SDCC 2018: Preview Night
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Tokyo Game Show
So yeah, the following week I find myself in Japan again. This time it’s for the Tokyo Game Show. It was one of those “research” trips I had to do for my creative consultancy job. And what a research trip this turned to be. Though I’m not a newbie in the cons circuit, this is my first TGS. And boy this event certainly didn’t disappoint.
Now this is something you don’t see in local conventions: and organized way of shooting cosplayers. Somehow the Japanese follow a collective courtesy when it comes to asking cosplayers for a shot. TGS placed a good portion of cosplayers in the adjacent parking lot, but in effect the slots made it easy for them to take up a spot at the end of the parking curb, and use the lines as guide for photographers to line up.
As for the open areas, photographers don’t get to circle around a particular model either. There’s natural line that forms the moment one person asks for a photo.
This Sephiroth cosplay is on point. He just needs the Masamune.
The line to this booth in insane. As much as I wanted grab my hands on one.. it’s physically impossible without wasting a few hours of your time in line — no matter how organized this place is.
VR is such a big thing this year. One hall was dedicated to VR game and experiences.
Because I just had to ask a picture from random group cosplaying Japanese.
If I could only take the floating moogle home.
Mandatory image near the signage. Good thing were lots of nice people to ask pictures from. Cheezu!
After walking 11 halls of this place, my feet were killing me! But I can’t wait to go back next year!
For the rest of the images (and photo dump), you can check this out.
If you guys can stand my ramblings… here’s a hodge-podged clip of my adventure here as well!
For those interested in my commercial work, check out pointblankstudios.net and follow us at @pointblankmnl in IG.
Asia Pop Comic Con 2017
Here’s my photo dump of APCC 2017. I know it’s a late entry, but better late than never right?
One thing that impressed me this year was the NetFlix booth. I so wanted to get in, but the line was killer. Though I know the set of Stranger Things was worth sitting in. Hahaha.
Of course, knowing how cons go, you have to choose your own battles. Prioritize what you want to happen. As for me, I always go to cons to meet up with the creators of my favorite franchises. So seeing Shoji Kawamori (the creator of Macross) more than made my day, despite having to line up for 2 hours. It was so cool he was game enough to sign my personal copy of Geekology. I also gave him a copy just because he’s Shoji. I think he was pleasantly surprised to receive something from a fan instead of having to sign on something for a change. Hehehe.
The rest of APCC was more or less standard fare, but there was a significant lack of notable exhibits and attractions asides from the Netflix booth. How I missed that huge-ass Ironman Hulkbuster from the 1st year. Things like that. As usual, I felt a bit disappointed at how the panels were conducted. The workshops and panels had to share space with the media room, which gave the impression that they didn’t care so much about the talks.
As for the rest of APCC, you check check out the gallery.
Exciting times ahead for the pop culture scene. Can’t wait what happens next year.Check out my youtube channel for your regular glimpse behind the scenes! While you’re at it, drop buy the online store and get goodies from your favorite models!
For those interested in my commercial work, check out pointblankstudios.net and follow us at @pointblankmnl in IG.
Movie Review: Ghost in the Shell
This is by no means a apologist letter to how Ghost in the Shell is being treated by critics. But given the kind of material, you can somewhat understand the logic as to why the movie turned out this way. It was tight-roping between the hard core fans who are expecting something deep as the anime got vs. an at-large audience who need to be introduced into the world of GiTS quickly within the limit of 2 hours or so.
SPOILERS AHEAD. DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU.
First, let’s put this Asian casting issue to rest. The movie is out, so there’s nothing much we can complain about it. What I can share at this point are some opinions coming from a fan of the franchise for more than a decade. What I loved about Ghost in the Shell is that juxtaposition of solid action sequences with the philosophical questions about human-machine interaction and existentialism. For those new to the movie, this anime was the precursor to alot of more quickly know franchises such as the Matrix. Urban legend has it, the Wachowskis was showing off this movie as they were pitching for their trilogy.
