DIC: Series Of Your Childhood

I am a huge fan of the animated series Mysterious Cities of Gold, it is my favourite programme of ALL time and was a formative part of my childhood; single handedly igniting my interest in anime, manga, South and Central American cultures and synthesizer music (It's why I love Jarre, Vangelis and Oldfield).

In my mancave I have a MCOG medallion, an original cel, a French book discussing the making of (even though I haven't studied French since my GCSE's 20 years ago) and a model of the golden condor. The animation was created by DIC and legendary creators Haim Saban and Jean Chalopin, who in their time created Ulysses 31, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, M.A.S.K and Inspector Gadget.

Now, a new documentary is seeking to be crowd-funded to explore their world and find out about the origins and development of the studio. I am SO on board with this as anything that delves behind the making process of some of the finest animation of my childhood deserves further exploration.

In their own words:

We have started with the distribution of leaflets in mailboxes. About 100 people worked full time. One day, we received an order to create a cartoon, Bernard Deyries joined us and we started to work on the animation. We had a company that was based in Tours and then in Paris. One day, we felt like creating series just like big companies. We started by making a creation that was “Ulysses 31”, which he presented to France 3. They accepted the idea and Jean Chalopin said:" there are not enough people to do this in France". He went to Japan and came across a Japanese company looking for a way to get into Europe. One day, Jean Chalopin told me: "I will go to the United States." I said: “You’re crazy! You're not going to beat the Americans on their own turf." Well! I was wrong. In cinema as in television, going to Hollywood is always a dream, which until now and before our company existed, has been unattainable to almost all Europeans. We created a different way of working, which mixes the American and the French systems with Japanese special effects. We imported, for example with “The Littles” or with “Inspector Gadget”, a trait, which was very different; it did not exist in the American market.

I’m going to help fund this documentarty, why don’t you?

Huge Manga Exhibition Starts This Weekend at British Museum

The British Museum is one of my favourite places in the world; not only is it a magnificent building but it houses some of the worlds greatest treasures. I go there every month at least for a couple of hours to take in the wonders of the ancient world.

On another note, I’ve been a HUGE manga fan for about 30 years now. Back when I got into it in the late 80s, manga and anime were not as prevalent as it is now in the West, so to see its emergence and cultural impact has been fascinating for me. When I started this blog wayyy back in 2013 my very first post was an influence map and manga features quite heavily.

The influence map I created way back in 2013.

The influence map I created way back in 2013.

The British Museum is about to run the biggest manga exhibition in the world, outisde of Japanand I am so there for it! The exhibition runs from 23rd May to 26th August 2019. In their own words:

Immersive and playful, the exhibition will explore manga’s global appeal and cultural crossover, showcasing original Japanese manga and its influence across the globe, from anime to ‘cosplay’ dressing up. This influential art form entertains, inspires and challenges – and is brought to life like never before in this ground-breaking exhibition.

I hope to be going this weekend and will provide all the photos, details and review. I can’t wait!

LINK- British Museum Manga Exhibition Tickets

LINK- Good Grief, Charlie Brown Exhibition Review

Posy Simmonds: Retrospective at House of Illustration

Writer and illustrator Posy Simmonds has been a comic artist and graphic novelist for over 50 years. Her works have garnered much praise and have even been turned into an Indie movie (Tamara Drewe). In celebration of her impressive achievements the House of Illustrations in Kings Cross is running a 4 month exhibition.

The exhibition will run from 24 May to 15 Sep 2019, 10:00am - 5:30pm and will feature lots of work covering the span of her career as well as offering an insight into her creative process. I hope to visit soon and will, of course, write a review.

Posy Simmonds Exhibition at House of Illustration

Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 6- Comic Review

This volume is an important one as it brings together most of the plot points about Alita and Erica and the socio-ploitocal history of Mars. For Alita fans, the true origins of Alita's 'birth' is revealed and we find out who her 'mother' is. In true Kishiro fashion it is anything but normal as the rug is swept from under as the expected royal lineage is not accurate. Alita’s birth does have parallels with many virgin birth stories, however I don't know of many miracle sprogs birthed from cancerous martian tumours. The shock of the reveal is grotesque in true Cronenbergian sense but with a dash of Kishiro nihilism.

Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 6

The rest of the graphic novel moves at a cracking pace and we see the end of Baron Muster and Lady Kagura as they destroy each other in the most hideous fashion. This graphic novel series is dark and continues to get darker but I do hope that we move to the present and see what the endgame is for Alita and friends.

There is a long wait until the next volume releases near the end of the year so get comfy.

LINK- Alita: Battle Angel- Film Review

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 5- Comic Review

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 4- Comic Review

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 3- Comic Review

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 2- Comic Review

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 1- Comic Review

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: And So It Ends

LINK- The Moomins 80's Soundtrack Vinyl Review

LINK- Inspector Gadget Retro Soundtrack Review

LINK- Ulysses 31 Retro Soundtrack Review

LINK- The Mysterious Cities of Gold Retro Soundtrack Review

Moominvalley- Complete Series Review

I have a deep love for the Moomins as many of you may know. I've discussed the Moomins multiple times before, either when talking about the creepy 80s stop motion animation, the recent vinyl soundtrack release or my visit to Moomin World in Finland.

Moomin World was a great place to visit.

Moomin World was a great place to visit.

What many people may not know is that my love for the Moomins is all pretty recent. When the Japanese animated show came out in the early 90s I was already too old for the show and was busy being an edge lord  with the X Men cartoon. No, my love for the Moomins came in the mid 2000s with the release of the comics. Tove Jansson's comics were published in the 1950s in the Evening Standard and it was here that the characters became popular, however the collected volumes weren't released until 2006. As a comic collector I noticed the first 4 volumes on sale and decided to buy the set and it was here that the whimsical stories with heart and street philosophy entered my life. I fell in love with these hippo-like creatures that spouted aphorisms and enjoyed the simple things in life:

“I only want to live in peace, plant potatoes and dream!”
 – Moomintroll (Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip - Book One)

“The world is full of great and wonderful things for those who are ready for them.”
 – Moominpappa (Moominpappa at Sea)

“You must go on a long journey before you can really find out how wonderful home is.”
 – Snufkin (Comet In Moominland)

“When one’s dead, then one’s dead. This squirrel will become earth all in his time. And later on still there’ll grow trees from him, with new squirrels skipping about in them. Do you think that’s so very sad?”
 – Too-Ticky (Moominland Midwinter)

When a comic and book series speaks such profound truths, how can one not fall in love with the world.
With the Easter release of 13 Moominvalley episodes I had an opportunity to enjoy the show with my family; my two young daughters and my wife. They knew the characters from the various items strewn around the house, the children's books and our visit to Moomin World but had never seen the show so this was exciting for them. So how was it? Well, the CGI reinvention was attractive enough but not remarkable. The lush vistas of Moominvalley and the crystal clear rivers and lakes are wonderfully realised in computer animation but I do always feel that there is something lost in translation when a comic undergoes a CGI movie transformation, although the recent Charlie Brown movie did have texture and expressive lines to bring those characters and world alive. Here, it's quite difficult to bring large white hippopotami to life as they are quite a basic shape and have tiny mouths at the side of their face.

The voice acting is very strong and Taron Egerton shines as young Moomin troll. Matt Berry voices Moomin Papa but with his distinct voice and cadence I found it hard to take his character seriously, he does pompous and self-aggrandising well but does subtlety less so. The music is sublime, all slow acoustic sounding stuff with lush vocal from Tom Odell, Mo, First Aid Kit and many more acoustic musicians that suits the mood of the show well.

Overall, the show isn't going to set the world alight but it is a slow, meditative half hour of animation with interesting stories to tell; they are heartfelt and gently affecting.

