Anime, Shows

A Dark Anime Featuring An Unbreakable Sibling Bond

Spoiler-Free Anime Review:

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Season 1

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Intro

Demon Slayer is an anime I watched because I heard people say it is better than My Hero Academia. I actually like it less than My Hero Academia, but that’s only because I prefer more light-hearted anime in general. Demon Slayer is, in fact, really fascinating and enjoyable to watch.

I watched the first half of the season with my dad and siblings and ended up watching the rest alone at college.

Warning: Even though this review does not have a significant spoilers, it does describe some plot details from Episode 1.

Background

Demon Slayer Season 1 was released in 2019, and is based on a manga series of the same name. It was written by Koyoharu Goutuge. It can currently be watched on Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, or Funimation.

Summary

After Tanjiro’s family is slaughtered and his sister is turned into a demon, he studies to become a demon slayer to avenge his family and cure his sister.

Pros

  • Complex characters
  • Engaging combat
  • Demons are unique and have various skills
  • Great intro and outro
  • Catchy music
  • Taisho secrets
  • Attractive animation

Cons

  • No specific cons

Observations

  • It is a bit gory

Review

Characters

Tanjiro Kamado is the main character. He is a kind young man who sells charcoal to support his family until their untimely demise. His sense of smell is impeccable, significantly affecting the storyline believe it or not. He can pick up the smell of blood from far away or tell that a broken object was knocked over by a cat. He also can understand birds. He is extremely hardworking and loyal.

We barely get to know Nezuko Kamado before she is turned into a demon. She struggles with a violent side at times, but her connection to Tanjiro is heartwarming.

Zenitsu is generally cowardly and kind of pervy. Unlike in some anime, he is scolded for his behavior frequently and luckily doesn’t do anything as invasive as, for example, Mineta from My Hero Academia. There is more to him than meets the eye, however.

Inosuke is strong, socially inept, insensitive, and stubborn. Yet he is also quick to forget a grudge or even why he was angry in the first place. He is annoyed by Zenitsu’s weakness and Tanjiro’s kindness.

Combat

The combat in Demon Slayer is multi-layered and complex. Breathing technique is a huge component in an individual’s capacity to fight. Demon slayers master various forms to learn to attack, often related to the elements. Those who cannot kill demons by beheading them resort to other methods such as poisons. There is also something called the thread that Tanjiro can see, which shows him when there is an opening.

Demons

Each demon has a different specialty and many have different blood demon arts. The one depicted above, for example, is nicknamed the Arrow Demon and can redirect movements and launch opponents. Another interesting one is the Drum demon, which can perform different attacks by beating various drums embedded in its body.

The demons almost all have tragic backstories because they were once human before the traumatic event of being turned into demons.

Intro

The Demon Slayer Season 1 intro not only is a great introduction into future events in the first season, it also has great catchy music. It is well-made and intriguing.

Outro

The artistic design of the outro is beautiful, from the vibrant flowers at the beginning to the rendering of Nezuko shown above.

Taisho secrets

The Taisho secret at the end of each episode provides more insight into characters and is a fun way to tease about the next episode.

Animation

The animation of Demon Slayer is beautiful and terrifying. I especially liked the eyes of the characters and the design of the demons.

Conclusion

I would say if you don’t mind shows being a little bloody and violent, and you like anime, then you will probably like this show. Definitely recommend for ages 13 and up.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

Books

A Rival for The Lord of the Rings

Spoiler-Free Book Review:

The Stormlight Archive: The Way of Kings

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Intro

This is the best book I have ever read. Period. My dad suggested it for me and I could barely put it down, especially near the ending. I was visibly smiling at parts, laughing, and on the edge of my seat repeatedly. In my opinion, it blows The Lord of the Rings out of the water. Read on to find out why this is my new favorite book!

Background

Brandon Sanderson is the author of various books for adults and younger audiences alike. Some of his more famous works include the Mistborn Trilogy and Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians, as well as the rest of the Stormlight Archive. He typically writes high fantasy with fantastic worldbuilding.

