A look forward to next season: “Comedy” from Spy x Family

I didn’t make any secret of liking Spy x Family a lot last season. Just like almost everyone else who watched it judging by the other reviews and the extremely high ratings, so my own late opinion was nothing special. So of course I’m looking forward to the second cour of Spy x Family coming this fall.

Everything about Spy x Family was quality including the music, and especially the ending sequence paired with the song “Kiseki” or “Comedy” by singer/composer Gen Hoshino:

Typically if I prefer one theme over the other, it’s going to be the opening over the ending. For some reason that’s the case nine times out of ten (or in a few rare cases like Call of the Night I’ll like both of them equally.) The OP “Mixed Nuts” is a good time, but “Comedy” is more memorable to me. Or maybe I just like its smooth classy sound. I don’t know much of what else Gen Hoshino has done aside from the pretty all right catchy love song “Koi”, but if at least some of his other music lives up to “Comedy” I’ll have to check it out.

More action, more comedy, more Anya expressions

Take this as still another recommendation to catch up on Spy x Family if you haven’t already, but just as long as you like fun characters and an exciting story full of mind games (and quite literally mind-reading in Anya’s case.)

A short one today, but I’ll be back with more tomorrow. This month has been interesting, forcing me to think of something to write about every day. I hope I can keep it going until the end of August so I can satisfy my obsessive side.

Is self-deprecation a bad thing?

A blunt, straightforward question today, and one that might relate to me just a little.

A while back on Twitter, some kind of therapist or life coach or something was being piled on by a bunch of other users because of his continued insistence that self-deprecation is always, in any context, harmful and therefore shouldn’t be used. I’d link to the thread, but I didn’t save any of it and don’t remember where it is. That doesn’t matter much to me anyway, since it’s not this Twitter dogpile (those happen every day after all) but rather the argument itself that’s interesting. Was his argument against self-deprecation in every context right? Or if it was wrong, just how wrong was it?

It won’t surprise anyone when I say that I basically disagreed with this guy. His argument was so broad and sweeping, ignoring all the nuance of what’s definitely a nuanced subject, that it all came off as simplistic and even infantile. I think that had to be part of the reason for the pile-on: the insistence that no person should ever speak poorly of themselves, even in a joking way, because it harms the self-esteem just seems ridiculous. While I understand the basic idea of trying to be kind to yourself, this other sort of attitude is just too much for me and for a lot of other people apparently to take seriously.

But after thinking about it, there’s at least something to that argument. Not in the form this guy presented it in, but again in a more nuanced form. I think self-deprecation can be useful and even healthy in some cases. It makes for great humor when used the right way, and it can demonstrate humility, an important point since it’s possible to have too high self-esteem as well as too low (a problem that isn’t talked about often enough at least here in America, where confidence seems so often to be valued over knowledge and skill — I believe part of why our political culture is in the fucking toilet, but that’s a different issue.)

That said, I’ll acknowledge there’s a line where healthy self-deprecation can become unhealthy, and it’s one I might have crossed here on the site more than once. When I make jokes putting myself down here, I’m usually only half-joking, because there’s some actual feeling behind those comments. The trouble for me is that every time I hear about self-love, and even about “self-care”, I feel a little sick over it. Maybe I should love myself, but I think I know myself too well to do that.

SZS still has the best screenshots, and in my case some of the most fitting.

I think I’ve gotten better over the years about that kind of behavior and even about how I feel about myself. I really used to hate myself — probably part of what drove my physically and emotionally unhealthy habits like excessive drinking. I don’t think I hate myself anymore, but I certainly can’t say I love myself either. Maybe I can just barely tolerate myself at this point. At least that’s better than where I was before, but I guess it’s still not that great.

