Anime Lounge #21: Cowboy Bebop Episodes 1 – 12

Series: Cowboy Bebop

Episodes: 1 to 12

Premise: Space bounty hunter Spike Spiegel is always in search of his next target, and he finds unlikely helpers in retired cop Jet Black, the mysterious Faye Valentine and later legendary hacker Ed and the scientific genius pupper Ein. Spike must confront his past — running around in the mafia — in order to move forward with his future. How he does it to start leads to more questions than answers, ending with his first confrontation with former friend Vicious.

Is it worth watching?: YES. This is one of the god-tier anime that every new anime enthusiast should be required to watch. Production values, voice acting, cool characters and an awesome soundtrack … this anime has it all.

Breakout character: Faye Valentine. Yes, it could be all of the characters, but Faye definitely stands out. You want to know her deal, why she can’t remember anything and how she will ever get herself together. And then you find out later in the series, and it’s like, wow. The payoff for Faye is amazing, and you still want more.

Where it’s going?: Spike has to take on Vicious once again, reclaim his honor and handle unresolved business. He’s taking the crew along for the ride, and where they end up is the mystery.

Otaku Corner: Death Note Vol. 12

The Death Note saga comes to an end in Volume 12

Here we are, at last. The last volume of Death Note is here, and I could not be any happier to close the chapter on manga’s most self-righteous and sadistic character, Light Yagami. From the very beginning, he weaved a great web of deceit by utilizing a weapon of mass destruction. From test killing various criminals to intentionally killing international police officials (including this millennium’s Sherlock Holmes) and having the audacity to play God while wielding absolute power over every well-known police and security agency on Earth, Light has done it all. Rest assured, I will soldier though Mr. Yagami’s foolishness while doing this review.
After a successful attack on NHN studios, Mello and his partner, Matt, were able to capture Takada, bringing a slight interruption to Light’s and Near’s decisive battle set to take place in days. Mello, being clever, forces Takada to undress herself to remove any tracking devices, preventing her bodyguards and the police to find them. Mello cleverly places Takada’s outer clothes in a shipping box and leaves it at a package delivery company. Unknown to him, however, that Takada had a piece of the Death Note, a pen and a secret cell phone to contact Light.

Once Takada contacts Light, she tells him that she killed Mello, and Light fiendishly acts concerned in front of the task force members by asking where she was. At the same time, the news reports Matt’s death as he was shot by Takada’s bodyguards while attempting to fire smoke bombs at them. On the way to rescue Takada, Light uses a hidden piece of the Death Note to kill her after she calls Mikami to tell him to text her two days’ worth of criminals to kill. Near also tries to help with the search but is too late when the task forces find Mello and Takada dead after a fire, thanks to Light.
While Light and Near made their final adjustments for their last battle, NHN and other television stations begin to plead Kira to host his messages. On the day of the final showdown, Linder of the SPK drives Misa and Mogi, dropping the former at a deluxe hotel suite while driving to the meeting site. After arriving at the Yellow Box Warehouse and checking for wire taps and hidden camera, Light, Near and their allies met face to face. Near then asks everyone to wait 30 minutes for Mikami to show up and instructs everyone to act normal should he try to peep in on the meeting. Unknown to Mikami, Near has tampered with the real pages of the notebook. Once Light figured out that he was exposed as Kira, he first claims Near is setting him up and finally confesses that he is Kira.
As Light continued to bask in his “victory,” Near interrupts that he not only tampered with the Death Note Mikami had on him, but also he messed with the other one he kept in a bank deposit box. Light, still delirious, tried to kill Near with a hidden piece of the Death Note, but Matsuda shoots him multiple times. Light asks Ryuk to kill Near and the others with his Death Note. Ryuk refuses, stating that Light is near death because of his wounds; he would take Light’s life and did so without a second thought.
A year later, Matsuda and Ide talk about the case, and Matsuda stated that he believed that Near controlled Mikami. At that moment, Ide gets a call from Aizawa, who is now deputy superintendent of the NPA. Aizawa states that Near needs help investigating a drug syndicate’s deal in Japan occurring at the Yellow Box Warehouse. Once arriving, they join Mogi and the task force’s newest member, Yamamoto, joins the meeting with L. Meanwhile, a gathering of Kira worshippers convenes in a secluded area where their priestess (looking like Misa) place places a candle and prays for Kira’s return.
From beginning to end, Volume 12 of Death Note did not disappoint. All the writing and artwork surpassed previous editions, giving a great series a well-earned sendoff with hopes of continuation in the future. Ohba-san’s writing was spectacular in building suspense. Obata-san’s artwork was brilliant, keeping the suspense and action alive and allowing readers to see the aftermath of Kira’s (possible) demise. I am giving well-deserved praise to Viz Media’s Tesuichiro Miyaki for translation and adaptation that perfectly told the story, making this final volume — like the other English releases of Death Note — re-readable from beginning to end.
Death Note Volume 12 did not disappoint. I would like to thank you, Otaku Corner readers, for joining me through this series. One piece of advice: Be wary of shinigami and always leave out juicy apples for them.

