Why Anime and Animals Work So Well

Despite my predilection for being omnivorous, I see myself as an extreme lover of all animals.

I’m no granola girl, living under the delusion that animals are innocent and pure. But I believe animals are capable of having interesting personalities, becoming attached to people they spend time with, and overall deserving of the same rights as we do. I am the weirdo who is equal parts a fan of cats and dogs as well as snakes and large lizards, which I believe is why I fell so fast and hard for the Pokemon series.

I’ll take one of each, please.

In fact, if you take a step back, you find that anime, in general, has a similar infatuation with animals, ranging from cute, to horrific, to all uncanny creations in-between.  Anime is a fantastic medium to handle stories and concepts that revolve around our furry and scaly friends. because it offers a wider range of possibilities for writers and artists alike.

 

  • The Cute is Off The Scale

 

Let’s start by getting the obvious one out of the way: They get to be so damn adorable when you draw them with an anime pen.

Because adorable mascot = profit.

With the overuse of big eyes, sparkles, and a whole bucket of other “Kawaii desu” traits, it’s no shocker here that anime can make cuties that sell plush dolls like mad. But where it really becomes clear that this is a match made in heaven is when Anime’s more weird traits start to flex themselves and you still get something that’s so adorable, you just wanna squeeze it till it squeaks.

 Case in point, I am forever in love with a new edition to the Ghost Pokemon ranks, straight from Alola, Mimikyu. This pokemon is scary in concept; it hides under this horrible Pikachu costume because it’s so ugly, so hideous, those who look at it will die. But I found this aspect of the pokemon sympathetic, and the costume looks so bad it cycles back into adorable. It’s a like a child tried his hardest to draw a Pikachu and accidentally made something freaky, and I just love it.

 

  • Different Personalities on Parade

 

This is something you don’t get unless you’ve owned a few animals, which I have. Everyone has this stereotypical idea of certain types of pets all behave: cats are all aloof, dogs are always hyper, etc. But any pet owner will tell you that each animal may share some traits with others of its kind, but will ultimately have a unique personality. They may be very sweet and affectionate, or maybe they’re skittish and aloof.

cat-personality_zpsytsbyisd The problem is that these lovely creatures can’t exactly communicate the same way we do; it can be hard to tell what your pet’s inner workings are unless you spend some time with them. And then you enter them into the world of cartoons, which allows for them to be twice as expressive and communicate in ways they can’t in real life. Add onto that anime’s love of making personalities that are wild, radical, and just plain silly, and you’re going to find yourself in love a lot.

To paint a picture for you, another favorite show I had, growing up, was the overtly cute Hamtaro, an anime exclusively devoted to a humanized hamster and his buddies. And he had a lot of buddies.

Each one of these little critters got to be distinguished not just by their looks. Each had exaggerated personality traits like being posh, adventurous, super smart, or super skittish. Anime allows writers to take the personalities we may see or project onto our pets and bring them to life, and that joy gets transferred to anyone who happens to watch it.

 

  • No Limits on Anatomical Imagination

 

You’ll notice for these past few reasons that I’ve stayed in the realm of “cute and cuddly.” We leave that behind for our last one. Because not everything in nature wants you to give it a hug.

There’s a primal fear in all humans of dangerous critters that knock us off the top of the food chain. That fear can spawn amazing stories in the horror genre – when handled correctly anyway – and anime is no exception. It has a decent history of making horror material, so imagine what can happen to that fear when there are no limits to what that animal can look like. Imagine a place where your most twisted, disgusting creatures on four legs can come out front and center

 Envy from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a beautiful reveal to just how scary this can get. This homunculus’ true form is the skull-laced green meanie you see on your left, adding a whole new meaning to the phrase “Green Eyed Monster.” You have the ability to stretch so much farther with horrific anatomy in anime than other mediums, making it the defacto genre for “scary critters” as far as I’m concerned.

And that’s where the heart of the success behind our furry, four-legged friends/enemies is. They aren’t bound by modern special effects or real-world biology in anime, allowing for greater creative expression. They can be your cute friends or worst nightmares, with the limits only being the writer’s imagination.

 

Why do you think animal stories work so well in anime? Feel free to comment below. Don’t forget to like and follow for more content like this. Posts every Saturday, Sunday for late posts.

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Top Ten Pokemon To Make You Ask “Why?”

Coming up with new pokemon has to be one of the best and worst jobs on the planet.

When you got an entire island to fill with creatures ranging from cute to creepy, you really gotta stretch your brain to the limits to twist anything and everything into a new creature. We gotta a recent sneak peek into the processes when creators of the franchise detailed here the origins of their best mascot, the adorable Pikachu.  This combination of squirrel and mouse went from faint sketch to worldwide success, in just the blink of an eye.

And thus, a marketing success was born

That being said, the “worst” part of that job has to be when you reach that creative wall. Every writer/artist/musician/creative thinker knows that sometimes your brain has emptied out the idea bin, and what happens next can be strange at best, downright pointless at the worst. And when you hit that wall while creating these crazy critters, what ensues is downright bizarre. These are my top ten Pokemon that just made me stop and ask “why?” when I first saw them. As always, feel free to tell me your own in the comments below.

10. Spinda

As always, I thought it prudent to start with the smallest offender here. Because really, this adorable thing only has the crime of me not getting half of the concept.

Spinda was a cool collectable pokemon of sorts when introduced in the Hoenn region. No two catches have the same pattern of red spots on their head,  and there are over one hundred different patterns each one can have.  But, for all the coolness of this Pokemon, I had to stop myself and ask where exactly they got the concept of this one from. They decided to take a giant panda, make it red with extra long ears, and then make it dizzy. It’s the latter half of this sentence that just makes no sense to me in concept.

Such things are, however, petty in the long run. No, the real offenders are farther down.

9. Lickitung

I want you to remember something for a moment: The original show made claim that the pokemon, Clafairy, was an actual alien. And yet this guy is the one that made me think this show was weird.

Lickitung is supposed to be based off several types of lizards that make use of a long tongue to catch food. And I even get the idea of taking that to the extreme level and making that tongue massive and crazy. But lickitung has got to be one of the dumbest looking buggers I’ve ever seen on this show, and that giant tongue only makes it weird and gross. They managed to pull “adorably dopey” with slowpoke, but this one just seems excessive.

8. Smoochum

One of the most universally disliked Pokemon stands before you, and its origins still make no damn sense to me.

