The Infinite Zenith

When life demands your A game, bring your A+ game

Rail Wars!- Review and Impressions After Three

“Maybe you’d like to see some excessive force!” ―Arnold Flass, Batman Begins

The rail networks in Japan are privately owned, which stands in stark contrast to Via Rail, a Crown corporation owned by the Queen. Such Crown corporations are run and managed by the federal government, and typically deal with enterprises which would otherwise be difficult for private groups to start up. Crown corporations have gradually undergone privitisation since the 1980s (such as the Canadian National Railway), although Via Rail remains such a corporation, and at present, operates passenger service trains across Canada. Because of decisions by the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, my city does not have any passenger rail service, which doesn’t even make sense, considering we’re more populous than the provincial capital. Having access to the trans-continental rail line would make it easier to get around Canada, although given the political scene, one imagines that such a wish would remain a fantasy for the present; rather than continuing to bore readers further, we shall begin talking about Rail Wars!, which presents a hypothetical world where the Japanese National Railways (JNR) was never privatised. In reality, JNR was privatised in 1987 as the organisation fell further and further into debt, but in Rail Wars!, the JNR retains a somewhat similar status as Via Rail, hence its comparison. Of course, Rail Wars! is not about the corporate scene in rail transport, or the social implications of privatisation, but rather, Naoto Takayama’s entrance into JNR’s security team, and the subsequent adventures he experiences with them as the team works to foil a pro-privitisation extremist group.

  • There aren’t very many instructive talks on Rail Wars!, so I’ll step up to the plate and, for my 456th post, provide a talk on the series three episodes in. Typically, if an anime is worth watching, by the third episode, my interest will have been captured, and I will begin to watch it. If I were to summarise this post in one line, it is that Rail Wars! is worth watching for its over-the-top, absurd situations the security team find themselves entangled in.

  • Thanks to superior knowledge about how coal-fired locomotives work, Naoto, Shou, Aoi and Haruka are able to push their locomotive beyond 100 km/h by optimising their coal-stoking methods. These moments remind me of an episode from The Raccoons, where Bert and Cedric must prevent the Evergreen 504 from tumbling into the river. In the end, Cyril is forced to burn the cash hidden away on the train to provide the boiler with enough fire to save the train.

  • Rail Wars! probably sets the record for the anime to have the earliest graduation shown, with Naoto, Aoi, Haruka and  Shou being the only team to have passed their test. This is their last moment in a classroom, and from here on out, it’s off to Tokyo station, where real work begins. To Naoto’s disappointment, they’re assigned as security staff; he had aspired to be a train operator.

  • While the animation in Rail Wars! (as mentioned later) can be a little questionable at times, the landscapes are quite nice, as are the trains. Rail Wars! is animated by Passione Studios, who had also produced Wake Up, Girls! and even From Up On Poppy Hill: the former is known for its shortcomings in animation, but the latter, as a Studio Ghibli animation, is downright gorgeous. Given that they’ve been around since 2011 and have had such a title under their belt, I admit that it is somewhat surprising that they still succumb to poor animation.

  • This is the first image where all of the characters are together as the image’s focus, so I will take the time to introduce them here. From left to right, Aoi Sakurai, Naoto Takayama, Haruka Koumi and Shou Iwaizumi. The first day on the job, the four are assigned to investigate sounds from a puppy in one of the trains.

  • Rail Wars! may be about fanatics trying to frag the JNR to terrorise them into privatisation, but the free anatomy lessons are quite prevalent, as well: during the search for the previously mentioned puppy, Haruka seems quite okay with ascending the ladder to peer into the ceiling to ascertain the puppy’s location. In the process, her movements lead to this moment, and much comedy ensues.

  • From a statistical perspective, it is quite rare for someone to fall and wind up in this position by accident, although in anime, the laws of probability go out the window. This is perfectly okay, and one might be inclined to take a few moments to savour the moment. Haruka is my favourite character for her kind temperament; of the security team, she’s the weakest but has an unparalleled memory and is extremely well-versed on the technical details behind train operations.

  • Naoto holds Aoi back after the latter is unsuccessful at apprehending two purse-snatchers, but Aoi takes to this none too kindly and elbows Naoto. Ever-ready for combat, Aoi excels at unarmed combat and firearm usage, preferring to kill/maim/disable first and ask questions later.

  • After some quick thinking from Haruka and Naoto, the purse-snatchers are apprehended and taken down: during the confusion, Haruka manages to repel one of the suspects with an automated external defibrillator. While unrelated to Rail Wars!, I have now seen enough episodes of Sword Art Online II and Aldnoah.Zero to make proper assessments about them, but those will come out after an announcement I will be making in a few days’ time.

  • The security team is led by Nana Iida, and convenes in a small unused room that somehow evokes memories of every high school club room that has ever existed before Rail Wars!. Nana is quite open to allowing the security team proceed however they feel to be necessary in order to keep the trains safe for their passengers.

Three episodes in, Rail Wars! is slowly taking on a feeling not dissimilar to that of Upotte!, which was similar in the sense that while the show’s central theme (trains and guns, respectively) are present and presented with a sufficient amount of detail, both Rail Wars! and Upotte! are more focussed on the dynamics between the characters, as well as the adventures that prove to be more amusing than instructive about the rail system in Japan. Thus, the question becomes “how worthwhile is it to actually watch said interactions play out?”, and the corresponding answer to that is that Rail Wars! relishes sending out Naoto and company into a variety of unusual , outlandish security assignments that this fictional JNR experiences. While how these assignments actually play out steps outside the bounds of what one might consider to be plausible, the unusual situations turn out to be quite entertaining to watch for how over-the-top they are. Insofar, we’ve seen the security team stop some purse-snatchers, disarm a bomb and solve a kidnapping mystery, all of which were rectified via unconventional means.While Rail Wars! has a curious progression, there have also inconsistencies in the animation and aberrations in the human form, but dropping the anime because the animation is less-than-stellar is quite jejune.

