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Julia's Reviews on All Things Media

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This review was written on June 1st, 2020, and boy howdy, is it a fun one! And I kinda want other people to check it out as well.

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I give this wild, wacky anime about zombie idol girls...an 81/100!

Oh, zombies. They've been a staple in horror movies ever since horror movies started utilizing them. Some zombie related stuff is good in the right hands, and others...not so much. But let me ask you: Who in their right mind had the idea to come up with an anime about cute zombie girls becoming idol singers, and having it be a wacky, colorful, comedic satire on idol culture? Oh right, this is Japan. They pretty much allow anything to be made into an anime. If they can come up with anime about things like runaway hospital beds, cute girls peacefully living out the end of the world, or sentient sardines that wish for death, then zombie idols being cute really shouldn't be that surprising. Ironically, the people who made ZombieLand Saga didn't think it would do very well, and lo and behold, it wound up becoming the darling of the autumn 2018 anime season. But how did this random anime even come about, and why is it even so popular? Most idol anime tend to be either saccharine, melodramatic, or of general poor quality. Well, let's dig some graves and find some answers. May we all rest in hell.

In the year 2008, a young high school girl, Sakura Minamoto, is determined to become an idol. After gathering some application paperwork, she races out the door to make her dreams come true...only to find herself meeting the business end of a speeding truck and dies from the impact. But this is not the end. She wakes up to find herself in a creepy, abandoned mansion in Saga Prefecture inhabited by zombies. Terrified, she runs away and tries to find some answers...only to find out that she too is a zombie, and that ten years have passed since she died. A mysterious man named Kotaro Tatsumi resurrected her and six others girls from different eras, intent on turning them into popular idols for the purpose of saving Saga Prefecture from falling into obscurity. This can either go really well or fail miserably, especially since Kotaro spends a lot of his time yelling at them and not even bothering to explain anything to them.

When the anime was first announced, no real premise was revealed for it, as its plot was kept very tightly under wraps until its airing. Many thought it was just going to be a cute girls meet zombies kind of show, like School-Live, so imagine their surprise when they found out it was going to be about cute zombie girls becoming idol singers. It came out of the gate with guns blazing, complete with luscious, wacky, fluid animation that bursts with color and charm. Yeah, I gotta say, the animation for this one is sublime. The colors are bright, the character movement is fluid, and the many visual gags always manage to pack a glorious punch with great comedic timing. It also manages to switch between cute and scary almost seamlessly when it wants to. The only real negative thing I can say about it is that it uses really clunky CGI during the idol segments. Not all the time, but they're jarring enough to know that you're watching 3D models instead of 2D animation, and the transition there isn't the smoothest. Sorry, Zombieland, but Dragon Quest: Your Story and the later seasons of Aikatsu raised my standards for Japanese CGI, thanks. (I still haven't seen Land of the Lustrous yet, but I do plan to!)

However, the show is very versatile in the music department. Seriously, the soundtrack for this show is all over the place. Death metal, J-pop, rap/hip-hop, jazz, Zombieland Saga serves a whole buffet of music genres, whether it be singing or the background music. The opening is wacky, bold, colorful, full of rapid movement, and is downright silly in the best way possible, while the ending song is a low key, somber, heartwrenching ballad. I honestly didn't find a single song that I didn't like, even the idol songs (Though I did feel the song To My Dearest was sung way too fast in its beginning verses), and the background music was also very well done. so the soundtrack hit a solid home run here. Also, zombie girl rap battle. How can you go wrong with that?!

But again, you can't have a story without good characters to back it up, and while I don't feel these zombie girls are as fleshed out as others in other anime I've seen, I love the whole ensemble, and they have subtle layers to them that help keep them from coming off as just simple archetypes. Sakura's enthusiastic and upbeat, but she's not a ditz nor a pushover. Saki is a badass, trash talking biker chick who's a complete degenerate and stays that way, but isn't a complete bitch either (I also appreciate that the anime doesn't try to change her into a girly girl and lets her stay a degenerate biker gal), Junko's a shy girl who's not fond of how drastically the idol industry changed from her time period, but isn't so shy that she doesn't want to perform in her own way, as she justs wants to enforce clear boundaries. I also love that the anime treats its characters and their personal boundaries with far more respect than other shows I've seen (Take note, episode 6 of 22/7!), something that is sorely needed, especially with how competitive and cut throat the idol industry in itself can be. That being said, the only ones who don't get much development are Yugiri and Tae, whose backstories are unknown as of this season, and Kotaro...not gonna lie, I'm not the biggest fan of him. I mean, it's funny when he's hammy and silly, but he's also kind of an abusive jackass who constantly treats most of the girls like crap and puts them down over the slightest provocation (especially Sakura) and never explains anything to them, especially how he resurrected them as zombies to begin with. But the show knows he's a jackass and he always gets his whenever he sets the girls off, especially Saki and Ai, who don't hesitate to put the guy in his place when he treats them like shit.

