Archive for April, 2009

This entry is part 35 of 43 in the series Nanoha GamerS

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Yes, I know.

Something went wrong again, and I think I've fixed the problem for now, but if the page is getting cut off halfway again, I'll have to start delving deeper into the issue.

At least I know it's not Post Teaser, since I haven't reactivated that plugin.

It's like this sort of thing happens whenever it would most inconvenience me. Very Murphy's Law.

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Mugi dreams.

Not that they actually did any of that. Or pumpkins, for that matter.

This week has been taken up mainly by Administrative Matters, as they apply in Real Life. In fact, this blog post is being written at this very moment while I am waiting to collect my brand new biometric passport, courtesy of the March Of Technological Progress and Singapore's place in it. There are about a hundred people ahead of me in the queue; this is likely to take a while.

In the meantime, I managed to get K-On episode 4 onto the Eee PC, and so that is what I shall be occupying myself with, keeping a watchful eye on the big board with numbers which May Not Be Called In Order, presumably to mess with our minds.

I'm a little surprised that Mio is able to get her hands on a working portable cassette tape player in this day and age. It does look like one of those old blocky ones without a CD function (but with auto-reverse, a luxury when I was little), so maybe I just need to take better care of mine.

I see that they've started with the Shiny Forehead jokes at Ritsu's expense. I have to admit that if it weren't for that, I wouldn't be able to tell Ritsu and Yui apart at a distance. This could be due to the art style, but then I'm horrible at recognizing people, even close friends, anyway.

When Mio was rummaging through her bag for her swimsuit, she kept bringing out the same two items (what looks like a small towel and a bottle of shampoo) in what is obviously a looped animation. It may say something about my current state of mind that I was going to say how this seems oddly lazy on the part of the animators, but got sidetracked by my brain automatically adding "datte hontou wa CRAZY".

I like the BGM for K-On, although it's nothing too special by anime standards (compared to, say, Card Captor Sakura). It's just the simple tunes and arrangements, possibly reminding me of Azumanga Daioh, although here I think they could be transplanted without attracting much notice into Lucky Star, and from Lucky Star to K-On. Also, the previous sentence was written while under the influence of the sorts of distractions and annoyances inherent in large waiting room crowds, if you were wondering about the coherency.

There's a lot of focus on Mio here, which will undoubtedly be of great interest to the majority of the Anglophone anime bloggers, at least from the reception Mio has received so far. I will say that Mio is interesting to watch in action, but my heart still belongs to Mugi-chan, and I have no idea why.

Yui and Ritsu act in unison a lot. I mean, my friends and I like to play along with each other when doing silly stuff (because youth is the best time to do silly stuff, before arthritis sets in), but the "moe moe kyun!" bit was uncannily well-timed.

Finally, if you can help it, don't watch anime on an Eee PC running off battery power. It's going to stutter pretty badly.

(If you were wondering, I wrote this while waiting, but only got around to posting it now. And no, my number was still not up by the time I finished.)

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Horo and the guy whose name I forgot.

A bit later than the curve would suggest, but I've started on Spice and Wolf. Note that I said started, as in "watched about five minutes of the first episode before I had to go". I have heard tell that this anime concerns itself with being informative and educational rather than entertainment, which I admit would probably not have lured me in if there hadn't been the much-fanarted Horo. I learn better when a cute anime girl is involved; I am a simple man.

Most of my knowledge about the history of currency is from Neal Stephenson's unwieldy Baroque Cycle. For those who have never read it before (and believe me, if you've read it you'd know, considering its possible usage as a 1d6 bludgeoning weapon), it deals with the political and cultural upheavals of the late 17th and early 18th century, with an immense focus, as only Stephenson can do and still get published under Fiction, on modern finance and banking. I am hoping, with the sort of desperate optimism a college student the day before his finals may possess while looking for Cliff's Notes in the bookstore, that Spice and Wolf may provide a less depressing context for the history lesson.

(And while I like Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, Making Money isn't really all that informative. Entertaining, but not informative.)

