The older our cat gets the weirder his behavior becomes. Recently he decided that drinking from his regular bowl is not cool, so instead we have to observe something like that every evening. He drinks from literally everywhere — the bathtub, sink, our mugs, you name it — so we kind of gave up and just leave him a glass of water on the desk. A normal cat would just jump on the desk but this moron prefers to do it in this questionable pose
Monthly Archives: April 2021
I know that I’m sounding like an annoying old uncle re-telling the same stories from his youth again and again but I really like studio Shaft. They replaced Gainax as the must-watch-the-entire-filmography studio (sorry Gainax, but what was the last anime you released that was good? Damn, when was the last time you released anything?!) and I’ve been slowly catching up with shows and movies made by Shaft and directed by the lord of head-tilts and grandmaster of questionable camera angles Shinbo Akiyuki. A fun fact — back in the day he used to work on hentai anime and some people could probably say that it’s noticeable =) Ahem, anyway. 電波女と青春男 might be not as eccentric as Pani Poni Dash but still, it’s good. Also — I must watch everything made by Shaft.
Honestly, it would be much easier to write something if “Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl” was bad. Because even though this anime is good it’s just kind of uneventful. Most of the time we witness how all involved do normal things — they play baseball, celebrate birthdays, go to the beach, launch bottle rockets and enjoy a festival. It’s not boring to watch — but it’s boring to read about! Yet this show has its fair share of weirdness, mostly related to the characters. Does the main heroine, who prefers to be wrapped in a futon all the time, has to be carried in a bicycle’s basket and claims to be an alien look like an average girl? If yes — we have a real (probably) ESPer living under hanging decks; a girl who cosplays, cosplays a lot and cosplays mostly food; and the airheaded mother of the futon girl. That’s a bit harem-ish but this element isn’t too prominent. The cuteness aspect is over the top though. Cute and weird, what an amazing combination! Because of the characters, any, even absolutely normal event, can turn into something out-of-this world =) Of course, dialogues, direction and animation are also great — it’s a Shaft’s show we’re talking about. The last but not least — the ending is second to none, I didn’t skip it even once.
電波女と青春男 is not the best anime made by Shaft but it’s scary how much better it is than lots and lots of isekai nonsense we watch every season and thanks Aidios that Shinbo’s been pretty productive during his career. Even when the day comes when he decides that enough is enough and it’s time for retirement — we’ll be left with a vast library of movies and TVs he’s created or helped with =) But hopefully he’ll direct more.
I usually watch about two movies a year and I just wasted half of the 2021 budget on Tenet, which might be one of the most boring films mankind has ever created. Yeah, I know the argument that I may be not smart enough to understand how deep and innovative Tenet is and that it requires at least 4 re-watches to even begin recognizing its magnificence but oh boy! For 2.5 hours a bunch of totally unlikable characters, who can’t be bothered to even try to move their facial muscles, are pouring insipid dialogues on the unsuspected audience. They could’ve been easily replaces by 3D models or even cardboard cutouts, that wouldn’t have changed much. Why should we care about any of them? Why should we be interested in what they’re trying to achieve? The action and visual in general are not much better. Yah, I see, a bird is flying backwards, cool. Time manipulations may be one of the most beaten topics of all times in sci-fi and my rule of thumb says that usually it’s very difficult to build both complex and logical world using the premise that the flow of time is not linear. Is Tenet an exception? I would say that no — in its core it’s pretty standard. However, I must confess that I didn’t think about it too much and was just patiently waiting for the film to end. The mind-numbing story ended with a mandatory Final Battle, which felt like it was dragging on forever, so at least Tenet was consistent, it was equally boring at the end as it was at the beginning. I had a moral obligation to finish it (because I paid $7 to rent the movie and I’m a cheapskate) but it was a pretty questionable experience that proved one more time that Hollywood movies (and live action movies in general) should be approached very, very cautiously =)
Random Tuesday Photo
Hori-san to Miyamura-kun was one of the shows I looked forward to watching last season and it didn’t disappoint.