Speaking of not explaining things, the anime has a lot of neat ideas and concepts, but with its short length, it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. How did the girls even become zombies? What is Kotaro really planning on doing with them? Will people make the connection and see that the girls were actually people who died in varying time periods? One person recognized Lily, so the possibility is there. Also, what's the deal with Yugiri and Tae? Or even Kotaro, for that matter? Not only that, the final episode doesn't really end the series, so much as teases the audience with a hook for a potential second season. Thankfully, a second season has been confirmed, so for all we know, we might finally get answers if and when that airs. Still, some might not be satisfied, and that's okay.

With an anime that relies on two main gimmicks, zombies and idols, one would think meshing the two would be a complete disaster. But surprisingly enough, Zombieland Saga actually managed to make it work. True, the fact that the girls are zombies become less and less relevant as the series goes on, and Zombieland Saga does play some idol tropes and scenarios completely straight even when it's parodying or satirizing them. But I never felt like Zombieland Saga was trying to paint a rosy, overly saccharine picture of the idol industry, and it does acknowledge that being an idol is, at its core, a job, a business selling you a product, even if the most it digs its claws into is tongue-in-cheek jabs at it. It doesn't try to do a full take-down of the industry like Wake Up Girls did, nor does it paint the industry as being all sunshine and rainbows like Love Live consistently tries to do. I actually did watch the first episode of Love Live and I absolutely hated it, because it was basically overly syrupy Disney fare that was bland, generic, childish, overly pandering, and tried to paint a way too rosy, syrupy picture of how the idol industry works. As a result of how it tackles the idol industry and all that it entails, any drama that comes up in Zombieland actually feels more earnest and substantial than most idol shows try to do, without ever coming across as shallow or melodramatic. Basically, Zombieland Saga uses its bizarre, off-the-wall premise to present its messages with earnest sincerity and just tells it like it is, pulling the wool from your eyes but not trying to outright trick you or throw you a curveball.

I think the show is okay with how it currently is, just a fun, wacky, biting but loving satire of the idol industry that's full of heart. It won't be for everyone, but this show is a fun, wild ride all the way through, and I'm eagerly looking forward to the second season when it comes out!
 
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I'm still sad Escaflowne is only in one Super Robot Wars game and they did it pretty dirty there: a fair chunk of the plot is dedicated to it, but it ends before the first half of the game is over. Though it lets you save the leopard girls and use them which is neat.

It seemed so obvious to include it in X though, which takes place primarily in a fantasy world AND has Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water for the whole similarities with using Atlantis as part of the lore. Maybe there's still a chance someday though: G Gundam and GaoGaiGar did make it into the most recent game due to western popularity.

Anyway it's a good show. By no means perfect yes, but stands strong today. And like I mentioned in the anime openings thread, one of the things I love about it is how distinct the artstyle is compared to most anime - especially modern ones which tend to look very samey. Again, actual noses being one of them.
 
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This review was written on July 21st, 2017, and I guarantee you you probably never heard of this book series at all.



(Sorry if the picture is of low quality. It's an old, out of print book series from the nineties, so any pictures I find are either too small or really grainy. This was the best I could find)

I give this charming modern take on A Little Princess...a 75/100.

You know how most people take certain forms of media and give them a modern coat of paint? The 90s movie Clueless is based on the Jane Austen book, Emma, despite managing to stand on its own feet as its own entity. The Romeo and Juliet movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio was also a modern take on Shakespeare's medieval tragic romance. Heck, most people I know write fan fics for their favorite anime, games, and books and make modern day AUs out of them, me being one of those fan fic writers. But one book I know, A Little Princess, also got an alternate modern AU book series, but it was very obscure, and not many people I know talk about it. That series is the Princess trilogy, by Gabrielle Charbonnet, also known as Cate Tiernan. The books are Molly's Heart, A Room In The Attic, and Home At Last. As a modern (at the time. These books were written in 1995) adaptation of an old classic novel from the 1900s, it does stumble a lot, but it does surprisingly manage to do some things better than the original source material.

