Monthly Archives: August 2010

WWE Monday Night Raw’s 900th! could we get a do-over?

Today I would like to talk about and give my review of WWE’S 900th episode. To be able to sustain a fan base, and continue to move a product forward for that long is an unbelievably amazing accomplishment. No matter if you agree with the direction of the product, or believe it is staler than two month old potato chips, you have to respect the dedication and hard work it takes to pull off a monumental feat such as this. But in my opinion, I feel as though the show was built up too much for it to be anything less than amazing, which it sadly wasn’t.

The show opens with a small highlight package showing clips from episodes over the years, which I thought was an appropriate way to open the show. Bret Hart then comes out and cuts a promo putting Raw over, which again  is acceptable. Kane comes out and cuts a pretty stellar promo on the Undertaker, prompting the Undertaker to come out, and I’m still fine with this segment, until that damn e-mail sound comes up. The general manager announces a match between the Undertaker and Bret Hart, because that will most definitely be what we all wanted to see. (Sarcasm intended. ) Don’t get me wrong, I was a huge Bret Hart fan back in the day, hell I even cheered for him when he was a heel, telling people he really couldn’t be that bad of a bad guy. I was about six or seven at the time, but I truly believed he was always a good guy. But this is not the old Bret Hart, and I’m fine with that, so can they stop pushing into matches that could be given to the younger guys who can still go? Moving on, the first match of the night was Kofi Kingston and Michael McGillicutty  versus Kaval and Daniel Bryan versus The Miz and Alex Riley in a triple threat tag team match. This was a decent match, with what feels like the mandatory finish. I get it, the Miz is high on the radar, and Alex Riley is the favorite to win NXT season two, but it just seems like I see the same finishes to a Miz match every week. I enjoyed the continuation of the Miz/ Daniel Bryan feud, which will hopefully lead to some sort of match at night of champions. Also, just a side note, I understand heeling out Michael Cole, I  don’t understand why they don’t just heel him out all the way? The next match was Lay-Cool versus Melina and Eve. Typical divas match, which then led to a title unification match for night of champions. I mentioned this in an earlier post, so I’m glad to see they are doing it. I also mentioned this was a tag team match, but I don’t believe Eve was ever actually in the match, so they probably could have gone with a singles match and saved Eve the trouble of dressing out for the match. There are a couple of backstage segments, one with Jericho stating he will quit if he doesn’t win the title at night of champions, so I am assuming this is his way out of the company again. The next match was to determine the number one contenders for the tag titles. R-Truth and Morrison versus Cody Rhodes and Drew McIntyre, presumably because there aren’t any other tag teams available. (again, sarcasm intended). This match ends with a no-contest, due to a brawl breaking out between the teams. Next up is The Undertaker versus Bret Hart, but Wade Barrett comes out and attacks the Undertaker, Taker gets the upper hand, the lights go out, Kane is in the ring, a little back and forth, again with the lights, now Nexus comes out and attacks the Undertaker, but he fends them off, lights out again, and Barrett slams him with his finisher, leading to the 450 splash from Justin Gabriel. Overall, it was a well done segment, but I would really like to see the Nexus actually do more than these attacks, because that is all they have basically done since their arrival in the WWE. Next up was Jack Swagger versus Evan Bourne. Typical squash match, and to add insult to injury as they say, Alberto Del Rio basicsally interrupted this entire segment, then attacked Bourne after  the match was over. Mark Henry came down for the save, I’m assuming to setup some type of cross brand feud. Next up was a segment with CM Punk and the straight edge society, which I thought was the best segment of the night. CM Punk is definitely one of, if not the best heel wrestlers WWE has right now. Big Show then came out and after some back and forth, cleared the ring. The Final match of the night was a 5 on 5 elimination tag match between the Nexus and the team of John Cena, Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Edge, and Sheamus. Jericho gets counted out and Edge gets disqualified to begin this match. Slater eventually eliminates Sheamus, then John Cena almost immediately eliminates Slater. Justin Gabriel then eliminates Cena, leading to a flurry of RKO’s from Randy Orton, eliminating Gabriel and Micheal Tarver. Wade Barrett standing tall in the ring. I was ok with the way the main event played out, and overall I would say it was a good show, any other day but today.

