Author Archives: Andy

About Andy

I'm a park ranger and an all around geek that loves writing about pop culture. Mary and I currently have our own podcast, "Mary and Andy Geek Out," seen here! https://soundcloud.com/user-13309981

Best Pokemon Games for a Dark Type Run

Oh the Dark type.  I place it in that special category of types like Psychic, Steel, and Ghost of types you don’t see too often but are pretty cool.  For a type as…prestigious…as Dark, you may be surprise to learn that it’s actually a good type for a Single Type Run (or a Monotype Run).  Earlier generations not as much but the later games offer some premium teams that you can train and have fun with (what’s funny is that Dark type has the worst type run in the entire series as well as one of the best!).  Dark Pokemon are also just plain fun!  Crawdaunt, Krookodile, Hydreigon, and Scrafty are just a few of the amazing Pokemon you can train.  The games also cover your weaknesses and they offer a very diverse set of moves that make other types envious.  What are those games?  Let’s dive in and find out!

RULES

  1. Only Pokémon of a certain type may be caught and trained.
  2. You must catch the first Pokémon available of that type if your starter does not match that type (you’ll then have to disregard that starter).
  3. You may train a Pokémon that evolves to said type as long as you do it ASAP.
  4. No trading allowed.
  5. Mega Pokémon count as long as you Mega Evolve them as soon as they appear on the battlefield.
  6. Only Pokémon caught before Elite Four are counted.

The Worst Games

In general, the first four generations will not offer very many, if at all, satisfying Dark-type runs.  Most of these earlier generations see Dark Pokemon in few numbers or appearing late in the games.  Of course, Kanto games are the worst example of this as there are not Dark Pokemon catchable in these regions.  This makes a Dark type run in FireRed and LeafGreen the worst Single Type Run in the entire franchise.  Dang!

It’s not all gloom and doom.  Emerald and Sapphire are actually quite good as they offer a diverse team that covers your weaknesses and you can have two Pokemon that evolve into a dark type by the time you hit your first gym (Poochyena and Nuzleaf) and your neutralizer Sableye before your second gym.  But why play Emerald or Sapphire when you have their remakes…

The Best Games

Starting from Pokemon Black to USUM you get a series of games that are very high quality for a Dark playthrough (with the exception of Pokemon White due to the absence of Mandibuzz which your mileage may vary for that one).  These games hit all the good marks; an early available Pokemon, a full and diverse team, all the weaknesses are covered, and there’s a nice distribution throughout the routes.  The best games by far are Pokemon USUM followed by XY but like I said, Pokemon Black, B2W2, ORAS, and SM are also good.

XY and USUM’s diversity is on a whole another level, like S-tier level.  You can catch about 12 different type combinations from each game which is ridiculous.  The Pokemon are also spread nicely throughout the games (and not all bunched up at the end like ORAS).  Finally, you get a starter that evolves into a Dark type which equates these games to a near-perfect Single Type Run.

The reason why I edge USUM over XY is the weakness-neutralization that’s done near the start of the game.  First, your starter, Litten, will be a Fire/Dark type which takes care of Bug and Fairy weaknesses (and SE against Bug types).  Quickly following that you can catch an Inkay near Professor Kukui’s lab which neutralizes the Fighting weakness (Psychic/Dark and it’s SE against Fighting).  These weaknesses are further taken care one after the other with an Alolan Grimer at the Trainer School (Poison/Dark which neutralizes ALL the weaknesses and is SE against Fairies), Murkrow in the Hau’oli Cemetery (Flying/Dark neutralizes Fighting and Bug and SE against the two), and a Sableye at Ten Carat Hill (Ghost/Dark which is immune to Fighting and neutralizes Bug).  That’s FIVE Pokemon on just the first island alone!  And that’s not counting Alolan Raticate, Alolan Persian, and the very rare Zoroark!  You could have a full team by the time you get off the island and take it to the Elite Four with no problem!  Did I say near-perfect run?  Forget that!  A Dark type run in USUM is as perfect of a run as you can get in the entire Pokemon Series.  Don’t pass it up!  I played with this one and it was great!

Dark Teams in Pokemon Games

Pokemon GSC and HGSS
Ideal Team: Murkrow, Umbreon
First Pokémon: Eevee given by Bill in Goldenrod after the third gym or Murkrow via Pokewalker.
Covers Weaknesses? Yes, thanks to Murkrow and Fairy not being introduced yet

 

Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, ORAS
Ideal Team: Shiftry (R, E, OR)/Cacturne, Crawdaunt/Sharpedo, Sabeleye (S, E, AS)/Absol, Honchkrow (ORAS), Krookodile (ORAS), Drapion (ORAS), Hydreigon (ORAS)
Optional Pokémon: Absol, Mightyena, Umbreon (ORAS), Zoroark (ORAS), Mega-Gyarados (ORAS), Spiritomb (ORAS)
First Pokémon: Poochyena via Route 101
Covers Weaknesses? Yes for all versions except Pokemon Ruby

 

Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, Platinum
Ideal Team:  Drapion, Weavile
Optional Pokémon: Absol (Platinum), Honchkrow (Diamond), Stuntank (Diamond), Houndoom (Platinum), Umbreon (Platinum)
First Pokémon: Murkrow can be caught at Eterna Forest after the first gym in Diamond. In Pearl, you can catch a Skorupi in the Great Marsh well after the third gym. In Platinum, you can acquire an Eevee in Hearthome City just before the third gym.
Covers Weaknesses? Yes

 

Pokemon Black, White, and B2W2
BW Ideal Team: Liepard, Scrafty, Krookodile, Bisharp, Mandibuzz (B), Hydreigon
First Pokémon: Purrloin via Route 2 before the first gym
Cover weaknesses? Only for Pokemon Black, in Pokemon White Fighting is not neutralized.

B2W2 Ideal Team: Hydreigon, Mandibuzz (B2)/Absol, Krookodile, Scrafty, Drapion, Bisharp
Optional: Liepard, Umbreon
First Pokémon: Purrloin via Route 19 before the first gym
Cover weaknesses? Yes, thanks to Drapion

 

Pokemon XY
Ideal Team: Greninja, Pangoro/Scrafty, Malamar, Honchkrow, Houndoom (X)/Bisharp, Drapion/Skuntank
Optional Pokémon: Crawdaunt, Sharpedo, Absol, Umbreon, Sableye, Liepard (Y)/Mightyena (X), Krookodile, Weavile, Tyranitar (Y), Hydreigon (Y), Zoroark
First Pokémon: Froakie via Starter
Covers Weaknesses? Yes

 

Pokemon SM and USUM
SM Ideal Team:
 Incineroar, Honchkrow, Muk, Pangoro, Hydregion (scan), Sabeleye
Optional: Krookodile, Absol, Weavile, Raticate, Sharpedo, Mandibuzz (Moon), Umbreon
First Pokémon: Litten via Starter
Covers Weaknesses? Yes

USUM Ideal Team: Incineroar, Malamar, Bisharp, Honchkrow, Muk, Pangoro
Optional: Krookodile, Absol, Weavile, Raticate, Sharpedo/Crawdaunt/Greninja (scan), Tyranitar, Scrafty, Sabeleye, Mandibuzz (UM), Umbreon
First Pokémon: Litten via Starter
Covers Weaknesses? Yes

 

MVP (Most Valuable Pokemon)

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Poison/Dark Pokemon

Single Type runs can be difficult.  So finding that one Pokemon that can neutralize all your weaknesses is like hitting the jackpot.  The Dark type has three of them.

