Okay, so, I’ve done a lot of reviews these past few months… And I mean a LOT of reviews, filling my schedule up all the way into November… So I figured it was time for a good old fashioned rant. This is not being planned out or structured, it hasn’t been in the planning stages for more than the last half hour or so, and I have no idea how long it will be. might be a few paragraphs. might be a few pages. All I know is that I’m currently watching Wanna Be the Strongest in the world right now, and only three episodes in, I’ve got a lot of things to get off my chest.

First off, a synopsis. Sakura is the lead singer of an Idol quintet. Her manager strikes an interpromotional deal with a women’s wrestling league named BWQ(Which is just about the ugliest acronym for a wrestling promotion that I’ve ever heard) and two of the idol’s girls are off to train. The other Idol makes light of wrestling, which pisses off someone whom I believe was the only dark skinned girl in the promotion, and when Sakura steps in to defend her, a match is set up between them. Sakura gets her ass kicked, she loses by fainting, and instead of crawling back into her hole like any smart person at this point, she decides to go pro and seek revenge.

Now, I’m going to pause there, because that’s just the first episode(out of the three I’ve seen so far… don’t worry, I’ll be watching the rest), and yet I’ve already got a few things to get off my chest. first of all, if you haven’t picked up on this yet, wrestling, in this universe, is apparently real. Yeah, I know, there are people reading this with smug looks on their faces like “Dur hur hur, wrestling’s totally fake in real life…” Like you’ve discovered some ancient secret or something. Believe me, you’d have to be pretty fucking stupid to think wrestling was real, and that’s coming for a fan. I’ve been watching for exactly fifteen years this month, and let me tell you, if you actually think it’s possible to drag someone to their feet after they’ve been knocked out, and throw them in such a way that they break into a voluntary run and turn around just in time to bounce off the ropes and come back, you should probably go have your head examined. Like, right now, before it’s too late.

But yeah, wrestling’s real here, the characters are explicitly fighting each other to win, and this brings up a shitload of implications. You would assume that this kind of real fighting, or ‘shoot wrestling,’ as it’s called in the business, would lead to constant injuries, just like it did in WWE’s horrible idea for a boxing charade, the Brawl for All tournament. There were legitimate concussions and broken bones in that thing, but lo and behold, the ladies of BWQ(I will never get used to that) never suffer even the slightest bruise, even when bashing each other over the head with weapons(Which totally happens). The main character loses to the Boston crab 50 times in a row, and they’re REALLY using it on her, and she hasn’t sustained one single leg injury. What is she Gumby?

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. She trains to join BW… Fucking Q… And her training consists of Saitama style workouts, which she somehow aces, and taking 100 throws(and suplexes being called throws) in a row. That’s it, and she’s ready to debut. no running the ropes, no developing a style, no taking bumps… Just workout a lot, get stronger despite not gaining any muscle definition(Yeah, I know it’s an anime, but SERIOUSLY, show some kind of a fucking change in her body), and she gets thrown into the deep end, losing 50 matches in a row. Oh, but we only see one of the matches… For the rest, we just see her in the crab hold, we hear her pathetic cries of pain that are suspiciously disguised as sexual pleasure, we see generous shots of her tits heaving up and down, and then she says she gives up. She doesn’t tap out, because the people writing this shit didn’t even do THAT much research, she just gives up.

Keep in mind, despite her losing and crowds beginning to disperse over her, they never decide to hold her back or cut down on her in ring time. They never try anything new like sticking her in a tag team, they don’t give her a gimmick to make her more interesting… Oh, and trust me, they do gimmicks. There’s one character who dresses like a biker and has a possy of henchman, so don’t you DARE tell me they don’t have gimmicks. Oh speaking of her, remember how wrestling is real? not only do we see her blatantly beat her opponent over the head with a kendo stick, and smash some sort of steel looking box on her head, but we get to see her henchman blatantly interfere, to the point that they’re not just pulling clever tricks, they’re getting into the ring to contribute to her submission moves.

In pro wrestling, a pinfall is when you hold your opponents shoulder-blades down to the mat for a three-count(Yes, wrestling is fake, go get a fucking cookie to congratulate yourselves on that). In this match, the good girl wins with a pinfall, even though the evil girl had her shoulders down during a submission move, and that actually counts as a pinfall. Oh, wait, no it doesn’t. Anyway, episode three, Sakura’s having doubts about continuing this career… Which she damn well should have… The head trainer has a sparring match with her, where she won’t release the hold when Sakura gives up because… Get this… “It’s just you and me here. no ref… No audience… no rules.” I’m sorry, were there rules before?

I don’t think I’m going to review this title, I’m actually having a hard enough time just getting through it, but I wanted to talk about it all the same. The WWE is currently in one of the best eras of women’s wrestling it’s ever been in, now that they’re hiring actual talent and not just models who are willing to fall down a lot, but this stupid ass show is taking women’s wrestling back to the models era of 2008, only worse. I don’t know, I’m asexual, and maybe it would be different if I reacted to women holding each other in submission moves while the camera and the voice acting tried to make it as porny as possible the same way most guys do, I might not have such a gripe with it. I’m sorry, this shit isn’t sexy to me, it’s just weird and pathetic, and it’s an insult to a passion in my life that I hold almost as high in regard as anime.

It would be bad enough if they completely misrepresented wrestling, which they do. It would be bad enough if they treated their character like budget saving sex objects that they could animate for minutes on end just sitting in there in the crab move while the camera sexes them up and they moan and cry. What’s worse about it, so far, is that it’s being as lazy and uncreative as possible with a concept that offers endless possibilities. you set an anime in a wrestling ring, even if it’s stupid as hell and the wrestling is considered real, you have opportunities to create interesting characters, interesting in-ring styles, so many possible character designs… Rumble Roses was a shitty game, and look at how much imagination THAT thing had!

But no, it’s just bland, bland, bland. Everyone’s outfits are the same… Bikinis with various levels of coverage, but most so revealing that even the divas of the mid-2000s would call them slutty, aside from the one chick wearing a bodysuit. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to slut-shame anyone, or say there’s anything wrong with wearing revealing clothing, but if you’re performing in the ring, there’s a certain point where you’re just begging for a wardrobe malfunction. Anyway, we barely see any wrestling maneuvers outside of submission holds and suplexes that we can barely see due to how close the camera is. Even the nudity, which I’m pretty sure is the only thing keeping mot people watching, is the same every time. Every episode, a shower scene. Even Strike Witches liked to mix it up.

A few months ago on Facebook I gave Yuri on Ice grief for showing virtually the same skating routines over and over again with little to no variety, but at least we got to see the full routines. I actually quite loved the one kid’s rock and roll inspired routine. I just wish Strongest would show us one… Just one… Full length match. A good TV match can go anywhere from 12 minutes to 24 minutes, so they could devote an entire episode to one awesome match if they wanted to. They obviously don’t, though, because they’re obviously just using the concept of wrestling to deliver softcore porn. That actually really disappoints me.

I’m going to go finish the anime now… You know how I am, I’ll obviously have it long since finished by the time this post goes up. I’m going to hold onto the hope that it gets better, or at least a little more imaginative, but based on the things I’ve heard about it, I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, what the hell am I watching?

Update: Okay, so, I finished the show, and it does get slightly better, but it also never stops getting dumber, so that kind of evens things out. They drop the episodic showers, they show people tapping out and getting pinned, wrestlers do start to suffer damage(which they no-sell as soon as the match is over), and there are a few lengthy matches. Sakura’s grudge match against her initial rival is okay, it’s not terrible, but it… along with the other handful of matches we get to see… Is still pretty fucking stupid. I didn’t mention this earlier, but the show had a nasty habit of having it’s wrestlers have to literally yell to the ref that they were pinning someone or grabbing the ropes, because while WWE may have refs that collapse on the spot if you so much as tap them, this show has refs that are too fucking stupid to recognize the tell-tale signs that they’re trained to spot.

There’s a little more variety, too, and I do mean little. Some high-flying action gets worked in, but it does little to add any sense to the matches, which jump from move to move with almost nothing in the way of logical progression. Then of course we have the final story arc, where Sakura’s old BFF from the idol group becomes a wrestler to fight her and drag her back kicking and screaming into the idol group, even though Idols have short careers and pro wrestling would be a nice longer term plan to follow it up. I’m not gonna lie, this reveal was spoiled for me, but I already suspected it before I was told. They eventually settle on a resolution that’s almost… almost… As stupid as what happened in the second season Oreimo OVAs.

Am I going to review this? No, I don’t think it deserves to be dignified. It’s not one of the worst anime I’ve ever seen, but it’s sure as hell one of the stupidest, and if I tried thinking critically about it, I’d probably give myself an aneurysm. So there, a rant is all you’re going to get.

But hey, there’s going to be a pretty cool review next week, and after that, we start up Horror month! Hope you’re looking forward to it!

 

Sakura: I’ve been training so hard… Why didn’t I win? There’s got to be a reason.

Me: You know, I have a theory about that… I’m working on some sort of connection between your loss and the fact that your opponent was using a weapon and had lackeys interfering on her behalf. I think I may be on to something.

Sakura: I need a finishing move!

Me: Brilliant!

