Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Autumn 2012 anime

It's that time again when a new season has started, so beginning my process of sorting the wheat from the chaff in the lineup of shows.  So far I have to say this has been a pretty solid start, a hell of a lot better than summer (which, even at the beginning mostly only held shows of moderate interest to boring).

Gotta love that artstyle.
Getting straight to it then, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun is one of my favourite start ups so far. Ostensibly it's a shoujo anime - a label which normally causes me to steer well clear of a show, but I'm glad I gave this a chance because within minutes of watching I was in hysterics.  This show really nails that key all important aspect of comedy: timing.  What's more it keeps things coming at a blistering rate, I don't think I've laughed so much at something in years. YEARS.  The fact that Japan doesn't tip-toe around certain taboos (for example, violence towards women) makes it all the more outrageous from a western perspective.

Despite the largely realistic approach of the show, the violence is fairly slapstick and usually brushed off in a manner that an average western cartoon would do - there isn't much lingering on it and bizarrely it often leads to more humourous situations.  Speaking of realism, the show makes a very welcome use of semi-realistic character designs with more realistic proportions and profile shapes than the average anime; noses are shaped like noses instead of vague triangles.  Why is this not done more frequently Japan?

FeMC and Aspie-kun.
I've just realized that I've rambled for two whole paragraphs without describing the background to the show: it's about a girl and her acquaintance with an aspergic delinquent.  From there on stuff happens.

Apparently the manga which this is based upon does decline in quality, so bear that in mind when starting watching it.  That said, for the time being this is a solid show and certainly worth watching.

Chuunibyou is another series which I've really liked the first episode of.  Personally I had no idea there were actually people who design and dress themselves up as some self-invented character (I had long imagined the infamous Darks to be a one off), so I found it pretty hilarious... whereas a lot of other people seem to have found it embarrassing.  This quadruples the amusement for me.

Rikka, the "chuunibyou".
Being a Kyoani show the animation was extremely nice, with some of their best work to date expended on fantasy scenarios imagined by various characters.  I have no idea where the plot for this show is going, it's still too early to say but regardless, I love the central characters of Rikka and Yuuta.  The latter of the two is embarrassed by the fact that he used to play dress up and put on a fake persona (a "chuunibyou").  Whilst he would like to forget that past, Rikka quickly cottons onto it and introduces herself as someone who likes to be a chuunibyou - and has no qualms or embarrassment about it - much to Yuuta's chagrin.

So far so good, I shall be watching it weekly for my dose of moe and further humour.

Segwaying from Kyoani, Little Busters also started this past week... but with JC Staff in charge of animation.  It wasn't a bad start (certainly nowhere near as bad as it could be given JC Staff) though the animation is quite rough, it is more or less typical of JC Staff's animation quality in general.  The character designs are certainly quite an improvement from the typical Key artwork, as usual JC Staff have employed a skilled character designer - so there's no kawaii~uguu looking characters (thank god).

Useless cat, I choose you!
They seem to be following the VN quite literally, so it should be hard for them to screw it up... hopefully. There have been far worse VN adaptations produced to date (see for example, the Key movies), hopefully they'll follow or combine the best aspects of the various routes in the game.

I was entertained for the duration of the episode, the characters were amusing and the pacing was mostly fine. My only complaint is that the central character (a guy) is voiced by a girl, which is all the more obvious when contrasted with the manly voices of the surrounding male characters.  I'll sit back and see how it pans out over the duration of its broadcast.

Next up is Ixion Saga, which is sort of like a cross between Gintama and Slayers.  The Gintama connection is worth mentioning, since it features the same director and voice actors (see also: Binbougami).  It's a moderately amusing comedy/fantasy/shounen, nothing ground breaking so far but I'll be sticking with it to see where it goes. Speaking of Gintama, a new series started last week, which was welcome; as was the new series of Hayate which also got off to a good start.  Hopefully I won't get burned out by 3 shows doing much the same thing.

Lastly there's a variety of shows which I have little to no interest in:
Zetsuen no Tempest was a terrible abomination, a fantasy show about a wimpy guy who lets himself get beaten up bullies (he even hands over his wallet, believing this to be badass) and some witches and blah blah blah.  It was terrible and should be avoided at all costs.
Project [K] always had that look of fujoshi pandering to it, so I guess it was no surprise that it turned out to be just that.  It's just disappointing considering how nicely animated the show is, I'll keep watching it for a little while longer to see if it picks up - though this is probably a vain hope.
Shinsekai Yori is an abstract show which focuses too much on building up the abstract elements of its world.  Abstract is fine if kept to the background, but making it a central feature is not terribly interesting.  Hopefully this will improve and shift the focus towards the characters, but right now it's one of my least favoured shows.  The ED is very nice though.

That's all for now, there are more shows that have yet to air... I guess I can talk about them in due course or retrospectively when the season ends.  We'll see.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Bad Subs

Recently I bought a copy of one of my favourite anime series Sora no Woto, a series I consider to be a classic and worthy of a permanent place on the shelf. Or rather would be if the DVD release hadn't been so damned terrible - I could list the various problems (bad encoding, naff opening sequence) but chief amongst the problems has been the subtitles. I wish I could say this is the only time I've encountered bad subtitles but it isn't, and given that there are scant reviews of UK subtitle releases it's always a gamble as to whether or not you're buying something decent.

