Saturday, 26 August 2017

Now Teaching: Week -1

I will be coming back after a year away from teaching. There were nine weeks until the start of school (which is right after labour day) but any teacher who doesn’t come in at least once in the week prior to that (to figure out classroom setup, make photocopies, et cetera, all at no pay) is crazy. So if that’s “Week 0”, we’re at “Week -1”.

Previous INDEX Next

I guess I need to decide how I’m running the Raging Heart Stress Level scale at the bottom. Normally it’s been pretty even keel all week, but I was all over the map this past week. Do I go with a maximum? An average? I doubt I’ll reach 10 that way, but I guess that’s a good thing, so we’ll go with that. The first major thing that happened (I’m not even including the eclipse) was medical. The second was work related.

Met the tech dept head (which is weird to say, not used to the tech aspect) to go over the new course I’m teaching (in period one of all things). Feeling better about the flow, but I really don’t know about the day to day. Went into the school, but the floors were being waxed; still got to see my class sizes. 30 for 3U (max out, no surprise), 24 for 2O (likely max out on computers), and 19 for 4U. Also sharing rooms 128 and 114. Yay, I know stuffs now.

Also organized the big box of school things that I legit hadn’t cracked into since I packed up my desk in June 2016. Dept head reminded me though that I took the time off for a reason, and that I should feel okay about such things. So, I guess. And I feel like I’m kinda positioned for this last week... but not the first day. Gaaah, we’re 10 days away from the start, THIS IS NOT A DRILL. (It's drill hair.)

Item counts run Sunday (Aug 20) to Saturday (Aug 27).

Step Count 2016: About 51,250.
STEP COUNT 2017: Over 61,500. 24 stars.

-Kept editing my story instead of doing recaps. (Well, that’s consistent.) Also finished “Outlander”.

School Email Count: 8 New (2 sent)
The “Summer Letter By Email” is in.

 -Completed Processing lessons 6, 7, 8. Coded a minor program.
 -Met tech dept head for over 2 hrs to discuss my new course
 -Organized all the paper clutter from school

 -Drew, inked and coloured strip for last Monday.
 -Drew, inked and coloured strip for this Monday.
 -Wrote an “Epsilon Project” serial entry.
 -Thursday stArt Faire Comic Chat.
 -Condensed “Erased” review for application to Time Travel Nexus.
 -Drew banner/intro that’s useable for Tapas(tic).
 -Sketched image for Epsilon Story4.

 -Brunch with family Sunday.
 -Eclipse viewing at Aviation Museum Monday.
 -Dinner with friends Monday.
 -Met friend for tea Tuesday.
 -Yoga Tuesday.
 -Medical appointment Wednesday.
 -Dining with in-laws. x2.

 -PD on Tuesday, Dinner on Wednesday, Trip to School. Hopefully Tapas launch.

 -Recap for ConBravo 2017
 -Write a TANDQ article on Polling and Bias
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -French Citizenship project
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk
 -Do an entire (illustrated?) series on “Bias”

RH Stress Level: 5 (ACS Standby)

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Series Scan: RWBY

I am a SLOW binge-watcher (and reader). Two hours is about my limit, after which I need processing time. I also enjoy watching online reviewers, and reactions to things that I’ve previously watched, so why not take the time during a slow binge to chronicle my own reactions and speculations?

RWBY. I’ve heard good things. Only looking at RWBY Volume One here. Too much on the plate already, but I wanted to make time for at least this, given what I’ve already been exposed to tangentially. Plus Scott D very nicely leant me his disc, so I don’t have to burn any additional online bandwidth (I’ve been going over lately, don’t have unlimited).

Already interesting is there’s a “watch as movie” option. I’m going to go by Episode though, even if they are only about 10 minutes (which makes sense since this started as a web series). How stand alone are they? Let's find out. (Hm, the menu looks the same as “Scene Selection” here... well, we’ll see if I want to stack chapters later.) For those unaware, "Stream of Consciousness" is me typing into a file as I watch, "Thoughts and Theories" is written before I continue on.

Chapter 1: Ruby Rose

Stream of Consciousness:
-Hope ignites change, yay. Dusted? It’s a decent narrative setup. Nice crystals, er, dust. Yeah, Red can’t really hear with those on. Wrong thing to say? Nice scythe. Hah, the guy’s reaction. A *shooting* scythe, Fate (of Nanoha) would be envious. Air travel, level of tech, gauged. Hm, blonde’s got skills. Ooh, I kind of love magic circles, I won’t lie. Battle scene. Ooop, Red’s in trouble. Silver eyes, okay, relevant? Fast cookies! So there’s a history there. Huntress desires, Red talks so fast but I’m okay with this. “Nice to meet you”, hehah. Yellow’s the older sister, interesting. Right, a normal desires angle is typical, also Red’s extra smart. Your name is kind of an Oz throwback there, eh blonde? It jumps from there to an AMV for Ruby... oh, wait this is the OP, new track, I’ll come back to that.

Thoughts and Theories:
 Really good way to handle setup. Protagonist powers (cool scythe), world powers (magic circles!) an antagonist, a setting, a couple characters (why are the sisters’ last names different??), and off we go. One can learn from this. ^_^ I’m guessing we’ll spend a couple chapters assembling the cast and building back up to this level of threat again.

Chapter 2: The Shining Beacon

Stream of Consciousness:
-OP: That’s interesting. I like it. There’s the primary four, the villains, the secondaries (I wonder why they linger on the guy), the school. Interesting art choice, just shadow outlines for the non-main characters. Red went Chibi. O>o;; Clever way of reverting. Yeah, kind of agree with Red too, weapon as extension of self... “Crescent Rose”, okay. Heh, Yellow has shadow friends. White is bossy rich? Sneeze was telegraphed. Oh, it’s Black. Dropping exposition. Liking her. Even if she was fleeting.
-Oh, hi Jaune. So it was him on the ship. (Jean Arc?? How French.) “So I got this thing” hahaha. Um, is Jaune the comic relief? ^^ “Wouldn’t it weigh the same” hahaha. Strangers cliche. “Nice quirky girl” in the background there? Yeah, White is annoying. (That really didn’t seem like much of an explosion before??) Interesting speech. Yellow, oh my, such interests. Ruby has decent friend math. Oh my, Yellow again. “I don’t know help me” hahaha! Okay, actual names now. Good point on the reading, I’m liking Black too. Oooh, bonding! Interesting animation choice there. Aaand White is back, fade out.

Thoughts and Theories:
That gets the main characters in, and you know who they are, because they’re not “background shadows”. But we all have to start somewhere, and I’ve done worse in my comic. Ruby’s nice, energetic, the young one trying to fit in. Weiss is an annoying prima donna, but my own character Carrie was like that, so we’ll see where they go with it. Blake’s the “smart one”, who keeps to herself. Yang is outgoing and I need to stop my eyes wandering with her. >.< They all have various personalities, I’m looking forward to seeing how their weapon elements fit in. I feel like Ruby’s the specialist there.

Chapter 3: The First Step

Stream of Consciousness:
-OP again (guess having it back is a difference from the movie view, but I like it). Orangehair-heart-girl speedtalks like Ruby. (Nora, ok.) So you can’t plan teams? Sister squabbles. Yang has that weird asymmetry leg thing going on. Milk, sure, eyeroll. Jaune IS the comic relief, nice conversation wipe. Pyrrha, she was in the OP! Weiss sucks up? Jaune interjects. “Hello again”, hah, liking Pyrrha. D’awww, she got marshmallow cereal. And a spear.
-More silhouettes in line. Hmmm, they can’t rotate teammates for the best synergy? Weird system. Eye contact? Death, huh, I feel like there were waivers signed?? Heh, no questions then. Sunglasses, natch. Yang, you are having too much fu-- pffft, was that an ad lib? Pyrrha also has gun abilities, oooh, the transforms. OMG, that was sweet, kinda love Pyrrha. We all know who you’ll end up with, Ruby (though comic bow-kittenish Blake thought is fun). Weiss, you are ridiculous. (I like how the reversal was done though.) Ruby, you’re trying too hard. Oooh, glowy eyes. Wait, wtf is it?

Thoughts and Theories:
I don’t see Weiss warming up any time soon, or Ruby toning down, and that seems to be the central conflict. Kind of hope we’ll see Yang and Blake friction, I may find that more fun. Loving these weapons (which was a major selling point for me trying the series out), we’ll be seeing those soon. Guessing the hunt/protect thing will end with the next Chapter? (Still major villains out there too.) Of the new characters, I’m all over Pyrrha, guess she’ll end up with Nora (less a fan) and her crush too.

