The Morningstar Sets

Last weekend I watched the final episodes of Lucifer, a show I’ve really enjoyed since it began in 2016. It’s based on a DC comic book character created by Neil Gaiman, and I’ve always liked his work, so it’s not surprising I’ve enjoyed this series. On top of that, it blends a bunch of my favorite story genres, plus it gets right one of the most important aspects for such fantastic stories: it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

In honor of the show ending I thought I’d also mention a couple other favorite shows I’ve been re-watching lately, Elementary and Boston Legal. I’ve always ranked the latter as a favorite favorite, but seeing the former again I’m experiencing the love all over again.

Got a couple of Japanese anime stories to mention, as well.

Lucifer (the TV show, not the putative supernatural being) started on Fox in 2016 and spent three seasons trying to find an audience. It was one of those niche shows with a small, but loyal and loving, group of fans. In fact, so loving that Netflix picked up the series after Fox cancelled it. That gave the show another three seasons.

I gotta say, they kept it tight to the end. At the same time, I think they plowed the whole field. No doubt they could have found new stories and directions, but as much as I’ll miss the series, it somehow feels… complete. They certainly got the chance to wrap up the various series threads; nothing feels unresolved or left hanging off a cliff.

At first I was bothered by one aspect of the ending, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it had to be that way. It bookends the basic arc of the Devil’s visit; the real world is now more or less back to normal.

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!

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The basic arc just mentioned is that the Devil (Tom Ellis) gets sick and tired of ruling Hell with just the damned and demons to keep him company, so he decides to take a vacation on Earth.

Cast of Lucifer (left-to-right): Dr. Linda Martin (psychotherapist), Amenadiel (angel brother), Goddess (mom), CSI Ella Lopez, Det. Dan Espinoza, Det. Chloe Decker, Lucifer Morningstar, Mazikeen of the Lilim (demon).

Specifically, in Los Angeles, where he takes the name Lucifer Morningstar, runs his own Hollywood nightclub, Lux, and generally becomes the handsome debonair man-about-town known for granting favors. (But, of course, then you owe him… a favor.)

He brings with him his best friend, Mazikeen of the Lilim (Lesley-Ann Brandt), the head demon of Hell. She’s in charge of the torture, and she really loves her job. On Earth she spends some time as the bouncer for Lux (super-strong, well-nigh invulnerable, loves trouble, needs no backup). Later in the series she pursues a career as a bounty hunter.

[I really like the Maze character. She’s a big source of the fun the series has, and the character really is a hoot. Plus Lesley-Ann Brandt. She caught my eye when she did a five-episode guest stint on The Librarians (another fun show).]

In the early seasons Lucifer must deal with pressure from his brother, the angel Amenadiel (D. B. Woodside), who has been sent by their father (God!) to convince Lucifer to return to his job in Hell. In later seasons, Amenadiel remains on Earth, falls in love with an Earth woman, fathers a child, and [spoiler] ends up taking his father’s job after dad retires.

Lucifer and Amenadiel — wings out.

Lucifer definitely has daddy issues. His failed rebellion is what banished him from the Silver City and consigned him to rule Hell as punishment. He’s not in the least interested in returning to that infinite boredom. Besides, he’s having too much fun helping the police solve murders.

After four-and-a-half seasons of being talked about, Dad (Dennis Haysbert) does appear for several episodes in season five. He becomes convinced that he’s losing it and decides to retire. But he refuses to name a successor, telling his children (the angels) to work it out. This leads to a small Heavenly civil war.

We see a lot more of the Goddess of All Creation (Tricia Helfer), Lucifer’s mom. Dad divorced her and stuck her in Hell where Lucifer was supposed to watch over her. In his absence, she escapes to Earth, inhabits the body of a dirty lawyer (Helfer), wreaks some havoc, and re-enters Lucifer’s life. And then a lot more stuff happens.

Detective Chloe Decker and “partner” Lucifer Morningstar.

Which is all just a supernatural background to a series that is framed as a police procedural, sub-type murder mystery, sub-sub-type odd-couple pairing of police detective and a narratively interesting civilian.

In this case, the Devil. (Leave it to Neil Gaiman.) I confess I have a soft spot for the genre. For example, I really liked Castle (2006–2016), where the civilian consultant is a novelist (who could figure out the story behind the crime). Other examples include Perception (2012–2015), The Mentalist (2008–2015), and even Scarecrow and Mrs. King (1983–1987).

In the first episode a friend of his is murdered in a drive-by shooting. In fact, they were embracing at the time, but Lucifer is invulnerable, so the hail of bullets leaves him unaffected. In the course of the police investigation he meets Chloe Decker (Lauren German), an LAPD homicide detective.

Because the victim was a friend of his, Lucifer decides to investigate on his own. (The Devil likes the idea of punishing the guilty.) His interference with the investigation annoys Decker so much she includes him just so she can keep an eye on him.

Lucifer proves to be so successful in helping her close the case, she decides to make him an official “partner” as a “consultant” for the LAPD. What’s cute is that Lucifer is completely open about who he is, but no one believes him. I mean, who hasn’t “spent time in hell” in some form or other?

