First Thoughts: Batman Ninja(2018)

I’ve been a new arrival to comic books for the past year, but I’ve always been a loyal fan of the ever-famed Dark Knight. I grew up on the animated series cartoon for years; I fell in love with the 60’s television show upon getting older; and most of my favorite comics now are Batman stories. It’s slightly difficult to talk about, given the reputation of the hardcore Batman fanbase, but I’ve personally adored the caped crusader for his use of psychological tactics against his foes. He’s become superhuman on sheer will alone, something I think everyone can admire.

But you know what else is superhuman by sheer will and training? Ninjas…. That segue hurt and I apologize.

batmanninja

Animation studio Kamikaze Douga released the first visual of their new project on their website: Batman Ninja. The full-feature movie has been a project three years in the making and will see release sometime in 2018. The concept in and of itself isn’t so far-fetched; Batman is, effectively, a western-equivalent to a real ninja. His tactics of working from the shadows and using all kinds of gadgets to convince the criminals that he’s everywhere and nowhere are very akin to traditional ninjutsu.

But, rather than showing us scenes of Bruce training to be the Big Bad Bat, we get a story that sounds like it’s gonna be one hell of a hybrid.

The Story So Far

If you were hoping this was an alternative storyline about a Japanese Batman, you’re probably gonna be disappointed. Rather, according to an article about the Comic-Con panel in New York, the story will have Batman and a handful of characters flung back into medieval Japan. The footage is not available for the public right now (else you can bet your keister I’d have it here) but the description I saw makes the whole thing look bananas in the best way possible.

To quote the article:

Picture Batman, decked out in shogun’s armor and wielding a katana, charging at the Joker, who’s also brandishing a sword, but draped in a fanciful, ancient Japanese courtier’s outfit that’s overflowing with tattered ruffles that bounce along with his maniacal laugh.

On a tiled roof, the pair crash and slash at one another in a dizzying flow of gorgeous swordsmanship and the Joker taunts Batman that, even in this unfamiliar time and place, he’s still every bit the bloodthirsty killer he was in Gotham. The scene jumps to a quick montage of fight scenes and we see that it isn’t just Batman and the Joker who have been displaced. Nightwing, one of the Robins, Harley Quinn, Penguin, and Gorilla Grodd are there as well, and they all look like avant-garde, high-fashion, concept-art versions of themselves.

Combine this with the mention of some mixed 2D/3D animation, and you can color me curious. The show’s director, according to the author, made a point of mentioning that this movie would very much be about how Japan sees Batman; if this is what they see when they look at Batman, then I just fell head-over-heels in love.

A Promising Staff

If the concept itself wasn’t a sell, the names behind it should be enticing. Directing the movie will be Kamikaze’s founder and CEO Junpei Mizusaki, who produced the opening animation for both iterations of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Meanwhile, we have the mangaka for Afro Samurai, Takashi Okazaki, designing the characters and writer Kazuki Nakashima in charge of the script (with him having Kamen Rider and Gurren Lagann to his name). If that wasn’t enough, the English translation of the film will be headed by Leo Chu and Eric Garcia, executive producers for the Afro Samurai anime and movie.

Why would I hammer this so hard? Because great ideas can always go astray if they are horrifically mishandled. Take, for example, the base-splitting flop that was Batman vs, Superman: Dawn of Justice or the Man of Steel movie. While Zack Snyder has all my sympathies for the tragedy he dealt with, that didn’t excuse the fact that he gave us an uber-depressing Superman and a Batman who may as well moonlighted as an Arkham inmate suffering from paranoia. The fact that this animated movie has so many good names attached to it doesn’t alleviate my fears completely, but at least it doesn’t have the same baggage future Snyder films will have.

Comics and Anime Make Great Bedfellows.

For all the jokes and memes people make about western anime fans, people forget that western comics have become popular worldwide as well. There have already been several instances of West Meets East anime or anime-like pieces, including television shows about Iron-Man, X-Men, and the Gotham Knight shorts. The Marvel shows alone saw decent success and proved that anime could easily handle the outright crazy that comics tend to peddle.

To that end, I think Batman fits into anime’s tendency towards the absurd just fine.  The storylines that Batman finds himself in are ostentatious for a fellow with no superpowers: tangling with the immortal Ra’s Al Ghul and his Lazarus Pit, Doodlebug summoning demons through blood-paintings (one of my favorites), and even going face-to-face with the tyrannical alien ruler Darkseid. Almost anything can happen in comics and comic-cartoons, mirroring anime’s boundless narrative possibilities. And, since Batman’s narrative, these days, is about a mortal man dealing with bigger-than-life villains and forces of evil, we’ve got some huge potential.

Wrap It Up Already

And, in the end, that’s what Batman Ninja is right now: potential. We only have an image and an idea, with a talented team working in the background. But, with every great idea, there is a chance for a massive flop if care and passion are not put in. I can’t tell from such paltry amount of info if this will turn out for good or bad, but my first thoughts are cautious optimism and excitement. 

 

Advertisements

Otome Review: The Heart of Tales

The astute may notice that I originally planned to do a game called Memory Tree, which looked like a pretty cool Harvest Moon type of game. But, after about an hour of trying to fiddle with it,  and a weekend in which my laptop tried to die on me, I decided to wait until that game was out of alpha. Instead, let’s talked NaNoRen.

With NaNoWriMo on the horizon – and me furiously building a world on my own – I remembered that the Visual Novel community had it’s own Novel-Rush a few months ago. And, as I start prepping for the longest stretch of writing I do every year, I remembered a few titles I didn’t get to last time I discussed NaNoReNo. So we’re taking a second glance at the pet-projects of my fellow frantic writers, who have every reason to be stressed when they have to make a full-fledged game in one month. With that in mind, let us take a peek at a short little story about a retired knight: The Heart of Tales, by Katy133.

And remember duckies: my criticism is from one writer to another in hopes of helping them, not kicking someone’s pet-project.

