Videogame YouTube Channels I Love

So I’ve been getting more involved on YouTube in the past few months. If you’ve stuck around for this blog, you might have already heard. Besides making videos myself, I’ve also been looking around for better channels related to gaming in general. Knowing what I enjoy watching also helps figuring out what exactly I want to do with my channel myself. Also, when you’re making videos, it changes how you look at other channels. Kind of like how you listen to music when you’ve started picking up your first instrument, or seeing the composition of a story or narrative, when you’ve started writing your own stories.

So with that in mind, here’s a list of YouTube channels that I consistently enjoy watching.

Game Sack

Game Sack has perhaps one of the best formulas of any gaming channel. The hosts aren’t your usual YT personalities, just two guys who collect games and enjoy playing them curating a list of titles under a set criteria. No clickbaity toplists. No usual suspects in their lists most of the time. Fresh eyes on the games as they’ll have just recorded the footage for it. With most channels, I’ll know just about every game listed, but Game Sack has actually pushed me in the direction of games right up my alley I hadn’t been previously aware of. They’re also not afraid of moving away from just the big consoles everyone knows everything about already.

Accursed Farms

Ross’s Game Dungeon is a gem. The guy behind the channel is one of the more down to earth and interesting figures, and with his Game Dungeon series, he tends to focus on games most people will have never heard of. Old PC games from the era of shareware and freeware, or even abandonware. Though if the game interests him enough and gives him enough to comment on, he can focus on more well known titles, like the Deus Ex series or Strife. He’s also run a LP/Machinima were essentially played through Half-Life 1 roleplaying the character of Gordon Freeman under the name Freeman’s Mind, which is one of the more interesting LPs.

SovietWomble

Alright, so this is basically a  Twitch stream highlight channel. That said, SovietWomble puts effort into his VoDs, as much as he’ll downplay the work he puts into them as his streams get carried by the Arma clan he’s in. It’s not just Arma the group plays together either, as his main claim to fame were the Counterstrike videos where everything goes horribly wrong, always.

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What a channel name, right? Although he doesn’t upload all that much, what he does put out is memorable. I may have plagiarized a certain phrase for my social media bios from the video linked above. What I’m getting at is that his deep and multilayered character compellingly contextualizes the rest of the experience; making it truly memorable.

ACG

Everyone has that one reviewer, critic, or journalist they trust. Now that doesn’t mean that you completely agree with them at all times, but that you understand their perspective and understand exactly where you stand alongside their critical viewpoints. For me, ACG is that person. I don’t always agree with him on some of the points made in his videos, and there have been times where I considered his rating not in line with mine, but even in those situations the actual content of the videos was informative enough to learn something about the game through it. In fact, he strives to have this kind of relationship with his viewerbase, where he wants people to have opinions and critiques of their own, so long as we’re all understanding of one another’s viewpoints.

One part that especially sets him apart from other reviewers is how much time he’ll spend breaking down a game’s sound design, something that is almost entirely overlooked in most reviews.

Mega64

These guys have been around forever. I remember when YouTube was still a new thing and almost every forum I went to, people kept linking each other Mega64 skits because these idiots ran around in public dressed up as game characters, reenacting parts of the game to see how strangers responded. The past half year or so, they’ve been absolutely on point with their skits. Their podcast is alright too. It’s just nice to see people stick around for so long and still gets attention and do well.

Gggmanlives

Gggmanlives is one of those channels I wish I’d found sooner. An FPS focused game review channel that generally doesn’t care if a game is old or new, he’ll review anything under the sun. Also his love for Doom and WADS for Doom cannot be understated. Yes, this channel makes full review videos for Doom WADS, the dedication is fantastic and refreshing to see amongst channels that don’t dip their toes deeper into Doom than just the new one (which is still stellar, not a knock on it) or Brutal.

There’s more channels that I find entertaining right now, but I might leave those for a later time, when I’ve come across more channels I find entertaining enough to put alongside those. If you have channels that you enjoy, feel free to leave a comment telling me about it. I’m always on the lookout for more gaming channels to look into.

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YouTube and stuff

Boy, it’s weird to write here again. It’s been… since July last year?! Christ, that’s a lifetime ago in internet years. Am I fully active and back? Yes, no. Maybe?

Kind of?

I’ve been going back and forth on this whole blogging thing, and with where my focus has been the past year or so, I can’t for sure say that blogging will ever be a main focus for me. The blog will stay up, because I like how it ended up, and the amount of effort I put into it. But my current ambitions don’t lie with this blog at the moment, and I don’t want to be disengeniuous about it. Instead I’ve been focusing on making YouTube videos, which is kind of like writing blogs posts, but with a few more layers of effort put on top of it.

Whenever I make a YouTube video, I make a general outline for it. And my outlines tend to be the size of a blog post that would make it on here. And then the editing starts. Getting the game footage, almost exclusively all my own. Then taking that to a video editor and hacking it to pieces, splicing it together with the audio. Choosing music to go with both the footage and what I’m saying. Then smoothing out the edges.

I can’t say I’m a pro at it, but as I’m doing it, I’m learning and improving on the video making craft.