The rest, as they say, is history, but man, oh man, do they have some fun along the way. For one thing, smart move, it takes most of the series for Lucifer and Chloe to actually become an item. A lot happens along the way. For example, at one point, convinced Lucifer is an existential danger, she conspires to help kill him despite her feelings for him.

Musical number over a dead body. CSI Ella Lopez (far left), Det. Decker (center), Lucifer (middle right).

The show also has a great deal of fun with alternative episodes. They’ve done a few musical ones (and frequently featured Tom Ellis singing and playing piano), several stories from the past (in which the actors are recast in different roles), and some interesting fantasy excursions. The people behind the show have been very inventive (guest character arcs have included Cain, Eve, and Adam).

My enjoyment has never flagged in the six seasons (watched multiple times), and watching these last episodes I realize Lucifer will always be one of my favorite shows.

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I’ve long included Boston Legal (2004–2008) among my favorites. I loved it from whenever I first saw it. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t when it first aired; somehow I got into it later and bought all the season DVDs. Now I’m re-watching it on Hulu.

It may have caught my eye when I saw the cast: William Shatner (as Denny Crane), James Spader (as Alan Shore), Candice Bergen, René Auberjonois, as series regulars (along with Mark Valley, Julie Bowen, Christian Clemenson, Gary Anthony Williams, and more).

It gets better with Betty White, Michael J. Fox, Henry Gibson, Shelly Berman, John Larroquette, Delta Burke, Parker Posey, Tom Selleck, and many more as recurring characters. Even the single-episode guest star list was tasty.

One of my favorite aspects of the show is how it flirts with, but never actually commits to, breaking the fourth wall. The characters say things that appear to reveal awareness of being in a show, but which can always be taken as just a kind of weird way to put something.

Two of my favorites:

Denny (Shatner) takes Alan (Spader) to his rich man’s fishing camp for a vacation. One night Alan is reading about parasites affecting the salmon population and mentions aloud to Denny how the parasites cling on to the salmon. Denny, who is reading something shallow looks up startled and says, “Did you say Klingons?”

Denny, along with other lawyers, walking through a crowd of reporters demanding quotes is saying silly unquotable things (because “no comment” is just too boring). One of the things he says is, “I own my own starship!”

Another cute one is Denny missing a weekly meeting because he didn’t realize the day and time had changed. The days involved being the show’s old air day and the new one. Or when Alan’s secretary tells him not to fall for a woman because she’s just a guest star.

They had so much fun with that show. It must have been a joy to work on. It’s certainly a joy to watch. (And I do love a courtroom drama.)

§ §

I liked Elementary (2012–2019) when it first aired, although it never quite rose to the level of buying the DVDs. (With the assumption I’d want to watch it all again some day.)

But I am a very big fan of Sherlock Holmes (and Hercule Poirot, the more dapper version of same). I generally like adaptations of Holmes; I especially liked the BBC’s Sherlock. (The exception is the Robert Downey, Jr, movies; I never cared for those.)

I saw that the series was on Hulu, so I added it to my watchlist as something to watch once in a while for a change.

When I did watch, I found myself thinking, “Damn, this was a good show!”

Having Lucy Liu as Joan Watson is a nice touch, and I especially appreciate that in the show Watson and Sherlock have never shown one shred of romantic interest in each other. I imagine it might have been tempting with a male-female pairing (and no doubt some fans crave it).

The show is revisionary but at the same time loyal to the spirit and many of the beats of the canon. Sherlock’s drug problem, for instance, went from casual use to life threatening when his girlfriend was murdered. As the show begins Sherlock has been through rehab, forsaken all drug use, and moved to New York city. Sherlock’s father hires Watson, a professional live-in sober companion, to assist him in recovery.

Sherlock is a consultant for the NYPD. Watson tags along while he solves murders and eventually begins learning the detective trade herself. By the end of the series, they are co-partners.

§ §

I’ve been looking into older Japanese anime series, in particular ones that ran only one season. My idea is to find complete stories I can watch in a fairly short time. I spent several years getting through all 328 episodes of Fairy Tail, and I’m not anxious to start such a long journey again.

One I’d noticed Hulu suggesting frequently was Trigun (1998). It’s a single season of 26 episodes.

I’ve also been going for anime feature-length movies. (Again for the brevity.) I’ve found movies from series can be a good way to get a taste of what the series is like, even if (as is sometimes the case) the movie is really confusing because it assumes the viewer is familiar with the series. (For example, I was completely lost watching K: Missing Kings. Very pretty movie, though!)

I saw there was a movie, Trigun: Badlands Rumble (2010), so I watched that and really enjoyed it. In this case, the movie doesn’t require too much understanding, but is definitely better if one knows the series.

Trigun is a sci-fi western anime, a fairly common setting. It’s light-hearted and whimsical. The main character, Vash the Stampede (aka the Human Typhoon), is feared for his destructive nature, but Vash is actually a very peaceful guy.

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Also on Hulu, Gun X Sword (2005); also a single season of 26 episodes.

This is yet another sci-fi western anime, but with a stronger dash of Samurai (swords and martial arts moves) plus mechanized personal armor. This series involves a common Japanese trope, mobile suits of various very advanced abilities and descriptions.

