Sep 262014

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! So once again it’s time for a retro TV review, and this week I’ll be taking you on a jaunt into the far future with the FOX cartoon Futurama, a show that is very near and dear to my heart.


Futurama began innocently enough in 1999 as a companion project to the hit primetime series The Simpsons. With the success of the famous animated family, the FOX network began to look for another show that would appeal to the same audience and turned to series creator Matt Groening for answers. Together with Simpsons writer David X. Cohen, Groening decided that he wanted to base the new show firmly in the genre of science fiction–a far cry from the small-town world of Springfield.

What they came up with was Futurama, the story of a New York pizza delivery boy named Phillip J. Fry–an obvious shout-out to Marty McFly of Back to the Future fame–who is accidentally frozen in a cryogenics lab on New Years Eve of 2000. Awakening nearly 1,000 years later in the high-tech, futuristic city of New New York, Fry doesn’t have much time to dwell on the fact that he’s just lost everyone and everything he knows as he gets swept up in a whole new world of robots, aliens, and rampant societal problems.

Futurama boasts a large ensemble cast that is mostly made up of Fry’s co-workers at Planet Express, an interstellar delivery company established by his distant descendant Professor Hubert Farnsworth. Joining the senile and eccentric Professor are ship’s captain and Cyclops Turanga Leela, resident bureaucrat and paper-pusher Hermes Conrad, incompetent alien surgeon Dr. Zoidberg, foul-mouthed mechanical man Bender, and mega-rich company intern Amy Wong.


One of the great things about Futurama is that it brings real, coherent satire to the table on a fairly consistent basis, using both the characters and the future world at large to talk about issues that aren’t so far removed from our modern-day society. Despite the stereotype of the idyllic, utopian future society, New New York is very much like the city of today, except that the problems are massively and ludicrously exaggerated–from the class struggles of mutants in the sewer system, to discrimination based on alien race, and even the persistent pest of global warming.

Politics in general come under the most fire, as the sitting President of Earth in the year 3000 is none other than Richard Nixon, preserved as a disembodied head for centuries and still mad with power. Many other historical figures, from George Washington to George Takei, are also present in the show as literal “talking heads”, giving the audience a needed link to real life and allowing for even more comic crossovers. No contemporary debate is safe from criticism, although it should be noted that Futurama is considerably less edgy in its commentary than the acidic, politically incorrect wit that has come to dominate the current TV scene through shows like Archer and South Park.

As a fan of all things science fiction, Futurama also appeals to my inner geek by tackling genre tropes in a new and refreshing way. Several side characters are clearly meant to be vehicles for classic sci-fi spoofs: these include Captain Zapp Brannigan and Lieutenant Kif Kroker, two officers of the Democratic Order of Planets (DOOP) who pull a hilarious kind of Kirk/Spock routine; and Mom, the head of a massive robot-manufacturing company who in public plays a sweet old lady, but behind the scenes is a ruthless, dictatorial figure that mirrors many fictional corporate tyrants. Even the timeless debate over Heaven and Hell gets pulled into the mix with a “Robot Hell” (located in New Jersey, apparently) run by the sarcastic and scheming Robot Devil. In fact, I would go so far as to say that these minor recurring roles go a long way to making the show as entertaining as it is.

One of the most surprising things about Futurama, however, is that it actually has a lot of heart for a show that is more or less a glorified cartoon. These moments of sentimentality are mostly clustered around the romance between Fry and Leela, which seesaws back and forth like crazy throughout the series’ run. While Fry in general can be dim-witted and tactless, there are many times when I was genuinely moved by his demonstrations of emotion, such as losing his favorite dog and reorganizing the stars in the sky to declare his love for Leela.

Unfortunately, Futurama’s spot on TV was never really solid. FOX had a lot of gripes about the production of the show throughout its run on the network, often changed airtimes without notice, and ended up dumping it after only four seasons. Fortunately, Comedy Central picked it up and allowed it to stay on for another three seasons before finally cancelling it in 2013. There was also an additional season during the hiatus between channels in the form of four short movies featuring all the original characters, but the less said about them, the better. Let’s just say that there’s a reason shows like this only run for half an hour. The plots generally meander, derail, and become unavoidably silly and pointless when the writers try to stretch a 30-minute cover over a 90-minute hole.


