Session 9: Let’s Go Crazy – Netflix Review / 13 Reviews of Halloween

A team trying to clean up an old abandoned asylum find… I guess what you might expect in an old abandoned asylum?

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Gordon (Peter Mullan) is the owner of a company who takes a rush job to remove all of the asbestos in an abandoned psychiatric hospital. His crew includes: Mike (Stephen Gevedon), who knows much about the building’s history; Phil (David Caruso), his second-in-command who is dealing with a breakup; Hank (Josh Lucas), a gambling addict; and Jeff (Brendan Sexton III), Gordon’s nyctophobic nephew (afraid of the dark). While in the asylum, Mike discovers a box containing a total of nine sessions of audio-recorded interviews with a former patient named Mary Hobbes (Jurian Hughes). As they start getting to work, Mike starts listening to Mary’s tapes, finding out that she had dissociative identity disorder. Soon, strange things start happening around the asylum. It turns out that some things might be more than just a trick of the mind.

Spoiler: Asbestos is NOT the real killer.

END SUMMARY

The key to this movie is the atmosphere. It starts with the building itself. It’s a giant, sprawling relic of the past that clearly has a bad history, but it’s not as apparently menacing as many horror settings. It’s got a lot of light areas and white walls, but also a lot of hallways that quickly turn into underground tunnels. The open spaces being connected by tight and isolated rooms allows everything to go from “okay” to “oh no” at a moment’s notice, keeping the viewer always on guard. The fact that everywhere has signs of decay, death, and torment only serves to heighten the feeling that this is not a good place to be. But, again, it doesn’t always rely on dark corners and creepy hallways to have the threat. Sometimes, a room filled with an almost eerie light can provide the grounds for the feelings of dread that permeate the film. Also, it was an actual abandoned asylum, so there’s an extra level of authenticity to the creepiness.

The crew sometimes used stuff that was left in the building. Creepy stuff.

The other key to the atmosphere is how well these characters come off as authentic. They all have their own reasons for taking this job and they all are desperate to get out of their current situations. Their interactions show a closeness and a joviality. That makes it even more disturbing when, as the film progresses, their talks start to get more and more strained and aggressive. Moreover, all of them have different reasons why they might suddenly be growing stranger. One of the best parts of the film is that you can never be sure who is being influenced by what, even when the really bad things start to happen. By having almost everyone in the film being a suspect and an unreliable narrator, you can never be certain of what is real. 

You know how you joke about lobotomizing your friends? … everyone does that, right?

The cinematography in this film, while not incredibly unique, does a great job of framing shots such that you can never quite get the full picture of what’s happening, even when there don’t appear to be any supernatural forces at work. It gets taken up a notch later when we find out that someone on the crew seems to have completely snapped, but we don’t know who and we don’t know if it’s even real. When the final revelations in the film start to snowball, the certainty comes almost as a relief even as the horror rises.

Great framing and color work here.

Overall, this is a great work of psychological horror. Give it a try.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts (Season 3): The End Comes Now – Netflix Review

This show lasted only one year, but it deserves a lasting legacy.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2)

It’s the future and humanity kind of wrecked Earth, making giant mutant animals into the dominant life form of the surface world. Kipo Oak (Karen Fukuhara) lived in an underground community, called a burrow, until she was thrown from it when it was destroyed by a giant animal. She soon met other surface survivors: The feral Wolf (Sydney Mikayla), the mutant pig Mandu (Dee Bradley Baker), the con man Benson (Coy Stewart), and Benson’s immortal bug friend Dave (Deon Cole). Together, the four manage to find the remainder of Kipo’s burrow and, eventually, rescue them and Kipo’s father (Sterling K. Brown) from the evil mutant mandrill Scarlemagne (Dan Stevens), only for it to be revealed that Scarlemagne was not the only threat. Now, the humans and the mutants must unite to deal with Dr. Emilia (Amy Landecker), a mad scientist who wants to destroy all mutantkind.

Also, Kipo can turn into a megajaguar now. It’s awesome.

