Disney Animated Canon: ‘The Rescuers Down Under’

Disney Animated Canon: ‘The Rescuers Down Under’

The Rescuers Down Under is the oft forgotten film of the historical Disney Renaissance era. A sequel to 1977’s The Rescuers, the film was released to theaters in 1990, and followed 1989’s The Little Mermaid as the second film in the Disney Renaissance, and is the 29th film produced by Walt Disney Animation overall.

The Rescuers Down Under is one of the few Disney theatrical sequels. While many famous Disney films have received sequels and spin-offs on television and home media, the majority of these were produced by Disney’s smaller production houses like DisneyToon Studios.

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Before Pixar became the animation juggernaut that they are today, they actually had a huge role to play in the production of The Rescuers Down Under. Most of the film’s post processing was done using Pixar’s Computer Animation Production System, or CAPS.

This makes The Rescuers Down Under the first film, animated or otherwise, to be pieced together primarily in a digital space. Pixar’s CAPS technology would also be used in 1991’s Beauty and the Beast for the ballroom dancing scene.

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The original The Rescuers film was a sweet, heartwarming adventure about two heroic mice and a kidnapped orphan girl. In contrast, the film’s sequel is full blown action-adventure/comedy, and is devoid of even a single musical number.

The Rescuers Down Under may be tonally different than its predecessor, but the narrative actually follows many of the same beats. Bernard and Miss Bianca, two of the most esteemed members of the Rescue Aid Society, are tasked with rescuing a child who has been kidnapped by a greedy adult.

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The original film’s villain was Miss Medusa, and she took sweet little Penny to a dark and swampy bayou to look for a fabled pirate treasure, the Devil’s Eye. This time around, the villain and message are much more politically driven, and they display themes not shown by Disney since Bambi back in the company’s Golden Age.

Percival C. McLeach is our antagonist for The Rescuers Down Under, and his favorite hobby is hunting down rare animals for financial gain, and just to have a good old time. Much like Medusa before him, he has a scaly pet with a knack for catching little kids.

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Our kid character for the film is a plucky and adventurous boy named Cody, and he spends his days making friends with the local wildlife of Australia. On one particular day, Cody discovers a large golden eagle named Marahute, who is ensnared in a poacher’s trap.

Cody doesn’t hesitate to free Marahute from her bindings, and the present he receives from her puts him on McLeach’s radar. The young boy is promptly kidnapped, and McLeach’s goal is to coerce him to reveal Marahute’s whereabouts. Naturally, Bernard and Miss Bianca don’t waste very much time before they hop on the first albatross flight to the land down under.

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For The Rescuers Down Under, the humble and helpful Bernard has one more thing on his mind besides rescuing Cody, and that’s popping the question to Miss Bianca. But everytime he attempts to do so, at least a few inconvenient things get in his way, and one of those things is newcomer Jake, a cool and confident kangaroo mouse.

Although the story hits a lot of the same notes as The Rescuers before it, the comedy and characters do a great job of filling in what may otherwise be a by the numbers plot. Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor reprise their roles as Bernard and Miss Bianca respectively, and both actors do a phenomenal job.

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The duo’s albatross friend, Orville, is unfortunately absent from this adventure. Jim Jordan, his voice actor, passed away before the film’s production. So instead of finding a new person to replace him, Disney instead opted to retire his character in the film’s story, and introduce his brother, Wilbur (a pretty deliberate reference to the famous flying Wright Brothers).

McLeach isn’t one of the strongest or most memorable villains that Disney has ever written, but he’s by no means bad. George C. Scott does a great job of making the character sound like he loves every minute of his job (bonus points for the southern drawl), and he perfectly fulfills his role in the story.

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While I personally found Penny to be a more enjoyable character than Cody, he actually has a more prominent role in his film’s story. Penny could’ve been any other small child to accomplish Medusa’s task, but Cody actually has an established connection to the goal that his villain is seeking.

The creation of Cody’s character was actually the source of creative differences between the film’s storyboard artist, Joe Ranft, and other members of the team. Ranft wanted Cody to be a native, Aboriginal Australian, as opposed to the blonde haired white kid that he ended up as in the film’s final version.

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One major thing that sets this film apart from its predecessor is the animation. Compared to the 1977 film’s simple, but nice animation, The Rescuers Down Under is much grander in scale. The beginning of the film features a totally enthralling flight sequence with Cody and Marahute, and seeing the pair soar above the clouds and skate over the water was truly incredible.