Being a kids book series, the story is pretty simple. Molly Stewart is the daughter of a famous filmmaker. But when his most recent project requires him to go to Brazil, he has no choice but to send his daughter to a special boarding school in Boston, much to Molly's displeasure. Despite her homesickness and yearning for her father, she fares well. She makes some friends, gets good grades, has special privileges that most other students don't have, and has it pretty good...until the day she hears that her father died from cholera. The headmistress of the school, Miss Thacker, is appalled by this turn of events and makes Molly into a "charity" student, making her work like a servant and treating her like garbage. Molly tries hard to deal with her new situation, but it may be too tough for her to handle.

The story itself is nothing original. It's a basic riches to rags and back to riches story, not unlike Cinderella or even the original A Little Princess. If you're familiar with that book, you can easily draw parallels and see which characters are based on who. Molly is obviously Sara Crewe, Lucy Axminster is Ermengarde, Evie Lucas is Becky, Celeste Foucher and Laura Bailey (No, not that Laura Bailey) are Lavinia and Jesse, Miss Thacker is Miss Minchin, etc. The only character who escapes being compared to A Little Princess is Shannon O'Toor, a girl whom Molly befriends but eventually turns her back on her in favor of the popular crowd. But even though you can see parallels to A Little Princess, the characters still have their own personalities and quirks that differentiate them from their counterparts. Becky in A Little Princess was meek, easily frightened, and clumsy due to past abuse. Her counterpart, Evie, is more guarded, bitter, abrasive, and outspoken, never afraid to speak her mind even if it gets her into trouble. Ermengarde had to deal with an overbearing father and lack of booksmarts, and her counterpart, Lucy, was dealing with her parents' nasty divorce and feeling like she doesn't mean anything to her family. You can have characters be counterparts to others in a different form of media and still manage to make them stand out and not have them be carbon copies, and the Princess trilogy manages to succeed in this one.

The biggest standout is Molly herself. I've seen people complain that Sara Crewe came off as being rather Mary Sue-ish: always nice, never complaining, always gets what she wants even when the world hates her, etc. You won't find any of that with Molly. When her situation gets bad, Molly mourns her father, sometimes even getting angry at him for dying and leaving her alone. She complains. She calls people out when they do something bad, like abandon her in her time of need. She tries to be optimistic but has her limits. She breaks down. She makes efforts to escape, even though they don't go well. In that aspect, Molly seems to be a much better, more three dimensional version of Sara, as she's much more realistically flawed and more like a real kid trying to deal with a bad hand that fate dealt her. You never forget that she's still a kid and does things that a real kid would do, and sometimes the things she plans aren't too well thought out, which makes things more relatable and interesting. And not just Molly: most, if not all, the protagonists are reasonably well developed. Lucy is often impatient with her family problems but still tries to be a good friend to Molly. Evie is guarded and bitter due to bad experiences and is more confrontational than her peers. Shannon O'Toor once befriended Molly after she defended her from bullies, but when the latter became poor, Shannon wanted to be part of the in-crowd and went with Celeste. Another thing this book series does better than A Little Princess is that all the characters have some kind of backstory. They have backgrounds, real problems that people in their positions can relate to, and they act like real kids. You never feel like they're anything more than they are, which is great.

Of course, not every character has been given that treatment. Like A Little Princess, its villain characters are still typical cardboard evil villains who hate the object of their anger for no reason. Miss Thacker is just a clone of Miss Minchin, nothing more, and her husband, who is based on Amelia, is just an average henpecked husband whose wife always bosses him around. He was kind of a waste since he barely gets to do anything. He doesn't even call his wife out on the crap she puts Molly through, unlike Amelia who did so with Miss Minchin in A Little Princess. Miss Thacker isn't even given a suitable motivation for disliking Molly. Heck, the third book even outright says that Miss Thacker herself couldn't understand why she hated Molly so much. And unlike Miss Minchin in the book, Miss Thacker doesn't get karma handed to her, which feels kinda unsatisfying.

Now onto the rest of the books' flaws. The books themselves are very small, a little less than a hundred pages, and the prose is very beige and simple, leaving nothing to the imagination and making it easy for kids nine and up to read without much trouble. I think the books could have benefitted from either being combined into one whole book and made a lot longer, that way more aspects of the characters could be explored. Plus, the books are definitely very dated, with characters making references to the Babysitters Club books, popular boy bands from the time, fashions and trends, etc. They don't detriment the story in any way, but they might be lost on readers who were born in the 2000s or later.

