When Hikōnin Sentai Akibaranger first hit television screens in April last year, I don’t think anyone knew quite what to expect. But as it turned out what we get was not only a Super Sentai parody that was hilariously funny on a meta level, but one that was clearly a love letter to the official heroes that both appeared and were mentioned. In the year that past the merchandising drive has been pretty huge, and with fans left wanting more from the unofficial Sentai it seems Toei were more than happy to oblige. Akibaranger Season 2 (or Tsuu, which also doubles as “pain”) returned exactly a year later for a further 13 episodes, promising more delusion chaos.The season opens with the events of Akibaranger season one rewritten by its manipulative creator Hatte Saburo. The Akibarangers never became self aware that they were in a TV show, Dr Z and the Delusional Empire never happened, Mitsuki (Akiba Blue) was the one picked up by the Pentagon and the Akibarangers defeated Malshina and DeluKnight in a huge climactic battle. As Mitsuki left for America and Yumeria prepared for married life, the Akibarangers went their separate ways and returned to normal life. However things changed when somehow Akibaranger became an official Sentai, replacing Dairanger as the 17th Super Sentai series. While reminding RyuRanger (now China Red of Chinaman) who he was, the Akibarangers discovered Malshina has returned as part of a new organisation – The New Dimensional Intellect Remodeling Underground True Empire Baros LOL. Led by the mysterious General Pain, a Super Sentai villain otaku, the effects on they create on the Delusion World have begun to alter history in the real world! With the help of a new Akiba Blue, wannabe idol Luna Iwashimizu, the Akibarangers reform to put an end to Baros LOL’s schemes and return the official heroes to their former glory.Not much has changed with the returning cast of Akibaranger. Nobuo is as nerdy as ever and Yumeria’s marriage hasn’t got in the way of her love for cosplay and yaoi. Hakasa and Kozkoz are also still around, with Kozkoz taking up a bigger role in this season. Malshina is still kicking too of course, and even more “adult” than ever. Then we have our two new characters – brand new Akiba Blue Luna and Baros LOL leader General Pain. Although she was the most normal of the three Akibarangers, Mitsuki filled an important place in the team so I was very sorry to hear she wouldn’t be returning for season two. With that in mind, Luna had some big shoes to fill and it took me quite a while to get used to the drastic character change. Gone was the tough martial artist, replaced by a slightly ditzy but loveable wannabe idol. In the event that you aren’t initially sold on Luna keep watching, because she just keeps getting better and better throughout the show – eventually surpassing her predecessor and feeling perfect in the role of Akiba Blue.General Pain on the other hand is a fantastic character from the get-go. He’s the villain version of Nobuo, a die-hard Sentai otaku and able to battle the Akibarangers’ knowledge of Super Sentai with his own encyclopaedic brain. In no way does he replace the utterly brilliant Malshina (who also just keeps getting better and better), but he adds a very welcome extra bit of nerdiness to the show allowing for even more glorious references and parodies. Of course, it wouldn’t be Akibaranger without the inclusion of their show within a show, Nijiyome Academy Z-Cune Aoi! With the cast eagerly awaiting the brand new Aoi-tan film throughout the course of the show, Aoi-tan herself is blessed with a slightly new redesign. We also see Nobuo’s love for the 2D character reach new heights, as his love for his waifu allows him to unlock new powers in the form of Cho Akiba Red, a super form with the armour being made up by the animated character lovingly embracing him. It’s very weird and undoubtedly a little bit creepy, but perfect for Akibaranger’s brand of humour.While there are a huge number of Super Sentai references from all over it’s 37 year history, once again Akibaranger chooses three particular shows for proper episode focus. This time it’s Zyuranger, Dairanger and Hurricanger’s turn. These parodies are particularly special, as they play upon real-life things that happened to bring an even bigger sense of meta to the Akibaranger world. The Dairangers become Chinaman (the now-debunked but rumoured original title for the series) while the Gouraigers gain their apparently proposed third member. Best of all however is the Zyuranger episodes, featuring the “Powerful Rangers”, a parody of…well, you can figure it out. Clad in star spangled banners and speaking Japanese in hilarious American accents, these are among the best episodes Akibaranger has put out. And with so many good episodes in both seasons, that is quite the accomplishment.Akibaranger has done it once again. Season 2 proved to be every bit as good as the first, often even surpassing it. The retooling might seem a bit throwing at first, but it gives way to a season that’s every bit as funny as the original, but also feels different enough to stand on its own ground. But of course nothing is ever that simple where Akibaranger and Hatte Saburo are concerned, with the events of the original eventually shining through in a way that can only be seen to be believed. Akibaranger is a show quite like no other, and these 13 episode bursts ensure that the show constantly stays fresh and among some of the best quality Sentai shows there are…and they aren’t even official heroes.