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1: There would be OVA episodes
2: RWBY Chibi would be called something more creative.
3: Ruby’s most powerful attack would take multiple episodes to charge.
4: The students would have a homeroom class, instead of just a few exposition classes.
5: In that class, Ruby would sit in back by the window.
6: Right behind Weiss.
7: Characters would get profiles detailing their birthdays, blood types, favorite flowers, etc.
8: One of the characters… Probably Blake… Would be an aspiring manga artist.
9: Ren would make rice balls or pork buns, instead of pancakes.
10: One of the wealthy characters would have their own summer home/private island…
11: On which we’d have at least one beach episode.
12: And at least one onsen/hot springs scene.
13: Or just bathing and showering in general. Seriously, it’s even common in kids anime.
14: They’d also jealously compare bust sizes.
15: Weiss would probably have pigtails.
16: Ren and Nora would be related… Most likely cousins.
17: Nora would likely have a kansai accent.
18: Yang would drink a lot more, and at least once make a reference to Misato Katsuragi’s iconic beer chug.
19: Jaune’s dress would have included a wig and fake boobs.
20: Volume 4 Cinder would be wearing an eyepatch.
21: Roman would be prettier, and have long white hair.
22: Pumpkin Petey’s would come in hundreds of different flavors, including limited editions.
23: Pyrrha would be a terrible cook, and her team would just pretend not to notice.
24: Jaune, on the other hand, would be an unexpected prodigy at it.
25: Beacon would have had school clubs.
26: Instead of barking, Zwei would only be able to say his name
27: Jaune would have a terrible sense of direction.
28: Blake would constantly insert the sound “Nya” into her speech.
29: Tai Yang would have married Summer when she was a teenager.
30: Ozpin would be a horny old man.
31: One of the named students would be Ozpin’s niece/granddaughter.
32: LGBT characters would be portrayed in offensive, obsessive, predatory ways.
33: Jaune would occasionally walk in on Weiss changing and get his ass kicked over it.
34: One of the female characters would be constantly groping her peers.
35: Romances between characters would be teased, but never confirmed.
36: Team RWBY would have an ultimate attack that called upon the power of friendship.
37: Zwei would get his own episode, likely involving a night on the town and silly hijinks.
38: Chibi would have a fraction of the main show’s budget.
39: Volume 4 would have featured an episode involving CFVY, FNKI, SSSN, etc.
40: Grimm Eclipse would include a vs. mode.
41: In addition to Grimm Eclipse, there would be at least one dating game/visual novel.
42: Tai-Yang’s mother would be alive, living with him, and 3 feet tall.
43: It would utilize occasional public domain classical music pieces.
44: They’d save money with close-ups, speed-lines, and extras frozen in the background.
45: People and interiors would be 2D, ships and environments would be 3D.
46: They’d have series recap episodes.
47: Penny’s first word would have been her name.
48: .Beacon would have had cultural and athletic festivals.
49: More characters would wear glasses.
50: It would have been made in Japan.

The teenage years are often referred to as the best years of your life, but they can come with their own set of challenges… It’s the time of life where you’re still finding out who you are, who you want to be, and what’s important to you. Even as late as the crucial age of 18, it can be difficult to find your place in the world, especially if you’re struggling to find the place where you belong. This is even worse for Sena Izumi, because in addition to his more normal adolescent woes, he’s the youngest member of an entire family of entertainers and celebrities… His sly father is a stage actor, his spoiled mother is a model/actress, his doting brother is the lead singer of a popular rock band, his family has it’s own talent manager… And he wants to be a manga artist. Naturally, this has caused a bit of friction in the family, as the excitable and outgoing Sena family is beginning to seriously worry about their youngest son, who’s locked himself in his room like a hermit and dedicated his life to a passion that they believe he has no talent for the field that he dreams of finding success in, and they’ve decided to do whatever it takes to get him out of his introverted shell.

Fortunately for them, an opportunity to do so has just presented itself. When Izumi was only eight years old, he was dressed up like a girl for a wedding scene in a commercial, and the company wants to do an anniversary commercial… A sequel, where the children from the original classic have grown up and are marrying themselves. After some creative persuasion from his brother, Izumi agrees to don the drag dress one more time, but little does he know that his walk down the aisle is leading him into the arms of destiny. His costar, the now famous Ryoma Ichijou, has been in love with him since the first commercial, and this isn’t just imprinting… The sight of her face has gotten him through ten long years of hardship in the entertainment industry, and it was HIS idea to get the original cast back so he could finally make his dreams of seeing her again come true. Will his discovery of his bride’s true gender bring his longing to a grinding halt, or has he come too far to turn back now? And what kind of effect will getting caught up in all of this have on Sena’s routine lifestyle? They may only be married in fiction, but the red string of fate is all too real.

Love Stage comes to us from JC Staff, who I believe I’ve said before has no real consistency in it’s visual presentation. It goes all over the place in terms of quality, but out of the three general camps that I mentioned in my Kill Me Baby review, I’d say Love Stage fits nicely into Camp 3. This is, once again, the camp where anime has a modest budget, there’s no real room for excess, and they do whatever they can to make the show look as good as possible without putting themselves into a compromising financial situation. Much like other shows in this camp, Love Stage never really goes out of it’s way to impress you with it’s animation, but it still looks fucking great. The characters use very simple movements whenever motion is needed, and it never tries to do more than it needs to, while at the same time never feeling like it’s skimping. There are budget saving tricks at play, but the producers were clever enough to make sure it all felt like part of the visual style and tone of the series, which they succeeded at.

And speaking of the visual style, this is a very beautiful show just in terms of it’s art alone. For about 90 percent of the series, the color palette is bright, warm and welcoming, almost like it knew how intense it’s kind of subject matter could be, and was designed to put viewers at ease right from the early stages. The other ten percent of the time, when the show does get a bit darker, what with the characters dealing with issues and internal turmoil, the palette changes to reflect this, but it’s never for long. The level of detail is also stunning, with it’s depiction every little crack in a shattered marble only being the tip of the iceberg. Just about everything in the background is shown with intricate detail aside from the people, who are drawn as colorless silhouettes, and while I’d normally rag on a show for this… RWBY season 1, how ya doing… The fact that it only really happens when a character is busy with internal monologues does make it feel like an accurate portrayal of their distracted mindset.

While I’m not a fan of shiny white halos surrounding a character’s hair… I’ve bitched about it before, and sorry, but I’m not cool with it here either… The character designs are otherwise very attractive and tell us a lot about the characters as people. Ryouma and Izumi in particular were designed to fall right in the middle of masculinity and femininity, as they’re obviously coded male, but they still have the big moe eyes, slender bodies and feathery hair that’s just long enough to frame their faces, and the details that would normally code a character as seme or uke are more than just there, they’re ingrained into their personalities. Izumi’s eyes in particular are multi-colored, mostly amber but touched by a subtle swirl of blue at the tops, giving them a mysterious quality that you can understand someone getting entranced by. The other characters in the cast are fairly generic in design, but it doesn‘t really hurt anything, as their looks do inform their personalities. I do feel that the blushing artwork is a little too over-pronounced, but that’s a minor issue.

The music is a bit on the generic side, but it’s not bad or anything. I didn’t find any of it to be repetitive or annoying, like in a lot of shows I’ve seen. The character songs are a lot more interesting, with LalaLulu’s song being a delightful parody of the Magical girl genre, and Izumi’s brother Shougo has a really cool song called Love or Die, and yeah, I can see why the band Crusherz became famous. The opening, Lovest by Screen Mode, is awesome. Not only is the song catchy, upbeat and fun to listen to, but the video is just as fun and fits every beat perfectly. The constantly changing visuals are simple enough to grasp what they’re showing you in the time they have, and they match the energy and tone of the show. Surprisingly, the ending theme is more of the same, a catchy song with visuals that are pleasing to the eyes and match the beat of the song, and while most of it features posed characters, there’s an actual burst of expensive animation towards the end. I can’t remember another show where I watched all the way through the opening and closing as often as I did with this one.

There’s no dub, and I’m not a good judge of Japanese acting, but I’d just like to point out that if there’s ever a dub for this show, I hope they cast Chris Patton as Ryouma and Greg Ayres as Izumi. Moving along.

Okay, let’s just rip this band-aid off right now… Love Stage is a yaoi. It’s not a shonen-ai, oh no, it’s a full on yaoi. I’ve never reviewed a yaoi before, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t seen any. While I’m no expert on the genre, I have dabbled a bit, and unfortunately, what I’ve seen prior to Love Stage wasn’t all that impressive. I read the first few volumes of Loveless, I saw the first four episodes of Gravitation, I’ve seen the movie Fake, and while it’s more subtextual than anything else, I sat through the first season of Black Butler. In short, my exposure to the medium has revealed it to be a minefield of problematic situations and over-all just shitty story-telling, relying way too heavily on love at first sight, people turning queer out of nowhere on a dime because the plot demanded it, romanticized sexual assault, writers who forgo necessary information and development because seem to just want to get to the action already, and way too many couples where the age differences lay on different sides of the law. I’ve been told by people far more versed in the genre than I am that most if not all of these observations are persistent from title to title.

Now, does that mean there are no good Boys Love material out there? No, not necessarily. I plan to watch Yuri on Ice and Nabari no Ou in the future, and I’ve even seen some shows that I thought would have actually been improved if the main male characters went gay for each other… Kids on the Slope, for example. But alas, thank the LGBT gods, there is at least one good yaoi anime out there. I’ve already praised the art and animation from this show up and down the wall, but the number of problems and genre cliches Love Stage avoids, subverts, or just has fun with is insane. Now keep in mind, I’m not saying it’s an accurate portrayal of homosexual people or homosexual couples, and I’m not saying it presents it’s gay characters as realistic people or that it exists for reasons outside of tickling the libidoes of ravenous fujoshi, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good. Yeah, I made a big deal about figuring out whether or not Strawberry Panic was faithful to it’s subject, but that show was garbage and needed the extra point. Love Stage doesn’t have that problem.

