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Month: November 2020

RWBY: An Ironwood Theory

For a while, it took me a bit to come up with a solid theory on Ironwood that didn’t sound like a crack theory, but I think I have come up with a solid one. Well, about as solid as my theory of Atlas crashing down on the people in the crater. I believe that not only will Salem win this volume, but Ironwood will die seeing it fall before him.

Bit of an odd and dark claim, but here is a thought. Think about that has been prominate in RWBY. Since Volume 1 there have been references the Chess. From the team forming, the Black Queen virus, and even now in the Volume 8 intro. In the Volume 8 intro, there is a nice transition of Salem to Ironwood starting with Salem landing on a chessboard, her pieces turning into Grimm, and them charging forward as Ironwood’s pieces fade. If this was any other show, I’d probably ignore it. However, with RWBY the devil is always in the details. One piece of Ironwood’s has a cross on the top. In chess only one piece has a cross, the King. In chess, if your King is taken, you lose.

Before I looked carefully, I assumed that Ironwood WAS the King piece. However, thanks to me looking carefully, he isn’t. The King gets destroyed before it is Ironwood standing by himself. Here’s my thought: Ironwood will witness the Fall of Atlas, and then die facing a foe when he has no allies around him. In Chess, you have to make sacrifices to protect your King. Some Pawns, Knights, Bishops, Rooks, and maybe even the Queen, must be used for both offense and defense. With all his pieces gone, including the the King, Ironwood has nothing to defend and has already lost.

Moonshine – Comic Review

Step into the world of Moonshine, a period piece developed by Image Comics. A story that dives into the prohibition era and enters the supernatural underworld. In the countryside of 1929 Spine Ridge, West Virginia, our protagonist Lou Pirlo sets out to make the deal of the century. 

Writer Brian Azzarello does an amazing job blending the two distinct genres as the story unfolds between the moonshine business and the backcountry bloodline of werewolves. Lou Pirlo, a smooth talking middle man for the New York City Mob, is out to make a mint and establish a pipeline for the finest moonshine in all the country. 

But when he meets Hiram Holt, brewer of the famous Moonshine, and the mysterious people of Spine Ridge the body count rises. Soon, the Law, the Mob, and savage beasts all want Pirlo’s head; it’s only a matter of time before the fields are drenched in blood.  

Eduardo Risso is the talent behind the artstyle, being very simplistic holding solid colors and straightforward line work. Details upon both characters and background make out complete images holding moderate detail to display what exactly is on the page. 

The reader is never overwhelmed with massive amounts of detail or objects within the panels but rather goes for a subtle approach when changing scenes. A color pallet sticks to more pale pigments to create a dreary mood whether the location goes from the small town, to hills, and outskirts of the forest. 

Most notable colors come in the form of pale greens, faint yellows, and light brown. Red dramatically changes the scope when being displayed and portrays blood in moments of action or terror. 
Image Comics continues to push the ongoing story with a dark atmosphere. Follow Pirlo as he must figure out how to survive in a game built with lies, power, and bloodshed. In this supernatural noir thriller there is no telling who will be left alive under the Moonshine.

Cosplay Feature: Sarelcon

Hello and welcome to Andrew’s Cosplay Feature. I will feature a weekly cosplayer showing their work as well as questions about cosplaying and life in general. For my first column I introduce to you the cosplayer Sarelcon.

  1. Where are you from and what is the cosplay/geek culture like in your town?

I am from Columbia, SC though I did live in Greenville for a bit before I moved back to the Midlands. While we do have some geek culture in my area, the local cosplay scene is very quiet overall. We have 3-4 ‘larger’ comic/anime conventions in South Carolina. They’re still tiny compared to more popular conventions, but they’re the best way to connect with the local community here in SC. If someone is feeling like going to a big convention, we also have some larger events in neighboring states like Dragon Con and Galaxy Con Raleigh. One of the nice things about the small community is that there are a few active online/facebook groups for South Carolina cosplayers. Those groups have been a great way to connect with each other since COVID has physically isolated all of us.

Sister Friede – Dark Souls
  1. How long have you been cosplaying?

I started cosplay in August 2019. I crafted my first cosplay, went to my first convention in full cosplay, and did a cosplay contest for the first time all at once. It was absolutely amazing and I loved it! Since I started, I have made seven cosplays completely by hand and they range from armor builds to more wig-styling/sewing types of projects. I unfortunately didn’t get much experience before COVID shut down everything. Most of my cosplay career has been spent trying to figure out how to network and build a following on social media, which is already saturated with so many other amateur cosplayers like myself. It’s been a weird time to be a novice cosplayer.

  1. Do you like RWBY and if so how long have you been watching? How do you like Volume 8 so far?

Considering that I’ve done two RWBY cosplays, I’d say that I’m definitely a fan. I really prefer animes that are different and unique, especially when it comes to animation/art styles. When I saw the trailer for RWBY before it came out, I was hooked. I’ve watched the series since the beginning, even if I do periodically get behind on my episodes. I’ve had a hectic past couple months so I have a good bit of catching up to do on my episodes. However, from what clips I’ve seen, it looks good (like always).

Blake Belladonna – RWBY
  1. What was your most recent cosplay?

This goes perfectly with the last question since it was a RWBY cosplay. For Halloween, I transformed myself into Salem. I wanted to do something appropriately spooky for the season, but the character needed design elements that would be technically challenging to build. I like to have all of my cosplays both look good and be viable contender for a craftsmanship contest. Salem was a super fun character to wear and I had a great time doing a home photoshoot. On a side note, I actually did win 2nd place in the novice category at a craftsmanship contest with Salem.