I kinda feel bad for pointing out the books' flaws, because in some ways, it does things not as well as A Little Princess, but it also does things better than it, too. The Princess trilogy is definitely not a bad book series in any way. Yes, it's definitely aimed at children, but that's not always a bad thing, and it did what it set out to do: give its own modern take on an old classic, and in that aspect, it pulls it off very well, and even manages to implement scenarios and subplots into the storyline in ways that make a lot of sense. The characters are much more three dimensional than A Little Princess, though they're still admittedly kinda bland by kids media standards. Still, considering the characters have more flaws and more realistically portrayed here, I mean that as a compliment. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who would like a good old-fashioned kids story.

Definitely one of the better modern takes on an old classic, though it's still a cute little kids series.
 
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This review was just finished yesterday.

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I give this lovely anime about a young woman painter in 16th century Italy...a 79/100!

Often times, barring fantasy settings, it's rare for an anime to take place anywhere outside Japan in some capacity. When they do, many of them take place somewhere in Europe, like in France or Germany...or some fictitious version of them at least. So I ask you: How many anime can you name that took place in Italy? Honestly, the only ones I can think of off the top of my head are this, Romeo's Blue Skies, and Gunslinger Girl. In terms of manga, I know Cantarella takes place during the Renaissance as well, but I haven't read that in years, so my memory may be inaccurate there. So yeah, having an anime take place in Italy is fairly rare. It's also rare for such anime to take place as far back as the Renaissance period. The manga by Kei Okubo is still ongoing, and earlier this spring, Arte was one of the very few anime to finish its production amidst the terrible coronavirus pandemic that's still wreaking havoc on the world right now, and didn't get delayed by several months. That, and being one of the very few anime that ISN'T a dumb isekai made it stand out from the thinned out spring 2020. After seeing it myself, I like it well enough, but it does have a lot that holds it back.

In the bustling city of Florence, art is all the rage right now thanks to the Renaissance period being in full swing. Arte, a young noblewoman, loves drawing and painting, and wants more than anything to become a professional artisan. Unfortunately for her, Arte's family forbids her artistic pursuits and want her to marry a rich man. But Arte refuses to be deterred and decides to abandon her old life to find work. However, during the Renaissance, female painters were extremely rare, and Arte is routinely turned away from every workshop solely because of her gender. Thankfully, a reclusive painter named Leo takes her in as an apprentice when she passes a test he gives her, and Arte finds herself doing all sorts of jobs and learning all she can to become the best painter she can be.

Now, as much as I don't want to be a killjoy in this review, as I really do like this show, I'm going to get the negatives out of the way first to just air them out, as if I don't point these out, somebody else will. I'm no expert on feminism, sexism, or systemic gender oppression, especially the kind that took place during the Renaissance period, but as other people I know have commented and I echo, Arte kind of plays its sexism is bad message too heavy-handedly and in a relatively one-sided manner. The first half of the series shows Arte continually being told she can't or isn't allowed to do something because she's a girl, and the formula goes as follows: She's told she can't do something because of her gender, Arte protests it and is given a test to see if she can do a man's work, she manages to do it, and she immediately wins her enemies over because of her strength and determination. The fact that her adversaries are immediately swayed when seeing Arte doing what they tell her to do just seems too idealistic to me. I mean, I'm no history buff, but women had little to no agency or rights back in that time period for a variety of reasons (Although from what I've read, there are some famous women Renaissance painters), so having Arte just prove she can do what the men can and winning them over just like that feels too rosy and pat, making its messages and entire purpose come off as shallow and really oversimplified.

Thankfully, later episodes start to gradually move away from this and make more of an effort to really explore the implications of Arte's journey beyond the ham-fisted, surface level "You go girl! Women can do anything!" But how does Arte fare aside from its core moral? Well, for one, I think the animation is quite good. People have complained that the color palette is too bright, but I personally disagree (If you want to see obnoxiously bright animation/colors, watch Sansha Sanyou). The shoujo look of the show does make some of the characters look a little too moe-ish, but the animation does make up for that by making the working men actually look rugged and hardened from years of work, along with having relatively smooth movement and beautiful backgrounds, especially when Arte travels to Venice. I also really appreciated the smaller details they added in, like showing a person's hands being cracked and blistered from using tools all day every day, and showing the different drawing styles between Arte and her fellow apprentices.

