Kevin C. Wong

TV Series - Extraordinary Attorney Woo s1 (2022) [+]

Extraordinary Attorney Woo is a South Korean legal drama with 16 hour-long episodes in season 1. The titular protagonist is Woo Young-woo (Park Eun-bin), recently graduated from the top university and now a junior lawyer at the prestigious Hanbada firm.

Woo is also autistic so the themes are about how she, her coworkers, and others deal with her disability. Woo brings a photographic memory and a love of whales to her work but at times she lacks empathy and social awareness. She does quickly win over her boss, senior attorney Jung Myung-seok (Kang Ki-young), and forms a stronger bond with former classmate Choi Su-yeon (Ha Yoon-kyung) who is also in Jung's team. Unfortunately there's Kwon Min-woo (Joo Jong-hyuk), a fellow junior attorney who resents Woo's rise and is kind of the bad guy in the group.

Finally there's Lee Jun-ho (Kang Tae-oh) in the litigation team, sort of a fixer/legwork guy who is often attached to the team on cases. Lee is quite attracted to Woo though it takes her a long time to realize this. Then it's an awkward relationship as she tries to be a good girlfriend but doesn't know how. Their relationship has ups and downs throughout the season and a highlight of the series.

Every episode has a court case and almost all of the cases last one episode. It kind of follows the format where the team goes in and starts arguing the case and there's a setback that they have to solve during the break before the next day's court session (these are big cases so they take several days). There's investigation and interviewing people and negotiating and usually Woo ends up connecting a few facts to achieve the breakthrough needed.

This is an entertaining series even watching with subtitles.

Comics - Lady Mechanika v1-6 (2010) [+]

Lady Mechanika is an alt-history Victorian Steampunk comic book by Joe Benitez. Lady Mechanika is a British lady detective living in Mechanika, City of Tomorrow and a gathering place for inventors from all over the world. She goes around solving mysteries and fighting mechanical and supernatural monsters whilst trying to find out her true origins.

She was found as a teen without her memories and with a highly modified body -- arms and legs replaced with mechanical limbs (which give her great strength and speed), red eyes (which don't seem to do anything), a dark viscous blood (which gives her fast healing). Add to that gadgets invented by her friend Archibald C Lewis and Lady Mechanika is quite formidable.

This is a series marked by really good art, lots of dialogue and lots of people talking British, and a bit more clockwork and mysticism than steampunk. The stories are entertaining and bit bloody.


v1 The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse (5-1/2 issues) - A dead girl with mechanical arms much like Lady M's. Could the same inventor have created them both?

v2 The Table of Destinies (6 issues) - Lady Mechanika and her young friend Winifred travel to Africa in search of her Geographic Society father, who may be on the verge of finding an ancient mountain-breaking weapon.

v3 The Lost Boys of West Abbey (2 issues) - Orphan boys are going missing. Detective Inspector Singh of the Mechanika City Police needs Lady Mechanika's help.

v? La Dama de la Muerte (3 issues) - I haven't read this one though the events are referenced in v6.

v4 The Clockwork Assassin (3 issues) - Former colleagues of Mr Lewis are being murdered by a clockwork woman who is stronger and faster than Lady Mechanika.

v5 La Belle Dame Sans Merci (3 issues) - Mr Lewis falls in love with a woman who inspires great creativity in exchange for his life force.

v6 Sangre (5 issues) - Lady Mechanika is hired to excise demons haunting a boy in Spain, though those demons turn out to be vampires, but vampires being hunted by something even more dangerous than them.

v? The Monster of the Ministry of Hell (4 issues) - I haven't read this one.

Spot Reviews 05/26/23

iOS App - Ivory (2023) [+] Tapbots made a well-regarded Twitter client and when Twitter shut down their 3rd party API they had to pivot and make a Mastodon client, so I guess the UI is much like Tweetbot. Compared with the official Mastodon client, Ivory is available as a Mac app not just iOS/iPad. I feel it has a cleaner interface (Mastodon client seems a bit too busy). Ivory is $25 per year subscription so if you're needs are very modest the standard Mastodon client is good enough.

