“Take your glow stick and go home.”

Justice League: War is based of the first story arc of the New 52 Justice League reboot, and features the first meetings and teaming of these reimagined versions of DCs biggest heroes

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The New 52 was at best a mixed bag, and a lot of what I didn’t like about it was on display here. The heroes don’t have the complexity or appeal of the previous versions, and several of them have been made more bloodthirsty and violent. In some cases, like Wonder Woman, it fits and is a natural direction for the character. It most others it just makes them grating and unlikable. The dialogue and character interactions are often downright painful, particularly those featuring Shazam. Superman is a complete cipher, just there to expedite the plot and get into the expected scuffles. Speaking of which, the conflicts between heroes are extremely contrived, and could have been resolved in seconds with a little talk and a lot of Green Lantern not being an ass.

There is some fun to be had here though. As much as I dislike this take on Green Lantern and his attitude, seeing Batman interact with him and put him in his place (repeatedly) is hilarious. While I find the underlying reasons behind the fights and the strategies employed flimsy, the action is quite well done and exciting to watch. And the movie is true to the source material, adapting the comic faithfully and making it work in a different format.

Overall I don’t have a lot of fondness for Justice League: War because the New 52 approach isn’t to my tastes, but there are some highlights and for viewers who do like these versions of DC’s heroes this is a strong adaptation.

Son of Batman Review

“The psychos just keep getting younger.”

Batman’s about to meet the son he never knew he had, but things are bound to be rocky considering Damian’s been raised by assassins since birth.

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Damian is a hit or miss character for me, but wow did they nail him here and use him as the center of a great story. The conflict between who he was raised to be and his father’s ideals and methods is balanced perfectly and an extremely compelling hook for the movie. The plot carries things well with clever twists and well developed, logical complications. It’s supported by incredible action and a formidable villain to bring everything together.

One of the things that’s vital for my enjoyment of a story are characters who are flawed without being artificially stupid to advance the plot. The cast here all have diverse motivations and personalities that reflect directly in their actions. When mistakes are made, they’re logical and believable extensions of the characters’ mindsets. This is so important to immersion and is done very well here. I also love the dialogue and character interactions, which beyond being entertaining do an excellent job of conveying the aforementioned personalities and motivations. Seeing all featured heroes acting like the detectives they are at various points is another highlight.

Son of Batman is much better than I expected going in and one of the best DC animated features I’ve seen in quite a while.

Ride the Wind Review

“I was not raised to believe in second chances, but, for the first time, I saw their importance.”

This is Starla Huchton’s third “Flipped Fairy Tale.” Each book has a different classic fairy tale as inspiration and stands on its own as a complete story, so reading the previous two first is not necessary to enjoy this one. However they take place in a shared universe, so doing so will give certain characters and events much more significance and context.

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The Flipped Fairy Tales series presents wonderful re-imaginings of well known fairy tale stories. In addition to the interesting hook of gender-swapping the familiar characters to provide a new perspective, it’s Huchton’s deft, evocative touch towards world-building and character development that makes these versions special.

Ride the Wind is the first of these books to feature a fairy tale I wasn’t previously familiar with, but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of Lukas’ adventure at all. The core premise seemed a little run of the mill, but the details greatly elevated it to another appropriately captivating entry in this series. I particularly liked the connections and further explorations of characters previously introduced in Shadows on Snow. The greater world these tales inhabit is developing nicely from book to book, and I like the apparent foreshadowing and hints towards what’s to come.

Little by little Flipped Fairy Tales has become one of my favorite variations that plays with established fables and legends. They’re a fun, fresh take on the stories and overflow with imagination and depth.

Project Itoh: Harmony Review

“Does humanity have a place in a perfect world?”

Harmony presents a wonderfully intriguing dystopian concept, namely that of a utopia. An obsession with good health has lead to a society where no one dies and everyone strives to support each other, and Tuan hates it for the loss of personal control over one’s own body that comes with it. With a past haunted by loss and a failed attempt at the ultimate act of rebellion, Tuan will face her own beliefs and doubts when someone else decides to shake up the “perfect society.”

