“Daredevil”

Title card

As a comics fan and a blind person, I guess it’s all but imperative I share my thoughts on the Daredevil series.

It’s no secret that I’m rather nitpicky about adaptations of things I’m a fan of, but that pales in comparison to how rigidly I scrutinize the portrayal of blindness in entertainment. There are many misconceptions about blindness and as a blind person I am constantly reminded how prevalent these are. I can’t count how many times in my life I’ve been told that I don’t seem blind. Maybe part of this is because I was born blind and I’ve always seen the way I do that such statements confound me so, but I think it’s more that the general public is often astonished to discover how capable a person without 20/20 vision can actually be.

In any case, I’m very pleased to say that Charlie Cox’s performance is without a doubt the best sighted man playing a blind person I’ve seen. Sure there are niggling things here and there, but for the most part he’s incredibly natural and it’s a refreshing treat for me to watch. Now, of course, Matt Murdock isn’t your typical blind person and if you really wanted to quibble the point I’d argue the character himself plays at being blind. His heightened senses have more than replaced his loss of eyesight and that’s the whole point of his alter-ego, Daredevil.

I actually like this particular interpretation of Matt because it’s actually closer to the reality of blindness. There’s a common and very inaccurate belief about blindness and better hearing, but the truth is that the two aren’t correlated. That’s like saying going deaf would make your vision better. In truth all of your senses will compensate for a loss of one, but not without work to do so. There’s a very quick scene with young Matt that explains this concept perfectly when he expresses his difficulties learning to read Braille. He’s confusing some of the letters because at this point he hasn’t developed the sensitivity in his fingers to be able to easily differentiate them. The gravitas of that may be lost on many, but it’s the truth of learning Braille. Anyone can memorize the Grade I alphabet, but recognizing those little bumps with your fingertips takes practice.1

My spoiler allergy kept me from following any news about the series, so I missed the whole descriptive audio kerfluffle. I watched the series with the descriptive track partly to critique it and mostly because this show is absurdly dark and I can hardly make out anything. For the most part it’s done quite well. There are some amusing and awkward grammar choices that sometimes made following along mildly confusing. Also at times it’s a bit out of sync with the action and describes things that happen some thirty seconds after a prolonged silence. It’s also worth noting that it definitely expects you’ve watched the series in order by referring to unnamed characters by their initial introductions. Granted I don’t expect many people to just randomly jump into the show anyway since it is unforgivingly serialized.

With all that said, the show itself is incredibly good. Of particular note is the action. It’s well-choreographed and an enjoyable departure from the over-the-top acrobatics that has been done to death. These are more-or-less regular people trading painful blows. And sometimes microwave ovens. The villains, for the most part, were another treat. They’re a colorful and interesting bunch, capped off by D’Onofrio’s Fisk who is fascinatingly odd.

Not everything with Daredevil dazzled me, though. The standout being the feud Matt and Foggy have. Especially that it’s quashed even more randomly than it’s started. All it really accomplishes is biding some time between some really nice flashbacks, which in turn only emphasize how absurd the fight itself is. To be fair, I did like the bit with Karen on the phone with Ben in a pure “mommy and daddy are fighting and the kids are upset” moment. Which, by the way, is about the only thing I can say I enjoyed when it comes to Ben. I’m sad to admit this because I really like the character and the actor, but he doesn’t do anything. To the point that his own death isn’t even caused by his actions, but Karen’s.

As a whole the show is a mixed bag in terms of style. It’s a lot of things from crime drama to noir mystery and I most favor the direction it starts in and am baffled by where it ends up in the final episode. It’s rooted in a gritty realism that is far better than anything Nolan’s put on screen, but by the end of the arc when Daredevil dons his iconic red costume it’s veered a bit off course and seriously what was up with the Wilson v. Matt fight? I don’t quite understand how that ties together with the action from say the second episode, but at least the majority of the time there’s a fairly good balance of all that this show is trying to be.

I’m eager to see where season two goes.

  1. This is why after learning Braille almost 30 years ago, I personally struggle with reading it these days.

“Guardians of the Galaxy”

I finally watched Guardians of the Galaxy last night. Yes, I am very late the party. The sad thing is I’ve owned it since the home release.

Movie poster

Anyway, it was absolutely fantastic.

I can’t comment on how faithful it was the original comic because I know absolutely nothing about it. Like everyone who isn’t a comic nerd — and the vast majority of those of us who are — I hadn’t even heard of the Guardians before this film. Turns out they’re no different than every other superhero grouping and are a ragtag group of misfits. Except they’re also space pirates. Also, in Star-Lord’s own words, they’re losers. You know, they’ve lost stuff.

