The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Category Archives: General Discussion

Reconciling The Incredibly Strange Mutant Creatures who Rule the Universe of Alienated Japanese Zombie Computer Nerds, Information Flow and How Accessibility has Defeated Gatekeeping in the Anime Community

“The Internet has democratised content, and the gatekeepers are no longer in control.” –Andrew Zimmern

“One day, everyone will be an otaku“, Zero proclaims from his home in Kawagoe. It’s 1993, and Wired Magazine has concluded with an interview with the sullen software trouble-shooter, a member of the otaku subculture. Characterised as Japan’s socially inept but often brilliant technological shut-ins, it seemed inconceivable that such individuals would ever become commonplace at the time. Unbeknownst to Zero, some three decades later, his prediction would come to pass. The internet has evolved from being a curious form of communication to a ubiquitous resource responsible for handling everything from transportation to banking, cumbersome dial-up modems have been displaced by sleek fibre optic networks, and smartphones are now more powerful than room-filling mainframe computers. Attesting to these profound changes in the world, my own days resembles that of Zero’s: after starting my day at the gym or read through the latest news, I get to work tracing through iOS and Android source code to expand an app’s function, or identify existing bugs so I may fix them. Eight hours later, I unwind with a good book, exchange thoughts with an online community about the things I find in anime, chat with my friends or otherwise, put on the season’s latest anime series. Nowadays, the process is as simple as opening a streaming service, sitting down and taking it easy. However, I remember a time when things were not quite as straightforward. When I began this blog ten-and-a-half years ago, anime streaming was unreliable, choppy and limited. Back then, anime fans would’ve had to navigate the grey area of fansubs (anime episodes with subtitles provided by other viewers, rather than professional translators) to keep up to speed with a given season’s shows. I was a novice anime fan at the time, swapping videos with my friends on flash drives and exchanging stories on how quickly our down speeds allowed us to pick up fansubs. In that era, finding anything worth watching was tricky: the fansubbing groups were fond of imposing their presence on those who consumed “their” videos, and to this end, would create what were colloquially referred to as “trollsubs”, which contained excessive honourifics, translation notes and occasionally, blatantly incorrect translations designed to muddle comprehension and enjoyment. Video codecs were chosen to be exclusive, demanding people specifically use Media Player Classic and warning anyone that, if they had less than a 2.4 GHz quad-core CPU, the videos wouldn’t decode smoothly, and they didn’t deserve to watch their fansubs anyways. Those who uploaded soundtracks to shady file-sharing sites enjoyed encoding files in obscure formats like .ape, and the origins of fanart accompanying blog posts were jealously guarded secrets. Japanese fans refused to share location hunt comparisons in images wider than 210 pixels and even blocked right-click on their travel blogs to prevent distribution of their images, while other fans uploaded custom animations only to NicoNico Seiga at low resolutions and routinely caused phony takedown notices to delete videos from anyone who reposted their work to YouTube. Blogging was still a relatively limited pursuit, and giants of the day saw themselves as the sole authorities on which anime were “objectively” good. It seemed unusual that the anime community of the time was so insistent on making the hobby as difficult to participate in as possible, especially in a hobby that was already a niche one.

Reading through the Wired interview some ten years earlier, however, I found a modicum of understanding behind the behaviours within the community. In this interview, the article describes the otaku Zero as a dropout from Keio University’s math sciences department because he “didn’t like being ordered around by teachers to whom he felt superior”. Despite failing to finish his degree, Zero landed on his feet: by day, Zero earned his keep as a remote help desk technician to the tune of 350000 Yen per month (about 48000 CAD per year, adjusted for inflation), enough to comfortably pay the bills and keep up with rent in his Kawagoe apartment. By night, Zero acquired and analysed game cartridges for bugs and defects with the aim of, in his own words, “exposing the phony computer experts who invented the game in the first place”. Zero’s life revolved around disseminating information that was not previously known to others – in this zero-sum game, Wired describes the otaku as seeking out information solely for the purpose that they got to it first, and others didn’t. Being able to have something no one else had was the prize, and those who consistently could acquire information became widely respected: when one of Zero’s online friends posts information surrounding a concert, Zero is impressed. However, this feeling evaporates when Zero reads a seventeen-page report on how one game apparently utilised the same underlying code as another game. Zero’s known this for at least a week and gets to work writing a message warning others to pay this user no mind. The Wired article is telling: Zero’s motivated by two, seemingly conflicting factors. Posting something before anyone else, in Zero’s mind, would prove his own brilliance and gain him approval from others. Yet, Zero is also reported as believing himself to be superior to others. He engages in picking apart game cartridges to show that other software developers are flawed, if someone like him could find bugs in their work, and believes that he can get by without ever “[needing] to deal with anyone like [professors]”. This mindset is mirrored amongst those of the anime community in the late 2000s and early 2010s: those who had made the so-called troll-subs openly claimed that only a subset of people deserved to enjoy “their” content, while bloggers fluent in Japanese would travel to Japan for the singular purpose of watching a film so they could say on a forum or blog post that they saw the movie ahead of anyone else. The Wired article had been most telling: Zero’s conviction in his own superiority, and the constant need to gain validation by shutting down others, was a sign of someone who saw themselves as being separate from society, rather than a part of it. Zero was, in short, a forerunner of sorts to the gatekeepers within the anime community I encountered. Having now read Wired’s article, I had my answer: the fansubbers, uploaders and bloggers of the time saw their pursuits as an exclusive community only open to a limited few. People had to either earn their way in through technical know-how, or put up with being insulted at every turn by those who felt themselves superior to others: fansubs patronised viewers, communities had rules that forbade questioning why certain codecs or encoding algorithms were used, and bloggers openly disparaged entire genres as being “anti-intellectual”. Gatekeeping is the act of deliberately obstructing or excluding someone from participating in a pursuit, to the extent where it significantly degrades their experience. Ten years earlier, gatekeeping was facilitated by the fact that the technology was still quite arcane. A great deal of time and know-how was needed to partake in the hobby in an enjoyable, meaningful way. However, while the motivations behind gatekeeping have remained quite unchanged since Wired’s interview with Zero, technology has changed dramatically.

Nowadays, streaming services make it easier than ever for fans to watch their favourite shows and listen to their favourite songs. Reverse image search algorithms allow one to swiftly determine where a character is from, and blogging is accessible to anyone with a mind full of ideas and an internet connection. In a world where accessibility has greatly improved, the ability for gatekeepers to operate as they did ten years earlier has been crippled. Elitist bloggers who believe only certain genres of anime are worth producing are few in number, and troll subs have largely evaporated. Anyone who’s a fan of Japanese popular culture is free to partake in the manner of their choosing. Advancing technology, and unprecedented accessibility means that, at least on paper, gatekeeping is beaten back, defeated. If a troll sub group decided they wanted to release a meme-laden set of subtitles, fans can simply hop on a streaming service. A streaming service that injects contemporary politics into its translations may similarly prompt viewers to fall back on another service, or abandon legitimate means for grey options, options where the translators attempt to produce a more faithful translation knowing they can be replaced if their work is below par. A YouTuber who claims to “own” concert footage and refusing to name the songs in said concert can be side-stepped by making use of Shazam and Apple Music, or perhaps Spotify. In spite of these advances, the contemporary anime community still appears to grapple with gatekeeping from time to time. However, upon closer inspection, this new gatekeeping manifests as individuals, or groups, posting to Twitter or Reddit that certain fans are not legitimate, certain genres are, in meme-speak, “mid”, ad nauseum. Although this form of gatekeeping is sufficient to spark off lengthy debate on who should participate in a community, what makes one a fan and the like, it is so feeble and ineffective that one wonders why anyone would let a 280-character string or upvotes impact what they do and do not enjoy. Today’s gatekeepers minimally satisfy the definition: while they seek to exclude, they are unable to negatively degrade one’s experience as the gatekeepers could previously a decade earlier: while an unplayable codec might stop a fan in the early 2010s from watching their shows, a poorly-written Tweet from someone with a few thousand followers doesn’t have that sort of impact (short of said user coming over to one’s residence and physically stopping one from pursuing their interests). The very technology gatekeepers had once counted on to rigidly control their hobby and the surrounding community has, ironically, become the very instrument that has made anime significantly more inviting, welcoming and accessible. This is largely in part a consequence of the increasing ubiquity of high technology: as more people become otaku, they take up positions at large technology companies and bring with them a wider variety of perspectives. These perspectives make their way into the technology and create a feedback loop in which more inclusivity makes technology easier to use, encouraging more people to become versed with its function. In this way, gatekeeping, as I’d known it in the late 2000s and early 2010s, is all but extinct.

Additional Remarks and Comments

  • At the opposite end of gatekeeping is the celebration of one’s hobbies. A decade earlier, there was no more visceral expression than otaku rooms, living spaces that are adjourned with figurines, wall scrolls and other anime merchandise. Danny Choo’s “Worldwide Rooms” was intended precisely for showcasing some of the more stylish rooms around the world, and it is from here these images are derived from. Among the otaku rooms highlighted, two stood out to me: the first was Tigra of Poland. Tigra’s immaculately-kept room drew the envy of those who saw the photos: the kanji 虎 (“tiger”) is embossed into a striking hardwood floor, and skylights flood the room with natural light. Recessed light fixtures create a sense of sophistication, reducing the aerial clutter in the room and pushing the occupant’s focus on the room itself. The slanted ceilings create an avant-garde aesthetic, and the light-orange ambience conveys a feeling of warmth. The space itself is classy, elegant and clean; a chic lounge chair and low-platform bed can be spotted, giving the room coziness.

  • Adorning Tigra’s room and its shelves are figurines, piles of manga and the most cutting-edge electronics of its time: Tigra is a figurine and manga collector, and when Danny Choo posted this room’s contents in 2011, readers expressed admiration for the space, which struck a balance between form and function. Of course, being a shade over a decade old means that all of Tigra’s hardware is quite outdated by this point in time. Back in 2011, I was an undergraduate student and had run a Dell XPS 420 for my coursework. I still used a flip-phone, and while I had an HP laptop, it was a slower machine that struggled to start up. My current workspace is a ways cleaner than Tigra’s (the only sign I’m an anime fan is a Madoka Magica keychain, which I’ve affixed to my favourite USB for file transfers), and offers a gorgeous view of the city.

  • Tigra’s room was, in short, the embodiment of “living the dream”. I myself was envious of such a setup when I first read through this post. However, fast forward seven years, and Tigra would write a blog post about her experiences with collecting figurines as a part of her hobby. In this blog post, Tigra details how her hobby turned into something of an addiction: it was always enjoyable to purchase a new figure, but once the new figure arrived, Tigra would already be thinking about buying the next new figure. One morning, she had arisen to a room full of figurines, manga and gadgets strewn about. It’d hit her that she’d collected things she didn’t even had time to properly enjoy, and Tigra found herself overwhelmed. The hobby had become exhausting, and chasing the rush of anticipation turned Tigra’s hobby into an all-consuming one.

  • Fortunately, there is a happy ending in Tigra’s post: she began to sell off her collection and only keep the figures that only bring her joy. In doing so, the minimalism has brought Tigra new joy. Tigra’s learnings, of moderation, is the key to maintaining a sustainable and healthy hobby, and a massive collection is not always highly regarded – Danny Choo has shown off what he titled “The Ultimate Otaku” room, and comments here are a little more lukewarm. Some folks comment that such a room must be hard to sleep in, feeling more like a shop than a private space, while others wonder how much such a collection would’ve costed.

  • It is clear that to fans, what makes an otaku room appealing isn’t the sheer quantity of items collected, but rather, the combination of how a space is utilised to strike a balance between expressing one’s hobby and maintaining an inviting, livable aesthetic. It is therefore unsurprising that what appealed to me most about Danny Choo’s top Worldwide Rooms weren’t the figurines or merchandise itself, but rather, the fact that a given space was tastefully organised. There are other several instances of Worldwide Rooms that are particularly inspiring and well done.

  • The other otaku room I particularly was fond of was from Kraster of Denmark. This clean room is highlighted with green accents, making things pop. Shelving units are cleverly employed to increase storage space without amplifying clutter, and Kraster has done a good job of striking a balance between showing off their collection without overwhelming the space with stuff. Compared to Tigra and Kraster’s setups, mine is significantly more spartan. Folks will have noticed that I only have Gundam models in one shelf on the wall unit, and I have a small shelf dedicated for my manga and artbooks. Beyond this, I have no wall scrolls or posters. There is a practical reason for why so few of my Gundam models are out and about: I’ve chosen to only display my Master Grades, and all of my High Grades are in boxes. This is because dusting off things like figurines and models are tricky, and while the new place is significantly less dusty, I’ve made it a habit of dusting everything off, and sweeping the floors, once a day.

  • Seeing some of the otaku rooms and the thought of having to dust all of that off makes me recoil. The me of a decade ago found these otaku room to be quite inspiring, and I’ve always enjoyed seeing how people set their spaces up. In the decade that has passed since I first read these posts, I’ve long finished my education and, in conjunction with my obligations and responsibilities, now have a bit of freedom to kit out spaces in my manner of choosing. I’m finding that a Konmari-style method, in which I only keep the stuff that genuinely makes me happy, is appropriate: space is a premium now, and there’s a certain joy in having a very clean living space that resembles something out of an AirBnB listing, albeit with hints of my personality interspersed throughout.

  • Since this is a post that touches on gatekeeping, one might wonder if I have any gatekeeping stories to share. The most notable story I have involves a friend who had uploaded segments of a Gundam Unicorn live action concert for me to check out on YouTube, only to get his channel terminated when one PotKettleB1ack reported him. A week of effort was spent on appeals, to no avail, and the infuriating part had been the fact that this individual had not been the legitimate copyright holder. There was a happy ending here: both of us would later experience schadenfreude after learning PotKettleB1ack had his channel terminated for the very thing he tried to leverage against my friend, proving he most certainly did not own the Gundam Unicorn concert footage.

  • As for me, the most egregious example of gatekeeping I’ve personally experienced came shortly after I wrote my Girls und Panzer: Der Film review. Japanese anime fans had somehow found said review, and on their message boards, some claimed that I had no business in the Girls und Panzer franchise. One individual stated that “また泥棒が違法視聴してるのか?金を出さないなら見るなよアニメ業界にとってお前らは寄生虫と同じだ。” (“Is this thief watching illegally? If you don’t pay for it, you shouldn’t be watching. You’re just like a parasite on the anime industry”), while another suggested that “サイトで見るような奴は真のファンじゃない。本当に好きな奴はDVDを買う” (“The person you see on [this blog] isn’t a true fan. Those who genuinely support [Girls und Panzer] would buy the DVDs”). Since Der Film‘s BDs had been available on CD Japan, I find it tough to believe these individuals would be ignorant to the fact that BDs can be purchased overseas. Such claims can only come from a desire to exclude foreign fans, like myself, from watching and writing about anime. In response to these criticisms, I shrug and get on with my day.

  • Between myself and my friends, we have amassed quite the collection of gatekeeping incidents we’ve experienced. However, we recall most of these stories with a laugh: over the years, it’s become increasingly easier to ignore and bypass gatekeepers. When Gundam 00 was airing, fans could have their experience actively degraded by those who were too uptight to provide their fansubs in a playable format. Today, a streaming subscription gives one access to a plethora of anime for low prices, and these codec elitists have since faded to obscurity. On the other hand, fans who believe others shouldn’t be in their hobby can be negated by paying them no mind; the Japanese message board users certainly didn’t impact my Girls und Panzer experience to any capacity, and short of coming over to my place to physically stop me (incidentally, I’d like to see them try), are powerless to stop me from buying the BDs and writing about my experiences. Despite some of the issues surrounding improved technology and accessibility (especially on social media, where outrage is manufactured every other week), what I’ve seen over the past ten years leads me to a simple conclusion: it’s easier now to be an anime fan than it’s ever been.

Accessibility is, in short, the countermeasure for gatekeeping, and technology is the instrument for this accessibility. Having come upon Wired’s article a decade earlier, and finding it to fully explain a phenomenon that had made it tricky to be a fan of anime at the time, I was able to develop an understanding of why some folks were so insistent on hoarding information. Despite these hurdles, I continued to enjoy anime in my own way, and having now seen the evolution of things like streaming services and reverse image search, I can say with confidence that anime fans today have unprecedented access to the medium. The barrier for entry has never been lower, and this means folks are able to, more effectively than had previously been possible, watch what they enjoy, and discuss it with people who are respectful, reasoned and open-minded. Gatekeepers have been reduced to making quips on social media about who “should” be allowed to watch something, although with the ground constantly shrinking around them, I imagine that even this form of gatekeeping could go the way of the dodo. Zero’s prediction of everyone becoming otaku may have come to pass, but it has also gone beyond this: the Wired article had suggested that being an otaku, or technologically savvy, brings with it numerous advantages. At their best, otaku are hard-working individuals with a profound love of their chosen occupation. With the right encouragement, they can become team-players with unparalleled drive and passion, putting in a significant effort towards advancing the world in hitherto unimagined ways. Revisiting the Wired article anew in the present, it is not lost on me that, in many ways, I am a contemporary Zero. However, beyond the superficial similarities and vast technological differences (even the seven-year-old Series 0 Apple Watch skates rings around Zero’s Quadra 900 Macintosh PC, which cost 7000 USD back in its time), it is quite clear that the otaku world today is dramatically different. Sharing information and including people in communities has never been easier, while those who wish to play the “first past the post” game are finding it increasingly difficult to do so, and this suits me just fine: gatekeeping is defeated by accessibility and inclusion, so it follows that a world where things are easier to access, and more inclusive, would become correspondingly more challenging to gatekeep.

