The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Jon’s Creator Showcase, June Edition: A Halfway Point in 2019 and the Arrival of Summer

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” –Bilbo Baggins, Lord of The Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring

Scott and Crimson613 both set their bar quite high for Jon’s Creator Showcase, having hosted them previously, and I figured, I had a month to sleep on and work out my decision to host it. However, a month flies in the blink of an eye, especially when June is one of those months with a meagre thirty days, rather than thirty one days, but this short timeframe has not stopped the month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase from receiving a modest collection of submissions from bloggers within the community, and correspondingly, I’ve had to rise to the occasion as well. Having deliberately chosen June because it marks the halfway point of the year, I am pleased to present a host of posts that were submitted for the June Jon’s Creator Showcase. As a bit of a background, Jon’s Creator Showcase began in December 2017 at Jon Spencer Reviews and was intended to highlight interesting and exciting content within the blogging community. While most of the participants run anime blogs, Jon’s Creator Showcase is open to submissions of all sorts, and as result, I’ve had the pleasure to look through and present posts about a plethora of topics – we’ve even received a video that merits checking out. I would like to thank all of the participants who submitted something: it was a fantastic experience to go through each of the posts and explore what makes each a fun, meaningful read. While I can’t speak to whether or not the turnout was impressive or not, simply because I don’t know what a good sample size is, what I do know is that each of the posts that were submitted are of a superb quality. Since Jon has given me a bit of creative options for formatting this post, each submission is separated by an image that is somewhat related to summer, best season of the year, to improve on clarity. The images themselves are not related to the post in question, they merely act to create a visual break. In the interest of not delaying the moment any further, here are the submissions!

Fruits Basket Episode 7 Review: Broken Glass and Hearts

Animated Andy (@Animated_Andy)

Animated Andy explores the seventh episode of Fruits Basket, which deals with high schools student Tohru Honda, who ends up moving in with the Soma family, whose members suffer from a curse. Tohru’s time with the Soma family invariably changes their lives forever, and Fruits Basket, whose manga ran from 1998 to 2006, received a new adaptation that ran this year. In the post, Andy discusses how the new anime capitalises on visual and aural elements to viscerally portray a relationship between two characters. Animated Andy finds that the anime adaptation of Fruits Basket has much potential to capture the emotional tenour of each moment even more vividly than the manga, capitalising on sound, movement and colour to tell a story in way that dialogue and still images cannot.

While an expressive medium, manga is unable to convey certain emotions that only voice and movement can: Animated Andy shows that animated adaptations can contribute a great deal of emotional weight to a scene from a manga, creating newfound appreciation for what an author had intended to convey. This is one of the main reasons I’m so fond of anime adaptations, and this season’s Fruits Basket, being a retelling of the manga, is a very ambitious project that is said to span some sixty-three episodes. If Animated Andy ends up reviewing all sixty-three episodes, I would have nothing but respect; episodic reviews are very demanding from an effort perspective, requiring a blogger to draw something meaningful from each and every episode that they watch to write about each week. Already a difficult endeavour for a one-cour series, things only become more challenging for two-cour series – to do weekly episodic reviews for something running for a full year and then some is a strong commitment, and I look forwards to seeing what direction Animated Andy will take in the future with Fruits Basket.

A Silent Voice: When Past Mistakes Come To Haunt You!

Scott, Mechanical Anime Reviews (@MechAnimeReview)

After watching Kyoto Animation’s A Silent Voice, Scott takes readers through the strengths of this movie and how it presents mental health, concluding that the film is authentic in capturing the difficulties that individuals experiencing mental health troubles have in managing their situation and recovering. The movie stands out with its colour palette, which features much less saturation than Kyoto Animation’s typical works, and a focus on darkness: the choice of lighting and colour immediately gives the sense that A Silent Voice has a more serious tone than other works. Watching the characters in A Silent Voice come to terms with their actions and begin a journey to recovery struck a resonant chord with Scott, who recounts his own experiences; this piece gives his reflections on A Silent Voice a very personal and meaningful weight. Having walked the walk that Shōko and Shōya have gone through, the film was something Scott connected with – he cites the film’s greatest strengths as being able to capture mental health challenges in a genuine, emotional fashion that outweighs how it feels choppy and inconsistent in some places, recommending this film in his post.

Fiction is such a powerful form of expression because it captures in words, sight and sound the intangibles of emotion and experience; series that remind us of our own experiences are particularly moving. Scott’s review of A Silent Voice takes readers on a personal journey that really shows the complexity of mental health. Incidents that shape who we are can also harm us, and that the recovery is an uncertain process: everyone deals with adversity differently, and Scott’s recounting of his own experiences reinforces the notion that in A Silent Voice, particular care was given towards portraying the journey that Shōya ultimately must take to overcome his past. Mental health is a major area of interest, and while there is no silver bullet solution for things like anxiety, depression and other conditions can be managed with a strong support network. Scott reminds his readers that he is there for them should they need it – this is something that I feel to be especially important with the anime blogging community; as we are ultimately united by our shared love for media, we can act as a support network for one another in our own manner.

