Sunday, October 7, 2007

Anime: General

I'm just going to make this my overall anime post. There will be further posts on it, definitely, but one to sort of set up my anime background is a good idea, so you all know where I'm coming from.

My freshman year roommate was the first guy to really get me started on anime. He'd check out anime dvds from the school library, and watch them in our room, and I'd watch about 1/4 of the episodes with him. Escaflowne, Ghost in the Shell, Trigun, all good anime, but I hadn't really gotten hooked yet.

Once we get around to my senior year, I get interested again. I watch all Ghost in the Shell I can get my hands on, not just the first season. Tottoro, Howl's Moving Castle, Trigun, the Final Fantasy CG movies, Full Metal Alchemist and a lot more (can't remember all of them.) I was into anime now, I just didn't have enough money to really get my hands on many seasons of anime that weren't in the library.

Fast forward to now. Since graduation I have put a decent amount of money towards my collection of anime DVDs. The collection is as follows: Escaflowne, Jing: King of Bandits, Elfen Leid, Last Exile, Final Fantasy: Spirits Within, Final Fantasy: Advent Children, Kino's Journey, Gantz, Princess Monoake, Spirited Away, .hack\roots, Bleach, Blood+, Samurai Champloo, Vampire Hunter Robin, Ghost in the Shell seasons 1 and 2, and Appleseed. I might be missing some, but I'm sure those will come up again later. For now, I'm just going to list my top 3 of the above series, and say a little about them.

Elfen Leid: Gory, and a bit over the top, this film is on this list predominantly for the overarching themes you find in it. The idea is that a disease has spread (fairly contained though) which causes people to be born with horns on their head, and invisible arms called vectors coming out of their back. The people studying the affected children consider them dangerous, and claim that while they can be normal up to about 4 years old, once they reach that age they will develope a hatred for humans, and will kill them without much hesitation (Including parents and siblings.) The show goes on to describe the situations in which the first of these affected people (called dyclonius) first came to attack people. And the story is all about her and how she was affected by that day. This anime is not for the faint of heart.

Last Exile: Absolutely amazing anime. The art is spectacular, the music even more so. The story focuses on two delivery pilots, and how they get involved in a war with "The Guild." The Guild is a society detached from those that live on land, and it is thanks to their technology that anyone on land is able to fly. They abuse this power, and this is the source of the majority of the conflict. Claus is your standard anime hero: young, reckless, ambitious, and perpetually guilt stricken, but he meshes incredibly well with all of the other characters, and the story builds very very well. I highly recommend this anime to almost all ages (There is some death, and some violence, but almost all of the combat is air combat, shit to ship, so there isn't too much up close, a few death scenes though.)

Kino's Journey: The best for last. This is one of the first anime I bought after college. I saw a cheap, $30 anime set that I could get, and I thought why not. I was hooked after the first episode. The premise for this show, which is based off of a book series, is that Kino, a young female traveler (though they make her gender somewhat ambiguous at first) is going from nation to nation traveling. Each nation she visits is in truth more of a city than a nation, but they each are so different and independent that nation is a better choice of words. Sometimes, though, the episode deals with people she meets while on the road, instead of people she meets in a town. Each nation she comes across has a different trait that is focused on. One city tries to come up with a tradition to call its own by trying out a new one on every traveller that comes by, and in the end that becomes a tradition of its own. Another town forces every traveler to either be imprisoned or fight in a tournament to the death. Another is a town that used to be at war with a neighboring nation, yet the two nations decided war was costing them too many lives so instead they turned their war into a competition to see who could kill more of the villagers in a neighboring town each year, their own people go unharmed because this little village is defenseless. The last town I'll mention is a town that has always been known for its hostility towards travelers, but when Kino visits she finds that they are a happy and friendly people, inviting her into their lives with open arms. This final mystery is a sad, but very touching one. You should definitely watch and find out what provoked that change in the townsfolk.

So I've gone on long enough. Any comments on the series I have mentioned are more than welcome, and I'm always interested in suggestions of new series to watch.

