The Wheel of Time, Episode One, Leavetaking Review: Winter Night, Bloody Night.

After much anticipation, Amazon Prime has finally dropped the first three The Wheel of Time episodes, and I could not have been more excited for them.
I am currently doing my first read through of Robert Jordan’s series and I just finished Towers of Midnight, so I only need to read the final book, A Memory of Light, to know everything.
Knowing that, I think it would be fair of me to separate show spoilers from book spoilers.
So, these reviews will have two sections.
Section one will only be discussing what happens in the episode, and section two will discuss the book changes and what I think of them. 


Episode Review: No Book Spoilers.
I can remember constantly checking the Amazon Prime website every hour on the day of release because I was so eager to see this show.
So, when I saw the episodes were out, I immediately clicked on the first episode, “Leavetaking,” sat back, and enjoyed.
Was “Leavetaking” a perfect episode?
No, there are a lot of issues I have with this first episode, but it certainly was not bad and had a lot of excellent moments.
Directed by Uta Brieswitz, The episode opens with the Aes Sedai Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) and her Warder Lan (Daniel Henney) preparing for their journey to find the Dragon Reborn, the reincarnation of the man who caused the Breaking of the World and is prophesied to face the Dark One.
I, personally, did not really care for this opening because I think it would have been more interesting to slowly figure out why Moiraine is searching for this one person.
Plus, I think there was another scene that should have been the opening, which has not been shown yet, but that’s book spoilers. 

Kind of wish the show had more trust in the audience to slowly figure out things on their own rather than blatantly tell them.

Following this, we get a chase where two men are being pursued by a woman in red (Kate Fleetwood).
This woman in red, who is not named yet, is perfectly cast in my opinion.
Exactly how I imagined her from the book in all her cruelty.
We also get a good display of the madness the man suffers from, since his friend is revealed to have been in his head, before the women do something to him.
This is not shown and will likely be expanded upon later.
We also see that Moiraine and Lan were watching this happen and, unfortunately, this is the worst scene in all three episodes and it’s all because of one line.
Moiraine says they are going to continue their search at the Two Rivers because “there are rumors of four ta’veren there.”
This line makes absolutely no sense and opens a ton of plot holes.
It was just a really sloppy excuse to get them to go to the Two Rivers when the book justification for it was perfectly fine.
I will get into why this line is so bad in the book spoiler section.
The moment following this horrible moment, though, does a great job of respecting the lore, as we get a landscape shot as Moiraine and Lan ride off, showing what looks like remnants of destroyed buildings reclaimed by nature, showing that this is a post apocalyptic earth.
We then get the title, followed by the introduction to two characters, Egwene (Madeleine Madden) and Nynaeve (Zoë Robbins) at a river, where Egwene goes through a ritual to welcome her into the Woman’s Circle.
Following this, we get an introduction to Rand (Josha Stradowski) and his father Tam (Michael McElhatton), and also Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) and Mat (Barney Harris).
And this is the point where I praise the casting.
Even only after three episodes, I can definitely say that the casting directors chose the right actors to play these characters.
All of the performances are fantastic.
If I had to pick a favourite though it would be Barney Harris as Mat.
This sucks because he is being recast for Season Two for as of now unknown reasons.
Still, at least we have an entire season of his performance to look forward to.

I alrady like this Mat more than the one in the first few books.

Anyway, once the introduction to these characters has been done, we get the arrival of Moiraine and Lan.
The people’s reactions to Moiraine shows the fear towards the Aes Sedai in this world. 
A lot of people call this scene clunky but I did not have too much of an issue with it, personally. We then get a showcase of Rand and Egwene’s relationship, with them being romantically involved but there is also tension because of Egwene potentially becoming a Wisdom.

