AJIN

AJIN

Ajin is the anime I came up with when I wanted to watch something serious and atmospheric. So, how does this anime fare?

Mysterious human beings imbued with immortality are discovered for the first time in Africa. These meta-humans, called Ajin, resurrect themselves whenever they get killed so that they are back, as good as new. Fearing their potential for destruction, the governments of the world decide to capture them to prevent any possible harm to the society, and start experimenting on their capabilities in order to better understand them.

Nagai Kei is a high-schooler who spares no thought to anything other than becoming a great doctor, and studies hard to make his wish come true. One evening, deep in thought, Nagai fails to note a speeding vehicle, and gets crushed underneath it. But unknown to even himself, Nagai was also an Ajin; his body resurrects itself and he is able to start moving again. But now there are a bunch of witnesses who have seen this other-worldly phenomenon, and are they ready to inform the government about him. Fearing for himself, Nagai uses a high-pitched shriek which immobilizes everyone in the area, and makes his escape from the scene. Thus begins the three-way game of cat-and-mouse between Nagai Kei, the government and a mysterious person called the Hat Man, who is a suspect in the recent disappearance of an Ajin from a governmental facility, and whose plans for Nagai are unknown.

The concept of resurrection may seem like old news at the outset, but Ajin treads new ground with it. The plot is pretty solid, and its progression is nicely paced, with no unnecessary developments and byways. The whole anime world is set up neatly, with realistic depictions of school-going kids to employees and beyond. The animation is really well done; the scenes of Ajin resurrecting themselves, and the mysterious IBM[Invisible Black Matter] creatures created by the Ajin are excellently rendered. The coolest parts are the action parts though, with fights almost taking on a cinematic flair. The opening and ending themes are absolutely fabulous, and this is one of the few shows where I never, I repeat never, skipped the themes. But special mention has to be made to the background score; it’s just flat-out godly, and really gives viewers the chills whenever a particular music comes on.

This kind of stuff happens throughout the show…

The main issue I had with Ajin, though, is also related to the visuals. Or more specifically, the frame rate used throughout the show. The show runs at a frame rate of below 30fps easy, with the viewers actually being able to make out the changing of frames in the non-action scenes. This is pretty annoying, and although you may kind of get used to this 3-4 episodes into the anime, this isn’t something you can wholly unsee. And i think the animators tried to emulate human motion with the anime characters, but it doesn’t always work out for the best.

Anyways, I would recommend Ajin to anyone who wishes to see an anime with supernatural elements, or an anime which refuses to pull its punches in general.

RATING : 8.3/10

PROS :
– plot progression is fluid
– great action scenes
– well-developed universe
– awesome opening & ending themes
– godly background score

CONS :
– frame-rate issues
– movement-related 3DCG is somewhat hit-or-miss

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GINTAMA [Season 4]

GINTAMA [Season 4]

Gintama does not continue so much as rush headlong into yet another set of funny antics that is season 4. Anyone who’s watched Gintama up till its third season and found it to be of their taste, you don’t even need to continue reading this; just hurry up and start watching already. But anyway, how does this season hold up in comparison to the previous seasons?

Very well, I must say. As usual, Gintama is ever-ready to make humor out of anything and everything. The season starts off with Gintoki going for a haircut, but chaos and hilarity ensue when the shogun also comes to the same barber shop while the barber is out getting new manga issues for Kagura to read. And Katsura and Kondo too. Anyway, the nub of the matter is that this season sets the pace right off the bat, so to speak. Pacing is never an issue with Gintama, anyways , except for its very first season.

Some of the sorta-minor characters come back pretty strongly, with Otsu-chan and Tama-san getting a whole story arc each. And there is also an arc on a popularity contest which was one of the most creative efforts put up by the developers. And those parodies ranging from One Piece to Nintendo Wii to Dragon Quest, are all just so well done.

Anyways, I won’t be taking up much more of your time. Those who found Gintoki and Co. to be their favorite weekend companions [or something on those lines] will continue enjoying the show. I honestly don’t understand how they manage to come up with such ludicrous, yet entirely imaginative ways to make the viewers laugh all the time.

