There are so many shows I love, yet I haven't been able to review all of them. So, since I saw my friend James do this on his blog, I thought I'd write a few of them up. Here are some mini-reviews of some shows I have watched this year as well as last year. And remember, this is for shows I have finished(or, as with the case of Torchwood, have nearly completed, since Miracle Day just became available on Amazon Prime).
I'd write reviews for other such shows as Avatar: The Last Airbender and Spice and Wolf but since it's been years since I first watched ATLA(and I couldn't give a first impressions post all that well) and I only just finished season 2 of Spice and Wolf. I might do that later on, though :)
Also, remember, some of these reviews will contain spoilers, but I'll post a note at the top of each one for warning.
Warning, some minor spoilers
Being a huge fan of Joss Whedon's two TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, as well as a lover of all things sci-fi, I knew the minute I heard about Firefly that I would have to watch it. My two childhood friends(who also introduced me to Star Wars and BTVS/AtS) recommended it to me- since they knew I loved science fiction and Whedon- and eventually, after completing Joss Whedon's two supernatural-esque series, I started Firefly. And, boy, was I amazed by it! The thing Joss Whedon has always excelled at is making his characters real, developed, and actual individuals that are bound together in someway and fit seamlessly into the world-building.
Sadly, Firefly was cancelled after only one season (curse you, Fox! Thankfully they were able to release the amazing movie Serenity), but Mr. Whedon was able to endear us to these characters in a short time and, I bet, if the show had been able to continue it would have been just as amazing(or even more so) as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
There are several things that set this show off from other series out there, the first being- of course- the characters. Another thing I really enjoyed was the setting- I've seen/read quite a few stories that take place in a universe where humanity has left Earth and has colonized other worlds, but this one was different and unique in that, while some things seem more advanced than they are now(the technology, segregation doesn't seem as bad as it is now*except in the boonies*, etc), yet some things are the same(sexism still exists, the poor are still treated awfully, prostitution is still around, etc), which was pretty interesting. As a sci-fi fan, it was also nice to see various things like space travel, old rebellions, and an extremely creepy 'alien' villain(the reevers, which are terrifying). The plots are also magnificent, like one would expect from Whedon,and not only present an exciting narrative but also gives us interesting commentaries on the human condition(which is something else to expect from Whedon).
The main cast is medium sized(the number of main characters is similar to that of BTVS), yet it is able to explore it's characters so well that by the end of the series(and film) you care for them a lot. Each of them is different, none completely conform to stereotype, and all are likable(yes, even Jayne, who at first seems like a jerk). My thoughts on each character are as follows.
Simon Tam - If I had to choose a favorite character from the Firefly/Serenity franchise, I'd have to go with Simon Tam. A doctor(no, not THE Doctor), kindhearted, and a good brother, he is definitely what I'd consider 'my type' when it comes to a guy. Not only is he kind, a good person, and smart, he has a mental strength along with his competent fighting skills, which I appreciated seeing(he's one of the few male characters I've seen in fiction who wasn't turned into a puddle of goo when he was in a brothel- Simon just went to help the women they were there to protect). Not only that, but as I mentioned briefly above, he is a good brother and, even though he had feelings for Kaylee, he always puts protecting his sister from harm first which is a very admirable, and selfless, quality. I'm quite surprised that very few fans would count him as their favorite(I was recently talking to someone about the series and they said they didn't like him at all- not sure why....).
River Tam - River is probably one of the most badass characters out there; I won't spoil how she gets her awesome fighting skills(she was born with her genius), but they are a great thing to behold. Her character has a nice arc, growing from a panicking, obviously messed up, young girl to a warrior who has finally come into her own. She is also quite humorous and has a very integral part of the story, especially the epic movie.
Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds - A sort of Han Solo figure, Mal is definitely one of the best characters in the series. Not only is he complex, a badass, and excellently acted by Nathan Fillion, he is progressive and he grows as a character wonderfully over the course of the series. One of the best facets of his character is his positive attitude towards women and his realistic personality. Unlike a lot of guys in this sort of genre, he doesn't have the whole 'men are better than women' and that 'women need protecting' mind-set, which is rather refreshing from a guy in his line of work(his comments to Saffron about the rules from her home planet- one being women have to be subservient to men- being a load of crap are a nice showing of this). However, he can also be a jerk and definitely is not perfect by any means, which makes him even more interesting. Another part of his character that I liked that he had a realistic reason for losing his faith, unlike other stories(glares at "His Dark Materials" trilogy).
