How Good Anime Goes Bad

So, there’s a show you like, or that at least shows some real promise in the first few episodes. You’re hooked, you’re excited, maybe you even follow it for a substantial period of time. And then it starts to decay; it makes decisions that send it spiraling down in quality. Before you know it, the show sinks to rock-bottom and becomes infamous for its utter failure.

This kind of disaster forces me to approach every show I love with cautious enthusiasm. Even Castlevania, which has so much promise in its first three episodes, could go downhill really fast through some very hard to avoid pitfalls. Though I’m desperately hoping not; there’s so much bad-ass metal in one place here.

More of this, I beg you

But what exactly are these dangerous mistakes that cause anime to trip and fall into the pit of despair? Probably several, but there are at least four I can think of that are almost always a death sentence. They aren’t easily avoidable, nor are they out of nowhere. But they are most certainly bad moves.

  • Doesn’t Know When to Stop

I’ve covered this once before, a very long time ago. In a post I titled “Survive or Stagnate,” I talked about what happens when a show overstays its welcome without good stories to compensate. However, if you can provide some decent action and characters, you can ususally keep it going. But even those shows have a point where a story has reached its “end,” and any stretching past that point will be nothing short of horror.

Yes, even One Piece is starting to stretch its welcome a little (pun intended).

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Thankfully, the two shows with greater guilt in this category finally packed up and moved on… mostly.  Both Bleach and Naruto were infamous in being excruciating in length, which meant awful decisions for the plot, characters you can’t be bothered to remember, and so many subplots woven into the main plot it’ll take forever to unwind. And Naruto has made a comeback no one asked for by continuing with the second generation.

In short,  if you can’t keep your audience entertained for umpteen episodes – and it takes some serious chops to do so –  you’re better off cutting your losses as soon as possible.

  • Plain Old Bad Story Decisions

Making an anime out of a good, but unfinished, source material can have some unforeseen consequences.  What a manga can accomplish in a few chapters a show can do in a single episode, maybe two. It’s very common for anime to bypass the source material, but they have to keep the show going. So they often create their own plots that anger their audiences.

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Damage control ensues

The picture is apropos, as I feel Fullmetal Alchemist’s 2003 iteration is a perfect example of what not to do when you run out of manga and have a looming deadline. The show made significant changes to the story that, while green-lighted by the original mangaka, were horrible narrative-wise. It changed around major character motivations, completely altered the personalities of others, and introduced new ones that were utterly pathetic in comparison. I won’t spoil much more, as there are likely still some who wanna see it themselves, but most anime consumers hold FMA 2003 as a prime example of adaptational mishap.

  • Expanding Where Expansion Wasn’t Needed

Sometimes, an adaptation is a great place to play around with characters and ideas the source material didn’t. However, sometimes it risks wasting the time of your consumer when the expansion is not only unnecessary but ultimately adds nothing. Warning: the next paragraph will contain a spoiler, though,  not one of great significance.

But still, if you do care, skip to the next section. I understand.

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Now, the anime for D. Gray Man was starting to lose me for quite some time. About midway into the anime, things began to drag real bad and the plot was starting to make me twitch with its treatment of The Noah. The final cherry on top that made me quit came in the form of a single episode dedicated to the backstory of the minor character, Daisya Barry. It wasn’t a bad episode by any stretch, but it became utterly useless and pathetic when, in the beginning of the very next episode, Daisya dies.

Ooooooh no!

Now, I may very well try this anime again, but this move was just cheap. There’s plenty of organic, tear-jerker moments in the anime; attempting to wring out extra just feels like a manipulation of my emotions. This poor excuse for shock also served no narrative purpose in the end and I don’t approve of my time being wasted.

  • Tonal Changes are Not Your Friend 

Finally, we come to the biggest and, in my opinion, the most heinous of pitfalls for a good anime to traverse. Because, at the end of the day, the tone of the adaptation is what I judge more than anything.

“Tone” is a dubious concept in media, but everyone can agree that it refers to the overall theme of a media piece. If an adaptation can successfully capture the same tone of the previous work than I’m likely to be more forgiving, even with some story changes. Hell, I can even forgive a small tonal shift if it keeps with the same overall feel of the source material. But what I don’t usually forgive is a tonal change that is the antithesis of the starting point. If the original work was actively working against this kind of theme, then I shouldn’t see it in adaptation.

You know, like a Death Note adaptation about an angsty teen ruining his life as opposed to two geniuses in a cat-and-mouse fight for the world.

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Hard sigh

Of the anime I’ve seen, Hellsing’s original incarnation drifted into this territory the worst. The manga was never intended to be super-serious horror or a slow-build horror; it certainly never wanted to be “deep.” It was more of the Evil Dead variety, with a high body-count,  bat-crap crazy characters doing increasingly ludicrous things, and a crazy-awesome but oddly spooky plot. The first anime, however, aimed for a more traditional horror feel; it leeched out most of the blood and practically sedated the violently insane Alucard.

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Oh yes, do tell me how seriously I take my job

At its heart, Hellsing was never meant to be taken seriously. Trying to make a story about an overpowered, fight-hungry vampire mowing through a nazi-army serious is a failure waiting to happen. Fans couldn’t clamp down on the OVA fast enough.

  • In The End, There Are No Easy Solutions

Whether it be a want to keep the popular show going, or just a lack of material on hand, it’s inevitable some kind of problem will arise. And while I can’t provide any “easy solutions” to avoiding these problems, I can say that I respect any show that acknowledges its mistakes, knows when its welcome is over and takes in feedback rather than putting itself in a tiny bubble.  When all’s said and done, all we can do is sit back and hope the writers are on the ball for as long as it takes.

 

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Otome Review: Tailor Tales Beta

Back when I attended public high school, I took an advanced art class for about two years.  The day I always dreaded was Thursday, because the other students and I were required to meet in the art room during our lunch period to critique and go over what we were working on that week. The idea was to figure out what was working and what needed improvement, though a few of my classmates just used it to be vicious to people they didn’t like.

And I was a frequent target. I wanted to think I just had a lot to improve on, but even the teacher noticed that I couldn’t get much of a good word, even when I’d significantly improved.  It was, needless to say, frustrating.

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Just gave me one of those days… 

While that certainly sucked, the critiques still gave me the most important lesson: without a fresh pair of eyes telling you what you could fix, you’ll never get better. And so I decided to tackle someone’s second draft, one which I believe has amazing promise. Tailor Tales: Beta is a game that looks to combine what I like about a sim and a visual novel, and  I am excited about what’s coming next. 

  • Plot

We play a young woman named Josalina Hearth, or any other name you decide to give her. She’s an aspiring fashion designer and finally gets to open up her own fashion boutique thanks to a sizable inheritance from her grandmother. She’s even using Gram-Gram’s sewing machine, one of her most treasured gifts.

Botique

And from there, it all depends on which guy is your target. The beta only has two stories to explore, with only one complete path for the time being. But, by my count, the finished project will have six unique takes on the concept. And, after playing through the one finished story in the beta, these are likely gonna be 20+ chapters each. If the author can pace herself and pull it off, we’ll have a great game on our hands.

  • Gameplay

The idea of being a pretend fashion designer drew me into the game since clothes have been a secret weakness of mine. Even better, the game allows you to create your ultimate self-insert by changing the names, making a custom avatar that will show up in a few CG’s, picking the name for the shop, and even design clothes for yourself. You had my curiosity, Tailor Tales, and you made good use of my attention.