Marahute was one of the trickier parts of the film’s animation process. In addition to being larger than life, the bird has more than 200 unique feathers, and this staggering amount of detail is the reason that she only appears for about seven minutes of the film.

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As is customary for Disney, the company put quite a bit of work into presenting an authentic version of Australian landscapes and wildlife. In addition to studying the animals of the San Diego Zoo for reference, the animation team also went on a research trip to Australia to get a better grasp environment. Fun fact, the animation team also enlisted the help of Disney MGM Studios in order to finish the film.

The Rescuers Down Under has quite a bit going for it besides being apart of one of Disney’s most successful eras. Having said that, why is the film not as fondly remembered as its contemporaries?

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Well for starters, the film wasn’t nearly as financially successful as any of the other Disney Renaissance films, and didn’t have any songs for audiences to latch onto. It was also sandwiched between The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, two of the era’s most beloved films.

In spite of all this, The Rescuers Down Under is still a great adventure film. I think I prefer the story of the original film just a tiny bit more, but I had so much fun exploring the outback with Bernard and Miss Bianca, and it was great getting to spend more time with such lovable characters.

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Film Review: ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

Film Review: ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

The golden haired, would be king of Asgard returns to the silver screen for another adventure in Thor: Ragnarok, one that is decidedly more comedic than his previous solo outings.

This time around, Thor is on a quest to save his kingdom from the coming threat of Ragnarok, an event that spells certain doom for Asgard. Thor begins the film doing battle against the fiery demon Surtur, and returns home thinking that his victory has saved his land from destruction.

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Upon his arrival, Thor discovers that Loki has banished Odin to Earth, and has taken his place as king of Asgard. As such, the brothers take a trip to the little blue planet, only to learn some startling revelations from their father, the biggest of which is the fact that his death will usher in the revival of his first born, Hela, the goddess of death. 

After a sound defeat at the hands of his older sister, Thor becomes a prisoner on a distant planet known as Sakaar. The story that follows is one of Thor attempting to escape the garbage filled planet, and save his people from an almost assured demise.

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When it comes to tone and comedy, Ragnarok has taken more than a few cues from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy films. The Asgardian spits out so many jokes and wisecracks that I almost wouldn’t be surprised if most of his lines were ones that didn’t make the cut for Star Lord.

This gives the character so much more personality in comparison to the previous films, and it helps that Ragnarok gives him such a great cast to play off of. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is just as great as he’s always been, as is Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/Hulk.

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Cate Blanchett joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the villain Hela, and she does a fantastic job as well. But the real star of the show is Scrapper 142. Portrayed by actress Tessa Thompson, Scrapper is a resident of planet Sakaar that works for The Grandmaster (played by Jeff Goldblum), and is responsible for Thor’s imprisonment.

Scrapper is an awesome character. She’s witty, self sufficient and an incredible fighter, plus she’s always there to give Thor a good ribbing when necessary.

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As a whole, Ragnarok has a really great sense of humor. The writing is genuinely funny, and the jokes are spaced out enough that the dramatic moments retain a gripping sense of tension.

Speaking of tension, Ragnarok continues the tradition of awesome fight scenes in the MCU. The film has a little bit of everything. Bouts involving Scrapper and Hela are very acrobatic and choreographed, while the ones with Thor and Hulk are more reminiscent of plain old fashioned slug fests.

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The visual designs of Asgard and Sakaar are pretty breathtaking in Ragnarok. I’m kind of a sucker for those sweeping overhead shots that show off the scenery, and the film has a few really cool ones on display.

Thor: Ragnarok was a fun time the whole way through. It added a welcome tonal shift for the Thor franchise, but also managed to maintain the character’s more serious personality traits so that he doesn’t become another Spider-Man or Star Lord.

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It has everything that made the other Marvel movies great, and the new characters fit right in with the established cast. Seriously though, I absolutely adored Tessa Thompson’s performance in this film, and I really hope she sticks around for future MCU stories.

Game Review: ‘Sonic Forces’, Something Something, Blue Hedgehogs

Game Review: ‘Sonic Forces’, Something Something, Blue Hedgehogs

The reveal of Sonic Forces, formerly known as Project Sonic 2017, capped off the Sonic 25th anniversary party during the summer of 2016. The trailer showed off Sonic running through a burning city not too dissimilar from Sonic 06’s own Crisis City, before being joined by his rotund and lovable Classic counterpart.