As if  Jynx didn’t have enough controversy around it, they decide to throw in a tiny baby with more mixed origins than Donna Troy.  It’s clear that its supposed to be a baby ganguro girl, but it’s also speculated that Smoochum is based off the human-looking child Yuuki Onna is seen holding (one of Jynx’s possible origins). It could be based off Kintaro, a human child raised by the other possible origin of Jynx, Yama Uba. Neither of which, from what I can tell, involves the weird lips and the weird references to kissing that turns so many people off.

Overall, Smoochum is just a confusing addition to the list of creatures. They may have successfully gotten a baby version of Jinx, but they sure didn’t make a concept that makes any sense.

7. Vanillite/Vanillish/Vanilluxe

So, I don’t know if you noticed, dear readers, but Pokemon has a weird habit of turning inanimate objects into weird creatures. And, with the lack of animals in the world the writers have created, there’s already tons of speculation on how the food is likely made from these same cuddly creatures. But then the writers decided to go and make all that worse by making a pokemon out of ACTUAL food.

And, for the love of Arceus, I can’t understand how this one fits into the “wild.”

Vanillite and its evolutions are quite literally what they appear to be: vanilla ice cream with icy cones. You find them when you go through the obligatory ice mountain level of every game, specifically in Pokemon Black and White, and I can only imagine the trainer’s face when they plod through the caves and see freakin’ ICE CREAM just float on by and pick a fight.

6. Trubbish

They made trash alive and kinda cute. This is what running out of ideas looks like.

I know Trubbish shouldn’t really shock me; they made toxic sludge sentient and catchable in the first game after all. But the vague nature of Muk and Grimer allowed for the funny idea that it was just so toxic that it came to life, but this one is just plain ridiculous. The idea is that the Pokemon came from an accident between a trash bag and some industrial waste, which sounds like a B-Movie that just hasn’t been made yet, or a possible sidekick to the Toxic Avenger. Because everything is solved by the presence of Radioactive Goo(trademark). 

5. Gulpin + Swalot

But maybe we haven’t gone weird enough. Maybe we need to take an actual organ from the body, slap some eyes on it, and teach it how to fight. Gotta catch ’em all!

There’s an argument to be made that this seemingly cute thing is based off some snakes, who are known to swallow their prey whole. But, given the green color, the nature of its poison type, and just the general weirdness that this series is known for, I’m going with the other speculative origin. Mainly, I’m convinced both of these specimens are based off either the gallbladder, a green sac inside all of us full of gastric acid, or a giant poison gland.

This is a level of gross that’s new for me. And, while I kinda love it, even I cannot deny that this one seems like an odd choice for the creators to make. Because it makes total sense for a gallbladder to be sliding out in the wild, all willy-nilly.

4. Salazzle

Now, this one is a bit tricky. I get the concept; even the execution makes sense when you give it some good, hard thought. But it’s still just so… weird.

Salazzle is a tricky Pokemon to get, mainly because its first form, Salandit, is a poisonous glass cannon that’s hard to train. But, if you find a female one and train it up, you’ll get this oddly sexual, poison-spitting lizard that will be a challenge to your future opponents. But the very first time you see this creature on Alola’s beaches may make you stop for a brief moment and ask yourselves: why does my poisonous lizard look like it’s ready to pose for Playboy?

Fan theory says it’s based on a Mo’o, a Hawaiian mythical dragon known to turn into a beautiful woman to lure in men, then bite their heads off. Makes sense; still pretty messy in practice.

3.Bruxish

And now we go from “why” to “OH GOD, WHY?!”

Clowns are not fun anymore and putting them on a fish doesn’t make them any better. And now we’ve got a clownfish in front of us with the super sharp teeth of a shark and a rather evil look in its eyes. But what’s worse than all of that above is that the possible origins of this creature, when you go through it all together, make no damn sense.

Bruxish’s name makes sense in context: brackish waters and what not. But the best people can come up with in terms of inspiration are two tropical fishes, mainly a filefish and a Hawaiian reef triggerfish. Both of these can probably be super colorful when given the right genetics, but I seriously doubt they’d both look like Pennywise the clown going on some aquatic terror trip.

2. Porygon – Z

Sweet Arceus, what did you do to this poor creature?

Now, it’s no secret that the people of pokemon love to create their own digital pokemon.  It’s kinda dubious how they can become living creatures with their own personalities and feelings, but such things don’t really get pressed. But I must press this one poor Porygon, who gets turned into this weird, shaky thing if you trade him over with the item “dubious disk.” That’s right, folks; you give poor Porygon a virus and he gets corrupted in the trade. I guess, in concept, this is supposed to be him incorrectly restructured. That doesn’t make it any less creepy. I feel so sorry for the little guy, I really do.

1. Spiritomb

Our last one, though, leaves all these others in the dust. Or at least it would if it actually had a physical form you could touch.

Spiritomb’s quite literally the only case of a pokemon being absolutely evil. He was formed when 108 spirits were bound together in another dimension, and this monstrosity came as a result. It’s inspired off a series of Buddhist traditions that are very fascinating when researched, but the concept alone still baffles me somewhat. It’s a pokemon that’s actually a hundred pokemon, who aren’t physically there, and who actually do wish harm and chaos onto the world. It reads more like a pokemon creepypasta than an actual pokemon and it still leaves me scratching my head to this day.  

 

What Pokemon elicited the “but why, though?” reaction out of you? Feel free to share in the comments below! Don’t forget to like and follow for more content like this, or join my email-list.

Otome Review: The Violet Project

When life likes to throw me grief – be it minor or major – Otome games have been a great way for me to unwind and knuckle under. Sometimes, we just wanna momentarily forget the issues that pelt us like paintballs. A short, but sweet, game is a great way to lift the spirits and have some fun., which is why I tried The Violet Project, a NaNoRen project completed for 2018.

Now I take every NaNoRen review as a first draft, meaning I point out issues that can be improved should the author choose to refine things. But this is one of the first times that the rough draft’s greatest flaw is leaving something to be desired. The Violet Project is a familiar idea with the potential to go to interesting places, but the author has yet to really explore the ideas within it.

  • Plot

Syl and CoconutSyl works at an Inn in an unnamed kingdom (unknown at least to me). The kingdom is in troubled by an epidemic of “The Violet Plague,” a flu-like disease marked with violet lips and bags under the eyes. But it hasn’t stopped Syl’s wanderlust and she dreams of the day she can leave the inn to explore the kingdom. Her chance comes when a young man arrives at the inn, carrying a map to a hidden treasure inside the magic forest. She can take the initiative and go with him, or maybe the Alchemist following behind looking for both the treasure and the map owner.