Summary

In the world of Roshar, three promising characters struggle against their pasts and continued threats while going on journeys of self-discovery. Kaladin, a mysterious slave with a tragic past. Shallan, an artistic young woman who seeks to become the ward of a famous scholar. And Dalinar, an older man who is trying desperately to unite the Alethi highprinces and create a stronger kingdom of Alethkar.

Pros

  • Multiple intriguing points of view
  • Gripping character backstories
  • Different lifeforms than in any other series
  • Unique magic system
  • Richly developed cultures
  • Objects unique to the realm of this book
  • So many quotable moments
  • So much research put into this
  • Illustrations and other worldbuilding snippets between sections of the book
  • Quotes that introduce chapters are interesting and relevant
  • Phenomenal ending with twists

Cons

  • I honestly cannot think of a con. Sure, it’s very long, but without that length I doubt the worldbuilding would be nearly as impressive.

Observations

  • The length of the book is 1200+ pages, but every bit is important to the narrative as a whole.

Review

Characters

Kaladin is introduced as a slave with a history of troublemaking and a host of enviable skills. The book delves deeply into his backstory in particular, speaking of his numerous losses and continued failures. If there is a character who is focused on the most in the book, I would say it is Kaladin.

Shallan is another point-of-view character, trying to become a ward of Jasnah Kholin, who is a high-ranking scholar. Shallan’s primary concern is saving her homeland, which has fallen into disarray since her father’s death. One of her most interesting skills is affixing an image in her memory and being able to draw a replica of it later on. She also draws from sight with remarkable skill.

When she drew, she didn’t feel as if she worked on charcoal and paper. In drawing a portrait, her medium was the soul itself.”

Dalinar is the third significant viewpoint character, an older man whose visions during highstorms worry him about the state of Alethkar. He has two sons, Adolin and Renarin, who are each very interesting in their own ways. Adolin goes through relationships with all the eligible young women of high enough rank quickly. Renarin struggles with physical weakness that prevents him from engaging in battle.

Lifeforms

This novel has lifeforms different than in any book I’ve read. From thunderclasts to chasmfiends to skyeels, Brandon Sanderson has a high capacity for creativity. My favorites, however, are the spren and the chulls.

Spren appear when something changes–when fear appears, or when it begins to rain. They are the heart of change, and therefore the heart of all things”

Hesina

There are musicspren, fearspren, painspren, windspren, and hungerspren, among dozens of others. Some are large and monstrous, others are like wisps, and some can even shift their form.

Chulls are kind of like large hermit crabs with rock-like shells that are used as herd animals and to pull cargo. See an illustration of one on Fandom here.

Magic System

The magic system is dependant on Stormlight. Stormlight from highstorms infuses many everyday items, the currency, and gems. That energy can then be used to perform lashings–attaching things to each other or moving objects, standing on walls, etc. Very few people are capable of these feats.

Culture

The first notable cultural difference is that men are expected to handle fighting, commerce, and creating glyphs. Yet women are the ones who are able to read and write and it is considered wrong for men to engage in these activities. There are also foods considered to be men’s food vs. women’s food.

In Alethi culture, people with light eyes are considered higher-ranking citizens than those with dark eyes.

There is also the Vorin tradition of having a safe hand, a woman covering one’s left hand with a long sleeve or glove. Uncovering one’s safehand is considered as scandalous in their society as very low cleavage. The society is medieval so there are a lot of restrictions for women and men.

According to Shin culture, one should not tread on stone and mining is an abomination. To them, a dying request is sacred. Farmers are celebrated with lavish clothes and acclaimed for their hard work. The Shin have childlike features. One of the characters in this book is a Shin assassin.

At the end of the book a kelek poem is displayed, which must be the same backwards and forwards (excepting verb forms).

Objects

Shardblades are the most interesting weapons in the Stormlight Archive. It is said that “a shardblade did not cut living flesh; it severed the soul itself.” Slicing through someone’s skin would cause no flesh damage, but would lead to numbness in the area swung through. Slicing through someone’s neck would lead to death and eyes being burnt out.

