Update #4 (Squid Game / Blue Reflection: Second Light / Atelier Firis / Komi Can’t Communicate)

Barring any work emergencies, I have a four-day weekend, which is amazing. I barely know what to do with this much time. Except catch up on anime and games while hiding from people I don’t want to interact with, which is what I’m doing now. Fuck the outside and being a social person! I’ve had enough of it for one lifetime. Wake me up when full dive VR happens (or so I’d like to say, but I have actual social obligations to carry out eventually when I run out of viable excuses to avoid them. Again: fuck it all, I say!)

Now that my regular bitter, bile-filled complaints are out of the way, why am I writing still another unfocused mess of a post? There are series and games I want to write about that separately, at least at this point, might not warrant their own posts, so I decided to dump them all in here. As always, proper reviews and commentaries are on their way, along with the usual end-of-month post.

Let’s start with something truly unusual, however, at least for this site: a look at a live-action series.

Squid Game (S1) (a very short no-spoilers review)

Yeah, I watched a popular thing on Netflix. I guess I’m a sellout now. No more hipster weeb cred for me. In fact, normally when I keep hearing about a series that’s exploded in popularity like this one has, I’m more inclined not to watch it, partly because I wonder whether it’s really as good as the hype suggests. That’s not really fair, though — just because something is insanely popular doesn’t mean it’s good or bad. Getting past that whole “popular thing = good/bad” mindset is necessary anyway.

And this time I was intrigued by what I’d heard, so I decided to give said popular series a shot. If you’ve been out in space orbiting Mars and haven’t had any signal for the last few months, Squid Game is a Korean series about a set of games run by a shady organization in which 456 players in serious debt compete for a massive amount of money. And naturally, since the reward is high, so is the risk: players who lose are eliminated in the fullest sense of the word.

We mostly see these death games through the perspective of the protagonist Seong Gi-hun, a down-on-his-luck divorced father with severe gambling debts who just wants to do right by his daughter and his mother for once. Gi-hun, despite all his faults, is a decent man at heart, but he’ll have to navigate a treacherous series of mind games and temporary alliances that test his senses of justice and morality to get at the final prize.

People have compared Squid Game to quite a few other survival game series, but the one I immediately thought of was Kaiji. If you’ve read or watched it, you can probably notice the similarities even from the synopsis above. I saw a parallel in the protagonist too: Gi-hun is very much a Kaiji sort of guy in that he’s unremarkable until faced with a life-or-death situation, when he gains nerves of steel, but all while attempting to stay true to his ideals. He’s far from perfect, but I found him to be sympathetic enough to root for along with a couple of other players who become close to him. The biggest strength in Squid Game I found was how it built its characters — with one massive exception, but that’s something I want to address in a separate post I’m planning.

The games themselves and the organization running them are also interesting. Again, as in Kaiji, these pit debtors against each other, resulting in some instances of teamwork and others of treachery and backstabbing. However, in Squid Game, the contests are all incredibly dangerous adaptations of children’s games. The strange and unique art style of the show adds to its appeal and probably did a lot to get people’s attention, and I think it works well, though I can see how it would put some viewers off.

I can’t give Squid Game an A+ or 10/10 or whatever equivalent you prefer, though, because I had a few issues with it, most seriously with the ending. I won’t get into it here in detail, but I felt the last episode undercut some of the story and especially one relationship that was central to the show, and in a way that didn’t pay off at all. I also found some strange inconsistencies in how the organization operated that weren’t explained.

Despite those negatives, I don’t regret watching Squid Game at all — I really liked it, at least up until the last episode (and well, episodes 7 and 8 were kind of goofy and bizarre in a not entirely good way either) and since the show is now confirmed for a second season, maybe it will somehow build on what it established at the end of this first season. So I’d recommend Squid Game if you’re into this survival/death game genre and don’t mind a whole lot of graphic violence, but with the caveat that the ending is kind of a mess, just not quite enough of one to overturn the rest of the series.

There’s more I want to write about the issues I had with the narrative, but I’ll save it for a spoiler-filled post (and I’ll probably spoil Kaiji as well, since I think there are some good comparisons to be made there.)

Now on to a couple of games I’ve started recently, one of which I’ve mentioned a bit already:

Blue Reflection: Second Light

I do know, yeah.

