Junji Ito Mini-Review: Episode 7, 8 and 9

It saddens me when a series I liked starts wilting.

I had a different opinion than most who started this series since I had come to this author’s short stories fresh. But, now that I’ve read quite a few more – and now that we’re in the halfway stretch – we’re starting to see some cracks in our creepy Ming Vase. From animation shortcuts to strange pacing choices, it appears that the Junji Ito Collection still has the content to be interesting but won’t be drawing in long-time Ito fans for much longer.

  • Episode 7: Used Record/Town with No Roads

Interesting things happen when Ito experiments with his stories. The last time he played with the horror parable we got the Lovecraft-esque staple, Long Dream, told very close to the original comic. This time, we have some parables of sorts, with very interesting turnouts.


Used Record is less visually frightening and more frightening in concept. It’s about a vinyl record (those things hipsters obsess over that give better sound quality) of a woman singing in what’s described as a “sudden, choked, disinterested” fashion that has these two girls totally enraptured. The owner of said record won’t let her friend make a copy of it, so said friend steals it. The theft ends in a brawl, which ends in a rock to the head of friend #1. Friend #2 does her best to hide the body and find a place to play the record. Here, she learns the disturbing truth about the record and what happens when you let obsession run your life.

This is one of those moments when the addition of sound really makes the difference. The episode went for a dark and moody operatic feel, despite the song later being called a “scat,” but it really upped the creepy vibe the story was aiming for. The fact that they once again rushed through the story is a shame but the experience is overall decent.


But I actually had to be told what our second story was a parable of. Town with No Roads starts with our main character, Saiko, having romantic dreams about a boy from her class. She accuses the boy of sneaking into her room to whisper his feelings in her ear and, lo and behold, his death in her dream proves to be his actual death IRL. Worse yet, she’s pretty sure her family is peeping into her room at night when she’s trying to sleep, despite her efforts to get some privacy. She decides to run away to her aunt where she discovers that her town appears to have no roads at all, and traffic just goes straight through everyone’s houses.

Welcome, kiddies to the parable of The Internet™.  The show makes a pretty good attempt at getting across the lack of privacy the story was aiming for but there was some pacing issues that kinda threw it all off. Still, I enjoyed the creepy feel of it and would probably watch it again.  

  • Episode 8: Honored Ancestors/The Circus is Coming To Town

And then, just when I give it praise, that infamous laziness of Studio Dean rears its horrific head; it’s a shame it happened in one of the author’s more mind-screwy stories.


Honored Ancestors comes from the short story My Dear Ancestors. The story itself focuses on Risa and her fiance just after she loses her memory from something sinister. We get a hint that something’s wrong right away when her fiance’s father crawls into the room on his back and seems to speak in voices coming from anywhere other than his mouth. Top it off with nightmares about a long, hairy caterpillar and you have a most unsettling story with one messed up twist I don’t dare spoil.

Now, someone who didn’t know what was coming could enjoy the story just fine; I got proof of someone who did. But I already knew the big twist, so I gotta focus on the overwhelming amount of animation shortcuts this episode took. It’s granted that the majority of the story is Risa and Shuichi talking, but I’ve seen shows that know how to at least frame that in an interesting fashion. But maybe they wanted to avoid animating faces and movement and the like because, each time they tried, it drifted unintentionally into the uncanny valley full speed.


But that drift kinda helped in The Circus is Coming to Town. Our unnamed protagonist is excited to see a circus in their backwater town and rushes with all due speed. He even spies the beautiful girl from school everyone knew worked for the circus, practicing her tightrope. Alas, all is not well for her or the troupe; the acts keep failing in gruesome fashions and our dear ringmaster doesn’t seem all that upset. That’s right, kids; it’s a circus horror where the clowns are innocent!

I actually really liked this story; it’s short, sweet and twisted. Ito doesn’t spare us on gruesome deaths and the animators don’t spare their gurgles and screams of agony. I loved the big twist at the end and the ambiguity of the ending as well, a wonderful experience after the sheer disappointment of the first story.

  • Episode 9: Painter/Blood Bubble Bushes

That’s right! It took us 9 episodes but we’ve finally gotten to Tomie!


