Anime Mini-Review: The Junji Ito Collection, Episodes 4, 5 and 6

We’re back to the man that colors my nightmares. Because a good night sleep is boring.

Jokes aside, it’s time for the second round of Mini-Reviews for the Junji Ito Collection, whose reviews as of late have been colored between “Meh” and “fail.” I personally enjoy what I see of the series, even after reading the works its retelling, but such is the case with a show like this. When you have a strong cult-following for a niche market, the exceptions will be super high.

But enough of what everyone else thinks. My thoughts on these last three episodes were good, albeit with some nits you know I have to pick.

 

  • Episode 4: Shiver/ Marionette Mansion

 

We are already off to a great start. It’s a staple of horror for bugs to be in places they don’t belong.
Shiver, besides being Ito’s more recent book release, is the story of Yuji and his neighbor, Rhina. The poor girl has been sick most of her life but has recently come down with a strange illness that makes holes appear in her skin. However, only Yuji has been able to see these holes and the strange doctor that keeps visiting Rhina’s house. Yuji remembers that his grandfather died of a similar ailment, confirmed when he and his best friend, Hideo, read about in his grandfather’s journal. It all seemed to start with a piece of jade that looked like a bug chrysalis, one that’s somewhere in their yard right now.

What Shiver demonstrates is Ito’s ability to take a concept to terror-inducing extremes, and then take it a step farther. It’s bad enough to think about random holes appearing on your skin, making you feel oh so cold. It’s even worse when you add the fact that bugs like to fly in and out of said holes, as both the book and episode describes. This story had the grizzly imagery I love and the kind of horror that gets worse the more you think about it.

Moving right along, Marionette Mansion puts us somewhere where I’m already creeped out: puppets. Based on House of Marionettes, this tale concerns a traveling family of puppeteers. Main boy Haruhiko has never really made friends since they never stay in town for longer than a month. But things change when his father falls ill and the family is forced to stay in an apartment. Haruhiko’s brother, Yukihiko, expresses a desire not to be controlled by the puppets and runs away soon after. The father passes away and Haruhiko takes over for the family, only to get an invitation from his brother some years later. Yukihiko has made a name for himself in a large business… and has started to live his life, along with his family, as a puppet.

This is an odd story, but one that I liked in concept. Evil marionettes are another staple in classic horror – something about their uncanny eyes and the concept of being controlled – but now we have a creepy puppet as drawn by Ito himself, adding whole new levels of “nope” to the equation. Not as much gruesome artwork this time, at least in the show, but the story itself is solid.

 

  • Episode 5: The Ongoing Tale of Oshikiri Collection/ Cloth Teacher

 

Oh, I love it when psychological horror smacks directly into body horror – it’s the sweet spot for any horror fan. And we finally see why the character Souchi earned a place on this show in the first place.

Our first story is an almost panel to panel remake of Further Tales of Oshikiri. Our titular character notices that his house stands as a crossroads between alternate dimensions. Cool enough, but the first person he sees, the doppelganger of a female classmate, is downright terrified of him. Furthermore, the next night, another classmate doppelganger finds him but has become a horrible monster supposedly by Oshikiri’s hand. When his real classmate, Mio, vanishes inside the house for three days, it becomes time once and for all to figure out what his doppelganger has really been up to. But will he become lost in the other dimensions?

I absolutely adored this episode and the comic it started from. The idea of being trapped in several dimensions, with thousands of versions of you out to kill you, is some really delicious Nightmare Fuel, with the body-horror monsters being the cherry on top. However, I had to admit that the episode took away some of the shocks by being colorized. Black and white tends to make images pop a little more because of the deep shadows and dark contrasts, so the color in the show did soften the shock value of the monsters. But the story itself remains the star, putting it in the running for my favorite story so far.

 Which was why I was a little worried when Souichi popped back up in the second story, Cloth Teacher. This time this insufferable supernatural-maker has created cloth-doll duplicates- rather disturbing ones –  of his teachers that are running amuck and freaking everyone out. They cause special stress to the class’s resident smart guy/rule keeper, who soon becomes the target of more “curses” that are more funny than harmful. But things go from disturbing and funny to REALLY creepy and hilarious when Souichi loses control of his new dolls.

This insufferable, supernatural idiot made a very bad impression on watchers by being the very first story, not being very scary at all, and being horrifically voice-acted. The terrible voice-acting returns this time around, but now we have some imagery that is genuinely hard to look at and some good jokes. That being said, I still think the comedy series doesn’t really mesh well with the rest of the stories, so it only really gets a C from me.

 

  • Episode 6: Window Next Door and Gentle Goodbye

 

This one was also a mixed bag, but for entirely different reasons. And, for that, I don’t mind the tone difference at all. What I do mind is when corners are cut.

So, let’s get the ball rolling with the adaptation that made a lot of people mad, mainly the retelling of The Window Next Door. This is a solid concept overall: Hiroshi’s family moves into a nice, cheap little house, only to discover that their neighbor has only one window that’s facing their son’s room. What’s worse, the next door neighbor appears to be a monster of a woman, who just so happens to be infatuated with Hiroshi. That’s the point where it’s time to break out the nail-covered bat.

I loved the voice actress in this episode so much. The soundscape of the entire episode is good enough, but this VA was so creepy she had me clutching my couch. What was less creepy was, sadly, her face. It was bad – I noticed – but a look at the original comic shows that she came from stock much, much worse. That, and her lack of animation on her face made it clear that the artists were trying to cut corners; no one likes it when you skimp the details.

But where everyone says the anime failed I believe is a triumph, and that’s the ending. Did it abruptly cut off the ending of the original? Yes, but an ambiguous ending where we don’t know what happened and whether or not the main character lived scares me much more than seeing our hero walk away.

 And then we take a turn for the slow and, honestly, beautiful with Gentle Goodbye. Poor Riko fears the death of her father more than anything and used to wake up at night crying after having dreams of his death. Now she’s all grown up and married to Makoto Tokura, but his parents and grandparents are cold and distant to her. She quickly discovers, however, that the family has a unique means of bringing their dead “back to life.” They create images of them that function and speak just like real people, but eventually fade away over time. But, if you think that’s awesome, just wait till you discover how many after-images are actually hanging around.

I was not scared during this episodes; I wasn’t supposed to be. Here, I was thoughtful, sad, and genuinely shocked by the twists. The idea of having a bit longer to say goodbye to loved ones, in a way where you know how much time you have left, is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. The show did a good job of playing to the strong emotions of the piece, though I fear it may just be because Ito’s style was not required to make this one a success. It’s short and would benefit from more length, but still works in my eyes.

  • Overall Thoughts

More gems in this one, well-told despite not quite replicating Ito’s style. But I’ve long since accepted how unlikely it is for anyone to replicate the man who gave us freaking Uzumaki, so I was satisfied with what I saw overall. We’re knee-deep in scary with a bit of wiggle room to play with the genre. Despite some less than savory reviews, I still think the series works as a sampler for the uninitiated.

 

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My Favorite Anime Tropes

I think it’s time we, as a consumer culture, admitted something: we love our popular tropes.

