Friday, June 13, 2014

YAMISHIBAI: JAPANESE GHOST STORIES

Yamishibai is a picture-story style of animation whose motif is surrounded and based off the rumors, and urban legends throughout the history of Japan.
[Crunchyroll description]

Original Japanese Title: Yamishibai (Dark Play)
Dubbed by: There is no dub, you can watch it subbed on Crunchyroll.
Animation: ILCA
Manga adaption?: No, but the stories are based on Japanese urban legends.
Rating: (not rated)

{I, the reviewer, give Yamishibai, 9 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

Now, this is sure one unique anime, if you can even call it anime. Yamishibai is not exactly animated, but is told in the style of Japanese kamishibai storytelling (paper theater). The artwork in the series is very good and unique, sometimes the style is better in other episodes, but in general it gets the job done and creates for a unique atmosphere.

Each episode is about almost 5 minutes each, so you can easily marathon it. While some might not like the "animation" and style-choice, stick around a few episodes and you'll be pleasantly surprised. The introduction with an old man telling children the ghost stories and the way it is conducted seems like it is also geared toward children, so the family can enjoy this series if you like ghost stories and are interested in Japanese urban legends. That doesn't mean you'll not get scared, by any means, many of the stories are creepy and smack you in the face sometimes with a jump-scare! This proves that excessive gore and blood aren't needed to freak you out; Yamishibai does what a lot of horror lacks, that is, providing a creepy atmosphere and then really scaring you by the story's revelation or ending. So it was nice not having to worry about blood rivers and entrails being pulled out (the worst the series gets is a strange, fleshy creature in episode 6).

Be sure to pay attention to what characters are moving; there were some points where I was confused as to who was talking (mainly in episode 10), other than that, that's really my only complaint since they have no lip flaps.

While some stories are obviously better executed than others, the series as a whole managed to at least creep me out, but often times my eyes would widen and I did sometimes jump. It builds tension as things start winding down to the end, which is exactly what I like in a scary story! Plus the fact that these are based on Japanese urban legends makes it really interesting. I highly look forward and anticipate season 2 of the summer season!

Recommend?
YES! If you like ghost stories, and are interested in learning about Japanese urban legends, you'll enjoy this! Especially if you're looking for something fresh in terms of animations.

I certify this *ANIME NEWCOMER WORTHY* as well, it's not the traditional anime-style, it's an animated form of the paper theater storytelling method and the art-style for it is nice. It's also safe enough where kids who are old enough can watch, so it can be enjoyed by the whole family.

[VIEWING PLEASURE]

[MUSIC]
The music fit the atmosphere quite well. While I can't say the pieces were memorable, a lot of horror scores aren't but they do their job. However, the ending song appears to be sung by Vocaloud Hatsune Miku, which was interesting.

[SUB VS. DUB]
There is no dub, but you can watch it subbed on Cruncyroll. The voice acting is pretty good. There were only a few times it felt stiff, but most of the time it was done pretty well.

[MOVIES/MANGA]
None.

[RELATED TITLES]
None.

[DVD EXTRAS]
I watched this on Crunchyroll.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
In the sixth episode, there are some uses of "d" and "h", but that's about it.

[TOBACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
None.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
None.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
Some episodes have a little bit of blood, but that's usually it. If someone is attacked or about to die, it usually ends before you see it occur. The worst case would be in episode 6 when (*SPOILER* You see this disgusting fleshy thing on the train, with misplaced eyeballs and it wraps around the man).

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
Some episodes have ghosts and monsters in them, one episode has a ritual where you have to laugh all night 'lest a creature appears, and another episode involved a priestess trying to cure a girl from the wrath of their ancestors.

*EPISODE LIST*
1. The Talisman Woman
2. Zanbai
3. The Family Rule
4. Hair
5. The Next Floor
6. The Overhead Rack
7. Contradiction
8. The Umbrella Goddess
9. Cursed
10. The Moon
11. Video
12. Tomonari-kun
13. Tormentor

Thursday, May 29, 2014

LITTLE MUSHROOM'S STORY

It was fun to spend my days surrounded by my dear friends. But time and people change everything...
[Smackjeeves description]

Manga-Ka: Hetiru
Distributor: Online exclusive
Format: Left-to-right
Rating: PG

~*~Click Here To Read~*~

{I, the reviewer, give Little Mushroom's Story, 5 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

This was....an interesting story to say the least. It is about a girl, but to be more specific, she is a mushroom. I can't really say much without ruining the story, but all the dialogue is the mushroom girl narrating her life and a tragedy occurs near the end.

While I find the concept very interesting, the story lacked the depth and intrigue it could of had. The art in this story is AMAZING; I love the outfit designs and the detail and screentone. The story concept itself may be weird, but unique and catches your eye. The storytelling and shortness, however, is this manga's downfall. At only 12-page, it is pretty short and doesn't deliver much or leave much of an impact like it should have by the way the mangaka set it up. The writing seems a bit odd, but I can give a pass on this since it was not written by a native English speaker.

Overall, the art is cute, and the concept is very interesting, and while the idea seems full of potential, the actual execution could use some work next time, with more fleshing out.

RECOMMENDED?
It's worth a look for the interesting idea and pretty art.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
None.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
None.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
None.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
Not really.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
Nothing, other than the fact the mushrooms are alive I guess?

JUNIPER'S KNOT

A short kinetic novel crafted in a month by Dischan, Juniper’s Knot is a story told from dual perspectives: that of a demon and a boy. It begins on an autumn morning in a silent town.
[Description from official site]

Developers(s): dischan
Rating: 13+

~*~Click Here For Download~*~

{I, the reviewer, give Juniper's Knot, 8 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

Back in 2012 I think it was, the visual novel team dischan, the same dischan that was working on a title called Cradle Song (now seems to become non-existent now, so I am guessing is cancelled) released this title for the annual NaNoRenO. For those unaware of what NaNoRenO is, it's a game jam where you make a Ren'Py visual novel in the month of March. And let me tell ya, this is a top tier free visual novel, and is sometimes hard to believe it was done in a month!

It is a story of a demon and a boy, who both remain nameless throughout the entire story. The demon has been imprisoned for so long, even she does not remember, until one day she hears a sound stir in her dwelling place. A boy who has lost his way finds himself before the demon, and he's automatically knows she's a fiend, as they call them. The two begin to engage in conversation, the boy untrusting, and the demon somewhat playful and toying. However, as they talk and spend their time, being with the boy stirs something inside her, what is it? Is it hatred? Is it not wanting to be alone? As for the boy, he knows he cannot trust a fiend, but seeing her like this... does he feel sorrow for her?

To be honest, I can't believe I have skipped out on this story for so long! Being from dischan, you'd think I'd jump at the chance to download this as soon as it came out since I enjoyed the Cradle Song preview, and in fact, dischan is how I discovered Ren'Py in the first place. What actually got me to download it now was I started a "VN Club" on an anime message board, and someone suggested we play Juniper's Knot next, and I decided to make that our Week 2 reading. And I am happy with it. Sure, it is not perfect, by all means, but amazing for a month's work!

I was impressed with the number of CGs this had. Usually NaNoRenO novels have little to no CGs, but this is one of the rare few that has more than one would expect. The dialogue is excellent and intriguing to read, though some sentences do flow oddly at times and there may have been a mistake or two, but being under time constraints, they got it to as professional and polished as humanly possible. Even the menu interface is customized, instead of the default version. But what really amazed me was...THE MUSIC! It appears to be all original, tailored for Juniper's Knot, which is quite a feat and really unique and rare to find in NaNoRenO projects. If you didn't know this was a NaNoRenO entry, you wouldn't have guessed.

Overall, I was impressed and enjoyed it more than I thought. Not just the art and music, but the story and the two characters. You get to see through both their POVs, but you see through the demon's probably the most. Their interaction with each other were very interesting, especially when the demon started to devulge more details about herself. My only disappointment, however, would be that one detail was never revealed, but that probably wasn't the point of the story anyway, though I'm still curious about it. All in all, this was an excellent read I wouldn't mind reading over, and I hope to see more from dischan!

RECOMMENDED?
It's Kinetic, not too long, and free, why not give it a go? It's a top-tier free novel on top of that, and you won't believe it was made in a month~

PLAYER'S COMFORT

[MUSIC]:
Superb! It's all original music for this novel alone, and works quite well. I especially loved the music used for intense, emotional parts. My favorite track is probably "Bleeding".