Reflections on A Decade After The First Reflection and Remarks on Mighty Ships, Cell and Molecular Biology and Road to the MCAT

“The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.” –Thomas Paine

After the day’s lesson on biochemistry concludes, I bid my classmate farewell and make my way over to the adjacent building for the bus ride back home. In the term leading into the MCAT, I only had one class on Mondays, and so, after biochemistry, I would head home so I could review the day’s lessons without worrying about any other classes. Upon arriving home, I would prepare a Swanson ready-made meal and watch television, before setting about going over the most recent topic. At the beginning of term, I spent my lunch breaks watching Angel Beats!. By the time term was reaching its end, I’d wrapped up Angel Beats! and coincidentally, Discovery Channel was available as a part of the cable provider’s free preview. As it so happened, Mighty Ships aired during my lunch breaks, and I remember sitting down to their North Star episode in early April. Halfway into the episode, one of the chief engineers describes the importance of morale during difficult situations, and the narrator transitions over to how good, homecooked food is a game-changer on the high seas: a solid meal gives people something to look forward to, and this in turn compels people to work harder. North Star’s journey from Tacoma to Anchorage is to deliver vital supplies, and this particular ship is a vital link between Alaska and the remainder of the United States. Throughout the episode, the ship’s crew are shown in dealing with remarkably challenging scenarios that are, to them, another day at the office. Despite raging winds, harsh Alaskan ice and an engine problem, the crews handle every problem with remarkable professionalism and focus. A week later, shortly before exams began, I watched an episode about the Cristobal Colon. This ship is resonspible for dredging, and in the episode, was involved in reclaiming land for a windfarm at the mouth of the Elbe  . This uniquely equipped vessel deals with a different set of problems than the North Star: during its operation, a valve ruptures, forcing the crew to repair it before the Cristobal Colon can continue on with its work. The nature of their work similarly demands facilities for unwinding, and like the North Star, the Cristobal Colon’s head chef is shown frying up chicken steaks. He explains that cooking well means keeping the crew healthy, happy and ready to take on whatever adversity appears. It’s now been a decade since those days, and while I cannot say I did particularly well in biochemistry (I ended up with a B grade in the course), nor do I remember what the difference between L and D sugars, memories of the resilience and professionalism in Mighty Ships linger, alongside with yet another important lesson I gained from my cell and molecular biology lecture.

Unlike biochemistry, which had been a generic course the Faculty of Science mandates as a requirement for students, Cell and molecular biology was offered by my home faculty (Health Sciences), and as such, was tailored for the multidisciplinary, inquiry-based learning approaches we were intended to pick up. Besides a group term project and individual term paper, the course also had a conventional exam. However, despite being significantly more work than biochemistry, cell and molecular biology was a considerably more engaging experience, providing context behind the biochemical reactions seen in biochemistry. Context and application is why biology has always been so fascinating for me, and why to this day, I continue to care greatly about what something can be used for. Theoretical knowledge on its own is a curiosity, but it becomes valuable when one can turn that knowledge towards helping others out. A major part of the cell and molecular biology course was designated as “reflection”: every week, we would submit a short paragraph summarising our learnings, and these made up ten percent of our final grade. The professor had suggested that prompting students to look back on why the material was helpful would help with retention, and so, while I similarly fail to recall the exact steps in the cyclic-AMP pathway, I still remember that cAMP is a second messenger involved in a large number of signalling pathways, regulating phosphorylation and in turn, affecting sugar and lipid metabolism. Reflections became a way to help reinforce learning, and it was this that ultimately led me to adopt a similar approach for this blog: keen-eyed readers will have noticed that a lot of my posts are titled “Review and Reflection”. This is the origin of that particular nomenclature – I do not do conventional reviews here, and instead, prefer to look introspectively on my own background, and how they impact my thoughts about a given work. This approach has worked for the past decade, and it allows me to approach anime in a different approach than those of my peers (and competitors); while readers are unlikely to be worried about why a large number of my posts are counted as reflections, I would hope that this clarifies the naming convention I’ve adopted for any curious reader.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Ten years earlier to this day, I had my first real day off after a term’s worth of courses, and I spent it unwinding at home, writing my first-ever reflections post. Although I didn’t know at the time, this term would turn out to be slightly better than my term from the year earlier. I ended up committing yet another gaffe, having misread the examination schedule for my Cold War course, and arrived after the exam ended. Under academic policy, I should have taken a zero on that component, but the professor had been kind enough to allow me another chance. I thus wrote the exam a few days later than scheduled and took a small penalty to my grade, but still ended up with a B+ in the course overall.

  • Conversely, the course I found the roughest was biochemistry, which was based purely on rote memorisation. I’ve never really done well in courses that demand I commit a bunch of properties and reactions to memory and then regurgitate them for an exam. Biochemistry was one of those courses, and the year before, organic chemistry had similarly been my bane. While the University of Calgary claims their organic chemistry program is especially effective in terms of student outcomes, I found that the department’s vaunted computer-assisted learning (CAL) component was completely ineffective, being merely a computerised version of more traditional methods.

  • The department had actually published papers suggesting that CAL resulted in improved student performance, but automation of organic chemistry assessment only makes it easier for grading things like quizzes. I would suggest that in order to effectively teach organic chemistry, the changes required to the mode of instruction aren’t particularly groundbreaking or demanding; it is sufficient to teach essential reactions and properties of different functional groups, and then provide students with data sheets on exams and quizzes. This way, student’s aren’t made to memorise reactions, but rather, apply basic principles to solve more complex problems.

  • Under such a setup, exams would need to be entirely short answer: a few, multi-staged problems involving a broad range of principles would be a satisfactory test of knowledge retention and information synthesis. It would be more effort for grading, but students would end up with much larger gains from the course. The approach I suggest is inspired by precisely how my health sciences courses were structured. Adjacent to my biochemistry course, my cell and molecular biology course also had an exam component, but in addition, assessment was made based on a term paper and group project. Unsurprisingly, I fared very poorly in biochemistry (a sixty-five on the final meant I wrapped up with a B grade) because it had depended entirely on brute force memorisation of reactions and processes.

  • Cell and molecular biology encouraged me to apply knowledge at a much broader level, I did very well on the final, but also excelled on the term paper and group project (A in the course overall, and a 90 on the final). That term proved to be an interesting one, being a return to form where I began performing as I had hoped in order to stay in satisfactory standing. A major part of this shift was the fact that I began managing my breaks better, and using breaks to regroup strategically. Watching Mighty Ships ended up being one of my methods, and here, while the show is interviewing the North Star’s chief engineer, two of his staff appear with fire suits, leading to a remark on how during tough situations, keeping one’s spirits high is how one gets through those rough spots. This become especially important as the chief engineer deals with a leaking engine during their run from Tacoma to Anchorage.

  • In some Mighty Ships episodes, the programme emphasises that what keeps the crew going after a rough day is a good, solid meal. For me, having three square meals to look forwards to helped me to stay focused: mealtimes become a break of sorts in the day, allowing me to structure out a period where I am going to take it easy and not worry about my goals. This approach has persisted to this day, and I continue to organise my time in this way.

  • North Star’s journey from Tacoma to Anchorage is a routine one: while the ship itself is suffering from a leak in the engines and ends up going down to three of four engines for its run, the captain and crew run things very smoothly to deliver their cargo on time. Mighty Ships does tend to dramatise problems that are common at sea, and even the more severe problems are those the crew have the mental capacity to address, no matter how unexpected. The series’ portrayal of issues showing up would be akin to announcing that running into a “Fatal error: Unexpectedly found nil while unwrapping an Optional value” in Swift could cost customers millions. While it is true that forced-unwrapping of variables that could be null will cause an app to crash and result in angry users, the solution is as simple as it is mundane: providing a default value or doing if let checks eliminates the issue for the most part.

  • Knowing that the people portrayed in Mighty Ships are professional, I always derived enjoyment from watching them work out their problems, and this sort of spirit stuck with me as I went into my finals after a term I’d been a little uncertain about. I still remember enjoying a lunch out with my parents when they’d had a day off, and in my mind, I thought to myself, while I might’ve accidentally missed an exam, I was lucky enough to get it rescheduled, and moreover, the remainder of the term had gone much better than it had the previous year.

  • Once I’d finished writing my history exam, I returned to my lab space to pick up my belongings and prepared to head off to unwind: one of the things that had made that particular term a little melancholy was the knowledge that even though I’d finished, I still had a physics course and the MCAT ahead of me. I utilised that time to write for my blog, enjoy time with friends and otherwise, unwind knowing that at least for the present, I wouldn’t need to deal with biochemistry anymore. The open time also led me to take a closer look at Team Fortress 2: at around this time, the Halo 2 servers were slated to shut down, and I’d been looking for a replacement.

  • Mighty Ships‘ North Star episode ends with the captain making a perfect season of being on time, and he’s excited to get back home. Another captain will helm North Star for the next several weeks, and here, I note that North Star was built in 2003. The episode aired in 2011, eight years later, and that means today, North Star will have been in service for almost two decades. Given it’s been ten years since I watched this episode for the first time, I wonder how many of the crew featured are still active.

  • Besides the North Star, the other Mighty Ships episode that stood out to me was the Cristobal Colon. Mighty Ships features ships of all types, from cargo ships like the Emma Maersk, to the USS Nimitz, and everything in between. The Cristobal Colon is named after explorer Christopher Columbus and is a hopper dredger. In the Mighty Ships episode it was featured in, the Cristobal Colon is working on a wind farm project near the Elbe River delta. Built in 2009, it would’ve been in service for three years by the time I watched the episode of Mighty Ships it was in.

  • Cristobal Colon faces a different set of challenges than the North Star, and it was after this episode I really got into Mighty Ships: at the time, I was a health science student and dealt primarily with things like the determinants of health and SDS PAGE, so watching shows like these acted as a reminder of how vast the world is, and how there are professionals in all fields. I’ve found that as people become more competent and specialised in their respective fields, they also begin to forget that when they need something done, they’re likely also dealing with someone who’s at least as competent and specialised.

  • This is one thing that I continue to remind myself to be mindful of: the people moving my furniture and setting my plumbing straight are just as vital as the people who engineer out the bridges I drive across, keep me up to speed on my finances and offer information whenever I have queries about health. This is why it’s so important to treat all people with politeness and courtesy: allowing them to do their jobs means I can get on with my own day more quickly, and with a smile on my face. Things like these aren’t taught in the classroom, but remain as important as the technical knowledge one acquires.

  • While one of the Cristobal Colon’s engineers look after the massive dredging unit, I remark here that, as unpleasant as I found organic chemistry and biochemistry, having the requisite knowledge did mean that studying for the MCAT’s biological sciences and organic chemistry section more straightforward: the MCAT of 2012’s biology and organic chemistry segments were basically watered down versions of the course work I’d taken, and back then, I still retained enough knowledge to pick things up fairly quickly again. However, at this point in time, my mind wasn’t on the MCAT just yet.

  • Because we’re now approaching the decade mark to when I’d written the MCAT, readers will have to bear with me over the next few months as I reminisce, perhaps needlessly, about an exam that ultimately ended up being what I consider to be a poor use of funds and time, but also provided an experience of melancholy and exam-taking that led me to perform significantly better, both in my final undergraduate year and throughout graduate school.. Back then, I had aspirations for medical school, but when my application results came back, to no one’s surprise, I was completely lacking in medical volunteer experience and activities that exemplified my commitment to ethics. Almost immediately after those results came back, my undergraduate supervisor scooped me up for graduate school.

  • I ended up bypassing the entire application process (I was offered admissions within an hour of submitting my application, which I was told would be a formality in my case). Mighty Ships had demonstrated that a vital part of finding one’s path is knowing when to take a step back and seek out alternate solutions when one method doesn’t work, as well as when to be unyielding. On board the Cristobal Colon, the narrator explains that good food isn’t something that can be compromised: the cook here is shown frying up chicken and comments that food keeps the crews happy. I smile at this moment: when I first watched this episode, I was hastily eating a ready-made meal so I could hit the books, and thought to myself, I’d love to have a chicken steak at some point.

  • I acknowledge that this post is quite unusual one, even for this blog: normally, I write about anime and games, but owing to the fact that this year marks several milestones, I would like to take some time and look back at some of the things going on in life when I’d just begun my blogging journey. Readers can reasonably expect a few more reflection-style posts about the MCAT and the summer of ten years previously interspersed with things in the coming months. My world is dramatically different now than it had been back then, and while I recall those simpler times with fondness, I wouldn’t trade the world to go back to those times. With this post in the books, my blog turns ten-and-a-half years old now, and although I have no idea how long I’ll keep this party running for, readers do have my world that 1) I’ll still be around for the foreseeable future and 2) if I do call it quits, there will be plenty of notice.

According to the blog’s archives, a decade earlier, I had just wrapped up my term, having finished all of my exams. It’d been a rainy, grey day, and while I was waiting for my exam results, I also took advantage of the time to write for this blog, as well as relax in the knowledge that a few weeks later, I’d be facing a physics course to make up for the course I’d withdrawn from a year earlier. At the time, this blog had just turned half a year old, and I wasn’t too sure on what I would do with it. As the summer progressed, I utilised it as a space for sharing very short thoughts on things. However, as the summer progressed, and I traded physics for the MCAT preparation course, even though my studies ended up consuming the whole of my summer, I did end up with a distinct set of memories of that time. Much as how I’ve forgotten the specifics of biochemistry, and even cell and molecular biology, I’ve long lost recollection of the exact materials I covered for the MCAT. However, what has endured after all this time were the soft skills. The MCAT taught me to be strategic on exams and take on problems by prioritising them based on a value-difficulty matrix (e.g. “always take on the high-value low-difficulty items first), cell and molecular biology had imparted on me the importance of looking back at what I got out of something, and Mighty Ships actually ended up leaving me with something that was much more valuable than anything I picked up in biochemistry: while I am unlikely to be able to explain β-Galactosidase activity now, I carry with me a profound respect for the sort of professionalism and resilience I’d seen in Mighty Ships, to solve problems to the best of my ability where possible, and to both identify and implement alternative solutions where necessary. In the decade since I wrote about my initial plans for this blog, things have become considerably different. This blog is now my preferred venue for sharing my thoughts, and I’ve since gone from being a medical student hopeful to being an iOS developer. However, I hold that my experiences from this time period, especially with respect to soft skills, have shaped the path I would end up taking, and it is no joke when I remark that Mighty Ships was probably a shade more helpful to my career than biochemistry was.

A Major Milestone: Reflections on Moving Day, A New Desktop and The Future of this Blog

“As much as I’ll miss the anticipation that this trip created, I’ll know that I’ll always have a great time remembering it, and I’ll keep hatching new plans that are worth looking forward to. In fact, that’s a good strategy for life: make yourself do a lot of things that you’ll be happy to look back on, and make sure you got plans for more of those things in the future.” –Steven Rinella, Meat Eater

It’s now eleven at night, and the sunset earlier had filled the landscape with the last golden rays of light from an early spring day. I look around my new work space, which affords me with a wonderful view of the cityscape below: lights glint in the distance, and I take a moment to appreciate the scenery before returning my attention to this post, my last task of the day. It’s been about twenty-four hours since I moved in, but I have not yet gotten accustomed to the beautifully appointed lodgings just yet. This marks the latest chapter in life, the culmination of a journey that had begun last August. Yesterday was moving day, and it was the culmination of over six months of planning, of long days spent looking through legal paperwork, gathering documents, looking up movers and daydreaming about how I’d like to lay furniture out. Where there had been excitement and anxiety surrounding the move, plus the attendant stress resulting from the changes to my schedule, there’s now a sense of relief, and of quiet. Meat Eater‘s Steven Rinella put it best: the anticipation, the meticulous planning and the work that went into preparing for this very moment is now past, and for the past half year, I’d lived in the shadow of a moving day that was steadily approaching. Some days, moving day couldn’t come quickly enough. On other days, moving day hurtled towards me with the inevitability of a freight train. However, now that everything’s in the books, there’s a bit of a void where that anticipation once filled. During or after moving, people may experience depression as a result of the dramatic changes in their lifestyle or environment – the process itself is nastily exhausting, and one is deprived of the spirits they need to pursue their usual activities, creating a bit of a positive feedback loop. While it will doubtlessly feel tempting to stay in now that the move is done, to recoup on rest and perhaps even embrace what’s become colloquially known as “goblin mode” (Himouto! Umaru-chan‘s Umaru is probably the closest example I can readily think of), Rinella’s words come to mind. I’ve never been one to idle, and per Rinella, I see all of this change as an opportunity to try new experiences.

Owing to recent circumstances, I also determined it was appropriate to pull the trigger and build a new desktop computer. Shortly before moving in, all of my parts shipped, and I spent the better part of the previous weekend getting the new rig put together. While I had originally intended to build a new computer after I’d moved, current events had pushed my schedule up; a contamination incident affecting NAND flash supplies, coupled with the conflict in Ukraine impacting neon gas and palladium supplies, could potentially mean that parts could see a jump in prices by the time I was originally intending to buy the parts. At present, video cards remain in short supply, but fortunately for me, my old GTX 1060 6 GB from 2016 is still in fighting shape, so I was able to re-use this, along with a pair of older 4 TB Seagate HDDs. After a Saturday afternoon directed towards putting everything together, my new desktop is ready to roll: it’s running a 12th generation Intel Core i5-12600k, 32 GB of 3200 MHz RAM and a 1 TB NVMe SSD. To ensure this new computer remains quite cool even under the tasks I carry out with it, I’ve decided to go with an aftermarket cooler, coupled with a case sporting better airflow. Taken together, I am confident that this new computer will allow me to do the things I intend to do with reasonable efficiency: while my GTX 1060 is unable to play the most modern games at ultra 4k settings and 120 FPS, it is more than enough for the titles I still have time to play through. Building a new computer so close to the move initially appeared to be a questionable move in that it did complicate things somewhat, but now that everything is done, I am glad that I am able to move in with a new desktop, signifying the start of a new page in life. Buying a home was a process that required a lot of effort, planning, attention to detail and care, and looking back, I also learnt a great deal: I know now of the process, and where there’s precedence, doing things a second time will be much easier. It was a process that pushed me to be more on top of things, and to be my best self; in fact, this experience was no different than my MCAT or thesis defences for my undergraduate and graduate studies, being trying times that demanded my best.