They’re called popular for a reason after all. Book, television, and even cinema are veritable buffets of tropes, motifs, and other common types of stories that we each like to consume for pleasure. Anime follows this almost to the letter, providing almost categorical shows you can select from depending on what you wanna see. You wanna see a group of young boys like you save the world? Try on some shonen. You wanna see a romantic drama between a girl and her male best friend? Try on shojo. You wanna watch a spineless nobody get “chased” by a large group of women who’d normally want nothing to do with him? Harem anime.

Oh look, the dead-horse I need to leave alone.

I poke fun, but there are tropes I’m all over as well. And, since I’m still fighting the virus from hell, I decided to cheer myself up and reminisce about my favorite flavors of anime. These are my favorite anime tropes.

 

  • Sweet, Beautiful, Deadly.

 

Western animation has no room for the vain or the overtly androgynous. Often times, when a character is either a “pretty-boy” or a lady who puts a ton of time into her self image, they are portrayed as weak, vain, cowardly, you name it. This is especially true in so called “geek” media, where the wish fulfilment dictates that the super-handsome chap be the one who suffers.

Anime has a different approach: the prettiest person is probably the one who could kill you the quickest. Japan, being far more accepting of androgyny and cross-dressing than the west is, has no qualms about making the more feminine or attractive character the one most likely to mow through armies at a moment’s notice, or end a fight in a fate far worse than death. This is the part where spoilers come in, so, here’s your warning.

Take, for example, my now second-favorite shonen: Yu Yu Hakusho. I get a lot of eyerolls when I mention that my favorite character from the show is the former fox-demon, Kurama. But I am quick to remind them that the show’s other resident woobie, Hiei, said multiple times that he’s very glad Kurama was on his/their side. Because this pretty-boy demonstrated multiple times that his rose-whip is not to be toyed with and his control over plants will lead you to a fate worse than death if you piss him off.

But maybe a good guy isn’t a good enough example; it’s a shonen after all, so they’re supposed to be that powerful. But what if we went on the other side of the coin and took a villain who was the “fairer” one, at least by the show’s standards, but still highly skilled and highly deadly. Look no further than Berserk’s Byronic Tragedy named Griffith, mercenary leader and reincarnated demon later on. It’s well known at this point what Griffith becomes and does in the later half of the show – atrocities that I will not show because this blog is PG13 – but he was far from weak before he become evil incarnate. Let it be known, one must beware the nice ones and the pretty ones.

 

  • It’s So Crazy It’ll Definitely Work

 

The idea is insane. In live action media, in comics, it’s just too out of this world. In anime, it’s a surefire way to win.

I have spent hours waxing poetic on how much I love anime’s crazy weirdness and how it isn’t afraid to go the extra mile. But what I love about that the most is that it produces ideas that are tangled in gordian-knot like risks that will ultimately pay off. These are the craziest gambits I have ever seen and when they work – as they inevitably will – the payoff is sweet.

My personal favorite scheme that seems bound for failure was when Light Yagami gave up the right to his Death Note and all the memories that went with it. In a chess game of life and death, this is near suicide. L has him locked up on suspicion and the move requires a massive chain of events to be planned out prior and executed with a master’s precision. And that was exactly what we got as the plan panned out, a move I loved as a writer and hated as a fan of L.

And then, of course, there’s the good guy and Magnificent Bastard, Roy Mustang, from Fullmetal Alchemist, who churns out these kinds of plans like an assembly line. You wanna elaborately fake the death of an officer so the higher-ups are appeased? He’s your guy. Capture a large and dangerous homunculus to figure out the grand conspiracy that killed a close friend? Again, he’s your go-to. Clever, sharp and determined, Mustang’s schemes gain various levels of crazy but almost always work just fine.

 

  • Liquid Body Horror

 

But all good things must eventually make way for the horrifying; I look forward to it every Halloween.

Anime and manga like to push limits since the visuals are only limited by the artist’s skill and imagination. This comes to horrible fruition in horror and anime manga, where the human body can be bent, twisted, or reshaped in a number of awful fashions. Sometimes, it’s so unnatural that our brain detaches from the horror and just starts giggling at the ultraviolence or its more realistic and causes your skin to crawl in what I call the “Junji Ito-Squirm.” Nevertheless, this horror fan appreciates a well-crafted scene of water-balloon blood and bodies doing things they shouldn’t do.

Or an evil bastard getting their face dragged on a wall like a pencil eraser

On the subject of Hellsing, Alucard is a prime example of what can happen when the limits of body solidarity are pushed. Not only is his blood-pudding body capable of morphing into unspeakable horror, but Alucard routinely commits violent murder in ways that are so unrealistic they stop being disturbing and just become funny, as in stabbing a woman with her obnoxiously long, blunt-ended gun. The horror in anime becomes real on so many more levels due to its lack of limits, a truly frightening thought.

This woman has every right to be scared.

 

  • Friendship… Doesn’t Always Save the Day

 

One of the biggest themes you’ll find in almost all entertainment media is the power of positive thinking. Love is always the thing that saves and solves everything; friendships are treated as the key to life, liberty, and especially the pursuit of happiness. Don’t take me the wrong way; I like these things as much as the next movie-nerd. But what I love even more is when friendship isn’t enough in the face of great danger. Because sometimes, just sometimes, bad decisions are made and no amount of positive thinking can undo them.

More spoilers a’coming;  get gone if you plan to watch season one of Attack on Titan.

Season one has a very tense moment when the Scout Regiment is attempting to capture the Female Titan, using Eren as bait and Levi’s special unit as protection. Needless to say, she barrels through most of the scouts and manages to escape most of their capture tries. Eren’s friends – Levi’s group – beg him to allow them to fight instead of him, promising that they’ll save him. Eren trusts them and lets them face the female Titan. And each one of them gets wiped out completely.

Attack on Titan is one of those shows that takes great pains to remind you that you are well and truly screwed.

But it’s okay. This moment was crucial for Eren’s character development and shaped him as a fighter/decision maker later on in the season. It’s hard to swallow moments like this, when our expectations of love and friendship holding some supernatural power are subverted, but it has amazing potential when wielded by a crafty writer. It catches me off-guard and keeps me interested in the story, something all these tropes do when their powers combine.

What’s your favorite anime trope? Feel free to comment below! If you enjoy me rambling and wanna tune into my next stream of strange thought, follow me for post and page updates.

 

Otome Review – Harvest Moon: More Friend’s Of Mineral Town

First of all, apologies for the late post – the flu is a right git and came to me for the second time. Second, we’re stretching the meaning of the word “Otome” this time, but I really don’t care. I never need an excuse to replay one of my favorite video games.

Harvest Moon is an odd series; you will either love every aspect of it or question why in the world anyone would enjoy a game of endless chores. Nevertheless, the series earns itself a lot of distinction for its over-the-top and loveable characters and clever use of world-building to sucker the player in. The series is less about building a farm and more about building a life, place within whichever community that you can call your own. It’s an attitude that carries over well to sequels and spiritual successors alike.

We’ll be covering this baby eventually, never fear.

If you have a shred of addictive personality, these games will carry you along like a boat on a strong current. This particular game is easy to get lost in, especially when you’re doing well. I introduce the female-centric version of Friends of Mineral Town, Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town.

Just to be up front, I only managed one picture from my actual game. The rest are from google, but they give a general idea.