[ARTWORK]:
Excellent! The most distinctive part of the art that makes it dischan is probably the way of the coloring, that's what really feels eye-catching to me how smooth and blended it looks, almost as if it is traditionally colored.

[INTERACTION]:
None, this is a Kinetic novel.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
"h" is used most, some "d" but often times in the actual useage of the word. During's the demon's lament, she uses some harsh, more foul words like a certain "c" word, and both "b". I think there was a couple name taken in vain, too.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
None.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
The demon tells of a story of a girl she seemed to fancy and loved, the "press close when no one would see" seems to hint a romantic kinda love, and even the boy mentions thinking she "fancied her", but other than that it isn't quite confirmed and might not be in that way, who knows. It is also briefly mentioned this girl was raped by some men. The demon's outfit shows a cleavage line, but is more tasteful than alluring.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
*SPOILERS!!!* More descriptive than anything, when the demon tells the boy of her killing spree, she describes quite in detail how she wiped out an entire town. And trust me, it was gruesome, with the mentions of pulling out guts and all that. The only shown violence is in a CG where she demonstrates how she cannot leave the circle she is bound to, and how it burns her hand, which mostly just looks red and engulfed in flames.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
This is a story about a fiend girl, in other words, a demon, bound to a circle in a lonely, desolate place. If she tries to leave, she will burn. *SPOILER* The only way out is if she switches with another life, and the boy finds a way around that by planting a tree.

SEPIA TEARS

Sepia Tears is a love story.

There are no robots or vampires, for better or worse. It's about a high schooler named Mark, an ordinary protagonist with a memory that he tries very hard to forget. It's also about a girl named Myra who knows more about him than any stranger should, and who reminds him uncannily of his past.

Together, they search for a storybook romance and realize that love doesn't always bloom as neatly as it ought to.
[Description from official website]

Developers(s): Team NEET
Rating: All Ages

~*~Click Here For Download~*~

{I, the reviewer, give Sepia Tears, 9 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

Yet again, another large file sized visual novel, this time a slice of life by Team NEET. This appears to be their first work, and I sure hope it isn't their last, because I highly enjoyed this novel and have played through it TWICE already, and plan to go on a third run.

We begin with a narration about winter and nostolgia, then a dream with a girl who introduces herself as "the girl you wish you never met". You take the role of Mark, who has otaku for a little sister (Rin) and best friend (Mark), and another friend (Lillian) who tries to get him to study more. However, the most interesting character is a mysterious girl named Myra who he doesn't remember, but she sure seems to know a lot about him. There is something vaguely familiar, but you can't figure it out, and Myra promises to stay with you until you "regains your lost memories".

Despite what it may seem, this really is a slice-of-life, but the way it is written feels like there is something more mystical about it. The vagueness of some scenes are well played, with the first dream and the first meeting with Myra being the best written sequences in the story. Aside from the main plot, the antics and fun otaku-ness of Rin and Lukas are entertaining and make for the best comic relief. Sometimes even Myra has crazy antics, and her knowledge about Mark makes you want to find out exactly who she is and why she can appear and disapepar so easily without a trace. All the vagueness comes to a conclusion that is most likely impossible to guess. I loved how the story played out, the conclusion, the characters, and especially how the dialogue was written. There was such a feeling of more for such a simple story. The art and music was befitting for its mystical simplicity, and I found myself entranced, wanting to finish the novel to the end. Another thing I enjoyed was how clean this story was. Even with some of the innuendo, nothing was ever blatent and some of this stuff was just references to the cliches in the VN world.

Now, anything bad I can point out? Not with the game itself, but a couple of problems. One bonus CG never unlocks and I am sure I have played this game with every possibility in choice (I saved at all choice spots and have played them all). Also, if you don't want to get spoiled, DO NOT open the "games" folder within this game's main folder; they have appeared to have forgotten to archieve their assets.

Anyway, I was pretty enchanted by this story. While the adjectives "masterpiece" and "breath-taking" is not what you would use for this story, "beautiful" and "strangely mystical" I think would fit here. It's simple, but with an air of mystery to it, but it is as the description says; there are no robots or vampires, for better or for worse. And I say for better in this case! I look forward to see more from Team NEET in the future. This game proves, at a whopping but worth it file size of 600MB, again how free visual novels can be just as good as some of the commercial ones. I wouldn't mind playing a sequel even~

RECOMMENDED?
Yes, highly! You can't go wrong with a free story, and this was a pleasant surprise.

PLAYER'S COMFORT

[MUSIC]:
The music was really relaxing and pretty, perfect for the game's atmosphere. I really enojyed it, actually.

[ARTWORK]:
Very nice. I like how it still had a bit of rough, slightly amatuerish style to it, but it was still up to par and I guess would be considered "semi-professional". The character designs were nice, chibi scenes were adorable, and the CGs were lovely~

[INTERACTION]:
This is more of what they call a Linear Novel; while there are occasional choices, you will still arrive at the same ending. There are a couple of "bad ends" which ends the game in a black screen and don't really count much for endings.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
A few "d" and "h", but that's about it.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
None.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
Minor innuendo. Mark's friend Lukas loves to play visual novels, and one time tells Mark "it's art, not porn!" (referring to H-Games). Mark's little sister, Rin, sometimes acts in a way referencing to Imouto routes (in some bishoujo games, the little sister is obtainable) but only because she is an otaku and Mark doesn't care nor remotely ever has those kinda feelings toward her. When Rin meets Myra, she thinks she is his secret girlfriend and wants him to devulge all the (non-existent) dirty details.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
Other than Rin practicing one of her "martial arts" moves on Mark in a chibi CG, none.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
*SPOILER SPOILER* While the ending has a logical conclusion, on one possible path to the ending, one of the choices you make throws you back a little earlier in the story to try again, so it almost feels like you time-traveled, but if you keep making the same choice you'll just loop until you make the other one or choose the choice that leads you to a dead end. *END SPOILER*

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

COFFEE RUSH

The Smokestack Coffee Company is polluting the town with bad coffee. Open your own coffee shop and take back the town. Swap coffee beans, milk, sugar and other tasty ingredients to prepare a menu full of tasty blends. Hold on tight for a fully wired rollercoaster ride through seven neighborhoods, each with its own unique cast of 12 characters and 50 challenges. Upgrade your shop, recipes, treats and bonuses. Need a jolt? Load up with caffeine and bolt around with three skill levels.
[Description from Wildtangent Games]

Platform: PC
Developer(s): Anarchy Games
Rating: E

{I, the reviewer, give Coffee Rush, 9 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

I never really liked coffee, even when I was able to drink it. It's bitter and gross unless you douse it with sugar, which only makes it the more dangerous. But enough about that, let's talk about this fun little casual game called Coffee Rush. As you can guess by the title, obviously it is about coffee. And let me tell you, it is FUN!

Even a simple game needs a plot, right? Well, this one has it! A man is runninf a terrible coffee shop called Smokestack, where he makes the lowest quality coffee and gains maximum profit. He's already taken over the map, running his competition into the ground (not sure how, if his coffee sucks). That's where you come in, opening a new coffee shop that is quality, and the goal is to run Smokestack out of the city. You begin with a small, humble coffee shop that sells a typical cup of joe, and your usual customers start out as cops and nurses (stereotypes, yes, but come on, it's true!)

Now, this is a game within the Match 3 genre, but of course with its own unique twist. Your "match 3" parts are ingredients for the customer's coffee recipie. You earn tokens while playing, which is used to buy things such as treats to keep your customers patient, and more coffee recipies to make more money. The game gets harder by the day with bigger goals and more kinds of coffee to serve, and you will attract more and more different kinds of customers. You begin with everyday people, like the soccer mom, drill sargent, hippie, body builder, etc.! but then soon attract the rich and famous like a disco legend, gorgeous movie star, an heiress, and even a mobster!

For such a simple game, it is ADDICTING! If you can't get addicted to the real stuff (like me), you'll get addicted to this game, trust me. It's one of the most fun match 3 games I have ever played, and is a nice change from my usual battle gaming. What makes this game so enjoyable is probably the customer's patience meter. When the meter gets lower and lower, they begin to get MAD! Perfect for a game about coffee, right? The voice acting in this game is HILARIOUS! Everyone matches their characters, and although it's not good for your scores, you'll find yourself laughing and smiling throughout the game since it is pretty funny when a customer gets mad, or worse, storms out since they can't stand waiting any longer!