For the WWE to hype this show up the way they did, and then deliver another decent, some would consider lackluster, show was a real letdown. This should have been a celebration show, with only a few storyline progressions. I really just feel deflated after all the hype and promotion that led up to last nights show. I guess they can take what they learned from the 900th episode “celebration” and try to improve it for when they reach 1000.

A Very Brief Review of Ghost in the Shell

On Sunday, I watched the film Ghost in the Shell (1995 directed by Oshii Mamoru). My initial reaction to the film is one of amazement. I love the film. And thinking about it a day later, I am still in love with it. It hits so many great points that it is easy to see why the film is so respected and influential.

Ghost in the Shell is classic cyberpunk. Taking place in the mid twenty- first century, the film follows cybernetic security officer Major Kusangai as she and her team try to capture the terrorist hacker known as The Puppetmaster. After a startling twist, Kusanagi begins to question herself as a person and as a machine. Her coming awareness and conclusion about what she is forms the emotional crux of the film. Even though much of the film deals with terrorists and political back deals, the human element of questioning one’s own existence is never far from the surface.

I love the film’s plot. There is almost nothing wrong with it. The only problem I have is the true antagonist revelation. I think that could have been handled better, but otherwise, the plot works fine.

The film itself is gorgeous. The music and visuals meld together and overwhelm the viewer, in my opinion.

My favorite scene in the film is a montage where Kusanagi is riding on a boat, heading to headquarters. Along the route, a haunting melody is played along with images of the city. It is an absolute delight to behold the mixture of image and song.

If there is one problem to the film, it is that it should be a little longer. But that is a minor complaint.

If you are looking for great cyberpunk, anime, science fiction, etc., than checking out Ghost in the Shell is a must.

Are you ready for some football predictions? (postseason edition.)

Welcome to the final installment of my 2010 NFL predictions. I will be doing the playoffs for both divisions and the Super Bowl. I won’t be breaking down possible scenarios or favorable matchups, I will simply just do a sort of bracket style format. A couple of quick notes, the home team will be on top, and I will list the teams I think will get the byes at the beginning of each division. I will start first with the AFC.

Bye week teams

1.Indianapolis Colts

2.New York Jets

Wildcard weekend:

3. San Diego Chargers

Vs.

6. Houston Texans

4. Baltimore Ravens

Vs.

5. Cincinnati Bengals

Results:

6. Houston and 4.Baltimore advance

Divisional Round:

1. Indianapolis Colts

Vs.

6. Houston Texans

2. New York Jets

Vs.

4. Baltimore Ravens

Results:

1. Indianapolis and 4. Baltimore advance

Conference Championship:

1. Indianapolis Colts

Vs.

4. Baltimore Ravens

Results:

1. Indianapolis Colts

NFC playoffs

Bye week teams:

1. Green Bay Packers

2. Dallas Cowboys

Wildcard weekend:

3. New Orleans Saints

Vs.

6. Minnesota Vikings

4. San Francisco 49ers

Vs.

5. Atlanta Falcons

Results:

3. New Orleans and 4. San Francisco

Divisional Round:

1. Green Bay Packers

Vs.

4. San Francisco 49ers

2. Dallas Cowboys

Vs.

3. New Orleans Saints

Results:

4. San Francisco and 2. Dallas Cowboys

Conference Championship:

2. Dallas Cowboys

Vs.

4. San Francisco 49ers

Results:

4. San Francisco 49ers

Super Bowl XLV   (45)

AFC: Indianapolis Colts

Vs.

NFC: San Francisco 49ers

Result: Indianapolis Colts

And in closing, I would just like to thank everyone one who checked the series of posts I have done about the coming season. It really does mean a lot to me. For anybody to actually take time out of their day to read these posts is really an amazing feeling.

A Brief Review of The Steel Remains By Richard K. Morgan

To continue my series of brief reviews, this time I’m taking on Richard K. Morgan’s The Steel Remains. The Steel Remains is, at its heart, about the aftermath of a Great Epic War fought between a Last Alliance of Human nations and a race called the Kiriath (a more science fictional take on Elves) against a reptilianesque race called the Scaled Folk. The three protagonists won glory from the war, but feel that what they fought for has become a lie. For Ringil “Gil” Eskiath, he has become a tourist attraction in a hovel near his greatest victory, for Egar the Dragonbane, he has become the leader of his steppe clan, and for Archeth, she feels frustration at being in the court of an inferior emperor.

