Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE (2005-2009)

Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE (2005-2009) is a Japanese fantasy/science fiction anime that takes place in an alternate universe. It takes place in the same fictional universe as many of Clamp's other manga series, most notably xxxHOLic. It is based on the shonen manga series written and illustrated by the manga artist group, CLAMP. It includes a TV series of 52 episodes and two OVAs, Tsubasa Tokyo Revelations and Tsubasa Spring Thunder Chronicles.

The plot begins with two close childhood friends, Sakura and Syaoran. Sakura is the princess of the Kingdom of Clow, and Syaoran is a young archaeologist. When Sakura visits Syaoran in the ruins, her spirit takes on the form of a pair of ghostly feathered wings that disintegrate to other dimensions. As she descends into a catatonic near death state, Syaoran meets the Dimensional Witch, Yuko Ichihara (a main character from xxxHOLic), to whom he begs for help to save Sakura. Yuko is also visited by two others who each have their own wish: Kurogane, a ninja who wishes to return to his home world after being banished from his world by Princess Tomoyo to allow him to learn what true strength is; and Fai D. Flowright, a magician who wishes to never return to his home world, Celes, to avoid his king, Ashura-o. In exchange for the ability to travel across dimensions, Yuko demands that each pay with that they value most: Kurogane offers his sword; Fai offers the tattoo that suppresses his enormous magical strength and power; and Syaoran offers all of Sakura's memories that involve him. YĆ«ko then presents them with a creature named Mokona Modoki that sends the group on a journey across dimensions in search of Sakura's feathers. After obtaining the first feathers, Sakura awakens from her catatonic state and starts recovering her memories. As they travel, they learn that the feathers have their own unique abilities and can bestow several supernatural abilities to those who possess them.

I must admit that the film, Blood-C: The Last Dark, encouraged me to finally finish this review. I had been postponing it for several years, but I realized it was time that I write about it so I don't have any regrets. I was waiting until more Tsubasa Chronicle videos come out, but I think it's safe to assume now that the production crew has moved on to other CLAMP projects. This summer, I promised myself that I will catch up on anime and book reviews.

The Tsubasa project was conceived when four Clamp artists wanted to create a manga series that connected all their previous works. They took the designs for the main protagonists from their earlier manga called Cardcaptor Sakura. The last half of Tsubasa coincides with the xxxHOLic project since both series take place in the same universe. Since the main characters have to participate in adventures across several dimensions, it can be difficult to keep up on their progress and location. After rewatching Tsubasa for a second time, it became much more clear to me what happened to both Syaoran and Watanuki (another main character in xxxHOLic). The plot can be convoluted for those not familiar with both series. It is available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray.

Meanwhile, the Tsubasa soundtrack is excellent! The compilation, Future Soundscapes I-IV, were written, arranged, and composed by the highly-talented Yuki Kaijura (you can hear her music on My HiME and Code Geass). I had the special opportunity to watch some of her work in a 2008-2010 live performance in Japan featuring Eri Ito, and FictionJunction KEIKO, which was spectacular. My favorite songs, "A Song of Storm and Fire" and "Ring Your Song" (sung by Eri Ito) are on the album. Other favorite instrumental songs are "Hear Our Prayer" and "I Talk to the Rain" (which are so beautifully chilling). Five years later, the music never gets old. The songs are that good with Yuki's trademark sound. If you don't get the chance to watch the anime, I highly recommend the soundtracks!
Opening: "Blaze" by Kinya
Ending Song: "Loop" by Maaya Sakamoto
OST Song: "Ring your song" by Yuki Kaijura feat. Eri Eri
Live perfomrance of "A Song of Storm and Fire" by Yuki Kaijura feating Eri Ito and FictionJunction KEIKO Click here to read the rest of this post...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7)

Outmatched and on her own, Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from any ally she can get, no matter how unlikely.

Frost Burned, by Patricia Briggs, is the seventh novel in the Mercy Thompson series. Mercy, the Native American shapeshifter mechanic, has become the mate of Adam Hauptman, the charismatic Alpha of the local werewolf pack in the Tri-Cities area, and stepmother to his human daughter, Jesse. Like their fae colleagues, the werewolves have also announced their existence in the media, with Adam leading the fight to gain acceptance from politicians and the general public. These major changes in her life bring her closer to normalcy. However, even the most minor mishap on an ordinary day can turn out to be so much more.