 

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Once I’ve decided I’m going to see a movie I generally don’t do much research ahead of time. Having now seen Harmony I went back and read Funimation’s summary. I highly recommend avoiding it if you haven’t read it yet, as in my opinion it spoils some key plot reveals that were a surprise as I was watching.

Harmony raises numerous philosophical questions, and has interesting things to say about them. Concepts ranging from the natures of consciousness and happiness to what an ideal society really is are explored. The central plot and action are decent, but let’s be honest: it’s all a vehicle for the philosophical dilemmas and messages. I found it engaging, but even I disagree with a lot of the conclusions it seems to draw, and some viewers may find them off putting. And one of the twists with the most potential turned out to be largely a throwaway to set up something else.

Still, the moral and philosophical issues raised are thought provoking and will stay with me for a long while. Overall while Harmony could have been much more what’s here is good enough and it’s worth checking out.

Japan Crate May 2016 Review

May is here and so is another box of snacks and treats from Japan. This is the first month featuring the new, larger boxes with more snacks.

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As usual Japan Crate includes a booklet / mini-manga that explains what everything is and has various additional content. A bonus in all crates this month is a random Kitty Cups gashapon. Ridiculous but cute. On to the edibles.

 

The Excellent

As I’ve previously mentioned, I adore cola flavored candy. So Premium exclusives PachiPachi Panic Cola and Kajirittyo Cola Candy are exactly to my tastes. The former is a crackling candy with a mix of sour lemon in it, and the later a soft chewy rope candy with a cider flavored center. Both provide a nice combination of flavors. I also received an unlisted bonus Sour Cola Gummy Rope, which was quite good.

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The chocolate treats also continue to shine. Puku Puku Taichoco is a taiyaki cookie with a airy chocolate filling. Another Big Bar Z variation was included, and it tasted just as divine as the last one. It’s a wafer bar infused with chocolate flavor, this one White Choco. This is the clear star of this month’s box.

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.Sakusaku Panda Cookies are cute cookies with a chocolate back.  These tiny, crunchy snacks are quite tasty. Another of the Premium exclusives is King’s Lost Crown, a large cookie with a creamy chocolate filling.

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The Decent

The Premium drink this month is Hajikete Grape Cidera light, smooth drink that taste like grape soda.

There are two possible types of chips, and I got Nori Shio Potato Chips. This salted seaweed flavored snack is quite good and features a flavor unique to Japanese snacks.

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An advertised bonus for the Premium Crate that’s unlisted in the book is Japanese Oreo Snack. I got macadamia nut mini candy bars. Great inclusion.

Nomuccho Jelly is a simple DIY that produces a melon jelly when mixed with water. The consistency varies depending on how long it’s allowed to sit.

 

Caramel Corn is an interesting snack with the consistency of cheese puffs but the flavor of Cracker Jack.

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Pandaro Cookies are the second panda themed cookie this time. It’s a light, crispy butter cookie.

Sour Cider Gum is lightly flavored with another flavor unique to Japanese treats.

 

The Meh

Mochitto Kinako Mochi is traditional soybean flour covering mochi, a Japanese rice cake. This is a good inclusion, again highlighting things unique to Japanese snacks. I just personally didn’t care for the taste.

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Big Mashuro~ is indeed a big marshmallow. Hachimitsu 100% are hard candies made of honey. I like honey, but didn’t care for the flavor of these personally.

 

Conclusion

Strong start for the “new” Japan Crate. The bigger box and more snacks makes this an excellent value, and the Premium upgrade is back to easily being more than worth the extra $5.

This is my last crate for now due to budgetary restrictions, but the changes are great and I highly recommend trying out Japan Crate for yourself.

Quick Thoughts: Dark Tales, Flick ’em Up, Steampunk Rally, and Tumult Royale

Here are some brief thoughts on a few interesting games I’ve played once or twice so far.