Since my look at the demo last month, I’ve gotten up to Chapter 6 of Blue Reflection: Second Light, which seems to be a bit more than halfway through the game, and I’m happy to say that it’s fully lived up to my high expectations so far. This sequel has surpassed the original in most ways, with a lot of fun and engaging characters and more fully fleshed-out relationships between them.

The game’s new setting helps: the protagonist Ao and her several companions are all students who have been mysteriously transported to this small dimension that only contains an otherwise unpopulated high school on a small island, with a connection to a strange separate set of dimensions composed of fragments of the girls’ places and memories and patrolled by dangerous and bizarre beasts called demons. Naturally, this “Heartscape” as the girls eventually name it is where all the combat takes place and where significant parts of the plot are moved along.

The start of combat against a dangerous demon in the Heartscape. The girls start out fighting in their normal forms but can transform into Reflectors (i.e. magical girls) and gain new power in the course of battle.

There’s not much else to say yet about Second Light other than the yuri, which the game really went hard on this time around. There were hints of it in the original, but nothing close to what the sequel offers. Ao can go on “dates” with her friends, which just consist of walks to various points of interest in the school like the gym or the pool where a short cutscene takes place. It’s a nice bit of relationship-building, though just as in the first game, spending time with your companions unlocks fragments that can be used to boost the characters’ stats and gain other benefits in battle.

Conversations can also take place on the way to your date spot. And yes, Ao gets flirty with every other girl in the game.

There’s also at least one real deal no bullshit romantic thing going on between two of the girls, though as far as I’ve played, it’s not clear whether those feelings are only one-way or are going to be returned. I’m honestly surprised they went straight for it, though — usually these games dance around the issue, merely hinting at such feelings or playing them partly for comedy (see any of the Atelier Arland games, also made by Gust with Mel Kishida’s involvement) but Second Light went for it without ambiguity. It will be interesting to see how that aspect of the story develops.

I also like this chalkboard note

There’s the update on Second Light, if you cared to have it: it’s good so far, and I don’t see it going bad unless the ending sucks or something. I’ll see soon enough.

And now for still another Gust game, because aside from a couple of other games, I’ve entirely dedicated this year to them for some reason:

Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey

Hi again Sophie and Plachta

No sooner was I done with Atelier Sophie than I started the next game in the Mysterious DX package. Atelier Firis is still another example of just how much Gust mixes things up from one game to the next, because aside from the somewhat similar alchemy system, Firis provides a completely different experience.

Our protagonist is the above-named Firis Mistlud, a girl who is soon to become an alchemist (surprise!) Firis was born and raised in Ertona, a strange mining town that exists entirely inside a cave sealed by a door only allowed to open for certain people. And sadly, Firis isn’t one of them. Highly valued by the elders of Ertona for her almost magical skill at detecting ore in the ground without using tools, she’s stuck where she is for the time being.

But of course, this soon changes. After a chance encounter with Sophie, the protagonist of the previous game, Firis discovers the wonders of alchemy and gets a shot at learning the discipline from her. Together, they manage to convince the town elders and her parents to let her go outside accompanied by her older sister/bodyguard, the hunter Liane, on the grounds that she needs to expand her knowledge so she can help the community more with this new skill. However, there’s a condition attached: Firis has to make it to the faraway city of Reisenberg and pass a notoriously difficult alchemy exam within one year, or else she’ll have to return to her hometown for good.

Outside for the first time in her life, Firis and her big sister face down a Puni, the Atelier version of the slime.

Despite being the next game in the same trilogy, Firis is very different from Sophie. Firstly, in terms of its settings: instead of the relatively small exploration fields and dungeons typical of Atelier that we got in Sophie, Firis features massive landscapes to run around in, with maps that fill out as Firis explores the world around her. That change works pretty well, since it fits with the theme of the game — Firis is all about exploration, after all.

The other change is maybe a bit more questionable, though it was one I already knew was coming: the return of the dreaded time limit. I don’t usually mind time limits in Atelier, but this one has me slightly on edge. The game isn’t kidding when it tells Firis to get to Reisenberg and pass that alchemy exam within a year, because it features a clock and a countdown starting at 365 days, presumably with a bad ending if you fail to meet your goal in time.

As in Sophie, there’s also an LP meter again that restricts how far you can travel without resting.

The trouble is that I have no idea how far I am from Reisenberg or how much I have yet to do to meet the game’s requirements for me to pass this first year. I’ve heard the time limit in Firis is an easy one to clear, so I’m taking my time to level Firis, both in the atelier and out in the field (which I have to do anyway for plot reasons, so it’s just as well) but with a constant eye on that countdown. As a result, I don’t feel like I can enjoy this newfound freedom.

