The Infinite Zenith

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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.

Jon’s Creator Showcase: Welcoming Highlights for the First Posts of 2021

“Be willing to share your blessings. The only riches that last are the ones that are given away.” –David Khalil

Jon’s Creator Showcase is now entering its third year, and Jon Spencer Reviews has just finished hosting the first showcase for 2021, which saw a grand total of thirty-two submissions. As a bit of background, Jon’s Creator Showcase began as a means of allowing content creators to submit works they’re particularly proud of, and a host for that month would aggregate them into one spot. The end result is a collection of different materials, styles and perspectives from across the community that acts as a best-of feature. For participants, it’s a chance to have their best works on display for the world to appreciate. For hosts, it becomes an immensely enjoyable exercise: one has the chance to check out an incredible variety of work. In previous years, besides blog posts, I’ve seen short stories, videos and even a video game submitted to Jon’s Creator Showcase. Participation is simple: folks interested in joining the event only need to submit their favourite post from the previous month (i.e. January 2021) to myself, either on Twitter or using WordPress’ comments section. If one is submitting through Twitter, participants are asked to use the hashtag #TheJCS to make it easier for hosts to track submissions. Then, in the spirit of keeping the party going, participants are also encouraged to nominate others to submit their work, as well. On Twitter, I will confirm that I’ve received a submission by liking it. The host typically then presents the submissions in a manner of their choosing. Folks have until the last day of February to submit their favourite post from January, and I am rather looking forwards to seeing what submissions will come in for this round. Jon’s Creator Showcase is an open and inclusive event, so content of all sorts is permitted. In the interest of respecting my house rules, I will not permit anything that involves promoting hate or inciting violence. This is more of a formality, above all else: during Jon Creator’s Showcase’s run, folks have done an amazing job of supplying great content. Once I’ve received a submission, I will opted to summarise what I got out of each submission and what is particularly stand-out about it.

  • I believe this will be my third time hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase, having done so twice in 2019 and once last year. It is a little bewildering as to how quickly time passes: my last showcase would’ve been for a year ago, as well. I note that this time around, we’ve actually seen a shortfall in number of hosts, and while I would be quite happy to pick up the slack should the need arise, I note that hosting these events are always fun, as well. At the time of writing, we do not have a host for March through May, and September through December. Folks interested in helping out may sign up for a slot here, and I feel it worth reiterating that I would be happy to help any new hosts with queries they might have.

What does a showcase in my style look like, one wonders? I will make an example using one of my existing posts; were I not hosting, I would have sent in my talk about Yuru Camp△ 2‘s first set of location hunts. Using the Oculus Quest and my own location hunting experience, I bring readers to the locations that Rin and Nadeshiko visit in the first three episodes of Yuru Camp△‘s second season. The aim of this post is to provide a succinct outline of these locations and how to get there for viewers, such that interested parties can check it out in Google Maps, or for the more intrepid readers, plan out an actual excursion here, using information from my post as a starting point. It was immensely fun to do the location hunting and subsequent research on the spots, and I hope that the post was able to convey at least a bit of this fun to the reader. In reflecting on my Yuru Camp△ 2 location hunt post, I’ve also given readers a rough idea of how I’ll be handling each and every submission for this Jon’s Creator Showcase: this is only a brief sample, so I hope folks will swing by to check out the completed showcase and see what other folks are doing. My approach is comparatively simple, and previous hosts have gotten more creative with respect to their format for Jon’s Creator Showcase; one particularly notable instance saw the hosts create a magazine-like feature that looked absolutely brilliant. Because things have been busy for me, I won’t be changing up my format this time around, although I have, at one point, considered using something like Unity to make a 3D showcase one could walk through on their mobile device. The feasibility of such a project will be left as an exercise for another time, and so, until I figure this one out, I’ll keep to the tried-and-true approach. This should be everything that is required for introducing Jon’s Creator Showcase to new participants: previous participants will be familiar with the rules and procedures. I look forwards to seeing what folks send in for this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase. So, the question now becomes: what excellent submissions will make an appearance for this Jon’s Creator Showcase?

Remarks on the Impact of Localisations in Media: A Case Study using Steven Chow’s Flirting Scholar

“sorry im so smart and right about everything I can’t help it 😭😭” – @kammypRequiem, Famous Last Words

Save the exception where one has at least Level 3 proficiency with Japanese, most English-speaking fans of anime typically consume their anime by means of either subtitles or dubs, and because dialogue plays a critical role in our interpretation of a given work of fiction, listening to what is being said (or reading its translated equivalent) is central in helping one draw conclusions about a series with regard to its intentions. Consequently, the clarity of themes in a given foreign work goes part-and-parcel with a good translation; done well, a good translation can convey themes to viewers irrespective of the linguistics barrier, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, a poor translation can obfuscate a character’s intents, or even degrade the meaning of a work to the point where it is no longer recognisable. The quality of a translation and its implications are therefore the subject of no small debate in the anime community. However, while it is the object of comedy to criticise a translation, making a good translation is not a trivial process, requiring a passable level of knowledge to ensure that meaning is not lost, while simultaneously ensuring that the recipient has a good understanding of what’s going on: cultural and linguistic barriers can often-times make translations very tricky. In this post, I aim to explore one instance of where a poor translation negatively impacts the weight of a scene, and because I am a native Cantonese speaker, I will be use Steven Chow’s 1993 film, Flirting Scholar (唐伯虎點秋香, jyutping tong4 baak3 fu2 dim2 cau2 heong1), as my example. To provide a bit of background, Flirting Scholar follows a highly fictionalised account of Tong Pak Fu (Steven Chow) as he searches for a suitable wife who appreciates his scholarly strengths. His journey leads him to the House of Wah: he saves Chow Heung (Gong Li) from some ruffians and becomes enamoured with her. However, for his skill, Tong Pak Fu has numerous enemies that seek to destroy him, and must fend off his enemies while closing the distance between himself and Chow Heung.

At one point in the movie, one of the House of Wah’s enemies, Prince Ning, appears. One of his scholars, Tu Chuen-Chang (對穿腸, played by Vincent Kok), challenges the House of Wah to a Chinese Dyad (對對, jyutping deoi5 deoi3) competition. This word game is similar to Shiritori, a Japanese word game where players must name something that begins with the kana of the previously mentioned word. In Shiritori, only nouns may be used, words may not be recycled, and using anything ending in ん causes an instant loss. A Chinese Dyad Competition can be seen more sophisticated version of this game, Shiritori on fucking steroids, as it were: players must form sentences of a certain composition, typically govermed by the same iambic meter, rhyming phrases and follow a certain theme. A player loses this game if they cannot “reply” to a sentence the other player has raised using the parameters specified by the “question” sentence. Because this game is dependent on rhyming, syllable composition, vocabulary and puns, it is a game that traditionally, only scholars could engage in. The resulting couplets that form from a “question” and “reply”, utilising very obscure words or unusual phrases, and therefore, become immensely difficult to translate. In Flirting Scholar, Tu Chuen-Chang squares off against Tong Pak Fu at one point and is annihilated by a “lowly nobody”, but in the film, the English subtitles do not properly capture the nuances of their competition. With the help of family, whose Cantonese knowledge is more profound than my own, I’ve therefore presented a translation of all of the questions and retorts that Tong Pak Fu and Tu Chuen-Chang:

Tu Chuen-Chang: 一鄉二里共三夫子,不識四書五經六義,竟敢教七八九子,十分大膽!
Subtitles: A for apple B for boy, C for cat and D for dog, E for egg and G for girl.
Actual translation: There is one county, two valleys, three teachers in total, understanding four books, five classics and six skills, teaching seven, eight and nine students, and are very brave.

Tong Pak Fu: 十室九貧,湊得八兩七錢六分五毫四厘,尚且三心二意,一等下流!
Subtitles: Doe a deer, Ray a drop of golden sun, me a name I call myself, far a long long way to run.
Actual translation: In ten rooms, nine are poor, collecting eight pounds, seven dollars, six pennies, five cents (and) four pence, but still have three or two opinions, all of which are first-class.

The unusual flow of numbers sequentially used make this exceptionally difficult to succinctly translate. Tu Chuen-Chang opens with a show of force to show what he can do, setting up a complex question that no one except Tong Pak Fu can answer. Because Chinese allows for many ideas to be communicated in a very short number of syllables (Cantonese is monosyllabic), it takes quite a bit more in English to convey what is being said, and the translation given in the movie itself completely fails in capturing the meaning. The attempts at the same couplet in English fail to show Tu Chuen-Chang’s skill, and more importantly, Tong Pak Fu’s own prowess in matching Tu Chuen-Chang.

Tu Chuen-Chang: 圖書裡,龍不吟虎不嘯,小小書僮可笑可笑。
Subtitles: In the picture, the dragons and tigers won’t roar.
Actual translation: In your painting, the dragons don’t chant and the tigers don’t roar, (Tong Pak Fu) a small learning servant is very funny and ridiculous.

Tong Pak Fu: 棋盤裡,車無輪馬無韁,叫聲將軍提防提防。
Subtitles: In the chess, the horses and the generals can’t fight.
Actual translation: On your chessboard, the carts lack wheels and the knights lack reins, they tell the General (Tu Chuen-Chang) be cautious (not to be beaten).

After Tu Chuen-Chang and Tong Pak Fu face one another down, ending with a mock kiss that face faults the spectators, their competition is starts. Tu Chuen-Chang opens by mocking Tong Pak Fu’s paintings, claiming they lack life and note that the idea of a nobody being scholarly is laughable. Tong Pak Fu retorts by saying that Tu Chuen-Chang should be more careful. The original subtitles capture half of each line: the insults that Tu Chuen-Chang and Tong Pak Fu exchange are absent, which eliminates the mutual dislike both have for one another from being communicated to viewers.

Tu Chuen-Chang: 鶯鶯燕燕翠翠紅紅處處融融洽洽。
Subtitles: An A, a bee, a C and a D.
Actual translation: Warblers and swallows, green and red flowers, here and there, it’s peaceful.

Tong Pak Fu: 雨雨風風花花葉葉年年暮暮朝朝。
Subtitles: An E, an F, a G and an H
Actual translation: Rain and wind, flowers and leaves, year by year, there’s morning and dusk.

The next stanzas in the question-reply are again, difficult to translate. Tu Chuen-Chang opens by duplicating every word to create a bit of a resonance that conveys serenity, and Tong Pak Fu matches him, continuing on with the theme of things that are harmonious and peaceful. The subtitles given in the film does not do this part justice, saying nothing about how readily Tong Pak Fu was able to find a reply to Tu Chuen-Chang’s question so quickly. The only hint of this comes from the spectators in the House of Wah, who praise Tong Pak Fu.

Tu Chuen-Chang: 十口心思,思君思國思社稷。
Subtitles: See a jerk standing over there.
Actual translation: (The) ten minds of mine are for looking after the people, the country and the crown.

Tong Pak Fu: 八目尚賞,賞花賞月賞秋香。
Subtitles: Hear (hear) a bastard sitting before me
Actual translation: (The) eight eyes of ours are for enjoying the flowers, moon and Chow Heung.

