[Manga Mondays] Vampire Knight

VK Vol 1Title: Vampire Knight
Author: Matsuri Hino (Story & Art)
Genres: Shoujo, School Life, Romance, Supernatural, Tragedy, Drama
Published: 2004 – 2013 (Complete)
Volumes: 19
Japanese Publisher: LaLa (original run); Hakusensha (tankobon format)
English Publisher: Shoujo Beat (original run); Viz Media (tankobon format)
Available to Purchase in English?: Yes (Amazon / Indigo / Barnes & Noble)


[Note: This post contains mild spoilers]


I remember coming across the Vampire Knight anime after it had just been released, before the series became super popular in the West. I wasn’t a huge fan of anything to do with vampires (and continue to have little interest in them to this day), but it was a new show so I decided to give it a try.

Vampire Knight is about a highschool girl named Yuuki Cross. She attends Cross Academy, where her adopted father Kaien is the school’s headmaster. She attends classes during the day, but helps patrol the school grounds during the night as a school guardian alongside her classmate Zero Kiryuu. Yuuki and Zero have been friends since Zero was brought to live with her and her father several years prior to the start of the story; it is later revealed he was bitten by a pureblood vampire during an attack which killed his entire family, and is himself a vampire.

However, Cross Academy has a big secret. While students who attend classes during the day are known as members of the Day Class, the Night Class students are sequestered in a separate dormitory because they are… dun dun dun… vampires! Aside from their late afternoon walk from their dorm to the main campus for their classes (where, as members of the school’s Disciplinary Committee, Zero and Yuuki have to physically keep the rest of their classmates at bay), the Night Class students are never seen mingling with the rest of the student body. The Night Class students are all also extraordinarily beautiful, simultaneously fueling the Day Class’ overexuberant reactions and fulfilling this manga’s bishounen & bishoujo quota. vampire_knight_yuki_by_manga_love86d62cgbw

As the story progresses, it becomes evident that much information is being kept from Yuuki. The recurring dream she has where a young Kaname saves her from a rabid vampire, the story behind Zero’s transformation into a vampire, Yuuki’s family history, and even a big secret about Yuuki herself – these things are all eventually brought into the light (pun intended), where Yuuki must confront them and decide if these challenges will change who she is.

Vampire Knight started as a manga, and later two seasons of anime, two drama CDs and three light novels were created. An official fanbook titled “Vampire Knight Fanbook: Cross”, an artbook, and a Japanese dating sim game called “Vampire Knight DS” have also been released. If you decide to watch the anime, please note that it has an alternate ending as the show was created while the manga was still ongoing.

I was initially drawn to this manga because of the characters. Yuuki is the spunky, occasionally clueless lead, while Zero and Kaname are her romantic interests. Zero appears to be cold and distant, but he has secrets of his own, secrets he can’t bring himself to share with Yuuki. Kaname is the main object of Yuuki’s affections, and he appears to reciprocate her feelings. But when his ties to Yuuki are revealed, will their relationship change… or become something greater?

The relationships between these three are what kept me reading on, even after the plot started to drag and I felt like events were getting repetitive. However I feel like I should point out that my decline in interest is not necessarily reflective of the series itself, as I already mentioned that vampires are not supremely interesting to me. I did eventually end up dropping the series around two-thirds of the way through, but made sure to read the ending of the manga once it became available. Yeah I know, slightly hypocritical of me, but hey after so many years I wanted to know how it ended. What can I say? *shrug*

The artwork of this series is pretty stellar, with most if not all of the characters having the large, sparkly eyes characteristic of a true blue shoujo manga. Vampires and other supernatural creatures often evoke feelings of sexuality, eroticism and mysteriousness, and if you peruse the art from this series you can see that Hino-san definitely channeled some of those characteristics into her work.

The love triangle between Yuuki, Zero and Kaname is what kept drawing me back into the series, although in later years I became more critical of the relationship between Yuuki and Kaname. (The series’ ending somewhat negates much of this criticism, but the dynamics of their relationship earlier in the series was often frustrating to read.) The final nail in the coffin for me (woo, I’m just rolling out the vampire puns today!) was the repetitive and sometimes boring plot. I feel like this series could have been a lot shorter than it was, and in exchange been much more memorable.

My Score: 7.5/10
Do I Recommend This Title?: If you are a fan of vampires and want to read what all the fuss is about, then yes. If you’re like me and you can give or take when it comes to supernatural series about vampires, then I feel like you could skip this manga and not miss too much.

Artbook_cover_poster 2

Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright [Hoshido Path]

SI_3DS_FireEmblemFates

Name: Fire Emblem Fates
Route: Birthright [Hoshido]
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Tactical RPG

JP Release Date: 25 June 2015
NA Release Date: 19 February 2016
EU Release Date: Never

Fire Emblem Fates

scr_29_TOP_RIGHTFire Emblem used to be is a tactical fantasy RPG series where you control a company of units and strategically move them around various grid-based maps to defeat enemy units and advance the plot. This latest iteration, Fates, revolves around the customizable protagonist Kamui as he or she gets drawn into the war between two neighbouring countries, the peace-loving Hoshido and the ambitious, invasion-minded Nohr. Kamui was born as Hoshidan royalty but was raised in Nohr, and the story diverges when the player makes their fateful decision as to which side to support.

What you will find below is a bit of a mixed bag. There are a couple of review-type paragraphs concerning the game mechanics and the controversies surrounding the game, but also my in-depth subjective impressions of the units and the plot (only very few spoilers, rest assured). Of course it was going to get personal. This is Waifu Emblem, after all.

Warning: Light spoilers ahead.

Background

scr_46_TOP_RIGHTAbout two weeks ago, I learned that there was to be no dual audio in the Western release of Fire Emblem Fates. To me, that was the final straw in the string of controversies it’s been the subject of in the run-up to its NA release. The surgical removal of all the other lost content wore my patience dangerously thin, and the dodgy-sounding English dub (if Felicia’s voice was any indication) finally made me realize that I would not be comfortable with paying a premium price for what I perceived to be less than what the full game should have been. There was nothing stopping me from getting my hands on the JP import instead (my local version would be the yet-unreleased EU, so the NA release means nothing to me) and experiencing the game properly through a faithful fan translation patch (admittedly minus many of the support conversations, which will be rectified with the next patch update). So I did. I’ve been playing Hoshido on my daily commute for the past couple of weeks.

scr_1_TOP_LEFTHaving only messed around with DS emulation and R4 hardware in the past, I have to say my self-taught crash course into dumping, extracting, patching, rebuilding and hex editing a 3DS game was a really painful experience, both for me and for my ageing computer. It worked, though – I had another minor hiccup involving the lack of unit sprites in-game due to one of the extracting programs having no unicode support, but everything was solved in the end. My updated 3DS firmware (10.5) meant that, as much as my wallet would have liked me to pirate it, I had no choice but to take the legal route of using a real, legit JP game card and using Homebrew to English patch the text on the fly. I’ve got the Special Edition of Fire Emblem if. It comes with TCG cards instead of the fancy pouch sported by the NA version, but other than that it should be identical. The art book is pretty sweet.

Controversies

scr_55_BOTTOMWaifu Emblem is actually a point of controversy in itself. To clarify my experience, I’ve played the Tellius series, so I know what it’s like at the other end of the spectrum – when supports are bastardized into generic lines of text. But with Fire Emblem: Awakening came what is now often perceived as an attempt to broaden the mass-market appeal of the series, perhaps in a last-ditch attempt to save the franchise from what was then its impending doom – everyone could now be married to everyone else, and you could have kids together. What many purists weren’t fond of was how Fates was waifu-ized even further, in that you could now invite units to your room and literally rub their faces in a Pokemon Amie-type mini-game.

Its alleged removal in the Western release sparked a lot of discussion – some say even more than when Fates was first announced. I can understand the Soleil dialogue change, but no Amie made me stop and think about whether this was something I’d unhesitatingly buy. As someone who was very much in support of face rubbing, I was pretty dismayed. Incest is apparently okay. Marrying and having babies with literal children (I mean Midoriko, not ostensible 1000-year old loli dragons) is apparently okay. But rubbing your waifu’s face – that’s where Nintendo of America drew the line? Really? I can understand why people might not like it. I get where they’re coming from. But what of the people who do like it? If you don’t want to rub people’s faces, then don’t – and leave the people who do want to alone. Removing it is tantamount to saying ‘we don’t like it, so nobody else can have it’. Localization is also sometimes a problem in terms of what happens to some of the text. Sometimes it’s quite horrific.

scr_21_BOTTOMIt was recently confirmed that face rubbing still exists in some form in NA, making use of the Live2D assets in the game to implement a mini-game involving just your waifu. In other words, you can just rub your waifu or husbando’s face. Which is not all that bad, admittedly, because it’s the waifu-specific skinship that I found myself enjoying the most (there are two types, ‘Skinship’ for your S-support and ‘Invite’ for everyone else). But this has its own problems, which I’ll elaborate on below.