Additional Thoughts and Remarks

  • The past month and the preparations leading up to the move have made it very nearly as exhausting as I’d remembered the MCAT had been ten years earlier: in both cases, there was only so much work that could be done ahead of time, and on the day of both, it came down to a combination of experience, keeping a cool head under pressure and a bit of improvisation to get everything to work. Like the MCAT, moving day ended up being as smooth as I could’ve hoped: all of my existing furniture was moved without incident, and the smaller articles were similarly moved without trouble.

  • At this point ten years ago, I was staring down midterms for biochemistry and molecular biology. That term had been a bit of a tougher one, but overall, I still managed to maintain a reasonable GPA. I thus entered that summer with a pair of courses on my plate; besides the MCAT preparations classes, I also opted to take physics to replace the course I’d withdrawn from during my second year. I did end up recovering from the challenges of this time frame, and university after that became significantly more enjoyable.

  • A bunch of my older furniture made the move, allowing me to save a bundle on things like the dining table, wall unit and couches: I try to take care of my belongings, and as a result, most of the stuff I have still are in a nearly-new condition despite having been battle-worn. However, some things, like the beds and coffee tables, needed to be replaced: the original coffee tables I had pre-date me, and have been around since the 1980s.

  • Here on the coffee table, a copy of Treasures of China can be seen. This is the book I’ve been longing to read again since I first borrowed it from the library some fifteen years earlier, and last Christmas, I received a copy. While it’s a little worn, it’s still in great shape, and I enjoy perusing it from time to time. A GameCube and Mac Mini are also visible here: the Mac Mini has been around for about seven years, and despite being a little slow, it’s still operational. Meanwhile, the GameCube is in near-perfect condition and handles as well as it had nineteen years ago: I still play Agent Under Fire on it.

  • There’s actually a curious story behind the dining table: it’s about forty years old, being the table my parents used when they first bought a home. Because it’d been so solidly built, it remained in excellent condition right up until now. I’d considered getting a new marble-top table, but I could never find one that really fit my tastes, and in the end, this dining table survived the cut and became the oldest piece of furniture I’d ended up bringing over. Despite its age, however, it still looks almost-new.

  • What impresses me most about the new home is just how well-lit everything is. By day, natural light fills all of the main living spaces; I’m still working from home at present, and this has allowed me to see how lighting works throughout various hours: I’ve found that aside from the interior hallway and dining area, the remainder of the space is bright, and I only need a desk lamp to illuminate my work area.

  • The kitchen area had particularly impressed me when I first toured the home – with stainless steel appliances, things look especially sharp. I’ve now had the chance to cook here, and I was blown away with just how modern and efficient everything is. The oven has both conventional and convection baking, and fans allow it to cool faster than my old oven. The range heats up more quickly than before, making it faster to heat a pan up for cooking. The main challenge now is getting accustomed to where all of my kitchenware is: before, I’d had everything memorised, but now, it takes me digging through all of the cabinets to figure out where something is, and similarly, after washing the dishes, it takes a bit of time to find where something goes.

  • For no apparent reason, this is the manga collection I’ve got set up in my bedroom. My collection is comparatively modest, especially against the likes of those I’ve seen in the community, but my modus operandi is to only buy the works that particularly impacted me; I tend to watch the anime first before reading the manga, and the only exception is The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, whose first volume caught my eye a decade earlier. On the topic of manga, Harukana Receive‘s ninth volume is now available, and the tenth will release in April. Since I’m so close to a bookstore, I have plans to purchase both once the final tenth volume comes out next month. I would very much like to review Harukana Receive‘s second half: the anime only covers the first five volumes, and it’d be great to get some thoughts out on what happens to Haruka and Kanata after they prevail over Claire and Emily, although I’ve never done a manga review before, and therefore have no idea how to format such a post, but that will be a problem for a later date.

  • This is my workstation as it appeared shortly after the move finished: the new computer tower can be seen in the lower right hand corner, just left of the printer. I’ve got an iMac off to the left for all of my iOS development work, and the Windows desktop handles everything else, from gaming to taxes. Despite being beside a window, glare is not a problem – I can simply lower the blinds during the day, and I’m set. One thing I would like to look at in the near future are sleeves for cable management: while I’ve done my best to reduce the tangle of cables behind my machines, having a few sleeves would make vacuuming easier, reduce visual clutter and more importantly, prevent my feet from catching the cables while I work.

  • For now, though, my setup is satisfactory, and, I daresay that it is a cut above even those featured in Danny Choo’s Otaku workspaces. Now that I’m settled in somewhat, I anticipate that I’ll still likely be able to find time to keep up with my hobbies to a reasonable capacity, while at the same time, really explore the new neighbourhood and all of the amenities around. The first thing I’m itching to do is go back to the gym: it’s been over two years since the global health crisis, and I haven’t properly done a bench press in that amount of time. With this post in the books, I am looking to write about Slow Loop and 86 EIGHTY-SIX before this month is out – the finale for the former comes out tomorrow, and I imagine that I’ll have a few moments to catch up on the latter now that most of the work has concluded.

Now that I’m on the other side of things, it is not lost on me that I’m in a brand-new neighbourhood. Restaurants and parks are more accessible than they ever were, and I’ve got a gym upstairs, meaning I can slowly build my body back up to where I’d been two years earlier. The fact there’s a grocery store across the street means I have a bit more wiggle room for trying out more exotic recipes. If I felt inclined, I could spend an afternoon working out of the nearby coffeeshop, and on weekends, I could even browse the bookstore adjacent to said coffeeshop, if I were not walking the trails alongside the river. The possibilities are mind-boggling, and at my age, it suddenly hits me that now is the time to really live in the moment more, to take advantage of every amenity my new community has to offer. All of these exciting new activities will require time, and that leads to the inevitable question of what this means for the blog. In the past decade, I’ve written here on a fairly consistent basis, sharing my experiences in anime and games with an open-minded, well-read and amicable community. I believe that moderation is the key to all life, and with this in mind, while I am definitely going to direct more time towards new pursuits, this blog isn’t going anywhere. Readers can reasonably expect me to still drop by and periodically offer my recollections on things, albeit at a reduced frequency than before, especially in the next quarter-year, as I acclimatise to a new routine and the nuances that this demands. Once I settle in to a new life, I will have a more concrete idea of what I’d like to do with my time and keep readers posted accordingly, although I will note here that there are plenty of excellent bloggers out there – even if I were to call it quits, it would be no loss, since a few dozen bloggers would be happy to fill that void and share their thoughts on various anime and games (although I imagine readers will be hard-pressed to find someone who enjoys slice-of-life moé anime and first person shooters). For the time being, however, those hoping that I would hang up my hat and ride into the sunset will probably be a trifle disappointed, while readers who enjoy my writing will know that, at least for the foreseeable future, I will continue to write for this blog where I am able. As always, I am grateful to all readers who take the time to offer their feedback and share their thoughts on things; it will be very exciting to see where things go from here on out.

Yuru Camp△ 2 Live Action Adaptation: Review and Reflections on the Opening Special

“Celebrate endings, for they precede new beginnings.” –Jonathan Lockwood Huie

While the conclusion of Yuru Camp△ 2 doubtlessly left viewers with a bit of melancholy once it ended, the live action drama has thankfully filled in the void, revisiting the events of Yuru Camp△ 2 in the live-action setting. The second season for Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action drama was announced in November 2020, and began airing back in April. Before the drama’s new season began airing, however, a special episode was released. This episode summarises events from the first season and portrays Rin’s solo camping adventures in Omaezaki and the coastal regions of Shizuoka, as well as Nadeshiko’s part-time job at the local post office and the Outdoor Activities Club’s New Year sunrise misadventures together. Yuru Camp△‘s drama had been well-received amongst both Japanese and foreign viewers: this series captures the spirit of the anime and brings it to life in a different medium, and speaking to how well both the manga and anime were made, the transition into the real world does not impede Yuru Camp△ in any way. The characters are faithful to their original counterparts in personality and appearance, the real-world settings look even more stunning, and the food is more enticing than what was seen in the anime. The positive reception to Yuru Camp△‘s live action drama is therefore unsurprising, and with the first season as the precedent, it became clear that the drama would be of a similar quality and aesthetic. The announcement of a special episode initially proved unexpected, and early in the live action drama of Yuru Camp△ 2‘s second season, I skipped over this special. I assumed it would be a recap of the first season and so, my journey started when the series proper began airing on Prime. I was therefore surprised to see Rin already in Hamamatsu waiting for Nadeshiko to show up. Evidently, I jumped the gun, and hastened to back up a little, starting the journey properly as Rin embarks on her last solo camping trip of the year while the Outdoor Activities Club have their own fun in trying to catch a pair of New Year sunrises.

Having already covered the themes, symbolism and motifs of Yuru Camp△ 2 ad nauseam in my episodic posts for the anime, there prima facie seems to be little incentive to go back and write about the live action drama again, especially given that the drama follows the anime and manga’s events very closely. However, the different formats mean that the aesthetics between Yuru Camp△ 2‘s anime and live action drama become apparent, altering the look-and-feel of every different scene. Yuru Camp△ 2‘s anime had crafted an infinitely peaceful and relaxing setting, using a gentle colour palette and reduced saturation to ease viewers into every moment, whether it be Rin’s introspective solo camping moments or the rowdy adventures that follow Nadeshiko, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena. In the live action, colours and scenes are sharper, accentuating the mood of each scene. Rin’s calm experiences are ever more relaxing, while the Outdoor Activities Club’s travels become more rambunctious: together with the fact that the drama is presenting the actual scenery and food everyone enjoys, it creates an unparalleled sense of immersion. If the anime had been about conveying a sense of tranquility and a reminder to appreciate the smaller moments, the drama demonstrates to viewers that what Rin, Nadeshiko, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena experience is very much a reality, awaiting the viewer’s decision to go and give things a go for themselves. The dramatically different aesthetic in the drama do not degrade themes and messages from the original anime or manga, and as such, for being able to show viewers what things might really look like were one to follow in Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club’s footsteps while simultaneously being respectful to the original, the Yuru Camp△ drama was very well received amongst viewers. Season two looks no different, and the beginning of a familiar journey from a fresh perspective is off to a solid start.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • A few days ago, a reader commented on Haruka Fukuhara’s excellent portrayal of Rin: Fukuhara does indeed capture Rin’s personality very well, right down to the facial expressions and mannerisms that Nao Tōyama brings to the table when voicing Rin. Altogether, I was very impressed with how closely Yuru Camp△‘s drama characters resembled their anime counterparts: minus the hair colours, and the fact that Nadeshiko usually wears hair in twin-tails, the character designs in the drama are solid.

  • The second season had been prefaced by a 40-minute special that covers moments from the second half of the second season’s first episode before segueing into events from the second episode. Here, Ena and Nadeshiko sit down to lunch together between their shifts at the Minobu Post Office. When Yuru Camp△ 2 aired, I immediately set about trying to locate Minobu Post Office for my location hunts. The Yuru Camp△ drama uses real-life locations precisely as they are, and where the anime and manga could fake locations, the drama must instead find a suitable counterpart.

  • I’d felt bad for Chiaki when she was faced with a heavy work schedule while her friends got some time to themselves, and in the live action, this feeling was amplified thanks to Momoko Tanabe’s spot-on acting. Chiaki lacks the fluffy and warm air that Rin and Nadeshiko convey, and instead, acts as the excitable, energetic club president similarly to Ritsu had been the club president in K-On!. Archetypes in anime are unavoidable, but I’ve never really held it against a series if their respective equivalents for Yui, Mio, Ritsu, Tsumugi and Azusa were obvious: character traits aren’t the sole determinant of whether or not a slice-of-life anime will succeed.

  • While Rin had intended to visit Izu, the prospect of New Year’s crowds leads her to stand down. Her mother suggests Omaezaki and Iwata in lieu of Izu: besides safer driving, Rin’s mother is also hoping that Rin might be able to swing by a special tea shop in the mountains just south of Kakegawa. With her destinations locked in, Rin prepares to head from home out to Shizuoka, a lengthy 126-kilometre long drive. The site of Rin’s house in the live-action drama was posted to Google Maps about a year ago by some enthusiastic fans of the series, although out of respect for the residents, I submitted a report about the inappropriate listing shortly after finding out.

  • Google only got around to processing my report a few weeks earlier, and the location of Rin’s house in the drama has now been stricken from Google Maps. I get that the Japanese fans who created the listing will probably be a trifle disappointed, but especially with current circumstance, hassling a private residence isn’t the best idea at this moment. Back in Yuru Camp△, Fukuhara’s joyous expression is breathtaking, even if it only happens within her mind’s eye: Yuru Camp△ 2 had Rin imagine expressing pure joy at seeing the ocean, but in the anime, Rin’s expression is a little more ambiguous. In the live action, subtle cues like the shape of Fukuhara’s eyes helps one to more readily ascertain that the ocean is positively making Rin happy.

  • Rin was shown as arriving in Cape Omaezaki to check out the lighthouse by mid-morning in the anime, but the lighting in the drama suggests that the scene was filmed early morning. I wonder when the principal photography for the second season was shot: while most of the scenes involve Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club, there are some scenes that feature crowds (most notably, when Rin is buying strawberry daifuku in Kanzanji and later, when Nadeshiko visits an okonomiyaki place in Fujinomiya).

  • Both the anime and drama has Rin swing by Kimikura Teahouse to pick up some tea for her mother. In my post for the anime and location hunt posts, I wasn’t able to actually go inside the teahouse for comparison. The live action drama allows me to remedy this, and it becomes clear that the anime did indeed take the pain of replicating Kimikura’s interior and uniforms accurately. Here, a member of the staff greets Rin, and she recognises Rin from a few months earlier, when they’d met at Yashajin Pass.

  • Like Rin, I’m a complete novice to Japanese tea: she ultimately ends up asking the clerk for a recommendation. On my end, I am better versed in Chinese and other teas: my favourite tea is probably Tieguanyin, an oolong tea that Cantonese restaurants commonly serve. It’s got a mild but distinct flavour that makes it particularly quenching (great for when eating at Guangdong restaurants whose fares are often explosively flavourful). By comparison, my family in Hong Kong prefers Pu’er tea, which has a much stronger taste. Typically, I prefer a good cup of Moroccan mint tea or ginger tea when Chinese teas are not available.

  • Whereas Rin only learns about her mother giving her an additional 1000 Yen to enjoy the café at Kimikura after having made her initial purchase in the anime, here in the drama, Rin finds out as soon as she phones home to inquire about the tea. Instead, Rin struggles to decide whether or not she should live in the moment or put the extra money towards her camping fee. In the end, Rin caves and ends up ordering the tea set. I imagine this was meant to also incorporate the moment in Yuru Camp△ 2‘s anime, where Rin ultimately gives in to temptation and orders a pizza slice from the food truck at Ryuyokaiyo Koen Campground.

  • After Kimikura, Rin heads for Mitsuke Tenjin Shrine in the hopes of meeting Shippeitaro III, a fox-like dog who defeats monkey spirits per Japanese færie tales. Upon arriving, she decides to make this her New Year’s Visit, as well, and prays for another peaceful year. Unfortunately, it turns out that Shippeitaro III had already passed on, and in a moment of contemplation, Rin phones Ena and asks about how Chikuwa is doing. One aspect of Yuru Camp△ that I never noticed during the first season was the fact that Chikuwa is a long-haired Chihuahua – his breed is not explicitly mentioned early on. However, there were hints that Chikuwa is a Chihuahua; he dislikes the cold and loves to burrow in blankets.

  • The founder of the company I’d previously worked for has a long-haired Chihuahua, and back before the pandemic hit, we’d spend a half hour of our day talking her out on a walk with the entire team: our office building had been dog friendly, and having a long-haired Chihuahua around every day was such a morale booster. If I were running into challenges with auto-layout or the Stripe SDK, I could always take a five minute breather, cuddle with the Chihuahua and then return to my desk fully refreshed. This Chihuahua was a mixed-breed and therefore larger than a purebred Chihuahua, but was still a small dog by all definitions. In spite of this, she was always energetic and loved getting petted, occasionally approaching my and my coworkers’ desks and pawing our chairs for pats.

  • Throughout Yuru Camp△, it is shown that dogs have a considerable presence, and despite not having a dog herself, Rin is very much a dog person (the drama shows her as having a shiba inu sticker on her phone case). Rin goes out of her way to pet the dogs she runs into and visit shrines with a dog deity, Nadeshiko waves to dogs on her way to school, and Aoi comments on how Nadeshiko’s enthusiasm is puppy-like.

  • While finding Ryuyokaiyo Koen Campground proved to be a straightforward task, Google Street View doesn’t have coverage down here, and so, during my location hunt, I wasn’t able to simply walk up to the campground and obtain images for the post through Street View alone. Having said this, the drama again demonstrates the original manga and anime’s faithfulness to reality. Everything from terminology to procedure and prices are properly captured – it is unsurprising that interest in camping has increased since Yuru Camp△ aired: with the series’ detailed instructions in camping and the availability of information on the internet, interested parties can purchase the basic gear and look up how to get set up, beginning their own adventure, without too much hassle.

