My Adoration of Expression Coupled with Anime

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Over the years, phrases such as “It’s too bland,” “It’s dull,” “It’s safe,” and “It’s formulaic” have been ingrained into the wordy musings of this blog. While I can’t speak for everyone, I can only assume that when I say these things, people think I mean they’re boring, bland, or formulaic in a general sense, when in reality, they’re all those things largely due to a single driving factor: expression (or sometimes referred to as “heart”). Now, something as vaguely termed as “expression” is a bit tricky to pin down in an objective sense, so as a small, yet effective example, simply look at the cute gif I have posted above of my favorite vampire waifu: Shinobu, from the Monogatari series. Notice the blended array of colors which supplants it out of its immediate reality, the emphasis on her allure being planted right on her face, and the almost cutesy representation of her original design that creates a distinct mood. This is what I like to call “expression,” something that exaggerates, defies, or simply heightens the norms of character exuberance and/or personality—which bleeds into other aspects of a creative work.

While this post is looking at anime, other art forms such as video games, manga, and films all work within a similar field, where expression can become a make-or-break factor in terms of my enjoyment towards it. Take a recently-crowned favorite manga of mine, Miman Renai, and the infinite amount of gush I wrote concerning its artistic chaos. Despite a simple story with inherently semi-problematic reasoning and characters who only briefly cross into territory that accentuates their complexity, the manner of expression and artistic freedom made me adore it to near-maximum levels. Silly faces, absurd observations, Egoraptor levels of emotional and physical overexaggeration, and an earnest atmosphere that coddled it all in a coherent space without (completely) destroying the confines of reality. This is by far the greatest spectacle of Miman Renai as an art form and a golden example of my love for “expression” in visual media.

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Taking into account my favorite anime, most of them have some form of expression to them, with the most vibrant of the bunch being Katanagatari (from the author of the Monogatari series, which isn’t shocking). Its entire aesthetic is bright and varied, with quirky character designs and a world with blown-up color. Best of all, its characters are hilariously one-dimensional, but in a way that screams parody rather than conforming to what sells.

However, my other favorites being Dennou CoilOokami to KoushinryouToradora!, and Shinsekai yori, someone reading my thoughts thus far wouldn’t be able to see what makes them so rife with expression in the way I’ve explained it to mean. And they would be right, because these other examples aren’t anywhere close to the absurdist levels of Katanagatari, but this is all surface-level stuff. These series’ expression is within the manner of their character progression and insight, such that they change gradually throughout the course of the series while still retaining the better parts of their core personality. Admittedly, Ookami to Koushinryou does not have a lot of what makes typical expression so infatuating, as it has a higher degree of focusing on an aloof narrative structure that simply embodies the relationship between its lead characters and THE POWER OF ECONOMY!!!

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Dennou Coil and Shinsekai yori, on the other hand, have another form of expression that aids in the development of both characters and narrative: artistic expression. Essentially, these series have “a point” they’re trying to make, or trying to envelop the viewer into a grandiose tale that one can empathize with and gather insight on various circumstances (i.e. loss of loved ones in Dennou Coil; social hierarchy in Shinsekai yori). The way the story is presented also plays a vital part in its retention of intrigue, which each series does splendidly enough to draw attention initially and reap rewards by the end; childlike adventure in a sci-fi setting with Dennou Coil, and the dangers of repeating the past in a fantasy setting full of telekinetic kids and anthropomorphic mole rats in Shinsekai yori. These stories with meaning are something that makes them intriguing to watch analytically as well as simply for pleasure. It also makes them more memorable for their inherent quirks as those without them. It’s part of the reason I gave mother! a good score despite not caring for it, and gave Mayoiga an average score despite its glaring technical flaws.

Yet not all is fine in dandy in the world of youthful naivety and cheeky children. Shounen anime are among the most exuberantly emotional anime on the planet, with episode after episode of monologues and screaming dialogue full of gusto and usually a lot of angst. This, in terms of what I’ve said, could qualify for an example of expression, and I would agree; however, with almost everything in life, execution is the name of the game. It is not expression alone that is what makes itself alluring, but the way it is the presented, the way it inflates itself with value, and the way it distinguishes itself from the crowd (or other ways that mean more to others than myself). Boku no Hero Academia is a great example of expression used in a very similar way to many other Shounen titles, but creates more meaning through focusing on characters by putting them in eventful situations and giving the viewer a reason to not treat them as background filler. The execution is not distinguishable at all, yet it works through tinkering—giving weight to one’s actions, and having that result in true character development. Because let’s face it, Boku no Hero Academia’s story is not nearly as captivating as its characters. Here, it works, while in other series where the focus is more driven towards narrative, it likely won’t work as well. Context is important, as one should be able to identify what a particular series is trying to do and why its type of expression works as well as it does.