No dual audio is where I drew the line. I know I said I played Tellius above, but that’s exactly why I can’t stand the thought of English audio in Fire Emblem any more – and everything in the promo English audio proves that, from the lacklustre ‘I’m Ike’ to the infamous ‘we’ve got trouble!’ from Felicia. Some argue that the lack of licensing rights for Aqua’s song was what prompted the lack of dual audio – but then why not just dub the song and leave the JP audio be? What extra work does it involve to just… not do anything with it? An ‘undub’ has been recently released for the NA version, which I very much encourage everyone to use if you can manage to apply it – but it doesn’t un-censor and clean up the localization (I think a full ‘restoration’ patch is being worked on, but will take time) meaning you lose things like the first type of face-rubbing and will have to deal with terrible puns and memes. Eva tells me the NA version has some dodgy changes even as early as character creation: instead of clear-cut, stated assets and flaws you apparently get descriptions like ‘calm’, ‘robust’, ‘sturdy’ or ‘deft’ and ‘quick’ to pick from. Feels like Pokemon. And aren’t deft and quick supposed to be the same thing?

You get the main, non-lewd benefit if you go for the undub though: the JP voice actors. Kaji Yuki, Ono Daisuke, Nakamura Yuuichi, Sawashiro Miyuki (again!), Mamoru Miyano – the JP cast is full with A-list voice actors, and you’d be foolish to want to miss out on them.

Units

I’m only going to cover the units I ended up being fairly familiar with.

Kamui: I used MaMU with +MAG -LUK, as I learned Dragonstone damage was now based on MAG and decided I’d like to rely on that. It weirdly turned out to be a physical attack that tended to have higher damage, lower accuracy and couldn’t double, which was odd as in Awakening it was a STR-based fireball attack. I’ll probably go for +SKL -LUK in Nohr. MaMU was pretty strong. His prf Yatogami and the Dragonstone transformation made for a nice variety, but even though I set his secondary class to Dark Mage (to complement +MAG, and it was a Nohr-specific class so I wanted to try it out) I found Hoshidan magic in this game to be sub-par overall. So I pretty much stuck with swords in Dark Knight and went through it for Lifetaker. MaMU married Hinoka. I had this ambition to Marriage Seal to the Pegasus line so we could fly together, but reason won out in the end and I went with White Blood.

scr_22_TOP_LEFTAqua: She’s really cute. I initially wanted to marry her, at least until I fell in love with Hinoka. Aqua is surprisingly capable, and didn’t suffer from the crippling lack of STR that Olivia had – she’ll still die in a single hit, but at least she can fight back so long as you aren’t screwed by RNG. I’m also a little more appreciative of the usefulness of refresher units now, perhaps because Aqua arrives very early in Hoshido and I didn’t have to grind her painfully at the end of her introduction map like I did in Awakening to marry Olivia to Chrom. My first and only reset thus far was when Aqua was tragically and prematurely killed in the first Camilla map. Thundertits ruined everything.

Felicia: Not really a fan. Felicia was very useful at the start, and I’ve heard good things about her but it just didn’t work out between us. For some reason I had this urge to use her primarily as a combat unit, and as useful as she was with shuriken debuffs (the ice was cool too) there was… well, nothing she could do that Suzukaze and Sakura couldn’t. I relied on Suzukaze for utility and Sakura for healing, and although my Felicia was versatile in being able to do both their jobs, she couldn’t do them both as well as they could.

Suzukaze: I heard that Saizou was a stronger, sturdier but slower Suzukaze, and that initially sounded like a good trade-off to me. But my Saizou fell behind and my Suzukaze managed to keep up with the rest of my units, so I ended up going with the latter. He’s really useful – I was so happy to learn that shuriken debuffs exist in this game (and conversely, the first time I was hit by one I was devastated). Suzukaze is a little flimsy at times and doesn’t hit too hard in the later stages of the game against promoted and armoured units, but he debuffs and sets enemy units up well from the safety of two spaces away. Also he has a drug-dealing loli daughter named Midoriko.

Cyrus: My Cyrus fell behind for some reason. I don’t like his character design much either, when you first recruit him it definitely feels like he was a mook boss to be killed on sight during his map then forgotten about for the rest of the game. Cyrus hits very well, but never enough to OHKO when he needs to especially in some of the later maps.

Hinoka: Why is she so perfect? My beloved Hinoka has hilariously high RES and SPD, and joins with a nice stat-boosting naginata (which is very odd given that an increase in weapon grades are often accompanied by forced stat reductions) and great growths. Her high SPD combined with Swallow Strike means that she’ll practically always double, even with double-reducing weapons like the steel naginata. My Hinoka fell a little behind in terms of STR stat growths, but she’s still my pega pony princess. In all seriousness, a really reliable unit. I’m putting her through Basara for Rend Heaven but will finish with Golden-Kite Warrior.

scr_35_TOP_RIGHTSakura: She took care of all my healing needs. I started off being a bit conservative with how I used my Spring and Summer Festals until I realized they weren’t actually all that expensive, then after that my Sakura went around healing people every turn with Aqua refreshing her constantly so she could get more exp in. I’m not looking forward to spending money on staves for Elise in Nohr. Sakura will die in two hits, but she’s not supposed to be fighting anyway, nor does she have the STR to. I hear she can change to the Pegasus Knight class, but she’ll never be as good as Hinoka or Tsubaki so don’t bother.

Tsubaki: I actually really like this guy. His supports with Sakura were pretty cute, and I could see them as a couple together so that’s what I did. I wanted to ship him with Kazahana first, then I realized that Kazahana was made out of tissue paper. Tsubaki reminds me a bit of Crowley from Owari no Seraph. He’s basically a male Hinoka with growths that aren’t as good – but hey, it’s a male pegasus! A male!

Orochi: And Tsukuyomi, I guess. I’ll encompass both magic units here because I’ll say the same thing about them – don’t use them. Magic in Hoshido is pretty shitty, honestly. The tomes don’t feel that good, and the magic units themselves are really lacklustre. Tsukuyomi is literally a worse Ricken in terms of both character design and as a unit, and Orochi will hit hard but is also made out of tissue paper. I don’t like tissue paper.

scr_23_BOTTOMTakumi: Takumi is my hero. I wanted to go gay for Takumi. I actually questioned why there weren’t more gay marriage options – and if I could have, I would have swapped to FeMU halfway through the game just so Takumi could impregnate me and give Kanna his god-tier genes. My Takumi was an UNSTOPPABLE WIND OF DESTRUCTION. A bit like Ryouma, except he joined early enough to make a real impact. His prf Fuujin Bow removes all terrain movement penalties and is super overpowered even when it’s not effortlessly shooting flying units out of the sky. I don’t think he’s ever gotten hurt. And he was a vital unit in the first Camilla map (I had some problems with that map, if you hadn’t gathered) where, upon defeating Camilla he gained a perfect level-up. Takumi too stronk.

Oboro: A serious waifu candidate. I didn’t think much of her to begin with, but I grew to love her dry personality and her intense hatred for everything Nohr-related. She’s also one of the few excellent female units in Hoshido. Lance Fighters in general are very strong in this game, as are their abilities – Seal Defence is very useful early on for example.

scr_49_TOP_RIGHTNishiki: I really liked him – and he was yet another excellent male unit. Fox Spirits (and Garou in Nohr) are basically the Fates version of Taguels, but a lot better. At least Nishiki is, because he has Beastbane right when you get him and it’s very useful against the many horseback units you face. A Guard Beaststone you get a couple of maps after he first joins will keep his defences up and thus his health manageable until he’s promoted to Nine-Tailed Fox. I paired him with Aqua for a blue-haired Kinu! In all honesty I just didn’t know who to pair Aqua with, and really wanted to recruit Kinu so they were involuntarily shipped together. Also Nishiki says the best things during his level-ups.

scr_10_TOP_RIGHTRyouma: He is too overpowered. Takumi already breaks the game enough, and then comes along this guy. Is it even fair having him as a friendly unit? I feel like I’m cheating whenever I use him. Once I accidentally placed him within an enemy unit’s range and mourned woefully at the enemy committing suicide by daring to touch Ryouma. Using Ryouma is the equivalent of using a legendary Pokemon as part of your in-game team. He comes with super-high stats and growths, pre-promoted as a Trueblade (i.e. this game’s version of a Swordmaster) and you basically end up sending him to test out certain areas of the map to see what sort of movement the enemy units will make – because whatever happens he won’t die. He’s also a useful Dragon Vein activator. His prf Raijin Katana even hits two squares away! It must be those god-tier genes at work again.