The trouble is that I don’t think I can get much further past this point, and I believe a lot of this is related to my situation. I saw a quote from a famous author, I forget which one, but it went something like: “if you don’t like your situation, change it; if you can’t do that, change your mindset.” Fine, then what if you can’t change your mindset either? If I were a different person, I could be happy with myself, but I can’t be anyone else. And that’s not even self-deprecation: it’s just the truth. I’ve been pounding my square peg into that round hole for years now because I simply have no other choice; telling me on top of that that I should try to be happy about it is unreasonable.

In any case, I don’t think not using self-deprecating humor (if you can really call it humor) is going to actually help with this, since I don’t believe too much in the power of either positive or negative reinforcement, or at least not to the extent some people do.

Then again, I also think the much-beloved self-help parable Who Moved My Cheese? is bullshit, so maybe my opinion doesn’t count for much.* I’d really be a great anti-motivational speaker, I think. How about it? Hire me for a thousand dollars an hour at your corporate retreat and I’ll have all your drones completely demotivated and depressed by the end of it.

 

* The short version: the advice in the book is decent and practical taken in a vacuum, but the book itself was used too often to wave away corporate callousness that affected us regular employees. Because downsizing might sometimes be necessary, but it can also be a fun opportunity for change! For example, you can take that opportunity to leave the corporate world and stop being miserable… except you can’t because you have a mortgage and auto and student loan and credit card payments to make. Forget about who moved your cheese — who wrecked your entire life?

Damn but I’m not having a good day today. I’ll see you tomorrow with something happier.

Games for broke people: Blaugust edition

Sure, why not. There are always more free games on itch.io to check out. Digging through that site for the stuff that’s not trash and has some effort put into it can be fun when you’re in the mood, and while I’m not necessarily in the mood for digging today, I do have a couple I’d like to cover. No particular theme this time, either, aside from being a part of this month-long daily posting marathon.

Gris Commits Insurance Fraud

Forget the theme: I wouldn’t be able to categorize some of the games I’ve found on itch.io anyway. Take this masterpiece for instance, in which a debtor agrees to jump down an infinitely long escalator for the insurance money. The object to this browser game is simple: fling poor Gris, the blue-haired bear girl on the title screen, down the escalator as far as possible. Gris somehow makes more money the farther she flies and has a real bounce to her, so be sure to keep up her momentum by tossing her with the mouse, and do your best to collect her marketable plushies that are floating above the escalator for some reason.

Gris Commits Insurance Fraud reminds me a lot of old Flash ragdoll physics games I used to play 15-20 years ago. Unfortunately ever since Adobe murdered Flash, you can’t play those games anymore without carrying out a troublesome workaround, so it’s up to the creator Amarillo and others like them to keep that tradition alive. I only found this game because Gris is the original character/mascot of Vertigris, an artist I follow who does a lot of semi-NSFW sort of pinup-esque work — highly recommended if you also like cute anime girls in lewd swimsuits (which is also featured on the loading screen, so it’s not exactly safe for work either unless your boss is really cool/cultured enough to also appreciate anime bear girl butt.)

Much like that drunk goose game I featured in the last one of these posts, Gris Commits Insurance Fraud is a nice diversion for a few minutes. Though I have to feel bad for Gris, even if she does seem pretty sturdy, maybe because she’s also a bear? If I could survive a thousand-plus meter flight down an escalator without serious injuries and make money for it, I’d try it out myself. Less painful than going to work.

Pikwip

Now for a vital question: just how uncoordinated am I? The answer is very, and this was answered by Pikwip, a mountain-climbing platformer featuring two controllable characters connected by a tether. The developer suggests playing co-op either locally or online, which seems like the kind of play the game is made for.

Or, if like me you have no one else to play with, you can try to play both characters at the same time using WASD and the arrow keys! I tried this and can confirm I suck at it. I had exactly the same experience with Knuckles’ Chaotix, which used a similar “two characters tied together” function only with the added typical 2D Sonic speed element.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how long Pikwip runs since I wasn’t able to get very far at all in it, but I still wanted to highlight this game since it does seem like it would be pretty fun to take on either with a partner or by yourself if you’re more coordinated than I am. There’s no apparent quit function, which is a pain, but other than that it seems like a pretty nice time.

