Monday, 24 December 2012

Season's Greetings

Merry Christmas! I'm about to start the drive to my family, so this is a day early, but it's close enough right?

I hope you get to spend a nice relaxing day with your family/waifu.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


I haven't posted here in ages, even by my own terribly lax standards. That's what happens when final exams are on the horizon, it can't be helped. But that's all over now, and I'm done for the year! The exams were really tough, and not in a fair way, so I hope I did alright. The day after finishing, as if to commiserate with me, a massive thunderstorm descended on the city and my windows were pelted by golf ball sized hailstones. I sat out on my deck for a while and watched the lightning. It was a nice evening.

Flan's wings kinda look like Christmas lights. She even has a present for you!

Now that I've finally got some free time on my hands, I've been hard at work catching up on shows from this season and last. Currently I'm watching:
Chuu2koi - Why does every LN ever have to have a stupidly long name that tries to explain the entire show in a sentence? It's got the usual KyoAni quality to it, and Rikka is pretty cute, though so far Hyouka is still my favourite KyoAni show in recent history.
Jormungand 2 - I'm still catching up on this one so I can't say too much about it yet, though early indications suggest that Koko is still loco.
Psycho-Pass - I went into this with low expectations which it's somewhat exceeding so far, though it could still go either way. It's got a bit of a GitS vibe to it, and I'm looking forward to seeing where Urobuchi takes it.
Robotics;Notes - This took ages to get going, but it looks like some plot is finally happening. I'm not really surprised, Steins;Gate was much the same. The protag has been a bit less annoying as of late, which is a trend I'm hoping continues. It's still too early to say too much about this though.
Shin Sekai Yori - I thought it started out great until it hit the episodes where Saki and whatshisface run around with rats, though I'm hoping it's picking up a bit now. The pacing is pretty slow. The reactions on /a/ to the guys kissing are pretty hilarious.

I also watched Joshiraku. I didn't watch it as it was airing since I didn't find the first episode that funny, but I decided to give it another go because I liked SZS. It was pretty decent, though rarely laugh-out-loud funny, so I'm glad I ended up watching it.

Her socks not so much, but who's complaining?

Apparently it's Christmas soon. The stores are all playing Christmas carols and have trees and decorations up. I haven't really done anything Christmassy myself though, I don't even have a tree. I was considering participating in the secret santa thing that /a/ was doing but I thought better of it. I'd probably get a turd in a box. Which  at least means that the sender really put themselves into the gift in a technical sense, but still isn't the sort of thing I'd like to get in the mail.

I hope everyone is going well.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


Kickstarter keeps becoming more and more of a thing. It's only been a few weeks since I backed my first project on it (Obsidian's Project Eternity) and now I see a major anime company seeking crowd funding for a short film.

If you haven't heard, yesterday Production I.G. put up a Kickstarter page seeking $150,000 for a short film they want to make called Kick-Heart. It's only planned to be a 10 minute film, though they suggest that enough funding could extend this, but it has some big names attached. Namely, it's directed by Masaaki Yuasa, and Mamoru Oshii is listed as a Project Consultant, whatever that means. The film itself appears to be a fairly light affair about Romeo and Juliet as two pro-wrestlers, and the art-style looks very Yuasa.

It's a strange situation. It'd be the first time as far as I'm aware that an anime studio, let alone a major one, is appealing directly to the English-speaking market. They claim this is an experiment for them, and it's in response to the economic situation in Japan making it difficult to get funding for anything that carries a risk to it. The film, when completed, will be made available to backers as a DRM-free digital download or a region-free Bluray depending on how much each backer put in, so they're choosing reasonable distribution methods too.

And it's looking like it'll be successful. It's still too early to say for sure, but it's only the second day that it's been up and it's already raised over $40,000. If this gets funded it'll be interesting to see if any other anime companies try this approach.

The Kickstarter model in general is proving to be very popular, and it's not hard to see why. Developers/artists get to float their risky (from a sales perspective) ideas to a wide audience and directly gauge interest. Not only that, but they get to raise the income for their projects before they actually commit to them. Making ambitious projects in the traditional way carries the risk of the audience simply not liking it, leading to a huge loss for the makers if sales flop, and this is a big part of the reason why so much media panders to its audience.

Not only does Kickstarter let people propose their ideas in a way that doesn't expose them to crippling loss if they're unpopular, but it's a good way to get interest in general. If a big project gets put on Kickstarter then everyone hears about it, and the funding levels for a number of projects indicates that many people are overwhelmingly happy to buy into this model.

One concern I have is the pricing of the rewards for this particular project. $15 gets you a 480p download, $30 gets you a 720p download and $60 gets you a Bluray with a few extras. Compared to most other Kickstarter projects, and to most other media, that's pretty steep for a 10 minute short. Will they try to bring the Japanese pricing model to the west? Will people buy it anyway? A while back I'd have said no, but this is going strong so far. And when you consider, for example, that the US release of the Kara no Kyoukai box set sold out at a very high price, I'm just not sure.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Saber Alter Maid ver.

It's been a while since I took any photos of my figures, and after spending way too long trying to find the camera, the battery charger, the USB cable etc (all of which were hidden in completely different locations) I'm starting to remember why. Still, I took a few quick photos. My photography skill is as poor as ever, but I'm sure Saber's greatness will shine through anyway. Or something like that.

