, Streusen, was, at the time, marooned on this island. Finding the incident comedic, he saw potential in manipulating the young Linlin, and became her ally. Together, they would come to build what is now the Big Mom Pirate Empire. I always love when Oda takes a character of minuscule importance and embeds them with relevancy. It manages to make characters that would typically be forgotten amongst the sheer massiveness of One Piece’s cast more memorable (see Super Eyepatch Wolf’s discussion of Senior Pink for a perfect example). The subtextual character development here is tremendous. Streusen must be a man of astounding patience and intrepidity, working with someone as volatile as Big Mom for over 60 years.

The pirate empire the two formed had to start somewhere. The theories were correct, the island that Mother Caramel built the second Lamb’s House on would eventually become the capital of Big Mom’s territory, Whole Cake Island. The revelation doesn’t stop there. As I predicted, Mother Caramel was the one who sparked Big Mom’s goal of building a melting pot country. Through her insincere rhetoric, Caramel instilled the idea that would become the cornerstone of Linlin’s entire pirate career. If Caramel were a genuine individual, this would be an utterly touching scene. Our understanding of her true intentions, however, makes this revelation profoundly disturbing; Big Mom’s empire is built entirely on lies.

A subtextual, but not irrelevant reveal followed soon after. Linlin boasting that she performed “the trick that mother did,” without having been shown consuming a devil fruit that grew nearby helps prove that eating a devil fruit user can transfer their power. This not only provides new lore to the One Piece universe but may even provide context to a significant past event.

Note: the following idea comes from Best Guy Ever, a host on the Po D. Cast (which if you haven’t checked out yet, you unquestionably should, it’s the best One Piece podcast out there). His genius theory harkens back to the Paramount War saga. During the Battle of Marineford, Blackbeard concealed himself and a dying Whitebeard under a large black cloth. After several minutes, Blackbeard emerged with Whitebeard’s devil fruit ability in tow. Nate theorized that, under the blanket, Blackbeard must have eaten a piece of Whitebeard’s body. Although it isn’t perfectly sound, I personally find this theory plausible.

Enough theory crafting, back to the chapter at hand. Since we’ve addressed all the important details from the backstory segments, let’s move on to the current narrative.

Big Mom has hit a point of such immense, unprecedented rage, that her haki destroys the bullets flying at her, immediately halting the assassination plan. Even if Bege had extra bullets, the haki waves shattered their weapons. With Big Mom Pirates commanders closing in, it was imperative that the Straw Hats and Fire Tanks fled into the mirror world immediately. Sure enough, in a surprisingly hilarious scene, the entrance mirror was smashed by the haki waves.

At first I thought Bege’s auxiliary escape method (his castle being a sentient homie) was shoddy writing on Oda’s behalf. After further analysis, I discerned that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this reveal. It is perfectly characteristic of Bege to have a backup plan that he wouldn’t share with the Straw Hats unless absolutely necessary. Since he’s someone who is known for his betrayals and mafia-esque tendencies, I really don’t think the writing is contrived here. Let’s hope it stays that way as the alliance continues their escape next chapter.

One Piece: Chapter 865- Review

I want to start off by immediately addressing the elephant in the room. I apologize for the unannounced hiatus. I did not intend to cease posting for nearly a month. In the weeks since I arrived back in South Florida for the summer, I have been focusing my time and creative energy on both my fiction writing and professional endeavors. In this unexpectedly busy haze, I simply lost track of my gonzo journalism efforts. I promise I will go back to posting more frequently, at least once a week excluding One Piece chapter reviews.

With that out of the way, let’s jump right into this week’s chapter. Chapter 865 was an overall mixed bag for me. While there were some elements I absolutely loved, I do have some concerns that I plan on discussing in-depth. The main takeaway from the chapter was the cliffhanger, the implications of which I will inevitably address before this review is through.

The cover pages have always been one of my favorite components of the One Piece manga. I love how cleverly Oda uses a standard element of the medium that so many mangaka simply take for granted. He recently transitioned from fan requests back to traditional side-story arcs. This time around we are following the remaining captains of the Straw Hat Grand Fleet, and what each of their respective crews are up to. I find the potential in this cover story to be immense. We are dealing with intriguing characters that didn’t get the time they deserved in the immensely complex Dressrosa arc. Although I never really cared for Cavendish, the current subject, I look forward to the possibilities of cover pages to come. P.S- I don’t expect to see Bartolomeo in this cover story arc, due to his involvement back in Zou.

On to what you are all really here for, the main story. This chapter was heavily action based, which typically is not a problem. However, I was somewhat disappointed in the cluttered and disorienting action that Oda conveyed in this chapter. The smoothness and weighty impact that typically defines One Piece action was traded for a choppy, non-impactful, and hard to follow mess. I found myself constantly scrolling back up to make sure I understood what had just transpired. Panels didn’t flow into each other well, making the transition of focus between characters downright confusing. Although there isn’t any way to prove this hypothesis, I have a theory that Oda was heavily rushed on this chapter; it just doesn’t seem like him.