Which is what brings me to the topic of this blog: if I'm given the option of a badly subtitled DVD which barely makes sense; or a fansub which makes perfect sense, has wonderfully formatted fonts and perfect timing - then there is no real choice at all. By this point you may as well not bother with the DVD purchase because it'll only be a deadweight on the shelf with no benefit to the viewer. Historically you could show your appreciation for a show by importing it (either from Japan for the extreme fan, or the US) but with UK customs this is increasingly impossible.

That in mind, I'm wondering why there isn't an honesty box or something like that which viewers of fansubs can throw money into and see flow back to the producers in Japan - it's a fair deal, and one which would give them more money than some hokey release in a backwater market like the UK. Sure there are streaming sites like Crunchyroll which you could throw money at if you were really inclined, but I'd take more satisfaction in seeing money flow straight back to the producers to reward them for perceived good work than to have it syphoned through a middleman who takes a cut for himself.

But all the same, I'd still like to own a good copy of a good show with a decent set of subtitles. Is that too much to ask for? As a consumer you at least expect some quality, not something which is hastily thrown together without bothering to check the quality. Whatever the case, I can at least take some satisfaction in the distributor or SNW going broke - bad business practice is not a sustainable one.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Mub Rub Total Eclipse

I feel compelled to post right now about Muv Luv Total Eclipse, the last episode left me feeling pretty psyched and therefore in the need to blog about stuff. Considering this show started out as total rubbish it really has come a long way - though it still is visually pretty ugly looking, the delivery of the story has improved a great deal.

Just to recap the background of the show, the story centres around a group of pilots working in a test facility that develops experimental mecha. Most of the show revolves around the relationships between characters and what they do in their time between missions / test flights, the Mecha sections (when they appear) are generally quite fleeting. The reason for Mecha being necessary is that the earth has been invaded by a formidable alien race (or races?) known as BETA, which are pretty good at destroying tanks and aircraft, so something more maneuverable than either of those is pretty handy - but like the Mechs, the BETA are mostly only an aspect of the backstory.

The MC has no problems being alpha.
It's pleasing that the main character in the show is a total badass and isn't entirely dense, though he does harbour an irrational dislike of the Japanese (despite being half-caste himself). Along with the MC are various other pilots, engineers, officers, Soviets (yes, really) and so forth; the most important of these other characters is Yui, veteran of a failed campaign in Japan that is now overseeing R&D for experimental prototypes.

All this brings me to the last episode, where experimental equipment is finally brought by the test pilots to make use of on front lines. IT WAS AWESOME. Despite the fact that the anime does use badly constructed Zbrush monstrosities, it still kicked ass; and at this point I must restrain myself so as not to give away any spoilers. All you need to know is that it was awesome to see characters organizing themselves in the field (because mission plans went derp) and seeing them extract themselves from a colossal mess.

The main characters wind each other
up when there's nothing else to do.
As I have said various times before I'm not a fan of mecha, but I do enjoy how this presents a semi-realistic portrayal of characters in military situations. Just don't mind that they're all wearing body-tight suits. Oh yeah, and be sure to start watching from Episode 3 - the first two episodes are garbage.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012


I'm quite late to the party here, but for the last week I've been marathoning SMUGFACES: THE ANIMATION Hyouka.

Look at that smug.
I'd been put off watching for a long while after many people reacting negatively to the first few episodes, so it's a pleasant surprise that picking it up now I find it to be a good show - nay, not just good: excellent. Outstanding. It's one of those series which showcases just what KyoAni can do with animation when they put their mind to something - whilst most of their shows feature fluid animation, this really really needs to be seen in motion to fully appreciate just how visually interesting it is. Remember how beautifully animated and abstract the Gosick OP was? Well, this is like that but fused with the fluidity and framework of KyoAni: abstract set pieces and surrealist imagery are employed to punctuate the show and re-engage the viewer, it's quite possibly the most visually interesting thing KyoAni have done to date; it's also (so far) one of their best series.

Did I mention smug?
Thematically, Hyouka is a mystery series; yet one which takes an unusual approach to the genre by applying a detective character to explain or coax everyday occurrences. "Why is that guy reluctant to let us look in his room for our book?", "How should this incomplete movie end?" - neither of which sound terribly interesting on paper, yet the challenge to solve the mysteries is particularly gripping. For a show which centres on low-key problems it presents a highly credible method of detective methodology: never are there any asspull solutions, potential scenarios are all discussed until a final theory is deliberated and acted upon thus allowing the viewer to figure things out with the characters. As I said before, this style of realism places this at odds with the "whodunnit" style of mystery (one episode even has the characters attempting to solve a whodunnit mystery with a realistic approach), it has more in common with (for instance) Law & Order but without the death or gore.

