Feb 252015
 

Welcome back to another edition of Channel Chaser! Despite my typically cheerful greeting, I’m actually not in a good mood today, and I have what I think is a pretty good reason. Remember a few months ago when I wrote a column making the case for why DC Comics should stick to creating a self-contained universe for itself on TV? Well, it seems like the big shots over at DC weren’t listening.

This is probably old news to everyone who really pays attention at this point, but DC just rolled out a plan for a whole slew of new movies, including the upcoming Batman vs. Superman film that will be the run-up to an inevitable Justice League movie. Another addition to the franchise canon, and the one I’m most concerned with addressing, is a Suicide Squad film that will feature, among others, Will Smith, Jared Leto, and Tom Hardy.

BatVSuper

Let me just say that in terms of the casting or anything else, I’m not objecting to the idea of a Suicide Squad movie. Honestly it seems surprisingly solid for DC, which admittedly has not had a great track record with movies. It’s the principle of the thing that I’m against here.

In the CW TV show Arrow, the Suicide Squad has already been well established with members including Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Bronze Tiger, and others. The show has done a great job of using the Squad to humanize these villainous characters and demonstrate that despite their evil deeds, they can actually work together for the greater good and that their lives shouldn’t be treated as expendable. This is especially true in the case of Deadshot, who has grown from a straight-up bad guy into being a sort of anti-hero with very believable motives for doing what he does. That, and Michael Rowe does an excellent job of making the world’s most skilled gunman into a sentimental and yet still totally B.A. character.

As if that wasn’t enough, DC has also announced plans to undermine the CW’s other shared-universe show, The Flash, by scheduling their own Flash film in only a few years’ time. This was the thing that really got under my skin, because I’m a huge fan of Grant Gustin and the show is so new at this point. Couldn’t you at least give it a chance to get going and stand out before you decide to try and give the role off to someone else? Come on.

And I’m not the only one who feels this way, apparently. I’ve got some celebrity backup. When Warner Brothers dropped the new lineup of Justice League-affiliated movies for the next few years at the end of last year, one of the first people to weigh in on the situation was Arrow star Stephen Amell. Even though there have been rumors flying around that he might get the nod to play the same version of his character on the big screen, Amell took to social media to express his displeasure on behalf of his co-hero Gustin. Here’s what he had to say.

 

“I thought that the way that Warner Bros. announced the slate of DC movies could have been handled better. I think someone like Grant Gustin, who has just launched an iconic character like the Flash, to record breaking numbers. Numbers that far surpassed Arrow‘s numbers… All that being said, I think that he should have been given a wider berth than two episodes before another actor was announced to play his character… That’s because I’m protective of Grant. And that’s because I think that producing 23 episodes of superhero television is more difficult than producing a feature film.” - Stephen Amell

 

I’m with you, Arrow: the whole thing was pretty crappy, to say the least. It feels to me like Warner Bros. is almost trying to discredit the TV shows and say that their product will be of a better quality, with bigger and known-caliber stars, than these relatively new entries into the CW’s shared universe. On a side note, am I the only one who thinks it’s kind of nice to see celebs sticking up for each other for a change? It’s nice to know that Amell and Gustin are as good friends in real life as they are on TV.

But I’ve got my reasons to make the case for TV. Rather than a few feature film appearances where screen time and development for a character or hero is relatively limited, I think episodic and serial TV shows give a lot more time to the main actors and those around them to fully flesh out their roles and develop their personalities in a believable and gradual fashion. I’m also just not a fan of the idea of a Justice League film in general. The Flash may be cool, but I’m not so down with Wonder Woman, Superman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and all the rest of the gang.

Maybe that’s because I’ve always been a bigger fan of Marvel, but still, I think the CW chose its subjects well in that they’re populating their shows with heroes who are lesser-known, like Green Arrow, Flash, Firestorm, Arsenal, Black Canary, the Atom, and the Suicide Squad who can be made their own and developed to a much greater degree than an established figure like Superman.