Brandon Beatty is associate editor of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Strip Talk #31: DC finally getting back on track

Listen to me good when I tell you all something: DC has to do something. They’re getting hurt out there in the ring, and they can’t take too many more hits before it’s lights out. They need that ring bell to save them and fortunately for them, it’s coming in a few projects.
How they got here is not a mystery. Incoherent, nonsensical decisions with stars for their movies, the movies themselves being atrocious, and a lack of obvious planning and forethought. It was a lot, and it seemed like every time the company took a step, they stumbled. And their rival, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was churning out hit after hit at the box office, adding insult to injury.
But there were beacons of hope: Television and animated properties.

DC has always had strong television and animation. Their Justice League characters are so well known that almost all have had multiple shows that have done well. Their animated movies and shows are so good that decades later, they’re still producing spinoffs that are just as good if not better than the originals.
So, this is their go-to in the bleak times.
When faced with hard times, Warner Bros. does what it knows how to do best: Milk something to death and ride that cash cow until the wheels fall off. And that’s why we’re getting great television in the form of Titans. That’s why more animated Batman is here to put the DC name on his back and carry everything across the finish line. That’s why we’re getting more Batman spinoff films and a Flash spinoff bringing back the Batman version that worked – Michael Keaton for those of you still playing along at home.
DC trades on what it knows works best for them: Nostalgia. And they are smart to do it. That bell has rung finally for DC, and they can get a breather from that beating the MCU and Kevin Feige has been delivering for the past 10 years. The body shots can maybe slow down, they can regain their footing and they’re finally doing something. Something worthwhile and exciting. It’s about time they come in with gloves ready for the fight game.

Lyndsey Beatty is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Top 5 on The Strip: DC stuff we’re anticipating edition

Flash’s new movie with return of Michael Keaton

You all know how much we here at GI love Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Batman. And we’re practically jumping up and down for joy that it’s been confirmed we will see him again in this upcoming Flash solo film. Yes, we do love Ezra Miller as the Flash, but it’s been 30 years since we’ve seen Keaton don the cowl. That’s worth any price of admission.

Future seasons of Titans

This past season of Titans was fantastic. Vincent Kartheiser, of Mad Men brilliance, as the Scarecrow was on point with the long game the entire season, and we finally got Jason Todd as the Red Hood. We all knew it was coming, but how and why was expertly done. We’re expecting great things in the upcoming seasons now that the focus is shifting back to Dick Grayson being the leader of the Titans in San Francisco.

Black Adam coming with the Rock

Black Adam’s long development has been simmering for a while, and now it’s boiling if you smell what the Rock has been cooking. We’re more than ready for Dwayne Johnson take on the character — who, in the intervening years, has been drawn in his likeness. The movie looks to be great, and we support Johnson in anything and everything he does. We’re looking forward to Shazam going one on one with the Great One finally.

