Archive for April, 2012


Because I need stupid puns in my writing!

Puns in my blog mean we've reached an all-time low

More school hijinks this episode. I find it cool how Vice-president and Haru can potentially have all these experiences without any time passing. In this case the entire storyline taking place within a short amount of time will actually make sense! As far as vice-president and Haru are concerned, this episode throws a wrench into things, since it’s heavily implied that Chiyu, Haru’s childhood BFF, also likes him to some degree. And here I was hoping for a simple tale about a school idol and the fat kid going on the internet together. Ah well.

I'm honestly surprised there's not more fanservice in this show all things considered...

Afterward we get into super exposition time. Something that might throw people off is that since people are speaking through their internet connections in this show, they don’t have to use their voice. Basically, thought speak, with them staring at each other and reacting in real time despite not actually talking. It’s pretty crazy.

What we learn is that leveling in Brain Burst is really difficult. Like worse than DnD. The game is apparently capped at level ten, where you get to meet the developer and throw a party or something. However, no one has been able to do this. Vice-president used to be one of the seven badasses in the burst linker program who reached level nine. Most of the level nines decided to maintain a truce, since getting to level ten would require beating five other level nines without losing once, risking the loss of the brain burst program if they did. Basically, it’s so ridiculously harsh that they all stopped playing, with the exception of vice-president, who wanted to throw a giant level ten party or something. She killed the red king with a surprise attack, then was forced to retreat when the others teamed up on her.

They forgot to turn off friendly fire.

Another interesting thing to note is some history about Accel World. It’s been 15 years since people installed Neuro-Linkers, the devices that allow people to enjoy the matrix lifestyle. As a result however, the only people who have literally had them their entire lives are kids. A prerequisite for the brain burst program, other than hating social life, is to have one of these permanent models. In other words, all Brain Burst players are kids. I suppose that could explain their behavior.

 

Finally, we get to the plotline of the next story arc. Someone in school is after the vice president. They know her identity and want all her points. If she uses her full shonen power however, that person will run away screaming and altert every other burst linker in brain burst to her location. And so Haru, the newly christened “lackey #1” agrees to help with next to no hesitation.

She's actually pretty casual about sticking it in, all things considered. *Ba-dum tish!*

Only problem is, the culprit might be Chiyu. Of course, being the protagonist Haru has a heart of gold, so he’s very troubled by this decision and goes off to confront it head-on, much to vice-president’s annoyance. Fortunately Taku, who is also Haru’s childhood BFF and Chiyu’s boyfriend, shows up and reassures him vaguely using a half-assed socratic method, thus leading Haru to go and do the intimate cable connection with her to read her memories. Because he’s her FRIEND, DAMMIT and that’s totally OKAY! I’m sure that’s exactly what Taku had in mind. What follows is an awkward, extended sexual metaphor. Granted they did state right out that such a connection is something only lovers typically do, however it’s hard to justify Haru’s position in this case even though he does find something suspicious.

I think Haru’s characterization is consistent and though out pretty well, since despite his generally nice personality he’s also extremely unsure of himself when he’s not gaming. Real life circumstances are challenging his morals and frankly he doesn’t have the backbone to back them up. Hopefully we’ll see some consequences to this and some positive changes in Haru’s character. Or they could just play video games online. That’d be cool too.

Kids nowadays just don't understand the concept of grinding...

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Too bad stage selection is stuck on random

In my attempt to actually keep up with a series, I’m starting with Accel World. This is complicated by the fact that I really didn’t summarize the plot of the first episode much. So, a quick re-cap:

Haru is at the bottom of the food-chain at school. Picked on and forced to be a bully’s lackey, his only escape is virtual reality, which seems really advanced, as it turns him into a cartoon pig. His only accomplishment is apparently online squash. His life reeeally seems to suck right now, and he inadvertently takes it out on people around him since he doesn’t want to be pitied. Enter the student council vice-president with a really long name. She takes a liking to him and beats his high-score in squash. Then invites him to lunch where she gives him the brain burst program, which amps up his reflexes using computers or something. After that she warns him not to go on the internet for a while. He ignores this advice and suddenly gets assaulted by a psycho on a motorcycle.

This was when Haruyuki learned the benefits of grinding.