  • Haruka serves as the yin to Aoi’s yang; the former excels at solving problems via social means, while the latter prefers beating things into pieces with her fists. Here, Haruka helps a lost child

  • Back during the Canadian Pacific Railway’s heyday, grand hotels were build along the line, including the Banff Springs Hotel, Palliser Hotel in Calgary, the Empress Hotel in Victoria and the Château Frontenac in Quebec City, amongst others. These hotels served as accommodations to those riding the rails, and even though the CPR no longer transports passengers, the hotels remain as stately, luxurious places to stay. The restuarant that Nana takes Aoi and Haruka to brings to mind these accommodations, serving cakes cooled by liquid nitrogen that Aoi finds quite delicious.

  • After a small explosive device goes off and a bomb threat is called in by an unknown perpetrator demanding one hundred million yen (roughly 1.06 million Canadian dollars). With only an hour to the deadline, the security team decides to do what they can in locating the bomb. This moment led to much complaining from some viewers, who felt that there was a bit of contradiction with ordering an evacuation, and that a bomb squad might have been better suited for the task.

  • Granted, deploying professionals to handle business makes the most sense in real life, but for a fictional environment such as Rail Wars!, allowing the main characters to take their shot at disarming the explosive device confers an excellent opportunity to appreciate the camera angles.

  • Most improvised explosive devices that rouge factions used are crudely wrought and are depicted in the media to make extensive use of colour-coded wires. Apparently, this is so that the wielder can identify the different wires and does not accidentally trigger the device themselves. However, for those disarming the device, the colouration of the wiring, though identifiable to the weapon’s builder, may not be universal, so Aoi’s reasoning falls short here. However, this moment does have Aoi draw Naoto close to for stablisation, so I will set aside any inconsistencies here and enjoy the moment.

  • While it’s probably a little early to be mentioning this, documentation notes that Naoto and Aoi have feelings for one another, and here, enjoy a more intimate moment after the bomb is successfully disarmed using liquid nitrogen to freeze the electronic timer and prevent detonation.

  • For proficient English-speakers, this scene will prove to be amusing, and although there is some degree of truth in such instances (recently, a colleague who had gone to Japan for a conference noted that Japanese citizens who were proficient in English were uncommon), I’ve been around anime long enough to feel the joke losing its magic. While Naoto, Aoi and Shou lack pro English skills, Haruka steps up to the plate and provides assistance to the foreign visitor.

  • Episode three sees Mari Sasshou’s introduction: after her friend is kidnapped by drug dealers, the security team sets out to find her. Speaking freely, Rail Wars! has its security team experience the most colourful of events, whereas in the real world, security is ideally a dull position.

  • Naoto’s team successfully manage to rescue Mari’s friend and defeat the drug dealers who had kidnapped her. The next day, everyone returns to work as if nothing had happened, suggesting that they overcame the dealers without much difficulty (think “Adam Jensen’s takedowns”). By this point in time, it’s apparent that Naoto’s team gets by on the virtue of luck, and while it’s improbable, it could be quite fun to see how their team works with foreign special forces on counterterrorism operations, although realistically, this would be equivalent to asking a bike to keep up with a jet.

  • Mari Sasshou is one of Naoto’s juniors, and has an affinity for identifying trains and stations based on sound alone. The two have known each other for a long time, and this post has taken a long time to write. I will close it off here, and mention once more that I have a special announcement for Wednesday. Regular programming will resume in August once my schedule settles down a little.

I see no reason not to continue watching Rail Wars!: even though the series is rapidly following the route that Upotte! took, favouring intemperate and frequent anatomy lessons over any content about trains. As such, despite being said to be designed to promote interest in the Japanese train system, the comedy-driven approach in Rail Wars! means that likely won’t captivate viewers and rouse their excitement towards trains and mass transit via rails the same way Girls und Panzer managed to enthrall viewers and get them interested in armoured warfare. While details surrounding the industry are mentioned, they appear to be secondary to the character interactions, rather similar to Upotte!, where characters and comedy take center stage. This results in an anime with an unusual setup, and paired with the absurd situations the fictional JNR faces, Rail Wars! is able to hold my interest, adding yet another anime I will follow to an already-packed season.

We’re Going To Okinawa: Non Non Biyori OVA Review

“Looking at beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind.” ― Amit Ray

It’s been a little more than seven months since Non Non Biyori‘s first season concluded back in December, and a little more than five days have passed since the OVA released. Set in the depths of summer, the OVA kicks off with Suguru winning four tickets to Okinawa in a shopping mall lottery. Subsequently, everyone decides to plan a trip there. To prepare for the trip, the girls practise conversations for being on an airplane and go to a convenience store to buy travel items. Renge finds herself deep in though regarding how Okinawa might change her view on the world and spends the evening before the trip giving her farewells to the countryside. The next day, everyone meets at the airport and departs for Okinawa.

  • Despite having no spoken lines in the series, Suguru is about as lucky as John-117 and apparently has won tickets to a live K-On! concert once (one will need the Japanese language pack installed to read the link). The first time I watched this OAD (original animation DVD), it was in DVD quality and things looked much fuzzier than they did in the series proper, which I watched at 720p. Non Non Biyori is one of those shows that are best enjoyed in HD, so given a chance to watch it again in HD, I did so with with gusto.

  • Suguru wordlessly gives his sisters the tickets he won, leaving them shocked as to the fortunate turn of events. I typically make it a point to provide screenshots of a reasonably high quality (a minimum original resolution of 1280 by 720): these images are then condensed to 640 by 480 to fit on the website, and as a result, the images look particularly sharp. In this post, I have supplied images that follow this convention, having watched the OVA in HD and in the process, have produced what is likely the only post with HD images in the internet’s entire history of existing.

