Wednesday, Jun 24 2009 

私はもうお仕舞いです。 I should have just copied that phrase instead of trying to guess at the kanji.

I’m finished, all of my senses (it’s not a lot of fun to lose your balance and sense of where your limbs are at my age) are fading on a weekly basis so I’m sure that I’m approaching the end. The strangest thing is that everything looks foggy recently even though I’m inside. Of course the humidity is significant at this time of year, but it’s been like that my whole life and things never appeared this way, so I don’t think that’s it. The most annoying thing is that the ringing in my ears has worsened considerably, sometimes rising to the point of distraction even when there’s ample background noise.

I’ve lived an ironic life in which I thought I’d never make it to the end of the year every single year. However, this year I’ve wondered if I’d make it to the end of every month. It’s getting to be a little more than I can take honestly, slowly but perceivably losing my grasp of things as the pain gets gradually worse. I guess the one mixed blessing about losing my senses is that even my sense of pain is dimming, otherwise I don’t think I could bear it without narcotics.

I have resolutely stayed away from painkillers the past few years since I wanted to have as much clarity as possible while trying to finish up with that which lingered in my life. I don’t know whether there was ultimately any point to that abstinance or not, but I possibly extended my life by the span of this wonky blog so there is that. At this point I don’t think anyone else would begrudge me trying to be comfortable while facing the end, but perhaps I still begrudge myself that dignity.

I find it quite queer, but even though I always thought that I’d be filled with regret over all the things I left unfinished, I find that there’s nothing I care about at all right now. Perhaps it’s just that the part of my mind which worried over such matters has already disappeared, but even if it’s an illusion it’s quite nice to feel at peace even as death approaches.

I always thought that it would be OK to die, and I was quite quick to offer up my life on numerous occasions, but I think that some part of me still thought that my death just might not happen.  It’s not that I thought I’d find the immortality of flesh which eluded presumably all others who came before me, rather my thoughts were more along the lines of reliving my life over and over again without ever getting to see the end. Of course I’m still alive so maybe I really will never get to see the one ending that I’m still curious about?

I wish that I had some kind of world shattering final words to impart to anyone that happens to come across this. Instead all I can say is that there isn’t anything dramatic like that in the world, you can pass through so many pairings of words in your life that you need scientific notation to express their number, but the only thing that gives them the power to influence you is your own method of interpretation. So let me just say that in life the only one you’re responsible to is your own self; therefore, you should always choose to act or abstain based upon what you are willing to live with rather than letting any other rules guide you. Of course if you feel like the Ten Commandments are something you agree with for example, then that’s perfect, but if you think that 8 of them are worthless then that’s fine too.

I don’t know whether it will turn out that there really is some kind of divine rule one needed to follow in their life in order to avoid eternal punishment or not. The only concern I’m left with is that no one ever can find out what happens when you die because absolutely nothing, not even the awareness of being dead, will follow one’s lasting physical death.

I will still accept my death no matter what form it takes, or what it might mean besides the end of my life long suffering. One of course hopes there is no such thing as death long suffering, but if there is then at least no matter what happens I can’t be any worse off than I am now.

P4 replay Tuesday, Jun 23 2009 

I decided to use my clear data to play Persona 4 again, and a few thoughts occurred to me.