But maybe that’s the point — Firis is under pressure in the game’s story, so having a time limit makes sense when you approach it from that angle. And once she passes the exam, the time limits are apparently all gone for good and I’ll get to explore at my leisure, so I’m looking forward to that.

And finally, moving over to anime an update on a series I may or may not finish:

Komi Can’t Communicate

Now I can see why this series seems to be divisive. Apparently a lot of people really dislike the protagonist Tadano because they think he’s being underhanded in his intentions towards Komi somehow. I don’t really get that impression myself — my read on the guy is that he’s a pretty normal awkward, dense anime romantic comedy protagonist. Sure, he’s obviously into Komi, but then everyone is too. And even so, Tadano and his friend Najimi are among the very few at their school who treat her like a fellow human instead of a goddess.

No, my problem with the series is its side characters. The fears I expressed in my first impressions post have been fully realized: aside from the above-mentioned ones, nearly the rest of the students at this school are a bunch of annoying one-dimensional dipshits. I’m pretty sure they won’t change much either, because then we’d lose the amazing jokes that come along with them.

This aspect of Komi hit me in the face in episode 3, which starts with a nice plot about a classmate of theirs, Himiko Agari, who has social anxiety similar to Komi’s, only Agari can’t stand when people look at her. Tadano thinks the two might bond over their shared socialization problems, and after some expected communication problems they end up friends, which is perfectly nice.

Then Agari turns immediately into this:

Anyone who’s read this site for any amount of time will know I’m absolutely not prudish at all. I’m all about letting your freak flag fly and all that stuff. That said, I don’t get how making Agari into a masochist who wants to literally lick Komi’s shoes makes any god damn sense in the context of everything else that happened in her episode. It feels thrown in at the end, as if to say “by the way, this is Agari’s thing and it’s going to be hilarious every time she acts like a dog in front of Komi and weirds her and everyone else out.”

Then there was episode 4, featuring Ren Yamai, the school’s resident yandere who’s naturally also obsessed with Komi and who apparently gets to kidnap and plan the murder of a fellow student (Tadano for being too friendly with her god-queen Komi, because right, Tadano’s the creepy one in this story) without so much as a referral to the school counselor.

Whatever

I get that Komi is a comedy and it’s not meant to be realistic, but I feel like mixing this sort of almost surreal, bizarre style with the attempt at a heartfelt, emotional story doesn’t work so well. But still, if I don’t drop Komi, I’ll write a more complete review of it. To be fair, the latest episodes I’ve seen were easier to take than the third and fourth, and there are still some aspects of the show I like — they’re just in danger of being outweighed by the things I don’t, and those things are still present in the series. Anyway, humor is pretty subjective, isn’t it? A lot of people find Komi funny, and if I don’t, maybe that’s just my problem.

In any case, even at its worst, Komi is still ten billion times better than fucking Big Mouth, which is still on the front page of Netflix every time I log in. So if you have to choose between the two for some weird reason, please watch Komi instead.

Also, I’m still watching Aquatope, takt.op Destiny, and Jahy-sama, but I’ll save my thoughts on those for the end of the season. I’ve already written more than enough by now to bore the hell out of everyone around. I hope you found something interesting above, at least. The next post will likely be that end-of-month one, so until then — happy Thanksgiving if you’re also in the US, and happy Black Friday, and I hope you didn’t get mauled too badly out there. Though if you’re the sort of person who reads my site, you’re probably holed up inside too.

Update, part 2 (10/31/2021: First impressions: Komi Can’t Communicate)

Happy Halloween, I guess. I’m not all that into it, but I’m happy that some people are. It’s also nice to give people some excuse to dress up as their favorite characters. But nothing spooky from me because I don’t really care about that sort of thing. I know I’m a killjoy, yes.

Today I’m continuing my breakneck-speed posting marathon with a continuation of that update post I started last week (hence the weird post title, sorry about that) this time shifting my focus to anime. I’ve picked up three new series that I’m now watching in addition to Aquatope and Jahy, which I’ll address next when they’re done at the end of the season. These next couple of posts won’t be anything even close to a full look at the fall season — as usual, I’m only watching a very small slice of currently airing anime, targeted to what I think I’d like, but it’s still a roll of the dice.