Chapter 4: The Emerald Forest

Stream of Consciousness:
-I wonder about the statue in the OP. Oh, sweet, Yang. “Nope”, heh. Okay, she’s got fight gloves. What does it take to phase her? OH. THAT. ‘K. And Blake has an extendo whip thing? Weiss, seriously, posture? Okay, the hilt sword thing is neat-- oh, Ruby, sheesh. Can either of you “team”? Oh brother, you’re both clueless. Pyrrha, you’re very wordy. Aura drop info is handy. With a neat action scene. Guh, okay, Lie’s badass. Jaune is Aura-man for skill then. Weiss is dragging Ruby down. >.< Yay, fave pair is back. Chess? That’s a monster, isn’t it. Yuuup. And Ruby falls in what now?

Thoughts and Theories:
Well, the show’s good at the little cliffhangers. Not fond of Ruby/Weiss, they’re not even trying to learn about each other. (Weiss ice AND fire thing is interesting though.) The rest fare better. (I note more than 8 people were launched out there, and am okay with the focus, as long as they don’t forget.) I figured we’d be further along, but they’re giving Jaune some character, so alright. Pretty sure they’ll all have to work together now?

Chapter 5: Players and Pieces

Stream of Consciousness:
-Context, maybe? Ruby, sigh. Oh Jaune, bad aim. Nora, Nora no. Blake, you’re awesome. Yang’s got the red eyes once more. “She’s gonna fall.” Uh, Jaune, who’s got you? “Now we can die together”, well, the comedy’s working. Ruby, learn how to team! Ooh, feather attack. THANK you, Weiss (good call on having her get the save, she needed redemption). You are kinda trying to show off, Ruby. “Run and live.” Didn’t call it but I like it.
-Nora fires hearts, of course, and W. T. F?! Redeems herself there with that weapon. Blake, I didn’t even see all of that, whoa. They’re... not doing great at the protection thing. Their jumping works though. Pyrrha, that’s badass. Nora, HOW IS IT YOU CAN PHYSICS? Yang’s miffed at bird. Weiss magic circles, oooh. Ooh, ooh, that’s ooh. Okay, damn. Music cut out at just the right time too. “That was a thing”, hahahaha. (Oh yay, they’re acknowledging other people.) So, JNPR, Juniper, plus RWBY. An interesting year indeed. Back to evil, natch. City of Vale? Hmm.

Thoughts and Theories:
So, the team leaders seem to be the people who can think while under stress. Doesn’t mean they’re necessarily people persons. I’m still lukewarm on Weiss and Ruby (and Jaune), but I like what they did there, and I like their weapons. Actually, the people I’m hesitant on have the coolest weapons (NORA HOW CAN YOU PHYSICS?) and vice versa. Like, Yang’s fist things, meh, Nanoha StrikerS vibe (granted, same from Nora), but her attitude, OMG, lovely. Plotwise, they’ve set the stage very well in the first half; will Evil be trying to recruit from the school next, maybe? Or could just be a random encounter like in Chapter 1. Don’t really have enough data yet.

Chapter 6: The Badge and The Burden

Stream of Consciousness:
-Ruby, what IS wrong with you? It’s morning. “Unpack and clean,” Blake’s becoming my fave. (Ninjas of Love? I saw that, Blake.) School outfits are kinda neat. How am I feeling bad for Weiss now? Why are they ALL going to be late to class?? Vale, and three other kingdoms are safe havens, ooh, nice exposition cloak. Why is Beowolf up there? And Death Stalkers? (Oh, that’s the scorpion.) And Nevermore? (The raven, eh?) Now he digresses. Ruby, really? Yeah, I’m with Weiss now. Blake has a pennant, hee! I feel like there could be collateral damage in class. Ooh, that’s not good. Well, Ruby’s kind of trying to help? Ooh, I wonder about the different coloured magic circles for Weiss.
-Oy, more Weiss/Ruby butting heads, and Weiss isn’t going for the easy mark of Ruby not being disciplined or scheduled, she’s on about youth and leadership, sigh. Also “I deserve better” doesn’t help. It’s not making me like Ruby more, it’s pulling Weiss back down. Uh, now sucking up to teacher? “That’s preposterous.” The headmaster Ozpin’s kinda cool. Needing to perform at best. “Poor attitude”, yeah Weiss. Interesting intercuts. Weiss is a night owl? She brings coffee, okaaay? “That’s wrong, by the way” coupled with “wanting bunk beds”, I’m back to warming up to Weiss! (Are those credits different?)

Thoughts and Theories:
I suppose that was a necessary arc, I commented myself on the leadership issue last time. But I feel I’m back at square one, like my character expectations were lowered only to be reset. It’s not that I wanted action, I figured we’d pull back from that, but... maybe I really want to know more about Blake, and I’m bitter we’re not getting that. Or background on the weapons. (We did get some on the geography though.) Next?

Chapter 7: Jaunedice

Stream of Consciousness:
-Jaune, you need tactics. Pyrrha’s nice. It’s been weeks, eh? (Hey, where’s mah Blake?) Lie, you are a good counterpoint to Nora’s hyperness. Dream, HAH. Wait, this is a a JAUNE ep?? Aw, cute bunny. Cardin name drop, locker thing is weird. Cute BRITISH bunny (wait, they’re real ears? Faunus what now?). Coffee teacher is on coffee. There was a war? That’s cool history. (Real clever way of getting this stuff across.) Ooh, BLAKE, throwing shade! Teacher’s kinda cool, if proverby. Jaune roof humour. Aw, Pyrrha! Shocking reveal? He LIED, oh, whoa, explains a lot but must be more to it. Pyrrha’s still so nice. Jaune’s self-aware, that’s something - but he’s not Pyrrha aware. Oh, Cardin, THIS won’t end well. Yeeeah.

Thoughts and Theories:
Blake is becoming my runaway favourite with her little sidebars. MOAR BLAKE! And Pyrrah’s edging out Yang... I didn’t expect quite this much development for JNPR this early on. I guess it means the “big villain” angle is being shunted aside - after all, gotta show that they can handle SMALL villains before moving into the big time. Right? I presume? Do we even get to first year graduation by the end? There WAS a time skip here... dammit, more Blake, please.

Chapter 8: Forever Fall

Stream of Consciousness:
-It’s the JNPR group, and Pyrrah is less happy. Oh, Ruby gets a chance to help Jaune? It’s not coming here that was the bad idea, dude. “You’re a leader you’re not allowed to be a failure”, that’s not bad. Heh, okay, decent pep talk. Which didn’t work? How does a “Forever Fall” forest work, where do leaves come from? (Professor Peach what?) Jaune, do the right... dammit. They’re gonna pour sap on Jaune? Nora, you goof. Cardin, you jerk. You’re making HIM do it? Jaune, you are nuts, for even thinking about it. Kinda predictable result.
-Dammit Nora! Ooh, Jaune, did you aura? Ursa Major. Everyone’s in it now. Pyrrah knows what’s up. Uh, should Jaune be... ooh, nice. “What?” is a cool reaction. Polarity! Pfft, “magnets are cool too”. (So Pyrrah can control his weapons?) Well, that is a nice conclusion there. Ooh, oooh, better conclusion with Pyrrah coming! Yessss, oooh, I DO like her. (Yeah, these closing stills ARE different each time.)

Thoughts and Theories:
I guess we’re looking at two episode mini-arcs. I’ve decided I don’t like Nora, but her interactions with others are clever. Meanwhile, Lie and Blake, they’re the “we don’t really know you” ones in the background, figure they’ll likely stay that way to the end of this set. I guess there’s some final scholastic test coming up? We’ve gotta be switching back to RWBY for something epic, right? (Probably something that’ll make me want to watch Volume Two... I don’t know how popular this was when it first came out.)

Chapter 9: The Stray

Stream of Consciousness:
-Based on the OP, Blake’s totally a ninja. Party town? Guy on the ladder’s not a shadow, hmm. Vinyl festival? (Oh, Vytal.) Heh, Ruby. Visitors at the docks? Blake, my fave, quite the observer. Police investigation? At dust shop? Not for money, oooh. White Fang name drop. They’re misguided faunas? (Are they ninjas like Blake?!) They want to wipe out humans, huh? Blake has a point but now I wonder about her. (Is her bow cat ears thing a misdirect?) Connection back to Chapter 1. Fauna prejudice! Nicely set up previously - now lampshaded with theft? Oh, stowaway. Monkey boy. Kind of a jerk. What was that with Blake? OMG, this is a Blake ep?? Observation excuse. Nora? Or, no, just, girl on the ground. Penny. Sure. HAHA, have I said I love Blake and Yang? I do. Ruby’s so matter of fact about friendship.
-Penny’s back, oh, I see where this is going. Her teammates are funny. HAH, NICE self-aware Ruby/Weiss moment, HAH. Tournament? OMG, combat skirt, OMG, Blake, you make everyone better. (Now I’m looking at Blake’s outfit more.) Weiss can’t take a clue. She’s not wrong about the monkey necessarily but she’s generalizing, oh, the White Fang thing is a bad thing to pull in. Oooh. Go, Yang? Maybe do something instead? Oh, so that lasted into the night. Blake makes good point. Weiss has a history?! Family war, oh dear. Because of the dust. Ticking off her Dad. Okaaaaay, Blake dropped in the “We” there. Good speed, Blake. And to the statue. The ribbon DID hide ears! O.o OMFG. Was that Jaune? Or the monkey guy? Back to Ruby. Gone away. Nice that they’re searching. “You wanna know more about me”, YOU THINK? Closing stills are fauna this time (Penny’s gotta be one, right?) so that’s clever.