Run With The Wind Series Review

Karandi, 100 Word Anime (@100wordanime)

Aural elements play a major part in Run With The Wind, a 2006 anime who follows Kakeru Kurahara, a first year university student at Kansei University who joins the Chikuseisou dormitory after a chance meeting with Haiji Kiyose, who aspires to run the Hakone Ekiden relay marathon. Karandi describes the series’ enjoyment as coming from the extensive character growth that was afforded by the fact that Run With The Wind had twenty-three episodes of runtime, giving plenty of opportunity for viewers to learn about, connect with and ultimately, watch everyone mature over time. While feeling it to be nothing revolutionary, Run With The Wind features solid execution on all fronts, from its sound to visuals, and notably, Karandi also discusses gradually warming up to Haiji. Despite disliking Haiji’s character initially, Karandi warms up to him after his motives and goals are defined, giving a clear reason to begin rooting for him. The background characters are likewise given a similar treatment, making them multi-faceted individuals viewers come to care for. While slower to start, once Run With The Wind hits its stride, Karandi recommends this title for viewers.

One of my favourite experiences when watching anime is to enter a series and then have an experience that stands contrary to my initial expectations. Characters form a big part of this – to come into a series and develop an early dislike for a character, only for impressions of this character to improve over time as Karandi finds for Run With The Wind‘s Haiji, is an indicator that the series is pushing its characters to mature and develop over time. Individuals are not static, and watching growth is one of the most rewarding payoffs one can have in following a series. While I’m not familiar with Run With The Wind, Karandi’s thoughts on Haiji’s development mirrors my own with Nagi no Asukara’s Sayu Hisanuma – I felt Sayu to be little more than an irritable brat following the revelation that she was responsible for the vandalism to the Ofunehiki doll, but over time, her motives are made known, misunderstandings are cleared up, and she develops into a very determined individual who comes to terms with her own feelings. I see traces of myself in her, and for this reason, following Nagi no Asukara through to the end yielded this payoff. This is why I generally try to stick to a series, watching characters change over time (for the better) is an optimistic attitude that gives me the same hope that I can push towards making things better, as well.

The Makinohara Shouko Question

Yomu, Umai Yomu Anime Blog (@UmaiYomu)

In Aobuta, Shōko Makinohara’s presence is presented as a mystery: she appears to Sakuta thrice, once after his initial troubles following Kaede’s dissociative amnesia, once as a younger self, and then again when Sakuta experiences a crisis following Kaede regaining her old memories. The narrative in Aobuta follows Sakuta, a high school student who encounters actress Mai Sakujima and subsequently becomes entangled in unusual phenomenon that are resolved when he expends compassion and empathy in helping those around him out. Yomu summarises the different struggles that each of Mai, Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede faced, extrapolating to suggest that Shōko’s existence is a consequence of some conflict or challenge in her own life. The nature of this challenge is not known, but the fact that Shōko appears both as a middle school student and a high school student to Sakuta implies different timelines are at play. Yomu concludes that Sakuta and Shōko, by providing assistance to one another during critical junctures, creates a situation where there is a circular dependency, and speculates the upcoming film will have Sakuta, armed with a deeper sense of empathy and compassion, assist Shōko with whatever challenge that she faces in her own life. These speculations leave Yomu excited to watch the upcoming Aobuta movie.

Until we have a chance to watch Seishun Buta Yarou wa Yumemiru Shoujo no Yume wo Minai, which released mid-June, whether or not Yomu’s speculation holds true will remain something that we will have to be patient about. With this being said, Yomu’s coverage on the interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of Aobuta amongst each of the characters is an impressive one, going into thorough details about what each character contributes to the audience’s understanding of Sakuta. One of the longstanding grievances I had with Aobuta, prior to watching it for myself, was how some folks tended to treat Rio’s explanations of the Adolescence Syndrome as a factual, objective assessment on the phenomenon: this resulted in discussions that completely failed to address what each of Mai, Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede’s issues were meant to represent. While Yomu has had a strong understanding of the characters already explored in Aobuta, the mystery that Shōko presents leaves much more open to discussion; the movie’s focus on Shōko means that Yomu and most anyone who’s enjoyed Aobuta will (hopefully) find resolution in what has been hitherto an enigmatic character whose story could prove to be very interesting and enjoyable to watch.

The Importance of Goals – Shirobako Review

tfwanime (@tfwanime)

The process behind creating and producing anime is a gruelling one – the 2015 anime highlights the deadlines, pressures and stresses of what goes into making the anime that viewers enjoy season after season. In tfwanime’s discussion on what makes Shirobako such a moving anime, the series’ strengths lie in how relatable each of the characters are, specifically with respect to their goals and how they go about in pursuing them. Aoi Miyamori pushing through near-impossible deadlines because of her own passion for bringing stories to life, Ema Yasuhara’s unwavering determination to improve as an artist, Misa Toudou’s decision to forego job security for a position she’s more passionate about, Midori Imai’s drive to learn as much as she can to create compelling stories and Shizuka Sakaki determinedly clings to her desire to become a voice actress, seizing each opportunity to learn and realise her dreams. Each character struggles, and at some points, wonder where their efforts lead, but ultimately, come to appreciate their sacrifices and devotion. tfwanime presents the idea that in conjunction with an internal drive to succeed, having support from one’s peers is also critical. Much as how this group had once produced their own anime as high school students, their passion towards their career and care for one another allow them to each begin understanding what it will take to realise their dreams – tfwanime expresses gratitude towards shows like Shirobako, whose human aspects make the series immensely relatable and compelling, and in the process, also makes the film something to greatly look forwards to.

