Anime Rec I – Best Girl Contest

      Usually, anime fans are a peaceful bunch. However, whenever their waifu is concerned, they are suddenly aggravated, for reasons that other people don’t understand. I’ve only picked three anime for this category, and they all belong to drastically different genres. There are mecha, love comedy, and love triangle shows. They all point out to the one truth, though. That is, as otaku, if two people have different waifus, there are no way they get along!

 


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True tears

MAL score: 7.5 (link)

TV (13 eps)

Summary: Living under the same roof with the girl he has a crush on should be a dream for Shinichirou, but the reality is closer to a nightmare. At school, Hiromi is bright, athletic, and popular. But at home, she is a completely different person. She is cold and distant.

One day at school, a weird girl named Isurugi suddenly takes an interest in Shinichirou. She loves raising chickens, especially Raigomaru, who she is convinced can fly. Thus begins a strange relationship where Shinichirou helps to resolve her problems, while he tries to figure out his own feelings toward the strange girl, Hiromi, and his childhood friend, Andou Aiko…

Comment: Are you constantly bothered by the fact that the childhood friend heroines lose 99% of the time in the anime world? Well, look no further!

Even though True tears is limited by its high school setting, it does its job well despite of that and provide us with a pretty good teen romance show that has solid portrayal of characters’ subtle emotions. If you like love triangle shows, this just might be your thing.


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Macross Frontier

MAL score: 8.0 (link)

TV (25 eps)

Summary: In the year 2059, a young pilot trainee named Alto Saotome and his colleagues are preparing to perform an accompanying routine for the famous singer Sheryl Nome. During the performance, an alien species known as the Vajra make a sudden appearance, crash-landing near the concert venue, plunging the entire city into chaos. As the concertgoers evacuate, a young girl named Ranka Lee is left behind and gets targeted by the Vajra, but she is saved at the last minute by Alto. Following these events, the Strategic Military Services program notes Alto’s skill in battle, resulting in his recruitment to combat the new alien threat.

Comment: Nowadays, interest in mecha anime is dwindling. There are probably only two things that help us remember this show. It is one of the few anime that managed to sell 40,000 hard discs on average, and it is also the supplier for a certain meme. Well, we will talk about that later.

Macross Frontier tells a stand-alone story in the expansive Macross franchise. There are several classic anime series that came before, and afterward (bad) shows like Macross Triangle would still come out. While the plot in Macross F is not extraordinary, it has an excellent pacing that make us engage with the story. Moreover, I bet you won’t believe this is a show from 2008 based on its animation alone. The awesomeness of watching giant mecha making fireworks in space, along with the heroines passionately singing, will certainly give mecha fans a unforgettable experience.

I digress. This is a best girl contest, right? So I will talk about the heroines. First heroine, Sheryl, a galactic star, tsundere yet honest, also loves MC very much. Second heroine, Ranka, a deput star, cute, and is willing to work hard for her dream of becoming a singer. Did I forget to mention that she also love MC very much? This kind of multiple choice question has troubled millions of male anime protagonist, however, Alto-kun was able to resolve this situation with ease.

After all, “You two are my wings.” That’s what he said.


oreimo

Macross Frontier

MAL score: 7.6 (link)

First Season + ONA (16 eps), Second Season + ONA (16 eps)

Summary: Kirino Kousaka embodies the ideal student with equally entrancing looks. She works as a professional model alongside her best friend Ayase Aragaki, who abhors liars and all things otaku. But what Ayase doesn’t know is that Kirino harbors a deep, entrenched secret that will soon be brought to light.

At home one day, Kyousuke, Kirino’s perfectly average brother, stumbles upon an erotic game that belongs to none other than his seemingly flawless little sister. With her reputation at stake, Kirino places a gag order on her sibling while simultaneously introducing him to the world of eroge and anime. Through Kirino, Kyousuke encounters the gothic lolita Ruri Gokou and the bespectacled otaku Saori Makishima, thus jump-starting an entirely new lifestyle.

Comment: Without a doubt, oreimo looks like your typical harem anime. While that is a large part of what it is, it also uses this cliched setting to delve into a social commentary of otaku lifestyle. It goes without mention that this is a highly controversial show. The best girl contest among the heroines (which is HUGE at the time) was part of it, but it also because oreimo covers some sensitive topics within the otaku culture. At its conclusion, the author brought us a shocking ending, and no matter if you come to despise or like it, it is a conclusion that makes you remember this show.