After a car accident in bumper-to-bumper traffic during the holiday season, Mercy and Jesse cannot reach Adam or anyone else in the pack. She later learns from Ben that Adam and the rest of his pack have been abducted by xenophobic rogue covert ops officials. Through their mating bond, Mercy can only sense that Adam is angry and in pain. He has no idea where the kidnappers led them. Mercy fears that his disappearance is related to the werewolves' public announcement in the media. Some people are uncomfortable with the realization that the supernatural is real. Others want to use this opportunity to use the beings as a scapegoat to take over the country. Ultimately, Mercy is forced to seek assistance from any ally to save her pack and defeat the evil magic lurking around her.

I loved how River Marked ended, and was looking forward to this new edition to the Mercy Thompson series. Overall, this book was not what I anticipated. It was a good story, but it lacked the creative mystery and suspense that builds up over time in previous novels. The plot also felt more like a novella since it was slightly over 300 pages. Briggs did not smoothly connect how both enemy groups were working together. The real enemy is mentioned in the last 50 pages of the book and suffered a quick death with little to no back story. Essentially, the second half of the book felt too rushed and unoriginal. Furthermore, I don't see how much Mercy is maturing as a person. Her personality has become stagnant even if she has become Adam's mate. The pacing of the book is also bad when important intelligence is sloppily revealed near the end. Briggs does not explain how the werewolves failed to notice trends in vampire politics. Thus, Mercy learns the truth minutes before her involvement in a battle of life and death. I thought this was a poor choice on Briggs' part.

I do not recommend buying this book; save your money and borrow it from your local library branch. I hope that the next novel exceeds my expectations. I hope that Briggs learn from her mistakes in this novel. I have usually always enjoed all the novels in this series, but Frost Burned truly disappointed me because the plot and pacing were poorly written. Stay tuned for the eighth novel in the Mercy Thompson series, Night Broken. It will be published in 2014.
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: Once Burned (Night Prince #1)


She's a mortal cursed with dark power...He's the prince of night.

Once Burned, by Jeaniene Frost, is the first novel in the Night Prince series, a spin-off from the best-selling Night Huntress novels. After a tragic childhood accident scarred her body and destroyed her gymnastics dream, Leila never imagined that her new life will come with terrifying abilities. She can channel electricity and see a person's darkest secrets through a single touch. In addition, she can see into the past and predict into the future if she's holding a valuable object imprinted with memories. Given these abilities, Leila thought she was doomed to a life of solitude. People feared her and considered her a freak. While practicing for her upcoming circus performance, creatures of the night kidnap her, forcing her to reach out with a telepathic distress call to the world's most infamous vampire.

Meanwhile, in the land of Romania, Vlad Tepesh inspired the greatest vampire legend of all (Dracula). His ability to control fire makes him one of the most feared vampires in existence. He is also arrogant, ruthless, strategic, and remarkable in bed. However, his enemies have found a new weapon against him--a beautiful mortal with powers to match his own. He is amused that a human can see into his deepest memories and enter his mind so easily. When Vlad and Leila meet, however, sexual passion ignites, threatening to consume them. It will take all of their concentration to defeat an ancient enemy with an ancient grudge bent on destroying Vlad's legacy.

I commend Frost for writing one of the best sexiest novels about the infamous and notorious vampire, Dracula. In the novel, Vlad Tepesh is tactical, arrogant, ruthless, and handsome. He is the vampire version of a Casanova. Despite his tragic past, he does not show any weaknesses in public. When he finally meets his equal in Leah, he is not sure what to expect around her. She is a good source of information to protect to gather information on his enemies, but can she be the special woman in his life? Meanwhile, Leah already established that she would never have a romantic relationship. Content with being different due to her dark powers, she is fond of her friend, Marty, another vampire who plays a father-like role in her life. When she does not have to hide who she is around Vlad, she develops romantic and sexual feelings for him. Could the two be a match made in heaven? I look forward to reading the next novel in this riveting series.