And for the love of god people, don't simply not watch anime because you think of it as just a cartoon. The hand-drawn medium is just that, another medium, and its simply a far more flexible story-telling device than real-life filming could ever be.

AAAAAH, almost forgot to mention Now and Then, Here and There, a series that definitely is one of my favorites. Don't know how I forgot about it. I'm done though, I'll write about it another time.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Halo 20X6

warning: minor spoilers

Ok, so Halo 3 is now out, and I've actually finally had a chance to play it. The question is, though, does it live up to the hype? Was all the money Bungie and Microsoft spent on it well spent? Short and sweet: yes and maybe.

Does it live up to the hype? yes. The game, as far as I've played, is pretty rivetting. I've done a decent stint on the online multiplayer, where I played about 4-6 different types of games on some beautiful maps. The multiplayer rules actually bypass several problems in the old system, such as when in capture the flag unorganized teams fail because the organization of offense vs defense is not balanced. In this case, they make you take turns. In one half of the round your entire team is defending, in the other half its attacking. The concept was so good they applied it to several other multiplayer game types. The single player, though I am only partially through it, is very well done. So far I have simply been doing coop with my roommate, but the graphics are definitely better than in the old halo games, the AI seems better, the voice overs are hilarious (the little covenant shouting "you shot my friend!" or "Oh no! our leader's been killed" in their little voices, or the lone soldier crying in a corner, sobbing about how the flood infected his whole platoon, and even though they died they got right back up and started talking to him, and he had to kill all of them...) Cinematically they overlay some great footage of Cortana over the play screen for some key moment that really help add to the drama, as they are very offsetting and out of character for her, and you/I have yet to find the source of these visions, and I call them that because Cortana is not actually with you, so she can't be giving them to you directly.

Is all the money well spent? maybe. I was reading Wired while on a mind numbing 7 hour plane ride, and I came across an article about the halo play-testing facility. IT IS ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS. They monitor key strokes, 5 minute location time stamps, lifespan, heart-rate, location of deaths, what you kill most, what kills you most, and lots lots more. The amount of data they collect is astonishing. Is some of it useful, of course, and they back that up in the article. Is all of it? no. True, some of metrics collection is simply collecting all the data you can and finding what information you can extrapolate from it, but I think they took it to a whole new level, and an almost disturbing one. You have to wonder how much money they put
into that facility, and whether it was justified by the returns. As for the rest of development... I can't say I know the exact man power/money that was put into it, so I can't comment as much on that, but maybe some reader will know something to that respect. If you know something about the subject, by all means post it as a comment.

All in all its a pretty amazing game, definitely worth the money. They only issue I'm finding is that when I tried to set up 2 player co-op on the same machine, and then partway through the 2nd mission we lost our internet connection, and it booted us from the game. A completely LOCAL game. The internet accessability should have had no effect on that what-so-ever. A minor bug in an otherwise fairly spectacular game. I'm sure I'll have more to say about it when I finish the missions.

(Hope someone gets the reference in the title...)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mission Statement?

Do blogs have a mission statement? I have no idea. I have no idea if I'll be posting here continuously, rarely, frequently, etc. All I know is what I think my idea of a blog is. My blog is a chance to bounce ideas off of people, discuss/pose interesting topics, or simply a sounding board for my own ideas whether or not anyone is out there reading (though as we all know this is the web, there is an audience for everything.)

I do not feel that my blog will/should be a personal journal. I don't intend to use it as a chronical of my daily activities. If some event from the day sparks a thought, I might referrence it as a jumping off point for discussion, but I do not intend this to be a diary of my life.

Topics I'll probably cover at some point or another: web-comics, books, music, video-games, card games, programming, philosophy (predominantly eastern philosophy, but I'll try to mix it up,) and math. There's more out there to talk about, but all in all those topics can be interpretted pretty broadly.

Final note before I'm done for the day: I know my grammar/spelling isn't perfect. I've come to terms with this fact, but I realize you may not have. Feel free to post corrections if you feel its needed, but I'm sure that in most cases the point will get across either way.

So, hopefully I'll get the first REAL post out soon enough!

I'm about to begin a new experiment in blogging, so this is just a test of the blogspot post editting system.