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Which brings me to the obligatory “Trash all harem and trend-baiting series” section of the piece. Series such as Rosario + VampireNo Game No LifeBlend S, and Urara Meirochou all have a common fatal flaw: there’s no point to them. They indulge in what’s popular at the time for the sake of indulging in what’s popular at the time, putting no effort into any real stakes of human interest or conflict. While all are vibrant in their color palette, it doesn’t mean much when the execution is so derivative and void of impact. This isn’t to say these shows are (altogether) bad or that they can’t be entertaining to viewers (Lord knows No Game No Life is), but that they lack that sort of “oomph” (another word that mirrors “expression”) that keeps me interested long-term or invested in what’s happening onscreen. Their level of expression is fairly low in my eyes, which makes me immediately shy away from them if not for my allure to their easy-on-the-eyes design. And this applies to any anime that may or may not catch my interest in upcoming seasons. There’s a reason why I only watch two or three anime a season: the rest don’t scream, “Oh, yeah. That’ll be expressive and not super cliché.”

When it comes to anime, titles such as Ping Pong The AnimationKuuchuu Buranko, and Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita are going to be infinitely more interesting to me than Free!Hajimete no Gal, or Monster (Sorry, fans). Their uniqueness, expressiveness, and potential for meaningful content are what draws me in more than simple fan service or a super-realistic plot full of normal characters. Again, this isn’t to say the latter series can’t work, but it doesn’t do much for me personally. I am, or at least I am developing into, someone who enjoys a blend of “objective” solidity and artsy-fartsy development or imagery. URAHARA was a series I had high hopes for due to the artsy-fartsy discretion, but the “objective” side faltered fairly quickly. It doesn’t always works, with execution and situation playing as much of a role in its power than the power itself. When it works, you have a crowded mess of eights and above in your anime list. When it doesn’t, your average rating per series hovers around a 5/10.

That’s what being expressive means to me. What does it mean to you?

Blade Runner 2049 Review

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No bullshit.

Impeccable as it is, this film has none of it. No filler, no filibuster. It moves at paces ranging from a bird flying in the morning sky to a snake slithering in the desert sand, yet it does not stop. Always moving, elegantly presenting events that capture some underlying force or ubiquitous mood which keeps the stew boiling in the darkness. That may very well be what I appreciate most from this picture; that it does not do anything to grope you around through heaps of mindless serendipity and glamour. No distractions from some obvious flaws or cute side swipes to appeal to a wider audience. Blade Runner 2049 does what it desires to do with such automated grace that it implements the stylistic intricacy of John Wick’s action sequences and employs it to every other aspect but that. Absolutely. No. Bullshit.

This is what Disney’s Star Wars could’ve been. Had it not been for all of its profound bullshit.

The original Blade Runner was a film dedicated to asking the questions without relaying any obvious answers. Nearly everything was shown, and not once told (at least not explicitly). This created an isolating effect between the viewer and the film; such that it felt more interested in serving as a cinematic enigma of sci-fi psychology and existentialism. Like being presented with a Rubik’s cube with no colors on any side, and being asked to solve it. Intriguing as it is, there’s no context to care, and little reason to identify with the struggles of its characters, aside from what is innate within humankind to be empathetic of those who only wish to survive—and to live among their own freedom. An island’s worth of style, but substance? Debatable.

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Blade Runner 2049 may have single-handedly convinced me that characters are the greatest asset to film or any other similar medium. As toxic as the term “linear” has become in this day and age, the narrative structure of choice here is undoubtedly so. The choice to employ a more straightforward story is something that will no doubt alienate some from this sequel film’s roots. Yet it is a choice that is one of many choices that I not only find to be a true strength, but one that I would rather not have differently, despite other possibilities. It is so that standard structures can harm the worth of creativity, but it may also compliment all that which surrounds the structure in a more fulfilling fashion.