  • Plot

Much like all “Ye Olde Tales,” our story begins with a brave knight who saved the land from a great evil. The Knight Female, of which you get to name, is known as a great hero who slew a mighty despair demon known as Anezma, with the help of the magic claymore Sareth. She was granted a knightship and went on several adventures before she decided to retire at a very young age. The king offered her a lord’s house that could be anywhere she wanted, and yet she chooses to have a small cottage at the edge of town. She’s decided on the life of a hermit, not hurting anyone and retiring early from adventuring.

Cottage

A Knight’s Reward

But all that goes out the window with two very strange visitors. One is ready to murder her over a stolen treasure; the other is ready to be her knight’s apprentice. They come at a time most fortuitous – something sinister has descended upon the forest and has caused the very wildlife to attack unprovoked. Has great evil returned? And what will Ex-Knight do when her new guests worm their way into her heart?

  • Gameplay

Since this was a NaNo project, one mustn’t expect a long, engrossing experience. Gameplay here is simple: name your character and pick the between the choices given. The early choices don’t really change much, but you eventually get to a point where you have to favor one of the two boys: The cranky Mithamore or the spritely Cole. The good news is that directing the story to one of them is super easy. 

Choices

However, you’ll also find out pretty early that the story itself is equally simple and lacking in some details. It’s the nature of NaNo games to be short bursts of story rather than a full narrative, and this one is straightforward: a bitter recluse re-learning to trust others through the shenanigans of two very different people. It’s easy to swallow and enjoy, though the shortness of it takes away some of the impact of the larger message, mainly what an actual hero is. It made the romance come out of nowhere and just generally felt like the bare bones of a plot. It’s normal for NaNo Projects, but seeing this story expanded could be interesting.

GameboyCGs

I want more because some of these moments are genuinely adorable

That being said, the game did feature a few things that surprised me. Rather than making use of paid voice actors, which would be a nightmare for such a quick project, Ms. Katy made use of audio jumblers for each character, meaning they spout babble-ly nonsense each line. It’s strange on the ears, but it meshes alright with the music. Said 8-bit music really threw me for a loop the first time, as did the option for Dsylexic-Friendly Text. Add on the New Game+ Option, which allows you to skip to the good stuff, and you have a game that sought to be unique.

NewGame+

It’s even self-aware
  • Art

I knew this game had an interesting art style, but I was not expecting it to be this unique. Katy133 decided to take a video-game approach, and the entire game looks like it took place inside an old Gameboy. The music is all 8-bit; the sprites are simple and with single-color schemes; there are even cool little animations that suddenly explode into SNES-like colors.

Animations

The style is also very different from tradition. Rather than sporting some bishounen faces with lots of long hair, we have cartoony faces with lots of medieval detail on the clothes, making each one distinct but far from anime. It won’t appeal to your average fan, but it’s a nice change of pace.

  • Romances

There are supposed to be three romances here, but my piddly fingers couldn’t seem to get it to trigger. So, if anyone knows how to get the third path unlocked, feel free to let me know.

Mithamore

MithamoreThe first specimen romance option literally falls into your home, stabbed and very weak. He’d like very much to kill you, but you just had to go and save his life. Now he’s bound by the ancient promises of his ancestors to return the favor through a life-saving action of his own. Why do these weirdly specific traditions bind him, and why does he hate you so much?

Why, because he’s a dragon, and you stole from him.

We return once again to the confusing logistics of dating a mythical reptile through Mithamore, the infamous Earth Burner. He’s been cursed by a sorceress to this human form and still can’t get used to being mortal. But through some genuine acts of kindness, the protagonist may very well melt the hardened heart of this legend. As I played, I got the notion that Mithy here was supposed to be the cold-stick-in-the-mud, which he was, but I don’t feel like I really got enough time to catch what Protagonist saw in him.

Cole Caldwell

Cole

Meanwhile, on our opposite end of the personality spectrum, we have a young man with a pot on his head and the entire Knight’s Mantra memorized. He’s a rich noble’s son and is set on being your apprentice. But, rather than snobbily demand that only you are good enough to train someone of his lineage, he begs you as a young lad wanting to be a hero. He’s got a bright look about him, knows some decent sword techniques, and looks like he’d pass muster physically.

But poor, poor Protagonist is far too bitter for someone who reminds her so much of her old self. Cole is the bright sunshine that’s supposed to represent a lack of “trauma,” I.E he hasn’t “soiled his hands” in the name of Heroism and just “hasn’t learned the truth.” This kind of character has usually bothered me since they almost always result in a case of Breaking the Believer and it just makes me tense. But this one didn’t quite go that far and, instead, seemed to be a shot in the arm for Protagonist instead. So, while Cole himself is a bit on the flat side, I think his arc is interesting enough.

  • Final Word

I like the framework and design of Heart of Tales but I am left feeling like there’s something missing. The milestones don’t have as big an impact because the story is as most NaNoRen projects are: bare bones. If given more material and a slightly longer narrative, I think this story could have more punch to it. Until then, I can’t see myself booting it up anytime soon.

 

Next Time: Paper Roses

First Impressions: Neo Yokio

What’s worse – an honest tribute from someone who’s inexperienced or an attempt at a parody with minimal understanding of the medium’s flaws? Truthfully, both would be an equal disaster, because the road to animation-hell is paved with good intentions.

With that in mind, there is little to no excuse for the most recent anime failure to grace Netflix. Neo Yokio, written and produced by Indie rock singer Ezra Koenig, gained some attention and notoriety thanks to a handful of stars attached to it, including the lead, Jaden Smith. But, when it hit the streaming service on the 22nd of September, waves of negative reviews hit the internet. Since there were one or two positive reviews, I thought I’d take a look at the first few episodes and see if the show was just a cult-classic or if the warning signs were clear.

In short, I did this to myself.

tumblr_ok1c5uzpfk1udouqko1_500

Two Words: Instant Regret

First impressions of Neo Yokio are bleak, sporting lazy animation and a story that utterly fails to engage. If there’s a message of anti-high-society or Coming of Age anywhere within, it’s utterly buried under piles of unfunny comedy and unlikable characters. This will never get a full review from me because I can’t bring myself to suffer through any more episodes.

