Concert Review: Uniform, Drab Majesty, Deafheaven 8-4-18

I’ve done a bad job of keeping up with concert reviews as of late, but I wanted to definitely post a bit about the one I attended this past weekend in order to get everything back on track. I wanted to first mention that I saw this in Lawrence, Kansas at a theater called The Granada, and for small shows around this area there is literally no better venue. I’ve been to my fair share of shows at tiny bars where it’s 300 degrees and you leave the show completely deaf because you are basically laying on the monitors and there are 5 sets of back-filled gear resulting on each band having a postage stamp sized spot to stand on.

The Granada has none of this, the sound is solid, there’s plenty of room for the bands, and I’ve never left with serious issues do to my ears wanting to die nor do I usually have to wear earplugs and I’ve seen some LOUUUUD stuff there. I jumped at the chance to see this show since I am a big fan of Deafheaven, but the rest of the show was a mystery to me. This was largely due to the fact that I was unfamiliar with the supporting acts, I knew they are from three very different genres, and I wasn’t sure what sort of crowd would be in attendance. What I will say in short is that weird shows like this are awesome, and I hope to see more like this.


Uniform

Uniform, a New York Based band that mixes trappings from industrial and hardcore into a relentless sonic attack, were first up. The band recently gained a bit of notoriety for having two tracks included into an episode of the re-launched Twin Peaks show on Showtime, hot off of this, they have a new album coming out and I will likely be getting it after this show. While I’m not usually a big fan of 80’s hardcore, somehow mixing the vocal trappings of that with industrial somehow helps make that style of music, which can sometimes be very harsh, even harsher, bleaker, and more relentless. Michael Berdan’s vocals hit like some sort of angry slam poetry, ranting about the ills of society, touching on inequality, the media and even religion. If any of that seems up your alley, I’d recommend checking them out (posting a video below) and if you get to see them, Berdan is a really nice dude and took time out to talk to fans at the merch table.


Drab Majesty

Next up was a Goth / Darkwave band called Drab Majesty – I absolutely love this type of music but have never really had a chance to see any of it live since it’s relatively underground, and cool concerts always happen on days of the week where I have to work. Donned in all white with make-up and large sunglasses on, this California-based two piece is a deliberate throwback to the 80’s both in sound and look. The band seemed to have a huge following at the show which is easily to understand considering that they ooze a mysterious vibe that I can only assume gets them legions of female fans that enjoy dark mysterious alien dudes.

The highlight of their set is a song where the lead singer, Deb Demure, strapped a bright light to his chest and performed basically blinding whomever he was directly facing. While this sounds annoying, it was actually a cool effect with the fog machines going, and made them seem even more mysterious than they already are. Perhaps the one way that I knew this band had something special was that one of my good friends, that normally only likes metal, actually enjoyed the set quite a bit due to it’s quirky nature and being something different.

Once again, here is an example of the band’s music.


Deafheaven

When I got “back into music” a handful of years ago, I mostly got really into going over to Bandcamp’s “atmospheric Black Metal” subgenre section and simply scouring over endless pages of crazy bands that I haven’t heard of. Many bands from this period have become some of my favorite current bands – groups like Ghost Bath, Panopticon, Drudkh, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Deafheaven are always on my rotation. I’m drawn to many of these bands because they are usually a lot more melodic than standard black metal (which I also like) and are more willing to experiment much to the derision of gatekeepers of the metal scene.

Deafheaven, in particular, seem to always get jabbed at by metal elitests since “they aren’t metal enough”. After this concert I will say that those guys are all buffoons. I have seen a lot of shows, and I have literally never seen a crowd mosh as hard as what happened during Deafheaven. It was a weird thing since the band is known for long-form songs with trippy interludes that absolutely glow with optimism and possibly weariness. Suddenly this would break and all hell would break lose – people were doing windmills, ninja kicks, the whole gamut.

I was also VERY impressed with the stage presence of George Clarke, the band’s lead singer. In the music videos, even the one I will post below, you don’t see much of the band performing – some of the newer ones show the guys recording an album and driving classic cars around. But, good lord does this guy have it. Jumping around like some sort of black metal Mick Jagger, Clarke was absolutely crazy to watch. Much like when I was able to see Wolves in the Throne Room earlier this year, I was blown away by these guys.

Here’s a video

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Doctor Who: Primeval (2001)

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‘Nyssa will die at dawn, and the Doctor doesn’t even know why.

To save her life, he must make a desperate journey to the only place in the universe where a cure might exist.

When even that fails, the Doctor has a choice – let Nyssa die, or make a deal with the devil.

After all, the road to hell is paved with good intentions…”

 

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It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these reviews!! I think one of the biggest shames in all of 80’s Doctor Who was cramming so many characters into Peter Davison’s TARDIS so that there wasn’t really a way for any character to really stand out. For me, usually these characters stood out for the absolute wrong reasons – Tegan and Adric always arguing with The Doctor for no reason then getting hurt because they ignored something he told them to do absolutely irks me. I always wanted more Nyssa and Turlough!

With Big Finish Audios my prayers have been answered as some of these pairings were given new adventures to play around with, and it’s really making me LOVE parts of Doctor Who that I wasn’t a fan of with the TV show. Case and point, me flipping my opinion on both Peter Davison and Colin Baker’s runs on the show.

When Doctor Who tackles larger than life God-tier villains, it’s always a bit hit or miss for me. Most of these episodes have some sort of ham-fisted agenda either vilifying religion or somehow propping it up. Then in some really weird cases, it somehow does both. sometimes I end up absolutely loving such episodes much like what happened with The Rings of Akhaten, or it could go south in episodes like just about any that have “The Devil” in them. I think my leanings towards Gnosticism tend to make me predestined to get excited about stories where mortals stand up to self-described deities, so there is that.

Usually, episodes like this have a Stargate vibe where ancient aliens have been worshiped as gods when they are not. Luckily, this story flips this trope on it’s head a bit by coming to a planet where the is basically no religion whatsoever, only to discover that the planet was basically founded by a creature named Kwundaar that in many ways was their god until they decided to lock him out. Inadvertently, The Doctor tries to help Nyssa but accidentally helps Kwundaar once again become the God-king of Traken. There’s a bit of a jab at organized religion where suddenly people convert to worshiping the creature simply to save their own lives.

One thing I enjoy a lot about this episode is that it fills a few gaps into the Doctor Who continuity. This story portrays the planet Traken three thousand years before TV: The Keeper of Traken. It also tells how the Keeper’s position came to be. Having some backstory to this and showing how the society was set up was a nice touch. Another nice touch was finally explaining why Nyssa collapsed in an old TV episode, Four to Doomsday, and how she magically obtained telepathic powers in Time-Flight. It appears that both are direct results of Kwundaar’s manipulations.

I also enjoyed that The Doctor was able to defeat Kwundaar  in a way that was not a cheat or a contrivance. With a lot of episodes like this resulting in something silly like “love saves day!” I’m glad that didn’t happen.

The Masked Republic Luchaverse: Rey Mysterio #1

“The current in a family line of Mysterios that dates back centuries, each one trained to be a champion of the people and to take on a great evil that has been prophecised to return and plunge the world into darkness. Rey Mysterio is on a quest, aided by the military clandestine group known as “The Ambassadors”. The mission is clear: retrieve the one thing Rey will need to take on this returning evil…..THE MASK OF THE FIRST MYSTERIO!”

To be honest, when it comes to comics related to wrestling, I never really picked up too many, not even back in my heaviest comic reading days. So aside from the Joey Ryan comic I got a while back (which I should review on here) I haven’t really read too many. Luckily Masked Republic had my back recently by tucking one of these bad boys into my recent Lucha Loot Treasure Chest (Review here) via Chido Comics.

This comic reminds me a lot of the old-school luchador films from the 60’s starring El Santo and Blue Demon in that it exists as a way to create a rich mythology behind a wrestler that can’t easily be conveyed in the medium of wrestling as it would come off as VERY silly and far too over the top (well maybe not in Lucha Underground). In this comic, for instance, we find out that Rey was in fact trained in an old Mexican monastery by an old man that would not be out of place in a stereotypical Kung Fu film (I’m sure that this is 100% factual :P). he is prophecised to be a sort of messianic figure – a man that will eventually save the world from impending doom.