On the whole, I both really like this novel and dislike it. I’ll start with its strong points and then tackle the problems.

The best part of the narrative, in my opinion, is the writing. I like that Morgan utilizes contemporary speech for his characters rather than relying on cliched medievalisms or archaic English. This makes the narrative pop and speed along where otherwise, it would inevitably bog down. I also like the style that Morgan uses. Limitting the point of view to just five characters (Ringil, Archeth, Egar, Poltar, and Grace-of-Heaven), Morgan does not get bogged down and tells an effective tale.

I also like his deployment of non normative characters even as they fill in the archetypal role. Ringil Eskiath is gay in a world where being gay means that you are likely to be executed in a very horrific manner. He is a noble, a brusier, a not-so noble aristocratic warrior. He also acts as a gaze object. Archeth is a lesbian and half Kiriath. She is perhaps the coolest character out of the three protagonists. Egar is the most typical, being what you would expect from a steppe nomad. But he is attracted to civilization and wishes to return to it.

I also like his usage of science fictional tropes in a fantasy setting, but still keeping it Epic Fantasy. There are explanations for what the Kiriath and the Dwenda do, but it is far beyond the Human characters’ ability to understand.

My biggest beef with the narrative is that while Ringil and Archeth make sense as protagonists and fit seemlessly into the Coming Epic Struggle, Egar does not fit so smoothly. Egar, a very interesting character, only gets about less than ten chapters. Ringil gets (or stars/ features in) over half the chapters with Egar and Archeth sharing the other half every other second chapter (until the climax where Gil and Archeth switch off). And I’m not counting the two chapters that Poltar gets out of Egar’s section. To me, it feels arbitrary that Egar joins in the First Skirmish (it is in fact Deus Ex Machina).

Another problem I have with the narrative is the relationship (spoiler alert!) between Ringil and Seethlaw (the book’s main antagonist). Even though we are not told how long they travel to Ennishmin, their relationship (which is sexual) does not get much exploration. I don’t know if this is Morgan being okay with gay sex but unsure about gay relationships, or if this is more to do with Ringil’s character and a miscue in Seethlaw’s characterization.

Another issue, a somewhat minor one, is that there is a mild case of Trilogyitis. While the novel has a nice climax, the cliffhanger is a little weird and I would have liked to see more done with Egar’s problems back home.

In all, I enjoyed this novel and plan to buy it when I get around to it. The Steel Remains is not for everyone. There is a lot of violence, sex, and non heteronormativity. If you desire one of the crop of New Epic Fantasy, this is the novel for you. Be aware, there are two more novels to come, so you may want to wait for the end of the series. Or you could always reread.

Are you ready for some Football predictions? (part 4)

It’s Tuesday, and that means it’s time for my final installment of regular season predictions for this NFL season. Don’t you put these out on Friday you ask? Yes, but this week I’ve decided to move this up to Today, and Friday I will post my playoff and Super Bowl predictions. This week I am doing the AFC and NFC West divisions. A popular saying is you always save the best for last, but honestly, I decided to save the worst for last. Remember to check Friday for my playoff and Super Bowl picks and predictions.

AFC West:

San Diego Chargers

The San Diego Chargers have been kings of this division in recent years. They posses a very high powered offense, with a very stout defense to boot. My complaints with this team really lie more with character issues rather than on the field ability. This team believes they are on that elite level, but when you reign over one of the weakest divisions, it’s pretty easy to get over confident, as evidenced by there recent playoff history. They will almost certainly win this division, but how far they go in the playoffs rests on them checking the egos at the coin toss.

Oakland Raiders

Oakland second? Really? Yes, for a couple valid reasons. First, they now have an experienced quarterback with a chip on his shoulder, not an overweight, over privileged bum..(too harsh?). Secondly, they do have one of the stronger defenses in the NFL, who can play with just about any team in the NFL. Third, and this is just my opinion, I believe this year is the year they decide to quit being a punch line on Sportscenter. Couple all this with the weakness of this division, and I believe they can come in second in this division. I won’t go as far as to say playoffs this year, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it did happen.