Jayne Cobb - While at first seeming to be your typical macho jerk, Jayne ends up becoming one of the more complex characters on the series. He starts showing glimmers of not being what he says several episodes in and, as we reach the end of the series, he has become a much more interesting character and one I wish we could have learned more of. I always enjoy characters who aren't always as they seem, and Joss did wonderfully here with that.
Inara Serra - Another one of my favorite characters of the series, Inara is what is called a 'companion' in the Firefly 'verse, which is basically a prostitute(yet, with how the companion system is set up, it's a lot better than it is anywhere currently- the prostitutes are completely in power of the situation, can pick their clients, and can ban someone if they try to abuse one of the companions). Besides being a companion, Inara is also a well-rounded character. She can take care of herself in a fight(she's pretty badass), she has a likable personality, and I found her quite funny. Her relationship with Mal was also pretty interesting and I would have liked seeing more of it.
Kaylee Frye - Kaylee is another one of those characters that defies stereotypes. She is a masterful mechanic, yet she is really feminine, a kind person, and not a combat-master, which I think is important to show. While not one of my top favorite characters in the series, I did enjoy her as much as everyone on the show, and she has quite a lot of humorous moments. Her interactions with Simon were also fun to see.
Zoe Washburne - I always love a badass female character, and Zoe definitely didn't disappoint on this front. She's the second in command on the ship, as well as one of the former members of the rebellion along with Malcolm, with whom she is good friends(I love how there is no sexual tension with them at all- see! Men and Women can be friends!). I also enjoy the flip of typical romantic pairings with her and her husband Wash(she's the fighter and he's the non-combatant pilot, which is a nice deviation from the stereotypical norm). I only wish we could have seen more of her character development.
Derrial "Shepherd" Book - Probably the best Christian character I've seen in a TV series, Shepard Book was a nice addition to the crew. Considering how badly Christians are portrayed in a lot of media(film, television, books, etc), having a good portrayal was such a wonderful thing to see(Joss does this again with having the character of Riley be Christian in BTVS, who is also a likable character). Sheperd Book also seems to understand the meaning of being a religious, shows true belief, and behaved more the most part like an actual Christian, which I was thankful for.
Hoban "Wash" Washburne - The hilarious, expert pilot who loves playing with dinosaurs and being basically goofy, gives a nice sense of levity to otherwise serious moments in the show. While a smaller part at first, he grows into a major figure who shows growth as the series goes along.
I would recommend this show for +15/16 (for violence, sexual content, and some cursing).
Objects in Space
WARNING: Minor spoilers
Angel, spin-off of the awesome Buffy the Vampire Slayer; when first hearing of it, it might just seem like a quick cash grab. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Angel is it's own show and can stand shoulder to shoulder with BTVS easily. It is much darker than Buffy(which is in itself is a very dark show) and deals with more adult issues and how hard life can be, yet how important it is to keep going. The show does a good job on representing its message- that redemption must be worked for and that fighting the good fight is always the right thing to do, even if it never ends and you aren't able to see good win in your lifetime. Because the Apocalypse is now.