Blue Beetle film with Xolo Maridueña

We have so grown to love Xolo Maridueña, best known for his role as Miguel in the brilliant Cobra Kai. His earnest and awesome portrayal of the cute karate powerhouse means we will follow his projects, and Blue Beetle is one that’s taking shape for DC. The character is cool, and we expect that Maridueña will bring the heat when he finally gets started.

Henry Cavill returning as Superman

Given that he’s been the best choice for the Man of Steel for nearly a decade, we welcome the return of Cavill if he’ll have us. His Superman is believable and decent, and we loved his version in Justice League. We also happen to be big fans of Cavill in general — he was fantastic in The Tudors — so if he’s willing to don the cape and House of El symbol once again, we’ll take it.

Property Review: Loki Season 1

Loki Season 1 unburdened with glorious purpose of multiverse

That mischievous scamp.
Loki, who slithered and slunk his way into our hearts in 2011’s Thor, has managed to somehow get looped in this illusion that we don’t love him the way we do. Naturally, he’s gone back to the beginning of his love affair with us, the Marvel faithful, and found a way to get us talking about him again. And we do it because, despite ourselves, we love him. And we love doing it because Loki’s debut season was burdened with glorious purpose and delivered.
We join our loveable narcissistic God of Mischief moments after he has teleported to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia in the 2012 timeline. If you’ll recall from those harrowing and chaotic moments of Endgame, the Avengers have just captured Loki after the Battle of New York. Loki’s been Hulk smashed, knackered and silenced with a mouthpiece, and the 2012 Avengers are ready to pack it up at Stark Tower while the 2023 Avengers are skulking around trying to acquire the Space Infinity Stone. But the Time Heist engineered by the 2023 Avengers has gone sideways. Within the confusion of the Hulk entering the scene in a complete rage, the Space stone is scattered and somehow lands at Loki’s feet. He seizes his opportunity for freedom, grabs it with all his might and teleports from the scene, thus ruining the Avengers’ attempts to temporarily borrow that stone. We all know what happens in Endgame after that, but where Loki managed to get off to was the question at the time. That’s answered in the fantastical world of his summer timeslip.
In the opening moments of this vaudeville delight, we’re reintroduced to the devil. This isn’t the Loki that we’ve come to love and mourn in Infinity War. This Loki is one who hasn’t quite redeemed himself. He doesn’t know who he really is just yet. He’s still at the beginning of the journey without the lessons learned. And this is where Loki shines. The introduction of the Time Variance Authority by way of Hunter B-15 — the wonderful Wunmi Mosaku — sets the tone immediately and gives the first clue that something is different. And everything is different, because we’re not in the MCU main timeline anymore, Toto.
The first episode alone steals the beatings of the heart by showing Loki — and us the viewer, by extension — the journey he should have taken. The TVA’s ruling power over the Sacred Timeline is mighty and powerful, and the true concept of the multiverse begins here with this one storyline beat. Years of buildup have prepared us for this, and it does not disappoint. Each beat of the story — multiple timeline branches, different universes, multiple versions of each character, time branching instead of being linearly shaped — hit one after another and it’s so much to take in. But this is the rub: It’s so expertly crafted here and done with so much care and nuance that months later, we’re still talking about all six episodes and what they mean for the future of the MCU. There are so many story branches opened now because of this that the dizzying nature of the multiverse slips in unnoticed to seep into later episodes and blow everything wide open.
And yet, even with its open nature, the show also has an isolated and insular draw. One of the core strengths is its ability to be humorous and thought-provoking with in-universe gags, easter eggs and references.
Somehow, Loki managed to be a miasma of questions about the implications of time travel and free will on the MCU while hilarious. No other show could feature a biting and witty villain who jumps through disasters in time (Category 8 hurricane in 2050, what?) with a bureaucratic pseudo-governmental agency represented by a time clock with a Southern drawl, who finds out he’s got female, child, future, supreme liar and alligator versions of himself, have them work together and tie it together as a subtle discourse on climate change.
There is no shortage of eclectic shenanigans going on in Loki, and it’s hilariously on point always. As is the soundtrack, because let us state this right now: Composer Natalie Holt outdid herself. The soundtrack is phenomenal and so well done in the way that it epitomizes what it means to be Loki. The themes used here could have easily been used in any Marvel theatrical release with Loki and they would have done well.
But let us not opine that everything in Loki going beautifully according to plan wasn’t also made possible with quality performances. Tom Hiddleston, at this point, is Loki. There’s no question that the dark brat prince of the MCU has cornered the market on our hearts through Hiddleston’s portrayal. Who else could make us simultaneously hate the Asgardian fool and love him so fiercely? The delicate touches he places on Loki’s motivations will have you rooting for the character from the moment he crashes into the Gobi Desert.
And along for the ride is, surprisingly, Owen Wilson. He’s a good actor, but in the confines of Loki, he’s in another echelon: Great. Wilson’s believable skepticism bleeds through and we’re all nodding our heads at his totally in-universe disbelief of the foolishness that is unredeemed Loki. He sees it through to the end, and he is the needed pin to tone things down to a believable state of affairs. Sophie Di Martino and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are refreshing and fun to dissect, given the nature of their characters. And the Loki variants — played by the equally fantastic Richard E. Grant, Deobia Oparei and Jack Veal — are important pieces of the puzzle who raise the bar of the cast exponentially.
And, let us devote a moment of reverence for Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains. Majors’ appearance is a master class in character development through exposition and narrative, moving the story forward while reminding you where it’s come from. He needed no crazy props, just charisma and charm, to explain not just who he is, but also why he is. His appearance in the sixth and final episode — For All Time. Always — is the most pristine entrance ever done in the MCU, and quite frankly, the most exciting in television in a long time. Majors delighted and enthralled us, luring us out to the precipice and having us hanging on his every word and action. We are unfathomably excited to see where he is going with the variant Kang the Conqueror in the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Loki, long known to be equally parts vexing and enthralling, will return in Season 2. We are burdened with glorious purpose to be there from the beginning. Because after all, with one of the best scripts, best casts and best in-universe introduction, the sun is guaranteed to shine on its creativity and brilliance yet again.