Right off the bat, we’re introduced to the main character, Sena Izumi, the uke of the situation. Oh, but we find out much more than that about him. After making sweet promises to us in the form of it’s animation, Love Stage wastes no time establishing Izumi’s character. We find out who he is, what he wants from life, what his family’s like, what his backstory was like, what his issue is, several possible resolutions to it, basically everything you need to know about him, and this is expressed without a lick of unnatural dialogue or exposition, and even better, we learn all of this before the first kiss is even taken. We don’t learn quite as much about his seme Ryouma until much later, but we know about their shared history, and through his actions revolving around his interactions with Izumi and his coworkers, we do learn enough about him to not have any lingering questions about him that really need to be answered. I can’t say they feel like people I’d meet out there in the real world, but they still feel like fully developed and fleshed out characters.

They also both have personalities that tie directly into their seme/uke coding, with Izumi being childish and submissive, but still driven by his own interests and possessing a decent level of propriety and agency. Ryouma is tall, dark and mysterious, quick to anger and somewhat closed off, but still struggling with the conflicting feelings inside of him and trying his best to control the parts of himself he doesn’t quite understand yet. While it takes them a while to work out their personal hang-ups and finally come together, they do make a really likeable couple. I also really liked the Izumi family, as viciously manipulative and backstabbing as they can be, and in the most delicious sort of way. Shougo, Izumi’s older brother, dotes on him and gets clingy to the point that he honestly can be a little creepy at times, but he still has plenty of moments where he redeems himself by showing a genuine concern and protecting him. We don’t see much of Izumi’s parents, but despite Dad acting like he knows best and Mom acting self-centered, they both clearly love their children.

Perhaps the most nuanced character is the family’s manager, Rei, a cold and calculating character who’s not above pulling the strings whenever necessary, selling people out to family obligations and looking for every possible advantage in his day-to-day dealings, but he still cares enough about his employers that he’ll set aside all of his business concerns if it feels like the right thing to do. Izumi’s manga club, only one of whom kind of registers his presence, is designed so that he’ll look out of place there, not that he ever notices. Similarly, the fictional character of Lala-Lulu, his fantasy Waifu idol, is so far removed from bearing any resemblance to actual girls that it’s not hard to see how disingenuine his attraction to the fairer sex really is. A few of the characters can get annoying at times, the fat otaku feel like an unjust stereotype, and I’m pretty sure I’d have a gripe with Izumi’s parents if they were given more to do, but over-all, I really liked all of these characters. I’ll admit that Ryouma does test me a little, but that just leads me to a few other cliches.

First of all, there’s the love at first sight cliche, which Ryouma falls neatly into. He’s been in love with a certain girl since they were 8, and while that would normally earn an eyeroll at best from me, the fact that his love for her carried him through the entertainment industry… A field of work where you NEED to hold onto some form of innocence to survive, let alone succeed… I can give it a pass. Plus, with Izumi turning out to be a guy, and Ryouma being unable to shake the feeling anyway, it does feel like Love Stage is having fun with this cliche, rather than using it straightforwardly. Ryouma’s feelings are portrayed as crazy, but not the stalker kind of crazy… The romantic kind, where you know your love for someone makes no sense, and is totally out of left field, but you’ll still stay true to who you are and who you love, the world be damned if it stands in the way. This is probably the best usage of love at first sight that I’ve seen in an anime, let alone in a yaoi, but unfortunately, Ryouma falls into other cliches that are much harder to forgive.

A constant occurrence in yaoi is rape. It may not be carried all the way through, but it’s there, from gay characters in non-yaoi shows that speak in exaggerated falsetto and frequently make unwelcome advances on straight characters, to attempted rape that’s played for laughs, to actual rape that’s romanticized and sparks a new level of romance as a result. And yes, there is a point where this show gets… Rapey. I won’t tell you exactly what happens, or the reason that it happens, but three episodes in, Ryouma does something, and he winds up losing control of himself and coming within a hair’s breadth of doing something he’d never be able to take back, before he’s interrupted and the unforgivable thing is just barely prevented, but here’s where Love Stage takes a major step away from the worst of it’s genre… What he does is explicitly considered to be a bad thing. The writers don’t try to sweep it under the rug, oh no, it’s painted exactly the way it should be, and it’s this turning point that really got me invested in this pairing.

After the… thing… Ryouma feels genuine remorse, and he has to apologize and earn Izumi’s trust back before he can even THINK about pursuing a relationship. He’s accepted his feelings by this point, but Izumi is a much harder sell, and even though he buries the hatchet with him… Mostly out of pity… It isn’t until Ryouma proves his devotion by getting involved with Izumi’s lifelong passion, helping him along towards his goal, and doing everything in his power to encourage him and build him back up when things don’t go the way he wanted. He slips back into problematic territory when he kisses Izumi a bunch of times in his sleep… I mean, come on, seriously? But he earns those points back when he refuses a carnal offer that he can tell Izumi doesn’t really mean. I won’t say whether or not these two wind up together in the end, but… Isn’t that alone a breath of fresh air? The fact that you can’t tell? Yeah, they have numerous encounters, both as friends and as romantic prospects, but the outcome of their time together is just as engaging as the journey there.

Love Stage is available from Sentai Filmworks. The original manga by Eiki Eiki is available from SuBLime. The original light novel is not available stateside, but the series can also be viewed on Crunchyroll. There’s an OVA episode on the DVD that I highly recommend, and as for what it’s about, let’s just say it’s more of Ryouma being a pain in the ass.

Now, after all the time I’ve spent talking about how good this title is compared to other titles in the Boys’ Love genre, and how it deconstructs and subverts a bunch of troublesome tropes, the reaction I’m probably getting from most readers is… So what? Even if it’s a good yaoi, it’s still a yaoi, and most of the anime fanbase will have no interest in that kind of content. Well, there is one thing about Love Stage that I feel gives it a more universal appeal: This show is fucking hilarious. I was hooked right from the first time that Shougo manipulated Izumi with Lala Lulu merchandise, and Ryouma’s reaction to Izumi’s gender reveal was just icing on the cake. It’s visual style works extremely well with it’s comedic timing, which follows a healthy combination of gag and character-based jokes, most of which hit their mark. It was almost enough for me to forgive some of the more problematic scenes, including Ryouma’s missteps and an attempted gang-bang towards the end that came right the fuck out of nowhere. It’s a yaoi, so it’s going to be a mixed bag, but it’s a bag I won’t mind reaching into a few more times. I give Love Stage an 8/10.  

Nagisa Aoi was just an ordinary girl. She wasn’t especially smart, she wasn’t especially pretty, she wasn’t especially noble… There was really nothing special about her. Then, one day, she transferred into Miator Academy, one of three all girl schools located at the top of Astraea hill, a sacred place where no males are allowed to enter. The three schools are affiliated, and they only accept female students from proper, upstanding families… Well, there’s one other possible qualifier, but we’ll talk more about that later. Students are expected to live on campus in two person dorm rooms, and as a right of passage, first year students are expected to act as maids for their elders. Luckily, Nagisa was able to avoid this fate, transferring to the school in her third year of education because of… Reasons… And it was at this school that the once ordinary Nagisa would become… Well, still an ordinary girl. There’s no evidence that that part of her is ever going to change. But somehow, despite this ugly duckling slowly growing into an average duck, there is one thing about her life that is about become extraordinary.

For you see, at these three schools way up on Astraea Hill, they elect more than just a student council… They also elect an Etoile, who represent the school in all of it’s glamour and prestige. For now, the Etoile is Shizuna, a tall mysterious girl with long white hair and a spirit that radiates with ennui and depression, and for seemingly no reason at all, she appears to have taken a very special interest in young Nagisa. From long measuring glances to sudden, uninvited embraces that come within a hair’s breadth of ending in a sultry kiss, the most beloved and respected student on campus has her empty eyes on Nagisa, and they’re filling up fast. Nagisa has no idea how she attracted this kind of romantic attention, but luckily for the older girl, she doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to try to lose it, either. As the two young ladies become closer, and the bond between them begins to form, they’ll find that the Astraea Hill School System is both a political and social minefield, full of backstabbing, sabotage and political intrigue. Will our perfectly ordinary heroine brave the dangers of Astraea Hill for the sake of a love that’s truly extraordinary, or will her destiny fall short in the end?

The Strawberry Panic anime was produced by Studio Madhouse to capitalize on the successful magazine run of a series of short stories, all focusing on different all-female romances taking place at the Astraea Hill Schools. Productions from Madhouse rarely ever have generous amounts of money poured into them, which can lead to even beloved classics like Trigun looking wonky half the time, but on the plus side, some shows can still flourish visually without a lot of financial backing, like the dialogue-heavy Death Note. Well, Strawberry Panic may have a lot of dialogue in it, but the nicest thing I can probably say about it is that it’s not the worst looking anime I’ve ever seen. They clearly tried their hardest with it, but there’s only so much a bare bones budget can do when it’s attached to a light, fluffy show that doesn’t have the benefit of heavy shadows or obscure angles to hide it’s flaws. I’m honestly not sure how good this show even COULD look, as it’s clearly the kind of show that Kyoto animation was born for.

Madhouse tries to hide the limitations of this show’s movements, and for the most part, it does manage to pull it off, relying on as many staticky conversations and panning shots as it possibly can, and it treads water at least well enough to… well, not enough that the shoestring budget goes unnoticed, but well enough that you can ignore it and focus on the story. Having said that, the very second the motion needs to pick up even the slightest bit, the returns can be flat out embarrassing. Characters walking often look like profile images bouncing up and down as they move across the background, a tragic horse accident in the latter episodes is clumsy enough to bring inappropriate roars of laughter to what’s supposed to be somber scene, and if you can tear yourself away from the beautiful piano melody in one particular scene, you’ll feel duped when you realize that you’re just looking at a panning shot where a couple of frozen characters just move their upper arms ever so slightly. You can’t even watch a character fall down the stairs on screen, no, there’s a very intentional cutaway.