Children: I have to admit, I didn’t use the children all that much. This happened with me in Awakening too, because while playing through their maps and recruiting them was fun, as units themselves they were hard to integrate into what was already a very full company. And while they can theoretically be amazing units due to passing down skills, it’s really not worth it or possible (nor is there any point, given the difficulty level of Hoshido) grinding through classes. They’ll be very useful in Nohr for the map exp and if you pair your units up properly, but I didn’t feel they were necessary at all in this game. That’s partly reflected in how you even recruit the children units – how they explain it off is rather artificial, and it feels like they were shoehorned into Fates because that’s what the fanbase has come to expect from Awakening.

My first two second-gen recruits were Kanna (who was a smaller, loli Kamui) and Midoriko (who felt like a loli aircraft carrier from Kancolle). My Midoriko was super stronk, mostly because I paired Suzukaze with Mozume in every battle (without actually training Mozume) and so Midoriko ended up with Aptitude which meant game-breakingly beautiful level-ups. Her recruitment map was pretty hard though, I ended up getting a game over the first time because I didn’t properly grasp the winning conditions. Matoi and Gurei (aka Not!Cordelia and Not!Gaius) I didn’t use, but Kinu was very useful as a second Beastbane unit. During Nohr I plan to use Soleil (I have to see this controversial support first-hand) and Ophelia (because she’s a semen demon).

General Unit Impressions

scr_2_TOP_LEFTI feel like the Hoshido units aren’t too interesting as a whole. As and when they were introduced, they seemed to follow the pattern of a royal family member joining followed by two of their retainers – and their retainers were sometimes dodgy units or just weren’t too interesting overall. You do get exceptions like Oboro – her and Tsubaki were probably my favourite retainers. Also too many ninjas joined. I guess what I’m saying is that there wasn’t enough variety – and that extends to waifu options too, although the children were all great. Apart from Aqua and Hinoka, I only really gave serious thought to marrying Oboro and maybe Kinu (although it’s not really my style to marry the second-gen units). If I was FeMU I’d have been swimming in great choices though – Hoshido has a wonderful husbando selection. The male units are very much better overall here I feel – both as units and as characters, from Ryouma to Nishiki to Takumi. On the other hand, I’m spoilt for choice for waifus in Nohr – Nyx looks really cute, and as I never married Severa I want to give Luna a go at some point. And of course, marrying Thundertits at least once is pretty much obligatory.

Note that in the Western release, a lot of the names were changed to various degrees. Some are perfectly understandable and a part of romanizing, such as changing Ryouma to Ryoma or Kagerou to Kagero. Suzukaze to Kaze and Kazahana to Hana were both acceptable. Others were a little strange, like Marx becoming Xander, Nishiki becoming Kaden or Aqua becoming Azura. And why did Tsukuyomi become Hayato?

Game Mechanics

Seals: So unlike the infinite re-classing and levelling up of Awakening, there is a limit to levelling up in Fates. You get to go up to Lv 20 for a base class, upon which you can promote using a Master Seal to a promoted class. Then you can go through the promoted levels again to what I assume is a maximum of 20 levels (I haven’t gotten that far yet). The key change is that, unlike with Second Seals, when you use a Parallel Seal in this game your level does not decrease. It stays the same, but any skills you missed out on will be automatically learnt as you progress to the next level. So say I have a Hinoka at Lv 11 Pegasus Knight. I re-class her to Lance Fighter. At Lv 12 she will learn the Lance Fighter skill Substitute, and at Lv 13 she will learn Seal Defence. This is how they’ve gotten around the fact you can no longer decrease levels without promoting, nor de-promote yourself down to an un-promoted unit – so if Hinoka promotes to Lv 2 Golden-Kite Warrior without going through Lance Fighter but then Parallel Seals over to Lv 2 Basara (a promotion option for Lance Fighter), she’ll learn the Lance Fighter skills at Lv 3 and Lv 4 Basara. At Lv 5 she learns the Basara skill Rend Heaven (which is basically Ignis for Basaras).

Non-Degradable Weapons: A major change from Awakening. The way they’ve compensated for the fact that weapons are no longer limited use is through giving stronger weapons handicaps. Iron is generally the highest weapon grade you can go without running into auto-debuffs whenever you equip a weapon. Steel adds -5 to doubling an enemy unit, for example. I don’t know how I feel about this, because it really is annoying the higher you go – you’re basically crippled after using a really strong weapon, yet all the enemy units have strong weapons and there are so many of them. Dragonstone+ for example (though it does have DEF +9 and RES +7) now cannot double attack and slams you with SKL -5, SPD -4 and all stats reduced at the end of the battle. It really hurts.

scr_52_TOP_RIGHTAttack Stance and Guard Stance: So apparently the Pair Up system in Awakening was too broken. I thought it was rather handy, and there was always a sigh of relief when a partner in a pair helpfully blocked an attack for you out of nowhere – but Fates attempts to water it down slightly through separating Pair Up into AS and GS. AS is where an adjacent unit will attack with you as a pair, but they have to be adjacent and not ‘paired up into one unit’ with you in order to trigger it. Pair Up as we knew it in Awakening now only triggers GS, which adds stats to the front unit and will only trigger a block once you max out a gauge which fills up on its own. I suppose this gives it all a new dimension to strategic planning, but it’s actually quite difficult to ensure that everyone who you’d like to be adjacent is actually adjacent – and of course if you pick GS your secondary unit gains very little exp. It’s shaken up yet again by the fact that enemy units can use AS and GS too, meaning that more often than not you end up getting into 4v4 battles which is quite cool.

Dragon Vein: This turned out to be pretty cool. It felt very gimmicky at first, especially in one of the early maps where you had to use it to build a bridge to cross to an inaccessible area, but its frequency and variety in later maps made it quite a fun strategic consideration. For example, there were Dragon Vein alterations where you could cause hidden spike traps to activate in a certain location, or cause an earthquake to inflict damage to all enemies in an enclosed area. Sometimes it worked against you, such as on a map where many enemies were isolated by water and were on boats, and Dragon Vein froze the water and suddenly all the enemy units could rush you. The fact that many enemy generals (in this case, the royal Nohr siblings) could use Dragon Vein too made it very interesting, as they could then alter the terrain to their advantage.

My Castle

scr_67_TOP_RIGHTI thought the whole concept was a little contrived, if I’m going to be honest. When I first heard about the My Castle feature pre-release, I thought Kamui and friends would actually build a massive castle in between Hoshido and Nohr and use that as a base of operations while running around the map. Instead, it’s magically self-contained in the ‘Astral Realm’, where time flows at a different rate and so Kamui’s company can take their time resting up in between each battle, visiting hot springs, cooking food and rubbing faces. It felt far too separated from the rest of the story, and although it was cool to have free movement I would have preferred something a little less extravagant.

Hot Springs

scr_47_TOP_RIGHTThis function seemed completely useless. Was its only purpose so you could look at the naked 3D bodies of your units? And zoom in at them and move the camera around 360 degrees?

By the way, if you play as MaMU you leave immediately when a girl is in the bath – except if it’s your S-support. If it’s them you’ll soak in the bath together and you get to zoom in on them and all that. Cough.

Face Rubbing

scr_3_TOP_LEFTI went into my first face rubbing session (with Aqua) with rather high expectations (and thankfully no-one around me), and after all the discussion I have to admit it was a little over-hyped. It just involves… well, you rubbing their faces with the stylus and them saying some stuff every few seconds. They’re actual sentences, it’s not just moaning. I mean, there is moaning, most noticeably with your S-support (a particularly sinful line from Hinoka was something like ‘I never thought I’d be in this sort of relationship with my little brother’) but if you’re touching your S-support’s face you’ve canonically rubbed a hell of a lot more than just their face, if you know what I mean. Heh.

