Anime · Uncategorized

Erased: A Mystery Anime, or a Coming of Age Story

Disclaimer:  Major Erased spoilers will be below!

 

There’s a reason why I generally don’t review anime, and it’s because I have a hard time talking about it other than “I liked this a lot!” or “It was ok/eh it sucked”.  But when there’s a certain show that has really interesting themes and some deeper topic I can dissect that isn’t just a straight up review, I tend to want to write about it.  I found that in Erased, so time to dive in!
Erased was super popular in Spring of 2016, and I had always planned to watch it but never got to it.  I watched it this weekend with a friend, and wow was it amazing!  I was watching on Twitter when the show was airing and seeing all the hype, and after watching it something in particular from seeing people talk about the mystery falling a bit flat stuck out to me.  I saw a lot of “The killer reveal was lame” or “The mystery wound up being blah” comments but after watching, I came to this conclusion.

 

This show isn’t about the mystery.

 

 

This show is so much more than a crime drama, find out who the killer is anime.  This show, when you look past the mystery, is about the connections we make as people.  Look at Satoru, pre-revival:  he was detached, just going through the motions of life because he had to.  Not working at the job he wanted, not knowing about his old friends, just a shell of a person.  When he hops back to 1988 the first time, he feels like he has to do everything alone because that’s just how he’s lived his life.

 

Jump back to 2006, and he’s changed a bit.  Willing to take Iri’s help, willing to go to other people.  It may bite him in the butt at times, but when he wants to go back, he goes back because he genuinely cares about the people in his past and wants to go back and set things right.  And, after going back, he is willing to take help from Kenya and his other friends because after banging his head against the wall trying to go alone, he realizes he can’t do it.

When I first saw that the timeline that was going to stick was the one where Satoru was in a 15 year coma, it seemed so bittersweet.  He had lost years of his life because of some jerk of a killer, but seeing how that effected his friends, how just living the life he had before the fact the way he did it in turn effected them.  Because he didn’t isolate himself like he did the first time through, they loved him enough, and were genuinely effected enough by his accident because of how much he cared for everyone around him, that it didn’t matter he wasn’t there, and was in his coma:  because he never was truly gone, he was always with his friends.  And in the end, that care, that love is what caught the killer, because they all still cared about each other, and continued to do so after the fact.  They were willing to help Satoru with anything no matter what, because he had fostered such genuine, sincere relationships with them before, and in the end, that is what caught the killer.  It had nothing to do with outsmarting him, but simply was boiled down to Satoru had friends who cared and wouldn’t let him do something of that magnitude alone, and the killer was the exact opposite.

 

The mystery in Erased is flawed, sure.  I figured out who it was within the first few episodes.  But the show isn’t really about that.  At its core, it’s about the subject of loneliness, and how someone thinking they’re better off alone is usually false.  It’s a way to protect themselves from getting hurt in the end, and lowering those barriers truly are what make your life worth living.  Because everyone is flawed, everyone is hurting, and no one should truly be alone in their misery.  You truly can’t live without caring for others, and in turn having them care for you.

 

I love this anime.  It’s a beautiful coming of age story, underneath the guise of a murder mystery.  The themes of self-worth, trusting others, and overcoming your insecurities is so prevalent in this anime that in the end I don’t even think the writers were focusing on making the culprit  unobvious.  It was more about Satoru’s journey.  It’s a great anime that if you haven’t seen, I highly recommend you do, it’s a lovely story.

 

Have you watched Erased?  Would love to know your thoughts about the series in the comments!

Books

Am I Just Not That Into Epic Fantasy?

I want to preface this post by saying I adore the genre of fantasy.  Give me magic, sword fights, knights and princesses over any other genre any day.  But I notice, whenever I try to read epic fantasy novels, it takes me so long to finish them.  Or, I don’t even finish them at all.  I’m really into young adult fantasy and paranormal/supernatural media, but give me something like Lord of the Rings and I just….can’t.
I’ve been reading a more modern epic fantasy series lately, The Riyra Revelations by Michael J Sullivan.  It grabbed me from the Audible preview, with how quirky the characters were, and how life like they were just from the 1 minute preview.  It seemed like it would have fun characters to follow, and a plot that would be interesting, as we followed two thieves – and they both don’t have a heart of gold, they both have really differing, dynamic personalities, and complement each other perfectly.  So I picked up the first 2 books in the series, and really liked the writing.  The usual high fantasy books read like a different language to me, it’s just so hard to follow.  But this one, that wasn’t the case at all!  The first five chapters of the first book, I was enjoying thoroughly.  The characters were amazing, and the preview I heard met every expectation I had for the series so far.

