Saturday, 23 November 2013

Strange Attractor

I must have really been out of the loop but no one's told me that setzer had left MintJam and become a supporting member of the band, which he had originally founded with a2c in 2003. He is now concentrating on his own group Polo Rockers, whose M3-30 release Imitation is like one of those strangers you can have a nice chat with and forget about soon after. Indeed, as capable as setzer is, his inability to stand out musically is kind of outstanding in itself. This is what happens when you are in a band with a monster, but even the great a2c seems like he's starting to run out of gas a bit. The guitar works on the single Try to be Brave/Weed Spirit and the mini album Little Monster were technically impressive as always, but lacked the melodic sensibility in a2c's earlier efforts. I'm not sure if this were the direction that a2c and TERRA had decided to take after setzer's departure, but I do hope that they can bring back some of the energy and creativity they had back in the good old days. It seems to me that quite a number of my longtime favourite musicians have been showing signs of burnout, and the quality of their compositions have suffered a lot as a result. Take a break, people. It's better to burn out than to fade away, but once you're gone you can't come back.

As old actors exit the stage, new players make their entrances. Released a few months ago at C84, CHIAROSCURO is perhaps the most inspiring album to come out of the event, and certainly the most ambitious offering from An (AcuticNotes) so far.

Influenced by onoken, particularly the track felys -long mix-, while he was still in high school, An began composing in 2009 and was first featured on a certain Diverse System album before releasing his first solo work Encryption in 2012. The dynamic rhythm and skilful arrangements of various instruments on the album quickly caught my attention, though admittedly I was much less enthusiastic when it came to his contributions on Diverse System albums. The full-length Abstreact, which An considers to be his first proper album since he treats Encryption as a prelude of sorts, saw him experimenting with different approaches while maintaining and perfecting his own style. Strangely enough, the concept album Kathalshame went largely unnoticed, which might have had something to do with the fact that it was much mellower and more ambient than his previous releases. Whereas Abstreact hit me fast and hard with its opener Infectious, Kathalshame left a pleasant impression on me with its closing track VIII.『対岸の話』. Both album had their moments, but overall they suffered from inconsistency either through a lack of a coherent theme, or a few too many filler tracks. That's probably the reason why I was really surprised when I picked up CHIAROSCURO, which had a string of solid tracks that tied that album together nicely.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Farewell To Arms

Next year can't come soon enough. Numerous technical issues aside, Sen no Kiseki was a lot of fun and ended on a massive cliffhanger that left me laughing for a good six minutes. I'm quite impressed by the effectiveness of the ending even though Ao no Kiseki had already spoiled the conclusion to the conflict between the aristocracy and the reformists. Indeed, the time for me to rejoice is still a long way away.

Set in the Erebonian Empire, the story follows Rean Schwarzer as he arrives in the town of Trista to begin his studies at the esteemed Thors Military Academy. During the admission ceremony, Rean becomes acquainted with the soft-spoken Eliot Craig and the two talk very briefly about their distinct crimson uniforms, which set them apart from the majority of students who are dressed in either white or green according to their social classes. As the students leave for their designated classrooms after the ceremony, Rean and a few others are instead taken to an old building behind the academy for their "special orienteering". Once inside, their instructor Sara Valestin informs that they have in fact been selected for Artillery Class "VII" - a new and unique class where the students are chosen without regard to their background. This is very unusual given the widespread segregation between the nobility and the commoners within the empire. Machias Regnitz, who appears to bear some animosity towards the aristocracy, immediately takes issue with this arrangement and almost gets into an argument with the seemingly prideful Jusis Albarea, the second son of the Duke of Albarea, whose family rules the state of Kreuzen as one of the Four Great Prestigious Noble. Before Rean and the others can ask for any clarification about Class VII, they are thrown into a dungeon underneath and must navigate their way back to the ground floor. Puzzled and a little troubled by this turn of events, Class VII nonetheless set out to complete their orienteering in hope of getting some answers.

