Sunday, June 13, 2010

In The News: Sunday, 13 June 2010

Well, this is a really short post, only to bring you up-to-date with things:

  • On Monday, 31 May, the blog had its birthday, turning 4 years old. Happy Birthday!
  • On Sunday, 4 June, I graduated university. Congratulations! Still have my degree thesis to finish though...
  • I'm going to be writing articles for the MtG site, DeckConstruct, be sure to check them out, starting Monday, 14 June.
  • I saw some really good anime and some really bad movies, can't wait to review them
  • I have a Twitter account, and you can follow more regular updates there, however, the blog will still remain the place where I give make my reviews and give my opinions on stuff.
That's all. See you around.

A Hell Made of Bullets

If you browse Danbooru as much as I do, you’ll notice it’s full of Touhou characters. I think if you browsed randomly, there’d be no page without at least one such image. So, like any curious person, I thought I’d look into it. I knew it was a game, but I expected it to be some sort of game in which the personalities of the characters are thoroughly displayed, which would explain why they are so loved by everyone. I was extremely surprised when I found out that the games are probably the worst genre to showcase characters: a top-down space shooter!


Well, I call it “space shooter” to distinguish it from the term “arcade shooter” (like The Chaos Engine), but it doesn’t actually take place in space. I’m actually pretty fond of shooters, but there are two things I hate about them: if your ammo is limited and you die from a single hit. Well, I can say this about the Touhou games, at least you don’t run out of ammo.

But before I look into the games themselves, let me talk about the Touhou Project as a whole. Interestingly enough, it is a doujin game. Remember that term? Doujin? It featured in my video review of When Seagulls Cry [Umineko no Naku Koro ni]. Ah, you mean to say I didn’t release that one yet? Don’t worry, it’s still in the works. So, a doujin game, or comic, or whatever is an amateur creation, usually a fanfic spin-off, but not necessarily. It has huge support in Japan and you can actually make it big with such productions. Touhou is a prime example. The whole production team behind the project features a single man, ZUN, who did the programming, art, music, everything. Commendable, considering the project is at its 12th title.

The project mostly follows two main characters, Hakurei Reimu, a shrine maiden, and Kirisame Marisa, a western-type witch, who do all sorts of things to save Gensokyo, the place of the Touhou games, from all sorts of disasters brought about by evil spirits.

Some of the features which are constant in the project are the weapons and behaviours of the characters. Reimu fires homing shots, or otherwise covers a large area of the screen, while being quite slow, whereas Marisa deals large amounts of damage directly in front of her, and has considerable higher movement speeds than her eastern counterpart. Also, by collecting drops from the enemies, you can improve the spread/power of your weapon (depending on character), but you can never change your firing mode. Also, by holding down a certain key, you enter a so-called “focus mode”, in which you move a lot more slowly and smoothly, while concentrating fire in front of you, this being useful when dodging the shots of bosses, and believe me, there are plenty to dodge. You may also use “spell cards”, which other games call bombs or whatnot, which clear the screen of enemies and at the same time render you invulnerable for a limited amount of time. The important feature of spell cards is that if you press them right after being hit by an opponent, they will still trigger, which allows you to barely survive the shot. Mastering this technique, as well as flawless dodging, are the keys to defeating the game.

The first title to appear on the PC was the 6th game, and I’ve played them starting with that. I’m going to tell you my opinion about them, write a little something about each that I’ve played.

Touhou 6 – Embodiment of Scarlet Devil
If you plan on playing Project Touhou, I suggest you start with this game. It is probably the most iconic, as it introduces the main characters (on the PC at least), as well as important bosses, such as Cirno, Hong Meirin, Patchouli Knowledge, Sakuya Izayoi, and Remilia Scarlet. It is pretty hard. I didn’t manage to finish the game on normal difficulty, not even using 3 continues. I always lost a lot of lives fighting Sakuya Izayoi at the end of stage 5, and by the time I got to the final boss, Remilia Scarlet, at the end of stage 6, I had very little chances of beating her. However, the game is very good as it introduces the mechanics of the series and, like I’ve said, introduces the characters. Also, this is the only one I’ve played which is 100% in English.

Touhou 7 – Perfect Cherry Blossom
This one had an error when I tried to open the archive, so I didn’t get to play it. Moving on…

Touhou 7.5 – Immaterial and Missing Power
This one had a different error, and wouldn’t start either. I read that it’s a fighting game, which must be interesting, but there’s another one down the line which I’ve played, so I guess it’s ok to skip this one too.

Touhou 8 – Imperishable Night
This is my favourite in the series. It has an interesting mechanic, which implies changing the firing mode of a character while being in focus mode. The reason for this is that you actually play as a pair of characters, a human one and a youkai, some sort of spirit. When you focus, you actually activate your youkai, which fires in a different way. This is a pretty cool mechanic. Once you finish the game and obtain the good ending (by not using up a continue), you are allowed to play with single characters, either human or youkai, retaining your firing style. Also, the story goes that something strange has happened to the moon and an eternal night threatens the land. You start the game at 11:00 PM and you5:00 AM. You have a certain number of “time points” to accumulate each level. If meet the quota, the timer moves only 30 minutes, but if you don’t it moves 1 hour. If you reach 5:00 AM, you get a bad ending. You gain time points by either shooting and killing enemies while in human mode, or by dodging shots while in youkai mode. Also, it seemed to me that this game was easier than the rest, since I managed to finish the game and get a normal ending (used 1 continue) on the first try. I totally recommend this one.

Touhou 9 – Phantasmagoria of Flower View
This one is weird. It features a strange side-by-side battle interface, reminiscent of Puyo Puyo. I don’t really understand how it works, but from what I’ve seen, if you engage your charged attack (which is different from your spell cards), a version of yourself appears over at the enemies side and attacks him/her. Also, besides your enemy, there are mobs flying al over your screen, as well as your opponent’s. This one isn’t particularly hard, but I just didn’t like it.