Soulcasters are objects used to turn substances into different substances. For instance, rock to smoke, or human flesh to flames. It is even possible to soulcast food, but it usually ends up being pretty bland.

Spanweed is an instrument that allows long distance communication through writing.

Quotes

But expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.”

Shallan’s point of view

Well, I myself find that respect is like manure. Use it where needed, and growth will flourish. Spread it on too thick, and things just start to smell.”

Kabsal

The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”

Wit

Research

After 10 years of research and writing, Brandon Sanderson produced The Way of Kings. There are many aspects of the story that are realistic and well-thought-out. The medical and surgical knowledge Sanderson included in his book added to the effectiveness of the story. Even though it’s a work of fiction, I felt that I learned more about how wounds were treated after battles.

There were other thoughtful aspects such as how a soldier was told to urinate before battle so during the battle he would not be distracted. He was supposed to do that well ahead of time because armor is hard to get off and back on. Another instance of realism is that the brand that Kaladin has is scabby and needs to heal.

Extras

The illustrations between sections of the book are beautiful and contribute to the illusion of realism that Sanderson creates. Illustrations can be seen at his website, here. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter are mostly made up of the dying words of random people. The reason for these quotes is revealed at the end, and they turn out to be extremely relevant.

Conclusion

If you like fantasy, read this book. I have a feeling this book will become a classic for the fantasy genre. Recommended for ages 13 at least and up, but may be better for an older audience due to length.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate books, check out my rating system.

Links

Shows

Loki’s Self-Love Has Gone Too Far (Spoilers!)

Show Analysis:

Loki Season 1

Intro

If you want a spoiler-free review of Loki Season 1, check out this article. If you are looking for my promised spoiler analysis and thoughts on Season 1, you’re in the right place.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for Loki Season 1, Avengers: Infinity War, Thor: The Dark World, and Thor: Ragnarok. Continue at your own peril.

Background

Loki Season 1 was created by Michael Waldron and released in 2021. It can be streamed on Disney+.

Analysis

First off, I want to say that I rated this show a 10 out of 10, so I am not going to bash it. I will, however, poke fun at parts that deserve it. That is not to say these parts are cons or mistakes. They actually add a lot to the oddness and intrigue that makes up Loki Season 1.

This season opens in New York in 2012, where Loki manages to procure the tesseract and escape the Avengers. My immediate reaction is, oh great. This is the Loki without all the character development of Avengers: Infinity War and all that happened after 2012. This is the undoing of Loki’s poignant death scene in Infinity War.

Loki Dying in Infinity War

And for a moment, I was frustrated. Having an audience feel strongly about a character and then killing them off is not a bad choice for a writer most of the time. Bringing them back is almost always a bad choice becomes it leads the audience to believe future character deaths are reversible.

But Loki in this series is not the same Loki. Sure, it’s the same actor. Sure, he even has the same obsession with his glorious purpose. But this Loki is just another variant in a universe filled with different Lokis. The other Loki truly died, this one is a different (but similar) character with a different path.

What I appreciate from the 2012 New York scene is that the whole series was caused by Hulk being forced to take the stairs. Think about it. If Hulk hadn’t gotten frustrated about taking the stairs, Loki never would have gotten the Tesseract and teleported.

Which brings us to the next scene, where Loki is lying in the sand of the Gobi desert in Mongolia. Everyone keeps talking about how this scene is remarkably similar to another one in the Iron Man movie.

The TVA (Time Variance Authority) find Loki there and proceed to hit him, but also slow him to 1/16th time. So we get to see the strike’s effects in super slow motion and it looks super painful and weird. This would actually be a pretty effective form of torture since even quick strikes would have their effect stretched out much longer. No doubt the TVA uses those tactics for sketchy stuff, because even from the beginning they give off weird vibes.