What lies ahead of them, however, are hardships and challenges that they would have never expected to face as a group of students. This is the story of Class VII, and the story of Erebonia, a mighty empire whose very foundations will soon be shaken to their core.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Use Your Illusion

Just another day. Amassing and training groups of cute girls turned out to be a lot more time-consuming and heartbreaking than I had expected. The fact that my luck seems to have gone really rotten lately only adds insult to injury. This whole experience sometimes feels more exhausting than plodding up Canton Avenue.

I'm of course talking about Lemuria of Phosphorescent, which has just celebrated its first anniversary not long ago. Frankly I don't even remember how I got into browser games, but after suffering through the monotonous Gun Blood Days, which I quit playing months before its termination of service this April, I somehow discovered Lemuria of Phosphorescent and the rest is all history now. Before I knew it, I had been playing it rather actively for more than half a year. Although at one point I was unsure if I were actually getting anywhere in the game, joining the top guild on the server had certainly cast away all my doubts and essentially motivated me to put some more effort into the game.

A few weeks ago I would have probably sneered at a team like this, but now I'm laughing at myself for spending so much time and energy putting together teams with a balanced build, which should have ideally produced Strikers who could deal, withstand and avoid damage. Sounds too good to be true? It sure is. The balanced build, while decent for early parts of the game, begins to fall short of specialized builds as with many balanced things, its weakness lies in the fact that it lacks an edge that makes it truly stand out. With this team, the idea was to ditch agility completely in favour of defence. Quite a bold decision considering that the Keyblade master Justina's skill 光滅刃 (Attack + 20%, Evasion + 24%, Shield + 50) actually meant that I could have gone for a dodge ball team instead, as the vanguard's skill affects the whole team against bosses. However, I was quite adamant on creating a team who is so tough that even the bosses struggle to scratch them, since the Shield ability can virtually reduce all damage to just 1. A normal Justina was picked specifically for her Shield ability, because her rare skill シャインズハルト (Attack + 35%, Hit + 20%, Armour-Piercing Damage + 150) is purely offence-oriented, and I wasn't too keen on making her a pure damage dealer. Shield is just too good a ability to pass on. It's such a shame that I missed out on the best meat shields so far - Mugino with her rare skill メルトダウナー (Attack + 45%, Defence + 10%, Shield + 70) and Misaka with her normal skill 砂鉄ブレード  (Attack + 35%, Armour-Piercing Damage + 100, Shield + 80).

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Good Manners And Customs

While I was looking for some art books the other day, I came across the third volume of Date AST Like which I then picked up as I was mildly curious about the finer details of the Ashcroft project. There seems to be a general lack of information on the spinoff, which is not too surprising considering its focus. Since I had already touched on the story before, I figured I'd briefly run through the new volume and whatnot. Hopefully this will fix any mistake I may have made and clear things up a bit more than the last time.

Let's quickly recapitulate the major events so far. DEM develop five special CR-Units as part of a new project. Four of them are transported to the AST base in Tenguu city, while the first unit Alice is left in the care of Okamine Heavy Industries. Three former SSS members succeed in hijacking three of the Ashcroft units at the end of the first volume. The next volume begins with Mikie accidentally unlocking and equipping the fifth unit Cheshire Cat before the hijackers can get their hands on it. She later attends the demonstration of the Alice with Origami, Mana and Ryouko. The SSS trio attempt to steal the unit but Origami takes it after Mikie's father gives her the password. That about sums it up, I think. On a related note, I forgot to mention that while DEM build Realizers, the subsequent task of developing them into CR-Units are typically left to other companies.

I have said before that the Alice provides protection against other Wizards' Territory, but it actually does much more than just that. The CR-Unit specializes in the composition of Protect Territory. In practice, the unit was able to deploy a barrier so thick that neither the SSS trio nor the AST girls could break through. Furthermore, the barrier could be extended to create a boundary field. Ashley and Leo nevertheless managed to get away thanks to Origami's overconfidence, which allowed Cecil a chance for a sneak attack on Origami that weakened the barrier.