  • Gameplay

 

 

You’ll notice right away that my plot summary is super short. That’s because the plot we’re dealing with is equally small. There are no holes in it, exactly; it’s just missing some details: kingdom name, what the Violet actually is, how the treasure is supposed to help, things of that nature. It’s the biggest flaw I found in the game; mainly, it’s one of the only ones here walking around with an incomplete skeleton as a structure. NaNo projects do tend to be incomplete on the first release, though I would recommend that this puzzle get a few more pieces.

Treasure and Co

As per usual, there’ll occasionally be a situation in the story where you have to pick an action to branch out the story. It feels less like a self-insert and more like a choose-your-own-adventure tale due to the third-person style of the story, but it lacks the obscene branching of a choose-your-own-adventure tale. Still, having two possible branches is perfectly acceptable if the author can flesh each section out. The idea is supposed to be about helping out the one versus helping man, so there’s plenty of potential for a more meaty story here. Just let Syl actually bond a bit with her partners as well and you’ll be set.

Choices

 

  • Art

 

The one place I won’t criticize the game will be the art, which is quite lovely. We have a cornucopia of bright colors that pop with these warm backgrounds and each character is unique-looking and easy to tell apart. It has a distinct anime style but it’ll certainly stand out as its own flavor.

Magic Circle

That being said, I’d want more sprites if this author would see fit to do the second draft.  We have a few side characters that are given plenty of detail and expanding the story within would provide a great opportunity for even more colorful artwork.

 

  • Endings

 

Ending A: Daego, The One

Daego The young man from the Inn is in search of that treasure to aid his long-lost sister, who’s sick with the Violet Plague. He’s gonna sell the treasure to put her in one of the best hospitals to receive the best care, even if it means stopping an alchemist from completing her research on the plague.

And, alas and alack, that’s all we got from Daego. I gained a few personal tidbits that suggested he was clever and friendly, but the experience was overall unremarkable. But I can say that, at least, Syl and Daego did do some form of bonding before finding the big treasure.

 

 

Ending B: Riajan, The Many

Riajan

But let’s say you decided to wait behind. Your inn receives two more guests, carrying the King’s seal. Riajan is an alchemist studying the violet plague, with her guard in tow to help her capture a thief who stole a map she deciphered. Her goal is to save everyone by finding a cure to the Violet Plague using the treasure within the woods. But how long will it take for her to find that cure and who will die while waiting?

If the option above was uneventful, this one is downright bland. There’s no real bonding between Riajan and Syl, nothing to distinguish why she’d become her apprentice or why they’d be friends enough to try and work together. This path is in dire need of fleshing out, pronto.

 

  • Final Thoughts

 

As mentioned, The Violet Plague is a game that is sitting on a pile of potential and in need of a second draft. The plot itself is barely there, but the lovely artwork and solid base story tells me it could be something awesome. Without the time limitations of NaNoRen, I think this game could go places.

Stories I’d Love to See as Anime

It’s amazing how many things end up on the anime screen. From a retelling of a classic Shakespearean story to an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, anime has no real boundaries when it comes to taking classics, or even semi-classics in pop-culture, and turning them to something fresh. But, with all of that, it stuns me that there are still popular pieces that have yet to be animefied.

It’s sad to imagine because there are certain stories that would lend themselves so well to the medium. Anime relies heavily on fantastic visuals and out-of-this-world story ideas, and it’s already proven that creators have a penchant for making radical east-meets-west anime pieces. So, if I had my way, I can think of at least four stories I would have made into full-feature anime. And if these already do exist, let me know; I never say “no” to new shows.

 

  • For Fantastic Visuals, Look No Further Than The Opera Ghost.

Anime and musicals have an odd relationship; mainly, live action musicals of anime tend to do better than their non-musical, movie counterparts. But, even if you stripped away the music part, I can’t think of a greater visual piece than the famous story by Gaston Laroux, made even more famous by Andrew Lloyd Webber. We’ve got a book, musical, and several movies for it. It’s now time for an anime of The Phantom of The Opera.

The image here from an anime called Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo, but just picture something like this in full feature-length, or in a full-length series.

 

This story is ripe for spectacle anime: a grandiose opera house with tons of french detail, a sprawling cavern covered in candles and swimming with mists on a black glassy lake, Opera performances with detailed costumes, swelling music, and so much more. And, if that isn’t a strong enough reason for you, then how about the dramatic tone of the story, the tragedy of it, and the sheer size of the gargantuan fanbase? It’s got all the pieces lined up, just waiting for a good writer to pick them up, but we just haven’t seen it yet.

  • A Lesser Known Gem From That Writer They Tried to Teach You About

 

I’m sure many a student out there recalls those long periods in literature class where the teacher painstakingly tried to get them to read and like Shakespeare. And, because Shakespeare is hard, and students are predisposed to dislike school reading material, their last-ditch effort is usually to throw Romeo and Juliet at students to pique their interest through romance. But, if they wanna throw love at people, then I have a much better suggestion. And it even has the added bonus of living statues, old-fashioned slut-shaming, and a sexy violence from a bear.

 

Jokes aside, The Winter’s Tale would lend itself well to an anime because it features a very eventful, outrageous plot. From a king accusing his wife of infidelity, his daughter’s miraculous survival, and the magical return of lost loved ones, the story lends itself well to dramatics. And besides, anime has already proven that it’s willing to make some crazy nonsense with Romeo and Juliet. Why not add a bear attack, a living statue, and a pastoral romance? I’ve seen worse.

  • “I Love You, Paul. So Bring Misery Back.”

 Anime loves its yanderes, doesn’t it? Crazy chicks or crazy guys that love someone so much that they go to the brink and back again to prove it… or protect them… or kill someone when they get too close… or kill the object of their desire when it spirals out of control. And so, in this sea of love for the craziest of crazy loves, I have to ask: why hasn’t anyone taken a crack at Stephen King’s take on obsession and insanity? Especially when the main antagonist in question, Annie Wilkes, was the inspiration for the Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure character that inspired the trope name in the first place.

 

Misery is every creator’s nightmare: to be stuck, injured, in the house of your craziest and “biggest” fan. Annie Wilkes, our main antagonist, is frightening in her unpredictability and boundless fury, even more so when you start to realize that our main character, Writer Paul Sheldon, is only alive by the grace of her insanity being on the positive swing. Despite the fact that the story takes place inside Annie’s guest room, I truly believe that the story would translate well to a full-fledged anime due to its extreme, well-written characters. Besides, Ms. Wilkes is practically the mama of Shion or Yuno, so she deserves her own anime alongside them.

  • The Last One Is Just For Kicks

 

This very last one is more just for my sake; it’s my favorite book, after all, and most people don’t know the movie for it even exists.

