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HalcyonSpirit

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  1. Are we really going to drag this joke out? Heh. I guess so. As far as the genre of Saya no Uta, I'm aware of it being in the utsuge category, I was more referring to the fact that I'm not very familiar with the Lovecraftian category, though my friends are, and they're the ones I've gotten all my info from about it. Hence my comparison of the VN to Lovecraftian themes, since the VN was very clearly influenced by it, right down to each of the endings of the story. And yeah, there's a LOT of more depressing and disturbing visual novels out there from what I've seen. I don't know if they'll have a strong effect on me, though; going through Saya no Uta has shown me that I have a high tolerance for its intended effects. Might need to break down some mental barriers for them. I'm much, much more susceptible to the nakige genre (in a very good way), as evidenced by my previous write-ups here.
  2. Well... this one was interesting. It’s another visual novel, but it’s not like the previous ones. Hopefully next time I'll be back with an actual anime write-up. Since, y'know, it's an anime thread, and this will be the third VN in a row from me. At least I'm maybe bringing a little extra exposure to the visual novel market with these; they're definitely worth checking out. ---------- Saya no Uta Song of Saya CAUTION: Adult Content Saya no Uta is a visual novel with horror elements made by Nitro+. It tells the tale of one Sakisaka Fuminori, a medical school student who, after a brain surgery to save his life from injuries in a car accident, must deal with a sense of reality greatly warped from what it actually is. All of his senses portray the world as a grotesque, fleshy nightmare, and other people as horrid monsters. The horrors of this new “reality” cause him to contemplate suicide as he recovers from the accident and surgery in the hospital, but he is then is visited by an unexpected person: a girl who, unlike everyone and everything else, appears normal. Her name is Saya. Her visits during the night are what keep him from committing suicide, and after his release from the hospital, he asks her to come live with him in exchange for helping her find her father, whom she had been searching for at the hospital. Fuminori attempts to continue his life as normal despite the warped reality he perceives, clinging to Saya as the only beautiful thing in his world despite not knowing who she is, but as time passes, Fuminori slips further away from the world around him. This visual novel is definitely something different. I’m not overly familiar with the genre, but I would probably classify this as a sort of Lovecraftian horror story, though it isn’t so much horror as it is just plain creepy and disturbing. Many of the themes of Lovecraftian horror are present in some form or another, though again, I feel they’re played more for creepiness than horror. Things like a world turned on its head, the fragility of sanity, feelings of helplessness, and so on are given ample time to be developed over the course of the narrative. One final theme, that of love, is also played with during the narrative, and it plays both an insignificant and a significant role in how it all plays out. Going into a story, the very first scene often sets the tone for the rest of it, and Saya no Uta is no different. We’re treated with incomprehensible dialogue, grotesque imagery and pictures, and harsh music right from the start, made even more potent once we’re told that this scene should be rather ordinary; a normal lunch among friends in medical school. Instantly, we’re given everything we need to know about what Fuminori is going through, but it continues on. Shortly after, we’re given another scene, a scene with him and Saya at home, presenting the stark contrast between what he experiences in the outside world and what he can experience when he stays home. This contrast gives reason for him to live, to remain with Saya, to isolate himself, which only sets himself up for trouble later. These contrasts occur throughout the story, right down to what the reality is compared to what Fuminori is able to perceive as his own reality, and it is usually what hammers home the creepiness. Much of that contrast is effective solely because the story is told from multiple perspectives; or, rather, from two: Fuminori’s and his friends’. This could have simply been a mindless, gore-filled horror story, but the addition of multiple perspectives allows us to keep one foot planted in reality. We are able to see both perspectives, and the way they are told to us allows Saya no Uta to ascend past mediocrity and into a much more meaningful position. There is an absolute lack of a clear “hero” in the story. At first glance one would say it is Fuminori, but by the end, one could argue it could be either him or his old friend, Koji. Regardless, by the end, you’re likely to sympathize with at least one of them, or even both, perhaps even Saya. It is difficult to pin down one perspective or another as “right”; both sides feel justified, feel as though their world is real, and to them, it really is. When the inevitable clash happens, we know why both sides feel the way they do. When it comes down to it, it’s hard to argue that they’re not doing the right thing for themselves. In all three endings to this visual novel, no one comes out unscathed. They all have bitterness in one manner or another, and what you perceive to be the “best” ending may reflect on what you value in your life. It’s hard for a story to hit those notes in people, but this one does. The images and music in the VN do their part as well to capture the moods and convey them. All the music is crafted specifically to invoke feelings of horror, discomfort, or even simply eerie calm. There isn’t a single track that doesn’t do this very well, and they’re used especially well within the context of the story. Perhaps most impactful aren’t the scenes with the grotesque imagery and harsh music, but the ones that surround you with such an environment yet present you with apparent beauty in such a world alongside music that is peaceful with a distinct tint of something perhaps being wrong. The music is beautiful, but not entirely comforting, exactly what is needed in a story of this type. The scenes involving the horror pictures are certainly disgusting, but Saya no Uta does well in not overdoing it. These images are distorted somewhat, giving detail yet not allowing you to see the full picture of what you’re looking at most of the time. More important is what the VN doesn’t show you. In keeping with the Lovecraftian themes, the true forms of the monsters are kept in shadow, if they’re even shown at all, and descriptions are spotty at best. The lack of detail here helps the reader to form their own mental image and create the fear within themselves, rather than have the VN attempt to force it on them. Aside from a few scenes, there’s nothing really special about the artwork, but then again, that may be to its benefit. Between the lack of many details in Fuminori’s world and the rather ordinary look of reality, the two sides are contrasted quite well without needing fantastic artwork. Where the artwork does shine is where it complements perfectly the mood being shown, and that occurs at several points in the story. The characters are the most important part, of course, and Saya no Uta continues to hit the mark here. From innocence to mentally disturbed, the characters each have a unique personality that drives them to their ends, whatever they may be. Aside from the three main characters, the rest of the cast remain fairly static from their introduction to their exit, but their purpose is to drive the other three. Of the three main characters, the most interesting are definitely Fuminori and Saya, and they are the ones that change the most. I wouldn’t say they grow as people; that would be a gross misuse of the concept. Without getting into spoilers, their transformation from beginning to end comments heavily on the nature of humans and people. What can a normal person take before he breaks? How does one adapt to a world completely foreign to them, one that threatens their sanity? How can someone form such a wide rift between the morality of society and the perceived morality of an individual? How does one judge between what is right and what is not when the two sides have completely incompatible priorities and morals? These types of questions popped into my mind when reading this story. Saya no Uta uses the characters and wraps them into a situation that presents no good options, and it is here that we see the limits of people and absolutist thinking. The characters almost become concepts which force you to reflect upon their actions, and it takes good writing to create characters that have such an effect. Saya is the most interesting character of them all, but one might not realize it until after finishing the VN’s three different endings. What seems to be a relatively simple character that doesn’t play a large direct role in the story ends up showing the greatest contrast with both of the two other main characters. However, her details are best left to be experienced yourself. In essence, Saya no Uta is a well-crafted story that pulls all the right strings in a relatively short amount of time. It plays with your perceptions just as Fuminori’s perceptions are distorted. The characters play into their roles nicely, the artwork does what it needs to without going too far, and the music does a superb job of setting the mood. What you value in your life may play a role in what you see as the best ending, or even the “right” ending, yet there is also bitterness in every ending because nothing in this story comes without a price. And to top it all off, you are shown exactly who Saya is and what she represents compared to everyone else. This is where the story may make its biggest impact on us, the readers. Ratings Story - 7.5 Characters - 9 Artwork - 7.5 Sound - 9 Overall - 8.25
  3. OK, another hard drive question: If a drive is only going to be used as a storage duplicate of another drive for backup purposes, are the those cheaper "green" drives good enough for that? What about video playback off of them? I'm not going to be installing programs or anything of that sort on them, I know they're much slower than the 7200 drives, but those 7200 drives are also so much more expensive. I'm looking at the Samsung EcoGreen F4, WD Caviar Green and Seagate Barracuda Green specifically right now and I'd like an opinion. I'd rather not spend a huge amount of money on top-performance if I don't actually need top performance. Also, are the 3TB drives worth it right now? I'm trying to decide on whether I should instead get two 3TB drives instead of three 2TB drives.
