Rekindling My Love Of Anime With Inuyasha

I first got into the wonderful Japanese medium of Anime when I was a sophomore or junior in high school, with great classics such as Akira, Fist of the North Star, Galaxy Express 999 and Appleseed, to name a few. For those not in the know, Anime is Japanese animation that covers all mediums of fiction and aren’t necessarily for children. Some in fact are meant to be viewed by mature audiences because of adult content and graphic violence. Anyway, this refreshing look at animation blew me away upon first viewing. This wasn’t my childhood Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Not by a long shot.

Since that first time, I’ve tried to absorb Anime whenever I could and was an adamant viewer during my college years but for some reason my efforts have dwindled over time by many factors such as, no longer paying for cable and being preoccupied with other things. I did became aware, this past summer, that Netflix has grown its collection of anime and I have put a few in  my queue, but still I haven’t quite steered in its’ direction. Other shows were occupying me at the moment (see my previous blog entries on Mad Men and The Good Wife).

Well now that I was caught up with most of my shows I decided to give Inuyasha a shot. I had originally started watching this some years ago, back when I had cable and it used to air semi-daily on the Cartoon Network, as part of it’s Adult Swim programming. Needless to say, after re-watching the old episodes I had already seen and getting into newer plot points (well new to me anyway), I was immediately caught up in this world of feudal Japan and just couldn’t get enough. I literally have only 2 speeds with this show. Either I watch it till I pass out on the couch or I avoid it at all costs to get other stuff done (you can guess which speed I’m opting for right now since I’m actually blogging instead of wasting the night away).

Anyone who has a Netflix account and is new to Anime should definitely give this series a try. It has everything you could ask for in a show. Great characters, a long and challenging hero quest, drama, romance, comedy, great fight scenes, amazing visuals etc (I feel like I’m quoting the Princes’ Bride. Am I?). What more could you ask for? I would try to summarize it for you readers but I don’t think I would really give it justice. For this I have Wikipedia to thank:

The series’ plot follows a high school girl Kagome Higurashi who lives on the grounds of her family’s hereditary Shinto shrine. When she goes into the well house to retrieve her cat, a centipede demon bursts out of the enshrined Bone Eater’s Well and pulls her through it. As she leaves the well, Kagome appears in the Sengoku period of Japan. During the demon’s previous attack, a magical jewel known as the Sacred Jewel of Four Souls was embodied from Kagome. She then becomes the demon’s target and it tries to consume the jewel and kill Kagome. In desperation, Kagome unseals the half-demon InuYasha who was placed on a tree fifty years ago by Kagome’s ancestor Kikyo, the youngmiko of the village in charge of the sacred jewel. Although InuYasha destroys the centipede, the Sacred Jewel is later shattered into numerous shards that disperse across Japan. Even the individual shards are capable of granting great power, and are eagerly sought by humans and demons alike. Kagome and InuYasha set out to collect the shards to avoid disasters caused by Sacred Jewel of Four Souls.

So there you have it in a nutshell (thanks as always Wikipedia). So what are you waiting for? Go to your Netflix account and start watching Inuyasha already!

Finished All 4 Seasons of Mad Men In Under A Month

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was reeled into the world of Mad Men once it became available on Netflix. I was so sucked in, that I breezed through all four seasons of this show in less than a month’s time. It was just that good. All of my other shows in my Netflix queue took a back seat as I would watch one episode after the other, day after day, until I finally finished them all today.

Now that I’m all caught up, I’m impatiently awaiting the fifth season of this show. Per the internet, they just started filming the new season and it won’t air until some time in 2012. I guess I’ll just have to wait for any unanswered questions and plot twists to get resolved. In the meantime I’ll just have to distract myself with other shows. It’s going to be hard. I want to go back into that world and see what is Don Draper going to do next.

Puzzled, Intrigued And Reeled Into The World of Mad Men

AMC’s Mad Men made its debut on Netflix on Wednesday, July 27, 2011. Since then I’ve watched 5 episodes and am still at a loss of words to explain how I feel about the show. Usually, there needs to be at least one likeable character or a character with redeemable qualities for me to continue watching. I haven’t found such a character in this show and yet I’m looking forward to the next episode.

I’ve heard people say that this show takes a while to develop and get interesting but I haven’t had that reaction. The writing is incredible, subtle, intelligent and really takes you back to the 60’s. Each character is packed with layers of characterization, nuances, neurosis and quirks that they seem believable and you feel like a fly on the wall peeking into the private world of real living breathing people.

The show is of course centered around one character, Donald Draper, who is played by Jon Hamm to brilliant effect. Thus far, 5 episodes in, I find nothing relatable about this character. He seems the most flawed of the cast, with a troubled past that he wants no one to know about and who can’t help but act out in self-destructive ways with indulgences of infidelity, chain-smoking and hard-drinking. You would think this would cause me to have contempt for his character but the writing is such that I can’t stop asking, “why?”. Why is he doing those things? It’s obvious that he’s troubled, filled with some self-loathing and isn’t proud of his moral ambiguous ways. And yet he continues on with his never-ending circle of self-destruction.

This is one of those shows that I have no idea where the ride is taking me and yet I have complete confidence in the writing that it will be a someplace good. Despite having more questions than answers about the characters and the plot of Mad Men I’m still enjoying it tremendously. The visual authenticity of the time period definitely helps. I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the four seasons on Netflix.