Dark Tales

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Dark Tales is a fantasy / fairy tale themed card game that revolves around card effects that vary largely based on what else is currently in play. Even the power of special tokens in the game and end game scoring differ from game to game based on randomly chosen setting cards. There’s a lot of luck based on the cards drawn, but the core mechanics are good and I had fun with this. Looking forward to trying it with more people and playing the expansions.

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Flick ’em Up

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The production value of this dexterity based game really shines, as a lot of effort was clearly put into both the aesthetic and producing quality components. The cowboy and bullet pieces are perfect. The cowboys readily fall over when directly hit, but hold their ground well when grazed or hit from the side. The two scenarios we played were largely tutorials, so I expect a lot more depth from the later ones. Amusing game that makes the most of its theme. As far as flicking games go I think I prefer Disc Duelers a little (even though I was better at this), but Flick ‘Em Up is still fun.

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Steampunk Rally

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Steampunk Rally is a neat little game that revolves around building and racing contraptions piloted by famous inventors. The track is variable and the mechanics solid. The best part for me is it really captures the feeling that you’re constantly fighting entropy trying to keep your machine going. This is a unique game that makes excellent use of its theme.

 

Tumult Royale

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Tumult Royale is my favorite game of this bunch. The real time resource collection is done in a way I haven’t seen and works extremely well. Trying to get what you need while worrying about the total limits among all players each round adds a wonderful “press your luck” element, and the area control aspect is great too.

 

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Just a quick look at some games I’ve had the pleasure of trying. Hope to be back with more in the not too distant future. 🙂

Demon King Ena-Sama Goes to Manga School Volume 1 Review

“You should feel honored human, for I have come to make this world my own.”

Bored with inherited power and automatic domination over her world, the 666th Demon King Fienalia Glengard Flamveil breaks tradition and unseals The Dimensional Mirror looking for somewhere new to conquer. She ends up a bit sidetracked after becoming enamored with manga artist in training Kento Sugitani’s pet project, but having cut off his dominant arm the surer path is to learn to draw it herself. And so the Earth is spared her wrath for now…

 

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Well, if you got through my summary above and are still here this manga is probably worth a shot. It’s as ridiculous (possibly more) than it sounds, with over-the-top dramatic overtones to boot. But somehow this blending of a harem romantic comedy with fantasy elements in a manga school setting is working for me. The parallel background events back in Ena’s world add a sense of foreboding future developments.

Demon King Ena-Sama Goes To Manga School is beyond odd, but in a good way as far as I’m concerned. I’m enjoying this and intrigued to see where things go as the series gets beyond the initial set up and introductions.

 

ROH War of the Worlds NYC Live Thoughts

May 14, 2016 in Manhattan, NY

Big show for ROH at Terminal 5 in NYC to wrap up the War of the Worlds tour, with a great number of NWJP stars in the US to face ROH regulars.

I was extremely excited for the pre-show autograph session and the chance to meet some of the stars of NJPW. I grew up watching Jushin Thunder Liger and he’s a big reason I became a lifelong wrestling fan. I’m also a huge fan of Hiroshi Tanahashi. I was beyond honored to meet them both and get a picture.

The show was nine matches long, and apparently had some last minute changes made due to injuries. Comparatively what we got looks better than the original matches.

reDragon (Fish and O’Reilly) vs ANX (Kenny King and Rhett Titus) was a decent opener. Honestly ANX’s currently heel run isn’t really working for me. The megaphone gimmick did nothing since they still couldn’t be heard, and they stall way too much. Really prefer their work when they’re faces. That said, they were still ok here against the red hot Fish and O’Reilly, who really got the crowd going to start the show.

Fish stayed at ringside to provide commentary for Lio Rush vs Michael Elgin vs Moose vs Dalton Castle, no doubt to scout future challengers for his TV Title including number one contender Castle.

I adore Dalton Castle and his antics, and the pre-match ritual was even more amusing then normal with Elgin kissing Castle’s hand in lieu of shaking for the Code of Honor. Rush followed suit and Castle even insisted on the ref doing so as well.