And best of all? People respond to the videos. They get more views, more comments, more shares, than the blog ever did. And the blog itself was a success. It got really good traffic, and nice response, opened quite a few doors for me in life. But the Youtube channel has been doing better than that in a shorter time, and I feel like this ball will keep rolling over time. Not only that, but I’m enjoying all the extra parts of putting a video together more creatively.

 

It’s not my first outing with video content either. I used to vlog back in the day. Now I’m making videogame videos, not even let’s plays, and I’m enjoying that a lot more than the old stuff I used to do.

So if anyone is still keeping up with this blog and wonders where the hell I’ve gone off to the past year and still cares, now you know. I’m making YT videos. Maybe if I’m really proud of one, like the two posted here, I’ll come here and post about them. I haven’t given up on writing, I still write, but for the most part, I write for myself. Though I did move posts over to Medium to see how they’d do over there and it was fine. Nothing too major, though a network wanted to pick a post up.

That said, I’d like to thank everyone who read my posts over the years. Thank you for the support, and hopefully see you on the video side.

Rest in Peace, Satoru Iwata

As someone who got into videogames through Nintendo games and has shared this with most of my friends and family, it pained me to read of the passing of Satoru Iwata. I’m a huge fan of Kirby, the Mother series, Pokemon, and Smash Bros. Without Iwata, none of these games would have been possible in the state they were released as. The man was invaluable as a programmer who got things done where entire development teams could not, and an amazing leader who kept the company together during hard times by communicating with unreasonable investors who don’t understand videogames, journalists who push article after article about how Nintendo should, and will go down, and cutting his own pay in half instead of sacrificing his employees.

Simply put, Satoru Iwata was irreplaceable.

Rest in peace.

Catching Up On Anime – June 2015

I don’t really have a reason for this month’s post to be as late as it is. Mostly it’s just been laziness, although I’ve kinda been wanting to avoid this post because I know some of my thoughts on recent shows are not going to go over well.

As always, if you want to read last month’s post to compare how I previously felt about a series or see what else I’ve been watching lately, you can read last month’s report here.

[HorribleSubs] JoJo's Bizarre Adventure - Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc - 47 [720p].mkv_snapshot_22.14_[2015.06.12_20.18.54]

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Part 2 – Egyptian Arc

Stardust Crusaders has finally ended! Most longtime fans already know that Part 3 isn’t all that great, and the animation quality of the adaptation this arc wasn’t really helping improve the quality of the show. Still, it’s JoJo, which helps make it slightly more enjoyable than most shonen shows, even at its worst.

It was a long wait until we’d finally get to the big finale with Dio, but thankfully, they didn’t fuck it up. Not entirely, at least. The animation quality and choices made to avoid censorship, while surrounded by scenes where body parts kept getting black borders over them was getting especially grating near the end. The final episode finally brought the show’s animation quality where it should have been as a standard, so it feels wrong to praise the quality of it. Still, the big fight with Dio is the one thing everyone was watching for, so it’s a good thing the animation quality finally picked up by the time it got there.

Here’s hoping we get a Diamond is Unbreakable anime, and that if we do, the animation quality goes back to where it was during the Part 2 anime.

Also as an aside, how fucking cool was it when they changed the final part of the intro during the last two episodes?

[HorribleSubs] Punch Line - 10 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.35_[2015.06.18_07.03.03]
Punch Line

Probably the most alienating show for a lot of people this season. Opening with typical moe fanservice in a slightly atypical harem setting, and ending with a post-modern story involving time travel, gas masks, superhuman abilities, and massive conspiracy theories. It seems the biggest difference between people who appreciated Punch Line or got frustrated and upset with how they couldn’t understand it seems to be how familiar they were with Uchikoshi Kotaro’s works, because the story in Punch Line is pretty much exactly in line with his work on the Zero Escape franchise. Considering I’ve been a fan of that since 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors, I was pretty set to have a  good time. Because of that, it’s unfortunate that a lot of fans of his works are skeptical of Punch Line because it presents itself as a typical fanservice show though.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the ending. Most of the characters haven’t really seem to moved from one point to another or have really grown since the start of the series. A timeloop has been established to help start the previously repeatedly loop of most of the show. So maybe the feeling of nothing major having changes is intentional. I might have to watch it again to see if I missed anything for the ending to feel more satisfactory.

[HorribleSubs] Arslan Senki - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.31_[2015.05.02_01.09.40]

Arslan Senki

The frustration continues. I’m very close to dropping Arslan Senki. I don’t even know why I haven’t yet.

[HorribleSubs] Shokugeki no Soma - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.19_[2015.07.02_16.53.21]
Shokugeki no Soma

Still very enjoyable. I expected nothing from this show, but somehow it’s been one of the more consistently enjoyable shows to watch most weeks as there’s very little that just outright bad or wrong about it. It’s just good food porn.

[HorribleSubs] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 24 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.36_[2015.06.26_13.28.36]

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works

Unlimited Blade Works is probably the best anime version of Fate/stay night we’re going to get. For a show not about the fight sequences, it has some incredibly good ones, even if they’re covered in CG magic spam. The pacing is perfect for the kind of story it’s trying to tell. All of this just shows how hard Deen dropped the ball back when they made their anime version almost 10 years ago.

