Thursday, September 27, 2007

From the Forest Where Cicadas Cry, There Is No Return

The title, of course, is a line from the opening of, you've guessed it, When Cicadas Cry (japanese title Higurashi no Naku Koro ni). I've just finished watching this anime, and couldn't go without telling you all about it.

I came to find out about this anime from Szilard. He isked me if I had seen Elfen Lied and whether I had liked it. Since the answer for both questions was affirmative, he kindly recommended that I watch this particular anime. Thank you, Szilard.

The story takes place in June, 1983, in the little village of Hinamigawa, where Maebara Keiichi-kun just moved a month ago. He soon makes friends at school with Rena, Mion, Rika and Satoko. Life seems happy and carefree until the coming of the annual Watanagashi Festival, on the night of which, four years in a row, one person died and another went missing. The same is true for this year, and Keiichi gets involved in solving the mistery.

It doesn't seem like anything special, at first, but I have to say this, it's one freaky anime. This one is certainly not for the light-hearted. If Hello Kitty was your favourite anime, skip this one. This one should only be watched at night, in complete darkness and, hopefully, alone! Those who played Clive Barker's Undying under these conditions understand the feeling.

Simply put, it is shocking! Scenes of intense trepidation sometimes spring up unexpectedly, while at other times are forewarned and last an extended amount of time. I won't hide it, blood isn't spared at all during such scenes. The opening itself chills you to the bone. (For those interested, I've added the first scene of the first episode, followed by the opening, at the end of my post. No spoilers there.)

Warning: Some might consider the following paragraph to contain spoilers.
But the emotional roller-coaster is not everything. I was surprised to find the story end after the fourth episode, only to start from the beginning in the fifth. It immediately occurred to me that the anime had been adapted after a visual novel type game. I compared it with in my head to Critical Point, where, according to your actions, the villain turned out to be the captain of the ship, the enemy shapeshifting robot, the lesbian lieutenant and so on. Another way to look at it (though this only occurred to me after seeing the last episode) is in comparison to the PS2 game Grim Grimoire. For those who played it, think about playing throw that game, but from a perspective different than that of Lillet Blan (if you haven't played the game, I recommend it).
Eventual spoilers end here.

For those of you who liked Elfen Lied or enjoyed the first few Nightmare on Elm Street movies, I recommend this with a warm heart. I have to say, it's exactly as heartbreaking as Air... but in a completely different way. Enjoy!

PS: The story doesn't end in the first series. Be prepared for that.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Missle Game 3D

Famous Logos

Have you noticed that famous logos sell well? It doesn't matter what the item is, if it has the famous logo on, it sells well. Furthermore, some fame-ridden logos also sell well, as long as they look cool. A third category would be the famous logo (or in our case, catchphrase) rip-offs. These it seems, also sell well, or at least the owner of this shoe store thought so...

Intel(R) had a huge impact on the IT market, but I think they'd never imagined they'd give tips for shoesalesmen... But if you steal the catchphrase, why not steal the logo as well? Wouldn't it have sold better that way?

Just imagine...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Minesweeper The Movie

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

D.M.C. - Dumb Mindless Crud

This morning I finished watching Devil May Cry. An anime based on the video game series with the same name. The story follows Dante, a half-demon half-human sword-wielding gunman who hunts devils for a living (talking about an original plot, ey?).

The video games received generally positive reviews, mostly due to their increased difficulty, which provided gamers with a challenge. Considering other aspects of the game, I think they were pretty shitty (though I played only Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition). I thought I would get something out of the highly praised action of the game, but quite frankly, it doesn't even reach the starting line in a race with God of War. I'd also rather not talk about the plot, I think they would have been better of completely without it, I'm surprised people were paid for that kind of stupid ideas. The only thing that surpasses the dumbness of the story is the voice-acting. Dante's personality, and the perfectly matching self-centred Hollywoodian macho voice, is so bad, that it passes the "humorously bad" barrier (unlike the voice-over in the movie 300), and it simply makes you want to cry.

So... what is the anime like? Exactly like the video game, just take away even that little interactivity which it had. Why would anyone want to watch it? Why did I watch it? Maybe I felt the need to warn people about it, but would have felt guilty to criticize without having seen it. Indeed, why would you want to see a guy fighting devils (and not even in a cool way) as if they were everyday hooligans and not breaking a sweat? And I mean not breaking a single sweat! Not even in the very last fight! Even Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite... What's the deal with this guy?

If you liked the games (other than the gameplay, that is, only the story, the attitude, the dialogues, and only if you really really liked them), you will probably like the anime too, though this might not necessarily be true. Otherwise, I advise you to stay away. If you have that much spare time, watch 300 instead, it will at least make you laugh.

Monday, September 17, 2007

17-09-2007 Post 3: It Is All Around Us...

Today, 17 September 2007, I decided to write 3 posts. The events within these posts are not chronological. But if they're not chronological, what do you call it? Of course, if the events are completely in the opposite order, you call it reversed chronological order. But what if they are simply jiggled around? Do you call it inchronological or unchronological? Or perhaps chronoillogical (that makes sense)? Anyway, they're just random.

"Nothing interesting ever happens to me," is a signature phrase of Mitsue Shijou (Kamichu!). Have you ever thought those same words? Well, you're wrong! ("Moses, you're lying!") All you have to do is open your eyes to the world around you. You are surrounded by weirdness and the supernatural. As an example, today, when I was coming home from the School Year Opening Ceremony, I saw this:

Apparently, it's just some graffiti in the park next to my apartment. However, I saw right through into the beyond. For most people, this is a simple spiral, while for the trained eye, this resembles two arcane symbols...

