Listening/reading log #5 (February 2020)

End of the month, so it’s another one of these. I don’t have a good way to start the post this time, so I’ll just get right to business.

Tarkus (Emerson Lake & Palmer, 1971)

Highlights: Tarkus, Bitches Crystal, A Time and a Place

Continuing the tradition of covering one classic prog album per post, here’s one of my favorites from one of those bands with a name that makes them sound like a law firm.  Tarkus isn’t great all the way through (the painfully preachy atheistic anthem “The Only Way” and the boring “Infinite Space” suck pretty bad in my opinion, and I don’t like the album closer much either) but that doesn’t matter, because the main point of the album is the title track, a 20-minute multi-part piece about… well, according to the inside art, it’s about the “armadillo tank” on the cover hatching out of an egg and going on a rampage, fighting other weird monsters straight out of an old kaiju movie.  Not that the lyrics give any clue of this at all, but who cares when the music is this good?  Keith Emerson is a master on his piano, keyboards, and synths, Carl Palmer does a great job drumming, and Greg Lake delivers some of the best vocals on a prog album in the “Stones of Years” and “Battlefield” sections of the suite.  The songs on side two are supposed to be outtakes, songs that didn’t make the cut for “Tarkus” proper, but some of them are excellent as well like “Bitches Crystal” and “A Time and a Place”.

For me, this album is the ultimate proof that music and art in general don’t need to be about a damn thing to be entertaining. Tarkus is about fuck all and I love it, or most of it anyway.  And I still think it should be adapted into a game.

Argent (Argent, 1970)

Highlights: The Feeling Is Inside, Liar, Schoolgirl

This band’s name isn’t all that imaginative (it’s not even named after the country or the Latin word for silver or anything, it’s just the last name of founder/pianist/organist/producer/etc Rod Argent, who previously co-founded the Zombies aka the guys who did “Time of the Season”.) But they made some good music, and this debut has some fine songs on it. “The Feeling Is Inside” is a nice soulful tune about a guy who cries because his girlfriend is so hot, and she brings him coffee in a special cup, whatever the hell that means — maybe they got that line from Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah I Love Her So”?  But they’re both great songs. I also like “Liar”, a much harder-edged breakup song that might be the sequel to “The Feeling Is Inside”. Another highlight is “Schoolgirl”, featuring a guy reminiscing about his love when they were younger.

Hey, this whole fucking album is full of love songs, isn’t it? That’s not usually my thing — I prefer meaningless nonsense music like Tarkus — but these love songs are well-written, so it’s no big deal.

Adult (Tokyo Jihen, 2006)

Highlights: A Secret, Niigata

For the first and certainly not the last time, I’m writing about a musical act that I’ve already written about once. Sort of. Tokyo Jihen, or Tokyo Incidents, is a band formed by singer/musician/songwriter Shiina Ringo. I covered one of her solo albums just a few months ago, but I’ve been listening to some of her stuff again lately. So here’s Adult, featuring songs that don’t sound too different from her solo stuff. More of that mix of jazz, pop, and rock all done in a classy and catchy as hell way. I don’t like Adult quite as much as Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana, but it has some excellent songs like loud jazz blast “A Secret” and somber piano ballad “Niigata”. Some of the album consists of more standard pop stuff, but Shiina’s amazing singing makes it all worth a listen.

And now the featured articles:

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020 Film) review — The consensus seems to be that the new Sonic the Hedgehog movie doesn’t suck, which is far more than most people expected out of it. I might even bother to watch it at some point. If you’re interested, check out this review of the film from Wizard Dojo.

Game Designer Spotlight – Sid Meier — From Caleb Compton of Rempton Games, an interesting look at a man who provided me with many hours of entertainment growing up: Sid Meier, creator of the Civilization series and a bunch of other good stuff.

Good Sexy, Bad Sexy — Aether explores the use of sexuality in games and how it’s used both effectively and ineffectively. This is a subject I’m extremely interested in (as you all probably know already) and I found Aether’s take on it to be very insightful.

Who — The Who put out a new album, a fact that was completely shocking to me considering the fact that they’ve been around for 55 years now and half of the original lineup is sadly no longer with us. Find out what Matt at Hi-Fi Adventures has to say about it.

[GAME REVIEW] Mega Man 3 — I’ll just keep posting links to Red Metal’s Mega Man reviews, since they’re all comprehensive and entertaining.

And finally, let’s welcome Nep back to reviewing games after a hiatus. I look forward to seeing what comes next!

As for me, it’s another grinding month of toil and bullshit.  I’ll do my best to finish out the Disgaea feature I’ve been working on, though.  Can you imagine that I originally intended it to only be one fairly short post about Disgaea 1, and now it’s grown into a four-part series.  Now I know how George RR Martin feels.  Still waiting for The Winds of Winter here anyway — the day it comes out I’ll be taking at least a two-week break from the site.

Blogger Recognition Award + 200th post landmark

Many thanks to both Irina from the excellent blog I drink and watch anime and Ospreyshire from the also excellent blog Ospreyshire’s Realm for nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award, which I believe was created to recognize bloggers.  As always, I’m grateful for an excuse to go on about myself.  This also happens to be the 200th post on my site.  You’d think I’d have posted more considering the blog has been active for over six years, but some years I didn’t post a whole lot, and I also took a few months-long hiatuses.  So yes, this is post #200.  Not a bad time to look back on what’s happened and what’s still to come and all that stuff, though I’ll save the big retrospective for when I hit the seven-year mark.