A problem I had with the previous chapter has become increasingly more evident this week. Judge is acting excruciatingly out of character. For a supposed genius scientist and power-hungry dictator, he is behaving awfully cowardly and unintelligently. I’m having a hard time telling if this is supposed to be comedic, or if I’m just dealing with bad writing. Even if he is being played for laughs, the fact that I am not sure whether this is the case shows poor character writing regardless. Obviously I’m nitpicking here; Oda is one of the greatest writers of all time. It’s just this particular instance that perplexes and disappoints me.

One element of recent plot progression that actually surprises me is how smoothly the Straw Hat/Fire Tank alliance plan is running. Obviously there have been some serious bumps along the way, but for a Yonko assassination plot I thought was for sure dead on arrival, I am pleasantly surprised. Obviously there is still room for the plan to fall apart (throwback to the Battle of Marineford), but, for the sake of the characters, I really hope it doesn’t. If we do end up taking the Marineford route, Jinbe is screwed.

I promised I’d circle back to the cliffhanger, and here we are. The final three panels of this chapter comprised one of the most simultaneously satisfying and frustrating cliffhangers in recent memory. We are finally getting a Big Mom/Mother Caramel flashback sub-arc, and much sooner than I expected! I was also correct about Big Mom’s ties to Elbaf; it seems this is where she and Mother Caramel are from. We are going back to the past people, 63 years ago in Elbaf to be exact. As someone whose favorite element of One Piece is the flashback sub-arcs, I got literal chills absorbing these finishing panels. The reason I bring the word frustration into play is because of how pissed off I am that I have to wait almost a week for the next chapter; I WANT IT NOW!

As I said earlier, this chapter definitely gave me mixed feelings. Despite choppy and confusing action coupled with strange characterization choices, the cliffhanger nearly redeemed my reading experience. I can’t wait to see what Oda has in store for us over the next few weeks, and the opportunity to share my thoughts with you all only amplifies my excitement.

Rogue One- A Gonzo Review

NOTE: This review will contain spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read it.

It was interesting to see a Star Wars movie at a time other than midnight. I have begun to associate the franchise with late night coffee at the Grind and schmoozing with fans in $7,000 cosplays. However, with a ticket price of five dollars and some change at the small local theater for the first showing of the day, I couldn’t argue with the appeal of going at 10 a.m. On a Friday, non-holiday, morning, I didn’t expect to see so many middle aged moviegoers crowding the theater. I severely underestimated the power of Star Wars, and its ability to drag people of all ages out of their mundane lives into a galaxy far, far away. Regardless, it was really nice to spend another two hours in that galaxy, especially only a year after the release of the newest main saga film.

Rogue One was the first in what Disney is calling the “A Star Wars Story” brand name. In between main saga episodes, fans will be treated to different stories from throughout the Star Wars timeline. This is probably the best approach Disney could have taken to cash in on their ripe franchise annually. It gives them time to work on the main trilogies, while splintering off different teams to produce these universe-building anthology films.

My expectation for the anthology movies (and specifically for Rogue One) was very simple. As long as it’s good, i’m good. In other words, as long as the film is entertaining and doesn’t disrespect the main saga, it’s fine in my book. It doesn’t need to be the next Return of the Jedi, it just needs to give me a good time. Rogue One did exactly that. It wasn’t amazing, but it was by no means bad.

I think the main issue I have with Rogue One is that the writers forgot one of the main factors that makes most of the Star Wars movies such masterpieces; great characters. Don’t get me wrong, the characters in Rogue One were good enough, but that’s just it; they were only good enough. To quote Jesse Wood, they were a “flock of stock template characters.” Jyn Erso- generic punk/badass chick protagonist. K-2SO- generic comedic relief. Baze Malbus- generic seemingly annoyed, but actually cares, friend character. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Most of the characters in this movie weren’t particularly interesting, which is a stark departure from the franchise’s predecessors. Darth Vader, Han Solo, and now even Rey: some of the greatest fictional characters of all time. I can’t see myself thinking about any of the new characters in this movie unless i’m actually watching it.

However, it’s unfair to not give credit where credit is due. Although not too well written, there were some characters that I genuinely did like. I thought the primary antagonist, Orson Krennic, while somewhat generic, was very realistic. This is the kind of person that would exist and behave this way in a political environment like the Galactic Empire. He
was also very sympathetic; all the best villains are. Despite rooting against him, I understood his position, and genuinely felt bad for him. This was only aided by an occasionally over the top, but mostly strong performance by Ben Mendelsohn.

Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe was a conflicting character for me. He was by far the most interesting, but I feel as if he was wasted in Rogue One. A force sensitive that was neither Jedi nor Sith: what potential. I loved how he treated the force more like a religion, bringing the mysticality back to it. However, with a limited runtime, and many other characters to juggle, he was only able to have a few of the developmental moments he deserved. He could carry his own film to be honest; who wouldn’t want to see a movie about a man who either goes blind or was born without sight, and turns to the force for answers? Disney, can you please make Chirrut Imwe: A Star Wars Story? That honestly probably would have been a better movie.

