AEL: No.6 eps 10-11/manga vol.1-2, Justice Hall, The Casual Vacancy, Kuroshitsuji ch.117-119, Saint Asonia, Justice League: Doom

No.6 episodes 10-11 — What a leaping of heart I had in episode 10 to see how deeply touched Nezumi has been by Shion’s attitude and character! A respect for Shion’s respect for life is an excellent starting point, and one I can accept in their developing relationship. So that’s essentially wrapped up to my satisfaction.

On the other hand, it was distressing (and darkly gratifying) to observe Shion affected by Nezumi’s attitude and willing to kill to protect him. I don’t by any means want to see Shion lose his purity of spirit and become callous and murderous, but of course the romance fangirl in me was shrieking at this sign of devotion. I can’t imagine, though, that, with only one episode left, his little psychotic moment will have the weighty emotional repercussions it deserves. Too bad.

Though I was glad to see the baby survive, I thought the scene with it and Dogkeeper was a clumsy and unwelcome attempt at comic relief in an otherwise (appropriately) bleak part of the story. However, there was no way they could have neglected to show us the baby’s fate after the way it was set up in the previous episode, so I’m already over it.

The very end of this episode raised several questions for me. Are we actually going to end up with any good female characters in this series? What’s the deal with Elyurias, and how is she connected with Safu? What creepy plan does she have for Shion? Considering the bodies strewn about her as Shion and Nezumi entered, will it turn out she’s every bit as violent/murderous as the condemnable No.6 operatives? Did she send the parasite bees?

It would be deliciously ironic if Nezumi had escaped the barbaric destruction of Elyurias’ peaceful people to become jaded and violent, then found someone that could reverse that condition and put him on a path back to peace, only to run into Elyurias again and find that she had become jaded and violent and had, in fact, victimized the very person that had begun to revolutionize Nezumi’s way of thinking.

The biggest question raised at this point, though, is as follows: how the crap are they going to resolve this in the single remaining episode???

Sadly, I feel the answer is, “Not very well.” The last episode, as last episodes sometimes sadly do, felt rushed and like it would have been better as two. Some questions went entirely unanswered, and new questions arose that were just left dangling as the series came to an end. Some of that may, perhaps, have been caused by my putting so much time between episodes — it’s possible I forgot details that would have made everything come together much better than it did. I liked the series enough, on the whole, that I may rewatch it at some point, and then we’ll see if I understand it a little better.

The other thing I plan on doing (and probably much sooner than rewatching the anime) is reading the manga to see if that clarifies things at all and if the timing is any better. It’s kinda really annoying how Japanese novels are so rarely translated into English… especially when we’ve got a manga and a subsequent anime based on them that have been translated, so there’s a bit of a built-in audience. But, yeah, at least I can read the manga.

Two random thoughts: I didn’t like how Safu ended up as a macguffin after all; and I was annoyed that both kisses we saw between Shion and Nezumi were head-blocking-style rather than in profile. Now I look forward to the manga.

P.S. I have no feelings one way or another about the ending theme itself, but I think the timing of emotions expressed in the song with the visuals presented is extremely good. I especially like that it’s not always the same, the way the song is often worked into the end of the episode before cutting to the end sequence.

Aight, I started reading the manga before I finished this post, so two volumes of manga get to be in here too. And, obviously, I’m liking it a lot better than the anime — much more detailed, nuanced, and comprehensible — but so far I haven’t felt compelled to declare the anime a pointless cash grab. So that’s good. Also one more point of contrast so far…

In the manga, where there’s more space for characterization, Shion comes across as more of an airhead than in the anime. His enthusiasm for knowledge is present in both versions of the story, but the more complex presentation of his character reveals him also to be something of a ditz. I’m not sure how I feel about this! I love more complex characterization, of course, but I this specific situation I prefer less airheadedness, so it kinda comes up even XD

Justice Hall — Leading with this because I keep forgetting to mention it: oh, man, Jenny Sterlin’s attempt at a Canadian accent XD XD XD XD XD XD XD XD

Beyond that, I think Mycroft’s not the only one that’s going to be mortified by the failure of his deceptive agent. I was embarrassed at her failure to protect Gabe because I felt like it only happened in order to facilitate the rooftop climax, not because it fit logically into the story. I was really excited at the prospect of an elderly badass lady, too!

This is such a satisfying book, though, despite any minor complaints. Certainly my favorite so far during this reread of the series; we’ll see how others later compare. Iris is a big factor, but the neatness of the story overall is the main reason. Everything comes together so well on so many levels.

Interestingly, Holmes is not very active in this story, and in fact not present for quite a lot of it. I wonder how much that plays into my enjoyment of the book. It would be a shame to think I enjoy this Sherlock Holmes fanfiction series best when Holmes is farther out of the picture XD I’ll have to keep that in mind as I progress!

