The Clone Wars — Despite how much I enjoy this series, it took me forever to watch it all through. This is largely because I kept getting distracted by other shows and watching Castlevania over and over and over and over and over. Anyway, with the final season approaching, I tried to hustle at last and managed to get to what was the end for so many years.

This series is, barring a few inevitable bad moments and missteps, consistently excellent. The insight into the Jedi Order, the workings of the Senate, and Palpatine’s clever, gradual assumption of both power and acclaim are invaluable to a thorough understanding of this part of the Star Wars timeline. It also shows Anakin as a likable, sympathetic, believable character, the influence Palpatine has over him, and his transition to the Dark Side much, much more effectively than the prequel trilogy could ever hope to. In fact I’d say that The Clone Wars single-handedly redeems the prequel trilogy and all its characters. Which is funny, since the best TCW character isn’t in the prequel trilogy.

Some of the storylines near the end were expertly handled. Of course I loved to see my darling Ahsoka being an adorable badass, and thought her reactions to being framed for murder and dismissed from the Order were natural and admirable; but I think the story I enjoyed most in the penultimate seasons was the one about Fives and the buried Order 66 protocol. That hit so hard, and built up so much tension regarding the upcoming execution of the Jedi.

Actually one of my favorite things about the show was the way it demonstrated the humanity and individuality of the clones and the relationship between Jedi generals and clone troopers. Watch just the movies, and you come away with an idea of clones as essentially flesh-covered droids. The Clone Wars, which even has them in the title, doesn’t put up with that bullshit idea — which makes Palpatine’s exploitation of them all the worse. I was definitely ready for the disbandment of the very misguided Jedi Order and the replacement of the foolish, corrupt Republic Senate with a better system by the end of the series, but I certainly wasn’t rooting for Palpatine! (Though it is fun to watch and admire his expert maneuvering.)

As for the new episodes… geez, Disney, what made you think one a week was a good idea? We don’t pay for streaming services in the hopes that they’ll mimic television release schedules! I watched the first two episodes, but decided then to wait until I can get through a storyline all at once. (And while we’re at it, Disney, where the fuck is Frozen II? No, I’m not shelling out for DVD’s or Blu-Rays or renting it on Amazon or whatever, because I already pay a monthly fee for your streaming service! But it seems like Disney+ subscribers are third-class citizens in the new release world. Fuck you. I’m going to Disneyland on September 19th anyway.) (I wrote that aside before Frozen II suddenly appear on Disney+; my thoughts on that movie next time.)

Hey, uh, guys? Remember how Buzz played a very minor role in this story? And how Forky was really important?

But on the topic of Disney, and movies that actually are available on Disney+…

Toy Story 4 — Here’s a reminder that a Pixar-shaped cookie cutter is still a cookie cutter. A cute story with adventure, humor, and drama, yet ultimately forgettable. This series has already touched on just about every major trauma a living toy can have, so by now we’re just retreading the same ground with new decorations. The one significant change was the idea of toys living happily without owners, but can this please be the end?

Of far more interest to me than the movie itself was the constant reminders of HOH Duo it provided. Brother and I ended up talking far more about than than about Toy Story 4, and he hasn’t even read HOH except for a couple of Nine Decades stories. So seriously. Rest in peace, Toy Story franchise.

Othello by William Shakespeare — I’ve always liked this one. It’s another “everyone makes bad choices and then dies” story, but at least in this one I care quite a bit about the characters. Though I kinda dislike the smug, arrogant way the guy in this recording performs Othello himself, I like the character. And Desdemona is such a sweetheart.

Emilia is another of those roles I’ve always thought would be fun to play. She’s clever and amusing, and admirably devoted to Desdemona and Othello. It’s sad she has to die too, but that would be a fun scene to act :D

And Iago is a delightfully clever and ruthless villain to watch at work. The same can be said for some of the villains in other Shakespeare plays, but in this one, as I mentioned, I actually care about the characters, so it means something when they all go down in flames.

Yes, please? I’d love to see all these folks’ performances.

