Friday, April 29, 2011

The World Tortoise

 Just a cool picture. Sorry, but I don't know the source.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Girlfriend is a Geek

My Girlfriend is a Geek... or as a more accurate translation, My Fujoshi Girlfriend. 'Fujoshi' refers to a girl who is not only very interested in Japanese anime/manga, but is also interested in romantically pairing their favorite male characters. (Haha... that's such a formal way of defining a Boy's Love (BL) fan.) 'My Girlfriend is a Geek' is about a pretty normal Japanese college guy who starts dating his boss... and she turns out to be a closet fujoshi. The book is in the form of anecdotal blog posts.

I thought the books were great. They're very light reading and I found them hilarious. I felt somewhat sad actually getting most of the geeky references without having to resort to the glossary... but the laughs made up for that sad self-introspection. I think the best way of reviewing the book is to give an short excerpt. If you enjoy it, you should rush and buy the two books now.

While I was putting together an extremely taxing and annoying report, I got a phone call from Y-ko, who was supposed to be hanging out with her fujoshi friends.

Me: Yeah? What's u-
Y-ko: Bonjour!! Listen, listen, listen!!

C-could you turn down the volume?

Me: Sorry, could you tone it down? You're really hurting my ea-
Y-ko: Big news!! Oh, and when I greet you in Italian, I want an Italian response!!
Me: ...I'm sorry. Are you drunk? You're drunk, aren't you?

Plus, bonjour is French, not Italian.

Y-ko: So what? Anyways... I hear they're going to open a butler cafe!!


Me: That's incredible!! It's going to be a smash success.
Y-ko: I know, I know, I know!! Yes!! This weekend's plans are set!!

...Now you're getting ahead of yourself.
This place probably isn't even open for business yet.

Y-ko: Oh my goodness, it's going to be a festival! We're going to open that bottle of wine we've been saving, Sebas (ed. She calls him Sebas, short for Sebastian, because he reminds her of the butler from Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler).


Who are you calling Sebas?

Me: Come on! We don't even have a bottle of wine!
Y-ko: Yes we do! I'll go and pick one up!!
Me: That's not the same as "saving" a bottle...
Y-ko: Hey, what was it called? That one bottle that was really good... Oh right! I remember! Moe Moe Chandon?

What kind of name is that?

They might be able to sell a few bottles by riding that fact, but I certainly don't want to drink it.

Me: Nice try, but not quite. You're thinking of Moet & Chandon.
Y-ko: Oh, who cares? It's only one letter. Don't be so fussy, Sebas!!

I think I just got scolded!
And she called me Sebas again!

Me: ...Um, I'm sorry. Would you stop calling me Sebas?
Y-ko: Huh? Why?

The vaunted "why?" defense.

Me: Well, because my name is -
Y-ko: Oh, sorry. Did you want to be Shota?

I wasn't done with the sentence!
And why are those my only two choices?!
Plus, Shota isn't even a name!!

Y-ko: Yeah, of course... You're more the uke type.

Um... I'm sorry...

Is that how you've seen me all this time?

You can find some more excerpts here There are two books total to buy (Volume 1 and Volume 2). The books are complete. There is also a shoujo manga series, which I haven't read.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Yakitate!! Japan Tsukino Omake

When I wrote the Yakitate!! Japan review from yesterday, I remembered some Tsukino related images I played around with years ago. Since blogs are all about sharing, I decided to clean/finish them up and post them. They're nothing special, just me playing around with photoshop.

The image above is a compilation of all the Tsukino cover inserts. They come from the Japanese covers. It's kinda fun seeing them all at once. Maybe you can resize it and make a wallpaper or something.

The image below was me playing around with creating animated gifs in photoshop. It comes from the omake (bonuses) from the 1st and 2nd volumes. The images didn't match up as nicely as I thought they would.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Yakitate!! Japan Review

So, since the final Volume of Yakitate!! Japan has been published in English. I thought I'd give a short review of the series and Viz's localization.