The highlights for me were episode 5, The Secret of the Hattifatteners and episode 10, Ghost Story. The Secret of the Hattifatteners is quite spooky and sets up an interesting mystery and the finale really does leave you in awe and wonder while Ghost Story is sweet and the conclusion of that is a bit of a tear-jerker, when the credits rolled I was blinking quickly as it really got to me.

Moominvalley is a slow, meditative half hour of animation that is a tonic in this golden age of media. With the hyper-kinetic energy of other shows often being an assault on the sense, Moominvalley is a slow paced oasis of calm. It is a sweet and wonderful show that can be enjoyed by all the family.

Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire- Book Review

For those who may be unfamiliar with the name, Akala, real name Kingslee James McLean Daley, has been a very vocal public speaker and fierce intellectual for many years. He has been discussing such issues as class, racism, the Wests foreign policy and the legacy of empire through his music. So far so obvious for rap and poetry, but what has made Akala stand out as a voice for this generation has been the statistically watertight, factually driven discussions which have made people stop and think about what is often stated as fact in the media and public domain as a whole. Most recently, his appearances on Question Time and Good Morning Britain, where he disarmed and impressed the normally bullish Piers Morgan, garnered him much respect and praise. And so the release of his book, Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire, has been hotly anticipated. So, how does it fare? Does it live up to expectations and raise the debate about empire, racism and its legacy?

The book has an interesting structure in that it is part autobiographical with personal events placed in context of key historical facts and data to provide contexts interspersed with polemic, a call to arms to get knowledgeable about key issues and facts. His message is similar to Russell Brand but where Brand often strays into florid flights of fancy with truthiness (things that sound true but without factual basis), Akala is laser focused in breaking down the issues of racism and legacy of Empire with precision facts and documentation to back him up.

Akala speaks about his early life and we learn about the overt racism he experienced at school and at the hands of the police with their racist profiling of stop and search. He breaks down the straw man arguments often used against people who try to discuss race in Britain and I identified many of them from personal experience:

If we don't talk about it (racism) it will go away.
Stop playing the race card.
Why can't you get over it? It's all in the past.
You have a chip on your shoulder.
Why don't you just go back to where you came from?
Well, why don't you go back to Africa then? (even if you are from the Caribbean)
You should be grateful that you have free speech.
You just hate Britain, you are anti-British.
But what about (insert any injustice here)
You're obsessed with identity politics.
You are trying to blame me for what my ancestors did.
Stop making excuses.
You just blame the West for all of the world's problems.
I don't see colour.
It's not about race.

He talks about his 'rise' through the socio-economic classes and how he has still been stopped and searched twice in the last 5 years, because the police don't believe he could drive such an expensive car or live in the 'posh' area that he does now.

In the chapter Linford’s lunchbox, he writes a powerful critique of the British narrative around black sporting achievement. Instead of focusing on Linford Christie's gold medal win at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 the conversation was turned to his impressive package and eugenics. Much was made about how most 100 metre runners who had won were black and there was even a eugenics based video shown before the finals apparently. What does this say about the portrayal of people of colour in British media? The fact that Raheem Sterling is calling out the racist media shows that this is still going on and has never really gone away.

He shows how in our apparently post-colonial society there is a struggle for people to identify what being English or British means. There is historical amnesia in Britain, which is perpetuated by the powers that be and the education system, that the British empire was benevolent and did much good for the world. The fact that it participated and perpetuated the slave trade and theft of people and goods on an industrial scale is ignored to push the idea that it brought democracy and administration across the world and ended slavery through the man of destiny, William Wilberforce.

Akala also confronts the arguments 'for' slavery, the oft stated 'fact' that Africans were selling their “own people” seems to provide a justification for some. He gets particularly pointed with historians like Niall Ferguson, who say that Britain should feel good about its empire and the fact that its historical conduct was better than that of the Belgians or the Nazis. Akala tears this down by arguing, “It’s true, but it’s a shit boast.'' Godwin's Law asserts that if you mention the Nazis in a conversation to make a point then you lose the argument... He's not wrong is he? To say '' Atleast we weren't as bad as the Nazi's'' should not be a badge of honour or a statement of merit.