However you look at it, Super Sentai is kids show. It may have a large adult fanbase, but it has and probably always will be mainly for children. So what if Toei made a Sentai show strictly for adults? Well our prayers have been answered….somewhat. Hikōnin (Unofficial) Sentai Akibaranger is a 13-episode series is an adult parody Super Sentai series geared for adult fans of the show and is not part of the main Super Sentai series of shows. Just like in reality, Super Sentai is a long-running television show within the world of Akibaranger.In the otaku paradise of Akihabara, three individuals are chosen by a scientist to become the unofficial Sentai Akibaranger, protecting Akihabara from the evil Stema Otsu Corporation and their attempts to destroy otaku culture. These three individuals – long time Super Sentai fan and 29-year-old delivery boy Nobuo Akagi, 18-year-old martial artist Mitsuki Aoyagi and 23-year-old cosplay fanatic Yumeria Moegi battle the Corporation head Malshina and her Chief Clerks in a delusional world, where their Sentai abilities are amplified and are able to call upon the help of past Super Sentai heroes.But as the Akibarangers’ delusional powers grow stronger and stronger, the fight eventually breaks out into the real world. Here they must not only face Dr Z, the true mastermind villain, but also the Delusion Empire and some very abrupt changes in the storyline. Akibaranger does some bold things with the traditional Super Sentai formula, and the first being shaking things up with a one man, 2 girls team. In fact, the show is pretty much dominated by (human) female cast members. Nobuo (Akiba Red) is exactly how you’d expect a Super Sentai fanboy given the opportunity to be a superhero to be, a stereotypical nerd but with a heart of gold. Mitsuki (Akiba Blue) starts out as perhaps the least interesting of the three, a more serious character who simply became an Akibaranger for the chance to become a stronger fighter. But as she learns to appreciate Super Sentai and her inner-nerd is exposed she becomes a much stronger character. Finally we have Yumeria (Akiba Yellow), the oddball of the group. From her various cosplays to her yaoi-fixation and seemingly never ending roll-calls, Yumeria is to fangirls what Nobuo is to fanboys. The three have an excellent dynamic together, which grows as the characters get to know each other and become friends. The Akibaranger suits are equally as wacky, playing with extremes that you’d never see on an official Sentai costume.With a small ranger cast, Akibaranger equally relies on strong antagonists and secondary characters. Malshina (played by Adult Video actress Honoka) is a fantastic villain, oozing personality and playing off the Akibarangers (particularly Akiba Red) well. Assisting the Akibarangers are their mentor Hiroyo Hakase and her assistant KozuKozu Mita, Sentai heroine cosplay extraordinaire. The two become more intertwined with the story as it progresses, the story at one point being just as much about Hakase as it is our heroes. The series contains a huge number of Super Sentai references, from story lines and characters to actors and production. When the Akibarangers achieve their first victory against a monster, they sit around waiting for him to grow (which never happens). When the story begins to mysteriously change, Nobuo doesn’t take long to realise its akin to what happened to Sun Vulcan back in 1981. Even the background is chock full of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it references and homages (after all, their base of operations is a Sentai-themed cafe covered wall to wall in various toys and props).Deka Red of Dekaranger, Bouken Red of Boukenger and Red Hawk of Jetman all show up at various stages to assist the Akibarangers, leaving them with their own “inordinate powers” – giant Deka Wappers, the Bouken Scooper and Jet Winger respectively. These weapons combine to form the Akibarangers Inordinate Cannon, adding yet another trope to the team’s impressive arsenal. A more interesting cameo comes in the form of Kazuo Niborii, suit actor for 14 different Red’s in Super Sentai’s history. A show like Akibaranger is perfect for handing the spotlight to those who have helped the franchise become what it is, and Niborii’s inclusion was well-deserved. But even among Akibaranger’s constant barrage of comedy, there lies a story which still has a lot of emotion. Episode five shows a different side to Yumeria, guest starring singer/voice acting legend Rica Matsumoto (perhaps better known as Satoshi/Ash in Pokemon) as her mother. While the story still contains Akibaranger’s trademark brand of humour, its a very heartwarming episode that shows that even a parody series can pull off emotion and deeper story lines when the time comes. As the show breaks down into its final act, it become a whole different beast. Just like the classic Looney Tunes cartoon “Duck Amuck”, Akibaranger tackles its metafiction