Salem – RWBY
Salem – RWBY
  1. How many cons were you planning to go to in 2020 until 2020 decided to be 2020 and cancel everything?

I hadn’t really decided on a set number because I wasn’t sure if I could get off work for some of the cons. I had three in SC that I was planning to go to and I also wanted to go to Galaxy Con Raleigh since they had some amazing cosplay guests and a good craftsmanship competition. I only got one con in before everything went crazy. It was actually the last big public gathering that I went to in 2020, which is so weird to think about. With in-person cons out of the question, I’ve participated in about 8 different online cons and/or competitions this year. I’ve placed only twice in all of those.

  1. What are you planning on cosplaying next?

I am actually currently working on a massive armor build. It’s based off of a piece of artwork by the amazing Zach Fischer, who regularly does design for cosplayers. I’m working on his redesign of the barbarian class’ armor from the game Diablo III. Something about 2020 made me really feel the need to make massive armor pieces covered in spikes. That aesthetic just really speaks to me at this point in time. I like the color scheme and the fun fabrics I get to work with. Fake leather and suede are some of my favorite materials and they are everywhere on the barbarian. I’ve also gotten to experiment with sculpting. I am making myself get comfortable with EVA foam as my main material for armor. I still have so much to do, but I love the pieces I’ve finished so far.

Carved Nordic Armor – The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
Carved Nordic Armor – The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
  1. What was your most difficult cosplay and why?

This is a really difficult choice since I have so few cosplays and all of them had some element of difficulty. I think I’ll have to go with Xayah from League of Legends for this question. Xayah was my first time using EVA foam as my primary material, which stressed me out a lot at times. I had to experiment with a lot of different techniques like covering foam with fabric and using a wood burning iron to add textures. There were so many times where I literally had no idea what I was doing. I pushed myself to get clean craftsmanship like I had never done before and I am so proud of the results. I also accidentally gave myself second-degree burns on one hand during all of this crafting. Xayah was the character that resulted in me going to the ER for a crafting injury. That was a very valuable lesson in how to not handle hot tools.

To make everything more difficult, most of the work for Xayah was done during the pandemic. My supplies kept getting delayed or lost in the mail. My color contacts actually ended up stuck in Germany for the duration of the global lockdown and then they got lost in international shipping. Working in isolation with no deadline or real reason for finishing the project made it very hard to keep going. I sometimes thought I would never finish Xayah, but she turned out amazing and is currently my favorite cosplay.

Xayah – League of Legends
Xayah – League of Legends
  1. What advice can you give to someone that is just starting out with cosplaying?

Well first off, just jump in and get started. Don’t be like me and spend years at the edge of the community, wondering if you should try cosplay. I wish I had gotten started years ago instead of just lurking. Whatever character you decide to do, just get started and don’t second guess yourself. You don’t have to be a complete maniac like me and make your first cosplay by hand in two weeks. Start out small if that makes you more comfortable. Or, if you’re crazy, just be super extra like I am and make all the things.

My second tip would be to not cosplay just for followers or popularity. Pick characters that speak to you and don’t let it become a numbers game on social media. Buy costumes or make them yourself as long as your style of cosplaying brings you joy. Don’t feel like you are only allowed to pick certain characters based on your body type or skin color. Cosplay for you and you alone.

My third and final tip is for anyone who wants to make their own cosplays and doesn’t know where to start. The Internet is your friend. Use Google as much a college student who’s frantically writing a research paper two hours before the midnight deadline. There are a lot of very talented cosplayers who share their knowledge either for free or for a minimal cost. There’s also tons of patterns out there. It’s all just a quick Google search away. So, research and ask questions until you feel like you have a good plan for building your character. Also, reach out to more experienced cosplayers and see if they have any suggestions or learning resources.

Original pirate cosplay
  1. Who is your favorite cosplayer?

This is so hard! Do I have to pick just one? There’s so many amazing cosplayers that have inspired me and I hate to single it down to just one person. If I did have to pick just one cosplayer as my all-time favorite, I’d have to go with Kamui Cosplay.

Kamui Cosplay was one of the first cosplayers whose work I saw online waaay back in middle school. I fell in love with her crazy armor and wanted to craft like her so bad. I was broke, so obviously nothing happened back then. It took me years to find my way back to cosplay again after college. I stumbled across a Kamui Cosplay video on YouTube one day and it reignited my desire to make my own costumes. Her tutorials and books are super helpful for beginners. She’s also a never-ending source of positivity and inspiration in the international cosplay community. If you don’t know who she is, seriously go check out her social media and her website. You won’t regret it.

  1. Where can we find you online?

I’m working on expanding my online presence since that’s really all a cosplayer can have right now. This list will hopefully grow soon, but here’s the current places you can find me.

  • Instagram: @sarelcon
  • Twitter: @sarelcon
  • Facebook: SEConrad Cosplay
  • Ko-Fi: Sarelcon
Sypha Belnades – Castlevania
Sypha Belandes – Castlevania

Best Single-Player Games on PS4 & Xbox One

The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are finally here. The upcoming weeks will offer a glimpse into the future of gaming. This also means that the games that highlighted the current generation of consoles will soon be considered retro. Before you dive into the world of next-gen, here are 15 single-player games to play on PS4 and Xbox One.

