So, I’ve been following that Japanese bassist girl, Fami, for a while (I’m starting to suspect that I’m a sucker for watching people who are more talented and put more effort into stuff than I do) and she had been, you know, that mysterious high school girl who never showed her face. Until recently! And turned out that she decided to reveal who she is for a good reason — she joined a band, Lovebites. I’m writing all this because even though I was kinda familiar with this band, for example they played an opening for the latest Mamoru Oshii’s anime Vlad Love, which of course no one watched — that was the first time when I decided to listen to their music more carefully and damn! They’re pretty good! I’m even surprised a little that they apparently are not popular in the West, considering that they play really well, look pretty cute and the songs’ lyrics are in English.

I don’t know if Fami is a good fit for them and whether they are a good fit for her, and how long this collaboration will last — but now I look forward to listening to their new album, Judgement Day, I think it’s coming out next month.

Chainsaw Man

I wrote the other day that Bocchi the Rock was a pleasant surprise this fall season, but actually Chainsaw Man was another one. By default I don’t believe that something that’s being hyped a lot is going to be any good (I’m a fucking elitist who prefers classics like Let’s Nupu Nupu to all your modern fancy shows) and Chainsaw Man was one of the most talked about manga recently. I didn’t follow the conversations too closely, but I saw that this name popped up here and there all the time. MAPPA had a tough job to satisfy people who were familiar with source material and, simultaneously, attract new viewers, and I think the studio did a pretty good job.

First of all — the quality of animation is top notch. During the entire season I was like “damn, they spent tons of money on that!” And tons of work. There weren’t any weak episodes animation-wise. To be fair, I can’t recall any anime MAPPA was responsible for that had awful animation, but this one may be their best work (it’s funny that it feels like MAPPA has been around forever, whereas this studio was founded like what, 10 years ago?) Lots of movement, lots of camera angles, lots of action sequences — yeah, it maybe doesn’t have that warm hand-drawn style some shows have but welcome to the 21st century I guess (not so fast, studio Orange, Trigun Stampede still looks questionable).

What Chainsaw Man really does right is its characters. Denji and Power are complete savages and I approve that wholeheartedly. They are the real reason to watch this anime, because, frankly, the plot here is non-existent. Ironically, that’s also why I think I will never watch this story entirely — sooner or later the characters should show some development and my guess is that they will become more “likeable”, meaning they’ll transform into your average shounen characters defeating demons for the goodness of their hearts and not because they want to touch some boobies.

However that will happen in the (probably nearest) future — for now let’s just enjoy a beautifully drawn anime about some insane guys smashing demons left and right =)

Bocchi the Rock

Bocchi the Rock was a pleasant surprise this fall season. Initially I had no idea what to expect. On one hand this is an anime about an all-girls band, so it could be a new K-ON and there’s no such thing as “too much K-ON”. On the other hand this is a yet another show where the main heroine suffers from severe social anxiety, so it could easily become a drag like “Komi-san Can’t Communicate”. Luckily, Bocchi the Rock doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are definitely some awkward moments related to Hitori’s behavior, but nothing facepalm-inducing — and the other characters mostly laugh it off, or even sometimes have fun at Hitori’s expense (even her parents) =) And it’s certainly not a music-first anime — yeah, the girls play some songs here and there, but mostly it’s a comedy with really likeable characters.

What I definitely didn’t expect from this show is how much experimental and weird animation CloverWorks would use. I don’t know if the manga was the same, but every time Hitori falls into depression or goes into her own world it looks like the animators are given a free rein. It’s not Pop Team Epic-level madness of course, closer to something I’d imagine old Gainax could try but it is pretty unusual for such a mainstream show.

To sum up — show good, me enjoyed, second season want =)

Kotobukiya wants me to go bankrupt, I can’t find another reason why it decided to release a new Kiseki figure every 3 months. Just pre-ordered this Renne, curious who’s going to be next — hopefully Tio. Or Alisa. Or Juna. Or Laura. Or Sarah. Or… Who am I lying to — I’m going to order a figure based on pretty much any girl in this series except maybe Millium and Angelica =)

God of War Ragnarok

God of War Ragnarok is a game that a lot of people will, doubtlessly, enjoy — just look at the trophies data, 41% (!) got the final battle trophy, that’s simply insane. For me personally though it was a mixed bag, I got really tired of GoW:R by the end and glad that I’m done with it for the time being.