Customization

In the game, you have to earn money to progress to your bachelor’s next chapter. You get money by designing clothes for clients, where you pick shirt type, the neckline, the sleeves, the hem, and even fun patterns. The money you earn from client orders can also be used to buy more options and make more complex pieces.  You also earn experience with each order, which means more money per customer. I was told in the tutorial that clients would start asking for things I’d have to buy sometimes, but I only saw the things I purchased myself appearing in the orders. I prefer this, personally, as it makes it more streamlined.

Design Process

As for the in-game story, it functions like other visual novels with a tiny twist. Every so often, you’ll be prompted to choose between two options: the “fierce” option and the “kind” option. You can pick either and you’ll get one of two endings depending on which you favored. There is no bad ending, which does take the bite out of making decisions, but it does allow you to focus on the design game more. The story also occasionally triggers an “important” order for the in-game store, where you can’t move forward until you design it. It’s a clever way to tie the two modes together, and I hope it gets expanded in the final product.

Choices Choices

All in all, the gameplay concept is pretty solid. The only issues I really was the actual design process. It’s pretty streamlined, but it gets really cumbersome when you have more options to choose from. Furthermore, making a plot important item got REALLY hard because I had a difficult time figuring out which glitter I was specifically supposed to have and which colors.  But this is easily fixable, maybe with some labels on the order and some grouping of the colors, so no real points lost.

What even - Customer requests

Points gained back for the clients’ random clown tastes while we’re at it
  • Art

This game’s biggest strength has always been its art. These CG’s are freaking gorgeous; the colors really pop and they actually look like more detailed renderings of the sprites. I never used to think that was something I’d have to give credit for until last week, so props to the author. Also, it’s a tiny thing, but the characters actually blink during the CG’s. It’s a tiny thing that sounds insignificant but it somehow makes the images feel more dynamic.

I can’t capture that, alas, but aren’t both of these adorable?

The only real complaint I had is that my Avatar didn’t feature in as many of them as I thought. Granted, only one story is finished, so I may get more later on. I definitely want to see more, so that’s a good sign.

  • Romances

Neil Forrester

Neil

Selecting Neil starts you with mini-Josalina, estranged Tomboy who’d rather roll in the mud than wear girly clothes. This free-spirited child runs away to the park one day, only to meet a fellow purple-haired runaway named Neil. The boy says he’s left home because they force him to wear stiff formal clothes and behave like a proper gentleman. While he does eventually get taken back to that awful place, the time they spent playing together left an astounding impression on him. It’s just a shame that he thought Joselina was a ‘he’ as well, and isn’t too happy to see “her” several years later.

There will be no friendship right off the bat here, because Neil is a damaged good. His Draculin parents have cultured him to be a cold businessman, and he has one of the nastiest cruel streaks I’ve seen thus far. But, after spending a great deal of time on Neil’s story – he’s the only one finished – I can see that there is a strong-willed, flirty guy nestled somewhere under all that salt. He’s a bit more mean than I prefer for my “hot jerk” characters, but I can safely say that what’s waiting on the other side will be worth it.

Dimitri Kotov

Dimitri

This one’s more of a first look, as he doesn’t have a finished story. But what I did see of the super shy Dimitri was so sweet I knew I had to say my piece. Dimitri’s story revolves around Joselina’s college sweetheart. Er, sorry, former sweetheart, because you don’t get to keep the goods when you flirt around with other women on a dating app behind your girlfriend’s back. It’s been a long time since Joselina’s dated or trusted any guy, and she’s more than a little shocked when she runs back into her ex’s little brother.

He went from gangly and awkward to tall, toned and extremely awkward.  Watching Dimitri blush and squirm when you flirt is oddly charming, but the premise itself doesn’t quite sit with me. Joselina invites Dimitri to stay in her shop’s spare room; that way he can get out of his parents’ house while attending culinary school. But the idea of falling for someone who was always like a little brother to you was just never my thing and I felt more protective than I did romanced. But, since that’s more of a taste issue, I’m sure someone else will adore his route once it’s finished.

  • Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the Tailor Tales Beta has me super excited. I adore the idea of running a real shop in-game, the promised diversity of the cast, and I approve of how steamy things got midway. My bug report would ultimately be that the clothing design process could be smoothed out a bit more, but everything looks solid otherwise.

 

Next Time: Magical Otoge Ciel

Anime Genres You Saw Without Knowing

Making a piece of media is often like making a stew. No one really ever sits down to create a single-genre piece – exclusively fantasy or exclusively action – and instead you often get a blended piece of three or five different genres. Most media also sticks to the traditional genres more often than not with only a few oddball names: Sword and Sorcery for Fantasy, Soft vs. Hard Sci-Fi, and so on.

But anime is especially prone to very specific, very interesting genres: slice of life, magical girl, seinen, shounen, etc. This inevitably means that there is likely a repeated trope in anime that, surprise surprise, is an entire genre. 

And you’ve likely watched it without even knowing about it.

I have three anime genres you have probably seen, time and time again, and had no idea they even had a name. Some of these are extremely popular back in the motherland, and some of these are slightly more obscure, but they’re probably slipped into some of your favorite anime. Because making any anime is like making a multilayer cake, and some are bound to share the same cream-filling.

  • Sentai

No, this is not the rated M genre. Who knew one letter could make all the difference?

At any rate, Sentai translates into “Task Force” or “Squadron” and applies to shows that feature color-coded superheroes. They’ll usually be wearing the tight spandex suits with helmets, do a lot of synchronized posing, and focus much more on a team dynamic than on individual warriors. It’s a subgenre of the “Tokusatsu” genre, which deals with more sci-fi, fantasy genres since they require more special effects (the term literally translates to “special filming” according to Wikipedia.) This is also the genre where the American show, Power Rangers, came from. It started as the Japanese TV show Super Sentai.

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See? Posing and color-coded

As silly and archaic as the genre may seem, the high energy and cheese involved are extremely infectious.  As such, other genres borrow from it, especially when aiming for younger kids: Sailor Moon, Voltron, even Cyborg 009. If you found yourself watching anime with a large group of heroes – especially in the nineties – you probably watched some Sentai. Don’t worry – this is the one you don’t have to hide from your parents.

  • Iyashikei

So hey, I’m sure you’ve had quite the hard day today. Why don’t you sit down, relax, and let the soothing sounds of anime drift all your worries away? Because nothing says “anime” like a little soul healing.

Iyashikei or “healing”  anime is about a soothing, tranquil atmosphere, heartwarming moments, and just general, feel-good stuff. Iyashikei isn’t gonna give you those dramatic, compelling narratives that keep you on the edge of your seat. Rather, they want you to relax and feel all warm and bubbly inside. They often deal with the “lovely” parts of life, be it parenthood, childhood, the nostalgic parts of high school, etc.

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Like the anime is giving you a sweet hug

Now, Iyashiki isn’t as common as the other two, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen a few if you like romance anime, slice-of-life school anime, and even a few Moe pieces. Think of an anime that’s less about the plot and more about making you smile and feel better about your day and you have the basic concept. All in all, there’s a good chance you’ve seen an Iyashiki if there’s an anime that never fails to make you smile and never gives you that “punch in the gut” feeling.

  • Jidaigeki

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Our last entry is cheating slightly because it’s really not “obscure” in the traditional sense, nor is it strictly anime. However, I’m almost positive that the majority of mainstream anime watchers haven’t heard the term before or knew how diverse it really was. So, consider this my one free pass.

Now then, into historical romanticism.

Jidaigeki refers to Japanese period pieces, in the same vein as Regency-era pieces and American Westerns. They often present a very dramatic, nostalgic version of Japanese past (often ranging from the early Heian Period into early Meiji Restoration) or a very action-packed, bloody version. Personally, I’m loathed to call it ” the historical genre” because I see period pieces as less about actual historical events and more about using the setting to tell its own story. Exceptions abound, naturally, but that’s how I see Jidaigeki.

