Finally the long awaited episode three of Podlabor is here. I apologize for the long wait. The good news is we are back and have a number of episodes planned so expect us to come out much more regularly in the future. This week Evan and I were joined by none other than Elliot Page from Luke and Elliots Bearfighting Extravaganza and Ani-Gamers. He also contributed heavily to Evan's magazine which you can check out right here. This week we talked about basically whatever was on our minds. It was recorded back in October so it isn't the most current but it is still a ton of fun. Listen for discussion on Denno Coil, Hajime no Ippo, and awesome Tokusatsu like Kamen Rider V3 and Iron King. Subscribe Here! and iTunes! [podcast]http://insert-disc.com/Podlabor/Podlabor3.mp3[/podcast]
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It has been a year since we opened Insert-Disc, so we decided it was time to upgrade our look. It's been a good year, filled with terrible movies (let us never speak of Spice World again) and Sonic the Hedgehog. We haven't really had a lot of content for a while, but I Don't Even is continuing on and AMIF still happens and Evan even made a magazine (You never did mail me the copy you said you would. : /). We hope to have more stuff going on in the next year, we have Charles Dunbar reviewing movies for us now and I hope to do some more writing myself when I have the time. Anyway, thanks for the great first year, it's been fun and will continue to be.
My love affair with Harry Potter began almost a decade ago. It began on a winter’s night when I finally decided to borrow a copy of “Philosopher’s Stone” from the local library to see what I had been missing. Up until then, I had looked at the phenomenon from an outsider’s view, and laughed merrily at how funny it was. I was in London on release day for “Goblet of Fire.” I saw lines outside of the local Waterstone’s Bookstore stretch for almost two miles into South Kensington. I witnessed small children clutching the book to their chest as I rode the Underground to the British Museum. And it all struck me as pleasant fantasy. I mean, a bespectacled boy using a wand to conjure everyday objects? No, give me Raistlin Majere or Elminster anyday. But that one winter’s night, I finally relented and started reading the book series. Okay, reading might not have been a good word to choose. I DEVOURED them. From chapter one of the first book, I was drawn in. The magical worlds of JK Rowling got me through a horrible stomach flu, a funeral, a period of intense self doubt and gave me a wonderful world to retreat into back in early 2001. And they kept giving. I woke up at 6 AM to buy “Order of the Phoenix” from Waldenbooks one summer’s day. I braved crowds to snag “Half Blood Prince” on release night. I even ran from the opera to Barnes and Noble to attend the “Deathly Hallows” release party, in a tuxedo no less! And that all seems like a memory now, three years later. So why this trip down memory lane? Because this weekend marked the beginning of the “end” of the Harry Potter express. Deathly Hallows Part I, the first in a two-movie arc chronicling the last book in the series, was released with much fanfare, wizardry and glowing reviews intact. The first film in the series to be shot in two parts, so the entire story could be preserved (rather than hacked apart like some of the more recent ones were) and related as true to form as possible. But is it worth the time? After all, I considered “Deathly Hallows” to be the weakest of the books. I also disliked the huge chunks of pages where nothing happens at all of merit. And while I applauded Ms Rowling for finally undertaking the “heroic quest” she had been hinting at for so long, I felt her execution was slipshod at best, at least until the very end of the novel. Well, this movie is easily the best of the bunch. There are plenty of reasons why this is so: perhaps David Yates knew he had more time to play with (around 5 hours, if both films are the same length), so he used less of his razor to adapt the story; maybe the book translates the best into film form (something I reserved only for Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban previously); or maybe he knew that this was the end of the series, and it needed the best treatment of them all. Whatever the case, Deathly Hallows I does have some of the best storytelling in the series...provided you have some previous knowledge of it (and movies, sadly, don’t really cut it). Let me get this part over with first: there is still a LOT that has been removed from this movie. For fans who have read the books, it’s obvious too. Remus Lupin loses ALL his scenes (as do pretty much every character who ISN’T Harry, Ron or Hermione) after the beginning, which is sad because his character had some of the best development in the book. Dudley Dursley misses out on his chance to show his heart (yet another scene from the book that was one of my favorites) in the face of adversity, Xenophilius Lovegood never gets his Snorkack Horn (insiders will know what I mean by this), and we never even hear Dean Thomas’ name (then again, we never actually do in the film series, which is yet another shame). We also never get to read any of Rita Skeeter’s words on Albus Dumbledore, which form such a huge part of the novel itself, which might actually be the greatest travesty of them all. Much of the motivations regarding, and indeed the story BEHIND, who Dumbledore was are all ignored, save for one or two snippets here and there within context. Now this is well balanced out in many cases: the scene in Godric’s Hollow is still creepier than ever; reading the Tale of the Three Brothers is accompanied by an animated sequence that might just be the best part of the entire movie; and we get to see the actors who grew up with the parts truly mature into full grown adults, both in and out of character. Plus the Ministry Invasion scene remains ever faithful to the story at hand. And as for those long chunks of nothing that made the first half of the novel drag? Blessedly, they are all gone. Daniel Radcliffe is stellar as ever, channeling the part of Harry better than I ever thought possible. Rupert Grint still is the quintessential Ron, and Emma Watson is, well...Emma Watson, and she handles the job of being Hermione admirably. The supporting cast is still very much at home in their roles, even if we never do see them. And Ralph Fiennes, as the deliciously evil Lord Voldemort, overacts his heart out, which is fitting given the role he plays. The movies always had wonderful casting, that fit into the book’s roles almost flawlessly, and this one is no different. The acting is still balanced out with cinematography that succeeds in transporting the audience into the scene, and allows them to almost see what the characters see. At the end of the day, Deathly Hallows I is a wonderful adaptation of the first part of the final Harry Potter novel, and of course, if you are a fan of the books, you will probably love this movie. If you have never read any of them, then you might get confused at times, especially since they never really explain what happens from story to story, and often leave a lot of questions for the “uninitiated,” but you will still enjoy yourself. I eagerly await the next chapter of this tale.