Watching the characters of Shirobako work their magic, and the community’s subsequent rallying around Shirobako as an inspiring anime was a magic moment that showcases what anime can be for viewers when it captures something special. By putting it into words, tfwanime reminded me of what made Shirobako such a compelling series to watch, showing how different aspects of an anime connect with different individuals. In my case, I saw a moving story about perseverance: the goals each of Aoi, Ema, Misa, Midori and Shizuka had motivate them to strive for excellence in the face of adversity. With goals as a starting point, Shirobako‘s greatest strength was showing the journey one might encounter in pursuit of their dreams. By showing the characters struggle, get knocked down and picking themselves back up, audiences really come to empathise with the characters. By placing the characters in a setting that audiences can become excited about, Shirobako creates a sense of immersion that few anime can match. Viewers ultimately derive a considerable payoff from watching characters grow and relating this back to their own experiences.

A Western Inspiration

Mel in Animeland (@MelinAnimeland)

Mel in Animeland showcases how Western works have played a role in inspiring Japanese works; while the incredible creativity and diversity of Japanese works is staggering, Japanese works have also drawn from western sources, applying their own interpretations to create something engaging. Mel highlights six works that were particularly inspired, from Detective Conan and Moriarty the Patriot using aspects from Sherlock Holmes, to how Are You Alice? puts a twist on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. While it is often the case that viewers may take a work at face value, stopping to smell the roses and consider what went into work also allows one a stronger sense of appreciation and enjoyment.

Japan known for strange and wonderful examples of creativity – there are things that distinctly have a Japanese touch, and so, when I read about how Western works have influence in Japanese media, it is always interesting to see how aspects of cultures I am more familiar are interpreted within Japanese works. Usually, elements from Western cultures are used as the basis for a novel idea, and the result is invariably unique, presenting a fresh take on things that we might be familiar with.

Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon (Season One)

Lynn Sheridan (@TheEarthLynn)

Lynn Sheridan presents the highlights of Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon (DanMachi for brevity) in his submission, breaking it down into readable sections that details aspects of the anime. This series follows an adventurer named Bell whose main aim is to impress a female adventurer, but when he begins, he is uncommonly weak and finds it difficult to advance in his journey. Besides what makes Bell a compelling protagonist, to the payoff viewers gain from watching Bell improve as an adventurer from his humble beginnings, Lynn also covers some of the aspects of the series that were a little less enjoyable, and ultimately, expresses a desire to see the series continue because of its engaging premise and cast of (mostly) likeable characters.

I remember picking up DanMachi purely because Inori Minase was playing a role in it: I know Minase best as GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, and so, it was quite a bit of a surprise to see her as the goddess Hestia, whose traits are vastly different than those of Chino’s. Beyond this, Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon ended up being a fun watch: much of the series is driven by Bell’s selfless nature and focus, and although his intentions are shallow in nature, the adventures Bell goes upon, and his learnings, are anything but. Although I never ended up writing about this one, I’ve heard that there’s a second season whose first episode will be airing in a few days, and I could see myself continuing on with DanMachi; it eludes me as to how long ago that I watched DanMachi, but I definitely remember having a good time watching it.

The Plant – My Kinetic-Novel Release

Jon Spencer Reviews aka Host of Jon’s Creative Showcase! (@JS_Reviews)

Jon’s Creative Showcase is the creation of Jon Spencer, and besides running a blog, Jon has also released his own game, titled The Plant. This kinetic novel represents the culmination of many hours of effort, and Jon stresses that he is not a software developer by trade, which accentuates the impressive nature of this accomplishment. From UI and UX to figuring out the artwork, sound and story, Jon highlights the processes it took to get the game off the ground. In order to ensure the release was of a high quality, Jon worked with both editors and quality assurance staff. The game ultimately released on May 8, 2019, and represents an exciting milestone, making all of the effort worth it. The development process was a journey: Jon learnt Python and the Ren’py engine, deeply enjoying the marketting and presentation aspects of the project, but also discovering challenges in time management and quality control. All of these efforts paid off, and folks curious to give this kinetic novel a go for themselves can find it here.

I am an iOS developer by trade, and a part of my responsibilities is to explain what I do in terms that are accessible to folks who are not developers. The world of software development is filled with arcane terminology, subtle nuances that can be frustrating to pick up, and demands great patience to learn; when Jon recounts his journey in learning Python to build The Plant, I was very impressed. It takes persistence and an open mind to pick up a programming language, and even though Python is billed as an accessible language, even it has elements that require subtlety to pick up. I vividly recall not understanding integer division and array indices when I first began programming in my undergraduate, only picking up these elements when studying Java and later, Objective-C for my summer research. As a result, watching Jon’s story in building The Plant was inspiring, and Jon shows that programming can be done by most anyone with the mindset to learn. The end result is a solid kinetic novel that saw a relatively smooth release, and my question now is whether or not Jon intends to build any other games: if so, I would be quite happy to lend some time to address questions he may have about programming.