Grand Theft Auto V

Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
PS4/Xbox One

from RockstarGames.com

The latest addition to the controversial yet groundbreaking series, Grand Theft Auto V didn’t find its way to PS4 and Xbox One until over a year after its initial launch. Rockstar used that time to add improved graphics and a first-person mode to an already critically-acclaimed game. Upon release, GTAV was the most ambitious game ever and set the blueprint for open-world games going forward. It featured three playable characters with their own unique abilities and a chaotic story that spanned across a sprawling map of the fictional state of Los Santos. Seven years later, GTAV remains one of the gold standard games of its generation.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Konami
PS4/Xbox One

from Konami.com

Hideo Kojima’s ninth installment in the Metal Gear series was arguably the first masterpiece released on PS4 and Xbox One. Featuring a huge open world and an unparalleled sense of freedom, Metal Gear Solid V is the ultimate sandbox game. It stays true to the series’ stealth background but lets players approach missions however they desire. The game’s story is incredibly freeform, leaving the player to create a narrative and cinematics through their own decision-making. The Phantom Pain shines in letting players find inventive ways to approach situations and improvise their way out of danger. 

Bloodborne

Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
PS4 exclusive

from PlayStation.com

The Souls series may have made a name for Japanese studio FromSoftware, but many would argue that Bloodborne is their magnum opus. Sharing similarities to Souls, Bloodborne features faster combat that calls for a tantalizing mix of caution and aggression. Inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Bram Stoker, the game is set in a blood-stained world that is both morbid and gorgeous. Players must be prepared to learn from each death in order to slay a wide assortment of terrifyingly formidable enemies. The game’s difficulty is brutal and draining, but equally rewarding once finally conquered. 

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
PS4 exclusive

from PlayStation.com

If Uncharted 4 is truly the end to Nathan Drake’s saga, then fans couldn’t have asked for a better exit. A Thief’s End features all the climbing, puzzles, and eclectic mix of stealth and combat that the series is known for. The game’s visuals and cinematics combined with an epic story create an experience similar to a blockbuster film. The cast of characters brings the most important people in Drake’s life together, allowing his story to come full circle with a surprising amount of emotional depth. Uncharted 4 is a stellar single-player experience but is bolstered by underrated online modes that pit players against each other.

Dishonored 2

Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
PS4/Xbox One

from Bethesda.net

Quality first-person stealth games are a rare breed, and none have reached the heights of the Dishonored series. Set in a stunning steampunk city, Dishonored 2 offers the player the choice of controlling returning protagonist Corvo Attana or his daughter, Emily Kaldwin, for the entirety of the story. Corvo and Emily are equipped with different sets of abilities that cater to specific preferences. Players can choose to ruthlessly assassinate their way through the story or sneak around completely unseen. Dishonored 2 sees a sharp spike in difficulty from its predecessor, forcing players to be both meticulous and intuitive. 

Persona 5

Developer: P-Studio
Publisher: Atlus
PS4 exclusive

from Atlus.com

JRPG games have maintained success for decades, but Persona 5 set a new bar for the genre in 2016. Following the adventures of a student named Joker, the amount of content and activities available in Persona 5 is staggering. Players can spend their days doing menial activities like going to high school, hanging out at coffee shops, or shopping at the mall. Come nightfall, however, it’s time for Joker to save the world, which is where the series’ familiar turn-based battles come into the fold. On top of its gameplay, Persona 5’s beautiful artwork and exhilarating soundtrack solidify it as a masterpiece. 

Nier: Automata

Developer: PlatinumGames
Publisher: Square Enix
PS4/Xbox One

from Square-Enix-Games.com

Square Enix is known for the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series, but Nier: Automata is unequivocally the publisher’s best game of the past decade. A sequel to the 2010 cult classic Nier, Automata features a new setting and characters while retaining an enhanced version of the first game’s combat system. Gameplay ranges from hack-n-slash, side-scrolling shoot-’em-up, and platforming minigames, all engaging in their own ways. The game features three campaigns starring three different characters and a twist-filled story with an emotional climax. Nier: Automata may be the current gen’s best-kept secret, but has found popularity thanks to the android heroine 2B.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Developer: Guerilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
PS4 exclusive

from PlayStation.com

Speaking of hardened female protagonists, Horizon Zero Dawn’s Aloy is arguably the best controllable character of the current generation. Her incredible journey and realistic expressions of humanity are enough to make a great game, but Horizon delivers much more. Set in a world where civilization has been sent back to a futuristic stone age, the landscape has been overridden by mechanical monsters being controlled by a mysterious force. Aloy sets across a gorgeous open world armed with a customizable bow and sling that can accommodate different enemies. There are many machines to hunt in Horizon, but human enemies pose an equal threat to Aloy and her people.

Shadow of the Colossus

Developer: Bluepoint Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
PS4 exclusive

from PlayStation.com

The current generation saw the popularity of remakes and remastered games soar higher than ever. No game deserved such treatment more than 2005’s Shadow of the Colossus, considered to be the greatest video game ever. Brief and minimalistic, the story follows a young swordsman who must slay sixteen colossi to resurrect a girl afflicted by an evil entity. The colossi are towering golems that are a sight to behold and require vastly different tactics to defeat. The 2018 remake not only fixed a number of issues with the control scheme and mechanics but also revitalized the game’s beauty with more detailed visuals and crisper frame rates. 

