I’m the type of person who tries to stay away from things that get a lot of hype. If I’m told repeatedly how awesome something is I get worried that it won’t deliver on its promises and I avoid it like the plague. I’ve been disappointed by “great” things before. I’ve stood in line at midnight only to go home a sad little fangirl. I’ve dropped $60 on a game only to want to trade it in the next morning. I’ve sat through 2 hour long movies and wondered what the weather was like outside because it just had to be better than the crap I had just spent money on. So I’ve decided to do a segment about those popular things we’re all told to watch and play and answer the question, “Is it worth the hype?”
This week’s topic:
2012! (the year, not the movie). In this article I’m going to talk about all of the little nice surprises I had last year. Too often do things disappoint me in the fandom universe, giving me a sort of cynical outlook when things are coming out. But sometimes the cynicism shifts into something more pleasant. Sometimes, the things I expect nothing from surprise the hell out of me and I end up loving them more than I should — please, never check my tumblr.
So here’s to the things from 2012 that I either a) expected nothing from but ended up loving or b) expected to be, at the very least, entertaining, but ended up being completely caught off guard and overwhelmed by my sudden outburst of emotions.
Cartoon surprise: Turtles and spiders and BFFs, oh my!
Who isn’t tired of cartoon remakes by now? Every time I turn around there’s a series I loved being redone to fit the needs of this generation of children. Whether it’s terrible CG, or awful rap music openings, for some reason things that ended in the 80s and 90s are back today. When I heard they were doing this to the “Ninja Turtles” I wasn’t very optimistic. However, I decided to give it a shot because I like punishing myself.
And oh, oh my stars. The new “Ninja Turtles” cartoon is so good!
It’s everything I loved about the original properly remade into a current turtles’ series. This is how you want your childhood remakes to be done. Each turtle has his own personality that I think actually outshines the original, right down to their appearances — Donatello is missing a tooth and there’s even height differences between them. It did take some getting use to to see April as a teenage girl, but she’s actually useful to the team — another plus. She also has more at stake then she did in the original, so when she goes out and does dangerous things it isn’t just “for the good of the story” or “to be the inevitable damsel in distress.” Actually, she’s not much of a damsel since she actually does pull her weight.
There’s also small details that I feel this series pays better attention to than the original. For example, when they go out for their first fight they aren’t that good at all, having been stuck in the sewers all their lives with no actual combat experience except for sparring each other. And sometimes, they don’t succeed in their missions. Sometimes there are moments when you actually think that Shredder is going to kill them and you breathe a sigh of relief when they manage to escape. Yeah, they actually have to retreat because Shredder is that good. Shredder is actually a competent villain, how cool is that?!
So instead of a crappy Michael Bay bastardization we get a great cartoon series, score one for us!
Honorable mention: The new series “Ultimate Spider-man,” which manages to be the only Spider-man cartoon that I like besides the original 90s series with that rocktastic theme song. It has an interesting plot where Spider-man has been Spider-man for a while, but S.H.I.E.L.D decides to pick him up and put him in a team of other teenage heroes. It also has several interesting twists, like Mary-Jane being the one who wants to work for the Daily Bugle, Harry Osborn becoming Venom and Norman Osborn being a bigger jackass than I remember. There’s also plenty of Marvel cameos that Spider-man tends to fanboy over, from Ironman, to Thor, to Wolverine — o.k., he doesn’t like Wolverine that much.
Honorable mention the second: I need to talk about my girl Lauren Faust and how she’s constantly making addictive cartoon series. “Powerpuff Girls,” “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” and then “Super Best Friends Forever.” There were only five episodes, each a little over a minute long, but they had the style and humor that Faust does so well. It starred Wonder Girl, Batgirl, and Supergirl as they faced their daily trials and tribulations as superheroines. This included sneaking out when being grounded, sneaking out while dad was sleeping, wanting to take out big sister Wonder Woman’s invisible jet, and trying to be taken seriously as heroines despite being girls who were not only super, but best friends… forever! I really wish this series would’ve been longer, or picked up as a longer series in general, but as it stands it seems to have no future.