A while ago I had heard about the existence of Super Kawaii Magazine. Despite repulsion at the obnoxious title, I was admittedly curious about a cosplay magazine produced by the Western fandom. Not nearly as jaded as many other anime writers, I am interested in cosplay enough to forgive that grievance if I found the publication interesting. Unfortunately, the title of Super Kawaii Magazine ended up being one of the least offensive aspects. No, I was facepalming as soon as I opened to the editorial/letters page where readers had been asked to respond to “What does Cosplay mean to you?”. I don't mean to disrespect the merits of the hobby -being actively involved myself-, but the overenthusiastic glamorization of dressing as cartoon characters really rubs me the wrong way. The next pages featured a two page spread on the cover girl, Sheila, and I still do not know who she is cosplaying as. I am guessing that it is a character from Loveless since she mentions it when asked what her favourite cosplay is, but it never specifically makes it specifically clear. Other questions include the obligatory “what does cosplay mean to you?” and “What is your favourite Pocky flavour?”. Now I could go on ALL DAY about how unreasonably worshiped Pocky is with the con-attending wapanese, and how no would even care if it weren't considered some iconic symbol of Japandesubanzai. What I really want to focus on, though, is how pointlessly fluffy this six-question interview with one-sentence answers is. It is nice that it lists her myspace if I were curious to see more of her work (stalkstalkstalk), but the entire interview was as interesting as watching cows chewing grass. The next section, Score!, features products supposedly of interest to the magazine's audience with interviews from the creators. While the interviews are rather meaty and the products fit the demographic, the features really amount to nothing more than soapboxes for the creators to advertise their products. I would much rather a review format where the writers tell us if it is good, and not the creators. Next up we have interviews (yes again) with cosplayers Lillyxandra and Pikminlink. The questions are about the same as Sheila's from before- including the Pocky question. The answers, at least, are more thought out than the single-line replies from before. What really catches the reader's attention are the very high quality cosplay photos on the next few pages. Both of these ladies are great at what they do, and had competent photographers to capture the two in appropriate settings. Kyle Herbert and Eric Vale, both voice actors for Dragon Ball Z, were then interviewed about voice acting and cosplay. Neither are cosplayers, but the interviewer managed to shoehorn some relevant questions since it IS a cosplay magazine. Vale and Herbert were both reasonably interesting, despite the completely stock questions asked. The coolest part of the magazine had a bunch of great photos of elaborate bento box meals. Delicious resolution of foods shaped into stuff from Totoro, Moyoshimon, Ponyo, Cooking Mama, and others. Once again it was up to me to figure out who these creations were based off of. The bento designs were by Anna the Red who was, of course, interviewed about her creations. She gets cool points for mentioning that she would like to cosplay as Gold Lightan. Finally, the real bulk of the magazine reveals itself: High resolution photographs of Western cosplayers. The next thirty or so pages are photos taken by Droo Fatagrafa. Certainly these are detailed shots of mostly above average cosplayers, but little of it really blew me away. I believe this is partially due to the unimpressive backgrounds. Cosplay photography thrives is atmospheric settings that lend themselves to the characters portrayed. Almost all of this set was taken is a pure white studio; fine for some types of portraiture, but too bland for the subject matter. Yes, Droo, you have a nice camera and light setup, but I could find more intriguing through a quick Deviantart search. I don't mean to bash the skills of the photographer as these are certainly detailed, crisp images, but at the $14.99 price I should come away very impressed. Again, none of these cosplayers have the name of the character attached, so the curious are left wondering who that is; it seems like an obvious thing to mention in a cosplay magazine. After an insert of a Stormhawks comic (that equals to nothing else than an advertisement) and a few small articles (Art trade cards, photoshop eye-colour change tutorial, and a few obvious cosplay do-and-don'ts), there are convention photos. This time, the pictures are simple hallways shots with congoers and other distracting elements in the background. Candid, yes, but dime a dozen through a million other sources. The only really impressive photography were the few photos with the Pikminlink and Lillyxandra features. I expected much better from a magazine built around cosplay