Category: Anime


Behind the Mask ~ Tokyo Ghoul

 tokyo ghoul characters

“What’s 1000 minus 7? I’m waiting for an answer.”

In a world not so different from our own, there are creatures that live alongside us and appear just like any normal person. They go to work, study at school, hang out with friends and simply enjoy life just as much as the next person. Oh, but one teeny tiny detail makes them somewhat dislikable: they can only survive off human flesh. How unfortunate. In this world, it can be hard to differentiate between regular humans and these other creatures, known as Ghouls, until it is too late; and it is for this reason that the police do their very best to protect the public, in particular a group known as the CCG – an elite ghoul investigation agency. The difference between good and evil is often just a matter of perspective. What if the ghouls are not really the horrible creatures they have been made out to be? But what if they are? Welcome to Tokyo Ghoul.

Tokyo Ghoul Scene

Tokyo Ghoul (season one) is an anime adaption of the original manga written by Sui Ishida. It follows the main protagonist Ken Kaneki, who is forced to leave his normal college life behind after a horrifying accident that resulted in him becoming a rare one-eyed ghoul. Normally people are either human or ghoul; but to save his life after the accident, doctors transplanted ghoul organs into Kaneki which placed him in the predicament he is now in.

The first few episodes do a great job of pulling viewers into this macabre world. Kaneki is terrified and confused, unable to consume normal human food (as it tastes horrible to ghouls) but also unwilling to eat human flesh. Nearing his wits end, he soon comes to meet an elderly ghoul who runs a coffee shop and offers to take in Kaneki; it is there that he meets Touka (also known as “the rabbit” by the CCG), Ryouko and her daughter Hiname, as well as many other characters both with good intentions and ill. He also must keep the fact that he is a ghoul from any and all humans including his best friend, Hide.

tokyo ghoul touka

The rest of the series explores instances from both the human and ghoul side of things. While many of the main characters in focus are ghouls, viewers can relate that they are (for the most part) trying their best to not be the monsters they are made out to be; however, the CCG side is not necessarily an evil force either. It is a strange balance of morality in play where casualties and deaths on either side are seemingly meant to tug on our heartstrings, whether there was much character development or not. We see a family of ghouls torn apart – one parent murdered by ghouls while the other is slain by humans, yet we also are given a glimpse of a ghoul and human relationship shining a small ray of hope that not everything must end in bloodshed. There are so many intriguing characters that enter the scene that it makes it all the more unfortunate that they are given so little exploration.

In essence, that is probably the root of the problem that halts this anime from the excellence it could have very easily achieved: it tried to shove more content into 12 episodes then it could ever truly be give justice to. While I have not read the manga, watching the anime has certainly put that on my list to read; almost acting like a drawn out commercial enticing me to get the full story. Don’t get me wrong, the anime is not horrible and certainly had its good points, but it often left me wanting more. There were episodes that really pulled me in, ending in a cliffhanger winding up towards a huge battle…only to have the next episode begin long after the battle had been resolved and everyone was back to their normal everyday life. Without going into too much detail, the finale of the anime also played this same tune: a huge battle between the coffee shop ghouls, an enemy faction of ghouls and the police introduces brief glimpses of spectacular battles to come and then everything ends without any kind of cliffhanger or resolution (there is a season 2 that apparently picks up right where season 1 ends, but it is still not an ideal solution).

tokyo ghoul characters2

While there are certainly issues abound with character development, plot holes and the like, the anime still holds some merit. The soundtrack is exceptional from the OP and ED themes to the action intensive and heart wrenching melodies that lie within. The music does an excellent job at making whatever is occurring on screen truly reach into the souls of viewers and make them feel at least some ounce of sadness, rage or joy at what is happening to the characters they may or may not have much understanding of. Probably the most outstanding aspect lies in the art style used, particularly during the battle scenes. The fights that take place can only be described as violent bloodbaths that are not for the faint of heart. With bloodshot eyes and special abilities, the ghouls are simply fantastical to watch with their unique “kagune” (an organ they can manifest to use as a weapon or shield) as they maneuver and strike at their foes. Their “kagune” simply glows with an internal fire that stands apart from the rest of the animation and it is almost mesmerizing to watch.