Plot-wise, the anime opens with a propaganda video telling us that Neo Yokio – an alternate New York – is the greatest city on earth. Such a great city apparently attracted the attention of hordes of demons a long time ago, but the problem has been “solved” by trained magicians in the 19th century. They were given positions in high society in exchange for their services, earning the title Magiristocrat. We follow one such magician, a young man named Kaz Kaan, on his adventures in hoy-ploy demon hunting, alongside his mecha butler, Charles.

Who looks like he was ripped straight from the “Robots” section of those How to Draw Manga books at the store.

The concept itself is not bad, but the show’s direction is strange. Rather than playing up the conflict of being a demon-hunter in high society, the show feels the need to keep these two elements separate. The main conflict in the first three episodes comes from Kaz trying to keep up with the demands of the Upper Class in Neo Yokio, with all the demon-hunting business either coming out of nowhere or treated as a side-plot. My first taste if this entire show felt like The Diary of a Rich Brat, where Kaz would whine about a bad suit or some such while his “awful” aunt Agatha had to bully him into doing a demon-job for the family. I think the writers were trying to make the two positions clash somehow but I can’t fathom why they’d try to endear us with the least sympathetic of problems.

Yes, Kaz, the idea that a demon may possess a skull covered in diamonds takes second to the fact that you got the wrong suit for your party.

On top of this poorly structured story, we have a protagonist who utterly fails to endear himself to the audience. Kaz Kaan is narcissistic and whiny, and it’s painfully easy for anyone to goad him into things. It’s a believable set of flaws for someone in his position, but he has no other positive traits to make the audience like him. He may have a reasonably straight moral compass, but I can’t be bothered to care when the rest of him is a caricature of a trust-fund kid. I think he’s supposed to drop his materialism later in the series, probably from the friend of his who’s turned into a hipster, but it’s hard to do character development when you’re this flat, to begin with.

It makes his struggles, like the hockey game above, seem that much more pointless

Speaking of flat, this has got to be one of the cheapest-looking anime I’ve ever seen. The animation itself was done by Studio DEEN in a style to imitate low-budget anime of the early 2000s, meaning a lot of flat coloring, off-model characters, and several anime shortcuts (nosebleeds, chibification, sweatdrops, etc…) But, where anime like The Big O went out of their way to have a distinct style despite the simple animation, Neo Yokio looks completely generic. The bad voice-acting and inability to properly frame a shot seem more akin to a college project than a professional anime, not helped by the DOA voice-acting of several cast members. Throw it all into a blender and leave out any sense of atmosphere and immersion, and you have one, giant disaster of a show.

Just a lot of this

My first impressions of Neo Yokio will be my last because there is no way I can sit through any more of this. The show will chase you away nigh immediately with it’s “rich-kid problems” plot and infuriating protagonist. The lazy animation kills any sense of uniqueness this show’s trailer may have boasted and the bad editing will drive you mad. I know there was some scattered praise for this show from a few sites, but methinks this one’s better off aiming for a cult than a wide audience.  

 

Otome Review – Nusantara: Legend of The Winged Ones

It’s hard to believe, but not all visual novels seek to create self-inserts. They also don’t always seek to be sunshine and roses.

Most VN writers are more than aware that their target audience is picking up their game to fulfill some kind of secret fantasy: I wanna be courted by a prince, I wanna be a warrior princess and date a wizard, etc. This gets kinda difficult when the author may wanna tackle some more serious topics, like war, depression, or suicide. Some games manage to keep their cake and eat it, like how the Seduce Me Series managed to cover serious sexual issues while keeping the player inside a comfy set of character pants.

And then others just have to lay the fantasy aside and focus on telling a good story. That’s where our current gem lay today, somewhere in between wish fulfillment and a traditional book.  Nusantara: Legend of the Winged Ones is an intense story, where writer and illustrator, Sweetchiel, manages to throw the player into a new world and taking them on one hell of a ride.

 

  • Plot

Tamera’s life was already in shambles. Her parents had passed away and now her uncle has taken it upon himself to annul her lease and force her to come and live with him. Then, upon arriving in one of the biggest cities in Indonesia, she’s accosted by a small white bird that can actually talk. Curiosity getting the better of her, she follows it down an ally and meets a powerful figure with big plans.

Fate

Suddenly, she’s dropped into a new world with no way back home. She’s rescued by winged-humanoids called Avians, who accept her into their home inside Loma village.  The Avians live a pretty simple life, but they’re also constantly at war with the reptilian Komodos, another humanoid race with hard skin, sharp teeth, and acidic saliva. That same mysterious figure tells Tamera that she must somehow stop this three-year conflict by befriending someone in the village and finding the real source of this war.  Then again, maybe getting to know her new friends will make her final moments with them that much harder.

  • Gameplay

I know someone who mentioned that they quit this game at first because it took forever to get to the first choice. I will be the first to admit that this game takes its sweet time with getting to the interactive part, with the prologue and the first chapter having a lot of exposition to lay out. I strongly encourage patience, however, because there’s a lot to unpack after round one.

The first half of the game is the aforementioned “getting to know” segment, where you have to spend time with whichever of the romanceable options caught your fancy. These come in the form of a choice between either two or three-weekend activities, all of which will make you “randomly” encounter your birdman of choice, or have you spend time with other characters to pick up some plot and/or skills. The first weekend will introduce you to each of them to give you a taste, and then the next few are all about strategy. There’s a little trial and error involved, but I ultimately found it an intriguing play decision. 

Choices

When you aren’t training yourself to be the best waifu, or hounding the local shut-in like a crazed yandere, you’ll see Tamera try to master the “simple” arts of living in Loma village, only to fail, fail, then finally succeed. These moments manifest as cute little chibi sprites that shift between two separate images and they are just freaking adorable. These images are sometimes used for comedic effect as well, but each one is capable of tiny animations that just add this whole new level of adorable. In fact, all the CG’s tend to shift in the game, really amping up the “show, don’t tell” of the story.

