Dragons Unleashed! – event review: Dragons of Tarkir pre-release event.

*disclosure: this writer has no affiliation with Good Games Hobart or the Good Games franchise, nor does he have any association with Wizards of the Coast. What is written below is entirely opinion based upon playing experience & have not been altered or affected by any incentive or association from the store of the makers of Magic the Gathering. If you want to dispute that, then piss off elsewhere to do it.*

Midnight, Friday the 20th of March, Good Games Hobart & the Magic-philes eagerly await the handing out of their special Dragons of Tarkir pre-release packs. The air is tense, silent; everyone is expectant -wishing for the perfect seeded drop or rare rich booster. Sweat pricks brows as the 1st shipping box is opened & the 1st name is called. Possibility is in the air tonight.

Not really.

As we waited for midnight to rock around, we were all talking shit, chilling or, in some cases, people are playing other games -like Magic Modern or Dungeonquest. No one is silent, no one is tense but everyone, in their own way, is excited & expectant. Eager to see what they might get & how the new mechanics play out.

Dragons of Tarkir is the 3rd and final set from Wizards of the Coasts’ latest Magic the Gathering block, Khans of Tarkir. Set in a parallel world from the original Khans (a pseudo Mongolian inspired plane) after the events of Fate Reforged (yes, MtG actually has plots within the blocks/expansions) where the former extinct dragons are now rulers of Tarkir thanks to Sarkhan’s changing of history. The story isn’t really important, the cards & new mechanics are.

If you’ve played any of the Tarkir block you’re already familiar with the mechanics of Manifest, Morph, Delve, etc. DoT adds in new or altered abilities. Most of these abilities tend to be Colour or Clan related, so Blacks & Blues related to Silumgar have Exploit, Dromoka’s Green has Formidable & so on. Abilities such as Megamorph & Dash can go across colours after a fashion but you tend to find them more associated with factions again.

Here are some examples of that which I used or had used against me:

Megamorph, where if you have a creature with this ability & you pay the Morph cost, when you flip it right side up you put a +1/+1 counter on it & usually activate abilities which grant bonuses to either that or other creatures on the field.


The Gudul Lurker may seem weak but if you get its Megamorph in, it becomes a nice creature to wittle down your opponent’s life since it can’t be block (it’s still vulnerable to spells & such though if you don’t have Hex Proof)


When dragons have Megamorph, they tend to booster other dragons, which is a deadly thing to have because dragons are already so powerful. But makes them perfect for a Dragon EDH deck if you’re building one.

Exploit is another new mechanic, where in which if a creature possessing Exploit enters the field, you can sacrifice another creature on your side of the field to trigger an effect. This can often be damaging to your opponents, making them discard cards, lose life or grant bonuses to your side to name but a few of the things that it does. Exploit are great if you have a deck that produces tokens because you can sacrifice them to really screw with your opponents without losing any important creatures on your sides & there are a few heavy hitting creatures in DoT that drop some handy tokens -either when they enter the field or when they do damage.


This is a typical Black sapping skill but one you can cast without spending any mana, so it’s pretty handy to use if you can.


This is one card that I got & he’s really handy because he’s a low cost fetch. If you have a resurrect ability, you can Exploit Sidisi himself, find the card your after, bring Sidisi back again & keep going that way if you can. A nice & handy creature if played right, I think.

These are a few examples & when the block is fully released you’ll be able to see what cards have & do what as well as how these new abilities will effect other meta-games, such as Modern & EDH/Commander.

Since Dragons of Tarkir is chockers full of new dragons (well, duh), you’ll be seeing a lot more dragon decks in play. Mainly because these dragons bolster other cards -mainly other dragons- plus there are more cards which get granted special bonuses if you have a dragon card in hand (you reveal the card to get granted the ability). This seemed to have people fairly divided as to how affective it would be in meta-gaming but since I really want to build an All Colour dragon Commander deck, I’m excited by the possibilities that these new dragons offer -especially the dragon lord ones.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really pull much in the way of dragons from my boosters & no dragon lords.