The graphics in this game isn't spectacular, but the art style and simplicity works for what it is. The characters are flatly animated chibi that are often pretty cute in their own way. Gameplay is simple, matching up 3 ingredients that are used for a character's order. It can get pretty intense when you have A LOT of customers rolling in, though. It has enough levels to keep you entertained and challenged the further you go, and three different "expresso" modes (difficulty). The game sadly has a lack of music, so the soundtrack is repetitive, but strangely doesn't get annoying like you think it would. The game seems pretty stable, I haven't run into any errors really thus far, except one time where you literally COULD NOT match 3, you hear a weird sound and then you just see your scores (luckily I made the Today's Goal, so I didn't lose). This only happened to me ONCE and I've played this game a lot, usually the program always makes sure you can match 3.

Overall, the game is fun, with a simple plot, fun characters, and fairly challenging and relaxed gameplay that is good for your mind in a way. It's good to get your brain working a little bit, as well as speed~

RECOMMENDED?
YESSS!!! If you love Match 3s, this is one of the best! If not, give it a try anyway. Trust me, you'll have fun!

PLAYER'S COMFORT

[MUSIC]:
Repetitive, yet it works. With only a one song for each different part of the game (the cutscene, the map, the shopping, and the actual gameplay), it surprisingly doesn't get annoying.

[GRAPHICS]:
Cartoony, with cheesy-looking chibi characters, but it's cute and works for the game.

[DIFFICULTY]:
This comes with three different "Expresso" modes. I've already begun on Double Expresso and there is a noticeable difference in difficulty. But even on just the easy Expresso mode, it can get pretty challenging when a customer loses patience, you have nothing left to increase it back, and the match 3s of ingredients you need for their order are not appearing for you. So as you go on, the game does get harder with more complex coffee recipies, longer store hours, and bigger money goals.

[LEVELS]:
Each day is a level, and there's about 50 of them. You have about five or more locations, such as the suburbs, tech city, etc.! until you get to downtown. The locations just have the shop background look different, and you unlock new characters along the way.

[GAMEPLAY]:
Very simple gameplay. This is just anothet twist in the Match 3 genre of games. Instead of simply matching 3 gems, instead you match 3 ingredients which are used for different kinds of coffee, suchs as ice cubs, thunderbolts (caffeine), cream, milk, sugar, and coffee beans. You earn tokens you can buy more recipies with, as well as treats to keep your customers calm. The game is very simple and easy, but man, it's addicting!

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
None.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
The owner of Smokestack is seen with a cigar in his mouth, and I think the mobster customer has a cigar in his hand sometimes (but isn't seen smoking it).

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
The Heiress has a short dress, and the movie star has I guess an old-school sexy dress (she's like a knock-off of Mariyln Monroe). The body-builder doesn't have a shirt on.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
None. When customers get mad and storm out, some make physical threats, but it's in a comical way. The alien is seen with a laser gun.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
None.

Monday, May 26, 2014

PHASE SHIFT

Boy meets girl. Boy is a cynic. Girl is just a tad bit strange and not what she seems on the surface... A friendship is born and perhaps a new phase in their lives will begin to move. But this is just a small story within a bigger picture.

Developers(s): MaiMai
Rating: All Ages

~*~Click Here To Download~*~

{I, the reviewer, give Phase Shift, 7 out of 10!)

COMMENTS

A music box that caused the shedding of tears for no reason. That seemed to be an important object in the story. While the prologue belonged to the girl in the story, Ai Thao, we see through the eyes of Kawamura Kazuhiko, or just Kazuhiko as he prefers. Kazuhiko is a guy who has gone through a lot in life, and now has taken up a "I could care less" attitude. One day, while deciding to skip school, he mets a girl sitting on the stairs of an apartment place. They begin to converse, and more and more he finds the girl pretty interesting (despite never admitting to such), but something about her vagueness about herself is bothersome and he can't understand why.

Phase Shift is an interesting story to say the least. Kazuhiko's narrative was an interesting one, a bit negative, but a lot more interesting than most male protagonists commonly found in visual novels. His character reminded me of a harsher version of Koda from Ripples. But trust me, this story is nothing like Ripples, as the girl, Ai Thao, is very strange and vague, with a background that is just as much as a mystery as herself. The writer said the story was vague on purpose, and promises a sequal which has yet to surface, considering how many years have passed since this game's initial release.

The game is not perfect. I could tell there probably wasn't much proofreading, as some parts were awkward with what felt like missing words, though most of the time you could figure out what was being said, but it can be bothersome at times. There isn't much artwork, just some filtered backgrounds, a couple sprites with a few expressions, and not a single CG. Despite this, though, the story and writing style was interesting enough to have me finish it and hope for its sequal. I've always liked vaguely written stories, as it adds a sense of mystery and intrigue to a story. If A Minute To Midnight, this game's sequal ever gets released, I can fairly say I am interested enough to see what happens and learn more about Ai Thao and see everything come to light.


RECOMMENDED?
Sure! If you don't mind its vagueness, it's a pretty interesting, quick read.

PLAYER'S COMFORT

[MUSIC]:
Simple, but befitting to the story. It feels just right~

[ARTWORK]:
It's not the best art in the world, but it's nothing that'll burn your eyes. Cute and on the childish side.

[INTERACTION]:
None, it's Kinetic.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
Brief mention of the main character's mother taking up drinking.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
None.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
Brief mention of main character's father having his arm blown off.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
*SPOILER SPOILER* It is very vague, but in brief mention of Thao's background, she appears to have the ability to read people and know things. At the end of the story, it appears she has Kazuhiko forget they ever met.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

BUNNY DROP: COMPLETE SERIES

Daikichi, a 30-year-old bachelor, meets the 6-year-old girl Rin at his grandfather Souichi's funeral. It is there that Daikichi and his family learn that Rin is Souichi's direct descendant. When the topic of who would care for her comes up, the family shirks all responsibility of raising this "shameful" child. Reacting emotionally, Daikichi declares his intention to take Rin into his home. This is the story of two very different individuals coming together under one roof and learning what it means to be a family, an experience that teaches Daikichi what it means to be a parent.
[Amazon.com description]
(NOTE: Image is not the front cover of the DVD set)

Original Japanese Title: Usagi Drop
Dubbed by: There is no dub
Animation: Production I.G.
Manga adaption?: Yes
Rating: All Ages

{I, the reviewer, give Bunny Drop, 8 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

A friend of mine had bought this set, and since she only needed the Blu-Ray, let me keep the DVDs of it. For awhile, I hadn't been watching much anime and hadn't watched it 'till today, where I marathoned it. And man, do I wish I watched it sooner, because this is a fantastic series!

It's about a single man named Daikichi in his 30s, who goes to attend the funeral of his Grandfather. Upon arrival, he sees a little girl he's never seen before. His mother tells him that she was Grandpa's illegitimate child, which comes as a shock to Daikichi. After the funeral ended, the family discusses who would care for Rin. Nobody seemed to want to take the burden of caring for her, especially since she was a "product of shame". But when they come to the conclusion of sending her to an orphanage, Daikichi makes the bold decision to take Rin in.

This simple slice-of-life story was absolutely adorable. It touches on a pretty uncomfortable subject, but deals with it gently. Children are not at fault for what their parents do, and their feelings should be considered. When Daikichi starts to raise her alone, he can tell she has issues, due to how her birth mother, Masako, was toward her. Not abusive, but more or less, seemed to not care except for her work, and tried to convince herself Rin isn't her daughter. I like how it brings up how just because you have a child, doesn't mean you want it. And also that the child can still be loved by another. Being taken in by Daikichi, she still remains in her family. It's fun to watch as the relationship between Daikichi and Rin grow, and how raising her has taught him a lot of things. Later, he meets a single mother Yukari, who has a son named Kouki. To be honest, they would make the perfect family, since whenever they are together, you'd think they were a family of four!

This was a sweet story about becoming a family, despite certain circumstances. I really wish it was a lot longer though; I would have loved to see what could have developed for Daikichi and Yukari, and watch Rin and Kouki grow up a little more, as well as more on Masako's feelings toward Rin and if she ever felt regret for giving her up. Daikichi also made some dad-friends, so it would of been cool to see more of them hanging out. However, from what I understand, this is based only on the first half of the manga, while the second half is a time skip. For only 11 episodes, though, it's still a fairly enjoyable series that can be enjoyed over and over again. It's pretty clean as well, and could be watched with the family, even with the subject matter, for it is treated with care. The animation from this is simply lovely; I expect nothing less from Production I.G. in its smooth animation. I especially love how the prologue of each episode looks traditionally colored, like it's the colored manga illustrations in motion. Also, if you feel left wanting a bit when the show ends, this also comes with four bonus episodes that are extra slice-of-life segments of Daikichi and Rin, two of them being with Yukari and Kouki as well (which are the best of the four).