Both series use a common device in anime: somewhere around the halfway point it becomes apparent that Things Aren’t What They Appeared To Be. In this one, the story digs deeper and deeper in the second half.

For a while the series plays with another trope: The Villain Is Actually Right. In the final episodes, it becomes more obvious who is right and who isn’t. Much of the series presents a thoroughly unlikeable hero. Not an anti-hero so much as a real jerk. Worse, he spends most of the series on a blind quest for revenge.

This one is a bit more grim, but has some light-hearted stuff. In both series it’s worth waiting until things get interesting around the halfway mark. With this one, that seems especially important.

A note about the title: It’s often listed as Gun Sword, the “X” being an image accent, not a letter. In fact, pay attention to the shape of the “X” because it’ll make an appearance near the end. It’s also repeatedly suggested by other objects.

§ §

Sometimes watching anime it’s easy to think Western storytelling has reduced itself to pablum. But shows like Lucifer, Boston Legal, and Elementary, still give me hope we still have creative minds with fresh ideas.

And these are pretty mainstream. Get off the beaten path, and storytelling is alive and well everywhere, thank heavens!

Stay devilish, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

33 responses to “The Morningstar Sets

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I can’t resist puns. The show did set, but it also had sets. (See what I did there?) Sometimes I just slay myself! 😀 😀 😀

  • Wyrd Smythe

    One thing that impresses me about anime is how much thought and creativity goes into the backgrounds and settings.

    For instance, there’s a whole thing with days of the week in Gun X Sword. The greatest mech armor off all, supposedly, is a set of seven originals named after days of the week. (The hero’s is Dann of Thursday.) These mechs are stored in orbital satellites and called down on demand. These are vastly superior to the wide array of normal mechs running around on the surface.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Speaking of innovative Western storytelling, last night I binged on all eight episodes of Reservation Dogs, a new show on FX (available on Hulu).

    It’s excellent! I was very impressed!

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Gun Sword (Gun X Sword?) looks interesting. But I still need to finish Trigun, and maybe push through to the twist.

    I recently watched Claymore, which is straight dark fantasy, but was intelligent and impressive. Unfortunately it’s one season, and doesn’t finish the story. It reportedly is finished in the manga, but skimming the chapters where the season leaves off, it looks like the manga version is more complex, and I don’t know if I’m up for starting at the beginning.

    Currently watching That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. Another fantasy, although not dark, at least not so far. It borders on being silly, but so far is just serious enough to stay compelling.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Trigun doesn’t have a major twist, but there is something of a left turn into What’s Really Going On as the viewer (and Vash!) learns more about his past. It’s pretty big on the character stories. The movie, Trigun: Badlands Rumble might be a good way to spark your interest (at least it did mine).

      I’ve noticed Claymore. Good to know it’s unfinished, thanks for that. As a result, I’ll probably skip it. I barely have interest anymore in graphic novels. I actually had to make myself finish the gnovel version of Butler’s first Parable book. It was very well done, but I seem to have gotten to the point with animation that I’d rather watch TV than read a comic. (Kinda weird. I was really into gnovels for a while.) Anyway, point is, I don’t see myself ever pursuing manga. (That most of it is B&W is already a turn off. I love color too much.)

      I’ve started (13 episodes so far of 51) Fullmetal Alchemist, which I’m finding mostly interesting. Definitely another case where one needs to get a number of eps in before it gets engaging. I came close to deciding to try something else, but the alchemy approach was interesting enough to keep me watching. Next up, I’ve got Neon Genesis Evangelion queued. I keep seeing the new versions promoted and decided to try the original.

      I’m kind of looking for single season stories, and a lot of the possibles seem to fall in the goofy or silly vein, at least per their titles. The one you mentioned made me think of The Devil is a Part Timer, which I watched several years ago and enjoyed okay (see bottom of this post). They seem very creative one-offs, although many of them are so oriented towards teen boys it’s a little funny.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’ve got my eye on one called Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Intriguing title! 😀

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Hmmm. Maybe I should try the Trigun movie. Thanks for that suggestion.

        On Fullmetal Alchemist, be careful. There are actually two series: Fellmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. Brotherhood is the one that’s a faithful adaptation of the manga and gets most of the acclaim. It actually has 64 episodes. I found it more watchable than the earlier one, which I never completed. (Although the earlier partial adaptation does have its fans.)

        On Neon Genesis, …um, …., never mind. I’ll let you just experience it. Just fyi, there’s a movie “The End of Evangelion”, you’ll want to know exists when you’re finished with the last episode.

        I know what you mean on single season shows. I’m reluctant to get into the ones with hundreds of episodes. Although I’ve read that there are guides online telling you which episodes are pivotal. But most of them seem very shonen, so I’m not sure I’m up for the effort.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, I know about Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. (I’m watching the first one and may watch Brotherhood as well.) There’s apparently also a live-action movie (which I’ll likely skip).

        Neon Genesis seems to be another with a lot of permutations, but I am interested in at least checking out some of the more well-known anime I’ve heard about for years. Trying to follow them on the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim was an iffy proposition, but Netflix and Hulu (and Prime) make it a whole lot easier.