At first, I was going to just lump all three of these series together into one big post, but one of the series I’m watching consists of five-minute shorts (yeah, it’s Ganbare Douki-chan, of course; not much more to say about it now other than it’s nice, and I’ll most likely also cover it at the end of the season) and the other also deserves its own dedicated post. So for now, here’s my first impression of Komi Can’t Communicate.

Komi Can’t Communicate (or Komi-san wa, komyushou desu if you know that title better) is still another high school comedy, this time about a girl with extreme social anxiety and a guy who’s doing his utmost to help her resolve it. Our protagonist, Hitohito Tadano (left) is according to his own description an average guy who just wants to blend in, all the more so since he’s starting at a prestigious prep school where sticking out might cause him some trouble. However, he immediately gets a target painted on his back when he’s seated next to Shouko Komi, a knockout beauty who’s also mysteriously silent.

Tadano’s class obsesses over and idolizes this girl, which might sound nice for her at first — even Komi’s stony silence comes off as a kind of aloofness that just seems to make her classmates even more slobbery over her. But as Tadano soon discovers, this is a real problem for Komi, because she’s really not aloof at all: she just suffers from such terrible social anxiety that she literally can’t speak to other people. Tadano, almost by chance, manages to break through to Komi, and while having a long conversation with her by writing on the chalkboard in their classroom he learns that her dream is to make 100 friends.

This scene is a little sappy, but the sap is appropriate here and it’s not too much.

In a seemingly sort-of-joking way, Tadano writes that he’ll be her first friend and help her find the other 99, but Komi takes him at his word and emotionally accepts his offer. To his credit, despite really not wanting to stick out any more than he already is, Tadano takes his task seriously, and in the second episode we get to see his first attempt at fixing her up with Najimi, an old friend of his who’s an extreme compulsive liar but so talkative and friendly that Tadano figures Komi can’t fail at this first shot. And that’s as far as I’ve gotten by now, because even though the fifth episode of Komi is supposed to air in a few days, Netflix (where this series is being streamed exclusively at least officially) is only up to the second so far.

More on Netflix later, because the streaming service itself has become a subject of some mild controversy over its treatment of Komi. First, my first impression of Komi itself, which is pretty mixed. I thought I’d really like this series — the premise immediately grabbed me when I first heard about it, especially having been someone who for the longest time couldn’t cope in social situations myself. Sure, I was never quite as pretty as Komi is, so I didn’t get the weird, creepy, fawning idolization she gets from the rest of her class, but otherwise I can kind of relate. It’s also nice to see another series that takes this issue on; the last anime I remember seeing that addressed not being able to function socially was Welcome to the NHK!, which did a great job but took on a very different aspect of the problem.

I also like the two leads so far. Tadano might come off as a bit of a coward at first, but he seems like the type to really hold his ground when he has to, and though he doesn’t seem to consciously know it, his observation skills are pretty sharp. It is brought up in the first episode that every student at this elite academy has something special about them, so despite Tadano’s insistence that he’s average, it seems he’s really not. And then there’s Komi, of course: the focus of the show. She’s very sympathetic so far, and it’s nice to see her determination to greatly improve her social skills, at least to the point where she can talk to other people. The series also does a nice job of having Komi express her emotions without talking (as above — when she’s happy she sprouts cat ears? Sure, it’s cute so it works, that’s the rule.)

But then there’s every other character in the show so far. Granted, I haven’t gotten nearly far enough yet into it to really judge properly, but it seems like Tadano and Komi’s classmates are mostly a pack of raging assholes. Creepy assholes, too, because for as much as they weirdly obsess over Komi, they seem to hate Tadano to the point of wanting to actually murder him simply because he had the good fortune (?) to get randomly seated next to her.

It’s not just the guys either

This might all just be a comment on how shitty high school is in general, and if so I can relate to that as well. But then it doesn’t endear me all that much to the rest of the class either, and considering Komi and Tadano’s goal of rounding up 99 more friends for her, that might be an actual problem, since most of these people don’t seem like they’re really worth befriending. I get that a lot of them are meant to be weird and quirky (the narrator says this straight out at the end of episode 1, in fact) but there’s a line where over-the-top quirkiness and wackiness turns into me smashing my face against a wall at how god damn insufferable so-and-so is being, so for me plain quirkiness without anything else doesn’t excuse obnoxious behavior even in a comedy like this. Thankfully, Najimi in episode 2 seems to be actually pretty cool despite their penchant for compulsively lying, but I hope that trend can be kept up.

