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Sunday, May 31, 2009

I know the ads are getting annoying

But to be honest, there's a surprising amount of "stuff" "out there" that I don't cover. I'm trying to make all the ads relevant so that if there's anything interesting, you guys can check it out. It's always a work in progress so thanks for your patience.

On another note, for US residents: I'm gonna start modifying and adding my posts so that there's a way for you guys to buy the game or anime (even if I suggest against it)so that you can see for yourselves. Remember, I've created The Second Opinion so that I could bring you guys another voice, one that's not tied to corporate sponsorships (as nice as it would be) and give you my honest opinion.

In return, I ask that you guys argue with me if you think otherwise and maybe try it out for yourselves. This may be a blog but I'm also trying to build up a community.

Edit: If you look to the right side, next to the first post.You'll see something that says "The Second Opinion Store" It's a personalized store that carries all (or at least tries to) the titles I've mentioned. The main problem is, I get Japanese stuff directly so there may be instances where I've mentioned (let's say) a second season to something, but it hasn't been licensed yet in the U.S.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Read or Die OVA - Review

Based on a manga based series of light novels, Read or Die is probably one of my favorite anime of all time. To be honest, I need to go over what I consider to be the best in my opinion, but this 3 part OVA definitely is high on the list.

Read Or Die is about a bibliomaniac and agent of the British Library named Yomiko Readman. Her codename is "The Paper" as she has the ability to manipulate paper in any way as she pleases. She and two other agents, Drake Anderson (no codename oddly enough) and Nancy Makuhari, codenamed Miss Deep for being able to pass through solid objects, are given the assignment to find information about a set of stolen DNA of historical figures and to retrieve if possible.

What the OVA has done is condense what could have been a 12 episode story into an hour and a half. You get the crucial of crucial information presented as well as unique characterization in subtle hints. Since there can't be a lot of time devoted to pure character development, it overlaps with the progress of the story.

I feel that, in a sense, restricting directors to OVAs bring out the best work on the market. There can't be any time to flesh out characters too much nor can there be any space to simply stall for time. The audience gets what's only necessary and probably has most of the loose ends tied.

In terms of the story itself, there's so much to enjoy. First, there's this underlying tone that Britain looks down upon the US for lacking any tact. Then there's a set of characters who all work well with each other (in terms of character development and interaction), there's are very diverse settings which make moments of the story quite memorable and finally there's the original concept of a Paper Master.

The Paper Master is probably one of the biggest selling points of Read Or Die. Though it's never really explained how Yomiko acquired those powers, what pops in my mind concerning that is "Do I really care?" It seems quite fitting that an avid lover of books becomes a manipulator of paper and often provides comic relief as there are moments when Yomiko pauses to honestly consider whether it's worth using the pages of a rare book to save her life or her complete lack of concern for the value of money (bills to be exact). Still, I have to say that the "Paper Master" is definitely a concept which is quite hard to top. The animation that JC Staff provides to put this concept in motion is a thrill watching. Because of how original it is, you're only left wondering in what ways Yomiko could manipulate paper to her advantage.

The music is great. It's quite memorable and there's a great range from the grand orchestral pieces that glorify the British Library to the hard riff of the electric guitar that opens this animation.

Voice acting in both Japanese and English is great. Kimberly Yates does a great job in portray the seemingly ditzy Yomiko as well as Reiko Miura (who does quite well despite it being her first anime role).

Yes, it does have a major plot hole in that you never find out who started this mess, but it didn't seem like Read Or Die had any intentions of covering that anytime soon. Considering how focused it seemed on stopping the problems at hand, it does seem odd that there isn't any further analysis, at the same time, in the way the adaptation is directed, it seems fine that you don't know and that all that matters is that the issue is resolved.

I honestly believe this is a work that deserves to be studied. Yes, it doesn't carry a very atmospheric tone as "other great anime works," and it does use stock characters. At the same time, the quality of direction and the flow of scenes and transitions is something quite noteworthy. The use of CG is subtle and enhances the OVA quite a bit. Finally, because of Yomiko's use of paper as a primary weapon, it seems quite easy to clutter the frame, however the use of space was well done.

P.S. Ugh... i accidentally set the post time to 12:30 AM instead of PM. Well, no use in fixing it now....

