Monday, October 8, 2012

Perfect Blue Review

This weekend I rewatched Perfect Blue and decided to write up a review.  Perfect Blue is a well done psychological thriller.  A common sentiment when it came out was that this was the cartoon that Alfred Hitchcock would have made.  Perfect Blue was originally a novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi, but it's Japanese only so everything I bring up is only based on the film.

I have pretty nostalgic memories of watching it 13 years ago and I'm glad to have been able to enjoy it again today.  It still looks like it was made in 1997 (although the animation itself is done well, 90s anime doesn't display so well in high definition) and the English dub is definitely 90s era too, but the movie itself is done very well.

Perfect Blue was directed Satoshi Kon, which in my opinion already makes the film a must watch.  Satoshi Kon, sadly now deceased, was known for manga, anime, and film work.  His character art was iconic and very detailed.  Most of his films are Philip K. Dick-ish, in which there's a strong theme of a blurred line between reality and fiction.  Satoshi Kon always does a very good job of showing this confusion visually.  His movies tend to be slower pace than American thrillers, but they're just as exciting.  Except for maybe Tokyo Godfathers, which is a very different genre than his other works, I liked Perfect Blue the most out of his works as I felt it had the most well executed storyline.  His much more popular Paprika is a similar movie and is much prettier (thanks to its later release date and much higher budget), but in my opinion its story was not told nearly as well.

Perfect Blue is a really fun and exciting watch, although it is definitely not for children.  When I first watched it during High School, I had recommended it to a friend of mine.  I wanted the movie's contents to surprise him, so I just told him it was a action movie with pop idols.  He proceeded to watch it with his girlfriend and, more significantly, her father.  Well, the movie contains nudity and a very powerful scene where the heroine is struggling with performing a rape scene for a movie she's in.  It was uncomfortable for him to watch it with his girlfriend's father, who wasn't an anime fan and was pretty silent through the whole thing, sitting next to him.  Although the father said it was a good movie afterwards, you should make sure not to put yourself in any awkward circumstances.  You've been warned, for mature audiences only.

As I mentioned, Perfect Blue is about the dark side of being a Japanese idol.  Idols are young female celebrities, usually pop singers or photobook gravure models.  There is a very distinct culture around them that has not changed much over the years.  A good idol, then and now, is judged largely on their "purity."  Idols put on a (almost definitely) false persona of being very young and naive.  Idols end up being obsessed over and harshly judged by a certain subset of fans.  Those familiar with Japanese culture are usually also familiar with the idol horror stories.  Stalkings are fairly common news articles.  Attending hand shaking events with semen soaked hands has been coming up recently as well.  Death threats and unforgivable comments are showered upon any idol who tries to act like she's older than 15.

Although the idol concept is fairly Japanese, the movie is more relatable in the West today more than ever before due to the rise of teen actresses, such as all the recent teen starts who started on the Disney channel.  Of course, everywhere you have celebrities, you'll also have stories of a stalker going after celebrity.  That part is instantly understood.  But I feel the teen idol case is not quite the same as the child star case.  If you try to imagine the struggles teen stars might have growing up and the worst case scenarios they'd face, you'll be able to understand this movie.

I admit that this review has gone slightly off topic for several paragraphs, but that really shows the strength of this film.  It goes in depth into an area that's often not deeply explored.  Or if it is explored, the movie usually ends up being an exploitation film instead of a high quality film.  But moving on to a summary...

The heroine of Perfect Blue is Mima Kirigoe, the lead singer of a pop group called "CHAM!"  The movie begins with her deciding to leave the group to become an actress.  Not only is she nervous and unconfident of the choice to begin with, she's immediately heavily criticized and despised by a vocal group of her former fans.  Leaving her persona behind, she takes on much more mature projects in order to shed her previous image and become a respected actress.  In the midst of her working stress, relationship stress, hatemail, and death threats, she finds a website called "Mima's Room" which features very private diary entries Mima does not recall writing.  And finally, like in any good thriller, the murders begin.  By that point, Mima is unable to clearly distinguish reality and nightmare.

Unlike with my other reviews, I don't want to give anything else away besides to say it's done well.  If you really must know, this movie is old enough where you can just wiki the whole plotline.  But you'd be doing yourself a disservice, especially since the movie is only an hour and a half long.

In the end, my strongest recommendations for this movie are:

1. The character development is done very well
2. It's an exciting thriller
3. It's a good study on a briefly touched subject
4. Ending Spoiler: It doesn't have a pointless "BAD END" for the main character that horror films tend to love

The movie was released on on DVD and Blu Ray, although supply is low nowadays.  You can easily use a service like Netflix to watch it though .