 

But then…

 

Smack dab in the middle of the book, we get a huge lull in the plot progression.  Random out of the blue backstory for the world just thrown at us as a certain character is met.  I got so tired of hearing the backstory that took up an entire chapter, I stopped reading for a few days.
Next chapter, story picked up again, hurray!  I was so happy to be back to the central plot with the characters I loved and…oh here’s a monk spewing a ton more exposition about the religious structure of the land, why?
Don’t get me wrong:  I know world building is important, and a poorly built world isn’t fun to visit in books.  But the tonal shift between the expositional backstory and the actual present place adventure was so jarring, and the chapters are very long in length.  So when I felt like we’d get back to the main story, only to have an hour of exposition dumping, it turned me off so much so that I read another book, came back to this one and wound up enjoying it a lot more because of that.

 

The exact thing happened to the second book in the series.  Good beginning, but then we’d get sent off to a completely different, very long section of the book that would show us all the politics going on with the kingdoms and sniz and it took me days to go back to the book.  It took me 2 months to get through both of these books, and both of them are ten hour reads so…I kept on asking myself, why?  I do enjoy the series, all be it winding up to be a church system wanting power being corrupt plot in the end but there should be no reason that I can’t get through a book I enjoy easily.

 

So that got me thinking, is it something about epic fantasy in particular?  About this book series?  This series is self-published, and at times it shows: there are sections that really should be trimmed immensely, if not all together omitted because they add no real weight or interest to the story.  But that aside, I think I may have figured out why epic fantasy has never been a sub genre of fantasy I can get into.

 

That would be, the pacing.  I’ve tried to read other epic fantasy books, like the big greats:  Lord of the Rings, is a prime example.  I know there’s a good story buried under the mass amounts of travelling, story lulls, and immense world building, but for the life of me, it’s just so slow paced with it all, I can’t get through the first few pages.  When something like say, The Lunar Chronicles series, is fantasy that has a good world, characters, and backstory, but is able to balance keeping a decently consistent pace in its plot and storytelling, that even if it had a more extensive exposition dump somewhere down the line it would feel more accessible to me than the abrupt stop and go of exposition  that happens in epic fantasy settings.  Even with how modernly written Riyra Revelations is, whenever it would get to those sections of backstory my brain would just check out.

It’s really a shame, because I’d love to read more epic fantasy.  I know there are good stories in the genre, but it’s just so difficult for me to get through them.  Though maybe reading them slowly isn’t a bad thing, and I just need to accept that that’s how I have to read epic fantasy if I want to read the genre.
All that being said, I’d love to hear your recommendations for good epic fantasy novels!  I’m willing to give the genre as many tries as I have to, if it means I get to enjoy even more stories.  Would love to hear your thoughts on epic fantasy as a subgenre of fantasy, as well!

Cartoons

Castlevania Netflix Series Review [Spoilers]

After all the hype, it’s finally out.  Did it reach my expectations?  Mostly!  Well let me rephrase that:  Tone wise, yes, it did reach my expectations.  We got a gothic horror themed series, that doesn’t shy away from the darker parts of the franchise at all.  Good characters, good plot, really good fight scenes.  Awesome homages  to the Castlevania franchise, as well.  The series was good, but not perfect, and in order for me to dive into why it’s time for a review with some spoilers!  So if you haven’t watched the series yet, you may not want to read past this point.

 

I’m going to do this in a pros and cons format, because I don’t really know any other way to form my thoughts in regards to this show.  I’m going to start with the pros, so here we go!

 

PROS

 