All in all, while disappointing in how short its run was, it was still fairly satisfying and an enjoyable watch. It treated its subject matter with care, and brings out a lot of good points. It was fun watching the simple things, and how precious they were. But most of all, it's about what it means to become a family, even if it is a bit out of the blue.

Recommend?
If you like a good, simple, and clean slice-of-life, I think you'll definitely enjoy this.

[VIEWING PLEASURE]

[MUSIC]
Very nice music! A lot of it is quite nice and relaxing; also the openings are cute and fun to sing along with.

[SUB VS. DUB]
There is no dub for this. The original Japanese is very good, though.

[MOVIES/MANGA]
The "Usagi Drop" manga.

[RELATED TITLES]
None.

[DVD EXTRAS]
This comes with 4 bonus episodes which average 5 minutes in length, as well as clean opening & endings, and the Japanese commercial.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
Four uses of the "d" word, 2 uses of "crap".

[TOBACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
When Daikichi tries to smoke, but notices the smoke hitting Rin's clothes, he puts it out and basically quits smoking. *SPOILER* When he requests a demotion, his employees have a drinking farewell party. At first he refuses, but is convinced to bring Rin along (another worker with a child brings her kid). The kids do not engage in drinking, of course.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
Rin is the illegitimate child of Daikichi's deceased Grandpa, who's mother was his young maid. There is a brief scene of Daikichi and Rin taking a bath together (but in Japanese culture, family baths are pretty common).

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
When Kouki and Rin lose their babyteeth, there is some blood drops shown.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
When Rin asks Daikichi about divorce, she says "wouldn't God get made if you do that?"
In one of the bonus episodes when it rained the night before their picnic, Rin asks to make sun charms.

*EPISODE LIST*
(will list later)

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION: PLATINUM COLLECTION

The year is 2015, and half of the Earth’s population is dead, victims of the disaster called Second Impact! Answering a summons from his enigmatic father, 14-year-old Shinji Ikari arrives in the rebuilt city of New Tokyo-3 just as a gigantic creature identified as an "Angel" attacks! Forced into the cockpit of a giant bio-mechanical construct known as an Evangelion, Shinji must defend the city from the rampaging Angel or die trying! The future is back like you’ve never seen it before, in Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Edition!
[From the back cover]

Original Japanese Title: Shin Seiki Evangerion (Gospel of a New Century)
Dubbed by: ADV
Animation: GAINAX
Manga adaption?: No, this is completely original.
Rating: 14+

{I, the reviewer, give Neon Genesis Evangelion, 9 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

Ah, the controversial Evangelion series, one of anime's greatest classics to redefine its genre, which took mecha to a completely new level. Several years back, when I was still a kid, I remember we rented from Blockbuster a VHS tape of this anime. After a few episodes, I remember my parents and brother leaving the room, yet I stayed, still watching, despite this being one of the most confusing and weirdest cartoons I've ever seen. For years, I had always wondered what that anime was. All that I could remember about it was "Eva units, can only be piloted by 14 year olds, very mental, aliens called Angels" and discovered it was none other than the classic Neon Genesis Evangelion. Thanks to a friend of mine, she was able to lend me the Platinum Collection of the series, so it also includes the Director's Cuts of episodes 21-24. Now, this series was known to be a bit controversial for many reasons, especially its use of Christian symbolism, though the creator didn't intend it to be offensive and it is obviously used for stylistic flare, as well as to enhance and deepen the story (which it does work, admittedly). And of course, the ending, which spawned two films as a demand from fans for another ending. Also, from what I've heard, the creator was going through a depression during the time, which definitely shows, but that makes everything feel all the more real and enticing.

The story follows Shinji Ikari who is forced into the role of hero, as he is summoned by his father to pilot EVA Unit01, the synthetic humanoid Evangelion mecha. He resists his father's wishes, since he feels his father only wants him when he is seen as useful (which Gendo his father actually says to him; "because you are of use to me"). However, when his father asks an injured girl named Rei to pilot in his place, Shinji tells himself that he "mustn't run away" and finally says "I'll pilot it!"
Of course, not having prior experience, his first battle with an Angel proves painful, until something happens to Unit01: it goes beserk.

Upon finally getting to see this again, I was able to enjoy it more since I'm older and can grasp a little bit more of what was going on. We have an interesting cast of characters with their own problems and backstories. While the action and the threat at hand is important, the story itself is very character driven. The intensity is often found mostly in the pilots' mental state just as much as the battles themselves. The Eva pilots have their own personalities and reasons for fighting; Shinji, who has abandonment issues with his father, forced to pilot by the same father. Shinji admits to being a coward, yet also tries to overcome this. Rei, quiet, almost emotionless and cold, soft spoken - she will do anything Commander Ikari tells her too. And then Asuka, by far my favorite, who can be arrogant and hot-tempered. Piloting the Evas have yielded both possible and negative results, though since destroying an Angel to prevent the Third Impact is of top-priority, its good often outweighs the negative.

The characters you really feel for, as you explore the deep parts of their hearts, minds, and souls. The emphesis on human emotion is amazing, and goes beyond the surface. The show by no means is easy to watch; it's dark, it's disturbing, it's weird and confusing, it's psychological, yet it holds your attention all the way as you try to learn the secrets of NERV and humanity's (and pilots') fate. And of course, the action is intense and exciting to watch. The Evas are fast-paced, smooth in motion, so it's definitely fun to watch the battles. Although always something goes a little wrong, because we are dealing with a very experimental project. Neon Genesis is definitely the prototype for many things found in anime today, and of course it's always done best in its genuine state.

The animation and art-style is pretty good, for a late 90's anime. While further down the series you could tell there were some production issues, mostly you can tell they spent a lot of time in creating this. The voice cast is just amazing, either language - I mostly watch it dubbed though, and its top-notch, especially considering how mediocre a lot of dubs were back then. Plus, the story is completely original and not based on a manga - that came later. So when you watch this, you are seeing the story unfold in its original state, so there are no adaption issues to complain about. There are some bothersome things, of course, like especially in later episodes where it feels like you're stuck on a frozen frame for 30-60 seconds before anything happens. Sometimes during a character's mental breakdown, there is too much things flashing, which can be jarring and annoying to the eyes. Sometimes I had to shut them because it would give me strain.

Being the Platinum Edition, this also comes with the Director's Cut of episodes 21-24 all on its own disc (so the original TV versions are still there). The Director's Cut (which has additional scenes from the film Death & Rebirth, I believe, cut into it) definitely enhance these episodes, since before, the TV versions felt a bit condensed, like something was missing. The Director's Cut fixes that. Also, you'll notice in the Director's Cut versions, some characters had new dub voices (they still did a good job, though; for example, Kowaru's voice is much better in the cut than the TV version, I think).

Of course, the biggest controversy of Evangelion is the climax. After that ending in episode 24, you'd think something epic was about to happen next, but instead we are given a 100% mental climax. How and why everyone and everything is in that state is almost unknown, although there are some vague mentions as to what that could be (to avoid spoilers, all I can say is you can probably figure out what's happening when you watch the whole series). You can also tell it seemed they had some cost issues, as these episodes appear EXTREMELY low budget. Episode 25, not so much (though the background is practically black throughout it, aside from some flashbacks), but episode 26 is mostly still images and what appears to almost be storyboards. No wonder fans were so torn and dissatisfied; even I myself felt cheated. *SPOILER HERE, SPOILER!* Though I won't lie, the last scene where Shinji finally finds some worth in himself, and the entire cast appears and applauds him, that felt really special and at least ended things with a good note, considering all the depression he and his fellows have suffered. *SPOILER END* Regardless of bizzare and hard to watch climax, it shouldn't be skipped, and is most likely still connected to the events that transpire in "End of Evangelion" (I hope it leads up to what was happening in 25 and 26).

