Television Reviews

Titan attacking a city
Image credit: Deviant Art

Attack on Titan and The Attack on Shonen Global Dominance

If you think watching vicious man-eating titans trying to eliminate humanity is something that would be too violent to ever become mainstream, you’d be very wrong. For those of you who need a recap, Attack on Titan is an anime and manga series written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama. The story is set in a world where humanity is confined inside cities surrounded by huge walls, which protect them from massive man-eating Titans. The story is spearheaded by the protagonist Eren Yeager, who vows to exterminate the Titans after a Titan decimates his hometown and eats his mother in front of him (Yikes).

Anime is a niche form of entertainment for Japanese animated shows, with genres ranging from drama, action, romance, fantasy, historical fiction and many more. AOT (Attack on Titan) in particular is a Seinen. Translating to “youth”, it’s a more mature genre, which can include gorey battles and complex themes. That AOT is becoming mainstream despite its genre just highlights the anticipation that season 4 holds.

After the tragic events of the Shinganshima attack which saw Titans break through the walls and destroy Eren’s hometown we flash forward 2 years to see the trio of friends Armin, Mikasa and Eren faced with a new enemy nation in Marley! These crazy events that lead to season 4 includes memory alternating, betrayal and blurred lines between good and bad guys.

My only critique of the show is that I feel the pacing of season 4 is too fast, we have so much content to explore from the manga, but a limited number of episodes. However, I suppose wanting more episodes is always a good sign of a great show.  Some of the brilliance showcased in season 4 can be attributed to character development, Armin starts off as a weak frightened character with a prodigy level intellect. Armin, in season 4, displays grit, determination and guts. He does so in ‘blazing’ fashion (if you’ve seen the anime, you’ll understand), casting his fears aside to help secure a crucial victory for humanity.

Eren in season 4 is a polarising figure, he takes a brutal approach to achieve his ideals, love it or hate it Eren Yeager is stealing the show. Season 4 is the Eren show and I love it. His actions are justified and plausible through foreshadowing; it doesn’t feel forced and he feels like a credible anti-hero. That is encapsulated with this line he delivers from season 4, “The people who push themselves into hell see a different hell from the rest of us. They also see something beyond that hell.”

Hajime Isayama stated in an interview that his original ending would involve killing every main character. However, he also said he felt this ending would be ‘irresponsible’ so if you’re a team Levi or Team Eren, there is hope yet. If you’re not convinced to watch this masterpiece you can’t refute the numbers, Attack on Titan only has 33 manga volumes and is still the 25th best-selling manga ever, compared with number 1, One Piece which has a staggering 97 volumes.  Had Attack on Titan  been longer it may be the best-selling manga ever. Finally, as Eren Jeager says, “Nothing can suppress a human’s curiosity” so go give Attack on Titan a watch.

Two Formula 1 pilots shaking hands
Image credit: Netflix Press, Director: Martin Webb, Production Company: Netflix

Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive Season 3 – Entertaining but Incomplete

Drive to Survive is back for its third season. For the first time ever DtS boasts that it follows all ten teams and all twenty drivers in Formula 1. This year the show begins with pre-season testing, before moving onto the highly anticipated first race of the season; the Australian grand prix – which does get cancelled due to the Covid pandemic. 

Thankfully for all those who are bored of the C-word, Drive To Survive only briefly mentions the repercussions of the pandemic, allowing us a glimpse into the world of team principals as the audience becomes a ‘fly on the wall’ in a zoom call with team principals at Williams, Red Bull and Renault. The revised 2020 season seems to be quickly arranged with one brief phone call between Liberty CEO Chase Carey to McLaren boss Zak Brown, before going racing once more. 

Early episodes of DtS covers the early controversy regarding Racing Point’s ‘Pink Mercedes’. An interesting move for a show that attracts new followers to the sport and demonstrates the confusing rules which sometimes do or do not exist. Alongside this, F1 fans who regularly tune in to watch the races on their television screens each weekend will no doubt notice the copy and pasting of radio messages into the action to suit the storyline. Nobody pushes hard in pre-season testing. 