END SUMMARY

This has been one of the best shows of the year and I am legitimately sad that it apparently only gets three seasons. However, I also have to acknowledge that it had a fantastic and emotionally powerful ending. It may have been but a brief candle, but it burned brighter than many series that lasted twice as long. Despite that, I don’t think Kipo ever got the same amount of praise as other shows like She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, a series that I genuinely thought didn’t have the same level of quality storytelling as this one (although it also had a hell of a final season). 

The show manages to do a lot with a giant four-armed monkey.

I don’t think I really acknowledged this before, but this is one of the few shows that I’ve seen in a while where there are no white people in the main cast (aside from Dee Bradley Baker who makes pig noises). The show itself never really makes any acknowledgement of race at all, which meant that what normally would be a major accomplishment in representation mostly went unnoticed. It can’t even be attributed to the source material, since Benson, in the webcomic, was a large bearded white guy, as opposed to the thin gay black man that he became in the show. I just want to give the show its due.

It also has one of the best subversions of the “awkward crush” storyline.

The key to this series was the worldbuilding and the sincerity. It takes place in a world that, while it is a dystopia with things like “death ivy” and ruined buildings everywhere, also is filled with creative creatures that have amazingly vivid designs. There are Megabunnies, sentient colonies of tardigrades that can create psychic projections, and even Bees that communicate by dubstep instead of normal dancing. They throw in some giant corgis just for the extra cuteness, because why not? Then, rather than having a bunch of overly dramatic protagonists, we get a bunch of kids who are just trying to make the best of things. Moreover, the show’s protagonists tend to survive better because Kipo is willing to make friends with mutants and work with everyone, rather than Benson’s previous method of stealing or Wolf’s “attack first” mentality. It presents us with two people who are surviving (three if you count Dave), but by the end of the series it shows us that cooperation and harmony lead to everyone thriving. The show genuinely wants to point out that we are stronger together, but it does it through solid narrative, rather than trying to inject morals. The last season is realistic about how hard it is to get people to work together, but it is unambiguous about the merits.

Friendship Alliances are the strongest alliances.

Overall, this show was a great addition to all-ages animation and I will miss it. Goodbye, Kipo, you did great.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Enola Holmes: Great Performance, Fun Story – Netflix Review

Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister gets her own adventure.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) is the youngest child of the Holmes family after her older brothers Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill). Raised alone by her mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), Enola is taught to be independent (particularly for a woman in the 1890s) and is educated in cryptography, strategy, and even martial arts. When her mother disappears, the older Holmes brothers attempt to send Enola to a finishing school under the abusive Miss Harrison (Fiona Shaw), but Enola escapes. In her flight, she encounters a young man who is revealed to be a missing Marquess, Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) who is being pursued by a menacing man. The pair escape together before getting separated. Enola now wishes to find the Viscount as well as her mother while avoiding the eyes of the greatest detective in the world and his smarter older brother. 

A family of some distinction.

END SUMMARY

While I do read a number of Sherlock Holmes spin-offs, I don’t think I’ve read the source material which inspired this movie. I’ve heard that the books are better, but I can say that it is hard to write a character that can match Millie Bobby Brown’s portrayal. It’s not just that she does such a great job of portraying a smart outcast woman in Victorian England, it’s that she is unbelievably likeable. Even though her character often breaks the fourth wall and falls back on some overused tropes, she’s so charming that you don’t even care. A big strength is how much she can convey to the camera with just a look. Comedy, concern, caring, things that don’t begin with C. She also has great comic timing when she does her breaks and the deliveries of the lines in them, but she also nails the more somber emotional moments. It reminded me of Fleabag, something that wouldn’t have shocked me if I’d realized that Harry Bradbeer, the director of this film, was also the director of that show. Given the heavy feminist themes of both, I feel like this is almost the young persons’ introduction to the same humor that Phoebe Waller-Bridge brought to the screen. If they want to cast Waller-Bridge as an older Enola Holmes in a future movie (or as Irene Adler), I want everyone involved to know I will throw money at the screen with such force that Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate will feel it. 