  • Rin swiftly sets up camp and turns her attention to preparing her New Year’s Eve meal; here in the drama, she doesn’t take a brief walk around the campground and take in its sights with the same enthusiasm as the anime presents. Instead, she immediately begins setting up her campfire and evening meal. Previously, I’d commented on how the mannerisms seen in the anime did not necessarily translate so elegantly into real life, where exaggerated actions would feel out of place in a drama and perhaps be more appropriate for a stage play. It’s a bit early to tell, but with this special kicking off the second season, it does seem like the drama has decided to dial some things back a smidgen to make things fit with real life a little better.

  • Rin ends up striking a pose with her blade before beginning the process of creating a feather stick in a drama, as a clever callback to the first season. Shortly after Yuru Camp△‘s drama began airing last year, YouTubers immediately created videos comparing and contrasting the live-action series with the anime, and reception to the series was very positive on the whole. Were I to do video reviews, I would probably be inclined to do things like a Survivorman: Director’s Commentary, with me as an inset, and the events I’m talking about on the larger video. However, as a blog post, I’ll keep to my current format, which has worked rather well for me: the Survivorman: Director’s Commentary series from last year is what inspired me to take this approach for writing about the Yuru Camp△ live action series.

  • Rin’s New Year’s Eve meal looks even more delicious in real life: this simple soba recipe calls for nameko mushrooms, scallions, seaweed, a slice of fried fish and egg, topped with a sprig of shichimi pepper, which is a blend of seven spices that has a citrusy, nutty flavour accompanying the heat that chili peppers bring. Rin enjoys her meal immensely, wrapping up what was an exciting year in style. Yuru Camp△ excels in showing how even something like a bowl of soba can be livened up, and putting in the effort to prepare the food makes it all the more enjoyable. It therefore goes without saying that morale and good food go hand-in-hand: occasionally treating oneself with foods that aren’t commonly eaten is a fantastic way of breaking up the routine, and surprises can sometimes be quite nice.

  • This past weekend, we figured it would be nice to pick up some southern fried chicken for dinner, but since our usual place didn’t have any white meat, we ended up with all dark meat quarter chicken pieces. This wasn’t any sort of impediment: dark meat is tastier, and their gravy was as good as we remember. Today, we used the last of the chicken burgers with a side of yam fries for our afternoon meal and I’ll note here that, having had homemade burgers for the better part of a year, I’ve become a little spoiled by how fresh the ingredients are compared to conventional burgers. Yuru Camp△‘s emphasis on homemade food is therefore not without merit – the girls often shop for ingredients right before heading to their campsite, and even Rin, who usually prepares parts of her meal ahead of time so things can be put together easily at the campsite, uses fresh ingredients. The level of effort that went into preparing the food for Yuru Camp△‘s drama is respectable and shows how this effort contributes greatly to food enjoyment.

  • The surest sign that Rin’s accepted Nadeshiko as a friend occurs when the two are exchanging messages: Rin smiles as she considers how typically, she’d stop camping after January, but having met Nadeshiko and her boundless energy, Rin supposes that the new year is going to be action-packed. This moment set Yuru Camp△ 2 down a path towards the message it wished to convey: the first season had been about open-mindedness, and the second season was about how the act of saying “thank you” can manifest in different ways to really let people know what they feel about the memories they share together.

  • While Nadeshiko’s got work the next morning, Chiaki and Aoi meet with Minami in order to go check out the New Year’s sunrise ahead of Aoi taking off for Takayama. She drives a first-generation Suzuki Hustler, an SUV-crossover classified as an ultra-mini. Japan has a large market for these compact vehicles (ultra-minis command a third of the market share in Japan) owing to their dimensions and affordability, but these vehicles are much less successful overseas: North Americans are fond of larger cars for offering more leg room and more powerful engines, so these smaller vehicles are less popular, feeling comparatively cramped and under-powered for long road trips. Of course, for shorter drives of less than two hours, smaller vehicles are perfectly comfortable.

  • Observant readers familiar with my previous Yuru Camp△ drama post will have noticed that I’ve continued with the picture-in-picture this time around. Despite being a time-consuming process, it was very entertaining to compare and contrast equivalent moments between the anime and drama, allowing me to really highlight similarities and differences between the two. It becomes clear that the drama cannot always capture the moments in areas where the anime excels, such as when Akari jams a snowball up Chiaki’s shirt, although I will remark that Momoko Tanabe does an exceptional job of capturing Chiaki’s character: Chiaki is the most expressive and dramatic of anyone in Yuru Camp△, and I can’t imagine that this was an easy role.

  • While Aoi is played by Yumena Yanai, Akari is played by Aina Nishizawa. I was impressed how the producers cast someone who had looked similar enough to Yanai for the role; Yuru Camp△ has shown that Aoi and Akari are similar in appearance save their eye colours (Aoi’s eyes are green, and Akari’s are blue), to the point where Chiaki calls her chibi-Inuko. Yuru Camp△ doesn’t give Akari’s age, but her mannerisms are consistent with someone who’s eight or nine. Conversely, in the drama, Akari looks around ten or eleven: her actress is, after all, twelve. Mischievous and fond of pranks as Aoi is, Akari’s presence was greatly expanded in Yuru Camp△ 2.

  • Originally, I hadn’t been planning on writing about the second Yuru Camp△ live action drama this early, but after I found myself ahead of schedule with my other posts, I figured that I might as well get the party started now while I’ve got the time, afforded by a long weekend. While the weather on Saturday had been pleasant, yesterday and today had been cold and rainy, perfect for staying in and taking it easy. As soon as this post is done, I’ll turn my attention to finalising the set of screenshots for my final Modern Warfare 2: Remastered post, as gear up for a Terrible Anime Challenge talk on last year’s Kanojo, Okarishimasu, which I’ve got some thoughts about, and kick off Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War: news of Higurashi: Sotsu has reached my ears, and that means I need to write about Higurashi: Gou, as well as the unusual connection that I’ve found Higurashi and Black Ops to share.

  • The yomogi that Aoi, Akari and Chiaki buy at the summit of Mount Minobu look even tastier than they did in the anime. The way the yomogi are grilled here reminds me of shioyaki, the practise of skewering a fish and then grilled over charcoals via indirect heat: hitting the fish with an open flame would cause the juices to evaporate, resulting in a very dry final product, and the same holds true of yomogi, where keeping them around a bed of charcoals on skewers would render them pleasantly warm, making them perfect for a chilly New Year’s morning.

  • While doing her morning rounds, Nadeshiko receives messages from Rin and Chiaki, sharing their sunrises. While she might not be there to see them for herself, it warms Nadeshiko’s heart that she’s still connected to her friends and their adventures. In this opening episode, Nadeshiko doesn’t have too much screen time: she’s played by Yuno Ohara, who captures Nadeshiko’s spirited personality very well.

  • The advantage about real life is that one can capture stunning shots with a drone: anime require highly-skilled animators to capture the same effect, and in Yuru Camp△ 2, the sunrise at Fukude Beach was presented by panning across a wide-angle shot of the scene at ground level. The drama, on the other hand, has the camera flying over the beach towards the ocean. While traditional gear is doubtlessly used in Yuru Camp△‘s filming, I imagine that drones are also used: even mid-range models can equip solid cameras now, allowing for shots that would otherwise require a helicopter to be obtained.

  • I would be quite curious to watch the behind-the-scenes for Yuru Camp△ 2‘s drama to see how things are shot and set up. It feels like that principal photography and edits would require a majority of the time for producing Yuru Camp△, since the series doesn’t require anything like special effects or elaborate costumes on account of its setting. I imagine that anything shot at the old Motosu High School would’ve required props to be assembled and the presence of extras to give the site a more realistic feeling, but beyond this, Yuru Camp△ doesn’t look like it’d require a massive budget to film, certainly not anything approaching what WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier needed.

  • After taking in the Mount Minobu sunrise, Chiaki offers the suggestion that it might be possible to get a second New Year’s sunrise out of the day: because of Mount Fuji’s elevation, the sun doesn’t rise up above the summit for a few minutes. Photographs do indicate that being able to see a Diamond Fuji would be breathtaking, although a quick glance at the topology and road maps of the area suggest that making the drive from Mount Minobu to a suitable observation point could be quite tricky.

  • Whereas Aoi and Akari are content to give Chiaki a dirty look for having gotten the Diamond Fuji time incorrect here in the drama, in the anime, they proceeded to immediately hammer Chiaki with snowballs, and I found Akari’s use of a bowling-ball sized snowball hilarious. Since there’s only a dusting of snow on the ground here, it would’ve felt out of place to have Aoi and Akari suddenly conjure snowballs out of nowhere. I’ve never really been a stickler for 1:1 faithfulness, and always will assess adaptations based on how well they work on their own, so minor details like these aren’t a concern for me.

  • After seeing the first sunrise of the year, Rin settles down for the morning and prepares to head home. Rin’s rush for kohaku manjū and subsequent enjoyment of a pizza slice is noticeably absent in the Yuru Camp△ drama: should the drama take a route that allows the characters to act a little more naturally, I’d be completely okay with this. In the first season, everyone behaved similarly to their anime counterparts, and while this worked in the anime, in real life, it feels a little more exaggerated. Dialing back a handful of these moments would work to Yuru Camp△ 2‘s favour.

  • Rin is shocked to learn that a snowfall in the Minobu Valley is preventing her from returning home, and the funds she had, originally intended to last two days, will now need to be extended somewhat. With the special done, I’ll return to look at the adventures covered at the series’ halfway point at some point in the future. The drama is every bit as enjoyable as the anime and offers a different perspective on familiar events, making it a worthwhile experience for me.

Entering Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action drama, my only expectations for the series will be that it continues to portray camping eats as it did in the first season: Yuru Camp△ 2 gets everything right, but there are limitations to how effectively anime can render food. The contrast in colours and textures on well-crafted dish in real life are unparalleled, and this was where the live action adaptation stood out from the anime. Because Yuru Camp△ 2 had an emphasis on food, to an even greater extent than its predecessor, it would be most enjoyable (and perhaps hunger-inducing) to see all of these foods in the real world. Beyond the food, I am very much looking forwards to seeing how Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action drama brings the events of the second season to life: the first drama had done a phenomenal job in mirroring the camping excursions at Lake Motosu, Koan, Lake Shibire and Fuefuki, to name a few, so I am definitely excited to see new locations (especially the geospots at Izu) brought to life. Finally, while Yuru Camp△‘s drama is typically faithful in reproducing the order of events from the anime and manga, the series has also previously made minor adjustments to fit things a little better, so I am interested to see how any changes to things like locations will be helpful for folks who wish to visit these same places in the future. At present, I do have plans to write about Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action drama once I’ve hit the halfway point, as well as after the finale airs: while I’ve already covered everything from a thematic point of view, there’s a unique charm about the drama, and I’m certain that there will be enough things to say about it as to warrant a few extra posts.

Jon’s Creator Showcase: Valentine’s Month Special and Celebrating January 2021’s Finest Content From Around The Community

“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.” –Arthur C. Clarke

Foreword

Jon’s Creator Showcase was a programme that began back in 2017 with the aim of highlighting content that creators, ranging from bloggers and YouTube reviewers, to writers and Podcasters, were most proud of. Individuals with content to share submit them via Twitter to the individual hosting, and subsequently, the host aggregates everything into a single highlights reel. Folks submitting content are also encouraged to nominate others to submit their works. The style in which a host presents this content will vary, and while my approach is quite unremarkable, I’ve seen hosts do some amazing things with their showcases (including a magazine-style feature). This is my fourth time hosting, and before I delve into the post proper, I would first like to thank the participants, all thirty-eight of you, for making this month’s showcase possible. Thirty-eight submissions is nine more than the one I did last year: this is the largest one I’ve ever had the honour of hosting, and while things initially started off slowly earlier this month, once things began picking up, I had the opportunity to read through and experience a wide range of content: from anime and game reviews, to a chapter from a fan fiction, a podcast, and even an interview with an E-commerce merchant, this month’s showcase really highlights the variety and diversity of topics that content creators produce. I think that this is a satisfactory preamble, and the time has come to turn the floor over to the stars of Jon’s Creator Showcase: each and every single creator who’ve submitted their favourite creation to kick off 2021!

The February 2021 Showcase

Redo of Healer Episode 2: With nothing but your Hatred (Shallow Dives in Anime, @ShallowDivesAni)

Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime opens up this party with a bit of déjà vu – there’s never a dull moment in Dewbond’s post, and the first in this batch of submissions is a talk on Redo of Healer, which follows one Keyaru, who takes his revenge on a world that had exploited him. By the time the series’ second episode rolls around, Dewbond finds Redo of Healer to be in a category of its own. The episode’s centrepiece occurs when Keyaru manages to infiltrate Princess Flare’s castle and allows himself to be captured, then turns the tables on Flare. The scene itself is a challenging one to watch: Dewbond praises Ayano Shibuya (Flare’s voice actress) for a highly visceral performance, and praises the scene for pulling no punches now that the shoe is on the other foot. From Keyaru shattering Flare’s fingers and repeatedly healing her, to raping her and destroying Flare by changing her appearance. It is rare that anime leaves this little to the imagination, and for it, Dewbond finds that it is moments such as these that serve as a shining example of what is possible in anime. The satisfaction of vengeance and the hubris of humanity is gruesomely, vividly portrayed in a manner as to render it tangible to the viewer. A work of fiction succeeds when it is able to make audiences feel what the characters are feeling, and in this area, Dewbond finds that Redo of Healer succeeds totally. I’ve certainly never been a fan of watching people suffer, but like Dewbond, I appreciate it when a work goes the full ten yards in conveying the extremities of human emotion to viewers.

Reading Dewbond recount what happened in Redo of Healer is a reminder of both how leaving little to the imagination makes certain ideas very clear, and also brings back memories of an author who similarly does this in his novels. Tom Clancy, with his technical descriptions of most everything, also leaves nothing to the imagination to show the depravity and brutality that occurs in the field. John Clark uses a barometric chamber to torture a pimp in Without Remorse. In the Jack Ryan Jr. series, The Campus employ succinylcholine to shut down a victim’s heart in an assassination, and the events of Dead or Alive has The Campus administering this drug to the Emir, creating a horrific sensation akin to having one’s heart “wrenched from his chest, as though a man had reached inside with his hand and was pulling it out, ripping the blood vessels as he did so, tearing it loose like wet paper from a destroyed book”. Locked On saw John Clark at the receiving end of a brutal torture, where a rogue SVR element uses a hammer to crudely rend the bones in Clark’s dominant hand during an off-the-books interrogation: “With no warning whatsoever, he slammed the hammer onto John’s outstretched hand, shattering his index finger. He pounded a second and then a third time, while Clark shouted in agony…The fourth finger cracked just above the knuckle, and the pinky shattered in three places.” Clancy is no stranger to the sort of madness that show people at their worst, and while I have no stomach for such acts, I have the advantage of being able to draw, in my mind’s eye, what I will of that scene. Redo of Healer, however, offers no such quarter to viewers: as I’ve previously stated, nothing is left to the imagination, and I am curious now to see this series for myself.

The Pleasures of Slow-Paced Anime Watching: A Discussion (BiblioNyan, @yonnyaan)

In today’s world, the practise of marathoning a series is so commonplace, it is colloquially referred to as Netflix Binging (or binge-watching, I’ll use all three interchangeably). There hardly seems to be anyone who hasn’t done this at least once, assuming we define a marathon as watching an entire series, in three or more episode intervals without any breaks. Yonnyan is among this portion of the population, and after discovering the joys of streaming services, proceeded to watch anime at an incredible rate. While a great way to increase exposure to a variety of different shows, however, marathons also left Yonnyan exhausted; this exhaustion manifested as eyestrain and in the form of headaches, an unpleasant experience. Yonnyan would later switch over to slow-watching, in which one proceeds through a series at a pace of their choosing. The end result was profound: besides eliminating the physical demands of binge-watching, this approach also allowed Yonnyan to really enjoy a work and create an intellectual connection with it. Finishing a series and having the time to consider its messages is a cathartic feeling, and altogether, Yonnyan finds that slow-watching anime represents a refreshing change of pace, encouraging viewers to slow down, smell the roses and appreciate what a given anime is aiming to tell through its story.

Slow-watching a series has always been how I roll – I don’t really have the endurance or patience to watch entire anime series in one go, no matter how excellent the series is. Yonnyan’s journey with the slow-watch methodology is precisely why I prefer watching anime at my own speed: even when series are available, I watch at most two episodes in a sitting per day. While this makes me incredibly slow with series, the advantages of doing so are that watching episodes and spacing them out allows me to consider each episode’s significance and accomplishments. Watching at my own pace also means if a series is becoming wearing or tricky, instead of forcing myself to continue, I can partake in another activity and then carry on, once I’ve had a chance to regroup. The idea of a slow-watch is no different than situations where I’ve encountered an iOS problem that seemed beyond my ability to handle. After taking a walk or sleeping on the problem, what might’ve been a four-hour problem suddenly becomes a four-minute solution. The advantages of a slow-watch are numerous: I attribute it to why I’ve been able to find enjoyment in anime for the past decade, and as Yonnyan so succinctly puts it, the approach certainly has its merits.