One of the best type combos in the games, Poison/Dark is a fantastic combination for Dark Pokemon as Poison neutralizes ALL its weaknesses and you get a STAB super-effective move against the Fairies.  Having one of these Pokemon on your team guarantees you a wall against a tricky opponent.  But the other reason why this is #1 on our list is their prevalence.  Drapion, Skuntank, and Alolan Muk are catchable in every game starting from Pokemon Diamond and Pearl onwards with the exception being Pokemon Black and White.  You can find these guys in all the other games before the Elite Four.  These three can also fight your enemies well.  For instance, Alolan Muk can learn Rock Slide and Flamethrower, Drapion can learn Fire Fang, Aerial Ace, Iron Tail, and Rock Slide, and Skuntank can learn Iron Tail and Flamethrower.

Disadvantages?  Hm, well, they sometimes show up late in the games (excluding Alola Muk as you can find it very near the beginning of the game).  Um, Muk and Drapion’s move diversity is good…but Skuntank’s is okay.  They also have a…Ground weakness…?  But it’s just the one so just…not fight against a Steelix?  These Pokemon are also strong (Muk and Drapion have 500 Total Base Stats while Skuntank has 479) but nothing to write home about.  Really, the only major qualm I have is they don’t show up in earlier games, but those games aren’t even that good for a Dark type run to begin with so that’s not the worst thing ever.

Yeah, these guys are sweet.

Available in: DPP (Skuntank in Diamond and Drapion for all), B2W2 (Drapion), XY (Drapion and Skuntank), ORAS (Drapion), SM and USUM (Muk)

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Umbreon

After the Poison/Dark Pokemon, all other MVPs fight for second place.  They will give you support, diversity, and availability where the previous Pokemon fail.

One of those is Umbreon.  Umbreon is a widely popular Pokemon and the recent, Reddit survey of favorite Pokemon had placed it 6th place (607 people out of 52,725 voted for it) making it the most popular Eevee family member.  But what makes Umbreon special is not its popularity but its availability and stats.  First, Eevee is a very common Pokemon in the games.  And depending on the version, you can catch one in every region (except for the Kanto remakes which is pbbbbbtttt).  Umbreon also has some impressive stats and its highest of which are on its defenses and third highest in its HP.  Umbreon is thus the ideal tank to have if you’re worried about being one-shot by an opponent.

As such, Umbreon is not one for attacking, more for defense and status-inflicting moves.  Even its moveset reflects this as it barely knows any moves that are not Dark type.  Still, Umbreon does its job very well and will be a lovely partner for you through thick and thin.

Available in: GSC, Platinum, HGSS, B2W2, XY, ORAS, SM, USUM

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Honchkrow and Mandibuzz

When I’m doing a Dark type run, these are the guys I make a beeline towards as quick as I can.  Flying pairs nicely for Dark type as it neutralizes its Bug and Fighting weakness and provides Super Effective STAB moves to boot.  In fact, if you’re playing any game before Generation 6, having one of these guys on your team will guarantee you weakness coverage since Fairy wasn’t introduced yet.  Because of which, Mandibuzz’s absence in Pokemon White demotes a Dark type run from fantastic to decent.

Since Murkrow was introduced in Generation 2, we get to see these guys pop up all over the place so you’re likely to run into them in later generations.  Murkrow’s evolution, Honchkrow, arrives in Generation 4 providing a strong boost to this family.  In fact, both of these bad birds total base stats are over 500 which is really nice.  Mandibuzz is on the tanky side so if you want an attacker go for Honchkrow.  Honchkrow can even learn Steel Wing so if you want to give Fairies the middle finger you can surprise them with this move.

Your big fault here is the move diversity.  Flying Pokemon in general have poor movepools so Mandibuzz and Honchkrow suffer.  Embarrassingly, Honchkrow’s only strong Flying move by TM or Level Up is Fly and that’s it.  Honchkrow can still learn Psychic and Shadowball though so it’s not all bad news (and Nasty Plot is nice).  If you have a move tutor though your movepool expands greatly so look out for them in B2W2 and USUM.

Available in: GSC (Murkrow), Diamond (Honchkrow), HGSS (Honchkrow), Black and Black 2 (Mandibuzz), XY (Honchkrow), ORAS (Honchkrow and Mandibuzz), SM and USUM (Honchkrow in all and Mandibuzz in Moon and UM)

1200px-560scrafty

Pangoro and Scrafty

Both Scrafty and Pangoro are incredible Pokemon for their own reasons but the main reason why you want to carry them is not their Bug resistance but their move diversity.  Elemental punches, Outrage, Earthquake, X-Scissor, and of course, Fighting moves give you nice coverage.  Pangoro can also learn Bullet Punch by level up which is nice to surprise Fairies.  These guys are stroooong and with their nice abilities you can be an effective attacker (Pangoro) or a tank (Scrafty).  However, watch out for those Fairy weaknesses, they can mess you up!

Available in: BW and B2W2 (Scrafty), XY (Pangoro and Scrafty), SM (Pangoro), and USUM (Pangoro and Scrafty)

1200px-658greninja
Your Starter

Greninja and Incineroar are both starters for their respective series, XY for Greninja and SM and USUM for Incineroar.  They are what make their respective games amazing for a Dark type run.  You have your Pokemon and you don’t need to wait and catch one.  This makes them very ideal to have on your team and they’re both so good.  Greninja is fast, learns Water Shuriken, and can learn a variety of moves.  Incineroar’s Fire type neutralizes Bug and Fairy weaknesses, and can learn some strong Fighting moves.  If you’re torn between the two, why not both?  They both appear in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon!  Really, their only downfall is that they don’t appear in all the games!

Available inXY (Greninja), SM (Incineroar), USUM (Incineroar and Greninja)

sableye-mega

Sabeleye (and if you’re lucky, Spiritomb)

In the old days, Spiritomb and Sabeleye had no weaknesses due to their type combinations.  When Gamefreak made them they were either weak (Sableye) or had very limited movepool selection (Spiritomb).  Now they have a Fairy weakness but unfortunately, neither problem was fixed with the exception of Sableye’s Mega Evolution.  Still, that Ghost type is really nice for them as you have an immunity to Fighting and a neutralization for Bug.  Of the two, I pick Sabeleye as its more common and it learns some nice moves.  It will learn Zen Headbutt and Power Gem via level up so you can counter your foes easily.  Sabeleye is also available usually early on so keep an eye out for it!  Spiritomb, meanwhile, will only show up legitimately in ORAS but why catch him when you got a sweet Mega-Sabeleye?

Available in: Sapphire and Emerald (Sabeleye), XY (Sabeleye), ORAS (Sabeleye in Sapphire and Spiritomb in both), SM and USUM (Sabeleye)

krookodile

Krookodile

The last MVP Pokemon is a bit subjective but hear me out on this.  Although Krookodile does not neutralize any weaknesses, it makes up for it by stats, moves, abilities, and commonality.  Krookodile’s strength is just behind the starters and Umbreon sitting at a BST of 519.  Intimidate pairs well for its average defenses but its Moxie that sells it with Krookodile’s great speed which can make him a Juggernaut.  Krookodile can learn the various Earth-based moves, of course, but it can also learn Outrage, Thunder and Fire Fang, Shadow Claw, and Aqua Tail.  Finally, it is found in every game from Pokemon BW up to Pokemon USUM.  Again, another reason why the later games are best for a Dark type run!

