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