Touhou 9.5 – Shoot the Bullet
This one is very interesting. It has a different gameplay from the other ones. You play as Aya Shameimaru, a tengu (hyena spirit) reporter, and you need to take close-up pictures of the spirits threatening the land for the headlines. You get to meet a lot of the bosses from the other games and your only weapon is your camera. In this game, you face off bosses only and you need to take a certain number of snapshots of each one of them. When you take a snapshot, the bullets in the captured frame disappear, but you have to wait a few seconds for the film to load. Also, if you don’t get the boss itself in the frame, the snapshot doesn’t count towards your quota. The gameplay is interesting, but it gets hard very fast. It’s really enjoyable, but more than that, I loved the flavour of it. Aya became my favourite character, because she is willing to risk herself like a true reporter. Sure, when you’re a witch it’s normal to fight off evil spirits to save the world, but she’s just a tiny wittwe spiwit, so her courage is admirable. Thumbs up for Aya Shameimaru!

Touhou 10 – Mountain of Faith
This one probably sets the standard for the newer Tohou games. The cast of playable characters is reduced to the original two: Hakurei Reimu and Kirisame Marisa. This time though, they have three fighting styles, instead of the original two, so you basically get 6 characters. The power level of your attack is made a lot more visible, since when you gain an extra level, an orb appears next to you, and it’s this orb which releases the extra shots. Also, the spell card system has been modified, since now you don’t have any, instead, when you use a spell card, you lose one power level. This has its ups and downs. The positive aspect is that you can recover spell cards pretty quickly, however, if you’re not good at dodging and rely on your spell cards too much, you’ll end up facing the boss at level 0 pretty fast. Also, the continue system has been changed. You only start with 2 lives (which is a really small amount, in my opinion) and you have unlimited continues, however, when you use up a continue, you start from the beginning of the stage, instead of where you were at. The game itself isn’t that hard, but the fact that you have to finish each stage in just two lives makes it a bit annoying, rather than challenging.

Touhou 10.5 – Scarlet Weather Rhapsody
This is the fighting game I’ve been talking about. I really liked it. The gameplay and graphics are nice (using chibi characters), and if you’re into the characters, you’ll enjoy pitching them one against the other in full contact magic-enhanced combat rather than the usual top-down shooting battles. If you’re playing the singleplayer campaign, you’ll have to fight the characters one after the other in classic tournament style, however, when you deplete a character’s health bar, they activate their spell cards, and will proceed to kill you using a pattern of strong attacks. While they use their spell cards, the characters can’t be knocked down or interrupted, and they usually fill the screen with shots, but we’re used to that by now. Overall I think it’s a really nice adaptation.

Touhou 11 – Subterranean Animism
The gameplay in this one is pretty much a copy of Mountain of Faith. There is not much to say, except that they changed the attack forms of the characters and that they are really shitty this time around. I only played this up to the second or third stage, and really didn’t get into it that much. The feeling in this one is closer to Embodiment of Scarlet Devil than is that of Mountain of Faith, however, I still think I liked Mountain of Faith more, since the attacks were what I was used to. Also, in this one, using a spell card will only make you invincible, without clearing the stage, which is pretty lame sometimes. But in the end, I think both Mountain of Faith and Subterranean Animismare far down in my list, just above Phantasmagoria of Flower View.

So, that’s all for Touhou. I haven’t played the newer games, and I’m not really into them that much. Like I said, I just wanted to get to know the characters a little better, and for that purposes, it worked. It is pleasant to recognise the characters when I browse Danbooru lately. If you’re interested in finding out a bit about them, or just want to play a shooter and test your skill, I recommend you try the games, at least for a few minutes.

Next time, Rebuilding the Awesomeness.

Friend Fact:
Favourite ice cream flavour? Definitely stracciatella. Also, I have this concept that there are two kinds of ice cream: fruits and nuts. When you eat fruits, you should only have fruit flavours (strawberry, banana, pineapple, peach, pumpkin), and when you eat nuts, you should only have nut flavours in it (coconut, coffee, walnut, caramel, mint). I know some aren’t fruits and some aren’t nuts, that’s just the name I gave them. Also, chocolate and vanilla are the two flavours which go with both kinds.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kiddy Bleh...

Actually, I had intended to write a summary of some anime I’ve finished recently, as well as ongoing anime that I’m currently watching. Then I decided to split that post into two: one with the anime I’ve finished, and one with the ongoing ones. In the end, this anime got it’s own post, because it’s so special… it makes me want to puke.

I had written two posts about the sequel to my beloved Kiddy Grade, one in which I discussed the awesomeness of the teaser, and one (not so long ago), in which I talked about how bad it turned out to be. I still wanted to review it, so I forced myself to watch it through till the end. It actually took me a while, because the subbing group I was originally following decided to drop it. Since my PC doesn’t run HD, I had a hard time finding a decent SD sub. It seems like no one wanted to sub this. Reminds me of another series, whose sequel was so bad that people avoided touching it with a ten-foot pole. Yes, I’m talking about Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-. The thing is, that was a much better sequel to the original than this anime is. However, deep inside my broken heart, I am very much in denial, and keep believing that this is actually a spin-off, and the true Kiddy Grade 2, Kiddy Generation (or whatever title it was supposed to have) will one day surface to shine.

Ok, let’s jump head first into this juicy pool of crap… Let’s start of by analysing the characters. When I first saw the teaser, I couldn’t tell which character is which. I mean, I expected a hot-headed Éclair-wannabe and a rational Lumière-copy. But the teaser showed two girls whose personalities you couldn’t make out just from their looks. I was expecting magnificent, new characters, with unique personalities. Instead, I got one-dimensional blandness. Let me explain: Éclair was indeed rash and tomboyish, but she changed so much throughout the series, and had a compassionate motherly side to her which made her lovable; while Lumière was not just some stuck up smartass damsel in distress, but was genuinely elegant and would many times take initiative to act.

