Thursday, December 18, 2014

Things No One Cares About: My Only King

 I”m going to take you back to a simpler time, when my jokes made some sense and I actually had a semblance of a schedule, to remind you of that time I talked about Yaoi. More specifically the forgettable Alone in My King's Harem by Lily Hoshino. I mention that book again because Night Circus section of that book is still pretty great. Oh, and because today’s subject,My Only King, is yet another collection of yaoi shorts by the same manga-ka.

My Only King drops the more fantasy based art and feel of Alone in My King's Harem(AMKH) in favor of a more realistic feel. All the stories take place in what can be considered the real world outside of the last story which is more fantasy like. It seems to be the opposite of AMKH,which ended with the more real life based Flesh chapters. My Only King carries over some of the other titles problems while also improving on a few. The art is still down right beautiful even if the uke characters are even more girly than before. It lacks the dream like aspect that kept the first book from being totally forgettable but in turn improves the story telling quality to an extent. My Only King manages to give the stories some more depth and delivers a more solid collection.

The book begins with the titular story that takes up half of the book's eight chapters. The plot is a a simple set up with a normal guy getting the a crest meant for a king of another world and the boy sent to find it. The set-up is rather interesting and the whole time I felt like it was establishing a world with it's own rules for magic. Then it does nothing with it,apparently just an excuse to get our two leads into some mildly steamy kissing. This could have been so much more,the world and characters are there to make this into a half way decent comedy or even action series. Heck,this would have been a perfect way to start a reverse magical girlfriend show. Nope they kissed so might as well call it a day. What's that about magical crests,probably not important. It's a fine story but it wastes it's potential in an infuriating way.

Twinkle Twinkle Horoscope and The Ghost in the Bath take the idea that brevity is best and run with it. The former concerns a boy recently broken up with falling in love with his male friend. As the story plays out the boys are in a constant struggle with why they are exactly doing this,mind you mostly through sub text. Are the boys using each other to stop their own loneliness or just using the pretext of the horoscope to make the love they have acceptable in there mind. It ends after a kiss,which seems to be a connector for these stories. This is probably one of the stronger stories and the uke actually looks like a guy and not just a rejected Prunus Girl lead

The Ghost in the Bath sort of comes and goes so fast that I'm not sure what quite went on. A business man is haunted by a ghost possessing his bathtub. It plays out like a scene from a much larger work yet manages to feel like a complete work in way. The scene is the two talking about how they came to this and what there feelings are. It's adorable and feels like it could be expanded if the manga-ka wanted to. However it feels like a complete story regardless. The fourth story Mixed Chocolate is an extra episode to another series not featured in the book and is short and fluffy. Not worth talking about due to lack of knowledge and depth so I'll skip to the final stop,King and Rune.

This one is the second longest and while going with a three way relationship between two guys and a girl leaves no impact asides from some minor squik factor. We watch the main boy grow up as he is sold off again and again by a king he claims to hate. Yet he keeps getting sent back to the king's home to see an albino girl who no one wants to buy. However the eventual pairing ends up with the two guys together-in a yaoi manga,shocking I know-with the girl being a platonic third party. The younger boy's actions are trying to vilify the king so he doesn't have to admit the loves him and the king plays along with it. However once they do do the deed, it has this squiky feeling of raising yourself a young husband. It's not too bad and the actual relationship dynamics are interesting. It's saved from being the weakest story by Mixed Chocolate but even if it was it's still pretty great.

So another set of stores that were beautifully drawn with most of them on about the same level as Night Circus. It is a marked improvement outside of the Mixed Chocolate story that is rather out of place. It's an interesting collection that is more focused on the love aspect and not just sexy boy/boy action. Definitely worth checking out unless you have some personal vendetta against yaoi.

Till Next Time:Stay Positive

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Things No One Cares About:Gaba Kawa

I can be a bit cynical at times,but overall I try to be optimistic and go into everything I do with some semblance of an upbeat attitude. I'm also one for giving people second chances,and usually third and fourth chances because I tend to not learn. This usually extends to my reading as well, everyone has a bad day or in the case of Rie Takada, a few bad volumes. I've already talked about Punch! a few months back. Long story short: it's not very good but there was some potential hiding away. Then one day I stumbled upon a copy of another of her works,Gaba Kawa,and decided that I might as well give her a second shot.

Punch! and Gaba Kawa were published around the same time and as a result they do share some basic similarities in that both have girls giving up one dream in favor of guy related dreams. While Punch!'s Elle was giving up freedom for a cool guy, Gaba Kawa's Rara is giving up on the dreams of one guy for a cooler guy. This does make her seem goofy and flighty at first,she does become grow more and more as she loses her demonic powers,probably should back up for a moment and explain.

This is a supernatural romance story with the nice twist of having the girl be the other worldly entity. Rara is a demon who travels to earth to cause trouble and catch the eye of a supposedly hot demon guy. It does give her the impression of being shallow and vain,which is what we're supposed to be feeling. Once she starts losing powers due to helping a human,she starts to mature and goes through a rather simplistic character arc. She's not giving up independence or a promising career,rather she's changing for the better. Yeah, it's for a guy but the change is for the better and her final sacrifice is genuinely sweet and sad.

The guy she is growing and changing for is Retsu Aku, a jerk with a heart of gold. Yeah he has some similarities to Punch!'s lead guy but with the gold shining through the jerk more clearly. He's the kind of person who just wants to have fun and not be tied down to anything. It's akin to Jotaro Kujo, it's a bit hard to figure him out but he does genuinely care. He does bizarre punk like things but it's for good reasons. Once the love does get confessed,he drops the colder demeanor and is rather sweet. It makes the love all the cuter and his actions in the final pages more believable.

The rest of the characters are there but don't serve any purpose other than to be comic foils or plot exposition. The other demon girl,Bibi, does have a little development in that she changes after she sees Rara's sacrifice but the rest of the cast does not fare as well. Restu's best friend is just sort of there to be an idiot. The guy she's originally pursuing is turned into a one-off joke that Bibi is forced into dating...for some reason. The more minor characters do at least succeed at building the world,it's a bit of an average world but it establishes the rules to an extent. The world is believable and given more time it could have been more interesting.

The ending is sort of a mixed bag in terms of tone and actually trying to make sense. The whole work has a undercurrent of forbidden romance that seems to overtake the plot near the end as Rara is forced to choose between disappearing forever and killing Retsu to stay alive. The whole chapter elicits genuine emotions and I'll admit I was close to actually crying at her final act of sacrifice. Then the final few pages hints at her reincarnation that was never really set up. The page where she does disappear is reminiscent of a ghost going to heaven from earlier in the book. It seems like something that was thought up last minute and minimizes the previous self less act.

I'm happy I gave Rie Takada a second chance. The jokes more or less work,the characters feel a little more developed and likable. Funnily enough,it has more development in one volume than Punch!'s three. It's rather fun and worth a look.

Till Next Time:Stay Positive 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Shojo A Go-Go: Kiss of the Rose Princess

While I was reading Kiss of The Rose Princess,the phrase “ Diamond in the rough” popped into my head again and again. Every time a cliché event occurred, I felt like the book knew that. The boys had basic personalities but felt they had hidden depths. There just seems to be something more going on just beneath the surface. I should step back for a moment and expand slightly on what I'm talking about instead of making vague allusions.

The story is a reverse harem with a supernatural bent,nothing new. Our main heroine,Anise, gains a foursome of hot guys for her to control and summon at will. They give her a vague goal of defeating a demon lord but she's more concerned with finding a choker that she lost right before she met them. The rest of the volume is more concerned with the latter goal as a means to introduce the boys. The main plot as it were is pushed to the side with only a vague hook for it near the end. The story told in the volume is rather silly but does serve to make the character introduction chapters flow better.