That being said, I know that in the end this doesn’t change a thing. The movies are going to happen, there’s going to be two separate universes of DC characters, and we’re just going to have to live with it. Studios have to make their money, after all, and cashing in on the comic book craze is pretty much the best game in town right now. All we can hope for is that the CW doesn’t give up on its drive to build its own DC world.

Vixen

The good news is that this doesn’t seem like it will be a problem, because CW has announced a pair of possible new shows that share space with Flash and Arrow: one an animated series based on the character Vixen (so how will that cross over? Not sure how that works…), and another based on Brandon Routh’s Arrow character Ray Palmer/the Atom. As I said before, using underrated heroes who haven’t gotten as much attention from the mainstream seems to be the CW’s calling card, and I hope this trend continues. Maybe one day soon I’ll even get the Blue Beetle and Question shows I’ve been praying for…but that’s probably wishful thinking.

 

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.

Feb 232015
 

I bought half a dozen volumes of manga from Right Stuf a little while ago. Some were on sale, while others had simply been sitting on my “buy this eventually” list for far too long. The box arrived over the weekend, and something occurred to me as I stared at the pile of books: my taste in manga is more than a little eclectic. So, for my amusement and yours, here’s a look at this rogue’s gallery of graphic novels.

MangaPile

Arpeggio of Blue Steel vol. 3

My inner mecha nerd is steering the ship on this one. I like to think of Arpeggio as the indie hipster version of Kantai Collection: it had ship girls before ship girls were cool, but you’ve probably never heard of it. I talked about this series a few times back in the Kawaii Overthink days, and most of those impressions still stand. Gorgeous naval battles, an interesting group of characters, and some intriguing sci-fi are Arpeggio’s biggest selling points. The manga really starts to break away from its anime adaptation’s storyline in the third volume, by which I mean it gets better and more interesting.

 

A Bride’s Story vol. 6

If I ever find myself on a one-way trip to Mars, I’m bringing A Bride’s Story. Not only does it hold up over multiple readings, it makes me want to slow down and linger over each page. While Arpeggio of Blue Steel pours loving detail into its battleships, A Bride’s Story applies that same level of artistry to absolutely everything. Whether it’s a building, an animal, or a character’s outfit, Kaoru Mori spends what I assume is an incredible amount of time on everything she draws. That’s impressive in any genre, but it makes a huge difference in historical fiction. The world of the series has an immersive quality that you don’t see very often. Simply staggering.

 

Genshiken Second Season vol. 2

The latest iteration of Genshiken isn’t really written for me. My own brand of otaku-ness is best captured by the original cast of geek guys. The newer chapters reflect a different segment of anime fandom, but it’s a testament to the quality of this long-running series that I still enjoy reading it. The sense of nerdy camaraderie is still alive and well, and it’s fascinating to see how some of the old characters interact with the new ones. I’ll always have a soft spot for veteran otaku Madarame, perhaps because we’re both college grads who still keep in touch with our old clubs.

 

Monster Musume vol. 5

I make no excuses for this one. MonMusu is a raunchy fanservice comedy featuring an ever-expanding harem of centaurs, harpies, and other monster girls, and I freely admit to enjoying it. Maybe it’s the constant barrage of delightfully cheesy puns. Maybe it’s the series’ habit of poking fun at its own absurdity, not to mention its willingness to crack jokes about its fanbase. Maybe it’s the surprisingly articulate theme of embracing diversity, but it’s probably just the shameless sex appeal. Whatever it is, Monster Musume is the rare fanservice series that I actually like.

 

My Love Story!! vol. 1

And now for something completely different. We go from the self-indulgent boob-fest that is Monster Musume to the sweet, charming, and extremely funny shoujo comedy that is My Love Story!!. The hook here is that the protagonist is a total guy’s guy: tough, dependable, and built like a tank, but entirely too terrifying to have any luck when it comes to romance. When a girl from another high school starts spending time with him, he assumes she’s got a crush on his pretty-boy best friend. Of course, that’s not the case at all, and plenty of adorably awkward moments ensue. Whether you’re a macho man, a girly girl, or somewhere in between, this one looks like it’s capable of pulling on your heartstrings while making you laugh your posterior off.