Hollow Knight

Developer/Publisher: Team Cherry
PS4/Xbox One

from TeamCherry.com.au

2D platformers have also seen an unexpected resurgence in popularity, with titles like Celeste and Cuphead being worthy of mention. Few stand out more than indie studio Team Cherry’s Hollow Knight in terms of gameplay depth and sheer scale. The game follows an insectoid knight navigating his way through an underground world of arthropods armed with a nail and several spells. The nameless hero must traverse across numerous areas facing a wide array of challenging enemies and grueling boss fights. Though Hollow Knight involves a lot of dying and backtracking that can be exhausting, successful triumphs and a soothing soundtrack wash away moments of agony and anguish. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
PS4 exclusive

from PlayStation.com

Spider-Man has always held a heavy presence in video games, but it took Insomniac’s vision for gamers to feel a complete experience as the wall-crawler. Marvel’s Spider-Man offers fans plenty of comics lore (including a huge collection of suits) and a satisfyingly authentic feeling of being behind the mask. The emphasis on web attacks over melee and the implementation of a gadget wheel gives players more tools at Spidey’s disposal than ever before. Every confrontation encourages you to fight creatively and stylish while still requiring keen defensive maneuvers. Marvel’s Spider-Man excels in presentation, most notably seen while swinging across an uncanny recreation of New York City.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Developer: Rockstar Studios
Publisher: Rockstar Games
PS4/Xbox One

from RockstarGames.com

There was probably no game more highly anticipated this past generation than Red Dead Redemption 2. A prequel eight years in the making, RDR2 has revolutionized what was thought possible in game creation. Expanding upon GTAV’s sandbox formula, RDR2 hurls you into a sizable map of the American frontier created with painstaking detail. The environment feels naturally alive with wildlife, human NPCs, and is of course littered with shootouts and hazards that prove to be inevitable. The game’s story is superb, but its majesty lies within the freedom to create your own tales in the virtual Wild West. 

God of War

Developer: Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
PS4 exclusive

from PlayStation.com

Every console has a definitive game, and it is hard to argue against God of War for that title on the PS4. SIE Santa Monica created a brilliantly ambitious game that completely shifted from the series’ roots. Along with the switch from Greek to Norse mythology, God of War made the change from a platforming hack-n-slash to an over-the-shoulder third-person experience with a more intricate combat system. The most impactful alteration is the addition of Kratos’ son Atreus, who not only provides aid throughout the story but instills much needed emotional depth to Kratos as a character. This pioneering reboot manages to improve upon the original trilogy that could already be considered perfect.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: FromSoftware/Activision
PS4/Xbox One

from Activision.com

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was FromSoftware’s third AAA game release of the current generation. Set in sixteenth-century Japan, the story follows a shinobi named Wolf searching for the clan who kidnapped his young lord. Though it retains the harsh difficulty and intimidating bosses familiar in FromSoftware games, Sekiro incorporates stealth elements and a second life bar to give players the option of a more thoughtful approach. Wolf wields a katana, a grappling hook, and a number of spells and projectile weapons in his arsenal for a layered combat experience. Furthermore, Sekiro‘s story and character designs are perhaps the best in FromSoftware’s extensive library to date.

The Last of Us Part II

Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
PS4 exclusive

from PlayStation.com

With The Last of Us Remastered being one of the best games on PS4, there didn’t seem much need for a sequel. Nevertheless, The Last of Us Part II was announced in 2016 and immediately received much anticipation. Naughty Dog reportedly pushed the limits of the PS4’s performance to create a sequel that holds as much weight as the original if not more. Featuring a grim story with tense moments of horror and bloodshed, the intensity of the stealth and scramble gameplay was raised so that constant movement and quick thinking are necessary to avoid hectic confrontation. TLOU2 shines in areas like lighting and sound design that infuse the game with a powerful blend of atmosphere and emotion.

Are there any other games you felt were must-plays this past generation? Let us know in the comments!

Tokusatsu 101: Seasons of the Heisei Era – Part 2

Greetings, geeks of all ages! I am your guide through the wonderful world of Tokusatsu, Zach J., TD. (not a real doctor). Last we left off, I gave simple summaries on the first ten seasons of the Heisei era as well as personal thoughts and ratings. This time, I’ll be continuing with the synopses and ratings with the remaining 11 (technically 12) seasons of the Heisei era. A fun little tidbit is that from this point on, we’ll be covering the Neo Heisei era. Also known as Heisei Phase 2, this marks a shift in the production and marketing of Kamen Rider. Before, all of the Kamen Rider titles used the translation of Masked Rider as part of the English text for the title. But beginning with W (Double), Toei officially started using Kamen Rider as the English text for each season’s title. Now then, enough rambling, let’s do this!

2009: “We are the two-in-one Kamen Rider”

Neo Heisei Poster for W (Double)
Philip and Shotaro Hidari posed behind their combined form, Kamen Rider W (Double)

Somewhere in the windy city of Futo, criminals are being sold mysterious devices known as Gaia Memories by the Sonozaki family. These devices allow them to transform into monstrous forms known as Dopants and terrorize the city at large. It is up to hard-boiled detective Shotaro Hidari and his mysterious partner Philip to protect the city from the Dopant menace. Together, they fight as one as Kamen Rider W (Double). Shotaro and Philip must work together to stop the Sonozaki family and keep the Gaia Memories off the market.

As the first season of the Neo Heisei era, W knocks it out of the park with excellent characters and a well written plot. Not to mention that, as a detective season, the crime solving parts of the episodes are fun to follow. Perhaps one of the shortcomings of the season is that one of the characters can come off as annoying. Considering that she appears in practically every episode, you either learn to love her or at the very least tolerate her appearances on screen. However, that aside, W is still a great season and a must watch in my books.

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch

2010: “I’ll transform!”

Neo Heisei Poster for OOO
Kamen Rider OOO surrounded by Core Medals

Mysterious medal-based monsters known as Greeed have been reawakened. Feeding off of human desire, they create minions called Yummys to do their bidding. The homeless traveler Eiji Hino is met by a mysterious disembodied arm that calls itself Ankh. In a bid to defeat the other Greeed, Ankh gives Eiji the OOO Driver and a set of Core Medals to allow him to transform into Kamen Rider OOO (pronounced Ohs, as in multiple O’s in a row).