I’d rather call Samurai Champloo a period piece than historical fiction, even without the anachronisms.

This genre is another one that often bleeds into other genres all the time and serves more as a blanket over several other supportive structures. It’s because it’s so pervasive that Otaku ought to familiarize themselves with it. Lots and lots of anime will set themselves into Japan’s bloody but beautiful history, twisting and playing with it in increasingly creative fashions. It’s so pervasive, in fact, that Rurouni Kenshin was created as a deconstruction of the genre.

Final Thoughts

To wrap things up, discovering the inner workings of anime and anime genres can be a fun exploration of writing and creativity. There are tropes and conventions that will repeat themselves, likely enough to become their own genres, but it all ultimately comes down to what the creator does with them. A Sentai-Romance will have more luck than just a pure Sentai show or a pure Romance show, and much more.

I, for one, am excited to see what more animators and writers can do with these genres and several more.

 

What are some of your favorite anime genres? Any that often go together? Feel free to chat in the comments below and don’t forget to follow for more content just like this.

Otome Review: Princess Battles

There’s one quick way to catch my attention with a visual novel: add a competition.

Most Otomes tend to be stat-builders: you click here and you build up the numbers so you pass an obstacle and get your man of choice. It’s a solid formula but it can also get pretty damn repetitive when you play a lot of them. So, something that adds a new mechanic will usually garner more eyeballs. However, whether it succeeds or not will still depend on the story and characters.

Thus, Princess Battles caught my interest for its competition mechanic, which made it more RPG-like. But I found out, after some time, that the game may not have the chops to stand up under the sudden pressure.

  • Plot

You play Lilian, princess of a minor kingdom. Sadly, you are terrible at your job. Airheaded and absent-minded, you lack the proper charm, intellect, and decorm to be a proper princess. So, naturally, your parents are eager to send you away and manage to get a handsome prince to propose to you. Just a shame you turned him down loudly and flatly.

Proposal Scene

Lillian suspects her parents wanted to replace her with Oliva, a well-loved and talented warrior whose bested everyone at the local competition. After all, the famous warrior, Olivia, has won all the competitions the kingdom has. But she hasn’t won at one, final contest: The young ladies card game known as Prima. Lillian knows she’s not perfect, but she won’t sit by and be switched out so easily. If Lillian can become a Prima master, maybe she can win back the favor of the people and prove she’s not useless after all.

  • Gameplay

As I teased above, this game’s biggest draw is the aforementioned competitive Prima matches. The teaser on their website boasts this as something different from the stat collect-a-thons in other titles, ironic and somewhat deceptive given the nature of Prima itself. Still, this does add an RPG element to things; this gamer-nerd appreciates that.

Prima itself seems like a stereotypical fit for the Otome-audience, but still engaging enough. The goal is to raise your three stats – Charm, Refinement, and Intelligence – to a certain number before your opponent does (like I said, a bit deceptive). Each item card you have will raise one or the other by a different value. This includes things like a book, a teacup, a handkerchief, a pretty dress and even a tiara. You can also give your stats a hefty bonus through “class” cards, such as a poetry class, a mathematics class, and so on. 

Prima1

But slow your roll, cowpoke. Each of these cards cost in-game money to spend, and you have a finite amount. You can get more with job cards, like a farmer or a maid, but those also cost in-game energy. You can build those up through food cards like fruit or cake, and then take the job to earn more money. Sometimes, classes cost energy as well, so you’ll have to pick your cards wisely. There are also attack cards – which lower your opponent’s stats – and several special cards to make the game easier (coupons, shields, scholarships, etc). It’s a very intricate game that a had a lot of work put into it and I can respect that.

Prima2

When you aren’t playing Prima, the story will carry you through the usual suspects of any Otome game. You’ll have moments where you have to pick a response to a question/situation, and your decision will have an impact on the main plot. These decisions also decide which lad you’ll end up with in the end, though I picked a few wrong choices and still got whomever I was aiming at. That’s because I made sure to visit them in the area they hung out in, on the handy-dandy map.

Hub

When you finish the game with your chosen one, sometimes you’ll earn yourself a little story. You can read them at the main menu, which will expand upon the ending you got in the main story. After that, there’s a free-play mode where you can trade, play the guard game, and other various things. Some of the romance options can only be found here as well, so, it’s good to keep free-play in the back of your mind.

Stories

  • Art

First impressions of the art were decent. The characters looked attractive; the colors are bright, and the imagery is super cute shojo style. The artwork on the cards is especially nice, with a cool baroque look to it. But, as I continued playing the game, I began to notice that something was amiss. It hit me then that the artwork for the CG’s and the sprites don’t match. 

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Would you be able to tell that this was the same character?

This is mildly distracting, as the CG’s are kinda like the cream-filling of any Otome. But since CG’s are rare in this game, it only served as a minor distraction.

  • Romance

    Lucian

Lucian

As per the norm of being a princess, you’ve been given a tutor.  He’s responsible for prepping the princess to be a queen, and he may very well have failed.  That being said, he’s gonna do what he can to help Lillian pursue her card-career. Or, perhaps he’s helping because of other more personal reasons, the same one that caused him to fail his one job. Is there something more lurking under that scholar’s robes? Well, besides the obvious?

Dirty jokes aside, Lucian is a decent twist on the “Commoner vs. Royal” romance trope. He’s constantly telling you that whatever’s going on between you is wrong, that you both have your responsibilities, etc. My biggest complaint, however, is that I can’t really find much chemistry between him and the lead.

Edmond

Edmond

Hey, remember that suitor you turned down because your parents sprung it on you like it was no big deal? Well, turns out you turned down one of the country’s best and most wanted bachelors, who just so happens to be a decent guy. What he lacks in a flashy personality, he makes up for in strict attention to his duties and impeccable manners. Maybe, just maybe, Lillian can find something to like about him if she puts the sudden proposal aside. After all, ‘popular with the ladies’ doesn’t always equal a jerkass ladies-man. Sometimes it’s just a friendly, supportive face.

Unlike Lucian, I felt some real chemistry between Lillian and Edmond. He’s no stick-in-the-mud, but his life could certainly still use some sprucing up from someone like her. It’s not a perfect match, but it’s quite charming to watch.

Ignatius

Ignatious

Now, this is a weird one, so try to follow me. Considering the length of the story, and how little time you spend with the other two bachelors, it’s difficult to imagine time to get to know anyone else. And indeed, there isn’t, thus you have to get a little Meta.

Iggy here is the referee at the Prima Tournament towards the end of the plot. If you act in a mature fashion, show great promise in Prima, and end the game as a single-woman,  you have a shot with this representative of the major kingdom. Spam the Trade function in free-play mode you’ll meet him again, where the cool-looking and uber-serious Ignatius will try to ask Lillian out and look pretty awkward in the process. With an ending that felt super underwhelming, I can’t say I recommend our unique choice this time around.

Gerald

Gerald

And, lastly, we have what I consider to be the best option in the entire game: the shady guy hiding in the shadows. This caped fellow with the sharp tongue is Gerald, an illegal card trader who runs the transportation between Lillian’s Kingdom and the floating island of the ancients. He’s not too thrilled that you tricked him into thinking you were a maid, but he’s mighty impressed with your stubbornness, disregard for silly politics, and steadfast determination. In short, he’s the only one here who accepts Lillian as she is.

And it only took us four tries.

No don’t get my wrong, sometimes Gerald can be a thick, wet blanket on all the fun. But he’s a pretty infectious laugh and gets the funniest reactions out of the princess. So, if you want a really unique option that really does make the best use of the plot, I recommend this one.

