Friday, November 28, 2008

NO (100th) POST!


~ Budokan ~


This post is a bit delayed, because of the exams I had at the beginning of the week. But they're over now, so it's time to write!

As you might have guessed, this is another post about the weirdness of things Finnish. It has to do with locks (the mechanical kind, not the hairy kind). Take a look at this door knob (I'm sorry for the blurry image, it's still too early in the morning):

To lock this door, you would normally turn the lock clockwise, wouldn't you? I know I would. I'm basing all of this on my personal experience, so I might be wrong about this one. In all the countries I've been to until now, to lock a door, you have to turn the lock (or the key in the lock) clockwise if the knob is on the right, and counter-clockwise if the knob is on the left.

Here in Finland, this is inverted. Just watch:

It was actually a bit difficult getting used to, at first. It's the same with every lock I've seen in Finland so far. I thought it was the British who were supposed to be so uptight that they do everything the other way around (like driving on the wrong side of the road, and using imperial units instead of the metric system), but it seems they have competition. I'm gonna miss this strange country... Next time, Textbook Example of Gang-Rape and Mutilation.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Slut Machines

Good morning, everyone. I'm here to talk today about slut machines. That's not really their name, but I don't know the Finnish term. Advances in science have always resulted in a happier way of life for people, and the sex industry had its share of benefits from technological breakthroughs. Now, I've known about the existence of artificial vaginas (like dildos, only for men... I'm not saying that men can't use dildos), but I've never seen one in real life. I didn't expect to see them here in Finland, and not employed with this much lack of shame, in such a public manner. This result is what I call slut machines. These... What? I'm not supposed to talk about slut machines? I'm supposed to talk about slot machines? Well, that explains it... Sorry folks...

I'm here to talk today about slot machines. There's not really all that much to talk about. You know what they are. You know how they work. You may, however, be surprised as to how popular they are, here in Finland. You can find them everywhere, in casinos (though that's normal), in the cruise ship (though I guess that's normal too), at the post office, in supermarkets, everywhere. You can see elderly people, coming out of the supermarket, and playing away their loose change at the slot machines just outside the supermarket. Sometimes, they don't even have to go that far. Now, before all you skeptics jump saying "Pic or it didn't happen!", know that I'm a little reluctant walking into a supermarket to take photos of the slot machines they have there, I'm not even sure it's legal. The photos in this post are of the slot machines on the ship. I guess you'll just have to believe me (or ask finnish bug). Overall, I just found this thing very weird. Tune in next time, for Inverted.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Well, here I am, talking about the weather. You remember me telling you how upset I was that the first snow wasn't what it was supposed to be, here in Finland, right? Well, it seems the weather got upset, so it decided to snow just perfectly, to prove that I'm wrong.

Before (this is the photo of the street, as seen from our balcony, after the first snow):

After (this is the same scenery, after the second snowfall):

It's amazing, isn't it? There are some swings and other kiddy stuff in the yard. Look what it all turned to:

It's simply beautiful. Too bad there wasn't anyone to play with, so I decided to take a walk, and take a few more photos of the surroundings. I was so joyful, that I stopped in the middle of the street for some shots (yes, the couple of lights heading my way, is a car).

I later made way towards the city centre, passing through my beloved forest. You remember that, right? Well, not surprisingly, it turned into this:

I remember a funny thing: one of the guys here, from Spain, said he'd never seen snow, because he lives in the south. In my opinion this is stupid. I understand if you don't see snow, because you don't have it in your country, but when you do, and in over 20 years of your life you don't travel to the places in your country where it does snow, that's just wrong. I guess he never saw the Christmas tree in its natural habitat:

Even the little ponds near the road thought it would be nice to freeze over:

It has kept snowing ever since, little by little. It still looks like this, and I'm pretty sure there will be more. This is so cool. This is what winter is supposed to be like. Thank you, Finland. Next time, Slut Machines!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

That's a Cruise

As thrilled as I was at the sight of the first real snow we had earlier this week, I simply couldn't write about that, considering the amazing time I had on the cruise these last two days. So, here I go, talking about spending time on a boat. Be warned, this is an image-heavy post.

We were looking forward to this trip. After all, it was our first pre-Christmas cruise ever. Hell, it was our first cruise ever. We were really excited. We took the buses from the university, and they took us to Turku, where we were supposed to board one of Silja Lines's cruiseferries, on route Turku-Mariehamn-Stockholm.

There were sooooooo many people there! It was very crowded, and we had to wait quite a while till they let us aboard. Once they did, the fun started. I actually expected the ship to be different. I expected it to be longer, and have less decks, when it turned out to be the opposite of just that. You could traverse the length of the ship in a short stroll, but it had 13 decks! THIRTEEN FUCKING DECKS!!! Turns out, it is one of the largest cruiseferries in the world. I present you, the MS Silja Europa.