Available in: BW, B2W2, XY, ORAS, SM, USUM

Who Would Win? Duck! vs. Huge

The 2018 Season of Battlebots greatly expanded the competitive field of robots and brought with it new fighters that the show has never seen before.  Some of these robots became critical successes like Whiplash and Monsoon and some were total failures like Battle Royale with Cheese.  But there were some robots that were lovable underdogs, the kind you hope would win despite the odds.  These were the robots that won battles but fell to titans.  These robots were the breakout stars of Battlebots and I’m of course talking about Duck! and Huge.

duck21_bbseason4_2019

Duck! of Team Black & Blue

huge-bot-s2018-1140x760

Huge of Team Huge

These robots are completely different from each other.  Duck! is a bot whose weapons is a lifting plow with a duck beak wedge at the end.  It is a tank that was built to handle attacks from Tombstone and vertical spinners.  It can even self-right itself by using its plow as a skip rope which is great.  Meanwhile, Huge is an aptly named bot.  It sits on two, flexible and durable wheels that are a meter tall and are joined by a small body with angry eyes.  Its weapon is a very long vertical bar spinner that uppercuts its opponents.

Both of these bots have became indie darlings in the arena for their own reasons.  Duck! for its sheer durability and aggression, Huge for its towering figure and funky fighting style.  But so far in their young career they have never fought each other before and I have to ask the question, which of these underdogs would win??

This is honestly a really tricky question to answer mainly because Huge is such a wildcard.  There are very few other bots like it and it basically started a recent trend of towering bots in the arena like Deep Six and Mammoth.  Its wheels are also crazy.  They are made of a material called high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and is the same material that plastic bottles are made of.  If you watch Huge’s fights in 2018, enemy weapon attacks would just glance off the wheels (which is incredible) and the wheels bounce back when he gets pushed around.

img_1004

Big Boi

These wheels and Huge’s size honestly gives him a weird advantage over Duck!.  Duck is used to taking hits from the side but trying to fight upwards for Duck! may be challenging.  I can totally imagine Duck! trying to flip Huge over or push him around but the wheels would bend away and Duck! would get a face full of metal from that vertical bar spinner.  The most recent episode of Battlebots (2019 season, Episode 5) had Huge fight Jasper, a hammerbot, who tried to mess up Huge’s wheels but ended up pummeled.

HOWEVER, Huge is not one for KOing his opponents.  As of this writing, out of the seven fights Huge had, he won four and only one of those was by KO (the Jasper fight).  Huge mainly wins by absorbing hits (or straight up avoiding them) and delivering a steady stream of attacks to wear down his opponent.  Even so, the times Huge lost were from very powerful horizontal spinners (Icewave and SOW) and a loss against Biteforce (which was probably because it didn’t fully recover from the Icewave fight).

bbs8e14_duckdead

Duck! after battling Tombstone which admittedly looks way better than some of other Tombstone’s opponents.

Duck!, on the other hand, has won from sheer endurance and will to live.  It has won five out of eight battles so far and its losses are interesting as one was by being flipped out of the arena (Bronco), a controversial Judges Decision in the Last Chance Rumble (Bombshell), and be torn apart (Tombstone).  What’s funny is that in the battles it won, it has been mangled, twisted, and wrecked but still come out with a win when the other bot would just stop moving.  Even when its missing tires it can still drive around the Battlebox with no problem!  The latest fight against Cobalt is an excellent example of this.  It completely lost its plow yet it kept fighting until Cobalt just shut down after hitting a jagged floorpiece.

So in this battle we have a tenacious bot vs a large, funky bot.

Okay, so how will this play out?

Duck!’s Strategy
Duck! would either want Huge to knock itself off by recoil or by pushing it into the arena hazards.  If Duck takes the hits fine, it can win by Judges Decision.

Huge’s Strategy
The best way to incapacitate Duck! would be taking out its exposed wheels; however, Huge is planning a 3 minute battle.  It knows it has a slim chance of actually KOing Duck! so it wants to impress the judges by getting points for damage and aggression.

The Battle

As soon as the buzzer rings, Duck! rushes to the other side of the arena and slams into one of Huge’s wheels from the side.  Duck tries to lift the wheel but instead the wheel bends under and Duck goes forward into Huge’s blade.  The blade clips Duck from the side but Duck shrugs it off and retreats.

Huge faces Duck and goes forward but Duck easily maneuvers around his slow speed and attacks the wheels again.  Duck tries to lift again but manages to just skirt the wheels.  Huge rotates around and this time knocks Duck squarely from the side launching Duck a foot in the air before landing again.

Duck shrugs off the attack and this time goes at Huge head on.  Huge responds in the same and the two collide.  The vertical bar slams into Duck’s face and scrapes upward causing the plow to rotate.  Duck survives the attack and pushes forward again completely stopping Huge’s blade.  Duck tries to push Huge from underneath but manages to only stop him.  The two struggle in a shoving match before Duck retreats allowing Huge to spin up again.

After a few more brief clashes, Duck lifts its plow and slams into Huge’s side.  Miraculously, Duck pushes Huge and gains speed.  Huge is pushed to the wall where the screws begin to gnaw on him.  Huge is in trouble and Chris is dancing on his seat, anticipating a possible KO by Duck!.  Huge dances on the screws as the wheels constantly bend under the large, rotating hazard.  Duck! falls back but races towards Huge again, hoping to tip him over the arena’s walls.

But Duck! fails.  Despite its effort, Huge manages to bounce off the screws and climb over Duck!.  The large bot drives forward, his weapon spinning again.  Duck! faces Huge and drives forward, lifting its plow up.  BAM!  The vertical bar hits the upward plow and delivers moderate damage.  The plow is now bent at an angle and Duck! can’t rotate it back down.

“Duck!’s in trouble!” shouts Kenny as Duck!’s bent arm rubs against the exposed wheel and slowing it down.  It’s semi-rotating on the spot, trying to drive straight.  Huge sees his chance and glides forward, it’s bar spinning like a helicopter.  The bar bounces off Duck! once, twice, and then thrice with that final hit taking off a wheel which goes flying and rolls dramatically across the arena.

But one of those hits had further bent Duck!’s plow’s but this time, relieving pressure off the exposed wheel.  Duck! can move.  And it turns around and pushes Huge.  The vertical bar glancing off the plow, still in the air, before stopping completely again.  Duck! awkwardly pushes the large bot and tries to take it to the walls like last time.  But it fails and Huge slips by.

The last 20 seconds of the fight continues with both bots, now bruised and weakened, trying desperately to look good in the judges’ eyes.  Some mild hits and desperate shoving continue until the buzzer rings.

Just looking at the bots you can tell you got the worst treatment.  Although there are some scratches and nicks on Huge’s wheels and maybe a chipped blade, he looks better off than Duck! whose plow is limply raised in a janky slant and is missing an entire wheel.

The results are in, and by split decision, the Judges reward Huge as the winner of the fight due to Damage and Control.  Although Duck! had good aggression, it’s strategy worked about half the time due to Huge’s size and bendable wheels.  Meanwhile, Huge scored high on damage thanks to the missing wheel and injured plow.

Final Result: Huge by Split Decision

Percentage Chance of Huge Winning: 70%

Fight Explanation: Looking at all their previous fights, I couldn’t honestly see Duck! winning unless Huge just stopped working.  However, I have yet to see any evidence of Huge malfunctioning during a battle so I don’t see that happening.  It’s also difficult to push Huge around and it would be very hard to KO Huge by shoving him out of the arena.  Finally, Huge has yet to lose to an opponent like Duck!.  To beat Huge, you got to tear up those wheels which Duck doesn’t have an effective way of doing that.