Thoughts and Theories:
This isn’t the “epic” that I thought it would be (nice little misdirect on the police case, I figured that was coming out of the background, but no), but man, I love it. As I bet you knew I would from reading earlier. Blake’s awesome metre is rising fast, but Weiss isn’t totally irrational either... of course, the fact Weiss needed redemption early on is (for me) giving Blake the high ground. The dynamics of the RWBY team are kind of crazy. Related, Blake and Yang, I ship them now. Also, wait, does Blake have REAL ears too, because... wouldn’t they notice? (Cosmetic surgery?) Uh... anyway. I guess the end of Volume One is them coming together as a full team at last (they’ve gotta pull Blake back in, right?). We’ll get Blake’s story, like why she’s in hiding, and then she’ll have to make a choice, maybe White Fang are even being set up by the big villain guy. Seems like a lot to do in 15 minutes. Whelp.

Chapter 10: Black and White

Stream of Consciousness:
-Nothing wrong with two days of weird looks I guess. “Holier than thou creeps” from the stowaway? Born into it, hm, meant to be a symbol of peace. This is kind of an amazing analogy. OHMIGAWD CHIBI YOUNG BLAKE. New leader, new problems, ahhh, that’s where the Weiss thing comes in. Respect versus fear problem, nice that she’s principled. OHHH, she can make the bow twitch. OHHH. Yang has a good idea. Penny also sneaky. Yang vs. Tumbleweed, Yang loses, HAH, oh no, TUNA? Ruby vs. Tumbleweed, it’s still winning. So they ARE trying to crack the case. Monkey-boy is kinda using logic? Hm, then Weiss logic. And Ruby trying to explain things. “Is she a man?” Oy oy.
-Crates. Blake still principled. Air, no tumbleweed? Oh dear. “Deep down I knew”. Oh, but there’s more to this now, nice callback. “Oh for fu--", heh. Blake’s pretty bold. Memo? Blake’s in trouble now. AH, I hope her reflexes... whoa, nice. Uh oh, monkey boy may get hurt. He has a weapon though, okay. Blake’s back, what is she using? Numchuck staff? Cool. Yup, Red’s back. Penny’s as bad as Nora. Penny W. T. F?!?!? I like how her blades look like the snowflake symbol. AN ENERGY WEAPON TOO? And strings, and uh, uh, uh, uh. Good question, Ruby. Aaaand the villain gets a good line.
-Weiss... ooh, she was thinking? Aww, yeah. Even uses “someone else” versus a slur. I’m not sure how I feel about Monkey either, to tell the truth. Penny is part of a secret organization? Headmaster’s eavesdropping. I can’t believe they did all that in UNDER 15 minutes. Lots of “thanks” there in the credits, that’s actually seriously cool. The song’s not bad either. NOW comes the setup, natch. Oh, and there’s a woman behind it, who can make fire. That makes sense, more girl power.

Thoughts and Theories:
Everything was well constructed. Like, REALLY. They couldn’t sensibly do the Blake stuff until they had enough world building, and they used that time to flesh out the secondary characters. While Weiss, the most difficult personality (and with her dust company, key to the big plot), was handled first. (Yang did get short shrift, as they relation shipped her with Ruby and had her flip out about her hair but little else.) They also had the villain nicely bookend things (except of course, he’s not the MAIN enemy).
I feel it got a bit rushed at the end though. The Penny stuff might have been better left for another volume - except it was badass, so I can’t fault it. I guess she’s an artificial intelligence? (It would explain some of her mannerisms and wherever she was hiding weapons.) Actually, does she run on dust, maybe? (I’m still not clear on technology in a world that has air vehicles and transforming weapons but not skyscrapers.) Is that why the bad guys want said dust so much, they’re building more of her? (Villain-guy wasn’t triggered by Penny, but he probably doesn’t know the end game.) Well, that’s my theory for now. I wonder if it’s only happening in Vale, or if it’s all over.

Quick extra word about the voice acting too, because you can have a great script and decent animation but if you don’t have the voices, that can torpedo things - and this didn’t. They seem to understand their characters well enough. (I still wonder if Yang’s quiet “nailed it” was some sort of ad lib.)
Well, the world is built (oh, and nice parallels with the faunus racism) the characters are likeable, time to see if they can dance? I’ve heard that Volume 3 is where things go totally nuts. Having taken a look at the "extra features" I think I can also extrapolate to Ruby being taken in by Yang's family, so there's probably pathos from that too.

I’ll probably try to find time to stick with this, if I can? The chapters are short. Not sure if anyone would care to see my thoughts as I go beyond though. Let me know. It does take extra time to format these... in fact I’m pretty sure I’ll drop “Stream of Consciousness” and only go with the Thoughts afterwards.
If you liked this post, previous Series Scans have included looking at the To Aru "Sisters Arc" in both "Index" and "Railgun" simultaneously, and where "Erased" went wrong with time travel. Or simply feel free to drop a comment below (ideally avoiding spoilers). Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Now Teaching: Week -2

I will be coming back after a year away from teaching. There were nine weeks until the start of school (which is right after labour day) but any teacher who doesn’t come in at least once in the week prior to that (to figure out classroom setup, make photocopies, et cetera, all at no pay) is crazy. So if that’s “Week 0”, we’re at “Week -2”.
Previous INDEX Next

It was Marmalade week. After 17 years, I returned to a fanfic I’d left hanging in 2000. Sunday to re-read and re-format, Monday was 6+ hours of “Marmalade Boy” watching, Tuesday through Thursday was writing, Friday was editing. It took longer than I allocated, but once I realized what I had to do, actually less time than I thought.

Also this week, I determined that while I normally cringe after a couple hours in a social situation (family or otherwise), it’s not because I’m worried about my not getting work or marking done. It’s because I really am that flipping introverted. Anyway. I gotta start getting school organized, good thing that’s part of my “Might Never Do” List (that I seem to be working on anyway).

Item counts run Sunday (Aug 13) to Saturday (Aug 19).

Step Count 2016: About 55,700.
STEP COUNT 2017: Over 57,000. 23 stars.

-I was pleased not to feel rushed on all the things on my To Do list. (Whelp.)

School Email Count: 2 New (1 sent)

 -Completed Processing lessons 3, 4 and 5. Still haven’t actually coded.

 -Completed “Marmalade Mercury” eps 14 & 15 (10k+ words).
 -Thursday stArt Faire Comic Chat.
 -Completed “MarmMerc” postlude document.
 -Finished the RWBY Vol 1 series scan.

 -Dinner with friends Monday.
 -Yoga Tuesday.
 -Dining with in-laws.
 -Orchestre des Jeunes du 150e concert.

 -Medical appointment. And school stuff.

 -Recap for ConBravo 2017
 -Write a TANDQ article on Polling and Bias
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -French Citizenship project
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk
 -Do an entire (illustrated?) series on “Bias”

RH Stress Level: 2 (Divine Buster)

Friday, 18 August 2017

Reviewing Roddenberry's Andromeda

"Andromeda" is a TV Series that began airing in October of 2000. Initially based on notes left behind by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, it was developed for television by Robert Hewitt Wolfe (a writer for Deep Space Nine), and starred Kevin Sorbo (of Hercules fame). Somewhat incredibly, it ran for five seasons, despite jettisoning a lot of it's original premise (Robert Hewitt Wolfe's writing was deemed "too intelligent", and he was let go in mid-Season Two).

In 2017, the Space channel in Canada started re-airing the old episodes. I'd remembered seeing a number of them back in the day (along with reading Jammer's Reviews), so I thought I'd partake again.

After a few months of this, I realized two things. First, courtesy of reading the comments section on Jammer's site, there were no reviewers out there who actually stuck through an episode-by-episode analysis to the end. So that's a void on the internet. Second, somehow, I found I'd ended up seeing more than 4 seasons worth of the thing by the time Space had cycled back to the start of the series.