        It’s just my nature that, if I’m going to do a thing, I do it thoroughly and with commitment. I can’t even imagine picking and choosing episodes. For one, I’d be afraid to miss some little bit that someone else deemed irrelevant but which I’d be glad I saw. I’m fundamentally an “all or nothing” kind of person.

        (Not anime, but I will recommend the new Reservation Dogs show in Hulu/FX. The show is done by native Americans and has some (funny) mystical elements. The William Knifeman spirit alone is worth the viewing. Very clever and very engaging, I thought. Only eight half-hour episodes, so easy to binge.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        On Fullmetal, just to make sure it’s clear, Brotherhood is not a sequel, but a reboot that is more faithful to the source material. I highly recommend it. (Of course if you’re enjoying the older version, then no worries. I hear it eventually goes off in its own interesting direction.)

        On Neon Genesis Evangelion, yeah, I’ve only watched the original and the End movie, which is regarded as foundational anime. Similar to the Gundam franchise, I haven’t gone past that original material. Maybe in the future. I have heard the manga, which was an adaptation from the anime, went in some interesting directions after the original series was done.

        On picking and choosing episodes, the sad thing is for the series I’d considered watching at least some of, One Piece, avoiding the filler doesn’t save that much time. Instead of 995 episodes, you get by with something like 800. (I did watch the first couple of episodes, just to see if I still wanted to watch some of it, but the silliness quotient seemed really high.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, I saw that Brotherhood is a reboot. That’s fine; if I like something I often enjoy seeing different implementations of it. I think the live-action movie is also a reboot.

        I’m probably a ways away from getting into Neon Genesis. I have a bunch of other things to watch first. I might watch the first episode(s) to get a sense, but if it goes too long I might have to rewatch them.

        995 episodes! I thought Fairy Tail was big with 328, but that’s a monster!

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I haven’t heard great things about the Fullmetal movie. Ironically, this one is Japanese, so it has Japanese actors, but the story takes place in a Germany-like country, so it’s one where actors of European ancestry would actually have made sense.

        995 and I think it’s still going. (And it’s not even in the top five for the longest running anime series, but I think those are all for kids.) I have heard there are lower and better quality dubs out there. I keep meaning to check the Funimation version, in case Netflix has the bad one.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        That Trigun movie was pretty good. It does make me much more likely to finish the series, especially since now I’m wondering who Wolfwood is, and what’s up with Vash’s lack of aging. Excellent suggestion!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        And, as I’ve said before, live-action doesn’t work as well for me on such fantastic stories as animation does, so it’s pretty unlikely I’ll give the FullMetal Alchemist live-action movie a try. Honestly I’m still a little borderline on the series — it’s not really taking me anyplace new — but the magic-as-alchemy is intriguing. The Japanese seem more prone to developing and sticking to rules for fantasy, whereas Western fantasy and SF often sees the genre as a license to do any damn thing. (The Marvel movies are especially bad that way. No real rules on character capabilities.)

        The Germanic context really threw me when then started referring to the Führer. That’s a bit disconcerting. That’s another thing about Japanese anime, the names of people and things. It sometimes feels they work out of a dictionary without a real appreciation of the deeper meaning of the English words they use.

        As you know I go for subs if available (but I’m not rabid about it). I didn’t realize there wasn’t one “official” version of a dub. I can imagine, though, if a dub was perceived as really bad some might want to put out a better one.

        Glad you like the Trigun movie. It’s definitely what sold me on the series.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        On Fullmetal, just remember that Brotherhood is better. Definitely they’re pretty good with their rules of magic. Actually, most literary fantasy is as well. Movies and TV shows are the ones that tend to make a mess of it. The divide is similar to the SF one.

        I had the same feeling when “Fuhrer” was used; not sure about the earlier series, but in Brotherhood it actually is a sort of foreshadowing about how things will go. What I do find interesting is when Japanese writers make up names they intend to sound western. (I’m sure they find western attempts to make up Japanese names just as interesting.)

        There are actually different versions of subs as well, more in fact since subs are easier and cheaper to get out. But it’s with the older stuff that the larger variances arise in both, since they used to be heavily influenced and constrained by the preferences of broadcast networks. I think with the rise of DVD sets and streaming services, the norm has shifted to being much more faithful to the original.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        If Brotherhood is better, it’s good I’m watching them in the order I am. (Assuming I do watch both, and that’s not a given quite yet.) It would suck to watch the better one first and then have to sit through a lesser version.

        Good point about literary fantasy. You’re right, it’s usually well envisioned. It’s the visual media that think they can rest on CGI and action. And compared to most Asian martial arts films, the action is more about how much they can fit onto the screen. I was watching the TV Sins video for Marvel’s new “What If…?” animated series. First episode apparently is “What if agent Carter became Captain America?” (not Steve), and they actually commended a fight scene for clarity and reasonable physicality. Because that’s so unusual for a Marvel fight sequence. (Apparently Marvel still doesn’t get it, and Carter is saved several times in the episode by Steve. [sigh])

        I’ve wondered about English text I see in anime. How much of that is put in for English-speaking audiences? Some of has to be, but sometimes background stuff seems like it would be too much effort to change, so the original artwork had English text? I know Western filmmakers will use Japanese or Chinese text for effect, so maybe that’s what’s going on. I have heard the Japanese often wear tee-shirts with English slogans without really knowing what the English says. They just have the same fascination with really different text forms that we do with the Asian ones.