Dr. Eggman has conquered the majority of the world in Sonic Forces, and it’s up to Sonic and the Freedom Figh… er, the Resistance to stop him from achieving total domination. To this end, the Resistance needs your help to overthrow Eggman’s empire.

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Sonic Forces allows players to make their very own original character, and they actually play a small role in the events of the story. The game starts with Sonic traveling to a city under siege to stop Eggman, and he is promptly defeated by a group of villains from his past, as well as newcomer, Infinite.

Fast forward six months, and the Resistance is one the defensive against Eggman’s army. With no Sonic (Eggman took him as a prisoner), the Resistance and their leader, Knuckles the Echidna, are doing all that they can to survive, while at the same time looking for a weak spot in Eggman’s forces.

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The main plot device of Sonic Forces is the Phantom Ruby, the very same jewel that was the source of Eggman’s power in Sonic Mania. In what is probably the weirdest move this franchise has ever made, Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces are directly tied together, and the Phantom Ruby is the reason Classic Sonic is back in the first place.

Having said that, Classic’s appearance doesn’t really amount to much. Outside of a small side plot with Tails, the character is barely a presence in the narrative, and he has basically zero meaningful interactions with the rest of the cast, his Modern self included.

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I don’t wanna spend too much more time on the story, but I will say it was surprisingly enjoyable. It strikes a good balance between comedy and drama, and is more akin to Sonic The Hedgehog SatAM rather than Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.

It feels like a story ripped right out of the Sonic the Hedgehog comics, something I think is a welcome addition to the series. It doesn’t have the best writing I’ve seen in a Sonic game, as there are a handful of points in the story that aren’t well developed, but it’s definitely the most enjoyable Sonic story since at least 2010’s Sonic Colors.

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Sonic Forces has pretty solid presentation across the board. It has a consistent 60fps, and I never saw it stutter a single time. But this excellent performance does come at a cost, namely, the visual fidelity.  Outside of the quality of the character models, Forces doesn’t look nearly as good as Sonic Unleashed or Generations, and backgrounds are much less detailed.

Many level aesthetics also feel way too same-y for my taste. The designs for Chemical Plant, Death Egg and Eggman’s Empire all just look like chunks of metal stuck together, and lack any real distinct sense of identity.

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Although I do wish the game was more visually impressive, I think opting for a rock solid 60fps over high fidelity graphics was the right call. It was just hard for me to ignore the fact that nothing very interesting was ever going on in the levels, with the only major exception being the burning city.

The music in Sonic Forces ranges from bland and forgettable to amazing. Modern Sonic is a mix of guitars and electric synths, while the Avatar is full on EDM. Classic Sonic’s music is very reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog 4, meaning it tries way too hard to emulate the sounds and tones of the Sega Genesis, leading to almost all of his music sounding really generic.

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But when Sonic Forces has a good song, it’s an absolute joy to hear. I loved tracks like Sunset Heights and Park Avenue, and my personal favorite was Aqua Road. The free Episode Shadow DLC had great music too, as well as some genuinely cool callbacks to the black hedgehog’s most famous tunes.

Gameplay in Sonic Forces is split between Modern Sonic, Classic Sonic and the Avatar, and I’ll start by going over Classic Sonic. The cute and mute dude was just sort of there in the story, and the same can be said of his gameplay.

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Just to get this out of the way, no, he doesn’t play nearly as good as his Sonic Mania counterpart, and he’s actually not even as good as he was in Sonic Generations. His rolling physics have been slightly improved from that game, and he also has Mania’s Drop Dash, but the level design almost never lets you play around with these mechanics.

Classic Sonic’s stages are littered with boosters and springs that keep you moving forward, and there’s very little in the way of meaningful alternate paths to explore. His gameplay as a whole is largely inoffensive, and nothing special to write home about.

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Now for the Avatar. Players can choose from a handful of different species to create their very own Original the Character such as hedgehogs, wolves and birds. Each species has their own unique ability such as the wolf being able to draw in items, and the cat being able to double jump. These additions are fun, but don’t have too big of an impact on level progression and challenge.

The real source of variety comes from the Wispons, special weapons powered by the alien Wisps that have been featured in the last few Sonic games. Each Wispon has a basic attack to deal with enemies, as well as a special skill that can only be used upon finding specific Wisp capsules, and these can range from having multiple jumps, using the light speed dash and gaining temporary invincibility.

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The Avatar controls like a slightly worse Modern Sonic. He lacks the former’s boost, and his jump doesn’t damage enemies, but he does have his own quick step, stomp, slide and homing attack thanks to his grappling hook.

