Archives for posts with tag: review

I’ve enjoyed doing some reviews on video games. Now I feel like trying my hand at anime while it is still fresh in my mind.

This summer I wanted to take advantage in the opportunity of tasting many stories. As a creative writer, it’s healthy to possess a certain menu of stories to experience. I think highly of anime for it’s originality, and every single one takes me on a journey I do not forget.  This summer I watched an anime in the supernatural, action, comedy, dark fantasy, and black comedy genre…”Black Butler”. Or in Japanese it is “Kuroshitsuji”

I avoided this anime for a long time. Why? I am one of those sorts of people who avoid something because its fans are a bother to me. Everyone’s eyes would get big when “Black Butler” was mentioned at the parties I went to and they’d fangirl over Sebastian like nobody’s business. At conventions, every time we saw a Sebastian my friends would squeal.

Eventually I got over the annoyance of it’s fans and decided to take a look at this myself.

Okay, here is a summary of the basics of the story.

Ciel, a 13 year old English noble is the heir to a family famous for their toy and candy empire. He serves directly under Queen Elizabeth as her “guard dog”. His family was killed in a fire three years ago. Because of this, he made a pact with a demon. The pact is that the demon will serve as his butler until he exacts his revenge on those who killed his family. In return, once the deed is done the demon can eat his soul. This demon is Sebastian.

This may sound like some serious stuff but my first reaction was…I was deeply and utterly amused. I mean…LOOK AT THIS DEMON WORK!

This demon is the most bad-ass butler you can ever imagine. Mouse problem? All the servants scramble to catch the mice with a net but what does Sebastian do? HE CATCHES THEM WITH HIS FISTS! Gunfight outside? All the servants scramble to drive the enemy away but what does Sebastian do? HE PLAYS THE VIOLIN SO HIS MASTER DOES NOT HAVE TO HEAR THE GUNSHOTS!

From me, Sebastian should get a gold medal for his characterization. When writers write about demons, there are usually certain rules involved. It has to be demon-like, you can’t just say he is a demon and then make him an ordinary butler, or give him goals that aren’t demon-like. These writers played by the rules while making Sebastian unforgettable and creative. That is a great feat.

What is creative and unforgettable about the demon Sebastian?

First off, the way they displayed the character is incredibly dark, mysterious, and classy. A tall man with godly posture, gleaming sexy red eyes, dark hair like crows wings. It’s not a wonder why he has so many fangirls. Then again, that is not his true form. But we see very little of what his true form looks like. I think it’s something crow-like…and probably really scary and possibly ugly looking. But it’s okay cause there are far more reasons to love Sebastian other than how the character looks.

Next is the way Sebastian treats others. The way he treats Ciel, his master, is really where all the gold is. Now think of how Sebastian looks, and he is tying the shoe of a 13 year old boy. The image of something so dark and powerful looking bowing to a child is delicious. Not just that but Ciel is no ordinary child. That kid’s soul is made of fire to the core. Picky, clever, and desiring nothing but revenge. As you watch Sebastian obey this kid’s orders, you love him all the more. Baking the child cakes, killing his enemies, taking him out shopping, teaching him to dance, and everything else.

Next and probably most of all is Sebastian’s ability. I can in all seriousness say that there is probably nothing Sebastian can’t do. If Ciel tells him to win a curry making contest, he’s going to win that fucking curry making contest! If something goes wrong, Sebastian fixes it in a flash.

For example, every other servant in Ciel’s mansion (who are interesting characters) SUCK at their job. The cook tried to cook faster by using dynamite as a cooking utensil. The gardener kills everything because he does not know his own strength. The maid is almost blind and trips a lot. Oh, and there is another…more classical looking butler, Mr. Tanaka…but something is wrong with him. He always is in chibi form and drinks tea while having like Santa. HO. HO. HO. Sebastian fixes every mistake these guys make…which is a lot. For example, the maid poured red wine for the guest and wouldn’t ya know…she misses and pours onto the white tablecloth. Sebastian in the moment of a second pulls the tablecloth out from under the table without breaking a thing and without the guest even noticing.

