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:

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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!

Two new artbook reviews (and an announcement)

I went to an anime con recently and came back weighed down with a few new artbooks. These are my only real vice as far as buying things I don’t technically need to live. However, I would argue that having these increases the quality of my life in a real way — reading through them and seeing the art inside, alongside a cup of coffee or strong tea, makes me feel better and helps calm me down after a stressful day at work. I used to use whiskey for that instead. I’d say making that change was worth dropping some money on.

So I thought why not briefly review these books for the benefit of the interested reader? You might see something you like here. If you’ve been following my site for a while, the books I chose to buy will come as absolutely no surprise to you.  I do want to apologize for the shitty, awful-looking glare in a few of these photos though; I don’t have anything like a professional setup here, but I hope these give you an idea of what’s in the books anyway.

Finally, I’ve got a massively important (well, to me anyway) announcement to make that you can skip down to right away if you don’t care about the artbook stuff.

Shigenori Soejima Art Works 2004-2010

I’ve been looking for an affordable copy of this artbook for years now, and I finally have it. The Japanese version was originally published several years ago, but it must have gone out of print for a while because I never could track down a copy under 80 dollars or so, shipping included. Even after I managed to get Shigenori Soejima’s second artbook, 2010-2017, on Amazon for a deal, this one eluded me. Thankfully, both this and 2010-2017 have gotten full translations and are now being sold at cons and on Amazon and eBay for prices that won’t give you a stomachache thinking about how you’ll pay the electric bill this month. This book is full of great artwork by Soejima, character designer and chief artist of the modern Persona games. Most of the pieces here are of Persona 3 and Persona 4 characters — if you want Persona 5 or Catherine art, you’ll naturally have to spring for 2010-2017.  There’s also an interesting interview with Soejima in the back of the book dealing with his history, his general approach to art, and the unusually detailed cover art of Aigis. I wish more artbooks had interviews like this one.

Side-by-side comparison of the first volume English and second volume Japanese Soejima books.

The only real complaint I have about this book is that it lacks both the dust jacket and the additional protective clear cover that the Japanese version has. Above you can see the difference between the English version of the first volume and the Japanese version of the second, which is modeled after the first. Not sure why we get short-changed like this, but maybe such cost-cutting measures are necessary to sell these books in the West at a profit. At least I can read the interview in the English version, which is nice, but if you can read Japanese I’d consider buying that version unless there’s a big price difference between the two.

DISGAEArt!!! Disgaea Official Illustration Collection

I’ve seen this book around for a long time, but until finding it at the con and reading through it, I avoided it out of a fear that it would be duplicative of the two Takehito Harada Art Works volumes I already own. While there is some overlap — probably unavoidable considering how much material is in those books — there’s also work in this volume you won’t find in those. As the name suggests, DISGAEArt is full of promotional and character art from the series, covering Disgaea 1 through Disgaea 4. There is a separate artbook dedicated to Disgaea 5 that I want to get, but it will have to wait for a while.

A Mage being a real asshole to some Prinnies. What’s her problem, anyway?

This book is a bit smaller than most other artbooks, more the size of a typical doujin work, but it’s also priced a bit lower than those oversized artbooks — I got mine for less than 30 dollars. Not a bad deal for an import. And no, there’s no English version of DISGAEArt as far as I can tell, but there’s so little text in it that it doesn’t make much of a difference unless you really need to be able to read the index in the back listing the source of every illustration.

If you’re a fan of Harada or Disgaea in general, this is a good book to look out for.  I do still like the two separate, larger Harada Art Works books better, especially Vol. 1, which got an English translation a while back.  However, they’re long out of print, and even the newer English version of Vol. 1 is selling in very good/like new condition for around 75-85 dollars as of this writing, whereas you can get DISGAEArt for less than half that price.  An easy choice to make if you’re concerned with money, which most of us are.

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That’s it for the artbooks.  But I did promise an announcement, didn’t I?  It’s one of those good news/bad news deals.  I don’t know whether anyone will actually care enough about any of this to be that emotionally affected by it, but I’ll start with the bad news anyway: I’m dropping the Seasonal Anime Draft stuff I was working on.  I just don’t have the time to keep up with running series that may or may not turn out to be any good.  Sorry about that.  But if you want to follow bloggers who write great beat-by-beat reviews of currently airing shows and/or weekly review posts, check out Irina at I drink and watch anime, Cactus Matt at Anime QandA, Scott at Mechanical Anime Reviews, and Jiraiyan at Otaku Orbit.

Now for the good news.  I’ve said for years that I need to learn Japanese, this language that’s in so much of the media I consume in some form or another.  Well, I’m doing it.  I recently learned that I can make a lot more in my current field if I qualify as fluent in Japanese, in part because so few American attorneys (or Americans in general, I guess) know the language.  And of course, if I learn to read Japanese fluently, I can play Japanese games without having to wait forever for ports or worry that we won’t even get a port.  I’ll also be able to read the text in all these god damn artbooks I own that aren’t translated.  I can be a king among weebs, most of whom don’t seem to know Japanese probably because it’s so damn different from English or their own native languages.

I might also be doing it to understand all those kanji-based jokes I’ve seen

Yeah, learning Japanese is a big project.  Thankfully, I already have some basic knowledge: I know my hiragana and katakana, about a hundred kanji, and some very basic vocabulary and grammar.  It will still take a hell of a long time, but I think of it this way: if I’d started studying Japanese the day I started this blog, I probably would have been fluent three years ago. Even the difference from English seems like more of an advantage than a disadvantage to me.  Over the years I’ve taken Spanish and German, and while I’ve kept bits of those languages, for all the classes I took in school I’m nowhere near fluent or even conversational.  I think part of the reason I had issues with those was that my brain didn’t easily separate them from English — after all, English is a Germanic language with Romance elements in it, and so it has some basic similarities with Spanish and a whole lot with German.  Japanese, however, is such an entirely different language system that my brain says “hey, this is different!” making it easier to set aside in its own compartment if that makes any sense.

