Ongoing Investigations: Case #216

narutaki If you haven’t heard the fabulous news, UNIQLO currently has Fist of the North Star t-shirts! There is a great variety to choose from (of course Raoh is the best) printed on a multitude of colors. They all pretty much fulfill the in-your-face-ness of the series. One feature that all the shirts have is a tag on the right-side, you can see it above, which has the Big Dipper constellation on it.

The best things about the Raoh t-shirt: Raoh, the lettering, Raoh, the panel layout of this iconic scene, Raoh, the words “There is no regret in my whole life!” on the back, Raoh.

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I finished out my trio of free games with a copy of Psychonauts. It was actually me discussing buying the bundle just to get Psychonauts that made my roommate mention that he had extra copies of the games in the first place. Several years ago I had played Psychonauts up to the start of the asylum and then for some reason I stopped playing. For the life of me I can’t remember why I stopped playing. But I remember that I really wanted to finish the game but I never did.

It is interesting how much I remembered of the game once I sat down and started playing it again. I remember really struggling to get a lot of the collectible items in the game the first time but getting most of them effortlessly this time around. Also remember the power ups I got from collecting psi-cards being much more alluring the first time I played whereas they just seem like minor gimmicks and slight almost ignorable boosts in retrospect.

That said collecting all the figments in any levels is AMAZINGLY annoying. You clearly don’t have to do it to progress. But games like this give me a strange OCD wherever I play them. The problem is with the really complex backgrounds it is really easy to miss one or two random figments because they seamlessly blend into the background. Milla Vodello’s stage is super guilty of this with its crazy 60s psychedelic palette. But the Waterloo stage was also REALLY a pain especially with that one sneaky figment hiding out where you would normally never look. Collecting things like the vaults and bags is far easier and far more valuable as they give you nice bits of background information for all the characters.

But I still wound up trying to get them all this time. Although I was willing to use a fragment guide this time because I know how frustrating it can be without one.

Still the game is very inventive and engaging like I remembered. While the main game takes place around the psychic summer camp the various mindscapes let them play with a whole bunch of different genres and their toolboxes. The fact that you go around like a kaiju in the Lungfish world or play in a paranoid conspiracy world all in the same game in quite invigorating. Although the basic mechanics are the same in each world are very varied themes to each mindscape keeping the game fresh.

Also Psychonauts has a strong sense of humor. It is just one of those games where it is fun to go around and explore to see the random conversations and nice little bits of artistic flourish that show a nice amount of care was put into the game. And when they go for parodies they are usually well done.

But then my roommate reminded me of the MAJOR criticism with the game just before I hit it. The last stage is unexpectedly and annoyingly difficult out of nowhere. And at times unfairly hard just to be unfairly hard. For crying out loud there is an escort mission in a game where they had never been one before that point. Apparently this is even the kinder and gentler PC version. The original console version was even worse. I don’t want to even imagine that controller smashing level of persistent aggravation.

Still I preserved at got a 100% completion rate. I was glad to go back and finally cross that game off my do to list. Not to make it seem like a chore. I had a good time replaying what I did play before. It was still as fun as the last time. I’m just glad that I could correct my mistake of not finishing what I started long ago.

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.

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 I read the first chapter of interactive digital comic Bottom of the Ninth. The series takes place in what seems like a futuristic 1930s where a game called New Baseball is all the rage. After one chapter, I can’t what is different with this game VS. real baseball though since we’ve only seen one pitch. A down on their luck team sends in a woman pitcher much to the shock and awe of the crowd.

The cool thing about the comic is the level of production that goes into it, there is a ton of voices, dialogue, radio announcements, and music throughout. There is also occasional animation, some very elaborate like driving through the city and some just small touches where hair is fluttering in the wind.

This is made for iPad so I can’t read anymore than the first chapter online yet, but it is worth checking out for the production values.

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With the anime coming out next season I finally decided to bite the bullet and go back and start and finish Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2wei! so I can talk about how it is adapted from a knowledgeable place. I admit the main reason I stopped reading it before was that the Illya fan service is quite predominant. There has always been a little Illya fan service in the Fate franchise. I’m not going to pretend that it does not exist. But it always was minor enough to me ignorable. But here you could being reading the braille edition of the manga and still see the fan service.