My Rating: 3.5/5

While it is true that The Simpsons pretty much set the bar for mainstream animated shows, Futurama follows in its footsteps very well indeed. Its humor may be a bit too self-referential and genre-specific for viewers who are not well versed in sci-fi literature, but consistently funny characters, a sound moral footing, and a great sense of adventure make it a trip that you really shouldn’t miss. Here’s to hoping that we may yet see the return of the Planet Express crew someday…but in what form? Who knows?


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Friday for new articles.

Sep 222014

The end of an anime season is always a strange experience. So often, it ends up being hard to say goodbye to shows that you almost didn’t even watch, while early favorites can’t be over soon enough. Of course, maybe that’s just my natural tendency to love any series that exceeds my expectations. Enough ramblings, though, because it’s time for This Week in Anime.


Simulcast of the Week: Sabagebu!

I’m not certain where the “cute girls with guns” anime trend started, though I heap most of the credit/blame on Girls und Panzer. Typically a weird hybrid of the sports and slice of life genres, this kind of show tends to take adorable characters and have them mess around with military-grade firepower, simulated or otherwise. Sabagebu! looks like it’s going to do the same… right up until it sucker-punches you in the face and laughs at your injuries.


You see, Sabagebu! is really a rapid-fire gag comedy disguised as something far cuter. It unleashes its enormous mean streak and boundless energy in the form of short, seven-ish minute segments, three times per episode. Sometimes it draws humor from its cast of violent, eccentric, gun-toting high school girls. Other times, it offers delightfully twisted parodies of classic action and war films. Its ballistic approach to comedy won’t be for everyone, but it’s pretty darn hilarious when it hits its mark. Crunchyroll and Sentai Filmworks both have the license in the US, so go watch.


Physical Release of the Week: Attack on Titan Collection 2


I shouldn’t even have to write a description for this one. Attack on Titan is easily one of the biggest anime series to hit the US in recent years, and is right up there with Sword Art Online when it comes to having a passionate base of fans. I enjoy Titan’s brutal intensity, and generally have too much fun watching it to really care about its flaws. This second box set completes the first season for US buyers, so you’ll need it if you want to spread the giant-killing goodness to your friends and family.


In the News: Miku on Letterman

Well, this’ll be a thing. Virtual pop idol Hatsune Miku is set to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman on October 8. The appearance is part of the PR buildup for concerts in Los Angeles and New York City later in the month. I’m a little terrified to see how it goes, but probably won’t be able to resist watching. That’s all the news I feel like looking up for this week, so come on back next time.


This Week in Anime is hastily cobbled together by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime and manga on Twitter. Check back every Monday for new articles.

Sep 192014

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another edition of Channel Chaser! For today’s topic, I’m going to take you through a very short list of what I believe to be the most important shows in the history of television.

I should preface this by saying that when I define a show as “important,” I don’t necessarily mean that I like it or that it was a fantastic series on its own–although some definitely are. These are the shows that I honestly believe had a hand in creating the vast and varied TV landscape that we enjoy today.

Each one of these shows has become a cultural icon in its own right, regardless of whether or not you like it, and has shaped both the shows that came after it and the perception of the American public towards the television medium. I know there could be a lot of arguments made for other shows and against the ones that I’ve picked here, but I’ll do my best to defend my choices. So without further ado, here’s my list in roughly chronological order.


I Love Lucy (1951–1957)


I realize that a lot of people from my generation probably won’t recognize the names Lucille Ball or Desi Arnaz. In fact, you’re very likely out there right now rolling your eyes at me and wondering how a show so dated could ever be relevant in today’s world. But let me tell you something. If it weren’t for the zany, endearing antics of the fictional Ricardo family, the genre of sitcoms, and possibly all of serialized TV in general, wouldn’t exist at all.

I Love Lucy was the show that made American families all across the country sit down and turn on their TVs together every night, beginning an entertainment tradition that still persists in some form or other. It introduced the idea to the public that fictional characters and their lives could be just as interesting, and perhaps even more so, than real experiences. It was escapism, pure and simple; something that remains a driving force behind modern TV. And, perhaps most importantly, it made people of all ages laugh together as the original family-friendly show. All things considered, I’d say that makes it pretty relevant.


Star Trek (1966–1969)


Now it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of sci-fi, but before you all start calling me biased for picking the genesis of my favorite genre as one of my most influential shows of all time, I’d like to take a look at the bigger picture. Sure, Star Trek launched–no pun intended–an archetype that pretty much every single space-oriented show that came after it followed and built upon. That’s not up for debate. What I’m more interested in is Star Trek’s other, often-overlooked legacy: multiculturalism.