  4. No, there's no other reason for me to be making a post here.
  5. Hell, it's about time. Been waiting for so long. SO LONG.
  6. Yeah, but without everything animated (or even anything at all), with still pictures being the main artwork, with the option of only reading instead without losing any content, and typically distributed in the form of a computer program. --- On a different subject, now that I've read and reviewed Planetarian, I'm not sure what to read/watch next. Still waiting for a couple of visual novels to finish up their translations, but until then...
  7. Yeah, with voice acting, music, animated portions, etc... aka, a kinetic novel.
  8. I bring again a visual novel write up, this time covering another of Key's works. Planetarian ~The Reverie of a Little Planet~ planetarian ~ちいさなほしのゆめ~, Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume "What do you think about the planetarium? That beautiful twinkling of eternity that will never fade, no matter when. All the stars in all the sky are waiting for you." Planetarian is Key's fourth visual novel and is branded as a kinetic novel, a type of visual novel in which there are no choices for the reader to make. It is also Key's shortest work thus far; a reader can comfortably read through the entire story in under five hours. Planetarian is set in a post-apocalyptic world where, because of overpopulation and loss of natural resources, humanity has nearly wiped itself out with biological and nuclear warfare. Thirty years after the war broke out, automated war machines continue to defend territory and cities for governments and organizations that no longer exist from threats long forgotten, and humanity struggles to survive in a world draped in darkness and plagued by constant rain poisoned by nuclear fallout. The story follows the viewpoint of a nameless man who, while searching for supplies in a ruined city, a 'sarcophagus city', stumbles upon a functional female android operating within a department store's old rooftop planetarium, which still has power even after 30 years. The android, Hoshino Yumemi ("Reverie Planetarian" in the translation), has continued to serve out her duties since the onset of the war, apparently oblivious to what has happened due to errors in her system and being unable to connect to her external databases. She has an innocent and talkative personality and does not understand things the protagonist tells her unless it is related to her duties as a planetarian. The story plays out within the planetarium for the first half of the tale, and then in the second half the two characters venture into the ruined city in which the planetarium resides. The artwork for this VN was done in a slightly different style than what you may be familiar with from Key. It still retains many of their typical aspects for character designs, such as very large eyes and small mouths, but these are not as exaggerated as they are in other Key releases. In addition, the background art and CGs (pictures typically for special/significant scenes, for those of you unfamiliar with visual novels) are done with an air significantly different from the standard artwork in previous releases. This is largely due to the setting of the story requiring a darker/more melancholic feel, but it is also used to subtly emphasize the situation the protagonist finds himself in. He's stumbled upon a functioning android in a planetarium that somehow still has power thirty years after civilization was essentially destroyed. He's stepped into a world marked by those thirty years but not completely taken over by them. The artwork reflects this otherworldly feeling with the artwork of the planetarium; it has subtle glow practically everywhere, so it doesn't seem quite 'real' to the eye. Planetarian also hits on that note through its music. Many of the themes have an otherworldly aspect to it in at least one of the instruments. These themes are used when interacting with Yumemi, emphasizing the fact that she is not human. The music also emphasizes her personality with light, high notes and airy instruments. The two combined help create the gentle atmosphere for the feelings in much of the story. It's also worth noting that this otherworldly feeling in both the artwork and the music has a more obvious association, too; that is, the involvement of a planetarium, a place dedicated to worlds other than our own, as a central aspect of the setting early on. Unlike Key's previous releases (Kanon, Air, and Clannad), Planetarian does not have any romantic elements to it. It is a relatively straightforward story that develops primarily through the characterization of Yumemi in contrast to the protagonist. While he is a human, jaded and hardened by the trials of his life, Yumemi is an innocent character, never having experienced or even knowledge of such hardships. She fulfills something like an airhead role, but her reality regarding personality and intelligence is a nice play on the typical representation. From their interactions, it appears that artificial intelligence developed prior to the war could not completely replicate human consciousness, or at least was not implemented for androids of Yumemi's type. As such, her character seems to be a result of having noticeable limitations as to what she can actually comprehend due to her programming. This is played further by showing just how similar her emotions seem to be compared to a human's. It's this contrast between the limitations of her programming and how human she can seem at times that provides the hook for the story. We see glimpses of humanity in her as time passes, leaving us not quite sure what, exactly, she is consciously capable of. It also provides the necessary empathetic connection to her for the readers to really draw us into this world we're seeing. The protagonist's character develops a little over the course of the story as well, becoming less rough, but it is Yumemi's character that binds that story together. If you're familiar with how Key tends to operate, you'll have a pretty good idea of what's going to ultimately happen by the end of the story. The story does try to throw you off a little at times, perhaps making you doubt that idea, but make no mistake, this is classic Key storytelling. It's made to get you emotional by the end, and as is the norm with their stories, it does so through a growing sense of foreshadowing and foreboding before delivering the final emotional blow. One might not expect to get emotional from a story focused on a robot that doesn't have a fully human personality and intelligence, but the story plays its cards well. It is a thoroughly satisfying story overall that can, at times, defy your expectations about what you may think about such a situation and the characters involved. It carries itself very well, though you may not realize it until after you've finished the entire tale and have had a chance to reflect on it. If there are any complaints to be made about Planetarian, they're largely about issues that do not really impact the overall story and feel. Some aspects of Yumemi's character could have been played up more or less, depending on preference, but there's nothing really wrong with how she is portrayed here. There aren't too many backgrounds and scenes shown, leaving me wishing there were a few more in there just so I could get a better feel for certain themes and feelings at times. The music is relatively simple and uses mostly synths; none of it really stands out as noteworthy, yet it is still used quite suitably through the story. It could have used real instruments to add more emotion, subtlety or nuance to the music, but then again, the simplicity is a benefit in itself. Finally, there's nothing truly unique about the story itself or the background to it. It's the crafting of the story and the characterization of Yumemi that pulls it all together and makes it work, not the uniqueness. All in all, Planetarian is a very good, short visual novel. It doesn't do anything extraordinary. It doesn't break any new ground. It's just solid storytelling with two solid characters acting as contrasts to each other. The emotional aspect is played well, and the story ends on a note that could perhaps be described as bittersweet. It doesn't do anything explicitly wrong, and what it does right shines in such a way that it isn't really obvious until after you've finished and reflected on just how well it handled itself. Planetarian is an excellent addition to Key's release lineup. It is definitely worth checking out, even for those that don't typically like how Key crafts its stories; it carries a very different feel to it than their more romance-based visual novels such as Kanon and Clannad. It is highly unlikely to disappoint, and for a time investment of just a few hours, it's more than worth the effort of reading. Ratings Story - 8.5 Characters - 9 Artwork - 8.5 Sound - 8 Overall - 8.5 As a final, personal comment, while Planetarian does not have an anime adaptation, I believe I would enjoy an animated movie adaptation. The kinetic novel format is close enough to an animated medium from a storytelling standpoint, minus that actual animation, and the story is short enough that I think it could be comfortably told in the span of something like an hour and a half or two hours. There would be obstacles to overcome to be sure, particularly how to handle the nameless protagonist, but I think it's something that would work really well.
  9. Question to you, prophetik, since this thread is alive again: I know a couple years back you preferred WD hard drives to any other company, their caviar black series in particular. Are they still good these days? I'm likely going to need another HD soon, since my current ones are filling up quickly, and I'm looking at various 1TB and 2TB drives (not sure what size I want to get). Thoughts?
  10. I hardly ever watch anime as they come out*, so I'm always at least a season behind. So for me, the question is more like "any anime you're looking forward to this past summer season?" Of course, I've got such a backlog that regardless of my answer, it's gonna be a while until I actually get to any of them. That said, while I won't be watching it until I get around to reading the VN, I swear to all that you consider holy, if they fuck up Little Busters!... Death. Just death. For all involved. * Only exception so far being FMA:B
  11. So apparently this is going to be a new anime at some point in the future. Don't know when, but it's on its way. Any thoughts on the premise? I don't know if it's going to end up good or bad or what, but it's now on my radar, at least. In other news, by now you'd have expected another anime review from me, perhaps, and I also expected that. Alas, despite having acquired several recently, I haven't actually watched anything new since reading Narcissu because I've put a self-imposed restriction on myself: I have to make actual goddamn progress on my goddamn novel before I'm allowed to watch any more anime. I've been in a writing rut recently, so yeah. BUT... there's no such restriction on my for visual novels, since reading them is helpful for my writing. I've recently gotten a hold of Planetarian, so you may or may not see a review of that in the near future.