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This comic features a handful of references to other well-known Luchadors such as Konnan (who seems to be Rey’s boss or something) and Tinieblas (who apparently took an off-page trip to the Himalayas specifically to get a map to the location of the foretold ancient mask for Rey). The mask itself is a reference to none other than Rey Mysterio Sr. While actual cameos would have been cool, I really like that this is building what I hope to be a full-on comic universe featuring luchadors. I assume that;s something that has existed in Mexico, but over here not so much.

Perhaps my only gripe was that the members of The Ambassadors serve very little purpose in the story (so far) aside from standing there and looking scared or wise-cracking while Rey beats the crap out of Zombie mountain lions using his super-powers. I would have almost preferred for the team to me made-up of actual wrestlers, but we’ll see if these guys pop up again.

The final page is an advertisement for a second one-shot featuring The Lucha Brothers (Fenix and Pentagon Jr.) Since these two are basically my favorite wrestlers at the moment I’m pretty excited to see where this goes and get my next Lucha Loot assuming that will be in there. This was a fun read for what it was and a must buy for any Lucha Fan that’s been wanting something like this for a while. Chido Comics is something that could be on the cusp of something cool, I’ll definitely keep an eye on them!

Lucha Loot July ’18 Treasure Chest Unboxing / Review

A few months ago, we were informed that Lucha Loot was going through some changes including losing the ability to pre-pay for future boxes and a switch to a bi-monthly schedule instead of monthly. I suggested that this was likely for the better as getting too many loot boxes all of the time would probably get stale, and with three subscriptions (WWE Slam Crate, and Pro Wrestling Crate) it’s possible. So here we are, two months later, was it worth the wait?

Oh, before we move on….If you’d like to see more reviews of the various subscription boxes I get, please head right on over HERE and check out the spoilers.


Spoiler Card

Not much to say here, but I’m glad to see a spoiler card because I sometimes am not sure what person an item relates to with this box.


Sangre Chicana Mask

This one was pretty interesting for me as I’m not really familiar with the Sangre Chicana  Family. Reyes made his professional wrestling debut in 1973, wearing a red mask with a gold stripe, under the name Lemus. A year later he changed his name to Sangre Chicana but kept the mask with the golden stripe. He rose to prominence in a feud with El Cobarde and Fishman that led to a Lucha de Apuesta, mask vs. mask match where Reyes lost his mask. His two sons “Lemus, Jr.” and “Sangre Chicana, Jr.” have carried the lineage on, wearing variations of this same mask.


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Luchaverse Ancient Medallion pin

It was announced a while back that Masked Republic (who produces this box) decided to get into the comics industry by creating a brand initiative called Luchaverse. This pin by Lapel Yeah is basically the “logo” of the brand. Even without knowing what it ism this pin is pretty cool!


Marty “The Moth” Martinez Sticker

While the fans might chant “creepy Bastard” to old Marty here, nobody can deny how great he has been on Lucha Underground these past 4 years. While I’m not sure I’ll be tossing this sticker on anything prominent of mine, the art is cool and it’s cool to add to my folder of swag that I have.


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Luchaverse – Rey Mysterio Comic Book

This is the first release of the aforementioned Luchaverse line of comics from Chido Comics.

“The current in a family line of Mysterios that dates back centuries, each one trained to be a champion of the people and to take on a great evil that has been prophecised to return and plunge the world into darkness. Rey Mysterio is on a quest, aided by the military clandestine group known as “The Ambassadors”. The mission is clear: retrieve the one thing Rey will need to take on this returning evil…..THE MASK OF THE FIRST MYSTERIO!”

I have decided to do a full review of this Comic HERE.


El Mesias Ricky Banderas T-Shirt

Ever since seeing him in the short-lived and somewhat baffling Wrestling Society X, I’ve thought Banderas was pretty cool. This is especially true now as his Mil Muertes character on Lucha Underground has become one of my all-time favorites.


Masked Republic Keychain

This is a fun little take on the Masked Republic logo in Perler bead form – not sure I’ll be using this as Perler bead scultures always seem somewhat fragile, but it’s cool none-the-less.


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Black Danger Autographed 8×10

Solid autograph from the former Junior Champion from The Crash Lucha Libre.


All in all, solid box with the stand-out items being the El Messias shirt and Rey Mysterio comic book. If they keep tossing the comics in each box, I’ll be very happy and hop this acts as a subscription of sorts. Really, this is a great way to keep up with Lucha Libre here in the US, now it’ll be hard to wait two months for the next one.

If you’d like one of these, check this out here

WWE Slam Crate June 2018 Unboxing / Review

Before going into any review for a box from Loot Crate, I wanted to touch base on a bit of controversy they seem to be perpetually embroiled in lately. Since I actually pay for these boxes, you won’t see any fake glowing reviews without criticism on my site. You see, I have been a member of WWE Slam Crate since the very first box and recently signed up for Star Trek Mission Crate (well about 6 months ago). Until recently, I had absolutely no issues, but this spring – Summer has been ridiculously bad for the company for many reasons. It seems that, for whatever reason, Loot Crate can’t keep any of their boxes on schedule lately. This WWE crate, for example,  was supposed to be shipped well over a month ago, apparently a Firefly Crate is really far behind, and my personal annoyance being Star Trek Mission Crate. The first STMC was supposed to ship sometime in January with the second arriving in March. If I recall we received #1 in February sometime and have YET TO RECEIVE #2!

Apparently the reason behind this is allegedly the shipping materials getting messed up or something, but I honestly could care less if my swag shows up in a model of a Star Trek shuttle craft (as the first one did) because after the initial novelty it will proudly be residing in my recycling bin because it’s a shipping box. I’d rather the money go to making sure delays like this don’t happen again. Allegedly, these will be shipped in about a week, but we’ll see :/

Star Trek crate update

sigh…

Well, without further ado, lets actually talk about this particular crate instead of ranting! This quarters theme was “Larger Than Life” and promised items from some of WWE’s biggest superstars, let’s see how it stacks up with my other wrestling crates like yesterday’s Pro Wrestling Crate.


The Box

WWE Slam Crate 1

I already mentioned that I never keep these boxes or anything, but this one was pretty cool – Wish there were more people on this like Kane or Giant Gonzalez, but for what is basically getting thrown away, I won’t worry too much.


The spoiler booklet/Poster

While I don’t really hang these posters up, it’s a cool way to make the spoiler card something to hold onto.


Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase Money Clip

Hilariously, this is not the first Ted Dibiase money clip I’ve got from a subscription box, although this one’s a bit classier. Well, at least flashier.


Undertaker Shirt

Not much to say other than this is a really cool shirt, and I absolutely love that there is nothing printed on the back which 9/10 times ruins most WWE shirts.


WCW World Heavyweight Championship Pin

These pins are always so cool – I have amassed quite the collection of these these past few years, and this is already one of my favorites seeing how big of a WCW fan I was. We’ve already received a pin version of the infamous NWO spray painted version of this belt, so it’s nice having the clean one as well.

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Andre The Giant Fleece Blanket

It was astonishingly hard to take a picture of this for some reason, but here it is draped over my couch in perhaps the worst pictures on this entire post. It’s about 6 feet tall and has images of Andre’s actual hand and foot size which is cool. This is possibly the standout item of this box.


Braun Strowman Figure

I wasn’t too sure about these figures when they first started sending these as the last thing I need are a bunch of things like Funko Pop Vinyls cluttering up my nerd room, but these aren’t too bad. They are definitely better than the heavy die cast metal figures that the first few crates had.

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And that’s it! all-in-all this was one of the better crates from these guys as I can see myself using that blanket and shirt and I LOVE the belt pins. In the past, this crate has send some sort of “meh” things (a problem with Lootcrate as a whole) and I believe I would rather have these larger items instead of a ton of small stuff if that’s the route they are taking. Perhaps my only issue with this selection of items is that it didn’t really take too much advantage of the theme of “big guy” wrestlers as it could. Now, here’s hoping the companies issues get ironed out.

Next up is going to be a crate called “Better Than You” which could be fun as it appears to be a heel crate.

slam crate better than you spoiler

They’re big, they’re bad, and they don’t mind letting you know it. Bow down to the supreme Superstars who think they are BETTER THAN YOU! Celebrate the big egos of the WWE Universe with items featuring Alexa Bliss, Elias, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and The Miz!

 

Pro Wrestling Crate July 2018 Unboxing / Review

Just got back from my mail box, and was excited to see one of my subscription boxes had come in – today we’ll be looking at another Pro Wrestling Crate from the fine folks over at Pro Wrestling Tees. I’ve been getting this crate for well over a year now, and it’s always worth it.