At the TVA headquarters, Loki is treated like a product in an assembly line. A bot destroys Loki’s clothing, showing how carelessly and intrusively the TVA treats people. The bot even twitches, so it probably isn’t well-maintained and safe. It kind of reminds me of that scene from Thor: Ragnarok where Thor gets his haircut.

He’s next told to “Please sign to verify if this is everything you have ever said.” There is a compilation of papers that definitely could not be everything he ever said, because we all know Loki likes to talk. He even has to confirm he is an organic being, which confuses him to the point where he even wonders if people could not realize they were robots.

This does establish the business-like and cold atmosphere of the TVA. He even has to take a ticket even though he is the only one there.

Then we get an introduction to the kind of annoying yet unique and interesting Miss Minutes.

Even though I find her kind of creepy, I do think her character is well done. At times, she even seems sentient and shows emotions such as concern.

The cartoon where she is first introduced is old-fashioned and reminds me of the sort of thing Mystery Science Theater 3000 would make fun of.

We learn that the motto of the TVA is “For All Time. Always.” That doesn’t really make sense because the cartoon flat-out admitted that the TVA has not been around for all time. There used to be multiple timelines until they were merged and became one “sacred” timeline. The TVA only began its existence when the Time Keepers acted to create the single timeline.

Loki is then put on trial and asked how he pleads. To that he responds, “Madame, a god doesn’t plead.” This definitely isn’t true, since he “pleads” with Sif in a later scene to stop attacking him when he is caught in a time loop.

We get an explanation for why the Avengers’ journey through time was not punished in the same way Loki was. Apparently that was all went to be. The sacred timeline sure is convoluted.

Loki tries to use his powers, but they don’t work in the TVA. Lucky for them, because Loki is a pretty formidable foe to vanquish.

Mobius stops Loki from being pruned from existence because he has this odd obsession with Lokis in general and seems to enjoy playing therapist/mentor to narcissists. He asks Loki to trust him. Now that’s pretty ridiculous. I wouldn’t even trust Mobius, so why would the backstabber Loki be inclined to do so?

Trust is for children. And dogs.”

Loki

Loki is then questioned extensively by the wanna-be therapist Mobius, who proceeds to show him a montage of some of his worst moments, including future moments he would have experienced. He gets to see that his choices got his mother murdered, which had to be more disturbing than the robot stripping him naked or existential concerns about the potential of being a robot.

Poor Mobius trying to squish a couple movies of character development into one presentation. Which, ironically, is similar to what my English professors had to do for the poor novels that only got one or two classes worth of discussion. (I feel like a good novel deserves at least a week.) I don’t know if Mobius thought it would convince Loki, but again, that wouldn’t have convinced me, since they could have used their high tech to create fake footage.

Loki is only really convinced to behave when he realizes that the TVA uses Infinity Stones as paperweights and that even the Tesseract is useless here. The revelation that the TVA is stronger even then the Tesseract is like a slap in the face to Loki, whose desire for world domination is damaged somewhat.

Loki is convinced to use his skills to hunt down another Loki. The first time they try to rely on Loki is at a medieval festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where he mostly just wastes their time. Once again, the only team Loki is truly on is his own.

One thing I do love about this show is the settings–whether it’s a festival, the TVA, New York 2012…everything.

We get to see the variety of Loki variants that have been pruned soon afterwards, some of which look very different from our Loki.

Loki is the one who realizes how the other variant problematic Loki has been surviving and hiding–staying in areas where apocalyptic events are occurring does not upset the timeline.

It’s not until they track the alternate Loki down to a disaster in Haven Hills, Alabama in 2050, that Loki realizes that alternate Loki is a woman. (Big surprise. I mean, this was pretty obvious, very Disneyish move.) Not only that, she goes by the name Sylvie. No doubt to make it easier for people to understand who the heck is being talked about when the season is discussed. Not complaining. It makes it easier to review to have different names or nicknames for each character.