It’s a nice looking show in terms of design, however, as every named character has a specific look that you probably won’t forget, even if you haven’t seen them or thought of them for extended stretches of episodes. In fact, I got so used to having their looks inform their identities that towards the end, I briefly mistook one of the main characters for being two separate girls all because her hair was sometimes down. Their designs are generic, but they’re at least different enough to distinguish one girl from another, and the use of different uniforms for each school also helped this to happen. Miator has black uniforms, Spica has white uniforms, and Lulim have yellow vests paired with checkered skirts, all three of these designs being popular ones from the history of high school anime. Oh, and of course, there are also maid outfits present. The backgrounds are serviceable enough, and although it doesn’t really have anything to do with the story, the architecture is also really pretty to look at. There’s also a lot of flowers… Yeah, I know, it’s a yuri, big surprise… But they’re not just border decoration, there’s a greenhouse full of them, and a lot of care clearly went into their rendering.

As I mentioned before, whatever beauty the visuals may lack is made up for tenfold with the soundtrack. The instrumentation is mostly comprised of violin, piano and cello, and while the standard slice-of-life music that occurs while nothing’s really going on can be a bit on the underwhelming side, there’s a lot of melancholy and pain in this anime, and the music translates this beautifully. There are a couple of classical songs that are played when Shizuna and Nagisa are bonding over the piano, the instantly recognizable but still very well-chosen Moonlight sonata and Maiden’s Prayer. As for the original music, Yoshihisa Hirano put together a powerful score that almost manages to lend gravity to the melodramatic nature of the series. There are several emotionally gripping moments that work hand in hand with the score to rip your tear ducts out through your throat, But at the same time, honestly, there are several moments in this show that are so uncomfortable that the music will wind up being the only thing you WANT to remember them for. Kaori’s theme tends to be a popular favorite, but I strongly prefer the tension present in Unmei and Fui ni Semararete.

The aversion to movement is unfortunately carried through to the first opening, which appears to do the bare minimum on a visual scale, showing the different characters in leisurely glamour shots, reacting to the camera before the next character can get their spotlight. The song, Shoujo Meiro de Tsukamaete by Aki Misato, is a fine song on it;s own, a little on the generic side but still well orchestrated and catchy. It’s a good enough op, but it;s also a really predictable one, so I’m glad the second opening threw all of this convention out the window. It’s called Kuchibiru Daydream, once again by Aki Misato, but it comes off as a lot more lively and inspired, with more force and flow behind the vocals. The imagery in this opening is also a massive improvement, as it still kinda reeks of budget restrictions, but it’s able to do a lot more with it on account of the fact that it TRIES to do a lot more with it. This mirrors the level of effort present in the anime, which started off a little lackluster before picking up steam towards the second half.

The endings, surprisingly enough are mostly live action. You don’t see that very often nowadays, and for good reason, but these ones actually do manage to skew past the awkwardness thanks to the chemistry of the two ladies on screen, Mai Nakahara and Ai Shimizu. They also happen to be the singers of Secret Dolls, which has a distinctive goth-rock feel to it. Makes sense, I guess, since they’re both all dressed up in goth-loli costumes, which I would consider overkill if it didn’t fit the doll theme so well. They sell the yearning between them mostly through facial expressions and clever directing, and finish by sealing the song with a kiss. The same two singers reprise their roles for the second ending song, Ichigo Tsumi monogatari, which is… A thing. A really weird thing. It goes off in an entirely different direction with creepy singing paper cut-out CGI, and that’s all fine compared to the fact that the energy and set design remind me of Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi, which is one of those things nothing should ever remind me of . So yeah, the second opening and the first closing were really great.

And since there’s no English dub, I guess we should get right into the writing, huh? Well, I do have a few comments about the Japanese sub, even though I’m woefully underqualified to judge Japanese acting. First of all, there are a lot of times where the lip flaps didn’t match the voice of the people speaking, which is a mistake I thought only dubs could make, and it’s a shame that I was only able to watch it with subtitles, because I had trouble keeping up with the dialogue whenever my eyes started to involuntarily close over how bored I was. Oh yeah, we’re starting on this note; There are a few things Strawberry Panic is known for, and I’m pretty sure one of them is just how much of a train wreck the story and plot are. That is, when there’s even story and plot present. Right off the bat, we’re introduced to some meek little redhead with so special or distinguishable characteristics in a cast that’s already bloated from the start, and while it feels like you’re supposed to care about her, you’re never told or shown why she’s worth that kind of attention.

The only interesting thing we learn about her… Possibly ever, now that I think about it… Is that she has the ability to uncontrollably run through forests like she’s a WWE wrestler waiting to encounter a rope to bounce off of. Aside from Shizuna’s abrupt attraction to her, nothing else of consequence happens for a very long time. We’re dropped into a story that has at least a dozen characters, little to no attempts at world-building, and a bunch of creepy non-consensual almost-kisses being our only clue as to what or who we’re supposed to care about. I would honestly recommend keeping a pillow handy during the first six episodes, and on and off after that, just in case you decide that a dream might be more interesting than what’s going on onscreen. It meanders through fields of inconsequential fluff before it ever approaches anything resembling a point, wasting time on characters who wind up getting shoved to the side anyway, including almost everybody from the Lulim school, like a loli with a teddy bear, a pair of useless girls who I just wound up calling Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and one named Chikaru who I wish was important, because she feels really likeable.

There is a point, of course, but it takes an inexcusably long time to get there, and even then, there are problems present. The actual meat of the story is the romance between Shizuna and Nagisa, and while you’re never really given a clear reason as to why Nagisa would develop feelings for the older girl, Shizuna’s attraction to her is VERY well defined, and while I won’t spoil it here, it carries an admittedly compelling layer of conflict and tragedy to the idea of the two of them being together. Besides, while Nagisa’s feelings may be undefined, they still feel more than real enough to make the audience genuinely care where their romance goes. They’re not the only major romance, though, as there’s another sub-plot involving an equestrian and a young blonde student, and it starts out okay… It’s really sweet and heartwarming at first, then it dives into a bit more drama as it evolves into a love triangle, but it all goes south as the two villain characters standing in their way get drawn in, making it a love pentagon, with enough going on in it to make it feel beyond convoluted, and that’s BEFORE the hokey-as-fuck amnesia plot twist.

Honestly, thinking back, I’m tempted to say that Shizuna is the only character in the cast who really feels developed and fleshed out by the end. We know what happened to her, why it happened, how it started, how it made her the person she is, and how it motivated her actions in the present, and there’s a lot of room to interpret whether she’s a selfish character, a sympathetic character, or both. For the most part, everybody else has personalities that have been defined just enough to differentiate them from each other, but their personalities are almost entirely informed by their role in the story and their interactions with others. With the exception of a few girls from Lulim, you won’t have any trouble remembering who’s who, but you’ll have a hard time caring for any of them, aside from the two main couples and maybe Nagisa’s roommate, but that’s a hard maybe. You’ll probably wind up hating the little girl with the teddy bear… Well, a lot of people seem to, I personally just ignored her… And there are a few characters who, after they’ve disappeared for a while, might just coax a “Hey, I remember you!” out of you when they appear again.

But you know what? There was one story arc where everyone generally came out looking good. Yeah, some of the best moments in the series take place when Shizuna and Nagisa are alone(depending on your tolerance for questionable levels of consent), but the one arc that really worked as an ensemble was when the three schools decided to put on a play. They pick the European classic Carmen, and just about everybody plays a fun role in this arc. Egos are challenged in the cast listing, Nagisa gets a little extra depth, the villains get to be nasty for what feels like no real reason, there’s intrigue and last minute improvisation, beautiful costumes… The problem is that it only lasts two episodes, despite spanning a period of several weeks. In a smarter anime, they’d have expanded this arc to at least a quarter of the show, using it as a backdrop to other less consequential stories, tying them into it so that there’d be something to look forward to through other boring or forgettable moments.

But they don’t do that here… Strawberry Panic never comes near the level of effort or inspiration that it would take to come up with a solution like that. Well, fine, you wanna get lazy? There’s another solution they could have tried… Cut the length of the series down to 13 episodes. There’s a ton of material they could have cut, and I’m sorry to say, as pleasant as it was in the beginning, the entire Hikari/Amane/Yaya thing could have gone bye-bye along with it. I mean, seriously, would anyone miss that sub-plot? They could have cut the story down to just focusing on one school, Miator, and still had enough time to develop Nagisa and the few supporting characters around her more properly. The problem is, and I can’t believe more people haven’t noticed this, is because this isn’t a show you’re supposed to think about. You’re supposed to be drawn into the emotion and the romantic and political intrigue, because if you stop to think about what you’re watching for one second, you’ll realize that very little of what you’re seeing makes even a lick of sense.

For example, I can’t be the only one who found the Etoile system to be confusing as fuck. Let’s see if I’ve got this right… It’s an elected position where you’re basically an ornament, meant to uphold the beauty and nobility ideals of the school, and you’re not the Student council president, even though you have to sign a lot of undefined papers. You apparently keep this position until you graduate, which can take up to six years… If you follow the plot closely, Shizuna’s been doing it about three years… And it’s vital that you have two of them, but if you lose one for whatever reason, they just carry on without making any attempt to replace her. Oh, and you can be from different grades, so what happens when one graduates and the other hasn’t yet? And are you supposed to be a couple with your partner? If not, why would you have to run away and abandon the election just to be with the person you love? And why do the people in charge tell prospective candidates that they don’t have a choice when they clearly do? And why is it okay for one school to not submit any candidates? Is any of this explained in the source material?