Video Games and Mental Health

Megan, Nerd Rambles (@Nerdramblesmeg)

When Megan approached the June Jon’s Creator Showcase, she had two excellent posts to submit. The first dealt with how to begin as a blogger, and the second addresses mental health and video games. The topic of video games and mental health was a very engaging read – Megan explores how video games help her manage difficult situations in real life and act as a source of stress relief. In providing escapism, games offer a respite from the real world, allows the mind to focus on whatever objective the game tasks the player with completing, and ultimately lets the mind regroup. Megan notes that while her thoughts come from her personal experience, there are other resources available that provide mental health related support for folks who enjoy video games.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, video games can also worsen mental health problems: when I play the multiplayer of Battlefield, I become tense, jumpy and unpleasant. However, on the whole, video games are an excellent way of reducing stress, especially games that are cooperation or story-driven. By immersing users into another world, one’s mind is allowed to rest from whatever task is at hand. This is no different than taking a walk to clear one’s head during a difficult task: by stepping back, this allows the mind to process information taken in during a task, building the neural connections that allow for long-term memory to retain information or work through a process. This is why gaming in moderation can be seen as a viable mental health break, and also accounts for why I enjoy single-player games to the extent that I do.

Finding Inspiration in Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer)

Rose, Wretched And Divine

When Tanjirou Kamado’s family is massacred by demons, leaving him and his sister the sole survivors, Tanjirou resolves to become a demon slayer to save his sister, who became a demon. Demon Slayer has seen positive reception since its animated adaptation began airing, and in her post, Rose succintly explains how the story holds inspiration through the sheer effort that Tanjirou has directed towards becoming a full-fledged demon slayer. Impressed with his effort, Rose compares Tanjirou’s journey to similar journeys in live, whether it be going through school and doing one’s best to succeed on exams, becoming versed enough to operate a motor vehicle safely or even keeping a blog going long enough to connect with the community. The messages sent through Demon Slayer are sufficiently strong as to inspire, and watching anime like these can give one the drive to excel in their own aspirations, as well – this is the power of fiction, and Rose reminds readers that the lessons of fiction should not be so hastily dismissed simply because of the medium.

I’ve been hearing many positive things about Demon Slayer from various sources, although I’ve currently got no plans to check this series out. Fortunately, Rose has succinctly described her own enjoyment of Demon Slayer, relating it to her experiences. Typically, the result of effort is all the world sees, but this does not in any way diminishes the meaning of that effort. For instance, when I say I have my operator’s license, people immediately think that I can go wherever I please, but won’t think of the countless summer days I spent behind the wheel of a training vehicle or in the basement of a community association studying the rules of the road). Rose is absolutely correct in that the messages of a given work of fiction are relevant regardless of its medium, and in a way, tacitly suggests that I could be watching Demon Slayer, as well.

What I Mean When I Say Sarazanmai is Basically a Magical Boy Show (But Also Has Hints of Kiznaiver)

The Animanga Spellbook, MagicConan14 (@MagicConan14)

MagicConan14 explores Sarazanmai, a series following three middle school students who are transformed into kappa following an accident, and how it bears the halmarks of a magical girl series, but with the twist that young men are involved in place of young women. Each of the boys have a distinct colour motif reflecting on their personalities and respective place in their group, and their names are chosen with a specific meaning in mind. Magical series may portray the protagonists as being uncommonly close to one another, and Sarazanmai possesses these elements as well, with two of the leads dealing with themes of homosexual relationships. The sum of these features give the series credence that it is magical girl series: MagicConan14 describes it as a magical boy series, given that its lead characters are boys, after all.

I’m familiar with recent presentations of magical girls genre, having seen and enjoyed both Yūki Yūna is a Hero and Puella Magi Madoka Magica – more traditional series have not been something I particularly got into, simply because notions of a weekly antagonist to defeat was something that ended up being a touch too repetitive for me. The counterpart to magical girls is magical boys, which are usually intended as parodies of the genre by forcing a male lead into a traditionally female role, but Sarazanmai does not feel as a parody, being a serious portrayal of what magical boys could be: author Kunihiko Ikuhara wanted to create a more adult-oriented series about yōkai (Japanese monsters) that was male-oriented, and while I’ve not seen Sarazanmai, the cursory background I have on it suggests that Ikuhara was able to craft such a story: from MagicConan14’s conclusion, one should reasonably find that Sarazanmai feel like a magical boys series despite its premise.

Self-Care Sunday #17: Coping with Blogging Slumps Pt. 1 – Stress & Burnouts

BiblioNyan (@Yon_Nyaan)

BiblioNyan’s submission for this month’s showcase is a detailed insight into blogging slumps and how aspects of stress can impact one’s blogging output. While some stress can be a positive motivator, an excess of stress can seep into one’s life and become an all-consuming source of trouble, impacting one’s ability to think and be creative. Stress may even give the impression that one’s ability to blog has diminished, leading one to consider calling it quits. After all, blogging is a very effort-intensive endeavour: one must consistently draft out what they’d like to convey in a post, cohesively form this into an article and then ensure that the resulting post is clean and readable. Along the way, other perspectives might also be included, or additional reading might need to be conducted to ensure the content is correct. The sum of these requirements can make blogging a time-consuming and even emotionally-draining process: BiblioNyan recounts burning out after running a series of well-received and engaging posts, losing the inclination to write. However, burnout was not the end, and along the way, BiblioNyan came to rekindle a love for blogging to continue. In this post, BiblioNyan discusses several avenues to manage stress and reduce the risk of burning out, recommending scheduling posts and breaks to strike a good balance, as well as dealing with problems in real-life as they occur to ensure they don’t become serious issues. While BiblioNyan notes that the suggestions offered may not be for everyone, taking a break and regrouping can nonetheless be a great help for all bloggers.