That’s all I have today. I’d add more games in here, but of the two other ones I have in mind from itch.io at the moment, one cost a few dollars and is actually NSFW, and the other probably deserves its own post, so I don’t feel like mixing them in with these. And the free game front page on the site is no help because it’s at least 90% janky looking horror games that I have no interest in. Why are they all horror games? Do we really need more spooky walking simulators? I do have more games to dig through in the two bundles I bought one and two years ago, though, so maybe I should actually do that at some point.

Album review: 新世界の弟子たち (New World Disciples) by desert sand feels warm at night

More vaporwave! desert sand (never capitalized, so I don’t know what to do with it at the beginning of a sentence — whatever, I’m not following the rules anyway) is one or more people from England making ambient-sounding vaporwave, or post-vaporwave, or whatever this stuff is called. This group seems to be one of the most popular among the vaporwave crowd, and I can see why based purely upon a couple of listens to their album 新世界の弟子たち / New World Disciples. This is an hour plus of stretched out echoed/dreamy-sounding 80s/90s pop mall background music.

At least that’s what it sounds like to me. I’m pretty sure all these vaporwave guys use a lot of samples. That’s part of why I feel torn about the genre — I like the general sound and vibe, yeah, but some of the stuff I’ve heard just feels like the guy took “Mystical Composer”, slowed it down, and added reverb, which is fine but not all that interesting. If I want to hear that song or one like it, I prefer to listen to the original. But if the maker creates something new with those samples by making them flow into each other and setting a particular and consistent mood, that’s a different matter, and I think that’s just what New World Disciples does.

Unlike the dark ambient of an album like TOWERS, this music is relaxing, sounding like something you might hear in a mall you visit in a dream (and one that isn’t a nightmare — sadly not usually the case for my dreams, at least back when I dreamt a lot more.) That early 90s computer-generated album cover looks ominous to me with its red clouds and empty landscape aside from two of the pyramids of Giza, but the contents don’t quite match that feel. I especially like the first few tracks — putting those on loop might be a nice way to pass some time at work and maintain my sanity a little better.

I’m not in love with the whole album, especially with the pieces that contain very distorted/slowed singing. I got into that a bit with my look at Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports, but I’m not a fan of distorted human voices when they’re put into a context that’s clearly meant to be smooth or relaxed.* Thankfully, at least some of the tracks on New World Disciples don’t have any of that and work perfectly well as background mall music for me. If I ran a mall, I’d try to play this sort of music in there (only I probably wouldn’t run a mall these days considering their prospects — the closest one to me is dead and will probably never be revived. Maybe that’s part of why people feel so nostalgic over this music, because it commemorates a dead era?)

desert sand seems like a good artist to check out, especially if you’re into this kind of music. But if you are, I’m sure you already know them. They also have a nearly four hour-long album but I’m not quite ready to dive into that. Maybe if I get a massive 12-hour project I have to work on one day that’s just tedious and requires some BGM. Great album cover on that, though.

 

* Not a fan of a ton of vocoder like we used to get in some pop music either (though less because I find it creepy and more because it just sounds stupid.) That kind of vocal screwing around can work with Vocaloid for me though. Maybe it’s because I already know it’s electronic?

Anime short review: Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san

Another anime short, and what a short this time. It’s not the best one I’ve seen, not by a long shot, but it’s unique at least.

Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san is a yuri/comedy anime short adaptation of a four-panel comic that aired in 2014. I don’t even know how I dug it up, but I did and I watched the whole thing — just 12 three-minute episodes, so a very quick watch. And when I say yuri I really mean it. If you don’t like girl-on-girl love/romance don’t even think about watching Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san because that’s all it’s about. It’s a comedy, but all the comedy is yuri-flavored. The source manga is published in a magazine called Comic Yuri Hime, so you know what to expect if you know that.

