Shirobako The Movie

I have watched Shirobako TV twice. I liked it the first time, I loved it and it became one of my all-time favorite anime after I finished it for the second time. It’s the best show made by P.A. Works, hands down — Shirobako is flawless visually, funny, touching, its characters are great. It’s even a bit scary that I can’t think of anything to complain about =) However, I was very apprehensive when I read that the studio was working on a full-length sequel.

A small detour. The movie was licensed by Eleven Arts but so far all we’ve got is a trailer. As I said, I’m a huge fan of this show and couldn’t wait any longer, so I had to use some, let’s say, dubious (although easily googleable, wink-wink) means to check it out. The translation feels to be a bit hasty, it has typos and some sentences are structured weirdly, but in general it’s decent. I do hope though that we’ll be able to watch the movie one more time in a theater (if any of them survive of course) once it comes out officially.

Sadly, the movie itself doesn’t have too much substance. It’s good if you consider it as a fanservice addition to the TV show — virtually all the characters we liked in the original anime make an appearance here as well (even Hideaki Anno… oh, pardon me — Mitsuaki Kanno can be spotted for a second), with all their quirks we loved — whether it’s someone’s admiration of Mont Blanc cakes or passion for fishing. We even get to see the famous Ema’s exercise routine again =) But because the authors wanted to squeeze every single character, they ended up with basically no time for the actual story. Not only the idea “Musani rises from the ashes” is essentially the same as in the original anime, it also includes the familiar plot twists and suspiciously similar scenes. Some of them, like the episodes with Kinoshita-kun yet again making an attempt to draw storyboards, were added purely for fun, for sure. Some, like the scene with the audition, made an impression of a shameless self-copying. Again, if we were talking about a different anime I’d shrug and move on but with Shirobako it feels like a waste. Two hours is simply not enough!

To sum up, if you’re a fan — keep your expectations low, the movie is fine but nothing special. If you’re not — well, there’s no reason to watch it at all, it assumes that the audience is not only familiar with the characters but likes them to the extent that it’s ready to put up with the rushed and self-repeating story.

Can’t stop, won’t stop! Finally got all 4 Trails of Cold Steel games on discs. Had to order the first and second game from the US because seems that all copies in Canada are sold out for some reason (and on ebay people ask simply ridiculous prices).

British thrashers Evile reminded everyone that it doesn’t matter how many or who of Drake brothers play in the band. Ol left, Ol returned, Matt left, Ol took over vocal duties and Evile released the best album since the debut one. I stumbled upon “Enter the Grave” by accident but it immediately became one of the albums I always had on my player. Good old times, when mp3 players were a thing. That was a great record, even though it was a bit naive and raw. “Hell Unleashed” is everything but naive. It’s even faster than “Enter the Grave”, very straightforward and absolutely ferocious. It’s brutally hammering you for half an hour and if I had to compare this album to something — it would be “Arise”. Ol Drake shamelessly said himself that “Arise” and “Beneath the Remains” were a huge inspiration for him while he was writing songs and that’s noticeable.

P.S. And while I’m on it… Cannibal Corpse also released a fantastic album, “Violence Unimagined”. I was kind of lukewarm about this band for a long period of time but “A Skeletal Domain” made me change my mind and every next record is only getting better.

Trails in the Sky FC

This one didn’t take long =) It was actually pretty interesting and a bit scary to go from modern (haha) Trails of Cold Steel to Trails in the Sky FC, the game that started this amazing journey and has made quite a few people around the world Falcom fans =) There are dozens of us! Dozens!

Not going to lie, I’m not sure I would’ve finished Sora FC if I hadn’t played CS III & IV. The first and most obvious reason is that the game is not as streamlined as other JRPGs nowadays. For example, I’m okay with the idea that points of interest are not shown on the minimap but for Aidios’ sake! Show there at least the people who’re dying to get some help from Estelle and Joshua! It’s not super exciting to have to talk to every single NPC assuming they might have a quest. It also would be nice to have some kind of fast-travel instead of dashing back and forth across 3-4 maps trying to get an ingredient or kill yet another monster.