  • I should have saved up more money before beating the game
  • I should have made one of the “ultimate blocker” personas and a mid-level persona with all 4 ma~la spells, or a high level persona with ma~dyne spells and spell master
  • It probably would have been worth it to level Lucifer up to L99 in order to get Victory Cry since Cool Breeze etc. isn’t as useful at low levels.
  • Arguably it would be a good idea not to complete the persona compendium on the first play-through so that you can get the mandara robe on your second play-through. This could easily be achieved by choosing not to fuse either Fortuna, Abaddon, or Mara. Possibly abstaining from one of the low level persona that you don’t need or want for a social link or a special fusion would be an option as well but that would require such intention from the start of the game.
  • Upon starting the new game I should have only summoned up Yoshitsune, one of the persona I had Cool Breeze on (I somehow had an Arahabaki with that, absorb fire, and natural reflect physical that isn’t bad, although Isis might be a better option), and the Norn I was using (couple of auto ma-kaja skills as well as wind boost and amp for great power, and debilitate of course). I also summoned Beelzebub and that was probably OK, but Lucifer (without victory cry) and Helel were expensive and just take up space at this point in the game.
  • Getting the social links maxed out was kind of fun the first time around, but trying to do it a second time is a pain in the ass. Other than getting a few bonus or otherwise slightly different scenes, and needing to pass the game days somehow,  it’s probably not all that important to max links the second time around aside from the party members you want to use, the fox, and Margaret. The 3 job related s. links might be worth the easy money to max out since your stats should be maxed as well.
  • I should have made sure that I had all the persona that Margaret requests registered right from the start so that it would have been easy to max out. Instead I have to wait until level 68 late in the game to fuse a Trumpeter with Mind Charge again.
  • It’s not really necessary to bother buying new equipment for your party members early on since your main character with a level 85-99 persona might as well be invincible (or if you fused an invincible persona, then he really will be), will always go first anyway, can take out most enemies with one physical attack, and all but early bosses with one special attack.
  • Most quests probably aren’t worth going out of your way to complete since you don’t get anything special for completing all of them, and they ultimately just end out making you a small amount of money which should no longer be necessary. Of course if you’re beating up the optional bosses then you have to complete each dungeon twice anyway, so you would already be encountering the enemies that you need to get stuff from.
  • Like any other work of fiction, the story isn’t that engrossing the second time around in P4. Knowing the truth from the start puts certain events into perspective, but it’s also frustrating that you have no options to alter the course of the story. So unless you’re a hardcore Megaten fan you might want to wait a month or more until you forget the plot somewhat to play it again.
  • This game could have really benefited from some kind of scene skipping option in addition to the regular ability to fastforward text. Even the sorriest of visual novels let you fast forward until you get to something new and that would have been great for a replay of this game.
  • I kind of wish I had a cheat device so that I could skip all the battles or something, and since that’s the whole point of dungeon crawlers like P4 maybe I’m just not that into this game anymore.
  • This is a little too long for bullet points.
  • It really looks like crap too.

Nobody Wakes Sunday, Jun 21 2009 

Recently I’d been playing the (US edition of the) PS2 video game Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4, and today I got around to beating it. I played the game in a really obsessive manner and with the aid of various online guides like this one I never faced any difficulty and managed to get or see just about everything important in my first playthrough. The game has a lot of variability in its non-story events, like getting a slightly different scene depending on who you have lunch with, and I wasn’t so compelled by the game that I reset just to see how things went with different characters. So I didn’t really see “everything” the game had to offer but I did complete all the quests (I’m surprised you don’t get anything for that), max out all the relationships, see the different endings, and get all the personas.

My play time was something like 120 hours which really does seem a bit too excessive no matter how I look at it. I possibly spent as much as 20 hours reading information about the game too. I’m positive that everyone reading this can find a better way to spend a couple of weeks, but if you’re a fan of massive RPGs or just Japanese Highschoolers then you should check it out.

To say a few things about the game, there’s a lot wrong with every part of it, but I was somehow not bothered by any of its faults. Probably the three most annoying things gameplay wise are constantly having to shift the camera and open doors when exploring the “dungeons,” the menus (other than not being able to sort items or persona they work but….), the horrid exp requirements for leveling up the main character’s persona, and fusion. Without a doubt the most damn annoying thing in the game is trying to get certain skills on certain persona through fusion. Even if you go to great lengths to increase the chances of getting the skills you want on a given persona, you still have to deselect and reselect the fusion over and over again until you have what you want. In general there are only a few really choice persona and skill combinations that you’ll be desperate to get multiple skills onto a single persona through fusion with, but every time you do a fusion you’ll want to pass on the best skills from previous persona. I suppose that they don’t just let you select which skills your new persona can have since that would make it too easy, but it seems like they could have come up with some kind of convoluted manual selection system. Either blocking the inheritance of certain types of skills (which happens anyway) or ranking the skills and only letting a certain value be inherited which became greater the higher ranked the persona was. So for example you wouldn’t get anything that good on Oberon (an early persona) but you could put almost anything you want to on Lucifer (the last persona that becomes available to you to fuse).