I actually forgot she was even coming, since she was a prepaid purchase right back at the start of the year. It was a nice surprise when I got the shipping notice. This is the second release of this figure, with the first being in 2010 if I recall. Apparently this rerelease has been given a once-over and has a few improvements in the figure itself, though I'm unsure of the details.

Mini Saber has her own tiny base and mop, and is quite cute.

Frills and ribbons everywhere. As expected of Alter, the quality's very high. The maid uniform itself is very detailed, and the accessories are too. The rusty bucket in particular is quite nice, though a bit fiddly to attach. It swings loosely, with the handle being two separate parts that attach to small holes in Saber's hand, and at the other end looping through a larger hole in the bucket itself. The mop is just loosely held in place, it won't fall out of her hand but her hand will slide up and down the shaft pretty easily. No, that's not meant to be a euphemism.

Her stockings are just great. It's not so visible in my photos but there are folds and creases around the knees and ankles, and the top of her stockings has all the frills and ribbons you could hope for. Her hair is nicely done too, and has no visible join line.

There are a couple of paint errors, on one of her cuffs and on the ribbon on her back, but nothing particularly noticeable.

The obligatory lewder shots. Just when you didn't think there could be any more ribbons...

And mini Saber diligently mopping her own tiny base. The mop is just resting on her hands, but she's doing her best anyway.

Overall it's bit hard to display just because of how big she is - Saber's 1/6 scale, which is larger than most of my other figures, and the base itself is really large so she takes up even more room. I'll probably have to give her an entire shelf. Damn, I really need more than one Detolf for all my figures to be rotated through.

My photos really don't do her justice, she looks brilliant. She's actually my first 'maid' figure, which is surprising. Maybe they're all this frilly and I'm here getting excited about nothing! Either way, she looks very nice sitting on display with my other Sabers. At least it's not another Miku.

Figure details:
Name: Saber Alter Maid ver.
Series: Fate/Hollow Ataraxia
Scale: 1/6
Company: Alter
Released: August 2012 (rerelease)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

I don't even know

It looks like I still don't have much to write about. I haven't made any posts about figures in ages and was planning on taking some photos of my Saber Alter Maid but to my crushing disappointment I figured out that she's being shipped by SAL rather than EMS as I had mistakenly thought. Well, maybe she'll be here by Christmas.

Speaking of figures stuck in the mail...

I tried out Dark Souls recently, with great expectations. I don't have a 360 controller for the PC as was recommended, but I had an old Xbox 1 controller that I'd grafted a USB connection onto (with the judicious application of both solder and luck), and thought that it'd be just as good. I was sorely mistaken. It turns out that the bumpers, which aren't present on the original Xbox controllers, are pretty damn essential, and that it's really not playable if I have to reach for the little black and white buttons to do my basic attack. I did block the shit out of some arrows though, so there was that.

Giving up that idea, I tried to substitute in the keyboard, but the damn mouse cursor wouldn't disappear. It was one of those little things that just frustrated the hell out of me so I decided to close the game for the night. I do have a 360 controller somewhere so I'll have to try and dig that out.

The game did seem pretty fun though, especially after I found the target lock button and stopped flailing at the air beside the enemies with each swing.

Totally age appropriate
I'm still adjudicating school debates, and it's moved onto the primary school competition. Last night I saw this in one of the classrooms as part of a series of poster things on public speaking. I found it rather amusing, and was curious as to whether the teacher who made it knew who the character was. Probably not. Probably for the best.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Monthly post

It's that time of the half-year again, with doujin porn (among other things) flying thick and fast on /jp/. I just realised that Comiket is really the only time I use the board these days. Huh. What have I been doing with myself over the last few months? It is a mystery. 

Anyway, I haven't been following the porn side of things closely but I have been looking into some of the music. There's the usual slew of Touhou stuff, which intimidates me a bit just from the sheer volume of it all so I usually stick to the circles I know, branching out to new stuff when it's specifically recommended or gets a good response. So far I've grabbed albums by DDBY, TAMUSIC, Team Shanghai Alice (obligatory, really), Pizuya's Cell, and probably one or two more that I've already forgotten. I haven't listened to much of it yet, because I'm really damn slow at that sort of thing and it's easier to wait until the stream of releases slows down a bit.

On the non-Touhou side of C82 music, I decided to try out some denpa, a genre I'm not really familiar with. I grabbed the ちぃむdmp☆ album from C82 and it's actually pretty catchy stuff. The album is basically two girls with loli-like voices singing nonsensical pop songs cutely with a lot of onomatopoeia, so if that sounds like your kind of thing then try it out. It'll put a stupid grin on your face.

lolipop is pretty serious business
On the non-weeaboo side of things, I'm also really liking Metric's new album Synthetica. I saw them live when I went to Melbourne a couple of weekends ago and thought they were amazing. Now that I've actually got the album it's getting a lot of play when I feel like something other than Japanese moe-pop. Rare, but it does happen.

