Sword Art Online – Review

Hey Everybody

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend, and today I’m doing the first anime review of 2018. That anime is, as you no doubt read in the title, Sword Art Online.

Of all the anime series I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot, this is by far the most divisive. There are a few different points of view on the series. On one side, you have those who enjoyed the show who seem to be of the opinion that the show is an underappreciated gem and on the other you have those who didn’t enjoy the show calling an over-hyped, simplistic mess with a lot of cool visuals and nothing else.images (7)

What all viewers tend to agree on is that the show had a lot of potential which it sadly couldn’t quite live up to.

Personally, I enjoyed the show but I have to agree with both sides to some extent. That said, this is probably going to be one of the longer reviews I’ve ever written. I’ll be talking about each of the story arcs individually and then the show overall so there could be spoilers ahead – let’s begin with the stories of each arc.

The Storylines

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The first story arc, Aincrad, follows a group of people who end up trapped in a virtual reality MMORPG called Sword Art Online and the only way to get out is to beat the game – the only catch is that death in the game means that the players will die in real life. Kirito and Asuna are two of the players trying to beat the game.

The second story arc, Fairy Dance, takes place a few months after the end of the first arc. Kirito ends up having to save Asuna who is being held hostage in a new VRMMORPG called Alfheim Online.

What I liked about the Aincrad Arc

  • I liked the overall concept of being trapped in virtual reality where dying in-game means dying in real life. Yes, I know that sounds weird but hear me out: it’s got a very dystopian fiction vibe to it that could’ve allowed for some great moments – more on that in a bit.
  • I loved the designs for the weapons and the monsters, a lot of them were, if nothing else, interesting to look at.
  • The way the game was structured and the look of the different levels was also fascinating to me, I particularly enjoyed watching the game get harder as they went to the higher levels.
  • The character designs and background images were really nice to look at and the action scenes were a lot of fun to watch.
  • Some of the humor was a lot of fun.images (9).jpg

What I didn’t like about the Aincrad Arc

There was actually very little that I didn’t like about the Aincrad story. There were a few problems here and there, sure, but that’s true with any series. The only REAL problem I had with the story was the pacing.

We don’t get much in the way of setting up the series’ backstory except that technology has become hyper advanced and Sword Art Online is the next big thing. Then we’re thrown into the world of SAO and the proverbial deep end of the pool and left to float.

To the series’ credit the transition from one to the other is very smooth and feels very natural but we don’t get much about the world of SAO at all beyond; ‘if you die in the game you die for real’ which is a shame. The pacing from then on, however, is a different story. It moves at breakneck speed before slamming on the brakes  for an episode or two and then fires off into breakneck speed again – leaving viewers with mental whiplash. This means that we don’t get to know much about the characters, and unfortunately we don’t care if/when they get killed off.

What I liked about the Fairy Dance Arc

I’m not sure how much of the Fairy Dance Arc I actually liked but here we go:

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  • Much like in the Aincrad story arc, the character designs are all pretty cool and unique.
  • I liked the way the different types of fairies had different powers which made them more unique.
  • The comedy in this arc was more…fan service-like than what I would have preferred but it works well.
  • The action scenes are as cool as the ones from the Aincrad story – especially with the inclusion of fairy magic into the mix.
  • The background imagery is also fantastic.
  • The final confrontation is pretty cool.

What I didn’t like about the Fairy Dance Arc

Oh brother, where do I start? I suppose saying I disliked this arc is a bit harsh as it wasn’t that bad as a story but it was so uncomfortable to watch! Let’s start with the antagonist of the arc and his motives.

The antagonist is a man named Sugou (pronounced ‘Soo go’ I think) who is effectively being adopted by Asuna’s family (by marrying the comatose Asuna). Why? I don’t know it’s not very well explained. Apparently, from what I can gather, Asuna wouldn’t agree to marry him if given the choice so he has her trapped in virtual reality so that she can’t reject him…yeah, that’s pretty much it: he can’t handle rejection so he won’t allow it. There’s also a money-making subplot but that makes no sense to me so I didn’t pay that much attention to it.

He even goes as far as to practically rape Asuna in front of Kirito, that’s how messed up he is. Thankfully Kirito kicks his ass in the end but still…sheesh, that was an uncomfortable watch!

Once again the pacing is all over the place but here at least it’s slightly more consistent. The moments that are meant to be quiet are quiet and the moments that are meant to be fast are fast; but it’s still difficult to care about the characters if you know nothing about them – which is exactly the case for the majority of the characters here. Except for Kirito, Asuna and Leafa (Kirito’s cousin IRL) we don’t care about any of the characters.