The idea of economics is pretty fascinating, although I should mention that I'd rather not do all the heavy lifting of actually studying the subject. The basic principles, from the concept of barter, is simple: I have A Thing which you want. You may have Another Thing which I want. We then trade our Things as far as we see the transaction to be viable. Except that the Real World doesn't work that neatly, and so lots of complications arise, and lots more complications arise from the attempted solutions to these complications, a state of affairs familiar to experienced gamers.

Along the way someone came up with the idea of representing, say, a given amount of apples or spices or cow with a shaped bulk sample of precious metals, and then someone else thought of keeping the general shape but reducing the amount of precious metal in that sample, and then we have things Written Down which promised to Pay The Bearer One Dollar I Say One Dollar Upon Presentation Of This Note. The piece of paper alone is worth about as much as a regular piece of paper plus some ink, but the information recorded on that paper, and the reputation of the person or organization encoding that information, made it worth as much as a given amount of precious metals, or a given amount of cow, if it comes to that. The jump to that information without the paper seems trivial in comparison.

Along the way, the world became more and more connected, and lines of communications became more and more secure, and very intelligent people thought up of ways to use this to their advantage, or their nation's advantage, or their culture's advantage. Or politics, which is never very far behind. (I include religious beliefs of that time inside politics, since that's what it boiled down to anyway.) Thus, given that it is fairly safe to assume that a message sent to someone will reach that person, these intelligent people are able to shuffle around money that they have, or don't have, or will possibly have in the future provided various things come to pass, or other people's money which they are keeping in yet other people's pockets, and still settle accounts, through some sort of financial voodoo.

We have come from trading Things, to what is essentially Magic. And the essential part of magic is in knowing just that bit more than everyone else.

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Tsumugi the highland princess.

Don't expect this to be a regular feature. If nothing else, I'll lose interest quite quickly.

K-On has garnered the usual amount of attention from anime bloggers, with Mio appearing to be the fan favourite. Whether this is intentional on the part of the creators is beyond me; I'm just here for the cute girls, man. Specifically Tsumugi, or Mugi-chan as her recently-attained nickname goes. People who were in my gaming group will be aware of the reason for my low amusement.

The comparisons to other series have tapered off, although I admit to some surprise that I haven't seen anything about resemblances to Manabi Straight. Or not, as the case may be, since an argument could be made either way; the opening animation at least seemed Manabi-ish, if also rather Beatles-ish, but I'm always prepared for the usual "how could you think such a thing? There is no such comparison to be made!" arguments. It is a diverse Internet out there.

In this episode, Yui gets a guitar, which people have been calling a "Les Paul Fender" or some arcane title along those lines. Having never delved, even shallowly, into the world of Real Guitars, I am lost, adrift; I mean, I can play a G chord, a C chord, and I think an F-sharp chord, but that's about the limit of my knowledge on the matter. Presumably I can try to learn, but I share Mio's apprehension at the starring role a guitarist would be placed in. I would be interested in learning the bass, though, especially since I like how it sounds, so maybe that might swing me over to Mio's side more than Tsumugi, although I doubt it.

(The only musical instrument I can claim to some competence with is the saxophone. Not exactly rock band material, and I lack the improvisational imagination necessary for jazz.)

It is hard to fully pin down Tsumugi's entire personality, since so little has been noted about who she is, rather than what she is. She's a rich girl who's not entirely experienced in the ways of the common people, of the nice, cheerful, polite, pleasant personality type, with occasional flights of fancy into the realms of the bizarre. Like a more naive Tomoyo Daidouji from Card Captor Sakura, which is probably why I'm drawn to her.

One thing I've never been able to understand about how some other bloggers think is that sometimes they go from "OMG WORST ANIME EVER" to "OMG BEST ANIME EVER" within the space of one episode. Now, in a medium with more than one work in it that can be objectively judged for quality, the two are mutually exclusive.

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Clockwise from the top: Nodoka, Saki, Maki, Yuuki.

Reposting after dealing with technical difficulties.