The boys that make up this lovely harem cover your stock personality types: the brooding loner,the sick boy,the class president and the blunt main love interest. The aforementioned introduction chapters are a both a blessing and a curse. On one hand they show off the boy' powers in a bit of a contrived way. On the other hand it also hints at everyone's relationships and gives us an idea of those lovely hidden depths. Yes they are cliché but they still get comedic set pieces that work and the ending whilst ridiculous is over the top enough to make it work. In part because these characters are just fun to watch. The student council president’s over blown mentality on love or the brooding loner's determination to be just that against the more wacky back drop makes them enjoyable.

The art does fall flat in that the eyes on certain characters do not look right. This can range from simply off putting to straight uncanny valley. Also two of the boys,Kaede and Kurama,are somewhat hard to differentiate. On the other hand the rest of the art has a very dream like quality that is drenched in a rose motif. Flower motifs in general are nothing new but the way it's used invokes Revolutionary Girl Utena rather than just a generic shojo story.

Stepping forward again, I really enjoyed this book and I'm excited to see what's to come . The whole volume feels rather silly but not in a “we're a silly gag manga” way. Rather it's setting up everything that it needs to while it's still has time to mess around. Everything seems to be playing at something bigger in an interesting way.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Things No One Cares About: Another

I'll admit that when it comes to horror, I'm a huge wuss. When I was ten I was unable to sleep in my own bed for a few months after watching the Are You Afraid of the Dark movie. I have since found a love of the cheesy B-Horror movies that wont keep me up at night for fear of my soul being taken. The only other horror I can watch with that same sense of security is horror anime. Something about the few I have watched just don't scare me,sure I get grossed out a little bit. I can never look at fingernails the same way after watching When they Cry. I think it might be the distance, since it's happen to animated characters instead of real people, I can't be that scared. However, Another is possibly the closest any anime has come to truly scaring me.

Another concerns the cursed Class three and their struggles to end the disasters that befalls the class every year. The set up is done well and leads to some rather disturbing moments. The Calamity as it is referred to is less a person,though it is caused by a person(i.e a ghost) who should not be there,and more a force. The Calamity never speaks or has a physical form,it's akin to a spiritual bookkeeper that has to get rid of the extra student. Unfortunately it's no better at figuring out who the extra is than the students are so it just kills till it finds the right one.

The fact that it can't be reasoned with and the measures taken to appease it are often fruitless keep things tense and scary. It allows for a creepy atmosphere to build up over the series that never truly fades. Even the ill advised beach episode keeps the atmosphere going somewhat even if it indulges in all the beach episode cliches. When things go completely off the rails in the last few episodes and devolve into more of a slasher movie style,the Calamity never loses it's scariness. We'll leave ending for a little later, and instead move on to characters.

The characters for the most part work as pieces in this chess game of a series but as characters ultimately fail. Everyone is a stock anime character,that you can can easily sum up at a glance. The Hero,the oddball,the sporty guy,the nerd,the go-getter,the weak willed one. It saves us the time on all the pesky character development that some shows like. Yet it does take some time to characterize the odd ball girl,Mei,just not very well. She is the one who has become an unperson, a sort of charm used by the class to keep the Calamity from starting. She takes this well and almost seems to be sad that she has to give it up mid series when it's clear it isn't working. There in lies the problem,we're never given that great a reason why. Sure they highlight her poor home life and general asocial tendencies but nothing really substantial.

Her oddball tendencies do serve a purpose,in that it's clear that this lead to her being the unperson. It allows the show to insert an anti-bullying message with out beating us over the head with it. The class shuns her and making her an outcast. Yes,they do have good intentions with said plan but had this not been a cursed class, things would still not be the best for her. She looks odd with her eye patch and has an unnerving demeanor. Even once she's exists again,everyone is still on edge around her and the climax of the series couldn't go as far as it did if there wasn't some residual malice directed towards her. Our hero,Kouichi, is the only person to get close to her and even presented with the opportunities to get close to her no one else even tries. They all rely on faded memories of what they think she was like when she was young to judge her or just avoid her altogether. Had they even attempted to get learn about her, things would have turned out much better. Everyone's bias' just got in the way and leads to one heck of a downer ending.

Okay,time to stop dancing around the ending and actually talk about it. If you care,spoilers ahoy and I'll see you in a four paragraphs. Everyone else hop on the spoiler train.

Leading up to the end,we've had some okay if over the top death scenes. I'll admit death by umbrella was silly if a bit hard to watch. The death scenes really don't take away from the eerie atmosphere or the Calamity's looming presence. Then the school trip happens,where everyone finds out how to stop the Calamity once it's started: Kill the extra student. If you kill the right one,then no one remembers them and the Calamity is stopped. Once this information is spread through out the place Class three is staying in,everything goes crazy. Everyone is dying left and right in a vain attempt to find the extra student which leads to a massive witch hunt for Mei.

The death scenes before didn't shake the atmosphere too badly,but this ending breaks it over it's knee. People going Ax crazy can still be scary,if you have the right casting. Sadly the voice cast doesn't quite pull it off and it goes straight into cheesy territory. However even if we had a more experienced cast,the deaths are still goofy looking and the face animation is just entertaining in all the wrong ways. I'll admit some of the death scenes are still a bit disturbing but the escalation of events diminishes the impact.

The other major revelation is that Ms. Mikami,is Kouichi's aunt and the extra person. The fact that she is the extra is decently foreshadowed but brings up a bigger problem of why. They mention that Class 3 had the perfect number of desks but it was the faculty who was short a desk. Why did the curse seem to move to the faculty room when we took the time to establish that Class three is closest to death. I was okay with most of the more unexplained things:the curse itself, Mei's eye,the ghost pictures. They added to the creepiness,this just seems like more of a cop-out. A well planned cop-out but a cop-out none the less.

The last few scenes do manage to recapture some of the fear and ends in a satisfying way. They've only stopped the Calamity this year and while they left a way to revised way to stop it should a future class need to,it may not stop an event like the lodge incident. Kouichi is also going to have to come to terms with the fact that he will eventually forget his aunt and what she meant to him. There is a bit of hope in that Mei and Kouichi  may be able to form a meaningful relationship but the more downer tones balance that out. It makes for a nice ending that fits the series.

With everyone back at the station, lets throw out some parting wisdom. Another is a show that whilst not quite sticking the landing,does quite well. The Calamity being keep as a faceless force actually sort of scares me. It builds up an oppressive and genuinely scary world but populates it with generic characters. This is not really a knock against the show since the characters are still likable,just you won't probably remember them. If you're looking for something scary to watch this Halloween,this will tickle your fancy.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Shojo A Go-Go: Black Rose Alice

If you want to know what's going on here,then go here and read that. If you're too lazy to do that then stay confused because I'm not going to explain.

Black Rose Alice is a vampire manga sitting squarely in that stale genre of supernatural romance. I was not going to pick this up because the only genuinely good thing to come out of this craze is Diabolik Lovers. Then I read a short review in a certain magazine that praised this and bashed Diabolik Lovers. In my incredibly petty mind that sounded like a challenge and I was all for accepting it. So I picked this up and was going to give it a fair a chance as I could,. Too bad it's an awful introduction to a series.

The story concerns a very unattractive man,Dmitri, becoming a vampire and him accidentally killing his lover because they need something tragic for him to dwell on for hundreds of years. Then we fast forward to 2008 and get involved in a tragic and dull student/teacher romantic relationship that gets to tie into Dmitri's sure to be convoluted plans.

Dmitri is your brooding anti-hero, that looks conventionally like the teacher's,Azusa, student lover. No doubt this will make events more complicated down the road,if I cared to travel that road. We do learn a bit about the bigger players but nothing suggesting more depth or personalty outside of what we see. I'll give it credit in that it actually starts with Dmitri pre-vampire and explains how we arrived there. However it takes too much time to explain how we got there that Dmitri loses an air of mystery about him that could have kept interest in him. We're left wondering nothing about how Dmitiri become who he is or what makes him tick. We're left with characters that aren't fun to follow and offer nothing to suggest that this will change.

The story as mentioned sucks out what little mystery there is to go on with a dry set-up that just flat out explains everything. From the author's set of vampire rules to Azusa's long drawn out motivations for dating a high school boy. Yeah the whole mess ends on a crazy Faustian bargain that could add something interesting but since everything is laid out clearly it leaves no suspense. You know how this is going to play out,so why read?