There is also a moment of Moiraine and Lan in a bathtub showing how close the Aes Sedai Warder bond is, with them being close but not in a sexual way.
All is not well, though, because we see the arrival of a mysterious and threatening figure in the night.
This is contrasted by the arrival of the cheery arrival of peddler Padan Fain (Johann Myers), as we get another look at the characters’ day to day lives.
We see Mat having to steal to provide for his sisters, Egwene telling Rand she has decided to become a Wisdom and Rand reluctantly accepting it, along with Moiraine subtly interrogating Nynaeve.
The latter scene involves a lot of great subtext, as we as the viewers can see that Moiraine is trying to gage Nynaeve’s candidacy for being the Dragon Reborn, while Nynaeve hits back with the story of the prior Wisdom who raised her, showing her fierce and stubborn nature.
Then, as Lan discovers symbols of a dragon fang made out of animal carcasses, he deduces that Trollocs are coming soon.
Sure enough, we get Winter’s Night, which is just as bloody as I expected it to be.
The moment Egwene started dancing with some random person and there were focuses on this guy, I was like, well, he’s gonna die.
Sure enough, an axe is thrown through his back, coming out of his chest, and the Trollocs invade.

Trollocs are amazing, some questionable CGI at times excluded.

Chaos ensues with great usage of shaky cam, as Egwene and Nynaeve take cover, Perrin and his wife Laila (Helena Westerman) shelter people at their forge, and Padan Fain leaves as the mysterious rider watches over the chaos.
We then get one of my favourite scenes of the episode, where Mat meets up with his terrible parents, only to learn that have lost his sisters.
After angrily demanding where they are, he runs through the bloody massacre in a thrilling tracking shot, all to find his sisters.
This is why I already like this Mat a lot better than the one in the first few books.
It wasn’t until Book Three that I came to like him but these first three episodes made him my favourite character in the show so far.
We then get a great fight with Rand and Tam being attacked by a Trolloc, with Tam retrieving the heron marked blade, a moment that gave me chills.
Tam’s fight with the Trolloc, short as it is, is enthralling and gives a really good sense of his experience with the weapon.
Unfortunately, the Trolloc wounds him and Rand has to save him before trying to get his father to safety.
Back at the village, the massacre is still ongoing, and a Trolloc runs up to kill Nynaeve and Egwene, Nynaeve meeting its roar with one of her own, which is a great moment for her.
Just as it seems they are done for, Moiraine and Lan arrive, killing many Trollocs, perfectly synchronised as an Aes Sedai and her Warder.

Moiraine and Lan working in tandem to defeat the Trollocs was a sight to behold.

It’s not just the action and choreography that are excellent here, but the music as well, especially with how it’s in the old tongue.
It’s not just Moiraine and Lan taking care of things, though, because we also see the Emonds’ Fielders fighting back, with a group of women taking down a Trolloc, showing just how tough Two Rivers folk can be.
All is not well, however, because Nynaeve is captured by a Trolloc and, in a brutal scene, Perrin gets so lost in rage as he kills a Trolloc that he accidentally kills Laila.
Is this a moment of fridging?
Yes, but it is sure to influence Perrin’s character arc in the future of the story.
Moiraine is also injured but pulls through in the face of a hoard of Trollocs, using much of her strength to throw chunks of buildings at them, eventually killing every last one.
Although, it is kind of weird how the Trollocs just walk towards Moiraine instead of rushing to kill her as they’re being slaughtered.
Another minor issue I had is that the Trolloc CGI could be a little off at times during the massacre.
It was mostly good CGI though.
Most of Winter’s Night was pretty on point, being a horrifying display, as it should be.
Then we get the last scene of the episode, as Rand arrives with Tam who Moiraine heals, before revealing that the Trollocs are after Rand, Egwene, Mat and Perrin because of them is the Dragon Reborn and they need to leave if they want to protect their families.
This moment is a little quick for my liking but it is serviceable.

I feel like we could have used a bit more time to see the characters leaving the Two Rivers.

