The Dragon Prince Season Four: The Mystery of Aaravos Review: More Like the Mystery of Where Aaravos is.

The Dragon Prince has been an interesting show for me.
I first started watching it because one of its creators was Aaron Ehaz, a writer from Avatar: The Last Airbender.
While the first season was a bit rocky, it still showed promise, and every season since then has been better the last.
Season Three was especially great with a lot of excellent character development and the cliffhanger it ended on was an intriguing one.
After this third season, there was a three-year-wait for the fourth one. 

We had to wait three years to see what would happen in The Dragon Prince Season Four.

During the wait, there were plenty of positive signs for the future of the series, like the announcement that there are many seasons coming down the line.
Well, after the three-year-wait, we finally have Season Four, The Mystery of Aaravos.   
Was the wait worth it?
In my opinion, unfortunately no.
Season Four is quite messy with a lot of issues, one of the big ones being how it picks up from Season Three.
Sometime in the three years since that season, a comic was released which showed how Callum (Jack DeSana) and Rayla (Paula Burrows) broke up when Rayla went looking for Viren (Jason Simpson).
If, like me, you did not read this comic before watching Season Four then good luck on understanding all of the tension in Callum and Rayla’s relationship.

I was completley lost on why we did not see Callum and Rayla break up until I learned there was a comic.

The story of The Mystery of Aaravos picks up two years after Season Three where Claudia (Raquel Belmonte) has resurrected Viren in Xadia.
With Claudia’s new boyfriend Terry (Benjamin Callins), the trio search for the location of Aaravos’ prison so they can free him and keep Viren alive, since his resurrection is limited.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Catolis, lead by King Ezran (Sasha Rojen), is preparing for the arrival of the Dragon Queen and the Dragon Prince Zym.  
However, word of Aaravos plans to escape interrupts the celebrations and sets our heroes up on their next journey.
Oh, and Amaya and Janai (Rena Anakwe) get engaged and have to deal with a whole lot of racial tension between the Sun Elves and humans.
If that last storyline sounds way too different just from my description then I have done a good job of articulating just how much this third storyline feels out of place with the other two.
Don’t get me wrong, it does have good messages and I liked the way it resolves by the end.
However, like I said, it just does not match well with either of the other stories, and the way this story begins is written ludicrously badly, in what is probably the worst scene in all of The Dragon Prince.

This scene and this character in particular are so illogically stupid that it broke my immersion.

The other two storylines are much stronger than the third, although filled with humor that is very hit or miss, and characters doing things that often don’t make sense.
Along with this, there is the whole title of the season these storylines revolve around: The Mystery of Aaravos.
If you ask me, the season really should have been called The Mysterous of Where Aaravos is because the location of Aaravos’ prison is the only mystery surrounding the character this season.
Aaravos’ identity and past is explained pretty soundly in one big exposition dump early on and the mystery of why he is doing all this is not touched upon.
Credit where it is due, though, Aaravos is definitely the best part of Season Four.
He may only have one scene but it is an excellent one, which perfectly portrays the danger he poses, with voice actor Erik Todd Dellums bringing so much menace to the character.

Aaravos remains a charasmatic antagonist, as always.

Aaravos is not the only standout, though, because Soren (Jesse Inocalla) is another.
I did not care for Soren much in the first two seasons but Season Three made him my favourite and Season Four continues this, with him having quite a few funny and heroic moments.
Anther positive trait of the season includes the animation, which is once again very good, especially in the fight scenes.
Although, there were a few animation issues, here and there, like Rayla’s tattoos going missing at one point but this was only minor.
In the end, all of the positives of Seasons Four were not enough to save it from its many negatives.
One storyline feels very out of place and has an awful inciting incident, understanding the state of Callum and Rayla’s relationship relies on reading a tie in comic, and for a season named The Mystery of Aaravos there is very little mystery actually focused on with him.
I just hope that season five will be better.        

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners Review: An Amazing Videogame Anime Adaptation.

Like many people, I was highly anticipating Cyberpunk 2077 before it was released.
I think it is fair to say that it was one of the most anticipated video games of all time, what with how hyped up the marketing was.
This made it all the more crushing when the game released practically broken at launch, especially on consoles.
I reviewed Cyberpunk 2077 shortly after release and I gave it a positive review, despite admitting that it caused my PlayStation to crash five times on my first play through.
Looking back, I think I was too lenient.
However, at the same time, I can also see why I gave the game a positive review because of how much the story, characters and world building gripped me.
Such features made me excited when it was announced that Studio Trigger would be releasing their own anime set in the Cyberpunk 2077 universe, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. 