The Last Unicorn is a novel by writer Peter S. Beagle, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves fairytales. The story is written in this romantic, poetic, style, recounting how the last unicorn must leave her enchanted woods to save her kin, and sees how the world has forgotten magic, wonder, and unicorns as a whole. It’s a sad but fulfilling story that’s downright gorgeous, and I think it would lend itself extremely well to an anime. After all, it managed to survive a Rankin/Bass movie.

This story is both beautiful and a bit quirky, a combination that would suit anime just fine. From Mammary Glands appearing in strange places (like a tree and a bird) to a sudden summoning of Robin Hood by The World’s Worst Magician™ , there’s a hidden tongue-in-cheek to the story that would line-up pretty well with anime tragicomedy. It’s still just wishful thinking on my part, and it wouldn’t be anything to rival the likes of Princess Tutu or even Berserk, but it would be western-themed anime that would make a very specific niche very happy.

What story would you love to see as an anime? Feel free to comment below; don’t forget to like and follow for more content like this.

 

Commonly Confused Anime Genres

So hey, genres are confusing.

They exist to allow bookstores and librarians to narrow down material, or allow readers to find material similar to something they really liked. But the labels often get swapped or switched around so much, or just lumped together by those on the outside, that they become near fluid. Even anime is guilty of this here, as the “separate categories” often cross wires so much they get confused really fast.

giphy

I have a handful here of genres that are commonly confused to illustrate just how much genres will bleed into each other. Sometimes, it’s because the fanbase created their own meaning; sometimes, it’s because non-anime fans can’t tell the difference. But, often times, it’s because every story is a Frankenstein amalgamation of other stories.

 

  • Shounen Ai and Yaoi

 

This is one I was guilty of, for awhile, and one the lot of you need to avoid unless you wanna get some very strange looks. To be blunt, Shounen Ai is “boy-love,” or romances with a male same-sex couple. Yaoi features the same thing, but with actual on-screen sex. In short, Shounen Ai is male romance; Yaoi is porn.

I only ask the noisy minority of the fanbase to hold their pitchforks until I finish.

The lines between the two are super blurry, mostly due to the fans of the former genre who like to toss the word around for anything romantically male on male. What’s worse, it gets even more blurry when you realize that Shounen-Ai can also get explicit depending on the age-range of the target audience, and yet there is a hair-thin difference between them that gets lost in the love of both genres. The difference is that any manga or anime explicitly labeled as “Yaoi” means the focus will be on the sexual contact, whereas Shounen Ai is more focused on the actual romance.
Blog PictureNow, I admit that arguing the difference between these two is like arguing the difference between a pornographic movie and a romance novel: they both serve a similar purpose. So, the fact that both fanbases use the terms interchangeably is understandable and not that consequential. I imagine, however, it would confuse a Japanese bookstore clerk.

 

  • Ecchi and Hentai

 

One of my many anime soapboxes is how it isn’t all breasts, sex, and tiny females. But, just like every other medium in existence, anime meant to titillate and excite specific groups of people do exist. The problem comes when those on the outside try to lump them all in together and cause mass confusion in conversation. So, this one is less for the average anime fan and more for the outsiders making broad, generalized statements.

For them, the divide between Ecchi and Hentai is very specific: Hentai is actual pornography, Ecchi is just a lot of nudity and sexually suggestive material crammed together. In short, if sex happens in an Ecchi, you’ll be stuck using your imagination.

I am not responsible for what may happen.

Ecchi is as soft-core as most non-porn anime can get, with lots of nudity, sexually suggestive jokes, and instances like above where jets of blood liberate themselves from the main character’s body. Meanwhile, Hentai – which I will provide no pictures of – literally means “pervert” in Japanese, so it gets applied to anime that is straight up porn. Most anime fans won’t hide or deny the existence of Hentai, and it’s pretty common for non-fans of anime to treat the existence of ecchi in the same fashion as actual porn. Treating anime’s variant of erotic material as more shameful strikes me as kink-shaming, and using it to say all of anime is perverted is just misinformed.

 

  • Shoujo/Josei or Shounen/Seinen?

 

And now we get to the one that confused me for the longest time. Everyone knows that anime tends to break into two categories most of the time, especially in the mainstream: shounen for young boys and shoujo for the little girls. But, once again, there’s a common misconception that anime is just for children when, in fact, there a plethora of adult anime to choose from. That’s where josei and seinen come in, two genres that even actual anime fans may not have known were a thing.

Picture some of your favorite more “adult” series – maybe Outlaw Star, Cowboy BeBop, maybe a Hellsing anime or Ghost in the Shell? Or maybe Nana or Loveless? These animes that go a little harder on adult themes of violence, sexuality, mental illness, and many others are classified as either Seinen (“youth”) for adult men or Josei (“woman”) for adult women. They are usually far more intense in their stories than the average shounen or shoujo and also feature more sexual imagery. Josei, in particular, is known to be more sexually explicit than your average shoujo, with seinen leaning more towards graphic action violence.

But, once again, we find ourselves in a place where the lines will blur.  After all, the description above would fit the likes of Attack on Titan or D Gray Man, both of which focus on extreme violence and explicitly dark themes. But most of the characters, at least the main ones, are all under the age of 17. Whereas characters in Tokyo Ghoul are in college already, or at least past age 18. It ultimately boils down to who the author intended to entertain, something that can be said for all these categories, and that is as slippery as it gets.

Batman Ninja (Review)

Oh, I’ve been waiting for this one. And I am quite pleased.

As I’ve mentioned previous times, it is rare for my “geeky comic book fan” side to enjoy something from the anime community. Those few and far-moments are precious and awesome, which was why I waited with bated breath for today’s specimen: an anime about one of my favorite heroes.

The hype is REAAAAAAL!

I’m of course talking about the movie I was so excited for last year, Batman Ninja. The film had a major pedigree attached to it with names from Afro Samurai, Gurren Lagann, and even JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure attached to it. So, the hype was very real, but it may have also been its undoing. Because, while the movie is an amazing marriage of western stereotypes and anime tropes, it didn’t have a lot of time to show off. But oh, what little time it had was filled to the brim.

The story itself is ridiculous and utterly fun. In true comic book fashion, we begin with Batman swooping in to stop Gorilla Grodd’s new time machine and accidentally activating it. Everyone in the area finds themselves thrown into ancient feudal Japan, with Batman arriving two years later. Five of the Rogues’ Gallery have become lords of Japan, each one ready to conquer and unite the country under their banner. But, when it seems like Bats has no means of stopping them, in swoops a bat-suited clan of ninjas, ready to fight alongside him and his ninja-trained sidekicks. Giant robots, samurai sword-fights, and sumo-Banes ensue.