 

  • Plot

 

The plot is, well, the same thing most of the other games have. There’s never much change between Harvest Moon titles, at least not until much later. The main plot is that you, Claire (or any other name you give her), are tired of living in the city and are looking for a change of pace. This time, the answer comes when you arrive home to your tiny apartment and see a newspaper ad for a farm out in a place called Mineral Town. The idea of idyllic country bliss is just too intoxicating, so you quit your job and move on out.

Farm Life
This series is very guilty of glamorizing one of the hardest jobs you can have and making it look easy. I am also guilty of following it hook, line and sinker.

But alas, the beautiful farm you were promised is an overgrown mess. Commonplace in Harvest Moon is the first big reveal of the farm, left alone for so long that nature took over. But hey, you’ve got nowhere else to go and the town is somehow desperate to see this place revived. So, roll up your sleeves; it’s time to build a new life from the ground up.

 

  • Gameplay

 

“Ground up” is exactly what I mean, because your new livelihood depends on your growing skills. These games do not provide much in tutorials, so allow me to give you the basic rundown that every new player should have.

In the game, your goal is to grow produce/flowers each season. These items are to be collected and placed in the shipping box, which later rewards you with gold-currency. When you first start out, your field will be covered in rocks, weeds, and various sticks and stumps. But lo, that’s where the toolbox inside your house comes in. You use the hammer, ax, and sickle to clear a spot and then the hoe to make seed-plots in any pattern you want. Free tip, since crop seeds are expensive: one seed bag can fill an entire square that’s about 3×3 spaces, but I recommend not tiling soil in the middle since you won’t be able to reach it. Make sure to water each space every day and, eventually, you’ll have crops to sell. You can use logs from your chest to make your own gardens, crop-fields, everything.

I had not seen this formation either, but I already love it. This also works and will net you optimum cash.

It’s about making good money so you can expand what you have. Maybe you go down the road and buy some chickens to sell eggs, or to Yodel Ranch to buy cows and sheep. Or, if you’ve got lots of gold and a lot of logs stored up, you can visit the carpenter in the woods, who can upgrade your house, coop, or barn. You won’t get any bigger than your plot of land, but your farm can get more and more materials to profit from and make a lot more money. You can also improve your tools with ore you get from the mines in the mountains, a mine you can go deeper into by tiling for the hidden stairs. Harvest Moon is all about secrets and surprises, so exploration is encouraged. Just mind yourself, because you only have limited stamina. If poor Claire stars to get blue-faced, go home and go to bed.

So much to do, so little time.

While you’re exploring, try stopping by Mineral Town; because this game means it when it encourages you to build up a new life. Each member of the town has a certain level of approval for you, which you can raise by gift-giving. Everyone has certain items they love, like, could care less about, and hate, so you can either trial and error or look at the wiki like the rest of us. There’s even five bachelors who you can marry if you get their approval high enough, five rival girls, and Festivals to attend and participate in.

We’ll get to the mushy stuff later.

And really, that summarizes what I love about this series and what could possibly draw people like me to “digital chores.” It’s about progress, building something from scratch and the satisfaction that comes from seeing it profit. Add on top of that a town of interesting characters to meet. It provides a sense of “this is your story,” which you’ll either love or hate.

 

  • Art

 

Oh Natsume, let me count the many ways in which I love your artwork.

I cannot track down the specific artist, but I wish I could. Natsume always did like to do this cutesy style to the art – distinctly animesque, which is nothing new – but this one takes it to whole new level. Backgrounds/setting are immaculate, with distinct locations and nice pastel colors and adorable chibi characters that each have a unique look about them. Even the in-game sprites are adorable and easy to tell apart.

The Drawback is that not everyone is here for cuteness. The childish look may turn off a few gamers and pretty much puts this game in a niche market till the day it vanishes into the ether. But I’ll happily be a part of that market.

 

  • Romances Marriage & Married Life

So, why the category change you ask? Well, the truth of the matter is that the game’s “path” doesn’t really alter all that much no matter which of the five bachelor’s you pursue.  What you get, instead, is a different series of events. These are mini-cutscenes specific to a character and they are, more or less, used to track your progress.

 

These “heart events” chronicle you getting closer to your partner of choice and give you some specifics about each character. You earn these events by giving gifts to your chosen mate as often as possible. You have a black, blue, green, and even red heart event to sit through, where you can earn extra affection until you finally earn the right to purchase the ring, er, I mean Blue Feather. From there, it all pans out about the same: you give gifts every day to keep them happy; you occasionally have a child by said partner, and you have to keep track of birthdays and anniversaries. It’s almost like you’re an adult couple or some such.

But that would just be silly. This game is little more than repetitive chores, right?

As for the actual bachelors, we have at least five normal and two hidden ones. Forget the hidden ones for now, so here’s a brief snippet of what you can expect from the normal bachelors.

  • Doctor: Dedicated to his job – to the point of being oblivious – Doctor seeks to become the best physician possible, because of the inspiration left by his parents.

 

  • Cliff: A drifter in Mineral Town, Cliff is shy and distant from most people. He’s thinking of leaving for good because he can’t find something to hold him here.
  • Rick:  The man of the house on the nearby poultry farm – at least he has to be, now that his dad left to find a cure for his sick mother. What’s a timid fellow to do?
  • Grey: This tough guy came from the big city, now working for his blacksmith grandfather. He’s also shy – there’s a running theme of that here – and grumpy enough that maybe he’s secretly a softy.
  • Kai – Behold the free-spirited bachelor who shows up in the summertime on the beach. Finally, someone who won’t talk to his shoes when you’re around, amirite?
  • Final Thoughts.

 

I freakin’ love this game, like so many others. The whole point of any Harvest Moon game is to make your own story from the ground up, a story about getting back to nature and forming a new life in a few years time. Charming and niche in every sense of the word, you will either love this game and everything in it, or find it repetitive and dull, but it still stands out as a staple of the series.

Mini Review: Junji Ito Collection, Episodes 1, 2, and 3

Halloween came early for me. Best birthday ever.

I mentioned in a previous post that I was looking forward to the premier of the anime, The Junji Ito Collection. The twilight zone-esque anime would feature several short stories by famous horror manga artist, Junji Ito. After having my nightmares painted in fresh swirly vortex’s of doom by his long work, Uzumaki, I’ve been very excited at the prospect of seeing what else Ito’s written. Because, alas, Uzumaki was all I had seen before.

one-piece-gif-water

“Heretic!” the internet cried.

And yet, this anime that was so hyped seems to have people dropping it at an alarming rate. I’d love to do a big ole’ review of the series to find out why, but the disjointed nature of it prevents me from looking at anything as a whole. So, we’re gonna look at each episode individually and try to find out what’s going on. These are my mini-reviews of Junji Ito Collection: episodes one, two, and three.

  • Episode 1: Souichi’s Convenient Curses & Hellish Doll Funeral

Convenient Curses is chapter one of Ito’s Souichi’s Diary of Curses, a collection of black comedy shorts centered around the character Souichi Tsuji. Souichi’s been “gifted” the ability to cast curses, curses that actually come true. His antics, while supernatural and scary in nature, amount to little more than comedy pranks where most just end up in the hospital. In fact, this chapter was more concerned with introducing the gloomy Souichi, his normal family, and his supernatural stunts. The only “grizzly” death is when the idiot forgets to cut holes in a box for a toad he caught.