You can always expect some innuendo

It’s one thing to write a comic about a set of girls drooling over each other, but Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san adds a twist. You might have known from the title if you know a little Japanese — inu and neko are dog and cat, and the two title characters have dog and cat-like personalities to match, with Inugami being excitable and usually happy but also requiring some active attention and Nekoyama being more downbeat, calmer, and more passively looking for that attention. Of course, Inugami is a cat-lover and Nekoyama is a dog-lover, so they are very much into each other, resulting in a few comedic spats when they start to meet other characters with other animal-referencing names and personalities and are attracted to them too.

That’s the idea, sure

There’s not much more to say about this short series. If you’re looking for a dumb show about girls teasing each other and getting jealous over each others’ attractions to each other (what a sentence this is, sorry) but all in a comedic context then check it out. The animation isn’t bad and the girls are cute enough, so it’s got that going for it. Though my favorite character is their mutual friend, the straight woman Aki (possibly in two senses of the term, since she’s the single character who’s not obviously into any of her female classmates.) Poor Aki has this “I’m tired of all of your dramatic shit” attitude towards Inugami and Nekoyama and has clearly been putting up with their lovers’ quarrels for a while now.

This series is very one-note and pretty forgettable, but that seems to be the deal with most of these three-minute shorts from what I’ve seen so far. After finishing Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san I really just felt like I’d killed a few more brain cells, but that’s no big loss after what else I’ve put my brain through. It’s all right — you can do a lot worse with one of these short short series. And credit to the makers for not filling over half the runtime of each episode with nearly full-length opening and ending themes. There’s just a 30-second ending sequence and it’s packed as full of sugar as possible, so watch with caution.

A review of Dorfromantik (PC)

I was in real need of a relaxing game this weekend and week as I recovered from my being carved up at the doctor. Thankfully I had one on my mind, thanks to fellow blogger and friend of the site Frostilyte who wrote a while back about the strangely named recent indie release Dorfromantik.

Released a few months ago on Steam, Dorfromantik is an environment/landscape-building game in which you’re tasked with placing hexagonal tiles on a grid. Each tile contains one or more environmental types or biomes or whatever you’d call them, including plains/grassland, forest, city/town, water, and what look like corn or wheat fields. Your set of tiles is limited and gets dealt to you like a deck of cards, and the only way to add more tiles to your deck is to gain points by matching up environmental types edge to edge. This is easier said than done, since with six sides to each tile there are a lot of different placement combinations you can choose from (or be stuck with depending) and the game is over once you’ve run out of tiles to place.

The start of a new game. When the edges of the hexagon you’re about to place are shining, that’s a match and the path to racking up more points and eventually getting more tiles to keep expanding your realm.

I’ve seen Dorfromantik called a city-building simulation in a few spots, but that’s a little misleading. This isn’t anything like a SimCity or Cities: Skylines — the towns you put together in this game don’t have population stats, you don’t have to worry about commerce or industry or linking towns with rail or anything like that. There are specialized rail and river tiles in the deck, but these seem to be just more flavor to add to the game, throwing some trains and boats onto your map to travel around a bit.

Compared to your SimCity sort of games, then, Dorfromantik is pretty minimalistic. It’s more of a procedurally generated (if that’s the right term here? No idea but it feels right) environment sim to mess around with. That’s not to say there’s no real game here outside of its pleasant aesthetics — it can be challenging to place tiles as perfectly as possible if you’re going for a large map and a high score, and the element of randomness in your draws adds to that challenge. The devs were considerate enough to include a creative mode that you can either use from scratch or on top of a finished session if you feel like continuing your work on your map, and while that option is great to have, I preferred having that puzzle element to play with just to see how far I could take my world.