The Casual Vacancy — Reading a book for exactly the second time is always as unique an experience as reading it for the first time. For me, at least, it is. The amount of detail I remember and don’t remember the second time through is specific to that instance, and starts to grow and deteriorate exponentially thereafter. It’s super exciting, rereading The Casual Vacancy, to have these little moments one after another like, Oh, yeah, she’s the one that lusts after the boyband singer, and, Oh, and she’s the one that eventually plans to kill her husband and doesn’t go through with it, right?

And, wow, I love this book. Rowling is probably my favorite currently living author. She understands how humans work, individually and in groups, possibly better than any other writer I’ve ever encountered. Even when, as in this case, there aren’t very many characters I don’t completely hate, they still have so much depth and richness to them that I’m endlessly engaged and fascinated. I love every minute of this miserable book because Rowling is such a freaking genius.

One complaint I do have, though, is as follows: the first time I started reading this, I thought Rowling was laying on the profanity and explicit sexual content a little thick in a deliberate attempt at distancing herself (and this book) from Harry Potter and people’s perception of her as a children’s author. As I got further in, I came to recognize that much (maybe half?) of the profanity and explicit sexual content is integral to the story, the characterization, and the message… and I thought that, perhaps, when I reread it, I would find that it all was.

Nope. The second time through, I still consider a lot of the profanity and explicit sexual content unnecessarily showy and over the top, as if it was included merely to make absolutely certain nobody mistakes this for kids’ stuff. And though I don’t think it destroys this fantastic piece of work, I do think it speaks sadly to a certain level of nervousness on Rowling’s part.

She seems to have been trying too hard to establish this as an adult novel and completely detached from Harry Potter. And that’s totally understandable, given how difficult it often is for someone that’s accomplished something monumentally popular, influential, successful, and groundbreaking ever to be associated with anything else. Rowling undoubtedly didn’t want to be exclusively “the Harry Potter lady” for the rest of her career. But for her, of all people! to suffer any lack of confidence is more or less tragic.

It’s always interesting, when I reread Harry Potter, to watch Rowling’s prose improve. It’s never been the most spectacular, but it was always passable, and by the end of Harry Potter it’s quite solid, and of course it’s fun to track her progress through her next few works as well. The Casual Vacancy still suffers a bit from he, Harry syndrome, but it’s nice to see that almost entirely disappeared by the time we get to The Cuckoo’s Calling. These days her prose is what I’d call ‘good,’ but it doesn’t really matter much… it’s that understanding of humanity I previously mentioned that draws me to her writing.

(Since writing the above and going an extra week without posting this, I’ve just about finished the book and have more thoughts… but I’ma save them until next time in the interest of getting this post done ever.)

Kuroshitsuji chapters 117-119 — I kept forgetting to look at the latest chapters until I had three of them in line, but now I’ve finally gotten around to it. And it’s always so fun to read a few new chapters in a row (though not enough fun, in a series I love this much, that I would deliberately put off reading them and let them pile up, heh).

So the 19th-century boy-band thing continues to be consummately hilarious. Like, every time it’s referenced, and especially every time they appear onstage, I just can’t stop laughing. And Ciel putting together his own — and so accurately judging what is the primary appeal of such groups and hammering it relentlessly — just doubles the humor. This author really knows what she’s doing.

Of course it’s always fantastic to see Sebastian working his demon thang, but he is a Superman character whose superiority in just about everything could potentially completely overshadow (and overpower!) every other character in the story, thereby rendering it very boring… so I think Toboso is wise to limit his use in that capacity. It’s interesting and entertaining to watch the other characters do what they’re good at and figure out how to deal with situations on their own, in any case — and then I don’t mind if Sebastian steps in at the end of the struggle with a supernatural final solution.

Saint Asonia — Of course I’m terrible at keeping track of my favorite artists, so it’s no surprise this album came out over a year ago and I’m only just listening to it now. But I’m super happy to hear Adam’s amazing voice again.

I don’t think there are any real standout hits on this album, but overall it has a pretty good sound, some moments of which are hauntingly reminiscent of classic Three Days Grace. My favorite songs are Blow Me Wide Open, Let Me Live My Life, and Even Though I Say. These, I think, have the strongest TDG feel to them (which is probably why I like them best), while also offering some great guitarwork removed from the TDG tradition of shorter, more memorable phrases. And I think it’s no coincidence that these three songs are all in a row in the middle of the album, forming a core of TDG reminiscence as the heart of a collection of music that’s still moving in a new direction.