Then there is Sebastian’s personality. He is cool, unpredictable, and all what you expect from a demon…with a quirk or two. For example, he LOVES cats. His cold glare melts at the sight of a kitten and he hugs them and loves them and it’s hilarious. As we know it, Sebastian is thousands of years old, so you imagine it would be hard to surprise he guy. Still, there are many times I think Ciel surprises him. And you know he’s done terrible things in his past, like creating the Black Plague…yeah…that’s pretty bad. His weapon of choice, domestic kitchen silverware. Also he has something he says about every episode, “I’m just one Hell of a butler,” since people keep saying, “You’re no ordinary butler,” and I’m like, “No…he’s a demon!”

Now let me tell you the secret ingredient to this series that made me want to watch more, because it was not Sebastian. It was Ciel and Sebastian’s contract and the bond it caused them to have.

Okay, imagine you can only trust one person in the entire world…and you know that the only person you can trust is also the person who will end your life. That is what Ciel has with Sebastian. As cute and endearing the two characters can be together…their goals are very dark. Ciel wants revenge and Sebastian wants to eat Ciel’s soul.

That is what got me into this series. Sometimes Ciel looks at Sebastian with distrust and fear due to the fact that Sebastian is only being so loyal and amazing in order to get the kid’s soul. And what’s really cool is that sometimes Sebastian gets offers from other people. An angel offers Sebastian tons of souls in order to stop working for Ciel, she says, “You look famished. How long have you gone without a soul?” But Sebastian denies her offer because the only soul he wants is Ciel’s. Why?  Turns out souls filled with hatred, desire, and success in vengeance are hard to come by and are the most delicious out there. And Ciel’s soul is freakin’ full of that.

After learning more about what Sebastian wants in a soul, you begin to really start to understand him.

This anime series deals with more than demons. We also have grim reapers and angels.

I loved the grim reapers. They had really interesting weapons, all have to wear glasses, all have rules they are bond to,  and of course Grell is an unforgettable character. Grell…who I still can’t tell if he is a she or what but Grell is a character that physically embodies all of the Sebastian fangirls out there. Lots of comedy with that character.

I did not like the angels. Not because they were evil. As I mentioned before in writers have rules when putting demons in their story, angels have rules too. These are archetypes of a sort, an angel’s goals needs to MAKE SENSE to an angel, and if not then give them some twisted backstory that makes them not have angelic goals for gods sake! These angels were so evil and I do not understand why the hell they were killing everyone!

There was one plot an angel had that I liked because it was angelic but also evil in a way. The angel tried to twists Ciel’s ambition for revenge, she tried to make him feel at peace for his entire family being murdered in a fire. This also would hurt Sebastian’s contract since he wants a soul burning in vengeance and desire.  It was perfect! But then randomly the angels go bat-shit crazy and kill people. No sense in that, nope.

ALSO WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH WRITERS AND THE CHESS CLICHE?! In so many things you have symbolism in characters playing chess. Get a little more original guys! I’m sick of it. Stop for the sake of everything. Hell, have them play checkers…I don’t care as long as it’s not chess!

Black Butler has two seasons. My opinion, end at the end of the first season. The second season has a new flavor I enjoyed but the conclusion was in very bad taste.

SPOILERS AHEAD.

The reason the second season’s end was in bad taste. Ciel becomes a demon himself, immortal. Sebastian is still bound to him as a butler. THE END.

No. Just no. After seeing Sebastian patiently wait on this kid, doing everything in his power just for a mere meal of a delicious soul…and now he is stuck! Again, what makes the show what it is is the knowledge that Sebastian is going to be rewarded in the end with Ciel’s soul. At first, you are a little iffy about that. But as the series goes on…you begin to understand Sebastian and you want that poor demon to get his damn soul!

Heck, when Sebastian heard that Ciel is going to reawaken as a demon…he tried to kill him! When Ciel asks why Sebastian says, “Just to make sure it was true.” But I think he was doing it because he knew it WOULD SUCK!

Also what is the point of Ciel still being alive after he completed his all time goal? He got his revenge last season…what is he going to do with his life now?

If I wrote this, I’d have that kid somehow give Sebastian what Sebastian wanted all along. Besides, the kid does not really have a life anymore without his soul on fire.

Anyway, the first season’s ending was perfect. Just watch that.

Besides, the manga has not finished yet.

SPOILERS END!

So watch it, the first season. The second season was great but after I watched it I had an emptiness inside me and decided it was not worth that ending.