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ookami to Koushinryou - Spice and Wolf - Review

Yes, I know this actually says Wolf and Spice II. That's coming later in July. It doesn't change the fact that they're using the same main characters.
I use both names because they're both introduced in the anime as such. Technically it's Wolf and Spice and in following the naming scheme the episode titles are also "Wolf and....."


The anime is about a traveling merchant by the name of Kraft (Craft) Lawrence who happens to find Holo, the human incarnation of a 250 year old wolf deity, sleeping in his wagon as he stays in the farming village of Pasroe. The deity has been blessing the wheat crop for years since she made a deal with a villager long ago. However, believing that the villagers have forsaken her, she makes a deal with Lawrence to escort her back to her home in the north.

Spice and Wolf is a "smart" anime. I don't mean smart as in it's autonomous and makes good, responsible decisions but that it requires a bit of active thinking to fully enjoy it.

This anime took me by surprise by the second episode. The first episode introduces everyone and sets the premise of the world which is very much like medieval Europe. From the second episode on, you'd be immersed right into the story.

Kraft Lawrence is a merchant, a good one in fact. He's been in the trading business for a while and knows a good deal about economics and and business.

Holo, with her archaic mannerisms, displays her sage-like knowledge acquired over the years. In exchange, due to not keeping up with history, she lacks the knowledge about current governments and money in circulation.

The anime focuses a lot of the relationship between these two as two quick-witted, intelligent people who work together for (technically) a common goal. In exchange for escorting her to her homeland in the north, Holo must find a way to earn a living to support herself. She does so by being Lawrence's partner in trade. What happens then on is a complex story involving governments, guilds, the church, and the entire economy including black markets.

Without knowing a thing about it and simply going off screenshots or a cover, it's easy to believe that this is some one-sided story with a wolf-girl simply acting as an attraction. Since that isn't the case, this anime automatically gets favorable points from me. There's an immense amount of dialogue in each episode and a really big focus on the world around the main characters. With strong protagonists, there needs to be strong antagonists and a world that can support them. The anime very much delivers with great art and direction.

There are "learning sessions" interlaced throughout the anime where Lawrence explains to Holo about the current world and while that does occasionally feel as if it's the creator's way of inserting information and expanding the world for the viewers it also does indicate how much thought has been put in.

The art is great. In addition to really clean characters and animation, the environment looks very detailed. There's an occasional moment when you're wondering where they are because certain sections of towns look similar. While that is true of medieval Europe and using similar architecture, there was a lack of characteristics that stand out for each village.

The music could be better but it's quite well done in certain parts.

There's the occasional dab of fantasy that gets infused into the story to make the anime probably one of the best I've seen in a while. The time it takes place in seems to be an era that's a bit ahead of all those other medieval settings (in general) and actually involves the influence of power in terms of money and religion. Lawrence is old. He's not grandfather old but he's showing signs that he's a bit past marriageable age (in respect to that time period). His wisdom and wit is justified which makes him a more realistic, better character. Holo also has very clear weaknesses which improve the story overall as prodigies, omnipotent gods, and simply over powered characters actually detract from the story telling and complexity.

This is definitely a must see from me.

Funimation recently announced that they've acquired the rights for the US distribution so be sure to buy it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Haruhi episodes coming out

Jump for joy and shoot something. I just heard from someone that episode eight is to be "Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody," a new title for an episode from the Haruhi light novels.

I heard that there were reports that Haruhi was to be going for 24 episodes but with the reference to the Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, I wasn't particularly sure how they were going to do this. I also heard that two different stations started with different first episodes (one being the Asahina movie that Haruhi did referred to as episode 00 - broadcast version, and the other being The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi 1 - chronological version). I've been generally waiting for how this was going to continue and I'm sure a good portion of the anime fan community has been waiting 6 weeks for the first chronological arc to end.

Kadokawa will be simul-casting via Youtube, but without subs so those who can't speak Japanese sorry. I'll be sure not to spoil anything.

Toshokan Sensou (Library War) - Review

Just reading it off as "Library War" seems a bit weird to me. I feel like it's either Library Wars or The Library War. It's probably my love for articles however.

Toshokan Sensou is about the "Media Cleansing Act" that was passed at the dawn of the Seika era (completely fake era) in 1988 (christian calendar). It was a government act in which censors were given full jurisdiction to dictate what had bad messages and harmful to society and had any means to do so. 11 years later, an event known as the Hino Nightmare which involved a massive book burning and massacre of the staff at the Hino Branch Library resulted in another government act pushed by Libraries to protect themselves with their justification being that the Cleansing Committee is too powerful.