The fact that over the past few decades the British government have systematically destroyed records, files and any accounts of its atrocities and crimes committed during its empire show that Operation Legacy has tried to purposely keep private the evil things done in the name of empire. They say history is written by the victors and this is certainly the case here; it was written, rewritten and edited by the British government, which is why there is seemingly a historic amnesia about Britain's empire and what it contributed, especially during World War II.

Akala investigates the British foreign policy and discusses how many wars are still being fought by Britain, and this is being supported by propaganda from the British media. In our apparently post-colonial Britain, our foreign policy is sold as us being the policeman of the world alongside the USA and advocates for democracy, yet we have invaded many countries for 'humanitarian' reasons, for citations see Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and much much more.
Akala argues that Britain still feels like it should rule the world, abetted by the USA. The Anglo-American foreign policy is a danger to the world and the constant attacks against China, Russia and India are a reflection on the waning of power in the West.

Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire is an eloquent and articulate read, it places in context much of the what has occurred in the past but also its profound impact in the current world. Akala wants people to get armed with facts and move forward but with Brexit and the current wave of populism he isn't too optimistic. The book is an essential read and will impact the way many will see current race relations and foreign policy. It is a high recommend.

Thunderforce 4 Soundtrack on Vinyl Arrives

I’m a huge fan of DataDiscs and their video game soundtrack releases. I have bought many of their vinyl OSTs including Okami, Golden Axe, Panzer Dragoon and all three Streets of Rages. When they announced that they would be releasing the Thunder Force 4 soundtrack I was beyond excited. The game is one of my all time favourites and the soundtrack is amazing, one of the best on the Megadrive in my opinion. I pre-ordered it when the link went up a couple of weeks ago and it arrived today. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet but will write a review once I have. In the meantime, here are some pictures I’ve taken of this impressive looking 3 disc vinyl collection.

New Moominvalley Soundtrack on Vinyl

I have a love for the Moomins as many of you may know. I've discussed the Moomins multiple times before, when talking about the 80s stop motion animation, the recent classic 80s animation vinyl soundtrack release, the exhibition at the Southbank Centre or when I mentioned visiting Moomin World in Finland.

With the new Moominvalley show premiering on Sky One on Good Friday this Easter I am super excited and today, I received the new vinyl soundtrack. I’ve only listened to it a couple of times and love it. I’ll write a review once I’ve listened to it more.

Uncharted 4- Video Games As Art

Many games have claimed to be like the movies but few can claim to be as proficient in the art of building a gaming experience that mimics the thrills of a blockbuster summer action movie than Naughty Dog. With the Uncharted series it has perfected the video game blockbuster. I only got onto the Uncharted bandwagon in the PS4 generation as last generation I had the Xbox 360 and Wii U. However, I am making up for lost time and after completing the first 3, moved onto the 4th and final (so they say) of the series. Out of all the Uncharted games it is the most movie-like and has twists and turns like the best Indiana Jones movie. I’m sad to be saying goodbye to Nathan Drake but do feel that after 4 games (not counting the portable one) it probably is time for the series to be put to pasture to age gracefully.

AER: Memories of Old- Video Games As Art

AER: Memories of Old is a game that owes much to Ico, Journey and Rime in terms of its gameplay style but what sets it apart is its gorgeous, low-poly aesthetic. Travelling the world in my 4 hour or so playthrough I was constantly stopping to take screenshots of gorgeous vistas, almost painterly in their style.

The game is a beautifully meditative experience and it nails the flying aspect, as your avatar changes form into a bird to explore the stunning world. Check out my screenshots below.

