The Real Magic Behind Studio Ghibli

Media are in odd places these days. It seems they’re locked in a perpetual cycle of re-releasing classics or making sequels nobody asked for. Between Blade Runner 2049 and the new Mary Poppins, we now have Studio Ghibli set to release new editions of the movies that made them so famous. Yes, North America is finally getting pristine DVD’s and Blu-Rays for Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and the movie that changed my entire anime landscape: Spirited Away.

Reading this got me thinking about Studio Ghibli, this omnipresent company all through my childhood. They didn’t stalk me like Disney, but they had a large enough presence that I could mark milestones in my life with their film catalog.  Miyazaki’s very name conjures a certain quality of entertainment and a high-bar in anime storytelling. It stands to reason, then, that anime owes its current form to the work that was the Miyazaki Classics.

As always, the following is just my opinion and open to debate.

  • Genius Stories To Leap and Bound Over Any Barrier

The first Ghibli film I ever saw was,  as mentioned above, Spirited Away. That year, 2001, I had already been watching Toonami every night I could, meaning I was binging on Outlaw Star, Cardcaptors, Big O, and even more Dragon Ball Z long after I should have been in bed. But I had never sat through a full anime movie. I didn’t even know there existed feature-films in anime at all.

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“I can’t. Look. AWAY!”

Enter Spirited Away. I had little to no idea where the story took place or any of the background behind it. All I knew was that it was about a girl roughly my age, trying to save her parents while trapped in a strange, unforgiving place. You didn’t have to understand Japanese culture to understand poor Chihiro’s predicament.

 

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Or the stuff of nightmares she faced.

Whether it’s the epitome of sugar (My Neighbor Totoro) or sadness incarnate (Grave of the Fireflies), Ghibli films can bypass language barriers, culture blocks, and anything else that prevents anime from getting a hold overseas. The stories are almost always fantastical with well-written characters and motifs that will easily resonate with any audience, Asian or otherwise. Because, when we boil it down, there are emotions and things about being human that we can all relate to.

  • A World So Lush

Speaking of that world I hadn’t understood, does anyone notice the insane amount characters, insignificant or otherwise, that fill up these films?

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Look at all the people!

The cream of any movie comes not just from the star, but from the world swimming around them. Part of the reason anime does so well is the insane worlds they tend to create around their characters. Even in anime that’s supposed to be realistic drama have to work hard and bring that setting to life in order to make everything else pop.

I like to think Miyazaki played a huge part in this. If you watch even one of his films, you get a world so pumped full of detail and beauty, it’s blinding. Princess Mononoke is a prime example, bringing the world of ancient Japanese Spirits to horrifying and beautiful heights alongside a gritty, hard-stone world of Irontown. And oh, the art; pretty is a word not strong enough.

 

So beautiful….

To my eyes, Miyazaki threw down the gauntlet when his first few movies hit the theaters. He took animation to a whole new level of eye-candy and detail, and so anyone who came after would have to step up their game.

  • From Super Serious to Super Childish

I believe one of the worst things you can say about any production company is either “monotony” or “generic.” I.E, if they put out the same kind of story, with the same kind of action, with the same type of characters. If any distributor or animation studio produces the same product multiple times then they have signed their own death certificate. They will be tossed aside into the pit alongside 4kids to repent for their sins.

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We won’t forget, 4Kids.

So, thank the Otaku Gods, Studio Ghibli was anything but bland. The first movie, Castle in the Sky, was an adventure – fantasy film. Then we have later titles like Grave of the Fireflies and Princess Mononoke which feature darker, grittier, more tragic plotlines. Then, lastly, we have movies aimed at children, such as My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo. In other words, Ghibli could have sat in a niche and kept the money coming, but choose to experiment and do as many types of stories as they could.

  • Ghibli in The Future?

With such an impressive background to their name, the question now lingers on what Ghibli will do know. Anime has evolved considerably since the studio founded – as it always will – and Ghibli movies have not struck the same chord that they did ages ago. They’re still making massive amounts of money, sure, but they don’t have the same groundbreaking effect they used to.

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Quick, we’re losing them!

But I truly do not believe that this marks any kind of end for the them, or at least I hope not. I wanna see more innovation from Ghibli; I want to see them experiment with stories and animation styles again. But, in terms of finances, I can understand the need to re-release their classics on easy to access DVDs and digital release. After all, Nostalgia is a powerful force, and that money can be the fuel for something in the future. Here’s hoping to see something more amazing down the road.

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What do you think of Ghibli and their films? Do you wish they did more or are they still going above and beyond? Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts. And hey, if you like what you see, like and follow for more!

Otome Review: Ascension Chapter 2

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the point of a sequel is to improve on the original. In more simple terms, it’s a chance to look at the ashes and see what went wrong. This also gives rise to another of my favorite phrases that I came up with: Everybody sucked at one point, even Dickens.

In short, your first attempt at anything will be riddled with issues. But the point is to do it anyway, so you can learn from those mistakes and grow. Nowhere is this truer than with writing. It’s why I always encourage fan fiction writing of any kind. Yeah, the first fics you produce will be Mary-Sue-driven, plot-hole-riddled monsters, but how else are you gonna avoid writing it again if you don’t make that first mistake?

And that was why I was super happy when I kicked up the second chapter of Ascension, our coming of age story for the impulsive little thief, Aida. Because, for all the first chapter did right, we had some glitches and story issues to spoil things somewhat. But, now that we’ve had our first try, what do we have to show?

  • Plot

Now, if you haven’t read my post on Chapter One, I suggest you go do so. Otherwise, this entire post will be nothing but spoilers. Otherwise, well…

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After being tricked by Diago into opening a gate to the Old Kingdom, Aida is presumed dead. But the lucky girl somehow survives a tower collapsing right on top of her. Aida tries to protect her friends by hiding out on Sundrop Island, but she’s been plagued by terrible nightmares of silver-skinned people calling her to join them. And she can’t shake the feeling that something sinister is going down.

Silver People

She’s got a good reason to be suspicious

Of course, she’s right; the Eagles are looking for the other gates to the old kingdom, and a great evil is coming whether Aida hides or not. The King and the Silver Order are ready to tear open the gates to gain some mysterious power.  So she’s gotta show her face again and find a way to stop those gates from slipping wide open, lest the whole country be wiped out.

  • Gameplay

Rinmaru mentioned on her page that Ascension was her first visual novel, and the bumps in it make that obvious. Round two, however, smooths most of them out and adds some new material in the process. We are still heavily immersed in this story, but now we have far more dynamic scene changes, more frequent action sequences, and even some more actual interaction.