  • Final Thoughts

Despite my positive notes at the end, I am mildly disappointed in Princess Battles. It has a great idea behind it, and the actual card-games are super fun, but the in-game story leaves something to be desired. I think the price tag’s a little high, but I do recommend the game on sale if you’d like to give the card game part a try. Otherwise, keep in mind that you are buying a story that needed some extra editing. More than likely, I’ll only boot this up in the future to play a few rounds of Prima on Free-Play mode.

Next Time: Tailor Tales Beta

The Real Failure of Death Note (2017)

After an eternity of wailing at the worldwide web, the 2017 Netflix film, Death Note, hit the scene. But it only took one day for dedicated fans to decry it as absolute trash.

It was clear from the get-go that this film would be an experiment with terrible odds. I described in a previous post that I thought a westernized version of Death Note was a waste of time, strictly because what little fans did exist would never accept something so radically different. And, as predicted, hard-core fans of the manga/anime booted the film into the reject pile. In an ironic twist, it was also panned by new watchers everywhere.

In concurrence, my problem isn’t what they left out; it’s what they put in. The problem with the 2017 film is not that it’s a bad adaptation, but that it gives fans a sub par version of the story that may be pretty to look at but is horrible in execution. I didn’t come into this hoping for a faithful recreation of one of my favorite series, but I at least expected something competent.

On the basics, we haven’t changed much. The story still concerns a boy named Light, last name Turner (Natt Wolf), who’s the school’s resident genius. But where Yagami was a charismatic overachiever who got bored and frustrated with the world, Turner is a weak-willed idealist, frustrated at the lack of revenge against his mother’s killer. During a particularly nasty storm, a black book falls out of the sky, labeled “death note.” Light takes the book with him and gets a visit from a Japanese Death God named Ryuk (William Dafoe).  Ryuk explains that Light now has the power to kill anyone by picturing their face and writing their name in the book. Better yet, he can decide how they die with very little strings attached. After testing the book out on the man that killed his mother, Light shares it with Mia, a cheerleader he’s been crushing on (Margaret Qualley). The two decide to come together to kill all the world’s criminals, attracting the attention of the enigmatic and eccentric detective simply known as L (Keith Stanfield).

Here we see the real changes to the characters occur, and they don’t make a lot of sense. Yagami-Version of Light was driven by the same idealism and morality that Turner is, but played a far more active role in his own story. Turner is a passive protagonist with a truly bland presence, there to play windsock to the much more driven Mia and Ryuk. In fact, Mia (the new Misa Amane) feels much more like Yagami than Turner ever did: she’s passionate to the point of insanity, willing to kill to continue her work, and willing to manipulate others for her “greater good.”  With these two switching places in such a bland fashion, one would swear this was an Alternate Universe Fanfic.

And make no mistake, what we are given is bad. It may be hard to follow up one of the best-written shows in anime, but this story doesn’t even come close. We’ve taken a psychological thriller and shoe-horned in a sparkless romance, with a side-order of edgy gore. Leading this debacle of a narrative is a plot-hole of a protagonist; he’s apparently smart enough to construct a successful chain of events to save himself but doesn’t see a problem with reading the death note in public, in broad daylight. Worse yet, we’re expected to believe that this yutz and his girlfriend can outsmart L, an adult genius who practically handed the FBI a drug cartel on a silver platter. This L may be more emotionally unstable and driven by anxiety, but he’s not nearly stupid enough to lose to these two.

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The last known viewing party

The shaky ground that this film had was that it was marked as a “new story,” a new interpretation with a twist. In fact, the original creators of the series praised the film as being innovative and beautiful, and were excited about those who’d never seen their story seeing it now. In a way, Ohba and Obata were right; people are enjoying Death Note. They’re just seeking out the show and manga to see if it was the same visual disaster the film was. No joke, the day I sat down to watch this film, Death Note anime was trending hard-core on Netflix.

Adam Wingard may be confident, but you cannot cover up a bland protagonist and flat story with claims of originality and re-adaptation. In the end, Death Note 2017 was just another clunky, horrific live-action adaptation of a good anime. Another one bit the dust and no one was really shocked, me least of all. 

Otome Review: Pink Rage

First thing’s first: my sincerest apologies for this horrifically late post. I recognize the unprofessionalism behind it and steps will be taken to prevent it from happening again. Secondly, I apologize… but I don’t like tsundere characters.

If you’re out of the anime loop, a tsundere is a type of female character who has a bit of a split personality. They may be mean spirited to everyone but their love interest, or maybe nice to everyone else but not the person they like. Either way, it involves one female being angry and violent a good chunk of the time. It’s supposed to fill out a “slap, slap, kiss” kind of fantasy but I never understood the appeal of it. I find tsundere bitchy and annoying, but, being into the Jerk With a Heart of Gold, I can sorta see where they’re coming from.

That being said, I can also see why a girl would fantasize about being one. The idea of being an absolute jerk to someone, only for them to doggedly hound you, brush it off, and then still find you attractive, is appealing in its own right. So I decided to see if maybe I could get behind this idea in this short, super cheap little Otome I found online: Pink Rage, a Burton-esque game that’s short, kinda sweet, and extremely rough around the edges.

 

  • Plot

 

We begin in medias res (in the middle) with our Corpse-Bride looking main character, Horror. She’s our tsundere, with horrifically sunken-in eyes, and a bunny-backpack a la schoolgirl. She’s trying to concentrate so she can win some “grand trial” but is interrupted by a man with a top-hat, bunny ears, and an eyepatch. Mr. Rabbit, or “Bunny” as she calls him, tells her that her partner is here to meet her. Alas, she has to have a partner to participate in the trial, a fact that she doesn’t take too kindly to. But her Tokyo Ghoul look-a-like partner seems alert and ready, so maybe it won’t be so bad.

Cellphone

At least cell phones still work

What the game reveals, little by little is that we are in the Underworld and that everyone we’ve met is very dead. The Grand Trial is some mysterious task each of them has to do in order to win the right to be reborn and live life again. But something has gone amiss – there is an extra participant in the trial, someone the Higher Powers know nothing about. As our story progresses, we begin to learn that things are far more complicated than they look, and Bunny may not be all that trustworthy.

 

  • Gameplay

 

Let me make it perfectly clear: I am aware that this is someone’s first try at an Otome. Cyboheart did the writing and the character sprites for the game, with help from another with the backgrounds. However, I am of the strong belief that the worst thing you can do to a budding artist not tell them what they can improve on. So, while I am heavily critical of this game, it’s only because I want to see more and see this writer get better.

In that spirit of honesty, I have to admit here and now that I could not get immersed in this game. I had a funny feeling I wouldn’t, given my feelings on the tsundere character, but I had hoped the actual story would overrule it. But, before I could get lost in the world presented, I was slammed into a language barrier. The game was initially in Russian, and the English translations are nothing short of word-salad. I doubted I would have bonded with Horror anyway – given that her constantly angry, egotistical personality is complete-counterintuitive to my own – but this wasn’t helping.

Word Salad Engrish Dressing

My personal tastes aside, the actual gameplay is quite experimental. The main mechanic still centers around making plot important choices in-game, but it’s all contained to the first half. Horror gets three chances to pick one of four locations to build a relationship with a specific character. Each location has a “dialogue path” you follow, with a choice that can earn you a point with that person. You’ll need a certain amount to get the good ending, but figuring out which square is which is really hard. There are no labels on these things of any kind, making it all guesswork.

Map

The halfway point will mark the switch, where things get interesting. Like several others before it, the guy you pick dictates what direction you go in. You’ll be greeted with a still image of that character that shifts into text-crawls that slowly reveal the actual story. Sometimes it’s on a black background; other times, it’s over a different still images. Sometimes STILL, you’ll get a more dynamic, moving image that’s pertinent to the story.