Since the approach to solving mysteries is realistic, it makes sense that the characters are too: they often have disjointed discussions which get interrupted or follow a non-linear route. I can't think of any books, films or television shows which have presented characters so realistically; nearly always a writer will present a clean and linear pathway for characters, with interruptions occurring at the least convenient time (often predictably so too). It helps a great deal that the characters themselves are interesting, humourous and (at least in the case of some female characters) endearingly sweet.

Chitanda is moe. Even when drunk.
The centremost character of Hyouka is Houtarou Oreki: an unenergetic and average student who goes out of his way to avoid doing things, and therefore finds a club where he can goof off and not do any work. Believing this club will be empty and devoid of other members, he is quickly disappointed to discover that it has another member - the highly energetic and inquisitive Eru Chitanda. Chitanda's persistent character quickly irritates Oreki, who begrudgingly decides that it's better to satiate her curiosity than to endure her incessant prattling. Thirdly we're introduced to Oreki's friend Satoshi, who serves to further irritate Oreki to the point of action (though Satoshi is more deliberate in this regard), his lighter and more outgoing personality also offering a nice counter-balance to Oreki's own slothness. There are a whole host of other characters too who pop up and disappear from time to time, but to elaborate further on these would be to spoil plot points and character development.

Considering I had low expectations for this series prior to watching, this has turned out to be a pleasant surprise. In fact it's a series I love so much that I don't want it to end, and it's been a long time since I've felt that quite so strongly when watching a series. Be sure to check it out!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Campione; Binbougami-ga!

There really isn't much of interest this anime season, so I'm going to post about the two shows which have caught my attention so far.  The first of these, Campione is an enjoyable magical-battle-romance set in Italy (a good start if ever, for some reason Japan does Euroland fantasy very well).  Everything shoots into place at high speed, perhaps a little too fast but not off-puttingly so.

Your money or your life
The story begins with a Japanese man (Godou Kusanagi) who is visiting Italy to return a magical tablet; he is quickly assailed by an Ojou-sama lady by the name of Erica Blandelli who seeks to take his tablet - however before she can steal it a god interrupts her attempted mugging and a fight ensues.  With the battle turning against Erica, Kusanigi rescues her and two pair up.  So far so Index.

For some reason Thor is here
As things progress it turns out Godou has divine powers that surpass those even of gods, and thus he defeats a Persian trickster God who has challenged a local Phoenician God for supremacy.  The result is that Godou acquires divine artifacts and steals the heart of the Ojou-sama (heavens!).

Erica argues with Bacchus
It's always hard to tell how a show is going to turn out after one episode, but so far this has been one of the most promising shows of the season.  As I said above, the pacing is a little rushed but it's great fun to watch; it also appeals to my love of Indo-European mythology which is seldom seen depicted in a respected manner.  I'll post about it again at a later date assuming it keeps me interested.

She later complains about chest pains
in the Manga. Oh Japan, you so crazy.
The other show to catch my attention has been Binbougami-ga (lit.: God of Poverty) which follows a girl who has excessive amounts of good fortune, attracting the interests of the gods of misfortune who send one such god to deal with her.  Unfortunately being gods of misfortune means they aren't too err... fortunate... themselves, and so their attempts to rob the MC of her "fortune levels" result in highly comic failure.  So yeah, I guess Gods are the topic of interest for this season.

I had read and enjoyed some of the manga a while back, so it was pretty cool to find this actually surpasses the quality of the manga some degree.  The show is similar in some respects to Excel Saga and Gintama (the latter being notable due to the same director), so there's plenty of foul-mouthed slapstick going on with a surreal story, and occasional referential parodies.

The artstyle is pretty nice, opting for a semi-realistic character appearance with pleasantly vibrant colours; very reminiscent of Gintama's style, which has always been very nice.  Given the quality of the manga and the credentials of the director, I'm confident this show will continue to deliver so I heartily recommend this.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Spring 2012, a retrospective

It's blogging time gentlemen and other persons, and the topic of today is a look back at the currently ending anime season - which by all accounts has been rather entertaining.

I don't really want to plump for a "best show" (an assignation which is always purely subjective), but of all the series which aired my favourites were by far Jormungand, Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka II and Saki Achiga HenApologies to the T-man, I still haven't got around to trying Apollon, but it is a high priority on my backlog.

Jormungand was a show that managed to get a great many things right: it was a great action series with a very nicely paced plot and decent story. For those unfamiliar with the series, it follows the adventures of an arms dealer and her elite group of bodyguards; incredulous occurrences follow.

In some ways the series harked back to the good old action movies that were made in 60s-70s, when there was some semblance of credibility mixed in with an otherwise fanciful plot (eg Where Eagles Dare etc). The characters for the show also harked back to that era - there was a huge cast of main characters, rather than the usual "odd couple" which have been commonplace in almost every action movie / series since the 80s.  Needless to say in such a large ensemble a viewer should find a character who appeals to them.

Rather than letting itself be too serious (considering the genre, many contemporary series do) Jormungand frequently made use of comic scenarios to lighten the mood.  These actually felt appropriate in the context of their settings (comic moments never felt shoed in).  It was great to see a show that didn't take things too seriously, but was also able to provide plenty of kick-ass moments.

