The Witcher [Trailer]

I hope this show does not let me down, because I am so excited for it.

The Japanese Dilemma

Amazon is currently running several sales throughout its digital comics storefront based on the Halloween season. One of the sales is a bunch of spooky manga. I ended up buying the first several volumes of many of the series. Gleipnir was one of the selections on sale. With four volumes available, I bought and read them all in the last couple days. It has brought up a dilemma I face periodically. When it comes to manga and anime, I love the massively diverse offering of content coming out of Japan. You would be hard pressed to find anywhere else with a range of material that can go from a series about tennis to a series about monster collecting to a series about cooking. But then, I start running into the common elements that turn me off from the material.

Gleipnir is a prime example. The concept revolves around a kid who can transform into a bear mascot. One day it just happens, and he is unaware of how or why. Soon he teams up with a girl who is looking for her sister, who can also transform into a monster. They learn that the mascot can be unzipped and worn, allowing her to control him from the inside. The team quickly learn that the transformations are coming from an alien who crash landed on Earth and is looking for his companions who are all imprinted on coins. It is a bizarre concept with lots of potential. But the potential is ruined by the creepy amount of fan service and the abrupt pacing. I run into the same thing when trying to watch anime. Many times I have to walk away from a show without finishing.

It is not all like that. I have read plenty of Hunter x Hunter and enjoyed it. Anime series like Your Lie in April, Kids on the Slope, Parasyte -Maxim-, and Baccano! were all excellent. It is just hard for me to find the series that I will enjoy. I cannot trust popular opinion. I recently tried watching Cowboy Bebop, and could not finish. The music was awesome, but the pacing and depiction of women in the series were too much to get past. I have had the same reaction to other popular series. I am stuck wanting to immerse myself in more anime and manga to find the true gems, but I also have to deal with all the disappointments. It is a dilemma that I will probably be dealing with for years to come.

Reality Check: Netflix

I am not a consistent viewer of Survivor, but Heather and I decided to watch the current season as it airs on CBS All Access. It is amazing to me how well the show can still hold my attention after all these years. The game has changed over time, becoming more meta as people who grew up and obsessed over the show are now contestants. It is a great example of the power of reality television competitions when done correctly. It got me thinking about the way Netflix has stepped up in the genre over the last several years. We have not watched everything the service has to offer, but there are plenty of shows available that we enjoyed. Here is a quick run down of some of the Netflix reality competitions that are worth checking out:

  • Nailed It! - This show will not be for everyone. Nicole Byer is a loud personality as a host. Personally, I love her boisterous addition to the show. With several seasons, a holiday special, and three international spin-offs, this amateur baking competition is a blast. The contestants create some truly awful finished products, but it is also a treat to celebrate with the bakers who come close to the intended results.
  • Blown Away - My familiarity with glass blowing encompasses one visit to a glass museum in Seattle, so a competition show built around the art of glass blowing was fascinating. I learned a lot about the process, and enjoyed seeing the contestants create magnificent works of art throughout the season.
  • Sugar Rush - Like Nailed It!, this show features different contestants on every episode. The teams compete in three rounds of baking, attempting to bank as much time as possible for the final cake creation round. The tension between speed and quality plays out with different results from episode to episode. It is awesome to see the variety of confections created by the teams, and season two tweaked the show in little ways to streamline and make it even better.
  • Instant Hotel - An Australian show that features teams competing for the best rental experience as they stay in each other's instant hotels, this show leaves a lot of the power in the hands of the contestants. I love seeing the different areas of Australia, and the competitors and their homes range from fascinating to frightening. The series has definitely made me want to visit Australia sooner than later, and I would absolutely be willing to stay in some of the places featured on the show.
  • Zumbo's Just Desserts - This show is worth it just to see the amazing creations that Adriano Zumbo comes up with, but the appeal does not end there. Another Australian show, this competition highlights excellent baking skills and fun accents. It is lighthearted and heartwarming all in one bright package.
  • Interior Design Masters - I do not know much about interior design. This British competition made me sure of that fact. And though I did not always see what the judges saw, I loved the variety of challenges presented throughout the season and the passion that the competitors brought to their designs.
  • The Final Table - There are not a lot of cooking competitions that compete at the level of Top Chef, but The Final Table attempts it. With a wide set of international contests and an amazing line up of judges, the competition delivers both on skill and highlighting food from around the world. It also introduced Heather and I to Grant Achatz and his restaurant, Alinea, in Chicago. We went several months after seeing the show, and enjoyed the most amazing eating experiences of our lives.
  • Hyperdrive - I might just be living under a rock, but I have never seen a competition like Hyperdrive. Expert drift racers from around the world compete on an incredible course that evolves throughout the season. I was blown away by the skill of the drivers, and on the edge of my seat until the very end of the competition. If you like fast cars and dangerous driving, this is the show for you.
  • Rhythm + Flow - I did not feel like every round of this hip-hop competition was fair to the contestants (i.e. the rap battles), but by the end, the rappers delivered some excellent performances. I had a hard time putting up with Cardi B as a judge, but Chance The Rapper made up for her weird rambles. Perhaps the biggest testament to the show, I am definitely interested in checking out future material from several of the competitors.
  • Flinch - Set on a farm in Ireland, Flinch is a competition that tests the natural resolve of the contestants. Each week pits a set of new competitors against one another to see who will flinch in the face of the changing challenges. From swinging appliances to popping balloons to live animals, the setups are weird and wide ranging. Even better, the reactions of the contestants will have you laughing hard. The whole show is dumb, but at the same time, it is a lot of fun. Heather was especially skeptical of this one, but we both had a good time watching it.