This look is so damned perfect. She’s so talented.

Henry Cavill portrays a different version of Sherlock Holmes than we usually see. He’s more grounded than Robert Downey, Jr.’s version and more human than Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal. He is still brilliant, but since he’s not the focus, it comes off almost more impressive because we just see him working things out in the background. He also seems more caring, possibly because this is the first version we’ve seen interacting with a family member who actually likes him. However, Sam Claflin’s portrayal of Mycroft, who is essentially the villain of the piece, stands at odds with most interpretations of the character. He’s a misogynist, a classist, and tends to shout loudly. Additionally, he’s often wrong, which is probably the biggest difference from the canonical version. But, I will say, he’s a fun villain, because he’s really just a representation of an archaic mindset and watching Enola rebel against it is cathartic to everyone’s inner teenager. 

He’s the only version of Sherlock Holmes that can block bullets.

The actual mystery of the film is pretty great, particularly in watching Enola slowly unraveling it. She’s clearly brilliant, but she doesn’t have the practical experience of Sherlock Holmes, nor does she have the ability to operate independently, due to her status as a woman. She does a good job to try and overcome it, but often ends up just dressing as a boy to get by. Still, it’s fun to watch her work.

Louis Partridge is great as the Marquess. He’s very surprisingly quick and fun.

Overall, I really liked this movie, but now I need a movie with Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Irene Adler. I’m going to start #IreneWallerBridge on Twitter and see if anyone cares (they won’t).

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Dragon’s Dogma: It’s Formulaic, But A Guilty Pleasure – Netflix Anime Review

I take a look at an adaptation of a medieval fantasy video game series.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

In the medieval land of Gransys, Ethan (Yūichi Nakamura/Greg Chun), a hunter, loses his wife Olivia (Miyuki Sawashiro/Cristina Vee) and his surrogate son Louis (Yūko Sanpei/Jeannie Tirado) to an attack by a savage Dragon (Takayuki Sugō/David Lodge). The Dragon, sensing Ethan’s hate, takes Ethan’s heart and revives him as an Arisen. He is soon joined by a magical humanoid creation called a Pawn, whom he names Hannah (Nana Mizuki/Erica Mendez). Together, the two head through Gransys to slay the Dragon, and all of the monsters they meet along the way.

It’s good Ethan was a hunter rather than a baker. It’d be hard to cook the dragon.

END SUMMARY

This show’s apparently an adaptation of a video game, and that’s kind of what it feels like. Every episode feels like the next level that slowly gets to the “boss” Dragon. While this provides some boost to the structure and pacing of the show, it does get a bit repetitive, mostly because the characterization of Ethan and Hannah is really thin until the very last episode. Even the episode that fleshes out Ethan’s backstory doesn’t really do it in a way that evokes a lot of emotion. The monster designs are pretty solid, but only a handful of them are particularly creative. The rest are just picked from a DnD Monster Manual.

The Hydra works exactly like you’d think a hydra does, until suddenly it doesn’t.

Every episode is named after a particular sin representing one of the monsters in it or the general theme, which, at times, feels a little like a PSA. This is particularly true of “Sloth,” which generally comes off as being a Reagan-esque “Winners Don’t Do Drugs” fable. This vibe conflicts with the fact that the violence and nudity give the show a distinctly adult feel. This tonal inconsistency is only matched by the character inconsistency, with several supporting characters seeming to change motives at a moment. It’s particularly noticeable with Ethan and Hannah, who both seem to fluctuate between “help the people” and “kill the dragon, screw the people” depending on what the current episode needs.

Winners don’t use drugs; they use magical arrows.

In positives, the fight scenes are pretty good. Some of them are creative or at least have nice visual elements. I will say that the last episode does make me want to see more of this show, because they open it up for a completely new direction. At seven episodes, some of which are under 20 minutes, the show isn’t a major investment if you just have some time to kill. 