For it is the characters that make this movie what it is. What makes it so powerful, so transcendent in its mental capacity that one can only hope to collect all that is offered in a single sitting (I needed two sittings to write this review with confidence). For the things that the original wanted to convey, it didn’t have the proper connection between viewer and character to connect that link of ultimate empathy, the key to any true experience of extravagance. “Joe” is not only interesting on his own, but his condition, his context, his origins—everything so clear-cut yet shrouded in delicate mystery—become interesting as both he and the audience discovers more as the story unravels. Deckard in the original already had the benefit of knowing so much, being within a position where it was hard for someone without that context to surmise his thoughts and actions. With “Joe,” he’s far less human, far more empty in both humanistic characteristics and input on the larger aspects of his own “soul” that to build upon his knowledge along with him creates an experience that truly puts one in the midst of the dilemma. Immersion is no issue here; even if it was, the aesthetic presentation will alleviate that by itself.

Though what helps in Joe’s development as a character and source of human connection is Ryan Gosling’s performance, which, in my humble opinion, should garner him every award. All of them. What are replicants supposed to be? How are they supposed to feel? Baseline; no distractions, no bias, no physiological or psychological fluctuations. Ryan Gosling is stone-faced for a good portion of this film, flushed in the embodiment of a character that is not expected to feel desire or passion. Yet it is the subtler movements of his face, the slow accumulation of tears flowing in his eyes, the sudden, one-time burst of ferocity, that really brings “Joe” to life. With more time comes more opportunity for him to question his capabilities and his “humanity,” masterfully performed by Gosling. His mannerisms alone provide a spark of residual intrigue into every scene.

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Thankfully, it is not just “Joe,” but a variety of characters that allow further insight into the plot and basis around the world presented in 2049 to flourish into a sea of conflicting moods and ideas. Joi, Luv, Deckard, and those whose names aren’t even important (as ironic as that sounds given their importance) all help present the importance of character within not just this film, but films in general. There are complexities, multi-faceted personalities to every character, and the way they bounce off of one another creates not just an interesting connection, but a realistic connection. Connections that transcend the standards of machines with human clothing. And the fact that some of these connections even exist says more about the characters than the interactions themselves.

Joi, for example, is the cybernetic encoding system that projects and mimics the personality and mindset of a real female partner—perhaps the “model girlfriend” would be a more accurate description. She, as a character, is worth liking, as she is programmed to be liked and irrevocably loyal to “Joe,” but she isn’t real, and oft-times throughout the film it is shown that she is simply a projection of everything “you” want to see and hear. I’ve seen various critics criticize Joi as a self-indulgent submissive female stereotype, and that through her desire to be real to Joe, the film becomes inherently “creepy.” Through my take, all I can say is THAT’S THE POINT! Joi isn’t real, but Joe wants her to be real, because he wants something real. He’s both submissive to the idea of having someone who loves and supports him while ashamed that he may never have that feeling of genuine connection with anyone aside from a company that manipulates that. It’s. Character. Building! Further acknowledgment that his humanistic desires are beginning to envelop his cerebral duties as a baseline “retiring” machine. Joi is, in a sense, a scapegoat to further build upon the ideas of the plot’s presence and the intricacy of the lead character’s inborn desires.

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I could go on for hundreds of thousand of words about the characters and what they mean to the story, what each line could possibly allude to or how it all connects to the larger summary, but I’ll spare the reader my uncontrolled ramblings. What this means to show, however, is that the world within Blade Runner 2049 is filled with detail and substance, something that isn’t quite as noticeable in the original picture. Every scene, every character, almost every line has some deeper meaning to it. Packed with a keen sense of direction that seems to lead to a multitude of different destinations, finding every piece of the puzzle is as much an experience as the film’s surface messaging. That, I can absolutely believe, can be a hefty and off-putting task for the casual viewer. Not quite as much as with mother!, but enough to warrant those who fear the mounting expectations that become noticeably gargantuan within the first fifteen minutes of the film a passive regard.