I did say black comedy. Your humor mileage may

The problem with starting with the black comedy is that it’s misleading to people who are not familiar with Ito’s work – someone like me. I was confused and laughing, something I wasn’t expecting with this author, and got severe mood-whiplash with the episode’s second story. This was from the collection called Frankenstein and featured children who caught a disease that turned them into dolls. The mother and father can’t bear to burn their little girl like other parents would and instead watch her become absolute body-horror. It’s short; it’s eerie, and the morbidly curious can look up the end results on their own free time.I’ll be doing just that when I look up the manga.

This first episode feels like the series tripped over its star-name and scrambled to get back up. The Souichi series is an odd place to start, given the author’s fame for being a horror mangaka, and contrast sharply with the episode’s second plot. The poor pacing of the first story and the counterintuitive nature of it was also what lead to several people dropping this series, which is highly unfortunate.

 

We return right away to horror and with Fashion Model, from the Souichi series. Not featuring our titular character, we instead we focus on three student filmmakers looking to make the next big picture, but their writer spies something vile in a magazine: a fashion model who looks utterly Uncanny. While you ponder your nightmare fuel, know that they decide to bring her into their next indie project… alone… in the mountain, far-far away.

Clearly, these poor sloths never read the Horror Movie Survival Guide.

Fashion Model is very classic horror: schmucks isolated with a clear, evil monster and you just know it isn’t gonna end well. So, imagine my surprise when the second story, Long Dream, turned out to be both philosophical and disturbing on multiple levels. 

Imagine, if you will, a man suffering from “Long Dreams.” When he goes to sleep, his dreams feel as if they last for days and waking up feels more like a dream. They only get longer and longer, night after night, to the point where they stretch to ten years, then one hundred years. The strain is clear on the sufferer, especially when his body starts to rapidly age. But could his condition be a benefit to another? Especially one who wishes to slip into endless dreams instead of nothingness?

If you can’t tell, this one has been my favorite so far. The reason villains like Freddy work so well is that they turn a biological necessity into a fight for your life, where you’re at your most vulnerable mentally. Ito really works that angle here with the concept of long dreams, all while getting really speculative at the nature of death and endless dreaming. A close friend compared it to Lovecraftian storytelling and I can’t help but concur.

 

  • Episode 3: The Crossroads Pretty Boy & Slug Girl

 

And then they tripped again. They were so close.

Don’t get me wrong – this episode once again led me to check out the original short stories, which are very much worth tracking down. But, in doing so, I really see how the episode’s time limit hurt it real bad.

In Crossroads Pretty Boy, the town’s teenagers have taken to partaking in a tradition most unfamiliar to American readers: mainly, that of getting their fortunes told by the first random stranger who passes by them at an intersection. But what any reader can understand is the fear of this strange, very  bishounen figure who will pass by and give out negative fortunes, fortunes that have led to four girls committing suicide. It’s especially unfun for Ryuusuke Fukata, who accidentally pushed a woman to suicide when he was a little boy during an intersection fortune-telling session. And what’s a trauma-stricken boy to do when his crush’s best friend is apparently smitten to the point of maddness with him, all because of the Intersection Pretty Boy?

Bad things. Very bad things.

This story is from the appropriately named book Lovesick Dead. The original story makes great use of blood and shadows and slow-pacing, two things this anime could not replicate to save its life. Without the shadows, the brutal scenes look overexposed and awkward; with the fast-pace, they have no choice over, the story feels clipped.

But not as clipped as Slug Girl, which is horrifically cut short. We still get the basics: Yuuko’s been unable to pronounce properly for weeks and, when she can’t make it to school, her friend goes to check on her. Said friend is met with unspeakable horror when she beholds a massive slug has replaced her friend’s tongue. There’s a whole lot of story in between that point and the end point – an end that’s less grizzly and more disturbing the longer you think about it – that they had to shave off to meet the time limit of an episode, and that’s just a shame.

 

  • Conclusion

 

I’d say that the Junji Ito Collection is a nice sampler plate, at least this far in. It shows a great range of writing skill and horror mastery of Ito, but will be mighty deceptive to people as unfamiliar with his work as I was. There were points where the animation and coloring threw me off, or where the voice-acting was too much, but the show really could be a great bridge for people who want to know more about his work. The animators aren’t quite there yet, but I see progress.

The Importance of Music in Anim

An important tool of any visual medium is the use of music. Because, while real life may not have a soundtrack at any given moment, our emotions and ideas do.

This couldn’t be truer when it comes to anime. While most watchers will only remember the opening or the closer, music performed either in the background or by the characters is especially worth note. It becomes part of that world – insert your own Disney reference – and it becomes difficult to separate the plot itself, or even that scene, from the music itself.

For a drawn world that has to be created from scratch, the music the producers grant entrance into has some very important jobs. As always, these are my theories and interpretations; I’m open to different opinions.

  • Put You In The Character’s Head

In both regular television and movies, music is used for mood manipulation. The idea, at least in theory, is to give you an inkling of what the character is feeling so that you can sympathize, empathize, or even feel the exact opposite if the director is clever enough. Either way, music is a great tool to slow down the action to allow the audience to reflect.

Now imagine doing this with a series of 2D drawings. You have to somehow connect this facsimile of a human being with real people behind the screen, and convince them it’s feeling something.  I present exhibit A, The Green Bird.

From the anime Cowboy BeBop, this scene comes from the episode Ballad of Fallen Angels. To keep the spoilers to a minimum, the episode involves Spike confronting a rival from his days in the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate. Things go very south and Spike ends up blasted out the window. As he falls, this churchy ballad kicks up and slows the entire scene down. But, as the song lulls you into this sleepy place, we flash back to several scenes from Spike’s past, all involving Vicious, himself, and a mysterious blonde woman.

By making use of the on-screen music, Watanabe slows down the action to give us small story snippets in the same “flash before my eyes”, dream-like state Spike experiences.  The sad but peaceful melody may even reflect Spike’s mind at that very moment as well. Either way, a bridge is successfully formed between audience and cartoon.

 

  • Adds Depth to a Character

 

Characters in a story are to be great “impersonators” – I.E, words on the page need to trick your audience into thinking they’re speaking of and to real people that existed Once Upon a Time™.  But if they’re about as deep as the kiddie-pool you bought at the local supermarket then you can kiss your reader’s suspension of disbelief goodbye. And hey, what better way to add some depth to your character than to use a little music? Writer Eiichiro Oda certainly figured that out and practically weaponized all the feels that can generate:

Trust me, it doesn’t matter if it’s dubbed or subbed. You’re gonna cry either way.

This scene has inspired many a Manly Cry from One Piece Fans, and for good reason. Sure, it’s a moment of celebration, but it’s also yet another flashback. Brooke remembers his final moments with his last crew while playing their favorite song, adding the necessary layer of tragedy that follows Luffy’s crew. This humanizes our strange, walking skeleton man quite a bit, as it’s clear he has so many painful memories attached to everyone’s favorite drinking song.

 

  • Extra Chance for Fantastic Visuals

 

But I can hear all of you already: A.C, all you’ve shown us are flashbacks. Flashbacks are slow they make things come to a screeching halt, right? Anime is a visual medium after all. What does music have to do with that?