My best map to date

That said, I think the main appeal of Dorfromantik is its relaxation potential. Putting together my own county from a bird’s-eye view felt almost therapeutic, and the nice ambient background music and sounds add to that effect. It’s also interesting to watch how, based on the hexagon-matching rules, large towns, fields, and forests will form almost naturally. Though I do have a weird obsession with creating small islands for my residents to live on, which isn’t always the optimal choice, but damn it I think it looks good. I don’t know how those people are going to get to work and school — I guess they must have boats. But thankfully I don’t have to think about transportation in Dorfromantik, so I can get away with putting a single house on a 2×2 island.

The citizens of my county are tired of my shit, sticking them on islands in an isolated lake, but they can’t do anything about it! Or maybe these are the perfect homes for recluses.

While playing Dorfromantik, I sometimes had to decide between an optimal tile placement and one that I thought looked good. More often than not I went with looks over function, because apparently I’m a shallow asshole. But I think my towns look good, and I’m not getting on the top point leaderboard anyway. If you have those ambitions, though, go for them! I read on the Steam page that somebody supposedly raked up 1.6 million in one game, a lot more impressive than my high score of just under 12K.

But does that optimized map have this island town, rated best place to live 2022? Probably not!

So if you’re looking for a nice, chilled out sort of game that feels like making your own snowglobe town and landscape, Dorfromantik is made for you. I recommend it for some stress relief/distraction, at least, since it helped me out in that area.

Historical drama film review, pt 2 of ?: The Lion in Winter

Why can’t I find any good covers in English? Whatever, here’s the German version

For the second film in this historical drama review series, it’s a festive one. A family Christmas movie, what could be nicer than that? Except this is about possibly the worst, most uncomfortable family Christmas holiday in history.

The Lion in Winter, directed by Anthony Harvey and filmed in 1968, is an adaptation of a stage play about King Henry II of England, his wife Queen Eleanor (aka Eleanor of Aquitaine), their three sons, Richard, John, and Geoffrey, and the fate of Henry’s Angevin Empire, stretching throughout England and much of modern-day France. Over Christmas 1183 near the end of his long reign, Henry calls his three sons to his main base of operations in Chinon for a feast, also sending invitations to Queen Eleanor (locked away in a castle after she tried to overthrow him) and King Philip II of France. The purpose of this feast naturally isn’t just to eat and get drunk and celebrate Christmas, but really to resolve the question of succession and sort out some long-running territorial disputes with the French king.

Henry wants his favorite son John to inherit his throne, but he knows he won’t have his way easily. The French king has his own demands to make, both relating to lands held by Henry bordering his own and the status of his sister Alais, currently Henry’s mistress but promised to marry the future English king in exchange for a dowry. But Henry’s greatest rival is his wife, Eleanor, who wants Richard as king instead. Despite her status as a woman in medieval Europe, not the best time and place to be a woman, Eleanor was famously formidable and influential, a political match for Henry, and years of luxurious imprisonment in a castle seem to have made her all the more determined to get her way instead.

The Lion in Winter is a legendary film and rightfully so. There’s a massive amount of acting talent here, from the leads Peter O’Toole as Henry and Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor to the supporting cast Anthony Hopkins as Richard, Timothy Burton as Philip — the two guys I’m more familiar with — and John Castle as Geoffrey, Nigel Terry as John, and Jane Merrow as Alais, the three I’m not so familiar with. They’re all excellent, most of all O’Toole and Hepburn, who get the opportunity to depict two giant personalities and do such a great job that it’s hard not to imagine the two as the real Henry and Eleanor if I ever read about them outside the context of this film (and O’Toole also played a younger Henry II in Becket, so he’s absolutely confirmed as Henry anyway.)

The quality doesn’t stop at the acting — the script is near-constant scheming and counter-scheming, broken up by a few excellent monologues and one unexpected fight scene at the very end, but all gripping. The score is great as well, from the opening theme (I know “Dies irae” but the rest of the Latin is over my head, extremely fitting though) all the way to the ending.