Confession time? I had no idea who Tomie was until way earlier in the series when a buddy of mine introduced me and complained that she hadn’t shown up yet. And,upon reflection, I too wonder why it took us so long to reach one of Ito’s most infamous horror regulars. Her face is practically front and center on the show’s cover-art and opening, so it’s strange they waited this long to bring her up. Anyway, they picked a good one for her first appearance here.


Painter concerns an artist, Mori, who’s well known for his craft. Tomie tracks him down and manipulates him into losing his current model and using her as his next one. He makes his masterpiece and hopes it fulfills her wishes to forever preserve her beauty. She laughs at his attempt and remarks how he’s not a good artist after all, walking out of his life…maybe. This rejection apparently sends Mori from angry to obsessed to crazy within the span of a minute, unable to get the beautiful Tomie out of his mind. Then, when he hears a rival sculptor has managed to recreate her, there’s little stopping him from marching over and demanding to see what he was missing.

My description fails to really capture what makes a Tomie story so creepy, but any more would very much spoil what makes the character so amazing. That being said, I found Tomie’s appearance off upon seeing her. Considering Ito put quite a bit of time into making Tomie a unique and beautiful-looking woman – and how she looks correct in the opening – it’s disheartening to see her look wrong in the actual episode. Furthermore, the voice actress really couldn’t muster up the creepy-factor for her character, with a laugh that sounded forced and fake to a voice that lacked any hint of being scary. Add the quick-fire pacing issues on top of it and I found myself disappointed overall.


I went into Blood Bubble Bushes with this foul mood and left with a gag in my throat. Blood Bubble has some serious Children of the Corn vibes by starting with a couple in a broken-down car trying to find a phone inside a huge field. They run across Creepy Children who attack and attempt to drink their blood almost right away. I am stunned when the male in the couple calls this a prank and keeps going to a town that’s clearly abandoned, sans for one creepy man with red eyes. Turns out he can’t leave because he’s lost his lover, a woman who was so sure everything always left her in the end that her blood would leave her too. What nobody expected was that her blood would turn into a tree that grew the Plasma Fruit from the Sim’s games, or that the female in our couple would start growing some too.

My best guess is that this is Ito’s attempts at vampires. In concept, it works just fine, and the original artwork for the story is haunting, to say the least. I giggled at the Sims 3 connection I made but the sounds the show employed eventually left me feeling sick to my stomach. The animation still took some drastic shortcuts to avoid doing too many moving parts but, once again, I could watch it a second time if needed.


After all, I’ve been known to love me some Vamps.

Sadly though, this “meh” opinion is universal through these three episodes. What I saw was good in terms of story and adaptation but the execution is terribly lacking this time around. Stories are either spread thin or framed awfully, leaving us with this drive-by version of Junji Ito that wouldn’t impress too many people. I feel like what care we had in the first few episodes is missing and that will be a huge problem if it continues.


What Makes an Anime Stand Out?

Do you know how much anime gets released in a year? Ten, twenty? It’s more in the 30-50 range and a grand majority of them will become hidden gems or long-forgotten failures.

My friend always used to say that life was too short for bad anime, so I find myself starting and ending series a lot. For every Tenshi Muyo and Chobits, there’s a Girls Bravo somewhere in the mix, known to a select few but not famous enough for mass appeal. It makes one wonder what it is about these shows that let them stand the test of time while others become relics demonstrating what went wrong in that time of animation.

For example, see Psychic Wars

As a writer myself, I have my own theory on the matter. I find that, almost always, the devil is in the details when it comes to anime.


  • A New Idea, or An Old One With a Unique Twist


One wise writer once said that there are only seven original plots in the world. Mainly, asking for complete originality is looking for a needle in a haystack because every story will have similarities to each other. It gets even worse when you realize that artists are inspired and/or driven by each other and take bits and pieces they like. In reality, nothing is ever 100% original and is likely a Frankenstein-collage of ideas, characters and set pieces from all over that creator’s field. But where the magic happens (as far as this unprofessional writer can figure) is when you combine these already-on-the-table pieces, and possibly a new piece, in a unique way.

