THE BOOK of BANTORRA
By Le Chupacabra
They say many things await people upon the expiration of their corporeal selves: some say they become stars in the dark ocean above our heads, some say they find a golden land of milk and honey, while others say they are returned to us although their countenance is changed beyond recognition.
In this nameless world, they become stone tablets called 'books'; they are stored in the great library of Bantorra where magically-imbued librarians become guardians to the imprints of these countless lives. The credo 'knowledge is power' is taken to another level as reading these books reveal the life and times of the owner in intimate detail. This is why the Armed Librarians are named so as they are called on to protect the past - all these pasts - from their enemy, the Church of Drowning in God's Grace.
Every time I was introduced to a new character in Armed Librarians, I was strongly reminded of all those 'Captcha' forms online that often string together meaningless words to create some sort of half-convincing gobbledegook that apparently confuses spambots. At least, that's what the names in this series sounded like. If I were a spambot, consider me suitably confused.
The imagination that runs rampant does the randomly-generated nomenclature proud: I haven't seen a plot this layered in a while. And even if I have, what do I compare it to? Self-sustainable episodes and arcs focus on intense character studies all the while drip-feeding the ideologies and machinations that govern this strange world. Revelations and continuations relentlessly break new ground without losing sight or disrespecting anything that happened earlier on. It's quite a feat but Armed Librarians is supremely comfortable in this, its natural element.
But what I will truly exalt this series for, is that it will never, ever push the agenda of having a larger story. So is there one? Well, why don't you have a look and find out? One way or the other, you simply cannot be disappointed.
Early on, it feels disjointed or perhaps you can't find yourself invested enough in a particular character's story arc. Unless you hold your own till the end, these feelings will persist. This isn't a weakness though it may seem so. It incites a natural curiosity that feels utterly different from the one manufactured by ubiquitous cliff-hanger episodes. This is a brave attempt that won't make concessions for those used to instant gratification.
While the peripheral characters are all developed deftly, the crowning glory goes to the queen bitch of the show: Hamyuts Meseta. Shrouded in a mystery that is revealed in a painfully slow fashion over the entire run of the show, she's one of the finest characters I've seen since FullMetal Alchemist or Monster (had to bring out the big guns at some point, eh). And boy, does this show know how to affect your emotions regarding her. You'll know its been manipulating you all along. Shouting "Darn you, I know you're trying to make me care! I won't I tell you! I... aww, darn it!" will get you nowhere.
Armed Librarians: Book of Bantorra knows exactly where you're going because it's been deviously leading you there the whole time but you'll never see it till the end. Even if you do, you're helpless against its breathtaking grasp.
RS Reader Pick
Transcend Through A Decade
By Professor Spork
The votes were unanimous. They were also accompanied by vehement protests against Rolling Stones' selection and plenty of name-calling. Wikipedia already has more info on him than we could ever print, so there's little left to say about the biggest thing to have hit the world since bread met butter and procured pudding.
Eminem was the first artist to have won Best Rap Album at the Grammy's three years in a row, and with his first three major-label albums too. He went on to win an Academy Award, not to mention a whole ton of number 1 singles. He has the fastest selling solo album and the best selling digital album in history (outdoing the Black Eyed Peas), not to mention the largest number of fans on his Facebook page.
Commercial success aside, Eminem can safely be called one of the most influential artists of the decade as well; coming in number 58 in the 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America list proves the point. His songs have been said to “instil rage in young people's hearts”, his use of obscenities is a constant topic on talk shows, and every year there's a debate on whether or not to include him in the Forbes's Most Powerful list. While it is true that he's been an inspiration to many, if not necessarily in the best of ways, he's also been the topic of more than enough controversies. He can be called biased, offensive, and immoral, and even his biggest fans wouldn't disagree. Therefore, we can learn one very important good thing from him: don't talk behind people's backs. You got something to say, say it to their faces. George W. Bush included. It's the same thing our parents taught us!
All hail Eminem.
BAND OF THE DECADE: NICKELBACK
This was more of an England versus India thing - Linkin Park was winning, winning, and then Nickelback blasted through.