Loki follows Sylvie when she tries to escape and they hide in another cataclysm. They get a little bonding time where we get to see that not only are they both full of themselves, they also are highly skilled and possibly ship-able. Which is uncomfortable because they are basically the same person.

It gets even more obvious Disney is setting this up to be romantic when Loki shows off his dumb fireworks illusion and they talk about all they have in common, like being adopted, bisexual, and woefully misunderstood. (He was confirmed to be bisexual and genderfluid by Disney, so that’s cool. That makes a lot of sense considering the inspiration of Loki from Norse mythology, which he came off as genderfluid even though they didn’t have that terminology at the time.) Also, we get to see Loki dance and sing, which is hilarious and definitely deserved to be on the Marvel to-do list.

When Loki gets drunk and falls off a train, their one way home is destroyed and they have to come up with another idea on the spot, which also happens to not work because giant freakin’ chunks of rock are smashing into the earth and blasts apart their ride.

Luckily, their combined presence, and perhaps the uncomfortable fact that Loki is falling in love with another version of himself, alerts the TVA to their location, and they don’t die. Surprise, surprise.

Loki is banished to a time loop for awhile to think about what he done–time out for Loki, I suppose. In it, we see Sif, which is awesome, because it has certainly been a long time. He cut off her hair in the past because he thought it would be funny, which kind of explains why she has always hated his guts.

When Mobius finally takes him out and tells him that Sylvie is dead, you can see the shock register before he plasters it over with an apathetic look. But Mobius is a very good wanna-be therapist and understands Loki’s true emotions. Loki’s self-love has truly gone too far, because he has fallen in love with another Loki. I don’t think I’ll ever feel super comfortable with them being in any sort of relationship, but hey…it’s not really a con. It’s just another aspect of weirdness in an odd but brilliant show.

Mobius’s reaction is priceless, abashed at Loki’s incredible narcissism. That may be the funniest part in the whole season, honestly.

Loki tries to convince Mobius that all the TVA agents are variants, which is surprisingly not a lie. Mobius doesn’t believe him until he did some digging for himself, and then he tragically gets pruned by the order of Ravonna Renslayer. I found this death unconvincing.

What’s even more unconvincing? When Loki gets pruned himself after they find out the Time Keepers are fake. Yeah, Loki has “died” plenty of times already and I mean, at least we would still have Sylvie, right?

When Loki is pruned and meets the other variant Lokis, all I can think is alligator Loki? Alligator Loki? How could they even tell it was a Loki? How the heck did it start a nexus event? Are all animals variants of people, and if so should vegetarianism be the norm in the Marvel universe?

He’s oversensitive like the rest of us.”

A Loki Variant

Also, the fact that Kid Loki’s nexus event was killing Thor–holy crap. Loki didn’t even manage that. In the end, he probably didn’t even want that. And this little kid murdered his brother? Yikes!

Sylvie prunes herself, because obviously the two uncomfortably similar lovers can’t be apart.

And the Lokis basically all backstab each other in a futile attempt at ruling a junk pile. The alligator eats President Loki’s (another Loki variant) hand, which is disgusting, but also gave the alligator Loki some vague purpose.

Sylvie, Mobius, and Loki all meet up to take down Alioth. Mobius gets the heck out of there and who could blame him? But first Loki hugs him, which shows how much the god of mischief has fallen, but is also kind of sweet.

Then Classic Loki (yet another Loki variant) sacrifices himself, and at this point the broadness and variety of Loki’s own personality is just insane, but okay.

Getting past Alioth only cost one Loki, so no biggie. Miss Minutes shows up like a freakin’ serial killer and tries to make a shady deal with them and they are like, um–no. Miss Minutes is creepier than Thanos. No joke.

Then they meet the actual He Who Remains, the real Time Keeper. And he’s eating an apple in a way that reminds me of Moriarty from Sherlock. Sylvie tries to kill him a bunch of times. Loki is not as keen on killing him.

The little detail that killing Kang the Conqueror–I mean He Who Remains (pretty sure everyone has determined he is Kang by now though)–will lead to multidimensional war, makes Loki hesitate. Especially since it means Kang will be alive anyway and multiplied a bunch of times.