Remember guys, endings are probably the most important part of a story if not just as important as the middle parts. What the audience feels at the end is like a jewel you are handing them to always carry with them to remember your story by.

Black Butler is a great show, great ideas, great everything except the second seasons ending. That’s a real feat! GO WATCH IT!

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Amaterasu

 

If someone asks me what my favorite video game of all time is, there is a good chance my answer will be Okami. This game is unforgettable of it’s creativity, characters, and story. The atmosphere is all about Japan, it’s culture, and mythology. Let’s dive in shall we?

 

The land of Nippon (otherwise known as the English butchery word for Japan in Japanese) is in grave danger by an ancient evil(s). In the chaos of darkness taking over the land, a cherry blossom spirit brings back to life the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. This isn’t the Goddesses true form though, nope, she in the form of a wolf because I guess that’s just how she decided to appear in the world of mortals.Your goal is basically to save Nippon from the ancient evil (that you have a past with) plaguing the land.

Cherry Blossom Spirit Sakuya

So what’s it like being a Goddess in the form of a wolf? I say it’s perfect in originality and sets part of the atmosphere that I love in this game. Being a Goddess in the form of a wolf brings in this feeling that things are always greater than they seem.

 

Being a wolf effects the way people interact with you, and how you interact with them. Back in the historical period of Japan this game is set in, wolves (especially white wolves) are seen as sacred. Because of that, most villages and characters treat you with kindness and respect. And of course you can’t talk to them, you’re a wolf! Instead the character talk to you. Since they don’t know of your name or that you’re a Goddess, they often give you nicknames like Whitey, Snowy, Pooch, or Mutt. They pet you, you can bite them, there is this whole playful appearance mixed with sacred nature aspect about the whole interaction with people in this game that I love.

 

Screenshot of Kushi petting Amaterasu

 

Of course you’re not a lone wolf, you do have a partner. The rather annoying, perverted, bug-sized sprite named Issun. When I first met the character I gave a long sigh and didn’t want him to accompany me through the game. But actually, the character kinda grew on me. He wasn’t a boring character. He had feelings, flaws, and developed. His perverted nature actually did make me laugh now and then. He was needed to communicate between Amaterasu and the other characters since Amaterasu can’t talk being a wolf and all. But he didn’t do it so often that it took away the interactions I love.

 

Amaterasu with Issun

 

Okay, I’ll cut straight into what makes the game what it is…and that is the graphics and design. The entire game looks like a Japanese painting! The lines, colors, and characters are all look like they’ve been creations of paintbrush and ink! Everything is just simply that! You look at the trees and they look like something out of a storybook. The background has swirls for wind and drawn mountains. The faces of the character’s aren’t detailed, they are kept simple and yet show so much character just by looking at them. Like Mr. and Mrs. Orange have oranges sitting on their heads, Himiko wears a crown of flames, Waka wears a ridiculous hat with wings and stilt-like shoes, and that kid with a dragonfly on a leash! There is just so much creativity in this game!

Mr. and Mrs. Orange

 

Along with the painting-like world, guess how you fight beasts and save Nippon? You paint! Amaterasu’s tail doesn’t have a odd black tip for no reason, nope, her tail is literally a paint brush. Paint a circle in the sky and you can make sun rise, paint a swirl and you make wind, paint a slash and you can chop a tree down, draw from water to a person and you can get them wet! Amaterasu’s God powers are done by painting. At the push of a button, time stands still, and you can paint. This puts the creativity of the game to a whole other level. But it’s not so easy, you have to find and learn all the paintbrush techniques as you go through the game. You don’t know them from the start.

Painting a circle around a tree to make it bloom

Some of Amaterasu's weapons

Painting isn’t the only thing you use though. Amaterasu also carries weapons of sorts from swords, to rosemary beads, to shields. Unlike painting though, there are few possibilities with them. Like any ordinary fighting game you can slash and block.

Ninetails

The monsters in this game are unforgettable. I’ll never forget orochi, the dragon with eight heads and a mountain for a body. The spider who is half woman.  Blight, the disease taking over the Emperors body. The nine-tailed fox that tricks you. Those are just examples of the boss fights though. The creatures you commonly battle are just as creative. There are imps who play musical instruments and use them to fight you, elemental wheels with a nose, ear, eye, or whatever at their center.  There are crows that have combined with the souls of dead swordsmen. There are huts on legs you fight!

