Students having fun with signs, or simply wear and tear?

Posted on July 29th, 2006 in Vancouver by andrija

I always wanted to take picture of this sign, but only now that I got a phone with a decent camera I managed to take it.

The way I see it, someone modified the sign to say “BCIT Studs only”, which makes sense when you take a look at what the people that play tennis here look like.  And then someone didn’t like that, so they removed another letter to make it more “politically correct”.  Killjoys!!

What reinforces my theory is the writing at the bottom – no ogs and no dikes on field!  Indeed!  Keep those off!

BCIT Studs

Prey – a decent but forgettable shooter

Posted on July 21st, 2006 in Video Games by andrija

Prey is like a summer blockbuster or a summer fling (I actually have zero experience on either of those categories – I’m merely throwing around stereotypes here) – a brief, reasonably fun diversion that only rarely turns out to be more substantial.

Actually, I do think it has some innovative elements. The only problem is, they’re innovative only to the first person genre, not the gaming industry. Either that, or they are just a gimmick.

I can only remember two things – funny, it hasn’t even been a week since I finished it. One, walkways – nicely lit paths that allow you to walk as if attracted to them (think magnetic boots). This allows some nicely done levels and puzzles that play games with gravity – or rather ignore it. So you can now be walking on walls and ceilings, as long as you don’t try to jump, of course. The only trouble is, they look very much like spider tracks in Metroid Prime. In fact, they look almost the same, and they work the same way too. The other thing are portals. This is a bit hard to describe unless you use a lot of words and have to actually put an effort towards constructing a sentence, and since I just finished a 0.5l can of beer, that’s beyond my skills at the moment. However, I felt this was mostly just a gimmick. It’s not that there is no potential – there’s lots. It’s just that there is also a lot of complexity involved. Too much freedom is not something that majority of people can handle. In this case it probably overwhelmed developers and they ended up only making only a few cool scenes using these portals; the rest do not contribute much to the gameplay or enjoyment. They do their part to distinguish this game from the rest though. But it’s sad, if a game doesn’t need to be fun or memorable these days to distinguish itself – all it needs is to do something no one else did (or did not do in quite the same way). That thing itself need not actually be good. Just new.

I just remembered something. Ok, so I lied. I am forgetting the third thing, the one that is actually the most innovative of them all. The one where you hit a device on the wall and it changes the gravity so that the wall it was on becomes the “down” direction, meaning the floor. The best puzzles of the game have been done this way. None of them was hair-tearing hard, but there were quite a few where you had to actually think as well as try a few different approaches until you can find the one that works. So the game isn’t really all that easy as some reviews might make you think. It’s probably just hard enough for a first-person shooter. You might get frustrated and if you can’t handle sudden changes in orientation, you should definitely sit this one out as it will make your head spin.

Honey and Clover II – Episode 3

Posted on July 17th, 2006 in Anime & Manga by andrija

And just when I said there was a danger of H&C getting a bit stale – a change has happened in the Yamada / Mayama + their two sidekicks relationship(s)! A very nice episode, well directed – as if I was watching a live action movie, not an animation episode. Not going to say much more as this isn’t a synopsis blog, but it was good!

But never mind that! Try to get some always-needed bonus points by telling me what does this remind you of? I almost fell off my chair when I saw it.

From H&C 2 Ep. 3

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Honey and Clover, season 2 – still as good as ever?

Posted on July 10th, 2006 in Anime & Manga by andrija

After the first episode that was a recap, the second episode was very good, as good as any season 1 episode. A well-balanced mix of humour, romance, slice-of-life and Morita-san mystery, akin to middle episodes of season 1. I’m quite glad and I hope they keep up this good work.

I do see a few potential problems though. First, there’s an insert song – I prefer to reserve such way of presentation for really important moments, which had a long build-up. Not for random mid-episode moments in season starter episodes. I can forgive them in a recap episode, but not in an episode like this. It seemed out of place. I hope they don’t keep it up because it will devalue those moments when an insert song is really needed

Second is, they still linger on Yamada’s obsession with Mayama and her attempts to solve it – but they are still get nowhere, and the situation has not changed a bit since the show start. Well, one indication in this episode points toward further developments – thankfully! – but we’ve seen that several times before yet nothing came out of it. This is going to be a problem for the series – even in the first one I thought the Yamada-Mayama thing was dragging on without resolution for far too long.