Tokyo Ghoul kaneki

In the end, Tokyo Ghoul is a supernatural horror anime that does its best to adapt an exceptionally popular manga into anime form and falls slightly short of its goal. The basic premise, art style and music of the series still make it enjoyable to watch, but it will leave you wanting more – which is both good and bad. If you do decide to give this one a try, I would highly recommend watching it on DVD/Blu-ray, as streaming has some pretty horrific displays of censorship particularly during the spectacular fight scenes.

Now, the only thing that is left is for you to decide: Ghouls need to kill to survive and humans have a right to protect their own. Which side are you on?

 

(My review was originally posted on Realm of Gaming…which seems to no longer exist. Here it shall live on!)

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Yuri on ice title

Listen to the deafening roar of the crowd as a solitary individual emerges into view. Their lithe, form-fitting outfit allows them to move freely as their blades cut a path swiftly to their destination in the center of the rink. The audience waits with baited breath as the young performer strikes a dramatic pose then launches into action as the music rings throughout the stadium. Excitement, hope and anxiousness fills the stands as the competitor lands each jump combination in time with the beat and listens intently to the judges markings. They only get one shot at placing among the top ranks and taking the prized medal home – do they have what it takes? What gives someone the inspiration to go out onto the ice and compete alone? It is different for everyone; but if someone finds that inspiration – that passion – they might just be nigh unstoppable! So for those who may not have guessed yet, it is time to look back on one of this past season’s most popular anime: Yuri!!! On ICE! So lace up your skates and hit the ice – we were born to make history!

Yuri on ice Yuri

At its core, Yuri!!! On ICE is a sports anime focusing on characters within the competitive world of figure skating. Our main protagonist, Yuri Katsuki, is a star figure skater from Japan; yet after suffering numerous sequential losses decides to take some time off and return to his home town – essentially putting his skating career on hold for the time being. He doesn’t quit skating by any means and even goes so far as to flawlessly skate a replica short program of his long time idol (and Russian five time gold medal champion) Victor Nikiforov. As all best plans tend to go, however, a video of his performance is uploaded online and none other than Victor himself views the video and in a fit of inspiration, flies out to Japan to coach Yuri for the upcoming season. Naturally, Victor leaving the competitive skating scene to coach was shocking to most of the skating world. His own coach told him of his foolishness and not to speak to him unless he planned to make his return; and then to complicate things further, Yuri Plisetsky steps onto the scene, a 15 year old Russian figure skater of extreme talent who not only wishes to bring Victor back to Russia for his return to skating but also so he can choreograph his own program for his senior debut. Here begins the journey and relationship of coach and student as well as a friendly but serious rivalry between some of the best skaters across the globe.

Yuri on ice victor yuri yurio

As sports anime go, oftentimes they rely heavily on a team aspect: how the team works together, grows together, and ultimately overcomes challenges and wins together. They feed off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and adapt and overcome to each and every challenge. However, figure skating is not a team sport in the generic sense. When a skater is on the ice, they are alone. They are accountable for their own skill, their own music, their own choreography, their own techniques, their own difficulty – and they are scored appropriately at the end of each sequence. Their coaches may train them and offer advice before and after the performance and their opponents may cheer them on or diminish hope while they take to the ice; but while they perform, they take up the spotlight in solitude. Each competition is made up of a short program and a free skate and the combined scores of the two are what dictate the final outcome in which skaters advance to the next competition of the Grand Prix World Finals.