So go and watch it!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

More Ultimate Boy Info

If you’re looking for more information about the new Half Minute Hero Steam release on September 27th, check the following sites:
You can find information on several contests to win watches and free game copies on these sites, so you should definitely take a look~

Friday, September 21, 2012

Half Minute Hero LED Watch

These are pictures of the Half Minute Hero watches you can win~

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Half Minute Hero Ultimate Boy: September 27

(If you don't know what Half Minute Hero is, take a look at my XBLA review over here.)

The leaked registry entry from June was correct... We'll be seeing a Steam and Playism release of Half Minute Hero on September 27! This time around it's called "Half-Minute Hero Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy." The XBLA release, called Half-Minute Hero Super Mega Neo Climax, added new multiplayer stages, new normal stages, leaderboards, and optional new graphics. The new Ultimate Boy release is supposed to have all the content of the XBLA release as well as new achievements and the original versions of the non-RPG modes (if you didn't know, they were recreated as single Hero 30 stages in the XBLA release.)  The non-RPG modes are in a "Super Gameboy"-ish framed screen. This release sounds awesome!

MAQL has said that high sales of this release would lead to Half Minute Hero 2 localized on Steam. Believe it and hope, if you want. This release does show that porting from PSP to PC isn't impossible. Either way, I think it would be great for more people to experience Half Minute Hero and I think the leaderboards should be fun. I do believe that the PC is a better platform for the game, at the very least MUCH better than XBLA. HMH is a casual game most likely to please retro JRPG fans. I would guess that most of that audience is on the PC rather than handhelds nowadays. IMO, PC is a better genre for quick play casual games and the price point is a lot better than the PSP version.

Steam is the big news, but I hope Playism (who released La Mulana when no one else would) also gets some love. If you order on Playism, you unlock the game on steam, get a slight discount, and get the chance to win a pretty nifty LED watch. I definitely recommend buying through Playism.

Marvelous will do a 30 second promotion giving out free copies on release day, so try your luck if you don't have the ten bucks needed for the game. There are a lot of promotions and contests for this game in general. For more information, check out the game's main page, the twitter account, the steam page, or the playism page. I've also got a tumblr page up, which has lots of art as well as Half Minute Hero 2 information up.

Take a gander at the full game trailer:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rurouni Kenshin - The Live Action Movie

I was lucky enough to be in Japan during the week the live action Rurouni Kenshin movie was released. Very lucky.  I've decided to write a brief description of my theater-going experience, some thoughts on the movie, and then an in-depth summary.

Full disclosure: Rurouni Kenshin was one of my first Japanese series and it is by far my favorite. I started reading it right after the Kyoto arc ended. Not only did I buy a ton of merchandise, but I joined Kenshin mailing lists and chat rooms. I own multiple versions of the same material (Japanese tankouban, English versions, and Taiwanese Kanzenban)! I still enjoy the series a lot, even after re-reading 10 years later.

The whole hype around the movie has been so exciting, barring the horrible OVAs and the mediocre PSP game. For the first time in years, there's fresh Kenshin merchandise and nowadays I actually have money to afford things. There are new figures out, very cute cellphone charms, puffy character keychains, and more. The Kinema-ban chapters have been fun and I really enjoyed Chapter 0 (that I got to pick up in Japan ^^.) It was fun walking around Tokyo seeing and hearing ads for the movie. It was great flipping on the TV and seeing all the promotions. 7-11 did a thing where if you bought two of a certain line of products, you got a clearfile folder for free.

I was really excited to find out that Rurouni Kenshin was being shown with English subtitles at the Toho Cinemas in Roppongi Hills. The theater was very easy to find (right outside the Roppongi stop on the Hibiya subway line) and the tickets were easy to order on the kiosk machines. Most of the instructions were in English... even choosing seats was straightforward. I went early because I was competing for seat reservations against people who could pay online.

The theater was cooler than outside, but the AC wasn't very strong. I was initially disappointed with the screen size, but then the movie started and the curtains pulled out making it a proper widescreen. I saw trailers for both One Piece Z and Evangelion 3.0, which was awesome.

The movie itself was great. I agree with most of the reviews I've read. There were pacing issues, but nothing unexpected of a Japanese movies. Some parts were just slow and dragged on. But the good parts were very exciting and there was a lot more humor than I was expecting. I definitely enjoyed the movie more than any of the OVAs that were released for Kenshin.

I think all the actors did a great job, especially Aoki Munetaka's Sano, Sato Takeru’s Kenshin, and Eguchi Yosuke's Saito. I was especially surprised by Sano and Saito, as I didn't think they looked right from the stills. But I think in action, they captured the character's spirits well. I don't really know Japanese so I can't comment on their delivery, but everyone's actions looked great. I really enjoyed Kagawa Teruyuki's perfomance as Kanryu. Sure, it's over-the-top cheesy... but that was the character in the manga too. I think all the portrayals were done especially well.

