Chainsaw Man Episode One, Dog & Chainsaw Review: Simple Dreams in a Horrifying World.

After well over a year of anticipation and hype, Mappa just released its first episode of the Chainsaw Man adaptation, “Dog & Chainsaw”, directed by Ryū Nakayama.
If anyone had any doubts about whether this anime would live up to expectations, I am certain that this episode blew any skepticism clear out of the water.
“Dog & Chainsaw” is a phenominal beginning for the anime, delivering excellently on all fronts, including animation, voice acting and soundtrack.
The episode begins with an anime original scene of our main characte Denji (Kikunosuke Toya) having a nightmare about approaching a strange door in an alleyway.
As a manga reader, I know what this dream means but I will leave that for the spoiler section below, just in case any anime only viewers happen to stumble across this review.
After waking up, Denji goes Devil hunting with his own pet Devil, Pochita (Shiori Izawa), an orange, dog-like creature with a chainsaw attatched to its head.
Denji lives in a world where Devils representing human fears plague humanity.
Unfortunately, Denji is dirt poor because his father killed himself after becoming indebted to the Yakuza.
Now, Denji has to pay off all of his father’s debt or be murdered, which lead to him selling one of his eyes, kidney, and even one of his testicles.
What gets him the most profit, however, is Devil hunting, as we see him prepare to use Pochita to take out the Tomato Devil,, before the episode cuts to the opening “Kick Back” by Kenshi Yozenu.
This opening is a lot of fun, with a great song and visuals which I will discuss the meaning of in the manga spoiler section.
After the opening, we see the aftermath of Denji and Pochita’s fight with the Tomato Devil, handing the corpse off to the Yakuza Boss who kindly gives Denji his payment… before ripping him off by taking most of his hard earned money for petty things like a “finder’s fee.”
On top of this, another Yakuza member mistreats Denji further, by offering him money if he eats a cigarette to which, desperate for money as he is, Denji accepts.
He does prove his intelligence, however, by not swallowing the cigarette so he can spit it out when the Yakuza leave.
Returning to the shed in the forest he calls home, we see how much worse Denji’s life is since, because of the Yakuza’s extortion, he can only afford to buy a single piece of bread for him and Pochia to eat.
This harsh life has caused Denji to view simple dreams, like going out on a date with a girl, to be akin to life changing ones; a key component of his character, which will be explored in later episodes.
None of this exploration would have happened without Pochita, however, as we see how he saved Denji’s life in a flashback.
After Denji’s father died, the Yakuza boss demanded money from him to be ready the next day, threatening to cut him up and sell his organs if he fails.
It was at this hopeless moment when Denji met Pochita and accepted his death by a Devil, only to see that Pochita was injured.
Remembering his own father’s suicide, Denji decides to save Pochita by offering his blood, making a contract with the little Devil and starting his Devil hunting career.
Following this flashback, Denji reminisces more on his simple dreams, before coughing up blood, leading to him remembering being told that his mother died from a heart condition, which caused her to cough up blood.
So, on top of the crushing poverty and extortion by the Yakuza, Denji then realizes he probably does not have long to live, meaning the simple dreams he lives for can never be achieved.
The poor guy just can not catch a break.
This is proven when the Yakuza boss takes him to kill another Devil, only for it to be a trap.
The Yakuza boss and his underlings stupidly made a contract with the Zombie Devil to obtain a Devil’s power like Denji did.
All this did was turn them all into the undead, now completley under the control of the Zombie Devil, who wants to kill Denji and Pochita for being Devil Hunters.
What follows is the brutal murder of the two, as they are struck from behind, chased down, stabbed to death, cut into pieces and thrown into a dumpster.
Kikunosuke Toya gives an excellent performance during this scene, with his agonised screams adding to the horror.
And so Denji’s short and cruel life ends cruely, or, at least, it would have if it were not for Pochita again.
Revived by Denji’s blood, he makes a contract with Denji, “I’ll give you my heart. And in exchange, I want you to show me your dreams.”
Now revived, Denji emerges from the dumpster, the only remaining remnant of Pochita being a cord now attatched to his chest.
Upon noticing his revival, the Zombie Devil orders his zombie slaves to eat Denji, and they tackle him to the ground as he pulls the cord.