Stay tuned for the second novel in the Night Prince series, Twice Tempted.
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: Dead Ever After (Southern Vampire #13)

There are secrets in the town of Bon Temps, ones that threaten those closest to Sookie---and could destroy her heart...

Dead Ever After, by Charlaine Harris, is the thirteenth and final novel in the Southern Vampire novel series. After using the cluviel dor to raise Sam Merlotte from the dead, both Sookie and Sam are finding it hard to concentrate on the bar business, Merlotte's, and speaking to each other. When a former barmaid, Arlene, returns to Merlotte's for her old job, Sookie has no qualms about rejecting her offer. Sookie wonders how did Arlene leave jail so early for plotting her death. Meanwhile, Sookie's relationship with former vampire boyfriend, Eric Northman, is in limbo when his Creator bequest him to the queen of Oklahoma. Suddenly, vampires (except for her protective neighbor, Bill), keep their distance and cold silence. When Sookie realizes she must give up her marriage to Eric, she is shocked and devastated.

When Arlene is murdered, evidence planted at the scene of the crime points to Sookie. Although the evidence is weak and she maintains her innocence, she is released on bail. With the help of her demon, wiccan, and vampire friends, she must discover the truth about Arlene's reappearance and murder. All she knows is that two mysterious men from out-of-town have a major grudge with her. They want to seek vengeance for the past and what she did to their lives.

It is incredible that I have read this novel series for almost twelve years. This paranormal mystery and romance series carried me through high and low points in high school, college, and graduate school (wow!). Sookie was the protagonist and primary reason why I kept reading these novels all these years -- her personality is quirky and basic common-sense with a Southern twist. Since I have relatives in the rural South, I can relate to the cuisine and culture of Sookie's universe. Harris created a world of vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters, fairies, wiccans and witches, humans, and telepaths living together with their own strengths and weaknesses. The beings wanted to mainstream with the human culture so that hopefully everyone will eventually accept them as equal citizens. It also saddens me that there will be no more Sookie Stackhouse novels after Dead Ever After.

I hope that Harris continue to write short stories and novellas about Sookie's adventures. At the end, I am pleased with her Sookie's final decision. Now in her late 20s (time does fly!), she realizes that vampires and fae can be such troublesome beings. In Dead Until Dark, she was a curious and naive telepath who wanted to try something different, someone whom she could not read their thoughts. Now, she has matured into a smart, pragmatic, and humble woman who knows what she desires and what to avoid. (Spoiler alert!) Sookie definitely deserved someone without drama and baggage (Go Sam!).

While all good things must come to an end, I thought this was the right time to end the series. It has been on a downard spiral since Dead in the Family. It became apparent later in the series that Harris was losing ideas and creating story arcs that became too complicated to follow. Sookie's life became more endangered as she has to survive attacks from vampires, fairies, werewolves, and humans. These evil plots also put a strain on her relationship with Eric. It was only a matter of time before their relationship would be doomed (much to many fans' dismay). Given Sookie's personality, once the damage has been done, there is no turning back -- she simply has to move on and live her life. She continuously insist that she doesn't want to become a vampire (and for good reason when it is revealed in Dead Ever After). She becomes content with her telepathic gift and wants to manage the bar business with Sam. No one knows what her future entails but maybe her supernatural drama will lessen once and for all. I don't think the final book deserved all the negative reviews (I wasn't a major Eric fan given his alpha-male and strategic personality), but it was the right call for Harris to end the series at this particular time.

Stay tune for the coda, After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse (expected Halloween 2013). It will provide the answers to your lingering questions—including details of Sookie’s own happily-ever-after. In the meantime, I will continue to watch more Sookie Stackhouse in the HBO series, True Blood. While the television adaptation differs from the novel version, it is still entertaining and provoking. The sixth season will resume in June, 16 2013. Watch the trailer below:

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

NBC New TV Series: Dracula (2013)

Dracula (2013) is a new NBC television series that will premiere this fall on Fridays. It looks like a remake of the classic film, Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola starring Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves. The new Dracula will be played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Victorian London.