  • I love the atmosphere of this show.  It’s dark, it’s creepy, and the story is introduced to the audience well.  You don’t have to have played a Castlevania game to dive into this series, but there are some cute easter eggs in there if you’ve played the games (the dried meat and food stands was my personal favorite).
  • The Characters are great. They’re using Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard as the main characters so we’re going off of the Castlevania 3:  Dracula’s curse timeline.  They’re doing a great job of making the story less Nintendo shallow fight monsters and sniz and fleshing out characters with their own motivations, development and backstories.  I genuinely felt for everyone, including Dracula and the story telling is just really well done.
  • I was so worried we wouldn’t get good fight scenes, but I had nothing to worry about. Best fight choreography in an animated series I’ve seen by far.  I love how the whip is integrated into the fights with Trevor, how Sypha uses her magic competently, and how the monsters aren’t just some derpy things that are easily taken down:  both sides have skills, and a great battle is always seen.  Not only that, but there are stakes in each battle, it doesn’t just feel like Trevor is going to win because he’s the main character (even though that’s the case).  All in all, every fight scene was really enjoyable to watch.
  • It’s frustrating to have to have this as a pro, but it was so refreshing to have a female lead, that not only was competent, but there weren’t any stupid romance between the two main characters tropes! The best example of this in the show is when Trevor and Sypha are falling down some catacombs.  Trevor grabs Sypha with his whip, then holds her by the waist to  keep her from falling.  When they land, there wasn’t any stupid “Unhand me, ugh!” “Well hmph I never”.  It just wasn’t mentioned at all, because you know Trevor was saving Sypha’s life.  Along those lines, Sypha’s gender is never mentioned at all.  Trevor see’s she’s a magician, and from the getgo is just like “OK can you do these things to help fight” like never once was gender mentioned, and it was clear they were both on equal footing and respected each other because of what they did and not because of anything gender related.  The show takes place in the 1400s, so that’s even more surprising!  Only thing that happened was Sypha being called a witch, but once again that had to do with her magic, and not with her gender at all.  I really hope this continues in the rest of the series, and if Trevor and Sypha wind up having a romantic relationship, that it grows realistically.  The entire series is realistic, as realistic as a show about slaying hordes of demons can go and it’s soooo awesome.

 

CONS

 

  • My biggest complaint about the show is its length.  After waiting so long, we only get 4 episodes, seriously?  And the final episode is pretty much the start of the actual plot!  Because of this, the pacing is so wonky and the first two episodes really left something to be desired.  Episodes 3 and 4 are fine, but after all of the lead up to getting the cast together, we really needed at least 2 more episodes to flesh out the central plot.  I would’ve preferred a full 13 episode season on Netflix, but if anything we should have gotten 6 episodes.
  • Along those lines, the pacing in the first two episodes was so wonky. Dracula’s entire backstory was done in the first episode, but his motivations could have been fleshed out more just with one more episode to flesh out his, and Lisa’s relationship.  As it stands, their relationship felt out of the blue because we cut from her being like “Show me your ways so I can heal people with science!” then next scene they’re married.  So, why don’t we get to see their relationship at all?  Even seeing Alucard as an adult in scenes afterwards I was like, “So how long were they married?  Have they been together for like 20 years, or like 2 and Alucard just grows really fast”.  Like why should that even be a question for me? His backstory should have been fleshed out waaay more, because with the way it is now it seems like Dracula just threw a temper tantrum because we didn’t see anything with him and Lisa, with Dracula traveling and experiencing humanity, or anything like that.  If we had even just seen him travelling around, then his turning on humanity would have been a lot more impactful.  All in all, the backstory for Dracula needs to be fleshed out and I hope we get that later down the line at least.
  • Another problem I had with the first two episodes was that they both played out like a video game. Like full on talking to NPCs, travelling from town to town, we gotta get from point A to point B to move the plot forward sort of gameplay only it’s a TV show.  I didn’t mind it too much but at the same time it bugged me that the plot in the first two episodes were so rushed and clunky and if the first two episodes were handled like a show, like the last two episodes were handled it wouldn’t have felt so disjointed.  When Trevor comes in, it feels like a completely different show because it doesn’t feel like a game anymore.  Dracula’s backstory felts like we were watching the opening cutscenes of a video game and like I said it just was really jarring after we got to the plot progression that wasn’t gamey.

 

Honestly, those are all of my cons.  All of them are rooted in the same complaint:  too short, we needed more episodes.  We’re already getting a season 2,, but why didn’t we get at least 8 episodes in season 1 to have a lot more meat for the audience?  The 2nd season is going to be twice as long, so we’ll get 8 episodes?  I really hope we get an actual plot after setting all of the pieces in place.  It bothers me that these four episodes are really just setting everything up, and now we have to wait for more.

 

That being said, I loooove this series!  I had a lot more pros than cons, and I’m really excited to see how the story unfolds, how the characters grow together, and more awesome action scenes.  Have you watched the series yet?  Would love to hear your thoughts!