Cute Chibis

Speaking of the story,  I caution the reader not to let this cute overtone trick them too hard. This game came with a trigger warning on the download page and I dare say it actually deserves it. It will deal with suicide, war, abuse, and other sensitive topics that may very well make the viewer uncomfortable. As I mentioned in my intro, it manages to immerse the player while dropping these topics because it handles them with a lot of grace and care, making it feel far more realistic. In short, while this game is heartwarming and very funny, it also gets real, fast.

Rama Hug

There’s gonna be a lot of feels.
  • Art

But, while you curl up into a ball and ask why the sun went out, you’ll at least get a chance to look at some really gorgeous art. We have a very warm color palette this time around – lots of gold, amber, and other such things. SweetChiel took the time to give each sprite distinct facial changes and even uses a few tricks in the Ren’py Engine when dealing with unnamed side-characters. There are a lot of movement in the art that makes it all dynamic and I am satisfied on the whole.

Art tricks

That being said, there are moments when the art gives me a blank screen and a brief description of what happened. I do understand that the story needs to move along and time has to be saved on less important elements, but there were one or two moments that could have had a sweet CG. It’s a nitpick, I know, but something worth note.

Telling

  • Romance Options

Mitra

Mitra

This large birdie is the chief of the neighboring Avian village, Digdaya. He’s a strong, dependable soul with deadly skills in twin knives. And when you meet this bulky, powerful warrior for the first time… he’s babysitting the children with a goofy, albeit outnumbered smile on his face.

Mitra’s route is about as traditional as it comes; he’s kind, honest, a good leader, and looking to settle down someday with the right woman and raise some kids. But, while his path will involve a lot of working to become Best Housewife(trademark) it also means allowing Best Chief to be weak and vulnerable for just a few moments. Those rare times when this cheerful, easy-going man loses his confidence are adorable and watching Tamera occasionally be the one to comfort and guide him shows some real depth. If you’ve never really played a VN before, or you don’t know if this game is your thing, I’d definitely suggest starting on this path.

Rama

Rama

On the opposite side of Mitra’s path is, ironically, the chief’s former best friend: Rama. But one should know right away that something is wrong with the playful golden Avian and it isn’t just his scars and broken wings.

Rama is childish and carefree, or at least he appears as such. He likes to play games, eat durians, and play little pranks that get Tamera all hot under the collar. But the flipside of this high is a man who’s hurt, really bad. Sporting dark mood swings that suggest an even darker past, Rama’s path is a heavy one to work through. It’ll require a strong stomach and the will to fix a man with some real issues. If you’ve always wanted to be the shining light that saves someone from the cliff, then dive right in. Otherwise, I’d save this one for last.

Reska

Reska

Let’s say, for a moment, you decide Bird-People aren’t your type; maybe it’s the wings. Thankfully, our game provides a unique path in the form of the stone-skinned Komodos: a rough, aggressive path that turned out to be my favorite.

Reska is the son of the Komodo Chief, Silva. There are a lot of horror stories surrounding the Komodos,  and Reska certainly tries to keep them alive by being intimidating and overly aggressive on the first meet. But Tamera finds him while suffering a bad leg injury and fever, allowing her to weasel her way into getting closer. Even so, he can’t resist being a grumpy jerk with a possessive streak and it came off in the best way possible. There’s something primitive about a male love interest who’s taciturn and dangerous, but presenting him in a way that allows the player to safely get close is a stroke of genius. If you like‘em protective and combative, with a hint of playfulness, than look no further.

  • Final Thoughts

While Nusantara: Legend of the Winged Ones is heavy on the trauma it’s just right when it comes to likeable characters and engaging story. I’m happy to return to a game where my choices have real direction and consequence to them, even if I got the bad ending once or twice. The story isn’t much of a self-insert tale but it stills a good story worth at least three readings.

 

Next Time: The Heart of Tales

Five Frustrating Anime Villians

It’s rather amazing how many fiction consumers are infatuated with the bad guys. Given that the villain makes the main plot of the story, it only makes sense that we like a good antagonist to get those ripples in the pond going. But some villains don’t inspire adoration and excitement from us; some inspire so many feelings of anger and frustration that we can’t be bothered to watch them.

And when it comes to anime, that’s a delicate line to walk. It’s hard to carry a ton of seasons when your main antagonist inspires feelings of apathy every time they pop on screen. Below are my top five villain or villain-like characters that inspire feelings of absolute frustration in me, be they badly written or written just a little too well. They don’t break their shows, but they make breaking your laptop over your knee look all the more reasonable.

Oh, and a lot of these contain spoilers, so allow me to just get this out of the way:

0ac14f970cf188f8fb4dcbcb3b858df3

Spoilers Ahead. Ye be warned.

5. Light YagamiDeath Note

63870 Put your pitchforks down; I love Death Note. But any fan of the series will usually tell you that they have a very strong love/hate relationship with this genius.

Light the character is an amazing protagonist. He’s an active player in the plot, making the police run in circles, evading capture even after they have him caught, and giving the world’s greatest detective the magical slip twice. These gambits are exciting to watch and cement Light as a solid Villain Protagonist. But that doesn’t change the fact that Light The Person will make you want to punch him through the walls, Love Hina style.

That grin about sums up everything I hate about this jerk-off.

You may very well agree with Kira’s goals of creating the perfect world, or that all criminals deserve a painful death. But I doubt there’s a large group that agrees with Light’s methods for keeping himself in power because he is a stone-cold sociopath. If you weren’t mad at his constant emotional manipulation of Misa Amane and Kiyomi Takeda, then his blatant disregard for his family, later on, should do it.  He has to fight with himself about killing Sayo; He has to pretend to be devastated when his father dies; when said Father is on his deathbed he’s far more concerned about making sure his dad doesn’t think he’s Kira, and so much more. Light Yagami the person is infuriating, which only makes the final confrontation all the sweeter.

4. Sasuke Uchiha Naruto

I won’t hear any arguments about this one being an anti-hero. As far as I’m concerned, when you join several antagonist groups and threaten to murder your friends without the aid of brainwashing, you don’t get to go to the heroes club meetings anymore.