Up until now, my only experience with Mahjong has been with the version known occasionally as Shanghai, as befits my preference to solo in MMORPGs. I've always been meaning to learn, however, partly because learning new things is invariably useful, and partly because people keep talking about it and I feel a little left out.

I actually spent a couple of hours in the #AnimeBlogger IRC channel spectating a couple of matches between four of the channel denizens. Lupus took out a hefty chunk of that time to teach me the basics of Mahjong, Hong Kong rules style. It apparently bears a faint resemblance to the basics of poker, except in groups of three (or four): if I remember correctly, a "chow" is a three-straight, a "pung" is a three-of-a-kind, and a "kong" is four-of-a-kind. In play, someone draws a tile from the "wall", which apparently serves the same purpose as the common deck of cards, and discards another tile (whether the one just drawn or otherwise) from their hand, which is the row of tiles directly in front of them. Someone else can pick up that discard as their draw, or not; if the discarded tile is left alone, it is arranged neatly at the centre of the table, presumably to let everyone see what tiles have been played. Presumably there is no special tile that lets you summon something from the graveyard at the cost of all your mana.

The first episode of Saki confirmed my belief that I still have a long, long way to go. What are these people talking about? Where is the glossary for all this terminology? Have I somehow switched to watching the more jargon-filled scenes of Asura Cryin? When my friend told me that I needed to at least have a handle on the vocabulary of Mahjong, he meant every word.

But it's all right; I'm here for the cute girls. Nodoka's insistence on Saki joining the club and her reputation of being the champion makes me think that there's some Angst in store for her, either in the backstory or plot, but she does seem to be designed to attract attention anyway, what with her pink hair and huge tracts of land talent bounce. Yuuki is perky comic relief, and Saki herself is… well, I suppose she'll display some more personality in future episodes.

The intense background music and arcs of lightning that appear whenever the characters dramatically draw and discard tiles is… well, if I were less experienced in anime, I'd say that it's overdone, but after Yakitate Japan I don't think that's really possible anymore. I half expect that along with the electronic scoring system, each Mahjong tile is actually intended to give off dramatic sparks and gusts of wind, individually powered by tiny nuclear reactors.

Best not to slam those tiles down.

A strange thing is that I've generally figured Mahjong to be a social game, like Bridge. While playing competitively, everything is all Serious Business, but among friends, I'd anticipate at least some chatter. The Mahjong Club in Saki doesn't exactly play in silence, but there's still a lot less conversation than I expected.

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Yes, I'm aware that something broke in the blog since the last post. It's also way too late at night (or rather, too early in the morning) to deal with it right this instant.

Suffice to say that I will be spending a sleepless night (or morning) on the matter.

EDIT: Deactivating the Post Teaser plugin seems to have solved matters. I do not know why it broke in the first place.

I'll miss it, even though it gave no actual useful information. So it goes.

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This entry is part 34 of 43 in the series Nanoha GamerS

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Yui, flustered.

Kurogane compared the main characters of K-On to those of Lucky Star, which does rather fit, but to be honest the first comparison I thought of was Hidamari Sketch:

  • Yui – Yuno
  • Ritsu – Miyako
  • Mio – Sae
  • Tsumugi – Hiro

To be fair, the interactions don't exactly break down exactly as compared: Ritsu hangs out with Mio instead of Yui, Mio is a lot more honest to herself than Sae was, and Tsumugi is a bit more out-there compared to Hiro (in fact, she probably fits the least closely). I wouldn't say air-headed, but perhaps naive is a better word. (Or not.) "Inexperienced with the ways of the world" would probably be more accurate if it weren't too unwieldy a phrase, and if my brain ever emigrated from the gutter.

It's also telling that Tsumugi is invariably the last name mentioned in the listing of the four girls. We have Main Character Yui, and the boke-and-tsukkomi routine of Ritsu and Mio, which all leap to mind more readily than the Rich Talented Girl that is Tsumugi, whom one can't really feel jealous of, since she's so amazingly nice. (Of course, with my luck, she'll turn out to have some hidden nasty side or something. So it goes.)