On top of that, I had trouble understanding why every girl we meet who has even the most slightly established sexuality is a lesbian. Yeah, okay, it’s a story about lesbians, but the context it creates feels really weird, like the story exists in some post-apocalyptic society where men have gone extinct. It kind of feels like it was influenced by the Japanese Romantic Friendship custom, where adolescent young women are able and even encouraged to engage in close, emotionally strong bonds with one another, although such bonds are strictly platonic, and they’re expected to leave it all behind when they grow up so they can marry and reproduce. One show that took a harsh metaphorical look at these customs was From the New World, which took Romantic Friendships and evolved them into more sexual territory, but Panic takes it into a different direction, treating these bonds as actual romance… The difference being that unlike New World, Panic ignores the effect these relationships might have long term. Nobody ever brings up what their futures will be like once they graduate and reenter Japan’s heavily patriarchal society, which almost makes the series feel vapid. It has no stakes.  I was honestly confused by the conflict in the final episode, which made no sense from too many angles to count.

No, I know exactly what they were going for with this… It’s an escapist fantasy. You know, the kind of story where the reader can experience a situation or lifestyle that would be impossible or really troublesome in real life. It’s unrealistic by design. This series was written for the viewer to escape into a world full of beautiful girls who want nothing more than other beautiful girls, with no conflict outside of their romantic woes and social standings. Now, is that a bad thing? Honestly, it depends on who the fantasy is designed for. A lot of lesbian media is intentionally designed to exploit queer people for the sake of fetishizing them for the enjoyment of straight males(To be fair, yaoi’s market is just as bad), and that was my initial impression of the series. Of course, there was also the possibility that the lesbian fantasy in this show was created as an escape FOR lesbians, especially when you consider just how badly oppressed they are in Japan NOW, let alone in 2006 when this series was released. It’s an important distinction to make in cases like this… Who’s it for?  On the one hand, it creates an environment where same-sex relationships are the norm, and are explicitly romantic in nature, which sounds nice, but it also refuses to acknowledge said relationships ever leaving the school, which leans more heavily towards the idea of homosexuality being a phase you grow out of, which is more of a patriarchal idea.

To try and answer this dilemma, I took to social media, and asked for anybody who’s seen the series to let me know what they thought of it, along with their gender and sexual preferences. I didn’t get a lot of responses, which isn’t very surprising when you consider how personal a question that is, but what was surprising was that the few responses I did get were from queer women who had generally favorable opinions of it. They were well aware that the show had issues, and that it’s problematic in spots and a little dumb, but they all said that when they watched it as teenagers… Remember, this show is now 11 years old… It helped them come to terms with their sexualities, and even taught them that it was possible, even okay, for a woman to have romantic feelings for another woman. They even said that the material that was obviously meant for titillation was just as enjoyable for them as it was for presumed straight male viewers, barring the few non-consensual moments. Admittedly, my sample size was small, but it was still very revealing in terms of what it means to the people I thought it was just exploiting. It’s not much, but it does earn the series a little redemption in my book.

Strawberry Panic is available from Anime works, a division of Media blasters. The 5 disk thin pack has unfortunately doubled in average price since it was released five years ago, but used copies on Ebay can be found at a reasonable price. The original novels are available stateside from Seven Seas, and the original manga is available from the same company.

While the process of reviewing this title has been enlightening, my opinion on it has remained largely unchanged. I still consider it a train wreck, full of random fluff, way more characters than it could handle, and an ending that was entirely unsatisfying and wound up raising far more questions than it answered. Having said all that, I do understand that it has an important place in LGBT anime. It doesn’t tackle the struggle to define ones’ self, as Utena did, and it doesn’t satirize the oppressive patriarchal society of Japan the way Yurikuma Arashi eventually would, but it does manage to present the idea of same sex romance in a somewhat progressive way, and I can’t really fault it for that. It presents an escapist fantasy where queer women both younger and older can set aside the idea of forbidden love and guilt so they can just feel normal in a world that’s constantly telling them they’re not. I still can’t justifiably call it a good show, but at the very least, I do now know that there are people out there that I can confidently recommend it to, even if that demographic is a small one. I give Strawberry Panic a 4/10.  

Ah, Grimm Eclipse. To some, it’s a limited, cheaply made rip-off of Dynasty Warriors. To others, it’s fucking addictive. I am proud to call myself a member of that camp. I got that game and Overwatch this year for my PS4, and when I finally got Playstation Plus, I was able to play them. Since that day, I’ve felt sorry for my lonely, unloved copy of Overwatch, but what can I say? Grimm Eclipse is just too hard for me to put down, and in honor of the recent eclipse, we’re going to talk about it!

Since it hit consoles and I started playing it, I’ve spent an inconceivable amount of time on it, completing it 100 percent after only two months, and yet I still kept playing it. After all that time, I’ve become familiar enough with the material that I’ve decided to share my wealth of knowledge with you. In this post, I’m going to be ranking all eight characters available in the game from worst to best, and I’ll be judging based on a number of factors, including damage potential, special abilities, dash length, weaknesses, and the like. I’ll be exploring their pros and cons, figuring out what they’re good for and where they falter, and ultimately deciding who’s truly the best character.

But keep in mind, none of them are necessarily bad characters. Worst is a relative term. If there is any grouping of diverse entities, the one on the bottom will always be seen as the worst, even if they’re perfectly fine in their own right. Also, you might not agree with my rankings, but I forgive you for that. Nobody’s perfect.

Onto the list!

#8: Lie Ren

Lie Ren is a very strange character, and you have to use him in very specific ways to make him worthwhile. His best attribute is probably the fact that he’s one of the three best dashers in the game, but aside from that, nothing about him is really very impressive. His ranged attack is a hot mess, and even when it’s beefed up, it’s not even powerful enough to justify the time you put into unlocking it. His ultimate attack does decent damage, but it’s unreliable, which is a shame, because you’ll need to rely on it a lot. It works the best when you’re facing individual powerhouse enemies, like Ursas or mutant Beowulves, but if there are multiple enemies on the field, such as in the final battle of Story mode, he can’t be trusted.

On top of that, and I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this, his heavy attack… Which does decent damage, to be fair… Does recoil damage. Who the bloody hell thought that would be a good idea? His team attack is pretty boss, and he’s quick on his feet, but he’s not a very easy character to master, particularly with the aiming difficulty present in his ranged attack, which is why I consider him the worst character.

 

#7: Pyrrha.Nikos

Despite having a terrible dash length, Miss Nikos probably has the second best ultimate attack in the game, right behind Ruby’s, as they can both kill full-health Beowulfs with one hit, but that’s really all she has going for her. In order to use this character at her full potential, you’ve gotta have a lot of patience, and spend a lot of time wearing down hordes of enemies with her counter before safely moving in for the kill. She is the only character who can counter while standing still, which is her only real special attribute, although highly skilled and intelligent players will be able to use that technique in conjunction with her team attack to overcome her weaknesses.

I’m honestly not a fan of the fact that she has an entire skill tree dedicated to melee attacks, because while she may be decent as a striker, that’s not the kind of technique you want to be using to quickly and cleanly disperse of a large number of enemies. Also, her long range attack is kind of a joke, although it does feature a stun effect. As I said before, no character in this game is technically bad, but I do believe she’s the second weakest of the eight.

 

#6: Yang Xiao Long

Honestly, I kind of consider #6-4 to be very close, almost tied, but with just barely enough differences to distinguish them from each other. Yang could have actually jumped to #4 if she had a good dash length, but she just barely falters in that category. Her special attribute is that she can restore her ultimates by losing health, which sounds great on paper, but it comes with two nagging problems… First of all, that puts you at risk of getting knocked out, and second of all, in oirder to make the best use of this attribute, you’d need to unlock it as well as both extra Ultimate bars, and Yang’s only a considerable threat when all of her skill trees are unlocked.

Yeah, you heard me… Yang is really only a worthwhile character when all three of her skill trees are at the maximum. At level two, her team attack and ranged attack are a joke, and her ultimate is… well, still above average, but nowhere near as powerful as it is at level three. All three of her skill sets are powerful when beefed up, but in order to get there, you need to pour all of her points into them, rendering her defensive and support stats bare, making her a glass cannon. She’s great for kamikaze players, but clumsy with most others.

 

#5: Nora Valkyrie

For the most part, Nora’s an average character. She has one of the worst dash-lengths, is an okay striker, and like Yang, her team and ultimate attacks aren’t really useful unless they’re bulked up. The reason I put her above Yang and the others is that she has the second best ranged attack in the game, and it’s pretty useful even at low levels. Instead of just one attack, she launches a whle barrage of bombs, which gives her move great spread, and can damage multiple enemies at once. True, the damage from this attack gets better with each level up on the skill tree, but the stagger effect alone is really useful against tougher enemies, and it’s the best and fastest way to build up a long hit streak, which is important for both completing challenges and refilling the ultimate bars.

She still has really good Ultimate and Team attacks, as long as you’re able to spare enough points to beef them up. Her ranged attack is more or less fine at level 2, leaving some points for defense and support. Actually, now that I think about it, since it;s so easy to fill up the Ultimate bar with this character, you can actually afford to skimp a bit on the Team Attack, and just rely on ranged and ultimates.

 

#4: Ruby Rose

First off, Ruby is the second of the three characters who have the best dash-lengths in the game, which definitely counts for something. Second, her ultimate attack and Team attack are both totally boss, with her ultimate easily being the most powerful in the game, and she’s also really fast with her combos. She’s a deadly character who’s a lot of fun to play, but she also has one serious flaw: Her ranged attack is an insult to the player.

It can deal out status effects, which is fine if that’s what you’re into, but it has a four level skill tree, and even if you max it out to the fourth level, which is always a VERY time consuming task, it takes two complete rounds to kill a fucking Creeper. I guess the second level is acceptable, just because it stuns, and you can just stop there and pour your remaining points into getting all three Ultimate bars, so she’s still a fine character.