The sound of the groaning undead is slowly overtaken by the sound of a revving chainsaw.
With a gory slash, Denji emerges from beneath the hoard, his face now that of a monstrous chainsaw, along with his hands.
The gore galore promised by the trailer then comences, as Denji quickly cuts the screaming Zombie Devil apart in bloody and spectacularly animated fashion.
Denji’s chainsaws are clearly CGI but they are the good kind, mixing well with the 2D animation.
After the Zombie Devil has been brutally despatched, Denji moves onto the zombified Yakuza, including his former boss, killing them all and washing his debt away in a river of blood.
Some time later, the government Devil Hunters arrive, lead by a woman named Makima (Tomori Kusunoki).
They find Denji inside the warehouse, surrounded by the dead zombies.
In a daze, Denji asks Makima to hug him, clearly remembering his old dream, and Makima accepts this requet, causing Denji to return to his human form.
Makima then gives him two options.
Either, A, he can be killed by her as a devil, or B, Makima can keep him as a human, offering to feed him.
This prompts Denji to ask what he will have for breakfast and Makima replies simple things like, “bread with butter and jam, salad, coffee, and then maybe something for desert.”
Well, as we know, simple dreams like breakfast are big ones for Denji, so Makima is really offering to fulfill one of his dearest wishes, leading to him accepting the offer, as the episode comes to an end.
Throughout this scene, the soundtrack by Keunsuke Ushio presents a melancholic feeling that represents the hope Denji is feeling in this moment really well.
I just knew that the composer for anime like A Silent Voice would do a great job with the soundtrack for Chainsaw Man.
I look forward to hearing the rest of his work, just as I look forward to seeing the rest of th3 ending songw we get.
Mappa took an interesting approach to the Chainsaw Man’s episode endings, as each one will have a different song, with Episode One’s being “Chainsaw Blood” by Vaundy, which is another banger, just like the opening.
All of the music, from the opening and ending song, to Ushio’s soundtrack, are amazing.
Along with this, the animation of the episode is great throughout, with plenty of little details throughout, like the veins in some character’s eyes.
Finally, there is the voice acting, which is so far also really good.
Watching the trailer, I was admittedly surprised to hear Tomori Kusunkoki’s soft voice as Makima but I think it works perfectly after this episode by making the character perfectly alluring.
“Dog & Chainsaw” is an all around fantastic first episode for the Chainsaw Man adaptation.
Studio Mappa is clearly dedicated to giving the manga the best adaptation that it can and I cannot wait to see the rest of my new favourite manga be adapted in anime form.


Manga Spoiler Section:

The first thing I will talk about concerning manga spoilers is the anime original scene of Denji having a nightmare about the door.
This early foreshadowing will work wonders, setting up the reveal that Denji killed his own father, which will come later in the story.
Placing the dream right at the beginning puts the mystery of the door firmly in the audience’s mind from the start, which is a good thing.
Now, for my thoughts on the opening’s foreshadowing.
For starters, one of my favourite moments from it was the moment with the entire gang sitting in a movie theatre.
It felt like it was hinting at Chapter 39, where Denji and Makima go to the movies.
Not only that but this moment in the opening also hints at what the character dynamics will be like in the future of the anime.
We see Makima feeding Denji popcorn, hinting at her control over him, Power stealing Kobeni’s seat, and Aki being the only one of the group to be focusing on the movie.
The opening having a moment in the theatre is also perfect for Chainsaw Man, considering how much of a movie fan Tatsuki Fujimoto is.
This fact can be seen throughout the opening, with various other moments refrencing popular films, with shots resembling those found in Pulp Fiction, The Big Lebowski, and many other films, being present.
After the movie theater moment in the opening, we then get various little hints to Makima’s hold over Denji, some subtle and others not.
Probably the most unsubtle of all is Makima having Denji on a dog leash.
More subtle is the moment when Makima feeds Denji a snail, which, I am told, looks to be infected by a parasite which controls its brain, further hinting at her attempting to manipulate Denji.
Other cool little teasers in the opening show glimpses of the Future Devil, Ghost Devil and Katanna Man, along with hints at Aki and Power’s pasts.