Dynamics PR

In-between these narrative text crawls you’ll advance the plot. Weirdly enough, the plot stops for our main character and takes almost complete fascination with the new character, whoever they may be. We stop learning much about Horror and, instead, learn a crap-ton about Wolf, Chaos, Bunny, and all the others. It’s a mechanic that has potential, I think but is very rough around the edges. That being said, I’m still learning through walls of text on a black background, which is never all that exciting.

Wall o'text

That latter half, despite the oddness, still involves making the right choice when prompted. Make the correct moves and you’ll be reborn again and find your beau in your new life.

 

  • Art

 

So, while I did not take a liking to the playstyle of this game, I do like the artwork. As mentioned, Cyboheart has a style reminiscent of Tim Burton, but with a small anime twist. Horror herself is a super thin, sunken-eyed creature, and Chaos’s big, anime eyes make a great juxtaposition with his toothy mask.

Art-PINK RAGE

My only criticism would be that this style is somewhat lacking with the other three characters. They look fairly traditional in terms of shojo anime, albeit done gorgeously. I’d love to see Wolf, Bunny, and Red Gothed up a bit should this game get a second chance on life, and maybe see the backgrounds take a strange dive.

 

  • Romances

 

Bunny/Mr. Rabbit

Bunny

We begin with the director of the Grand Trial, the ever enigmatic Mr. Rabbit, or Bunny as Horror keeps calling him. Dapperly dressed and mildly playful, Bunny has a bad habit of keeping things hidden from his participants and seems to act like he’s got a little too much on his plate. Furthermore, his growing disinterest with his own little world is growing palpable. But maybe Horror is somehow the bright light in all of this – or at least an entertaining one. Or, even better, maybe she’s his way out.

I didn’t find Bunny all that appealing, or at least not all that enticing. His responses tend to be bland, and he comes off as a parent patiently dealing with a disruptive child. That kind of dynamic never appealed to me, so I would likely pass this one by.

Red

Red

Meanwhile, Red caught my attention a bit better than the others. The shirtless, fisherman looking fella with the messy red hair and the black body tattoos is having none of Horror’s nastiness. He’s an overconfident macho-man who won’t take her insults and ego-spasms. Instead, he matches her word for word in what could have been a very entertaining word battle. Maybe Red won’t put up with such a rambunctious spirit because he’s seen far too many. In short, she’s dealing with an expert in all things dead and magical.

Red is, as you can tell, my favorite. Options that are distinctly feisty and confident are always a big plus. I only really wish his story had gotten a little more embellishment.

Wolf

Wolf

Our close runner-up is our fluffy companion, Wolf. This fellow – while looking like a Visual Kei Cheshire Cat – is our “cool” guy who tends to take everything in stride, including our protagonist. Passive-aggressive and super chill, Wolf tries to be those “still waters that run deep” types alongside some serious tough-guy ‘tude.  But, really, he may very well be keeping a lot of anger bottled up over his rather unusual death.

Wolf is decent, in-game eye candy. But, just like Bunny, his story sometimes fell a little flat. Still, he was the one who was the most “affectionate” of the romance options, so plus there.

Chaos

Chaos

Our last entry is your faithful, albeit whiny partner. He’s a mute who communicates in texts and emoticons, which I found highly adorable. He’s shy, very passive, and just so apologetic it’s hard not to feel sorry for the guy. But you’ll quickly realize that he’s tripping all over himself for one very good reason: he feels guilty. It turns out his story may be very tightly wound with Horror’s, making it all the more important they work together.

As mentioned, Chaos is adorable. He’s sympathetic, as much as the story will allow him to be, but his story feels short compared to the others.

 

  • Final Thoughts

 

Pink Rage was a good idea that needed a second or third draft. The world it’s set in looks really good, and the art in it draws me in. But the clunky language and the short length block me before I can really settle in. The game is only about $1 when all’s said and done, but I would very much like to see this game redone again when the writer has more experience under their belt.

 

Next Time: Princess Battles

Secrets to Success: Rurouni Kenshin

Long, long ago, when Miss Helain was a tiny, budding Otaku, Toonami came to the US and sent a flood of anime down the mainstream. One evening, Ms. Helain decided to stay up past her bedtime and indulge in the cartoons she didn’t understand were for adults. She didn’t get what was going on with half of them, or really get much out of them, until one fateful day. That day, a red-headed samurai laughed as two little girls latched themselves onto his legs to play… and then, a few minutes later, got caught up in a kick-ass sword fight.

Not from that episode, but you get the idea.

That day, I discovered what would be one of my favorite anime to this day: Wandering Samurai Kenshin, or Rurouni Kenshin: A Meiji-Era Love Story. Despite the title that utterly dripped with shojo, I was introduced to the shonen romance anime that set a standard I hold all others to. It had sweet action, great characters, and a mood that was just infectiously fun. It’s not an anime that’s as well known as I’d like it to be (at least not mainstream wise) but it’s one that has a strong, dedicated group of followers.

How’d it earn such dedication? By having its cake and eating it too, of course.

 

  • Know When to Be Funny and When To Be Serious

 

Comedy and drama are on the opposite ends for good reason. And yet, this crazy author managed to squish them together.

I’ve mentioned this whenever I talk about certain shows – Fullmetal Alchemist and Fruits Basket especially – that the best media knows how to combine serious drama and action with hilarious comedy. Going through a series in a never-ending cycle of depression, horror, and angst will turn your audience apathetic real fast, meaning authors have to have a sadness-break every so often. This is where the famed “comic relief” character came to be, saddled with the task of making the consumer laugh before moving onto the next sad-sack moment.

Helps when said relief is also bad-ass.

That being said, authors are leery of putting comedy into serious moments because it can cause mood whiplash. But Rurouni Kenshin has a really good feel for when it’s okay to be funny and when the jokes need to step aside. However, it’s also really good at capping off some really scary, serious moments with pure comedy gold. For example, there’s a moment when Kenshin’s sensei looks like he might die from some kind of poison and we watch as he painstakingly tries to bring him back. When he finally heals up and Kenshin awakens, we get this hilarious scene:

 

  • Hey, Those Sword Fights, Though…

 

It’s impossible to bring up, or create, an anime about a samurai and not talk about the sword fights. This show makes a huge deal about Kenshin’s prowess as a swordsman, despite his derpy, cheery disposition.  So, you’re damn right it has some solid action scenes.

As it’s an anime that advertises itself as a “Meiji Romance” you would think that this show wouldn’t focus all that much on action. And while there is a painstaking amount of time devoted to the characters and the budding relationship (more on that later) Nobuhiro Watsuki made sure to give the action in the manga ample love and care, and that is very much reflected in the anime. The duels are dynamic and explosive, only occasionally guilty of action lines, and guilty of collateral damage. Each fighter gets a chance to shine and it’s all very flashy.

Some of the best ones below – mild spoilers.

 

  • Romance When You Weren’t Looking

 

While you, gentle reader, were eyeballing those historical swords, flying sparks, and scary assassins, you may not have noticed that Kenshin and his female companion were slowly bonding. Or maybe you just didn’t notice because, rather than shoehorn in a romance, they let the characters bond when there isn’t a sword in their throat.

Er, most of the time

The point is, it took me a long time to realize that Kenshin and Kaoru were becoming a thing, at least until the Kanryu Arc in season two. And even after all that, the romance really is treated like a b-plot: important, but not all encompassing. In short, if you aim to write a romance, great. If not, then don’t let the mushy stuff hog the spotlight.