I don’t think of my birthdays as very important, but I’ll throw one for my site.  I also now have a bunch of Disgaea screenshots that I’m never going to use anywhere else like this one.

The rules are as follows:

1) Say thanks to who nominated you and leave a link back to that person’s blog.

I can check this one off the list.  By the way, if you’re not following Irina and you’re into anime at all, you should absolutely be following Irina.  Ospreyshire also writes on anime and entertainment in general and posts original spoken word and musical works.  Check it out!

2) Give the story or history of your blog.

I might have recounted this already, but I started this blog as a way to have something else to do while I attended law school.  I can’t say how much writing here helped me retain my sanity.  In fact, it still plays that role, helping me to deal with circumstances.  This is one place where I can truly be myself, where I don’t have to pretend at all to be what I’m not.  It means a lot to me that people care to read what I write, in part for that very reason.

Over time, the focus of the blog narrowed a bit to primarily anime, games, and music, with an obviously heavy emphasis on the weeb material that you can find from the very beginning.  I’ve also recently shifted over from reviews to long-form commentaries and analyses, so if that’s more your style, I’ve got plenty more of it on the way.  Not that I’ll stop writing reviews, but it’s become harder to find time to play new games with my work schedule.  I still have a massive backlog to work through, though.  One day I’ll get it cleared out, I hope.

If there’s one screenshot that sums up my blog, it’s probably this one

I wish I had a more dramatic story to tell, but that’s really the whole thing.  As stated above, the blog did go inactive a few times for months-long stretches, but I always felt the urge to return, and now I’m dedicated to posting on a consistent basis, even if that means only posting once every week or two.

3) Give two or more pieces of advice for new bloggers.

First: write about something you care about.  I know this might seem like painfully obvious advice, but you may be surprised how many people disregard it, instead choosing to chase after trends that they may not necessarily give a damn about only for the clicks.  This is probably more of an issue among Youtube video creators, since that’s long been a far more visible and potentially profitable platform than WordPress or other blogging sites — it’s full of people chasing those trends and mostly burning out, likely because they never had any true desire to create such content in the first place.

If you’re creating a blog strictly to generate ad revenue, then I totally understand this approach.  Make maximum use of SEO tools, go for the clicks, promote yourself everywhere, and get that money if you can.  But if you’re doing this strictly as a personal thing or a stress reliever, and you find yourself writing exclusively about mobile games, or Youtube drama, or Apple and Samsung product updates because “that’s what people actually care about,” you’ll likely end up hating it.  Remember: unless it’s part of a broader business venture or it’s a collaborative effort, your blog is yours, not someone else’s.  The same goes for creating podcasts, Youtube videos, and every other form of popular media.  Write about what you like, and stuff everyone who tells you otherwise.

And second: be yourself.

I don’t know if there’s a worse cliché around than this one when it comes to advice.  Just to be clear: “be yourself” is not advice I endorse when it comes to living your everyday life.  Of course, you shouldn’t try to be someone else, exactly, but you also shouldn’t expect members of the general public to accept you just as you are.  Maybe “try to be the best version of yourself” is better advice in that case.  On your blog, however, you have the freedom to completely be yourself, especially if you’re maintaining relative anonymity with your username and associated social media accounts.  You can write about whatever you like without being forced to put on that mask most of us have to wear when we go out to our jobs, see our relatives, and deal with our respective cultures.  Or maybe you’re one of those lucky free souls who doesn’t need to wear that mask, or you have enough money to not have to worry about what other people think of you — in which case you don’t need this advice.

I can write about questionable maid services if I want, and so can you. (This is also a spoiler for a future post scheduled way down the line, so if you know what this is all about, you can look forward to that in a couple of months probably.)

This piece of advice ties into the first one pretty well, so I’ll just leave it at that before I start rambling on and on about nothing.  I do believe, for what it’s worth, that without following these precepts I would never have made it to 200 posts on this blog.  I care about everything I write about here, and you can be sure that I’m always giving you my honest opinion.  If you do the same, you can go far in creating something of real value.  You might not get a million views a month, but you’ll make something that’s meaningful to you, and as a consequence it will likely be meaningful to other people who come across it.

Anyway, I hope I’m not giving new bloggers the wrong advices.  This is what worked for me.  It might not work for you.  If you want to achieve financial success through blogging, you sure as hell shouldn’t listen to me.

4) Nominate 10 other bloggers and link their blogs.

Shit, ten blogs is a lot to ask, especially considering how well this tag seems to be doing.  But I’ll do it.  As usual, if you’ve already been nominated or don’t feel like answering this, feel free to ignore the tag.  All of the following are well worth checking out:

Curiously Dead Cat

Fan of a Certain Age

K at the Movies

Tiger Anime

Umai Yomu Anime Blog

Frostilyte’s Blog

No Rez, No Life

And a few of the usual suspects (I know I probably tag you all too much, but here’s another one if you want it):

Mechanical Anime Reviews

Extra Life

Lost to the Aether

Listening/reading log #4 (January 2020)

Well!  We managed to almost get through the first month of the decade without a total global disaster occurring yet, so I guess that’s good.  More importantly, I got halfway through my latest deep reads series of posts this month, so check out the first and second parts of that if you haven’t already.  Since life in the world and here in my country continues despite all the unrest we’re going through, we may as well keeping listening to good music and reading good blog posts.  Here are some of those.