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My Anime Recommendations by Categories (in 2018) – Intro

Hello, everyone. It’s been a long time since I posted anything on this blog. In an effort to revive it, I am going to share some of my “classic” anime recommendations, organized by my own quirky categories. These shows may not be the best of the best, but I think they are interesting enough in their own right. Besides, they tend to be fairly high ranked on MAL.

There is one restriction that I attached onto making my list. That is, it has to have an “ending”. Whether it followed the source material’s conclusion or had an original end, it has to give some sort of closure to the audience. If it is a big IP and scheduled to end very soon, that’s okay too.

Each anime rec will take the format below:

- Romanized Japanese name (& English name)
 - MAL score
 - MAL page link
 - Anime in the series by name

- Summary

- Personal comments

(pros and cons, not suitable for [certain groups]...)

(other information)

PS: MAL is the short name for myanimelist.net, the world’s largest anime database and community.

Koi x Shin Ai Kanojo thoughts [spoilers] – A light literature disguised as moege

Today I am going to write my thoughts after playing a untranslated VN called Koi x Shin Ai Kanojo, or koikake for short.

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How I come to read this vn is one of a kind out of all the VN I’ve experienced so far. I’ve not only been spoiled of the key events in the true route, but also carefully read several detailed thoughts/reviews on this game. I wouldn’t recommend getting spoiled before playing the game, and would not repeat this experience if I can help it, but on the other hand, I don’t think I would have gotten the main point of the game had I not followed this path.

For the majority of this game, Koikake plays like a moege. That ended up being its biggest problem. The game more or less crams 4 heroines’ story in the common route, severely weakening the narrative. While this is fine for moege, the contents in the epilogue would surely anger most moe lovers. This is the state that koikake is left in. It is produced as a moege that ultimately would piss off moefags, and more serious readers would be alienated by its moege setup.

There is one decisive difference between most galgame and this one, though. While most galgame, like its name, focuses on heroines, koikake chose to focus on the male protagonist. I don’t say this with no evidence. Most galgame feel the need to “express” the heroines as much as possible, because that’s what the readers like to see. There are many ways to do this.

1. heroines can mumble quietly to utter lines that readers can hear but protag cannot.
2. impression of heroines’ mode can be conveyed by the drastic change of her appearance, of which protag usually can’t “see”
3. a brief other’s perspective

Koikake does none of this, at least when it concerns Sena, the true heroine. Instead, it focuses exclusively on the protagonist. The narrative is densely populated by Koutarou’s inner thoughts and feelings. Whenever key event happen, we know how Koutarou feels about it, but not Sena. She is a mystery. The most readers can immediately know is from Sena’s (somewhat lacking) facial expressions, whether she is in her normal mood, happy mode, or sad mode. But wait, that’s almost like… we are seeing things from a normal, introverted high school boy (salaryman)’s perspective?

Anyways, let’s talk about something else. For readers with different preference, there will be different opinions on this game. For most typical moege players, this game is a travesty. It created a false image of moeness that lured people in but awarded patient readers with three times the breakup conclusion that willl surely go down to kusoge history, along with Sena as the worst waifu. For people who read this to the next level, I’ve seen many people writing long and deep analysis, citing tons of evidence in game, that in its conclusion Sena surely came back to Koutarou, in an otherwise open ending.

The thing is, whether Sena came back at the end or not, it is my opinion that readers who dwell on this issue still don’t get the most important point of this game.

Even if for whatever reason Sena still choose to chase her unreachable dream instead of accepting Koutarou, his confessions will surely leave a lasting impression on her that will encourage her to persist through desperate times. As for Koutarou, the best times of youth he spent chasing his first love is definitely not a waste. Even if the relationship doesn’t work out, the happiness he had experience would become important treasures that will accompany him throughout his life. Hence, the title, “a love I am trying to convey”. At its root, this is a coming-of-age story of the protagonist learning that, sometimes, just doing one’s best to achieve something worth fighting for is in itself already rewarding, even if the results are not always as one wishes.

And who is the protagonist of this story? Is it Kunimi Koutarou, the book writer without talent nor luck to make it big, or is it just Niijima Yuu, writing this as the final confession to his first love?