AAAaAAAaAaaaaAaAAAAAaAaAAAAAaaaaaAAA

Castlevania season 3 — Yes, I got up on the 5th and watched this entire season. See, Disney? Netflix knows how to do it right!! And my feelings after initial watch are quite positive. Who knows how that will change when I watch it again without the excitement of the first time through a new season? I’m savoring the enjoyment for now :D

Though I didn’t dislike them, I never cared all that much about the characters introduced in season 2; but season 3 helped me like them all better and become much more invested in their stories. Isaac’s journey of self-discovery in particular was engaging — though that might have been mostly because of the Legion scene XD Hector I still don’t feel all that much for; his part of the story was mostly interesting because it let me get to know Lenore.

Which brings me to the new characters introduced this season. I loves them all. The dynamic among the four vampire queens was delightful, and each of them intriguing as individuals. It’s kinda weird that we get a (wonderful) lesbian couple that Carmilla isn’t part of. (Actually, having Carmilla implied in the second season to like more men than women has always annoyed me.) I like that they’re constructing a real plan; I wonder if other vampire rulers, however many remain, have something similar in mind.

And Saint Germain? I love him too! He’s such a great blend of experienced wisdom and an almost childlike sense of his own terrible aloneness. This third season did a much better job getting me invested in the stories of the new characters than the second one did. I didn’t mind at all that Saint Germain’s full story wasn’t revealed; I figure we’ll probably meet him again, and I’m satisfied with his involvement in this season and to wait to learn more.

The Judge and Sala weren’t earthshaking characters, but I enjoyed them. I like it when someone has something going on that’s not relevant to the main story but demonstrates that there are multidimensional people in the world other than the main characters (and also proves a point such as “there’s plenty of evil around unrelated to Dracula”). And Sala’s off-kilter demeanor was pretty awesome. Given that the story of these two was meant to be contained within this arc, I think they fulfilled their purpose well.

Taka and Sumi, though fairly likable (at first), really only existed to develop Alucard — first and most importantly, to show he’s totally up for being with a woman and another man. Obviously it wasn’t the right three-person relationship, but it paved the way! More seriously, they did showcase his desperate need for companionship and encouragement, and that interaction was cuter than it had any right to be.

And speaking of a woman and another man. My small heart grew three sizes that day in observing that Sypha and Trevor interact so exactly as I’ve seen them written in fanfiction multiple times. That they casually and (justifiably) shamelessly slipped into a sexual and romantic relationship while treating each other about the same as ever had me squealing. It’s true I long for them to make Alucard a part of that, but I adore them as a couple! I’m always impressed when something manages to sell me on a male/female couple.

In overall story terms, we’ve barely advanced. In fact, near the end, I was thinking that everyone would end up pretty well exactly where the second season left them, with some slightly better organization and power to move forward on the part of the Sisters and Isaac. And then… then that last moment with Alucard hit, and I got shivers. Because that kinda changes everything, and opens whole new avenues of possibility for the future.

I think the pacing problems from season 2 have been mended this time around, but that’s something else I’ll have to consider more carefully as I watch it again. At the very least, there weren’t a bunch of random-ass flashbacks that existed purely to insert fight scenes into boring parts. The music was great, as always, and maybe we can expect a season 2 soundtrack now season 3 is out. The animation was still beautiful, but there’s always a kind of unnaturalness to the characters when they’re just walking. I didn’t notice any wonky moments such as the second season had. But there was some extremely ugly and unnecessary computer-generated stuff going on in the Infinite Corridor and Hell, and I wondered what they were thinking with that.

So, yes. Better than season 2, in general if not in big climactic moments, and thoroughly enjoyable the first time around. I may have more thoughts when I watch it again and again and again and again.

Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover — OK, to start out with, I only ever watched the movie twice, and that was right when it came out. I thought it was so terrible that I never could bring myself to watch it again. But this novelization was actually pretty great. Interestingly, though the movies remained canon, the old novelizations of the movies are no longer canon, and no new novelizations of the prequel trilogy have yet appear. So a lot of the details provided here aren’t canon, though they are most intriguing.