The Dragon has some of the best characterization.

Overall, if you like hack and slash, give it a try, but if not, maybe wait until we find out if Season 2 is any better.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Freak Show: It’s Cute, but the Script is Weak – Netflix Review

A queer teenager has to deal with moving to a Conservative high school.

SUMMARY

Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther) is a young, flamboyant, and proudly gay kid who was raised by his very dramatic alcoholic mother “Muv” (Bette Midler). He ends up getting sent to live with his father (Larry Pine) and his nanny (Lorraine Toussaint) after Muv goes to rehab. Unfortunately, the local high school is extremely conservative, and Billy is immediately labeled a “Freak.” Rather than being ashamed, Billy tries to be even more outlandish and outspoken, and even makes a friend in Mary Jane (AnnaSophia Robb) and a friend/ambiguous love interest in Flip Kelly (Ian Nelson), but ends up being the target of a beating. After he recovers, Billy decides that he wants to be the first male homecoming queen, to the chagrin of Lynette (Abigail Breslin), the queen bee of the school, and to the delight of local reporter Felicia (Laverne Cox). 

His eyeshadow is on point.

END SUMMARY

This movie is so close to being great, but unfortunately only ends up at “good.” Lawther’s performance is fantastic, as you would expect if you’ve watched The End of the F***ing World. At one point he does a dramatic monologue as Zelda Fitzgerald that is so over the top that it seems like it should fail miserably… except that Lawther nails it. That’s basically how his role frequently feels in this movie. He’s written so over the top and so unrealistically self-aggrandizing that he doesn’t ever really ring true as a character, but somehow Lawther actually makes it work. It’s hard to make a character work when he’s constantly thinking about how much better he is than everyone, although the movie does make him inherently the underdog, and it’s even harder when the character seems so undeveloped. It’s not that Billy couldn’t be interesting, in fact much of what happens to him in the movie should be, it’s that he doesn’t really seem to grow at all during the course of the film. Maybe that’s supposed to reflect that he doesn’t need to change who he is, but we watch films to see a journey, and Billy doesn’t really go on one. 

I almost want to say that he does just because this outfit gets into the movie.

Similarly, we don’t really get the full impact of the journeys of any of the other people. Flip is depicted as a jock who is trying to figure out who he is, particularly given his interest in Billy and his love of culture, but we only get a little bit of that story because Flip also doesn’t seem to grow much. While having such static characters could work if everyone else in the film was changing, and the very end of the movie almost makes that point, it still feels like it only touches upon that theme. The movie seems more fixated on showing the glamorous side of Billy rather than his more human side. 

Although, his relationship with Bette Midler almost brings it out.

Overall, it’s not a bad movie, but it’s only okay. I wouldn’t mess your hair up trying to get it on your watchlist.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Teenage Bounty Hunters: Funny, Dirty, and Just the Right Amount of Sinful – Netflix Review

Two sisters try to make a living tracking down fugitives.

SUMMARY

Sterling (Maddie Phillips) and Blair (Anjelica Bette Fellini) are fraternal twins who attend a very strict Christian Academy. Sterling is the more prominent and demure one publicly, but privately she’s the wilder of the two. She starts the series off by losing her virginity to her very chaste boyfriend Luke (Spencer House), having to work hard to talk him into it. After the sisters get distracted talking about it, they get into a car accident. The man they hit mistakes them for a car that was tailing him, and mistakes the pair of them for bounty hunters. They defend themselves ably and end up helping the actual bounty hunter, Bowser (Kadeem Hardison), to take the fugitive down. They soon start helping Bowser while trying to deal with school and their family. 

Their cover is a yogurt place.

END SUMMARY

About five minutes into this show, when it went from hormone-driven teenagers to a car wreck to a firearm-filled standoff, I was asking myself “Did I just miss something?” The answer is that no, I did not, the show just very quickly shifted from one to the other. That’s actually how the show works sometimes, and you get used to it pretty quickly. One cold-open is basically a character dying that you have never seen before and have no reason to care about. However, as the series goes on, you realize that it’s mostly about largely reactive subjects (being a teenager and bounty hunting), which means that having things happen and adapting to them puts the audience more in line with what the characters are going through. 