I saw this and laughed so hard. It’s amazing.

If that sounds crazy to you, well, you’re not wrong. Screenplay writers Kakuzi Nakashima, Leo Chu, and Eria S. Garcia took a whole bucket of anime tropes and threw into the stew: transforming battle robot-fortresses that have their own special names, Batman admitting that he cannot win with his futuristic toys and be accepting the power of friendship, and, best of all, Our Animal Friends™ joining together to aid their human allies and becoming a near invincible army. Mixed in with all this anime gobbledygook is a handful of well-known comic book absurdities as well, with costume quick changes, villain/hero team-ups, betrayal on both sides, and so much more. It’s a near-perfect marriage between what fans love about both mediums; I literally couldn’t stop smiling.

However, while enjoying all the nonsensical fun, I did have one niggling feeling in the back of my mind. As all the colorful, glorious chaos sped by me, I paused and realized that the “speed” was indeed the problem. This movie takes no real time to flesh things out or let any moment have a significant impact. From pressing play to credits, we are hit with near nonstop information and action that will leave you mentally tired. The movie had a bunch of ideas and no real time to fit them all, but dammit it tried. As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but wonder what would have been, had it been an episodic series instead of a feature film.

I couldn’t chase that thought out of my head for the whole movie. However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t buried under my love for the movie’s art style. Character designs were headed by the creator of Afro Samurai, Takashi Okazaki, who took great pains to make sure the iconic characters retained their regular style while still adapting to their new surroundings. Meanwhile, animation studio Kamikaze Douga provided the 2D, cel-shaded animations that moved fluidly from scene to scene and gave the whole piece a very distinct look.

Overall, I believe Batman Ninja did what it set out to do; it presented Batman in a new, creative way to reflect how Japan sees heroes. It’s fun, fast-paced action with the absolute insanity that makes anime one of my favorite genres to watch. And while I wish this story had been a full series instead, just to see it fleshed out better, I still like the final product. And, while the English dub was on the messy side, I think everyone could enjoy this film.

Otome Review: A Handful Of Shorties

Free, long, Otome’s are in short supply these days. It makes sense on an economic level: if you put in more work, you’ll probably want some compensation. But there is an abundance of tiny, quick and cute games that will chip away at your boredom. They tend to only take a few minutes to complete, with not much in the story to chew on, but they have a strange charm to them.

So, I decided I’d take a look at a handful of them. These are the Otome reviews of these three shortie games: Get Hired!, Flying Lessons, and Night Class. No detailed analysis here, just my basic thoughts on what makes these games worth playing or ignoring.

 

 

  • Get Hired!

 

 

I wasn’t sure if I should include this one, as it isn’t an Otome at all; it’s just a Visual Novel. But I am a Batman geek at my heart and, well, how could I pass up an opportunity to talk about one of my favorite villains as well?

Main Plot

Get Hired Title

You are a henchman, congratulations. You just came from a previous job working with D-list villains Killermoth and Crazy Quilt, because you have the chance to work as lacky to none other than Dr. Jonathan Crane, aka The Scarecrow. But ole’ Johnny ain’t ‘bout to take any schmuck off the streets… or, more specifically, he’s looking for a very specific type of schmuck/smartie/scaredy cat. Answer correctly in the Interview and you’ll be hired; answer incorrectly, you’ll be left to dry. Answer interestingly and maybe something far worse awaits you…

Gameplay

GetHiredArgument

The game is exactly what it says on the tin: one interview with Jonathan Crane, with guest appearances by Edward Nygma (The Riddler) and Dr. Jervis Tetch (Mad Hatter) to spice things up (and by spice up, I mean annoy Johnny to no end). You’ll get asked a few questions that have a handful of right/wrong answers. Get them mostly right, you’ll become Mook #523. Get them wrong, you’ll be dumped somewhere to get arrested. But oh, if you play your cards just right, you’ll get a very special job you may not have seen coming.

What do you see

The game plays simply, really, and there’s not much to really complain about. Crane’s impossible to read (mostly) and the dialogue between him and his cohorts is on-point and funny. This game’s great if you got an hour or so to kill.

  • Flying Lessons!

I presume you all remember Synokoria, the company that made both Halloween Otome and Valentines Otome. Those were both solid, well-written entries into the Otome market, but I hadn’t seen this tiny, one-off gem in their library.

Main Plot

Flying Lessons title

Poor Lotus has a problem. Out of all the mythical creatures by the pond, this tiny, cute fairy just can’t seem to fly. She’s tried all the tricks and suggestions her teacher’s made but to no avail, and now she’s only got a week to fly or her teacher will fail her. She’s got two choices of people who can help her: the childhood best friend and the top student in the class.

 

Gameplay

Flying Gameplay

This game is akin to cotton candy: it’s cute, it’s sweet, and gone in an instant. The game’s artwork is completely composed of the tiny sprites Synokoria games use for brief cutscenes in their other games – chibified to the extreme – and you only make two decisions per playthrough of the game. First, you decide which of the two characters you want to help you, then you have to decide to pursue or disregard Lotus’s first cockamamy idea. Once that’s done, the narrative will wrap itself up in a neat, adorable little bow. It’s a lot of sugar so those who hate fluff will gag on arrival, but I couldn’t find anything about it truly offensive.

Aww Flying

But seriously, this artwork is so cute.

 

  • Night Class

And, of course, I gotta get back to Vampires. Halloween is so far away, and yet I love me some supernatural horror. And, while this one had nothing particularly scary to it, it had some twists I genuinely didn’t see coming.

Main Plot

NightClassTitle

You are Rowan and Rowan appears to be on the fast track to depression. She’s become cynical and apathetic to the world, despite her cutesy-anime-girl appearance, and she’s looking for a way to kickstart her life back up. So, she starts taking night classes at the local university in business and marketing, and things seem to be picking up. The only problems are two brothers, Aaron and Jake. Specifically, it’s Jake, our resident annoying jerk, who was attacked by a vampire when he was very young.

JakeAndRowan

Not that he was ever really all that nice.

But, after a week or so of classes, things start spiraling out of control. It turns out Jake may not have been completely honest with Aaron. Worse yet, Aaron may have needed that dishonesty to keep his sanity intact. Things take a very dark spiral, real fast, and Rowan’s world gets turned upside-down.

I repeat, Look Away Children.

Look away, children!