Love Me For Who I Am Volume 1 [Manga Review] (Matt Doyle Media, @mattdoylemedia)

Love Me For Who I Am (Fukakai na Boku no Subete o, FukaBoku for brevity) is a more recent manga: written by Kata Konayama, it began serialisation in COMIC MeDu in June 2018, and two years later, received an English-translated volume. Matt, in their review of the first volume, covers the elements within Love Me For Who I Am and in particular, why they’d found the first volume to be an interesting look at gender and the realm of non-binary identities, which is a topic that not too many works deal with. This introductory volume provides exposition for the protagonist, Ryuunosuke Mogumo, who initially takes on a job at a maid café known as Question!. Although this initial misunderstanding creates a bit of friction, Mogumo begins to interact with others who are in the same boat as they are, exploring the LGBTQ community in a novel manner. As the first volume, Love Me For Who I Am does have a few rough spots, but Matt overall finds that this is a reasonable opening to a manga that has the potential in delving into topics that are not often represented in other works.

In recent years, the topic of representation has come to the forefront of discussion, with writers finding that it helps viewers relate more closely with certain characters and their experiences, creating empowerment and a drive to portray people from all walks of life, backgrounds and identities in an accurate, respectful manner. Love Me For Who I Am is a form of this representation about non-binary people, capitalising on positivity and a light-hearted tone to present viewers with a better understanding of this world. Of courses, being a first volume, Matt finds the story still has yet to hit its stride; this is a common enough challenge in reviewing the first volume of a given manga, since most of their content is to create the exposition and get readers familiar with both characters and premise alike. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan and Harukana Receive are fine examples of this: the first volumes introduce the characters and set things up in a light-hearted manner, and it is not until later volumes where the characters’ strongest stories, their reasons for being and backstories are fully developed. It would be interesting to hear Matt’s thoughts on Love Me For Who I Am‘s later volumes as they become available, then: once the premise and characters are set up, the floor is open for exploring truly meaningful, and engaging stories that can tell people more about their own experiences.

The Gymnastics Samurai – A Surprise Seasonal Hit! (Jon Spencer Reviews, @JS_Reviews)

Jon Spencer submits a discussion on The Gymnastics Samurai (Taisō Zamurai): no Jon’s Creator Showcase would be complete without a piece from the mastermind behind this programme, and this review of The Gymnastics Samurai is a reflection on a series that proved to be unexpectedly enjoyable. The Gymnastics Samurai follows Jōtarō Aragaki, a gymnast who never quite reaches the gold medal despite his talents. He considers retirement before encountering Leo while at an amusement park with his daughter, Rei. With this premise comes a story of redemption for Jōtarō, and self-discovery for Rei: Jon finds the daughter-father dynamic in The Gymnastics Samurai to be particularly strong, and the anime itself also has clean CG in moments where movement demands more than what is possible with hand-drawn animation. With its story, Jon suggests that the main strike against the series is its short length, and encourages readers to give this series a whirl.

In a review that conveys the strengths of The Gymnastics Samurai without giving away any of the narrative, Jon succeeds in selling to readers the anime’s merits in a concise, succinct manner. The approach here is commendable: in a few clear paragraphs, readers gain a clear understanding of what Jon makes of The Gymnastics Samurai. Going through Jon’s review, this does feel like a series that creates a compelling journey for its characters during its eleven-episode run. Blogging allows writers to express themselves in whatever manner is best suited for one’s style, and for me, it’s always impressive to see fellow writers do more with less. This is something that I personally struggle with: my blog posts are notoriously long, and to be frank, a pain in the ass to write. However, I need this length to share my thoughts on things in a manner I am happy with. With a varied array of bloggers and styles out there, Jon’s review is a shining example of how folks have options available to them. If my discussions ever induce eye-strain or headaches, there are plenty of great bloggers out there who give a fantastic idea of what they make of different series to readers in a much more focused, concise manner!

3 Ways Magic Can Undermine Good Anime (100 Word Anime Blog, @100wordanime)

Magic, loosely defined as a plot device that allows characters to tap into a supernatural power source and carry out extraordinary feats, is a longstanding part of fiction. Karandi’s submission covers how inconsistencies in how magic is utilised can often subvert the themes and diminish enjoyment to an otherwise solid anime: undefined limits in magic are often employed to allow protagonists to pull a win out of nowhere, and in doing so, diminishes the enjoyment of a work. Karandi covers three specific examples where this occurs: Sailor Moon S: The Movie, Irregular at Magic High School and Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card. Karandi is clear in stating that inconsistent magic may not always necessarily render an anime unpalatable to viewers, although abuses can certainly weaken the story and give the impression that the writers did not completely think thing through. Conversely, authors and series that do take the time to properly build out the extents and limitations of magic will create a story in which the characters must still count on elements viewers are familiar with (effort, sacrifice, leadership and decision-making, to name a few) in order to achieve their objectives, resulting in a more satisfactory story. I’ve found that the most iconic works utilising magic are successful precisely because the magic itself is merely a tool to an end: characters must still rely on their own resolve and effort in order to find success.

In Harry Potter, Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration prevent characters from trivially create something from nothing, and miracles like resurrecting the dead simply cannot be carried out. Limits in what magic in Harry Potter can accomplish compel the characters to overcome their challenges through a combination of friendship, trust and sacrifice. However, while it is useful for a narrative to define what magic can and cannot do, there are other authors who can get away without doing so on virtue of their aims: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Istari and Maiar never had their powers explicitly defined, for instance. Beings like Gandalf and Sauron are hypothetically capable of extraordinary acts, but Tolkien deliberately writes his stories so that their focus are on the actions of common heroes like Samwise Gamgee. The Maiar and Valar of the First Age sundered the world with their battles against Melkor, sinking continents in the process. However, in Lord of the Rings, Tolkien structures his stories deliberately such that Maiar are forbidden from using their magic to dominate or intervene directly; even though the nature of Gandalf’s magic is left ambiguous, the end effect is similar, pushing the story to focus on what the peoples of Middle Earth do in their quest to defeat Sauron. Karandi raises a very valid perspective on magic, and it is often the case that being consistent with magic will help a story along greatly by keeping focus on the characters. Of course, some authors (like Tolkien) are able to employ other means of ensuring their stories remain rewarding and consistent, speaking to the varied means in which magic can be integrated into fiction.

Seiyuu Feature: Kenjiro Tsuda (ThatRandomEditor’s Anime Blog, @RandomEditorAn)

ThatRandomEditor introduces Japanese actor Kenjirō Tsuda, who has a prolific career and has voiced characters in a variety of anime series: his career as a voice actor began with an anime called H2 in 1995, and his breakthrough role was as Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters‘ Seto Kaiba. Beyond voice acting for anime, Tsuda also has roles in radio programmes. ThatRandomEditor is most impressed with Tsuda’s performance as Nicolas Brown in Gangsta, and remarks that Tsuda possesses a great range: despite typically voicing stoic characters, Tsuda has also successfully played more bombastic characters, as well. Tsuda’s career is certainly an interesting one: besides directing a project for the Actor’s Short Film in 2020, GET SET GO, Tsuda also appears in live action movies and TV series.

The voice actors and actresses behind an anime are of a great interest to viewers: besides sight, anime also relies greatly on sound to convey a particular mood or atmosphere. Voices are no different, and when the right individual is cast for a role, anime can really come to life. I’m somewhat familiar with some of Tsuda’s roles in anime (e.g. Damian Baldur Flugel of Violet Evergarden, Konosuba‘s Hans and Takuya Gotou from Hibike! Euphonium, to name a few), attesting to the extant of his skills, although I cannot say I’ve watched anime where he’s voicing a lead character. With this being said, prolific voice actors (and actresses) are always impressive: on my end, Rie Tanaka, Yōko Hikasa, Risa Taneda, Ayane Sakura and Inori Minase are my favourite voice actresses, being able to similarly voice a variety of characters and sing well on top of this.

Final Thoughts: Gleipnir (Animated Observations, @AniObservations)

Gleipnir is a massive airborne fortress that was deployed during the Aurelian War in the events of Ace Combat X for the PlayStation Portable, and…just kidding! Gleipnir follows Shuichi Kagaya, who can transform into a giant dog, and after encountering Claire Aoki, agrees to help Claire find her older sister. In Jack Scheibelein’s review for Gleipnir, this was an anime that proved to exceed expectations going in. Although Jack found Claire’s character under-utilised, the remainder of Gleipnir proved to be enjoyable, with an engaging concept, and in particular, the powers utilised to advance the story were nifty. Jack notes that he generally enters shows with low expectations to be as fair as possible to the show. Of course, when works like Gleipnir show up and captivate, it becomes impossible not to get excited.

Jack Scheibelein’s enjoyment of Gleipnir is tangible in his post, and while I’ve not seen the anime for myself, I am familiar with Jack’s approach: it’s no secret that I enjoy almost everything I pick up, and the reason for this is that, beyond expecting to go on an adventure of some sort, there are no objectives that a given work has to accomplish, no checklist of criteria it must satisfy in order to get a passing grade. The end result of approaching entertainment this way is simple: things prove to be pleasant surprises at best, and at worst, we end up with an experience we can joke about with others. With Jack’s review of Gleipnir, even someone such as myself, who writes almost exclusively about CGDCT shows, I do now feel inclined to give the first episode a go and see how Gleipnir treats me: one of the joys about hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase is also gaining insight into what different people make of anime, and becoming intrigued by a work in the process. Having said this, I am a terrible procrastinator, and I’ve not even touched the shows that I said I’d check out the last time I hosted (a year ago)!

Writing as A Stress Reliever (Mechanical Anime Reviews, @MechAnimeReview)

Scott of Mechanical Anime Reviews presents a highly relevant and notable topic – stress management in the form of writing, and how Scott personally relates to the topic. Scott is a consistent and prolific blogger, but beyond writing, also reads a great deal of blogs. This journey has made it clear that different bloggers manage stress differently; for Scott, consistently writing allows for immersion into the things that he finds enjoyment in, and the process of creating content for readers to take in creates an accomplishment to keep the mind busy. Scott is happiest when actively doing something, as it creates focus and takes his thoughts off things like directions in life and the like. By writing, Scott is able to reduce anxiety and keep his train of thought from wandering in negative directions, which is a vital piece of caring for mental health in difficult times such as these. While I cannot speak for my peers in the anime blogging community, what Scott has shared in his post is the same reason I write.

I am getting up there in the years, and like Scott, I’ve seen and done many things that may appear nice on a resume (whether it is overseeing five different apps, end-to-end, from design and implementation to the App Store submission, building a 3D model of the cell using Unreal or leading the Unity3D project for the Giant Walkthrough Brain), but for someone of my age, there are many milestones I’ve not yet crossed. Thoughts of my underachievement vanish when I’m immersed in a project for work, where I write Swift code rather than about anime, and to help push away constant reminders that folks of my age should be married, I actively busy myself, whether it’s hiking, lifting weights or keeping my own blog alive. There is definitely merit to what Scott has written: writing is another activity I do to keep my mind sharp and away from negativity, and I will finally note that Les Stroud of Survivorman has noted that one of the most important things to do in a survival situation (or any though time, really), is to find something to do in order to keep busy. Even if creating a snare or water catch might not be effective immediately, the act of having something to work on keeps the mind from dwelling on negativity, improving survival in difficult scenarios.

Good Things for the New Year (This is my place, @AuNaturelOne)

Positivity is something the world is in great demand of: 2020 was a bit of a tougher one, and gave very little to celebrate about it. However, people have become very creative in dealing with what the mainstream media colloquially refer to as “the new normal”. Fred of Au Natural shares with readers a list of things that he is engaged in doing, or looking forwards to. The post opens with several YouTube channels, hand-picked for discussing relevant and interesting topics, moves into the series Fred intends on checking out, his plans to overhaul his backyard with family and hike more in the new year. This is a large list of things that brings joy into Fred’s life, and acts as a reminder for me that beyond my own aspirations and goals for 2021, there are plenty of things that I should be doing to balance things out and help me to regroup: when I’m not trying to figure out the latest SDK or API for work, or recalling the difference between the decorator and adaptor patterns in my spare moments, I should make a more concerted effort to make a dent in my own backlog of stuff.

Like Fred, 2020 saw a change in how I did things. I subscribed to more YouTube channels last year alone than I did during the entirety of my having a YouTube Account (before, I just watched things at random), and I spent a lot more time working off my home iMac, which had, until recently, simply collected dust and served as a backup machine for when I wanted to blog. Entering 2021, the year is bringing with it a great deal of uncertainty, but reading through Fred’s post about the New Year (which we’re now two months into), I am encouraged to look back at my own life choices, face them with a resolute determination and in quieter moments, appreciate the things that I’ve accumulated over the years but until now, never really had the time to give my proper, undivided attention to. Such is the impact of a well-written blog post: I simultaneously learn about the author and are reminded about the things that I can be doing to better my situation or unwind.

[Sims Saturday] Paranormal Stuff Pack Overview (Mel’s Universe, @MelinAnimeland)

Don’t let the blog title fool you: while Mel in Anime Land sounds like it’s a blog about anime, Mel also covers a host of other materials. For Jon’s Creator Showcase, Mel delves into the latest content update for The Sims 4, the Paranormal Stuff Pack. This newer release accompanies a patch that modifies Sim behaviours slightly, and per its name, includes a variety of things to create a haunted house and allows Sims to take on tasks that render them more versed with the paranormal. The content further adds nuance to The Sims 4 and creates novel experiences. Besides new skills, the package also includes new NPCs to deal with, new furniture options and updated character customisation options, all of which are appropriately themed and acts to create a more immersive atmosphere surrounding the supernatural. Overall, Mel found the content a meaningful choice for folks who enjoy the paranormal or are seeking something to do a comprehensive Halloween experience with.

While I’m not too familiar with The Sims 4 (I’ve not played The Sims since the original in 2000), I have heard of the series and its successes, especially with regard to allowing one to simulate and customise different aspects of a character’s life in detail. For games that folks are invested in, content expansions and the like are immensely enjoyable to pick up, offering new ways of playing and extending the experience to being well beyond what the base game offers. Being a fan of games, myself, I definitely appreciate the value in what a good expansion can do. 2003’s Sim City 4 Rush Hour introduced brand-new modes of transportation into the game that completely altered the way cities could be built, encouraging players to make a much greater use of mass transit to improve efficiency in car-logged cities. My love of Sim City 4 Rush Hour is similar to Mel’s enjoyment of the Paranormal Stuff Pack, and reading through Mel’s post, I am reminded of the fun that I had in Sim City 4: I really should be returning to this game and build back my glittering metropolises of old, which was developed by Maxis, the same studio that built the Sims franchise.

17 Writing Tips for Fanfiction Writers (Geek Nabe, @_marichanx)

Nabe-chan is a tour de force in the anime community, and her anime blog uses an in-house solution from Nabe-chan’s expertise as a web developer to host a variety of topics at GeekNabe. Unlike Infinite Mirai, which is a solo operation, GeekNabe is a team project, with writings from Mari-chan keeping things fresh. For this submission, Nabe-chan sends in a writer’s guide to fanfiction, specifically, seventeen good practises to maintain while writing. The tips vary from writing everything down and observing proper grammar, to ensuring that an editor and friends sweep through things to give feedback, and even more exotic methods such as writing certain scenes while using music to establish a mood, or buying a proper chair to write in. Mari-chan’s top tip is an encouraging one, to practise good self-care and never beat oneself up over feedback or writing slumps. At the end of the post, Nabe-chan appends some additional suggestions, such as writing in a circle and picking a good environment to write in. It is clear that a great deal of experience and thought went into this post.

Having now gone through all seventeen items, I will add that Mari-chan’s tips for fanfiction writers can in fact, be generalised to writing of original fiction, technical writing, blog posts, academic papers, and even code to software. The overarching theme is that writers, from fiction, technical or persuasive writing, right down to the engineers who design systems in C#, Java or even assembly, are producing something, and that this process is an effort-intensive one (I don’t differentiate between a memorable scene in a fan-fiction or a clever proof demonstrating that reversing a 1D array requires O(n) time complexity). A good writer uses every tool in the toolbox to hone their craft and looks after themselves, as well as explores unique methods to get their creativity flowing. For me, my best work, both for work and for my blog, comes when I’m in the zone: I develop the ideas in my mind first and explore possibilities in my imagination, before drafting things out on paper. Once I am satisfied with one or two of the drafts, I have the motivation and energy to implement the concept and hone it. The practises that Mari-chan and Nabe-chan describe are a part of my everyday workflow, and while the post might specify that it’s for fanfiction writers, let me be the first to say that all writers should give this post a read. It is the case that a good chair, and some Hiroyuki Sawano can get one psyched up and ready to pen what could be the next masterpiece.

Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions Review (MyAnime2go, @YumDeku)

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is a curious anime, least of all for the fact that it is alternatively known as Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions on some platforms (and Grimgar for brevity from here on out). It’s an isekai work whose focus is on the characters’ acclimatisation to the world they unexpectedly find themselves in, but without traditional gameplay elements. YumDeku finds that the series’ emphasis is on adjusting to a world where even the most basic of foes are a threat, and necessities must be dealt with as they are in the real world. The end result of this is a slower-paced isekai that prompts viewers to consider the changing dynamics amongst the characters. After losing leader Manato in a combat situation, Haruhiro takes on the responsibility of being a leader and doing his best to keep the group, made up of the impulsive and rash Ranta, calm and reserved Moguzo, cheerful and plucky Yume, the shy Shihoru and distant Merry. The characters’ journey and process of becoming more comfortable with one another as a team are set in a vividly-rendered world, and YumDeku found that Grimgar‘s greatest strength lay precisely in exploring the psychological and mental health aspects of unexpectedly being foisted into a world where RPG elements dominate, as well as suggesting that common life lessons (teamwork, cooperation, resolve and appreciation) transcend realities.