Lumberjanes- Ongoing Comic Series Review

The ongoing Lumberjanes comic series follows the misadventures of Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley, five plucky young girls as they attend the Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpets camp for hardcore lady types. The girls are trying to earn their pun-ny Lumberjane badges, like the Naval Gazing Badge, Pungeon Master Badge and the Everything Under the Sum Badge… but what sets this series aside from the usual ‘boys’ own adventure’ stuff, apart from the gender (obviously), is the weird supernatural element. The woods surrounding the camp feel like they're just a stones throw from Twin Peaks and just a hop, skip and jump from the island in Lost. In this land a Bear Woman, ancient Greek gods and unicorns rub shoulders with a whole plethora of colourful characters that roam free, bringing this wonderfully eclectic place to life. It all makes sense in a strangely logical way as the world is a tapestry of story and character within this world-building tableau, and yes I'm aware that sounded incredibly pretentious!

I have the complete graphic novel series so far, including the Gotham Academy crossover.

The story of the girls, who meet in the camp and create a bond where they support and love each other, banding together as they face trials and tribulations such as bear-women and vampires is awesome. The stories themselves are often simple standalone adventure tales but there are elements of continuity as each episode has repercussions for all that follows. The tales have a lot of heart and are touching, something I've been seeing a lot more of in 'children's comics' over the past few years.

The series is very girl heavy, from the writers to the artist to the characters, the whole package is one wonderful group of girls making a positive and life affirming comic series. Even if you're not a girl though you will still find much to love in the 10 graphic novels that exist to date. Featuring people of colour, LGBTQ+ and other inclusive groups Lumberjanes is a force for good in this often fractured and jaded world.

Noelle Stevenson (Of the new rebooted She-Ra and the Princesses of Power fame) is no longer head writer, which is a shame as she is a very talented story teller with a strong ear for dialog. All of the volumes she wrote (1-4) were incredible but that doesn’t mean that the stories still aren’t good, just less consistently good. I miss her style and I feel her voice added much to what made the series so unique and outstanding.

I’m a man in my late-30s and even though I’m not the target demographic for the series I still purchase each new graphic novel release with zeal. It is rare for a series to be so kind hearted, open and just gorgeous.  

Uncharted 3: Video Games As Art

The words ‘cinematic’ and ‘epic’ are overused terms, often used to sell you on a game. By using these buzzwords the hope is that the hype will build and interest in the game will pique. Many games have claimed to be like the movies but few can claim to be as proficient in the art of building a gaming experience that mimics the thrills of a blockbuster summer action movie than Naughty Dog. With the Uncharted series it has perfected the video game blockbuster. I only got onto the Uncharted bandwagon in the PS4 generation as last generation I had the Xbox 360 and Wii U. However, I am making up for lost time and completed the first 3. Here’s to the 4th!

Dorothea Tanning Exhibition is a Surreal Delight

The Dorothea Tanning exhibition at the Tate Modern is an excellent one, containing over 100 pieces of work from her 70 year career. I wasn't aware of who Tanning was but the moody trailer sold me on her.

Tanning's art style reminded me of gothic horror and surrealist writings by the works of Fanu, Poe and Danielewski, whilst recalling the themes of David Lynch's filmic work, especially the themes from Twin Peaks. She discussed the dual world dreamlike theme, which played heavily in all her works, but said she didn't know what they meant, only that she painted what came to her. Going through the 5 rooms I was enraptured by her vision, however I especially love her early works, which were inspired by fairy tales and the works of illustrator Gustav Doré. Highlights include: A Little Night Music, Birthday and Self Portrait.

Count Lucanor- Video Games As Art

Count Lucanor is a strange little game. It is an indie title that owes a debt to Zelda, Clock Tower and a smidge of Silent Hill, being a top down light RPG game with creeping dread horror elements. The game is presented in an 8-bit art style but that doesn’t detract from the intriguing story and weird creatures that exist in this world. As a young boy called Hans, you have to explore a spooky castle to find the name of a kobold to gain access to the treasure of Count Lucanor, sounds simple and at 3-4 hours it is, but the journey is well worth having. Some of the images are disturbing, you have been warned.

