A Little Perspective From Tom Church

Posts tagged ‘anime’

A Pokemon Post

Only a few days ago, Pokemon X and Y version were released in America. And even under all of the college schoolwork and studying, even while I sleep and exercise and eat and try keeping up with my TV shows (which are all back in season), I still haven’t been able to escape the ripples it’s made in the gaming community. If I think too long about how I don’t have X or Y, I get a little anxious.

I’m curious as hell, and I’ve decided to look more into it recently; I’ll detail my finds in this post, and hopefully inform some of you guys on why this is so exciting for me. I started by watching “Pokemon: The Origin” which was a miniseries aired on Tokyo TV on October 2nd. It was a back-to-back broadcast of four episodes of never-before-seen Pokemon adventures. Except this time it wasn’t Ash and Pikachu, it was Red and Charmander.

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For those of you familiar with the Pokemon TV show that played in the 90s (and apparently the 2000s but I didn’t keep up with it), you’ll know about Ash, Pikachu, Misty, and Brock. And as cool as they were, “Pokemon: The Origin” instead chooses to focus the story on the exact events of the very first video games ever released in the Pokemon series: Red and Blue Version. Therefore, the characters are Red (the main character, the Ash equivalent), and Green (his rival, the Gary equivalent). Ash chooses Charmander, and Green chooses Squirtle.

This series was released to commemorate the beginnings of the Pokemon video game franchise and was aired only in Japan, and therefore you’ll only find it online with subtitles. However, it was absolutely worth the watch, and made me nostalgic as hell. Its notable aspects include a detailed account of the Cubone story in which its mother died and became a ghost; a look into snippets of Giovanni’s past; and even a surprise ending to the series tying it into the new X and Y series developments, a surprise which I will not spoil for any of you readers.

Okay, so getting back to X and Y: what makes them special? I’m sure that’s what everyone’s asking, and it’s certainly what I’ve been wondering. Trust me, I’ve passed up recent Pokemon DS installments without much of a second thought: Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum Versions all looked strange to me, and I did not ever bother completing them. I never purchased my own copy of any. I bought Heartgold Version and thoroughly enjoyed it, but have not played it much since beating it. And I did not play any of Pokemon Black, White, or Black 2 / White 2. I’ve tried articulating my reasoning before, but haven’t been successful; mostly, I just thought they were slower-paced, had strange Pokemon I was not willing to take to heart, and were not familiar to me.

Pokemon X and Y developers have spent a lot of time and money trying to induce nostalgia and draw its old audience back in with the new. “Pokemon: The Origin” brought everyone back to the 90s, when they’d first started playing Pokemon. In X and Y, it was revealed before the game was even released that the player would receive a new starter Pokemon, and then shortly after, have a choice of Squirtle, Bulbusaur, or Charmander as a “second starter” option. I see it as a direct appeal to people who’ve been playing for a long time, and honestly that’s pretty badass.

(quick sidenote: if you need to get caught up or have your memory jogged on how to actually play the games, I’ve done my best to describe the gameplay involved in Pokemon here, and subsequently here)

All the Pokemon hype has had me playing Platinum religiously. I’ve got a copy now and I’m trying like hell to create a balanced team of Pokemon I’ve never used before, and to beat the game so I can move on to White version. Once I’ve caught up, maybe I’ll be in a position to play X and Y. That’s a bit aside from the point I’m trying to make.

Here’s what makes X and Y special:

1) X and Y have received the highest Metacritic score for any handheld Pokemon game in recent years. Metacritic has kept tabs on the handheld Pokemon game franchise since 2003, or since the release of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire Versions; they both scored an overall critique of 82. Since then, the highest score given to a handheld Pokemon game has been an 87, which was given to Heartgold and Soulsilver; Pokemon X and Y officially received an 88 and an 89, respectively, with user scores slightly higher, making them the best-critiqued handheld Pokemon games to date, according to Metacritic. Gamespot’s user reviews are funneling in, and Y’s average score of 8.8 is lagging behind X’s, which has so far teetered at 9.3.

2) In the past, Pokemon games have differed mostly cosmetically. After the new types (dark and steel) were introduced in Generation II of Pokemon (Gold, Silver, Crystal), there haven’t been many additions to the Pokemon formula. Berries can be grown, the Vs. Seeker allows trainer rematches, the bicycle has two gears instead of one, etc. Ultimately, aside from the addition of one hundred plus Pokemon every generation, the games aren’t too different all the time, if you think about it. They’re still fun, but they tend to bank on success with minimal addition.