I thought the movie's story was laid out well (the plot was good and everything happened in a good order despite the amount of material being covered), but I think the script itself could have used some work. I especially had problems with Kaoru's portrayal (she seemed really helpless) and the amount of time Kenshin spent being melancholy. I don't think the dialogue they did really explained Kenshin's internal conflicts very well. Without knowing the comic, I would have still enjoyed the movie, but felt much more negative towards the slow scenes. The most frustrating part was how close the movie felt to getting it perfect.

The fights were done very well, but they were very fast. Blink and you'd miss a lot. There's no screaming out technique names... the fight scenes were done much closer to a normal sword based action movie, which I think was a really good decision. None of the fighting looked too goofy, which often happens in these kinds of adaptations. I enjoyed the soundtrack to the film as well.

I was very happy with the subtitles. No Japanese words are used (Rurouni is wanderer and so on...), but I've never really been picky about that. There wasn't much in the translation I disagreed with. Thanks Ian McDougall (I think that was the translator's name...) , great job!

After watching the movie, I headed to the theater lobby. I guess movies all come with merchandise in Japan. I picked up the Kenshin movie booklet (with interviews and lots of pictures) as well as a sakabatou keychain. It was a great film and a very fun experience to watch a movie in Japan!

Here is a very complete summary of the Kenshin movie. I've written down everything I remember. Some things may be in the wrong order, but everything should be there. It's as detailed as I could make it so it's VERY, VERY, VERY spoiler heavy. I give away all of my favorite scenes... so highlight and read on only if you dare...

The movie begins with the end of the battle of Toba-Fushimi. Saito (in Shinsengumi gear) is wandering the battlefield searching for Battousai. Battousai cuts down several men moments before shouts of victory are heard. Battousai, looking more exhausted than relieved, wanders off on his own. He comes across Saito, who demands a duel. Battousai responds to Saito's request by driving his own sword into the ground and wandering off.

The scene cuts to the night where Jine rises from a pile of corpses, amazed to be alive. He wanders around in a daze and stumbles onto Battousai's sword, taking it for his own... 

In the 11th Year of Meiji...

The scene settles inside wealthy business man Kanryu's mansion. Kanryu calls in Takani Megumi and a group of men. He praises them for the new addictive spiderweb opium they developed and dreams of the money he'll make. He sends them out, but shuts the door before Megumi and one other man can leave. Everyone outside is slaughtered by Kanryu's bodyguards: Inui Banjin and the masked Gein. Kanryu tells Megumi and the other man that he only needs one person who knows the formula. He does an "eeny-meeny-miny-moe" to choose the survivor, landing on the man. Megumi walks forward and Kanryu hugs her, saying of course he wouldn't hurt her. The other man makes a run for it, jumping out through the window. Kanryu says it doesn't matter and Battousai will take care of it.

The next day, Saito, now a policeman under the name Fujita Goro, finds the corpse of the man from Kanryu's mansion. The man happened to be an undercover agent. Saito's men are freaked out that Battousai killed another officer. Saito tells them this isn't Battousai's work.

Kenshin, wearing a blue and grey hakama, is happily wandering through Tokyo eating a dango when he notices a wanted poster for Battousai, who has been wandering Tokyo at night murdering men under than name of the Kamiya Kasshin school. He's suddenly attacked by a girl with a wooden sword. He dodges her strikes, but eventually falls to the ground. She accuses him of being Battousai, but he says he's not. He's a Rurouni - Wanderer. He shows her that the sword he carries has the dull and sharp sides swapped. She apologizes for her mistake. It's not clear what happens to Kenshin's dango and it never appears again.

Saito goes to Kanryu's mansion and asks him if he knows anything about the recent murders. Kanryu says no and just talks about how great money is. He summons his army of ronin... previously proud samurai who now slave themselves to Kanryu just for rice to eat everyday. Saito warns Kanryu that he's not like other cops and that he doesn't always wait for hard evidence. When Saito leaves, Kanryu is alerted that Megumi escaped with a policeman. Kanryu isn't worried. If Megumi said anything, she would be taken in as an accomplice. He sends Battousai, who is actually Jine, to fetch her.

Megumi waits in the police station when screams are suddenly heard. She escapes while Jine slaughters his way through all police officers. It's a pretty cool fight scene. Jine takes great pleasure in killing.

Kaoru is outside playing with a cat when a dying policeman stumbles towards her. She sees Jine walks by and realizes he's the Battousai sullying the name of her school. She challenges him to a duel. He trivially defeats her, mocking her use of a wooden sword. Right before he kills her, Kenshin jumps in and saves her. Jine recognizes him as the real Battousai, but before they fight, more policemen show up and everyone runs away.

Kaoru thanks Kenshin for her help at her dojo. She explains that her father died in the war and she watches the dojo now, but there are barely any students after the Battousai mess. She explains that her father's style emphasised the "sword that protects life." They chat a bit more. Before Kenshin leaves, she asks for his name. "Himura Kenshin de gozaru."

Kanryu plots with his men about how he'll distribute the opium. He's going to obtain the last few dojos he wasn't able to buy, then tear them all down to create a factory and port for his operation.

