What I'm Not Watching: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Yes, OK, show for little girls. But He-Man was awesome, Boris Vallejo & Robert E Howard brought to life, and classic She-Ra wasn't bad, glossy-looking but often smarter than the main series; not having Orko made it better by default.

I can't stand the art style of this new show, though. Everyone looks stupid, like that Steven Universe show the kids like (the kids are wrong). Most backgrounds are blank pastel voids (there are a few matte paintings which aren't bad), their faces have a weird spray-paint pattern under their eyes, eyes are bigger than anime but flatter. Really just a hideous look. Cartoony works for things like Adventure Time, but this half-real/half-plastic-toy look is creepy. Many characters have a boneless wobbling "walk" that would look silly on Jake in Adventure Time, let alone a supposed Human.

Editing and continuity is awful. Bow will have 2 arrows in his quiver one shot, and 5 seconds later there's 4; he makes one more shot and he's out of arrows. The sword changes size semi-randomly between shots. There's mirroring in scenes rather than redraw them left-to-right. Just shoot the animators, seriously.

Starting with Adora as a Horde soldier is interesting. Kind of a "Hans, are we the baddies?" bit with Catra and the spoopy shadow witch. But we don't get enough time in the Horde's "Fright Zone", there should be 2-4 eps of just them doing Horde stuff.

Sadly, the show then gets Adora to meet Glimmer, the most annoying whiny "princess" yet, and a good argument for sterilizing "royalty" so they can't make any more of them, and Bow, a boy so dumb he doesn't even have a name, just his weapon. I guess his brothers Shovel and Pitchfork had to stay home on the farm. They steal She-Ra's horse from a village of dead satyrs and wisecrack about it. Too dark for the tone, man.

New transformation sequence is classic-cheesy, but the She-Ra form is still a little girl and in the same crappy style as everything else.

Hard pass on this.

What I'm Watching: Castlevania S2E6-8

Finishing Castlevania S2, here's where all the slow burn finally pays off. And then back to slow burn.

The stand-up fight Carmilla's been plotting finally comes up, and… I'm a little dubious how powerful an undead Bishop (Matt Frewer!) can be given that in life he couldn't keep one vampire out of his church. But it's a really solid plan.

The Humans and Alucard finish dicking around in the vault, and then magically screw everything up for everyone, and have fun storming the castle. If I remember my boss fights correctly, the trick is to evade the fireball and whack him in the face three times. They don't go according to that plan.

But then there's a whole ep left. So everyone says goodbye to Alucard for a long time, and spends more long times deciding what to do next, and the surviving vamps work out their next moonlit holiday plans, and some very implausible violence—even considering what we just saw—sets up the lunatic as a new big bad.

Season 3's been announced, and there's plenty of vamps to stake, plus Dracula never remains dead.

★★★★★, altho I'd like the pacing to be faster, and I miss Godbrand.

What I'm Watching: Castlevania S2E1-5

Like Castlevania S1, the art is fantastic, but the animation varies from nearly Hanna-Barbera to perfectly smooth, mostly in combat scenes.

Much of the first few eps are in Dracula's court, with his hilarious Viking vampire subject Godbrand ("I like boats! I'm a fucking Viking! We're supposed to make boats out of things!"), slutty & scheming Carmilla, the human forgemasters (necromancers, more or less) Hector (a spoiled brat with… pets…) and Isaac (harsh disciplinarian religious lunatic). And we see much more of Dracula's character and his rage at humanity. Make no mistake, I'm sympathetic to his culling, not so much to the random way it's implemented.

In contrast, Belmont, Sypha, and Alucard are pathetic. Sniping at each other, barely have any plan. They sit around and do some research, they're very reactive. The Humans are the antagonists of this season, the Vampire court are the protagonists.

The idiots (Trevor, Alucard, Godbrand) all speak like Warren Ellis, noted drunk, misanthrope, and vulgarian. The others are some of his better writing, intelligent and broken in various ways.

The plot takes quite a while to get anywhere, but for the most part it's enjoyable. FAR better start than S1 had.

Up to S2E5 now, I'll watch the rest tomorrow.

What I'm Watching: BoJack Horseman

If you think "a dumb cartoon about a horse?", no. This is maybe the best dramedy about depression, success, and failure ever made, live-action or animated (the other contender is Neon Genesis Evangelion, which is about the crushing weight of parental expectations told with giant mecha and alien angels at the end of the world).

Finally finished S4 and now all of S5.

S1 was a funny show about depression. Not all that coherent, still wandering between Simpsons gag format and long series drama.

S2 tries to cover up depression with work and success, and has an epic meltdown. The most coherent season so far, but the least fun. The one that hits closest to me.