The difficult yet core part about the original anime is wrestling with the philosophical questions against the action sequences. Ghost in the Shell was a slow burn, and took awhile before it gained traction among anime fans through word of mouth. To introduce this to a new audience at the same time satisfy the needs of the core fans presents as the challenge. What happened was dial down the mind games, and up the visual treat in the hopes that it would appeal on both sides. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a walk in the park.
At this point, I didn’t hate the movie, but at the same time, I didn’t blow my mind away as much as the anime did. During long breaks, I never failed to re-watch any of the movies or series to get my fix. Even though I can narrate the plot lines from memory, it was still a treat getting reacquainted with them every now and then.
I guess the few misgivings I have about this movie were..
- The skimming through of the plots from various parts of the anime franchise just for the sake of visual fan service. It was fun at first getting to catch the references from the original movie, Innocence, Individual Eleven, and Puppet Master all mashed into single flick. There lies the double-edged sword… each individual plot served to push a greater story within their respective arcs. I enjoyed them visually, but from a story-telling standpoint, I found it quite lacking.
- How Kuze’s character was severed from the background manipulation of Gouda. Though after watching the live action movie, I went about re-orienting myself with the Individual Eleven part of Stand Alone Complex 2nd GiG. I doubt if the casual audience would have the patience to really digest the philosophical exchange between Batou, the Major and Gouda on certain parts unless they have watched all the movies and series as part of their homework.
- The ret-conning of Batou’s background. He already had the cybernetic eyes.. not to mention.. he was also a full prosthetic like the Major from the start. So that doesn’t make the Major the first or unique.
- Other team members of Section 9 weren’t properly introduced, but that’s forgivable given the time. I did like Saito’s “cameo” with the Hawkeye in the end. A nod to his classic sniping prowess.
- The Major’s mom or parents for that matter were no where to be found in the anime. This I found weird.
- The Major and Kuze already knew each other as kids in a hospital ward from an airplane accident. Not as runaway teens in the past. I wonder why they had to change the origin story. I guess to make it within time frame again?
- The opening de-shelling sequence should’ve been laced with music from the original, and not used it as an ending credit music.
- The boat scene should’ve had the San Miguel Beer product placement if Rupert wanted to put that much detail in his homage! But that’s just me.
But yeah, with that said… I would still be adding this to my video collection of Ghost in the Shell. At least good to know Hollywood is starting to mine some outlying franchises. Now, about that live-action Macross…
Edit (04.07.17): It’s rare in Hollywood to see an anime adaptation make it well (e.g. Edge of Tomorrow). Probably the biggest divide Western producers have between any anime source material is looking at them only from their lens and not from the perspective of the original creator or intentions. Anime adaptations are such an alluring prospective property for them seeing all the attention and the potentials. But as long as they are not letting go of their habits in understanding “foreign” material to them, Hollywood would never make a decent anime live-action film. Like moths to a flame, their attempts get them burned at the end.
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Early on when Dream Works announced they finally secured the rights to Ghost in the Shell, my mind just flipped out over the idea of having a serious anime franchise make to Hollywood. Then it came almost crashing down, suddenly remembering their track record of gutting out a franchise to suit their own agenda. (Dragon Ball anyone?!). Then criticism came to a peak over this whitewash casting when ScarJo was finally announced taking on the role of Major Motoko Kusanagi. Even having veteran Kitano Takeshi on board as Aramaki didn’t abate fan reactions to this travesty of a selection. Lots of pop culture fan sites in the West were making their own casting choices for The Major, even citing out Rinko Kikuchi as a seemingly “obvious” choice coming off her role in Pacific Rim.
I’m a big fan boy of the franchise having to do two cosplay shoots dedicated just for The Major.