Although I do like the episode overall, it does rush in quite a few places, so I wish this episode had either been extended or divided into two.
At least it ends with the iconic narration “The Wheel of Time turns and ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth. And even myth is long forgotten, when the age that gave it birth comes again. In one age, called the Third Age by some, a wind rose in the mountains of mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.”
All in all, “Leavetaking” was a good beginning to The Wheel of Time show.
It does have its issues, and does not quite live up to some of the story’s version of events, which I will get into in the book spoiler section below, but it is still a good start that had me excited to watch the other two episodes. 


Book Spoiler Section:
So, first I will get into why that scene where Moiraine says “there are rumors of four ta’veren” is such a terrible moment.
As I said, it raises many questions and plot holes, one of the biggest of which is just who in the light started these rumors and how they knew about Rand, Egwene, Perrin and Mat being ta’veren?
Ta’veren are extremely rare so it would take someone with a large amount of knowledge about them to recognise that Rand and the others were ones.
Not only this but why would someone so knowledgable spread rumors about the ta’veren?
Ta’veren are people who the Wheel of Time weaves into changing the world, so wouldn’t this hypothetical person who spread the rumors tell someone important about them rather than just telling random people?
Most baffling of all, how would this person even recognise Rand, Egwene, Perrin and Mat as being ta’veren in the first place?
Even if they were knowledgable about them, Rand and the others are showing no signs of being ta’veren at this point.
Look at Mat, for example.
Him being a ta’veren makes him extremely lucky, and yet in the episode he is shown to have terrible luck at this point, losing a gambling match.
What knowledgable person would look at Mat in that scene and go, “yep, that’s a ta’veren if I ever saw one!”
See what I mean?
They should have just used the book explanation that Moiraine and Lan tracked them all down after years of hard work, rather than a rumor that makes zero sense when you consider what being a ta’veren is.

Amazing how one line of dialogue can create so many plot holes.

As for other changes, I was a bit disappointed that the prologue which introduced Lews Therin, the original Dragon, and showed his death creating Dragon Mount was not the opening to the show.
That would have been a lot better than the opening we got where Moiraine just says exposition about what their mission is.
There are other things I wanted to see, like Rand and Tam’s discussion, Rand learning he’s not Tam’s son, Moiraine posing as a noble lady rather than an Aes Sedai to get more information.
I do get why some of these were not included though, most of all Rand learning he was adopted because they’re clearly trying to keep the Dragon Reborn identity a mystery.
It’s also pretty clear they’re using Egwene as a red herring before they reveal Rand is the Dragon Reborn, as can be seen when they cut to Egwene after Moiraine talks about who it could be.
As for Rand and Tam’s discussion, although I did miss it, I can’t deny that it’s replacement was fantastic, with it feeling so much like a reference to the ending of The Gathering Storm, a beautiful piece of foreshadowing whether intentional or not.
Other changes include Rand and Egwene being romantically involved, rather than just interested in each other, Mat’s parents being jerks and Perrin having a wife and then killing her.
When it comes to Rand and Egwene’s relationship, I think this works because it could make what comes after for them in the future of the story more meaningful and impactful.
For the Mat change, I actually like this because it gives Mat much more depth than in the books at this point, which he really needed.
As for Perrin having a wife and killing her, I think they added this to make his aversion towards his eventual wolf powers make more sense and feel fleshed out.
There is also am interesting theory about Laila being a Dark Friend, since she had her weapon raised when Perrin accidentally killed her.

It will be interesting how this massive change to Perrin’s character influences him in the show.

Another thing I wanted to mention in the spoiler free section but could not was Padan Fain.
They did a great job of hinting at his menacing nature.
I absolutely loved how we got the introduction to the Mydraal with the sinister music, only to cut to Fain whistling that tune as he enters Emond’s Field.
I’ve found Fain to be a bit of an annoying gimmick villain after Book Two, so I hope the show improves on him, like they are so far doing with Mat.
Overall, I like some of the changes and I dislike some of the changes.
“Leavetaking” is still a good episode and the next two are even better.          

 

My Hero Academia, Season Five, Episode One, All Hands on Deck! Class 1-A Review: A Much Anticipated Ending.