S3 is the hangover after success, and then gets real fucking dark. But E4, "Fish Out of Water", is something everyone should see; you don't need a lot of context for it.

S4 spends a lot of time in flashbacks, especially to BoJack's mother who is awful. E7 "Underground", E8 "The Judge", and E12 "What Time Is It Right Now" are fantastic, though.

S5 has been more like S1, dramedy with no real point, Princess Carolyn's flashback and the eulogy both dragged on forever, but E8 "Mr Peanutbutter's Boos" 25 years of Halloween parties was perfect. The meta-show Philbert is a dead ringer for many of the crime dramas I watch.

There's long stretches of BoJack that I find almost intolerably dull, and start zipping ahead 30s at a time to see if the plot advances. I have my own family hangups, I can't be expected to care about BoJack's shitty family.

There's other times when it's the only show that's ever talked honestly about this stuff.

★☆☆☆☆ to ★★★★★ but averaging around ★★★★☆

What I'm Watching: Disenchantment

The new Matt Groening cartoon, at long last! Surely after 4000 years of the Simpsons, and a few seasons of Futurama over the 30-some years it was on and off and on and off, has taught him how to craft a tightly-wound, kickass cartoon!

Imagine the Dark Ages. Imagine plague, filth, terrible rulership by inbred aristocrats, superstition, religious lunatics praying to gods who aren't there, conquest by savage barbarians… Oh, what fun. Well, it could be. If anyone wrote "jokes" for this.

There's a princess Bean, who apparently you're supposed to sympathize with, but she's loathsome, the kind of shitty inbred mass-murdering spoiled aristocrat you'd hate in real life. An Elf named Elfo, because why even bother trying to make a joke (they did name an elf who left Elfland "Leavo", which was almost funny… Then beat it into the ground with "Returno"). And a shadow demon "Luci"… ugh… which everyone agrees is her cat. Nobody has a personality, just a one-beat repetitive routine. Bean wants to get drunk. Elfo is a goody-goody who wants to date the princess, but of course never will. Luci says "evil" things like "get drunk". It's like a world made of the NPCs from a CRPG. They walk in circles saying one of a few recorded lines.

The plots are tedious and unoriginal, even by the standards of extruded cartoon product like Simpsons. There's an occasional fight, which would at least change this from boring to some kind of adventure show? But they're short, slow-paced, lot of talking in between the occasional axe swing.

In comparison, watch an episode of Berserk, and you'll see great art, giant swords cleaving people apart, a fairy sidekick who's not awful, in a world far darker than this but far funnier, too. I'm fairly eager to see Castlevania S2 on Oct 26. I'm still watching thru the Godzilla anime, which is dumb as hell but amuses me at least half the time.

With anything Groening touches, of course, we need to talk about sexism and racism, see the Problem With Apu. In this case, the boring fantasy kingdom shows male honkies in charge, a few black (or blue & froglike) people off to the side. Women other than Bean are entirely subservient, medieval European gender roles followed 100% up through S1E5. The black vizier is of course evil and perverted; like, how could you expect otherwise from Matt?

I'm disenchanted with Disenchantment. It might be the dullest thing I have ever seen. I would ask Netflix for my money back, but, you know, watching other stuff.

★☆☆☆☆

Anatomy of Frank Herbert

Truthfully, "God Emperor of Dune" is the best book in the series, but you have to read the second and third books to get to it. And they are… They are just the worst.
—Dave Kellett

This is completely true. We can theorize about how Chapterhouse: Dune or the final book might've been the best if Frank hadn't been dying, but certainly the abominations perpetrated by Kevin J. Anderson (worst writer in the world) and Frank's incompetent son Brian were not that.

But the Dune series isn't Frank Herbert's best work. I'd put at least Destination: Void, Whipping Star, Dosadi Experiment, Hellstrom's Hive, and Eyes of Heisenberg above it, both for scope of ideas, character development, and pacing.

Dune most of the time meanders aimlessly through the desert, eventually coming up with a memorable scene, and Dune Meshuggeneh (#2) and Super-Babies of Dune (#3) are the least interesting books Herbert ever wrote. The others are all far more tightly written.

His short story collections, mostly about the ConSentiency setting (I want a chairdog!), are fantastic. And for sequels, the Bill Ransom co-authored Jesus Incident, Lazarus Effect, Ascension Factor are good stories of Humans under a deranged AI that thinks it's a god: Good lessons for the coming times.

Kronar returns in a 24-page comic Dark Miasma! Oglaf is super NSFW, tho this one is pretty tame, but if you read the previous Kronar stories be prepared for… well, be prepared.

There is no surrender, there is only being dead