I have complicated feelings about Naruto the show but I am clear on how much I can’t stand Sasuke Uchiha. I have no patience for ungrateful brats, especially brats who waste infinite second chances from their peers.  Every attempt to show him kindness and concern is met with cold rejection and murder-attempts, and yet somehow everyone falls over themselves to bring him home. Even after he joins two different organizations bent on the destruction of Konoha, even after he tries to kill his two best friends, both Naruto and Sakura feel they have to “rescue” him. It’s infuriating to see Kishimoto’s attempts to make us like a character who has no redeeming value to his personality and who, ultimately, does little for the plot.

But, and I say this begrudgingly, he did have one use: it was infinitely satisfying seeing him fail.

I could watch this all day

Sasuke has a purpose – to fail. He’s the power-hungry revenge seeker who is clearly in the wrong for the show, thus you’re supposed to be sad but secretly satisfied when he gets the snot kicked out of him. It’s a nice idea and full of potential, but it’s buried under a pile of induced apathy from a fanbase that’s tired of watching him betray just about everyone who trusts him.

3. Ali & An – Sailor Moon

Oh God, how I hate filler.

I understand that sometimes you need to buy time in anime production. Sailor Moon especially needed more time since Takeuchi was already buried under her manga work and couldn’t get season two started. However, that does not change the fact that filler is annoying, wastes everyone’s time, and needs to be kept to a minimum. Now, imagine an entire section of a season being filler, with two of the most bratty villains ever… and they’re doing it on purpose.

Ali and An, or “Allan and Ann” if you saw the dub, were two alien lifeforms raised by the ethereal, magical being called the Makaju, or the “doom tree.” Because it fed on energy and gave them energy, in turn, these two would routinely summon “Caridan monsters” which stole human energy. When they weren’t doing that, they were pretending to be human and attempting to break up the main couple despite claiming to love each other. It was a vicious cycle of them cheating, getting caught by each other, and apologizing, and then starting back at square one.

Furthermore, because of their “tragic” backstory, they were supposedly given excuses for believing they could force people to love them. But even “annoying on purpose” is a fail in my book. When the plot of the season is supposed to involve evil child-murderers from the future, a side-plot about two, petty adults who piss each other off just doesn’t cut it.

2. The Noah – D Gray Man

Yes, I’m cheating. But, in all seriousness, The Noah were the worst part of the entire anime just for the sheer amount of attention they got.

In the grim-tastic world of D. Gray Man, where living dolls, magic clocks, and piano-guided magic are the norm, The Noah were an interesting group of baddies. The Millennium Earl was and continues to be a terrifying character, making machine skeletons out of the dead and stuffing them into the skin of their loved ones. And his merry band of evil misfits were equally worrisome; immortal, spiteful beings with no qualms about murder will certainly do that. But, as much as I enjoyed Tyki Mikk being a monster and Road being the resident Creepy-Child, they wore out their welcome too fast.

Yeah, Tyki, I went there.

I like a good villain as much as the next writer, but I hate it when they distract me completely from the main plot. Far too often I was eager to move onto the next point with the exorcist’s group and had to wade through too many scenes of Road being creepy, Tyki being a sadistic bastard, and the Earl’s umbrella needlessly freaking out. The Noah’s appeal quickly wears off as the anime lingers on their antics. It turns out there is such a thing as too much villain exposure, and The Noah are guilty as charged.

1. Envy – Fullmetal Alchemist 2003

profile_picture_by_serpentofjealousy-d6tbst0

Our last entry is my biggest pet-peeve: a character who used to work, no longer works, and still receives adoration he doesn’t deserve. I can’t understand why anyone in the world would find this creature attractive – especially in his first anime form.

Now, I’m neither stupid nor insensitive, so I’m aware there’s an attraction to bad men for some women; I’ve had my fair share of bad-guy crushes. But I was especially baffled at the fanbase Envy has, especially first incarnation Envy. Let’s ignore the fact that the real Envy is a sadist who will happily kill humans like insects, started an entire war out of sheer boredom, and murdered a man by pretending to be his wife. I can easily understand how fangirls can completely ignore all of that, though I’m less impressed at some trying to excuse it.

fmamonsterenvy03_zpsfc17a250

I like to remind them of this lovely creature

But I would never understand why anyone would like “Envy, the whiny child who just wanted daddy to love him.”

Envy is not anyone’s child in the manga, or in Brotherhood. But the 2003 anime decided that he needed extra wangst and made him the son of Dante and Hohenheim. They decided that this sociopathic monster was better suited to hating Edward specifically because he felt like Hohenheim cared more for the Elrics than for him. As far as I’m concerned, this completely ruins anything about the character that made him scary. It’s an attempt to add empathy to a creature who’s shown it to no one. In fact, Envy has been downright predatory to people capable of empathy and emotion. 

Envy to me is the sum of what makes the must frustrating villain. It’s a character pulled in a direction that doesn’t make sense for them, or just plain misses the point of their role entirely.

 

Who are your most frustrating villain characters? Feel free to comment below!

 

Otome Review: Magical Otoge Anholly

Last time, we dipped into the waters of the “First Try” and played someone’s very first Otome game. It had some expected complications but ultimately had a pleasant sense of humor about it. This illustrated what the true point of anyone’s first piece of art should be: get your name out there and be just good enough for people to wanna see more. From there, all you have to do is improve.

And so I decided to dive back into the work of popular artist Batensan, a core member of DeviantArt who makes simple, straightforward Otome’s with no bad endings and a wicked sense of humor. But I fear that this return has taken what little we had and stripped it down even further. So, is a better story redeeming when you have even less input?

Let’s find out.

  • Plot

Points were gained right off the bat for a plot that was far more engaging, despite having less obvious direction.

Welcome to the frozen city of Solvalis, once a prosperous hamlet, now covered in ice and snow. The only resident is Anholly, a sweet optimist who’s unfortunately responsible for turning the town into the castle from Frozen. In fact, she and Elsa could likely be drinking buddies since Anholly also can’t control her snow magic, thus accidentally freezing the city. The denizens were convinced it was a curse, and everyone left the girl to her fate. Thankfully, her buddy Riov visits her once a week to make sure she has food and that she’s as comfortable as possible. In fact, his family took care of Anholly back when the city was still habitable.

