Japanese Fairy Tales Unrated: “The Hare of Inaba.”

The second to last story in this collection of Japanese Fairy Tales, “The Hare of Inaba” is more of what you expect, given the previous six fairy tales. Again, the narrator does a great job of capturing the spirit of these children’s stories with the slightest inflection in his voice and once more the tone is consistent throughout all stories.

However, for this story in particular, the voice of the hare (and the raise in pitch) amplifies the lighthearted tone of the story to the point of distortion for the listener. Another way to look at it: It’s overly cute and the length of the rabbit’s monologue doesn’t help. In fact it hurts it, because he basically tells the listener what they already know–as it just happened in the first half of the tale. Yes, this is a problem with the source material, but it became all too apparent with the excess use of a pitch shifter.

This isn’t the first time a filter was applied to the actresses voice. All the small furry animals sound the same across this audio anthology, but they don’t last nearly as long. This is all personal taste, but I imagine a lot of people might get turned off by this effect, especially if you’re paying money for it.

That’s where I have the biggest problem and something I’ve held off on until this final review. This is not worth the price. Even if you have a compelling reason to want to experience Japanese culture through their stories, there are much better ways to do so without spending seven to eight dollars.

After doing some research, I discovered a lot of the tales are in the public domain or at the very least are available to read online without paying. The only reason to buy this is for the audio version of some the tales, emphasis on the word “some.” These are only a fraction of the stories available.

Going back to the story at hand, “The Hare of Inaba,” along with the rest of the fairy tales in this collection, suffer from overused audio cliches like disguising someone’s voice with pitch shifting technology, but thankfully the narrator does a great job at keeping the spirit of the tales alive in a way I haven’t heard done since listening to the “Harry Potter” audiobooks.

The full collection is available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, and CDbaby.com.

4/5 Stars (for the entire collection)

King Falls AM (Episodes 1-5)

King Falls AM is a podcast audio drama masquerading as a radio station for a made up town where nothing is as it seems. What makes this show interesting isn’t so much the story, but its format. The first couple episodes don’t seem to link together in any meaningful way, but when episode three roles around things started getting twice as good. The witty banter between the two co-hosts and their guests is one of many examples of what makes King Falls AM a great listen.

The show is very much the audio drama equivalent of cinematic formalism where form is king and content is second. That’s not to say the story isn’t good, but it plays more of a secondary role to the production as a whole.

You don’t really get a sense of the setting and scope of the project until episode five, when a plot thread is tied up from two episodes prior. Rather than answering the question with another question, the creators use horror in a comedic way to essentially tell the audience: “yeah, we know it doesn’t make sense, but it sure as hell’s entertaining.” Some people might have issues with that, others not so much.

Needless to say I’ll be continue to listen to this series with increasing interest as each episode slowly peels back the layers of complexity that creators have set up. Whether or not there’s an endgame remains to be seen, but I’d be lying if I said this isn’t an entertaining ride.

5/5 Stars

Darth Plagueis (Patreon Exclusive Review Preview)

With the relatively recent release of the seventh Star Wars film, I thought it was time to review another Star Wars story. However, instead of doing the Return of the Jedi, I decided to do something different and review an audiobook.

Taking place before the events of the Star Wars prequels, “Darth Plagueis” is a political drama about the story of Hugo Demask’s and his apprentice, Darth Sidious’, rise to power.

While not part of the new canon, established by “Star Wars Episode VII,” it does have a few problems with pacing. At times the politics can get boring, but unlike the prequels it’s not sloppily mashed together with kid-friendly moments that don’t make sense given the galactic scale conflict. In a way, “Darth Plagueis” is almost what the prequels could’ve been, as the politics are given much more detail and aren’t constrained by the length of a movie…

Want to read more? Become a supporter on patreon and get this review along with an ebook of never-ending reviews, if you donate $3 every month. Exclusive reviews like this one are easily obtained at the $1 level.

Go to Patreon.com/adr to learn more and sign up.

The Fall Season One

An audio drama about the fall of Lucifer hits all the beats you’d expect from a “fall from grace” storyline, but at the same time forgets the promises inherit in the genre. For example, the catalyst for Lucifer beginning to question God is quick and abrupt, much like Anakin’s in the Star Wars Prequels. Now I hate to compare this with prequels, but both stories have similar problems. There’s no love interest in “The Fall,” but it does have a relatively strong relationship component between Lucifer and Michael. Though, at times, it can feel a little over the top. Melodramatic, if you will. “Corny” is perhaps a better word.