The second episode picks up immediately afterward, with Haru and his fancy new avatar getting their ass kicked. As it turns out, Brain Burst is basically a fighting MMO with high stakes. The points you get from the game let you use hax in real life, but the only way to get more is to beat people up online. Since Haru wants to repay her for getting rid of his bully, he decides to team up with miss vice-president, because it’ll obviously endwell. He displays more intelligence than your standard protagonist by insisting to keep their relationship strictly business, but he didn’t count on her being a maser troll. Ah, high school drama.

What do you mean you didn't stick it in?!

The rematch between Haru (AKA Silver Crow) and the ghost rider knock-off is kinda funny. After getting in a surprise attack Haru intends to use the timer to win automatically. Not just incredibly cheap, it’s something you wouldn’t expect from a main character. Haru continues to be unique… 😀 Things don’t as planned however and Haru is forced to reach his hidden shonen potential to kick reason to the curb and surpass the impossible. Or in this case a guy who confused an MMO with a racing sim. I could’ve done without the Harley-Davidson trivia though….

My dream of a world where people use usernames in everyday conversation...

What is even a street fighter?

In typical late fashion I’ve put together a list of anime I decided to check out for this season. Success is debatable.

Shining Hearts

That bread is huge.

I thought it was a swords and sorcery anime, but for the most part it seemed to be about making bread in a fantasy setting. If it ends up anything like Yakitate Japan it’ll be a winner, but I somehow doubt it. As for the characters, the main character seems laidback, while his three co-workers definitely want his balls. That’s about as eloquently as I could ever put it. Everything seems nice and happy, but shit is gonna hit the fan based on obvious foreshadowing. I’ll watch some more of this, but only because I like the artist (-_-;). A good possibility of this being stupid harem though. We’ll see how this goes.

Maken-Ki!

Perfectly understandable given the circumstances. I wasn't sure if they were real either.

The protagonist has an irritating design. His personality is stereotypically shonen to an aggravating degree except during fanservice portions, where he reverts to being a perverted character stereotype. The girls are cookie-cutter and irritating, most especially the tsundere. Super-powers are mystical items that random characters have for no apparent reason. I was going to watch this for the art style, but not anymore. This anime literally has nothing original going for it. It doesn’t even try to present things in an innovative way.

Haiyore! Nyaruko-san

So wait, does that mean he's into tentacles?

The premise of this anime is interesting: A guy is living under the same roof as a Cthulu god while his parents are on vacation. However take away the Lovecraftian context and you get little more than a stereotypical anime about a guy being dragged into a hidden world by some attractive, mystical high school girl. The show uses comedy at every opportunity to carry it from one situation to the next. Understandable, since it’s not something you would want to see taken seriously (my cthulu wallpaper can attest to that). In other words, pure slapstick comedy with random Cthulu references for flavor. Expect Swimsuit, hot spring, karaoke, festival, and other episodes to show up. I think my worst mistake in watching this was taking the premise seriously. My bad.

Upotte!!

When you think about it, angry teenage girls are a good metaphor for the arms race.

In an effort to learn from my mistake where I took Haiyore! seriously, I started watching everything else on my list with next to no expectations of quality. That may or may not work. In the case of Upotte!! it definitely helped me not turn it off after seeing the opening, what with the overflow of fetish fuel presented. I can definitely see the relation to Strike Witches, with a combination of transforming assault rifle school girls with slice of life. It’s probably one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen; I was still confused even after they explained it. That confusion may or may not prompt me to try watching more of this show. Despite the weird concept however, it’s not really that notable aside from the fact that the creators seem to have done their homework.

Queen’s Blade Rebellion

It's about time this series got a pole dancer...

Going in, I expected this show to be little more than boob-shots. What I got was a confusing plot and… boob-shots. Also robots and a complete lack of any adherence to physics. I would elaborate, but frankly just thinking of this show makes me tired…

Jormungand

Still a better love story than twilight.

This was another anime that I feel like I’ve seen before. A child soldier named Jonah teams up with an arms dealer named Koko and her merry band of psychopathic mercs. It felt like watching Black Lagoon all over again, which isn’t a bad thing. For one thing, it doesn’t take place in Japan, so the environment feels fresh and interesting. Also, a notable thing about the art style is that all the main characters have DEAD eyes. It’s notable in various anime to give the psychopaths, evil guys, or psychologically damaged people eyes with no shine that you typically see in most of the bubbly characters. Black Lagoon did this to the characters when they go serious or pissed off, and many of the antagonists in Hellsing also shared this trait. However this is the first series I’ve seen where literally ALL of the apparently major characters have dead eyes. It’s a good art trick that points out how screwed up these people are, most especially Jonah, who looks like he’s going to shoot someone in every scene he appears in.