Riov takes care

But things get shaken up when an ice spirit wanders into the city. After some comical attempts to help stop him from passing out, you learn that the spirit – Seihuo – was ripped from his home and has been trying to walk his way back. But the lack of cold weather means he’s not too long for this world, so he’s gonna stick around and recover as best he can. Can Anholly save him from the same fate as Frosty? Will doing so put her at greater risk than she’s letting on?

  • Gameplay

My greatest complaint from the last game was the story’s unfortunate habit of telling me everyone’s actions and thoughts instead of letting things speak for themselves (show, don’t tell). This game must have seen that as well, as I saw more CG’s and a greater emphasis on describing the actions rather than telling the reader what happened. However, we still haven’t abandoned the need to tell the reader what each character is thinking, especially as it pertains to Anholly herself. It’s as distracting now as it was then and I would strongly recommend abandoning it.

More of this

More of this, please

But, outside of the unfortunate glimpses into everyone’s head, I am happy to see that the story quality itself has taken quite a leap for the better. I feel a stronger, more defined sense of character from Anholly than I did Ciel, and I am far more attached to Seihuo and Riov than the Knight brothers.  The plot flows better while maintaining the tongue-in-cheek sense of humor I liked so much from the last game. All in all, the novel part of this visual novel is much better and will have an easy time drawing you in.

Humor still works

So why am I discussing this like I would a book? Because this visual novel might as well be a kinetic novel and not bother with the Otoge name. While I may have had some reservations about Ciel’s writing style, or it’s want to be “straight-forward,” I could forgive since it still allowed me to choose which character Ciel ended up with. This time around, the choices literally do nothing other than add a frill or three. The story is exactly the same no matter what, which drastically hurts replayability. Somehow the sequel has given us even less choice, which is a let-down no matter how simple you like things.

Lies

This choice will affect nothing. At all.
  • Art

This is, once again, truly a no-brainer. The light, air-brushed shojo style art has indeed carried over to the new game and still looks quite lovely. This time, however, we also feature a distinct winter theme to all the artwork and it is absolutely gorgeous. The frosty snowflakes all over the place, the light blue and white color scheme, and even the falling snow effects looked absolutely stunning.

Snowy effects

But since I didn’t have a lot of gameplay to focus on, I was left to stare at the sprites. I noticed then that the change in their facial expressions were very subtle – hard to notice in fact – and were never all that distinct. I would definitely encourage more distinct facial changes on the sprites next time, just to make things more visually interesting.

  • Romance Options Characters

As I mentioned before, we are dealing with an Otome that doesn’t feature any romantic paths. I found this personally off-putting, but not everybody likes the wish fulfilment-type stories that I do. So, this won’t necessarily count as a negative towards it, but I also don’t see myself reading this one again anytime soon.

Anholly

To keep things fair, we’ll look instead at the characters we’re presented in the game. Since we don’t have a romantic choice this time around, our focus will be drawn more to the story itself and the characters we interact with. To that end, I can see that Batensan has really tried and churned out some well-defined prospects. Anholly is a fine protagonist; she may feel awkward and force on a variety of smiles, but you can’t really blame her when she’s had to deal with something so life-changing. Furthermore, when she does force herself to look on the brightside, her companions will be the first ones to react in the confused and concerned fashion such an attitude deserves. It’s the same awkward attempts to remain smiley from the last game, but with a realistic reason and very natural reactions from her companions.

Seihuo

In the meantime, her companions are also pretty compelling, with much more distinct personalities this time around. Seihuo (on the right) is the glorious deadpan snarker, with the kind of jaded attitude I expect from an ice-spirit who’s slowly melting away. He’s also the source of a great many jokes in the stories, which already endears me to him. Then we have Riov (below), who’s somehow more antisocial, despite being warmer and friendlier. But I can speak from experience that a fear of strangers will make you look like the most inconsiderate person ever. Besides, he’s much better at the “sweet childhood friend” than Florien ever was.

Riov

But our last specimen was the one that confused me the most. The game features one more character who appears a bit later in the story and who basically tries and fails to be the “all-powerful observer” who must not interfere. He won’t step in when the chips fall down, but good ole’ Veltaire (below) will disobey orders enough to heal some small injuries for Anholly and drop some confusing hints about destiny and the natural order. I honestly don’t see a point to him being here other than the ending. Personally, I would have made him a surprise later, but that’s what happens when one writer grades another.

Veltaire

  • Final Thoughts

I do believe that Magical Otoge Anholly was an improvement over Ciel, as we were allowed to see more from the characters and got a much more interesting story. That being said, the style of the game still doesn’t suit my tastes and there’s still places that need a lot of fine tuning. Labeling a game as Otoge and then lacking any distinct paths is confusing and takes away some of the fun of the game. I know there’s a third game being currently made and it would do well to take in as much feedback as possible.

Next Time – Nusantara: Legend of the Winged Ones

My JRPG-Hyrbid Recomendations

There truly is no greater joy in life than being a gamer.

I like to think that gaming and anime exist in the same nerdy neighborhood. Both, after all, are capable of reaching impossible heights and telling amazing stories. Furthermore, combinations of the two can result in some utterly excellent experiences. I’m talking, of course, about the almighty JRPG, which brought us the anime-like experiences of Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, The “Tales Of” series, and the all-powerful Persona series. And while I am shamefully behind on most of, if not all of these titles, I have dabbled enough to play some awesome JRPG’s that deserve some attention. Because the type of games I like will feature a unique spin on the already awesome formula.

These are my four recommendations if you want a JRPG with a fun twist. Some of these are well-known, but some may just surprise you.

  • .Hack//G.U #1 – 3

The G.U series is a sequel, but you won’t require too much knowledge of the previous games to understand the meat of this one. Just know that if something is important, it’ll be explained. Otherwise, don’t worry about it.