Created by radio personality/DJ, Dayn Leanordson with voice work from audioblivious productions (the people who brought you “Natural Selection.”) Fun fact: I learned about “The Fall” after listening to Dayn’s episode on The Roundtable Podcast and hearing about his take on the original “fall from grace” story arc. I had no idea he and audioblivious worked together on this until around episode three. Small world.

The fall from grace storyline is nothing new to fiction and just about everything plausible has been done to account for the switch from good guy to bad guy. Basically any of the seven deadly sins seem to be the go to source for character motivation. In this case it’s lust and greed for power. The inciting incident for Lucifer’s arc is instigated by another angel who, when we first meet him, is nudging Lucifer on the course we all associate with him. Much like Palpatine and Anakin from Star Wars. After that, he basically becomes a patsy for Lucifer with no real known motivational switch for his character from one who manipulates to one who follows.

Aside from the melodrama and quasi-believable story trajectory, “The Fall” is essentially a “the true story of [insert historical figure or mythological character here]”
type plot, where the writer takes great liberties knowing how limited the source material is. Given those limitations, the writer did a decent job of conveying those ideas into my head. The biggest problem on a conceptual level was that it could’ve been so much more creative. Everything about this has been done before, and it’s the lack of following through on what was set up that makes this relatively short season depicting the fall of Lucifer an average listen.

3.5/5 Stars

Continue reading

The Strange Fate of Matthew Hornblower

My first BrokenSea audio production was both a frightening and exhilarating experience. “The Strange Fate of Matthew Hornblower” is a horror tale about a bar owner named Matthew, who falls in love with a monster in human guise. All the while his friends worry about him as he slowly starts acting more and more strange.

Already the more astute horror fans among you will probably think the monster to be a succubus (or in this case a succufish). There was no sense of suspense one might expect from horror stories nowadays–ones filled with jump scares. The closest this tale gets to that cliche of the movie medium is when the volume goes up and your heart is pounding afterwards. It’s quite effective and not something I’ve heard done in audio horror story. If you are easily startled, this story might get your blood pressure up, but for horror fans that’s probably a good thing.

One of the better aspects is the mystery behind the creature. The humming of the “Jaws” theme near the beginning is a perfect addition to the story as it adds a bit of foreshadowing. After all, a monster is scarier when the individual can’t see it coming, and audio drama is the perfect medium for giving the audience that sense of dread.

Overall “The Strange Fate of Matthew Hornblower” is a tale not for the feint of heart.

4.5/5 stars

Natural Selection

An audio drama from newly formed company Audioblivious Productions, this short piece borrows gracefully from the zombie and survival horror genre. The opening few scenes are there to make you sympathetic towards this father-son pair, and lead the listener into a false send of security. The scenes with the father and son feel a bit forced, but when shit hits the fan, watch out, because the tension only ratchets up from there.

After a scene where a pregnant pig is killed by other swine, all hell breaks loose, and the heroes must survive a night of living hell in the vein of a survival horror story. The creepy music and ambience only adds to the feeling of hopelessness the character’s face.

One downside of this piece is the acting. That’s not to say it’s not good, but given the context, the actors give performances are a bit over the top. This is probably due the usual audio drama over the internet most companies have in place. Most people probably won’t notice or care, but as a critic you tend to notice subtle things like that. The army officer who shows up near the end is a good example of the acting.

The story itself ends on a relatively sour note, almost as if the writer felt he needed to not only get the characters out of danger, but also justify the reasoning behind why the animals acted the way they did. The answer to both is a bit of a letdown as the story would’ve been fine without the reasoning aspect, because it doesn’t make sense.

All in all, the tone of the piece and constant state of anxiety for the listener as they wonder who’s going to survive make this audio drama short an excellent first episode for a new audio drama company.

4.5/5 Stars

Japanese Fairy Tales Unrated: “The Enchanted Waterfall.”

The sixth story in this collection of Japanese fairy tales has a similar light-hearted tone found in the other stories, but with a more western structure. In some ways, this is the Japanese equivalent/retelling of the King Midas story. It’s not apparent when listening. In fact it doesn’t even follow the same beats. At least not in the order or way it’s presented in the classic western fairy tale.