Movie surprise: Of spiders and guardians who avoid cabins
I feel like I talk about “The Amazing Spider-man” a lot when it comes to movies of 2012, but you have to understand, I had zero expectations for this movie. Not only did I not fall into the hype, I pretty much turned my back on it. “Spider-man 3” was awful, and franchise reboots don’t always go so well. Sure, “X-Men First Class” was great and all, having renewed my faith after the mess that was “X3,” but I still had little faith in this supposedly “amazing” Spider-man.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more wrong in my life.
“The Amazing Spider-man,” to me, is exactly what you want your movie reboots to be. In fact, this is what the original movies should’ve been. Not that the first “Spider-man” movie was bad, but this? This was just, well… amazing. The characters, the story, the action, everything was there and everything was perfect. You feel for Peter Parker as he tries to find out the truth about his parents. At the same time, you’re excited, because bringing up S.H.I.E.L.D has so much future potential for the Spider-man franchise. You feel for him when he loses Uncle Ben and you feel for him as he struggles with his relationship with Aunt May. You want him to stay at home with her, but you know that he has to be Spider-man — but damnit, you really really want him to get her those eggs! You love him and Gwen Stacy together and you worry over their future since most of us spider fans knows what happens to her. In fact, I like her relationship with Peter better than the one he had with Mary Jane in the previous movies. You feel so many things and you love the movie, but it hurts to watch at the same time.
Honorable mention: This goes to “Rise of the Guardians.” I went in expecting something cute, maybe a bit humorous, with a feel good message that I would enjoy for a day then forget about. However, I came out being in love with this franchise and wanting more from it — especially since there are other books. There’s something about movies that make you want to believe in those childhood things again. I’m a big fan of the idea of things existing because we believe in them, and dying if we stop. I also like the overall message of wanting to be seen by someone, wanting to be noticed, wanting people to know who you are and how miserable it is to feel alone. Jack Frost, as a character, is extremely relatable. It’s not about being as popular as the other big guardians, it’s about at least having one person know who you are and how much it hurts when they run right through you.
Honorable mention the second: Let’s talk about a little movie called “Cabin in the Woods.” Or not, because everything will be a spoiler. Still, if you haven’t checked out this intriguing little horror flick you most definitely should. Just remember, it’s Joss Whedon, so you probably shouldn’t get attached to any characters.
Gaming surprise: Persona 4 mania and bad endings
I will never, ever get over the fact that “Persona 4” came out back in 2008 and is still ridiculously popular. I am so in love with this franchise, as everyone around me knows, so you might be surprised to see this on my list. I want to talk about “Persona 4: Arena,” specifically. I got to try this game before it came out at E3 2012 and I had a good time with it. I thought, “Hey, this is fun,” and left it at that. I fully planned on purchasing it day one because I’m a huge fan of fighting games, so combining “Persona” with “fighting” was like putting together warm milk and chocolate powder for me.
However, I never expected “Arena” to be so important to the “Persona” franchise as a whole.
I didn’t expect it to have a plot, a good plot at that. It managed to be a worthy sequel to “Persona 4” while tying it together with “Persona 3” and the previous two Persona games There’s also a good opening for “Persona 5” to slide right in. Needless to say, I got way more than I bargained for with this game.
(dis)Honorable mention: Now I realize that fan rage is a thing that happens, but the Mass Effect community was in such an uproar about the ending of “Mass Effect 3” that fans took action of the cupcake variety. No, I’m not joking about that. After some confusion over a charity auction fans went to plan B: raising $1000 in an hour to send BioWare 402 multi-colored cupcakes that were all the same vanilla flavor — symbolism, me thinks. There’s a bunch more controversy over the endings, including involvement of the U.S. Better Business Bureau — wow! — but in the end BioWare released an Extended Cut that added to the three existing endings and included a fourth. The message in the bottle? Don’t piss off BioWare fans.