This month, it looks like the chosen charity was for Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake’s surgery Indiegogo. Apparently he hurt himself pretty bad a while back and needs a full knee replacement:

“A few months ago I took a tumble and twisted my knee and I’ve been in some pain. Finally went to my doctor and had an MRI TODAY then back to the Dr with the disc! A lot of running around or hobbling around. Thank God for my wife Missy who took initiative to get me to the Doctor because I do need surgery! This is where I need help! I have no insurance to cover the day surgery which is roughly 12k.”

Without further ado, This Month’s theme was:

themeslider

So, what sort of dastardly items are we in store for?

If you’d like to see more reviews of the various subscription boxes I get, please head right on over HERE and check out the spoilers. If you’d like to get your very own Pro Wrestling Crate USE THIS LINK and use the coupon code “HOME” to get 20% off your first crate.


Spoiler Card

 


“Villain” Marty Scurll T Shirt

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I tell you what, these shirt designs have been really killing it lately, I’m not usually for “Wrestlers face on a shirt” type tees, but Marty has such a cool look with the plague doctor mask and wings in his entrance attire that it works here.


“Madness” Randy Savage Shirt

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This is a definite throwback to some late 90’s WCW shirts from back in the day. I have another WWF era Macho Man shirt from these guys, this will compliment it well.


Tetsuya Naito Micro Brawler Figure

Solid Micro Brawler for yet another future legend. Naito’s run as IWGP Intercontinental Championship last year was awesome.


Sami Callihan Baseball Card

I really hope this is a new exclusive line rather than a one-off item because a collection of retro pro wrestling cards is right up my alley.


Sami Callihan Autographed 8×10

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Yet another autograph I don’t have Yay! I never really followed Callihan much before he was in NXT, but he has slowly become one of my favorite fixtures of both Lucha Underground and Impact Wrestling. So far, his feud with Pentagon Jr has been amazing!


Silas Young’s “Last Real Man” Pocket Knife

While sort of random (not as random as the fidget spinner from about a year ago), you can never go wrong with a small pocket knife.


“Rowdy” Roddy Piper – Piper’s Pit Enamel Pin

I’m always a fan of exclusive items since it’s not a “hey, here’s a bunch of overstock stuff” and these enamel pins from PWC are almost always pretty great. Being a big fan of Piper, I really like getting stuff from him, and PWC always delivers with their swag.


Behind Closed Doors – Jake “the Snake” Roberts DVD

This is a popular “shoot interview” by RF video that usually retails for about 10 bucks, so you’re really getting a good deal on this box with two shirts and this DVD. Here’s what my bad picture of the back says:

“Behind Closed Doors” with Jake Roberts was educational, informative and most of all entertaining. This new shoot style series today is with the dean of psychology Jake Roberts. If you ask any veteran in wrestling today who the king of psychology is, they would all tell you Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

This series will not be your typical shoot interview. Instead we will sit down with a wrestling superstar and ask them questions about the inner workings of the business. This has never been done before. Whether your a wrestling fan or even a indy worker this series is a must for you to own. Its the most tutorial wrestling DVD ever!!

Did you know that Jake Roberts played a huge part in the WWF to teach other workers how to get to the next level? Did you know at one time Jake Roberts was the stepping stone for every heel to get to Hulk Hogan. He would work with all the heels like Honky Tonk Man, Rick Rude, and Ted DiBase before they would reach Hulk Hogan and mold them into where they needed to be as a heel before going onto main event matches.

Jake knew what to do and when to do it in the ring. He could have you either cheering him or throwing bottles at his head. He knew what made a great heel or a baby face. He knew how to carry a match and when to do that false finish. He talks about all of this in this new series. He will talk about the three types of heels the chicken shit, liar, and the cheater heel character. We talk about when is the right time to get color in a match. We talk about a lot of today’s current WWE roster and we talk about who is doing the right things in the ring and who is not. You will be amazed on what Jake has to say. We talk about Raven as well. We even touch on his problems with the movie Beyond the Mat. We even got to ask him about his recent problem in England with the snake that they claimed he mishandled. We asked him about his drug and alcohol problems and how is he dealing with that today. What is the future for Jake? This is one DVD you don’t want to miss out on.”


That’s it for this month! Check back in a few weeks for a review of WWE Slam Crate (if it ever stops getting delayed) and other solid content. If you like spoilers for this crate check my links above and come back in about a month – you won’t be disappointed!

 

big in japan

The Monday Meme: Prime

Akagi: The Genius Who Descended Into the Darkness (2005)

Sometimes I take small trips through Crunchyroll looking for new things to watch, and while some of my experiments aren’t really hits, it’s interesting to see what’s on there – especially stuff nobody’s talking about. I’m drawn to fairly atypical anime as many of you may have noticed – things with weird stories, strange art styles, or retro aesthetics are definitely my thing, so when I saw a picture of the 2005 anime Tōhai Densetsu Akagi: Yami ni Maiorita Tensai (闘牌伝説アカギ 闇に舞い降りた天才, lit. “Mahjong Legend Akagi: The Genius Who Descended Into the Darkness”) I was excited. Even though the premise seemed like it could have been boring I had to see a modern anime with such a strange look. And my assumptions of this being boring? Good God was I so wrong.

The story of Akagi revolves around the mahjong gambling exploits of Shigeru Akagi. After a death-defying game of chicken (two cars race for a cliff and first one to brake loses) one evening in 1958, Akagi nonchalantly enters a yakuza mahjong parlor to shake the police’s trail. Although he is unfamiliar with the rules of mahjong, his gambling intuition saves a small-time gambler, Nangou, and grants him a seat at the gambling table. As the night progresses, the stakes are raised both within the game and for Akagi, who is under the suspicion of the local policeman, Yasuoka. However, Akagi manages to defeat Keiji Yagi —despite Yagi’s cheating during the game—and impresses the members of the gambling house. Eventually he gets stronger and stronger opponents until he becomes the legendary gambler that the full title of the anime alludes to

Akagi is actually a spin-off of another manga called Ten by Nobuyuki Fukumoto who is known for long running manga about gambling and Yakuza. Despite this, you don’t have to know anything of the previous manga which shows a much older Akagi in modern times fighting that book’s main character – after I finish this, I might have to see if I can read Ten.

On paper, Akagi should be an insanely boring show designed for old salary men in Japan and literally nobody else, but instead it is somehow really exciting. This is despite me having absolutely no knowledge of the rules of this version of the game nor any interest in playing said game whatsoever and the relative slow pacing of watching guys play Mahjong. That’s because this show is presented in a way that I will liken it to “Yakuza Yu-gi-oh”. Just about every move is presented as some earth shattering situation where you can really feel the gravity of Akagi’s actions. For example, there are many times where Akagi wins, but due to having a daredevil attitude, he immediately pulls the situation back into the fire to raise the stakes.

Akagi is also a compelling character analysis of a person that appears to be a total sociopath and genius. In the same way that House M.D. or Sherlock are such a compelling television characters, Akagi seems to be the gambling equivalent. In many instances, it’s VERY clear that Akagi doesn’t care if he lives or dies and has no problems killing or using people in questionable ways to get his way. This is pretty heavy stuff for a character that starts out as just thirteen years of age at the beginning of the show. There are incredibly intense scenes like one where he pulls a gun on one of his opponents, loads a bullet into the chamber, and fires as in playing Russian Roulette. Of course, his opponent was not in danger as he could calculate the approximate position of the bullet, but merely wanted to see if he would flinch basically.

This also is shown in his Mahjong play style, where he basically ignores what the perceived basics of the game should be due to intuitively knowing what his opponents are likely doing and using their actions to trip them up and pull wins out of nowhere. Ultimitely, his goal is to make them crack, nd take advantage of their insecurities to win. While I am far from the person to discuss the technical side of his tactics, I would compare this to poker and discarding super important cards because he knows he can win in a more skillful way. or hitting on 20 in blackjack because he has figured out that the next card is going to be a one of clubs.

One of my favorite parts of this show is the silly stuff said by the narrator during just about every instance of the show. There is a point in the second large game where Akagi is close to loosing, the narrator builds this up move by move that he is about to loose and “descend into the depths of Hell itself”. A few minutes later, the table is turned and he chimes in with something like: “The sand in the depths of hell is magical sand! It gives you power to rise up!” Stuff like this is so over-the-top and borderline silly that it always makes me laugh – I’m sure that’s not the intention, but I love it.