From the figure skating side of it, Yuri!!! On ICE did an excellent job of portraying the art, intrigue and stress of competition. Much like watching any figure skating competition live, it made you anxious to see if each skater was truly going to land each and every jump they had planned in their program, how they would recover if they didn’t, or if they planned to change things up to add or remove difficulty. It was intense, beautiful and quite true to life – especially watching Russian Yuri’s performances throughout the series (which if you have ever followed figure skating, Russia has always had incredibly talented skaters). Listening to the skater’s inner monologues as they skated truly added a depth not only to their character but also to their overall performance as you could see the impact of their thoughts almost instantly. A focused inner determination reflected strongly on the ice, and alternatively a distracted or dismal outlook often lead swiftly to missteps and mistakes. This was not only true for the main cast, but also the opponent skaters: learning that Chris has always found motivation looking towards Victor as an opponent to surpass, Michele and his feelings towards his sister and even JJ and his near overwhelming vanity and overconfidence. These discoveries from one performance to the next gave insight that time did not allow for off of the ice and almost made it feel like the characters had more screen time then they actually did. It certainly made the best of what could have simply been a lackluster situation.

Yuri on ice medals

The less than stellar situation mentioned is that the series covers numerous competitions leading up to the Grand Prix Finals, and as such many of the skaters that make it to the finals only use the same two programs the entire time. Guess what that means? Viewers get to watch the same skating routines multiple times over throughout the series! Granted, it is the same routine and the same music, but they do miss jumps, change things up or add difficulty here and there. It can get somewhat repetitive, but as mentioned before, this is where we get to see the inner workings of the characters: what drives them, what tears them down, and what truly makes it all worth it. It isn’t all for naught and after all, it is an anime about figure skating – it only makes sense that a majority of the series takes part on or around the ice, right?

Story wise, it has a basic premise with many underlying stories within. The main goal, of course, being Victor coaching Yuri to a gold medal at the Grand Prix Finals. Alongside this, and also what has gained this anime much of its audience, is the relationship that subtly develops between Victor and Yuri as they travel along this path to victory. Russian Yuri, or Yurio as he is nicknamed fairly early on, also plays a huge part in the story not only in his own regard of becoming a top figure skater but also in motivating Yuri to skate better. He also lends a hand into Victor’s drama of either remaining Yuri’s coach or returning to Russia and competitive figure skating for another season. That does not even include all of the other side characters that the three of them encounter and we gain insight to throughout the 12 episode series.

Yuri on ice skaters

Yuri!!! On ICE is an interesting anime not only in what it openly shows but in what it quietly mentions as well. It is not a show that bluntly says everything that it wants to say, but rather lets viewers take from it what they will if they care to look into its depths. On the forefront it is a mostly light-hearted, cute and competitive sports anime showcasing a unique cast of characters that all shine in their own light. It draws the audience in easily and leaves them wanting more from each episode to the next all the way to its finale where it merely teases a potential season two. However, those that look deeper may find there is more lying just beneath the surface. They will see Yuri’s anxiety strike him down quite often: his doubts in himself, his fears of failing Victor, and so much more. Victor also has his own issues stemming from always being the center of attention yet finally finding something, or someone, else to focus his time on – yet he doesn’t quite know what he should be doing; he threatens to leave but he wants to stay. We never really find out much about Victor but it is hard not to like him – even if it is infuriating at times. Even their relationship, which according to the creator occurs in a time where there is no prejudice, is very subtle. A point that has many viewers mixed on if it should have been a bigger focus or not. They complement each other and grow together; and really, does there have to be anything more to it? Perhaps a second season will make many of the more personal aspects of the show more concrete; but for the short time span allotted in the series, it really did accomplish a good deal and ultimately maintained its focus on the sport and goal at hand.

Yuri on ice Victor Yuri

In the animation and sound department, the anime holds its own fairly decently. The OP History Maker by Dean Fujioka is a powerful opener that seems to fit the series more and more as each episode goes on. The ED as well as all individual performance music within the series are also wonderfully done; with each of the skating pieces truly bringing out the colors of the skater that chose them. The art style is beautiful for a majority of the anime as well with a few humorously placed chibi scenes just to mix things up. However, there is some downfall to be had within the repetitive performance skate sections where character detail takes a hit in places and scenes are simply reused. It certainly doesn’t mar the anime as a whole, but it is noticeable enough to warrant mention.