What I thought overall

Overall I thought this was a good series. It’s not perfect but then no series is; and there are problems – I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface on that end of things.

The pacing is a big problem – especially with establishing a romantic relationship between the two lead characters.

The music is nice and the art style and animation are beautiful with character designs as unique as the monsters and weapons of the games they play.

The games themselves were cool and I can definitely see them becoming a thing.

With regard to the characters, they’re likable enough but most of them just come across as cannon fodder. Disposable bodies to progress the plot. The use of plot armor on certain characters also takes away any sense of danger or dread that ‘hey, this guy could be dead in a minute’ which was kind of disappointing, not gonna lie.

In terms of plot, I can’t lie; I thought it was good on paper but that the execution was way too rushed with the Fairy Dance arc feeling tacked on and unnecessary. Personally I think they should’ve stuck with Aincrad some more. I don’t think we got nearly enough of that world in the series. I think they should’ve stuck with Aincrad’s world for the first season, showed the characters progressing to the final floor and showing the final boss fight on the top floor and then saved the Fairy Dance arc for a second season; but hey, that’s just my opinion.

Is it over-hyped? Definitely, but is it as bad as some viewers make it out to be? No, but you have to put any expectations you have aside and judge it for what it is and not what other people make it out to be.

The mysteries of the two arcs are relatively well done….I suppose, although there isn’t really a mystery as to who the antagonist of the second arc is but I digress.

In spite of its flaws, I found Sword Art Online to be an entertaining series to watch and would definitely recommend it

.images (2)That’s all from me for now guys, so I’ll see you again soon.

Thanks for Reading!

Greg.

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New Changes in February

Hey guys just a quick update on the changes to take place on the CNR website.

Starting off with the artwork, the site’s banner has been changed and the site’s icon/logo has been added.

banner 3 Sidebar Content

The left side of the page probably has the most changes added to it.

  1. I’ve added a proper archive menu and a search bar to make navigation slightly easier.
  2. I’ve added links to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so whatever I do on those platforms should show up in their respective links.
  3. There’s also a video links section where all the videos on the youtube channel will be tabbed so that you can watch the more youtube specific content.
  4. The review schedule is just what it sounds like; a list of what I’ll be doing in a given month. Book/film/series/anime/manga reviews, editorials, Top 5 and Top 10 lists, Any live video content and so on will be listed there.
  5. Artsy is where I basically do a piece of artwork and share it there.
  6. Rankings are what they sound like, a list of books, films, anime, manga, etc. reviewed or otherwise discussed.

Notes on Schedule and Rankings

Starting with the schedule; this is highly subject to change so I probably won’t put concrete dates on content. It’ll most likely be just a list of what I’d like to cover in a given month.

Rankings lists will probably be divided into several smaller lists for each area of entertainment covered on the site. As I review a book or film it’ll be added to the rankings list with a number at the end of the month/year I’ll do a ‘highlights of’ post looking back at the reviews I’ve done.

I’m still not entirely sure of what’s what yet but I’m getting there.

Let me know what you think of these changes and I’ll see you for the next one.

Greg.

Jumanji (2017) – Review + Plans for 2018

Hey Everyone!

Welcome back to Crazy Nut Reviews and although it’s very late, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope that this year will be far better than last year. 2017 was a very rough year for many people and so far 2018 has had a bit of a rough start if what I’ve seen online is any indication; let’s hope that it’s smooth sailing from now on though.

Okay, so enough babbling, let’s get to the reason you guys are reading this; I saw the new Jumanji film and, to my surprise, I loved it!

The elephant in the room: Why was I surprised? My Initial Reaction(s).

Now, you may be thinking: “Why were you surprised?” or something similar so I’ll explain. When I was a kid, my parents recorded the 1995 film starring the late, great, Robin Williams. Despite the occasional scary/intense moments, however, I enjoyed that film (although it wasn’t until I was much older that I could truly appreciate the film.)

images (2)The 1995 film was, and still is, a part of my childhood and my appreciation of the film has only grown over the years. The film’s spiritual sequel, Zathura, was okay but I didn’t like that one as much. Unfortunately, over the last few years, I’ve seen a lot of remakes of classic films and, even worse, reboots of entire franchises. Don’t get the wrong idea, I have seen good ones out there, but for the most part they were all rather lackluster and disappointing.images (4)

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that when I first heard of and then saw the trailer for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, I wasn’t impressed. Another remake of a classic adventure/comedy? Seriously? Still, I was bored and decided earlier this week that I wasn’t being fair and since it was a choice between the new Star Wars film and Jumanji – both were in 3D but Jumanji was a bit shorter so my sister and I went and watched that.