I bought the Civ 5 Gods and Kings expansion. My initial impressions were negative - I like the religion aspect but I'm increasingly of the opinion that Civ 4 is the better game. In my first Gods and Kings game I built up an early game army of 4 spearmen, 2 archers and a catapult, and miserably failed to take a single undefended city from the damn French. It just healed for approximately a million hp every turn and melted my troops with its attack. It seems the prevailing strategy is just not to try any sort of invasion early in the tech tree, which strikes me as incredibly boring. And the instant heal promotion still exists only to instil rage in me when a powerful AI unit that I'd been wearing down suddenly springs back to full health.

I still haven't watched more than 2 episodes of any anime this season. I should get onto that, though I probably won't.

Thursday, 26 July 2012


Life is busy. One semester ends and the next one starts straight after, and I'm studying stupidly long hours again. I keep meaning to write something, but then I don't. No loss to anyone, I'm sure. Orientation weeks are always terrible experiences, and 9-5 lectures on barely relevant topics make each day feel like a small eternity. Thank god that's over.

I'm taking the day off tomorrow and flying to Melbourne for an early weekend. I hope it's nice there.

Me skipping out on class tomorrow

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Getting annoyed at the internet

I'm all for a certain amount of elitism when it comes to online communities. Lurking seems to be a lost art these days, and a healthy dose of hostility towards those who obviously haven't put any effort into learning the etiquette for a particular community can be a good thing. And as much as people constantly deny it, it works. On boards like /a/ you still see posts by people that are painfully new, and they're often ridiculed for using emoticons, told to watch Boku no Pico, told that their favourite anime is shit and all the rest of it. But the fact that the only posts that stand out are from people who are very new suggests that they quickly leave, or they stay and learn the ways of the community. (/jp/ is a possible exception, with all the ironic shitposting xD I honestly can't tell who's who any more.)

That's all well and good, but it annoys me when this elitism seeps into other areas. I'm referring largely to people dismissing anime as being mainstream, for plebs, [word]shit, and so on. I'm aware that it's largely just trolling, or what passes for trolling these days, but it does make it hard to have a meaningful discussion if the topic of discussion can just be dismissed as being, say, haremshit. Why are harem anime intrinsically bad? Cue the circular reasoning. What if you criticise something for being needlessly and pointlessly complex? It's clearly 3deep5u. On the other hand if the plot seems a bit too superficial, well you're just a DEEPfag. Anything that has any female fans must be fujoshit, and the only possible way you could like something like Madoka is if it's the first anime you've ever watched - babby's first, if you will. "Otaku pandering" is another great one, which can pretty much be applied to any title ever, and let's not even get started on the 2ch imports like niwaka and chuuni.

The worst offenders at the moment tend to be the MATURE ANIME FOR MATURE PEOPLE SUCH AS MYSELF type, who can get quite aggressive against anything that doesn't live up to their sophisticated standards - mostly stuff that you'd call shounen or moe. Upotte!! didn't look very interesting to me, I enjoyed Nyarlko but would hardly call it a masterpiece, but calling people morons for liking these shows is a bit off base. I don't think that anyone would argue that these shows are great literary works, but they can still be enjoyable and (dare I say) fun*. I like the more complex shows too, but that doesn't mean I look for intellectual validation from every show I watch. These shows certainly have their flaws but if you want to talk about them you'll have to make a stronger starting point than "moeshit".

One of the things I really like about 4chan is the unfiltered nature of it. If someone's an idiot, you can tell them as much. But this doesn't mean a whole lot if you don't also tell them why they're an idiot, and that's something that's best done with more than just a one-word label. Don't get me wrong, I still much prefer it to the forum-style heavily moderated approach ("you say it's bad but i don't see YOU making better anime :)") as well as the more "intellectual" forum approach that requires you to write a damn essay every time you want to make a point, but there's got to be a happy medium. And despite the problems, I still much prefer 4chan to other forums/boards.

I guess I'll just blame it all on summer, put on my nostalgia goggles and relive the glory days of the past. Remember when /a/ was good? /a/ was never good.

*I think that it's perfectly valid to enjoy something without being able to explain why, but you're still stupid if you bring that up in a discussion thread. It's no more conducive to discussion than any of the words and phrases I'm complaining about.

I could also rant about how the internet at large doesn't understand what the fuck an opinion is, but I think I'll stop for now and leave you with a picture of the alert system at the hospital I'm at.

>implying we need a nurse in the female bathroom

Sunday, 17 June 2012

I want winter to leave

My weekend was a little bit of a disaster. Late last week my external hard drive died, and so did the power adapter for my laptop. This was very annoying at the time, and meant that instead of spending the weekend playing Diablo 3 and Dota 2 at home, I had to chase around new parts on short notice as well as frantically try and organise a whole lot of unrelated administrative stuff (where I'm studying next month, next year, and some parts in between). The real downer is that I'm only getting every other weekend off at the moment, so I won't be going home for another two weeks.

It's not all bad though, I at least grabbed enough new shows/games to keep me entertained in the meantime. And when I got back to my accommodation just an hour ago, one of the nurses I'm staying with told me she's cooking a stew for everyone tomorrow, which will be a very welcome break from instant noodles.

