Bumblebee Review: No Michael Bay? Sign me up!

3 and a half stars
Who knew you could have a Transformers movie without overly sexualised women, borderline racist stereotypes and an overusage of explosions?
Well, Michael Bay clearly did not know this because the latest film in the Transformers franchise Bumblebee has none of these things and is all the better for it.
Directed by Travis Knight, Bumblebee is the best film in the Transformers series by a wide margin.
It is still not great but compared to what came before it is a massive step forward.
The film takes place in 1987 and tells the story of how the titular Bumblebee came to earth and lost his voice.
What follows is a mash up of Transformers with E.T as a teenage girl named Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) finds Bumblebee and tries to hide him from government agents, led by none other than John Cena, who plays Agent Jack Burns.
As a result, the story of Bumblebee is generic but still a welcome change to what came before.

Bumblebee head rub.jpg
Watching Charlie try to hide Bumblebee from her family and the government felt very reminiscent of older films in both a good and bad way. 

The characters are actually likeable and relatable, there are a couple of funny moments and the action is not overplayed, unlike with Bay’s series.
Speaking of the Bay Transformers movies, Bumblebee recons a lot of events that happen in those movies but, given how said movies are also guilty of this, that is nothing new.
If anything, I would argue the recons serve to separate Bumblebee from those terrible film, which I definitely appreciate.
The opening scene is by far the best of the film and, even though I am not a huge fan of the Transformers, I know it will please many people who are.
Bumblebee is not without its issues because, as I said, the plot is generic and even though the characters are likeable they are a little stereotypical.
Along with this, the story drags a bit at times and it is pretty easy to figure out where the film will go.
All of that said, Bumblebee is still a good film that actually delivers some genuinely heartfelt moments.
It is definitely the best of the franchise and I hope to see more Transformers sequels like it… so long as Michael Bay no longer directs them that is.

Mortal Engines: A Spectacle… but one with Little Substance.

Despite what the trailers would have you believe, Mortal Engines is not directed by Peter Jackson but rather produced by him.
It is clear his name was used for recognition to try and get people into theaters because, given how badly this film has bombed, there was not much else that would draw an audience in.
Mortal Engines is actually directed by Christian Rivers and, I will admit, when I first saw the trailers I was intrigued.
The whole concept of the film was a bit ridiculous and, like most, I was fooled into believing Peter Jackson was the director but I still thought it looked like a spectacle.
And it was a spectacle… but one with little substance.
The film takes place in a dystopian future where large cities like London have been made mobile and capture other cities for their supplies to keep going.
This concept does require a large suspension of disbelief going in but the film could have still succeeded by going for a Mad Max type of movie.
This is evident by the exciting opening scene, which features London chasing down and capturing a smaller city in a thrilling action sequence with great CGI.

London chase
The opening scene of London chasing down a smaller city was genuinely exciting. If only the rest of the movie was like this.

However, after this Mortal Engines unfortunately delves into the realm of a young adult story that we have all seen a thousand times.
Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) is the typical female protagonist out for revenge against a dictatorial government leader and Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) is her bland love interest.
Their love for one another grows throughout the film, only for it to completely fall apart when you realise they have almost nothing in common and have known each other for a few days at the most.
As for Hugo Weaving’s Thaddeus Valentine, he is the typically evil government figure out for power that we have seen in all of these types of films.
Almost every character in Mortal Engines is incredibly bland or a character we have already seen in every single young adult more ever.
The one exception to this is Shrike (Stephen Lang) a character who, despite only having a small amount of screen time, is surprisingly sympathetic and a multi-dimensional character.

Shrike is a surprisingly relatable character in a large cast of bland and cliche ones.  

With the exception of him though, every other character is bland or cliche, and this is not helped by the story these characters inhabit.
Full of plot holes and eye rolling moments, the writing makes it very difficult to care about what is happening most of the time.
The worst moment of Mortal Engines has to be right at the beginning when a historian declares that the Minions from Despicable Me are valuable ancient relics.
This alone shows how cringe inducing this film can get at times.
Like I said though, there are a few moments in the film when it is a spectacle to behold.
The opening action sequence is great and the other ones across the film are also fairly enjoyable, even if you do not really care about what is happening.
I just wish the excitement of this first action scene was carried along across the film because then it would have been a much better experience.

Attack on Titan Volume 25: Chapter 100 Arrives with a Bang.

Chapter 99: Guilty Shadow.