Profound characters, a straightforward, yet immersive story. What more can one ask for? Why, captivating visuals and atmosphere, of course! Indeed, the colors are not vibrant as, say, Guardians of the Galaxy, nor are they as focused on grabbing one’s attention. The tone of 2049 is intrinsically dark and depressing; a dystopian world full of casual pleasures and leisure, without a shred of empathy or individuality. Everything is, as already said a number of times before, clear-cut, meticulously organized, and gray. Everything is in the state of decay, the death of humanity itself, or its drive, should one prefer. It makes the more focal points of color, whether the red lights of a police cruiser, the purple-pink skin of the projection of a nude female advertisement, or the orange mist of an abandoned city full of radiation, far more instilling. What 2049 manages to do, apart from creating a visual world that shows the capabilities of current-generation special effects, is embellish the more bombastic features by showing patience. When one is accustomed to three hours of special effects, those effects are no longer special, but a norm of the visuals. Here, those pinks and oranges and reds glow with an intermittent fascination that reminds the viewer of what it means for effects to be special.

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Last, but most certainly not least, is the soundtrack that accompanies the film, taking a fairly similar lead as the special effects. It picks its moments of heightened hostility and intensiveness. Silence is not often heard through this film, though it is most certainly very quiet. The action scenes are as far and few between as the music that accompanies them. The most scandalous realizations are accompanied by harrowing, mind-numbing impacts of heavy synthesizers and sheer volume. Not only setting the tone, it sets another course for the story’s direction, and the mood of a character, and the breaking, the recovery, the peace, the frustration, or the reconciliation of a person. So simplistic in its nature, the heaviness of the soundtrack becomes heavily embedded in the already masterfully-woven intricacy of the film’s core parts. Everything plays a part and works beautifully together to not only provide insightful think pieces, but valid entertainment as a whole.

There are things about this film that many can criticize, break apart, or question upon the logical foundations with which it means to present itself. Perhaps the pace is too slow, the violence too prevalent, the diversity too white (Ha!). For me, and the way this film evoked the inner workings of my emotional turmoil is something that cannot—and will not—go unnoticed. Much like my most treasured possessions of the visual medium, in which my memories paint the perfect, picturesque brilliance of a modern masterpiece, Blade Runner 2049 is, without any single shred of doubt—two times over—the closest a film could ever be to perfect in my mind. Production values, character intricacy, narrative potency, atmospheric sincerity; everything and more is there for me, for you, and for anyone to indulge in to their utmost pleasure. And I, as one who always clamors to share my wondrous, oft-times contradictory feelings, urge anyone reading to not only watch this film once, but twice or thrice, so that one can experience what it means to truly be in the presence of human passion.

Final Score: 10/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

The Iron Giant Review

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The first (and last) time I watched The Iron Giant in full was somewhere in the early 2000’s. It held the distinction of being special due to peculiar origin—being that I watched it with my cousin at my Aunt’s house one solitary day, joining the likes of Kung Pow, Spaceballs, and a number of Godzilla movies. At the time, it left such an impact on me that I imagined myself with my own giant robot, yet never felt the desire to ask for the movie myself or any toys of it. Various scenes stuck with me throughout the years, and watching it over again, I’m surprised at how much I really remember about the film. What surprised me more was how much of the film I didn’t remember.

This film takes place in 1957? Was there always this much pro-gun control symbolism? Oh, my God! The emphasis on the American government’s paranoia in the height of the Cold War era is spot-on! Hogarth’s mother is a hard-working, upstanding woman who doesn’t play a significant role in the film but speaks wonders with the scenes that she’s given? Wow, were all the scenes this short?

The Iron Giant delivers in a way most animated films only dream of doing. Clear dedication and love to the craft of traditional animation and storytelling, despite its formulaic approach, it’s its execution that leaves a substantial bite. Not a single scene feels truly wasted, complete with animation that only rarely falters and characters uplifted by fantastic vocal performances that only occasionally spout stupid lines.

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I could only think back on E.T. prior to rewatching this film. A young boy finds an “alien creature” that quickly becomes attached to the boy as he tries to assimilate his life to playing with the creature and hiding it from the public eye. My cynical sensations assumed that that was the build-up I would receive and the payoff would be something of an overproduced yawn. It was, indeed, the build-up I received, yet there were little touches—almost tender pinches reminding the audience to pay close attention—that added a complexity to the film’s entertainment value. A classroom scene showing school kids watching a bomb threat awareness video, with kids around the male lead commenting on how any unidentified “creature” should be blown to smithereens. The “antagonist” screaming at the male lead in a diner about how anything unknown should be eliminated because it “isn’t ours.” The Giant looking at a comic book displaying an evil, robotic menace that’s eerily striking to the Giant’s design. Look, Ma! Layers!