Nothing much else to say about this one,it has nothing that hints something interesting is ever going to happen nor does anything interesting happen in it. Diabolk Lovers actually used a vampire plot to showcase the inner workings of abusive relationships. Black Rose Alice does nothing with what could be an okay idea. Go ahead and skip this one.

Shojo a Go-Go Baby!

Frequent readers will know that I am not one for finishing what I start. Maybe this is to do with some deep seated issue or maybe I'm just lazy. Either way I'm starting this new series that takes advantage of said laziness. This also takes advantage of the fact that I frequently buy the first volumes of manga and never buy the remaining volumes.So for this series I get to use my false sense of superiority and cold-heated snark to look at the first volumes of various shojo manga.

Why Shojo manga specifically,because it's how I first got into manga as a whole. I was enthralled with the covers of the very few manga magazines,Shojo Beat and Shonen Jump, that were available to me. While the magazines themselves have disappeared due to a number of reasons Wikipedia can tell you,they still live on as manga publishers. Maybe it's blind nostalgia but that iconic pink “SB” is just that,iconic. It litters the shelves of my local bookstore's manga section and is probably what will be noticed first by most.

With this series,Shojo a Go-Go, I'm taking the first volumes of manga published under the Shojo Beat label and give my thoughts on whether they are worth following up on. Is this a tad bit unfair,probably. I mean some series that turn out great may have a weak start. However,the first volume should get you interested enough to continue reading. The opposite could also be true and a story with a stellar premise could turn into a train wreak. However what happens after the first volume isn't really the point here, that will be covered else where if the need arises.

The few arbitrary rules for what appears here are as follows:

  • The manga must be published under the Shojo Beat label
  • There is no cut-off date
  • No ones shots,I have another series for that.

In short,this is me making educated guesses based on gut feelings and taking pot shots at a major publishing label whilst still avoiding talking about anything of real meaning. Feed back,suggestions and angry rants can be left in the comments below. The first posting should follow shortly after this,but as usual no promises

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Things No One Cares About:Punch!

Love can make a person act somewhat crazy,do activities they may otherwise despise,or cause them to hatch extremely convoluted plans,such is the case with today's main event Punch!. It's one of those stories that is actually not that bad but has nothing really special about it either. There is some great comedic moments that aren't that memorable which perfectly compliments the forgettable story . There is effort put into to it but it ultimately fails to leave any impact on the reader

The female lead is Elle,who comes from a family that is involved with boxing and lives in a gym ran by her grandfather. She rejects her arranged marriage based less on the guy being terrible and more on the idea she views him as a brother. A concept neither her grandpa nor her fiance can understand and write off as her being a brat. Which is not surprising because she acts very childish,from her speech to bringing home a street punk archetype who serves as our romantic lead,Kazuki. He's the more mature of the two even if he takes a shine to her because she looks like his family dog. His love for fighting boarders on the fetishistic and he has that jerk with a heart of gold schtick going too. That is really about it for him personality wise,and it's not that interesting. By extension this makes the main romance really uninteresting,as the two leads have no chemistry at all.

Once they start formally dating it's the “I'm a jerk but I love you” routine that doesn't work. They even take the time to flesh out his back story with his blind sister and all these things he's seen and it's still not interesting because he lacks a personality outside of stoic. Elle is a childish idiot but still has personality. The struggles she faces are more relate-able ,i.e trying to forge your own path. However once she starts dating Rugged Mcbland, her desires to leave the gym go clean out the window as now she has a sexy fighter boyfriend to keep her interest as opposed to genuine enjoyment. It's insulting to say the least and kills any chance that Elle had for character development.

The rest of the cast is a collection of idiot meat heads and female shojo archetypes. Her fiance does have a jerk side that shows more as the plot goes on that becomes over the top. He gets his own side plot where he decides to get back at Kazuki by wooing his sister. It's really enjoyable watching this guy try to be sinister while paying for this girl's eye surgery and leads to a really funny title drop. There is also this nice twist to the crazy admirer's trope in that Elle promptly curb stomps them because she remembers she actually is a great athlete.

The plot itself acts like a shonen sports manga but focusing on the lead character’s girlfriend instead. This has potential to be rather funny but it forgoes that in place of shojo melodrama. The events these characters get into are not boring and stay with in the realm of plausibility but because the charters are bland and uninteresting you don't care what happens to them. The latter half of the plot deals with Kazuki potentially not being able to box ever again but Kazuki is a poor character so I couldn't give less of a darn. Then the story has the guts to time skip to a completely bland match up between the main two boys in Elle's life that no one was asking for.

There is a rather well paced and decent plot barring that time skip hiding in these pages but alas it also has terrible characters hiding with it as well. As stated above there was genuine effort put into this series but it's not enough to make up for it's problems.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Things No One Cares About:Nanana's Buried Treasure

More and more I find myself longing to have an adventure. I would like to travel places and maybe learn about myself. Then I realize I'm a socially awkward recluse who is terrified of people. So I turn to video games and anime that are about having a fun adventure instead.Wanted failed to tickle that adventuring itch so maybe Nanana's Buried Treasure will.

Nanana's Buried Treasure is part of the spring 2014 anime season. It is based on an ongoing manga/light novel series that started in 2013. It was written by Kazuma Ootorino and illustrated by Ringo Aka. Normally I'd mentioned their other works except that this is it, Nanana is their first and so far only work and what a work it is. It's a story full of twists and turns that actually make sense when you go back to look at them.

The set-up is a mismatched group of students team up to acquire ancient artifacts hidden on an island designed for just that. It grows on from that with multiple factions and this is where the show gains it's intrigue. Every character has there motivations set up and fleshed out well enough to get a feel for them. However once the first big twist happens everything other plot twist is easily figured out for those paying even the slightest bit of attention.

The cast of characters is where the show shines. Jugo works well as your lead,having all the right reactions and a very interesting back story that changes your perspective of him once revealed. He plays comic foil to Tensai, the self titled Master Detective and her cross dressing maid Daruku. They along with Nanana form a nice quartet that plays well off each other and leads to some very funny moments. The remaining cast is interesting and flesh out the events that occurred prior to the series. The cast as a whole does have a severe case of chronic backstabbing syndrome which is a given with so many different schemes and ambitions fueling the hunts. It adds an interesting dynamic as each person is trying to outwit everyone else.

The treasures that they search for are hidden in what are called ruins but function like labyrinthine puzzles that lend themselves to some very interesting visuals. The puzzles are incredibly obtuse and serves to highlight that Tensai is not all talk. It also shows just how clever the group that set these up are. This group includes Nanana so we get to see some possible hidden depths in her character. The only problem is that the ending is a clear set up for a second season. It's not a bad thing but there is no guarantee of a second season and the light novel translations are lacking.

Wrapping up, Nanana's Buried Treasure is a fun show that blends adventure with slice of life seamlessly. The characters are likable and the story sets up an interesting premise with room to expand. Those looking for a fun adventure series should definitely check it out .

Till Next Time:Stay Positive

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Things No One Cares About: Wanted

I've touched upon the vampire craze that was kicked off by the likes of Twilight while talking about Diabolik Lovers. Since people like to capitalize on a fad to make some easy cash, we received the mediocre Vampire Knight. Then because many teenage girls tend to have poor taste,that tripe took off in America. After that because again people do enjoy money,someone translated Wanted and let it loose upon the masses.

Wanted is a shojo manga that was written by Matsuri Hino in 2002,collected into a single volume in 2005 and then finally released overseas in 2008. She is better known for Vampire Knight which was used by Viz to ride on Twilight's coattails. Then Wanted rode on Vampire Knight's coattails to make a weird chain of poor writing. Though Wanted does bring up a few issues that I have with Vampire Knight,I'm going to leave it alone. Mostly due to the fact that I haven't read the whole series and it could have improved.

