Listening/reading log #30 (May 2022)

Aaaagh. That describes the last two months. I’m somehow simultaneously worked to hell and behind on my work. Makes me miss my government job a little bit, when I didn’t have such worries… being a leech on society isn’t so bad. Though I am still a leech, or at least some people would consider me so. Oh well, society is all about leeching, couldn’t have a society without it! What a joke.

Today I’m trying to make up for missing last month’s end-of-month post, but it’s going to be different (again.) First, because I’m including posts not just from May in this one, but also because I don’t have any albums to write about, since I haven’t really listened to any lately. It’s all been classical, ambient, and city pop playlists on YouTube, depending on my mood. Then what “listening” can I write about in this post, since I don’t want to put it off any longer? Audiobooks, that’s what. So for this one post, that’s what I’ll be doing before getting on to the featured articles. On to it, putting the spotlight on three audiobooks I’ve enjoyed in the last couple of years out of the dozens in my list:

The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution by Yuri Slezkine

Starting off with a massive, lengthy tome. I have a strong interest in history, always my favorite subject in school, and one of my particular areas of interest is early 20th century European history for just how chaotic it was (and isn’t that relatable these days?) The House of Government is an extremely in-depth history of the rise and fall of the high officials, bureaucrats, and specialists of the Soviet government, focused around the “House of Government”, a giant luxury apartment complex built in the early 30s to house many of these VIPs. If you know much about the Soviet Union at the time, you’ll know this also means accounts of constant purges, arrests, deportations, imprisonments, and executions of even the highest officials directed by Joseph Stalin and his inner circle — some of whom also ended up purged and often killed. Closeness to the boss didn’t afford you any protection with that guy.

Prof. Slezkine does a great job telling the personal stories of some of these important figures, using accounts of their trials, publications, and personal letters among other primary sources. His story is compelling and fascinating, though it can also get hard to follow especially when he takes lengthy side trips into the Old Testament, medieval witch hunts, and the Satanic Panic of 80s and 90s America to draw parallels with the situation in Russia at the time. It might also be difficult to follow the story if you don’t have at least some familiarity with the general story and its main figures considering just how many of them show up. This shit makes Legend of the Galactic Heroes look like a basic romantic comedy anime.

But if you do, it’s worth the trip. I enjoy Slezkine’s style too — it feels almost self-indulgent sometimes, but I get self-indulgent in my own writing too, so I naturally like that when it’s actually done well. And it’s all done to a purpose. For other writers both professional and amateur, there’s also an interesting focus in here on the sad fate of a few Soviet writers and literary critics who fell to claims of ideological impurity. Imagine having to deal with that, and on a far worse level than just a Twitter cancellation.

Bakemonogatari Part I by Nisio Isin

After watching Bakemonogatari, I was curious about the original light novels it was based on. But since my Japanese reading level is probably somewhere around age 5 or 6, along with maybe a couple hundred largely half-remembered kanji, I couldn’t hope to read them in the original language, and certainly not considering how complex and convoluted I was sure the writing would be. I also generally don’t have time or even the inclination to read a physical book anymore given how much I have to read at work. But I’m happy to listen to a book read to me, and thankfully someone both translated and recorded English-language versions of the three parts of Bakemonogatari, along with the prequel Kizumonogatari and sequel Nekomonogatari White.

I obviously can’t speak to how good the translation is since I can’t read or listen to the Japanese version, but I enjoyed the Part I audiobook pretty well. This covered the first two arcs, Hitagi Crab and Mayoi Snail, and from listening to these I could tell just how faithful the anime was to its source material, because it lined up with what I’d watched. It was also fun being in the neurotic protagonist’s head even more than in the anime, since Koyomi himself is the narrator. Which makes me wonder: is that initial ridiculous pantyshot scene from Kizumonogatari depicted in that novel? My bet is on yes.

This stuff is just as self-indulgent as you’d expect if you’ve seen the anime or even if you just know its reputation, but as I wrote above, I like self-indulgent if it’s done well — that’s the theme this post I guess. And once again, there’s a point to it all. The only issue someone might have with this work (aside from the self-indulgence if they aren’t into that, and also Koyomi’s somewhat pervy nature which I still argue works in context) is the voice acting. It’s well-done and suits the characters, but I never watch dubs, so it took me a little getting used to since I “knew” these characters through the anime only. I’ve heard Monogatari is impossible to dub, but maybe that’s not so true. But then again, maybe it is true considering the many puns and jokes Nisio Isin makes that wouldn’t translate well or even at all, and that might not in this very translation.

Now I challenge these guys to take on Nisemonogatari. I bet they won’t ever do it, but then I wouldn’t blame them for being afraid to try (and if you’re curious about why, you can read my review here, but only if you don’t care about spoilers.)

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

There’s a serious problem with the above two audiobooks: you have to pay for them. Moreover, if you buy them from Amazon or through Audible, you have to pay Jeff Bezos for them, and maybe you object to giving money to that bastard. If so, here’s a better option: get a free public domain audiobook. A book in the public domain can still be copyrighted in audiobook form, the reading being a copyrightable performance in itself. Thankfully, we have Librivox, an amazing site that contains tons of audiobooks created by users and uploaded to be listened to freely by everyone. No bullshit subscription fees, no pay-per-download, none of that.

Out of several books I’ve listened to through Librivox, probably my favorite has been the famous 19th century epic The Count of Monte Cristo by French author Alexandre Dumas. This one doesn’t need much introduction: guy is wrongfully accused of crimes by jealous and corrupt assholes, then he escapes prison and delivers justice to those who deserve it. The story is a lot more massive than just that, though. Monte Cristo is a classic for a reason — Dumas was a master storyteller, and he provides plenty of suspense and excitement and all that good stuff. If you try to avoid older literature because you think it’s too long-winded, maybe this novel will change your mind. It is long, but I’d argue it’s not long-winded. (That’s partly why I didn’t suggest Moby Dick instead, another old favorite of mine also on Librivox — Melville won’t change anyone’s mind about that. I like his work, but the guy is long-winded.)

Now there are three books you wouldn’t expect to see all together on one list, I guess. Hopefully there’s something up there that everyone can like, and if not you can go digging on Librivox. Some of the readings are much more amateur-level than you’d get on Audible, but then some are excellent, and even the less good ones seem to be pretty spirited. And they’re all free, can’t complain about that.

Now on to the featured articles for the last two months:

StarTropics (Nintendobound) — From Matt, a review of StarTropics, sometimes considered a lost/forgotten NES classic. Justly or unjustly? Read Matt’s review for more insight.

Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~: Reflections and Reminiscence on A Journey to the Land of the Rising Sun Five Years Earlier, and Revisiting My First Visual Novel (The Infinite Zenith) — Zenith revisits a visual novel that I’ve heard a lot about but have never played, in which the protagonist flies to Japan and gets an introduction to the country and its culture by two cute sisters one of whom he can get close to (of course! But at least you can’t get close to both of them at the same time. That’s an entirely different sort of drama.)

Monster Hunter Rise Ruined my Favourite Weapon (Frostilyte Writes) — Sometimes in trying to fix a perceived problem with a weapon or another game mechanic, the devs end up causing other, perhaps even greater, problems. Frostilyte examines one such case, this one from Monster Hunter Rise.

In Defense of Danganronpa’s Problematic 2nd Case – What it Means to be a Man (Dopey Likes Anime) — An interesting look at gender norms and how they’re reflected in games and perceived by players, this time in Danganronpa.

Aquatope on White Sand (Anteiku Anime Reviews) — It’s always interesting to read differing opinions on a work I’ve covered here, such as Will’s review of The Aquatope on White Sand. This review contains some of the criticisms I addressed in mine, but you might find his view of this anime more convincing. Be sure to check it out (but spoiler warning, just like with mine.)

Character (Re)analysis: Asuka Langley Soryu (The Overage Otaku) — Evangelion seems like a deep well to pull from, so deep that new things can be said about it 25 years after its release. Overage Otaku here checks back in on Asuka and her tragic role in the story, one that’s already so full of tragedy on its own.

East Meets West #17: 5 Centimeters Per Second vs. The Great Gatsby (The Traditional Catholic Weeb) — I’ll admit that I have never seen a Makoto Shinkai film and that I almost certainly never will, for exactly the same reason I’ll never watch Your Lie in April, no matter how good I hear it is. However, I have read The Great Gatsby, and Traditional Catholic Weeb makes some interesting comparisons and contrasts in this post between Fitzgerald’s classic novel and Shinkai’s 5 Centimeters Per Second.

Should You Read Kubo-san? (Side of Fiction) — Here’s something more to my taste these days, a nice light romantic comedy school-based manga about a girl who pulls a guy out of his self-imposed isolation and obscurity. Not this one that I’m already reading, no: it’s Kubo-san Won’t Let Me Be Invisible, which I’ve been recommended already because of my reading habits. Read Jacob’s review of the first translated volume above.

Chuunibyou in the Wild (Umai Yomu Anime Blog) — Apparently anime sometimes isn’t all that realistic! Who would have thought. Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions was a good time, but in the above post Yomu gives his own view of the chuunibyo, or “second year of middle school disease”, phenomenon in which students pretend or even half-believe they have magical powers or are commanded by dark spirits to set themselves apart from their peers, all from his perspective as a teacher who’s worked in Japan. It’s probably a good thing the anime and others that feature chuunibyou kids exaggerate matters, because I can’t imagine having to deal with one kid like Rikka, much less more than one.

The Biggest Heart of Gold – Millie Parfait of Niji EN (she also has nice robes) (The Unlit Cigarette) — Yes, even more Nijisanji EN shilling from me here. This post is from June, but all the rules are out the window today anyway, so why not put it here. Especially since you need to know about Millie Parfait if you have any interest at all in VTubers, and you know I do from my last post. An excellent singer, an entertaining performer, and a straight talker — Millie is deserving of all the support she’s gotten and more.

Loid Forger is not James Bond (I drink and watch anime) — Finally, Irina has some interesting insight about the character of Loid Forger from the so-far excellent anime Spy x Family. Loid, a.k.a. Twilight, is a spy masquerading as a family man, complete with a fake family including his wife Yor, an assassin, and their young adopted daughter Anya, a telepath. It’s a complicated situation — I’ll save the full explanation for the review that’s coming this or next month once I finish it. But Loid isn’t the typical spy thriller hero, not a James Bond. He’s flawed in interesting ways, and therefore much more human and even likeable than 007 (though I do like some of the James Bond movies, sure — but a character like that absolutely wouldn’t work in the story Spy x Family is telling.) Read Irina’s post for the details.

That’s all for this month. Or these months, I should say. Work is still crushing me, but I just have to figure out how to deal with that while pursuing what I really enjoy doing. i.e. not law, and I would bet every cent of the negative amount of money I have (taking into account my student loan debt) that most lawyers would say the same. The subject is already seeping into every fucking post I write, isn’t it? I’ll try to stop that from happening if only for my own sanity.

In the meantime, what’s next from me? I’m hoping to finally, finally finish Atelier Sophie 2, which I’ve had on hold for a while not because it isn’t good (it is, at least so far — more on that soon-ish hopefully) but for the aforementioned time and schedule issues. I’ll also be taking on a few more anime series pretty soon, almost certainly including Spy x Family, even if nobody is going to really need the seven millionth review of it I provide. The bits I was able to pick through of Zenith’s review of Akebi’s Sailor Uniform while mostly avoiding spoilers also convinced me that I was being unfair to the series from my watching of the first episode — I’ll probably give that another shot.

And finally, thinking about Monogatari again has gotten me motivated to actually watch Nekomonogatari White at least and to probably write something about it. I was wondering how I should divide those future posts up, and whether the entirety of the Second Season run should get one, but I think I’ll just continue taking the separate pieces on as I was back in 2020. Seemed to work well enough then. Until next time!

Tales from the rabbit hole: Two years in VTuber Hell

What a disaster. The last two years locked down, what do I have to show for them? A lot of working, yeah. A lot of hours billed, hours of my life lost to some of the dullest legal work imaginable, work that only a select few are detached and disassociated enough to be able to put up with.

However, not all my hours have been spent pouring through documents. Some have been spent playing video games and watching anime. And yes, some have been spent actually outside recently, sometimes even touching grass as the kids say. But some have been spent in exactly the opposite way as going outside and being social: watching VTubers. Since I first wrote about the VTuber craze a year and a half ago, it’s become a little less of a “craze” and more of an established part of the landscape of entertainment in the West. Though certainly still a niche part — I’m not going to argue that VTubers have broken into general public consciousness into the same field as network TV or popular streaming series, and very likely they never will aside from that one second Gawr Gura got in the background of a Taco Bell ad last year.

Thankfully, we’re not concerned with the mainstream here on the site. So much the better that VTubing occupies a niche, even if it is a pretty damn large one now with the aforementioned Gura having nearly four million subscribers as of this writing. By contrast, there are videos on YouTube with over a billion views, and I’m willing to bet many more people know about The Big Bang Theory or some shitty laugh-tracked TV show like that than about Gura or any of the other most-watched livers out there. No, VTuber fandom goes far deeper and at times gets far darker than that. People call this hobby “the rabbit hole” for more than one reason, and again not just because of Usada Pekora’s insidious influence on our minds.

For a normal, well-adjusted person, it would be enough to just accept this as a part of their life and move on, or better still to quit and do something productive instead. But of course I’m anything but normal and well-adjusted. And so just as with my year in Azur Lane, I had to over-analyze and write a collegiate thesis on the time I’ve spent and in this case continue to spend in a hobby that would make most people look at me sideways. This time I’m asking myself a simple question, though one I’m not sure I can entirely answer:

Why do I watch VTubers (i.e. what do I get out of this time sink?)