Other than gameplay and some of its redundancies, the plot ends out being spotty. It’s not that bad, but the “truth” ends out eventually being explained in detail and when that happens you can’t help but think “if that was the case then wouldn’t more have happened?” which of course is less then ideal. After all, you want your conclusion to wrap everything up neatly instead of contradicting itself somewhat. Hmm that might be saying a bit too much.

Just to mention it, I didn’t really play Persona 3 even though I do own it (I recall how pleased I was that I only bought the US edition of Persona 3 FES since that ended out being drastically cheaper than other options). I was somehow intimidated by the idea of trying to complete all of the social links in one round of play [round one maxed social links] and never advanced past the first part of the game. I was similarly held off by P4, but I got into a random mood to play it one dark early morning, and the guide I used to achieve the “ROMSL” made things pretty easy. It wasn’t even really that much of a challenge to clear almost all of the dungeons in one shot without going out and upgrading equipment. Actually it’s kind of funny how equipment was almost redundant by the end of the game since armor didn’t do anything against enemy spells (which bosses used against you almost exclusively) and weapons didn’t factor into your own technique damage….

Now that I’ve beaten Persona 4 I can’t decide whether I want to go ahead and play a 2nd cycle (on “expert” difficulty perhaps, I played on “normal” the first time) so I can get the hidden “ultimate” persona and fight the special boss, or just do something else. Even playing Persona 3 seems like it might be a better way to spend my time at this point, though I remain a bit put off by it. Maybe the real reason I beat P4 before getting serious about P3 was just because I preferred the looks of P4’s protagonist. Actually there are all kinds of games I have sitting around that I should probably finish off first. Sacred Blaze comes to mind. I’m not even sure whey I never finished that game, things just worked out that way. It would be good to complete SRWZ and SRW Alpha 3 some time as well since that wouldn’t be the least bit difficult.

As a final note I recall dying twice in P4 during random encounters, but never against a boss. Actually the two things that happened are worth noting since they’re the only way you’re likely to die as long as you play carefully. The first time I died was because I used Mazionga (mid-level group attack thunder spell) with Seiryu against a large group of enemies (the max might be 5, but it could have only been 4) who all reflected electric attacks. I’m not sure why Seiryu nulls wind instead of electric, but after that point I was more careful to either not use group spells for exploratory attacks, or to only do so when my persona could absorb the attack. The other time I died was from a barrage of group attacks that my character was weak to, which of course allowed the enemy to keep attacking and prevented one of the other characters from taking the hit for me. I imagine that’s one of if not absolutely the most common ways to die, but after the mid-point of the game you can get persona who aren’t weak against anything (almost all of the initial special fusions (as opposed to the maxed arcana special fusions) are like that) that enemies will have to avoid that. I would have died from the special death skill of the final boss (who gets two straight attacks no matter what), but I had gone to great lengths (which I don’t recall) to get Enduring Soul onto the persona Yoshitsune who I was using. I had it on a few of the other personas I took with me into that fight and it was worth it, but if you just happen to find and equip one of the null fear or null ailment accessories then you’d be fine too. Of course, the regular endure skill, or the accessory, would also work in that situation but I don’t know if endure dark would or not… hmm… Actually I had been miffed that I couldn’t manage to fuse Arms Master onto Yoshitsune no matter how many times I reset the fusion so I kind of settled for that skill, but it worked out pretty well!

f Monday, Jun 8 2009 

I’ve recently lost the will to write. It’s not that everything I’ve been involved in recently has been meaningless, instead it’s just that I really don’t care about any of it.