3 and a half stars
Well, My Hero Academia has finally returned with its fifth season and it began just like last season’s premiere, with a filler episode, albeit a better one.
I’m not the kind of person who usually enjoys filler so I was not eagerily anticipating the first episode, “All Hands on Deck! Class 1-A”, because I thought every scene would be kind of meaningless in the long run.
While this is mostly true, with none of the filler scenes in this episode seeimingly having any importance to the story, the ending did surprise me with a scene I thought we would be getting next episode that I had been looking forward to for a long time.
Not only this but the filler content is actually pretty funny.
Directed by Tsuyoshi Tobita, the episode follows Class 1-A as they go through a hero training course, in which they have to beat the fake villains, Tamaki and Nejire, and rescue the fake civilian, Mirio.
It is Tamaki and Mirio who bring the biggest laughs here with Nejire, as per usual unfortunately, falling into the background.
Mirio is absolutley hilarious as the clumsy civilian who constantly needs to be saved and Tamaki is just as funny as the villain who just wants to go home.
What isn’t as enjoyable is the show once again going over who all the characters are and what quirks they have.
We’ve been watching this show for five seasons, almost all of us know who these people are and, even if we don’t, we still remember the important characters the story focuses on.
We don’t need to hear all of this info that we’ve had five seasons to digest.
It just gets tiring.
At least this filler content has a funny ending, with Bakugo going insane and trying to blow up Tamaki, who just wishes that he had chosen to go home.
Bakugo really needs to go through an anger management program before he becomes a hero.
The shot of the dazed Class 1-A students stumbling through the dust caused by Bakugo’s explosion before collapsing, including Deku with some funny looking hair, gets another laugh.
When looking at the filler content alone, I would say that the Season Five premiere has about the same ranking as the Season Four premiere for me.
Both are filler episodes with some funny moments but overall they don’t add anything to the story and mostly feel like a waste of time.
At least, I would have said this about “All Hands on Deck! Class 1-A” if it hadn’t been for the ending, where Dabi finally confronts Endeavor.
This is a scene that I’ve been wanting to see for a while and I thought we were going to get it next episode, when I learned that this episode would be filler.
So, imagine my surprise when it turned up as a post-credits scene.
Not only this, but the cliffhanger of Dabi meeting up with Hawks is also expertly placed to get anime only viewers asking questions.
The music during this post-credits scene is also top notch.
Although, there is a slight animation error because Dabi’s ears are not scarred when he goes to confront Endeavor, when they have been scarred in every scene he has previously been in.
It did take a second viewing for me to catch this, though, so it’s not a big deal and I think they’ll fix it later, maybe for the Blu-Ray.
Overall, with the unexpected scenes of Dabi confronting Endeavor and the Hawks cliffhanger, I would say “All Hands on Deck! Class 1-A” is elivated from an average episode to a good one that does a nice job of building up to the next episode.

Attack on Titan Season Four, Episode One: The Other Side of the Sea Review – A Fantastic New Beginning.

WARNING: MAY CONTAIN MANGA SPOILERS.