in a way that doesn’t just break the fourth wall, it tears it down altogether.A prominent theme within the show is also the anime Nijiyome Academy Z-Cune Aoi, which all three characters are huge fans of. The MMZ-01, the Akibaranger’s transformation device and weapon, is modelled on the character, and the show’s relevance to the overall story becomes clearer as the plot progresses. What little of the show is presented in Akibaranger is beautifully animated, and suggests that it plays up to many magical girl/moe stereotypes just as Akibaranger does with otaku and Super Sentai. With a manga and mobile phone game on the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if Toei announce an anime spin-off in the near future. Sadly all good things must come to an end, and although the final episode of Akibaranger may be a recap episode, even that manages to be fun and play around with various tropes of the franchise. Reviewing their past adventure as an opportunity to gain a second season, the team provide commentary throughout the clip-show. Throw in some amusing product placement for future S.H. Figuarts toys and the final realisation that the Akibaranger’s task had been given to them to fill up the remaining broadcast slot at the cheapest budget possible.Gokaiger may have been a celebration of Super Sentai within the franchise’s overall story, but Akibaranger is one outside it. It manages to celebrate the show and perhaps more importantly, its fans, in a way the former never could, resulting in a show that keeps surprising you until the very end and is sadly gone before you know it. During the final episode Nobuo explains to his team mates that if they’re show is remembered by otaku like him, then everything they’ve done up until this point is all worth it. And this is exactly what they’ve done. If ANY Super Sentai series deserves a chance at a second season, forget about the official Sentai – the unofficial ones have done far more in far less time to earn it.
Clark Gregg (Iron Man)
Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe)
Chloe Bennet (Nashville)
Iain De Caestecker (Filfth)
Elizabeth Henstridge (Wolves At The Door)
Henry Simmons (The Insurgents)
John Hannah (Spartacus)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Gabriel Luna (Wicked City)
Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Bates Motel)
Lorenzo James Henrie (Star Trek)
Mallory Jansen (American Housewife)
Lilli Birdsell (Dreamland)
Jason O’Mara (Son of Batman)
Parminder Nagra (Bend It Like Beckham)
Patrick Cavanaugh (Batman: The Brave and The Bold)
José Zúñiga (The Dark Tower)
Adrian Pasdar (Supergirl)
Zach McGowan (The Scorpian King 5)
Brett Dalton (lost In Florence)
Axle Whitehead (Home and Away)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
B.J. Britt (Vampires Suck))
Simon Kassianides (Quantum of Solace)
Briana Venskus (Let’s be Cops)
Maximilian Osinski (Love & Other Drugs)
Daniel Zacapa (Seven)
Kerr Smith (Final Destination)
Artemis Pebdani (Son of Zorn)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
Joel Stoffer (Indiana Jones 4)
With its fourth season, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is the best it’s ever been, maturing as a show and learning the right lessons from what’s come before. Network scheduling shifts prompted some of the best creative changes for the series, with its move back to 10 p.m. allowing for darker tones and story material, and multiple breaks throughout the year inspiring the writers to lean into a three-pod format. Because of those two key changes, Agents of SHIELD was able to dig deeper into its introduction of Ghost Rider and exploration of artificial intelligence, to successful results.Season 4 was broken into three pods tied together by the central plot device of the Darkhold: “Ghost Rider,” which introduced Robbie Reyes and his conflict with his Uncle Eli; “L.M.D.,” which saw Radcliffe and AIDA’s experiments with artificial intelligence take a dark turn when the Darkhold became involved; and “Agents of Hydra,” which threw SHIELD’s agents into an alternate reality that they needed to escape. Each was more successful than the pod that came before, with the arrival in the Framework being the strongest arc of the season.The pod format helped tighten the season and give it a stronger throughline; while Agents of SHIELD tends to do a great job sticking its respective premieres/finales (and midseason premieres/finales), it sometimes gets lost in the stretches of episodes in between as it attempts to keep the momentum of the season up and keep the audience guessing. Having less time between each big shift in the season made for a tighter story overall.Agents of SHIELD has always been a science-based show, so incorporating magic and the supernatural into the series in the form of Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider was a bit of a gamble going in. While the science-based storylines that came later in the season