Overall, Yuri!!! On ICE is an enjoyable anime to watch from start to finish, even with its flaws. It is far from perfect in any regard and no matter where you look there can be some critique to be found, but there was never a moment that I didn’t want it to continue. Whether you have any personal experience skating, watching competitions or have never even given thought to the sport before, it has a certain charm that can pull most anyone in. While it is primarily a male cast, that shouldn’t be a factor in pushing anyone away. If so, you might just be missing out on one of the most delightful, comedic, fiercely competitive and inspiring experiences to come about recently.

Yuri on ice Yurio

 

(My review was originally posted on Realm of Gaming…which seems to no longer exist. Here it shall live on!)

Neptunia Animation

“My confidence, you ask…? It’s obviously ’cause I’m the main character!” ~ Neptune

Have you ever been strolling along, peacefully minding your own business and enjoying the golden rays on a sunny afternoon when suddenly an oh-so-fearsome herd of small blue orbs of dogoo pounce and lick you senseless? How obnoxious, am I right? To most, this is probably a scene out of some whimsical fantasy scenario; but for the citizens of Gamindustry, it is but a way of life. Luckily for them, each of the four main cities of Gamindustry is ruled by a goddess who watches over and protects her citizens and country with all her might. With the scene almost set, let’s take a moment to explore a light-hearted anime by the same name of the popular game series it spawned from: Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation.

Neptunia Goddesses

For those unfamiliar with the game series, Hyperdimension Neptunia is based in the world of video games and the gaming industry. Each of the four ruling nations of Gamindustry have distinct qualities mimicking four of the main gaming console brands: Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony and Sega. Playing off that theme, each of the ruling goddesses (and their little sisters) of each kingdom have a somewhat likeness to the consoles they create: Neptune and her sister Nepgear hail from Planeptune and usually take the leading role; from Lastation reigns Noire and her sister Uni; Lowee is watched over by Blanc and her twin sisters Rom and Ram; and finally, from Leanbox is Vert. To aid in their ruling, the goddesses gain their power from shares given from their citizens – these fluctuate with how the people view their leaders and their support or negativity towards them has quite the significant impact. Each of the goddesses has their normal form but can also transform into a super powerful CPU state in which they use their shares to gain unprecedented power to protect their country from various monsters and wrong doings. Of course, since the shares are not entirely limited per country it makes the goddesses friendly rivals in most aspects. Let the games commence!

Neptunia CPUs

Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation is a silly, fun and action packed anime that may not rate highest among the charts of things to watch, but would be a shame to miss out on completely (especially if there is appreciation had for both gaming and anime)! The plot of the anime itself plays off of many of the story elements found in the games – but not an exact replica. This makes it both new and reminiscent for those familiar with the games but also won’t leave newcomers completely lost either. The story primarily focuses on the goddesses, their sisters and friends as they work together and compete against one another ruling their countries and fighting against those trying to take down the game industry through various methods whether that be kidnapping, hacking or other gaming related downfalls.

One of the things that truly makes this anime endearing is its ability to pull from so many gaming sources for humor as well as not take itself too seriously. Watching the characters visit a theme park chock full of distinctly Nintendo related items (playing in pipes from Super Mario, collecting coins and bouncing on mushrooms) to battling hackers (you know, remember that time PSN got hacked…or how servers go down nearly every holiday season for some reason or another) to releasing new technology a la Microsoft’s Kinect. There are even a few episodes in which the goddesses visit R-18 Island (adult content only, ooh la la) to investigate some nefarious deed or other. Let’s add in plenty of suggestive humor as well as some fourth wall breaking interludes and it simply makes for a fun time.

Neptunia Group

That isn’t to say there isn’t a fair share of drama to the series, but it never gets too terribly deep or heart-wrenching. The characters are adorable and simply exude unique personality and their interactions are a delight. The combat scenes are well done and display a good range of how the characters perform in the games as well. You may never feel the emotional attachment to any of them that other series will work hard to build, but in its own way it works out perfect.