There’s actually not much to write about it because this anime is just a well done romantic comedy. In the first episode this show might remind of KareKano, just a little bit — both main characters look and, in the case of Hori-san, behave differently in school and when they are at home but this impression doesn’t last long. Horimiya is probably more chaotic and light-hearted than Gainax’ classic and that’s not a bad thing. It has lots of characters (I honestly sometimes had to ask my wife who this guy or that girl were) and lots of love triangles but somehow manages to avoid paying attention to Tragedies of Unrequited Love more than necessary and instead focuses on the bright side of relationships. Speaking of Horimiya I’d say that maybe not even “bright” but “warm” =) Some people might even find the anime boring — what the hell, a couple doesn’t have any serious conflicts during the entire show?! They get together in the first episode and doesn’t temporarily break up because of a misunderstanding?! Well, yeah. Instead we learn that Hori-san has questionable ideas of how her boyfriend should treat her. I’ll take it =)
Trails of Cold Steel IV
Kiseki is a very addictive series of games. I loved CS III a lot but intended to take a small break before starting the last game in the arc, honestly, even though I had already bought a disc. Yet, I gave up to the addiction in less than a week and I have no regrets =) Even though now, having finished Trails of Cold Steel IV, I can see why there are so many polar opinions on this game. Despite still being a great JRPG, the end of saga could’ve used some improvements.
First things first. CS IV is a veeeeery long game. I finished the third Cold Steel in about 130 hours, that’s considering my lack of experience and that I watched all arts and crafts animations. This time I knew, more or less, how to play; was skipping combat animations a lot and… I clocked 170 hours before the final battle. The length by itself is not an issue — the problem is that the game is padded more than Eris’ chest! This comes from the plot structure, which I didn’t like and think it could’ve and should’ve been much better. So, to show what every part of the game looks like, a quick example: “Oh, we need to find <insert a name>. Hmm, the spirit veins analysis/our agents in various parts of the country said that you’re going to have to visit this 5 parts of Erebonia
you have already visited before and we can reuse locations. To get access to every one of them you’ll need to collect 3 special keys. To get every key 7 monsters have to be defeated.” This is a bit of an exaggeration, of course, but this it’s pretty much how the game works. The new class VII is searching the place where Rean is kept — the witches tell them a few locations they should check out. Then Rean and others are going to somehow determined cities to free and pick up their allies. Then you have 7 Rivalries. I didn’t initially like the idea of field exercises in CSIII, but during my Cold Steel 4 playthrough my opinion on them changed. It is logical that a class in a military academy is sent to some arbitrary locations, you don’t need a great explanation for that. The problem is that the places you have to visit in this game feel to be chosen equally at random, even though you’re provided with an “explanation” every time. Instead of having this sense of immersion, when you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing and flow with the plot, this rigid structure didn’t allow me to forget that it’s a video game. It doesn’t help that every sub-chapter is built using exactly the same pattern. At your base you go and talk to everyone, then you buy the best available weapons and armor, then you go to every spot on the map marked that it has new events or dialogues, then you complete optional side-quests, then — trial chests, then — the main quest. That simply doesn’t get along with the idea that the war is about to begin, that you must hurry. Oh, I have 3 hours to complete the Rivalries and, maybe, save the world. I guess I will go and finish 54 side-quests all over the continent including fetching ingredients for a harvest festival, because that’s what you do when the world is on the verge of collapse. I swear, I spent a week of real world time on these last 3 “in-game” hours. How is that supposed to build that sense of urgency the game implies should be there?
To add up, half of the game, instead of relentlessly pushing forward and fighting bad guys, you “prove your resolve and determination” in battles with people who have no reason to be against you whatsoever. I frankly don’t know what’s worse — that or fighting the same several “bosses” multiple times, until they get tired and either lose interest (Ouroboros) or switch sides (SHARON!)
My last complaint is going to be about the plot. Yeah, it ties loose ends and explains everything or almost everything but I can’t help but think that the idea of a mysterious entity that corrupted Chancellor Osborne and Alisa’s father is a bit shallow. I do like that Rean’s father had his reasons to do what he was doing, that he wasn’t just evil for the sake of being evil — but, eventually, what the game did was switching from “Osborn is bad” to “Ishmelga is bad”. It might’ve been better to leave the focus on humans and what they try to achieve, to show that a person might have to go down a morally questionable and bloody path even if his or her intentions are noble, instead of laying the blame on a supernatural creature. CS IV touches this subject with Musse and her vision of how to stop the curse but this plot line is always on the background.