So fuck it — I’m going for it.  I suppose this is what I’m doing now instead of watching currently airing anime, but I’m willing to make that change to learn the language.  However, I’ll still be posting here on a regular basis, so don’t worry about that.  The deep reads posts and the occasional reviews will still be coming along with whatever angry rants and caffeine-fueled late night legal analysis I happen to think up.  In fact, I might try to find a way to incorporate my Japanese-learning odyssey into the blog, especially if anyone’s interested in taking the plunge and learning along with me.

A review of Persona 4: Dancing All Night

Shut up and dance

I didn’t really plan on buying or reviewing Persona 4: Dancing All Night.  “A rhythm game?” I said to myself, dismissively, when I heard about this game.  “I shall not stoop to buy such an obvious cash-in.  I loved Persona 4 and Persona 4 Golden, and Atlus knows that and they’re just trying to get into my wallet.  But I have more integrity than they think.  Just fucking release Persona 5 already, please.”

p4dancing

Then I saw a friend playing the game on his own Vita and decided I wanted it.  Because really, Dancing All Night isn’t just a toss-off – it’s really a good rhythm game.  It even tries to have a plot, and the plot almost isn’t totally stupid!  Almost.

Protagonist (now officially named Yu Narukami, though I can’t get used to it because I never called him that in my P4 playthroughs) and his Investigation Team friends are roped into joining their fellow Investigator and former pop idol Rise Kujikawa for her big comeback as her backup dancers.*  She’s re-debuting at a big concert alongside Kanamin Kitchen, a newly popular girl group with a bizarre and slightly creepy animal/meat theme.

Is it a commentary on how pop idols are treated like meat by their fans, as mere eye candy? Is Persona 4 Dancing All Night really a deep and philosophical game?

Is it a commentary on how pop idols are treated like meat by their fans, as mere eye candy? Is Persona 4: Dancing All Night really a deep and philosophical game?

As you could guess from the instant you meet them, every member of Kanamin Kitchen gets dragged into a shadow-filled world and the Investigation Team has to save them.  Protagonist’s uncle Dojima, a grizzled detective, is also on the case, and he discovers that a bunch of fans of the group are going into comas after watching a creepy video on the internet, and these people are naturally being dragged into the shadow world too.  (As a nice reference for players of Persona 3, this condition is referred to as Apathy Syndrome.  Though we already got a P3 cameo in Persona 4 Golden and a P4 cameo in Persona 3 Portable, so this isn’t really a big deal.)

The big twist about this shadow world is that, until the TV world of P4, the characters can’t fight or summon their personas through the usual methods.  Instead – no joke – they have to dance to defeat the shadows and save each pop star.  Somehow, dancing well makes the shadows happy, then they dissipate into the air and blow away.  Or something.  The game tried to explain this, but it still doesn’t make any sense.

Even in Persona dancing games you have to battle supernatural monsters that are expressions of your dark inner self

Even in Persona dancing games you have to enter an evil shadow world to battle supernatural monsters that are expressions of your dark inner self

So the story really isn’t much of anything.  Story Mode is pretty short and is just kind of there as a placeholder – as far as visual novels go it’s about as light as you can get.  But the point of this game isn’t its deep and engaging plot.  The point is getting to see your favorite P4 characters bust moves to the great Persona music that you’ve come to both love and completely get sick of after hearing it five thousand times in battle and while running around town.  Every member of the Investigation Team takes the stage at some point, and all of them can be played in Free Mode.  A new character is also thrown into the mix, and as a special treat for fans Nanako is also a playable character.  Though the whole subplot involving Nanako, a little girl, performing pop idol songs on stage in front of millions of fans is kind of weird in itself.

All that aside, the gameplay is a lot of fun.  The game makes use of three of the four button on each side of the Vita (only the -> and ◻ go unused) and players can also tap the screen to use the scratch function.  Most of the songs also allow the main dancer to pick a partner to jump in at some point if the player’s hitting the notes well enough.  Mercifully, the game offers easy, normal and hard mode versions of each song, so even if you’re total crap at rhythm games you should be able to get through it.  And the music itself is obviously great.  My favorite battle theme “Time to Make History” is thankfully in there, and there are plenty of other plain unadorned tracks from P4 together with remixes, most of which are good (though I could easily leave a few of them.)

The developers obviously put a lot of attention into the details.  Each character’s dance style really matches their character (ex: Chie does a lot of kicks/kung fu stuff, Kanji headbangs) and the other characters cheer their friends on while they dance.  (My favorite: Nanako commenting on Protagonist and Yosuke’s “bromance” when they’re paired up.)  Atlus also thoughtfully included a lot of unlockable costumes and DLC for each character, some of which are extremely fanservicey.  So if you enjoy hearing Chie complain about you making her wear a bikini while she dances, this is the game for you.  You know, if you’re into that kind of thing.

But did you expect any less?

But did you expect any less?

All in all, I have to say I’m pretty happy that I got this game.  It’s a fun diversion from my bullshit law student life. I also really like the fact that both this somewhat fluffy, fanservicey rhythm game sits in the same Shin Megami Tensei franchise as the hardcore dark Lucifer-worshipping face-breakingly-difficult Nocturne.  Though Nanako dancing to the Junes theme is pretty fucking hardcore too.

* For those who didn’t play P4, the story behind this is that Rise retired from show business to settle down back in her hometown at the ripe old age of 15, where she gets tangled up in the events of the game. Apparently Japan retires pop stars before they even reach their majority.