The Witcher – The First Three Seasons – Series Review

The Witcher series poster

Andrzej Sapkowski, the Polish fantasy author, has incredibly good luck. Actually, he has two strokes of luck. His overwritten, rambling, and disjointed “Witcher” series first inspired a successful role-playing game, and then Netflix decided to give a shot to the magic-supported, mutant monster hunter, Geralt of Rivia. Sapkowski and the subscribers of the streaming platform couldn’t have been luckier. (Maybe just a tiny bit luckier.)

Because the claim applies to Sapkowski just as much as it does to the renowned sci-fi writer Kilgore Trout*: his ideas are good, but his style is terrible. However, the Netflix series cleverly pruned away what was unnecessary and kept the rest. “The Witcher” builds a twisting, exciting, and unique medieval world, full of great heroes, magic, adventures, and plenty of emotional highs. At least in the first season.

Season 1: The Witcher Starts with a Full Swing

The books’ occasionally fairy-tale-like twists barely make an appearance here; the striga reverting to human upon hearing a rooster’s crow, and the genie fulfilling three wishes remain, but let’s not be greedy.

The series, however, excels in many aspects where the Polish author falls short. The perpetually mournful Geralt, constantly sulking in the books, is nowhere to be found; instead, we have a laconic, endlessly cynical yet still feeling hero. Henry Cavill was truly born to play a Witcher. The paper-based version’s silly and dim-witted Dandelion, whom you’d rather smack with his own lute incessantly, has transformed into a charming and lovable rogue. And Yennefer… well, we all know what powerful sorceresses are like. Yennefer in the series is just as arrogant and insufferable but also a sexy beast. Moreover, some of the most emotional scenes in the early episodes are tied to her. Of course, this required the creators to thoroughly and perhaps somewhat unjustifiably alter the timeline of the books’ plot.

Read more

Attack on Titan – Series Review

You have no idea what anime is? Neither did I, really. (It’s a cartoon, basically.) But Little EM nagged me for a whole year—well, if you can call open and shameless blackmail nagging—until I had to give in. “Attack on Titan is the best anime! Everyone’s watching Attack on Titan!” claimed Little EM. Maybe so, although the real question is how long they’re watching. If you want what’s best for yourself…

How does the series start anyway? It starts off damn well. Humanity has been living behind enormous walls for a hundred years. Outside the walls, there are naked, androgynous, and horribly stupid giants who hunger for human flesh. It’s like zombies, only bigger than apartment buildings. In the first episode, the giants break through the wall. After watching it, you’ll probably just gawk and say, “I’ve never seen a stronger series opener, not even Lost or The Shield, compare to this.”

Attack on Titan - TV Series - Season 1

Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. It feels like the creators locked a bunch of twelve-year-olds in a room, had them compete to come up with the dumbest idea, and the winner’s idea got passed along. There’s no sense to the story; it’s like they’re always trying to make something big happen, and as quickly as possible. The first two seasons could have easily explored how humanity recovers from the initial shock, how they slowly gear up for an unequal fight against the almost unbeatable enemy. Instead, they throw in two twists, right at the beginning (the first being the protagonist’s, uh, transformation, and the other involving the giant girl), which completely undermine the otherwise strong premise. And don’t even get me started on the Abnormals, special giants with unique abilities. Armor, teleportation, who knows what else. All these elements successfully reduce the series to a stupid fairy tale.

And believe it or not, that’s the lesser issue. The bigger problem is that the creators of Attack on Titan are incapable of writing sensible dialogue. All the conversations are garbled, pompous repetitions. Plus, most of the characters, whether necessary or not, SCREAM AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS. Especially Eren, the protagonist, who can ONLY COMMUNICATE BY SCREAMING. So, if his little buddies in the Scout Regiment disagree with him, they don’t politely ask,

“Hey, what the frakkin’ hell are you doin’, chimmy-chummy?”

Instead, they SHOUT in his face, “You’re preparing for the downfall of humanity with your actions. Admit that you’re an enemy of humanity!” And so on. This compulsive grandiloquence renders every conversation completely unbelievable and ridiculous.

But the childishness and thoughtlessness extend to every other aspect of the series as well. Whenever the characters find themselves in a crisis (which happens quite a few times), with about 10 seconds to avert the crisis, you can bet 500 yen against the armored giant’s left testicle that they’ll spend AT LEAST 10 minutes lamenting, philosophizing, or struggling with themselves over what to do—while you angrily pound the armrest of your chair in front of the TV and start SHOUTING yourself: “Your time’s up, you miserable idiots!”

At least one recruit participating in military training has a HYSTERICAL BREAKDOWN due to the bleak future ahead, and a third of the episode is spent with the others comforting them. Meanwhile, in sharp contrast, and only incidentally, it turns out that due to overcrowding behind the walls, 250,000(!) civilians were driven out to fight against the giants—to reduce the population inside. The brilliant plan was a success. The giants ate them all. Problem solved. It couldn’t have been easy to convince these 250,000 civilians to join the action; they were probably all forcibly pushed out the gate and weapons were thrown after them at the end, to prevent any recklessness inside. Or if not, they all were probably EASILY INFLUENCED retirees.

Read more