That said, I do still have a lot of issues with the Unlimited Blade Works anime, and most of them might sound unfair because they’re just a natural part of a direct transition from visual novel to anime.

Emiya Shirou has no character. He’s got a few things he’s good at, and he has a set of morals that aren’t his own that he follows. There’s nothing that really defines him as a person because he’s a main character in a visual novel. You, the player, are supposed to fill the blanks, relating to a character through a lack of things unlike one another instead of things in common. This doesn’t work anywhere near as well in an anime as it does in a visual novel. An anime needs a good leading character to carry the series as this is the character you will spend most time with. Instead, characters like Gilgamesh seem much more appealing in contrast because they’re defined, established characters with a personality. In Fate/stay night’s case, it also doesn’t help that it’s not just Emiya Shirou who lacks a character, it’s Saber two. The two characters at the center of everything have nothing to really add to anything around them.

This is not a knock on the Fate/stay franchise or the quality of the anime. It’s just a sign that not every story works as well on every format.

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Summer Wars

It’s amazing how much of a human element there could be in the real-life situations in an anime that partially takes place inside an MMO. In fact, Summer Wars was incredibly frustrating to watch for me because of this.

The MMO isn’t the main focus, I know. The characters and how they grow in the situation they’ve found themselves is. And in that respect, Summer Wars is fantastic. What’s irritating is how it kept using the MMO as an excuse for the entire situation to exist when none of the logic even made sense internally. Suspension of disbelief is a thing, but it’s already spread thin when you see the way the online world is constructed in Summer Wars. Not only is it an MMO with bright, colorful avatars that adults also use. But everything electrical is run through it, including all financial systems and satellites. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the understanding of technology is surprisingly in-depth when the movie needs it to be, while just entirely ignoring how at any point, the systems could be turned off and rolled back to a previous point in time. If something like that is not possible, then a system like that should have never been able to grow to the size it has without being taken over by a hostile entity during its growth.

No matter how good the human interaction, the body language, and the dialogue was in the parts that took place outside of the MMO, I couldn’t help but get annoyed that none of this should have happened, and honestly, couldn’t feel bad for a world that let this bad a system become that big.

That said, the grandmother was a fucking boss.

The Dark Souls of Blog Posts

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One of the games I was most looking forward to playing once I had a new gaming setup was Dark Souls. I pride myself in my stance on spoilers and overall lack of in-depth knowledge of things I want to watch, read of play, in that I generally don’t have any emotional investment in a checklist of what’s to come. My interest lies more in how it’s come, so even with the constant info dumps on Dark Souls and having witnessed countless arguments on how to best tackle situations or what builds work the best, I’ve shrugged it all of and went into Dark Souls with just the memories of my time with Demon’s Souls.

What’s still left worth saying about Dark Souls after so many people before me have sung its praises? If you remove the people wrongly rating the series high due to its difficulty, probably still a lot. Am I going to be the person actually delivering all of that? No, probably not. I’m not Matthewmatosis, and I’m probably never going to anywhere near as good as explaining videogames as him, but I’m glad I can put my write-up together before his video commentary on the game comes out so I don’t end copying his thoughts whole or get backlash whenever anything I say contradicts something from his videos.

Dark Souls is a hard game to write about because it’s as misunderstood as it’s popular. Ask any pseudo-intellectual on YouTube or any games journalist their opinion of the game, and the first thing to come up is the difficulty. Even a lot of the game’s largest fans will be the first to build up the difficulty of it and then pat themselves on the back for having fought their way through it. Because of this, it’s safe to say that the difficulty of Dark Souls is greatly exaggerated. That doesn’t mean that it’s an easy game by any means, it means that the difficulty isn’t what sets the game apart, at least, not entirely.

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There are several kinds of hard games out there. You have games that are hard through bad game design, the Meat Circus of Psychonauts is still remembered for being unfairly difficult, even if later versions of the game have fixed all the problems with it and made it an easy experience. You have games that are hard for the sake of being hard, trying to make you overcome the challenges in-game, Platinum’s games on higher difficulties are a good example of this at work.

A more unconventional approach is thematic difficulty in an uncaring setting. For the first half of Dark Souls, nobody really cares about you. Enemies will turn around and go about their business as if you don’t even exist the second they kill you. Almost all of the NPCs in the game have abandoned all hope, and you generally don’t really change their mind throughout the game. The difficulty in Dark Souls has not much to do with bad design, not mostly anyway, and it’s not there to challenge you for the sake of being challenged either. The difficulty of Dark Souls is part of the central theme of struggling against an uncaring world. All the effort has to come from you, and for the most part, most are more willing to kill you and take your souls than they are to help you. Dark Souls insistence of turning player phantoms into an element that’s part of the story while masking NPCs as an element of it are a good way of establishing that as a harsh reality of the world much better than Demon’s Souls did. Humanity is a scarce but important resource, both in thematically in the story, but also literally as an item you can keep stock of.

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This is also why I was so opposed to the second half of the game’s insistence on calling you a Chosen One and saddling you up with teleporting powers while setting you on what’s essentially a mission from a higher being.