It is now 2019, the 31st year of Seika era and a highschool graduate by the name if Iku Kasahara has been recruited as the very first female member of the the elite Library Task Force.

This show aired right as the spring season (in Japan) started last year (4-10) and somehow it flew under my radar.

The animation is done by I.G. so you be assured that it's quality work.

This is a purely fantastical premise and to be honest, not too realistic. So you have to enter this anime with an open mindset. Once you get past that, it's a really interesting premise considering the censorship Japan does. "What happens when you bring censorship too far?" I know what you literary buffs are thinking. It's a concept that's like Fahrenheit 451. I could honestly care less though. Besides, it doesn't revolve around a guy who was originally part of the Cleansing Committee.


This is a pretty short anime, which I'm going to address immediately, because I feel that it could have lasted a bit longer. Rather, the pacing could have slowed down a bit showing a bit more of the "normal life."

In all honesty though, this show is actually a "romantic comedy" under all of the gunfire and training. I use romantic comedy loosely because:
A. I hate the concept of what's considered a "Romantic Comedy" and
B. It doesn't really fall under that category but it's also about a girl who's looking for her "prince" in the Library Defense Force who saved her and her book from being "cleansed."

The characters are pretty straight forward. Iku is your typical hotheaded girl who has an equally fiery passion. Her "prince" is quite blatant to the point where even the hints are almost too obvious (At one point he even holds "princely" items). Then there's the super strict, top of his class rookie that has horrendous social skills. Then there are the commanding officers. First of which is an equally hot-headed counterpart to Iku and his closest friend being the nearly omniscient, level headed type that finds humor in many situations.

I'm going to say this outright. Classic, cliched characters are overdone. Everyone knows that, but they're also quite effective. As long as it's not in a "harem" or "reverse harem" setting, they can work quite well. What you look for is not
"how does this character act as a whole" but, "how does this character's interactions differ from others and what are the character's unique qualities?" If there's little variation and the character is too obvious and too predictable, then you can consider it bad writing and move on. BUT, if you have strong supporting characters that twist and change the cookie cutter character, then you have content.

It's the same with comedy. It requires well placed timing, good material, and a personal variation. What makes your joke unique?

Toshokan Sensou is an example of one way you can add a twist to an old idea. It's short, pretty fast paced, and adds a bit of development to characters. It may need a bit more development to be outstanding, but by all means, it's a well done show. The music is also a great plus. It's not particularly memorable (then again the only tune I can sing off the top of my head is the Demon Lord from Mononoke Hime) but it helped the set the atmosphere very well and I remember taking particular note and enjoying it.

There's a DVD exclusive episode that doesn't fit in any where in particular but it's a nice side episode used for character development. I would have appreciated more of those episodes in the series.


I need to apologize for the last three weeks. I'm fully aware that I haven't posted within that time frame, and I'm sorry. These last three weeks I've been busy each day with finals, essays and job hunting. I understand that as a blogger I need to also have this blog as a priority and I haven't been fair to you guys at all (To be honest, even the priority that I set for playing my games and watching anime is a bit off).

I won't ask you to simply forget that this didn't happen. That would be irresponsible of me. I also won't ask you to give me a another chance. I've asked that too many times, and so I'm fully aware that I've lost your trust. I'm sorry.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Demigod - Review

Demigod is a game made by Gas Powered Games (Probably best known for Supreme Commander) and apparently people were complaining about how it looked a lot like Defense of the Ancients for Warcraft III. I really could care less. If the makers had it copyrighted and have a right to sue then by all means go ahead, otherwise you can't complain that it has a similar concept. I'd like to remind you guys that Tower defense started from Rampart and then moved to Starcraft (probably giving one of the most effective uses for "building stacking" hacks). That being said, this review is completely on its own and looking at Demigod for what it is.

Let's start off with the gameplay. There's a lack of story, rather story mode, which means you could probably care less about their back story. Basically, there are two sides with pre-established bases. This means you already have allied units and an economy made for you, your job is to basically take out the enemy base. Each base controls a number of portals and from those portals units will spawn (amusingly enough they go under the category of "grunts") and attack opposing forces. The only thing you have control over is your hero. It starts at level one and has a variety of potential skills and equipment slots.

The field has flags (command points) which will help bolster your forces in some way or capture key buildings which will help you out. Needless to say, controlling these points help.

