Monday, October 26, 2015

Book Review: Soul Stealer: Legecy of the Blade



Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of review from storycartel.com; this will in no way affect my objectivity in the review, but it’s best to point these things out.

Soul Stealer is a book that caught my interest right away, and by that I mean the coverart. You know the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, I’m quite bad at following this rule, and thankfully this book has a gorgeous cover.

But we’re not here to talk about the coverart, we’re here to talk about the book. And I’m happy to say I was hooked right away; the humorous writing style combined with a dark fantasy setting leads to an extremely enjoyable read that I blew through in two days.

However, that’s not to say it was perfect, and I like to go a bit in depth with my reviews of things, so before I get into what I liked too much, let’s talk about the few things I didn’t like first!

Number 1 on my list of complaints would have to be the overuse of certain narrative style choices. I can tell it was intentional, but a few of them bother me a bit in a rather nitpicky way. Nothing about them is a dealbreaker, but the book could have flowed a tad smoother without them.

These narrative choices are a slightly rambling, repetitive inner monologue, and an overuse of short sentence fragments.
I love using sentence fragments in my own writing.
But they get annoying.
If you keep using them.
All the time.

It breaks the flow and makes things hard to read, when most of them could be done much simpler, especially the shorter fragment sections that could have easily been one line with a semicolon.

And the sometimes repetitive nature of the narrative can grate on a mind a bit; having read four different versions of the same thoughts about the main character’s house in the opening, I was starting to get a little tired of it.

Another problem I have is a slight overuse of ‘fancy’ words, such as mayhap or perchance. I get that this is a medieval fantasy setting, but their use often feels more tacked on than anything else to me, and almost any time they come up a more modern variant of the word would fit much better.

And please, do not use perchance twice on the same page. It’s too uncommonly used a word in modern English to not look really out of place when overused, and frankly is something that I would have removed.

However, this is a minor issue overall, and I found the book highly enjoyable.

The narrative, while a bit flawed at times in the ways I mentioned above, still managed to remain highly engaging, and the comedic bent to it really helps the book stand out. The main character Saedeus in particular, is an outstanding character.

Disregard whatever you’re imagining in terms of fantasy novel heroes, Saedeus is not them. His often downright pathetic attempts at being heroic in the first half of the book are highly entertaining, and his companions, a sentient pet rock with no dialog but somehow a charming personality, and Alric, the hero you would expect to be the main character, are entirely in a support role of the story.

And those are essentially the only characters, at least the only ones who ever matter. Saedeus never joins a merry band of adventurers, there is no forced romantic subplot, nothing you’d expect in a traditional fantasy novel.

And that’s fantastic.

I have no real comments on the story; it’s engaging and manages to be original enough for a guy like me who basically only reads fantasy. I approve of the ending; it was exactly my kind of conclusive but still open ending, good stuff.

I would recommend it. At only three bucks on Kindle, it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for something slightly different from your fantasy stories, so long as the slight flaws in an otherwise interesting narrative don’t bother you too much; they certainly didn’t stop me from reading it.

Also Soul Stealer: Legacy of the Blade is a really cool title; this is totally unimportant, but damn if it isn’t.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Novel Review: Angel Notes



As per my policy after one of my reviews on myanimelist was deleted without warning, this serves as an archive of my random reviews of things on that site

One of the earliest works by writer and co founder of the company Type-Moon, Kinoko Nasu, Notes is the foundation of the shared universe across most of his works such as Tsukihime or Fate/Stay Night, which is commonly referred to as the Nasuverse. It’s a bit strange to say it was the foundation when the timeline of Notes makes it chronologically last, as it’s set far in the future.

Notes, or Angel Notes as it’s also known is a short story written for an angel themed anthology magazine, and it’s also an incredibly hard thing to describe. I’m not sure if I’m even fit to judge this story, as its experimental nature defies a lot of what you’d expect, but rest assured it’s a unique experience.

Notes plays with the chronological order of events, something that Kinoko Nasu would return to in the Light Novel series Kara no Kyoukai, another Nasuverse work. The story itself is quite simple, but its non standard presentation elevates it over the merit it has as an idea. Despite being incredibly short, a massive amount of worldbuilding is thrown into the mix, most of which is irrelevant to anything else in the story or nasuverse as a whole. This is, in my opinion, one of Nasu’s greatest strengths as a writer, his stories are so packed with minor background details of the world that it really feels like more is happening then just the story you’re being told right there.

Most of the worldbuilding is done in an almost encyclopedia entry style throughout the chapters, detailing the elements of this fictional world to a needless degree, never does Ado Edam, the Slash Emperor become relevant to t5he actual plot of Notes, but yet he is described in entries of past events. It might sound like I’m being critical of this but I’m really not, without details like this there really isn’t much going for it.

