Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tip-Top Quotables: "Some couples have a song. Ours is the theme from Jaws," plus a few other great lines this week

Kumail Nanjiani gives better advice than Dr. Phil does.
My favorite monthly section in old Source magazine issues was "Hip-Hop Quotables," in which the Source editors printed out their favorite new rap verse of the month, from the first bar to the last. "Tip-Top Quotables," which I've named after that Source section, is a collection of my favorite quotes of the week from anywhere, whether it's a recent TV show or a new rap verse. "TTQ" won't appear on this blog every week. It'll appear whenever the fuck I feel like it.

* "Tell him that snoring is usually a sign of a condition called sleep apnea, which causes a lot of people to die in their sleep. Be like, 'Here, Google it.' And then he'll be so scared he'll never be able to sleep again."--Kumail Nanjiani, giving advice to an Esquire reader about how to deal with a roommate's boyfriend who snores too loud

* "We've got some very attractive rewards at every level. For instance, $10,000 lands you in a signature CNN mass-shooting coverage six-box. For $25,000, you get to take molly with Fareed Zakaria. What what! For $5 million, CNN will air a 24-hour, two-week hunt for your lost car keys."--Jon Stewart, announcing his Kickstarter to buy CNN

(Photo source: Wendy Liebman)

* "Tony played it like a failed Scientologist."--Sam Rockwell, recalling to MTV News his Galaxy Quest co-star Tony Shalhoub's hilarious performance as a constantly stoned, non-Asian TV actor playing an Asian character, which Shalhoub based on constantly stoned Kung Fu star David Carradine, '70s TV's most infamous example of a non-Asian playing an Asian

(Photo source: Pia Glenn, the writer behind the #TimeTitles hashtag, which is a mockery of this)

(Photo source: Hari Kondabolu)

* "That is not good. The only time when you are happy to hear the words 'Maggots were found' is when you are a maggot whose family was lost at sea."--Last Week Tonight's John Oliver, joking about a news report of maggots being found in prison food supplied by a shady subcontractor

* "Garner was an expert at pulling the viewer into the action and acknowledging the ridiculousness of most television storytelling without quite breaking the fourth wall. He was the guy who crawled out of the screen and sat beside you munching popcorn on the couch."--Todd VanDerWerff, Vox, "James Garner has died; these five roles will remind you of his greatness"

* "If Netanyahu is so bothered by how dead Palestinians look on television then he should stop killing so many of them."--Benjamin Wallace-Wells, New York, "'Telegenically Dead Palestinians': Why Israel Is Losing the American Media War"

Monday, July 21, 2014

So about that night when Sony Korea accidentally posted all of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on YouTube…

This picture would be even more awesome if sad Spidey were doing this in the shower, with his suit and mask still both on, and 'Everybody Hurts' was playing.
(Photo source: Gamma Squad; photo by Russell McGovern)
Someone at Sony Korea is definitely getting both a J. Jonah Jameson-style tongue-lashing and their walking papers for this.

On Saturday night, podcaster and Portland Mercury blogger Bobby Roberts and a bunch of others pointed out on their Twitter feeds that Sony Korea's YouTube account accidentally posted The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in its entirety for free. Well, not all of the movie. The full upload, which Sony Korea immediately removed from YouTube once they realized the screw-up, was missing the mid-credits ad for X-Men: Days of Future Past. Amazing Spider-Man 2 director Marc Webb had to slip the Days of Future Past ad into his film's end credits in order to fulfill an obligation to his contract with Sony rival and Days of Future Past distributor 20th Century Fox.

Here we see Spidey doing his best impression of Superman creepily stalking Lois during Superman Returns.
(Photo source: OneHallyu)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was an overstuffed and disjointed mess that was difficult to sit through for much of its bloated running time of two hours and 22 minutes, so I was in no mood to rewatch the entire movie right below Roberts' tweet, which he deleted when Sony Korea removed their accidental upload. And nope, not even skimming through the upload of Amazing 2 to revisit only my favorite scenes (and a few of my least favorite) improved the movie, which has become Sony's lowest-grossing Spider-Man movie in America (Sony studio execs' dissatisfaction with the sequel's U.S. box-office performance has caused them to put the kibosh on the studio's plans to do both a threequel and supervillain spinoff movies centering on the Sinister Six and Venom). This second (and this time, only partial) viewing of this extremely corporate product (as ScreenCrush's Britt Hayes tweeted, the movie "looks like it was made to sell pinball machines") failed to erase its flaws (SPOILERS), including...

