Anime time: Trinity Seven

Have you ever wondered what might happen if you mixed the dark Magical Girl feeling of Madoka with the madcap not-quite-hentai of Love Hina, stuffed that in a school and added a dash of 11eyes just for good measure?  No?  Neither had I, but the end result is still pretty good.

I give you Trinity Seven, an anime currently in season in Japan and being simulcast to America through Crunchyroll.  It’s a quirky little anime that I find balances the darkness of the situation and setting with the hilarity of a guy with zero filter to his mouth and body.  I don’t want to spoil things too much, but the show is worth at least a quick view. Continue reading

A quick game review: Survive! japanese (Lite)

So, this morning I was a bit bored and figured I’d scan through the apps on my Android phone.  After doing my morning mess on X-Men: Battle of the Atom and Tyrant Unleashed (I’m sure I’ll put up review for both of those later), I figured I’d check out those games I don’t typically play for one reason or another.  Doing that, I ran across a game I downloaded actually three phones ago and just haven’t really gotten around to using: Survive! Japanese Lite.

As you may already know, I have a slightly more than passing interest in learning Japanese, both because I want to travel there, and because a number of games, anime and manga I want to play or read aren’t in English, so I can’t play or read them.  The lite version of the game is technically a demo, the full version is currently $2.50, so be warned there also.  That said, the game itself is pretty neat.  The reason why I hadn’t played it previously is a silly one too: it has integrated voice queues, which are necessary to play (and kinda necessary to learn a language anyway, which is the goal of the game).  Being that I typically do my cell phone games among the company of others, and I always forget my headphones, this is a problem.

Being home alone and bored, today, it was a different matter.  So, I got to playing the game and within an hour, I ran out of demo, I’ll be honest there too.  But at the same time, I find that the story so far is interesting, kinda reminds me of Broken Sword, if you’ve ever played that franchise, while the actions for learning the language are pretty neat, and adapt pretty well.  It amuses me that how well you do on things helps determine your success.  So, for example, if I sit in my airplane seat for take off, but I misspell the keyword “sit” once, I bump my head for comedic effect and become seated, instead of just sitting down.

Now, instead of most of my reviews, I have no yet beaten this game.  I mention this because the comments do mention a few bugs.  From what I can tell, some of them (blocked off areas) have to do with the narrative, rather than any actual bugs, as the game is fairly linear in regards to what you can do when you get to a particular stage.  Honestly, I don’t see too much of a problem with that, as it is as much a story as it is a language learning program and less like a full game.  I’d call it a visual novel, except there are no pictures, which is fine by me really, they’d just serve to distract from the core, which is learning katakana, hiragana and kanji as well as the spoken language of Japanese.

The game is also rather simple, but it is my opinion that this only helps the game not lose you to clutter and keeps you focused on the task at hand, while the narrative keeps you entertained even while you learn.  I’m a huge fan of game-izing learning and tasks, which makes this one a gold star in my book.

In the end, if you’re looking to brush up your Japanese, or maybe pick it up on your own, at least take a look at the lite version.  You might find it pretty handy, and the lite version is free.

Ja ne!

The Ranting Loon

Movie time! Big Hero 6

So, today I went and saw Big Hero 6 with some friends of mine.  Here is my little review on it.  I’m trying to be fairly spoiler free, but as always, I can’t promise my idea of spoiler free is the same as yours.  Keep that in mind and be warned.

The good, the bad and the ugly: first off, the film is beautiful and a ton of laughs with the right heartstrings being plucked, etc.  I also love the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, which I won’t spoil, just stay after the film and watch your jaw drop.  That said, if you’re a comic purist, stay away from this one, or at least try and forget that it is a comic movie.  Big Hero 6 the comic team and Big Hero 6 the film have only a passing resemblance.  It’s not even set in the same city (in fact, they made up a city just for the film, for reasons that I don’t entirely understand, but more on that later).  As for the ugly?  Well….honestly, that one is going to take at least a paragraph to sum up, so let’s get into the review proper, shall we?