I finished Symphonic Rain earlier last week. I didn't like it as much as I hoped I would (vague spoilers follow). The end of Fal's route seemed like a big "fuck you" to the reader, and the "twist" at the end of Lise's wouldn't have happened if the protagonist hadn't been a complete moron. Seriously, I'm all for twists and sad endings and what have you, but there's nothing particularly gripping about a "rocks fall, your love interest dies" type scenario.

Torta's and Phorni's routes were better (no surprise as they're the main girls) and the events towards the end of their stories weren't nearly as out-of-nowhere. I predicted what would happen beforehand, but it's not a massive twist or anything so it didn't matter. I liked the game music, didn't particularly care for the art though.

Next is Deardrops. I liked Kirakira, so we're off to a promising start at least.

I've also watched the first couple of episodes of Horizon. I have no idea what's going on, but I'll keep watching.

Have a good week.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


One of the (few) perks of having terrible terrible internet is that I've found myself watching a lot more anime and playing a lot more games in my free time. With decent internet I find myself wasting most of my time just sort of browsing around different sites, so this temporary change of pace is quite nice. Well, not nice, but bearable.

Over the last two weeks I've watched two shows from my backlog: Baccano! and Kaiba. Only two? It doesn't actually seem a lot, but I had a lot of shows from this season to catch up on, and some assignments to complete as well.

I didn't go into Baccano expecting a lot. I'd seen Durarara, by the same author, and thought it was above average but nothing amazing. I remember liking the first half of the series but feeling that it dragged a bit towards the end, and I didn't much care for some of the characters. The first episode of Baccano didn't do much to change my mind, it was very hectic and I wasn't quite sure what was going on. I'm glad I stuck with it though, because as the cast were introduced and the plot was set into motion, I was getting hooked. I liked pretty much all the characters. Isaac and Miria were great, and I also liked Ladd, Claire, Rachel, the various mafia families, I could go on. The English/Italian names were a bit dubious though, with "Jacuzzi Splot" being one of the odder ones.

I'm glad I finally watched it, I thought the show was pretty damn good, and definitely better than Durarara.

No context needed

Kaiba on the other hand was a show I had quite high hopes for: I loved Tatami Galaxy and Mind Game, both also directed by Yuasa. Kaiba certainly had a pretty distinct art style to it - the detail was kept low, and outlines and body shapes were kept fairly loose. The music was very atmospheric starting from the OP, which was pretty good for having English lyrics sung by a non-native speaker. The setting and story itself were both very interesting, with the amnesiac protagonist escaping from his pursuers across multiple worlds and bodies while trying to find out who he is. There were lots of side characters along the way, and I felt really quite attached to some of them even if they might have only been in a single episode.

The last few episodes were a bit hard to follow in parts, and some of the revelations were a bit unexpected. It was a very good show, though I probably preferred Tatami Galaxy (yes I know they're not exactly comparable).

I've also been playing a bit of Master of Orion 2. My laptop isn't very powerful but it can handle DOS games at least. I'm not very good at the game yet, though I'm sure I'd be better if I didn't keep running my colony ship into the Guardian in the very early game. It turns out it's usually best to scout with scouts rather than very expensive non-combat units. My race of rock-eating fish-men-things would live to see another day, thanks to the easy AI very much living up to its name.

I'm also going to finally start on my VN backlog, like I've been meaning to for ages. I have Symphonic Rain and Deardrops installed, and I think I'll start with Symphonic Rain as soon as I'm done with this post.

Oh, and after reading the comments on my last post I downloaded Sakamichi no Apollon and Natsuiro Kiseki. Then completely forgot to transfer them to my external hard drive. If I were an anime girl I'd probably bump myself on the head while sticking my tongue out to the side and making a cute noise right about now.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

It's a bit late in the season to be talking about what I'm watching, but with my posting schedule it can't be helped.

Fate/Zero - No explanation needed really. I'm always hearing about how the novels did things better, but having not read them I'm very happy with the quality of the anime. We're heading towards the climax now and I'm expecting some amazing scenes for the final battles. Lancer got the short end of the stick (lance?) as expected, but there's always his forbidden love with Fast Wheels.

Hyouka - It's as much about mystery as K-On! was about music, but I'm ok with that. Chitanda's dangerously cute and as far as Male Highschool Protagonists go I much prefer them lazy than oblivious. I'm a little worried about it being 21 episodes; time will tell if it holds my attention that long.

Kore wa Zombie desu ka? of the Dead - Still as funny as the first season. It's rare that I find anime funny let alone me actually laughing at it, but I do with this show all the time. It's a shame it's got such a short run this season.

Lupin the Third - I like the way it's drawn, and I like the episodic tales of thievery, but dear lord Fujiko you truly never pass up an opportunity to get your tits out. I feel like there should be a gap between being a femme fatale, using her body to get what she wants, and being some sort of nudist who walks around everywhere naked just because.

Saki: Achiga-hen - Less superpowers than the first season so far, but more ridiculous clothing. The characters aren't as memorable as the crew from the main series, and there's been much less time spent on the other schools involved in the competition. The amount of lesbianism has remained constant though. I just wish the manga author would hurry up so we could have a proper season 2 already.

She is wearing a jacket and shoes. Nothing else. You'd think she'd get cold.