Would it be Formula 1 if Red Bull wasn’t once again crucifying their second driver? This year unlucky victim is Alexander Albon. DtS follows the rumour mill of who is likely to take his place. Spoiler alert, it’s not Frenchman Pierre Gasly who was replaced mid-season by Albon in 2019 when he was under performing. Netflix spared viewers the pain of a black square stating that Alex will not be racing in the 2021 season.

Aussie favourite Daniel Riccardo makes a return throughout the series, following him on another departure from another team, this time Renault. We’re left wondering if Cyril Abiteboul is capable of compartmentalising his feelings at all as he fails to cope with the heartbreak.

The series again follows Haas and team principal Gunther Steiner as they battle against financial struggles of being a small team in F1. They need funding and the only answer seems to be replacing both current drivers with rookies for the 2021 season. Whilst such a heavy presence is made by Haas in the series, there is no reportage regarding controversial 2021 Haas driver Nikita Mazepin. Perhaps Netflix is saving that drama for 2021?

As anticipated Romain Grosjean’s crash is covered. DtS expertly captures the mood both in and out of the paddock at the time of the event. This is likely to be the first time a sporting moment as harrowing as this has been treated with such respect and humility in a documentary. 

The final few races seem to be glossed over including George Russell’s replacement of Lewis Hamilton in the second Bahrain race, despite a heavy Williams presence in the second season. But arguably the oddest part of the series is the lack of coverage regarding the We Race As One and the Black Lives Matter movements which featured regularly at each race. Instead, it is left to Lewis Hamilton, alone, in the final five minutes of the final episode. 

For a community that waited over 200 days for a race due to a global pandemic, DtS is a welcome fix of content, but like the sport itself, it is not without its faults. Ten episodes work when you’re only following a small number of drivers and teams but as witnessed by the over-dramatisation, the events that remain untold and the drivers who lack screen time, Netflix may have bitten off more than they could chew this time around. 

Produced by: Box to Box Productions

As seen on: Netflix

Wanda and Vision in their living room
Image Credit: DMED Disney Media

WandaVision: Marvel Taking a Step in a Good Direction

WandaVision is an on-screen adaptation of a series of comic books and graphic novels under the Marvel brand. The show focuses around the characters of Wanda – the Scarlet Witch, and Vision – a robotic AI, who are both well established characters within Marvel Cinematic Universe. WandaVision explores over its short season some of the most interesting comic storylines for the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) – the two characters have been shown as romantic interest within the MCU, and this show expands on that premise.

WandaVision infuses a mix of source material with a hearty dose of original storylines. The show may be considered a ‘slow-burner’ by many due to the distinctly different tone of the first couple of episodes, which almost entirely follow the classic stylings of American sitcoms from the 50’s (even matching the black and white shows of the time) and 60’s. This theme does continue throughout the series with many of the episodes shifting in style to match the style of American sitcom from whatever era they are replicating within the episode, something that is very impressive to see play out visually as it creates a divided viewing experience from episode to episode unlike any seen before. 

WandaVision incorporates stories such as Scarlet Witch’s origin story showing her powers and her capabilities in a new light than that which was previously shown, and the creation and introduction of White Vision, the hollow figure of a once compassionate and loving creation. The show explores these characters while blending the narrative with interesting comic storylines for the new additions as well, as both the villain Agatha Harkness and the children of the protagonist, Billy and Tommy, better known in the comics as young avengers Wiccan and Speed, get introduced in a way that doesn’t feel like an origin story within a show, but rather a natural progression of the show’s storying. The blending of these elements turns WandaVision into a compelling first season of television.

