The fun I had last week … lazy edition

Hey, I did it! I wrote three long-ish blog posts in the past week. This here’s technically a fourth, but I don’t think it counts since it’s just rambling. I’m really tired, so this is probably going to be a short post anyway.

Watching the opening of the new Duck Tales TV show makes me really nostalgic. Not necessarily even for the old TV show, but all those comics! I know it wasn’t a thing in the USA, but in several European countries, Disney comics were big. And they were wonderful. I think the next rainy weekend afternoon will be spend bingereading Don Rosa’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck …

Despite the fact I have a lot of unread manga waiting on my shelf! Reports of an upcoming Pluto anime has reminded me of the fact I still haven’t finished reading the manga. I should probably do that, too. But we’ll see when I get around to that …

I’m still making my way though Dragon Quest VII. I don’t think I’ll finish it in time for Ever Oasis, but I’m confident that I won’t take too long now. And I’m happy with my progress. I actually did a little bit of mini medal collecting and stuff like that, even though that does not advance the story and is therefore technically a waste of time (if you’re trying to finish a game quickly). But it’s much more fun to play more leasurely and not always be 100% focused on the next goal.

I have not really kept up with E3 news! I know that Hironobu Sakaguchi is going to reveal a new Mistwalker game next week, and that Nobuo Umatsu is involved, so that’s something I am curious about. Some artwork has been teased so far … Oh well, just a few days left.

Friday Ramble

I have been kind of low on morale lately, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been a cute, stres-free source of joy, and for this I am grateful. It’s funny because I originally dismissed the show, based on its trailer, as yet another comedy about an obnoxious manchild in a will-they/won’t-they relationship with an uptight female career woman. I was wrong! Sure, Jake’s a manchild, but he’s not disrespectful, inconsiderate or spiteful towards the other characters. And Amy is career-oriented, but far from a humourless killjoy. She’s an awkward weirdo in her own way. Brooklyn Nine-Nine even does the impossible: put Jake and Amy in a relationship – and it’s drama-free, just two grown-ups in a relationship, still being themselves. The weirdest thing. On top of that, B99 also has a great ensemble cast, is socially aware (kids these days call it “woke”, I guess) without being preachy, and it’s also really funny. And even when it’s not funny, it’s fun. It’s my feel-good show.

That having said, I do not understand the AVClub reviews of this show. I don’t really understand AVClub anymore, period. But this morning I was reading the review of the S4 finale and managed to pinpoint my issue: These reviews are anxiety-inducing. They have this undertone of doom, of future calamity. I just don’t have the energy to vague-worry about whether a 20-minutes-long sitcom episode took full advantage of the entire ensemble cast. Or if the cliffhanger’s stakes are believable enough. It’s a sitcom. I’m not saying don’t analyze it, but there’s this weird disconnect between what the show is and what some reviewers treat it as. But maybe that’s AVClub’s thing. The Elementary reviewer still complains about the show being so episodic. It’s a CBS crime procedural. Of course it’s episodic. Are there really no pop culture journalists who understand episodic television anymore?

What else? Videogames.  I’ve no idea why I’ve basically been stalling on Dragon Quest VII. It’s like I’m cursed never to finish a Dragon Quest game (except DQ9;  which – why?) and that’s awful! I am beginning to panic because next month will see the release of Ever Oasis and RPGMaker Fes. At once! I really need to finish DQ7 before I start another new game, but … I’ve not really been able to focus on RPGs at all.

I’ve been playing Pullblox (Pushmo in North America), though, and that’s been great. And the first 3DS game where enabling 3D actually makes sense! It makes it easier to play. I love puzzles.

I’ve also fallen behind on my manga blogging, which is dumb. Must. Find. Motivation. I actually have a half-finished post. Tomorrow.

And I’m currently wondering if I should just give up trying to find an English-language manga fandom. I read manga in French anyway, the French manga market is way better than the US one! But I’ve always done “fandom” in English, it’s what feels most natural. I just wish English-language manga fandom was more … interested in things beyond their horizon.

 

 

Wow, I finally finished reading Hikaru no Go …

I recently – finally – finished reading Hikaru no Go. I can’t explain why I stopped, many years ago, around volume 10. It … just happened? I wasn’t bored with it, I didn’t lose interest … I just never got around to reading the rest, and then time passed. A lot of time, come to think of it. Over a decade, and I dare not do the exact math.

Maybe I also didn’t return to HikaGo at that time because the manga ended in Japan and there was this vibe of disappointment about it. The general consensus seemed to be that Hikaru no Go ended suddenly, unexpectedly and long before its time, without a properly satisfying ending. But to be honest … HikaGo had a perfect ending – and then it continued for five (?) more volumes. It did not end too soon, it ended too late. It missed the perfect moment for the most impactful ending.

Hikaru no Go is amazingly well-written. I cannot even pinpoint exactly what makes it so good. All I know is that in theory, Hikaru no Go really shouldn’t be this amazing. After all, it is just a manga about a bunch of boys who are obsessed with a board game! HikaGo brilliantly proves that you can apply the sports manga formula to anything, even to an old, unglamourous board game, and it becomes exciting.

I’ve noticed that there are people in manga fandom today who aren’t familiar with Hikaru no Go at all. For example, I seem to remember that the guys on ChannelAwesome’s Weekly Manga Recap sounded like they had never heard about it, made fun of its premise and clearly had no idea that it wasn’t some random, forgotten niche thing, but one of the big hits of its time! (Not that this surprises me, the podcast seemed uninteresting anyway.)