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Press forward for the creepy

As for actual gameplay, we’re in familiar territory. We interact in Aida’s world from her perspective, jumping to about three different intractable areas in-game. Each area has several sub-areas to explore, with clickable objects and people. You’ll either find items important to quests later on or dresses/earrings Aida can wear, so it’s advisable to explore as much as possible. You’ll even get a friendly warning when you’re about to leave an area and be unable to collect stuff anymore.

 

But when you aren’t being a kleptomaniac, you’re chatting with your peeps. Once again, our only means of shifting the story around comes from how you, the player, shape Aida as a person. Each conversation you have with characters will produce three different responses: goodwill, cunning, and aggressive. However, they aren’t color-coded for easy use this time around. The only ones that are color-coded are the romantic responses, ranging from cute to aggressive. The romance mechanic has been expanded upon this time around. This time around you can flirt with all theromanceablee men, but you will be forced to pick one at the end.

Flirt Choices

 

 You can earn these points in each home area. Each area has a “hub” where you can click on items that are supposed to represent your friends. This is where you can continue to raise Aida’s traits or throw in a little romance should you wish. It raises the relationship stats either way, though I can’t tell if it affects anything besides your romantic partner.

Pick yer Companion

  • Art

The second time around also shows some visible improvement in Rin’s art style, though it still remains uniquely hers. We still work with bright, flashy cute images. But now we have nearly twice the amount of artwork we normally ge. You get to cosmetically alter Aida’s hair, add some tattoos, and change the look of your companions (mostly the hair). This helps make each playthrough more visually interesting.

Customization

The static art, meanwhile, looks more clear and sharp than last time as well. We have some beautiful artwork with places like Ildis, covered in crystal snow, and even the sunny beaches of Sundrop Isle. It’s a far cry from the somewhat boxy streets of Northcliff and I like it quite a bit.

  • Romance

Now here, the game got interesting. Last time we only had two options to choose from, a la tween fantasy. You can pick up where that romance left off, thanks to the above-mentioned customization screen, but you can also start fresh or pick a new third option. In other words, Aida’s story has some more flexibility.

Zander

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The sarcastic and brooding moon elf has returned. You’ll find him teaching a tribe of lith children in Taran, a make-shift penance for the way his people treat them. It’s added a mother-bird like trait to his personality but the dry-wit and pensive parts of him are well intact.  Course now, with better control of his magic, you’ll find a refreshing splash of confidence to his attitude. 

You have the choice of picking up where you left off first game, in which Zander promptly freaks out and gets real clingy, or you can romance him here in game. Since the ending is the same either way, the new romance does feel a little rushed. BUT the pick-up romance feels like the much-needed fleshing out from the first one.

Jace

Jace2

Y’all remember the dude-bro, drunk, fairly perverted ex-knight from game one I’m sure. Well, when he learned the big secret behind Aida and Diago, he decided to head back out to Ildis and restart up his Knight Order. He is “Knight-Captain” Jace now, far more disciplined, but still the “Loveable idiot” that the girls surely fell for last time. I was still unamused by Jace, proving that there really is no accounting for taste.

Just like Zander, you can already have Jace on your arm or pull him in via some flirts. Once again though, the ending is much the same.

Faelern

Faelern

Our new addition is a sun-elf: a tanned, tattooed, forest-y elf who rarely seems to smile (if at all). You meet Faelern on Sundrop Island, his new home after someone very close to him was killed by a moon elf lord. He sees Aida purely as “Solyn” or “the key,” and the two get along like chalk and cheese. Or, if you play your cards right, she is the drug he’s desperately trying to tell himself he can’t have. But enough prodding and communication can do just about anything, including an unlocking of a stubborn heart.

As mentioned, Faelern is the new romance for game two. I am always a fan of the cold jerkass, as I’ve made it clear several times, but girls here should be weary: He will not treat you that much nicer this time around.

  • Final Thoughts

Chapter Two of Ascension is the expansion that I was craving when I first played number one. It’s visually a lot better, with more meat on the romance, and a story that looks to be building up quite a bit. With more content, more places, and just more immersion overall, the game proves that you can build something great on the bones of your first try.

 

Next Time: Ascension Chapter 3

Netflix Castlevania Season One (Review)

So guess what came out right under my nose.

In my quest to finish my Camp NaNo project (which I highly recommend if you wanna participate in NaNoWriMo in the future), I have avoided watching a lot of anime in favor of my somewhat awkward story. But in my rough draft woes, I finally remembered that Castlevania was due to drop on July 7th, about a week ago. So I figured “better late than never” and started binging.

And oh, my friends, I was not prepared.

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Opening image. Take it all in.

I was told from all my sources that this would be a grizzly cartoon in anime style, with enough blood and grizzle to make up an entire Slayer album. Just by watching the first episode I can see that there’s enough blood here to give Hellsing Ultimate a run for its money and the writers are not pulling their punches. Castlevania is grim and frightening take on the convoluted plot of old Castlevania, straightening it out into a beautiful, gothic nightmare.

By the way, mild spoilers here on out.

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See ya in the next section…
  • Our Story in a Nutshell

 

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Written by comic writer Warren Ellis, our tale begins in the region of  Wallachia, Transylvania. One woman – Lisa – has bravely ventured past the dead-body garden you saw earlier and into the castle Dracula Von Tepes. She asks him for his knowledge of science and magic so she can better heal her fellow man, all while offering to teach him the better points of humanity. In their time together, they fall deeply in love and marry.

But while Dracula is traveling the world, his new wife is captured by the church and burned as a witch. In his overpowering rage, Dracula gives humanity one year to make their peace before he wipes them off the face of the earth. But they refuse to heed his warnings, and they suffer when Dracula literally rains Hell’s horde down on them from the sky.

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Worse yet, humanity all but threw away their only chance of survival ages ago. The Belmont Family specialized in the fighting and extermination of vampires, demons, and other assorted creatures. But the superstition of the dark ages prompted their excommunication from the church, the family house burned, and the Belmonts scattered. All that remains is Trevor Belmont, a drunken warrior content to just watch the world burn for throwing him aside. But push comes to shove when a nomadic group of scholars settles in the village of Gresit, and when Dracula’s castle manifests right under their feet. The time to run and mope is over; the Belmont’s must return to the people, or they will all be slaughtered.

  • Rated R for “RAWER!”

The very first thing I noticed – and that everyone who watches this show will notice – is that Warren Ellis has thrown restraint out the window.

I mentioned in my first thoughts post that Castlevania as a series was always cracky (finding a fully cooked chicken inside the wall while fighting Frankenstein and his jumpy friend, that kind of crazy.) It made me wonder how you could mix that kind of insanity with copious amounts of blood and gore. More specifically, I wondered if you could make a series this violent that didn’t trigger my MST3K reflex. My answer came in the form of a rainstorm of blood, deformed gargoyle babies, and an angry mob mass-stabbing a morally bankrupt priest.