Q-feuille and Ascoeur are nothing like that… in the bad sense of the word. Asceour is not hot-headed or rash, she is outright stupid and fumbling. Nothing she says can be taken seriously. There are some really strong moments in the series (surprisingly), which are ruined by her bad personality (I’ll get to these later). Q-feuille seems like a character added only to balance out the stupidity of her partner, and she’s not doing a good job at it. They seem more like a Japanese comedy duo, Ascoeur being the boke and Q-feuille providing the tsukkomi. It is pathetic… Also, since Ascoeur is supposed to be the silly one, I guess that’s why they changed the character design, since she originally looked too much like Lumière, and wouldn’t do.

Then, at one point in the story, we are introduced to Di-air. She is the third member of the team, and is pretty much a third wheel, to the entire story no less! I think the whole series would have been better off without her. She seems so useless, providing nothing but comic relief, the introduction of her pet TAMA seriously destroying character interaction and conversations. I want to forget about her as fast as possible.

I’m not going to talk about their ship and robot, because quite frankly, I didn’t think much about them. Unlike La Muse/Wirbelwind and Donnerschlag, which you become really fond of, and feel the characters’ sorrow at their loss, Mistral and Typhon strike no emotional importance and are seen, at least through my eyes, as disposable machinery.

I am going to talk about the villains, however. They seem like the most interesting characters in the story. Sure, Geacht’er has a serious sister complex, making every girl (possibly even Shade) around him his sister princess, but besides that, they seem like really interesting characters. They each have tragic backgrounds and owe Geacht’er their life, which is repaid through their unquestioned loyalty. It is interesting to see, however, how some villains defect from his cause when they find out the true nature of his actions, while some remain loyal.

Now, I’m going to go into the story somewhat, since that’s all that’s left to talk about. The general story is almost ok, but there are some really annoying filler episodes. If you watch Kiddy Grade carefully, you’ll notice that there are virtually no fillers. The sequel has some, and they are all very annoying. In one such episode, the girls travel to a holiday planet, and wear swimsuits throughout the entire episode, as if it were the obligatory seaside episode of a harem anime. Once again, it is pathetic…

Now, if I clench my teeth together really hard, I can bear with the stupid characters, the useless comic relief and everything else, up until episode 12, when something unforgivable happens. They break canon. That’s right, they break canon, something unforgivable for a sequel or spin-off or whatever. They say that Éclair’s ability is that of Space Manipulation and Lumière’s is that of Time Manipulation. Bullshit!!! Not even Lumière’s G-Class ability, Particle, has anything to do with time manipulation, all it does is manipulate matter at particle level, and she can’t use it for a prolonged period of time anyway! So yes, they break canon, and from that point on, the whole series talks about space/time manipulation, as though it were as simple as walking a dog. Also, space/time manipulation becomes the central plot point, and it gets mentioned as much as nuclear weapons in Metal Gear Solid. It is a serious letdown in the story. If they had gone with the original Teleportation for Ascoeur and Precognition for Q-feuille, it would have been interesting, however, when they obtain these awesome Space/Time Manipulation powers, it seems like they move to a wholly different league, yet still get beaten up pretty bad at times. It’s like watching a bad X-Men episode. And another thing about abilities, they emphasise “resonance” a lot, which has to do with partners sharing abilities, or boosting them. Nothing of that sort was discussed in the original series. A-ou and Un-ou could share their abilities, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum could combine their abilities, but that’s it, there was no generalised concept of such a thing.

Another annoying thing was all the kissing. I’m really not against kissing. I’m not a child that goes “gross!” whenever they see someone kiss, but it’s just too much! Di-air regularly kisses both Ascoeur and Q-feuille to boost their powers, Geacht’er kisses Ascoeur to bring back her memories, Ascoeur kisses Q-feuille to join their powers, it’s really disgusting after a while. I actually ended up turning away from the screen during the last episode, when it got too much. Only in the last episode, they kiss four times! Mind you, in Kiddy Grade, they only kissed once, and that was a truly heartfelt moment. Not the case here…

And another thing I can’t forgive them, the way they destroy the coolness of old characters. I’m going to point out three things here: One, during one episode, you find out Hiver and Sommer’s true identities, and it’s really awesome, but the mood is ruined by Ascoeur’s stupid behaviour. It would have been so nice if they worked on it a little more.

Two, during the last episode, you get to see Viuola/Cesario and Dextra/Sinistra teams joining the fight. This is awesome in itself; however, you get no explanation where they come from. When I first saw the teaser, I noticed some really awesome things: the logo has changed from GOTT to GTO, the headquarters has changed, the Director has changed, some teams have changed, however, some teams have remained (Tweedledee/Tweedledum and A-ou/Un-ou). I wondered, why did these teams remain? What happened to the others? Apparently, nothing, since they join the final fight; but they didn’t serve under GTO during the series. Why? Explain movie! Explain! (ß paying homage here). My guess is that they were also frozen in time during the accident, and got unfrozen when all hell broke loose, but it’s really not explained.

The third and worse crime is that they bring back Éclair and Lumière during the last episodes, and they each have only 2 lines. One line is them presenting themselves, and the other is each of them saying their catchphrases… … … Seriously? Is that the only thing Éclair and Lumière mean to you? Catchphrases?! You know what? Fuck you! Seriously, I hope there’s a special place in hell for the people who made this awful sequel (I think they can burn in the same pot as the guys who make really bad remakes).

Well yeah, that’s the Kiddy Grade 2 we’ve been so wholeheartedly waiting for. Kiddy Girl-and… just saying it makes my face contort in all sorts of painful expressions. The people responsible for this should pray that they never cross paths with me. I’m now going to purge myself of this vile excrement, by watching the Kiddy Grade movies.

Next time, A Hell Made of Bullets!

Friend Fact:
What anime-related song makes my eyes water whenever I listen to it? That would be Shiroi Kisetsu, the theme from the Kana ~Little Sister~ eroge. Granted, it’s not anime, but it’s anime-ish enough to answer the question. I’ve yet to work up enough courage to play the game through a second time, despite my brother’s encouragement to do so. If you don’t know about it, play the game, it will change your life.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Machol Romania is Born!

Well, here I am, writing about Machol Romania. Honestly, I don’t even know where to start.