A shonen romance? Normal. A shonen romance with a young girl as the protagonist? Strange. A shonen romance involving a young girl and Western Faerie tropes? Curious and unique.

Anime is the exact same way. There are so many genres, tropes, storylines, character types and other trappings that have been done and done to death, and some that continue to go on despite being old. What differentiates a series is how it can present the old ideas in new ways (the hard way) or how they can present a new idea altogether (the really hard way.) Shows that just give what sells in a way that’s been seen a 1000 times will fall to the wayside.


  • Memorable Characters With Appealing Looks and Personalities


 But a good story is only as good as the people walking around within it. Your grand and epic story will fall flat or cease to even exist if the people walking around in it are flat caricatures with nothing remotely interesting about them. Even if the character isn’t a well-rounded individual, they need to at least look memorable or have a personality that will stick out. Alucard from Hellsing may not have the most complex or even intricate personality, but everyone remembers the red duster and hat, large orange glasses, and the fact that he’s bat-crap insane. Anime is about being out there and imaginative after all, so shows that go the extra mile with their characters become famous.

Ah, but there’s a flipside to everything, including fame. Because, if you present a character who fails to charm, has too much power, or is just utterly wrong in every fashion, then you go from memorable to INFAMOUS in record time. Look no further for this than the sad state that is Kiro of Sword Art Online, with a design that’s fairly mundane but a personality that is memorable for being overpowered and really boring.


  • Memorable Visuals


Speaking of memorable things for the eyes, when was the last time an anime you liked looked boring? Didn’t think so.

The problem with the large bucket of anime that comes out every year is that a significant chunk of it all looks the same. It takes place in more modern settings where the backgrounds are just “there,” so to speak, and the character designs are either ridiculous or underwhelming. Their problem is a lack of something visually stunning and memorable, a trademark that sets them apart from all the others.  Maybe you play with the animation; maybe you have one thing that’s done differently from other shows. An anime will separate itself from the wave of mediocre shows by having something in the art that people will remember and talk about, be it the overall look or one specific asset.

Take, for example, the likes of Ajin: Demi-Human.

Ajin’s visuals have issues with being weightless and floaty, but their artistic look is spot on. Things are dark and sharply contrasting, with unrelenting violence and frightening images of science gone completely wrong. On top of watching people wrapped in bandages, being experimented on mercilessly, Ajin than throws out the haunting IBMs, these black monsters they can summon that look fantastic in the 3D animation. The show stuck out for taking a huge risk, with both losses and payoffs to show for it.


  • A Feel That’s Unique


The last thing that will make any anime stand out and become the next big hit is, in my opinion, the most important. Because all the unique characters and visuals in the world, even with a story that somehow has a completely original plot, will not save you if your story has no unique feel.

Think of your favorite anime. Think hard about what you loved about it. I’m sure you noticed that it had a specific ambiance or emotion or background emotion to it that felt almost like a signature, something only it could recreate. Call it mood if you want, but it’s basically the overall way the show touches your thoughts and emotions. It’s nebulous to explain, but you recognize it when you encounter it.

To illustrate, take the likes of Inuyasha and The Ancient Magus Bride. Both shows feature a monster/mortal romance of some sort and are a shonen written by a female writer. But one would be very incorrect to say that they have the same feel. Inuyasha is a more traditional shonen despite the romance/female protagonist, with that more adventurous mood and a couple that feels much more like an old married couple than a new blossoming romance. The world surrounding it is cold and dangerous; it’s just a shame the main couple found little warmth in each other.

Now take Magus. Magus is far warmer than Inuyasha, despite having a world that is equally dangerous. There’s a warm, familial atmosphere to the show as the story focuses on a budding relationship between Elias and Chise, and how it changes over the episodes. The feel is more about discovering the world naturally rather than staking it out on an adventure and the main couple are far cuter. The feel of Inuyasha is slow and bristling; the feel of The Ancient Magus Bride is fantastical, tragic, and dangerous.

The anime that can manipulate a mood and ambiance unique to itself will find its characters more appealing and its story more flowing. The great failure of many a generic story is just that: it’s generic. I hope that this new year brings an influx of more unique anime, especially now that I’m focusing more time on them.