  • After the news reaches Yukiko, Kaede and Kazuho, everyone begins planning out the trip to Okinawa. Typically, when I plan out vacations or events, there are two types of attractions: the ones I plan for, and the ones that happen on the spur of the moment. The planned ones are present to give things structure, while the unplanned ones happen because they can. I applied this approach to Otafest 2014 and wound up with a phenomenal experience. Similarly, my trip to Cranbrook in 2012, and last year’s trip to Jasper/Edmonton was planned in a similar fashion, making things remarkably relaxed.

  • Renge only has a rough idea of where Okinawa is, describing it as somewhere warm down south set in Mother Nature. A ways back, I was considering purchasing a Lonely Planet Guide to Japan to figure out where I would go, but I was talked out of it because it’s possible to look up everything online. However, I do like having a physical book in my hands to carry around, and what’s more, I probably won’t be bringing my iPad to Japan to hold all my travel notes.

  • With a surface area of some 1200 square kilometers, Okinawa is the largest island in the island chain and hosts the capital city, Naha. This is where my martial arts school originates, and I am a practitioner of the Naha-te technique, where the fist is chambered tightly under the shoulder, rather than at the hip. The Okinawa confection, sata andagi is mentioned here, evoking memories of Azumanga Daioh. It’s supposed to be delicious, like the mini-doughnuts that my town is famous for.

  • Hotaru is the only one in the country to have actually traveled on an airplane, and as such, is tasked with simulating an experience on the airplane by acting as a flight attendant. While they’re referred to as “cabin attendants” here, I prefer the term “flight attendants”.

  • Armed with some pocket money, the girls decide to visit Kaede at the candy store to buy some sweets for their flight, but wind up with some ice creams and a bit of reminiscence from Kaede, who mentions that she once wished to go to Okinawa but decided to hold back, feeling that she might never return home after her world-views had changed.

  • Back outside, Renge attempts to prepare herself for the Okinawan heat before being reminded that her ice cream will rapidly melt. With a subtropical climate, Okinawa has an average temperature of 31°C during July and August: with an average humidity of 77 percent, the humidex would mean that days commonly feel like 45°C, which, while milder than that of Hong Kong, is still significantly warmer than the weather in Southern Alberta. Indeed, after coming home from China, South Korea and Hong Kong, the air here feels distinctly chilly and light.

  • Non Non Biyori makes use of long stills to convey a sort of tranquality and calm in the air; here, Renge sits under an evening sun. The next day, the girls decide to visit the local convenience store to purchase travel items, which is said to be two hours away by bike. I typically average around 20 km/h on a bike, so that means the convenience store is roughly 40 kilometers away.

  • I will take a few moments to admire and enjoy the scenery in Non Non Biyori, which is downright gorgeous and adds substantially to the calm, easy-going atmosphere in the anime. Much attention is paid to things like the vegetation, and the sky is of most vivid blue. This railway crossing reminds me of a famous image of what appears to be ball lightning in Japan: I bet readers can’t get discussions this interesting at TV Tropes, where certain individuals feel compelled to provide bullet point summaries of the episode as though they’re the only ones to have watched it. Granted, I also mention noteworthy points in an episode, but I 1) actually provide screenshots to give a context, 2) make an effort to point out why such moments are worth mentioning and 3) there’s more insightful content in the paragraphs; the pictures merely augment the post.

Non Non Biyori turned out to be a pleasant surprise when I had finished it, and as with the Tamayura: ~More Aggressive~ OVA, the Non Non Biyori OVA (technically an OAD) brings back memories of what had made Non Non Biyori so enjoyable to watch. As with the Tamayura: ~More Aggressive~ OVA, the core element here is travel, although Non Non Biyori is more about the procedure prior to travel. Of course, what the girls end up doing is strictly limited to their own world: owing to their youth, logistics such as booking hotels and plane tickets, are left to Candy Store (Kaede) and Kazuho. This sort of thing is more tedious to show, so instead, viewers are treated to the girls preparing for this trip in their own unique fashion, whether it be purchasing travel conveniences, simulating a plane ride or Renge’s heartwarming stroll around her neighbourhood by evening to say goodbye to familiar landmarks. Of note is Renge’s reaction to Kaede’s comment about Okinawa changing their perspectives on life: travel broadens one’s horizons, and Kaede feels that, had she gone to Okinawa earlier, she would have wish to have lived in Okinawa rather than where she lives presently. These feelings arise from Kaede’s desire to experience unique events and explore something to its entirety. On the other hand, this is Renge’s first time travelling, hence her concern for a changed world-view. However, travelling also serves to increase one’s appreciation of their home, in addition to broadening perspective, so I imagine that Renge would probably enjoy the vacation greatly and subsequently realise that there really is no place like home.

  • My internal debate as to whether or not I wanted to go for my Advanced Operator’s License this summer was made for me: apparently, I now have enough experience to take the advanced road test and get my full license, although quite personally, I think I’ll want to brush up on my theory again. The older exams only involved driving, but the current exam reintroduces parallel and hill parking. I was out practising recently, and after a few tries, parallel parking doesn’t feel all that scary. Doing it perfectly under exam conditions could be a different story, though.

  • It really is something else when the nearest convenience store is two hours away by bike; the local convenience store feels like a Shopper’s Drug Mart, selling a variety of hygiene products, magazines, drinks, some groceries and (though not visible), pharmaceuticals.

  • Hotaru offers Komari one of her swimsuits in preparation for the beaches in Okinawa, but it turns out that Hotaru’s swimsuit is far too large for Komari’s diminutive stature, leaving the latter disappointed. Even so, it’s a nice gesture from Hotaru, whose admiration for Komari knows no bounds and does much to impart comedy in interactions between the two.