still were stronger, the inclusion of the Ghost Rider character stuck the landing, largely because of Gabriel Luna’s excellent performance and the great CGI work from Mark Kolpack and his team. Though Ghost Rider looked good and was an effective character, some other elements of this arc weren’t as strong. The Darkhold-affected ghostly scientists didn’t look great and Eli wasn’t a particularly standout villain. But if that’s the cost of getting Robbie into the MCU, then so be it; here’s hoping he’ll return in future seasons as well.Though Ghost Rider’s introduction was trumpeted as the standout new character of Season 4, it was Mallory Jansen’s AIDA that was the season’s main villain. All of the guest stars — from Luna and Natalie Cordova to John Hannah and Jason O’Mara — were stellar, but Jansen, in particular, stole the show. The conversation about the rights and wrongs of creating artificial intelligence have been explored time and again in pop culture, but the way Jansen humanized AIDA from conception to villainzation and back again made the character and the storyline work.If Ghost Rider was an experiment, then the AIDA/L.M.D./Framework storyline was back to Agents of SHIELD’s bread and butter. Grounding the story in science, having a shorter and tighter time to tell stories and incorporating more gravitas with the 10 p.m. timeslot allowed this series to really dig into the more mature facets of the story the show wanted to tell, and it benefited from it. The writers also swung for the fences in many ways, from turning all of their characters into L.M.D.s to bringing back thought dead characters like Ward and Trip in refreshing, emotional ways. Agents of SHIELD really hit its stride in the Framework pod, which I’d consider the strongest arc the series has ever done. This story allowed SHIELD to showcase just how far it’s come over the past few seasons, and challenge the characters by showing them how things could have been.There were some missteps with the L.M.D./Framework arcs, including the implementation of the Superior as a villain. He never was as imposing or terrifying as he should have been, and if he was supposed to be a riff on M.O.D.O.K. then the show did a too subtle job of incorporating that Easter egg. Fortunately the strengths of the season outshadow the weaker elements, like Eli, the Superior and some of the effects work. Even better, the main characters are the best and most interesting they’ve ever been, and the show is leaning into some of the more fan-desired moments — like Philinda, for example — in ways that don’t feel contrived. Four seasons in, the SHIELD writing and showrunning team have cracked their core characters and know the right way to push them and challenge them.All the main characters of this show felt like they grew and changed in significant ways over the course of this year, which I touched on in my finale recap. Season 3 left characters like Daisy and Coulson in places where they were unsure of how to move forward, and over the course of Season 4’s madcap adventures they had substantive growth to become more confident in who they are. Alternately, people like Fitz and Mack have since been challenged in their belief and understanding of who they are and what they stand for, and there’s certainly the sentiment that that emotional baggage will carry over into Season 5. Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge continue to be this series’ secret weapons, consistently delivering powerful performances and effectively grounding FitzSimmons’ relationship with what feel like real world, emotional stakes.With its later time slot and three-pod season arc, Agents of SHIELD delved into more mature territory and was the better for it. The later storylines — specifically the Framework pod — were stronger than the “Ghost Rider” arc, but across the board Season 4 is the best season of SHIELD to date. Excellent guest stars and well-crafted supporting characters helped elevate this season above the previous three, and even though there were some elements that weren’t as effective in Season 4, overall Agents of SHIELD is better than it’s ever been.
Harold Perrineau (Lost)
JB Blanc (Breaking Bad)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)
Troy Baker (Lego Batman)
Johnny Yong Bosch (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes)
Written by the son of the legendary Kinji Fukusaku, Kenta Fukusaku who is most well known for his work on both “Battle Royale” screenplays, chooses to resurrect Deacon Frost as the main foe for the run of the series. While a little more ferocious in this animated offering, but the character just doesn’t feel like an adequate foe for the daywalker. English language voice actor J.B. Blanc does however turn in a much fine performance , adding a proper air of regality to the character and is a strong contrast to Harold Perrineau’s intelligent, confident, and still powerful turn as the titular hero.