4 and a half stars
After the previous chapter’s massive cliffhanger, Chapter 99, “Guilty Shadow”, picks up with a perfect transition into the confrontation between Eren and Reiner.
We get a continuation of the scene from Reiner’s earlier flashbacks when the warriors were wondering why the man who killed himself told them his story before doing so.
Bertholdt speculates it was because he wanted them to judge him and it is at this point that the story brilliantly transitions to Reiner and Eren reuniting, the implication being that Reiner’s judgement is at hand.
From here, their intense confrontation begins with Eren subtly threatening Reiner by pointing out how many people are in the building above their heads while showing how he has cut his hand to cause a transformation if necessary.
I especially loved this moment because it shows just how pragmatic and ruthless Eren has become in the four year time jump.
The Eren we knew at the beginning of the story would never threaten innocent lives and now he is doing it because he believes the ends justify the means.
Reiner’s reaction to Eren’s uncompromising darkness and Falco slowly figuring out who Eren is are also great moments in the chapter that tell a lot about both characters.
However, the real meat of this chapter is not with the meeting between Reiner and Eren but with Willy Tyber’s speech, which adds more lore and depth to Attack on Titan‘s world.
Willy reveals that when King Karl Fritz fled to Eldia he was actually trying to atone for his people’s sins and worked together with the Tyber family to achieve this.
Fritz also did not want any of his descendants to try and change anything so made it that any of his family who inherited the Founding Titan would also inherit his ideology about staying inside the walls.
This is why Freida, Uri and the other members of the Fritz/Reiss family did not fight against Marley after inheriting the Founding Titan.
I love Attack on Titan because of moments like this.
Hajime Isayama is always throwing curveballs at the reader that both expands upon the world he has built and gives big explanations to things that originally seemed to just be plot holes.
It makes me curious as to just how much of this he had planned when he started writing the manga.
It is also through Willy that we get another possible hint at future events as well.
Before starting his speech, he talks with the Asian woman from the previous chapter, who is said to be from the Azumabito family.
This woman acts very suspiciously, leaving before the speech begins, which, given the future events of the volume, has me believing she knew what was coming and may be working with the Scouts.
Speaking of the Scouts, we see capture Pieck and Galliard in this chapter.
Along with this we officially got to meet Annie’s father who is adamant that she is alive.
Annie is certainly being brought up a lot more now in the manga, which is hopefully signalling her return because she has been in that crystal way too long.
Overall, Chapter 99 was another great chapter that started Eren and Reiner’s intense meeting and fantastically delivered exposition that explained so much.

Chapter 100: Declaration of War.

5 stars
Reaching 100 chapters is a big deal for any manga or comic series and Hajime Isayama delivers a powerhouse chapter with his 100th of Attack on Titan.
“Declaration of War” is my favourite chapter of the series since Chapter 86, “That Day.”
It is a fantastic chapter that delivers suspense, character growth and an amazing conclusion.
The tension of this chapter is built up brilliantly, with Isayama constantly cutting between Willy’s speech and Eren and Reiner’s conversation.
Both scenes build off one another and the tension goes up and up, until it explodes in the titular “Declaration of War” made by both sides of the conflict.
The chapter kicks off by showing the stakes of such a declaration by having a flashback to a conversation between Willy and Magath where both speculate that it is highly likely Willy will be killed if he gives his speech.
However, Willy still wants to go through with it because he believes he needs to make amends for his family’s crimes.
Then came the brilliant moment when Magath states, “I’m certain that Eldians are the descendants of devils. And I am certain that we too are devils.”
This line perfectly illustrates the morally grey area that every single character of Attack on Titan exists in.
No character in the series is completely good or evil.
They all have flaws and justifications for their actions, no matter how horrific, which makes them all, in a sense, “devils.”
This is proven by Eren’s actions at the end of the chapter and what led to this moment was some of the best writing Isayama has done.
He gave us a great view of Eren’s resolve to carry out his plan, Willy’s desire to redeem himself while still being afraid of death, and Reiner’s crippling guilt over his actions.
This can be in the final moments of the chapter where Eren seems to forgive Reiner for his actions, understanding he did it because of the brainwashing he received from Marley.
However, Reiner contradicts this by breaking down and exclaiming it was his fault Eren’s mother died, begging Eren to kill him.
This, and Willy’s declaration that he does not want to die because he “was born into his world” (the third time in the series this line has been said) seems to temporarily break Eren’s resolve.
However, it is reaffirmed when Willy shouts he wants everyone to fight with him against the “devils” of Paradis to thunderous applause.
With Eren’s resolve affirmed then comes the payoff to all the build-up in this brilliant section in the chapter.
Eren helps Reiner to his feet, states he has to keep moving forward until his enemies are destroyed and then transforms.
He crashes through the building just as Willy declares war, possibly killing hundreds of innocents before crushing Willy, bringing the chapter to an explosive end.
The build-up to this moment is spectacular and the payoff is just as good.
I am sad to see Willy go because he was a very interesting character, even though he was only in the story for a brief amount of time.
One thing I am worried about is the fate of Reiner because he and Falco were caught up in Eren’s transformation.
I do not think Falco is dead but this chapter kind of felt like the culmination of Reiner’s arc.
I hope Reiner does not die because the character development he has been getting in this arc has been nothing short of exceptional.
Still, “Declaration of War” is one of my favourite chapters of Attack on Titan with its brilliant build up and pay off.
It was a fantastic story for Attack on Titan’s 100th chapter.

Chapter 101: The War Hammer Titan.