Sankarea - I came for the promise of zombie Saten. They do look pretty similar, even their names sound alike (Sanka Rea, Saten Ruiko). Aside from her the show's watchable but hardly spectacular. I still don't know much about the protagonist apart from him having an obsession with zombies.

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia - I wasn't sure if this was meant to be a horror or not at first, but no it's a highschool comedy with some horror elements. The Japanese do like to mix their horror with comedy, which I've always found a little strange, they don't naturally go together. The show's heavy on the fanservice (not Nise-heavy, just regular heavy) but the story and the characters are interesting in their own right.

I'm not watching either of the noitaminA shows, nor am I watching Polar Bear Cafe. There's no real reason for this, I just never picked them up. If you're watching any of them, I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Every time.
I've been playing a lot of Diablo 3 lately. I bought it on release day, which was a terrible choice. The login screen took me a good few hours to get through and in retrospect I could probably have done better things with my night than sitting at the computer pressing Ctrl-V-Enter-Enter until my wrists were sore. Now that the servers are (mostly) working it's been quite fun. I'm playing with a few friends that I played Diablo 2 with back in high school and we've just hit level 60 and are onto the hardest difficulty. My character's a wizard, and it's pretty satisfying spamming various flashy spells at groups of hapless enemies until they explode. I hope the difficulty ramps up a bit though, because so far it's been pretty easy apart from the occasional group of bullshit elites that just kill me over and over. The server lag doesn't help.

I'm a bit worried about the longevity of the game too. In Diablo 2 getting to level 99 was a far-off goal that took months of playing, and few ever achieved it. In Diablo 3 getting to level 60 is a few weeks worth of playing. Both games are all about grinding for loot, but I think it's good to still have some sort of longterm goal rather than just always aiming to get higher numbers on weapons. Maybe beating inferno mode will be that goal, I'm yet to see how hard that is. I do hear that it gets pretty damn tough, which is encouraging.

I won't be playing it much in the near future though. From next week I'm going to a small rural town for 6 weeks. It's not like I'll be completely removed from civilisation (I get a wireless modem with 2GB of internet quota!) but my old laptop isn't up for much besides web browsing and watching video.

I walked past here the other day and saw this, it made me think of /jp/.

Take it easy.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Lest I Forget (to update this blog)

Public holidays in the middle of the week should really happen more often. Being able to sleep in on a Wednesday morning is a rare pleasure.

The last few weeks have been pretty hectic for me. Being on placement some 40km away from home is really making me realise how much I took it for granted when I could get to uni in a 15 minute bus ride. Now it's a 45 minute commute in the morning, and longer on the way home if I'm a bit late leaving and get caught up in the rush hour traffic. I don't really mind the time that much (at least I can listen to music and relax), but the fuel costs are putting the pressure on, especially since my car isn't very fuel efficient in the first place (~$100 a week).

The riverside "express"way. It would be about 5 more minutes before I got to that  overpass.
To make matters worse, last week I noticed my car felt a bit funny to drive. I was still half asleep so I didn't think too much of it, but as I drove it really started feeling bumpy, so I had to try and get through the traffic and off onto a sidestreet, where a quick look confirmed my suspicion: I had an incredibly flat tyre. Now, and I know this may come as a bit of a shock to you, I'm not very mechanically inclined. I knew there was a spare in the boot, but I had no idea what to do with it, so I had to call for roadside assistance. I then had to sit in my car twiddling my thumbs for an hour and a half before the guy showed up and changed the tyres over so I could get to my classes. I was worried about getting into trouble for being late, but thankfully everyone was understanding.

I then went to a tyre shop where the guy took a look at my flat and told me, rather succinctly, "Tyre's fucked mate". So in the end I had to pay almost $150 for a new one - I was almost definitely ripped off but by that stage I just wanted to get the problem sorted and not have to think about it any more.

Thank god I have exams in two weeks and that'll be the end of that placement. Of course my next one is even further away, but at least I get accommodation out there for the duration.

Late September? Heaps of time!

It's a good thing my figure preorders aren't coming in for a few months, I'm counting on being able to scrape the money together somehow. I'm looking at a pretty expensive May order (Panty and Saber Motored Cuirassier - I spelled that wrong and the first spellcheck suggestion was "circumciser". That's not a Saber figure I ever want to see made) but I should just be able to afford it, and then I've got nothing coming in until the end of July.

delicious Aoko

My copy of Mahou Tsukai no Yoru came in just a few days ago, and I'm excited to play through it. I've heard mixed opinions, though I'm trying to steer clear of internet discussion just to avoid spoiling myself. I'm sure it'll be a painfully slow read considering I'll need to make very heavy use of a dictionary but I think it'll be worth it. I got the first edition so it comes with this neat booklet with character profiles, concept art and some full-page drawing in it.

I'm hoping it will give me motivation to get back into VNs in general. There's a number of VNs that I've been meaning to read (Kara no Shoujo, Symphonic Rain, Deardrops etc) but it's hard to get the motivation to start knowing that I won't be able to read much per sitting and certainly won't be able to marathon them. I tend to get hooked easily, and staying up all night to read chinese porn games is just going to end badly. I remember when I first read Tsukihime - I just shut myself in my room for a few days doing nothing but sleeping and reading. I ended up feeling just like Shiki did during most of Hisui's route. Good times.