 

No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! vol. 3

After that brief interlude of “Paul’s really a nice guy,” we’re right back to “Paul’s a terrible human being.” The series formerly known as Watamote is the reigning king (er, queen) of cringe-inducing, mean-spirited humor at the expense of its painfully antisocial heroine. There are probably folks out there who can’t stand the way Watamote revels in dumping steaming piles of misery on poor Tomoko, and they probably have a point. Even so, there’s something about it that captures the essence of that people-hating teenage angst we’ve all felt at some point. Even as we’re encouraged to point and laugh, we’re also pushed to find the part of ourselves that Tomoko embodies. It’s brilliant, evil, and just a little bit sentimental. I love it. Lord only knows what these half-dozen books say about me, but there you have it.

 

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.

Feb 182015
 

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! I’m finally back on comedy for this week’s show review, and I’m starting to think that I have a type in terms of what kinds of shows make me laugh. Well, I’m not sure what this says about me, but today I’ll be talking about FX’s raunchy, rowdy sports sitcom The League.

TheLeague2

I like to think of The League as a sort of companion show to FX’s other risqué comedy program, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: they’re similar in many respects, especially the tone and type of humor involved. Just replace Philadelphia with Chicago and the beer-soaked barflies who go off the rails on about every social issue imaginable to an equally dysfunctional group of football geeks who seek to humiliate each other in both fantasy and real life.

So was Sunny part of the inspiration for The League? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer for that one. But if I were a betting man–like the main cast in this show–then I’d have to say yes. With the usual wager, of course.

In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, The League isn’t actually about football. It’s about fantasy football, and the people who make the fictional sports happen: specifically, a group of overgrown adolescents whose only real goal in life is to make their friends/opponents suffer as they seek to win The Shiva (a victor’s trophy named after the high-school girl one of the main cast first had sex with) and avoid the dreaded Sakco (a last-place trophy crowned by–you guessed it–a petrified bull scrotum).

The series revolves around a core cast of main characters including divorcee cubicle drone Pete Eckhart, bizarrely mismatched husband and wife Jenny and Kevin MacArthur (see what I did there?), conniving attorney Rodney Ruxin, the painfully unfunny and inept doctor Andre Nowzick, and the sincere stoner Taco MacArthur. These five make up the major part of an eight-team fantasy league whose inner competition can, and often does, get out of hand really, really fast.

TheLeague1

The main source of humor in the show is the fact that the characters will do anything–and I do mean anything–for the sake of their fantasy glory. This includes, but is not limited to, becoming each other’s slaves, trading away naming rights to their children, and some things so vile and appalling that decorum prohibits me from describing them in this column. Trust me; watch the show and you’ll know what I mean. Their perspective is so incredibly skewed toward their hobby–or rather, their obsession–that fantasy often takes precedence over real life in silly and sometimes even mortifying ways.

Where The League differs from its spiritual originator It’s Always Sunny is in the method of conveying humor. In Sunny, the reason the contemptible band of people making up the cast are still funny despite their obvious problems and tremendously bad taste is because, much like Seinfeld before it, it is a show that focuses on the things most people often think but are afraid to say in public. However, Sunny also isn’t afraid to tackle social issues such as gun control and politics. The League mostly steers away from this kind of critiquing in favor of an even more basic approach to talking about the everyday facets of life that we tend to take for granted or hide from others: especially ones in reference to sex. Seriously though, if you’re not comfortable, or are not at least able to sit though some incredibly uncomfortable sexual situations and dialogues, this show is not for you.