Here's the brief version: Yakitate Japan is great! Buy it and read it! At the very least, read the first volume and if you like it, read to the end of Volume 14.

Now for a slightly more formal review.

Yakitate!! Japan is an award winning manga about... making bread. At times it can be fairly technical, which is nice because you can actually learn something. This series blends a lot of genres, but technically, the series is a very Japanese comedy manga. (That's my way of saying there's a lot of wordplay humor. Still, there are lots of visual, sarcastic, over-the-top, and universal gags as well.) The reason I love this series, though, is because it cares a lot about its story and characters. It uses its theme and humor to flavor the story and characters, not the other way around. And that's something I really didn't expect out of a comedy cooking battle manga. The story is well done, the conflicts are exciting, and there's strong characterization. The subject matter is interesting, the art is good, and the humor is funny.

I originally read Yakitate!! Japan through scanlations from the site SnoopyCool. Scanlations don't tend to care much about localizing to demographics and generally try to keep the translation as close to the Japanese as possible. Also, it's easy to put very lengthy liner notes all over the place. Viz's translations generally try to avoid forcing their readers to have a strong background in the Japanese language or culture. Translation/Localization is very tricky business and I have no problem with Viz's approach to it, although sometimes I feel that approach comes at the cost of charm. I did not feel this way about Viz's Yakitate!! Japan translation. I thought they showed a lot of consideration in their translation and were able to keep the heart of the story and jokes.

For example... in the Viz translation one gag relies on a horse screaming out "Mag-Neigh-Ficent" after eating some bread (seriously, read this manga.) The original gag was the horse shouting "U~mai", which means delicious. However, the "u" sound is written with the character for horse instead of the homonym character that's supposed to be used. I feel this is a good example of keeping the heart of the joke, but making it easier for American culture to understand... which I think fits their goal for localization. Personally, I prefer more direct translations (like Snoopy Cool's), but I still really enjoyed Viz's localization.

(As the series goes on, the wordplay gets increasingly ridiculous to the point I think it barely makes sense in Japanese. For a lot of these jokes at the end, the Viz English Translation seems to give up trying to localize the joke and instead give a direct translation. I don't have any problem with this... as I said, those end jokes are a HUGE stretch even in Japanese.)

As for the cover art... I really hate Viz's cover art department. The spines for this series simply don't match, which really bugs me because it looks messy on a bookshelf (yes, I'm picky like that.) As you can see, after Volume 18 Viz switched from their Ugly "V" emblem to an uglier "S" logo.

Somewhat surprisingly, Viz does a thorough job of keeping the original Japanese book's special right cover insert bonus... the cosplay drawings of the main heroine Tsukino. They place these on the back cover. I guess this is really just an example of "sex sells" and not an example of Viz's cover art team having any attention to detail. (Heh heh... I speak harshly, but it's all in fun!)


That's all the non-spoiler stuff I want to say. The rest of this "review" contain light spoilers for the second half of the series. I don't give any details, but I discuss my opinion on the direction the story takes.

SPOILER WARNING ALERT: Contains Spoilers for Yakitate!! Japan

I just kind of want to vent a bit. The second half of the series is much, much weaker than the first part. First off, the art is less detailed. Second, most of the jokes stop making sense and the originally creative reactions become ridiculous. The reactions go from skirting the edge of reality to full blown deep end impossible. Third, the story changes from an interesting mashup of genres to a very straightforward battle manga. And finally, the characters end up becoming one-dimensional caricatures of their former selves. I don't think the series becomes bad... it just isn't as good as in the first half. In short, Yakitate!! Japan 1-14 is like Dragonball whereas Yakitate!! Japan 15-26 is like Dragonball Z.

I do have one huge problem with the second half. That's the treatment of Kawachi. He turns into a pure gag character with no redeeming qualities or cool moments. As ridiculous as the final boss turns out to be and as heartless as I feel the author ultimately treats Azuma's opponents, nothing is more disappointing than the character Kawachi became.