Overall, even though the ending left me wanting, with still many questions unanswered, that doesn't change the fact that Neon Genesis Evangelion is still a masterpiece despite it's flaws. Yes, it may not be the easiest series to watch, it can be down-right disturbing or heartwrenching at times, yet that's what makes it a memorable experience. And like any anime, no matter how series, it does have its bright moments as well. So even though I was left wanting, this is definitely something any anime fan should experience once. For me, it's definitely now part of my personal top favorite anime of all time for its solid storytelling, even though it may be weird and dark, I like it that way. But remember, it isn't for the faint of heart. As a Christian, some of the use of certain symbolism is a bit uncomfortable, but I am secure enough in my faith to know the difference, and it was interesting how the show explored the deep, dark emotions at an insanely deep and psychological level. The best way I can describe what I see is how emptiness looks and feels like, and trying to overcome it. Humans are imperfect, yet try to achieve the impossible or forbidden things which have consequences. For me, that is how I see Evangelion - humans struggling, and sometimes dabbling in things they don't understand, and what happens when they do.

To be honest, I can't say I am quite satisfied even with my review of this. Mainly because there is so much I can say about it, but it'd be too spoiler ridden and at that point, too much to read when you can be checking out the series for yourself ^.^

Recommend?
If you think you can handle it, YES! I say this because it really isn't an easy series to watch, mainly later episodes especially. Some of the show's use of symbolism or weirdness can be a turn off, but if you can get passed that, this is an amazing series despite many flaws which is character-driven, emotion focused, with all the chaos of the world being the backdrop.

[VIEWING PLEASURE]

[MUSIC]
Very good music, perfect for the series. Sometimes they even use classic symphonies, which at times seems weird (especially when the pilots are going through psychological stuff while attacking) yet it oddly fits at the same time. I really love the opening "Cruel Angel Thesis", and interesting is the ending is in English "Fly To The Moon" which seems to be an odd song for this series yet still lovely to listen to.

[SUB VS. DUB]
I haven't watched much of the original sub (yet), but what I have seen is really good and it's an all-star Japanese cast. As for the dub, it is AMAZING! Considering this series being when dubs were pretty mediocre, Neon Genesis Evangelion proved what it is to be a good dub. So no matter what language you're watching, both of them hold a great weight of epicness.

[MOVIES/MANGA]
There are several manga adaptions of this series, including just plain "Neon Genesis Evangelion" or some alternate world titles like "The Shinji Ikari Raising Project", "The Shinji Ikari Detective Diaries", and "Campus Apocalypse".
As for films, there is "Death & Rebirth" which some additional scenes from it later served as the extra scenes for the Director's Cut, and then "End of Evangelion" which is the true ending of the series (and I think explains how they got into that mental state in episodes 25-26). There is also three of four films from the Rebuild Evangelion series, "1.11: You Are (Not) Alone", "2.22: You Can (Not) Advance", and "3.0: You Can (Not) Redo".

[RELATED TITLES]
The Rebuild Evangelion movies series, which is not only a remake, but takes an alternate path.

[DVD EXTRAS]
This set comes with the Director's Cut of episodes 21-24.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
Language is actually used very little. When it is, just the typical "d" and "h", and once in awhile "b" and "s" is as harsh as it gets.

[TOBACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
Some characters smoke and seen drinking. Misato especially drinks a lot, with a refrigerator full of beer and is seen drunk once in awhile.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
When Shinji delivers Rei her keycard, he accidently falls on top of her (and she's naked, since she just took a bath). Not much is seen, but you do quickly see his hand on her breast, which he pulls back when he realizes. There is one off-screen sex scene (you briefly see them together on the bed, but then it focuses on an ash tray while they have a conversation and then you hear some sounds). Any nudity seen is usually cleverly covered by cans, bars, or is undetailed or in sillouette.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
This series can get pretty brutal. While the show often is character focused, especially on their mental state, when there are battles it can be quite gruesome at times. There are some scenes where you'll see the Evas rip apart the Angels quite brutally (especially if they go beserk). Whenever an Evangelion is severely damaged or maimed, the pilots feel this pain since they are synced to them. Many times you'll see the pilots suffering pain, even if there is no blood it can be quite disturbing, especially when they're screaming. In a later episode, a flashback of someone who hung themselves can be seen (in sillouette, but still very disturbing) as well as a child being strangled. Most of the brutality is mainly bloody, but there is occasional gore.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
The series incorporates a lot of symbolism from many religions, with Christianity being a major part of them. For example, the aliens they are fighting are called "Angels", and when they are defeated, they will blow up into the shape of a cross. NERV has three super computers they are called The Magi, and each one is named after the three wise men. This series is very psychological and focuses on the mental state of the pilots, and explores deep feelings of lonliness, and other things. A major theme as well is a person in two parts; yourself, and the you observed by others. *SPOILERS!* There was also something about Unit 01 reaching the "ultimate form", and "obtaining the power of God". The first Angel, discovered in the Second Impact, is known as Adam. From "Adam" comes Eve, a.k.a the Evangelions were created from Adam. The Evas are also, in a sense, "human" and have a soul. Rei was born in a lab, and appears to be a clone of Yui Ikari, Shinji's mother. The Dummy Plug system uses empty clones of Rei, because it cannot function without a vessel for a "soul". There is something called The Human Instrumentality Project, which is a bit confusing but from what I understand it, it's all of mankind sharing one mind, and episodes 25-26 seems to be The Human Instrumentality Project in action. *SPOILER END* There's probably some more little details, but those are some of the major things to note.

*EPISODE LIST*
1. Angel Attack
2. The Beast
3. A Transfer
4. Hedgehog's Dilemma
5. Rei I
6. Rei II
7. A Human Work
8. Asuka Strikes!
9. Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win!
10. Magma Driver
11. The Day Tokyo-3 Stood Still
12. She said, 'Don't make others suffer for your personal hatred.'
13. Lilliputian Hitcher
14. Weaving a Story
15. Those women longed for the touch of others' lips, and thus invited their kisses
16. Splitting of the Beast
17. Fourth Child
18. Ambivalence
19. Introjection
20. WEAVING A STORY 2: oral stage
21. He was aware that he was still a child
22. Don't Be
23. Rei III
24. The Beginning and the End, or 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door'
25. Do you love me?
26. Take care of yourself

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

SIX RULES

Hung on a piece on thread in the foyer, a bamboo scroll read:

Rules
1) You must not let any strangers into the house. Preferably not even the forest where we reside in.
2) If you spot any strangers loitering around the property, alert us immediately.
3) You may converse with strangers as a gesture of friendliness, but never tell them where the house is located. We are hiding for safety, after all.
4) Don't accept things from trespassers. Don't give things to trespassers, either.
5) Never, I repeat, never talk to those of the Taira family.
6) Got it? Don't trust the Taira Clan.

Minamoto no Ryouji, a 12th-century Japanese boy of the Minamoto clan read those rules, and knew them all by heart. Never in his life would he even dream of breaking even one of them. That is, until that one day he met a girl named Yuki in the heart of the winter fields.
[Lemmasoft Description]

Developers(s): Soyasushi Productions
Rating: (not rated)

~*~Click Here To Download~*~

{I, the reviewer, give Six Rules, 9 out of 10!)

COMMENTS

From the creator who brought other short titles, such as Ribbon of Green and RE: Prince of Nigeria, as well as the in-progress Crimson Rafflesia, comes a short Kinetic story entitled Six Rules. The interesting thing is instead of the usual teenagers or adult protagonists, we follow children. Ryouji is a boy, the youngest in the Minamoto clan who has been given six strict rules to follow. The greatest of these rules is to NEVER trust anyone from the Taira clan; it is emphesized in it being repeated twice in the rule set. Ryouji has always been faithful in following these six rules, until one fateful day he meets a beautiful little girl taking a nap in the snow. Slowly, these rules begin to bend...

There's a lot I could say about Six Rules, but would have to be careful to avoid spoilers. The story is written in a third-person narrative, very well written to draw you in. The conversations between Ryouji and the strange girl Yuki are fun to read. Yuki is extremely adorable, especially with her manner of speech. There's an mysterious yet innocent aura about her, which will draw you just as it does Ryouji's curiousity. To be honest, there really isn't much to complain about the story, except that I was a bit torn over the ending, yet I must say it was executed beautifully, too. Your initial feelings over the ending may change after you read Another View, an extra part of the story that unlocks when the main is done. With both of them together, you get an entire picture of what's going on.

Overall, Six Rules may be a bit short, yet it still leaves an impact. Ryouji and Yuki are adorable children, who you'll enjoy to see interact with each other, but that doesn't mean interesting things won't happen. Coren does it again, in creating yet another short but brilliant piece.


RECOMMENDED?
Yes! If you like historical fiction, especially based in Japan, give this a try!