Before Star Trek, most TV shows were pretty whitewashed. But then along came Gene Roddenberry, with an idealistic and grandiose view of the future: a world where the peoples of Earth, be they black or white, Asian or European, came together with beings not even of this planet to form a peaceful coalition. Before Star Trek came along, no other TV show had put such diversity on the same screen together. The show had everyone represented–heck, they even had a Russian, and that was when we were at Cold War with them! Not to mention the first interracial love scene in television history. Star Trek laid the groundwork of cultural inclusivity, tolerance and respect that let every show that came after it continue to “boldly go where no one has gone before.”


Seinfeld (1989–1998)


For a show that claimed to be essentially about “nothing,” Seinfeld is still regarded as a pretty big deal. It’s constantly rated as one of the best TV shows of all time, and one of the funniest as well. I know, I know; I already talked about the genesis of sitcoms with I Love Lucy. So what does this show bring to the table that Lucy didn’t?

While I Love Lucy may have introduced the idea of situation comedy, it didn’t pretend to be real. It was entertaining, but this was because it was a parody of life–an exaggeration–rather than a hard look at what makes life funny. This is what Seinfeld hit upon: those awkward moments in inane everyday conversation, the stupid decisions that people make all the time without thinking about them and that they never learn from, and friendships that are formed without any common ground whatsoever.

The “nothing,” in this case, is rather the “everything”–every facet of daily life that we usually take for granted and the incidents that we think no one else could ever understand. Seinfeld brought them all to the floor, sometimes with a lot more detail than necessary, and gave us something to really laugh at: ourselves.


Survivor (2000–present)


I’ll be the first to jump up and say that I hate reality TV, but it’s undeniably one of the most popular forms of entertainment right now. And that being said, even I find myself from time to time feeling extremely guilty for enjoying a little bit of paradise drama. Hosted by the magnanimous Jeff Probst, Survivor took the post-millennium television world by storm with its mix of real-life interpersonal drama, exploratory adventure, and explosive sporting action. It’s almost impossible not to get caught up in what is going on if you happen to turn on the show, which is now approaching its 29th season.

Survivor fascinates us because it shows human beings pushed to their limits, both physically and mentally, as well as demonstrating through real, relatable people the classic moral quandary of being liked versus being ruthless. We can’t help but put ourselves in the contestants’ position and wonder what we would have done in their place. It also intrigues us by taking audiences places in the world they never thought they would get to see. It also doesn’t hurt that Survivor pretty much single-handedly made reality TV a profitable genre in the industry and continues to be a smash-hit to this day. I think the tribe has definitely spoken on this one.


Lost (2004–2010)


Anyone who knows me knows that I have a love/hate relationship with Lost. I absolutely despise the ridiculous plot, which after a relatively interesting development arc in the first few seasons goes completely off the rails in the latter half of the show and confuses the heck out of me. I honestly believe that the writers were just making stuff up every week because they had no idea where they were supposed to go.

Personal grief aside, I still must admit that Lost has been a very influential show due to a different element: its characters. No show before it went so deep into exploring the stories, feelings, and motivations of its fictional participants. Lost did the extraordinary in that it truly created three-dimensional people–and in an ensemble cast of several dozen no less–creating compelling characters with narratives that would make us laugh, cry, and possibly even want to punch things.

I believe that while Lost may not have created the character-driven drama, it was the best at doing it. This show demonstrated that not all TV shows have to be slave to a story; the much more interesting development here occurs in the relationships between people who are brought together by coincidence and fate. Certainly, the multitudes of other, less successful copy-cat shows that have come and gone in the years since Lost left the airwaves speak volumes about what an impact this show has had on the television landscape. In the end, Lost was not a story about a mysterious island, but a show about people at their best and at their worst. I think it would serve us all to talk a few lessons from it about our own humanity.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Friday for new articles.

Sep 162014

Hello again, Internet. Fall draws ever closer, bringing colder weather with it. Most folks would complain, but we all know that those gray skies just mean more excuses to stay inside and watch more anime. There’s nothing quite like sitting down with a hot cup of caffeine and melting away into a world of two-dimensional goodness. Start making that hot chocolate, and enjoy another edition of This Week in Anime.