The opening then ends by showing the family dynamic that will emerge between Denji, Power and Aki, with Denji and Power goofing around dancing, while Aki watches.
This opening was great and its hints towards future events from the manga were fun to catch.
As for the original anime only scene, I wonder if there will be any more throughout the anime?
It will be interesting to see what gets added across Chainsaw Man‘s adaptation.

House of the Dragon, Episode One, The Heirs of the Dragon Review: Return to Westeros.

Game of Thrones is an interesting show to look back on.
In its glory days, it was praised as one of the greatest television series of all time, yet it has one of the most reviled final seasons in television history as well.
The last few seasons were so bad that there was a lot of bitterness when the spinoff was announced, House of the Dragon, based off George R.R Martin’s Fire and Blood, a history book about the Targaryen dynasty in Westeroes.
Specifically, the show will adapt a certain portion of that book, the best part of it in fact, known as the Dance of the Dragons.
Upon hearing that it was this amazing section of the novel that would be adapted, I became excited for this show and my excitement only increased with every subsequent trailer.
Well, after seeing the first episode, “The Heirs of the Dragon”, I think I can say that the hype was fulfilled.
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik, and written by Ryan Condal, the showrunners, “The Heirs of the Dragon” is a fantastic start to the show, which seems to have already succeeded in getting those who were lukewarm about returning to Westeroes after the disastrous ending to return to the story.
The episode begins in 101 AC (Aegon’s Conqeust), where a great council is convened at Harrenhal to decide the successor of King Jaehaerys Targaryen, the longest ruling king in the history of Westeroes.
Two of his grandchildren are considered, the elder Rhaenys (Eve Best) and her younger cousin Viserys (Paddy Considine).
Because Viserys is a man, he is the one chosen to inherit the Iron Throne over Rhaenys, setting up one of the Dance of the Dragons’ main themes, this being the role of women in Westeroes.
It is also interesting to note a change from the book that occurs here.
In Fire and Blood, Rhaenys is passed over pretty quickly because of her sex, causing her son Laenor to be considered instead, but he is also passed over due to him coming from the female line as opposed to Viserys.
Personally, I like the change of Rhaenys being the main candidate for the throne along with Viserys because it puts the women’s rights aspect of the show front and center.
This entire scene is narrated by Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy), the son of now King Viserys, known as the Realm’s Delight.
Nine years after Viserys becomes king, we see a younger version of her (Milly Alcock) riding the dragon Syrax around Kings Landing in some truly stunning shots.
The CGI for both the dragons and King’s Landing are top notch, and both also contribute to a nice piece of world building, as we see the citizens of the city walk about their daily lives while Syrax flies overhead.
It really shows how much has changed from where House of the Dragon begins to the events of Game of Thrones, 200 years later.
While the people of King’s Landing were terrified of the dragons in the original show (rightfully so), seeing them fly over the city is just a part of everyday life in King Visery’s time.
Rhaenyra lands Syrax at the Dragon Pit and meets up with her friend Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey), daughter of Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), the Hand of the King.
The two travel to the Red Keep, where they meet Rhaenyra’s pregnant mother, Queen Aemma (Sian Brooke).
A brief exchange follows that will become horrifyingly significant later, as Aemma tells a reluctant Rhaenyra that as women the birthing bed is their battlefield.
She also mentions that Rhaenyra stinks of dragon, which is a fun little detail, continued when Rhaenyra visits her father’s small council and Viserys tells her the same thing.
I wonder what dragon smells like?
As for the small council itself, it is quite telling about its state that a joke the king is making takes precedent over Corlys Velaryon’s (Steve Touissaint) report about the rising danger of an alliance in Essos, known as the Triarchy, preparing to take over the Stepstones.
Speaking of Corlys, I absolutley love his characterization here, with him holding up his hand to stop Rhaenyra serving him alcohol, showing he wishes to have a clear mind in important meetings.
He is certainly taking the meeting more seriously than everyone else, but King Visery’s jovial attitude is understandable, since his child will soon be born, one he is certain will be a son because of a dream he had, which he later tells Aemma about.
Although, Targaryen dreams can often be misleading and this is proven true later.
After the small council meeting, Rhaenyra goes to the throne room after hearing that her uncle Daemon (Matt Smith) has come to court.
