“Into the Badlands” Season 1 – A Good Tarintinoesque Ride

  “Into the Badlands” is a show with a lot of potential. This is a show that is only 6 episodes long and by the nature of it being so short it isn’t able to explore the world and characters as much as it could have. It still manages to be solidly good. Before I get into the main synopsis and spoilers the best parts of this show were the politics and action and the worst parts were the flat characters. This show was clearly setting out to be deeper than it actually ended up being. It is very Tarantinoesque in that there aren’t any good guy characters, the action feels a lot like “Kill Bill” and there is a level of detachment as if you are watching events rather than apart of them.

    The series was created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar.

    The story takes place in the future where guns have been outlawed and rival barons compete for land and power. Sunny is a clipper (the enforcers of the barons) for Baron Quinn and finds himself pulled deeper into their intrigue and war as he finds a boy with a special power as the Widow (a rival to Baron Quinn) sparks a power to take control of the Badlands.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is fascinating. It is a very dystopian future as people still have cars even if no one has guns and the only weapons are swords, knives and similar things. The politics between the barons is fascinating as we see how they define one another and are defined in the war.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is fascinating and Dave Shepard gave it a great Tarantinoesque soundtrack. The music jumps out at you like punches, which fits the theme of the show.

The Politics – The politics are fascinating as we have the Widow attempting a feminist revolution to overthrow the patriarchy, Quinn is going crazy from a tumor in his head and Jacobee is playing the different sides against each other. Each is powerful in their own right and has an agenda that we see unfold.

The Action – The action is one of the best parts of the series! We get to see quality martial arts where hand to hand combat is used, swords and other weapons are used and the environment is used to great affect. It was the action and politics that primarily drew me in in the first place.

Waldo – Waldo is a wheel chair bound clipper who is one of the higher ups of Quinn’s men but is betraying them to the Widow because he wants change and revolution. He is a really cool character and I liked his relationship to Sunny as he clearly cared about him.

Baron Jacobee – Jacobee is played by Edi Gathegi (who you might have watched on “The Blacklist”) and he is great! We see that he is trying to take advantage of Quinn’s and the Widow’s war to take control of territory but that he is good at being diplomatic to get their as he stops fighting when the Widow attempts to have him fight Quinn on her terms.

The Widow – The Widow is a revolutionary who has a clipper order almost entirely made up of women. She claims she wants to help M.K. but she is so manipulative (she has to be in this world) that it is hard to trust her. I liked her aims and how she maneuvers herself into power by playing Quinn’s son against him and Jacobee is beautifully executed. She is the only one who really wins at the end of the season.

Sunny – Sunny is bound by duty and it is fascinating to see him deal with that and the fact that he knows Quinn is a terrible human being. Daniel Wu gives a lot of depth to this role as we see him take care of M.K. and even lie about killing M.K. because he cares about him and wants to escape from the Badlands with him and with his secret wife (clippers can’t marry). At one point he Baron finds out about his lover and captures him but it leads to his death and to Sunny’s capture as we are introduced to monks who capture M.K. and sell Sunny into slavery.

Okay: The Ending – M.K., the kid with the powers is captured by monks, The Widow takes control of Quinn’s territory and Sunny is sold into slavery. There are a lot of interesting things that happen but it feels unfinished, which might just be that they only had 6 episodes to tell the story.

The Cons: Too Many Flat Characters – M.K. the boy with the powers is bland, Tilda his love interest is bland, Ryder, Baron Quinn’s son is bland, Baron Quinn is just cruel and isn’t deep in any way and same with his wife. I hope these characters get better as I like the world they inhabit I just never cared about any of them.

   This is a show that has potential. I’d consider it solidly good…even with all the flaws it has. The flat characters are a problem that might be tied to how short the season is. Future seasons will tell as there is still so much of this world to be explored. If you like Martial Arts and films along those lines, you will probably enjoy this series. Right now it is on Netflix, which is where I saw it. Here is to hoping that next season fully develops this fascinating world.

Final Score: 8 / 10

“Psycho-Pass” Season 1 – A Masterful Future Dsytopian Anime

Shorewood Blu-ray Ocard

   “Psycho-Pass” is one of the best dystopian, sci. fi. cyberpunk animes I have ever watched since “Ghost in the Shell.” Both go into philosophy, psychology and full development of characters and their motivations. The fact that Gen Urobuchi is the writer of the series helps as “Madoka Magica” and “Fate/Zero” are both amazing projects that he was also the writer behind. Everything I have watched by him has been consistently great and Season 1 of “Psycho-Pass” is no exception.

      The series was directed by Naoyoshi Shiotani and Katsuyuki Motohiro and written by Gen Urobuchi.