4 stars
As the title suggests, this chapter focused on the first appearance of the final Titan Shifter, the War Hammer Titan.
This Titan had been built up for quite a few chapters and it does not disappoint.
In one chapter it is made abundantly clear that the War Hammer Titan is one of the most powerful Titan Shifters, with its ability to create any weapon using its hardening ability.
The war hammer it gets its name from, a crossbow, a sword,  it seems that this Titan can make anything.
It also has a great design, looking very creepy and different from any Shifter we have seen previously.
However, I will say the reveal of this Titan’s identity was very lackluster.
It is revealed to be Willy’s sister who has been a complete background character until now and her name has not even been revealed yet.
Maybe we will learn more about her later but for us to know virtually nothing about the user of one of the most powerful Titan Shifters is weird.
But, even though I found the reveal of who the War Hammer Titan is to be disappointing, this does not change the fact that the battle between Eren and this Titan is epic.
The War Hammer Titan wipes the floor with Eren, impaling him on a massive spike and then smashing his Titan’s hands and head off with its war hammer.
It is only through the intervention of Mikasa, who finally returns this chapter, that Eren is able to survive.
Like Eren, her appearance is different from before the time-skip, with her having shorter hair and a new Scout outfit.
Upon her appearance, Mikasa immediately destroys the War Hammer Titan’s nape making me think she had instantly killed it.
This angered me initially that a Titan this strong could be killed so quickly but, after reading the next chapter, I realised the War Hammer Titan still has a few tricks up its sleeve.
The War Hammer Titan battle and Mikasa’ return is not the only interesting things about this chapter though because it illustrates more than any other how dark Eren has become.
In earlier chapters Eren stated how he was “the same” as Reiner and it becomes absolutely clear how similar the two are at the beginning of the chapter.
After eating Willy and realizing he is not the War Hammer Titan, Eren attacks the crowd supposedly to draw the Titan out.
He kills probably hundreds more innocent civilians including Zofia, who is crushed by rubble, and indirectly Udo, who is stomped to death in a stampede of terrified people.
Eren is doing exactly what Reiner did when he, Annie and Bertholdt, first attacked Shiganshina.
He is now willing to kill civilians because in his eyes the ends justify the means.
This takes Eren way past the anti-hero point and closer to a villain, even if we can kind of understand his actions.
Along with this we also got a look at what some of the other characters were up to, like when Pieck and Galliard managed to escape the trap the Scouts had placed for them due to Pieck’s quick thinking.
She managed to subtly alert the panzer unit, showing how capable and smart she is as a character.
Pieck’s Titan may be the weakest of the bunch but her brains more than make up for it.
“The War Hammer Titan” was another good Attack on Titan chapter, which saw the return of Mikasa and the appearance of one of the strongest Titans in the series.

Chapter 102: Too Little, Too Late.

4 and a half stars
“Too Little, Too Late” saw the true battle between the Scouts and Marley’s Warriors finally begin.
After Mikasa’s return last chapter, this one brings back more of our old favourite characters including Jean, Sasha, Connie and Floch… OK, maybe not Floch.
All of these characters have new designs to suit the four year time skip.
Jean has a beard, Sasha has let her hair down and Connie has grown his hair longer.
Oddly enough, the only returning character this chapter who looks the same is Levi, who appearance is identical to how he looked four years ago.
It makes me wonder what kind of skin cream he is using.
Joking aside, it is also made clear how hardened characters like Jean and Sasha have become because, long after making their first kills in the Uprising Arc, they can become experienced killers when they need to be.
Still, there is a clear distinction between them and Eren and Floch, who both seem to fully embrace the ends justify the means when it comes to civilian casualties.
This led to my favourite moment of the chapter when Mikasa asks Eren if he knows what he has done by killing numerous innocents including children.
She says there is no coming back from this and the side by side panels of a tearful Mikasa looking at Eren in grief and horror and Eren looking back blankly makes for a striking image.
Floch even goes as far as to call Eren a “devil”, mirroring what he said about Erwin when he was in favor of turning him into the Colossal Titan instead of Armin.
Speaking of Armin, we have yet to see him and Hange so I wonder if they will be taking part in this battle soon?
They may be holding back for now as part of a plan but I do hope we get to see Armin’s Colossal Titan because we have yet to get a good look at it.
The main focus of this chapter though, is once again the battle between Eren and the War Hammer Titan, which is revealed to be even more unique compared to other Titans because its user is outside the nape, hidden in a protective crystal like Annie’s.
However, unlike Annie, she is fully aware inside this crystal and uses this to her advantage, almost killing Eren when she takes him by surprise when she partially reforms a new Titan body, after losing control of the first one.
This Titan is certainly overpowered and I have no idea how Eren will defeat it, if he even can.
What makes this a thousand times harder is that Zeke, Galliard and Pieck have all jumped in to help at the end of the chapter.
Although, I do wonder where Zeke was the entire time and if this ties into the theory of him secretly working with Eren for some reason?
Speaking of Galliard though, it is with him that one of my issues about the chapter lies.
Galliard goes to attack Eren but Levi steps in by cutting his jaw, which prevents him from eating Eren.
However, Levi had a clear shot at the nape making it seem like Galliard has plot armor.
Another small issue I had came at the beginning of the chapter where Magath is seen hiding in a building.
This is a bit jarring because at the end of the previous chapter he was on top of a building being attacked by the Scouts so picking up with him here seemed abrupt.
However, this does not change that “Too Little, Too Late” was a great way to end the volume and promises more action in the next volume with the continuing battle between the Scouts and the Warriors.


BoJack Horseman Season Five Review: A Depressing Cycle of Abuse.

5 stars
In my review for BoJack Horseman season four, I sang praises for its uplifting ending, which left me tearing up.
However, I did state that I thought this happiness would not last in season five.
After watching this season, I can say that I was right but I never expected the show to get this dark.
Season five of BoJack Horseman explores some of the darkest aspects of Hollywood as not only BoJack but every single character goes through a cycle of self abuse.
The main sufferer of this abuse is, of course, BoJack himself who goes through a slow downward spiral due to a drug addiction, guilt over what he has done, and the stress of his new show.
These three things all combine to cause BoJack’s mental state to deteriorate until he explodes in episode 11, “The Show Stopper” with what has to be the darkest scene in all of BoJack Horseman.

BoJack’s downward spiral all culminates in a scene with his co-star and new girlfriend Gina (Stephanie Beatriz), which has to be the darkest and most shocking moment in the show’s history.