Never did I ever think to consider the time and place of the events that shape this story. As a kids’ film, there’s so much that their ignorant minds will miss within the lines that inhabit the narrative. I certainly missed them when I was eight or nine-years-old. This allows the film to take on a course that prevents it from being a straightforward, point A to point B film, as I expected it to be. Flourishing within the identity of anti-war, there are many allusions to the capabilities of man and the fear of the unknown. The Giant, in some capacity, is almost a manifestation of mankind—gentle and docile, yet absolutely destructive when provoked. There’s a lot to be made of the film’s subtle subtext, including the decision to base this in the height of the Cold War, but that’s for a more organized platform.

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Production values seem to be well-allotted for the time. While not perfect, the animation is, at times, brilliantly fluid and awesome. I particularly like the opening scene where The Giant flies down to Earth in a flaming heap of mass. However, The Giant itself (or “himself”) is the primary cause of uneasy animation. Stiff in some scenes, endearing in others. He has more noticeable chinks than any other character—the insinuation that others characters are indeed stiff is present. Voice actors do their work splendidly, with the honors of “Best in Show” being awarded to Christopher McDonald as Kent Mansley, the “antagonist.” Eli Marienthal does splendidly as Hogarth, the male lead, as well, giving him a spunk and wit that many young male leads don’t tend to carry anymore. And though the film is nothing compared to the numerous works of animation in other fields, it carries a traditional charm and, on occasion, humor that gives it its own aesthetic appeal.

To balance the level of praise, know that the film is not perfect, with its weakest link spawning from two key issues: the ending and the length of the film. Length in full, excluding the ending credits, The Iron Giant is roughly 79 minutes. Even for an animated film, that’s on the verge of being criminally short, especially for the things they wanted to develop behind the scenes. This may have contributed to each scene feeling so short, so fast, and so packed with a number of important lines and events. There’s cutting the fat, and then there’s fasting the remains. Each moment feels important and weighted, but at the same time rushed and, wrapped up in the inevitable final conflict, half-hearted. The ending is likely my least favorite part of the entire film. Not for the content it shows, but for how fast everything goes by, how easily all the pieces come together to form the most predictable of final scenarios. Some alleviation comes in the form of emotional payoff, which bodes well enough (as in I actually felt something), though it doesn’t compare to the poignant potential that led up to it.

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Even so, the emotional foundation behind The Giant and his role within the scope of the film is on par with the film that likely inspired it. As with the gentle, caring E.T., The Giant has a charisma through family-friendly, child-like creativity. He is “like a little kid;” curious, empathetic, and wishes not to be alone or afraid. The bond between human boy and giant metal boy is one that is as charming as one would expect a film to feature a male lead as open-minded (which is important to more than just this aspect) and good-natured as Hogarth. Fast as the pacing may be at times, the beginning few scenes where Hogarth is introduced to The Giant are brilliantly contained and almost blissfully timeless. Timing, mood, and character quirks all blend into a beautiful blend that lathers itself through the more slow and quiet moments between man and machine. Also noteworthy: this film knows how to efficiently use THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!

My safe rating for this film would be an 8/10, as I knew in my mind from past experience that the film was a great one. I was skeptical, of course, that it could be worse than expected, but I never expected it to be better. In such instances, I can think fondly of the things that make a film so wonderful, while also rummage through the fickle matter of emotional attachment that somehow overlaps the logical capacity. The Iron Giant is not just one of the greatest animated films of all time, it is a film that can hold its own against even the most cherished films within cinematic history, even if its most intriguing themes are moderately safe and close to the chest.

Final Score: 9/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Kakariko Village)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

It’s been some time since my last post on this subject, but don’t let that imply that I’ve run out of motivation to write about it. I just forget it even exists! …Is that worse?