The Yes Album (Yes, 1971)

Highlights: Starship Trooper, I’ve Seen All Good People

I guess it’s tradition now that I include at least one classic prog album in my listening log, so here’s another one.  Out of all the big old classic prog bands, Yes is arguably the most positive in tone (they named themselves “Yes” for just that reason supposedly) and The Yes Album is maybe the most positive-sounding of their classic period, which just happens to start with The Yes Album.  It’s the first one of theirs I heard, and it’s a great introduction to the band, featuring some typically long as hell songs with a lot of impressive solos and the insane, seemingly meaningless lyrics of unearthly high-pitched singer Jon Anderson (no, that’s not a falsetto he’s singing in, that’s really his regular voice.)

My favorite track on the album is “Starship Trooper”.  Everything about it is great — it’s sort of a combination of folk-rock and space-rock, which probably sounds like it shouldn’t work but really does.  I don’t know if it has anything to do with the Heinlein novel (it’s always hard to tell with Mr. Anderson’s bizarre lyrics) but the title does remind me of the famous shower scene from the film adaptation, which affected me so deeply when I saw it as a kid.  I also really like “I’ve Seen All Good People”, a song you’ve probably heard a bit of in a commercial or on classic rock radio if you’ve ever bothered to turn it on.  I think it was in an Intel commercial once.  Excellent album, anyway.  If you need to hear some music that feels positive even though you can’t understand what the hell it’s about, try it.  (For all the JoJo fans — “Roundabout” is on the following album Fragile, which is also excellent.)

The Bends (Radiohead, 1995)

Highlights: Fake Plastic Trees, My Iron Lung, Just

I always feel the need to balance the moods out with the music I listen to over the long run, so to balance the sunshine and happiness of The Yes Album here’s a Radiohead album.  The Bends is one from my childhood — it came out a bit before I was old enough to be an angsty teenager, but it was there for me when I got to that point and got it along with OK Computer and Kid A.  And damn if this album wasn’t tailored exactly for an introverted 13 year-old boy to connect with.  The music has a sharp edge throughout, and Thom Yorke’s singing has a matching bitter, sarcastic feel to it.

However, this music doesn’t feel whiny or anything, partly because of that sharp instrumental edge and partly because Yorke’s voice wasn’t whiny like another popular 90s frontman’s (you know who I’m talking about maybe, no need to say his name) but mainly because most of the songs still hold up well. “Just” is especially good, my favorite on the album.  I also put “My Iron Lung” up because it captures that old teen angst from around my childhood/school years better than anything else.  Not sure that one holds up as well, but you can’t reason with nostalgia.  Though should I really be nostalgic about that time in my life?  I don’t know.  Let’s just move on.

Chopin – Complete Piano Music (Frederic Chopin/Idil Biret, 1820s-1840s/1995)

Highlights: too many to name, but here are a few samples

This album is really testing the format I’ve been using for these posts.  This truly is a collection of all the solo piano pieces written by the legend himself, the French-Polish Romantic period pianist and composer Fryderyk (or Frederic) Chopin.  This guy is claimed by both France and Poland as a kind of national artistic hero, and for good reason.  Chopin hits a wide range of emotions using only a piano.  There are plenty of longer epics on this collection, but a lot of these pieces are also very quick and catchy — a few are even under a minute.  Anyone who has a bias against classical music in general as being “that boring old stuff” should really give Chopin a try.  He’s one of my favorite composers.  In fact, if you check out the links above, you’ll discover where I got the original name for this site.  (Didn’t last very long as the “official” name, but I suppose it still is the name of the site in some sense.)

Pianist Idil Biret also does a fine job playing all these pieces.  At least I think she does.  I’m no expert.  I can scrape by with a few myself, but I make them sound like shit.  Biret is a real professional.

And now for the featured posts:

“Classical Music is Dead”: Misconceptions and More — rxtrogression takes on the many misconceptions a lot of people hold about classical music, a couple of which I mentioned in the bit above about Chopin, but also including equally mistaken ideas like “it all sounds the same.”  When you’re dealing with a set of music written across an entire continent and a few other places besides, and over a period of three centuries, you can’t generalize about it.  This piece does a great job at breaking that subject down.

5 things I’ve been doing wrong when writing posts — Irina recently attended a WordPress course and analyzes the wisdom its lecturers had to impart on writing a “good post.” These include such nuggets as “don’t go off on tangents”, “write fluff pieces”, and “don’t be too weird.”  Many of the blogs most worth reading break most of these rules, and Irina’s blog happens to be one of them, so you should check it out.

Trout Mask Replica — If you want to read some more comprehensive album reviews than the mini-reviews I write in these posts, you should follow Hi-Fi Adventures.  In this post, Matt analyzes Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica, one of the most classic “weird albums” ever to exist.  It’s a complicated and interesting work, just like Beefheart himself, and Matt covers the subject very well.

All Good Things Come To Those Who Wait: Delaying The Release Of A Video Game — If you’re disappointed about the delay of Cyberpunk 2077, simpleek’s post is a good one to read, detailing why it’s better for a game to be delayed than released in a rush and providing examples.  Reasoning these points out doesn’t remove the sting from delay announcements, but it might make them easier to bear.