Demon’s Souls did this too right from the start of the game, somewhat. But the motives and extent of the Maiden in Black’s influences were a lot more questionable when compared to Gwynevere, the Princess of Sunlight. Gwynevere has gigantic statues in her honor on her way to her and stands tall over you as a giantess. She’s an illusion, but that’s not something that’s apparent in everyone’s playthroughs. Even then, the gravity of the quest you’re saddled with and the new found abilities given to you put you in a place far beyond anything you were ever given in Demon’s Souls and it especially contrasts the Maiden in Black’s position of “tending the flames, and keeping the candles lit.”

I previously mentioned Dark Souls is difficult in the uncaring sense. The game doesn’t help you on your way after the tutorial, and that because of this, large parts of the difficulty of the game is part of the central theme of it. This is especially true of Demon’s Souls. Although you don’t have a bonfire system in place, and have NPCs to fix your equipment and hold your items for you, for the most part, none of the NPCs really direct you or care for you to any capacity. Even once you’ve saved in the past don’t really think you have what it takes to live that much longer, as they’ve seen others reach for whatever they thought could save them and fail. One of the NPCs in the Nexus, the game’s hub world, commits suicide at one point. The only NPCs who have some form of encouragement give it in a form that sounds steeped in resignation.

Stockpile Thomas’s parting words after talking to him each and every time are “You have a heart of gold, don’t let them take it from you.” Afraid that your strength gained from trusting the Maiden in Black will corrupt you, as it is heavily implied most of the demons in the game went insane after absorbing the souls of others for power.

Even the Maiden in Black’s own chant, that you hear each time you level up, isn’t all that optimistic.

Soul of the mind, key to life’s ether
Soul of the lost, withdrawn from its vessel
Let strength be granted so the world might be mended
So the world might be mended

Might being the driving word in the chant. She hopes you will succeed, but even the Maiden in Black doesn’t have full faith you will.

Repeat for emphasis.

The reason I’m going over this is because those are the only words of encouragement you get throughout the entire game. They’re not even really encouragement, they’re closer to prayers that you know what you’re doing and won’t fuck it all up. At no point does the game try to tell you that you are amazing for doing the tasks you are saddled with, but it also tries to downplay the task you are performing all the way up to the conclusion of it because the game doesn’t really put faith in you ever getting there. Not out of ill will, but through sheer uncaring.

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A lot of times when the pseudo-intellectual side of game analysts on YouTube try to cover games like Dark Souls and focus on the difficulty, and how it’s “impossible to enjoy it, because it’s a wait for the release you get when you finally succeed” that tends to be code for “I tried to play through something others enjoyed more than me because this is too popular for me to be allowed to dislike it.” It’s not an argument you find with Dark Souls exclusively, TV shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones often get described this way too by balding men in their 20s trying to rationalize their lack of enjoyment without ostracization by their peers while establishing a fake connection between themselves and the audience through mutual media absorbed. Channels like Extra Credits, PBS Game Channel, Errant Signal, and to an extent even Game Theory, all over think simple constructs in a way that make them miss what is right there in front of them. Reviewers tend to do this to, although with them it’s more likely to do with a limited amount of time to push out a review thanks to deadlines that make it impossible to really penetrate a game that requires your time and patience to really soak in what is there beyond the pressing of buttons and fail and win states.

The Souls franchise is wrongly notorious for its difficulty, while only being challenging but fair. Take most major games, remove the constant endorsements of the player’s skill from the text, the HUD cues as to where to go, and give the player a little more agency to find their own way through a mission, and almost every game out there would have a similar sense of challenge to them, but even then you’re not focusing on what it is about the difficulty in the Souls that sets it apart from the rest of the games out there.

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Both Dark and Demon’s Souls have a very minimalistic approach at telling their stories.

Music only comes in when it needs to, and their absence sets the tone for the areas just as much as their presence during boss fights. The lack of guidance, caring, and faith in the player is part of the central theme of both stories, because it’s a world where everybody has given up entirely. The few who push you along your way don’t do it because they want what’s best for you, they want something from you. While you have more agency in the games than most “be whoever you want to be!” type games, your struggles are still not your own as you’re fighting in someone else’s name without fully understanding what you’re doing or why.

This is why although I can understand Dark Souls never breeds the sort of familiarity you have with certain NPCs, I still immensely missed lines as Stockpile Thomas’s “You have a heart of gold, don’t let them take it from you.” because if there’s a line that explains what is going on in any of the games, it’s that one on several levels. It’s a plea, not only to avoid being taken advantage of, but also to not give into your frustrations and despair when faced with something you can’t overcome. There are other smaller glimmers of hope scattered through the experience as well, often given by other players, other people on a journey similar to your but not quite the same. Text on the floor, the faint outlines of the phantoms of other people playing right now. You’re all on the same quest, individually, which is a feeling that helps create a bond between so many of the players who not only came out of the Souls games victorious, but went back to better understand it.

All of the above screenshots are from my own playthrough. I played the Prepare To Die edition on Steam, using only the dsfix and “Thanks Obama” mods. I plan to do a second post in the future about my gameplay experiences in contrast of Demon’s Souls soon.