Google Spotlight Stories Shutters

Google's Spotlight Stories is being shut down. The studio was tasked with bringing innovative storytelling to the masses through VR and in its 6 short years produced some stunning 360 animated short films. Some were visual masterpieces that truly showed the potential of the medium like ‘Back to the Moon,’ whilst others were audio visual synaesthesic delights like ‘Sonaria.’ The best of the bunch in my opinion were ‘Pearl’ and ‘Age of Sail,’ both heartfelt and immersive storytelling experiences.

Google Spotlight

I will be sad to see the studio go as it had so much potential but at least we have these amazing 13 short films to enjoy for free. Give them a try, you won't be disappointed.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt- Complete Show Review

After 51 episodes, spread over 4 seasons, shared over 4 years, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has come to an end. The Netflix exclusive comedy series had some serious pedigree, as well as show creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock we had an impressive writing team who had credits on Friends, SNL, 30 Rock amongst much more, so expectation were sky high. So how was it and is it worth a binge watch?

The story revolves around Kimmy Schmidt and four other women, who are kept in an underground bunker for 15 years by a charismatic doomsday cult leader. Finally freed by the feds the 'Indiana Mole Women' adapt to life in the real world. Kimmy, who was only 14 when she was kidnapped, decides to go to New York and make it there, all whilst trying to keep her past traumas a secret. Over the course of the seasons she meets the self-centred but effervescent wannabe-actor Titus Andromodon, and a tough as old boots, from the streets landlady, Lillian Kaushtupper. The series revolves around the relationships and social dynamics between this odd family, whilst centring on Kimmy adapting to the tough world whilst remaining true to herself.

This sounds really bleak, like something you'd see on Dispatches, Panorama or something similarly po-faced with a gritty grey filter on Channel 4, but it is in the fact one of the funniest, warmest shows ever written with some of the best one liners and characterisations you'll ever see.

I love the enthusiasm of the ensemble cast, Ellie Kempers portrayal of Kimmy, a woman suffering from PTSD, is wonderfully offbeat and nuanced, she has a lot of naivete but has a wide eyed optimism that only really exists in children, before the world crushes it. Titus Andromodon, played wonderfully by Tituss Burgess, could come off as a one note flamboyant gay stereotype but through flashbacks we see his journey and start to understand his selfish behaviour. We see him as a flawed but likeable character who develops empathy and grows through the seasons. Lillian Kaushtupper, the formidable landlady given such a strong personality and Bostonian accent, is played by Carol Kane. Her dalliance with murder, arson, drug running and the free love movement of the 70s gives her a unique perspective on what is happening in her neighbourhood. Divorcee Socialite Jacqueline White, played by Jane Krakowski, is given the biggest character arc. She turns from a money grabbing rich socialite to a Lacota Sioux woman who is proud of her heritage and builds up her own career as a talent agent. She has some of the best one liners in the show and her comedic timing is formidable.

We are living in the darkest timeline and things can seem impossibly bad but through perseverance, optimism and a little humanity we can achieve and live our best life;  this is what The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt shows us. Even though Kimmy is strange, damaged and flawed she's human; she keeps of trying and sees the best in all situations. Like Jessica Day from New Girl, Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation or Eleanor Shelstrop from The Good Place, she's trying to develop and be a better person and that's all any one of us can hope to do.

Through this oddball cast, we've been given characters we can get behind, like the cast of Brooklyn 99, Community or even Bob's Burgers. The show isn't all just fluffy stuff, it covers the #MeToo movement, PTSD, social media and the issue with privacy and toxic masculinity. It promotes tolerance, equality and respect, all whilst delivering killer lines and an engaging story arc that keeps you invested.

If you are looking for a show with heart, characters you can root for, a stunning minute to joke ratio and a story arc that matters check out The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, one of the smartest dumb shows available.

British Politics Described Through Video Game Titles

I recently did an article entitiled ‘My Life Described Through Video Game Titles’ and it was pretty well received so I’ve decided to turn my hand to British politics. It’s been a bit of a poo storm if you’ve been watching the news over the past couple of years and, like before, I came up with a whole list whilst going about my business. So without further ado, here’s ‘British Politics Described Through Video Game Titles’.