As an aside, this deserves special mention for being one of the stupidest things I've ever read:
"I was massively dissapointed with Jormungand it had no real substance and oh the Jonah most of the other characters were just really carried along or 1 dimensional" 

DERR HURR. Extra points for appalling use of English. For any passing readers, I feel I should point out that characters had plenty of depth.  I could go into why, but instead I would urge anyone who hasn't seen the show to check it out.  Preferably now.

Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka is a show I have waxed on about more than I'd care to do, but I absolutely love it... so I suppose that's a good enough reason to mention it in passing once more.  The second series did a great job delivering plenty of hilarious episodes, with the nerdy (but awesome) main character falling victim to evermore ridiculous situations; meanwhile he acquires the greatest harem known to mankind* and occasionally fights monsters.

So yeah, check it out if you're looking for something outrageously funny to watch.

* I'm absolutely serious, I can't think of a better harem. All the girls are god tier.

Saki Achiga Hen is a sidestory to "Saki", and follows various groups of girls who battle to win a mahjong tournament whilst SOL elements intermingle. I suppose it's best described as being a moe-battle series - with some similarities to K-on, albeit with a far broader cast.

I have no knowledge of or interest in mahjong, but fortunately the show rattles along in such a way that prior understanding isn't really required to enjoy the show (TL notes explain any key points whenever they arise).  The enjoyment of the show comes from the characters: their various modes of cunning employed to outdo one another (psychology ahoy!); or at other times being endearing to the point of heart damage (the inept Matsumi sisters especially so).  So be prepared for moe-moe, but not of any intrusive sort - it's just there and part of the show.

If you're looking for a great SOL show with a twist, then I really recommend this.  There is implied yuri throughout the show, so just mind who you watch it with.

Honourable mentions also go to Tasogare Otome x Amnesia (Dusk Maiden of Amnesia) and Acchi Kocchi.  Both of these are very good shows, but I wouldn't say they were essential viewing; Upotte!! was another show I enjoyed a great deal, but I concede is one which has little appeal to non-guntaku.

Anyway, that's all for now.  Of next season shows I'm looking forward to Muv Luv Total Eclipse, Binbougami and Campione, but as always time will tell what's actually good (and there are usually some unexpected surprises).

Friday, 15 June 2012

Tea fuelled rage.

There are some series I have never been able to get into for one reason or another. Evangelion is one such series. Why am I talking about such an old series now? Well, I tried to watch the new remake movies recently. So here we are.

I didn't ever finish watching the TV series because honestly I found it quite boring to watch; I can respect that it set a precedent for psychological character development, but aside from that it had no real interesting facet or features (perhaps I'm being harsh, it was a long time ago when I tried watching it). Thus I come to the first big problem I have with the movies - all that character development is thrown out. The result is GIANT BLOBS FROM SPACE FIGHT GIANT ROBOTS. Or to put it another way: Power Rangers with less depth.

The bulk of these films is spent on the giant robots fighting the giant blobs from space, so it doesn't exactly help when the fight scenes are so boring to watch. Worse still, they all seem to follow a standardized pattern: robot and blob struggle together, blob gets the upper hand and almost destroys the robot, then the robot recovers from near death and pulverizes the blob.  This tripe is forced into your face from the first 5 minutes of the movies too, there isn't any build up - the blobs just appear and stuff happens. Without any real reason for this, I don't really care. Yes there is all that Christian symbolism and blah blah blah, I don't care. That isn't a story, it's pretentious garbage - no better than writing an essay on the symbolism of a blank art canvas.

The characters in the movies still seem to be the same dullards from the TV series, though for some reason the 2nd movie felt the need to throw in a mary-sue (who has less personality than Rei). She appears by parachuting from the sky into Shinji's face (how does he NOT SEE SOMEONE PARACHUTING FROM THE SKY) landing crotch first of course, then losing her glasses... ugh. It's horrible horrible exposition which served no purpose aside from otaku pandering fanservice.

Perhaps fanservice is the best way to summarize these movies, because I can't see them appealing to anyone outside of the pre-existing fanbase. I get the feeling whilst watching that the movies are akin to an aging rock band going on a reunion tour, except most of the original band are dead leaving the sole survivor is propped up a bunch of fill ins... I'm not sure where I was going with this analogy, the tea is starting to wear off. Long story short, the Eva movies are bad - even if you're a fan of the series I cannot under any circumstances recommend them.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Spring Anime 2012

It's been a while since I last posted anything, I'm needing something to do while I let other thoughts stew so here's a derivative post about BLAH anime series currently airing.  So far a lot of really awesome stuff has aired. Still struggling to keep up with stuff (Hyouka for instance I still haven't got around to watching, nor AKB48 or Natsuiro Kiseki), but this isn't a bad thing.

Yuuko is a miracle of the universe
Tasogare Otome x Amnesia (The Dusk Maiden of Amnesia) is still my favourite show by a long shot. In case I haven't waffled on about how awesome this is to you, it's basically about a ghost (Yuuko) who enjoys trolling people and having a somewhat romantic relationship with a living guy - much to the jealousy of her own living descendant.  Thematically, the story is about a paranormal detective club who - like most clubs in anime - rarely do what they're actually meant to be doing, instead spending time fooling around with various things. 