Denver Broncos

Denver comes in third, if only for this reason, they are better than Kansas City. Simply put, Denver is relying on a guy at quarterback who has been up and down his entire pro career. Granted, he did have a decent season last year, but he was also throwing to Brandon Marshall. And I won’t even bother going into detail about the obnoxiously early draft pick they used for Tim Tebow, or how I think he is really only a great college quarterback, and that he probably won’t become a good pro quarterback, or the idea that his character makes him a better player in some people’s minds,  no I won’t go into detail about any of that. Denver finishes the season with more questions than answers, and more losses than wins.

Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City has seemingly been rebuilding for quite some time now. They won’t win this division, or make a lot of progress in regards to wins or losses, but I give them two, maybe three years and the right personnel moves to at least be relevant in this division. The foundation is there, they just need to add more skill position players for Matt Cassell to throw to, tighten up the offensive line, and a  few key defensive players, either through the draft or free agency.

NFC West:

San Francisco 49ers

If you like football and you don’t at least respect this year’s 49ers team, throw away your TV. and take up knitting. To me, this team is football, they aren’t  pretty or flashy, they simply punch you in the face for an hour. My only concern for this team is the Quarterback position, but the flashes I saw from Alex Smith last season at least quell those suspicions. With most of the skill position players returning to the same offensive scheme from last season, I feel this offense has the potential to be explosive. I’m not going to mention the defense, simply because they are one of the stoutest defenses in all of football. This division is crumbling, and San Fran is the only team I see getting out this season.

Arizona Cardinals

Speaking of crumbling, we have the Arizona Cardinals. Kurt Warner retired, Boldin is now a Raven, and Matt Lienart is now the starting quarterback. This guy is definitely the definition of great college quarterback. So far, he has not done anything resembling his former glory days at USC, and I honestly don’t believe he ever will. They still have good quality players, and one of the top receivers in the NFL in Larry Fitzgerald, but I just see to many weak points for this team to even contend for a wildcard spot this season.

Seattle Seahawks

Oh Seattle, have the mighty have fallen. The once dominators of this division have been relegated to at or near the bottom of this division for some time now, and this season won’t be any different. The pieces just don’t seem to fall in place for this like they have in the past. I see rebuilding and retooling for at least a few more seasons. They can eventually get back to there previous winning ways, but it’s going to take some time.

St. Louis Rams

Finally we have come to the end of the line, literally. The Rams have a lot of work to do. Hell, they have a lot of work to do just to get off the bottom of the NFL ladder. Sorry St. Louis, this is not the year, but hey, there’s always The Cardinals…I hear Pujols is having another good season.

A Brief Review of Cowboy Bepop: The Movie

A few days ago, I watched Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (also known as Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door), and I decided to give it a brief review.

The movie takes places sometime between Edward’s joining the crew (after “Jammin’ with Edward) and Edward’s departure (in the epidsode “Hard Luck Woman”). The film is set on Mars a few days before Halloween. A former soldier named Vincent has obtained a nano bioweapon and plans to use it on the population during the Halloween festivities. As with many episodes of Cowboy Bebop, the crew of the Bebop are accidentally pulled into the case.

I enjoyed the movie immensely and would recommend it to everyone. I liked the voice actiong and feel that all of the major characters had enough screen time save Jet, who I feel is inexplainably left out as a major player.

Jet is solely present to scowl at the others and to cobble together a makeshift air corps to aid in foiling the Vincent’s schemes. Edward gets quite a bit of screen time (in the series itself, she is grossly underutilized) with many of the film’s humorous scenes given to her. Faye is also nicely spot lighted although she disappears for stretches. The true focus of the film is Spike. While the film has nothing to do with his past, he is given a possible love interest in Electra, some enjoyable expository scenes, and two excellent fight scenes with Vincent.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie takes place on Morroccan St. when Spike is trying to dig up information. The character of Rashid is a trip. I love the cigarette lighter grenade and the roundabout conversation. Great stuff.

I also love the concluding fight on the Eifel Tower-like “bridge to heaven.” The entire sequence is very well done. Particularly the fight and the butterflies.

I have some problems with the film however. The possible romance between Spike and Electra comes off as a bit unbelievable for those familiar with the series. I dislike Jet’s lack of presence. And then there is a whopper of a problem.

What is Vincent after? Why is he doing this? This is never explained in the film (although I don’t think that it needs explaining). Something about it seemed forced, in my opinion.

