Jan 282015

Welcome back to Channel Chaser, as well as part two of my look at ABC’s critically acclaimed drama series Lost! Since I could only give a very general overview of such a deep and complex show in my review last week, I figured I would go into more detail this week on exactly what some of my favorite (and least favorite) parts of the series really were.

In my opinion, Lost is a show of extremes. When it’s on its game, it really does seem like the best TV show of all time. But when it’s not…well, let’s just say that nonsensical mess is probably a very nice way of describing it. But enough generalities: let’s get down to some specifics. So, in no particular order, here are my picks for the best and worst of Lost.


Greatest Hits


#1: Live Together, Die Alone

The speech from Jack that lived on to become basically the battle cry of the show for another six years is of course up there with the most landmark moments of Lost. It hearkens back to one of my favorite sayings from Revolutionary War-era patriot Benjamin Franklin: “We must all hang together, or we will most assuredly all hang separately.” It was the early rallying moment that the show needed to survive with such a diverse cast of characters with all their separate conflicts of interest, and was what pretty much cemented Jack’s leadership role and main character status for the rest of the series. Not much more to say on this, other than it’s obviously a very powerful moment and a turning point in the first season, and for the show as a whole. Who knows where things could have ended up if this call hadn’t brought everyone together?


#2: Desmond Hume


If it wasn’t already clear, I love Desmond. He’s the most emotionally invested character in the entire show, with what I believe to be the most interesting character arc. He’s also arguably the most important character on the show given his role in saving the Island, pressing the button, and reuniting everyone in that weird Purgatory place. Any episode that Desmond was in was that much better because of it, especially any one concerned with the Swan station and the debate over whether or not to push the button. He was the everyman of the show: not a doctor, not a musician, not a criminal, no one special. Just a regular guy trying to get by and find his place in the world, and doing his best to deal with being thrown into situations beyond his comprehension while holding onto the memory of the one person he cares most about: his love Penny. It was an incredible saga for an incredibly grounded and believable character.


#3: The Van


This little gem comes from “Tricia Tanaka is Dead,” probably the best episode of season three (maybe the only good one) and one of my favorites in the entire series. The pure non-sequitur genius of fun-time Hurley’s obsession with restoring an old car in the jungle (and a VW microbus, no less) and rolling it down a cliff to prove to himself that he’s not cursed leaves us with an episode whose writers should be commended. Seeing Hurley and the depressed Charlie triumph in their death-defying stunt, all while accompanied by the so-appropriate tunes of Three Dog Night, provides Lost with one of its rare moments of pure, upbeat joy and celebration of life. The fact that the whole event gives the normally sour pessimists Sawyer and Jin a chance to smile and go nuts along with them just puts icing on the cake. It should also be noted that Hurley uses the van to eventually save the lives of his fellow castaways from the Others’ attack at the end of the season, proving what a great idea this whole sidebar was in the first place.


Most Epic Fails


#1: John Locke


Don’t get me wrong: from the very beginning of the show, I was a huge John Locke fan, as I’m sure many other people were. He was the mysterious guy who seemed to have all the answers, and for whom everything seemed to finally be going right for. The fact that the Island made him walk again was pretty neat too, of course. So of course I was bound to be let down when successive seasons steadily tore apart Locke’s cool and calm persona and portrayed him as a pathetic figure who was wrong about most things and whose only real lasting contribution to the plot was having his body stolen by the black smoke. I was really disappointed with how such a potentially interesting character systematically destroyed, tossed aside, and then used as a puppet for evil incarnate. As Jack says at one point, “You’re not John Locke, and you dishonor his memory by wearing his face.” Amen, brother. Locke deserved a far better end than what he got.


#2: The Others


The concept behind “the Others” was honestly pretty cool when they were portrayed as spooky jungle people who may or may not have weird supernatural abilities. But then once season three rolled around, there was apparently some huge drive to show the audience that, in actuality, the Others were normal people just like us. The whole thing felt very anti-climatic and silly, starting from the very second Juliet picked her muffins out of the oven in the Barracks. Sure, we got some cool characters out of it, like Juliet, Ben, and Richard. But the disconnect between the two realities of the Others (feral wilderness survivors and suburban yuppies) never made much sense to me. And what was with that Latin stuff, anyway?