I am grateful to have read YumDeku’s review of Grimgar: after finishing the series during downtime at the Cancún ALIFE 2016 conference, I saw a series that was much to dark and moody for my liking, and having never put in the effort to make a sincere effort at understanding what Grimgar was going for, I did not end up writing about my experiences with the series. YumDeku’s review changes that; I still remember the main events in Grimgar, and the constant struggle that Haruhiro deals with in attempting to lead his party in Manato’s stead. The journey was one fraught with challenges, and conflicts among the party were frequent. Folks familiar with the series I write about know that I very much prefer stories where learning takes place in a happier environment, but in retrospect, Grimgar represents a different look at things; the real world is not always so kind as to give such an environment, or the time, for one to learn in, and folks must therefore pick things up as they go. In this area, Grimgar is successful: learning is as much about making mistakes and changing one’s approaches as it is about becoming more efficient and effective. By the end of Grimgar‘s run, although Haruhiro is still doubtful about what lies ahead for his party, he is more confident that his experiences together with them will leave them more prepared for whatever lies ahead. It is moments like these that make it worthwhile to peruse other blogs, and I am glad to have seen YumDeku’s thoughts on Grimgar; perhaps there will be a chance for me to revisit the series and find the words to express what I had been unable to do so some four years previously.

Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro (Space Kaleidoscope, @RussellLatshaw)

Russell of Space Kaleidoscope’s submission for Jon’s Creator Showcase is an insightful talk on Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro, a film with the legendary Hayao Miyazaki as the director. Back then, Miyazaki had worked on a variety of roles, and this role marks the first time he’d directed a movie. In The Castle of Cagliostro, gentleman thief Arsène Lupin III pulls off a successful casino heist, only to discover he pulled counterfeit money, and after tracing the money to a country known as Cagliostro, embarks on an adventure to defeat Count Cagliostro, head of the operation. Early in his directorial career, Russell notes that Miyazaki’s signature style is already present: landscapes and establishing shots tell entire stories about the setting in the span of a few seconds. Within The Castle of Cagliostro, Miyazaki’s own feelings permeate the film, as he is later wont to doing: Russell finds that Miyazaki is speaking to his own feelings as an animator through Lupin’s dialogue. Introspection aside, The Castle of Cagliostro is a strong movie, filled with romaticism and promises of adventure that captures the viewer’s attention. Russell comments that not matter how many times he re-watches the film, there’s always something new around the corner: The Castle of Cagliostro is counted as a classic, and Russell finds that this film has definitely earned its designation.

It’s not often I come across bloggers that write in a similar style as I do: many bloggers are very succinct writers who successfully capture their thoughts about a work with brevity, and while I greatly respect this trait (being someone who fails completely when it comes to being concise), I also value bloggers who really take the time to explore a work, as the attention to detail. Russell of Space Kaleidoscope’s presentation of Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro is a fantastic exploration of the film, both in Miyazaki’s context, and in the viewer’s context. Being able to appreciate what Miyazaki was going through at the time and seeing how this fed into his execution of The Castle of Cagliostro adds an additional level of nuance to a film that is riveting and worthwhile to watch. Russell’s remarks about rewatch value are also something that I similarly relate to: when revisiting films of a high calibre, there are always subtle details that reward the observant, astute viewer. While these aren’t requirements towards enjoying a film, small things can go a long way in greatly augmenting the experience and create a deeper connection with a given work of fiction.

On Social Media & Content Creation (Wretched and Divine, @MELO__NSODA)

Rose of Wretched and Divine’s submission deals with a topic that remains highly relevant: the rationale behind why people use social media. Use cases vary from using the platform for sharing and staying in touch, but things can become unhealthy when one uses it as a means to an end, rather than as a means of expression. The quest for more views and follows thus becomes a tiring process, and as folks strive to consistently put out content to keep the algorithms happy, this comes at the expense of quality and happiness. When applied to blogging, this approach can make the hobby quite untenable. Rose prefers to use social media sparingly and pursues blogging as an avenue for fun – our hobbies social media should not bring exhaustion to us, after all.

I’ve certainly found Rose’s perspective on social media and its relation to blogging illuminating: I’ve always intended to use my blog as a bit of a personal diary of sorts, as well as as a place to vent at time. The associated numbers from views and followers have never really been my aim in starting a blog (this is why I don’t show a hit counter), and similarly, my use of Twitter is primarily to keep up to speed with the anime community and its events, as well as for me to host food and travel pictures. If I were to lose my entire readerbase and followers tomorrow, my blog would continue on as it has for the past nine-and-a-half years. I write for fun, and the fact that I am able to amuse, or even help, readers, is a bonus on top.

Geekosaur Weekly #1 (Geekosaur, @FalconSensei)

Falcon of Geekosaur presents a brand-new style of blog post, in which he covers thoughts at weekly intervals – for Jon’s Creator Showcase, it appears that I’ve got the honour of presenting the first post in the series, which covers a variety of topics. Forums are the first topic, and how their form of communication appears to be a dying form as folks covet the instant-gratification of microblogging platforms like Reddit or Twitter. Falcon subsequently moves onto some new acquisitions, including a motorised standing desk, vinyl records and new books, shares some ‘tunes with the reader, and concludes with noteworthy Tweets.

The freedom that a blog confers allows for all sorts of posts to be written. Falcon’s post offers a fun insight into a range of topics. For instance, I very much miss the days of when forums were the main avenue of communications, as the length and format of posts allowed folks to really delve into topics to a much greater extent than social media (today, algorithms and rules impact whose content is more visible), and seeing Falcon’s list of books reminds me of the fact that I’ve also accumulated a backlog over the years; I’ve still yet to finish The Silmarillion and Relentless Strike, for instance. Seeing fellow bloggers write about topics outside of their blog’s primary area of interest is always a refreshing change of pace and serves to humanise the authors: this is something that the current blogging community has done particularly well with, and emphasises how behind every blog, is a human being, someone unique and with their own stories to tell.

The Kings Avatar Season 2 Anime Review: The Preparation for War (Yu Alexius Anime Portal, @YuAlexius)

Yu Alexius shares with readers a full review of The Kings Avatar‘s second season: this is a Chinese web series following Ye Xiu, a professional E-sports player from Hangzhou whose principles and refusal to participate in sponsorship resulted in him leaving the team he’s a part of. When he takes up a position at an internet cafe, he meets Chen Guo, who is a fan, and over time, rediscovers his love for gaming. He sets up a new account and sets his sights on reaching the championships again some day. With animation from BCMAY Pictures, The Kings Avatar Season 2 features crisp animation and well-choreographed fight scenes that Yu Alexius greatly enjoyed (although some scenes were more drab by comparison). The story continues from the first season, with Ye Xiu beginning to rebuild his team and return to the professional scene on his own terms. There are many highlights in the series that Yu Alexius covers throughout this post, and the lingering question is, given the story is still on going, whether or not a third season is a possibility.

Anime is often disparagingly referred to as “Chinese cartoons” amongst members of communities of a more questionable reputation: true Chinese animation is known as dònghuà (動畫, literally “moving picture”), and while it is still lesser known than Japanese animation, has really begun to gain traction in recent years. Seeing Yu Alexius’ post on The Kings Avatar Season 2 indicates that dònghuà is becoming more established: watching the videos in Yu Alexius’ review shows an art style and animation of a similar quality as Japanese animation, and with the technical quality in dònghuà being of a good standard, the mind inevitably wonders if Chinese animation will begin exploring as diverse as a range of topics as anime does. It was through anime that many viewers get a glimpse into aspects of Japanese culture, and as China continues to take an increasingly prominent role on the world stage, dònghuà could prove to be a valuable means of showcasing aspects and intricacies of Chinese culture to the world as a whole, helping to highlight customs and values as anime has done for Japanese culture. This is, of course, a bit of wistful thinking, and in the meantime, it does appear that, with dònghuà telling interesting stories and featuring eye-catching animation, The Kings Avatar could be a solid starting point into the world of dònghuà.

Akudama Drive: The Bloody Sci-fi Action Survival Game You’ve Been Waiting For || Review (Takuto’s Anime Cafe, @TakutoAnimeCafe)

Takuto of Anime Cafe’s Jon’s Creator Showcase submission is for Akudama Drive, a manga set in a dystopian cyberpunk world where the titular Akudama (criminals) take on various jobs to make ends meet. The story begins with four Akudama being given an assignment to free a murderer, but it turns out this assignment was to bring them together on an even larger heist. Unlike most anime, Akudama Drive‘s characters are not given any conventional names, but rather, named for their roles, which Takuto found an immensely effective storytelling device in that it renders the characters more memorable. Of Akudama Drive‘s characters, no one is more memorable than Ordinary Person, whose growth from being a bystander to an active participant in crimes is one of the most engaging aspects within the anime. From a visual standpoint, Akudama Drive also impresses: from the choice of colouring and aesthetic to accentuate each scene, to intricate background work, details in the setting serve to really immerse viewers. Of course, Akudama Drive isn’t perfect: there are a handful of plot points that Takuto found implausible, but beyond this, Takuto greatly enjoyed Akudama Drive, recommending it to anyone who’s looking for a unique and wild presentation, although folks who dislike gore might not find this one so enjoyable.

The naming approach taken in Akudama Drive is reminiscent of Steven Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer: Steven Chow is fond of dispensing with names in his films because he’s always felt that the characters should be memorable for what they do, rather than who they are. The end result is that throughout Chow’s films, his over-the-top characters end up being over the top and immediately recognisable for their actions. As such, upon hearing Takuto discuss this aspect of Akudama Drive, it strikes me that this series is one where there is an emphasis on action, and perhaps, a subversion of expectations through protagonist Ordinary Person and her increasing entanglement with the Akudama’s plans. Altogether, this does sound like a series worth checking out on account of the noteworthy personalities and the depth of the world building (and indeed, I’ve begun watching anime on the basis of an interesting world alone); there is one hang-up I have, and I’m glad that Takuto has mentioned that Akudama Drive can be violent in places. I’ve never done so well with brutal violence in animation, so with Takuto’s heads-up, I can make my own call on whether or not Akudama Drive will make it onto my to-watch list. This is the mark of a good review: offering a complete picture and then making mention of things that draw in (or turn away) different viewers before leading the reader to make their own call on whether or not something is worth their while.

Skull Man is a ★★★★☆︱The Vigilante’s Mephistopheles (Egghead Luna’s Blog, @EggheadLuna)

Eggheadluna’s submission is for Skull Man (completely unrelated to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Red Skull!); the eponymous Skull Man is an anti-hero of sorts who would later influence the hero in Kamen Rider, but also speaks to matters of Japanese politics. Despite this, the original Skull Man remains relatively unknown in English speaking communities. In the original, Hayato Minagami pursues a mysterious suspect only known as Skull Man, but later learns that the Skull Man‘s identity is none other than his childhood friend, Yoshio. Hayato eventually inherits the mantle of Skull Man to fight against the evils of the world and comes to grapple with his own understanding of good and evil. Altogether, Eggheadluna was moved by the series; after buying the DVDs, it was a marathon to the finish line. Eggheadluna is happy to award this series a four out of five stars, citing the animation and visual aspects as being excellent.

One of the things I noticed in Eggheadluna’s post was another curious reader inquiring about the availability of Skull Man. Eggheadluna answers that the review was based on the DVDs and for now, Skull Man is not available on streaming platforms. While streaming has become ubiquitous of recent years, old classics often remain relegated to the realm of physical releases if one is fortunate. Skull Man is one such series where the DVDs exist, which allow people to check them out. However, it is also the case that many excellent works are quite tricky to get a hold of and as such, are things that we viewers will never get to see on account of obscurity. My most recent experience in this arena are Shigeru Tamura’s works: were it not for Lys (@Submaton) suggesting this during an anime Christmas Exchange event, I would’ve never had the chance to check out a work of art that I’d certainly not heard of previously. It is through the community that these works are made known to readers, and I’m hoping that the commenter at Eggheadluna’s post will have a chance to check Skull Man out for themselves at some point, too.

WandaVision episode 1-3 first impressions (spoiler-free) (Matt-in-the-Hat, @MattXnVHat)

Jac Schaeffer’s WandaVision is a miniseries that has taken the world by storm, focusing on the Marvel Cinematic’s Wanda Maximoff and Vision in the aftermath of endgame: without the threat of the Mad Titan, Wanda and Vision now live together in Westview, New Jersey in the 1950s, and while life initially seems good, there appears to be lingering trouble around every corner. Matthew of Mat-In-The-Hat writes about this miniseries, which sees the superhero couple dealing with ordinary, everyday challenges unique to a sitcom environment set during different eras. WandaVision had three episodes released when Matthew published a talk on the mini-series, and Matthew describes the series as being a wonderful combination of The Twilight Zone with a healthy inspiration from the basic sitcom method. The end result is that WandaVision feels like a revisit of the most iconic sitcoms over the past seven decades, and because it was so early into WandaVision, there’s always the sense that things aren’t what they seem.

WandaVision is one of those shows that have received a great deal of acclaim, and going from what Matthew has written, this is for good reason; the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one of the most successful film franchises around, known for its combination of solid character writing, humour, and the scale of its story. Wanda and Vision both played major roles within the cinematic universe, so to hear that they’ve been taken out of their element into a world of sitcoms and Twilight Zone-style mystery has caught my intrigue: it’s always curious to see how characters handle entirely new environments, and with comedy being a strong point about the MCU, I imagine that WandaVision is a series that could definitely offer viewers a good laugh. I’m glad that Matthew has submitted to Jon’s Creator Showcase a spoiler-free discussion of WandaVision; while I generally have no qualms about spoilers, I do appreciate that entering a series with no a priori knowledge can increase the impact of certain events and occurrences. Writing about something without spoilers while simultaneously conveying the elements that make something appealing is a skill, and such reviews are great for enticing folks who are on the fence about picking something up for themselves.

Manga Series I Wish Would Get an Omnibus Release (Al’s Manga Blog, @AlyssaTwriter)

Alyssa T of Al’s Manga Blog presents a list of manga series that would do well to have an omnibus release. Traditionally, after a given series is licensed for English-speakers, they receive releases in separate volumes. However, for older manga, they can be a little harder to come by or otherwise have so many volumes that it would be impractical to purchase them all. In this list, Alyssa writes about five different series that could do with an omnibus, opening with Kimi Ni Todoke. This manga series is a lengthy one, at thirty volumes altogether, and while Alyssa became interested in series, some volumes became very tricky to find: Alyssa hopes that the series could be released as three collections, each with ten volumes. Haikyu is next, and like Kimi Ni Todoke, is a long-runner with forty-five volumes. With the series done, it is also a good candidate for being released in the omnibus format. Alyssa finds that My Hero Academia is, of the items listed, the most likely to receive an omnibus release on account of its popularity. Ghost Hunt rounds out the list, and unlike the other manga, never had a proper English license. Since the manga has finished running, Alyssa suggests that an omnibus format would be great for drawing more interest towards a series she found to be a solid supernatural mystery.

Omnibuses are indeed an excellent way to efficiently pick up manga en masse: my first manga purchase was the Azumanga Daioh Omnibus, which is a beast of a door-stopper at 686 pages and weighs in at almost a full kilogram. Contained in this volume is the entire Azumanga Daioh journey from start to finish, and for the low price of 30 CAD, allows one to own an iconic slice-of-life manga. The appeal of an omnibus cannot be denied, and while I don’t write about manga often here, Alyssa’s Jon’s Creator Showcase submission reminded me of the fact that I’d like nothing more than to see Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? see an omnibus release. At the time of writing, no English-licensed copies exist, but the manga is a charming one that I’d be happy to pick up. The thought of picking up ten plus volumes, however, is an intimidating one, since manga in my neck of the woods isn’t exactly inexpensive: there are nine volumes thus far, requiring 144 CAD were it ever to go on sale. Similarly, Kiniro Mosaic is a series I’m fond of, and eleven volumes have been published. This one is available in English, but again, purchasing all eleven volumes isn’t the most prudent choice. However, Kiniro Mosaic does have a pair of anthologies available, so it is possible that at some point in the future, this series could receive the omnibus treatment, as well.

Burning Questions with Reading Room Candle Co. (Nerd Rambles, @Nerdramblesmeg)

Megan of Nerd Rambles Blog has a special feature for this Jon’s Creator Showcase. Megan’s previously submitted several intriguing posts to the showcase, and this time, we’ve got a guest from Northern Ireland: Sara from The Reading Room Candle Co., a small candle company inspired by the fantastical world of fiction; olfaction creates memories, and candles are thus a powerful way of creating yet another sense of immersion into a book. Sara’s journey begins with a search for cleaner-burning candles, but when commercially-available options proved inadequate, she began making her own using soy wax, a more ecologically friendly alternative to standard paraffin wax. Initially, Sara began with four scents, perfecting them over long hours. With support from family and friends, these initial candles proved successful, and since then, Sara’s been experimenting with a wide range of candles, creating scents that create visions of a place that she’d visited in a book. Once a blend is conceptualised and put to the test, the concept is sent to a chemist in Lithuania. During the course of Megan’s interview with Sara, Sara replies that the trickiest scent to recreate was the Signature Scent, which is a reflection of Sara herself, and today, Sara’s favourite candles include Lothlorien or Paddington’s Lunch. While the global health crisis and the British departure from the European Union have posed some challenges, Sara is grateful for her customers, and concludes with a sneak preview of new candles, as well as thanking everyone who’s made The Reading Room Candle Co. possible. Megan herself notes that her favourite candles are Persephone and Hades, Rivendell and Geralt of Rivia, and that Sara’s got an Etsy online store for folks interested in checking things out.