I was going to talk about this season's shows but I think that should probably be left to another post. My favourite show so far is Game of Thrones, but it's a solid season for anime and there's a lot that I look forward to watching every week.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The season that was

I watched a few shows that ended recently, namely Another, Black Rock Shooter, Chihayafuru, Nisemonogatari, Persona 4 and Rinne no Lagrange.

Another was pretty enjoyable, even though it didn't quite end up as I thought it would from watching the first few episodes. It sold itself as a horror anime, revolving around a curse that was causing students in a particular class to die rather gruesome deaths. It got a bit cheesy in parts, with things like cliche horror music playing before something bad happens, and I'm not entirely sure whether that was intentionally cheesy or not. The characters were a bit underdeveloped, particularly the side-characters, but the story of the curse was told quite well and I enjoyed the ride. 

Mei >>> Twintails. Not to say twintails was bad at all, but eyepatch wins out.

Just when you thought teen angst was bad, Black Rock Shooter introduces you to the wonderful world of pre-teen angst. Girls with ridiculous problems deal with them in the worst possible ways, then we find out it's all because of magic. And possibly rainbow birds. In its defence I did quite like the otherworld CGI animation. A lot of people dislike CGI on principle, but it can look good and this is a reasonable example of that. 

I do think it's time to lay the BRS franchise to rest though. It's come pretty far considering it's all based on some illustrations, but I'm not sure how much further it can go considering the lack of underlying story. Having said that, the characters and setting is very visually appealing and I'd quite like to see an OVA that just completely abandons story for some fight-scene eyecandy.

I really liked Chihayafuru. I'd never even heard of karuta before watching it, but I do like game/sports anime in general and this one was certainly presented in an interesting way. The shoujoesque parts (i.e. the Taichi-Chihaya-Arata love triangle) don't get a lot of attention with the anime squarely focusing on the game itself, which to me is a good thing. I also quite like the way that the protagonists don't win all their games, and while I've seen some complaints about the fact that they seem to lose more often than not, you can still look back and see how far they've come over the course of the show.

The characters are all very likeable (except for Taichi being a little brat as a kid), and I really enjoyed the show as a whole. I hope it gets a second season.

I didn't like Nisemonogatari as much as I liked Bakemonogatari. The clever dialogue was still there but the plot felt very pointless compared to Bake and the fanservice was really ramped up to compensate. My memory is probably playing down the amount of fanservice in Bake, but I remember feeling like there was an underlying story and that it was pretty important, whereas I really don't get that feeling with Nise. The character designs are still great, but I wouldn't be eager to watch it again. I'll still probably watch future adaptations in this series as I hear that the plot picks back up again.

Persona 4 was alright. As an adaptation it was pretty good, especially considering the scope of the game and the limited number of episodes, though it did feel a bit rushed leading up to the ending. The fight scenes were also fairly short, and it's a bit annoying that the final episode/OVA won't be out until October. It was a good watch if you've played the game (which was obviously the target audience for the show), but I'm not sure how much you'd enjoy it otherwise.

Rinne no Lagrange was my mecha show for the season, although I'm considering watching Aquarion at some time as well, since it seems to have been fairly well received. Rinne was a good show from the visual aspect, as to be expected from Production I.G., and I really liked the three main girls - Lan is damn cute, Madoka pulls off being relentlessly positive without it just getting irritating, and Muginami is fine too. 

From a story perspective it's less impressive, with the whole mecha thing being largely sidelined for slice-of-life school activities. This creates a jarring contrast on the few occasions where shit suddenly gets real, since afterwards the characters invariably cheer right back up and move on like nothing ever happened.

The OP was the best of the season. I liked the show and will watch the next season, but you may be disappointed if you're watching it only for the mecha.

As for the coming season, I really haven't looked at what's coming up. I know I'll at least be watching Fate/Zero but I'll play it by ear for the rest. What do you think looks interesting?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

On break

I'm finally on holidays after finishing all my exams last week. It feels weird having a week of holidays while most other uni students are still in their first month back, but I'm relieved to have a break after all the exam study. I'm pretty sure I did well, though I won't find out for sure until the end of semester results are released in July.

Though in some ways I would prefer if I didn't have holidays. History shows that I never do anything much (useful or not) when I have time off, and I usually end up thinking too hard about depressing things that I don't otherwise have the time to. This time I've been considering my rather paradoxical problems with interacting with other people. 

I have absolutely no problems with talking to people I've never met before in a professional context, even about very sensitive and private matters (which is good, since that's essential for my planned career), but when it's in a social context I become completely retarded. It's not that I'm anxious or anything, it's more a problem of knowing what to say. Not in an autistic way, but it just seems like such a bother to wade through the small-talk only to find out that you don't have a lot in common with them anyway. It doesn't help that I'm a very private person and would never reveal my "powerlevel" as such, and carefully selecting what I do and don't tell people just makes me come across as boring. Because of this, I pretty much never initiate any relationship. I have a few friends, though I have no idea how it happened.

I still wish I had people I could talk to without having to hold back certain hobbies/interests out of fear of being ridiculed for them.

I can fully see myself becoming one of those people who work incredibly long hours and drink too much alcohol, both of which are very effective ways of taking your mind off personal problems (even if they're useless for dealing with the cause of the problem).