Huge falters from a weak weapon as its very easy to slow down after one hit.  I again honestly don’t see Huge KOing Duck! unless it strikes gold with Duck!’s wheels and even then this hardy bot is a fast and tough bird.  It can still drive with just two wheels which is crazy!

As such, this fight will likely go the full three minute round.  Duck will likely get injured (because that’s its deal) and will have to look as pretty as it can if it wants to win.  It’s very possible it will come out unscathed and if it does then I would think the judges would give the victory to Duck!.

Final Thoughts: I hope you enjoyed this article!  This was the first of its kind I written.  If you would like me to write more you can request it and I can do an analysis.  What are your thoughts on these two robots??  Do you agree or disagree with me?  Looking forward to your comments!

Also, Battlebots!  If you’re reading this PLEASE make this a main event!  Everyone would go nuts if the two best underdogs go head to head with each other!

End of the Cartoon Network Renaissance

Five years ago, in 2014, I wrote an article proclaiming we were in the midst of the Cartoon Network Renaissance. Regular Show and Adventure Time were in their prime, leading the pack of highly entertaining shows along with Steven Universe which had premiered just a year earlier. Toonami had also returned after a five year hiatus bringing back adult-oriented anime. That year, we also saw one of, if not the, best shows on Cartoon Network ever, Over the Garden Wall. It was a far cry from just five years before where Cartoon Network was going through its Dark Age, a time of low quality programs, saturated with live-action shows.

I haven’t given the topic much thought until about a few weeks ago when I saw a huge spike in traffic to my article. What gives? After a quick Google search I found my answer.

The Amazing World of Gumball was ending on June 24th, 2019 after eight years of producing chaotic, super-stylized and entertaining episodes.

And along with this I saw a host of articles proclaiming that the Cartoon Network Renaissance was ending.

And I read all of this and I had to wonder. Well…is it?

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It’s very tempting to say yes to this. After all, when I wrote my first article in 2014, Cartoon Network was at a high. All these diverse shows were providing us with quality entertainment, yes, even Clarence and Uncle Grandpa to an extent (I didn’t care for them but I know they have its fans). And right with them was The Amazing World of Gumball.

But most of those shows are done. And the programs that exploded Cartoon Network back into the limelight and made it fantastic again, Regular Show and Adventure Time, ended in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Once Gumball ends, only Steven Universe and Teen Titans Go! remain from 2014.

I admit, I’m not excited about Cartoon Network as I once was. I look at their current line up and I shrug. When I’m at a hotel, We Bare Bears entertains me fine and OK K.O.! occasionally comes out with some cool stuff (I loved that Ghoul School episode!!) but that’s about it. I don’t find myself religiously watching a show like I do for Regular Show, Adventure Time, and Steven Universe. This is just my opinion.

But I was curious. Is the Cartoon Network Renaissance ending? And if so, how do we know?

To answer this question I looked at all of Cartoon Network’s original programs, both live action and animated, from 1999 to 2019. I used the show’s IMDB ratings (taken in June 2019) as hundreds of people have reviewed these shows making them a good approximate to real world opinions. I also strictly looked at the show’s premiere and finale date for their years as reruns make things too crazy keep track of (plus you’re losing an audience that may be a fan of the show). I also added DC shows that premiered on Cartoon Network as they served a huge part of Cartoon Network’s history (Teen Titans and Justice League, anyone?). I didn’t analyze every show (like Johnny Test) as we would get into complicated territory such as shows produced in other countries. In the end, 81 shows were used to analyze Cartoon Network’s quality from 1999-2019. The results can be seen in the graph below.

Cartoon Network Graph Original

Two sets of analysis was used; one with the average of an entire year’s run and one that only used a year’s top three shows. There are some interesting things to talk about so let’s go through this point by point.

  1. There’s not a clear parallel between the two analyses. In both lines, we see a drop in program quality starting in 2004 but the Top Three eventually came back up and was inline with early-2000’s level of programs. However, the Whole Set never recovered to its early levels and stayed far below it with a few ups and downs. This is telling me that audiences found the overall quality of modern Cartoon Network shows to be inferior to the overall quality of shows from its heyday. However, the Top Three had modern programs that were on par, if not better, than shows from the early 2000s. That means people find these shows fun, enjoyable, and entertaining to watch despite Cartoon Network’s overall low quality.
  2. 2009 was one of Cartoon Network’s worst years. That huge drop for The Whole Set in 2009 is no fluke. This was the height of the super abysmal live action shows that CN was pumping out. Destroy Build Destroy has a 2 rating, The Othersiders a 3.5, Brainrush a 3.5, Bobb’e Says 9, and the worst one out of the whole set, Dude, What Would Happen, had 1.7! Three of these shows (Bobb’e, Brainrush, and Othersiders) only lived during 2009. Meanwhile, you have a lack of high quality shows that populate the network as Grim Adventures and Codename had just ended while Regular Show and Adventure Time wouldn’t premiere until the following 2010. This was not a good year for CN…
  3. 2019 is so far looking okay. Overall, June 2019 is below average compared to the other years (6.36 and 8.17 vs. 6.79 and 8.29, respectively). It’s rating for both overall quality and Top Three is only above four other years. It’s not awful but it’s certainly not great. The loss of Regular Show and Adventure Time have already hurt Cartoon Network’s quality.

As of this writing, the Amazing World of Gumball is at 8.2 making it second place of the 2019 as of June 2019, just behind Steven Universe at 8.3. If nothing else changes, 2020 will continue the downward trend that started in 2017. Thankfully, we may not have to worry about this as Cartoon Network might be getting a much deserved adrenaline shot.

Premiering this year is Mao Mao: Heroes of Pure Heart and Infinity Train. Both of these were well received for their pilots and both are already drawing eager fans ready to watch new and exciting shows. Of the two, I have my money on Infinity Train as its “anything goes” attitude harkens back to Adventure Time’s fun randomness. If they deliver the goods, we might see a renewed interest in Cartoon Network.

Which brings me back to the big question; is the Cartoon Network Renaissance answering? Let’s look at the graph one more time before I answer it.

Cartoon Network Graph Edited

If you were to divide Cartoon Network’s history into four periods it would be the Classic Age, the Golden Age, The Dark Age, and the Renaissance. Now, in my opinion, there’s not really a strict beginning or end to these eras as they flow into one and another. It’s very similar to real life as the Renaissance didn’t start with one year but gradually and over time. So strict years of when these ages start and end are debatable but it may go something like this.

The Classic Age started in 1992 featuring reruns of classic cartoons from Warner Brothers, Hannah-Barbera, and Pop Eye. However, original programming became more and more prevalent starting with CN’s first big hit, Dexter’s Laboratory, in 1996. Following Dexter’s premiere was Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, I am Weasel, and The Powerpuff Girls in 1997 and 1998.

But the Golden Age, in my opinion, didn’t truly start until 1999 with the premiere of Ed, Edd n Eddy, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and Mike, Lu & Og along with the highly popular, weekly event, Cartoon Cartoon Fridays. Toonami was also going 100 mph with its acclaimed, action-oriented shows, introducing anime to million of North American kids including myself. Without Toonami, anime wouldn’t be anywhere near as popular in the U.S.