To at least start answering this question, I’d like to take a look at three of my favorite VTubers — three who I’d always watch live, assuming I had the time (which I usually don’t. Again, winning the lottery would help out with my god damn hobbies.)

Usada Pekora

I wrote about her back in that first post in 2020, and I’ve stuck with Pekora since. Unlike the two talents following, she’s not known for her singing, and she doesn’t have any of the other “traditional idol” talents that I know of. Some might consider that a weakness — Hololive’s connection with the Japanese idol tradition is a bit of a joke, though not a total joke considering how traditionally talented some of their streamers are.

But VTubers don’t really need such talents as long as they’re entertaining, and Pekora is so entertaining to me that I can watch a full stream of hers easily even though she barely speaks English and I know about one-fifth of the Japanese language judging by how much I can understand. Full fluency isn’t necessary to pick up on context when you’re watching someone play Portal, anyway, especially when that someone has such excellent comedic timing. Sorry to call you a comedian, Pekora, but that’s what you are and you’re one of the best in my book. Right up there with George Carlin and Mitch Hedberg, sure. And Lewis Black, who I think she can match in sheer anger and salt when she feels like it (and headphones/sound warning on that last clip, related.)

Nekomata Okayu

As much as I love Pekora’s antics, sometimes cute rabbit girl freaking out isn’t quite the vibe I’m going for. For relaxation, I’ll go instead to another one of my favorites, Okayu. This catgirl is usually calm, laidback, and has a voice like silk. She puts out a lot of great cover songs like this take on Gehenna, a nice jazzy one that suits her voice and style (and speaking of, I’d love to hear her take on Shiina Ringo someday.) But she’s perhaps best known for her approach to ASMR, which I can understand: in fact hers is the only sort I’ve ever heard that works on me in the way I’ve heard real ASMR fans talk about.

However, Okayu’s also nice to watch playing a game — though she takes on action games, I’ve really liked her streams like the above, where she tries out Universe Sandbox and proceeds to destroy the Earth several times over (and there’s a clip with subs linked if that helps.) Like Pekora, Okayu doesn’t speak much English, but it hardly matters to me — I can understand enough now to get by on context well enough at least in a game playthrough, and I haven’t seen any other VTuber who can quite create the atmosphere she does.

Pomu Rainpuff

The VTuber landscape has changed a lot since 2020, in part because Hololive no longer has a corner on English-speaking VTubers. Rival agency Nijisanji has made a lot of progress in the overseas market since, especially with its introduction of male VTubers (who I admit I didn’t think there was much of a market for, until I was proven extremely wrong by the success of its fourth EN wave.)

Nijisanji is home to a lot of excellent talents, along with my now confirmed favorite Pomu — my oshi in the Japanese idol lingo that’s been picked up by VTuber watchers. Pomu passed me by for a few months when she started streaming last year, but eventually I noticed her and found she’s a fine singer with a love of Touhou and a lot of the similar weirdo niche anime/game-related stuff I also like (doubly related: hear her cover of Eiko Shimamiya’s cover/adaptation of ZUN’s original “Septette for the Dead Princess”, The Heat of My Fingertips, featured in Touhou Lost Word. Great stuff, and certainly a dream for any Touhou fan to achieve.)

None of that would matter if she weren’t entertaining to watch, but she’s got that down as well — Pomu is probably one of the only people on Earth I’d actually watch play Minecraft, which would normally bore me to tears. She also has a bit of a sharp edge that’s fun to see when it comes out. (And it also helps that I can understand 100% of what she says.)

In addition to the above VTubers, there are some I’m happy to drop in on if I have the time free, most of them also in Nijisanji EN (have I shilled enough for them now? This is practically an unpaid sponsorship at this point. But who else has given us anything close to Enna Alouette’s Higurashi concert?) But I think Pekora, Okayu, and Pomu collectively have pretty much all the qualities I find entertaining.

And regarding that entertainment value, that variety show comparison I made in my first post still holds true, now even more than it did when I first made it since the lineup of visible English-speaking VTubers has increased so much since. In addition to Hololive, VShojo, and Nijisanji, there are at least a dozen and probably more other agencies with far smaller subscriber and viewer bases but with no less talented and entertaining streamers. I’ve dropped in on some Prism Project streams, and the difference in feel because of this smaller fanbase is really interesting. Watching someone like Gura with tens of thousands of viewers feels like watching a show in a stadium, while watching a typical Nijisanji EN stream with several hundred to a few thousand might feel more like being in a large theater — if so, then being in a smaller agency stream is like being in a small underground club with dozens or maybe a hundred or two other spectators, with a much more intimate and personal feeling among fans and even between fans and the talent. Maybe too intimate in some cases.

The variety show/stage performance comparison doesn’t fit perfectly, though, because unlike such shows, these streams aren’t scripted. A streamer might generally know what she wants to talk about, but both the elements of chance occurrences especially during gameplay and interaction with chat members make streams far more dynamic and interesting than most skit-based productions. Combine this with the length of some of these streams at three, four, even five hours and longer — the fact that these virtual streamers can maintain energy and be entertaining for that long is extremely impressive.

You can say the same about plenty of normal streamers, but there’s another aspect of VTubing that might seem superficial at first but that I think is actually extremely important: the avatar. Aside from the obvious appeal of being able to watch and in some sense interact with a cute anime girl or guy, the VTuber rig adds that fantastic element, especially when the character on the other side of the screen is a rabbit or catgirl or fairy, or any number of other more otherworldly beings. I’ve already written about this element of VTubing a bit, along with the related question of where the VTuber’s “character” ends and where the actual performer behind the rig begins. But I think it’s become clear over the last few years that viewers really fall in love with these characters, and usually without regard for how said characters might relate to their performers.

Pekora’s original character sheet by designer Yuuki Hagure. Note her dual set of human and rabbit ears. Artists who design animal-eared girls seem to have given up on caring about this, which is honestly fine with me.

In general, I’ve seen a lot of positivity and common sense, for lack of a better term, out of VTuber fan groups. But I don’t want to paint an entirely rosy picture for you, because that would be dishonest. Plenty of drama has been stirred up in these circles, some of it pretty harmless but some of which has resulted in serious consequences including harassment, doxxing, and even termination. For a famous example, see Mano Aloe, a demon girl Vtuber who ended up driven out of Hololive after barely a week on the job. Depending on the situation, tenure doesn’t matter, as in the case of Uruha Rushia, an extremely successful Hololive talent who ended up not just “graduated” (i.e. moving on to a different group or a different field of work, another borrowing from idol language) but outright terminated for an alleged contract violation following a complete mess of drama and agony around a potential relationship. Other streamers who have held onto their jobs still suffered through harassment, sometimes driven by weird infighting between factions, one of the most famous of these involving international politics and a supposed implicit recognition of Taiwanese sovereignty. If you’re new to this sphere you might think that’s just a joke, and I wish I were.

I’ve seen it argued over just how much the VTubing/idol connection influences some of this sort of drama-stirring, especially in cases of fanbase infighting and relationship drama. I don’t know anything about and honestly have no interest in idols, so I leave that debate to those are qualified to get into it. Some fans seem to have gotten a distaste for Hololive in general, which I can understand especially following the Rushia incident and its fallout — I don’t know about its main branch, but the EN branch of Nijisanji by contrast (and presumably the western agency VShojo, maybe even more so) seems more permissive with its talents, not even going for that sort of half-joking “we’re idols” theme you get with Hololive. But then Nijisanji’s not immune from this sort of drama either.

So you see, my reference to VTuber Hell wasn’t entirely meant to apply to my own experience as a fan. While some people envy these streamers, especially those who rake in a lot of love from fans and donation money, VTubing also seems like a potentially extremely stressful job to hold, especially if you’re part of a large agency. The pressure to perform and to constantly be “on” has to be massive. The parasocial relationships that sometimes form in these fanbases can also be dangerous, driving some of this sort of harassment from both primarily male and female fanbases in the cases of Rushia and Vox respectively.1 This hobby isn’t especially conducive to getting out of the house, even if some VTubers do encourage their fans to get out there and lead healthy and happy lives away from their computer screens.

Approaching this drama from the fan perspective (and maybe I should say “casual fan”, since I can’t be anything else) this sort of fervor can scare newcomers away and even potentially put off viewers who have been around for a while. I still believe at least 90 or 95% of fans are positive, supportive, and have healthy senses of perspective towards their hobby and their oshis and all that from reading comments and seeing chats, but we’ve seen over and over how an unreasonable and extremely vocal minority can spoil a good thing. It’s good that they seem to be in such a minority, anyway, since you can’t exactly “ignore the fanbase” in the same way you might with notoriously weird ones surrounding otherwise good games and franchises (say Undertale or Sonic the Hedgehog, and at this point I’d better throw Persona in there.) Fan interaction is part of what makes VTubing a unique form of entertainment, for better or worse — far more often I think for better, but not always, as we’ve seen.

I’m not going to pretend that I don’t understand the whole parasocial relationship thing, because I really do. In addition to the extra social isolation we’ve gone through over the last two years, some VTubers just seem to attract fans who aren’t the most social types anyway. Like me, I’ll admit. Well, it’s not exactly admitting it now if I’ve been saying it on this blog for almost nine years. Listening to certain streams I enjoy like Okayu’s ASMR work for example, where she’s right up in your ear — combine that with the video thumbnails she uses and the intended effect is pretty obvious, and even more so in the case of an almost explicitly spicy streamer like Yuzuki Choco. It feels to me like taking a soothing sort of drug: probably fine in a certain dose, but it’s entirely possible to take too much of it and end up dealing with some problems.2

The scenario in Needy Streamer Overload was purposely a little exaggerated, but not as much as you might think.

Despite these problems, I still think the massive VTuber wave we’ve seen over the last two years has been on balance a positive. I naturally can’t speak for other people’s experiences, but I’m sure it helped me out while I was in isolation in those early periods of COVID when I started binging on those translated clips of Korone and Miko, not realizing the rabbit hole I was being dragged into. It might have even had a greater impact on my health and lifestyle in general. I’ve been stressed over the last two years, but a lot of that stress has come from my attempts to improve my life despite my desire to just give up, dig an actual hole, and jump into it. This seems like an old cliché, and some people might even consider it embarrassing to admit, but fuck that: watching these girls do their absolute best might have motivated me to do my best in life as well. It’s impossible for me to say whether or how much of an effect it’s had on me, but the fact that I’ve been able to quit drinking for the last two and a half years now might be related, at least partly.

Maybe it’s weird to say strangers on the internet, people who don’t even know who I am and who I also don’t know and never will know on a personal level, motivated me in that way. No doubt my own family and friends, and even fellow bloggers here on WordPress I talk with sometimes, have a more immediate impact on my life. But I can’t rule out the possibility that this hobby helped out with my efforts, even if that was never really the intention. Yeah, these agencies are formed to make money and sell products, but if that were all there was to the VTuber phenomenon, I believe it would have died off pretty quickly. There’s plenty of bullshit trash mass media out there, but without true passion and hard work, I don’t think you’ll find fanbases that drill down quite as deep as the VTuber ones do.

Again, for better or worse — it’s easy to get lost in this rabbit hole. But like I wrote back in 2020, there’s still plenty of room in here, and even more now than there used to be. At the very least, go check out Hyakumantenbara Salome and see why she’s so great. You won’t regret it. Probably.

 

1 I should probably say minorities in both cases, because once again the majority of fans always seems to be reasonable and supportive.

2 This is admittedly a complex issue, and one that I’m not qualified to talk about in too much depth because I’m not an expert in psychology or sociology. Then again, neither are a few of the prominent “influencers” who back in 2020 showed up to criticize VTubing on grounds that were shaky at best, and without any support other than “well, I think it’s weird and the fans are weird and I don’t like this”, with some truly piss-poor attempts to dress up these complaints in more legitimate clothing. These drama-stirring types moved on pretty quickly after getting their undeserved attention, however. Not a bad business model if you’re just going for clicks, I guess, without regard to impartiality or integrity or anything silly like that. I won’t link any of that trash, but it’s easy enough to find through a YouTube search if you’re really curious about it.

To be fair, however, there are also sensationalist “pro-VTuber” types on YouTube who feed off of usually bullshit nothing sorts of “drama” for clicks. You can sometimes tell these types by their thumbnails. One video maker who doesn’t fall into that pit is Depressed Nousagi: I linked a couple of his videos above because he’s an actually impartial guy who does research and puts together interesting and informative videos on VTuber history, as far back as that goes, anyway. And I have to support a fellow depressed nousagi, don’t I?

If you’re interested in VTubers, be sure to also follow The Unlit Cigarette here on WordPress. She has a fascinating and indepth ongoing series on VTubers with a special focus on Nijisanji EN, which I naturally appreciate. And she’s a fellow Pomu fan too. Please check her work out if that grabs your interest!

A change in my situation

Hey, sorry for the possibly alarming post title. This probably isn’t a huge deal, and most likely wouldn’t even give it any thought, but I felt I should comment on the future of this site. I don’t plan on quitting or anything like that — I have no plans at all to quit writing, at least not until I die or become otherwise incapacitated, the timing of which is kind of out of my hands. But things are complicated right now.

When I started writing here, I was still a student. My “workload” then (or study load I guess?) was massive, but that was all I had to worry about at the time, and I spent a lot of my time off unwinding with PC/video games. So naturally games were most of what I wrote about at the time, and up until a couple of years ago.