The Gutenberg WordPress Block Editor – An Update — I hate the new editor, but Yomu at Umai Yomu Anime Blog has a more nuanced view of it, discussing both its strengths and weaknesses.  Maybe I’m just not willing to try anything new at this point, no matter how good it might be.

You Best Took it Serious When You Heard the Tone. The Persona 3 Retrospective Part 3: Presentation — You know the deal.  It’s about Megami Tensei so of course I’m going to talk about it.  This is the next part in Aether’s insightful Persona 3 retrospective, this time getting into the game’s distinctive and beautiful presentation.

Finally, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out Red Metal’s Star Wars sequel trilogy reviews, starting with The Force Awakens.  They’re full of spoilers, but if you’ve seen the series and want some in-depth analysis of these films’ characters, plots, general feel and all the rest, you should absolutely read them.

So that’s it for the month.  I know this post is coming a bit early, but this week is going to be hell for me, so I thought I may as well write this end-of-month piece before I get mired in bullshit as usual.  I do plan to finish the Disgaea deep reads sub-series in February, though.  And if you’ve liked these commentaries I’ve been writing, I have good news: I already have plans for #3 and #4 in the wider series.  Might take a while to actually write them, but they will happen.  Once again, you probably won’t be surprised by what I’ve decided to write about.  Until next month, take it easy.

Listening/reading log #3 (December 2019)

I know I said I’d be off for the rest of the year, but there’s still one piece of old business for 2019 left to address. So let’s get right to it:

Magic (T-Square, 1981)

Highlights: It’s Magic, Sunshine Sunshine

Quite an album cover, isn’t it?  Pretty magical in my opinion too, at least as far as the subject matter goes.  Magic is an album recorded by Japanese fusion band T-Square, which has existed in various forms from the late 70s up until today.  These guys along with Casiopea were apparently a big part of 80s fusion.

The problem is I don’t seem to like 80s fusion very much, not even the later Casiopea stuff I’ve listened to.  70s fusion, sure, I’m into it.  But 80s fusion might just use way too many cheesy, ridiculous synth tones for my taste.  Some of those are on Magic too, and that might also be part of why I’m not a fan of the instrumentals here.  Half the songs on this album are vocal pieces, however, and I like those.  These feature lyrics in English sung by famous Filipina vocalist Marlene (yeah, just the one name) who I only learned about last week.  Her singing is unbearably cute and uplifting and makes the album opener “It’s Magic” as well as “Sunshine Sunshine”, a song you may be shocked to hear that I really like.  I’m not crazy about the message (which is essentially “don’t mope around, just be happy” — yeah, if only it were that easy) but when I listen to the song, it’s impossible not to imagine Marlene bouncing around a stage while singing the lines “SUNSHINE SUNSHINE IT’S A SUNNY DAY SUNSHINE SUNSHINE LOVE IS HERE TO STAY!” and that does actually make me happy.  So maybe this stupid shit works.  Anyway, Magic is mostly pretty good, and maybe you’ll like it more than I do if you’re not allergic to cheesy 80s synths.

H to He, Who Am the Only One (Van der Graaf Generator, 1970)

Highlights: Killer, House With No Door, Lost

Hey, was I being positive there for a few minutes?  Fuck that!  I know just the cure: some Van der Graaf Generator.  This was an English prog rock band that started back before prog was even really a thing, fronted by excellent singer/crazy lyricist Peter Hammill.  VdGG was pretty uneven in my opinion, but when they were good they were great, and H to He (referring to the solar fusion process — no idea what the rest of the title means) is one of their best albums.  This is dark, bitter, sad artsy rock featuring Hammill singing what sound like a lot of very personal words over a saxophone/organ-dominated background.

Which you might not think you’d be especially into depending on your tastes, but the songs here are really good.  “Killer” is energetic and catchy and has a monster riff that I love, and “House With No Door” is a ballad sung by Hammill sounding like he just had his heart torn out.  My favorite is “Lost”, though.  It meanders like crazy through its 11 minute run time and bizarre time/key signature changes, all classic prog-style, but it works because the whole song is about a guy who’s lost his love and is wandering in the same fashion.  Nothing pretentious here, it’s really just a love song.  Check it out!

So it’s only two albums I’m putting up for your consideration this time, but I hope the contrast between them is enough to cover pretty much everyone’s tastes.  If it isn’t, try out some of the following excellent pieces by my fellow blog writers.

Shadows of Mass Destruction.  The Persona 3 Retrospective, Part 2-Gameplay — Aether dives deep into Persona 3 in his continuing retrospective series on the game.  If you like the Megami Tensei content I post here (what’s that, about two-thirds of my site?) you should follow Lost to the Aether as well for some great in-depth analysis.

Humanity Has Declined: Nameless Adventures With Incalculable Entities — Scott of Mechanical Anime Reviews writes about the uniquely weird anime series Humanity Has Declined and why it’s worth watching.  I liked the show a whole lot, and Scott captures the essence of it very well.

Editorial: Supporting the Little Guys — Professional and semi-pro game journalism sites are largely copy-and-paste clickbait outrage factories, and Pete Davison of MoeGamer takes on some of the problems this causes in this piece.

[GAME REVIEW] Mega Man 2 — Red Metal of Extra Life reviews one of the best NES games in such a thorough way that I don’t think there’s anything else to say about it.