When levels simply ask you to defeat enemies, explore the area using different wisp abilities and chain together grappling hook attacks, they can be pretty fun. But the few times they ask you to do actual platforming can be a nightmare. The Avatar’s jump is abysmal. He’s stiff as a board, and you can’t really influence his direction once you commit to a jump.

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Level design rarely asks you to be precise with your movement though, and you’ll probably breeze right through them on repeated playthroughs when you have the appropriate Wispons, but his awful jump was a real hindrance at times.

The most fun part about the Avatar is being able to customize them to your heart’s content. The Avatar can equip a number of pretty cool items, and you can even unlock clothing from other characters such as Sonic’s Soap shoes from Sonic Adventure 2, or the scarf worn by the hedgehog in Sonic Boom.

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Last but not least, Modern Sonic. What Sonic 4 was to the Classic Sonic games, Sonic Forces is to Unleashed, Colors and Generations. It features the return of the boost gameplay after being absent in Sonic Lost World, but only on a superficial level.

Modern Sonic in Forces lacks all of the little nuances that made him fun to play, and this especially sticks out to someone like me, whose favorite Sonic game is Unleashed. His control is noticeably worse this time around, and many of the moves that define the boost games are either changed for the worse, or a complete afterthought.

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The boost itself remains much the same, with the only major difference being the fact that the air boost has an upwards arc to it, and no longer fizzles out. The quick step is back, though its uses are few and far between, and the returning slide is never required, and doesn’t offer any real utility. In addition, the drift maneuver has been removed entirely.

Sonic Team made an interesting change to Sonic’s homing attack this time around, as you have to be almost entirely centered in front of an enemy to use it. I think I understand why they did this, as it eliminates the problem of targeting something that you can’t see off screen, but I never really found this to be an issue in previous games.

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In fact, not being able to attack enemies directly to my side would often lead to death, or not being able to access a rail or spring that leads to a different path.

Sonic Forces also epitomizes the “boost to win” complaints that have often been wrongly attached to previous games. Modern Sonic’s 3d sections are almost entirely straight line boosting paths, with practically no obstacles in the way to stop you. 2d sections don’t fare much better, as they usually consist of homing attack chains and basic platforming challenges.

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There were some levels that I beat almost entirely one handed, something I was never able to do in previous games. I have no problem with a linear game, but the linear path has to be interesting.

Sonic Unleashed was a linear game all about going fast, but the fun and challenge came from how well you were able to do so. Levels were often filled with spikes, quick step sequences, obstacles to slide under, and drifting challenges. All of these things and more made levels in Unleashed really fun and engaging, something Forces completely misses.

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Modern Sonic’s levels are also way too short, and always feel like they were just getting started when they end. Most of his stages can be completed in under 2 minutes, and that’s on your very first playthrough.

I’ve been really hard on Modern Sonic so far, (mostly because I’m a student of the boost games), but I still found enjoyment in his levels. While they lack the thrill and challenge of previous boost games, it was still kinda fun to just blast through them.

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I’m just disappointed that they brought back the boost gameplay style, and left out the control accoutrements and level design mentality that made it so rewarding to play in the first place.

Sonic Forces also has a handful of Tag Team stages that have the player take control of both Modern Sonic and the Avatar at the same time. Controlling both characters is surprisingly fun and easy, and it felt pretty natural to switch between boosting and the Wispon abilities.

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There are a handful of other activities to partake in outside of the main campaign. Each level has 5 Red Star Rings to collect, and doing so allows you to collect Numbered Rings and Silver Rings upon revisiting them.

The Numbered and Silver Rings don’t do much of anything, but the Red Star Rings unlock additional clothing options for the Avatar, as well as few secret levels.

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The game also has SOS missions, and these require you to either play through one of the main levels with a random Avatar, or search for a hidden capsule that’s usually pretty easy to find. There are also challenges and daily missions to complete, and these award a score multiplier that helps you obtain easy S Ranks.

There’s also the free Episode Shadow DLC. It consists of three levels unique to Shadow, as well as a short prologue to the main events of the story that gives background to Infinite. I enjoyed this extra little bit of content, and I especially love the remixes that came with it. As a bonus, you also get to play as Shadow in a few of Modern Sonic’s stages.

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I was initially really hard on Sonic Forces (mostly Modern Sonic), but my opinion softened the more I played. While I still hold strong to the fact that it doesn’t come anywhere close to the quality of games like Generations and Mania, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have at least a little fun.