As I stated, sadly BoJack is not the only character to go down a trail of self abuse.
Both Princess Carolyn and Mr Peanutbutter go through this and the way it ties into their endings is quite striking.
Both of these characters get endings to their season’s arc that, in any other show, would be considered a happy ending.
However, based off what I know about these characters, all I see them is continuing in their cycles of self abuse.
Thankfully, there are some rays of light this season, with Todd and Diane.
Todd is funnier than he has ever been, with his storylines often leaving me in fits of laughter.
As for Diane, she does not really do anything all that funny, however, she is a great source for pointing out everything that is wrong with the other character’s self abuse.
In a piece of meta-commentary, she even criticizes the show itself for making viewers look up to BoJack and normalize his destructive behavior.
She was the only character to point out all to his hypocrisy in brilliant writing, however, after seeing some theories about season six, I am very concerned about what will happen to her next season.
Along with all of this, season five has some of the best episodes of the entire series.
The final two episodes are, again, some of the most hard hitting episodes of BoJack Horseman but my personal favourite would have to be “Free Churro” an episode which consists solely of BoJack giving a eulogy for his dead mother.
I know it sounds boring but it is surprisingly emotional and managed to add another scene in a long list of them that have made me tear up.

My mother is dead and everything is worse now.png
“My mother is dead and everything is worse now.” A powerful line that drives home the impact of this episode.

This was another amazing season of BoJack Horseman.
My one critique is that we do not get enough of Hollyhock this season but, ultimately, this does not damage the season at all because of how powerful it is.
Season five went to some very dark places that I hope the characters can come back from… however, I do not know if they can.

Creed 2: Hard Hitting Sequel.

4 stars
The Rocky series is known to have had its ups and downs over the years.
I cannot really attest to this since I had only watched the first film before watching Creed in preparation for watching and reviewing the sequel.
However, even though I cannot claim to be a huge fan of this franchise, I can state that when these films get it right they are often amazing.

I have only seen two films in the Rocky franchise but both are classic examples of great film making. 

The first Rocky is a very inspiring film and the recent sequel Creed also gives off this vibe, even if I did find it a bit too similar to the original.
Coming into Creed 2, I was not sure what to expect from this film.
I wondered if it would manage to capture the magic of the other two Rocky films I had seen, or if it would be one of those terrible sequels I have heard so much about.
Thankfully, the film was not the latter because, under the guidance of director Steven Caple Jr., Creed 2 is a very hard hitting film both figuratively and literally.
Personally, I think the story of this film is better than the first Creed with the titular Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) planning to fight Viktor Drago (Florian Muteanu), the son of the man who killed his father in the ring.
Watching Adonis’ journey and the emotional and physical struggles he had to go through in this film made me relate to him a lot more than I did previously.
One thing that really surprised me about Creed 2 was how relatable the antagonists Viktor and Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) were.
I actually found myself relating a lot to their struggles just as much as Adonis’ and their arcs were just as satisfying as his.

I was very surprised by how good a job the film did at making me sympathize with both Ivan and Viktor. Ordinarily they would have just been stereotypical bad guys so this is a welcome change. 

On the whole, I would say almost every character has grown exceptionally from the first Creed.
The one exception to this is the man himself Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) but he is still very relatable and Stallone gives another great performance as his most memorable character.
While, Creed 2 does have a great story it does not quite live up to the first Creed‘s technical mastery.
There were no shots that really wowed me like in the first film but this did not take away from the enjoyment.
Many other people in the theater I was in seemed to enjoy this film too because they were literally cheering during the final match between Adonis and Viktor.
Overall, Creed 2 is another crowd pleaser in the Rocky franchise with a great story, characters and acting.
This is also surprising for me because (and this is a secret) I do not even like boxing!


Attack on Titan Volume 24 Review: The Devolution of Reiner.

Chapter 95: Liar.

4 stars
Hajime Isayama’s goal for the Marley Arc so far seems to be to bring Reiner to his lowest possible point.
This started in the previous chapter, and the first one of Volume 24, “Liar,” is the continuation of this, with it going even deeper into Reiner’s backstory.
We see the rejection he experienced from his Marleyan father, which lead him to dedicate his remaining resolve to his mission and become a hero.
It does not even matter to him when Marcel reveals he badmouthed Porco so he would not become a Titan to protect him and this is the only reason Reiner became a warrior.
This once again breaks down my prior perceptions of Reiner as always being a natural born leader, with his inner thoughts at this revelation distracting him long enough for Ymir to sneak up on him, leading to Marcel sacrificing himself.
If anything, Marcel seemed to fit my original ideas about Reiner more than the man himself.
This further development of an important character and a long dead one was great and gave me a better understanding of both characters.
The flashback also delivers some Titan action, showing the Warriors training to attack Paradis with a display of all their abilities.
Among these, we get our first (and probably last) look at Marcel’s Jaw Titan, which looks very similar to his brother’s.
This seems to confirm that either their family has a special connection to this Titan or it has been enhanced, unlike with Ymir.
The rest of the chapter also delivers a few interesting reveals.
Most importantly we get the name drop of the final Titan Shifter and the family that possesses it.
This being the Warhammer Titan under the procession of the Tyber family.
According to the Warriors they are a family of Eldians who have being living the high life as honorary Marleyans but are now stepping in due to the severity of the situation.
I am interested to see what this latest Titan will be like and just how it will play into the story.
There are also a few lighter moments to go along with this as, right before this scene, Porco stumbles upon Pieck crawling on the floor because it feels “more natural” for her after spending so much time in her Titan.
This was a genuinely funny moment, made even more so by a later panel of Pieck lying on the couch like a cat.
She is definitely one of my favourites characters introduced in this arc.
Chapter 95 was an interesting one that built on Reiner’s character development and made me interested for what was to come.

Chapter 96: The Door of Hope.