  • The last moments Renge spends in Asahigaoka prior to departing for Okinawa are to say farewell to the familiar landmarks and landscapes in the area, before announcing that she will definitely come back. Poignant is a term that’s being thrown around in the discussions, although I am wont to disagree with what is being said; this scene underlines Renge’s innocence and youthful naïveté, which comes across as particularly endearing to viewers.

  • As the day draws to a close, viewers are left with a calming landscape of Asahigaoka; for the curious, Non Non Biyori‘s Asahigaoka is a fictional village probably set in Central Honshu, and the closest one will get when performing a search for Asahigaoka would be several train stations in Japan. Asahigaoka is also a district in Aoba-ku (in the Miyagi prefecture).

  • I haven’t been to an airport in a while; since the last time I was there, the International Airport has expanded, adding a new runway and concourse to double the size of the airport terminal. This project is massive; costing some six hundred million dollars, it also allows the airport to boast the tallest free-standing air-traffic control tower in the nation.

  • Before I can even consider flying outside the nation, I will need to renew my passport, which expires at year’s end. I’ll be taking care of that tomorrow, and subsequently explain to readers what’s been going on here with respect to blogging volume and accuracy: it is a thrilling tale that I wish to do justice.

  • I am somewhat surprised that no one has mentioned Komari getting stopped for a check at the metal detectors in their bullet-point summaries; I found this moment to be highly amusing, although Komari’s expression suggests that she would disagree with my sentiments. From out here, it does not appear that Komari is carrying any metallic objects on her person, suggesting it’s possibly a belt: I have set off a metal detector before because of my belt while on a return trip from Seoul back in 2006.

  • Ultimately, everyone manages the board the aircraft: stills at the airport show Hotaru, Renge, Natsumi, Komari, Suguru, Kazuho, Hikage and Kaede as the ones to be going on this trip. Curiously enough, it seems that despite having seen the episode itself, several participants in discussions relevant to the OVA appear to believe that it’s only going to be Hotaru, Renge, Natsumi and Komari going to Okinawa. This is not the case.

  • So ends the OVA, which, while never showing any sights or attractions in Okinawa, nonetheless manages to be quite enjoyable to watch. With the OVA now over, this post also ends, and as of now, I’ve watched and have written about all of the OVAs I’ve set out to watch and write about this summer. Regular programming resumes come the next post.

Initially, I was expecting the OVA to depict parts of Okinawa, but the pacing of Non Non Biyori would suggest such a wish would probably be unfeasible. Instead, what viewers are treated to is an easy-going, carefree approach prior to travel, which (for me, at least) brings back memories of a time when travelling was as simple as letting the grown-ups handle all of the logistics. This was quite long ago, though, and at present, I turn my attention towards my own trips, first to Taiwan/Hong Kong in December, then to Japan come next year. These trips won’t happen without a passport, so that needs to be completed first. With the Non Non Biyori OVA now finished, one does wonder what the future holds in store; if memory serves, a second season will be coming out at some point in the future, and I do look forwards to seeing what adventures Renge, Hotaru, Natsumi and Komari go on, whether it be set in Okinawa or back home in Asahigaoka as the seasons pass.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution- Midgame impressions

“I never asked for this.” —Adam Jensen

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a title I had picked up last year during the Steam Summer Sale, but only got around to playing it properly at June’s closing. After the opening scenes rolled, I would take on the role of Adam Jensen, a security officer for Sarif Industries who is mortally wounded at the game’s beginning and is subsequently brought back to life with an array of augmentations. In the next few hours, I familiarised myself with the game’s mechanics and found myself at awe with just how much depth there is in the game. Whether it be the dialogue (and options to have Jensen respond differently), the conversations between various NPCs, newspapers, pocket secretaries or eBooks, the world in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is incredibly rich in detail and story. The question that invariably comes to the forefront of all discussion would be the ethical implications behind human augmentation and transhumanism. The conflicts in the game stem largely from shadowy organisations going up against mega-corporations, protesting human augmentation as a violation of the natural order. This ultimately kicks off Deus Ex: Human Revolution; as Jensen delves deeper into the investigation behind who was responsible for the attacks on Sarif that left him injured, questions arise as to whether or not augmentation is truly something humanity should pursue.

  • I suppose it’s time I actually started this game, and so, exactly a month ago, on a rainy afternoon, I finally opened the game for the first time and sat through the opening cinematics, which introduced the Typhoon weapon system. Set right on the eve of a major scientific conference, many themes about transhumanism and research ethics come into play here. Back during my undergraduate degree, one of my courses involved ethics in medical research, so I do hold my own opinions about what is and is not ethical.

  • With that in mind, I think I’ll hold back on the ethics discussions for the time being, seeing as I would probably be forced to refer to primary literature or textbooks in order to adequately discuss things. For now, this is a talk about what I’m enjoying in Deus Ex: Human Revolution so far, and I recall that early on, I was quite unaccustomed to the control scheme: typically, right-click brings up the iron sights, but right-click is used for cover in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I’ve kept it this way in Deus Ex: Human Revolution because cover is an integral part of gameplay.

  • Faridah Malik is one of Sarif’s chief pilots, ferrying Jensen around in a company VTOL. I’ve gotten a HUD as a result of the augmentations now (notice how there was no HUD in the earlier screenshots). Here, I am making my way to the first major mission in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which involves a Purist First, a group of anti-augmentation supporters who take over a Sarif facility holding the Typhoon weapons system.

  • Jensen will be given a choice to go non-lethal or lethal in order to secure the Typhoon, an augmentation that shoots out explosive ball bearings in a 360° direction around Jensen. It requires two Praxis points to activate, and a third to max out. Fully upgraded, it can destroy robots in a single shot, and eliminate any boss in two shots. I completed this mission with only one casualty, which arose after I ran out of darts for the stun gun and was cornered by a Purity First supported while low on health and battery. In the end, when I confronted Zeke, I chose to let him escape after convincing him to free the hostage, feeling that he was entangled in something.