#3: Time Travel

Wait, what the what? There’s time travel in this show? When did this become Back to the Future? Not that I have anything against exploration into the more sci-fi facets of Lost, but the entire season five storyline was just plain silly. It was a shockingly transparent clip-show that took photographs throughout the Island’s history that we could have simply gotten through character dialogue or in any number of other ways that would have made much more sense. While I’ll admit the whole thing was good for a laugh here and there (Hurley’s re-writing of The Empire Strikes Back was priceless) the mixed message conveyed by the whole thing (You can’t change the past! Oh, but wait, apparently we can now!) was badly done and very confusing. I doubt even Doc Brown could have wrapped his head around it.


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

Jan 212015

Welcome to another edition of Channel Chaser! Today I’m finally going to tackle something that I’ve been thinking about for a long, long time: my thoughts on ABC’s legendary drama series Lost. Strap in, because this is going to be a wild ride.


Let me preface this entire discussion by saying that my feelings about Lost are very, very conflicted. I feel that it is simultaneously one of the greatest TV shows I have ever seen, as well as one of the most disappointing. It has moments of pure greatness, and other moments of frustration so incredible I can’t even begin to describe it.

I, like many other people, quickly became addicted to the show when it first debuted in 2004. The idea of a mysterious island where anything seemed possible and supernatural things confronted the castaways who were already preoccupied with fighting among themselves and trying to find rescue was just a fascinating premise. Things get even more exciting when a strange underground complex is discovered, with a button that needs to be pushed every 108 minutes to prevent “the end of the world.” After that, the show sort of goes off the rails bit by bit. But more about that later.


The best thing that Lost has going for it are its characters. Such an amazing and well-thought-out cast is something you really don’t see very often in TV, and as expected, it really makes the show something special. Everybody had their favorites, from the mysterious Locke to the fun-loving Hurley, or perhaps the conflicted leader Jack. Even the minor characters like Desmond Hume and Benjamin Linus were so good that oftentimes they themselves became main cast members just based on popularity alone. Even more amazing is the fact that only two of the cast members, Matthew Fox (Jack) and Terry O’Quinn (Locke), had any real on-screen experience prior to being on the show. How the producers managed to pick these perfect people out of so many potential stars is something I still can’t grasp.

The show also features plenty of powerful emotional moments, as well as plot twists that were famous for coming out of nowhere and leaving fans on a cliffhanger until the next week’s episode. From the very first episodes, when Jack declares with epic foreshadowing repercussions, “If we don’t live together, we’re going to die alone,” Lost made no bones about that fact that it was a show about characters and the relationships between people. The show is dominated by remarkable relationships that are just as complex and well-constructed as ones in real life, from Jin and Sun’s troubled marriage, to the triangle tension between Jack, Kate, and Sawyer, and Ben’s strained relationship with his “adopted” daughter, Alex.

Where Lost fell apart, however, was a plot that got progressively more absurd and difficult to follow with every single season. And let me just say that it could all have been avoided had Abrams and the rest of the staff known where they were going from the beginning of the show: I don’t care what they or anyone else say on the subject. They clearly did not, and they were obviously making up most of the details as they went along, which lead to a lot of the answers fans coveted for so long falling disappointingly by the wayside. Some of these were eventually resolved by short films and videos released after the fact, but they didn’t really provide much consolation. The nature of basic tenants of the story, like the numbers, the smoke monster, or the purpose of the island, were in such a state of flux that half the time I didn’t know what the heck was even going on. All of this led up to an ending that reeked of fan service. Purgatory? Really? After all that build-up and mystery, you just decided to go with what everyone thought all along? Some plot twist that was.