Today, however, in addition to my actual workload (which I thankfully now get paid to perform, though not fucking enough) I have other concerns to deal with — personal and family, really, and though I’m still single the gears are turning with family and friends and that might not be the case much longer, and who knows how my life will end up changing if/when I have my own family planned out. All this means that I have to bust ass at work even more than I am currently in order to make more money — not out of greed, but simply out of necessity. If it were just me and no one else, I could happily live on instant ramen and coffee in a studio apartment. But it’s not just me, for better or worse.

life

Despite my usually bitter attitude, I can’t say I’m completely dreading this future. I chose it for myself, and I have to accept that responsibility. The alternative was to be an irresponsible shithead (and that’s not to say that everyone who chooses a kind of minimalist or “artist” or whatever lifestyle is that — if you can pull it off bless you. But in my own case, I would have been a shithead if I’d done that considering my other obligations, and one of my goals in life is to be less of a shithead.)

But then of course my time is limited, meaning somewhat of a change in focus here on the site. I’ve already been writing more about anime here than games in the last year, and I think that shift had to do with my new circumstances. Both anime and music require a lot less of a time investment than games do, at least for me. This is especially true for music, which I can even listen to at work or in the car. But anime is part of what I’ve been using lately to unwind a bit after work, and I’ve found it to be really effective. There’s also a ton of it around for me to watch, both in my backlog which would take well more than a lifetime to clear and in newly airing series.

By contrast, the sorts of games I like require a serious time investment, something I don’t have much of available after working 9 or 10 hours as I sometimes do. Hundred-hour JRPGs are out forever, with just one exception that I’m grandfathering in: no, not Megami Tensei shockingly enough, but Atelier. Well okay, maybe that’s not shocking either. But I’m most of the way through Atelier Sophie 2 now, and I still need to finish the Mysterious DX trilogy, otherwise it would nag at me forever (especially since a friend claims Lydie & Suelle is the best one — I’ve heard arguments about it, but I need to make it that far, don’t I? Just Firis and then that and I’m done.)

Atelier is all about work and responsibility too, so it fits the theme here. It’s also about making friends and eating pie and being surrounded by cute girls (and usually being a cute girl yourself too unless you’re Logy here, the lucky bastard.)

To be clear, I’m not going to stop playing or writing about games — in fact, I’m planning on my next couple of posts probably being game-related. I just need more of a shift in focus on the site because of the pressures I already feel bearing down on me. I hate having to set aside the games I usually enjoy, including some of the incredibly long visual novels I still have sitting around that I’d like to play one day. But the only alternatives I see to my new plan are 1) win the lottery and quit my job, or 2) find a serum that cures me of my need to sleep, and neither of these are very realistic.

That’s my whole announcement. Probably wasn’t even worth writing, but I wanted to air things out here anyway in case anyone felt disgruntled or whatever. I’ll be back soon with something that isn’t actually a game review but is maybe something close to it. Until then.

Listening/reading log #29 (March 2022)

Usual apologies for the extremely late post. Otherwise, as far as the news goes, the world is even more fucked than ever. With impending doom coming ever closer, let’s relax once again with good music and good writing.

Pig Views (Regal Worm, 2018)

Highlights: Rose, Rubus, Smilax, Vulkan; Revealed as a True Future Tyrant; Rose Parkington, They Would Not Let You Leave (all found here)

All this time I’ve been listening to progressive rock from the 1970s, and mostly the early 70s back during the peak of that genre. But there’s some damn good prog around these days too, and not simply made by guys who sound like pale imitations of ELP and Yes and the like (who I love, but I don’t need modern copies of.) I came across the band/project Regal Worm more or less by chance after getting a recommendation and then following a rabbit hole down Bandcamp. All the music on Pig Views is written and recorded by one guy from Sheffield, England named Jarrod Gosling who apparently plays every instrument known to man, accompanied by a host of guest singers and musicians.

That’s impressive in itself, but Mr. Gosling has written some fine songs as well, though the best ones are shoved onto the front of the album. I have no idea what the fuck the above three songs I linked are supposed to be about with their obscure lyrics in typical overblown prog fashion. But they’re catchy and have great atmosphere, so their meanings if they even have any don’t make a difference to me (though I’m admittedly a big fan of 70s Yes, and you can’t beat them if you’re looking for convoluted lyrics.) I’d much rather listen to music with no meaning or obscure meaning that I enjoy than music with a clear meaning that I don’t, but I suspect that’s true of anyone who likes prog at all. Regal Worm/Gosling seems to have a sense of humor as well, and I get the feeling that some of this music is meant to be playing on the more self-important aspects of the genre — see “Pre-Columbian Worry Song”, about concerns of falling into the ocean and off the edge of the world.

My only problem with Pig Views is that a couple of the songs drag on too long, and sometimes without much purpose — I’m thinking mainly of the epic-sounding “The Dreaded Lurg” which I feel doesn’t really justify its length. But there’s nothing bad on this album, even if the second half of it falls off a bit. If you’re looking for some weirdo modern prog in the vein of Gentle Giant or Van der Graaf Generator (and I’ve read comparisons to 70s Canterbury rock guys like Henry Cow too, who I haven’t really listened to (yet)) I’d highly recommend Regal Worm, and I may look into more of their/his work and more good modern prog in general.

Ambient 1: Music for Airports (Brian Eno, 1978)

Highlights: 1/1

More weird shit! But this one is a classic, sort of. At least it’s a classic in the ambient genre, and I’ve looked at ambient a bit in these posts, usually on the darker side, so why not go to the source? Music for Airports was created by legendary musician/composer/producer Brian Eno for exactly the purpose you’d think from the title: this album contains music made to be played at airports. It’s been years since I’ve been on an airplane or in an airport, so I had to imagine what it was like back when I had to haul ass through those long concourses. It might sound weird since air travel is so often seen as a hassle, but I actually miss that typical airport atmosphere, especially when it’s not crowded.

So I’m fine with the concept of “music for airports”, but even though Mr. Eno was a key figure in the development of the ambient genre and this is considered a great ambient album by a lot of people, I’m not in love with it myself. The big problem I have with the album Music for Airports is most of it doesn’t feel right for an airport. The only piece that seems to fit very well out of its four tracks is the opening “1/1” with its pleasant repeating piano loop — that one really makes me feel like I’m walking through one of those extremely long hallways with the massive windows looking out to the planes taking off and pulling in. But the following “2/1” features a vocal tone that makes me think of a synthesized chorus of angels, which is not a mental connection I want to be making at an airport, and especially not before boarding an airplane. “1/2” contains the same vocal synth tone but has more going on, though it still doesn’t relax me. The closing piece “2/2” is all right, but “1/1” is the only standout here in my opinion.

Still, again, Music for Airports is considered a classic in the ambient genre, so check it out yourself — maybe you’ll like it more than I did if you’re more inclined towards ambient. It’s also historically important, so if you’re deep into 70s and 80s musical movements beyond the most obvious pop/punk/disco/etc stuff this is an album you have to hear in any case. Eno made a whole series of these albums as that Ambient 1 title suggests, though the later volumes of Ambient seem a little vaguer in their purposes (like his following album Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror, which I don’t even know the meaning of. The Plateaux of Mirror just sounds like a James Bond movie to me.)

That’s all for the music. Yeah, both albums were bizarre progressive/experimental stuff this time, but if you want some more potentially satisfying music, check out my last post in which I went on at length about my favorite Touhou tracks. Now for the featured posts from around the communities:

While My First Impressions Were Tepid, I’m Warming Up to Night in the Woods (Adventure Rules) — I started Night in the Woods a few years back and only got an hour or two in before being annoyed out of the entire experience by the protagonist and her college freshman-ness, for lack of a better term. But I think I wasn’t being fair. For one, I was kind of like that when I was that age, so she might have just been reminding me of myself too much, but it looks like her attitude and the hometown she’s returned to are all tied into a pretty interesting story. Read Robert’s post for more insight on all that. I might have to give this one another shot one day.

Anime Review #77: Chuunibyou – Take On Me! (The Traditional Catholic Weeb) — Traditional Catholic Weeb brings his usual depth of analysis to the film Take On Me!, which is not about the 80s synth-pop group A-ha as you might think but rather a followup to the first two seasons of the anime Love, Chunnibyou & Other Delusions. I liked the first season back when I watched it last year, but not quite enough to watch the rest, so I can’t make any comment on this movie myself. But be sure to check out the above review if you’re interested (and I agree that Nibutani is the best girl in the series — her fighting with Dekomori was also a highlight of that first season.)

Winter Anime 2022 That Froze Over For Me (LitaKino Anime Corner) — With so many anime series airing every season, some of them just aren’t going to stick with you. Lita here gets into some of the less impressive anime of the past season and why they didn’t work for her so well.

Slow Loop Finale Impressions, Whole-Series Review and Recommendation (The Infinite Zenith) — After my extremely positive experience with Yuru Camp (and more on that soon once I finish the second season — I’ll also be checking out the film once it’s out/available!) I’ve been thinking I shouldn’t be so closed to the slice of life genre. I don’t know whether Slow Loop would necessarily be my thing (I was bored by the first episode of the extremely acclaimed slice of life Non Non Biyori if that tells you anything) but as with many of these series, there seems to be more to it than just “several girls hang out and do things together/shoot the breeze/etc.” Though a show just about that could be all right as long as it’s done well. I liked all the endless conversations in Monogatari after all, so I can’t just count a show all about banter out either.

Anime Corner: The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated! Review (Never Argue With a Fish) — From Chris Joynson, a review of The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!, a comedy that I thought was a bit overlooked last season and the season before (or was it before that even? Time is moving too quickly.) His take on the series is pretty different from mine, but it’s always interesting to see different angles on anime and other sorts of works.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: Sweets & Psychedelia (Professional Moron) — Mr. Wapojif sets out his thoughts on the classic children’s film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I say children’s film, but though I haven’t seen the whole thing in a while I suspect it would still completely hold up today, maybe even better than it used to for me, thanks in part to Gene Wilder’s excellent performance as the title character. It’s a good thing no one ever made an updated film version that didn’t live up to the first or the original novel at all, isn’t it?

Day Sixteen: Don’t Look Up (March of the Movies 2022) (The Visualist’s Veranda) — Kapodaco spent the month watching and writing about films, but unfortunately one of them was Don’t Look Up, a film that seems to have pissed a whole lot of people off with its general approach. I agree with Adam McKay’s message and agenda and all that, being someone who doesn’t want to see all of human civilization burn itself to fucking ashes. But I don’t get the impression that this sort of movie is going to help the situation.

There’s More to Dress-Up Darling Than Marin (Side of Fiction) — A look at last season’s big romantic comedy hit My Dress-Up Darling, focusing on the perhaps less noticed part of the central pair in that series, the male lead Gojo. He’s an interesting guy for sure (I say only four episodes in now, but I’ll probably be writing about him and the series in general at some point too.)

The 94th Academy Awards’ “Best Picture” Nominees Ranked from Worst to Best (Extra Life) — I really, really don’t give a fuck about the Oscars — the most I’ve cared about it ever was when Will Smith famously slapped Chris Rock in a move that made the ceremony relevant again for a lot of people, at least for a while. But Red Metal’s film analyses are always worth reading. There are at least a few on this list I should make an effort to see.

Look at these Preposterously Long Videogame Titles! (Arcadia Pod) — Some game titles are stupidly long for no reason at all, and Stephen K. gives us some of his favorite examples here. I thought that Summertime High School one was a joke, but knowing how lengthy some light novel titles can get I can believe it. My own favorite is still Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs The Soulless Army for its double colon title (though of course that “Shin Megami Tensei” was only shoved into the NA and I think EU titles for us westerners who didn’t know what Devil Summoner was, but they only ended up confusing us more — that’s just the way with these poorly localized titles.)

Two Years in Japan Review (Umai Yomu Anime Blog) — Yomu expresses his feelings about leaving Japan after two years spent there teaching. It sounds like it was a moving experience, and certainly one worth reading about.

Politics, as Usual, and My HOT Take on Rushia (The Unlit Cigarette) — This is yet another big case of VTuber drama, but one that says a lot about the whole performer-fan dynamic (that I got into purely by chance in my Needy Streamer Overload review about a week before this story came out.) The short version is that a popular Japanese VTuber named Uruha Rushia was exposed for potentially having a boyfriend, maybe, possibly, during a stream in which she received a message from a fellow online performer — a male one. Truly a horrible thing, isn’t it? If you’re wondering what the big deal about that is, you’re certainly not alone, but despite a lot of support from her fans, Rushia ended up terminated from the agency Hololive after its company Cover claimed she’d broken her contract by exposing certain information she was legally bound to keep quiet about.

It sounds like Cover is probably on solid ground with that claim, at least judging by the reaction from Rushia’s now-former colleagues (though Rushia’s role in that is up for debate too considering a possible betrayal of confidence made against her that led to the breach this post also gets into.) But this mess also raises a lot of questions about where the boundary lies between a VTuber’s online persona and their private self. The Unlit Cigarette featured a look at the Rushia situation last month that’s well worth a read, even if you don’t have a general interest in VTubers. There are plenty of weird social implications to get into here, after all, and those are relevant to a lot more people than just us weebs.

That’s all for last month. Almost nothing about games this time. Usually I try to keep a balance going there, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. But I’ve got a couple of games I’m probably going to finish soon that I’ll certainly be writing about, not this month but maybe in May, along with some anime I’ve got lined up, and maybe even the start of another deep reads series depending on how things shake out. My sense of impending doom isn’t going anywhere in any case, no matter what I do, so I may as well do whatever I want within reasonable boundaries, right?

