Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Witch Hunter Robin (2002)

Witch Hunter Robin (2002) is a Japanese supernatural anime set in contemporary Japan. The plot revolves around witchcraft and mystery. It contains 26 episodes, and is available to buy on DVD.

Robin Sena, a 15-year-old female craft user, arrives from Italy to work for an underground global organization named STN Japan Division (STN-J) as a replacement for one of STN-J's witch hunters who was recently killed. Solomon headquarters tries to capture the witches alive in order to learn why and how they became witches in the first place. Witches are individuals with special powers like telekinesis, mind control, and extrasensory perception. It fights witchcraft by using a database of witches, which includes those who have obtained the power through genetics and others who carry the gene (called "seeds"). It also uses witch hunters to arrest or eliminate them should their powers "awaken".

During her mission, Robin begins unravelling the secrets of both the witches and STN-J. What is the fabled item that holds the secrets of the craft? As the series goes on, Robin grows increasingly uncomfortable with her role in hunting and capturing other witches. She begins to question the treatment they receive while incarcerated in the mysterious "Factory." She is also uncertain about her origins, and the truth may reveal the meaning behind the secrets of the craft.

Although this anime series came out a decade ago, it still feels fresh and original. There was no one to root for because both sides seemed to engage in devious behavior. As one of the top-ranked anime in 2002, I can understand now why critics highly recommend the show. There is little romance and comedy, but the plot does pick up quickly to avoid dull moments.

There is also a hint of romance at the end when Amon decides to stay by Robin's side when the Factory collapses. Rumors said they either died in the destruction or fled the scene undetected for their own safety. Amon said that if Robin loses control over her burgeoning powers, he will have the duty to destroy her. Overall, this anime contains many philosophical elements; serious fans would reap the most benefits from learning the secrets and truth behind Robin's existence.


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Saturday, February 25, 2012

New 2012 TV Shows: "The River" and "Touch"

"The River" (ABC) is about a search team who ventures into the heart of the Amazon rainforest to save a TV nature explorer and cameraman. On their quest, monsters lurk in the shadows hungry for blood. The series premiered on February 7, 2012 and will conclude with eight episodes in the first season.

"Touch" (FOX) is about a single father who is unable to connect to his autistic 11-year-old son. But when the father discovers that his son can predict future events, everything changes as the future of humanity is at stake. A special pilot episode premiered on January 25, 2012. The series will begin regularly on March 19, 2012 with 13 episodes on the FOX Channel.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: Vampire Academy - The Ultimate Guide (2012)

Are you a fan of the popular young adult Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series? Vampire Academy: The Ultimate Guide, by Michelle Rowen with Richelle Mead, is available to buy online or at your local bookstore. Here is a summary of the book below:

Sink your teeth into the perfect holiday gift and must-have collector's item for every fan of Richelle Mead's totally addicting Vampire Academy series.

Discover the history of St. Vladimir's Academy, explore the dark psychology behind Rose and Lissa's spirit bond, and find out even more illicit secrets about Moroi society. This ultimate guide will feature everything readers want and need to go even deeper into the world of Vampire Academy, Frostbite, Shadow Kiss, Blood Promise, Spirit Bound, and Last Sacrifice...every heartache, every betrayal, every sacrifice, and so much more!

This Official Ultimate Guide (305 pages) is the must-have addition to any Vampire Academy collection. Learn everything you ever wanted to know about the totally addictive world Richelle Mead has created:

  • Find out the real history of St. Vladimir’s Academy
  • Explore the dark psychology behind Rose and Lissa’s unusual friendship
  • Discover even more illicit secrets about Rose and Dimitri
  • Quiz yourself to find out how much you really know about Vampire Academy

From what I skimmed, each chapter is broken down by each book (six in total) with summaries, explanation of quotes and story arcs, pop quizzes for readers, and writing confessions by Mead. There is also a section dedicated to discussing the background history of each major character in the series. It also includes photos of Richelle Mead at book signings and a glossary of common terms in the series.

I recently saw it on the bookshelf at Barnes and Noble. Although I have not read the book in great detail, I think any fan would like this informative book as a collector's item. You may think you know everything about the Vampire Academy world, but Rowen and Mead will definitely surprise you with things you didn't know.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: Mononoke (2007)

Mononoke (2007) is a Japanese historical horror anime that takes place in ancient Japan during the Edo period. This show continues (as a sequel and adaptation) the story of the medicine seller from the "Bakeneko" arc of Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales, as he continues to face various dangerous demonic spirits. It contains 12 episodes.