Fantasy Zone Master System

Brexit being sorted by 29th March 2019

Super Fantasy Zone

Britain being able to get a good deal out of Brexit.

Streets of Rage

People not being able to get bread or milk easily after Brexit.

Streets of Rage 2

People not being able to get avocados easily after Brexit.

Streets of Rage 3

People realising that the cost of goods has actually gone up and the NHS is not getting the promised £350 million a week.

Super Smash TV

Seeing the smug faces of Farage, Rees Mogg or Johnson on TV.

Hollow Knight

Farage, Rees Mogg and Johnson speaking for the ‘common man.’


Dominic Raab’s time as Brexit Secretary

Land of Illusion

Those Brexiteers who keep stating ‘Britain stood alone in WW2 and will do so again.’

(Ignoring the fact that it had the support of much of the commonwealth)


Gove backstabbing Johnson in the back when running for the Conservative Party leadership contest in 2016.

Moomin Valley Soundtrack

I am beyond excited or the new animated Moomin Valley series, which is due to air over Easter. I have a love for the Moomins as many of you may know. I've discussed the Moomins multiple times before, when talking about the 80s stop motion animation, the recent vinyl soundtrack release and the exhibition at the Southbank Centre. What many people may not know is that my love for the Moomins is all pretty recent. When the Japanese animated show came out in the early 90s I was already too old for the show and was busy being edgy with the X Men cartoon. No, my love for the Moomins came in the mid 2000s with the release of the comics. Tove Jansson's comics were published in the 1950s in the Evening Standard and it was here that the characters became popular, however the collected volumes weren't released until 2006. As a comic collector I noticed the first 4 volumes on sale and decided to buy the set and it was here that the whimsical stories with heart and street philosophy entered my life. I fell in love with these hippo-like creatures that spouted aphorisms and enjoyed the simple things in life.

The new series will have a star studded album and will be released on CD, streaming platforms and on vinyl. I look forward to buying a vinyl album but which one? Now that’s a tough choice!

The track list is below:

















Bizenghast- Complete Series Comic Review

Bizenghast is a gothic manga-influenced comic series written and illustrated by M. Alice LeGrow, who won the chance to pitch the concept after placing in Tokyopop's Rising Stars of Manga competition. The 8 part graphic novel series was published from 2004 to 2012, the final part being released after a lengthy 2 year gap due to complications with the publisher.

I got on the ground floor with the graphic novel in 2004 and got the first 7 as they were released but the final one took me many years to pick up. Due to its small print run and Tokyopop’s financial complications as it wound down its business, the comparative rarity meant that the book was changing hands at ridiculous prices. I remember seeing it for £79 on Amazon second hand and it was a similar situation in other market places. However, I finally managed to get part 8 for a reasonable price (£17) recently and so used this opportunity to revisit the whole series again. So, was it worth the 15 year wait to get closure?

It took me many years but I managed to finish the whole series and complete my collection.

The story is intriguing and typical teen gothic horror fare but with a lolita fashion flourish:
In the mysterious town of Bizenghast a young orphaned teenage girl named Dinah lives with her aunt after the death of her parents. After trespassing in an ancient mausoleum, Dinah is tasked, alongside her friend Vincent, to return each night and free the ghosts within the building. After 10 ghosts are freed Dinah is assisted by tower guardians, Edaniel and Edrear. As the series moves on Dinah realises that there may be more to Bizenghast and its history than meets the eye, and its all tied to the curious Addie Clark and a strange incident that occurred many years ago.

Over the course of the series, there is the typical monster of the week format but the larger narrative arc in novel 3 changes the story and the feel of the story becomes much darker, violent and bloody. The death if a prominent character changes the mood of the series considerably and it becomes a study of death and the effects it can have on the living, covering the 5 stages of grief.