I’ve been running this blog for upwards of seven-and-a-half years now, and like BiblioNyan, I’ve found myself running into the question of whether or not it was feasible to continue. Between difficulties in getting a post started, finding new content to talk about and declining traffic, my own motivation to blog has greatly varied – after all, if I cannot write about what I enjoy and reach the people I’d like to hear from, is there a point in keeping this party going? As BiblioNyan describes, one moment, one could feel inspired to write brilliant content, and the next, this energy wears off, leaving dejection and exhaustion. The proposed countermeasure for this burnout is brilliantly simple, and a variation on the approach that I employ: I plan some posts out weeks, and even months in advance, thinking about what I would cover in my mind before drafting it out in point form. Once I am satisfied a post an have sufficient content, I put the paragraphs together, and then improv the figure captions I have underneath each screenshot. The result of budgeting time out allows me to know when I can spend time to blog, and when I can do other things. For me, burn out no longer is problem, because there’s a strategy that I spent a long time developing: I wish that I had access to resources like BiblioNyan’s post when I started out, and I encourage new bloggers to read through this post in its full glory, as it addresses these issues in a much deeper and more meaningful manner than what I’ve presented here.

The Watcher

MibIH (@MibIH)

MibIH submits a video that conveys the horror of the mundane: what is an ordinary and unremarkable scene conveys terror when a filmy, shadowy figure appears. Made for Orpington Video & Film Makers, an amateur filmmaking club, the video shows that things in the world are a matter of perspective – the mysterious figure is eternally watching the viewers, who believe they are watching the video, and this creates a sense of unease.

While videos are uncommon submissions, Jon Spencer encourages participants in Jon’s Creator Showcase to submit whatever content they are proud of, and videos are a part of this. I will happily look through videos as I do posts, and while it seems that MibIH’s got the only submission for video content this time around, I do hope that future submissions for other hosts will see more videos. I’ve never really been much of a patron of the fine arts to appreciate film and initially worried that I would miss the critical elements in MibIH’s submission, but ended up getting something out of watching The Watcher – terror of the unknown and suspense. The Watcher reminds me of the Slenderman mythos, which gained notoriety some years ago and was built on fear of the unknown.

Anime x Lit Crit: Vampires & Valentines – Toradora! 15

The Moyatorium, Moyatori (@The_Moyatorium)

In this collaboration with another blogger, Primes, Moyatori discusses the fifteenth episode of Toradora! in a podcast-style post. Dealing with the problems that each of Ami, Minori and Taiga deal with as their personal beliefs and approaches come to light, the discussion argues that the challenges youth face are as complex as those adults face. While perhaps lacking the same experience and maturity adults have in making sense of, and expressing their troubles, this does not diminish the validity of their feelings in any way. Toradora! is a series well known for its raw and genuine portrayal of the dynamics of relationships amongst high school students; Ryuji initially wants to date Minori, while Taiga has only eyes for Yusaku, and the two outcasts decide to help one another pursue their respective crushes once it turns out that they live next to each other. Moyatori and Prime reach the conclusion that the topics brought up in Toradora!‘s fifteenth episode are introspective, and that while the author may be attempting to present a very specific view of certain topics through Toradora!‘s characters, the end result is still very authentic and serviceable.

If memory serves, I watched Toradora! three years previously and greatly enjoyed the anime for its authentic characters and a very natural progression of love. The complex interactions between the characters and their resultant actions were very believable and show that, when done properly, drama series can capture the emotional tenour of youth very strongly, evoking memories of adolescence for older viewers and perhaps creating moments youth can relate to. I’ve never done any podcast-style collaborations with other bloggers before, but the conversation between Moyatori and Primes was entertaining to read, piquing my interests in the format. Creating a more conversational format gives the sense that blogs are about community, and looking at my own blog, I understand that my posts read more like essays submitted to a junior literature class rather than a genuine conversation, so it is refreshing to see the back-and-forth between Primes and Moyatori. Given the time that has elapsed since I watched Toradora!, I (shamefully) don’t remember much detail, except that Ryuji and Taiga end up falling in love with one another because of how close they became while helping one another out; for the strength of the story, I might need to go back and rewatch the entire series to fully appreciate it.

OWLS Blog Tour: Cosplay

Matt Doyle (@mattdoylemedia)

Matt introduces readers to cosplay, a portmanteau of costume and play: at its finest, cosplay is a highly elaborate and intricate hobby that demands ingenuity and creativity from cosplayers. The reward for the effort taken towards building a costume comes both from enjoying the process, as well as seeing the finished product. Beyond the satisfaction of having constructed something wonderful, Matt also explores how cosplay, as a form of self-expression, is immensely beneficial in helping people be themselves where they might otherwise be uncomfortable, and ultimately, be happy with immersing themselves into a project that constantly reminds them of the best parts of their hobby.