Despite the game’s many many faults, the anime had the chance to be something special.

You may have heard the buzz surrounding this anime as one of the best of the year and, after watching all ten episodes, I can add my voice to this buzz.
Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is set in Night City, a corporation-run hell hole, where the only way to make a name for yourself is to cybernetically enhance your body, often to the point of cyberpsychosis.
It is this bleak city where we meet our main character David Martinez (Kenn) who, after a tragic turn of events, decides to have a military grade piece of technology, known as the Sandevistan, implanted into his body.
This leads to David meeting a netrunner named Lucy (Aoi Yuki), introducing him to the world of Edgerunners, which he excels in, due to his new implant.
The growing bond between David and Lucy is great to see play out as they have such excellent chemistry. 

David and Lucy work well togethor right from the start.

It is not only them, though, because the other wacky characters among the Edgerunners are also very compelling.
There is the tough as nails leader Maine (Hiroki Toshi), his also tough as nails girlfriend Dorio (Michiki Kaiden), experienced netrunner Kiwi (Takako Honda), getaway driver Falco (Yasuyuki Kase), and, of course, Rebecca (Tomoyo Kurosawa).
I saved Rebecca for last because she was definitely my favourite character in the show.
She is crazy and wild but also extremely loyal to those she cares for, creating a complex character who was entertaining to watch.

Every scene with Rebecca is a blast.

With so many great characters, it is made all the more tragic when some of them bite the dust.
This is Night City, after all, where happy endings are rare and bloody endings are all too common.
Speaking of blood, wow, was this show gory.
Studio Trigger really committed to the violence of the game. 

People explode into bloody messes a lot in this anime.

Along with this, the animation for the action scenes and the soundtrack in these moments are stellar.
Such features all come together to create a spectacular anime that has convinced many people to replay Cyberpunk 2077, or play it for the first time.
For these new players, they will see a few familiar faces from Edgerunners, as some characters from the game are incorporated here, mostly as cameos.
However, there is one character from the game who has a big role.
I will not spoil who it is but, in my opinion, this character was portrayed much better in Edgerunners than in Cyberpunk 2077.          
I would be open to see more characters from the game pop up in the Cyberpunk Universe, if Studio Trigger wants to continue this series, maybe as an anthology where we focus on different Night City characters each season. 

We can see how new characters from Night City are “remembered” if this show continues.

This is how much I enjoyed this anime.
I liked it so much that I am now wishing for a second season that we probably will not get.
If Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a one time thing, however, then it is certainly worth it.
Studio Trigger delivered a fantastic anime here.
Along with other amazing video game adaptations, like Arcane, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners makes it seem like animated series are the way to go for such adaptations. 

Stranger Things Season Four, Volume 2 Review: Epic Prelude to the Final Season.

In my review for the first volume for Stranger Things’ Fourth Season, I called it “one hell of a return,” and even stated that it “may be the best season of the show so far.”
Well, after watching Volume 2, I can now state that Season Four is definitely the best season of the show so far, at least in my opinion.
The final two episodes of the season, “Papa” and “The Piggyback”, made for an intense first-time watch, with “The Piggyback” making me grip the chair arm I was sitting by tightly for the entirety of its two and a half-hour runtime.

“Papa” and “The Piggyback” are both nerve wracking episodes with plenty of highlights.

Picking up from Episode Seven’s cliffhanger, Volume Two sees our various groups of characters preparing to take the fight to Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower).
In California, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) decides to engage in this fight prematuely to save her friends, which Dr Brenner (Mathew Modine) is against, unaware that Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will (Noah Schnapp), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) and Argyle (Eduardo Franco) are on their way to rescue her.
Back in Hawkins, Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Steve (Joe Keery), Robin (Maya Hawke), Eddie (Joseph Quinn), Dustin (Gaten Mazzaro), Max (Sadie Sink), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Erica (Priah Ferguson) prepare for their own fight with Vecna, initiating a complicated plan in the hopes of killing the monster.
Meanwhile, Hopper (David Harbour), Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Murray (Brett Gelman) attempt to escape Russia, before realizing they may have to deal with the Demogorgons connected to the Mind Flayer’s Hive Mind. 