  • The city hubs are the areas of the game with the most open feel to them: here, NPCs will offer side quests when approached. Completing these quests with a benevolent hand will yield experience points, credits and equipment, as well as giving greater insight into the Deus Ex: Human Revolution world. I find that the best approach to take for side quests is to play things as closely to the real-world as required: instead of sneaking about, sometimes, it’s easier to go through the front door and talk to people.

  • This is one of the LIMB clinics in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, where players can go to purchase Praxis kits. Experience points and credits also go towards acquiring Praxis points: these points are functionally identical to skill points in other RPGs, allowing players to unlock augmentations suited for their style of gameplay. The augmentations make the game substantially easier, and there is an achievement in one of the DLCs for going through the entire game without augmentations beyond the default ones for vision and hacking.

  • Hacking is an essential part of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and is one of the fastest ways to obtain XP towards getting Praxis points. While real-world hacking does not work remotely like it does in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it adds a fun mini-game and rewards players for exploring. The system is very easy to learn and isn’t involved by any means, although some of the tougher systems will require augmentations in order to be hacked.

  • The combat system in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is completely optional, and when one chooses to take a combat-driven approach, they can do so using lethal and non-lethal weapons, as well as lethal and non-lethal takedowns. I find that a traditional first-person shooter approach, characterised by aiming down sights, doesn’t really work too well compared to taking cover and making use of a laser sight to accurately down distant foes. At closer ranges, I usually prefer non-lethal takedowns (which are quicker to perform, silent and yield more XP), or else just fire from the hip.

  • Lawrence Barrett is the first boss Jensen encounters, deep in the bowels of the FEMA facility. In the standard version of Deus Ex: Human Revolutionboss fights are mandatory and end with the boss dying, although The Director’s Cut allows for bosses to be spared. These fights break away from the option-laden approach in the campaign and turns the game into a 1v1 arena. Barrett is a mercenary hired by Belltower and is notable for having an integral chain-gun built into his suit. Those without a rocket launcher can best him using a combination of EMP grenades and headshots.

  • After Barrett is defeated, he tells Jensen that what the latter seeks is in Hengsha, before blowing himself up with grenades in the hopes of taking Jensen with him. Upon meeting up with Malik, Jensen heads to Hengsha (横沙), an alluvial island in the Yangtze river delta transformed into a bi-layered city. Known as the Pearl of the Yangtze, Hengsha is home of the Tai Yong medical company and holds clues into the attack at Sarif months ago.

Insofar, I’ve beaten the game up to the confrontation with Yelena Fedorova, who was wiped out with liberal use of the heavy rifle. From a gameplay perspective, Deus Ex: Human Revolution handles like a role-playing game with first and third person shooter mechanics, as well as the option of stealth. There are items to collect and experience points to earn, which are subsequently translated into Praxis points and used to unlock augmentations. Depending on one’s play-style, augmentations for combat, stealth or hacking can be picked. Those favouring combat will find that the game can be approached as a first or third person shooter: in practise, since Jensen is quite fragile even with the dermal augmentations, I prefer doing most of my shooting from the third person. Of course, it’s quite possible to go through the game without killing anyone (save bosses and certain NPCs), but I find that a combination between stealth, non-lethal take-downs and firefights works best for me. In fitting with my preferences, I’ve chosen to upgrade my hacking capture level and stealth to hack terminals and computers more easily. As well, I have all of the strength upgrades to fully use my inventory, punch through walls and move heavy objects. For exploration’s sake, I also have the Icarus landing system so I can move around more easily without taking falling damage, and I picked up the social enhancer, because talking to people to enter restricted areas or allay suspicions is far easier than sneaking about.

  • Here, I’ve completed the Shanghai Justice side quest Malik offers. For me, Hengsha was a particularly entertaining section in the game, evoking the “Asian City” feel perfectly. Though it’s nowhere near as crowded as Hong Kong, the street-side shops, dialogue, signs and atmosphere are perfect. The Chinese characters speak Mandarin Chinese, which I only have some familiarity with, but it does feel good to be able to mostly understand what people are saying without the subtitles.

  • I’ve busted into the Tai Yong medical center and are getting closer to one of the secured severs here, in a room filled with laser security beams. As these beams follow a pattern, it’s reasonably simple to remain Oscar Mike until the end of the room is reached. There’s a switch to shut this system off. Readers will note that I am jumping ahead a fair bit with the photographs: this is because there is quite a bit to talk about in  Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and if I were to do a full walkthrough, there’d be enough content for me to start a separate blog.

  • This is the Longsword Sniper rifle, a weapon that occupies a fair portion of Jensen’s inventory and is intended for long range combat. Installing a laser sight makes the weapon woefully inaccurate unless firing from cover while zoomed in. Typically, I pick up sniper rifles to sell for credits; at this point in the game, a combat rifle with a laser sight, coupled with non-lethal takedowns and a stun-gun are my preferred way of combat early on in the game.

  • Besides hacking augmentations, one of the earliest upgrades players should opt for are the strength ones to boost the inventory size, allowing for Jensen to hold onto more stuff. While we’re doing strength, it’s also good to boost lifting capacity (which allows Jensen to lift and toss things like vending machines and dumpsters to find hidden passage ways) and punch through walls to expose new paths. By Hengsha, I also have dermal armour, EMP shielding, the Icarus landing system and maxed out hacking capture and stealth.