X and Y are the most major upset to this trend I think I’ve seen so far. First off, there’s the fact that this game truly belongs on the 3DS because it allows free, 3D overworld movement. You don’t walk on a 2D grid anymore, you can move in any direction the joystick can command. You get roller skates as well, a small and rather basic change, but with some neat uses. This is the first Generation to introduce a new Pokemon type since Generation II: the Fairy type is now in play, some of its more notable members being Mawile, Sylveon (new Eevee evolution), and lots of those “pink” dudes we think are cute. Fairy is super-effective against Dragon. Think about that.

The option to receive a second starter (Squirtle, Bulbusaur, Charmander) eliminates some of that ever-present fear that your rival will kick your ass. The 3D battle animations are much more enthralling and thrilling. The new Pokemon are abundant and presumably fun to raise. And there is an entirely new territory to explore, the Kalos region, which I don’t know much about and don’t want to until I experience it for myself.

A last paragraph about some other innovative features introduce for X and Y: there’s Pokemon Amie, which is a function of the game allowing you to play with, pet, and feed your Pokemon in order to get more accustomed to them. The benefits range from increased experience in battle to a better chance they’ll survive a normally-lethal hit. Also, the Pokemon Bank is a paid service (price not yet revealed) that allows you to maintain virtual boxes full of Pokemon. It allows for the transfer of Pokemon from previous games to the boxes via Wi-Fi, so that the awesome teams you end up getting at the ends of playthroughs are more tangible and not so forgettable. The Internet compatibility of Pokemon games seems to only be expanding nowadays, and some people argue that this is “as close as Pokemon will ever be to a massively multiplayer online game.”

Pokemon-X-and-Y

3) These last two additions are significant enough to mention on their own. The first of which, Super Training, is a new way to level up Pokemon statistics. This seems like more of a competitive-edge type function, for people who tend to level-grind their Pokemon to battle gym leaders or friends. Personally, I appreciate that the option is there, because there were definitely games in the past where your only training options became wild Pokemon or the Elite Four. This function allows you to basically take on the role of a personal exercise trainer, and raise your team’s stats individually (not their levels). It functions like Protein, Iron, and the rest of the Pokemon “vitamin” items that were utilized in the past.

The other new thing is Mega Evolution. This means that many Pokemon in their final form will be able to surpass their final stage of evolution temporarily to look badass and deal some major damage. Mega Charizard, Mega Alakazam, Mega Gengar, and others have been officially released. This adds a brand new battling dynamic and aesthetic to the game. Pretty damn cool. Not only that, but their forms differ between versions X and Y. That means that stats and appearance are completely divergent depending on what game you got.

List of Mega Evolutions documented thus far

So there you have it. That’s about a complete a list of things I can tell you guys without spoiling the hell out of the best parts of the game. I’m sure fans of the series will love it, and from what I’ve heard, even newcomers will find it fun and welcoming (and perhaps a little overwhelming). Happy playing!

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

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Top Five Reasons You Should Watch Attack on Titan

Hey guys! Guess where Erin and I are now? You guessed it: college. And it has been quite a time for us both–since we’re both separate we’re keeping in touch as best we can, and with schoolwork in between we’re making do. We plan to see each other soon, and I dunno about you guys but I’m pretty good when it comes to sending Erin all things, all the time. God bless the internet.

Admittedly, I get a little bit down from time to time though, because I miss Erin and my friends and my family, and I’m sure that’s normal. And one of my methods of self-recuperation (besides talking to Erin of course) is to watch videos.

They’re sometimes funny, sometimes weird, but mostly they’re just distracting! And boy, do I like distracting. Long day of school? Watch some Netflix. Sick to your stomach? Watch this guy read you stuff. Feeling like a li’l shit?

Watch Attack on Titan.

You know why? Because the main character is the angstiest li’l shit I think I’ve ever seen. And you won’t feel like half the li’l shit you felt like after watching him yell this.

“Does he have character development?” you ask. “Is he a likable character?” “Does he grow on you?” “Is he romantically involved?”

Sort of. To all of those. He is sort of everything.

And sort of freaking batshit crazy.

Here ya go: the top five reasons you should watch Attack on Titan.

5) It’s Unique

“But lots of shows are unique!” you whine. “Every show is unique!” Well this one takes the cake. This show is not even your typical action-anime show, it’s pretty much in a realm of its own as far as I can tell. Between my brother and I, action-anime shows have been watched in my household, and none were like this.

Is it one of the bloodiest I’ve ever seen? Yes. Around 18,600 people believe that Attack on Titan (aka SNK which stands for Shingeki no Kyojin–the show’s Japanese name) uses blood like other anime shows use cherry blossoms, which is a nearly unbearable amount. But is it thrilling? Absolutely. Are you engaged and on the edge of your seat the entire time you watch? Pretty much. Do people die lots of devastating deaths? Let’s just say it’s not normal to go an entire episode without watching someone get killed.