For a brief synopsis, Angel starts alongside Buffy season 4 with our titular character hanging out, desolate, in LA after leaving Sunnydale. I won't spoil too much, but he meets up with a man similar to him and a woman he knew in Sunnydale and the story goes on from there, with characters arriving and leaving throughout the series' five season run, all of them memorable and all of them important. There's Doyle, who, while not there for very long, definitely makes an impact and goes from struggling drunk to hero; There's Cordelia Chase from BTVS who undergoes one of the biggest character arcs of the entire Buffyverse, managing to grow from spoiled girl from a rich family to an incredibly compassionate woman in a completely realistic way; Wesley(also from BTVS) who grows from a bumbling, cowardly buffoon who can't even take on a vampire, to a rugged warrior who does the hard things no one else will; Charles Gunn who changes from a hardened young man who has to fight vampires to survive on the streets, to a polished grown-up who realizes his self-worth(he's also one of the few non-white characters in the series, so having him on the show was a great thing; also, the actor plays Mike Peterson on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.); Fred, who grows from a timid scientific genius traumatized by her time in a demon dimension to becoming an excellent scientist and a tough, brave fighter; Lorne, the lovable, music-loving demon who has to go against his own goodness to help the greater good. And lastly, there is Angel himself, who undergoes such a great metamorphosis, his character is nearly unrecognizable from the guy we last saw on BTVS(in a good way) by the show's end.
The series, as I mentioned before, is more adult in tone and the stories it tells are much more gray than BTVS(which had a lot of gray in it to begin with), with the heroes making very questionable choices and characters you'd think would be evil, actually not being so. The show's dark feel might not be for everyone(and it does get a bit bizarre around season 3-4), but I thoroughly enjoyed my viewing of this series and I look forward to watching it again and, hopefully, sharing it with others :).
I would recommend this show for 16+ (for violence and sexual content).
A Hole in the World
Five by Five
Not Fade Away
I've Got You Under My Skin
Rm w/a Vu
Waiting in the Wings, Lullaby
Through the Looking Glass/There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb
Spin the Bottle
The Girl in Question
To Shansu in L.A.
The House Always Wins
Over the Rainbow
Shiny Happy People
The Magic Bullet
The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco
I started Torchwood with a pretty good idea what it was going to be about(though not completely) and looked forward to some Doctor Who-like fun with serious themes and of course, the awesome John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness.
And, for a fairly campy show(I mean, seriously, that monster at the end of season 1? So silly looking!), it actually gets very dark and very deep at times. There were several times that I found myself extremely impressed at the emotion, the messages, and the themes explored in this serious. For those of you who expect the fun, child-friendly feel of Doctor Who(except for episodes like Doomsday, where it's depressing), don't expect Torchwood to be the same. It may take place in the same world, and have Captain Jack in it, but this show is completely different in feel. While the Doctor always finds a way where he can make the right choice, it isn't so in Torchwood; these people are the ones who have to make the call on decisions where there is no right answer.
Another great thing about this series is that, for the most part, these characters aren't what you'd consider 'good people'(except Toshiko and Ianto, as well as Captain Jack at times). Yet, even when they are unlikable, they are real people and you care about them and their well-being. In fact, this is one of the only shows to legitimately make me cry(instead of just tearing up); the actors in that scene were flawless, as was the writing. So, if you can handle the dark nature(and the camp), as well as the inappropriate content, this is a show, if you love Doctor Who, I'd recommend you giving a watch.
Recommended for 18+ (I watched it when I was 17, but that's what I'd recommend for most).
All 5 days of Torchwood: Children of Earth
From Out of the Rain
They Keep Killing Suzie
A Day in the Death
Dead Man Walking
End of Days
Captain Jack Harkness
Out of Time
I was very excited when I heard that BBC had done a TV series on Robin Hood. The BBC has some great shows(Doctor Who, Sherlock, Torchwood, etc) and I've always loved the tale of Robin Hood(I used to play it as a tween/teen); I was also excited to see Richard Armitage in another role, since I loved him as Thorin in The Hobbit film(the first was the only one out at the time of my viewing).
And it was just as good as I was hoping. The first episode was a bit lacking, but the show really picked up and I really liked all of the characters(Robin, sadly, rubbed the wrong way at times so I wasn't able to like him as much as I would have liked) and the plot-lines. The heroes are all great and fleshed out and it's a shame they didn't give the side actors more to do since they were all extremely talented; the female characters are especially great, with Marian and Djaq being my favorite. Both are strong, capable, well-developed characters, which, as a feminist, was really great to see. The male side characters were also very likable and good individuals, which I really enjoyed(Much kind of reminded me of myself at times, which was fun XD). The villains are also amazingly hilarious! Richard Armitage plays Guy of Gisbourne exceedingly well, his character going through a brilliant bit of development. The Sheriff of Nottingham was HILARIOUS! He's evil, yes, but I found myself cracking up at his antics all the time. Good stories always do well with good bad guys, and this show definitely has them.