KFC Secret Recipe Fries [/] Kind of salty french fries, more or less normal size. Bigger than McDonalds and Popeyes fries, which are very good fresh but because they're thinner they stale fast and are easy to overcook. By the time I returned home the KFC Fries were a bit cool but still tasted fine and had good texture.

Movie - Hunt (2022) [/] This is a South Korean spy thriller set in the 1980's. There's a high placed North Korean mole in South Korea's intelligence apparatus. National Security subchiefs Park Pyong-ho (Lee Jung-jae), head of the Foreign Unit, and Kim Jung-do (Jung Woo-sung), head of the Domestic Unit, are pitted against each other trying to discover which of them is the mole. Although there's a twist -- one of them is indeed an NK mole but the other is part of a plot to stage a military coup so neither has South Korea's best interests at heart. I did find the actors a bit too similar so I got lost about who was who in certain scenes but it was still a moderately exciting movie.

OVA - Fragtime (2019) [+]

Fragtime is a one hour video animation. Moritani (Miku Itō) is a high school student who has the ability to stop time for three minutes a day, which she often uses to get away from awkward social situations. And then she meets Murakami (Yume Miyamoto) who turns out is not affected by the time stop.

With that the two become friends for three minutes at a time. Moritani the introvert and Murakami one of pretty and popular girls in school. As the girls become closer Murakami starts drifting into more outrageous timeout behavior. But once Moritani reveals her power is fading it causes a crisis because they were both using the timeout to hide from their handicaps which they are now going to have to face and resolve one way or the other...

It's booth a teen romance and a coming of age drama. Moritani has to overcome her shyness. Murakami has to kind of get past the fact that she sort of lives to appease everyone else -- she knows everyone's secrets and uses that knowledge to "grant" their wishes but there is no room in Murakami's life for herself.

It is a pretty good yuri story.

Apple Arcade - Takeshi and Hiroshi (2019) [/]

Takeshi and Hiroshi is a simple combat game in six stages wrapped by an animated story. Middle-grade student Takeshi is making a video game but is stuck with the monster AI. His ill little brother Hiroshi begs to play it so Takeshi lets him play it and uses his laptop to play the monsters. Hiroshi is delighted so each night Takeshi tries to get a bit more of the game done and each night he has to be the GM for an unsuspecting Hiroshi. Takeshi's new friends get involved and the story has a bit of a resolution though it's really not much of a story, almost more of a chapter one.

The game itself is a combat game. The hero faces five stages of opponents. As the GM you get nine opponents to choose from and the order you choose them is the order the hero attacks them. The objective is to choose one or more opponents such that the hero wins while having few hit points left. This increases his excitement score which you need to get to a certain level that goes up in each level (also there is a new monster type or two each level). Once combat starts it goes automatically though you get two buttons for defend and power attack (each ability usable once per combat).

It's a bit tricky to make sure combat comes out right since damage is a little variable. Took me a couple of nights to finish the whole game which is why I think of it as chapter one because there really isn't much to it. The animated story is a nice touch but very laggy on my old iPad. Overall I did like the game even though it's for a younger audience I think.

Spot Reviews 05/19/23

Book - Hornblower's Navy: Life at Sea in the Age of Nelson (1998) [/] This is a big softcover book with photographs and is an introductory level book detailing the British navy during the Napoleonic Era. The people, the ships, the life aboard, the combat tactics. There is very little tie-in to CS Forester's works other than the two-page intro and a few mentions here and there. It's a good general overview and even after reading all the Hornblower and Aubrey/Maturin novels there is a lot in Hornblower's Navy that I didn't know.

TV Movie - Backyard Wedding (2010) [/] Romantic tv movie. Kim (Alicia Witt) returns home for the wedding of her dreams. But her childhood friend and ex-husband Evan (Teddy Sears) is also around because his parents live next to her parents. Kim becomes more and more conflicted because her fiancée Jeffrey (Ryan Bittle) seems more concerned about his business deals than the wedding and Evan is being ever so helpful during her crisis... It's an ok movie.