 

#3: Jaune Arc

At first glance, Jaune doesn’t look all that impressive. His dash-length is shit, he has literally no ranged attack, and his ultimate, on it’s own, doesn’t do a lot of damage. But oh, does he make up for all of this. First of all, he’s one of two characters who start out the game with a broken, powerful attack at low levels. His heavy attack is quite a bit more powerful than anyone else’s, both the charged version and the aerial version. They do heavy damage, but on their own, they’re pretty risky. They require you to fight close-range, and if you get crowded and mess up your timing, the results could be devastating for you. Luckily, Jaune has a system in place that makes these moves even more powerful than they already are.

As you already know, Jaune’s ultimate Attack has the power to give your team, or just yourself, stat boosts. The speed boost is a nice little gimmick, fun to use for a bit, but ultimately not very useful. The damage boosts, however, are a godsend. And the best part is that while every other character has an ultimate attack that hits once for the price of a whole ultimate bar, Jaune’s attack instead elevates his regular attacks, so by the time it’s effect has expired, you’ll have already dealt massive damage AND filled your bars back up. Take this effect and add his ability to utilize his own Team Attack set-ups, and you’ve got yourself a perpetual motion machine of bad-assery. Hell, you don’t even need to beef up your heavies at all, so you’ll still have points left over for the necessary support stats.

 

#2: Blake Belladonna

Here we have yet another character that really doesn’t look like much. Her ultimate is powerful, but you need to boost it to a fourth level just to maximize it. That’s not to say the second and third levels aren’t decent or can’t be worked with, but the fourth is still way more powerful. Her team attack is essentially the same as Ren’s ultimate attack, and it works better as a Team Attack. She also has a decent ranged, but not very good Dash-length, and no real special attributes… Unless you know the secret to using her.

See, Blake is a slightly above average character at best, but if you know how to use her to your advantage, she is indispensable when it comes to battling hordes. I can’t even imagine someone getting the Platinum trophy without relying heavily on her. The secret lies within her second level ranged attack, which is by far the best stunning move in the game. It has great range, a decent spread, and it moves through targets, meaning the amount of enemies she can stun is limited only by how many are right in front of you. They’re also instantly aggroed, so if you’re looking to exercise some crowd control in order to keep the hordes away from a node, Blake can do this with ease. Using blake is the easiest possible way to achieve Horde Master, Horde Hero, Crazy Science Machine, The Old Fashioned Way, you name it.

 

#1: Weiss Schnee

Remember when I said Jaune had a broken move really early on? Well, so does Weiss. It only takes one experience point to unlock her second level ranged attack, which does heavy damage, staggers opponents, and can be used rapid-fire to take down enemies before they even get to you. Back it up with her second level Ultimate, which is decent but not overpowered, and you can cruise through campaign mode with those two moves alone.

The third level of each of her skill trees is a freezing attack, which I don’t really see the point of. So, if you stop at level two with each tree, you will officially have her at her maximum damage potential… Yeah, her ultimate only kills about half the life of a Beowulf, but her ranged attack more than makes up for it, with a staggering effect that even works on Mutant Beowulfs. Aside from Blake, she’s the best character to use against both red and white android enemies, and right behind Blake, she’s the second best character to use in Horde battles(especially Mountain Glenn), and she’s able to reach this level of power with six entire experience points remaining, which can be fed into her Defensive and Support stats, making her by far the most well-rounded character in the game. also, out of the three characters with the farthest dash-lengths, she’s slightly better than the other two.

She’s a deadly character for experienced players, the perfect character for beginners, and my pick for the best character in the game.

We all remember our first love. It happened in high school for most of us, middle school for a few of us, and much later in life for those of us who were less fortunate. It was that shy, awkward time in our lives when our hormones were raging, our need for intimate one-on-one companionship was impossible to ignore, and after putting forth more and more effort until it felt like we were just screaming our ears off into a dark abyss, we finally managed to convince the object of our desires to invest some time in us. Well, that, or you were the one being persuaded, and you eventually gave in and relented, but either way, we finally found somebody that we could call our own… Somebody we could say was ours, to spend all of our free time with, all while people gossiped behind us about what may or may not be going on behind closed doors. For the first time, we found somebody that we wanted to do all of that mushy stuff that grossed us out when we were children with. We were finally one half of a couple. You never forget something like that.

For Mei Tachibana, first love isn’t the subject of nostalgia… It’s coming for her, and it’s coming hard. While she was used to spending time by herself, avoiding all of those phony, blood-sucking, backstabbing social circles who have burned her before. With no interest in impressing anyone, Mei retreated into the background, not wanting to attract any attention to herself… Which, ironically, attracts the attention of Yamato Kurosawa, the most attractive and infamous boy in school. Having fallen in love with her at first sight, Yamato will stop at nothing to make her his, even while admirers, a former flame, a famous model, and even his own little sister try to compete with her for his attention. She is of course attracted to him as well, but how can she let down her defenses for him, when she’s been hurt before? How can she give herself over to someone, to trust him as he trusts her, when she has no idea what his intentions are, or what a plain, ordinary girl like her can possibly offer someone as perfect as him? Oh, what’s a troubled young girl from Forks… Um, I mean, Japan, to do?

Say I Love You was animated by a company named ZEXCS, which is apparently pronounced like Zekushizu. I don’t think I’ve ever come across that name before, but they were also partially behind the production of Diabolik Lovers, so I must have. Taking a closer look at it’s history, it was apparently formed by a former JC Staff producer, and yeah, now I’m starting to put this company into context. The work that I’ve seen from JC Staff have been wildly varying in terms of quality, but I’m kind of surprised to say that in this case, we have a title that’s wildly varying in quality all by itself. Say I Love You was clearly a low budget series, as evidenced by the plethora of shots where people are frozen in the background like mannequins, stuck in time in the middle of their conversations, but it overall isn’t bad looking animation, either. Thankfully, this kind of show doesn’t need to be heavy on movement, as a lot of it’s story is told through inner monologue and long wistful stares, so the constant dips in budget don’t ever get too distracting.

Well, I say that, but the material they may have wasted a bit too much on is also present more than a few times. That’s not to say saving money for the sake of scenes that require more movement is a bad thing, but the frozen backgrounds become a bit less forgivable when you’ve got money to waste on pointless shots like animations of children running at a distance as well as other similarly blurry, shaky-cam looking shots that I’m still not sure what they were trying to do with. Like I said, though, this isn’t a genre that really needs to be told through a lot of movement,and considering how fluid the little movement it has actually is, this show actually looks slightly above average compared to others of it’s ilk. They put a lot of effort into making basic motions and interactions such as minor scuffles and walk cycles look realistic, even if characters freeze a bit too often when they’re talking to each other. Aside from the few key visual tropes of a shoujo anime, character designs skew towards realism, and while the backgrounds are adequate overall, there are brief moments where the artwork and lighting are so beautiful that you might actually forget the few nagging budget issues.

The music for the series has a very pleasant tone to it, as do most Shoujo based soundtracks, but this particular composition by Yuuji Nomi just had that little extra bit of effort and diversity behind it. Some of the tunes are a bit loopy, and can become annoying when played on endless repeat in the background of scenes where nothing’s really going on, but the ones with actual purpose and intentions behind them are kinda genius, using a number of different instruments to bring a soft, melodramatic feel to the story. From the xylophone to the violin, every note is played with the right atmospheric pace, with vibrations in all the right places to convey the wavering hearts of the cast. Unfortunately, the opening theme Friendship by Okazaki Ritsuko, is a bit more on the generic side. If you’re heard a shoujo opening song before, then you’ve heard the one, which honestly just feels like a bland version of the op from Fruits Basket. It’s not necessarily bad, per se, but you won’t miss anything by skipping it, and the same goes for the ending.

Likewise, the English dub isn’t bad, but it’s really kind of unremarkable, as it mostly just goes through the motions. Honestly, they didn’t even bother matching the lip flaps in a lot of scenes. Actors Greg Ayres and Monica Rial, who should have been breaths of fresh air in any dub they’re in, play disappointingly close to their most common typecastings, with Ayres playing the pervy girl-crazy best friend, and Monica playing the likeable, bubbly best friend. The same could be said for Andrew Love, who once again plays a somewhat dimwitted tough guy role, but since he gets misused a lot easier than those other two, I’ll just consider his playing to type a good thing. If there’s an especially sour note among the cast, it’s Leraldo Anzaldua, who I’ve never been a particular fan of, and they gave him the lead role. His approach to the character seems to almost be inspired by Robert Pattinson’s approach to Edward Cullen… Play him as you see him, even if that interpretation is a negative one, and Leraldo plays Yamato like a wet rag with all the personality and enthusiasm you’d expect if Shyamalan was directing him.

There are a few beaming lights, though… Caitlynn French does a way better job with Mei Tachibana than the role actually required, all while giving just as honest a portrayal as Leraldo gave. She plays the role as sometimes bitchy, sometimes preachy, while never becoming unlikeable in either tone, and she even made her character’s depression feel a lot more crushing than the original Japanese seiyuu did. There are some lines she had to speak in this show that were downright uncomfortable, and probably not by design, and she still did surprisingly well with them. Emily Neves was also a gem as the snooty, duplicitous Megumi, and while that’s not really a surprise as she’s always been a bit of a chameleon, you don’t really get the full effect of it until she breaks down towards the end of the series. Oh, Brittany Karbowski and Tiffany Grant also get small parts in this, and while that alone should be a selling point, they’re roles are limited, both in time and in content. I can’t really condemn the dub, as there are a few really good performances in it, but I feel like if I’m being honest, I’ve gotta recommend the sub.