I know Komi is a very long-running manga (up to chapter 324 as of this writing! Damn.) And I haven’t read any of it, so I’m sure the manga-readers will have a lot more insight to give about this adaptation than I do. These are simply my own dumb thoughts about the first two episodes. I’ll continue watching and hope the parts that are rough for me get a bit smoothed out, because there seems to be plenty here to like as well. I’ve also heard Komi referred to as a romantic comedy, so I guess that means there’s something between Komi and Tadano at some point, but if the manga has run this long this romance must be an extremely slow burn.

I did laugh at this bit, even if it’s an obvious joke to make

Finally, there’s the matter of Netflix itself. I know people have been griping over the lousy subtitles, and I’ve heard the fansubs do a far better job (including translating some of the text-based jokes these official subs miss, which Komi seems to have a lot of.) I can’t address the quality of the Netflix subs in a meaningful way since my Japanese still isn’t good enough to judge, but I know for a fact I’m missing out on a lot of those text-based jokes, and I’m not sure why they wouldn’t be translated. Unless the thought was that fans wouldn’t care, and if that’s the thought, it’s definitely an incorrect one. Fuck, maybe I just need to try harder to learn Japanese.

Then there’s the matter of the airing schedule. I watch almost all my anime on Crunchyroll through the VRV service. It’s kind of shitty as well, but at least those guys do a far better job of getting episodes to the rest of the world shortly after their original air date. The other anime I’ve started through Crunchyroll isn’t two weeks behind like Netflix is with Komi, anyway. Maybe if they really were taking the time to translate all those text gags that would be an excuse, but they’re not.

So I don’t know. Maybe it’s not a big deal and I’m just being impatient, but in these days of instantly being spoiled on shit on Twitter it seems like at least a kind of big deal to be as current as possible with the airing schedule. But please tell me if you think I’m being unreasonable here. Hell, maybe there’s some kind of contractual reason for the delay.

But that’s all I have on Komi for the moment. I’ll keep being a good boy and watching it on Netflix, but I wouldn’t blame you for going for the fansubs instead. I certainly won’t sit here pretending I never watched a fansub. We all have. At the same time, I officially won’t endorse that action, because I’m sworn to uphold the law and all that stuff. If Komi turns out to be good, anyway, I’ll be forgiving enough, and a lot of people seem to love it, so I’ll stick with it and hope for the best.

A review of Teasing Master Takagi-san

Since I’ve had a look at the anime adaptation of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! and the original Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro manga, it’s only right that I should give some attention to the last member of the triumvirate of (mostly) good-natured bullying/teasing. Like those, Teasing Master Takagi-san (original title Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san) is a still-running manga series; the anime adaptation currently has two seasons released in 2016 and 2019. This series features yet another boy and girl pair with a somewhat similar relationship to those in Uzaki and Nagatoro — the girl makes fun of the boy, the boy gets flustered in response and tries to get back at her, and that’s the source of the comedy.

However, Takagi-san is pretty different from those series aside from that common theme, which I think has to do with the somewhat different dynamic between the two leads and the setting they’re in. And of course, I’ll get into all that right now.

Takagi and Nishikata, the leads of the series

The first segment of the show’s first episode, “Eraser”, lays out everything we need to know about these two middle school students and their combative, complicated relationship. Nishikata, the boy, is our protagonist — we know this because we can hear his inner monologue, and also because he sits in the protagonist seat, all the way in the back of the class by the window. Sitting next to him is the girl, Takagi. Nishikata is busy not studying but rather trying to rig up a springy snake toy made of paper in a box meant specifically to scare Takagi. But before he can pull his plan off, Takagi asks for his help opening her pencil case, which she claims is jammed shut. When he takes the case and easily opens it, Takagi’s own springy paper toy jumps out and scares Nishikata, and Takagi breaks down laughing at his extreme reaction.

How most of Nishikata’s attempts at getting revenge on Takagi end up

After Nishikata collapses in defeat, Takagi changes the subject, asking to use his eraser. When he hands it over, Takagi mentions a rumor she heard that if you write your crush’s name on your eraser hidden under the paper holder part of it and said crush uses the eraser up, they’ll fall in love with you. Nishikata dismisses it as a silly superstition, but when Takagi takes his eraser and slides it up to see under that part and pretends to read a name, he starts sweating, wondering whether he wrote a name and forgot about it — even worse, could it have been her name?