So, what the hell. I watched some of the episodes I missed as they came up again, tracked down later ones on the Internet to fill in all the gaps, located a transcript site to refresh my memory as needed, and assembled this post. I now present to you, a ranking of all 110 "Andromeda" episodes.


First, to be clear, my system won't look at each episode in a stand-alone sort of way. If you want that, Baron Samedi did a decent job in the comments of the aforementioned Jammer's Reviews, and I'll link to some other review sites below.

Instead, this will look at each episode in terms of the series as a cohesive whole. Which episodes you can toss out, versus which ones you can keep, versus which ones you can enjoy, so that when you finally reach the end, you're not completely lost. (Sorry, you will still be a little confused. The series goes downhill, and the ending doesn't make a lot of sense. I'm either braver than most, or crazier, for attempting this.) With that said,

My scale:
FORGETTABLE. Might be better to think that this episode never happened.
NECESSARY. Not good, but by skipping this, you’d miss something interesting and/or relevant.
ADEQUATE. Average fare. Worth taking the time to watch, but (in my opinion) that's about it.
SUPERIOR. More than worth watching, here certain things are being done well.
MEMORABLE. Has the potential to stick with you on some deeper level.

I'll keep a running total at the end of every season. Let's get to it.

SEASON ONE (2000-2001)

001. “Under the Night”. ADEQUATE.
 Sets the stage, introducing the characters and the situation. No harm, no foul.

002. “An Affirming Flame”. SUPERIOR.
 More like the second of a two parter, finishes the setup on a strong note.

003. “To Loose the Fateful Lightning”. NECESSARY.
 Rommie gets her body, the ship gets a Nova Bomb, but it’s pretty weak.

004. “D Minus Zero”. SUPERIOR.
 Might be ranked generously, but some good character work here, which is interesting since it’s first in production order. The device to fool ship sensors is plot relevant later.

005. “Double Helix”. SUPERIOR.
 Some weak acting and plot conveniences pull down an otherwise fascinating look at Nietzscheans. Key long term plot points drop here too.

006. “Angel Dark, Demon Bright”. MEMORABLE.
 Even with my time travel bias, others rank this outing highly as well. Very well done, and written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, who knows the big picture.

007. “The Ties That Blind”. FORGETTABLE.
 Harsh? Yes, it has Beka’s brother, our first real look at Wayism, and introduces the Restors, but none of it means much of anything, and for once you can get these necessary plot points elsewhere. I also want to forget Beka talking to herself in a dorky way.

008. “The Banks of the Lethe”. NECESSARY.
 The clever time travel has some plot relevance (including 030), but it’s more the teleporter that bumps this up from ‘forgettable’ (except you’ll need to wait long for the payoff). Still, nothing of real consequence.

009. “A Rose in the Ashes”. FORGETTABLE.
 Well. That was a thing on a prison planet.

010. “All Great Neptune’s Ocean”. NECESSARY.
 Ranked as such because it has details like force lance mechanics, it uses personality quirks, and it provides context for all the dumb fish puns that will not die after this episode.

011. “The Pearls That Were His Eyes”. NECESSARY.
 Needed for the “Flash” drug connection, while John de Lancie’s also good in his role, but otherwise forgettable.

012. “The Mathematics of Tears”. FORGETTABLE.
 Another harsh rank, but it didn’t grab me, and like 007 above, rogue AIs doesn’t add anything that we won’t get elsewhere. (Another similarity with 007? We get ‘teleplay’ along with ‘story’ credits, implying the script wasn’t done by the people who came up with the ideas. Could be coincidence.)

013. “Music of a Distant Drum”. ADEQUATE.
 It’s definitely necessary for the Nietzschean angle, and either Robert Hewitt Wolfe’s writing or Keith Hamilton Cobb’s acting as Tyr (or both) elevates it past that.

014. “Harper 2.0”. ADEQUATE.
 It’s even more necessary than the last episode (hi Abyss), and again there’s enough in here to elevate it to being worth taking the time to watch.

015. “Forced Perspective”. NECESSARY.
 The actual plot’s a bit forgettable, but it’s the first good look at what Trance can (and cannot) do, done in the context of key elements from Dylan’s past. So it’s needed for those who like that big picture.

016. “The Sum of Its Parts”. NECESSARY.
 More necessary in terms of “what could have been”, in that the Consensus was destined for a larger role. If you don’t care about that original plan, it’s forgettable. (And you can swap this rank with 012 if you want tech fluff done better.)

017. “Fear and Loathing in the Milky Way”. FORGETTABLE.
 The Tarn-Vedra diary appears, so literally anything else would make this necessary, but no, we didn’t need to see Gerentex posturing, so who cares where the diary came from.

018. “The Devil Take the Hindmost”. SUPERIOR.
 An entry I might have ranked generously (the acting’s weak), but we finally get a better look at Wayism (compared to 007), and Rev Bem, and the Magog, and see there’s down sides to fighting for a cause. Definitely adequate?

019. “The Honey Offering”. SUPERIOR.
 Good Nietzschean maneuvering (along with Dylan himself) and it sets their factions up for the broader picture too. Even if that whip breaks physics.

020. “Star-Crossed”. ADEQUATE.
 Another key episode in the overall tapestry, and better done than 012. If only Michael Shanks hadn’t (presumably) been asked to act without emotion, this could have been even higher.

021. “It Makes a Lovely Light”. ADEQUATE.
 The “Flash” and “Tarn-Vedra” threads entwine here in what is finally a watchable episode for Beka’s character.

022. “It’s Hour Come Round at Last”. ADEQUATE.
 I might be elevating this one due to it’s pivotal role in the whole series (the plot’s a bit contrived), but there’s things to enjoy here too, including Andromeda’s conversations with herselves.

Season One Tally:
Forgettable: 4   Necessary: 6   Adequate or Above: 12

SEASON TWO (2001-2002)

023. “The Widening Gyre”. SUPERIOR.
 It is almost a reinvention of the series, with some good character work. Works much like 002 was a better follow-up at the start of the show, in how the peril is resolved in a satisfactory way.

024. “Exit Strategies”. NECESSARY.
 Has follow-ups to Harper’s issues, Rev’s character, and Tyr’s bones plot, but not much more than that.

025. “A Heart for Falsehood Framed”. NECESSARY.
 A better look at Beka’s past than 007, with some interesting twists en route, but cheesy. All it amounts to overall is a map, a plot which is swept aside after 038.

026. “Pitiless as the Sun”. NECESSARY.
 Necessary to see some character work for Trance and a decent guest star in William B. Davis (of X-Files fame), along with introducing the Pyrians. Not really necessary for any other reason.

027. “Last Call at the Broken Hammer”. NECESSARY.
 That is, kind of necessary? I’d say it’s forgettable, except Trance gets her tail shot off, we meet the Kalderan race for the first time... and the story WAS by Robert Hewitt Wolfe so the Ortiz stuff must have once meant something. Damned if I know what.

028. “All Too Human”. MEMORABLE.
 Yes, I’m putting this top shelf. It’s got some fascinating interplay between Tyr and Rev Bem regarding Harper and his issues. It’s got an interesting setup with the AI issues in the main plot, with plot consequences to match, and good guest stars in both Bruce Harwood (of Lone Gunmen fame) and Roger Cross (of 24 & First Wave). Beka even name drops Mobius (from 015) if you’re paying attention. All helps me overlook minor issues.

029. “Una Salus Victus”. SUPERIOR.
 Doesn’t feel like it hooks into the main plot as much as the prior episode (where they got a ship), but still has a lot to like in terms of character work on three fronts - with the sad exception of Rev Bem, who is referenced but doesn’t appear. Also, oooh, that ending. (Alas, goes downhill from here.)

030. “Home Fires”. NECESSARY.
 Absolutely necessary for the overall plot (Rhade returns later), and interesting in and of itself, yet upon taking a step back, it somehow feels like wasted time.

031. “Into the Labyrinth”. ADEQUATE.
 Gordon Michael Woolvett as Harper singlehandedly pulls this episode out of the forgettable category, tesseracting plot or not, then guest star James Marsters pushes it higher. Helps remind us that Harper’s not as goofy as he acts.

032. “The Prince”. FORGETTABLE.
 I want the contrasting Dylan/Tyr perspectives to mean something, but really, do they? Not in the new direction the show will go.

033. “Bunker Hill”. NECESSARY.
 At least here Harper’s Earth origins DO mean something (even in context, given how the show ends), and the Nietzschean tactics lead to Beka doing her thing. So it’s skippable, but good if you like the overall experience.