Which is a shame because there are still some great things to enjoy in the series. The action can be fun when they are fighting. The comedy is usually enjoyable even if it does dip into some of the standard sexy comedy lameness. The little inside jokes to the general Nasuverse are still amusing but not entirely necessary for enjoyment of the series. But the most important reason of all to like the series is BAZETT!

It seems like Prisma Illya is some sort of secret island where Fate/Hollow Ataraxia’s underused characters are given a chance to be relevant supporting characters. Karen Ortensia, Bazett Fraga McRemitz, and Luviagelita Edelfelt all get more than a passing mention. Even the Type-Moon mainstay of Saber is nothing more than a quickly defeated monster. It is nice to see Bazett not only be awesome but actually get some screen time outside of her introduction in Fate/Hollow. It was be rather funny if here role in Prisma Illya got her more figures than her serious role in Fate/Hollow.

It would be sad but still funny.

I will say the oddest thing about Prisma Illya is the title changes. The “original” Prisma Illya was pretty much Card Captor Sakura with Fate/Stay Night classes as Clow Cards. Oh and the overt sexualization of the main character. But in 2wei! is mostly becomes Illya vs. dark Illya with some lets fight Gilgamesh action. Because we always fight Gilgamesh at the end of a Ftae series (expect when we fight a Buddha.) The next part Fate/Kaleid liner Prisma Illya 3rei!! is all about fighting in an alternate universe and some silly girl maybe called Tanaka trying to save Miyu Edelfelt.

Each part has a very different feel. The tone is the same and certain major plot threads connect them all. But each part feels like its own book in a greater series than a stand alone story. That does make me wonder how much they are going adapt this as an anime. The first part seems too short to make its own series but part 2 ends on a huge cliff hanger. It would almost be mean to end it there. Unless they slap on an original ending. And we all know how well that turns out most of the time.

But I will continue reading it because in the end because that is the type of Type-Moon fan I am. If it were badly written I would stop. I just wish it had a little less of this.

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 I read Fables vols. 5-6 which solidified Boy Blue as my favorite character as he infiltrates deep into the Homelands.

Both of these books jump around in time a lot. A few chapters cover what Jack has been up to for years and then we jump back to see what was going on elsewhere. Similarly, we see all of Boy Blue’s story while plenty else has happened in Fabletown. We also get a big story from Bigby’s past during WWII.

The books also end up having major changes for Fabletown and its residents. Bigby and Snow’s story comes to a bit of a close which leaves us with a new government running things.

Oh and did I mention the identity of The Adversary is revealed? DUHDUHDUHHNNN! But I’m not sure what we find out is really the whole story.

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If you lucky enough to live near one then going to Kinokuniya can open you eyes to some interesting manga you might have never seen otherwise. My roommate discovered a little manga series from Young Magazine called Green Blood. This is not a series about Spock’s life on Vulcan. It immediately stands out as a post-Civil War manga set in the Five Points neighborhood in Manhattan. If you ever watched the Gangs of New York or seen the TV show Copper who know that this is a prime setting for a gritty seinen manga.

Two brothers live in poverty in Five Points. The younger brother Luke Burns is a hard-working boy on the docks who wants to save up money and move out west to get away from the corruption of the New York slums. His older brother Brad seems like lazy freeloader but he is secretly the top hit-man for the Grave Diggers gang. But with New York ready to break into a bloody turf war it seems like many secrets of the Burns family about to come out into the open.

Reconstruction Era New York is definitely an unusual setting for manga but a nice change of pace indeed. It is a setting where you can be over the top and not be that off from the actual reality of the time. It also lets the series touch on issues of racism, classism, and the difficulties of recovering after the Civil War.

That said the writing is distinctly melodramatic. Luke Burns is the idealistic and somewhat naive young man to the extreme. His brother is the cold blood killer who secretly wrestles with his conscience and has a girlfriend who is a hooker with a heart of gold. The scenarios are intense but so far the characters are sort of simple. It does not detract from the enjoyment of the series but if you’re looking for the more complex characters of something like Vinland Saga you’re going to be disappointed.

Still this is a fairly unexpected discovery for me. I wonder if Kodansha Comics USA or maybe Vertical would be interested in bringing something a little different out that might garner a bit of a niche market here.

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