A great season followed up by yet another great season. OOO is another season that has excellent characters and great designs. The story of OOO is another example of the great storytelling potential of Kamen Rider as a series. Not to mention that the relationships created between the characters is engaging and makes you want to see where the next episode takes them. The Neo Heisei era starts off with two great seasons in a row. Can it go for three?

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch

2011: “Youth, switched on! It’s space time!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Fourze
Kamen Rider Fourze in space with the Rocket Module active

At Amanogawa High School, the usual flow of things is disrupted by the arrival of the new transfer student Gentaro Kisaragi. Upon introducing himself to his new classmates, he declares that he will befriend everyone. However, shortly after his arrival, the school finds itself under attack by a strange monster. Left with few options, his old childhood friend gives him the Fourze Driver and a set of Astro Switches to transform into Kamen Rider Fourze (pronounced FOUR-zay). Now he must battle against these monsters and uncover the mystery behind these Astro Switches.

For the third season in a row, the Neo Heisei era produces yet another great season. Perhaps it’s because I’m a sucker for the high school delinquent types of characters, but Gentaro ends up being one of my favorite Riders of all time, with only a select few standing above him. The season itself is much more light-hearted in general, essentially being a high school drama about the power of friendship. However, this makes Fourze a refreshing season and an excellent entry into the Rider series.

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch

2012: “It’s showtime!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Wizard
Kamen Rider Wizard and his Magic Rings

A strange ritual on the day of a solar eclipse brought forth monstrous creatures known as Phantoms into the world. In order to do so, a large number of Gates, humans with high magic potential, had to be driven to despair. Haruto Souma, a Gate that survived the ritual, was given the WizarDriver and a mysterious girl by a wizard dressed in white. Now, acting as the final hope of mankind, Haruto becomes Kamen Rider Wizard to defeat the Phantoms.

Unfortunately, Wizard falls short of the mark as far as Kamen Rider is concerned. Much of the issues I have with Wizard stems from the main character himself. Wizard is rather boring and doesn’t really grow much as a character throughout his journey. Not to mention some of the other characters end up being rather lackluster due to the less than stellar writing of the season. One of the best characters of the season ends up being the secondary Rider, which is unfortunate since Wizard had a lot of potential as a character.

Personal Rating: 5/10, an okay season, but feel free to skip it

2013: “The Warring Riders Era!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Gaim
Kamen Rider Gaim posed in front of Baron, Ryugen, Zangetsu, and Gridon

The Yggdrasill Corporation has turned the bustling city of Zawame into something resembling a castle town. In order to distract from that feeling, young dancers group together and start dancing on stages around the city. As the dance groups begin to compete with one another, they start playing the Inves Game, played by summoning Inves through devices called Lockseeds. One day, Kouta Kazuraba, a former dancer for one of the teams, stumbles upon a mysterious belt and a special Lockseed. Kouta uses these to transform into Armored Rider Gaim (pronounced Gime, rhymes with lime). Little does he know that there is more to these games than he is aware of.

Gaim is quite possibly one of the best seasons not only of the Neo Heisei era, but all of Kamen Rider. This season is a well written coming of age story that allows all of its main characters to grow in a significant manner throughout the story. The relationships between characters is covered brilliantly and the shift in these relationships is riveting to watch. A tale full of emotional depth and growth, Gaim is absolutely a must watch. If you still need further convincing after all of that, the head writer for this season is none other than Gen Urobuchi, who famously wrote the story for Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero, and the first season of Psycho-Pass. So, if you enjoyed any of those shows, you will without a doubt enjoy Gaim.

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch

2014: “Start your engine!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Drive
Kamen Rider Drive with some Shift Cars and his Ride Machine, the Tridoron

One night, during an intense chase between the cops and some criminals, a strange phenomenon occurs. Everything slowed down in its tracks, the people, the people, animals, and even the pouring rain. During this strange occurrence, elite cop Shinnosuke Tomari’s partner is injured and hospitalized. Now demoted to a Special Investigations Unit that investigates these Slowdowns, Shinnosuke finds himself stuck in a rut. However, he is soon recruited by the AI within the Drive Driver and transforms into Kamen Rider Drive. Now he fights against the cybernetic menace of the Roidmudes, the beings responsible for the Slowdowns.

Drive is a solid season overall, featuring a strong cast of characters and great villains that you love to see on screen. While not as bleak as the previous season, Drive does feature its dramatic moments as well as a slew of comedic moments. One of my bigger gripes with this season is that, despite featuring a clearly competent female character that is capable of fighting, they do not let her become a Rider. That is mostly a personal complaint, but still one that I have. Other than that, while still a great season as a whole, the ending does leave a little to be desired.

Personal Rating: 8/10, a great season to watch

2015: “Life, burn bright!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Ghost
Kamen Rider Ghost with the Ghost Parkas of the Heroes Musashi, Newton, and Edison

Takeru Tenkuji, an aspiring Ghost Hunter, lives his daily life at the Daitenku Temple with the other monks and trainees. On his 18th birthday, he receives a mysterious eye-shaped trinket called an Eyecon from his late father. Upon receiving it, he begins to see ghosts and other ghost-like entities called Ganma. When these Ganma attack his friends, he boldly fights them. However, this proves to be his undoing as the attacking Ganma kill him. After his untimely death, he is met by a strange Hermit who gives him the Ghost Driver as well as a quest: Gather the Eyecons of fifteen heroic spirits in 99 days in order to come back to life or disappear forever. Now, Takeru returns to his friends to defend them as Kamen Rider Ghost and gather the fifteen heroic spirits.