Actually, my pull from my seeded pack & boosters overall was pretty poor. I went with Silumgar (Black-Blue) because haven’t played those colours in ages. I swapped my Ojutai box for it. It wasn’t a terrible drop that I got, because I wound up with some sweet non-Black-Blue cards but not a lot of good cards in the colours that choose to go with.

What was terrible, however, was my playing.

I really do suck at this game.

One is because I don’t know how to build decks properly, another is that the rules have changed so much since I stopped playing & I’m trying to catch up with it. The last reason is that I always play against people who are really good at the game. That last one isn’t a gripe because I learn so much from them & they always give me good advice on how to play & build decks when I ask; as well as being patient for being so slow on the uptake with various things in game (not to mention getting confused over rules since I play so many different games).

Overall, the pre-release midnight gathering was really fun -even if I did come dead last in everything.

Good Games has the best set up for such events, because it has so much space as well as drinks & food (good when locked in so late & everything else is shut). The staff member we had running the event is also an official MtG judge (meaning that he adjudicates at official tournaments & events), so he handled any confusion over the new rules (& the conflict with some of the old ones too). The space that the store provides is also a boon because it means you can walk around & stretch your legs between rounds.

With the Tarkir block wrapping up & WotC moving onto the next block-expansion, I think I’ll get a lot of use out of collecting the Tarkir stuff, especially the new DoT block. A lot of it sits well with my broken play style & I’m guessing that they’ll bring a few of it’s mechanics into the next block to save time & hassle.

I’m also enjoying these pre-release events & Good Games puts them on well with a fun environment. Though I’ve only attended two re-releases so far & both at the same store, so that may show a limitation in experience & opinion.

At any rate, I look forward to the possibilities that this new set can bring, to both the standard & meta-games & my bank account shall be new empty buying what I can, when I can -as is the way with being a consumer whore.

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Article: Why I stopped watching Cross Ange

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo is probably one of the most controversial anime series of recent seasons & one that more than a few readers have called on me to comment upon (mainly asking why I haven’t condemned it like I did Kenzen Robo Daimidaler).

The 1st few episodes of the series is all about extreme dehumanisation through violence, degradation, sexual assault & humiliation & turning a joy-filled girl into a terrified non-entity & eventually an effective killing machine.

This is all done through the worst forms of visual denigration seen outside of BDSM hentai media. In that basically the titular heroine, Ange, is beaten, stripped, abused, molested, pseudo-raped, near (lesbian raped), degraded, deprived & humiliated until all that remains of the once happy is mistrustful sociopath who is only looking to survive & get revenge on all those who destroyed who she once was.

The reason that I didn’t condemn this series like I previously (& briefly) did with the aforementioned Kenzen Robo Daimidaler) is that all the degradation has a narrative context. It exists for a purpose outside of the titillation of the (majority male) audience. That does not mean that I liked or approved of it but I understood why such acts were within the story. I did not forgive or tolerate Cross Ange for that, more like I endured it. I put up with all the nasty Fan Service & brutality because it seemed to be leading to a point of character & narrative development & had shown that dehumanisation within context shows how terribly people can be transformed &/or destroyed.

And then the series committed the Cardinal Sin of entertainment: it bored me.

At some point, all the development suddenly stopped & Ange was stuck as this angry, untrustful, violent creature who constantly had Tusk (the male love interest) constantly falling into her crotch for comic effect or otherwise getting sexually entangled with her. The Fan Service (in the form of revealing clothes, hinted nudity & lesbianism) dragged on & got worse & the plot just got itself tangled up after they began to (finally) reveal what’s going on within the narrative universe.