  12. There's still much work to be done, inside and out, but the draft version of the government building is complete. Finally. Go check out the inside if you want, but just remember that it isn't finished. The 2nd floor and main chamber aren't furnished and some of the ceilings and floors aren't the right materials, but the general layout is complete (barring any sudden inspiration).
  13. Since I've been given the go-ahead by a few of you, I'm back with a write-up for a visual novel by itself. I've done partial reviews of visual novels in this thread before (specifically, Kanon and Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two), but both with the accompanying anime adaptation. This one has no such adaptation, and frankly... I hope it stays that way. For good reasons, mind you. I should note that it's actually two visual novels; the original and the prequel that came after. Both were released for FREE and the pack containing the english translations of both can be found here: http://www.neechin.net/narcissu/. There's also a third visual novel, composed of several stories in the same world and tone of the first two but unrelated to the story written in them, but it is an actual commercial venture and so is NOT free. Since those stories are not directly connected with the first two, I'm not going to worry about putting them into this write-up (that, and I've not read them yet; don't even know if they've been translated at this point). Anyway, here we go. Narcissu Narcissu is the product of the doujin group stage-nana. It is the story of two young adults that have found themselves at a dead-end: both are terminally ill and have been transferred into a hospice to live out their remaining time. The story opens with narration from Setsumi, one of the protagonists, beginning in 1996 and continuing on for "many seasons." Then we get some background information from the never named second protagonist, henceforth referred to as "Unnamed," starting in 2004 and continuing to January of 2005, when he is admitted to the hospice and meets Setsumi. It is there that the real story begins and we get to know the life they have to look forward to. However, they come to decide that their choice of where to die, either at home or in the hospice, is not good enough. They take the third option and leave for someplace, any place, that isn't those two choices. The rest of the story is the journey of these two hospice escapees. This visual novel leans deeply into the minimalist side of storytelling. The readers follow the story largely through the perspective of Unnamed, with some interludes told from the perspective of Setsumi at an unspecified time in the past. Few details are given; we aren't shown or told much at all about either of the protagonists, especially Setsumi. We aren't told what their illnesses are, just that they are terminal and that both have undergone chest surgery of some sort. In addition, the visual aspect of the visual novel is largely shots of the environment they find themselves in. We never see Unnamed, and the very few images of Setsumi we do get are often shown quickly before disappearing. Aside from a few shots, the images are all very wide and narrow, giving it a cinematic feel. The music is the only aspect that isn't explicitly minimalist, but it still errs to that side much of the time. Even so, the music is very beautiful and does its part very well in helping to carry the story. Finally, Narcissu is intentionally given to you with two versions: and unvoiced version and a voiced version, with the narrative within each tweaked to best fit the chosen style. As I recall, only Setsumi is voiced in the voiced version. The author of the story intended the readers to read the story both ways, because according to him, the focus of the story changes just from the inclusion or exclusion of voices. I have to agree with this assertion and his recommendation of reading it both ways. Because of the minimalist style Narcissu takes, the presentation quality rides almost entirely on the journey the story takes us on. It is a relatively short journey; as far as visual novels go, this one is fairly short. It's entirely possible to knock it out in a single night. But in that short time we're treated to a very well-done, concise journey. Nothing ever seems irrelevant, and at no point are we lost. The music always suits the tone of the scenes, and even though we hardly ever see the characters (or rather, Setsumi), the images we do see do just as well at setting the tone. Perhaps better, even, given the writing style. There are, of course, flaws. Every work has them. But the flaws here are hardly noticeable and truly nitpicky. There are areas where I felt it was good be could be improved, mostly in the transitions between scenes and some aspects of the characterization. However, the more I think about it, the more I feel as though these areas shouldn't be perfect. It is a minimalist style, after all, and since we're not privvy to many thoughts of the characters, it's hard to really pin down what type of people they even are. Indeed, we're not given deep looks into the characters' thoughts or feelings, just glimpses of them as they continue moving. We as readers are not made to be participants in their emotional struggles, but are merely silent observers nearby. I got the sense, even, that the author specifically crafted the story so that we would not empathize well with the characters. "How are we, as 'healthy' people, supposed to connect with those condemned to death?" is perhaps the question the author asks. It isn't answered, either. We're merely given a window into which we watch and form our own conclusions about them. At most, we're told of a parallel between their story and that of another that partially gives Narcissu its name, and we're left to ponder on that point. I won't spoil the ending, but I do have to mention that the way it was presented initially jarred me. It was sudden, almost matter-of-fact; something you might not expect given the subject matter. And yet, I quickly came to feel that it just fit. It fit the story told, the tone of the narrative, and the characters involved. I didn't expect it to happen, even though I should have; perhaps I actually did, but refused to acknowledge it until I saw it. Either way, it was powerful. It was powerful, but not in the tear-jerking way. It wasn't written to be that way, even though some may still react as such. Without explicitly saying so, with very few words, it tears right into you and asks of you a very fundamental question. It's a question that's personal to each reader with its own answer. Narcissu presents the story, it presents the reality, and that's about it. It isn't even a philosophical story, in a sense, yet it manages to evoke such questions and feelings. It is a visual novel that is told in a way I hadn't yet encountered until now. It isn't a romance, mystery, or an adventure. It just is. That's the feeling I get from it, and it works. Not everyone will get the same thing out of it. Some may not get anything out of it. That's the nature of Narcissu. I won't give it a rating for that reason; it's too dependant on the reader and where they come at it from, and giving it a rating feels out of place for a work like this. That said... More than anything I've reviewed previous, this comes with my highest recommendation for reading. I've enjoyed many other stories more than I did Narcissu, but this one is simply different in the way it impacts you and really should be experienced at least once. Narcissu -Side 2nd- Narcissu -Side 2nd- (henceforth Narcissu 2) is the second story in the series. It is really a continuation of the first story, except that it is a prequel. It is another tale of two people, this time told from the perspective of a younger Setsumi, and in this tale, though she is ill, she has not yet progressed to terminal illness. During a visit to the hospital, she meets a woman named Himeko, a terminally ill yet energetic and cheerful resident of the hospice. Seemingly reluctant at first, Setsumi comes to befriend Himeko and continues to visit her at the hospice quite often during the summer months while grappling with the life issues she faces at home. She and Himeko must also face the future that is sure to come. The story forms the basis for the character of Setsumi in the original Narcissu. Narcissu 2 is a much larger body of work compared to the original. Whereas the original could be read in a single night if one so chose, Narcissu 2 requires several more hours of reading to complete. It is closer to the length of the average visual novel, and brings with it a larger team producing content. It even has an opening animation, something the original lacked and is somewhat standard in visual novels. In fact, those of you familiar with some of Key's work, such as Clannad, will likely recognize the singer for the main theme played in the opening video: the group Eufonius, and their vocalist Riya, provided the main theme for this visual novel, just as they did for Clannad. Several more people lended their voices for the voiced version of the story in their spare time, as well. In short, Narcissu 2 feels more like a complete commercial visual novel than the original, despite it still being released for free. The story is presented in much the same way as the original. The artwork continues to largely avoid showing any of the characters, the music continues to be beautiful, there are voiced and unvoiced versions of the story, and the story continues to follow the trend of not providing very many details. It is more refined though, what with the larger team producing the content. More characters have voices in this story; I can only remember one character that did not have a voice, and that character only had one or two lines. This contributes to expanding the cinematic feel that the original had a bit of, and that is brought even further by the fact that the story has an auto-advance function so that the readers don't have to do anything other than read and listen. Much like the original, Narcissu 2 seems to attempt to do its best at preventing the reader from empathizing too much with any of the characters. However, this is hampered a bit by the fact that the story runs for much longer and more glimpses of their thoughts and feelings are provided to the reader. Because of this, Narcissu 2 ends up being a much more emotional story by the end, though it still is very muted compared to what it could have been if it had been in the hands of a producer such as, say, Key. The emotions are not the point of the story. The story is the point of the story, and in this case, unlike the original, the characters also end up being the point. Intentionally or not. Setsumi's journey from the girl she is here to the girl she is in the original is played very well. At a glance, one might not realize that she's ever different from what she will be; the difference's are a bit subtle. However, they're magnified as the story advances and tie-ins to the original are brought