Kaoru hears a noise at the door only to find Myojin Yahiko, her sole sometimes-student. She sets him to cleaning the dojo when a group of men show up to buy the dojo from her. She refuses again and they say they'll take it by force. Yahiko jumps in saying he's the defender of the weak, but he's easily pushed aside. The group (led by the Gaara brothers according to the movie book) enter the dojo. Kaoru is furious that they haven't removed their shoes and gets ready to fight. The the group begins mocking the "Sword that protects life" motto. Kenshin appears and says that although the motto is silly, he likes it more than the truth. He proceeds to defeat the entire group by himself in an awesome fight sequence. He only draws his sword to defeat the two brothers. The rest of the town and the police show up because they saw the huge group heading to the dojo. Kenshin says the men were after him and it didn't involve the dojo at all. He and all the men are dragged off to prison.

Kenshin sits in prison as it rains outside. He goofily tries to collect rain in a bowl when Saito fetches him, identifying him as Battousai. (Sanosuke, in an adjacent cell, overhears this.) Saito brings Kenshin to General Yamagata, who is happy to see him again as Battousai disapeared 10 years ago. Yamagata requests that Kenshin help them by killing Kanryu. Kenshin refuses. Yamagata tells him of the rumors he's heard about a wandering samurai helping people without killing. Saito challenges Kenshin to a fight and they take it outside to the courtyard in the pouring rain. Saito tells him that if he uses a blade with the sharp side facing him, the only person he'll hurt is himself. After a short but sweet fight, Saito ends up forcing Kenshin's own sword down on Kenshin's own shoulder. Yamagata orders Saito to stop. He apologizes profusely to Kenshin and lets him leave.

Kaoru is waiting outside for Kenshin. She thanks him for all of his help and offers him an umbrella. She offers him a place to stay at her dojo along with her father's old clothes. Elsewhere, Yahiko finds Megumi stumbling in the streets and brings her into the dojo.

The sky has cleared up and Kenshin has changed clothes. He steps outside his room at the dojo and the camera (slowly) pans to reveal his new pink and white hakama. He meets up with Kaoru. Yahiko appears and introduces them to Megumi, who instantly cozies up to Kenshin. She heard about Kenshin's defense of the dojo from Yahiko.

The group go the Akabeko to have some sukiyaki. As they eat, Kanryu jaunts in. Megumi quickly hides. Kanryu saunters over to Kenshin and tells him he heard about his defense of the dojo. He offers Kenshin a ton of money to be his bodyguard. Kenshin refuses. Kanryu pulls out some more money (I think out of his pants) and adds it to the pile. Kenshin still refuses. Sano bursts in and demands Kanryu hires him instead (as he talks, he lets his zanbatou fall over, which Tae and Sae are barely able to keep up.) He reveals Kenshin's identity as Battousai. He asks Kanryu if he'll hire him if he defeats Kenshin. Kanryu agrees.

Everyone steps outside, where Sano explains that his zanbatou was used to cut down horses during the war. It's dull now, but still deadly. Kenshin dodges all of Sano's swings. Kenshin tells Sano he has no reason to fight him and asks if he'd really work for a guy like Kanryu. Sano admits he wouldn't, then stops fighting, telling the crowd it'd be no good for him to end up in jail again. Kanryu mutters to his aide that he shouldn't get on the Battousai's bad side and leaves. Everyone else goes back inside to eat more beef.

The next day, Jine has struck again. Saito is at the scene and Kenshin happens by. Saito tells Kenshin that this is the result of not helping them kill Kanryu. As a woman cries over a dead policemen's, Kenshin has a flashback. He remembers agreeing to join the war in order to make people's lives better. He remembers a particular assasination. A group of men wander the streets of Tokyo. They congratulate one of the men who is getting married in the morning when Battousai appears. He cuts them all down, but the one to be married keeps rising to fight again, crying out "I can't die yet! I need to live!" Battousai finally cuts him down for good, but gets the first slash of his cross scar. The next day, he watches the corpses being taken away. A woman in white cries (shown only from the back) over the man's corpse while Battousai stares, feeling his scar. The scene cuts back to the present with Kenshin feeling his scar.

Kanryu is close to completing his plan. He gets excited because his gattling gun arrives.

That night, Megumi is outside the dojo when Gein appears. He warns her to be careful and that her actions have consequences.

The next day, a bunch of people all over town are sick. They all end up in the Kamiya dojo. Sano brings in a sick little girl. Megumi rushes outside, tastes the dojo's water, and realizes that Gein put rat poison in the water supply. She gives all the healthy people tasks to do and gets everyone treated. 