My final thoughts are as follows. Classic Sonic’s inclusion is harmless, but I think he should stick to his own games (or dimension, which is now a thing by the way) for future installments. The Avatar was a cool idea, and a great show of fan service, and I wouldn’t actually mind them trying the idea again, just fix his jump and overall control.

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As far as Modern Sonic is concerned, I really hope that Sonic Team goes back to study what made earlier boost games work if they want to continue with this gameplay style, as Forces demonstrates that their understanding of them is cursory and superficial at best.

Although the boost games are my prefered style for 3d Sonic, I wouldn’t at all mind them giving the Sonic Adventure style of gameplay another chance. It’s been years since they last attempted to do so, and I’d at the very least like to see what they would come up with.

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Sonic Forces is just fine. It’s not great, and I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s very good, but it’s definitely not bad. But I’d be hard pressed to recommend a game that’s just fine when there are so many other amazing titles to play like Sonic Mania, Super Mario Odyssey and Cuphead to name a few.

It’s a totally serviceable game, and the $40 price tag definitely doesn’t hurt, just don’t go into this expecting to have a grand old time. Hardcore Sonic fans have most likely already bought the game, and kids can probably find some enjoyment out of it. I’d say give it a try if you’re curious, but I’ll also say that there are much better games to spend your money on.

Anime Series Review: ‘Kill la Kill!’

Anime Series Review: ‘Kill la Kill!’

Fun fact, I used to always get this show confused with Akame ga Kill before I watched both of them.

Studio Trigger was founded back in 2011, and two years later they would release the short film Little Witch Academia. 2014 would see the release of the company’s very first original animated series, Kill la Kill.

Being their first full length series, Kill la Kill really needed to show what Trigger was made of, and the show does this in spades. Kill la Kill has pretty much everything going for it. It’s got style, flair, slick animation, great music, and last but not least, a super enjoyable cast.

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Kill la Kill focuses on the exploits of a teenage girl named Ryuko Matoi. She’s a bit rough around the edges (of which she has plenty of), and initially comes across as your typical tomboy. But beneath this gruff exterior lies a girl with fierce determination, and a quest for revenge.

Shortly before the events of the series, Ryuko’s father, esteemed scientist Isshin Matoi, was the victim of a murder. Now, with one half of her father’s scissor blades in hand, Ryuko is on a mission to avenge her father’s death.

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Ryuko’s journey takes her to Honnouji Academy, home to the fearsome Satsuki Kiryuin. Many high ranking students at the Academy wear Goku Uniforms, special outfits imbedded with mysterious life fibers which can grant an average person incredible strength.

After a pretty sound defeat at the hands of the Academy, Ryuko stumbles upon one more gift from her dad, a special uniform made entirely of life fibers known as a Kamui. As it turns out, Ryuko’s Kamui can actually talk, and his name is Senketsu.

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Ryuko’s motivation is pretty solidly established in Kill la Kill’s first episode, but she soon discovers that herself and Senketsu are involved in a much grander narrative.

Throughout the series, Ryuko will do battle with various Academy students, meet a secret organization known as Nudist Beach, and both her and the viewer learn a lot about her past, and the origins of life fibers and Goku Uniforms as a whole.

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The overarching narrative is pretty good stuff, and it gets more interesting and engaging as it progresses, right up to the finale in the 24th episode (though there is a special 25th one). There’s some really great character development across the board, most notably with Ryuko and Satsuki, and some genuinely surprising twists and turns.

Most of the major players in the cast are super likeable and memorable. Characters like the intimidating Satsuki, the consistently cheerful Mako and the staunchly loyal Gamagori help round out a really well balanced cast, and most of them have fantastic interactions with best girl Ryuko.

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Ryuko’s personal character arc is a huge part of why I love Kill la Kill. She starts out as a reckless girl with a bad attitude and a knack for getting in trouble. Though she retains much of her trademark personality for the entire show, she does gain a new sense of maturity and responsibility to even herself out.

This is also shown in her fighting style. When she first starts fighting with Senketsu, Ryuko typically tries to win her battles with brute force alone. But after learning how to better synchronize with Senketsu, Ryuko becomes an extremely powerful fighter, all while being decked out in a less than conservative sailor uniform.

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Kill la Kill really goes for it in terms of fan service. Both Ryuko and Satsuki’s Kamui transformations leave very little to the imagination, and there are plenty of boob and butt shots to go around. Kill la Kill even ties this into the plot, as there is a direct correlation between power level and how much clothing is touching the body.