One more thing I have to mention is the cast of characters. It’s huge but manageable — during pretty much the entire game I used the same party of Rean, Juna, Kurt, Laura, Alisa and Altina. Trial Chests is an exception (on top of just being a meh mechanics), where you are forced to use specific characters, but I didn’t have too much troubles with them anyway. I read claims (again) that it’s impossible to play CS IV without having finished the previous arcs, because this game “is like the Avengers”. I’ve no idea what these Avengers is, whether it’s edible and whether it’s tasty but I’d say that everyone will be totally fine with very basic knowledge of who Estelle and Lloyd might be. There are some references to other arcs here and there but I can’t recall anything important to the plot. All these guys are just guests here, both story-wise and gameplay-wise.
Okay. Despite all my whining Trails of Cold Steel IV has fantastic moments. Like when you see completely possessed Rean for the first time. Or I almost teared up when, after 100 maybe hours of cruising the country, you return to Leeves and get to see the academy dorms again. That was done masterfully — to roam from one empty room to another and remember how many heart-warming moments you had there in the previous game. The evening Rean spends in Mishelam is also amazing and yeah, I was happy that he finally has an official partner. Who was that lucky lady in my case? Of course, Alisa! Although I was almost ready to make Rean confess to Laura. I mean… Altina is super cute and she and Juna are probably my favorite characters but let’s be serious here.
If I started talking about favorite characters and all that… In the end, the game gives you a chance to control groups consisting of the entire Stahlritter, Victor Arseid, Aurelia, Vita, Crimson Roselia and not going to lie, it was pretty cool — especially when you hit shit out of enemies with the dynamic duo of Victor and Principal Le Guin. I probably laughed like a madman every time selecting an action for these two =)
Because I was almost a pro this time — it was my second Kiseki game after all, I should’ve selected a higher difficulty. Normal turned out to be closer to hmmm easy than normal =) I still don’t know how to make optimal builds but very simple ones, like Laura+a lot of strength+str buffs or Juna+almost 100% evasion, worked pretty well. The battle mechanics were nerfed a little bit but even I broke the game a few times with a combination of Juna’s BO, then break, then Kurt’s BO and a couple of Chrono Bursts, shame on me. I still think that the combat system is great and I hope it won’t be smashed too much in next titles. Kuro No Kiseki is going to experiment with two togglable systems, with one being more action-based. That sounds like a recipe for a disaster but we’ll see.
Whereas I was not too happy with the plot in CS IV, dialogues and characters is something I can’t praise enough. The writing is superb and I think the translators did an amazing job. I was genuinely happy every time when new conversations with the allies became available and I got to observe and participate in their interactions. Yeah, often these conversations were, let’s say, cringy, when I wanted to cover my ears and be like “C’mon Rean, maybe enough inspirational speeches for one day?” But very often they were unexpected, funny and cute. I already said that Juna and Altina may be my personal favorites in the game and I still prefer new Class VII to the original one, but many other characters also grew on me. Fie, for example. Or Emma. Unfortunately, at this point the characters don’t change much but that’s understandable, we’ve had 3 games showing how they were becoming who they are now.
I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours on just two damn games and now it’s very difficult to leave this world. Why should I when it’s so cozy and familiar? Heh, I said that it’s an addiction, didn’t I? =) I felt almost empty when the final credits roll and this time, instead of even trying to pretend that I’m going to play something else — just got the game where everything started, Trails in the Sky. Who doesn’t like a good JRPG with a romance between siblings? =) The perspective of having to catch up with 7 more games (8 with Hajimari No Kiseki) has become exciting instead of daunting. What has my life become!?
It’s been more than a year since COVID epic started and now, celebrating yet another Ontario lockdown that began yesterday, it’s fascinating to realize that it’s still a complete mess when it comes to understanding what the virus does and, what’s probably more important, what we do about it. In Ontario and, as far as I can tell, in entire Canada, the government’s actions have been all over the place. Let’s close pubs and hair salons but keep huge stores open at 75% capacity. Does anyone need a dentist? You’re out of luck. Someone has been referred to a surgery? Oh, it can wait, what can possibly go wrong? More interestingly, the same set of rules is applied to the entire province. Yeah, because GTA is in the same situation as Huntsville. In London, before the lockdown, new restriction had been added “depending on the trend in cases”. I mean, the idea of limiting how businesses work was based on the fear that hospitals would be overwhelmed, doesn’t look like the cases are directly related to that. Here, for instance, I think a good chunk of new positive cases come from students whose risk to be hospitalized is minimal. Considering that it’s been a year how we leap from one lockdown to another — I think it’s fair to question how much the mandates we have to comply with work, if eventually everything is still closed down. And our situation here, in London, wasn’t even that bad comparing to Toronto; or Montreal, where (if I recall correctly) there’s still curfew in effect.
