Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Marvel's Luke Cage

I finished the Netflix series Luke Cage last night. I loved it.

Luke, himself, was a great, positive, likeable character. Though he often tried to avoid getting involved in the conflicts, for as many times as he said he wasn't a hero, when it came down it, he would always to step up to defend others. Even in the final part of the story, when all of NYPD was hunting him, and he was on the verge of just leaving town, he saw something going down that he could stop, he couldn't ignore it.

Being a character I know nothing about, this portrayal made me really like him, and I really appreciated that about this show. I haven't finished watching Jessica Jones, in part because everyone in that show is just SO miserable and difficult to like, that it's hard for me to get into it. Superhero stores are definitely escapism, and wish-fulfillment fantasies, so I appreciate characters that have fantastic powers and want to use them. I always respond positively to a story about someone being excited by their abilities, because that's how I think I would be. As such, that's probably why Killgrave was the only character I really liked in JJ, because he appreciated his powers. Jessica was just too mopey about them, and I understand why, but that is hard for me to relate to, and I feel Luke Cage did the reluctant hero bit better, because while he may not have asked for his powers, he was more willing to use them for good.

Shades was my favorite character, after Luke. He was committed to his path, but he was also calm, logical, and clear headed about everything. In the first part of the show, I liked that he was trying to reign in Cottonmouth, keep him focused on the business, not get distracted by the Luke Cage situation. And again, when Diamondback appeared and turned out to be off his rocker, Shades was there trying to keep everything under control, and not endanger their position. I was afraid a couple of times he was going to pay for his sins by being killed off, but I'm glad he wasn't, and would be available for use in a season 2.

As for the two main villains, Cottonmouth and Diamondback: I feel something was off there. I don't know anything about Luke Cage in comics, him or his villains. I assume these are both characters from the comics, but I feel that by both having snake names, they should have been more of a team, or had more of a history together, rather than being from vastly different places and it just happenstance that they each have a snake street name from when they were kids. Whenever Diamondback was mentioned before he was introduced, I pictured them as a snake-themed criminal organization, like the Five Deadly Venoms, or Deadly Viper Assassins from Kill Bill (which I suddenly realized is actually probably a reference to Five Deadly Venoms), and was disappointed that there was no history or relationship even hinted at.

Usually, I enjoy personal stories between the hero and villain, and I enjoy a good insane villain, but in this case I liked Cottonmouth more, of the two, because it wasn't a personal story and because he wasn't crazy. He was just a criminal businessman, and Luke started interfering with his business. Diamondback immediately seemed insane, and I guess in this fairly sane, real-world setting, he felt like he didn't fit in. It felt like he was a little too Joker from The Dark Knight, too chaotic/watch the world burn, as long as he took down Luke. I mean, even if he had defeated Luke at the end, he was going down, the cops were there ready to take him out, he would lose his empire, while Cottonmouth was mostly focused on getting a business obstacle out of his way so he could make his money and build his influence and power.

The rest of the characters were sufficiently interesting, I liked seeing Claire again, tying this show to Daredevil for me (does she show up in Jessica Jones? There's some allusions to her meeting Luke previously, so I assumed its in that show), and I liked the teaser at the end of the show that seems to hint that she will appear in Iron Fist (I'm rather excited for this one, being a fan of martial arts movies). Turk's brief appearances also tie the shows together, which again, I appreciate the world building. Misty Knight was mostly likeable, and honestly I think I'd be up for seeing a show focused on her.

Though I am not a fan of the styles of music used in Luke Cage, I enjoyed the use of it in the show. It is such a part of the feel of the show, such a part of the character of Cottonmouth, that as a musician myself, that actually might be another reason why Cottonmouth resonated with me more than Diamondback. I did legitimately like the group performing at Harlem's Paradise in the first episode, and kinda want to hunt down the songs featured.