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You don’t wanna know what happens to the Bishop.

Ellis has made a hybrid, combining the nonsenical nature of the old series with this heavy metal-esque horror. But if you were hoping for the same tributes to the old monsters from Hollywood, like Frankenstein and the Wolfman, you will find yourself all alone in a big bleak world. Maybe we’ll see more tributes to Universal in season two, but my doubts are high.

  • Beautiful but Flawed

Make no mistake, my gentle viewers; this anime will “go there” often. But when it isn’t shaking you up with severed limbs, it’s giving you a beautiful plot littered with Gothic Glitter.

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Beyond the animation itself being absolutely gorgeous, the gothic imagery employed is both awesome and beautiful. Watching Dracula rise up from the ashes of Lisa’s body, a giant burning ball of fire and hate, will give readers chills. Or they may already be gawking at the bats swirling over his castle almost all the time (that triggered me. Those bat in-game are the worst.) The game works hard to weave together the lovely imagery of Ayami Kojima’s original artwork for the series with this new gritty aesthetic, and the execution makes for a unique experience.

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This image kinda perfectly encapsulates the whole thing

But where there is so much good, there must be something that fell to the wayside. In this case that would be the fight scenes, paradoxically lacking despite the ultra-violence. The actual animations look just fine, but they happen at a pace that’s noticeably slow. This takes away some of the adrenaline in any fight scenes but does allow us to enjoy the view in a few cases.

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Cool Magic Shows!
  • Final Thoughts

Now, I’m not so fangirl blind that I can’t see how a fan could dislike this. There’s a case to be made that Castlevania is trying too hard to be shocking and graphic, especially since the old games leaned more towards being silly and fun. But while that worked for a platformer game, where the brunt of your time is spent jumping from one giant pillar to the next, it doesn’t have the chops to make a full cartoon series.

This new approach is entertaining in its own right; I’m beyond happy to see the story bits I loved so much about this series in their blazing glory. The story rushes a little and the action could use some energy, but otherwise, the anime is thoroughly enjoyable in its four first episodes and will keep the viewer engrossed for the whole ride.

 

Otome Review: Ascension Chapter 1

We’ve had our fair share of browser-based Otome’s on this series. But none of them have ever really ventured into Visual Novel territory.

There’s only so much data you can cram into a website hosted space, so fresh authors don’t have a lot to work with. But, in my early days of browsing for such sundry, I discovered an artist/author who managed to get around that problem in a very creative fashion. Because hey, if you can’t fit it all in one game, why not make two or three?

And thus, Ascension was born.

This game comes courtesy of the well-known artist, Rinmaru. She’s proven herself very talented with her various dress-up games and anime scene creators – and I highly recommend you check out her website – but she proved she could write as well with these games. We’re only going to be covering chapter one today; the others are so beefy that shoving them in here would be claustrophobic.

Now then, onward to more fantasy!

 

  • Plot

 

Valond has a legend about “The Old Kingdom.” In this city built by elves, dwarves, and humans alike, a race of people known as “The Nobles” ruled with their superior speed, reflexes, and lack of emotions. You would recognize a Noble by their silver hair, deadly red eyes, and swift action as killers. And even with the fall of the Old Kingdom, many still fear the presence of these deadly creatures.

Aida has had to deal with this fear all her life, all thanks to her silver hair. But somehow she isn’t one of these fearsome soldiers and has been content to live her life with her best friend, Sky,  and a merry band of thieves. But Sky’s desperate need to know more about her enigmatic mother leads them to an old temple and a lot of trouble, both magical and physical.

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Crap is going down…

It turns out that a band of mercenaries called the Eagles is chasing after the old kingdom as well, wiping out the thief camp and stealing the mother’s journals. But with the help of magical researchers, Zander and Tillie, they can stop whatever scheme the Eagles are hatching and get those journals back. But is there another figure with a hand in all of this, and what does he want with our protagonist?

 

  • Gameplay

 

So gameplay is where the Ascension series is very unique. It’s a web-based game, obviously, so expecting full motion and voice may be a bit much. But they do add far more than I was expecting, which made for one of the more pleasant surprises in my Otome journey.

Not Ominous at all

Not ominous at all

For one, this story is going in the same direction no matter what. Going through it will feel more like a “Let’s Read” than a “Let’s Play,” and the only interaction you are gonna get is from Aida herself. You’ll sometimes be prompted to pick one of three responses that will elicit a variety of responses from the characters. You can choose blue for “goodwill,” purple for cunning red for rage. You can also occasionally pick the option with a heart next to it to flirt sweetly or aggressively.

The rest of the game plays like a visual novel/adventure hybrid. You get thrown into various different areas where you can collect clickable items and bring them to clickable areas to progress the plot. These items could be anything from a random potato that actually becomes essential to progressing the plot to random bits of gold, scattered and ready for the taking. You can also get items that aren’t clickable but still get a bit of exposition.

Keep an eye out for shinies

Again, not ominous at all… 

Where things do get spiced up is in the minigames. Twice in the game, you’ll be prompted to finish a task that turns out to be a timed minigame. Here the goal is just to click on the correct objects, sometimes in a specific order, until the timer runs out. Get as much done as you can and you earn more gold.

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Meat Pies!

But where this game really shines is the immersion. This game is loaded with dynamic scene changes, punchy sound effects, and music that really enhances the scene. Furthermore, the characters you meet feel like real people, not just dancing sprites, and it pulls you in before you know it. You will get attached to these personalities real quick if you haven’t already succumbed to their snarky comments and off-hand jokes.

FPV

 

 

  • Art

 

Rinmaru is an artist herself. So, naturally, the game is gonna be very easy on the eyes. Most of the time you’ll be looking at stiff sprites on a bright background, but sometimes you’ll get these “posed” images where important moments take place. It could be a kiss, it could be a fight, it could be anything, and it makes for some really good action.

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That being said, I urge my readers to keep in mind that Rinmaru’s art has a very bright, “kawai-desu” feel to it. The anime art is loaded with bright colors, long flowy hair, soft lines and red rosy cheeks. If you can handle the unapologetically shojo look, then you’ll be just fine.

  • Romance Options

Zander

Zander

Zander is a Moon Elf, a race of elves known for their strict, aristocratic society and their unfair treatment of another race of animal-beings. Zander is not a racist, thankfully, but his own problems are far worse. As a mage, he feels emotions far stronger than anyone else around him and can cause great damage if those emotions ever get out of control. It’s why he fights to keep calm and in control. He left home to study magic with his alchemist friend, Tillie, and now finds himself falling for a white-haired lady who’s almost nothing but trouble.

