Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Horror themed mini-review: Jigoku Shoujo

That's right, got a new mini-review for you! To keep it in theme with the season we're in (with Halloween and all,) it's Jigoku Shoujo, or Hell Girl today!

First off, let me be brutally honest. If you're looking for horror in the form of Corpse Party, this will not satisfy that particular itch. No abundance of violent deaths to be seen here. This is gonna be a bit more of a "think about that for a second and say that isn't scary"-kind of deal. With that in mind, let's continue.

The story, unsurprisingly enough, revolves around Ai Enma, also referred to as Hell Girl. Ai, along with her three sidekicks, get requests from regular people at a website (called Hell Link) that can only be accessed at exactly midnight, and only if you have a strong grievance towards someone.

Your grievance shall be avenged.
We, as the viewer, get to
join in and watch Ai and her sidekicks work as different people submit names of people they want banished to hell. This is also the point where this stops being simple. Should you find, and submit a name to the Hell Link, Ai will visit you personally (within a second of submitting the name) and give you the following deal.

Would you untie the thread?
You accept the straw doll with a red thread. Now you got to confirm that you are serious about banishing someone to hell immediately. This is done by untying the red thread and banishing yourself to hell as well on the day you die, or you walk away. That's right. You thought this was gonna be an easy free ride to send someone you dislike to hell? You're wrong. You're sending someone into an eternity of pain, horror and who-knows-what-else immediately. The price to pay is that you will suffer the same fate on the day you die in the future. "Curses come home to roost" as Ai puts it. This is a question I really liked this series for asking. Just how much do you have to hate someone to see them sent to hell right this instant, and you with them at a later date?

About halfway in the series, the story changes a bit. Instead of just hearing about the stories of unlucky souls, we also get to know Hajime, a freelance journalist, and Tsugumi Shibata (Hajime's daughter). Hajime starts looking into the cases where people have mysteriously vanished (or as the viewer knows, been sent to hell), and at the same time Tsugumi begins to have these visions, where she momentarily sees something Ai is watching. Together they try to figure out why Hell Girl is banishing people to hell, if there is any way they can stop her, and why Tsugumi and Ai seem to have some sort of connection. I won't spoil anything, as this series is definitely worth a watch just to figure out what Ai's driving factor is, and how it all connects to Hajime and Tsugumi.

Final Verdict: 9/10
Pros:                                                                   Cons:
- Great characters                                                - Not as scary as I thought it was going to be
- Great use of suspense                                           for a horror series
- Big moral grey area with untying the
   red thread
- Great pacing.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Horror themed mini-review: Corpse Party

It's getting really close to Halloween, and I'm a fan of October as a whole being horror themed. With that in mind, I thought I'd do a mini-review of some horror-themed anime. The following is a mini-review of Corpse Party: Tortured Souls - Bougyakusareta Tamashii no Jukyou, and thus not fit for the squeamish or those with a heart-condition.

First things first. A lot of people might not know about this series, so I'll give you a quick introduction. Corpse Party started off as a PC game made with RPG-maker software back in 1996. It got a remake, named Corpse Party: Blood Covered back in '08, and Corpse Party: Blood Covered Repeated Fear for the PSP in February last year (which was when I discovered this gem).
Screenshot from the Playstation Portable version
 That's right, the game was deemed so good, it was not only remade once, but twice. It got a pretty big cult-following, so it's not to be unexpected. I mean, it's why we're here, talking about the recent anime adaption!

Hang on Kishinuma, let's save our progress first!
Having played the PSP version, I can't help but draw comparisons between the PSP version and the new anime version. This is however not a bad thing. The scenes are faithful to the game, they got the voice actors from the game to voice the anime, and they even threw in the save points (lit candles on the floor) at the same places! One thing the anime-series does very well is making sure the story flows along, not too fast, or not too slow. This was a problem I felt the PSP version had. The third and fourth chapters dragged on a bit and I wasn't as tensed up because of it. Making this a four episode OVA was definitely the right thing to do, as even if you watch all four of them continuously you will not get bored.

No quick deaths here. Massive pain ahead
It may be a bit late to mention, but if you want a horror story with a happy ending you've taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. It's quite similar to the series Another in that respect. Half the tension is from figuring out who will make it, who doesn't, and how do the ones that don't survive, die? This is another place the anime mixes it up a little. The game has a ton of "Dead Ends" (or bad endings, if you will), and the anime version tried to get quite a few of those presented for the viewer. However, since it is a limited character pool, and they can't kill off the same characters multiple times, they change the Dead Ends slightly, so that the character survives (but not always, to keep you guessing).

Spoiler: He's not talking to his sister
Another thing to remember is that people surrounded by death, ghosts and constant fear, tend to end up somewhat unstable after a while. Even the living may end up being an enemy out to end your life!

When all is said and done, this is seriously a great anime, no matter if you've played the game or not. Give it a try, at most you've only spent two hours, which is nothing compared to the characters in this anime. Heavenly Host Elementary School awaits...

Final Verdict: 9/10

Pros:                                                              Cons:
- True to the games                                        - Some deaths are slightly changed (only matters if
- Great story                                                     you played the game and are super-loyal to it)
- Doesn't drag out, keeps the flow going
- Keeps blood/gore levels realistic
- No "sunshine and lollipops" ending

Monday, October 14, 2013

A look at Pokemon:The Origin and Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun

Another blog post, guess this snowball is actually rolling downhill by itself now! (If you didn't get that, refer to my first blog post). So, I've been watching Pokemon: The Origin and
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun since the last post, and I can safely say that it was just what I needed after Shingeki no Kyojin. I've also gotten myself a haircut and a new pair of glasses! Turns out, to get both of these on the same day is a bad idea. Some people won't recognize you at first... So, it's a good idea if you want a new identity, I suppose, otherwise, make sure you let it go a day or two in between...