In a similar way that I am not really familiar with the music in the show, I am not familiar with Harlem, or black communities, but I appreciated the cultural aspect of the show. I don't think I've ever seen a blaxploitation film, and I found the focus on race, and black history, and representation fascinating. Somebody I know told me something to the effect of, one of the reasons this show wasn't as relate-able to them was there were no white people in the cast. And of course, that's not true, there were like two white guys in it! Detective Scarfe, and probably maybe some other guy I don't remember. And not everyone was black, there were a couple of Latin people too.

Of course, their point wasn't that they can't watch something comprised of an nearly-entirely black cast, but that their viewpoint can be foreign (or uncomfortable) to white people. I've watched quite a few Japanese TV shows, I've watched Chinese martial arts films, I lived in South America for two years, so to see something that's doesn't feature white people in and of itself isn't new to me, but I guess a show with that viewpoint is new to me. The shadow of oppression and minimizing a person for their gender or race is over the entire show, and that is not something I am used to. I don't know what it's like to feel oppressed for my race or skin color, I don't know what it's like to be persecuted by authority, but the sentiments all felt legitimate to me and I appreciated those viewpoints being expressed in the show, because it is rather foreign to me. I don't really understand the existence of racism, but more importantly, I don't know what it's like to be subject to racism, and I think this show provided that insight very naturally.

One final thought was that the ending was more bittersweet than I expected. In the final episode as the final conflicts were being resolved, I thought they were all being given a nice, happy, resolution. And then suddenly things go a bit sour, but not in an off-putting way, but again, a sort of real-life-the-good-guys-may-have-triumphed-but-evil-is-not-fully-vanquished sort of way. Just when it looked like everything was going his way, the tertiary villain is off the hook, Luke is going back to prison, and Misty is devastated by a mistake that cost someone their life, and it's her fault and she is told so, in rather strong terms. In a way it felt like it was leaving things set up for a second season, but it also felt like, no, this is how the real world works. Sure, Luke saved Harlem from an arms dealer, but he also broke out of prison, and needs to pay for that. Sure, the cops know Miriah killed someone, but they haven't enough proof to get her through the system, which can be supplanted by connections and money. It put a bit of a damper on the high of thinking Cage had conquered all, but it also grounded it in a believable way, that I liked.

Well, I think that concludes by thoughts and feelings on the show. It was an enjoyable superhero story, with some deeper, meaningful real world relate-ability, that was presented in a way that didn't break my fantasy-escapism requirements, and left me with things to consider beyond the superhero aspects of it. It feels like a mostly complete story, one I am happy with as is, if there is no second season, but also a story I would look forward to seeing more of, if there is a second season.

I'd call that a success.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

New Video Review and Figuarts Photo Galleries

Hey, I made another video review, taking a look at COBRA Commander, Battlefield General, from a favorite toy line of mine, GI Joe Sigma 6.

I've also been (sorta) busy making new photo galleries/reviews at TokuNation.com, too. I've started going through all the SH Figuarts from the Kamen Rider W series, starting with his three main forms.

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider W Cyclone Joker

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider W Heat Metal

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider W Luna Trigger

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Looking Back at 2014 - Part 2 - 14 Disappointments

In starting this post, I don't know if I was disappointed enough with figures to come up with 14. Why 14? Because Essex_Alpha on Twitter told me to (Top 14 of 2014). But then again, I probably bought 14 Hasbro figures, and compared to my usual Figuarts fare, Hasbro figures don't quite cut it. So, let's see what made me sad to have bought in 2014, and why. In no particular order, just numbered so I can keep track of where how many I've done.

I guess we'll start with a big one, and unexpectedly, a Bandai figure. Gundam Fix Figuration Metal Composite Unicorn Gundam BANSHEE is a downright beautiful figure: The gold on faceplate and horn is extremely shiny, the gold lettering is not so shiny, for a nice toned down look. Said gold lettering, I don't know if it's stickers, or tampos or what, but it's very cleanly applied, it gives lots of detail to the figure, it's great. The overall finish is a dark metallic blue, where I expected it to be a dark grey. In the right light, I like it. It looks like it's worth what it cost (and it cots A LOT). So why is it a disappointment?