Catching Up On Anime – May 2015

Two of these post back to back? What is even happening lately? A lot. I got a new PC, one that can actually run videogames, and I played a lot of those. Not helping that this post is late because not only have I been watching too much anime, I’ve been watching a lot of anime that is hard to do justice in a combined monthly post.

This is going to be a long one.

As always, if you want to read last month’s post to compare how I previously felt about a series or see what else I’ve been watching lately, you can read last month’s report here.

[HorribleSubs] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 19 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.10_[2015.06.03_21.01.20]Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works

Ufotable’s rendition of the Unlimited Blade Works route in Fate/stay Night is, so far, an excellent version of this story, but it isn’t flawless by any means. Keep in mind, I’m part of the anime-only audience for this show, as I haven’t experienced the visual novel and my only previous experiences with the franchise are Deen’s original anime and Fate/zero.Yeah, I’m horrible I know.

The reason I’m explaining my position is because I’ve seen other anime-only people write in-depth about the flaws of UBW, and the way they tackle the series makes it very clear that they don’t understand what the show is or what it is trying to do. Judging the Fate series as a straight-up shonen fighter and complaining about the lack of action scenes right out of the gate is a very bad way to start your review of a series that isn’t trying to make that the main focus. That said, I do understand that feeling of frustration at both the lack of fights and the underwhelming delivery of a few of the recent ones when looking at the way Ufotable has presented the show so far. The fights are the carrot at the end of the stick, causing most of the audience to stay until the end, even if the fights aren’t resolved by the raw power of the people involved, but by their arguments and their resolve on a slightly deeper level. Not having played the VN, I can’t say for sure, but I would put this down as a result of being based on media format that branches off into different paths based on your choices.

In a weekly 20 minute format, this can make the show feel drawn out and slow, as if nothing is happening, even as moral boundaries are set and expanded, and characters are defined and grow, each and every week. The problem isn’t Ufotable and their version of Unlimited Blade Works, the problem is the narrative isn’t fitting the format. It might not even really be that, as I’m sure most of the problems people are having with the format are going to disappear when binged after it finished airing.

As for the actual story, I’m not that big a fan of any of the characters besides Lancer. Although I do have to admit I like the dynamic between Emiya Shirou and his future self, something that especially comes out all the stronger for having Fate/zero’s Emiya Kiritsugu in the background.

The series is almost over, but I think it’s safe to say that this will be the best anime version of an original Fate/stay Night route.

[HorribleSubs] JoJo's Bizarre Adventure - Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc - 45 [720p].mkv_snapshot_02.53_[2015.05.29_22.14.45]JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Part 2 – Egypt Arc

Where did it all go so wrong for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure? Was it the start of Part 3? It was, wasn’t it? Already one of the weaker parts of the manga, David Production’s exaggerated take on the manga artstyle and lack of movement to really underline the (lack of) detail is not looking too good, especially not with the underwhelming introduction to DIO’s World.

I don’t even know where to begin here.

At the start of the anime, I’d expected the change in coloring at the start of every conflict to tie into the DIO fight and have him appear in full color at night through it. The clunky animations didn’t seem that big an issue, as they were sure to be saving their budget for the big blowout at the end. These would have all been understandable choices. Instead, DIO’s bright color scheme is not only working against him as he constantly looks covered in mud, his features make him look like a Kakyoin alternative costume. The longer this goes on, the more I’m hoping David Production is staying away from JoJo Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable. The problem isn’t even that JoJo Part 3 is bad, the problem is that JoJo Part 1 and 2 had such a stellar presentation that it’s just unbelievable how hard the ball is being dropped in the one story arc that should have been all about strong visual presentations as there isn’t really much else going on with it in terms of writing or characters.

[HorribleSubs] Shokugeki no Soma - 09 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.17_[2015.06.01_23.24.49]Shokugeki no Soma

You ever envisioned food being so bad that it is literally sexually assaulting you? Ever had a meal so good you actually had an orgasm over it, right there at the table? If you have, or would like to experience this, Shokugeki no Soma is the show for you.

My only point of reference for cooking anime being Yakitate Japan, I somewhat knew what I was expecting going in. As much as you can expect anything from the complete absurdity of this show. I know there will be people angry by default at it for being a fanservice show. And yes, it does go both ways with the fanservice as men do get naked and have absurd responses too. The thing that really gets to me in this show is that the language used to describe the food after tasting is actually a lot more in-depth than anything you’ll hear in an actual Japanese cooking show, where everything is just really “Ooiiishiiiii!!” according to the idol of the week. I know that’s an odd thing to focus on in a series like this, but I don’t care.

[HorribleSubs] Punch Line - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.58_[2015.06.05_15.27.35]Punch Line

I’m surprised I haven’t been called out on watching two fanservice heavy shows this season by anyone, as I usually stay away from them. My problem with those kinds of series isn’t the inclusion of fanservice of them being “pervy” or “gross” like most people opposed to them, it’s that in most cases, the shows is about them and it’s just not that appealing to me as a center point as I can just turn on porn instead if I want that. I previously wrote that Punch Line’s entire concept was so insane that I had to watch it, and I’ve since learned that the guy who made it, Uchikoshi Kotaro, was behind the Zero Escape series. Which not only explains the absolutely crazy plot, the focus on psychological and spiritual powers, but also the gas masks.