As said above, the focus of the show is the dere-dere relationship between Yuuko and her love interest - which occasionally drifts into glorious (but completely tasteful) fanservice.  Animation is nicely handled (though occasionally has moments of QUALITY) and the character designs are pretty awesome, going for a semi-realistic look which also somehow manages to be moe.

Oh god
Acchi Kocchi is another show I'm still getting a lot of enjoyment out of. It's a moe-moe SOL that ditches the usual 4 girl character roster, placing instead a mixed group of friends (guys included) who like to troll or outdo each other.  Much is made of central character Tsumiki being in love with one of the guys - though he's entirely oblivious to her intentions. Said guy carries a great deal of swag and awesome, so pretty much everyone drops to his feet... only for him to trample over them again.  Cool guy.

Whilst this may sound like a tedious boring show in print, it really isn't.  The timing and delivery of humour is tight, story and scenarios are relatable (whereas many other recent SOL series have come up with less and less realistic scenarios) so the whole thing feels pleasantly fresh. Just don't mind the fact that Tsumiki looks a lot like Konata.

Haiyore! Nyaruko-san is a bizarre parody of HP Lovecraft and popular culture. Cthulu driving a flying Delorean? Yep. Moe anthropomorphism of Lovecraftian monsters? Check.  Summoning magic pokemon style? You get the idea... 

Long story short, you get a moemoe show about a Nyarlkothoep (or Nyaruko as the show calls her) and wacky goings on as she tries to police the behaviour of other cthonic monsters, and when she isn't doing that she's aspiring to be the wife of the tsuntsun MC.  It's a waferthin plot which basically serves to setup various nerdy jokes and or fanservice - and I love it.  It's not a show that will be for everyone, but if you "get" the humour you should find plenty of enjoyment to be had here.

On a related note is Upotte! which is produced by the same studio, and features a similar style of humour (though it is much more subdued in Upotte).  I don't need to say much about this since it's pretty widely known about anyway, but I really enjoy the character development, pacing and scenarios.  The current battle arc makes for a great break from typical school scenarios, I'm glad it doesn't feel like they're rushing things at all. 
Hopefully this will sell well enough in Japan to bring about a second series - at 10 episodes this will be a very short series.

Speaking of school settings, there was a Seitokai Yakuindomo OVA released the other day.  Was not expecting that at all.  It's a fun series but the sex jokes become somewhat repetitive after a while, so I guess occasional OVAs suit it better than a full blown series. 
Medaka Box on the other hand is just... bah... boring.  This is an accusation you could place on many JUMP series, but this is astronomical levels of dull.  It's supposed to get better - just as Gintama did, but at least the early Gintama episodes were in someway funny or entertaining; Medaka Box doesn't even try to get past generic scenarios.  Purportedly it is written as a troll series, but honestly if that's the case why even bother?

Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka II is a great deal of fun, so far spending its time on slapstick-parody-harem antics which were the strongpoint of the first series.  For those who don't know, the series is about a zombie who also happens to be a magical girl (despite being a guy), thus when he needs to fight monsters he is forcibly required to wear a frilly dress and wield a chainsaw...

Normally this passes without incedent, but the second series begins with all the MCs friends discovering him in frilly uniform, so he seeks out a drunk loli who can hear out his problems, whilst his friends attempt to cure him of his perceived perversion... So yeah, the show doesn't take itself seriously at all - if anything it generally likes to parody atypical battle-harem scenarios (not even FMP is exempt from this).  Even though it does parody harems, the harem of the MC is god tier with more waifus than you can count.  Oh, and there's fanservice aplenty.  As with Upotte this is only going to be a short run show, so hopefully it'll be back for another series next year sometime.

Fate / Zero keeps getting stupider and stupider. What went wrong? Series 1 was damned good, but this is just... not.  Ridiculous plot devices pop up everywhere, which is a real shame because I'm wanting this to redeem itself somehow.
What really bugs me is that a lot of filler material has been inserted - stuff which is entirely unnecessary. Yes, we know that Kiritsugu and Kirei are asshats, we don't need to see lengthy generic exposition about why this came to be.

The weakest thing so far was a character claiming to have developed an elixir of life which induces immortality. Of course, magical potion for eternal XYZ makes generic flesh eating zombies. Zombies. Seriously? This arc is still ongoing too.  Bummer :\

Om nom nom
Sankarea takes the zombie angle to a similar direction to KoreZombie, insomuch that it crafts a romantic relationship between the MC and a zombie (Rea).  Oh, there's also a zombie pet cat and a busty cousin (Wanko) who doesn't seem bothered by the concept of romantic relations with uh... related people.

It's pretty passable, I'm only watching it for the shenanigans of Wanko and whyboner (the last episode had full on zombie-yuri, should not want).