Chapter 754: Hachinohe Station Giant Lanterns and History Museum — If you have any interest in traveling to Japan, or traveling anywhere for that matter, be sure to follow The Flying Tofu, now on part 754 of her travels through Japan and other lands.  I can’t go anywhere at the moment or anytime in the near future, so I like to read a few travel blogs instead, and this is one of them.

And that’s it once again.  A preemptive happy new year to everyone — doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a great year coming up in general, but we’ll see.  The last few years have turned me into a real fatalist, both as far as my personal life and public/world events have gone. But what the hell.  There’s not much ordinary people like us can do (assuming you’re ordinary too, dear reader — if you’re extraordinary, can you please do something about all this shit?)

Anyway, if all else fails, just remember this: no matter how much things might suck, nothing is forever.  That’s what I tell myself, anyway.  Until next time!

Listening/reading log #2 (November 2019)

We’re officially in the holiday season if you live anywhere in the western world.  So unless you’re an actual Scrooge who hates the holidays (which feelings I won’t begrudge you if you do have them, because I’m a bitter fuck too) I hope you have a good holiday season or a happy Christmas etc. etc.  In the meantime, I’ve got more music to cover as well as a few articles and posts that I found interesting recently.  The following albums contain music that I’ve mostly heard before, but I’ve been playing them a lot lately, and it’s all good stuff, so I thought why not put them in the spotlight this month.

加爾基 精液 栗ノ花/Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana (Shiina Ringo, 2003)

Highlights: Meisai, Okonomide (live version)

Shiina Ringo is an interesting character.  She seems to have been retired or on hiatus for a while now, but back in the early 2000s she was a very active singer/songwriter/pianist/shamisenist (is that the right term?)  Shiina put out some excellent albums at the time, my favorite of which is Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana.  It’s full of memorable songs written and performed in a mix of rock/pop and jazz.  It doesn’t sound anything like fusion, though; it’s more just Shiina’s own style.  I love her singing as well; her tone ranges from angry and aggressive to light and sweet depending upon the song.  She can also play a ton of instruments, an ability I greatly respect.

The songs I linked above are much more in Shiina’s jazz style, but she’s done plenty of lighter pop stuff as well that’s good.  If you’re into this particular style, Shiina also performed similar music with a band under the name Tokyo Jihen.  Their album Adult is a great one to check out if you like the above-linked songs.

Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (King Crimson, 1973)

Highlights: Easy Money, The Talking Drum, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part II

Damn, I am really building up my respectable music critic reputation with this one.  King Crimson has been one of my favorite bands for a long time.  They’ve been around since 1969 and have put out groundbreaking albums like their debut In the Court of the Crimson King (which some people argue started the prog rock movement and others argue didn’t, though I’m not getting into that stupid debate), Red, and Discipline.  All these albums feature the guitar of eccentric jerk/genius Robert Fripp and otherwise completely different band members, so they all sound very different.  I’m not in love with every album they’ve ever recorded, but when Crimson were good, they were great.

Larks’ Tongues in Aspic might be their most out there album, though.  The vocal tracks are pretty good (especially Easy Money, with a great funk beat by the excellent drummer Bill Bruford) but I think the instrumentals are the best part of this album.  They’re pretty heavy rock in that early 70s style like Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath, but completely different in approach, in how cold and impersonal they feel to me.  The Talking Drum/Larks’ Tongues Part II final stretch of the album is more hellish-sounding than Black Sabbath even.  I could keep going on about this album, but I’ll cut it short here.  I like it.  Note: the above links are all to live versions of these songs, so they’ll naturally sound a bit different in the studio versions.  The band was supposed to be amazing on stage in the early 70s anyway, so it’s still good stuff.

Greatest Idol (Mitchie M feat. Hatsune Miku, 2013)

Highlights: Freely Tomorrow, 愛Dee

Remember that respectable music critic reputation I was talking about just now?  Time to blow it up completely, because I like this album too.  Not only do all the instruments sound entirely synthetic, the vocals are synthetic as well — Greatest Idol features the singing of Vocaloid software characters, most prominently Hatsune Miku.  It’s also 100% upbeat sugar-sweet pop.  My high school self listening to Larks’ Tongues would have been shocked to see my current self listening to this stuff, but that kid was an idiot, because these songs are catchy as hell.  Mitchie M is a Vocaloid composer with the impressive ability to make Miku and friends sound almost human, at least compared to songs put together by most other composers.  And in any case, this music really isn’t any less “manufactured” than a Taylor Swift or Katy Perry album full of autotuning and other studio tricks.  And Mitchie M’s songs are a lot better than theirs too.  Or maybe I’m just an unrepentant weirdo.  Listen to these tracks from Greatest Idol and tell me I’m crazy.

Also, I really like that combination keytar/guitar Miku is playing in the cover art.  I’ve never seen anything like that before.  Not sure how you’d play both parts with only two hands, but Miku is an android, so maybe she can manage it somehow.

That’s it for the listening part of the post.  Now on to the reading part:

Awful People Can Still Be Great Characters — A reminder from Irina that sometimes a character who is a terrible person is also perfect in the role they’re playing.

Take Your Heart: Visiting the Persona 5 Cafes in Japan — Browser Crasher describes the experience of visiting Persona 5-themed cafes in Japan in 2016 and 2019.  These kinds of promotions are apparently pretty common in Tokyo.  The best I can do is read about them, so I appreciate this account of Browser Crasher’s visits.