Perhaps the only real downside to this show is that the character of Shigeru Akagi is fairly mysterious through the entire show – one never really gets a complete grasp of his real motivations or what happened in his life to make him such a grizzled 13 year old. Maybe this is explained in the manga that this is a spinoff of, but I’d imagine not considering the time difference.

All-in-all Akagi is a refreshing show for those that are tired of overly cliched anime that follows whatever genre tropes are popular today. Yeah, it’s really not much different than the handful of sports anime I’ve seen, but one just really isn’t presented with too many organized crime / gambling shows. I’d definitely recommend it.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These (2018) First Impressions

These past few years have truly been a blessing for fans of both “old-school” anime and manga and space opera anime and manga in general. I plan to eventually go more into detail regarding this topic, but the short version is that I would have never imagined owning legit English translations of things like Captain Harlock and Queen Emeraldas in manga form, and novels and anime of the VERY sought after classic Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Granted, the original anime has yet to materialize over here despite being licensed – but I’ll go with the next best thing – an entirely new show streaming on numerous streaming sites. Today we will be looking at Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These.

While a general synopsis of this show is very hard, I think I can boil it down to the chronicle of a war between three galactic superpowers that spans hundreds of years and involves billions of people. The first super-power was formed in 2801 and is dubbed The Galactic Federation. After power largely shifts from the Earth, a man named Rudolf von Goldenbaum, an ex-admiral turned dictatorial politician is elected to power, quickly makes himself Emperor Rudolf I, absolute monarch of the renamed Galactic Empire. Rudolf adopts extremist policies including the suppression of any opposition and the extermination of anyone perceived too weak, such as the disabled and those in poverty. So yeah, basically space Nazis.

Later on, the second power springs up – a group of serfs in the Altair star system manage to escape captivity and make “the Long March of 10,000 Light-Years” into the Sagittarius Arm to escape the Galactic Empire, which is located within the Orion Arm. These people set up the Free Planets Alliance, a democratic republic. Seeing these people as nothing more than traitors and rebels, the Empire vows to crush the FPA at all costs. Assuming a quick victory, The Empire suffers large losses and has to settle into a prolonged war.

The third realm is the Dominion of Phezzan, a planet-state with connections to Earth (now dubbed Terra). It technically remains a part of the Empire and pays tribute, but it also maintains a relationship with the Alliance. Providing the only link between the Empire and Alliance whilst simultaneously playing the two sides against one another makes Phezzan act like true war profiteers. so far, these guys have yet to show up in the first few episodes.

The first season of this show is just twelve episodes and seems to roughly cover the contents of the first novel (which I really need to finish reading one of these days). This has been a “second season” announced, but it will be comprised of three theatrical films that I assume will be the second book. Time will tell if this new production will achieve that sort of success that could warrant the sort of long-term commitment that eventually led to over 100 OVA episodes, but I really hope it does.

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between this show and the older OVA series, is that some of the theatricality of the dialogue has been removed for a much more subdued (realistic?) version. The example that sticks out to me the most is a scene in episode one where Commodore Reinhard is sitting on an ornate throne on the bridge of his flagship The Brünhild looking out of the observation window. This scene is basically in both versions, but first we’ll talk about the original. His longtime friend and military confidant, Kircheis, has entered the room to comment on his stargazing, to which Reinhard goes into a long, almost Shakespearean, aside about stars and how vast space is in comparison to man-made wars.

In this new version, however, Kircheis rolls and in and Reinhard comments on how tall he has gotten, to which Kircheis basically replies “cool story bro” – end scene. To me, This dramatically alters the character of Reinhard from a more romantic character to a dark brooding one ala Captain Harlock. It’s too early to tell if this is long-lasting or even a detriment to the narrative. One could argue that such flowery dialogue led the original show to coming off as pretentious at times, I personally like it as space operas of that era all tend to be that way.

There is also a tendency for Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These to go into details of specific battle plans and tactics used far more than what was in the original show. In the original show, there were points where you were left to assume everyone was correct in their assertions that characters like Reinhard and Yang were tactical geniuses as most of the actual planning was glossed over. Here we have the exact opposite, in fact some battles are almost laboriously detailed with little maps being discussed and references to as yet to be unseen older battles. Honestly, I think the new show takes the edge, as these battles are far more like the ones in the books by description alone.

Honestly, this and the battle scenes are basically pornography to me – giant space battles set up like old school navel battles have always been a thing I love seeing in science fiction, and you can’t really get any more epic than two armies consisting hundreds of thousands of ships duking it out. These action scenes have immense gravitas due too how dynamic they have been realized and the budget that must have spent to do so.

One notable thing missing is the original score comprised largely of classical music, but this has been replaced with suitable original orchestral music that suits the show and gives it the vibe it needs. Although watching ships blow up to Gustav Mahler or Antonin Dvorak pieces is awesome, this original stuff is pretty good.  I can’t find too much about the new compositions, but they appear to be from famed Japanese composer Shin Hashimoto, aka Sin. He is well-known for his works for Takako Matsu, EXILE, Mika Nakashima, AAA, and LISA.

Perhaps one of my favorite things that these first episodes did was illustrated when Commodore Reinhard, in the first episode, comes up with a seemingly flawless battle plan, only to meet his match with Yang Wen-li in episode two. the way both episodes show the same period of time through the eyes of two opposing men was cool and I hope they do this more.

So far, This is a really solid adaptation of something that I assumed would get ruined in an effort to modernize everything. I know there are still fans that are mad about changed that have been happening, but honestly some would be mad at anything other than a shot-for-shot remake in the same art style which would be a waste of everyone’s time. What we have is a solid introduction to the show and really gets me pumped to finish it up. I plan to continue watching this for the next few weeks and give more thoughts as I go through. Hell, I might get back onto the 100 episode horse that is the original show as I’m pumped that this is getting made!

The Monday Meme: Never-ending Celebration

The Monday Meme: Space Force

Miami Law (2009)

Imagine all of those testosterone soaked cop shows from the 70’s and 80’s in convenient handheld form, that is Miami Law in a nutshell.

As the kind folks over at Hudson have stated “Miami Law is an action-adventure game worthy of its own prime-time TV show.” Just imagine a pulse pounding handheld version of a cross between the 80’s mainstay Miami Vice and 2000’s mainstay 24. It’s got all the action TV staples you can imagine including a storyline with a shadowy terrorist conspiracy, furious shootouts in abandoned warehouses, challenging crime-scene detective work, and car chases; what more can you ask for in an adventure game.

I was really anticipating this game for two reasons: I am a huge fan of adventure games, and the localization was handled by Gaijinworks, the successor to the fan-favorite yet sadly gone Working Designs production house. This game starts out somewhat similar to another adventure game that I played not too long ago called Jake Hunter, but has something that Jake never had: a soul. This comes across mainly because of the meticulous work done in the localization department, as the dialogue is great. The storyline is also fairly mature, so no ambiguous kiddie-fied translation here.

 

The main story revolves around the intense loose cannon Law Martin from the Miami PD and the brainy tech-savvy Sara Starling from the FBI, who is put in charge of your case. Martin is in deep undercover trying to infiltrate a drug syndicate to avenge the death of his former partner Sam. Sara is put in charge of keeping an eye on Law, to make sure he isn’t too far from the good graces of his civic duty. Depending on what you would like to do, you can choose to switch characters at various points in the game, and depending on what you choose; the gameplay ends up worlds apart. For instance, one scene places you in a tense situation as you are trying to trick the sub-head of the syndicate into thinking you are a former prisoner from an Arkansas Prison rather than a detective. If you Choose Law, you get a dialog segment, where you are buying time, but if you chose Sara you have to plant a fake prison record into the Arkansas penitentiary database, so his story checks out.

Generally there are huge differences like that throughout the game and the “minigames” are quite varied. Law usually ends up being the man to engage in car chases, gunfights and detective work, and Sara usually is behind a computer screen hacking, wiretapping, or, if she feels adventurous, sniping with a high caliber rifle from the door of a nearby helicopter. These “minigames” are really fun and really help to break up the sometimes-monotonous nature of games like this. I especially liked the shootouts as they were essentially handheld versions of Time Crisis, complete with reloads, headshots, and a cover button. Due to this duality system, the game already has built in replay value, as you could play the whole game as Martin, then play it again choosing only Sara.