Simulcast of the Week: Barakamon

For all you slice of life fans, here’s a hidden gem from this season. Barakamon stars a pro calligrapher who moves to the middle of nowhere in the hopes of breaking out of a creative slump. The picturesque countryside looks like a great place to get some work done, and it probably would be if it weren’t for all the damn people. The local population of boisterous, eccentric characters may just be the friends Handa needs to get his calligraphy back on track, assuming they don’t drive him insane first.


Barakamon nails all the elements that make for a good slice of life series. The characters are fun to watch, but authentic enough to be endearing. The setting is beautiful, and the series as a whole has a relaxed, contemplative atmosphere, which is occasionally broken up by sidesplitting humor. It also offers a fascinating look at Japanese calligraphy, along with some insight into the fickle nature of the creative process. I adore shows like this, and Barakamon is a solid entry in the genre. Give it a go over at Funimation.


Physical Release of the Week: Genshiken Second Season Volume 5


Geeks love series about geeks, and Genshiken has been the standard bearer for otaku humor for quite a while now. The fictional college club has been around for over a decade, which makes me feel really old. It’s captured the ebb and flow of anime, manga, and gaming culture quite well over the years, while also crafting some fascinating, relatable characters. It’s an easy series to relate to, and one with a lot of important things to say about what it means to care passionately about a hobby. Go. Buy. Read. Enjoy.


In the News: Closing Shop

This was a bit of a slow news week, with one sad exception. US anime retail site Anime Nation closed down after being around for 20 years. Regardless of your anime source of choice, it’s always a bit depressing to see one of the competitors in the market go away. It’s a sign that things are moving towards one or two big sellers, even though the market itself remains fairly healthy. So long, Anime Nation. You will be missed.


That’s all for this week. Come back next time, where hopefully I’ll have some better news to recap.


This Week in Anime is hastily cobbled together by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime and manga on Twitter. Check back every Monday for new articles.

Sep 122014

Welcome back to Channel Chaser, and the second part of my review of the long-running sci-fi franchise Stargate. Two weeks ago, we addressed the show that started it all, Stargate SG-1. Today, we’ll be moving on to the later spin-offs inspired by the success of SG-1, brining new cast members in the Stargate family and sometimes even crossing over between shows.

First, a little background information. Throughout seasons six and seven of Stargate SG-1, mention is made by various characters to a supposed “Lost City” of the Ancients–the race who built the Stargates and later evolved into energy beings–where there are powerful technologies and weapons capable of helping Earth battle the bad guys in the galaxy. As it turns out, however, the Lost City is no longer on Earth, but in a different galaxy altogether.


So begins the plot of Stargate Atlantis. Launched in 2004 as a counterpart to season eight of SG-1, Atlantis features an international team of scientists and military personnel who go on an expedition through the Stargate to the far-off Pegasus Galaxy in search of the Lost City, which is–you guessed it–Atlantis. Struggling to master the city’s controls and cut off from Earth due to the malfunctioning Stargate, the expedition is stranded and has to fight all new aliens in order to survive.

Originally intended as a continuation of SG-1 with the same old cast, Atlantis was redesigned as a spin-off with a new cast of characters who, while very similar in their group dynamics to SG-1, have very different personalities and ways of interacting with each other. These include the cool and confident Colonel John Sheppard, brilliant but arrogant scientist Rodney McKay, quirky medical man Dr. Carson Beckett, alien warrior Teyla, and the civilian head of the mission, Elizabeth Weir.

Some of these characters, such as McKay and Weir, as well as later additions like Richard Woolsey and Sam Carter, had already had roles on SG-1 and were as such reintroduced into the new story. Eventually, the cast also grew to include action movie star Jason Momoa as the enigmatic fighter Ronon Dex and Firefly veteran Jewel Staite as Dr. Jennifer Keller. The show also introduces new main villains the Wraith, a race of creatures who killed off the Ancients millennia ago and have the ability to suck the life out of people with their hands. Creepy.


In many ways, I really, really, like Stargate Atlantis. The show is great–maybe even as good as SG-1–throughout its first, second, and third seasons. The rapport of the cast and the roles they play are just fantastic. The most entertaining part for me frequently was watching Sheppard and McKay butt heads in the classic military versus science debate. Sheppard often works to keep McKay’s runaway ego in check, but then uses it to his advantage when the situation requires it, putting immense pressure on the scientist so that he will perform miracles when the team needs it the most. The phrase “Oh, well I guess we’re going to die, then,” eventually becomes a sure sign that Rodney McKay is about to do something amazing.