Gameplay

ChoicesNIghtClass

This game is the longest of the three, with the least amount choices. There is one point in the game that decides which path you follow: the two bad endings, or the good(?) ending. What truly surprised me was the game’s nonchalant attitude towards vampires, only to twist it back around for the bad endings to be rather messed up. In short, the actual gameplay is not this game’s forte. Rather, it is a style above substance experience that I walked away from enjoying as a whole.

  • Final Thoughts

Today’s games were exercises in pockets of distraction. All three brought an interesting idea to the table, explored its surface for a while, before closing the book. But, ultimately, the games accomplished the small goals they set out and make for quick fun when the mood strikes.

My Thoughts Going Into Shingeki No Kyojin Season Three

Keep your fingers crossed, kiddies, lest the madness once again goes into Development Purgatory.

But, barring no deployment issues, we should be blessed with a continuation of the shounen that keeps things a little too real: Shingeki no Kyojin, or “Attack on Titan” for the Funimation crowd. July 22nd marks the release date of season three, providing we don’t once again find ourselves the hell season two lingered in, with delay after delay after delay. It was a spiral to make Junji Ito jealous.

For a few people, that was a traumatic time

We won’t jinx it. Instead, I choose to ponder on everything I’ve learned so far and made some predictions, or maybe just some statements that will be on my mind as we go forward. In one of the rare instances where the hype is very real, and well deserved, these are my thoughts on the pre-premiere of Shingeki No Kyojin Season Three. And yes, Small Spoilers for those who haven’t seen seasons one or two.

 

  • Whatever Bad Thing Happens, It’s Gonna Get Worse

Isayama has a lot to brag about when it comes to his writing. But, above all, his greatest strength in this series is his ability to make any bad situation far, FAR worse in a way that isn’t clunky or edge-tastic. And, believe you me, it is much harder than it looks to accurately write the “shit hitting the fan” moment.  

Pretty sure you all remember this moment when the “attack” on Trost became an all-out kill-a-thon.

Seasons one and two made a great show of taking situations that were already down-to-wire dangerous and completely removing said wire. Characters get flung into unwinnable situations where, yes, several characters will die. In short, there is no rock bottom at any given moment of this show, making season three all the more frightening, but also exciting. Because the best part about these moments where the abyss attempts to swallow everyone up is that, inevitably, there will be a crop of them who fight their way back to the surface. I’m always blown away by how well the main three do in a pinch and I’m excited to see even more of it.

 

  • No One is Safe

 

 

But keep in mind that Armin, Mikasa, and even Eren are not safe. Because NOBODY can get away from Isayama’s mighty ax.

Second best to Levi; devoured by a horde of Titans in seconds

There’s this sword hanging over the series, a maddening realization that every single person whose face, name and history you learn may very well be dead within a single episode. Levi, Hange, and all the other awesome bad-asses at play here can be wiped clean at a moment’s notice. I always thought such things would make me grow apathetic to the story. And yet, going into season three, I’m not apathetic at all.

In fact, I’m thrilled. It’s because this show doesn’t treat death as a castaway; it’s an everyday occurrence, and yet it always has significance. It’s a little hard to treat death as callous and unimportant (for shock value) when the killing comes from these horrifying monsters, and in the worst way possible. There’s a danger going forward but I know each big-name death will be treated like the important moment it is.

 

  • We Have Only Scratched The Surface

Cliche? Possibly, and yet I truly believe we have not seen the last “Holy Shit” moment this show has to offer.

The first season dipped a small toe into mystery and intrigue, with the Female Titan and Eren’s superpowers, but season two did a swan-dive into lore and mystery. We got some pretty solid answers about the world the characters live in and then more mysteries dangled in front of us like loose cotton candy. And so, above all else, I’m pretty sure this show will continue to be an absolute tease.

Each time I’ve thought we couldn’t be shocked anymore, the show drops a bombshell either all at once or casually. And since the last season ended in a big damn cliffhanger, I am going forward with the knowledge that we are not done peeling back layers on this morsel. This show isn’t just a generic shounen battle anime; it’s a retool of the traditional “monster outbreak” with some subtle intrigue. It may very well drive me up the wall with my obsessive needs for answers, but at least I know those answers will probably be good.

 

What are your thoughts on season three of Shingeki No Kyojin? Feel free to comment below and don’t forget to like and follow for more content just like this.

 

Anime that Turned Their Genres Inside Out

Ever rolled your eyes at the cliches in your favorite anime? Or maybe you love them to itty-bitty pieces? Either way, we all know that each genre of anime has baggage or traditional settings that come with it. You probably know the storylines by heart, the types of characters within it, and what the outcome of the story may very well be. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it is very fun to see things shaken up. And lo, anime has its fair share of titles that take their respected genres and re-set the standard, or take the standard somewhere off-kilter. They may very well deconstruct it as a whole.

These are four anime that turn their genres inside out and around, changing the stage for everyone. These are, as always, my opinions and I choose shows that deserve to be talked about a little more. I’m open to discussions with others in the comments below.

 

  • Isekai – Now and Then, Here and There

 

Isekai, or “different world”, literally refers to stories where a normal person is transported to a different world in the story. It’s often used in sword and sorcery-typesettings, where the hero is given a mentor to teach him the “ways of the world” and an added love-interest for extra measure. It’s a genre with a pretty heavy focus on wish-fulfilment, with shows like Sword Art Online for fantasy lovers or Girls Bravo for harem fans. However, the deconstructive tales to be found here can be extremely dark in nature when the writer is allowed to make a literal hell-on-earth type situation. Such was the case with Now and Then, Here and There, which turned this genre from “wish-fulfillment” to “really be careful what you wish for.”

No jokes to be had here. This one is some serious shit

Now and Then, Here and There sees the hero transported to a world that is dark and unforgiving. Children commit acts of immense violence against each other; young men are conscripted into an insane king’s army, and young women get passed around that same army to be raped and abused. Our hero, Shu, tries his best to be the big hero, but there really can’t be any heroes in this more realistic look at war and tragedy.

  • School Anime – Great Teacher Onizuka

Oh, those slice of life school anime, they tend to be so innocent. And they are no stranger to the “Save Our Students” trope in popular culture, where some new teacher swoops in and gives each student a new start on life: better grades, better study methods, so on and so forth. But, really, what if that new teacher was so very far away from innocent? And what if he was just as jaded as all the other teachers?

Enter Great Teacher Onizuka, or GTO, a manga/anime that takes both school anime and the Save Our Students trope through a shredder and a blender. Onizuka himself is crude, impulsive, morally questionable, and only here in hopes of netting jail-bait. Does he slowly come to realize he cares about his students, their asshole-behavior aside? Absolutely, but not before trying to kick some ass, get laid, and just generally try to avoid any real work.