Maison Ikkoku… the cause of all that is bad in anime?

Posted on July 9th, 2006 in Anime & Manga by andrija

…or is it just yet another also-run?  As I’m finishing the last few episodes of Maison Ikkoku, it’s hard to disregard how irritated, pissed off and all-round annoyed I am at this anime. I thought I’ve read somewhere a while ago that this was a milestone in mid 80’s anime – after all, that would be the only reason why an old show like this would end up on the “to watch” list anyway. If that were true, then I would have to conclude its influence is the chief reason for many bad attributes of the likes of Kimagure Orange Road, or more importantly modern ones like Love Hina. However, a friend that has been with anime since late 70’s has just told me that she doesn’t believe Ikkoku was a role model. In which case it’s not a cause of all that is bad in anime that came after it. But it’s still bad by itself.

So let’s start with the laundry list – this is some fairly spoiled underwear we have here.

Repetitive jokes. Repetitive subplots. Repetitive behaviour. Same gags over and over. Nothing of importance happening even though dozens of episodes and several (in-anime) years have passed. Numerous characters with so little depth that their shadows would be heavier. Numerous characters with so little compassion that it’s not hard to imagine the plot of the series was created by an association of professional torturers during their retreats. Incredibly lame loser lead. An equaly indecisive and often irritating female lead. The best character of the series, by far being actually Godai’s love rival, coach Mitaka. But the rest of rivals and sidekicks being irritating, overused and abusive at the same level as leads.

  1. Let’s all party in Godai’s room. At least once every episode. On average, two or three times every episode. Every single one out of 96 episodes. When he’s sad, when he’s happy. When he has to study, when he has guests, when he’s in trouble, when he’s sick. Can I stress it any more than that? It’s so funny that I have to get my ulcer medicine just to keep it in.
  2. Let’s steal Godai’s money. No matter how poor he is, even if he has no money to buy basic food, let’s steal it. If he spent the last yen on that pitiful ramen, the lowest of the foods for poor, let’s steal that from him too. Oh, but isn’t it so funny? Whose sick mind comes up with this, eh Yotsuya-san?
  3. And that Godai, all the partying in his room before crucial exams or important days, letting others take advantage of him even in the most desperate of situations. He owes money because a guy who got a salaryman job thanks to him took him to a cabaret and left without paying. Now Godai works there to make up, but of course the rest of Maison Ikkoku tenants shows up and parties inside on his tab. Making him even deeper in debt. And he doesn’t refuse to pay for them for what reason? Oh, in this particular case there might have been a smidgen of a reason, such as not telling Kyoko-san about what’s he doing when he should be job hunting. But this same scenario was repeated many times over; only this time someone decided to make it more elaborate, that’s all.
  4. Oh, and don’t even think of making all those side characters merely irresponsible and say how deeply in their hearts they love Godai. No. Not for a single second in all 96 episodes do they ever show a gram of compassion or even basic respect towards Godai. I bet you will find better human beeings in a prison than in Maison Ikkoku. Absolutely deplorable. No, don’t trust me, go and watch all 96 episodes and tell me where do they show any trace of mercy and concern for him. I dare you.
  5. Many of the characters are in fact one-dimensional and can be completely described with a sentence or two. A (very )few episodes that tried to focus on some of these characters proved to be complete failures – they didn’t show us another, usually hidden side of those characters, they showed us a side that logically cannot exist. And even then they only teased us for they never really explained any of the mysteries that are actually interesting, such as what does Yotsuya do for a living.
  6. While I can’t say I know what was the status of women (and men) in Japan during 80’s, I find it hard to believe it was as regressive as it is displayed here. Kyoko-san wondering whatever shall she do if coach Mitaka tries to do something to her while she’s visiting his home. (Yet, she doesn’t mind slapping Godai on many occasions and for far smaller issues – can’t she just do the same to Mitaka if he tries to force himself on her?). And otherwise servile relations between women and men. Some of them I can understand, like many women only living for marriage or men considered only as worthwhile as their careers, with their jobs being for life; those have really been staple of that society until recently. But the women seem to be way too far behind as presented here to be able to catch up so much in only a decade.
  7. You know that stupid anime practice, the ultra-lame one where every time there’s a situation that can be misunderstood, such as an accidental kiss or peek, or hearing a sentence out of context, that the “worst possible” person will be the one to see or hear or walk on it? Guess which anime did that come from? Right.