In response to Tong Pak Fu, Tu Chuen-Chang’s next question speaks to his skill: Tong Pak Fu is merely a servant, and Tu Chuen-Chang wants to emphasise that he has studied to be a great scholar for lord and land. He is not insulting Tong Pak Fu directly here, but rather, implying that his skills are being put to use for something important. Tong Pak Fu’s retort is simple enough: even though he might be simpler, everyone has senses that are for appreciating beautiful things in nature (directly complimenting Chow Heung). Neither throw insults at one another here just yet, but the original subtitles say otherwise.

Tu Chuen-Chang: 我上等威風,顯現一身虎膽。
Subtitles: I am a hero in the battlefield
Actual translation: I am a hero in the making, my courage is that of a tiger’s

Tong Pak Fu: 你下流賤格,露出半個龜頭。
Subtitles: You are a chicken in bed instead
Actual translation: You are crass, your head is that of a turtle’s

Here, the insults begin flying: tired of Tu Chuen-Chang’s bragging, Tong Pak Fu returns fire with an insult. While the original subtitles don’t capture the nuances of their exchange, the essentials are portrayed. I note that it is possible to interpret “露出半個龜頭” as a pun. I’ve elected to go with a cleaner translation, but one might be able to make a case that Tong Pak Fu is really saying “you’re disgusting, and you’re jacking off”. Knowledge of Cantonese slang further accentuates what Tong Pak Fu thinks of Tu Chuen-Chang, although without elaborating, these subtleties become lost. Subsequently, Tu Chuen-Chang openly declares losing to a lowly untrained scholar like Tong Pak Fu would be shameful.

Tu Chuen-Chang: 冚家剷泥齊種樹。
Subtitles: Let’s plant trees together
Actual translation: Your entire family can plant trees together

Tong Pak Fu: 汝家池塘多鮫魚。
Subtitles: For the grave of your father
Actual translation: There’s a pool in front of the house filled with catfish

Tu Chuen-Chang: 魚肥果熟麻撚飯。
Subtitles: My grandmom has prepared the supper
Actual translation: When those fish become fat (and the fruits ripen), they’ll become dinner

Tong Pak Fu: 你老母兮親下廚!
Subtitles: My God-father has screwed your grandma!
Actual translation: Your mother can cook them for you!

The final exchange is heated, with Tu Chuen-Chang losing composure, and Tong Pak Fu clearly looks like he’s enjoying himself now. Tu Chuen-Chang’s question is a pun: 冚家 simply means “the entire family”, and with the iambic meter here, the proper translation allows the phrase to be given as asking the family to plant trees. However, 冚家剷 (jyutping ham6 gaa1 caan2) is phonetically identical to the Cantonese phrase 冚家祥, which essentially translates to “your entire family can drop dead” and is counted as a deadly insult. Tong Pak Fu catches this and sets Tu Chuen-Chang up for a fall, ending with his final retort that puts Tu Chuen-Chang on the floor. Tong Pak Fu closes by remarking that Chinese Dyad is only supposed to be for sport, wondering why Tu Chuen-Chang is taking it so seriously before he heads off. The original English subtitles result in much of Tong Pak Fu’s character being lost to translation: his scholarly skill and wit are not apparent, and because this scene does much to illustrate the true extent of his skill, which he had been concealing throughout Flirting Scholar, viewers watching using the subtitles are unlikely able to appreciate Tong Pak Fu’s intentions and how he manages to win Chow Heung over. The quality of subtitles in Flirting Scholar therefore illustrates the importance of a good translation and how meanings can be very easily lost, degrading one’s ability to appreciate a work, and if one holds this to be true, then one must also wonder why I’m taking a Steven Chow comedy so seriously:

うそやで!Uso ya de!

In case it were not clear, today is April Fool’s Day, and I figured today was a time to do something fun for the blog. This post was motivated by a video that family had sent me: in reality, Steven Chow’s Flirting Scholar is counted as a comedy classic, following the adventures of Tong Pak Fu as he searches for a wife who doesn’t gamble and upon encountering Chow Heung, decides to court her. The Chinese Dyad scene is among my favourite in the movie, and as a child, I never did understand what was being said. When a recent flame-fest erupted on Twitter about localisations, I figured I could probably whip up something hilarious by combining the two: I ended up asking family about the scene, worked out a translation and then whipped this post up. I like to think that I was fairly convincing until at least the end – it is a fair challenge to maintain a ruse for extended periods of time. My real thoughts on localisation and translations, along with the whole “dub vs sub” debate, is that I care very little for taking sides, and that people should simply just enjoy what they prefer without feeling compelled to impose their preferences upon others, or worry that they would be judged for what they enjoy. With this being said, while my stance on localisation and serious “take” on Flirting Scholar might’ve been a fib on the same scale as Aoi “Inuko” Inuyama’s, I remark that the film is real (and very funny), the Chinese Dyad competition does happen, and I put genuine effort into the translations, which are as close as I can get them to their English equivalents. Of course, I now put myself in a bit of a tough spot: readers might not be inclined to take my next post seriously, which would be a shame if it came to pass!

Jon’s Creator Showcase: Valentine’s Month Special, Featuring The First Posts of the New Decade

“There is no enjoying the possession of anything valuable unless one has someone to share it with.” –Seneca

Foreword

I am most honoured to be hosting the Jon’s Creator Showcase that features the first posts of 2020 from a variety of superb bloggers. This means I get to kick off the first standard Jon’s Creator Showcase of not just 2020, but of the new decade: Jon himself hosted the first one of the decade, which featured the best posts from participants of the past ten years. Mine won’t be quite so ambitious, being more conventional in featuring only the posts from the past month. With this in mind, it is not lost on me that 2020 is also a leap year, so until 2024, I’ll also have the dubious distinction of being the only Jon’s Creator Showcase to have a February 29 post. As a bit of background, Jon’s Creator Showcase was an initiative that Jon Spencer of Jon Spencer Reviews started back in 2017 with the goal of helping bloggers to connect and share their best content with one another. Participants submit their work via Twitter or in the comments of WordPress, and then the host would go through every submission. Different hosts roll differently: some sort them by category, whereas I sort by submission date (and by avenue of submission). The showcases can feature a shorter blurb about the post, or longer write-ups. At its core, the showcase would not exist without participants, so I would like to thank each and every one of the participants for submitting something. I’ve had the pleasure and joy of having twenty-nine different experiences from the submissions, and this time around, there was exactly one creative work and one video, with the remainder being blog posts. While I’m sure each of the authors and creators had a blast with their work, I assure everyone that it was equally fun to delve into each submission and then bring out the parts that are particularly outstanding. Twenty-nine submissions means that this post is only slightly smaller than the showcase I hosted last time, but in spite of the size of the showcase, I nonetheless wanted to ensure that each and every submission was satisfactorily represented. I would hope that I have succeeded in this regard, and with this preamble largely finished, it’s time for the main event – the submissions from the excellent writers and creators who make Jon’s Creator Showcase possible.

Submissions from Twitter

Emergence (Metamorphosis): Hard Read

Dewbond, @ShallowDivesAni

Kicking off with the first entry of this decade, is Dewbond’s discussion of the H-manga, Emergence (alternatively known as Metamorphosis, or 177013). This manga is quite polarising, either being something to be enjoyed or reviled for its grim narrative and disturbing elements. Having gone through the manga in whole, Dewbond views Emergence as being a gripping story on the perils of self-improvement and its unexpected consequences. Protagonist Saki Yoshida decides to reinvent herself as assertive and confident, but as she deals with her new-found image and the attention it brings, Saki finds herself sliding down a slippery slope into immoral and illegal activities. Emergence thus deals with a very real problem: the often irreversible changes wrought in those who are not fully aware of the consequences of certain decisions and the descent into madness. Despite the strong presence of H-elements, Dewbond feels that Emergence is an unexpectedly profound series that shows the darker side to what fiction can explore: while it should go without saying that Emergence isn’t going to be for everyone, those who have the tenacity (and iron-will) to go through the entire series are going to deal with a work that fundamentally challenges their existing beliefs and broaden their horizons because of its unsettling content and directions.

The distinction of having a H-manga be the first showcase item of 2020 notwithstanding, Dewbond’s experiences with Emergence is something that, in my opinion, should be more appreciated within the anime community. Folks tend to stick with series within their area of interest and may be more adverse to checking out new genres or concepts; in the process, some powerful or meaningful works may be missed. In Emergence, far more than the H-scenes, Dewbond counts the vivid, visceral and painful decay of Saki to be the strongest element; going into metaphoric free-fall is something that, unfortunately, a very real risk in life if one makes poor decisions and does not have the right support to return to a suitable path. A very similar experience was found in School Days, which saw a segment of the blogging community go through one of the most infamous anime of all time to see what lessons could be learnt from Makoto’s missteps, and in my case, stepping out of my comfort zone for Yurikuma Arashi led me to appreciate an anime I’d previously assumed to be demanding an intellect far outstripping my own. In both scenarios, an open mind allowed me (and others) to get more out of the respective series than originally anticipated: Dewbond’s experiences are a reminder of how an open mind goes hand-in-hand with being able to fairly address fiction that lies outside the scope of one’s interests.

Burning Sky Uprising: A Civilian’s Tale

Voyager, @GalvanicTeam

Voyager presents a creative work, Burning Sky Uprising: A Civilian’s Tale, which is a part of a larger series of short fiction. Opening with an exposition of Feroth, the world A Civilian’s Tale is set in, the narrative focuses on the town of Oston in Etrium, a veritable superpower. In Oston, the atmosphere is that of a busy market village with lively folk of all sorts. One day, a merchant finds his cart broken into, but curiously enough, nothing appears to have been stolen. He wanders off and finds himself in front of a derelict chapel. Upon entering, he finds a mysterious girl clutching to a doll, and deduces she went through his cart earlier. Feeling a mixture of pity and fear, he decides to get her some food. When he arrives back in town, he finds a group of knights who are searching for fugitives. The merchant decides to take the girl with him, and after a tense moment involving the knights, he manages to leave town. The girl demonstrates supernatural powers when she seemingly transports them to another location, and in the aftermath, when the girl addresses him, speaking for the first time, he learns that she doesn’t have a proper name. The Merchant decides to name her Braelin, and upon seeing her smile for the first time, feels that there is something right about looking after her.

I’m always fond of creative writing pieces in Jon’s Creator Showcase; different writers bring a different tone and style to their works, and the end result is a glimpse into the author’s mind, especially pertaining to what they consider as important in a story. In Voyager’s A Civilian’s Tale, there is an air of mystery surrounding a merchant’s discovery of an enigmatic girl with strange powers, which eventually ends with him taking her under his wing and looking after her: despite her supernatural capabilities, he feels it is the right thing to do. This short story would not feel out of place in a high fantasy setting as the start of a new adventure, the disruption that sets in motion much larger events. In particular, Voyager’s story excels with its world-building and exposition: this is a challenge that authors, especially for short stories, face. With only a limited space, an author must craft a world that is plausible and appropriate for the story. When done well, it creates in the mind’s eye a very vivid and believable setting, which then leaves the reader to focus on the characters and their discoveries. Of course, there are other instalments in Burning Sky Uprising, and having had a taste of this world, it would be worth reading the other stories, as well.