I do want to (somewhat belatedly) mention that Roger Federer finally won it all at Rolland Garros. I wasn’t dissatisfied with Nadal’s chumping of everyone else there the past few years, though I was tired of Nadal V. Federer in the finals, but Federer taking the title was just something that needed to happen so people could stop talking about how he’d never won it.

I don’t think that Federer will ever win “The Grand Slam,” but there is a reasonable chance that he’ll win Wimbledon and the US Open this year (perhaps even the Masters) and then the Australian Open next year to get the “fiscal year slam”…… I just made that term up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else is saying it right now too. So far Federer has been pretty solid psychologically, but if ever he was going to have a break it would be after finally winning this title he’s chased so long. I’m sure he wants to win all 4 titles in one year, but winning all 4 in his career is already a feat that only 2 other men have accomplished in the past 40 years. At this point I’m sure that even Federer has to feel like this is the best that’s ever going to come so he should just be happy with it. Hell, there’s even a chance that he’ll never be ranked #1 in the world again! Eh this writing is horrrible today. horrrrriiiiibbbbbllllllle.

As to whether or not any other players have a chance at the grand slam, I thought that Nadal had a shot this year. Within the next few years there might be a certain window between Federer dropping off and no one else really stepping up, but whether he can take advantage of that or not is open to speculation. I’m not that impressed with anyone else in the men’s field right now, but there are guys in the top 10 who have won a major before and have the potential to do it again.

The potential from 1-10 to win any given major tournament is of course the main reason that no one has won the grand slam since the second time Rod Laver did it in 1969. For some reason a lot of people thought that Federer was going to stand atop the world unchallenged until he was on the downslope of his career, but there were guys that got into his way and then up popped Nadal like some sort of fated rival. I honestly can’t remember the last time there were two guys battling it out like that on all surfaces. There have been plenty of high profile battles among top ranked players, but for some reason a lot of guys could never win in one spot or another, and others couldn’t even get to the finals so… yeah.

Well I already said absolutely nothing so I’ll sink back into my feet now. Did I even spell Nadal’s first name right?

キャシャーンSins Wednesday, May 27 2009 

I rarely use a series title as a post title —probably— but I rarely examine a work from the perspective of a writer either. I’m choosing to do so today after watching the first episode of the 2008 anime TV series Casshern Sins. The work is something of a re-imagining of an old anime series from the 1970’s (which has been remade on two other occasions, once in live action with heavy digital effects) and it takes full advantage of its nature by not wasting time.

If people want to get into the work at all they can easily find out who Casshern and Luna are and why it’s significant to the series mythos that Casshern is said to have killed Luna. In this first episode we don’t know whether that’s true or not, and we also don’t know whether this action has truly set about the ruination of the world and its robotic inhabitants. However, this is actually intriguing symbolism for how the idea of Casshern killing Luna ruins the entire image of the relationship that the two built up in the original series.

The other thing that stands out is that the exposition flows naturally. Characters and their natures, even the general plot and the formula that the rest of the show will likely follow, becomes apparent to the viewer through the course of the episode without a lot of prodding. This feeling of commonplace occurrence during introductions is what most serial/longer works strive for, but honestly such scenes tend to end out being too contrived. Normally the introduction of Casshern would fall under that as well, but it’s self-evident that what’s happening really is the “everyday” for this world.

One mark that I was ready to strike against this work was that of its dicey believability. After all, in a world of robots why the hell would they speak to each other? Communication would theoretically be useful or necessary, but why human speech? Even this matter was quickly brushed away by the one self-evident truth of writing: if a logical person can think of a plausible explanation then you don’t need to give them one. The one I came up with is that these robots were created in a certain spirit of romance such that their programs mirror humans rather than surpass them. Perhaps you can think of one? Alternately the robots as a whole are probably allegories for humanity so that’s why their manner is human.