After acquiring the paraglider, the player is allowed to explore wherever they want. This is where the game finally becomes so engrossing to play, as the feeling of exploration finally kicks in. As stated in the last post, the Isolated Plateau didn’t really feel all that adventurous because it was so limited and restrictive, coming off as an obligatory “Trial Sequence.” I didn’t have a lot of fun with it and began to wonder if the game would even be worth it. After some poor voice acting from the Old Man-turned-King of Hyrule, I was given instructions to find Impa, who conveniently rests within a small, mountainous region called Kakariko Village. My map popped up and showed a shiny yellow dot about 100,000 miles away from me (which made me udder a “Ho-ly…”) as to where I was supposed to go. Naturally, I ignored this for a good while and explored the now completely open world.

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I remember quite vividly exploring a body of water with some small islands scattered within right next to a giant bridge. It was here I found myself face-to-face with Lizalfos for the first time, and to my horror, they were capable of one-shotting me. Now being careful, and exploiting the use of BOMB SPAMMING, I killed all of the Lizalfos around the island, collected their loot, and found a hidden Shrine within the biggest island. I even discovered a wandering Zora as I found myself examining the look of the species in this game. Nothing really came of this, but I remember it for being the first thing I really did outside the main objective.

After some more meaningless exploration, I set out for Kakariko, hitting all the open Shrines and Towers along the way. Something humorous to look back on, I didn’t approach the village by conventional means. I’d assume most would take the straight path that curves around and leads upward, meeting the Korok that expands your inventory along the way. For me, I took a back route and CLIMBED A TON OF MOUNTAINS to get there. Essentially, I arrived backwards, taking the most difficult path possible for absolutely no reason at all, completely out of ignorance. I wasted a lot of time fighting off hordes of Bokoblins, exploring forests, and cooking foodstuff to even notice that there should’ve been a much easier way to reach the village. By the time I got there, I left the village the way I probably should’ve arrived there.

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As for the village itself, Kakariko is something of a special segment for me per my enjoyment of the game. It was the first time I was surrounded by a stable amount of civilization. There were people to talk to, buy from, and do sidequests for. It was also the first time I really paid attention to the soundtrack of the game, as for the most part, it was just calm and atmospheric. Kakariko Village’s themes, both day and night, bring me to a distinctively different place, something that really rubbed off on me and gave me an impression of the culture of the village. One could see it from the villagers and their actions throughout the day, but the music drives it home. It’s nothing short of beautiful, really. This was the place in Breath of the Wild where I felt that sense of wonder others likely felt upon coming out of the Chamber in the beginning. Kakariko Village was where I realized that this game was really something else.

This placement of priority says a lot about what I find important in games and the like. Seeing the vast landscape and scope of what’s to be uncovered? Meh. Battling against a number of different dangers with sticks and rocks and clubs? Meh. Being a part of a small society where characters can express themselves and shape the culture they’re a part of with perfect accompanying music and imagery? I’m oozing. I enjoy characters, character interaction, character quirkiness (to an extent), and the impact they can have on an otherwise bland and typical story and premise (see: Undertale, Custom Robo, Katawa Shoujo). Breath of the Wild, in my mind, is at its best when I can interact with the people within those small pockets of civilization. Exploring and discovering secrets and various environments is nice, but it’s nicer when I have a reason to care about any of it.

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Still, Kakariko Village is somewhat hampered by its commitment to the major plot, which comes off as boring and overexplanatory. Impa herself is rather chatty, though integral within the world as one of few people to live through the calamity that occurred 100 years prior. Her connection to Link is a figment of his uncalled past, causing a disconnect for her character as nothing but… just somebody that you used to know. Aside from that, she has no personality. Her role is to provide information and give Link stuff, and point him in the direction of other people. Her granddaughter is a lot more charming than she is (I may have become infatuated with her). This is more noticeable when I began to fall in love with most of all of the other characters within the village, including her granddaughter, a little girl named Koko, and a recently divorced male villager who is obsessed with his cuckoos. For a long while, I never left the village because I wanted to find out more and more about these characters’ lives and behavior.

The first village is noteworthy for being the first in a long line of places Link must explore throughout his journey. It was also the first time playing the game where I had three hours pass and thought to myself, “I can’t wait to play this again!” I was excited to see what other places had in store for me, and if they would all feel as open and alive as Kakariko did. Spoilers: They don’t. I was more determined than ever to get to the next village and explore even more of the vast world that awaited me. All because one little pocket of civilization made me care about the world I was preparing to save from the ultimate evil.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)

Updated Thoughts on Miman Renai

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I did this in my last post for this manga, too, but I’ll reiterate just to be safe:

I do not condone the relationship between adults and young teenagers. This work is purely fictional and about 50% unrealistic and 50% overpure.