        In contrast, other shows are clearly very Japanese and have special subtitles inserted to translate important English text. (When I first started watching anime that used to drive me a little nuts. The subtitles are usually at the bottom with text translations at the top, so one needs to split their attention.

        Different versions of subs surprised me even more. I can see redoing a dub for better quality performances, but redoing a sub implies it’s about the quality of the translation. Then I thought about how hard Japanese and Chinese (and Korean) can be to translate to English, and it made a lot more sense.

        (Why in the world did I start my last comment with “And,”? Some sort of random neuron firing there.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Ha. Since I haven’t watched much of the earlier Fullmetal series, I should probably be more careful and just say that Brotherhood is the one that gets most of the acclaim.

        I’ve wondered the same thing about English text within the video in anime. I do know some of it is modified for us. Attack on Titan has interludes of textual information and I noticed they were different between the Hulu and Funimation versions, with Hulu superimposing an English translation and Funi actually modifying the actual video text. Of course, those are easier to modify than text within the actual action of the story, so not sure about those. And it may be that some are just different versions prepared during production since they know there will be other language versions.

        (The “And” made sense to me. I just took it as building on what I said above it about the movie.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I, too, have wondered if they don’t do multiple versions for other audiences. That would be a lot easier these days since a lot of animation is done with computers now.

        I know that in comic books, the artist, inker, colorist, and letterer, can all be separate people and are obviously separate tasks. Lettering is one of the last stages, so it wouldn’t be a major difficulty to branch the pipeline at that point for lettering in multiple languages.

        What I try to spot is the extent to which background text seems well-blended into the drawing. Sometimes I can tell signs are drawn such that replacing the lettering is easy, but sometimes not. If a foreground object partly covers text, or if the text has shading differences that match the background, it’s harder to think it’s a substitution. Although, that said, artists are very clever at making things look organic, so maybe there’s a text layer that can be changed.

        I forget what anime it was, but there was a sequence that broke the fourth wall and showed the animation from “the side” and we could see all the individual layers. Meanwhile the characters were disconcerted by this change of events. As I write this,… maybe it was an episode of South Park. They’ve been using computer animation pretty much since the first season. And that gag seems more their style than anime’s. Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was South Park.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Last night I watched episodes 16-25, so I’m just about halfway through. I’ll probably go the distance, but I found myself mildly disenchanted with the main character, Edward. I realized — due to watching a lot of anime lately — I’m a bit fed up with obsessed driven characters. Trigun, Sword X Gun, and Fullmetal Alchemist all deal with such characters. It’s just getting a bit old.

        I realized, too, how common the ‘road trip’ mode is used in anime. The three I just mentioned are all essentially ‘road trip’ stories. Something else that gets a bit old.

        I watched the movie Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale last night for a change of pace, but SAO isn’t really my cup of tea. I tried the series awhile back and couldn’t get into it. The whole sword-bigger-then-their-body thing… is a bit much for my suspension of disbelief.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Yeah, I remember Ed being a bit much to take at times. What made the Brotherhood series work for me was the large cast of characters. Ed and Al’s story was at the center, but there were a lot of others interwoven.

        Who’s driven in Trigun? Vash doesn’t seem to be that much, unless we want to count his determination to save everyone, even villains. It does seem like most good fiction features someone who’s driven, be it the protagonist or antagonist. If you’re tired of the driven protagonist, you probably don’t want to watch Attack on Titan anytime soon.

        Sword Art Online comes up in a lot of recommended lists, but the virtual reality game premise has limited appeal for me. Maybe if I was a teenager into online gaming.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I try to excuse Edward because he’s just a kid, but, as you say, he’s a bit much sometimes. In the eps I watched last night there was a brief sub-plot in which brother Al gets seriously bent out of shape when one of the villains all too easily convinces him he’s not real — just a bunch of memories brother Ed implanted for… reasons, I guess. Al buys totally into it and it causes a small rift for a while. Ed earlier had tried to tell Al something, and Al assumes it was this strange truth that even people from his past (that mechanic gal and her grandmother) are in on. Ed actually skips right past a few places he could have cleared things up by simply talking. Al is usually the level-headed one, and it felt just wrong.

        I’ve also realized the pace on this one is a bit languid. Characters seem to spend an awful lot of time expositing and talk talk talking. I remain a bit iffy on this one, and that might be a sign of why Brotherhood is more acclaimed. It’s kind of an interesting series, but somehow doesn’t quite hit all its marks.

        You’re right, Vash isn’t nearly as bad as Van or Edward, but he does have big questions about his past and his identity. (Rightfully so.) He’d like to know what really happened to July, the city he supposedly destroyed and which is why there’s a $$60-billion bounty on his head.

        I’ve already decided, based on what you posted and commented about it, that Attack on Titan probably isn’t one I’ll be checking out any time soon. 😮

        A friend of mine raved and raved about SAO, and I finally gave it try. Exactly as you say, the VR game business doesn’t do much for me, especially if it’s a Medieval sword thing. Futuristic, yeah, maybe, but I’ve never been a huge fan of sword and sorcery novels. They need something really special to interest me. (Discworld, I suppose, is technically S&S, but it’s so incredibly much else, too.)