I was absolutely in love with the visuals on the previous GoW but pretty neutral towards the rest of what that game had to offer. Ragnarok sometimes is better than its predecessor but sometimes, oh man, it is so much worse!

Let’s start with the good stuff. The game again looks incredible. I love the graphics from the technical standpoint; I love the art-direction; locations are fantastic — you can make an argument that it doesn’t look much better than GoW 2018 and that may be true, but that’s more of a compliment to the game that came out 4 years ago. I also played on ps5, so it was a 60FPS experience accompanied by haptic feedback =)

This time around I also, quite surprisingly, liked combat. I felt lukewarm about combat in the previous game, it was okay but never pulled me in. I bumped the difficulty this time (“Show me no mercy”, so “hard” I guess?) and maybe because of that the battles were much more satisfying. Hell, this may be the reason I will return to the game later to get the platinum! I still don’t like a lot of related things: all the tinkering with armor, the axe’s knobs and whatnot, the crafting and equipment system, all that frustrates me — but the actual process of swinging the blades, dodging, blocking, etc. was unexpectedly fun. I died dozens of times during my playthrough but thanks to the generously placed checkpoints I never felt an urge to lower the difficulty. This time I even fought a few Berserkers and planning on going back to challenge the rest of them — I skipped the Valkyries fights in the previous game entirely. But whereas the combat loop and locations where you’re tearing enemies apart are really good, the rest of the game, namely pacing, story and characters are bad at best and atrocious at worst.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a huge fan of Kratos or any other character from the original games. Their personalities are so-so and, overall, gameplay is the king in those games, everything else is secondary. Now it’s year 2022 though, so we can’t just play a videogame, we need to experience a Story with Well-Developed Characters who demonstrate their Growth by making Important Choices. Can you have too much of that in a game? Oh, turned out that you can, for sure. As I said I used to be neutral towards the characters of GoW 2018, now I really dislike all of them. No exceptions. Everyone is GoW:R is over-emotional, likes to butt into other people’s affairs and shares feelings when no one asks for this. And they. Are. Always. Talking. It’s frankly unbearable. Sometimes their chatter affects your gameplay, like if there’s a puzzle your companion will not give you even a fucking minute to come up with a solution: “Oh, maybe I should shoot an arrow into that spot? And you will throw the axe. What are you waiting for? Throw the axe. Let me shoot an arrow and you will throw the damn axe. This cliff looks climbable. Maybe you could climb up there? Doitdoitdoit. Listen to me!” It’s annoying and I hope that there’s an option to disable that but I couldn’t find it. Combat actually suffers from the same problem — each one of Kratos’ companions feels that it’s his or her sacred duty to yell at Kratos. “Parry! Use your shield! Dodge! Why are you not using you shield?!” Annoying and utterly ridiculous in the context of who Kratos is and who they are.

To add insult to injury, the non-stop exposition, lore drops and characters banter ruin the pacing of the game. Old GoW games barely had any dialogue in them, so the pacing was relentless, SSM tried to always keep you engaged by giving you something to do in the game. First you’re crashing a horde of weak enemies, then you solve a puzzle, then it will be a climbing section, then a couple of strong monsters will attack you… you get the idea. In the new God of War games we have large sections of walking/riding a sled and doing nothing but talking. “Sergei, but you’re playing JRPGs all the time and claim that Trails, the series based on unstoppable dialogues, is your favorite one, why are you so upset by conversations in God Of War Ragnarok?” Well, the answer is pretty simple — I really, really don’t like the writing in this game.