Onto less self-indulgent things. I just finished watching the two Vocaloid concerts that were on last weekend: Mikupa and the last 39 concert. Echoing the thoughts of everyone else who's written about it: it was thankfully far better visually than the 2010 Tokyo concert. No giant TVs on stage this time. Thank fuck.

Mikupa was on the first night, and though the setlist was fairly conservative the visuals were stunning. The projection's advanced to the point where they can now use more varied lighting (e.g. you can see a silhouetted Miku when the stage lights are off, and she can run outside a spotlight and become 'darker' as you'd expect). The physics in general were looking really good, and she moved around the stage a lot more than I remember in previous years. The songs had also been retuned a bit, which was very welcome since some of them really needed it.

Some of the costumes were pretty eye-catching
The 39's Giving Day final was impressive in its own way, with a full backing band including a full strings section, trumpets and a sax. The instruments worked in really well with the songs and made it more of a concert experience. Meiko made her first appearance (and Kaito showed up for a song at Mikupa) but while her model was pretty nice it really showed how poorly her voice compares to the Vocaloid2 crew.

The setlist here was pretty conservative too, though there were a few new ones. I can understand it seeing as it's the last concert and most people want to hear the favourites. I'm not sure what the future plans for concerts are; they're popular enough that I'm sure they'll still continue in some way. I hope so anyway.

As a side note: they really make the audience work for the encore.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Belated thoughts on Katawa Shoujo

Well shit, I've gone and not posted in almost an entire month again. Sorry, real life has been giving me a lot to deal with lately, and I haven't really even had the time to read blogs let alone write anything of my own. I don't really feel like blogging about my life tonight though, so I think I'll attempt that review of Katawa Shoujo that I was originally intending on doing many weeks ago. No pictures because I'm lazy, sorry.

As anyone reading this almost certainly already knows, Katawa Shoujo (aka KS or the ultra-classy Cripple Girls) was released in the first few days of the year by Four Leaf Studios. This marked the fifth anniversary of the VN's conception, with the idea being born on /a/ in 2007, inspired by a sketch by Raita showing the characters in a hypothetical game about disabled girls.

The most remarkable thing about the history of the project, aside from the sheer unlikeliness of /a/ actually banding together and accomplishing anything worth mentioning, is the amount of time it's taken. Five years is a damn long time spent in development, even for a small independent project arising from 4chan. The main problem here is that the longer something takes, the more people expect from it at the end. After five years and a rather impressive demo I think it's fair to say that people had very high expectations for the finished product.

I do not believe KS lived up to these standards.

But that's not to say that I thought it was bad. Some parts of the game were done very well, and I'm going to start with them.

Technical details were done very well. It's not a subject that lends itself to a whole lot of discussion but the game came across as very polished. There was a lot of attention to detail in the menus, and the CG gallery and event library were done nicely. The save menu perhaps sacrificed a bit of function for style and I'd have preferred to be able to see more saves without scrolling but that's neither here nor there. The rollback functionality of Ren'Py is another nice touch, although I think normal scrollback is probably more useful.

Sound was another area I thought KS did very well in. The tracks used were good quality and were well fitted to the scenes they were used in. Several of the tracks got stuck in my head after I'd finished with the game as well, which is always a good sign. The game wasn't voiced, but I certainly wasn't expecting it to be and didn't hold this against the game at all.

The graphics are the first area where I've got some mixed feelings. Although I thought the CGs were generally quite pretty, they weren't all on the same level of quality. One of Emi's sex scenes in particular had much more of a comic effect than was probably intended. The game could have used a few more positions for each of the character sprites in general, and Emi's sprites looked quite rough around the edges. I understand she was redesigned significantly after the demo, but the result is a sprite that doesn't quite fit the same style as the other characters.

The animations used at the start of each girl's route and at the start of the game were a nice touch. I wouldn't rave about the quality but it's certainly above and beyond what I was expecting from a game like this.

The story is something else altogether though. The other parts are nice but a VN is nothing without a well done and compelling story. I'll go over the separate routes briefly, but I have three main criticisms of the story in general:

  • Consistency. The five routes have different writers and it shows. The writing style shifts completely between routes, and the characterisation moves along with it. This really breaks the narrative as you might expect, it's hard to feel attachment and immersion when you're given a constantly shifting style of writing to work with. It's particularly jarring going from the common route to the first stages of the various routes: early on in Emi's route Hisao comes across as a guy who's really trying to get over his disability and move on with life. Early in Rin's route he's suddenly an emo kid who can't see the point in anything. What lifechanging decisions set these two apart? Uh, whether he tried his hardest one morning track session or not, plus one or two other minor decisions. I can see how you could argue that this reflects his personality and his thoughts about his disability but that's not how the question was presented and it's not something that could believably manifest so quickly.
  • Length. As I said before, after five years I was expecting something pretty substantial. The routes weren't very uniform in length (with Hanako's route being especially short) but none of them seemed to go for a very long time (except Shizune's, which seemed to drag even though I don't think it was actually any longer than the others). I feel that the short length got in the way a bit, and that I didn't connect to the characters as much as I should have because of this. Generally, I think that every girl could have had another major problem/conflict show up in their route that has to be resolved. This would extend the length and provide more chances for characterisation and connection.
  • Time. This is a relatively minor one, but I felt quite disoriented at times during the story. The transitions between days are marked, but you don't know how much time has passed. A day? A week? A month? Sometimes the writing suggests that it's been a while since the previous 'day' but I never quite knew how long. This is a bigger deal than it seems, as developments can seem plausible or ridiculous depending on how fast they happen.
I'll take a brief look at the routes in the order that I did them.