Chronicling the Otaku Author! (Blogger Recognition Award)

Lynn Sheridan, @TheOtakuAuthor

Blogging awards are always fun posts to write out, and in a manner of speaking, they are not dissimilar to Jon’s Creator Showcase: they give bloggers a chance to explore topics from the heart that may be outside their usual realm. Lynn’s Blogger Recognition Award is one post, and while it might be a blogging award post, there’s also a host of insight into Lynn’s party: Lynn’s journey in writing starts over thirteen years ago, with an unsuccessful submission to a writing competition. However, with an inspiring experience, Lynn would continue to pursue writing as a career, and over the years, Lynn would diversify into writing for an anime blog. At the present day, Lynn runs a shiny new site dedicating to his writing, and while this refresher meant the loss of older content, what’s clear is that Lynn’s expertise as a writer endures. Lynn shares this knowledge with peers, encouraging them to understand what makes blogging something they’d continue pursuing, and to be open to change. Finally, Lynn leaves readers with the suggestion to engage with the community, which is the best way to build up a readership and also become part of a community. Blogging has been around for quite some time, allowing ordinary folks to gather and share their thoughts on a variety of topics, and the suggestions that Lynn imparts on folks who are still relatively new to blogging are immensely valuable; far more than the comment count and traffic, blogging is a stellar way of building community, allowing one to share in their experiences with others and also learn new perspectives from one another.

Every blog I’ve ever read, followed and engaged with has its own story, and quite truthfully, these posts are among the most fun to read. It’s no joke when I say that every blogger should recount and share their history, because everyone’s journey is so different, but meaningful all the same: for new bloggers who are getting into the activity, being able to see these stories, and see how the giants out there also had humble beginnings, is highly inspiring. Folks will probably wonder: will I do the same thing? After all, The Infinite Mirai’s been around the block for some time, and there must be some interesting story to tell, right? The reality is much duller than one may imagine: this blog started because I outgrew an old site I used to have that was hosted by Webs.com. I originally started that site in 2008 to share Sim City 4 tips, got into Gundam 00 and began writing about that, and then moved to WordPress when I began consistently running over Webs.com’s bandwidth limit. I began writing simply because it was something I was not particularly good with, and figured the only way to improve was to practise. My origins are not as interesting or motivating as Lynn’s, and this is a showcase for other blogs, so that’s enough about me. On Lynn’s advice, I can definitely vouch for its efficacy: when I began my party, I was primarily focused on writing, and accumulated readers naturally. Through interactions with a small number of readers, I began opening up and reaching out more to fellow bloggers: this is where the real fun is, and while my own blog likely would’ve faded away had I purely been interested in traffic, having a community to share content with has kept my engagement and excitement high.

Why We Need To Stop Comparing Rahxephon Characters To Eva

iniksbane, @Cameron_Probert

Cameron of In Search of Number Nine submits a post about the lack of necessity in comparing RahXephon and Evangelion; Cameron notes that many viewers seem to think that the former’s characters are a carbon copy of those in the latter, a series that has been counted as iconic in the realm of anime. However, this isn’t the case: all of the characters in RahXephon have nuances that separate them from the characters of Evangelion. For instance, in the comparison between Megumi and Asuka, the former is driven by a desire to find her own identity, while Asuka’s need for validation stems from a past of having no mother figure in her life. In providing a few key examples of the characters’ differences, Cameron notes that abstracting out the characters of RahXephon diminishes one’s experience of the series, and removes much of the distinction that make each series uniquely enjoyable. To simplify RahXephon‘s characters as a knock-off of Evangelion is to eliminate a more interesting discussion, and Cameron suggests that taking a more open-minded approach, appreciating each series for what it offers, rather than focusing on the similarities it may have with other series, is key to understanding and enjoying it.

The issue that Cameron raises in his case study of RahXephon and Evangelion is much more extensive, and relevant to numerous other genres. By abstracting out characters in one series as being carbon copies of characters in a different series based on their superficial traits, one is essentially dismissing an entire work on the assumption that traits in a character purely define the themes within that series. The end result is an unfair dismissal of what could be an excellent series that utilises its characters effectively to convey a completely different idea than the series whose characters a given show’s cast resembles. A glaring example that immediately comes to mind is K-On!. In the years after K-On!‘s airing, and in response to the runaway success K-On! had, well-known anime bloggers were quick to count any air-headed, ditzy female character as an imitation of K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa. For these individuals, given that K-On! had not been enjoyable to them, any series featuring a similar protagonist must therefore also share the same messages and traits as K-On!. Thus, when Sora no Woto aired, discussions fixated on how Sora no Woto failed to capture the horror and desolation of warfare simply because Kanata was practically Yui. Of course, Sora no Woto and K-On!‘s central themes are completely different, and as Cameron discusses, it is disingenuous to draw such shallow comparisons across different series; to enjoy a work, one must be willing to look past the superficialities, the tropes, and discuss a work with a much more purposeful approach.

School-Live! / Gakkou Gurashi! Review

Yomu, @UmaiYomu

Gakkou Gurashi, or School Live (I must constantly remind myself it’s pronounced “skuːl lɪv” and not “skuːl laɪv”) is the core of Yomu’s review. Yomu immediately draws the comparison between School Live and Puella Magi Madoka Magica: both anime are characterised by a dramatic disconnect between the visual style and the setting the characters are in. In School Live, the reality and what Yuki sees is completely different, creating a sense of unease for the viewer. This unease drives the story forward, compelling the viewer to continue watching; because of the series’ unique environment, viewers are simultaneously motivated to see what Yuki and her friends do, while at the same time, also enjoy the quieter moments that everyone spends together. Overall, owing to the unique setup in School Live, Yomu found the series to be superbly enjoyable, offering a different experience than more conventional series, and feels that it would be tricky to find another anime that strikes such a masterful balance between two fundamentally different atmospheres. It becomes easy to recommend this series, and reading through Yomu’s submission, it turns out my thoughts on School Live are appropriate, shared by others in the community. Unlike Yomu, however, my own discussion on School Live lacks the same precision and finess: Yomu is able to succintly capture what about School Live that makes it worth watching without giving away any of the story away, whereas in my review, a blunt instrument by comparison, I will inevitably end up spoiling the entire series for readers.

The last time I watched School Live was towards the end of my days as a graduate student, and I ended up writing a lengthy post on how the series’ psychological elements would particularly stand-out, as well as how Yuki, Kurumi, Yūri and Miki employed Les Stroud’s survival techniques well to get through what one can only imagine to be an immensely difficult time. The first episode hit me very hard: I was watching it during lunch on campus in my office, and when I finished, I thought I was hallucinating, seeing ghosts. It turns out that my supervisor had walked in and back out. I attributed it to exhaustion, since I had been working on two simultaneous publications on top of my thesis paper and had been gearing up to grade the last assignments for the term. However, to read Yomu’s account, it is not so far-fetched that the superior execution of School Live, especially the first episode, would have had a profound impact on my psyche after I’d finished. At this point in time, I imagine that most folks would have seen School Live, although for those who’ve yet to see the anime, I would handily recommend Yomu’s spoiler-free review to motivate interest in the series.

My Opinion, Your Opinion – Why Perspective Matters

Tiger, @TigerAnime2

Owing to the relative ease in which one could spin up a blog or sign up for a forum account, there is no shortage of opinions on most anything on the internet. Differences in opinion online have historically instigated what came to be known as flame wars, and this is something that is quite unnecessary: Tiger finds that because everyone has their own experiences and background, everyone correspondingly experiences something differently, and this is not only natural, but completely okay, as well. With the boilerplate out of the way, Tiger explores, in a satire format, several different kinds of perspectives arising from differences: the layman (ordinary viewers who gravitate towards things they like), the emotionally attached (empathetic viewers who try to understand what characters experience), the overexcited (folks with high expectations that end up disappointed), the influenced (people who gauge the quality of something based on popular or authoritative opinion), the mood swings (no one knows what they genuinely believe in), the virtuous (those with a political agenda who act as moral guardians and will tell people not to watch anything that covers contentious topics) and my personal favourite, the critic (people like me, who love showing off how bloody smart they are). While intended to be fun, Tiger also aims to make the point that there are a lot of opinions out there because everyone approaches something differently: except for the most obvious of cases where one is intending to cause trouble within a community, opinions are to be respected.

Broadly speaking, opinions offer insight into an individual’s own experiences and background. This is why reading blogs and following activities like AniTwitWatches is so enjoyable: whereas we can only really experience the world from the perspective our consciousness is limited to for the most part, being able to read someone’s thoughts on something lets one to understand how one approaches something, itself a consequence of their experiences and background. The end result is that one is then able to appreciate details and thoughts that might not have otherwise crossed one’s mind. While I’m fairly open-minded, there are also approaches in Tiger’s list that I find to be less-than-favourable: in particular, I have issue with what Tiger counts as the virtuous. These folks usually write with the intent of not informing, but using moral grounds as reasons for why one should not even be watching something, much less enjoying it. Certain anime news sites are particularly guilty of this, and as a consequence, I make it a point for readers to, when encountering things like that, to never be the readers who are swayed by the opinions of others. At the end of the day, different opinions (save those of virtue signallers) aren’t just to be tolerated, they should be encouraged and embraced: this is what drives the sense of community.

5 Anime That Will Teach You Significant Life Messages

Keni, @Keni2727

Keni’s submission for Jon’s Creator Showcase are five anime that have a valuable life lesson as a core part of their themes. For Keni, five shows stand out in particular. The list opens with Welcome to the NHK, which follows shut-ins known as hikikomori: Tatsuhiro Satō is a university dropout with no prospects and is convinced his circumstance was a result of society’s desire to create scapegoats. However, a chance encounter with Misaki Nakahara forces Tatsuhiro to step out of his comfort zone, and in doing so, finds a new outlook on life. Next up is CLANNAD ~After Story~, a veritable masterpiece of a story that follows Tomoya’s route to becoming a father and the challenges he faces even after graduating high school and marrying Nagisa Furukawa. Despite the tough hand life deals him, Tomoya does his best to do right by Ushio, his daughter, and despite the constant setbacks, Tomoya ends up coming to terms with his own relationship with his father. Psycho-Pass is another famous anime with the idea that not all laws necessarily are what’s right. When Akane Tsunemori joins the Public Safety Bureau, she soon discovers her own perceptions of right and wrong differ greatly from the system that she was told to be infallible. One Punch Man follows: Saitama is an incredibly dedicated fighter whose appearance belies the ability to overcome all foes with a single punch. Deciding to do good with his power, Saitama encounters other heroes who are much more vocal and outspoken than himself. Despite this, Saitama continues being himself, beating down bad guys and striving to make it just in time for the next sale: Keni suggests that One Punch Man is about the power of the humble, reserved hero who cares for his duties more than any personal gain. Finally, Watamote rounds out the list: protagonist Tomoko Kuroki is a dead-eyed, unkempt and eccentric individual who seeks popularity and acceptance amongst her peers. Despite seeing repeated failures, Tomoko continues in her attempts to befriend more people who can accept her unusual traits, speaking to the worth of persistence.