Of course, Takagi is bluffing; there’s nothing written there, but she got another reaction out of Nishikata, which was enough for her to get another win over him. She then leaves class to go to the bathroom, and Nishikata takes the chance to take Takagi’s eraser and steal a look at what she might have written under it. When he pushes her eraser up and sees the kana ろ (ro), not the first letter in his name, he feels disappointed, though he’s not sure exactly why. Working up his nerve, he then reads the rest, which translates to “look into the hallway”. And looking to his right, he sees Takagi, peeking around the corner and laughing her ass off at him once again before composing herself and coming back in to get her eraser back and declare still another victory over him.

If only he’d read the other side.

Right away, we get the gist of their relationship. Takagi teases Nishikata endlessly, and while Nishikata tries to get back at her, his attempts fall short because Takagi has already thought a few steps ahead of him. He never gives up, however — his determination to get even with Takagi is a constant throughout the series.

There are two other important points to this first segment, one obvious and the other only hinted at. The obvious one is that Nishikata has a massive crush on Takagi but that he doesn’t realize it yet. As the show continues, Nishikata inches closer to realizing his feelings for her, but it is a slow process. The less obvious point here is that Takagi might have the same feelings for Nishikata — in the early stages this is still only hinted at with bits like the end of the “Eraser” segment, but more of these suggestions show up later on.

Takagi has the upper hand here too, though, because assuming from the beginning that they’re genuine, she understands her feelings for Nishikata better than he does his feelings for her. Moreover, she seems to know that Nishikata is crushing on her, since she uses this fact throughout the series both to tease him and to get closer to him. Every time one of them comes up with a game, it’s probably no coincidence that when Nishikata inevitably loses, the penalty Takagi chooses involves him spending more time with her. Naturally, Nishikata brushes this off as just more of her teasing when he finally notices what’s going on, but we get more hints down the line that Takagi might be serious about what she’s doing behind all the pranks.

There’s lots of looking away and blushing, but it’s almost always Nishikata doing it.

While this developing potential romance (as much as you can call it that in middle school at least) is a big part of the story of Takagi-san, the battle of wits between Nishikata and Takagi is pretty entertaining in itself even apart from that. Takagi clearly has an advantage over Nishikata in the wits department, but instead of using those assets to go after him aggressively, she usually allows him to work himself up into a frenzy, letting him second-guess himself and fall into the traps she’s set for him. Her goal also pretty clearly isn’t to humiliate or demoralize him, even if she does like to see him get embarrassed — she never teases Nishikata in front of other people, but only when they’re either alone or out of earshot of everyone else, and on the few occasions he ends up getting himself hurt she shows genuine concern for his health (though she still somehow finds ways to tease him while caring for him.)

I think Takagi’s relative kindness towards Nishikata contributes to how wholesome this anime is in general. Maybe it’s only natural, since all the characters in the show are still just in middle school, but if you’re the type who doesn’t go for some of the dirty jokes featured in high school or university-based comedies (Nagatoro and Uzaki-chan respectively for example) you might prefer Takagi-san. Nishikata, Takagi, and their friends are all just figuring things out, after all, and all the talk about love and relationships in the show reflects that while still feeling natural (in other words, while the show is “clean” in that sense, it also doesn’t feel like it’s avoiding or papering over anything out of embarrassment.) It’s all very sweet, and though I admittedly like that dirty stuff I mentioned, Takagi-san was a nice change of pace for me.

Holding Takagi’s hand is one of the big hurdles Nishikata has to overcome if that gives you an idea

The only semi-annoyances I kept running into in Takagi-san were the segments featuring three other girls at their school named Yukari, Mina, and Sanae. I think these three show up in every episode and almost always get at least one short segment to themselves, and it’s typically a comedy bit that’s just kind of okay at best. Some of their bits feel like ones that might have been scrapped from Azumanga Daioh or another school slice-of-life like that. They’re not awful and are short enough to tolerate, and I guess these segments are meant to break up all the Takagi/Nishikata stuff. Then again, the reason I watched this show was to see all that Takagi/Nishikata stuff, so I never felt like it needed breaking up anyway.

To be fair, though, this trio and a few of Nishikata’s male friends do comment on their relationship sometimes, usually speculating that they’re dating much to Nishikata’s embarrassment when he finds out (and therefore to Takagi’s amusement) so they’re not totally disconnected from the main story. And that plays into another aspect of their relationship that I really liked: the fact that they’re happy to move at their own pace without feeling pressured by anyone else. Takagi is the one usually setting that pace for both of them, but Nishikata does grow and mature a bit to match her, and he may even end up surprising her a couple of times.