Whatever you may think of its story, Lost has undoubtedly made its mark on television history. The series is what made J.J. Abrams a household name in directing and writing, and launched the careers of many of its stars, including Josh Holloway, Evangeline Lilly, Jorge Garcia, and Daniel Dae Kim. It also spawned uncountable numbers of copycat shows on other networks, most of which failed miserably in attempting to replicate that “je ne sais quoi” that made Lost such a hit (anyone remember The Event on NBC? I didn’t think so). It pretty much re-invented the idea of a character-driven drama all by itself, setting an example that people will still be trying to follow decades from now.


My Rating: 3.5/5

Lost isn’t always the perfect show that some people make it out to be. It stumbles a bit along its path, and that ending was questionable at best. But for me at least, the story isn’t really what should be focused on here. At its core, Lost is a show about people: about constructing an ensemble cast of such believable and relatable characters that we cared about every single one (well, okay, almost every one). It’s also a work about how the bonds between people, and they way they affect each other’s lives, are the most important things of all. Maybe you’ll love it, and maybe you’ll be let down. But the fact is that there’s a reason why Lost is considered one of the greatest TV shows of all time. And if this show teaches us anything, it’s that everything happens for a reason.

Of course, a show as complex as Lost can’t be covered by just one article. So stick with me next week when I bring you what I think are some of the moments when Lost rose to its highest heights, and fell to some of its most ludicrous lows. Stay tuned!


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

Jan 192015

Hey there, Internet. It’s been a while, mostly because I’ve been reworking the structure of this column (again). As I spend more and more time writing for sites other than my own, I’ve had less of an opportunity to put stuff together for this column. The good news is that I’ve worked out a format that should be easy enough to keep up with, even when faced with an expanded number of writing gigs.

This Week in Anime will continue to run each week, but I’ll be ditching the mix of news and mini-reviews that used to define this column. Instead, TWiA will be a short, weekly blast of whatever’s occupying the anime and manga sections of my brain at the moment. If I come across a topic that needs a more in-depth look, I’ll reactivate the old Kawaii Overthink column. Expect that to run about once a month.

Anyway, enough housekeeping. It’s time for This Week in Anime.


Winter 2015 First Impressions


We’re a couple of weeks into the winter anime season, which means it’s time to start making some early calls on what’s worth watching. Rather than putting together an almighty list of the best new shows with an average of just two episodes to go on, I figured I’d organize things by interest instead.


If you like explosions and action scenes…

The safest bet for action fans this season seems to be Durarara!! X2, if only because of its pedigree. It’s been a while, but the original still stands out as a stylish mix of eccentric characters and super-powered fight scenes. Whenever it managed to fire on all cylinders, Durarara easily tapped into that inexplicable sense of “cool” that defines so many popular titles. If this sequel series can recapture that magic, it’ll be a hit.

Speaking of sequels, the new season of Tokyo Ghoul seems to be going down well with that show’s fans. I never got around to finishing the first season, though, so I’ll have to sit that one out. Kantai Collection has a shot at being this season’s dark horse in the action genre, but a lot of its appeal depends on viewers having played the game it’s based on.


If your dungeon needs a few more dragons…

Despite its obnoxious title, Maria the Virgin Witch looks like a potential hit for fans of the fantasy genre. The first episode serves up some compelling characters and an interesting mix of outright magic and historical fiction. If it can maintain that writing quality over the course of the season, it should do just fine.

Log Horizon continues to do its thing, though I’m dozens of episodes behind on that one. I’ve also heard some good things about Yona of the Dawn, which continues into this season.


If you need a weekly dose of comedy…

Assassination Classroom is the early favorite here, with a charismatic cartoon mutant teaching a class of problem teens. Koro Sensei is perhaps my favorite new character of the season, and he’s carrying the show single-handedly at the moment. It’s got a handful of issues to iron out, but Assassination Classroom promises to be a stupid amount of fun.

Two riskier bets are Saekano and Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE, both of which have plenty of potential but could just as easily wear out their premises within a few weeks. Their first episodes made me laugh, so I’ll give ‘em a shot.