Studio Trigger was founded largely by former Gainax animators, and their roots in over the top anime like Gurren Lagann really shine in Kill la Kill. The show excels at super exaggerated and action packed animation, and many of the fight sequences are a sight to behold. Everything in Kill la Kill is uniquely expressive, and makes the world as a whole feel much more alive.

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Kill la Kill also features a pretty stellar soundtrack. The opening and ending songs are good in their own rights, but the various tunes that play over the actual show are an absolute pleasure.

I’d be remiss not to mention the famous Before my body is dry, which serves as somewhat of an unofficial theme song for Ryuko, and that song is every bit as good as everyone says it is.

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Kill la Kill pretty much has it all when it comes to my personal tastes. It has a cool world, engaging story, great music and animation, and the memorable cast bring it all together. Studio Trigger really knocked it out of the park with Kill la Kill, and other series like Little Witch Academia and Kiznaiver show that they won’t be stopping anytime soon.

Oh yeah, another fun fact: Ryuko is voiced by Erica Mendez in the English dub, the same actress that portrays Akko Kagari from Little Witch Academia, and Diane from The Seven Deadly Sins.

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Waifu Review: ‘Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash’

Waifu Review: ‘Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash’

Note: I won’t be discussing the game’s online multiplayer component in this review. I tried numerous times to get a match going in each mode, but never got paired up with enough people.

Water gun fights, tight, transparent clothing and sexy shinobi school girls. If that isn’t the sentence of the year, then I don’t know what is, but I do know that Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is a pretty good game, and a welcome addition to the musou style games that the series is known for.

Peach Beach Splash takes place some time after the events of the previous game, and each faction of girls is invited to participate in the PBS Tournament. The girls aren’t allowed to make full use of their usual weapons, and are instead forced to use numerous water guns in order to splash their opponents.

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Peach Beach Splash’s story mode is mostly comical in nature, but at times, there can be some legitimately poignant issues being discussed. Each faction has their own 10 episode story mode, and they typically focus on a personal dilemma that one or more of the girls is facing.

Hanzo’s story involves Ikaruga and Katsuragi, the two oldest students, dealing with the fact that they soon will graduate and leave their friends behind. Joke’s aside, I found this to be pretty interesting. However, I’m glad that the game never goes too serious with this type of stuff, as this series really isn’t about that.

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There’s plenty of fun to be had with the game’s story modes, especially the paradise episodes. These are smaller, arcade mode-esque adventures that usually feature a funny story about a few of the girls. One episode is about Ayame’s attempts to bring business to her shop, while another shows the girls enjoying a Senran Kagura version of Pokemon Go.

The story mode is a fun time, but how is the gameplay? Peach Beach Splash is a third person shooter where you use various water guns, pets and skill cards in order to spray down your opponent, while getting some nice fan service shots in the process.

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The concept is just as lewd and absurd as it sounds, but the actual shooting mechanics are solid. All of your standard gun types are here in Peach Beach Splash, and the feel of each weapon is different enough to add a layer of strategy to the water gun fights.

Aside from the expected differences like range, power and reload speed, your weapon of choice also influences the function of your jetpack, a tool that gives you a lot more mobility in combat. Some guns will give you greater hovering time, while others give you quick bursts forward.

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Besides the weapon, players will also be able to create a custom deck of pet and skill cards. Pet cards allow you to summon temporary allies that can assist you in combat with perks like a shield, additional coverage, healing and increased reload speed.

Skill cards are probably what you’ll spend the most time tinkering with, and they are separated into categories based on the girls. There’s quite the variety when it comes these abilities, and I was personally a huge fan of Miyabi’s black hole, and the controllable tornado that comes with Ikaruga and Yomi.

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Both skill and pet cards are acquired from the various themed packs in Peach Beach Splash. These packs can be acquired in every single player mode in the game, with the pack’s rarity based on the difficulty of the mission. Packs can also be bought at shops with in-game currency, which is super easy to obtain.

I love collecting cards in real life, so I especially loved collecting cards with pictures of sexy shinobi girls in suggestive poses. The majority of the art is brought over from the Senran Kagura: New Wave mobile game, with a few new action shots thrown in for good measure.

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Skill cards are super helpful (while not totally invalidating the guns and melee attacks), but I had a great time simply just collecting them. Hebijo newcomer Souji is one of my favorite Senran girls, and even though I didn’t care for the abilities of her skill cards, I still put in the effort to pull every single card that featured her.