Find those parts for yourself, though; I won’t spoil them here.

I’ll just say right out, since I’ve heard a lot of disagreements on this point and the comparisons are only natural: I liked this series a lot more than I did Uzaki-chan, and I’d put it about on the same level as Nagatoro in terms of the enjoyment I’ve gotten from it. All three series are pretty different, each with their own quirks and particular character relationships, so I’m not accusing one of ripping off the others or anything like that. In fact, I’d say they’re all worth checking out if you’re into this sort of comedy at all. And I didn’t even dislike Uzaki-chan; I just much prefer Takagi-san because I like the characters more and find their back-and-forths a lot more entertaining.

But as usual, your mileage may vary. Maybe you think that even under all the teasing and power struggles between Takagi and Nishikata, this stuff sounds too sweet for you, and I can understand that — but then, you might also take into consideration that I’m unromantic/unsentimental as hell and even I really liked it. So I’d still suggest giving at least the first episode a chance even if you think you might not be into it. Teasing Master Takagi-san is another big recommendation from me, again without any reservations.

Even if it is admittedly annoying to watch since the first season is only aired on Crunchyroll and the second only on Netflix. I don’t know who the fuck is responsible for these kinds of stupid licensing decisions, but I really hate them.

Liebster Award questions and answers (and another open question)

Many thanks to Frostilyte for tagging me for the Liebster Award. Writers on this platform have come up with a lot of these, haven’t they? In the creator’s words:

It’s an award in which bloggers nominate other bloggers for showing respect to their works and their dedication. It’s an appreciation and recognition for all the fellow bloggers out there in the blogosphere!

Which is something I can’t argue with.

So first, I highly recommend Frostilyte Writes — if you like the sort of stuff I post here, you should be following that site as well for deep game analyses, reviews, and art. Frostilyte has insightful takes that are very worth reading, and the blog comes with my seal of approval.

Now to the questions:

1) We’re four months into the year (at the time of writing) – what’s your favourite game played thus far?

The only 2020 release I’ve played so far is Persona 5 Royal, so I guess that’s my answer. Technically it’s a 2019 release, and the West had to wait another eight months for the localization as usual. But who am I to complain about a long wait? P5R is excellent so far, even if there are real questions to be asked about how necessary Royal is for people who have played the original and aren’t dumbass fans like me who will buy anything with Persona or any Megami Tensei branding on it.

There really is new content in Royal, though, like this. I know how it looks, but it’s not that kind of game.

2) What’s your favourite Pokémon? (don’t read into this too much)

I know this is a massive sacrilege, but I’m not really into Pokémon, which you might have guessed from the fact that I’ve never written about it here. Not that I think it’s bad or anything; I just missed the boat on it. Which is weird, but I think I was just about a year too old when it really got big where I lived — the card-trading game was seen as a kids-only thing in my class, so we weren’t doing it, and the series never caught on with us as a result. I also missed out on Harry Potter for probably the same reason.

Remember when both those series were condemned by some weird people as being Satanic? Those were better days, back when there was so much less to worry about that assholes had to invent controversies to get mad about.

Actually, they still do that, so never mind.

I still want to answer this question, though, and I am a little familiar with Pokémon, so I’ll just say Farfetch’d because I like his name and design. I don’t know if he’s any good in combat, but he’s a weird duck carrying a leek, how can you not like that.

3) Have you watched any shows lately that you’d highly recommend?

I just started watching Babylon Berlin, a Netflix original German production. It’s a crime/espionage drama set in 1929 in the Weimar Republic, the first democratic period of Germany’s history that ended when Hitler and his Nazis overthrew it. This is one of the most interesting times and places in history to me, considering all the political and economic chaos that occurred there. Not such a great time and place to live in, though, as you can see if you watch the show. I’m only into part of the first season, but it’s good so far — a lot of intrigue and backstabbing going on, just what I like.

4) What was your favourite movie from 2019?

I know it’s a boring answer, but hell if Parasite wasn’t just that good. I guess I won’t spoil anything here, but if you haven’t seen it, you should watch it. That’s all.

5) How do you feel about games with no single player content?