It’s worth noting that there are two types of face rubbing mini-games. The first is the type you can do with any unit, and this is the JP-exclusive type. You can call any unit in, of any gender (I’ve rubbed Takumi and Ryouma) into your room, and if they’re one of the three designated units that day (seemingly at random, identified with a pink heart) your support points with them will also increase. Just keep rubbing in line with the horizontal meter until the heart gauge fills up. It’s not really all that inappropriate, at least to me. And it’s not like it’s sexist or male-oriented – husbandos can be rubbed too. Rubbing Saizou was fucking hilarious. They can moan as well, and say embarrassing lines like ‘what would Mother say if she knew?’ It’s equal opportunity, you know? Face-rubbing for all.

scr_13_TOP_LEFTThe second is the one also included in NA (and presumably EU, though I don’t know how lewd it gets) and is limited to your waifu or husbando only. It’s also primarily a face-rubbing mini-game, but they blush a lot harder and a lot faster, and you can unlock new events as you continually rub them on a daily basis. For example, doing it three times unlocked an occasional possibility of me catching Hinoka sleeping on our bed when I walked in, meaning I had to poke her awake before I could do anything else. It’s kind of cute.

I can foresee it being a slight problem that the first type of face-rubbing was removed from NA, and that’s because of the no-grind, limited-resource campaign in Nohr. It’s a lot harder, and that means the extra support points you can get from a daily face-rubbing session can end up being pretty important, in all seriousness. After rubbing Ryouma’s face once I found MaMU was eligible for a C-support with him, even though we’d never actually paired up in battle before. With no opportunity to build supports outside of actual maps (since there are no skirmishes in Nohr) I can genuinely imagine the first type of face-rubbing being quite useful.

General Impressions

scr_23_TOP_LEFTI won’t give away too much, but I guess this is where I talk about my main impressions of Hoshido. I’ve heard that story-wise, Hoshido is the weakest of the three – that sounds about right given that I thought it was slightly less interesting than Awakening. Having to choose a side at the point where the story diverges actually became a conflicting experience for me, which was surprising – I knew I wanted to do Hoshido first because it was easier and would allow me to get a grasp of the changed game mechanics and units before the tactical difficulty of Nohr, but part of me did feel like picking Nohr after having spent a few chapters with the adopted family and I genuinely wasn’t sure of what to do for a bit.

Sadly the family I chose to betray didn’t really seem to share the same conflict. Except for Camilla, and that’s only after you lay waste to her, Not!Severa and Belka. I’ve always found it weird that there was such a contrast between the happy family scenes and the ‘you traitor!!!!111’ tone they all take once you pick your side – it felt like they only loved you to the extent that their country allowed. I guess it’s because they were the royal family, and so betraying the country was analogous to betraying them? Marx and Leon had no qualms with crushing Kamui without hesitation when they next met, although Elise and Camilla were a lot more unwilling to do so. What I do know, however, is that it will hurt like hell when I play through Nohr. I’ve raised the Hoshido units with care, rubbed their faces, read through their supports, cheered when they survived an enemy ambush or missed an otherwise fatal blow, paired them up and generally just got to know them better as characters. What will happen during Nohr is that I’ll have to kill them all one by one. And I married Hinoka, meaning that I’ll be forced to fight her as a boss on her very own map. Shit’s going to be heartbreaking.

Hoshido is an easy game. They really weren’t kidding when they said it was newcomer-friendly. I picked Normal/Classic because I was afraid I’d gotten a little rusty, but I found myself quickly wishing I’d gone for Hard/Classic instead. It’s really not very difficult, and the fact that you get free skirmishes (meaning lots of free money and exp) makes it even more accessible. That being said, there’s a lot of room for experimenting and the inefficiency that comes with it all – you don’t know which units are the best when first starting out, and a little leniency can be good. On the whole it feels wrong treating it as a stand-alone game, because even though it’s marketed as one it really has to be considered in conjunction with Nohr and Invisible Kingdom as a whole – it’s just one part of a three-part story, and no extra route discounts or separate physical copies will change that perception for me. So I’ll have to reserve my overall judgment of it until I’ve actually played through the other two routes, but based on just Hoshido it seems that Intelligent Systems haven’t lost their touch since Awakening.

7.5/10

Tokyo Ghoul:re Chapter 65: Heavy Steps

So he can still make that sort of expression, huh?

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Impression

Is Arima blind in one eye? I don’t think it was ever in doubt that Arima would defeat Shachi – rather, the question was exactly how far Shachi would be able to push him, and exactly what would happen to him after he was defeated. Although he appeared to lose fairly easily, Shachi may have noticed something about Arima that his past opponents have not – if he really is one-eyed, then that has not only huge symbolic implications but will also be a glaring weakness that Kaneki could use to his advantage.

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Pity Shachi is now too dead to tell everyone else about it. I think some people have pointed out that it’s been foreshadowed in the past (one of his eyes has sometimes been depicted as darker, and when we saw him look at Haise through his eyes at the end of the auction arc, the entire background apart from Haise himself was hazy and dim) but I’m really not sure how much of a stab in the dark this is. When Shachi talks of Arima’s weakness being his ‘blind spot’ this chapter though, it’s notable that the very next page has Arima slice through one of Shachi’s eyes before stabbing him in the neck and frying him with Narukami.

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It’s very possible that he’s blind. If he is though, I really do think he’s still human and that it’s nothing to do with artificial alterations or ghoul kakuhou implants or anything like that. I want Arima to have some sort of natural flaw instead of his blindness being the price he has to pay for some shounen-type increase in power level. I’m also glad we got to see a post-Aogiri Rize in that flashback. She’s sitting up in bed! Hooray!

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Banjou somehow keeps managing to lead wards despite having hardly any strength. At least he’s back! All we’re waiting for now is a proper Rize appearance, Amon and Hide. I guess he’s not Scarecrow if he’s busy elsewhere – he only ‘heard’ of the events on Rue Island after all. I wonder if Ayato is essentially asking for Banjou’s help in breaking into Cochlea again. Has he not thought of the possibility that the CCG might keep a last line of defence behind at Cochlea, in the knowledge that Aogiri might think it’d be the best time to try to break in? I feel like it’s heavily foreshadowing another meeting between Ayato and Kaneki – what I’d like is for the Arima Squad to spread themselves out over several floors of Cochlea. Arima will of course be on the bottom floor, and they’ll put Kaneki (and maybe someone useless like Ui) on the S-rate floor where Eto and maybe Hinami are. Ayato will turn up and Kaneki will let him waltz past him while pretending to put up a struggle so that Hinami will be freed and Aogiri will take the blame. It’s the best case scenario, anyway. What’s more likely in reality is that Arima is put on the S-rate floor and he ends up fighting Ayato and a rouge Kaneki as they try to keep Hinami safe.

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I didn’t even know the current Kaneki could show positive emotions. He reminded me an awful lot of pre-Aogiri Kaneki – the innocent, naive one who didn’t want to eat humans and had pacifistic desires. Ironically, it’s only now that things like ghoul rights movements have started spreading amongst human society – I felt this was pretty over the top though, especially since all this emerged from one best-selling author (who is still just a cultural figure in the end, no matter how famous they might be) outing herself as a ghoul on TV. I can understand if that led to increased divisiveness over how society treats ghouls, but having entire segments of society turn pro-ghoul just because of this is too far-fetched for me. Not that it’ll have any major impact on the story as of yet – enough is going on between the CCG, Aogiri and V.

Also, Furuta is pretty much confirmed for Souta now, right?

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Story Of Seasons: [Video Game Review]

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Today’s game review is about Story of seasons, released a while ago for the American audience but only since Christmas for the poor Europeans fellows like me.

As you may or may not know there’s some confusion with the title of the game due to some localization issues, but I believe since the game was released a while ago, that everything is all clear for Harvest Moon fans. However, because I care about YOU ( I truly do), yeah you, little guy who has no idea whatsoever on what Story Of Seasons or Harvest Moon is about, I will sum it up quickly for you.

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So Harvest moon is a rather old franchise of Japanese games and it’s basically a farming simulation type of games. However, in Japan, the games aren’t called Harvest Moon but “Bokujo Monogatari” which I think can be translated as Farm Story and are developed by Marvelous INC. Indeed, Harvest Moon is the name given by the localisation company Natsume which was translating and localizing the games for the western market. But recently, Marvelous has developed its own localization company so they don’t need Natsume anymore to release their games out of Japan. However, since the name Harvest Moon is Natsume‘s propriety, Marvelous had to come up with another name for the western market: Story of Seasons. On the other side, Natusme has released its own game called Harvest Moon: The lost Valley. The Lost Valley is, in my opinion a very shit game and you shouldn’t buy it thinking that it’s a true Harvest moon game cuz it’s not. Well, since Natsume had nothing to do with the game creation process it’s only natural that their game is shit.

Anyway, the main thing to remember is that Story of Seasons is made by the same company that made all the old and good Harvest moon games such as Friends of Mineral Town, Animal Parade, Back to Nature and more recently A new Beginning. And the Lost Valley, although it may bear the name, isn’t a proper Harvest Moon game.