So, what’s the story?

Well, if you’ve seen the 1995 film then you kinda know the plot already – at least to some extent. The board game Jumanji is found on a beach and gifted to a kid whose primary interest is video games; the board game changes into a video game and sucks in the kid when he starts playing.

Years later a group of teenagers in detention discover the game in a store room at their school, select characters and start playing. They are, of course, sucked into the game and have to finish the game in order to return to their own world.

To say anything more would spoil the film for those of you who haven’t seen it yet so I’ll leave it at that.

What did I like?

Okay, so what did I like about the film?

1. Visuals, Effects/CGI,  and Sound Design

The visuals/cinematography: this film is really, really nice to look at, the shots of the game’s jungle are just gorgeous.

Use of effects and CGI: In general, I prefer seeing an effect done practically if possible but in this case I’m willing to put that aside. The use of CGI is great, you don’t really notice it – unless you’re really looking for it – except in a few moments towards the film’s climax.

Sound Design: the way a film sounds is more important than one might think. The musical score to this film is beautiful and the use of the game’s drums is just perfect and the reason I say that is because those drums could’ve easily been used too much but in this case (much like in the 1995 film) the drums were only used at key points in the film. Unlike in the 1995 film, however, here the drums aren’t softly building to a crescendo; they are loud and aggressive and downright terrifying.

 

2. Story, Themes and Characters

Surprisingly enough, the way this film’s story is executed is actually pretty solid. I loved how the game’s levels were depicted as getting more and more difficult, the way the lives worked wasn’t really explained but it didn’t need to be and finally I just loved the depiction of the game as a whole.

There is also a ton of subliminal messages in this film regarding teamwork, trust, friendship, self-image/self-confidence and acceptance. The characters each have their own problems and have to get through them – helping each other to do so.

I loved the characters of the film. I can’t say much about the actors/actresses playing the teenagers as I don’t know a lot about them but the characters within Jumanji are another story entirely!

Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart play off of each other brilliantly here with Johnson playing Spencer, the nerdy kid who suddenly has all this muscle, and Hart playing Anthony, a football player who ends up a lot smaller in the game and has to deal with that. I first saw these two team up in Central Intelligence a few years ago; they were great there and they’re great here as well.

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Karen Gillan plays Ruby Roundhouse, the incredibly attractive avatar of Martha, the awkward introvert of the group and she does it so well! Playing the girl who’s never flirted before, never really bonded with anybody before and doing it with such believable sincerity that you honestly think she is this awkward person.

The standout performance, however, has to be Jack Black as Prof. Shelley Oberon, the avatar of Bethany, the self-absorbed pretty girl of the group. You truly believe that he’s a girl in a man’s body and not just a man pretending to be a teenage girl. He approaches this role so naturally that I kind of hope they do a sequel to this just so I can see it again. In general, I don’t laugh at Jack Black performances in film; I find them rather dull for the most part but here I practically howled with laughter! He was obviously having a blast with the role and it’s definitely the most energetic performance I’ve ever seen.

I also have to mention Nick Jonas and Bobby Cannavale. I loved Cannavale’s performance as Van Pelt it was such a subtle performance with a lot of his screen time communicating via his facial expressions and body language – he doesn’t say much in the film. As for Nick Jonas, I can’t say much except that he certainly seems to have come into his own as an actor; seeming more relaxed and more natural here than in any of the Disney stuff I’ve seen him in over the last few years.

What didn’t I like?

There was very little to dislike about the movie, I thought, a few people may disagree but that said, I did have a few minor nitpicks.

  1. the Jumanji board game magically transforms into a video game; how does that work? I guess you could just say “It’s magic” and be done with it but that doesn’t really answer the question.
  2. A slight continuity problem. I’ll explain: the film begins in 1996 where the game is found on a beach buried in the sand – this sort of makes the film out to be a sequel to the 1995 film; after all, the 1995 film ends with 2 French-speaking girls walking along a beach talking about the drums of the game wondering what they are. So, where’s the problem? Well, and this might sound crazy but, it’s the town in which the film takes place. The town in which the film is set is Brantford, New Hampshire – which is what Alan Parrish’s hometown was called in the 1995 film. At the end of the 1995 film, when Alan and Sarah are sent back to 1969, they throw the game off of a bridge into a river and it floats away – eventually ending up elsewhere presumably in/around France. So, if this is a sequel then how did the game end up back in Brantford, New Hampshire?

That second little nitpick is actually what fuels the belief that this film is a reboot and not a sequel as I’d originally thought. Maybe I’m right, maybe not – feel free to correct me and tell me what you think.