On the whole, a very good movie that largely kept me on the edge of my seat.

Ridiculously Late Review: Avatar (Part Two)

Last weekened, my brother and I watched Avatar for the firt time. I won’t bore you with the basic plot as most of you should probably know it. Despite my expectations (I was expecting Titanic in space), I am surprised to say that I like this film. Or at least the last hour or so.

Avatar starts off slow and shaky, and it is not until midway to closer to the end that the film begins to pick up and actually finds its rthym. While I don’t think Cameron focused too long on any one aspect of the film, I just feel that the first half is too slow and rather dull.

My biggest issue with the film comes from the world building. I’m a whyporn kind of guy, so I like the explanations (even if it comes off as stupid). That said, I have several issues.

I feel that the depiction of Earth as overcrowded, dystopic, and corporatist is certainly cliché by now (particularly since a corporation run future seems to be everyone’s favorite bugaboo). I just find it hard to believe (even in a hundred fifty years) that a single corporation (even with multigovernment backing) could pull together the resources to exploit a planet light years away and hire a small mercenary army.

Speaking of this, the whole reason for being on Pandora is rather ludicrous. Unobtanium? Please, that is just dumb. A much better reason would be if the humans came to Pandora to colonise the place as a new home (with the attendant exploitation). Otherwise, it begs the question, what the hell does unobtanium do that makes it so valuable?

Another beef I have with the film is the Na’vi. In conversation with my brother, I came to the conclusion that for the story Cameron wanted to write work, it had to focus on aliens with a Native American flair. I accept that, I don’t think it could really work any other way. But Pandora is a large place (not as big as Earth but still large), and one would expect that (much like on Earth) there would be some cultural or civilizational diversity. What would a Na’vi equivalent of the Roman Empire look like? Or even a Na’vi Aztecs? Granted, this issue is endemic to much of science fiction as alien cultures are pared down to a “global constant.” It annoys me, but it is what it is.

I also agree with my brother (and several other critics) when they point out the problem inherent in Jake Sully, a human white male (even if he is handicapped), saving the Native Other. This is another typical problem with popular depictions of Native resistence to exploitation. Often a sympathetic (and often the protagonist) member of the exploiter class will find commonality with the opressed and “go native” to help them survive. This is exactly what Sully does in a big way (he becomes Na’vi). Is it rascist? Yes, it is, and it is endimic to this type of story telling.

Now for what works.

The visuals are amazing. So pretty and well rendered. Often, it is the real-life actors who look fake compared to the CGI. That is an accomplishment.

While I am not too pleased with the world building, I have to say that I enjoy the plot of the movie immensely. While I wish it had gone into more details, I really like it.

Avatar is a great film, not the greatest and certainly does not live up to its hype, but amaizing anyway. While from my comments above, I should dislike the movie, most of the problems I have do not take away from the enjoyment factor. Some of it is frustrating and unimaginative, but it is a good movie.

Ridiculously late Review: Avatar (part 1)

Welcome to a little collaboration we here at Nerd Redefined like to call “Ridiculously Late Reviews”. The premise is simple, both contributors write a review about the same topic, the twist being it will generally be something that has been out for a really long time. For this, the inaugural edition, we have chosen Avatar. I will begin, and SFtheory1 will weigh in a little later in the day.

If I had one word to describe Avatar, it would be incredible. The ego-genius that is James Cameron has once again delivered a fantastic journey to movie lovers, by once again I am obligated to mention Titanic, even though I thoroughly despise it. I bring up Titanic because it was the highest grossing film of all time, also directed by Cameron.  That title now belongs to Avatar, and I feel more deservedly so, because Avatar was a far superior story to the love story on a big ass boat premise he used in Titanic. Avatar had a love story yes, but the timeframe for Avatars’ love story was much longer and further developed than the uber clichéd love story that developed in Titanic. Also, Avatars’ obvious environmental plot was so well done, it overshadowed the love story elements. Couple this with the fantastic CGI work done, and mix in the intense battle sequences, this movie was practically perfect. I did say practically, because we all know nothing is absolutely perfect.