Wanted has some very weird issues with women in that it seems to hate our protagonist Armeria. We open up with her being smart and capable enough to infiltrate a band of pirates but once she does that competence goes out the window. She becomes a perennial screw up that has to be bailed out by Captain Skulls. She's also incredibly stupid in that she never seems to figure out that the man who looks like her lost lover is actually her lost lover. You think for someone who could trick pirates that she'd be pretty clever but no every plan she has is incredibility short sighted. I guess she need to level up her moe so that Skulls will decided to keep her around.

Skulls on the other hand has to constantly save her stupid behind and then act like he doesn't want to. So of course he gets to be competent and tough all the time befitting his back story of growing up amongst pirates and becoming their captain. While Armeria despite being an orphan who had to fend for her self from a young age is treated as weak and useless. It makes me question why they didn't just have her get captured and just go from there. I know that love can make you do stupid things but this is taking that concept too far.

Skull himself is a bit of a Marty Stu that can seem to pull off anything he wants with little to no effort. He's set up as this perfect guy who's only flaw is being a pirate but even then he's a noble pirate. He never seems to do anything nasty outside of being the kind of cold person I guess I should fall for because deep down he's really sweet. However his jibes towards Armeria come off as very demeaning and lack any affection they were meant to have. So in the end were left with a pretty jerk ,the sort litters the pages of many a poor Shojo and Josei manga.

A quick side note on style,despite how much I made fun of R.I.P I don't mind a Gothic sensibility and admittedly Vampire Knight did benefit from a more macabre art style. However this story is more nautically styled which makes this wonderfully drawn tattoo of the Grim Reaper on Skulls' chest seem out of place It's lovingly crafted on the authors note page,next to an ignored request to not over analyze this book. Why she felt the need to put it in this story of all places is a mystery. Yes it is his identifying mark but this is a pirate setting giving him a bedazzled eye patch or a scythe earring would make more sense.

The story is nothing really special,it's a shojo romance adventure but with pirates . The first chapter gets the character introductions out of the way,then we get a chapter where they confess their feelings because Skulls was being a jerk and didn't do it last chapter. Then it wraps up with generic pirating tomfoolery that is exciting as erosion. Mind you not every story has to be some groundbreaking tale that makes me question my very being but it helps if it's at least exciting. Hell,it's so uninteresting that it starts opening up plot holes in an attempt to give me more to harp on.

The band of Pirates themselves are the Robin hood style thieves and the first two chapters supports this. They steal from nobles,sets up a haven for the downtrodden and genuinely improve life for the less fortunate. Then once chapter three rolls around they go on a highly dangerous quest that will help the commoners if it's successful but it's more treated like a journey of pure self interest. Not once are the people they are so willing to help brought up. It's such a weird turn in events that doesn't mesh with what little we know of these characters. I again question why use this characterization if it is going to be thrown out the window on a whim.

There is a one shot at the end of the book that the Hino says inspired this tale of poor quality. Funnily enough,it's a much better written piece than the story it inspired. Mind you it's nothing special still,but at least the main girl isn't as insulting. She genuinely wants to defy her station in life and become a doctor in a setting that frowns upon those ambitions. Not for the affection of a man but because she loves knowledge. However she starts pursuing this man who clearly has no interest in her until she forces her company on him constantly. Then his hipster senses start tingling and realizes this girl isn't mainstream and starts loving her. How this translated into girl who shouldn't be useless and Marty Stu pirate captain is beyond me.

This is a boring story filled with characters ranging from generic to downright insulting. I can't tell if Hino can't write good female characters or she can and chooses not to keep her damsel complex going. You see the same issue in Vampire Knight with a female who shouldn't be useless having to be constantly saved by angsty men who can tell her they love her. It's an idiotic and demeaning view to put out even if it's for the sake of fulfilling a fantasy

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Monday, May 26, 2014

Things No One Cares About: Kirby Triple Deluxe

Kirby as a franchise is just something which I never was drawn into, despite numerous attempts. I played Kirby's Dreamland as a little girl and could never beat King Dedede due to my own idiocy. It didn't really endear Kirby to me and, over time, I forgot about that little puffball. I finally gave Kirby Super Star a shot a few years ago and was sort of baffled by the whole mess. I've since come back to it and do enjoy the game but not to the extent that some do. My attempts thus far to get into the franchise have resulted in a double failure. Luckily this won't turn in to a triple failure because Kirby Triple Deluxe is an awesome game.

Kirby Triple Deluxe is Kirby's first 3DS exclusive outing and the game that sold me on the franchise. My main problem with the Kirby games I had played is they lacked a sense of direction,mostly Super Star. I was going along and events were happening with what seemed like little input my part. I really didn't feel like I was accomplishing anything, so I wasn't compelled to go on. Triple Deluxe has a clear sense of flow. Where as Dreamland or Super Star just sort of throws you in, here there is a bit of context as to what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. I'm not saying that this is like the best Kirby ever or Super Star is bad,it's just Triple Deluxe is the first one that clicked.

The plot follows Kirby trying to rescue his somewhat friend King Dedede from a weird spider wizard. It's nothing special in terms of video game narratives but adds a simple charm to the game that is endearing. It does get a bit tedious near the end when we have to sit and listen to the Big Bad's plan. It's a tad bit weird that every other scene has been a nice bit of telling through action then this text bombardment comes flying in.

The game play is what you've come to expect from a normal Kirby game. Suck up enemies to gain their power and use said power to kick some butt. They've added a few new abilities such as the Archer or Bell but the star of the show is the Hyper Nova ability. Kirby will find an item in certain levels that boosts his inhaling power to insane levels. This is used to solve puzzles and suck up large items such as trees and wreaking balls There is nothing more cathartic then going through a levels destroying everything in your path.

The game favors the mechanic of going back and forth between the foreground and background to take advantage of the 3-D effects. They do use it in creative ways such as racing an enemy in the background, so you can cut him off and get his item. It's a nice little way to shake up a bit of a tired concept. The bosses of the game also take advantage of this feature and will slip between the layers for different attacks. Unfortunately they can't be hit while doing those actions but it's only annoying during one boss.

The other 3DS feature worked in is the gyro sensor which is used to aim cannons and move various objects. The cool thing is that if you sort of mess up the rotations the game lets you easily reset the tilt function to a more favorable position. This is the only part of the game that feels gimmicky, but it never gets in the way of the fun and matches your tilting fairly accurately. It is a good use of the technology, if a bit useless.

The game is fairly easy, unless you are grabbing all the collectable sun stones, which makes the game moderately difficult. However, I am not saying that this is a knock against the game. It is meant to be accessible for people new to video games. It doesn't mean that more experienced gamers won't like it, if this genre of game is your bag. The game is one that you feel good about playing it because of the fun factor. Those looking for a bit more of a challenge can find it in the game's alternate modes.

The game hosts five other games in addition to the story mode. The Arena is Kirby's version of a boss rush with the ability to choose any copy power. Dedede Tour is more of a speed run through the main game playing as King Dedede. Kirby Fighters a Super Smash Bros style fighter where you choose which ability you want to fight with and go at it. It has a local multiplayer but lacks any sort of online function, which is sort of a missed opportunity. The final mode is a short rhythm game staring Dedede again. You time your button presses to jump higher and score points. It's nothing special but still fun and probably my favorite of the alternate modes.

I only have one real gripe against the game and that is key chain collection. The game has 256 different key chains modeled after various characters and locations from past Kirby games. Every stage has a rare key chain hidden within in addiction to common key chains. The problem I have with this is that you don't know what the common key chain will be till you end the level,they are random as to what you receive and it's possible to get duplicates. They aren't required to beat the game but make getting 100% completion a grind.

Kirby Triple Deluxe is some of the most adorable fun you'll have. It's the kind of game you play after a bad day to feel better about life,and I couldn't stop smiling when I played it. It's a definite must have for fans and potential fans of Kirby.