So how bad is Maison Ikkoku? It should be only made available from libraries and even then with special permissions, and forgotten and stricken out of all books, reviews and references. This anime needs to die a horrible death. And whoever is responsible for its content needs to be sent on the streets of Tokyo to work in a ramen fast food stand as a lifer. Begone, foul creation.

Ok, that was perhaps slightly too harsh. There are worse creations out there. It’s just that normally they don’t get 5-star reviews from respectable people, leading you to believe it’s actually good.  And hey, it has two weddings at the end – a rare feast for shuojo fans (understandable as most of them concern highschoolers, but missed nonetheless).

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Is objectivity in art even possible?

Posted on July 7th, 2006 in Anime & Manga by andrija

That’s a bit pretentious title right there.  I only used it because I hate inventing titles, names and such.  This little post is simply a short commentary on a recent discussion about “worst anime” people have seen.  There are plenty of similar discussions (though far more heated usually) around the web on any given day.

It isn’t possible to have a fully objective assesment of any work of art.  People will never agree even on what criteria to use, much less on what those criteria are exactly.

However, it should be possible to have at least some kind of coarse scale that would assign reasonably objective evaluations, expressed in relative terms.  For example, it is possible to at least determine if something is significantly different in quality that something (concrete) else or if’s significantly better or worse than the average.  There are attributes such as animation quality, story originality and so on that can be used for such purpose.  As such, one should be able to say if something is the worst there is, by doing one to one relative comparison to all of its “opponents”.

For example, it is really hard to imagine that shows like Full Metal Alchemist or even Bleach could be considered “the worst” by majority of criteria.  When I see that some people name as “the worst” stuff that many others find “the best”, I always have to wonder how much of their opinion is an honest objective attempt at evaluation (as nebulous as it may be) and how much of it is clouded by passion.

If I were to take a guess, I would say it often happens because one starts watching the show with preconceptions about it – due to familiarity with source material such as manga – or because the show strucks a painful chord with the spectator.  A perfect example would be me, watching Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers for the first time.  I came out of the theatre really pissed, due to many objections I had on the portrayal of some events and especially some characters (namely Faramir).  As a huge fan of the book, which I’ve read two decades ago and many times over since, I obviously had the entire thing – or at least the parts I care about – fully imagined in my head already (perhaps even with soundtrack).  Any complex work of art is bound to have dozens, or even hundreds of highlights that the “consumer” mind would focus on, and any work of art worth that categorization would light up different set of bulbs in minds of different people as they would percieve those highlights differently and hence reach different conclusions.

Anyhow, because they are passionate about it, people will stubbornly hang onto a handful of issues and voice their opinions very strongly.  They will disregard the sum of the parts and focus madly on a few highly visible issues, not unlike a potential homebuyers would focus on laundry hanging off balconies rather than location, view (sans panties and bras and… heeey, why sans??  What’s wrong with that?), state of property, quality of management and so on.

None of this is either novel or noteworthy.  But I do find it interesting that even when asked, people just cannot put their passion aside for a moment and try to be objective.  At the very least, they will use the oportunity to poke fun at the thing they love to hate the most at least once before assuming a more rational posture.

Maybe this is because it doesn’t happen very often that someone actually asks for our opinions?  Usually it’s us trying to lobby others, to the point they get sick of both us and what we’re talking about.  So when we’re being allowed to, we just can’t resist not to.