4 stars
Attack on Titan 
came full circle this chapter with the flashback revealing what really happened when Reiner, Annie and Bertholdt breached the walls and in its aftermath.
This goes to show how fantastic of a writer Hajime Isayama is because of how he has changed perceptions of these characters as the manga has gone on.
When Reiner, Annie and Bertholdt were revealed as the Titans who breached the walls it made them instantly unlikable for causing so much death and destruction.
However, as the series has gone, Isayama has slowly shown us more and more of their perspective, until now we are getting the full story.
This allows us to not only understand Reiner but Annie and Bertholdt as well, and to make these characters, who we initially thought of as evil, sympathetic is a real achievement.
The three all had moments that made me sympathize with them in this chapter.
From Reiner trying to be Marcel so he can achieve his mission, to Annie crying out that she is only doing this so she can go home, to Bertholdt hilariously trying to compliment Annie and failing spectacularly.
All of these moments served to make these characters more sympathetic and relatable, something I could not imagine being done 50 chapter earlier.
Another thing I enjoyed about “The Door of Hope” was how it served to explain so much about the three’s actions inside the walls, which until now was a complete mystery.
For example, the story Bertholdt tells when he first meets Eren and Armin, about how Titans destroyed their village, is actually taken from a man who told them his story before hanging himself.
Any other writer would have just had Bertholdt make up this story but Isayama is smart enough to actually think up of explanations to things that did not need to have them yet are all the better for it.
However, while I did like a lot of the connections Isayama made to earlier points in the story, his writing did still suffer in some areas.
This was most apparent with the cliffhanger where Reiner is being yelled at by Keith Sadies on the first day of training.
This is a continuity issue because Sadies did not yell at Reiner because the look in his eyes showed he had already been hardened.
So to see Sadies yell at him in a clear breaking of continuity was a bit jarring.
Still, this was just a small moment and the rest of the chapter is great.
I especially liked the scene where the three Warriors broke the wall because it gave us their perspective as opposed to our heroes.
It brought the story full circle, right back to where it all began.

Chapter 97: From One Hand to Another.

4 and a half stars
I said in my review of Chapter 95 that Isayama’s goal with the Marley Arc was to bring Reiner down to his lowest point.
Well, Chapter 97, “From One Hand to Another” was the culmination of all this because Reiner is more broken than he has ever been this chapter.
The continuous flashback panels of Reiner’s struggles ending with the haunting image of him with a gun in his mouth, seconds away from pulling the trigger, is something that I will remember for a while.
Reiner has gone through so much amazing growth in the Marley Arc that, in just seven chapters, he has become one of my favourite characters.
He is a character that perfectly represents the impact that war and trauma can have on a person’s life, especially when it happens at such a young age.
Thankfully, Reiner’s story is not over because, in a chance of fate, Falco unknowingly manages to distract Reiner long enough to stop him from pulling the trigger.
Reiner then decides not to kill himself while he still has those kids to protect, which may hopefully lead to him finding some peace.
But, this is Attack on Titan so Reiner is probably going to suffer some more.
This seems to be confirmed with the surprise return of Eren in this chapter, who is posing as and injured war vet to infiltrate Marley.
He talks with Falco and I realised it was him pretty early into their conversation but it was still a nice reveal.
Then there was Eren’s new look with him having long hair and a faint mustache, which I enjoyed because it actually makes him look a lot like Grisha.
I am also hopeful we will get to see the other main characters and what they have been up to in the four year time skip soon because Eren has Falco deliver a letter for him.
The attempted suicide of Reiner and Eren’s return are not the only interesting things about the chapter though.
We were officially introduced to the Tyber family this chapter, including its head, Willy Tyber, who looks to be an interesting character.
Willy is revealed to actually be the secret ruler of the country, which is intriguing because he and his family are Eldians and they are ruling a country that is oppressing their own race.
The reasoning behind this will hopefully be revealed soon.
We also got a very interesting moment at the beginning of the chapter where Annie was revealed to have briefly fought Kenny during her time in the 104th Cadet Corps.
This does not really have an impact on anything but it is still interesting seeing the ways Isayama can bring long dead characters back into the story.
Overall, “From One Hand to Another” was my favourite chapter of this volume with its numerous reveals and heartbreaking scene with Reiner.

Chapter 98: Good to See.

4 and a half stars
What a way to end Volume 24 .
Chapter 98, “Good to See” is full of emotional scenes and what I believe to be numerous hints at future reveals.
What stands above all these features though is the amazing cliffhanger that has me eager to read the next volume.
After Eren was revealed to be in Marley in the previous chapter, he begins to initiate his plan, culminating in him manipulating Falco to arrange a surprise meeting between him and Reiner.
The final panels of this chapter were just fantastic because they perfectly expressed what both characters were feeling upon being reunited.
For Reiner it was shock and horror but for Eren it seemed to oddly be some degree of happiness based off his statement, “good to see you made it back home.”
The reason for Eren’s supposed happiness will hopefully be revealed in the next chapter.
Either way, this was a great way to end the volume and the scenes leading up to this moment were likewise fantastic.
Watching Eren slowly manipulate Falco was interesting, especially when it lead to him meeting his grandfather for the first time.
This was a very heartfelt scene where Eren’s grandfather reminisced on the loss of his son and daughter before suffering a mental breakdown and having to be dragged away by doctors.
However, the scene goes from heartfelt to sinister when, in the scene’s final moments, Eren picks up a baseball he told Falco was from his family and tosses it into the air.
On the surface this moment may seem insignificant but, based off things that came earlier in the chapter and the series, I believe this to be very important.
This is because at the beginning of the chapter Zeke played baseball with Colt and during the Shiganshina Arc Zeke made a reference to it when he wiped out most of the scouts.
Also, there is the fact that Eren tells Falco the baseball came from his family, which all seem to hint at Eren and Zeke having meet in secret.
If this is the case, I wonder what their meeting could have been about since both appear to be on opposite sides?
Personally, I would really like to see a scene where the two talk because we have not seen a full conversation about their family connection between the two yet.
Another hint at upcoming storylines appears to be the new character who was introduced, an Asian woman said to be from the land of Hizuru.
Given how Mikasa was the only Asian character in the story up to this point, I think there could be a possible connection, with her mother possibly coming from this land.
The woman also does seem to be on the side of the Eldians, given that she protects Udo from punishment when he accidentally spills wine on her kimono.
I also enjoyed the political commentary used with Willy in this chapter when he explains the burden of ruling his country to be like turning a wheel.
This felt very Game of Thrones inspired, which would make sense because I have heard Isayama has taken some inspiration from it.
“Good to See” was an overall great way to end Volume 24 with numerous possible hints at future reveals and a few emotional moments.
The cliffhanger alone has me excited for the next volume and was the perfect conclusion to Reiner’s arc this volume.