Sara’s Rivendell and the Shire would probably be my go-to choice: I’m a fan of candles for the ambience they create, and scented candles are particularly inviting because they fill the air with a gentle aroma. I typically use standard scented candles for defeating the smell of fried chicken, and it strikes me that as far as reading in the presence of a scented candle goes, I’ve never done this. Having said this, it is absolutely the case that smells can elicit powerful memories in people: olfactory memory is a part of our cognition, helping us with a variety of functions. In its more everyday utility, certain smells bring back recollections of things like home cooking, hitting one’s first home run or buying a new car for the first time. Consequently, when one takes in certain aromas, such as those emitted by custom scented candles, the ability to recall a scene from a novel in detail is enhanced, and one may suddenly find themselves thinking about the verdant fields of the Shire or the golden waterfalls of Rivendell. Even before the enhanced experience that reading beside a scented candle brings about, such candles are inherently relaxing, and in Megan’s interview with Sara, the joys leading Sara to open her own store was a very inspiring and uplifting story.

Japan Sinks 2020 — A Disaster Series Destroyed by its Disastrous Writing (Tiger Anime, @TigerAnime)

Japan Sinks is the topic of discussion for Tiger’s Jon’s Creator Showcase submission. This anime is an adaptation of the 1973 novel, which details the geological disaster that befalls Japan after a series of massive earthquakes causes Japan to subside beneath the waves. Tiger had entered the series anticipating a post-apocalyptic series depicting people surviving in the aftermath of a disaster, but instead, found a series about the immediate effects of a nation-shattering earthquake: rather than focusing on a smaller group of characters, Japan Sinks instead chose to present a vignette of stories which came at the expense of a coherent theme, and the end result is that death in the anime feels trivialised. In this area, Japan Sinks is completely unsuccessful, failing to give viewers an incentive to follow the characters and their discoveries as they navigate a world torn apart by natural forces. However, Japan Sinks is not a total write-off by any stretch; after all, Tiger did watch the entire series through, finding its visual presentation to be solid, and its soundtrack to be an uncharacteristically moving one, speaking more so to the story than even the writing itself, and watching the series for moments where it triumphs did make the journey one with some merit.

I’ve only heard about Japan Sinks in the passing, so Tiger’s thoughts on the series are my first of the series – going purely from Tiger’s review, I gain the impression that Japan Sink’s 2020 adaptation is a very busy series, switching between stories and giving viewers little time to develop an attachment to the characters. This is perhaps one of the biggest draws about any works of fiction: over time, readers and viewers come to appreciate the characters’ objectives and relate to them, in turn creating a story one can be invested in. Where a series fails to do this, it becomes difficult to connect with the characters, and even moments like death can seem diminished. However, it’s not all bad news bears for Tiger, who found that Japan Sink’s soundtrack was a phenomenal experience. Tiger’s review of Japan Sinks is an example of how to fairly approach a negative review: all too often, people will critique a series for every slight imaginable where their expectations were not met, and in doing so, fail to take a step back and reflect on what a show did get right. By indicating that Japan Sinks is disappointing, but not all bad, Tiger leaves it to the viewer to determine whether or not it’s a show worth checking out. A good review accomplishes precisely this, and admittedly, this is why an effective negative review is so hard to come by: most writers don’t take the time to mention any redeeming traits about a work or who may find it enjoyable.

Is Haruhi A Manic Pixie Dream Girl (In Search of Number Nine, @Cameron_Probert)

Iniksbane of Search of Number Nine’s submission comes right at the edge of Janaury, and is about one of anime’s most iconic characters: the one and only Haruhi Suzumiya. During the height of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s popularity, Haruhi was regarded as a god of sorts, one who existed in blissful ignorance of her nature. Iniksbane finds that Haruhi’s character presents an interesting dichotomy; on one hand, Haruhi is the foil to the down-to-earth, mundane Kyon, existing to bring colour into his world as what literary critics refer to as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but on the other hand, Haruhi acts on her desires, actively seeking out the fun in the world after learning that she’s otherwise “unremarkable”, a single individual in a world with seven billion other people. The contrast that exists in Haruhi’s character makes it difficult to decisively define her as either one or the other, and Iniksbane concludes that it’s difficult to decisively support one interpretation over the other, leaving it to the readers to use this post as a springboard for additional discussions.

Having been a longtime fan of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya after adamantly refusing to watch it until the memes died down (lest I ruin my experience of the show), I’ve come to see the series as being a highly modernised fantasy-adventure story not unlike J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit; I appreciate that this is well outside the realm of what Iniksbane covers in their analysis, but for me, Haruhi isn’t purely a Manic Pixie Dream Girl whose existence is to liven up Kyon’s life, nor is her desire to seek out the unusual phenomenon of the world a literal one. Given what The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has presented, I found that Haruhi is more similar to Gandalf in function, and Kyon is analogous to Bilbo Baggins. The former compels the latter to step out the front door, and occasionally sets in motion things that the latter must adapt to, but over time, both Kyon and Bilbo find themselves rising to the occasion unexpectedly well. Iniksbane mentions that The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a romance comedy at heart, and this is to the series’ benefit – the feelings that Haruhi and Kyon have for one another allow each to complement the other well. Haruhi pulls Kyon out of his comfort zone to give him life-changing experiences, and Kyon reigns Haruhi back, turning her visions into reality by bringing them to a plane where her plans can be realised. At least, this is what I think lies at the core of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and like Iniksbane, I invite readers to offer their thoughts on this series, as well (at the appropriate post, of course).

This is not a game about a coffee shop. ☕️ – a “Café Enchanté” Review (Shoujo Thoughts: ☆ ~(‘▽^人) Otaku Ramblings, @Shoujothoughts)

Shoujou of Shoujou Ramblings’s submission is for the game Café Enchanté on the Nintendo Switch Platforms, a title about Kotone Awaki, who starts a new job as a barista at the eponymous Café Enchanté after her grandfather dies. Leaving behind the corporate world for a fantastical world, Kotone’s adventures begin, changing her world views forever. Shoujou opens with the initial elements that make the game fun to play, from small design choices in the UI to variety of music in the soundtrack, everything about Café Enchanté feels inviting. Of course, there are minor issues, such as the lack of a stats tracker and grammatical issues, but beyond this, Shoujou found the game fun and details the routes in her post. It’s evidently a detailed game, so I’ll leave readers to peruse Shoujou’s original post to learn more. However, what is important is the verdict: Shoujou had a blast with Café Enchanté, which presents a world far richer and deeper than its initial coffee shop setting would suggest. Besides a captivating story, Shoujou also enjoyed how Café Enchanté gives a proper set of instructions for pour-over coffee (a process where hot water is poured over coffee grounds to make a cup of joe). For fifty dollars, the game is worth the price of admissions, and invites other readers who’ve played through the game to share their thoughts, as well.

If memory serves, an otome game is a subset of the visual novel for female players, in which a female character navigates a story and potentially develops a relationship with a set of male characters. Visual novels have always been detailed in this regard, striving to tell a moving story above all else, and in its format, is able to do so by having players read through the dialogue and make decisions at critical junctures. While I’ve never played an otome game myself, I am always fond of hearing people speak about the games they play and more importantly, why people enjoy said games: one of the most important outcomes of reading different blogs is gaining insight into a blogger’s mind, and I’ve found that especially in the world of gaming, people are often so focused on themselves that they forget that different people play games for different reasons. Reading posts like Shoujou’s acts as a valuable window into what features in an otome game make them enjoyable for players, and while I myself might never buy Café Enchanté on the singular reason that I don’t have a Nintendo Switch (or the patience to play such games), it does put a smile on my face to see people speak about the things that make their games so enjoyable for them.

Publisher’s Digest: Glossy Magazine Edition (The Animanga Spellbook, @MagicConan14)

For Jon’s Creator Showcase, The Animanga Spellbook’s MagicConan14 presents a summary of major magazines in which anime and manga information are published to. Animage, Animedia, PASH and Newtype are the larger ones, each with a specific emphasis (e.g. Newtype focuses on Kadokawa works like Gundam). In these magazines, manga are also run: serialisation to a popular magazine is a big deal for manga artists, and in addition, artists’ work will also appear. While magazines are published digitally, companies provide an incentive to buy the physical versions by means of bonus items, such as clear files with special illustrations (Newtype, for instance, occasionally include special parts for Gundam models in some cases). For MagicConan14, while these magazines are enticing to pick up, the main priority in determining what to buy is whether or not the experience conferred is worth it.

The major anime and manga magazines in Japan are nothing short of impressive, being resources for anime and manga news the same way National Geographic features natural wonders of the world, and Scientific America showcases the most up-to-date developments in the realm of sciences. Unlike National Geographic, Wired, Scientific American or Reader’s Digest, the main appeal of Japanese anime and manga magazines does appear to be the bonuses that they confer: I’ve never gotten any cool stuff from the magazines that I’m fond of reading, and therefore have little incentive to pick up a paper copy (which I often find to be best suited for places like the doctor’s office). Like MagicConan14, I find the prospect of ordering magazines online from CD Japan or Hobby Search to be a daunting one: unlike an artbook or model kit, one can never be too sure as to what they’re getting. With this being said, some local anime stores in Chinatown do stock magazines, and one of my friends is fond of picking them up whenever they feature a limited edition weapons pack for a Gundam model – as MagicConan14 notes, the experience is everything, and for us, this includes the act of going downtown and checking everything out before making a purchase.

EXTRA/NORMAL, Chapter Eight (@Voyager_GT)

Voyager’s submission to Jon’s Creator Showcase is a chapter from EXTRA/NORMAL, a fiction set in a world where advancement and innovation reigns supreme, and whose protagonist, Mio Morioka, is unremarkable in every respect. Voyager’s eighth chapter, however, is a confrontation between students during a scene of bullying, and the ensuing misunderstanding that sees another student, a member of the disciplinary committee, sent off with her tail between her legs. Fiction submissions are not uncommon for Jon’s Creator Showcase, and previously, I’ve received some excellent stories that creators have been hard at work on. With this submission, I am dropped into the middle of the story with no context, which, of course, prompted me to read the other chapters to gain a better measure of what was going on, and in turn, immersing me into the world that Voyager has created. This is, incidentally, one of the ways I end up picking a work of fiction up: if I enter the world without context, curiosity will lead me to start from the beginning. The other way is reading the blurb on the back of a paperback or inside a hardcover’s dust jacket.

Reading through the eighth chapter to EXTRA/NORMAL was a reminder to me about how important context is, and why one necessarily should read carefully before passing judgement on the events in a story. At first glance, the haughty but competent Diana seems the foe of this chapter, seemingly in the middle of causing grief to another student and picking a fight with a member of the school’s disciplinary committee. However, the chapter changes the reader’s view by explaining things in more detail: it turns out that Diana was driving off a student who had been caught red-handed in the act of harassing another student, and that Diana has deep-seated beliefs about not sticking one’s nose in business that is not one’s own. In the short space of a chapter, my understanding of Diana’s character changed quite quickly, and I therefore view this as a chance for me to reiterate the fact that, in any given work of fiction, it’s critical to understand the whole context before determining the justifiability of a character’s actions. Voyager’s EXTRA/NORMAL is one such example of how creative the community is, and folks who’ve invested the time into writing their own stories definitely deserve more opportunity to share their writings with others.

Celebrating the Joy of Gaming | Bofuri (Galvanic Media, @GalvanicTeam)

BulletoonGirls from Galvanic Media presents the first video of this creator’s showcase, doing a dialogue on last year’s Itai no wa Iya nano de Bōgyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu (I Don’t Wanna Get Hurt, so I’m Going to Max Out My Defense, or Bofuri for brevity). This anime follows one Kaede Honjō, who takes the name Maple and joins a VRMMORPG at the behest of her best friend, Risa Shiramine (Sally in-game). Because Maple is a scrub when it comes to games, she dumps all of her initial points into defense and over time, plays the game in a way that even the developers did not foresee. In this video, it’s an energetic and engaging dialogue behind why Bofuri was such a fun series, and while the series initially appears to have no objective or goal, it just works. Despite discarding the entire Hero’s Journey storytelling approach, Bofuri‘s appeal lies entirely in the fact that it’s all about fun, first and foremost: it fully captures the spirit of gaming, of exploration and joining with other players to check out a virtual world and the adventures that game studios create for players. In this regard, BulletoonGirls’ video suggests that Bofuri is a video game given anime form, capturing the joys that comes from being allowed to play a game precisely as one wants.

The very thing that makes Bofuri‘s New World Online fun for Maple and Sally is ultimately what compels viewers to come back, and BulletoonGirls’ video captures this aspect of gaming in full. Galvanic Media’s Bulletwins (Rila and Riley) bring an additional dimensionality into engaging viewers to convey what made Bofuri work, and admittedly, the anime-like presentation brought to mind the vigour of my local anime convention, as well. Putting videos together is no small task, involving script-writing, voice work, editing and a suite of other skills. That BulletoonGirls has been doing videos consistently is therefore commendable, and having them cover a work I was familiar with meant being able to look into what was being said, as well. In this case, the Bulletwins suggest that Bofuri, in defying convention, still find success because the anime feels more like a game than a story. They are absolutely correct here, and although Maple and Sally might not need to go after a Dæmon King or learn about themselves, watching them get into the game likely brings to mind one’s own experiences in an RPG, from picking up the basics to really becoming immersed over time. For me, Bofuri offered humour through exploration, and my own discussion on the series covers the same topics that the Bulletwins do. With this being said, the Bulletwins’ video is rather more engaging than my own talk, especially as I delve into the arcane world of multi-agent systems, which I’ve not worked with for quite some time.

Chivalry of a Failed Knight (Season One) (The Otaku Author, @TheOtakuAuthor)

Chivalry of a Failed Knight (Rakudai Kishi no Kyabarurii) is the topic of Lynn Sheridan’s submission to Jon’s Creator Showcase, and out of the gates, Lynn wastes no time in stating that with its combination of swords and hawt anime girls, Chivalry of a Failed Knight would be a show of note: this anime was adapted from a light novel and follows one Ikki Kurogane, a low-ranking Blazer (any human possessing the power to manifest physical weapons as extensions of their soul) who is assigned to the same room as transfer student Stella Vermillion, a high-ranking Blazer from Europe. After an initial misunderstanding, the two train together to hone their craft, and in the process, discover more about one another. Lynn praises the series’ romance as one of the highlights, along with the fact that Ikki constantly must prove his worth; despite a low ranking, Ikki’s strength lies in his creative ways of fighting. The fight sequences stand among the main highlights of Chivalry of a Failed Knight for Lynn, praising how fluid and dynamic everything was. However, there are moments that also are a little more gloomy: Ikki’s relationship with his family is one of the lower points of the season, and while accentuating this, does come across as a bit excessive. Lynn also covers favourite and reviled characters, before concluding that Chivalry of a Failed Knight is a series about how societies fear those with potential, and a continuation would be more than welcome.

I’ve been a long-time reader of Otaku Author: Lynn has a particular talent for condensing out thoughts into a highly readable format, and for this, Otaku Author is a fantastic resource for swiftly determining what the ups and downs of a given work are. Here, Chivalry of a Failed Knight is the core topic, and I have had this series on my to-watch list since the anime began airing back in 2015, during my grad school days. I was seeking something quite unlike my usual series, and Chivalry of a Failed Knight appeared to be quite interesting. Par the course for what happens to me, I ended up procrastinating, first promising I would finish after my term project, then conference paper, then thesis defense, then graduation, and by the time I’d realised what happened, I’d been inundated with more series to watch than I’d care to keep track of. Fortunately, with Lynn’s post, I’ve got a good measure of what to expect should I start Chivalry of a Failed Knight off: Jon’s Creator Showcase is, at least for me, a fantastic chance for me to get a sneak preview of anime that I’ve been meaning to watch, and I enjoy the event for being able to see what people make of series that have caught my eye but otherwise never got to watching (on top of showing the creativity and excellence within the community, of course).

Pokemon Episode 61 Analysis: The Misty Mermaid (Anime Madhouse, @TheFiddleTwix)

One of the joys about Jon’s Creator Showcase is being able take on submissions from folks I’ve not even heard of before. This submission from FiddleTwix is one such example, being a post about Pokemon‘s sixty-first episode. After providing a synopsis of the episode and a collection of thoughts, FiddleTwix delves into the core of the episode and how Misty/Kasumi’s role allows her to shine in this episode with the underwater ballet, although the battle itself appeared inconsistent with the expected rules governing which Pokemon have the advantage in which environment. FiddleTwix also notes that Misty/Kasumi’s sisters were an irritant, employing a roundabout way of asking for her help, and their actions in this episode also demonstrate why Misty/Kasumi ends up being a gym leader, owing to her skill with water-type Pokemon.

It’s been a very long time since I watched Pokemon: if memory serves, it was on the youth television network in my region, and I got about as far as episode 49. Back then, Pokemon was all the craze at school, and it seemed that everyone had cards, trying to trade for the rare holographic foil cards that showed up from time to time. While the anime itself caught my attention, and I watched episodes after school, the trading game never really caught on for me. Instead, I used to play the GameBoy games instead, eventually beating all of the bosses and catching the legendary Mewtwo. Since it’s been such a long time since I’ve done anything Pokemon related, FiddleTwix’s post is a trip down memory lane. While Pokemon was probably the first anime I got into, my first anime ever was probably Sailor Moon (apparently, I used to be able to do the poses from the transformation sequences). This, of course, goes back to a time where I could only vaguely remember anything, and so, if and when I’m asked, the anime that got me into anime remains Ah! My Goddess: The Movie.