The 13th Doll (2019) [PC] — From the Well-Red Mage, a comprehensive review of The 13th Doll, a fangame of the 1993 FMV puzzle game The 7th Guest.  While 7th Guest hasn’t aged well in some ways, I still have a lot of fond memories of playing it as a kid, and from this review it sounds like the makers of 13th Doll did a fine job capturing the spirit of the original work.

[GAME REVIEW] Colossal Cave Adventure — Red Metal reviews one of the oldest things we generally consider a video or PC game: Colossal Cave Adventure, a text adventure released in 1976.  While it sounds like the game itself doesn’t hold up that well, the story behind it is interesting if only to understand the important influence it had on later games.

Anime NYC: First Impressions — My experience with anime cons has been mostly wandering around the dealers’ room trying to justify expensive artbook purchases to myself while recovering from a hangover from the last night’s activities.  Simpleek gives her initial impressions of a recent New York anime con, and it sounds like her experience was quite different and probably much more responsible than mine.  She also writes about the different feeling of being an adult fan of anime and how attending a con can bring that out, something I can relate to.

And that’s another month almost done.  See you next time, when I’ll hopefully have the next entry in my deep reads series up.

The Real Neat Blog Award, round 3

It’s another award, this time from Pete Davison of MoeGamer.  Pete writes about worthy niche games that certain professional game review sites either look down upon or won’t get anywhere near.  It’s well worth reading, and if you like my stuff anyway, you’ll like his too.  Thanks very much again for the tag.

Here are the rules once again:

1. Display the logo
2. Thank the bloggers for the award.
3. Answer the questions from the one who nominated you.
4. Nominate 7 to 10 bloggers.
5. Ask them 7 questions.

So with 1 and 2 out of the way, let’s move on to the substance: the questions.

1. Have you ever deliberately sought out a piece of media you knew would make you uncomfortable somehow? If so, why did you do that and what was the experience like?

I can’t say I’ve done that.  I’ve watched movies and read books that have plenty of heavy, depressing parts to them, but I wasn’t really going in with the mindset that “I will be uncomfortable with some of this material” or anything like that.  I can’t even say I was seeking those kinds of works out because I thought they’d make me uncomfortable.  As far as media that expresses opinions I completely disagree with, I did read the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s book A Matter of Interpretation, but that was assigned for a class, so I don’t know if that counts.  For what it’s worth, Scalia was a very entertaining writer, a rarity for a federal judge or a lawyer of any kind (I hope I’m an exception to that rule too.)  I still think most of his views were repugnant and/or crazy, but it’s a great book to read if you want to understand the mindset of a typical conservative judge in a US court.

These days I spend most of my time at work, and when I play, watch, or read something for pleasure, I prefer something that brings me pleasure, not discomfort.  I do understand the value of playing games, watching movies, or reading books well outside your comfort zone, though, even if I don’t necessary seek them out myself.  I’m just getting old and cranky, that’s all.  But I believe there’s a lesson in this, especially for game developers: if you want to express an aggressively challenging message, just wrap it in great gameplay and interesting characters and have it sneak up on me and I’ll be all about it (unless your message is bullshit, of course.)  Also, for God’s sake, make the message just a little subtle.  I don’t want to be talked down to like I’m a child.  Even children shouldn’t be talked down to like they’re children.  Give your audience a little credit, please.

2. What is your favourite tangible, physical item that you own and why?

A page from the Harada artbook. Very worth buying if you can find it for a halfway decent price now.

Does my entire physical library of games, albums, and books count as one item?  No, I guess not.

I’m not sure there’s one single thing I can say I own that’s my favorite.  They all have different functions that are pretty useful to me. I don’t have any family heirlooms or anything, and even if I did, I don’t think I’d get much value out of having them myself beyond the memories that might come with them.  I do really like that Takehito Harada Art Works Vol. 1 artbook I was talking about a couple of posts ago, though.  If I were forced to sell all my artbooks but one (God forbid such a thing should ever happen) that’s the one I’d keep.  Harada is one of my favorite artists, and the book is full of art of some of my favorite characters, so how could I bear to part with it?  It’s also translated, which is nice because it means I can read it now instead of two or three years from now when I hopefully get through most of my Japanese lessons.

3. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever sat on deliberately?

I could think of all the sorts of lewd answers you might get to this question, but unfortunately I don’t have any of those.  My actual answer is the Duck, an old World War II amphibious military vehicle that’s basically a combination car and boat, a boat with wheels.  The “DUKW” as it was originally named (get it) is now used by a Boston tour company to take people around the streets and into the famous harbor.  I can’t remember whether the tour was worth taking — I was 8 or 9 at the time the one time I was in Boston.  But the Duck tours seem to still be operating, so I guess it’s something to do if you’re there for a while and have nothing else going on.

4. What do you want for Christmas? (I’m not going to get you it, I’m just curious.)

“What is this, exactly?”
“Don’t… don’t ask.”

You know you’ve truly become an adult when your answer to that question is “a Visa gift card so I can buy food.”  There are certainly some less necessary things I want, but I’m going to be buying those for myself, not asking my family or friends for them, because they’ll start to ask some questions about my interests at that point that I don’t feel like answering.  At least not until I’m rich enough to not have to care what anyone thinks of me anymore.  If you know a good way to make millions of dollars while not being an asshole tycoon who pollutes the environment or employs contractors like Foxconn, please let me know and we can work something out.