This book was also written before the entirety of The Clone Wars, though Lucas (on whose original story the book is based) obviously had some ideas already — Ventress is mentioned more than once, for example. But that means the author had scant material from the actual Clone Wars to work with, so the references to Clone Wars events are limited to a very small handful that gets pretty repetitive.

There’s a feeling I’ve gotten before when moving from a lesser-known portion of a fandom to a greater-known: that in following up The Clone Wars with Revenge of the Sith, I’ve stepped back into greater generality and casual accessibility. That Revenge of the Sith is oversimplified for the broader audience that only watches the movies. It’s a frustrating, forlorn feeling.

Anyway. The prose in this book is a little overblown, but once you adjust to that, it’s not half bad. The author has an interesting style that’s perfect for delving into character nuances and relationships, which I thought was perfect for this particular story. Between the prequel trilogy novelizations and The Clone Wars, Anakin’s transition to the Dark Side makes 100x more sense and is even, from a certain point of view, a desirable change in his life. Some aspects of the war and Palpatine’s actions and motivations are clarified wonderfully, too.

The love between Anakin and Obi-wan, and the tragic change in their relationship, is really hammered out here into a clear, heart-wrenching shape. And Obi-wan himself is portrayed as such a badass; I always liked him, but this book elevated him to a position of greater admiration and love. I don’t necessarily ship him and Anakin (unless Padmé is part of the relationship), but I adore their friendship.

One jarring thing was the animosity with which Mace and Yoda regarded Anakin. This is not present in The Clone Wars, so having it pop up here all of a sudden was weird. That said, Mace and Yoda were characterized well, and their thoughts made a lot of sense. Another unfortunate aspect of this book being written before TCW was that the clones themselves went back to being fairly faceless. Order 66 seemed downplayed a bit, and its grand scope and emotional ramifications somewhat glossed over.

Still, I very much enjoyed this book. I’m not planning on reading all the new Star Wars novels yet, but I did want to get through this prequel timeline before I set it all aside for a while. (For one thing, I’m still working on obtaining all the new Star Wars novels, though it’s a losing battle when more keep getting written XD) And I haven’t watched The Rise of Skywalker yet, because it’s not on Disney+ (see previous comments on Disney+, heh).

Whoa! Speaking of Star Wars, check out this cover that looks just like that Anakin-with-Vader’s-shadow poster!

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson — Just like Dracula, here’s a novella that has its thunder stolen by its own fame and influence. Just as when reading Dracula, I try to imagine I don’t know all the answers so as to experience the story as it was intended, with very limited success. It’s incredibly sad that such an excellently constructed narrative is ruined thus.

Still, it’s a very interesting and entertaining story. The idea that we can sense in others the presence of and capability for good, and therefore that even the worst people aren’t entirely repugnant to us, fascinates me. And I love to watch Jekyll gradually losing control over Hyde, and the implication that indulging the evil in our natures is addictive and self-destructive. My mom always interprets this novella as a warning against drug use, and when she first read it to me some 25 years ago, we discussed it as such. I don’t mind that interpretation, but think it has more applicability as a broader warning against routinely giving in to vice and thinking you can just go back to being a virtuous person in between.

Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson — This story is coupled with Jekyll and Hyde in the audiobook version I have. I may separate them one of these days, but usually I’m happy to go on to it after Jekyll and Hyde. It’s kindof a moral fluff story, though the idea that merely hating evil is not enough to keep you from being an evil person isn’t uninteresting.

Of course the most engaging part is wondering whether or not the stranger actually is the devil, and what power he has. All he does, after all, is talk. The line, The features of the visitor began to undergo a wonderful and lovely change: they brightened and softened with a tender triumph, when Markheim basically announces his decision to turn himself in, always really gets me. The mystery and implication is the story’s strongest point.

OK! I meant to have this log up a week ago, but it took way longer to write than I expected. So AEL’s aren’t offset as I wished. Hopefully I can have another one up in a week (it’s not like I have any lack of free time right now) and get that in order. In the meantime, I have a couple other bi-weekly posts to work on, and a shit-ton of stories :D

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