Honestly, when I heard that Matt Smith had been cast as Daemon, I was a bit unsure about him.
I mean, I never really imagined Daemon as Dr Who.
Yet, after seeing his first scene, I was completley sold.
Everything about his introduction is perfection, from Smith’s performance, to Daemon and Rhaenyra speaking Velaryon.
But, by far the best part of his intro, in my opinion, is the first clear look at him we get, when Rhaenyra points out that the coming tourney is to celebrate Viserys’ heir, to which Daemon leans forwards and says, “As I said.”
Daemon is going to be a fun character to follow.
To some the greatest of heroes, to others the blackest of villains, as the books say.
We mostly see the villainy part in this episode, with Daemon’s command of the city watch, giving them the gold cloaks they come to be known for.
He then leads them on a raid on the cities “criminals,” cutting hands off “thieves”, gelding “rapers”, and beheading “murderers.”
The reason I used so many quotation marks in that sentence because, to me, it seems pretty ambigious if the people Daemon and his men brutalized were even criminals at all.
After all, we never saw these people do anything before they were attacked, so for all we know they could have been wrongly accused of being criminals and were unjustly punished.
It is the spectacle of the thing that Viserys and Otto take issue with, however, as the two storm into the small council to discuss the attack, only to find Daemon sitting right there.
What follows is a fantastic introduction to the rivalry between Otto and Daemon.
I specifically love how a lot of Daemon’s dialogue from Fire and Blood is adapted here, most notably his comments about his wife in the Vale, calling her his “Bronze Bitch.”
Following the second small council scene, we see Daemon in a brothel having sex with his favourite prostitute Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno).
It was actually kind of funny seeing this scene because news articles were reporting that House of the Dragon would have much less sex and violence than Game of Thrones. 
Well, this scene and the one with the Gold Cloaks’ attack completley disprove those articles.
Further disproving them is the violence on the battlefields of the tourney and Aemma’s birthing bed.
As Aemma goes into labour, Viserys holds his tourney where multiple knights celebrate the fast approaching birth of the king’s heir.
The scale and cinematography displayed in the tourney are excellent, with Daemon eventually emerging to challenge multiple jousters, defeating Otto’s eldest son and recieving Alicent’s favor all to piss the Hand of the King off.
However, Viserys is called to his wife’s side right as Daemon is about to fight the low-born knight, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel).
Unfortunately, Aemma’s telling Rhaenyra that child labour is like a battlefield has become terrifyingly literal, as her baby is breeched and the Grand Maester cannot turn it, requring a C-Section.
In today’s world, such procedures can be done without harming the mother but back in medieval times it was horrifying and fatal.
House of the Dragon translates this horror suitably, with the C-Section being probably the most disturbing scene I have seen on television in a while.
What makes the whole thing worse is how Viserys does not tell Aemma what is about to happen before she is even cut open.
He does not even ask her opinion on it.
Yes, Aemma would have died anyway but it was her life and she spent the last few moments of it in extreme agony, feeling betrayed by the man she loved.
This gruesome scene is intercut with Daemon’s joust and then fight with Criston, their battle intercutting well with Aemma’s death, as Daemon is eventually defeated by Criston, who then gains Rhaenyra’s favor.
Word of Aemma’s death begins to spread but, typically for the time, it seems that Rhaenyra is the last to be informed of it.
In the end, all the pain Aemma went through before she died was not even worth it, because her and Visery’s son dies anyway, and is cremated alongside his mother.
The funeral scene was quite touching, with Daemon comforting Rhaenyra, telling her she needs to be there for Viserys, only for Rhaenyra to say she can never be the son he needs.
Rhaenyra nearly crumbling when she has to give the order for Syrax to cremate her mother and brother is just as touching, with Milly Alcock doing a wonderful job.
Paddy Considine does just as amazingly in the following scene, where Otto tries to convince him to name Rhaenyra his heir, afraid of what Daemon will do if he becomes king, leading to an argument about the succession.
Viserys shouting out that his wife and son are dead and he will not “suffer crows that come to feast on their corpses” was very impactful.
It also may have been a refrence to the fourth book in the series, A Feast for Crows. 
