☯ The Pristine Trinity Sect ☯

"Everything in the universe exists in a state of perpetual flux. Permanence is an illusion. Human "progress" is an illusion, for "progress" is impossible in a zero-sum universe. Humanity is riding a ferris wheel, spinning around in circles without aim. This corresponds in an essential respect with hedonic adaptation. Your entire life can be summed up as one big dopamine rollercoaster. Everything you do in life is about getting your next dopamine fix. There is nothing more profound about your existence." #redpill

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Best and Worst Episodes of the Original Pokemon Series


With the release of the megahit mobile phenomenon Pokemon Go, as well as the upcoming release of the seventh generation (Sun and Moon) of the handheld games in November, I decided to marathon and re-evaluate the quality of the original anime series from the late 90s on Netflix.  This year marks, after all, the twentieth anniversary of the influential franchise.

That said, what follows is a list of some of the best and worst episodes from the original eighty-two episode Indigo League season.


THE BEST
"POKEMON SHIPWRECK"

A sensational episode that is perfectly plotted from start to finish, continuing from a tense cliffhanger and ending on one of its own

"THE GHOST OF MAIDEN'S PEAK"

My personal favorite episode as a kid, creepy and poignant at the same time.  The epitome of an entertaining standalone story

"ABRA AND THE PSYCHIC SHOWDOWN"

Intensely eerie episode with a great cliffhanger ending.  The start of a memorable gym badge three-parter

"GO WEST, YOUNG MEOWTH"

The best episode from the last quarter of the original series.  A surprisingly entertaining backstory that sheds new light on a so-so recurring villain


Episodes such as "Bye Bye Butterfree," "Pikachu's Goodbye," "The Legend of Dratini," and "Snow Way Out!," while tearjerkers, are not as good as these top-rated episodes when you consider the overall plot.


THE WORST
"BEACH BLANK-OUT BLASTOISE"

Everything between "The Problem with Paras" and "Volcanic Panic" is very entertaining.  Then immediately we are treated to this sorry excuse of an episode.  Very weak, uninspired plot that couldn't sustain ten minutes, let alone twenty

"CLEFAIRY TALES"

This episode is an inferior and unnecessary rehash of "Clefairy and the Moon Stone," which was one of the weaker earlier episodes to begin with.  This is the third of a string of bad episodes following Cinnabar Island, when the series starts to weaken, and the fillers begin to feel like fillers, though not quite as atrocious as the quality of later seasons

"MAKE ROOM FOR GLOOM"

A boring, forgetful installment.  Frankly, there was no reason at all to make another Gloom-centric episode.  This one is the definition of pointless filler


This listing does take into account the internationally banned episodes.  However, most of the banned episodes were not very good anyways, the exception perhaps being "The Legend of Dratini."

Sunday, July 3, 2016

少年四大名捕 The Four (2015) — Review and Photo Gallery

One of the most satisfying wuxia series produced in recent years.  What makes The Four so great is that it doesn’t stagnate—every episode moves at a brisk pace, with exciting things actually happening.  Not just lame characters standing around talking to each other in poorly written dialogue.

What sets the series apart from all of the other draggy, barely watchable snoozefests produced recently is that it never allows itself to slow down.  The story is told always at a reasonable pace, with something to move things forward in every episode.  This should be the standard for all costume dramas, but sadly it’s an exception.

The plot is fast-paced—more happens in one episode of The Four than three episodes of the average dragfest costume drama.  The series delivers a generous helping of action and drama every single episode, which puts it far ahead of the curve.

The Four is a great example of why a fast-paced ensemble with several story arcs being played out simultaneously is far preferable to two lead actors dragging out a story.  The plot, while far from awe-inspiring, entertains owing to relatively believable acting and realistic dialogue, both of which can do wonders for an otherwise mundane story.

The weakest part of the series is the constant drawn-out exchanges at the Divine Deputy Bureau, in which the drama apparently feels the need to reiterate exactly what is happening, sometimes two or three times, to any very stupid viewers watching, by way of Zhuge Zhengwo’s mostly redundant expository monologues.

These damned idol dramas are always using lame, cheesy plot devices like jade pendants and chit--come up with something fresh, pls—and The Four, regrettably, is guilty of this as well.  One in particular is An Shigeng using the blood of the protagonists to open some gay door—cringeworthy, to say the least.

Though hit and miss, the acting is largely above average compared to the majority of idol dramas.

Female lead Janine Chang is an effective actress, and this makes for an engaging story, even when it's uneventful.  The story is told at a brisk pace, rarely dragging—this coupled with a competent female lead, makes for an entertaining romp.

Zhang Han’s Cold Blood is a grounded and rootable main character, but his hardened, emotionless facial expression never changes in this series.  Not one time over the course of forty plus episodes.  Although Zhang Han is not the most competent actor, his utterly emotionless portrayal of Cold Blood actually works well here, and I much prefer his personality to that of the unfailingly irritating Life Snatcher.  

Jia Qing is at her best here, and the love triangle between the lead actors is executed expertly, not at all cheesy as you might expect it to be.  But her character's development in the last dozen episodes is contrived and difficult to swallow.

William Chan is annoying in this series to the point of being intolerable.  Every time he opens up his mouth, you reach for the mute button.  That said, some of the lines he delivers are genuinely funny.  His Life Snatcher is by far the worst character in the story, excruciating to watch, his incessant beta whining and useless scenes constantly interrupting whatever else is happening that’s far more entertaining.

Bai Bing plays the alluring Nine-Tailed Fox in a short stint.  Zheng Shuang and Zhang Meng both have blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos in this series, their existence in the story largely nonessential, doing nothing to advance the plot or help develop the main characters.

The “Four Great Evils” in this series is a shameless ripoff (or is that, “homage?”) of the similarly labeled characters from Demi-Gods & Semi-Devils, identical down to the baby-snatching tendencies.

Mickey He shines as usual playing the super maniacal, ultra creepy main antagonist.  His performance is very effective, if a bit exaggerated.  The lyrics of the end theme are sung by him, in the perspective of the story’s villain, which is a unique and nice touch.

An Shigeng is a diabolical mastermind, capable of manipulating the situation and those around him to fit his needs.  The villain is highly reminiscent of Mickey He’s equally calculating Yinzhen in Palace (2011) and Palace II (2012).  It's nice to see him finally branching out from Yu Zheng productions.

Unfortunately, aside from Ji Yaohua and to a lesser extent, An Shigeng and Cold Blood, none of the other major characters see much in the way of character growth.  In fact, of the Four Great Constables, the other three seem less like central characters and more like sidekicks playing second fiddle to the spotlight-stealing Cold Blood.
THE VERDICT:

Story — 9.0/10
Writing — 8.0/10
Acting — 8.0/10
Direction — 8.5/10
Production — 8.5/10
Music — 9.0/10

Entertainment Value — 8.5/10
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