into the mix. There are some inconsistencies between the stories, which I hear are fixed in the subsequent releases of the original, but despite this, the story does well to tie everything together. Himeko's part of the story is different from Setsumi's. While Setsumi is at this point merely sick, Himeko is terminally ill. Despite this, she's cheerful and energetic. We're presented with a more traditional storyline with her in that we get to learn about Himeko just as Setsumi does. The choices she makes and has made, why she acts as she does, learning about these and more are what her story comprises of. Characters beyond the main two are also given much more prominence in this story. In particular are Setsumi's mother and Himeko's sister. Having them interacting with the main characters gives them a much more filled out personality, one that is easier to empathize with. There is a third character that plays an important role, but I will not name that character for reasons of spoilers, despite it being pretty obvious early on. Many of the themes present in Narcissu also show up in Narcissu 2, including making parallels between their stories and another, though the story given as a parallel is different this time. The connection is also made much more strongly and explicity, so we're left understanding it much more clearly. It is one of the central themes that is brought up over and over: we as people only have three choices of who we'll be. Some of us can choose who we want to be; some won't get that choice. In the end, like the original, the ending is abrupt and to the point. In a way, it's even more impactful here than it was in the original, simply because we can connect with the characters here more, so having their stories end so quickly and without detail really drives the point home that the story is a statement of reality. Questions are asked again, and again, no real answers are given. It's where the ultimate power of this visual novel comes from. There aren't any frills given to you, so you have to make of it as you will. Even with the greater length, the more complete character personalities, the more traditional storytelling, Narcissu 2 still feels like the original Narcissu. The tone remains muted and the narrative still feels intentionally somewhat impersonal. It still asks questions of the reader without actually asking anything. It's a worthy addition to the story of the original in that regard, and the fact that it corrects many of the minor flaws of the original simply makes it that much better. Both should be read, and you can even choose what order to read them in. I read the original and then Narcissu 2, but according to the author, he intends for Narcissu 2 to be read first and then the original after, now that both are out. That would significantly change the tone of both, knowing what the other contains and what the characters end up being or had been beforehand. The way both can cut into the reader would be significantly different, too. Reading them in one order or another has their advantages and disadvantages, but neither is the better way. Narcissu 2 has a "better" story being told in the traditional storytelling sense, but that isn't nearly as important as the fact that both are an experience. Narcissu 2 impacts the reader just like the original. As such, I again give my highest recommendation for reading to this visual novel. You may not get anything out of it, or you could be impacted greatly by the messages it sends, but it should be experienced at least once regardless.
  14. Out of curiosity, would you guys be okay with me posting a purely visual novel write-up in this thread? There isn't a thread dedicated to them and I doubt there'd be enough interest to sustain one. I've written about a couple VNs in this thread, but it's always been with their anime adaptations; this one doesn't have an adaptation, so it'd just be the VN this time. I figure anime is the closest thing to a VN, what with their art style, voice acting and such, so you guys might have some interest in hearing about them.
  15. I never did get to play the original Mechwarrior games... are they worth finding and playing even now? I have played the MechCommander games, though.
  16. Done and done. It was nearly impossible to really get into the presentation details on their own without having to rewrite each of the reviews entirely, so I settled on just giving a basic rundown of how the plot progresses in the beginning without getting into spoilers, and then a brief summary of how the series/movie is presented before moving on to the original reviews. Since much of the presentation is covered in the original reviews anyway, just alongside my thoughts on whether I liked it, I figure that's a decent compromise this time. I'll try to structure future reviews better and more comprehensively.
  17. When I wrote those at 2am I thought it wouldn't need context since obviously people would remember what I had written about both series earlier in the thread, so stuff like that wouldn't be needed. Evidently, my logic center doesn't work very well at 2am. I'll go back today and edit in context just for you, since you provided constructive feedback that I need but so seldom get. Is there anything else you wanted to see besides the typical "here's what the story is about" type thing?
  18. Part 2: Clannad: The Motion Picture I'm a big fan of Clannad. I love the visual novel, I love the anime series adaptation, I love the music, and when I finally am able to understand Japanese, I'll likely love the various other media that have come out for it. However... this is the exception. The Mongols of the Clannad series, if you will. DFTBA I won't say this is a bad movie, because it has its merits. I won't say it's a good movie, either, because it feels rather disjointed overall. I will say that this movie should not have been a Clannad movie. With a little extra work, it could easily have been made into its own original story and characters. This movie adaptation did most of the work already with all the changes it made to the story and characters, so changing a bit more and taking out the Clannad remnants could have easily made the movie better than what it ended up being. Those familiar with Clannad know the basic premise. The narrative follows Tomoya, a high school student that lives with his negligent father and is a well-known delinquent at the school he attends. However, when walking to school one day, he happens upon Nagisa standing at the bottom of the hill, hesitant to attend school. After giving her some brief, one-sided encouragement before moving on, he is soon dragged into her life and the lives of many others, people facing their own troubles alone. Tomoya, not as uncaring as he initially seems, is driven to help them along the way. That is the main gist of the original story. Like the earlier Kanon, Clannad originated as a branching-path visual novel by Key, so an anime adaptation has to make some choices in how to translate it to a linear story. The 2007 series does it much like Kanon, doing its best to integrate most of the individual characters' stories into the telling of the main storyline, that being Nagisa's. Not so with this movie adaptation. The movie takes a different path by cutting out everything aside from Nagisa's storyline. The story thus becomes one focused entirely on their relationship. It is a romance movie that tends toward the serious side. Tomoya meets Nagisa at the bottom of the hill and offers encouragement, telling her to find a reason for herself to come to school each day. He thinks that will be the end of it, but Nagisa returns to him, telling him the motivation she found for herself is to revive the drama club and perform at the festival. Tomoya, at first reluctant to help, eventually comes around and does what he can to help her achieve her goal. In that time the bond between him and Nagisa develops. However, the festival is just the beginning, and Tomoya must soon face a terrible reality. The movie is meant to be a serious, emotional ride for the viewer. It uses contemplative scenes to build tension while at the same time using expressive visuals and the main narrative to build the emotional connections between the viewers and Tomoya and Nagisa. Excitement in the movie isn't played up and is brief when it does happen. Optimism and affection are emphasized whenever possible, along with sadness. The mood is reflected in the visuals; you'll often see shadows obscuring parts of a shot, or radiant light highlighting another. The colors are dull when things turn for the worse, but vibrant whenever someone in the scene is in good spirits. That's almost always Nagisa, incidentally, so when the big event happens later in the movie, don't be surprised when the visuals change to reflect the new reality. Unfortunately, it's the presentation of the movie that runs into problems, and that hurts the mood the viewers will end up feeling. The movie's plot revolves entirely around the relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa. Entirely. Unlike the VN and TV series, the movie cuts away everything else and focuses exclusively on that aspect of the story. The other main characters from Clannad are cast aside to minor roles at best and nonexistence at worst (Fuuko, nooooooooo!). Even more, most of the characters that do survive the cut are changed in some fundamental way. I won't say who and to what for them, because as far as changes go, those are the least relevant. I do want to bring up Tomoya and Nagisa's changes, of course, given that they're central to the story. Tomoya's character in the other media is one of indifference and mild cynicism, but also caring – if you could get him involved, which he'd readily do under some circumstances. Genuinely a good guy. He's changed in the movie to a completely jaded husk of a person, not caring about anyone and having to be forced to really do anything that involves interacting with other people. Nagisa, on the other hand, is changed from a somewhat airy and shy girl, yet cheerful when with friends, to one that is almost optimistic to a fault on the outside and will follow around Tomoya for no given reason despite him essentially telling her to go away. I have no problem with these character types, but changing the two main characters in Clannad to them does a lot to break up what Clannad was intended to be as a story. It would have been better to make new characters for the story told, which brings us to that point. The story itself is changed significantly as well. The main events, up to a certain point, are kept intact to one degree or another, but the portrayal, the feelings, the reasons – they're completely different. Clannad in the VN and TV series was a lighthearted, humorous story with very emotional turns as it progresses. The movie does away with most of the humor and goes nearly full-on serious. The scenes of the dream world in particular are completely different and carry none of the original aspects or feelings. I have no problem with the story itself, but