The encyclopedia entries along with it’s strange, barebones narrative craft a short story that is more of a puzzle then it is a piece of fiction, leaving much of the events up to the reader’s interpretation, and as such I find it hard to really rate something like that. Now, I find it hard to rate anything, because how can I accurately describe my complex thoughts on something with a single number score? But that’s how we do things around here, so I’ve tried to figure out what I would rate this and finally came to a decision on 7/10.

Why 7/10? It’s probably my subjective bias as someone who’s as close to being a fanboy of the Writer and universe in question as you can get without being obsessed with it. As a standalone story it has some interesting things going for it structurally, but it’s real value lies in it’s relation to the Nasuverse, as that’s really all it is, an extremely rough prototype for the workings of the shared fantasy universe of type-moon’s light novel, visual novel, and anime series.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Would I have bought: Unepic?




Hello one and all! (So one) The famed blog series you’ve never heard of is back for more, so welcome to Would I have Bought Season 2! As always this is a first impressions series, it’s not a review of the game, I play stuff I got in humble bundles and forgot about for a bit (around a half hour) and describe why I would or wouldn’t have bought the game on its own.
 
The visual style is definitely my favorite aspect
Unepic is a platformer / rpg hybrid that takes very obvious cues from action platformers in the metroidvania style. And for the most part it succeeds at what it’s doing. I found myself easily able to familiarize myself with the controls, and the castlevania like aesthetic drew me in right away, so it seemed like a promising start for me.

However, problems start to arise in the gameplay, with no real way to block or dodge outside of jumping and crouching (this is normal for this style of game but bare with me there’s a point here), and your attacks essentially stunlocking any enemy you com across in the early game, combat quickly turns into one of two things: a boring slog where you’re in no risk of even being hit, as such with any one on one encounter, or a clusterfuck of shit happening you can’t react to, like a battle in which 6 bats and three goblin things swarmed me and prevented any escape as I couldn’t move fast enough to flee.

Here’s the main reason for this, every action you take, be it walking, jumping, or attacking, is very slow and methodical, think a 2d dark souls if you will. You have to be very sure of your actions as they’re so slow and hard to recover from, a massive problem when you’re faced with tons of fast paced enemies at once. With jumping being your only dodge I’m aware of, and your jumps being incredibly stiff and realistic for this kind of game, I found myself getting hit far more than I would like.

So that’s my problem with the platformer parts, but what about the rpg parts you say? They might as well not exist, so you level up after killing enough enemies and get some stat points, and you use them to make your weapons do more damage or get more health, there’s no interesting progression here, it’s just pure stats going up.

Let’s talk about the story for a bit, as there’s dialog everywhere in this. The first thing of note is the opening cutscene makes fun of videogames for letting you break barrels or fight skeletons with swords, then shows you exactly why videogames do that. When you switch weapons you play a slow animation for a second, then you can act, so every single time you want to break a barrel and get at the loot, you have to switch weapons, an utter nightmare when playing on a controller. I just realized this is gameplay complaints again but I digress.

The story is taking the parody route of comedy, and by parody I mean, let’s reference pop culture and be done with it. The references are kept mostly to the player character, thankfully as none of them are very funny, I hate this style of comedy and if I had seen a trailer or video featuring it I would have never bought this game because of it. and that there lies the answer, I would not have bought this based on the comedy.
This boss looks pretty cool, too bad I didn't get that far before this post

One of my favorite parody games is Dungeons of Dredmor, which also does the reference style of humor, but instead of just having a character say “my name is Dark Helmet” in reference to spaceballs, they would add in dark helmet’s helmet, give it a funny description and wouldn’t directly mention what it was, that’s how you do parody.

Despite these complaints I did find myself drawn in to the game, before it crashed after 45 minutes and I decided to write this, I’d probably play it again, but would I have bought it?

Nah, probably not.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Anime Review: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha Vivid



Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha is a franchise I didn’t think I would enjoy, I wasn’t really into magical girl shows at the time but I’d heard good things so I gave it a shot. I love Nanoha now, it’s a great series, I even like the less popular StrikerS season quite a lot.

So when I heard they were adapting the manga Nanoha Vivid into an anime, I was pretty excited, more Nanoha couldn’t be bad right? Oh boy, here we go. Where do I even start with this thing, one of the most disappointing sequels in my recent memory?

One of the biggest complaints about Nanoha StrikerS was that the title character herself, Nanoha, was reduced to a supporting roll while it mostly focused on new characters. Oh what I wouldn’t give for her to have StrikerS level of involvement, while in that show she was mostly secondary, she was still story relevant and drove the plot along, even having a major scene in the finale.

In Vivid she’s a housewife.