While I’ve never cosplayed before, primarily as a result of a lack of time and patience, I appreciate that this is an integral aspect towards the anime community, allowing individuals to connect with one another and their favourite series at a deeper level. This is what makes attending anime conventions fun for me: I am able to see the positivity of individuals who genuinely love their hobbies enough to invest time and resources into expressing this love. Both at anime conventions like Otafest and through social media, I’ve seen some highly impressive cosplays, as well: some costumes look as though they were made by designers who had worked in a series, and even simpler cosplays are worth praise, showing an individual’s dedication to a series they connect with. Matt is absolutely right in that cosplaying a character from a series one enjoys will improve the experience, and on this note, while I do not see myself doing anything with this level of commitment, it would be nice to pick up or build an ISAC terminal and then fashion myself into a SHD Agent from The Division: I actually have everything else needed to look the part as a result of the climate in where I live and the activities that I normally partake in.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health: My Path of Recovery with Kristina

Kristina (@DoxieLover_27)

Kristina covers her journey with mental health and recovery. When she found herself feeling unlike herself, she feared that there was something wrong, but also refused treatment out of the worry that professional help was for those with clinical conditions. However, after deciding to accept professional help, Kristina was able to find a suitable treatment programme with both medication and therapy. While the initial steps were challenging, Kristina began recovering, and five years since, she feels much better for it, having found a new rhythm in her life. Mental health is a remarkably difficult topic to speak about owing to misconception that individuals with anxiety, depression or other conditions are somehow lacking, and it has only been in the last few years where advances have allowed for new perspectives to be taken on mental health. Hearing stories about recovery from mental health conditions is particularly encouraging, since it acts as a reminder of what is possible once those critical first steps are taken.

In Kristina’s case, support from family and trust in the clinician were these first steps. There is a commonality in addressing mental health issues; regardless of whose story is being told, every journey invariably involves a support system, whether it be family, friends or professionals. Mental health, thusly, is not an individual problem, but everyone’s problem: by dealing with it together, people overcome their problems together, as well. I am glad to hear that Kristina’s found her road to recovery, and am also immensely grateful for the people in my corner, as well, for having helped me through challenges that I’ve previously faced. Six years ago, I fell into a depression of sorts, and support from family, as well as friends, ending up making all of the difference. Kristina is absolutely right that no one is ever truly alone in this fight, and I hope that she’s doing well.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health: It’s Alright to Take Breaks

Crimson613 (@readatnight00)

Crimson613 shares her experience with mental health and the importance of being able to take breaks: during her post secondary, she took on a wide range of courses and commitments, but began feeling anxiety over reception to her work, even losing sight of what motivated her. Things continued to go downhill from there, as she began failing out of her courses and considered dropping out. However, taking up one particular job, working at the theatre, allowed Crimson613 to begin taking things in from a new perspective. Over time, she became more comfortable with working at the theatre and took initiative to speak with others, developing the leadership skills to both train new staff and become promoted. The returning confidence saw Crimson613 return to classes with a refreshed determination to do well, and Crimson613’s is just one instalment in a series of posts that deal with mental health. The pressures of keeping up and doing well are no stranger: I definitely relate to Crimson613’s story, having been there myself during my time as an undergraduate student. To constantly be striving for excellence even when one is overwhelmed on many fronts is an incredible challenge, and the feelings of doubt and anxiety from the effort needed to maintain this is a very real factor.

In my case, the second year of my undergraduate studies was similar to Crimson613’s. I had stupidly decided that I would attempt to push through Organic Chemistry II and Data Structures II, where my peers had decided to step it back one and take other courses, nearly cost me my degree: my GPA had dropped below the threshold needed to remain in the health science honours programme, and this culminated in me getting involved with an incident where I had been accused of academic misconduct. In the end, what ended up happening was that my friends in health science organised a study party so we could pass organic chemistry together, and I suggested something similar with my data structures class. With help from the TAs and my peers, we ended up passing, and my GPA lived to fight another day. My home faculty also dismissed the allegations after I presented my case, and likewise, I lived to fight another day. Through it all, support from my friends, and my watching K-On! ultimately grounded my thoughts, helped me to come back. The stress and pressure management skills resulting meant that when I went to take my MCAT a year later, I was much better prepared for it mentally. I’m happy to hear that Crimson613’s story has a happy ending: sometimes, inspiration and encouragement can come from the most unexpected of places; with the right support and encouragement, one can turn a minus into a plus and come out all the stronger for it.

5 Reasons Why You Should Watch Carole & Tuesday

Kurumi Shim (@KurumiShim)

Carole & Tuesday is an anime about two disparate individuals who encounter one another, and despite their differences, their love for music leads the two to become a band. In her post, Kurumi Shim steps through five noteworthy aspects of the series that made it worth watching for her, and details how each element plays a major role in making Carole & Tuesday a rewarding anime to follow. These five elements are an inspiring story, top-tier animation, exceptional musical performances, a unique world and genuine characters. Right from the get-go, Kurumi Shim has defined the strengths of Carole & Tuesday. Audiences would be immediately drawn in by a relatable and motivating journey that shows how passion can push people through difficult times, offering a substantial pay-off for those who watch Carole & Tuesday all the way through. In addition, things are set in a world that is simultaneously different and the same as our own; while being a futuristic setting, there are enough familiar elements that make the setting plausible while at once, being distinct. Being an addition to the Spring 2019 lineup, Carole & Tuesday has more than meets the eye, far more than the solid musical piece. With this sort of presentation, Kurumi Shim has convinced me that my decision to sit out most of the Spring 2019 season might not have been the wisest one in the world.