 

  • Don’t Get The History? No Problem.

 

My last gold star comes to the show’s second genre – “historical.” While Toonami downplayed this particular part of the story, Rurouni Kenshin was marketed in its manga format as a “Meiji-era” romance. In short, it’s a historical fiction piece, and I’m hopefully not about to botch some Japanese history.

The Meiji period in Japan was characterized by an end to the shogunate (which also means the end of the samurai), power being returned to the imperial court, and Japan’s isolationist policies being removed. This came after a very bloody civil war conflict called the Boshin War which our main character, Kenshin, participated in as a professional assassin. While Kenshin’s past as an assassin constantly comes into play during the show, it mainly focuses on the Meiji Restoration time, when modern technology is creeping in and people are either delighted or suspicious.

LIke trains.

If your eyes are spinning by the end of that, worry not; you can survive without fully understanding it. All the show really requires you to know is that Kenshin used to be a hired killer for a big war in the past, and all the blood on his hands has convinced him to never kill again in this peacetime. The show happily explains that carrying swords in the Meiji era is illegal, that a samurai is a thing of the past, and that western ideas are being introduced to both good and terrible results.

See? Evil Japanese businessman in a western suit.

Even if you don’t know the exact details of the history going on here, the show is clever enough to explain the necessary details to prevent the viewers from being completely in the dark. The fact that I had some trouble with it when I was a child is beside the point; it was never really meant for kids. Any adult, young or otherwise, should be able to pick up what they need to know smoothly.

Final Thoughts

Rurouni Kenshin earned its success by experimentation and excellent writing. It took a risk by creating a character that could be difficult to relate to but gave him a good enough heart to endear him. It doesn’t get lost in the action and remembers its main plot, while also producing action that is super cool to look at it. It’s a slower show with a greater emphasis on content than blood, but it produces a wholly unique piece despite it all.

 

Why do you think this show works so well? Do you hate it with every fiber of your being? Whatever the results, feel free to comment below. And don’t forget to like and follow for more content like this.

Otome Review: Chrono Days

It is never a good sign when an artist repeats their work.

Getting the same thing over and over again will quickly turn off your audience, no matter what medium you’re in. It’s why I’ve always admired Otome Creator, Pacthesis, who always strived to introduce a new mechanic into each of her games.  After establishing her style in the first four games she was never afraid to shake things up.

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And I can still remember that first big change she made. It facilitated several more games that always offered something unique, making her one of my favorite creators to this day. I’d like to take today to admire the game that started the whole thing off. Today we play Chrono Days, a time-traveling love story that broke the mold.

  • Plot

Welcome to the city of Reton – The Future. No real date to speak of, just a general period where technology is advanced and humanity is doing pretty damn well for itself. But in a time when we look to improve everything, change our world, and fit it with enough machines to make things easy, does love still hold supreme over all?

Saige, our protagonist, certainly better hope so. Her best friend, Teddy, convinces her to try his older brother’s newest invention: a watch called a Time Jumper. He came up with the device after a strange hole opened up in the sky and agrees to let them give it a try. But something on the watch goes horribly wrong and Saige is hurled 100 years into the past. The local clockmaker is kind enough to let her stay with him, but Saige does not look forward to being stranded in the past.

Homesick

But lucky her, the inventor makes another Time Jumper and she’s rescued before this turns into Back to the Future Part 4.  She’s allowed to keep the Time Jumper, meaning she can remain in the future or visit her new friends in the past. But that time hole is closing soon, so she’ll quickly have to make a choice: stay in the past or find love in the present.

  • Gameplay

So this game was one of the first breaks from the formula with Pacthesis and it really stuck in my mind.  Her games usually feature a hub world where you hop around between buildings, either chatting up the man/woman of your dreams or working to buy them shiny things. And while much of that was retained for Chrono Days, this was the first game that chose to expand the play space, a trend all of her games have followed ever since. Your hub world, this time, is the Time Jumper strapped to your wrist. And not only does it show you all the necessary stats, but it takes you to two different maps with a push of a button. This means double the options and double the gameplay.

Time Jumper

These two maps make a combined eight choices: Two easily accessible and two unlockables each. Each person has a dialogue tree you have to spend HP on to go through by picking the correct response, which earns you ten points each. Sometimes the dialogue was cut off by the box but not enough to really bother me. Talk to them long enough and you’ll be able to give them gifts and, eventually, go out on dates.

Gifts

You buy gifts by working at one of two stores. Most of them get two gifts, sans two unlockable characters, and you gotta buy’em both. Nothing in-game is all that expensive (sans one unlockable character) so experimentation is encouraged. You’ll also wanna track down which of their preferred gifts is the cheapest because each date with them will require you to bring along two. If you manage to appease their dating needs, then you’ll earn 60 points, a nice and quick way to stack relationship points.

Date success

Despite this though, you’ll need to exhaust the dialogue tree. The game ends when you reach day 30, and the time hole has officially closed. Whichever bed you choose to sleep in (i.e the past or the present) is where you’ll be stuck and you’ll have to pick an ending from the available candidates. If you went through their talk-tree and have a lot of relationship points (I found between 760 and 800 to be sufficient) then you’ll get the best ending scene. Your reward will be cheat-codes, all of which are utterly hilarious.

Good ending

  • Art

This is later artwork from Pacthesis, meaning things have improved substantially.

Back when things started, the anime artwork was mildly flat and tended to look cartoony. Now, she settles comfortably in the “shojo” category, with bright colors and cool character designs. However, this was long before she discovered the wonders of tiny, chibi animations and had to settle on stiff, posed characters that moved like paper-puppets.

Still movement

Nevertheless, the artwork has always been one of my favorite parts of each game. I really dug the black and white striped accessories in the past and all the futuristic doo-dads in the future, so no complaints from me.

  • Romances

Nathan Kinsley

Nathan

Upon being unceremoniously dumped into the past, Saige meets Nathan Kinsley, the local clockmaker. Thankfully, he believes Saige when she says she’s from the future and allows her to stay at his place. He even offers to fix the Time Jumper, despite a lack of know-how. Friendly, but formal, Saige admits that she prefers Nathan when he opens up and allows himself to relax. As the two spend more and more time together, will Nathan let himself go so he can fall in love?

That was the hope, anyway. Nathan does loosen up a bit as his dialogue goes on, mostly when you finally hit the dating stage. There, his confidence goes up a bit and he becomes reasonably fun to hang around. If you’re new to Pacthesis games, Nathan’s a good place to start. His personality isn’t too polarizing and he’s reasonably romantic.

Roland Churchill

Roland

If you decide to explore the time period you’re stuck in, you’ll stumble upon Roland, a pilot with a crashed plane. He’s gotta get it fixed up fast so he can get back to his home in the countryside, where he can deliver medicine to his very sick sister. But he’s been stranded here for over a month, so one must question how said sister is doing. But the stuttering, paranoid pilot is determined. But if things should hit the wall, and all things have come crashing down, could he build a new life in Reton?

Roland is shrewd, handy, and a bit closed off. But he’s not our “cold jerk”, but rather a loner who just doesn’t quite know how to bond and form friendships. But if you poke him enough (and sooth him that there aren’t any aliens) then you’ll meet someone protective and sweet.

 

Emmett Stratford

Emmett

At some point in your adventure, you should run into a man on his way to the train, literally. After you two knock noggins, you offer him your handkerchief to help stop the bleeding. He promises to return it someday, all clean, as he quickly hops onto the train. Several days later – day ten, specifically – you’ll see Emmett again with some bandages on his head and a really dopey look on his face. Turns out he almost lost your hanky, so he dove off that train to get it back. Not only has he injured that eye pretty badly, but he’s lost his delivery boy job.