They get surprised a lot.

The dialogue in the show, when it’s good, is really good. There are a number of fun quips and quotations in every episode. Periodically, the sisters will try to do a fast-paced semi-psychic “twinspeak” conversation which is represented as a look between the two to outsiders, and these are often perfect examples of the humor in the show. A lot of the humor comes from how frank the two can be to each other while also code-switching to “Southern Church Lady” whenever they’re interacting with their neighbors.

Or with their fellow students.

Some of the humor comes from the fact that the two are bounty hunters and fairly rebellious and progressive while in a very Conservative area. Despite the fact that many of the older people in the show exhibit very regressive attitudes, the youth characters mostly exhibit positive examples of Christianity, trying to be body positive and non-judgmental. However, they do get called out at times by the narrative for their narrow worldviews and they find out more and more how damaging their environment can be for themselves and their friends. There’s also a solid joke when one of the leads interacts with the Satanic Temple only to discover that they’re pro-reproductive rights, social justice, and the separation of church and State, rather than goat burning demon worshippers. 

Although I think it exaggerates the merits of religious private education.

The leads are all pretty good, but it really shines in the twins. The chemistry between Fellini and Phillips really does come off as sisterly, which is genuinely impressive. They also have a solid rapport with Hardison, who plays what could have been a simple archetype into a nuanced character. It’s also great to see him when he deals with his more publicized “rival,” played by Method Man. The biggest drawback to the series is that there are some long stretches where they aren’t allowed to play to their various strengths. Still, when they’re together, it’s usually pretty great.

The Dryer is loaded.

Overall, I thought it was a fun show. It suffers from a lot of slow periods, but when it’s good, it’s very good. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

We Summon the Darkness: A Crazy Cult Film – Netflix Review

A group of girls meet three guys at a metal concert. The panic will be Satanic.

SUMMARY

Welcome to the ‘80s, where the Satanic Panic is in full swing. Anything with five points is going to warp fragile young minds and any loud music with heavy distortion is a threat to society itself. At least that’s what the televangelists, like John Henry Butler (Johnny Knoxville), say. It’s July of 1988, and three girls, Alexis (Alexandra Daddario), Val (Maddie Hasson), and Bev (Amy Forsyth) are heading to a heavy metal concert. When they stop at a store on the way, they hear that there is a national society of Satanists who have been abducting and sacrificing young people for their dark ends. At the show, the three girls meet a group of rock fans, Ivan (Austin Swift), Kovacs (Logan Miller), and Mark (Keean Johnson). The girls agree to head back to Alexis’s empty house with the guys, but the trio soon comes to regret it when a game of Never Have I Ever goes out of control. 

I mean, that game usually goes out of control eventually, but more than usual.

END SUMMARY

I cannot do this review without a few spoilers, so you’ve been warned. If you really want to go into this film blind, just know that the movie is fairly average. It has some good points, particularly the acting by the lead girls and the kills, so if you are a true horror fan, you’ll probably enjoy it, but the pacing and the dialogue are not great. It has a single big element that it really clings to, and it’s a solid one, but other than that it can’t quite hold your focus for the whole running time. I found it constantly having overly tropey moments just to keep some momentum going. There are better horror movies, there are better horror movies with this film’s particular slant, and there was not enough of Johnny Knoxville as a crazy preacher. However, it’s almost worth watching just to see Daddario’s performance. Now for the banner.

This face screams “I’m done with this sh*t” perfectly.