It's also also telling that I've latched onto Tsumugi as my Favourite Character So Far, just as I did for Miyuki in Lucky Star. There Is Something Wrong With Me.

As for the actual episode itself, there is little to say. It does take an oddly long time for Yui to join the Light Music Club; I say "oddly" because I could be biased by knowing what the series is supposed to be about. We know that Yui's going to join up, and taking most of the episode for her to do so just feels like teasing the audience. Still, I enjoyed it, which is all I ask for in my entertainment. (Why did I enjoy it, you may ask? Please note the title of this blog.)

Finally, I have been accused of being a KyoAni fanboy. This is like accusing a beer-lover of being a Guinness fanboy; from an extremely stretched definition it is true, but it fails to address the main point: I am a moe fanboy, and it doesn't matter who draws the cute girls, as long as the cute girls are present. Thus, it is more proper to say that I am also a lolicon a KyoAni fanboy.

Also on my to-watch list, which is by no means the same as my to-follow list, are Asura Cryin (ghost in the mecha, or some strange bizarreness in that general direction), as well as the much-mocked Queen's Blade (containing copious amounts of breasts bosoms melons milk factories busts funbags knockers boobies jugs jubblies stonking great tits).

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Zange and Hakua in what must be a stock pose by now.

Upon the release and airing of a bishoujo anime, apart from the predictable flinging of excreta from the usual anti-moe factions, one of the standard questions tossed around the fanbase will invariably be "which character is your favourite?"

Yes, I know that this applies to most fictional works. It's just that when it comes to bishoujo anime, the question may well be interpreted as the more direct "which girl would you rather boink?"

Perhaps I am being unfair. In many cases, it's not so much that I lust after the character, especially if they're in the general age range known as "jailbait", but more that I find the character interesting enough that if they existed in Real Life, I'd be happy to be their boon companion. Boinking may or may not be appropriate; I can recognize "sexy", but what I often look for in a female character, aesthetically, is the quality of being cute. Cuddly, even.

There may be an equivalent in female-dominated fandoms with regards to bishounen shows. I have no experience in this, and thus cannot tell.

Most of the time, I go for the underdog characters, or at least characters who seem like they should be the underdogs. I suspect that subconsciously, I believe the main girl to have all the advantages already, what with having the most screentime. There are the obvious exceptions, and in the end it's a matter of which character manages to catch my interest the earliest and the most.

In the case of Kannagi, this ran into a rather large problem. Now, most people would see the choices for "favourite girl" as a three-way contest between Nagi, Zange, and Tsugumi. A few, believing themselves to be witty, affect ignorance at the existence of Tsugumi. Occasionally Takako and Shino are tossed into the running.

My answer? Hakua Suzushiro.

No, not Zange. I do mean Hakua, the girl whose body Zange currently inhabits. I'm not sure if it's because of her true personality (shy, lacks confidence), or because of her very angsty past, the sort which usually irritates me, but in this case seems mostly (with one exception) suitably tragic. It could even be the way she tries to get close to Jin (ie do what she wants to do), but can't quite follow through, and yet she knows she must. A character I end up rooting for is probably a character that interests me greatly.

And yet, in the anime, we see Hakua, but we don't actually see her. Instead, we see Zange, who wears Hakua's appearance, but not her personality. The manga is better at this, at least in the later chapters. The difference between Zange and Hakua is highlighted through artistic tricks: Zange has bright, confident eyes, looking at you straight and true, while Hakua's eyes are duller, shying away, and likely filled with tears.

Despite Zange and Hakua sharing a body, and thus (mostly) looking exactly the same, I don't especially like Zange. It's not hatred, or even dislike, but she just doesn't interest me. She's there, nice to look at, but not really registering. Whereas I keep hoping that Hakua will have more story arcs centered on her, just so I can learn more about her true self. This is probably a sign of something about me, although I know not what.

I'm sure I've had my Bishoujo Focus Attention latch onto characters even further in the background before, but I can't remember whom. It's hard to beat a character who does not technically have any screentime, though.

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