Avatar did have some negatives, as scarce as they may be, but they are there. My first compliant, which is the biggest, is the obligatory “human warrior hero”. I understand that Jake Sully was the primary character, but did he really have to “save” the Navi? I understand why they chose to do it that way, I just would have liked to have seen the Navi win the battle more on there own, with less involvement from the humans. Also, I don’t know if James Cameron used all his creative juices up, or he just got lazy, but to call the mineral being mined unobtanium, to me, just felt like an easy way out. I mean, you can create an entire planet, filled with blue natives with there own unique language, and you call the mineral unobtanium? And finally, even though this is not a negative toward the movie, James Cameron has apparently announced plans for a trilogy. I feel this is a very ill-conceived idea, simply because a sequel is supposed to be better than the first installment. Does he honestly believe he can do better? By this I mean, even if he makes the best sequel moviegoers have ever seen, it will still have to make more money to be considered better by some standards. I have no doubt James Cameron believes he can make a billion dollar sequel, but would moviegoers embrace a sequel the way they did with this movie?

All in all, Avatar is definitely a must see, must buy for the movie collection. On my top movies of all time Avatar definitely ranks in the top 10, combining suspense, tragedy, love and redemption into an amazing piece of cinema.

Are you ready for some football predictions? (part 3)

Welcome back for round three of my 2010/2011 NFL season predictions. Next week I will be doing the AFC and NFC Wet divisions, so that should be interesting. This week though, as promised, the AFC and NFC North divisions. Also, in two weeks I will be wrapping up my predictions with the playoff and Super Bowl picks, so let Vegas know in two weeks you’ll be putting down some major money. And finally, this Tuesday I am going to give my take on the actions of two certain athletes that will remain nameless until then. Now let’s get to the predictions.

AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens

I have the Baltimore Ravens winning this division, simply because I have little faith in the rest of the division. Also, the Ravens have made significant progress on the offensive side of the ball, and even though that defense has definitely  lost a step, I believe they are good enough to win the close games, particularly within the division. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Ravens went 12-4 or 8-8, but I just have more faith in them as a team then I do for any others in this division.

Cincinnati Bengals

Picking up Terrell Owens is a smart move. The Bengals picking up T.O., in my opinion, isn’t. Yes I have seen the interviews that he and Chad Ochocinco have had together, and I watched the Hall of Fame game, and I’ve been told by many people to wait until the season starts. But I honestly don’t believe they will be able to share the spotlight in Cincinnati long enough to win this division. A playoff run is definitely not out of the question, because whatever problems those two may cause, the rest of the team is pretty solid. There are two wildcard slots, I believe the Bengals will fight for one of them.

Pittsburgh Steelers

This one will be short, sorry Steelers fans. Ben Rottenburger is suspended at least four games, there is no question about that. Byron Leftwitch is presumably the starter, and they traded away the number one receiver to the Jets. I just see too many issues surrounding this team to be any  sort of contender this year.

Cleveland Browns

And that brings us to the Cleveland Browns. I’m also going to keep this one short. I see improvements being made, and progress towards the future, but this is not the year, sadly to say, since Cleveland has already been through so much…

NFC North:

Green Bay Packers

Green Bay, Wisconsin has got to be one the smallest of the NFL cities, but there is no denying the loyalty they show towards the beloved Packers. I believe they will have plenty to cheer for this upcoming season, as I have them winning this division. They are the most complete TEAM in this division, and were only two wins or so away from the division last year, despite Aaron Rodgers spending more time on his back then a dead fish. I only see improvements from Green Bay this year, so I am putting them back at the top of this division.

Minnesota Vikings

Which brings me quite nicely to the Minnesota Vikings. An offseason filled with will he or won’t he, oh yeah of course he will, he texted retirements, no he didn’t, etc. etc. And of course, just like the majestic groundhog, he saw his teammates beg, and so he must return for one? More season. The receiving corps is slightly depleted while Percy Harvin deals with medical issues, and Adrian Peterson isn’t looking like the best running back in the league. Couple this with all the other intended drama, and I barely see a wildcard team.

Chicago Bears

I feel like Chicago is going to turn some heads this year. With the additions on offense and defense, and the mad scientist himself, Mike Martz, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears were contending for a wildcard spot this year. And there is a real possibility that they may not be as good on the field as they are on paper, but as they say, only time will tell.

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions won a total of two games last season. I believe they will win at least five, and for that team, it is an improvement. They still have a long way to go to be relevant in the NFL, let alone this division.