We arrived before the appointed time, at ten in the morning, and were worried that we’d have to wait in the lobby till we could check in. It turned out that it wasn’t so. The organisers were already there, and they were very nice to welcome us with bread and brandy. I checked in and loitered around, helping the organisers when I could. We were waiting for the rest of the people to arrive. As they started pouring in, the organisers were really too busy to stay with the instructors during lunch, so I ended up keeping them company. I had known Oren, from Machol Ungaria, but I didn’t know anything about Eran. It was really nice having lunch with them (I use that phrase, though actually I didn’t eat myself), since this close encounter allowed be to get to know them both better. They both gave me a positive impression, and I was looking forward to the sessions with them.

In the evening, we had the opening party. I was surprised to people from so many countries (Bulgaria, Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, Israel, Serbia, Turkey). We had a menorah put up, and we all placed our blessings for the machol inside. It was a very nice moment. Here’s a video of the first day:


The next day, we started the dance sessions. They were awesome. Both the songs and the dances, the instructors and the young instructors, everything was very nice. We were split up into three groups: beginner, advanced, and seniors. Most of the participants were in the advanced group, so we used the largest hall, which was actually the hotel’s restaurant, after having cleared out the tables. We barely fit even there. It was awesome. This second day, we had the baby party. Honestly, at first I thought this was a stupid idea, but in the end, it turned out really well. Here are the highlights:


The third day, once again, we had dance sessions. I think this was the day we had a debka session, and it was awesome! Thank you Lena for the great dance you’ve taught us! In the evening, we had a very nice Kabalat Shabbat, followed by an amazing Shabbat meal. I was really impressed by Eran’s sefardi-style kiddush, and even though we didn’t have music, we would sing and dance along, well into the night. It was a very memorable Shabbat experience, and I’m sorry for not praising it in the feedback (hope someone from amongst the organisers is reading this post). Here are the highlights:


The next day, we went to Brasov and Bran, and it was a lot of fun… or so I think. Honestly, I was sleeping the whole time. I got wasted the night before, and was resting up, as well as working on a project I had due the day right after machol ended. This was the last night, in which we had the Yom Haatzmaut party. It was a huge success, and surprisingly, a lot of people stayed up, dancing till morning. At seven, we went to eat breakfast, and it was very funny, since the rest of the gang had already gone to sleep, so it was only Dana, Eliza, Erwin and myself, all four of us almost collapsing due to lack of sleep.

Then, we had to make our bags and go home, and everyone was “I’m so sad it’s over!” And it’s true, we really were. It was a really amazing experience overall. The place was good, the food was good, the people were good, the instructors were good, the atmosphere was good, everything. I do have a few complaints, but those are of a technical nature: the internet connection was miserable, and at one point the whole system crashed, and we couldn’t enter our rooms, since they were using magnetic cards instead of old school mechanical locks. But those are small details, compared to the real fun I had there. I also think that everyone else agrees with me. Congratulations to the organisers for making the very first Machol Romania such a huge success! Looking forward to next year!



Next time, Kiddy Bleh...!

Friend Fact:
You know about those annoying Friend Facts on Facebook? Well, I've decided to add some facts about me at the end of every post. This way you'll get to know me better. It's easier than dedicating a post to what kind of ice cream I like or who my favourite bass player is. However, don't get startled if these facts turn out to be a bit weird (read "anime-related"). Today's fact? I've added the "Jewish" tag, and this is the first post to wear it. Will I update the past ones to have it? I don't know. Probably not. Why? I'm just lazy! :P

Monday, May 10, 2010

Clash of the Giant CG Monsters... in Pseudo-3D

NOTE: I want to finish this entry fast and get down to more important things (i.e. Machol Romania), however, I promised you I’d do this review, so here goes, but I’ll keep it short.


You knew this would happen sooner or later. If you know me, then surely you know how much I loved Clash of the Titans. Not only is it my favourite movie using Ray Harryhausen effects, it is one of my favourite movies of all time. It keeps the story of Perseus simple, yet engaging, truly capturing the epic feel of Greek mythology, with solid acting, amazing effects (for the time) and a very well-paced story.

When I went to see Alice in Wonderland and saw the trailer for the remake of Clash of the Titans, it actually left a bad taste in my mouth. I knew the movie would suck. Not because I have a prejudice against remakes, but because I honestly loathe bad remakes, and from my own experience, remakes nowadays tend to be really bad. So what were the chances of this one actually being good? Pretty slim. Well, it didn’t disappoint in any way… it sucks so hard that time and space get distorted around it.

So, let’s make a comparison between the two, shall we? And let’s hope I won’t get struck down because of this blasphemy.

Story
The original story is pretty straightforward. Perseus falls in love with the princess Andromeda, who is under a curse and can’t marry anyone else, but the one who answers a mysterious riddle that changes every day. Using gifts from the gods, Perseus frees her from her curse, but when they would get married, due to a slip of her mother’s tongue (because she’s overwhelmed by joy, nonetheless) which ends up offending the goddess Thetis, Andromeda is fated to be sacrificed to the kraken. Perseus goes in search of Medusa, whose head can turn anything to stone, even the kraken, an immortal titan. Of course, Perseus succeeds, the kraken is defeated, he marries Andromeda and they live happily ever after. It is an appealing story of love and courage typical for Greek mythology.

The remake focuses a lot more on the war between gods and men (when did that ever happen?). Perseus’ parents and sister are killed by Hades when he makes an attack on the city of Argos. Andromeda insults the gods out of vanity, not ecstasy, and Andromeda ends up being cursed the same way as in the original. Perseus finds out that the kraken was made from Hades’ flesh (what?), so he decides to kill it, in order to weaken Hades and ultimately defeat him, to get his revenge. The outcome is very much the same as in the original, except instead of the wedding, Perseus banishes Hades back to the underworld. Now, my question is: isn’t love a strong enough force to drive this story forward? Is revenge really that much more appropriate? Does it have to do with the violence surrounding us in our everyday lives? Does revenge feel more authentic than love? In the end, it might, but I think it doesn’t involve the viewers enough to warrant a change of the classic erotic theme (and by this I mean love, not something pornographic you’d find on 4chan) so deeply enrooted within the mythology we’re talking about.