Not sure what to make of the “BIG PLOT TWIST” that changes everything, or at least, the reaction to it, as there were two major ones back to back and most people I’ve seen mention the big twist want to stay quiet on it for others to experience it themselves. One was obvious from the start, and the other changes nothing about any of the characters in the show unless you’re an internet crusader trying to score social justice points.

That said, Punch Line is one of the better series currently airing and I’m really enjoying it.

[HorribleSubs] Arslan Senki - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.25_[2015.05.16_06.09.11]Arslan Senki

This show is a really big disappointment, and I think Digibro really hit the nail on the head as to why it is one while examining other Tanaka Yoshiki series, even if he mainly focused on what makes Legend of the Galactic Heroes work so well from an animation standpoint. I won’t go too in-depth about Arslan Senki and urge you to watch that video instead.

I do want to point out that there are small glimpses of greatness with the characters and writing at times. It clearly a product of Yoshiki Tanaka, and I’m tempted to read the Arakawa Hiromu manga adaptation to see at what step towards anime it went wrong, as I get the feeling that while the manga did oversimplify everything about the story, it at least was a good telling of it for the format, while the anime is another story of the production crew following the manga panels to the detriment of the product.

[gg]_Anime_Mirai_2013_-_Little_Witch_Academia_(BD,720p)_[9E6DE408].mkv_snapshot_18.08_[2015.05.19_02.01.46]Little Witch Academia

At this point people are probably aware of my dislike of Trigger as a studio, and my disdain of Hiroyuki Imaishi as a director. For a second, I thought I’d finally found my one anime by him that I enjoyed, but then I learned he had no real involvement with this project. Good on you, Trigger, for finally saving anime with something that’s actually good without relying on cheap nostalgia to engage your audience every step of the way. Also, good on you, everyone on Twitter that told me to watch this. I was wrong in ignoring it for so long and I’m happy I finally saw it.

Trigger announced a full movie sequel recently and I can’t wait to see it.

[Mazui]_Katanagatari_-_12_[32DE9A50].mkv_snapshot_42.27_[2015.05.18_07.03.22]Katanagatari

Nothing I can say will ever do this show justice. This month’s post was largely delayed because of Katanagatari and the stellar finale to the series. I’ve been scrambling for words for over a week now, and they’re just not there. I could tell you what I like most about it, but there’s a lot of things I like most about it. It was a great ride from start to finish, but then at the end it just delivers what I would consider the best finale in anime.

But that’s not even entirely the point. Katanagatari doesn’t just go out with a bang. It doesn’t have the one big flashy thing. Katanagatari is one of the most consistent series from beginning to end out there. The unconventional format, 12 episodes, each about an hour in length, not only allows for good character development and strong buildup throughout the series, but it also allows the series to have a fully fleshed out story arc within each and every episode. In a time where most studios don’t seem to know what to do with the 12 episodes they have for their season, it’s refreshing to see a series take an extended take on the format with no wasted movement anywhere to be found.

I don’t mean that in a sense that the series has no filler or downtime. There is a lot of downtime in Katanagatari that helps set the mood, the characters, and the plot. There’s a lot of comedy thrown in that helps you grow more attached to the characters on their journey. There’s a lot of everything in each episode that helps bring it all together in a larger experience without sacrificing overall focus.

Not only that, but in terms of animation quality it is one of the most consistent series out there. While at no point extraordinary or of a higher quality than other shows, it does beat most of the series with higher quality animations with a stronger sense of consistency than them. Unlike, say, Trigger, who will blow your mind with superb animations next scene, but then get stuck with 2 frames of animations per second because they ran out of money only moments later.

Shichika starts off as your typical aloof main character, but by the end of the show he really ends up going far beyond not only my expectations, but also what I could have hoped for in a main character. My only regret in Katanagatari is not having more Katanagatari left to watch after it was over, and when a series gives you that sort of feeling, you know it was a good ride.

Watch Katanagatari. You owe it to yourself.

[OZC]Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam E50 'Riders in the Skies'.mkv_snapshot_19.53_[2015.05.08_20.42.26]Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

As I’m still going through the Gundam franchise, I’m already starting to feel the sadness of there never really being another Zeta Gundam ever again. It is, for me, the definitive Gundam experience. Everything aligns, and works. There aren’t too many shows where I would admit that the things I don’t like about them are there for a very good reason for them being there. In Zeta Gundam it largely comes back to how it utilizes its characters to tell a story.

Katz Kobayashi is a terrible character and I hated him every step of the way. Remember that, I’ll get back to it very soon.

Kamille Bidan’s deep and multi-layered character compellingly contextualizes the rest of the experience; Making it truly memorable. He’s the centerpoint of the series, and instead of being a protagonist that overcomes the odds at all turns, he’s a young ambitious kid who got involved in a war that has nothing to do with him for the wrong reasons. Quattro Bajeena, a veteran of the war in the original show is originally introduced as an ideal soldier figure to Kamille to strive to become. Along the way, Amuro Ray, the protagonist of the original show, is brought in as a mirror to Kamille as to what he could become if he takes the wrong route or reflects on his choices badly during the current conflict. After the war, Amuro gave up on himself, never getting over that war brought into his life, denying himself of his own enjoyment of it. In the meantime, Quattro, better known to Amuro as Char Aznable during the war, is blinded by his own ideals and ego. Somewhere along the series we see Kamille dealing with situations better than Quattro did as part of his growth throughout the series.