        The movie (one of several SAO movies, apparently) was… eh. It involved an AR game being played in the city, but it also involved an obsessed pair of villains. The main one seeking to recreate the daughter he lost in the SAO disaster depicted (I believe) in the series itself. The movie takes place after.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        On the villain trying to convince Al he’s not real, that’s in Brotherhood too. (The villain is also a soul trapped in armor if I recall.) So it must be sourced from the manga. I don’t remember how long that thread goes on, but it was presented in a way where Ed doesn’t understand what’s bothering Al.

        I have heard the earlier series is slow paced, and that matched my impression from the couple of episodes I watched. Brotherhood is faster. To be fair to the earlier series, they were adapting the manga while it was still in progress. And they were eventually asked by the manga artist to do a different ending than she had planned. The Brotherhood writers had the whole completed arc in front of them, so they knew where they could tighten things up without fear of downstream consequences, and had no need for filler.

        I discovered last night that there’s a Berserk series, continuing where the movies left off, and watched a few episodes. This is very dark fantasy, of a kind that makes Game of Thrones look cheerful, so I don’t recommend it for you. Tragically the manga artist dropped dead a few months ago with the story unfinished, so not sure I want to get that invested in the overall arc. Still, I found myself drawn in anyway.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yep, the villain was also a soul bonded to armor, which (I assume) was part of how he was able to get under Al’s skin so easily. What was annoying is that it’s Heroing 101 to never believe anything a villain says. Yeah, Al’s a kid, but his fidelity to his brother is normally so strong that the sequence didn’t sit well with me.

        In fact, that’s a growing complaint I have with the series: inconsistency of character. Too much convenience to drive the plot. I’m forming the opinion that FA has some clever elements, but it’s not a well-told story. What you said about the parallel development might account for some of it, but I think there’s just a lack of polish to the storytelling. It might be that FA:B represents a second, better, take.

        The pacing is slow, and what you said might account for some of that, but I’m also annoyed at the over exposition and constant re-explaining of stuff we already know. It would be amusing to do one of those quick-cut clips of every use of the term “equivalent exchange”.

        (It reminds me of the Frederik Pohl Heechee series. The remaining Heechee lived in computers, and Pohl explains over and over (and over and over) about how fast their minds work because they live in computers. You see, because their minds live in computers, their thoughts are very fast. It’s really important that you understand that, because they live in computers, their thoughts are very fast. It got to the point for both my SF-buddy and I that that became the identifying mark of the series. The Heechee live in computers so their minds are really fast.)

        Wiki turns up a Berserk series from 1997 and one from 2016. A brief look at the description doesn’t make it seem like anything for me. Guts seems pretty driven. I lean towards modern-day more hard SF-ish stories. I also really appreciate clever stories, and that’s another complaint I have about FA — it’s very conventional anime and, other than the context, isn’t bringing much new to the table. The context (the alchemy and overall plot) are what’s kept me watching. They’re kinda new.

        In any event, only 14 episodes left.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        In Brotherhood, that villain ends up having an arc. Of course in that show, just about every speaking character that lasts more than one episode has an arc.

        So the Heechee live in computers. My question to you is, does it affect how fast they think? 🙂

        I’m pretty sure the Berserk I’m watching is the later one. (Unfortunately I’m watching it on VRV and their UI sucks.) It seems to take place after the 2012-13 movies, although maybe it’s going to repeat the movie arc in flashbacks. But if I recall correctly, the earlier series handled that arc upfront. Yeah, Guts is Conan with gasoline poured on. He doesn’t start out driven, just a mercenary who happens to be a phenomenal fighter. But by the end of the movie trilogy, he’s among the most driven characters you’ll ever meet.

        Yeah, I’m not hearing anything that inclines me to watch the earlier FA series.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Hmmm. That actually doesn’t incline me much towards Brotherhood. I already think the story jumps around too much. It has a tendency to cut away from scenes at climatic or cliffhanger-y moments. Some of that is good storytelling, but it’s becoming a typical mode and thus, to me, annoying. I can’t recommend FA, and it might be a while before I give FA:B a try. (My interest in storytelling does make me a little curious about a retelling, but that’s balanced by not being that into the story in the first place.)

        Yeah, it was kind of a subtle point, but if one reads between the lines it turns out the Heechee think really fast because they live in computers. I should have explained that better. 😐

        “Conan with gasoline poured on” — I like that. I did read most of the Conan books long ago when I was more into that barbarian swordsman stuff. Enjoyed them, in part, because they’re such classics. (Still got them on my self. I wonder if they’re worth anything. I’ve been dismayed looking at eBay how some of my, I thought, high-value series collections… generally ain’t really worth getting an eBay account. (I have a friend who makes a fair bit of change on eBay selling antiques she finds at estate sales. She did some digging around — I was thinking of consigning stuff to her to sell — but nothing I have is worth the effort.))