Unfortunately for Viserys, more feasting is in order, for Otto sends Alicent to comfort him, hoping to create a connection between the two and extend his family’s influence.
You really have to feel bad for Alicent, as she is clearly uncomfortable about the whole thing, and you have to wonder how her friendship with Rhaenyra will suffer because of it.
The episode does a really good job of showcasing this friendship in an earlier scene, as it has the best humor of the episode.
Aging Alicent down to Rhaenyra’s age to create this friendship will surely make where their relationship goes more interesting.
Just as interesting is seeing the “heir for a day” scene play out, with Daemon using the title to refer to Visery’s dead son.
Otto learns of this through his spy network, which I think we see spying on Daemon when he is having sex with Mysaria.
When Viserys is informed, he calls Daemon to the throne room and the two argue, with Daemon calling out Otto for using Viserys.
It is interesting how Daemon and Otto both hate one another for things they themselves are guilty of.
Otto warns of Daemon, stating that, “the gods have yet to make a man who lacks the paitience for absolute power.”
Otto says this when he wants power for his family, proven when he sends Alicent to seduce Viserys after Aemma’s death.
As for Daemon, he hates Otto because he is “a second son who stands to inherit nothing he doesn’t seize for himself”, which is exactly what Daemon does.
The two are so similar, yet they hate each other equally, making for a compelling conflict.
Just as compelling is Daemon himself because in Fire and Blood I was pretty certain that Daemon did most of what he did for power and did not care for most of his family, except for a select few.
This assumption is proven wrong with the show version of Daemon because he clearly cares about Viserys and Rhaenyra, shown when he worries that Viserys is being used because of his weakness.
It is true that Viserys is weak, since Otto is seeking to use Alicent to manipulate him, and even the throne seems to reject him, cutting him, which is the sign of a weak king.
Back to Daemon himself, his clear love for his family makes the “heir for a day” moment pretty ambigious, a staple of Fire and Blood. 
For example, we do not see Daemon actually say it, it is only repeated by Otto.
Still, Daemon does not exactly deny saying it but, given how he looks somber in the scene where he gives the speech, I think it is possible he did not mean to call Baelon “the heir for a day” as an insult.
In any case, Daemon and Visery’s argument results in the king sending Daemon away and naming Rhaenyra his heir.
The latter is where my big issue of the episode comes into play.
Viserys informs Rhaenerya that Aegon conquered Westeroes because he dreamed of the White Walkers eventually invading.
The reason I have a problem with this is because the White Walkers turned out to be pretty easy to defeat in Season Eight.
Plus, the trailer for the next episode shows Rhaenyra reading about “the prince that was promised”, something which was never paid off.
I guess we’ll just have to think of this reveal in terms of book continuity rather than show continuity.
After all, the whole “prince that was promised” storyline may pay off in the Winds of Winter, whenever that releases, if ever (probably never).
Despite my issues with the White Walker reveal, the scene of Rhaenyra being declared heir is pretty great, especially with how it cuts from Viserys talking about the North to Lord Rickon Stark swearing fealty to Rhaenyra, alongside the other lords of Westeroes.
Not all look happy about this, however, is Boremund Baratheon, understandably so, since his own cousin Rhaenys is the Queen Who Never War, yet Viserys is now crowning his own daughter.
Overall, “The Heirs of the Dragon” is a fantastic start to House of the Dragon.
It sets up the characters and conflict well, with some excellent performances, set design, cinematography and CGI.
The story of Game of Thrones may be returning to its glory days once more.


Spoiler Section:

I have decided to put a spoiler section at the end of every one one of my House of the Dragon reviews, so I can talk about things from Fire and Blood, without spoiling the show.
For this first review, I do not have much to mention, merely that Rhaenyra and Alicent being made best friends will make them becoming enemies more impactful.
Along with this, I would like to talk about the sexual tension between Daemon and Rhaenyra in the throne room scene.
Yep, those two are going to end up togethor and yep, they are uncle and neice.
Targaryens, am I right?
In all seriousness, the moment Daemon wrapped the necklace around her neck was very uncomfortable due to that sexual tension and we’ll definitley be seeing more of that in the show because of the Targaryen’s incestuous ways.
I will probably have more book spoiler moments to talk about as the season progresses. 

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.