PLAYER'S COMFORT

[MUSIC]:
Brilliant! The music really fit the moods quite well, and there were some very lovely pieces.

[ARTWORK]:
Simply lovely! The backgrounds are befitting to the era, and the sprites are cute and eye-pleasing of a professional level.

[INTERACTION]:
This is a Kinetic novel, so there is no interaction. After playing through once, you will unlock the Extras section, and it even comes with a bonus segment of the story, Another View.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
None.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
None.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
None.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
There is mention of murdering in cold blood and being beheaded, but it is not seen.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
None.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

ANOHANA: THE FLOWER WE SAW THAT DAY


Jinta Yadomi and his group of childhood friends have become estranged after a tragic accident split them apart. Now in their high school years, a sudden surprise forces each of them to confront their guilt over what happened that day and come to terms with the ghosts of their past. With their childhood friend Menma back in their lives, the "Super Peace Busters" put their personal issues aside and work together to grant her one true wish. But to do it right, they'll have to overcome years of shame, hard feelings, and heartache.
(Amazon.com description)

Original Japanese Title: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (We Still Don't Know The Name of The Flower We Saw That Day)
Dubbed by: There is no dub
Animation: A-1 Pictures
Manga adaption?: Original anime series
Rating: 13+

{I, the reviewer, give Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day, 10 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

If you ever heard about how Anohana will make you cry, it's not a joke. Nor is it exaggerated. Never ever has an anime made me cry AT THE FIRST EPISODE! I am sure you can figure out by the story's description you're in for an emotional ride. Despite that, however, the series can still be light and fluffy.

Our story begin with a teenage boy named Jinta Yadomi playing video games. This little white-haired girl is beside him, watching. In fact, Yadomi seems to try to ignore this girl's existence...because she's not suppose to even be standing there. The girl is Menma, a childhood friend who sadly died. For some reason, she has reappeared a few years older, and only Yadomi can see her. Unlike most "ghosts" she's not only aware she is dead, but she can actually eat and sleep, so it feels more like she's invisible except to Jinta. She says she's come back because there's a wish of hers she needs granted...but unfortunately, she can't remember what that wish was.

The premise of the story is Jintan trying to find out what wish she wants granted. Initially, he thought that Menma coming back was just an illusion to haunt him, due to his trauma. All of the remaining friends have some form of guilt left they have to face, and no one except Poppo believes Jinta about being able to see Menma. Despite this, this does bring the friends back into contact again anyway as they face up to what happened that day. All the characters are different; some are serious, some are average, some seem pretty easy-going. I have to say that Poppo was definitely my favorite character. Yukiatsu I feel was probably the jerk of the gang, yet you can feel even for him at some points. Anaru felt sort of like our tsundere, while Tsuruko was always serious. And of course we have Jintan, the shut-in, who thinks Menma is a hullicination due to his guilt, but later accepts it and enjoys having her again.

This is by no means a fast-paced story, yet it'll keep your attention all the way. Despite the minor supernatural aspect, the series itself is quite slice of life, with your typical fun anime antics. Menma is a completely adorable character, and sometimes you even forget she's actually dead. It captures some genuinely fun and heartwarming moments. However, I think you can tell by the story's synopsis that it's going to be a tearjerker. I figured as much, but I wasn't prepared for the amount of feels that would be served to me, dished out every single episode! And the best part is, it all feels so natural...nothing about it feels forced, like the writers are desperately trying to get you to cry. What the characters feel and how they deal with their guilt feels so real.

The final episode was definitely the most brilliant. I couldn't help but feel at that moment that I could relate to Jintan personally when *SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER* Menma wrote a final note to each of her friends, and for Jintan, she said "I love you; the kind of love that makes me want to be your wife". Just reverse the genders here; I feel for ya, Jintan. *END SPOILER* Whoever wrote that line needs an award or something. It only made the anime feel more real and personal to me, and I will cherish it always.

Any faults with the series? Sure, there's no such thing as perfect, but it comes pretty darn close. I thought some of the minor perverted parts didn't have to be there, because other than a few incidents the series was pretty clean. The first episode didn't feel very attention grabbing. It just seemed like it would be another slice-of-life anime, but finish the first episode 'cause its glory does start to shine its light if you just stick with it. Other than that, I'm very satisfied with how everything played out and how it was paced. Being so short, there is absolutely no filler. Even though not much seems to be happening, there's a lot of emotions going on as we watch whether Menma's reappearing will reunite or break the former Super Peace Busters.

In conclusion, I will cherish this anime always, especially the ending. I'm completely satisfied with it. For an anime that makes you cry, it can also make you smile and cheer up if you've ever lost somebody. It's fun to think of what would happen if you could see them one more time, and in Anohana, we're given a scenario. And despite a few incidents here and there, the majority of the anime is pretty clean, very focused on characters and how they feel. Definitely something you should at least watch once, but I wouldn't mind experiencing it over and over again.

Recommend?
YOU BET YOU NEED TO SEE THIS! It's a simple, short story, but it gets a lot done for its length and is very memorable.

[VIEWING PLEASURE]

[MUSIC]
The opening and ending songs are WONDERFUL! Really captures the feeling of the show, plus the singers have really soft, pleasant voices. The music in the series fit the show like a glove, giving the right emotion at the exact right moment.

[SUB VS. DUB]
This was licensed by NIS America and is sub only. The Japanese voices did excellent, though.

[MOVIES/MANGA]
There is a manga adaption of the series, as well as a movie which is the same story in Menma's perspective.

[RELATED TITLES]
Not any I know of.

[DVD EXTRAS]

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
Minor language like "d" and "h", but there was the "s" word I think only once.

[TOBACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
There may have be drinking somewhere, but it must of been minor since I don't remember much.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
In the first episode, when Jintan wakes up to see Menma sleeping on him, he thinks about how it gives him sexual thoughts (but they don't do anything). Anjo is taken to a love hotel by a guy who tries to force her to stay a night, but one of her friends comes to rescue her so nothing happens. Rumors of this incident is spread across school liek she did do something. A couple times it's commented on how Anjo is "definitely a virgin" *SPOILERS* One of the guys in the group of friends is caught cross-dressing as Menma (this shows how emotionally scarred he is about her death). Other than that, just confessions of who likes/loved who.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
Sometimes Yukiatsu physically attacks Jintan when he claims to see Menma. The memory of her actual death is not shown; just a shoe floating in the water to get the picture. One episode Jintan gets a nosebleed after yelling passionately about something.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
Menma is a childhood friend who drowned, and now as the friends are teenagers, reappears a little older but only Jintan can see her. Strangely enough, for a ghost, she can eat, sleep, pick things up; so she's more like an invisible person almost. Jintan's mother talked to Menma about reincarnation, and Menma says she wants to reincarnate so she can be with everyone again.

*EPISODE LIST*
1. Super Peace Busters
2. Menma The Hero
3. Menma Search Party
4. The White Dress with a Ribbon
5. Tunnel
6. Forget It, Don't Forget
7. True Wish
8. I Wonder
9. Menma and The Rest
10. Fireworks
11. The Flower That Bloomed Summer

Thursday, February 6, 2014

LUNAR LEGEND

Lunar Legend is an epic role-playing adventure following a group of friends as they venture around the world following in the footsteps of a great Dragonmaster named Dyne. The main character, Alex, is a magically gifted young man drawn to seek out the legendary Dragons of Lunar Legend in order to take the Dragon's trials and become protector of the Goddess Althena like his idol. With a strong cast of characters, more than 200 items to find and use, and over 50 different magical spells, Lunar Legend on the Game Boy Advance will draw you into Lunar's magical universe wherever you may be.
[Description from Amazon]

Platform: GameBoy Advance
Developer(s): Game Arts, Ubi Soft
Rating: E

{I, the reviewer, give Lunar Legend, 9 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

Back in the day, I always wanted a GameBoy Advance. Unfortunately, we couldn't afford much, so I was limited to gaming on the PC and my dad's Sega Genesis. Well, recently I was able to buy a used GBA, and of course to make sure it works I needed a game to test it out! So I decided to buy Lunar Legend along with it; a totally blind buy, since I have never heard of it before, but it sounded interesting, so eh, why not? And I am very happy of this being my very first GBA game!