While it does have many good attributes, however, Atlantis had a few problems that I feel really kept it from being as successful as it could have been. Firstly, there was an epic mishandling of many of the characters in the show’s writing. Several cast members like Beckett, Weir, and season one regular Aiden Ford were killed off for no adequately explained reason. I also felt that even though she is undeniably a great actress, the addition of Amanda Tapping to the cast in season four was a mistake. You have to let shows like this stand on their own, and I felt that took away from Atlantis’s appeal slightly by inviting too many unfair comparisons and shoving an old character in where she didn’t really belong. It was just poor planning.

Another thing is that the bad guys of Atlantis were never as interesting as those in SG-1. The Wraith were okay for a while, but the whole creepy, life-stealing shtick got old pretty fast. Also, because they felt like spicing things up in season three, the writers added SG-1 mainstays the Replicators to the bill. Give me a break. If I had enough of them through ten seasons of SG-1, what makes you think I’m going to sit around for more? Even more frustrating, the series’ only truly great villains–the Cold War-esque, double-crossing schemers the Gen’ii–were never developed to my satisfaction. I mean, they got like ten episodes in five seasons. Come on!

Anyway, I’ve complained enough about Atlantis. It’s time we moved on to the third and final installment in the franchise, Stargate Universe. The premise is pretty similar to SGA, actually: an rag-tag international group has to evacuate an off-world SGC base under attack using a previously untested nine-symbol Stargate address and end up stranded on board the Destiny, an Ancient starship traversing the galaxies in search of answers to the mysteries of life.


Compared to life on Destiny, the Atlantis expedition looks like a walk in the park. The ship is old, falling apart, and totally devoid of any useful supplies, forcing the unwilling, in-fighting group members to band together and jump through the Stargate on timed missions to find supplies and spare parts, at the risk of getting left behind when Destiny jumps again.

I don’t have much to say about Stargate Universe, but most of what I do have to say is not good. Honestly, the show doesn’t so much resemble anything Stargate­-related so much as a really bad rip-off of Battlestar Galactica. Gone is the trademark humor, sense of adventure, and colorful characters, instead replaced by a gang of cynical opportunists all vying to gain political control over the situation, as well as actual control over the runaway ship.

In the wake of BSG’s success, Syfy figured that if they could just make Stargate as gritty, dark, and serious as it was, they could make boatloads of money. Well, they were wrong. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a seven-sided hole. SGU only lasted two seasons before it got dropped like it was hot–which, of course, it really wasn’t. The only character I actually was interested in following–being the ship’s leading Machiavelli-style scientist Dr. Nicholas Rush, portrayed by well-known actor Robert Carlyle­–was probably the worst of the bunch as far as being a good person was concerned. Other than him, nobody else in the cast is really worth watching. Even David Blue, who plays the ship’s resident nerd and audience stand-in Eli Wallace, comes across as pretty bland and boring.

Universe also totally lacks what I think every Stargate series needs, which is a recurring, dependable antagonist. SGU introduces several bad guy aliens during its run who, for various reasons, covet Destiny and its power, but all to varying degrees of no success whatsoever. SG-1’s space mafia the Lucien Alliance has a fairly big presence as they invade Destiny at the end of season one, and have apparently spent a lot of time conducting terrorist-style attacks against Earth, but this is never really elaborated upon and the Alliance’s strangely recast image from incompetent goofballs in SG-1 to bloodthirsty and dangerous saboteurs in SGU just doesn’t work.


My Ratings:

Stargate Atlantis–3.5/5

Stargate Universe–1.5/5

Basically, if you liked Stargate SG-1, you’ll probably like Atlantis, too–at least, for the first couple of seasons. It kind of goes off the rails plot-wise later on and loses too many good characters for my liking, but overall it’s a fine follow-up to its parent show. Universe…not so much. Its just Stargate trying to be something it is inherently not, and doing a very poor job at it.

I’d like to say we can have higher hopes for the next series, but as of now, Stargate’s future is uncertain. With Universe pretty much killing the franchise and a movie-style reboot on the way, there’s no telling what could happen. Here’s to hoping it’s as awesome and fun as the original!


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Friday for new articles.

Sep 082014

Nothing like a long weekend to provide a convenient excuse for taking a week off from a regular column. In any case, This Week in Anime is back for more news and reviews, so sit back and enjoy. We’ve got plenty to catch up on, and a delightful little underdog of a show to review. Onward to anime!