Final thoughts on the film?

My final thoughts on the film are that it’s a great comedy film with humor that actually works (a rare thing nowadays), there are some great messages in this film, as I said before. The characters and performances were great. The story’s premise was admittedly not that original but it was so well executed that it didn’t really bother me.

Overall I think this film is well worth a watch so if you haven’t seen it already then I highly recommend doing so.

So, what’s happening here at CNR in 2018?

Okay, so I thought I’d share some of my plans for the site, as well as the Youtube channel before I sign off.

Not much is going to change on the site itself, I might be adding some new content at some point – for those who don’t know I’ve got 2 separate websites in addition to CNR: one for martial arts fitness and one for my author’s platform (I’ve published one novel and just finished the first round of edits on my second novel over last December).

I’ve found that it’s nearly impossible to maintain 3 websites, and a Youtube channel at one time; so what I’m going to do is I’m going to try and integrate the fitness website into CNR as something of a sideline – like a column type thing which would be updated every day/every week or whatever. I’m not sure if I’ll do the same with my author’s website – I kind of want to keep that separate if I can but I will possibly be doing at least some content related to writing both here and on there and on Youtube (on either of the 2 channels I run; more info on that at a later time though).

Gameplay, book lists, review schedules, artwork, Q&A sessions and editorial pieces are some of the things that I’d like to add to the site content-wise. The Youtube channel for the site is also not going to change much except for some of the above listed content being added to the channel which currently consists of mostly anime/manga – related videos than anything else. The biggest change to the Youtube channel for CNR is the artwork; the banner at the top of this article has been added to the channel already with the site’s icon/logo to be added shortly.

Full disclosure time, I don’t know how often the video work will go up as I’m hoping to find a job over the course of the next few weeks/months and once I’ve got a job things will likely get much, much harder for me. Obviously I won’t have a lot of time or energy to record a video or write an article/column piece – which brings me to the next and I guess final tier to the site, Social media.

Facebook has a live video function, which I might be able to use to do Q&A sessions, live chats, and/or editorials (this is, of course, where the scheduling comes in). Twitter will most likely be used to respond to questions in the event that I can’t do video stuff (i.e. if I’m sick/not feeling too good) and to let you guys know when something is going to happen.

Instagram will likely get more attention as my video work will be repeated, in an abridged format, there for the guys and girls following me on the platform.

I’ve now kept you long enough, I think, so that’s all for now: let me know your thoughts on this film review – the video is done it just needs to be edited and uploaded to the channel – but let me know your thoughts on the written review here and on the article in general; it was the longest one I’ve done yet so I apologize if I bored you.

You can let me know your thoughts, questions and suggestions in the comment threads here or on:

Youtube: CrazyNutReviewsonline

Twitter: @AnimeCrazyNut

Instagram: greg.seebregts (note this might change at some point)

Facebook: Crazy Nut Reviews

Thanks so much for reading and I’ll see you all again for the next one!

Greg

Merry Christmas!

Hey Everyone!

Just a quick post to say thanks to you all for keeping up with me here at CNR. It’s been a long, rough year for us all but 2017 is winding down.

I’ve had a lot of fun  these last few months working on the site, on Facebook, and of course on the site’s Youtube channel and I hope to continue having fun as 2018 rolls around.

You guys are truly awesome and I highly doubt that this site would be operational right now without you so thanks so much and I’ll see you all again in the new year.

Have a great Christmas and I’ll see you then.

Greg.

Princess Mononoke – Review

Hi All

I’m not entirely sure how I did it, but I seem to have lost my notes for this review as well as the script for the video review. So, this is both a review and a sort of script. Okay, Okay, enough chattering, let’s look at Princess Mononoke.

I first saw Princess Mononoke at the suggestion of a friend who, like me, was a massive anime fan. The way he described it, as I recall, was as a “hybrid of fantasy and romance with a plot involving a cursed prince and magical animals.”

My response was something along the lines of: “So, it’s like a cross between Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella?”

He wasn’t very impressed but I was thinking of Disney films at the time and wasn’t really paying that much attention; and come on, cursed prince (Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora was the cursed princess) and magical animals (I was thinking of the talking mice in Cinderella) – could you blame me? You probably could. So, what’s the story here?

The Story

The story has two distinct arcs that I can identify.

The first follows the character of Ashitaka, a prince who kills the boar god Nago and is thereafter cursed. He has to leave his home to search for the cure before the curse kills him. Subsequently he arrives at an iron works and meets Eboshi the woman in charge and San, a girl from the surrounding forest who was raised by wolves.