RATING : 9/10

PROS :
– even more humor!!!
– parodies are godly, as usual
– some minor characters make a comeback of sorts

CONS :
– not as many heartwarming moments as in the previous seasons

 

Lights Out

Lights Out

I admit, I was pretty excited about this film ever since I heard Lights Out was under production, and have been waiting for its release ever since. I was one of those who watched the Lights Out short film when it came out more than two years ago, and was genuinely creeped out and scared by the three-minute short. And now, due to its success, it has now been adapted for a full-length feature film. So how does it fare?

The film starts off with the horrific and violent death of a man, in the hands of a ghost which makes use of darkness in order to pursue and hunt down its prey. A kid, Martin starts to notice this ghost named Diana around his house, and tries to seek the help of his elder sister Rebecca who has already moved out of their house to live on her own. Their mother being not the most mentally stable person does not really help their situation either. Who is this Diana? What does she want? And how do they get rid of this haunting presence who terrorizes them every time the lights are out?

This horror movie isn’t all that scary overall, but some jump-scares are really well executed. Diana the ghost is really well-made, and is one of the smarter ghosts I’ve seen, with those techniques she uses being pretty stealthy and sneaky in nature. The atmosphere is set from the word go, and aside from the occasional banter involving Rebecca’s boyfriend Bert, is serious and on-point overall.

Acting was alright, but nothing great in my opinion. Teresa Palmer as Rebecca was okay and so was Gabriel Bateman as the kid Martin. Alexander DiPersia as Bert, Rebecca’s boyfriend, provides a few laughs and is good as the bumbling helper. Maria Bello as Sophie, the mentally unsound mother of two, was really great at her role.

Lights Out, in my opinion, is worth a watch, and some of you may not find it all that terrifying, but you will probably be entertained to a large extent. For the real horror, watch the short film instead; that will likely make you scream in terror and wet yourself.

RATING : 7.3/10

PROS :
– atmosphere
– smart antagonist
– screenplay is on-point, doesn’t mess around

CONS :
– acting is so-so
– isn’t as scary as the short

SUICIDE SQUAD

SUICIDE SQUAD

So I’ve gone out to watch Suicide Squad with my friends, most of who are avid superhero comic fans. Although not a fan of such stuff myself [with my interest lying more towards the anime side], I must admit I was curious myself to check out this film. A movie featuring super-villains as the main protagonists? I don’t think this has been done before, not in my memory at least. But my memory has been known to fail me at inopportune times, so well.

A US intelligence officer, Amanda Waller, decides to recruit the most infamous super-villains to carry out a top-secret mission in exchange for a reduction in their prison sentences and some small perks. The agency into which they’re being recruited, Task Force X is an organization which performs black ops missions, and this agency decides to use these infamous villains for deniability in the event of something going haywire. The villains, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang and others are all gathered up, supplied weapons and then choppered off to Ground Zero to complete the mission. While at the same time, the Joker is mounting a rescue operation for Harley Quinn. What is the mission? And can Joker get Harley out?

The squad in question…

The plot progression is generic, and is something the viewers have seen time and again. It isn’t the high point of the movie by any means. The movie is funny, although some of the gags do fall flat. Action scenes are great, as is expected from a super-hero film, or a super-villain one, for that matter. Of course, the events transpiring throughout are always to set up the next explosive set-piece. Especially the Deadshot scene. But it isn’t all action either. Some of the scenes are actually meaningful. The interactions between Harley Quinn and Deadshot especially, are really good to watch, and in general these interactions between the different member of the titular suicide squad are good to watch.

Far as acting goes, it was pretty good. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is the right mix of crazy and hot, and she really freshens up the screen whenever she’s on it. And Will Smith as Deadshot is great as well. Killer Croc generally stands around and growls whenever he isn’t busy tearing the enemies apart. Jay Hernandez as Diablo is really cool when he shows off his skills. And Viola Davis as the ruthless intel officer Amanda is good in her role. Cara Delevingne as the antagonist feels somewhat random though. And towards the end, some of her scenes end up being unintentionally hilarious, although the situation is dire. I myself wasn’t a fan of the Joker played by Jared Leto [an actor I do admire for movies like Requiem for a Dream among other]. But it may just be my own personal opinion.

The soundtrack of the movie consists of songs from artists as varied as Eminem to the rock band Queen, and everything in between. And the songs are all awesome.

Overall I would say that if you are a fan of the DC Universe, you should watch this film. No, it is not a perfect film by any means, but you’ll have fun throughout its 2 hour run-time. And if you are an action junkie, then definitely watch it.