Simulcast of the Week: Invaders of the Rokujyoma!?

It’s always nice when a series turns out to defy expectations. I watched the first few episodes of Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? at the beginning of the season, and wasn’t impressed enough to keep going. A review assignment for another site dragged me back into it, and I’m glad it did. As it turns out, this series has evolved into a surprisingly entertaining comedy.


Take an average guy with a tiny but affordable apartment. Add a ghost, an alien, a magical girl, and a priestess, all of whom are trying to take over the apartment for one reason or another. Stir it all together, and you’ve got Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? in a nutshell. It pokes fun at a wide variety of classic character archetypes, but delivers some unexpectedly strong drama along the way. While it’s not the best at any one thing, it’s a solid piece of entertainment on all fronts. It’s also remarkably tasteful for a series with harem comedy elements, and even viewers with a serious aversion to fanservice will find it an easy show to watch.


Physical Release of the Week: Gatchaman Crowds Complete Collection


It technically came out during this column’s off week, but who cares? Anime just wouldn’t be anime without a regular dose of completely bonkers science fiction. Gatchaman Crowds does just that, combining eye-popping visuals with some genuinely interesting musings on the nature of heroism. It’s a very energetic series that can be a little tough to get into, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. You can order it from here.


In the News: Under the Dog Makes the Cut

Crowd-funded anime project Under the Dog wrapped up its Kickstarter campaign with plenty of donations to spare. A late run of publicity helped the sci-fi OVA reach its goal, and it’s moving into production. A couple of US streaming companies have expressed interest in distributing the finished product, so we should be able to see how it turns out soon enough.


We covered it here in the most recent Kawaii Overthink, but it’s worth mentioning again: Yen Press has announced several new licenses for its Yen On line of light novels. From fan favorites (Log Horizon, No Game No Life) to personal favorites (The Devil is a Part-timer!), there’s plenty to get excited about. Bring on the books!

For boring scheduling reasons, this column will be moving from Sunday to Monday from here on out. See y’all next week for more two-dimensional antics.


This Week in Anime is hastily cobbled together by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime and manga on Twitter. Check back every Monday for new articles.

Sep 052014

Welcome back once again to Channel Chaser! I’ve been looking over the lineup of new shows for this fall, and man, is there some exciting stuff coming up. Everything from cop dramas to comic book adaptations, fantasy adventures and sitcoms is getting a makeover this year, and with some pretty great actors as well.

So this week, I thought I’d take you on a little tour through the upcoming shows that I think are worth discussing and give you my two cents on what they’re all about. Read on!


The Good


DC Universe Shows

Okay, this is what I’m pumped for more than anything else here. To expand on the world that they established in the gritty hit series Arrow, DC is rolling out three new shows this fall, all of which look pretty darn cool. There’s the CW’s The Flash, featuring the titular speedy superhero taking on all manner of bad guys (looks like Weather Wizard is first up from the trailer); NBC’s Constantine, in which occult master and demon fighter John Constantine comes out of retirement to save the world once more; and FOX’s Gotham, showing the early days of Jim Gordon and the Gotham City Police Department. I’m mostly excited for The Flash just because it looks like so much fun, but all these shows have definite potential, considering the source material. They premiere on October 7, October 24, and September 22 respectively.



Yep, it’s the last run for Supernatural, and you can bet that it’s going to be a good one. Following the blockbuster season nine that turned Sam into an angel for a while, Dean into a demon more or less permanently, Castiel into a villain (again) and Crowley into a hero (what?), everyone’s favorite brothers and the rest of their gang are back for the last season ever. Actually, that may or may not be true. Who knows with this show? But what I do know is that it’s going to be awesome. Don’t miss it. Premieres October 6 on the CW.


The Librarians

So, has anyone else ever seen The Librarian movies? Made for TV, on TNT? Starring Noah Wyle and Bob Newhart? No, just me? Oh, well. For those who aren’t familiar, The Librarian is a three-movie miniseries that stars Wyle as a geeky, cheeky spin-off of Indiana Jones as he takes over curatorship of a vast storehouse of ancient wonders housed beneath the New York Metropolitan Library. And now it seems that he’s getting some help, as a weekly series will expand on The Librarian’s premise while adding four new assistant Librarians to the team. If the movies are any indication, we’re in for a lot of high adventure, a fair amount of doomsday scenarios, and maybe a few laughs, too. Sign me up! Premieres December 7 on TNT.