In general, as Keni concludes, anime is an incredible medium precisely because of the variety in themes and stories that has something for most everyone, from those seeking a moody, philosophical journey to those looking for something fun to pass the time. Fiction is a very powerful tool for inspiration and motivation: owing to the size and scale of the entertainment industry, it is very clear that people are always seeking for ways to temporarily escape their troubles, to see stories of endurance, resilience and persistence where hard work is met with reward, and anime that succeed in providing these messages are remembered as being giants. Of the shows in Keni’s list, I have heard of all of the series: they are famous for having strong stories in their own manner, and correspondingly yield much discussions, as everyone relates to them differently. For me, CLANNAD ~After Story~ stands out the most on this list: it is my favourite anime of all time, and I would even argue that ~After Story~ is more than a story of resilience. It is a tale of discovery, open-mindedness, understanding and compassion, combining every theme from the other titles on Keni’s list into one work that speaks to the best and worst facets of human nature. The reason why ~After Story~ is so moving is owing to the fact that it had the adequate length to build out the characters and their experiences: each arc in the series has its own message, and the collective sum of all the themes in CLANNAD is to suggest that family itself is a miracle that cannot be taken for granted, and what constitutes a family is multi-dimensional and varied. As Tomoya rediscovers this, he is able to right the wrongs he had wrought and ultimately is able to be the best husband and father that he can be for those most important to him. Of course, the other titles on Keni’s list also have their merits, and it is a difficult schedule (and skewed priorities) that resulted in my not having seen the others. With Keni’s submission, perhaps the time is appropriate to rectify my not having seen the other series for myself.

Review: No Game No Life Episode 2: A Harsh Lesson And A New Goal

The Crow, @CrowsAnimeWorld

Terrance Crow of Crow’s Anime World presents the second episode of No Game No Life, highlighting three stand-out moments. No Game No Life was originally a light novel, following step-siblings Sora and Shiro, who are hikikomori siblings with a profound knowledge of gaming to match Pure Pwnage‘s teh_pwnerer. When they accept a challenge from a being from another dimension and win, they are whisked away to a new world based around games. By the events of the second episode, they square off against one Stephanie Dola to settle a score. Terrance’s first notable moment in the second episode follows the characterisations of Sora and Shiro to show how emotionally dependent on one another these two step-siblings are. While presented in a comedic fashion, the implications are also a lot more severe. No Game No Life also excels at transitions, which motivates Terrance’s second choice; Stephanie is able to understand the two siblings better after seeing them together. The final moment comes from a culmination of the two’s talents: Shiro is able to quickly grasp the language of tomes that Stephanie had been unable to previously reference, and she begins to see hope. Altogether, the second episode’s contribution to No Game No Life is, for Terrance, a well-written relationship between two siblings that does not venture into the realm of taboo. Both siblings complement the other naturally, and that it’s subtle details like this that make things worthwhile.

If memory serves, Terrance had also submitted an episodic review of one of Fire Force’s episode for the last Jon’s Creator Showcase, and as before, I am impressed with how Terrance is able to consistently maintain a structured, clear episodic post that explains what each episode’s contribution in the context of a show without requiring an excessively long post. Communication that is simultaneously effective and concise is a skill, one which I lack, and reading through Terrance’s second episode talk for No Game No Life, I suddenly wonder to myself: is No Game No Life an anime that I would find enjoyable? When it aired, it garnered a great deal of discussion, and Sora and Shiro are supposed to be intellects held in even higher esteem than the likes of Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne, Reed Richards and other giants, resulting in an story with curious twists that keep viewers engaged. Terrance’s post has certainly presented a case for me to check out No Game No Life: intellectual duels amongst the characters notwithstanding, it’s clear that there is a substantial character piece as well which makes the series worth watching. This is the power of an effective episodic review.

My Anime Opinions Change Nothing

K, @K_at_the_movies (On behalf of Irina, Drunken Anime Blog)

While this submission is from K At The Movies, it is a nomination for a post from Irina’s Drunken Anime Blog, which deals with differing, even conflicting opinions. With the prevalence of online communications, that which dehumanises participants into an avatar and words, the setting is set for degenerate, counter-productive discussions. Irina discusses how it can be disheartening to see even peers with differing opinions on a series, but there is a silver lining: at the end of the day, all discussions everywhere are subjective, driven by personal preference, experience and emotion. Hence, opinions alone don’t, and shouldn’t impact what one makes of a series. For instance, Irina is fond of shows that may leave other bloggers unexcited, and she similarly enjoys writing about shows in her own manner on the virtue that her opinions are similarly subjective, something that readers can simply take in. This is the joy of hosting a blog, to have a small corner on the internet where one can be expressive and seek fun above all else. While Irina wonders if she’s adequately expressed her thoughts, the fact that I am drawing a distinct conclusion, and the fact that K of K At The Movies nominated her post, should be sufficient an indicator that Irina’s post is well-written and espouses a perspective that more of us, myself included, ought to practise in greater frequency.

As Irina writes, the whole point of having a blog is precisely to be able to have one’s own space of expressing oneself. Unlike Reddit, Twitter and forums, which end up being seas of noise where good discussions are drowned out by vociferous, but unlearned individuals with an agenda, blogs provide a quiet, organised environment to gather one’s thoughts. This environment tends to yield meaningful discussions, and where there is acceptance for contrary opinions to co-exist. As I’ve found, and commonly remind readers, what a blogger says in not infallible, and some of the best discussion results from having readers challenge one’s opinion (in a polite and respectful manner), which opens up a new outlook. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say that one’s opinion changes nothing, though; being able to see different opinions in a civilised environment is what drives learning. Ultimately, I hold that opinions are useful when they offer a modicum of insight into the holder’s mind: everyone has their own stories, and it is especially enjoyable to understand how different minds piece things together to reach a conclusion. Conversely, my tolerance for some forms of expression, such as internet memes and sarcasm, is nil: if one intends to be heard, then one must put in an honest effort towards making themselves clear. A Tweet or sarcastic forum post on TV Tropes merits no consideration, but a well-written blog post will certainly earn respect.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack – A Tasteful End to a Dirty Saga!

Scott, @MechAnimeReview

Scott presents a talk on Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack, one of the most beloved and enjoyable instalments to the Universal Century. By the events of Char’s Counterattack, the fighting between the Earth Sphere Federation and Zeon has reached a point where Char Aznable, a notable figure within Zeon, has grown weary of conflict and the unending sense that humanity will never accept change. Feeling that extraordinary measures are necessary, Char’s begun dumping asteroids onto the planet in order to create a permanent nuclear winter that will force all of humanity to migrate into space. Standing in the opposite corner is Amuro Ray. With years of piloting experience under his belt, and having matured from having seen his share of warfare, Amuro fights for justice and peace. During its run-time, Char’s Counterattack explores the evolving dynamic between the iconic Char-Amuro rivalry, as well as what drives each to fight and how differently the two go about achieving their goals. Beyond this are the tragedies of the secondary characters, which evoke a sense of sadness and brings about the question of who the real victims are. Between the interesting characters, attention paid to details and animation that is both fluid and amongst the best of its era, Scott finds Char’s Counterattack to be a highly enjoyable movie that is still worth watching. Even though Scott has seen Char’s Counterattacks several times now, there always is something new to look at and consider.

If memory serves, I watched Char’s Counterattack directly as a result of growing impatient and restless with the incredible gap between Gundam Unicorn’s sixth and seventh episodes: it was the last year of my undergraduate degree, I had just defended my honours thesis and was quite bored. One of my friends had persuaded me to give Char’s Counterattack a go, and with minutes of starting, I knew I was watching something amazing. As Scott says, the main strength of Char’s Counterattack is how the film is able to balance so much without causing the viewers to get lost: all of the characters feel life-like in their actions and decisions, shaped by their experiences, and their interactions with one another speak volumes about who they are as people. From the unerring respect for Amuro’s determination to do right by humanity, to a reluctant acceptance of Char’s beliefs as being a plausible outcome of his experiences, and the annoyance with Hathaway’s actions, Char’s Counterattack proves itself to be a multi-layered, intricate story that speaks to the complexity of humanity as a whole. With Scott wrapping up his talk on the recommendation that folks check out Char’s Counterattack, I second this – Char’s Counterattack is poignant, engaging and a stunning film to watch, and despite its age, there seems no shortage of discussions surrounding the themes presented within the movie. The same friend who convinced me to check out Char’s Counterattack was most pleased to learn I’d seen the movie, since he now had someone to discuss the film’s messages and mobile suits with. It speaks volumes to the film’s excellent writing that even now, seven years since I’d watched the movie, we still find relevance in Char’s Counterattack.

20th Century Boys: Perfect Edition Vol 1 Review

Al Pal, @AlyssaTwriter

Al Pal of Al’s Manga Blog brings to the table a review of 20th Century Boys‘ first volume; curious to see the manga behind the praise, Alyssa was intrigued and decided to give the manga a whirl. The manga features one Kenji Endō as the central protagonist. As a child, he and several of his friends imagined themselves to act as the saviours of the world. However, as adults, life has become rather more mundane: Kenji has become the owner of a convenience shop. However, when an entire family disappears, and one of his friends dies from what appears to be a suicide, Kenji stumbles upon a sinister plot to destroy the world, and moreover, his old childhood memories may prove to be an invaluable asset towards stopping Armageddon. Alyssa initially found 20th Century Boys to be a dense read: the combination of multiple perspectives and time frames made the story difficult to follow, and the characters seemed unlikeable, difficult to root for. However, by the halfway point, Alyssa experienced a shift: as the characters reminisce, Alyssa appreciated that regardless of one’s childhood, recalling the mistakes one’s made as a child and feeling shame for them is something that people universally relate to: people become who they are from the sum of their experiences, especially through embarrassing mistakes. The midway mark of 20th Century Boys also sees the introduction of female characters, which add balance to the story. As 20th Century Boys‘ story progressed, Alyssa found the mange to become more and more compelling, giving it a recommendation for readers.

I’m not sure if readers would believe me if I said that as a child, I was a right little asshole – I was getting into trouble with instructors for not paying attention in class, going out of bounds and all sorts of random misadventures. Eventually, when I turned eight, one of my primary instructors wondered if there was anything out of the ordinary about me and ordered an intelligence screening exam. I recall being pulled out of class to take it, not giving the exam my full attention, and then got back results that were inconclusive. The moral of this story is that I’m as ordinary as can be, but my childhood self and the crazy trouble I got into has largely shaped who I am today: taciturn and reserved. Alyssa’s presentation of 20th Century Boys‘ first volume gives purpose to the story’s opening, which succeeded in drawing the reader’s interest precisely because it presents an unexpectedly vivid and plausible way of viewing one’s childhood. This is one of the joys of doing episodic and volume-based reviews: it allows one to really focus on and explore what each individual instalment’s contributions to a whole is. Through Alyssa’s post, 20th Century Boys is presented as an intriguing manga to check out, and I’m rather curious to see what Alyssa makes of the rest of the series (especially with regard to how the exposition makes way into the rising action as things progress).

Newcomer Series Post #1: Fire Emblem Three Houses

nabe-chan, @geeknabe

Geek Nabe submits a post by one of their authors, Mari-chan, who presents a talk on the Nintendo Switch game, Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Mari’s journey into Fire Emblem begins on the easy difficulty – this turn-based game turned out to be much more engaging than originally anticipated, especially through its narrative. As Mari progressed through Fire Emblem and adopted the max-min style of playing, enjoyment began to dwindle. Fortunately, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is more than just a max-min game, and there are plenty of things to focus on, such as the visuals, world-building aspects and excellent voice acting. By taking things more slowly and deliberately, enjoyment returns: as it turns out, Fire Emblem: Three Houses offers players the freedom to do as they please and still affords them progression without diminishing the experience. As Mari’s entry into the world of Fire Emblem, Fire Emblem: Three Houses was a solid choice. While some aspects of the story are inconsistent, and the UI is not optimal, the game overall is a solid experience, and Mari has no trouble recommending this game: besides mechanical and narrative excellence, there is also the not-so-subtle bonus of replayability, and at the time of writing, Mari has spent more than 120 hours into the game: the fun’s just getting started.