Anyway, let’s get back on track here with Saw Gerrera. He was an intriguing character that was handled very well. I have come to understand that he was a somewhat important character in the Clone Wars TV series. I’m happy that Rogue One didn’t just expect you to know who he was. They explained just enough for you to understand his character, but left enough open to make you want to go back and watch his Clone Wars episodes. Although he didn’t have as much screen time as I would have liked, his presenc in the movie was still very strong. He added a lot of depth to the conflict dynamic of the rebellion and the empire, showing that the mainstay Rebel Alliance wasn’t the only revolutionary group in the galaxy.

Saw wasn’t the only veteran character to make his way into the movie. Darth Vader, while used very minimally, was handled perfectly. He obviously needed to be there, it wouldn’t have made sense if he wasn’t. However, the writers used him just the right amount. Both of his scenes were fantastic, especially the concluding scene of the movie. The reprise of James Earl Jones, and the absence of Hayden Christensen was pleasantly surprising.

On the subject of veteran characters comes what probably will be the most talked about component of Rogue One; Governor Tarkin. In Episode IV, Tarkin was portrayed by legendary actor Peter Cushing, who sadly passed away 22 years ago. Yet, Tarkin returns in Rogue One, played by “Peter Cushing.” Over the past decade, Disney has been working on a piece of technology that film buffs should have payed more attention to. In 2010’s Tron Legacy, Jeff Bridges fought against a younger version of himself. In Captain America: Civil War earlier this year, a middle-aged Tony Stark presented a younger holographic version of himself to an impressed audience. You may notice that both of these films involved the computer generated use of a younger version of an actor who was in the movie. However, these were simply tests of the technology: tests that succeeded. In Rogue One, this technology was implemented at its fullest potential, allowing for the deceased Peter Cushing to reprise his role, regardless of the physical presence of a fairly unknown actor. I find this very troubling. I would imagine that the Cushing family allowed this, and expressed that this is what Peter would have wanted (although there is really no way to be sure). However, this opens up a whole new can of worms with regards to film ethics. Can filmmakers just bring back famous actors from the dead for their movies? Do studios now have to copyright actors? What is perhaps most troubling about this idea is that all three films that this technology was implemented in were products of none other than Disney. Disney seems to be the only company with this technology, or at least the only one who has actually used it. Although I can see other studios studying Rogue One to figure out this technology for themselves, the fact still remains that Disney has an apparent monopoly on an extremely unethical piece of filmmaking technology. Again, this is all my personal opinion. Most of the audience may not have a problem with this technology. However, it disturbs me a bit, and I feel like that definitely impacted my opinion of the movie (how major or minor this impact I can’t say). To clarify even further, I had no problem with the use of A New Hope era Leia in the final scene. Carrie Fisher is alive and well; she clearly gave full permission for this. It’s only when an actor is six feet under, and has no way of expressing their desires, that I see an issue.

Now i’ve been hinting at my love of the final scene in this movie throughout this whole piece. The ending of this movie is one of the greatest scenes in the history of cinema. The movie concludes with a seamless transition from Rogue One into the opening scene of A New Hope. The slow build to this reveal was perfect; once I realized what was happening, I got literal chills. This scene also serves as the first time outside of expanded universe material that we see Darth Vader mowing down enemies in his signature suit. We obviously got to see his involvement in Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith, but he was still wearing his Jedi cloak when he took part in those actions. As a huge Darth Vader fan, and a lifelong Star Wars fan for that matter, this scene was a reward for my dedication to the franchise. It felt almost like a gift from Disney to me directly, thanking me for my die-hard love of the saga.

Despite what you may think, this final scene was not my favorite part of the movie. There are two more components that, to me, are even stronger. The first is a resolvement of a plot hole that has existed in the franchise since its 1977 debut. How did the empire fail to realise that there was such a huge flaw in their superweapon (the thermal exhaust port)? Rogue One follows the story of Jyn Erso, daughter of Galen Erso, the head architect behind the Death Star. Still sympathetic to the rebels, Galen purposely implemented this tiny flaw into the design of the weapon, hoping that the Rebel Alliance would one day use this knowledge to destroy it once and for all. This was a genius way to make sense of such a large plot hole, and this was the perfect movie tackle that task in.