Artemisia? More like teenage Vert amirite?
Inside her solitary confinement cell, Cecil tells Mikie about her group's "stolen lover" - one of the world's five best Wizards and the top ace of the SSS - Artemisia B Ashcroft. I kind of left out details about the SSS trio and their relationship with Artemisia the last time since I mostly wanted to talk about the Ashcroft units, so here goes. Cecil is a fairly amiable girl who lost her eyesight in a spacequake prior to joining the SSS; Ashley is short, brash and a bit of a lone wolf; Leo is tall and tough-looking but she is actually a crybaby. As for their relationship with Artemisia, she's an irreplaceable friend of theirs and the glue that held the group together - a role which has since been passed down to Cecil after Artemisia's departure. Artemisia eventually left the SSS for DEM as the latter wished to study the unique properties of her Territory. She thought they were going to put her powers to saving the world, but she couldn't have been more wrong.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Disaster For Sale

There goes another year. Even though I never did have an idea of what this place really ought to be about, over the years I feel like I've strayed from its intended purpose. The start is always nice and simple, but the journey in the arbitrary utopia is a long and strange one.

So in an effort to return to the roots, let me talk about music for a bit. Amazingly enough it's almost been more than half a year since the last time I did something like this.

Guitarists On Demand, a group of young and aspiring guitarists who seem to have gathered together under the leadership of the ever proactive Godspeed, released their debut album G.O.D. (Guitarists On Demand) a few months ago. The concept behind the group appears to be bringing a new generation of guitar heroes to the scene, as they explore new forms of electric guitar music. Certainly waste no time in talking up the project, don't they? Having listened to the record extensively and played along to the tracks however, I have to say that while the album is quite good, it doesn't really live up to its hype.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Morning View

Why is Nietzsche so cute?

The Princess of Tennis
I must admit that it feels rather strange to be hearing the characters' voices in Date A Live - Rinne Utopia, as I haven't watched the anime adaptation. The game is like a bad case of déjà vu for me. Go ahead, spoil yourselves and enjoy the game CG. The quality might not be the greatest but it's a lot more complete than what you'd find elsewhere (for now). There isn't much to spoil anyway in my unprofessional opinion, the story is about as subtle as a spacequake. Although the appearance of Phantom further hints at some convoluted plan that will probably come to fruition in future volumes.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Right In Two

What's your rush now?

Casually reading Dies Irae again because I can't wait for 相州戦神館學園 八命陣 to be released sometime this year. My body will not be ready for these stylish uniforms. It's going to be interesting to see how Masada handles writing a story that takes place between modern-day Japan and a dream world called Canaan (probably something to do with it being the "Promised Land"), which is made up of eight levels with the last four set in the Meiji and Taishou periods. Personally I would have preferred it to be just set in the past, but I guess I'll be quite happy as long as I can have my Rinko. I need my fix of high-spec ojou-sama right now.

So apparently Date A Live is getting a second season. Considering that it is and has been one of Fujimi Fantasia Bunko's best sellers, another season being green-lit isn't exactly unexpected. To celebrate this monumental moment, you should've already heard this before, have some clean scans of the Volume 5 and 6 illustrations.

Nothing that you haven't seen before but hopefully the more consistent quality with fewer compression artefacts is enough to leave you satisfied. You've got the two bustiest Spirits right there.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Wish You Were Here

Although it feels like there isn't much of a difference whether they are here or not, my pre-orders have finally arrived after what seemed like a few months and a little more due to unforeseen circumstances. Everything must be delayed these days. No exception.

Occasionally I wonder why I keep buying merchandise from series that I don't even follow. Along with the scantily clad Cryska Barchenowa (Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse), I've got Wakana Sakai (Tari Tari) and Ultimate Madoka nendoroids as well. Cute, if not slightly underwhelming compared with my other nendoroids for reasons I can't quite explain. I just hope Madoka doesn't suddenly fall and break one day, I can't deal with that.

Lately I've been masochistically reading quite a number of light novels, meanwhile my backlog of visual novels keeps growing at a frighteningly steady pace. Hopefully there will be a couple of actually worthwhile titles this month with the much anticipated releases of グリザイアの楽園 and レミニセンス. Although we all know what usually happens when the expectations are too high. For now I will just try to finish 僕とツンデレとハイデガー, provided that I don't get distracted by 月見月理解の探偵殺人 again. The funny thing with Heidegger, Tsundere, and Me is that I've probably spent more time reading about the gender-bent philosophers and their philosophies than the light novel itself.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Certain Uncertainty

Remind me to take an umbrella next time. I feel like I've been posting walls of text for far too long, so I'll make this one short and sweet.