It even has its own Wikipedia entry. How cool is that?! I looked it up after I got home. Turns out, this ship had some troubles along the way, since it's maiden voyage on 14 March 1993. However, that doesn't change the fact that it's cool. Check out the ship map:

THIRTEEN FUCKING DECKS!!! Decks 3 and 4 are for cars. Deck 5 is for passengers's cabins. Deck 6 is the theatre and conference deck. Deck 7 is the tax free market and other shops. Deck 8 is full of restaurants, cafés and clubs. Decks 9, 10, and 11 are for passengers's cabins (again, since it can hold over 3000 passengers). Deck 12 is the sundeck, complete with swimming pool and sauna. Deck 13 is for VIPs only. I believe decks 1 and 2 are engineering and stuff. It's really really cool! It has everything, for everyone. From geeks to playboys, from kids to the elderly:

But up till now, I have only told you impersonal things. It's time to give you my personal experiences. Here is the three of us, waiting for the ship to depart; behind us, Turku harbour:

The first night was wild. Party, party, party! There was a setback, though. You weren't allowed to drink the beverages you bought in the tax free shop on board. Everyone was doing it, though. Everyone except us. And when I say us, I mean students. You see, there is this stupid thing, that if you bought a student ticket, you weren't allowed to buy alcohol until the second day of the trip. This was a precaution, to ensure that students buy the more expensive alcoholic drinks from the bar. It was so annoying. At 21 years of age, I was not allowed to buy alcohol, and was forced to resort to cheap tricks, such as asking the adults to buy it for us. Which didn't work, cause we only found assholes, who wouldn't buy us any alcohol. Fuck them! So, we ended up doing some karaoke instead. All those hours playing Rock Band really paid off!

After the party, we went to sleep, awaiting the wonders the following day would bring...

The next day, we woke up, and went to the café, enjoying a light breakfast, the ocean moving behind us.

After the breakfast, we went up to the sundeck, to take some photos, knowing that this time, we would actually be able to see something, thanks to it being midday. We got there, took some shots, fooled around, took some more shots...

I even managed to get a cool shot of the bridge (from the exterior, that's true, but it's still the bridge!)

And now, I'll leave you with some of the wondrous sights that can be seen from the MS Silja Europa's sundeck, on it's voyage from Stockholm to Turku. Next time, Snowfall. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Last Trip to Tampere

Hey everyone! It did snow here, and it's wonderful, however, I'm going to write about my (last) trip to Tampere, because it's overdue.

My stay here in Finland is almost over, so I decided to make a final trip to Tampere before going home. Valkeakoski is a really nice place, but it is still a small town, and some things are missing. When you need one of those things, you go to Tampere.

The bus leaves you off right in the city centre, which is great. I've always found it interesting how you have industrious areas right in the middle of the city here. It's because they used to build mills on the rivers and use that for power in the old days. Now the mills are replaced with factories, the river is still there, and the town is larger around it. What you get is these kind of sites right in the city:

I've finally found a hobby game store, after spending nearly three months in Finland. The trick is, don't search for "hobby shop", cause you'll get places that sell power tools and whatnot. I am always grateful to the Wizards of the Coast site, for having that store locator.

The city is beautiful. Especially now that it's decorated for the holidays. It is then that I noticed, after finishing my shoppings at the hobby game store, the little characters made from the lights hanging between the buildings.

Yes, you guessed it, it's the Moomins. I remembered that there was a Moomin Museum in Tampere, and I soon went to search for it. It was an easy thing, being guided by the signs and all:

And this is the museum:

For those of you who don't know, the Moomins are fictional characters (aren't they just cute?), the creations of Tove Jansson, a Finnish/Swedish writer. I remember growing up on the Moomin cartoons (I also believe I have a comic book somewhere), and it is only now that I've visited the museum and revisited the Moomins in my head, that I realised how much they influenced my upbringing. I'm not going to write about them too much here. Read about them yourself, on Wikipedia. Here is the entrance, and on the right they have a souvenir store (full of Hello Kitty merchandise, though I have no idea why...).

For me it was a wonderful experience. Seeing the original art and all those figures was simply amazing. It almost drove me to tears. No, really... It was a very nostalgic moment. Anyone who loves Moomin as much as I do has to see this. I actually intend to buy the Moomin books, refresh my memory about them. They belong in the category of those books that can be read both as a child and as an adult (like the ones mentioned in an earlier post). How nostalgic...

(does anyone else think the original art is a bit creepy?)

I'll leave you now, for in a few hours I'll be leaving for Turku, and from their to Stockholm. It's the last outing I'll be making during my Finnish stay. Tune in next time, for Snowfall or That's a Cruise...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Weirdness of the Finnish Language

Yesterday, we had Finnish class, and the teacher said: "Students often say that to study Finnish you have to learn by heart. I think that in many cases this is true." I found it funny, since teachers tend to say the opposite of that, to encourage you.

