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Welcome to the world of The Earl and the Fairy, an alternate Victorian England where fairies are real, but only fairy doctors can see them. This is a manga adaption by Ayuko of the Japanese novel of the same name by Mizue Tani. The review of volumes 1 and 2 is here.
Edgar J.C Ashenbert, the new Blue Knight Earl, announces to the royal court that Lydia Carlton is his fairy doctor and advisor without consulting her, thus forcing Lydia to follow him to London. In this story arc, the Fogman steals English children in the night, Edgar is up to something again, and the lovely Doris Walpole & repulsively selfish Rosalie are introduced, both of whom? have a mysterious connection to Edgar.
Lydia struggles with her attraction to the secretive and attractive Edgar, constantly feeling he is manipulating her while romancing other women. Meanwhile, Doris Walpole has been taken by the Fogman and Lydia’s first case as a London fairy doctor is to find her. The tragedy is that Edgar has feelings for Lydia, but his plans keep getting in the way.
Pacing in these volumes is much better than the previous two. There is a good balance between character and plot development. The artwork by Ayuko is busier, which is natural since the story takes place in the city amidst the hustle and bustle of high society, but still beautifully rendered.
The world building, however, is fantastic. I especially enjoyed the legend of the fairy eggs, which are glass stones said to contain a trapped fairy. The egg is placed on top of a fortune telling (Oiuja) board, the seekers place fingers on a coin, and the fairy moves the coin to spell answers to questions. The game is a variation of the Japanese game, Kokkuri San. In the real world there are no legends of glass fairy eggs in England that I could find, but there are water filled agate stones of interest to crystal healers. The author, Mizue Tani, has done a wonderful job of taking disparate elements from England & Japan and weaving them into her world’s traditions.
I also found the scene where Lydia tried to trap the hobgoblin’s soul into a bottle, but ended up being trapped inside it instead, very creative. Her empty shell of a body was given to slavers, and Edgar became quite fierce with desperation to rescue her. This inventive scene allowed Edgar to cradle the bottle protectively until her soul was reunited with her body. Even Lydia’s stubbornness had to acknowledge that act of compassion in the end.
The story ended with the slaver and Fogman mysteries being solved, and most especially the issues of Edgar’s childhood being resolved. Lydia & Edgar’s relationship was left in a state of warm friction. I had the feeling that their adventures continued on, but in a very positive direction. From mermaids and cities under the sea to child abduction, urban legends, and slavery, Tani & Ayuko created a wonderful fantasy series that fantasy manga fans are sure to enjoy.
Release Date: September 4, 2012 / December 4, 2012 (USA)
ISBNs: vol.3 142154170X (9781421541709)
vol.4 1421541718 (9781421541716)
Publisher: Viz Media
Original Title: 伯爵と妖精 (Hakushaku to Yōsei)
Language: 1 (minor expletives)
Violence: 1 (knife fights, other fisticuffs)
Imagine an alternate Victorian England where fairies are real, but only fairy doctors can see them. This is the world of The Earl and the Fairy, a manga adaption by Ayuko of the novel by Mizue Tani.
Fairy doctors can only see and speak to fairies, not perform magic themselves, so they act as ambassadors between faeries and the world of man. Lydia Carlton, a young fairy doctor setting up shop in Scotland, has been sought out by two parties seeking the Treasure Sword—abducted by one, then “rescued” by the other.
One of the parties, the roguish Edgar J.C Ashenbert, wants the sword to prove he is the rightful heir to the Blue Knight Earl’s title. The other party seeks the sword’s Star Sapphire for the wealth it will bring. Unfortunately, neither side can decipher the riddle that hides the sword’s location. How lucky for Lydia that she can.
That story is told in volumes one & two, taking Lydia from her sleepy, but unappreciated life as a country fairy doctor to first captivity upon the open seas, then back to the mainland as a partner to seek out mermaids on an Irish island on the edge of England’s territories.
Ayuko does a nice job establishing setting while introducing mysteries to be revealed later. (I definitely recommend reading the Viz translated version as opposed to the fan translated version out there which is often incoherent in its narrative.)