That's probably enough for now, I haven't covered *everything* I'm watching but that's pretty much the gist of what I'm watching.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

LOL Heroes, Shana III

Wordy-words time: I just finished watching Legend of the Legendary Heroes (not to be confused with the galactic ones) and wow was that a great series.  Otherwise known as LOL Heroes the series was one of many different things, to the extent that it's hard to categorize.  Broadly speaking it's a political series in a fantasy world with occasional war and or fighting.

Depiction of politics probably is the most central aspect to the series: the story - at least sequentially - begins with the bastard child of nobleman seizing power and seeking to reform his country (such as many politicians with good intent set out to do), however as in real politics things don't go quite so smoothly or so honestly.  I could say more about the political side of the story, but it would really really spoil the impact of the story to anyone who is unfamiliar with it - needless to say a lot happens.

Ferris serves as a comic foil for much of the series.
As an aside to the political story, the Usurper-King appoints an old friend (Ryner Lute) and a swordswoman (Ferris Eris, token bishoujo) to seek out magical artifacts (or hero relics as the story calls them) which are of military benefit to his kingdom.  This side of the story is much more fantasy based, with magical powers and abilities frequently being used.  Ryner is more or less the reluctant protagonist of the series (see also: Rincewind in Discworld) who possessing extraordinary magical powers is considered the best person for the job.  The magical powers come with a price however, as certain conditions will cause Ryner to go berserk and destroy everything - something Ryner himself is aware of and seeks to avoid.  It's a nice plot device that neatly avoids powerlevel herpaderp.

My mind is buzzing but I'm running out of steam here.  Needless to say, great series and one which is seriously so worth checking out.  If I were to make any complaints, it would be that the artwork mish-mashes a variety of European styles from the last 2000 years... which feels a bit weird (especially when you see character wearing modern-ish clothes) but that's a pretty minor complaint.
Series 2 when D:

Also today I finished Shana III.  I must say that was a pretty satisfactory ending to the series, it did a nice job of finishing things without falling prey to seeming predictable.  On the whole it was enjoyable series, not one I would watch again but it was certainly entertaining to follow it each week.
No more Sydonay or Hecate ;_;

The biggest shortcoming of the series was that it had far too many periphery characters who could have easily been omitted, I'd rather the episodes focused more on say Shana herself or the central members of Bal Masque, who were always the most interesting characters to follow in the series.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Another post about Another.

Not Misaka.
I have previously posted about "Another" in various blog posts, noting with passing time that the quality of the show has declined significantly. 

I just... arg.  I mad.  Where do I even begin?  None of this latest episode made any sense whatsover, it was just 20 minutes of pointless grimdark.  The episode started with a character about to reveal all when conveniently they get interrupted, some guy decided to randomly kill someone else because he thought this other person was a murderer (yeah really makes sense), then an unrelated corpse is discovered in a burning room (which somehow contains the fire for a very long time without any structural damage), then some crazy old lady appears and starts killing people, then some crazy girl appears and starts killing people - said crazy girl then gets on a speaker system and tells people to kill... OH I DON'T CARE.  This was just beyond stupid.

How can I put this... the best analogy to describe the show at present is to say that it has flown completely off the rails and collided with motorway traffic to cause a multi-car-train-wreck.  It is so far beyond being a trainwreck right now I cannot think of any other way to describe it.  It is just incredibly bad, in this episode it went past the point of being enjoyable bad which you can laugh at.

"Send the dead back to death" was a line which got repeated A LOT in the last few episodes.  I can forgive "people die when they are killed", but this is whole new level of DERP.  This probably neatly summarizes the series in a single image I guess.

One episode of the show is left to watch, I'm not expecting any improvement but it would be nice if it did improve.

For anyone who has a passing interest in the series, here is the ONLY GOOD PART in gif form.

Yeah that's it right here.  A small dance scene and about all there ever was of character development in this (I'm not even kidding).

I was planning to write stuff about the penultimate episode of Shakugan no Shana III, I'm running short of time now so all I'll say is that the episode had a pleasantly unexpected outcome.  It was a very mixed series in terms of enjoyment, some points being pretty awesome (the new Yuuji was badass) but there were far too many of those long drawn out battle scenes which weren't particularly interesting in previous series, and it took itself far too seriously for something that's a bit weird and goofy.  That said, there were points in the Shana series which I really loved like the OVAs or the Movie (which was so much better than the first arc in the TV series), there was just something a bit flat about this final series.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Bad Modders / Game Developers

Being involved in game development you get to meet a lot of people over the years, most of whom I'm pleased to say are extremely decent and amiable fellows.  But there are one or two bad apples I've met on occasion - not often I should add, but lately there seems to have been a fair number of them appear. 

Typically these bad developers amass a following of supporters who give credence to their sloppy work / behaviour.  It's pretty frustrating to see someone blatantly plagiarizing content and getting heaped with praise by a teeming group of people who don't know any better, which serves to legitimize (at least in the minds of some developers) sloppy practice.