Kenshin talks to Megumi alone while they fetch water. He asks about her past. She tells him he shouldn't ask about hers unless he tells her about his. Kenshin tells her that the first slash of his cross scar came from a man he assasinated, the other slash came from the man's wife to be. Kenshin tells her he's killed so many men. She yells back that she hasn't killed anyone. She flashes back to developing the opium while her test subjects beg for more in the prisons. She tells Kenshin her family was killed and Kanryu took her in. He used her to make opium and she used him to live.

A doctor brought from the next town over tells Kaoru they're lucky Megumi was there or else everyone would have died. He tells her about the famous Takani family. They were great doctors, but took the wrong side in the war. None were known to survive. Everyone has recovered by the evening, but Megumi has disappeared. Kenshin decides to stop Kanryu. Sano announces he'll join in after everything Kanryu has done. Yahiko wants to go to, but Kenshin tells him to stay behind and watch over Kaoru.

Megumi goes back to Kanryu, who welcomes her with open arms. She tells him she didn't return to help him, but to assasinate him then kill herself. She's stopped by a bodyguard. Kanryu is furious at her, but is interupted from beating her to hear Battousai and Sano have broken onto the premises. Kanryu orders Megumi locked up and rushes off. As Megumi is dragged off, Jine stoops down to talk to her.

Kenshin and Sano easily take out the ronin in the mansion courtyard. At some point, Sano tosses his zanbatou to a group of 4 men, who stuggle to hold it. He kicks them down and doesn't bother retrieving the sword. The ronin start backing off. Kanryu throws money from the roof, telling them whoever defeats Kenshin or Sano will be rich beyond their wildest dreams. They renew their attack. Kenshin and Sano take out everyone. 

They enter the mansion and Banjin appears. He asks who he'll fight. Sano volunteers and they have a good ol' fashion brawl, eventually ending up in a kitchen. Kenshin goes to another room and runs into Gein. Kenshin asks what caused him to stoop so low, Gein removes his mask, revealing a half scarred face. In this rendition, Gein is young, pretty, blond man. He tells Kenshin this new era caused him to starve and he joined Kanryu in order to live. He fires a cord and catches Kenshin. He tries to shoot Kenshin with pistols, but Kenshin dodges everything. Finally, he resorts to a knifre. The fight alternates between the Sano/Banjin brawl and the Kenshin/Gein duel.

During their brawl, Sano eyes a piece of chicken on the floor and calls for a timeout. Banjin obliges, and Sano eats the chicken. He tosses half to Banjin. Banjin sets it down, saying "Poor Bird. I'm a vegetarian." Sano offers him some wine, which Banjin accepts. After they both eat a bunch of random things, they resume their brawl. Sano says Banjin needs to use his head more before headbutting him. He finishes the fight by suplexing Banjin. Kenshin also finishes his fight with Gein.

They rush to the next room, but before they enter, the door explodes open from gattling gunfire. Sano runs in, barely hiding behind a pillar. Kanryu shouts "How dare you guys destroy my mansion!", Sano retorts "You're destroying it yourself!" Kenshin is still outside the room when Saito non-chalantly walks up. He tells them Yahiko contacted the police. He says the gattling gun can only fire in one direction, so if they can distract Kanryu, Saito can take him out. Kenshin and Sano draw Kanryu's fire while Saito does a Gatotsu, defeating the gattling gun. Kenshin and Sano rush forward to Megumi, who tells them Jine went after Kaoru.

Kenshin meets Jine at dawn near a shrine in a forest. Kaoru is tied up on some steps. Jine wants to fight the true Battousai. They fight for a bit. Kenshin is too weak, so Jine uses his powerful will to stop Kaoru from breathing. Unless Kenshin kills Jine within two minutes, Kaoru won't be able to breathe. Kenshin switches back into Battousai mode, saying "I’m angry at you for abducting Kaoru-dono. And I’m angry at myself for letting you do it" with a very rough form of speech. Kenshin sheathes his sword, then attacks with iai-jutsu. Jine dodges the first strike, but then Kenshin smashes Jine's elbow with his sheath. Kenshin states the name of the attack, then raises his sword, intending to kill Jine with the sharp side. Kaoru shouts for Kenshin not to do it. She cries on for a while telling Kenshin he needs to stay the way he is and Kenshin is relieved she's okay. Jine is amazed she broke through his will on her own. He tells Kenshin it's not over yet, picks up a sword, then kills himself. He dies, laughing at Kenshin, telling him a killer will always be a killer.

The police have swarmed Kanryu's mansion and there's enough evidence to legally put him away.

Kaoru awakes the next day to Sano's snores. Sano is still bloody from the night before. She sees Megumi cooking in the kitchen. She runs around the dojo and sadly realizes that Kenshin left. Just then, Kenshin walks in with a bucket of vegetables. Yahiko tells her he just stepped out to grab some supplies for dinner. Kaoru welcomes him back with an "Okaeri." Kenshin replies with "Tadaima" - I'm home.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Exploding Whale

I feel this old news video should be required viewing. The newscaster commentary is the best part.