The series is a horror tale told well, with nightmarish creatures that terrify and haunt your dreams softened with beautifully intricate gothic lolita designs. The artwork lurches from stunning to workaday, sometimes feeling distinctly amateurish but the whole Burton-esque vibe is there. The story unfolds well and while in some places it can drag, as a whole it comes together in a suitable spectacular if sombre ending.
The long wait wasn't worth it in my opinion but enjoyed as is, Bizenghast is a solid story told well but with a few pieces of clunky dialogue and pacing issues. It is well worth a read though.

Alita: Battle Angel- Film Review

29 years after the source material first came out, Alita: Battle Angel has finally hit the theatres. I’ve been a HUGE fan of the series since its release in 1990 and over time have waited with bated breath for James Cameron, Mr Terminator/ Aliens/ Titanic/ Avatar to release the film he had optioned for sooo very long. With the success of Avatar, Cameron became too busy and passed the task onto Robert Rodriguez, a great/ good director with a variable success rate. I was concerned when the film was pushed back from its December release date and the trailers, while exciting, had me concerned. The online backlash *sigh* against the size of Alita’s eyes had me concerned that people were sharpening their knives for the film… so with some trepidation I kept away from all review, reports and social media on the film to see it fresh and uninfluenced, and I’m glad I did.

For those not in the know Battle Angel Alita is an ongoing manga comic book series that is a masterful piece of sci-fi. The story tells the dark tale of Alita, a young cyborg girl who is discovered broken but with her brain intact by Dr Daisuke Ido. Ido is delighted with his find and takes Alita to his home and repairs her. Over time there develops a father-daughter bond but Alita has amnesia and is unhappy as she wants to find out more about her mysterious past. Over time she learns that she knows the powerful 'Panzer Kurst' fighting technique and enters the Motorball Tournament, a Running Man/ Rollerball style gauntlet filled with cyborgs and other hideous mechanical marvels.

Over the course of the first 4 graphic novels Alita enters and becomes the champion of Motorball. The other 5 graphic novels see Alita try to live a ‘normal’ civilian life but life has other plans and there are plots to overthrow the floating city and bring equity to the Scrapyard… all pretty heady stuff!

Trying to fit over 1000 pages of comics into 2 hours would not be possible or advisable and so the film covers the first 3 graphic novels. The first 5 minutes of the movie whizz along at a cracking pace and the whole film moves from set-piece to set-piece effortlessly.

The first two series of Alita… clocking in at over 2000 pages easily!

The first two series of Alita… clocking in at over 2000 pages easily!

My heart soared with joy at seeing the scenes I'd imagined in my head for many years play out so spectacularly on the big screen. The scrapyard was bathed in a dirty golden glow as Ido finds Alita's broken body, her head and chest intact. The world of the scrapyard and the mysterious floating city of Zalem is beautifully realised, being one of the best cityscapes since Valarian, Blade Runner 2049 or Ghost in the Shell. The enlarges eyes of Alita drew initial criticism but within the first minute or so they just... blend in. When you have people with cyborg bodies roaming around slightly enlarges eyes on a robot girl seem less jarring, there isn't the uncanny valley that I and many others were worried about.

The fact that the United Republics of Mars - Earth conflict from much of Last Order and Mars Chronicle (the second and third Alita series) is mentioned is a nice inclusion for longtime fans as that’s a pretty deep cut, however it is covered well, as is the Panzer Kunst and Berserker Body. Without heavy exposition the concepts and background are explained, this is good work indeed, especially from a writing team not known for good scripting.

The love story doesn't always work as Rosa Salazar (Alita) is a much stronger actor that Keean Johnson (love interest, Hugo) in this film but the film works for me, not as an apologist for bad manga and anime conversions but generally as a bold sci-fi film. It is the best manga conversion so far and granted the bar was low but as a long time Alita fan (29 years) I was extremely happy with the end result.

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 3- Comic Review

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 2- Comic Review

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 1- Comic Review

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: And So It Ends

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