The Bad (or in this case, the Fair)



I’ve honestly considered upgrading this one’s rating because of two things. For one, it’s got an amazing cast–a.k.a. Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan and Star Trek’s John Cho. For another, it’s a modern-day update of the classic play My Fair Lady, which is pretty entertaining on its own. I’m not a huge fan of sitcoms generally, but this one might be worth checking out if you’ve got the time for it. Be prepared to see Gillan portraying an Internet celebrity who hires Cho to teach her how to be a real person that doesn’t have her head buried in a phone for a change: hence the title. Clever. Premieres September 30 on ABC.



All right, you got me. This one’s on here just because of David Tenant. Anyway, this new cop show is based on the British drama Broadchurch, and stars Tennant alongside Anna Gunn as a pair of detectives investigating a murder in a quiet California seaside town. But when the case blows up and throws the entire town into turmoil, I hope they’re ready for Tennant to give them the smackdown Doctor-style. If he’s anywhere near as intense and awesome as he was in Doctor Who, things are going to get crazy pretty quick. Premieres October 2 on FOX.



Super-geeks saving the world? Yep, that’s pretty much the gist of this new show, based on the real-life experiences of intellectual Walter O’Brien. In the series, O’Brien teams up with a group of other scientists, geniuses, and hackers to take on the world’s toughest problems–oh, and did I mention that a cute coffee shop waitress gets dragged into the mix, too? How very Big Bang Theory of them. Premieres September 22 on CBS.


The Ugly



As if we needed any more shows like this. New York medical examiner Henry Morgan has a dark secret: he’s hundreds of years old, and he can never really die. He thinks that studying the dead may reveal the reasons behind his abilities, and his unique set of skills draws him into investigating murders along with a female cop sidekick. I could be wrong about this, I suppose, but to me the cheese factor here is just overwhelming. Premieres September 22 on ABC.


Z Nation

Great, just what TV needed: another Walking Dead rip-off. Well, at least this one stars Lost’s Harold Perinneau and Supernatural’s D.J. Qualls… wait, is that even a good thing? Well, at least this show’s got a setting change from the Southern backwoods to a road trip across the entire U.S.A., as a last-ditch attempt by a group of zombie plague survivors to get the only immune guy from New York to California alive so that his blood can be used to make a cure. And just for the icing on the cake, it’s brought to you by the Syfy Channel: the makers of Sharknado. I think that tells you everything you need to know. Needless to say, my hopes aren’t high for this one. Premieres September 12 on Syfy.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Friday for new articles.

Sep 042014

Last week, Yen Press announced a slate of new licenses for their Yen On line of light novels. The new titles included the source material for a number of popular anime series, including No Game No Life and Log Horizon. The announcement was a welcome bit of good news, and many fans are justifiably excited about the prospect of light novels becoming more commonplace in the US. It’s worth noting, however, that this far from the first time an American publisher has taken a shot at mixing in some prose with the usual helping of graphic novels.


I prefer The Devil is a Part-Timer! over No Game No Life, so it’s going in the cover image. Being the evil editorial overlord has its perks.

Even before the releases of Sword Art Online and Accel World earlier this year, light novels had a presence on store shelves. The folks at Viz have put out a significant number of text releases through their own novel line, Haikasoru. If you’ve picked up and enjoyed a copy of Battle Royale, All You Need is Kill, or Mardock Scramble, they’re the ones to thank. Vertical has also been an active participant in this market, and one would imagine that the upcoming Attack on Titan prequel novel will move more than a few copies. You’ll also find recent and/or upcoming releases from Dark Horse, Seven Seas, and more.

Go back far enough and you’ll find even older examples of light novels getting the English-language treatment. Somewhere in a dark corner of my house, there sit Crest of the Stars and Slayers novels from Tokyopop.  That first Slayers volume is almost exactly a decade old. So, no, the idea of translating and publishing Japanese novels in the States is not a particularly new one.

It’s not as if Yen Press is only just getting into this market, either. New volumes of Spice and Wolf and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya have been coming out since 2009, all with the little winged Y logo printed somewhere on their covers. Apart from expanding their catalog and creating a dedicated product line, they seemingly haven’t done anything new with this most recent set of acquisitions.


Charismatic girls with supernatural powers sell books, apparently.