Anime surprise: Holy grail wars and magical girls
Let me preface this by saying that I was never into “Fate/Stay Night.” I’ve watched one episode and it didn’t really grab my attention. So when I heard about “Fate/Zero” I wasn’t really interested at all. My partner, however, kept telling me how great it was. I didn’t believe her. At all. Though I suppose since I am, again, into punishing myself I decided to give it a shot.
Wow. Just, wow.
The first part of the series started in 2011, but the series came to an end in 2012. The first part sort of served as an introduction to Holy Grail 101 and the characters involved, but the second part that finished off the series? Let me tell you something. There’s something about a series where you go in knowing that people are going to die. You go in knowing that this battle is going to happen and there can only be one winner, so you prepare yourself for characters to die. Usually I go in trying my hardest to not get attached to anyone… which means I get attached to everyone, only to watch them all die as the series comes to an end. And it hurts, it hurts so much, but it hurts so good. Not to mention the terrible timing of when certain episodes would air, “Happy Mother’s Day,” from “Fate/Zero,” mwuhahahahahaha!
This series impressed me so much that I actually want to go and give “Fate/Stay Night” another try.
Bonus Round: Speaking of partners who can’t stop talking about anime series, I feel like if I don’t talking about “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” my relationship status is doomed. I haven’t watch it yet, but I’ve heard about a million and one things about it. This has got to be the most misleading anime series to be made in a long, long time. “Awwwww, look at the adorable magical girls, I bet they go on magical adventures, and hey look at that cute cat bunny thing I bet that’s their adorable pet, tee hee.” Saying anything past this point would be a giant spoiler and ruin the series, just know this: do not go into this series with any feelings. Leave your heart at the door, because it will be broken.
Manga surprise: The darkest butler and master of them all
Let me tell you about this series called “Black Butler” or “Kuroshitsuji” for the Japanese savvy. It looks like it’s all fun and cakes, but honestly: it’s not. If you’ve been keeping up with the English releases then you know that 2012 concluded what is, to me, the best story arc in this series so far. When you read the circus arc it almost makes you pissed off. You’re pissed that this isn’t in the anime, you’re pissed that season two wasn’t about this amazing story arc. You’re also convinced that this is, again, one of the most misleading series you’ve ever read. Yes, the Jack the Ripper arc happened, but in between it’s been pretty funny. Prince Soma and his antics, Ciel trying to get into the circus, it’s been cute smiles and… yeah you can flush all of that down the toilet.
By the time you get to the end of the arc you’re emotionally drained. The manga essentially has ripped your soul out, and Ciel’s laughing at you the entire time. It’s one of those moments where you’re not quite sure who to root for, you know it’s supposed to be the main character but you’re not sure if you want him to win. However, you really don’t want him to lose, because he’s justified in what he does. So you’re stuck in the middle, questioning all of these emotions you feel building up in the pit of your stomach, and in the end you have to take a deep breath and put the book down.
TV series surprise: Elementary, my dear
When I heard of yet another Sherlock Holmes series I was interested, but skeptical. There was already the BBC series — which I do enjoy — I just wasn’t sure what to expect from a modern day, American take on Sherlock. I became more interested with the idea of a female Watson, but held my breath just in case things took a more romantic turn instead of focusing on the interesting dynamic between Sherlock and Watson.
Thankfully, I didn’t need to hold my breath for long.
“Elementary” is a brilliant take on Sherlock Holmes. It’s a well done American version to the classic story and the relationship between Holmes and Watson is spectacular. The cases are interesting, but it’s these two that really make the series thrive. What I like best is that they’re both beautifully flawed — though Sherlock is more obvious about it than Watson. They both have scars they aren’t willing to share, which becomes more interesting as Watson tries to convince Sherlock to open up more. She wants him to stop keeping to himself while, at the same time, she hasn’t opened up to him at all. It’s sort of like watching two different interpretations to the same type of damaged character: Sherlock is always seen as strange, quirky, and unable to open up to anyone. Watson is more put together and blends in better with the people around her. You’d never think that she had her own secrets, but as you watch you realize that her secrets may be just as bad as his — or worse. In a way, Watson is more frustrating as a character because she’s trying to pull Sherlock away from himself when she isn’t opening up to him, either.