On that note, I’ve started writing fiction again and have two short stories done in extremely rough draft form. I think I’ll be sticking to this format, at least until I retire in one hundred years assuming I live that long. A novel is just out of the question with my schedule. But I’m finding the short story format to be a pretty interesting and rewarding one, even if everything I’m writing is still terrible fucking hackwork. It will probably never see the light of day unless a relative finds them all on a hard drive one day after I’m dead and bothers to try publishing them. But until then, they’re safe and hidden where they belong (for now, at least.) Until next time, anyway.

 

Listening/reading log #28 (February 2022)

Time for the end-of-month post a bit late again. But what a fucking month it was. The invasion of Ukraine isn’t something I’ve commented on here or elsewhere almost at all until now, because it’s not the sort of subject I write about on a regular basis, and what can I add to this discussion anyway? But I have always used the beginning of these posts to vent on heavy matters, so: to hell with Vladimir Putin, hopefully quite literally, both for this and many other past and present crimes, not least of which is using the threat of nuclear war as a shield while he ravages a smaller neighbor.

I hope he ends up knocked off of his throne at the very least. And if he ends up suffering the same fate as a Ceaușescu, a Mussolini, or a Gaddafi, well, that would be fine too. Ideally, the man should be in the dock in The Hague, but since my country doesn’t recognize the authority of the International Criminal Court (because we have our own war criminals right here in America and God forbid they should be held to account for their own misdeeds) it’s hard for us to make that sort of argument — except right now, when a world leader openly defies international borders, human rights, and common sense.*

I don’t have a personal connection to Ukraine, but a large part of my family were refugees in the past and the effects are felt to this day, so this still feels like a personal matter. And even if I didn’t have that sort of background, I’m sure I’d feel the same, as should anyone who’s not brainwashed or heartless. Anyway, I realize none of what I’m writing here is very brave, especially since unlike many in both Ukraine and Russia I’m in no danger of being arrested or shot in the head for writing such things. But I just felt like expressing these thoughts.

If you also have the luxury to not be worried about your survival right at the moment, let’s check out some music and some excellent writing from around the communities as usual. I took a slightly different approach to my music section this time, however — I didn’t really listen to any full proper albums that I felt like writing about, but I also had some pieces of albums and a lot of single songs that either came from albums I otherwise don’t feel strongly about or that were never on albums to write about, or just a few curiosities I stumbled over, and these never fit into that typical “album review” format I use in these posts. So this is a deviation from the usual, a rough mix of songs all thrown together, but I’ll return to the regular format next month.

Various — 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Original Soundtrack — (LEUCINE)

Starting with my favorite piece out of part of a soundtrack I’ve been listening to a lot the past week. I played through 13 Sentinels on the PS4 and loved it, but it didn’t get much love over here back when it was released. Hopefully that changes when it comes out for the Switch soon, because more people need to play this game.

Part of that appeal is its soundtrack. “(LEUCINE)” and the other 13 Sentinels battle themes are amazing in how well they build tension, fitting perfectly into the giant mech vs. kaiju battles of the game’s combat sections. The softer pieces that mostly play during the adventure/investigation parts are nice as well — the soundtrack is great as a whole, but these battle themes stand out to me.

Also, if you’re confused by the album cover, I get that. It really doesn’t look like the cover to an OST for a game about giant mechs fighting kaiju monsters. Only the small robot hints at this even being a sci-fi game. But that girl on the cover does have significance to the game’s plot, and if I say any more, I’d have to get into spoilers, which I won’t. So just be sure to check out 13 Sentinels if you haven’t already. If anyone ever tries to excuse Michael Bay’s shitty Transformers movies by saying “they’re just movies about giant robots fighting, of course they’re dumb!” just know that this game fucks that excuse up completely.

Joji — Nectar Like You Do

Now this sort of song I’d normally never feature here. It’s not really my kind of music, this slow, romantic-sounding stuff. “Like You Do” is a nice one for sure, a great choice to sing under some girl’s window if you’re lovesick over her as long as you can hit those high notes. I also like the strange video that goes along with it (are those fish eggs and a chain floating around in red jello? Aside from the chain, I’m probably wrong, but no idea what else those could be.)

But though I think Joji is certainly a talented guy, that’s still not reason enough for me to feature this music. The real reason I know about Joji at all is because he’s the same guy who was making stuff like this six/seven years ago:

If you’re not familiar, this singer/composer Joji aka George Miller used to make both music and bizarre comedy videos with his friends on YouTube playing characters like the above Pink Guy. The main character in this whole thing was a disgusting misanthropic mess of a man called Filthy Frank. Joji got famous making music like the above song and also videos in which he and his buddies acted like idiots in public and baked hair and even worse things into cakes and ate them. It was either absurdist comedy or moronic depending on how you look at it (probably both really, and the people who took part would likely agree based on what I’ve heard.)

The common feeling now is that Joji was smart to retire all these characters back before comedy like this became culturally way less acceptable, and I agree — even a few of the lines in the above song wouldn’t fly today, and that’s apart from its intentionally offensive tone. The fact that he was able to make the transition from this stuff to performing songs people cry over at the bar or sing at their weddings is pretty damn amazing. Now Taylor Swift’s famous transition from country to pop music doesn’t seem so impressive.

Franz Ferdinand — Franz FerdinandThis Fire

This is one of the songs that played a whole lot when I was in high school, about ready to get out of that miserable hellhole. Good song, a lousy time in my life, but the music is still remembered fondly. This stuff brings back memories of studying for those fucking IB exams. If any other readers had to take the IB, let me know so I can send you my best wishes. And thanks to Shoot the Rookie for reminding me about this song/band over on Twitter during her song share event.

Chirinuruwowaka — Atelier Escha & Logy Vocal AlbumMilk-Colored Pass

Speaking of that song share event, one of the songs I posted on Twitter at the time was the OP theme to Atelier Escha & Logy. As much as I like Atelier, its music doesn’t always stand out to me (though it’s always at least pretty good, just not always standout amazing, you know.) But this theme is an exception. It’s just a good catchy as hell song. I also like the kind of rough vocals that match the feel of the music well.

Casiopea — Make Up City Gypsy Wind

I’m going to make a statement here that some might consider criminal: aside from their excellent debut album, I don’t care for a lot of what I’ve heard from Casiopea. I almost completely hate their second album Super Flight with all the cheesy synth tones gooped into it and the horrific vocoder nightmare of “I Love New York”, and I’m pretty cold on most of the rest of what I’ve heard, which feels like it’s sliding too much into generic doctor’s office waiting room music.

But before all the hardcore 80s fusion fans hang me, I want to say that I do like “Gypsy Wind” from their third studio album. It sounds like a tropical breeze feels, which is something I haven’t felt in an extremely long time, but I have enough of a memory of being in Hawaii once when I was a kid to connect the two.

_

Just a few days ago, the group      released this song, titled ”    “. I still don’t know what kind of weird invisible characters they’re using to make those untitled titles. I’m sure there are some typeface experts out there who already know the answer.

I’ve featured this nameless group before, and I’m always happy to see a new song out of them. This is another good one, though my favorite song of theirs is still _. I’m also a big fan of the artist who does their illustrations — just check out this horror, though not if you have a problem with creepy face paintings-within-paintings staring at characters within the larger painting and probably freaking them out as well. I’d hang this in my house if I owned one, but then I’m a fucking weirdo as you know.

xx — イワシがつちからはえてくるんだ / A Sardine Grows from the Soil

Finally, something very different from the rest. “A Sardine Grows from the Soil” is one of several songs created by the same person with the free Vocaloid-style software Utau. This person is talented as hell, or was, at least, since they’ve vanished from the internet. There’s a reason I’m not naming the creator of this song: for whatever reason, they specifically requested that everyone forget about them, while leaving permission to at least keep sharing this and several of their other songs (see also here and here, and also The Bluefin Tuna Comes Flying, which is a kind of companion piece to this one) as long as they’re uncredited.

Not sure what that’s about, but I like their work. I’m not even sure who all the characters are in these videos aside from Teto Kasane, the pink-haired girl in the center singing — she’s a sort of off-brand Vocaloid with some popularity. The lyrics are also interesting; all in Japanese, so I’m sure I’m missing some nuance, but though their meanings seem obscure they all have a pretty dark feel to them. And thanks to this guy for making a piano cover of “Sardine”. It’s pretty damn good and I’d love to learn it myself, but I don’t have four fucking hands to play it with. Feels like a Gershwin-style piano roll for the 21st century.

That’s it for the music. I hope you liked the different format. I’m out of individual songs to talk about, so next time it will be back to the full albums as promised. Now on to the featured articles:

Breath of the Wild Retrospective (Frostilyte Writes) — I’ve never been the biggest fan of Zelda, even if I can appreciate its quality. I know there are plenty of classic games I’ve missed out on. But is Breath of the Wild one of them? Though it was popular, this open-world title seems to have been a bit divisive. No matter what your feeling about it is (or even if you don’t have any, because like me you haven’t played it) you should read Frostilyte’s article on the game.

13 Sentinels Is Damn Good When the Training Wheels Come Off (Adventure Rules) — Speaking of 13 Sentinels again, from Adventure Rules, a series of insightful posts on the game. I’ll be following it, and you should too.

OneShot: Darkness, a Cat Thing, and Story-Driven Puzzles (Professional Moron) — Mr. Wapojif takes a look at OneShot, an excellent indie game that uses fourth-wall-breaking in an innovative way to tell a unique story. If you haven’t taken my word on the game yet, please read his post and then play OneShot; you won’t regret it.

Lake Review (Honest Gamer) — A review of the indie game Lake, one I hadn’t heard about before reading this post. Sounds interesting, although not without some technical problems. I can appreciate these kinds of relaxation games better these days, anyway.

Wordplay and Double Entendre in Bloodborne (Meghan Plays Games) — I haven’t played Bloodborne, but from Meghan’s post, it sounds like there’s a lot there to like — including some clever wordplay! And as someone who plays around with words, though usually with shit results, I’m all about that wordplay, especially when it’s actually done well.

The Portopia Serial Murder Case (Extra Life) — Last month, Red Metal took on an old Japanese text adventure that has had a massive impact on gaming, even though many of us (myself included) haven’t heard of it. The Portopia Serial Murder Case is a fascinating game to read about, so be sure to check out Red Metal’s review.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (Nintendobound) — Even more games I haven’t played, that’s today’s theme in this section of the post. Matt has a look at the DS GTA title Chinatown Wars. I owned a DS, but apparently I missed out on this one!

Yakuza: Fighting toxicity one punch at a time. (Zanfers Gaming) — Out of the Yakuza series, I’ve still only really played Yakuza 0, but even in that game alone, I could tell that there was something special about its two leads Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima. Kiryu in particular makes for a great role model, and not just because he can pick up a entire fucking motorcycle and beat hooligans over the head with it. This post gets down exactly why Kiryu is a man to emulate (though maybe not that motorcycle part, okay. There are probably better ways to deal with those situations in real life.)

Planetes: Fighting the Cruelty of Space (Mechanical Anime Reviews) — From Scott, a look at Planetes, one of my old favorites, though it’s not without its faults. Older anime series tend to get lost in the mix as the hot new stuff is trending, so it’s good to see classics being written about around here. I hope I’ll be doing some of that myself soon when I dig back into my anime backlog.

Anime Review #75: K-On! (The Traditional Catholic Weeb) — Another older anime review, this time a hard look at K-On!, one of the most iconic “cute girls doing cute things” series. I passed it by when it aired after seeing a couple of episodes, though that was when the seasonal lineups were so full of these “cute girls” series that they suffered a backlash from some fans, something like isekai is getting now. It’s worth reading about K-On! at least considering how much influence it’s had — it’s likely you’ve heard at least one of the songs from the series if you’re anywhere in that weeb sphere like we are.

Top 5 Romantic Anime that End Badly! (I drink and watch anime) — It wouldn’t be an end-of-month post without featuring one of Irina’s articles, so here’s a look at romantic anime series with rough endings. I’m not into tearjerkers, and while I can take plenty of depression in my media, I don’t go for the broken romance type unless it’s incorporated into a larger story with higher stakes than that. But romance is pretty high stakes for a lot of viewers, and if you enjoy personal tragedy and heartbreak, you’ll probably be interested in Irina’s post.

My Break-Up Letter With Last Exile (In Search of Number Nine) — I haven’t seen the anime Last Exile — I only know it from the involvement of character designer/artist Range Murata, but it’s always been on that to-watch list I keep. Iniksbane has an interesting history with the show and gives some insight about what makes a favorite series and how tastes and one’s critical approach to art can change over time.

3 Years of Gaming Omnivore (Gaming Omnivore) — And finally, congrats to Gaming Ominvore on three years of writing! It takes dedication to keep that up. Here’s hoping for many more.

That’s it for the last month. Sorry about the heavy subject matter directly at the top (and in the endnote below) and also sorry for posting a Pink Guy video near the beginning. I hope you could get through whatever the fuck you’d call that to read this. Going forward, assuming humanity isn’t all annihilated or whatever it is all the foreign policy experts on Twitter think is about to happen, I’ll be watching some anime and playing Atelier Sophie 2. Be sure to check out my first look at that game if you have any interest in cute girls doing alchemy. It’s a nice escape.

 

* It’s worth mentioning that people didn’t raise such a fuss when Putin was murdering civilians in Syria in support of fellow blood-soaked tyrant Bashar al-Assad. But what can you expect. Maybe they would have if it had been reported more widely.