The match itself was great, perhaps my favorite of the night. All four wrestlers know how to use their strengths to build up the action appropriately, and with a high-flyer in Rush, two big power wrestlers in Elgin and Moose, and Castle somewhere in between there was a lot of potential for interesting pairings. Particularly awesome spots included a huge pop-up powerbomb by Elgin on Moose and Castle performing deadlift German suplexes on each of his opponents in succession.

Kushida vs Silas Young was like something out of a time warp, which I suppose is fitting for Kushida’s gimmick. 😉 Silas is 100% old school heel, from using the back rake to doing the Rick Rude mooning the crowd spot. I don’t think I’ve seen that in at least a decade. Slow for me, but not bad and the crowd was way into Kushida.

Gedo subbed for Rocky Romero and teamed with Trent Baretta to face the Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin). I like the Guns and it was nice to get to see them live again. Baretta and Gedo had decent chemistry and played off each other well. There was an awkward sequence where Gedo tied up the ref and Romero slid in to interfere while Sabin STOOD AND WATCHED from the apron without even trying to save his partner. Baretta then knocked Sabin off the apron after Romero left the ring and the ref turned back around. Would’ve made much more sense with the order reversed. Small point, but it really broke the immersion for me. Fun match otherwise. The heels got into a scuffle among themselves after the match, but made up with a triple hug to annoy the crowd.

The super-team of Jushin “Thunder” Liger & the Briscoes faced the Bullet Club (Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Adam Page) in the pre-intermission spot. Smart choice, as the face team was over enough to get cheered in equal measure to the heels by the sea of Bullet Club t-shirts that comprised the audience. The Briscoes came across as thrilled to be teaming with the legend, and it’s amazing what Liger can still do in the ring. Pure crowd pleaser here. Was surprised to see one of the current IWGP tag champions take the fall instead of Page, but I suppose it may be setting up a title shot for Dem Boys.

During intermission Mandy Leon came out to great the fans. Taylor Hendrix ambushed her after a few minutes and laid her out with a DDT on a chair.

Cedric Alexander got a strong reception from the crowd and “Please Don’t Go” chants for his last appearance in ROH. He and Donovan Dijak had a decent little match with Cedric putting Dijak over on his way out.

After The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Kazarian) recently capturing the ROH World Tag Team Championship in an impromptu match the previous week, War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe) got a rematch here. They dominated the champs for the majority of the match, forcing Daniels to resort to a blatant belt shot in front of the ref to get DQ’d and keep the titles. This was fine, but suffered a bit due to the crowd being lukewarm about War Machine’s quest for revenge. Daniels is never seriously booed in NYC.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Matt Sydal was up with the four-way and the semi-main as my favorite matches of the show. Tanahashi carries himself like the star he is and it was wonderful to see him in singles action against someone who could keep up with him. Sydal’s in the best shape of his life and looked great here as well.

The semi-main of Tetsuya Naito vs ACH was a treat. Naito has incredible presence and charisma, and ACH was the perfect opponent to fly around trying to outdo NJPW’s Champion.

The revised main event was a three faction face off seeing Bullet Club (Adam Cole & Matt Jackson) vs Team NJPW (Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii) vs Team ROH (ROH World Champion Jay Lethal & Roderick Strong). The Rainmaker felt the love in NYC. His mock bills were handed out throughout the evening to fans. The visual of them falling when he came to the ring was fantastic. The crowd was on fire for both the Bullet Club and NJPW’s duo, which made it a bit unfortunate that this was ROH’s big win of the tour. Personally I’m neither a fan of the heels Lethal and Strong as conquering heroes nor Cole and Jackson’s “cool heel” antics, so while the action was fine I wasn’t over the moon for this. Okada and Ishii were a lot of fun though.

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Overall

Good end to ROH’s War of the Worlds tour. Extremely predictable, especially NJPW sweeping all of their singles matches, but enjoyable regardless. Strong effort up and down the card and some definite in-ring highlights, on top of an amazing opportunity to meet numerous stars before the show.