Netflix’s Fullmetal Alchemist (2017 Review)

I always seem to be late to the party. Ah well, this isn’t one anybody should be excited to get to.

I tried my hardest not to be angry at the new Fullmetal Alchemist film Netflix was making. Nothing’s worse than a fan who can’ let go, so I tried to do just that. But it didn’t take long for me to start picking nits with the film because, let’s face it, Netflix is expecting mostly fans to watch this one. It’s why they tried to visually recreate it and hit all the famous plot-points, but all they got was a trainwreck. Netflix’s Fullmetal Alchemist live-action adaptation is a cluster-bomb of tossed around plot points, character changes that were downright insulting, horrific CGI and writing that would piss off someone who had no idea what this series started with.

As always, spoiler warning. Spoiler warnings for Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood.



If you don’t know the plot of Fullmetal Alchemist, congrats on avoiding the majority of the anime community.  If you were ever curious, that one anime people won’t stop talking about follows the exploits of two Alchemists trying to fix their bodies after making a horrible mistake when they were children. The movie starts off with that very mistake, depicting little Edward (Ryosuke Yamada) and Alphonse Elric (Atomu Mizuishi) attempting to use Alchemy to resurrect their deceased mother. Alchemy in this universe is a science that allows users to break down objects and create new ones made from those same materials. I have no idea why this means Al and Ed were subjected to a Wizard of Oz tornado but the end result is the same as the shows: Ed loses his leg and Al his entire body.

After sacrificing his arm to get Al’s soul bound to a suit of armor, Edward vows to become a state alchemist. The goal is to gain access to the military’s vast wealth of information in hopes of finding the only thing that can bypass equivalent exchange and get their bodies back to normal: the Philosopher’s Stone. The movie decides to skip Edward’s painful process of getting a new automail arm and leg – automail being an indestructible metal – but I suppose it’s for the best. No use in showing tiny children squirming on a table while they attach the automail to every single nerve in the army. No, instead, what we get is a skinny-synopsis is of the FMA plot that speeds through the main conspiracy plot point within the military, but lacking any of the subtly and finesse that made it oh so interesting in the show.

Effectively, the movie made a big rush to hit the famous plot points of the anime: Shou Tucker’s story, the death of Hughes, the big fight between Ed and Al over Al’s memories, and so on. It’s exactly what M. Shamalyon tried with The Last Airbender and the results here are just as bad: a plot moving at breakneck speeds with moments that don’t connect well and characters you wouldn’t care about had you not watched either anime. Furthermore, condensing the story like this required changes to the plot that just don’t work. For example, it makes much more sense for Barry at Lab 5 to sew seeds of doubt about Al’s memories because Barry is a suit of armor himself; Shou Tucker doing it just because he’s an evil asshole seems utterly pointless. The whole thing results in a “check-list” story that only a marketing exec could love.


And, because they have this list that’s desperate to please fans, they will ironically piss them off. In the aftermath of streamlining the story, our charming and memorable characters were also stripped of what made them interesting and left with their basic plot-functionality.  Mustang loses his determinator status, discouraging the Elrics from finding the stone, and poor Edward gets called a genius despite everyone else figuring out the plot points on his behalf. We were also missing several characters crucial to our storyline, but I suspect they’ll be in the sequel. The thought of them “streamlining”  someone like Kimblee or King Bradley disturbs me.

I picture Bradley being stripped down to a pure killer with a cold attitude, which misses the point entirely.

But let’s ignore the issues you’ll have as a hardcore fan. After all, adaptations aren’t supposed to be carbon copies of their counterparts and not everyone who watches will be hardcore fans. I’d argue that most who watch this will be hardcore or casual fans, but let’s entertain the idea that people who have never seen the anime will find their way here. They will still be in for two hours of fail when they see that the writing is full of plot twists that surprise no one and super cheap CGI. The budget clearly went straight to the Alchemical reactions, with PS3-rejects left over for the monsters and poor Alphonse.

Alphonse looks passable here at least, but other scenes – holy crap.