And though this hypocrisy absolutely annoys me, it does make sense at least that people would be a lot more nervous about a war in Europe for obvious reasons — the comparisons between Putin and you-know-who are warranted as far as his approach to propaganda goes (denial of nationality leading to the destruction of statehood: that’s straight out of that Austrian-born dictator’s instruction manual, though he wasn’t the first to do it either.)

Listening/reading log #27 (January 2022)

Well, that wasn’t the start to the new year I wanted. But work piled on as usual. Fuck all this talk about “work/life balance” and de-stressing. As far as I’m concerned, that’s seven days off, living in a villa on Capri.

But that’s not happening this year at least, so time to keep toiling and doing our best to take our minds off the fact that God cursed us for all eternity when Adam and Eve ate that fruit off that stupid fucking tree. Thanks for that (and sorry for this blasphemy — another reason I’m mostly anonymous on this site.) In the meantime, here’s more great music and great writing from around the communities.

Yellow Magic Orchestra (Yellow Magic Orchestra, 1978)

Highlights: Firecracker, Simoon, Tong Poo

For the longest time I didn’t know anything about Yellow Magic Orchestra beyond their name (which I connected in my head with Electric Light Orchestra, though I don’t think they have that much in common otherwise) and the song Kimi ni Mune Kyun, which I first heard in its Yuu Kobayashi cover version as the ending theme to the anime Maria Holic. What a damn weeb, I know. (edit: also see this Hatsune Miku cover; YMO would probably approve.)

“Kimi ni Mune Kyun” is a catchy song, but I didn’t have quite the right impression of YMO from it — I thought they were New Wave synth-pop sorts of guys, which they apparently were on their later albums. But their debut sounds very different, taking a lot more inspiration from mid-70s electronic experimenters like Kraftwerk. It’s almost entirely instrumental aside from a few vocal samples and some very distorted singing on “Simoon”, which sounds a lot like an old 40s standard filtered through 70s synths. My other favorites on the album, “Firecracker” and “Tong Poo”, are just jazzy funky instrumentals with still more electronic sound over them.

Not what you’d normally think of as big hit material, but it seems this album did pretty well. Maybe not a surprise, though, since all the members of YMO were already well-established musicians/composers before starting this project. And according to the comments under “Tong Poo”, that song was apparently played on loop in an Okinawa fish processing factory? (There’s an unexpected link with my previous post as well, nice. I still want to go to Okinawa.)

Finally, if there’s a bridge from that original mid-70s electronic music to the video game BGM of the 80s and on, it sounds to me like it starts here with YMO’s debut. There are even very short themes to computer games on the album titled as such (though I don’t know whether these were real games; maybe some actual music/game historian can clarify that.) The whole album feels very ahead of its time, maybe in part because of this connection — seems a lot of the big-time game composers were influenced by YMO and this earlier work of theirs in particular, and I can hear it. So if you’re into video game music in general, and if you read my site it’s fairly likely you are, you should really check YMO out.

Remain in Light (Talking Heads, 1980)

Highlights: Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On), Crosseyed and Painless, Once in a Lifetime

Okay, well I guess I’m not being too adventurous this month. Remain in Light is still another late 70s/early 80s New Wave album acknowledged by pretty much everyone as extremely important even if they’re not into the sound. And I am into the sound, so it’s one of my favorites and has been for a while.

I’ve already brought up Talking Heads once before in one of my early month-end posts when I looked at The Name of This Band is Talking Heads, one of the best live albums ever made as far as I’ve heard. But then it didn’t seem right to just skip over their studio work, since it’s also excellent and has a pretty different feel, thanks in part to the work of legendary producer/musician Brian Eno and to the several great guest musicians who played on the album including the future soon-to-be-reformed King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew (and you can hear him on Discipline, which I’ve also covered before.)

But the greatest credit goes to the four members of the band proper. Most visible and famous of these four is singer/guitarist David Byrne, the extremely nerdy-looking guy in that “Once in a Lifetime” video linked above. Byrne was and probably still is a strange guy (see his film True Stories for more insight into that weirdness, which also had a Talking Heads album attached as a sort of soundtrack — it’s not bad!) I’m not totally sure what the fuck he’s singing about on any of these songs, but Remain in Light has a paranoid atmosphere that wasn’t unusual for the band, even starting with their early work back when they were playing alongside a bunch of punk guys in NYC in the mid-70s.

I don’t have any particular comments to make about the songs themselves other than that. It’s all good. You’ve probably heard some of it before if you grew up in the US during the 90s or 00s like I did (even though Talking Heads’ more “normal” sounding mid-80s music gets way more play, “Burning Down the House” and the like.) But this album really is as great as they all say, and you should hear it too.

Now for the featured posts:

The Aquatope on White Sand: Whole-Series Review and Recommendation After The Finale (The Infinite Zenith) — Starting with an article written in December, but that I couldn’t appreciate until January when I’d finished the anime. Read Zenith’s series review and other in-depth posts for more insight into The Aquatope on White Sand, a unique anime series that I liked a lot but that a lot of other people seem to have had some problems with. What’s new with anime, anyway — one of the fun (?) aspects of this medium is how nobody can fucking agree on anything about it.

Subs or Dubs: A Futile Argument And Yet We’ll Just Keep Having It (100 Word Anime) — Speaking of aggravating arguments, here’s one of the longest-running in the western anime world. Do you only watch dubs? Then you’re a filthy pleb! Only watch subs? You’re a snobby elitist! No, you can’t just watch anime the way you prefer and acknowledge that it’s nice we have both sub and dub options more often than we used to, with higher-quality English dubs than before. You have to fight about it. But thankfully Karandi has some great points to make about this tired debate.

Anime Review #73: New Game! (The Traditional Catholic Weeb) — From Traditional Catholic Weeb, a review of New Game!, another anime that’s on that long watchlist I have. And that’s just my Crunchyroll watchlist mind you. This post got me interested in the series again, so it’s one of those I might actually get around to this year — I’m a fan of these professional job-setting anime series.

Newer Anime I Enjoyed in 2021 (Mechanical Anime Reviews) — A good list to reference for newer anime to check out from Scott of Mechanical Anime Reviews. I’m shifting to my older backlog for a while myself, but if you’re more interested in recent anime, be sure to read this!

Donkey Kong 64 (Extra Life) — Red Metal takes on the classic Donkey Kong 64. I have some vague memories of playing this, though I never got into Donkey Kong the way I did other old platforming series like Mario and Sonic. But that makes it more interesting to read about than a game I already know inside and out, anyway. DK64 seems to be a divisive one for good reason.

Extensive Analysis of Bakemonogatari: What makes it so unique? – Hitagi Crab 1 (Convoluted Situation) — In addition to all the old and new anime series I need to get around to, I also need to continue Monogatari, a task I’ve been planning for months now. And again, speaking of divisive — I’ve seen Monogatari described by some as one of the greatest and most beautiful anime series ever made and by some others as a disgusting, self-indulgent mess. If you’ve read my reviews of each “first season” series up through Nekomonogatari Black, you know which side of that divide I fall on. It’s a nuanced series, in any case (as I got into myself with my look at Nisemonogatari a bit — protagonist Koyomi Araragi is clearly not meant to be a role model in every way, but I think a lot of people see the character in a different light than I do.)

This long and unnecessary preface is my way of directing you to Edy’s in-depth analysis of the first episode of Bakemonogatari. Check it out and see what makes this series so special. (And yeah this is another cheat on my part: this post was put up in November, but I just saw it now so I see this as a correction. I’ll try not to make a habit of it.)

Trails of Cold Steel: Great from Start to Finish (The Gamer with Glasses) — I never got into the Trails series myself, but it seems to have just as fervent fans as other JRPG series I know better like Megami Tensei. Gamer with Glasses here gives us some thoughts on the first Trails of Cold Steel.

Best Games of 2021 (Frostilyte Writes) — Unlike me, Frostilyte actually played and wrote about some games that were released in 2021, so his look at the best of the past year is worth reading. It’s also a reminder that I still need to play Huniepop.

Shoot from the Hip – Belle (Shoot the Rookie) — A look at the new film Belle from famous anime director Mamoru Hosoda. Looks like it’s my sort of thing, and I’ve heard enough about Hosoda’s work to be interested in seeing some of it, so it’s still another film to check out if I can find it on a streaming service.

All ‘Encanto’ Songs: Ranked (Jon Spencer Reviews) — Something different for my site — I don’t usually look at western animation at all, and I don’t have any plans to watch Encanto, but I’ve heard it’s a good film with a good soundtrack. So if you like animated musicals in the old Disney tradition, be sure to read Jacob’s ranking of Encanto songs. I know nobody will shut up about this Bruno guy, so I assume that song is the new “Let It Go”.

A Collection of Anime OPs/EDs I Actually Like (Volume Three) (The Visualist’s Veranda) — More my style, here’s a look at some excellent anime OPs and EDs from Visualist’s Veranda. Some great songs here, and even if it were the only one on the list, any article that talks up “Real World” from Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita deserves the unrivaled honor of a place in my month-end post.

My Blog Search Criteria are Bumming me Out (I drink and watch anime) — Finally, anyone who runs a blog will understand the feeling you get when you see your stats and wonder how the hell people are finding your work through those bizarre Google searches. Even with the very meager crumbs we get from the free stats WordPress provides, a few questionable results can slip through. Irina writes about this issue in her annual look back at her search results for 2021.

That’s it for this month. A little shorter than usual again, much too late, and again I didn’t have the kind of engagement here I’d like. But work continues to pile on top of me, and unless Mr. Biden decides to cancel my student loan debt (and I believe he won’t, and it’s debatable whether he even can — but the situation here will continue to be a horrible mess either way) I’ll have to toil harder to start repaying those again soon. But I’ll keep escaping through anime, games, and music as I always have, count on that — and I’ll keep writing here. I have a few anime series in particular I want to get to very soon, and a game that I’m nearly done with that should probably be up next for review. Until then!

Drowning in fiction and fantasy

Fair warning, a lot of personal stuff here. I try to separate this out from the regular fare. I even considered not posting this since I wrote it during one of my low points, which seem to come in regular patterns. But then I didn’t write anything in this that I think is untrue or dishonest. Anyway, don’t hesitate to skip it if you’re sick of my shit, because you won’t be missing anything important.

A few weeks ago at the time of writing, journalist Tae Kim at Bloomberg posted an article titled “Video Game Industry Struggles to Shake Sexist Attitudes”. In this piece, Kim lauds Sony for pushing what he sees as a positive depiction of a female game protagonist in Aloy, the lead and player character of Horizon Zero Dawn and its upcoming sequel Horizon Forbidden West. Kim contrasts Aloy with Bayonetta, Lara Croft, and characters in Genshin Impact (whose names I don’t know because I haven’t played it — I’ve had enough of gacha for one lifetime) criticizing the latter depictions for being overly sexualized. He also criticizes the industry for continuing to ignore women’s voices and for the bad practices (to put it far too mildly) of some leading developers, most notably Activision-Blizzard, Ubisoft, and Riot Games.

Mr. Kim’s article caused a minor shitstorm on Twitter, one that a lot of us in the game blogging sphere got swept up in, myself included. He was dogpiled for his article, a dogpile I joined in, mainly for his takes on Bayonetta and other examples of games that caused him to “cringe” and that he felt he couldn’t play in front of family and friends. I believe most of us stuck to criticizing this particular attack, though I and others also complained about game journalists in general and how they approach this matter — and I’ve done that here too, so it’s nothing new for me.

However, some others took issue with all this criticism, and I had a few interesting discussions that day with people with differing opinions. So I decided to write something on the matter. I wrote out a rough draft, in fact, but I’ve since deleted it.

There are two reasons behind this decision. The first is pretty simple: I’ve already written about my thoughts on the matter of sexual depictions in games and other media several times, from both legal and moral angles — you can find all those posts in the pretentiously titled “Commentaries” tab above. Admittedly I haven’t taken on a feminist perspective in any of them, but my only comment on that is that I don’t really have any problem with the depiction of Aloy in Horizon and feel that there’s plenty of room in this massive industry for all sorts of depictions and art styles, whether of female or male or any other variety of character. I just prefer anime-influenced styles that some people take issue with for sometimes being sexualized — for examples I’ve praised that occasionally get criticized for similar reasons, see the work of Nan Yaegashi (Senran Kagura) and Sayori (Nekopara). I’ve also talked up a couple of artbooks full of ecchi art featuring almost entirely women, and I follow plenty of such artists on Twitter because I like their work. But that’s a personal preference that I don’t think affects my stance in this case.

The second reason is more complicated, and it’s also the real reason I’m writing this post instead. As far as I can tell, Kim’s position is that games with art styles and character designs such as those found in Bayonetta and the other games he brought up should be discouraged and the type found in Horizon Zero Dawn and similar games encouraged. I’ve said before, and I continue to say, that all art must be open to criticism. However, Kim’s argument seems to go beyond criticism for the purpose of expressing what he likes and dislikes (which is how I believe I use it) and into criticism for the purpose of pushing a change in artistic norms.

I understand that the argument supporting Kim’s position for this change is directed at a perceived social problem — the problem of how women are perceived in games and in media in general. And the simple fact is that I’m not well-suited to write about purely social problems. I can write pretty well about legal problems because law is my profession, and I can write about political and historical questions because I’ve always had an interest in those subjects and have studied them. And undoubtedly social questions are mixed up with legal, political, and historical ones.