I'd understand stopping after Volume 14 if you're not a huge fan of the series by then. The events ending that volume are as good as the series gets. But even with the decline in quality, I still mostly enjoyed the final arc. Yakitate!! Japan is a great series and is worth attention.

Monday, April 25, 2011

One Piece - Fight Together

Thought I'd post up the new One Piece opening, for your listening pleasure. It's an Amuro Namie song, I think it's pretty nice. The animation isn't bad either, at least for One Piece. Contains spoilers for Saobady and beyond.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Shichibukai are Giants!

Shichibukai Height Chart
This is a fun picture for One Piece fans. The Shichibukai (or, as Viz's translation calls them, the 'Seven Warlords of the Sea') are not ordinary people. But... until I saw this picture I didn't realize how monstrous they really were. This drawing takes the member's heights from the guidebooks and compares their heights to real things. They're all giants! Even Boa Hancock is ridiculously tall (6'3)! For those who need it, here are the heights in feet/inches:

Hancock (31) - 191 cm (6'3.25")
Mihawk (43) - 198 cm (6'6")
Crocodile (46) - 253 cm (8'3")
Jinbe (46) - 301 cm (9'8")
Doflamingo (41) - 305 cm (10'0")
Kuma (47) - 689 cm (22'6")
Moriah (51) - 692 cm (22'7")

Friday, April 22, 2011

Community: Paradigms of Human Memory

SPOILER WARNING ALERT: Contains Spoilers for Community Season 2, Episode 21

"Paradigms of Human Memory" was an awesome Community. Awesome enough to make me take a few minutes to blog about it. It doesn't beat episodes like Modern Warfare or anything, but it was good enough to put me in a good mood.

This episode is a clip/recap episode, except all the flashbacks are stuff that has never been shown. Although fake recap episodes have been done in animation like the Simpsons or Clerks... it was so much more impressive in a filmed show. I was amused from start to finish. There was so much fan-service in this episode it felt really rewarding to have watched all the episodes (especially for the alternate version of Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas). Highlights? Pierce stealing Abed's food and the Dean entrance montage.

One thing most watchers won't realize is that the Jeff/Annie and Abed/Pierce montage video is a playful parody of a fan-made community music video. It's really awesome... it explains that Troy in black and white part.

Hmm... this post was pretty sloppy and pointless... but oh well, I wanted to write about the episode.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes

Crimson Echoes is a Chrono Trigger fan game. Its background is important to understanding what it is. There's a lot of middle-school drama surrounding the game, so I'll try to be unbiased in my explanation. Basically, ZeaLity of the Chrono Compendium organized a project to create a fan based sequel to Chrono Trigger. The goal was to make a fun game that was true to both Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. They would also further develop romhacking tools targeting Chrono Trigger.

They worked very hard for years, despite many problems during development. Some alpha copies and demos were released into the wild. Occasionally, groups used those releases to work on their own versions completely independent of the Chrono Compendium, such as the team behind Frozen Echoes. Right before Crimson Echoes was ready to be released (they say at 98% done), Square allegedly served them a Cease and Desist, so the Chrono Compendium removed as much Crimson Echoes related materials as they could from the internet and the game was never released. The only relics of the project were a youtube playthrough of the 98% completed game and some development notes. Until a year later, when a rom that built upon the 98% Crimson Echoes build was released. The 98% build can be played all the way through, my guess is that balancing issues and small touch-ups are the only 2% remaining. This blog entry is a review/discussion of that build.

Crimson Echoes is a very big game that can easily last 20 Hours. Its odd history begs the question... is this leak of Crimson Echoes worth playing? My opinion? Only if you really, really enjoy the Chrono Trigger game style and are willing to put up with a lot of pain for a chance at some new adventures. If you haven't played Chrono Trigger, don't even think about playing this. The rest of this review are my thoughts of the game and should help you decide if you want to try it. This review is story spoiler free.