RATING : 7/10

PROS :
– Harley Quinn and Deadshot are awesome
– great soundtrack
– interactions between the squad members
CONS :
– generic story
– antagonist is a bit random
– Joker was a bit meh to me

The Lion’s Song : Episode 1

The Lion’s Song : Episode 1

It has been some time since I’ve played indie games, more than four months I’d guess. So I wanted to check out something different, after the mainstream fare I’ve gone through recently like Call of Duty, Battlefield and Dark Souls. The Lion’s Song is a recently released indie game on Steam, and is free-to-play. Let’s check it out.

In The Lion’s Song : Episode 1, you play a musician named Wilma, whose first composition was a roaring success. Her fame skyrockets and the prominent people in the music field want to see more of her compositions on the big stage. Her mentor Arthur, sends Wilma off to a place in the middle of the Alps, so that she is away from all the hype and expectations, and work on her music in peaceful solitude. The first episode chronicles the effort Wilma puts into composing her music.

The Lion’s Song is a point-and-click game and the episode lasts only about 45 minutes or so, but don’t be fooled by its length. The game also takes into account the decisions you make as the player to influence the outcome, and as such the replay value is pretty high for TLS. And the decisions are supposedly going to make an impact on what kind of ending the player receives. For an indie game that is free of cost, this is pretty awesome. The game’s animation is pretty meh, but it is only to be expected, again because of  its free-to-play nature. But the music is brilliant, if I must say so. If you’re a fan of classical western music like Mozart, Bach, Chopin etc., you’ll most probably like this music too.

Overall, I would say that TLS : E1 is a pretty good game, and those who want to try out some indie game should definitely play this, as well as those who like music in general. I for one, am waiting eagerly for the next episode of what seems to be something special.

 RATING : 7.5/10

PROS :
– brilliant music and background
– choices impact outcomes
– high replayability

CONS :
– pixellated animation is nowhere near great

STRANGER THINGS

STRANGER THINGS

This show wasn’t even on my radar. Until I started seeing just about everyone talk about how great it was. But I started getting curious about the show once I saw Stephen King recommending it on Twitter. So what did I do? Start watching Stranger Things, of course.

Stranger Things is set in the year of 1983 in a sub-urban Indiana town in US. We have four geeky friends Mike Wheeler, Lucas Sinclair, Dustin Henderson and Will Byers. They of course get regularly bullied at school for studying what’s being taught by their teachers. After a 10-hour session of Dungeons&Dragons at Mike’s house during a weekend, Will disappears under mysterious circumstances on his way home. Now starts a town-wide search led by the alcoholic Chief Jim Hopper, the head of the town’s police force. Will’s mother Joyce Byers, starts having some really freaky experiences at their home, while the three remaining friends decide to search for their friend Will on their own. Meanwhile Nancy, Mike’s elder sister, starts making out with Steve Harrington, a popular guy in her school. During their searching expedition in a freezing rain, Mike&Co. find a girl with a shaved head, and Mike decides to take her home to give her a place to recuperate. Little do they know that she’s got mad skills[read : psychokinesis]. What does this girl have to do with Mike’s disappearance? Watch on to find out.

    The rescue party…

With government conspiracies, alternate-dimensions, telekinesis and some good old jump-scares, this show really packs a lot of ammo for the viewers. The story is pretty great; what’s even better is the way it has been presented. The screenplay is top-notch for this show, with three separate arcs being handled more than competently. It’s all too easy to have multiple arcs where some of them really kill off the pace and mood of the story, but Stranger Things is made of sterner stuff. And I also like how they did not over-use the horror sequences; quite often we see shows which overdo the jump-scares and come off worse for wear. But this show doesn’t fall into that trap.

Acting is brilliant in Stranger Things. The four kids playing the friends all do a great job at being the science-loving geeky types. Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, is pretty funny too. Natalia Dyer who plays Nancy is somewhat annoying as a character, but that’s exactly how the role was supposed to be, so no complaints on that. Winona Ryder is stellar in her performance of a concerned mother who doesn’t give up hope for Will even though she has to deal with all sorts of stuff, and with David Harbour[Chief Jim Hopper], they together make a fantastic lead. But the one who really carries the show is Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven, the girl of few words and mad skills. She is sensationally good in her role. I may have missed out on a few other actors, but it’s only because there are so many of them in the show who have been well fleshed-out.