Firstly, the design. I don't like the proportions. This figure is 90% legs, and it makes it look awkward to me. Secondly, the articulation is much more limited than I expected. I was comparing this to, and expecting it to be as good as, Metal Build 00 Gundam, which I maintain is far and away the greatest thing I have ever purchased (not coincidentally, it's also just about the most expensive thing I've ever purchased). Sadly, Banshee doesn't have as good of articulation as 00. The joints just don't have the range, nor the natural look to them, that 00 does, and that was very disappointing. Overall the figure feels a lot more fragile than 00, as well. I can't quite explain it, but I was a lot more wary of messing with Banshee than I ever have been with 00.

Finally, because this thing has a transformation of sorts - panels all over the body flip out, or open up, to reveal bits of the inner frame, it feels very fiddly. I didn't bother putting it into Destroy mode, because once I had it in hand, and was immediately considering selling it, I didn't want to hastle with flipping all those panels, and having to put them back. Plus, the head panels don't feel like they lock into place at all for Unicorn mode, so whenever I'd try to tilt the head back a little, the mask would start flipping down in preparation for converting to Destroy mode.

So, for me, Metal Composite Banshee is, unfortunately, a not recommend.

Going with another big one, Bovis, Fortis, Tigris, Talon and Leo Dux, aka FERAL REX, by Mastermind Creations. I'm probably exaggerating my feelings on these guys, by putting them on a disappointments list, I was really more ambivalent towards them. But then again, for what these cost, I shouldn't be ambivalent, I should love them. Part if it probably stems from my general dislike of Transformers with animal modes. Don't get me wrong, these are the best things Mastermind has released (okay, I don't have Azalea, so she might be better), I'm not nearly disappointed with these like I was their armored paddleship Cyclops, which was a big fiddly mess (looked great, though). But despite how excited I kept thinking I was to complete these, I never once transformed a single one of them, nor even really contemplated combining them once I had them all. The robot modes were all pretty good, and I don't think I would be unhappy owning just one of them (Talon, probably), but I didn't like them near enough to justify what I spent on them, so in December they all went on to more appreciative owners.

Images borrowed without asking from FigureFanZero, because I never took pictures of my own, and because he's an awesome guy (check out our podcast) and because he actually liked them. Check out his Feral Rex reviews, or any of his other awesome reviews.

This one is kinda interesting, in that it should almost end up on my favorites list when I write it, as on this one. Figma Iron Man Mark VII. I love Figma's Thor figure, and while Captain America has a problem I need to fix (loose wrist pegs), it's also fantastic, so I had high hopes for Iron Man. So much so, that I spent an extra $30-ish to get the Good Smile Company exclusive, which had to be ordered from Japan thru a middle man. It seemed worth it to me, it comes with extra arm pieces with missile launchers extended, a back piece with flight flaps deployed, extra leg pieces, and a most excellent alternate head, with the faceplate up and Tony Stark revealed underneath. Honestly, I'm happy I bought the figure just for that unmasked head.

But beneath all that awesomeness there are loose joints (especially in the legs, a stupid hand guard design, and even worst knee pads, that seem to be designed to fall off as much as possible. Loose joints is always a ticket to Imnothappywithitville, and on an expensive, Japan-exclusive figure like this, it can be really hard to overcome (see my video review of MAFEX Batman for an extreme example of this). The figure does look very good, it displays well with the Figuarts Iron Mans, despite being taller, but really, the Mark VII armor is pretty ugly (sorry Joss, you are wrong, the Mark VI was awesome, the VII is the crap design). So while Figma IM is probably the least disappointing figure on this list (I still own it, the other disappoints have been sold), in large part due to the Tony Stark head, I must say, if Bandai ever announces a Figuarts Mark VII this Figma will be on eBay before you can say "I am Iron Man". Minus the Stark head, of course.

