Otome Review: Belong

A brief tip about me: I am not a huge fan of Slice of Life. In fact, as far as genres go, I think it’s absolutely boring when left to fend for itself. It’s more fun to imagine yourself in a far-off land, or in a situation that could never happen in real life than in a scenario that’s happened to twenty other people prior. But I still try to give these games a chance, because that’s what I’d want for work of my own.

This game did not change my opinion on the genre. It didn’t make it worse, but it didn’t help.

Belong is a Romance/Slice of Life otome with a very vague description on its page. But it caught my eyes for the nice designs on the characters, so I gave it a shot. The story I got has clear signs of being someone’s first project, with salvageable pieces inside. But anything enjoyable is bogged down by excessive drama and annoying, first-story quirks.

 

  • Plot

 

You are a young lady/man/adult living in a church with your adoptive father/Father, Louis. You’ve been his pride and joy ever since he took you in several years ago and you’ve made yourself a decent life as a top student and hockey player (out in a baseball field, for reasons I cannot figure out). To make sure you’re not a burden, you decide to get a part-time job and earn some extra money. You succeed and get yourself a part-time job as a receptionist at a drama studio, and get thrust into three different stories to choose from.

Receptionist Desk

From there, the character that strikes your fancy becomes your story. You remain as you were either way – though it looks like you can tweak your personality a little – but everything else revolves around the woes of your beau to be.

 

  • Gameplay

 

The game plays in traditional Otome fashion: as the story progresses, you get a point where you can make a choice to alter it in some way. Your choices can either make or break the story, in theory, and you have to work your way towards the best ending. The game also advertised having a customizable main character, though you never actually get to see it. You customize through a series of questions, which I suppose allows for the self-insert a little better.

But my praise will dry up there because the ride from this point on is lacking in immersion and subtlety. In one particular scene, I found myself sitting with one of the love interests, trying to tell him that I didn’t care that his career choice wouldn’t net much money. But, instead of the sad violin music, I heard this drum-laden action track that was better suited for a battle than a confrontation, and the boy’s uncle came up to the table. We were told by the writer that this Uncle always criticized the love interest but went easy on his own son, which works well for motivation. But then the Uncle proceed to sneer at said boy, for no discernible reason I could pick up, and threaten violence against him and the protagonist in the middle of a crowded diner. And the only reason offered up for why was that the love interest was “ungrateful.”

Flint's Uncle

This uncle ”mwahaha-ing” may have been more believable if we’d seen more of him, but we didn’t. If the uncle were characterized beyond “abusive and mean,” we may have actually felt some sympathy for the love interest. But we didn’t see it, so I don’t feel it, and I don’t feel much for any of these characters. Their drama plays out so damn fast that the author has to tell us what’s going on for most of it and tell us how well these characters get along over a stretch of time. Their drama feels thin because it’s thrust upon us in a one-note fashion, with “the healing power of love” being the main focus.

Dylan sick

This character scribbles over his own skin because he bottles up what he wants to say, and is prone to panic attacks. That would have hit harder if we’d seen MORE of him before his big break down.

If I were to ever speak to this author – and her fans are very welcome here, even if we disagree – I would tell her this: Drama and emotion in a story are like spices, best used in small sprinkles throughout the entire meal, not in large clumps you occasionally bite into. This is not to say that I want to be bombarded all the time by angst, but I want to see these characters getting to know each other and slowly letting each other in.

 

  • Art

 

I noted right away that Stock images and photos were being used as backgrounds and I won’t begrudge the author that. Resources for Otome-ers are limited, especially when the game itself is free. Of course, as always, correct me if I am wrong and I will make amends.

The sprites are original to this piece, as far as I can tell, and they are quite lovely. The main ones were drawn by Tumblr artist aprilsiera and I’m quite pleased with how colorful and detailed they are. They even have expression changes to match the scenes, a very nice touch. The non-main characters were represented by silhouettes gotten from a resource site, but each one is different, so that helps clear any confusion.

Alice-Capriana

 

  • Paths:

 

????

Flint

I went a little backward to mix things up and started with the mystery gentlemen. We’ll call him Generic Man and you’ll soon see why.

You meet Generic Man on the bus and in the park, where awkward encounters involving hair, ice cream, and sketchbooks cement him as the troubled but nice guy who just needs a friend. Turns out he’s the “props” master, which confused me since his sketches were all architecture and they spoke about his “props” as if they were talking about set pieces. I was only in Drama club so I could be missing something, but that doesn’t change the fact that Generic Man here really had nothing much to offer.