Another thing in combat I find amusing is that when entering a battle, a wall of Kanji traps you. Kanji! I was studying kanji in school while playing this game and kanji are really difficult to memorize.

Most people aren’t too familiar with Japanese mythology. Me being on of the lucky ones, was blown away by how much Japanese mythos and culture was put into this game. It is just as based on Japanese myth as God of War is based on Greek myth. Amaterasu is a Shinto Goddess for one, that everyone basically understands. But did you know that the character Susano is based off the storm God of Shinto myth? Did you know that Waka is based off of a historical swordsman named Minamoto no Yoshitsune who was called Ushiwakamaru in his childhood. In the Japanese version he is known as Ushiwaka and in the American version he is known as just Waka. Bet you didn’t know that did you?

Waka

What else of Japanese history, culture, and myth is to be found in this game? The bosses Nechku and Necku are based off twin owl demons in Ainu lore and there is a legend of them kidnapping Amaterasu but she is saved by an Ainu warrior, who appears as Oki in the game. Mr. and Ms. Cutter are based off a legend about a jealous wife cutting out the tongue of a crow her husband was nursing back to health. The nine-tailed fox is based off a legend of a young woman who was beautiful and good at everything and turned out to be a kitsune (also known as a fox demon) who was making the Emperor sick as a plot to steal his throne.

 

Well, there is a lot. I could write about the myths forever. Now I want to write about my one problem about the game, IT’S TOO EASY.

 

Yep, the game is too easy. Only once on my first play through did I die, and you know what? When I died I came straight back to life in the middle of the fight because I had four filled astral pouches. In this game you start out with one pouch that you fill with food. Once filled with like 200 scraps of easy-to-come-by food (I could just headbutt people, chop down trees, break things and I’d get so much food!) then that pouch is automatically used to bring you back to life IF you die is with practically IMPOSSIBLE.

Okay, impossible is over the top. You can die, but I never did. When I don’t die once in a game, I feel like there is a problem. I’m the type of person who wants to feel like the game as some difficulty so that when I beat certain parts, I feel a little warm inside. In the middle of a fight if I’m low on healthy, I could actually just cut some grass and get health from that if not use the items I NEVER USE BECAUSE THE GAME IS TOO EASY.

The game does make up for this however. In this game there are one hundred beads scattered throughout Nippon. Some you find, some people give you after you accomplish a task, and finding these beads will give you the power of immortality, AS THOUGH I DIDN’T FEEL IMMORTAL ALREADY.

 

Getting these hundred beads were difficult. This is when I discovered that difficulty in this game has nothing to do with combat except once when I had to get a certain bead by going through a demon gate which I think showed me a glimpse of hell but that’s not the point. The difficulty is in knowing what to do and using your brain on certain tasks.

 

Now I’ll tell you the most difficult thing in this game that got a crown. THOSE BLOCKHEADS. These creatures are truly from the deepest corners of Hell. They block your way as you hit them and suddenly you see a bunch of weak spots glitter on their bodies for a matter of seconds. You’re supposed to take your paintbrush and put some ink on all those weak points in the correct order. Think of it as a memory game. They were not hard till I got to the last one.

BLOCKHEADS!!!

The last one was optional but he guarded one of those sacred beads I wanted so…I ENDURED THIS TRAGIC BATTLE THAT WASN’T EVEN A BATTLE. Over and over I hit him, he showed his weak points, and I painted on those spots. I went as far as to get my friend to mark the TV screen where each weak spot was. WHEN THAT DOESN’T WORK YOU KNOW SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG. I VIDEO TAPED IT AND THAT DIDN’T WORK.

 

Yes…I got it eventually. But that part left a scar on my brain.

Orochi

The replay value of this game is incredibly high. After beating the game you get rewards that you keep and can have in your next playthrough. Not just that but is game is LONG. It can be about sixty hours of your time. And I say it’s time worth spent.

Okami is an amazing game. You’ll never play anything like it…unless you play Okamiden but that’s basically Okami with a pacifier. If you own a playstation 2 or WII then PLAY OKAMI. If you need some amazing storytelling, atmosphere,   and have an artistic passion…then you need to play this game!