I highly recommend The Lion in Winter to anyone. You don’t have to have any background in medieval European politics to get what’s going on in the film; it’s all explained, and even though it involves politics and war, it’s really a family drama. If you thought the British royal family in the 21st century was dysfunctional, they’re nothing compared to how they were in the 12th. Once again I can’t speak much to the historical accuracy of the film, though this time it doesn’t feel like it matters so much. It’s more historically accurate than Disney’s Adventures of Robin Hood anyway, and that film was the only exposure I had to Plantagenet England as a kid.*

I don’t have much personal experience to tie into the film this time given the fact that I’m not English or French nobility and wasn’t around anywhere close to 800 years ago, so I’ll leave it there. Watch this movie, there’s my judgment. There was a remake released in 2003 starring Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close, and while they’re both also excellent actors, it’s hard to imagine anything living up to the original. But maybe it’s good too. Hard to imagine it’s not, considering Stewart and Close and the quality of the script.

 

* For a look at how influential that movie apparently was, when I ran a search for The Lion in Winter in Google I got this:

Let’s set aside the fact that Audrey Hepburn wasn’t in the movie (yeah, it’s confusing her with Katharine for some reason — both great actresses but come on Google.) King John gets so little respect that he doesn’t even get a proper portrait, instead being relegated to his pathetic lion form from Robin Hood. I’d say poor guy, but he was a shitty king anyway. Though his brother Richard wasn’t the best king either from the accounts I’ve read, so whatever. History gets all mixed up with myth and legend, especially after 800 years.

But fun fact: Henry II was responsible for a lot of legal reform in England following the general assholishness of William I and his kids and the Anarchy that followed Henry I’s death, to the point that he helped establish a lot of the English common law that American legal standards are based on. That was certainly a step up in terms of kingship, but it also means he’s the reason our profession is so full of weird old Norman French and why I had to learn about the fucking confusing fee tail in Property that nobody uses anymore. Thanks Henry.

To scrap or not to scrap

It’s a short post today, but on a subject that I’ve been thinking about for a while: my old posts on this blog. I hate them.

Not so much the internet as me this time.

I started this blog in 2013 just a month before starting at law school. It was meant as a distraction from my studies when I needed it, and it worked for that purpose well enough, but that also meant I didn’t put much time or effort into my posts. I also didn’t bother to connect much with any other creators at the time, meaning my blog was practically an island as far as WordPress went aside from a few other bloggers I interacted with, most of whom have since retired/disappeared.

The site existed in this state until the beginning of 2019, when I decided for some reason to actually put serious work into it. I think the timing had to do with a change in my work situation — I’d recently quit a job that I hated so much I would have preferred going off the highway overpass into the river than to the office, and that’s almost not an exaggeration. Not exactly the best state to get motivation in.

Ever since, I’ve been pretty happy with my work here, both the volume and (far more importantly) the quality, but I still have those old game and anime reviews and some assorted bullshit posts clogging up the index pages up above the header image. That doesn’t make me happy, and even less so since a lot of people still find the site through those old posts according to my stats page.

The question is what to do about the situation, and despite how I feel about those old posts, my solution is to do nothing. That’s partly out of sheer laziness and lack of desire to go back and sift through old work by year, but I also hold out the hope that at least a few people who do find my site through those old posts check out my newest ones and realize I’m not a complete dumbass. If that’s the case, it’s worth keeping those old posts up. Or maybe I’m being too hard on my past self, that dumbass.

I might be more mature and thoughtful about what I write here now, but it’s still all relative.

Just a few idle thoughts today, anyway. Tomorrow I might post something more interesting. Until then!

Abstraction in game combat: turn-based systems and why I don’t have a problem with them (probably)

I haven’t been putting the usual care into these post titles, probably because I’m just doing my best to get them out the door this month. This daily schedule shit is exhausting, even when you’re sticking with shorter posts. But I ran track in high school, and while I wasn’t the top athlete (I kind of sucked honestly) I never gave up in a race, so I won’t this time, especially when the only competitor is my own laziness.