Well, you’re right. Anime is indeed a visual medium. And music provides an opportunity to bring that out. It’s sad when anime doesn’t make use of its limitless boundaries to provide eye-catching scenes. And that’s where a pretty song can make all the difference. Behold, from the new anime Ancient Magus Bride, a mage making use of a song to cast some magic.

Magus is especially good at being downright beautiful when it comes to characters, magic, and cute creatures. This scene really makes that pop by giving a realistic scenario for a character to break out into song. The moment gets emphasized thanks to the song and the magic that comes with it gives a fantastic excuse to break out some really sweet eye-candy. Music makes us far more forgiving of strange and unusual happenings, something anime could make sweet use of.

 

  • Yay, it’s a conclusion!

 

Music in anime has one job: adding an extra dash of “art.” Putting a song front and center of any show not only gives these 2D drawings more emotional impact; it also helps take your watchers on a little mind-voyage when needed. When you have limitless possibilities for story and visuals, it would behoove a content creator to engage his audience’s ears alongside their eyes and brain.

Otome Review: Frozen Essence

Looking over my past posts, it’s easy to get the impression that I enjoy picking on the early projects of known-creators. After all, project #1 is a guaranteed to be their worst. But, truthfully,  I enjoy playing the first VNs for my favorite creators because it helps me appreciate the ones I love so much. Such is the case with the gaming company Unbroken Hours, who gave me my one of my favorite Life-Sim/Visual Novels to date: Heartstring Bugs.

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-Link here if you wanna read that-

This game especially caught my eye since Heartstring makes mention of it a few times and even features costumes of the characters. This is Frozen Essence, their debut game that started it all.

 

  • Plot

 

We open to a cult – complete with capes and dark foreboding attitudes – checking up on their prized possession: a girl, frozen in crystal. Suddenly, through some mildly confusing wibbly-wobbly magic, the girl is freed from her prison and rescued by a different cloaked figure. She learns that her name is Mina and that she created a realm of perfect blue crystal to live in now. The man identifies himself as her Oracle and warns her that she is not safe on the outside world. She is to remain here, where her three bodyguards will feed her life essence to keep her alive.

Mina and Oracle

But a voice called out to Mina, claiming that it needs her urgent help. She steps outside her safe place and suddenly finds herself in the clutches of that same evil cult, The White Order. They have information about what she is and they want nothing more than to keep her sealed yet again for an eternity. Because, like it or not, her very presence brings nothing but sadness and death.

 

  • Gameplay

 

As mentioned prior, this was one of Unbroken Hours’ early projects. The gameplay itself isn’t bad, but the story is very rough around the edges.

Things here work like a typical Otome in the Ren’Py engine. As the story unfolds, you get prompted to make decisions that alter the main story either a little or a lot. The goal is to get closer to a specific character in the first two arcs, with a third arc that’s unique in each path.  What’s fascinating about the choice system is that there isn’t really an easy way to figure out which character you’re earning points with and it requires you to spend time with almost all of them at any given point. In a way, I feel this makes the game a bit more complete than others.

Choices with Aysel

The story itself is pleasing – it smacks of a 90’s anime and hits all my nostalgia love – but the writing is where some of the “First Time” mistakes start rearing their silly heads. It occasionally sounds unnatural and clunky, with sentence structure that made the perfectionist in me start twitching. The dynamics of the game were also rather strange, as the actions characters took weren’t always described very well. Funny enough, fights were accompanied by a smacking clip that sounded like they were getting into slap-fights constantly.

Cat Fight

CAT FIGHT!

But, I’d be remiss not to mention what was, salvageable from this game. The plot itself has a lot of replayability with two or sometimes three endings per character. And, while the effects were a bit lost in absurdity, I do applaud the game for having lots of movement to it, be it moving sprites or blood spatter. I can see the beginnings here of what made me love Heartstring Bugs, and I’d much rather have an intricate read than a generic one.

 

  • Art

 

And now we get to the part where I have to take away points. Since this was the first VN for Unbroken Hours, and the debut for artist VenusEclipse, it’s expected that the art won’t be professional grade. I was pleasantly surprised at the backgrounds, which were very oil-painting-like and beautiful, but I was very disappointed with the sprites. What they had in expression and pose variation, they lost for looking skewed with awkward proportions.

Frozen Art

That being said, you have to fall before you fly. Artist VenusEclipse has gotten much better, and I highly recommend checking out their DeviantArt page. If they were willing to update the art for the game with the talent they display now, I’d be willing to pay money to see it.

 

  • Romances

Rune

Rune

 

Rune is one of the first bodyguards you meet. He’s a bit uptight and super protective, demanding that you remain in your created realm for all eternity strictly for his own sake. He has nothing but disdain for the outside world and wishes to remain in your peaceful, everlasting realm to sleep… and sleep… and sleep some more…

But, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Rune’s obsession with peaceful slumber – and overall hatred for life – has some damn good reasons and I won’t spoil any of it, because it is pretty fascinating, but I can safely say Rune earns his spot as the longest story in the entire game. It’s an intense, but time-consuming path, but it’s well worth the play.

 

 

Caius

Caius

 

Ah, the bad boy, and super popular with the fans. It’s just a shame I could barely stand him.

Caius is dangerous, no ifs or buts. He was a former assassin who kinda got tricked into being your bodyguard and he’s not happy about it. He enjoys seeing people sad and/or in pain and can’t fathom why in the world anyone would worry about him or show any kind of attachment. That won’t stop him from using said feelings to his advantage and, predictably, falling head-over-heels in a real sudden fashion. And I do mean sudden, as Caius’s fall from Jackasshood seems awful quick.

I was never into the “tame the bad-boy” routes in these games, so I was more annoyed by Caius than anything. I found his antics grating and that sudden turnaround rather amusing. I think he’d make a better impression if he had more character development or if more time were devoted to him slowly being socialized. He still wouldn’t quite be my type, but at least it wouldn’t give me mood-whiplash.

 

Varian

Varian

 

When you do decide to step outside into the big bad outside world, you’re rescued by a strange-looking fellow hanging around your realm and an Inn in the southern continent. He’s on the persnickety side and seems to be constantly busy, so interacting with him is a bit difficult. But if you can – and I highly suggest it – you’ll see that something clearly has him conflicted. This man, who holds his morals so dear, who truly wants to be the hero of the world, looks like he’s suffering from quite the inner struggle. And it all has to do with you.

Writing-wise, I was very impressed with Varian’s route. He displays the kind of character development I think Caius was missing, making his eventual “epiphany” at a later date much smoother and more realistic. While there were still points that could be smoothed out, I can safely say that Varian as a character was a well-written example of just how skilled Unbroken Hours can be with making likable people.

 

Aurelius

Aurelious

 

Speaking of likable people, I want you to meet my second-favorite route of the game. Aurelius is one of the Hex-Guardians, people who watch over the five hex spheres that keep balance in the world. He’s one of the more popular ones, here at the glorious Sapphire Festival to bring gifts from his home-kingdom of Luveria, where he finds himself drawn to the dark, foreboding aura around Mina. He pledges that he will lift it from her and make her the happiest woman possible and he’s not taking no for an answer.