Looking more closely at the specifics, the components that work so well for Carole & Tuesday are essential pieces of virtually everything I watch, and in fact, also can form the basis for what I watch. I value a series most for convincing characters whose stories I can become invested in: watching everyone learn, grow and succeed is an immensely rewarding and cathartic experience. Because learning is such an integral part of life, one of the things I always seek from a given series is to understand what lessons are presented, and how characters change as a result of their experiences. Life lessons in fiction are typically drawn from real-world experiences, and seeing this process allows one to begin taking their own problems into perspective. Besides character growth and the story, Kurumi Shim’s love for the animation and setting in Carole & Tuesday is something I similarly look for in a series. While not every setting needs to be as exotic as Nagi no Asukara or the worlds of Miyazaki, convincing world building and animation creates a much more compelling experience, bringing to life the worlds that the characters inhabit and giving their experiences credibility by showing that the characters do not exist in a vacuum. Overall, I would be inclined to check out Carole & Tuesday thanks to Kurumi Shim’s post, and while I’m unlikely to do so, I’ve also seen yet another example of how effective concise and focused posts can be.

Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Episodes 19 to 22

Jusuchin, A Journey Through Life (@RightWingOtaku)

I’ve long heard about Space Battleship Yamato, even if I’ve not seen it for myself; the gist of what I understand is that the IJN Yamato, mightiest battleship to grace this world and which was sunk in 1945, was raised from the depths of the ocean and upgraded to take on space-faring capabilities. Armed with a wave-motion cannon that can trade punches with one of the Death Star’s tributary lasers, the Yamato and its crew set out to fight extraterrestrial invaders who’ve decimated the Earth’s surface. Fortunately, even if I have limited familiarity with the likes of Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Jusuchin has stepped in to provide a summary of the latest series of episodes, before delving into his thoughts on what happened in the episode, dealing with themes of humanity and how it forms the rallying point behind the human characters. From the abandoning of humanity to improve combat performance, to carrying faith in one’s heart, the crew of different ships show what everyone fights for. The Yamato itself is the centerpiece of the series, and ultimately, despite carrying a powerful set of weapons that level the playing field somewhat, its ultimate weapon is the conviction each of the crew has. These sorts of stories cover human nature at a larger scale than things like Carole & Tuesday, which are deal with interpersonal elements in a more intimate fashion. At the granularity in Space Battleship Yamato 2202, themes of what defines humanity come to the forefront to remind audiences of what makes our societies and civilisations worth fighting for.

Jusuchin admits to me that his submission was rushed out to production, and I will remark that minus his saying this to me, I would never have guessed. With his approach towards blogging, Jusuchin covers elements that I may miss or skate over: when we concurrently did episodic posts for Hai-Furi, or wrote out our reflections for Girls und Panzer, I always found myself impressed with how Jusuchin could point at specific details in an episode or movie, and indicate whether or not it contributed to, or detracted from a moment’s authenticity. This is one of the joys about reading other blogs: besides picking up new work (or at least, gaining exposure to a range of different works), one can also gain insights into more technical or subtle details in a work, especially where the author has a strong interest in a particular field and is able to bring this knowledge to the table when discussing a series. As for Space Battleship Yamato 2202 itself, I would likely need to find a good starting point should I ever find the time to begin this series; I am fully aware that Space Battleship Yamato as a whole is quite iconic and renowned, but one of my biggest shortcomings as a blogger and anime fan is finding the time to keep up with everything.

March Comes in Like a Lion

Fred of aunatural (@AuNaturelOne)

From Fred of aunatural, host of the upcoming July 2019 showcase, comes a post on March Comes in Like a Lion, which is about a shōgi prodigy, Rei Kiriyama, who lost his family in a motor accident. The series thus follows his growth and recovery as he learns more about shōgi under a family friend, rediscovering what it means to have a meaningful connection with others. However, this journey is not an easy one: along the way, Rei is bullied, ostracised and finds himself in difficult situations. Fred notes that with so many moving parts, he initially did not continue past the fifth episode, as the series seemed to be exceptionally melancholy. However, on a second attempt to watch the series, Fred comes to find value in the series, as it tells a story about someone who copes, matures and strengthens as a result of his experiences. While March Comes in Like a Lion is prima facie about shōgi (Japanese chess), the series’ actual focus is on Rei, whose perseverance and refusal to let his circumstances get the better of him eventually allow him to pick himself back up. An inspiring journey, Fred wishes that this series would gain a continuation in some form, because it would be worth seeing closure for Rei and his newfound future. Having heard nothing but good things about March Comes in Like a Lion, it may therefore come as a surprise that I’ve actually not seen this series yet.