The show initially takes place during the Edo Period. Ancient Japan used the four class system, Samurai being the highest class and merchants (such as the medicine seller himself) being in the lowest class. Only Samurai were permitted to carry swords. Thus, the characters are surprised that the mysterious medicine seller, Kusuriuri, carries a sword and exorcises vengeful spirits (mononoke). The last arc takes place during the late Imperial period (1915-1945) in the early twentieth century.

Kusuriuri carries around a large wooden box filled with medicine and holy tools. Among them is an enchanted sword that is used to slay the mononoke. He always proceeds in the same manner, using his knowledge of the supernatural world to learn the spirit's Form (katachi), Truth (makoto) and Reason (kotowari). Once he has all three answers, then he can unsheathe his sword, transform, and exorcise the demon.

The show is divided into five story arcs:

  1. Zashiki-warashi (ep. 1-2)
  2. Umibōzu (ep. 3-5)
  3. Noppera-bō (ep. 6-8)
  4. Nue (ep. 9-10)
  5. Bakeneko (Ghost Cat) (ep. 11-12)

I continued this show from Ayakashi because I was amazed at the mystery narrative and highly-advanced styling in the animation. It also gave me a deeper appreciation of ancient Japanese art and prose in storytelling. The five story arcs are not connected to each other, but are all equally scary and deeply psychological. Japanese horror is unique from American horror in that it tends to focus on the psychological and tension-building aspects and tends to involve demons, yokai (creatures), and poltergeists (think of the film, The Ring). Each story arc never bored me, which saddened me more when this show camee to an end. The pace and style of Mononoke makes it a great and enjoyable anime that is unfortunately underrated and largely unknown. Although I have not seen the DVD for this anime, it is available in original Japanese and English dub versions. Overall, it is a definitely must-see horror anime.


Ending Theme: "Natsu no Hana" by JUJU

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Music: Delerium - Euphoria (Firefly)

In high school, I stumbled upon the Canadian-based band, Delerium. I was really entranced by their hit song, Euphoria (Firefly). Their music is a combination of industrial trance and electronic pop music. Their commercial success would come later when they composed the instrumentals for the dance hit, "Silence," sung by Sarah McLaughlin. Since I'm a fan of new age music, these songs can both relax and stimulate the mind.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

'Cat-Eye' Chinese Boy Can See Clearly in Dark

I covered this same topic back in 2009. Lately, the child with the glowing blue eyes has garnered more global attention in the media.

The Huffington Post released a story about a Chinese boy with a genetic eye mutation that allows him to have excellent night vision like a cat or owl. If the child is standing outside in sunlight, he would squint his eyes and complain about blurry vision, but all the other children would see normally.

According to a news reel from China, a young boy there possesses the ability to see in the dark. Like a Siamese cat's, his sky-blue eyes flash neon green when illuminated by a flashlight, and his night vision is good enough to enable him to fill out questionnaires while sitting in a pitch black room — or so say the reporters who visited Nong Yousui in his hometown of Dahua three years ago.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Review: Drink Deep (Chicagoland Vampires #5)

"Chicago's mayor insists it's nothing to worry about, but Merit knows only the darkest magic could have woven a spell powerful enough to change the very fabric of nature. She'll have to turn to friends old and new to find out who's behind this, and stop them before it's too late for vampires and humans alike."

Drink Deep, by Chloe Neill, is the fifth novel in the Chicagoland Vampires series. Two months have passed since the death of Ethan Sullivan. After losing her lover, Merit, Chicago-bred vampire and Sentinel of Cadogan House, must cope with new and abrupt changes in her life. Before she can be grieve and move on, Merit must face the turmoil surrounding her. A financial manager is appointed to revamp Cadogan House from heading into receivership. Merit's best friend is preparing for her sorceress' final exams. Finally, a new mayoral administration threatens to pass a supernatural registration law. Suddenly, the waters of Lake Michigan turn pitch-black and the sky turns blazing red with lightning. Humans increasingly blame the vampires for the strange phenomena in the Windy City.

With fewer guards left to protect Cadogan House, Merit certainly has her hands full. Meanwhile, Jonah of Grey House accompanies Merit in the investigation. She meets with the former Chicago mayor to gather details about the dark elemental magic and whoever is behind it. The case gradually influences Merit to consider what does she truly desire. Although she is running out of time, her worst fears may come true when she must ultimately decide who is more important to protect.

I have exciting news: ETHAN IS BACK! I would have never imagined Neill would resurrect Ethan the way she did, but it brought joy and tears to my eyes. I could feel Merit's emotions when she saw Ethan Sullivan walking from the mist into her arms. I was very happy for her because the past two months felt very lonely and nonsensical for Merit.

Stay tuned for the next novel in the Chicagoland Vampires series, Biting Cold

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