I don't have much to say on the soundtrack, as both the opening and ending songs are nice and well sung (Though I think some of the rock instrumentation in the opening didn't fit the show, as it seemed too overly modern), and the actual background music makes great use of violins and flutes, giving it a very distinctly Italian feel. As far as the characters go...I like them okay, but other than Leo, Arte, and later Katarina (No, not THAT Catarina!), the entirety of the cast is rather bland and one-note. Arte herself is a fun, dynamic, refreshing lead character who is determined, passionate, angry (Early in the show, due to everyone trying to put her in a box and dictate how her life should go when she'd rather live the life how she wants to on her own terms), ambitious, and willing to do anything to get what she wants, but is still compassionate and friendly. But I will say, one other criticism I have for the show is that it seems to just randomly introduce characters out of nowhere and expects us to just know who they are and accept them right away. For example, at one point, Arte befriends a commoner girl, Darcia, a seamstress, and decides to teach her how to read and write. Not having read the manga, the way the anime goes about introducing her...is just jarring. I mean, Darcia just appears in an episode without even a proper introduction or a brief scene on how she and Arte first met. The anime's just "Here's this character. Arte knows her. Just go with it" and to me, that just feels lazy to me. You can't just throw a character into a show, not give them any form of introduction or set-up, and just expect the audience to care about them. I honestly felt like I missed an episode, that's how jarring Darcia's appearance and complete lack of build-up was to me. The characters by themselves aren't bad or anything, but I just feel like they should have gotten more fleshed out. I can probably attribute that to the show's short episode length (12 episodes).

Shoujo anime/manga that are genuinely good are rather rare these days, but if you made me choose between this and, say, all of the really bad ecchi or isekai that have come out over the past few years, such as How Not To Summon a Demon Lord or the upcoming Redo of a Healer (Which I hear is really really bad), I'd still go with Arte any day of the week. I've also heard that Arte is supposedly based on the life of a real Renaissance painter named Artemisia Gentileschi, but I've found nothing that confirms this. Anyway, to close off: Not one of the better shoujo manga adaptations, but still fairly nice and serviceable if you want something sweet to kill your time.
 
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I think it's time I told you about my favorite book of all time. This review was originally started on July 3rd 2016, but not finished until today.



I give the book that inspired the famous Disney movie...a 97/100!

Disney has been a household name in our childhoods for years, decades even. The movies he, and his company, would put out since the 1930s have been a constant presence in our lives, whether they were actually good or not. The movies I remember in my childhood were Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. My parents said I used to watch them all the time, though I do remember other ones such as Bambi and The Aristocats. I rewatched Bambi a few years ago, and I found it to be a lot better than I remember it being, and now I consider it to be my favorite Disney movie. But only later did I manage to find the book that inspired it, Bambi: A Life In The Woods by Austrian author Felix Salten. I know some of my recent reviews of what many consider to be classic books haven't exactly been kind, and it's nothing personal against anyone who likes those. I just didn't find some of them to be to my taste. Thankfully, that isn't the case with Bambi, which I feel not only absolutely deserves to be called a classic, but now consider it one of my favorite books of all time, ever.

Similarly to the Disney movie, Bambi tells the story of a young deer who is born into a forest, grows up, and lives his life. He experiences all that nature has to offer, from beautiful spring flowers to the harsh winters that make food scarce, meeting all sorts of animals, both friend and foe. The book doesn't really have much of a linear plot or an overarching conflict, as a lot of it consists of Bambi just living his life and learning about the world. I tend to like those kinds of stories, as I'm of the belief that while conflict can be necessary when writing a novel, it doesn't need to be so depending on what you're going for. But that doesn't mean there isn't any in Bambi at all, as during several points in the story, Bambi and the other forest animals have encounters with a human being, whom they refer to as Man, a hunter who shoots at the animals, killing some in the process, with Bambi's mother being one of his victims. Yeah, I know, spoiling a big event, but at this point, anyone who's even heard of Bambi knows his mom dies, so I don't really see any point in hiding it. It's not even a spoiler IMHO.

Just from reading the book, it's a very different entity from the Disney movie. For one, Thumper and Flower don't exist, as they were original creations by Disney. The only characters who get named or get the most focus are the deer characters, such as a male cousin of Bambi's named Gobo, his aunt Ena, mother of Faline and Gobo, an elderly deer named Nettla, a teenaged doe named Marena, and several male bucks, Ronno and Karus, both of whom become his rivals for Faline's affection. Yeah, getting this out of the way here, Bambi and Faline are cousins and they get together romantically...yeah. Apparently marriage among cousins was common in 1920s Austria, though that aspect is still rather...irksome. That's the only reason the novel doesn't get a pure 100 out of 100 from me. Furthermore, Bambi and his family are roe deer rather than white-tailed deer as depicted in the movie, and the animals aren't depicted as being overly cutesy and nice, either.