I’ll admit that when Fire Emblem is brought up, I am about as lost as an iOS developer attending a lecture on the latest annals of modelling deformation concrete structure deformation using finite element analysis: when I first received nabe-chan’s submission, I thought I was going to be writing about a game incarnation of Fire Force. This is certainly not the case, and having read through Mari-chan’s post, I am happy to see Mari found the enjoyment in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I am similarly guilty of playing for optimisations and meta, as well as for blasting through stories and skipping all cutscenes: this is a consequence of me enjoying being given orders rather than working out my own objectives, and as such, I am not as good about open-world games than I am with first-person shooters. Even then, an open mind is an essential towards having fun, and Mari-chan is absolutely right when mentioning an improved experience after taking it easy. Speaking from the perspective of someone with a modicum of familiarity with figuring out how to have fun, I find that the best way to enjoy something is really to explore as much of it as possible, and worry less about winning and losing. This is the true joy of a good game: it immerses people in another world and for the time one is playing, all of the troubles and woes of reality are temporarily set aside, allowing one a chance to regroup, and then return to their challenges with a renewed determination and fresh perspective.

Anime Can (and Can’t) Successfully Talk About Big Ideas™️

The Backloggers, @the_backloggers

Whether or not anime can cover more serious topics is the subject of no small debate: this is the topic of General Tofu’s discussion at The Backloggers. In particular, General Tofu focuses on two shows, Stars Align and The Case Files of Jeweller Richard, which venture into the realm of facilitating discussions surrounding current social trends. In Stars Align, the story follows one Maki and his experiences on the tennis team. Dealing with topics as varied as abuse, helicopter parenting and unrealistic expectations, Stars Align also touches on gender identity and the challenges facing those who are LGBTQ; in Stars Align, the boys who come into the tennis team find a place to find acceptance, supporting one another as friends. The Case Files of Jeweller Richard is the other example General Tofu brings to the plate: this anime follows Richard, an expert in the appraisal of precious stones, and Richard’s credos is total acceptance and openness towards all people, independent of nationality, identity, religion and sexual orientation. In his job, Richard encounters people of all backgrounds, and whenever one of his assignments leads him to see something against his credos, he is quick help others accept these difference. Richard’s assistant, Seigi, assistant makes a derogatory remark about Middle Eastern clothing, and Richard reprimands him: Seigi accepts the learnings and strives to be more open towards other cultures. The Case Files of Jeweller Richard and Stars Align are instances where contemporary social issues are finely interwoven into their respective stories to augment the series’ messages and themes. However, not all series that set out to present a specific view on social issues succeed: Babylon is one example where attempts to discuss politics comes up short because of inconsistencies presented in the arguments within the series, and where fallacies are so common that General Tofu cannot help but wonder if the show was in fact, a parody of some kind. Overall, General Tofu finds that in the context of anime, relevant social issues can be addressed in a satisfactory manner through the events that occur within the series provided that the series are well-written.

With a submission from The Backloggers, I first remark that their name embodies my modus operandi: maybe I ought to re-brand myself as “Infinity Backlog” or something similar owing to how much I procrastinate. Jokes aside, this submission from The Backloggers is a valuable and insightful example of how anime can be used to present contemporary topics and say something meaningful about things like acceptance and diversity. In particular, the examples that General Tofu bring up in Stars Align and The Case Files of Jeweller Richard are done in a very seamless, elegant manner that does not come across as preachy or disruptive (irrespective of a series’ messages, if they aggressively shoehorn an agenda in that is tangential to the story, this would not make for a good story): they are integral to the story. With shifts in current social trends, there is only going to be more advocacy for diversity and acceptance, so it stands to reason that these themes will become increasingly common, and when done well, it can create anime that has considerable impact and meaning for its viewers. I’ve long been a proponent of diversity and acceptance, having grown up in a multi-cultural nation that embraces celebrating the things that both make people unique, and the things that unify us, so these are topics that I’ve often taken for granted. As such, it is a bit striking that intolerance and hatred remain such a problem in the world: intolerance and hatred stem from anger, anger from fear, and fear from a lack of understanding. It therefore stands to reason that making an honest attempt to understand other cultures, sexual orientations, religions and other creeds is the first step towards lessening the hate in the world: through anime, viewers can be given a modicum of insight into other ways of thinking from a new perspective, so series like The Case Files of Jeweller Richard and Stars Align become especially valuable for helping set down a precedence towards understanding, and acceptance.

Visions of a Brighter Future [OWLS Jan. ’20 Blog Tour]

Bungou Stray -Doge-, @MagicConan14

As a brief refresher, the OWLS programme (Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect) is an initiative to support and promote acceptance of people from all walks of life, and to this end, showcase blog posts that deal with various real world topics. In many ways, OWLS is similar to Jon’s Creator Showcase. For the month of January, the OWLS topic was “visions of a brighter future”, and Aria of The Animanga Spellbook rose to the challenge with a talk on Dr. Stone, a series about a Senku Ishigami, who is revived into a world thirty-seven hundred years into the future after humanity was petrified in a mysterious phenomenon. As he brings his friends and classmates back to life, he works to rebuild civilisation, while simultaneously working to prevent others who seek to prevent the world from being restored. The themes of Dr. Stone definitely serve to present one vision of how people can build a better future together, and while things like the scientific method and contemporary technology are still inadequate in many areas, persistence and a drive to improve them, as Senku does with his rediscovery of critical technologies and sciences in an effort to restore civilisation. Aria leaves readers on the message that while advances are being made, perspective is also immeasurably valuable for the present: there remain problems that humanity simply has no answers for, but by taking a new perspective on things, one can still work out a solution that is a satisfactory solution for the time being until a more effective answer can be designed.

With this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase featuring the first posts for the new decade, it is especially encouraging and inspiring to see people consider what a better future might look like. Regardless of what one’s vision of how a brighter future might look, there are commonalities shared in all of these visions: people must work together to accomplish their goals. Just as Senku counts on help from his friends despite being a genius, humanity as a whole has made its greatest achievements through collaborative and coordinated effort. Dr. Stone thus is, as Aria has found, ideally suited to act as an anime that can kick off the New Year; despite 2020 being off to a decidedly rough start in things like the COVID-2019 outbreak and the shoot-down of Iran Air Flight 655, we are only scratching the surface of the new decade. Maintaining positivity and finding ways to make things work has been a hallmark of humanity’s incredible will to survive and improve, so I would further add that Aria’s OWLS post, in mentioning a personal resolution to be more positive, is something that applies to all of us as well. Being able to see a brighter future, and having the courage, plus tenacity to work towards this future, is what the world is asking of us, and I am confident that we will rise to the occasion and leave the 2020s stronger than we came in.

Fune wo Amu, Bakuman of Making dictionaries

Tanteikid94, @tanteikid94

When Tanteikid94 first read the premise to Fune o Amu, the premise seemed quite unremarkable: Fune o Amu follows the publication of a new dictionary. Mitsuya Majime is transferred into the Dictionary Editorial Department to assist with the editing owing to his skills, and this dictionary is supposed to help people express themselves better. Tanteikid94 initially expresses scepticism: at best, dictionaries are common reference tools and cannot be said to be exciting. At worst, a dictionary that acts as a guide on life would imply the series was going in a more pretentious direction. However, such was not the case: Fune o Amu successfully takes this concept and transforms it into a compelling journey worth following, as it shows the day-to-day experiences that Mitsuya has while working on this project. The ordinary is celebrated, and in conjunction with a distinct art style and soundtrack, Fune o Amu excels at bringing out a very life-like feel to the story through a combination of sight and sound. Beyond this, Fune o Amu also capitalises on its premise to present dictionary-themed trivia and words for users to help them appreciate what Mitsuya and the others are building. Being a very pleasant surprise, Fune o Amu is something that Tanteikid94 has no trouble recommending for interested viewers.

It typifies fiction, especially anime, to explore topics that are so mundane and otherwise common that they are not otherwise given a second thought, to be taken for granted. In Fune o Amu, the topic of dictionaries form the core of the series. Dictionaries have long existed as references for defining words; from a functional perspective, they are valuable assets in helping one understand the meanings behind words, but they’re hardly something one typically reads in their spare time (there are exceptions, and as a child, I did in fact read dictionaries for my own amusement, but that’s neither here nor there). However, dictionaries as a topic of fiction does initially sound poorly-suited for a full anime series: perhaps unsurprisingly, writers will find ways to make dictionary-writing an interesting and worthwhile topic. Tanteikid94 was impressed with Fune o Amu precisely for being able to bring this to life, and after reading about the series, it does strike me that a dictionary, in being able to put our meanings and interpretations of words to paper, can act as a bit of a guide to life.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Die Neue These: 19 & 20

Jusuchin, @RightWingOtaku

Jusuchin is a regular of the Jon’s Creator Showcase, and runs a blog I’m no stranger to. For his submission, Jusuchin presents an episodic talk on the nineteenth and twentieth episodes of Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These. Die Neue These is a new adaptation of Legend of The Galactic Heroes, a story following a long and bloody war between the Galactic Empire and Free Planets Alliance. During the course of this war, two heroes, one for each side, arises. For the expansive universe, detailed characterisation and themes of warfare, Legend of the Galactic Heroes is counted as being enjoyable and thought provoking. Jusuchin drops readers into the heart of the second season: with a detailed summary of the two episodes, this stage of Die Neue These sees both sides entangled in war even as the Empire struggles with a civil war of its own. Jusuchin finds this anime’s choice of presentation for one of the character’s decisions quite different than the equivalent scenes in the OVA; overall, Jusuchin holds that for the most part, Die Neue These to generally be solid for taking the time to carefully flesh out important moments and justify their significance, this point is perhaps not as well done as it could be: Die Neue These was intended as a re-imaginging of a series intended for a niche audience but has quite a bit of history behind it, and shifting trends in the market has resulted in changes to character decisions and motivations, for better or worse.

Episodic reviews are always the trickiest to write for, as they require the blogger to get creative in how they approach each episode and consider both the worth (or lack thereof) in specific events within that episode, as well as the episode’s contributions to the series as a whole. The latter can be especially difficult if one is writing for a series as it is airing, and as such, it is always exciting to see how different bloggers go about finding their own styles to effectively write about series in an episodic fashion. On one end of the spectrum, bloggers like Terrance of Crow’s Anime World have perfected the art of succinctly summarising an episode’s contributions to a series’ narrative using a clean and concise style, and at the opposite end of things are people like Jusuchin and myself, who enjoy picking apart the little details and then relating them to both our own experiences and then, depending on whether or not a series has ended or not, use these details and thoughts to either speculate on what is likely to happen next or go over whether or not an observation is helpful to the series or no. Both concise and lengthy episodic posts have their respective merits and challenges: shorter posts act as a quick summary to help me gain my bearings in a show, while longer posts end up with a bit more of a personal touch that gives me a glimpse into the minds of how others break down the series they watch. Having read through Jusuchin’s summary of Die Neue These‘s nineteenth and twentieth episodes, I do find myself wondering if the series’ latest adaptation is worth checking out; I’ve heard many things about Legend of the Galactic Heroes as a whole, although the length of the original series means that I’d be hard-pressed to check it out. By comparison, Die Neue These is a more manageable twenty-four episodes over two seasons.