Whatever Barney says, Canada does turn out pretty successful artists. Billboard Magazine placed Nickelback as the highest ranked band in its own list of Artists of the Decade, 7th overall. Critics' opinion of them may sound bleak, but coming down to People's Choice, Nickelback keeps standing out. They've been nominated for more awards than most rock groups, but haven't won enough to make them clearly stand out. Sure, their albums didn't hit any highs, but there's no use denying the success of their singles. How You Remind Me, Rockstar, Someday, Photograph… this list could go on a while.
The phrase “instills rage in young people's hearts” seems to be in popular demand when commenting on these winning artists. In the case of Nickelback, the debate surrounding them is about the lack of innovation in their music, and the obscene themes in the songs. Not to mention the fact that everyone hates Chad Kroeger. Funny how even the most vehement Nickelback haters recognise Kroeger's voice the moment they hear it. But then, this is a band that uses criticism to rebound into commercial success. It's weird how the world works.
DECLINING ARTIST OF THE DECADE: BRITNEY SPEARS!
A special mention to Britney Spears for keeping us all entertained, all through the decade. She was the first of her kind, one of the first child singing sensations, and now she's the role model for all the Lindsay Lohans and Disney Princesses out there. She rose high, fell just as low, lifted off again, and hasn't stopped falling since. We're still waiting to hear the splash at the bottom of the well. Good luck to her.
By Osama Rahman
‘I fly with the stars in the skies /I am no longer trying to survive
I believe that life is a prize /But to live doesn't mean you're alive'
The above four lines welcome you to Nicki's world, the next big thing. In the dark world of hip-hop, where an influx of genres is threatening to wipe out what was once considered a 'movement' rather than a genre itself, Nicki is a breath of fresh air. Her hard-hitting, tongue-in-cheek style of rapping is very reminiscent of MC Lyte with a little bit of Foxy Brown added for flavour. Of course any comparison to MC Lyte is debatable, but such is the tenacity of Nicki Minaj. Hip Hop has been in dire need of life support for many years now and Nicki Minaj is apparently leading the resuscitation. Unexpected? Best believe it.
'Pink Friday' has signalled the birth of another legend. Nicki Minaj's debut album peaked at Number 2 in the Billboards Hot 200, second only to Kanye West's 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy'. If that was worth applauding, her capture of seven spots in the Billboard 100, led to the re-awakening. A new revolution was underway and Pink was becoming the new Black. When all men failed to revive Hip-Hop, Nicki came swash-buckling, hardcore and 'generously' gorgeous.
Her prose isn't about the beauty or the love humans share; concepts almost synonymous with female artists. Nicki breaks these pathetic stereotypes and attacks hard. 'This night just reminds me of, everything they deprived me of.' Nicki declares before claiming the throne and the crown, relentless and merciless in her lyrical approach.
Incite Nicki and she launches her alter-ego. When Nicki is really angry, she sheds her bad girl image and takes on the image of the notorious Roman Zolanski, who tells it like it is with no holds barred. On Pink Friday's 'Roman's Revenge', 'Roman' teams up with Eminem's 'Slim Shady' persona and both deliver what can be best described as a menacing lyrical orgy. Providing a sample of this is at best difficult, but the following line sums up what Roman has to say, 'Nicki Minaj is who you ain't messin' with You li'l brag a lot, I beat you with a pad-a-lock/ I am a movie, camera bloc'. Yes, Nicki holds her own, even against Eminem. When Nicki is trading bars, she lands hooks and punches hard enough to even knock Ali out in his prime.
Like most artists, Nicki loves to collaborate, appearing with Rihanna, Kanye West, Lil' Wayne and Ludacris. Although her guest list reads like the who's who of the hip-hop world, Nicki repeatedly manages to steal the spotlight. When listening to the crude yet comical 'Roger That' by Young Money, one finds himself constantly rewinding back to Nicki's opening verse. Indeed, she is that good. Cash Money Records have a future legend on their hands and as long as Nicki keeps it real and dishes it like she feels, we will all have our ears glued to the head-phone. A word of caution, Nicki is very explicit; fearlessly explicit. And put that in a cauldron containing harsh truths without commercialisation and you get yourself the perfect medicine to cure hip hop, without the help of Nas rolling up to every station.