I recommend this show for 13-14 +
Romeo X Juliet
As an actor and a lover of literature, I've always been interested in Shakespeare plays and interpretations of them. Romeo and Juliet was never my favorite(I'm not one for love at first sight and people who kill themselves for someone they just met), but when my sister told me about this series, I was instantly interested. Romeo and Juliet, but with a fantasy-esque twist? Yes, give it to me!
Romeo X Juliet takes the basic idea of the original play(of two families warring with each other in Verona, and son of Montague and the daughter of Capulet falling in love) and heightens everything; the families aren't just arguing, one actually slaughtered the other and the fight doesn't just include the families, but the entire world. Romeo and Juliet are both fleshed out and made much more likable than their play counterparts(since Romeo was a womanizing jerk in the original), and both undergo a nice amount of character development. I normally don't like romance like the one here(where it's a bit immature at times), but it actually works pretty well here, which was probably helped by the fact that I loved the both of them as people. The plot as a whole does get a little bogged down in the beginning, but once you hit the half-way point, it is pure amazingness. The ending is also very satisfying and very appropriate, and even though it was sad, I found myself smiling during the last few minutes. Fans of Shakespeare will also appreciate the use of language and references sprinkled throughout this series. Definitely one of my favorite anime TV series, and one I'd recommend for anyone with a love of anime, Shakespeare, or just good fantasy in general.
recommended for 14+
Death Note is a chilling tale of the evils that come with power(supernatural or otherwise). What would you do if you could control the fates of those you consider evil? What if you could rid the world of evil, yet it would cost you your soul? Would you do it?
Death Note explores these questions intelligently, provides thought-provoking discussion, and shows how even the best of intentions can be soured by corruption and fear, as well as making you question your own ideals. Even I, at the beginning, didn't know who to side with since, even though the Death Note is an evil device, I could definitely understand where Light(our protagonist) was coming from(at first, anyway; once he started killing innocent people and petty criminals, I stopped being able to understand). Getting rid of evil scumbags like rapists and murders is a good idea, in theory, and something I agree with, but is it really right to take a life when it's not in self-defense or in the rescue of someone in harm's way(or in combat)? The show had a lot of gray elements which I thoroughly enjoyed thinking about.
The story follows two leads, Light Yagami a young student(our main character and also the antagonist of the story) and L(a mastermind detective and the show's hero figure) as they chase each around, trying to trip the other up, discover their identity, and stop them. Both are well developed and interesting to follow. The side characters are also great and enjoyable and several have awesome characters arcs, such as Matsuda who has one of my favorite moments in the last episode. The ending was strange, but oddly fitting, though it left me wondering about what happened in the aftermath- the eeriness of it(as well as the symbolism) was enough to make up for it and I think it worked quite well.
Don't worry humor fans, this show isn't just a dark, depressing, thoughtful tale; it can, in fact, be quite hilarious at times! L is very funny and his interactions with the other characters are perfect! Ryuk, a Shinigami(Japanese god of death) also provides some excellent bits of humor, as does Misa, Matsuda, and Light.
I'd recommend this for 15 + (Just a word of warning for viewers, there is one scene early on the story, which shows a girl almost being assaulted on the street, which is really creepy).
My sister recommended this show to me a while back and I finally got around to it recently. And she was correct, it was a very good show! It does have a childish name, which might turn off potential viewers(it makes me think of such children's titles as Strawberry Shortcake, Princess Lovely Locks*gack! I didn't watch it, but I heard of it and saw clips and it's dumb!*, and Power Rangers), but it is definitely not one of those overly-kiddie shows. Yes, it is fairly child friendly(I could have watched it as a young kid and have been fine), but it is mature a well, with amazing core characters, an interesting story-line, and the unique usage of ballet. The first several episodes are a little formulaic and weird, but once you get past those, the plot starts to pick up, you get used to the weird stuff, and the outcome is an excellent story. Another part I enjoyed about the story's format was how ballet(and point/toe) was incorporated into the series. I did ballet for seven years(I've also done tap, jazz, and Irish dancing) , from ages 4-10, and it was a very important element in my life- it is what helped me discover my love of acting, and performing in general. Seeing ballet utilized so well in a show made my love of ballet come back to me again and it's made me even more excited about getting to take Beginning Ballet in college! :) The music was also gorgeous, and I loved picking out the musical numbers I knew(I was especially excited to hear Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie No. 1, which plays when Princess Kraehe makes her first few appearances, and is a song I played in one of my piano recitals).