Yes, Nanoha, one of the most powerful magical girls in any series has been reduced to a housewife. Outside of a single training fight in the midpoint of vivid, she has done literally nothing else. This show is now about her adopted daughter Vivio, something that I’m not totally against in concept, but it continues to get worse. As of episode 10, the last I’ve been able to watch as I wait for some brave soul to subtitle it (no fansub groups bothered picking it up) Vivio herself, the new title character (Vivid) has also turned into a supporting cast member.

Sure, the first season has a dual protagonist dynamic with Nanoha and dark magical girl Fate Testarossa, but those were the only characters in focus. A’s managed to add new cast without detracting from the fact that Nanoha was the lead character, and StrikerS is slightly infamous for it’s lack of nanoha. But at least in StrikerS Nanoha is actively training the cast in focus, making their victories a victory by proxy for Nanoha, their trainer.

In Vivid it’s as if they realized that Vivio is a super boring character, she’s almost instantly sidelined by her Chinese knockoff Fate-chan, Einhart Stratos. It gets worse as the show progresses, with episode 10 featuring less then 30 seconds of footage of Vivio OR Einhart, as it shows us a completely irrelevant tournament fight about characters we know almost nothing about. That fight was a joke, they built up one of the girls as a threat, but she’s totally wrecked by somebody we’ve barely even seen before, making it complete filler for a series with a very limited episode count.

This show is boring, I mean really, really boring. There hasn’t been a single exciting event of note in 10 out of 12 episodes, because nothing has any consequences. Gone are the first season’s world effecting, galactic level crisis events. Now we have hotsprings, loli fanservice (not that we had none of that before, but there’s more now), and tournament battles with simulated damage. That’s right; nobody is even in any danger of getting hurt at almost any point in this show, if there’s no threat then why should I care what happens? It’s not like they developed any characters into somebody I would want to root for in a sports competition.

I guess if you want a fluffy slice of lifish story with magical girls you could enjoy this. But the almost completely different tone of the series is extremely off-putting to me, a fan of Nanoha for its darker take on magical girls. And don’t even get me started on Vivio and Einhart’s magical devices, some of the dumbest shit I’ve seen in years. Nanoha’s magic device is a necklace that turns into a staff; Fate’s is a wristband that turns into a poleaxe. Vivio’s magical device is… a STUFFED RABBIT!

How am I meant to take any of this seriously when a goddamn cartoon rabbit is involved in Vivio’s transformation sequence, where she also turns into a more adult mode (when Nanoha was able to kick ass as a loli, I guess Vivio just sucks). Oh yeah, Einhart’s device is a cat, not a stuffed animal cat, an actual, normal cat. Her device is just a cat, what, why?


On the animation side of things, A-1 Pictures does an adequate job of animating the fight scenes, though there is no standout animation like you might see in an Ufotable or Madhouse production. However I do have a problem with the style of the show, and I’m not sure if this is a problem with the manga which I have not read, or the adaption. That problem is the setting backgrounds, Nanoha as of season 3 is set on an alien world full of magical technology, and Vivid is set in the same world. So why does it look like Japan? Did they forget the setting was no longer modern Japan or something; everything looks so standard it barely feels like the same show anymore.

The music is so utterly unremarkable that I have nothing to say about it, other then it’s not offensively bad so I guess that’s a plus! But no really, I don’t know much about music, nor do I really pay attention to it unless it sticks out in a big way, like Gurren Lagann’s soundtrack.

Now, this part is just personal theory, but let me try and explain what went wrong. Seasons 1 though 3 of Nanoha were all written to be a TV anime, they have a distinct beginning middle and end paced for their episode counts. Vivid however, is an ongoing manga, adapting only a fraction of the content. This would certainly hurt the concise, well planned pace of the other three seasons. It still doesn’t excuse the baffling design decisions and lackluster characters however.

I was going to write here “this is an anime I’d only recommend to hardcore Nanoha fans” but no, a hardcore Nanoha fan would probably be even more disappointed then I am. This is barely a sequel to StrikerS and almost feels totally disconnected to the rest of the series thanks to this far more lighthearted tone, I really can’t recommend this unless you’re desperate for some magical girls, but you’d be better off watching a different magical girl show instead.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Manga review: Omoi no Kakera



(This is a copy of my MAL review)

Continuing my habit of reviewing things I like that have only one or no reviews, we have Omoi no Kakera, a short romance Manga in the Shoujo Ai genre.

Now, I’ve you’re reading this review you’ll probably have an idea of what Shoujo Ai is, but for those that don’t I’ll give a short summery.  Shoujo Ai roughly translates to “Girls Love”, and is exactly what it sounds like, romance between girls.

So why is a grown man reading Chinese comics about gay girls?  Well I have no shame in admitting that I started reading Shoujo Ai as a dumb teenager who thought lesbians were hot.

But as I got older, I started to appreciate them on a different level; the writing is often very deep even though the art leans towards lacking on average.  For some reason Shoujo Ai stories seem to have a higher average of compelling series compared to other romance manga; that is when you can find a Shoujo Ai that’s longer than two chapters.