***** SOME SPOILERS AHEAD*****

This movie is a take-down of the Satanic Panic, which unfortunately stopped roughly 25 years ago, making this not the most timely of commentaries. Moreover, they didn’t really update the theme enough to make it solidly applicable to the modern US, which is a bit disappointing because that would have been so sweet to watch. The killers, very early in the movie (maybe too early), are revealed not to be actual Satanists, but Christian Fundamentalists who are committing fake Satanic sacrifices in order to inflame the panic and gain more followers for their fellowship. Given that, thirty years later, there remain almost no proven cases of actual Satanic ritual killings compared to the huge number which were claimed by rural communities in the 1990s, it is actually more realistic to have crazy power-hungry people faking it than for there to actually be a national Satanic Cult murdering people. 

Also, picking heavy metal concerts seems… cliche.

The thing that really kills this movie is that, like I said, the reveal happens pretty early in the film. If you’re going to start with something like a Christian false flag operation, you really need to keep pushing up the crazy, but the film just kind of limps forward. Our victims get trapped in a cupboard for most of the film and other parties just kind of stumble into the building in order to quickly be killed off or to do a quick reveal that was obvious already. That’s a big part of the third act’s failings: The foreshadowing in the first act was too heavy. If you’d shifted the reveal that the Satanists were fake until the beginning of the third act, then you still would have the impact of that reveal hitting the audience and they might not have already figured the full extent of it out. 

Points for boat motor as a weapon, though.

*****BIGGER SPOILERS*****

I will say that I did approve of the subversion of having the women being the killers rather than the men. By having us follow the three girls for a while before the movie actually gets going, they do seem to be the typical victims for this kind of slasher. Any of them could have been revealed to be a final girl pretty easily, although it leaned towards Beverly early on. The subversion that I was expecting originally was that the guys weren’t the killers, but the killers were a completely different group that would be hunting the six, so when the big reveal happens, I was definitely down for it. Daddario’s absolute batsh*t craziness as Alexis made for a pretty fun and almost believable psychotic killer, and Beverly’s hesitation towards what they were doing came off as genuine in the film. 

Her religious fervor is great.

Overall, though, the pacing and the dialogue just weren’t great. This film is for big time horror fans, but the average moviegoer will probably be a bit bored before the third act. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Seven Deadly Sins/Nanatsu no Taizai (Seasons 1-4): A Little Formulaic at Times, but Still Fun – Netflix Anime Mini-Review

It’s always fun to watch bad guys be the best good guys.

SUMMARY

In the land of Brittania (not to be confused with any real place with similar name), the kingdom of Liones lived in relative peace until the king was overthrown by the Holy Knights, his elite armed forces. The Princess, Elizabeth Liones (Sora Amamiya/Erika Harlacher), set out to find the exiled warriors who previously betrayed the Holy Knights, the Seven Deadly Sins. She actually manages to find Meliodas (Yūki Kaji/Bryce Papenbrook), the captain of the Sins, and the pair embark on a quest to find the others. They succeed in locating four more of the group: Ban the immortal (Tatsuhisa Suzuki/Ben Diskin), Diane the giant (Aoi Yūki/Erica Mendez), King the Elf (Jun Fukuyama/Max Mittelman), and Gowther the doll (Yuhei Takagi/Erik Scott Kimerer). The five, later joined by Merlin the sorceress (Maaya Sakamoto/Lauren Landa), manage to liberate the kingdom from the Holy Knights, only to discover that the entire takeover was engineered to release an even greater threat: The demonic Ten Commandments. Together with the seventh Sin, Escanor (Tomokazu Sugita/Kyle Hebert), the group must stop the Demon Clan from taking over Brittania.

But only King wears a hoodie.

END SUMMARY

I will admit that when I first checked out this series, I had already read some of the manga, so I think I might have expected too much of it. The anime is a pretty faithful adaptation, particularly compared to some others that I’ve seen, but it didn’t feel like it added enough for me. As a result, I kinda bailed after the second season. However, since the manga has wrapped up in the interim, I decided I wanted to see how the story ended. So, I checked it out again and I will say that they did get a little bit better at layering extra imagery onto the anime that wasn’t in the manga to keep it fresh. 

They did a good job on some of the possession movements, for example.