In the middle of all of this, we have Katz Kobayashi, a different path Kamille could have taken. Katz is insubordinate, hot-headed, and too young to fully understand the reality of his own actions. In a lot of ways, he’s a lot like Kamille was at the start of the series, and him repeatedly fucking up shows just how far Kamille has come.

The reason I’m explaining this is because this is the kind of writing Zeta Gundam has. The appeal of the series, and also the reason why shows like this probably won’t be made again any time soon. Characters aren’t just there going through their own arcs individually, or there to point out the differences between him and the main character. All the characters reflect back and forth on one another. Just like Amuro and Quattro’s presence have meaning to Kamille’s character, they off-set each other as well as they do someone like Katz, especially in Amuro’s case. There is a whole web of characters being analyzed, not by having it made clear through dialogue, but by their sheer presence and smaller interactions. Creating a sense of depth that even most book series with larger casts of characters never quite achieve quite as well.

8905-episode-001-prelude-zz.avi_snapshot_19.08_[2015.05.09_02.07.47]Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam

I got through 2 episodes and then decided this just wasn’t for me.

The first episode was a clipshow about Zeta Gundam and a trailer for the second episode. The second episode was the real first episode. When your entire first episode doesn’t even really contain actual content, I’m just not interested. It’s not helping that the second episode wasn’t all that great either. It’s probably a passable show, but passable isn’t good enough when you’ve just finished Zeta Gundam. Maybe I’ll give it another chance in the future, but as for now, I’m fine with skipping it entirely.

[OZC]Mobile Suit Gundam Char's Counterattack 720p Rerelease.mkv_snapshot_00.51.50_[2015.05.10_05.59.27]Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack

Not as bad as some people make it out to be, but it feels like a missed opportunity. Char was supposed to be in ZZ Gundam, but his time was cut from the show when it became clear he was going to have his own movie. The movie in the meantime, seems to have been made with the idea that ZZ Gundam was going to set up the events that transpired in this movie because going into it you get the sense that there’s a lot of information missing as it essentially starts off right in the middle of the second act.

What we got is a confusing but very good movie that is a disappointment if you consider it’s supposed to end the story for two of the most iconic characters in the franchise. Character motivations aren’t just hard to grasp, they’re simply never explained, although reading supplementary information about the movie does help with that.

Catching Up On Anime – March 2015

We’ve made it to a third monthly post, so it’s save to say this feature is going to remain. Feedback has been positive so far, so I’m glad people enjoy reading my anime ramblings as much as I enjoy streamlining my thoughts on it. This going to be a longer one, as a surprisingly packed season just closed. If you haven’t read last months post, feel free to read it and see where my mind was concerning shows before they finished. As always, there are shows I haven’t kept up with that I will return to in the future, so judgment on Durararax2 will have to wait until next month. Sorry.

[DeadFish] Kiseijuu_ Sei no Kakuritsu - 22 [720p][AAC].mp4_snapshot_04.29_[2015.03.26_17.36.00]

Parasyte

Parasyte came out to a lot of expectations and it met them with perfect precision. If Parasyte had been any less than it was, even just slightly, the show would have been a disappointment. Instead it was precisely what it needed to be. This doesn’t sound like high praise, but with the manga’s staying power, having started in 1988 and ended in 1995, it’s actually amazing it managed to meet expectations. The modernization added in the anime is sure to keep the story manages to stay relevant for even longer, which is always a good thing. The gradual shift in the relationship between Shinichi and Migi is one of the better ones I’ve seen in anime in a long while. Going from merely co-existing in a shared body to caring for one another near the end through mutual sacrifices is fantastic.

My only real problem with the show is the final episode, which mostly felt unnecessary. I understand Parasyte is largely influenced by old-school science fiction, and most older science fiction stories love to beat you over the head with the morality driving the story at the end in case you weren’t clever enough to understand it, but Parasyte honestly didn’t need that. The show had a good way of letting its themes flow naturally, and explaining them at the end made me feel like it diluted the entire experience. I’m probably extra harsh on this point because Serial Experience Lain is still fresh on my mind though. To me, it shows a lack of faith in the audience, and that’s not a behavior I’m lenient towards. And the final episode underlined just how much it had been going on for the duration of the rest of the story. It weakens the impact that naturally understanding the themes in good thematic writing is supposed to have.

 

[HorribleSubs] Death Parade - 11 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.46_[2015.04.05_03.43.33]

Death Parade

It feels like a miracle that this show managed to just exist. Given the subject matter and directions Death Parade kept choosing, it would’ve been all too easy for the entire concept to just collapse on itself. Instead, Death Parade managed to have a strong showing from beginning to end. I’ve seen quite a few people critique the show for its weak writing in how the show is based around the judgements of someone whose understanding of humanity is flawed, but it should be quite obvious from the second episode and onwards that this is an intentional flaw that the show revolves around.