But I can’t write very well about purely social issues because I’m pretty far removed from society, or at least as far removed as possible while still being attached enough to it to live a more or less civilized life. That removal started when I was still young, and I dealt with it largely by burying myself in books and video games. After high school things got a bit better, and I managed to have something like a social life, along with extremely poorly matched and conducted relationships each of which ended in a complete wreck. But for as long as I can remember, up until today, I’ve always felt like a misfit. I can get along well enough now, and I take part in society just as much as I think I have to for the sake of my professional life, but my personal life is undoubtedly a mess. Unrelated to all that, I now have to live in a way I dislike, carrying out family obligations that I had no part in creating (short of being born, which I certainly had no say in) but that I have a duty to carry out anyway.1

I used to despair over all this, but you can only care so much before you lose that ability. I went numb more or less after finishing at law school, which was a good time to do so considering both the change for the worse in the political culture in the US and the hellfire and bullshit most newly minted lawyers have to go through.

After saying all this, I realize now that I’d be ridiculous to even try to convince anyone else of my way of thinking about a purely social issue. I’m not a role model; just the opposite: an example of how not to live. The only success I’ve had in life so far has been professional, and that success came almost entirely by accident and after a long series of stumbles caused in part by my addiction to alcohol, and which drove that addiction that I was only able to truly get free of in the last couple of years. The fact that I’m even still here is perhaps some kind of miracle, and I should be thankful for it.

A more reasonable person probably would be thankful and would do their best to be an active member of society with a positive impact. I certainly don’t want to have a negative impact on society, and I’d like to use my skills to help those in need with pro bono work once I have a freer hand. But if I magically came into massive wealth, after making sure my immediate and extended family was enriched and giving to charity enough to satisfy my conscience, I’d use it to isolate myself as far as possible from society, probably by building some kind of fortress. Maybe on an island in the South Atlantic, one of those really remote ones.

It’s probably more realistic for me to hope that I’ll be able to escape someday, at least for a few hours at a time, into some sort of hypothetical full-dive VR world where I can live out my fantasies well away from the irritations of real life. This possibility has been talked about a lot lately, even if only because of Facebook’s extremely shitty-looking Meta setup. But it’s still a possibility worth talking about, assuming the technology is feasible in the form I’m thinking of, and as long as it’s provided by a service more trustworthy than Facebook — which is to say trustworthy in the slightest.

So you see what sort of person I am. I don’t think I’ve ever made much secret of any of these feelings, but they seemed relevant to write about more fully here. You might say all of the above makes me a monstrous cynic, which I honestly don’t want to be, but you may be right about that anyway. You might also say that I’m cutting off my nose to spite my face in thinking and acting this way, which may also be true. Or you might say I’m being selfish in my desire for near-total escape from life, and I’d completely agree with you about that.

But I’ve come to an age now where I don’t think I can change anymore. Over two years of sobriety has certainly helped me out, but mostly only with regard to my physical health, which is shockingly somehow still pretty good — my liver was sturdier than I thought, or maybe it’s spent the last two years repairing itself, and thank God that either or both are true. Otherwise I’m still just as bitter and depressive as I ever was, and I still have the same desire for escape as I ever did. It even seems to me that my mental and emotional health may be getting worse, though nearly two years of COVID isolation may also have to do with that.

Either way, I’m done writing about such issues unless something specific comes up, probably with legal significance, that I can actually address. My stance on art and its potential effects on society has been and will always be that people should be able to freely access and enjoy whatever they wish, of course with appropriate age restrictions in place, and assuming nobody is being harmed in the creation or enjoyment of said art. That said, I do agree that it would be good if positive depictions of sex, relationships, and gender roles in general are advanced by developers and publishers. Quite a lot of depictions that people like Mr. Kim look down on (like Bayonetta for example) I see as positive myself, but we’ll never agree on that point, so there’s no point in talking about those any further.

But as far as supposed negative indirect influences go, to be blunt, I don’t give a damn about them. It’s far too easy to draw any connection you like between some bad act and the artist or work that supposedly drove it. Without specific evidence linking scantily-clad women in video games to sexism in real life, I’m inclined to treat that claim in the same way as the also unproven but constantly cited theory that violent video games contribute to violence in real life. There’s clearly a problem with sexism among some game developers as we’ve seen — perhaps Activision is just the most obvious and outrageous case. And there are absolutely sexist elements among gamers as a whole. Both of these need addressing. But I don’t believe a cause-and-effect pattern between racy female character designs and outfits2 and real-life sexism has been established. As I’ve seen it, the claim is always made without support, as though it’s self-evident. I don’t believe it is. I know people I very much respect who I disagree with on this point, and there seems to be an unbridgeable gap between us.

But then, again, my opinion on this issue might not be worth considering for the reasons I’ve set out above. At this point, I only want to be left alone to drown in the kind of fiction that can nearly transport me out of reality, at least for a while, while the rest of the world goes to hell as it is currently doing. That’s probably reason enough to ignore my opinions on purely social matters, given my warped view of society and my self-destructive tendencies.

Anyway, sorry for the mess yet again. My next post will have less of a “manifesto written in a log cabin” quality to it, I hope. It just seems to me based on my experience that hard work, honesty, and even good luck aren’t enough to live a decent life — you also need at least a somewhat positive attitude, which I obviously don’t have and can’t seem to find.

This is somewhat related to one of the next anime series I’ll be writing about, so you can look forward to that. How’s that for a segue? Until next time.

 

1 To be clear, it’s completely possible to appreciate these kinds of games with lewd elements and to also be socially well-adjusted. The fact that I’m not socially well-adjusted is unrelated to my enjoyment of those specific games, though I think it is related to my plunging into games and other media in general as a form of escape.

2 This is also assuming that every instance of sexualization in a game is bad, which I obviously don’t believe. It certainly can be bad depending on how it’s handled, but as always, context has to be considered. But I’ve written about some aspects of the issue here and here, and I don’t think I have anything to add to those posts unless anyone feels like attacking my arguments in them. Despite what I wrote above, I’m happy to deliver a rebuttal in that case, but no more than that.

Listening/reading log #26 (December 2021)

Sorry for the late post again; work has been drowning me, but every time this kind of rush happens it gets easier to deal with. Maybe this is part of being a “responsible adult” like I refused to be for most of my 20s.

Anyway, how about that omicron or whatever. It’s getting tiring, isn’t it? Everyone’s already talked about how 2021 was more or less a replay of 2020, and between the virus and the first anniversary of what might have been a massive political disaster in my country that people here are now constantly on edge about (and climate change and nukes of course) the mood still feels apocalyptic. I unintentionally saw the last five minutes of the Netflix production Don’t Look Up and decided I didn’t need to see the rest, partly because something about the general tone and feel of that ending got under my skin, but also because I don’t feel like watching a movie about the end of the world even if raising awareness of our problems was the whole point of it. That’s a worthy goal, sure, but my awareness was raised well enough already.

On to the usual business, sorry. Starting with the music, two classic 60s albums this time:

Odessey and Oracle (The Zombies, 1968)

Highlights: Care of Cell 44, A Rose for Emily, Time of the Season

Damn, that misspelling in the title really gets on my nerves. I want to call it Odyssey and Oracle, but that’s not its title, and you don’t get to just correct mistakes like that. To be fair to the Zombies, the spelling of the word is a bit weird, but couldn’t they have looked it up first? Nobody had a dictionary in the studio to spellcheck?

But once I get beyond my obsession over proper spelling, it’s okay, because Odessey is a fine album. The Zombies were a British group that spent the 60s making pop-rock music with a big emphasis on vocals and keyboards, both piano and organ. The big hit was “Time of the Season”, which is one of those very classic-sounding late 60s songs you’ve definitely heard on oldies radio if you’re old enough to even remember that being a thing. It creates that trippy atmosphere perfectly, and the song is broken up by some cool extended organ solos. I’m a big fan of it even if the lyrics are a bit weird (especially that famous “what’s your name / who’s your daddy / is he rich like me?” What are you up to, guys?)

But there are other notable songs on Odessey, like the extremely depressing “A Rose for Emily” that has a nice upbeat sound to go along with the lyrics about crushing loneliness. And the extra upbeat “Care of Cell 44”, so damn upbeat that I’ve heard the first several bars in commercials — though of course they always cut the song off before you realize it’s about a guy waiting for his lady to get out of prison. And while it’s not quite up there with the other I mentioned, I also like This Will Be Our Year. Will this be our year finally? Let’s hope.

Before I finish with Odessey, though, I should note that I’ve covered one of the band members before: Rod Argent, who would start his own band called Argent after the Zombies broke up the year this album came out. Apparently Odessey as a whole was a flop at the time, which I’m sure didn’t help. Too bad, though like quite a few other deserving works it was later rediscovered, which is something to be thankful for.

Let It Bleed (The Rolling Stones, 1969)

Highlights: All of it

Okay, so maybe I’m being lazy this post. But I’ve written 25 of these already, covering about 60 or 70 albums I think, and yet until now I haven’t brought up the Rolling Stones, who are way more than deserving of at least one mention.

It’s hard to say which of the Stones’ classic albums is my favorite. There are six or seven probably that could try for that spot, musically speaking at least (more on that below) but Let it Bleed is certainly one of the highest on my list. The Stones made a lot of excellent music throughout the 60s and 70s, and though they fell off pretty badly in the 80s, they’ve been somehow active all the way up until now. Quite literally; you can see them on tour this year, though I’m not sure how advisable that would be with COVID still going. I guess Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in particular have survived so much that they’re not too worried about a pesky virus at this point.

But going back 53 years to Let It Bleed — it’s a bit hard to even bring up highlights, because I like pretty much every song on the album a lot, starting with the opening gospel-inspired Gimme Shelter and ending with the choral-inspired You Can’t Always Get What You Want. There’s a lot of country music inspiration here as well carried over from the previous year’s Beggars Banquet — see Love in Vain and Country Honk, the latter of which is better known in its less country and more rock-sounding form as a single, Honky Tonk Women. And if you’re more about blues, see Midnight Rambler. Though the Stones were from London, they got these mostly American styles down very well, though it’s also worth going back to hear the sources of their inspiration.

Maybe the real reason I chose to feature Let It Bleed instead of a different Stones album is that it means I don’t have to talk about songs that are musically great, despite their extremely uncomfortable lyrical subject (like say “Under My Thumb” on Aftermath, or “Brown Sugar” on Sticky Fingers, or “Stray Cat Blues” on Beggars Banquet — these guys would have been immediately canceled today for any one of these songs and might have had the cops called on them for the last one.) But I leave that for people who make a living off of writing about music. I don’t, so I don’t have to address this material myself, which is nice. I can at least say that Let It Bleed is a must, especially for fans of 70s hard rock, because 60s Stones is where those guys got a lot of their own inspiration from.

I’ll be a little more current with the music next post probably. I just wish people wouldn’t dismiss the lot of it as “dad rock” as I’ve heard it called — the great stuff from the era holds up and shouldn’t be thrown out as dated (though there certainly is plenty of dated music from that classic late 60s/early 70s period as well.) Or maybe “dad rock” refers to later guys like Journey and Boston now. Or hell, maybe at this point it’s Radiohead and Nirvana. I don’t have much of a point of reference myself; my childhood music was the late 90s/early 00s technically but I’m not really a big fan of that period in popular music, or not when compared to the late 60s through the early 80s and the early 90s anyway.

Now on to the featured posts this month:

Mieruko-chan (Anteiku Anime Reviews) — Mieruko-chan is a series I’d planned to watch this season, except I don’t feel like paying for more than one anime streaming service, so I couldn’t. But I have it on my list, because it seems like an interesting one. Have you wondered what your life would be like if you were the only one who could see all sorts of terrifying spirits and monsters around you? Read Will’s review for more on this comedy/horror anime.

Tawawa on Monday 2: An Anime Short Review and Reflection (The Infinite Zenith) — An exceedingly in-depth review of the second season of anime short series Tawawa on Monday. Be sure to check out Zenith’s post on it, especially if you’re a fan of exceedingly well-endowed anime girls. Maybe I should pick it up myself…

The Best Stories in Wildermyth Are Told by You (Frostilyte Writes) — Wildermyth looks like one of the most interesting games released in 2021, at least if Frostilyte’s take on it here is any indication. I won’t try to describe the game here since Frostilyte has already done a great job of it on his blog, so please check out his own look at the game there. Wildermyth is another one to add to my increasingly long list.

Shin Megami Tensei V is a Great Return to the Series (The Gamer With Glasses) — I’ve read both positive and negative opinions of the much-anticipated SMT V, but this review at The Gamer With Glasses gives me some hope that the negatives are blown a bit out of proportion (or resulted from specific expectations that were disappointed, which is always the case with these kinds of long-awaited releases.) I still don’t have a damn Switch to play it myself, but I’m hoping my tax refund this year is large enough to justify the purchase finally. Just waiting for that W2 and hoping for the best.

The Return of the Obra Dinn (Nintendobound) — And Matt brings us a review of still another game that I know I have to play at some point. I’ve heard how unique and engrossing The Return of the Obra Dinn is, and Matt’s post on the game gives me one more reason to look forward to it whenever I get around to picking it up.

New Year’s Is for Lovers (I drink and watch anime) — Irina says at the beginning of this post that she’s not much of a romantic. I’m not either, as you might know, but I can still appreciate her presentation of her favorite anime couple from Durarara!! which I shamefully haven’t watched or read. Though now I’m thinking about what it would be like to date someone without a head. I won’t rule out a dullahan, anyway — I’m not that narrowminded (or I’ve just read and played enough weird fantasy to prepare me for that extremely remote possibility.)