Then suddenly a series of snippets came out, coupled with a teaser and featurette of the original anime’s director Mamoru Oshii slowly started changing the conversation towards the movie. Of course there still the die hard so-called purist fans still bashing the casting bit, but you can’t help but gush over the visuals of the movie. It’s like taking Blade Runner and giving it a millennial makeover. Now if Ruper Sanders did his homework well, there should be a can of San Miguel Beer Pale Pilsen somewhere in the boat scene between the Major and Batou.
After some digging around YouTube, I found this clip of the Major’s creation sequence filmed by IGN during the trailer’s launch in Tokyo over the weekend. It was so cool they decided to use the original score in the original anime movie. It like a “pirated” camera recording, because I think it is. Though stated on their YouTube page, they were given permission.
Here’s the original 1995 anime version for comparison…
Of course here is the official trailer:
Somehow this trailer puts my mind at ease about how the movie looks. I mean from the get-go you can already name the scenes they give homage to from the various movies and TV scenes in the franchise.
I also read on ET Online‘s exclusive on-set visit, just got irritated at the host’s innate skill for holding a dumb blonde conversation with ScarJo on the set. I was hoping he could ask more intelligent questions rather than commenting on her hair.
From serious doubt, I have now shifted to cautious optimism. Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson and Kitano Takeshi, comes into the big screen March 31, 2017.Check out my youtube channel for your regular glimpse behind the scenes! While you’re at it, drop buy the online store and get goodies from your favorite models!
Travel Bug: Production I.G. Store
Last time I was in Tokyo back in March, the Production I.G. Store wasn’t around, so this was something I had to visit when I got back last September. From the Shibuya Station, the Marui mall is just up the road from the fork. Your landmark would the huge Adidas store. It’s the building with the 10101 at the top.
It’s mainly a merchandise store, so don’t expect alot of attractions. Seeing the large Logicoma replica on display was already enough for me to oogle on. There was also a Ghost in the Shell VR experience on the side, but I didn’t have the time to wait for the queue. Most stuff ranged from statues, to trinkets. If you’re an avid fan (like myself), better watch out for your wallet or else you would be boring a hole on impulse-purchase stuff you won’t need the following day. I kept my expenditures to a “minimum” to shirts, and patches (for my gi). If I didn’t get a hold of myself, I would’ve spent on Tachicoma mints.
Production I.G. Store
Shibuya Marui 7th Floor
1-22-6 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0041
Business Hours: 11:00am – 9:00pm (8:30pm Sunday / Holidays)
Anime Review (IMHO): Macross Delta
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
Songs and music have been integral in the Macross saga. Every iteration, much like other franchises (e.g. Final Fantasy) would have common elements that make its signature look and feel. Delta doesn’t only live up to the tradition, but conspicuously pays homage to its predecessors as far back as the original Macross. The music is the central theme and has been, making Macross unique against others like Gundam, etc… It also makes for good merchandise. Yes, I’m talking about that parallelism between the Hayate-Freyja vs. Hikaru-Minmay inexperienced-kid-riding-a-Valkyrie-with-damsel-in-distress sequence.
Of course, Macross Delta (and others in its wake) doesn’t come without plot inconsistencies. How Hayate learns to fly with a VF-31 that quickly is something we can suspend disbelief with. I guess Chaos being considered a military contractor allows them to skirt the usual military hierarchy and training. Their age also comes into question. Long-running franchises like these seem to be infatuated with the idea of having characters in their teens. It laces a sort of coming-of-age along the story, but burdened with adult scenarios worthy of a heap of salt along with the popcorn. If you’re a new but cynic (?) Macross fan, you’d quickly drop this latest iteration. But then, the entertainment value is worth passing the plot holes over at face value.