If you enjoy having your brain explode…

Death Parade just might make up for this season’s lack of new Mushi-shi episodes. It’s a tough series to explain without spoiling the fantastic pilot episode, so I’ll just stop here and tell you to watch it. Yurikuma Arashi is also drawing a fair amount of buzz, but I’ll be keeping that one on the shelf until I get a chance to watch some of its director’s earlier work.


There, that should be enough anime to consume every second of your free time for the next ten weeks. Enjoy!


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.

Jan 142015

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! I know it’s kind of late to bring up the holidays at this point, but with my column on hiatus for the past several weeks I really didn’t get a chance to cover them the way I wanted to. Let’s fix that.

A lot of TV shows out there are famous for their treatments of Christmas and other holidays in their episodes, from The Simpsons to Doctor Who, but others chip in as well with their own lesser-known and oftentimes remarkable contributions to the spirit of the season. So without further ado, here are my top picks for the best Christmas television episodes to get you and your family in the holiday mood. Or maybe at least a good mood.


Honorable Mention: The Constant (Lost)


Okay, I’ll admit it: this one is kind of a stretch as far as a “Christmas episode” goes, hence its status outside the actual countdown. The fact that it’s Christmas plays little to no part in the plot of the episode. Despite this, the traditional messages of comfort, joy, family, and love are abundant in this bizarrely touching time-travel story where everyone’s favorite British castaway Desmond Hume must find a link between his past and present before the stress of what’s happening to him literally blows his mind. Spoiler alert: it’s his long-lost love Penny. Not only is it the best Christmas episode of Lost (probably because it’s the only one, really), but it’s also arguably the best episode of the entire series. Just do yourself a favor and watch it with someone you love.


#5: Xmas Story (Futurama)

Speaking of time travel, this episode of the animated sci-fi sitcom Futurama is worth a watch just for the absurdity of its premise. Apparently by the year 3000, an attempt to create an actual robotic Santa Claus gone wrong has resulted in Christmas (now called “Xmas”) becoming the most terrifying day of the year. Watch Fry, Leela and company flee through the streets to avoid the wrath of Robot Santa, who has determined that the entire human race is “naughty” and consequently needs to be exterminated. Worth a view if you’re up for a laugh this holiday.


#4: Night of the Meek (The Twilight Zone)

In one of the most sentimental entries in his darkly ironic fantasy series, Rod Serling delivers the tale of the stereotypical drunken, penniless mall Santa that gets thrown for a loop when the man discovers a magical sack that can give anyone the gift they most desire. Of course, there are some problems when cops suspect him of stealing the goods, but by the end of the show old Mr. Corbin’s own secret wish is fulfilled as a sleigh complete with elves whisks him off to the North Pole to become the real-life Santa Claus. It’s sort of a mini-Miracle on 34th Street that’s sure to give the Grinches and doubters in your family some pause.


#3: The Strike (Seinfeld)

Of course, no holiday countdown would be complete without the most famous tradition of all…Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us! Jerry, Kramer, and the rest of the gang all become embroiled in the celebration of the fictional holiday, created by George’s father, leading to the predictable misunderstandings and shenanigans that make Seinfeld so funny. A must-see if you take the holidays with a grain of salt: just don’t forget to get the airing of grievances out of the way before you move onto the feats of strength.


#2: The Snowmen (Doctor Who)


In a show famous of its Christmas specials, the question of which is the best Doctor Who has to offer is largely a matter of opinion. While it has its detractors due to a more-ludicrous-than-usual plot and a somewhat cheesy ending, “The Snowmen” will always hold a place in my heart. The story picks up with Matt Smith’s normally cheerful and happy-go-lucky Eleventh Doctor hiding out in Victorian England, where he has become reclusive, disillusioned, and downright unpleasant following the deaths of his best friends. A chance encounter with a sassy and enigmatic barmaid/governess, however, soon lifts his spirits as he and a group of lovable recurring characters must stop an army of evil snowmen from bringing about eternal winter. Even though there is a bit of tragedy in the finale, expect this installment to make your Christmas a little bit brighter.