Till Next Time:Stay Positive

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Things No One Cares About: Rohan Kishibe Won't Move

Hirohiko Araki is best known for his long running manga  Jojo's Bizarre Adventure,of which I dedicated and entire month to. When I first did that little stunt I had only read up to the third major arc,Stardust Crusaders,and had not experienced the unbridled pleasure of Diamond is Unbreakable.This part introduced the character of Rohan Kishibe,an eccentric manga-ka.Araki loves this character and says that if he himself had a Stand it'd be Kishibe's Heaven's Door. He has even given Rohan multiple spin-offs dealing with his escapades,including today's feature:Rohan Kishibe Won't Move.

Rohan Kishibe Won't Move is a series of short stories involving the titular character as he gets into odd situations while researching topics for his manga protects. The first story ran in Shonen jump in 1997 with the rest being published in a few different magazines between 2008 and 2013. The stories range from tales of suspense to the horrors of real estate. They are interesting little stories that let us see more of Rohan as a character and the weird things that go on in the Jojo universe.

The first two stories,At a Confessional and Mutsukabezaka,use Rohan as more of a framing device for the stories. Both are fun little thrill rides that give me that Twilight Zone vibe albeit with a much lighter tone. At a Confessional is probably the better of the two for its climax that elevates catching popcorn in your mouth into a fight to stay alive. I won't say much more about it as not to spoil the hilarious twist ending.

The second story is by no means bad,being just as weird as its predecessor but has a scene that really bugs me. Near the middle of the story,the female lead kills her lower class lover by accident.. The problem is that he keeps on bleeding form a rather small wound. However she has to hide him as her father and arranged fiance are coming. She starts hiding his possessions and then for no reason strips down to her underwear. Then proceeds to stay that way till she hides the body and this scene goes on for awhile. I think she might have got blood on her dress but her dress looks the same from the time she sees her boyfriend till she takes the dress off. The series has had fan service before but it was never this obvious or drawn out. Which is a shame because we do get to see a bit of how weird Rohan can be and the rest of the story is enjoyable if a bit vague.

The third story,The Millionaire's Village, has Rohan confront his greatest foe:good manners. The story stars Rohan and another editor of his as he accompanies her to a buy a home in a remote village. Here we're shown a more caring side of Rohan as he does fight to win back his editor's life after losing her due to the village’s strict upholding of good manners. While you could read his care as more selfish ,i.e if she dies he'll be in big trouble,it comes of to me as a bit of genuine concern on Rohan's part.

The fourth and final of more story driven parts is Poaching Reef and brings back minor character Tonio Trussardi. It's funny to see Rohan just going along with the plot even though he points out how silly it is. The story is the two go poaching for rare albacore so that Tonio can possibly cure his dying fiance. Not much to it,the plan gets botched and then Rohan unbotches it. The story does bring up a weird detail in that the place the men go to poach belongs to Josuke's family. Josuke appears at the end and doesn't seem to mind that the men poached from his family's waters. The issue sort of goes with the “just roll” with it tone of the story,so I don't mind too much.

The last story is Rohan goes to Gucci. It ran as a pseudo-advertisement manga in the magazine Spur and is fairly pointless. The stories before it gave us a look at Rohan as a eccentric man who has a selfish streak but can be a good person. Here he's just a generic jerk to a random desk clerk at Gucci,a fashion company, and then spouts adverts. The mess is in full color but that just makes it look unappealingly gaudy in a way the series tends to avoid. The panels are disjointed,and one character just disappears with no warning,taking Rohan's wallet with her. Interestingly enough this story is the only one to feature a stand besides Kishibe's. The rest of the stories attribute the weird events to nature or demons. It doesn’t make them weaker by any means but I find it odd I guess. Maybe it was for the better as the Stand introduced here is just silly. A boring attempt to advertise for a brand the author favors.

In the end,four pretty good stories and one poor advertisement for a brand I probably can't afford. The stories are enjoyable and feel like solid Jojo stories despite the lack of Stands.

Till Next Time:Stay Positive

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Case by Case:Turnabout Sisters

Frequent readers of this blog may remember my weird attempt to talk about every case in the original Phoenix Wright trilogy. I did one post involving that then decided screw it,I'm going to seduce people with cookies. I decided since I finally started playing the newest game in the series,it's a good a time as any to start this up again. A minor revision on my part, provided I don't flake out again we will probably discuss Investigations and Duel Destinies. Also if I my cartridge for it materializes then we may get into Apollo Justice as Duel Destines is warming me up to the title character. So without further ado let's move on to Game one,case two: Turnabout Sisters. Also this is a plot discussion/analysis so spoilers ahoy

This is probably one of the bigger cases of the original trilogy as plot threads from here form the plot for this entire game and go on to infect cases in Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations. The central mystery being the death of Mia Fey which brings with it the main plot of this game the DL-6 incident. The finer details of the case and how it affects everybody is better delved into during Turnabout Goodbyes,so like the game I'll save that for then.

The main plot is the murder of Phoenix's mentor,Mia Fey. How this death truly affects you is probably more based on how much you've played the rest of the series and/or how easily attached you get to characters we've spent 20 minutes with. The case gives a sense of how motivated and dedicated a person she is. She leaves her home and starts a new career just to avenge her mother. She also probably would have done it if she hadn't been killed. Mind you she also left her sixteen year old sister,Maya, in the hands of her insane aunt who's so obsessed with the rite of succession that she enacts entire murder plots in the next two games. Though really it's never explained where Maya is living,so she may be avoiding all of that mess...for now.

Speaking of Maya, we really don't get a feel for her in this case. There are little bits here in there of her true personality,a playful yet naïve teenager. The issues with her mother and how this has affected her life and the Fey Family in general aren't deeply discussed outside of what is necessary to this plot specifically. She's better for letting us look at how Phoenix thinks and acts. He sees her as a person in need of help and jumps to her defense without hesitation. Since he truly admires Mia this in turn let's us know how she would do in this sort of situation They both truly believe in their clients and the both have that strong sense of justice. So we learn about Mia via Phoenix via Maya.

On the Villain side we have Redd White...of Blue corp. and his secretary Miss April May. They are odd characters that while entertaining in their own way are decidedly one note with White's sole motivation is him being a power hungry jerk. Some of the other villains in the series have this aspirations or something akin to that but are much better set up. However it is still immensely satisfying to bring him down. I'll save talking about Edgeworth for now as like Maya there is not much to talk about with him yet.

The plot itself is very solid and is probably going to screw with people who look at the first case and decide that this is how the whole game is going to play out. It re-introduces the Thinker statue from the first case and has the player think they are going to use the same tactics as the first one. Then Edgeworth just jumps in and lets you know things are not going to be that simple. This game is going to have twists and layers. Mind you it's still pretty simple ones now but it's give it time and they'll blow your mind.

The game sort of tries to explain why the courtroom shenanigans are allowed to go on as they are by way of corruption. Redd White is cited as a major source of said corruption but after this case the antics go even further and no one really seems to mind. This explanation may have worked better if this was say the final case of the game but instead it's sort of a one off mention. True the whole concept is explored a bit more thoroughly in Apollo Justice,but here it's more of lets fight for the truth.

Since I spent the time to complain about Ghost Banri during the Golden Time review,I'll take a second to explain why I'm okay with the whole spirit channeling idea. First off it's still only the second case of the first game and outside of the court segment we have no idea the boundaries of the world just yet. Second,it becomes well integrated  into the series,something Ghost Banri could have done. Third, the limitations of what this particular technique can do are outlined enough. Fourth,it's quite clear it is supernatural and doesn't pretend to be other wise. So yeah it's a very well explained concept that is introduced early on and adds something to the story. Another thing Ghost Banri forgot to be.

I'd like to take this short section to recognize the sheer idiocy of a certain plot point. Mia hides some papers early on in the Thinker Statue but the mystery of where those papers went or what happened to them is never brought up. Phoenix never mentions them despite having access to a phone conversation about them. They never come up till the final part which would be implying that they are the list of names of people that White was blackmailing. However,White knew about them and where they were so he probably stole them,otherwise why break in there and murder Mia and frame Maya if you didn't steal the proof that would be your undoing. If that's the case then how in the hell would Maya have them if he stole them.