He’s not offensive, rude, overbearing or even all that dull. He’s prone to lame jokes, kinda protective and even determined as fuck. He’s also the one with the aforementioned dumbass Uncle since his parents up and left him. It’s all here to make something interesting, but what I got was super bland. With Generic here, I crave some kind of strong flavor to define who he is, and some fine-tuning to his parental backstory.

Dylan

Dylan

Meanwhile, our middle child here has that strong flavor. It’s just not a flavor I’m a fan of.

Dylan is the studio’s hired makeup artist and is cripplingly shy. He has so much trouble verbalizing when he wants to that he bottles it up, gets sick, draws on his own skin, or lets people walk over him. I like all of this; I even like that we get the contrast of this nice, timid guy with the motorcycle he rides. What I didn’t like was a matter of personal taste: he’s too nice.

The boy has a twin sister who’s forward, authoritative, goes after what she wants, but is a nice person deep down. Dylan, meanwhile, is soft-spoken, gentle by nature, and more prone to spouting poetry. This will definitely appeal to someone, especially since he’s not bad looking. But, as someone who prefers guys with a little more push to them, I’ll pass.

Caprina

Capriana

Ah yes, we do have a female option if you prefer an extra X chromosome. I did find Capriana to be the most interesting of the three characters, and I’m just sad her story got jetstream so hard that we only saw it in a blink.

Capriana appears to be a bright, cheery, person who constantly wears these strange, rose-tinted, glasses. She’s a bit of a celebrity for a role she played when she was very young, named “Emily,” but you notice real fast that Capriana is dressed just like Emily. Turns out Capriana has no idea who “Capriana” even is and the idea of finding out terrifies her. The whole idea sounds great: building this personality from the ground up and discovering who you are. It’s just a shame that I still don’t know who Capriana is beyond her role in the story.

Her drama and the main problem is so all-encompassing that any idea of what she’s like gets eclipsed – ironic, given her main problem. This is where the story’s breakneck speed really hurts it, not allowing for us to see Capriana and Protagonist bonding and discovering her personality. It would have been a great story, and it’s worth salvaging, but this version of it feels about as deep as a puddle.

 

  • Final Thoughts:

 

Belong is clearly someone’s first try at telling a story, or at least it’s littered with the signs of such. With clunky writing and over-emphasis on the drama, what does work gets overshadowed and left behind in the rush to get to the juicy bits. There are salvageable pieces here, but this story as a whole didn’t make the mark.

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Favorite Types of Creative Cosplay

It’s summertime, kittens, and you know what that means: it’s the season of conventions!

I like to think this is the moment than many an anime nerd plans for the whole year. It’s where our clan meets up, exchanges funny shit, meets our Voice Actor Heroes, and gets sweet merch. 

But something I’m a big fan of around this time of year is the cosplay when people who are far better at sewing than I  get to show off some downright amazing work.

It’s cosplay season, so break out the camera and go on a (safe) hunt for your favorite characters walking around in the flesh. Looking for the cool character costumes is my favorite part of any convention and I especially love it when I see the creators flex those creative muscles and come up with something truly glorious. In short, my favorite types of creative cosplay come from outstanding details, commitment to the concept, and showing me something completely different.

By the way, It’s hard to find names behind these awesome costumes sometimes. So, if you know the artist who created them, feel free to let me know and I will credit them no prob.

 

  • The Gender Bender Mind Bender

 

Here’s a common rule of the internet for you: If the character exists, there is likely a version of it that’s had the gender switched. And I actually think it’s pretty cool.

Cosplayers are no strangers to being extra creative with their costumes, especially when they decide to tackle one of the opposite gender. Since androgyny and cross-dressing are standard in Japan, it’s not uncommon for cosplayers to swap the gender of their favorite character and put a cool spin on it. Most of the time, what you get is a lot of girls in skirt/sexy versions of the characters. But my personal favorites are those who try a more realistic approach. Mainly, I like it when they commit to the idea of a gender switch of the character and actually dress them the way that character would.

Still, I’m also not the kind of person to deny someone their cheesecake. Whether it’s a suddenly attractive female Ryuk on a table or a rough and gritty female Dante with their coat zipped up, I’m all for the Gender-bend costumes. Because either way, you’re gonna get someone’s attention.