Well, I think that the trend of not including forced explanations will eventually be spoiled later in the series by supreme wordiness as Casshern searches for understanding so that’s a bummer. On that note the amnesiac protagonist is usually an asinine premise, but for a robot it actually makes sense that if they’d been through trauma then their program and memory would be messed up right? That goes back to what I was saying about the reader being able to do the job of the writer.

I wasn’t happy that Ringo didn’t just get destroyed since that seemed out of tune with the relentlessness of the rest of the episode, but obviously that’s the kind of tone they wanted to set for the work. That puts me in mind of how most of the characters die in the Vampire Hunter D stories unless they can contribute some kind of feeling to the ending by being alive. Well honestly it’s usually the same thing every time: the character who remains reflects upon D, and/or calls after him while he rides away by himself (his left hand notwithstanding). Perhaps Ringo will similarly be used as a device at the end of the show? That would be in keeping with the idea that everything introduced at the start should be either disposed of or present at the finish.

I don’t plan on writing about this series again once I’ve worked through it more (or completely) since I don’t want to have to castigate something that I’ve already complimented, so I’ll leave it up to you readers to research on your own whether my speculation about Ringo holds true in the end or not.

To finish up with the idea about examining things as a writer, I suppose some might argue that I was looking at things as a literary critic instead. Let me suggest that if one wants to be a good writer (not that I necessarily am) they should cultivate their critical skills and mitigate their technical knowledge to the point that they would be competent as a reviewer, editor, and instructor as well. In theory the reverse holds true as well, but in practice those whose trade is anything less than the purely creative have a hard time breaking through all the way. Perhaps it’s just fate since a lot of good writers are lousy students who need solid editors to clean up their messes and critics to keep them from getting too far ahead of themselves. There’s a bit too much fawning and simpering down in the trenches for my tastes these days, but I suppose that’s due at least in part to there being such a wide range of writing to choose from that reviewers and teachers can focus only upon what they truly appreciate. You might have noticed that I try to expand my attention across the spectrum. Perhaps I should balance out this ramble with another about a work that failed on so many levels that it actually pissed me off. Instead I’ll just say that I fucking hate Shakespeare since I consider it absolute tripe from a writing standpoint.

May Blizzard Monday, May 25 2009 

This post was inspired by the realization that I misunderstood the lyrics of almost every ABBA song, and Italian mushrooms.

戦闘妖精雪風 (Sentou Yousei Yukikaze aka YUKIKAZE literally “battle fairy snowy wind” (the yukikaze is clearly meant to be a name rather than a word to be translated, also yukikaze does not necessarily mean “blizzard”) is a 5 episode OVA series based on a two part novel that was finally collected at the same time OVA started production. At the time the anime was being released I was struck by how inordinate an amount of time the whole thing seemed to be taking. The first episode came out in Japan during 2002, but the last episode didn’t come out until 2005. Abroad the releases were apparently strung out in any country that started releasing the work before the final episode came out in Japan which I’m sure was confusing and frustrating to casual viewers. For my part I’ve had the show for the past few years, but I only got around to watching it now.

Yukikaze does have a proper plot involving high-tech fighter planes, artificial intelligence, alien life, separate dimensions/worlds (it strikes me that “dimension” is a word often misused in sci-fi, but a more convenient term eludes me at the moment), angsty protagonists, immoral commanders, and public isolation from combat on far-off frontiers. This naturally leads to the exploration of various philosophies and themes that I could be expected to have a lot to say about. However, I’m not going to write about any of that since I’ve already explored all those ideas in the past.