The other way this works out is that Maya took them before he could get them but she herself didn't know about the papers till the day of the murder and therefore wouldn't have had the time to take these papers. If those papers were indeed the papers that were inside the Thinker,it's never really established if they are or not. Which brings us back to the question what the hell was Maya doing with this piece of evidence. It's established early on that she can't summon Mia at will and Mia only appears in the end of the case. Therefore Maya would have no real reason to hold onto papers she would know thing about and Mia couldn't have them when she is summoned. The memo could have possibly been written by Mia during the trial but the fact that the channeler could imitate handwriting is one of the few things never explained. This is really nothing more than a nitpick but it sort of irked me as this series tends not to leave plot threads dangling.

So to wrap this one up,a very emotional case for those who get more invested in the series despite have a really one note killer. We get some semi-important character moments and actually important plot points but they really won't come into play until later in the series.

This gets a Dead Mia out of Iris

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Things No One Cares About:Slayers Premium

Time tends to change things for some people,anger subsides,relationships become deeper and most importantly opinions can change. Such is the case with the film I watched three weeks ago that I had previously watched about a year ago. When I first watched it I loathed this film and I still do but now I have found new reasons to despise it. What film caused my dull rage,it was Tales of Earthsea. Wait, no I still hate that movie.What I meant to say is Slayers Premium.

Slayers Premium was released in 2001 and would be the last animated Slayers material till 2008's Slayers Revolution. This is the second film not to actually be written by Slayers author Hajime Kanzaka,the other being the previously discussed Perfect. Perfect dealt with the lack of Kanzaka with a darker tone and decent plot. However here we are reduced to two okay jokes and a well tread plot that can't hold it's own. It is trying to hard to recreate Slayers the other films and just can't do it.

The movie's big hook was that after four films of Naga and Lina inspired antics,we were finally getting a movie involving the more recognizable cast of the TV series...and Naga. However here is where the first big problem comes up:No one except Lina and Gourry have anything to do. The trickster demon,Xellos,only role is to fill Zelgadis and Amelia on the plot,which anyone could do. Then you don't see him again till the end of the movie. Zelgadis and Amelia are both disabled by a ridiculous curse before they can do anything. Then forget that they are an accomplished swordsman and pugilist respectively. It makes me question while we are even dealing with these three when clearly the movie wants to focus on Lina and Gourry.

The second main sticking point for me was the villain and this is where I've softened up on the film some. When I first watched this I derided him as an awful gay stereotype who's only joke was that he was swishy. However seeing him again I really don't get that vibe,and realized I should hate him for his true crime:being unfunny. For all I know the joke could be that he talks sort of weird and in certain voices that can be a good joke. However here it's not so the few scenes we get with him are a slog. On the other hand he is the indirect cause of two funny jokes but that is quickly forgotten because he's also responsible for making this movie longer.

His main plan is cursing everybody to talk in the octopus language to cause fear and confusion. The language disables magic because of the language barrier,and of course due to plot convince Lina gets hit by this right before she can let off a plot ending Dragon Slave. So we get to pad this movie's already short thirty minute run time just to recreate the ending to Return sans a ridiculous golem battle. Then once we get to the required big monster battle it's literately Lina standing behind a big rock and casting Dragon Slave.

Also without Kanzaka we get awful character interactions. Lina and Gourry play off each other like wet paper with Gourry lacking dialogue to even interact with Lina for the most of the movie other than to annoy her. Amelia and Zelgadis have been sort of shipped together in the main series and are traveling together here but lack the sweetness of the relationship. Zelgadis is more of a grumpy disapproving dad which is sort of in character but does feel out of place in his interactions with Amelia. The whole cast interacts like casual acquaintances rather than a group of traveling companions that has defeated cosmic horrors.

I guess I'll stop alluding to my main problem and just say it,this movie is not funny. Not many of the jokes work and those that do are few and far between. The original characters aren't entertaining,which is something even Great managed to get right. As I've said numerous times if Slayers isn't funny then I have to resort to looking at the plot and that is something you don't want. Gorgeous really did take Return's plot but still had funny jokes that were all it's own. This one takes the plot and foolishly thinks that it's a great plot. Even with all the problems Hourglass of Falces had it at least gave everyone an equal part in its' awfulness.

As I stated at the beginning time can change opinions. I do have more an appreciation for Perfect upon re watch. However time has allowed my hate for this film to grow and find more problems. The pacing is horrendous,the characters are either useless,unfunny or both and the plot is stale. The weirdly infuriating part of the whole mess asides from the film itself is the box art. The movie box set has art from this splashed all over it like this was the creme of the crop.Yes, I realize how petty this is but it bugs me.

Till next time Stay Positive

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Things No One Cares About:Golden Time

As a little girl I watched quite a few romantic comedies because I really like to laugh and see attractive people hook up. In fact those were the only movies I did watch and didn't know there were other movies. For the longest time I genuinely thought that that was just how all movies played out. I was not a bright girl,not that that has changed much. I'll admit due to my dwindling attention span I really don't watch that many movies anymore. Instead I've turned slightly to more romance slice of life shows,one I actually managed to finish lately.

Golden Time is a series of Light Novels by Yuyuko Takemiya turned anime that aired last fall. She is probably better known for Toradora!, a series that I have attempted to get into multiple times and failed. I'll probably try again later but that has nothing to do with Golden Time. Instead this was a show that I had no trouble getting into it just had a hard time staying in there. It is a wonderful show but some elements are just acting like a errant rabbit in the punch bowl. Ruining everyone's good time and possibly giving some people tularemia.

The plot is split into four short arcs that all focus on the main relationship between Koko Kaga and Tada Banri. This is the main factor that makes this show really work. The two leads have amazing chemistry and their relationship feels natural. The show follows them from their first meeting as they evolve from friends to lovers back to friends then finally back to lovers. It helps that on their own they are interesting characters. Koko is a childish spoiled rich girl trying to find her own identity after having her delusional life long dream shattered. It makes her a mess of neuroses that is compelling to watch. For the most part the first half of the show is mostly about her but slowly becomes more focused on Banri which is a double edged sword.

On one hand Banri is great character,a very outgoing guy who is very quick witted. His ability to turn a situation is marvelous and is a great lead to follow. However as the show focuses more on him and his problems he brings with him the real sticking point that drags down the show but more on that shortly. Like Koko he is trying to find himself in a way though to an extent he already has. He has lost his old personality due to an accident that wiped his memories before that time. Fortunately we do meet him about a year after the accident so he's trying to live his life and doesn't bemoan the loss of memory. Though it does start becoming a major plot point after the second arc as we get more into his head. It really doesn’t get tiresome as it's really just part of him and not his defining characteristic.

With the amnesia we have a terrible attempt at symbolism in the form of Ghost Banri. At first it seems like a metaphor for his past memories being there and he just can't see them. That actually wouldn't be that bad but it doesn't stop there. The show treats him like a supernatural entity that can mess with reality. A major plot point of the second arc is him ultimately pushing his past away through rejection of his childhood friend,Linda. At this point the Ghost decides he is going to start messing with Banri with bad luck. How he has this “power” is never explained nor is he himself really explained. That's the problem the show has absolutely no other real supernatural elements,it's a straight up well written romcom.

If he'd been there in the first few episodes it might have been okay. However I am just cruising along enjoying a great show then this guy just shows up out of no where. Look at Vision of Escalowne,yes it started in a fantasy world but the mecha elements were introduced as we were learning about the world. Therefore when the mechs do show up,its not as jarring because we as the viewer are still learning about the world. Here we are firmly established in modern Japan and by the time Ghosty here has shown up the setting is too well established.

Every time he shows up,it just brings to the attention how out of place he is and how silly he is. He even manages to screw up the finale as apparently Linda can see him and talks to him whilst Banri and apparently every other past Banri all hang out. Also don't think I do not get the symbolism of the scene nor Ghost Banri as a whole. It is just really poorly explained concept that seems unsure if the ghost is supernatural or symbolic and he just sort of stays in narrative limbo. Okay let's move on to something else before I take up another paragraph on this stupid concept.