 

The normal gameplay works out just like many other recent visual novel games. You have icons for speaking, looking, moving from one area to another, a cellphone to call out on, a PDA that acts as your log book and displays character bios, and sometimes a fist shaped icon that allows you to rough folks up. This navigation is pretty easy to understand and is rather intuitive, but seems a little bit too linear. Except for a few instances where people give you the run around, you pretty much know exactly where to go at any given time. The gameplay is really good, but almost too standard sometimes, but the minigames really help that out.

One good thing that Miami Law implements is a quick restart option for when you die or make a bad decision. For instance, at one point in the game you are looking for a drug dealer on a beach amongst a handful of random residents. I foolishly tried to rough this one man up that I thought seemed like a good idea. I got too pushy and started brandishing a gun on the guy and yelling, and was immediately booted off the case, as Sara was keeping tabs on me via a wire. In most games I would have reverted back to a previous save point, then would have to endure the same dialog over again. Not so, thankfully, in this game. All you do is choose “restart” and you are taken back to that exact point where you made the bad decision. I really liked this as it moved the game along.

 

Unfortunately “moving the game along” may be the one big gripe I have about Miami law, as it is really far too short. The game consists of five chapters that clock in at around 5 hours total. Taking into account two consecutive play-throughs in order to play as both characters and Miami Law still clocks in at a brisk 10 hours, this is far less than many of these games now. I would assume that this is due to the fact that the dialog, although masterfully written, is pretty short and to the point, so the novel side of this “visual novel” is a bit weak. If you look at this game the way they want you to, as a cop TV show that you are in control of, it suits it just fine.

The graphics in Miami Law are stylish, well-drawn and very different to what you may see in some of these games. The characters show a good range of emotion in their static pictures, and a lot of detail was put in place to make this game look like it really takes place in Miami. In most games like this you see a ton of Caucasian folks walking around no matter where you are, but this game is full of Hispanic, black white, and any other race of character that you would find in Miami. This sounds like a minor thing, but this very small bit of detail really helps make this game that much more realistic.

The same bit of detail was put into the games sound presentation as original music was composed by Grammy-nominated Miami Beat Wave, a music production group hired to give the game an authentic Miami flavor. The soundtrack has 15 tracks that really pull off the feel of the areas in the game, whether it be a high tension warehouse area or the beach. The only things that are missing are voice acting and lyrics to the music, but I guess that’s just me looking for rust in the armor.

Miami Law is a great game, but a bit too short to really warrant the price it holds. Although you can play through the game multiple times and experience all-new events, this really should have been a budget game from the start, or a tad bit longer. Really, this is the only bad thing I can say about the game, but it really hurts it, I kind of hope that this game does well, and a decision to make a sequel is made, as the characters and gameplay are pretty good, but more would be awesome.

All in all Miami Law may have been the best Adventure game that I have played in a while that wasn’t in some way related to the Phoenix Wright series. With all of the top notch music, dialog and attention to detail, this is a title that all adventure game fans on the DS should love to play – that is if they can get past the short playtime. If you are looking for a good cop-based adventure game that mirrors television shows of the genre, then you really can’t look any further than this little gem.

Persona 2: Innocent Sin PSP (1999, 2011)

We all had to deal with schoolyard rumors and gossip as adolescents; whether directed at us or friends, it was usually never a good thing. Imagine, if you will, a world where these hurtful rumors are coming true, from the mundane to the utterly ridiculous. This is the world of Shin Megami Tensei Persona 2: Innocent Sin. Originally released way back in 1999, this particular entry of the Persona franchise actually never left Japan back then, while the second part of this two part series, Eternal Punishment, did. Many reasons have been cited for why this exclusion originally occurred, most notably a homosexual relationship within the game and the inclusion of Adolf Hitler as a major villain. Thankfully for all “Megaten” fans with a PSP, there is now finally a legal way to play this game.

Fans of Revelations: Persona, and its later PSP port, will find that the game is vaguely similar in many ways, except for a huge facelift. First and foremost, gone are the first person dungeons, replaced by a familiar isometric over-the-head view made standard by many a Japanese RPG. This sounds like a minor change, but it makes the dungeons slightly less monotonous and confusing, especially in areas like a school building where all walls look the same. Other improvements include the ability to select between three difficulty levels, the ability to save almost anywhere, and a far more streamlined battle system.

persona 2 innocent sin psp

The battle system is of the tried and true “random encounter” variety from yesteryear. Everything is turn-based, except the player is given almost complete control over character positioning, turn order, and other commands, including auto-battle. This comes in handy in two major ways. Firstly, when one is trying to obtain new “fusion attacks”, one needs to be able to re-order various spells as they need to be performed in a very specific order. The second example is when you see that the turn order is going to lead to a character dying (e.g. they are poisoned), all you have to do is open a menu and switch them around. I really enjoyed this, as the completely random nature of newer Persona games drives me up the wall even though I love the series.

All of the main characters are equipped with an initial Persona, a sort of multi-dimensional being that gives its user the ability to use magic. Aside from leveling up the actual characters in the game, one can also level up these Personae (Personas?) to learn new spells and abilities. If you tire of the “factory” models, you can always hunt for more. Of course, the legendary “contact system” is here in full force for franchise veterans.

For those new to the series, this system allows for players to communicate with the demons they are fighting. When on the “contact” screen a player has to negotiate with the target demon. One can ask for money, healing, items, or even a “pact” that allows for the player to summon that demon as their new Persona. Think of something similar to Pokémon (SMT did this first though), except on more of an intellectual field. The player has to figure out which character would be the best to speak to the demon, and what they need to say; say the wrong thing and you can provoke an extra attack from the monster rather than a shower of goodies.

persona 2 innocent sin psp 2

The story of Shin Megami Tensei Persona 2: Innocent Sin is initially fairly confusing, but rewards people for “hanging in there”. The game opens with the silent protagonist, Tatsuya, getting into trouble at Seven Sisters High School with the new principal. One can see that something is definitely wrong immediately as the comically evil-looking principal (complete with a scar over his eye) has apparently mysteriously won over the student body to the point where he gets cheered by passers-by and has had a statue built in his own honor. This coupled with a sudden rash of disfigured students has led to rumors of curses, demons, possessions, and other occult happenings. Tatsuya and his rag-tag group of friends (including his female companion Lisa, and visual-kei musician and overall comic relief character, Michael) assume that the urban legend of a person called “The Joker” who grants wishes must be true. It is said that if one calls their own number on their cellphone, they can summon him and get their greatest wish.

Without spoiling too much, it is revealed that these rumors are in fact coming true, and this plays a very significant role in the actual game. In most games, talking with non-player characters (NPCs) doesn’t get you very far. In this game, one can actually come across rumors in dialog, which, with the help of a certain detective agency and a nominal fee, can ultimately come true. Early on in the game one such rumor pops up in which a local Ramen shop is said to be a front for a black-market munitions shop. This is obviously nonsense… until you pay off the detectives to help spread the rumor. Once it hits critical mass you have access to your very first weapons shop. Players that explore every nook and cranny for rumor-mongers, gossip-peddlers, and other nosey people could end up with optional quests, optional weapons, and altered maps.

persona 2 innocent sin psp 3

When looking at the graphics and audio in this game it is important to realize that it’s over a decade old, and originally ran on a console far less powerful than the PSP itself. Because of this, it’s hard to see this as much more than a nostalgia title – a “lost game” in a widely popular series. That doesn’t ruin this game at all, but when comparing the presentation to other PSP RPGs, like Valkyria Chronicles 2, for example, you can really see the age. There are cleaned-up “modernized” menus and an option to use the remixed music. Fans that like to keep things retro can toggle the music option off – a huge bonus for those that hated the musical revisions in Persona PSP. Keeping the above in mind, Persona 2 does have good graphics for its time, and with a few pre-rendered cut scenes here and there, it never feels too antiquated.