Books

A Heartstrikers Book 4 preview Has Been Released and It’s Amazing

I was going to write about something else today, but when I opened my email, I saw that I got one from Rachel Aaron’s newsletter.  The title and release date of Heartstrikers Book 4 – A Dragon of a Different Color – was dropped about a month ago, but I wasn’t expecting anything else about it until release.  Today, I got a link to an extended preview of the book, and man am I even more pumped for this book AHHH!  I haven’t been this excited for a series since Harry Potter, so pumped!
I don’t want to talk about too many details, because the author specifically states in the newsletter she doesn’t want that.  If you’d like to read the preview, go subscribe to her newsletter.  But, without spoilers,   it’s safe to say A Dragon of a Different Color picks up right where we left off with Julius and the Heartstriker clan.  From the exert, it seems like we’re going to have a book full of mystery, action, and drama, and ayaaah I just can’t wait!  Two of my hunches already have been addressed in the first 2 chapters and ugh it’s just sooo good.  The writing is still on point, the characters are still amazing, and I’m beyond excited to hop back into the Heartstrikers series.  I’m going to drop everything to read it, like seriously!
I’m hoping that the Audible release is going to drop the same day the physical book drops.  From the release schedule of Caraval though, that seems to be the case with audio book releases now – something that didn’t happen when I used to read books, so it’s a really nice convenience to have now.  This is a series that I adore so much in audio form.  I read the exert with my screen reader, and I still love the book but the narrator is just so good at performing the book, that I really don’t want to experience it any other way. So fingers crossed it’s released at the same time as the book, ayaaaah!!!

 

A Dragon of a Different Color is coming out on July 28.  If you’d like to read an extended exert of the first few chapters of the book, subscribe to Rachel Aaron’s newsletter for updates.  And, if you’d like to pre-order the book, you can do so at Amazon!

Cartoons

A Musical Moment: Here Comes a Thought – Steven Universe

There’s so much good music in Steven Universe, that it was hard to pick a track from it.  I’ll probably spotlight some more tracks from here, but I really wanted to avoid any spoilertastic songs in case you are reading, and haven’t seen the episode.  So no spotlight of Stronger Than You even though it’s an awesome song, sorry~

 

 

 

Here Comes a Thought is very self-contained, and it’s message is so beautiful.  It’s the perfect anthem for anyone who suffers from anxiety and depression, and I constantly sing it whenever I’m feeling overly stressed and apathetic.  The word play in it is so clever also! Just this section alone portrays the struggle anyone with anxiety has.  Just this simple phrase means so much:
“It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok” the amount that that’s said has so many meanings.  The first “It’s OK” – calming yourself down, telling your mind to shut off.  The next two, calming you down further.  The final section you slowly believing the words you’re saying, and that whatever internal crisis you’re going through actually will be ok.  The melodic structure of that section too, how it starts higher then descends down the scale – as if it’s you coming down from yore anxiety attack, it just speaks volumes.
Another section I love that I’d like to highlight is this one:

 

“You’ve got nothing, got nothing, got nothing, got nothing to fear.

I’m here, I’m here, I’m here.”

 

Those three “I’m here’s” all have different meanings as well.  But before that, you have to tell yourself not to be afraid of what’s happening to you, that what you’re going through is normal and ok.  That not only are your friends and family here to support and protect you, but “I’m here” literally – I’m here, I’m not lost in my head worrying.  I’m here, and I’m grounded, and I’m going to get through this because I’m also here to live my life and these thoughts aren’t going to stop me from doing that.  Or, as the final section of the song says:

 

“And it was just a thought, just a thought just a thought, just a thought, just a thought.

It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok.

We can watch, we can watch, we can watch, we can watch them go by.

From here, from here, from here.”

 

I love this song.  In my eyes, it’s perfection.

 

Editorials/Opinion Pieces · Video Games

What An Accessible Video Game to the Blind Means to Me

Disclaimer:  This is an opinion piece, I am by no means an expert and am just voicing my viewpoint on the subject.

 

I see it often, as news on Twitter and Facebook.  “A game fully accessible for the blind!” and I go check it out, and it’s a game that’s just a completely black screen, with auditory feedback only.  Perhaps some tactile feedback as well, but to me, those games don’t quite cut it.  I won’t say it’s not accessible, because it is, but at the same time it feels like it’s still limiting the amount that the blind can play with their sighted peers.    Before I get fully into this post though, I’d like to say I’m super happy with the headway accessibility has gotten in the past ten years.  The fact that it’s something game developers are even thinking about, and implementing in their games is amazing, and makes me want to get back into gaming again.  I saw that even big companies, like Microsoft and Sony are putting text to speech controls in their consoles, and I’m hoping that the Switch will follow suit (though the HD Rumble is a step in the right direction).  Indi developers that think about how to adapt their games, and create games specifically for the blind isn’t something that I would see when I was a teenager and pre-teen, and it warms my heart to see that people are even thinking of how to make things easily available for everyone to play.
With that out of the way, I feel like making games without graphics isn’t exactly the right way to go with making games accessible.  I know being legally blind is a rather blanket term, but being legally blind, or visually impaired, doesn’t always mean someone is 100 percent blind.  There are people who have full sight out of one eye, have light perception, tunnel vision, peripheral vision, and so many other visual spectrums, that developers should account for.  Sure, a legally blind gamer who has sight in one eye but none in the other may like to play a game that doesn’t have any visuals, but they also may not care for that sort of game and want to play something that has graphics they can see to the best of their ability, to immerse them further in the gaming experience also available to their sighted peers.