The story focuses on a PKKer (player-killer-killer) named Haseo, a rogue in the MMORPG known as The World. He’s been tracking down another player by the name of Tri-Edge for  PKing (player-killing) his female friend, Shino. The defeat made her fall into a coma in real life; In fact, several players have been falling into comas on the outside world. But after a quick defeat and reset at the hands of this mysterious player, Haseo will learn that The World is hiding lots of secrets, both good and terrible, and it’ll only cost him a confrontation with several inner demons From there, it’s an awesome story of evil computer viruses, and fantastic battles between mecha-like avatars in cyberspace.

929996_20070319_screen015

To be honest, if you’d ask me to pick a great setting for an action RPG game, I would have never recommended the .Hack series. Despite being based in a virtual reality MMORPG, which supposedly features lots of action and magic, the series has always been a bit on the slow side with a big focus on characters chatting about their deep, dark secrets.Thankfully, the G.U series managed to combine that with some sweet free-action RPG fights. The game puts you into The World straight away, teaching you how to fight and level up, go on side-quests, the whole nine-yards. You could literally just log on to fight and hop around the in-game game if you wanted, and that’s pretty damn cool.

 

  • Rune Factory 4

A farming simulator in a list of JRPG’s? I must have lost my mind to think this could stand alongside Golden Sun or Valkyria Chronicles. It is true that these games are a niche – and an odd one at that – but the Rune Factory games specifically take what Harvest Moon did and extended it well into traditional JRPG’s.

Each game has its own, separate plot, but my personal favorite has always been the fourth game. You play either Lest or Frey, and you’re on your way to Selphia to deliver an important item to the Native Dragon, Ventuswill. But you’re attacked on your flying ship and hit your head hard enough to give you some classic amnesia.  You literally fall onto Vent in Selphia and are mistaken for a prince/princess that was due to arrive. Since Ventuswill is such a nice dragon, she allows you to stay and gives you a farm to tend. But you’re happy, farming life will be due for interruption; stranger monsters have appeared in several dungeons around Selphia, putting the town and the magical “Runes” in danger. So pick up your sword, farmer, you’ve got some skulls to bash.

Effectively, the Rune Factory series is not only about farming and falling in love, but going out into the wilderness with sword or ax and carving through some great evil. The boxes of the games call themselves the “Fantasy Harvest Moon” and I truly do believe it. The farm work back home is actually preparatory for battles out in the field and items you find in the wilderness can be used to make better equipment, medicine, a whole bunch of stuff. The fighting itself is more hacky-slashy than the traditional turn-based combat but it still involves building stats, wearing the right equipment and all that good stuff. It’s a refreshing twist on both Harvest Moon and JRPG’s in general, worth a look by either party.

  • Ogre Battle – March of the Black Queen

Like I said, loose definition of JRPG. This series isn’t as well-known in the states as it should be. Still, if you like the RTS genre on top of the RPG genre then this one is for you.

March of the Black Queen takes place in a medieval fantasy setting, namely the fictional continent of Zetegenia. Empress Endora conquered the continent twenty-five years ago, and a Liberation Army forms to free it from her grasp. The head of this army – whose gender and characteristics are decided at the beginning of the game – must lead several units of men across Zetegenia to free each city and temple from her grasp. But the question remains as to whether Endora is of her own mind, or if there’s a greater evil lurking behind her. 

The game is all about mixing tactical RTS elements with RPG-style battles and character development, and it works surprisingly well. After answering a tarot quiz at the beginning of the game to construct your protagonist, the game will consist of leading units across a tactical map to liberate important cities and temples. You can even recruit other units of varying classes during battle, making your army that much bigger. The ending of the game will depend on your character’s reputation and traits, along with certain decisions made in-game. In short, if you enjoyed Fire Emblem then you’ll love how much more in-depth Ogre Battle gets.

 

  • Okami

And my loosest definition of all comes in what is, ultimately, my favorite in this list. Strap down, my fellow Otaku, we’re about to get some genuine Japanese culture right in the face.

Inspired by Japanese Shinto legends, Okami puts the player in the land of Nippon (ancient Japan). One-hundred years ago, the great wolf Shiranui aided the great warrior Nagi in his battle against the eight-headed dragon, Orochi, and helped seal him away through Nagi’s magic sword. In the new present day, a dark miasma has fallen over Nippon and is slowly draining the life from it. After saving her village, the flower-spirit Sakuya summons the mother Goddess, the great Amaterasu. She appears as a white wolf, the same as Shiranui, and it’s her mission to undo this strange curse and defeat the hordes of demons walking free. Together with her Poncle companion Issun – a wandering artist no taller than an inch – they’ll restore the world’s faith in the gods and find the source of this great evil across the land, be it Orochi or something far greater.

The game’s main draw and game mechanic is the power of The Brush. By drawing simple shapes in ink, Amaterasu can create objects in the real world to aid her quest, control the elements, do magic attacks, and much more. The game also employs a hack-and slash style of fights, but they tend to happen in the same kind of enclosed areas as most JRPG’s. You can also improve your stats by gaining “praise,” achieved by blooming trees, feeding the wildlife, and just generally making life better. As if all that wasn’t cool enough, the game is done in a beautiful animated wash style of Japanese painting, also known as Sumi-e. It’s a gorgeous game with an engaging story, fun side-quests, and fun as hell gameplay. Were I to stumble upon someone who’d never really played any kind of role-playing game before, and found the basic elements of it tiresome, I’d have them try this game in a second. Not only does it make you feel like the master of the world’s destiny – as any JRPG should – but it also submerges you in new styles and gameplay that will hook you and drag you along for the ride.

 

What’s your favorite JRPG with a fun twist? Feel free to comment below. And don’t forget to like and follow the blog, it helps a lot.

Otome Review: Magical Otoge Ciel

Any reviewer will tell you that it isn’t hard to write a review of bad material. When that happens, it’s fun venting exorcise to rip in and tear it a new one. No, the tricky part comes from something that’s about so-so, and it was clear the author was trying.

 But, at the end of the day, I feel very strongly that the worst thing you can do to an artist is stay silent when they need to work on a skill. So, I’ve always tried to approach every game I play with a critical eye, not for the sake of finding problems but for the sake of helping my fellow amateur content creators. In short, I don’t speak from a place of being better; I speak from the experience of similar mistakes.