But don’t feel bad; he’s not all that broken up about it.

Emmett is a semi-unlockable character and a doozy at that. Always the victim of bad luck and basically left to his own devices for most of his life, all Emmett really needs is a shrewd partner who can give him some much needed TLC. He’s a sweet choice that seems like a younger, skinnier Nathan, but I always enjoyed his dialogue tree.

Bianca Hays

Bianca

And now, our first real unlockable character. In the past, you’ll find this huge mansion that seems to have no one in it, sans a glass panel with a female figure locked within. But there is a beautiful grand piano that you can play. Hit the right notes and you’ll open that mirror and be introduced to Ms. Bianca Hays, a living doll created by a wizard, left all alone when her “father” passed away. Or, rather, you can go to the website and unlock the cheat codes – would save you a headache.

Bianca is a quiet and polite thing, with all the “innocent waif” vibes you could want. But it’s hard not to sympathize with this immortal doll, left alone for years and longing for a friend. I think they took an easy way out of the whole “immortal problem” but I can appreciate it, given the medium.

Landon Emmrick

Landon

Landon is your best friend’s older brother and current legal guardian. He used to be overweight and wear glasses, but took great pains to eat healthier and even got contacts. He made these changes due to a long time obvious crush on Saige, hoping that she’d finally look at him instead of his little brother. This is undermined, however, by him being debilitatingly shy and suffering from teenage self-loathing.

Despite all that, I found Landon to be rather adorable. Older men are a welcome addition to most Otome players, though they usually come across as more mature and confident than this one does. It’s not exactly my area of interest, but I can see the appeal.

 

Oz

Oz

So, remember I mentioned that one of the romance options was super expensive? At about $300 you can buy yourself the old version of an android called “Oz,” a dark-haired, super tall hunk of a robot. Oz is quiet, patient, and not too energetic, but also curious, unsure of himself, and into adorable things in general. His whole drama comes from one single, but very important question: is it possible for him to be unique? Is he just another robot with a different serial number, or does he have feelings and emotions uniquely his?

What’s interesting about Oz is just how difficult it is to get the good ending. Back in the day, he used to be about $1000, requiring the use of a cheat code to not only unlock him but be able to woo him on time. Now that the price has cut down, it is possible but it requires being super devoted and earning a lot of money. But I figure it’s worth it.

Teddy Emmrick

Teddy

Landon’s younger brother has all the trappings of a plucky childhood best friend. He’s rebellious against the school (then again, you do skip it for about thirty days) and tends to go out of his way to be a general pain. But one thing he is uber serious about is the promise you made as kids with him. You promised that you would get married when you were older so that you could both be happily ever after.

I cannot tell you how eager I was to break this promise. I find Teddy very grating and had to really push myself to give him attention. He’s irresponsible and rebellious in a way that feels hipsterish, and that is never a good sign.

Cole Stratford

Cole

And now we come to my favorite in the ground, and the reason I just can’t be bothered to like Teddy. Cole is our final unlockable character, which you get by meeting his granddad in the past. If you tell that clumsy delivery boy you met in the past to keep your hankie, he won’t come back or lose his eye. Instead, you’ll eventually meet his grandson in the future, the grandson with two prosthetic hands.

Cole is that cool nerd we all really wanna be. He loves video games and comic books, dances at a DDR machine, has a happy-go-lucky personality and is actually quite open about his attraction to Saige. He’s also on the rebellious side, but not in a way I found annoying at all.

 

 

  • Final Thoughts

Chrono Days was an awesome experiment that turned into something amazing. It’s quirky, fun, and absolutely loaded with a hidden story that’s really fun to explore. It was the cornerstone to what became a great trend of trying new game mechanics for Pacthesis and will always hold a very important place in my personal Otome history.

Next Time:  Pink Rage

 

How to Get Into Anime

There was a time when a love of anime marked you as a hardcore nerd. Back when translations weren’t really a thing, the only way to get yourself some Japanese cartoons was to know a bootlegger or become one. But now, you can’t turn anywhere inside the great glass safe we call the internet without smacking into anime anything: memes, gifs, references, homages, etc.

The world-wide-web has allowed fans to gain access to a ton of anime and congregate with others as well. It’s turned us into a passionate lot, almost hyperbolic in nature, which can make it harder for outsiders to really find a footing without being steam-rolled by an over-enthusiastic fan.

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When your best buddy has never heard of that one anime you love…

But really, getting into anime is not nearly as difficult or intimidating as it looks. I found an article on Kotaku with advice on taking those first few steps, but I decided to provide my own advice for the prospective anime seeker. Because while it may look like a bloated cash-cow with overzealous fangirls, getting into it is as easy as starting a new book series.

 

  • Be Prepared

 

Before you can truly enjoy anime, you must be mentally prepared for it.

Overdramatic? Possibly, but it’s no joke to say that anime can be jarring to newbies used to western cartoons and live-action TV. Anime has a double-edged reputation when it comes to content, basically that anything under and beyond the sun is possible. This doesn’t mean you need to steel your mind or spine for “dah horror” but it would be helpful to remember that weird things are commonplace here and that nothing is truly off the table.

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Yup. That’s a man fighting a goat to the death.

In less scary terms, anime is weird and super creative. If you wanna get into it, you need an open mind and a good sense of humor. It’s relatively easy to avoid the novelty anime if you’d prefer, but it never hurts to keep yourself open to the possibilities.

 

  • Watch What You Want

 

There’s a point in the article I must repeat, for I believe it cannot be stressed enough.  Because as soon as you say you’re curious about anime, you will be bombarded with people telling you that “you have to watch x/y/z, it’s a classic!” and so on and so forth. I’ve even been guilty of this myself, several times. We mean well, we really do, but we most of us don’t realize that creating this “thou shalt watch” list for any new anime fans can be super alienating.

“WHY YOU NO WATCH EVANGELLION?!?!?!”

So, to everyone who is looking at those “must-watch” lists uneasily, know that you are only accountable to yourself. If you like Rom-Coms, try something like Fruits Basket; If you like horror, pick up Higurashi or Berserk, and so on. At the end of the day, the point is to enjoy yourself and there’s no point in being bored through 100+ episodes of Naruto if you’re not into shounen. There are truckloads of anime out there and you are only one person, so don’t stress yourself out on what you “must-watch” and watch what you want.

 

  • Start Easy

 

After mentioning that the prospective Otaku should just watch what they want, the article then went to list several recommended series for viewers to plan themselves. They cautioned newbies from hitting long series like Sailor Moon and One Piece since they were long and lore-heavy and boasted hyper-long episode lists. I can somewhat agree, though I question some of his suggested starting places. If you want my recommendations of what to watch in the beginning, feel free to check out my anime starter pack.

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I highly recommend starting with the Brotherhood version of Fullmetal Alchemist, as it deals with a lot of western tropes and fantasy elements that would be easier for new fans to digest.

That being said, I agree that new fans should likely begin with something small and easy to watch. There’s no point in hopping onto One Piece’s 400+  episode list if you’re not even sure anime is your thing. Go for a small, simple series that looks like your taste, such as space western Trigun or the romantic drama Your Lie in April to see if you wanna stick around. Then, if you find yourself craving more, feel free to look into the longer shows.

 

  • Don’t Stop

 

So, after watching a show or two, you likely still won’t know if anime is your thing. Maybe you picked the wrong starting point, or maybe the show wasn’t what you thought it would be. While there’s no shame in quitting – it’s a niche for a reason – I would still highly recommend that you try a few more and keep going.