Lydia is charming as a heroine, and the dashingly good-looking Edgar constantly catches her eye. Although Lydia’s character seems the damsel in distress far too often, she does show spunk and fends off Edgar’s advances well. Edgar is a manipulative ladies man who is as handsome as he is untrustworthy. Yet he is an interesting character and rarely disappoints as we watch him establish himself as the Blue Knight Earl, escaping certain death only by Lydia’s intervention.
In one volume, Ayuko discussed the difficulty in adapting this novel when choosing what to keep and what to discard in the manga. I felt volume two showed this difficulty the most. Parts of it felt rushed and incomplete. The pacing was off as character development warred with action from chapter to chapter. For example, when we saw the death of a character—a sequence that was beautifully rendered by Ayuko—the scene was as poignant as it was confusing since we never quite learned what that character’s motivation was.
Fortunately, the payoff was worth the rough parts. Ayuko’s art is lovely and brings Tani’s story to life. The mermaid world, especially, was wonderfully illustrated and captured the traditional Irish yarns of cities underneath the waves. The bad guys may have suffered an ignominious fate off screen—taking their unclear motives and background story to their graves—but Edgar & Lydia’s tale took a fantastical turn. The reader should feel well rewarded.
Release Date: March 6, 2012 / June 5, 2012 (USA)
ISBNs: vol.1 1421541688 (9781421541686)
vol.2 1421541696 (9781421541693)
Publisher: Viz Media
Original Title: 伯爵と妖精 (Hakushaku to Yōsei)
Language: 1 (minor expletives)
Violence: 2 (implied torture/execution, fights with knives and guns)
The title character, Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), is tired of his job in the title video game. Day in and day out, Ralph spends his time wrecking the Niceland Apartment building inhabited by Fix-It Felix (voiced by Jack McBrayer) and his fans. After being defeated, he always goes to sleep, alone, in the brick-pile dump near the apartments.
Ralph dreams of one day winning a hero medal like those Ralph collects, and thereby ending his time as a video game villain. So one day he leaves the game, commandeers the outfit from a character from another game, and goes through Game Central Station (fashioned after Grand Central Station with electrical outlet architecture) into a that game: Hero’s Duty.
After fighting his way to the top of the central tower in the game, he wins the medal, but then accidentally sets off a chain of events which threatens all the games in the arcade. Along the way, he meets Vanelope (voiced by Sarah Silverman), a cute, glitchy character who is hunted by all the other characters in her game, but dreams of one day winning the Sugar Rush race so she can be a selectable by the visitors to Litwak’s Arcade.
The attention to detail in the film was amazing. There are so many references and hidden nods to video games from the very beginning (Pong, anyone?) that it will take you multiple viewings to be able to find them all—and even then, you may never find all of them. One of the main secondary characters, Calhoun (voiced by Jane Lynch), is from the first-person shooter Hero’s Duty, and her non-nonsense manner is spot-on to how many of the scripts in such games are written. I think the script writers had all kinds of fun trying to cram in as many references as possible, perhaps even moreso than the animators.
The music was very enjoyable as well. All throughout the film, the feel of the different games in the arcade is helped by the 8-bit to current styles used, depending on the age of the game being depicted. Fans of both older and newer games will be pleased with everything incorporated into the soundtrack.
Finally, I would be remiss in my duty as a reviewer if I failed to mention the Academy Award-winning animated short film which played before Wreck-It Ralph in theaters. Paperman is a mostly black-and-white film which tells of the fateful meeting of two people and how paper airplanes brought them together. I recommend watching that first, before watching Ralph, just to get the theater experience. It’s a wonderful little film and definitely deserves the Oscar.
I can’t recommend Wreck-It Ralph (and Paperman) enough. I enjoy both immensely every time I watch them, and I will be watching them many times. They are definitely among my favorite 2012 films. I think you’ll enjoy them, too.
Release Date: October 29, 2012 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Alcohol/Drugs: 0 (unless you count root beer)
Violence: 2 (some mild fantasy and science fiction violence)
Cruise is in rare form, and does an excellent job growing and changing as the film progresses. Kurylenko, as Julia, and Freeman, as Malcolm, also do an excellent job, and I really got to care for their characters. I wasn’t as fond of Riseborough, but I think that’s how it was supposed to be. Overall, the film had only five characters who appeared for any length of time, so Kosinski did a great job moving the story along with very few characters to work with.