The main thing that I liked about the series at the beginning was that most of the main characters were, in fact, depicted as sinners. Meliodas was a pervert who constantly groped Elizabeth (which she apparently liked, but is still wrong) and was presumed to be concealing an impossible amount of rage beneath his joking facade. Ban was a thief, King was responsible for his species nearly being destroyed, Diane constantly tried to force Meliodas into a relationship with her, Gowther was literally amoral, Merlin was willing to experiment on people without their knowledge, and Escanor, as is true to his sin, was the embodiment of haughty pride. Having protagonists with such flaws almost always makes the story more interesting, but they tried to make a few of them a little more likable at the cost of removing that moral ambiguity. Still, the personalities and character traits are pretty solid for a show like this. 

Seriously, dude, not cool.

It also helps that the show references a diverse number of mythologies, either directly or via allusion, and that it builds on elements from them to quickly create a world that contains a huge number of species and cultures. The show has traditional fantasy races like elves and giants, but also celestial and demonic forces that are a blend of DnD and Abrahamic religions. Arthurian mythology is directly invoked, as is modern vampire mythology and even some Western pop literature. 

I mean, there’s an Arthur Pendragon who rules Camelot. That’s… blatant.

The biggest problem, for me, was that the series had to do the Dragon Ball Z thing of having to constantly level up the powers of the characters in order to keep them as the underdogs. The series even gives you a “power level” reader just to make sure that you understand that these threats completely outclass our protagonists, such that when the Ten Commandments are first introduced, one of their number is stronger than all of the Sins combined. This seemed almost unnecessary because the Commandments also had innovative powers that could have made them a threat even if they were just even in power. Still, so many series have done this, I can hardly hold it against them. I just appreciate it more when series, like One Piece, for example, at least hint from the beginning that this kind of power exists in the world, so that it doesn’t just feel like the narrator saying “well, you beat Bob the Unbeatable, now you have to beat Tim the More Unbeatable who we didn’t mention before now.”

Screw you, Tim.

Overall, I do still think it’s a solid series. Plus, it has an apparent end point in the next season or two, so you don’t have to worry about sitting around 10 years from now waiting for the arc to finish. Lookin’ at you, One Piece.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

A Whisker Away (Nakitai Watashi wa Neko wo Kaburu): IT’S SO CUTE!!! – Netflix Mini-Review

It starts off kind of creepy, then straight to adorable.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Miyo Sasaki (Mirai Shida/Cherami Leigh) is a middle school girl with a crush on her classmate Kento Hinode (Natsuki Hanae/Johnny Yong Bosch). Unfortunately, while she is an outgoing and emotional person, Hinode is usually cold and distant. However, Miyo receives a mask from a talking cat (Koichi Yamadera/Keith Silverstein) that lets her turn into a cat whenever she puts it on. She uses this mask to pretend to be a stray cat that Hinode plays with, named “Taro.” Using her time as Hinode’s cat, she tries to build her relationship with him. Unfortunately, it turns out that magic tends to have a price in stories like this.

And no, she doesn’t get 8 extra lives by wearing it.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so, I realize that there’s something inherently a little weird about a story of spying on your crush, but a big part of the movie is that Miyo (or “Muge” as she is called) is being immature. As the movie continues, she starts to realize that her worldview has always been undeveloped and she grows as a result. At the same time, she starts to get a better picture of who Hinode is, which does nothing to deter her feelings, but instead deepens them. We discover that both of them are hurting, but that they both have responded to their pain in completely different ways. Their relationships with their families are strained by circumstances beyond their control and, like kids do, they have difficulty really coping with it.

Playing with pets is a normal way to cope. Playing AS pets, not so much.

The depth of the characterizations of the two leads is what makes A Whisker Away work. Miyo’s need for affection may make her seem weird to the rest of the world, but it’s just a representation of her desire to receive love. As a cat, she receives all of the cuddles she could ever ask for from the object of her desire. On the opposite end, Hinode is always repressing his feelings due to having to provide for his family. Their financial burden embarasses him a little and puts unnatural pressure on him to get a job to support them, but his loyalty to them prevents him from complaining. This is presented mostly through show rather than narration, which benefits heavily from the very expressive animation style. 