Walking into an anime with an accepting mind invariably yields an outcome one might be pleasantly surprised by: in Fred’s case, returning to March Comes in Like a Lion a second time allowed a newfound appreciation for the series that transformed into a greater understanding of what March Comes in Like a Lion‘s themes were about. Rather than seeing Rei suffer endlessly, there was a point to his tribulations. This is a superb reminder that open-mindedness can confer an experience that transforms an unremarkable work into a highly moving, impactful one. I typically do not deal with negative reviews for this reason, since an initial impression might not necessarily reflect how I properly feel about a series – the joys of discovering the merits of a given anime is actually what led to my own Terrible Anime Challenge programme, where I go through a series where I had a priori expectations or impressions of it, then discard these and watch the anime anew to see if my thoughts change any. For the most part, I come out with a positive impression. Overall, given Fred’s assessment of March Comes in Like a Lion, I am inclined to check it out now, although folks should note that I am terrible at watching shows. It’s a miracle this blog exists at all, given how severe my procrastination tendencies are. On the flipside, because I am convinced to at least give March Comes in Like a Lion and other series encountered during this Jon’s Creator Showcase a chance, it indicates that every submission has been successful in presenting me with the merits of a series, speaking to the strength of each author’s content.

Closing Remarks

With the June edition of Jon’s Creator Showcase over, I can say that am happy to have decided to participate in Jon’s Creator Showcase; I admit that I know of half the blogs that I read half as well as I’d like, and I like half the blogs I read half as well as you deserve. Hence, such an initiative was a fun opportunity to get to know other bloggers better. However, all things come to an end, and so, with the end of June, the torch is passed to Fred of Au Natural, who will be hosting the July edition of Jon’s Creator Showcase. Admittedly, I was getting a little nervous when I got in touch with Jon to inquire about who was hosting for July, but after that was cleared out, it means that Jon’s Creator Showcase will see a smooth transition. I look forwards to seeing how Fred presents the July edition and also, what submissions will be made. Since I’m not hosting this time, it means that I’ll be allowed to submit something again, and while my blogging output has declined as of late, I figure that I’ll submit either a talk on Gundam Narrative or K-On!. We’re now into the summer, my favourite time of the year, and with long, warm days comes the opportunity to hike the mountains, take walks in the hills nearby and then enjoy a cold ice cream after, or wander the midway of the Calgary Stampede and see what exotic foods they might have, amongst other things. In short, I intend to make the most of every free moment I have this summer, but fear not, for there’s also some content planned out for this blog during the best season – this year happens to be both the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and the five year anniversary to the Giant Walkthrough Brain. As well, the summer season for anime features a few series that I’m interested in checking out, so a few of these may also receive posts. Finally, with this post at its end, I’d be happy to hear thoughts from you, readers and bloggers alike, on whether or not I’ve done a reasonable job of representing your content, whether or not my efforts at hosting a Jon’s Creator Showcase were satisfactory, and also just general feedback on how things are run around here in general.

14 responses to “Jon’s Creator Showcase, June Edition: A Halfway Point in 2019 and the Arrival of Summer

  1. Rose July 1, 2019 at 11:19

    I love the way you summarized my post!! I feel that you wholly understand what I was getting at and you wrote it in such an elegant way. Thank you for putting in so much time and care into this edition’s Jon’s Creator Showcase. It really shows the dedication you put in. You’re awesome, Infinite!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • infinitezenith July 2, 2019 at 21:59

      I appreciate the feedback and also the time you took in crafting out your post! For this Jon’s Creator Showcase, I most wanted to see how I could add my own spin to it so everyone who submitted something could feel the strength of their contributions. I loved reading through everything, and I’m glad you enjoyed this month’s presentation, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jon Spencer July 1, 2019 at 14:06

    Great job! I knew you were going to be writing a bit about each post, but I didn’t expect just how detailed each one would be. I know for a fact that folks will enjoy the feedback and other readers will enjoy the added opinion. I really appreciate you taking the time to host and am very glad to hear you enjoyed doing it! 🙂 If you would ever like to again, you are more than welcome to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith July 2, 2019 at 22:01

      I think I only vaguely hinted at the format I was intending to take; it sounds like my plan to keep the precise format a surprise was a success, then! I hope that everyone who made a submission will have the opportunity to go through everything. I’ve tagged everyone on Twitter to make it easier for them to find this post, and absolutely, I enjoyed hosting this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase 🙂 I’ll be happy to host again in the future, as well, but for the next bit, it’s time to let different folks host it and share in the fun, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Krystallina July 1, 2019 at 19:00

    Such detail and dedication! Amazing job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith July 2, 2019 at 22:02

      Glad to hear you enjoyed reading this month’s iteration of Jon’s Creator Showcase. If memory serves, I don’t think you submitted anything, but please do so for the current one: I’d love to see what you present 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ManInBlack July 2, 2019 at 01:53

    Thank you for such a great job in curating this month’s showcase. I am particularly impressed by your interpretation of my video, which goes to show how people see different things in art.

    Kudos to you, sir! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith July 2, 2019 at 22:30

      You’re welcome, and thank you for taking the time to submit something. I was very pleasantly surprised with a video, since it marked a departure from the other entries and allowed me a nice change of pace. The subjectivity of art and the corresponding different perspectives is what makes sharing and discussing it so enjoyable: I’m always game to learn about how others approach things, since it helps me appreciate the limitations of how I do things, as well 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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  7. mattdoylemedia July 7, 2019 at 11:58

    To echo others, I really enjoyed the way you summarised each post. The mix of straight up summary and adding your own thoughts was really cool to read.

    Like

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