The gameplay of Crimson Echoes is the same as Chrono Trigger, which is great. The battle engine is the same, feel of exploration is the same, the effects and music are the same. The "new content" it offers are some new enemies (and a new, well-made, big boss), lots of new (generally very well made) maps, some new techs/weapons/armor, and of course a brand new story. Crimson Echoes is best described as high grade fanfiction + good ol' Chrono Trigger engine.

Good ol' Chrono Trigger engine is almost enough to make it unquestionably worth sinking the time into this game. I nostalgia'd all over the place and enjoyed re-finding characters and seeing the updated world the Crimson Echoes team created. But the things Crimson Echoes does wrong made it almost unplayable.

Things that I've generally seen complained about: Crono speaks. Frog doesn't use an accent. The game balancing is horrible and only gets worse as the game goes on.

Character dialogue didn't bother me a bit and the Crimson Echoes teams rational behind their decisions makes a lot of sense. This story is fanfiction, but it's well thought out fanfiction. It does of good job of serving as a heavy handed bridge between Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, providing answers for any lingering questions after playing Chrono Cross. You may or may not like the writing (I think people get overly critical over fan works) and story or devices (there are nuclear missiles in the game at some point), but I thought it was fine. From what I could tell, the creators of the game cared very much about and showed a lot of respect towards the Chrono games.

My problem with the story is that I didn't feel it meshed well with the gameplay. In my opinion, Chrono Trigger is a fast paced adventure-y game and Crimson Echoes is generally not that. There are occasionally huge walls of text. There are very analytical sections. The time travel mechanics are more thoroughly dissected / complicated. I feel the wordiness interrupts the "fun" feel of Chrono Trigger. I think that lots of things are best left up to the imagination (especially with "magic"), but the Crimson Echoes team tried to explain everything in pretty great detail. It makes the game seem like less of a Chrono Trigger adventure to me.

While some story arcs were awesome, there were many story arcs that did not work well in a game. There would be chapters that were very short and consisted of very little actual game play. Towards the middle of the game, I often got very bored. I did want to see how the main story resolved and fight the main villains of the game, but I felt I was doing a lot of pointless and boring quests. There are also sections that split up the characters. I hated those sections, especially when they were solo character sections.

Which leads to the huge problem with Crimson Echoes: The difficulty. I'd call this game impossible without the use of emulators (save states) and hacks. The missing 2% probably mostly referred to fixing balancing. Enemies have WAY too much life and your attacks do WAY too little damage. Getting techs requires WAY too much SP. The game starts out pretty bad and gets worse and worse. The only saving grace was that running away from battle is very easy.

I was playing for the gameplay, not the story (otherwise I could just watch the youtube videos or read the plot points at I wanted a small challenge in the game (so no level 99 or invincibility hacks for me), but I did not want to spend hours grinding. Here's what I did:

The Chrono Compendium originally had a large section about how to romhack Chrono Trigger, complete with some very good tools. However, that section was removed after cease and desist letter. But the section is still available via the Internet Wayback Machine. Any links to tools that don't work on that site can easily be google'd.

If you want to know exactly how I modified the game:

1. Gave myself an absurd amount of money and kept myself fully stocked with items. You can see this youtube video for an easy to understand explanation on how to modify memory. Find the value representing your money and max that out~ (Alternatively, you can use Chrono Shop Editor to make all items costs 1G.)

2. Used Chrono Tweaker to modify stats. I basically went through and halved the life of every enemy. I also edited enemies to give at least double the SP.

3. I'd reference the youtube playthrough occasionally to get through puzzles that I don't think were very well designed, such as the drum mini game.

With these changes, the game was pretty fun and, for the most part, I enjoyed playing through the game.

Well, these were my thoughts on this well made fan sequel. I hope I helped you decide how you want to treat the game.