I mentioned earlier that one of the major stumbling blocks of this game’s release in the West was some of the content held within. There is good news and bad news, as almost all of the game is intact, including an implied homosexual relationship (assuming the player chooses that path), and the inclusion of Hitler as a boss character. The bad news is that Hitler is simply referred to as “Fuhrer” and is seen wearing a hilarious pair of sunglasses – just as he was in the Japanese version. This has caused many to jokingly call the character “cool Hitler”.

persona 2 innocent sin psp hitler

Assigning a value to this game can be hard as it will be loved by one generation of RPG fans, and possibly hated by the other. On one hand, the sheer length and content held within is staggering, especially compared to Persona PSP. While you could breeze through that game in no time at all, Innocent Sin could easily take 40-50 hours if you are a “completionist.” It took me a total of around 55, but bear in mind that I power leveled, talked to all NPCs and tried to do as many side quests as I could. People with less time on their hands might be able to finish it in around 25 or so, just breezing through the storyline. This is great for a handheld RPG, and makes it feel more like the real deal than other, sparser handheld RPGs out there.
All in all, Persona 2: Innocent Sin is a strong choice for any PSP RPG fan, and with PSP entering its twilight moments, this could very well be one of the system’s last hurrahs. The game shows its age with dated conventions such as mindless grinding, random encounters, and muddy graphics, but makes up for it in spades in both the storyline and gameplay departments. Fans of the newer Persona games will want to play it, as it is definitely the “missing link” between the old school mentality of Perosna PSP and the newer Personas (3 and 4 especially). So was the long wait worth it? Yes, and I loved every minute of it.

JokerPSPIntro

 

Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch EP (2018)

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have returned with the third and final EP of their two year EP project, and it was well worth the wait! Hot of the heels of Not the Actual Events and Add Violence, I can see why going the EP route was preferred this time around. When artists usually create music we get an album every half-decade or so, and it very well could be full of filler that you don’t like just so it can fill a 12-16 track threshold. With EPs we get small themes that don’t overstay their welcome and allow artists to produce more music more often. being a big metal fan, I’m used to this release method, but seeing more “big-name” artists do it is surprising.

Today we will be looking at Bad Witch, the new Nine Inch Nails EP that packs about a half hour of awesomeness into your ears.

The track listing is as follows

1. “Shit Mirror” 3:06
2. “Ahead of Ourselves” 3:30
3. “Play the Goddamned Part” 4:51
4. “God Break Down the Door” 4:14
5. “I’m Not from This World” 6:41
6. “Over and Out” 7:49

One of the surprises for me are some songs echoing back to older eras in Trent’s back catalog. For example, Ahead of Ourselves and Play the Goddamned Part sound vaguely like something that could have been on The Fragile. Shit Mirror, even sounds vaguely similar to another Fragile song Starfuckers Inc. while the tail end of I’m not from this world creeps back into Downward Spiral territory. But this isn’t a case of ACDCism, where a band makes every album sound the same, these homages to the past are just superficial, sort of like when a theme song pops up in the background of a movie when the action is really getting good and the viewer is like “oh hey Captain America’s about to show up.”

The main difference with this album versus the previous two is that there is a subtle jazz vibe to the whole thing. Saxophones play a big part in most of the songs and help achieve this unsettling tone that seems like the soundscape from a dingy nightclub in an 80’s police show. One thing I’ve enjoyed about this EP trilogy is the return of the aggression that made me enjoy NIN in the first place – and yes that is still there in this third release.

While this release didn’t come with a physical ARG component (one full of black powder that initially scared me) Trent has made allusions on the website to rethinking physical media making the vinyl or the person listening to the album the physical component this time around. This is an interesting change considering Reznor was on the bleeding edge of online distribution, even employing a “pay whatever you want” model for one of his albums. This in no way detracts from the album because a gimmick is a gimmick, and what I care about most is the music itself.

In these times of nearly unlimited access to all the music in the world, we’ve come to appreciate the value and beauty of the physical object. Our store’s focus is on presenting these items to you. Vinyl has returned to being a priority for us – not just for the warmth of the sound, but the interaction it demands from the listener. The canvas of artwork, the weight of the record, the smell of the vinyl, the dropping of the needle, the difficulty of skipping tracks, the changing of sides, the secrets hidden within, and having a physical object that exists in the real world with you… all part of the experience and magic.

Digital formats and streaming are great and certainly convenient, but the ideal way i’d hope a listener experience my music is to grab a great set of headphones, sit with the vinyl, drop the needle, hold the jacket in your hands looking at the artwork (with your fucking phone turned off) and go on a journey with me.

— Trent Reznor

All-in-all this is probably the best EP in the trilogy and is a must-have for nay Nine Inch Nails fan.

A Look at EVEN MORE Cameos in Tiger Mask W

 

One of the more popular things I’ve posted on here in a while was a look at cameos (true or implied) found in the recent pro wrestling anime Tiger Mask W.

A Look at All the Cameos in Tiger Mask W

Since I did that, more episodes have been released and there are even more cameos! Some of the funnier cameos are the “homage cameos” like characters that are obviously WWE wrestlers slightly tweaked to avoid copyright issues. If you’re a new fan of wrestling or not a fan at all, a lot of these references might be over your head, so that’s why this guide is here!


Tiger Jeet Singh / Gorilla Jeet Singh

The Tiger Mask W character Gorilla Jeet Singh is a barely hidden homage to the real-life professional wrestler Tiger Jeet Singh. Singh was a legend in Japan, and made his way over here by way of tape and DVD releases of various Japanese feds. I remember seeing him for the first time when he was teamed with a young Sabu in Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling (FMW) the fed that ECW owed a lot of their influence to.


Tiger the Black / Keith Lee

This is one of those cameos that is just implied rather than being really obvious. Tiger the Black has the same appearance, body type, and moveset as former PWG champion and recent WWE signee Keith Lee.


Gedo

While a popular tag team wrestler all over Japan, Gedo is most notable (now) for being the head booker of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Karl Anderson is quoted as saying the reason Gedo and Jado got these positions, and it involved cleaning up a mess from somebody who didn’t really know how to book wrestling leading to a huge downturn in sales. Gedo was railroaded basically into an office job, and excelled in his new role. He started giving guys more American-style gimmicks while keeping the matches important and the rest is history, now NJPW has a ton of merch in places like Hot Topic – something that would have been unheard of years ago.


The Candy Pair / Mizuki and Saki

Character designer Hisashi Kagawa has said that they are modeled after Japanese female pro-wrestlers Mizuki and Saki. And yes, they do look exactly the same.


Bosman / Michael Elgin

I’m actually not sure why Elgin isn’t officially in this series, seeing that he works for NJPW, but Bosman will have to do. He is signed with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), where he is a former NEVER Openweight Champion. In NJPW, he was also a one-time IWGP Intercontinental and a one-time NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champion. He is also known for his work in Ring of Honor (ROH), where he is a one-time ROH World Champion. He has also worked for the Southern California-based company Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, where he is a one-time PWG World Tag Team Champion with Brian Cage.


Red Death Mask

This is another case of a wrestler being portrayed in real life to advertise the anime Tiger Mask W. This has been done before with Tiger Mask and Tiger the Dark, so here we go with Juice Robinson in a red suit! In the anime he is one of the earlier opponents for Tiger Mask.


Kota Ibushi

Ibushi actually plays Tiger Mask W in real life, so here he is in anime form as well. Ibushi is probably best known for his work in Dramatic Dream Team (DDT) where he has had several videos go viral including a series of matches he had with a blow-up doll. In 2009, Ibushi started working for New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) and eventually signed with the promotion in 2013. In NJPW, he is a former three-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and a one-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion. He resigned from both DDT and NJPW in February 2016 and has since been performing in several different organizations as a freelancer, including both DDT and NJPW as well as WWE.


Odin / Gene Simmons

This is one of the sillier ones, but the art designers have said Gene Simmons of Kiss fame was the Model for Odin!

Lucha Underground Returns: Thoughts on Season 4 so far

For a while now, my favorite wrestling promotion has NOT been WWE or Impact Wrestling, but Lucha Underground. I’ve always been a fan of lucha libre, ever since one of my friends and I attempted to watch AAA on Galavision in the late 90’s with VERY minimal Spanish language skills. The problem is that watching this style of wrestling was always largely ignored by most magazines and tape trading companies (the outlet at the time before the internet was useful). Yeah, you could get ahold of tapes of translated Japanese wrestling easily, but Lucha was somehow ignored. MTV tried to bring it over twice with Wrestling Society X (which had a LOT of lucha talent) and Lucha Libre USA, neither lasting very long. Then there was Lucha Underground.

On paper, the entire idea behind the show was destined to be like it’s spiritual predecessor Wrestling Society X – a show with decent matches overwhelmed with so many gimmicks it fell apart and looked silly. Viewers used to the wrestling product produced by WWE are used to a lot of conventions that haven’t really changed in decades. Yeah, the addition of constantly harping about social media and elaborate entrance ramps are new, but the core has not really changed much – and I think a lot of that is due to casual fans getting mad when chances are made.