I say “seemingly” because there is, in fact, something novel going on here. (I offer no apology for that pun.) In recent years, even the more prolific publishers have adopted a cautious, measured approach to translating novels. Viz’s Haikasoru line focuses on serious sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stories, all of which have the potential to sell well beyond the usual manga demographics. Between the subject matter and cover art, they’re clearly aiming to bring in readers who’d never give a graphic novel a second look. For their part, Yen Press had previously focused on titles with an established US fanbase, like the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise. Translating a full novel is a lot of work, and publishers have been naturally cautious about putting in the time and money for something that might not end up being worth it.

That, in a nutshell, is what makes the new announcement exciting. Yes, many of the new Yen On titles have some sort of existing US fanbase, but not to the extent of Titan or Haruhi. These licenses represent a bigger risk, which means that the market is apparently encouraging enough to justify giving it a shot. If these “almost-popular” series can make a go of it, it may signal that the US is ready for more. Many popular anime series in recent years started as light novels, and most of them ended with plenty of source material left untouched. Give the LN market a few years of success, and we might start learning firsthand how all our favorite shows were actually supposed to end.

Have we been here before? Yes. Will light novels finally hit it big this time? Maybe. As with any risky licensing decision, the sales numbers will ultimately be the measure of success. Similar hype trains have derailed themselves in the past, but I’m holding out hope that this one will stay on track.


Kawaii Overthink is written by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime and manga on Twitter. Check back every other Wednesday for new articles.

Sep 022014

By now you may have seen the latest horror-game-of-the-week that made its way around the Let’s Play community, Five Nights at Freddy’s. The premise is simple enough: you are a new security guard working overnight at a Chuck E. Cheese-like pizza restaurant, but at this pizza joint the animatronic characters become sentient after closing. They move slowly toward your office, only standing still when you watch them through the security cameras. If one of those fuzzy robots makes it into your office before 6:00 a.m.…


… You get a jump-scare. Ooga-booga.


It is unfortunate seeing what has recently become of the survival-horror genre, something that began with such promise. In just a few years, the brilliant psychological horror we have seen in games like Silent Hill and Amnesia: The Dark Descent have been fading away in favor of these cheaply-made, quick-to-develop survival horror games that only offer a few scary images popping up in your face. Horror games with well-written stories like Resident Evil and BioShock have given way to games where you find pages in a plain-old forest while a faceless guy in a suit chases you, all to saturate YouTube with funny reaction videos.

This, of course, is great for the many independent developers who produce these horror games. It is a similar situation to that which I discussed in my earlier analysis of the similar “simulator game” trend – more views of these survival-horror games on YouTube mean more exposure of the games, and ultimately more revenue for the indie studios that make them.

But will this trend ever get old?

I don’t necessarily mean that indie developers will get tired of producing short horror titles. I ask that question with Let’s Players in mind. PewDiePie and the Game Grumps have been playing so many horror games lately, it’s a wonder to me that they still feel anything when Freddy Fazbear pops up on their computer screen for the umpteenth time. Of course, professional Let’s Players are quite talented at playing it up, if you will, when the situation arises. And even if PewDiePie does eventually become desensitized to the jump-scares thrown at him, there will always be other Let’s Players on YouTube who are ready to take the screams in his place.


Even if there is a limitless amount of talent available on YouTube to record the most entertaining reactions, there is also the possibility of viewers themselves becoming fatigued with the amount of Let’s Players doing horror gameplay. Could there be a time in the near future when the average YouTube user gets so tired of horror game let’s plays that they shy away from them completely? Though it is important to factor in other variables, such as whether or not a viewer likes the commentary, it could be important to note here that the Game Grumps lost 300,000 views between episodes 1 and 4 of their Five Nights at Freddy’s playthrough.

For the time being, this strategy of indie game studios gaining exposure through easily developed horror games or “quirky” games works. Goat Simulator and Five Nights at Freddy’s are kind of like brothers in that context, each giving their respective studios a good amount of revenue for bigger and better future projects. But if Let’s Players and their fans start to find these two trends too monotonous, things are going to get interesting. I would imagine indie studios will continue to try to create fun or interesting small games to spread their brand throughout the Let’s Play community, but instead of creating something silly or full of jump-scares they will be challenged to create something even more entertaining or captivating on the same small budget. I, for one, would like to see the popular trends change quickly, just to see what these developers can really churn out when they put creativity above following what is currently popular.


The Minus World is written by Steven Brasley. You can keep up with his thoughts on gaming via Twitter. Check back every Tuesday for new articles.