#1: Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (Blackadder)


Going in the completely opposite direction, in “Blackadder’s Christmas Carol” British comic Rowan Atkinson once again assumes the delightfully horrible mantle of the cynical and foul-mouthed Blackadder family in this side-splitting holiday romp. The plot twist? In contrast to all his previous incarnations, Ebenezer Blackadder (yes, they’re ripping off Dickens) is known far and wide as the nicest and most generous man in England…a fact that is promptly taken advantage of by everyone he meets. That is, until a Christmas spirit accidentally gives him a glimpse of his cunningly devious ancestors that proves to him that in reality, crime actually does pay and “bad guys have all the fun.”


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

Jan 062015

I’m sure right now you are one of the thousands watching Awesome Games Done Quick, an annual charity gaming marathon that involves a solid week of speedrunners blasting through your favorite games. I made sure to tune in on Twitch shortly after this year’s event started on Sunday, mostly because one of the first speedruns featured in this year’s stream was of a childhood favorite game, Banjo-Kazooie.

I got hyped from the start, shouting out in excitement whenever a speedrunner succeeded in pulling off a challenging glitch or exploit, and as a result I stayed hooked on the stream for the two-hour-and-fifteen-minute run of Banjo-Kazooie.


But I didn’t stay purely because I was impressed by the skill of the person playing. He was impressive, yes, but I would not have known what to be impressed with if it weren’t for another talent sitting right next to the player on the couch: the commentator.

During Awesome Games Done Quick, commentators – and sometimes even the speedrunners themselves – talk through every aspect of the game being played, highlighting each glitch they are about to exploit, explaining how and why the game thinks in such a way to make this glitch happen. The result: not only do I learn some impressive secrets about some of my favorite video games, but I also learn how challenging it is to pull some of these exploits off, and therefore I get a satisfying feeling when a speedrunner pulls off a glitch that shaves a few second off their runs.

Some of the most talented commentating I saw, however, came when the commentator knows what trick the player will pull next, and when it is coming, but doesn’t tell the audience exactly what is going to happen until the magic is made. A perfect example: during Sunday’s Banjo-Kazooie run, the player executed a new glitch in the “Grunty’s Furnace Fun” level. The commentator explained the player was taking a different path through Gruntilda’s sinister board game than in previous years, but didn’t say exactly why. When the speedrunner then used this new exploit to skip the rest of the level, the crowd – and I, sitting in my apartment – went absolutely wild.

There is no doubt that e-sports have been on the rise in the past few years, and that is largely due to Twitch’s massive online presence overall. But commentating everything from speedruns to Super Smash Bros. tournaments is, I would argue, one thing that keeps people coming back for more. In many ways, e-sport commentating is just like adding commentary to any other sport, like a soccer or football game. It not only informs the viewer, it entertains as well when the commentator knows the game and the strategy as well as the people playing.

Whenever I watch something on Twitch, I remember the first condescending line of a BBC News story on the streaming service: “Who would want to watch teenagers, clicking away at their video games all night?” In a way, the reporter has a point: watching other people play video games can be boring when you don’t have the controller in your hands. But when someone is there, talking you through the skills the players have and the strategies they are using, watching games becomes far more exciting. To those gamers who step up to the microphone and turn every Twitch session into a high-energy gaming event, from the casual players streaming from their bedrooms to the pros bringing an extra layer of entertainment to the biggest tournaments of the year, keep doing what you’re doing. It may not seem like much, but you, the commentator, are making strides toward gaming earning more respect as a mainstream medium.


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.

Jan 052015

We’re still getting back up to speed after the holiday season, but here are some updates on the status of our regular columns:

The Minus World will return to its usual schedule tomorrow.

This Week in Anime will return next week with a slightly modified format.

Channel Chaser will be returning soon (we don’t have an official release date for the next article, but rest assured it will be back).

All three of our regular writers have been going through some transitions in terms of real-world jobs, but we hope to continue bringing you fun and interesting content in 2015. Thanks for your patience and understanding.


Paul, Editor in Chief