The penultimate episode of the show could easily be seen as the most captivating of the whole series, containing what could be viewed as the most emotive and meaningful content featured in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since it debuted in 2008. Here we see a sense of depth that is often overlooked in comic book movies, which have a tendency to prioritise action over genuine character development. Episode 8 instead delivers a heartbreaking take on Wanda’s struggles with mental health. As the viewers, we take a deep dive into her repressed memories of those who she has loved and lost, allowing for a greater understanding of the character than had been given in her previous on-screen appearances.

The show ends in a typical cliché, where the hero saves the day but has to sacrifice everything that they care about in order to do so. This is a staple ending in comic books, so the lack of a subversive conclusion is not a surprise and is likely welcomed by many. It would have been nice to see the studio attempt something different to this formulaic finale, but despite this the show maintains its status as the most creative and differential work created by Marvel Studios.

Produced by: Marvel Studios

As Seen on: DisneyPlus

Bloom with fiery eyes
Image credit: Netflix Press, Director: Brian Young, Production Company: Netflix

Fate: The Winx Saga and the Transformation From Magic to Mundane

Moon Prism Power! Guardians unite! Winx! The magical girl concept is a blast from the past, so when Netflix announced they were going to do a live-action adaptation of the 2004 Nickelodeon show Winx Club, now called Fate: The Winx Saga, it was met with warm nostalgia but also high expectations. Sadly, instead of the colourful adventures and magical friendships that the original cartoon show became known for, Netflix copy and pasted the darker themes and colour palettes from Riverdale and Teen Wolf and called it a day.

In Nickelodeon’s Winx Club, the story follows Bloom who, upon discovering that she possesses the power of the dragon fire, moves to the Magix dimension to attend Alfea, the magic school for fairies. Bloom goes on to meet her friends, forming the Winx club, while also venturing out to discover her past and the origin of her powers. The show is iconic for its diverse cast, heart-warming friendships, and colourful fashion.

Needless to say, I grew up watching Winx Club, so the news of a live-action adaptation was for me a delight mixed with horror. Upon watching the show and noticing the more drastic changes that Netflix made, including the exclusion of Flora and Tecna, in addition to changing some of the original girls’ powers, I made an effort to accept that after all, it is an adaptation, so changes are bound to be made. However, when watching the six one-hour long episodes, I couldn’t shake the bitter realization that the show felt lacklustre. Nostalgia or not, Fate didn’t live up to its potential.

In comparison, the Netflix adaptation, despite following a similar storyline, includes the addition of zombie-monsters and a mystery surrounding them and Bloom. Fate also features more mature content such as sex, drugs, violence, and the occasional gore, which makes it unavoidable to notice how the fun and exciting atmosphere of the original show has been replaced by an edgier tone, accompanied by the 16+ rating.

To Fate’s credit, the pacing was acceptable. The dark academia vibe was suited to the tone they went with, and despite info-dumping and awkward dialogue the show managed to keep the suspense with intriguing cliff-hangers.

However, when you have a setting of multiple magic dimensions including what Fate calls the “Otherworld”, I think it becomes a clear example of the efforts that went into the worldbuilding with fairies from other planets using Earth’s Instagram and the pop culture references all Earth related. The first episode where Bloom’s father retorts to her reference to Lord of the Flies with “Ladies of the Flies, sweetie. Don’t be sexist” accurately depicts the fake wokeness that lingers throughout the show and that seems to have infested Netflix screenwriting room. In addition to the astonishingly few occasions of magic display, hinting at the studio’s minimal special effects budget, the show’s “plot twist” in the final episode was undermined by underwhelming character development, rendering the catharsis of the moment mediocre. It was just too little, too late.

Overall, if you enjoy darker storylines and aren’t too picky about special effects, then Fate: The Winx Saga might be an enjoyable watch. However, if you want a show full of magic, adventure and better character development, then shout Winx! and watch this adaptation transform back into the lovely Winx Club.

Series Showrunner: Brian Young

As seen on: Netflix