That’s the other thing: characters that are introduced and characterized are literally shown being killed before your very eyes, and it’s hard deciding if you’re more physically appalled or emotionally detached now that they’re gone. But, points for originality. Right? Wouldn’t want the good guys to just kick ass all the time. That wouldn’t be fun. It’d be pointless.

Humanity gets whooped all the time in this show.

4) The Fans

Take this reason with a grain of salt: there is no show on the planet where all the fans are completely sane. Not even Jeopardy. And admittedly, I will often find tumblr posts about Attack on Titan that do not appeal to me at all, involving alternate universes and stranger-than-strange fan fiction, etc. I’m sure anyone with a computer knows what I’m talking about. There are always going to be the oddball fans.

But with that disclaimer, I must say that the *funny* Attack on Titan stuff is absolutely hilarious. Some people are creative and some people have lots of time on their hands–and some people have both of those things. And they spend it making beautiful, AoT art.

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This is the tip of the iceberg. And while you may think “huh, creative” or smile a little, ya gotta realize–watching the show opens up an entire world of jokes that I don’t want to spoil for you. NO SPOILERS. I promise.

Oh, and here is a site devoted to drawing one-minute depictions of the main character, Eren Jaeger.

3) The Characters

Action-anime shows (especially ones with this much blood) tend to have characters that place emphasis on being badass. That’s cool, I understand. But Attack on Titan is a strange offshoot–it is full of cowards.

There are funny cowards. There are funny idiots. There are heroic idiots. A lot of these people die. But when it comes to the way in which the characters combat the titans, it’s honestly incredibly realistic in the sense that they aren’t all hack-and-slash and awesome; the people are genuinely scared. Even the people in charge are scared. There are multiple points in the show where you’re thinking “are people going to rebel? Will people leave the fight to save their own skins?” I won’t tell you the outcome, but the people who are truly talented and badass warriors are few and far between.

I won’t tell you what kinds of backstory is offered on main characters and what their personalities are in general, but I can assure you that at least I am satisfied with what kinds of cool decisions they make and how they move the show along.

2) It’s Artistically Original

The show itself is really interesting. If you compare it to other styles of animation, it just kinda has its own feel. The characters feel more outlined and defined, the colors are kind of dark most times for effect, and the expressions on their faces are versatile, but never typical. Some shows animate their characters in a non-realistic way sometimes to illustrate (in a usually funny way) the way that they’re feeling, but AoT never has to do that. It really helps bring you into the world of the characters a little bit more.

Also interesting is the realistic take on a by-gone age. The show takes place in a strange and undefinable era that can only be described by me as “the Middle Ages with a higher degree of technology”. The people eat bread in mess halls and wear tunics. There are cannons, but apparently guns do not exist. And yet they are able to travel via Maneuver Gear, which is basically like hip-mounted cables that act much like Spiderman’s webshots. They cling to nearby buildings and allow gravity and other factors to build up a certain momentum for the user to travel swiftly about their environment. It’s certainly a really cool concept. Also, they’ve got swords.

Pretty original, right?

Oh, and the titans are freaking horrifying.

1) The Premise

Alright, so you’ve gotten this far through my post and you’re probably like “why in the hell have you only given me vague hints as to the premise of this show?” The reason is because it’s the best part. It’s just a really, really cool idea. Honestly whoever conceptualized this show is a creative genius, because in my opinion, few shows come close to the level of awe that this show inspires merely by thinking about it.

It’s a show about a human population that exists within massive walls. A century or more ago, mankind was nearly eradicated by giant humanoid monsters, but they all mysteriously vanished, and mankind was left to repopulate some, and even prepare for the next unpredictable wave. The show begins right when the titans return, and wreak havoc upon the citizens within the outermost portion of wall. Within the wall are more walls, so that external towns kind of act as barriers and buffers against attacks on the interior.

Mankind knows almost nothing about how the titans; their anatomy (they have no genitalia and I’m pretty sure they’ve never seen a baby titan), their weaknesses, and their level of intelligence are all strange mysteries. But the main character Eren, after witnessing something particularly unforgettable, vows to learn to combat the titans, and to kill them all for the sake of humanity.

Sounds neat right? Well there have been more than a handful of twists along the way, and this show is definitely more than it seems on the surface. Add that level of depth, and you’ve got a show you probably can’t stop watching.

Enjoy.

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-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

On Anime

Every so often, I’ll see a great episode of DBZ or something or other on TV that really takes me back to my childhood. I used to be such a big fan of the original Kanto Pokemon series, as well as Dragon Ball and even Yu-Gi-Oh, and some others. I remember how awesome it was to watch those kinds of shows, thinking for some reason that they all had certain attributes that set themselves apart from other shows, attributes that I couldn’t really identify as a kid.

