Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category


The Speakeasy #052: Death of a Virgin, PAX East 2014

April 23, 2014
Drink #052: Death of a Virgin
PAX East 2014

Our first experience with PAX East was an overwhelmingly positive one. So much so that we hope to add it to our list of regular, staple cons we return to each year. It was a whirlwind weekend with all the trappings of other cons we’ve attended, but this one was all about gaming. We discuss everything from the hotel location, the convention center, PWNMEAL, PA themselves, and lots of other stuff.


And now your helpful bartenders at The Speakeasy present your drink:

Death of a Virgin

  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 1 1/2 oz peach schnapps
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • orange juice
  • 7-up soda

Pour vodka, schnapps and lime juice into a glass. Add orange juice until the glass is half-filled, and fill completely with 7-up. Stir well, and serve.

More PAX East 2014 posts:

PAX East 2014: Tweets
PAX East 2014: General Impressions
PAX East 2014: Panels


Ongoing Investigations: Case #237

March 18, 2014

hisui_icon_4040 If any one remembers a little while back Kate looked at the first volume of Knights of Sidonia. She definitely had mixed feelings on the series but I was still intrigued to see what the series was like. We don’t get that much legitimate mecha manga in English so I figured I should seek it out when I could. I read the first four volumes myself to see if I had a different opinion. After diving pretty deep into the series I agree with Kate’s overall assessment but I found what threw me off about the series was very different from the things that bothered her.

The premise is fairly interesting. After Earth is destroyed during a horrific first contact scenario the remnants of humanity have been forced to live on colony ships. While fighting the relentless creatures bent on wiping out humanity it seems that the survivors have modified themselves to use photosynthesis, cloning, third genders, and other forms of genetic engineering to survive the greatly reduced resources on their ships. Nagate Tanikaze was an unmodified human who was living outside the system in the bowls of one of the ships until he was caught trying to steal food. When he is forced to fly a fighter which puts him in contact with many of the great secrets of the battle with the Gauna.

Kate really did not like the characters. I understand that feeling. They all seem so inhuman. And that makes sense. It is very clear that the crew of the Sidonia have been so heavily modified that while they are still technically human they are so removed from a modern person that they are practically aliens. The problem is the characters don’t feel uniquely alien. They don’t seem like fulled fleshed out others with distinctly aliens mindsets and personalities. They feel less like creatures apart from humanity and more characters without humanity. But even Nagate who is mostly human feels this way.

That was not a deal breaker for me. On the other hand it did not help my main problem with the series. The death blow for me was the narrative structure. Everything read like “this happened, then this happened, then this happened.” It is easy from that description to assume that Knights of Sidonia is extremely exposition heavy with lots of talking heads and walls of text. But overall the series is fairly light on blatant info dumps and long speeches. In fact you can read through any given book of Sidonia fairly quickly. It is more that Nagate just drifts from plot point to plot point. I never felt any weight or tension to his actions. If he is hanging out with his fellow pilots, fighting for his life in battle, adrift and space on the verge of death, or learning dark and terrible secrets it all was has the same feel to it. If I were a bit more well versed in the language and mechanics of manga I might be able to put my finger on what is off about the story. I do know it is deeply mechanical. It is not just the overall narrative. It is something as systemic as the flow from panel to panel.

But that is the manga in a nutshell. It has a lot of strong elements that should make it a series that Kate and I loved. But in the end it is an interesting dance performed by someone who is constantly not in synch with the music. They are off just enough that it does not look wrong but it never feels right. You want to like what they are doing but you can’t ever enjoy yourself even though you feel you should.

I do wonder if this is actually a series that could be saved by the upcoming anime. Theoretically a talented director could take what is good about the series and bring it to the forefront while minimizing or even removing what keeps the series from congealing. Also robot battles always just look better animated. I’m not saying that is guaranteed to happen. But I feel if anything could save the series it would be a well produced anime. Since Netflix picked up the series it will be a while before Kate and I will be able to watch it legitimately. But considering how cool we were on the manga this is hardly the hardest wait for us.


narutaki_icon_4040 Last month I was excited for The Heroic Legend of Arslan manga by Yoshiki Tanaka and Hiromu Arakawa to be licensed, imagine my surprise when it was promptly added to Crunchyroll Manga! So I sped through the first volume over the weekend.

Prince Arslan’s strained relationship with his parents is apparent from the start. His father is a warrior king while Arslan isn’t too bad with a sword (no matter what his attendants have him believe), he is more of a thinker. The people surrounding him are going to be of the utmost importance as we watch him grow from boy to ruler.

Ms. Arakawa has done a great job creating the sweeping epic feel of this fantasy series as a major battle embroils the kingdom in the last couple chapters of vol. 1. Her farming experience (manga and otherwise) is sure to be helping her draw all the calvary! The intensity of the battle, or perhaps massacre is a better word, feels horrific so it should come as no surprise that this series has a high body count.

This story has been adapted into anime and manga before but this may prove to be the best incarnation yet.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching, reading, or playing outside of our main blog posts. We each pick three things without much rhyme or reason; they are just the most interesting things since the last OI.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #236

March 3, 2014

narutaki_icon_4040 The story in the Mushishi Special of a girl who can’t go into the sun and the eclipse which takes a toll on her family and her town, and her selfish wish for the sun to never to return, fit perfectly in the world of Mushishi.

I rather enjoyed the beginning sequence of little stories and tidbits about the upcoming eclipse being talked about by various people. Various people that don’t include Ginko, though he is mentioned but not by name. There was a feeling of anticipation for him to show up on the screen. It has been so long since last we met our wanderer that I felt my heart swell as he stepped into view.