Despite the excellent designs of the suits and Ghost Parkas of Ghost, this season is widely considered to be the worst season of Kamen Rider to date. The story is so poorly handled, later parts of the story actually negate the urgency presented in earlier episodes. And while his suit design is actually one of my all-time favorites, the main Rider is a boring character that basically gets new powers as the plot requires it. It doesn’t help that the head writer for the season wrote less than half of the total episodes, so the general direction of the season most likely was not well coordinated.

Personal Rating: 3/10, I suggest you skip this one.

2016 Reboot: “The hunt begins”

Neo Heisei Poster for Amazons
Kamen Rider Amazon Omega crouched in front of Amazon Alpha

Unbeknownst to the public, strange creatures are popping up within the city and devouring humans. These man-eating monsters are known as Amazons. Nozama Peston is an Amazon hunting team that disguises themselves as a pest removal service to the public. They travel around the city and exterminate whatever Amazons may pop up. Meanwhile, Haruka Mizusawa is a meek and frail young man, confined to his home due to a medical condition. One day, after not taking his medicine, an odd instinct awakens in him and he transforms into an Amazonz. He is met by the mysterious Jin Takayama, who puts on a strange belt and transforms into Kamen Rider Amazon Alpha. Just what are these strange creatures, where did they come from, and why were they created?

Amazonz is the first web series for Kamen Rider that is directed at an older audience. As such, Kamen Rider Amazonz is a much gorier and serious affair compared to other seasons. I find that this reboot of a Showa era season is very successful as a season targeted at older audiences. The attacks are appropriately vicious and the story doesn’t have to dance around the gore with explosions. Amazonz is split into two thirteen episode seasons, with the end of the story being told in a movie that has yet to be officially released outside of Japan. However, if you are interested in watching Amazonz, both seasons are officially available through Amazon Prime Video as Amazon Riders.

Personal Rating: 8/10, a great season to watch

2016: “Game start!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Ex-Aid
Kamen Rider Ex-Aid with Brave, Snipe, Lazer, and a mysterious black Ex-Aid behind him

A new type of virus called the Bugster Virus has slowly started to spread throughout the public. A person infected by the virus releases a Bugster, video game virus, into the real world. In order to fight this, the Gamer Driver was created to combat the Bugsters released by infected patients to cure them. Hojo Emu, a pediatric med student, is also a genius gamer known as “M”. Using the Gamer Driver, he transforms into Kamen Rider Ex-Aid and uses his video game-based powers save his patient’s lives.

Ex-Aid is another fun season that features a colorful cast of characters. The story is presented as a doctor drama with a side of video game antics. In all honesty, I did not expect much going into this season. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the story got into its serious moments. All in all, Ex-Aid is a good story with some fun characters.

Personal Rating: 8/10, a great season to watch

2017: “Let’s start the experiment!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Build
Kamen Rider Build back-to-back with Cross-Z surrounded by Full Bottles and Guardians

10 years ago, man made its first successful mission to Mars. When the astronaut returned, he brought back a mysterious box. Now called the Pandora Box, the box split Japan into three different sections. These sections were divided by the Skywall, a mysterious wall created by the box. Now, the government has hired the prodigious physicist Sento Kiryu to solve the mystery of the box. However, while Sento solves the mystery of the box, he must also uncover another mystery: The mystery of his own past. The only memory he has to go on is a mysterious figure dressed like a bat. After Ryuga Banjou, a convict, escapes from a strange laboratory, Sento comes one step closer to solving his own mystery. He transforms into Kamen Rider Build in order to uncover the truth behind the mysterious creatures called Smash and his own past.

Another excellent season of Kamen Rider in terms of story, characters, and design. As a story following a brilliant physicist uncovering mysteries left and right, the show does a good job of answering questions while raising new ones. Naturally, as the story progresses, these new mysteries lead to yet more mysteries until the final arc of the story. Of course, what really ties this season together is the relationships between the characters. On top of that, Build has my favorite villain in all of Rider. All in all, a great season overall, even though certain episodes drag on parts that I feel are unnecessary.

Personal Rating: 9/10, highly recommended

2018: “Rejoice, for the birth of a new king!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Zi-O
Kamen Rider Zi-O and Geiz surrounded by the past Heisei Riders

Sougo Tokiwa is a high school student who has one goal: to become king. His peaceful high school life is suddenly disrupted when a mysterious flying machine starts following him around. As it attacks him, another flying machine interrupts and saves Sougo. The pilot takes him into her machine and introduces herself as Tsukuyomi, who has come from 2068 to prevent a terrible future: A future ruled by the overlord Ohma Zi-O, Sougo’s future self. After the appearance of a strange being known as an Another Rider, another person calling himself Woz appears at Sougo’s side. He presents him with the Time-Space Driver to transform into Kamen Rider Zi-O (pronounced Zee-Oh, like saying the letters Z and O). In order to prevent the future that he has been told, he vows to become the kindest, most beloved overlord with his newfound power.

As another anniversary series, Zi-O is something of a mixed bag for me. While Zi-O does some great tributes to earlier seasons, it also has some not so great tributes as well. A lot of the plot is also somewhat disjointed as it tries to work around the schedules of available actors so that they can comeback for an appearance. While it is greatly appreciated to see these characters comeback, the story does suffer from it. Ultimately, while enjoyable, this season is on the lower end for me.

Personal Ratings: 6/10, a fun season, but suffers from too much clutter.

Final Thoughts

Whooo, we did it. That was all of the Heisei Seasons of Kamen Rider. I really do hope that reading through these has convinced some of you to give Kamen Rider a shot. As a fan of the series, it is my sincere wish that you give the show a try. These stories are wonderful tales of Justice that follow these colorfully dressed Karate Bugmen. If nothing else, just give at least one season three episodes. If it doesn’t hook you, that’s just fine. At the very least you gave it an honest try. Anyways, that’s it from me for this article. I hope you’ll join me again sometime for the next article in my series. For my next topic, I’m thinking of going into the Super Sentai series. That’s subject to change, but we’ll see. Anyways, this is Zach J., TD (not a real doctorate) signing off.

