Archive for the ‘TV Roulette’ Category

What is TV Roulette?: Once a month, the people who back me at a particular Patreon tier get to pick a show, and I’ll either watch the first episode (if I haven’t seen it before) or an episode of their choosing (if I have) and write about it in my best flamboyant, ranty, squee-filled style. Reality TV by negotiation only, because it erodes my soul; otherwise, anything goes. If I like the show, I’ll keep it up for the next month; if I don’t, they can pick something else next time around.

Who’s the backer?: This instalment comes courtesy of Margy, who picked Claymore for me to watch. My response to Episode 1 is here.

Note: As I’d already put up two blog posts yesterday, I decided to fold my August review of E2 over to today and combine it with my September review of E3, hence the double feature.

CLAYMORE: EPISODES 2 & 3

First impressions: Flying swords and edible lizards and spontaneous prostitution allusions, oh my!

No, but seriously: Oh, anime. I will never not love your emphasis on female characters, but I’m still going to headdesk forever over all the weird sex stuff. I have no idea how old Raki is meant to be, but he’s called a boy in the show, which makes it kind of super creepy and weird when he and Clare have this exchange in E3:

Raki: It’s just weird to see you change personalities instantly like that.

Clare: Claymores are trained for this. One second I can act like a noble lady and the next a flirtatious prostitute.

Raki: A prostitute?

Clare: Would you like me to demonstrate?

WOW.

What’s weirder, though, is that this information makes no contextual sense. The Claymores are known everywhere for their distinctive appearance, and when Random Mysterious Dude shows up and gives Clare the pills that let her appear human, it comes across like a) she’s never done so before and b) that using the pills is quite rare. Which, given that they suppress her ability to sense yoma – her key advantage in fighting them – would make sense. So the idea that she’s been trained to impersonate different kinds of people when she never really has to do so feels borked and incongruous, like the writers just wanted an excuse to shoehorn in the prostitution line and didn’t bother to think through the implications.

Also, the whole bit is strangely reminiscent of that time in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex when Motoko Kusanagi randomly tried to seduce a kid, sort of. I mean, I love SAC, but that was still a weirdass scene? Why was it there? Twelve years later and I’m STILL confused. (And skeeved out. SO SKEEVED OUT, YOU GUYS.)

That moment aside, though, these were actually two pretty solid episodes. Despite the repetitive dialogue in E2, the main plot, which deals with Clare having to track down and kill her only friend to stop her turning into a yoma, does a good job of explaining what the Claymores are and where they come from, while E3 expands on the worldbuilding, telling us more about the setting itself as well as the Claymores and yoma. It also ends on a cliffhanger – specifically, with Clare impaled on a yoma’s claws – and when that happens early on in anime, it’s usually a sign that the main arc is about to pick up.

Also: as tired as I get at times of the Stoic Inhuman Warrior Being Hounded By A Bouncy Friendly Human Who Is Basically Just An Inquisitive Puppy trope, I appreciate the fact that Claymore represents a genderflip on the usual permutation, with Clare as the stoic and Raki as the puppy. Even so, I’m hoping Raki develops an actual personality at some point in the near future, instead of just bounding along behind her like a naive sunshine machine.

Verdict: I was lukewarm on E1, but there’s a nice slow reveal going on in E2 and E3, and I’m curious to see where it’s going. Will continue to watch!

What is TV Roulette?: Once a month, the people who back me at a particular Patreon tier get to pick a show, and I’ll either watch the first episode (if I haven’t seen it before) or an episode of their choosing (if I have) and write about it in my best flamboyant, ranty, squee-filled style. Reality TV by negotiation only, because it erodes my soul; otherwise, anything goes. If I like the show, I’ll keep it up for the next month; if I don’t, they can pick something else next time around.

Who’s the backer?: This instalment comes courtesy of D, who picked Ultraviolet for me to watch. My response to Episode 1 is here.

ULTRAVIOLET: EPISODE 2

First impressions: Who are these new characters? Why are they all seemingly identical white people? Am I meant to give a shit? What’s going on?

What ARE birds?