Recently I thought back to a one-time conversation I had with some guy years ago. Video games somehow came up, and what we were playing at the time, and of course I had a JRPG going and brought that up. Then the inevitable question: does it have turn-based combat? Well of course it did, and that guy said he couldn’t play it in that case.

This issue comes up on gaming Twitter every so often, most recently when Square-Enix announced news about the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI keeping the action-based combat of XV, along with a reason provided by producer Naoki Yoshida: essentially that they’re looking for a younger audience who aren’t used to turn-based combat or don’t find it exciting.

What could be more exciting than fighting demon dogs in a post-apocalyptic mall, even if it’s turn-based?

I don’t know whether younger gamers as a whole are averse to the turn-based style. I’ll even defer to Square-Enix on that point, since they presumably have a far greater ability and budget for demographic studies than I do (though against my nothing and $0 that’s not saying much.) Given how popular the turn-based RPG Persona 5 is among young people, I’d still say Square’s way of thinking is narrow here but maybe there are other factors behind the decision they just don’t want to get into.

But I can understand why some people prefer real-time combat in their RPGs. For that guy I talked to years ago, the problem with turn-based systems was their high level of abstraction — he just couldn’t get into a game that interpreted a fight as the two sides standing in lines opposite each other and taking turns whacking each other with weapons and spells.

That’s a fair reason to dislike turn-based combat, but I don’t feel the same way about it at all, and I think the main reason is that I played it enough as a kid that it ended up feeling natural to me. At least it felt natural enough that I never minded seeing it in the context of an RPG. Sure, turn-based combat of this kind is very abstract, but if you can get past that, I think this system offers plenty of upsides to make up for that potential weirdness, the main one being the added complexity it makes possible with various types of attacks/buffs/debuffs and how they operate with ally and enemy strengths and weaknesses.

There’s a reason I bring up Megami Tensei when people bring up the point about turn-based RPG combat being crusty, old, and boring: the games in that series mostly use that format and manage to make it dynamic and interesting by turning the combat into a sort of puzzle. Brute force leveling isn’t an effective option when the game requires you to keep and use a varied set of skills on your party because the alternative is getting your ass handed to you not just by a boss, but a random encounter. And that’s not the only way to spice up turn-based combat — you can also incorporate rhythm elements if you want to actually test your players’ reaction and timing skills.

Or mix combat up with complex item and weapon-crafting and inventory systems, putting emphasis on planning and teamwork to succeed in what otherwise might be a standard turn-based combat format? Okay, maybe I won’t go that far, that’s only for the truly insane like me.

Not that I have anything against action games or action-based combat in RPGs, but it just annoys me when I see what really seem like lame excuses from Square-Enix or any other developer for taking one path vs. another. Square made Final Fantasy a household name by setting new trends, not by following them, and it sure as hell doesn’t sound like they’re interested in innovating anymore. But maybe I’m wrong and FF16 will be amazing. You tell me whenever it comes out.

That’s all for today. I think I covered a lot of old ground here, but there’s no way I’ll be able to keep a daily posting schedule this month without doing that. Until tomorrow, and hopefully with something new.

Currently watching: The Maid I Hired Recently Is Mysterious

How’s this for some tonal whiplash from yesterday? But this post was coming either way. I’m only watching two currently aired anime series right now, and since I’ve already written about and recommended Call of the Night, I may as well write about the other one.

The Maid I Hired Recently Is Mysterious (or Is Suspicious depending on the title translation you read) is an adaptation of a manga by Wakame Konbu. She’s also the writer and illustrator behind The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated! and I liked Jahy-sama a lot, pockmarks and all — it wasn’t perfect, but I enjoyed the characters and the comedy even if it got a bit repetitive with its jokes. But two episodes into Mysterious Maid (as Dopey-kun is calling it, and I’ll follow that standard too) I can say that so far it’s even more repetitive than Jahy-sama. This series so far has used the same joke setup maybe a dozen times in the space of just about 40 minutes. It’s a fine joke, but it might start wearing thin soon if the story doesn’t mix it up.