The reason I’ve previously written about those ideas is because they are staples of the distinct “mecha” sub-genre of Japanese sci-fi. The thing I find interesting about that is the question of whether they weren’t first raised in the 1982 Yukikaze novel, or if they didn’t become prominent until the 1999 one. Off the top of my head the Yukikaze anime struck me as a cross between the plot of “Macross Plus” without the love story and the overwhelming alien force that was faced down in a huge battle seen in “Gunbuster”. Other works that sprang to mind were “Betterman” (the I have control thing was clearly the same routine but I don’t know which work did it first)/”GaoGaiGar Final”, another GONZO novel adaptation “Full Metal Panic” (being a relationship between an AI and a combat-machine like pilot), and some works that I saw before but which were produced after so aren’t worth bringing up.  The Yukikaze’s extreme data processing abilities seem to remind me of something else… maybe “Ghost in the Shell”, but the memory eludes me.

Well whoever borrowed ideas or happened to come up with similar premises and in which order will have to remain a mystery for now since I’m not that interested in delving deeply into the matter. There’s a rumor that the novel version will be released in English next year so if I get hold of that then I will certainly speculate on this matter more at such a time.

After that digression I do think it’s worth reflecting a bit on the style used in the show. A lot of scenes that were heavily sytlized nonsense were probably meant as either symbolic or mood-setting, but to me they seemed stupid. Like when the characters imagined being by a fairy in a cage which was supposed to set the mood, or even everything that took place on Earth that was supposed to relate to the feelings of isolation that the characters had and attempt to expose that the show really did have a plot. I couldn’t care less and considering the format (saying nothing of the year that passed between many of the releases) you had to pay a lot of attention, be very sharp and familiar with the elements of drama, or take note so as not to be confused. I felt pretty aware of what was going on in the work and I still didn’t enjoy these things, so I don’t see how anyone that didn’t “get it” could enjoy the work at all unless they were just in it for the visuals.

The one good thing about all the time that passed between releases of the show is that whoever was doing the 3D computer animation got a hell of a lot better between the crappy looking first episode and the respectable looking intense scenes in the final one. Sometimes the dog fights ended out giving an odd impression of somehow being too wobbly and too solid, but by the 4th episode the quality got to the point that you weren’t distracted anymore. Honestly I was thinking that the series had been a waste of my time until somewhere in the 5th episode when everything came together and justified the whole work. I’d be tempted to recommend just watching the 5th episode, but just like with both “Gunbuster” series you have to put up with the crappy beginnings to have a full appreciation of how much better the last parts are. I will say that even when things weren’t looking good for the 3D scenes the regular 2D art was still very attractive, reaching a level that you still don’t see in even the highest budget TV series like “Gundam 00” even 4 years later.

Interestingly even though GONZO’s 3D animation had finally stopped being a joke they recently sold off their digital division. From the start with their first original work “Blue Submarine no.6” GONZO had been somewhat infamous for using a lot of so-called CGI which I always thought looked horrible, so I can only assume that this was a financial move. Then again I hadn’t watched a lot of their recent series so I didn’t realize how much they’d gotten away from CGI. Actually the last work of theirs I watched at all was “Kaze no Stigma” which I think only used CGI for the elemental abilities the characters used. Granted that the characters used their abilities quite a bit, but that isn’t as distinct as the big stupid mecha from some of their other works…. if that’s the impression I had of the quality of their CG then maybe it’s no surprise they’re selling the division.

Well this review has devolved like hell so I’ll be blasting off now.

Jelly may be grape, but jam has to be strawberry. Sunday, May 24 2009 

I am a bit delayed in writing this now, but hopefully it’s worth mentioning to those of you out there the few series that I have interest in during this particular anime season.

First of all they have finally gotten something real going again with “Haruhi”.

There is now a 13 episode TV series (halfway done) version of “Phantom of Inferno” which was previously adapted into a 3 episode OVA series as well. The work is not great in any of its iterations, but I have a place in my heart for it. The new series is annoying titled “Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~.”