After a few days of (unfounded) anxiety, I have finally overcome all obstacles and accomplished my goals. To celebrate this monumental moment that no one else cares about, here's a little treat for Date A Live fans from me.


Yes, higher quality scans of the Volume 4 illustrations. As far as I know, the existing scans online are badly compressed and thus look quite horrid. You just don't do that to Tsunako's art. And it's good news for Kotori fans, the fourth volume is her story after all.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Live A Date

Totally missed March, and it's only the beginning of April yet it's climax already?! I don't know about everyone else but I can feel my motivation fading away, not so slowly and very surely.

Frankly it's a bit odd but I'm going to summarize the story of the latest Date A Live volume, Miku Truth. Although I'd rather be playing Neptunia V instead.

Nightmare, Once More

Try moving your mouse over the italic texts sometimes.

Continuing on from where the sixth volume Miku Lily left off, Kurumi offers to help Shidou rescue Tohka who was captured by DEM. Kurumi says she is helping Shidou because she is looking for someone in DEM and she intends to use Shidou as a distraction. Give and take. Shidou reluctantly agrees, though Kurumi tells him that locating Tohka will take some time. Kurumi reminds Shidou that they need to first take care of Miku, who is sending brainwashed masses after Shidou. After the events of Miku Lily, Shidou thinks it's going to be very difficult to communicate with Miku. Kurumi however, wonders if Miku had always had a warped view of humanity (and men in particular). She asks Shidou to search through Miku's personal belongings and if her hunch were right, he may be able to find Miku's weakness.

Meanwhile Tohka is being interrogated by Ellen who says that DEM is preparing to launch full assault on the Tenguu Square, aiming to capture Miku and the Spirits controlled by her. Elsewhere, Origami wakes up in hospital and learns of the current situation from Mikie. Hearing that Shidou is missing, Origami feels frustrated and powerless because she's failed to protect him even though she took the risk of using the White Lycoris without permission.

At Miku's residence, Shidou is getting teased by Kurumi about him cross-dressing in Miku Lily. After some sexual harassment from Kurumi, Shidou finds Miku's music CDs, though the name on the covers reads "Tsukino Yoimachi". Listening to the CD, Shidou recognizes Miku's singing but its liveliness is very different from the entrancing voice she has now. The confused Shidou soon finds another important piece of clue, a seemingly ordinary photo of Miku. A photo that shouldn't have existed. However, Shidou knows that there is another possibility. Kurumi uses the Tenth Bullet -Yud- on the photo and CDs to peek into Miku's past, but the sound of Miku's Army Breaker Diva -Gabriel- interrupts Kurumi before she can explain to Shidou about Miku's oddity. Knowing that soon everyone in the area will be after him, Shidou and Kurumi decide to confront Miku directly.

Friday, 22 February 2013

The Tale Of A Bird That Couldn't Fly

So much for the bluebird of happiness.

Almost 5 years after the original release of 殻ノ少女, the story of Touko Kuchiki, a girl who wished to find her true self and ultimately to be free, finally comes to an end with the conclusion of 虚ノ少女. And yet, as if to reflect its title, the story has left me with a feeling of emptiness thanks to its abrupt and somewhat anticlimactic ending.

Since Innocent Grey insisted on pronouncing the names of both games as Kara no Shoujo, I will be referring to the second game as Kara no Shoujo 2 for the sake of clarity. With all things considered, the overarching story of the second game doesn't really have a very strong connection to its title. Indeed, the sole purpose of KnS 2 may very well be to bring closure on the fate of Touko. And by doing so, the game raises fresh questions that doubtless serve to pave the way for a sequel.

Thankfully (?) the rest of the game is nothing like this
Taking place two years after the original game, KnS 2 follows the private detective Reiji Tokisaka as he continues his search for Touko, who was kidnapped by the young writer and serial killer Shinji Mamiya. When a nurse is found dead in a grisly and bizarre manner, Reiji accepts the cocky superintendent Yaginuma's request to solve the case. He soon meets and enlists the help of Touji Aoki (from Cartagra) who provides him with useful information on the murder cases, as well as the whereabouts of Shinji.