I really liked the overall feel of this film. The set designs for the towers were spectacular, especially so after I learned how they did the clouds and lighting throughout the day. To get the feel of actually being up that high, they filmed 360° views for several days and nights on top of a mountain, and then projected those views onto giant screens surrounding the tower sets. The effect is absolutely stunning.
The interaction between Jack and the drones, killing machines which protect the rigs from the alien “Scavs”, is also excellent, providing several tense moments when Jack has to convince the drones to stop what they are doing. The drones are designed well, and add to the believability of the film, while also providing some occasional comic relief.
I thought the plot moved along very well, and with only a few minor hiccups. The film, despite how the trailers might have portrayed it, is not an action flick. While there are several exciting action scenes as well as several shootouts, the main focus is on Jack’s journey as he learns more about his past and the flashbacks he keeps having. This gives us several spots where the film doesn’t really move along as well as it could have, but these are the only real pacing problems. The only other items which I thought detracted from the film were the very brief shower scene, where we see Riseborough from the waist up from the back, and the pool scene, where she is swimming au natural (though only seen from a distance).
Overall, I enjoyed Oblivion. It’s a smart film that doesn’t talk down to its audience, and tells an engaging story as well. While I generally am not a fan of Cruise, he did an excellent job in this film. Go see it!
Release Date: April 19, 2013 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (drinking at a meal)
Language: 2 (mostly minor expletives, one f-bomb)
Nudity: 1 (brief shower scene, slightly-less brief pool scene)
Sexuality: 1 (above pool scene)
Violence: 3 (drones killing multiple people, gunfights, hand-to-hand fighting)
The CGI characters were remarkably well-animated (even, courtesy of motion capture, well acted!). The little china girl was completely credible and vulnerable and adorable. The monkey was cute but had enough of a sarcastic edge to him that he didn’t cross the line into cloyingly over-sweet. The flying baboons (or whatever they actually were) were the stuff children’s nightmares are made of. Very well done.
That brings us to the real characters. While the actors all did quite well with what they were given, I had some pretty big quibbles with what they were given. My biggest quibble was with character motivation. Time and again, I was thrown out of the movie when on-screen action left me thinking, “Now, WHY, other than ‘well, it’s in the script,’ did the character DO that?” Here are three cases in point.
Oz himself: For a guy who repeatedly wishes to be not just good, but GREAT, Oz spends a lot of the movie being neither. He repeatedly dodges opportunities to do great things. Granted, this makes it all the more satisfying when he does pull himself together and do something both great and good, but he frustrated the heck out of me for the first half of the film.
Theodora: Started off so naive. I could see her character train-wreck coming, and it could have been so gloriously tragic. It wasn’t. I could see her anger at Oz, no problem. But to side with the sister who actively and horribly betrayed her against Oz? How does that work? And to follow that sister into banishment, instead of pretending to repent in order to stab the hated wizard in the back later? I know, that’s how it has to be, to match already established future events, but surely they could have figured out some semblance of a rational reason behind her behavior!
Evanora: Classic case of “I’m evil, never mind why.” This would have been forgivable in a children’s movie, but Oz the Great and Powerful was not a children’s movie. And toward the end, why would a villain who had hitherto managed to be reasonably clever, at least, waste several minutes monologue-ing and then panic over fireworks and sleight-of-hand? Rachel Weisz looked stunning in the part and acted it up as much as she could, but her skills were wasted on this.
In fact, the only lead with clear, rational, well-developed character motivations was Glinda—and, while writer(s), director, and actress alike did a remarkably good job of balancing her, she still bordered on saccharine.
Okay, done venting. For the most part, I really did enjoy Oz the Great and Powerful. The visuals were amazing. The story was fun and had some pleasantly surprising details. The music added to the movie without distracting viewers from it. And, in the end, Oz became what I think they meant him to be—a flawed, believable, endearing character. Except for the irritating character motivation issues, this was a very fun show.
Release Date: March 8, 2013 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Alcohol/Drugs: 0 (description)
Language: 1 (minor expletives)
Sexuality: 1 (minor innuendo)
Violence: 3 (some fantasy violence)