Now for what I believe is the strongest part of the film. All of the main heroes die in the end. Not one of the protagonists we have followed makes it out ok. They truly sacrificed themselves for the rebellion. It is constantly restated throughout Episode IV that many rebels died to get the Death Star plans to the Alliance. As this was a movie about those very rebels, I’m so happy they didn’t just take the easy way out, and actually had the guts to follow through.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had its problems, but I definitely still enjoyed watching it. For me, it sits comfortably below the original trilogy, the Force Awakens, and Revenge of the Sith, but it still soars eons above Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Rogue One wasn’t amazing, but like I said, it didn’t have to be. It wasn’t disrespectful to the main saga, and that’s really all that matters for a Star Wars anthology movie.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens- An Analytical Essay

Well, here we are with what is probably the most inevitable review I have ever written. Believe it or not, I have actually been putting this review off. Due to the sheer amount of topics to discuss regarding this film, I thought maybe a free-form analysis similar to my RWBY reviews would be the better format. I was insecure in a sense, worried that I would miss something, or not get my points across correctly. However, when it comes down to my true nature as a creative, I am a writer. I have always been a writer, and I always will be a writer. Therefore, I thought it would be a betrayal to talk about the newest installment in my favorite movie franchise in any other format but a written piece. However, this will not simply be a straight-forward technical film review. It will lean more towards an analytical essay, discussing broader concepts more than technicalities. WARNING: this discussion will inevitably have some spoilers. However, if you haven’t already seen the film, you probably don’t plan on doing so. This will probably be the longest piece I have ever written for this blog, so I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I will writing it.

I feel as if a basic understanding of my personal connection to the Star Wars universe is essential context for this essay. Therefore, I will try to briefly explain it. I was first introduced to the Star Wars franchise when I was five years old. My dad sat me down, and showed me A New Hope. Little did my naive mind know that this movie would shape the course of my life. Despite my inability to pronounce character names, I became obsessed with Star Wars. I would eagerly consume any piece of Star Wars media I could find at my local library. Quickly seeing all five films that were out at the time, I began to delve into expanded universe material via books, video games, and comics. The first Star Wars film I was able to see in theaters was Revenge of the Sith. My dad and I saw it opening night, and, despite its flaws, I loved it. Star Wars was the franchise that got me into geek culture and media consumption in general. Most importantly, Star Wars was one of the driving forces made me want to become a fiction writer. I was entranced by the universe that Lucas had constructed, as well as the unforgettable characters he developed. I knew I wanted to be able to have that same power. With countless short stories and two novels complete, there are clear Lucas influences in most of my work. Star Wars has become part of my identity, and will be part of my identity for the rest of my life.

When I saw the first trailer for The Force Awakens back in November of 2014, I got chills. The trailer was expertly crafted, revealing almost nothing about the plot of the movie, while still capturing the spirit of the original trilogy that the prequels failed to uphold.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens became my most anticipated movie of all time.

Finally, over a year later, the day finally arrived. My friends and I had a marathon of almost the entire Star Wars saga in anticipation of the movie. Starting at 11 A.M, and wrapping up around 9 P.M, here is the order we watched the films in:

. Episode IV: A New Hope

. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

. The Clone Wars (2003 Miniseries)

. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

We chose to watch Return of the Jedi last on some-part in order for the prequel media to have more emotional wait. However, the true intention of this decision was so that the story would easily flow into the night’s main feature. It was during the credits of Return of the Jedi that it hit me, we were seeing a new Star Wars movie.

It was 11:59 P.M. Surrounded by a packed theater of people just like us, I didn’t realize I was living a moment that I would remember for the rest of my life. After an agonizing 20 minutes of previews, the familiar neon blue text appeared: A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away. As the blast of the familiar fanfare rattled my eardrums, a few tears began to drip from my eyes. I was watching a new Star Wars movie.

In order to avoid critical bias, I thought I would discuss my problems with the film before delving into praise. The use of Starkiller Base as a plot element was pointless, extremely contrived, and terribly repetitive. In the original Star Wars, the rebels had to destroy the Death Star. In Return of the Jedi, the rebels had to destroy the second Death Star. In The Force Awakens, the “resistance” had to destroy the “Starkiller Base”. Starkiller Base was literally a larger Death Star. It was something for the resistance to blow up while the real plot was going on.

Secondly, while I admired the majority use of practical effects for characters, I detested the minimal CG that they did use. Maz Kanata and Supreme Leader Snoke, while extremely intriguing and captivating characters, could have both easily been practically made. Instead, they used inexcusably poor CG to portray them. They took two characters that could have been some of the most complex in the Star Wars universe, and made them nearly unbearable to watch. I really hope some Maz Kanata expanded literature is released, for I would love to learn more about her without having to look at her. For Snoke’s case, I understand that he was a hologram in this film. However, that is no excuse to craft him using nauseatingly low quality CG. The original trilogy, which was produced in the 70s and 80s, used holograms of Emperor Palpatine that were far superior to what we got in this film. I can’t wait to see Snoke in person in either the next film, or Episode 9, so I could see what he actually looks like, not gargled down in CG slop.