  • After a confrontation with Zhao Yun Ru, the building’s entire security detail will be all over the map.Because I’m forgoing stealth for combat, I slowly picked all of them off before making my way to the hanger, where two security bots patrol. This is before I acquired the revolver’s explosive ammunition upgrade and Typhoon system: I was scrounging around for EMP grenades and found some, allowing me to disable them. Previously, I just snuck past them to avoid being fired upon, but sometimes, direct confrontation is necessary.

  • I suddenly realise that, throughout Deus Ex: Human RevolutionI’ve finally used all of the weapons that were subsequently ported to Team Fortress 2 for promotional purposes; the shotgun, sniper rifle and revolver are were included as weapons for the engineer, sniper and spy class. I acquired all of these weapons through drops in Team Fortress 2, but for one reason or another, I haven’t played very frequently since last summer ended. For the most part, though, the combat rifle, pistol and revolver are the game’s most practical and effective weapons: even at close range, the shotgun may require two shots to down an enemy, while the sniper rifle is only useful in a few contexts and otherwise occupies precious inventory space.

  • After leaving Hengsha, Jensen requests Malik drop him off at Montreal’s Picus Communications center. Here, the 2027 Montreal skyline can be seen, and it’s good to see a Canadian city in a game: given that Eidos Montreal developed Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it seems natural that their city be featured as one of the levels. However, there is no city hub here, as the entire mission is set inside the Picus Communications building.

  • I spent most of the Montreal mission digging through every single drawer and hacking every computer in office areas. Insofar, I’ve only bought one Praxis kit from the LIMB clinic: all of my other augmentations were unlocked via experience points. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the music yet, which I found to add significantly to the game’s atmospherics. The Deus Ex: Human Revolution soundtrack was nominated for many awards back during 2011 for its dark, brooding tones, attesting to its quality, and I especially love the main theme, “Icarus”.

  • There’s more to the Picus center than meets the eye, though: after Jensen discovers that Eliza Cassan is an AI, he finds a way to the building’s subterranian levels to learn more about Cassan and the Tyrants. Over the past month, I’ve been helping looking after a relative’s lionhead rabbit; we usually clean the pen twice a day, and give food in the morning and by evening. In the latter, I’m typically playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution when the time comes for the rabbit to be given lettuce, so I’ll pause the game, get said lettuce and give it to the rabbit, who then happily eats it. Because this is so adorable, I’ll watch the rabbit eat all of the lettuce before returning to whatever it is I’m doing.

  • I admit, I was not expecting a boss fight with Yelena Fedorova at the level’s end, but my FPS instinct kicked in after I found a room filled with heavy rifles. These support weapons fulfil the role served by LMGs, and although powerful, isn’t very practical because of how unwieldy it is. Against Fedorova, though, the weapon performs quite well with the EMp shielding augmentation: she makes use of a Typhoon knockoff and will accidentally damage the servers, sending sparks into the room and stunning her. Some 100 heavy rifle rounds later, here’s another boss fight I beat. For the next bosses, I’ll probably use the Typhoon system.

The first thing that comes to mind in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the level of immersion and degree of freedom the game offers. Besides the variety of approaches one can take towards finishing missions, players can also interact with the dialogue, picking different responses Jensen can make during a conversation. This mechanic allows players to truly feel like they’re a part of the game; I play Jensen as calm, reasonable and adapting to his augmentations. This was particularly rewarding during the earlier missions, where I talked Zeke Sanders into releasing his hostage and leave quietly without much incident. Beyond conversations and various tidbits into what is going on in their world gained from the main mission and scattered throughout the game, there are also side quests that can be completed to gain further insight into what has transpired. These elements alone gives Deus Ex: Human Revolution a very involved story that captivates the player; it’s certainly kept me playing through the game and exploring every nook imaginable, and I can’t wait to see what awaits me upon a return to Detroit for the second time (well, there’s a riot over augmentations, but there are also things to get done).

Deer Hunter 2014: A guide to platinum eagles, Dayong, Yellow River and Isle of Thule

“A wounded deer leaps the highest.” —Emily Dickinson

The last time I wrote about Deer Hunter 2014, it was April, and there was a pile of exams, plus an iOS presentation on the table. This was well before I beat Ace Combat: Assault Horizons and BioShock Infinite, and before the Mobile Suit: Gundam Unicorn finale came out. However, even though it’s been some three months since then, it appears that searches are still pouring in about Deer Hunter: 2014‘s platinum eagles and hidden regions. In fact, this post has been topping the charts for quite some time now on search engines, implying that people are still interested in the game. Thus, to help those who are still wondering about how all of this stuff works, I will go into greater depth as to how these things are unlocked. I will also remind readers that this talk specifically is intended for those running Deer Hunter: 2014 on iOS.

  • Before delving into  questions surrounding platinum eagles, I’ll take a few moments to consider the Dayong region, which definitely is one of the most spectacular regions to date: I find myself impressed with the scenery, which includes a verdant bamboo forest, autumn hills and a karst field by nightfall. Moving on to the actual discussion at hand, I imagine that the first question is what the platinum eagles are. They were introduced a while back, and are a special kind of currency used to purchase and upgrade special weapons, usually in the bow class.

  • How does one acquire platinum eagles? In the standard regions, there are bow and crossbow challenges that can be completed to accumulate platinum eagles. Completing missions in the standard regions also allow for rare hunts to be opened. Rare hunts yield platinum eagles, as well as some special items on occasions. In the hidden regions, the standard missions, trophy hunts and rare hunts give platinum eagles upon successful completion, while the contract hunts yield standard in-game money.

  • To unlock the hidden regions, once must acquire all of the map pieces. There are several ways to collect map pieces: finishing the bow and crossbow challenges, as well as rare hunts. In the case of the latter, rare hunts only occasionally yield map pieces, so a bit of patience is required to gather everything. There is no need to spend gold to recharge more quickly.