Heroes
I’ve talked about Perseus before somewhat, by saying that he’s driven by revenge rather than love. However, that alone makes him a completely different character. The original Perseus is innocent, somewhat naïve, much like Zeus describes him. He always learns things, from the owner of the amphitheatre, from the captain of the guards, from the Stygian witches, and he is confident, in a childish “I’m playing the hero” manner, which I think you would expect a mythological hero to be like. The remake Perseus is filled with rage, listens to no one, shows no interest in anything but his revenge. You’d think “this sounds like a baddass Kratos”, but sadly that’s far from the truth. Deep inside, remake Perseus is weak, and I think overall he is pathetic. His confidence comes from stubbornness and the love interest he develops for Io (what’s she doing in this story?) is more than superficial.

The other characters are very different in the two versions as well. The owner of the amphitheatre takes the role of the wise mentor, however, when he sees things of legend (such as Perseus’ gifts, or the Pegasus), he is genuinely surprised. In the remake, this role is somewhat undertaken by Perseus’ adoptive father, whose only important role is saying that he loves Perseus like his own son and somewhat justifies Perseus’ rage when he is killed. Also, at one point, he says “Perseus, I am your father”, at which point everybody in the cinema laughed; you can’t use that line seriously since Star Wars.

The princess Andromeda and the queen Cassiopeia are very nicely outlined in the original movie. Andromeda’s despair when no one would show up as a suitor is so clearly read on her expression. Cassiopeia, although having a small role, is shown powerful and proud, yet understanding of her place. When she compares her daughter’s beauty to that of the gods’, she immediately realises her mistake, but it is too late. In the remake, these two characters are bland. Andromeda as Perseus’ love interest is replaced by Io, who pretty much guides him throughout his adventure, but seems just as one-dimensional as the other two characters.

The captain of the guards pays an important role in both stories. Given, he gets more attention in the remake, however, I think it has the opposite effect on his character development. I felt a much stronger connection with the original captain of the guards, without knowing things like how he lost his child to the wrath of the gods (or should I say “days of judgment”?) and without his heroic (yet utterly stupid) sacrifice in the face of Medusa.

The remake has a cast of extra characters which are just too stupid to even touch on. Seriously, it includes two hunters which remind me of something from the Conan the Adventurer TV series, as well as djinns. That’s right, djinns. I’m certain the people who wrote the script didn’t spend any skill points in Knowledge (Mythology). Honestly, I think the remake has less to do with Greek mythology than the God of War video game trilogy… and that’s a huge offence in case you didn’t catch it.

Villains
Actually, there are no real villains in the original story, per se. Perseus’ main foe is the fate bestowed upon Andromeda by the goddess Thetis. Note, I didn’t say that Thetis herself is the foe, by no means, what she does is legitimate, so much that even Zeus can’t get in the way (apparently the gods respect each others’ vanity more so than the happiness of their demigod children). Of course, this dooming fate combines with the creature Calibos, who is Thetis’s son, punished by Zeus because he kills off the majestic winged horses (leaving only the stallion, Pegasus). Calibos is the one who cursed Andromeda in the first place, and when Perseus lifts the curse, he cuts off the beast’s hand. Even though Calibos demands vengeance, Thetis is unable to act until she is mocked by Cassiopeia. The original story subtly outlines the rules that exist in the world of the gods.

The remake has one clear villain: Hades. He wants to overthrow Zeus, because he tricked him into ruling the underworld, while he got to rule the heavens (really now, can anyone take this joke seriously?). Of course, he enlists the aid of Calibos, whose true identity is replaced in the remake by Acrisius, the husband of Perseus’ mother, who in the original was destroyed by the kraken. I really don’t understand; what do people have against Hades? Sure, hell sounds bad, but the underworld wasn’t really hell. Hades isn’t Satan, people! He’s not a bad guy. He contributes to the balance of life and death existing in Greek mythology. Also, he is a badass. He is the supreme ruler of the dead, and not even Zeus can stand up to that (in certain aspects). However, here, he is pretty much a pussy boy, though you have to give him credit for scheming instead of a direct attack. Heck, they should have made him Loki instead of Hades; that would have fitted with his personality. What’s that? It’s a different mythology? It doesn’t matter in this movie; we have djinns for crying out loud!!!

Effects
Granted, the effects of the remake are far superior to those of the original, even if they were state-of-the-art back then… … … … that’s what you expected me to say, right? Wrong! Truth be told, some effects are really good, especially the kraken, Calibos, and the aura of Hades (even if he is a useless character). However, that doesn’t mean much. The giant scorpions, for example, move very robot-like, unlike real insects. The stop-motion used in the original befitted the giant scorpions a lot better. Also, Medusa is beautiful until she tries to turn someone into stone, which seems to happen at will, instead of automatically. If that were the case, it wouldn’t be much of a curse, now would it? The original Medusa looked a lot more frightening to me, though that might be because I saw the movie when I was a kid. Also, there were a lot of useless effects (i.e. the lightsaber), useless characters (i.e. the djinns), and useless scenes (i.e. fighting the head djinn and the Stygian witches). I didn’t know where to put those complaints, so I added them here.

Also, I have a complaint, which may sound weird. Technically, this movie was supposed to be 3D. I’m not dying over seeing movies in 3D, but it seems to be the norm, so whatever. The thing is, even though it was marketed as a 3D movie, the actual 3D content is well under twenty percent, and even those scenes suffer from blurry character edges, rather than 3D effects. My take on it is that it was originally supposed to be a regular 2D movie, but when they went into post-production, Avatar came out, and its huge success determined the staff to turn this movie into 3D, in the last minute. It failed miserably. (NOTE: I later learned that this is in fact true…)

Overall
Now, before anything, I have to admit that I liked two things a lot. One of them was the kraken. It didn’t have the fish-like look of the original one, but still retained its monstrous nature. It took a few whole minutes for it to completely emerge from the water, which was really cool. Then, it roared, which really sent shivers down my spine, and it was awesome. Then two minutes later it was dead, which was lame. They should have given it more screen time; it was by far the coolest thing in the movie. The second thing I liked was Calibos. Not the fact that they changed his nature, but the design and the badassness of the character were awesome. When he took on Perseus and his entire band single-handedly, even killing some of them (if I remember correctly), was really sweet.

