Ongoing Investigations: Case #236

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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narutaki_icon_4040 I enjoyed the first installment of the Code Geass: Akito the Exiled OVA so I was looking forward to seeing just where the (assuredly doomed) rebels were headed. While the 2nd volume indeed answers that question, it does so in a choppy way combined with inconsistent animation.

The story takes our ragtag group behind enemy lines, but all of the build up to it felt like a quick succession of scenes that they just had to get through. Thankfully, once they find themselves sin the midst of battle things get better.
There were a number of reveals in the episode. One of which we had sort of guessed but how the Geass plays into that relationship is where the heart of the mystery truly lies and we still don’t know all about that yet. Speaking of Geass powers, Akito’s comes to light again and we get to see its true potential though again it isn’t defined just yet. And finally, some delightful faces have made their way to the European frontlines! Oh ho, what are you boys up to?
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hisui_icon_4040 Ready Player One is an American chunibyo adventure.

See. I can lazily use chunibyo too. Weee.

To be serious, Ready Player One is a book by Ernest Cline that I have heard mentioned from time to time that I decided to finally read. It takes place in 2044 in a generally pessimistic version of the future. Any major problem with the present is one step worse. There is a vast energy crisis, the rich are richer and everyone else is much poorer, and in general everyone is one stop closer to a cyberpunk dystopia. Most people have retreated into a virtual reality world called OASIS that is pretty much OZ from Summer Wars (with far better back-end security protocols). So while OASIS is not running the utilities like OZ most people retreat into their lives in the system. In many ways it has become the real economy of the planet.

But the story revolves around a treasure hunt. The main creator of  OASIS created a hard to find Easter Egg within the system with 3 hidden keys and 3 hidden gates. Anyone who finds all three will inherit his vast fortune and ownership of his company. So starts a global treasure hunt and what starts as a mad dash to find this Holy Grail. The story begins years after the glamor of the hunt has worn off. Most people consider the prize an elaborate hoax and mostly only losers and dreamers still continue the search. One of those losers and dreamers is Wade Owen Watts.

Thus begins the fantasy. Since James Halliday, the creator of OASIS, was an 80s kid and uber nerd any of the people looking for the prize live, eat and breath the geekdom of his childhood. So the heroes of the book can quote all three Back to the Future movies as easily as he can get to the kill screen in Pac-Man. There is an evil company using that same trivia to try to win the contest and control OASIS for nefarious corporate purposes. So we have the lonely nerd crusader vs. the fake geek guys to control the Internet. It is the techno fantasy version of Community vs Big Bang Theory. Also the villains are real BAD GUYS. They attempt to assassinate the main character several times and kill off a few side characters in an almost mustache twirling manner.

Also there is a reason I called this an American chunibyo adventure. The general premise is that the main characters and his fellow frenemies can find the prize and save the world by being the biggest dorks in the world. The more nerdy knowledge you have the more likely your are to figure out the riddles and get the prize. The whole narrative revels in the idea that it is hip to be square. There is some later realization of the importance of the real world and human relationships but the nerd pride is fairly strong throughout.

So that leads into the biggest litmus test to see if you will enjoy Ready Player One: Can you stand references for the sake of references? I know there is simply a part of the anime community that HATES comedy anime that uses reference heavy comedy. You could probably punch their children in front of them and get a more favorable reaction. So anyone like that is going to find parts of this book PURE TORTURE. There are parts of the book that are basically: I got into my <80’s reference vehicle> while listening to <80’s reference song> so I could play <80’s reference game> based on <80’s reference RPG> in a zone styled like <80’s reference movie> with all the characters dressed like <80’s reference comic> characters.

Part of this has to do with the book itself having a secret Easter Egg in it (which someone already won). There were a series of challenges in the book hidden away like in the story itself so some of those paragraphs are actually part of that meta-game. But beyond that they are still references for references sake. The last big battle has the Rx-78-2, Minerva X, MechaGodzilla, Voltron and the friggin Leopardon all fighting it out. That is beyond casual name dropping but it is still name dropping.

You were warned.