But before I get to the biggest difference between the book and the movie, let's talk about the prose! Now, from what I've heard, Bambi was originally published in Germany even though Felix Salten was from Austria, and it was translated into English by one Max Schuster, co-founder of Simon and Schuster, and then published by them in America in 1928. There have been differing views on the translation. Some see it as admirable, while some thought it was terrible, with one person accusing Schuster of projecting his own values and opinions into it. Now I can't comment on the accuracy of the translation, as I'm not German nor can I read German, but I can say that the translated English prose is absolutely beautiful. The forest and its wonders are deliciously described in sumptuous detail, from dewdrops hanging off of leaves in the morning to the wild, ravaging storms that rip through the forests. Often times, I felt like I was right there in that forest, smelling the moisture in the air and walking along a tree-lined dirt path in the woods. There's hardly any purple prose, making the writing very easy to digest and process. It helps that Salten avoids telling a lot of the time, actually showing the characters' feelings and emotions through their actions, since they're animals and don't display the same characteristics as we humans do. The characters don't talk like cutesy Disney animals, and every bit of dialogue has meaning and is impeccably written. Nothing is ever taken for granted, from how the deer behave and take care of their young, to exploring how a human's actions can impact animals. I can wholeheartedly say that Bambi: A Life In the Woods has the best prose I've read so far.

In terms of the characters, those who are more familiar with the Disney movie might be surprised to find that Thumper and Flower are completely absent, which is totally fine. There are quite a good chunk of characters in the book, with Bambi obviously getting the most focus and development, though several other characters get fleshed out as well. Faline's brother, Gobo, who doesn't exist in the movie, starts out as a shy, weak, cowardly fawn who's afraid of the world, but after being taken in and raised by some humans, he sees the humans for what they really are, but his behavior no longer aligns with how the deer live, and his survival instincts deteriorate to the point where he lacks caution when confronted with danger. Character development doesn't always have to be positive, as Gobo demonstrates, and it's utilized to great effect here. Bambi is a lot more proactive and social as a fawn, in contrast to his meek portrayal in the movie, but gradually becomes more mature and stoic as he grows up and learns more about nature's blessings and hazards. Ronno was born with a limp and puts on a tough guy act, to the point where he bullies Bambi continuously throughout the book, in order to compensate for it. Even Bambi's mother, who still doesn't have a name, is given more complexity as a character than her portrayal in the movie would suggest, as small as her scenes are. Nobody is truly good or evil here, and Salten's other books taking place in Bambi's universe build upon this. All of the characters are wonderfully layered and complex, even though they may not necessarily be three dimensional, and I love the whole ensemble.

As much as I love the book, there are times when it can get a little weird. One chapter is entirely about sentient leaves talking to each other. That chapter is a common subject of debate as to its place in the narrative. Some say it's a good chapter that has a lot of symbolism and meaning in its discussion about life and death, and possibly a metaphor for Salten's experiences as a Jewish man in Austria before World War II. Some say it's a pointless waste of space and paper that doesn't add anything to the overall narrative. I'm kind of in the middle, as while I did find it jarring, as this doesn't happen again in the book, but I didn't outright hate it, as I did like how it was written and how it raised questions about how short life is. Also, apparently Salten has inserted chapters like these in other books as well, so you might say this is his signature.

If you're thinking about maybe showing this book to your four or five year old, don't, because the biggest difference from the Disney movie is that it's not in any way light-hearted or cutesy whatsoever. Not gonna lie, this book is dark. Not Sakura Gari-level dark, nor supremely grimdark or edgy. Predators are shown attacking and eating their pray in detail (Mostly animal on animal), characters get shot and/or killed, with blood being described without any hint of censorship, and themes of life, death, growing up, and the cycle of nature play a huge part in the story. At the same time, it never goes into emo or melodrama territory, thereby staying genuine and never dragging on more than is needed. I wouldn't recommend this to children under the age of ten or so, but I also wouldn't let the book's darker moments be a reason to not read this book. Bambi: A Life In The Woods is heartwarming, intense, savage, exquisitely naturalistic, impeccably written, and doesn't talk down to its audience.