The two Webb movies' misguided decision to make Peter Parker the Chosen One

Much of the original appeal of the character stemmed from Peter becoming a superhero by accident. When you make Peter a predestined hero like Harry Potter or Superman, you make him less of a relatable everyman. And who cares about all the boring new material about Peter's attempt to uncover the truth about both his dead but could-be-alive scientist/secret agent dad (Campbell Scott), who experimented on Peter and planted the seed for Peter receiving his powers, and his extremely dead secret agent mom (Embeth Davidtz)? (Why do I feel like Amazing 2 co-screenwriter Roberto Orci's bizarre adoration of Dubya the pampered Bush son was responsible for this shit, even though it was carried over from The Amazing Spider-Man, which Orci didn't co-write?)

Sony's inane attempts to build its own Marvel Cinematic Universe out of Webb's movies

Amazing Spider-Man movie universe, you may think you're the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Amazing Spider-Man movie universe, you're no Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sony's postponement of the threequel and those baffling Sinister Six and Venom projects makes me hope that the postponement takes so long it causes Sony to lose the movie rights to Spidey and hand them over to Marvel Studios. For starters, Amazing Spider-Man movie universe, you have to have interesting villains on a par with Tom Hiddleston's charismatic Loki, which you don't. Speaking of which...

The overabundance of supervillains

Amazing 2 actually isn't a bad movie--that is if some nerd with a lot of time on his hands assembles a "Phantom Edit" of the movie and digitally replaces Jamie Foxx's obsessed Spidey fan character with Foxx's equally beaten-down but much less cartoonish character from Collateral. An even better "Phantom Edit" would be the removal of all material about Electro, Oscorp, the Green Goblin, that Michael Massee character who dresses like all those douches who always wore fedoras in high school and that Marton Csokas mad scientist character who's like a reject from Joel Schumacher's terrible Batman movies. Superhero movie writers and directors still haven't learned anything from the mistakes of those Schumacher Batman movies and other equally overcrowded and excessive superhero movies like Iron Man 2, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and of course, Spider-Man 3.

Part of why Sam Raimi's first two Spidey movies are superior to Webb's is because of their tautness: they pitted Spidey against only one villain in each movie. Like I've said before, Spidey's rogues gallery really pales in comparison to Batman's. I'll take psychotic comedians/showmen (Joker and Harley) and psychologically complex criminals (the Batman: The Animated Series version of Two-Face) over boring, one-dimensional monsters like the Lizard and Electro any day. So why did Sony have to subject us to five of those boring antagonists like they did when they awkwardly shoehorned an equal amount of antagonists into Spider-Man 3? Again, they learned nothing.

The inability to be moved by Gwen Stacy's death

Webb, the director of (500) Days of Summer and countless music videos (who has been, as Devin Faraci wrote, "toiling behind the scenes trying to make these movies good, and he's getting blocked at every turn by Avi Arad and Sony suits"), excels at two things in these Amazing Spider-Man movies. One of them is any moment where Spidey, whom I'm glad to see has regained his sense of humor after Tobey Maguire's less quippy portrayal, interacts with other New Yorkers, particularly the bullied little kid whose science fair project Spidey takes a shine to. (Spidey's scenes with kids he rescues are where Andrew Garfield--who's oddly derided for not being dorky enough by Spidey comics readers who have somehow developed amnesia about Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley's depiction of a modernized, '60s sweater vest-less Peter in their acclaimed Ultimate Spider-Man comics--is at his best as Spidey. The fact that Garfield would like to see Miles Morales--who famously caused the repugnant Lou Dobbs to soil his Depends because of his biracial heritage and is the second Spidey of color in the comics--suiting up as Spidey in live-action form makes me like Garfield even more.)