This brings me to the next kind of bad developer I really hate seeing, one who hangs on the coattails of successful IP.  Now, in many cases you could justify making something like "Half Life 2: City Whatever" providing you were making it as a mod for Half Life 2; where things go wrong is when people start making things like "Nazi Zombies Source" or "Modern Warfare Source" (I'm not making these up), which typically have extremely weak developed content - yet once again uninformed members of the public flock to such mods purely because of the IP.  I really hate this, it's like someone scheduling a bad tribute act to a now defunct superband or a bootlegger selling now out of print movies... it's a cheap way to rip off someone else's work purely by using their name.

Tying in to all of this is the egotistical developer: one who is completely incapable of seeing fault in their work, who refuses to listen to constructive criticism and is always incapable of working with other people.  I especially despise this kind of developer: no one is above criticism, it's pretty sad that almost all of these people will rely on fans to defend their own delusional shortcomings.  What is worse is that they reflect extremely badly on the rest of the developer community... they have extremely destructive asocial personalities that... uhh I must confess that at this point I am pretty drunk and am struggling to remember where I was going with this.  Long story short these bad types of developer often overlap with each other, it's kind of annoying to see so many of them around right now.

Time for Gintama and sobriety.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Damn you PA Works

Why is it that certain animation studios seem to produce initially interesting series which then turn sour after a few episodes?  PA Works is one such studio, having worked on a number of interesting concepts which quickly fell to pieces.  They're certainly very good at animation, but their projects nearly always seem to suffer from bad direction - which always seems to mismatch elements of storytelling that have no place together.

Angel Beats had the initially interesting concept of badassery and revenge, but quickly broke itself with derpy "humour" and a pointless ending that flew in the face of the initial premise.  Hanasaku Iroha was billed as a serious drama series but then started throwing in bizarre filler episodes about hentai and airsoft.

It looks like 1991 but it's really 1998
The latest series by PA Works - 'Another', had the unoriginal (but attention grabbing) concept of a boy who moves to some small town which is basically Hinamizawa with unexplained deaths happens.  This I would be entirely fine with, but the focus of the show is pretty much entirely on the unexplained murders - character development is entirely steamrollered to the point that conversations are always "hey do you know about the mysterious deaths?" "no... I can't remember anything about those".  Every conversation is like this, even when the MC's father calls him on the phone all they talk about are words to that effect.  I'm dying for some character development to happen (particularly between the MC and the heroine) but they just don't shut up about stuff they don't know.  Eight episodes in and things are still like this.

Apparently Axis logos are pretty popular in Asia @__@
There are other stupid things in the series I could mention too, like the horrible Ali Project OP or the ridiculous building of tension for non-events (in the last episode tension was built up for a truck overtaking a car.  That was it, just a truck overtaking a car.  Nothing happened aside from that).  When deaths do occur they seem entirely random and accidental - even when Higurashi had its mystery it still seemed like there was a point and direction to the deaths, but here they just seem to be for the point of gratuitous grimdark - well I say grimdark, the last two deaths were absurd to the point of being comical.

It's a real shame because I really wanted to like this series, but right now it makes Tsukihime look like a flawless masterpiece.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Slowpoknnnnging and Muppets

So I started watching Dragon Crisis the other day and good lord... my heart wasn't ready.  I was not in the least prepared for the most hnnnnnng Rie role I've ever seen, which contrary to Rie's usual typecasting is fully deredere from first appearance.  It's incredibly - dare I say it... cute.

In spite of the somewhat negative reputation the show has I'm really enjoying it, it'll take a lot to really destroy that enjoyment for me. I'm hoping it's just a marmite series which people either love or hate and not one with a bad ending as can sometimes be the case.

Anyway, some info about the show: a schoolboy by the name of Ryuuji steals some magical treasure from yakuza, which he accidentally opens it up to discover Rose (Kugimiya) a dragon which takes the form of a cute girl.  As stated above, she is deredere from the very second she appears and is quick to proclaim her love for the MC (reasons for which are explained as the show goes on, but honestly you shouldn't care - hearing Rie say "Ryuuji Ryuuji, ski ski ski" is a miracle of the universe).  Perhaps I should also mention that Rose is pretty badass, she can tear things up with relative ease thanks to her magical dragon powers; the MC also has some latent magical powers, but I should say no more for fear of giving away spoilers.

Prior to watching Dragon Crisis I was expecting it to be a generic harem with magical elements, but having seen a few episodes I'm glad to say that isn't the case.  Indeed there is a harem but it all takes back seat to Rose (who is pretty much the only love interest) whilst the story presents an interesting mix of action and comedy - I guess you could say there are many parallels to To aru Majutsu no Index.  The story isn't ground breaking, but it's fun.  It's not often you can honestly say that something is just that.

I'm only watching the series on my DS (the whole reason I picked it up was that it was one of the few series available in DS MPEG) but I can safely say the animation is fantastic: characters move smoothly, fight scenes are nicely animated with plenty of things going on.  Of course since I'm watching this on my DS I don't have any screendumps (the ones in this article are all google'd ones).

So there you go, my thoughts on Dragon Crisis.  If you haven't seen already it's worth watching the first two episodes to decide whether or not you'll like it.

On to my next topic then: The Muppets.  I went to see the new Muppet film the other day in the cinema, and it was pretty decent - much better than that last crap film they did about the Wizard of Oz.