Sorry the long intro, I just wanted to clarify some stuff and if I was able to save some of you from purchasing the wrong game I’m happy. If you want to see some reviews of the Lost Valley to clearly make up your mind you should go and check on YouTube, there’s plenty of good ones. I saw almost all of them when I was crying in my room, hoping for a European release of Story of Seasons while the Lost Valley was available since an eternity.

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Story:

Well… There is no story at all. That’s actually pretty funny that the game is named Story of Seasons when you know… there’s no Story, not even with Seasons. Thing is, it would have been more accurate to name The Lost Valley, Story of Seasons giving the fact that you have to restore the seasons. BUT OH WELL, I’m getting off topic here.

This opus had a back to basic feeling. It felt like “Harvest moon: Friends of Mineral Town”, not a single story nor goal behind it, but still really enjoyable. That’s funny when you know that until recently in the Harvest Moon series, the tendency was too give the game more and more story/goal. It was always the same thing though, like saving dwarfs, finding music notes, ringing bells to save the goddess but still, it was some stuff to do other than farming. A New Beginning was a bit different, you had to restore the town’s fame by following plans given to you by the major of the town. So that wasn’t a “find hidden things” type of stuff which was quite enjoyable because it saved me the trouble to look through guides to know what should I do to the find the reaming dwarfs in order to get married (YEAH I’m looking at you Harvest Moon DS). So in Story of Seasons, you arrive in the village and you farm. Yup, that’s right. No there’s nothing else to say that’s basically the plot. Your goals are to get married and to expand your farm. Voila

Art:

images (1)Almost the same as in A New Beginning. Although I used to really like the old Art in the first games, I enjoy this type of a Art style way more. Of course, there’s an “Anime” tone to the drawings but eeeh… At least it’s a bit more mature. By mature, I mean that everyone is hotter. I feel less bad about marrying guys or girls in the late games because they don’t look like 7 years old even if …. hhuuuummm I’ll keep this for the Bachelor section of the review…

Sound:

Not the best Ost of all. Really, I don’t have much to say about the Ost, there’s isn’t a lot of music in this game so… yeah, nothing extraordinary nor really bad.

Gameplay:

The farming is way too simple. There’s two level of difficulty in this game. Of course because I’m a such an Harvest Moon Pro Game Master, I went with the hardest mode, which increases the prices of everything. Even if, I had some hard times during Spring and Summer, once you’ve reached Autumn and unlock the Safari, money will start raining on you like ur some kind of PIMP or something like that.

By now, you’re probably amazed by such farming skills

And you’re like : “wow Charibo, such class when u harvest that turnip”

And I’ll be like ” yeah u know, years of practice kiddo, I’m Charibo the swaggest farmer around”

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The most annoying part of the game might be the trade depot system. In this game, you don’t ship your items via a shipping box, but you sell them to different traders for different prices. I don’t really understand why they chose to change the shipping system to that pain in the ass trade depot bullshit. It doesn’t make anything more difficult, but just makes the game longer. Because of that, at the beginning of the game, they will be days, where you have literally nothing to do. There isn’t any sellers in the trading depot, and the only things you can do is diving into the river, collecting bugs and giving them to the villagers to raise your friendship with them (because giving them real gifts is too expensive and you know, you gotta keep your money if you want to buy stuff when the sellers will come into town). So yeah, trade depot: Pain in the ass.

Street pass options: There’s also a street pass option in this game. I did not try it out yet, I might, eventually.

Story_of_seasons_3ds_Dating system: They kept the same system introduced in A New beginning. In order to marry your true one you have to raise his flower color by giving him gifts and talking. Then, when the color of the flower is blue or green, I can’t really remember, you have to give them a ring in order to become their boyfriend/girlfriend. Of course, because this narrow minded village doesn’t accept polygamy, the remaining bachelors and bachelorettes will become unavailable to you to marry but also, you won’t be able to see the rest of their flower events. I don’t like that, please remove it. This system only allows you to see the first two flower events of the bachelors and bachelorettes. How are you supposed to make your choice when you only saw two flower events? Furthermore, the flower events have the tendency to become more and more intimate as the color of the flower grows, so the first two events don’t let us see any romance. You have to start dating the guy/girl to see the remaining events. So what if, you don’t like them and finally you think that, the chief dude is actually boring and that the perfumer guy is way hotter? Well you have to break up with the chief. How do you do that? Give him things that he hates, don’t talk to him in other words make him hate you. Then, you’ll break up and you’ll have to forge another ring and give it to the other guy. That’s too long, way too long and complicated. I like the other system way more. Please go back to that.

Also, they’re no rivals. Why? Once you’re married, everything looks so empty. I always feel bad for the remaining bachelors and bachelorettes. Don’t they have the right to be happy too? I mean, Animal Parade was the best exemple to follow. After you’re married, the remaining bachelors and bachelorettes pair up and even have kids. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about, was it too complicated to make? Why did you stop that? That was a good idea and that’s one of the reasons why Animal parade is so praised. It makes everything more real, and for a simulation game, you know, that’s important.

Characters:

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The villager cast is interesting, there’s a lot of different personalities and couples with their own issues. The more you increase your friendship with them, the more you discover about those issues. Marian, is one interesting character, he’s a cross-dressing guy with a boyfriend. For once, his type of character is taken quite seriously. Although he’s quite a comic character, his preferences are never mocked and that’s great. See, we are slowly getting there…

Bachelorettes: I can’t really talk about them, nor their “dating options” since I’m playing as a girl. But if I ever play as a boy, I’ll probably go either for Licorice/Reina or Iris. Because… Yeah, I’m not really moved by the bachelorettes in this game. Although they are a lot better than the one in A New beginning. Man, the bachelorette cast was pretty shit…

Bachelors: So I’m going to say a few words about each of them in the reverse order of my preferences. In other words, I’ll start with my least favorite. Don’t get butt hurt by my subjective ranking, I usually have really bad taste in fictional characters.

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The only pussy he’s going to get

6) Cam: Honestly, by the time I’m writing this, I haven’t unlocked him yet, but I have no interest in him at all. I didn’t go for him in Tale of Two Towns because I found him really boring and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. He’s just the cute shy guy that likes flowers and cats. BORING.

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Reminds me of Makura no Danshi… Cringe

5) Raeger: I have almost the same problem with him that I have with Cam. Aka: He’s boring. He’s just standing there, being cute but without any real personality. Honestly, everything that he does is telling you not to come into his kitchen. He’s the boy next door, he’s boring. That’s it. NEXT

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Is that you Meeko? What Happened to Pocahontas?

4) Nadi: He’s quite good looking, I’ll admit. But other than that, he’s pretty canon. He’s quite the tsundere and although I enjoy a nice blushing-tsundere once in while, Nadi was just irritating.

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Available for a ride every time

3) Klaus: I was planning on going after Klaus when I first saw the pictures of the bachelors. I mean, he looks like a Nothern Prince from a Tolstoi’s novel. He’s handsome. The only thing that I don’t really like about him is the fact that he constantly brings up the topic of his age. Like ” Are you sure you want to date an old man like me?”. OH COME ON! I give you 30 years not more, you’re not THAT OLD! But, yeah, the age problem wasn’t the thing that made me re-think my intentions of dating him. That’s actually thanks to my mom that I saw where the real problem was.

” Hey mom, who do you like the best among all those guys ? “

“mmmhh… Let me see… I’ll say Klaus”

“ooooh why ? “

” He looks like your father “

….

Okay

I’ve changed my mind. He’s never going to be my husband

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Is that a sort of Power Ranger pose ?

2) Fritz: The only reason why Fritz is second in this classement is because Fritz is my homie. Seriously, I can’t think of myself dating him, but the “Bro” vibes are really strong with him. That guy is the best friend that everyone could hope for. Sorry Fritz if I’ve just friend-zoned you but you’re my awesome bruh.

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Mistel playing with balls… I need to stop making awful jokes seriously

1)Mistel:

I’ll stop you right there

What CHARIBO? Why did you go after the blond dude that looks like he’s a Boku no Pico character?