034. “Ouroboros”. NECESSARY.
 The very *definition* of the necessary category. You need this episode to know why Rev Bem’s no longer around, how Harper’s cured, why Trace suddenly becomes gold, why tesseracts become a thing in later callbacks, and yet it is such a waste otherwise. The last episode by Robert Hewitt Wolfe.

035. “Lava and Rockets”. FORGETTABLE.
 Tourism! This one doesn’t even have interesting Dylan/Tyr perspectives (Rommie/Tyr is no substitute).

036. “Be All My Sins Remembered”. NECESSARY.
 Mostly necessary for the backstory it weaves in, if you’re a completist (or if you like redhead Beka). There’s also Harper foreshadowing that never comes to fruition, because the series was already taking that new direction.

037. “Dance of the Mayflies”. FORGETTABLE.
 Zombies! Trance may be dead, yo! Wait, we knew that.

038. “In Heaven Now Are Three”. NECESSARY.
 Ugh, it’s ALMOST adequate. We’ve got Trance meeting another of her kind, more foreshadowing that stalls in place (with the Engine of Creation)... and the rest feels like a rehash. Can’t give that an average ranking.

039. “The Things We Cannot Change”. FORGETTABLE.
 That’s sure one way to do a clip show.

040. “The Fair Unknown”. NECESSARY.
 There’s a Vedran going toe-to-toe with Dylan, and they’re kind of important to the overall mythos (along with Tarn Vedra), so that’s something.

041. “Belly of the Beast”. NECESSARY.
 Less necessary for mythos, more for having some fun with the characters. The show also takes pride in making decent use of Physics here.

042. “The Knight, Death, and the Devil”. ADEQUATE.
 Some interesting discussion about the sentience of Artificial Intelligences (beats 012), and actually connects to the ‘new’ Andromeda mythos, with the guest appearance of Christopher Judge as a ship.

043. “Immaculate Perception”. ADEQUATE.
 It almost ranks as superior, given Tyr’s bones plot comes to fruition, with echoes throughout the series, but the Knights of Genetic Purity thing is very eeeeehhh.

044. “Tunnel at the End of the Light”. NECESSARY.
 Almost forgettable, except now there’s a Commonwealth Charter, and its saboteur angle is junked in favour of a bizarre attack being the reason for Gold Trance. I suppose it also has to be seen to be believed.

Season Two Tally:
Forgettable: 4   Necessary: 12   Adequate or Above: 6
Forgettable: 8   Necessary: 18   Adequate or Above: 18

SEASON THREE (2002-2003)

045. “If the Wheel is Fixed”. NECESSARY.
 Necessary only because we need to see Beka and Tyr return from The Tunnel. With a kitten. Welcome to Andromeda making no sense. Includes some bizarre split screening effects that would persist for a while (see the first few minutes post-intro), Rommie changing her hair colour, and Tyr removing his arm braces (very end).

046. “The Shards of Rimni”. FORGETTABLE.
 Dylan’s on the run, because of a vase, in a plot likely retooled from the ‘Engine of Creation’ in the old mythos. Harper will get a medal, there, saved you 40 minutes.

047. “Mad to be Saved”. FORGETTABLE.
 Insane people take over the Andromeda and kidnap Tyr. It’s just that easy.

048. “Cui Bono”. NECESSARY.
 Necessary if you want to see what happened to John de Lancie’s character from 011, but if you forgot that one, forget this.

049. “The Lone and Level Sands”. ADEQUATE.
 There’s actually some interesting interplay here between the characters and those on the lost Earth ship. Also more info on slipstream. Didn’t feel like a waste.

050. “Slipfighter the Dogs of War”. NECESSARY.
 Trance’s mystic origins connect to nova bombs, as Tyr has confidence issues. Not very sensible, but not terrible, having elements from the big picture. Also, fun music.

051. “The Leper’s Kiss”. FORGETTABLE.
 Assassins. With a cute twist at the end. The twist doesn’t help.

052. “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. NECESSARY.
 Rev Bem gets quoted at the start. And the ghost plot is, while not adequate, at least interesting, showing what’s typical these days.

053. “And Your Heart Will Fly Away”. ADEQUATE.
 A second “average” episode this season, we get more on Tyr (including mention of the loss of those bone spurs on his arms), and there’s even some plot twists that work. Kinda. It’s better than 050.

054. “The Unconquerable Man”. ADEQUATE.
 And a third! Ranked adequate for how it uses the tesseracting and revisits the Memorable Episode 006 in a fascinating way. It’s superior for how it portrays Rhade, except it’s also a clip show, so I can’t in good conscience boost the ranking more.

055. “Delenda Est”. FORGETTABLE.
 Cats are extinct, meaning that whole thing at the start of the season makes even less sense now. That shouldn’t have been possible. (At least the dimension guys leave for good.)

056. “The Dark Backward”. SUPERIOR.
 A rather fascinating look at Trance, and her connection to Harper, and how to fight an enemy who always sees you coming. I’m nudging this one above the ‘Adequate’ line to make it the first “above average” for the season.

057. “The Risk All Point”. FORGETTABLE.
 Nietzschean Errin Shohashi is easy on the eyes, and the escape pod linking visual is neat too, but that’s not enough. That new ship fits into the big picture not at all.

058. “The Right Horse”. FORGETTABLE.
 Forgot I’d seen this one until I checked a summary. Why must they make Beka look brash and stupid? There’s a twist at the end, yet again, about who lives/dies.

059. “What Happens to a Rev Deferred?”. NECESSARY.
 Necessary solely to see what becomes of Rev Bem’s character amid the clips. Though he’ll come back once more in a marginally better outing next season.

060. “Point of the Spear”. ADEQUATE.
 The presence of the Pyrians (and Trance’s reaction) makes this necessary to the overall universe. The look at some of the individual pilots, seen though Beka, elevates it.

061. “Vault of the Heavens”. FORGETTABLE.
 Written by Gordon Michael Woolvett (Harper), showing he understands the series vibe of “women want to sleep with Dylan Hunt”. Alas, there being a twist doesn’t make it good.

062. “Deep Midnight’s Voice”. NECESSARY.
 This sets up the “Route of Ages” for next season, while calling in the plot patrol for what Tyr’s been doing. Otherwise, meh.

063. “The Illusion of Majesty”. FORGETTABLE.
 Out-conning the con artist, or something like that.

064. “Twilight of the Idols”. NECESSARY.
 Sets up the Patriarch (Michael Ironside), who will return later. He runs the Genites, those Knights of Genetic Purity from the end of last season. Gee, good thing we brought those guys back.

065. “Day of Judgement, Day of Wrath”. SUPERIOR.
 In a fascinating development, Michael Shanks and Christopher Judge return as ship AIs (from near the end of Seasons 1 and 2, respectively). Meanwhile, Tyr’s plot heats up in the B-Story. It starts the season end on a high note (the highest of any season, in fact).

066. “Shadows Cast by a Final Salute”. ADEQUATE.
 Nietzscheans attack Andromeda, which is part of Tyr’s plan - or is it? The final showdown between Dylan and Tyr, as everything gets revealed between them, and around them.

Season Three Tally:
Forgettable: 8      Necessary: 7    Adequate or Above: 7
Forgettable: 16    Necessary: 25  Adequate or Above: 25

SEASON FOUR (2003-2004)

067. “Answers Given to Questions Never Asked”. NECESSARY.
 The Commonwealth is doomed? Or not? Sets up ‘The Collectors’ as being a secret group hoping to seize power, ‘the Abyss’ as being able to take over people, and ends right before a speech by Dylan which might have explained whatever just happened.

068. “Pieces of Eight”. FORGETTABLE.
 A new Abyss minion uses a fortune teller to go after Dylan.

069. “Waking the Tyrant’s Device”. NECESSARY.
 The guy who built the Magog worldship is making another one? It uses plot points (such as a detachable Maru cockpit) and is ludicrous enough to not be forgettable.

070. “Double or Nothingness”. ADEQUATE.
 It’s... weird. Goofy. Unpredictable. Sure, why not, if Collectors and Nietzscheans really ARE working together, it might explain the Abyss in the end. Plus we get Harper’s fate and Peaches’ mom.

071. “Harper/Delete”. ADEQUATE.
 Nietzschean politics, as Harper tries to defuse something called “File D”. I’ll give it extra latitude for making me smile and clock it in as another average outing.

072. “Soon the Nearing Vortex”. SUPERIOR.
 Tyr escapes captivity and resumes his games, luring Beka in. Rhade (from 030) also returns, becoming a series regular from this point. The Route of Ages is sought, and ties into Trance’s origins. Lots going on here - and it’s done well.