The way the first two episodes pan out and highlights the difference between Decim and the black-haired-woman makes it very clear that Decim, in his years of judging, is far removed from the same kind of human empathy that he judges people on. The first episode shows his judgments as absolute and unquestionable, while the second episode questions his reasoning by giving the audience a look behind the curtain from the perspective of the black-haired-woman. Her reasoning leads to a different conclusion to what sort of judgment should have been correct, but, just as it was previously shown Decim’s judgment wasn’t infallible, it’s shown that her point of view isn’t perfect either. The combination of the two together and the way they don’t agree with each other becomes the centerpoint for the show, as it becomes clear that even though judgment is given, there is no perfect judgment, but the judgments made themselves are absolute. The fact that most of the other arbiters don’t see eye to eye and are quite hostile to one another underlines this.

In fact, it’s interesting to note that while Decim almost entirely lacks a personality, the other Arbiters are brimming with one. Yet it’s because of this that Decim stands out as a more interesting character, because he’s not written this way due to lazy writing, but because it’s the most effective way to offset the rest of the show and get the viewer to join in on judging everyone. The passive nature of Decim and lack of empathy make it easy to turn against his judgment if you don’t agree with him. The only character defining thing Decim does early on is allow a human to join in on his work, which is the main thing the other arbiters judge him on as they disagree with this choice. In judging this choice, they reveal more about their character than any attachment to character tropes or color coding could ever give away.

This isn’t a flaw in writing the characters. This is flawed characters presenting a strong overall theme as the backdrop for uncomfortable character examinations. The show uses extremes, visually, conceptually, and thematically, to get its ideas across. It might turn a lot of people away because instead of easing you into the concepts it screams them at you to get you out of your comfort zone. The mood backlash in every episode after the cheerful opening theme stops and the show itself begins is a very large part in setting up this effect.

In terms of story-driven series and character examinations, I feel Death Parade has come out as one of the strongest shows since Ping Pong the Animation. Highly recommend it.

 

[HorribleSubs] Garo - The Animation - 21 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.43_[2015.03.30_18.26.03]

Garo – The Animation

Another big surprise. There were quite a few of leftovers from last season that helped make this one feel packed. Amongst those, Garo was the main one to have my full attention by the time the new shows started coming out. It’s already uncommon for me to welcome a show with CG use as heavy as Garo, but it’s even rarer for me to be happy about the CG even being there. From the frame limiter to keep it in line with the 2D animations to the amazing choreography to make good use of the models, it’s nice to see a series use CG as more than just a way to cut corners.

The show itself, for the most part, isn’t even all that original. Most of the story and the way it unfolds isn’t all that uncommon for a fantasy anime, but the way it presents itself and uses all these elements are fantastic. Anyone looking for a good action series should give Garo a chance you’d be surprised how many times the show keeps on improving itself during its run.

A second series has been announced, and I’m really looking forward to it.

[HorribleSubs] JoJo's Bizarre Adventure - Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc - 34 [720p].mkv_snapshot_02.30_[2015.03.16_16.16.55]

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc

It’s JoJo. It’s Part 3. It’s the second half, which is a lot better than the first.

That said, the stuff with D’Arby, and Hol Horse returning together with Boingo are fun to see in animated form. The return of the special Oingo Boingo outro is great.

build fighters try burning

Gundam Build Fighters Try

What a disappointment. The first Build Fighters was so good. Even have a much nicer main Gundam design, Try never delivered on much of what the original great. There’s less passion for the original Gundam materials. More original designs and super robot stuff. The animations and fights were still great, but the focus on trios and the way it generally had all the fights end the same way really killed it. Not helping that the main character, the one the show focused on most, was the least likeable character in the entire franchise so far.

A third Build Fighters series has been announced, and I can’t even feel much excitement for it anymore. What a shame.

 

[Underwater-Commie] Nichijou - 05v2 (720p) [D4D08CDB].mkv_snapshot_14.20_[2015.03.19_12.13.22]

Nichijou

I know a lot of people are looking forward to hearing these words from me, so here goes.

I was wrong.

Nichijou is amazing.

There you go, happy now?

In my defense, I think what originally turned me against Nichijou was just seeing clips of it on YouTube with the pretext of it really being amazing and stupidly funny and you don’t have a sense of humor if you don’t think it’s funny. Praise can really shut down anything, no matter how good it is. It’s also not helping that YouTube is the worst place with Nichijou’s format. Part of what really makes it all work is that you can never expect what is going to happen. Not only are you in the dark as to what the joke of this skit is going to be, you have no idea how long this skit is going to last. Sometimes the actual punchline won’t even be part of the current skit. It could be half an episode away. The joke lies in the unexpected, especially when watching it the first time. So seeing a skit posted on YouTube, with the runtime right there under the video, and whatever the weird thing is going to be in the title, most of the really funny moments don’t stand a chance to reach the height they could reach within the context of the full show.

That said, watching the show properly, it’s one of the funniest comedies I’ve seen in a very long time and I’m glad I made the presence of mind to go back and give it a fair chance.