Some of Our Favorite Anime and Manga About Anime and Manga

narutaki_icon_4040 I love animation and comics. Period. The artforms that is. And the more I learn about the process, the more appreciation I have for them. I feel like there isn’t a year that goes by where I don’t see something so incredible that it makes me revere the mediums all over again.

There is a lot to learn and having better access to Japanese news and culture has given us lots of insight: from the first time I learned about the assistants a manga-ka has to crowdfunding for animator dorms (!). But non-fiction accounts aren’t the only way to learn about an industry. In fact, creating a fictional world set within the very real parameters of manga creation or animation studios may illuminate the true struggles and triumphs even more.

hisui_icon_4040 If you are an animation fan for any amount of time there is a tendency to wonder what is the precise magic that transforms still pictures into moving images. (It is not actually sorcery that creates animation unless that animation is stop motion.) Some people are interested for academic reasons, others as it is a potential career path, while most just want a deeper understanding of their hobby. But like any attempt to see how the sausage is made it can be anything from an eye-opening moment of wonder to harsh bucket of cold water depending on how the lesson is presented.

Anime and manga have done several stories that look at how they are made with various degrees of love. In some titles it is the heart and soul of the premise and others it merely a set piece for comedy or romance. Those anime and manga range in its opinion of itself as everything from seeing the industry as havens of marvelous artistic self-expression to soul grinding commercial product factories with most portrayals being some sort of mix between those two extremes. No matter which of the two ends of the spectrum the title falls on they are usually an eye-opening insight into how the stories otaku love are created.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #172

I had the pleasure of playing a bunch of games of Penny Arcade: Gamers VS. Evil which is a deck-building card game. As an ex-Magic player, I have a high interest in games like this. It takes out the more expensive and sometimes difficult aspect. Plus, from the few I’ve played they are very fast paced as you build your deck on the fly. Gamers VS. Evil was all that with the bonus of being hilarious.

Using a dungeon-like component, you and the other players build up a deck of creatures and abilities which you use to attack the bosses. Boss loot and some other cards have point values which is how you win the game at the end.

There are different strategies to the game, but there are two basic types of cards: tokens and powers. Since tokens were green and so was the boss character of Gabe as Cardboard Tube Samurai, I decided I wanted to use tokens as my base. It took me a while to figure tokens out but I was determined to get them to work for me. From my experience they are a slower build as you start making your deck. Powers were strong going out of the gate.

Each character you play as some neat ability and it is one way of figuring out your strategy for the round, too. I had a blast playing as Gabe (since he helped my green deck hopes) but the best was Rex Ready! Because he is Rex Ready. He actually let me purge cards from my hand which is really helpful in a game like this.

Games flew by which I loved! With a rule that once six card stacks run out the game end, you are on a tight schedule to make your points count. Highly recommended and I can’t wait to play the expansion.

I have always enjoyed CCGs but hated the immense cost involved in playing them. There is a certain joy in buying booster packs but if you want to be in any way competitive you need to throw down a considerable investment. Anyone who has played Magic: The Gathering can attest to that. But with some good friends and a solid library you can have games that are radically different each time you play them. This makes the deck building game is a wonderful child of the CCG. While it is not as flexible and its parent it is far cheaper. You simply buy one box and you have a complete game and you have a game that plays much like a sealed booster match. A great compromise for those who like CCGs but also like eating regularly.

I recently played the Penny Arcade deck building game called Gamers VS. Evil. It is a solid version of the deck building formula with cards based on the various silliness from the web comic. You have everything from the Cardboard Tube Samurai to Pax Pox. Each player chooses an avatar that determines their starting hand and molds their play style with their special ability. You then take turns buying card to put in your deck. You can buy either red cards that mainly revolve around attacking and green cards which tend to have more indirect effects. Certain cards are worth points for buying them but mostly you want to build up your deck so you can buy from the Boss character piles. They have the cards with the best abilities and highest point values. The game ends when either types of cards are all sold out or one of the boss piles is empty. The player with the deck with the highest point value is the winner.

The game itself is lots of fun. We had 4 players and after 2 learning games we played several games in quick succession. If you know what your doing you you can play a game rather quickly. Since the cards you can buy are random much of your strategy comes from which Avatar you have and what is available to purchase. As with any deck building game or CCG deck control cards are worth their weight in gold. Any thing that lets you discard cards from your deck or draw more cards is powerful. Other than that most of your decision come down to how do you most effectively use your Avatar’s special ability to get boss cars as quickly as possible.

I did notice one oddity. The game is rather passive when it comes to other players. Despite the fact that there are PVP cards that let you give players negative points there is little to do to interfere with other players. In fact the most active and powerful strategy you have against other players is buying out the cards they need for their strategy. But the PVP cards do earn you a bit of ire anytime you play them none the less.

The game was really fun and each round felt slightly different. Apparently there another version called Rumble in R’lyeh. It same the same mechanics but all new cards. You can play that as a stand alone game or combine both sets together. That is a great way to keep the game alive but keep the price sane. I can’t wait to play it again.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #142

I along with thousands of others rejoiced to hear that Sailor Moon would finally be rereleased in English and thankfully with a new translation to match. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, there are also lovely color pages! Rereading something with such nostalgia for so many of us can be precarious sometimes because there is always the possibility of being let down. Sailor Moon is not that type of title if you are going in with the knowledge that this is a title meant for little girls; a mighty entertaining fantasy adventure that hits all the right notes for little girls. The strength of friendship is central to the series and it really takes hold of that right away. Equal is the intrigue (totally transparent to the audience) of Tuxedo Mask. The pace is happily brisk as Usagi whisks through villains and gains new guardians. The dialogue is rather stiff at times but not sure whether to attribute that problem with translation or not. The art of course shines and doesn’t feel aged though you can see Ms. Takeuchi getting better as the story goes which is only natural. Sailor Moon is a legendary title that changed a genre so that also means that it isn’t a perfect piece. But not being perfect doesn’t prevent it from being point of delight full of naive fantasy. It is great experiencing it all over again.

Well, if Natutaki is talking about the mother of fighting magical girls shows I might as well talk about one of its most modern grandchildren. I have been enjoying Suite Precure even if I have not mentioned it since episode 12. But since episode 35 is the accumulation of a lot of reveals I think it is worth talking about again. In that time the show has had the birth of Cure Beat,  a major power-up, the many reveals around Cure Muse, and of course the unmasking of the true villain of the series. The birth of Cure Beat was in itself pretty cool but as Narutaki mentioned the transformation from Siren to Ellen was sort of lame. It is like after she officially became a Cure some one switched her from evil to good like she was Krusty doll. The reveal of Cure Muse was better of it does require some Superman/Clark Kent and Batman/Bruce Wayne levels of ignorance. Also the reveal of Mephisto not being the big villain was pretty important as he would have made far to weak a foil especially as compared to previous masterminds. Overall I am still enjoying Suite Precure but 35 episodes in it is clear it will never be as strong as Heartcatch. But I am OK with that.

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