The Golden Age continued strongly until the early 2000s even when some of its original shows were canceled. Amazing DC shows began premiering on Cartoon Network like Justice League and Teen Titans. You also see other shows make their mark during this era such as Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Kids Next Door, and Megas XLR. Genndy Tartarkovsky also created two of his most acclaimed series ever, Samurai Jack, and Star Wars: Clone Wars (not to be confused with the 3d incarnation of the series) during this time.

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Still one of my favorite shows on Cartoon Network.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and so too did the Golden Age. Most of the original shows from the 90’s ended or were ending and the shows that replaced them were not as groundbreaking or as lovable. Additionally, Cartoon Cartoon Fridays finished with a whimper with live-action hosts replacing their cartoon counterparts before finally ending in 2007. Toonami had also seen its first cancelation in 2008 due to low ratings and some questionable choices.

Possibly the worst decision that Cartoon Network ever did was producing live actions shows on its network which confounds me. Why…would you ever…show live action shows…on a network dedicated to cartoons???? It makes no sense! And oooooh boy. They really dropped the ball here. Quite a few of their live action shows were just abysmal. Additionally, cartoons did not escape this curse as some were incredibly low quality like Problem Solverz with 1.9 and Secret Mountain Fort Awesome with 3.5.

As such, I put the Dark Age starting at 2006 when the average quality of the shows decreased to a point that Cartoon Network never fully recovered from. Megas XLR and Star Wars: Clone Wars were the last high quality shows in the Golden Age that kept CN afloat until they ended in 2005. The original Powerpuff Girls also ended in 2005 leaving just Ed, Edd n Eddy as the original Cartoon Cartoon Fridays cartoons standing.

Cartoon Network started recovering in 2010 when a series of new, high quality, shows were released that year. I’m talking about Regular Show, and Adventure Time, of course, but we also had Young Justice and Sym-Bionic Titan picking up the slack. Unfortunately, despite the uptick in average ratings in 2010, the early 2010’s were still on the low side. It wasn’t until 2014 that the overall ratings crept back up again and we saw a nice spread of diverse (and at least decent) shows.  As such, from 2010 to 2018, I divided the Renaissance Era into an early and late period with 2014 serving as the halfway point as 2013 ended the last live action shows.  Cartoon Network shook off the last of its awkward phase and went back to basics of what made the channel amazing.

Now, at this time, I place Renaissance ending in 2018 as that’s when Adventure Time ended. It’s only befitting that Adventure Time, which started in 2010 and kicked off the channel’s revival, also ends this time period. 2019’s quality, so far, has suggest that we are heading into a gradual decline in quality. Perhaps not as steep as we saw in the mid-2000’s, but a decline nonetheless. The Renaissance looks done.

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But keep in mind, I’m looking at this from a very limited perspective. I did not look at the complete catalogue of Cartoon Network’s shows nor did I take into account Adult Swim and Toonami’s effect on the channel. And streaming is taking off in a big way so maybe we should start looking at streaming numbers that determine a show’s popularity. Not only that, we also have the online-only cartoons like Villainous that are becoming more and more popular. We’re scratching the surface of Cartoon Network’s quality and history.

And who’s to say the Renaissance is truly done? In five years time, I might be singing a different tune and place the ending at a different time. Maybe I would continue to extend it further and further into the future. After all Mao Mao premiered tonight and its receiving some glowing reviews! It also has a score of 8.5 right now on IMDB! That makes it the highest rated show of 2019 and puts it 6th out of 82 shows on my list! And Steven Universe is still kicking with its movie and additional season! Perhaps they will usher in…not another Golden Age…but a Silver Age?

Yeah, I like that. Silver Age. We look fondly on the past but things change, sometimes for the better. And as long as Cartoon Network does NOT bring back anymore live action shows, I’m looking forward to what else they may have in store for us.

What do you think? Do you agree with my thoughts? Looking forward to your comments!

Best Pokemon Games for a Bug Type Run

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If you were doing a Single Type (or Monotype) Run in Pokémon, would you go for a team with a lot of diversity that shows up late or a team with low diversity that appears very early on? I think, given the options, trainers would choose the latter rather than the former. And if you’re the case, let me suggest training a Bug Team in Pokémon.

Bug Pokémon have one of the highest rates of early availability in the Pokémon games. Not counting the starters, they are just behind Normal and Flying type for their early availability occurrences. As such, they are great if you want to get your team rolling almost right away. However, be prepared for low diversity as a huge number of Bug Pokémon are part Poison or Flying type, types that don’t give them a lot of variability. Bug Pokémon also suffer from an abysmal movepool by primarily favoring Bug, Poison, and Flying moves. If you want to stop Fire, Flying, and Rock Pokémon, you got to have the moves to back it up. Diversity will play a very strong role to make your team great.

Finally, Bug Pokémon, on average, have the worst stats out of all 18 types. Now, before I go any further, Bug Pokémon have a huuuuge disadvantage to this because there are very few Bug Legendries. Even then, fully evolved Bug Pokémon are relatively weak as they are treated as early Pokémon you can train in the games before moving on to bigger fish. It’s a trade off for their early availability. Thankfully, later generations change this perception which is why you’ll see me more likely recommend later rather than earlier games. As a side note, Generation 5 was probably the best generation for Bug Pokémon as it introduced an incredible range of Pokémon that are actually very strong and diverse. Expect to see a few of these Pokémon in our MVP list.

Let’s take a look at what your team may look.

Rules

  1. Only Pokémon of a certain type may be caught and trained.
  2. You must catch the first Pokémon available of that type if your starter does not match that type (you’ll then have to discard that starter).
  3. You may train a Pokémon that evolves to said type as long as you do it ASAP.
  4. No trading allowed.
  5. Mega Pokémon count as long as you Mega Evolve them as soon as they appear on the battlefield.
  6. Only Pokémon caught before Elite Four are counted.
Single Type Chart  Version 1.1

Consult the chart for a quick look at Bug and other types for your run

Worst Pokémon Games

I want to start with the worst games because frankly, there’s not a lot of necessarily bad games for a Bug type run. The Kanto games are arguably the worst games for a Bug type run as they have abysmal diversity with a rather weak team. Oh, and watch out for Blaine and his fire comrades, they’ll roast you! Jumping a few generations later, Black and White is a mixed bag as the first Bug you can catch is after the second gym, the latest out of any of the games. Even then, you’ll still have great diversity with Volcarona and Galvantula giving you stellar support…you’ll just have to wait a bit before you can catch that Venipede.

Best Pokémon Games

The rest of the games honestly range from decent to fantastic; in fact, a lot of them have a “1A” rating as seen in the chart above. Even starting in Generation 2 we have a team that can neutralize weaknesses thanks to Heracross and Shuckle.

Personally, I like Black 2 and Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. The other games are great but these are packing some of the best bugs around! What these games have in common is a slow but steady increase of teammates throughout the game and a nice variety of Pokémon to cover your weak points. These games also have the rare but coveted Move Tutors who can teach you anything from Scolipede’s Aqua Tail to Forretress’ Stealth Rock. Check out the team combos below.

B2W2 Ideal Team: Galvantula, Scolipede, Crustle, Vespiquen, Heracross/Leavanny, Volcarona
Optional: Karrablast, Shelmet, Pinsir, Shuckle
First Pokémon: Sewaddle via Route 20 before the first gym
Cover weaknesses? Yes.  HOWEVER, be warned that in White 2 you can only get a Heracross via Hidden Grotto in Lostlorn Forest and even then it has a 0.75% of appearing.  So technically you can cover your weaknesses it would just be very annoying.

