Sunday, June 10, 2007

Over 100 hours of gameplay?!?

Let me get one fact out there reeeeeeeeeeeeeal quick... Ever17: The Out of Infinity is NOT an anime. It is a Japanese visual novel by KID, translated and ported to PC by Hirameki International Group, released in December 2005. Now, on to the review...

The Plot: "It is May 1, 2017, 12:51 p.m.
Seven people find themselves trapped without warning in the marine theme park LeMU, 167 feet underwater. Water, air and food are in short supply, and worse yet, a mysterious virus lurks deep in the ocean. The park is relentlessly assaulted by water pressure, and the protective bulkhead will collapse in the next 119 hours. Time is limited for the people trapped in LeMU. As they fight to escape, the bonds between them grow stronger - bonds of friendship, and bonds of love. But time waits for no one, and your time is close to running out. With an ending that packs the ultimate in surprises, what will happen to you? What will you gain when you finally discover the secret of LeMU? And what will you lose?"

My first thoughts I want to share are for those out there thinking, "Another visual novel? Geesh, it must be an H-game without the H-scenes..." First off, Ever17 never was an H-game, and I'm glad that it wasn't. Secondly, there's not another visual novel out there to date (to my knowledge) that explores the depth of story arcs that Ever17 manages to accomplish.

My first kudos: 2 protagonists. How many games do you actually see out there today with the story available from multiple points of
view, each with their own separate paths? It absolutely blew me away.

What else can I say about the story other than the fact that it's great? There are 11 paths total (Yes, I said eleven) that can be pursued. The complexity of the storyline and the characters seems to just draw you into the game more and more as you play. Just when you finish one ending, you're gently reminded that you are not yet at the end of the story because you are still in the infinity loop.

The overall game for PC has been rated Teen, for Blood (Yep), Mild Language (Yep again), Partial Nudity (??? Where did I miss that?!?), and Suggestive Themes (Yep, Yep, Yep). I guess it has as much partial nudity as a transformation scene in Sailor Moon, but I guess I am a bit jaded from my other "visual novel" experiences. And, no, I will NOT be reviewing them here. This blog is for Sissy Anime, not Otaku H-Games....

I personally felt that the character development was well thought-out. They were easily believable, as far as anime characters in an anime setting go, that is. Being able to play the game from two different viewpoints gives you the opportunity and pleasure of discovering the story little by little, slowly coming to grip with the full story, not just a simple "which-girl-do-I-end-up-with" scenario like many games in this genre.

The artwork was great. I have seen other reviews that compared the facial artwork to KashiMashi. I, however, really didn't see it. The scenery, both the sci-fi aspects as well as the falling sakura petals, were done with style.

The music chosen for the game was superb, with thumping techno-tracks for the more anxious moments to slow, drifting piano parts for the more emotional scenes of the game. My favorite had to be the lullaby sang by Coco.

All in all, you can't go wrong by spending a few hours in front of the old PC taking this puppy for a spin. The publisher's web site says that there's over 100 hours of game play in this game, and I DO believe it, especially if you're looking for all of the endings and story paths.

Sissy Anime gives Ever17 --the out of infinity-- a 9.5 out of 10.....

...and, no, I am still not reviewing Otaku H-Games here, so quit asking...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Yeah, and I was in band...

Yeah, I used to think that band camp was an exciting and goofy, non-ordinary experience. No American Pie jokes, please... That was, until I watched a few episodes of Ouran High School Host Club.

The summary from states:

Ouran High School Host Club is a story that takes place primarily at Ouran High School. The school is an exclusive institution reserved only for students from incredibly wealthy and affluent families. One exception is scholarship student Haruhi Fujioka, a young student from a lower-middle class family. Because of the superlative cost of the school uniform, Haruhi resorts to wearing long slacks, polo shirts and a vest that resembles the male student's uniform. Therefore, upon entering school, Haruhi was assumed to be, by most, a male student.

