When we went to go see A Letter to Momo our little group went on a side trip to Kinokuniya. These trips are always dangerous. I did not pick up anything but my roommate purchased the Fate/Complete Material volume 5 art book which of course was of no small interest to me.This is a very hefty art book all about Fate/Hollow Ataraxia. As I have never played Fate/Hollow it is always nice to get some more insight into that game. I have to say that I was slightly surprised that Bazett was the character on the cover. While she is one of the most important characters in the game she generally tends to be overlooked in most materials.The first part of the book shows all the designs from the returning characters. I never noticed how many odd little outfits Rin gets in this game. Interestingly enough all the new characters are near the back of the book in their own section. Also apparently that trio of girls who are the stars of Fate/School Life are rather prominent in Fate/Hollow. While they are no main characters that is a still a major upgrade from barely having names to becoming reoccurring minor characters. I wonder how they got that popular. There is also an amazingly wealth of background images and production sketches. Sadly I could not read the accompanying notes but I am sure they are filled with fascinating little details. Overall like the rest of the Complete Material books this is an amazing resource. As a side note they don’t have any materials from the sex scenes. I know that is a selling point for some people and a deal breaker for others. There is a whole page of naked Saber bum but other than that it is all clean as a whistle. It is definitely something I will pick up for myself when I have money again. If nothing else it only makes me want to play Fate/Hollow Ataraxia even more.
The Knight in the Area isn’t the best soccer anime you’ll see, but it does a solid job. I have to say I was surprised about the brother’s fate, I mean it was obvious Kakeru would have to go it alone, but the details of it were unexpected. As Kakeru finds his soccer spirit again, he decides to change schools looking for a player his brother respected. The players at Enoshima are a colorful bunch and I’m really enjoying the way they play off each other. The pacing is almost too fast however which leads to people saying a lot of things rather than showing them or us feeling them. I am pleased that in episodes 9-10 Seven is getting more of story. And she is a force to be reckoned with, quickly showing she has more skill than Kakeru and the boys of the team. It was really gratifying to see her far bypassing our main character. Kakeru is a player who will struggle for each new step and that is just fine.
Speaking of art books I also took a look at my roommate’s copy of the Art of the Mass Effect Universe. I am curious how many people bought this because there were interested in the art and how many people bought it because it had spoilers for the 3rd game.The book was an early sneak peek at some of the new squad members so I am sure that there was many a person who bought it for that fact alone. The art book is made up almost exclusively of concept sketches and background art from all three games. But it is amazingly insightful to see how certain races and characters have developed. Certain ideas seem fairly well solidified when they got on paper like the Asari but others seemed to go through quite a bit of tweaking like the Turians. I saw some designs that thankfully never saw the light of day. Some of the early Cerberus armor designs look outright dorky and while Joker looks like a retro future hick in the game at least he does not look like a lich or a space pedophile. There are also some interpreting insights into what got changed over the development of the games as well. Apparently there was supposed to be a big fight with monstrous Illusive Man at the end of the third game that was thrown out. I will note that the book seems to have come out slightly before the game was finished as one squad member did not have a name and the Banshee has a very different method of creation in the finished game. But as Narutaki will attest the lead time on putting out a book is quite long. Overall it is a great purchase if you are not too upset with Bioware after their recent brouhaha about the endings of the series.
With much anticipation, the first issue of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ new sci-fi series Saga came out this week. It begins with the birth of our main character (ewww!). She (who remains nameless until the end of the issue) is our intermittent narrator giving us background on the endless war between Landfall and its moon Wreath which have pulled the rest of the galaxy into their feud. Her parents are currently in a bit of scrape as they are army deserters, one from each side. A sense of the world comes through with the great visuals as do the unique inhabitants that seem somewhere between new world technology and fairytale magic. The last few pages are emotional and beautiful. We know that our infant girl grows up but we don’t know when or if the story is going to shift time or if this is really a story about her parents or perhaps a saga that will play out many stories. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples look to be a great combo, this is a really promising beginning.
Speaking of Mass Effect I also picked up the Datapad app because it is free so there was no reason not to give it a whirl. There is a little minigame where you assign ships to missions to gain galactic readiness points. It is without a doubt the most inefficient way to gain those points. It is basically a Facebook game that gives you a small amount of points and only affects a single area at a time as opposed to the other methods that raise awareness universally. It is just a “play for a few second and the forget about it” game but it strikes me as horribly inefficient. But the real reason to use the app is the other features. The first is the mail system. Every time you do a mission or have a meaningful conversation you will get a little email from one of the characters involved. It is a nice little feature that adds a bit of additional dialog to the game. Since the banter between characters is often a highlight of the game this is always appreciated. Who would not want more quips from Joker or Garrus’ insight into calibrations? The other highlight is the portable codex. The codex is an amazing resource into the background of the Mass Effect universe. The problem usually is that while your playing the game you are usually more interested in playing than reading the Codex. I printed out the Codex from 1 and 2 from the wiki and read that but most people read a select entry or two and call it a day. The ability to read the Codex outside of the game is just wonderful as it lets you catch up on the those little details on your commute or just waiting for something when it would be the best to read such materials. I just wish the app was a little more universal. Throwing in up as Android and web app would be a great idea for those without an iOS device.
I continue to be entertained and learn a bit of manga history with Kingyo Used Books vols. 3 and 4. The series often features nostalgia for manga and how that can inspire, help, and connect people. Here it continues with titles like Sailor Moon and Ranma 1/2 while also exploring figures like Masako Watanabe (credited with being the person to add stars to the eyes of shojo heroines and flowers around the borders) and Katsuichi Nagai (editor of Garo magazine) They finally get to that rascally Father of Manga Go Nagai, too. But most fascinating of the notes was one about the real life “rules” of sedori (resellers of rare manga) who have featured in the series. And of course there is a ton of much older classic manga talked about in these pages, though it is rather torturous since we will probably never get them in English. The recurring cast of characters grows as we meet more manga fans who just can’t get enough of the store. I love the addition of Sasayama whose first chapter was hilarious as he chides the regulars for being too pretty to talk about manga but coming to an understanding about himself in the end. Him taking down an arsonist in a subsequent chapter only solidified him in my mind. I always look forward to more Kingyo!
The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.