Urobuchi December: Fate/Zero (Mechanical Anime Reviews) — Scott at Mechanical Anime Reviews dedicated the last month to the works of Gen Urobuchi. A worthy subject — Urobuchi has come up with some of the most creative and innovative stories in anime and visual novel form, including Madoka Magica and Saya no Uta. In this post, Scott takes a look at his Fate/stay night prequel Fate/Zero, an anime that some consider to be even better than the original work.

One Hour Photo (2002): One of the Finest Works of Cinema I’ve Ever Seen – Film Review (BiblioNyan) — I don’t feature live-action film reviews here too often, but here’s one that I’ve actually seen, though only when it was released 20 years ago. BiblioNyan provides insightful comments on the film One Hour Photo, in which Robin Williams showed he could act just as effectively in a tense dramatic thriller about murder as in a comedy.

Senri Kawaguchi: The Mighty Jazz and Fusion Drummer (Professional Moron) — From Mr. Wapojif, a look at young up and coming Japanese jazz/fusion drummer Senri Kawaguchi. I’ve been getting into Japanese fusion, but mostly the 70s and early 80s work — maybe it’s time to get more modern and see what Kawaguchi and her colleagues have to offer. I need to hear what the “Princess of Many Strokes” as she’s called is capable of.

And finally, thanks to Aether for the excellent answers to the questions I imposed on him a while back with the Let’s Blog Award (and also his answers to Red Metal and Alex of Alex’s Review Corner — Aether did a lot of answering questions this month.) If you want more insight into the man and the legend in his own words, you can’t do better than reading these posts.

It’s a somewhat shorter post than usual this month, but since I’ve been flooded with work and personal concerns lately, I’ve been a bit less engaged than I’d like. I also have pending anime series I’m watching that I feel I have to finish before reading anyone else’s takes on them. I don’t usually make resolutions because I don’t generally believe in all that new year new you or whatever stuff, but I have resolved to finish certain series and at least one game (and probably two) before the end of January. I have a few weeks, so I should be able to keep those. Until next time, all the best.

Listening/reading log #25 (November 2021)

Turns out 2021 was a fucked year too. How about that. Just as we get to the end of it, we’re beaten down by yet another virus variant. So thank God Mark Zuckerberg is here to save us with his complete dogshit watered down VR platform! Also, people are buying NFTs. Apparently this is the utopian future we were promised. Is it too late to go back and try all this shit over again?

As you can see, I’m not happy. But that’s usually the case anyway, so it’s okay. And maybe my mood will improve now, since December is one of my favorite months thanks to the holiday season. Despite my hating some Christmas music that gets way too much play this month (if I never hear those particular songs by Mariah Carey, Wham!, or Paul McCartney again I’ll be happier for sure. And no, Paul doesn’t get off the hook because he was in the Beatles and did some decent-to-good solo stuff in the 70s either. You know what you’ve done, Paul.)

So let’s start by looking at some albums that have no Christmas music on them whatsoever:

Time Out (The Dave Brubeck Quartet, 1959)

Highlights: Blue Rondo à la Turk, Strange Meadow Lark, Take Five

Yeah, more jazz. I know I lean hard on the typically snobby/nerdy stuff like jazz and prog in these posts, but hey I don’t care, so here’s more. Maybe I’ll put up a punk album or something for once to balance the rest out.

But that day hasn’t come yet, so here’s Time Out by Dave Brubeck and his Quartet. This is a landmark jazz album, one of those that has music you definitely know even if you don’t know its title. Namely “Take Five”, a cool piece with an uneven rhythm that gives it a unique character — I guess the “five” in the title refers to the 5/4 time, but despite that unusual time signature (and despite a drum solo that I’m not a big fan of — never was a fan of drum solos honestly) it flows along nicely. “Blue Rondo à la Turk” is almost as well-known, another complex piece with great flow. Speaking of prog, I think ELP covered this one, nice piece for them to show off their skills. Shoved up in the front along with them is my other favorite on here, “Strange Meadow Lark”, a slow, relaxed piece.

The whole album is nice, though. Time Out makes for an excellent mood-setter, especially if you need something classy to play at a dinner party or something. But then, it’s also not boring like a lot of other “mood-setting” music tends to be — there’s a lot here to actively enjoy too. In that sense, I’d put it in a similar category with the bossa nova I’ve also looked at here like Wave and Getz/Gilberto. And the latter had a piece of modern art on the cover too. Not sure what that’s about, but at least it’s more creative than the band photo covers albums in the late 50s usually got.

The Faust Tapes (Faust, 1973)

Highlights: ???????

Warning: still more weird shit here. Faust was a German band in roughly the same artsy rock category as Can and Amon Düül II. But this band is a lot less listener-friendly than Can, and maybe even less so than Amon Düül II? I haven’t heard their whole catalog, so I can’t say that for a certainty, but I have heard The Faust Tapes, which consists of one track with a bunch of seemingly disconnected weird percussion and sounds stitched together with a few pieces that sound almost like normal songs but not quite. From what I understand, Faust was in this real hardcore avantgarde territory throughout their career, which would explain why they might not be better known today — nothing here makes sense exactly.

But does it have to make sense? I don’t think it does, as long as the end result is interesting. It’s easy to dismiss all this avantgarde stuff as pretentious, meaningless bullshit, but I don’t get that feeling from Faust here. Firstly, because they actually can and do play their instruments properly and put together some catchy songs, like the nice folk one starting around 1:20 and the stretch of almost funk-sounding music transitioning to more acoustic folky French poetry recitation (or maybe he’s reading out of a user manual for a vacuum cleaner, not like I’d know the difference) around minute 35 to the end.

And secondly, because even the more nonsensical parts of the album do work if you’re in the right mindset. I don’t know if this is what the band was going for, but The Faust Tapes sounds to me like a normal album filtered through a dream; everything sounds sort of off and strange. It reminds me of Yume Nikki in that way, maybe because that game is literally about dreams and consists of a lot of disconnected pieces that run into each other in a similar way. Like Yume Nikki, it’s not always pleasant, more like a nightmare than a nice dream in parts, but it still works for me somehow.

So not exactly a broad recommendation this time, but if you’re into the really weird artsy side of rock music, Faust was at the core of all that. And The Faust Tapes even reportedly sold well, hitting the charts in the UK in 1973. Though that definitely had to do with it being sold for the price of a single to get their sales numbers up. A nice marketing trick, but how many people do you think regretted that purchase right away?

Adventure (Momoko Kikuchi, 1986)

Highlights: Adventure, Night Cruising, Mystical Composer

Since I had a look at something as bizarre as The Faust Tapes just now, let’s go to the opposite end of that spectrum again with something ultra-commercial: more city pop! On top of that, Adventure might be the most aggressively 80s-sounding album I’ve featured in these posts until now. Lots of those very 80s-sounding synths and drum machines and all the other musical trappings of that decade.

Normally I don’t go for that stuff too much, but I like a lot of this album anyway. Adventure is another album with a perfectly fitting cover: singer Momoko Kikuchi wading in what looks like the ocean under a pink sky, with the water lit up like the whole ocean is a massive swimming pool. The album itself is just as relaxed and luxurious-sounding as that, and Momoko’s nice soft voice fits and adds to that vibe as well. The title track sums up that feeling nicely, as does “Night Cruising” (even the title reminds me of Kingo Hamada’s “Midnight Cruisin'” — they were doing a lot of cruising in Japan in the 80s I guess.)

But the real standout on Adventure is “Mystical Composer”, a song that I’d bet did a lot on its own to inspire the vaporwave movement. Both because of its general sound and because I’d heard it quite a few times remixed before finding it in its original form here. Makes sense, because that chorus is catchy as hell.

As an aside, and since I’ve looked at a few city pop albums on the site, it’s interesting to see how this musical movement that died off at the end of the 80s, when Japan’s real estate bubble popped and its economy fell into shambles, has come back in such a big way on the internet — and now, when the whole fucking world seems to be on fire. Maybe it’s all driven by a desire for escape from reality, the same one that I theorized gave a boost to VTubers (and that might partly explain how one in particular exploded, as a VTuber known for singing city pop?)

But I’ll leave that to the people actually qualified to talk about it, or at least until I write another dedicated bullshit post of my own on the subject.

And now as usual for the featured posts:

Shoot from the Hip – Gravity Rush (Shoot the Rookie) — pix1001 gives Gravity Rush some well-deserved attention in this look back at the game. I maintain the series didn’t get nearly enough of the praise it should have, so I’m always happy to see it getting more.

Wrapping up 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim – waffling about a game I love (Video Games And Things I Write About Them) — From skyraftwanderer, a piece on another game that got far too little attention. I loved 13 Sentinels, and this post and the other posts on this blog about the game sum up everything I loved about it.

Mega Man 7 (Extra Life) — Red Metal examines Mega Man 7, Capcom’s first throwback to its original Mega Man series on the NES (or Rockman on the Famicom if you want to be more of a weeb about it, sure.) I was always lousy at those old NES titles, though I liked them for the most part, but I never had the chance to play 7. Find out above whether it’s worth a try.

The Power of Two: Princess Jellyfish (Confessions of an Overage Otaku) — I’ve heard a bit about the anime Princess Jellyfish, and the more I read, the more I’m interested in seeing it for myself — and this post might have tipped the scales finally.

Chihayafuru: An Objective Review (Mechanical Anime Reviews) — From Scott, an “objective” review of Chihayafuru, an anime about students who compete at karuta games, or Japanese card games. Scott also shows here just how hard it is to write an objective review. Please check it out (and maybe Chihayafuru as well? I haven’t seen it, but it sounds interesting.)

Return of the Destined Battle! Aether vs. Yandere Simulator, Round 2 (Lost to the Aether) — Yandere Simulator has become the prime example of an indie game in development hell, with its developer known for putting off work on the project. Shockingly, a new playable beta or something recently came out, and Aether in this post saves us the trouble of having to play it by enjoying/suffering through it himself and giving his thoughts on it. Thanks, Aether.

Give Ever Oasis another chance on the Switch (Nepiki Gaming) — From Nepiki, a look at Ever Oasis, an action-adventure RPG now on the Switch. Nepiki gives plenty of great reasons to take notice if you’re a Switch-owner (which sadly I’m still not, but hopefully soon!)

Shin Megami Tensei V First Impressions (The Gamer with Glasses) — Speaking of not owning a Switch, here’s a first look at SMT V from someone who does. A great post to check out if you’re interested in the game. I hope I can join in the fun soon enough.

Moonglow Bay – A cute, cosy and flawed game about Fish (but not necessarily always chips) (A Richard Wood Text Adventure) — A review of an inviting-looking but seemingly flawed indie game. Too bad, but hopefully the makers will improve on their mistakes next time — and you might still find something to like here, so be sure to check out Wooderon’s post.

The Best Games I Didn’t Play This Year (Frostilyte Writes) — Frostilyte writes a post that I should probably try out myself, considering I’ve only played a single game released this year. Some interesting-looking stuff, though God knows if I’ll find the time for any of it myself with my damn schedule.

Uniformity With God’s Will In Anime #4: Yuuta Togashi (The Traditional Catholic Weeb) — Our fellow Weeb highlights an anime high school romantic comedy protagonist with more depth than usual through a religious lens. An interesting angle, and one I hadn’t considered, but it sheds more light on why I liked Yuuta from Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions (and my shared confusion at why he ended up being so into Rikka, but who knows about the mysteries of the heart I suppose.)

Asterisk War vs Chivalry of a Failed Knight: Showdown! (Crow’s World of Anime) — This is a joint project, a comparative look at two anime series with similar story setups. I haven’t seen either of these and I’m not sure I have any interest in either — these sorts of stories aren’t really my thing. But I like the idea of putting two similar series head-to-head like this. Might be something to try in the future!

1000th Post. 10 Quick Tips for Anime Bloggers. (Otaku Orbit) — Congrats to Jiraiyan on one thousand posts (and shit, that’s a whole lot — not a landmark I expect to reach anytime soon!) To mark the occasion, he’s posted some excellent advice for those looking to get into anime blogging.

A Look Back On ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ – 20 Years Later (Jon Spencer Reviews) — I was born about a year too late to care that much about Harry Potter, at least as a kid — I have seen some of the films since, and my thought was that they were pretty good adventures (and anything that included the late Alan Rickman will be naturally elevated by his presence anyway — my favorite character for sure, especially when he was acting like a dick.) Author J. K. Rowling has fallen out of favor among a lot of fans, but her work seems to have kept its popularity. Jacob over on Jon Spencer Reviews has a look back at the first film in the series 20 years on.

Why You Should Pay Attention to EDs and OPs (I drink and watch anime) — Irina gives us some good reasons to care about anime openings and endings. While they can’t make or break a series, good openings and endings can add a lot to their entertainment value (and also possibly prevent me from skipping intros/endings, which I admit I sometimes do.) And I’ve found a few really good bands through them as well.

Exploring Anime Fictophilia (I drink and watch anime) — The rare double feature this post, but for good reason: I couldn’t go without highlighting this insightful piece also from Irina about the strange love some fans have for fictional characters, bordering on and sometimes even crossing the border into romantic sentiment. Strange, but is it unnatural? Maybe not. Be sure to read Irina’s post for her thoughts on the matter.

You’re Missing Out – if You’re Not Watching Enna Alouette, the Songbird of Nijisanji EN (The Unlit Cigarette) — I can’t end this post without fulfilling my self-imposed VTuber mention quota. Thankfully I have some help from @valsisms, who here takes a well-deserved look at Enna Alouette. Enna is part of Nijisanji’s third wave of English-language streamers with a special talent at singing, but that’s not all she does.

