Asadora! Volume 3 – Manga Review

After reading the first two volumes of Asadora! in one sitting, I was excited to read the third volume of Naoki Urasawa’s latest series. It starts exactly where the second volume ends, with Asa finding the picture of the kaiju that she spotted during the typhoon. This first chapter shows Asa meeting the one who dropped the picture, a trainee biologist, whose mentor was looking for the mysterious Kaiju even before the Typhoon. There meeting is short lived as Asa becomes more focused on a new secret mission that she has to undertake with Kasuga.

Like the first two volumes the main story takes a back seat to some of the more grounded and dramatic elements of the story. There’s an entire sub-plot that’s building about Asa’s friends who want to become singers. One of them has been approached by a talent agency, but they only want her and not the friend. You can tell there’s going to be a rift there. The main action of the story is starting to become more prominent in this volume, but the pieces are still being set into place.

What I really like about Asadora! is that it’s a story about family, and what that actually means and the innocence of childhood. After the typhoon hit, Asa loses most of her family and ends up being looked after Kasuga and a store owner. It’s a makeshift family, and at the same time Asa is holding out hopes that her actual family survived the typhoon.

Overall, volume three isn’t as exciting as the first two which were essentially just setting up the story. With this volume the pace is slowed down and the pieces are being put into place. Naoki Urasawa is a master of writing characters, and it’s because of how great the characters are that makes this such an enjoyable read. Even if the kaiju story is taking a backseat, the historical fiction side of the story is still a brilliant read. I can’t wait to to read more of the series.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ashley

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Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers – Film Review

Director: Akiva Schaffer

Writers: Dan Gregor and Doug Mand

Starring: John Mulaney, Andy Samberg, Will Arnett, Eric Bana, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, J.K. Simmons, KiKi Layne

Rating: ★★★★

The new Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers film is available on Disney Plus and is a real treat for the whole family. It’s a meta-sequel to the original TV series, mixing a wide variety of animation styles as well as live-action. It follows Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (Andy Samberg) as they investigate the kidnapping of their old co-star Monterey Jack (Eric Bana).

On one hand this film is a fairly standard family film, following a good guys vs bad guys story, with a few twists, and a happy ending. Plot-wise it sticks to the tried and tested formula and does a good job at just being that. What makes this film special is that it goes beyond that with the main characters being actors who appeared in the classic animated show Rescue Rangers in the early 90s and are now washed up. Chip is an insurance salesman, while Dale is trying to recapture his success at conventions and through social media. He’s even had surgery to appear computer generated, compared to Chip who hasn’t changed in the thirty or so years since their heyday. This is a world where the characters of animated films live in the real world as well, and it’s filled with fun.

Following in the footsteps of films like The Lego Movie, which director Akiva Schaffer worked on as a producer and lyricist, Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers is filled with references, throwbacks and most importantly cameos galore. It’s absolutely packed to the brim with characters appearing from other shows and films, and half the fun is spotting characters in the background. Unlike last years Space Jam sequel, this doesn’t feel like a showcase for Disney+, instead Schaffer managed to get permission from everywhere to use their characters, with some of them being main characters.

There’s a great couple of scenes in a convention that Dale appears at, with so many characters appearing that your eyes will be glued to the background to spot more. There are also more than enough great jokes to make you laugh, no matter how old you are. It’s one of those children’s films that has enough in it that adults can enjoy it too. The cast are also fantastic as well, straight from the opening narration from Andy Samberg catching you up on the history of the heroes. Seth Rogen also appears, as several characters, and is completely brilliant.

What would have been a standard family film is made so much better with great meta-humour. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a lot more fun than you’d expect and really worth watching. If you have a Disney+ subscription it’s a perfect film for the weekend.

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A Perfect Pairing – Film Review

Director: Stuart McDonald

Writers: Hilary Galanoy and Elizabeth Hackett

Starring: Victoria Justice, Adam Demos, Craig Horner

Rating: ★★1/2

In A Perfect Pairing, Victoria Justice stars as Lola, who quits her job at an LA wine company after having her work stolen by a colleague and travels to Australia in hopes to land her first client and jumpstarting her own company. It’s a by-the-numbers rom-com that does everything exactly as you’d expect it to, without any surprises or anything new being brought to the table but is still entertaining and easy watching.

Lola travels to Australia to catch a potential client, the owner of Vaughn’s Family Wine, at her farm while she’s on vacation, but is instantly turned down, as she doesn’t have any clients on her own. In an attempt to win the boss over, Lola agrees to become a volunteer on the farm to try and prove herself over a few weeks. While on holiday she starts to fall for Max (Adam Demos), who helps manage the farm.