it's so significantly changed from the original in tone, feel, and other characteristics that I think it'd have been better to tell it without the constraints that using the Clannad name brings. The story's intent was not preserved in the movie. There's something to be said about the original intent of a story and how it's brought into adaptations. It's not a strict rule, as one can see with adaptations of other stories. Many stories are defined by the characters, and many others the plot central to it. That's why some stories, like the Batman series, can be retold in so many different ways, in so many different tones. The character of Batman and his ideals is central to it, not the tone of the story itself. Clannad, however, is defined more by the tone it has and the deeper meanings behind events. Without that preserved, it ceases to be Clannad and merely becomes a story with Clannad characters and story progression. That is why I say it should not have been a Clannad movie. The quality of the movie is another matter. Clannad or not, the movie's story must be judged on its own merits as well. Unfortunately, I feel as though it was not executed very well. It tried many things, and the intent behind them was good, but it failed to bring it all together in the end. In essence, the movie suffers from spending too much time on certain elements and not enough on others. The movie hinges on drawing the viewers in through the characters, so being able to empathize with them is paramount. However, the two main characters are a little too distant from the average person for us to really connect with them in the short amount of time given to us. It's possible, but more time would've been needed setting them up before moving forward with the story. A few too many distracting elements were scattered through the scenes as well, hampering the effort, and several parts were narrated rather than shown. Narration is hardly ever a good way of telling a story that's so dependent on evoking a connection from the viewer. As the story progresses, we don't get to see much in the way of meaningful interaction between Tomoya and Nagisa, so we don't really get a feeling for the relationship progression. So when Tomoya ends up declaring his love for Nagisa after her performance feels more like it being a love based on the dreams, rather than one between the characters. This isn't helped by the fact that the next thing we get is a narration, again, of what they did afterward. We're just supposed to accept that they love each other because stuff that's spoilers! And when the bomb gets dropped soon after, because we don't have the connection to the characters that we need, the emotional impact is minimal at best. We know we should be sad, but that's all it really amounts to. The rest of the story feels even more rushed. Within the confines of the movie, the viewers have no way to understand why one character is doing what she's doing, and we never get a proper build up of tension for the finale of the movie. That part especially feels rushed. The ending feels like it gets foisted upon us and we're told to feel the bittersweetness. It just doesn't work. It could've done better if the connections were made early in the movie, but even then, the moment doesn't feel right. I know exactly what they were going for, and I can appreciate it on a conceptual level. It just didn't work out the way it should have. I want to make a special note concerning the dreamworld sections. In the original story, these end up being rather important to the story itself, so time really needed to be spent on them in the original. In the movie, however, I feel like they were being used as some sort of proxy for conveying the feelings of Tomoya and Nagisa. Putting aside the changes made to them from the original, the movie's version of them just lacked any sort of tangibility. Nothing in them mattered. They aren't strictly necessary for the story, they're merely there as another part of the world. In a movie that's only an hour and a half long and requires every moment to be used to their fullest, these sequences felt out of place. Overall, I think the main thing to take away from this is that the story, as presented, would've been so much better if it either had perhaps another half-hour or so of screentime available to spend on the characters or found a way to use less time on the nonessential parts. The story is good, it just didn't properly show it. The time it had to do so was squandered a bit on less important details, taking away from the core aspects. Perhaps it was trying to rely on previous knowledge of the characters to fill the gaps, but when you change the characters so much, previous knowledge and connections become meaningless. I know there a plenty that really do like this movie and were moved by it, though. Perhaps I am the type of person that doesn't respond well to short experiences like this. Who knows. Maybe the real quality of the movie just passed right over my head. On that note, I do want to say that the visuals for the movie tended to be pretty good. I felt they were a little on the heavy-handed side at times, but when telling a story like this in just an hour and a half, subtleties can just slow things down when you need to keep it moving along. Overall, the animators did a good job utilizing visuals and camera angles to achive the maximum effect. In addition, the movie also keeps things fairly simple, which is actually a good thing. The plot is easy to follow and the characters' motivations and feelings are clear as day. Like I said before, I have no issue with the characters themselves. It was a bit nice to watch as Nagisa's unrelenting optimism chipped away at Tomoya little by little, and all the supporting characters did contribute at least a little. Could they have been utilized better, or even combined roles into few characters to provide a stronger secondary character aspect? Definitely. But what's there does work, even with the little time they have. I think the movie is consistently good at keeping the secondary characters present just enough to keep the whole movie grounded. Without them, the whole thing could've descended into a pit of bad feelings for the viewer. One special note: Nagisa's performance at the festival and her telling of her story is fantastic. The visuals are great and the narration is more or less flawless. Absolutely no complaints. None. The absolute high point of the movie. If you're a fan of Clannad, don't go into this movie expecting the same type of experience. If you aren't familiar with Clannad, try to ignore the oddities with the secondary characters and see if you like it, but know that this movie has MAJOR, MAJOR SPOILERS for the visual novel and anime. If you plan on reading or watching one or both of those, do so beforehand; it is possible to truly enjoy the movie while knowing what's generally going to happen due to the changes made to it, but the VN and TV series' impact may be cut down significantly if you watch the movie first. Rating: C
  19. What? You want another review? No? Too bad, you're getting TWO. The two reviews will be split into their own posts, though, since OCR's character limit on posts is too low to fit both into one. These aren't all sunshine and rainbows, though, for this time I bring you two alternative adaptations to previously watched series. One is pretty good, though lacking somewhat in areas compared to the more recent adaptation. The other... hurt a bit to watch, but it did have its own merits. Kanon (2002 Toei Animation Version) If you've read my previous reviews, you'll remember me reviewing a different adaptation of Key's Kanon, the 24-episode, 2006 Kyoto Animation version. I mentioned there that I may review the 13-episode, 2002 version, and whaddya know, here it is. Kanon tells the story of Yuuichi, a young man that has just transferred to a new school in a new town where his aunt's and his cousin, Nayuki, live, where he'll be spending his time until graduating. It's been 7 years since he last visited and he doesn't recall much of anything about those days there as a boy. He quickly meets a number of young women inside and outside his school, including the amnesiac Makoto, the quiet, sword-wielding Mai, the upbeat yet evasive Shiori, and the oddly childish Ayu. As he spends time with them and others, he begins to recall memories that hint he may have known some of them as a child. Mysteries are abound, and soon he is pulled deep into each of their stories as he grapples with not being able to quite grasp the memories that lay beneath the surface. Who were these people in his past, and what significance does it have in the present? Kanon, at first glance, appears to be your run-of-the-mill high school haremfest, but as the narrative progresses and you are drawn into each character's story, the series takes an emotional turn for the characters and the viewers. The story is structured to endear you to the characters with upbeat, everyday humor/cuteness before pulling out the twists, turns and tragedies that are made to evoke strong emotions. Kanon originated as a visual novel with a branching storyline, so each character's story wasn't originally meant to mesh with the others. This anime adaptation thus has had to find a way to make it work as a single, linear narrative. It largely does so; the characters are built up mostly together in the first half before delving into each character's finale individually. The Kanon 2002 series largely succeeds on the storytelling front; everything is as clear as it's meant to be and the viewers' interest is largely kept throughout. Each significant event or item is hinted at through the series, building the tension as it does so until it hits the final release. It stumbles on the emotional front, however, due to the time and space limitations of a 13-episode run. Since another adaptation exists in the 2006 version, I'll be explaining why this is with the 2006 version as a reference in some places. The first thing that is immediately obvious to anyone familiar with the 2006 version is that the art style differs quite a bit. The character designs here are a bit closer to the original visual novel's designs, for better and for worse, and have a more 'cartoony' feel to them in both the body forms and the color scheme used. It's less subtle, in other words. This isn't a bad thing in itself, though it can be off-putting considering the other main distinction: the animation is far less fluid than the 2006 version. Slow movements are fine, but ones that cover more screenspace in a short amount of time fall victim to choppiness. It's not too distracting once you get used to it, but it's there. Kyoto Animation's work is a hard bar to reach, especially if theirs is newer. Putting the animation aside, the main concern is whether or not this adaptation succeeds on the story, characters, and feelings fronts. Since both versions are covering pretty much exactly the same ground, it's hard not to compare the two. After watching the first episode, I was ready to tear my