The film starts out with that fat guy from How I met your Mother (prepare for cameos from fellow cast members) who does a great job of playing up the role of an innocent adult in a kids film, which is a nice return to the classic Muppet formula (recent films had resorted to pointless airheaded celebrity insertion).  Most importantly he has a good singing voice and sings some fantastic songs, which as always are a hugely important part of Muppet fare - get it wrong and you get a mess like... that Wizard of Oz one.  There's also enough humour to keep the musical pieces going, it was pretty amusing to see them quickly sweep aside what would otherwise be cumbersome aspects with visual humour.

Long story short, this is basically a Muppet version of the Blues Brothers with Muppets playing an extended role of missing cast characters.  It's a pretty simple and perhaps derivative story, but pleasantly there enough Muppety things going on to distract from that - essentially the story proper is just a loose framework to set up Muppet Show type scenarios.  Waldorf & Statler, Gonzo doing stunts, humiliating a celebrity multiple times, and other such elements from the classic TV series are all there.

There's something pleasantly nostalgic about the film - it harks back to an age when anarchic but innocent humour were the way to go, and brings back a pleasant cast of uncorruptable characters.  Since it is a trip in nostalgia, it certainly isn't going to appeal to anyone who isn't already familiar with The Muppets (which probably explains why everyone in the cinema were adults), sadly nowadays I guess The Muppets are sadly being overshadowed by those obnoxious and vacuous 3D CGI films which get churned out in depressingly high volume.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Posting posts no wood in sight

So yeah, first post on this blog I guess. I was going to post it on my other blog... but I forgot where I even had that or what it was even called, so yeah new blog posts for the first time in a few years for the people who care about whatever stews in my mind.

Lately - nay for the last few years - much of what has been passing through my frontal lobes has been to do with the mod For Hire. For those who don't know it's project I've been working on with Toadie since some time in early 2009, and during these last three years I have mostly worked on level design and occasionally modelling stuff like characters or props.

Why am I doing this you might wonder? Three years is a long time to sink into a project with no prospect of payment or profit, indeed lately I've almost been wondering if I've been diligently working to get magic beans. To be honest I hadn't expected the project would take up so much of my time, but I continue working on it because I do hope that my work on that project will prove to be a means towards employment.

Using a mod for prospective employment is something I increasingly worry about, partly because I look at other people's work and see a huge disparity between theirs and my own, and also because it seems as though employment in the games industry is shifting away from experience with modding as a prerequisite.

Whilst things like this do feel disheartening, I have to keep reminding myself that I'm working with Source. It's one of the hardest game engines to work with, extremely time consuming and has a terribly disruptive workflow cycle (trying to get original content into Source is extremely trying, so much so that few people have even bothered).
The other thing I need to remind myself of is that I'm only working with 3DSMax to produce models, whereas other people have more powerful tools for character creation. To be honest though, I doubt I'll ever pursue character modelling as a career point since I imagine you would need a solid art background to do so.

But yeah, all things considered I feel pretty pleased with what I've managed to do with Source, it's taken some real pig-headedness to work with but I'm almost finished now. Even if Source is a seldom used engine I have learnt a great deal about professional level designing, optimization, etc - all things which can be applied in other 3D engines without too much trouble (as always learning the interface of a new 3D program is the only tough part).

Phew, with all that longwinded stuff I feel as though it's time to talk about something fun. Typically fun for me right now consists of anime (feel free to stop reading from this point onward if you are sick of hearing me talk about it) which serves as a pleasant sort of mindless escapism when almost all my other waking hours are spent thinking about things.

Lately I've been greatly enjoying Mouretsu Space Pirates, which is sort of a slice-of-life space opera about a prospective space pirate (I am very much hoping it will start having plenty of yarr harr harr and plundering sometime soon).  The show is pleasantly slow paced, it's nice to see one that doesn't dive head first into a storyline to try and grab the attention of the viewer in less than half an episode.

It's still quite hard to judge where the storyline is going at this early stage, but suffice to say the first few episodes have been pretty good; characters are presented in an endearing and idealized way (which is to say, pure of heart and good natured without any fanservice or otaku pandering).

So yeah, Mouretsu Space Pirates is a good show.  Another new show I've been enjoying is one which is simply titled umm, 'Another'.  The initial setup was very much derivative of the horror genre (which this show belongs to) whereby a new guy moves to a new area, everything is not quite what it seems and no one will tell him anything... you get the idea.  But even if the initial premise is extremely generic, Another is produced extremely well: there is enough mystery each week to keep me entertained and wondering what is going on; the plot moves on at a reasonable rate; the animation and backgrounds are superb - some of the best I've seen since Gosick.  If you're looking for something vaguely like Higurashi or Shiki, this is worth checking out if only for the fact that it is a very polished horror offering.

Speaking of Higurashi, I've suddenly found myself hankering for DEEN shows, so I've been rewatching Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka. I'd forgotten how much I love that show, I'm glad I bothered to archive it.

So yeah, have some genius masou-shoujo.

Thats all for now (and really it must be) this has been a longer blog post than I intended.

Until next time!