5. Do you have something you would like to achieve that you know is well within reach, but which you can’t seem to make progress on? If so, what do you think is stopping you? If not, what was the last major achievement you think you accomplished?

I need to get my piano proficiency back.  I used to play pretty well, but I’m rusty as hell after years away from it.  I know I can still play from messing around on pianos and keyboards a few times — once you’re good enough, playing an instrument isn’t something you ever forget how to do, no matter how much time has passed.  But I’d need a month or two to get back to where I used to be.  Sadly I don’t have room for the family piano where I live now, and I don’t have enough to afford a non-shitty keyboard with weighted keys, so there’s not much I can do at the moment.  Maybe next year.

6. Assume you work full-time if you don’t already. If we suddenly switched to a 4-day working week, what would you do with that extra day?

I usually work well more than full-time, so a 4-day week is an even better deal that it would be for actual 9-to-5 toilers.  Hell, I would jump at the chance to work four tens, but that’s just a fantasy.  Assuming the fantasy could come true, though, I would use that time to write and accelerate my Japanese studies.

7. Think of the characters you find attractive — in terms of both personality and appearance. What traits do they have in common, and what is it you find attractive about those traits?

Well, here’s the big question.  I thought about it a bit, and while I find a variety of characters attractive in personality and appearance, I really like those that are extremely loyal.  Not the yandere-crazy type of loyal, but the stubborn type.  Like Saber from Fate/Stay Night, Flonne from Disgaea, and Aigis (who you could argue as an android is programmed to be loyal, but it’s pretty clear she gained a sense of human-like identity in Persona 3 so I think there’s a lot more going on there.)

I suppose it’s pretty obvious why loyalty is attractive, at least on the surface.  It’s great to be with someone who you can trust even with your life.  On the other hand, loyalty can have its downsides — if it’s not reciprocated, it can cause a lot of emotional pain, and it can drive people to do stupid or even evil things if they’re loyal to the wrong sort of person.  A little skepticism can be good sometimes as well.  Even so, I like the idea of having a loyal partner if only for the reason that she’d force me to examine my own sense of loyalty and honor as well and hopefully make me a better person for it.

Or maybe I just like cute blonde girls.

***

Thanks to Pete again for the insightful questions.  Now here are the questions I promised last time.  I’m cheating a bit here because the previous nomination I received required 11 questions, but I’ve done a few of these now and the well’s run a bit dry.  I hope I’m not repeating any of my older questions with the following seven.  The last couple are holiday-related because I don’t know.  The holidays or whatever.  You know.

1) Is there a game, book, or other work that you’d like to experience but that you can’t because it’s untranslated, not ported, or otherwise inaccessible?

2) What’s one work that really affected you or stuck with you in the last year, and why do you think it did?

3) If you could revive one series of works that’s been abandoned or dropped by its creators for any reason, what series would it be and why?

4) When it comes to music, do you prefer songs with vocals and lyrics or instrumental pieces, or do you have a preference at all?  If you prefer one type over the other, why do you think that is?

5) When was the last time you bought a magazine, newspaper, or other form of print media?

6) Is there a holiday you don’t get to celebrate/take off because of family or work reasons but that you wish you could?

7) If you had to create a new holiday, when would it be and what would it involve?

And the tagged persons are:

NekoJonez

Scott @ Mechanical Anime Reviews

Gaming Omnivore

Frostilyte

Pinkie’s Paradise

Ospreyshire

Red Metal @ Extra Life

As usual — if I tag you too often, or you don’t care for these questions, feel free to ignore them, but if I haven’t tagged you, also feel free to answer them.  Do whatever you want, in fact.  Freedom is great, isn’t it?

The Sunshine Blogger Award Challenge Part 4: No more clever subtitles

Last month I was honored with a fourth Sunshine Blogger Award nomination, this time from animeandfanfiction, who runs an excellent site dealing with anime, manga, and games.  Thanks very much for the tag.  My answers are a bit late, but they’re here now.  As usual, here are the rules:

Thank the blogger who nominated you in the blog post and link back to their blog.
Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

I’ve fulfilled the first and last requirements already, so now it’s time to answer the questions:

1. If you could cosplay any anime character to a convention or just at home, who would it be?

I guess I’d have to say Phoenix Wright, because 1) it would be an easy cosplay; all I’d need to buy is some hair gel and a golden pin, and 2) we’re both lawyers, so it would work thematically.  And I’m pretty sure he was in an anime adaptation once, right?  So this works an as answer.  Though being a lawyer in Phoenix’s world is a lot more exciting that being one in ours.

2. Who is the most relatable anime/manga character to you?

Very sadly, I have to say it’s probably Nozomu Itoshiki, aka the Zetsubou-sensei in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei.  This is a series about a teacher who constantly takes as negative a view of life as possible, not because he’s trying to be contrarian but because that’s just how he is.  Meanwhile, his class is full of girls who each have their own psychological quirks, and there’s a lot of weird dark comedy that ensues.  SZS does contain a lot of cultural references and language puns that I probably wouldn’t get even if I looked them up, but I can totally understand Itoshiki and his view of life, because it’s not too different from mine.  I’ve been trying to be more positive, though.  It’s not easy.

The worst possible conclusion is probably the right one.  This is a hard mindset to break.