Aurelius hits what I have dubbed the “Tamaki-Suoh Sweet Spot.” For those who haven’t seen Ouran Host Club, this is when a character is, indeed, flirty and thick as a brick, but is genuine in their want to help people and just doesn’t really know any better. It’s really the only way I can like any kind of Charmer Path and I found it oddly satisfying to see the White Knight played straight.

 

Secret Path – Oracle

Oracle

 

But let’s say for a second that none of the above appealed to you. Caius is a jerk; Rune is grumpy; Aurelius is a flirt, and Varian is whiny. That just leaves you to trust your Oracle, that dark shadowy figure that’s been keeping secrets from you, with an unhealthy obsession with keeping you in your realm. Can you really trust this loyal but risky fifth party?

Asi t turns out, yes, because you’ll finally learn what started this whole mess if you do. Once again, the secret path turned out to be the best part of this entire game as it gives you all the answers and provides you a unique romantic interest. If you wanna find out just how deep this rabbit hole goes, give this one a try. Be aware that this will be a lengthy exposition-dump.

 

Death

Death

 

Or, you know what? Screw all of them. You are death incarnate, should you so choose. And maybe it’s about time you exacted some revenge on the group that put you inside that crystal in the first place?

In short, you have the option to say “screw the world, I have evil,” and give into Mina’s dangerous powers. It’s very rare that a game gives you the option to be a total badass/villain at the end of the game and it’s insanely fun. But I would only do so after exploring all the other options.

 

 

  • Final Thoughts

 

For all of its faults – and there are several –  I did enjoy playing Frozen Essence. I can see the seeds that led Unbroken Hours to become as good as they are now, and the story was good enough that what did go wrong can be brushed off.

Next Time: Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town.

-Announcement: This part of the blog will be moved into the rotation of Saturday posts. This is not only to accommodate the large project I’m about to embark on but to allow for more time to cover more extensive games and for new ones to come out. Thank you to my readers for their patience and understanding.

 

Death of Long Anime?

I wanna take you all back, yet again, to ye olden days of early anime. I’m sure many an 80’s and 90’s child can recall spending months upon months on the likes of Dragon Ball Z, G-Gundam, and other such long shows. The kind of TV that used to keep you glued to your couch day after day, ensuring that money would be coming in and more content would be coming out.

And now it seems like that kind of anime may be going the way of the dodo bird.

Someone queried the Answerman about how long anime appear to be happening less and less on the scene. Answerman gives a great explanation of what’s going on behind the scenes financially, link here if you wanna read it. But I decided I’d like to focus on what could be happening with us, the lovely audience, that could be shaping this change.

Because, at the end of the day, we direct what we consume.

So, do I think long anime aren’t around thanks to changing financial landscapes? I believe they play a part, but that those changing landscapes came from a different type of audience.

 

  • We’re Smarter and Less Receptive to Filler.

 

I’ve always believed that the worst thing anyone could do to a story is stretch it past the natural ending. But, back in the day, doing just that was a fairly common occurrence. Now… well, now we tend to spot that a million miles away.

Back, useless story, BACK!

That’s right; we are, collectively, better at spotting when filler episodes rear their ugly heads. The idea of filling your anime with episodes that do nothing for the overall plot is now considered lazy, and an overpopulation of it becomes the Kiss of Death. Word spreads that the show has lots of filler and you can bet the view count will take a kamikaze dive.

Even the likes of One Piece has some filler to it – a risk given the insane length of the show – and fans don’t put up with it much anymore. It’s a bad move, but a necessary evil when you just can’t keep up with the manga.

 

  • Binge Culture

 

Though, if you really wanna get down to brass tacks, I believe the real culprit for a lack of longer anime is our streaming-services and how often we’re encouraged to devote a day to devouring television.

All the anime at my weird fingertips

A loooong time ago, pirating had a different means than it does now. Back in ye olde 80s and 90s, you were only gonna get your anime if you were a proper nerd: tuning into Toonami at, like, 1 am or knowing a guy who knows a guy who can get you video cassettes from Japan. Now, you can just jump on Netflix, Crunchyroll or some other streaming service and watch all those shows you missed as a kid and the new ones that roll out. But, as a consequence of this freedom of information spread, we’re encouraged to sit down and watch almost all of it in one or three sittings.

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And you’d think this would have the opposite effect and make them want more long anime, but how many people are gonna sit down and watch 80+ episodes in a binge session? The likes of Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon and other Monster of The Week anime would never survive this rapid-fire culture we have now.  

 

 

  • So What Do We Have Instead?

 

As much as the landscape for anime has changed, this is far from a death knell for large-size anime. On the contrary, I believe there’s a golden opportunity if writers and producers can get extra creative.

If you just look around, you’ll note that anime with long lists of episodes haven’t vanished; they simply changed their formula to reflect the changing times. Shows like D-Grey Man and Attack on Titan do their best to stray away from the Monster Of The Week Formula and, instead, give the audience small chunks of a huge, overarching plot. By taking small plot points and expanding them, they manage to stretch a show out to several episodes and, most of the time, avoid making the audience feel like their time is being wasted. Granted you’ll still find filler episodes here and there – occasionally more often than any of us would want – but the majority of time is devoted to fleshing out a multifaceted plot. This was the key that made shows like One Piece so interesting back in the day, mainly that they just broke a very intricate story down into small, digestible chunks.

Not that that stopped it from filler. *sigh*

In short, I don’t feel long-standing anime are dying; I think anime with thin plots and lots action are dying. The creators are just following the flow of their audience and making their plots more complicated/convoluted to keep those dollars coming in rather than throwing out random fights with non-important mooks.

Do you think long anime are going bye-bye? Feel free to comment below! And don’t forget to like and follow for more content like this.

Otome Review: Monstrata Fracture

There’s a strange fascination within the Otome community: dating dangerous monsters.

This isn’t too surprising when you consider the popularity of the vampire romance genre (which has come to completely take over teen novels these days) but I never thought it would stretch out past Edward Cullen. And, while this particular type of story does remain a niche market, the wish-fulfillment is pretty easy to see. Danger + Exotic Partners + safe environment will always sell.

In that vein, I have found a game that, when finished, promises to be like What’s Your Name. Monstrata Fracture is a game of dating dangerous monsters…. and that’s about it.

 

  • Plot

 

Nameless Character (whom I will call A-Ko because obscure anime joke) is starting her/his/their new life as a college student on the very wrong foot. The main campus burned down a day ago and now you have to attend class in a creepy old castle. And, because things like this never end well, you also start to notice that some of your fellow students look… odd. And by “odd,” I mean blue-skinned with seaweed in their hair or lots of colorful wings.

Nik&Celion

 

A quick call to talk to your professional witch father reveals that humans and monsters technically live side-by-side, but a magical barrier keeps humans from seeing them.  To keep the barrier going, humans just refuse to interact with them and, eventually, stop seeing them altogether. The shield will continue as long as everyone agrees to keep playing ignorant, but it looks like A-Ko is too smitten by a few of them to listen.