pictures. I have a very high tolerance for cutesiness, but the magazine's fluffy, pointless writing was more than I could stomach. Instead of opinions and information from the magazine writers, there are just a ton of interviews where the person gets a chance for attention or hawking their wares. Where there should be amazing cosplay photos in suitable environments, there are boring studio-shot portraits. I had low expectations, but was expecting something a little more substantial from Super Kawaii Magazine. Perhaps it was silly of me to bother checking this out, but I have always been supportive of the Western fandom; I firmly believe that there is the potential for a very cool cosplay-themed magazine to exist. [I JUST NOW NOTICED THAT THERE ARE TWO POCKY STICKS RANDOMLY ON THE FRONT COVER]
Kyle, John, and guest star Lunar sat down while playing Fallout: New Vegas and talked about it, the terrible plot of Other M, the terrible plot of Final Fantasy XIII, and the even terribler plot of Trauma Team. It's good fun. Also tune in for Lunar's wonderful singing! [podcast]http://insert-disc.com/AMIF/AMIF212.mp3[/podcast]
After reading Evan Minto's impression of series, I got to thinking about my own opinion on the show. It is not a show that I am completely enamored with, but I did find it enjoyable overall. If I were asked to sum up Magical Meow Meow Taruto in two words, “amazingly dumb” would come to mind. Despite that, I still have had some fun with the show. Magical Meow Meow Taruto sets itself apart from other similar shows with one really odd gimmick. In the show, all cats and the viewer see the cats as anthropomorphic moe cat-people. However the humans in the series see them as literal cats and treat them as such. In practice, it makes for some really awkward scenes. Sure, things start out innocently enough, with Taruto being curled up in her owner's lap and being petted only seem -a little- odd; however, when the crazy cat collecting young lady shows up surrounded by a harem of bishoujo and bishounen cat characters it starts feeling a bit weird. This gag is actually quite effective and one of the more amusing aspects of the series. Interestingly, the cast is made up of more than just lolicatgirls with there being multiple old man catguys. This includes a very old guy who thinks of himself as some kind of ninja wizard, despite being completely inept. While the show does have the potential for lolicon appeal, I never found it to be particularly pandering. In fact, most moe fans who I have discussed the show with couldn't really get into it. I would actually argue that it functions much better as a children's show. The characters can be cute, but seem to more closely parallel the characters found in kids shows. The plot and settings seem to support this, as they are extremely juvenile and remind me of typical children's programming. Sure, there are scenes that could interpreted awkwardly as mentioned in the paragraph above, but there is never anything truly objectionable. I have shown the first couple DVDs to my nephew when he was about 6, and he enjoyed it. About two-thirds of the series is spent on typical cutesy slice-of-life. Episodes range from Taruto going on silly adventures and trying to do magic to Taruto running around escaping from the aforementioned crazy cat collector. It is a fun, relaxing show that doesn't try to rise above expectations. The humour is juvenile, the scenarios are dumb, and the character depth is practically non-existent. This does not stop it from being enjoyable in its own way. In fact, I would say that the amount of “facepalm” moments is directly proportional to the charm of the show. I found the bright, pastely atmosphere, cute characters, and childish fun to not be a bad way to spend the under thirty minute episode runtime. Magical Meow Meow Taruto managed to excel perfectly at being an average moe show, but with a really odd edge to it. It is, as I told Minto on Twitter, an amazingly dumb show, but also an amusingly dumb show. Then there is the last third of the show; I was originally intrigued by the show after having it been described to me by multiple people as “starting off slice-of-life but turning into a great fantasy adventure!”. Around the show's midpoint, I assumed that it would soon began to segway into that direction, but they really saved this “epic adventure” until the final episodes. Having finally seen that portion, I can only hope that the fans of Taruto were trolling me. If I thought the show was kiddish before, then the sudden switching of gears over to magical battles and excitement was dumber than I could imagine. It was far from what I was let on to believe, and the change only hurt the series. I was looking forward to this silly moe series taking a dark turn, but I could get much more excitement from an episode of Duck Tales. I think I'll go watch Duck Tales. Yes, I am purposely choosing the worst images possible to represent this show.