On the flip side, the acting in this show is really great. The chemistry of the cast is wonderful, and The League is populated by a who’s-who of famous guest stars and real-life professional football players who make regular appearances in the characters’ lives, including such well-known faces as Jeff Goldblum, Jay Cutler, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Marshawn Lynch, Sarah Silverman, and Seth Rogan.

My hat especially goes off to Nick Kroll, the Comedy Central comedian who plays the delightfully horrible Ruxin (he hates being called Rodney). Ruxin is probably my favorite of the cast just because he is completely unapologetic for how much of a scumbag he is and has no filter and no shame for anything he does. He’s also got the self-effacing Jewish comic routine down pat (even pausing at one point to note how he looks like a “Nazi propaganda cartoon of a Jew”).

Taco is also up there for me, but I feel that the show kind of ruined his character in the later seasons. At first, he’s a breath of fresh air among the other obsessed characters because he doesn’t care about their games (or much of anything) and is blissfully ignorant of the damage his attempted good deeds cause. Later on, though, he becomes less innocent and is made to appear just as cynical and self-serving as the other characters: a missed opportunity if there ever was one. Definitely check out the season five episode “Flowers for Taco” though: it’s one of the best, and novice actor Jon Lajoie really shows off what good comedy is all about when Taco is deprived of his drugs and forces the other league members to re-stone him because he’s just too good for them without the drugs.

 

My Rating: 4/5

Sophisticated, The League is not. But I would argue over it being intelligent comedy, despite the rather adolescent overtones its humor regularly takes. If you’re a fan of comedy that makes you burst out laughing and gasp in shock and horror at things you can’t believe you’d ever see a person do willingly, then this is the show for you. It might also help if you’re a football fan, but personally I thought it was plenty good even for not knowing anything about the game. It’s really a matter of personal taste whether you’d pick The League over It’s Always Sunny, but in my opinion, I’d put them on the same playing field.

 

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.

Feb 162015
 

There are plenty of things to like about streaming anime. A few bucks a month gets you more content than the average human could possibly watch, available in HD whenever and wherever you want. One of the few things that the simulcast scene has been missing is a sense of occasion. New episodes tend to come out in the middle of the day while most of us are busy working, and we all get around to watching stuff at our own pace. Convenient, yes, but it lacks some of the magic of primetime television. There’s no sense of watching a new episode at the same time as zillions of other people.

Funimation is taking a shot at capturing that “appointment television” feeling with their expanded broadcast dub program. The company experimented with the idea last season, releasing dubbed episodes of Psycho-Pass 2 and Laughing Under the Clouds a few weeks after their subtitled counterparts aired. It must’ve gone over well, because they’re jumping from two shows to ten this season. The core of that lineup is weekly primetime block, complete with a half-hour live discussion show. Think of it as an anime version of Talking Dead, AMC’s recurring talk show companion to The Walking Dead.

DubbleTalk

The project offers a wide variety of challenges, and it will be interesting to see if Funimation is up to the task. On the technical end, they’re essentially asking people to flood their servers at 8:00 PM every Wednesday. That’s potentially an awful lot of simultaneous traffic to deal with, and I’m already having apocalyptic visions of compromised video quality and endless periods of buffering. The only reliable way of testing something like that is to just do it, and I suspect that there will be some very nervous IT people a few days from now.

The live discussion show takes those technical hurdles and adds an extra variable in the form of fan interaction. Some poor soul is going to have to sift through a live feed of comments ranging from “DIS IS MY FAVORITE SHOW EVAR” to “U GUYS SUCK” in search of coherent questions to feed the hosts. Heaven help them if they’re planning to make that discussion stream visible to everyone, as they’ll also have to deal with fans arguing in real time. Massive server traffic is hard to simulate, but there’s absolutely no preparing for human interaction. Maybe everyone will be calm and civil, but Internet history suggests that’s kind of a long shot. Best of luck, forum moderators.