USUM Ideal Team: Vikavolt, Golisopod/Aquachnid, Volcarona, Forretress, Armaldo (US)/Masquerain, Romblebee
Optional: Masquerain, Parasect, Butterfree, Ledian, Ariados, Beedril (scan)
First Pokémon: Caterpie, Ledyba, Grubbin, and Spinarak via Route 1
Cover weaknesses? Yes, every type is taken care of

 

MVP (Most Valuable Pokémon)

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Heracross

Ah yeah, Heracross, baby! One of the best Bug Pokémon, Heracross offers so much for your team and is just cool overall. What’s more, Heracross is one of the most common Bug Pokémon you’ll likely encounter in a Bug playthrough so be prepared to find and train one. What’s nice is they usually show up about midway through the games so you won’t have to wait until the end to catch one.

Heracross’ signature move, Megahorn, is the move that helped define Generation 2 and was Gamefreak’s answer to the overpowered Psychic Pokémon. After G2, other Pokémon acquired it as well but Heracross started it and is a very strong STAB move to fight against your foes. Of course, Heracross learns other cool moves like its various Fighting moves and Night Slash which is very fine. But check out the TMs; Rock Slide, Earthquake, and Shadow Claw are moves you’ll need to stop your Flying, Rock, and Fire Pokémon (except Shadow Claw, it’s just pretty sweet).

Unfortunately, it’s not all honey sap and apricorns for Heracross. That 4x weakness to Flying moves is brutal and can be a pain to counter. And despite having the most powerful Bug move yet, Heracross is weak to Psychic moves which is a huge bummer. Thankfully, the Rock neutralization makes up for this and Heracross is packed with sufficient Rock-countering moves.

Available in: GSC, RSE, DPP, HGSS, B2W2, Y, ORAS

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Volcarona

Volcarona is the most powerful, non-Legendary and non-Mega evolved Bug Pokémon (quite a mouthful). Impressive on its own but even more impressive is its unique Fire/Bug typing, a type only it and its prevolution share as of Generation 7. As such, Volcarona can learn a plethora of Fire-based attacks and even Psychic via TM. Let me doubly stress this as Volcarona is the ONLY Bug Pokémon that can learn Fire attacks; Fire attacks can hit so many Pokémon super effectively and is a must for your team. The fantastic Quiver Dance is also nice as each use raises your Sp At., Sp Def., and Speed, by one stage each (already raising its monstrous Special Attack stat). Once you up your stats, use Roost (by TM or by Move Tutor), replenish your health, and go to town! If you’re feeling up to it, you can even teach it Hurricane for a very strong Flying move.

Like Heracross, Volcarona has a 4x weakness but this time for Rock. This is very rough, so tread carefully among the Ground, Steel, and Fighting Pokémon. And like a lot of strong Pokémon, Volcarona doesn’t evolve until Level 59 which is incredibly rough as by then you’re knocking on the Elite Four’s door. Thankfully, you can catch a fully evolved Volcarona in B2W2 after the Quake Badge.

Available in: BW, B2W2, ORAS, USUM

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Shuckle, Armaldo, and Crustle

Bug/Rock Pokémon are nice as they neutralize both Flying and Fire and offer a STAB, counter offense to them. How effective this is…depends on which one you catch and train! Obviously, Shuckle is super defense heavy so be prepared for long, sluggish battles but the other two offer more offensive-based attacks. I highly recommend getting one of these guys as I can’t tell you how headache inducing it is to fight a bird without anything significant to counter them.

Unfortunately, their move diversity is just okay. They know some Ground moves, maybe a Poison or Ghost move, but you’re not going to get anything more than that, especially for earlier generations. They’re also pretty slow so be prepared to take a hit or two before you can finish off an opponent. And ironically, they’re still weak to Rock! Don’t forget about that! I have done that more than a few times.

Available in: GSC (Shuckle), RSE (Armaldo in all three and Shuckle in Emerald), HGSS (Shuckle), BW (Crustle), B2W2 (Crustle and Shuckle), XY (Crustle and Shuckle), ORAS (Armaldo), US (Armaldo)

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Forretress and Durant (and I guess Trash Wormadam)

It may surprise you how common Bug/Steel types are and even when we subtract Scizor, Genesect, and Escavalier. Forretress, Durant, and Wormadam are scattered throughout the games so you might run into one when you do a Bug run.  Like Rock, Steel neutralizes two of Bug’s three weaknesses, namely Flying and Rock. If you want to play up that defense then look towards Forretress but if you want a speedy offense, look towards Durant instead. Wormadam…is okay, it’s stats are better than other Bug Pokémon but you can do better.

Of course, that 4x Fire weakness is horrendous. You’ll be roasted so bad by any kindlers or circus performers. And, unfortunately, these guys do not have a great move diversity. Move tutors can alleviate this but not by much. But Forretress doesn’t really need move diversity for what it’s trying to pull; it will act as your wall, set up spikes and wear down your opponents. And at least Durant can learn Rock Slide and Shadow Claw by TM.

Available in: GSC (Forretress), E (Forretress), DPP (Wormadam), HGSS (Forretress), BW (Durant), XY (Wormadam, Durant), USUM (Forretress)

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Galvantula and Vikavolt

I love Galvantula, I really do. And although I’m sad I couldn’t train one again in Alola, we get a nice counterpart via Vikavolt. The Electric type pairs nicely with Bug as both compliment their strength and weaknesses. In this case, neutralizing that Flying weakness and zapping the birds from the sky! Galvantula also has the ability Compound Eyes which makes your Thunder attacks about 91% accurate which is sooooooooooo goooooooood. Your biggest drawback is your limited movepool. Both Pokémon can learn Electric and Grass moves and that’s about it. Granted, those moves are pretty decent for Bug Pokémon so it’s not too bad.

Available in: BW and B2W2 (Galvantula), ORAS (Galvantula), SM and USUM (Vikavolt)

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Golisopod and Araquanid

We end our list with the latecomers whose main fault is their few appearances which will likely change as new games are produced. Both of these Pokémon have the amazing Water/Bug type and really deliver it justice (unlike Surskit introduced four generations earlier). Golisopod is second in natural strength to Volcarona but first in move diversity. Teach your Golisopod a variety of moves (especially if a Move Tutor is involved) such as Rock Slide, Poison Jab, Shadow Claw, and Sucker Punch. Of course, teach it its trademark move, First Impression, to deliver a very strong attack right at the beginning of the battle! Araquanid, meanwhile, makes up for its low move diversity and alright stats for a very nice ability in Water Bubble. Water Bubble halves Fire attacks, doubles Water attacks, and prevents a Pokémon from being burned. This is great! You hardly ever get an actual resistance to Fire attacks for Bug Pokémon! Just remember that you’ll need to nurture your Wimpod as a baby so be patient with it and Araquanid is more defense oriented so don’t expect it to win battles by quick KOs.

Battlebots 2018 Season Review

The 2019 Battlebots season has just begun but I want to take us back and reflect on the 2018 season and what made it work and what could be improved.  But first, I totally missed watching the 2018 season when it premiered as I was in Wyoming with no TV or internet access.  Thankfully, now back in civilization, I have finished binging all the episodes and I’m ready to dive in.  Let’s take a look!

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Switching networks, switching styles
The transition from ABC to Discovery Channel is a welcome one.  At its core, Battlebots is a reality show focused on engineering and destruction, perfect for the modern Discovery Channel and its programs.  DC understood what makes Battlebots great and modified it to give us quality and substance.  The end result was a whopping 20 episode season, 10 more than the previous ABC season and on par with the Comedy Central-era show.