You know, I’m not immune to the charms of a good shoujo anime. I really don’t think anyone is, even if they protest that fact. They’re like anime chick flicks… Sometimes, even hardcore action and gore fans need to sit down for a feel-good viewing of The Princess Bride. Likewise, I’ve yet to meet an anime fan that didn’t enjoy Princess Tutu and Ouran High School host club, and while those two shows do deliberately contain a lot of dual appeal, I don’t really mind the more stereotypically shoujo anime, either. I liked Fruits Basket. I love Ikuhara’s work. Those of you who remember my Vampire Knight review will know that I consider the first season to be a major guilty pleasure. I don’t mind the giant eyed heroines with absurdly rendered pupils and eyelashes. I don’t mind skinny bishounen makes with haircuts that are ultimately dated because they’re based on whatever’s popular at the time. I’ve got nothing against the genre or it’s tropes, so I don’t want you to think I’m biased when I say that my first time watching this series, almost exactly one year ago, I dropped it after three episodes.

Before I get intro why, let’s go over some of the more persistent problems hiding right in plain sight just beneath it’s flowery surface. Starting with the main character, Mei Taniguchi, we’re told early on that she’s not like other girls. She’s not like the gossipy girls who play social games for their own benefit, and she’s also not like the girls who alter their natural appearances to impress guys. Okay, we know what she’s not, but what is she? We know she has a tragic backstory where some rotten kids blamed her for something they did wrong, and that’s caused her to become distant and bitter even several years later, and we know that she’s honest, and occasionally has wisdom to offer people, but aside from all that, I’ve gotta be honest, she’s kind of boring. She’s a textbook Mary-sue character, who’s only real flaws are her shy nature and mistrust of others, and she doesn’t do a whole lot to solve these problems. Other people do. Hell, she rarely ever makes progressive or active choices as a protagonist.

And her boyfriend Yamato Kurosawa is even worse. This isn’t really my biggest problem with him, but his biggest problem is objectively the fact that he’s so damned inconsistent. There are a ton of examples I can bring up, but I feel like one of the most obvious is when we find out that he’s not a virgin. It’s explained to us that it’s because he’s really selfless and kind, and he slept with a girl because she made him think it would make her happy. Well, this happened in the same episode that he invited himself along on Mei’s trip to the salon to get her hair cut, but he immediately hijacked her plans in order to take her out on an abrupt date. She misses the salon, upon which he says that he likes her with long hair. Oh, NOW you have an opinion? Your pants fly off because a girl asks for your dick, and you’re totally a martyr, but when a girl thinks her hair is getting too frizzy to manage, THAT’s something you’ll voice your opposition to? When it comes to character development, actions speak louder than words, and his actions in this case just felt controlling and manipulative.

And that’s not even him at his worst. People often give him shit for kissing Mei without permission in order to get rid of her stalker… Which, while effective and somewhat excusable, feels a bit overkill. As a wise red dragon once said, never play an ace if a 2 will do. They seem to forget that in the same episode as the salon incident, towards the end, he catches her hiding and watching him, and takes the opportunity to kiss her without permission again, ultimately pinning her against a wall and kissing her into submission. If she hadn’t been receptive to that, she could have had him behind bars for sexual assault. He ditches her for hours in the middle of a date because his friend had something to give him, he went over to another girl’s house for weeks after school without telling Mei, and he doesn’t even make a habit of asking her what she wants to do until the final third of the story… Up until then, it’s always “Let’s do this,” or “You should…” I am honestly convinced that the anime adaptation skipped over some info dump about him suffering some kind of brain damage as a child, to explain the way he behaves throughout the series.

See, this isn’t just a shoujo romance series. It’s something far more insidious. It’s a self insert wish fulfillment fantasy boyfriend series. Mei isn’t supposed to be an interesting character, she’s supposed to be a blank slate for the audience and presumably the writer to imprint themselves onto, so that they can live out the experience of having a popular, handsome boy getting all up in their business. Yamato isn’t supposed to be an interesting character either, he’s supposed to be an unobtainable dreamboat who only has eyes for the main character, much to the dismay of, like, oh my god, the entire school. It’s like Twilight without the sparkling vampires, or 50 Shades of Grey without the BDSM and torture devices. Hell, the only torturing device involved was my own DVD player. Don’t get me wrong dudes are guilty of this too… We tend to get a lot of stories that depict us as badass loners who get bothered by sexy girls who fight with us but eventually succumb to our awesomeness through no real change of our own, like Steins;Gate and Sword Art Online, but Say I Love you takes this concept to a special new low, because I have a very specific person in mind who might be dreaming it up.

Just for fun, I’d like you to imagine Tomoko from Watamote… Yes, we’re really doing this… Alone in her room, bitching about the people in her life, when all of a sudden she’s like “Wouldn’t it be awesome if the most popular boy in school fell in love with me? That would show all of those losers. He’d be obsessed with me, and it would be because I’m different. I’m not like all of those back stabbing bitches, or those tramps who slather on gallons of make-up to whore themselves out to boys. He’ll fall in love with me at first sight, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I’m not easy, though, so I’d play hard to get, and he’d come at me kind of rough, but that’s okay, because we both know we’re going to be together forever! He’d even turn down a model for me… no, wait, he IS a model! Oh shit, I’d better write this down! I can make a manga out of this!” And then after two hours of brainstorming, she’s like “Ooh, and then his friend comes back, and he totally falls in love with me because we like the same theme park, and they’d totally fight over me! Oh, and we get a hotel room, and… Nope, gotta think of my demographic. nothing happens at the hotel because he respects me, and while he’s more experienced than me, none of what he’s done before me matters, because none of it involved me!”

It’s mindlessly self-indulgent right down to the fact that backstabbing classmates are used as a constant source of antagonism, as well as being basically what every named antagonists’ backstory boils down to, and no attempt is ever made to humanize them. They come close to it as part of Megumi’s backstory, when they abandon her in favor of someone she refused to invite, but even then, the abrupt decision and hive mind element to the scene make no sense. Actually, there’s a lot of occurrences in this anime that make no sense, from Mei and Yamato leaving a festival early all because they’re friends decided to go home(They seriously wouldn’t take the opportunity to be alone?), to Yamato’s creepy relationship with his sister, who he seems to act as both the parent and the crush of, to how easily Megumi comes undone over her inability to ensnare Yamato, even though she literally just decided out of the blue that she wanted to date him based on his looks. The tragic part is that she’s clearly a rip off of Ami from Toradora, who was a much better written and explored character.

Earlier in this review, I referred to the relationship between Mei and Yamato as their first love, and I did so for a specific reason… It was my attempt at gently stating that, in all likelihood, it won’t be their last. Not only are such romances doomed to fail in real life, but the one between them isn’t even based on a solid foundation. Yamato’s love for Mei was decided and settled upon based entirely on his first impression of her, and he doesn’t even bother getting to know her before imprinting on her. Outside of his good looks, I can’t see what Mei sees in him, outside of his persistence and refusal to give up on her. Their love, respectively, is superficial and circumstantial. He didn’t even open her up to other people, like she claims… Once he picked her, other people came to her out of curiosity, through no effort of his own. In their own mutually exclusive ways, these two characters don’t even know what love is, and eventually, I can’t help but get the feeling that their relationship is destined to end with tears and heartbreak, with the school’s new power couple splitting up, and honestly? I’m okay with that.

With most high school anime romances, even the bad ones, you’re given a sense of purpose in the two of them staying together… Even in a shitshow like Clannad, where I wanted Tomoya to get remarried after his wife died, he was still destined to marry Nagisa before anybody else, as their emotional codependency formed too intense a connection to break. In the Love Hina manga, we get to see over time how the spineless dumb-ass Keitaro was able to win Naru’s heart. In a good show like Toradora, you know enough about Ryuji and Taiga’s friendship and backgrounds that we know they don’t make sense with anybody else. In Say I Love You, I didn’t get a sense of any of that. If they were to break up, with Yamato dating Megumi and Mei winding up with Kai, those relationships wouldn’t necessarily last forever either, but it wouldn’t feel like some major tragedy… It would just feel like “Ah, part 2 of the story!” And yeah, with this being the worst case scenario, the series lacks any real stakes, making it kind of tedious to get through. Honestly, the final episode was a joke, with the two of them being separated by a series of phone tag related coincidences. Yawn.

Say I Love You is available from Section23 films both on Bluray and DVD, and can also be viewed on Crunchyroll. The original manga by Kanae Hazuki is available stateside from Kodansha comics, and the live action film is apparently not available in the US, but from what I’ve heard that’s not such a bad thing as even fans of the anime and manga find it soulless and bland.

Much like the shoujo genre, I really don’t have anything against melodrama, but there’s a much clearer distinction to be made with that material… Melodrama tends to work best when it’s self aware. Anime like Bento and so many shoujo titles outside of this one were written by people who knew that the stories they were writing didn’t measure up to much in terms of stakes, so they compensated by amping up the emotions, infusing character development into the plot, and using themes to add flavor to what was going on. Say I Love You tries to do this, with a breaking bracelet symbolizing a broken heart, and cats getting along when their owners do, but for the most part, it does the bare minimum, creating a bad romance between two 2-dimensional characters that has no reason or power to stand the test of time. The music and the animation are above average, and to be fair, Mei and Yamato do become a lot more tolerable of a couple in the final third when Mei starts to show a bit more initiative and Yamato starts to treat her more like a person, but I think a romance where the guy sounds ten times happier about his new kitten than about his new girlfriend leaves a lot to be desired. I give Say I Love You a 3/10.

So, let’s leave all talk about whether or not this movie was any good off the table. I saw it, I hated it, but if I’m being honest, I gave it the benefit of the doubt. It didn’t have to accurately represent the books, it just had to be good on it’s own merits. Some people say it did, some people say it didn’t, whatever. With this post, I’d like to take advantage of my knowledge of this 7 book trilogy(8 if Wind Through the Keyhole counts), which I read very recently, and compare what happened in the books to their interpretations from the movie. This is for people who’ve read the books and want to know what they’re about to get into, and it’s also for people who’ve seen the movie and want to know how literally everything that happened in it was more interesting in the source material.