This anime has quite a few memorable characters, but the best, for me, would be the core cast. Each is interesting and not who they seem at first and it's a lot of fun to watch and see as who they truly are comes to the forefront. My favorite character, though, would have to be Fakir. I have always loved a good anti-hero(think Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender), and Fakir is one of the best I've come across. At first, he comes across as a jerk, but the changes he goes through and what we learn about his psyche over the course of the show's run were exciting and heartfelt. In fact, most of my favorite episodes are the ones with him in it a lot. Duck, the lead, is also a well done character; she has a positive attitude and a sense of wanting to do the right thing(and her voice is adorable). A lot of humor comes from her character as well, which brings a sense of levity when it starts to get darker. One thing I appreciated was how Duck changed over the course of the series. At the beginning, she had an extreme child-like view of the world- the main reason she wanted to return the heart shards to Mytho was because she had feelings for him. However, as she grows, matures, and learns more about the world she lives in, I got the feeling that she wanted to return all of his heart shards because she wanted to save everyone, and because it was the right thing to do(even if it cost her her own happiness).
Spoilers! - I also was happy that Duck didn't end up with Mytho. It is all too common in fiction, so seeing a deviation from that trope was a good surprise. In a way, I'm glad it ended that way, since Duck's interactions with Fakir were much more entertaining and satisfying(same with Rue and Mytho- they just clicked better) than her and Mytho's.
I would recommend this for 9-10 + (younger kids could watch this as well, since it's about as scary as the darker Disney films).
I recently was in the mood for some happy, silly fluff, and my sister recommended I watch "Gravitation", a shounen-ai anime, starring Shuichi Shindou, an aspiring singer and band leader. And it was pretty much what I was looking for(until the last episode, but more on that in a bit); it was very hilarious, light, and involved several things I'm interested in: performing, singing, and the show business. While not outstanding by any means, it's a nice change of pace from my usual intake of fiction(which tends to be dark, emotional, tragic, and deep) and I'm glad I watched it.
One thing I enjoyed was that, even though it's classified as a romance, it had an outside plot that was actually interesting and a large part of the story. All too often, that isn't the case(most painfully obvious in the new line of dystopias and of course paranormal romance YA books), so not seeing that here was impressive. I also really enjoyed the characters, particularly Shuichi; I found him really likable, relatable, and hilarious at times. His gutsty-ness in several instances were a perfect touch and something I was surprised at seeing(since in other shounen-ai I've heard about, one of the guy's is always a wimp). Sure he does have flaws- he's impulsive and he falls for Yuki way too fast, but it works well enough in the narrative that I was able to overlook it.
I did have a few problems with the show, however. One was that the relationship between the Shuichi and Yuki isn't that healthy. Yuki is abrasive, rude, and cruel at times to Shuichi and treats him poorly(mostly early on); I get why Yuki is the way he is, but it's not an excuse to treat well-meaning Shuichi the way he does. Another problem I had was the last episode. It was a complete 180 from the stated tone of the series thus far and gave me quite a whiplash. It does explain why Yuki is the way he is(and I'd already guessed because it was pretty obvious from the hints dropped through the series), but I found the scene deeply disturbing and I wish it had been given closure(since Yuki still blamed himself for something that was DEFINITELY not his fault). I get that's it was due to there being more story in the continuing manga, but I wish the story(the twist as well as the overall plotline) had been given a good, solid ending.
I would recommend this for 17 + (for the extremely disturbing scene).
Hope you enjoyed the post, readers! :)