Anime Review by Le Chupacabra
Action / Fantasy
Dante, the half-human-half-demon bounty hunter, is one of the best in his line of work. However, he still can't seem to defeat his deadliest opponent: bills. Constantly in debt, he's resorted to taking on some rather menial jobs. In one situation he has to babysit a young, somewhat spoilt girl called Patty. By all means it's easy money particularly since she's apparently a rich heiress. However, things were never meant to be that simple for poor old Dante...
Dear Madhouse Studios,
Let's say you have a ludicrously popular game that's already ticked off most anime to-do lists alongside having some enjoyable backstory. How easy could it be to augment the mythos with some animated lovin'? And on top of that, you're the studio that handled the critically acclaimed Death-Note adaptation. Absolutely delicious. You can already taste the fanboy drool and put your shades on to stave off the reflected light from so many happy grins.
Oh wait, you're taking your shades off? Hey, what happened to all that light? Look, there's some. It's okay, false alarm... you can put your sunglasses back on. No? Flickering torches, you say? And pitchforks. Ah. Someone seems to have a life-size replica of Dante's sword as well? Well, um, good luck guys. Guys? Why is there blood all over the place...
Seriously, how the hell could you mess up this badly? You had to get just twelve episodes right. Twelve. Throw in some proper backstory on Sparda. Show Dante tracking down Mundus or Vergil. Show us the prequel to the prequel if you need to. You know, try to keep things true to the source material. If you're desperate, you could, always attempt *gasp* playing through the games from start to finish. Clearly you've been browsing the trailers at most.
Almost four hours' worth of video and incredibly, you manage to avoid any sort of story development. That's an achievement in itself. I mean, couldn't have made a mistake and actually accidentally given a few tidbits, some hints? Nope, you guys were too good at what you did. Okay, so the Trish vs Lady scuffle was well-done and Dante's obsession with Strawberry Sundaes can be slightly charming at times. To your credit, there were a couple of episodes with some real potential as well. Were.
Fine, I'll accept that Devil May Cry 4 managed to best you for lack of story so I guess that can be excused. So when there's no substance, let's take advantage of what makes Devil May Cry such a paradigm of action: style. Samurai Champloo has no demons or overly large blades but it managed to be an exotic infusion of swordplay in perfect harmony with some mellifluous tracks. There, we have a model to go by in the world of anime. Now, have you seen any of the cutscenes in Devil May Cry 3? Hell, string them together and you've got a feature length film of certain jaw-dropping, physics-defying, buttock-clenching sweetness.
Hey, I'll give you points for consistency in this case. Yes, the action indeed invokes the kind of excitement gained from watching a dog trying to relieve itself and then being pulled away by its master and letting the situation repeat. You're always waiting for something dramatic to happen, but it never does. At least the dog was pretty funny.
Dante has a broadsword the size of freaking microbus and two questionably named guns that put most gattling weapons to shame. And he's fast, agile and does whatever a spider can. Go wild with him; make him break out into such a smorgasbord of utter coolness that enemies slice themselves up.
Don't make him fire his guns at the speed of Bangladeshi traffic. Don't make him use his sword to merely poke monsters. And for the love of all things unholy (hello, Devil May Cry?) let him have atleast two strokes of the sword, some reasonably cheesy one-liners and some sort of pose before dispatching what is apparently the most powerful demon since the last pretender to the Throne of Pure Evil™. If I got impaled by my own sword, I'd atleast be pissed off enough not to kill the bad guy in just one measly blow.
Granted, the artwork is mostly nice and colourful but I've also seen more frequent animation on a PowerPoint presentation about the plum-pudding model of the gold atom. I seriously mean it. I did.
And this is where all Hell breaks loose. The music is actually decent. Not brilliant, but perfectly acceptable.
What have we learnt from this, Madhouse studio? Just because you've made Death-Note and are trying adapt a perfectly anime-esque game into the medium doesn't mean you're any good. I hope you've gone through each episode a gazillion times during the editing stage since that seems to be the only acceptable punishment.
So, stalwart readers, watch this if you think I've reviewed only good anime to date. Otherwise go play the games: they kick ass. 'cept the second. I think that was the inspiration for this anime.
Music and canons go a long way back, so long in fact that there was a dude in the 1680's who wrote a piece that became known as Pachelbel's Canon. Now, I'm don't know much about the intricacies of music to explain to you how weapons of mass disharmony come into use in something as harmonious as a piece of chamber music which also has three violins in it.
Now, this Canon in D Major or Johann Pachelbel's Canon is a piece of classical music and for a lot of the youth of today, quite boring to listen to. But don't worry; there are few people out there who practice a genre known as neo-classical so as to bring to you the music that ruled the nonexistent charts in the previous centuries. A Taiwanese dude called JerryC was so taken by Pachelbel that he decided to compose the same piece onto his guitar while of course adding a few infusions of rock music into his composition.