Heroes are developed pretty well. They all have a handful of skills that you need to pick carefully. Since max level is 20 and you get one skill point per level, you can't invest in everything as that would require around 35 skill points, and they're broken down into 2 classes: Generals and Assassins. Assassins specialize in dealing damage to heroes and single units whereas Generals generally have some summoning skills and can buy items to command small squads. Still though, you can generally branch off on two trees you particularly like and then some. Once your build is developed then you can start increasing skills in a balanced manner. I'd also like to note some of the humorous sound clips that occur which which lighten the feel of the game a bit ("Was that five bolts or six?!").

This game doesn't have a tutorial, so you basically start off right in the battle on a trial and error basis.

The graphics are pretty solid. They're really high quality and skills look really nice but the issue is most of the time, you'll be looking at a semi-zoomed out bird's eye view. I've been looking at screenshots and although that kind of view presented is possible, it gives you so little command. This game is played RTS style meaning it's all with your mouse and to take command of something as obscenely large as the Rook close up is a horrible idea on many accounts, with the first being that the rook takes up your screen.

Most matches last around 30 minutes to an hour on normal difficulty and you go by recommended player numbers on the map. Add more and you're extending the game's lifespan when you hit that bottleneck.

Increase the difficulty and the game will last much longer.

Finally, as you gain achievements and win battles. You acquire "favor points" which will allow you to buy equipment that has it's own slot and is exclusive to "favor points."

The game's really fun in short bursts and great to play with friends.

The main issue with this game is that it's unfinished in my opinion.

There are only eight heroes, so it's inevitable that there's going to be an overlap on 5v5s. I feel that for a game that has so much focus on players being heroes, there should be at least one unique character for each available slot.

Following the lack of heroes is a lack of maps. There are a total of eight maps which don't leave much room for hundreds of battles ("You wanna fight on the completely flat plain? Or on the wiry constricted bridges? Or flat planes separated by wiry constricted bridges?"). That isn't to say that some of these maps are innovative and look good, but graphics aren't everything.

One thing great about the A.I. is that is has the same capabilities as you in that they can buy items as easily as much as you can. It's pretty advanced but you can easily see where it starts to fail. Once you set to Hard or Nightmare, I'm pretty sure the computers have been given exp hacks. There are instances that on the first contact in the round the enemy was level 4. It also isn't as if the A.I. is just superbly smart either. My team had a Nightmare Oak (general) and for about 5 minutes, it just stood still with its army in base picking its nose. Once the Healer (a general) breaks a certain threshold it just charges into the enemy base caring little for its units and taking on base defenses alone healing only itself.

Cheating computers doesn't equal greater difficulty. Rubberbanding in racing games are the same thing. It's kinda ridiculous that some car gets infinite nitro and breaks top speed barriers like nothing. My friends and I (4 players vs. 5 computers, one nightmare difficulty) got to the point where we cornered the enemies in their base. I had 10590 HP with a ridiculous amount of armor, 680-750 damage per hit and an attack speed of .6 of a second. I basically bought all the most expensive items in the game resulting in ridiculous stats. The Nightmare computer had around 7000 HP and what was baffling was that in a strict one on one, it was dealing more damage to me than I was to it, hitting faster, and taking less damage. I'd just like to remind you that item boosts can only go so far. No matter how much you boost your stats, it caps off at a certain point. This resulted in a frustrated yell from me as it's inconceivable as to how it could be besting me. I don't get what the computer could buy that allowed it to go beyond the cap for human players, other than having no limiters. The highest damage negation I've seen is around 60%. I was dealing around 170 to this enemy which means that, had it been my WEAKEST hit, it would be negating 75% damage. I'd also like to remind you we were the same unit and both level 20.

As I said before, there's no campaign mode or anything, so I as the player could really care less about the block of text explaining origins of that hero.

Finally, items only obtainable via favor points suck. There's only a few I use and even those slowly lose their value as battles go on. There's a option in the lobby settings to turn favor items on and off but honestly, it doesn't really make a difference. None of them warrant the amount of time spent in getting points.

It's priced at $40 US which seems ridiculous. As I said, it's great in bursts but you're bound to get tired of it easily. There's too little content that make this game "fun." Great for like a rental (if you can rent a PC game) but I'm definitely for asking my money back.

And no, a ladder system doesn't suddenly make games "fun." Competition works when there's a foundation, which this is lacking.