Only thing that really seems a bit unbelievable to me, is the Wheeler parents’ lack of any knowledge whatsoever about their kids’ lives. But hell, we’ve seen stranger things than that, right?

With brilliant use of jump scares alongside the persistently bleak ambience, Stranger Things is one of the best shows of this season, and becomes yet another reason for Netflix sign-ups to go through the roof. Recommended for everyone who wants to watch something awesome*.

RATING : 9.3/10

PROS :
– bleakly atmospheric
– Stephen King-like plot
– awesome cast

CONS :
– Wheeler parents felt a bit too off to me

* Those with photosensitive epilepsy should keep away from watching Stranger Things. The show makes heavy use of strobing light effects during some of the scenes.

Call of Duty : Black Ops III

Call of Duty : Black Ops III

It had been more than some time since I’d played a first-person shooter, let alone a CoD game. Advanced Warfare I found to be one of their more innovative efforts, although Ghosts did feel a wee bit on the generic side to me. Bit more importantly, I found the second iteration of the Black Ops games to be really good, with our choices making some impact on our playthroughs. So how is Black Ops III?

On first look, the plot seems somewhat generic, with the regular fps-style of using a futuristic world and high-tech weaponry. But closer observation over the span of its 8-9 hour campaign will show you otherwise. In the very first mission, the player goes on a rescue mission, but gets grievously injured in the ensuing firefight. But we are somehow saved by our comrades, then inducted into an elite team who can more or less time-travel. The objective : stop the terrorist attacks from ending in tragic losses, by preventing them from ever taking place. That’s how it starts off, but in traditional Modern Warfare-style, betrayals abound; it gets to the point where we cannot even trust our own team-mates, that’s how deep it runs. Up till now, the game seems to run in the traditional  CoD style of explosions and what feel like random plot twists, but get to the end and your mind will be surely blown. When there are entire threads devoted to discussing a CoD single-player story, it means something epic has happened.

Shooting in Black Ops III is as fluent as it has always been in previous CoD games. There isn’t much left to talk about the game’s shooting mechanics that hasn’t already been said by most other fps-players. But the real change is in traversal and the introduction of something called DNI [Direct Neural Interface]; similar to Advanced Warfare, Black Ops III also offers the players multiple ways of approaching our objectives; you don’t always have to do the guns-blazing routine to get to the next checkpoint. And BO3 goes one step ahead of AW in this regard; it has wall-running. Weapons are all linked to the user’s DNI, so no picking-up dropped weapons here. These abilities add a new dimension to combat. Has the enemy soldier hunkered down behind an impenetrable object? Just wall-run to a location behind him and gun him down. Maybe use your DNI to hijack an enemy turret and kill him with it. Or maybe let loose a swarm of nanobots which will devour him in seconds; the possibilities are all varied and incredibly exciting.

The environments in BO3 are diverse; you fight in places as varied as Munich, Singapore and Cairo, among others. And as expected from CoD games, the set-pieces are pretty cool, although they aren’t as bad-ass as, say, a somewhat well-known tower in Paris crashing headlong into the advancing army.

The fun doesn’t stop with the completion of SP campaign, though; you unlock a new mode called Nightmare, where you get to play through the campaign once again, with zombies as your enemy this time. And apparently the story has also been tweaked to suit the zombie apocalypse setting. I haven’t played it myself though, so I can’t really say much about it.

The game looks pretty good, maybe. I don’t know because BO3 wouldn’t run smoothly on my PC until I lowered the graphics settings to medium. Considering BF:Hardline, Witcher 3 and other games ran on Ultra without any hiccups, I found this somewhat irritating. Another niggling point for me was fighting those ASPs [you’ll know what they are about two hours into the campaign]; it’s annoying to do the same old routine over and over again to dispatch them. And I fought them way too many times for my liking.

I never thought I’d say this, at least after the first MW game that is, that you could actually play a CoD game for its story; well, this may be an exception to the rule. Treyarch has done a fantastic job in making a CoD game which actually has a good story to back up its shoot-em-up formula we’re all so accustomed to.

RATING : 8.4/10

PROS :
– multi-layered plot
– modified traversal system
– DNI abilities are awesome

CONS :
– fighting ASPs is annoying
– frame-rate issues [at least on my PC]