  • Once all of the map pieces are obtained, the maps will automatically unlock. Like the conventional regions, the trophy hunts for one region will need to be completed before the subsequent regions will unlock. These missions will occasionally require weapon upgrades before they can be attempted; said upgrades cost platinum eagles.

  • Those who find themselves short on platinum eagles should complete contract hunts to re-open the rare hunts. Be aware that the rare hunts can be completed in full, although there are sufficient rare hunts to allow for one to replenish their platinum eagles quite quickly.

  • The above should address all of the queries surrounding the platinum eagle currency. Now that I’ve unlocked the Isle of Thule, the mystical landscape of tundra evoke a Nordic feeling to it. There are fine details in some of the maps, one of which features a glowing stone with runes on it. These maps require bows to participate in, but those having trouble with the bow’s mechanics can equip a bow and then use their preferred weapons for the hunt.

  • Crossbows are heavier hitting and have less stealth compared to the bows, but the second crossbow is magazine-fed and comes with a default of an eight-round magazine. There was a bug in earlier iterations of the game where aiming down the sights was not possible because the scene was obstructed by the scope’s view model, but that appears to have been fixed now.

  • The aurora on some of the night missions is a particularly nice touch. At the time of writing, I have yet to finish the trophy hunts in this hidden region, mainly because I’ve been engrossed in Deus Ex: Human Revolutions. I anticipate having a talk on that out quite soon, and regular programming will resume shortly.

  • Ordinarily, I would not have included a talk on region 12, but I was offered a Rohman Shepherd for 89 gold. This is a gold-only weapon that ordinarily sells for 1200 gold (roughly 50.00 USD), and as a semi-automatic rifle, has an exceptional firing rate and short reload time. For those wondering, no, I did not spend anything to get at it. A substantial amount of progress can be made in Deer Hunter: 2014 without spending anything, although as I’ve been playing for a half-year now, I can attest that this game does require a fair amount of patience.

  • Having a semi-automatic rifle makes Deer Hunter 2014 a little too easy, and even though the weapon will become obsolete when region 13 comes out, it’s quite entertaining to have a high-powered weapon with a reasonably high firing rate and versatility that makes all missions trivially easy.

Thus ends another talk on Deer Hunter: 2014, which should answer all queries about the new hidden regions and platinum eagles. These can be unlocked without much difficulty, but it is a somewhat time-consuming process. Given Glu Games’ typical release pattern, it is quite reasonable to surmise that a future iteration of Deer Hunter could be released by October or so, which means that there will be at least two more new regions to be unlocked in the future. I am quite happy to take questions if I missed anything, but otherwise, it’s time for me to redirect my attention back to the summer 2014 anime and Deus Ex: Human Revolutions.

Futsū no Joshikōsei ga Locodol Yattemita: Review and Impressions After Three

As of 2013, tourism constitutes around 1 percent of Canada’s GDP, and this figure is expected to grow in the future. Canada is blessed with an incredibly diverse range of geographical features, ranging from the old growth rainforests in Western British Columbia, to the Rocky Mountains and East Coast; international visitors travel around Canada to experience these landscapes. Besides landscapes, there are also historical and cultural attractions to explore in Canada’s major cities. Canada probably won’t experience a tourism decline to the same magnitude as Nagarekawa, a problem that Nanako’s uncle, one of the municipal officers in the area, is tasked with figuring out how to rectify. He comes up with the notion of “Locodols”, or Local Idols,  thus beginning Futsū no Joshikōsei ga Locodol Yattemita ( lit. “Normal High School Girls Tried Being Local Idols”, abbreviated “Locodol” for short), which sees Nanako Usami’s participation in the Locodol program together with Yukari Kohinata.

  • I’m coming right out of a talk about how K-On! had a non-trivial influence on anime, and to drive that point home, I’ll kick off with a post about Locodol, which fits in with the artistic and stylistic choices that were so prevalent in K-On!. Besides music, the characters have a moé design to them, and their interactions are meant to give them an endearing feeling.

  • Unfortunately, at this stage in time, I only know the names of the Locodols, and as such, I have no idea who Nanako’s friends are. Nanako is characterised by her shyness at times, but when she’s got her mind on something, she can also be determined, as well.

  • Nanako’s mother and uncle are shown here: for the want of a swimsuit so she may attend the local swimming pool’s grand re-opening, Nanako agrees to help her uncle in promoting interest for the Nagarekawa region and kicks off the entire program.

  • Yukari is one year Nanako’s senior and takes an immediate liking to the latter; Yukari comes across as giving off a mature aura not dissimilar to Lucky Star‘s Miyuki Takara and Girls und Panzer‘s Hana Izusu, all of whom have an elegant air about them.

  • Despite getting stagefright and losing her place in a presentation quite easily, Nanako nonetheless manages to make the most of her debut performance. The two successfully captivate the pool’s attendees by singing Nagarekawa’s theme song. Compare and contrast this with Calgary’s theme song, which is one of the few cities I know of to actually have their own song.

  • Yukari and Nanako’s first performance also marks the beginning of a new friendship. Locodol is a four-panel manga that began in 2011, and as such, it is hardly any surprise that it has the feel of a laid-back, easygoing anime. In response to those who believe that moé anime are harmful to the industry, I would say that as long as the four-panel manga format exists, moé anime will exist.

  • This is because the four-panel format is intended to convey a sense of comedy, rather like Alfonso Wong’s Old Master Q comics; the Old Master Q series were largely about humorous situations, but also occasionally gave social commentary on Hong Kong society between the 60s and 80s. Returning to Locodol, Yukari comments that their role as local idols might be better seen as community service, as they are working towards promoting awareness of the Nagarekawa region in addition to entertaining audiences.