Apple Arcade - Unleash the Light (2019) [/] An rpg-style adventure game set in the Steven Universe with cartoony graphics and voice acting from the cast. Steven and his friends must recover three crystals from two bad guys. Story and bad guys co-created by Rebecca Sugar who created Steven Universe... It has good theming and the battles are JRPG-style but without lots of random encounters so that's good.

Anime - Akiba Maid War (2022) [+]

Akiba Maid War is a 12-episode half hour anime series set in the Japanese city of Akihabara in 1999. Nagomi Wahira (Reina Kondō) arrives in the big city to start her new job as at Oinky Donk Maid Cafe, which turns out to be the lowest tier maid cafe in the city. She and the other new girl Ranko Mannen (Rina Satō), though a 35-year old new maid trainee, are sent to another cafe to deliver a message. A message which happens to be an insult and a firefight erupts wherein Ranko manages to kill all the maids of the rival cafe.

This is an alt-universe where there are lots of different themed maid cafes and they're all competing in an organized crime fashion (not really vices though other than gambling; the maid cafes do the normal maid cafe activities though I wouldn't know what those are exactly). There are two main organizations, one based on animals and one based on space aliens, and the cafes are themed along those lines so Oinky Donk is pig-themed and the top tier cafe is lion themed.

Nagomi finds herself in the last place maid cafe in the animals org. Yumechi (Minami Tanaka) is the main moneymaker, Shiipon (Tomoyo Kurosawa) is a tanned blonde maid who plays at being a bit happy and ditsy, Zoya (Jenya) is a maid from Russia that arrives later (interesting that the intro doesn't change it's just that the first few intros scratch out her face so you don't know who the mystery maid is). Yasuko Yaegashi (Ayahi Takagaki) is the manager and owner, often tired and depressed and sometimes manic and gunho.

The story is mainly about Nagomi trying to be the best maid she can be and trying to make her coworkers the best that they can be and to do it all non-violently. Especially later on when the cafe is up against the aliens and later their own org Nagomi tries to resolve matters peacefully. Meanwhile Ranko is old-school maid (and she has a lot of backstory revealed throughout the series) who is much more willing to follow violence with violence and she's very good at the violence.

I like concept and cute girls + violence themes. The conflict ramps up and up throughout the season and the story comes to a satisfying conclusion with a few tears along the way. This is a story that doesn't need continuing though another story set in the same universe with a new set of characters would be fine.

Pyramid v4 (2021-) [/]

After a 2-year hiatus Steve Jackson Games launched Pyramid v4 as an irregularly issued Kickstarter-funded magazine. The first Kickstarter was three PDF issues (each eventually being 52 pages) for $6. A year and a half later the second Kickstarter was once again $6 for three 52-page issues.

The articles are the excellent GURPS or systemless topics that you'd see in Pyramid v3. But from the Kickstarter bonus rewards it's easy to guess that most articles would be 4 pages -- which I think the first four issues were that way, often using art to fill out an article to four pages (and saving a little space by moving author credits to a page at the end). I think issue five had a two-article series to more fully cover one topic while issue six had a 3-page and a 6-page article.

I don't think v4 is quite as good as v3 mostly because the typica v4 3-1/2 page article means very small topics or a brief part of a bigger topic. On the other hand v3 was very low on art while v4 has lots of art, though not sure how much of that is original art. Overall though I want to see more GURPS material published so I'm fine with Pyramid v4 continuing if this is how they can realistically fund it.

Spot Reviews 05/12/23

Apple Arcade - Guildlings (2019) [/] A simpler RPG adventure game where you guide a group of kids through various objectives. There is a lot of dialogue as a key element is responding correctly to each kid so the get happier. Fairly well done and kind of interesting but aimed at a younger audience.

Apple Arcade - Marble It Up: Mayhem! (2019) [/] You directly control a marble and try to get it to the end as fast as possible. Levels can be tracks or more miniature golf-type layouts. There are power-ups, moving obstacles, and other things as you'd expect. Not terribly interesting.

Apple Arcade - UFO on Tape: First Contact (2019) [/] This is a safari photography type game. You're traveling, which you don't control, and have a camera which you do control. Look around, zoom in and out, and take pictures of UFOs and their activities. Each level has lots of picture targets and you get money for them and you kind of have to keep redoing a level to get enough pictures to advance. At least it's an unusual game concept.