These days, in the very rare moments I have the chance to watch a stream, it’s almost always a Nijisanji one. These girls have stolen my heart completely, though I still have a lot of respect for the talent over at the rival Hololive group. But despite their great chemistry, they haven’t caught on quite as much in the West as Hololive has (and don’t forget the stiff competition from the western-based agency VShojo — mostly not my thing, but they’re formidable as well, and I admit I do appreciate the talents of Projekt Melody that… well, go beyond the usual VTuber skill set, to put it mildly.) But if you have the spare time and the inclination to do so, I’d highly recommend giving Enna and her friends a shot.

That’s all for this month. I don’t have anything special planned for Christmas or any of the other stuff going on, just the usual possible reviews and features coming up. I haven’t even drafted anything yet, so I know exactly as much as you do at this point. Until next post, then!

Let’s Blog Award from Frostilyte

Since it’s a slow period right now, still in the middle of airing anime and a few games I’m digging through, I think it’s time once again to go back to the archives and find some old post nominations I’ve gotten from fellow writers around WordPress. This one comes from friend of the site Frostilyte, who writes about video games in a lot of depth — if you’re not following his site already, be sure to follow him now. Do it!

The rules are as follows:

1. Answer the 10 questions sent by the nominator.
2. Write your 10 questions for the nominees.
3. Answer your own questions.
4. Nominate as many bloggers you want for this award and notify them that they got nominated.
5. Tag the post #Let’s Blog Award.

Shit, that is a lot of work, but I’ll get to it. First, Frostilyte’s questions:

1) Is there a game that you were originally opposed to playing because of the advertised difficulty, but really enjoyed when you gave it a shot?

The most famously difficult game I remember picking up and really liking was probably Strange Journey. I’ve written about it a bit here before, but even for an SMT game, it gives you a good whipping. The difficulty level suits the story it tells — you play as a member of an international military task force sent to infiltrate a massive tornado-esque demon-filled anomaly engulfing Antarctica. Strange Journey combines the dungeon-crawling gameplay style of Etrian Odyssey with the difficulty of a typical SMT game. And of an Etrian Odyssey game, come to think of it.

It is a fun game, though. It offers a lot of challenge in its increasingly complex mazes full of random encounters and boss fights, but there’s not so much challenge that I was put off of it.

2) Have you ever played a game because you thought it had a really good soundtrack?

Absolutely: NieR:Automata. Or however it’s punctuated. I’d already heard a lot of the soundtrack from the previous game NieR and loved it, and I knew the same people were making the music for Automata. The soundtrack was at least half of the reason I ended up buying the game. No regrets at all, either, because it was great (like it needs more praise piled onto it, but I’ll pile on anyway.)

Of course, I can’t pretend that 2B’s famously generous backside wasn’t part of the reason as well. Ultimately I stayed for the fun gameplay and excellent, horribly depressing story, but hooks like these are important to get people in the door, I guess.

I came for the music and the ass, and I stayed for the music and the depression.

3) What difficulty do you tend to play games on?

I always default to Normal mode, and if I go for a second round I generally shift up to Hard or whatever the equivalent is. I don’t tend to go for Lunatic/Nightmare/etc. modes; I can’t take that much punishment. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I’m not a true masochist — I just have some M tendencies.

4) What have you been watching lately via streaming service of your choice?

An assload of anime on VRV. It’s not a bad service, though I absolutely have issues with its playback features. It does have an excellent library, however. Almost all of the recent anime I’ve looked at I’ve streamed through VRV, and I’ll be writing about some VRV-hosted anime series in the near future as well. I recommend it if you’re into anime at all; getting both Crunchyroll and Hi-Dive’s catalogs is a good deal (and unlike those people on YouTube, this isn’t a paid endorsement, sadly.) It’s almost enough to cope with the lousy playback and the fucked subtitles on some of the Hi-Dive-hosted series. How has that not been fixed yet, anyway?

5) What is your favourite game played thus far this year?

I haven’t played too many games this year; most of them have been long epics a few of which I’ve finished and others I’m still working through. Out of those I’ve finished, I’ll say it’s Atelier Escha & Logy. All the Atelier Dusk DX games are good, but Escha & Logy is the best of the three, and it works as a standalone story very well despite being the middle game in the trilogy. It’s certainly not for everyone — after all, it’s a turn-based JRPG with time limits, bureaucratic elements, and a heavy emphasis on crafting high-grade items, and one of those alone would be enough to put off a lot of people. But it was just about made for me.

6) What is something you’ve accomplished this year that you’re proud of?

Aside from my work, which is far too boring to bring up here (and side note: if you think being a lawyer is very exciting from watching a TV drama or playing Ace Attorney, it’s really not, at least not what I do) my big accomplishment has to be just how much of the Atelier series I’ve made it through this year, playing through all of the Dusk trilogy, Atelier Ryza, and as of this writing almost to the end of Atelier Sophie and possibly through the followup Atelier Firis by the end of the year — so at least five and maybe six.

Atelier Escha & Logy; let’s see if it keeps my favorite game played this year spot.

Once I complete the Mysterious trilogy I might just write a deep reads post on the series in general, considering the fact that I’ll have played most of what’s available in English (though maybe I should wait until I finally get around to Atelier Totori? She’s still in the back of my mind.)

7) What is the pettiest reason you’ve chosen to not play a game?

I would say “a weirdly obsessive fanbase”, but I honestly can’t think of a game I’ve avoided for that reason. I might have ended up avoiding Undertale if I hadn’t played it shortly after it came out and shortly before it attracted that, let’s say interesting fan community. Then again, I tout the good Sonic games and encourage people to ignore the weirdo fanatics around it, so I should be more forgiving. (I have actually avoided reading the webcomic/multimedia series Homestuck for those kinds of reasons, despite getting it recommended a whole lot. So the hypocrite label still attaches to me in this case.)

So the pettiest reason might actually have been bad box art. Just shows how important those covers are, despite western publishers for the longest time not seeming to understand that basic concept that bands knew since the mid-60s.

8) When you replay a game with a heavy emphasis on choice do you tend to choose the same decisions or do you make new decisions?

I always make new decisions. I don’t generally bother replaying a game unless I either have different options to make that change the story path or unless there’s a lot of new game plus material in there. For one example, take Persona 5 Royal, which I’ve treated until now as basically a replay of the original (though there is a lot added in, but the core game is the same up to the point I’ve played, and thanks to my Persona fatigue I haven’t gotten back to it yet.) The supporting character you decide to cement a relationship with is a massively important choice to a lot of players. Instead of going for the somewhat controversial pick of Futaba like last time, I went onto the far more controversial “Hot for Teacher” route by dating Sadayo Kawakami.

I honestly don’t know why Atlus included Kawakami and the other mid-20s professional women around town as romantic options for your high school-aged main character, because it’s weird as hell. Why bring back this bizarre double standard set by Persona 3 Portable (though there in an admittedly perhaps even weirder form?) I won’t get into it here, because I can go on for a while about it. Then again, I did take that bait, so whatever; I guess I can’t complain about it too much.

I think there’s a weird disconnect going on in my case between the player and the protagonist. That’s to say, I’m the one who wants to date Kawakami, but I don’t think she’s a good choice for the protagonist for hopefully extremely obvious reasons. But then there are also people who got pissed that Futaba was a dateable option when she’s far closer in age to and far more appropriate for Joker here. So you clearly can’t please anyone at all.

To answer the question more generally and in a less off-track way, I just get bored if I’m replaying a game and doing the same things over again.

9) Have you ever replayed a game you used to like but found it substantially less fun because your gaming preferences changed?

I remember playing Rampage on the NES when I was very very young and liking it, then playing it a few years later and realizing it’s boring. Way too repetitive. Excitebike held up better.

In general, I’m also a lot less tolerant of mindless grinding than I used to be, probably because I just don’t have time for it anymore. If I’m leveling my party in an RPG while also fighting towards a clear goal, that’s fine, but if the developer didn’t bother to incorporate any plot or character progression into the process or just decided to throw a wall up in the form of a boss that I have to scale by gaining five levels fighting grunts in a shitty field somewhere, I’m probably going to drop the game unless I have some extra-compelling reason to keep going.

10) Toilet paper over, under, or pinecone?

If you’re referring to how I hang it, then over. Under is criminal. Not sure what pinecone involves, unless we’re talking about a different aspect of TP use in which case no comment.

And now for my questions. Sorry if any of these are repeated from older posts; my mind has been broken over the years to the point that it’s about half-functioning at this point. Also, I broke the rule and reduced the number of questions to seven because I couldn’t think of ten good questions (if the following even qualify as “good.”)

1) Have you played/watched a series that you first liked but felt went off the rails at some point?

As far as games go, Sonic is the answer some people might give, but I wouldn’t myself despite its many misses, just because it still has potential. Even if that potential lies in a Sonic Mania 2 that might never get made.

Or Sonic CD 2? Why not?

So I’ll go with the ultra-casual answer: Game of Thrones. I’ve already mentioned it a few times here, but I was one of the multitudes of people watching the HBO adaptation, and I also watched it collapse in on itself. I’d say that collapse started as far back as season 6, when most people were still enjoying the show despite its turn into some incredibly boneheaded writing decisions (just look up “season 6 Arya chase scene” — you will never convince me that everything about it and surrounding it is not completely stupid.) But of course, the last season was the real betrayal.

Maybe I’ll get into it in more detail sometime. Maybe when The Winds of Winter comes out? Which also might never get made, so don’t hold your breath for either. But at the very least, we can still have hope for the story and characters in the novels, since they’re completely separate from the show as far as I can tell now. And that spinoff series House of the Dragon might be good, especially since the story material has already been written by Mr. Martin himself.

2) What about the reverse — a series that you first disliked or had no feelings about but came to enjoy?

I honestly can’t think of any answers to this question myself. When I dislike something (or someone, in fact) I tend to keep disliking it/them. But that might say more about me.

3) How forgiving are you of glitches in a game?

Pretty forgiving, as long as they’re not game-breaking. The fact that I’ve ever spoken at all positively about Sonic Adventure should say a lot (though the Dreamcast original was also a lot less glitchy than future ports, to be fair to it.) If the glitches are just minor, I can deal with that and even find some amusement in it. Game-breaking glitches are another matter — take a game like the infamous Ride to Hell: Retribution, which had no redeeming qualities even if it could have been played without the earth opening up and swallowing your biker protagonist whole.

4) What about a poor localization?

I have a harder time with this, though it’s certainly more of an issue for players who are mainly into Japanese games like me. The general quality of game localization has risen a lot in the last two decades, along with players’ expectations, but there are still actual fucking machine-translated visual novels being sold on Steam. Which is a double crime, firstly against the buyer who was expecting some level of quality control in their game, and secondly against every translator out there hunting for work.

So a message to publishers: don’t be cheap. Hire proper translators and editors. If you don’t, honestly and completely without any sense of irony, fuck you. I’ve heard the excuse that hiring these staff would increase costs — fine, then to reduce costs a restaurant might also justify using the lowest-grade meat possible and buying nearly rotten produce at extreme discounts from markets about to throw it out. To those making the above argument: would you happily eat at that restaurant?

5) How do you feel about cursing/general vulgarity in art and media?

This question just suddenly came to me, and my answer probably won’t surprise you too much: I don’t mind it as long as it’s warranted. Above, for example, I didn’t think I could properly express my pure hatred for penny-pinching asshole publishers other than with a “fuck you.” I’ve heard people claim that “cursing is the sign of someone who lacks imagination/can’t use language properly” and so on, which is priggish bullshit. Sometimes foul language is absolutely called for, as I think it is here.

That said, cursing and vulgar language can be both overused and inappropriately used. When applied at the wrong time or in the wrong situation, it’s like hitting a sour note, standing out in a bad way. Overuse also lessens its effect. I may well overuse certain vulgar words here on the site, but I do try to limit them to maintain their effect. Hearing someone just throw out fucks and shits constantly for no reason can be offputting as well.

And of course, I’m not advocating for these words and others like them to be used on Sesame Street. Kids should learn cursing properly: by reading said words written on bathroom stalls and then whispering them behind teachers’ backs like we did.

6) What three countries would you most like to visit, assuming you could do so without worries about time/cost?

My three choices are Spain (again, because I liked it a lot the one time I was there and want to see it a second time), Italy (art, music, history, etc. etc.), and Japan for reasons that are so obvious if you read this site that I don’t need to explain them.

7) What’s your favorite drink(s)?

Not necessarily the alcoholic kind. In my drinking days I used to like stout in the winter and lager in the summer, but now I stick to seltzer and coffee. And occasionally tea, but coffee is the true gift from God. I just hope I don’t end up like Balzac.

Though I no longer drink, I’d still hang out in the bar in VA-11 Hall-A. Just don’t put any karmotrine in there, Jill. Still waiting patiently for that sequel too…

And now, who are my marks?

Red Metal

Aether

Iniksbane

The Gamer with Glasses

Moyatori

pix1001

and finally Irina if she can fit it into her amazing posting schedule.

And taking the idea from Frostilyte, here are those questions set out in an easy-to-copy format:

1) Have you played/watched a series that you first liked but felt went off the rails at some point?

2) What about the reverse — a series that you first disliked or had no feelings about but came to enjoy?

3) How forgiving are you of glitches in a game?

4) What about a poor localization?

5) How do you feel about cursing/general vulgarity in art and media?

6) What three countries would you most like to visit, assuming you could do so without worries about time/cost?

7) What’s your favorite drink(s)?