There is a phenomenon in Finnish, where the beginning "b" of foreign words transforms into "p". For example, "baton" becomes "patonki" (it was very funny, we had to say "täytetty patonki", which means "filled baton", and it was a mouthful, especially in the partitive form "täytettyä patonkia", until I realised that it's so very similar to the Hungarian "töltött", after that it became easy); or "bank" becomes "pankki". So, I was wondering, why does "bus" change into "bussi", and not "pussi"? I then realised, people are making enough fun of this language already, without it having to have a means of public transported sound like an obscene word in English. So, they didn't call it "pussi"... but they kept "slut"?!

Later, I found out that the word "pussi" does exist in Finnish, it means "pack" or "bag", as in "a bag of potatoes". Really fucked up language.

By the way, the photo is from the Moomin Valley Museum in Tampere. I'll tell you all about that in another post.

Monday, November 17, 2008

First Snow

Yesterday, we had our first snowall here in Valkeakoski. It was pathetic. The flakes were so small and limp that at first we thought it was raining. It snowed for only a few minutes and, needless to say, no snow remained afterwards. I was expecting to take a photo of the first snowfall and post it here, but it very unspectacular (and from the photos you can't even tell that it was snowing). I was very disappointed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008



~ Out of the Shadows, Iron Maiden ~

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Minions, Henchmen and the Like...

I used to play a lot of Guild Wars some time ago. Even had a post about it, my second one, actually. The game has changed a lot since I started playing. It kept getting better and better. It had a unique flavour to it, and I fear Guild Wars 2 will lose that (although I highly anticipate it's arrival). But I'm not here to discuss Guild Wars 2. I'm actually here to talk about henchmen.

Henchmen were a very nice idea. In case you couldn't find a willing and determined party, you could always resort to hiring some henchmen to help you complete a mission or a quest, which you possibly couldn't do alone. They really helped a lot, and it sure was better than going against those nasty Mursaat alone. However, henchmen had a huge flaw. They were stupid. I mean, really stupid. They would always go where they weren't supposed to, they would keep fighting when you wanted to retreat, and they would stand by looking at the scenery while you were getting butchered by those Titans. At first, that was forgiveable, after all, the makers of the game wanted to give you only a little bit of help, they still encourage forming player parties.

When Guild Wars: Factions came out (that's the first expansion, for those who don't know), they made henchmen a lot more intelligent. They started using skills better and they showed you a lot more support, overall. They still sucked compared to even the least skilled of players (though that wasn't always true), they were a huge improvement over the first batch of henchmen. However, with the release of the aforementioned expansion, a new mode of PvP was released, in which you could compete against computer-controlled enemies. This was weird. PvP was pretty competitive. How could henchmen-like enemies survive more than one round in this environment? Turns out, they were nothing like henchmen. These computer-controlled enemies were precision killing machines. You needed a pretty good team to beat them. They had typical builds and used them to perfection. For example, the Elementalist had a skill that ignored armor, but had some cooldown time and even gave you exhaustion (meaning it reduced your maximum energy for a short amount of time). At a high enough level, this skill dealt around 100 damage (and since it ignored armour, it really did 100 damage), and your maximum life was around 480. Imagine a build of four Elementalist who cast this spell at exactly the same time. It meant that your party members died of one by one, with only a window of 5 seconds (the skill's recharge time) between deaths to actually hurt them. That showed us the truth: henchmen could be a lot smarter, but they are intentionally made stupid! Outrageous!

Why do I talk about this now? Well, I've been playing Diablo 2 recently, here in Finland. It brings back a lot of memories. One of the things I didn't remember was that your mercenary companion is stupid. It's a strange coincidence that they are also called henchmen, here in Diablo 2. It's so strange. They have so little to do, compared to the high-paced skill-clicking havoc of Guild Wars, yet they prove to be complete jerk-offs. I mean, how can you suck so bad?! They get lost, they get stuck behind walls, they fight monsters on opposing corners of the screen, and so much more. Once, I was playing with a ranged character and had a mêlée henchmen. Of course, he didn't want to go into the fray, so I was forced to draw enemies out, and then, when I retreat, instead of covering me, so that I could turn around shoot, he started running as well and I ended up being picked off by the enemy. Damn!

Do game creators get a sadistic pleasure from making computer-controlled aids of the player be more of a burden than assistance?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Menthos. The Freshmaker.

I usually have nothing against smokers. It's their life, they are free to waste it as they please. As long as they don't blow in my direction. I wrote in an earlier post about how most locals here in Finland prohibit smoking, and the clubs that do have a smoking area have it well isolated from the non-smoking one. I wish that were the case in Romania. It isn't, so whatever. Back home I have to resume to kindly asking smokers to hold their cigarettes in the hand that's farther away from me.

Like I said, usually I have nothing against smokers, but today I really got angry at them. It's starting to get cold here in Finland. There was no snow yet (at least not in Valkeakoski), but by the time we went to school (at around 10 a.m.), there was so much frost on the ground, that you could have sworn it had snowed the night before. The air was so fresh, that you didn't even mind the cold. As sleepy as I was, as soon as I stepped outside, I felt invigorated.