In my first trial with Miman Renai, I thought the series was a cute, albeit unrealistic and uninspiring story of forbidden love between an overly sweet 29-year-old and overly sweet 13-year-old. The fact that both are so overbearingly pure may make this series a turn-off based on how scared the male lead, knowing his position, is of confessing his feelings for what is essentially a child to him. Many others, I’m sure, would be turned off by the taboo themes presented right within the synopsis, but reading through this twice, neither are jumping at the chance to sleep with one another, much less hold hands (The covers are a lie). So, it’s taboo in potential only.

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Upon my second reading, much of my feelings of the story and characters are the same way. Kurose, the 29-year-old, has a behavior around Tomoe, the 13-year-old, that would appear as incredibly creepy if the story were from her perspective. While the reader has the benefit of knowing he has no ill intentions because they follow his mindset and character, from Tomoe’s viewpoint, looking up her school, taking oranges to her, and infiltrating her school on what is essentially a Parent-Teacher Conference are all very vivid red flags. Kurose working at an adult gaming company also doesn’t help. Of course, she doesn’t question any of this due to her incredible naivety. The realism of this manga, only from the perspective of Tomoe, immediately becomes shot because no one would be this trusting of Kurose’s behavior. The fact that she is trusting, and blindly devoted to him at almost every turn, makes for an incredibly eerie representation of what leads kids into being kidnapped, or worse.

Taboo/icky possibilities aside, the struggles of this forbidden romance are fairly standard, as well. People tell Kurose (and vice-versa with Tomoe) that they shouldn’t be seeing one another, while the two leads themselves struggle to find a balance between being friends and remaining faithful (Though the latter is more just from Kurose’s mindset). A lot of the drama could’ve been further improved by letting it fester within the minds of the leads (God knows Tomoe could’ve used some depth), as instead the manga decides to bring it up as a means of driving the two apart only to get back together some two or three chapters later. Not to mention, there’s a lot of underlying side conflict, including Kurose’s traumatic past of being bullied and his relationship with his game company’s busty president, that are barely explored whatsoever. This one-track mindset keeps the focus primarily on the leads’ relationship and nothing more, which is disappointing with how wishy-washy a lot of it is, mostly through misunderstandings.

With how I describe it, one would think that this series was rather unimpactful. On the contrary, after reading this for the second time, the score shot up tremendously and catapulted to among my favorite manga. So what makes this series so wonderful?

Expression

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Vitality

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Look at this wonderful burst of energy, enthusiasm, a love for character exuberance and a passion for drawing and artistic expression! This type of illustrating style that allows the characters to pop, to become more than just drawings on paper! This intoxicating display of pure, unadulterated vigor is so wonderfully executed that I cannot help but love it! It reminds me a lot of Studio Trigger at their finest, the sequences of series such as Kill la Kill or Little Witch Academia that stray from the realm of reality and take on a level of artistry that becomes so enveloping from passion alone.

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Of course, this level of pure fun isn’t present at all times, but the mangaka does what she can to make both the small, inconsequential moments and serious periods of self-reflection all the more alluring with her vividness. Some examples (like the picture above) can be criticized for being too simplistic in an effort to ease up on the workload. For me, this doesn’t matter if I’m laughing at how amusing all of these character transformations look and how it impacts the rampant enjoyment I’m getting out of reading it. Miman Renai is one of those rare examples where a manga, in an objective sense isn’t worth more than a five out of ten, is launched into much higher territory from a gargantuan amount of subjective love.

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Despite the taboo themes, the standard story, the unsatisfied potential of side plots, the brilliance of Tomoe’s naivety, and the tiring, self-inflicted, off-and-on romantic endeavor, Miman Renai is a manga that gets by with its emotional gusto and artistic flavor. It is among my favorite manga because it managed to completely override my mechanical circuitry and allow my heart to dance in the way most “normies'” would upon seeing a new trailer for the latest Star Wars film. While not mentally moved by my passion for deep, multi-layered stories of love and loss, Miman Renai has that once-in-a-lifetime quality that speaks to me on an absurd personal level, an intangible quality that is hard to really articulate into words. All I can do is spam more pictures from the story because I love them.