I've been a big fan of the Star Trek Official Starships Collection by Eaglemoss, have quite a few of them, but the Special Edition 2009 Enterprise was a disappointment. Being a Special Edition, it is bigger than the others. My OCD prefers that the ships either all be in scale with each other (impractical for many reasons), or the same size, so the collection looks uniform. Fine, I like the design, so to have it, I'll pay more and try to get over the larger size. But I expect it to be at least as good as the ones that cost half as much, if not twice as good. But the nacelles didn't line up with each other, or with the saucer so it looked wonky, overall it just looked and felt cheap enough for me, that it didn't justify the $40 price. It's not as good, but for now I'll have to stick with the Playmates one, that's at least a close fit with the larger DST Enterprises I have.

Alongside the Starships collection, Eaglemoss also has a Batman Automobilia collection of Batman vehicles. If money and space were no object I'd have a number of these, but as it is I thought I'd cherry pick my favorites. However, when the second one I chose, The Bat from The Dark Knight Rises, arrived broken to piece inside it's display box, I dropped the line. There are still a few I'd like to get, because they display nicely, I like the scenic backdrops they come with, but needing to cut back on my spending, and because of the pile of sadness that was supposed to be The Bad, this line became an easy pass.

Marvel Legends or Infinite or whatever it's called nowadays GOTG Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, Star Lord. Guardians of the Galaxy was a surprise hit for me. I loved it, it's probably my favorite movie of 2014 (followed closely by the more serious, but less fun films Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier and The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies), so I was easily tempted to break my ban on Hasbro figures and pick up the Marvel Legends. I knew I'd be disappointed if I compared them to Figuarts (or the Figma Avengers), but I heard enough good things about them that when I found the set, on sale $5 off each one, no less, I couldn't say no. I should have.

Everything that I don't like about US toys was present in these figures. Limited articulation (Rocket barely has any articulation at all), most have few accessories (Star Lord has lots, and that's cool), soft plastic, gummy joints, bendy weapons, and so on. Star Lord is almost not disappointing, for all the cool accessories he includes, and Groot is almost okay, but still has limited articulation, no accessories, no alternate heads or arms or weapons anything.

And I'm not even counting the crappy Iron Man and not-movie Nova that you had to buy to complete Groot, cuz I didn't care about them, I'm sure they're just as bad as the Guardians, I just didn't care about them in the first place. But the ones I wanted were all disappointing. Gamora doesn't look much like her, she can't stand at all, Drax and Star Lord have super rubbery joints, especially in the knees, so their legs are all wonky looking, Rocket is just crap. These sorts of things are why I transitioned to more expensive toys, like Figuarts and Figmas. Yes, they cost more, 2x-3x more, but they are WORTH more. the worst Figuarts is still 3 times better than the best DCUC or Marvel Legends, and a good Figuarts, like Gaim or Iron Man Mark VI, they're almost incomparably better. The value and joy I derive from a toy is far more important than the actual monetary cost, when deciding what to buy. I knew I would be disappointed when I bought these, but I did it anyway, so maybe I should be more disappointed with myself, than with Hasbro.

Images borrowed without asking from trustarscream, because I never took pictures of my own, and because he's an awesome guy (check out our podcast) and because he managed to make Gamora look good. Check out his Guardians of the Galaxy reviews, or any of his other awesome reviews.