Blade like the other Marvel features, takes liberties with the characters including the back-stories, however, Blade himself outside the live-action films is safely classified as far less iconic than say Wolverine or Iron Man and the changes are less likely to stir unnecessary outrage. None of this however does much to overshadow the same issues the other series suffered from: too much happening too quickly and not enough of what’s happening being engaging. Blade as expected is pulled into a tangled conspiracy of the vampire underworld and the series follows a path of one thinly written plot development after the other, and yes, reaches the point where it tries to spice up the whole tale with a pointless Marvel cameo, Wolverine. The action including the predicable showdown between Blade and Frost might be bloody but isn’t very visceral thanks to the stylized method of animation. Ultimately, “Blade” squeaks by with just being entertaining enough to make the time spent watching his saga feel like it wasn’t a complete waste, but with the lingering feeling the story could have been so much more.
Sticky Fingaz (Next Friday)
Jill Wagner (Teen Wolf)
Nelson Lee (Vacancy 2)
Jessica Gower (Winners & Losers)
Neil Jackson (Sleepy Hollow)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Bill Mondy (I Spy)
David Palffy (Stargate SG.1)
David Kopp (Freddy Vs Jason)
P. Lynn Johnson (50/50)
Don Thompson (Red Riding Hood)
Randy Quaid (Kingpin)
Adrian Hough (X-Men 3)
Ryan Kennedy (Smallville)
William MacDonald (Slither)
Ryan Robbins (Arrow)
Sonja Bennett (Stargate: Atlantis)
Brandon Jay McLaren (Power Rangers SPD)
Bokeem Woodbine (Total Recall)
Steve Bacic (Andromeda)
Sahar Biniaz (Watchmen)
Emily Hirst (Smallville)
Mike Dopud (Stargate Universe)
Larry Poindexter (Sabrina: TTW)
Jody Thompson (Flash Gordon)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Richard Roundtree (Alias)
Brent Stait (Andromeda)
John DeSantis (The New Addams Family)
Tom Butler (Painkiller Jane)
Lauren Lee Smith (Mutant X)
Following the conclusion of Blade: Trinity, Blade (Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones) travels to his hometown of Detroit where the vampire nation is planning something big. Led by the wealthy and well-respected Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson), The House of Chthon (one of the ten vampire houses) has begun development of a vaccine (Project: Aurora) that will cure them of all of their afflictions: silver, garlic and sunlight. It’s up to Blade to stop that from happening before it’s too late. Enlisting the help of computer whiz and weapon’s guru, Shen (Nelson Lee), Blade is ready for an all out assault to rid the world of more blood-sucking fiends.Doing her part in all of this is Krista Starr (Jill Wagner), a U.S. military combat medic who has just returned home from the war. Her welcome home celebration soon turns to sadness when she is greeted by the police, who inform her that her brother has died… or maybe he was killed. Convinced of the latter Krista takes it upon herself to investigate his mysterious death, which exposes her to the vampire world and leads to a meeting with Blade, himself. Banding together the two infiltrate Sciver’s inner circle, which results in Krista being taken and then turned into one of the undead. While Krista battles with the thirst and her unwanted transformation, she helps to feed Blade information from the inside. This information will allow the Daywalker to take down the vampire collective once and for all.The first half of this one and only season focuses a lot more on Krista’s character and less on Blade. That’s not a bad thing, actually. After going three films where Blade has been the dominant figure this show enjoys veering off and exploring other characters; giving us the chance to pick the side we like the best. Also, Krista’s character is very tragic. Losing her brother and then losing herself, so-to-speak, really laid the foundation for a woman who is torn between her human side and current vampire persona. Being a part of the sensual and romantic lifestyle that the vampires lead, it’s not easy for Krista to resist temptation. As she falls deeper into darkness, we see her crisscrossing between both of her personalities and watch her struggle to maintain some kind of balance. However, she unwittingly brings more of her family into this mess and that’s when things really begin to spiral out of control for her.The second half of the season gets down to business and shows us more of Blade, including the back-story of his childhood and life as a young Daywalker. In the episode entitled “Sacrifice” (probably the best episode of the season), we are shown Blade as a boy and experience the very first meeting between him and Whistler. You’ll get to see how Blade was treated as a child and even how Whistler got that nasty limp of his. In the episode “Bloodlines”, we are introduced to his former gang, the Bad Bloods, who are suffering from vampirism and are looking to exact revenge on Blade – or “Little Man” as they call him – for he was the one who turned them all into the creatures they have become. The gang hopes to wipe out Blade as a way to finally gain respect from the vampire houses and make their way into the collective, but Blade definitely doesn’t make it easy for them and does a bit of damage in his high-flying, kung fu way. There is also a secondary storyline where Blade meets FBI agent Ray Collins (Larry Poindexter). Prior to this meeting we watch this agent go on a bit of a trek of his own, tracking down cop-turned-vampire Boone (Bill Mondy). Now Boone makes an appearance in the pilot episode (as a “familiar”) and becomes almost the main focus in a few of the subsequent episodes until he’s gone for good. When that happens, the agent and Blade team up to try and take down one of the Purebloods, the very youthful Charlotte (Emily Hirst). This is a show that really knew how to cater to its predominantly male Spike TV audience. Blade hasn’t been toned down one bit and we are treated to tons of bloody kills and gruesome gore effects, along with quite a large helping of sexual content and nudity.Blade: The Series is still very much a Blade experience. Full of violence and gore, sex and f-bombs, this is a no-holds-barred action treat that, sadly, only lasted 13 episodes.
