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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Space Battleship Yamato: The Classic Collection

I recently finished reading Space Battleship Yamato: The Classic Collection, which is the comic book version of the original Star Blazers. As a HUGE fan of the anime, I really wanted to read this and, on one level I'm glad I did. On another, not so much.

You see, the manga was being developed in parallel with the anime, and it shows. If you read this without having seen the original show, then you'd have quite a few moments where you'd say, "Wait, where did THAT come from?" One of the most jarring is that, at the end of the first part, two ships leave Iscandar after the Yamato does. The first is Captain Harlock (who is a cyborg space pirate always covered in a shroud) and the second is believed to contain Starsha and Mamoru Kodai (aka Alex Wildstar for us Americans). The odd part there is that the last time we saw Mamoru was in the battle of Pluto where his ship was destroyed. There's no trip to Titan in the manga, where the crew find's Mamoru's ship in the anime, and there's pretty much nothing shown on Iscandar. So this revelation really comes out of nowhere.

I'm sorry to say it, but this collection is more "tell but don't show". Many of the iconic scenes from the anime are either missing all together, or are mentioned as "We'll tell you about that when we get back" and then never mentioned again. The story also isn't complete. Yes, the Earth is saved, but then the second arc featuring the Comet Empire is severely abridged and doesn't even have a conclusion.

I'm sorry to say that I can only recommend this to people who are already Star Blazers fans, and then only as a curiosity. Personally, I think it's telling that it only took me 3 nights of reading before bed to finish a 644 page manga.

Now, to finish on a high note, here's the opening theme to Star Blazers 2199:

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Must Watch Movies

There are a few movies that I simply HAVE to re-watch every so often. It isn't an every year thing, but more like if I haven't seen them for awhile my brain starts to drop hints that I need to pull out the disk soon.

The first of these should be no surprise to anyone that knows me (or has read this blog, or listened to my podcasts), and that is "Star Trek: The Motion Picture."

This is not only my favorite Star Trek movie, it's one of my favorite movies of all time. I've said it before, but this is the only true science fiction story out of all of the movies, and the further we get away from 1979, the less and less Star Trek movies seem to be concerned with being sci-fi. The more recent entries on the series want to be action movies more than deal with any thinking (unless they're just poorly rehashing Star Trek 2).

The next movie that I just the itch to re-watch quite often is "Star Wars". Much like with Star Trek, this is the first movie to come out and it is also my favorite. Not only is is a good adventure story (which is what Star Wars should be), but it is also self contained. You don't need to have seen anything else to get a full, satisfying story out of this one. Unfortunately, that can't be said about the rest of the entries in the franchise.

Oh, and as long as we're on the subject, my preferred version is the original, which you can find in very high quality if you do a search for "Team Negative 1". It's a BIG file, but worth it IMHO.

As you might guess, the last movie that I'm going to talk about today is also science fiction and comes from the late 1970's, and that would be "The Black Hole". (And just typing the title has the John Barry score starting in my head.) This is much more of a "hard sci-fi" story, than Star Trek, but it still has it's fantastic elements (like being able to sit and watch a black hole). The major thing about the story is the ambiguous ending, which leads to more questions than answers and makes you think (there's that word again).

You can read more about my thoughts on this movie from my rediscovery of it 5 years ago.

There are a few more movies that I like to re-watch more often than others, like "Tora, Tora, Tora" and "A Night to Remember", but I don't feel the NEED to watch them like I do these three. I think it's telling that I have watched all three of these movies at least once since we moved to Florida in July.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Watching Anime As A Parent

Dressing like an anime character? Yup, she's obsessed.
It's interesting watching anime with my 11 year-old daughter. There are some times when I have to explain references or point out things that she wouldn't know (like what the heck was going on in an episode of Maid-Sama that we watched where they told the story (kind of) of Momotaro). The more fascinating bits are just how INTO the shows she gets. He most recent obsession is My Hero Academia, to the point that she spent some of her own money at Hot Topic to buy some accessories from the show.

She also spends a good amount of time that she's allowed to be on the computer watching various videos about her favorite shows. She wants to learn as much about them as possible, but I'm still trying to encourage her not to look up spoilers, as it might "spoil" the upcoming episodes (hence the name). Still, I'm happy that she has something that she can geek-out on and she also has several friends at school that share her interests, so it's great for her.

I still have to watch some of the shows before she does, though. Anime has a tendency to get into some areas that someone her age shouldn't watch. (I told her, for example, that there exists another anime about Momotaro, but there's no way I'm letting her watch Momo Kyun Sword just yet.) I'm looking forward to how her watching habits may or may not change as she approaches high school. As someone who seems to have inherited my "I don't give a damn about what others think" personality trait, she might just go more otaku on me, and I think I'm alright with that.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Racism In Star Trek

Star Trek has long been known to tackle societal issues, and racism is one that has come up a few times. Usually, as in "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield", it's fairly on the nose and shows the how ridiculous the very concept is. Here's an exchange from that episode:

While the above example is from an alien species, we have also seen these kinds of thoughts in humans, like in "Balance of Terror".