He’s a classy but snarky elf and became my favorite as soon as I set eyes on him. He’s the straight man in all this chaos, just trying to keep things under control, and it is utterly hilarious. The romance itself is a bit rushed but I blame the game’s short length, not his character.

Jace

Jace

Jace is a Knight, formally at least. Of the many crimes the Eagles have committed over the years, they are also responsible for wiping out the Knights Order. Jace is the survivor of that attack, attempting to drink and wisecrack his sorrows away. But his “spirits” lift when a beautiful half-noble gets in a huge fight with him and offers him the chance at redemption.

Jace was not really my cup of tea. Obnoxious flirts were never really up my alley, and his romance feels even more rushed considering you only talk to him a few times. He may be blond, blue-eyed and heroic, but his lack of strategy skills just doesn’t do it for me. Great character; not all that romantic.

 

 

  • Final Verdict

 

Ascension’s first chapter was an odd one those many years ago, mostly thanks to the strange format. But this game knows how to keep things interesting and dynamic despite its limitations, providing a visually compelling experience. While it’s a very wordy piece, and sporting some early-game glitches, it is still a good game and worth playing to get this beefy story off the ground.

Next Time: Ascension Chapter 2

Does this game peak your interest? Or does it make you yawn? Whatever your thoughts, on anything, feel free to comment below. And don’t forget to like and follow for more content just like this. And if you really like me and wanna be a big help, consider sharing the post to others who might like it.

 

Top Four Misuses of Anime

So hey, anime is pretty damn popular.

Sarcasm aside, the medium has cemented itself firmly in popular culture throughout the years. Thanks to the talents of several animators and producers – and the beautiful smuggling job that was Toonami  – we have a behemoth of an industry that ain’t dying anytime soon.

But, where there is popularity, there is a cringy misuse by outside forces. Much like the cornucopia of weird flash games where Elsa gets pregnant, there are plenty of anime oddities from a third party attempting to leech off that popularity. Whether it’s PSA’s or merchandising, anime has been mishandled in some truly wacky fashions. These are my top four favorites in no particular order because, quite frankly, these are too bizarre to be buried on the internet.

By the way, since I normally try to keep this as family-friendly as possible, small mature themes warning here.

  • Condoms (Sailor Moon)

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Because really, when you wanna promote protection against sexually transmitted infections and diseases, what better mascot than the fourteen-year-old soldier of justice?

Ew.

So, to be clear, warning to promote safe sex is never a bad thing. That was the idea behind this odd creation in the first place, according to an article from Japantimes.com. In order to raise awareness of STDs, Japan was going to distribute condoms, wrapped in heart-shaped plastic Sailor Moon plastered on the cover. The Japanese Health Ministry even planned to distribute leaflets and posters alongside these peppy rubbers that feature such slogans as “I will punish you if you don’t get tested!”

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Muh childhood!”

I cannot tell how they expected this to work. Their intentions were certainly not bad but their choice in mascot reeks of exploitation. Next time, it might behoove them to pick someone older and not associated with childhood innocence for their sexual education programs.

  • Selling Cars (Sailor Moon and Miku Hatsune)

They just can’t seem to leave my childhood alone, can they?

It’s no secret that popular cartoons are used to push products. Even the West isn’t innocent in using favorite cartoon characters to push adult products. The idea is to appeal to them when they’re older through nostalgia, I think. Or maybe Winston thought the parents would take a shine to their kids watching Fred and Barn use mom and dad’s smoke sticks, who knows?

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“Hey kids, look, cool people smoking!”

But I’d have thought we were past that kind of scummy marketing – I was wrong. There’s been a recent campaign for the Ford Fusion that popped up around the time Viz was kind enough to rescue and resurrect the sailor-suited-soldier of justice. Now girls like me are expected to see our childhood hero dream of Ford Fusions because… reasons.

But oh, my fellow Otaku, don’t worry if Miss Tsukino was never your taste. Toyota has you covered with none other than Miku Hatsune, peddling product like a true American Celebrity.

There’s something really underhanded about using characters like these two for pushing expensive cars. It feels like the dealers are trying to tap a niche vein or reach the Otaku crowd. Either way, the cringe is real.

  • Horrible Eva Merchandising

Speaking of cringe, you all remember Neon Genesis Evangelion, right? That mega-popular anime that spawned two movies that went from zero to crazy in a nanosecond? The show that slowly descended into madness and bad writing when the director had a breakdown midway through?

You know what it was missing? Brand deals.

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“Suffering from emotional breakdowns and itchy red eyes? Try Asuka’s eyedrops!”

So, front and center, I was never a fan of Eva. But I don’t think a fan could forsee a show like this producing campy tie-in products on the side. After all, when you’re watching a man hallucinate about strangling the clone of his dead mother, or a giant head bleeding from the eyes, you’re not exactly inspired to buy.

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But several brands jumped on the popularity of the Eva Train and never looked back. Schick made razors using Shinji’s insane jerkwad of a father; they have a giant blow-up doll of Rei you can climb up and slide down. Because what sounds more fun than scaling a giant clone of Shinji’s mother and then sliding down her leg?

 

And, my personal favorite, a body musk inspired off of Shinji himself. Because when I think mainly musks, I think of the shame, failure, and insanity Shinji Ikari.

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“Ladies, please! No seriously, I’m just a kid! T_T”
  • TURN YOURSELF ANIME!

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Our last entry is more of a group entry. If you ever browsed an app store on an iPad, Droid, or other such devices, likely you have been assaulted by free anime apps. These companies are looking for those clicks after all, and nothing is more profitable than animated women in skin-tight skirts and long hair.

And so they make cheap-to-produce apps that run ridiculously and bombard you with ads. But oh do they make some pretty enticing promises. They promise to turn you into an anime character, no drawing required, only for it to be a picture app that you put stickers on. Or, if they’re feeling especially frisky, they’ll promise a virtual waifu that you can love and cuddle, and it turns out to be a simple dress-up game for a Miku Hatsune clone.  

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Don’t get too excited; she just stares at you all day

This is some heavy swindling, especially when it asks you for a little money upfront. By presenting generic anime, these developers are hoping to trick anime newbies and those who are truly desperate. It really is a despicable misuse of anime as a whole, and something to keep in mind when browsing for your next time-waster.

 

Do you know any misuses of anime? Feel free to comment about it or anything else below! Feel free to like and follow for more content just like this.

 

Otome Review: Never Give Up!