4 and a half stars
It’s finally here!
After over a year of waiting, Mappa has delivered the first episode of Attack on Titan’s final season, “The Other Side of the Sea,” and, boy, is it a good one.
Honestly, coming into this episode, I had concerns.
There has been a number of leaks about production hell at Mappa with how complex the character designs are so I was worried the animation would suffer.
However, Mappa and directors  Yūichirō Hayashi and Jun Shishido thankfully pulled it off, delivering a fantastic first episode that gave me a new appreciation for Chapters 91 and 92 of the manga, which the episode adapts.
Directed by  Kaori Makita, “The Other Side of the Ocean” picks up four years after the defeat of the Warriors on Paradis, introducing us to a whole slew of new characters, starting with Falco (Hanae Natsuki), an Eldian warrior candidate caught in the middle of the final battle of a war.
The opening scene introducing him and his brother Colt (Masaya Matsukaze) is fantastic, with the ringing of Falco’s ears, the intense music, and the brutal imagery of the brothers’ fellow soldiers being cut down in a hail of bullets.
The war the two are involved in is Marley’s attempt to defeat the Mid-East Allied Forces by destroing their forces at Fort Salta; the Mid-East Allied Forces being a series of countries who banded together to attack Marley after they were defeated at Paradis four years ago.
This information is delivered to us in admittedly shoddy exposition, with the convenient excuse of Falco losing his memory due to a probable concussion.
Thankfully, it is a brief scene so it is not too much of a problem.
Also, this does give the episode time to introduce its other new characters, Gabi (Ayane Sakura), Udo (Ayumu Murase), Zofia (Yumi Kawashima), and Commander Magath (possibly Yukitoshi Hori), all of whom are greatly adapted from the manga.
Gabi is especially well done, with Ayane Sakura bringing the character to life perfectly because I already can’t imagine another voice actress playing her and I’m probably going to hear her voice whenever I read Gabi’s lines in the story.
Following these introductions, Gabi reveals she, Falco, Udo and Zofia are being considered by Magath for the role of the next Armoured Titan.
It is after this that we get the Final Season OP, “My War” by Shinsei Kamattechan.
Honestly, on my first listen, I was kind of unsure about it but, after repeat views, I think it’s a great opening for the Marley Arc, with amazing lyrics, and some chilling visuals towards the end.
I suppose my biggest criticism of it would be that it does occasionally use repeated shots of explosions and I think there should have been some variety.
Once the OP closes, we get the the beginning of the epic battle, with Gabi coming up with a plan to take down the Armoured Train, which is a threat to even the nine Titans, all by herself.
This plan goes off without a hitch, with Gabi destroying the Armoured Train before Falco dives in to protect her from machine gun fire.
He needn’t have tried though because the new Jaw Titan, Galliard, who has one of my favourite Titan designs, shows up to save them.
We also get a look at the Cart Titan, which has had its own upgrades in the four-year time skip, with machine guns mounted on its back to shoot at oncoming soldiers.
It is during this time that Falco saves an enemy soldier, only for him to call the Warrior candidates “devils,” showing how strong the hatred for Eldians is outside Paradis, even from their own people, as Gabi so obviously displays by how brainwashed she is into hating the Paradisian Eldians.
Then, we get the most epic moment of the episode as, in a perfect adaption, Eldians are parachuted down from an airship carrying Reiner  (Yoshimasa Hosoya) and Zeke (Takehito Koyasu).
The latter lets out a vicious roar, turning all of the falling Eldians into Titans, who crash down onto Fort Slava to a great soundtrack, which we saw a hint of in the final season trailer.
Reiner jumping down and wiping out the Mid-East Allied Forces’ soldiers with the help of Galliard, then protecting Zeke from a navy bombardment, followed by Zeke destroying that navy, were all moments that left my jaw on the floor, in terms of their quality.
One slight criticism I do have about sequence is the CGI.
Basically, almost all of the Titans in this episode are CGI and, while this looks great on some Titans like Galliard and Reiner, it looks a little off for the Beast Titan in certain shots.
However, this CGI is certainly nowhere as bad as WIT’s CGI Colossal Titan and it did not lessen my enjoyment of the events so, even if the quality of the Titans remains the same throughout the rest of the anime, I will be completely fine with that.
Following the end of the battle, we get the ED, “Shock” by Yuko Ando, which is another banger and has plenty of cool symbolism for upcoming events.
An intriguing anime only scene accompanies this song, which appears to show Jean having infiltrated Marley, hyping up a future battle that I hope is done justice with the adaptation.
This was not the only anime only scene in this episode though because there were multiple ones and, in my opinion, almost all of them improved the adaptation.
There were the anime original portrayals of the horrors of war, like traumatized Eldian soldiers, including one kissing a locket supposedly containing a photo of his loved ones, a squad of what appeared to be forced suicide bombers, and a single soldier climbing atop countless corpses.
Then there’s the added set pieces, like when Reiner has to destroy a second Armoured Train, which he then used to destroy the enemy canons, when in the manga there was no second train and Reiner used a radio tower to destroy the canons.
Another interesting change is the character redesign for Koslow.
In the manga, he looks like a normal guy but they adapted the design in the adaptation, making him pudgy and ugly, probably to make him seem like an evil caricature.
Thankfully, Koslow is a minor character with no importance in the plot so this character design change is not one I particularly mind.
What is definitely the most interesting deviation from the manga, though, is Falco, while concussed, saying that he dreamed he was flying around with a sword, fighting Titans.
This is quite a shocking change because it seems to be heavily implying that Falco is seeing the memories of one of the Scouts, most likely Eren’s.
If this is true, then this anime only scene may be crucial to predicting the manga’s ending, which I will discuss in my predictions for Chapter 136.
Overall, “The Other Side of the Sea” is a fantastic start to the final season that I actually think surpassed the manga, with its great adaptation of the source material and brilliant anime original scenes.
I was a bit worried about the adaptation going in but Mappa definitely proved themselves here and I hope they can keep up the quality in the 16 episodes to come.
Yes, I did say 16, because that seems to be how many episodes we will get, based off leaks, at least for now.
Since this is nowhere enough chapters to fully adapt the story without it being rushed and thus poorly adapted, this would spell certain doom for the final season were it not leaked that the pacing of this season will be around two chapters an episode.
Given this, the pacing will most likely be fine and we will probably get a second part of the season months from now, or maybe a movie or two to finish the adaptation.
No matter what happens though, I hope Mappa can keep up to the standard they have set with this episode and deliver a fitting final season to my favourite story of all time.