The basic premise is about a young boy who wants to please his father by bringing something home to him. Each day, his father talks about the good old days, when he and his father would drink sake and be merry. This is all within the first minute or two of the story and told via expository narration.

Once the boy discovers the waterfall made of sake and returns to his father, who is thrilled to have a bottle of sake after so many years without it. News spreads through the village of the boy’s discovery.

The story ends well for the boy, but not without a bumpy middle. As far as subverting thematic tropes like greed vs. gratitude, this story follows a typical fairy tale arc. Overall this 5-6 minute tale is a fun listen, but don’t expect it to turn tropes on their heads.

The full collection is available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, and CDbaby.com.

Changes for 2016: Patreon and Amazon Affiliate Links

As of January 2016, I’ve been doing this for over five years. It’s my aspiration to turn this into a business. Granted having a single focus on reviews of a relatively niche market isn’t exactly the best business model. Especially when a lot of people creating hour upon hours of content are doing it out of the kindness of their hearts, it seems kind of sleazy to start charging people.

But don’t you pay a newspaper a subscription fee to read the news they provide, either online or off? When I started this site, it was a way to give back to the community. Slowly, this idea of turning it into a business grew inside my head. Finally, after much debate with myself I’ve decided to take the middle road. The content will always be free, but if you want exclusive bonuses, I’ve set up a montly patreon account.

I tried a similar approach during my first couple of years and quickly learned I needed a following before anyone would be willing to give me money. No one subscribed and my approach of getting new followers to the site was sloppy at best. I’m honored and extraordinarily lucky to have as many twitter followers, Facebook fan page likes, and other social media outlets. For all of you out there who come back every week for a new review, I sincerely thank you.

You may have noticed a new addition to the website header called “Help the Site.” I’m hoping the directions found on the page are self-explanatory. In case they aren’t I’ve included a FAQs for the Patreon. If enough people ask about the amazon affiliate links, I’ll update the page.

Anyway, go to Patreon.com/adr to sign up.

Patreon FAQs

Why Patreon? Why not donations?
Donations would be a fine way to raise money for the site, but I’d rather
give something to fans as a token of my appreciation and Patreon is the best way to do that currently.

What will the rewards be?
Currently there are 2 rewards you can sign up for. The patreon is monthly, as I publish reviews every week. Those rewards are an exclusive review each month at the $1 level and an ebook sent to you every month at $3.

Will free audio dramas or review requested productions be exclusive?
No. All audio productions released for free on the internet and/or sent to me through the proper channels, located at AudioDramaReviews.com/Request will remain accessible to all visitors of the site.

The exclusive reviews will be for stories I’ve spent my own money. These will mostly be audible audiobooks and graphic audio productions. Since I do this every week, more stories to review is better than less.

Questions?
Leave them in the comments below.

The Once and Future Nerd: Princes of Iorden

From the very beginning, the audio production of Princes of Iorden, Book I of The Once and Future Nerd, is an ideal blend of both familiar tropes and interesting characters that turn those tropes on their heads, adding complexity to otherwise meek and overdone clichés. One great example is the nerd who gets easily consumed by a fantasy world. But in the end, the writers manage to make the story enjoyable, despite the tropes, with a mentally and physically diverse cast.

The greatest example of how they evaded a cliché trap is with Jenny, the smart cheerleader. She’s more complex than that pithy one-line description, as her character arc in the first book goes from worried high
school girl to kick-ass fighter. Although her journey there isn’t as good as
the end result, it’s still entertaining.

The overall plot is pretty basic, but uses a full
complement of fantasy tropes to its advantage. Honestly, the story peaks around
chapters six and seven. The shift to a more humorous tone at this point is
certainly out of place compared to the previous chapters. However, the
execution of humorous bits is done so effectively, you eventually forgive such
a sudden, inexplicable shift.

My one real complaint is the subplot with Gwen and the
lady whom she serves. For the majority of the tale, there is no genuine
connection with either of them, at least when compared to the main cast of
Bill, Jen, Nelson, and their protectors.

If there was ever a story in which the individual
characters made the plot actually interesting, Princes of Iorden is it.
Although the plot does follow the typical tropes; the characters add life to
it, delivering everything you expect from an age-old fantasy plot, but in a way
that’s enjoyable and not always predictable.

4.5/5 stars