Almost every character has a part to play in Season Four’s epic conclusion.

These three storylines intersect as the plan to kill Vecna is put into action, with various excellent cases of editing connecting the characters in different locations together.
Speaking of these characters, there are so many standout moments from all of them, from Eleven confronting Brenner for his horrific actions, to Will’s confession to Mike through taking about Eleven, and Eddie and Dustin’s epic distraction that was teased so often in trailers.
The best scene by far, however, is the one I’ll call the  “Running UpThat Hill” scene and leave it at that.
Just as Volume One’s best scene centered around the Kate Bush song, so does Volume 2’s. 

It’s crazy how Stranger Things revitalized the song through using it in epic scenes twice for Season Four.

The aftermath of this scene even has some of the best acting of the entire series, with Caleb McLaughlin’s performance being so gut wrenching it brought me to tears.
This was not the only moment in Volume 2 to do this because there is another scene with Dustin that also had a similar effect on me.

There are a few scenes in the final episode that are tear inducing but McLaughlin’s scene takes the cake.

However, this is where my my one criticism of Volume 2 comes in and that is the character fates, some of them anyway.
A few of the saves characters get do feel a little too deus ex machina, though I do understand the Duffer Brother’s reasoning for making the saves happen.
I just think such moments could have been written a little better.
Otherwise, I would say that Volume 2 is excellently written, with so many scenes that made me feel tense, fearful, gut punched, overjoyed and extremely excited for what is to come in Season Five, which I think it has been said is the final season.
If it is indeed the last we get of Stranger Things, then I’m looking forward to it even more than I was previously because Iam now pretty confident that the Duffer Brothers can end this story right, after the greatness that was Season Four.       

Vampire in the Garden Review: Unfortunately Short.

I still remember searching for upcoming anime a few months ago and being interested by the description for Vampire in the Garden.
Developed by Wit Studio, released on Netflix and directed by Ryōtarō Makihara, the story is set in a winter wasteland where vampires and humans have been at war for an unknown period of time.
Some of the remaining remnants of humanity have fled to a city, protected by a tower that generates UV Light to ward off the vampires.
Living inside this city is a young girl named Momo (Megumi Han), the daughter of one of the city’s generals. 
She is tired of the fighting and wants to learn music, something which was outlawed because of its connection to the vampires.

Then, during an attack on the city, Momo has a chance encounter with the Vampire Queen Fine (Yu Kobayashi), someone who is also tired of the fighting and treasures music.
Together, the two decide to try and find a supposed paradise where humans and vampires live in harmony and make music together.

Momo and Fine’s chance encounter begins their journey.

This premise intrigued me when I first read it and I decided to give the anime a shot, thinking that it would probably have a similar episode count to Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song, another anime that Wit Studio produced which I loved.
So, I was quite surprised when I saw that there were only five episodes released by Netflix.
At first, I thought it must be some kind of error and that Netflix would release the other episodes once they realized the mistake.
But, no, Vampire in the Garden really is only five episodes long and this is its biggest fault.
Now, I still really enjoyed my time with this anime but I feel like it had the potential for so much more, if only it had been given more episodes. 

I wish Wit Studio had given Vampire in the Garden the ten to thirteen episode treatment.

There are just too many characters and ideas here for the vision of this anime to be fully realized in such a short amount of time.
That said, I do think that Vampire in the Garden did the best it could have done with only five episodes, which is a testament to the writing quality.
For one thing, I liked all of the characters in this anime.
Momo and Fine’s growing bond is interesting throughout, I quite enjoyed the resolution to Momo’s relationship with her mother (Rika Fukami), and the vague way that the anime filled in the backstory of Kubo (Hiroki Toshi), giving us just enough information to put the pieces together, felt like the writers were respecting the audience.
Another feature of the anime I have to give props to is the world building.
Momo and Fine visit various different kinds of communities, all of which have different ways that humans and vampires interact with each other, which are interesting to compare.

The exploration of the different dynamics between humans and vampires in various dystopian cities was excellent world building.

The animation and music are also quite good, something to be expected of an anime made by Wit Studio.
I will also admit that, despite me being critical of there only being five episodes, this short run time does mean you can finish Vampire in the Garden rather quickly, as if it were a movie rather than a show, so that is an advantage it has.
As for other criticisms, there are a few moments in the anime that broke my suspension of disbelief temporarily by being too convenient or having a character survive something that should have been impossible to.