 

  • Gameplay

 

When I started up this game, I came in expecting something that went full parodic horror. The game’s itchio page details a tongue-in-cheek experience, but what I got was far tamer than expected. After you name your character (and select your gender, or lack thereof), you’re thrust straight into the creepy castle where you meet your three monster-mash candidates. As you’re introduced to all three, one at a time, you have the option to hang out with one, all, or none

Hang Out

The game takes you on at least one date with each option before coming to an end, but I found myself uninterested in the full game. The description of the game implied a level of self-aware absurdist humor that the real game didn’t follow through on. In fact, the whole “date a monster” bit was played pretty straight; your character genuinely finds these characters intriguing. I’d have preferred the game to dive in completely, playing up the strangeness for laughs or going straight into Otome Parody. The story is hampered by the game being a demo certainly, but it could benefit from some tongue-in-cheek.

Skeleton Fetish

It may also just be me. Feel free to point out anything I’m missing.

That being said, the writing does do a great job at creating some unique characters. Dealing with monsters has great narrative potential and the author did flex their creative muscles. I like the idea of “created monsters” suffering social ostracization in the monster community, narrative-wise, and I love the fact that each date has a personality that’s distinct. I may not like one of those romance options, but I would never accuse these characters of all being badly written.

 

  • Art

 

For what complaints I have about the game, I was mighty impressed with the overall art. These colors are gorgeous and bright, giving us an entire rainbow. And those backgrounds have this lovely brushed pastel look that’s really pleasing to the eyes.

MonstraArt

The fact that each dateable option looks unique is a major bonus. The one thing I didn’t like, and the creators have addressed this, is the lack of expressions on the sprites. Jams don’t add much time to add variation in the faces of the sprites, so that should be fixed eventually.

 

  • Romances:

Nickoli

Nick

 

Beautiful and rather mean, Nickoli is what they call an “Alkonost,” or an avian type creature. He’s sporting some pretty plumage and seems to be the type to move fast. But this kind of playboy, with this much disregard for people’s feelings, could prove himself to be dangerous. It doesn’t help that his family has some very strong political connections and a whole lot of money.

What also doesn’t help is that Nicki here is bloated, stuck up, and clearly sporting the “spoiled rich guy” attitude. All the above is a major turn-off, so I would only hope the story goes into changing all of the above. If not, then all I see is a pretty chicken with an attitude problem.

 

Cailean

Cel

 

Blue-Boy is a Kelpie, a Scottish shape-shifter that normally appears as a horse-like creature. Since these creatures were rumored to reside in Scottish “lochs,” the seaweed in the hair is a lovely touch. However, whereas most Kelpies were rumored to prey on humans, this one would be too shy to say “hello.” He seems downright kind and friendly, in fact. But this sweet little seahorse seems to have a more dangerous family, a family he warns you to stay away from. Is this the danger I was promised?

I’d like to think so, though the demo doesn’t offer much insight otherwise. Cailean seems like a run of the mill shy guy, which usually has to work a little harder to win me over. That being said, seeing that seven-foot tall brother who may eat me would be a plus in this path since the boy in question seemed as harmless as a fly.

 

Deka

Deka

 

Deka the skeleton is one of many “created” monsters, mainly creatures who were artificially made from magic. Other monsters subject created creatures to a great deal of racism, or at least that’s the impression I got, so Deka here is quite lucky. They have a job as a cleaner for the university and get free tuition as a bonus. From what I gather, Deka hopes to better understand the cultural impact of magic-made monsters and mentions how they’re becoming rarer and rarer in this age. After all, it’s much easier to stop creating them than to give them the same rights as everyone else.

Truthfully, I find myself very interested in this story. Deka’s pretty adorable and theirs is the only path to hint at dark rumors of dangerous necromancers and creepy happenings. If I did seek this game out on completion, I can safely say this would be the path I’d be most curious about.

 

  • Final Thoughts

 

In the end, I don’t think I’ll be keeping a lookout for this one. While I liked the characters, and while I’m sure the full game will uphold its promises of possible character death, I found the game too straightforward. The description on their page hints at more parodic writing that I just didn’t see and the straightforward approach it took just didn’t do it for me. If I’m going to play anything featuring mythical monsters, I prefer to play with real danger and some well-placed comedy.

 

Next Time: Frozen Essence

My Favorite Upcoming Anime (2018)

One of the first things I like to do around January is check out anime news network’s “Upcoming Anime list,” and other similar websites. For, while it’s true that I am perpetually playing catch up with shows I should have already seen, I also like to track down new material to watch. There’s something oddly satisfying about tracking down where a new show’s gonna be streaming, watching the episodes as they air, and then waiting in sheer anticipation for the next air. It’s nostalgic for me, like those days when I woke up extra early to catch the latest Sailor Moon.

And ho boy, am I excited for this year. Buried within the normal crop of magical girl/slice of life anime are a quite a few series that left me jumping for joy.

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On that note, I figured I’d share which titles caught my attention the most. These are my favorites from the list of upcoming anime, be it for nostalgic reasons, favorite genres, or continuations that I am damn impatient about. This is not an exhaustive list, but definitely an itinerary as I go forward.

  • Junji Ito “Collection” (Yesterday)

Let me tell you about a man named Junji Ito and how I gained some interesting nightmares.

I hadn’t heard of the famed horror mangaka for quite some time, blissfully remaining under a rock, until about three years ago when I discovered the horror that was Uzumaki. I claim not to be an expert – been too much of a chicken to try – but I adored the surreal, uncanny valley artwork I saw in Uzumaki. That, combined with the downright sadistic stories Ito wrote, made it a fun and frightening read. Dare I say, it made for quite the twisted experience?

But this year I have a chance at redemption, to look at the horrifying sketchbook of the master. Studio Dean will be adapting stories from the Ito’s Master Collection book and Fragments of Horror. The first episode premiered yesterday, and they’ve got eleven more to go alongside two OVAs.

I’ll be watching that one when Crunchyroll feels merciful… or awful, depending on your viewpoint.

  • Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Arc (January 7th, 2018)

I was through the roof when I heard about Sailor Moon Crystal, several years ago. It was a heavy Nostalgia OD to see my longtime hero recolored and repackaged for the new audience and, while I can’t say it’s a perfect revamp, I heavily enjoyed what I saw. And now, another gem from my childhood is due for a dusting off.

 I started watching what I knew as Cardcaptors around the time Sailor Moon left cartoon network, solidifying my love of the magical girl genre. Now, CLAMP is all set to animate the sequel Manga, “The Clear Card Arc,” about twenty years later.  While I can’t say for sure that this type of show would still appeal to me today without any kind of childhood memories attached to it, I can say that I find myself extra curious about how this anime will go. 

Mmmmm, I can feel the cute dripping off it.
  • Castlevania Season 2 (TBA as of Today)

 

Y’all remember my two posts on Castlevania The Anime? I was skeptical about the existence of this show if only because Castlevania’s early games were never very story-heavy, and later story-heavy games were heavily convoluted. Lo and behold, the man behind Red and Stranger Things delivered yet again and gave us a hilarious, gory and downright epic anime for about four episodes.

Fans were left begging for more after this mini-preview, and more they shall have. Since the first four episodes were so well-received there will be a definite sequel season this year, though no date as of yet has been released. This is one I am extremely excited for myself, as I was mighty impressed with how lore-friendly the anime was overall. Gimme more magic, more Trevor being a badass, and more Old School Alucard and I will be a happy camper.

One of the prettiest men in-game is bad-ass. That’s just made of win.
  • Shingeki No Kyojin (Attack on Titan) Season Three (July 2018)

Strap yourself down this summer, kiddies, because the madness is not over.