Polar Bear Cafe

And then they shot his kneecaps

It’s an anime where a Polar Bear runs a cafe. You can’t possibly lose! The fact that the animals are drawn realistically instead of the cartoonish style I was expecting makes the anime surreal, especially given the show’s focus on comedy. That said, it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a plot. Mostly it’s just gags. I may keep up with this one just to see more of the panda’s bullshit.

Accel World

I'm surprised they haven't pulled out the GITS references yet

This show has a familiar premise; characters interacting in a virtual world through extremely convenient interfaces in the near-future. They fight online for truth, money, justice, and possibly free future porn. I swear I’ve seen this movie before… The thing that stands out is the main character Haru; He’s the polar opposite of your standard male protagonist. Physically speaking, he’s a short fat kid with a particularly cartoony face that portrays him in the most unimpressive way possible. He gets bullied in the first few minutes into buying lunch for some punks only to later hide in the bathroom and log onto the internet to escape his problems. He tops that off by treating his childhood friend like shit when she tries to help him. His crowning achievement in life is virtual squash and his virtual avatar is a chibi-piglett.

MFW his squash habits boost him to harem-level popularity levels later on.

They basically made the main character about as uninteresting and pitable as possible. This actually makes the fairly straightforward plot more interesting. Whereas most series have forgettable protagonists in favor of the cute girls and crazy action sequences, you actually remember Haru because of these features. He stands out, and you probably root for him out of pity if nothing else. His struggles have more meaning because it’s clear from the beginning that Haru is at the absolute bottom of the food-chain in every social circle he is or will be involved in. You don’t know where his journey will take him, but it’s gotta be better than what we see here. That said, I’m still calling bullshit if this series turns into a harem, unlikely as that seems.

That’s all I got through. Everything else seemed less agreeable to my awkward tastes. I don’t know if I’m going to chronicle any of these episodically, especially since this is two weeks late, but who knows, maybe I can stick to a schedule for once. Practice makes perfect… As for the series themselves, it’s nice to get into something with no prior knowledge bogging me down, but I notice that my perception is still skewed regardless. I need to work on that…

Anime: Making me long for shitty classes, asshole friends and absolutely no adventure. This is why I can't have nice things.

Black Rock Shooter (BRS) is a cool concept. The sales figures for her figurines probably say more about how cool her design is than anything I could say. Narratively speaking, a badass alter-ego that not only spawns whatever artillery or sharp objects she can think of, but ignores all forms of stabbing, bludgeoning and harsh words, is also pretty self-explanatory. Heck, most people who watch this probably know about BRS in some form. The crazy part of this anime was that the “normal cast” was just as compelling as their sharp and pointy counterparts, after a point.

How about some support, mother? After all your daughter is in a battle to decide the fate of high school girls everywhere!

The plot revolves around Kuroi Mato and her crazy high school friends, albeit only the female ones, because let’s face it, the BRS franchise mainly catered to otaku who like the character design before the implied les-yay showed up during the OVA. Now all sorts of people can enjoy it! Well, except for the normal people, but no one likes them. Anyway, as it turns out, high school girls deal with a lot of shit in their day-to-day lives, and they have to blow off steam somehow, so they… create spiritual alter-egos who use those emotions to fight it out in an alternate world based on a child’s book! I mean what else can they do to relax between homework, school clubs, social lives, chores, and japanese societal expectations of women? Understandable, I think.

 

Yeah baby!

 

The character design for Mato threw me off initially, since I thought she should have looked more like her counterpart in the face area.

As the series progresses (all eight episodes of it), you learn the backstories behind all five of the main characters, essentially the people connected with the titular alter-egos important enough to get their own design. Much character development is had by all, with notable scenes of the characters freaking the hell out. This is probably why the artist for the “real” world is noteworthy. The character design doesn’t seem to stand out until you see some of the various expressions on all their faces. Of course, you also get several exciting CG fight scenes, which fulfills the action quota that many fans expected. Initially I felt like the action was just there to show off the cool CG, but by the end it grew on me, particularly the girls’ penchant for unique weaponry.