I think now I understand a little bit better: those kinds of shows were animated and yet they had such gripping and intense plotlines. It seems that  American TV programs like Spongebob or Ed, Edd, and Eddy were invariably comedic shows–they were never very interesting. They didn’t have plotlines that spanned multiple episodes or anything. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Spongebob and Ed, Edd, and Eddy. I can quote those shows pretty much all day. But more recently, with the powers of Netflix and other obscure internet sources at my fingertips, I’ve also had the freedom to watch a bit more anime as well as other superbly awesome things.

I have a few go-to friends I can talk to about anime shows, what to watch and what most certainly not to watch. Most of the things I’ve watched have been recommended to me time and time again by these friends, and I don’t think I’ve ever been let down… except with Naruto, which I kind of grew to despise toward the end. I’ll still watch the occasional episode, I guess, but even that’s kind of a lie because I haven’t bothered in months. I invested a pretty little chunk of time in that show, and sadly the plot just kind of dissipated into a meaningless struggle against random dudes (at least in the filler). Apparently now he’s fighting the Akatsuki dudes, but since the Shippuden series has gone on for some 500+ episodes… well… IDGAF. If someone wants to tell me which episodes he fights the Akatsuki members in, maybe I’ll watch. I heard the battles are rad.

I’ll start with some of the childhood series I used to watch: you can NOT go wrong with starting Pokemon from the beginning. I’m sure many of you are familiar with it and love it like I do. It’s great. Also, Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z were both intense and funny at times, and I loved them both too. I really liked certain characters in that show, and even though some of the main antagonists tended to suck, I still enjoyed it. Yu-Gi-Oh was okay, but it was probably the worst of the shows I watched. It was just kind of unappealing how the characters resolved their problems with card games that had little to no effect on the real world, I guess. Plus Pegasus, the main antagonist, was totally gay.

I watched Avatar: The Last Airbender off and on in my middle school years. We never got into it to the point of watching it religiously, but it was a great show and it was always one of our go-to programs if it was on TV. I finished it on Netflix years later, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I watch Legend of Korra now, whenever new episodes premiere, and am psyched for the new book coming out in April.

Another thing I watched on Netflix was Elfen Lied. It was short, so I thought “what’s the harm in watching a 13-episode show? No skin off my back if it sucks… right?” Actually, it was really insanely good. My brother watched it after me and flipped out too. It was really graphic, and not at all suitable for kids… but at the same time it was a really, really good dark drama. It reminded me a lot of the book A Clockwork Orange because it was so stupendously violent that it kind of scarred you–but at the same time it had a really interesting message–totally worth watching if you can handle it.

I also really enjoy Studio Ghibli movies. I watched Spirited Away as a kid, and remember being pretty scared of it. It was like nothing I’d ever seen–the plot was somewhat nonsensical, and everything was so random and fantastic that I was just kind of overwhelmed. Also, when the parents turned into massive pigs, I guess I kind of lost it. But now I’m older, I’ve rewatched it, and can say that I really do enjoy it. Recently Erin and I saw Grave of the Fireflies, and really liked it. At the same time, though, that movie is an incredible tragedy. I love it but it is the most tear-jerking, emotion-destroying thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, Whisper of the Heart, and others.

I watched Fullmetal Alchemist on Netflix because my brother suggested it to me. I really liked that one too, although there were a few slow points before the final climax. It was around fifty or sixty episodes and the characters in it were really inspiring and funny. It’s all about the magic of alchemy, and it’s set in a World War I setting. It’s one of the more creative shows I’ve seen. I also saw High School of the Dead. That show is wicked. It’s 13 episodes and crazy bloody.

Cowboy Bebop is one I finished not too long ago as well–I really enjoyed this one. It’s got the best main characters and the best, loosely-grounded plot ever. It’s 26 episodes long and follows three bounty hunters–Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, and Faye Valentine–in the future. They survive by catching criminals who travel through space, and then turning them in for cash rewards. The basis of the show seems a little corny, maybe–it did to me at first–but the show itself was so radical. Definitely up there in my list of favorites.

And then there are a few that I’ve just watched a couple of episodes of–I’m working on one on Netflix now called Fruits Basket, it’s alright. And I’ve seen a few episodes of One Piece before, it seemed funny and interesting. Watched a couple episodes of Fairy Tail but gave up because apparently they stopped English Dubbing the episodes not too far in. I can tolerate English Subtitles, but only up to a point… so I quit that one. It was moderately interesting.

And I think that about sums up all I’ve ever seen. If you have any others you’d like to recommend that I watch in my free time, please be my guest. They’re very addicting and they help me pass the time and relax. Or if you’d like to dispute any of the concise little reviews I’ve already offered, you can totally be my guest on that too. Do what you’d like!

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

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