The rest of the core cast is fairly well developed for the screen time the have and provided many little comedy moments. Koko's childhood friend,Mitsuo, goes through a minor arc as he too struggles with who he is and what he wants to do. Identity and purpose is a major theme of the story and quite a few characters are setting out to establish one. This is helped that the characters are in college, a classic time where people tend to do some soul searching. Some of the characters has a good idea of what they want to do,while others like Koko are trying their hardest to find that purpose. Special mention to 2-D Kun for just being a great comedic straight man and bitter single guy. He starts out as a minor character but really comes into his own by the show's second half.

The story like I said has four arcs that each play with a facet of the Koko/Banri paring. We start out as they get to know each other,moving on to a shake up with Banri's past that ends the first half on a solem/hopeful note. The second half delves into both of them deciding to really confront their pasts and change with the final arc giving them the final shake up as Banri's memories return and push his new ones out. The arcs do add a different facet to the central relationship and and each new hardship makes me want to see them succeed even more.

The story as a whole flows along at a good pace and despite my aforementioned ghostly grievances is very well written. It does tend to use you typical romantic comedy tropes albeit sparingly and they never really get in the way. A few late game concepts are established in a way that proves that the author does know what she is doing. Near the end there are just some scenes that are overflowing with such raw emotion that it gives you the chills. Even the minor relationships such as Linda/Mitsuo and Koko's friendship with Oka progress in a natural way.

This was honestly one of the few shows I have followed through the last two seasons outside of D-Frag,Megane-bu and Diabolik Lovers. Sorry Kill la Kill fans,I'll get around to that show...eventually. It really is a good show but that Ghost does hold it back from being great. Hell it managed to derail half this review due to it's stupidity. If your in the mood for some romance/comedy then you could do much worse plus you get a couple of nice opening songs.

Till next time:Stay Positive

Friday, March 28, 2014

Allie WInters and the News

So,it's been a few months since we've talked heart to heart like this.If all of my frequent readers want to gather around(all 3 of you) we'll talk about the goings on and by talk I mean tell you.

First of and the biggest part of this update is some news I have been sitting on since last month. I've been contacted and offered a position with Haywire Magazine as a columnist.I'd explain what that is and who they are but I'm I can't do it justice so I'll let it speak for itself.I'll be taking over for the extremely talented Zachary Brictson and his column Off the Grid. There I'll be talking about newer games that strike my fancy. My first column for them will be up in the coming weeks so in the meantime check out the other excellent writers,so you can actually see good writing in action.

What does this mean to you besides my pointless bragging,nothing really.This blog has never been one that is known a consistent schedule and actually having deadlines will not effect this blogs schedule more so than my own issues usually due.While I will try to get back onto a more stable release schedule,I make no promises.Speaking of broken promises, lets move on to a little bit of what is coming up in the next few weeks.

I''ll admit I haven't really kept up with the latest anime season mostly due to laziness and doing other activities besides watching anime.One of the few shows I have kept up with is Golden Time which like most shows of this season are just now finishing up,so be looking for a post on that sometime next week.Back in the ancient past of last November, I did an unofficial Slayers month. I did not nor am I really still calling it that just due to the goofy failure of Jojo month last June. However I did have a point to it in that I wanted to you to see how the Slayers movie line progressed,so we all know where they stood when the final movie,Premium, was released.Since I finally talked about Gorgeous after Great just drained me completely with its' mediocrity,I figured it is a good a time as any to dive in to the train wreak that is Premium.Again look for that in the next couple of weeks

As for the random post on Conception 2,that was a short entry for an Atlus USA Contest hence it not being labeled like most of my other entries are. Not much else to say about that but I will probably review the full game when it comes out either here or at Haywire next month.

-I'm going to be writing for Haywire Magazine
-Golden Time next week
-Slayers Premium the following week
-I wrote a contest piece and did not win
-Huey Lewis please don't sue 

Till next time Stay Positive

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thnigs No One Cares About:Slayers Gorgeous

I guess it's been a while since we've talked about Slayers...or really anything for that matter. I'd make an excuse but eh I got nothing. Lets change that and talk about Slayers Return 2 or as the kids call it,Slayers Gorgeous. It was released in 1998 almost a year to the day after the forgettable Slayers Great and the first one that wasn't released alongside an anime season but was the last part of the prequel series to the main series. I'm going to get the bad out of the way first so I can actually say nice things about this movie.

The movie is a really a point for point retread of Return,right down to the the plot being hijacked by a monster that the villain can't control. It attempts the same twist that Return had,with it's darker opening The editing and color palate being very similar with their attempts to mislead you into thinking this might be a bit serious. Hell it throws in a callback to the bizarre golem scene from Return as well. However you know what the film is still funny.

Upon my last re watch I really did start noticing the above mentioned gripes but it does not matter because again it is still hilarious and actually does add a few new things in to the mix. As I have said numerous times Slayers plots tend to be average and more a medium for the comedy. Thus they tend to fall into a sort of template that works for them. See the anime having clearly defined arcs where Lina and co have build up to one villain. There is nothing wrong with that,it's a solid foundation that the comedy builds the house on. When the story tries to get more serious the harder we have to look at the foundation and realized that it is made of sand, I.e Hourglass of Falces. So Returns had a stable plot and structure that worked. Gorgeous realizes this and use that structure to tell a fun story with a breezy pace.

The only real problem I do have with it borrowing Return's structure is that final part of the movie with the aforementioned hijacking. The villain seems to be there because I guess the director had some scenes to foreshadow him and it would look awful silly if they didn't do anything with them. There are no really good jokes in the big battle and the guy is just not that unlikable that I want to see him defeated. You really could have cut these scenes and lost nothing outside of showing how well Naga and Lina can work together. Even then that could have been demonstrated better without those scenes

Through out the series Naga and Lina have had a volatile yet trusting relationship and while Return played with it a little it was tame compared to here. Their own relationships is almost central to the plot as they go from fire forged comrades to bitter enemies at the drop of a coin. They are both greedy as all get out and this fact does lead to them choosing sides for no other reason than to fatten their own purse. However as much as they are constantly trying to one up the other they can pull their act together to fell a mutual enemy. If only to have go right back to quibbling a moment later.

Admittedly they did try something like this in Great as well but there their own conflicts took a back seat to the abysmal main conflict and their big showdown was one of the most boring thing ever animated. Here the main conflict is more of a free standing joke on dragons while Lina and Naga are just trying to one up each other and get paid to do so. It's honestly pretty funny that Naga joins the bratty princess just to teach her how to laugh more arrogantly.

The comedy does borrow slightly from Return with it's misleading seriousness but goes on to rely on smaller twists with pratfalls and some great continuity jokes. It has great comedic timing and I was laughing quite often. It does lack the big comedic set-pieces the Return had but makes up for it with it's mythology gags and pratfalls that you never really notice the lack of the former

Overall this is not a bad movie by any means it is very entertaining and well paced. This is probably the best portrayal of the Naga/Lina relationship and I'd place it up there with Return. Yes,maybe I will marry Return,what's it to you. Definitely worth checking out if you need a laugh.

Till next time: Stay Positive.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Conception 2:Children of the Seven Stars Entry

I got to sit down with the demo to Conception 2:Children of the Seven Stars that was recently released because I've being seeing the posts on Atlus' Facebook and decided might as well see if it's worth it. I loved Persona and the way Conception has been described defiantly gave it a Persona vibe. The demo did keep that vibe going so at least they are giving off a good vibration,make sure to tip your waitress. Since this is a demo and I can't do my usual routine of picking apart everything,so I'll keep it short.

The demo gave the basic outline for the story involving these labyrinths that have sprung up and you being literally a gift from God that can help vanquish the monsters within the mazes and get rid of the mazes themselves. That's really about it,I guess there is no point in really having spoilers in your demo which is fine. The end of the demo promises a deep storyline which seems plausible given the relative vagueness of the scenario. There are are plenty of places for the story to go,and the characters are fun.