The Walking Dead Issue 186, The Power Keg Review: Well, that Escalated Quickly.

4 stars
Coming into Issue 186, “The Powder Keg,” I knew something bad was going to happen.
There had been so much build up towards something happening in previous issues that if nothing had happened it would have been a serious let down.
Thankfully, the big event that had been built up for so long occurred in this issue with Michonne betraying Rick to Pamela and then Rick being forced to shoot Dwight after he pulls a gun on the new Governor.
I had my suspicions that a character would die this issue but I never suspected it would be Dwight.
I thought he would be the one to instigate a revolution against the Commonwealth’s leadership but it seems his death will be playing that role.
However, the big shock of the chapter was not Dwight’s death but Michonne’s betrayal.
Sure, her daughter does live in the Commonwealth but I thought she would have more faith in Rick to control Dwight rather than having to sell him out to Pamela.
This was obviously a terrible idea as well because Michonne’s actions may have unintentionally set off the titular “powder keg” that will set the Commonwealth ablaze.
This is because Rick seems to have fully accepted Dwight’s ideology and now believes he chose the wrong side in the upcoming war by the end of the issue.
Still, I do not think this will turn into a war because we have already had two of them in quick succession so something new has to happen.
I wonder what that could be though?
Whatever the case, this sequence of events was very shocking and finally made me get on Dwight’s side, even if he did die.
In earlier issues I actually hated what Dwight was doing, thinking it was dangerous but now I see his reasoning behind it.
Because of the trauma he experienced at those who held onto power like Negan, Dwight judges Pamela to be no better than them and a detriment to freedom and society.
It was also easy to see why he felt this way about Pamela, due to the issue showing how she leaves dangerous Walkers around to shoot at so she can act like she is the one keeping everyone safe.
This explanation made me relate a lot to Dwight’s actions and made it all the sadder when Rick had to shoot him in a moment that was reminiscent of Dwight’s first appearance, when he murdered Abraham.
Dwight was introduced with an out of nowhere death and he departed with an out of nowhere death.
It was very fitting.
The rest of the issue is pretty decent with a touching scene between Eugene and Stephanie and a funny scene between Carl, Sophia, and the new kid Joshua.
However, there were still a few weak moments.
The first interaction between Rick and Michonne had Rick slowly coming around to Dwight’s idea, even though he had been completely against it earlier so it felt out of place.
Then there was the scene between Magna, Heath and Vincent where it was revealed Magna had been left in charge of the community even though she is a fairly new addition, compared to Heath and Vincent.
This also felt out of place.
Still, these moments were nothing major just small gripes I had.
The rest of the issue is great and seems to finally set the power keg off with the shocking death of Dwight and the even more shocking betrayal of Michonne.

The Walking Dead Season Nine, Episode Six to Mid Season Finale Discussion.

In my last The Walking Dead discussion post I talked about the departures of Maggie and Rick and how I felt they would impact the show.
I said that despite their departures the show’s future looked bright and, based on the final three episodes of this half of the season, I think I can stand by that statement.
Even though viewership is still declining, I think The Walking Dead is returning to its glory days and it will only get better as it goes on.
The show has already made improvements on its comic book counterpart, something that has not happened since season five.
This improvement can be seen in the episode after Rick’s Departure, “Who Are You Now?” where we get the official introduction of Magna (Nadia Hilker) and her group after they appeared at the end of the previous episodes.
I already think these characters are a massive improvement on their comic versions.
Magna is a lot more fleshed out and given more backstory, with it being revealed she was in prison.
Her group of Yumiko (Eleanor Matsura), Luke (Dan Fogler), Connie (Lauren Ridloff) and Kelly (Angel Theory) are also made much more interesting because they are given more characteristics and a lot more to do.

Magna 3
The portrayal of Magna, Yumiko, Kelly, Connie and Luke is already better than what we have been given so far in the comics.