073. “The World Turns All Around Her”. ADEQUATE.
 Tyr’s fate, and the Abyss appears as more than mere background noise. Pity that doesn’t elevate a main character’s arc conclusion any higher.

074. “Conduit to Destiny”. FORGETTABLE.
 It’s kind of clever, and Sebastian Spence does his best with a guest role, but I can’t recommend it at all.

075. “Machinery of the Mind”. NECESSARY.
 Sets up “radical isotopes” as a way to identify Abyss minions while reminding us of the Magog issue. Grace Park appears briefly.

076. “Exalted Reason, Resplendent Daughter”. FORGETTABLE.
 Missed the first part of this episode. Felt like I didn’t miss much.

077. “The Torment, the Release”. FORGETTABLE.
 Dylan’s arrested by Collectors and sentenced to a clip show, oh nuuuu. Farewell Tri-Lorn, the twist at the end is overall inconsequential.

078. “The Spider’s Stratagem”. FORGETTABLE.
 The ultimate power of living armour. But even sillier than that sounds, because they try to explain it.

079. “The Warmth of an Invisible Light”. NECESSARY.
 Much like 041, less necessary for mythos (unless you count Trance), more for having some fun with alternate universe characters. Though Harper is actually cybernetic, shout-out to original mythos?

080. “The Others”. FORGETTABLE.
 The degree of lampshading before the credits is impressive. Then it’s less funny, with a disease, and a wall, and people squabbling.

081. “Fear Burns Down to Ashes”. NECESSARY.
 Shockingly, Rev Bem is BACK! And it’s a “Collectors” story that doesn’t suck! And Harper’s useful! I wish all that was enough to make it good (or at least average).

082. “Lost in a Space that isn’t There”. FORGETTABLE.
 The plot we just did with Dylan and Rev Bem we do with Dylan and Beka instead. But worse. Why? (A callback to the equally forgettable 078, I suppose.)

083. “Abridging the Devil’s Divide”. SUPERIOR.
 Gordon Michael Woolvett’s second writing outing is MUCH better. The Patriarch returns, Harper gets a lot to reflect on, and temporal causality comes into play. (FYI, the last time we see this ranking.)

084. “Trusting the Gordian Maze”. FORGETTABLE.
 Out-conning the con artist like 063, this time from the inside, not the outside.

085. “A Symmetry of Imperfection”. FORGETTABLE.
 Kind of an interesting Rommie Versus Herself outing? But it’s been done better.

086. “Time Out of Mind”. NECESSARY.
 They get a weapon against the Abyss, out of Beka’s past. That we’ll never see again, boooo. Not forgettable though, and not merely because Erica Durance is a decent guest spot.

087. “The Dissonant Interval, Part One”. NECESSARY.
 An attempt to negotiate with Magog goes badly. Dylan learns he’s a Paradine. The deadly World Ship arrives. This should be more exciting, but somehow isn’t.

088. “The Dissonant Interval, Part Two”. NECESSARY.
 Rhade hits on someone who’s not his wife. Rommie’s blown up. Beka pulls a Han Solo. Harper comes face to face with his choices. Trance destroys her bonsai tree. Dylan escapes. Cue expressions of dull surprise.

Season Four Tally:
Forgettable: 9    Necessary: 8    Adequate or Above: 5
Forgettable: 25  Necessary: 33  Adequate or Above: 30

SEASON FIVE (2004-2005)

089. “The Weight, Part One”. NECESSARY.
 Dylan is now on Seefra-1, where he finds Rhade who arrived months earlier, and he learns this world is Tarn Vedra. (His home. But we know Dylan’s a heavy worlder, and the plot never explains this.) Well, there’s your context for this season.

090. “The Weight, Part Two”. NECESSARY.
 We add Beka and Trance back into the cast. There’s also a shady trading guy whose maneuvering isn’t totally forgettable.

091. “Phear Phactor Phenom”. NECESSARY.
 We add Harper and ‘Doyle’ back in, learning Rommie’s fate. Gordon Michael Woolvett makes this ALMOST adequate. Note: If you don’t see the episode, you might think everyone rags on Harper for the rest of the season because of something he did here. That’s not it, near as I can tell they’re simply jerks (he was stuck here the longest).

092. “Decay of the Angel”. NECESSARY.
 The combination of Doyle’s backstory and some interesting re-use of tesseracts helps elevate the monotonous to above forgettable. Despite the sword gag, har har.

093. “The Eschatology of Our Present”. FORGETTABLE.
 It tries to matter to the plot, but no. Guest star Don S. Davis (of Stargate fame) is the only thing to recommend in this episode.

094. “When Goes Around..." FORGETTABLE.
 The time loop makes no sense, the tech makes no sense, the ending makes no sense.

095. “Attempting Screed”. FORGETTABLE.
 Attempting plot. But nothing here has lasting consequences.

096. “So Burn the Untamed Lands”. FORGETTABLE.
 Harper’s affected by a crystal, but eventually we hit the reset button.

097. “What Will be Was Not”. NECESSARY.
 Infighting! Trance runs off and meets Orlund, “Chosen by the Vedrans”. Rhade reaches a crossroads, and Andromeda gets some power. We’d better tag it required. It’s not terrible.

098. “The Test”. FORGETTABLE.
 Oh no, Prieus is dead! Wait, who? Where did the background go? From the future what? We just did the infighting episode. Trance herself says this feels pointless.

099. “Through a Glass Darkly”. ADEQUATE.
 To really get it, I feel you had to see 034 and 008 (told you it was a wait for the payoff). But this is the first really decent outing for the season, where you kind of care about the fates of the characters. There’s even Paradine talk, if you like that big picture stuff.

100. “Pride Before the Fall”. NECESSARY.
 Tyr gets a name drop in this episode, and Beka learns she has some power over the Nietzscheans. Alas, like the Abyss Bell, that’s never put to good use (otherwise this might be adequate), but it is interesting. Episode 100 could easily have been worse. Also, gag reel.

101. “Moonlight Becomes You”. NECESSARY.
 This outing is kind of stupid (moon avatars?), but you need it to begin the plot of Trance’s sun returning, connected to Tarn Vedra issues. Well, and I guess Harper’s scenes with Doyle weren’t terrible.

102. “Past is Prolix”. FORGETTABLE.
 Orlund returns, and his worship of Dylan is funny, and there’s negative consequences, but it’s all pretty much by the numbers.

103. “The Opposites of Attraction”. FORGETTABLE.
 Black holes now have avatars, just like suns and moons. But they’re mentally deranged.

104. “Saving Light from a Black Sun”. NECESSARY.
 This ep is needed for the Broken Artificial Sun plot to wrap and the Pick-A-Trance plot to start, but Harper’s reaction when he thinks the others died is almost worth the bump up from forgettable by itself.

105. “Totaled Recall”. FORGETTABLE.
 As Gordon Michael Woolvett’s third written effort, I want this to rank higher, but while some alternate reality scenarios are interesting, they’re ultimately meaningless.

106. “Quantum Tractate Delirium”. ADEQUATE.
 Rommie returns, and it’s kind of badass. Enough to make this more than merely a plot requirement for the inevitable Doyle clash.

107. “One More Day’s Light”. FORGETTABLE.
 Despite this being the first of a two parter, in the big picture, it’s largely setup. Add the inexplicable reappearance of Nietzscheans, lampshaded by Dylan, and flushing this episode away might help continuity more than hurt it.

108. “Chaos and the Stillness of It”. NECESSARY.
 The Abyss was behind the last ep, and Pick-A-Trance concludes (mostly). The Seefra System is saved. Harper’s passcode is revealed. Ends the season’s arcs, though not the series’.

109. “The Heart of the Journey, Part One”. NECESSARY.
 Ugh, it’s ALMOST forgettable like 107, except this is the episode that gets them out of the Seefra System. By making a deal with Trance’s other sun identities. Owing to all the Paradine being dead. They leave behind a refugee mess (unresolved), learn the Magog World Ship survived (bad writing), reunite Rhade with his wife (out of nowhere), and botch an attempt by Harper to leave the crew (I WANTED to feel sad), all things I’d rather forget.

110. “The Heart of the Journey, Part Two”. NECESSARY.
 Earth blows up. The Commonwealth doesn’t. The Abyss being behind the Nietzscheans attacking is never clear. The Abyss being behind Trance’s suns is clear but makes no sense. The only part that feels real is Doyle deciding this isn’t her fight, and wanting to leave, only to stick around for Harper’s sake. The crew finally win using the logic from episode 056. I think. At least, they say they win, why would they lie?

Season Five Tally:
Forgettable: 9   Necessary: 11   Adequate or Above: 2
Forgettable: 34  Necessary: 44   Adequate or Above: 32

CODA: The written fanfic by Robert Hewitt Wolfe himself. I’ll label it SUPERIOR, and note it explains why a couple items were tagged the way they are (like “Broken Hammer”), based on what could have been. It’s not a long read.