The setup is pretty simple: Yuuri is the newly orphaned master of his parents’ estate after their tragic deaths in an accident. Despite his youth, Yuuri decides to reject a guardianship and takes control of everything himself. However, the estate is short on money, and without a source of income he can’t retain his family’s small household staff, so he regretfully lets them go and tries to do all the cooking, maintenance, and cleaning on his own.

This doesn’t work out for Yuuri since he has no experience in household upkeep. As he wonders how to handle his situation, a mysterious young woman in a maid outfit enters his mansion and offers her services, saying she’ll work for him just for room and board. Yuuri is naturally wary of this stranger, but without much of an alternative he accepts her offer.

This new maid, Lilith, is an expert at cooking and cleaning and is supremely courteous — the perfect maid. She’s so perfect that, together with her mysterious origins that she refuses to let on about, Yuuri becomes extremely suspicious of her and her intentions, and he confronts her directly time and time again asking her what she’s planning.

Here’s the routine: Lilith decides to tease Yuuri by jokingly admitting he’s caught her, that she’s a witch or whatever it is he’s accusing her of being and that he’s fallen into her spell. Then Yuuri, completely believing her and not picking up on the joke, announces that this proves why he thinks she’s so perfect, why his heart races when he sees her, and why he can’t even sleep at night because he’s thinking about her.

And the tables are turned!

Then Lilith, realizing Yuuri is confessing his feelings for her without him really understanding the gravity of what he’s saying, gets flustered and embarrassed and runs away, leaving the poor kid convinced that she really is some kind of sorcerer.

That’s the basic joke. Again, it’s fine, a nice cute exchange between these two characters, but that’s really all that’s happened so far. The second episode does open things up between them a bit, with Lilith helping Yuuri get over his fear of cats (which I’ve never heard of, but sure, cats can be tricky to deal with) but so far the series feels pretty one-note. Then again, it is only two episodes in — Mysterious Maid got an unusually late start this season, and it’s skipping a week already, so we’ll have to wait another week or so as of this writing for the third. That old “three-episode rule” might be a good one to follow in this case if you’re not sure about whether to keep up with it, since it also seems from the title that the third episode will introduce a new character to the mix.

I plan to keep watching Mysterious Maid myself, at least for a while. I like the two leads and especially Yuuri’s reckless boldness (not that he seems to even realize it himself.) And Lilith, well — there’s plenty of reason to like her, though her origins are still mysterious or even possibly suspicious.

Lilith alone in her room in the post-end credits of the second episode. Yeah, it just went right there

Yes, Lilith herself is clearly a huge part of the show’s intended appeal. I’m not that surprised considering it’s a series all about a cute maid and all that but we didn’t really get this kind of material in Jahy-sama. Even if Lilith does look a lot like adult Jahy, the feel to her and to this series is very different.

There’s also the question some people have raised about an age gap between her and Yuuri, just like with Call of the Night, and with both being romance-themed stories too. However, we don’t really know the size of the gap — maybe Yuuri just hasn’t hit his growth spurt yet. And anyway, it’s not like a boy crushing on a young woman like Lilith is unusual if nothing actually romantic comes of it. That sort of thing happened to me once, though I never had the guts (or obliviousness) to come right out and tell her I wanted to marry her. But who knows where Mysterious Maid is going? Aside from Wakame Konbu, and maybe even she doesn’t know herself considering how long some of these series tend to run.

Yuuri confronting Lilith for the nth time, but it looks like there’s a little more trust between them now.

There’s my take so far on The Maid I Hired Recently Is Mysterious. It’s about as substantial as cotton candy so far, but as long as it mixes its routines up, I may just stick with it as one of my escapist stress-relief series this season.