Okay, this one's a stretch, but to come up with 14, I'll throw it in here. Hasbro Transformers, in general. When the Generations line started a couple of years ago, it was amazing, it followed the Classics design aesthetics, which is exactly what I wanted from TFs at the time, and it had a great character selection to match. But in the last couple of years the looks have changed, and more importantly, the quality, or at least, my perception of it, has declined to the point where not a single Voyager class Transformer tempted me all last year, and only one deluxe did, and technically it was a repaint of a figure from the year before. I went from buying a couple hundred Transformers in a couple of years, to buying only 3 last year (not counting the 10 Third Party figures I bought, 6 of those I ended up selling). And 2015's prospects aren't really that good. I think I'll be tempted by the Combiner Wars Devastator, but then again, I have an expensive, good quality, 3rd Party Devastator that I really like, and I don't think that with Hasbro's restrictions, budgetary, target market, whatever they be, I just don't think Hasbro Transformers appeals to me any more. The Masterpiece line still does, but I'm not likely to ever have money for those this year.

So, those are my downers from 2014. Stay tuned for a much more positive post when I try to narrow down a list of 150+ things I liked to my 14 favorites. I might have to cheat a little more on that list. :D

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Looking Back at 2014 - Part 1

I mentioned this on Twitter a a couple weeks ago, but in case you don't follow me there (and if not, why not? I mostly only post pics on Twitter now), here are a few stats for my 2014 purchases. And lest the results frighten me more than they already do, I won't do too much maths on it.

I bought around 180 items last year, some were multi-packs, so the total number of individual figures will be a bit more than that, however, several things I bought last year were then also sold last year, so the increase may actually be a little under 180. Of my purchased items, 70 where SH Figuarts releases, including bikes and effects sets. Counting figures in two packs, pretty much half of the action figures I bought last year were Figuarts, which matches up to my impression that all I collected last year was the SHF line.

However, for every Figuarts I bought, I apparently bought another figure. I bought 14 Gundam model kits, mostly High Grades, 12 Transformers (10 3rd Party, 2 official), 11 Cloth Myth figures (plus the 10th Anniversary Stage set, which costs as much as a cheap Cloth Myth figure), 12 Figmas, only 6 Eaglemoss Star Trek ships, 7 Marvel Legends, 9 Star Wars Black 6", 6 Play Arts Kai, 2 ArtFX+ DC figures, 2 DC Statues, a mere 3 Robot Damashii Gundam figures (WAY down from 2013), and a few other misc figures/items.

Some things surprise me when glancing over this list. The Eaglemoss Star Trek ship line: I don't remember off the top of my head how far into the line we are, but for me to only have 7, either a ton came out in 2013 that I bought, or I don't have nearly as many of those as I would expect. I have been cherry picking the line, and trying to force myself to be as picky as possible, but I love Star Trek ship designs, and given an infinite amount of money, I would buy all 70 planned ships. Robot Damashii. I think got into Gundam in 2013, and I went a little crazy with the RD line, buying something like, IDK, maybe 30-ish, maybe a few more, that year. For me to only get 3 of them this year is a big improvement. More so, one was a gift, and one I sold, along with maybe 10 more of the 2013 buys. I like the line, but I also enjoy building the kits, so I'm slowly moving my Gundam collection that way. There are still plenty of kits I want to buy, but I doubt I'll buy nearly as many as I would like this coming year. I will try to get a couple Master Grades, though.

ArtFX+ DC figurines/statues, whatever they call them. These are beautiful, non-poseable figures of DC characters, and while the line is still going reasonably strong and several of them tempt me, I'm done with it. The two I bought this year cap off the collection I started in 2013, I have all I set out to get, so I can stop here. I'm probably also done with the Play Arts Kai lines. If they do the latest Harley Quinn design (from Arkham Knight or Arkham Origins, something like that) I'll buy it, but I don't think I'm feeling the Harley from the DC Variant line, and the price on these has risen FAR past their actual value. There's still one I'm trying to hunt down at a good price (DC Variant Supergirl), but other than that, I'm done.

I bought a THIRD Double Driver, from Kamen Rider Double. I LOVE the show, I love the Gaia Memory/belt gimmick, and apparently I'm incapable of going more than a few months without owning the belt. I should sell it, because I never use it, but I know I would eventually feel pressured to buy it, yet again, so why bother going thru that. I'll keep the one I've got and be happy with it.