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Anime is huge. The variety of shows available is insane, enough to drown a large group of people in a stadium if you got the DVDs together. As a creative medium, it has provided millions of artists the chance to express themselves, so there’s no way that one or two shows can summarize all there is to offer. So if you don’t like what you see the first few times, try again a few more.

Because, at the end of the day, getting into anime is just about finding your niche. With its wide-range of story styles and characters and its cornucopia of animation styles, it truly is one of the most inclusive entertainment mediums I know. To people thinking of joining the fun, I encourage them to ignore the wall of “classics” and overzealous fans at the gate. Just take those first few steps and you’ll find yourself neck-deep in no time.

 

Any new anime fans in my audience? How about any suggestions from other long-time fans? Feel free to comment about this and anything else below! Don’t forget to like and follow for more content just like this.

Otome Review: Dragon Essence – Color My World

The fun part about any Otome is how the narrative can be twisted and turned, depending on the choices you make. But, sometimes, the writers have one narrative they just won’t let go.

Now, that isn’t to say that they don’t offer players a chance to push the story towards a romance with a specific character, or even towards a specific ending, but sometimes the writers refuse to change the main plot. That was this case for this entry, Dragon Essence: Color My World, where the character is in love with one person, remains in love with that person but has three others she can choose to end her story with.

It’s confusing, but I quickly found out it wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounded.

  • Plot

Welcome to the Three Kingdoms, a fantastical land based loosely off feudal China. In the first Kingdom lives our protagonist, Chi An, who’s had to hide her total color blindness from her peers since she was very small. Her life has been very gray, but things change fateful day. She decides to join her friends at the Dragon Festival, a celebration to honor the mystical Dragon Beings they worship as gods. When a rushing crowd pushes Chi An over the edge of the bridge, she’s greeted for the first time by a flash of Golden Light; she’s met a dragon.

Golden Dragon

Ever since that day, she’s been searching for a means to cure her eyesight, to get a glimpse of that color again. But, several years later, that same dragon she befriended visits again to rekindle their friendship. This causes severe tension in Chi An’s life, disrupting her arranged marriage to her childhood friend, Ming Je, and making her act far more willful than she’s used to. Furthermore, it is forbidden for dragons and humans to interact together, thanks to a mysterious tragedy fifteen years ago. What is this rift between the people and their gods, and will Chi An ever truly bring the color back to her world?

  • Gameplay

This game was a festival of new things for me. Firstly, the game ditches the Ren’Py visual novel engine and instead goes for a more “point and click” style. You click the dialogue to move forward, click a box to save, click another box to load, so on and so forth. It’s very jarring for a veteran like myself – and I did find myself hitting buttons on muscle memory  – but it ultimately won’t yank you out of the experience. They give you a big old list of buttons at the beginning of the game but the mouse will work just fine.

Controls

But this comes incredibly handy for the second new mechanic: the hub map. This place shapes the entire story because the area you pick to visit earns you points with a specific character. Several times in game, you’ll return to said map and be prompted to either go to a specific place or choose between two different places. Each choice earns you favor in a specific direction, so choose wisely. The few places you can’t visit at a given time, you can still click on them to get some information as well.

Map-DE

At a few places in the story, you’ll kick-start a minigame. The game’s currency are coins called teals, and you earn these by doing two different jobs. One has you collecting rice out in the commoner’s farm and the other gives you a memory-sequence game to serve plates of food at an inn. They do kill the immersion somewhat, but they feature some cute sprites and make things a little more interesting.

Mini-Game

  • Art

I mentioned at the beginning of my plot summation that this is a fantasy based off feudal China. The art is reflexive of this in the best possible fashion: the colors are bright and vibrant – almost comical given Chi An’s condition – and the airbrushed style is gorgeous. While the game is firmly stuck in cute, shojo anime, I quickly fell in love with the intricate designs on the dragons and the absolutely stunning CG’s.

Culture

Even more so, the art is dynamic. Scenery changes are common, CG’s are plentiful, and items pop up on screen. If you really like what you see here, I highly recommend you check out zevia’s deviantart. The girl has a real gift for heavy detail art.

  • Romances Story Choices:

So, the sad truth of the matter is that Chi An is only in love with one person the entire story. However, each person in the game represents a different ending which you steer towards by spending time with them. The marketing image still sells the idea of three romance options, which is a little deceiving, but I didn’t mind by the time I finished. Since the concept itself is spoilerific, I’ll do my best to lightly summarize.

Tian Zhao: The Dragon

Tian Zhao

Your very first option is the dragon that colored Chi An’s world way, way back. Tian Zhao is a golden light dragon, a rarity among his kind, and suffering from Little Mermaid Syndrome. He’s fallen in love with the human world and has been sneaking out since he was young, which was how he stumbled upon Chi An. But the Three Kingdoms have a golden rule: humans and dragons must not spend time together. Furthermore, it’s clear that Chi An and Tian Zhao have very strong feelings for each other, flying in the face of their familial responsibilities.

Tian Zhao is The Love Interest, and a spunky one at that. Mischievous and fun-loving, he represents the exact opposite of what Chi An has been taught. But will chasing after her golden light may only bring more suffering.

Ming Jie: Your Betrothed

Ming Ji

Her childhood friend has been able to live the life Chi An always wanted. He’s studied hard to be a scholar, allowed to become stronger to protect his loved ones, and generally could pursue any career he wanted and be praised for it. Since the Ming family has a deep fondness for Chi An and her family, they were more than happy to arrange a marriage between her and their son. Ming Jie is pleased as punch, given his long-time love for his closest friend.

That love has led him to try everything to win her heart. Ming Jie had always been weak, and good at things considered “womanly,” so he grew stronger and tried to be a better man. But Chi An cannot force herself to love someone else. Still, when the situation grows dire, it may not be about love anymore. 

Xu Wei: The Dragon Priest

Xu Wei

The big “antagonist” in all this madness is the Dragon Priest Xu Wei, the highest authority here in the first kingdom. He prefers building the kingdom over worshiping the dragons; in fact, he seems downright agitated when it comes to the dragons. He develops quite the attraction to the intelligent and willful Chi An but seems to use her love for the dragons against her. And yet, all who work for him swear he only has humanity’s interests at heart. It’s hard to believe that when his job forces him to punish either Chi An or her mother for “breaking the golden rule.”

This charismatic, slightly predatory, and downright manipulative man has many complicated sides. Chi An quickly finds that he has lived a life very similar to hers, but has an entirely different solution in mind. The question is, what would she do to stop him?

Tian Xi: The Wild Card Monster

Tian Xi

Our last entry is a dark one. There are rumors of a “monster” in the Jade Forest, which turns out to be this horned child by the name of Tian Xi. He’s used to the isolation and ridicule of the world and has managed to survive off of berries and stealing food. He can’t quite figure out why Chi An decides to not only bring him food but come and visit him every day. In truth, it’s because he has the same golden light as Tian Zhao, albeit dimmer.

But here is where our story takes an odd, dark turn. I cannot – will not – spoil the juicy details, but let’s just say that Tian Xi isn’t supposed to be here. He has a painful connection to the dragons that makes him an outcast to them and to humanity. But maybe, just maybe, he’s Chi An’s only true way out. Because, sometimes, you have to be a little selfish to escape your fate.

  • Final Verdict

I was mildly disappointed with the lack of wish fulfillment here, but I found Dragon Essence: Color My World to be intriguing despite that. The story at play here is lovely and well written, with characters that tug at several different emotions throughout. If you’re looking for romantic fantasy, you won’t feel too satisfied with the game. But, if you’re the type who prefers good stories than you’ll enjoy this title thoroughly. I prefer both, but I ultimately enjoyed myself. And that’s all I can ever really ask for.

 

Next Time: Chrono Days Sim Date.