 

Blindness is a term a lot of us use because it’s easiest to say instead of something like “I’m actually visually impaired, I can see colors and light perception” because to a lot of people, that’s hard for them to grasp.  I know I’ve seen a lot of blind gamers just say, give me good sound design in a Triple A title I’ll do the rest with my other senses.  For some, being able to magnify things is enough, while for others, the text to speech menu options are all they’d need.  Others would just need inverted color schemes, while others may prefer a fully audio, fully tactile game.

 

What I prefer in a game, is just to have the entire experience, like any normal game.  Sound design is fantastic nowadays:  I watch videos of games on YouTube, and can tell what’s going on just by the placement of the sound.  I don’t have any new gen consoles, but I can only imagine how easy it is to play and how immersive it is for a blind gamer.  I memorize where things are, or get sighted help from friends and family when something is too difficult, but overall that’s usually my gaming experience.  That being said, I love fighting games for how easy they are to just pick up and play.  Pick a mode, pick a fighter, and you’re good to go XD

 

Like I said, I’m super impressed, and happy to see the strides that developers, both big and small are taking towards gaming being doable for everyone.  But when I see a game that says it’s fully accessible, but is lacking in features, I’m always so conflicted.  I love that people are doing it, but at the same time, why not do it so it’s literally accessible to everyone?  Games like 1, 2, Switch are doing a good job of being playable for everyone, while not looking like it’s excluding anyone from being able to play, and I think that’s more what developers need to stride for as far as making a game fully accessible goes.  A no graphics, audio only game may be interesting, and a good game to have out there but at the end of the day it’s very niche and won’t be as interesting a game to play as say, a Final Fantasy game and I’d overall just like to see more access to games that are more mainstream.  Good steps in the right direction on all fronts though, very interested to see where game development for the blind and visually impaired will be going in the next few years.

 

Have any thought’s on the subject?  Would love to hear in the comments!

Editorials/Opinion Pieces

A Musical Moment: Searching for Friends from Final Fantasy VI

Welcome to the first post of my new blog feature, A Musical Moment!  I’ll be talking about tracks or albums of music that I love from video games, anime, and other nerdy media I watch and going in depth about why I love them so much.  For my first feature, I wanted to do a track from my favorite RPG of all time:  Final Fantasy VI!
This particular track is from the 3rd disc of the soundtrack, which I find to be the most neglected disc from the OST.  I find all of the World of Ruin music to be amazing, but this piece in particular from that section of the game is one I adore.

 

Picture this:  You’re in a baron wasteland of a world, and barely realized that at least a few of your friends are alive.  But you still have to stop the mad man who sent the world into chaos.  To do so, you need an airship to get to the big bad’s airborn tower, which, the only airship was destroyed when the world was.  But, hurray!  You find out your airship pilot was hiding a second pair of wings (attached to a tragic backstory, because of course) and had to go to an underground crypt to get the new airship.

 

Cut to outside.  The baron wasteland is still prominent, but amongst the murky waters of the ocean, you see a cresting wave.  It’s your airship bursting out of the water, taking its first flight, and the first few chords of this play:

 

 

 

I LOVE THIS THEME!  It captures all the hope your party is feeling in that moment.  There are still some unsure, melancholy chords in it, but the main melody soars it the absolute joy that is realizing it’s alright to hope again. And, as a bonus, this is your new world map theme!  What impresses me about this song is it’s chord structure, as well.  I’ve been transcribing different Nobuo Uematsu tracks on piano, partially to learn piano and particularly because I was curious.  Most, if not all of his melodies, are all done entirely in one scale!  Searching for Friends has 2 sharp notes in its melody structure, but the rest are white keys.  It never strays out of the scale it starts in, and that always amazes me.  It’s fantastic how many melodies you can make with only one octave  at your disposal, and even when Uematsu-sensei goes outside of the octave in other tracks, it’s still just transposed notes.  It’s something I’ve been mirroring in my compositions, because if you’re going to learn how to make music, why not learn from one of the greats?

 

When I think of all that Final Fantasy VI captures for me, I think of this song.  Simply a gorgeous piece of music, wonderfully written.

 

And that was my first musical moment!  Hope you enjoyed it.  What’s your favorite track from Final Fantasy VI?  Let me know in the comments below!