        Speaking of streaming services UIs that suck, Netflix changed their Watchlist so I can’t sort it anymore, and I really hate it. Worse, I can’t figure out what the algorithm that auto-sorts it is thinking. It’s not most recently watched, it’s not most recently added, it’s not (I don’t think) most popular,… I can’t figure it out. It’s got FA near the bottom, despite that that’s the only Netflix show I’ve been watching lately. I love Netflix and their low single-screen monthly rate, but this really pisses me off. WTF Netflix? What’s the point?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        P.S. Terry Pratchett has a “Conan” character that sometimes appears in his Discworld books: Cohen the Barbarian. He’s super old now (90s), but still one of the best fighters on Discworld and, despite his age, a woman chaser. He also has lumbago and other elderly problems. His opponents, during their drastically shortened life, often assume his age has made him slow and feeble. But consider what it implies that a professional fighter has survived to his 90s!

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Seems a shame to skip FA:B because you didn’t like FA. But I do fear the beginning of FA:B will feel like a fast paced rehash if you watch it right away.

        No idea on the value of old Conan books. (OTOH, if you have any of the Weird Tales pulp originals, those are almost certainly worth something.) I have a few of the old story collection books lying around myself, although they’re not in great condition. Definitely classic stuff, but also definitely has been redone to death at this point.

        The Berserk manga started in the period when Conan copycats were still the rage. Although Guts does have a few innovations, like having a bionic hand (and weapon), and a ridiculously big sword. He’s also cursed to fight demons every night, and on a mission to find his ex-friend, now a demon himself, who put him in that state.

        I do like the innovation of a Conan figure in his old age. Marvel toyed with that idea a little bit for Conan himself in the comics, but I don’t know if they went anywhere with it.

        The Netflix UI definitely has things that drive me nuts, but compared to the other streaming services, the experience of actually watching a show is far superior, at least on Roku. Just being able to easily skip the intro, recap, and end credits is very nice. It even knows not to skip when there’s a post-credits scene. Unfortunately they’re missing a lot of content, and seem increasingly focused on their own original productions rather than providing the old stuff.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I think what I mostly need is just a palette cleanser before I tuck into FA:B. My guess is that the negative things I’m noticing in FA are why FA:B gets more acclaim.

        No old pulps. I do have a mostly complete collection of Heavy Metal magazine (up to about the point it went quarterly), but it’s missing enough months (and the first issues) that it’s probably not worth much. My big disappointment came from thinking my collection of the first 120+ Remo Williams: The Destroyer books or the first Mack Bolan: The Executioner books were worth something. I thought maybe their obscurity might make them worth more, but not so much. 😦

        Tragically, our local SF/Mystery book store (Uncle Hugo’s/Uncle Edgar’s) was burned down during the uprising over George Floyd’s killing, and were thus forced out of businesses. I always had in my back pocket the idea I could sell those collections to them (I’d found some of the books there long ago). I doubted I’d make much (they bought used books but at pretty low prices), but knew the books would find a loving home. Now it seems likely they end up in the trash someday.

        Reading that link about Cohen the Barbarian recalled how fun those stories were. That entry also has a good flavor of the Discworld series itself. I’d forgotten about the troll teeth dentures.

        Agree with everything you said about Netflix (including the content disappointment). When binging I do love that skip intro feature. Hulu is also pretty good, although their Watchlist algorithm is broken. Their list isn’t sortable. The algorithm sorts first by dividing between shows with unwatched episodes and fully watched. Within those two groups it sorts alphabetically the latter and by last-watched the former. But the former also by when new episodes are available.

        Which is fine, but it’s broken. After watching one show and returning to the list, it’s lost its mind and pushed a bunch of shows to the very bottom with no indication of remaining episodes. Very annoying. One thing I really like about Hulu is how it tells me how many unwatched eps there are. But that system seems weirdly fragile. If I close the app and reboot, Watchlist is back to normal. Been that way for years (and I’ve let them know).

        And for some reason, no matter what I do, I cannot remove Futurama from my Watchlist. It sorts it, so it knows it’s there, but it will not go away, and it insists incorrectly it’s all unwatched. (Hmmm. I wonder if those two are connected in any way? If I got Hulu to remove it, would the sorting weirdness go away?)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I don’t know that I’d assume the Heavy Metal issues you do have aren’t worth much. The first issue in particular might be worth several hundred dollars. Unfortunately, my quick googling around didn’t bring up any quick guides. I see the Overstreet Comics Price Guide is still published, but that itself costs money. (I would have thought they’d gone to some sort of web service by now.)

        On streaming services, I just finished watching the third episode of Foundation on Apple TV+. I have to say their Roku app is pretty good. It also gave me the option to skip the recap (refused since it’d been a week) and the intro (taken). The Hulu one isn’t bad. I find it about average. Same for the Funimation one. The VRV one needs work. I chose it because its content is a superset of CrunchyRoll, but I’m now wondering if the extra content is worth it. Although they’re both put out by CrunchyRoll, so it may not make much difference.