  • One of the girls’ earliest assignments after performing at the pool’s re-opening is to review local cuisine; Nanako remarks that this could be fun and imagines herself with Yukari, reviewing upscale steak, before wondering about her relative lack of table manners. On the day of filming, she is shocked to learn that the vendor they’ll be reviewing first is someone she finds scary.

  • Despite her initial reservations, Nanako thoroughly enjoys the sweets the vendor makes, giving him an honest, glowing review and bringing to mind Minami’s (of Wake Up, Girls!) excitement wherever food is concerned.

  • Nanako pays Yukari a visit; because the latter’s never had friends visit before, she decides to go all out in making Nanako’s stay as enjoyable as possible. It is here that viewers find out that Yukari’s family has an affluent background, and during the course of the visit, enjoys conversation with Nanako.

As the first of the new reflections/review format, we consider what Locodol has done three episodes in, rather than immediately after the series starts, and at the end, decide if this is something I will continue following. Insofar, Nanako and Yukari have participated in some of the same things as WUG in Wake Up, Girls!, including reviewing local cusines and acting as the image for services in Nagarekawa. As an idol anime, Locodol plays things with a significantly more easy-going feel compared to Wake Up, Girls!: the latter presented a gritter take on the entertainment industry, but in Locodol, because Nanako’s uncle is the manager and director for tourism, the family and political connections means that Nanako and Yukari get to sing and dance at their own pace without the demands of a cut-throat industry. Thus, Locodol depicts none of the sleeze and challenges seen in Wake Up, Girls!, instead, falling back on comedy to drive things forwards. Between the comedy and propensity towards fanservice, Locodol manages to keep things interesting thus far.

  • This is the owner of the store from earlier; thanks to Nanako and Yukari, he’s seen a boost in business and is immensely thankful for their efforts. Strictly speaking, the concept of local idols would work rather nicely for small towns

  • Uogokoro-kun is introduced in the third episode as Nagarekawa’s mascot, designed to evoke the area’s vast water resources. Despite appearing a little off-putting at first, Uogokoro-kun soon grows on viewers. A problem with the voice module means that the individual in this suit will sound a little funny, but on their first appearance, Yukari manages to pass it off as a cold, giving the children a solid impression of both the idols and Uogokoro-kun.

  • It turns out that Uogokoro-kun’s operator is eighteen-year-old Yui Mikoze, who wishes to be an idol despite her fear of facing an audience. To this end, she prefers being in costume, entertaining audiences with her flips and later on, break-dancing.

  • Despite being older than Nanako, Yui feels that because she’s been an idol longer, Nanako is the senior, even though at school, Nanako regards Yui as the senior. Upon closer inspection, note the washing-out and light texturing in the backgrounds, and how the characters are coloured normally with a greater intensity. This style could be deliberate to place an emphasis on the characters, who are the stars of the show (as opposed to the scenery).

  • Nanako feels a little locked out of the loop after learning that they’ve now an official group name: “Nagarekawa Girls”. Originally set to be named “Nagarekawa Dynamite Girls”, it seems that Nanako’s uncle managed to talk his higher ups out of that to go with the simpler name. By this point in time, despite having performed at a few events, Nanako still seems a little uncomfortable with seeing her images over the local news.

  • Nanako’s friends do not see her as being an idol: in Japan, idols are manufactured stars who have some talent in music and performing arts, intended to act as good role models for their audiences. However, lacking a uniform and the kawaii personality, Nanako feels more like an ordinary high school student; this is the series’ full title, and I look forward to seeing what the girls perform in the future.

  • With a formal name and uniforms, Nagarekawa Girls finally begins to take shape: I will refer to them as such thence, since it beats typing out Yukari and Nanako’s names everytime; should the group grow, it will become even more cumbersome.

  • The dark conditions do not arise from a capturing fault on my part: on the day of their performance, it’s overcast, and shortly into the show, the rain hits, prompting the audience to take cover from the performance. It strikes me as a little strange, but Yukari, Yui and Nanako have had minimal practise. Despite this, they put on a solid performance that captivates the viewers, at least until rainfall.

  • Spurred on by the moment, Nanako strips to her swimsuit and does the same to Yukari; I’ve opted to choose the screenshots that are the most acceptable provided the blog’s aim to remain family-friendly, and as such, closeups of Yukari’s assets, however pleasing to the eye they might be, won’t typically be included. Readers wishing to see more of that sort of thing are always free to put in requests, and I’ll include more screenshots of such ;)

  • By rising to the occasion, Nanako turns their performance around and raises the audience’s spirits. Even while riding under the stress of being funded by taxpayer money, Nagarekawa Girls nonetheless exceed expectations. Thus ends this post: next up will be talks on Rail Wars! and Deer Hunter 2014, to be completed before the week ends. As it stands now, I’ve fallen quite far behind in the Summer 2014 anime, so I’ll prioritise getting a talk out for Rail Wars! first, since those are pretty rare. Sword Art Online II and Aldnoah.Zero are this season’s heavy hitters and are reasonably well-covered, so I’ll wait until the dust settles before offering my own thoughts on those series. The timeline for those will be early August, which will also see a talk on Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket.

After three episodes, it does not seem likely that the entertainment industry’s dark side will make an appearance here, so Locodol will probably fulfil the role that GochiUsa held for the Spring 2014 season, acting as a friendly, warm series that brings joy to those who are seeking such an anime. Of course, one must wonder what is likely to happen in the future: logically, the scale of the concerts will become greater, and as episode three already sees the inclusion of a new member, Yui Mikoze, it’s also likely that additional idols could join. However, as Yukari mentions, the small size of Nagarekawa Girls is its current advantage right now, giving the group a more closely-knit feeling to it. Moreover, insofar, despite their jobs, Yukari and Nanako still feel like ordinary high school students, so it’ll be quite interesting to see how they adapt to their roles as idols. For the present, though, I’m quite content to continue following Locodol and seeing where things go.