As soon as I get to school, a momentary hatred for smokers bust out of me. The school has two buildings, and in both of them smoking is prohibited. The walkway that connects the two buildings is the only place arranged for smokers on campus grounds. As we made our way from one building to the other, a fetid smell killed off a lot of the small hairs in my nostrils. There were no smokers there, but the smell left behind so utterly destroy the sweet scent of the cold morning freshness that it was simply outrageous.

I know, you could blame the smokers for smoking, or the administrators for making the only connection between the two buildings the only place where they can smoke, or a dozen other groups of people. I know it is not really anybody's fault, but it left me with such a vile feeling, that I simply had to rant about it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

New Age

I woke up very early this morning (though I can't tell why) with a huge hunger for bread with chocolate spread on it (yum yum). While happily munching down on the aforementioned snack, I turned on the news (on the Internet, of course) and saw that according to CNN projections, Barack Obama is elected as the President of the United States of America. Now, I usually consider myself a non-political person, however, there are some political events that do interest me. The US Presidential elections of 2008 were one of them. And the outcome?... It thrilled me!

Unless he is a slave to the Puppet Masters, we are looking forward to a change for the better (in this stinking world of ours). Actually, there are a lot of changes happening around us. Not only are we witnessing the election of the first black US President, but a few days ago we could also enjoy (at least some of us) the first black F1 World Championship champion. Is a new age dawning?

Monday, November 03, 2008


I've noticed that I tend to a lot write about stupidity, and the source of stupidity, scientifically known as idiots. It's not a big thing, everyone writes about that, however, I seem to lack a tag for this genre of posts. So, as of today, I've incorporated the Idiocracy tag (though I doubt anyone browses my posts using tags).

So, to start this post about stupidity, I'll tell you about subtitles. When people set out to subtitle works, they should be aware that it's hard work. In case subtitles come out really stupid, it's probably one of the following: the subtitler (that word is probably inexistant) doesn't know the original language, the subtitler doesn't know the destination language, the subtitler has a hearing impediment, the subtitler is an idiot.

Recently I saw some good movies with bad subtitles and some bad movies with even worse subtitles. Let me give you some examples. The guy who's riding a motorcycle throughout the movie andat the end buys a car saying "I sold my chopper", translated as "Am vandut elicopterul". "People forget that the M in MRI stands for 'magnetic'", translates to "Nu uita ca razele X sunt magnetice". "You might want to avoid the red tape" some believe means "Poate vrei sa eviti covorul rosu".

And these are just a few examples of the stupidities I came across. If you know any similar idiotic (or funny) subtitle (or translation) cases, preferably ones you experienced, feel free to share it with us.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Does anyone know what happened to the LHC? A little while ago, before they started it on 10 September 2008, people were all over the place saying that the world was going to end. Since nothing happened, people calmed down and continued living their meaningless lives (ignoring the fact that the actual experiment would be held on 21 October 2008).

So what happened? Why isn't there talk about the Higgs boson? Simply because the experiment didn't take place. It seems that there was an electrical malfunction on 19 September 2008, which pushed back the schedule of the experiment a few months.

What I want to talk about is the reaction of the people. Don't you find this interesting? I mean, everyone (by that I mean "everyone stupid enough not to read the least bit about the LHC") was panicking when there was nothing wrong with the machine, but when it malfunctioned, no one gave a damn! Didn't they watch those old James Bond movies where hitting a console with something hard (like a steel pipe) made the whole machine blow up? If that were the case, I would certainly be more at unease since the malfunction of the LHC than before... And who knows, the malfunction may yet have destroyed the Earth... have you noticed the soon-to-be worldwide economic collapse that's happening all around? I'm sure the LHC had something to do with that, although it's not as spectacular as creating a blackhole that would swallow the planet...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Girls, Guns, Tequila...

It's been a really long time since I made a preview. Mostly because I don't like to speculate on little evidence, such as trailers or posters. Now, there are significantly more facts to uphold my statements, since I saw the first episode of the anime that I'm going to preview. How is it a preview if I saw the first episode? Well, that's all there is to the anime so far, since it's just started airing 15 October (I thus take the liberty to call this a preview).

The anime I'm talking about is called Michiko to Hatchin (English title: Michiko and Hatchin). This is a really strange anime. It's produced by Manglobe, responsible for Samurai Champloo and Ergo Proxy, and directed by Sayo Yamamoto, this being her début work. In the role of music producer we have our beloved Shinichiro Watanabe, the man behind the great scores of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. But all of this you could have found out just by checking Wikipedia.

Let me tell you about the anime, something that Wiki doesn't. It is very important to note who we have in charge of the music, since the tone is very much like that of cowboy bebop. We have slow scenes, with meaningful dialogue, and fast chases and gunfire shoot-outs, a bit outrages, but entertaining. We follow the events of Michiko, who just broke out of prison, and gives the term "Babe Gunner" a new meaning, and Hana, a girl "adopted" by a priest and lives a miserable life, abused by her adoptive father, adoptive mother, adoptive older sister and adoptive younger brother (basically everyone in her "family"). As soon as Michiko gets her hands on some cash (blatantly robbing a bank), her first thing is to make sure she gets her hands on Hana. Indeed she does and frees her from the evil clutches of her oppressive foster family. The episode ends there, so we don't really know what the relationship between the two is (though at one time Michiko says she's Hana's mother, though her foster parents say she died).