Anime Review: Masamune-kun no Revenge

Masamune-kun no Revenge is the kind of anime that would inevitably come out every season. It is, in essence, a harem, high school life, comedy, light romance show. It is the kind of show that would appeal to younger anime fans, especially those with less experience in knowing the tropes and cliches in the industry.

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Don’t get me wrong. Just because an anime roots itself in a genre that can easily be seen as cliched does not mean it has to be so. My subjective opinions aside, there are definitely some good shows that I’ve seen in the past in this genre that have some unique aspects to them. However, Masamune is definitely not one of them. It does have a premise that has potential. As it turns out, though, the plot is more or less filled with tropes from the standard drama shows, of which plot development depends on. The eye-catching premise of “revenge for childhood rejection” is just another excuse to make the main romantic pairing, without going very deep.

One of the things that this show suffers from is that it tries to adapt the entire source material so far in 12 episodes. While even the source story is not complex, adapting the whole thing in one season turned out to be not so great. The show starts off fine, but rushes through character relationship with other main heroines during the middle, only to abruptly sweep them aside as “side characters” to make way for the main heroine in the end. While this seems to be the standard adaptation practice for harem shows nowadays, it is still very bad for the story.

What else is there to say? If you’ve seen a dozen shows in this genre you can predict how the story is going to go. The artwork is vibrant and character design is quite nice, but there is no “wow” factor to be found in visuals. BGM and theme songs are typical JPOP. If you enjoy it, you would like the music. Obviously, songs vocalized by upstart seiyuus are nowhere near the levels of “professional music”, as you would expect. I would not call the main characters flat, but their depth are quite far from being intricate. In fact, the main girl is the amalgam of two tropes: ojousama and tsundere. The protagonist is just… another male harem lead.

All in all, Masamune-kun no Revenge is an above average harem show, but still deeply entrenched in cliches and tropes of the genre without its own quirks. Most people who enjoyed watching this show would probably not going to remember its title after a while.

My very subjective score: 5.5/10

JRPG review – Tales of Berseria

To prove that this blog is not yet dead, here I am with a review on one of the games that I recently had the chance to play. This time, it is a bit of a different flavor as it is a JRPG (Role-playing game made by Japanese producers) that came out quite recently, on Jan 2017 on steam (a popular gaming platform). Here is the link: http://store.steampowered.com/app/429660/. It is rather expensive right now sitting at $49.99 US, but if you are willing to wait long enough, games usually have sales on big holidays such as Christmas or Black Friday.

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By only watching the promotional video, it is very easy to believe that this is gonna be a great game with fantastic story entrenched in grim-dark mood and great anti-heroine centered plot. And why not? When one reads a good story, there is always the desire to “interact” with the world depicted by it. While a story-rich game allows exactly for one to do that, game makers typically focus on the gameplay aspect (as that is what gamer usually cares about), leaving the story part to disrepair. For someone who desire a little bit of both like I, Tales of Berseria (ToB) seems like a perfect blend of both elements.

Well, let’s talk about the gameplay first. I know the screen shot looks cartoonish, and perhaps a little bit silly. A player not as familiar with RPG games might be put off by his first impression. I had the same doubt. However, it turned out to be great! Unlike Action RPG games (or ARPG) such as Skyrim or Dark Soul, which put emphasis on the timing of combat moves, ToB essentially plays like a turn-based strategy game despite having a 3D, non-turn-based combat system.

Let me explain. Out of the four characters in combat at any time, the player only gets to control one of them. While the character that one controls do fight in hack n’ slash style, the controls are quite easy to execute even for beginners. It is much more important to strategize in the menu options. The brilliant design in this game is that there is something for players of all levels in this game. If one likes challenge and world exploration, one can play on the hardest level, not missing any conversations with NPCs, and crawls the dungeon often in order to beat the next boss. If one just want to read the story with minimal gameplay interactions, one can play on the easiest level, disregard all the side quests, and try to avoid encounters with NPCs while following the main plotline.

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Even if one hates the combat system, there is a robust equipment collection and character leveling up system, going beyond a few categories of equipment and character levels, to make up for it. For example, the concept of leveling up would apply to not just characters, but also equipment, spells (called Artes in the game), cooking, navy exploration, and even vendor.

To be honest, I haven’t played many RPGs. Going by what I read online, ToB might just set the new industry standard in terms of RPG gameplay.