You’d have thought my love for literature would mean I’d be all over the mystery genre. After all, the Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple stories are certified classics in their own right. But the illustrious genre of mystery has never really been able to catch my interest for very long. The only mystery books I ever really liked was the aforementioned Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and that was more thanks to the spark by the TV show.

But one good way to make me pay attention is to add what my old college professor used to refer to as “wizards and shi*t.” Yes, much like how I have a taste for sugar, I also have a craving for magic, fantastical creatures, and larger-than-life adventures. I  find that putting your story in a fantastical setting is a great way to add some flavor, especially if you work real hard on immersing the reader.

Thus my curiosity was sparked when I stumbled over Never Give Up, a Steam visual novel about a half-elf killer in a world of classist jerks.

  • Plot

So like I said, our plot is set in a fantastical world where elves and humans are expected somewhat to live in harmony. In truth, the caste system makes sure that’s impossible since the elves are part of the aristocracy and the humans are viewed as plebeian scum. But some believe that the caste system is archaic and needs to be done away with. Thus there’s been a rise of half-elves amidst the elven nobility, much to the chagrin of the more haughty elves. Mia Silverlight has experienced that anger first hand as a half-elf herself. The bullies just never seem to let up.

Bullies

Mia vs. Darkrose sister, rematch

But all that is about to blow away. There’s been a murderer running afoot, killing half-elves and leaving strange crystals in their mouths. Some think he’s doing them a favor by ridding their ranks of dirty blood but, thankfully, cooler heads can see the danger on the horizon. When her close friend is the next victim, Mia throws her hat into the ring. But can she survive the dark, powerful magic at work? And will she find unexpected love along the way?

  • Gameplay

Normally, I wouldn’t expect anything from a game I got for so little money. But Cinderella Phenomenon changed that up pretty quick, so I started the game up with an open mind and high hopes.  What I got was an enjoyable ride with simple controls, only really lacking in some fine details and length.

The game itself is your standard visual novel, changing Mia’s life with the click of a button. But the game is pretty low when it comes to interaction, with only a few moments where the choices you make cause any significant changes. These tend to be “yes or no” type deals with two choices each. However, there’s also a moment where it looks like you have multiple choices but these are really only there to dump exposition out.

Choices

When your gameplay is this low, your saving grace needs to be the world itself and the visual aesthetics of it. Here we were not disappointed, as the screen was usually alive with lots of different characters. You got to see a menagerie of people in the story, of all shapes and colors, along with scenery that changes features, items that could pop up on screen, and magic effects that actually look pretty cool. The only downside I saw visually was that the shifting expressions on the portraits were not that noticeable.

Magic

Victory, thy name is Uncle Silverlight

As for the story itself, it’s pretty clear-cut. The world itself is immersive, as are the characters, but the mystery plot sorta resolves itself off-screen. The romance is also not as involved as I’d like but this is a solid game regardless. I only wish there were a tiny bit more interactivity when Mia had her moments of less-than-brilliant moves.

Though there is a moment later on that goes completely off the rails.

Oh shizzle...

A hint for you
  • Art

A definite selling point comes from the game’s art. The story may have been cut into bite-sized chunks, but the resources clearly went into making this game as pretty as possible. The colors are bright and punchy, with awesome fog and crackle effects as needed. The backgrounds are also quite nice during normal sequences, but anything during CG’s is a bit blurry. But the CG’s themselves are also quite lovely, which made me sad that there were so few of them.

Spritework

I want more CG’s from this game, I really do. The ones you get cluster towards the end of the game, kinda like Red String of Fate, and it really hurts the immersion factor.

  • Romance Paths

Aleister Darkrose

Aleistar

The Darkrose triplets are some of the richest elves at the local academy – and the most childish. They have a habit that they call “verbal jousting” where they playfully insult each other in clever fashions, a habit which translates to bullying with their classmates. Aleister’s twin sisters are prone to bullying Mia specifically, but Aleister’s jabs at her somehow seem more playful, like a baby Mr. Darcy. He enjoys when she insults him to his face – and other such people like him – but is unable to express his feelings openly. If you can see past the snarky comments and stuck-up attitude, you’ll find that little Al is putting up a big front.

That’s right, kiddies, we have our Cold Jerk who’s ready for Redemption through Romance. It’s a plot that feels like it’s aiming for Wuthering Heights but can’t quite reach it (don’t worry, not many people can). But if expanded upon and given more time, I think it could really be quite engaging.

Maximilian Blackwood

Max

Detective Blackwood is an odd specimen: he’s the only Dark Elf incapable of using magic. However, he refuses to be cranky about such a huge setback and has made his career out of being an excellent police investigator. Perky, funny, lively and protective, the ever confident detective seems to only have one weakness – Mia. She’s far younger than him, but he just can’t seem to get her out of his mind. But oh, what respectable girl would take a shine to someone so much older?

Well, I did; I must not be all that respectable. The romance may be predictable and reek of starry-eyed admirer in a romance novel, but I liked it. Besides, methinks it’s hard to resist the one elf who actually looks visually interesting in-game.

Robin Richards

Robyn

Speaking of old fashioned, genre romances, here’s a human that admits right away to being in love with you. He’s so time-efficient.

Robin is your old buddy from the lower district, where you grew up until your father died in the upper district. You run into Robin when he finally avoids your kung-fu butler and takes the time to catch up with you. But rather than enjoy your time together, he sees this as the opportunity to confess his love. What’s a poor girl to do?

Apparently, learn to love, which is rather upsetting the more I think about it. Still, I do know this is a fantasy for someone, so I’ll never begrudge them their wish fulfillment. For what it is, Robin is a tender soul who isn’t afraid to fight for you. If you like the old fashioned Harlequin-type stuff, Robin Richards is your human.

  • Final Verdict

For such a small fee, I think Never Give Up is satisfactory. It’s charming and creative, with some very nice eye-candy to keep readers interested. It lacks a bit in good, drawn-out relationships but it excels at the fantastical and the dynamics of the Visual Novel engine. If you’re looking for a fun distraction this summer, this is definitely one that won’t disappoint.

Items

Next Time: Ascension Chapter 1

 

What did you think of the game? Would you play it? Feel free to share whatever your thoughts are below – I adore hearing from you. And don’t forget to like and follow for more content like this!

Three Anime Characters that Describe Me

Whilst browsing my fellow anime blogs, I stumbled upon a fun post from fellow Otaku blogger (and super sweet lady) Aria Cross. She was answering a Twitter challenge to describe herself using three fictional characters and decided to explain her choices in more detail. I enjoyed it quite a bit and figured I would throw my own hat into the ring. Alas, I don’t have a twitter for the blog just yet.

I know, I know. Forgive me, internet, for I have sinned.