And that's it! Even if we add in "Coda", the Forgettables outnumber the Adequate+. What am I doing with my life. (Well, I'm also running Series Scans on anime, like Erased, if you want to see my take on something that's done better.)

For some opinions of others on "Andromeda", that are much more in depth, and more individually ranked (put out as the series originally aired):
-Cynic's Corner got as far as Episode 40.
-Get Critical got as far as Episode 53.
-Jammer's Reviews got as far as Episode 44, but if you go into the comments section for his Season Two Recap you can find the remarks by Baron Samedi, who offers rankings on later seasons.
-Here's the site I used for transcripts.

You're also welcome to leave your own comments here, on things you agree with, or are opposed to, or perhaps there's items that you feel I left out. I mean, I'm not the only person to have seen some of this stuff, right? ... Oh well. Have a good day!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Series Scan: Erased

I am a SLOW binge-watcher (and reader). Two hours is about my limit, after which I need processing time. I also enjoy watching online reviewers, and reactions to things that I’ve previously watched, so why not take the time during a slow binge to chronicle my own reactions and speculations?

I’ll be coming at this one a little differently than my prior Scans. I watched the anime “Erased” (it’s only 12 eps) with my wife over the span of 2-3 weeks in July. I didn’t jot down any reactions as I was watching it, or even record anything between viewings, though I more or less remember my feelings. So I’ll mention those in passing as we run episode by episode, along with a larger look at the temporal implications. My reason?

In brief: “Erased” is the best time travel anime that botches the time travel. In part due to “Fridge Logic” problems. (That’s when something doesn’t bother you during the show, but half an hour later you go “wait, what??”) Don’t get me wrong, the anime is great, and aspects are VERY clever, but I’m sorry, a big piece doesn’t hold up. I’ll get to that.

Credit my wife for this viewing, by the way. I was first introduced to “Erased” shortly after it came out in 2016, when the first Episode was played by the Anime Club at my school. This anime holds the bizarre distinction of being played there twice (that wasn’t usually a thing) because attendance was down on a later day and most of those there hadn’t seen the first ep yet (we’re talking 12 people on average, that day maybe there was 3?).

I looked it up at the time, heard that the time travel wasn’t really a central part, heard that some had issues with the end, and rarely have time to keep up with this stuff. Flash forward a full year, to May 2017, and my wife seeing an episode at Anime North. She’s more into mystery than me, so that aspect appealed to her, and she suggested we watch together. This seemed like a great idea. Quality time!

So, let’s get to it. SPOILERS, obviously, and bear in mind that this is a review in retrospect, largely with an eye to the time travel.

01 Flashing Before My Eyes

Thoughts and Theories:
 They set up that Satoru experiences “Revival”, a “mind leap” form of time travel where he’s supposed to prevent an issue. Also, Airi as his coworker, the unresolved issue in his past, his mother, and in the end, the return to 1988. It’s extremely well done, packing all the key elements in, yet it doesn’t feel rushed. My main issue with it was, it felt like setting up the “future” (present), only to allow the rest of the story to play out in the “present” (past). I’ve read “Outlander”. It’s not really my thing.

02 Palm of the Hand

Thoughts and Theories:
 We focus in on Kayo, the first victim, and there’s a nice bookending of her being first and Satoru’s mother being last, both with ties to Satoru. The interplay of a 29-year-old mind and 10-year-old body is interesting. The hint of Airi (via the quote) is important, echoing her presence in the OP, hinting that we will get out of the “past”. (I actually knew we would here, based on what my wife had already seen, but still.) Again, there is a lot to admire about the show. Can’t shake the feeling that the time travel is merely a way to set the plot up though... I have been burned before.

03 Birthmark

Thoughts and Theories:
 The Christmas Tree episode. I wonder about the bit with the foxes, how he “saw them alone” in the first timeline - why was he trekking out there? We also get Kayo’s mother (who seems heartless but not serial killer evil), Yashiro-sensei (who spills plot info because I guess someone had to) and “Yuuki” (sympathetic lip service to the one who will be blamed). Also, the girl framing Kayo for theft and Kenya feeling like he’s somehow a piece of this (he’s in the OP too) but they’re catalysts, not killers. So that’s the mystery angle. Sharing the same birthday is nice in a dual friendship/plot point way.

04 Accomplishment

Thoughts and Theories:
 It’s Satoru time delaying the Kayo problem. Again, nice hint that things aren’t so easy with the trip to the Science Center being an echo of what happened anyway... though for a time travel viewer that’s NOT a hint, it’s a HUGE red flag waving in the air with streamers. You know it’s not going to be enough to avoid the day, you have to avoid the cause, so with Satoru’s fixation on X-Day, it’s waiting for the other shoe. Which only drops at the very end, after their “happy memories”. Telegraphed emotional manipulation. (The scene with Kayo’s mother was well done, I grant, not telegraphed.)

05 Getaway

Thoughts and Theories:
 This is the first ep my wife saw. (She appreciated it with the added context now.) Kayo’s toast, and we go back to the “present”. Which, yeah, kind of had to return to it that way, even though it messes with the definition of “Revival” as initially presented. This is the point that a “time travel” watcher (or me, anyway) may start to get frustrated. On the one hand, staying in the past, time travel is used as a portal only. On the other hand, well, digression time.

 Time travel is a problem. If you give a character control over time, they’re ridiculously overpowered. The only solutions are to put limitations on their use of such power (“Back to the Future”’s 1.21 gigawatts) or, as is done here, don’t have them be the one in control (“Quantum Leap” does that well). We KNOW Satoru’s going back again, Kayo’s too sympathetic a character. The only question is how. Does he figure out what’s behind “Revival”? Does he find a way of “reviving” into someone else, like Kenya? I read a theory from someone watching at this point that maybe the serial killer ALSO has a “revival”, that would be fascinating. (It would also explain the ‘nearly-too-perfect’ framing of Satoru for his mom’s murder.)
 But no. This ep doesn’t feel like a setup to any of that.
 It’s a by-the-numbers, “you changed the past a little bit, not enough, please play again”. Because the focus is placed, not on the circumstances, but on the mystery and the killer (who we see with Pizza Manager, but not his face). Not that there’s anything wrong with that decision, just, it feels frustrating, temporally. Thank goodness for Airi, who breathes life and backstory into what could otherwise feel pedestrian. Satoru making poor choices (lying to Pizza Manager) also feels like a theme, I like how the girls in his life question whether he’s an idiot.

06 Grim Reaper

Thoughts and Theories:
 It’s worth a moment to grant the series a pat on the back for not being predictable. Mom dies, he flashes back. Girls still die, he flashes forwards. Airi dies, he... oh. OH. Okay then. (And I loved the bit where it’s not Airi in her hospital bed later, nice.) So, we’re tracking down the killer in the present, and we get more about Satoru’s manga idea. The ending raises questions, namely whether the obviously arrogant killer watching Satoru is directly connected to the police, the time travel, or something more. Yeah, that never exactly gets answered.

06.5 1-6 Digest
 It had been almost a week since we’d watched the first six eps (and even those were over a couple days), so we watched this. It’s a decent recap.

07 Out of Control

Thoughts and Theories:
 Satoru’s back in 1988 because... willpower? It might have been better for Airi to fall in the river or something, to provide a better motivation. He also says it will be his “final” revival, and I believe it, because now the time travel aspect feels completely at the mercy of the plot. Know what might have been fascinating? Two 29-year olds in his head at once. “You’re going to screw up, let me take the lead”, and there’s finite amount of his own brain he can take at once. Nope. The overlap is never a thing. Time travel is a vehicle, not a plot point.
 Nothing makes that more definitive to me than the continued efforts to hide the identity of the killer (after teasing at the end of 06 that we’d ID him, and start a new arc of catching him), except there’s a SLIM list of suspects. There’s Kayo’s Dad Figure, who we’ve only seen in the background of one shot. There’s “Yuuki”’s father, also seen in passing here. And there’s Yashiro-sensei, who seems to have ALL the info, and has been played up as a confidant - more emotional manipulation for later? Money’s on the latter, in no small part due to him being seen with Kenya before (also in the thick of it now), and the lack of screen time on anyone else.
 The killer busting into the bus at the end, and us STILL not knowing who it is, implies that they’re hanging onto that mystery thread for dear life. Kayo will escape, still not knowing, or be otherwise unable to speak. Which of those, is the question.