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I reread this manga on a whim, fueled only by a slight desire to revisit the wacky faces of the characters. What I unearthed was an undiscovered, but always present adoration for a story that really probably doesn’t deserve it. It’s a simple tale that only sticks out based on the huge age gap between its characters and the innocent manner it portrays it with. Despite everything else, Miman Renai executes itself through means of giddy expression, one that had gone relatively unnoticed by me for nearly a year and a half. I stick by it, too; the only reason I have to recommend this manga is due to the mangaka’s lovely expressiveness and nothing more. Perhaps it’ll give you, the reader, the same appreciation for art it did for me.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Thoughts on White Album 2 (Spoilers)

Nine straight episodes. That’s the longest streak of consecutive episodes watched for a single anime in a single sitting since… Deadman Wonderland. My first ever listed anime. Immediately after watching this, I threw off my hat and got a drink, then continued to pace around my basement like a lost rat.

This anime. This. Fucking. Anime.

Goodness. It’s been so long since I’ve had so many emotions wanting to come screaming out while watching the characters on screen. It’s so captivating. It’s so… imperfect. What is it about series like these that make me want to kill myself? But, even in saying that, it’s not the kind of thing you would expect. I don’t feel suicidal, I just feel horribly depressed. Could it be my emotions trying to say that they don’t want it to end? Or are they truly depressed with what I’m watching?

There’s only so much I want to say about this anime. There will be no mention of each individual character and art and story and jnsckjsnclajcn. I’m just going to put down whatever comes to mind. No format, no structure. Just words. And gush. That, too.

So much was dedicated to the initial plot of this story. I felt like I watched an entire cour’s worth of anime by the seventh episode. Saying that, watching the entire thing felt like an eternity. There are no sub plots. There is no filler. It’s just Boy and Girls A and B. That simple. The interactions, the screentime distribution, the build-up; all of this was so pleasant to watch. It truly made it more eventful to finish an episode, so I could just take everything in in stride.

I feel that they didn’t focus enough on Boy. Girls A and B had so much insight, so much screentime to show subtle hints of what they were thinking. Boy just kind of grimaced and cried all throughout. It seems to me that his personality changed slightly throughout as well. At first, I thought, “Oh. He isn’t the typical male main character. Fantastic.” By the end, I thought, “Wow. He’s crying a lot. He’s really getting into his emotions. A lot.” It almost felt like a self insert at times. He was just so intent on being, er, predictable.

There was so much thought that went into this plot. I know it. I can feel it. They were trapped. They really were. Boy chose Girl A, but really wants Girl B. Girl A just wants them all to be together. Girl B loved Boy all along, and was heartbroken when he chose Girl A. Girl B tries to stay away from Boy in order to preserve the relationship between him and Girl A, but by doing this, she’s interfering with both Girl A and Boy’s goals. All of these twists and turns. It’s like a labyrinth. There is no exit. There is no solution. These characters are truly, without a doubt, trapped. So, what do they do? Fuck it up more. Teenagers.

Speaking of which… mrmm. That fun time scene… that was really hard to watch. Call it a personal taboo, but I feel cheating is one of the more despicable things human beings are capable of. It simply didn’t feel right to me. And why would it? Because it was true love? But at what expense? She was leaving the next morning! But that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll never have the chance again! Labyrinth. It’s so captivating. The scene made me feel disgusted, just like School Days did. But there was a difference; the emotions involved with it. It didn’t feel forced. It only felt like a crushing blow. The climax to what had been building up since before the series even started. If anyone here was the victim, it was Girl A. Of course, there are many different routes that these characters could have taken, but I feel that Girl A was the one who suffered most from what eventually came to be. For that, she has my condolences.

I’m going to have to thank the person who initially convinced me to watch this series. It was truly something special. And to think, it’s a kinda sorta sequel to an anime adaptation that didn’t fare well with MAL use- critics! I suppose this is just another example of “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That line is so overused, it makes me sick to even use it. Regardless, White Album 2 is a series I will never forget. It’s attention to detail and the ability to evoke emotions from me are the strengths of its game, and it handled it pretty well. I remember a time when most anime made me feel this way. I truly miss those days.