I have been warned by some people to lower my expectations after Episode 14. I gave the usual benefit of the doubt, but past that episode it did go down south from there. The mid-season finale felt like the end. Everything after that was akin to a badly stretched out Mexican telenovela. It did build up some nice points towards the latter end with some interesting revelations on Hayate’s dad, but that plot twist was a cliche… a redemption of sorts based from an unveiled plot device. In this case, the black box recorder from Wright’s plane. Also keeping his plane preserved in the castle was a weird way of commemorating such tragic event. As much as I did enjoy the songs and all, (I still listen to them event after the series was over), their usage grew thin, and there wasn’t any new catchy song to top off the finale. Speaking of finale, it was pretty predictable how Roid reveals to be the hidden antagonist with an agenda to take over the world. Which also leads how the warring factions of Chaos / NUNS and Windemere eventually team up to stop Roid. Come to think of it, the parallelisms reach the point of re-hash.
The ending was dead out flat with no complete resolution. The tension between the three protagonists were finally released, but that didn’t hit any key note either. The biggest downer for me was the cliff hanger clue if Minmay was actually Lady M. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m still a huge fan of the franchise, but they should start thinking of something new. The Lady M = Minmay theory was a good lead, but seems like they’re not about to explore the entire backstory of Megaroad-1 anytime soon.
Here’s the music video of the opening theme, Ichido dake no Koi nara:
Asia Pop Comic Con 2016
APCC is probably the closest to a US-based con as you could experience here in Manila. From the guest line-up down to the con floor setup, it has the vibe of a small-scale NYCC. This con quickly became the one for me to look forward to every year, even coming in as an attendee this time around.
It was great to see lots of local artists finally taking the plunge and sharing their craft on the con floor this year. I particularly like Rian Gonzales’s work, and asked her for a commission (still pending as of writing). There were also more local franchises and properties showing off their latest projects (Pedro Penduko, Patintero). Another unique feature in our local pop culture market are advertising professionals (creatives in particular) also dabbling into the comic book scene. It was awesome catching up with some of them outside of the usual industry environment.
The CAGE was entertaining as usual, with notable cosplay personalities back on stage. If there was anything I missed this year, would be sitting behind the judge’s table. I hope in the subsequent years, the organizers can also work on putting more panels and workshops since they did get the entire SMX at their disposal. This year was just sparsely peppered with Whilce’s art and Lindze’s cosplay make-up workshops. Other than that, the entire workshop schedule was bare for the weekend.
Still, APCC is shaping up to be the con to attend every year for me. I’m looking forward to its growth in Manila.
Here are some 360 shots of the con floor over the weekend. Enjoy!
Movie Review (IMHO): Final Fantasy Kingsglaive
*** THIS IMHO REVIEW HAS A LOT SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK ***
I am big Final Fantasy fan. I’ve started the game from FF III (VI in Japan), and progressed my way up until XIII-2 as of late. But I failed to pick up on XIII-3 precisely from what the franchise is suffering from: creative fatigue. As much as the elements are rehashed to keep the familiarity throughout each anthology, it’s also the same reason why you would get tired from playing the game over its latter iterations.
Given the mess that was Spirits Within and slightly better Advent Children, you would have cautious optimism over this next installment. It would be good to start that this movie wasn’t meant to standalone as a movie, but as long prologue to the game coming out this November. Hence non-fans (i.e. movie critics) would scratch their heads walking out of the cinemas. In this limited context though, the movie can be said as a success. Then again, that success comes at limiting your audience to a sliver of hard core fans. Instead of a standalone theatrical release (no matter how limited), this would’ve been better off screened on the eve of the game’s launch in special viewing parties, then included in a some special edition DVD when you buy the game.
From a visual stand point though, this movie though is simply BEAUTIFUL. It’s like getting well art-directed movies such as Hero and House of Flying Daggers a heaping shot of adrenaline plus steroids. The detail work put on city, down to the blade of grass is nothing short of amazing. The architecture seemed like a fusion of London and Tokyo complete with the LED billboards and centuries old sculptures. At some points you can’t tell if it was CG or a live action movie. I can’t wait to experience this type of graphics during the game. It is mesmerizing at the start and especially during the battle scenes, well enough for you to numb out the poorly written plot.