Fairy Tail: First Impressions (Macao Arc Review)

Nana Marfo, @Nana__Marfo

Nana Marfo returns to the world of anime blogging with a talk on Fairy Tale, a well-known and long-running series originating from a 2006 manga. Set in a world where wizards take up various quests to earn their keep, the story follows the dragon slayer Natsu Draneel. He meets one Lucy Heartfilia on his journey, and she agrees to join Natsu’s guild, the Fairy Tale. Over time, Natsu and Lucy’s guild expands to include Happy, Gray Fullbuster, Erza Scarlet, Wendy Marvell and Carla. The guild thus sets out on various adventures, helping to take down criminals, illegal guilds and daemons. The anime began running in 2009, and is up to its ninth season at the time of writing, with three hundred and twenty eight episodes altogether. Nana Marfo’s post kicks off with an overview of highlights from the first and episodes, where Natsu and Lucy encounter one another for the first time, before dealing with the idea that every character in Fairy Tale as their own stories. Right out of the gates, Fairy Tale‘s unique world is vividly presented through the art and animation, and the series is off to a very strong start. Marking the beginning of a journey spanning a decade (and one that is ongoing), Nana Marfo finds the first two episodes set an excellent tone for Fairy Tale; the series is one that viewers feel compelled to continue owing to how intricate and detailed their world is, and with north of three hundred and twenty eight episodes, Nana Marfo will certainly have quite a bit to experience and write about.

Long-running anime series are very well-known through the community, and I hold Nana Marfo as being very dedicated for having made the decision to start the journey into what I’m sure to be a long, but meaningful watch of Fairy Tale. For me, long-running series are those I tend to avoid, not for any narrative or technical reasons, but simply because I know that I won’t be able to finish them. Shows like Dragonball, Bleach, Naruto and One Piece, all iconic anime, are similarly those that I actively choose not to watch on the virtue there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything in. While I’ve never seen series like these for myself, the fact that such anime have had enormous success indicates that they are definitely doing something correctly, if they are able to inspire such an extent of loyalty from their viewers. A part of the reason why long-running anime are successful is from their length: with plenty of episodes and material to explore different facets of a character, viewers will become very familiar with the characters and their traits, to the point where the characters themselves may appear life-like, whose triumphs are celebrated as joyfully as those seen by one’s real-world friends and family, and where the losses are equally as difficult to handle. These are the series with their own merits, and Nana Marfo will almost certainly see a helluva journey in going through Fairy Tale. As for me, my lack of commitment (and time) means that for the foreseeable future, I am going to stick to anime that are considerably shorter.

Yosuga no Sora: In solitude, where we are least alone: The Kazuha Arc

Dewbond, @ShallowDivesAni

Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime is writing about Yosuga no Sora, an anime that was quite infamous for its content, and owing to its material, was never really given proper discussion. For those who are (fortunate enough to be) unfamiliar with Yosuga no Sora, it’s an anime that follows Haruka and Sora Kasugano, siblings who’d lost their parents in an accident and are sent into a remote corner of rural Japan to pick up their shattered lives. Dewbond describes the decision as one gives Yosuga no Sora a gentle and innocent feeling, and coupled with a soundtrack that is integral to the experience, it becomes clear that Yosuga no Sora is no ordinary series. The anime is unique in that it’s delineated clearly into four arcs: the first focuses on Haruka’s growing closeness to Kazuha Migiwa, who comes from a wealthy background. Owing to her worries about leaving her adopted sister behind while pursuing a relationship with Haruka, Kazuha initially hesitates because it would take away from her time with Akira. With Haruka’s help, Kazuha discovers that her family loves and respects Akira, and that Akira can more than manage, leaving free to follow her heart. For Dewbond, Yosuga no Sora‘s greatest strength is that, despite the incredible time constraints (no more than two to three episodes per arc), the series manages to nonetheless tell a very captivating and convincing story: by making visceral use of intimate imagery, Yosuga no Sora wastes no time in setting things up and hitting viewers with a powerful message in each arc.

I’ve been closely following Dewbond’s journey though Yosuga no Sora, even if I’ve been a little too busy to be swinging by his blog and providing my own thoughts on things. I would have greatly loved to showcase Dewbond’s write-up for the Nao arc; she had the most emotionally riveting story, and for reasons that I cannot quite put my finger on, Nao is also my favourite of the characters in Yosuga no Sora. However, the advantage of being presented with a first arc post to showcase means that I’m able to see Dewbond’s thoughts on the setting and music. Both are integral aspects to Yosuga no Sora, and in particular, the setting is absolutely critical to the series’ emotional impact. Beyond liberating Haruka and Sora from the scrutiny of prying eyes, the countryside acts to isolate the two. The vast blue skies and open plains leading to distant forests and faraway mountain creates an incredible sense of isolation, of solitude: freedom itself becomes an inescapable prison, and this forces Haruka and his partner in a given arc to turn to one another. The same effect could not have been accomplished in any other way, and so, I’ve previously argued that the setting itself is what lends Yosuga no Sora such a powerful impact. While I’ve only showcased one of Dewbond’s posts here, Dewbond has done reflections on Akira, Nao and Sora’s arcs in full, as well.

Symphogear GX lowering K2

Anime Science 101, @Animescience101

Christopher Meharg is a science instructor at the middle and secondary levels with eight years of experience, and his blog is born from an interesting story: when the topic of Mendelian genetics (if alleles, genotypes, phenotypes and Gregor Mendel’s peas don’t ring a bell, hit me up and I’ll give a succinct overview of that) was the lesson for his students, his students wondered if pink hair was possible, and whether or not it was possible to artificially select for desirable traits in people. Christopher quickly saw the connection to Gundam SEED, returned the question to the students to confirm, and then realised here was a ready-made way to engage students. In this submission, Christopher writes about an operation in the anime Symphogear GX, where the protagonists are forced to demolish the summit of K2, the world’s second tallest mountain, in order to accommodate a crash-landing. With some rudimentary calculations, the girls of Symphogear must output around 12.2 MT in order to clear 150m off the summit. While no mean feat, the numbers are not ludicrous: the Super MACs of Halo can accelerate 3000 ton Ferric-tungsten slugs to 4 percent the speed of light that impact with more than 40 GT of TNT, and in both Marvel and DC, some of the stronger heroes can level planets on their own.

I’ve long found enjoyment in reading posts where folks aim to quantify feats in fiction, and my favourite ones are usually those from Star Wars (deal with the Death Star’s outputs) or various comic book universes, where numbers are brought into discussion, in places like Space Battles or Comic Vine, that put into perspective just how outlandish and wild fiction can become. Christopher’s Anime Science 101 is a dedicated repository of the anime equivalent, covering a variety of calculations and other phenomenon in a much more detailed manner than I do: folks familiar with my style will know that I occasionally indulge in some number crunching or literature review to comment on something in an anime, and the fact is that there are many topics that can be covered in this manner. If one were to isolate this part of my blog out, away from the thematic piece and my propensity to use my blog as a diary, then Anime Science 101 would be the result – a noteworthy and interesting resource dedicated to exploring the more unexplored aspects of anime.

Best Anime of 2019 – Romance

Karandi, @100wordanime

Karandi’s submission to Jon’s Creator Showcase is well-chosen, being the best romance anime of 2019 that comes just in time for Valentine’s Day. Granted, Valentine’s Day was just a shade over two weeks ago, but February is often thought of as the month for Valentine’s, and while Karandi may have spent most of January reviewing the top anime of the 2010s, 2019 appeared to fall by the wayside. Thus, this submission aims to rectify that. Like the Oscars, Karandi has several romance titles that stood out from 2019: Domestic Girlfriend, Fruits Basket, Given, Kenja no Mago and Meiji Tokyo Renka. Of these titles, Given takes home the prize for Karandi; it follows two love stories between two pairs of young men, who are members of a band. While love stories between men are usually written with clichés, Karandi finds Given to differentiate itself in creating a much more plausible and natural progression, from the initial realisation of romantic feelings, to the impact this has on the band the young men are a part of. With realistic and life-like characters, Karandi notes that Given stands above the other titles as a romance goes, making it a winner for 2019.

Love stories between men have traditionally been a realm that I’ve never had much familiarity with, and it is precisely through other bloggers that I have a chance to see what makes such stories enjoyable for the folks who are fans of the genre. As it turns out, the same things that make what is colloquially called boys’ love enjoyable is really the same thing that makes yuri enjoyable for others, or better yet, what makes anime universally enjoyable: well-written characters, natural development and measured drama that drives investment into the characters’ experiences without venturing into the realm of the melodramatic. Through reading Karandi’s post, a very simple truth should become evident: that while people have different tastes in their genres, our enjoyment of anime (and fiction in general) boils down to a universal constant of seeking enjoyment in watching people grow, learn and triumph. As such, while I may not watch boys’ love in any capacity, I appreciate that there are factors that make these series meaningful and enjoyable. I’ve noted this in other showcases as well, but aside from gaining new perspectives on series that I otherwise don’t watch, one of my favourite parts about Jon’s Creative Showcase is seeing the different blogging styles, and I am most respectful, even envious, of the bloggers, like Karandi, who can so succinctly and concisely made their point very clear without doing as I do and writing a novel on what could’ve been done in one sentence!

Monthly Manga – Yankee-kun and the White Cane Girl

Owningmatt93, @Owningmatt93

Yankee-kun and the White Cane Girl is a manga following Morio Kurokawa and how a chance encounter with Yukiko Akaza, who has amblyopia ex anopsia. This is a medical a condition where the ocular media takes on an opaque character, and in Yukiko’s case, it renders her nearly blind. After their encounter, Morio and Yukiko get to know each other better. Doing his best to accommodate Yukiko, Morio’s traits shift over time: he becomes kinder to everyone around him, and this has a tangible impact: as Yukiko spends more time with Morio, Yukiko’s caregiver and older sister, also comes to realise that Yukiko is more independent and capable than she’d imagined. The sum of what Yankee-kun and the White Cane Girl is impressive: despite being written with a gentle and comedic tone in mind, the manga explores very meaningful and heart-warming topics that make it well worth the read.

One of my long-time friends have frequently expressed to me his regrets in never being able to experience everything out there in fiction that’s worth exploring, and with Mythos’ post from The Backloggers, I appreciate where his sentiment is coming from: just through Jon’s Creator Showcase alone, I’ve been introduced to series that all hold their merits and standing points. Seeing people find ways to enjoy these different works is inspiring, but also brings to mind my friend’s thoughts on how there’s just so much out there, that it is not possible to get to all of it. Up until now, Yankee-kun and the White Cane Girl was something I had no familiarity with, but after reading Mythos’ discussion of the manga, I am convinced that the manga would be an excellent one to check out, since I am partial to heartwarming stories where love brings about positive change in characters.

2 Songs 1 Myth: Lady Meng Jiang and the Destruction of the Great Wall of China

Moyatori, @The_Moyatorium

In ancient China, Lady Meng Jiang married Wan Xi Liang, the latter of which was pushed towards constructing the Great Wall of China. She dutifully set out to bring him clothing for the winter but learnt he had died during the construction before her arrival. Giving in to despair, she dissolved into tears, and the Great Wall itself cracked open to expose Wan’s skeleton. Being one of China’s Four Great Folktales, scholars have found that variations of this story had been recorded over the past two millennia, and the story itself has been reinterpreted in modern songs. Moyatori presents a ballad from Tong Li and provides a superb translation of its lyrics, as well as a cover of a Vocaloid performance. Both songs present Lady Meng Jiang’s story with a different tenor, attesting to the incredibly diverse thematic range of Lady Meng Jiang’s tale, ranging from female virtue, love and grief, and the human cost the Great Wall of China’s construction commanded, to name a few, although Moyatori is disappointed that Lady Meng Jiang’s cries of anguish destroying the section of the Great Wall is not mentioned in either song.