I’m a pessimist and whereas I’m not entirely sure how reasonable the limitations are, I’m fairly confident that we’ll see new taxes, lots of closed businesses and increased cost of everything. Oh well, we are already witnessing that, two places we used to visit regularly have closed for good and one of few music clubs in the city also gave up. That’s only about places I know and have been to multiple times. In general the downtown had been in decline for a while, for reasons, and now there is quite a few buildings with boarded windows and “for lease” signs. So I doubt that the idea that your business can be closed any moment will inspire lots of potential owners. We’ll probably hear and read articles how the pandemic destroyed small stores and restaurants but maybe it’ll be more correct to say that the government response hit them harder than the virus itself. A couple of years ago, when PCP got the power in the province, they picked “Open for Business” as the slogan. Ironic eh?
What’s even more interesting is that I didn’t believe that people would get used to the current situation so quickly. Last year we’re drinking beer with some guys and, of course, were talking about covid, which had been around for a few months back then. I was telling them that everything would return back to normal sooner or later — simply because people would want that. People would want to go to hockey games, get a few shots at a pub or just smile at each other on the street. Now I’m not so sure. A few people I know basically haven’t left their homes during all this time, only going out to buy groceries. London was a super friendly city, on average — it still is, I’m sure! But now you can meet people who’re willing to climb a tree or jump in front of a car only to avoid a stranger passing by. It’s an anecdotical experience, for sure — but it feels like older folks, who should be more worried about the virus, are often calmer than people my age or younger. For example, last year once we went to listen to some live music in a small tavern, and we were the youngest guys there, most other people there were in their 70s. Maybe it was a specific of that particular place, who knows. But again, I’m a pessimist and if we’re ready to redo everything in life because of a bad, but not the-end-of-the-world-bad virus — what’s going to happen when we get hit by another, more dangerous, one?
Dr. Stone 2
Another anime with a meh second season. It’s not a disaster like the second season of Yakusoku No Neverland and it’s probably going to be difficult to explain what was wrong with this show but this chapter of Senku’s adventures just wasn’t fun. Maybe the length of this arc is to blame. With just 11 episodes dedicated for this part of this story everything was happening at alarming speed and there was no time to show the process of development, to throw in a failure here and there. Whatever Kingdom of Science would take a fancy doing, whether it’s building a tank or imitating a voice over the phone, they were doing it perfectly. Even during the first season, objectively, Senku was way too lucky. He became even luckier this time around. Interestingly, another anime this season had a similar issue — all events there were lining up ideally, all according to keikaku =) But anyway — yah, I could say that there were a couple of bumps in the road which apparently were supposed to build up some intrigue (“ah, she recognized it’s not real Lillian, what are we going to do?!”) but these matters usually were resolved in mere minutes. Don’t forget — we have just 11 episodes, it’s going to be a shame to waste this time on *gasp* devising alternative plans!
To add insult to injury Tsukasa (of course!) was shown as a decent guy. Who would’ve thought. Actually, pretty much everyone he sided with were good guys. The clash of ideologies was not a strong premise but at least it was something. We didn’t even have a chance to see what Tsukasa’s kingdom looked like. No time to explain — we’re about to embark on a brand new awesomazing adventure, gluing together the destroyed statues in spare time. Kingdom of Science banzai!
The anime is not hopeless and all the problems the second chapter has are fixable. I just hope that the third season’s pacing will be a bit slower, that we’ll be able to see that science, though sometimes indistinguishable from magic, is a lot of trial and error, it doesn’t just happen when someone snaps fingers. It also would be nice to finally get some character development too =)
Finished Trails of Cold Steel IV last night and whereas I have mixed feelings regarding the game one thing I can say for sure — both endings were absolutely fantastic, I almost cried during either.