Because Mistel is the best

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God… So bold

Remember when I was saying that Reager and Cam don’t really have any personality? Well that’s not Mistel’s case. When you first see him you think “ooh okay, he’s just like a 10 year’s old prince that speaks with rather complicated words for his age”. But that dude is actually a little sadistic-manipulator-yandere-prince-jerk. He’s just the kind of guy that you can’t understand and who likes to be in charge of everything but in the meantime he’s always nice to you. He’s always surprising and therefore not boring at all. I’ve seen him getting a lot of hate because he’s quite possessive and because looks like he just learnt how to walk but that’s actually not really the case. I don’t think I’ll ever date someone with his kind of personality in real life but in a game that’s quite entertaining. In all the Harvest moon games that I’ve played I’ve never seen a more interesting bachelor than him. That’s why I chose him. He’s my little sweet-motherfucker and I love him. Also, he plays the freaking contrebas. I mean, can you think of a cooler instrument? Don’t say guitar, guitar is for pussies, contrebas is the real deal.

Also, for the age… I do believe that he is, let’s say… 18?

Actually, I don’t want to know his real age

Conclusion:

Now that I think of it, this post looks more like a Hardcore Harvest moon fan monologue rather than an objective review of the game. But eh, who said it was supposed to be objective? Harvest Moon is the franchise that made me buy a 3DS in order to play the games again (there was Ace Attorney too but let’s keep this for later).

Story Of Seasons is a true Harvest moon game, and a good one. In my opinion, it looks a bit like A New Beginning but they’ve managed to correct some of ANB’s flaws to make a better game. However, there’s still some issues with this new game. They kept the dating system, I still miss the rivals option and I’m not the biggest fan of the Trade Depot thing, the soundtrack is also quite forgettable.
Please do not think that I didn’t like it. I did, it’s not the best game ever but it remains a strong opus in the Harvest Moon series. If you want to start playing an Harvest Moon game you can easily start with this one.

Subjective Rating : 8/10

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Best quotes from the game:

Angela : ” It’s tiring being a nurse in a village with more hoes than people”

Mistel: ” … What? You like me?As in, you… LIKE like me? Like, as a man? As a man you like, like? Like, LIKE like?”

Marian: “Come now, say anything you want and big sister will listen.”

Mistel: ” We are hereby official lovers. I will never let you go now, not even if you want me to. That, my dear is how this works”

Giorgio: “Did you come to congratulate me? Thanks. With this, I’ll be shirtless on the cover of next month’s “Farmer’s Monthly” for sure”

Iris: “… Hee hee, you don’t have to be so nervous. You want to know how to make a girl happy. I’ll teach you step by step.”

Tokyo Ghoul:re Chapter 64: A Devouring Gut

“There is one more RC cell reading that those machines will not detect.”

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Impression

Rize is from V!

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I’m so glad that Ishida hasn’t forgotten about Rize. If Rize is from V, then she is definitely endgame material – whether she’ll be Kaneki’s ally or not we don’t know, but at the very least she might be someone who’ll lead him to V and establish a connection between them and him. It brings up yet another huge plethora of questions. What is Rize? An experiment? Is that why Kaiko referred to her as a ‘thing’? Does her regenerating kakuhou have something to do with that? I can see her as having been a test subject of some sort, who then escaped while she was a child (loli Rize is just too cute, by the way). I entertained thoughts of her binge eating having some relation to it all, but she probably just really likes eating humans. The fact that Rize was from V, and fled from V, also now completely changes the context of her ‘accident’. Souta might not have just had a grudge, or wanted to mess around with her as a member of the Clowns. Souta may have been acting on the orders of V to dispose of Rize as punishment for her defection. This becomes even more likely if Souta really is Furuta.

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Linking into the Rize revelation is the truth behind the RC gates and the very possible theory of Eto’s that the Washuu clan is cooperating with ghouls. I have to say, I didn’t see the RC gates thing coming at all – I think we all just assumed that Kaneki and Eto could pass through it without setting it off because they were half-ghouls. But it makes sense! The RC gates are supposed to detect RC cell readings, and if half-ghouls have kakuhous and can use a kagune then there shouldn’t be any reason why they wouldn’t trigger the alarm too. At the same time, it’s also all slightly ambiguous – when Eto says the Washuu clan (and by extension, the CCG) are cooperating with the ghouls, doesn’t she actually mean that the Washuu clan are cooperating with V? Washuu Yoshitoki wants to destroy Aogiri after all. If the RC gates are designed to ignore readings from V members, then surely that’s who Washuu are cooperating with.

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Which then begs the question – what exactly is V? Is it an organization comprised of ghouls, or both ghouls and humans? It would mean that Furuta could very well be a ghoul, because all along everyone has assumed he had to be human because he could pass the RC gates. Either that, or that he’s a one-eyed ghoul. But if the CCG took steps to waive any V member from being subject to the RC gates, then anyone could be a ghoul so long as they’re a V member. Arima could be a ghoul. Or at the very least, not entirely human. You tend to have two types of high-ranking CCG members: Special-Classes like Kuroiwa, Ui, Marude or Juuzou aren’t really hiding anything or suspicious. They’re very much employees of the CCG, and that’s it. Then you have the Washuu family, Arima and the Sunlit Garden members, who are all a little weird, eccentric and have multiple hidden agendas. Well, except for Hairu. Not that she matters though, right Ishida? Because she’s dead. Deep sobbing.

It’s interesting that the public are evenly split over Takatsuki Sen. They’ve been conditioned to think of ghouls as mindless, flesh-eating monsters – I wouldn’t be surprised if the standard human thought of ghouls in the same way that Mado treated Hinami’s mother. But now that a high-profile figure has revealed herself to be a ghoul, and dedicated her final book towards her fellow ghouls, the general population are perhaps beginning to realize that there’s not so much difference between them and the ghouls after all. It feels like Eto’s trying to rally the ghoul population completely behind her and Aogiri in an attempt to go all-out against the CCG and V – or rather, behind the One-Eyed King. In her book, it’s the OEK who leads his fellow ghouls in a rebellion. It’s like she’s trying to encourage every ghoul to unite beneath a king and fight to put an end to that oppression, and it’s all leading up to the idea that if she’s not the king herself the next best thing she can do is to assign someone as the king. Like Kaneki. Are they friends now, by the way? It seems like the wrong word to use, but they’re talking casually all the time now. It’s completely different to back when they fought at Lunatic Eclipse. They share information, he compliments her haircut, she asks him for favours – it sometimes feels like she’s leading him on, but at other times she’s genuinely teaching him things like the existence of V. It’s a really nice dynamic, I get all warm inside when he tells her “I read it” and she simply replies “I appreciate it”.

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Oh yeah, I forgot to mention Torso. He needs to die a horrible death. Thank god Ayumu made it back, but Mutsuki looks set to go through some physical torture of his own. Come to think of it, if the last chapter was the parallel for ‘I am a ghoul’, then the Yamori torture happened at about this time in the original manga, didn’t it? And Mutsuki is supposed to represent pre-Aogiri Kaneki after all. In retrospect, since Torso’s fetish is to cut off the limbs of his victim and leave them as just a torso, everything surrounding his obsession over Mutsuki was pretty much leading up to this moment (though Kaneki had all his fingers and toes cut off instead). Will Mutsuki escape on his own? Will he be saved by Urie? Will Shachi manage to run away from Arima? Will Hinami ever smile again?

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Mahou Tsukai Precure Episode 1: Cure Up! Rapapa! [First Impression]

Eva’s First Impression
Cure Up! Rapapa!

A few months before this series was announced, I was considering on taking a break with Precure since it requires commitment up to a year. But then the magic users theme came into the picture and immediately I knew there was no way I could possibly skip out on this one. Now that I have watched it, do I still feel the same?

It would be a lie if I told you I was blown away. It saddens me to say the premiere was not as amazing as I had hoped it to be (and to be fair I went into this with my usual standard expectations). Now don’t get me wrong, the premiere was good, but I felt like something was missing. While the characters had immediately appealed to me, it was lacking substance in the structure and delivery department. Mahou Tsukai Precure Ep 1 Img 0018When I refer to the lack of substance in the delivery, it means it felt flat and linear. When the villain showed up, while Mirai sensed danger and it was nice to see her follow her instincts, it still lacked the sense of urgency. It continued like this as the girls are dangling from their broom, and unable to fight back, all they can shout is, “Cure Up! Rapapa! Get away from us, monster!” It was a weird scene because: on one hand it was funny due to how silly it was, but on other, the silliness took priority over the sense of urgency. In fact to be frank, the scene was boring. It was too linear, there is supposed to be a spike somewhere and I didn’t feel it. Maybe it was because they dragged it up far too long, or the enemy remained too passive for too long- actually now that I mention it, the enemy was DEFINITELY way too passive. He was standing there doing absolutely NOTHING. He has his Desirean but what did he do with it? Knock the girls off their broom… and that was it. He just sat there and laughed at them. Had he been more threatening, then the girls’ Cure Up! Rapapa! Get away from us, monster!” followed by their awakening would have had a bigger impact and there would have probably been a drastic improvement.