It’s strange moments like this one that temporarily broke my immersion.

Also, I did find the story to be a bit predictable at times, especially with one character’s ending, although it being predictable did not make it bad. 
These are just minor criticisms.
The only major one I have is, again, the episode count.
The anime had the potential to be fantastic but the short runtime limits it.
I’m actually hoping we get a manga adaptation at some point because that could extend the story, thus expanding upon the characters, world and themes, allowing Vampire in the Garden to reach its potential.
As it stands, though, I would still recommend the show.
It’s a short watch and delivers some pretty interesting character work and world building.    

Arcane Review: Watch. This. Show.

I remember when I first watched the trailer for Netflix’s Arcane and was instantly intrigued by the quality of the animation I was seeing.
However, then I noticed the show was based off League of Legends.
I have never played this game but I know of it because of its reputation as having one of the most toxic fandoms out there.
This was not what made me hesitant to watch it though because you can’t judge a product off the actions of its fans alone.
No, the reason for my hesitation was that, since I had never played League, I would have no idea what was happening in Arcane‘s story.

So, despite liking what I saw in the trailer, I decided to give it a skip.
But then, I kept hearing the nonstop praise about Arcane being a masterpiece and I finally caved, deciding to give it a chance.
After all, I watched Squid Game because of the acclaim it was receiving and I had no regrets about that.
Although, after finishing Arcane, I did have one regret… that I did not watch this absolute masterpiece of a show sooner.
All of the praise this series has received since it was released in three acts on Netflix is accurate. 

Arcane was released in three acts, each with three episodes, over three weeks. I watched one act per day and each one is incredible.

Created by Christian Linke and Alex Yee, Arcane tells the story of many different characters in the city of Piltover and its undercity of Zaun.
Zaun is a gang ridden, posion aired place, where sisters Vi (Hailee Steinfeld) and Powder (Ella Purnell) struggle to find their place in the world while under the guardianship of their father figure Vander (JB Blanc). 
Meanwhile, in the rich and ever technologically progressing city of Piltover, scientist Jayce (Kevin Alejandro) and his newfound friend Viktor (Harry Loyd) begin to experiment with creating magic through science. 
The story then follows these different groups of characters, their paths occasionally intersecting, as tragic events push Piltover and Zaun to the edge of outright war.
What makes the potential for this conflict so suspenseful is how amazingly well written each character in this show is.
The way the relationship between Vi and Powder plays out, and what they go on to become by the end of the season, is highly engaging.

Powder and Vi’s tragic journeys made for plenty of compelling development.

Another thing that really struck me was how even the minor characters felt like real people.
Take the corrupt enforcer Marcus (Remy Hill), for example.
It would have been incredibly easy for the writers to just make him a stereotypically evil corrupt cop but they didn’t.
They gave Marcus a lot of depth and characterization to the point that I actually sympathized with him, while knowing he was a terrible person.
Speaking of someone being a terrible person while also being a fantastic character, my favourite character in this entire show is definitely the main antagonist, Silco (Jason Spisak).
Much like Marcus, I thought he was going to turn out to be a stereotypical villain when we were first introduced to him but, as the show went on, he became incredibly complex.
I remember watching Episode Three, “The Base Violence Necessary for Change” and seeing him display some emotion and wondering if it was genuine.
The show then goes on to expand on this emotion for his character, making a part of himself so sympathetic that the way his storyline for the season concluded during the final episode “The Monster You Created” actually made me tear up.

I did not expect to cry for Silco when we met him, yet the final episode made me do just that.

Notice how I mentioned both Episodes Three and Nine there? 
These two are the best episodes of Arcane, both being masterpieces in their own right, with so much tragedy in them.
The tragedy of this story is backed up by the fantastic voice acting, score and animation.
It was this animation that made me initially interested in the show in the first place, as I said when talking about the trailer, and seeing this animation actually play out in the series did not disappoint. 
It reminded me a lot of the animation from Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, creating absolutely amazing action set pieces, the best of which comes in Episode Seven “The Boy Saviour.”   

The action sequence in this scene between Jinx and another character was excellent, having me glued to the screen.