Pokemon: The Origin is a real good, 4 episode series, filled with nostalgia. The series is directly aimed at those who have great memories from playing Pokemon Red/Blue/Green in the past. I mean, the episodes start, and end, with the classic start menu, and the familiar "saving the game" screen.
You know you remember this!
Start the adventure!
Definitely worth a watch if you have fond memories of the first generation of Pokemon. Just be warned, this is an anime also aimed to get you curious about the new Pokemon X/Y for the 3DS, as they do introduce something called "Mega-evolutions" towards the end, which I've been told are in X/Y.

The second series I've watched, as earlier stated was Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun. I went into this series pretty blind, just expecting it to be a comedy. Turns out it's a rom-com, which I'm perfectly okay with. Seriously, my favourite anime-series ever, is Clannad and it's sequel Clannad: After Story. And hey, guess what? Black Ragdoll did a review of Clannad not too long ago! She also was kind-enough to give me a shoutout!. Anyway, back on track! The characters in Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun are great. They don't run with as many cliches as one would originally think. The male main character, Haru Yoshida, is honest to a fault, and is a bit eager to start fights. There's also a lot he doesn't understand, but he's honestly trying to be a good person... even if it backfires a lot. 
Pro-tip: Do not punch the girl you are in love with.
Surprise hugs from behind, not always popular.
The main female character, Shizuku Mizutani, is a somewhat cold person, aims for the far future and thus, enjoys doing her homework and being ranked number 1 in her class on tests. Despite being ranked number 1, she is not the typical girl every guy in the class fawns over, because of how cold she can be. She was used to being alone and not thinking that she was lonely, and gradually starts to warm up as the series progresses. There's some drama, but it's usually resolved pretty quick, in favor of comedy. 

Pros:                                                               Cons:
- Lighthearted and fun                                      - Some story elements remain unsolved
- Doesn't take itself too seriously                      - Story goes a bit back and forth
- Likeable characters                                       
- Face animations/expressions are funny

Final verdict: 7/10

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Dragons, Guns and Titans, oh my!

Man, it's been a busy week! Playstation+ gave away Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen for free, so I got that last weekend. It's ridiculously good. Imagine Skyrim, Dark Souls and Shadow of the Colossus fused together into one being. BAM. You got Dragon's Dogma!

The world looks really great and it's so detailed! There's tons of foliage around, be it grass, bushes, trees, rocks or what you thought was rocks, only to wake up and prove to be a Golem. This is where the Shadow of the Colossus part comes up. Instead of just hacking away at enemies' ankles, you can climb up their bodies and hit various bodyparts for various effects! Hit a Griffin or a Drake that's flying on their wings, and they'll come tumbling down. Hit a Cyclops on his weapon-hand, and he'll drop his weapon. It's basic stuff, but it helps make the combat so satisfying. And the only way to defeat a Golem? Destroy the spots imbued with magic, allowing him to move! Seriously, this game has got a lot of different enemies, from the common goblin, to harpies, griffins, chimeras, drakes and more. (I still haven't completed the game, it's really big, so there might be more that I don't know of as well).
Hit the weakspots for massive damage!
A Chimera's size, compared to a human.
Also related to gaming is the fact that the Battlefield 4 Open Beta is out for everyone to join. Me and a good amount of my buddies from Hardcore Gaming Community have been going at it for hours on end. Not having played Battlefield 3 on PC, I don't really have much of comparison. One thing I can say though is that the action is a lot more fast-paced and frantic on PC then Battlefield 3 is on PS3, and it's still a LOT of fun.

These last couple of days I've spent a lot of time watching what everyone else has been watching, Shingeki no Kyojin, or Attack on Titan as it's called in English. I deliberately waited for this to finish airing before I started watching, because from all the good things I had heard I knew it was gonna drag a hold of me and not let go. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened. I'm usually slow with watching series, so when I completed the entire 25 episodes in a week (and one of my work-weeks as well), I surprised myself. Something Shingeki no Kyojin does really, really well, is the artstyle, and the eyes of the characters. There's quite an amount of close-up shots of the characters eyes when something (usually particularly gruesome) happens.
Holy crap, these gas prices!
Another thing this series does really well is the characters. All of them are really memorable, have their own charms and quirks. My favourite character is most likely Sasha Blouse, just because of the amazing first impression she gave. Everyone else is standing at attention. Sasha? She's eating!

Sasha "Potato Girl" Blouse, best character.
Of course, if you eat when you're supposed to stand at attention you stand out like a sore thumb, so the Drill Sergeant notices her and asks what she's doing. She responds by saying that she's eating a potato, then attempts to break the potato in half (instead snapping it into a piece on 1/3 and another on 2/3). She then says she is willing to share half of the potato with the Drill Sergeant! The only thing that makes the scene even better is that the voice actress for Sasha also did the voice for Kaere/Kaede Kimura in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and Ruka "Rukako" Urushibara from Stein's;Gate.
Kaere/Kaede Kimura
Ruka Urushibara

The only negative things I can think of when it comes to Shingeki no Kyojin is that almost every episode had a 3-4 minute long "Previously on..." part, and it ends on a cliffhanger. This might just be something I didn't like, because I ended up watching all of it almost back-to-back, and not once a week like everyone else. I'm happy I ended up waiting, because those cliffhangers would have driven me nuts.

Final Verdict: 9/10
Pros:                                                                                  Cons:
- Great and immersive story                                                - Repeating previous episodes
- Amazing artstyle                                                               - Cliffhanger Ending
- LOTS of very likeable characters
- Great music (I'm still humming the second opening)
- Very smooth action scenes