Chopping The Log #1 Sgt. Frog Season 2 Part 1

As anyone that knows me knows, I have a massive backlog of videos that I bought but have yet to watch.  Hence the incredibly uncreative name for this column!  Seriously, I sat and thought on it, and that was the best I could do.  Deal with it.  So anyways, as I have about 850 discs that I have purchased but never watched, I thought it would be best if I sat down and watched them and gave my thoughts on them here.  They’ll all be anime, but this is different from the Anime You Should Be Watching column I infrequently wrote before.  With that column, I was cherry picking the titles that were the best of their particular genre.  Here, there’s going to be a lot of average shows, because there are a lot of average shows produced in Japan.  In fact, just because I bought it doesn’t mean it’s any good.  It’s entirely possible that I bought a steaming pile of shit.  If that’s the case, well, if I sat through it and watched it, then you’ll have to suffer through my review of it.  Lucky you!  Thankfully, I like to think that for the most part, I have pretty decent taste, so the worst that you’ll have to put up with is a resounding MEH from me.

So, without further ado, let’s start this new column!

I really wish that I had started out with an instant classic, but that’s just not the case.  As I said before, they can’t all be winners kid, and this one is certainly not what I’d put in my stable of timeless classics.  When Sgt. Frog first was announced for license here in the US, there was a huge swelling of support.  The way people were acting, you’d have thought that the second coming of Cowboy Bebop was upon us.  Then the company that originally licensed it, ADV Films, went bankrupt, and that was that.  Until FUNimation swooped in and picked this up.  I hadn’t watched any of the fansubs of this, and I was strictly going off of word of mouth when I bought it.  Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.  In this case it doesn’t.  The sad thing is that I bought every release that FUNi made before I ever watched the first one.  That’s the drawback to having the backlog that I do.  I’m only now watching stuff I bought 3 years ago.  C’est la vie.

This particular release follows pretty much all the others.  A lot of Gundam humor and veiled references to other similar shows.  That’s great if you’re a fan of Gundam.  I’m not.  Hence my mileage on this particular show is highly limited.  I do love the yandere type of girl, so Nishizawa, while not a strict yandere, does amuse me with her going from all dere dere to conniving psychopath.  But that’s largely negated because Fuyuki is a clueless idiot.  So here we’re mainly going through the winter months.  This means the typical things like Christmas parties and New Year celebrations.  I really wish I could say that this brought something new to the genre, but it really doesn’t.  Everything we see here we’ve seen many a time before, and more importantly, we’ve seen it done better.  I don’t care about things being repeated.  When you’ve seen as much anime as I have, you’re not going to see a ton of genuinely new content.  But a lot of anime can take these well worn tropes and still make them interesting.  This one doesn’t.  Frankly, I have no idea how this managed to go for 358 episodes.  I’ve watched through 51 and frankly that’s enough for me.  Unfortunately I still have another collection of this to get through, although I should be happy that FUNimation didn’t pick up any more than that, and since it’s been over a year since they licensed any of it, I think it’s safe to assume that no more will find its way over here.

For something that had so much buzz going in to it, I must say that this has been a massive disappointment.  I don’t often let public opinion influence what I buy, and this gives a good reason why I shouldn’t.  The public at large doesn’t know good anime, and they certainly don’t know what I’d like.  I may not always pick out a winner, but I certainly can do a lot better than Sgt. Frog.

44 Days of Paranoia #41: Shattered Glass (dir by Billy Ray)

For our latest entry in the 44 Days of Paranoia, we take a look at one of the best films of the first decade of the 21st Century, 2003’s Shattered Glass.

Shattered Glass tells the true story of Stephen Glass (played, in a surprisingly brilliant way, by Hayden Christensen), a smart and charming journalist who, through a combination of showmanship and carefully calculated moments of vulnerability, has established himself as one of the top reporters at one of the top political magazines in America, The New Republic.  As the film begins, we find Glass at his old high school, giving advice to a classroom of adoring student journalists.  As the self-assured Glass talks about his career, we see scenes of him investigating, pitching, and writing his stores at the New Republic.  It’s here that we see the other side of Glass — not only is he a good writer but he’s a good salesman.  While the rest of his coworkers struggle to pitch dry-sounding stories about Congress, Glass puts on a show as he vividly describes articles about everything from offering his services as a boxing expert to witnessing drug-fueled hijinks at a Young Republican meeting.

However, as the film progresses, we see yet another side to Stephen Glass.  Not only is he a talented writer and an enthusiastic showman but he’s also a pathological liar.  When the head of the Young Republicans challenges Stephen’s article, New Republican editor Mike Kelly (Hank Azaria) investigates and, despite being initially suspicious, is eventually won over by Stephen’s apparent earnestness.

Later, after Kelly has left the magazine and been replaced by new editor Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard), Stephen turns in an article entitled “Hacker Heaven.”  In the article, Stephen writes about witnessing a 12 year-old computer hacker being given a million dollar contract from a company known as Jukt Micronics.  The only problem is that a reporter at Forbes (Steve Zahn) checks the facts in Stephen’s articles and can find no evidence of a company called Jukt Micronics ever existing.

As Lane starts to look into Stephen’s reporting, it starts to become obvious to him that Stephen not only made up the events of “Hacker Heaven” but that he may have falsified several other stories as well.  Already struggling to fill the shoes of the popular Kelly, Lane now finds himself having to investigate one of his most popular reporters.

Shattered Glass is one of those fascinating and unusually intelligent films that I always make a point of watching whenever it shows up on cable.  Not only does it tell a genuinely interesting story but it also features excellent performances from Sarsgaard, Azaria, Chloe Sevigny, and especially Melanie Lynesky.

Even more importantly, it features a revelatory lead performance from Hayden Christensen.  Fairly or not, Christensen is always going to be associated with Star Wars.  In Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, Christensen didn’t seem like he was a very good actor but then again, did anyone comes out of those films looking better than before they went in?  As bad as Christensen may have been in those two films, he’s absolutely brilliant in Shattered Glass.  He plays Stephen Glass with a puppy dog eagerness to please that is deceptively charming and likable.  It’s only as the film progresses that the audience realizes that there’s nothing behind that affable facade.  Instead, it becomes apparent that he’s a sociopath who lies to hide the fact that his existence is ultimately an empty one.  It’s an amazing performance and one that will make you think twice before blindly accepting the analysis of any of the journalistic “experts” who are regularly trotted out on any of the news shows.

Shattered Glass is also a film that should be seen just so viewers can appreciate the brilliant way that Peter Sarsgaard delivers the line, “This doesn’t seem like a real business card to me.”

Shattered Glass needs to be seen.

Other Entries In The 44 Days of Paranoia 

  1. Clonus
  2. Executive Action
  3. Winter Kills
  4. Interview With The Assassin
  5. The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald
  6. JFK
  7. Beyond The Doors
  8. Three Days of the Condor
  9. They Saved Hitler’s Brain
  10. The Intruder
  11. Police, Adjective
  12. Burn After Reading
  13. Quiz Show
  14. Flying Blind
  15. God Told Me To
  16. Wag the Dog
  17. Cheaters
  18. Scream and Scream Again
  19. Capricorn One
  20. Seven Days In May
  21. Broken City
  22. Suddenly
  23. Pickup on South Street
  24. The Informer
  25. Chinatown
  26. Compliance
  27. The Lives of Others
  28. The Departed
  29. A Face In The Crowd
  30. Nixon
  31. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  32. The Purge
  33. The Stepford Wives
  34. Saboteur
  35. A Dark Truth
  36. The Fugitive
  37. The Day of Jackal
  38. Z
  39. The Fury
  40. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)