Even if all of that goes well, there’s still the small matter of dubbing ten shows on a fixed schedule. Even for one of the major players in the US anime industry, that’s a tall order. Spacing the launch dates out over the next month should help a bit, but the pressure will still be on. Under normal circumstances, it’s tough to get “on time,” “under budget,” and “worth watching” together as a packaged deal. Tokyo Ghoul also presents the added challenge of dubbing the second season of a series before the first. Maintaining consistent writing and acting quality is hard enough when you’re up against a deadline, and adding a full season of backstory probably won’t make it any easier. If they’ve been working on this since day one, at least they’ve got a six-week head start.

If (and that’s a very big IF) Funimation can stay on top of all these moving parts, the broadcast dub program has the potential to be a big deal. It could give anime something resembling a primetime TV block, bring dub fans into the simulcast loop, and present a more compelling case for Funimation’s streaming subscriptions. Even with last season’s trial run, it’s still a very ambitious move. Time will tell if it works, but it’s at least intriguing enough to lure me into watching this Wednesday.

 

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.

Feb 112015
 

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! Today, I’m going to be talking about a subject that has caused me, and I’m sure many other people, a lot of grief in recent years: the gradual destruction and self-loathing legacy of what was once one of the best channels on TV. In case you hadn’t figured it out by the title of this column, yes, I’m talking about you, Syfy. And I’ve got a serious bone to pick.

SyfyLogo

Back in the day, when I was much younger, science fiction as a genre was my life…oh, who am I kidding? It’s still pretty much my life. The point is that I was into it from a very young age, and I entirely credit Syfy for doing it. This was, of course, before the tragic rebranding campaign that completely emasculated the channel for the next several years; when it was still known as the good old Sci-Fi Channel. Since I was, and still am, an early riser, I was up at 6 a.m. every day to watch the early-morning reruns of old classics like Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Then I’d head off to elementary school and get home just in time for my daily dose of Star Trek, Stargate, and maybe even some X-Files, too. Good times indeed.

Even in the mid-adolescent years of my life, Sci-Fi was still going strong. Stargate played almost every day between reruns and churning out new episodes that made it one of the longest-running sci-fi shows in history, without sacrificing on the quality…well, much. Some new and offbeat shows like Eureka and Warehouse 13 also injected some much-needed pizzaz and fun into the channel. Sci-Fi even reached the pinnacle of achievement with the production and release of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, one of the most successful shows on TV and widely regarded as the most popular sci-fi program of all time.

It seemed like nothing could ever go wrong. Until, of course, it did. Spectacularly. For some ungodly reason that I still can’t really understand, in 2009 the channel decided that it needed to revamp its image in the eyes of the public, and thus transitioned from Sci-Fi to “Syfy”, the hip and cool version of the spelling apparently. The channel then proceeded to take the entirety of its reputation and, in my eyes at least, flush it down the toilet with a barrage of garbage shows and movies that ruined its appeal completely. I mean, Sharknado is a thing that happened. Need I say more?

If I may, I’d like to frame this entire argument in a simpler way. Let’s use the typical model of a young boy’s social development, for example. When you’re young, you like the things you like, and you don’t really care what other people say. If you’re into things that society might perceive as “geeky”, you do it with no shame whatsoever because you’re too young and naive to know any better. This is where Sci-Fi was before its rebranding: they aired what was in the genre they were named after and catered to a very niche but faithful audience with quality programming.

Then, of course, here come the adolescent years: those times in middle school and high school when you suddenly realize, “Hey, I actually do care what people think about me. I want to be accepted. I want to be cool, too!” And so you make compromises: first, maybe a new nickname (Syfy). Then, you start getting into things you don’t really like just because then you might not sound like such a loser (to borrow from Syfy’s altered lineup and the immortal words of Matt Smith, “I like wrestling now. Wrestling is cool. Oh, and I like reality shows. Reality shows are cool, too.”).