Usually this is completely shut down, as Kirk does with Lt. Stiles. One would think that humanity would have grown beyond that by the 23rd century, and I'm willing to say that, as a rule, we will have. What we see with Stiles above and Kirk himself in Star Trek 6 are more of a resentment that have grown out of experiences.

Stiles is carrying a grudge that members of his family were killed in the Earth-Romulan War (which occurred BEFORE the advent of visual ship-to-ship communication, not that you'd know it by watching Enterprise). Kirk has grown to resent Klingons due to all of his experiences with them, topped off my the death of his son. My own character in "Tales of the Seventh Fleet" was also bigoted in this way, due to his having grown up on Sherman's Planet.

So, what does all this tell us? From the evidence that we have of humans and their prejudices in the 23rd century I think that we can conclude that there is no longer ingrained or learned racism, but rather situational bigotry. In other words, certain individuals are shown to have a prejudiced way of thinking due to events in their, or their family's, lives. Does that make it right? Not at all, but it does seem to show that their bigotry, however wrongly, is predicated on experience and not just "X kind of people are bad" being handed down.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Remote Gaming

Since I moved to Florida (which has been great, thanks for asking) I have been lucky enough to still play in the monthly Pathfinder game that my friend Adam runs. I have been asked (and I'm sorry, but I don't remember by who) what I use to participate. There are two things, really.

The first is Skype, so that everyone can talk to each other. We use the video call function and Adam places a camera at the table (slightly elevated) so that myself and the two other remote players can see who's at the table. It's not exactly like being there, but it's close enough.

Secondly, for pretty much everything else, we use Roll20. Initially we just used it for the map function, but that has evolved to having us do as many rolls as possible using the built in character sheets. Yes, it's more work to get all of the data into the system after updating the physical sheet, but I think it's worth it. Using that system, a player can roll skills, saves, and attacks with all of the bonuses already built in.

A screenshot of Roll20 at the end of our last session. Yes, my character token is Cap-Wolf.
Here's an example of an attack roll for my character:

I'm a Monk and have a special weapon called the Satan's Claw, which adds a bonus electrical attack to each successful hit. As you can see, my attack roll with it was a 21 and, if that hits, then the damage would be 22 (Blunt Weapon) and 6 (Electrical). The green color indicates that at least one of the damage dice was a maximum roll. If the attack crits, that color is also green and the system automatically rolls to confirm it.

I also use this system when running our Marvel game (as heard on Class 1000) and from a GM perspective, it's great. I spent a couple of weekends getting every map that we would need set-up, including all of the NPC's. That makes running the game a lot smoother, sicne I don't have to stop and lay everything out while the players wait.

I know that some people use other systems, like Google Hangouts, but this is what I have experience with. If you've used some other way to play a tabletop game online, I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Anime Recommendation: Astra Lost In Space

Lately my viewing habits have been a bit all over the place. We typical watch Live PD and Live Rescue every week, along with their spin-offs. There are some shows on Food Network that we work in, and try to catch up on various series that we missed (like Dark Shadows), but once in awhile we try something a little different. After reading a review in Otaku USA Magazine, Michelle and I tried out Astra Lost In Space (which is available as a Sub or a Dub on Hulu).

The basic premise is that a group of high school kids (it's an anime, so that's a default) are going to a space survival camp on another planet and end up marooned somewhere else. They all have different skills that enable them, if they can work together, to get back home on a ship that they found, which they name Astra.

Here's the opening credits:

The group not only figure out how to get home but they also have to figure out how they got lost in the first place. The characters, their backstories, and the mysteries they have to solve make for this a great series. It's not bad for kids, although there are some scenes/topics that might not be appropriate for younger viewers. Kira hasn't seen it yet, because we wanted to finish it before making that decision. I would have no problem with her watching it, though.

If you like sci-fi and mystery, then I would highly recommend this one.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Definitive Sherlock Holmes

I am a big fan of Sherlock Holmes. I have read a good number of the original stories, thanks to my parents having a collected edition, and I have seen many on screen iterations. Some I like. Some I'm so-so on. One actor, though, stands head and deer-stalker above the rest, and that is the late, great Jeremy Brett.

For 10 years (1984-1994) Brett played Holmes on the Granada television series developed by John Hawkesworth, but I first saw him on PBS. One of our family activities each week was to watch Mystery!, introduced by Vincent Price. We saw many detectives on this series but the two that stand out in my mind are Brett as Holmes and David Suchet as Poirot.

Holmes is, as Price says, the consummate Victorian gentleman. Brett embodies this in every single way, from his joy at having a mystery to solve to his annoyance at those around him who can't see what he thinks is obvious. Brett is as close to the Conan Doyle Holmes as I think we will ever see on screen. If you have only known Holmes through Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey, Jr., or Basil Rathbone, you owe it to yourself to check out Brett's. I promise that you won't be disappointed.

And if you do watch an episode or two, please let me know what you think of it. I'd really like to know other's thoughts on the matter.