Or scare the crap out of a teenage gang so hard that they become his personal assistants.

While I can’t recommend the show over the manga, I can make the argument that GTO turned the school anime into something amazing. Instead of providing some random, albeit quirky, moral figure to whip the kids into shape, we’re given a former delinquent that accidentally teaches his students moral values that work IRL. The story is definitely not for the kiddies, but I think most adults will get a big laugh out of it.

  • Magical Girl/Shojo – Revolutionary Girl Utena

 Everyone loves to talk about Puella Magi Madoka Magica these days in regards to the deconstruction of the magical girl genre. I will be the first to admit that the show does a good job of showing the more serious side of being a magical, sailor-suited soldier of love and justice, and yet there was one before it that made it look dangerous and trippy.

If Cutie Honey is magical girl’s grandma, and Sailor Moon the proud mama, then Revolutionary Girl Utena is the rebellious little girl ready to strike out on her own.

The whole show and manga revolve around Utena herself brushing past shojo girl stereotypes and the show itself looking at more serious issues. The idea is to pick apart the pretty and fantastical world of shojo manga to get to the truth, “reality” as it were, with lots of mind-screwy, allegorical moments to get it done.

  • Mecha Anime – Mobile Suit Gundam and The Gundam Franchise

Of course, giant robots were a thing long before this series hit the ground. But the genre itself focused mostly on the Rule of Cool principle, with unruly and unrealistic robot designs that were impractical at best, impossible to work with at worst. Several shows in the 90s poked fun at that fact, and at the overall sentai-ish nature of it, but one series decided to “fix-it” with a hard-science approach.

Mobile Suit Gundam looked hard at how these kinds of robots would function and what a war involving them would really look like. It wasn’t a fun series; it took a very hard look at how a war would harm the surrounding people and areas and you got a whole crapload of technobabble to make a Star Trek fan blush. This set the stage for the rest of the Gundam franchise, in which the robots have gotten fancier-looking and the stories have continued to be hard drama. Of course, outliers will exist, with shows that returned to traditional giant robot escapades… I believe I named one of them as my guilty pleasure.

Childhood Nostalgia Powers, GO!

What anime do you know that broke the stereotypes to smithereens? Feel free to share below. Like and follow for more content just like this.

 

Otome Review: Stardew Valley

Been awhile since I did one of these. That’s been mostly due to a lack of material from the recently passed NANOREN, where a good deal of the entries had to be either a demo or unfinished. So we’ll do what must be done and play the only one that caught my eye but, for now, let’s talk about one of the most successful indie games on the market: Stardew Valley.

Naturally I preface this with the fact that this game is, of course not specifically aimed at girls and has far more to it than the relationship elements. But, since it’s listed on several Otome websites, and it plays to wish-fulfillment like nobody’s business, we’re gonna discuss it. This game is Harvest Moon on steroids, guaranteed to make you waste your life away in the best way. It’s almost impossible to believe this game was programmed and illustrated by one guy.

This is Stardew Valley, the runaway success that will take you in, cuddle you, and refuse to let you leave.

 

  • Plot

 

Much like the original Harvest Moon, our plot centers around the start of a new life. And, of course, it begins with the ending of another life. Spoiler Alert: Grandpa’s dead. Before he passes, he gives you an envelope to be opened when you feel your spirit crushed by the burden of modern life.

Such a “happy” start…

An lo, you find yourself miserable while working your job at the soulless JoJa Corp, our resident Evil Corp with Traces of We Will Assimilate You. Fed up, you open the envelope to discover the deed to your Grandpa’s farm in Stardew Valley, next to Pelican Town. Pack’em up and head out kiddies;, it’s time to get back to nature! I mean yeah, your farm is a debris-covered swatch but it’s your debris-covered swatch, so get your tools and get going.

 

  • Gameplay

 

Oh, sweet butterball turkey, where do I start?

If you don’t think that upon stepping out of your tiny house, then you’ve probably played this game before several times. Because you are quite literally given the keys to your own place, a handful of means to get there, and only a few directions of what to do first. It’s your farm, kiddies, and you have a crap-ton of options to get it going. Your first project: make a character you can stand to look at for several hours, because there are no redos unless you wanna befriend the town wizard and shell out some cash.

Yes, there is a wizard. You’ll see.

Char.Creation

Once you solve that conundrum, you’re given a bag of 15 parsnip seeds and released into the open world. Minecrafters of the world will delight when they realize they now have a debris-covered slate to build off of. You can hoe the ground to plant and grow seeds; you can chop down trees and smash rocks to get wood and stone for building; you can use said resources to make kegs, preserve jars and other farm sundry; you can take what you have to the local carpenter to build coops and barns. If farming’s not your business, you can forage for food and resources to do all of the above. A few days later, you’ll also find you can fish or go mining in caves, slaying monsters.

Harvest

But this game is a spiritual successor to Harvest Moon so, naturally, there’s a social element to complete the Farm Life Simulator™. The game sets a mission for you to introduce yourself to most of the townsfolk, bachelors, bachelorettes, and most of your vendors. You quickly learn that the social element is extremely important to this game as each character has a carefully crafted personality, well-drawn sprites, and even their own storylines you can follow by befriending them. Just like other games of this caliber, you will befriend them by giving them gifts they like (feel free to use the wiki) and occasionally participate in personal quests. And, as always, there’s at least five bachelors and five bachelorettes you can marry with enough gifts and the right trigger items, and each one has a unique personality and set of Heart Event cutscenes. Granted, they all do the same thing once you marry them, but I appreciate the effort they do get.

Kiss Scene

I picked Elliot, because I, too, am a mushy romantic.

But hold your horses, cowboy. You see, just like Harvest Moon games past, you have a mission here. You see, JoJa has a big supermarket set up in town and they’re interested in the dilapidated community center, which has some seriously supernatural guests inside. These creatures of the forest, called Junimos, are willing to leave provided you can give them some gifts from the land in little care packages. Thus, you’ll collect the items they request and they’ll fix up the place. You can get all the rooms fixed up… or you can side with JoJa and have the place sold.

 

  • Art

 

Because this game was a spiritual successor to Natsume’s original game in the Harvest Moon series, it has an extreme super nintendo look. Everything is displayed in bright, paint-like colors with pixelated in-game sprites and very detailed portraits for all dialogue. Said pixel-sprites are also animated for certain things, be it reading a book or playing the flute, adding yet another layer of uniqueness to each character. In short, this game is super easy on the eyes as you roam around and get to know your community.