Acting: 9.5
Story: 9
Production: 10

Overall score: 28.5/30 or 9.5

HOW WE GRADE
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Marvel character highlight #29: Blackheart

Name: Blackheart

Alias: Black King, Legion, Lord Blackheart, Mayor Winston Agnew, Prince of Hell, Son of Mephisto

Affiliation: Hell Lords, Hellfire Club, Spirits of Vengeance, Corrupt, Legions of the Night

Special abilities: Superhuman strength, durability and speed. He also has some telepathy, can levitate, is capable of interdimensional teleportation, size alteration, physical alteration, regeneration, energy generation, soul capture and mind control. He is also omniscient, immortal and immune to Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare.

Background: Son of the demon-lord Mephisto, Blackheart was created from the mystical energies found in Christ’s Crown, N.Y. The location was known for many murders over several centuries and provided the necessary evil to create a being such as Blackheart. The demon began learning under his father and clashed several times with Daredevil, Spider-Man and members of the Inhumans. After failing to corrupt any of these beings, Blackheart was taken captive by his father in Hell, and he wanted freedom. To escape, Blackheart entangled himself with Misha of the Warheads. He was successful in his attempt and got out disguised as Doctor Strange. Once free, he lured Wolverine, The Punisher and Ghost Rider to Christ’s Crown to corrupt them but failed. They then took on Blackheart in Hell, and he successfully used them to defeat Mephisto and take over his father’s portion of Hell.

Relationships: Mephisto (father); Mephista (sister); Greylight (brother); Daimon Hellstrom, Satana Hellstrom, Mikal Drakonmegas (siblings)

First Versus appearance: Marvel Super Heroes

Appearances in other media:

Film: Ghost Rider (2007)

Video games: Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Ghost Rider, Marvel: Avengers Alliance