But yeah, Hikaru no Go was big. :D It started a Go boom. Not just in Japan, or in other countries that already cared about Go, but even, like, in Europe. My parents heard about it on the radio! All my friends suddenly had Go boards! I had a Go board! (I’m … not good at Go.) These are such fond memories, man.

Now for the spoilery thoughts on how Hikaru no Go ended, and how it should have ended.

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Originality is overrated! and other thoughts on JRPG plots

I enjoy daydreaming about ~the perfect JRPG plot. Come to think of it, it’s something I’ve been doing since the 1990s, when I first played a JRPG. It’s a videogame genre that I find particularly appealing and even inspiring. I believe these games just give me a sense of fun, of adventure, freedom and discovery that others don’t necessarily give me. They are usually really long, they are about journeys and are full of interesting, diverse characters. (I don’t mean diverse in the modern US marketing speech sense, just that any decent JRPG party will feature characters with different skills, personalities and backgrounds. This is just more interesting than a cast of characters who all have the same age and the same approximate background and job … looking at you, Final Fantasy VIII.)

Anyway, what is the perfect JRPG plot? Or rather, what makes a JRPG plot great? I believe that it’s easy to overestimate the importance of complexity, realism and especially originality. These things are not actually that important. In fact, they can get in the way and destroy your gaming experience. Because that’s what a good videogame plot is: an experience.

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A look back on Nobuhiro Watsuki’s Embalming (and a tiny look ahead)

After finally finishing this series, and taking some time to think about it, I want to share some of my random thoughts on Embalming, the fourth series by Nobuhiro Watsuki. With the upcoming continuation of Rurouni Kenshin, it’s interesting to discuss the manga in the wider context of Watsuki’s works, too. Especially since a lot of Kenshin revival things happened during the run of Embalming. If you look at the character redesigns in the Kenshin Kanzenban manga edition, you can see the influence. Embalming was also put on hold while Watsuki worked on the tie-ins that accompanied the live-action movies. I think this did harm the series, also dragged it out a little bit. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but nothing ever happens in a vacuum, so there’s no use lamenting.

(This article doesn’t contain any real spoilers, but that’s also because it didn’t turn out the way I initially thought it miiiight. Obviously, deep thoughts and analysis is for later, today is for superficial rambling!)

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Blade of the Immortal Reread: Volume 10

Apologies for the lack of updates. I got a strained muscle in my leg, which maybe doesn’t sound like it would affect my ability to write, but sitting was unpleasant, and the pain made it hard to focus on things.

So I have been spending a lot of time in the evenings lying in bed, reading Blade of the Immortal and 3×3 Eyes and feeling sorry for myself. Hilarious, of course: both of these manga are about immortal warriors who are frequently torn to shreds! and even the characters who aren’t immortal suffer a lot of injuries that are a lot worse than a silly muscle strain – and they don’t complain half as much as I do!

But of course it is normal for fictional characters to be a lot more resilient than real people. This applies to both physical and mental trauma. Even when manga, or TV shows or movies are “realistic” about these things, it is a conscious, calculated realism that doesn’t necessarily extent beyond the aspect it is focusing on. (My go-to example is Jessica Jones (Netflix) which rightfully got a lot of praise for taking Jessica’s struggle seriously, but which was also jarringly flippant towards the experiences of some of its side characters.)

This stuff is interesting to keep in mind when reading Blade of the Immortal Volume 10, which covers chapters 54 to 59. Spoilers from now on.

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Saturday Ramble

I must apologize for the lack of updates during the past week. I really wanted to blog more, I even had a bunch of ideas, but ultimately lacked the energy or motivation to sit down and write. Or even do the necessary thinking and wondering. :( I blame it on … work and the weather. Well, that sounds boring, but it’s absolutely true! No kidding: Yesterday I couldn’t find my keys in my handbag because my fingers were so cold that I had no sensation in my tips! I guess my body isn’t made for -15°C.

I watched Moana – or Vaiana, as it’s known in Europe for copyright reasons. I really liked the movie, and I’m impressed with how thematically coherent it is. Even the songs all kind of tied into the film’s themes. Just … the obvious contrast between Where You Are and How Far I’ll Go, and how  – spoilers! – at the end, these two songs (together with We Know The Way) are combined into one song and it’s just satisfying. That’s exactly how songs should be used in musicals! (And Shiny is the greatest Disney villain song, and be it just because Tamatoa doesn’t stop singing his song just because he starts kicking the heroes’ ass. It’s brilliant … no pun intended.)

I haven’t really advanced far with the videogames I’ve been playing. (I am considering the theory that this unusually cold and snowy winter is the universe trying to tell me to finish I Am Setsuna.) But even though the actual playing of videogames has been neglected, I still feel good about myself because I managed to find our old SNES console, and have started to repair the old, broken controllers – with great enthusiasm! There is something satisfying about taking things apart and putting them back together!! This is the sort of thing I should have discovered as a teenager, so that it could have set myself off into entirely different directions, on completely different career paths …! Anyway, I took apart one controller, cleaned it thoroughly, fixed the broken R key (without glueing anything to myself! That’s a first!) and put it back together.

Anyway … I still want to try and stick a three-posts-a-week schedule, so I hope I’ll manage to get over this slump, and into a rhythm.