A word of warning at this point. Not everything is great with this game. The other side of the coin, story-telling, would likely disappoint people who are expecting a lot from it. Yes, an anti-heroine protagonist with sole purpose of revenge is a break from industry cliches of a young, male adventurer protagonist who eventually saves the world and gets the girl. It would have done well, had this concept actually be executed well.

The reality is that while main characters are not exactly flat, they are not as compelling as one would have liked. There are a few heart-wrenching scenes involving our protagonist coupled with great animation, but they are few and far between a myriad of soulless daily conversations that fills out the script. The overarching story line starts off decently, but disintegrate into the RPG industry’s most commonly used story recipe pretty soon, making the whole thing cliched. While these problems can be forgiven, the real problem surfaces. The antagonists are just, bad. There is no other way to put it. As a result, the opposition to protagonist’s side is quite lackluster. There is no real satisfaction to be gained by defeating these opponents, dragging the quality of the entire story down by a huge margin.

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All in all, no matter what I say, I’ve spent $50 and 35 hours on this game, and it wasn’t a horrible experience. This might just speaks a larger truth. The core customers for RPGs don’t care that much about the story. They just want a game with great gameplay values. In the future, more and more RPGs with good gameplay and bad story will continue to come out, and certain people will happily pay for them. ToB is probably even above average in terms of story compared to its competitors, if my experience in other products in ACG is anything to judge by. It is a game with great gameplay value for players looking for different difficulty and gameplay styles, but one that would surely disappoint in terms of its story telling if one expects too much.

Final Score: 7.5/10

Fantasy Novel Review – The Riyria Revelations

Today, I will be writing about my thoughts on a fantasy fiction trilogy that I just finished, The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan. So yeah, this is going to be another English fantasy novel review, instead of an anime/manga one. I will probably get back to those soon. Cross my fingers on it.

Goodreads Link

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THEY KILLED THE KING. THEY PINNED IT ON TWO MEN. THEY CHOSE POORLY.

There’s no ancient evil to defeat or orphan destined for greatness, just unlikely heroes and classic adventure. Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, are two enterprising rogues who end up running for their lives when they’re framed for the murder of the king. Trapped in a conspiracy that goes beyond the overthrow of a tiny kingdom, their only hope is unraveling an ancient mystery before it’s too late.

Before I dig into the books, I want to say something about the current, “grimdark” trend of English fantasy novels, spearheaded by George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Suffice to say, I am not a big fan of the current trend. Before you guys label me as blasphemous for not being a fan of novels like A Song of Ice and Fire, let me explain myself. Yes, I don’t like books that just spew out cliched concept good defeat evil, hero wins the day and get the girl stuff anymore than you do. Certainly, a lot of books haven’t that much imagination and it seems that they are just using a template to write. However, that doesn’t mean we have to swing to the other extreme direction and have heroes always be the fodder, always suffer, and characters that readers like never getting any sort of good ending. I don’t know about you guys, but I am reading these mainly for escapism purposes (If you are looking for a great tragedy, try books like The Crucible, Antigone, 1984, etc. I read them in my high school English class). It’s a good thing that this series, The Riyria Revelations, is neither so fairy-taled nor such a grimdark-wannabe that likable characters always experience hell.

One thing that I have to admit is that The Riyria Revelations series does contain a lot of setting that is considered cliched in the fantasy genre. Nevertheless, that does not mean the series handles its setting in a cliched way. For an epic fantasy novel, tropes like elves, a powerful church authority, the lost heir, banned magic, a mysterious distant history are mixed together and combined in a new way that made the story seems fresh, so that the series feel familiar and new at the same time. Of course, there is also a good, continuous story, a good character cast, and nice pacing.

The biggest treat offered by this series is exactly its plot-twist factor. There are so many plot twists that you never know what to expect next. Every time you discover something new, you are faced with even more mysteries and unknowns. This series ground its plot twist on well thought-out foundations in that usually there are numerous seemingly unimportant details to foreshadow any mysteries unveiled later. There are six chronological and very-much related episodes working together to tell a cohesive story. Unlike most books that loses its momentum as it veers toward its conclusion, this series culminate into an ultimate plot-twist toward its ending.