The game play is split into dating sim and dugeon crawling/combat ala Persona. The dating sim aspect is just that,you talk to the ladies,say something that is hopefully smooth and then profit. Profit being defined here as stat boosts for the Star Child System which is how you create parties for the dungeons. The Star children are like Personas for the Final Fantasy crowd. You choose a girl to make a child with choose a vessel for that child to inhabit and preform the ritual. Yes the whole thing has a sexual undertone but not in a way that is pandering but more as a emotional side effect of making these children. It is something I hope the game explores more as it could be interesting. Either way once your child is conceived you give it a job and a name and you go on your merry way. It seems to have a reasonable amount of depth for those who want to play with the system and makes you feel like the dating sim parts aren't just there for lonely people who need a date. The children appear as little cute warriors with tiny job costumes and they are really adorable.

You form the children into three parties of three and equip them with weapons while you and one of the heroines form a fourth party before heading into the Labyrinths. There the combat sections begin and this is honestly the best part that the demo had to offer. This is a dungeon crawler with onscreen encounters as you explore the dungeons. It even does that Mother thing where enemies that are considered too weak are defeated on touch. The whole party moves around with you but thankfully can not activate encounters themselves. The children run around you and your heroine and have little chats and give encouragements. It really helped endear the little ones to me and gave them a little bit of personality.

The combat itself involves circling the various enemies and exploiting there weak spots either through elemental weakness or attacking their undefended sides. It is a turn based game but the abilty to move around to attack the enemies keeps the pace up. Each party can move independently of the group as a whole but attack as a team with their various skills. There is also the ether level which effects the speed of the entire group and helps set up the chain gauge. The chain gauge is something I was not quite sure on but form what I gathered it helped you build up combos and immobilize enemies. It felt underutilized in the demo but hopefully it'll have more use in the full game. Combat as a whole is fun and easy to pick up but does of a level of strategy that will keep you interested.

The game looks very nice with lovely character portraits in the Dating sim aspects and nice 3-d models in the dungeons with some cool looking  enemies. They look very alien and odd which I guess was the point of them. As the labyrinth you do explore has a very sterile and alien feel as well,so the enemies fit right in.It is a very nice aesthetic.The music is nice from what I've heard of it though the event music was a little grating at first it grew on me.

This demo did exactly what it set out to do and give you a feel for Conception 2. It left a really good impression and I'm looking forward to this one. If your an RPG fan,Persona fan or both then you'll probably really like this. Plus like the Bravely Default demo it does promise some bonus for transferring the completed demo save to your main game.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Things No One Cares About:Princess Knight

Osamu Tezuka is a name in manga that I love yet hate. On one hand he is the godfather of manga,responsible for classics like Astroboy and Blackjack. On the other hand I have a really hard time spelling his name. Joking aside I really do enjoy the man's work and acknowledge their influence on manga as an art form. Determined to be known as the Japanese Walt Disney,he wrote a multitude of different series and stories that spoke to all demographics. He also wrote what can be considered one of the first shojo manga:Princess Knight.

Princess Knight ran in Shojo club from 1953-1956.It 's a classic tale of fantasy adventure with a heavy undertone of romance that is prevalent in stories written for girls. Taking the time to address gender politics,what it truly means to love and that angels can sometimes be really stupid. So lets see if this classic holds up to the test of time or have I just been using ind words to soften the blow.

The story follows Sapphire as she starts the fine tradition of Shojo heroines being menaced by ugly people. Seriously the story starts out fairly happy with some light antics then takes a turn right into horrid town as tragedy upon tragedy is heaped on Sapphire. Just when something finally does go right,there is another villain or event that just comes back to smack her down. It'd be comical if it wasn't handled so well. The awful things are always within in the realm of possibility and there is an undercurrent of hope that kept me going.

Before I go on and discuss the plot in more detail,we need to get a core concept out of the way. The idea is that at birth God(who may or may not be Zeus,more on the later) assigns every child a boy or girl heart that defines their gender. This is where most of my real gripes are found in the book. Disbarring the vastness of the gender spectrum and various gender issues that arise from this idea. I can't really be pissed about that as it was early the fifties when these concepts were not exactly at the forefront of the public mind. It's just not a well explained concept,Sapphire is born with both due to a trickster angel and goes to either extreme of the spectrum when she loses one of them. Yet it seems that everyone else's heart does not cause that affect in them that way. King Plastic is an annoying brat who doesn't truly mature till he swallows Sapphire's male heart. Maybe Sapphire's hearts are special but this is never really established.

This could be a statement on the fact that regardless of what gender we are born as,we all have traits of what would be consider the gender norm for the opposite gender. The book constantly criticizes the idea that only men can rule and women should be in supporting roles exclusively. It's fairly progressive for it's time and does help it avoid the embarrassment that plague some older works. That being said,I believe I get what Tezuka is trying to get at but the heart concept is poorly explained and leads to some possibly unintentional sexist moments.

Princess Knight also has a weird concept of religion. It tends to stick to a general outline of Christian beliefs in that there is a God who watch over us and Satan(who is fabulous by the way). However Venus the goddess of beauty shows up and also controls life and death. She refers to God as father,which would make him either Uranus' private parts,which is unlikely as he is drawn like Sunday school God. More likely this makes him Zeus which explains his pulling a major jerk move during a pivotal fight scene. Either way she's more than perfect to serve as an antagonist to Sapphire and her prince's love. Calling back to Circe the with also from the same mythology. It's not really a mark against it as the whole story never really establish it one way or another, I just though it was worth mentioning.

The villains in the story are all fairly one note and simplistic however it's that simplicity that makes them enjoyable. They all mostly desire power(excluding Venus) and will be as evil as humanly possible to reach that goal. It's entertaining in the same way Dio form the Jojo series is. They are all easy to hate and make Sapphire much more likable.

Not that Sapphire has to try that hard to be likable,as she is a kind heart ed person who truly believes in love and doing good. We could call that mary-sue and to some extent it really is but her purity and goodness comes back to bite her in the rear. Her own naivete and inability to explain herself cause many of her problems.You think she sits back and lets her love interest solve things?Hell no,she's out thwarting schemes and proving herself capable and heroic. You want her to see her triumph over evil and finally ascend to her rightful place in life.

Her love interest Franz is no less likable but could stand to learn to pay attention as all it takes is a wig to fool the poor guy. A noble man who truly does love Sapphire once he wraps his head around the various conspiracies going on. Her secondary love interest is a pirate named Blood who gets what is honestly one of the weirdest adventures (I can't really do it justice)in the plot all to himself. The rest of the supporting cast is nothing special though Sapphire's nurse gets points for being utterly entertaining. Tink,the angel who started this whole mess is one of the more complex side characters. His trickster nature developing into something outside of being a jerk and helping get Sapphire out of many late story binds.

The plot itself is complex enough to be interesting without getting overly dense. It can be broken down into three intertwining plots all involving various factions needing Sapphire dead. The antagonists of each plot tend to come and go as the plot demands. The witch,Hell, leaves the main plot halfway through to pursue her own slightly related plot. It sort of helps the story feel slightly grander as there are these various plots going on while Sapphire is pursuing her own agenda. I'll admit that the third act feels slightly tacked on but includes enough awesome scenes that this hardly becomes an issue.

The art work her is either love it or hate it. It's very reminiscent of older Disney style shorts,with exaggerated features and funny background events going on constantly. Special note should go to the animals,as they are wholly awesome. This series is the gold standard for horse drawing,there is a horse early who is just plain great. I'd put his picture here just for everyone to bask in his glory but the internet lacks his picture and that's a damn shame.

Wrapping up Princess Knight has earned it's place as a classic that has stood the test of time. Being a fairly progressive work that highlights that women can be just as strong as men while still telling an exciting story. It is a fairly simple story but it has enough twists and turns to keep you wanting to read just to see how Sapphire will emerge victorious. Also I know I just mentioned it but that horse is worth buying the first book alone for.