As for the score, I have already put multiple songs from this show on my Spotify, including the opening by Imagine Dragons and JID, “Enemy,” so that alone should tell you how much I loved Arcane’s music.
As for the voice acting, there was not a weak member of the cast.
I was especially impressed with the voice acting of Mia Sinclair Jenessa who plays the young Powder, showing off some excellent range in Episode Three.
All of this combines with the amazing writing from Linke and Yee, creating fascinating lines like “in the pursuit of great, we failed to do good,” and “is there anything so undoing as a daughter.”

There are plenty of amazing instances of dialogue in Arcane.

How certain lines and events from the beginning are paralleled right up to the final episode also quite impressed me, with the story of Arcane essentially boiling down to one tragic cycle. 
This is a cycle that I look forward to seeing continue when we eventually get Season Two, which has been announced.
We do not know when this season will be released but it has been confirmed that we will not be getting it in 2022, to which I say, “good.” 
Arcane is clearly a labour of love from its creators and they deserve to continue this labour with all the care and attention they used to craft the masterpiece that is this first season: one of the greatest opening seasons I have ever seen.
Season one of Arcane is a masterpiece and, if Season Two is at the very least just as good, then it may end up being one of my favourite shows of all time.   
If you have not watched this show yet because of League of Legend’s reputation, or because you fear you won’t understand what’s happening like I feared, then take my advice and watch it.
You will understand what’s happening and it will most likely blow your mind.   

Hannibal Review: Hope You Have a Strong Stomach.

5 stars
I had been told plenty of times over the years that Hannibal was a fantastic show but I never got around to watching it.
Well, after stumbling across it on Netflix I decided to give it a shot and what can I say other than, wow.
I was hooked on this show from start to finish and NBC made a huge mistake cancelling it.
The series is equal parts gripping and horrifying with plenty of disturbing imagery that suits the titular Hannibal the Cannibal like a human skin glove.
Speaking of, Mads Mikkelsen is absolutely incredible as Hannibal Lecter, even rivaling the Anthony Hopkins version, which is no small feat.

mads mikkelsen
Developed by Bryan Fuller, the show follows his sinister yet no less intriguing relationship with criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), whose unique way of sympathizing with murderers allows him to have an edge in catching them.
However, Hannibal’s interest in him leads to many disturbing events in Will’s life that may very well push him over the deep end by the show’s conclusion.
Dancy does an amazing job as Will and the chemistry he has with Mikkleson makes the friendship/romance(?) between him and Hannibal all the more investing and dark.
It’s not just these two though because every actor does a magnificent job from Laurence Fishburn, to Caroline Dhavernas, to Raul Esparaz.
The fact that you like many of these characters makes it all the worse when Hannibal, or some other killer gets a hold of them, like the terrifying Francis Dollarhyde (Richard Armitage), who has a fantastic score, by the way.

richard armitage
What makes it crueler is how disturbing this show can get with its gore.
Seriously, you need a strong stomach to watch this show, although you may get desensitized to the extreme violence by the end of it all.
Even if you cannot handle all of the gore though, it is all more than worth it because of the phenomenal television Hannibal delivers.
Everything just comes together, from the acting, to the cinematography, to the score, to make Hannibal one of the greatest television shows ever with some incredible seasons.
Season one is a slow descent into madness that introduces you to the show’s characters perfectly and makes you care about them before it’s gut wrenching ending.
Season two is definitely my favourite, delivering an intense thrill ride that culminates in one of the most shocking episode of television that I have ever seen, “Mizumono.”
That episode left me in stunned silence by the end.

mizumo
While season three is a little slow to begin with, by episode five it gets back to the original quality of the first two seasons and ends on a high note.
Overall, Hannibal is an amazing show that easily lives up the legacy of The Silence of the Lambs film and Thomas Harris’ novels.
Mads Mikkelson, especially, is a highlight.
It was a mistake for NBC to cancel it but I hope we get some more terrifying content in the future.

Japan Sinks 2020: At This Point, I Wouldn’t Even be Surprised.

3 stars
2020 has been a disaster of a year so it’s only fitting that an anime comes out, set in that year, where massive earthquakes cause Japan to begin sinking.
It also makes sense then that the anime is a bit of a mess, again, just like 2020.
Directed by Pyeon-Gang Ho and Masaaki Yuasa, Japan Sinks follows the Muto family who are caught up in the disaster of their country sinking beneath their feet.
The family consists of aspiring runner Auyumu (Reina Ueda), her brother, the gamer Go (Tomu Muranaka), and their parents, dedicate father Koichiro (Masaki Terasoma), and Filipino working mother Mari (Yuko Sasaki).
Over the course of the anime, they struggle to survive, encountering many other survivors who join them on their journey, but not everyone makes it out alive.

muto family
Japan Sinks doesn’t pull any punches with what can happen to any character at any time.