Loki is a liar and can spot one, so he knows Kang is telling the truth. Sylvie trusts no one. At this point it’s super obvious Mr. Kang’s gonna die. The kiss was also expected but it seemed early and weirdly timed. I mean, if you are going to kill someone, why would you stop for a quick, passionate smooch? Maybe I just don’t understand love.

I don’t know what the right word is to describe two people who are basically the same person kissing? Is this coming close to incest? Or just narcissism at its worst?

Anywho, after all that kissing nonsense, Loki gets sent back through a portal to the TVA and Kang is killed by Sylvie. Loki ends up in an alternate timeline where Mobius has no idea who he is. That’s frustrating, and I have no idea where the MCU is going from here. But I am kind of excited to see what happens next.

Conclusion

These Disney+ series have impressed me so far. I am curious to see where the story goes from here. Let me know what you thought of Loki Season 1 in the comments, and as always, if you have any suggestions for reviews or analyses feel free to share.

Shows

Loki’s Back For His Own Series

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Loki Season 1

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Intro

When I heard about this series, I was concerned about whether it would be any good because I was worried it would take away from the character development we saw in other movies. Instead, it provided the means for more character development and showed a different side of Loki.

Warning: This review does not contain any significant spoilers for Season 1 of Loki, but it does include some plot details from Episode 1.

Background

Loki Season 1 was created by Michael Waldron and released in 2021. It can be streamed on Disney+.

Summary

Loki escapes the Avengers only to be captured by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) and labeled a variant to the sacred timeline. To survive, he will have to use his wits and his own self-knowledge to capture an enemy of the TVA.

Pros

  • Enjoyable characters
  • Strong character development
  • Phenomenal acting
  • Immersive setting
  • The show is unpredictable and strange, which is fitting for a series centering around the god of mischief
  • Well-chosen music

Cons

  • There are no specific cons I would like to point out. This series does stretch believability, but considering the god of mischief is the main character, I don’t see that as a bad thing.

Observations

  • Inspired in a lot of ways by the comics

Review

Characters

Loki wins the prize for most character development out of everyone from this series. Watching his character unfold was like watching a narcissistic caterpillar turn into an equally narcissistic butterfly. Yeah, he does remain a narcissist, but he’s forced to re-evaluate his entire worldview and come to terms with who he truly is.

Mobius is kind of patronizing at first, but once you figure out what makes him tick, he’s easier to understand and appreciate. He kind of fulfills a mentor role to Loki in that Loki does learn some things from him, but he’s not the stereotypical old dude fulfilling his duty to pass on unwanted wisdom.

Miss Minutes is the holographic mascot for the TVA, explaining its mission to maintain the sacred timeline to Loki when he first is captured. She handles looking up information in the TVA’s databases, but is more than just a tool. Often, she acts like a sentient being with her own feelings and concerns.

Acting

The acting was impeccable, especially by Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, and Sophia Di Martino. Hiddleston using a range of complex expressions to get across Loki’s reactions to pivotal events was especially effective.

Setting

The TVA as a setting was perfect. It combined a bunch of old-fashioned propaganda posters, dated cartoons, and futuristic devices to make a unique atmosphere. It was a perfect blend of old and new to make the setting seem timeless and immersive.

Plot

The plot throws you for a lot of loops. (And not just time loops.) Every time everything seems chill and like things are going to go one way, things escalate and the stakes become even higher.

Music

The quirky and thematic music of this season added to the atmosphere. There is currently a soundtrack out for Episodes 1-3 called “Loki Volume 1” and it can be found on Spotify.

Inspiration

The whole concept of the TVA and the Timekeepers, as wells as many of the characters were inspired by the comics. I love that Disney is taking into account previous works in the Marvel Universe rather than taking an entirely new path.

Conclusion

If you like Marvel, then you will appreciate this show focused on one of Marvel’s most enduring characters.

Rating System

If you’re interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links