3. Which genre do you think you’ve watched the most of this year?

I’ve completed a grand total of one current anime series so far, Cop Craft, and I’m also watching that Fate/Grand Order: Babylonia show (yeah, I’m still watching at least one anime series currently airing.)  So it’s a tie between urban sci-fi fantasy cop show and ancient battle royale (or isekai?  Does F/GO count as an isekai?  I have no idea.)

4. What seasonal animes were your favorites this year?

Again, not much I can say here, but Cop Craft was actually pretty good despite the at times extremely janky animation.  The relationship between Tilarna and Kei in that series made it worth watching.  Also the Range Murata character designs.  It is really a shame that the art in Cop Craft so often lacks detail, considering the incredible detail Murata puts into his own works.  Just a case of low budget, I guess.

An example of Murata’s work from one of his artbooks; the guy is a master.

5. How did you get into being an aniblogger?

I wouldn’t say I’m quite an aniblogger in the way animeandfanfiction, or Irina, Scott, or some of the other dedicated anime bloggers are.  But if we can lump video games in with anime, I can get into why I started this blog: it was essentially a way for me to blow off some steam and do something unrelated to my studies when I started at law school.  At the time, I really wasn’t looking for anything else from the blog but that.

Now I work full time and then some, which doesn’t afford me a whole lot of time for other pursuits, but I still stick with this because I’ll be damned if I have to lose one of the only places I have where I can be myself.  I enjoy the community we have here, and it’s nice to be able to put my writing out to others who might be interested as well as to the internet as a whole.  The idea that some guy in Burkina Faso can find my deep dive analysis of the romance element in Saya no Uta with a Google search is one I like, even if it doesn’t benefit me directly in any way.

6. Shortest or longest anime you’ve watched?

Don’t know about shortest, but the longest anime series I’ve watched, by a long shot, is Legend of the Galactic Heroes at 110 episodes.  It’s still one of my all-time favorites, a space opera/war drama story with political intrigue and romance and a lot of other stuff that you might like.  Except it’s 110 episodes long, and it was also made in the 80s and early 90s and very much looks it, so I have a hard time recommending it to some people.  If you can get past the dated look of the series and get a few episodes in, though, you might find yourself hooked.

I haven’t used this gif in five years, but finally I have another opportunity.

As an alternative, you can check out the LOGH remake currently airing.  I haven’t watched any of it, so I don’t know how it compares to the original so far, but it’s probably worth checking out too.  I’m not the type to hate something just because it’s not the original thing it was based on, so I might watch it at some point myself.

7. Best anime character husbando or waifu crush?

It’s been a long time, but I have to admit that I crushed on Misato Katsuragi, the military officer who directly supervised Shinji Ikari in Neon Genesis Evangelion.  I was a few years younger than Shinji at the time I watched Eva, but even then the idea of living with an attractive older woman who sometimes just wore a towel around the place was exciting to me.  I don’t know if Misato would count as the “best” — she’s got plenty of problems and probably drinks too much — but she’s still my best, and I guess that’s what matters.

Misato: still best waifu

8. Do you have a favorite protagonist or antagonist? If so, who?

Going in to Persona yet again here, so big time spoilers for Persona 4:

===

 

Adachi.  I don’t know if Adachi being the culprit really counts as a spoiler anymore, but it did when I played it.  I’ve heard some people suggest that his reason for shoving people into the TVs and leaving them to die was dumb, but the simplicity of his reason was exactly why it worked for me: he’s a bored, frustrated asshole who discovered a power he had and used it to amuse himself at the expense of others.  Nothing could be more human, at least if we’re talking about the negative side of human desires and impulses.  On the positive side, you have the protagonist, who made something great of himself and forged meaningful relationships with his family and friends while possessing the same power as Adachi.  Two sides of the same coin, that old thing.  Maybe that’s overused, but I like it when it’s done well, and I think Persona 4 does it well.

9. If you could change the ending of an anime you didn’t like, how would you change it?

I don’t think I’ve seen an anime series with an ending that I hated so much I’d know how to change it for the better.  I know a lot of people really hated the ending to Oreimo, but I’ve never watched that show, so I don’t have an opinion on it.  As far as games go, I did watch someone play the walking simulator Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture on Steam a couple of years ago, and the ending to that game was so bad that the streamer went on for about 15-20 minutes afterwards about how much dogshit nonsense it made the entire work into, which I remember pretty much agreeing with.  But then I wasn’t too impressed with the game otherwise, so I’m not the best judge there either.

10. What is your favorite setting of animes? For example, schools, being transported to an online game, feudal Japan, etc.

I’m very into the urban or urban fantasy setting, which is part of why I picked up Cop Craft.  Feudal Japan can be interesting too, though.  I guess it’s a bit of a stereotype for nerds to be into the Sengoku period, but it really does feature some strange stories, especially the ones about Nobunaga.  That guy was crazy.

11. If you could make one fictional being or thing in an anime real, who or what would it be? For example, Pokemon, yo kai spirits, mecha robots, etc.

I’m really not sure.  Aigis, I guess.  I still like the idea of living with a cute android girl/full-scale home security system in one.  When will engineers and technicians stop with the god damn not-even-marginally-better new smartphone versions and build something good for once?

Who else can dance and defend against aerial attacks at the same time?  No one, that’s who.

Once again, thanks for the questions!  I’ll hold off on issuing my own because I currently have one more set of questions to answer for a different blogger award, this time from Pete Davison of MoeGamer.  You can look forward to that post and my own tags sometime this weekend, probably.  Until then!