GANGSTA. Analysis — Tribute To Those Who Are Lost 1 (All The Fujoshi Unite, @fujoshi_unite)

Nora of All The Fujoshi Unite has reached a momentous milestone at her blog: a hundred posts. For this special occasion, Nora submits to Jon’s Creator Showcase a special post on GANGSTA., which follows Worick Arcangelo and Nicolas Brown as they take simultaneously deal with jobs from the law enforcement and organised criminals in the city of Ergastulum. Nora finds that the architecture, and very name Ergastulum, speaks volumes to the messages that GANGSTA. aims to convey; the name Ergastulum is derived from the Roman building used to house slaves, and the naming itself has Greek origins. The distinct limestone and stone construction in the city greatly resembles Italian Renaissance architecture, and together with the town’s naming, speaks to the subjugation that enhanced humans, known as Twilights, are subject to. Walls are a prominent feature in GANGSTA., constantly reminding viewers of the forces that divide and separate people. By making use of the architecture to parallel the characters’ situations, Nora finds that GANGSTA. does a phenomenal job of speaking to viewers through the world-building, and invites viewers to read her next post on the interpersonal dynamics between protagonists Worick and Nicolas.

Architecture in anime varies from being an afterthought to being an integral part of the world, and in the case of GANGSTA., Nora creates a very compelling case for how the world this anime is set in contributes very strongly to the series’ themes. While I’ve never seen GANGSTA. for myself, I am familiar with the design choices of a given world; architecture mirrors the meanings that authors intend to convey with their works, and set the tone for conversations, encounters and events. In Tari Tari, buildings are depicted with large windows that allow natural light to illuminate their interiors, visually indicating that for Wakana and her friends, opening up to others and letting the light in is how one overcomes their own problems. In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the school rooftop becomes the perfect metaphor for the conundrum that Magical Girls face: above the world below, Magical Girls are conferred an incredible power to fight evil, but become incredibly isolated in the process. Sora no Woto uses Mediterranean Spanish architecture to remind viewers of a world after a massive war with an unknown foe caused the regression of society. When done well, architecture complements a series’ theme, subtly reminding viewers of the characters’ own journeys ahead.

Anime Lists That Caters To Exist Because: Jealously Sucks, It Dominates and It’s Ugly (Lita Kino Anime Corner, @Kinoreviews)

From Lita Kino Anime Corner, we’ve got three recommendations for anime that deal with one of the nastier human emotions: jealousy. Lita Kino’s lists are intended to act as recommendations for series that deal with very specific topics, and noticing that finding such recommendations was a challenge, Lita Kino decided to create a miniseries. So, with jealousy as the area of interest, Lita Kino opens by noting that the anime on the list deal with the topic in a particularly visceral watch, opening with Scum’s Wish, a series about the couple Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya, who are only dating one another while pursing someone else. This setup creates a chance to cover those feelings people normally shunt aside to show what people are when the chips are down. Next is Domestic Girlfriend, a series that crosses the line several times in its portrayal of relationships and what happens when one’s heart wavers, creating drama akin to what is seen in something like The Young and The Restless. Rounding off the list is Rumbling Hearts, where the sticky topic of cheating and what leads people to pursue these actions is covered. Lita Kino notes that every anime in these lists have been completed in full, since it would be disingenuous to recommend something that one does not have a complete measure of, and in general, it’s more entertaining to recommend anime based on themes rather than genre.

The pain of jealousy and loneliness can be physically felt, as though an icy dagger were plunged into one’s heart. I’ve seen Domestic Girlfriend before, and it fills the heart with an emptiness as one watches the characters fumble their way through their emotions without giving logic a chance. Reading through Lita Kino’s list, I am assured of at least two other series to check out should I ever feel compelled to watch a story of how desperation can drive people into corners, and in these situations, how people might react to their circumstances. I note that School Days is also mentioned in Lita Kino’s post, but owing to the unique setup that sends Makoto down a path of no return, I fully respect Lita Kino’s decision to not make a full category for it: at its worst, jealousy compels people to act in horrendous ways that really speak to the consequences of unbridled emotions and the very blackness that can lie within the best of us. Making recommendations based on themes is an interesting concept, and I imagine that for folks who are looking for very specific anime based on themes and concepts, such an approach could prove successful. Even within this realm alone, it could be interesting to see how different anime approach a given theme to present its outcomes, which speaks volumes to what the creator’s thoughts on things are.

My 5 Favourite Detective Conan Movie (Art of Anime, @artof_anime)

The Detective Conan series has an extensive history behind it, and Art of Anime covers the top five movies of the series, as well as the rationale behind why each entry is where it is on the list. Art of Anime opens with the second movie, The Fourteenth Target: it’s a solid all-around experience but otherwise eclipsed by the series’ best. Next up is the third movie, The Last wizard of the Century, which introduces Kaito Kid to create an excellent blend of intrigue and character development. Private Eye in the Distant Sea (the seventeenth movie) was particularly engaging owing to how unpredictable it was, and in second place is the fourteenth movie, The Lost Ship in the Sky, whose premise is bold, and where the characters really come together in their efforts to stop a sinister plot. Occupying the coveted first place is The Fist of Blue Sapphire, the twenty-third movie, whose story and animation show the series at its finest.

Detective Conan is a long-lived franchise with plenty of proponents, and because of the franchise’s scale, it’s been a series I’ve never had much exposure to. One of the challenges with these long-running series is knowing where to begin, and when a series is large enough to have twenty-three movies, finding a good starting point is especially daunting. Lists such as Art of Anime’s, then, can be assets in helping one to gain a foothold: in essence, top five and top ten lists distill out what people make to be essential experiences, and checking out these lists can therefore give on a fantastic idea of what something is about, potentially even helping people to get a foothold on long standing series and enjoy them alongside the long-time fans.

Tonikaku Kawaii (BakaNow, @CodyLatosh)

Cody LaTosh of Bakanow submits a detailed review of Tonikaku Kawaii (Fly Me to the Moon), a romance comedy from 2020 about a fellow by the name of Nasa Yuzaki, a prodigy who is saved by a girl on his first day of high school, and while she promises to marry him someday, disappears, only to reappear after high school with the paperwork. The result is an unusual marriage and the ensuing comedy. On paper, one could reasonably expect a gentle and familiar comedy arising from this arrangement, a story that brings to mind the likes of The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, but in practise, Tonikaku Kawaii is unsuccessful in delivering a story with similar magic: characters do not grow during the course of their relationship, and while the artwork appears solid at first glance, the animation is inconsistent in places and utilises cuts that break the emotional tenour of a moment. Overall, Cody LaTosh finds Tonikaku Kawaii serviceable, but isn’t one that excels in any category to an extent where viewers will be excited to recommend it to others: the series earns a 6.2 on the ten point scale.

Breaking out the grade conversions, a 6.2 corresponds to a C-, which is strictly middle of the road (although for me, time is limited to the extent where I don’t write about or finish anime that don’t score at least a C). Cody LaTosh’s review is honest, open and fair, pointing out the shortcomings in Tonikaku Kawaii the indicate what diminished the experience, and at the same time, making mention of the things that Tonikaku Kawaii did do well during its run, leaving readers with a solid understanding of what they can expect, and also to make their own decisions on whether or not Tonikaku Kawaii is worth their while. Whereas Tonikaku Kawaii appears to be an anime that might not work for me, what works is the clean format and summary elements which offer an at-a-glance summary of the whole review. This eye-catching chart provides a very clear overview of what Cody LaTosh made of the anime: folks in a hurry will quickly understand where he stands on Tonikaku Kawaii, and readers with a bit more time will be able to comb through a more detailed discussion to see Cody’s rationale for his final verdict were. It’s a clever way to display information without forcing readers to read through everything, which is, admittedly, something that my blog absolutely fails in.

Boruto to Transformers War for Cybertron: Siege [Weekly Jump #17] (Blake and Spencer Get Jumped! An Anime Podcast, @BandSGetJumped)

Blake and Spencer Get Jumped! are a podcasting team who watch anime and then discuss them. For this submission, Blake and Spencer present a 40-minute long discussion of mangas Boruto and The Elusive Samurai, before switching over to The Rising of the Shield Hero and Pop Team Epic as a part of their anime discussion. For the finale, Blake and Spencer come together to discuss Transformers War for Cybertron: Siege, the same way that I’ve been discussing with Dewbond the intricacies of Higurashi. While I am a novice in these manga and anime, what is clear is that Blake and Spencer are proficient speakers versed in ensuring that their podcasts are engaging. With excellent audio clarity, fantastic oral skill and great writing, Blake and Spencer’s podcast brings to mind the radio programs that I am so fond of listening to when I start my day.

The podcast format has its pluses and minuses: when I take in information, I’m very much a hands-on, visual learner, so I prefer reading or watching videos (and where necessary, by doing something for myself). However, the reason why these approaches work so well for me is because I’m actively engaged in something. Conversely, with podcasts handling more like radio programs, I am free to pursue other activities while I listen, and in this way, a great podcast is something that keeps me company, with a human voice, while I work on other things. Having worked in environments where podcasts were produced, I do appreciate the effort that goes into making consistently great podcasts; it’s a process that requires everything from proper equipment and preparation, to no small amount of skill in speaking clearly (something I can’t do). Seeing how engaging and sophisticated podcasts nowadays are are a testament to the effort people put into making them, and while I may have no prior knowledge of something like Boruto or Pop Team Epic, listening to Blake and Spencer gives me a clearer impression of what these works entail.

[Review] Dr. Stone S2, Ep. 1 (Couch and Chill, @CouchandChill)

Ang of Couch and Chill submits a Dr. Stone post on the second season’s opening episode, which has two distinct halves. The first deals with Senku’s introduction of freeze-drying to villages to give them increased survivability, but Ang found this a little dull, considering that the first season had done something similar, and ramen itself isn’t particularly challenging (and therefore exciting) to create given the technological level within the world of Dr. Stone. The episode’s second half deals with a double agent of sorts who initially appears to be working for Tsukasa, but in actuality, is loyal to Senku. Because Tsukasa is physically powerful, Senku and his allies believe the way to defeat him is by undermining his supporters, and to this end, they decide sway Tsukasa’s followers with a bit of deception, weakening them enough so they might capture Tsukasa. Despite not covering all aspects of Dr. Stone‘s second season opening, Ang suggests curious viewers to check it out for themselves.

The instant ramen we know today is created by cutting the dough into noodle form, and then baking the pallet for an hour at temperatures of 80ºC, or frying the pallet in oil to remove all of the water content. Freeze-drying, on the other hand, entails freezing a given article of food and then in a special environment, reduce the pressure, which allows the ice crystals to evaporate by means of sublimation. The process allows the food to retain most of its original properties, and like instant noodles, the application of hot water will rehydrate the food, rendering it ready to eat. While I’ve not seen Dr. Stone for myself, freeze-drying ramen feels a roundabout way of accomplishing the task, especially when frying the noodles or using an oven to bake them would accomplish the same with simpler techniques. Ang’s remarks on the episode’s second half brings to mind Sun Tzu’s remarks that all war is deception, although at the time of writing, it was still early into the season. It is the case that second seasons may not always start on the strongest of footings, especially when continuing from a solid first season. With this being said, sequels can prove enjoyable as they begin exploring newfound directions, and for Ang, the aspect of deception could prove to be an interesting side to Dr. Stone.

First 2021 Blu Ray Haul! (Valkayink: Figures, Cards, Reviews, @Valkayink)

Valkayink’s video represents a very welcome way to open off the New Year, being about the new Blu Rays she’d acquired over the past month. Titles include Ride Your Wave, Children of the Sea, the steel-book version of Lupin III: The First, Laughing Under The Clouds (The Complete Series), Land of the Lustrous, Love Stage!! (Complete Collection), Crowds Gatchaman, Chihayafuru and Galaxy Express 999. In this video, Valkayink showcases the special features that come with each disk, from the booklets featuring extras, to nifty designs on the Blu Ray case itself, and shares with viewers what makes each item a noteworthy one.

While not technically an unboxing video, Valkayink’s submission for Jon’s Creator Showcase comes pretty close to fitting the bill: the Blu Rays might already be opened and ready to pop into a player for an afternoon of entertainment, but the video itself possesses all of the cathartic effects of watching folks talk about the cool stuff they’ve acquired. In Valkayink’s case, the merits of picking up the Blu Rays are quickly conveyed: while digital products have the advantage of convenience, there is something very tangible about a physical product that one can hold. This is why Blu Rays remain popular despite the rise of streaming services; to give people incentive to pick up a physical product, Blu Rays often come with all sorts of bonuses that really enhance one’s experience even beyond what the original work may provide.

Laid Back Camp 2: EP 1 Impression (Umaru Blog, @TheHimoutolife)

It’s always a pleasant surprise to see other bloggers writing about the shows that I am fond of: umaruchan92 of UMARU BLOG’s submission to Jon’s Creator Showcase is a post on Yuru Camp△ 2‘s first episode, which aired back in January. umaruchan92 greatly enjoyed this first episode as a segue back into the series. Establishing Rin’s original interests in camping gives additional depth to her love of the hobby, and the second half to the episode gave viewers a chance to see that when the chips are down, Nadeshiko is reliable and hard-working. For umaruchan92, the strongest part of the episode comes at the end, when Rin and Nadeshiko share a conversation that shows the development of the two’s friendship; whereas Rin had found Nadeshiko irritating during the first season, she’s come to greatly appreciate Nadeshiko after the pair share several adventures together, and umaruchan92 hopes that Yuru Camp△ 2 will continue on in this fashion.

Anyone who’s read my blog will know that I am an ardent Yuru Camp△ fan, to the point of writing about the second season episodically. It is always welcome to see folks who enjoy shows like Yuru Camp△ (and GochiUsa, which umaruchan92 has also written about): such anime typically place an emphasis on an appreciation of the ordinary, but also touch on enough topics to appeal to a broad spectrum of viewers. Seeing what other viewers have to say about these series is always enlightening, offering insight into how different people approach watching different shows. However, in some cases, there is also considerable overlap between what about a given episode (or series) people found noteworthy: both umaruchan92 and myself found the character dynamics of Yuru Camp△ to be the anime’s strong suit. However, the both of us express ourselves in a completely different fashion, which simultaneously serves to remind readers that while people may like similar things, there’s always a different perspective on the whys behind what makes a work so meaningful for people.

Drama|Sweet Home — Final Impressions (Black & Yellow Otaku Gamers, @piecesofminty)

Sweet Home is a webtoon following Cha Hyun-soo, a bit of a recluse who moves to a new apartment and soon finds himself experiencing otherworldly events as various tenants mutate into monsters that assume the shape of whatever their innermost vices are. In this review, Minty of Black and Yellow Otaku Gamers writes about the drama adaptation of the webtoon, which released to Netflix back in December 2020 and which Minty found to be reasonably faithful to the webtoon in terms of atmosphere and aesthetics, but because of changes made between the webtoon and the adaptation, some elements were not covered to the same extent as they were in the original: character development in the drama felt a little weaker, and the nature of the monsters themselves are unexplored. However, Minty enjoyed the acting and soundtrack, and there were some genuinely surprising twists; while the series started off strong and meandered in its middle, some moments were particularly standout, and overall, while she did enjoy Sweet Home, Minty prefers the original source materials in terms of story and character growth.

While I am a novice to the world of K-dramas, I am rather more familiar with the different experiences viewers have between the source and adapted materials; people inevitably will have different expectations going into a work, and in my case, I’ve seen adaptations both succeed in capturing the essence of a work, as well as completely miss the mark. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan‘s anime adaptation is considered to be a controversial one, but for me, it faithfully brought the manga to life and remained consistent with the mangas, resulting in a work that gave a new level of dimensionality the story presented by the manga. Conversely, in the Harry Potter films, changes to events from the novels result in the alteration of some moments and their severity, as well as skating over some critical aspects that the novels discussed. Adaptations can be tricky, and as Minty writes, there are situations where adaptations cannot always fully capture the details of a work that were present in the original. In spite of this, by giving motion and sound to a story, adaptations can also be fun in their own right even if they sometimes leaves the viewers with the impression that more could’ve been done.

Closing Remarks

I believe that this Jon’s Creator Showcase represents the largest single post I’ve ever written (totalling 16220 words, making it a full thousand larger than the previous record, also held by a Jon’s Creator Showcase post), and the journey to get to the finish line was not a particularly smooth one in the beginning. I had initially felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of submissions received, and it was ultimately the community support that allowed me to cross the finish line for this one; Jon Spencer himself stepped in with advice and suggestions. All of the submissions to Jon’s Creator Showcase are of a high standard, and all of them are made with sincerity and the desire to share. Taking stock in this, and imbibing the efforts that went into each submission, I have done my best to convey what makes each and every submission noteworthy, meaningful. Consequently, once I found my groove, it became a joy to continue forwards. Having said this, the latest Jon’s Creator Showcase has also demonstrated that my approach is not particularly scalable, especially when real life decided it would also get hectic at around this time. Traditionally, Februaries are a bit slower and more relaxed for me, but circumstances can always change. Realising this, and also recalling how much fun it is to see how everyone does things through Jon’s Creator Showcase, I believe that taking a new approach to hosting in the future could also be a part of the enjoyment in hosting, as well. As to what this new approach is, I think I will surprise readers with it the next time that I decide to host. There are a few slots left in the later stages of 2021 that are unclaimed, and this may represent a chance to experiment a little to see if I can continue hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase in a more scalable, sustainable manner. In the meantime, as we exit February, we actually did have a bit of a challenge entering March; until Friday evening, we actually had no hosts. Fortunately, Cameron Probert of In Search of Number Nine and CrippledNerd90 have been gracious enough to jointly take on the mantle of hosting the next one, and I invite folks to send their favourite post for February over to continue this cycle of community.