Gwen Stacy gets a makeover from Prince like the one he gave to Zooey Deschanel in New Girl's Super Bowl episode.
The other thing Webb excels at is the romance between Peter and Gwen, a more entertaining on-screen relationship than the one between Peter and Mary Jane in the Raimi movies. Amazing 2's unsatisfying story isn't the only reason why its B.O. grosses are lower than those of other Spidey movies. Killing off Emma Stone, the most likable and interesting cast member in Webb's reboot, has a lot to do with its underwhelming B.O. as well. The moment when Gwen's back and head hit the floor made me wince, mostly due to its brutal sound FX, yet this classic angsty moment from the comics that was supposed to raise the reboot franchise's dramatic stakes and shock the audience ended up hampering post-opening weekend word-of-mouth and was oddly unmoving. As Kyle Buchanan noted in Vulture, the film's decision to rush through Peter's depression after failing to save Gwen robs her death of its dramatic impact, whereas Stoick's death and the impact it has on everyone else--not just his son Hiccup and his wife Valka--are better handled in How to Train Your Dragon 2 and therefore, far more moving.

I'm a cold fish. I don't cry during sad movies. But How to Train Your Dragon 2 got me emotional. Dammit, How to Train Your Dragon 2! Instead of weeping and tearing up, my bottom lip tends to tremble like Clint Eastwood's in his "I could have taken that shot" crying scene during In the Line of Fire. When How to Train Your Dragon 2 cut to Hiccup and Astrid's friends mourning Stoick at his Viking funeral and being genuinely serious instead of being their usual comic relief selves, my bottom lip went crazy. The lip didn't quiver once during the cemetary sequence in Amazing 2.

The cheesy "Itsy Bitsy Spider" scene

The most Spider-Man 3-ish--and Schumacher-ish--part of Amazing 2 has to be the source cue by Hans Zimmer and "the Magnificent Six" (a collective that included Pharrell Williams and Johnny Marr) for when Electro plays "Itsy Bitsy Spider" on giant Tesla coils while battling Spidey. It results in the Garfield one-liner that's most reminiscent of the terribly written comedic bits from Disney XD's Ultimate Spider-Man animated series ("I hate this song!"). The other cheesy element of the Zimmer/Magnificent Six score is...

Electro's equally cheesy theme

The nu metal chanting that's supposed to represent Electro's inner dialogue ("He lied to me/He shot at me/He hates on me/He's using me/Fragility/Electricity/He's dead to me") brings back memories of Zimmer's horribly dated, Limp Bizkit-inspired nu metal score to 2000's Mission: Impossible II. (And then that M:I-2 score brings back memories of Will Sasso's brutal impression of Fred Durst on MADtv.)

The Zimmer/Magnificent Six score is a mixed bag, but it also contains the best thing to come out of Amazing 2: "It's On Again," the surprisingly good original theme by Zimmer, the Magnificent Six, Alicia Keys and Kendrick Lamar. Kendrick goes hard in his verse. It's one of many tremendous guest verses from Kendrick.

"It's On Again" marks the first time that an end credits tune in a Spidey movie doesn't suck (and man, has this franchise suffered from such atrocious-sounding pieces of music). The Zimmer/Pharrell/Alicia/Kendrick tune deserves to conclude a better movie, like the one with Miles--and not Peter--in the Spidey suit that's currently playing in my head or the one with an Asian hero in the suit that's also currently playing in my head.

Any character that disgusts and repulses Lou Dobbs is the fucking illest in my book.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Why I, a latecomer to The Rockford Files, became a fan of the classic P.I. show and the late James Garner

James Garner and James Garner
The legendary James Garner died yesterday at the age of 86. The following is a repost of "Watch The Rockford Files and call to see if Paul can score some weed," from January 16, 2009. In the '09 piece, I mentioned my goal to watch every episode of Garner's classic show, which I became a fan of several decades after it was cancelled.

I still haven't completed that goal, and I should really get my ass to Netflix Instant and marathon the hell out of Rockford again because Netflix has every single episode of Rockford (including the ones where Garner's knees were clearly wrecked, yet he didn't lose a beat and remained a trooper through it all). And also because Garner was truly one of the greatest.

Lost in the supermarket
(Photo source: Soref.TV)
Your friends do it and you've probably done it too: catch up on a show your lazy ass has put off watching by setting aside an entire weekend to view the DVD box set in one marathon sitting. Back when 24 first hit the DVD market, various writers who missed the first season chose to catch up with the show on DVD and recapped in real time what it was like to watch the first-season discs in one sitting, while a writer I used to work with picked the '80s version of The Twilight Zone for his weekend DVD marathon. A couple of years ago, those writers inspired me to do a similar marathon thing with the box sets of another cult show: The Rockford Files, Stephen J. Cannell's clever reinvention of the private eye genre, which starred James Garner in his signature role as rugged everyman gumshoe Jim Rockford.