So, let me start with saying that I consider myself a bit of a comic buff, though not so much of one that I remembered the team prior to sitting down.  These things happen, and Big Hero 6 really didn’t have a huge following prior to the film anyway (though they did have a Spiderman team up in End of the World, and I loved it, even if it was rather truncated).  That said, I’m honestly kinda afraid that those who watch the film might try and go after the comics.

The two are so different that it almost feels like they were pandering to the IP like Marvel did with The Wolverine, rather than actually trying to bring their story to a larger audience.  The cast is different, almost all of them have a vastly different backstory if nothing else, and several characters have their powerset changed even.  Granted, the changes did make some awesome heroes (GoGo Tomago becoming more like Ricochet made for some awesome visual effects, for instance) but some left me really going “why”, such as Fred(zilla).  Granted, some of those changes, I think, are because of Marvel’s bizarre thing about keeping power sources limited to one type at a time outside of Avengers (in this case, they’re all Science/Technology type heroes, instead of a mixed bag including several tech types, an alien (sort of), a Qi user and so on).  Granted, yes, this makes exposition time much shorter as you don’t have to explain things, but honestly, I think we would have swallowed “I never told anyone this, but I can turn into a giant kaiju” as an acceptable answer as well, and simply left it at that.

So, HUGE changes there, hence my previous statement about needing to think of it as something other than the Marvel Comics version.  It isn’t, they have a lot of the same names (Wassabi-no-Ginger had his name truncated, but I honestly don’t mind), and they do look kinda similar (most of the time) but that’s about the end of it.  Instead of Japan’s version of S.H.I.E.L.D. (or possibly H.A.M.M.E.R., depending on how you look at things), these are just a bunch of college kids (and one 14 year old super-genius) trying to do the right thing.  Honestly, no qualms about the story archetype, it’s part of what I love about Spiderman himself, and to be faithful to the actual origin of BH6 would easily have bumped it up from a cute all ages superhero story into a dark tale about bad choices and their consequences (I mean come on, the first villain in the comics is literally the embodiment of the people killed from the nuclear assault on Japan in World War 2).  Not likely a good fiscal move, really, which I can respect.

Instead what we get is a much more kid friendly film about loss, dealing with said loss, and reaching for the sky.  It’s cute, sure, but it’s also fun and has some Incredibles style butt kicking, so all around good fun.  Honestly, as long as you can get the comics out of your mind for a few hours, definitely worth a watch.

Now, about that ugly though: here’s my one big gripe on the film.  Big Hero 6 (the comic) is set in Japan, and you can tell that they wanted to keep this frame of reference through the film, which I actually like.  What I don’t like though is how they pander to do it.  Instead of just going with setting the film straight up out of Japan, they instead set it in “San Fransokyo”, and no, I didn’t make that one up.  It’s basically what you’d get if you mixed San Francisco with Tokyo, and makes very little logical sense.  Just about every time I was confronted with the name it just completely dropped me out of emersion.  Why is it called San Fransokyo?  What happened that would create this fusion city, presumably in the USA?  Doing some internet searching tells me that it was done intentionally because they wanted it to be a mashup between Tokyo (where the original story was set) and San Francisco in the same way that Marvel and Disney were mashing up to make the film, but honestly, I suspect it had less to do with that and more to do with trying to market a kid’s film like that set entirely in Japan with Japanese frames of reference was again, going to hurt the bottom line when it came to ticket sales, but setting it in America would not have that problem, BUT the entire setting was already built as a Japanese setting, and it would cost to much to change all the dialog and art pieces to represent normal America.  The set pieces rarely (if ever) truly seem American, just generic Southeast Asian.  Oh, except for the beds (typical Japanese houses use futons instead, but even those are being phased out due to the extra work they take).

As good of a film it is, there’s just a lot of moments like that where it makes my brain wonder if they didn’t have some sort of IP issue with the Big Hero 6 brand name that making a film would help correct, so it had to be Big Hero 6, but instead of giving it a good Marvel treatment like Phase 1 films did, this one is instead entirely cut to the bottom line.  So, in the end, I don’t really know what to make of it on that sort of a meta level.  Maybe it’s just because they knew it was so obscure (in an interview, Don Hall does remark that it might be THE most obscure Marvel comic in fact) so they figured they could cut the corners.  Or maybe they did the film in preparation for a new Big Hero 6 launch with a rewrite to match it more closely to the movie’s story rather than the original late 90s comic, honestly I don’t know on this one.