It may not sound much, but it has a very real feel to it. It doesn't hide the ugliness of real life, but it's not gratuitous either. Every scene is meaningful and the characters appear very alive. It has an atmosphere to it which rings of Desperado, and if there will be some dark humour in later episodes, I dare to say it feels like Quentin Tarantino. I hope they keep it up. This first episode is well worth watching. From there on, it's your choice.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I'm pretty sure everyone of you goes through periods when you have something to do, but feel just too lazy to do it? Well, I'm having one of those periods now. I just returned from Helsinki and would have a lot to write about, but I just don't feel like it. I still need to write about something, otherwise this blog is going to die, like it did last year. So I'm here to talk about something that could get seriously affected by this laziness: ideas.

Actually, by the end of the post, I'll be asking for your advice on this one. I know that many people have ideas, and quite a lot of them could prove to be revolutionary, however, few people have the initiative to put them into practice, and a lot less to finish what they have started. I know that I've been through this, and probably you as well. I had a lot of ideas concerning stories, and, actually, most of them made it into writing. I know that my stories are somewhat clichéd, and I'm not the best amateur writer around, but I enjoy writing them, and if I can get something through to a person, and he will end up making the right choice about something because of it, I will have been worth it. Most of my stories, however, never got finished. Not because I don't like writing them (or because I have a writer's block), but because I like doing other things more. Yes, the laziness I talked about earlier hits me. When I do get to finish, I end up with good stories, like Full Stop., sadly, not many of my works got to that point. I sometimes find no motivation in it. And thus, here I am asking you about my dilemma...

Recently, I've been doped with a lot romance, as you could tell from the anime reviews I've made. Subsequently, a nice idea for a romantic story popped into my head. One of the biggest problems with my ideas is that the images I get in my head, are just that, images. When I started writing Full Stop., I had the image of Ayami running through the rain, getting to the house, and meeting the man who looked a lot younger than he actually was.Everything after that, was blank... Originally, it was supposed to be a romantic story, then a horror story, and finally it ended up being the philosophical something it is now (by the way, if you haven't read the story and are interested, please feel free to contact me). The same is true for my unfinished stories and is also true for my yet to be story. The scenes and concepts I have in mind, are beautiful (though this might be something totally subjective), however, I still have absolutely no idea about delivering those images and thoughts.

Should I just start on it like that, and end up not finishing it, like most of the others? Or should I just wait till the image stabilises in my head, and then write the whole thing down? Please, give me you're ideas concerning this problem I'm having. I'd appreciate it. Also, feel free to comment regarding your own similar experiences. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would be interested in hearing them. I promise to give you a post on what happened in Helsinki and more, soon enough.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Night Before The Voyage

I'm on a highway to hel(sinki that is). I'll be leaving in just over an hour from now, and I probably won't be able to access the Internet this weekend and neither Monday or Tuesday, probably. I spent this night watching some anime, and in between, the Nostalgia Critic (I did this while I was waiting for the anime episodes to stream). I'll talk about these two things in my post.

First off, I really like the Nostalgia Critic. He's funny and he really makes a point with his videos, even though I sometimes disagree with him. I was watching his review of The Wizard, and it really got me thinking. How could they get away with such a thing back then? Like he said, it's much more fun to play video games than to watch a movie about people playing video games. Indeed, such a movie would be stupid, they wouldn't make things like this nowada-... hmm... I just remembered Duel Masters and Yu-Gi-Oh! (*shiver shiver*) Talk about pathetic... Also, that movie had commercial written all over it. I'm thinking, the nowadays equivalent of the sequence when they presented Super Mario Bros. 3 would be having someone play Duke Nukem Forever (actually... that would be pretty mind-blowing). But nowadays we have E3 for that. Anyway... I don't remember seeing this movie when I was little (of course not, we didn't even have Nintendo here, we all had those Chinese-made rip-off consoles), but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have found it interesting, not even back then... which is something I cannot say about Mortal Kombat, which I just loved (I was always more of a Mortal Kombat fan than a Street Fighter fan, since I had a PC), and still think is a cool movie (disagreeing with the Nostalgia Critic yet again).

Ok, now that that's out of the way, let's get onto the more important thing I want to talk about. The anime I watched, which happenes to be ef - a tale of memories. This is a romantic anime, and it is by far one of the most beautiful anime I've ever seen. I have nothing but praise for this one. Seriously, I find no words to express how great it is. I honestly regret having the need to stream it and not watching it some time before in higher quality. Before I go on, for all of you romantics, artists and dreamers out there, this is a must see.