Omoi no Kakera consists of two stories, Fragments of Love and Love & Piece, A sidestory.  As of this review the translations of the side story Love & Piece appear to be incomplete, I may edit this review when I finally get a chance to read the rest.

So in this review I will focus on Fragments of Love, the main title of this book.  A short but sweet fifteen chapter manga about a highschool lesbian who works at a cafĂ© in the “gay district” (its words not mine) of the city.

Like most Shoujo Ai, this series is slice of life, very down to earth and normal.  Shoujo ai is not the thing to go to for high octane action, but that’s to be expected.  Now I might have brought up romance a lot so far because Shoujo AI is somewhat linked to it, but this series is a pure drama that happens to be about gay characters. 

The romance is somewhat lacking in that regard, there is no actual “romance” that you might find in another manga, no couple that persists across the story.  As the title implies, the story is about love and the different forms or “fragments” it comes in. This is very much a story about love, but not necessarily romance, which I must say is something I’m finding a very hard time accurately describing.

Instead of a romance we have a character driven drama, though it’s not a very heavy drama. It’s more the kind of drama you would see in a teen drama on tv, only far and a way more well done.

Now I’m going to be honest here, the art is quite bad, to the point I was confused sometimes trying to figure out who characters were because they all look so similar.  This is a big problem when you have a decently large cast of characters across two stories; I sometimes had trouble remembering which storyline I was reading thanks to this.

This is a very internally focused drama, with the characters development all revolving around coming to terms with their feelings. Western drama tends to focus on the external elements, things happening that effect the characters; this focuses on why the characters are affected, not how.

Our main character, Mika Takaoka, is a far cry from a standard Shoujo Ai protagonist. In a genre that often have very insecure young girls who don’t understand their sexuality as the leads, Mika is a breath of fresh air; a very strong, mature girl who fully understands her own sexuality.

I’ve probably rambled on far too long about a 15 chapter story about lesbians, so I’m going to end it here. Omoi no Kakera is a nice short series that shows a strong grasp of the genre and pushes itself beyond the average, but falls short in a few areas.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Would I have bought: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams




Continuing my series of semi-review first impression... things, we have another indie side scrolling platformer! What a twist! Today is different however, this game is in 3D!
More accurately, this is what people tend to call a 2.5d platformer, a game with full 3d graphics but gameplay similar to oldschool titles.

Remember, this is less of a review and more of an impression on whether I would have bought this outside of a cheap bundle of games.

Giana Sisters is a game with a very strange history of which I only learned after I had already played this game, had I known it my interesting might have gone up somewhat.
Originally a game for the Commodore 64 released in 1987, it was essentially a clone of Mario Bros, even copying the mushroom theme of the levels.

It was followed up by a Nintendo DS remake many years later in 2009, removing its nature as a clone of Mario, it was met with decent reception but no widespread acclaim. It also received an iOS port later on.

Now we come to this game, the third game in the series and a complete reboot of the series by the developers of the second game, who formed an Indie development studio after their parent company went under.

The spite art is replaced with crisp 3d visuals, the classic platformer gameplay replaced with modern, speedrun focused gameplay designed to be replayed over and over to maximize your score on a level.



When I got this in a Humble Bundle I must admit, I didn’t care about it at all, I played it for about four minutes and put it down. Only after coming back to it did I understand that this game is actually good.

Like most Indie Platformers, this has one main gimmick, the ablity to switch between a light and ‘dark’ version of the titular protagonist Giana, both with a different skill.
The light Giana can do spin jump that slows her falling, and the dark Giana has a rushing arial dash useful for defeating enemies and smashing things in your way.

One thing I really liked is that when you change characters the stage seamlessly morphs artstyle into a dark or light version, but the levels are reversed; light Giana gets the dark level and vice versa. The music also switches from a classic soundtrack made by the original game’s composer, and a hard rock remix of the same songs.

The gameplay is fast; when you die you instantly restart at a checkpoint with no lives to worry about like older games, leading to a game that even when it gets hard isn’t frustrating to play, because you can just try again right away.


Would I have bought Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams? Not at all, and that’s a damn shame. The title and screenshots on Steam were not something that intrigued me, but I’m very glad I gave it another chance.

So, would I have bought Giana Sisters? No, but I’m sure glad I did.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Anime Review: Death Parade



Based off of the 2013 short film Death Billiards comes Death Parade, a show about death, and parades! Ok, not that many parades really, but there’s certainly a lot of death.

If you want to fully appreciate this show, please watch Death Billiards first, it’s essentially the pilot episode of the series, though it doesn’t necessarily fit perfectly into the canon of the TV anime.

This show is an emotional rollercoaster, from heart wrenching drama in one episode to comedy the next, you never know what to expect from Death Parade, except that it’s going to be good.