No, but seriously: Christ, this episode is a mess, and not even an interesting one; I can only describe it as “an hour of my life I’m not going to get back”. Instead of focussing on the characters that the end of E1 situated as the core cast, the plot jumps wildly from scene to scene, introducing a slew of new people – most of whom end up dying – with little coherence and less depth. It’s like whoever made this show was somehow convinced that having the actors speak their lines in a serious tone while ominous eighties synth played in the background would somehow compensate for the fact that the actual dialogue makes no sense. Or I mean, I guess it does make sense, technically – it’s just that, on a structural level, the entire thing feels like it was assembled by writing the details of each scene on a separate palm card, dropping these cards in a heap, scrambling them, and then filming them based on the order in which the director picked them up.

The only standout moments: Idris Elba telling Jack Davenport that he doesn’t get to have friends any more in a sultry voice while making intense, close eye contact, such that my slasher heart sat up and declared “I SHIP IT!”, followed shortly thereafter by manic cackling on my part when someone else accused Davenport’s character of being “too straight” for what he was getting into with Elba. YOU’RE TELLING ME, SUNSHINE.

Otherwise, it’s beyond my comprehension how a show about a smouldering Idris Elba fighting vampires in a goddamn suit can be this fucking boring.

I mean, come ON.

                              I mean, come ON.

Verdict: Disjointed, is the best way to describe Ultraviolet. I’m not exactly enjoying it, but I don’t expressly hate it yet, so I GUESS I’ll stick around for one more episode and see what happens. LACK OF GODS HAVE MERCY ON MY SOUL.

What is TV Roulette?: Once a month, the people who back me at a particular Patreon tier get to pick a show, and I’ll either watch the first episode (if I haven’t seen it before) or an episode of their choosing (if I have) and write about it in my best flamboyant, ranty, squee-filled style. Reality TV by negotiation only, because it erodes my soul; otherwise, anything goes. If I like the show, I’ll keep it up for the next month; if I don’t, they can pick something else next time around.

Who’s the backer?: This instalment comes courtesy of D, who picked Ultraviolet for me to watch.

ULTRAVIOLET: EPISODE 1

First impressions: Holy nineteen-nineties, Batman! I haven’t seen hair that floppy since Sam Winchester in Season 8 of Supernatural!

Look at that majestic man-mane.

Look at that majestic man-mane.

No, but seriously: Remember when you were a kid and adults would coerce you into watching a classic film that was either in black and white, or if it was colour, it was weird colour, all fade-y and stretched and flat, and you ended up with this bizarre idea, not quite shaken even once you realised that it’s all to do with changes in camera technology, that the actual past just looked like that?

Yeah. Nineties filmwork is that way now,too.

I mean, I grew up in the nineties – in fact, I’m pretty sure my twelve-year-old self caught a couple of episodes of Ultraviolet when they first aired in Australia circa 1998 – but that’s what makes it so eerie: it all felt modern at the time, and now you see the grainy picture quality, the lack of high def, and even without the shots of massive convex TV screens and giant early mobiles to clue you in, it looks like something out of the Dark Ages.

(Except Idris Elba, because Idris Elba is perfect and amazing and eternal. Obviously.)

(Also, that floppy-haired guy in the picture above is a young Stephen Moyer. Yes, that Stephen Moyer. Yes, he’s also playing a vampire here, too. I know! His larval form does look freakishly like a morph of James Marsters and Richard Speight Jr!)

No, seriously. He really does.

OH GOD WHY

OH GOD WHY

The point being, this is very definitely a nineties show, with a nineties vibe – which, beyond the distinctive camerafeel, means big shirts for the men, nipped waists for the women, and a soapie-style musical score that’s heavy on the theramin (or something like it, anyway – I’m not a musician) interspersed with long stretches of dialogue-free silence while the characters potter about and click pens and answer phones and generally help the foleys of two decades past to earn an honest quid. Aesthetic, as the tumblrs have it.