Whereas the main plot has some interesting points — for example the way Gram becomes Fenrir is pretty smart — overall I found myself not caring much about it. If you asked me what the plot was I would probably mumble something about defying the prophesy in… well… some way and ughh killing Odin for umm some reasons. Some episodes that look pretty good on paper, like when Atreus runs to Asgard, are actually not especially memorable. The what-a-twist about Tyr… well, I spoiled it to myself pretty early and overall it was kinda ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I know that I will remember a few levels but unfortunately that will happen for a different reason — they etched in my memory because of how bad they were. We spend a couple of hours in Ironwood, for example, doing mostly talking and other pointless stuff. Accompanied by a girl that serves no purpose in the game and who, as your companion, attacks monsters using… paints. Why?! Why, Aidios, why?! It’s such an alien idea for a God Of War game. Not to mention her constant “You’ve got this! I’ve got this! Have you got this?” This level also was the one where I realized that something felt off regarding dialogues in this God of War. That girl and Atreus talked the way modern teenagers would talk (or perhaps how the writers assume teenagers talk nowadays). After that I couldn’t unsee and unhear how contemporary, out-of-place and, frankly, bland most of the exchanges are. Such tone, jokes, everything really, could be found pretty much in any blockbuster movie or game that came out in the last 5-10 years or so. You know that Disney-style formula, when someone says a smart or stupid phrase and in the end another character repeats it either mocking the original speaker or showing the growth? Like, character A says “We’re doing this because we have to, not because it’s cool” and in the end character B says the same phrase and everybody hugs and goes to eat some muffins? Don’t worry GoW has such stuff as well. The couple of cool phrases from the first game (“Don’t be sorry, be better” and “In the direction of a deer”) are now said by Atreus and directed at Kratos. Fuck me. Not only phrases, moment-to-moment interactions between characters are also so weird here. You know these little nods characters give each other when they acknowledge something? You think that would look cringe in a God of War game? Oh, it does, but we still have them. Also Kratos is now brave enough to give other members of their posse touching pats on the shoulder and hug his annoying son.

The last thing I want to mention is a lack of epic scenes. That’s truly a shame because a decade after I played old God of War games I still remember some of the crazy, over the top episodes those games have. The fight against Ares in the first game, the very first battle against Poseidon in GoW III (which I personally consider peak GoW), that sex scene with Aphrodite — I can’t recall anything in the last two games that would be as memorable.

Maybe I finally hit the midlife crisis and just like to complain in general, but I was pretty upset by GoW: Ragnarok. Amazing visuals and pretty fun combat are mixed together with the dialogues and characters that I want to wipe from my memory and never see anything like that again. Oh well, looks like Kratos’ part of the saga is over now, my guess is that Atreus will be the main character of the next game and I can skip it with no regrets. In meantime… I bought the original two games of GoW and going to replay them =)

Oh boy, it’s already January 1st. What a year 2022 was! I mean… to be completely honest most of the year is a blur to me, not only I had never had a year as busy as this one, but every day was like the other. On the other hand the reason why it was so hectic and “unmemorable” is because a big thing happened, we became parents. Hopefully all the stress and lack of sleep will be worth it in a long run =) But not only did we become parents, in 2022 we also became Canadian citizens, the achievement I’m immensely proud of and happy about. Onto 2023 I guess, hopefully this year will be less eventful and, well, more memorable =)

I’m not entirely sure what the hell this is but I totally approve. Momoiro Clover Z, heavy metal and the songs about Mazinger (and they seems to be about Dragon Ball as well), what’s not to like?! An interesting fact is that the drummer here appears to be Scott Travis. Yeah, that guy who plays in the unknown small band Judas Priest.

A few years ago we’d laugh at the famous line from Death Note subtitles “Just according to keikaku” but nowadays it’s becoming more and more normal to leave some words without translation even in official (crunchyroll, hidive, etc) subtitles. Who is laughing now? =) Recently we watched an anime where the parents were routinely called Otou-san and Okaa-san because why not, and in the latest episode of Bocchi the Rock the translators decided that everyone knows what seishun means anyway =) I actually think it’s a good idea, that could remove some awkwardness from translations (the same with honorifics, every time I see that -san is replaced with Mister it just feels… wrong, just leave it as is, not to mention attempts to make various Mya-nee sound more or less plausible).