This was an excellent choice.  With only one weight class, the show could focus entirely on the competing robots and treat the show like a professional sport.  I’m mainly referring to the playoffs which is such a great choice I’m baffled why it wasn’t introduced sooner.  We have so many robots that we love but we don’t see too often given the brutal nature of a KO Tournament.  With playoffs, we see robots get second (and third and fourth) chance of proving they’re the best and they can give us a good show.  That means we can see bots that do average or okay fight each other and not against the brutes that would otherwise dominate them (I’m looking at you, Duck, you magnificent robot!).

This also means we have a excellently seeded 16 bracket that give us, without a doubt, the best robots of the season by win record.  We can eliminate the duds (like veterans SubZero, Overhaul, and Chomp) and give us the robots that pack a mean wallop (like newcomers Whiplash and Monsoon)!  The bracket gave us a few 4-0s and a lot of 3-1s, most of whom got their seed based on satisfying KOs.

Most of the episodes are focused on the playoffs with each episode ending with an Event Match, a fight that gives us something to look forward to.  This was another smart choice as it gave us really great robots that have done well in previous seasons but who never fought each other (like Tombstone vs Minotaur).  The event match also gave a chance to newcomers who were doing well like Whiplash and Duck who both did incredibly well given they were facing against Tombstone.  Playoffs were great as it helped cement in our hearts bots that we grew to love.

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Duck!  was one of my favorite new Battlebots.  I honestly thought it was robbed from appearing in the sweet sixteen but it did tremendous.  Excellent ram/lift bot!

Pad for Time
Unfortunately, this season was the worst example of filler content as almost every episode had only five battles.  The previous seasons crammed more in there with the trade off that we saw highlights for the battles that were slow or inconsequential.  This…I’m okay with, if a battle isn’t exciting then it’s not exciting; probably a quarter of battles in Battlebot history end with two robots barely functioning with both weapons nonfunctional.  As long as we see a good clip here or there, I’m cool.

The Discovery Place network, however, did not do this.  Now, I’m one of those fans that doesn’t mind filler but a good chunk of the episode is basically me waiting for a battle to happen without a lot of fulfilling content.  The filler is basically Faruq announces the first bot, the builders wave to the audience, Faruq announces the second bot, the builders wave to the audience, the builders are interviewed, once in position the first builder punches the button, the second builder punches the button, some more waiting, the lights go on, and FINALLY the match begins.

Previous seasons, most of the time, had a quick introduction by the announcers for each robot and they jumped right in to the battle.  That’s it!  And that was all I needed.  To have the above formula repeat five times for 20 episodes got tiring after awhile.  You could’ve definitely made it six battles per episode and cut out all that filler.

Now, I definitely don’t mind the filler for the actual tournament itself, that is great!  Really gets you hype up for the tournament.  You can play that out because these are robots that actually deserve to be introduced with some spotlight treatment.  You could also use filler for behind the scenes action.  What are the builders doing?  How are they recovering from the match?  What damage did their robot sustain?  How are they fixing it?  I would love to get into the nitty gritty of that.  It would really show the teams’ comradery and intelligence in working together to get their precious bot up and running.  Thankfully, the 2019 season looks to be doing this more and cutting down on the intro filler.

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My other new favorite from the season.  HUGE was so hilarious but the height advantage and those weird wheels made it an unlikely, fantastic foe.  Too bad it fell apart in the Sweet Sixteen otherwise I think it could’ve beaten Bite Force!

An Experienced Crew, a Thoughtful Show
By now, the people who have worked on Battlebots these past few seasons have a lot of passion, love, and experience with the sport.  You can tell they have a lot of fun doing what they do and I don’t blame them!  I remember how I was initially critical of our hosts, Kenny and Chris, but I now think they are great.  They know the bots very well, they have seen many battles, and they know how to comment and keep the battle entertaining even when it may be slow.  Seeing Kenny being outspoken against some of the judges’ decisions was something I could appreciate deeply.  I think Kenny may come off as apathetic when next to the hyperactive Chris, but when you see him defend bots and disagree with the judges it really shows he cares for about the sport.

I also like the intro skits, silly they may be, I find them quite entertaining!  My favorite was Warhead lighting the birthday cake on fire though the staring contest with Huge got a good chuckle out of me.

Overall, Battlebots returned from a two year hiatus but it was worth the wait.   My only complaint left is that I wish Battlebots would show the best fights on Youtube!  That would further spread the love for the show I think.  Looking forward to what the rest of 2019 has to bring for us!

Unapologetic Nerd for the Second Half of 2019

Hello everyone, I’m writing to give you a rare update on my blog and what I’m planning for the future.  I started my blog in April 2014 meaning I have hit my five year anniversary.  Despite not updating it as frequently as I did in my first couple of years, the past three months has seen my highest traffic ever with May 2019 being my best month by a huge margin as I am writing this article.  This has given me inspiration to start writing more often and ensure this blog keeps chugging along.

I have a series of articles I have planned going forward for the second half of 2019.

First, my single type run articles will keep being produced and updated.  I’m currently done with all the main stream games and now all I have left is Pokemon Sword and Shield.  As more information comes out about that game, I’ll decide how to tackle it like how I did for Sun and Moon.  I’m also tempted to revamp my iconic Single Type Run chart and make a new one in its place that can include Sun and Moon and Sword and Shield.  I’m also planning on streamlining some of the articles by making them less confusing, and fixing small errors that may have been overlooked.  Additionally, keep an eye out for articles focusing on specific types like Steel, Fighting, and Dark!

Second, Battlebot articles, reactions, and predictions are coming back!  Last year, living in the Wyoming wilderness severely limited my internet access so I couldn’t watch the new season of Battlebots.  But now that I’m back in civilization, I’m catching up with the 2018 season and I’ll be watching, commenting, and geeking out with each new episode for 2019.  These articles were popular and I was requested to get back into this by a fan.  Thanks, and go Huge!

Third, random articles focusing on the NPS, cartoons, Godzilla, and other things, will be coming back.  Single Type Run articles have dominated the past few years of my blog mainly because I find them fun and easy to do and they’re popular with readers.  However, I’m not just a one trick pony and I want to write about other things that I love.  Additionally, I’m hoping to continue my podcast with Mary as that went on hiatus when we moved.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) Review by a Godzilla Fan

Spoiler Free Summary: Godzilla: King of the Monsters offers satisfying monster fights,  neat world building, and, surprisingly, lovely personalities from the monsters.  Unfortunately, the film falters from an insufferable character lead, unnecessary (and likable) character deaths, and being a glorified ad for the US Army.  Nonetheless, the film hits all the right marks for a Godzilla fan, let them fight!

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Spoiler Review: It has been a long time since I left a theatre feeling so conflicted.  I knew going into this that Godzilla: King of the Monsters had already struggled with a low rating on Rotten Tomatoes but that still couldn’t prepare me for what I saw.

Godzilla: KOM picks up five years after Legendary’s first Godzilla film in 2014.  A very long gap, all things considered, with only one film, Kong: Skull Island, giving us relief in-between those films (with the unrelated Shin Godzilla to boot).  The Monsterverse (Warner Brothers answer to Disney’s MCU) is still picking up steam and trying desperately to build its Titan-filled world.  Despite this, I think it does a great job with this world such as introducing hollow-Earth theories in Kong and continuing that with the underwater Atlantis scene in this movie.  Strangely enough, the film’s end credits sequence did SO MUCH for world building and I really like that.