What amazed me is that it was a movie that literally sucks you in completely. I had debated live-tweeting my initial reactions while watching since I was astonishingly completely unspoiled for this and went in with zero context. I opted instead to text a friend, who remarked that it was going by quite fast and I looked down to discover there was less than a quarter of the run-time left. It truly felt like a fraction of that had gone by.

It was a fun ride. Though, I can’t pick out anything that specifically stands out in my mind.1 Rocket was a treat and they did a thoroughly amazing job animating him. Groot was interesting and very amusing. I especially loved the little dancing baby a la the music-activated flowers of my childhood.2 It was appropriately action-packed and humorous and my only complaint is that the exposition dump that’s given doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And if you’re about to say “it’s answered in Avengers 2” I don’t want to hear anything further because I haven’t seen that yet!

So, yeah, it was super fun and I enjoyed it greatly. I’m also glad you can all kindly get off my back about finally watching it. :-p

  1. It’s always harder for me to natter on when I can’t pick things apart.
  2. Yes, I had one. It was incredibly mesmerizing.

Playing Games

The master wizard, a talking cat named Jinx, seems wary of any novices with cat allergies

Funny, despite the fact that I am allergic to cats, in all my years playing mages in RPGs I’d never before thought about the two going hand-in-hand.

Despite the talking cat’s ascertain that I might not be wizard material, Fantasy Life is fast proving itself to be one of my new favorite games. Props to li’l brother for the excellent birthday gift because honestly I’m convinced Level 5 made this game specifically with me in mind. In fact, the only complaint I have with it is there is just too much to do and I can see myself easily getting burnt out on the game.

Luckily there is a rather decent multi-player feature in the game and I also have several other games to switch out with. Most of these are pretty amazing in their own right like Persona Q, Devil Survivor Overclocked, Bravely Default, and my newest acquisition Etrian Odyssey Untold . . . along with Pokémon X.

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Seventeen Years Ago

Portrait of Dolly in harness

On this day back in 1998 a little black Labrador retriever literally bounded right into my lap and totally changed my life! It’s been several years since Dolly passed and even more since we worked as a team, but in some ways she’ll always be missed.

Megami Tensei

My birthday happened and not surprisingly I got a bunch of new games. And a thing happened:

The "true demon" ending to SMT Nocturne

Now I’ve played both Persona 3 and 4 in a few different formats and they are easily among my favorite games. However, I hadn’t played any titles in the broader Megami Tensei1 series. Partly this was because there are so many games and I wasn’t quite sure where to begin, but mostly I was intimidated by the reputation that the other games are much harder. To be fair, Atlus is notorious for making hard games in general and the reputation of the SMT series is that they are rather difficult as a whole.

So, I find it quite an accomplishment that I not only beat Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne (SMT3) but did so with the True Demon Ending (TDE), collecting all 25 magatama and completing the compendium. SMT3 is generally considered to be the most difficult of the MegaTen series.

So, why, you ask, why would I bother to get the most difficult ending and do all this other optional stuff? Because I can’t imagine ever playing this again and this way I won’t have any regrets about missing out on something I could have done.2 Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic game. It has a truly amazing story and it is incredibly fun. However, it also shows its age and because of this the game is arbitrarily more difficult than it would be if it were released more recently. Dungeons are long and almost entirely lack a means to heal your party, which only emphasizes the absolutely absurd random encounter rate. Save points are sprinkled quite liberally around, but using them is often incredibly inconvenient. And while there is a fast travel system, the specific locations almost always require a long journey to activate and even still are not entirely in the most opportune places.

That isn’t to say it’s not a legitimate challenge in its own right. The Press Turn Battle system was introduced in this game and has become somewhat of a hallmark of MegaTen games.3 It’s a rewarding system when you can make it work for yourself and incredibly punishing when the opposite occurs.

I didn’t find the game to be as difficult as I expected and I personally don’t think the reputation it has is quite fair given the arbitrary challenges it presents. More than anything I found it tedious. I had to grind a lot to complete things. Not only do you need to reach level 95 to fuse the highest level demon to fill out the compendium in its entirety, but it takes a lot of money to do so. Not to mention the ending I went for includes an additional five dungeons and eleven bosses to fight. The bosses are collectively difficult, though, only a few really present a challenge. The extra dungeons, however, utterly suck. Oh, and all that doesn’t take into account the optional bosses needed to get all the magatama, which is absolutely necessary in order to beat the ultimate boss fight to get TDE.

I feel very accomplished to have done all that, but overwhelmingly exhausted.

So, of course, right after this I started playing Digital Devil Saga. . . .

  1. Often (technically incorrectly) called Shin Megami Tensei because these games make up the “main” MegaTen series. Additionally, until recently most releases outside of Japan had the SMT title added regardless of which sub-series they belonged to.
  2. Like fighting Lucifer.
  3. Albeit with some tweaks, such as the One More! system in Persona games.