The first three episodes of  Japan Sinks are very well done, for the most part, depicting the horror that such a disaster would have expertly, except for a few weird scenes like characters taking family photos in the midst of this.
These episodes also establish that no character is safe, which makes for a lot of tense moments, considering that I came to like a lot of these characters.
Surprisingly, my favourite characters came from outside the Muto family, primarily Haruo Koga (Hiroyuki Yoshino), Auyumu’s former friend turned introvert, and Kite (Kensho Ono), a famous YouTuber.
Both these characters have great arcs that made me really care for them as the show went on.

haruo
Haruo had a pretty great arc, going from introvert to hero.

I wish my care for certain characters had extended to a love for the show but, unfortunately, it couldn’t for a variety of reasons.
The primary reason though is that episodes four to six are a complete waste of time, introducing mostly terrible characters, and some awful animation.
It took me ten days to watch the entire show and, of that time, it took me five days to get through episodes four to six.
That should tell you how much of a drag those episodes were.
On the plus side though, episode six did provide the most unintentionally hilarious death scene I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.
Other problems persist throughout Japan Sinks, like the animation issues, amount of unexplained events and coincidences, and characters acting like no real person would, for example, seemingly moving on immediately after a loved one dies.
These problems are seen throughout the show and really drag its high moments down, although there are a fair amount of these high moments.
After episode six, the story picks up again and the episodes are actually enjoyable, delivering a reflective finale that brought a smile to my face.
Then there are the themes, which are very well handled.
For example, the show tackles racism in Japan with the mixed family of the Mutos experiencing a lot of it from purely Japanese people.
Also, I like a lot of the subtlety for certain characters, like Kite, who we learn something about in the final episode that I honestly didn’t catch until another review pointed it out to me.

kite
I didn’t expect to like Kite at first so I was surprised when he became one of my favourites.

There is a lot of good things about Japan Sinks. 
It’s just a shame that the majority of those good things are dragged down by some truly awful episodes, animation issues and inconsistencies.
Japan Sinks is a mixed bag that delivers plenty of good moments but also a lot of bad moments.
So, I guess you could say that the show is 2020 in a nutshell.

Kiki’s Delivery Service Review: How to Make a Delivery Service Interesting.

4 stars
Hayao Miyazaki keeps delivering gem after gem with each of his films that I watch.
I have watched Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and the masterpiece Princess Mononoke, since these films were released on Netflix.
Each of these films provide an epic fantasy or steampunk world for the viewer to get interested in.
The exception to this is Kiki’s Delivery Service, where the focus, as the title suggests, is on a delivery service.
That is not to say there is no fantasy in the film because there most certainly is, as the star of the film is Kiki (Minami Takayama), a witch who, as the coming of age tradition of witches dictates, travels to a new area to help the inhabitants.

kiki chaos
Kiki’s journey may be a traditional for witches but the situations she gets into are anything but.

Settling in the seaside city of Koriko, Kiki discovers the citizens are not quite used to witches so decides to start a delivery service to help the people and support herself.
Accompanied by her cat Jiji (Rei Sakuma), Kiki meets a wide assortment of interesting characters and goes on quite a few adventures in her new environment, taking the seemingly mundane job of a delivery service woman and transforming it into something magical.
Along with Kiki, the film has more interesting characters like the pregnant baker who takes her in (Keiko Toda), a kind grandmother whose grandchild simply does not deserve her (Haruko Kato), and a young boy who Kiki is in equal parts annoyed and intrigued by (Kappei Yamaguchi).

ursula's art
My favourite character that Kiki interacts with though, is definitely the eccentric, woodland artist Ursula (also voice by Takayama) who helps Kiki in her development as a witch. 

But it is Kiki who truly shines, as her relationships with these characters culminate in an entertaining finale, where her character development truly shines.
A slice of life anime film that delivers plenty of heart warming and funny moments, Kiki’s Delivery Service is another good film by Hayao Miyazaki.

BoJack Horseman Final Season Part Two Review: You do the Hokey Pokey and you Turn Yourself Around.