Also, vampires. Eventually! I mean, I get that they’re going for a slow build here, but even though nobody ever actually says the word vampire out loud, protagonist Michael seems to accept the gist of all this weirdness pretty quickly on the basis of some carbon bullets and the fact that his friend no longer shows up in mirrors. But for all that the scientific explanation given at the end is pretty cool (though the vampire threat seems a little overstated for what we’ve seen of them – like, one guy getting stabbed in a video arcade hardly seems like the native precursor to VAMPIRES WANT TO KEEP US IN BATTERY FARMS, you know?), this first episode takes a somewhat circuitous route towards interesting. Which, given that they’re working with Jack Davenport, Susannah Harker and Idris Elba, who are hardly slouches at the whole acting thing, seems more to be a fault in the script than the execution. It’s disjointed and naff and a trifle too convenient, but goddamn, can Elba fill out a tailored suit and vest, and buried under all the weird about vanished fiancĂ©s and priests who need INVESTIGATORS, NOT SOLDIERS, DAMMIT, there’s the seed of a cool idea. So!

Verdict: Aw, what the hell. I might as well stick around for at least one more episode and see if this shambling beastie can’t get its legs up.

 

As some of you may know, I’m currently running a Patreon to support my blogging here, and one of the reward levels involves me introducing a TV Roulette feature here. Here’s how it works for those who backed me at that tier:

Once a month, you get to pick the show, and I’ll either watch the first episode (if I haven’t seen it before) or an episode of your choosing (if I have) and write about it in my best flamboyant, ranty, squee-filled style. Reality TV by negotiation only, because it erodes my soul; otherwise, anything goes. If I like the show, I’ll keep it up for the next month; if I don’t, you can pick something else next time around.

Right now, I’ve got two TV Roulette backers – the first of whom, Margy, picked Claymore for me to watch.

So: let the inaugural TV Roulette blog begin!

CLAYMORE: EPISODE 1

 First impressions: This is probably not a show I should be watching with a toddler peering excitedly over my shoulder. And yet.

Also, why the swordmaster wearing sensible heels?

Claymore shoe

Practical combat footwear is practical.

No, but seriously: God, I love anime (except when I don’t, but that’s another story). It’s a medium that has exactly zero fucks to give about explaining shit in the first episode, you know? I mean, let’s be brutally honest: first episodes are pretty much always weird and forced and familiar, because they have to be. They’re blatantly trying to sell you on emotionally investing in a bunch of strangers and concepts you can’t realistically get to know in such a short space of time, so what ends up making them work is never the obvious stuff (Protagonist Meets Protagonist, Tension, Some Kind Of Bonding Thing, Minor Catharsis Plus Hook To Bigger Problem), but the answers to two questions: could this go somewhere interesting? and if it does, will I have Feelings about the first episode when I rewatch it later, knowing how the characters end up?. And whereas most Western shows tend to get super invested in the idea that their formulaic first episode is going to break the mould and go all-out to try and impress you – Look, It’s An Awesome Dude Being Kickass And Sad Because Reasons! Let’s Hint Heavily At His Tortured Past – anime, by and large… doesn’t. Instead, you get first episodes that are either unapologetically slow and simple, or which are labelled part one of two or three or four, because the writers aren’t pretending they need a discreet standalone prologue before they fling you right into the main arc.

Claymore’s first episode is the former kind. We’re introduced to Clare, who fights yoma (demons) while staring dramatically at things, and Raki, who spends his time either chatterboxing or being tearfully menaced. Clare rescues Raki, Raki is grateful, the two end up travelling together, and that’s really it: oh, and there’s wastelands in this world, and yoma can only be killed by people like Clare, who are half-human, half-yoma and always female for some reason. It’s bare bones, but that’s okay, because it’s meant to be, and if I know anime, I guarantee some weird shit is about to go down in the next couple of episodes. Also, Clare has eyes that change colour from silver to gold when she sees yoma! Because unusual and significant eye colours, man – don’t even pretend that’s something only fanfiction has a Thing about, as though beardy old George R. R. Martin didn’t write a series of bestselling novels where a tweenage girl with a magical connection to dragons is distinguished by her silver-white hair and fucking purple eyes, the legacy of her Super Special Bloodline. We’re all suckers for it, okay? Eyes that change colour are goddamn cool, and you know it.

Verdict: As starting points go, it’s a sold 5/10. Will happily watch again next month!

 ETA: Apparently I misheard Clare’s name as Clay. This has now been fixed.