This is the approach I took with today’s game, Magical Otoge Ciel. It’s got the fingerprints of someone’s first crack at a visual novel, meaning the worst should hopefully be over. It promised to be a heartwarming, straightforward story, loaded with comedy and gratuitous puns. It certainly delivers the funny but left me underwhelmed everywhere else.

  • Plot

Our protagonist is princess Ciel – somewhat, as her dad’s more like a governor – who’s suffering from good, old-fashioned Rebellious Princess Syndrome. She wants to travel the world and see the sights but Pops won’t let her set foot outside the kingdom. Since he won’t listen to any reason, she decides she’s got to run away and go on a mini adventure. She concocts a plan to leave the castle and hop onto the nearest ship; to her shock, her personal knight and childhood friend actually agrees and insists on coming with her to keep her safe.
Florien comes along

Through some minor hijinks, the broody captain of the knights, Anton, decides to come along for the ride and keep the princess safe. They also attract the attention of the enigmatic but flashy traveler, Yvin, who decides to follow along and totally not stalk their every waking moment. Cheesy romance, fourth-wall destruction, and gratuitous puns await.

  • Gameplay

As far as I can tell, this game is less focused on playing games and more focused on showcasing a story. The game tells you right off the bat that decisions you make in game will not affect the story, sans which route you decide to chase after. This does make the game extra easy and casual, so no real need for a guide. I prefer the visual novels that play more to the “choose your own adventure” style, but I understand that some people just wanna read a cute story and laugh at silly puns. That being said, now that I’ve played all three routes, I don’t see much replayability.

Humor - Ciel

And that screen is just the start of this game’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. It does not take itself seriously in the slightest; it plays on words when it can and lampshades its own cheesy-fluffiness all the time. Only toward the end of the game did it peel back some of its smiley atmospheres to instill some serious plot business, though it ended just as quickly as it started. It’s almost like someone dimmed the sunlight for a moment before turning up again. 

well, when you put it that way

Well, when you put it that way….

But, while the humor was spot on, the writing had one very deep fatal flaw: it told me a lot, but it showed me very little. While VN writers shouldn’t feel compelled to illustrate every part of their story, taking the time to really describe what’s happening can go a very long way. Furthermore, we were constantly switching to what other characters were thinking at any given time, which was very distracting. I understand the game’s want to be casual, and this choice certainly upped the sweet and bubbly parts of the game, but both of these issues usually took me right out of being immersed. As funny as I found the game, I think it would benefit greatly by letting the character’s actions speak for themselves and by being more descriptive about each in-game event.

Nothing to the imagination or suspision.

  • Art

While I may have reservations about the writing, the one area I had no doubts about was the art. Batensan is a core artist on DeviantArt, and her portfolio is almost pure sugar-shojo. I really like the airbrushed look of her work, and her use of light colors and soft lines. The style carried over very well into the game, adding an extra level of sweet to an already candy style.

CG

Because I like the artwork, I was sad that I didn’t get to see as much of it. We only get sprites for a few monsters and our main characters and some pretty simple backgrounds. If we could up the CG’s and really go nuts on the setting, I think we’d have something absolutely gorgeous.

  • Romances:

Anton

Anton

 

I’m a fan of the “Hot Jerk with a Heart of Gold” in these games, but you won’t be finding any here. Because of that, I fell back on my second favorite option: the stoic softie, otherwise known as “The Stick In The Mud.”

Anton is your chivalrous knight who’s rumored to be a vicious and deadly killer. And while he’s certainly good at his job, he’s about as threatening as cotton candy. His only real crime is being no fun for most of the trip, being of the “super serious, cool” type. Anton reads a bit like somebody’s dream version of a “Knight,” a reserved workaholic who has to be “released” from his dark past before he can really open up. I enjoyed the path for what it was, if only because his naivety about his own handsomeness is pretty funny. Otherwise though, I never really felt like his romance had a high-energy point, and that’s a shame.

Florien

Florien

And number two on our journey into the wild unknown is Ciel’s personal knight and obligatory childhood best friend. And while I will take several digs at Florien for the rest of this section, I will admit that I am happy to see a Best Friend option that eschews the soft-spoken, sweetheart approach all the others did.

Instead, he follows you around like a puppy, wistfully wishing he had the ability to assert his own feelings.

Florien is described as being sarcastic and cold to everyone but Princess Ciel, which is usually a sign of my favorite route in these games. Alas, Florien’s nervous bumbling about lost its charm to me real quick – I honestly preferred the salty, prickly side he gave everyone else. Florien came across as very submissive in nature to the people he likes, something that is very much just not to my taste. I know this type does appeal to someone, however, so this one gets a free pass from me.

Yvin

Yvin

Ah, but we have a door number three on this soft ride. After completing one of the two paths above, you have the option of unlocking the guy who stalked you for most of the trip. The flashy, witty, and super dodgy Yvin fits the bill for the “dark stranger” when it comes to his appearance, and he had me laughing the most for the entire game.

Yvin is the mysterious stranger who helps you sneak out of the game, and kinda hovers a few feet behind you as a secret guardian angel. Cool as a cucumber and prone to making most of the game’s egregious puns, Yvin was a breath of fresh air and a great ending for the game. I would highly encourage Batensan to focus on characters like this; I felt some real chemistry here that I didn’t feel with the others.

  • Final Thoughts

For all its promises of being simple, it seems to me that Magical Otoge Ciel is too straightforward. It has no real tension to it, and the story really needs to show me what’s going on as opposed to telling me and rushing to the next bit of a dialogue. But, for all of it’s faults, the game has some real potential with it’s silly humor and dry wit. Now that the mandatory bad-first-piece is out of the way, I’m extremely curious to see what the next game tried.

 

Next Time: Magical Otoge Anholly

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).

one-piece-gif-water

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.

tumblr_o4to7qgr3b1ug0at9o1_500

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.

giphy

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.

landscape-1490264939-death-note-netflix

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.

b69da7e2156ec89f67a6b3e09793b5a5

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.

 

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.

e59a8d922d25632c7330e869c6fcf109

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