For the most part each episode deals with a new story and a new set of characters, with a few recurring characters throughout. This might seem like it leads itself to a lot of underdeveloped characters, but the anime manages to make believable, interesting characters each time even with such a short timeframe to work with.
The series does veer a little into melodrama at points, but with a half hour to establish two new characters and have us care about them it’s somewhat expected and doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the presentation.

I feel like I can’t say much more about the plot, because this series is best going in with no idea what’s going to happen, if you’re at all interested you might want to watch it now before you inevitably get spoiled by a less conscientious reviewer.

I don’t tend to pay attention to the music of an anime unless it’s ill fitting, so if I have nothing to say about an OST it probably means it’s good. I DO however have something to say about the opening and ending songs, the former is an upbeat disco-like beat, while the ending is a much more somber and slow rock song.

Both songs complement the series perfectly in different ways, fitting the different atmospheres of the series, and I didn’t skip either of them a single time while watching, which I’ll normally do even with themes I like.

The animation by Studio Madhouse, one of my top three most consistent studios, is amazing, the use of color and shot angle leads to a beautiful series where every scene is enthralling even without very much ‘action.”

I had high hopes for this going into it after seeing Death Billiards, they were met and then some. This is my favorite anime of the winter season and a contender for a top five spot for 2015. Maybe even first; but let’s just see how the year goes before we make any claims of that magnitude.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Would I have bought: OliOli




Continuing on with my series of first impressions on games I got in bundles, we come to OliOli. This is another sidescrolling plat former, only today the gimmick is skateboarding.

As always, this is my opinion after playing the game for only a short amount of time to see if I liked it, I try to play long enough to judge the game. If I dislike something I’ll probably end up playing it more just to see if it improves, where as if I liked it from the start I might only play a bit because I already knew the answer.

Less like a traditional platformer and more like a game like skate or Tony Hawk in 2d, this game’s emphasis is on hitting tricks correctly in order to score points. Each level has multiple objectives, completing all of them unlocks a new; harder version of the same level, adding quite a bit of replayability.

The art is charming, kind of grunge indie look to it fitting it’s theme of urban skateboarding. I’ve only played about an hour of this game so I’ve kind of run out of things to say, time to get more abstract.


This is the kind of indie game I live for, it’s so unlike any other game I own on steam, it feels classic but also modern, the gameplay is fast and responsive, and above all, fun.
Chaining combos of tricks together feels just as satisfying here as it does in 3d skating games; I was very pleasantly surprised by this game when I got it in a bundle.


Would I have bought OliOli? Yes, had I ever heard of it before the bundle I got it in.
I don’t know how people feel about it but I had never seen it mentioned before. Sorry I didn’t have much to say about this one today, hopefully the next game I try out inspires a slightly longer post!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Would I have bought: 140



Taking a break from my barrage of anime related content (my Deadpool post notwithstanding), let’s dive into another nerdy subject. This will be a series of posts about my first impressions with steam games I’ve picked up over time during sales or bundles and ignored completely afterwards. It’s goal will be to ask a very simple question. Would I have bought this for full price outside of a bundle or sale?

As always, this is entirely my subjective opinion.

140 is an indie platformer that I got in a humble indie bundle, one of many games over the years I’ve gotten from such things that I have no real interest it. This is not a full review of the game; I have not completed it, getting about halfway before growing bored.
Woops, spoilers. I didn’t care for it.

Now 140 has an interesting mechanic, though one I’ve seen before. The beat of the backing music affects the game, platform moves, paths open and close ect on a set beat.
Not a bad mechanic and the game performs it well, however one gimmick is not enough to change the fact that the underlying platform game behind the gimmick is not very compelling.

This is a very slow, methodical game. If you’re a fan of modern twitch gameplay platformers like Super Meat Boy or Dustforce you’ll probable find this rather dull. The music gimmick also tends to lead to situations were you can do nothing but wait for the correct beat, with nothing else interesting happening.

My biggest complaint is this, the style is very minimalistic. Now, if any of you have seen my youtube channel you’d know I don’t mind games with old or non-existent graphics.
However, most games like that I play are either very old games, or have a vast depth of game mechanics to make up for the visual deficiency.

This is a standard platformer with slow controls and one gimmick that features almost no graphics at all. You play a square, when you move you turn into a circle, when you jump you become a triangle.













I’m all for minimalist art guys but seriously, this game looks unfinished. My first impression of the game is “This looks generic”, which in a veritable sea of indie platformers is not something you want people to think about your game.

The gameplay is good but basic outside of the gimmick and the art style is epitome of nothing. Were I to see this on steam on it’s own, would I have picked it up on it’s own merits?

Probably not, but it doesn't mean it's a bad game.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Animation Style vs. Animation Quality




Most of the time when someone says an anime or cartoon has good animation, they leave it at that. Calling something ‘good’ isn’t very descriptive of why it’s good, and it ignores one very important thing; there’s more to animation then art quality.