It saddens me that this movie didn’t do well, but it doesn’t shock me. The biggest problem almost every anime movie suffers from, this one included, is that it tries to visually recreate the anime without paying attention to what made the story so well-loved or making one of their own that’s just as good. Netflix’s Fullmetal Alchemist had the right idea sometimes – the actor playing Tucker did well for what he was given and the scene with Nina still had punch – but it got buried under shaky, amateur writing more concerned with shoving in iconic moments nonsensically. In true irony, their attempts to appeal to fans have come back around and bitten them in hard in the ass.

Otome Review: Valentines Otome

Oh hey, it’s that company I thought was dead.

But seriously, I was sad when it looked like Synokoria – the company that provided Halloween Otome – was gonna be a One Hit Wonder. There was so much clever writing in their work, with high-grade art that you rarely see in free titles. So, imagine my surprise when a good buddy linked me to their newest project, Valentine’s Otome. Our dry-spell is officially over!

This is Valentines Otome, the sequel to Emma’s Halloween adventure in the mansion of Erik Valdemar. But, this time, we deal with her much more party-girl best friend and her Mistake(?) of the century.


  • Plot


Now that dear Emma is set with her significant other, the author gods of this universe turned their attention to Emma’s best buddy Miranda, or Mira (or whatever you decide to call her). Mira is an active party girl who enjoys going out, knocking back some drinks, and maybe hooking up with a hot guy if he’s got the right stuff. Such is the case for Mira on this fateful Valentine’s Day when she meets three attractive men just looking to unwind and have fun. Mira’s not surprised when she wakes up in bed with one of them… She is, however, surprised to see a wedding ring on her finger.

Mira shocked

yeah, that’d be my reaction too

But ah, kiddies, there will be no annulment and divorce today. Each guy has his own reasons why a divorce would hurt more than help, so Mira’s forced to play housewife for at least few months. But what will her rich and overprotective parents say? What will become of her boutique? And what happens when danger inevitably finds them both?


  • Gameplay


I had an idea of what I’d be dealing with when I entered this one. Last time, Synokoria created a mixed-media where you made choices to change the plot alongside playing mini-games to win the in-game competition. We have no mini-games this time around, but we have been introduced to a schedule mechanic that ties into skill-building. Mira has to choose how to spend her week each round, doing various activities: managing her boutique, visiting her “husband,” or even designing at home. Each activity increases one of her traits (design, management, social, etc) which has real-life consequences in the story. I like this mechanic a lot since Mira is a much more active, social person than Emma. It would make sense that she’d be busy during this period of marital-madness.


Each activity has a cute chibi-image to follow, but there will also be in-game “cutscenes” that happen during the week where the more traditional gameplay kicks in. Sprites and backgrounds are back and you’ll be required in a few cutscenes to make a decision that will shift the ending of the story. Because each decision has a chance of getting an “affection point” that gets tallied at a certain cut-off date. Your total number of affection points, plus certain skill levels tailored towards your chosen love interest, will dictate what ending you get.


As for the story itself, it changes depending on which guy you wake up with. Each story is this odd mix of drama and action that doesn’t quite mix but is compelling enough to keep me going. You even get a small subplot by picking which guy your best buddy ended up with from the last game, meaning tons of extra lines with each guy. The only thing that really stuck out to me was how the story occasionally switches POV’s with the guy, as some of it repeated events that already happened, dragging things down a bit. Otherwise, I appreciate that the writers gave a different story for a different type of character, so props.


  • Art


Oh goodness me, how I adore the artwork in these games.

Detailed, cute, colorful – I could really go on about how much work this company puts into game appearances. Sprites of every character are well-animated and distinct, with even minor characters getting detailed sprites.


There’re less of the cutie images you see above, but everything else looks yummy.


  • Romances




I got Artemis Fowl impressions as soon as I saw him. Given the extreme drama going on behind closed windows, I wasn’t too far off.