 

  • All or Nothing, Baby

 

My second favorite could likely be called “extreme dedication” or “people with a lot of time and a lot of money.” But I prefer to think of it as “all or nothing,” where the most extreme, impractical, but beautiful pieces get put on display for everyone within walking distance.

Pictured above: Yaya Han as Carmilla from Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

You see, Cosplay is not just a fun hobby for a few: it’s a profession, a business, and a passion. So, some people prepare these elaborate pieces of art precisely for these conventions, maybe even for contests or advertisements for their cosplay business. Or they could be artists who see this as another form of creative expression, using the conventions as a way to show off their well-crafted creations. Either way, they go crazy with a costume that’s accurate down to the details, or so large and elaborate you wonder how they can walk.

Pictured above: Jeff Siegert as Raiden

These costumes are amazing, from their awesome detail down to their amazing makeup. It shows a care and dedication that an artist like me can appreciate – especially given my inability to sew a stitch.

 

  • “Well, That’s New.”

 

One thing I can guarantee for every convention is that one type of costume, or one particular costume, is usually going to dominate. I went to the same convention twice and saw two different costumes on repeat. The first time I went, I saw an abundance of Adventure Time characters and Homestuck trolls roaming around. A few years later, I show up to the same hotel, same convention, and suddenly everyone wanted to join the Scout Regiment from Attack on Titan. So, when everyone is dressing up as the same thing, you’ll catch my eye much better when you show me a character or concept that others have/are doing in a way that’s completely new.

In other words, get creative and original with your fanfiction.

Pictured above: Trinity All-stars OC Scarecrow Cosplay

Give me a cool idea, mainly. Take a character into a creative concept I haven’t seen before, or make your own version of the costume that still rings true to the original design, and you are guaranteed to get my attention. It shows a love of detail, a knowledge of the character in question, and an ability to explore the idea and make something cool. And, hey, it’s a pretty big guarantee to no one will copy your costume.

 

  • Bring It To a Close

 

Despite these being my favorite of the artform, I wanted to make it clear that I appreciate cosplay in all of its forms. It’s a lot of work to make quality costumes – hence why they tend to run so expensive – and all who participate deserve respect and admiration. So, if you’ve put all your hard work into a replica of Sora’s keyblade, then you go right ahead and show it off this summer.

 

The Real Beauty of Fullmetal Alchemist’s Characters

Many a longtime reader of this blog – and anyone who knows me in person – can testify that I am extra picky about what writers and stories I consider “masters of the craft”, especially when it comes to characters. Of that handful I currently have, Hiromu Arakawa has a firm, uncontested spot.

The Manga and Brotherhood variants of Fullmetal Alchemist are an absolute treasure trove when it comes to detailed, flawed characters that just about every viewer will fall in love with. As a writer, I’m usually in awe of Arakawa’s ability to make a streamlined narrative, that’s equal parts funny and dramatic, and the amazing characters that carry it forward. It’s very rare to find an anime with a cast that’s as well loved as this one and I couldn’t help but wonder what it was about them that sticks with everyone so well.

And, well, you know I can’t resist deep character dives. And before you move on, be aware: spoilers ahead.

Arakawa’s strategy seems to start with something I think many a writer wants initially: memorability. I’ve recently had the “joy” of reading a book that had a good plot, and fascinating villains, but I found myself bored because the protagonist in question was a generic, leather-clad action girl with the social skills of a rock. Your character’s arc, motivations, and story mean next to nothing if the character is a bland, blank slate that could easily get lost in the crowd.

 Arakawa has this skill down pat: each character features not only a unique look, down to the side profile but a personality that could easily become their trademark. Hughes’ kind heart, busybody nature, and outright worship of his family would never be confused with General Louis’ Armstrong’s patented brand of hyper-chivalry and drama. Each one of these characters, even the small ones with bit parts, can easily be identified without use of their clothes or their role in the story. Take it from me; that is far from easy to do.

Once we have these wonderfully created specimens, which your audience loves and worships, our writer does the one thing every newcomer is too scared to do: she cracks them open and spills their guts.

I see a common problem in published fiction where authors are afraid to do any lasting damage to the characters of the story. They’ll kill tiny characters of no significance, and they may even injury their protagonists a bit, but they won’t do anything that rips them apart internally or remove a prominent character that would upset audiences. Arakawa has no such fears, to the point of things being rather dangerous if you’re a character with a first and last name. These characters will feel pain both physically and emotionally, and maybe have their whole world ripped out from under them.