This is actually the least extreme example of Fan Service that I could find
This is actually the least extreme example of Fan Service that I could find

The basic conceit of the series is that humans live in a Utopia where “The Light of Mana” fuels everything & grants people magical abilities. There is no war or poverty but it all comes at a price. For within society there are women who can’t use The Light of Mana, called Norma (taken from the word ‘normal’) & there very touch actively destroys any magical field. They are scapegoated by the rest of society, degraded & hated as being violent creatures who wish to destroy the world. So as soon as they are found, they are taken from their families & removed from the world. Naturally, Ange (formerly Angelise), being the ruling princess hates them, so is in denial when it’s revealed that she’s secretly a Norma & her parents have been keeping that fact a secret from not only the kingdom but from Ange herself.

After her father is deposed for hiding the secret & her mother is killed trying to protect her, Ange is taken to the Norma prison, where she is molested, sexually assaulted & humiliated by the commanding officer of the Normas & told that she must fight the DRAGONS or die.

All the Normas are put into transforming mecha units to fight dragon-like creatures, for which they get a bounty for each confirmed killed to use on whatever they want to buy within the prison. Having never committed an act of violence before, Ange is terrified of being thrown into such a situation & her cowardice costs her team several lives. Being humiliated & isolated by the other Norma girls, Ange rebuilds herself as a vicious killer in order to humiliate those who humiliated her & eventually gain her revenge.

This character arc changes after a few episodes, when Ange begins to accept that she’s a Norma & that Normas aren’t as she was taught growing up. Being a Norma is a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that they can only become violent & anti-social because that’s what society turns them into. They are the weapons in a war that the rest of humanity is completely unaware of & one that means they can keep using their precious Mana-imbued powers.

Once they start revealing the nature of the Norma, the history of the world & the truth behind the DRAGON attacks, things start to get muddled & vexing in a form.

You’re presented with all this info as to why you’re meant to see how the dehumanisation of the Norma occurred but Ange remains a basically unlikeable & selfish character that you find it hard to support her when all of her actions are contradicting others & she keeps denying information presented to her even when the facts are to her benefit.

That becomes the problem when dealing with a narrative around dehumanisation.

It’s exceptionally easy to break a person down but it’s next to impossible to rebuild them again from that point.

I feel that’s the major problem with Ange as a character and with the series as a whole.

After spending the 1st half dozen episodes ripping Ange apart -mentally & physically- they don’t really try to rebuild her as anything other than angry & mistrustful.

I didn’t want her to return to normal, not being any mental, emotional or physical scars -because trauma is inescapable- but I did want to see her develop into someone who takes their pain, their scars & their hatred & channels into into a positive force for others.

Maybe it does go that way, I won’t know because I lost any & all engagement with it around episode 16, when they crossed over into the ‘real’ world & the truth of the DRAGONS was revealed.

From this point on, I could bang on & on about the extremeness of the hypersexualisation within the series or how the Fan Service was so blatant that it became numbing but that would be pointless. That dead horse has been flogged so long it’s not a bloody pulp beneath my mighty boots (guessing no one will get those references).

I might come back to this when they release the blu-ray version but unlike considering the back catalogue I still have to watch (over 2 terabytes on computer & dozens of DVDs/BDs).

So, lessons to take from this: dehumanisation is OK if it has narrative context & purpose & isn’t glorified in any way, shape or form; don’t bore the audience or they won’t go with you to the conclusion.

Oh, & don’t bother messaging me with your butthurt over how I didn’t like this series when I did or how you feel that it’s nothing like I depicted with the dehumanisation & so forth because I will ignore you. If you try to defend your masturbation material in the series like others have with other series I dislike, I will insult you until I get bored.

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“Then I’ll make my own series -with lolis & tentacles!” – Anime Critique: Seikoku no Dragonar

Seikoku_no_Dragonar_light_novel_vol_1Title: Seikoku no Dragonar (Dragonar Academy, The Star-Marked Dragonar)
Format: TV series
Genre: fantasy, ecchi, harem, action, hentai
Series Creator: Shiki Mizuchi
Series Director: Shunsuke Tada & Tomoyuki Kurokawa
Studio: C-Station
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: April 5, 2014 – June 21, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

“In a land of dragons, where citizens called breeders tame their dragon pals. Races of dragons are born from breeders who are given a Seikoku: a dragon star-shape brand.