Alright, so it's not quite a marathon. I haven't even viewed all 123 episodes yet, but my goal is to eventually see them all on DVD or via Netflix's media player for PC users. As of this writing, I haven't reached season five yet.

I picked Rockford because I was a fan of Veronica Mars (which starred one of the world's hottest-looking Star Wars geeks, Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Kristen Bell, who should have Jedi mind-tricked the CW assclowns into bringing back her show). Before I started renting the Rockford DVDs from Netflix, I had only caught Veronica's spiritual granddaddy once or twice on cable, so I wanted to better acquaint myself with Rockford on DVD, where it's uncut and commercial-free (on Hulu, it's not commercial-free). The older the series, the more it gets chopped up by syndicators to accommodate commercial breaks, which grow annoyingly longer with each passing year. So that must mean Adventures of Superman reruns will eventually be edited down to 10 minutes, and George Reeves' flying sequences will be sped up so badly it'll look like the Metropolis underworld slipped some crank into the Daily Planet watercooler.

Rockford still draws a cult that's pretty rabid, though not quite as huge as Veronica's online fanbase. Slackers like the main character's pal in Ben Folds Five's "Battle of Who Could Care Less" dig Rockford reruns because Jim is one of them. They identify with a hero who'd rather go fishing with his father Rocky (Noah Beery) than do his job. The fans who still visit the newsgroup continue to exchange favorite Garner wisecracks, and a couple of fan sites list every wacky message Jim received on his answering machine during the opening credits.

On disc, Rockford has aged better than most '70s shows, thanks to quirky, sharp and timeless scripts penned by staff writers like Cannell, future Sopranos creator David Chase and Juanita Bartlett. Seventies TV comes in three modes: schlocky (the Krofft variety shows, anything with Glen A. Larson's name on it), sanctimonious (M*A*S*H, Norman Lear's shrill shoutcoms) or a hideous mash-up of both (Hawaii Five-0, the "Fonzie gets a library card" era of Happy Days). Rockford is one of the few '70s shows I've seen that's neither of the above, and whenever the series did address a serious issue--like the flaws of the grand jury system in its most celebrated ep, the Bartlett-scripted "So Help Me God"--it did it with class and zero preachiness.

Friday, July 18, 2014

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: How It Should Have Ended, "How Godzilla Should Have Ended"

Godzilla's hankering for some fish tacos, but he'll fucking pulverize you if you put salmon in them.
Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. By "the week," I mean from late Thursday at midnight to the following late Thursday at 11:59pm. Today's Show of the Week has a bizarre and difficult-to-pin-down posting schedule, but its latest episode debuted online last Friday morning. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, doesn't have a schedule that's as difficult to pin down. It airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.

Starz Digital Media's How It Should Have Ended series/channel is always reliable for a few grins or light chuckles over its short parodies of laughable plot holes and denouements from recent Hollywood blockbusters. In its latest installment, HISHE tackles Gareth Edwards' Godzilla reboot, and HISHE writers/voice actors Tina Alexander and Daniel Baxter get in a few good digs about the collateral damage caused in the Edwards film by Godzilla's battles against the MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms).

"Oh, sure, when Godzilla destroys half the city and kills the unstoppable threat to save the world, everyone cheers. But when I do it, everyone gets all grouchy and judgmental," whines the Henry Cavill version of Superman during "How Godzilla Should Have Ended." He shows up in MUTO battle-ravaged San Francisco to shame both Godzilla and the unusually cheery survivors and is still butt-hurt over Superman comics readers' negative responses to the violence in Zack Snyder's Man of Steel. (I'm starting to realize that the reason why the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake remains Snyder's most satisfying movie is mainly because of the screenplay by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, and not so much because of the contributions of the simple-minded neo-con that is Snyder. Have you ever listened to Snyder speak? All he says during interviews or commentraks is "Awesome" or "Blablabla's such a rock star.")