Speaking of plot (or the lack there of) is the greatest Waterloo all of the FF movies have in common, save for FF Advent Children, where there was some sort of resemblance to one. Most critics consensus would pan this as confusing with Swiss cheese for plot holes. There wasn’t enough development for you to care enough what happens to the characters. They introduce a multitude of other secondary folks with nary a backstory (Suicid Squad anyone?), and expects the viewer to bridge the gap as the story went along. Some characters, especially the ‘Glaives Captain was written too shallow, and one-dimensional. You could already predict he would be the traitor towards the end. The biggest question mark for me was that sudden mutiny some of the Glaives did with nary an explanation on how they sided with the empire.
And what’s with the names? Nyx, Noctis, Lunafreya Nox Fleuret? They all sound like a mash-up of German, Old English, and Norse influences with a good heaping of techno. I never quite understood the name study logic all FF games had actually. And why is the city called Insomnia? Because it never sleeps? I guess what counted for that name is more on the phonetics rather than semantics. I never really noticed, and never really bothered until this was brought up. Just a curious digression.
The fanboy inside me though got caught up with the Easter eggs referenced from other FF games. I got a bit giddy how the ‘Glaives would generously use Protect and Thunder spells like it was their morning coffee. The Magitek walker tanks Niflheim empire used was a nod to FF III. There was also that huge ass angry Kraken, not to mention Cerberus running around. Oh yes, Nyx also gets to cast Knights of The Round.
Though I find the animation a bit too fluid and then sluggish when it came to subtle human movements, especially at the part when Nyx and his crew met up for drinks in some hole-in-a-wall. I guess for all the advances in mo-cap, we still couldn’t perfect the imperfect human movements… those slight flicks and inconsistent jerks we do in between big movements. And of course, given Lena Headey and Sean Bean of GoT lore is on board, I just want to say it out there: the Sean Bean jinx holds up and Lena’s character has sibling issues as well.
If you the non-fan and just plain curious, here’s twelve (12) heaping minutes of the movie. The plot doesn’t get complicated here just yet, so you can just oogle on the crazy fantastic scenery.
After you watch the movie, I suggest picking up Final Fantasy Brotherhood. This is a series of shorts produced by Square Enix and A-1 Pictures. It’s a web only anime series picking on the story of Noctis right after the events of Kingsglaive. This somewhat bridges the events between the movie and the game better. It also gives the backstory of all the characters Noctis is traveling with, and why they are significant to him. At first I never quite cared about his posse and ranted why there aren’t any more playable chicks in the game, but after this though I sort of understood why. I still prefer having more playable chicks in the game.
San Diego Comic Con 2016: In Retrospect
Every summer (in the US) marks a special time among geeks. This is when the select ones make this pilgrimage to San Diego for biggest geek orgy of pop culture. Ironically despite being labeled as Comic Con, it has mutated beyond its namesake over the years covering from TV, movies, toys, games, cosplay and everything else. In a sense, we owe comics the window for our imagination to run wild and enjoy these franchises in other mediums.
This has been my third year of attending the con, and it never fails to still leave me in awe. The pavilions of Marvel and DC among others are the mainstays, with a couple of relatively newer exhibitors to check out like the Adult Swim, Nickelodeon and Funko. Alex Ross’s “booth” is now full blown pop-up gallery with mezzanine level for VIP guests. The Walking Dead exhibit never fails to scare people with their camping ground zombie apocalypse scene.
The size of the con has been forcing it to explore other locations beyond the convention center such as the adjacent partner hotels, and the immediate Gaslamp Quarter. Nintendo has sequestered an entire ballroom in the Marriott just for their gaming center. You can’t miss the huge Kirby at the entrance. Square Enix has an outdoor games arena on Fifth Ave., and there was even a roving Ecto-1 around the neighborhood. The highlight of my con experience was the Final Symphony concert, held in the Copley Theater. That left me in goosebumps and tears.