Attack on Titan is one of those odd shows I was unsure if I’d like; everyone described it as part drama part horror., not a common mix. But upon watching the first seven episodes, I knew I was in for a good time. The show has no qualms about showing both the psychological horror associated with being hunted by giant creatures AND the graphic horror that would come with it. After two seasons of blood, sweat, and character death, we’re gonna have to steel ourselves for round three.

Now, fans of the series will approach this news with excitement, but also with a little skepticism. After all, last year we suffered quite a bit of delay with the second season of the show, to the point where it became an internet joke that the show would never actually see airtime. But, thankfully, it pulled itself out of development limbo and I’m sure this one will do the same. In fact, as long as all of these shows can get that hard takeoff, I can predict some relatively smooth sailing.

 

Which anime are you looking forward to? Feel free to share in the comments below. And don’t forget to like and follow for more content just like this.

 

Otome Review: Memory Days

Happy 2018, darling readers! It’s time to wipe the slate clean, start fresh… so let’s take a trip down memory lane.

All joking aside, I decided (somewhere in my fever-induced haze this last week) that the best way to bring in the new year and get the reviews going again was to pick the game that returned me to the genre as a whole. There was a point when I had actually gotten bored with most of the free-to-play Otome games that were floating around the internet and had actually given them a long break. Then, I decided to check Pacthesis out, just on a whim, and she’d made something completely different from her normal formula.

a032d7e0e2b992eb6fa909d642ce9c68

This is Memory Days, an Otome on the web that broke a lot of standards for her games and refreshed me on the idea of how these kinds of titles should work.

  • Plot

Strange things happen in West Cigam, from aliens to ghosts. And while Protagonist Ai Tanaka (or Hana, as I decided to name her) experienced very little of this during her summer vacations there, she still feels quite attached to the city. So she’s pretty thrilled when her family finally moves there for good. In the midst of catching up to a lot of old faces from her past, she may realize that the strange parts of West Cigam may include some more subtle things as well, like forming her own love story right under her nose.

Intro

And, well, that’s it. From there, it all depends on which of the three eligible bachelors you choose. And even then, what differs is almost minuscule. I have to say that, with everything this game got right, I found that the story was a rather underwhelming experience, sans a few instances of weird Pacthesis style humor here and there.

  • Gameplay

But where this game may have been light on story, it made up for by introducing gameplay elements that were pretty innovative when compared to her usual forte.  But first, we start with some familiar territory.

Mainly, we have a certain amount of energy each day that we can spend on various activities, regaining it when we go to bed. This includes working, studying for tests and attending class. However, these will also drain your “mood” meter, which makes you less willing to do the less pleasant activities the lower it gets. You can raise your mood, thankfully, by watching movies, reading books, and other such things. If you need more energy before bedtime, there’re places to buy food.

FastFood

But all this is accomplished because you now have access to a town that feels so much bigger. Back in her normal games, Pacthesis would usually provide one tiny hub screen with a few locations to visit. This time around, we have one large hub that connects to several areas in the game, a feat that somehow makes the whole town of West Cigam feel bigger. On top of that, our “schedule” dynamic has improved significantly from before. Instead of a one-month relationship that you have to rush to make work, you have four weeks that represent the four different seasons in Cigam, meaning you spend a whole year on this endeavor. It gives a sense of progression rather than a set time limit and it’s very satisfying.

 

Calender

Oh, but I know why you’re here. Indeed, the dating mechanic is still around, but far simpler than it used to be. Now, if you want the cute boy, you just gotta remember to track him down and chat with him as much as possible. Most of the time, you’ll get the usual schtick, where you pick one of two responses to earn some points towards their ending but, occasionally, you’ll trigger an important event in their story that you need to participate in for the best ending. Eventually, you’ll hit the event that will allow you two to become a couple, so that you can spend holidays together and go on on-screen dates for more points. You still have to remember to get gifts, but now there’s no need to memorize which one they specifically want AND no need to buy a bunch for that date.

 

Chat

  • Art

The art in most Pacthesis games has always been a curious experience. It’s anime-inspired – that much can never be denied- and the fact that her games are made in flash does place some limits on shading and fleshing out. That being said, I did always find her bishounen guys appealing and the little chibi sprites have their appeal as well.

Cutscene

I did find a few moments in the game, however, where perspective was a tad skewed. The head-size to body-size ratio was off a few times, but not enough to make the experience as a whole damaged.

  • Romances

Kai Utsugi

Kai

 

Kai is an odd addition to our journey here. Longtime fans may not recognize him without his crazy mop of hair, but he actually appeared in one of Pacthesis’s joke games way back in the day and just so happens to be the brother of Mako, the soccer-obsessed boy from Festival Days. He’s had a rough time of things after losing both his father and his cousin (Xolga). And yet, he’s managed to keep a decently happy mood about him and remains one of the more upfront and honest students in the school. He was looking to become a journalist, hopefully finding out what caused his cousin to vanish. But his plans may very well change when he starts getting oh so close to his new protagonist buddy.

Kai’s whole theme is the idea that he doesn’t beat around the bush with what he wants, given that he knows it could vanish at any point. I do feel him being the assertive, go-getter of the group could have been pushed much harder though, and his sensible personality did taste a bit bland on occasion. Still, his storyline is sympathetic enough that I found the flavor to my liking eventually.

 

Daichi Tomo

Daichi

 

On the opposite end of sensible and easy-going, we have manic optimistic and sporadic. Daichi is the Already Spoken For Guy that occasionally pops up in most dating sims but, like all of them, the relationship comes crashing down. It was bound to happen, according to him, because he didn’t take the relationship seriously. It doesn’t take too long for him to move onto you next, springing his feelings on you out of the blue and overall being extremely pushy. But he’s clearly putting lots of time and thought into spending time with you, so maybe this is when things finally change.

Of course, they do, not that I’m complaining. Daichi’s a funny and energetic character, so his path certainly kept me from being bored. I didn’t latch onto his character so well, mainly in that I felt his conflict was kinda pushed aside for the sake of smiles, but I can say that anyone who has a taste for bright-eyed optimism will certainly find a home here.

 

Haru Noru

Haru

 

Our last candidate is a standard for Pacthesis games – the shy but adorable boy in glasses. He’s also another continuity branch from Festival Days as he’s the half-brother of Akito, the cafe boy. Their father owns said cafe and Haru believes that he still clearly loved Akito’s mother more than he does Haru’s, which weighs heavily on his mind. As such, he tends to read and keep to himself most of the time until protagonist de jour comes and does what she does best: drag him out of the shadow and give him something to really stutter about.

Haru’s story is sympathetic and sweet, and he himself is pretty damn cute. But I was never really all that pulled in by shy types, or shy characters, so I never really latched onto him either. I feel for the boy and enjoyed the dialogue branches with him well enough, but he ranked lower on the totem for me overall.

  • Final Thoughts

The story in memory-days is extremely slice of life and that alone usually isn’t enough to pull me in. But I was so impressed at the time by the scale and appearance overhaul of the game that I kept going and found an enjoyable experience. This was the game that encouraged the creator to explore and try new styles with their future projects and, for that, it has my respect.

 

Next Time:  Monstrata Fracture