Friday, July 13, 2012

La Mulana PC released!

The La Mulana remake is finally out! After localization problems caused the WiiWare version to be essentially cancelled, I didn't think it would ever come out. But La Mulana was released for the PC, DRM free, on the Playsta platform. The Playism platform is brand new, you can buy things from it using Paypal. It's focus is bringing English indie games to the Japanese speakers and bringing Japanese indie games to the English speakers. It's still rough around the edges, but I was able to purchase the game without any hassle.

La Mulana was originally a freeware PC game with MSX aesthetics, but with very rich gameplay. It's a metroidvania styled sidescroller, but with a lot more content and challenge than any metroidvania has ever dreamed of having. You play an Indiana Jones like hero exploring ancient ruins. There are tons of items/abilities to collect, enemies to fight, areas to explore, and puzzles to solve. You really have to explore and the puzzles are not trivial. It's a very, very great game that is a lot of fun to play. The remake not only updates the game's graphics to a modern 2D sidescroller look and remasters the music, but it also improves the game content. I strongly suggest taking a look at the project's blog and checking out what they've done.

I've been looking forward to playing this for a long time. The creators have been trying really hard to get the game released in English. Reading their blog and watching their videos really conveys the love and passion they have for this project. The game looks really great and you can tell they put in a lot of care and attention to make it. With obscure references and quirky humor abound, it's clear they enjoyed making this game. They've released this game DRM free and left all the game resources (sound/sprites/script) out in the open to be modded. Hopefully the game will come out on Steam someday, but I hope you'll purchase the game off Playism to reward the developers and also to play an awesome game. I think it's an indie title well worth supporting and I'd really like Nigiro to be successful.

(NOTE: If you do purchase the game and run Windows 7, make sure you run the installer and the game as Administrator. If you don't, you may have problems, especially with saving, depending on where you installed the game. Also, once you get the laptop in game, you can press F9 to go to the config menu and play around with different graphic filters as well as button layouts.)

Great Review
SA Forum Thread

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Half Minute Hero 2 Archive

I've been working on unpacking and repacking the Yuusha 30 Second (Half Minute Hero 2) PSP game. I don't really have much experience in this kind of thing. I've only played around with one other archive, the first Half Minute Hero before, and all I did was unpack it. So I'm learning as I go. This is a document of what I've been able to accomplish so far:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Half Minute Hero 2 Review

Yuusha 30 Second (Half Minute Hero 2) is the sequel to Marvelous's Half Minute Hero, which I suggest playing first. The first game, available on the PSP and XBox Live Arcade, is shorter, lighter, and a good indicator of how you'll feel about the sequel. If you liked the first game, you'll also like the sequel. If you didn't like the first one because it didn't feel enough like a JRPG, you should try this one. If you simply didn't like the first game, you won't like this one either

I'm going to write this review as though you're familiar with the first game. Half Minute Hero 2 is Japanese only right now, but it is playable without Japanese knowledge... you'll just miss all the story and charm.

Quick summary:
  1. Very much a sequel to Half Minute Hero. It's a JRPG/Puzzle/Action hybrid that focuses more on fun than challenge.
  2. Only has RPG-mode, so Evil Lord/Princess/Knight fans are out of luck. RPG-mode fans are in for a huge treat.
  3. Story is more of a take on epic SNES RPGs (e.g. Final Fantasy IV) than of classic NES RPGs (e.g. Dragon Quest).
  4. Story mode less arcade-y. All the half-minute quests are in the framework of a traditional overworld RPG, although quests are replayable.
  5. Lots of secret equipment/party members, as well as significant post story content. Maybe a 20-40 hour game, unless you really get into score attack or user levels.
  6. Lots of extra modes, notably user generated levels and infinite play modes.
  7. Music, graphics (retro 16 bit), and gameplay elements are all a big upgrade over the original.
From all this, you can probably tell if you'd like the game or not. It's definitely not for everyone. I personally loved it. I'm arbitrarily giving it a score of 9, mostly because it's a niche game and I'd understand people who find it repetitive. I'll go into much more detail now.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cool One Piece Strawhat Figure Sets

Eh, I'll post the rest of the One Piece Sets I was looking at.  If you look at my last few posts, it's obvious I've been looking for a really good full Strawhat set.  I ended up going for Megahouse's Chess set, but here are the various sets I was considering.  I think they're all pretty nice.

1. Ichiban Kuji
2. Megahouse Chess
3. Half Age Characters
4. Chozokei Damashii One Piece Straw Hat Pirates Gekitou! Fishman Island Battle
Some other sets I considered were the New World Figuarts Zero and POP Strong World.

By the way, if you don't know about it already, the One Piece Toys Tumblr is really fun to browse through and keep up on One Piece figures.  I've definitely spent my quota on figures for the year... but there's no harm looking.