“Asura Cryin” might also only be 13 episodes, but since it’s adapted from an ongoing light novel series there will likely be further installments as long as it does well enough. Zero no Tsukaima followed a pattern of 3 separate 13 episode tv series (which reminds me that I still haven’t watched the third one in its entirety), and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same happened with this work. I wouldn’t mind if those involved decided to diverge the work, but I’m not familiar with the original work so I wouldn’t notice unless the anime just never ends.

Finally the one series that I certainly should not have remained silent about for so long is “Shin Mazinger Shougeki Z-hen.” This is also known as “true mazinger Z” but I find it significant that it’s “shougeki z chapter” (shougeki is hard to translate in a title since it basically means “impact” in the sense of a crash) instead of “shougeki true mazinger.” Then again that might just be playing into the spirit of hyperbole which surrounds the series. In the first place it’s hard to tell just how far Nagai (original creator Go Nagai) is involved with the work, but it doesn’t seem like it’s to the point of the work really being the true story as he wishes it was. That means that “true” is hyperbole in the first place, so making it seem like there might be a “great chapter” or a “kaizer chapter” is a likely trick. If nothing else the series is directed by Yasuhiro Imagawa and it’s almost impossible for him to see a series through to its maximum length or secure a sequel. I’m not very happy with the ridiculous first episode since I’m a firm believer in maintaining chronological order (Tenjyou Tenge would have been over 5 years ago if Oh! Great had done that), but hey… boys will be boys.

How many profound thoughts were lost because forgetful people didn’t have pen and paper? Saturday, May 16 2009 

At the moment I’m ostensibly on vacation. I’ve taken this opportunity to read a variety of so-so manga series. Notably I enjoyed “Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service,” and “Ga-Rei” is particularly inconsistent.

The title gives you an idea behind the basic premise in “Kurosagi,” but it’s also a bit misleading since the focus of the stories isn’t on a mere delivery service. The titular group of individuals in that series seem to wish that all they had to do was transport corpses, but instead they get wrapped up in the affairs of the dead and often act as avengers of treachery. Actually, there were quite a bit of stories where someone was killed and it’s up to them to bring the culprit to justice somehow. Other than its premise the work isn’t spectacular in any single facet, yet it does manage to be just good enough all-around to stop you from being dissatisfied. For the most part the stories within the work are self-contained; however, there is a clear chronology and as the work goes on certain characters and elements reappear. If I had to peg down one part of the work that seems to drive the plot towards a greater conclusion it would be the spirit that walks along with Karatsu. Although not explicitly stated by the point in the story that I was able to read to, it would appear that Karatsu’s abilities with the dead are imparted to him from, or at least enhanced by, the spirit that’s constantly by his side. Should the series eventually wind to a conclusion it seems likely that it would do so after explaining that mystery. Well there’s another character who allegedly channels an alien into his left hand, so its true form could make an appearance to clear that up once and for all, but most of the other characters lack supernatural mysteries surrounding them even if they clearly have deeper backstories than is usually let on. All in all the work is very human, and it may be enjoyed by anyone who isnt squeamish.

“Ga-Rei” (the cover says “enchained spiritual beast” in English and who am I to argue with that?) meanwhile is a pretty typical shounen action series, but it has a certain charm even though there is absolutely nothing original about it. If you add together the plots and elements and imagery of all the popular supernatural shonen series from this decade like Naruto, Bleach, and Soul Eater off the top of my head, and then subtract the art quality of those works you apparently end out with Ga-Rei. That would be enough for me to not recommend it to anyone but the most hardcore fans of Japanese occult series, but the series is particularly hectic and lacking definition. It starts with how most of the characters receive next to no exposition whatsoever. I’m not even sure that the full names for all the characters that regularly show up have been given, so of course their backgrounds are unexplained. Something you don’t notice until you’ve gotten a few volumes under your belt is that sometimes certain characters plain don’t appear. Notably by the start of the 5th volume the co-protagonist Nimura Kensuke’s elder sister had only shown up once, and his parents had yet to appear in person. Additionally the supporting characters who do seem to be able to fight or otherwise have useful abilities simply seem to be excluded from receiving any character development. The most frustrating thing has to be that even though months pass through the course of the story, the relationships of the characters don’t mature appreciably.