hair out, but it wasn't due to the quality. There wasn't anything wrong with it, per se, but I simply couldn't agree with many of the choices that were made in adapting the VN to the anime. Some were nice and even hinted at the priorities the show would have later on, but others just felt off-mark, considering the source material. In particular, I felt the presentation was blatantly pointing out hints that I felt would be better off being subtle. Even the 2006 version slipped up a little bit here at times, but this first episode was on another level completely. It also brought things into play at the beginning that anywhere else would not have been seen until much later on. Even after watching the entire show, I still can't agree with how they presented many things in the first episode. Thankfully, the blatantness gets toned down a little after that, though not as much as I might've liked. However, I also recognize that trying to condense such a long VN into 13 episodes is a daunting task. It's difficult enough with 24 episodes. The way it's done does help move things along, though it sacrifices potential atmosphere and suspense later on in doing so. The characters are portrayed mostly the same as in the VN and 2006 version, so I don't have any complaints here. There are subtle differences, of course. Yuuichi is portrayed here with a slightly less sarcastic personality than the 2006 version's, for instance, and Ayu is a bit closer to her VN roots here. This affects some details in the event portrayals later on, but nothing is actually lost for it. Despite the lack of time available for character development, this show does a fairly good job of hitting all the important points and even inserting a few short sequences that do a lot to define the characters. However, the time issue does come into play with the empathy component of the viewer experience, and that's my main complaint about this adaptation. There's enough time available through the entire show to understand how the characters are feeling and why they're doing what they do, but there isn't enough time to both describe all the important events and feelings and also to spend enough time showing them to properly foster empathy between the viewer and all the characters. That is to say, this show will not evoke the same strong, emotional response that the VN and 2006 version can. It certainly has its moments: for instance, its handling of Kaori I felt was much stronger in this version, enough to make my chest tighten briefly, something the 2006 version couldn't do. However, for all the main characters, their stories are fairly cut down to the essentials. The beginning and middle of each is covered together in the first half of the series. Following that, Mai gets two episodes to finish her story, then Makoto and Shiori each get a single episode to finish their own story. The last three episodes are split between Nayuki and Ayu. In the first three cases, this is simply not enough time to create the emotional attachment so central to what Kanon was made for without cutting out significant amounts of detail made for that purpose, thus negating the effect either way. Mai's in particular is noteworthy in that the showing of her history, her troubles, and how it relates to her story is simply left out. No explanation given. If you weren't already familiar with her story, you'd be left with a giant blank spot with regard to Mai's full picture. Shiori and Makoto aren't given the proper time, either; Makoto in particular is a sad example. Her big central event is over so quickly I was left wondering if I had blacked out and missed part of it. All the emotion is gone. Shiori's wasn't much better in that regard, though she didn't have a huge event to build up to, so hers wasn't impacted quite so much. That leaves Nayuki and Ayu. I am happy to say that Nayuki fans will be rather pleased with this adaptation's handling of her arc. The 2006 version left something to be desired with Nayuki, and while in my last review I said I felt it was more or less the best they could do, given the source material, I am retracting that statement right now. This version of the events, while still rushed due to time, covers Nayuki's inner feelings and conflict so much better. They're given their due time here. I can personally appreciate it; I'm a Nayuki person, myself, and my heart was pained as a result for one moment in particular. A cliché moment, to be sure, but cliché doesn't mean bad. As for Ayu, up until the initial separation, it's covered much in the same way as the 2006 version. Quicker and with some details different, but much the same, so no complaints story-wise. Unfortunately, the quicker aspect also applies to one main event in the story, so again, the emotional impact is cut down quite a bit. After that, certain details are different, and I think I prefer the discovery of the truth in this version compared to both the VN and the 2006 version's, but otherwise, again, it's much the same. The final scenes are handled in a more forward way than the 2006 version, much like the rest of the show, but it works here. I have no complaints, it's just a different take on how to portray it. The 2002 adaptation also has a single OVA episode that takes place in the time just prior to the final scene in the main series. It basically catches up with the main characters and ties up a few loose ends; the main one being Nayuki. I have mixed feelings about it, especially when it comes to how the follow-up to Makoto is handled. Some of it feels genuine, and some of it feels almost like fanfiction. I don't believe the events have any basis in the Kanon canon, so really, that's essentially what it is. It's a decent addition, but not really necessary. So my final verdict on the series? It's good. Not great, but if you liked the VN and/or the 2006 anime adaptation, this 2002 adaptation is a nice addition to the experience. It's a different portrayal on the story, and though I would not recommend it for those new to the story, those familiar with the story beforehand can appreciate it much more due to having character impressions and details from the other sources. A few details from the VN not in the 2006 version can be found here, too, which is a plus. And of course, Nayuki gets the attention she needed in this portrayal compared to the 2006 version. Overall a good experience, if rather heavy-handed due to time constraints. Rating: B (with the caveat that it is extremely recommended that viewers read the VN or watch the 2006 adaptation beforehand for full enjoyment)
  20. If all you want is mech ass-kicking, I guess the more human parts of the show wouldn't appeal. Mech ass-kicking is a more universal form of enjoyment; who needs silly human emotions when there's half a city to destroy every week? It'd be a strange day to find someone that doesn't enjoy it at least a bit.
  21. A~zu~nyan! I return with a double-feature review! And not a combination you'd expect, either. But first, let's backtrack for a moment. This past weekend I replayed a few portions of the Kanon VN to get a better feeling for how the stories are set up and executed. In the process, however, I stumbled upon a realization I hadn't come to during my first read-through, partly due to the order that I played the paths in. I won't say anything else besides this: the realization was about Ayu within the other paths and was a punch to the gut. "Think you're over your feels about Kanon? Ha, you're going to feel it again whether you like it or not." Anyway, because I watched them side-by-side and I figure talking about these two won't be very long individually, I bring to you today reviews of two anime and their films: K-ON! and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Ooooh, the contrast! K-ON! If you didn't see my previous post, I'll sum it up as follows: "I've never before watched pure moe-blob anime before. I started watching K-ON! and it has infected me with smiles." It was a bit more passionate, but that's how it boils down. K-ON! is a slice-of-life anime, and in true slice-of-life fashion, plot is pretty much thrown out the window in favor of making the ordinary lives of five highschool girls interesting, usually by way of amplified reactions, silly idiocy, and general adorableness of the main cast. If you're looking for a plot, look elsewhere; this is all about the characters. And if you're looking for any sort of darkness in the show, forget it. In the world of K-ON!, darkness is nonexistent. If you're looking for music, well, you'll get a few songs, but that's about it. If you're looking for cuteness and more cuteness, WELCOME ABOARD. The show starts out with four of the main characters (Yui, Mio, Mugi, Ritsu) and adds the fifth (Azu-nya—ah, sorry, Azusa) halfway through the first season. It's interesting how that ends up working out. Azusa is the serious one of the group (or tries to be), and her addition allows the entire cast to go above and beyond with their antics while having someone to pull them all back down. It helps to accentuate the impact of the adorableness/craziness/cute idiocy when it happens (and it happens ALL THE TIME) by forcing it back down, even for just a few moments. That way the viewer isn't in a constant sugar-high. It'll just be a near-constant suger-high instead. The series as a whole works well. The first season, in retrospect, builds up the characters, gets the viewers used to them without their actions seeming too odd, before cranking it all up to eleven in the second season. The second season is where the show really shines as far as the light, cute feelings and jokes go, though those that aren't particularly fond of the style will have grown tired of them by the time the first season is over. I use jokes here loosely, too; the show is a comedy, but it's more clever/cute observations about the characters than traditional jokes. The movie continues in the same form, not much plot and mostly-rapid-fire yet light humor. There's a bit more of a concentration of them playing music, too, which is nice. The movie is basically an extended season 2 episode that ends with a nice, fulfilling, maybe even emotional conclusion to the series when paired up with the ending to season 2. It still ends on a humorous note, though. Speaking of humor, Yui and Ritsu are the two main setups for gags when they happen, and the main reactions are done primarily through Mio and Azusa. Mugi is played a little differently and remains a bit more in the background. She's usually there to deliver the second punch or make the first one stronger. However, due to this, I feel that her own gags, which happen infrequently and are usually very simple (even compared to the rest of the show), have the greatest impact per hit. Whether it be by adorableness, naivety, or doing something completely unexpected (which really is to be expected from her, given her background), she was the most consistent in getting me to keel over in amusement and diabetes. That said, there were very few jokes and scenes that did not at least make me smile. Given