BTW, here's a link to the 98% build ROM:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is a pretty great sci-fi/fantasy author and, from reading his interviews and blogs, a really cool guy. His prose doesn't strike me a particularly great, but his plots/stories are some of the best. The stories are kind of like the ideal of what video-game stories or anime/manga try to go for. Saying that kind of sells it short, but that's how it is in my opinion. His stories always have great plot reveals that were foreshadowed throughout the book and magic systems that were well designed. He's also a very prolific author... it's great following an author who's able to regularly release really good books.

He has a few works online for free, the most notable of which is his novel Warbreaker. He's also got pretty good short stories.

Once you get into his writing, check out his blog and read the rest of his works, especially Mistborn.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Rurouni Kenshin Collection

So... 2011 is the 15th Anniversary of Rurouni Kenshin. Kenshin is, without doubt, my absolute favorite manga. In celebration of the 15 years, there's been a bunch of stuff announced and released (BTW, the PSP game was pretty bad, I would not suggest picking it up if you want a good Kenshin game. Go for the PS2 game or the awesome PSX rpg.) On top of all the releases and games, a new anime project has been greenlit. It still remains to be seen what the project is, but I'm crossing my fingers that the Jinchuu arc will finally be animated.

Anyway, all the Kenshin stuff this year made me want to do a post about it... so I decided to post pictures of most of my Kenshin stuff. I'm pretty proud (and simultaneously embarrassed) of the stuff I've collected, so here goes.

I picked up a set of the original Japanese tankouban as they were released, oh so many years ago. I also picked up the info books, Kenshin Hiden and Kenshin Kaden. The thin book is a guidebook to the PSX Kenshin RPG game (again, really fun game with an interesting battle system.) The Shonen Jumps on the left contain (29) the last color chapter, (43) the last chapter, and (3-4) Yahiko's Sakabatou.

I also picked up the original Viz translations as they came out. I wish they tried to match the Japanese spines... and I REALLY wish they didn't change that bottom Viz logo after book 17. I also have the VizBig version Volume 9 because it has the Yahiko's Sakabatou and Haru Ni Sakura chapters not available elsewhere. Kenshin Profiles and Kenshin Novel are in the shot... but those were both pretty disappointing purchases. You can see Busou Renkin to the right there... it was another good Watsuki series. I used to have Gun Blaze West, but I got rid of it because it was really, really bad.

It seems somewhat ridiculous to have three sets of the same manga... but I do and I don't regret it. My last set of the Kenshin Manga is the Taiwanese edition of the Kenshin Complete (Kanzenban) books. This is an awesome set and was much cheaper than the identical Japanese prints. The books themselves are larger than the original edition and use higher quality paper. On top of that, the color pages are kept intact. Watsuki created new covers for all the books and did fun reimaginings of all the characters under the dust jackets. You can find high quality scans of the covers, color pages, and reimaginined characters at this site. I collected the scans and resized them at a lower resolution. You can download the entire batch zipped up over here, if the low resolution doesn't bother you.

I've got some other stuff too. An old gashapon set, the VHS Memorial Box for a special final recap episode of the anime, the PSX RPG, and a bunch of postcards and other images (not all pictured.)

And, that's all I've got. If you're interested in finding other Kenshin stuff, head over to They've got all the info you'd wish for as well as an awesome collection of images.

3D Dot Game Heroes

So... 3D Dot Game Heroes was an okay game. You can get it for pretty cheap now. I played it last year and finished the main quest. I'm a huge fan of the 2D Zelda Games, so I thought I would love 3D Dot Game Heroes. In the end... I was actually kind of disappointed. It feels to me like 3D Dot Game Heroes is an homage to the first Zelda on the NES, whereas I liked the worlds and feelings of the SNES Link to the Past and Gameboy Link's Awakening. I also felt the game design was a lot less tight than a Nintendo title. And although I loved the idea of a "3D Pixel" game, it turned out I wasn't a fan of the art direction and really would have preferred a sprite game. Still, I enjoyed my play through it, I just had no desire to do anything past simply completing the game with the bare minimum of collectables.