And of course, why people put up posts like these?  I mean like the one you’re reading, but I suppose the same applies to the one that prompted this.  Don’t I often say that I don’t really care  about what others think of me and my opinions?  Why should I then be upset about people calling something I like “the worst”?  Because in the end, we all do care, even if just a little, or we’d never ask.

I say “all”, but I’m sure there are people that really don’t.  However, we never hear from them, except sometimes we hear of them on evening news; it is true, you know – hope dies last.

And when we ask others for their opinion on matters such as this, we’re not really asking for their opinions – we want them to say what we want to hear.  In other words, to to agree with us.
Well, unless it’s their job, that is.  Then is both business and pleasure.

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Halo 3 on Nov 30?? Xenosaga 3 on Aug 29? And wait, there is more!!

Posted on July 6th, 2006 in Video Games by andrija

What the…?  Is this for real?  I just went to Best Buy Canada website as I do almost daily, and what do I find?  Preorders for Halo 3, scheduled to be released on Nov 30, 2006!!  For the love of XBOX360!  That can’t be… can it?

What’s even crazier is that no one seems to be talking about it… yet.  Whoa, I stumbled on news before it got picked up by major gaming news outlets and search engines?  Yay for me!  Hey, as Rowan Atkinson said, one out of 3 isn’t bad (I’m more like 1 out of 100 but who cares)!

Actually, this isn’t all that impossible.  Exhibit a – Gamespot just
put up a post about Halo 3 being in single and multiplayer testing already.  Exhibit b, for a long time now Microsoft was saying that they will use Halo 3 to counter the release of PS3.

But these aren’t the only news today.  Apparently, Nintendo’s Wee is already in production!!  Whoa there, what the?  And the analyst who said that also said that the early launch is possible – there’s even poll on Gamespot about its release date (which hasn’t been officially
announced yet).  So there is a real chance it will be out in, say, early October.  But one thing seems fairly certain, it should not be too difficult to buy one before Chrismas this year if they’re already churning them out, no matter what the demand.

This news too isn’t outlandish, given how Wee is far weeker than its two “competitors”.  Not to mention a lot of them were out there for people to play with during E3 that is now well behind us.  There’s no reason to suspect this news, nor to suspect there will be no launch games ready.  So the only real issue here is, not whether Nintendo can launch in October, but will they?  If they hold back a few weeks, they can make sure retailers have plenty on hand for launch.  Ah, can’t wait!

And as if all this is not enough: Dirge of Cerberus, coming mid Aug.  Xenosaga 3 coming Aug 29!! (Oh my God, I can’t believe it!!) Then, Valkyrie Profile 2 on Sep 29!  And then Final Fantasy 12!  This is insane, totally insane!  I am going gaga over this stuff as if I were a teenager, which I’m twice over not.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is Over

Posted on July 3rd, 2006 in Anime & Manga by andrija

Pun within the title (considering the contents of the final episode) not intended, but consider it a parting gift anyway :).

And so ends the arguably best anime of 2006 Spring season. It’s been a fun ride, as this anime cannot Haruhi Suzumiya Speaksbe easily categorized (not that it, or any other, needs to be). But you could safely say that it was foremost a comedy – one that never settled for familiar gags or rested on the laurels of its own invention. It kept you guessing what will happen next, and if it was ever predictable, it was in order to make fun of stereotypes.

What sealed the deal for me were its unusual, original characters. Perhaps not too original, but original enough to keep surprising you (you can’t have unpredictable behaviour from predictable characters, now can you?). Same could be said about the plot, although in this series it’s just there to put things into context and get the things moving, rather than being the focal point of it.

But it was the production values that held it all together. I haven’t seen such a well produced show in a long time. Meticulous attention to detail. Superb animation, amazing facial expressions and mannerisms, great soundtrack, great opening and ending songs as well as OP/ED animation. In fact, possibly the best OP/ED animation I’ve yet seen in a TV series (my memory is short so I might be speaking nonsense). In the end the series doesn’t have any depth beyond its facade but it’s far from mindless entertaintment.

In fact, that may be just it, the reason behind its success – it’s just entertaintment. No pretense of being something else, and none needed. Your brain will be required to watch, but you’ll need that other half of it.