One day, searching through the vast campus for a quiet place to study since the libraries are filled with gossiping students, Haruhi finds the technically unused Third Music Room, taken over by the Host Club - a group of six attractive male students who spend their time charming and entertaining the school's girls for profit. During their first meeting, Haruhi is shocked at their behavior which causes an accidental knock over of a very expensive vase valued at ¥8,000,000 (USD $80,000 in the English manga). This causes Haruhi to contract a massive debt with the Host Club. In order to pay off the large sum, Haruhi is employed as the club's "dog" and is constantly ordered to do menial tasks for the members, such as serving food or cleaning up.

Once the club president, Tamaki Suou, sees Haruhi without glasses, Haruhi is promoted to be one of the hosts of the club as a way to pay off the huge debt. One by one, the other club members take notice, until even the club president finally discovers that Haruhi is, in fact, a female, with a self-proclaimed 'low threshold for gender identity', but since she is already accepted by the club's customers and has become one of the main attractions, Haruhi is allowed to remain as a member. She is forced to stay until she has accumulated a total of 100 (later, 1000) customers, at which time her debt would be considered paid in full.
This series is worth definitely worth watching. For me, my largest obstacle was getting around the particular art style used in the creation of the animation. Although the series was done by Bones studio, the same peeps who done Fullmetal Alchemist, it just really didn't seem up to the standards that I would have thought that a series like this deserved.

While the art left a few things to be desired, the plot was interesting, and the twists in the end left you with a feeling that you really didn't understand the characters as well as you thought you did before the last few episodes.

My viewing of this anime was like my viewing of all of my anime. I watch the anime using the original japanese voices and English subtitles. Not discrediting English anime voice actors, I simply want to experience the anime in the original form it was intended. Now that I have seen it, I cannot imagine another voice for Tamaki or the others. To me, it would just seem fake.

All in all, an enjoyable time spent watching anime. Does this anime qualify under the guidelines of "Sissy Anime"? Absolutely. Guys crying every other episode, guys hugging and such, cross dressers, etc. make this one of the strongest contenders for the "Sissy Anime of the Decade" award. So, did I like the anime as presented?

...I wouldn't change a thing...

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Well, a birthday was celebrated today. Granted, it wasn't really their birthday, but since he is an over-the-road driver and will be gone on his actual birthday, it was decided that we would celebrate his birthday today. Gotta love the fool who invented Ice Cream Cake! :)

I just recently watched a series that I was, in all honesty, really surprised that I liked as much as I do. The title is "Zero no Tsukaima", and it definitely qualifies as Sissy Anime. Our series starts with Louise Francoise Lu Blanc de La Valliere, a.k.a. Zero Louise, a second year student at a school for magic who seems to have absolutely no talent for magic at all, and has yet to successfully cast a spell... hence the nickname Zero. Since all second year students are required to summon their familiar at that time, she is secretly worried about her chances of actually summoning anything. On the appointed day, she attempts to summon her familiar, and after a rather spectacular explosion, notices the entrance of the guy of the series, Hiraga Saito.

This story is set in an alternate universe where mages exist. Saito-san, however, was summoned from modern-day Japan. Mistaking him as a plebeian (a non-aristocrat with no ability to use magic), she reluctantly binds a contract to him and accepts him as her familiar spirit. From there, the adventure and laughs begin.
The series overall was well thought out, and the characters compliment each other fairly well. As is in any anime, though, you have a couple of stereotypical characters thrown in for good measure.

I swear, though, the Zero no Tsukaima character Guiche de Gramont reminds me waaaaaaay too much of Winner Sinclair from Karin (The Chibi Vampire for all you English connoisseurs out there). J.C. Staff should have seen this one coming.

Nothing like puttin' on a little summer music to work with!

Yes, I am a very obsessed fanboy of certain anime titles, irregardless of "ratings" and "reviews" of many otaku reviewers. When I am sitting in front of my computer, I find that listening to music helps me focus.