The one thing that I thought was really great in this game was the block editor. You can design the hero character avatar you use in the block editor. You can also download and use other people's creation, although it's been so long that live links are harder to find.

Here's a link to some popular characters from other franchises that I thought were done well. I didn't make any of these, I just found them on the net. There are Link avatars made by Gamespy, an avatar of Cave Story's Quote by DesTwo from gamefaqs, and an avatar of Tina/Terra from Final Fantasy 6 (which was Final Fantasy 3 on the SNES.) Terra was pretty tough to find, I finally got her off some Japanese web site. I wasn't able to find links to other Final Fantasy VI/III characters though. Oh well.

Download Character Models


Monday, April 18, 2011

Fate/Zero Translation Complete

The Fate/Zero translation is complete! You can read the whole thing over at baka-tsuki. If you like Japanese fantasy, it's well worth reading. Make sure to thank the team over at Beast's Lair for their work!

If you'd like, here's a Fate/Zero pack I put together. It includes all 4 novels in PDF form (I got the files from bakabt) and the Fate/Zero artbooks at a decent resolution (which I resized from this pack of Fate Night artbooks). It does not include the translation of "Heart of Freaks", which was a side story about Kiritsugi's past and was not written by Urobochi Gen. The files I collected are zipped up and uploaded to mediafire.

Download the Fate/Zero Pack

Fate/Zero is a prequel story to the visual novel game Fate/Stay Night. Fate/Zero can be read without playing the game first. The novels cover the disastrous fourth Mage War only alluded to by Fate/Stay Night. As such, it's a tragedy. The novels are written by Urobuchi Gen, who collaborated with Kinoko Nasu, the creator of Fate Night. It's a gritty magic tournament story with great battle scenes, but the real magic of the story to me is the characterization. Urobuchi Gen does a good job of portraying the characters and showing why they make the decisions they make. I'm horrible at reviews, so I'll leave it at that.

And if you didn't know, Fate/Zero was adapted into a 26 episode anime by the awesome ufotable.  It's been fan translated by the folks at Unlimited Translation Works.  The anime is definitely worth the watch and there's fun bonus content in the blu-ray releases.

As for Fate/Stay Night... it's the only Visual Novel I've ever made it all the way through and I highly recommend it. A Visual Novel is kind of like a choose your own adventure story with lots of images and sound (music and character dialog), except there aren't that many choices to make. It is very lengthy and probably comparable to a full length novel if you do all the paths. There's also an anime (which I don't recommend), a movie (which I don't recommend), a Visual Novel sequel (which I never played, but doesn't sound interesting), and some PSP games.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Streets of Rage Fan Remake

(Here's the link to the project's homepage.)

Ah, this is pretty cool.

Streets of Rage is an old Sega series. It's an arcade brawler... you wander down linear levels beating up sprites until you fight the stage boss, ideally with two players. This genre probably mostly appeals to those who grew up on this game, but this game in particular is pretty accessible to anyone. Anyway, this group has been working on a remake for eight years and finally finished. It's a remake, not a port or an emulation.

They combined the best things about all the Streets of Rage games, then added a ton of customization and special unlockables. Boasting tons of stages, characters, enemies, and music as well as cheat options and a stage maker... they've poured lots and lots of love into this project.

There's so much I can say about this project.. but this review does a much better job than I would. All I have left to say is that the team made a great homage... it's really fun and nostalgic. Download a copy while you can!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Relic NT

Hi, I'm Relic.NT (you can pronounce it Relic Enne Tee) and I'll be taking over this blog from my friend. He wasn't using it anyway and I like the name. Errant Cluster... just sounds cool. Anyway, the content will be the same... random links and posts about my geeky interests. But I'll probably be posting pretty frequently. So look forward to it~

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