Finally, the political situation of the galaxy could have been better explained. So there is a New Republic ruling, but there’s still remnants of the Empire called the First Order? The rebels won, but there are still rebels called the resistance? I have come to understand the political state of the Star Wars universe in a manner that explains this, but that was after research and analysis that I conducted in my own time. Here is what I believe is going on:

After the Battle of Endor, in which Darth Vader returned to the light side of the force, and defeated Emperor Palpatine, the Empire was greatly weakened. A few battles between the rebellion and the Empire ensued following the events of Endor, but the rebellion crushed the now collapsing Empire nearly every time. After the Battle of Jakku, which we see the ruins of in The Force Awakens, the Empire was simply too weak to function, and collapsed. In order to fill the power void left by the collapse of the Empire, Leia, with the help of other rebellion leaders, constructed the New Republic. However, a group of imperial sympathizers (similar to loyalists in the American Revolution) traveled to the outer rim of the galaxy, where they began forming a revolutionary group called the First Order. The goal of the First Order is to restore the power of the Empire, and return the galaxy to the way it was under Palpatine’s rule. In order to gain a loyal military force without the use of cloning, the First Order kidnaped newborn children from outer rim planets, conditioning them to become a new generation of Storm Troopers. During the construction of the First Order, they discovered a group known as the Knights of Ren. The Knights of Ren were a bastardization of the Sith Order, being trained by Supreme Leader Snoke, who is supposedly an ancient sith lord of some kind. Knowing that the Empire was a construct of the Sith Order, the First Order allied with the Knights of Ren. This would make Supreme Leader Snoke the new emperor if the First Order was to complete its mission. Seeing the threat that the first order was, Leia formed a militia of sorts called the resistance. In a similar method as to how ISIS operates in the Middle East, the resistance works as a state sponsored “terrorist” group. While the resistance isn’t affiliated with the New Republic on a technical level, it is being funded by them in an underground manner. There, I hope I explained the political situation of the galaxy far far away post Return of the Jedi. I shouldn’t have had to do this myself, the film should have explained this to us.

Now that I have discussed my problems with this movie, as well as constructed a political narrative for the post Return of Jedi era, I believe it is time to talk about The Force Awakens on a positive level. Although I am not sure enough to make a sound conclusion, as I have only seen the film twice, I think The Force Awakens might be my favorite Star Wars movie. Now here comes the hard part, explaining why. I thought I’d take this analysis piece by piece, as Star Wars is truly a puzzle of individual elements that work together to create a masterpiece of fiction.

The characters, in my opinion, are the strongest element of The Force Awakens. In a movie that has the return of Han Solo, Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker (though minimally for Luke), some of the most iconic fictional characters of all time, I found myself being drawn to the new characters over the comebacks. Any movie that can construct characters that successfully is already a masterpiece by some standards.

Poe Dameron, although somewhat of a minor character in this film (he will obviously be more important in the next two installments), was a fantastic character nonetheless. All of his dialogue was genuine, hilarious, and overall a joy to listen to. Despite only having about ten minutes of screen time total, I felt like we could be friends if he weren’t fictional.

Kylo Ren, was an outstanding villain by every sense of the word. Many people will simply take him at face value, casting him off as another emo Sasuke Uchiha like character (there, I made my obligatory Naruto reference). However, if you look past the exterior, and begin to truly think about his character, you will see how wrong this statement is. In my opinion, Kylo Ren is a much better villain than Darth Vader was at this point in their respective trilogies. In one movie, we understand Kylo Ren. We learn about his past, his deep internal struggle, and even his mental illness simply through facial expressions, behaviors, and minimal dialogue. What did we know about Darth Vader by the end of A New Hope? He was an asshole guy that killed Luke’s dad, and had some sort of past with Obi-Wan Kenobi. What do we know about Kylo Ren by the end of The Force Awakens? He is a deeply troubled young man who started off as a Jedi under the training of Luke Skywalker, and slowly was seduced by the dark side of the force. It was probably his deep-rooted mental illness, as well as Supreme Leader Snoke preying on this illness, that began this spiral into evil. Throughout the entire movie, it is clear that he is not confident in his decision to become a Sith, but completely torn. This is even evident after he committed his most sinister act, the murder of his father, Han Solo. Kylo Ren is a masterfully developed character that blows early Darth Vader out of the water. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying Kylo Ren is a better villain than Darth Vader. All I am saying is that this early on in the trilogy, he already has almost as much development as Anakin Skywalker got over the course of two full trilogies and two TV shows. Adam Driver’s performance is truly Oscar worthy, and one I will not soon be forgetting.

Finn was an extremely pleasant surprise. Don’t get me wrong, I at no point thought he wasn’t going to be a good character. In fact, I thought he was going to be our new awesome protagonist. However, what we got was an outstanding sidekick character with amazingly written lines, and somewhat rushed, yet satisfactory character development. Wait, did I just say the poster child for the entire Force Awakens media campaign was not the main character? That’s right; the true protagonist of The Force Awakens was none other than Rey.

From a single film, Rey has surpassed both Boba Fett and Galen Marek as my favorite Star Wars character. In fact, she has become one of my overall favorite fictional characters of all time. Daisy Ridley gives one of the best performances I have seen in my entire life. Rey is an enthralling character by every sense of the word. You are captivated by her narrative from the second her dirt crusted mining goggles appear on screen. She stole every scene she was in, and overall, stole the movie for me. She managed to dominate my train of thought for days after I walked out of the theater. I don’t think I have been so attached with and invested in a fictional character since I watched Gurren Lagann, my favorite fictional story of all time.