The best example in the show comes from the characters Winry and Scar. Scar is already tragic in his own right: his homeland of Isvalla is being invaded by a greedy, conspiracy-laced government. But then he wakes up in the hospital run by two people from the enemy country. He kills them in a blind panic, even though the two in question are doctors that are healing everyone and anyone they come across. And lo and behold, he’s confronted on his “Kill All Alchemist Quests” by their daughter. Said daughter has lost both parents in one swoop, is now facing their killer, and can’t bring herself to kill him.

But in that same moment, and other moments to follow, we see why this formula works so well. Because each of these characters have such a strong personality, they have a chance to shine when that tragedy strikes. Instead of crumbling under the trauma, most of them will build themselves back up to be bigger and better than they started.

The show’s main characters follow this principle to the letter. Ed and Alphonse have, arguably, lost the most of all the characters in the show: bodies, family, home, peace of mind, you name it. But, instead of crumbling into a pile of blood, flesh, and sadness, they burned down the family home and joined the army. They decided right then and there to fix the problem, no matter what it took, and became the righteous and lovable badasses that lead the show. Or, to take it to a side character, Roy Mustang finds himself in the midst of a massive government conspiracy that robs him of Maes Hughes, his best friend, and confident.  And, while it’s clear that the sadness is crushing for him, it becomes the fuel for him to burn a path directly to the killer and the heart of government corruption.

And inspires some of his most badass moments

I could go on forever with how these characters shape up and become pedestal-worthy, but I can sense my worship-welcoming wearing thin. To bring it all succinctly to a close, Fullmetal Alchemist in its Brotherhood and Manga context works so well, even with non-anime fans, because it hits the major trends of writing while taking some huge risks. Everyone’s life is on the line as this mystery unfolds, but there’s not a point where you don’t dare give a crap for fear of instant loss. It ’s one hell of a tightrope to balance on, and I hope I can try it for myself one of these days.

Why Anime and Animals Work So Well

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

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

I’ll take one of each, please.

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

 

  • The Cute is Off The Scale

 

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

Because adorable mascot = profit.

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

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

 

  • Different Personalities on Parade

 

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

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

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

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

 

  • No Limits on Anatomical Imagination

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Top Ten Pokemon To Make You Ask “Why?”

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

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

And thus, a marketing success was born

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

10. Spinda

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

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

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

9. Lickitung

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

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

8. Smoochum

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

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

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

7. Vanillite/Vanillish/Vanilluxe

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

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

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

6. Trubbish

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

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

5. Gulpin + Swalot

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

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

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

4. Salazzle

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

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

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

3.Bruxish

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

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

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

2. Porygon – Z

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

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

1. Spiritomb

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

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

 

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

Otome Review: The Violet Project

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

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

  • Plot

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

  • Gameplay

 

 

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

Treasure and Co

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

Choices

 

  • Art

 

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

Magic Circle

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

 

  • Endings

 

Ending A: Daego, The One

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

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

 

 

Ending B: Riajan, The Many

Riajan

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

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

 

  • Final Thoughts

 

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

Stories I’d Love to See as Anime

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

  • The Last One Is Just For Kicks

 

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

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

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

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

 

Commonly Confused Anime Genres

So hey, genres are confusing.

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

giphy

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

 

  • Shounen Ai and Yaoi

 

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

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

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

 

  • Ecchi and Hentai

 

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

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

I am not responsible for what may happen.

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

 

  • Shoujo/Josei or Shounen/Seinen?

 

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

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

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

Batman Ninja (Review)

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

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

The hype is REAAAAAAL!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Otome Review: A Handful Of Shorties

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

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

 

 

  • Get Hired!

 

 

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

Main Plot

Get Hired Title

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

Gameplay

GetHiredArgument

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

What do you see

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

  • Flying Lessons!

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

Main Plot

Flying Lessons title

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

 

Gameplay

Flying Gameplay

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

Aww Flying

But seriously, this artwork is so cute.

 

  • Night Class

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

Main Plot

NightClassTitle

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

JakeAndRowan

Not that he was ever really all that nice.

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

I repeat, Look Away Children.

Look away, children!

Gameplay

ChoicesNIghtClass

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

  • Final Thoughts

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