Now that I've finished with the introduction, let's talk about the anime a little. Like all great romantic anime, this one is also the adaptation of an adult visual novel (which is a euphemism for eroge, short for "erotic game") entitled ef - a fairy tale of the two. The list could go on forever, starting with Air and ending with Higurashi no Naku Koro ni... ok, maybe that's not really a romantic story, but you get the idea. It is no surprise that I mentioned Air, since it's the first thing that came into my mind while I was watching ef - a tale of memories. Actually, it was the second, the very first thing that came into my mind was INSERT FAVOURITE MAKOTO SHINKAI ANIME TITLE HERE. And no wonder, since it was none other than Makoto Shinkai who made the opening of the game. And his influence is felt throughout the anime. I'm going to talk about the visuals later on. Now, let's just get back to the story... ... ... Ok, that's it! I'm not telling you anything about the story. Why? Because it's just too damn good to spoil any of it. Suffice to say, it involves boys and girls (yes, more of them, but not at the same time, not really, only in parallel stories) and their relationships. Like someone says (right here in this anime I'm reviewing): "There is no such thing as friendship between a boy and a girl", and thus you understand where I'm getting. Of course you do, I said it off the bat that this was a romance anime, didn't I? But that's not enough to express what I'm talking about. This anime is about LOVE!!! I mean it! The strong feelings it conveys are overwhelming, but I'll get back to that (as well as the visuals, later). Let me finish with the story... ... ... besides the fact that it is hypnotizing, every moment fills you more and more, and just when you've thought you're about to overflow (remember Mamimi ;) ) they give you more and more. Top that with a breath-taking ending, and there you have it. Now as far as the stories go, they don't entwine as much as I would have liked them too (like the magnificent work in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni), but that doesn't make them stand out individually. Also, I believe they wouldn't have had the same effect, had they been separated (unlike in Diamond Dust Drops, for example). So much for the story... I'm not telling any more, honest... go watch it!

Now, onto the other parts, after all, a story alone doesn't make a good anime. And there is more to this anime than the story, I assure you. I stood up talking about the visuals, so I'll get to it now. Like I said before, they have the mark of Makoto Shinkai on them. Though they lack the play of lights and shadows, the thing which I adore most in the works of Makoto Shinkai, they do compensate with those other trademark shots (empty scenes, even though the characters are talking; landscapes in which the tiny characters seem to disappear; scenes in which only parts of the characters are shown with their faces awkwardly being off screen). Coupled with these visuals are powerful artistic images: crayon drawings of the characters, monocoloured frames (for example, the screen going red for a moment when someone skips a heartbeat), the scenes gradually losing colour and a lot more that I simply can't describe. On top of the stunning visuals and the powerful images comes the spine-chilling music. It is more than appropriate, it is fantastic. The tune isn't exactly catchy, but it gets carved into your heart. It gave me goosebumps when I heard it, and whenever I recall it, it still makes me shiver (pretty much like the opening of Kana ~Little Sister~). Now, all these create a heart-stopping atmosphere that is indescribable. I really don't know what to compare it with. It is tragic and beautiful, painful and lovely, burning and soothing...

Now, about the themes. It does have some fantastic elements, but it's far from being Air. It's more down to earth, and I guess I can relate to it more. It talks about love (naturally), dreams, choice, memory, silence, colours and everything in between. On top of that, it has a guy looking like a young Kaji (from Neon Genesis Evangelion), giving one of the kids advice, although not in a melon patch.

Once again, for all of you romantics, artists and dreamers out there, this is a must see. That's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Evolution Of The Supernatural

Philosophy has a grudge on reader friendly concepts such as plot and characters. Philosophy feels very at home in the world of surrealism, and, as such, is conveyed a sense of inaccessibility. This pretty much defeats the purpose of philosophy. What is the use of enriching thoughts if they are communicated to no one, and thus we are left unenriched? To overcome this obstacle, philosophical writings concentrate surrealism into an accompanying factor, and make room for characters and plot... this is how the supernatural was born.

The earliest works involving the supernatural are probably myths and legends. Basically, these are works involving strong human emotions, such as courage and love, which in the context of the supernatural become epic works of heroism and romance. The Epic of Gilgamesh or the Kalevala are prime examples, in which the themes of human emotion meld into concepts of creation and death.

In modern times, the supernatural forgot its purpose, and spawned a collective of three literary genres, in which it is not a means of delivering engaging and enriching philosophy, but a cadre for the characters and plot, in order to give it a twist. This way, in many works, ordinary people come to experience the epic heroism and romance of old. The collective I'm talking about is called speculative fiction, and the genres included are horror, science-fiction and fantasy.