Joining Reiji on his investigation is Tomoyuki Masaki, whom Reiji's sister Yukari saves from a suicide attempt. Sensing the link between Masaki and the cases, Reiji takes him in as an assistant to keep an eye on him. In the meantime, Yukari befriends her new classmate Yukiko Kayahara, a meek and mysterious girl who is troubled by recurring dreams of murders.

Masaki's true identify soon comes to light with the visit of his childhood friend Meguri Takamiya, who comes to Tokyo looking for Masaki's cousin and good friend Naori Kuroya. Reiji's investigation eventually leads him and Masaki back to the latter's hometown Hitogata, a secluded and traditional village in the snowy mountains of Toyama prefecture. Together with the hard-boiled Inspector Inui, they set out to confront and uncover dark secrets of the village once and for all.


Thursday, 31 January 2013

Arbitrary Utopia

This is going to be a fun one.

I don't know why but I finished GEARS of DRAGOON -迷宮のウロボロス-, in the sense that I completed every ending and collected every CG. All I can say is, what a journey it has been. I almost thought I wasn't going to survive the storm of cliches that the game brought to my little world. Once again I was left speechless, or rather too busy laughing at what I perceived to be a lack of sincerity and professionalism on the game writers' part. How they can read their own stories and not fall off their chairs laughing is beyond me, seeing as how my chair almost fell off me and flew straight outside the window.

Gears of Dragoon is a dungeon crawler, much like the classic Wizardry and the newer Etrian Odyssey, except its poorly designed 3D dungeons are painful to look at and frustrating to navigate through. Wait, I was supposed to start with the better aspects of the game first. It's actually a decent game with a surprisingly addictive enchanting system. I probably had more fun crafting and enchanting equipments than rushing through the dungeons just so I could get to the next chapter. The art is alright and some of the music tracks are fairly good, but it's never a good sign if I brought up the art and music so early. Indeed everything else about the game left a pretty bad impression on me, with the most glaring problem being the terrible writing.

It's like they added Conrad just to fill up the space
Ever wondered what happens when the most generic characters come together in a most generic story? Gears of Dragoon comes dangerously close to that. The main character Ladius, who conveniently has amnesia, is irritatingly impetuous and stubborn. Filia, whom I take to be the main heroine since she gets the most scenes, has a repulsively bubbly personality which turns out to be "fake" as she is really an overpowered and emotionless anti-Durga/Rudra (why the Hindi names?) killing machine called Dynamis. Oh and her only flaw is that she can't cook. Bravo Japan, you've done it again. Who'd have thought that it was a bad idea to put a powerful system on someone who would then develop a weak, dependent and unstable personality? Right, Noel?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Next Season

The show goes on even if it weren't what it was meant to be.


First of all and about two four weeks late, but Happy New Year to everyone who frequents or happens upon this quiet corner of the internet. I hope you all find some ways to take it easy in these rather troubled times.

Anyway, a little update on my misadventure in Gun Blood Days. I actually managed to gain the top spot in the Boss Raid and got a Diamond Mitsuki Naruse as my reward. It was a short-lived victory however, as I turned Mitsuki into a much stronger Lunette Gien, but failed limit breaking her and ended up with a mediocre Silver Kyouko Oribe. Others probably thought I was a bit crazy. On the bright side, I did complete collecting the Witch Girls, with the last two, the one-eyed Ozu Karuma (the only one with a very odd name, probably a reference to the Wizard of Oz) and the blue-haired Ao Mizuki coming in after a streak of good draws. Now with the witches and Hisumi who came about when I least expected, as well as a Royal Bronze Himeko all in the bag, I have more or less collected all the cards I wanted. Time to quit. Other than that, an unlikely alliance formed between us and Saber, both in and outside the actual storyline, was an amusing recent development. I was worried that the already dominant Japanese Liberation Front, commonly referred to as 'Crows' due to their logo, might take that chance away from us. But the deal went through for us quite smoothly in the end. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" indeed.