I don’t give a damn about them. Nothing against multiplayer-only games; they’re just not my thing. Part of the reason I got into gaming was because it was something I could do without having to talk to other people. If that sounds weird and unhealthy, it probably is. But God knows I need a fucking break sometimes, and I don’t need to spend it trying to awkwardly interact with strangers. This answer says a lot more about me than it does about multiplayer games.

6) What is your least favourite genre of game?

First-person shooters. Maybe partly because so much of the content in those games is multiplayer, but also because I just find them boring. The only one I ever liked very much was Goldeneye, and I don’t know how well it would hold up.

The second-to-last place prize goes to the MMO, partly for the reasons I put up in answer #5. Two free weeks of EVE Online was enough time for me to decide I’d never play another one again. I can appreciate the escapism they deliver, but I prefer to get mine through singleplayer games.

7) What is your favourite genre of game?

Turn-based RPGs. This genre has gotten a lot of shit in the past several years. I get that certain gameplay mechanics can get stale, but there’s still a lot of room for innovation using turn-based or hybrid setups. The mostly turn-based Megami Tensei series, for example, has kept its gameplay fresh for three decades by constantly tweaking its combat systems.

My answer extends to tactical RPGs. For people who feel regular turn-based RPG combat is too much of a weird abstraction, with enemies waiting their turn to attack and all that, this might be a better alternative. It’s still turn-based, but it feels more like playing a giant game of chess with way more types of pieces and freedom of movement, and your pieces have HP and SP and can use magic attacks.

Okay, it’s not much like chess, but at least the board game feel of it is different from the standard RPG combat setup. I once knew someone who couldn’t stand mainline Final Fantasy but really liked Final Fantasy Tactics for just this reason.

8) What game from your backlog have you recently finished?

I haven’t quite finished it, but I just got through two of five routes in the visual novel Katawa Shoujo. If I told you a bunch of 4chan regulars made a dating sim featuring girls with physical disabilities, you might imagine that it’s got to be incredibly offensive, but so far it’s just the opposite. I kept meaning to play this VN for several years now, and I’m happy that I’ve finally gotten around to it.

The third (and maybe last, maybe not) route I’m on is Rin’s. I get the feeling that Rin is supposed to be how the typical 4chan user saw himself back when the game was being made around ten years ago. She’s a spaced-out artist who despises authority and talks to her peers in a direct and sometimes harsh way. There’s another character in the game who represents that typical 4chan user a lot better in reality, probably, but I’ll get around to that if I write something on Katawa Shoujo. Anyway, I have no idea what the typical user of that site or its various boards is like today — this game may as well have been released 700 years ago for how fast society and culture move now.

9) Physical or digital?

Physical. I do own a lot of digital copies of games, partly because of Steam sales and partly because so many low-budget indie projects can only offer digital copies. If I have the choice, though, I’ll always go with a physical copy. I still vaguely remember the pre-internet era that ended when I was still very young, and I have some nostalgia for it. I also miss not having adult concerns. No one told me being an adult would be such dogshit, or if they did then I wasn’t listening.

10) Pinecone?

No thanks, I already ate.

***

Thanks again to Frostilyte for the questions. I’m reluctant to keep this chain going myself because I’ve taken part in a lot of them in the last year, and I’m afraid of asking essentially the same questions and annoying the same fellow writers I’ve kept tagging (or I’m just too lazy to bother; it’s up to you to decide which is true.)

So once again, I nominate everyone who’s bothered to read all of my rambling answers for a Liebster Award because if you have, you honestly deserve it whether or not you even have a blog. And I have a question for you that you can answer in the comments, or on your blog, or not answer at all, or just do with it whatever you feel like. Here it is:

Virtual reality-based games right now are clunky messes that cause motion sickness and headaches, but that probably won’t be the case forever. How do you feel about the prospect of games becoming increasingly immersive, to the point that they might even feel as “real” as reality itself? Do you think this would have more of a positive or negative impact on society as a whole, or would it make a significant difference?

I’m thinking of writing something about this soon, and you might guess at my own feelings about the subject, but I’m interested in knowing what other people think, and specifically in what the sort of person who reads my site thinks. It’s all still speculative, but it’s not so bad to speculate sometimes.

Meanwhile, it’s back to the drudgery of work for me. Once I’m past that crap, next up will probably be more visual novel reviews/analyses. Between the lunar new year and Golden Week sales, I’m loaded up with them, and I’ve also got more routes of Katawa Shoujo I can play through. So I hope you’ve liked it so far, because 2020 is the year of the visual novel for me apparently. Until next time. 𒀭