Besides those two points, the movie sucked and blew all over. If it were up to me, I would have either made a remake of the original abiding by the story and just spicing up the effects (even though you still need good acting, which this movie lacked horribly, despite the fact that the original wasn’t in the award-winning category when it came to acting either); or I would have made a completely different story, turning Perseus into a badass Kratos ripoff, where he would rape Andromeda while choking Calibos with his own bowels.

Next time, Machol Romania is Born!

NOTE: In God of War 2, you actually face Perseus as a boss. It’s a really funny battle, where Kratos takes no break in showing off his awesomeness.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Machol Romania

I'll be off to the first edition of Machol Romania tonight. I was actually hoping to post something today, but was busy packing and shit. I hope I'll finish it there, and post it when I get back, or maybe even sooner. Next time, Clash of the Giant CG Monsters... in Pseudo-3D. Look forward to it!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2010 Spring Anime Breakdown

Well, it’s spring, and anime are blooming all around more so than Krosa’s, Llanowar’s and Yavimaya’s vegetation all put together (if you don’t get the joke, don’t worry). Honestly, in all my years watching anime, I haven’t seen such a diverse and full anime season as this one. There’s something for everyone’s taste, however, from all the anime there, more than half of them are to my liking (which is a rare thing). So, I’ll be making a breakdown of these anime, but I’ll only be talking about the ones I’m watching, I won’t make any comments on the ones I don’t know anything about. I’ll tackle them in alphabetical order, I think that’s fair. Here we go:

Angel Beats!
You know all those shounen anime where the characters go to high school during the day and fight supernatural beings by night, being part of a secret organization? Angel Beats! turns this whole thing around and takes it to a new level. From the very first scene we find ourselves confronting the heroine, Yurippe, aiming a big-ass rifle (I’ll leave it to my brother to detail exactly what kind of rifle it is) at a white-haired girl in the distance and telling our main hero that he is dead and that this high school represents the afterlife and that they have to fight the white-haired girl, who is actually an angel, because if they don’t, they’ll be erased. What follows is action, humour, a diverse cast of characters and a strange desire to find out the truth. Yurippe, the heroine, gives off an aura similar to Haruhi Suzumiya, both because of the character design, as well as her bossy attitude, however she shows the compassion the tsundere Haruhi so rarely revealed. At first it seemed like a funny anime which one would take lightly, then, during the second episode, Yurippe reveals the memories of her (past) life and suddenly you freeze. Shock, fear, pity and disgust are the only feelings that linger after her story. Remember So-Ra-No-Wo-To? You know, this winter’s light-hearted comedy anime which half-way turns into a military drama? If you don’t remember it, don’t worry, I’m gonna have a review up soon. Anyway, that was the anime shock of that season, and I think this little gem will be the anime shock of this season. It’s funny, surprising, exciting and heart-warming at the same time. There’s huge potential behind this anime and I’m looking forward to more.

Arakawa Under the Bridge
I believe every season has an anime which relly is out there, and certainly Arakawa Under the Bridge is the candidate for this season. What if you are the successful son of a successful company president? What if your life philosophy was to never ever owe a debt to anyone? What if suddenly a homeless girl saves your life? The obvious answer is that you take her into your home and a slapstick romantic comedy ensues. That’s not really what happens here. The twist is, the girl doesn’t want a home, she is very satisfied living under the bridge, instead her request is “fall in love with me”. And that’s how Ichinomiya Kou ends up being Nino-san’s lover and starts living with her under the bridge. To top it all off, she’s a Venusian (or so she claims). And she’s not alone, the riverbed is full of strange characters: the Village Chied, who’s a kappa; Shiro, who made a rule to marry a chicken if he stepped off the white lines; Sister, the local nun, who carries around an uzi and would resemble a Sister of Battle more than a nun, if he were a woman to begin with; and many many more. The whole story is seen through the skeptic eyes of Kou who is drawn into this weird community against his will, reminiscent of Kyon being dragged by the necktie into the club room by the violent Haruhi, resulting in all sorts of misadventures. If weird is to your liking, you’ll love this.

B Gata H Kei
Japanese animation is really pushing their western audience to the limit with shows such as this one. The show follows a young girl, Yamada, who’s just gotten into high school (aged 15), and her goal is to obtain 100 sex friends before graduation. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see anything wrong with this premise. I mean it. Honest. There have been harem anime by the hundreds (if not thousands), it was about time the main character was a girl chasing boys and not the other way around. Now I have to admit that the heroine (if you can call her that) is more direct than your usual slightly perverted male stuck in pleasant yet embarrassing situations (often leading to painful consequences). As such, she has no qualms with stripping out of the blue in the library in front of the guy she wants to have sex with. When asked by a friend if she was worried about having a slutty reputation, she eagerly answers “But I want that kind of reputation.” Of course, she is a virgin and is afraid that she would mess things up, so in order to have a successful first time, she tries to find a guy who’s a virgin and even more inexperienced than her, but still hot. She sets her eyes on Takashi Kosuda, who is a huge loser (and not only that, but he gets a hard on from almost kissing her… get a grip, man!), and their complicated relationship gives rise to comical situations galore. No, you don’t have to be a genius to foresee that she’s going to fall in love with the guy, unless something really unexpected happens by the end of the series. So, all in all, why is this anime worth mentioning? Two such reasons, actually. Again, it may be just me, but I think Yamada is beautiful, by anime standards, of course. Maybe it’s because everyone in the anime says she is, and so you tend to see her like that, however I feel that she gives off an aura much like Allison from Allison & Lillia, or Kurumi from Kimi ni Todoke. That may not be a reason for watcing the anime in itself, however, the second one is: this series is hilarious. Once again, it may be just me (if you don’t like my taste in anime, why are you reading this post?), but this anime made me laughing harder than any other anime this season. The situations are somewhat foreseeable, yet they really surpass all expectations and leave you with tears in your eyes and stomach aches in your… well… stomach.