When people claim Rey to be a Mary Sue character, I get extremely angry. Have they seen any other Star Wars films? The force is a mystical presence that flows through every living thing in the entire universe. It controls fate, destiny, and provides those sensitive to it with special powers. Other than in the monstrosity that was The Phantom Menace, the force is left open to be exactly what it should be, mystical. No one truly knows how the force works. However, what we do know is that the force presents the galaxy with “chosen-ones”. We saw Anakin Skywalker, a young slave from the outskirts of the galaxy, become one of the most powerful force-sensitives in all of history. Anakin Skywalker was the chosen one, the one who would bring balance to the force. Rey is clearly a chosen one, being perhaps the most force-sensitive person we have seen in the films themselves (obviously the decanonized expanded universe has stronger force-sensitives). Rey figured out how to use the force all on her own, because of how sensitive she was to it. This is not a flaw found in bad writing. In fact, this is not a flaw at all. This is a decision made by a mystical presence beyond our understanding, one that can choose to make certain people this powerful. With the guidance of Luke Skywalker, as well as potential advice from the force ghosts of Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker, Rey has the potential to become not only the most powerful Jedi in history, but maybe even the most powerful force-sensitive. I have some theories as to why else she may be as powerful as she is, but those will come in a later post. After reading this paragraph again, do you really think she is a Mary Sue character?

This movie was, without a doubt, one of the most emotional film experiences I have ever had. I cried three times during my first viewing, which is amazing, as a film is lucky if it even gets me to shed a tear once.

The first tears fled my eyes as the opening crawl came on. Seeing the signature yellow exposition dump, accompanied by the iconic John Williams fanfare brought my right back to being a kid again. I was transported back in time to the white leather couch, my Dad and I sitting in front of the small CRT. I had the same awe and child-like wonder I had reading the text and hearing that music for the first time. Although these were only a couple of nostalgic drops, they were tears nonetheless.

The floodgates truly opened when Han Solo, one of the most iconic characters of my childhood, was murdered by his own son, Kylo Ren. This scene was one of the most emotional scenes in film history. Everything from the flawless acting, symbolic cinematography, and masterful score made this scene the technical best in the movie. This may even be the technical best scene in the entire Star Wars saga. I was engaged in gross sobbing at this point in the film, and I was not alone.

Finally, a few tears fled my eyes during the final scene of the film. Rey, after everything that has happened to her over the course of the movie, finally finds Luke Skywalker. She reaches out and offers him his lightsaber, with a look in her eyes that screams a blend of fear, insecurity, and awe all in one. Luke then lowers his cloak, revealing a much older, and lived character than the protagonist of Return of the Jedi. The look in his eyes screams intense melancholy, as he probably has flashbacks from A New Hope, all the way through Kylo Ren’s betrayal. He looked into Rey’s eyes, and most likely saw himself. He saw the one who could bring balance to the force, and the one who could allow him to redeem the mistakes he made in the past. As they stare into each other’s eyes, the Binary Sunset theme blares over the shot, truly identifying this moment as one of the most important moments in all of Star Wars history. Its importance did not diminish its emotional power, leaving me with one of the most impactful cliffhangers in fiction history.

With the emotional and nostalgic bias of the first viewing gone, I was worried I wouldn’t like the film as much when I went to see it for a second time. I thought that the flaws would become more prevalent, and potentially change my opinion of the movie. However, I was shocked with the experience I got. I appreciated The Force Awakens even more with the second viewing than the first. The flaws didn’t ruin my opinion of the movie. In fact, the opposite occurred. I realized that the positive elements of this film were so strong, that they overshadowed the flaws to the point of them not even mattering. This move was a 10/10 for me, and nothing was going to change that.

I feel as if some fans wanted to hate The Force Awakens. They pulled a reverse Phantom Menace, where, despite realizing the film was a masterpiece, convinced themselves, as well as others, that it was terrible. With headlines and video titles like The Force Awakens Worse than the Prequels, and The Force Awakens is the worst Star Wars film, I have to ask myself, did they watch the same movie that I did? The sad truth is that they did, and that their closed-off minds wouldn’t allow them to simply sit back, relax, and enjoy it. I feel sorry for those people, as they missed out on what could have been one of the best experiences of their lives.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a film that I feel will stick with me forever. It nestled its way into my list of those seven or eight films that have impacted me so profoundly, that they changed my life. Those are the movies that I relate to on such a personal level, that I constantly think about them. Despite its flaws, The Force Awakens is a masterpiece of fiction that will go down in history as such.

It is clear that The Force Awakens is going to be one of the most analyzed and theorized fictional works of all time. However, rather than delving into my fan theories here, I plan on writing a separate essay devoted entirely to speculation for the rest of the trilogy. Therefore, I do not want to go into any more depth regarding Luke, Rey, or Snoke in any fashion.

RWBY Vol. 3: Episode 2- Review

This week’s episode of RWBY, though not as intense as the premiere, was still fantastic. I have a feeling the sentence prior will be used to describe almost every episode this season (at least that’s what I can hope for). With only two major plot developments, which I will discuss towards the end of this review, this episode was really more focused on characterization. 