the frequency of the antics, I simply did not stop smiling throughout each episode. For such a whimsical series, you wouldn't expect too much from the animation, but it is done amazingly well in this series. I don't mean flashy movements or amazing visual detail, though. It's the attention to animation subtlety that is so fantastic in this series. Even the smallest movements are given individual touches. Each character moves differently from the rest, emphasizing character traits and feelings. Even shots of legs climbing stairs and walking is given full attention by the animators to create expressions of the character they belong to. Watch an episode, particularly in the second season, without the sound on; even without it, the characters' personalities shine through using their movements. The characters are each basically a caricature of a personality, and it's used to great effect. When something goes down, you more or less know how each character could react, but you know neither the specifics of how and exactly which ones are going to be doing so. The semi-predictability is a positive in this way, since it builds up the characters so they'll always be playing off each other's strengths (in the entertainment sense). Due to that, the viewers' empathy can be tapped quickly, as they can identify parts of themselves within each character while not getting distracted by other character traits that the viewer may not have and may hamper their empathy. If K-ON! is representative of what's typical in moe-blob shows as far as characters go, I think this is why the moe-blob sub-genre is so popular. They're easy to identify with personality-wise, so the humor that hinges on those personality traits are very likely to resonate. That said, each character does have a few traits that aren't expressed as often but make them so much more likeable when they are finally used. Overall, it's an excellent show for those viewers looking for the anime equivalent of comfort food. It's tailored specifically to drag out as many good, light, fluffy feelings as possible. From the visual style to the way it plays with the characters, it's "fuwa fuwa" through and through. The show meanders but never really loses its relaxed edge; it comes close at times in the first season, but never really does in the second. I don't have much else to say about the show, since it's really quite simple and you'll either like it or not, so I'll leave you with this statement of fact: Every family needs a Mugi-chan. <3 Mugi Rating: A Neon Genesis Evangelion If you haven't seen the original Evangelion series, stop what you're doing and go watch it. Not because it's the greatest thing ever (it isn't), but because it's one of those defining series for the mecha genre and anime as a whole. This review is of my second time watching it; the first was some 7 years ago. The start of the series is fairly typical of what was common around the time it came out. A simple "here's the target, go fight it", with more-or-less a "daily enemy" to battle and ultimately win against. It isn't completely generic for the time, but much of it does get played fairly straight. However, hints are dropped early on about how the series will end up playing out. Specifically, the show shifts its focus more on the characters themselves (and their inner conflicts) than it does on the actual battles. It starts doing so about halfway through and continuously ramps it up all the way to the end. Especially at the end. Oh dear lord, the original ending... The plot isn't the most interesting in the world, but it does its purpose. In the beginning, all you know is that humanity is threatened by things called Angels and there's these big robots called Evas used to fight them. As time passes, more and more details about both the Angels and the Evas are revealed, fueling the viewer's desire to understand the mystery going on behind the scenes. The show uses the plot and the visuals to achieve this through some straight and some clever effects and snippets of conversations and actions. It never reveals too much at a time, but also never too little. The information is spread out in an almost ideal fashion; just as we're getting bored with what we currently know, something new is dropped into the mix that throws our perception of the situation out of balance. Characters are also affected in this manner, swinging our ideas of who's right and who's wrong back and forth. Nothing is ever quite so universally gray as some series, like the Gundam franchise tends to be, but none of the main characters are shown to be either good or bad, just with different motivations and, particularly, with different fears. Shinji gets the most of this treatment, but the rest have their fair share as well. Even Shinji's father, the one main character in the show we're sure is just a dick for quite some time. The visuals aren't spectacular, but they're good. More importantly, they're used properly. Shots are lined up to emphasize a feeling, a moment, or even just a particular character. It's done very effectively. However, there has always been some controversy over the nature of some of the symbolism used throughout the show. Some say it's deliberate with deep meaning, others say it's there just because. Without getting into what the creators have said on the subject, it is my opinion that the symbolism is deliberate yet shallow at best. It's done very obviously, with the visuals and the words used, but nothing about them hints at any sort of depth. When watching this series, I got the distinct feeling that it was all just to provide a hook for the viewers to latch onto, something to give it a more "epic" feeling without too much work. It certainly succeeded in that regard; the symbolism does a great job at making everything feel just a bit more tense, a bit more meaningful, without having to do much legwork itself. It's not thrown in the show halfhazardly, but neither is it given any sort of deep thought. What can I say about the ending? There's two. The original ending to the series within the last two episodes, and then the ending provided in the movie End of Evangelion. The original ending is a result of budget cuts during the series' production, causing the last two episodes to completely fall flat on their faces. One can say that there's some interesting psychology and such being revealed in those two episodes, both in the characters and as a general statement about humanity itself, and I will say that this isn't false. However, the episodes stretch for time so much that it dilutes any impact it may have had. The ending to this ending is deeply unsatisfying, too, as it provides no resolution. Absolutely none. End of Evangelion is the "true" ending according to the creators, made possible by the success of the series. It certainly gives the viewer the action one would've expected from the ending to the series, it condenses the philosophical segment of the final two episodes into a much more meaningful and directed form, and gives a resolution to the series. Perhaps not the most satisfying of resolutions to some, but it is a definite resolution. It's even symbolic, perhaps moreso than any other part of the series. The action scenes are done very well, the visuals are used to great effect, and there's even moments where you feel the characters' struggles right up until the end. It has an impact, something that was lacking in the original ending. It's an excellent movie finale for a pretty good series. Evangelion should be watched through at least once. Rating: B+ -------------------- Coming up next may be a review of a movie that, according to many, should never have been made. I recently acquired a copy and put it on my computer. Immediately, I felt a great disturbance in the fandom. As if millions of Key fans cried out in disgust and were suddenly silenced. As a diehard fan of the source material, I may be in for a rough hour and a half. ... Bring it on.
  22. But I never did. I wanted to, but then I found out that the VN doesn't have a complete English translation yet, so I'm putting both the VN and the anime adaptation on hold. I read through and watched Ef instead, which was the latest of my reviews. Maybe you're getting the two confused?
  23. Ah, by the way, is anyone getting any value out of my reviews as of late? Is it worth continuing? Is there anything in those you'd want me to improve/expand on? Should I change anything about how I do future ones? Just wondering if I should continue on and such. I enjoy writing them, but I don't know if anyone even bothers to read them, let alone find them useful. ---------- Both are already on my ever-growing list of anime in my backlog. Way too many in my backlog... Not to mention an even larger backlog of visual novels to get to... NEVER. Clannad will always be watched properly in my presence.
  24. So... I needed a break from the feels induced by all these visual novels and anime I've been watching. They're great, but too much over a short period of time can incapacitate. I needed something mindless yet interesting. Something that I could just sit down and enjoy for what it is at face value. I realized that I have never really fully ventured into the world of a certain genre. I'd certainly watched anime that had characters that embodied the genre, and definitely shows that used it to some degree but put plenty of focus on other plot/mystery/etc stuff. But an anime where this single value was the main and essentially only focus? Never. I had never ventured into pure moe-blob anime. It was time to rectify this. For science. I had heard rumors of it being such a dividing topic. I had seen people go absolutely nuts for it and people express a desire to take a shotgun to its head. So in the interest of science, I sat down to watch the oft-used example of moe-blob at the very high end of the concentration scale: K-ON!. It's shown up every time moe has been discussed and is popular, so it was time to see what the genre, and this particular anime, is cracked up to be. ... ... Oh god... The show doesn't have a plot. It doesn't have a real conflict. The characters, after a few episodes, still have no real depth. It's even creepy sometimes - what the hell is wrong with their hands? They're like little pegs! Everything's just playing up some klutzy action or cute reaction to something. There's nothing here that should be interesting! SO WHY CAN'T I STOP WATCHING?! Halfway through the very first episode I'd gotten a stupid smile plastered onto my face that Just. Won't. Come. OFF. I've made it through five episodes so far and the damn show is so goddamn adorable for some reason I can't seem to explain that unlike every other anime, I can't watch more than one episode every few hours. It's too much. I can power through 24 episodes of the most heart-wrenching anime in a single sitting, but this... this is too much in every single episode thus far, and I'm only six episodes in! I can't understand it! Why can't I stop grinning like an idiot?! "Is that moe? Is that what moe is?!" What have I done to myself?!