Movie - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) [+]

In this last GotG movie the crew go up against Rocket's (Bradley Cooper) creator the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). After a failed capture attempt by Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) Rocket is left dying. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) go on a heist to get the codes that will unlock Rocket's suicide bomb (the High Evolutionary likes to keep his proprietary secrets) so they can then heal him. Eventually though they'll have to face off against HE himself on his huge pyramid space ship.

The action and humor are good. Graphics are great. Story is a bit simple but fine for a superhero movie. The subplots are the best part though. Everybody sort of resolves their issues:

  • Star-Lord finally lets go of the idea that he and the new Gamora are meant to be together and he decides to head back to Earth to reconcile with his grandfather.
  • Gamora realizes that the old Gamora did have a good family in the GotG but the new Gamora also has a good family in the Ravagers.
  • Nebula maybe realizes she's too negative and critical of others and in the end decides to become mayor of Knowhere.
  • Drax gets everyone else to realize he's not the stupid brick of the team, he's good with kids, and accepts Nebula's offer to join her running Knowhere which has a huge influx of super-smart kids.
  • Groot finally develops into his adult form which is quite the combat monster.
  • Mantis realizes she's always trying to help everyone but herself so she decides to leave the group in order to find out who she really is.

This is a good ending to the first GotG team and I like that we have a postscript showing Rocket leading a new team with Groot, Adam Warlock, a flying brick born in the previous movie; Kraglin (Sean Gunn), former Ravager and inheritor of Yondu's whistle-guided needle weapon; Cosmo (Maria Bakalova), a telekinetic/telepathic Russian space dog; and Phyla (Kai Zen), one of the rescued super-smart kids.

Overall, GotG v1 was great, v2 was a letdown, v3 brings it back to great.

Books - Cold Welcome (2017) and Into the Fire (2018) [+]

Elizabeth Moon's Cold Welcome (2017) and Into the Fire (2018) comprise the two novels in Vatta's Peace, sequel to her five book series Vatta's War. This is a science fiction far future universe where mankind is spread amongst the galaxy and Earth is kind of a myth. Faster-than-light travel with FTL communications limited to on-planet facilities (Vatta's Peace introduces FTL communications that can be installed in starships which makes for a great combat multiplier, and in the end even FTL communications that can be mounted in your head though it's not always-on/needs external power to function).

Cold Welcome has Ky Vatta, head of the multi-nation Space Defense Force, return to her home planet of Slotter Key where she gets caught up in the assassination of the Slotter Key Academy Commandant. Her shuttles crashes into the bleak and arctic southern ocean and she helps the survivors get themselves organized and into rafts and they actually make it to Miksland, the forbidden continent.

Miksland has been uninhabited for hundreds of years but not really because the survivors find a military-style mining camp and that discovery puts them all in great danger from the conspiracy that has kept Miksland a forbidden zone...

Into the Fire starts a month or two after the survivors are rescued. Ky is dealing with some issues like the military wants to try her for a murder or two in Miksland and immigration wants to kick her off the planet because she is not a citizen and her visa expired while she was on Miksland. And then three of the Miksland survivors show up having recently escaped from confinement.

it seems the conspiracy took all the other survivors and locked them away with the excuse of carrying a dangerous pathogen from Miksland and they're all going to be eventually murdered to keep the Miksland secret. Ky takes it upon herself to rescue the others and meanwhile the conspirators are also out to silence Ky permanently...

I've read Moon's Herris Serrano trilogy (1993-5), Vatta's War series (2003-8) and now Vatta's Peace and all of them have kind of the same writing style so maybe that's how Moon writes. Lots of detail, sometimes going into minutia that doesn't really advance the plot, and sometimes plots are resolved very quickly with not too many consequences. It's great reading and I quite enjoyed her books but in the end there is still a nagging "could have used a stricter editor" feeling.