I don’t know about you, but if there was someone I liked who I spent time alone with every day I didn’t wait for months to pass without making things clear. Sometimes I didn’t even wait days! Can it really be that different in Japan, or do the mangaka who work on shounen series simply have no sense? Ah… that might be a road I don’t want to travel very far down, but off the top of my head the answer has to be yes. A resounding yes.

Don’t worry if you thought this entry was pointless, for that was the entire point! Just to mention it there’s also a Ga-Rei anime series, but I don’t know much about it other than it serves as a prequel to the manga and allegedly isn’t that good. It does strike me as a constructive way to adapt an ongoing property, especially one as sparse on character development and exposition as Ga-Rei is. I can’t recall many other examples of cross-media series that have the same single chronology from before this decade aside from the UC timeline of Gundam, but there are some video game franchises that have had anime series. Off the top of my head Zegapain comes to mind; the Devil May Cry anime might be part of that series’ canon; Gungrave… I guess the anime was more of a complete adaptation but I didn’t play the 2nd game etc. to find out if it followed up afterwards or what. There are quite likely many more series that have a single canon spread out throughout various media, and I’m sure that I’m having some kind of glaring error in recollection as far as older series go. One other series that comes to mind as far as games continuing the story of anime goes is Nadesico since I think its two major games fit into the plot, one before the movie and one after. However its manga series was unrelated, well that might be true of these other series I’ve mentioned as well. hmm… how annoying. I wonder if there are any works that fit perfectly as far as having a single timeline without alternate realities spread across games, manga, anime, radio, and live action shows. There can’t be one can there? Well it might be better not to think about that too much.

The most assured way to stop a limb from twitching is to chop it off Friday, May 8 2009 

Give it a try sometime why don’t you?

I just wanted to tell you kids that I love the night quite a bit, but then I found out that Dirk Nowitzki is dating a fraudulent troll. Dirk, you could have done so much better. When I call her a troll I might be exaggerating; however, when I call her fraudulent it’s because she’s been indicted in Texas on various charges. There are rumors that she is carrying a little Nowitzki around inside of her so that would really fucking be something.

The one bright spot is that Dirk hired an investigator to check her out and that’s how she got busted. So at least the guy was thinking before he married her or whatever the hell was going on. That’s a lesson everyone can benefit from I assure you. Trust no one, live and die, you are alone, no need to lie. Or something right?

To whoever is looking for the kanji to “zetsubou shita” Sunday, May 3 2009 

I don’t know just what you want with it, but here is the catchphrase of Itoshiki Nozomu aka “zetsubou sensei” in all its original Japanese glory for your consideration:

絶望したっ!

Let me point out that only the “zetsubou” is kanji and the “shita” is hiragana with the little “tsu” indicating that the “ah” sound is extended. Just for fun here’s a line from chapter 31 which is in volume 4:

絶望したっ! 足切り社会に絶望したっ!

If I’m not mistaken that means “I’m in despair because of society’s cutoff points”. Possibly “ashikiri” is a term for selection/sorting processes in Japanese society similar to the concept of a “cutoff point” in the English language. I’m assuming that the likes of having a college degree would be one, and then what type of degree, or from which university for example.

Thinking about it an acquaintance of mine recently returned to university for a more advanced degree in the hopes of advancing in the world; however, he is in his early 40s and the university isn’t a very impressive one, so even though he’s more qualified than before he couldn’t get hired anywhere. Since he had quit his old job he’s ironically worse off than before trying to improve. So I guess you could say that the “ashikiri” of our society dictates that even though it’s okay to be in middle-management when you’re 40 something, you can’t expect to start out in the middle someplace new when you’re at that age.

Wow it’s been so long since I did my Q & A that I didn’t even realize this should fall under it until all was said and done. It seems that my priorities have changed as well.

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