Before you know it, you’ve constructed this entirely new personality for yourself that is completely false, but done for the sake of fitting in. Don’t even lie. You know you’ve done it. Gone are the days of original programming that’s not awful and classy reruns. Now we watch WWE Smackdown, Fear Factor-type scare shows, and made-for-TV movies that are made solely to make fun of the genre the channel was based on and be laughably awful. And when Spike, that oasis of manly-men in the television desert, airs more Star Trek: The Next Generation than you do, you know there’s something wrong with this picture.

But why am I complaining about this now, you may ask? Well, as it happens, it’s because I think there may now be light at the end of the tunnel. There have been some promising developments over on the old Syfy recently. No, I’m not talking about Z-Nation: while it was an effort with the heart in the right place, I don’t think TV needs another bad Walking Dead rip-off right now.

12MonkeysLogo

Instead, I’m looking to the recently started series 12 Monkeys, as well as the upcoming show The Expanse. For those of you who don’t know, 12 Monkeys was a Terry Gilliam movie starring Bruce Willis that involved a prisoner being forced to travel back in time and avert the end of humanity. I have high hopes for the series because–spoiler alert–the movie was really great. I’m very interested to see how they develop the plot in a more linear fashion and really explore the world that is established in the movie, without the possibility of a sudden twist ending like in the film. Additionally, The Expanse is based on a popular sci-fi book series about a space detective and some interstellar renegades: sounds like some good old-fashioned, Sci-Fi style fun. I don’t know the books very well, but I look forward to seeing what this new show’s got.

Will these shows actually pan out and manage to avoid the stench of terribleness that has tainted Syfy’s reputation in these past few years? Has Syfy finally grown out of its troubled adolescence as a channel and become comfortable enough with itself to return to the programming that is true to its foundation and that it used to do best? I really hope so. But then again, I’ve always been an optimist about these things.

 

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.

Feb 112015
 

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. I wavered back and forth for months over whether or not to buy the collector’s edition of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions but couldn’t quite sell myself on paying that much for a 13-episode series. After a few weeks of writing for Anime News Network’s Shelf Life column, take a wild guess as to what made its way into my review schedule. For lack of anything else to write about this week, here’s a look at what’s inside the big shiny box.

ChuniBox1

The box itself is enormous, almost obnoxiously so. It’s a sturdy, shining behemoth that screams, “Bow down before the fruits of my disposable income, peons!” For reference, it’s big enough to hold six standard DVD cases. Each box is individually numbered for added nerd cred (my review copy is number 0888).

Inside, you get the first season of the show on Blu-ray and DVD. Each format gets its own transparent DVD case with a reversible cover insert. The Blu-ray version spans two discs, while the DVD needs three. Along with the original twelve episodes, both formats also include a half-hour OVA and a collection of comedy shorts. If you like clean opening sequences and Japanese trailers, those are included as well.

The big box also includes an English dub, which wasn’t offered with the original DVD release. It’s a good dub all around, which makes it easier to recommend the show to new fans and the subtitle-averse. It’s unfortunate that the dub’s currently limited to the collector’s edition, and it’d be nice to see a cheaper version made available eventually. Having watched the show both dubbed and subbed, I honestly think I like the dub better than the original Japanese audio. I know, I know, burn the heretic and whatnot.

ChuniBox2

Apart from the show itself, you also get a 150-something-page booklet and a big box of merch. For bonus points, the swag container itself is printed with character art and logos on all sides. The book is the star of the set for me. For a kickoff, it’s in hardcover format and is printed in full color. You get character designs, production sketches, staff interviews, episode notes, and so on. If you enjoy geeking out over the pre-production process, it’s a delight to read through and goes a long way toward justifying the cost of the set.

ChuniBox3

The contents of the extras box are pretty standard collector’s edition fare. You’ve got 7 art cards, 14 postcards (which I assume will never actually be mailed by anyone), a holographic card, and one of those lenticular cards that’s several pictures in one. On top of that are stickers, bookmarks, a Rikka keychain, a wallet chain modeled on Rikka’s cross, and a honest-to-goodness eyepatch (for novelty purposes only, not a medical device, etc.). I assume someone at Sentai must’ve spent at least a month yelling, “More! Find me more stuff to put in this box! What part of ‘MORE’ don’t you understand, damn it?” That individual clearly got his or her way.