Djimon Hounsou (Stargate)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Stephen Stanton (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Kerry Washington (Django Unchained)
Alfrie Woodard (Star Trek: First Contact)
Jill Scott (Girlfriends)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Rick D. Wasserman (Planet Hulk)
JB Blanc (War Dogs)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Jonathan Adams (Bones)
Taye Diggs (Equilibrium)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Stan Lee (Chuck)
The concept of the motion comic is controversial to say the least. Many comic purists would argue they are pointless endeavors, while others, like myself find them an interesting supplement and even more a way to get those uninterested in comics to seek them out, provided they enjoy the program.
The newest release in the series may be their biggest yet, produced not just for DVD but as six-episode animated series. With “Black Panther,” Marvel adapts Hudlin’s own take on the character from 2005 and the end result will induce much headshaking and confusion.
Unlike the previous two installments in the Marvel Knights Animation line, I had not read the original source material, however, it’s safe to say, with the author being directly involved in the adaptation, it likely follows the comics quite closely. The most apparent change viewers familiar with the motion comic concept will notice is the consistency in runtime. Each episode runs around 18 minutes long and is paced like an episode of a TV-series. There are no more abrupt endings as before and this is a truly welcome change. Also worth noting is the star power in the voice cast. Hudlin has secured veteran voice actors Kevin Michael Richardson and Nolan North, as well as Hollywood stars Alfre Woodard, Kerry Washington, and in the title role Djimon Hounsou. It’s all downhill from this point, with Hounsou’s involvement being the only positive memorable aspect of a disaster of a series.
“Black Panther” is a muddled mess, attempting to weave an origin story amidst a half-baked plot against our hero’s life by a band of largely second (or even third) rate villains. The tone of the entire series is wildly inconsistent; one minute our villains will be bickering with each other in classic Saturday morning cartoon fashion, giving the impression the series is lighthearted, but all this comes following an intro that is decidedly more mature, featuring tribal warriors getting impaled on sinister traps and severed Nazi heads on pikes. Add to that a very mean spirited tone, resulting from most characters not related to Black Panther being either stupid, bigoted, or both and the 132 minute runtime feels achingly brutal.
Comic book fans may immediately take issue with the series’ sad attempt to establish dominance of the Black Panther by having him swiftly defeat Captain America in hand-to-hand combat. The character doesn’t need such a wildly unbelievable fight to appeal to audiences, nor does he need the sympathy formed from broad stereotypes attempting to hold him down because he’s the leader of a small African nation. What should be a fun fantasy tale is instead drenched in an underhanded political theme that is downright tiresome and boring; if more time was given to developing supporting characters, a little bit of preaching would have been tolerable. To Hudlin’s credit, his take on Black Panther or T’Challa (Hounsou) is a fascinating, three-dimensional creation, and his home country of Wakanda is given admirable life and scope. Hounsou brings strong balance of kindness and fierceness to the role, and a scene midway through the series where he removes his mask to speak to a boy who worships him as a god, is one of the more heroic and humble moments I’ve seen in a superhero adaptation.