Finally Had A Chance To See Labyrinth

Ever since I was a child and I saw the trailer for this 1986 film I have always wanted to see Labyrinth. Of course in those days I was too poor to go to the movies much so I never got to see it in theatres. I did buy the Scholastic books on it and would stare at the drawings and wished to escape to that wondrous land someday. As time went on, my need to see this movie has dissipated.

Then I noticed one day that this movie was available for instant streaming and the little kid in me jumped with glee. I immediately added it to my Netflix queue and promised to see it someday soon. Well the time has come and gone and I finally got to see it and escape into this Jim Henson created world. It has definitely lived up to my expectations. I just watched in awe and couldn’t imagine the work that went into creating that world before CGI became the prominent set design of our modern movies. It was extraordinary. The story itself was definitely for young adults and up and I didn’t mind how it ended all tidy and wrapped up as most family movies do.

I’m glad I finally got to see Labyrinth and I do plan on revisiting this world again sometime soon. As the poster suggests it’s “where everything seems possible and nothing is what it seems.”

Not Understanding The Recent Netflix Backlash

Recently, Netflix decided to change their pricing plans (which will take effect on September 1, 2011). They decided to split up their streaming and DVD plans as two different services. So instead of paying $10.00 for unlimited DVDs and unlimited streaming, you would now have to pay $7.99 for instant streaming and another $7.99 for the unlimited DVD plan. In other words, those that were accustomed to having both services will now have to pay $5.00 dollars more. This isn’t an issue for me since I already switched to the streaming only plan, but it seems to have really irked a lot of people on the Internet and it begs to question, why?

First of all, how many of those complaining really take advantage of the DVD plan? Second of all, $15.00 a month is still at least half of what anyone pays for cable and you’re getting a-la-carte service instead of being forced to have services you don’t want (how many of those channels in your family basic service do you really watch?). Alas, I understand, somewhat, that people don’t like to pay more for services that they were already paying for at a reduced cost. Unfortunately, sometimes prices have to go up.

The fact of the matter is, Netflix spends a hell of a lot of money on shipping out DVD’s and they realize that the streaming model is their future. So they need to plan accordingly and that is the reason for their new pricing model. And honestly, I still don’t see anything out there that really compares to the Netflix model. But for the sake of argument, let’s list the other legal streaming options available for those that want to cancel their Netflix accounts because of the price change.

Hulu Plus
You can get Hulu Plus for the same $7.99/month pricing plan as Netflix. They do have some movies in their collection that are no longer available in the Netflix library (the Criterion collection comes to mind). Also you get to watch the current seasons of a lot of the popular TV shows that won’t be available on Netflix for some time to come. However, you have to sit through commercials during your Hulu plus viewing and you may not have the same shows/movies available to view on your TV, via a set-top box, that are available on a web browser (this really annoyed the hell out of me when I tried out my free trial with my Roku box).

Amazon Prime and other Video On Demand Services
If you’re already an Amazon Prime member and pay your annual $79 fee, for free 2-day shipping and $3.99 one-day shipping, you’re also entitled to free instant-streaming of 5000+ TV shows and movies (this comes out to roughly $6.58/month). if none of those 5000 options are what you want to watch they have a more extensive library of rentals. You can generally rent movies for $3.99, though they sometimes have discounted rentals. For most TV shows you have the option to buy them for $1.99 per episode (if you get a season pass it drops to $1.89 per episode). There doesn’t seem to be a rental option for TV shows, except for the ones that are already free for instant streaming for Prime members and a few others that don’t have a buying option like True Blood.

When you rent on Amazon you’re given a 30-day window before it is removed from your queue. Once you start to watch a rental you have a 48hr-window to complete your rental viewing. Also. you can’t change how you’re watching your rental (if you’re watching your rental from a web browser you have to finish it there. You can’t switch to your set-top box).

This is a good option if you like to watch movies as soon as they become available for rental (unfortunately the movie industry isn’t keen on the a-la-carte model which is why Netflix doesn’t get movies until they’re no longer popular and they’ve already gone through pay-per-view, premium cable channels, Amazon and iTunes services, etc). But as you can already see, you’ll still be paying more in the long run per month with this option versus Netflix.

iTunes does allow you the option to rent TV shows as well as buy the episodes, with few exceptions. You can rent a TV episode for $0.99 or buy them for $2.99 each. Movie rentals vary from $2.99 to $4.99 each but they also offer a “$0.99 Movie Rental of The Week” category. iTunes also offers the same 30 day-window for keeping a rental in your queue but they only offer you a 24hr-window to complete your viewing of your rental once you start watching it (TV shows are given a 48hr-window for some reason). Unlike Amazon, you can switch from your computer to your portable device or Apple TV, provided you downloaded your rental to your computer first.

I found it surprising that iTunes had more flexible rental pricing options than Amazon. Unfortunately for me, iTunes is only available on the TV via an Apple TV device, not through my Roku box, and Apple TV only works with a HDTV which I currently do not own (I’m perfectly content with my standard color 480i TV, thank you very much). So unless I do a pricey upgrade I can only use this option on my computer and iPhone.

In Conclusion
It still seems to me that Netflix is the better bang for your buck. Occasionally I may rent a movie through Amazon but those days will be seldom as I tend to be more of a TV show viewer and I have a bunch of shows that I’m happily watching on Netflix. For those that still feel like they’re getting ripped off, a good free option would be your public library for your movie needs.