With a list price of $130 and pre-order prices closer to $80, the Chuni-box makes a pretty solid case for itself. If I’d pre-ordered it sight unseen, I’d be pretty happy with what I ended up getting. In a market that’s seeing more and more premium releases, Sentai Filmworks has put in a strong effort with this one. If they do more editions like this in the future, the Chuni-box makes a good template to follow.

 

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.

Feb 042015
 

Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of Channel Chaser! Sometimes a show can be incredibly frustrating because it has so much potential to be good, but just gets bogged down with irrelevant information and fails to deliver (sort of like last week’s entry, Lost). But today I’m taking us a couple decades back in time to discuss a different landmark series: The X-Files.

XFilesLogo

The X-Files first premiered on the FOX network in 1993, following a new wave of skepticism in big government. In fact, this very idea was the foundational premise of the show. FBI Agenst Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are the only two employees of a little-known bureau of the agency called the “X-Files”: a collection of largely unsolved cases consisting of strange phenomena.

Because no one else in the FBI takes either Mulder or the X-Files themselves seriously, Scully is at first assigned to the department to discredit Mulder’s work and help shut the X-Files down. But predictably, through their adventures together and their encounters with a fair bit of things that Scully can’t explain with science, she begins to realize the possibility that, as Mulder so often claims, “The truth is out there.”

First of all, let me acknowledge that there is no doubting the impact The X-Files has had on TV and on popular culture at large. Taking inspiration from sci-fi dramas like The Twilight Zone and Night Stalker, the gritty realism and cop-show background of the series is largely what contributed to making it one of the longest-running sci-fi shows of all time. By the time it went off the air in 2002, The X-Files had made the notion of government cover-ups a household idea and proved that shows centered around little green men didn’t have to be completely unrealistic in order to draw people in. It also launched the careers of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, two very prolific figures in Hollywood who are still in the spotlight today.

The show was also the origin of the TV trope “monster of the week” for the way that most of its episodes handled stand-alone cases with bizarre creatures or things that had nothing to do with the overarching plot of the series. In fact, two-thirds of all X-Files episodes were based on “monster of the week” storylines. While I do appreciate the fact that some filler is needed in order to a show to have diversity, develop characters, and just make it last longer, this in my opinion was way, WAY too much. I mean, shows like Supernatural still use this model right now to a much smaller extent, and it still ticks me off every time I have to sit through another week of irrelevant plot developments.

XFilesCast

It makes it even worse that the overarching plot that I mentioned was actually quite a good one. It involved Mulder and Scully gradually discovering, over the course of several seasons and a movie, that our government houses a vast conspiracy concerning a group of alien colonists who want our planet for themselves. They work with the Syndicate, a network of powerful officials who agree to trade loyalty to their race for a place in the new order. While they are never given a close-up and proper look in the show, all the facts indicate that the so-called “Colonists” are your standard grey-skinned, black-eyed aliens, who also intend to convert humanity into a slave race by crossing their DNA with ours to create “super-soldier” hybrids and use a black oil-like substance to infect humans and gestate their young. Pretty creepy if you ask me.

Anyway, the point is that for most of the series, Mulder and Scully are fighting to protect the planet against this conspiracy under the noses of the government and the public, and are often put on the run from the law for sticking to their guns. While they do receive help from their boss at the FBI, Walter Skinner, a group of humanoid alien rebels who oppose the Colonists, and a series of covert informants from inside the conspiracy, the magnitude of what they are up against is just so colossal that it makes the entire saga seem that much more believable, and all the more triumphant when they do (SPOILER ALERT) eventually succeed.