Bottom line though, it’s a kid safe, tons of fun film that plays into the same all-ages pocket as Incredibles, Shrek and Bolt.  A darling film to the kids, with enough adult moments that even mom and dad will enjoy it without getting bored.

I hope the review was useful to you.  As always, if you have any thoughts of your own, or just want to bash me for completely missing some fact or another, or just want to say hi, feel free to hit me up in the comments below.

Ja ne!

The Ranting Loon

A review, in brief

So, real quick, wanted to pop in and fire off a bit about the series I just finished before it all drizzled out of my mind, so here’s the piping hot and super fresh review for you on Future Diary (Mirai Nikki for the Japanese purists), the anime.  Try not to burn your mouth as it comes out the oven, eh?

So, ever wonder what might happen if Death Note and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor had a mutant anime baby?  No?  Then you’re likely sane.  But that’s ok, we’re gonna answer that question anyway: you’d get Mirai Nikki.  The story follows poor wallflower Yukiteru “Yuki” Amano as he is drawn into a survival game using a diary that lets him see the future around him.  Yeah, that part is basically taken straight from Demon Survivor, practically down to an early line along the lines of “Let’s Survive”.  Granted, the trope is older than that, but still.

Episode one starts off confusing and brutal, and follows through with a scene change where the real plot gets to become unraveled.  I love some of the dialog between Yuki and Deus, and I could write whole papers on the implications of the early conversations on later episodes and the ending itself, but that’s something for another time.  Let’s just say that it opens itself up to a number of possibilities, and at least one of which is likely FAR more disturbing than the actual ending of the story.

Anyway, after a very fast paced opening, the show crawls itself on for a bit and all in all kinda reminds me of a sprinter trying to do a marathon.  One moment, it surges forth with an alacrity that has you pinned to the seat, but the next minute we become so dialog heavy (with good exposition, don’t get me wrong) that you think about grabbing a soda to pass the time.  Don’t get me wrong, you do yourself and the show an injustice to miss most any line as it builds on itself to much, but wow, exposition ho!  Honestly though, the expositional parts are no worse than When The Cry (Higurashi no Naku Koro ni) or Death Note as it gives you bits of information and clues to start putting everything together.  After all, despite the very intense fight scenes, at its core, Mirai Nikki is a horror/thriller instead of an action show, and it pulls it off pretty well.

One thing to admire for it is the number of times that things look one way and turn out another.  I won’t spoil with examples, but yeah, show is great for setting an anticipation and then ripping your heart out, or giving a key role a sudden face heel turn when things look grim.  Totally fitting to the characters once you start to learn their why too, which is another thing to really admire the writer for: these characters may be nuts (in most cases) but they’re still three dimensional, and trapped in one of the most horrible games imaginable.  It adds a good flavor of humanity even to the most otherwise irredeemable characters, which makes the “everything is a shade of grey” theme all the more fitting.

In the end, though, I think it loses a lot of itself when it starts worrying more about causality and less about the interaction between Yuki and Yuno, but maybe that’s just me.  There’s several points at the end where the expected (and practically spelled out) next event doesn’t happen, and I don’t mean because of the Future Diary changing itself.  An epilogue (longer than the 5-second-a-group treatment anyway) would have been nice, though the show was already at 26 episodes, so that may have been a pacing issue, or simply having 27+ episodes worth of stuff and only 26 episodes greenlit, so I’ll overlook that, at least there was an attempt at closure outside the obvious.

All in all, while it has its moments that make you question your sanity, and the sanity of most, if not all, of the characters (or at least their reasoning ability, their sanity can hardly be questioned in most cases), it is definitely worth watching.  Right now, the whole thing is free on Hulu (subtitled, if you care), so even more of a reason to scope it out.  If I get some interest, maybe I’ll do a much more spoileriffic review and discussion, so if you’re interested in that, let me know.

A half moon, it has a dark half and a bright half, just like me…

Ja ne!

The Ranting Loon