In contrast to what I've just said, I quite liked Lilly's route. Her blindness was an integral part of the story yet she wasn't defined by it - she could work around it but it was still present and affected her interactions with Hisao. The major conflict about her proposed move back to Scotland was definitely on the melodramatic side, but I don't mind a bit of melodrama now and then. Probably my favourite route.

Despite the amount of 'feels' she apparently induces on /v/, I didn't really feel much of a connection to Hanako. I think the pacing is to blame here, it seems to take a while to get anywhere then suddenly everything happens and it's over. And it's over very quickly. There was so much more that had to be resolved; her route should have been twice as long, or had a substantial epilogue at the very least. This route had potential but it really needed more substance.

I thought Emi's route had the best writing style. None of the writers had written VNs before to my knowledge, but the writing in Emi's route was the best fit to the VN medium. The content, however, was a bit lacking. Her having trouble opening up to others is certainly realistic, but it unfolded fairly predictably, and it hardly related specifically to her disability. Change a few details in her backstory, give her her legs back, and no one would even notice. 

The writing style bogged the route down. There was rarely a noun without an adjective, and the heavy monologue style (which was also a problem in most other routes) didn't do much for me. Rin is a very odd girl and you start the route really not knowing much about her. The problem is that by the end of the route you still don't know much about her. The choices you make are also very arcane and often I didn't want to pick either.

This route took a long time to get nowhere. It didn't help that the only choice (yes, the only choice) is whether you want to fuck Misha or not. And you'd need to be a bit slow in the head not to understand that one of the options was obviously going to lead to a bad end. I also found it completely ridiculous how quickly Hisao became fluent in sign language. 

In conclusion, I thought it was fairly mediocre. It could have been worse, sure, but it could have been a lot better, and I was expecting it to be better. It's still the best OELVN I've read, but that's not a bar that's set very high at all. I would recommend it to anyone who hasn't read VNs before since it's very accessible (well, depending on the route), but for people who are already familiar with the medium I would suggest that you play a route or two if any of the characters particularly grab your attention, but that'd be about it.

It's far from being terrible, but it's even further from being great.

As a postscript: I'm not sure whether or not to be grateful about it being a hit with newcomers to the medium. I like the prospect of more and better OELVNs, but I'm not convinced it'll happen. Besides, western fandoms have a habit of being all sorts of stupid, especially when they become a little bit less obscure. Tangentially related, there's been some rather amusing drama surrounding lately if that sort of thing interests you.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Generic Post Title

I wish it snowed here, ever

I am so sick of summer. It's been raining a lot but that doesn't seem to lessen the heat at all. The air is practically dripping with moisture and I can work up a sweat just by sitting in front of my computer. We're already in the last month of the season though, and I'm eagerly anticipating a cooler Autumn.

I really feel like I haven't had much time to enjoy myself lately. I started classes for the year three weeks ago, and it's been 9-5 every day so far. Add in the hour commute each way, and the few hours it takes once I get home just to cool down enough to feel like doing anything, and I've got precious little time left to really do anything. Most of the people I know are still on holidays for a few more weeks, so I've been feeling quite disconnected from everyone around me. Shit sucks, though I suppose it can't be helped.

I still haven't really started watching anything from this season. I finally got started on Nisemonogatari, but the only other shows I've been watching are continuations from last season: Chihayafuru and P4A. I'm still considering trying Another, Rinne no Lagrange and Milky Holmes, it's just a matter of when I manage to get around to them. Rather than start anything new, lately I've felt like rewatching some series that I've already seen. Over the last couple of weeks I've rewatched Kara no Kyoukai, Eve no Jikan and The Tatami Galaxy. I might start on Shiki again next, or perhaps Aria depending on my mood. I also need to find time to work on my VN backlog, but that might be a lost cause for the foreseeable future.

I've recently become hooked on The Binding Of Isaac, which is a very addictive roguelike game where you control a child who's stuck in a monster-filled basement in an attempt to escape his mother, who believes God told her to kill her son. I'd recommend it as a good way to waste a bit of time, it can get quite difficult and there's a heap of stuff to unlock.

I need to go take another cold shower. I'm still planning to write a post about Katawa Shoujo, and I also have a few purchases from Japan headed my way in the mail right now, but in the meantime please excuse this shitpost. I hope you're all taking it easy.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Japan trip - the rest of it

Comiket was hardly the only thing I did while I was in Japan. I won't go into the details of all the 'normal' touristy stuff I did, but there was certainly a lot to see. A few places I went seem particularly relevant though, so I hope you find this somewhat interesting.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Japan trip - C81

I have returned from my travels. Actually I've been home for a few days now, but I came down with a rather nasty cold in the process and haven't felt up for much. Although it's a bit late by now, I have a bit to say about how it all went.