Daire Thurston is the heir to a huge company of which the CEO died rather suddenly and mysteriously. He’s not known to be a talker, tends to be a workaholic, and has an expression so unreadable people have to learn a very specific set of skills to figure out what his mood is. All in all, it’s a little difficult to tell how he’d let himself get drunk and get married overnight but, for the sake of the story, we’ll suspend our disbelief. His story is one of pretending to be a good husband and wife to keep up appearances, at least until he becomes the new CEO. The board will pick anything to make him quit, including a nasty divorce, or even a shady past.

Daire’s path is pure defrosting, but not quite the “taming the cold jerk” that I prefer. Sure, he’s cold, but not a bad person and honestly just trying to keep things together. But, if you cross that distance he attempts to create then you’ll enjoy yourself just fine. You’ll just have to deal with a lot of drama happening outside the main plot, which got mildly annoying, but I highly recommend trying the game at least for his path.





Speaking as a stay-at-home and moody writer myself, I identified with this anime/gamer geek right away. Sadly, “identified with” is not the same as being attracted to someone.

Zane is very rough as far as stories go. Former playboy turned reclusive, straight-laced writer, Zane’s publishing company has a strict morality clause which would prevent him from divorcing the stranger he just met and married. It looks less awful for him to be naive and rushed than drunk and stupid, so the two of them have to live together for a few months till it no longer looks like they made a huge mistake. This means putting up with a man who’s cranky at times, sloppy, and childish in a few situations.

Most of Zane’s path was not a turn on for me, but the story did manage to hold my interest for entertainment purposes. I like deep-dive characters as much as the next writer after all.



But here we have the one that I won’t be coming back to because I’m not a fan of Fatherly Types.

Kiron is a Good Guy™. He cooks; he cleans; he’s responsible, the whole package. The problem is that he’s also the shy admire from afar “I don’t know how to approach her” guy when all this happens, putting a big ole monkey-wrench into developing any kind of relationship. That’s at least what Mira and Kiron think, despite the fact that the two keep having the time of their lives together, but can’t seem to get over the “Other Women” who has no idea she is the other woman.

I didn’t care for this one myself; shy and chaste were never tropes I sought in my wish-fulfillment fantasies. But to someone who wants a traditional gentleman who tries very hard to be your friend first, this one will be just fine. The story is so caught up in the drama that the action part seems kinda forced in, but it’s still solid overall.


  • Final Thoughts


I can see what took this company so long to get this off the ground and I’m glad for the effort. With appealing art, appealing characters, and a well-written lead, Valentines Otome is a great sequel to a fantastic game. While it may have genre-issues that didn’t blend completely, you’ll still find yourself caught up in the slow burn story within.

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

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

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

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


  • Episode 4: Shiver/ Marionette Mansion


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


  • Episode 6: Window Next Door and Gentle Goodbye


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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Overall Thoughts

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


My Favorite Anime Tropes

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

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

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

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


  • Sweet, Beautiful, Deadly.


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

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

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

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


  • It’s So Crazy It’ll Definitely Work


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

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

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

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


  • Liquid Body Horror


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

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

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

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

This woman has every right to be scared.


  • Friendship… Doesn’t Always Save the Day


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Plot


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

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

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


  • Gameplay


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

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

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

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

So much to do, so little time.

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

We’ll get to the mushy stuff later.

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


  • Art


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

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

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


  • Romances Marriage & Married Life

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Halloween came early for me. Best birthday ever.

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


“Heretic!” the internet cried.

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

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

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

I did say black comedy. Your humor mileage may

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


  • Episode 3: The Crossroads Pretty Boy & Slug Girl


And then they tripped again. They were so close.

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

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

Bad things. Very bad things.

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

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


  • Conclusion


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

The Importance of Music in Anim

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

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

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

  • Put You In The Character’s Head

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

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

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

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


  • Adds Depth to a Character


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

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

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


  • Extra Chance for Fantastic Visuals


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

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

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


  • Yay, it’s a conclusion!


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

Otome Review: Frozen Essence

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


-Link here if you wanna read that-

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


  • Plot


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

Mina and Oracle

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


  • Gameplay


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

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

Choices with Aysel

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

Cat Fight


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


  • Art


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

Frozen Art

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


  • Romances




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

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






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

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

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





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

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





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

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


Secret Path – Oracle



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

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





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

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



  • Final Thoughts


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

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

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