So here we have a show that fundamentally changes what a wrestling show is, in fact one can argue that it’s not a wrestling show, but a show that uses wrestling to drive the drama of a narrative. The entire thing is produced like a film, with slick backstage promos produced by Robert Rodriguez. Throwing out the “realism” that modern wrestling has embraced for the last 20 years or so, Lucha Underground revels in silliness that would be commonplace in a comic book. Just thinking about common tropes in the show illustrate this well: there have been a handful of on-screen deaths, there have also been on-screen resurrections due to magical powers. There are a few immortal characters, at least one time-traveler, a tribe of half-dragon people (not guys in suits, real dragon people), a couple of undercover cops trying to investigate a murder spree, and a shady organization seemingly trying to bring about the end of the world by way of Aztec gods or something.

This embracing of the fantastic is one of the main reasons that I treat this as how many would treat something like Game of Thrones. While other shows can be predictable, there are some SERIOUS surprises with Lucha Underground.

Another major difference is the filming schedule. Instead of airing as a continually-running weekly show in the vein of WWE or TNA programming, Lucha Underground films episodes in batches and airs episodes on a weekly basis under a seasonal structure. Matches are taped first, then out-of-ring story segments are filmed later; this method allows for tighter control of storylines and helps the production team when it comes to writing around injuries. What this means, is that there is a far less likelihood of a meandering storyline that the audience forgets about. There is also less of a chance of hostile micromanaging from a promoter i.e. not letting someone become popular because they aren’t the person you decided should be popular. Each storyline climaxes when they should, and it makes the final shows of the season, Ultima Lucha, seem far more important than many WWE Events, even WrestleMania!

Far more than anything else, the real strong point of Lucha Underground is that it has taken a handful of midcard talent, some discarded by bigger federations, and grown them into bonafide stars. Pentagon Jr., Aerostar, King Cuerno (El Hijo De Fantasma), Drago, and even Fenix were small time players in Mexico until hitting Lucha Underground, now they call the shots much to the dismay of AAA who would have liked to keep them under cheap contracts and quiet. When people are trying to find “this generations ECW” – I would say that you should ignore feds like ROH and PWG – while solid federations, they lack the edge and game-changing mindset that ECW did for wrestling during the Attitude Era. Look no further than Impact Wrestling to see how influential Lucha Underground is, as it’s basically starting to have the same roster.

You can only imagine how excited I was to see the start date for season 4 to finally roll by considering how unlikely it seemed that there would ever even be a season 4. Here we are two episodes in and I have some thoughts to share:

New and returning Heroes:

Season 4 starts out with a bang immediately with Aztec Warfare – This is Lucha Underground’s answer to battle royale style matches like The Royal Rumble. The match starts with two people in the ring and new wrestlers are introduced frequently until a winner is determined via pinfall. The premise this year is that Antonio Cueto (more on him later) is trying to clean up messes his son made and wants a different world champion. Hopefully this sets up a Pentaagon Jr. VS Antonio feud.

New entrants included ECW legend Tommy Dreamer, Mr. Pectacular Jessie Godderz, and King Cuerno. Cuerno was returning from a long absence, as was Shawn Hernandez and Vinnie Massaro. Sadly, we are missing people like Dante Fox, Dr. Wagner Jr. and Texano Jr. so far, I really hope that doesn’t last all season. All in all, this was a solid Aztec Warfare and considering the final two were Pentagon and Marty Martinez, “The Moth” was shown to be a potential main even player of they want everyone’s least favorite sleaze ball to run for the gold. My favorite AW match is still AW 2 and the introduction of Matanza, but this was solid.

Episode two introduces new members of Infamous Incorporated (managed by Famous B and Beautiful Brenda) in Jake Strong, Big Bad Steve and Sammy Guevara. Jake Strong is the real standout here as he is the former WWE star Jack Swagger. It was cool seeing him get such a solid reception by fans in The Temple considering how crappily he was used in WWE towards the end.

New Villains:

I mentioned Antonio Cueto up there, you read that right as Dario is gone. In fact, he is currently dead due to being killed by his father’s goons. I say currently because anything can happen in Lucha Underground (I’m waiting for an undead Dario face-turn). The funny thing is, that the two characters are both played by Luis Fernandez-Gil but could not be any more different. The bombastic arrogance of Dario has been replaced by the cold-hearted no-nonsense demeanor of his father. Instead of constantly putting folks in bad situations like winning a match only to be placed into a second match right after, Antonio states that “he is a far better promotor than Dario” and sets things up for the following week. Let’s see how long that lasts before he also goes off the deep end as all Cuetos do. We saw a bit of this when Matanza lost against Pentagon Jr. only to be berated by his father to a point where he cowered in fear.

Confusion?

Really my only quibble with the start of season 4 was a bit of a continuity glitch wherein, they completely ignored that Vampiro (on commentary) cheated to harm Prince Puma (now in WWE as Ricochet) to help Pentagon yet again. This caused Matt Striker to rip into Vampiro for it. This week? No tension at all – I know time heals all wounds, but the lack of a call-back seems like an afterthought.

While this season was allegedly made with a budget slash in mind, and was touted to be different than different seasons in the press lead-ups to it in such a way that it seemed like it would be worse – This feels just like previous seasons of Lucha Underground. Perhaps there were less backstage vignettes than what we’re used to, but that’s about it. Great job so far, can’t wait for more!

The Monday Meme: Time

Pro Wrestling Crate June 2018 Unboxing / Review

Looks like it’s that time of the month again! Time for yet another subscription crate un-boxing. I know I seem to do a lot of these, but truthfully it’s just a few each month and the ones I usually get are awesome. As you may or may not know, I’m an avid collector of wrestling memorabilia and signed autographs, and as someone that usually doesn’t care for receiving gifts on holidays and other special occasions, these boxes seem to give me the same feeling most people get on their birthday or Christmas. Now before I start a therapy session, it’s time for the main event: This week we’re taking a look at the Pro Wrestling Crate June 2018!


Spoiler Card

This month’s theme is “Ladies of Wrestling” with some of the proceeds of this crate going to an organization called Womankind. Womankind is a UK-based organization that helps support other organizations in developing nations that help women’s rights. I’m not actually sure how long PWC has been donating to charity in these, as I may have been insanely unobservant in the past, but either way it’s cool to see them helping others with some of the money they receive.

With women’s wrestling in what many would consider to be it’s highest point in many decades, it’s fun to have one of these boxes devoted exclusively to the division.


Shirt 1: Sugar Skull Amy Dumas / Lita Shirt

 

Cool distressed sugar skull shirt from WWE’s Lita / Amy Dumas.


Shirt 2: Join the Hive – Rosemary

 

Easily Impact Wrestling’s biggest female star of the last few years and one of the cooler babyface gimmicks in the entire company.


Candice LeRae Micro Brawler

 

I absolutely love these little figures we get each month exclusively in this subscription box. This one will be proudly displayed next to my Joey Ryan figure to recreate the World’s Cutest Tag Team or holding a spot for a possible Johnny Gargano figure I hope we eventually get. I have started amassing quite the collection of these:


Barbie Blank / Kelly Kelly Poster

While not my favorite wrestler, Kelly Kelly sure makes a nice pin-up poster. Granted, I have very few places I could actually put this without looking like a total sleazeball. Maybe I can hang it near my exercise equipment.


Vickie Guerrero autographed 8×10

Another solid  addition to my collection. I really need to post some of those on here one of these days.


Shayna Bazsler Playing Cards

 

What better merch for the “Queen of Spades” than a deck of playing cards!


Tessa Blanchard collector’s Pin

 

Impact Wrestling’s latest female star and former Mae Young Tournament competitor Tessa Blanchard is the exclusive pin this month, very nice!


In the Ring DVD: Luna Vachon

I am woefully behind on my wrestling DVDs, but this looks pretty cool. Perhaps most well known for her work in WWF in the 90’s, Luna was one of the few female wrestlers at that time, that I was legit scared of.  Here is part of the blurb on the back on the DVD:

Shot on 6/6/06 at a wrestling school behind a mental institution, Luna and Vampire Warrior covered all the wrestling basics such as bumping, selling, and working for the camera as they weaved in stories from being on the road and working with WWE! This was an amazing performance that needs to be seen to be believed. Everyone remembers Luna’s insane promos and on this exclusive DVD she takes the time to work with the students on their promo skills. We even got a chance to watch Luna cut some of her most infamous promos and explained to us where they came from emotionally.