I finally yielded to the temptation I've felt over the Saint Seiya Cloth Myth line over the years, and am both glad and not-glad I did. The figures are beautiful, the EX line is very well executed, poseable, tons of accessories, everything I look for it toys. Except they're freaking expensive. Again, there are a handful I'd still like to get, and I may try and pick up a couple this year, but they will continue to be few and far in between.

I'm cutting back even more on Transformers, especially 3rd Party TFs. They continue to be far more fulfilling to me than anything Hasbro does, and I usually find the value justifies the cost, but my wallet cannot handle the cost, so I will be dropping pretty much all of them. I do hope ToyWorld finishes up their not-Throttlebots combiner though, I'll still pick up those. Additionally, I'd like to get at least two more Masterpieces, Wheeljack and Ultra Magnus (or KFC Citizen Stack instead), but only Wheeljack is even remotely likely with my 2015 financial situation.

Finally, Figuarts. Again, in my mind the only thing I really collected this year was Figuarts. Clearly, that wasn't an accurate impression, but I think it will be even more true in 2015. Since I will be cutting back in the extreme this year, I'll have to be extra choosy in what I buy, and SH Figuarts continually proves to have the best cost to value, in my opinion, and consistently be the figures I'm most pleased with. But I still need to cut back on them. I will not be getting into the Drive line the way I did Gaim (ie, MUST BUY THEM ALL!). I will not be going back to pick up past releases I have missed out on (thankfully, there's no longer many of those left for me to get, so hopefully this will be an easy achievement).

I will do everything I can to get the remaining Gaim figures, and other high importance figures (Renewal Kuuga is already paid for, and NOTHING will stop me from buying Kiva, if Bandai ever gets around to him). The Star Wars line will probably be hard to pass up on, since I'm not especially pleased with Star Wars Black 6", and I plan to sell all of my 3-3/4" Hasbro figures this year, but I will likely not be able to be completist. I'll focus on my main Star Wars loves, the Imperials. I love all of those designs, I have Vader and the Stormtrooper paid for, I'll be first in line for things like the AT-AT Driver and Royal Guard, but those seem unlikely in the first year anyway, so hopefully I won't be missing out on too many figures I want. The Ranma 1/2 line will also be hard to pass up, I love the show, and have been watching through it this last year and lamenting the lack of poseable figures. The Figuarts line is right up my alley. As with Star Wars, hopefully they'll be spread out enough I can get everything I want without selling my soul or turning to a life of crime.

So, I won't have my normal plethora of new toys to post pics of on Twitter, so I'll have to make do with pictures of stuff I've already got. Hopefully I can be entertaining with that. I also intend to do more photo galleries for TokuNation, and I should do more video reviews for the fun of it.

So, that's a summary look at 2014. I hope to have a more in-depth look at several of my most and least favorite purchases of the year in the near future, so check those out, if I ever post them. :)

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Friday, December 12, 2014

2 Drunk Geeks and Ryan Episode 4 - Ryan Plays Too Much Minecraft

Episode 4 of our toy collecting podcast is out, yay! Check it out! Episode 4 Ryan Plays Too Much Minecraft

And I probably forgot to announce episode 3 when it happened. Episode 3 Who Crashed the Ship?

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

2 Drunk Geeks and Ryan - Episode 2: Germ Warfare

2 Drunk Geeks and Ryan, Episode 2 is out now!

Aaaand it looks like I didn't talk about being on a podcast here. So I'll do it now. I'm on a podcast, yaaaaaay! A podcast about collecting toys! Please check it out, if you would like to hear more about I and a couple of my twitter bros collect. I think we're funny, and somewhat informative. Listen to Episode 1.

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Review #74: Supergirl New 52 DC Cover Girls Statue

I've been meaning to post about this video review since I uploaded it.

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