That aside the book is an extremely quick read. A fast reader could knock it out on a lazy Sunday if they put their mind to it. Beyond that there is the prerequisite romance, a little intrigue, some character arcs, and a caper section to break up the pace in a good way. So if you’re not totally turned off by what I said before it is hardly an amazing commitment. If you’re a child of the 80’s it is a pleasant bit of nostalgia in an entertaining if somewhat vapidly junk food manner.

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narutaki_icon_4040 I have started my replay (or as I like to call it, my TRUE play) of Fire Emblem Awakening this time tackling Hard Mode. My experience being limited to the GBA Fire Emblem games, the Normal Mode felt just a bit too easy. Why, I hardly had to reset at all! And believe me I’m not that good at the game. Hard Mode keeps my ego in check, shoo.

One annoying bit so far has been less gold spread around, I don’t think I’m imagining it.

I’ve also downloaded my first ever DLC thanks to this game! It is a whole new world, people.

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hisui_icon_4040 Bravely Default is a game about jobs. I mean technically there is a story and characters and all that as well. But they are mostly side kicks to the main star of the show: The class system. Some people will be drawn into talk of crystals, empires, and faeries. All mere distractions. It is really about collecting classes and then getting JP so you can play the most effective dress up that you can.

Overall there are a LOT of your standard JRPG elements. This is more Super NES Final Fantasy than modern-day Final Fantasy. So there are the church conspiracies, elemental quests, and airships. But the plot is a good deal more straightforward than say anything in XIII. I just started chapter six and there have been a few twists and turns but nothing that needs some hour-long explanation video. The characters are mostly easily summed up by a once sentence explanation. No one in the main cast is super horrible but at the same time they are not really super complex. The villains are like this to an even great extent. Most of them exist so you can kill them and get their job class.

Speaking of the villains, the best quote I read about the game has to be the fact that “the Duchy of Eternia must have the worst HR department in the world.” As the game goes on they try to make the Duchy of Eternia go from solid black hat villains to morally gray anti-heroes who have good intentions but poor execution. The problem is that the majority of the Eternia forces are so horrible that it is a bit hard to swallow when they try to make that Technocracy in the Mage 1st edition to the Technocracy 2nd edition switch. The game is like, “Try and forget all those sociopaths in the beginning of the game. Eternia is more of a mixed bag than a breeding pit for mass murderers.”

But all that plot stuff is just getting in the way of what you really want. JOBS. Final Fantasy Tactics style jobs. There are a whole of them and you can mix and match them with skills and selectable abilities. There are your standards like Black Mage, White Mage, Fighter, and Thief because D&D and Final Fantasy say they need to be there. There are also some more unusual jobs like Pirate, Merchant, and Vampire. You can basically play the jobs fairly straight and be OK but real min-maxers can try to make totally broken combos.

The Brave system reminds me of a cleaner version of the battle system from Vagrant Story. There is a very strategic risk vs. reward system in the game. Your characters can take several turns in a row letting you end combat before it begins or string together powerful combos. But if you don’t wipe out the enemy they can take as many turn in retaliation. Both sides can also defend which gives them extra turns in the next pass. This gives the player some multidimensional strategies on top of the normal turn based strategy.

My main complaint is that I have sort of entered the Endless 8 part of the game. There are two ways to play the section. The first is to be like the non-completionist watching the 2nd Season of Haruhi. You watch the first and last episode of the season and skip the filler. You miss some nuance and detail but you get the general gist. Otherwise you have to watch it all again and again with some minor but interesting variations. I don’t want to spoil too much with spoilers but there are a bunch of side things you can do to repeatedly fight old bosses. And do I mean a bunch of times. It distinctly has a feeling of being a game length stretcher. If you don’t like that sort of filler then you would better off just skipping it. You will probably not regret it.

It still have a bit to go so the game could really surprise me for the better or the worse in the final leg of the game. But so far it is a solid RPG. It has a distinctly older vibe to it with a few new twists on established formulas. It is not anything that will blow you away with its innovation but will let you experience a bit of old school joy that does not feel completely recycled.

Once again it is all about the jobs.

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