The reason why I’m bringing this up is that Legendary is doing a successful job simultaneously referencing the original Toho films while introducing new villains and monsters for Godzilla (and Kong to fight).  The best example is King Ghidorah, who sees probably the best version of himself (or himselves???) in the entire Godzilla franchise!!  A big claim, yes, but hear me out.  “Evil” monsters in Godzilla films are somewhat uncommon and are usually controlled by world-dominating aliens or from future white people.  Ghidorah is the pawn for these aliens and when the (usually) humans break the mind control plot device, Ghidorah becomes a rampaging monster, easily beaten by Godzilla and his allies.

This film establishes Ghidorah as an invasive alien from outer space which is most excellent!  It ties back to world building with Godzilla and the Titans bringing balance to Earth’s climate and nature.  Naturally, Ghidorah, the invasive alien, wants to destroy that world and recreate it in its image.  Making Ghidorah not only control other Titans was smart but having him regenerate introduces a heighten level of threat that makes it extra scary.  Ghidorah also having three separate personalities is such a treat and something I never realized I needed until now.

Speaking of personality, Legendary boosted Godzilla’s character trait in spades (thanks in part to a far longer screen time which was a big miss in the first Legendary film).  Godzilla is friendly, crotchety, and smart.  From eye movements to subtle facial expressions, this is a return of Godzilla that is all good.  A trait that I pined for a long time.  The majority of the most recent Godzilla films have seen him in the anti-hero or straight up the antagonist/villain role.  A “good” Godzilla hasn’t been with us since arguably Godzilla: Final Wars in 2004 if not Terror of Mechagodzilla in 1975.  Godzilla allying with Mothra, the Earth’s Guardian, only further seals his alignment.

Speaking of which, I was disappointed that we didn’t see more of Mothra or Rodan but I’m satisfied nonetheless.  Rodan popping out of its volcano was a nice callback to its first film but having it being a flying lava-monster makes it so delicious.  As a side note, Mary and I also couldn’t help but compare Rodan to Transformers’ Starscream and Terrorsaur due to Rodan’s quick reallignment towards Godzilla at the end of the film.  Mothra standing up against Ghidorah and Rodan was nice but seeing it sacrifice itself for Godzilla, giving him the energy to fight, was classic Mothra.  Glad to see another Mothra egg at the end credits!

Oh and the fights were so wonderful.  That first standoff with Godzilla vs Ghidorah was great with Ghidorah’s wings outstretched against the blizzard.  It’s great to see the monsters fight three times!  Godzilla biting off the head of Ghidorah was also very satisfying and surprised me.  The end fight was well done with Godzilla getting that nuclear boost and kicking Ghidorah’s ass but then Ghidorah got the powerplant boost and I was like AHHHHHHHHHH!!!  I was on the edge of my seat!  Besides the animated Godzilla Planet movies, this is the first CGI fight of Godzilla vs Ghidorah and they didn’t pull any punches!  Ghidorah lifting Godzilla up in the sky, Godzilla blasting off Ghidorah’s heads (nice!!!), Ghidorah shooting lightning from its freaking wing tips, Godzilla’s charge up sound effect, and so forth and so forth.  Nicely done!

One more thing before the bad stuff, the soundtrack for this film was top notch.  That was another big complaint I had in the first film, the original Godzilla theme was missing.  It’s not a true Godzilla movie if it doesn’t have those iconic themes.  But we got them!  IN SPADES.  The themes were repurposed with choir, they got Mothra’s theme, they even got a cover of the Blue Oyster Cult’s Godzilla theme which was so rad to hear.  The music really sold me here but I just wish they did a better job with sound editing cause goddamn I had to struggle to hear the music sometimes along with the characters.

Okay, enough with the gushing now for the ranting.  Damn these characters were annoying.  At least the first film had Brian Cranston even though he died a third of the way in.  Kyle Chandler’s character Dr Mark Russell was the most annoying, blatant use of a white protagonist ever.  He was telling other, WAY MORE QUALIFIED, characters what to do even though HE HADN’T BEEN STUDYING GODZILLA.  Seriously, bugged the crap out of me.  In all honesty, they could cut his character entirely from the film and it wouldn’t change much.  We could focus on the mother-daughter relationship and the experienced Monarch group can keep doing what they do best.Image result for godzilla king of the monsters lead

My distaste for the lead wouldn’t be as nasty if it wasn’t for the fact they killed both Sally Hawkins AND Ken Watanabe’s characters who were both waaaaaay more likable than the lead even though they still didn’t have a lot of personality (but at least they were tolerable which goes a long way).  I don’t need interesting humans in a Godzilla film.

I don’t know.  I know I didn’t come to see a Godzilla film for the people but to make them this insufferable or boring is an achievement in a Godzilla film.  Millie Brown’s character was okay and she did all she could for the material given to her.  I give her character points for being tenacious that’s for sure.  I will also give points for the ORCA plot device, at least it gave a good tie in from the humans to the titans.

Finally, the US military irked me in this film.  Military in the Godzilla films are supposed to be ineffectual and only a super, sci-fi, weapon can take down Godzilla.  Sometimes, a non-destructive solution comes up to handle kaiju problems that are very cool like the coagulant juice in Shin Godzilla (or in this case, the ORCA device).  In this film, the US military, though mostly ineffectual, was still glorified to the umpteenth degree in this film and we didn’t have any antagonistic military characters with the exception of Charles Dance’s character (and even then he’s British so it doesn’t count!).  All this glorification is pretty funny when you compare it to Shin Godzilla and how the US military birthed Godzilla, tried to cover it up, failed, made the problem worse, and then wanted to nuclear bomb Japan.  Really says a lot especially when one film is produced by a Japanese studio as compared to an American one.  But that comparison is for another article…

Final Godzilla Movie Rating: 3.5/5  Overall, I have issues with this film but you know what?  At least they got the monsters right.  They hit the right notes again and again and I felt very satisfied by it, they introduced new concepts and ideas to the monsters and I appreciated them.  Hopefully, the human characters will be less annoying in Godzilla vs Kong but we’ll see…I personally wouldn’t count on it.  Thank God(zilla) though that it’s coming out less than a year from now!

Image result for behemoth godzilla

I also want to learn more about THIS guy!

Random Godzilla References That I Was Able To Catch

-The Mothra Twins made a cameo through Zhang Ziyi’s characters.  The fact that she is a third generation Monarch scientist makes it extra sweet.  Thank goodness she’s coming back in the next film.

-Godzilla, Rodan, Ghidorah, and Mothra, first appeared together in a major crossover movie, Ghidorah the Three-Head Monster.  This united the films Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra together creating an expanded series of Toho Monster films that span from the 1950s to the 70s.  In the film, Godzilla and Rodan fought each other before Mothra convinced them to set aside their differences and fight Ghidorah.

-Ghidorah’s codename, Monster Zero, references his English title for the second film he appeared in, Monster Zero in 1965, who was from outer space.

-Kong was referenced several times in this film along with Skull Island, not sure how it ties in yet to the next film but I’m looking forward to it

-The Oxygen Destroyer, the thing that killed the very first Godzilla in his debut film, was introduced and, in my opinion, poorly handled in KOM.  It was shoved in at the last second and it was never mentioned again.  It didn’t even kill Godzilla or Ghidorah. Tsk Tsk

-Godzilla becoming a nuclear meltdown seems to be a reference to Godzilla vs Destroyah where he was on fire and couldn’t contain his nuclear energy.  The humans had to build an giant ice ray in order to cool down the king of monsters.