I also liked how this episode and the other ones place a divide between the communities.
Everything was all hunky-dory after all out war in the comics so to see such open hostilities between the communities is very interesting, especially because we do not know what caused this divide.
We do know it has something to do with the X’s carved into Daryl and Michonne’s back but not much else.
This adds a layer of mystery to the story, which I am really enjoying.
However, the seventh episode of the season “Stradivarius” is definitely the weakest of the season because, while it does continue the character growth of Magna and her group, it only slightly pushes the story forward.
It is certainly not a bad episode though, and the season not having one bad episode out of eight is definitely something the last few seasons cannot attest to.
The mid-season finale, “Evolution”, is one of the best episodes of the season, possibly only falling behind Rick’s goodbye episode “What Comes After.”
It features the moment I have been waiting for even since it happened in the comics… the reveal of the Whisperers and it does not disappoint.
The final moments of this episode felt like a horror movie and brought incredible levels of tension.
This unfortunately led to the death of Jesus.
I had heard rumors of his death before watching the episode but I was still disappointed to see him go because, just like his actor Tom Payne said, he had been badly underused up to this point.
That said, what an epic way for him to go out.
It was a masterful sequence that shocked me, even though I knew it was coming, and showed the true horror of the Whisperers.
Just as Jesus finishes killing some Walkers in an amazing use of slow motion he walks towards safety but two more stand in his way.
He takes out the first one when suddenly the second one ducks and stabs him from behind whispering in his air, “you are where you do not belong” as thunder crashes around them.

Even though it is sad to see Jesus go he got one hell of a send off.

This was an amazing way to reveal the Whisperers because it shows how deadly they are with many unable to tell if they are Walkers or Whisperers in disguise.
We then got the intense cliffhanger of the group realizing the supposed talking Walkers are actually people wearing their skin and then hearing multiple Whisperers as they surround them before cutting to black.
And, with that, the first half of season nine comes to a close.
I have been saying for a while now that season nine was the make it or break it season for me, where the show would either recover from its dark descent or rise above it.
Thankfully, I am now certain that the show has moved past the dark times of seasons seven and eight.
Angela Kang has done an amazing job with this season and if it continues like this, it may be one of my favourite seasons of The Walking Dead.
One thing is for certain though, I cannot wait to see how the rest of the Whisperer arc plays out in the next half of the season, where we will get the much awaited arrivals of Lydia, Alpha and Beta.

Attack on Titan Volume 23 Review: Provides a Time Jump and the Worst Death of the Series.

Chapter 91: The Other Side of the Ocean.

3 and a half stars
Volume 23 takes Attack on Titan in a brand new direction, kicking off with chapter 91, which picks up four years after the battle of Shiganshina.
I had been spoiled that there would be this time skip but even I was surprised by it because I thought the story would pick up with Eren and the others but it does not.
Instead, the story focuses on Reiner, Zeke and a bunch of brand new characters who are on the opposing side to our protagonists.
From what I have read so far, this seems like an interesting way to explore the other side’s perspective but, depending on how long our main characters stay out of the story, this could be a problem.
Still, it seems to be off to a good start because this chapter delivers some already intriguing characters.
One who quickly caught my attention was Gabi, Reiner’s cousin, who actually reminds me a lot of Eren from the first few chapters of the manga.
She wants to defeat all of those against them without knowing the bigger picture just like Eren and I think it will be interesting to see how she could potentially grow from this.
Chapter 91 also provides other interesting characters like Falco, Colt and Magath.
We also get name drops for two of the Titans we have seen before the Cart Titan and Jaw Titan.
The Cart Titan is the one who helped Zeke during the Shiganshina arc and the Jaw Titan is actually Ymir’s one, although controlled by a different user now, which we will get to later.
We get a look at the new Jaw Titan in this chapter and, I have to say, it has a very cool design.
I am a little confused though as to why it looks completely different from when Ymir had the power.
Is it because they gave the controller a new power like Eren got in the Uprising Arc?
Whatever the case, I still like the design choice.
However, what I did not like about this chapter was the exposition.
Hajime Isayama is usually great at delivering it but in this chapter the way he explains the four year time skip feels very unnatural and more like the characters were filling in the reader, rather than each other.
Still, this is a promising start and I am interested in these new characters we have been given.

Chapter 92: Marley’s Soldiers.

3 and a half stars
The second chapter of Volume 23, “Marley’s Soldiers” is primarily an action one and, as a result, there is not that much to talk about.
It is still an entertaining chapter though that will look great when season four gets animated, whenever that will be.
We got a better look at the Jaw Titan in action and the Cart Titan arrived as well with operated machine guns on its back.
I like this idea a lot because it shows just how far technology has come in the time skip.
Another thing that showed this was how Reiner is so easily defeated by human weaponry when he jumps in front of Zeke to shield him from battleship fire.
All of this new technology on display shows why the Marleyans are so eager to get the Founding Titan back, because this technology is quickly surpassing them and they need the Founding Titan to stop this.
Along with the action in this chapter, we also get a small amount of character development for Reiner and a first hint at a major reveal.
Reiner flashing back to his time behind the walls and then stating that “walls disgust me” shows just how much his time on Paradis affected him.
Then the best moment of the chapter came when Zeke turns a whole bunch of comatose people into Titans just by screaming.
This explains why all those Titans suddenly appeared at the beginning of the Shiganshina arc.
Overall, Chapter 92 was another good one that added small bits of character growth and a hint at a huge reveal to go along with the exciting action.

Chapter 93: Midnight Train.