I have two major gripes with Peach Beach Splash. The first one is the fact that your computer controlled partners are almost always useless, meaning you’ll often feel like a one shinobi army. They get a bit better when you equip them with maxed out water guns, but not by much.

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My second one is the game’s knockdown system. There’s no quick or easy way to get up, and you’re completely vulnerable to damage while you’re downed. There were numerous times where I would get shot down on my blind side, only to get finished off while I couldn’t do anything about it.

Fan service is the hallmark of Senran Kagura, and Peach Beach Splash doesn’t disappoint in this regard. The trademark tearable clothing mechanic is back, and it’s combined with new attire that become more and more transparent as the girls get wet.

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Peach Beach Splash replaces the creative finishers of Estival Versus with squirmy finishers. When an enemy character is defeated, the player can approach them and start a minigame where you shoot various parts of their body, and the end result is a soaking wet, half naked shinobi who is totally embarrassed.

Dressing up the girls was one of my favorite parts of Estival Versus, and it’s just as fun this time around. Pretty much all of the old outfits return for this game, and there are plenty of cute and sexy new ones to try on. I particularly love the diving suit, as it was my outfit of choice for the Hebijo sadist Ryobi.

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Peach Beach Splash is a great game to just turn off your brain and have fun. It can at times get frustrating when you’re being gun downed and receiving no help from your teammates, but the good far outweighed the bad for me in this regard.

I love the story, the fan service and I really loved collecting all of the cards. Peach Beach Splash is a welcome change of pace for the shinobi battle series all about life and hometown, and it actually got me really excited for the next games in the series.

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Disney Animated Canon: ‘Winnie The Pooh’

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Winnie The Pooh’

2009’s The Princess and the Frog was Disney’s last major attempt at a traditionally animated film, but 2011 saw the release of a smaller title with much more classic Disney sensibilities and story telling, and that film was Winnie the Pooh.

The 2011 adaptation of Winnie the Pooh is the fifth overall Disney adaptation of the story, and the second one done by Walt Disney Animation Studios themselves, the first one being  1977’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

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Production on Winnie the Pooh started sometime in 2009, and came as a result of John Lasseter, Don Hall and Stephen J. Anderson wanting to make the residents of the Hundred Acre Woods culturally significant again.

John Lasseter’s leadership brought a feeling of creative freedom back to Disney, and this allowed them to take a chance on a smaller feature like Winnie the Pooh. The film is great, and has plenty of that Disney magic to boot, but it didn’t exactly set the box office on fire.

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There are a number of contributing factors to the film’s box office performance. Besides releasing at the same time as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the Winnie the Pooh franchise is also one that is viewed as something more suitable for toddlers.

Financials aside, let’s get into what makes this film special. Earlier I mentioned that Winnie the Pooh is much more in line with Disney’s classic films than its contemporaries, but what does that really mean?

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Well for starters, Winnie the Pooh’s runtime matches right up with films like Dumbo and Pinocchio, as it clocks in at just over an hour. And in terms of narrative, there isn’t really a serious storyline going on.

Pooh and the gang are searching for Christopher Robin, as they’ve been lead to believe that he’s been kidnapped by a monster called the Backson. But before we even get to this point in the story, we start with Pooh on a mission for delicious honey, which eventually causes him to run into Eeyore, who is looking for his tail.

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The storyline is cute and entertaining, but not really the main selling point of the film. Rather, the focus is squarely on seeing Pooh and his friends interacting with each other. Tigger, Rabbit, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Owl, all of these lovable characters join Pooh and Christopher Robin for tons of laughs and feel good moments.

Winnie the Pooh himself is easily the star of the show, and Jim Cummings’ performance as the rotund yellow bear is as amazing as ever. His constant tummy rubbing, fantasies about eating honey and overall humorous bits of dialogue really brought out that familiar spirit of the character.

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All of the other characters behave just as we remember them too. Piglet is adorable and timid, Rabbit (who is voiced by Tom Kenny of Spongebob fame) is a bit on the stiff side and Tigger is just as eccentric and nonsensical as he’s ever been.

The combination of the great cast and simple story make Winnie the Pooh a perfect fit for small children. They won’t have to keep up with any sort of ongoing narrative, and they can simply have fun and enjoy Pooh’s adventures in the Hundred Acre Woods. But there’s also plenty of fun to be had for older viewers.

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Speaking of enjoyable, Winnie the Pooh definitely didn’t disappoint when it came to the visuals. The animation on the characters is fluid and expressive, and the hand drawn, storybook inspired backgrounds are excellently done.