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Of course, it is not without its flaws. The series start off slow in its first book, and make it seem that the story might be told in an episodic fashion.  Although it starts off with mainly just the perspective of the main character duo thieves and the princess, as the story progresses more and more POV are introduced. Like many other books, sometimes reader do not care for the other POV as much as the protagonists’ because there is hardly time to feel attached to the new narrators. Luckily, the three main characters’s perspectives always take the spotlight and the majority of the story-telling. The other perspectives serve to giving additional information to the main story line, rather than telling a story of its own.

Finally, the characters cast is great. The cast is humorous, round, varied, quirky, and all of them are flawed in different ways. Yet despite their flaws they try to overcome them, and to become better persons. I am not going to lie and say there is no character death, but trust me in that it is a relatively happy ending. Oh, did I mention that there is several adorable romance sub-plot as well.

Overall, The Riyria Revelations takes numerous tropes from the epic fantasy genre and melted them into a new, fresh story, supported by a good pacing, interesting characters, and one whole story told by a trilogy. Of course, the greatest strength is its ability to drive home the surprise factor produced by its well-foreshadowed plot twists that slowly reveal the truth of the present and what happened in the distant past, hence its name Revelations. I would give the whole series a score of eight out of ten (8/10), which is a pretty good score from me.

Fantasy Novel Review – The First Law series

I am pretty surprised to find that I haven’t been posting here for exactly one year. I might try to improve on that pretty soon. Today, I write not about ACG related topics, but rather about a English fantasy novel series that I just purchased and finished. The name of the series is The First Law series, by Joe Abercrombie. This review will contain some non-specific spoiler-ish comments.

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To understand where this series stand on the grand scheme of things, we must first understand what is meant by a deconstruction piece. A deconstruction piece is a work that at first seems to use tropes and stereotypes coming from a genre, but later subvert audiences’ expectation of that genre completely but doing the unexpected. This is exactly what this series is, and it is quite different from the gritty realism found in fantasy works such as Song of Ice and Fire. In deconstructional works, the author relies on the shock factor of audience realizing what is happening is different from what is expected as a central plot device. Ironically, simply by understanding that this series is a deconstruction work would probably lessen that shock value. Granted, a truly good deconstruction piece will still hit you in an unexpected way, even if you were sort of expecting it.

To start off, one noticeable aspect about this particular series is that it always use multiple perspective narrative with 3 (or more) protagonists. This has its advantages and disadvantages. While it does make the story more expansive to narrate from multiple perspectives, and the author does a great job in using difference in narratives to characterize characters, the pacing of the narrative really suffers from the drag, especially because there aren’t a lot of action in this series . Moreover, it becomes considerably harder to get attached to the narrators, and in a few cases, never. Multiple perspectives story-telling usually become successful when the narratives are intertwined, telling just one event from different angles. This is decidedly not the case here.

Characters, most of them heavily flawed, are not at all what they seem. While some of the roles of main characters seem to correspond to those found in a typical epic adventure fantasy story (a guiding wizard, a boy king-to-be, a seasoned warrior, etc), one can’t help but notice subtle differences right away (non-virgin young hero’s love interest, cowardly and complacent hero, etc). I already said that this series is a deconstruction piece and defined the term for you. If you are still hanging on the hope that the story will end with typical happy endings and can’t tolerate a single main good character’s death, well, perhaps you are not ready for this yet.

So how is this series in terms of a deconstruction piece? I’d say it is a solid read, and successfully breaks apart a reader’s expectation of a classic epic hero-save-the-world-and-get-the-girl adventure story with some war, politics, and magic involved. While the story has resolved the majority of the mysteries, containing no major plot hole, I feel like the author wrote the story for the sake of writing a deconstruction fantasy work. That is, the series lacks something extra that distinguishes it from just a deconstruction story. The shock value could have been larger with more setup; the human drama could have been more gripping; the author could have planned for a couple more books as a direct sequel that further drives its characters to despair…… I suppose you get what you get.

The First Law series try to subvert some of the most popular stereotypes and tropes in the fantasy/adventure genre, and for the most parts does it successfully. Do keep in mind, though, as more and more deconstruction works are written, they themselves can create new stereotypes and tropes, and can only remain as unique series if there is something extra to the story. Personally, this series is far from the masterpiece that its fans would like to claim it to be, but at least it deserves three and half stars.

rating for the series: 7.5/10