The plot follows a young man named Alex. His hero is a man named Dyne, a Dragonmaster, who passed away 15 years ago. The game begins with Alex and his flying cat, Nall, at the grave sight. Alex dreams of becoming a Dragonmaster himself and learns that now might finally be his chance! You are first joined by Luna, Alex's childhood friend who says she'd be worried sick of Alex went on the journey himself, and Ramus, a chubby sort of guy who wants to get a Dragon Diamond. Later, you will be joined by a Vane Apprentice, Nall, a slightly arrogant kinda guy, then Mia; a sweet and kind hearted girl who is heir to the Magic Guild, Jessica; tomboyish Althene Priestess who is the daughter of Mel, one of the Four Heroes, and Kyle; a cocky bandit with fangirls.

Upon first playing the game, I felt it was OK; a bit mediocre. Sure, it had some cute and funny scenes, but it seemed nothing spectacular. Of course it was good enough to hold my attention and want to continue (a quest to see dragons? YES!) Then, the further the game goes, especially after the first boss battle, is when my initially first impression of just mediocre gets thrown out the window. We begin meeting more characters who would soon become your future party members. I have to say the game really had me hooked by the time they reached Vane, when the story intensifies! Then...STUFF HAPPENS! that really got me into the game and story, and had me all like "I'll save you!" and "you bastard!!" and "WHY?!" in various parts of the game!

Characters are fun and loveable, with their own different skills. I have to say my favorite characters were Kyle and Jessica! Their dialogues were very entertaining to read, even sometimes more than Nall, another instant favorite. The story is very interesting, beginning as what would seem just a simple adventure to meet the four dragons and pass all their trials, but then turns into something more grand and epic. Sadly there were no anime cutscenes, just screenshots of them like CGs for the GBA, but still nice when they came up. The sprites are very adorable, and I loved the sprite cutescenes~ The music felt pretty nice, too; it worked for the world perfectly, and I really love Luna's "lala" song. The battles were smooth and fluid; once in awhile I got a glitch where I could hear some chopping in the sound, but I have no idea if that is a glitch in the cart itself or maybe my GBA's fault (both ARE used). So even when it got tedious, it was fun watching the sprites in action, using their special moves and such~
The game isn't too hard, but not too easy either. You run into puzzles rarely, and it won't take you long to figure it out (not that it doesn't throw you for a loop at times). Battles are relatively easy, especially if you gear up and have the right stregety. Most boss battles aren't so bad, though that last one might tick you off a bit. So there's still a bit of challenge, but not too much where you give up. There's also a tad bit of Steampunk; sometimes, in order to get to a certain destination, you need a contraption made by a quirky inventor. Also, Lunar's "moon" seems to be Earth, which probably means Lunar is the moon, which I thought was kinda neat to have a fantasy world located at.

Any gripes? Random encounter battles can be tedious, as typical with most any turn-based combat RPGs. I still had fun with the battle system, but once in awhile when I wanted to advance and get to my destination, it could get annoying and more of a chore. Sometimes, running away from them is like 95% successful, but in certain areas I noticed running away was very little successful, so you gotta weigh it out. This was originally a Sega CD game, and though I have not played the original, even as a first time player I can tell the story felt a bit condensed. It makes me wonder what lacked, although obviously all main and important points are kept. And even being condensed, it's still a pretty satisfying, solid game for your handheld. I always thought it was weird how sprites, even when standing there, are in constant jog mode; you know, like when you see a jogger stop, but they still move their legs without advancing? I got used to it, but initially, it bothered me in the beginning. And when certain intense cutscnes end, the music will switch back to the normal music of that area which sort of took away the previous intensity. Also, you'll notice sometimes in the dialogue seemed like it would miss a word or two; you can still understand what the sentence was trying to say, but it still seemed awkward, plus there was a typo here and there, but luckily it wasn't very often. Map designs are so-so, nothing exactly memorable (though the Frontier and Dragon Caves were pretty cool). The game is pretty much solid Linear; no side quests, everything was just the main quest.

All in all, this game was a fun experience, and one I'll definitely be playing over and over again! Despite the obvious feel of a condensed story, it still manages to get you attached to every character and to have feelings and reactions to whatever happens to them. There's love, friendship, hate, and betrayal...while the gameplay may be nothing particularly special,this game's strength is the story. And I think that;s what the creators wanted; a story-driven RPG, which even with being pretty linear, would have you want to play the game over and over. According to my main save file, I spent a total of almost 23 hours of gameplay (not straight of course, in total). I was pretty satisfied with the ending and have definitely been made a fan of the Lunar world! Now I just need to buy myself a Sega Saturn so I can play the original Sega CD game to find out exactly what was lacking from the GBA version, but I promise you this is a good introduction into Lunar for your handheld, and you'll have a lot of fun and enjoy the story~

RECOMMENDED?
Definitely! You'll have some fun with this, but most of all enjoy the story and the characters!

PLAYER'S COMFORT

[MUSIC]:
The music was fairly nice and fit the world. There were a little over 60 songs to the OST and can awesomely be listened to in the Music Gallery. I really like Luna's "lala" song, and the instrumental version of the game's opening that is found on the PS1 Lunar: Silver Star Harmony.

[GRAPHICS]:
The graphics are pretty nice. Sprites are adorable, and the cutscene screenshots are nice. You can also access them in a Gallery from the menu when the game's over~ Animations and battles are fluid and smooth.

[DIFFICULTY]:
Not too hard, not too easy. Bosses definitely pose as the biggest challenge, especially the final boss! Be sure to use healing abilities, and have a lot of HealDrops and MentelGums on hand!

[LEVELS]:
It had a good sized map, with a few towns, cities, villages, and towers. I actually didn't expect the world to be that big initially, so it's nice that there was a lot more than just one area map; it spanned a few different maps.

[GAMEPLAY]:
Typical turn-based RPG combat. Your party can either Auto (auto-attack), Tact (tactial I believe), Manu (manually tell each party member what to do and to which enemy), or Run. I typically used Tact a lot if I knew the enemies were easy, but harder ones I used Manu. It's good to build up your normal attacks, because each party member has a meter that builds for a special attack that uses 0 MP. And of course, you walk around and can talk to NPCs.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
Light "d" and "h", a few "bastard" and a couple "OMG".

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
There were some taverns, not much drinking is scene though and I don't remember any smoking.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
There's one NPC at a bandit's outpost that says to Alex "but you might be too young for the services I offer" (seems to be suggesting she's a prostitute maybe?) There was one part where Nall was talking about a girl, and I remember Luna saying "get that horny looking off your face!" (*SPOILER* When Luna appears as Dark Althena, she wears a pretty fanservice-y outfit.)

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
It's an RPG, so there's fighting. Enemies disipate when you defeat them. There was one CG in Alex's dream with Luna and a splash of blood, but nothing really disturbing. One of the bosses, after defeating, before he dies has some blood trickling from the side of his mouth.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
Alex is questing to become a Dragonmaster, legendary protector of Lunar's Deity, the Goddess Althena. There's magic use; some characters have the ability to use spells. *SPOILERS!* (Luna is said to have a hidden power inside of her, and later she becomes the dark goddess, who summons the Goddess Tower with her dark song. Later, it is revealed the Luna is the Goddess Althena, who gave up her godly form to be reborn as a human, entrusting everyone else with the future. There were some parts about saying Lunar doesn't need a Supreme Being ruling over, and the big bad guy is trying to become God of Lunar because he says Lunar needs an absolute ruler, but everyone else says they don't need one. It doesn't seem to promote rejecting a ruling Deity, but the story is Althena became human to live amongst humans and that she trusts everyone working together for the future; the big bad guy wants to have ultimate power and most likely be an evil dictator).

Sunday, January 12, 2014

GRINNING HEART; THE VOYAGE

This is a simple short Comedy Kinetic Novel about a human-dragon and a lost traveller.
It's about how the dragon reads traveller's mind and trick her No, I won't make it like the previous one. It's about the dragon and the traveller lost in each other minds.
The story begins with a dragon who lost in a cursed woods over hundred years. He wants to get out from there and come back to his tribe so badly.
And Suddenly, a traveller with unexpected circumstance, come to his life.
The traveller true self was a famous handsome-man hunter, person who go around the world to take handsome-man's photographs. And she was also lost in there.
The traveller was trying to get his picture, and the dragon was trying to eat her, while both of them hiding their true identity for each other...
[Description from LemmaSoft forums]

Developers(s): Ngareci
Rating: All Ages

~*~Click Here To Download~*~

{I, the reviewer, give Grinning Heart: The Voyage, 8 out of 10!)