See you next Rider Time~

A Mother’s Letter to the LGBT+ Community for Transgender Awareness Week

Hi! This is Katya and Tat’s mom Patte. Some know me (from the Gilmore Girl reactions) some don’t, but I’m here to write that my whole life even when I was young I accepted everyone and anyone. I am 57 years old and a lot of people my age need to be more open-minded and accepting of each other. They especially don’t accept people if it’s not in their “realm of understanding”. It’s why they need to work harder to have that understanding.

So for today to raise awareness about Transgender Awareness Week, I want to show my love and support! When I was in high school I won a “Friendliest Award” because I helped and accepted everyone no matter race, religion, or sexuality. To this day I still am like this. I love and accept all no matter what you believe, look like, or who you love. I am there for you!

When I was 13 years old I went to Washington, DC with my parents for a 4 Day Weekend to go to all the museums and enjoy. As we were crossing a street, there was a parade of people going on. At first, we got stuck walking with these people, but then realized it was a Walk for LGBT Rights parade to talk to the president and get more rights and support for the LGBT Community. Even at that age, I was happy to be able to be in the parade and march for those five minutes.

Anyhow, to this day and beyond I will accept everyone. Mom Advice of the Day:

Who you are, be proud! Never let go of how special you are. Because we are all different and to me, that is how we all should stand up for and for ourselves. Most importantly we should stand together out of love.

Love you all!

Blood of Zeus Review

After the success of Castlevania, Netflix and Powerhouse Animation Studios team up again for another series as they tackle the realm of Greek mythology. Blood of Zeus is another masterpiece from the Netflix anime library that puts an eight-episode season into an epic story of destiny, fate, and family. 

The story follows a young huntsman named Herron who lives as an outsider in his hometown along with his mother. As with any story with rising heroes, Herron discovers his destiny is linked with the Greek Gods after a swarm of demons attacks his town. Our young hero is aided by Elias, a wise old man who knows a whole lot about the Gods than he’s letting on. Sort of like Merlin is to Arthur, Elias gives Herron some help in his fight against the demons. Throughout the season, Herron learns about the never-ending battle between the Gods and the monstrous Giants, descendants of the all-powerful Titans. As the demons bring havoc on Earth, it is up to Herron and some allies to help keep the world in balance before it falls to the Giants and ending humanity.

If you are well-versed in Greek mythology whether it’s in books or films, then these stories may be familiar. However, it is the animated style and storytelling that makes Blood of Zeus stand apart. The designs of the characters, environments, and even the creatures are truly unique and breathtaking. From the heavens of Mount Olympus to the depths of Hell, the series uses much vibrant colors and designs to bring life to these epic locales. Even the action sequences are something to marvel at thanks to the beautiful animation. For instance, seeing the Gods fighting against the Giants in the big finale is glorified and very exciting to watch on screen.

Created by Charley and Vlas Parlapanides, this writing duo has managed to bring a theatrical feel to the series showcasing how powerful these Greek Gods can be. With their credits including the live-action film Immortals, it’s no wonder these guys are all too familiar with the landscape of Greek mythology. Thanks to the incredible musical score, title designs, and the 300-style fight scenes, Blood of Zeus cranks the volume all the way up. Animated storytelling is the perfect way to go for a series like this, something that the movies can’t always work with. 

There’s plenty of drama to go around as the characters help drive the story. Despite having Herron as our protagonist, there are other characters that we get to follow in their journey. Alexia, an Amazonian warrior, shows her fierce skills as a fighter as well as an explorer when uncovering the secrets of the demons. We get some serious family drama from Olympus when it’s between the Gods as Zeus goes up against his jealous wife Hera in a civil war. It is a pleasure to see each of the Gods and explore their inner psyche.

Blood of Zeus is definitely another winner for Netflix as the streaming service continues their streak with top-notch series for their anime library. It’s a perfect blend of Greek mythology with the impressive visuals of animation. It is a series worth taking your time with if you’re a fan of anime or just great storytelling.

Blood of Zeus is now available to stream on Netflix.

Why You Should Participate In Transgender Awareness Week

Between November 13th to November 19th everyone should be participating in Transgender Awareness Week. This week helps spread and raise visibility, knowledge, and awareness about transgender people and addresses the difficulties people of the community have to face on a daily.

Transgender Awareness Week is on the week leading up to Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR). Around the world people, organizations, and companies participate in Transgender Awareness Week. This year and the years to follow All Ages of Geek will participate in Transgender Awareness Week to raise visibility!

Here is the history of Transgender Awareness Week & Transgender Day of Remembrance according to Glaad!:

“What is Transgender Awareness Week?: Transgender Awareness Week is a week when transgender people and their allies take action to bring attention to the community by educating the public about who transgender people are, sharing stories and experiences, and advancing advocacy around the issues of prejudice, discrimination, and violence that affect the transgender community.

What is Transgender Day of Remembrance?: Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was founded by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor her memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence that year and began an important memorial that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Participate in TDOR by attending or organizing a vigil on November 20 to honor all those whose lives were lost to anti-transgender violence that year.  Vigils are typically hosted by local transgender advocates or LGBTQ organizations and held at community centers, parks, places of worship and other venues. The vigil often involves reading a list of the names of those who died that year.” –glaad.com

It is important to remember even after Transgender Awareness Week to continuously show your support. Spreading awareness can change more than you may think.