  25. Guess who's baa~ck! In an ideal world, the following post would contain a review of the VN and the anime adaptation of Key's Air. However, this isn't an ideal world. I found out recently that, surprisingly enough, Air has never been fully translated! A small group is working on it right now, but it's moving very, very slowly; it probably won't see the light of day for quite a while. Since I can't read Japanese, and I refuse to watch the anime until after I read the VN, Air will have to be put on hold. Instead, I come today with a review of Minori's visual novel Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two and its anime adaptation, Ef: A Tale of Memories (season 1) and Ef: A Tale of Melodies (season 2). WARNING: While my previous reviews have avoided all spoilers, I'm going to be mentioning some in this review to make a few points regarding the differences between the VN and the anime. Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two The story of Ef is actually a central tale that involves the telling of several other stories in sequence, all relating back in some way to the central tale. Each story can stand on its own, but together they form a more powerful narrative, as the characters aren't isolated to a single story. Each tale is a romance story, but they are more strongly associated with various difficulties that the characters must deal with. The romance itself is, in fact, more of a backdrop, a setting for the story, in at least three of the tales. These are character-driven stories; not much in the way of action happens, aside from the eroge sequences in the visual novel (these can be turned off, at least in the fan-translated version). In addition to the strong character-development focus of the stories, Ef differs from the run-of-the-mill visual novel in two other ways. The first is that it is a linear storyline, rather than the branching storyline typical to the genre. There a few choices to be made, but only one correct answer for each. Any wrong choice leads to a bad end, rather than just a variation in the story. So it's not like you're choosing between different romance options, which is what you normally see. The second difference is in the presentation; Ef attempts to bring a more cinematic feel to the story. Rather than have static backgrounds with the characters speaking from a front-and-center, straight-on perspective separate from the background, much of the story is presented with off-center camera angles and characters standing within the background picture. The mouths of the characters are also made to move when that character is speaking. This gives the VN as a whole a much more authentic feeling and can make scenes more or less intimate as needed. Prior to this VN, I had not seen this style of presentation in a visual novel; I enjoyed it greatly. The production value is very high. There are even a few fully animated title sequences scattered throughout the VN. The tones and feelings of each story in Ef differ greatly from one another. The first full tale presented is a fairly typical, straightforward love story. It's heartwarming and doesn't stray too much from convention. Compare that to two of the other stories. One is very bittersweet, setting a depressing tone of inevitability by starting late in the story and telling everything up until then in flashbacks, using it to build anticipation in the reader regarding how it ends up that way before finally showing you the conclusion. Another of the stories begins very innocently, starts delving into more serious issues involving death soon to be arriving, and then surprises you with a very traumatic experience - both for the characters AND the reader - as they try to deal with what the future will inevitably bring. These stories have the characters dealing with some very heavy issues, and it changes them. Ef's power comes from that. It is likely that one or more of the issues or themes will resonate with you on some level; the stories can leave you inspired, depressed, or anywhere in between. Regarding the viaul novel version, it's because the stories make the themes their focus and hit them hard with a precision that exudes excellent storytelling. The pacing is almost always right where it needs to be. The main characters are given enough time for you to become attached to them, and the secondary characters do a very good job of accentuating the strengths and weaknesses of the main characters. None of the issues presented to the characters feel forced, and so there's little to cause a reader to be pulled out of the experience. My own emotional state fluctuated wildly while reading the stories, from pleasant to feeling happy for the victory of another to depressed to horrified to anguish and finally sad, crying closure. All-in-all, the visual novel Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two is one of the best-written and most engaging stories I have read recent years. There is the potential for the story to have a long-term impact on the reader, but even if it doesn't, it is still likely to bring forth a wide range of strong emotions. The anime adaptation of Ef is 24-episodes split evenly among two seasons. It follows the same plot as the visual novel, but it makes minor and major changes to the story throughout. These changes are what can make and break the anime compared to the visual novel original. The first thing to note about the anime version is that it had to compensate for the lack of action in the stories. Most of the time the characters are simply talking to each other. To keep things interesting, the anime decides to take a more artistically liberal approach to the visuals. Individual cuts can be quite short, color schemes can change a dozen times in a single scene, camera angles can come in from any angle, and symbolic imagery is used often. This style of presentation makes some sequences more powerful while weakening others. The sections where the emotional connection to the characters relies on a realistic perspective used in the VN can be completely thrown off by the presentation in the anime. The anime, throughout the stories, chooses to focus on some different themes than the visual novel, and as a result, some details are completely changed. I do not know why they did this; the VN, being linear as it is, wouldn't have required any significant changes to adapt it to an anime presentation. However, I suspect they did it so they could play with the presentation style, as well as make it work within the 24 episodes they had. One of format changes involved telling the first three stories concurrently in the first season, rather than in sequence, and then telling the remaining stories concurrently in the second season. This had its benefits and problems, but the biggest problem ended up being one of focus; it was hard to connect fully with any of the individual characters and stories because it would keep switching between them. Another casualty of the concurrent storytelling is that one of the stories is almost gutted completely. It barely gets any attention at all, which I feel is a shame. The anime does do a good job with setting up certain themes and playing them out. One of the later themes is essentially 'having hope and looking forward', one not played as strongly in the VN, and the changes made to the story do enhance it quite a bit. Having certain characters show up where they didn't in the VN was also used to pretty good effect in tying together two of the stories. However, the anime version has three glaring problems. One is pacing. This is partly because of how the presentation was done in an artistic manner, but also because of how the stories were told together at once. Many important sequences were skimmed over, drastically reducing the impact of the rest of the story. Other parts were dragged on for just a little bit too long, which probably caused many of the skimming problems. <SPOILERS>Yuuko's story suffered the most from this. Entire, significant parts of her character development were left out near the end of the anime; her getting pregnant was the biggest. Her dark, twisted personality due to the abuse she endured is another. In fact, the entirety of her life after her escape from her brother was covered in just a single episode, including her death. That, combined with her drastically reduced presence in the first season, made the emotional impact her death had so much smaller. On a personal level, I cried a lot after her death in the VN. In the anime, it just couldn't bring forth more than a mellow sadness.</SPOILERS> The other problem is that many of the changes that were made caused it to become more of a typical romance tale that is lacking in depth. In that respect it is a decent story, but it fails to live up to the standard that the original visual novel set. <SPOILERS>Yuuko and Yuu's story, again, suffers the most from this. For instance, Yuu and Yuuko's running away from Amamiya, and Yuu's confrontation of him, play out in a generic manner, and as a result, all three characters don't receive the depth they did in the VN. Amamiya became the stereotypical external enemy pointing out Yuu's insecurities for him in the anime, while the VN had the much stronger theme of Yuu himself being the known internal enemy and having to finally acknowledge and conquer it on his own to help the one he loves.</SPOILERS> Finally, while there are parts that the anime does well in tying the individual stories together, it also has many more where it simply fails to truly make them feel as if they're a part of the larger whole. That feels forced in toward the end, and some of the changes the anime made undo much of the cohesiveness of the original. Bringing it all together feels more like an afterthought to the anime rather than a significant goal. To conclude, Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two is an extremely well thought out, emotionally engaging and thought provoking visual novel with an anime adaptation that works moderately well at times but manages to squander its potential and fall on its face far too often. The visual novel is a must-read for anyone interested in the visual novel format or enjoys romance and/or character-driven stories in general. The anime can be watched as a stand-alone romance tale, in which it is a good story brought down a bit by its execution. It is also worth watching if you're wanting the full Ef experience, but be prepared to be disappointed in how it plays out certain sequences if you've read the VN already. Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two Ratings Visual Novel: A+ Anime: B if unfamiliar with the visual novel, C if familiar with the visual novel
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