My Hero Academia, Season Four, Episode One Review: The first episode is here!… And it’s filler.

3 stars.png
My Hero Academia season four is finally here but off to a less than stellar start.
That is not to say that the first episode “The Scoop on U.A Class 1-A” is bad but it is a filler episode that is mainly used as a recap.
Now, for viewers who do not keep up with the story of My Hero Academia and need to be reminded of what has happened, episodes like this are necessary.
However, for those of us who keep up with the story and remember what happened at the end of season three, like me, recap episodes like “The Scoop on U.A Class 1-A” can be a bit annoying.
While there is a some enjoyment in the story of reporter Tokuda Taneo looking for All Might’s successor, it is clear that he will probably never reappear in the story again and, even if he does, it will likely not be in any meaningful way.
Although, I will say the filler of  “The Scoop on U.A Class 1-A” is at least entertaining because of the humor.
I burst out into laughter twice when watching this episode, with the anime original jokes really hitting a home run.
These comedic moments, along with more set up for Deku eventually taking All Might’s place as the new Symbol of Peace, were enough to keep me engaged in this mostly filler episode.
As for the new intro and outro, I thought they were both very good.
The intro, “Polaris,” is a great song with a lot of very good visuals, my favourite of which being when we see Deku and Eri falling from the sky trying to reach one another.
There is also a lot of symbolism for what is going to happen later in the Overhaul Arc, which I enjoyed.
One aspect that I did not like about the new intro, though, is its lack of emphasis on Mirio, Kirishima, and even the main villain of this arc, Overhaul.
These characters only appeared in group or fighting shots, and very briefly, so you would not guess from looking at the opening that they have a big role in this storyline.
Aside from that, though, “Polaris” is an enjoyable opening.
The same can also be said for the outro, “Koukai no Uta,” which is a really good song with great visuals and symbolism.
More than anything, the outro highlights the importance of Eri in this arc, with her being a character I am looking forward to seeing very much because she will be the center of many emotional scenes.
Overall, though, the first episode of My Hero Academia‘s fourth season, “The Scoop on U.A Class 1-A” is a decent filler episode.
There is enjoyment to be had but if you don’t watch it and just skip to the next episode you will not miss anything.