The Symbol of Bethrezen & The SOS Brigade Logo

Of course, some difference applies, but when dealing with mystic powers, you have to be flexible. When such grandeur surrounds us, how can anyone say "Nothing interesting ever happens to me"? The fact is, people blind themselves from the truth. After all "There are more things in heaven and earth,[...] Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." (Hamlet, from Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Act I, Scene V)

17-09-2007 Post 2: "Forward, GO!"

Today, 17 September 2007, I decided to write 3 posts. The events within these posts are not chronological. But if they're not chronological, what do you call it? Of course, if the events are completely in the opposite order, you call it reversed chronological order. But what if they are simply jiggled around? Do you call it inchronological or unchronological? Or perhaps chronoillogical (that makes sense)? Anyway, they're just random.

Yesterday, after doing some farming, err, I mean adventuring, in FFXII, I wanted to sit down and watch something nice. I wanted a light comedy that doesn't rely on slapstick or overboard weirdness humour. I decided to watch Manabi Straight! I hit the nail on the head.

Manabi Straight! (Japanese title: Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight!) takes place in the near future (2035), where due to a severe drop in birth rate, very few people attend school, most of them taking a decision to become part of the basic (and essential) workforce of the nation. In this setting, Seioh (All Girls) High School has a one-member student board which doesn't really do anything, but has survived through time, mostly ignored by the students. Everything changes the day Amamiya Manami transfers to Seioh and decides to become Student Council President with the intentions of doing something "wonderful and exciting".

The anime has a warm atmosphere around it, implemented very well through animation, sound and music. Everything is a bit futuristic, but cosy in the same time. The characters, although in high-school, are drawn middle-school like (you'll see in teh wallpapers at the end of the post). The series is very well paced and makes you want to not let go of it till you finished watching (I realised that at 7 am this morning, when I finished it...).

The whole atmosphere is centered around 5 girls who make up the student council. And just to give you a taste of why it's so cool, I'll say some about each one of them:

Amamiya Manami, aka Manabi-chan (voice: Yui Horie) is the Student Council President. She is hyperactive and weird. "My brain doesn't work, if I sit in one place", she declares herself in the series. As energetic as Tomo-chan (Azumanga Daioh!) with a heart as big as Ai Tanabe (Planetes).

Inamori Mika, aka Mikan (voice: Ai Nonaka) is the original member of the student council and fills in the position of Secretary. When I watched the anime, I tried to think who she reminds me of, and Tokino Akiyama (Kujibiki Unbalance) came to mind. I was later surprised to find out that the seiyuu for the two characters is one and the same. She is timid and naive, also reminding of Akari Mizunashi (Aria the Animation).

Uehara Mutsuki, aka Mu-chi (voice: Marina Inoue) is the athlete of the team. She is very fit and fills in the role of Student Council Assistant. She highly reminds me of Kagura (Azuamga Daioh!), due to her athletic nature, interest in manly stuff, constant appetite, but also a kind and helping heart of gold.

Etoh Mei (voice: Aya Hirano) is an amalgam of characters. A composure like that of Sakaki-san (Azumanga Daioh!), an intellect like that of Chiyo-chan (Azumanga Daioh!) and determination (and "boss around"-iness) like that of Haruhi Suzumiya (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya). She is the Student Council Treasurer and is many times involved in administratively taking lead of the group. I guarantee, she's a character you'll love.

Momoha Odori, aka Momo (voice: Saki Fujita) will probably be my brother's favourite character from the series. She is strange and absent-minded, talks very little, but is highly sarcastic and scheming on the inside. She mostly reminded me of Mamimi Samejima (FLCL).

Imagine what these girls can do together? I recommend this anime to anyone who liked Azumanga Daioh! and the sort. I just can't get enough of it, so here are some wallpapers.

17-09-2007 Post 1: Decreased Natality or Increased Mortality?

Today, 17 September 2007, I decided to write 3 posts. The events within these posts are not chronological. But if they're not chronological, what do you call it? Of course, if the events are completely in the opposite order, you call it reversed chronological order. But what if they are simply jiggled around? Do you call it inchronological or unchronological? Or perhaps chronoillogical (that makes sense)? Anyway, they're just random.

Today, 17 September 2007, school started in Romania. Usually the school year starts on 15 September, but since that was a Saturday (and there is no school on Saturday), they moved it 2 days farther. People usually say that school starts on 15 September, but this is not a rule. In fact, by rule, it starts on the first working day after 14 September, but I guess that would be too long for people in today's fast-moving society to utter every time they refer to the beginning of the school year.

Anyway, our former class decided to visit some teachers with this occasion. I was really happy to meet some of them, since I didn't go last year (shame on me). It was quite a nostalgic moment (ah, those boring speeches... actually, we have those in university too...).

So what does the title have to do with it? It's a subtle hint to the second post I'm going to make about an anime that takes place in the near future, Japan facing a population problem due to decreased natality (or birth rate, if you will). Where's the connection? Well, out of the proud class of thirty (30) that graduated two (2) years ago, only seven (7) showed up (I'm putting the numbers in brackets to highlight the big changes). Our problem is not with natality, but mortality (or death rate, if you will). At this rate, how many people are going to show up at the 10-year anniversary? I think Romania is facing a crisis that it is not aware of...

Note: This post is supposed to be funny. I know that this event was quite meaningless compared to the 10-year anniversary, which will have a whole-class attendance (at least I hope). I do, however, feel a bit sad that this few people showed up. I apologize to those who could not make it due to serious circumstances, like being on a different continent (this means you, Anca, I hope you're still reading this blog...).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Evening of 12 September 2007

Shana Tova!

Ramadan Mubarak!

(sorry, I didn't have a photo to match the greeting)