Returning to the animation upgrade I discussed in my review of the volume premiere, there was something I failed to mention. This episode really brought prominence to it, so I thought i’d discuss it here. With the improvement in animation comes major strides in battle animation in particular. The tournament matches of this episode were some of the most enticing, fluid, and all around fun battles i’ve ever seen in animation period. I give the animators props for making battles, which can sometimes be tedious and boring, to be some of the most interesting parts of the episode. However, I don’t think this feat is accomplished by the animators alone.

I believe that the writers are using these tournament battles as a vehicle for characterization. Although we are already familiar with team JNPR, we get to see their battle dynamic in a new light through in-battle dialogue and collaborative choreography. We are also introduced to the final two members of team SSSN. Both Scarlet David and Sage Ayana are very well designed characters, and we really get to know them through their actions in the tournament battle. This instance in particular seems to prove my point. I look forward to seeing what new characters we will meet this way, as well as how these battles will better characterize show veterans.

Finally, the point you have all been waiting for, Qrow. Firstly, from the two scenes showing him drinking at a bar, as well as the extremely clever animation technique used when he walks, it is revealed he is an alcoholic. My personal theory is that his alcoholism is due to the loss of two people he loved and cared about more than anyone else (excluding Taiyang obviously), Summer Rose and Raven Branwen. However, it was also revealed that he is not at Beacon to watch the tournament, but to either rendezvous or intercept with Winter Schnee, who was shown at the end of the episode to be arriving at Beacon.

Speaking of Winter, I was surprised at Weiss’ reaction to Winter’s arrival. I thought it was hinted at in the past that the two had a bad relationship. However, it is clear that they either love each other, or that Weiss idolizes Winter in an unhealthy way. The latter would make an interesting character development for Weiss, so i’m hoping for that. However, Winter’s arrival may have something to do with the dynamic between Weiss and her father. Maybe winter has come to Beacon to convince Weiss to reconcile with her father. However, what we do know from both the opening and Qrow’s dialogue, is that Qrow and Winter will be meeting up sometime very soon.

It’s episodes like these that exemplify why RWBY Volume 3 is the most excited I’ve been for a TV season in a while. Every episode leaves me on the edge of the seat, and has me counting down the days until the next one. I doubt there’s going to be a bad episode this season, so please don’t read these reviews if you don’t want to hear me gushing about how much I love this show.

Rick and Morty: S2 E10- Review

Season 2 of Rick and Morty has come and gone. While it definitely has had its ups and downs, theres no denying that this finale was not only the hands down best episode of the entire series, but one of the best season finales in television history. With major plot developments, character reunions, and the strongest emotional core of a Rick and Morty episode to date; theres no denying that this episode was a masterpiece on every level.

Due to the sheer amount of important content in the episode, this will be a spoiler filled review. Therefore, if you have not already seen this episode, I would highly recommend watching it before reading this review. However, make sure you have seen the rest of the series up until this point before watching, or else you will be very lost.

With the most important episode to the main narrative since season 1’s Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind, it is clear that this was a game changer for Rick and Morty. Rick, Morty, and the rest of the Smith family are invited to the wedding of Birdperson and Tammy on Planet Squanch. Rick, despising weddings due to his own failed marriage, does not want to attend. However, after Jerry is accidentally transported to said wedding, Rick must endure, and suffer through the event.

After intense hesitance, Rick finally decides to open up and enjoy himself after having a deep conversation with Morty. However, the second he does so, Tammy reveals that she was an undercover agent for the Galactic Federation the entire time, and assassinates Birdperson on the spot. The rest of the episode follows the Smith family, and their attempts to find a new home due to the newly forming Galactic Federation presence on Earth.

The episode concludes with what is hands down the strongest character development for Rick in the series to date. This also doubles as the most emotional scene in the show. Rick turns himself in to the Galactic Federation in order ensure the safety of his family. The episode ends with him being imprisoned for life, accompanied by the emotion triggering song Hurt, by Nine Inch Nails.

This episode not only developed Rick to an extent we have never seen before, it revealed a massive amount of previously unknown backstory. We now know that Rick, Birdperson, and Squanchy were part of some sort of failed rebellion against the Galactic Federation during their younger years. This explains why Rick was never there for Beth when she was growing up, and might explain why his wife left him. We also see Rick, an extremely self centered man, sacrifice himself for the safety of his family. Rick has truly changed as a character; this was a major turning point for Rick and Morty.

However, what could be either interpreted as hilarious nonsense, or the single most important scene of the episode, is the post-credits scene. Mr. Poopybutthole is sitting in an apartment of sorts, still healing from the gunshot wound inflicted on him earlier in the season. It is revealed that he is watching the episode we just finished on a TV. Once it ends, he turns to the camera, and explains how much he loved the episode we just watched, and how he is still healing from Beth’s attack. He then assaults a pizza delivery boy attempting to give him his dinner, due to the sheer amount of excitement he has for the episode. Left to twitch on the floor in a pile of pizza, he makes one of the best jokes in the series to date.