The second follows the conflict between Eboshi and the resident gods of the forest. She is making guns as a means of making a living and intends to lead a hunt to kill the deer god who rules the forest. Of course, the other residents of the forest keep interfering.

These two arcs intersect at several points and culminate in one great climactic sequence which honestly had me on the edge of my seat – I won’t say anything else in terms of plot so as to avoid spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it.

Pros and Cons

The story is great and the way the two arcs are interwoven makes it an enjoyable watch for the whole family. The animation, done by Hayao Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli, is beautifully done and the film was apparently the first animated feature (at least as far as Ghibli goes) to integrate 3D computer animation with traditional 2D cell animation. In terms of music, the film is beautifully scored and well directed.download (2)

Unfortunately, not much is explained in the film and that’s the only problem with the film – at least to me. Ashitaka is a prince; okay, a prince of what? It’s never really explained who he is or what he’s supposed to rule. Eboshi wants to kill the deer god, why? What’s in it for her?

I could be wrong and these questions were, in fact, answered but I didn’t see it. Then again, that’s the joy of film isn’t it? Being able to theorize and think about all the little details.

Final Thoughts

In closing, the film was great; Miyazaki clearly put a lot of effort in creating this film and I think that effort really did pay off in the end. It’s a great story with likable characters, beautiful animation and music and while it might be slow in places; it’s definitely worth a watch.

I don’t normally recommend anime titles because it’s not for everyone but this, I feel, is the exception to that rule. If you haven’t seen this yet, then I highly recommend it.

That’s all from me for now guys, the video review for this will hit the Youtube channel at some point in the next few days or weeks and I have a couple of new segments coming up which I hope to launch soon as well.

Thanks for Reading!

Greg.

FIRST GAMEPLAY + New Stuff

Hi Everyone!

Well, sorry it’s a bit late; I’ve had a hectic couple of days but the gameplay video for Yu-Gi-Oh! Pro Dawn of a New Era is now uploaded on the Crazy Nut Reviews Youtube channel.

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HtQVgtOFtI&t=89s 

I’ve got a couple of other videos on the way – Anime reviews, book and film reviews and top 10 lists, and discussion videos. I’m not sure when all these will come out or in what order, I have to be honest, but they’ll start up soon with any luck.

I’ve got a few ideas on where to start so hopefully this coming weekend will see the release of a new video.

I don’t have much more to say except that, as always, feel free to leave any suggestions, comments, or questions on the Crazy Nut Reviews Facebook Page or my Twitter: @AnimeCrazyNut, or on the youtube thread.

That’s all from me for now, so I’ll see you all again for the next one!

Cheers!

Greg.

The Next Few Weeks on CNR

Hey Everyone, just wanted to update you all with the current goings on here at Crazy Nut Reviews.

So, last night I posted an update to my instagram profile concerning the site’s youtube channel and the gameplay video I’ve been talking about for the last few weeks – we’ll start there.

First off, the youtube channel; I believe I mentioned this in a previous article but in case you missed it, yes, CNR is getting a youtube channel – CrazyNutReviewsOnline. The last few weeks I’ve been uploading video reviews so that there’s something there when I put up the link to the channel (link will be at the end of this article). In terms of content, it’s pretty much going to be videos related to stuff I write about here and no, I won’t be doing videos for EVERYTHING that I write about because then I’d never get any free time!

The video work is going to be very specific stuff concerning books, movies, series, manga, American Comics, Games and Anime.

There are currently 8 videos uploaded to the CNR Youtube channel and they’re all anime-related; the next video which is to be uploaded is, of course, my first gameplay video for Yu-Gi-Oh! Pro. After that, I’m going to basically revamp the series and start I’ve got a few other videos in mind which I’ve wanted to do for a while now so this is a good time to do ’em.

I’m not sure exactly how everything is going to work out yet but I thought it’d be a good idea to just let you all know what’s up.

The link to the youtube channel is: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6NuujPAJnwrVW9cZcjI9xA?view_as=subscriber 

Like I said before, the 8 videos that are currently up are all anime related but I’ve got a lot of other stuff on the way; so if you have any suggestions for videos (review suggestions and so forth) then leave them in the comments section here or on any of the videos on the channel or go to my twitter (@AnimeCrazyNut) or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/greg.seebregts/) and leave a suggestion there – a lot of the updates and stuff will probably go to Instagram first and come to the CNR website and youtube channel later so you can leave comments and such on the updates as they come out.

I think I’ve covered everything now so that’s all from me; but I’ll be back for the next one – hopefully my gameplay video will be up tomorrow afternoon sometime so stay tuned for that and I’ll see you then!

Thanks for Reading!

Greg.