Tenille Dashwood’s aviator sunglasses

 

Emma was one of the most criminally underused characters in the last decade in WWE, I’m very glad she’s been doing well in the indies, and especially her work in Ring of Honor. Cool sunglasses as well.


All-in-all another great box from Pro Wrestling Crate – as always the autograph is always a highlight for me, but the shirts (especially the Rosemary one) were great, and I love my Micro Brawlers! pound for pound, this is the best wrestling crate out there. It usually has the most diverse selection of items, and the coolest themes. To get your own, head on over to Pro Wrestling Crate at the following link: Pro Wrestling Crate!

Next month’s box is all about the bad guys

The Monday Meme: BOOOOOOOOO

Lady Death: Chaos Rules / Lady Death: Damnnation Game (2015)

One of my guilty pleasures in the world of comics are “cheesecake comics” an outdated term for a comic with sexy women in it (beefcake is more used today for the opposite). One thing I will never do is get on a soapbox and try to pretend that the only reason I read comics like this are for some metatextual ironic reason, or that I believe books like this are in some way feminist in nature. Honestly, some books like this are pretty trashy, although I try to avoid the stuff that veers into total smut as the storytelling is usually the caliber of a late night Cinemax movie.

What I will say is that I enjoy the art and I like the carefree attitude most of them have, and that’s why I read them. Most of these comics are not really erotic in any way nor do they depict lurid acts for the most part, but everyone in it usually dresses like they live in a Frank Miller movie, so there’s that. If you recall I have posted reviews in the past for Vampirella comics, which despite the silly costuming and gratuitous poses, is actually a good read and a fairly compelling comic for somebody that loves gothic horror. I also enjoy things like Conan and Red Sonja which are both barbarian adventure comics, and cheesecake depending on the story. So why am I rambling about this? Today we’re talking about what I consider to be the “best of both worlds” in terms of gratuitous imagery and a barbarian tone – Brian Pulido’s Lady Death.

Much like Dawn and Vampirella, I remember being introduced to comics like this when I was a teenager in the 90’s and an avid reader of Wizard Magazine. They would usually have posters or articles about these comics, and they looked really cool, but the comics were usually kept in the forbidden “behind the counter” zone that young impressionable teens had no access to at the local comic shop. Had I seen a stray side-boob at that age, you never know what sort of miscreant I would be today!

Coffin Comics, the new company helmed by Lady Death creator Brian Pulido, has an interesting way of making comics in this modern climate of digital distribution and Amazon running everything out of business. Instead of a model where comics are sent out to stores, he funds each issue with a Kickstarter campaign resulting in a landslide victory each time in funding and a ton of swag to the contributors. I have been able to participate in the last few campaigns and have been rewarded with all manner of posters, bumper stickers, cards, guitar picks, and even challenge coins. While some creators use the funding to pad their wallets or to fund other things than what the fans are contributing to, Coffin Comics leaves me happy each time even though I will never be able to use all of the silly swag I get. But where did this business model come from?

Coffin Comics was started in 2007 by Pulido, who is the previously mentioned creator of pretty much all of the properties formerly under the roof of a company called Chaos! Comics. These titles included Lady Death, Evil Ernie, Purgatori, Chastity, Jade, Bad Kitty, and Lady Demon. At one point, Lady Death was big enough to have her own trading card sets and other merch that usually was only reserved for big Marvel and DC properties. When Chaos ceased publishing, the license to Lady Death moved to another company called CrossGen publishing that went out of business about a decade ago.

After a few false starts, everyone’s favorite anti-hero is back home with Pulido in this new company since 2015. When asked about this new strategy utilizing Kickstarter, Pulido has remarked that he’s not really interested in the mass market that much (although he does sell through Diamond like most comics) but has a comic collector in mind with every decision. That’s why all of the comics are marked #1 and there are TONS of alternate covers for each issue – some with print-runs as low as 12 copies! While that seems silly, the fans of his don’t seem to mind, it’s just a quirk of getting comics from them.

To date: the following titles have been released:

  • Lady Death: Chaos Rules
  • Lady Death: Damnation Game
  • Lady Death: Extinction Express
  • Lady Death: Oblivion Kiss
  • Lady Death: Merciless Onslaught
  • Lady Death: Unholy Ruin
  • Lady Death: Apocalyptic Abyss

So getting into the first of our double feature – Chaos Rules #1, the comic assumes you know who Lady Death is right from the get-go and wastes no time in making sure you know anything. Granted, there’s nothing keeping a new reader from understanding the plot, but a vague knowledge of the basic plot could be a plus. I would recommend perhaps watching the 2004 film created by the Now defunct anime studio AD Vision and written by Carl Macek. It’s not completely true to the source material, but it helps sum up the backstory. Here it is conveniently found on YouTube:

If you don’t want to watch that, the gist of her origin is that she was once  a young girl in medieval Sweden named Hope. Her father was a local nobleman named Matthias (Marius in one of the reboots) who was forcibly conscripting peasants into military service as feudal levies. Unknown to his innocent daughter, Matthias had a dark secret.

Although congratulated by the Church for his work against the pagans, he was despised by the common folk as a cruel tyrant. Matthias was outwardly pious, but secretly dabbled in black magic and demonology. He was actually a descendant of the fallen angels who had led the rebellion against God. A couple of the series change what happens next a bit, but Hope’s father summons a demon and Hope is captured in his place to be tried as a witch – she uses the same incantation her father was using and summons another demon that gives her a choice: Die or live as a soldier in Hell. She takes the latter and becomes a bad-ass warlord to face her father or to take over Hell depending on the version.

“In Chaos Rules #1, Lady Death is awakened from a 20-year, spell-induced slumber, she finds herself in the fiery pits of Hell. Two decades of her life, gone –– nothing more than nightmares. Who among her depraved enemies is responsible? How long until she exacts bloody vengeance? Not long!!! This is the first new Lady Death comic I’ve personally published in 12 years. This story –– chock full of sex, violence, and very bad behavior –– is Lady Death, fully realized.”

The above is a quote from Brian Pulido from the Kickstarter page and it sets the tone of the comic. This is definitely a re-introduction the the character that I assume many have not kept up with for a number of years, if not decades. While no Citizen Kane in terms of writing, the story is well conveyed and well-written for this type of comic. Perhaps the only thing holding this back from being “great” was the fact that some of the art is a bit cold or static, making it hard to tell what exactly is going on.

This is a minor gripe though, as fans of the original book and fans of this genre will enjoy it immensely. It was good to see the story scaled back after the almost Dragonball Z styled power boost given to the characters in later incarnations – a trend that seems to ruin most comics like this. It happened in Spawn, Punisher, and even Dragonball Z! It’s nice to see the Lady return to her roots.

Damnation Game #1

“Lady Death rescues an innocent boy dragged to Hell, inciting an ultra-violent quest into the depths of Damnation, a depraved city hosting ‘The Hades Engine,” a contraption that can return the boy to earth. But Lady Death’s actions bring her into direct conflict with the nefarious Hellwitch. Who will live? Who will die? With her return to Hell, Lady Death is public enemy number one, and you know what? She wouldn’t have it any other way. Let the mayhem begin!”

Coffin’s second outing is another solid read, but is held back by the exact opposite issue I had with the first issue. While the art in this is better than in the first, my opinion at least, the writing isn’t as well-done. some bits of dialog are very stilted, perhaps cliché and seem forced. On the flip-side, there are moments of great foreshadowing that Dheeraj Verma and Sabine Rich employed that conveyed a plot twist coming up better with their use of panels than the dialog could do. I loved the artwork.

This book is also the introduction of a new nemesis for Lady Death in a character named Hell Witch. You see Lady Death may have offed her Daddy in the last issue, so Hell Witch is out for vengeance. Since I’m assuming old Chaos! characters like Purgatori are off the table, Hell Witch seems like a fine replacement without being a direct clone or simple stand-in of the other. Although, to be honest, part of me would love to see these older characters eventually make their ways back home as well.

All-in all you really can’t go wrong with either book – stay tuned for more as I have all of the issues so far and will try to do more reviews! I will also do a kickstarter un-boxing whenever my La Muerta: Retribution stuff arrives.