On the flipside, Kerry Washington, delivers a strangely overacted vocal performance as T’Challa’s sister, while Stephen Stanton is in full on, evil for evil’s sake mode, as Klaw, the main villain, an assassin responsible for murdering T’Challa’s father decades earlier, who returns to finish killing the royal family. The less said of Klaw’s inept cadre of support, the better, but the Vatican Black Knight is worth mentioning of only for the fact his character adds another layer into the theme of the evil Western world; not only does a rival nation want Wakanda overthrown, but so does the US (led by a cartoonish and ignorant General voiced by Stan Lee), and yes, the Pope. As a final insult to comic fans, Hudlin shoehorns in the story of T’Challa’s romance with Ororo Munroe, or Storm as she’s more commonly known. The addition is nothing more than a way to artificially extend the overly long runtime of the series and find an excuse for a few worthless X-Men cameos.
“Black Panther” is heavily dissappointing, and it’s a damn shame, as there is great potential with the character. The writing has a bad pace to it; dialogue driven scenes are sometimes choppy, flashbacks are overused (even as an origin story), and the action sequences often have great buildup but result in a sad whimper in terms of execution; a half-assed inclusion of zombies in the final episode tempts me to a giant stamp of “fail” on the series, but there are more than a few Panther centric moments to elevate it from the lowest possible rating. Animation wise, John Romita Jr’s art style translates horribly to the motion comic format, and some sequences are animated in a amateurish fashion at best; the fact I waited this long to mention it, is a strong indicator of how forgettable it is. There are strong talks that the Black Panther will see life on the big screen and I’ll reiterate again, Hounsou deserves a shot at the role, however, I hope this series is used as an example of what not to do.
First of all, if you haven’t sampled the first season of The Toys That Made Us, go and smash that out quickly now. It’s only four episodes and won’t take long. We’ll wait for you. Back again? Great! By now, you’re probably hooked on the irreverent style of this novel documentary series, what with its effortless humour, fascinating first-hand accounts and even a bit of historical recreation with dodgy 70’s haircuts. What’s the basic gist? In Season 1, TTTMU delved into Star Wars, G.I. Joe, He-Man and Malibu Stacy (sorry, force of habit, Barbie). Season 2 offers very in-depth, behind-the-scenes access to the usually secretive dealmakers and artisans behind the toy lines of LEGO, Star Trek, Transformers and Hello Kitty.Don’t expect to be bogged down in borax and boredom though – this is a documentary anthology for casual outsiders, not the diehard collectors themselves. You’ll receive an easy-to-follow walkthrough of each toy’s cultural significance, the key personnel involved and the financial rollercoaster ride to success (or failure) that followed. The interviewees here are surprisingly candid and often emotional about the opportunities won and lost thirty odd years ago. Take Peter Cullen for example, who is still the voice of Optimus Prime. There’s a touching moment when he recounts some pre-audition advice his decorated Vietnam vet brother gave him on how a “real hero” sounds compared to phoney, aggressive Hollywood heroes. The advice was heeded, Peter landed the gig and a truer rendition of heroic leadership was channelled out to a generation of kids. These are the insights that make this documentary series worth the watch.
Other interesting titbits include Lucille Ball (of I Love Lucy fame) being involved in the Star Trek toys with Rod Roddenberry and her production company. There’s also the tale of toy company Meego, who later secured the license for $5000 to milk $50 million out of it. Dazzle your Transformer-loving mates with the fact that Hasbro was basically copy-pasting the Japanese products of Microman and Diaclone (who in turn had evolved their own robot lines from Hasbro’s own 1964 G.I. Joe toy). It was all a bit incestuous, to be honest.Fans of Hello Kitty might want to keep the anthropomorphic action going with a Netflix anime called Aggretsuko (translation: Aggressive Retsuko). Fair warning, though, it’s a Sanrio production for adults. Think: a 25-year-old Red Panda languishing in an advertising department – her only stress relief, the death metal amateur karaoke circuit. No, for real. That’s the plot.Meanwhile, anybody seeking robots who “have more to them than meets the eye” would do well to check out both Transformers Prime and Transformers: Robots in Disguise on Netflix. For an extra ton of Cybertron, you should also seek out Transformers: The Last Night on Foxtel Now.
Trekkies have plenty of dessert options, too. Foxtel and Prime Video are home to the 1966 Star Trek series and J.J.’s lens-flare-a-go-go 2009 film. We also highly recommend you energise over some Star Trek Discovery via Netflix. Phenomenal new series that one. Set our faces to stunned.
Last but not least, the LEGO brand has built itself quite the home on Netflix. If you haven’t yet seen the LEGO Movie or the LEGO Batman Movie, you need to amend that error now or go hit the bricks, pal.