Since the 7th game of Umineko is so game changing I am going to try to just discuss the essence of the episode without giving away major spoilers especially for people who read the blog but are a few games behind. The two new characters seen in the portrait above are Willard H Wright and Lion Ushiromiya. Lion is a fascinating character that is essentially several huge reveals just by existing. Will is the Battler stand in for this chapter and I thought his big entrance was fairly entertaining and cool. Lion and Will’s interaction is playful although all the butt pinching going on has solidified that they will be shipped forever. When we get into the meat of the story we learn Kinzo’s back story, the identity of Beatrice, Battler’s sin, get some hits as to the solutions to some of the locked room mysteries, and the probable confirmation of one of the mostly hotly debated theories in the series. We also get some powerful scenes that I thought were quite moving. Also unless we are being misled there is some seriously twisted relationships in Umineko and the people involved do not realize are as twisted as they are. It probably makes me a weenie but I found parts of the end of Requiem of the Golden Witch really hard to read. If you have come to love these characters the last chapter is brutal. Although how authentic how authentic that ending is has yet to be seen. When the last game comes out I will probably do a total spoiler filled review of the series a whole but until then I just have to wait to see what answers 2011 finally gives us with Twilight of the Golden Witch.
I picked up How to Train Your Dragon in a Black Friday sale but didn’t get around to watching it till the Christmas holidays. The animation of the film really stands out, especially from some of the other Dreamworks properties, it was lush and gorgeous; the dragons were very animated and their designs were quirky; plus the flying scenes were breath-taking. The story is a simple one of trying to fit in to your dragon-killing village of vikings (we’ve all been there, right?) but Hiccup is much happier inventing things which often gets him into trouble. After one of his inventions actually works and takes down a rare dragon, their fates become intertwined when he realizes he can’t bring himself to hurt the creature. This story has a classic feel of acceptance, growing up, and having the bravery to do what is right. While I did find the relationships between Hiccup and the other kids a little too easier resolved, it was enough. I found it a very enjoyable ride! After seeing it, I do imagine it will be an Oscar contender this year.
The next chapter in Higurashi is Tsumihoroboshi-hen or the Atonement Chapter. Like the previous Eye Opening Chapter this chapter got cut in the anime and is much more effective in the visual novel. As always we are able to get to know the characters and see their mental break downs much clearer in the visual novel than in any other form. This chapter is a departure from the chapter it is answering but it still gives resolution and explanations to what happened in the Spirited Away by the Demon Chapter. In fact this chapter gives much more answers than the anime ever did. This chapter is downright mean because it throws out a lot of information that is actually vital for understand the greater story and then makes you think they were merely red herrings when Rena’s theories go into a layer of total insane paranoia. But as always the biggest trick is this chapter seems to have a somewhat happy ending until you read the afterward and find out despite the hard-won ending it turns out everyone dies anyway because the underlying causes of the tragedy of Showa 58 has still not been discovered. This was another chapter that was distinctly worth the money for anyone who is a fan of the series for the greater insights it gives you. I will say that the author’s afterward is this bizarre public service announcement that seems to come out of nowhere. So very odd.
I finished up Yumeiro Patissiere Professional TV. After the gang returns from their stint in New York City, they feel ready to take on the task of opening their own store. But before things can really start, alliances are changed and (new, new) Team Ichigo must revise their tactics. To make the stakes higher, Miya and Johnny make bets about dating Kashino and Ichigo respectively. Henri is notably absent in importance through these last episodes as well. Once again we aren’t privy to as much baking and creative endeavor with more of a concentration on business. As one would suspect things turn out for the best, sort of, but without any resolve to the love relationships going. This sequel really didn’t hold a candle to its predecessor.
After seeing a few intriguing ads for 999: 9 Hours, 9 People, 9 Doors I decided to pick it up because I am always interested in translated visual novels. 999 is the story of 9 people who were kidnapped and placed on an ocean liner as part of a mysterious revenge plot by a masked villain know only a Zero. They have bombs in their bodies that can be triggered in a variety of ways so they are forced to solve puzzles in groups to survive. As they try to escape they also discover a murderer among them that is taking them out one by one. The game itself is hybrid visual novel puzzle game. You solve puzzles in an Myst style fashion to get to the next block of visual novel text and decision. Overall the game is entertaining but there are some really annoying things that way it down. First of all there are multiple endings depending on paths you take. To get the best ending you have to get a particular bad ending that unlocks the best ending. When you replay the game to get a new ending you can fast forward through text you have already read but that a still takes a bit of time. You have to replay all the puzzles you figured out which is really annoying since they are major time sinks. The puzzles are not that hard but the 5th time you have to do the puzzles in the first room are 3 times too many. If you don’t have a guide to do everything effectively it could be even a bigger pain. It is a fun game and the story is interesting but that repetition can be brutal enough to make some people walk away.
I was surprised to see the first live-action Nodame Cantabile movie available with English subtitles on my flight back from Europe. This is the first of two movies that will conclude the fairly lengthy romance story of aspiring conductor and accomplished pianist Chiaki and eccentric pianist Nodame plus the merry band of misfits they call friends. I have read a good portion of the manga so I had a decent understanding of what was going on, but this isn’t the place to start if you are new to the franchise; nothing is explained and this is the (beginning of the) final stunning conclusion to it all. However, this is the first time I’ve seen any of the live-action adaption. I was surprised by the cartoony additions like people getting bonked on the head and animated little things, which work fine in manga form but have potential to throw you out in live-action. But what I found most jarring was Chiaki’s personality portrayed as much more tame which only made Nodame seem annoying and petulant. I mean, Nodame is petulant, but when Chiaki is a crazy, controlling, ego-maniac it all balances out; that balance wasn’t happening. The music was quite a highlight though, as it should be, and was played in full for most sequences. I’m curious how the story ends but I’ll be picking up the manga to find that out rather than the films.