The animus towards Man of Steel is mostly because your latest film was such a goddamn slog, Supes, whereas Godzilla's isn't, although it's marred by Aaron Gray-Stanford-Brown-Whatever-the-Fuck's two-hour-long impression of a block of wood. As The Daily Dot astutely noted, Godzilla suffers from a boring white guy problem and is part of a long line of Hollywood tentpole blockbusters that opt for the least interesting characters as their leads. Out of a cast that includes Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins and Godzilla, Edwards chose to center the film around the individual with the least charisma or personality? This is the same problem I had with Edwards' previous sci-fi film, his 2010 indie breakthrough Monsters. It's a film about Mexico experiencing first contact with giant alien creatures, and it's told not through the eyes of any of its citizens but through the eyes of the most annoying white hipsters since those douches who gentrified the barrio side of Arlen and slipped salmon into Enrique's fish tacos?

I wish "How Godzilla Should Have Ended" (which, like all other HISHE installments, boasts some impressive background art by Otis Frampton) focused on the Edwards reboot's boring white guy problem. But any HISHE short that has some fun at the expense of the tiresome 9/11 imagery in tentpole blockbusters like Man of Steel and Godzilla--and pits Gipsy Danger from Pacific Rim against Zilla in an amusing one-sided battle--is fine by me.

Friday, July 11, 2014

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Knights of Sidonia, season 1

J.J. Abrams is splooging all over the screen while looking at this photo.
Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. This week, there were a dozen of them instead of just one. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.

Knights of Sidonia, a CG-animated adaptation of Tsutomu Nihei's space manga that first aired on Japanese TV in April and was brought to America exclusively by Netflix Instant in both dubbed and subtitled versions on July 4, has been described more than once as "Attack on Titan in space." That's kind of true, but a more accurate shorthand description would be "Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica for Japanese viewers who thought Galactica didn't include enough harem storylines."

For those who aren't up on their anime subgenres, the harem subgenre is any show where three or more girls fall for the male lead at the same time. It's like the Bogart/Bacall version of The Big Sleep, where every lady throws herself at Bogie, from leggy Martha Vickers as Carmen Sternwood ("She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up") to Dorothy Malone as a bookstore owner who's the world's first sexy librarian. On Knights of Sidonia, female mecha pilots are constantly spitting game to (or inviting to dinner) inexperienced but diligent teen pilot Nagate Tanikaze (Ryōta Ōsaka; former Power Rangers star Johnny Yong Bosch in the American dub), a new recruit in the military who's like a lost puppy dog they all want to take care of.

The corny harem material is the least effective part of Knights of Sidonia--it's the most evident sign that the show is based on a manga for teens--but fortunately, it's only a tiny piece of the show's first cour (a.k.a. season), which can be streamed from start to finish on Netflix. Because when Knights of Sidonia is focused on either space battles or the politics aboard the Sidonia, a giant spaceship where survivors from a destroyed future Earth have rebuilt their old homeworld within the hull and are debating the military's insistence on pouring all the ship's fragile resources into continuing to battle an unstoppable alien menace, the show is on a par with Galactica in terms of gritty and genuinely nail-biting military sci-fi. The world-building on Knights of Sidonia is impressively handled (as are the show's visuals of a lived-in future world), and as long as it doesn't turn one of its pilot heroines into a guardian angel, Knights of Sidonia, which has been renewed for a second cour, is in tip-top shape.

The orphaned and socially awkward Nagate--who spent all his life being raised and taught to pilot mechs by his recently deceased grandfather below the surface of the city in the ship, so at the start of the show, he has no knowledge of the world above ground--works nicely as an audience surrogate into this bizarre and intriguing future world where humans have genetically engineered themselves in order to survive the rigors of space. People can now clone themselves and photosynthesize just like plants, so they don't need to eat as much (it results in my favorite background sight gag that has gone unnoticed by critics and Knights of Sidonia viewers: the dining hall where Nagate, who was born without the ability to photosynthesize, eats his meals is always empty).