It speaks volumes to how extensive Chinese folklore and myths are when I find myself learning something new about it each and every day. Outside of the stories that my parents told me when I was a child, like Hou Yi (who shot down nine suns with his legendary skill as an archer), or Wu Song (a part of the Water Margin, who killed a tiger with his bare hands while drunk), there are numerous tales that I’ve never heard of before. It is therefore a pleasure to read about them, and even more so when the principal characters in a folktale have their narrative transcribed into song. I’m familiar with Tong Li’s music, and deeply enjoy Classical Chinese music owing to how calming it sounds. In Tong Li’s performance of Lady Meng Jiang, her delivery of the lyrics creates a sense of loss, tragedy and grief. The Voicaloid cover, on the other hand, conveys longing, a more subtle emotion, through its tempo and intonations. This is the power of music, and it’s a mark of a good blog post that I leave Moyatori’s write-up of the tragedy of Lady Meng Jiang having learnt something new.

School Days – “The Worst Anime Ever Made”

Jon Spencer Reviews, @JS_Reviews

Is School Days is the worst anime of all time? With this as the motivating question, Jon of Jon Spencer Reviews, the creator of the Jon Creator’s Showcase initiative, sets out to examine one of the most infamous anime in recent history: School Days is remembered for its unexpected outcomes and protagonist Makoto’s infidelity and indecisiveness leading him to pay the ultimate price. Masquerading behind a facade of an art style appropriate of a series from some four years earlier, School Days appears to be an unassuming and mundane series. However, behind this seemingly ordinary exterior is a series that was going to take viewers on a ride. The dissonance in scenes and the series’ propensity for cliffhangers after key episodes creates a sense of unease amongst viewers, and Jon argues that School Days‘ execution was to highlight certain aspects of visual novels of a similar genre and forces viewers to be mindful of how ordinary people can be compelled to acts of unspeakable evil from their circumstances. To this end, Jon argues that School Days‘ success comes from the flawed characters, a grim commentary on human nature that challenges one’s perspectives. While School Days certainly won’t be for everyone, Jon closes with the remark that ultimately, reputations notwithstanding, an open mind is what helps one understand what series, even disreputable ones, aim to accomplish.

Jon’s post on School Days covers areas I did not: this was the first time I participated in what is known as the #AniTwitWatches programme, and I left School Days with the impression that the series wanted to showcase where the game could go, by presenting the cost of lies in the most visceral manner possible. School Days is something I never imagined I would watch, and as Jon notes, it was only by forcibly leaving my comfort zone that I got a chance to see what the anime was about. In this case, the inviting nature of the Twitter community segment I am a part of, in conjunction with a healthy dose of bad jokes, allowed me to go through School Days. In the end, I found worth in the anime; although I reached a considerably different conclusion than Jon about what School Days sought to accomplish, we align whole-heartedly on the idea that internet commentary and reception should not be a significant factor in whether one chooses to watch something or not. Finally, as to whether or not School Days is the worst anime of all time, the answer is a clear and resounding no. School Days has a clear theme, a plausible progression of how things wound up in the manner that they did, and despite looking like Da Capo, did not do anything particularly offensive with its art and animation. The title of Worst Anime of All Time remains held by RDG: Red Data Girl; consider that this anime was so poorly done, that even those versed in Japanese culture, classical literature and folklore had nothing to offer in the way of explaining the series’ themes. By comparison, School Days is a veritable masterpiece.

Submissions from WordPress

Seeing Myself in Magical Girl Site

Lethargic Ramblings, @AlwaysLethargic

Leth typically breaks the posts-only-streak to present what is the only video submission for this Jon’s Creator Showcase. This video deals with Magical Girl Site, which follows Aya Asagiri: a middle-school aged girl struggling with bullying and abuse. When she accepts a strange contract to become a magical girl from a website, she acquires the power to teleport her foes: she attempts this on her bullies in curiosity, and they are splattered by a train. Aya soon discovers there are other magical girls similar to her, and they find themselves in a race against the clock, as using their powers shortens their lifespan. Magical Girl Site sounds to be a darker version of Madoka Magica, and Leth’s video explores his enjoyment of the series, which was not without controversy. Leth explains that one of the reasons why Magical Girl Site was so enjoyable is because he sees commonalities between Aya and himself: like Aya, Leth was also bullied in school, and had no friends. Leth praises how Magical Girl Site portrays the issue of bullying; while perhaps exaggerated, the reality is that bullying in the real world is similarly graphic and disturbing. The other piece of Magical Girl Site that Leth relates to is Aya’s journey as a magical girl: as she befriends fellow magical girl Tsuyuno Yatsumura, Aya gains confidence and comes to understand friendship. Leth underwent a similar experience; having support made all the difference for him, whether it be his real-world friends, family or online community. For this reason, Leth counts Magical Girl Site a masterpiece despite its controversial set up.

The definition of a masterpiece, as Leth and I know it, isn’t marked by some universally-accepted upon set of guidelines, objectivity or truth. We tend to count our enjoyment of things based also on our own experiences and preferences, which are unequivocally subjective. This is why I count shows as being ten out of ten when it changes the way I see things, and this is why Leth’s video on Magical Girl Site is an effective one: Magical Girl Site does not appear to be something I’d initially watch, but Leth has convinced me that there is a strong reason to count it as an enjoyable anime; personal reasons are legitimate in driving enjoyment, and hearing Leth’s explanation of bullying in Magical Girl Site, coupled with his recollections, reminds me of my own experiences with bullies. The bullying was indeed vulgar and crude, and in my case, it was family that got me out: I ended up taking up martial arts, which gave me the confidence to both stand up for myself and seek ways of defusing confrontations. My own journey to overcoming bullying came from the new-found confidence of knowing that I could properly deal with a physical situation if needed, but that the choice to handle it peacefully was also in my hands. Most of my bullies quickly got the message, and things became water under the bridge. The point of sharing this was that everyone has their own stories to tell, and so, when folks enjoy something that might be seen as controversial, I would point to Leth’s video as an instance of why being too hasty to pass judgement is to be foolish. There is a story behind everyone’s decisions and these are worth giving thought to. Finally, as the only video on my list, I do have a few remarks on Leth’s video, as well. Because Leth chooses to lay his discussion out with scenes from the anime, I was much more engaged: anime reviews don’t tend to be as compelling if I’m made to watch a talking head. I did, however, find it a little difficult to hear Leth at times, so folks watching his video may find it useful to watch it at a slightly higher volume or rewind to make sure nothing was missed.

Take 3: High Society Review

Sally Silverscreen, 18cinemalane

High Society is a 1956 musical romance comedy featuring Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly; Sally had been curious to see this movie after learning it was a musical remake of The Philadelphia Story, which was made in 1940 and itself was based on Philip Barry’s play of the same name, following C.K. Dexter Haven after his divorce from Tracy Samantha Lord. Despite the divorce, he remains in love with Tracy even though she is to marry George Kittrege. The wedding is major news, and the New York Spy assigns Macaulay “Mike” Connor to cover the story. After a series of trials, Tracy finds herself struggling to choose between Mike, George and Dexter, culminating in Tracy realising that her standards had been unreasonable: on the day of her wedding, Tracy prepares calls off her wedding until a proposal from Dexter sweeps her off her feet, and she consents to marry Dexter again. With solid acting, beautifully designed sets and musical numbers that capture the emotion of the film, Sally found many things to enjoy about High Society. The film isn’t perfect: there were some themes the film does not explore, dancing is only shown on two occasions, and scenes can be dialogue heavy, slowing progression down. In spite of this, the movie is enjoyable, distinguishing itself from Philadelphia Story with its own unique style and focus.

There is a certain joy to watching older movies, as they possess traits that modern films lack; in particular, older films are more slowly paced, taking the time to really flesh out a moment, and in the case of musicals, this helps to accentuate what the characters are feeling and articularte these to viewers. The setting of High Society brings to mind the likes of Great Gatsby, and the sordid affairs of those in a world that ordinary folk like myself would be out of place in, as well. Reading Sally’s post on High Society helps readers to gain a concise and clear bearing on what the movie is about, what it excels in and areas that could’ve seen some improvements. As I am not particularly familiar with musicals, it is therefore reassuring to know that, should there be a need for me to pick a musical for any purpose, or anything outside the area of my knowledge, the blogging community has me covered; knowledgeable folks on most any topic are on hand, and I imagine that asking nicely will help me to find the answers or perspectives that I am seeking.

My Top Anime of the Decade List

Rose, Wretched and Divine

Rose of Wretched and Devine shares a list of her top anime of the 2010s, and opens by remarking that she’s been watching anime for the past thirteen years. In this post, Rose picks her favourite anime from each year between 2010 and 2019 (inclusive). 2010’s anime is Durarara!!, which possesses a unique setting, strong opening and ending songs and Izaya Orihara, Rose’s favourite character of all time. 2011’s pick is Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Hakairoku-hen, a gambling story with a powerful ending. In 2012, Saint☆Oniisan is Rose’s pick, being a hilarious show despite only having two episodes. For introducing her to Shingeki no Kyojin‘s franchise, the first season in 2013 is her top anime for that year. 2014’s pick is Zankyou no Terror, and 2015’s top is Tokyo Ghoul √A: both series have excellent music, while the latter is also solid for its portrayal of what being a ghoul means. Rose chooses Boku dake ga Inai Machi as the top anime of 2016; despite a rushed ending, the rest of the series was admirable. Inuyashiki is Rose’s top anime for 2017 – aside from the opening music, which prompted Rose to attend a concert, the juxtaposition the anime creates in its story made it worthwhile. Koi wa Ameagari no You ni is Rose’s favourite series of 2018 for a heartwarming story and its calming aesthetic. In 2019, Rose reaches an impasse owing to the sheer number of series that proved enjoyable and leaves the reader to decide if it’s okay for her to mark all of these series as the top of 2019.

As a reader myself, I answer Rose that yes, it is completely acceptable to find enjoyment in enough of 2019’s anime as to want to mark all of them as the best of the year. Rose’s 2010s anime experience has been a comprehensive and fun one, filled with series that I’ve noticed a recurring commonality to – numerous of Rose’s choices are motivated by an excellent opening and/or ending theme. Because music is a very powerful means of expression, allowing for thoughts, ideas and emotions to be communicated clearly, it is certainly something that can have a very powerful draw on viewers: a strong opening and/or ending song can capture the entire emotion of an anime and its themes in a short time-frame and really help viewers to appreciate what the anime’s intentions are. I am similar in this regard in that I am drawn towards good music, and indeed, I have picked up series and enjoyed them from the simple motivation that the music was good. Overall, while I cannot say that I am familiar with any of Rose’s picks, save Zankyou no Terror, it was enjoyable to read through the reasoning behind each pick in her list. Of course, now I’m left wondering: of all the shows Rose has selected, which one of these shows would be the single best one for all of 2010-2019?