There are heavy spoilers below, but I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’ve already finished AT LEAST the movie or the book series.

1: In the movie, Roland is black. In the book, he was white. This doesn’t really cause any problems, especially since Idris Elba does a fantastic job with the role, but it would have conflicted with one of the book’s late sub-plots, as Roland was supposed to be an alternate universe doppleganger for Stephen King himself.  Since the movie ended on a fairly conclusive note, I think we can safely say this plot point isn’t going to happen any time soon.

2: Opening line
In the movie, when Jake is waking up from a dream, we hear “The Man in Black fled across the Desert and the Gunslinger followed,” which makes no sense, and comes out of nowhere, since we have no idea who’s saying it and we never even see either of them in the desert. In the book, that line is not a psychic message, it’s from the book’s own text, and it describes exactly what the two characters are doing right at the beginning, as the Man in Black flees and Roland follows him.

3: First two books
In the movie, we start things off with the introduction of Earth Jake. In the book, he’s not introduced until book three, as he’s Roland’s third companion. In fact, there are two entire books that are skipped to get to that point, with Roland chasing Walter, going through a village on the verge of ruin, meeting an alternate version of Jake, moving through a tunnel full of mutants, sacrificing that version of Jake, walking miles across a shore line, pulling his first two companions into his world, etc.

4: Jake Chambers
In the movie, Jake is obsessed with drawing pictures of the other world, and everyone thinks he’s crazy. In the books, he keeps having visions, but he keeps them to himself, except for one poem that he writes, that his teacher mistakes for a work of genius. He leaves his home on his own accord, and never returns.

5: Jake’s parents
In the movie, Jake’s dad is dead, a heroic fire fighter, his mother is highly stressed, and his step-father is a dick. In the books, he has his original parents, and his father is a cocaine-abusing hard-ass who wants him to succeed. He actually lays off a bit towards Jake’s departure, believing all of his studying to have over-exerted him.

6: The Man in Black
In the movie, The Man in Black is a constant presence, and is actively involved n everything. In the books, he’s barely present, and only appears on rare occasions, including two different areas of Roland’s backstory. He’s also revealed to have far more names and identities than Walter O’Dim, including John Farson and Randal Flagg.

7: Eddie and Susannah
In the movie, these two flat out don’t exist. In the books, Eddie is Roland’s first companion, a drug addict in deep trouble with the mafia. His second companion, Susannah, is a wealthy black woman with a split personality and two missing legs. The two fall in love in oddly quick fashion and wind up married by book three.

8: Roland’s poisoning
In the movie, Roland is stabbed in the shoulder by the tail of a generic monster. In the books, he’s attacked in the beginning of book 2 by a giant mutant lobster who snaps off two of his fingers and one of his toes, leaving him poisoned. He has to walk for miles along the coast, slowly dying of infection, before finding his companions to help him pull through.

9: Susan
In the movie, Roland’s revenge is set forth by the murder of his father. In the fourth book, Wizard and Glass, which is my favorite of both the series and the entire King bibliography, we go back to his teenage years, where he’s patrolling a western-like town, and the interferences of The Man in Black lead to the death of his first true love, local girl Susan Delgado.

10: The Spheres
In the movie, Walter uses a glowing orb to spy on Roland. In the books, these are far more heavily fleshed out, with a few of them appearing in the story. The black one especially acts as a particular nuisance in The Calla when they find it buried beneath the town church. In his teenage years, Roland discovers the pink sphere, and after the murder of his lover, becomes obsessed with and entrapped by it.

11: The Beam
In the movie, Roland’s journey seems a bit aimless, and you wonder why he doesn’t just sit on his ass and let Walter come to him. In the book, he’s following a specific path that he calls The Beam, that only he and other Gunslingers can sense and follow.

12: Arra Champignon
In the movie, this character is a see-er who helps to decipher Jake’s visions. In the books, she’s not alive in the current timeline, having been assaulted and murdered by bandits after leaving Gilead to birth her child with her outsider husband, against Roland’s father’s wishes.

13: The Calla
In the movie, Jake and Roland spend some time at a random village that’s eventually ransacked by agents of Walter. I’m not sure what they were going for specifically, but the village is reminiscent of Calla Brynn Sturgis, or The Calla for short. It’s a farming village that the low men send soldiers called “wolves” to steal children from every generation or so, returning them as adults with their minds ruined. In an homage to Seven Samurai, the Calla hire Roland and his companions to help them defend themselves against this generation’s onslaught, which they’re able to do with only a couple of casualties. Interestingly enough, the Wolves have been designed after elements of Keystone Earth’s pop culture, and are basically robots designed to look like Dr. Doom, with Lightsabers and Sneetches as weapons.

14: Ka Tet
In the movie, Roland pairs up with Jake because he proves useful, and they develop a bond way too quickly. In the book, all of Roland’s companions… Jake included… Are companions that were chosen by destiny to be part of his ka-tet, a band of warriors that are more like a family. They are all extraordinary individuals from previously ordinary lives, and they all have Gunslinger potential.

15: Oy
Speaking of which, Jake has no animal companion in the movie. In the book, he befriends a Billy Bumbler, a wild animal native to Outworld, who has limited mimicry related speech capabilities, and names him Oy, after his parroting of the word Boy. I know this may sound kitschy, but the Bumbler actually proves himself useful and even a vicious warrior on several occasions. He even dies defeating the final villain.

16: King Arthur
In the movie, Walter tells us that Roland is descended from King Arthur, and his guns are made out of Excalibur, despite this information being completely irrelevant to the new version of the story. In the books, we’re given several hints about Roland’s lineage until it’s eventually confirmed, and none of it is expository or out of place.

17: The Rose
In the movie, there’s a rose painted on a wall at the end. In the books, the rose is an important plot point, as Jake is drawn to it in an abandoned construction lot, as it’s a direct reflection of the status of the tower. Roland and his ka-tet have to go out of their way to protect it, as killing it would destroy the tower.  There’s a long story arc about two of them going back to earth, forming a fake company called the Sombra corporation(which is also briefly referenced in the movie) and buying the lot to keep it safe.

18: Pepsi to Coke
One of the stranger changes on this list is Roland drinking a Coke on the subway. In the books, his first taste of an Earth beverage is a bottle of Pepsi, which he has an animated reaction to the overbearing sweetness of, and which somehow helps to heal him of his poisoning for a limited time. He’s also given tuna fish sandwiches, which he calls tooter fish. Oh, also, he calls sandwiches ‘Popkins.’ Just felt like adding that.

19: The Rat Man
In the movie, Walter randomly yells at someone named The Rat Man. In the books, this is likely supposed to be Gasher, a character who kidnaps Jake and takes him hostage when Roland and his companions are crossing a downed bridge, thus setting off the Lud story arc.

20: Charlie the Choo-Choo
In the movie, while Roland and Jake are traversing the ruins of an old theme park, we see a decrepit train with a happy face on it. This is likely a reference to Charlie the Choo-Choo, a children’s book character whom Jake discovers in the book, and winds up being a hint towards Blaine the Mono, an enemy they’d have to contend and put up with between books three and four.

21: Jake’s development
In the movie, Jake’s development is a joke. He gets one shooting lesson, he possesses a shine(see The Shining), and even though he’s little more than a damsel in distress in the final act, Roland proclaims him a Gunslinger. In the books, his “Shine” is actually a psychic connection that ALL members of Roland’s ka-tet share with one another, although Jake’s is stronger than anyone else’s due to his unnaturally high perception and senses. He does learn to shoot very quickly, but up until he’s suffered, matured and lost a close friend, he doesn’t start to come into his own as a Gunslinger.

22: Connections
In the movie, there are a few connections to King’s other works. We see Cujo, there’s a portal marked 1408, the Shine is mentioned, there’s a Rita Hayworth poster shown. In the book, there are connections all over the place, with a few major ones being Father Callahan from Salem’s Lot, Ted Brautigan from Hearts in Atlantis, Patrick Danville from Insomnia, etc. Even Stephen King himself is a character in the later books.  Mostly, though, connections to the Dark tower are found in other books, rather than in the Tower novels themselves.

23: Your father’s face
In the movie, we get snippets of the lore of the books, including Roland’s mantra about forgetting the face of your father, but it isn’t explained. In the books, this mantra is more of a reference to the traditions and beliefs of the Gunslingers and the line of Eld, sort of in the same line as America with it’s founding fathers. If you fail to behave in a manner that upholds and honors the traditions and teachings you were raised on, it’s said that you’ve forgotten the face of your father.

24: Walter dies
In the movie, Roland kills the Man in Black in a fateful encounter full of Hollywood bullshit. In the books, Walter isn’t even killed by a main character… He’s taken by surprise and eaten by a newly introduced villain, a human/spider hybrid named Mordred, who was recently born and is, if you excuse the spelling, HONGRY. Yep, sorry, but the Man In Black goes out like a bitch by something that a group of children could have conceivably punched and kicked to death.

25: Sequel?
A lot of this movie’s inaccuracies are blamed on the movie being a sequel to the books. This does hold a little weight, as the book series ends with Roland being forced to repeat time and begin his journey anew due to him forgetting to hold onto a crucial item from his past, but this doesn’t explain how his entire backstory seems to have been erased from the lore of the movie. The sequel excuse COULD explain the lack of Eddie and Susannah, but it can’t explain the removal of Susan Delgado from his youth. Oh, and did I mention Walter manipulated him and his father into murdering their own mother and wife, Gabriella Deschain? The fact that Roland is motivated by the murder of his father in this version completely derails the sequel excuse. Complete bullshit.

That was 25 of the differences between the movie and the book series, and I don’t think I included even half of the relevant ones. If you can think of a change that I missed, feel free to post it in the comments below! Thanks for joining me, and may you have long days and pleasant nights.

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