Before these genres broke off from the single genre of the supernatural, there were writings which still remembered the original purpose of this phenomenon. They were writings with ample characters and plot, but in which the supernatural told something more than the narrative itself. While in most cases modern works of speculative fiction combine the philosophy of the supernatural and the narrative, these primitive (and by "primitive" I mean "original") works set a clear distinction between the two. The result is a story which can be read in two ways. In my opinion, the best example of this is Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

While this duality is specific to works of the pre-separation era, there are modern works which hold true to the original purpose of the supernatural. I'm finally getting where I want with this post. The man I'm talking about (though certainly not the only one) is Michael Ende. Michael Ende (1929-1995) is a German writer, most famous for his work The Neverending Story (German title: Die unendliche Geschichte). It was adapted into a movie with several spin-offs, two TV series, an animation series and even a video game. But I'm not here to talk about his most famous work. I'm here to talk about his second most famous work.

Momo like many memorable books bears a lengthy full title, which happens to be Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves and the child who brought the stolen time back to the people (German title: you've got to be kidding me...). Who knows, there might even be something to this OMRSTPLRLCNSWMTCTHTALCNEE thing... Anyway, this book is considered by the author a fairytale-novel, and right there you have the duality I was talking about earlier. You can read it either as a fairy tale, a children's book, telling a heart-warming story you are bound to remember, or as a novel, a work of serious depth, criticising element's of modern day life and opening up our minds to that all-so-lost enriching philosophy. Doesn't this sound strangely familiar to you? If you are thinking Antoine de Saint Exupéry's (I know there is an accent there, but the Le Petite Prince (English title: The Little Prince) then you've hit the jackpot.

Amazingly, the two works are extremely similar, yet very different from one another. They both have a child as the main character (and surprisingly, one is a girl the other is a boy) and the whole story is seen through his/her eyes. They both explore the same themes, only in different manners and in different proportions. While the little prince makes a not about the business man who spends all his time counting things, and says that "all adults care about are numbers", this is actually the main theme in Momo, where a group of grey gentlemen trick adults into saving their time (by showing them elaborate calculations), so that they can steal it and feed of it. While in the first part of the book, Momo spends a lot of time with her friends, and even later in the book she always keeps thinking of them, in the end friendship remains a small theme, however this is one of the main themes in The Little Prince, in which loneliness is actually the very thing that drives the little prince to visit planet Earth.

If I were to make a one word comparison between the two, I would say that both works deal with that which is important, however, The Little Prince gives us a very individual view and a strong personal experience, while Momo takes a broader look at the situation and deeply reflects upon society. Those were more than one word, weren't they? I came to this conclusion through the ending of the two books. In The Little Prince, he changes the lives of the few people (and not only... can anyone say "vegetable, animal and mineral"?) and ends up personally enriched. In Momo, he saves the whole world and everyone ends up with their lives improved.

It would be useless to say anything more about this book. If I begin to relate the story, I wouldn't be telling even half of what the book really says. If I begin further telling you what philosophical ideas are hidden within, I would end up telling you even less. How could I comprise in a few words the profound deepness (is that a pleonasm?) that took the author a whole book to express? Here's my go at it: If it were up to me, I'd make both these books a compulsory read at school, not once, but twice, the first time in middle school, and a second time in high school... I think this is what people really need!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Love Conquers All (And So Does Determination)

I've just finished watching a recently released anime yesterday. I say "recently released", since it started airing this spring. At first it didn't impress me, and I just kept watching only to finish it, but later it got to me. It is quite a surprising anime. I'm talking about Itazura na Kiss (english title: Mischievous Kiss).

I'll give you a plot summery, and then go on to discussing the anime. Aihara Kotoko is a typical high school girl, with less than typical intellect and dexterity. In short, she is kinda dumb and clumsy, like most of the students in class F, as a matter of fact. However, this doesn't stop her from writing a love letter to Irie Naoki, top student of class A, and one of the smartest high schoolers in Japan. Naoki outright rejects her letter, without even reading it, and Kotoko is heartbroken. At the drinking party held at her house later that night, during which she was supposed to forget all about Naoki's rejection, there is an earthquake, which completely destroys her house (and, amazingly, only hers, since it turns out to have been extremely poorly built). As a consequence, Kotoko and her father are forced to live at a friend's house until their own is rebuilt. Predictably, her father's childhood friend turns out to be non other than Naoki's father, and thus they end up living under the same roof. The premises are set, and leave enough room for craziness in this 25-episode TV series.

At first, I thought that this is going to be a typical high school romance anime. I thought the intrigue was interesting, so I decided to watch, till I would get bored. However, there are a lot of surprises on the way. I have to tell you (and I'm sure I'm not spoiling anything with this), that the most interesting thing is, that the show spreads over a period of around 14-15 years. No, it's not a high school romance. It's a full-fledged romantic novel. I really loved this part. I remember Ioana telling me that she didn't like those love stories which end with the main couple getting together, since her philosophy is "that's only the beginning". Indeed, this happens in Itazura na Kiss. It's not a spoiler to say that they end up together, but let me tell you that it happens around the middle of the series, and that the second part of the series handles their struggle as a couple. This seemed very interesting to me.