08 Spiral

Thoughts and Theories:
 You do have to hand it to the series for not playing to expectations (Kayo didn’t escape, in fact she didn’t get noticed). In retrospect, this is kind of a filler episode, plot wise. Which is, again, symptomatic of time travel not being a factor beyond what we’ve already seen. Otherwise surely by NOW Kenya would have revealed he’s been trying to fix this for years, only to find he’s somehow unable, hence the decision to recruit Satoru in the past leading to this entire story in his future. Or Satoru would have tried “reviving” back a day to try tailing the mystery man.
 The show instead zones in on it’s emotional core, which I again grant is excellent, and I haven’t mentioned the child abuse angle (because that’s not the focus of this post), but it IS done well. Also, there’s the “we’ve walked into the killer’s den” angle, which is motivating. I’m not saying it’s a bad anime (and I haven’t read the manga, though I know it’s a bit different in the time travel too).

09 Closure

Thoughts and Theories:
 Save all the girls! (And the guy who resembles a girl!) We close off Kayo’s storyline, with an interesting appearance by Kayo’s grandmother (she exists!), which is meant to put a sympathetic light on everything and/or show that abuse is a cycle. (I felt like that would speak to the killer’s motivations. In retrospect, not sure.) Moving on, there’s attempts to deflect from Yashiro (and the candy angle was nicely thought out), except who else is there to be the killer. We also set up someone outside Satoru’s sights (as history’s changed), I like that it’s the girl from 03, brilliant callback/setup.

10 Joy

Thoughts and Theories:
 The revelation was decent. I’m not sure I buy the WHOLE setup that Yashiro did, it feels a bit too much like checkmarking boxes marked ‘thread ties here’. (Like, sensei not only steals a car that looks like his, he also fiddled with the seat belt earlier?) When Satoru talks about “knowing Yashiro’s future” at the end, I felt certain that it would be the ticket that leads to Satoru being saved. With Yashiro having to know. Then somehow they catch Yashiro next ep, and last part is seeing what’s better or worse in the future. That’s not what happens.

11 Future

Thoughts and Theories:
 See what they did there? They didn’t call this episode “present”. They called it “future”. Because what happens with the plot here is simultaneously brilliant, and completely self-defeating: Satoru’s in a coma for the whole intervening time (which at one point is what I suspected of Kayo to end ep 07). Returning us to future/present.

 The reason it’s brilliant partly goes to the original title, “Boku Dake ga Inai Machi”, or “The Town Where Only I Am Missing” (sure, that translates to “Erased”). It can be read as Kayo missing up to when she’s saved, but now we see it’s Satoru missing. It allows ten year old Satoru to be in the head of 29 year old Satoru, a clever reversal. It parallels the first episode of waking up in hospital after saving an act of saving lives. And it pulls us back into the “future” without the head scratching of what he’d have been doing with that major shift to his past.

 It also completely wipes out all his previous “Revival” experiences. That kid in Ep 1? Guess he got hit by the truck. Along with whatever other “Revival”s Satoru affected before the story began. That’s why it’s self-defeating.

 It’s also what I meant by “botching” the time travel.

 I can’t help but compare this show to the video game “Life is Strange”, because apparently there’s something about blue butterflies that enables time travel? I’ll try not to massively spoil said game, but suffice to say, there’s a path there which renders all of your previous choices completely moot. “Erased” doesn’t QUITE get there, but it makes all but the last of Satoru’s trips completely moot. The implication being that the town goes along just fine without him.

 Except it DIDN’T get along just fine without him, that’s why he got “Revival” powers. Wasn’t that the point? A protagonist who can change peoples' lives?

 There’s only two possibilities I can see here. Either “Revival” was granted to Satoru because of the childhood trauma of losing Kayo, and all of his previous “Revival”s were somehow also linked to his actions. Meaning the bad events wouldn’t even happen in a timeline without him. Meaning the guy is a horrible jinx, implying people are better off without him! Or possibly that Yashiro’s influence was so far reaching as to affect truck drivers around Satoru. (Which wouldn’t have been a bad direction, actually.)

 The other possibility is that “Revival” is some free-floating god-given gift. Satoru was being tested, and... well, actually, he botched that last test, he had to get his Mom to figure it out... but, close enough, so this was his exam? Except this scenario implies that (presumably) others are similarly tested, meaning our entire timeline could be rewritten out from under us, and so the fact that Satoru was in a coma could later be changed by someone else. Weakening the impact.

 Neither option feels palatable. Granted, there’s a third possibility, but I’ll save it for the end. (Do you see it?)

 Back to the anime. This episode itself was good, if you completely ignore that time travel aspect of the whole storyline. (Including how the hell did Satoru NOT drown, another plot thread with no answer, okay, sorry, sorry.) It was good to see Satoru’s friends again (or at least the two most connected to him), and Kayo, and I agree with what another reviewer said, he at least seems happy with his life here, versus the original timeline.
 Also, the OP shift was damn clever, completely removing him, and yet everything continues on as it did before. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like that before. As to the last scene, confessing to having your memories when you’re in seemingly the weaker position isn’t in character (not after all his effort to walk, etc). So there’s an ace. Somewhere. What’s the ace?

12 Treasure

Thoughts and Theories:
 In the end, it was a story of point and counterpoint between Satoru and Yashiro. A chess match between “Revival” and the one who can see “Threads”. And the final nail in the coffin of the time travel element is the following: Satoru had no way of knowing that Yashiro wouldn’t take him to the basement and drop crates on him. Why did he plan for the roof?

 I guess we could say they’re just that connected. I guess we could say there were backup plans, and enough was heard on Satoru’s cell phone for the others to go with this plan. (Which apparently also required a faulty gate latch.) And I've heard the manga's different. But it sure feels like “I can see your future” happens WITHOUT any revival in this scene. Implying that maybe, time travel wasn’t in the original draft, the initial pitch was ‘what if someone knew how a serial killer would strike’ not ‘time travel rewrite’? That came later.

 Again, suffering from “Fridge Logic” doesn’t make this bad. The part where Yashiro reaches out to Satoru’s wheelchair is powerful. They really ARE entwined, to the point of not looking at the outside world, and it’s Satoru reaching out to those friends (in the PRIOR episode, offscreen, bit of a cheat) that snaps them out of their stalemate. And then we’re fast forwarding again, to where Satoru has the job he wants in the present, and is revisiting people from the past with happiness too.

 I admit, I was a little worried that we wouldn’t get Airi again. I thought, they couldn’t do that, could they? She was so pivotal. But no, of course, they did in the closing shot, with the blue butterfly, and here’s where I bring up that third possibility. The path seemingly not taken, the “Revival” aspect that was a mere plot vehicle, which could suddenly have been blown into full colour.

 If that butterfly wasn’t Satoru’s. It was Airi’s.

 AIRI is now the one who has been experiencing “Revival”. With Satoru out of the picture, SHE’S the one who saved the boy from the truck in Episode One, who saved everyone that Satoru had once saved, possibly even saved her parents’ marriage somehow, when she was young. She’s been helping people in his place, helping preserve the timeline without him. That’s why she feels a connection to him when they meet in the end.

 Tell me you don’t get chills.

 Granted, there is nothing to DENY that this isn’t, in fact, the reality of what was occurring at the end. We fade to black. But I feel like, the way this anime is SO meticulous in setting things up, and ultimately tying off all it’s loose ends (except the damn time travel), that they wouldn’t have passed up an opportunity to allude to it if it were, in fact, the case. (I DO feel like, if there’s a sequel, it should totally be Airi’s, not their kid son or something.)

 That’s why I had to call “Erased” the best time travel anime that botches the time travel.

 Incidentally, I have heard that the manga actually kills Kayo more than once, resulting in more “revivals” as Satoru tries to figure it out. (And that there were more “revivals” with the truck driver from ep 1, and the final showdown is on a bridge.) On the one hand, getting out of a “trapped loop” helps empathize more with Satoru, but I feel this only makes the time travel aspect worse. It shows time is even harder to change, meaning losing all Satoru’s changes to the coma would be MORE acutely felt within his “town”, not less. But I haven’t read it.

 Anyway, that’s it for this “Series Scan”! If you preferred seeing the reactions of someone as the tale unfolded (because I can’t pretend that my opinions weren’t coloured by knowing the end), check out Setsuken on “Anime Evo” at this link here. There are also other opinions like “Erased is the Perfect Melding of Time Travel and Murder”, or “Nefarious Reviews” which like me sees some flaws. “Mother’s Basement” also did this excellent analysis of the Erased OP visuals. As of this point, the anime’s still streaming on Crunchyroll.

 Thanks for reading! A previous “Series Scan” of mine looked at Steins;Gate, which does time travel better, and is coming out with a sequel soon (if you want more). Consider dropping me a comment if you agree, disagree, or have other thoughts.