Learning to ride and tame dragons comes easy to most students at Ansarivan Dragonar Academy—except for first-year student Ash Blake, who is known by his classmates as the “number one problem child.” Despite his unfashionably large star-shaped brand that marks him as a future dragon master, he has nothing to show for it. His dragon has never appeared. Until now, that is. One fateful day, Ash’s dragon awakes in full glory, but appears different than any dragon ever seen before—in the form of a beautiful girl! What’s more, Ash soon discovers that this new dragon has attitude to spare, as she promptly informs him that she is the master, and he, the servant. Ash’s problems with dragon riding have only just begun.”


Review:

When I wrote my review for Strike The Blood some time back, I had a check list that cited the genericness & cliche of that series, so here we shall repeat that list to see what Seikoku no Dragonar adds to the realm of anime (other than sweet fuck all!).

So, for the sake of repetition & making a point, here’s the list:

Does Seikoku no Dragonar have the following?:

  •     One male protagonist with hidden power? Check!
  •     Also slightly perverted? Check!
  •     Redeems himself by having a pure heart & protects his friends to the risk of his own life? Check!
  •     Tsundere style violent love interest? Check!
  •     Female characters as potential love rivals for the female protagonist? Check!
  •     Secret supernatural powers? Check!
  •     Plenty of useless fan-service? Once again: Check & motherfucking check!

So, what does Seikoku no Dragonar add?

Well, lolicon & tentacle rape. (SFW link)

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That’s pretty much it.

I despised this series so much.

Despised it for being cliche. Despised it for rewarding the male gaze every chance it got. Despised for pushing the hypersexualisation of female characters to new lows in a TV broadcast (although I think Kenzen Robo Daimidaler still holds that title, which is why I warned you all from watch it). Despised it for being everything wrong with modern Japanese media.

When the tentacle rape happened in such a blatant & disgusting way I honestly should have stopped watching it & wrote a rant about why it was despicable. Yet it was so like a car crash & I couldn’t turn away out of the dissonant belief that it couldn’t get any worse than it did.

Oh, how wrong I was, dear reader. As the tentacle rape & extreme hypersexualisation only got worse & worse as the series progressed. Every shot of the female characters was sexualised in same way. From the camera just staring at a pair of tits as their owner talked -their head out of shot- to how every female action is performed in a way that the camera pans up & down their bodies. How even if the female characters are powerful & empowered in their own right, they are still turned into nothing but a pile of meat for the eye to absorb. How during the attack of the tentacle rapey undead dragons (not a phrase I’d every thought I’d write yet anime does it to me again) all the women’s clothing was torn off yet the men remained dressed, despite being restrained in the same fashion. The two worse things were how they had the tentacles probe every part of the female anatomy whilst the victims gave off pleasured noises Actually even worse than that were the two loli characters & how they were brutally sexualised by the oft mentioned tentacles or spent the majority of their onscreen time either naked or in a state of general undress.

The non-female designs are also just plain ugly. Especially the dragons.

They all look the same (just like white people really) but are so brutally ungainly & clumsily designed it borders on the sickening. They don’t look in any way graceful or powerful, just lumps of scaled muscle with stubby wings & hideous heads. I suppose this is because they spent the majority of their animation budget on the female characters tits (or the lolis’ lumps).

Maybe I’m just a media sadomasochist who can’t crawl away from what he hates (see my rant on the Little Busters! series).

I should spend more time deconstructing the series, saying how badly rendered all the characters are, how cliched it is or how the relationships between the characters & their various overlapping backstories are formed but it’s all fucking meaningless when the series is so devoid of taste, charm or moderation.

I don’t recommend this series to anyone & if you like you are one sick sad fucker you needs serious help in the form of a knee right to your fucking jaw.

It’s also based upon a Light Novel series & I despise to think how close the anime is to that. The manga is worse in terms of hypersexualisation, so avoid that more.

Now have to scrub my skin with acid to get this series off me!

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