No matter how well drawn technically your animation is, it doesn’t matter to me if it doesn’t have any style. Inversely, a strong style can surpass a low animation budget; the best example of this is 2012’s new anime adaption of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure by David Productions. 


This anime was practically a slideshow, very little animation happened even during fight scenes, with a lot of freeze frames for emphasis. But JoJo had style, and the lack of animation is easily excusable for the fact that JoJo looked incredible at almost all times, the use of color, ‘camera’ angles, and digital effects add up into a very good looking show.

Another example of this is the recent anime The Rolling Girls, which has an incredibly vibrant color pallet that was extremely pleasing to look at, even though the animation itself wasn’t that high budget.



I’ve seen countless anime that have very high budget action scenes but seem to think that can excuse lazy angles, often showing the scenes in the most boring way possible.
Sword art online is a prime example of this, it has incredible budget and very smooth action scenes… that bored the hell out of me.
The shots are framed in the most generic, boring ways imaginable, completely wasting the budget spent on the scenes.


Style is vastly under-appreciated; good style can counter bad animation, this can be applied to the game industry as well. Which is why 2d sprite based games, such as Japanese fighting games like the recent Under Night In-Birth exe:late (great game, terrible title) still continue to look great. 


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Deadpool is mainstream (but that's ok.)




Waaaay back in 2011 I posted about my dissatisfaction with the Deadpool series written by Daniel Way, hereby referred to as Volume 2. It didn’t stack up the 90s era Dadpool written by Joe Kelly, or the fantastic Cable & Deadpool by Fabian Nicieza.

Now, I have not read every Deadpool comic, I largely skip on the side-stories and miniseries, I do this with all comics I read, I only care about the main story unless I hear very good things about a side story.

As of now I have read the original 90s run of Deadpool, Cable & Deadpool, and about half of Way’s Volume 2, which is where I stopped until recently. The modern deadpool just wasn’t working for me for many reasons, it was far too silly, too many memes shoehorned in. But Then I started reading Volume 3, also known as Marvel Now! Deadpool; written by Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggen.

This is it, this the Deadpool I’ve been waiting for since Cable & Deadpool ended. It’s funny, it’s charming, there are almost no in your face memes. Deadpool is a goofy wisecracker who makes a ton of bad jokes as always, but it’s not ALL he does.

It also removes Way’s annoying dual thought boxes that argued with each other, though I don’t know if this change happened in Volume 2 as I have yet to finish it.

Back in 2011 I couldn’t accurately describe why I didn’t like the new Deadpool, and it shows; I really dislike that post now but it’s here if you want to read it. But right now all I can say is this; Marvel Now Deadpool is the real deal, anybody who hates the le epic meme so random Deadpool should give this series a chance, it’s far better.

I look forward to the upcoming Deadpool movie as a reinvigorated fan.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Fate/Stay Night and why anime original content is not inherently bad.





My first exposure to the works of Kinoko Nasu was through the abysmal 2003 JC Staff anime of the Visual Novel Tsukihime, at the time I thought it was pretty cool. Then I played the Visual Novel; my score for the anime dropped from eight to three.

How could they have turned such an amazing story into the fucking mess that was the anime Shingetsutan Tsukihime? Trying to combine five different story arcs that all last about twenty five hours into one 13 episode series probably didn’t help.

Things didn’t fair much better in 2005, when the second game made by Nasu’s company; Type-Moon, got an anime by Studio Deen. The visual novel at the time was not translated into English so the only thing I had to go on was the anime, I thought it was decent. The anime had 24 episodes instead of 13, so it fared a bit better in terms of adaption, or so I thought.

A few years after I saw the anime I learned the Visual Novel was translated (at this time only two of the three routes were completed) so I found myself a copy and sat down to play it. Fifty hours later and I’d thrown the anime in the trash, it wasn’t as bad as Tsukihime’s anime but it wasn’t good either.

The Fate/Stay Night anime was followed up by a movie of the second route of the Visual Novel, Unlimited Blade Works (The 2005 anime loosely following the plot of the first route, Fate.) it wasn’t good but it wasn’t terrible either, it just sort of exists.

This background is all to show that Type-Moon has been extremely unlucky with adaptations of their work for a long time, or so I thought. After Fate/Stay Night and before the UBW movie, a studio called Ufotable started a movie series of Nasu’s oldest published work, Kara no Kyoukai; a light novel series.

It’s Amazing, I don’t know how I didn’t find out about it until 2014, it deserves more recognition then it has.
Ufotable has quickly become “the type-moon guys”, producing incredible adaptations of all of Kara no Kyoukai and the Fate Prequel light novel written by Gen Urobuchi.