The Trevor Project Celebrates Transgender Awareness Month and while browsing their website this very important piece of information showed up:

During difficult times, we recognize our power and the power of our supporters to be an agents of change, transforming fear and bigotry into understanding and acceptance.  Our trailblazing Youth Advisory Council has included Eli Erlick who currently is the Director of Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER), the only national organization entirely led by trans youth. This Transgender Awareness Week they launched a Comprehensive Model Policy on Transgender Students for Four-Year Colleges and Universities. This policy addresses the best practices for four-year colleges and universities regarding enrollment, policy implementation, admissions, programs, facilities, safety, and more.

It is a critical time to take action at the local level, and this model policy helps to provide effective guidelines to creating a safer, healthier environment for transgender college and university students everywhere.  Use TSER’s model policy to educate and change policies within your own schools and communities.  Download and share these free posters and graphics to help raise understanding and compassion during Transgender Awareness Month. ...If you or someone you know needs help, know that we are here for you 24/7, every day of the year, at 1-866-488-7386, with more digital services available as well.  We are here to champion and support all LGBTQ youth, no matter what your identity.  Know that you are valid, and you matter.-The Trevor Project

Here are a few Transgender artists YOU can support:

Josslyn Turner

Twitter: @joss_artist
Website

Noel Nguyen

Twitter: @kaijuqid
Website

Skylar K. Swift

Twitter: @skylarkswift
Website

We at All Ages of Geek will remember all the lives lost and will continue to spread awareness even after Transgender Awareness Week. We encourage you to educate yourself daily on all of this and ALWAYS show your support. Spread awareness to those in your life. And ALWAYS be kind no matter what.

ALWAYS Remember we SUPPORT you no matter what your gender identity is. All Ages of Geek is a safe space and we are here to support you. No matter what.

A Sister’s Review of Yang vs Ruby – RWBY Volume 8 Chapter 1

Sisters fight.

Siblings fight.

No matter how you take it, family fights. The closer you are to someone the more likely you are to have disagreements and fight. Comfort is both a blessing and a curse.

After reacting to the chapter, I’ll be talking about RWBY Volume 8, Chapter 1. The fight between Ruby and Yang represents many things. It represents how, well, sisters fight, but also that these two characters are on the path to their own character development.

While some people have stated they are upset or tired of Yang acting on her emotions here is my stance on that. Yang has suffered from PTSD, lost her arm, for a moment lost trust, lost her strength, and has been known to act on her emotions from the beginning of the series. Yang is a young adult, a time where everything is complicated. Hell, it’s complicated being a young adult but also in a time where there is a legit war going on. This is a huge moment for Yang and a time for her to explore her own independence and weaknesses.

The fight between her and Ruby shows us that both sides have flaws, and with those flaws, they are able to “act”. While Yang has to overcome acting on her emotions and rage overall, Ruby also has to form leadership for herself. Ruby has shown leadership before, but now is the time to prove what that leader role means to her. To show us all how she is growing up. To show us how these sisters will act on their own beliefs and morals.

Personally, I think people tend to forget that RWBY is a young adult story. These are teenagers growing up. Growing pains will happen. Things will be dark and complex. It’s a story of not just cool adventures and straightforward problem-solving. RWBY is complex BECAUSE the characters are growing up in a time of war.

While this is just my opinion, I believe the fight between Ruby and Yang was natural and NEEDED. I am the eldest sister of two younger sisters. As the firstborn many people can relate that being the first is sometimes not the best. You are the one who makes a lot of strange decisions. You’re the one who doesn’t have a foundation of what a “sibling” acts like. You also can’t base your decisions on a sibling only your parents/guardians before you. In this notion, Yang is showing this problem. While she is the eldest, she still doesn’t know how to control her emotions. Ruby on the other hand knew how to control her emotions much better than Yang because she can base her own flaws on Yang.

This fight will make the sisters grow with each other based on their own strengths, each finding out who they “truly are”. As cliche as it might sound to go on a journey of self-discovery in a Young Adult series, I think it’s much needed for these girls. These sisters. What are your guys’ thoughts on this?

RWBY: A Theory on Penny

With Volume 8 released into the world, a lot of potential theories have come out of the woodwork. In fact I have made two recently. One I believe is possible and the other just a wild theory. This one walks the fine line separating the two, and involves the new Winter Maiden Penny Polendina.

Now, whether this works according to the villains’ plans or even this IS part of the villains’ plans, is up for debate. However, my theory is that Penny will get hacked. To be honest, ever since Penny came back and we learned about Watts’ afflation with Pietro, Penny’s father, it has been an idea. However what pushed it over the edge, at least for me, was the Volume 8 Intro. Not only is it a good song and great animation, but I think there is a bit of foreshadowing in it.

During the section of the intro where it does the ‘Never Happy Again?’ we see a close up of Penny, which turns from a blue eye and orange hair, to a red eye and red hair. Colors in RWBY are very important. There is proof of this as far back as the Red, White, Black, and Yellow trailers. Now, there are a few characters that involve the color red, however, what makes red special is that there is also something involved with it, the Black Queen Virus.

The Black Queen Virus, developed by Watts himself, crippled the Atlesian Military at the Fall of Beacon and made their Atlesian Knights and Paladins attack civilians as well as students. When it was shown on a Scroll by Torchwick as he plugged it into an Atleasian Airship, we see what it looks like, a black queen chess piece in front of a red background. When the Knights were hacked, their normally blue face was turned red.

Much like my theory of Atlas falling on the citizens that the Happy Huntresses and Team Help Mantle (Yang, Jaune, Ren, Oscar) save, I hope I am wrong. I like Penny, but there is still the possibility of it happening. How big of a possibility? Well, I’m sure Volume 8 will show us.