The composition of the piece took two weeks and after Jerry posted a video of him playing it on the Internet, it became quickly famous, garnering Jerry mentions in newspapers, magazines and TV shows, so much has been the success of Canon Rock that Jerry even got mentioned in the Jan 2007 issue of Guitar World. However, it wasn't just the brilliance of the piece that got him the attention; it was another talented guitarist who covered the song and put it on YouTube who can claim to have brought the brunt of the fame.
This other guitarist, who goes by the name of Funtwo and who happens to be Korean is currently in New Zealand and is studying Information Systems there. Although he claims that his interest in guitars is just a hobby, his prodigious talent with the instrument has won him fame in the guitar community with mentions of his cover of Canon Rock coming on CNN, Funtwo's interview in The New York Times and other assorted media. Funtwo's video of him playing Canon Rock can now claim to have over 47 million views on YouTube. His name has spread so far that he even got to perform live in Washington DC for the Korean Ambassador.
And that's not it. Canon Rock has become one of the most downloaded guitar tabs in the world and the song has been covered so many times by so many numerous artists that there is a video montage of all those artists playing the song on YouTube, predictably called Ultimate Canon Rock.
I've seen kids hanging around talking about their favorite bands and their favorite guitarists and it's usually some European-long-haired-blonde-shampoo-once-a-year dude with a Fender Stratocaster strapped around him. But that does not mean us Asians are falling behind in the music scene. JerryC and Funtwo's success are just two examples of what we can do if we just try and that there is prodigious talent here as well.
By Tareq Adnan
UNGEONs and Dragons has been the object of many things- interests, critical success, critical criticism and so on. Many mediums have been derived from it, most popularly novels and video games, with some movies, comics and cartoons on the side.
The Order of the Stick is such a webcomic, which is perhaps one of the best webcomics to have graced the wide world of the web. It's amassed wide scale attention and received numerous awards such as Best Fantasy Comic in 2006 and the Gold ENnie award in 2007.
The webcomic follows the adventure of a group of PC (player character) adventurers: Roy Greenhilt (Human fighter; Lawful Good), Durkon Thundershield (Dwarven Cleric of Thor, Lawful and non-Evil), Vaarsuvius (Elven Wizard, Non-Evil), Haley Starshine (Human Rogue, “Chaotic Good-ish”), Elan (Human Bard/Dashing Swordsman, Chaotic Good), Belkar Bitterleaf (Halfling Ranger/Barbarian, Chaotic Evil). They will often have random encounters who know their roles very well, receive sidequests from NPC (non-playable characters), have rivals who are always their equal levels and do a lot of general adventuring and dungeon crawling.
Initially, the webcomic doesn't really follow a particular plot or story, and merely parodies the D&D world. However, currently in its 584th strip, it has long developed into a proper albeit humorous narrative, deviating off from its original short-lasting heavily-parodied style. The PC adventuring party originally starts out to destroy the evil lich Xykon, as part of a bloodoath Roy's father had made, after whose death the burden falls on the shoulders of the young fighter, who employs the help of the others and forms the Order of the Stick. The story takes twists and turns, and ultimately the heroes end up on a quest more important than simply destroying an evil lich and obtaining loot- and that's to save the world. Except to Belkar, who's aaallllll about the XPz and the treasurez.
In the world of OotS, everything and everyone within it is well-aware of the rules and settings that D&D imposes on players- it makes a point of breaking the fourth wall very frequently. Characters will state out rules and loopholes, take advantage of certain conditions, and circumstances bonus, such as retelling sob stories about his past to gain experience points and level up. Obviously evil characters- such as the chief antagonist Xykon the lich- have significant font styles and text bubbles, which other characters would acknowledge as a sign of their evil alignment. Characters have to make Spot and Listen checks, and if it fails, they'll consequently be oblivious about hordes of ninja goblins that are standing in their way.
Creator Rich Burlew uses devices from nearly all corners of the D&D world to make the comic extremely humorous and engaging to read. The pokes and references to the D&D world make it an extremely enjoyable read to fans, but that doesn't mean that others can't enjoy it.
One of the most interesting things about OotS is the art-style, which is very simple stick-figure drawing, through the use of vector-based illustration software. The style has since been taken to a fine-art form, and it's amazing what emotions can be portrayed through the use of such simple drawings. And Rich Burlew does it quite masterfully. OotS has plenty of action, fistfuls of magic spells straight from the rulebooks of D&D, enough dialogues and plot developments to make the non-reader cringe.
The story has plenty of twists, action, adventure, humor, romance and anything that works… which is kinda like everything, including cameo appearances from real people and lawyers.
OotS is sure to appeal to everything with a minimal idea about D&D and will complete possess the souls of fans of the game. Since, its conception, the webcomic has released paperback collections, board games, merchandises, and other accessories. You can read the whole of the webcomic, from strip #1 at http://www.giantitp.com/comics/ oots0001.html. Or just Google in Order of the Stick. If you like D&D, you'll love Order of the Stick!