Now come to present day, and they have started to adapt the second route, Unlimited Blade Works for a second time. Now however it’s a full TV anime and not a movie. It’s incredible, the animation work is their best yet, the story follows the beat of the VN as best you can in an anime; but it’s not enough for some people.

A vocal minority on sites like myanimelist.net have taken to calling it “terrible” or “not canon” because it dares to be slightly different from the Visual Novel.
Anything short of a 1 to 1 translation of the novel would be met by endless shitstorms about it, interfering with anyone who actually wants to talk about the show legitimately.

I can only imagine that these guys want a 50 episode long anime that is 90% characters thinking, because that’s what a direct translation of the novel would be like. You see, they seem completely, delusionally unaware of one simple fact; Anime and Visual Novels are different mediums.

A Visual novel is essentially a book with a few pictures, sound, and sometimes voice acting, played on a PC or game console. Like a Book, its pace is largely dictated by user input. How fast are you reading? How much at one time?

Anime on the other hand, has to be paced according to episode; you can’t start an episode on slice of life, go into an epic fight in the middle then end on more slice of life, the pace would be all over the place.

Ufotable understands this, so they shorten/extend scenes in order to give the anime a good, steady pace; while also providing more exposition, backstory, or callbacks to Fate/Zero.

But the angry fanboys don’t care; they were calling this anime ruined before it even started, because the main character Shirou, had a jacket. That’s right, changing a minor character design detail got them to call the anime ruined.

Unlimited Blade Works TV is currently one of if not the only anime adaption of something else that changes things and gets better for it.



Monday, April 13, 2015

Why Modern Anime Doesn't Suck



Way back in 2011 I watched an anime called Sacred Seven, and it was awful, so bad in fact I gave up on anime as a medium for a long time and made a post here calling out Modern anime for being shitty ecchi fanservice and nothing more.

Since then however I have gotten back into anime full force, my kneejeck reaction to otaku pandering ended around 2012, when I watched the brilliant Psycho-Pass.

Anime is stronger than it’s ever been; not a comment to say lightly, but in the last few years I have not only watched countless new anime but many old, classic shows.

Anime like Psycho-Pass, Ping-Pong, or Parasyte set the bar for animation higher. Not just in presentation but in storytelling. Sure there are still a lot of crappy pandering shows out there, but even the fanservice shows have improved. High School DxD is one of the most pandering ecchi fanservice shows I’ve seen in years, but it remains entertaining; because it knows it’s stupid.

I hereby resend my opinion of modern anime being shit, except sacred seven; that was just terrible.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Anime Review: Mardock Scramble The Third Exhaust

(This is a copy of my MAL review, some comments in it may reflect this.)

I don’t often write reviews because most things I watch have so many reviews already there’s nothing left to be said, but at the time of my writing this there is only one other review for Mardock Scramble: The Third Exhaust, so I thought I’d share my opinion of it.

Spoilers for the review (not the movie): I thought it was absolutely fantastic.
The end, you don’t have to read the rest of my ramblings, watch it and enjoy.
Wait… you actually want to know HOW it’s fantastic. Well ok I guess I can do that.

Mardock Scrambled Eggs doesn’t do too much new in the cyberpunk genre, but that’s okay because what it does do is executed fabulously in all three movies. (Slightly less in the second but we’re not here to talk about that one)

Rune’s inner and outer conflicts come to a head in the final movie, and while the resolution of Rune’s case against Shell might seem too short in terms of crime drama or mystery, it fits the themes of the other movies perfectly. These movies were never really about the case, the case was the driving force behind Rune’s mental trauma and character development, and through the resolution of the case here we see how she’s changed from the first movie.

And again the weight of the action scenes falls on the arguably more main of the two antagonists; Boiled, whose feud with Rune and her shape-shifting AI partner Oeufcoque reaches a satisfying and bombastic conclusion.

The action scenes in these movies are spectacular, but few and far between, this a character focused drama first and an action second, it’s not a movie for people who just want explosions and action all the time, might I suggest Ghost in the Shell: Arise for that.
However, because the action is not happening at all times, it makes the action scenes in this movie stand out due to excellent pacing that never leaves any part of this movie boring and doesn’t make you feel a scene has overstayed it’s welcome.

The voice acting and sound direction is top notch, though as I’m not an expert on these aspects I can’t go into much detail besides two key points.
1. the soundtrack is incredible, it fits every scene so well you barely notice it’s there, it never sticks out but always complements the scene it’s in.
2. Rune’s voice actor is incredible; she gave s such an amazing performance that even without being a native Japanese speaker I could fully understand all the emotion behind each line.

Like the first two movies, Mardock Scramble 3 has some of the best animation I’ve
seen, every shot is near perfection, Easily in my top 10 for best animation, the contrast of colors leads to a drab, dark yet beautiful city.