COMMENTS

After a bit of a long wait, it's finally here!! Another segment in the Grinning Heart series! You may remember "The Meeting" but if not, have no fear! For this installment, "The Voyage", serves as a prequel! So you can play this without any prior knowledge of the first one, but I highly recommend you give it a chance!

This story is about a hungry dragon, trapped in a cursed woods, who prays for meat. Ironically, that's when our heroine runs passed him! And she just so happens to be looking for another handsome specimen. What a fateful meeting this is! Both of them conceal their identities, with bogus ways to get what they want, which end up conflicting with each other. Both of them have a plan of trapping the other in the same way for their purpose. Heheh, well, how does that end up, then?

I had a fun time reading this. The backgrounds were very beautiful, the sprites were clean and gorgeous. You can tell Chro is younger here than in "The Meeting", and being a prequel, that makes a lot of sense. Another plus over the first installment is for one, it's LONGER! In fact, it appears to be almost twice as long as "The Meeting" with a slightly more engaging story. Also, instead of the default Ren'Py textbox, it uses a custom textbox, making it feel more professional. A surprise for me was the fact that Ngareci used one of my voice clips from my free voice packs somewhere in the beginning, so that was kinda cool. There's also a lot more cute chibi CGs! They are made to look animated as you click, giving the story more of "you're watching it" like an anime, instead of "you're reading it".

Downsides? This one seemed to have just a bit more grammer problems than the previous installment. It's not bad in which it is really hard to understand, but a few sentences here and there feel pretty awkward. This caused some parts of the story to not deliver as well as how "The Meeting" delivered, but overall it's a more enjoyable story. Also some of the auto-forwarding between texts in some places I would accidently skip over, so I had to rollback quite a few times. And *SPOILER START*(I really wished Chro got together with Narl, they just seem so cute together, he even seemed to want to be her companion even! Why you turn him down, Chro?!)*SPOILER END*

Overall, a fun little prequel. I have to say Chro has become one of my favorite story characters and I hope to see more of her handsome-man-hunting adventures in the future!


RECOMMENDED?
YES! It's cute and fun, and no need to play the original to understand (in fact, playing this first is probably an even better idea since this happened before anyway).

PLAYER'S COMFORT


[MUSIC]:
The music was nice for this kind of story, one song when they were camping and telling about themselves was particular very pretty.

[ARTWORK]:
Really good! The art is a lot smoother than the first Grinning Heart, more to a commercial standard.Also, the animated-like chibi CGs were adorable, giving this VN more fun moments than "The Meeting".


[INTERACTION]:
This is a Kinetic novel, so there is no interaction.


[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
Nothing really, just some OMGs.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
None.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
Well, the dragon dude is shirtless, and our herone likes taking pictures of handsome men, but that's it. Nothing perverted.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
Other than comedic violence, and the fact the dragon wishe to eat her, none.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
At the beginning, the dragon prays to God that if He exists, to drop him some meat (and that's when you see our heroine make an entrance). Both the dragon and our heroine say "Dear God, you must of sent him/her from Heaven!" (him thinking about meat, her thinking about handsome man hunting).

Saturday, January 11, 2014

MEMENTO VIVERE: PROLOGUE

November 1
Caucasian male, late thirties, was admitted to ER with high fever after returning from vacation in Madagascar. Pain in joints, sweating, and delirium all point to malaria. Have ordered a round of treatment with quinine and artesunate. Patient is too ill to release; will keep for at least two days.

November 2
Patient initially suspected to have malaria has worsened. Anti-viral treatments have not lowered his fever. Initial diagnosis of malaria may be in error; now suspect ebola. Delirium has worsened. Bleeding from orifices and severe jaundice also present. Hourly ice baths have done little to help bring fever down; coagulants have not stemmed bleeding. Attempts to contact next of kin have not met with success.

November 3
Patient suspected to have ebola has died. Initial autopsy did not detect any known
tropical viruses in the patient's blood. Currently waiting on additional tests.

November 4
God help us all.

[Description from LemmaSoft forums]

Developers(s): Last Rail Productions
Rating: (Not Rated)

~*~Click Here To Download~*~

{I, the reviewer, give Memento Vivere: Prologue, 8 out of 10!)

COMMENTS

Memento Vivere ("Remember to Live") is a zombie apocalypse visual novel, and this prologue serves as an introduction to all the characters involved in the story. Some characters get more spotlight than others, such as three stories only being focused on once, another being seen twice, and then the obvious main story which we go back and fourth to the most (which I believe are to be the main characters of the full version). This story starts at the beginning of the outbreak in a place called Denton. There are a total of five stories present.

While the initial description of the visual novel makes it sound very horrific, this Prologue focuses more on the characters feelings and inner suffering about the start of the outbreak. Only one story in particular is actually described violently, with actual encounters of the zombies. However, it's written out so well to hold your attention and giving you the sense that something is very wrong and will only get worse in time. I feel the sense of fear, putting myself in that situation if an outbreak were to occur and how to deal with the days to come - that's how I would describe this. Unlike a lot of zombie stories, I can tell this is very character-driven, which adds a good depth to the zombie apocalypse genre. Of course, I expect to see more zombie encounters hopefully in the future. If you're a fan of zombies, you might be a bit disappointed with the lack of zombie encounters, but remember this is a prologue to introduce you to the characters and it is the start of the outbreak.

What I also like is the characters don't seem completely stupid, like what is typically seen in anything in the horror genre. Characters seem to know when to stay inside, seem to know when to venture out and kill some zombies, etc.! I can't say anyone is a genius, but they aren't complete idiots either. They have sense to think and usually have a good reason behind their actions, I like that. That really impressed me. Also, the music is perfect, it has sound effects where it should, and THE ART IS GORGEOUS!

Do I have any complaints? Of course. For one, one of the stories was really, really vague and almost confuse (Jun's story). All we know is she keeps herself locked inside, but we don't know or understand why. Then again, it could of been written that way as a reveal for the finished product. Also, some parts which I feel should have had CGs, or even just a sprite, do not have any and relies on written narrative for your imagination. While I understand having some of that (and I don't mind it too much at all), there were some parts I think would have felt more enhanced with actually seeing an image. But my biggest complaint of all is NO FULL SCREEN MODE. For me, this ruins the experience if I cannot fill my computer's screen with a visual novel. It reminds me that I am just playing a game, so it is harder for me to immerse myself into the world. Luckily the resolution was large enough to cover most of my screen, but still. So hopefully in future releases, there will be a full screen option.

So while it lacks in actual zombie encounter action, I can see potential for a rich, fleshed-out stories with interesting characters in a zombie-infested town. It's done well for what it is, and sets up the fear of a disease that turns you into zombies and how you're going to soldier it out. Many zombie stories (mainly movies) seem to lack the richness and character developement it could have, and I think Last Rail is trying to give something more in the genre. I hope they finish it, because I admittedly kinda like zombie-apocalypses, and while it seems so typical and overdone, to me it never gets old especially when done right, so I have high hopes for this. Even if it never gets finished, this prologue stands pretty good on its own, though vague in some places. It's not like it ends at some intense part that demands a sequel, they picked a perfect spot for it to end so it can stand on its own if all else fails, but I really hope to see more of this. Plus it's gonna be free, so I am excited!

RECOMMENDED?
Sure! If you like zombie-apocalypses, but would like to see more character-developement, I think you'd like this.

I certify this *VISUAL NOVEL NEWCOMER WORTHY* since zombie-apocalype is a genre we're all familiar with.


PLAYER'S COMFORT


[MUSIC]:
Very befitting for the atmosphere of the game. While there aren't any tracks particular memorable, it's a nice soundtrack all the same.


[ARTWORK]:
GORGEOUS! I love the colors, the smudged backgrounds, it all works well for the atmosphere. The CGs are very pretty especially. There aren't too many sprites, but what's there is pretty good.


[INTERACTION]:
It is a Kinetic Novel, so there is no itneraction.


[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
There are a few instances of the "f" word but thankfully not too overdone. Also God's name taken in vain a few times.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
I don't remember any.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
None.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
While actual violence is not seen visually, there are some descriptions that are pretty violent; descriptions of bleeding, flesh being torn, enough to give you a pretty clear picture but not going too far in descriptiveness.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
In Elizabeth's story; she is a nun, there is a priest and a deacon, and their church is being used as a shelter. Nothing in this story seemed to be against God, and Elizabeth is a pretty kind-hearted nun who convinces the priest to allow more people into the church to shelter. The deacon can seem a bit questionable though, then again his character seems a bit of on purpose.