I also really love the film’s live action introduction. It pans over an old timey little boy’s room, showing off various toys, trinkets and picture frames, before finally focusing on the classic book of Winnie the Pooh.

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This scene is accompanied by narration from John Cleese, and eventually leads to a lovely rendition of the timeless Winnie the Pooh theme song by Zooey Deschanel, who does a fantastic job I might add.

Winnie the Pooh is a short and sweet little film. It’s definitely more child oriented than most of Disney’s other offerings, but I’m sure older viewers could find a bit of enjoyment from things like the cleverly written dialogue.

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I really appreciate the fact that Disney took a chance on a film like Winnie the Pooh, especially considering the fact that they were already fully dedicated to pursuing computer animation. It was super fun revisiting the Hundred Acre Woods, and I hope the film introduced a whole new generation to Pooh and his friends.

Anime Series Review: ‘Dagashi Kashi’

Anime Series Review: ‘Dagashi Kashi’

Dagashi Kashi is an anime that is all about cheap, convenience store Japanese candy. That idea sounds like it could get really boring really fast, but as someone who grew up loving Food Network shows like Unwrapped and Good Eats, I got a lot of enjoyment out of this one.

Kokonotsu is our main character for Dagashi Kashi, and his dream is to be a manga artist. This puts him at odds with his father, Yo, who wants him to inherit the family dagashi shop (dagashi means “cheap snacks” in Japanese).

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Kokonotsu’s world is shaken up upon the arrival of a cute, but eccentric girl named Hotaru Shidare, heir to the world renowned Shidare dagashi company. Hotaru’s dad really wants Yo to come work for his company, so he tasks Hotaru with recruiting him. The only problem is the fact that Yo refuses to leave the shop until Kokonotsu agrees to take over.

That’s about it as far as narrative is concerned. The fact that Kokonotsu wants to be a manga artist is only ever brought up again to be used for a joke, as are Hotaru and Yo’s attempts to change his mind.

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There are a handful of character development moments that focus on things like Saya and Kokonotsu’s childhood, Yo’s personality and the reason Hotaru loves dagashi, but nothing too major.

Instead, Dagashi Kashi treats us to 12 episodes of candy and fan service driven comedy. A typical episode involves the aforementioned cast, alongside twin siblings Saya and To engaging in all sorts of hijinks and antics.

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Most episodes of Dagashi Kashi are split into two halves, with each half building a small story around a handful of snacks. These can range from Kokonotsu and Hotaru having a blind taste test competition, to Saya being terrified of ghost stories that come packaged with bubble gum.

These bits are a real treat (heh) to watch, and it helps that the entire cast is really charming, especially my main man Yo. Hotaru in particular brings a ton of energy to the show, as her everlasting love and knowledge for all things dagashi gave her an almost infectious personality.

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The coolest thing about Dagashi Kashi is the fact that all of the snacks in the show are real, and even get called by their real names. Kokonotsu, Hotaru and Yo are the resident dagashi experts, and I was genuinely engaged whenever they rattled off various dagashi facts and tidbits.

What makes this even better is that each episode is capped off with real pictures of the featured dagashi, complete with funny dialogue from Hotaru and Saya (best girl by the way).

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Dagashi Kashi also has some pretty good animation. It’s colorful, fluid and expressive and does a great job of accentuating the show’s fan service, which is primarily embodied by Hotaru.

Compared to the thin and plain faced Saya, Hotaru is a curvy and busty young woman with a tendency to refer to dagashi with rather suggestive phrases. Her purple hair and strange blue eyes also stick out compared to the relatively normal looking characters that round out the cast.

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One weird thing I noticed about Hotaru was her outfits, and I don’t even mean this in a lewd or fan servicey way. In almost every episode, I noticed something different about her standard attire. Sometimes it could be a subtle change in her shoes or accessories, while other times she completely switched up her typical wardrobe pieces (though her outfits always retain the theme of black tights, heels and a white dress shirt).

Dagashi Kashi also has some of the catchiest anime opening and ending songs I’ve ever heard, and I especially love the ending segment, Calorie Queen. Besides just being an awesome song, it’s accompanied by a super cute retelling of Alice in Wonderland, with Saya being the title character, and Hotaru being the white rabbit.

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Dagashi Kashi may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but a fan service comedy that teaches you about Japanese snacks and culture is perfect for me. I had a great time learning about dagashi, and the show did an excellent job of making the act of eating candy seem a lot more fun.