Thoughts on “The Invasion of Pain” Arc in Naruto

I just finished up a marathon Naruto reading session (four volumes in two days- 45 on Thursday and 46-48 on Friday). These volumes cover the story arc known as “The Invasion of Pain.” For those of you who do not know of Naruto or who only watch the anime and have not gotten too far into the series, I will give a brief summary of what happens. Pain, the leader of the Akatsuki, attacks Konoha in full force seeking to capture Naruto, who has gone to the Toads to learn sage jutsu. After Pain destroys Konoha, Naruto returns and defeats Pain. On the whole, I like the arc, but there are some serious problems that I have as well. Problems that seriously damage the story.

To be clear, given that Naruto is a Japanese manga and I am not Japanese or as knowledgeable about Japanese culture and history as I would like, I will flat out and say that my opinions, my reading of Naruto should be taken with a grain of salt. I have written a previous critical work on Japanese Literature (Kawabata’s Thousand Cranes) and I found that one as equally problematic to write given my lack of knowledge (in depth) of Japan. I have taken in Intro to Japanese Culture while I was an undergrad, but I feel that that is not adequate (particularly given we did not cover manga or Japanese popular culture). Now that my advisory message is out of the way, I will tackle four aspects of “The Invasion of Pain” that bugs me. They are: Hinata’s Confession, Pain, Naruto’s Answer, and The Fourth Hokage Reaction.

What gets me about Hinata’s confession of love to Naruto when she sacrifices herself to help him is that she apologizes for her selfishness. What? How is that selfish? Hinata risks her life to save the one she loves, and she apologizes for her selfishness. That makes no sense. Yes, Hyuga Hinata is bashful, shy, and unsure of herself. But still, that boggles my mind. I have to wonder if that is perhaps an element of storytelling, derived from Japanese culture, that one not as familiar with Japanese culture as one would like would not pick up on. But it bugs me.

Pain. Pain is, for my money, a terrible villian. He is rather like Magneto in that he has a noble cause- to end the warfare that plagues the Shinobi World. But here is the kicker, in order to do that, he plans on creating a doomsday weapon to destroy whole countries. Insane, right? And Pain is full of bullshit. The destruction of Konoha has more to do with personal revenge than it does with any lofty goal. He, much like Uchiha Sasuke, feels pain and hatred for the wrongs done to him by Konoha. And given the fact that he has the power equivalency of a nuclear weapon, he can use that destructive capability. There in lies the problem of Pain, he is given too much credibility when in actual fact, he is just a psychopath trying to make the world suffer with him. So no, he is no different from Hidan or Deidara or Madara.

This leads me to my beef with Naruto himself. He seems shocked, saddened, and disgusted with himself when Pain challenges him for a response. Beyond the fact that Pain is clearly insane (and stupid), why even argue with someone like that? Yes, almost all battles or fights in Naruto has some form of philosophical element inserted to it. Pain represents peace through destruction, through pain and fear. Naruto represents talking and understanding through commonality. Naruto is right from the beginning that nothing Pain says, no lame argument or excuse, can justify his actions. Even if Konoha is guilty of what he claims (and that is extremely suspect), then should the citizens and present generation be held responsible for what their parents or grandparents did? The answer is no, but for Pain, yes.

My real beef with Naruto’s answer to Pain is what he comes up with. To me, it comes off as utter bullshit. He went through all of that to come up with “Never Give Up Hope!” and Nagato (the real Pain) suddenly realizes that he is wrong and resurects everyone he has killed. That is just extremely poor and a cop out. Those who died should have stayed dead, to be honest. There should have been more consequences.

Finally, I utterly loathed the conversation between Naruto and his father, Namikaze Minato, the Fourth Hokage. In basically a chapter, Naruto meets his father’s spirit and reconciles with him and understands some things. I loath that. I think it would have been better, far better, had Naruto given his father more of a beating than the single punch. There is a lot to answer for, in my mind, that never gets answered. It seems that Naruto has to forgive, forget, and accept. That he should just do what everyone tells him to do and never change. I dislike that in a character. Personally, I would have liked to see Naruto just become the Nine-Tails. That would have been interesting.

Anyway, despite the flaws of “The Invasion of Pain,” I still like Naruto. It is what it is. And it forms a background, a spring board. Perhaps, as one of those seemingly never ending series, Naruto is just showing its age.