DC let go of alot of trailers for their upcoming DCEU lineup. Most of which you can already see online. My friends who braved the crowds of Hall H, had the chance to experience them in IMAX-like screens surrounding the walls. Marvel of course had Dr. Strange, which isn’t really much of a surprise at this point. I’m not really a Hall H nor a Ballroom 20 kind of guy. I’m already happy attending those nondescript panels veering more into the technicals of things.
Well, here’s the hodge podge of stuff I saw during this year’s con. Enjoy guys!
Update 08.18.16: Finally installed Cardboard, so I can upload 360 images! Hooray!
Movie Review (IMHO): Suicide Squad
*** BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE, THIS LITTLE OPINION PIECE OF MINE IS SPOILERS-LACED. DON’T BITCH ABOUT IT IF YOU GO ON READING. ***
I’m not the type to get affected by critic’s reviews of the movies, and would watch something regardless. Actually, all this bashing of the movie got me more curious to watch it. Hence, on opening day, I squeezed the chance between meetings.
Off the rack, story-telling is lack luster. It felt rushed. Too many characters to introduce and take care of. As we flipped through Amanda Waller’s portfolio at the start, a good intro was made for Deadshot and Harley, but quickly died down for the rest of the squad. Captain Boomerang and Katana even came in as an afterthought with little flashback to fill in their backstory. The movie tried hard to connect the characters to the audience only to fall short of explaining anything. If you’ve been reading the comics, then perhaps your stock knowledge can fill in the gaps.
A huge chunk of the movie is all about the setup, but the rest of the movie was spent just walking around Midway City. The action sequences were nice when they were there, but the rest of time was rather boring to watch. Nothing really significant happened. It even slowed down when they all decided to go for a drink, while Enchantress was building whatever weapon she was building. Which is also another point of contention: what the hell was she making? And… how did they know it only took a bomb to destroy everything?!
I have to commend the actors though for trying to uplift and make use of what was left salvageable in the story. There is only so much Will Smith and Margot Robbie could do. Jared for the lack of screen time couldn’t make much of a dent. The rest of the characters are easily forgotten in the mess of the story. With one just being introduced while they about to deploy, only to be killed off when he dared to defy Ms. Waller in the middle of the mission.
A reasonable amount of fans and critics are complaining about the Joker — a lack there of, being one of the iconic villains in the DC universe. More so that it is Jared Leto, and as expected, his performance was top notch. The problem: this isn’t a Joker movie. It’s about the Suicide Squad. Hence, no matter how good a Joker he may put up, his role would really be a glorified side kick to Harley, at least for this flick.
Now there is also the absurdity we have to consider. I can understand the plot holes in the story, but there is a major mismatch between the anti-heroes and the main villain. Most of these characters are the brawler-type, often fighting on a street level. The Enchantress runs on a magical show. She along with the brother could’ve easily made quick work of the squad, but committed the dumbest mistake for the sake of pushing the plot forward and giving the team a fighting chance. Personally this, seemed like forced issue. They could’ve opted for another villain within the DC lore that has the same nature in terms of strength and abilities. Then it would’ve been a fair fight. Given the cameos of the Flash and Batman, I was starting to look for them during the final confrontation given the size of the scenario. Heck, wish Wonder Woman was there, at least that would have leveled things off nicely.
I think WB’s biggest weakness is trying to play catch up with knee-jerk reactions rather than setting their own pace to tell a story. They are trying desperately for the audience to feel for the characters who have only been introduced for a few minutes. Unlike Marvel movies, which took several years in the making.
That being said, I suspended disbelief and did enjoy Suicide Squad to some extent.Check out my youtube channel for your regular glimpse behind the scenes! While you’re at it, drop buy the online store and get goodies from your favorite models!