I was originally going to say Elana K. Arnold's A Boy Called Bat trilogy is my favorite book (or in that case book series) of all time, but the final book's ending wasn't the best. Thus, I can proudly claim that Felix Salten's Bambi: A Life In The Woods is my number one favorite book ever. A true masterpiece, and that is not a comment I make lightly. I love the Disney movie to pieces--hell, it's my favorite Disney movie of all time--but I highly, HIGHLY recommend the book for anyone who loves reading, animals, and pretty much everyone who wants to read something truly good. No, seriously, just read it!!!
 
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Time for something cute! I started this review on March 30th, 2017, but didn't finish it until a couple days ago.



I give this adorable short anime about moe cats...a 66/100.

Do you like cats? Would you like to see kittens anthromorphized into cute anime girls? Then Nyanko Days is the short anime for you! And by short, I don't mean it's just twelve episodes long, but that every episode runs for two minutes. That's it. Moe anime tend to get a bad reputation, mostly for putting too much emphasis on cuteness over substance, and that's understandable. Especially if they drag on for much longer than they need to. But twelve episodes of cute kittens having fun, with every episode only being two minutes long is the perfect length to digest something of this caliber. The story centers on a girl, Yuuko Konagai, who is shy and doesn't have friends at school. But she has three kittens at home, named Maa, Shii, and Rou, and they're all the friends she needs. She loves cats, and later, she befriends another girl, Azumi, because of their shared love of cats. Sometimes the anime focuses on the girls, and sometimes it dedicates time to the cats and their shenanigans.

With this show being as short as it is, both in its episode count and how long the episodes run (Only two minutes, including the ending song), there really isn't much to talk about. The animation is bright and colorful, and the cats are all adorable little toddler girls. The soundtrack isn't really memorable in any way, and the ending song is so moe, squeaky, and saccharine that I think any diabetic who listens to it will die from a sugar overload. Actually, the whole show is super sugary sweet, but its episodes running for under two minutes actually manages to be its saving grace. If Nyanko Days had its episodes go on for half an hour, or even ten minutes, it would just seem dragged out, making it dull and boring.

That said, its short length gives it other issues as well. All of the characters are little more than moe blobs with very little personality other than one basic character trait. Yuuko is the shy girl, Azumi is the popular rich girl, Ran is the hot-blooded rival who wants to one-up Azumi for no reason (We never learn why), and so on. Ran in particular doesn't really have a reason to be in this show, as she only appears in two episodes and that's it, and all she wants to do is one-up Azumi. She's literally a complete waste of space and animation, and she's not even given any sort of character arc at all, so there's no reason for the audience to care about her at all. Also, Yuuko's naming choices for her cats are uncreative as hell. They're literally the first syllables in their breed names! Were you really too lazy to give them more distinct names? Furthermore, the author seems to think having the cats do things like know how to read, watch TV, draw, and use a remote control will make them cuter, but this just goes against the fact that they're...y'know, cats! Giving cats human traits doesn't make them cute, it's just lazy writing.

Eh, even with those flaws, Nyanko Days is a cute little time killer for if you want to waste half an hour. But it doesn't have much to offer other than cuteness and moe cat girls, and I can recommend several anime about cats that are much more substantial, such as Chi's Sweet Home, She And Her Cat: Everything Flows, and My Roommate Is a Cat. But if you do want to watch this, just have some insulin at the ready.
 
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Time for a classic. This review was written on July 1st, 2018.



I give the first game in one of Japan's biggest, most famous video game franchises...a 65/100!

Full truth: Before 2017, I had never played a Final Fantasy game. At all. Ever. When I was a kid, all I ever played was Pokemon, and a bit of Kirby games. That was literally it. I never cared for Final Fantasy at all, not even the popular ones I kept hearing about. It just wasn't my thing and didn't interest me. But as I got older, got a job, and began making more money, I found myself able to buy game consoles I was never able to have access to years ago, like my PS Vita, Wii U, and Nintendo Switch. One game that caught my interest was the original Final Fantasy, or Final Fantasy 1 as it was later called. In the late 1980s, Squaresoft (Now known as Square Enix) was on its last legs, and any game that they were making just didn't sell. Hironobu Sakaguchi put everything he had in what he thought was going to be his swansong, titled Final Fantasy, and decided that if the game wasn't a hit, he'd quit the gaming industry completely and return to university. Needless to say, it was a hit, and we all know what happened afterward. But how well does the game hold up nowadays?