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But I do have a blog, and my lovely readers, so I present to you here the three fictional characters I would use to describe myself. Today we get to know each other a little more, awesome reader base, and I’d be delighted to hear which you would use. So consider this a tag to you all.

 

  • Usagi Tsukino

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This is predictable of me, I know. But I wouldn’t be honest with myself if I didn’t include the character that made one of the biggest impacts on me because she was just like me.

Usagi is the sailor scout with her big, childish heart on her sleeve. She trips over her own feet regularly, cries at the drop of a hat, and chases after her fabled Prince Charming with reckless and destructive abandon. She might scare easily, but there’s no denying her gigantic heart of gold.

In short, Usagi is extremely emotional and runs pretty wild with her emotions. I too am open with my emotions and consider myself a helpless romantic. She taught me to always reach out to the people who need a friend the most – a habit I kept up all through high school.

  • Kaoru Kamiya

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And here is where Usagi and I part ways. While I am friendly to a fault, I am far from shy and very far from quiet. No, here is where I jump genres and find myself in league with one of the better love interests of the genre.

Kaoru is pushy, highly opinionated, and almost explosively independent. Once again, she’s on the childish side (a pattern I hang my head over). When she isn’t being a mama bear to the people in her care, she tends to keep everyone on their toes with her temper and tendency to violence. Now, I’m not a violent person physically but I can be a verbal steamroller if I’m not paying attention. I’m a strong and aggressively outgoing person, so watching Kaoru is a bit like looking into a slightly hyperbolic mirror.

  • Ritsu Sohma

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But, as someone who is prone to accidental foot-in-mouth sentences, I am always worried I’ve said the wrong thing or done the wrong thing with my friends and family. And when that happens, I can’t think of much else to do but apologize, apologize, apologize.

Ritsu is one of many on the Sohma Trauma Conga Line in the reverse harem anime, Fruits Basket. He was never very skilled at anything in life, didn’t know how to be very assertive, and tended to cross-dress as a means to mentally feel like he didn’t have to be so aggressive. But his parents were almost constantly apologizing for their son’s behavior rather than being understanding and now he suffers from very severe self-loathing and criticism.

We are all our worst critics, myself included. I’m usually the first to assume I’ve made a mistake and the first to apologize as profusely as possible.

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I’d love to see what the rest of you can come up with. In the meantime, feel free to like if you wanna see more post-types like this. And feel free to follow for more content!

Otome Review: Blood Code

The internet makes it easy to forget things, like how these games used to require being fluent in Japanese.

In short, Otome’s made in the states are a relatively recent thing. Long before indie groups dipped their fingers in the colorful ink of Visual Novel, most dating sims and Otome titles came from places like Japan, Korea, and China. The great barrier destroyer known as The Web made it possible for fan translations to skip overseas, which inspired fans in the states to make their own. Thus the community we know and love today came to be and flourished.

 Games are still coming out of these countries but they now suffer a little bit from a trope the web has dubbed Seinfeld Is Unfunny. To summarize, these games were the ones to establish these tropes and thus now appear uncreative somehow; they only appear stock because they created the stock. As such, titles like Blood Code are a bit of a tough ride. It is newer, but it is littered with the tropes and plot points that made Visual Novels what they are today. However, this was made in 2015, not 1994; a new game rehashing old tropes is gonna be very concerning.

  • Plot

Thanks to one God-Granted wish of the Vampire child, Iroul, vampires can now live out in the sunshine of The Mirror World. Here, everything is just like the real world, except now the warm rays do not injure the children of the night. They can even attend school, which they do at the Star-Mirror Academy of Magic.  Here they can study light, water, fire or wind magic, all under the guidance of the resident church: The Kirk. Leia Ephelis, daughter of a priest in the Kirk, also gets to attend the school. With any luck, she’ll become a magical girl complete with cool outfits.

Practice

Things get twisted, however, when Leia’s father is mysteriously murdered by a group of rogue vampires. The Kirk has put her in charge of finding her father’s killers, but Leia has problems of her own. Since she missed a significant chunk of the year to handle this personal tragedy, she has to make up for the lost time by studying hard. If she fails, she’ll leave the school and never be able to finish her investigation. Can she balance schoolwork with this important mission? Is the Kirk even being honest with Leia in the first place?

  • Gameplay

One of the biggest roadblocks anyone will have playing this game is not the game itself but the language. This game was made in China but does come with an English translation.  But anyone who’s relied a little too closely on Google Translate will tell you that language translated word for word will produce some of the most awkward sentences you have ever seen.  It also features full voice actors for the characters, I think, but I played with those off since they don’t extend to the English Patch.

Word Salad

The word salad is real

 

But brace yourselves, my lovelies. We have a lot to unpack here.

At every Monday, you’ll be greeted with the screen to change clothes, call your friends, and plan your schedule. You get a choice between fire, water, wind, and Light magic classes or to do other activities: nap, shop, or just walk around the school. You can work at various jobs you unlock by visiting areas around town as well, earning money for presents and cool clothes.

Schedule

Ah, but you aren’t just here to find your father’s killer. You’re here to get yourself some romance too. One thing you’ll wanna do while you’re here is to keep an eye out (on your schedule and the Free Events section) for little hearts with pictures of your crush. Attending his color of magic, or the area he’s in, will net you a cutscene with him. At some point during the scene, you’ll be prompted to make a choice on what you say. Choose wisely – your affection levels are on the line.

Heart events

Little hearts make such a difference

Play your cards right, and you’ll get those digits  – er, he’ll trust you enough to hand over his number. From there, you can call him to schedule a date. Pick a day and where to meet and hope he agrees. And don’t forget to do free activities the day of the date. Because if you miss that scheduled date, he gonna be mad. On that date, you have the option of giving them an important gift. There are two specifically they each need in order to get the good ending. 

Dating

Are you sure? Are ya really sure?

As for the “find the vampires” storyline, I honestly think it feels very disjointed. The plot doesn’t kick in til much, MUCH later. It’s separate and jarring from the whole “school setting” and feels like the writers suddenly remembered that this wasn’t supposed to only be a slice of life game. And when the final plot finally kicks in, the mood shift is insane. It’s like someone flipped the crazy switch.

Hint

Here’s a hint
  • Art

For all the trouble this game makes for, and for all the weird situations the language translation spawns, this game does at least look very pretty; as a professionally produced title, it certainly ought to. The bishonen style is very clear from all the CG’s and each background looks colorful and calming.

Everyone gets a CG!

But it’s also very static for a professional game. I’ve seen indie titles that are far more dynamic, and only one of the in-character sprites actually shifts body positions in a really noticeable fashion. The lack of movement gets very hard on the eyes after awhile, so I suggest breaks while playing.