Honestly though, I just wish that more of the show could have been focused on this central storyline than all that extra stuff. To be fair, The X-Files does have some pretty cool filler episodes, but overall I found the stories in between episodes involving the battle with the Colonists to be stale and boring. It also has its fair share of terrible monster-of-the-week plots. I mean, they spend a whole forty-five minutes at one point on the Jersey Devil. The Jersey. Freaking. Devil. Come on.

I guess it was kind of predictable, but I also never really bought how Mulder and Scully eventually get together as a romantic couple. Call me crazy, but I just never saw Duchovny and Anderson as having that much chemistry together. The relationship was further derailed as well by Duchovny’s intermittent appearances on the show. After the fifth season, Mulder starts getting screen time less and less due to Duchovny’s off-screen troubles, making it difficult to take him seriously as a character. With him out, the writers stepped up Scully as the new lead character along with a couple new additions to the X-Files, Agents Monica Reyes and John Doggett, who just never really flew for me either. Late additions rarely do, I suppose.

 

My Rating: 2.5/5

Honestly, if I were basing my rating of The X-Files purely on episodes surrounding the main story arc, this number would be much, much higher. But unfortunately, we have to take the whole thing for what it is. At its best, The X-Files is an edge-of-your seat psychological thriller with some horror and sci-fi elements sprinkled in that will leave you craving more every time. At its worst, it is a standard procedural cop snore-fest, plain and simple: two-thirds a snore-fest, to be exact. You want my opinion? Just watch the alien episodes. Skip all the other crap. You’ll thank me one day. But if you’re into more modern shows like Fringe, this is where they came from, so do yourself a favor and check it out.

 

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.

Feb 022015
 

After taking a week off to stare down some northeastern wintry armageddon, This Week in Anime is back in business. I’ll be offering some short takes on a few different topics this week, so let’s get to it.

 

Kill la Kill on TV

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The English dub of Kill la Kill premieres on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block this weekend, which is awesome. The series itself is a fantastic mix of stylish animation and clever writing, and the dub has been earning plenty of accolades as well. The only way to watch the dub until now was to buy the pricey Aniplex discs, which I’ve been too penniless to do. If you’re in the same boat, this is probably the best chance you’ll get to check it out.

There’s been plenty of speculation over whether or not the show will have to be edited for television, but I don’t expect that to be the case. Kill la Kill is running on a (basic) cable channel at 12:30 AM, so it’s not as though it’ll have to adhere to network primetime standards. While the series can get completely bonkers at times, its actual content is no more objectionable than many of the other shows that have occupied its timeslot. I’ll honestly be stunned if it ends up needing any significant edits.

Kill la Kill might be a little too crazy to pull in an enormous mainstream audience, but I imagine it’ll do well all the same. Part of anime’s appeal in the US is its willingness to jump sharks at the drop of a hat, and Kill la Kill definitely taps into that particular mentality. Here’s hoping it all goes well.

 

Assassination Classroom Gets Delayed

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This column wasn’t the only thing that took some time off recently; the popular action comedy Assassination Classroom had its third episode delayed by a full week. The episode in question introduced a new character with a casual attitude towards violence and an underhanded approach to his attempts at assassination. In light of the recent terrorist incidents involving Japanese journalists, the episode was delayed.

There was initially no word as to when the episode would air, but it ultimately returned the next week with no apparent changes to its content. The series is expected to resume its normal schedule, albeit a week behind for the rest of the season.

Having to wait for new anime is always a pain, but I think the producers made the right call here. Without the delay, Assassination Classroom ran the risk of becoming a talking point for all the wrong reasons. The episode wasn’t especially shocking in terms of its content, but playing it safe makes sense. It doesn’t keep fans from seeing the show in its entirety, so no harm done there.

 

Monty Oum Passes Away

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As I was putting this article together, the news dropped that RWBY creator Monty Oum passed away. More details are available at the Rooster Teeth website here. His passing is a major loss for the anime community in the US and around the world, and he will be missed.

 

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.