Everything about this film is just fine. The characters, plot, setting, acting – all completely fine. It feels like a made-for-tv rom-com, and that’s pretty much what it is. There aren’t any real perils or struggles for the characters, as everything moves nicely and steadily towards the ending. It’s kind the summer version of another Netflix film from last year, A Castle at Christmas, in that it ticks all the boxes for a rom-com, and is funny and enjoyable while you’re watching it, but there’s just no real spark about it.

A Perfect Pairing is the kind of story that you know every ‘twist’ almost as soon as it starts. It’s completely braindead easy watching that’s good for a Friday night after a week at work, but not something you’ll be sharing with co-workers (or probably even remember watching) when Monday morning comes around. Sometimes that’s all you really want to watch.

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Asadora! – Manga Review

Asadora! is the latest manga from the legendary Naoki Urasawa, my favourite mangaka. It follows Asa, a 12 year old girl from a very large family who doesn’t feel noticed, to the point that she’s kidnapped and is convinced her family won’t even notice. She’s kidnapped by Haruo just as 1959 Isewan Typhoon hits, and they end up surviving the flooding because Asa isn’t home. Haruo isn’t a bad person, he’s just down on his luck after loosing jobs and not having a pilots licence, even though he’s a fantastic pilot and a ‘hero of the skies’ from WW2. While he’s robbing a house for food, Asa notices him, and he mistakes her for the doctor’s daughter and kidnaps her thinking it will lead to riches.

Like anything by Naoki Urasawa, Asadora! is a pure page-turner. I sat down to read one chapter, just to make a start, and then I read two volumes back to back. Urasawa is a master storyteller and Asadore lives up to his long line of excellent stories. It’s nowhere near as dark as something like his Monster series, but there’s still hints of the horrible things people are capable of. Asa is a more hopeful character and there is a great sense of positivity in the first two volumes, even with the dark moments mixed in.

For the most part the story in the first two volumes is set in 1959, before time jumps forward to around the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 late in the second volume, with Asa and Haruo trying to help others during the typhoon. It’s perfect historical fiction that had me hooked instantly. Both Asa and Haruo are excellent characters and completely likable, even if Haruo starts as a villain. There are a few side characters that are filled with personality as well. The historical setting is so great that you forget the book starts with a monster attacking Tokyo in 2020, until the final page of the first volume revisit that element of the story.

Asadora! is still ongoing and I can’t wait to read more. At the moment there are five volumes out in the UK. I’ve got the third one waiting to be read and will be picking up volume 4 and 5 pretty soon afterwards. It’s an amazing story with fantastic characters. Well worth reading.

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The Found Footage Phenomenon – Documentary Review

Directors: Sarah Appleton and Phillip Escott

Writers: Sarah Appleton and Phillip Escott

Features interviews with: Dean Alioto, Stefan Avlos, James Cullen Bressack, Patrick Brice, Aislinn Clarke, Steven DeGennaro, Ruggero Deodato, Michael Goi

Rating: ★★★

Found footage horror films are some of the scariest films ever made and have remained popular for decades, mainly because they have the ability to feel completely authentic in a way that most horror films simply can’t. Films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity are held up as some of the best and scariest horror films in recent years. Sarah Appleton and Phillip Escott have created a documentary, The Found Footage Phenomenon, which takes a deep dive into the genre, it’s origins, why it’s remained so popular, and interviews with the people behind some of the classic films.

If you’re a big horror fan, then there’s not much in this documentary that will be new to you. It goes through the big hits in a pretty much chronological order, with some of the most watched found footage films, with a few hidden gems of the genre thrown in for good measure. What’s appealing to horror fans is the snippets of interviews with the people involved in the films, getting to know just a little bit more about some classics.

The most interesting parts is when the film goes into the history of the genre, and it’s predecessors in novels like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and early films that feature elements of the genre such as Peeping Tom from 1960. It then spends some time in the 80s and 90s with some pre-Blair Witch films, such as the ever controversial Cannibal Holocaust. Thankfully it stays away from showing the worst parts of animal cruelty from that film.

Most of the documentary is focused on more recent films from the 2000s, with some lesser known titles getting some time to shine. Even the most hardcore horror fans are going to find out about some new films in this section. There’s also a good discussion about why the genre works so well for horror, even if a few points are repeated quite a few times.

Ultimately the biggest downfall is the documentaries length. It’s around a hundred minutes, which is longer than most films in the found footage genre, and it feels a lot longer. The last forty or so minutes feel really dragged out. Like there was too many interview sections that they didn’t want to cut down. It also ends on a real whimper.

The Found Footage Phenomenon is a decent documentary. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’re probably going to already know most things it’s discussing, but it’s still entertaining. At the same time if you’re not a fan, it’s not really going to win you over and make you want to seek out the films you’ve missed.

The Found Footage Phenomenon will be available on Shudder from 19th May

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