I hadn’t played on PC for a few years, so my first several hours of Trails in the Sky were filled with frustration. I couldn’t get how anyone could play such a game using keyboard and mouse. Turned out that modern technology is amazing and PS4 controllers work with computers without any problems — I almost teared up when I finally could rotate the camera using R1 and L1 and control the characters using an analog stick

But enough of technicalities! Certainly it wouldn’t hurt if this game had a few quality-of-life improvements but overall it was a smooth sailing. So it’s time to begin ranting about other things =) Worry not though! This “other things” list is going to be short actually, just a single line — the game kicks off really slow. This is a well known fact and a general suggestion is to soldier through the first couple of acts. If you don’t know that eventually the game will change the scale dramatically — it’s hard to motivate yourself to go and complete those stupid first requests. Find a shining stone. Find a cat. Get rid of critters at a farm. So awesome. Yay. Even amazingly written dialogues are not going to help. The first several hours of gameplay are quite tedious and not very rewarding. Luckily I knew what I was getting myself into.

Because despite all that nitpicking, despite the fact that the plot could’ve been better, despite the goddamn tournament in the final chapter — Trails in the Sky is a great game that has so many fantastic moments! Which I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. Or at least for some, longer than usual, time, considering how awful my memory is =) Joshua playing “The Whereabouts of Light” for the first time, the scene when our heroes get acquainted with Olivier, the school festival and, of course, the epilogue — just to name a few. The cast of characters is great, even though many of them don’t get enough screen time (Zin, what do we know about him?). I also must say a couple of words about Estelle personally. I wholeheartedly support the idea that she is a much better main character than Rean. He is fine, I don’t hate him, but he’s soooo standard! Not that Estelle Bright was a type of person we’ve never seen in anime or other games but she’s as realistic and likeable as it can get. She’s not as well-rounded as Rean or, let’s say, Persona protagonists — who are smart and sexy, get along with everybody and leaders from the get-go. No, even with such a family name she is definitely not a genius, she doesn’t like tests and not especially fond of history. Estelle is pretty short-tempered and she won’t hold back if she thinks she’s had enough. Estelle is 16 years old and she acts like a normal (though pretty strong physically) girl her age. That’s why it’s always fascinating to see how she interacts with other people, we can always expect that it’s going to be something more than yet another “oh, we still have a lot to learn”. She and Olivier are two main starts in this game and it’s not even a close competition. Kloe and Shera don’t have enough time to show themselves and Joshua more works as a tool to bring Estelle down to earth (and yeah, there are also those occasional hints that he has a Suspicious Past).

While I’m on the topic of characters… I’m a pervert who’s playing the series out of order and in my case I bet it helps to think about Trails games better. To tell the truth, I’m not a huge fan of the idea of bringing back characters and referring to previous games all the time. I likely would’ve been very angry at the scene in the beginning of CS III when Tita joins the branch campus, if I had known who she was. For me she was just a cute calm girl from a different county, who is crazily good with orbal technology. She wasn’t that Tita =) Now, because I have already seen her when she’s older — I can just just say something like “Oh, that’s where she’s from!” and try to figure out how her personality changed between the two arcs, instead of yelling at the clouds that I’m sick and tired of Trails’ self-referencing.

I read that combat in Trails in the Sky is more difficult than in Sen games, so I prepared for the worst — that every other monster is going to kick my ass and then triumphantly piss on the characters’ sprite grave, because that’s how it works. Battles are indeed a bit more complicated and I had to re-play them more often than I did in Cold Steel, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. The roughest part of the game is arguably the first and, maybe, second act. At this point Estelle and Joshua simply don’t have any powerful crafts (which in general have questionable usefulness, unless we’re talking about buffing or de-buffing) and almost all arts hit a single enemy. Life becomes easier when you get abilities like Joshua’s Flicker (it has delay) and arts like Aerial or Hell Gate. After that I didn’t have too many problems until the last boss, who’s pretty fat and has a cheat craft one-shooting a party member.

I’m hyped now because from what I’ve heard Trails in the Sky SC may be the best game among all 10 in the series. Even if it’s not true (probably not true — I’m a picky bastard), I’m sure it will be a great adventure. With more Olivier than ever =) That fact alone would make it totally worth playing =)