One Piece Ichiban Kuji Strong World

Since I posted the One Piece Chess Set, I'll post this other Strawhat set I really liked.  I saw this rare set in person and loved it, although not many share my appreciation. It's an Ichiban Kuji One Piece Strong World set. You had to buy tickets to win these toys instead of buying them outright.  You can read more about Ichiban Kuji here.

What I love about this set is the cohesion. Not only do the pieces link together, but more than any set, I think these figures show the Strawhats as a unified group. Each piece is pretty large, about the size of a figurearts zero. The major downside is that the quality isn't anything to write home about.

If you'd like to buy the set, I've seen them on ebay and mandarake. They're expensive, but I really do like them.

One Piece Megahouse Chess Set

The Megahouse/Megahobby One Piece Chess Set Collection R looks awesome.  All the current Strawhats are represented, the poses look cool (it's a more serious looking set), and I've heard the quality is good.  Each figure is 90cm, or 3.5 inches.  There are two versions of each figure, one with a black base and the other with a white base.  Take a look for yourself.

Luffy: King
Nami: Queen
Sanji: Bishop
Zoro: Knight
Usopp: Rook
Chopper: Pawn

Luffy: King
Shirahoshi: Queen
Zoro: Bishop
Robin: Knight
Franky: Rook
Brook: Pawn

The first set came out April 2012.  The second set comes out in September 2012.

The R in the title apparently stands for Rebirth/Reborn/Return. Megahouse did another set in 2004, you can read about it here.  This new set is also post-timeskip.

It's a really nice Strawhat set, right?
It's good enough for display, using them
for Chess isn't really neccessary.

I really do love the set, but of course I'm not without my wishlists and minor complaints. First off, I don't like that Shirahoshi is in the set and I don't like that there are two Zoros. For me, they disrupt the cohesion of the set... like a nickel in a collection of quarters. I'm fine with the two Luffys, but I don't really like the legs crossed version... it just looks awkward to me, although I know that many men do it.

If I was in charge of the line with the same cost/set constraints, I'd do the following. Two Luffys still make sense to me, but I tried to make the sets Strawhats only, match characters to pieces better, and balance the sides. Ideally, there would be two versions of each of the strawhats, although it wouldn't be neccessary. What do you think?

King 1 - Luffy
Queen 1 - Nami
Knight 1 - Sanji
Bishop 1 - Brooke
Rook 1 - Franky
Pawn 1 - Thousand Sunny

King 2 - Luffy
Queen 2 - Robin
Knight 2 - Zoro
Bishop 2 - Chopper
Rook 2 - Usopp
Pawn 2 - Going Merry

Personally, I prefer all the strawhats to be on each side. Yeah, it still means eight pawns, but now there's just one of everyone else. It would also allow an option to create rival chess sets. With all the characters, it would probably be confusing to play this way... but sets like these aren't really for real use. This set is actually doable with the current set.

King - Luffy
Queen - Nami
Knight1 - Zoro
Knight2 - Sanji
Bishop1 - Robin
Bishop2 - Brooke
Rook1 - Franky
Rook2 - Usopp
Pawn - Chopper

You can find the blind boxes at several figure importers such as  If you want a complete set of figures, you can find some on ebay or yahoo auctions japan.  So... all the usual places.  If you want a complete chess set... that'd be pretty expensive.  I would love to see images of a complete board though.  I ordered a black base set myself... I'll post pictures when I have them all.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Easy Youtube to MP3

FYI, this is a pretty nice tool. It allows very easy conversion from a youtube video to an MP3. The URL is

There are also browser addons that add a button to the youtube page itself so that the tool is even easier to use.

Firefox Youtube to MP3 addon

Just do a search on your own for other browser addons. I haven't tried them out and I don't want to recommend anything potentially dangerous.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Introduction to Finality

My Community Season Three Wrap Up

Another season of Community ended. I'm not sure why I'm writing this post... but watching the finale gave me the same feeling as finishing a huge project. I just need to spend some time to reflect and write a wrap up report. It's all part o' the process.

If you asked me to choose one word to describe this season of Community, I'd instantly respond with "Ambitious." Dan Harmon (the series creator) has this big focus on story circles, his take on the "hero's journey" concept. In the past, these circles were mostly contained to individual episode. In this season, the circles spanned episodes. There were large story arc circles regarding the Air Conditioning Repair Annex, Chang as a security guard, and Pierce's father as well as many, many personal circles, such as Troy/Britta, Annie/Jeff, and the Dean finding himself. In contrast, Season 2 only really had the Shirley's baby story arc.

Now if you asked me if it worked... honestly, I'd say no. Don't get me wrong... I loved watching every episode and out of all the shows I've been following this season, it's definitely been my favorite. But all my favorite episodes were the more self contained episodes (Remedial Chaos Theory, Basic Lupine Urology, etc...) For the most part, all the episodes dealing with the story arcs didn't work for me. They all felt like they either weren't explored in enough depth or just weren't that interesting to begin with. (To be fair, I felt the same way about Season 2's baby story. Maybe I'm just not a fan of Harmon's plots.)