Originally made for the Nintendo Entertainment System, the original Final Fantasy was a very simple game in terms of story, characters, and visuals. It's been remade lots of times since then. The world is dying, and a strange darkness is corrupting the four elemental crystals that keep the world in balance. Four warriors appear, as predicted by a prophecy, and their task is to not only purify the corrupted crystals, but defeat an evil being known as Chaos. That's really it. Other than a few side quests here and there, the game is extremely linear. It's just another generic save the world story. Sakaguchi was more focused on the gameplay than the story, which I can somewhat understand. You pick four characters out of a total of six classes: Warrior, thief, monk, white mage, black mage, and red mage. They all have different strengths and weaknesses. Warriors have good attack and defense but lack speed, and white mages can heal but suck at everything else. What's fun about this aspect of it is that you get to decide the difficulty. You can make your challenge relatively easy by choosing four different classes, or you can do something crazy like have a team of white mages and really challenge yourself.

Now, this review is going to be based on one of the more recent renditions of the game instead of the original NES version. I played the PS1 version, which I downloaded from the Playstation Network onto my PS Vita. Many people say the GameBoy Advance and Playstation Portable remakes of the game are the best, but I haven't played those. I did attempt the NES version, but not only were the colors too bright and sharp for my eyes to handle, it was unnecessarily hard and grindy, so I gave up. The PS1 version I played has a LOT of improvements over the NES version. For one, there's a lot more dialogue that fleshes out the story and gives you more information on what to do and where to go, whereas hardware limitations that plagued the NES could only allow characters to say one box of dialogue and that's it. The graphics are much sleeker, the sprites are more detailed, there's more room for attack names to actually look sensical and readable, and the colors are much easier on the eyes, with the PSP version making them better and refining them even more. Furthermore, in the NES game, if you had your characters attack a monster, and the monster died before other characters would be able to damage it, the attacks would always miss, so you'd wind up wasting MP and not be able to do any damage even with other enemies around. Whereas in later installments, if you have your characters damage an enemy and it dies, the attack hits another enemy instead. The original game was a turn based RPG, but later remakes would give it Final Fantasy's action gauge system, where a character would be able to do whatever their gauge fills up.

For its time, Final Fantasy 1 was revolutionary, introducing character classes, twist endings, and class upgrades, and basically saved Squaresoft from the brink of bankruptcy. As of now, those features are a dime a dozen, and polished a lot over the years, so these days, FF1, especially the NES version, is a relic of its time. It doesn't even try to make its characters three-dimensional or fleshed out in any way, as Sakaguchi wanted to make sure the game played well, and considering the NES's graphical and storage limitations at that time, I can understand it somewhat. Plus, the game really forces you to spend a lot of your time level grinding if you have any hope of defeating the monsters and bosses. This is mitigated somewhat in later remakes, especially the GameBoy Advance and PSP versions, which make leveling up and earning money a lot easier, but the grinding aspect still dominates the game. Plus, it doesn't always tell you where you need to go in order to progress. This is especially prevalent in the NES version, with characters only saying one line of dialogue and that's it, which forces you to figure things out for yourself, and unless you had a guide (Which, back in the NES days with no internet, was next to impossible), you could get yourself hopelessly lost.

There's also the fact that some of the classes are rather unbalanced. Red mages render white and black mages pointless, because they can learn both white and black magic, capable of learning their best spells. Sure, they can't learn certain spells, but the ones they do get are still very useful, and are more durable and physically apt. Thieves are basically underpowered fighters, and in the NES game, they were pretty much worthless, and the monk could easily break enemies to pieces without weapons if you let them. So...yeah, this game may have helped Square Enix become what it is today, but that doesn't necessarily make it a great game in and of itself. Again, the later remakes polish things up a lot and fix a lot of its main issues, such as various glitches that made certain spells completely useless, and making the classes much more balanced. It's still a paper thin RPG game with featureless avatars for main characters, but I'd honestly recommend playing the later remakes if you really want a cohesive experience with this game.

Not the best game ever, but certain games wouldn't be here if Final Fantasy 1 didn't sell as well as it did. Now if only the PSP version were available through means outside of those awful UMD discs! Come on, put them on the US Playstation Network website for pete's sake! Or Steam or the Switch!
 
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Not only FF1 NES is grindier and harder, it is also as glitchy (or even glitchier) than the Gen I Pokémon games, and some of those glitches are actually pretty negative, including non-working spells or spells using the wrong stat. There's also that horrible "you can only cast X spells per day" limit.

Also, later remakes don't have the ATB system, they are still turn-based.
 
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