        The Roku versions don’t even have sorting options. The ordering of my Netflix watchlist does appear random. Actually Funimation does have sorting options for their general lists, but I’ve never seen them work. And it’s been like that for at least several months and across two Roku models. Kind of pathetic that these services can’t do a better job with these UIs. Rocket science this ain’t.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        No, it definitely isn’t! And it is pathetic. I suspect it might have a little to do with the difficulty of providing a UI across so many diverse platforms. That programming was the hot ticket for high paying jobs (as law and the medical profession have been) caused a lot of unworthy people to become programmers, and no doubt those same unworthies are the least expensive programmers to hire. I think a lot of the bad software is due to that. And to outsourcing to India or China, which I’ve always thought was a huge mistake.

        I’ll stop now because shitty programming is a big stick in my craw. (Of course because it was profession, and I took it very seriously.) I’m really quite astonished we put up with the level of defective and poorly done software that we do. No one would make such allowances for hardware. How is it even possible recent versions of Windows and iOS still have major bugs? My mind boggles.

        Sorting your Netflix watchlist was only available via the website. The iOS apps and my LG TV app don’t provide it. But a few months ago I happened to go to the website (which I really only do to sort my Watchlist) and they had a notification on that page about how they were going to take away sorting. I need to write them a email about how much I loath that decision and how pointless the new way seems.

        I’d been thinking of my Heavy Metal collection as incomplete — therefore worthless. That often is the case with collectables. But it might be that someone also with an incomplete collection they want to complete might be looking for specific issues. As I mentioned, I don’t have the first issues. When I began reading HM it never occurred to me to find and keep those.

        How are you liking Foundation?

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        On Heavy Metal, with comic books, historically each issue has its own valuation. One thing you don’t usually want to do is walk into a comics shop and try to sell them a whole box of issues at a time. You usually won’t get the best price. Selling them individually takes more work, but you walk away with more money. At least that’s the way it worked when I was pulling out of the comic market, which admittedly was decades ago.

        Foundation is interesting. The production values are excellent. But it’s ending up very different from the books. Some differences are expected, like having more of the characters be women, or people of other ethnicities. But they’re also fleshing out the universe a lot more than the books ever did.

        I’ve seen a number of purists decry how different it is from Asimov’s vision. But Asimov himself was never all that precious about his vision. Accepting it on its own terms, I’m enjoying it, at least so far. I might feel different later.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, I did know that about comics (I used to be way more into them than I am now, but I do remember comic book stores), but somehow never connected the dots wrt those HM magazines. In my mind, they were a set. I’ve noticed a comic book store near my bank. If it’s still there, it might be worth dropping in to see what they say. I do have a very large graphic novel collection, and a handful of unusual comic books (a gift from a comic book fanatic friend). Some interesting possibilities there!

        I could tell from the trailers that Foundation applied some social consciousness to the story. That’s fine. As I’m sure I’ve said before, I judge adaptations, as adaptations, on three counts: what’s removed; what’s changed; what’s added. I consider the last of those the most problematic because additions need to remain true to the original author’s intent, and that’s hard to get right unless the original author is involved.

        Author Robert B. Parker (author of the Spenser detective books) was very clear that once he’d sold a work for adaptation, he saw it as out of his hands and didn’t much care what they did with it. (There was a TV series featuring Spenser as well as some TV movies featuring his Jesse Stone character.) That’s always stuck in my mind and created some separation between original source material and adaptations of it.

        That said, I tend to most favor adaptations that remain very faithful, at least in spirit, or that find a new and interesting spin and go off in a very different direction. Sometimes the latter can be exceptional. (Some of my favorites are very strange versions of A Christmas Carol, which is one of my favorite texts, and I’ve never taken a purist approach to that one, but again I most regard the faithful ones.)

        I think the bottom line for me will be the ratio between style and eye-candy versus substance and a good story. While I have some respect for purist views (and have been known to take some myself), I’m generally more accommodating in favor of quality. As I’ve said often, my main ask of stories is: “Take me someplace new!”

        (I can’t help but wonder how they have time to add new stuff considering how big Foundation is. Do you know if they’re just doing the original trilogy, or are they considering the wider canon? As I’m sure you know, Asimov wrote four more books in the series, plus there’s that Brin-Benford-Bear trilogy. And since the robot stories get folded into the Foundation story, there’s even more source material for them. This series could go on for years!)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        The show begins at the same point as the original series, with Gaal Dornick visiting Trantor. Although here Gaal is a black woman in a much more fraught situation. But it’s also aware of at least the Asimov prequels and Robot series tie-in; it has Demerzel (presumably still an alias for Olivaw), albeit as a woman, and her robotic nature is revealed in the second episode. I never read the other authors, so it’s possible their influence is involved in the added material.

        The show, by necessity, shows a lot more of the world than Asimov does in his books (at least the original ones), which I recall relegating most of the action offstage.

        Anyway, the third episode begins the Salvor Hardin arc. They’re definitely not rushing it.

        I won’t lie. It’s all pretty different from the books. The overall feel is much stranger than I recall from the books, but more in line with what I would expect from a story set 20,000 years in the future.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Friday night I was hanging out with friends, and one buddy momentarily got my hopes up by saying there was more Lucifer coming. But as we talked about it, I realized the last season he’d seen was the penultimate one. He hadn’t noticed that Netflix dropped the final season.

    Oh, well. I was pretty sure they’d wrapped it up, but it was nice to think for a moment there might have been more.

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