This scene could be scene as a random event used just for laughs, in typical Dan and Justin fashion. However, I think it has much larger implications for the series. I believe that Mr. Poopybutthole is some sort of overseeing figure, serving a similar role to the narrative as the Concierge in Bravest Warriors. This could be a major development for the overarching plot, and change the game that is Rick and Morty for good. Although this scene isn’t enough to make any grand conclusions, it is a major hint to the puzzle of deciphering this complex and dense narrative. Take this scene as you will, but I believe it will have major relevance to the end game of the series.

Evidently, this episode was a flawless masterpiece of a finale. I never expected an episode of this caliber, and almost never expect to see one again. It raised the bar for an already almost perfect series. I don’t think I can handle waiting a year and a half for new Rick and Morty content, but it is something I must do. This actually concludes my first completely reviewed TV season on this blog. I loved sharing my opinions of this show with you all, and I look forward to returning to the series in 2016.

RWBY Vol. 3: Episode 1- Review

After over a year long hiatus, RWBY is finally back, and better than ever. With what can be seen on a technical level to be one of the best premieres in online series history; it is clear that this volume s going to be the best yet. As it is nearly impossible to review this episode without giving away content, this will be a spoiler filled review. Therefore, if you have not yet seen the episode, be sure to watch it before reading this.

The episode begins with Ruby talking to her mother at her grave stone. In a way, I saw this scene as an indirect tribute to the passing of the creative mastermind behind the series, Monty Oum. However, we learn a lot about the personalities of both Summer Rose, and Taiyang Xiao Long; whom we get to see for the first time, as he is standing behind Ruby.

This shot in particular brings me to my first major point, background character design. Rather than using black figures, or stock models; the animators decided to use detailed stills. These stills have a differing style from the standard character models, making them extremely unique and detailed. The animators use this mechanic to their advantage throughout the episode, and I look forward to seeing how they handle this skillful technique in the future.

We then cut to the highly anticipated Vytal Tournament itself. Unfortunately, we are treated to an exposition dump with regards to the rules of the tournament. While somewhat jarring to the viewing experience, it wasn’t a large enough flaw to hinder my overall opinion of the episode. In this battle we see some of the best character facial reactions in animation to date, especially coming from Blake, who if you did not know, is my favorite character in the series.

This battle in particular showcases the massive upgrades that Rooster Teeth made to their animation engine. Everything is much more fluid, crisp, and bright; and is a true pleasure for the eye to look at. If you put this action scene side by side with an action scene from early volume 1, you could definitely see a major difference. However, a con of pioneering this animation engine is a slight bug that I noticed on multiple occasions throughout the episode. When characters are standing completely still, they tend to slightly vibrate. This causes a jarring effect that takes me out of the scene immediately. I am very forgiving of this flaw, however, as this is a new technology that they are pioneering with this episode. With time, this bug can easily be fixed.

During a conversation slightly further in the episode between team RWBY and Emerald, it is revealed that the fourth member of Cinder’s team is indeed Neo, wearing a very convincing disguise. It was great to see one of the most intriguing characters in the show for a third time, and this scene definitely got the biggest reaction out of me for this episode. I cant wait to see more Neo this season, and maybe even hear her voice.

Speaking of voices, lets talk about Ren’s new voice actor. If you did not know, Ren was voiced by the late Monty Oum. Therefore, he was re-casted to be played by Monty’s brother Neath. The new voice, although not identical to Monty’s, is perfect for the character. From Ren’s minimal dialogue in this episode, it is clear that Neath is an extremely talented voice actor. I cant wait to see how he handles this character, and I have complete faith that he will do it well.

Further developing Ren’s character was a piece of dialogue from Nora. In a fit of insecurity, Nora reveals that her and Ren do not have any parents. Knowing that the two have been inseparable since an early age, this brings a lot of speculation to their backstory. Were they living on the streets? Were they raised in an orphanage together? I like this ambiguity, but I would like to know a bit more. I have a feeling before the series ends, we will be able to put the puzzle pieces together and figure this mystery out.

Another interesting plot development was Weiss’ relationship with her father. When he tried to call her after her match in the tournament, she declined his call. It is clear that there is some sort of strain in their relationship, but it would be interesting to know what. We later see that he most likely cancelled her credit card, as she could not pay for her team’s ramen. As Weiss’ sister Winter will be coming into the story at some point this volume, I believe we will find out what is going on in this dynamic very soon.

The final plot development I will be discussing is a particular scene involving Mercury, Emerald, and Cinder. Cinder reveals that the three know the outcomes to each match of the tournament. Therefore, it can be inferred that the tournament is rigged in some way. Could it be that Cinder, or one of her unknown higher ups has skewed the tournament in order to fit into their plans? Only time will tell.

Evidently, this was one of the most dense RWBY episodes to date. With massive improvements in storytelling, writing, and animation; it is clear that this was the best premiere of the series yet. If this episode is any indicator, we are in for a great volume.