Ongoing Investigations: Case #023

Has anyone played the original Higurashi sound novel? I am curious what the fan-service levels are in the games. I ask this because I don’t remember the Higurashi anime being the fan service bonanza that the manga or the art books are. They really like the semi to fully lesbian fan-service shots in the artbooks. It’s like they were drawn by male fujoshi. Despite the abundance of fan-service in the Higurashi manga it is a pretty faithful adaptation. Yen Press went all out with color pages in the front and middle. The manga has yet to even give me close to the chill that anime did but it is still enjoyable. However, I don’t think it’s going to win any new fans to the franchise.

So I sort of did the Gurren Lagann suggestion made by our friends in their review, which was to watch the last 7 episodes and not worry about the rest. Well, I had already watched the first 9 but I did skip the next 12 and watched the end. I was entertained by its ridiculousness and was also able to grow fond of a couple of characters in that short span at the end. It goes full-throttle giant robot as robots start hurling entire universes. As for why I decided to skip so much, that would be a major spoiler. However, I can say that there is a missing piece of the puzzle and the show for me was incomplete without it. My overall feeling was the show was good, whereas the first 8 episodes were great. It was hilarity to the max.

I enjoyed Gurren Lagann for what is was, an over the top giant robot show about believing in courage and guts. I enjoyed it more than Boxingoctopus and Lothos because that is all the expectations I went into the show with. Therefore I never felt let down. I for one enjoyed the middle part of the series although not as much as the beginning or the end. Certain parts of Gurren Lagann seem like Gainax’s response to Evangelion. Simon is like Shinji Ikari in both of them spiral into the abyss but Simon is able to rise out of it where as one of the major points of Evangelion is Shinji’s inability to connect to others and find a way out. I can’t say for sure if it’s partially reactionary to their older work or it is less intentional and more the natural comparison by viewers despite any active agenda. I also really liked the very Japanese concept of circular belief. Circular belief being the idea that there is someone who you believe in that believes in you when you can’t do that yourself. I suppose I have always wanted someone like that myself. I also think the fact that Simon and Nia grew on me helped a considerable bit. They would never ever be as cool as Kamina or Yoko but then again who could be that cool.

Read Nightmare Inspector volumes 2 and 3, I am glad to see this series establishing little bit of a running narrative along with giving Hiruko and Mizuki some backstory. Though I just makes me want to know more since we’ve only gotten crumbs. They have also introduced a humorous tenant who moves into one of the rooms on the upper floor of the tea house. He isn’t in it too much so the somber and melancholic feel of the series stays in tact but he does throw a little spice in the mix now and then. This manga-ka always puts in some funny bonus stuff including a song written by Hiruko about how much he loves soda.

I have been playing Chrono Trigger for the DS. It stands up well in retrospect. The game play is solid, the story is still fresh, the amount of little changes you can make on the plot are still well done. Playing this reminded me of a conversation with my brother about Final Fantasy 7. We were discussing how flat characters in RPGs are today but they were even flatter back in the day. You were more willing to fill in the blanks in your mind back then. I remember the characters of Chrono Trigger being much deeper than they actually are. They aren’t bad characters if they were I would have never remembered them so well. It’s just the amount I had to fill in from what was implied had become actual fact. Still it’s great to be able to go back and play this again now only it’s portable. If I had a PSP I would be sorely tempted to play an emulated Chrono Cross on it like David Riley is going to do. Even though the prevailing logic is Chrono Cross is the devil’s spawn by most fans.

Finished the xxxHOLiC novel AnotherHOLiC. I have to say putting the first story in FAUST was a good move, not only did it make me interested in the novel but it was also the better story of the three and it doesn’t require me to know about the manga. The second story seemed too similar to the first, but also easier to figure out. And since those stories were back to back it made me wonder where Watanuki’s brain was. As for the third and final story, since I haven’t read the manga it didn’t help establish anything about Watanuki for me. I didn’t really understand his reasoning. Oh and the other guy in the story was super annoying.

I assumed this story happens early in the xxxHOLiC storyline but I can’t say for sure. Although it is never outright stated, one of the reasons Watanuki works at the store is Yuko is training him either as a her student or her outright successor. So it seems like the part of the story where she is no longer by his side on jobs but he has still not learned enough that she has taken of his training wheels. I thought that the first two stories bookend each other well enough so that they made a point when the third story came along. I just hated hated hated the eye theory guy in the last story. NISIOISIN is talented at making original characters that are annoying jackasses. This is not a compliment. He a good writer but he has to start cutting back on shrill, nasty characters in his work.

I made an entry for the Anime News Network 2008 Holiday Logo Contest. This is my first year entering. I had some extra time before my vacation so I thought, why not?