Now, don't get me wrong. Not all forms of music work the same, nor are my choices necessarily more or less valid than another's choices. Some people listen strictly to classical music when they work, and it really works for them. Me? Well, if my work was to fall asleep and drool into my keyboard, then it could work for me as well, I guess...

I have recently been listening to a LOT of anime OSTs while coding and scripting. More often than not, a default CD in my tray is "Amaenaideyo! Santora Natsuban". It has enough variety to keep my ears entertained, as well as prevent me from going to sleep. I have had a ton of fun watching the series on AnimeFever, and getting the soundtrack has kept me from getting distracted as often. It's not like it doesn't happen, it's just that it doesn't happen as much.

That being said, I should explain my personal issues with "normal" musical choices as well as their sources. As far as normal music goes, yes, I like rock, some pop, some classical, and a few country songs. My wife, as well as others who have happened to dwell accidentally into my "personal corner-of-the-room server farm", have asked me why I don't listen to the more commercial songs I like instead of anime soundtracks when I work. There are a couple of reasons for that:
  1. First and foremost, as a former singer in a teenage rock band in the late 80's which, by the way, never went anywhere, I tend to like to sing along with any (and, God knows, I mean any) song that I know the lyrics to. This never helps. Many times, I simply get distracted when I fudge a line in the song and have to stop and remember that we're at the second bridge and not the first. When things like that happen, all other mental processes grind to a halt.
  2. I listen to anime soundtracks for what I like to call "The Lorem Ipsum Effect." For those unaware of what lorem ipsum is and how it is commonly used, you can get a little lesson on it here. The lorem ipsum effect usually kicks in when an anime theme song kicks in, like the closing song "Lonesome Traveler". The ONLY English words that I have heard in the song are, literally, "Lonesome Traveler". I love the vocals on the song. I can contentedly listen to the singer sing without trying to sing along. I cannot yet speak or read Japanese in any way, shape, form, or fashion, so listening to the songs gives me the ability to not only listen to the instrumental music you hear during the course of the show, but also to listen to vocal songs I know, yet cannot sing. The human brain tends to filter out things like foreign language you cannot speak or read when concentrating. You could look at the title page of a storybook written in japanese and remember many details about the illustrations in the book while never remembering one hiragana from the page. The same works for lyrics in music, as well. You hear the melody, but since the words are in a language foreign to your ears, you only hear the melody. Don't believe me? Listen to any foreign song you've never heard before, say, 10 times. Then, without listening to the music, write down as much of the lyrics using sound-spelling as you can. :)
Living in the beautiful scenic state of Tennessee has a few drawbacks, the most prominent being that the rural area in which I live, as well as stations that come in clearly on the radio, are generally "country-fied". I like a few country songs, and know more than one by heart. However, I just cannot work with country music playing within earshot. The biggest reason? Country music, as a general, wide-sweeping, stereo-typical generalization, are songs with a story. Could you talk on the phone, or type your blog, or whatever, while someone was telling you a story right over your shoulder?

I have also been asked why I just don't find something on the radio and listen to it. The answer is simple. I have a pop-up blocker on my browser because I hate pop-up ads. I refuse to subscribe to anything which requires me to get their junk mail or spam because I hate being inundated with marketing every time I turn around. Just as I hate pop-ups, I really hate radio advertising, especially for local businesses. Monotone voices drone on about their showrooms and new models arriving weekly. Flat, dull voices that neither THX or Dolby 7.1 could make interesting to listen to.

Listening to anime soundtracks is a personal preference, just as my wife likes to listen to Rob Zombie while we have important conversations. Many never understood my rationale. Now, I hope I have given enough information so that my friends and family will understand my hobbies a little better...

Either that or they have still just written me off as a sissy-anime redneck programmer.

...either way is fine by me... :)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Welcome to Sissy Anime

What do you think that you get when you combine a southern gentleman mentality with an eastern culture phenomenon? Well, 'round these parts, you call it sissy anime.

This blog will be my venting grounds on several topics, not only anime. It's just that anime will probably rule the roost in this barnyard. Careful where you step.