The characters aren't very complex, but they really do change throughout the series. True, the anime is focused on the two, and side characters are mainly only there to help further evolve the relationship between the two, however, some side characters make second appearances long after you've considered them discarded. Also, each episode ends with a cliffhanger, so much that at the end of some episodes, the story fast forwards a few years only to allow the development of a new crisis. This way, you really feel attached to the characters and their story.

The main selling point of the series, if I may call it that, is the length of the story following their relationship. It surely lacks that "something special", which appeared in Boys Be..., or the manganess (and Gainax ending) of His and Her Circumstances, so it may not appeal to people like my brother, Tibi. However, it follows the joys and struggles of a long relationship, starting from the very beginning up until, what I would call, total fulfilment, so I believe it would appeal to people like my deskmate, Adela.

It really depends on you. I thought it would be interesting up to a point, but didn't expect much, however it proved to be something engaging in a completely different way. If you don't like things romantic, stay away. If you like the flair of Eminescian romance, you might not like it. If you like the monotonous ups and downs of ordinary love, then I most certainly recommend it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Stand Your Ground

Probably the most played flash games are the so-called tower defence games. In these, you have to defend against waves of enemies by strategically placing towers around the map, preventing them from reaching your base. There is an enormous number of such games out there, and of course Kongregate does not lack its own horde of them. Here are some of the different tower defence games on Kongregate which I enjoyed (if you're a fan of the genre, give them a try):

Bloons Tower Defense 3 - This one is pretty casual. It's colourful and fun to play. The enemies are all balloons and your towers are monkeys. Have fun throwing darts and launching missiles at them, freezing and melting them, and if you get yourself a super monkey with plasma vision, you're all set.

Onslaught2 - This is somewhat more serious than the previous one. The most interesting thing about it, is the strategy involved. You don't have many options for the towers you build, however, there are hidden combos which make the towers a lot more powerful, and if you're hoping to get past the later parts of the game, you have to figure them out.

GemCraft - This is a really cool one. Here, you have two components: towers and gems. You place the towers wherever you like, but they don't shoot on their own. When you place a gem in them, they shoot differently according to it. Also, you can freely move the gems around, you can conjure up more, combine them into different or more powerful gems and also, if you're out of options, simply throw them at the enemy. Diablo 2 fans will love this one.

Protector: Reclaiming the Throne - This one is seriously awesome. Instead of towers, you place mages and warriors onto the screen. Also, instead of upgrading them, they level up, and when they do, you can choose different evolution paths. Add in the fact that between missions you get to unlock skills which will help you out in battle, and this one turns into a real treat for fantasy lovers.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Nothing Beats Fifth Graders

Though the title might imply a small dose of lolicon, it actually has to do with the topic of a certain anime. I'm talking about Kyou no Go no Ni (english title: Today in Class 5-2), a manga (which I haven't read) which was developed into an OAV in 2006 (which I simply loved) and remade into a full 13-episode TV series in 2008 (which I'm going to talk about now).

The OAV, was full of Azumanga Daioh-style humour, and I enjoyed it a lot. it had fifth grader sexual references, abstract child thinking and a ton of laughs from the mismatched and colourful personalities of the characters. I'm not going to say any more, if you haven't seen it yet, but liked anime such as Azumanga Daioh, Manabi Straight!, and Minami-ke, be sure to check it out. It's only four episodes, so even if you don't like it, I haven't wasted much of your time.

Yesterday, I saw the first episode of the new TV series. I was very thrilled when I found out that it was being aired, but after the first few scenes, I got really disappointed. The first episodes is comprised of 4 shorts, two of which we are familiar with from the OAV and two which are completely new. I unwillingly compared the two and immediately concluded that the OAV is light-years ahead of it's new progeny.

First of all, the artwork is a lot crappier. It is more childish, and while one might think that it fits the theme of the show better, it actually makes it more shallow, creating characters which lack those fine details and complex facial expressions. A second thing which I immediately noticed during the first short (which happens to coincide with the first short of the OAV), that the sexual content is toned down. This is a huge loss. Part of the satisfaction of the series were the embarrassing situations these kids would get involved in. While in the OAV you had plenty of sensual lip shots, panty shots galore, and even a reference to oral sex, in the TV series, lips and tongues are made less (to the point of not) sensual, and panty shots are missing. I find this a serious step backwards. The third thing I should be ranting about is the voice acting. Some of the voices are so crappy compared to the OAV, that it makes it hard to think with the previously earned amount of love about the same character.

I am going to watch the TV series till the end, probably, just because I'm curious about the new content. About this, I have to say that one of the two shorts was not impressive at all, while the other one was ok. They are nowhere near the success of the OAV shorts, but then again, the same shorts remade seemed awfully low quality as well.

I don't know whom I should recommend this to. I would recommend it to fans of the OAV, since they too might be interested in the new shorts, but for them it's going to be a huge disappointment. I would recommend it to those who haven't watched the OAV, since then they have no prejudice towards it, but then again I would rather have the watch the higher quality OAV episodes. I can't really say anything more. It's up to you guys...