4 and a half stars
And so one of the greatest animated series of all time has come to an end.
What a wild, depressing, existential ride it has been.
Why Netflix decided to pull the pin on BoJack Horseman I will never understand but I am at least thankful that they gave creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg and the other writers enough time to end the show right.
And end it did, with the second half of season six bringing an end to the character arcs of BoJack (Will Arnett), Diane (Alison Brie), Todd (Aaron Paul), Princess Carolyn (Amy Seradis), and Mr Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tomkins) amazingly.
All five of these characters get great sendoffs that fit their storylines well.
As set up in the first half of the final season, many of BoJack’s past misdeeds catch up with him, especially the death of Sarah Lynn.
One thing I believed coming into this second half was that BoJack would have truly changed for the better and try to make amends for all he had done.
Well, now I can see that I clearly overestimated BoJack because he is still the painfully flawed, yet somehow still sympathetic, character he has always been.
We even learn some disturbing facts about some of the things he did that honestly made me feel a little guilty for sympathizing with him.

downer moment
Only BoJack could give horses a bad name while still being sympathetic.

But the way his story ends is perfect for him and can even be viewed as a punishment of sorts.
Then there is Diane and Princess Carolyn who both get fantastic endings as well that left me very touched.
As for Todd, he continued to be as insightfully wacky as ever in the conclusion of his story, making the simple nursery rhyme of the Hockey Pokey  inspirational.
The last of the main cast in Mr Peanutbutter, who I was honestly concerned about in the first half of the season.
I thought they were backtracking on his character arc but, thankfully, they follow through on it in this half, giving him a satisfying conclusion as well.
Then there is Hollyhock, with the way her relationship with BoJack developed in the wake of her learning about his horrible actions being realistic, yet heartbreaking.

pete repeat
BoJack and Hollyhock’s relationship does not really have a resolution but that’s the tragic point.

As well as the characters, many of the episodes are incredible as well, especially the last two.
The fifteenth episode, “The View From Halfway Down” is actually pretty horrifying at times and is easily one of the show’s best episodes.
And then there is the finale, the perfectly titled “Nice While It Lasted”, which wraps up all the character arcs and ends on a note that hits you right in the feels.

halfway down
The last two episodes of BoJack Horseman are haunting and conclusive.

There is a lot to love about the second half of the final season.
However, sadly, it is not perfect.
I, for one, was disappointed about how various characters got sidelined.
This is most obvious with Gina who it felt like the show was hyping up to be one of the people who exposed BoJack.
However, she and the trauma she suffered from her experience are never brought up again apart from a blink and you’ll miss it moment.
But, even though I was disappointed by this aspect, there is still so many amazing things about this final season and BoJack Horseman as a whole.
In fact, I think there is only one thing that I can say that will sum up my feelings about the show having ended.
BoJack Horseman is gone and everything is worse now.

 

Marriage Story Review: Incredible Performances.

5 stars
I honestly thought that after Joker there was no 2019 film that could provide a performance that would rival Joaquin Phoenix’s.
However, after finally watching Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story on Netflix, I can say he now has some stiff competition.
Every single actor does an incredible job in this film, which follows a couple going through a divorce and trying to make things easy for their son, only for their divorce proceedings to escalate.
Both Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver are flawless as Nicole and Charlie Barber and are natural Oscar contenders, especially Driver who blew me away in so many scenes, like the one where he gives an impassioned song.

Driver sings
The scene where Charlie sings in front of a group of his friends is my favourite of the film.

Again, if Joker had been released any other year then Driver would have an Oscar in the bag with this performance.
Complimenting the actors’ performances is the character writing for both Charlie and Nicole, with the film showing both of them to be flawed people who the audience can sympathize with and decide who is more at fault for the failure of their marriage.
And it’s not just the actors that are great but the cinematography as well with both long, extended takes and quick cuts being utilized to for dramatic and thematic effect perfectly.

cinematography3
The closing of the gate shots coming together to create a fantastic scene. 

Baumbach did an amazing job directing this film.
The only minor criticism I can think of is that it did take me a little bit to relate to Charlie and Nicole because of their celebrity status, which initially felt slightly alienating.
But, this issue I was having did quickly dissipate because of how the story and character arcs played out, along with the great the performances and cinematography so I can hardly fault the film.
Marriage Story is an emotional, highly crafted film that is definitely one of the best of the year.