3 stars
Even though I will admit Chapter 93, “Midnight Train” is a good chapter, when I was reading it I was absolutely infuriated.
The reason for this was because we got the death of Ymir in this chapter and it is the worst death of the entire series by a wide margin.
It is revealed that when Ymir went with Reiner and Bertholdt she was eaten by the brother of the Shifter she ate, Porco Galliard, who became the new Jaw Titan.
Personally, I think killing Ymir at this point was a huge mistake.
There are still things we do not know about her, like what the language she read at Utgard Castle was.
Also, Ymir is probably the character most connected to the first Titan Shifter, Ymir Fritz, because she pretended to be her reincarnation.
This gave her a lot of potential to reveal some game changing stuff and now that potential is gone.
This is not why I was angered though.
The real reason for this is because she dies off screen.
All we get is Galliard saying he inherited her power and a still image of Ymir chained up, about to be eaten by him.
That is it.
Isayama is amazing at giving even the most minor of characters amazing deaths but he did not even bother with Ymir and, as a fan of her character, this felt like a huge slap in the face.
The rest of the chapter is admittedly good, with numerous interesting reveals like the one where it is revealed it is Zeke’s royal blood that allows him to control the Titans he transforms.
We also got to officially meet Galliard and the controller of the Cart Titan, Pieck, for the first time.
Then there is Reiner, whose PTSD is treated brilliantly and it all concludes with a fantastic ending where Reiner aims to protect Gabi by urging Falco to inherit the Armoured Titan.
This was all great stuff and redeemed the chapter.
However, even though this was good, the main takeaway of this this chapter for me is still the absolutely terrible death Ymir was given.
I hope they fix this in the anime by giving her an actual death scene.

Chapter 94: The Boy Inside the Walls.

4 stars
Attack on Titan 
finally started to give us the backstory of Reiner Braun in this chapter and I was honestly surprised by it.
Seeing Reiner at the beginning of the manga I thought he was always a qualified leader. However, after seeing his backstory, this is clearly not the case.
In this chapter Reiner is actually revealed to have initially been the weakest of the Warriors, with various other recruits, like Galliard, calling him useless.
Seeing this hopeless side to Reiner was great because it adds further complexities to him and, just like with Gabi in Chapter 91, reminds me a lot of Eren.
Both had big goals as children, Eren wanting to explore the outside world and Reiner wanting to save it, but they did not know the full story.
This is perfectly shown with the amazing end to the chapter, which sees Reiner training to be a warrior who will attack the walls before transitioning to a bored Eren inside the walls wondering when something interesting will happen.
It is stuff like this that makes me eager to see Eren and Reiner reunite, hopefully sometime soon.
In this flashback we also got a look at Bertholdt and Annie again, which is good for some nostalgia as Bertholdt died in the Shiganshina arc and Annie is… well, who knows?
Along with this, we finally got to see the infamous “home town” Reiner and Bertholdt kept mentioning, which is an internment zone for Eldians reminiscent of Jewish internment camps in World War Two.
It is here we see to the fullest extent how successfully the Marleyans have brainwashed the Eldians into believing those on Paradis are devils.
It was very disheartening to see these people brainwashed into believing they are right to be persecuted.
This is shown not only through how everyone at Reiner’s dinner table talk about those on Paradis but also with how Reiner talks about them.
It was honestly kind of funny but also sad to see Reiner warping innocent things he saw on Paradis, like Sasha stealing a potato, into something monstrous.
“The Boy Behind the Walls” was a great way to end the volume and makes me hope we get more of Reiner’s backstory soon.

Red Dead Redemption 2: The Prequel that is Named Like a Sequel.

4 and a half stars
Rockstar Games have done it again with Red Dead Redemption 2, the prequel that is named like a sequel.
Picking up many years before the events of the first game, Red Dead Redemption 2 follows the fall of the Van der Linde gang through the eyes of new protagonist Arthur Morgan, voiced by Roger Clark, in a 60 hour plus story.
After spending around three weeks playing this game, I can honestly say this is one of the best games Rockstar has ever made.
The animation quality on this game is top notch and I spent so much time just staring at the incredible landscapes the game could produce.
On top of this, Red Dead Redemption 2  is, without a doubt, the most realistic game ever made with various activities like skinning an animal happening in real time and players having to maintain their guns.
Some have argued that this hinders the experience but I found that these realistic attributes did not do this for me because it did bring me into the world more.

Red Dead 2 landscape.jpg
Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the most beautiful games out there and enabling he cinematic camera really shows this off.

However, what did hinder the experience for me was the controls and camera, which could sometimes get a bit aggravating.
During one of the big in-game fists fights the camera got stuck in an area and I could not see what was happening for about 30 seconds.
On top of this, it is extremely easy to become wanted in this game and, unlike other Rockstar games, being hunted down comes across as a nuisance.
I also did encounter a few glitches here and there but, thankfully, nothing game breaking.
Still, these moments of lackluster gameplay were few and far between as most of the gameplay was full of gripping action set pieces, beautiful landscapes, and the most realistic moments in gaming.
This is all complimented by the brilliant story, which follows the tale of redemption for Arthur Morgan (if you play honorably this is).
Arthur is easily one of my favourite protagonists in gaming, with layers and complexities that are explored all the way to the end.

Arthur Morgan
Arthur Morgan is an extremely relatable protagonist, especially if you choose to send him down the path of redemption, which provides a very fitting end to his story, in my opinion.

Arthur is not the only amazing character though, as many members of the gang are explored upon and given development.
What I especially loved was that almost none of these characters were the walking talking stereotypes that have become typical in Rockstar Games.
These types of characters are very difficult to relate to but Rockstar have rightly decided to avoid them this time by making each character have relatable moments.
Watching Dutch Van der Linde’s (Benjamin Byron Davis) fall from grace and John Marston’s (Rob Wiethoff) journey to get to the point he is at the beginning of the first Red Dead Redemption was a true delight.
Unfortunately, the 60 hour story does cause it to drag in some places.
For example, the chapter that takes place in Guarma feels very out of place with the rest of the game.
Sure, it does add to Dutch’s development but this could easily have been done elsewhere.
But, even though it does drag in places, the story of Red Dead Redemption 2 was nothing short of enthralling with an emotional conclusion to Arthur’s story.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is an amazing game that may have a few gameplay and story problems but its otherwise fantastic attributes more than make up for this.