Fire In Babylon Review

Ospreyshire, Ospreyshire’s Realm and Iridium Eye Reviews

For Jon’s Creator Showcase, ospreyshire of Iridium Eye writes about Fire in Babylon, a 2010 sports documentary that follows the West Indie Cricket Team and their journey towards success from their origins as a talented, starry-eyed team to a force that set numerous records and new standards for excellence in the sport of cricket that would earn them the respect of cricket fans and other players, even opposing teams. Despite lacking a background in cricket, ospreyshire was moved by the players’ honesty and focus, as well as the film’s musical piece and details on the history of cricket. The film’s only shortcoming is that it assumes the viewer to have some background in cricket, making some parts, like interviews with the coaches, a little trickier to follow, but beyond this is a highly inspirational and informative documentary.

Cricket is a bat and ball sport with origins in 16th century England, and the sport has had a major impact on the English culture, so the West Indie Team’s ascension and dominance would have indeed been the stuff of legends: sports and athletics in general is a widely-respected area precisely because it is a tangible and visual embodiment of virtues like teamwork, perseverance and effort. Watching people come together to overcome their hurdles, surpass their limits and achieve greatness on a cricket field would be very inspiring to see, and this is the reason why people are so keen on sports stories that follow underdogs defying all odds to become champions. Unsurprisingly, this is why sports references litter the English language, having become an integral part of Western culture. While I’m not familiar with cricket, the parallels with my favourite sport, ice hockey, are apparent: excellence in both the NHL and international rules variations of ice hockey are genuinely inspiring and motivating to see.

Beastars Episode 3

Matt Doyle, Matt Doyle Media

I write because I love doing so. Whether it be telling stories, or weighing in on a series or episode, getting everything out there in written form is a wonderful feeling. Even more so when I get to talk to others about our interpretations/opinions on pieces 🙂

Matt presents an episodic review for the anime Beastars, which is set in a world of anthropomorphic animals divided by their source of nutrient acquisition. Legoshi is a large grey wolf attending Cherryton Academy, and whose personality and thoughts contradict his carnivore background. He befriends Haru, a dwarf rabbit who likes to keep to herself, and begins developing feelings for her even as he works to unravel the mystery behind the murder of the Aplaca Tem, which creates a rift amongst the students. By the third episode, the character dynamics are established, and it turns out that Haru appears to be a bit of a sex-crazed maniac. However, Legoshi is not so certain about this, having been subject to unfounded perceptions of him previously. The episode also establishes that Louis, a red deer (not related to the town between Edmonton and Calgary), is confident in how people perceive him but does not understand himself, resulting in a more negative characterisation. This is something the third episode establishes: that all of the characters face some sort of internal struggle, but despite the despair this can potentially create, it also implies that everyone struggles together. The large cast appears to be the main challenge in Beastars insofar, which can make it a bit tricky to keep track of everyone, but beyond this, the series is off to a good start past the three-episode mark.

Being the last episodic review submission I’ve received for this Jon’s Creator’s Showcase, I am wondering if there is some plot afoot to get me into different anime that I don’t typically watch; all of the submissions have presented strong, positive reasons for individual episodes of a series that makes the episode a compelling one, and being dropped into a series as it is running means that I’ve gone ahead and read about them to gain some context, with the inevitable result that I develop a curiosity about the series that the submission deals with. Matt’s post is the latest to achieve this, and I suddenly find myself wondering if Beastars is something I might enjoy: in the end, characterisation is the central thing I look for in an anime, and Matt presents a convincing argument that because I am big on characters, the growth that Haru and Legoshi undergo in Beastars would be meaningful and fun journey to follow. This is the sign of a well-written episodic review, and as this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase demonstrates, there are a myriad of ways to make the episodic review format work: at their core, it’s about highlighting what that episode does for a series for the viewer. Curiously enough, I’ve heard arguments that the editorial review is superior to the episodic review in some echelons of the anime blogging community, but this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase handily disproves that claim. If it were not already clear, the excellent writers I read and follow demonstrate that episodic review posts are still very much alive, useful and above all, fun to read.

Living on the Fringe

Fred, Au Natural

I like to blog about everything, not just anime. Filing my life up with new and strange happenings keeps me busy, interested and often close to trouble.

You can do YOU better than anyone else. Don’t settle for being a copy. Follow your passion!

The final entry for this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase is from Fred of Au Natural, who submits a travelogue about a trip to Hollywood. For this occasion, Fred travelled by train, and upon arrival, he notes that the area is a ways cleaner than it was. Fred breaks up his post with a brief interlude on what Fringe Festivals are: to give artists a chance to perform in a major venue at low costs, which helps improve one’s visibility. This is the reason for Fred’s visit; he is interested to figure out what configuration would be the most appropriate for his show, and with some of the numbers crunched, Fred feels okay with the deal. He heads off, thoughts of the show in his mind: as a nudist, Fred feels that adding this element to his show would emphasis vulnerability. This is a part of the show he aims to perform, which is set to deal with aging, Asperger’s Syndrome and life’s meaning. Once the official meeting is over, there is a social event, but Fred’s not particularly fond of these, so he heads back to the train and enjoys the calm it brings. On the train, a homeless man begins speaking of living in the moment in Spanish. Fred is touched, and replies Adiós y vaya con dios, “Goodbye and go with God”, prompting the man to smile and wave back to Fred.

Fred’s submission is a blog post reminiscent of a well-written Reader’s Digest article: whenever I’m at the dentist, my first inclination is to pick up a Reader’s Digest magazine and peruse the stories within, because they are often informative, moving, or both. These raw, visceral stories pull my attention, offering a very candid view of the people involved, and provide perspectives into worlds that I can’t begin imagining. It’s a very powerful way of gaining perspective, whether it be about volunteering, illness, travel and everything in between, from life’s lows to highs. Fred’s post has a very similar style to a Reader’s Digest article. It is a very refreshing post that provides insights into a world that I don’t often think about, being one part crash-course on what Fringe Festivals are and one-part travel diary which is much grittier, genuine, than a more traditional post about travel. Fred’s been working on a presentation for the Hollywood Fringe Festival since at least November 2019, and from what I’ve read, it’s been a busy but rewarding one: I wish Fred the best, and would be curious to hear about how it goes in a later date.

Closing Remarks

With twenty-nine submissions, one for each day of February 2020, this brings the February iteration of Jon’s Creator Showcase to an end. While this post is not quite as long as my previous Jon’s Creator Showcase, it still remains a healthy 15015 words, making it the second longest post I’ve ever written (only 108 words behind the largest post, which was the last showcase!). This month’s also been remarkably busy from work, so I’m actually a little surprised that, as I’d mentioned during the introductory post for this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, I did manage to in fact strike that balance between ensuring that I did not neglect hosting things but also did not leave my other responsibilities in the dust – Jon’s recommendation for the host is to not leave the going through of each post to the last minute, since that could certainly create a bit of a scramble towards the end. I am therefore happy to say that, I don’t think I butchered this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase too badly, and with this one in the books, I’d like to thank readers for having made it this far. From the showcase, it’s clear that there is a sizable portion of the community that enjoys and encourages positivity: this is what makes things worthwhile, and as with my previous Jon’s Creator Showcase, I won’t drag things out for any longer – anyone who’s read through this entire post in one go is a champion. I will close out by passing the torch to @crimson613, who is going to be hosting for March.

Jon’s Creator Showcase: Introducing A Showcase for the First Posts of the New Decade

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.” –Benjamin Franklin

We are now a month into the new decade, and I am proud to announce that I will be kicking off the Jon’s Creator Showcase for the first set of content that participants have written for the first month of 2020. This is particularly exciting, since it means I will have the honour of being able to highlight and feature content for the first month of the new decade. The programme’s founder, Jon Spencer of Jon Spencer reviews, has already done a phenomenal job with presenting the submissions from fifty-one of the best posts folks have written in the last decade. Given how enjoyable previous Jon’s Creator Showcase events have been, I am greatly looking forwards to submissions that are coming in this time around, especially since January is a time for new beginnings, and this is typically the time when folks are at their most creative, experimenting with novel concepts and unique ideas; it was in a January when I decided to change the format of my blog to the structure presently seen in my posts, and so, I am certain that all submissions, whether they are from bloggers, writers, video editors or artists, will be similarly innovative and fresh, making for a particularly exciting Jon’s Creator Showcase. Before delving further, it would be prudent for me to briefly outline what Jon’s Creator Showcase is about: this initiative began two years ago, and was intended for folks to discover other amazing bloggers. The rules for participation are really simple: all one needs to do is submit their favourite post from the previous month (i.e. January 2020) to the host either on Twitter or using WordPress’ comments section. For ease of identification, participants are asked to use the hashtag #TheJCS to make it easier for hosts to track submissions. Thus, to keep things simple, I am accepting submissions for all content strictly from January 2020. Submissions open today, and are accepted through either Twitter, or the comments of this blog. I will confirm submissions by liking the submission. The host’s role is to aggregate all of the submissions, feature them in a manner of their choosing and then share the Showcase with all participants, who now have access to a host of excellent and unique material in one place. While the programme started with just blog posts, participants have begun sending in creative writing pieces like poetry and short stories, anime music videos, video reviews and (at least in one of the submissions I received while hosting) even fully-fledged, custom-made games. On the first of March, I wrap up my showcase and then pass the torch to the next host.

  • Jon’s opening #TheJCS received fifty-one submissions, and the last time I hosted, I got thirty-one. The end result of that was a leviathan of a post with 15125 words, and a little bit of estimation would suggest that, were I to take on the same style that I did last time, the showcase post I would end up putting out would have 24883 words. That is an admittedly daunting task, so this time, I’m going to do something a little differently to ensure I can keep up with everything. However, I am also opening a new idea: all participants are welcome to send to me a little blurb describing what makes creating stuff worthwhile for them or advice to others, and I’ll feature this as a quote to inspire other readers. In the interest of fairness, I’m constraining this blurb to 240 characters, the same as Twitter’s maximum.

Because it’s now open season, I encourage folks to submit anything they are particularly proud of and wish to show to the world: blog posts, short stories, poems, AMVs, videos and fan-art are all acceptable. If you have a game published to Steam, or an app available in the App Store, note that these are also a valid submissions. For practical reasons, I will not consider Android app submissions from the Google Play Store. Participants have been very good in the past with submitting good content, but it’s worth reiterating that I will reject any submissions dealing with explicit materials, graphic violence, harassment or hateful content: when in doubt, dropping me or Jon (the project’s originator) a message will be the swiftest and most effective way of getting any questions answered. I believe this has checked off everything that needs to be said about Jon’s Creator Showcase, Civilian-hosted 2k20-edition. I recall that for my last Jon’s Creator Showcase, I broke several records for my blog in post length, engagement and a few other metrics. I’m not sure if I’ll surpass that this time around, but I will still aim to host a satisfactory Jon’s Creator Showcase. I look forwards to seeing what everyone has to showcase, and with the shortest month of the year, even with the extra Leap Year, upcoming, it’ll be striking a balance between making sure I don’t butcher Jon’s Creator Showcase, keep the regularly scheduled programming here alive, as well as keeping up with this season’s shows, partake in Girls’ Last Tour for #AniTwitWatches (another one of Jon’s initiatives), work my way to World Tier Five in The Division 2 and somehow find the time on top of that to lift weights and help at the dōjō.