Spot Reviews 05/05/23

Movie - Bubble (2022) [/] Anime movie set in the present in a water-filled central Tokyo where teens play competitive parkour. Loner Hibiki (Jun Shison) encounters Uta (Riria), a mysterious girl who doesn't talk but sings a familiar melody... The movie makes it clear that Uta is much like The Little Mermaid, a water alien who falls in love with an Earth boy. But will this be a happy or sad ending? It's an ok story with good animation.

Restaurant - Joy City, Elk Grove [/] My parents ordered takeout from here. Perfectly average Chinese food and would eat here again.

Apple Arcade - Sociable Soccer '21 (2019) [-] A light soccer game where you manage your team and control them during the game. Has a few bugs on my iPad which makes it possibly unplayable (e.g. you can't tap and hold for kick power, when you tap it immediately kicks the ball). I also mis-clicked on my manager picture and you can't change it until the next season.

Movie - John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) [+]

John Wick: Chapter 4 is probably the last film of the series. As the naming suggests, the four movies are a continuous story each sequel beginning right after or pretty close to right after the previous one.

Wick (Keanu Reeves) is out for revenge and a way out. He decides he's going to kill all twelve of the High Table but after the first one the High Table strikes back, charging the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) with ending Wick and giving de Gramont access to all High table resources.

de Gramont punishes Winston Scott (Ian McShane), head of the New York Continental Hotel, and deconsecrates then destroys the hotel (I like that the High Table has all these ancient traditions wrapped with a Catholic mien -- kind of like Vampire the Masquerade without the Vampires). He then brings back retired assassin Caine (Donnie Yen) to hunt down Wick as Caine is a close friend of Wick's but is tied to the High Table because of his daughter.

Wick flees to the Osaka Continental Hotel run by his friend Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada) but de Gramont's men and Caine track him down leading to a battle in the hotel. Wick flees to his old family and manages to convince the new head (by doing an action-packed mission) to take him back in so that he can challenge de Gramont to a duel in Paris. But de Gramont has one last card as he puts a big enough bounty on Wick that every merc in Paris is out to stop him from reaching the dueling site by dawn (which would be a forfeit)...

Chapter 4 doesn't really bring anything new to the series. It's still a lot of gunplay and hand-to-hand combat in stylish European locations with long luxurious fight scenes at each location: the Osaka Hotel museum with lots of glass display cases, an Eastern European night club with dancing crowd and lights and lots of water, a big roundabout in Paris in the dead of night but with lots of cars to dodge, going up the almost-300 steps fighting all the way as Wick tries to reach the dueling site.

There's one fight where the camera moves up then points down so you're looking at a gunfight in a building from directly above watching Wick dodge in and out shooting bad guys with a gun that shoots exploding bullets. It's a bit over-the-top video game violence but looks cool and is only a couple of minutes.

Overall the John Wick formula continues to work and makes for a nice action-packed film even though it's the longest film at 2h 40m. Wouldn't want to watch them back to back but with 2 to 4 years in between each the series managed to do four entertaining movies.

Apple Arcade - Discolored (2019) [+]

Discolored is short first-person puzzle game set a lonely empty diner. At first everything is grey-scale. But as you find three crystals (green, blue, red) and emplace them anything that has that color is painted with the color.

What this does is reveal things that were solely that color or reveal parts of things hidden because that color was not enabled. And later on you sometimes have to disable a color in order to make an obstacle disappear. You also have these stereoscopic ViewMaster like glasses. Sometimes you find an insert and that allows you to see a hidden object.

The graphics are fairly basic. The background sounds and occasional spooky music plays.

The puzzles are not too hard and very linear in that you specifically have to do A before you can do B -- you don't have several puzzles that can be done intermingled but that all must be done to proceed. In terms of inventory, when you're done with an item it disappears so you know you're done with it (a very few items are used more than once each).

Because of the linear puzzles the hint system is quite nice. Any time you're stuck you can go to Settings -> Hints and get a hint on what to do next. It might be something like "why not take a look at the well again" or "you can combine parts in your inventory".

It's an easy-going puzzle game that took me two or three hours to play. Maybe five hours if I had not used any clues (I think I used the hints four or five times). Definitely feels like chapter 1 of a story but there was never any follow up in this game. Instead I see there is a Discolored 2 in development on Steam.