Heroman
Honestly, what does this title make you think of? If it’s old school mecha shounen, then you’ve hit the spot! The hero, Joey (yes, he is American, the whole series is set in the States, isn’t that awesome, for starters?!), is very kind-hearted, but poor and is being bullied at school by the rich kids. He’s friends with a nutty professor (doesn’t this sound like Back to the Future?) who manages to make contact with an alien race who decides to invade the Earth. A broken robot toy that one of the rich kids throws away finds shelter and love in the arms of Joey, and when it is zapped by some kind of dimensional-whatever ray, it becomes the only thing that can stop the invading alien race. I can’t believe I wrote that summary. Please go back and read it again, then ask yourselves “why in the world would I want to watch this?” The answer is, because it’s nostalgic. Surely if you haven’t watched anything similar in your childhood, stay far away from this anime. But if you’ve seen any shounen anime or even heroic cartoons back in the 80s and 90s, hell, this is the best thing there is to bring out your inner child! When I read the synopsis and decided to give it a try, I was a bit skeptic myself, but then I was absorbed and found it genuinely entertaining. It has some fantastic animation, but retains all the clichés and good bits of those old anime and cartoons we used to grow up on. If you don’t know what to do, let me give you a hint: if you’ve even remotely liked Power Rangers or Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, give the first episode a go, you will immediately know if you want to continue watching or not.

K-On!!
It is important to note that there are two exclamation marks in the title. Yes, this is the second season (if you look it up, you’ll notice the first one had only one exclamation mark). I’m actually listening to the ending theme while I’m writing this review, it’s simply amazing. If you felt that K-On! ended too soon, if you felt your heart throbbing faster when you were about to watch the later released OAV, then this is the thing for you. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading and go watch the first season. Ok, I’m still going to explain what this is about, besides it being pretty much useless, since those who know about it don’t need explaining, and those who don’t, won’t care, but here goes. In anime, there is a thing called moe. I’ve come to realize it’s what the overrated “normal” people find discusting in anime: the sweet voices, the big eyes, the tsundere (characters which are violent on the outside, but deep inside feel attached and care about others), the girls with glasses, the cat ears, the clumsy maids, the childhood friends… all of that. Most anime have at least one element of moe, a few lack it entirely, while some thrive on it, with moe oozing out of every possible crevice, making you go “cuuuuuuuuuute!!!” every two seconds. K-On! is one such anime. If I were to compare it to something, I would most likely say it resembles Manabi Straight! The second season continues where the first one left off and it doesn’t disappoint in any way (especially with the awesome new opening and ending).

Kiss x Sis
Another bold one, not for your average westerner. This series has seen some really bad reviews, mostly due to the controversial nature of its content. Ok, completely due to the controversial nature of its content. Simply put, it’s an incest anime. Now, this may not be surprising if it were a hentai, however, it’s not. At least, not entirely. There are certainly no explicit scenes, and the nipples are removed, which allows for it to air during child-friendly hours. However, this does not change the content. A guy and his twin stepsisters, they have a crush on him, he likes it, but considers it wrong, the parents actually encourage it, the girls tease him sexually, what more can I say? I would actually go as far as classifying this as soft hentai. While a few years back, something as innocent as Futari Ecchi was labeled hentai, nowadays we get away with this not being called that. I think it’s somewhere on the same level though. Who would enjoy this series, besides your average otaku? Probably someone who would enjoy B Gata H Kei (though it is nowhere near as good as that series, also I believe that one is suited for a broader audience), or Chu-Bra!! (again, suited for a broader audience), or something along these lines. There’s really not much more to add. Either you like it, or you don’t. Period. Next!

Rainbow
And we’ve finally arrived in the land of serious anime. Right before the anime starts, we get a notice warning us about the explicit content of the anime (explicit being written in red characters), and also the need to use such explicit scenes in order to accurately portray the events of the time. This anime is not about sex or violence. It is about inmates, which may or may not have to do with sex or violence. The anime focuses on seven youngsters in post-WW2 Japan, when the economy is booming, having been blown up (I know, stupid pun). The narrator tells us that the ones to suffer most were the children, and immediately we are shown six of the seven inmates being transported to the correctional facility. The only explicit scene in the first episode is an anal check-up to see if they “have hemorrhoids, parasites or weapons”, as the doctor kindly puts it. The oppressive guard is a cliché, but the atmosphere is indeed gritty and the overall feel of the anime is very realistic. Reminds me of Papillon. It’s actually too early to pass judgment on this one, but it looks really promising. The atmosphere and the characters are a hit. Let’s hope the story doesn’t flop.

Senkou no Night Raid
This is probably the best anime in the season. It has everything: fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles… well, it doesn’t really have all that, if that’s what you’re looking for, check out the Princess Bride. But what this anime has is action, drama, spies, superpowers and more. Set in Shanghai between the two world wars, the story follows the actions of an elite Japanese spyforce (I just invented that word, cool, isn’t it?) armed with paranormal powers. Now, leaving aside the fact that the four squad members pretty much exhaust the uses of “tele-“ as a prefix (having telekinesis, telescopic vision, telepathy and teleportation), the intrigues and stories are really good. They remind me of old spy TV series, such as The Saint or The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but with superpowers… like The Avengers. That’s right; this anime feels very much like The Avengers. It is very well paced, the story is serious, the action isn’t over the top, the superpowers are intelligently used, and overall, it’s a very good anime. I really can’t tell you anything more, just go ahead and have a look, I’m sure most of my readers will enjoy it.