Pelican Town

 

 

  • Romance Options

 

And, in true fashion to this game’s progenitor, some of those people you meet can become your sweetheart-to-be. As mentioned, there are ten partners you can meet and fall in love with, no matter your gender, and each one has their own unique storyline. They act about the same once you marry them but, for once, they also make themselves useful. Your partner will occasionally water crops, feed animals, fix fences, and even make coffee. It’s a nice touch and I think it makes starting a family in-game totally worth it.

Since there are quite a few here that I don’t wanna spoil, we’ll just give a brief summary and let you make your pick.

 

Elliot

Elliott-Portrait_192px

Elliot came to Stardew Valley about a year before you, deciding to commit hard to being a writer. He looks like he stepped out of a romance novel and almost behaves as such, making lots of poetic statements about life, the valley, and, yes, you. He’s a gentlemen first and foremost, but just struggling with the burden of living in a small shack, all alone, pouring over his new novel. He just wanted someone to talk to, providing an awesome but schmaltzy experience for his pursuers.

Sam

download If one can ignore Sam’s ridiculous hairstyle, one will find a reasonable, easy-going, guy who’s had to grow up real fast. With his dad off in the war (because there is one, not that it’s talked about much,) Sam has risen to the occasion to help his mom with the house and his little brother, Vincent. But Sam does have the ambition to start a band with his best buddy, Sebastian, and an unfortunate penchant to start projects without finishing them. In short, he’s the kind of guy most people would seek out in real life but doesn’t have much to offer here.

 

Sebastian

Sebastian-PortraitMeanwhile, you might miss the valley’s other resident hermit, the emo-tastic Sebastian. He’s got an unfortunate tendency to hide away in his room for very long stretches, typing away on the computer and only ever coming out for food, rain, or nighttime air.  But there are some legitimate reasons for Sebastian’s self-imposed isolation and you’ll quickly find there’s a cute nerd hiding in that black sweater. Sebastian will not be for everybody, but I feel he’s worth the work.

 

Shane

Shane-Portrait_192pxMeanwhile, you will get a very rude reception from the overworked Shane, Marnie’s niece. He helps out with the chicken farm, so she can’t complain, but he’s starting to show some very worrying signs. From alcohol dependence to psychological depression, Shane is a project that will require lots of patience to slowly warm him up; it’s a real turn-around story and it has a lot of potential, albeit a lot of predictability.

 

Alex

downloadAlex is the jock and was a quick lesson for me not to judge people too much on first impressions. He’s arrogant and brash on first meeting, mostly to hide a lot of deep wounds on the inside. His story is about what you’d expect: encourage him to pursue his dreams in being a professional ball-player, teach him not to be so arrogant and ultimately help him move on from the tragedy in life. It’s just a shame that there’s no real class or style to Alex, at least not to me, so I don’t see myself adding him to my usual playthroughs.

Harvey

Harvey-Portrait_192px Last, but certainly not least, is the resident “sensitive man” in town, and the doctor to boot. He’s the older bachelor, and respected in the Stardew Valley community, but there’s, yet again, a hidden sadness in him that only love can heal. It’s mushy, true, but there’s a real sincerity here to his path that fans of the series find super endearing. He’s kind, compassionate, and a real sweetheart; that’s more than enough for several of the fans.

 

Abigail

Abigail-PortraitAll those nerdy, adventuring types have quite the treat available to them. Abby has always been estranged from her more traditional family. She dyed her hair; she practices swordplay; she loves to make snoo-goons and chase frogs; and she’s an absolute gamer girl. You’ll have to be patient and open-minded if you wanna impress her, but it will be very much worth the wait. She’s the kind of girl I’d rush to make a close friend of in real life.

 

Emily

Emily-Portrait_192px Meanwhile, we have a slightly newer add to the marriage list. Emily, who works at Gus’s Saloon and makes her own clothes in her spare time, is the older sister of another bachelorette. She’s this town’s resident bohemian type, talking of good vibes, energy, and eating naturally. But you quickly learn she’s ACTUALLY in tune with the spiritual aspect of her universe, making her far more interesting. And, while she’s a bit oblivious – with optimism that will get grating on overuse – I believe she’s a pretty solid candidate.

Haley

Haley-Portrait_192px Meanwhile, her sister does not inspire too many positive feelings in me. I see what she was supposed to be: the conceited, formerly rich, girl who needs to shed her superficiality to become a fun-loving, free-spirited, woman. The problem comes in that her story doesn’t really show that transition as well as it should have. There are not a lot of lessons learned with her, nor do you do much, if anything, to ingratiate yourself to her beyond opening a jar for her. I feel like Haley’s story is in need of some fluffing because, let’s face it, it feels rushed.

Maru

Maru-Portrait_192pxIn the less appearance-based sector, we have Sebastian’s half-sister, Maru, born from Robin’s second marriage. She wishes the two of them were close, but has a happy enough existence making cool gadgets and helping Harvey at the clinic. She’s bright, optimistic, smart and ambitious; maybe she’s a perfect match for a new farmer in town looking for a little love? It’s one of those “earn the attention of the smart-person” scenarios, which I have gone for before, so props there. Would have loved to see some resolution between her and Sebastian, but the end result is still nice.

 

Penny

Penny-Portrait_192px

 Meet Cinderella, er, sorta. Penny lives in a tiny trailer with her mother, Pam. Pam is a drinker prone to being cantankerous due to the loss of her job as a bus driver, so she spends her days at the saloon while Penny stays home and does lots of chores. But she also takes time to educate Jas and Vincent, the local kiddies, and has dreams of starting her own big family. She’s our “dream of a housewife” candidate (which is a perfectly fine life-goal) and just as sweet as can be, so I encourage new players to give her a try.

Leah

Leah-Portrait_192px But far from least is Leah, the artist who’s also living as a hermit in the middle of nature. She left the city to become an artist, a sculptor, and she needs someone to give her a little extra boost of confidence. It’s up to the player to encourage her to sell her art in one way or another and maybe win her heart in the process. And, if that isn’t romantic enough for you, you may very well have to deal with the dreaded ex-partner. Leah’s story feels more complete and quite sweet, compared to a few others.

  • Final Thoughts

 

If I have not made it clear how much I love this game, let me make it clear now: I have never played any game in my library as long as I have played Stardew Valley. This game is beautiful, engrossing, and just plain fun for someone like me, and I adore just about every inch of it. If you want an experience you can disappear in, building a farming enterprise from scratch while exploring a very complex group of people, then do yourself a favor and buy this game.