Mahou Tsukai Precure Ep 1 Img 0009The saving grace for this premiere was the fun and peppy dynamic between Mirai and Riko. Together they were thoroughly entertaining and adorable to watch. Mirai’s character is shown to be very fun and enthusiastic towards magic (even more so now that she meets a magic user is broad daylight). Watching her be super excited and eager to talk to Riko was cute. Riko however, is the opposite. She is more shy, clumsy, and she too is an absolute sweetheart. She is not very good at magic, and struggled to fly solo, but had a vast improvement when she was partnered up with Mirai. The two girls are connected by what I think is a pendent or locket, (I can’t tell to be honest) which was apparently has one of the many Wrinkle Stones (what a weird name, I had actually thought it was a typo and was supposed to be Twinkle but then I realized that was it, it’s Wrinkle hahahaha!) and Mofurun (a bear Mirai’s grandmother had given to her when she was born). It is refreshing for a change not to have a “fairy mascot” involved- but since this is MAGIC themed, there will be fairies I’m sure. Also Mofurun is freaking adorable.

In next week’s episode I am hoping they will establish whether or not Magic Users are known for their existence in the uh, “standard” world. Mirai’s mother doesn’t believe in magic, but I most certainly am convinced her grandmother does and knew some magical people. I ask this because I found it strange how Riko was casually flying around town, and in no instance has she made it sound like she can only be seen by some, implying magic is kind of mainstream. There is a magic academy, much like Harry Potter you take the train station (heheheheheheh, classic train stations heheheeheheh…) and off to the Magic Kingdom you go~. Since Riko has taken her there for further assistance on how they have suddenly become Precures (Cure Miracle and Cure Magical). Looks like Riko might get in trouble though, especially if she actually wasn’t supposed to be flying around the ‘standard world’.

Mahou Tsukai Precure Ep 1 Img 0027The animation was definitely solid, and I actually liked how simple the transformation scene was. It was absolutely stunning!

I am also a huge fan of their precure character designs, it probably has to do with the fact both girls look a bit more mature than their true selves, making their ‘disguise’ a lot more convincing compared to some others in the past. It looks like the girls will also have multiple outfits as part of their power-ups which makes me think back to Happiness Charge! Here’s to hoping the quality and purpose for it will be strong because I remember it being a hit or miss.

The Opening Song is really addictive, mainly because the the show’s magic words: Cure Up! Rapapa! (I am obsessed with it already, SO CUTE! I hope I don’t get tired of it too quickly…) Mahou Tsukai Precure Ep 1 Img 0028The Ending Song however did not appeal to me as much, but the CG for the ED Theme was pretty solid- which is to be expected considering how vastly they have improved over the course of the years and putting all their resources and quality to constantly improve the ED Theme’s CG Sequence. In fact, would be really nice if they were to bring forward that quality to their future (inevitable) CGI scenes.

While I am a huge fan of the theme with magic users, the premiere failed to make me think, “I WANT TO COVER THIS!”. Usually the first episode gives me a sense of whether or not the series is going to click with me when it comes down to picking it up. This one, not so much, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were because Go! Princess Precure has raised my standards when it comes to Precure’s villains. Regardless, as per my usual rules for series with 45+ episodes, I can guarantee you I will be covering this show for minimum of three episodes to see where it goes. From there on out, I will decide around episode ten whether or not I will commit myself to picking it up. I am crossing my fingers for improvements in the coming weeks ahead!

Possibility of Blogging: Moderate – Guaranteed to cover min. 3 – 10 episodes to see where it goes~
Possibility of Watching: Guaranteed Even if I weren’t covering it, you bet I would be watching it

See you next week!

[Manga Mondays] Usagi Drop

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Title: Usagi Drop (Bunny Drop)
Author: Yumi Unita (Story & Art)
Genres: Josei, Slice of Life, Comedy-Drama
Published: 2005 – 2011 (magazine); 2010 – 2014 (manga) [Complete]
Volumes: 10
Japanese Publisher: Feel Good magazine (original run); Shodensha (tankoubon format)
English Publisher: Yen Press
Available to Purchase in English?: Yes (Amazon / Indigo / Barnes & Noble)

This week I wanted to introduce Usagi Drop. It is another series from my shortlist of all-time favourite manga.

Usagi Drop is like nothing else I have read before. It centers around a single thirty year old bachelor named Daikichi, whose grandfather one day passes away. At the wake Daikichi meets Rin, a five year old girl who is apparently his grandfather’s illegitimate daughter. When the rest of his family shuns Rin out of shame and embarrassment, Daikichi gets pissed off and steps up to take care of Rin. The series explores his sudden transition from a workaholic bachelor to a single father. Along the way Daikichi learns how to balance childcare and daycare, gets parenting tips from his coworkers, finds Rin’s birth mother, and deal with the changes in his relationship with Rin as they both get older. Initially Usagi Drop is very much a child-centered series, with many of the plots revolving around topics like fatherhood and issues at school. In later volumes, the series becomes more about changes in friendships and relationships, and life beyond high school.

There have been both an anime and a live-action film created based off the manga, but while I can’t speak for the live-action film because I haven’t seen it, the anime primarily differs from the manga in that the anime only covers up to volume four.

Why is this? Well, the manga is part of the josei genre for a reason, let me put it that way. If you’ve read a wide variety of manga, or seen anime from many different genres, you may have noticed that certain trends or topics are not considered as taboo in Japan as they are in the West. (Anyone else remember the teacher from Card Captor Sakura who was in a relationship with Sakura’s friend Rika in the manga?! (????)????? ) And from volume five onwards, starting when Rin is a fifteen year old high school student, certain events happen towards the end of the series which not all readers may be comfortable with. usagi-drop-1315014

Indeed if one reads the Amazon reviews for the last 2-3 volumes of the manga, they will see that many readers are turned off of the chain of events which sum up the final three volumes of the manga. I personally do not mind this plot twist; in fact it can be debated that my second-favourite series, Saiunkoku Monogatari, has a similar situation with two of its characters. But to each their own, right?

So if readers choose to read Usagi Drop, because of the way the series is structured they have the option of stopping partway through the series without feeling like they’re missing much of the content. One can either read the first few volumes of Usagi Drop and enjoy the tales of child!Rin and Daikichi (as the anime portrays), or they can read the series through to its end.

The art style of the manga is rather simplistic, but I think that gives the series a certain amount of charm. It’s easy to read and it can make some things like facial expressions and body movements rather comical. The flip side is that this style can sometimes appear a little rough or hurried.

Between the art and the story arcs themselves, I found myself really caring about the characters and what happened to them, which is a mark of a really good series in my book. Above all else, to me this series is about family and people finding their way to one another through unconventional means.

My Score: 9/10
Do I Recommend This Title?: Yes, though I’d recommend it to readers who consider themselves open-minded or able to deal with more mature content, just to be on the safe side. I will say that prior to reading this series, I hadn’t bought actual physical copies of a manga in a long time, and I enjoyed Usagi Drop enough that it made me brave buying something from Amazon for the first time. It’s just that good. Overall it’s a cute series, and the parent-child relationship between Daikichi and Rin will warm your heart.

Tokyo Ghoul:re Chapter 63: Tree of Burial

“I am a ghoul.”

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Impression

I don’t think anyone had any doubt that this parallel would be here. It was unclear as to what form it would take (whether it’d be Kaneki proclaiming something or otherwise) but it turned out to be Eto outing herself to human society. It’s interesting that, as a ghoul, she revealed she was Takatsuki to Aogiri – and now, as Takatsuki, she’s revealing that she’s a ghoul. I have no idea what she’s playing at here, but I’m sure it’s not just a publicity stunt for her latest and final book. If that wasn’t a death flag, I don’t know what is. And speaking of death and books, poor Hinami has had her execution date decided – and if you remember from way back at the start of the story, Takatsuki’s book ‘The Hanged Man’s McGuffin’ was all about prisoners on death row living within an enclosed facility. Ishida strikes again.

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Kaneki’s also been duped, it seems. I would have liked to have seen more of their little ‘date’ (I don’t really ship them, not least of all because Eto’s probably going to die, but I can’t deny that it really did look like a date) but Eto must have planned the entire thing out – including asking Kaneki to accompany her up on stage. This is the first time we’ve seen the current Kaneki with this expression on – he really, really didn’t expect her to say that. It’s his ‘oh shit’ face. What is she going to say next? That the man next to her is the One-Eyed King? Is she even going to be allowed to say anything next? Why did the CCG even let Kaneki and Eto out by themselves? Takatsuki is very high-profile in human society, they definitely must know something about it all. Is it some sort of bigger plan involving V? Every single faction was somehow watching the broadcast (and so they’ve all seen Kaneki) on TV, and this is going to throw some doubts into people’s perceptions of exactly what a ghoul is and their place in society.