The characters are all very well crafted and enjoyable to watch, with the standout Oeufcoque stealing the show and reminding me quite a lot of the dynamic between Kino and Hermes in Kino no Tabi.
Rune Balot, the star of the show gets a good share of development and by the end you will feel like she’s actually changed and matured as a person.
The other characters are somewhat of a mixed bag with most at the most filler for the cast, though the resolution of Shell and Boiled’s character arcs were quite good as well.

The ending, while left quite open, also felt very final, the openness really only leading more to the cyberpunk nature of the series where open endings are quite common.

In conclusion, I found the series as a whole to be a very smart, well thought out cyberpunk story, sure it retreads old ground but it has enough unique ideas and style to get past that. I would highly recommend them all to anybody who wants a strong cyberpunk drama in the vain of ghost in the shell.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Shameless self promotion part 2: electric boogaloo.

I figure since I've taken this blog out of hibernation I would advertize my other shit again for anybody who happens to get here.


My youtube channel
Full of let's plays and other random videos, haven't done much recently.

My personal Fanfiction.net account
I occasionally post random silly stories here.

My other Fanfiction.net account
This is a joint account with a friend of mine where we post story collaborations (only one right now, but it's really good)

My Myanimelist.net profile
If I write any more reviews they'll probably end up on here first, so if you liked my other reviews check it out an judge my taste in anime.

My other accounts on things like deviantart are dead, so forget about them until further notice.

Anime Review: Legendary Gambler Tetsuya

(Below is a copy of my review from myanimelist.net)

Legendary Gambler Tetsuya is an anime series that’s hard for me to recommend. Not because it’s bad mind you, it’s very, very, good; the problem lies in what it’s about; this show is about mahjong.

 

No, not that solitary game you have preinstalled on your pc, the real mahjong, an ancient Chinese game for four players, which resembles modern rummy or gin. The Japanese variant, often known as Riichi Mahjong; takes this game to a whole new level of complexity, establishing a large list of hand combinations and situations you MUST make at least one of in order to win at all. All of a sudden this is a massively deep, intricate game, like poker on steroids.

Why am I saying any of this, it’s very simple really, this anime won’t make any sense if you can’t play Mahjong on at least a low level, you need to know the rules, the tile names, the hands, ect in order to follow this show. Because you see, this anime is written for someone who already understands the game, as such it never gets bogged down trying to explain the rules it assumes you already know.
If you know the rules or are willing to take time to learn them, you’ll be greatly rewarded, now if you’ve made it this far, onto the actual review!

At the point of my writing this, I have seen three shows dedicated to mahjong, This, Akagi, and Saki. This show is by far the best of the three. This is a somewhat contraversal statement I feel, since Akagi is quite well received on this site, but allow me to explain why this is the best show about mahjong I’ve seen.

It’s because this show cheats.

Everything this anime does is about cheating; some of the most well thought out, genius cheating I’ve ever seen. Akagi sometimes focuses on cheating at the game as well, but more often then not the game is resolved due to Akagi’s “monstrous luck”

In Akagi, and even moreso in Saki, I feel a disconnect from the game and the characters, these shows are about the characters and their insane luck that almost always makes games go their way, things that are statistically impossible are the more here, and for no good reason.
Tetsuya makes his own luck. You not only see why he gets the hands he does, you see how he forces the games to go his way, from skilled dice throws that always get your desired number to boldly switching tiles from your hand with those on the table.

Where Akagi’s narrator would simple tell us that he’s doing something crazy, it never feels justified, he’s just lucky, this leads to a problem many anime have, the protagonist can’t lose. Not so in this fine example here, Tetsuya loses and he loses hard, making his victories all the more gratifying when he finally wins.

This is not a show for anybody; the art is dated for one, and features none of modern Anime’s “moe” sensibilities, if you’re looking for that, try Saki. Characters are never off model and every character has a distinct design, since it focuses on characters sitting and playing a game most of the time there’s minimal motion, but what is there is well executed.

The sound is nothing to write home about, the OST is unmemorable, but the character voices all fit well. As I can’t speak Japanese I can’t pass judgment on the acting level but it seemed to par with shows of the time.

But where this show shines is its story and characters, every character we meet is either likeable or satisfyingly detestable, Tetsuya himself is a great character, who unlike Akagi actually grows and changes as it goes on.

The story is fairly straight forward and mostly involves escalating battles in gambling between our main characters and an assortment of colorful “villains”, with each game essentially being standalone. That’s not to say there are no twists, there are a decent many turns in this story that all lead up to an emotional, satisfying conclusion despite being an incomplete adaptation of a manga that as of now has no translation I can find anywhere, which is somewhat disappointing as I hear this anime only covered a small amount of it.

If you haven’t the faintest idea what mahjong is, you probably won’t like this show, but if you love mahjong or even just understand it on a beginner level, this is a hell of a hidden gem.