You can even get ideas about characters from how they eat.

That brings me to the animation, which is… just so damned cute. Seriously, when Miyo is “Taro,” she is one of the most adorably animated animals I’ve ever seen. She still has a lot of expressions that reflect her status as having human consciousness, but anyone who has owned a cat will still acknowledge that they can give you those looks. It gets even better when the film decides to say that every cat out there really IS sentient, even having a secret place to go that is accessible only to cats. Despite relying on a supernatural premise, the movie doesn’t really dip heavily into fantasy until the third act, and the slow build-up really helps heighten the drama. 

Omg, I want hugs so bad.

Overall, just a really cute movie, if a bit weird. I recommend giving it a try.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Warrior Nun: Who Doesn’t Love a Demon-Fighting Teenage Nun? – Netflix Review

There’s a nun named “Shotgun Mary.” ‘Nuff said.

SUMMARY

Based incredibly loosely off of a comic series. Ava Silva (Alba Baptista) is a recently deceased quadriplegic. When a demon attacks the orphanage where she lived, a nun is forced to shove an artifact known as the Halo into Ava’s corpse. She promptly revives, now with super-strength and other abilities. It turns out she is now the chosen one, the Warrior Nun, who fights against the forces of Hell on behalf of the Order of the Cruciform Sword, a secret Catholic organization. She is aided by the other members of the OCS: Sister “Shotgun” Mary (Toya Turner), Sister Lilith (Lorena Andrea), Sister Beatrice (Kristina Tonteri-Young), and Father Vincent (Tristan Ulloa). She must defeat an evil Tarrasque demon and deal with the machinations of the scientist Jillian Salvius (Thekla Reuten). 

Yes, they have holy weapons.

END SUMMARY

Did you miss Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Well, good news, here’s a more violent and less quippy show in the same vein. It’s not close enough that you ever feel like it’s cribbing, but it gives you some of the same beats. It’s a line of female superheroes that fight demonic powers that are presided over by an ancient and secret order, so it was naturally going to draw some comparisons. Still, aside from the broad strokes, Warrior Nun is its own animal. Also, I never read the comic this is based on, but a quick Google search tells me that it is wildly different than this series.

Some fetishists may be very disappointed by the difference.

Alba Baptista plays the main character with a decent level of complexity. That makes sense when you realize that she is a near-lifetime quadriplegic who lost her family and was tormented by her caretaker for years. She now has a level of freedom that almost no human will ever have. Watching her joy as she starts to move and run is captivating. We also get a lot of internal narration from her which comically sometimes comes out of her mouth. Her isolation in her life prior to this makes her an outcast almost as much as her status as a resurrected human does, and Baptista manages to make this endearing.

So much self doubt for someone who is basically invincible.

The supporting cast, too, are well-crafted. Some of them seem one-dimensional at first, but most of them are revealed to have deeper motivations, particularly Salvius and Shotgun Mary. While they’re all too divorced from reality by the nature of the show to seem like “real” people, they do seem like people that have had to deal with being privy to a hidden world. I also like the fact that, despite the show being called Warrior Nun, most of the nuns are not particularly holy, nor is the show particularly preachy. As Shotgun Mary tells us, she negotiated her way into only having to follow commandments 5 and 8 (murder and bearing false witness).

Sadly, Shotgun Mary’s name is from the comic, so I can’t thank the show for it.

The set pieces in the show are excellent, regularly featuring ornate cathedrals, as you might expect from any show with a lot of nuns. Similarly, the clothing is often a combination of religious and tactical garb, which can look pretty awesome. The special effects are pretty solid, given the amount of demonic creatures and superheroes that are featured. The biggest problem with the show is that it has a ten episode first season with the plot for about eight. It also drops a few subplots pretty cold, which may get picked back up later.

Like most of the plot with her and her “crew” of normals.

Overall, pretty fun show. I recommend it.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.