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Also, for a secret Illuminati organization V has a rather flashy set of headquarters. It’s behind a massive door with a huge winged emblem on it (I know this means something, but I can’t recall what – it’s not CCG’s dove is it?) and the entire floor has a massive V drawn on it. It’s like some sort of catwalk stage. It was only a single double-page spread, but we learnt a lot – that Furuta is from the Sunlit Garden, that everyone knows Kaneki is Kaneki again and that Kaiko is the superior of both Furuta and Arima. Which is pretty amazing, if we assume that power levels play a factor in determining hierarchy. As a Rize sympathizer I’m not happy that Arima will be sent after her, but it’s pretty funny that V thinks that Kuzen is dead. What happened to Kaiko telling him he couldn’t escape? In fact, what even is Kaiko? Why is he still alive and apparently still the same age?

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Assuming they have just as many feelers out in the various factions as the Clowns do, you’d have thought that whoever they have stationed in Aogiri would have realized that something was up with the huge numbers of Owls being produced. Watch how Takizawa and Shikorae don’t actually eat Hachikawa and we see an H-Owl coming back to torment the CCG in the future.

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Finally, I already knew this, but Ishida really is a bastard. He seems to have this fetish for killing off cute girls, and that doesn’t sit well with me. With Hairu, it felt like he created her for the sole purpose of killing her off. Even Minami from Jack wasn’t spared. Hinami’s about to die. Irimi died. Eto’s going to die. Rize might die now that Arima’s after her. Touka is for all intents and purposes as good as dead given how irrelevant she’s been throughout the whole of :re. Now he brought back Hachikawa (not a cute girl though) and Ayumu for no good reason other than to discard them and set up a meeting between Torso and Mutsuki. I presume Ayumu is dead, or at the very least close to drowning. You know, he could have killed her perfectly well without showing her face. He could have. Then I wouldn’t have known any better. I’d have been mildly disappointed but that’s it. But instead, he has Torso pull up her mop hair and reveal a super adorable face that did nothing wrong before slamming her head against a rock wall and throwing her into the ocean.

Thanks, Ishida.

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NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NOT AGAIN PLEASE

Go! Princess Precure Episode 50 [FINAL]

Wow it ended just like that… I’m not used to these type of endings in this genre.

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Oh my heart. I have been swept away by the sea of emotions. The ending was a bittersweet one. What I appreciated the most about it was how they didn’t sugarcoat anything and were considerably realistic. Having completed their purpose, the dress-up keys goes into hibernation to recharge and prepare for the next battle in the future. This meant the girls had to return their keys as they belonged in the Hope Kingdom. It broke my heart when they revealed they will no longer be able to travel between worlds, because the two worlds were never connected in the first place- in fact I was pretty upset about it. But being worlds apart was just one part of it. In order to pursue their dreams, most of the group had parted ways in the spring. Kirara is off to Paris to pursue her dream to become a Top Model, Minami travels to where her marine biologist friend is to study alongside her, Towa and Kanata reunites with their parents and return their duties. Haruka and Yui are the only two who probably managed to stay together till they graduated from Noble Academy. Yui has successfully published her picture-book of the story of the Princess Precures, staying true to every detail- making a little girl sad for the same reasons we have. Haruka had decided she will become her own princess, though it is a vague when it comes to career paths, we know she had successfully done so. (I would presume she would specialize something in the flower/garden business due to her passion of flowers).

Go! Princess Precure Ep 50 Img 0029If you asked me which farewell was the saddest, I would have to tell you it was every, single, one of them. My eyes were all watery when Towa broke down saying goodbye to her friends, knowing she might not be able to see them again or for a very long time. The same applies to Haruka saying goodbye to Kanata. She put on a strong face, telling him the same thing she had told the girls, as long as their hearts as connected, they will surely see each other again. (THEY BETTER!!!! OTHERWISE THAT WOULD BE JUST TOO CRUEL!). One of the cuter moments of the episode was probably seeing Shut and Cloth being true to themselves and I guess might actually get a job if they haven’t already to work at Noble Academy’s secret garden.

I cannot tell you how delighted I was to see, from the get go, the fight wasn’t over yet. I absolutely loved how we saw another form, this time Dyspear and Close merged into one (which I guess you could say had a bit of romantic underlining there, at least that what I had sensed). Once more Toei Animation experimented further with how else could they raise their bar when it comes to animating fights, making this one more detailed and combat focused compared to the last fight where the girls couldn’t do much until they received their power up.

Go! Princess Precure Ep 50 Img 0014I found it both important and refreshing how in this story, the conclusion to this battle is not wiping out the other, but acknowledging and accepting both Despair and Dreams can and will always exist. Haruka approached Clospear with intentions to simply talk it out, and find a way to end this eternal battle. While doing so, as she tries to understand despair, what creates it and how can she make it stop? But then she realizes, despair will never disappear. Happy things and sad things come in cycles, it is the way of life, and it is what can make people stronger. When she tells him she acknowledges both will exist for all eternity, he agree with her and comes to the conclusion there is no point of fighting each other anymore. This is part is huge because for once, this isn’t about the villain undergoing redemption or being eliminated, it is about acceptance and acknowledge they can in fact co-exist. Sure the conclusion is fairly underwhelming, but it makes sense. Furthermore, we see the girls experience grief of parting ways, and how it is okay to feel that way, as long as you can get back onto your feet!

As the story comes to a close, the epilogue jumps into the future, showing us the girls grown up and continue to follow their dreams. Haruka has grown up into a beautiful woman, reminiscent of her appearance as Cure Flora. We see them all holding a clear dress-up key, born from their hearts. It is left to the viewer’s interpretation of whether or not the keys can be used to bring them back together again- I know I would like to think that. I think the writers had also left it up to interpretation of the final scene where Haruka stands on the hill and looks back and smiles, perhaps reuniting Kanata once more. (You know if they had put him in, it would have killed me). Endings where the viewers can create their own interpretation can be fun sometimes!

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Final Thoughts

Go! Princess Precure is now the second precure series I have done a full coverage on. Without its strong story that resonated with the viewers (both young and old), and the charming characters whom most of us can relate to, I don’t think I would have been able to write an entry every week. What I loved the most about Go! Princess Precure was the life lessons about Dreams it had provided and how it was able to connected with the audience on a personal level. Multiple times, their messages had resonated with me, and it was something I greatly cherished that because for the past few years, despair was getting the better of me and was eating me up inside. This series addressed the key components and struggles we all undergo while pursuing our dreams. It served as a major eye-opener for those who lost sight of their dreams, forgot what motivated them and/or why they wanted to pursue it. Most of the time, the answer are right under our nose, but the problem is, many of us forget about it without even realizing it. There are all sorts of reasons responsible for causing us to forget. It could being too preoccupied with work/studies, overwhelming stress, self-doubt, depression, tragedies, sickness, the list goes on… And when we forget these things (often the simplest things), the hardest part is trying to remember them. Some can recall what it was faster than others, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone. It can take days, months, sometimes even years. This is the reason why this series struck a chord in me. I strongly advise anyone who is experiencing this kind of struggle to watch Go! Princess Precure. I can’t guarantee it will help you, but I can at least tell you, it did for me with a struggle I had been experiencing for years. I found my answer in Episode 39, so thank you Go! Princess Precure, for helping me remember my dream and the reason of drive which fueled it. <3

Overall Score: 9/10

Story/Plot: 9/10 – A strong story with a powerful message resonating with the audience.
Characters & Development: 9/10 – Relateable and charming characters, each one of them experienced thorough character development.
Animation Quality: 9/10 – They were pretty darn consistent with the animation quality with this series. It is also worth appreciating how much details they have put into creating more dynamic animation in their fights.
Original Soundtrack: 8/10 – Worth noting the ED Theme songs were really good, but the overall soundtrack was a bit bland to me.

Recommendation: HIGH -Thoroughly enjoyable series from start to finish, and is strongly recommended for anyone who is struggling with their own dreams. It may provide the clarity you need.
Extra Note: I will try to get my cousin’s kids to watch it once they are old enough though, ha ha ha.

Goodbye Go! Princess Precure, you was a fun and special series to cover, you will be missed.
It is now time to pass the baton to Mahou Tsukai Precure, so I will see you all next week!

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