  • Romance Options:

Professor Leo Digator

Leo

Ah, it wouldn’t be an old fashioned Otome without a “date your professor” option. Leo is the doctor at Star-Mirror, a professor in the Light Department of magic, and the epitome of Bishounen. As a former member of the Kirk, he’s a very kind and considerate soul who left for “personal reasons” which just screams “hidden evil” and woobie status. Teasing, inquisitive, and a damn good teacher, Leo’s a great place for peeps new to the game to get a taste of what the game is like. However, some of his sweet and gentle nature is buffeted by the language barrier, so, be prepared for some unfiltered cheese.

Also, no one seems to care that a student and a teacher are hooking up – as in, the staff seems to encourage it. I find this amusing.

Locke Tremere

Locke

It also wouldn’t be an Otome proper without the wish fulfillment of dating the most popular boy in school. But Locke’s popularity is a little better deserved as opposed to Chase Masali’s unfortunate genetics. The Tremeres are one of the four powerful vampire families in the Mirror World – one of the richest as well – and we’re told that Locke was especially gifted when it came to his vampiric powers. His prestige and reach have earned him the seat as student council president. His handsome looks also make him a romantic target for most of the women in the school (teachers included). 

He’s pretty ambivalent to his popularity with women, but Leia, of course, changes that. She may very well be able to break this wall of sadness he’s surrounded himself with, through the power of chocolate, music, and a little clumsiness at endgame. Locke was a fun playthrough, but his ending is so non-instinctual that you will likely get the bad/sad end on accident.

Christ Brutch

C.Brutch

I laughed when I read that name for the first time. I have to wonder if this is how someone from another country feels when we name our characters the equivalent in their language, like a really cool name that ultimately just means “Water Sandwich.”

But anyway, Christ is a fire magic student and one of your good buddies. He’s a champion fencer, which already sounds pretty appealing, and friends with your Loli roommate, Allison. Plucky and ready to make you laugh with a joke/platitude, he’s pretty easy to like. However, he’s not very easy to love as he’s also quite secretive and angsty about a “dark and mysterious past.” I would have found that a lot more fascinating and fun had the rest of him not been a bit bland. 

Jesse

Jesse

Last but not least is our secret unlockable path, only available after finishing a few other paths. Silver-haired, grumpy, and mysterious as hell, Jesse fills our Jerk Guy quota for the game and provides a rather interesting detour. A vampire, and a water magical user, Jesse is in hiding after conducting some “business” with the Kirk, business that spells trouble for everyone else. Leia’s friends want her to keep Jesse company and give him food, but he’s not too quick to make friends. If Leia’s gonna make a buddy, perhaps the love of her life, she’s gonna need to be sweet, patient, and possibly pushy.

Interestingly, Jesse was the only character in the game that had a sprite change that shifted his whole body. It’s also one of the more interesting stories in the game, so I highly recommend it.

  • Final Verdict

Blood Code normally sells on Steam for about $8 and I’m still not sure it’s worth it. You do get a game with a fair amount of bells and whistles but you also get clunkily translated dialogue, an awkward narrative, and a pretty standard Otome experience. I think if you can find it on discount it’s worth the experience just to laugh and try something new. Otherwise, this is one you won’t miss much if skipped.

Next Time: Never Give Up!

 

What did you think of Blood Code? Does this make you nostalgic or bored? Feel free to leave a comment below. And don’t forget to like and follow for more content.

How Chobits Changed My Anime Experience

I like to think anime fans are creatures of habit. Which is not to be insulting; all humans prefer familiarity. As such, when there’s a certain genre or subject we like, we tend to cling to it and rarely venture out. Even more so, if there’s something we don’t like, we will avoid anything to do with it for fear of repeating that horrendous experience.

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People who like shonen tend to watch shonen almost exclusively; if they think shojo is a bunch of pretty-boy, girly-faced BS they’ll avoid anything remotely close to the piss-poor show that set them off in the first place. But most anime fans are also willing to cross that line should word-of-mouth declare the show “different.” I myself have tried several shows that I were in a genre I didn’t particularly care for. It’s how I got into Black Butler.

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Though, the only issue I had at the time was the Shouta… and the Shouta Yaoi

But there was a time when I wouldn’t have taken the risk. There was a point where I put myself in an echo-chamber of shojo/shonen fantasy anime and anything on the outside just “wasn’t my thing.”

And then came this sweet little anime that contemplated the existence of sentient robots, Chobits. I avoided it for awhile – as it reeked of Magical Girlfriend Harem Anime – but I broke down and watched it when enough people told me how adorable it was. And my viewing experience hasn’t been the same since.

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And the cutness changed everything
  • Blatant Perverted Humor That’s Somehow Innocent

First of all, let’s be honest with ourselves: the humor here is pretty dirty.

As a show aimed at older men (despite the girly opening), there’s no getting away from the blatant fanservice. Chii, our resident magical girlfriend, won’t be completely naked but will be in nothing but her underwear almost all the time, with her lady bits being accidentally touched at various points.

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As this wallpaper demonstrates, Chii’s sexual appeal is not accidental at all

But these awkward moments are presented just as they are: awkward and embarrassing. Yeah, sure, there’s no denying the audience will still enjoy the view but they’ll also be laughing at our protagonist, Hideki, who promptly freaks the hell out and behaves like any awkward nerd would. It’s not a power fantasy; it’s a romantic comedy with fantasy elements, and it works to amazing lengths.

  • Some Nice, Well Executed Naval Gazing

But when Chobits isn’t gleefully giggling at Hideki touching Chii’s breasts for purely mechanical reasons (admit it, you laughed), it’s asking some interesting questions. The whole anime has far more navel gazing in it than I thought, and the questions it asks are some really hard ones to answer.

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Or at least it does when the comedy isn’t happening

I once heard Chobits summed up in one glorious sentence: “Can I sleep with my robot?” They had to make it on the fly with a timer clicking behind them, so I’m fairly impressed with how close it comes to the real deal. Yeah, the plot asks itself if it’s okay for humans to feel a real emotional connection with these personal computers (unavoidable when you put a female face on it) but it also asks some other really important questions: What happens when you replace lost loved ones with these machines? What happens to the real people who feel outsmarted and out-ranked by these machines? Is it even ethical to put these computers in the same category as people?

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This isn’t in the same vein as Death Note, which pondered the morality of absolute power and the definitions of justice, but it does pose some quandaries worth musing over with a cup of coffee.

  • Even Your Fantasy is Littered With Layers

Let’s also be honest about something: Chobits is a Harem anime.