I’m not entirely sure how to tag this. I may tag it as “Three Days Grace,” or I may rename my TDG tag after Adam. Though since I’ll probably need to talk about the existing, sadly Adamless TDG in future… I dunno. I’ll figure it out.

Similarly, I don’t know yet where I’ma keep the files. At the moment I have two relevant folders — “Three Days Grace (Adam)” and “Three Days Grace (Matt)” — and Saint Asonia is not Three Days Grace… but elsewhere I do have Beyoncé grouped with Destiny’s Child, and Ronnie James Dio grouped with Black Sabbath and Heaven and Hell. So I guess we’ll see. Man, I end a lot of paragraphs that way XD

Justice League: Doom — I kinda think DC is trying to have their cake and eat it with these movies by attempting to make them appealing to kids and adults at the same time. There are certain childish aspects that are seriously annoying. I mean, if I never again had to see a themed villain attempting to deliver clever one-liners related to their stupid theme, it would be too damn soon. And do the heroes really have to try to respond in kind?

I’ve mentioned before (talking about Wonder Woman, incidentally) how I feel about taking the blood out (or mostly out) of bloody battles, and my opinion on that has not changed. I’m really not sure how this movie got a PG-13 rating with such watered down combat. Though the animated fighting was, as in Wonder Woman, pretty well choreographed.

So Batman is hilarious. I don’t know what else to say. I have a very hard time taking him at all seriously because he takes himself so seriously. When I read the blurb on the back of the DVD case, I laughed and laughed. “Batman is a paranoid asshole; is that what you’re saying?” was my immediate reaction. And what’s funny is that his actions never seemed anything but totally reasonable and wise, and very in keeping with his character… but I still couldn’t take them — or him — very seriously.

Which is why it was a really, really good moment when, right in the middle of jeering at him as he realized what was happening to everyone, I was struck dumb by his admission of guilt in fewer and better words than my childish taunting — “By me!” That was some seriously good drama.

Similarly, excellent drama at the end of the movie that actually raised my opinion of Batman when he kinda forced me to take him seriously with his well written and well delivered lines and his choice to voluntarily leave the Justice League. He really stood out at that point as an unbiased and dispassionate analyst and planner, which I understand is typically his way of making up for not actually having any powers. Good times!!

I thought the overall plot was a pretty decent superhero story, fairly solid and sensible with believable motivations, but a couple of questions did occur to me…

First off, did Savage actually need to get the Justice League out of the way? Nobody knew what he’d built and was planning… Sure, if he’d fired his missile without all the rigmarole, it’s probable someone would have detected it and alerted some superhero… but at that point there would be no more than a few minutes to figure out what the missile was, where it was going, and how to deal with it, and the solution they actually used in the story would not be available.

It seems like, if he was worried about their interference afterward, it would be pretty easy to make sure the flare would hit the side of the Earth the Justice League would be on at the time and just take most of them out at once. Then you’d just have to deal with Superman, and he has the most straightforward weakness that I’m pretty sure everyone knows. Or would most of them not be killed by an unexpected solar flare? (I have to admit to an incredibly small level of familiarity with their powers.)

But working on the hypothesis that Savage really believes having subordinate rulers of the world (especially ones that would feel some loyalty to him) would be legitimately useful, and that offering these folks the chance to defeat their nemeses would cement them into that position (and therefore that destroying the Justice League is an important move), I still have to wonder whether there aren’t other superheroes in the world that might get in the way. I mean, if I’m going to accept that the Justice League is a threat to this plan, I have to assume others might be as well. But Savage acts like the Justice Leaguers are the only people that could possibly hinder his plans.

Also, the Justice League went to a crapton of trouble to stop the solar flare from reaching (and, failing that, affecting) Earth, but they all heard how the thing worked — was there nothing any of their powers could do to disrupt or redirect the magnetic trail to send the flare harmlessly elsewhere?

These are unimportant quibbles that would probably be null and void to someone more familiar with the universe. As I said, the overall story was good. I really liked how it actually justified the tired old “bad guy wants to rule the world” trope and lent it a haunting amount of sense in context. And also as I said before, Batman’s behavior is completely understandable, and it seems like it would be only a matter of time before his paranoid ass got robbed, so this was a plot deliciously waiting to happen.

I also enjoyed the crap out of watching a superhero story not bogged down by origins. No matter what I may have said about my lack of knowledge of characters’ powers, the whole damn thing made sense despite not explaining backstories in tedious detail. Funny how a lot of moviemakers don’t seem to have grasped that concept yet.

In fact I learned interesting tidbits about the powers (and sometimes the history) of several of the characters over the course of a story that conveyed these details much more naturally and entertainingly than an origin story ever could. (Cyborg was totally my favorite, by the way.) And with that in mind, I definitely look forward to further DCAU movies!

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