In her off-hours, the bear likes to chase around Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin in the woods and fuck with their heads.
But wait, there's more: Nagate's androgynous new best friend Izana Shinatose (Aya Suzaki; Stephanie Sheh in the American dub) is a member of the third gender, which means that when Izana chooses a lover, Izana's genderless body adapts to whatever kind of lovemaking is required. Female Sidonia captain Kobayashi (Sayaka Ohara; Cowboy Bebop's Wendee Lee in the dub), who rescues Nagate from the gutter and upon first meeting him, bizarrely embraces him as if he were her son (for mysterious reasons that are gradually unveiled throughout the season), is one of several veterans on the Sidonia who are hundreds of years old, thanks to scientific advances that somehow don't involve drinking the blood of young virgins. To assert her authority as the highest-ranked officer on the ship, Captain Kobayashi wears a porcelain mask both on duty and in public, rendering her face immobile. Joan Rivers would call Knights of Sidonia the feel-good animated show of the year.

"Feel-good" would be odd to apply to Knights of Sidonia, because a lot of the show is more on the side of feel-bad. I like how a small bit of humor like Nagate's awkward adjustment to his gravity belt early on in the season later takes a turn for the dramatic in the fourth episode, where the ship's death toll becomes shockingly enormous due to inhabitants who were careless about their gravity belts during one of many wartime emergencies. Death affects the ship's inhabitants as early as the first episode, but it isn't until that fourth episode, "Sacrifices"--the best of the 12 episodes--when the show really raises the stakes. The intense "Sacrifices" proves that Knights of Sidonia isn't a kids' show take on war that cowers from depicting the brutality and unpleasantness of war, and fortunately, it doesn't do so in a really forced, "look at me, I'm edgy and all up in your face" kind of way that brings to mind either the worst and most puerile of DC's New 52 relaunch or Torchwood's mostly dreadful first season (although fan service occasionally turns up on Knights of Sidonia in the form of nude female photosynthesizing scenes).

The Gauna, the Lovecraftian alien race that destroyed Earth and resurfaces after a 100-year absence to attack Earth's survivors again, are distinctive for not having any dialogue and remaining non-communicative through the entire season (they don't have a mouthpiece character who speaks for them). All these shape-shifters do during the first season is mimic their human opponents and their Garde mechs to outthink and outgun them, without any mundane explanation or exposition. The lack of dialogue and discernible motive makes the Gauna especially menacing (if you prefer your villains to be a lot talkier, Knights of Sidonia frequently pits Nagate against a jealous rich-kid pilot named Kunato, but he's boring and one-note as an antagonist in comparison to Benisuzume, a Gauna that assumes the form of a dead female pilot's Garde and communicates only in creepy anime giggles). The Gauna bring to mind the Mimics from Edge of Tomorrow, with a little bit of the body horror of the titular menace in John Carpenter's The Thing. Their force-of-nature intensity as an adversary results in Nagate and the military's attempts to defeat them being especially impactful and meaningful in the last couple of episodes (when the show isn't concentrated on its thrilling space battles, the jerky, TV-budget frame rate by the animators at Polygon Pictures, the Japanese studio behind Transformers Prime and Tron: Uprising, is more noticeable).

I'm making Knights of Sidonia sound like it's misery porn a la another Netflix exclusive, the as-unkillable-as-the-Gauna cop show The Killing. But unlike The Killing, humor is occasionally deployed to keep Knights of Sidonia from turning into a complete slog. The aforementioned harem hijinks, which feel out of place on Knights of Sidonia, aren't so effective in injecting levity (by the way, not all the female officers want to bang Nagate; Sasaki, the Gardes' female lead mechanic, is seen giving Nagate a hard time for being allowed to fly the most sophisticated Garde despite his inexperience). Instead, the character I expected to be the most rote form of comic relief fares a little better at comic relief than the harem material, and it's the most Japanese part of the show: Nagate's dorm mother Lala Hiyama (Satomi Arai; Jane Carroll in the dub), an ex-Garde pilot who, without any explanation so far, chose to live forever in the body of a bear.

I never expected this cross between Guinan and Hagrid who's in the form of a talking bear to work at all both comedically and dramatically, but Knights of Sidonia somehow pulls it off. In fact, almost everything else about Knights of Sidonia itself is a risky move too, from the choice of 3D animation, which some Knights of Sidonia viewers have found to be wonky-looking, to writing its alien antagonists as speechless. But like Nagate, the show fights to assert itself and eventually wins you over, but not to the point where you want to make out with it like all the girls who are smitten with Nagate.