The whole show revolves around the spineless and nerdy Hideki, a dropout loser who hopes to turn his luck around in the big city. His trip to the big city has him repeatedly put in awkward positions with a series of good looking girls.  This includes his Hot Landlady, his Hot Teacher, and his Hot Coworker. Now these girls kinda get a backseat to Chii, our Hot Computer with her own brain, but they do exist on the fringes. Furthermore, it’s also fulfilling the fantasy of having a perfect girlfriend fall in your lap. Thought the “perfect” part is being put through the ringer.

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She’s a little bit more like a child, in the beginning, copying everything Hidekei does

But it’s okay. The fact that Chobits was obviously playing to a specific group didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. The story manages to balance these fantasy elements with the navel gazing mentioned above and adds some real layers to the people involved in this fantasy. The Hot Coworker has her own problems outside of Hideki; The Hot Landlady has a connection to Chii the robot, and so on and so forth. Everything here is really well-rounded  and it feels more like you’re dealing with people rather than caricatures meant to “fill a role.”

  • So if this was actually good….

Then what else was actually really good? Chobits taught me that there’s always a shiny gem in an anime genre that can be universally loved and I couldn’t be more grateful.

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In a way, Chobits was the eye-opener that forced me to experiment in anime. It is my reminder that sometimes it’s worth taking a risk and watching something outside of your comfort zone. It won’t always end as well, but it’ll be better to have tried than to have missed out.

 

What anime changed your mind about a genre? Feel free to leave a comment below. And don’t forget to like and follow for more content like this.

Otome Review: Red String of Fate

When it comes to Otome, there is no in-between: it’s true love or bitter tragedy.

Each game presents you with (hopefully) interesting stories, but we all know romantic wish fulfillment is the cream in this oreo cookie. Each game is meant to present you yet another way you found that one person who was perfect for you in every fashion; you complete each other in a way no one else can. And, if you make the right calls, you can be together forever in sunshine bliss. One would almost say that it provides readers a chance to fantasize about meeting “the one”, I.E their Soulmate.

But is your fated person someone who already exists, or someone you create to make your own destiny? You ask yourself this a lot in our subject today, the new title known as Red String of Fate. The game is a play on the old Chinese and Japanese legends about the magical and metaphorical red string around all our fingers that leads us to our fated partner, all while offering two very sweet love stories to chew on.

 

  • Plot

 

This game already won me over by setting itself in college rather than High School. You play Valerie Wong, daughter of a Chinese immigrant and Journalism student. Valerie was born with a special gift: she can see the Red Strings of Fate. The problem is that she cannot see her own, meaning it’s nonexistent or stretched too thin to see. Valerie decides to bank on the latter and travel the world to find him, whoever he may be. Thus she works herself to pieces at four part-time jobs and full-time school work. 

Things change when her philosophy class institutes a group project. She partners up with Aaron, her old buddy from high school, and Luke, an introverted literature student with a secret of his own.

Luke and Aaron

Gaze into the faces of change

Working with the boys stirs some doubt in Valerie. After all, it seems like relationships of real substance are forming right in front of her. Does this put a monkey wrench in her plans? Or does Valerie stick to her guns?

 

  • Gameplay

 

Red String is not a short little romp through sweet romance, nor is it a very long look at a relationship. It’s a medium-range Visual Novel with only two romantic paths. The actual plot in question is basically the same: Valerie needs to pass this project to keep her grades up and starts to fall in love in the process. What changes are the details of who and how based on one split in the plot: Irene’s birthday party.  You can go with Aaron or stay home with Luke, effectively choosing from the get-go who you wanna pursue. It’s a fun read all around and the game has a pretty great sense of humor about it.

Ha

Beyond just unwinding a tightly knit narrative, the game itself is really quite simple. Every so often in the story, Valerie will be prompted to make a decision that changes the outcome of the story. I believe the important choices are the double choices, where you can choose the “yea or nay” option, so to speak. There are also moments where you have four different choices you can make at a single moment, a la The Lady’s Choice, but I am unsure if they make any significant changes.

Choices

If I had to give a complaint – and I do – I feel as if the game is a bit static. I know most VN’s that have any sense of dynamics to them tend to cost money, but this game felt a little stiffer than usual. The character sprites themselves cycle through expressions of course, but you never see other characters on the screen except for Luke or Aaron. It also takes quite a long time for a CG to appear, like the last two-fourths of the game. But I was super happy when I finally got to my first one; ‘cause these images are super cute and shift as the story progresses.

 

 

 

  • Art

 

The artist this time around is an indie drawer named Greenace, who comes from the Philippines. Green has a great style, from what I can tell, with a soft pencil look that is clean and very anime-esque. They admit on their page that they are inspired by JRPG’s and anime, which explains the occasional shift from pretty anime boys to cute chibi drawings:

Art

That being said, they do a good job at making all three characters look distinct from each other. The backgrounds have several credited artists and all of them did well too, though I did recognize one image from Halloween Otome. I don’t know if the same artist was on board or if the image was stock, so, I didn’t push it. Besides, since both games are free titles, no one is really losing any money here.

 

  • Romance Paths

 

Luke:

Luke

Quiet, thoughtful, and somewhat cynical, Luke was a huge shot in the dark for Valerie’s project. Thankfully he turned out to be a very thoughtful and intelligent person, albeit quiet and introverted. But that’s where his literature student stereotypes end because while he may be a writer himself he downright refuses to write about or entertain the idea of romantic love. It’s clear something is deeply troubling Luke and it’s gonna take awhile to peel back his defenses and figure out what it may be.

The cheesy set-up aside, Luke’s story is actually touching. It’s a very emotional ride, albeit a short one, and I did enjoy this spin on the poet archetype.

 

Aaron

Aaron

Do you like games? Because Aaron freaking loves them.

This gaming nerd graduated high school a year before you. He’s a computer science major with big hopes of being an indie game developer, despite the starving artist stereotype in conjures up.  Aaron is compared to a puppy in-game: bright, energetic, and always eager to please. He more reminded me of a child trapped in an adult body, with his constant pouting and pleading to get his way. That kinda killed any romantic attachments I may have had, but I will always support the “Hot Gamer Guy” in games like this. So while Aaron may not have worked for me, it may very well spark some strong feelings with someone else.

 

  • Final Verdict

 

Red String of Fate is very bare-bones for Otome, but the core is still very strong. The story itself is sweet and fulfilling, with a very unique concept I haven’t seen played with. Because it lacks a lot of movement and immersion, the game will feel like it’s dragging its heels. But if you can get past that and kinda accept the bare necessities, you’ll get a really sweet story. In short, I’m excited to see more from this developer/company and will definitely keep an eye out for them.

Any thoughts on these blooming indie-developers? Feel free to comment below. And don’t forget to like and follow for more content just like this.

 

Next Time: Blood Code