The Mushishi Special does the trick of making one very excited for the upcoming new ongoing anime. This double episode filled me with good feelings but, as Al pointed out to me, made me forget the melancholy that generally underlies much of the series.

hisui_icon_4040 The Mushishi Special is sort of herald for the new Mushishi anime. The original anime covered lots of the manga but at the same time it also left a decent amount uncovered. But Mushishi is really episodic. There is not really a beginning, a middle, or an end. There are no real story arcs or many connecting threads. It is mostly just Ginko going around Japan and helping people with their spirit problems while researching said spirits at the same time. There are some reoccurring characters but no one who need more than a breif introduction.  So it is a story that can always be restarted with minimal fuss and ended with little sense of abruptness.

The special starts during a Solar Eclipse. The Mushishi are on high alert as the spirts are extremely active during a large natural event like an eclipse. In fact some of them can only act on such a day. In one town a huge Mushi uses the darkness to block out the sun in the area permanently.  While Ginko tries to free the town from endless darkness there are two girls in town who might have a solution but little desire to tell anyone about it.

I was a little shocked that overall this was not that melancholy a story. It really felt like it could easily go down the road to a sad or bittersweet ending. Mushishi as a whole like to go that way. But surprisingly everyone gets what they want it this episode. It is certainly not the way the originally wanted it but in the end they might have actually gotten more of what they needed than what they wanted. (And not at some horrible price.) I sort of figured they would go for the gut punch with this one. Color me surprised.

Overall it was more Mushishi. It was slow but pretty. Thoughtful but not overly ponderous.  Subdued but not comatose or completely morose. It is not an episode that would win anyone over who was not already predisposed to the series but a nice treat to its established fan base. I am sure they are just itching for the new season on the way.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching, reading, or playing outside of our main blog posts. We each pick three things without much rhyme or reason; they are just the most interesting things since the last OI.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #235

February 17, 2014

hisui_icon_4040 I think is was easy to dismiss The LEGO Movie as utter trash cinema based on a toy like Battleship or the Bayformers movies. It did seem like something that had the distinct potential to be horribly mediocre. But a careful look at the pedigree of the movie was far more encouraging. Phil Lord and Chris Miller worked on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs which was another animated movie that was easy to dismiss but got a good amount of praise. The duo’s major involvement with the first Cloudy movie and then the lackluster reviews of the second movie (which they were largely uninvolved with) shows that their touch can really make a movie. So the almost universal praise for The LEGO Movie makes far more sense when you know that fact.

The movies signature song Everything is Awesome says everything you need to know. It just sums up the infectious joy that permeates the movie. It goes out of its way to try to make everything just plain fun. At the same time if you think about a lot of the little pieces of the movie are brick jokes that point the way to big events later on in the movie. In fact this is totally a movie that rewards you for paying attention. There is always two or three things happening in the background begging for a re-watch on video with a pause button. Just watching the main character go to work is an Easter egg hunt in of itself. The posters, billboards, and characters in the background are always doing something that will reward another viewing.

In many way the 80’s Space Man sums up the movie for me. As a kid who grew up with LEGO in the 80’s the figure was just something you had. You had to get a space set and you had to get the 80’s Space Man. So him showing up is not totally surprising. But when you see that he has that crack in his helmet that almost every 80’s Space Man got when you removed his helmet wrong struck such a cord in me. That part of the darn helmet always broke because its plastic was so much thinner (especially if you try to take it off with you teeth.) The character totally works if you never had that figure as a kid BUT if you did it is an immediately says with wink and a nod that, “We know” without saying a word.

There are also some interesting meta-contextual themes running through the course of the movie. Like the Toy Story movies it has a simple story that extremely entertaining but there are some deep cogs moving in the background if you wish to explore their mechanisms. I don’t want to give them all away but the loving critique of big budget summer movies it fairly obvious but at the same time never mean-spirited. It reminds me of Hot Fuzz in the respect.

I assume that like 80% of the people who read this part of the blog have already seen the movie and are just nodding at what they are reading. Another 1% just never wanted to like movie and all the hype around it only makes it worse. This really for the last 19% who keep saying, “I know it keeps getting good reviews but it is a film about LEGO. How good could that be?” I’m telling you take that leap you might fall into that 1% but I’m firmly convinced you will be part of the greater 99%. If nothing else, the sooner you see the movie the more likely the movies little final act reveal will not be ruined for you. It is a nice perk to be able to go into the movie and for it to be a surprise.

Also this.

narutaki_icon_4040 As per the entire Internet’s suggestion, we saw The LEGO Movie from Warner Bros. Animation. And it came as no surprise when everyone was right, especially considering some of the team is behind the unremembered, but awesome, Clone High series. The LEGO Movie a really high-spirited film with amazing animation. I want to see it again already!

The way LEGO is used in the film is exactly how it should always be done. Much like the many small productions we’ve seen online, the film uses LEGO for everything including all of the effects. Little details stood out to me during the movie. Like how paint on the LEGO pieces was imperfect, fuzzy at the edges, scratched or chipped; you could see smudges and cracks. It was great to see the movie trying to evoke the actual toys rather than working on making everything super slick. Nevertheless the animation is impressive on a ton of levels.

The humor is a blast as they skewer popular culture, mass media, and grown-ups. They tackle the mythos of being average, showing that being “normal” doesn’t mean being useless. And of course there are plenty of cameos.

I was surprised about the twists the film took near the end and ended up appreciating it all the more for those decisions.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching, reading, or playing outside of our main blog posts. We each pick three things without much rhyme or reason; they are just the most interesting things since the last OI.

Read the rest of this entry ?


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