    The story takes place in a future dystopia where everyone’s lives are controlled by the Sibyl System that scans the Psycho-Pass of every individual to decide if they are criminals or need therapy. We follow Akane who is a rookie cop on the Public Safety Bureau who works with latent criminal enforces and is pulled into the greater events of the world.

The Pros: The Animation – The animation is absolutely beautiful. Production I.G. did a great job designing and producing this show and it flows seamlessly and doesn’t have any moments where the tone is inconsistent.

The Soundtrack – The Soundtrack feels like an 80’s sci. fi. and it is wonderful in how it captures the moments of terror or reflection. Yugo Kanno did a fantastic job.

The Writing – Gen Urobuchi is a fantastic writer and this show is no exception. All of our characters go through arcs and the world where everything takes place in changes over the course of events.

The Characters – The characters are the strongest part of the show and what make it a great. I’m curious how they are going to handle Season 2 given the changes that happen over the course of the show.

Unit One – Unit One are the main folks we follow who Akane is the rookie in. They all have great relationships to one another and change each other in different ways over the course of the story.

The Sibyl System – This system is creepy as it made from the minds of murders and criminals and countless others that work as one God-like Mind. There is a creepyness to it and it’s power and influence over others is to the point that it shapes what careers people take and how justice is met out.

Inspector Nobuchika – The Inspector is a bit unstable and is dealing with the fact that his father was made an enforcer. His arc is making peace with his old man as he eventually finds himself as an enforcer when he is unable to calm his hue and in doing so becomes a latent criminal. He goes through the most loss in this series.

Tomoni Masaoka – He is the Inspector’s old man is one of the best characters on the show. He’s always wresting with the why and is a fantastic philosopher. Sadly he doesn’t make it as Shogo eventually takes him out with a grenade when he grabs it to protect his son. What a great character, he is the wisest of the group and has the greatest influence on Akane.

Kagari – Is the young enforcer who was never given the choice as he was dubbed a latent criminal at age 5. He hates the Sibyl System and the murders he hunts and is the joker of the group. He sadly dies when he discovers the truth of how the Sibyl System runs and what it is. Though his legacy lives on as he is the martyr for the greater truth.

Yayoi – Yayoi has the least development though it is cool how she was once a punk rocker and I love her relationship with Karanomori the tech. She is the bitter perspective within the group and is the calmest. Through the series she comes to respect Akane and trust.

Karanomori – I love this character, she’s my favorite character on the show besides Tomoni. She’s a red dress, a cigarette and has hooked up with most of the folks in the office. She doesn’t care and even though she’s trapped being a latent criminal, finds freedom in how she can help hunt down criminals and in the relationships she forms at the office. She’s super cool and I can’t wait to get to know her character more.

Shinya Kogami – Shinya is the standard bitter ex-cop out hunting Shogo and it’s personal. He decides to kill in the end and leave the system behind and we gather he finally finds the freedom he was always seeking. He’s a bit of a cipher as his being emotionally scarred is so much a part of his identity.

Akane – Akane is the rookie who becomes leader of Unit One by the end of the series as she is trusted enough by Sibyl that they approach her and show her who they are and we see her take control of the Unit as it is falling apart as well as her tactful forms of resistance against Sibyl throughout the series. She’s a great protagonist and I look forward to seeing what she does next season.

The Villains – Besides the Sibyl System Shogo is the main baddie and the different pawns he uses like his hacker friend, a serial killing girl and a man who replaced his entire body with a machine. They are all compelling in their own ways.

Shogo Makishima – Shogo is a great villain. He’s a bit of an anarchist, a bit of the joker and an all around dangerous character who will turn on his allies just as easily as anyone else. He actually hurts the Sibyl System when he destroys one of the member brains. He wants the total collapse of society but is stopped by Unit One. He’s well read, strong and smart and his conversations are some of the best in any anime.

The Philosophy – Philosophy is key to this series as Plato, Descartes and countless other theories of the self are expressed and explored by different characters through the series. This is what really sets it above most other action animes as it doesn’t just focus on one thing but explores so many aspects of what meaning is.

Free Will and Choice – This is a major theme as the Sibyl System decides everything for you unless it believes you’d be apt at different ideas. We see this in how characters are used and how what it means to be a person is explored.

Tyranny and Freedom – This is another theme brought up by the Sibyl System’s existence as it is full tyrannical control and with it stability. Characters are a slave to it and it sees it’s main purpose as making society healthy and happy. The show explores this extremely well through the eyes and thoughts of the Enforcers, Akane and Shogo.

I highly recommend this series, or at least Season 1 of it. If you like Gen Urobuchi work like me this is easily one of his best and I think when I do eventually  re-watch it I’ll discover even more about the ideas, themes and characters than I did before. There was nothing to dislike about this show. But I will give a warning that it does graphic and brutal times so it certainly is not a show for everyone.

Final Score: 10 / 10