The best way to cap off Reverse Thieves completion of Gurren Lagann is with a piece of Gurren Lagann fan art:

Ongoing Investigations: Case #010

I did not do much except play video games this week. Played through Professor Layton and the Curious Village. It was a distinctly enjoyable puzzle game. I had figured out most of the mystery about half way through the game so obviously it was not that difficult. The animated sequences were well done and Layton and Luke are fun characters if not particularly deep. You mostly come to professor Layton for the puzzles but you stay for the amusing characters. This game seems right up Narutaki’s alley with detectives and classic puzzles. I hope they continue to localize these games.

Watched the first four episodes of Toward the Terra. I loved the manga now I get to love the anime! It has this nice combination of old school and modern, the art is this nice meld of the two. The opening song is really great! It is done by UVERworld who I have been sort of neutral about, but this song made me have a little more hope for the upcoming Gundam 00 opening which I have heard only a snippet of. So far the show has been beautiful animated and the story spot on. Soldier Blue you’re the best! There is a nice bonus of an interview with Keiko Takemiya in which she speaks in depth. Makes me want her to be a guest at a convention.

Got around playing Final Fantasy A2. I think I am enjoying it more than Narutaki but mostly because I never played Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced so I don’t know what I’m missing story-wise. I’m mostly here for the real-time strategy which is extremely well done and I am blissfully ignoring the rather generic plot. I am totally playing just to level up jobs and see new missions. I am slightly annoyed that I sometime break the laws when my characters are charmed or confused. It’s a slight gripe but very annoying after following a pain in the butt rule for several rounds of combat just to have the rule broken at the end by a single status effect.

Picked up the first volume of Nightmare Inspector. Hiruko goes into your nightmares to help you dispel them, his payment is the eating of the nightmare. So far every story has had a little twist and isn’t as straight forward as it seems. It is a nice series of vignettes but that isn’t really my favorite thing without an over arching plot to jump at once and a while. However, the last story in the volume is continued in the next and in the preview they mention possibly learning about Hiruko’s past so I am atleast curious. Also had a funny litte extra at the end about the cane he carries.

I tried some Mugen no Frontier: Super Robot Wars OG Saga. It’s simple enough that I can play without knowing any Japanese. It’s a turn-based RPG with some action elements to break up the monotony. I was enjoying this game up until I got up to one boss in this playing card themed dungeon. I can’t get pass this little witch and I don’t feel like grinding enough to blast past her with sheer brute force. I wonder if I am missing something because I can’t read Japanese or if the game just kicked the difficulty level up quite a bit rather unexpectedly.

Started watching Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. I know everyone will be shocked, but I’ve never watched this show all the way through. I have seen an episode here and there but what can I say? I just take my own sweet time getting to shows. I liked what I’ve seen so far, the cop drama kind of feel it is great but with cooler weapons. The Laughing Man comes into the story right at the end of the first DVD and I sort of knew what that was. It certainly keeps the world elements of the original but we get a closer focus on character relationships and a fleshing out of personalities. Really don’t like the opening, but the song itself is really a wonderful, haunting melody. Motoko’s normal outfit cracks me up a bit, I know it is fan service but it just seems so out of place. I think they could have used her full body suit outfit which she wears in the second or third episode instead. Oh and I love the Tachicomas. Forever.

Having watched the Laughing Man arc quite a while ago it was fun to go back and see some of it again. I always liked the third episode with the Jeri androids that were malfunctioning. For some reason I feel that who ever wrote that episode totally wrote it for themselves and anyone else that happened to be a big film buff. Knowing enough about what a horrible pervert Masamune Shirow is I have to wonder if he insisted that Motoko’s outfit be horribly fan servicey outfit or is it just an accepted part of the franchise. Oh and I have always been tempted to buy on of those really nice Tachicoma statues but I have never been able to convince myself to splurge on one. Yet.

Was lucky enough to attend the New York Comic-Con ConFab. It was like a focus group type deal and they bought us lunch, plus we get a free weekend pass for the convention in 2009. They have some great ideas coming up, stuff that I feel no other con has done before. That makes it really exciting. They also had tons of questions for us, a lot about lines and tickets and then general what was bad. They were really enthusiastic about our ideas and it felt like someone was really listening. Looking forward to the coming convention.

I started playing some Touch Detective 2 ½ and it seems just a quirky as the last one. I really miss the point and click puzzle games back in their heyday on PC. I am glad to see someone picking up the torch again. I like the bizarrely dry humor and the unique character designs. It is clearly not a game that will win over new fans. It’s essentially more of the same without even an attempt to innovate or add new features. I don’t mind though because I just wanted more Mackenzie.