 

That moment when you realize you're only here for the psychadelic mega-cannon

 

The main thing that kept me from watching the series for a while was the whole “touchy-feely girls” thing. Watching this, Rinne no Lagrange, Hanasaku Iroha, and others, I’m a bit tapped out on anime focusing on “girl-talk.” Each of these have female leads in high school, and as a result their character development is, well, girly. It’s understandable, but really, I should probably invest myself in a hardcore shonen title before going back to new anime after this run… That doesn’t mean BRS isn’t a show you shouldn’t watch however. It’s got a unique style to it, along with mindfuckery thanks to the CG world. I highly recommend it.

 

...and then my sanity shattered!

BRS was produced by Ordet with CG production by Sangizen.

Now if only they’d localize the PSP game so I could review that….

Hopefully this is only the start of Redjuice's success...

So following the aggravating disappointment that was Negima’s end as well as the sad example of unimaginative thinking that was Mass Effect 3’s ending, I sat down and finished the anime “Guilty Crown.” As you can probably tell by the less than optimistic title to this post, that didn’t end well either.

The series follows a young man named Shoe who goes off and gets involved with terrorists after he inadvertently absorbs their superweapon. With the idealistic goal of making friends and gaining the affections of a convenient pop idol who can pop off a headshot at 50 meters, Shoe embarks on a journey to take down a bunch of vague tyrannical government agencies that in no way represent American intrusion into the Japanese economic system. After getting made fun of and generally shown how much of a beta he is to the terrorist alpha leader Guy, he ultimately comes into his own, mastering his mystical power of FRIENDSHIP WEAPONS to demolish the tyrannical puppet government at the cost of his new/old friend Guy. While this only takes up the first half of the series, I liked it. I was rooting for Shoe despite the terrible (English) connotations of his name, and honestly was interested in seeing him grow.

Character designs distract you from suspecting how screwed up some characters can get.

The second half of the series takes fans’ expectation of a cool action sci-fi shonen romp and punches it in the face. Shoe’s growth is implied to be complete, but that too is quickly shot down along with his right arm. More than half the main cast dies on both sides and by the end Shoe is left with  a rather bleak resolution to the crisis after fighting Zombie Guy and getting most of his schoolmates killed. Apparently he can barely see, has poor motor control, and didn’t grow his arm back. I have to say that while I can admire bits of sacrifice as far as some plotlines go, the series basically left Shoe with next to nothing besides a replacement girlfriend in a wheelchair. Admittedly, it could’ve ended much worse, but I feel like Shoe sacrificing himself would’ve fit in with the series’ theme near the end. It’s bleak and depressing regardless, but I can’t help but feel this ending was actually crueler to poor Shoe. Kinda screwed up, to be honest, because the way I saw it all his hard work doomed him to a debilitatingly slow death in a physically broken form without the love of his life to help get him through it. Even his surviving friends seem to not have been in contact with him on a regular basis.

Now that we’re past the review, let’s see about something else- some odd facets I’ve noticed through these fictional endeavors about myself, in particular this show. I find myself largely content in my day-to-day activities, but whenever I consider the future, I either experience gut-wrenching terror or dark, poisonous fatalism. I have no real dream or ambition beyond having the means to live comfortably and carefree. I’m told I’m good at writing, among some other things, but I honestly can’t tell whether I’m just kidding myself because I’m lazy or if I genuinely don’t care. Even with some kind of talent I have no idea how to utilize these skills effectively and the ways I have been taught don’t work for me. These shows, games, and other mediums that I peruse consistently point out characters with goals that they not only work reasonably hard toward, but seem to have the proper skill set to achieve. I’m fully aware that the plots are what make things work out for the protagonists most of the time, but I can’t help but be jealous on some level. I look at a number of goals I might find myself working toward and soon discount even the process of working, because I’ve already found it to be a fruitless and unsatisfying endeavor. Even what work I do get done feels empty and not my own. Take this blog for instance. I’ve already come to terms with the fact that it will not be successful, will not help me in any feasible way, and will ultimately be left to collect dust when I can no longer work on it for whatever reason.

I guess you could say that I’m like a lot of people who want validation for their continued existence. Being an unemployed full-time student who has never taken a significant break from school, I have yet to see a real payoff for any work I’ve ever done, and don’t feel as if I can really contribute anything to people.

I could go on about these issues of mine, but it’s midnight where I am and about the only thing that will make me feel useful in the morning is a good night’s rest. As for Guilty Crown, it’s an entertaining series with a unique flavor, not to mention character design by a Deviantart user. Need something out of the ordinary but still recognizable? It’s a good bet.