Working!!
Finally, reached the last anime on my list. The family restaurant Wagnaria. The hard-working high-school student who looks like a 12-year old, the self-proclaimed minicon (lover of things small and cute, such as children, puppies, water fleas) who adores her and decides to work there to help her out, the 28-year-old manager who seems to be doing no work at all and apparently has relations with the local yakuza, the quiet serious chef and his partner the talkative smiling chef, the shift chief who always carries a katana at her waist, the androphobic waitress who reflexively punches the protagonist because “men are violent”, bring them all together and… do you need anything else? Working!! was a four-panel manga before it was adapted into an anime, and it shows. The show is full of funny (sometimes idiotically so) moments, characteristic of that carefree style we’ve come to love in Azumanga Daioh! and Yotsuba& (though those weren’t four-panel manga). I gave those examples because, if you’ve paid attention to the list of characters, those are the closest you’re going to get to this series. It is funny. Period. If you don’t like that kind of humour, I pity the empty life you’re living and your attempts at filling it with meaningless promises of life after death or who knows what. I’m joking (somewhat), but really, if you can’t simply disconnect and enjoy these kinds of anime, then you must be leading a sad life. Oops, I did it again! Anyway, you get the picture. Working!! is that kind of anime.

Finally… That was tiring, but fun. I’d love to hear your comments and, by all means, if you think there’s an anime out there this season that I’d like, but missed, I would be graciously kind to you if you’d point me towards it.

Next time, who knows what I’ll be writing about. Until then, pleasant viewing!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Container for Your EDH Deck!

Well, I was supposed to post my video review, but although the recording is done, the editing takes a lot longer than I thought. A lot of things happened to me this week, so I thought I'd post some of them, until I finish my video review. Hope you don't mind.

Here's a question: what do you do with your booster boxes after they run out of boosters? You would normal hold cards in them, right? That, or you throw them away. A few weeks ago I found a really nice article on mtgsalvation.com, in which they tell you how to turn the thing on the left of the image into the thing on the right:


Awesome, isn't it? What is it? Why, it's a deckbox, of course. Not only any kind of deckbox, it's a deckbox that can even hold an entire EDH deck, as can be seen in the following photos (showing my Jaya Ballard deck):



In case you want to make one yourself, just visit mtgsalvation.com. Also, one of the things they don't tell you is that you mustn't bind the edges too tight, otherwise the cards will have to be jammed in, they'll still fit, but they won't slide out nicely.

Happy crafting! Next time, 2010 Spring Anime Breakdown...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Breaking the Card - Rumbling Aftershocks

Check out my first MtG article, on Gameflux. For those of you who don't know, Gameflux is the site for the MtG community of Cluj. If there are any MtG players out there who are reading this and are in Cluj and haven't joined yet, please do so!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Textbook Example of Gang-Rape and Mutilation

Hello everyone. It's (p)review time again. This post was actually intended to be about something else, however that was more than a year ago. Recently, I've come across something that fits the title just as well.

You may remember my post from some time ago, about two girls offering a stunning show and the soon-to-be sequel of just that stunning show, featuring two different girls that I was dying to meet. Yes, we're talking about my sneak peek at Kiddy Grade 2 and here we are, 2010 and with the sequel entitled Kiddy Girl-and is among the delicacies of the Fall 2009 anime list.

Usually, I don't compare anime series outright, except when we're talking about a sequel or a similar work from the same director/studio or an adaptation after a book. Since Kiddy Girl-and falls into the first category, I will definitely be comparing it to Kiddy Grade. Before I do that though, isn't it strange that they changed the title? Why isn't it Kiddy Grade 2, like they said in the teaser? Simple: because it's not a sequel. I's more of a spin-off. I've heard that they changed the production halfway through the series, and that's why it ended up being a spin-off, rather than a sequel.

Now, equipped with that thought, before I go on, I'm going to invite you all to watch the opening of the two (Kiddy Grade and Kiddy Girl-and), as a starting point for the comparison (as a note, I've chosen the first opening for Kiddy Grade).

So, here's Kiddy Grade:

 

And here's Kiddy Girl-and:

 

Awful, isn't it?!?! I mean, what is this?! Where should I start?! I'm surprised I managed to keep my composure this long. Kiddy Girl-and is crap. What even happened to the original character design? Ascoeur was supposed to have white hair and be this really cool girl, reminiscent of Lumière. Instead, we have a pink haired klutz doing all sorts of stupid things. The series has absolutely no action to it. Everything revolves around petty disputes and unimportant events. Everything is taken lightly with so much comic relief it's oozing everywhere. Of course, the series starts with the battle that ends Éclair's life (they probably spent a lot of money on that scene back when the series was supposed to be cool, and didn't want to scratch it).

I'm hugely disappointed in it. I have only watched a few episodes (due to the subbing group slacking off), that's why it's only a (p)review, so please, if there's a true Kiddy Grade fan out there that considers the spin-off to be worthy of the original, urge me to keep watching it, cause I have serious doubts. At the time being, my only hope is that a true sequel, the lost Kiddy Grade 2, will still be made at one point, and it will feature a serious story line and characters, as it should.

Phew... Now that that's off my chest, see me for my next review, Seagulls Also Cry.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Negative Marketing

I something something interesting on my way back to the dorm today. It was a white van, with a huge green logo on it. It belonged to some kind of energy usage optimisation company. I don't remember exactly, their slogan was something similar to "Energy costs money. We save both." The funny thing is, the car's engine was running, with no driver in sight. Now isn't that a waste? Talk about bad publicity...

PS: As a side note, this is the true 100th post. Due an error in the post numbering system, it appears that drafts were also counted when I published the last "100th post" post. So yeah, here it is! By the way, Happy New Year everyone!!!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Science Tattoo Emporium

I really wanted to write about something else, but that was over a year ago. I might still go and write about what I had originally intended to write about, but for now, enjoy a link my friend brought to my attention. It's the Science Tattoo Emporium. Her impression was: "can you get more geeky than this?" What's your impression? (come on, my devoted readers, help me get this thing going again...)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Resurrection

I LIVE!!! Though it's been over a year since I've last posted on my blog (I guess the three-day resurrection lag is not such a big deal after all), the time has come to take up the pend once again and entertain you all with my thoughts, sometimes witty sometimes nostalgic, about life, the universe, and... well... everything, I guess.

PS: Even my hard-earned audience avoids this HTTP address by now, so I'll really have to get the advertisements going if I'm willing to win them back.