From Hollywood Reporter:

The series, which bypassed the traditional pilot stage, takes place in the 1890s and finds Dracula (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) living a double life in London as an American businessman interested in bringing modern science to Victorian society. But his true plan -- to exact revenge on those who burdened him centuries ago -- is derailed when he falls in love with Mina (Arrow's Jessica DeGouw), who seems to be a reincarnation of his dead wife.


Check out the trailer below:



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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

CWTV's 'Beauty and the Beast' Renewed for Second Season; 'Supernatural' for Ninth Season


CWTV's new primetime TV show, 'Beauty and the Beast', has been renewed for a second season. I am late coming to this show, but so far it looks very promising. From IMDb.com:

The CW has renewed "Beauty And The Beast" for a second season. The freshman drama, a grittier take on the classic fairy tale, won the 2013 People's Choice Award for Best New Drama. Still, "Beauty And The Beast" struggled a bit to find success in the ratings, and was on the renewal bubble. The show has averaged about 1.5 million viewers per episode and only scored a 0.6 in the 18-49 demo.
Here is the update on the renewal of 'Supernatural' for a ninth season. I am also curious whether this show will reach ten seasons. From Screenrant.com:
Sam and Dean’s adventures will continue for (at least) one more year, as CW announced that it has given an early renewal for Supernatural season 9. Could showrunner Jeremy Carver’s plan to reach season 10 actually happen? The news, announced via press release from CW, also came with news of Arrow season 2 and a new season of The Vampire Dairies, helping to the secure the network’s top ratings performers for one more year. Nothing was mentioned in regards to whether or not Nikita will continue on Fridays in season 4. Once riddled with the programming “death slot” next to Nikita, Supernatural was rescued from Friday nights to be paired with new series Arrow, the network’s (now) most watched show, which led to a ratings increase of 15% from season 8 to season 9. But there’s more to Supernatural’s renewal than just improved ratings.
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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review: Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files #8)

Harry Dresden -- Wizard: Lost items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Proven Guilty, by Jim Butcher, is the eighth novel in the Dresden Files series. Harry Dresden, the only professional wizard in Chicago, has been promoted to Warden after the war with the vampires thinned their ranks, resulting in the loss of over three-fourths of the Wardens. In his new role as Warden and regional director, his responsibilities are to be prepared and ready to engage in battle and to report warlocks and incidents of black magic to the White Council, the governing body of all professionally-trained wizards. It also comes with a pay raise, much to Dresden's delight. Before he can enjoy the perks, a new paranormal case that is much more personal needs his attention.

There are rumors of black magic in the Windy City. When malevolent entities appearing straight out of a horror film wreak havoc at a convention, Harry must race against time to figure out where they will appear next and who is responsible for releasing this destructive magic. When his best friend's daughter is kidnapped by these monsters, the investigation leads Harry and his team to the mysterious world of Faerie. Harry will need every bit of assistance to rescue the daughter and make it out alive in one piece for this dangerous mission.

Harry decides to make the tattooed, pierced, and rebellious Molly Carpenter (eldest daughter of his friend, Michael Carpenter) as his apprentice, under similar circumstances to his own apprenticeship under Ebenezar McCoy. Harry also had a personal stake in this case -- he survived a trial after killing his mentor and Warden-turned-black mage, Justin DuMourne, in self-defense. The act of sparing her life results in both Harry and Molly being placed under the Doom of Damocles, with Harry responsible for all of Molly's actions, and they both being killed if any of them step out of line with the Council.

Jim Butcher has produced another thrilling masterpiece in the adventures of Harry Dresden. He has found his half-brother, added a new pet as his companion in action, received a promotion as Warden, reconciled with Michael's wife, and will now become an apprentice to a young inexperienced mage. The stakes are also higher since any missteps with the White Council will result in his death. In the meantime, he has developed alliances with the Summer Court (and enemies with the Winter Court). Despite his complex history with the supernatural, Dresden always seems to find a way to save the day and restore order in his territory.

Since it is now officially summer, I have more time to catch up on other exciting book series and anime reviews. It also means I need to take a seasonal break from this series. I will resume the Dresden Files novel series in September 2013. It's a short hiatus as I work on other important projects.

Stay tuned for the ninth novel in the Dresden Files series, White Night
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