But the thing I disliked about this season of community the most wasn't the (all IMHO of course) failed ambitions, the meanness of the characters, or life message that didn't really resonate with me... it was the zaniness of everything. I missed the backdrop and characters of Seasons 1 and 2 where everything seemed much more realistic. This season, the situations just seemed too far fetched to me and the characters, while still great, seemed like completely different people from before. The show even poked fun at that. Also, there was a big push to take the characters out of Greendale Community College this season... I didn't really like the result. I kinda wished the characters would just go back to school. So my personal ranking of the seasons is S2, S1, then S3.

Anyway, those are my gripes... despite how much I wrote, they're actually minor. And like I said, Community is still the show I look most forward to watching. I never know what they'll try next and, in general, I love genre-bending.

Besides the show itself, I was amazed at everything that happened outside the show and how fun it was. All the Soup shout-outs and other external media (Danny Glover's plea and A Day in the Life of Joel McHale) were great. The subreddit for Community was great and the avclub reviews/comments were always fun to read the next day. I don't know if a TV comedy sitcom has ever been dissected and discussed as much as Community. A show like Lost I can understand... but a TV comedy?

Surprisingly, Community really deserved it. A lot of detail and easter eggs go into each episode. To catch all the jokes, not only do you need to have watched every episode, you need to read the website (eg Britta's background story) and know about the lives of the cast and crew. (Or, of course, you can just lurk on enough discussions.) Granted, these inside jokes and overall chaotic feel of the show are why I completely understand Community is not for everyone (the casual viewer won't understand the meaning behind "#SixSeasonsAndAMovie"), but it works really well for me.

Not only were there a lot of hidden on-air details to discuss, there was so much happening in the real life background. The fans had a chance to "save the show", Dan Harmon is his own worst enemy, the Chevy Chase feud, the twitter talk, and all the sneak peaks n' speculations. It all ended with a 13 episode renewal and a real life cliffhanger on how much the next season will involve Dan Harmon. So of course there's a lot to discuss and it's been really fun. I wonder if the reboot of Arrested Development will reach these levels of discussion.

Dan Harmon says each season of Community has a theme: Season One was communication (Spanish), Season Two was civilization (Anthropology), Season Three was life (Biology). Life is very complicated and season three was such a big circle with so many parts buzzing around it. That closing montage in the finale felt more like a series finale than a season finale. I guess it's obvious why this finale felt so monumental, it had such a strong sense of closure. It was very satisfying and I'm glad I spent the time watching the show.

That said, I'm looking forward to this season's DVD and the next thirteen episodes! Six Seasons and a Movie!


Community Season One DVD:
Community Season Two DVD:
Community Subreddit
AV Club Reviews
Season Three Easter Eggs List
NBC Official Site 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Skyward Sword

In my opinion, the best part of the Skyward Sword was the staff credits.
The video is completely spoiler free, just awesome music.
I especially love how the main theme is Zelda's lullaby reversed.
It's too bad that besides the main theme, the in-game music is pretty dull.

Totoro For Every Season

Totoro for Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.
Spring is a flower field, it would be nice to find something more obvious.
Summer is a sand sculpture, not too many cool Totoro Sand Sculptures out there.
Fall is a Halloween Pumpkin, there are lots of those.
Winter is a Totoro Snowmen, there are lots of cool ones.

A Big Giant Totoro

The Scariest Japanese Film Ever

Seriously, this movie looks terrifying based on the cover art.
Not at all like a Robin Williams cross-dressing comedy.
Mrs. Doubtfire, catering to a whole different audience in Japan.

Ah! My Goddess...

Throughout the years...

A compilation of Belldandy, one portrait from each Volume.
Mr. Fujishima's art has changed a lot, hasn't it?
Especially between 8 and 9.  I like 10 the best.
I think the characters are too round now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gremlin World

Gremlin World is my friend's webcomic. Not only as his friend, but as a manga reader, I suggest you give it a try.  It's an action comedy in the vein of Excel Saga.  Here's the summary blurb:

Do you know Gremlin World? What?! No?! Grr... Well I'll spell it out for you then: It's a crazy adventure full of fighting, random comedy, cute girls, hot dudes, honeyed espionage, a bunny-eared chick, and screaming eye lasers! And believe me, there's much, much more! Crazy Potatoes! Can Dr. Pinhead's creation ever become the monster she was meant to be?!

Read Gremlin World Here!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cheering For Legend Of Zelda

All from Ocarina of Time.  I just finished Skyward Sword... thought 
it was too slow and linear to be a great game.  I still favor the 2D Zeldas.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rockman: The Heavy Metal

Pretty awesome imagining of Megaman characters into a traditional 2d fighting game format.  Art is by Kei-Suwabe.  His Pixiv link is here.  He makes awesome stuff.




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