Sci-Fi Block May 2016 Review

May’s box is the final Sci-Fi Block of my subscription of science fiction and pop culture related collectibles. Let’s see how it turned out.

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I’ve never been a big fan of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so this month’s t-shirt goes right into the trade/gift pile, but it’s a suitable property to use the design is decent.

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The product of the month is a 60th Anniversary Edition of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This was advertised ahead of time and is a nice alternative type of item. Fahrenheit 451 is a classic and a smart inclusion.

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Star Wars Wacky Wobblers features one of four possible characters. It looks nice and I’m ok with Kylo Ren, although I’ll admit I’d have preferred any one of the others.

The second Star Wars item this month is Furry Chewbacca Can Koozie. Absurd and amusing, which is exactly what I expect when ordering these boxes, although also something I likely won’t use.

The third and final Star Wars item is supposed to be an exclusive BB on Board Bumper Sticker. Cute design and pun. Unfortunately it was missing from my block.

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For the third month in a row, my box includes a “classic” style action figure. This time it’s a Funko Reaction: Star Trek Spock figure. Although there’s no variety in possible figures this time, Spock’s a good choice. Whether due to packing of the block or the figure’s packaging itself, mine arrived open with the plastic detached from the card back. Disappointing, since I likely would have tried to trade this. The figure and accessory were undamaged though.

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The Futurama Art Print comes in green or blue and looks good, but I personally don’t care much for these as inclusions in general.

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Conclusion

My experience with Nerd Block’s latest offering, Sci-Fi Block, was ok. I was disappointed to discover after subscribing that their “choose your block, switch anytime” advertising on the main page doesn’t apply to Sci-Fi Block. I honestly would’ve switched to Arcade Block after one month if I had been able. AB’s just more to my tastes. And this final month brought both my first packaging problem and my first missing item among all the NB products I’ve tried.

On the other hand the quality and variety of stuff in the boxes was good, even if the property choices weren’t always to my tastes. While it didn’t quite work out for me and I won’t be renewing it’s a decent product that will be worth it to certain collectors.

Monstrous Card Game First Impressions

I noticed Monstrous during its Kickstarter, and was drawn to both the mythic theme and its unique take on dexterity games. I’m quite pleased with my initial experiences with it.

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Gameplay

The core gameplay of Monstrous is extremely simple in concept. Five oversized Location cards are placed on the table and players take turns throwing Monster cards. Players score Faith (victory points) and use special abilities based on which Location and/or other Monsters their cards hits. Players’ hands may not cross the plane of the table’s edge when throwing. The game ends when a player has no more cards in hand and none to draw (everyone else gets one more turn), and most Faith wins.

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General Thoughts

The little details in Monstrous provide a considerable amount of depth. Players have identical Monsters in their decks, but draw hands at random so the particular cards available at any given time will vary. Monsters can be thrown either with their unique power side face up or with the standard power side ever card has face up. Some cards’ powers trigger when a they are thrown, and others cards have powers that come into play when they are already on the table and are hit by other cards.

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There are numerous “scenarios” provided that specify particular combinations of the five locations used in a game (from eleven possibilities). They’re identified by difficulty/game length to allow some control over the level of game desired. Of course the locations can also be drawn at random, providing a wide variety of variations and challenges. A few Monsters are excluded from all players decks each game, further making sure no two games feel/play quite the same.

Cards left in a player’s hand/deck/discard are subtracted from their Fame total at the end of the game, so going out first and triggering the game end can be advantageous. On the other hand the more cards on the table the greater effects can be achieved by hitting multiple cards at once so sometimes playing a little slower will pay off. It’s little nuances like this that make the game shine and I’m impressed with what they’ve accomplished in both depth and balance within a game that’s very new player friendly and easy to pick up.

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Overall

Despite my lack of success in my initial games due to poor throwing ability, I enjoyed Monstrous thoroughly. The theme amuses me and I adore the art. It plays quick and is easy to understand, yet rewards skill and has strategic choices to be made. Most importantly, it was fun. 🙂