Hyperdimension Neptunia is a series that will surely entertain – especially for those with interest in the gaming industry on any level. From the hyperactive music accompanying each episode to the humor that quite nearly makes up its entire being, it is simply an amusing series from start to finish to kick back with after a long week of work, school and other daily activities. So give it a shot! If you like it, just think – there are at least eight or so games in the series made up of the same craziness but with even more combat action!

 

(My review was originally posted on Realm of Gaming…which seems to no longer exist. Here it shall live on!)

hack sign

“Take me back to the land, where my yearnings were born. The key to open the door is in your hand now take me there. To the land of Twilight.” – Yuki Kajiura.

The world of massive multiplayer online role playing games, or MMORPGs, is a vast place of wonder, intrigue, friendship, hardship and an altered reality that allows someone to become anything they could ever dream. For many, this alternate world becomes a refuge from the stress and struggles of everyday life; where perhaps for just a few hours, the only thing that matters is slaying that last boss and obtaining legendary treasures with a few close comrades while the troubles of work, school and home fall to the way side. It can become an excellent form of escapism but it also bears the risk of forgetting which world is truly the reality in which one truly lives in. Is it worth it?

hack characters

Venture with me into The World, the landscape for the MMO setting that surrounds the anime .hack//SIGN which explores tones of that exact premise. As Tsukasa, a Wave Master, awakens within a darkened cave in The World he has no recollection of how he ended up there. After a quick meeting with a friendly sword-wielding girl named Mimiru, he teleports himself back to town without a word only to find out he cannot log out and is trapped within the game indefinitely. Character death only leads him to respawn within The World and while Tsukasa only seems to find further mysteries surrounding him, he forgoes all help from those he meets and decides to seclude himself from others as much as humanly possible.

Despite Tsukasa’s bleak demeanor and frustrating attitude, it does little to deter the other characters within the series from getting involved in his predicament and trying to help in any way they can – both in and out of game. In addition to his unique dilemma of not being able to log out of the game (a problem that solely affects him, no other players are affected), he also has involvement with an unidentified player character and a guardian force of indescribable power which bring a great deal of unwanted attention to him from both helpful and harmful forces. Throw in some rumors and leads towards a mysterious item of power called the Key of Twilight and it is hard to know where to even begin unraveling what mysteries The World holds within its depths.

hack guardian

.hack//SIGN is but one part of the larger .hack series and is but a small section of the overall encompassing story told throughout all of its parts spread throughout anime, manga, novels and games. Originally airing back in 2002, this series was in the forefront of the “trapped in a MMO” genre that has become so popular in more recent years – though keep in mind, even if this is a beloved genre, there are a few things to consider before jumping headfirst into this one. Let’s get started!

First off, this is a slow-paced anime based primarily on character development. That being said, don’t expect it to be chock full of action packed battles, flashy fight scenes or fan-service – you will be sorely disappointed. There are some battles, but a majority of the story progression is given through dialogue between characters as they meet up in varying locations throughout The World. This results in a very deep story and a true feeling of getting to know the ins and outs of the various unique characters throughout the series; however it comes at the cost of forcing viewers to withstand painfully slow pacing through the span of its 26 episodes. It is a tough anime to really get into as it takes until about halfway through the season for the story to really catch on, but it holds some merit if you can hold out long enough.

hack trapped

Aesthetically, the animation and soundtrack hold their own quite well and even represent some of this anime’s finer qualities. The art style displays the fantastical MMO world beautifully and the characters are all uniquely designed and colorful. While the action and animation may have its flaws at times it is not the true focus and can usually be forgiven. Another aspect that was displayed wonderfully was the drastic difference in art style between that within The World and that of the real world. The vibrant colors and life found within the game is rich and full while scenes of the real world are often depicted via static black and white images and words flashing across the screen. It helps depict the theme of escaping a bleak reality for a vibrant virtual one that much more impactful. One of the best aspects of this anime in my opinion is the soundtrack, hands down. Yuki Kajiura is absolutely fantastic and her tracks bring out so much emotion, intrigue and imagination that the anime simply exudes life just hearing her songs filter in throughout the episodes.

Overall, .hack//SIGN is an anime that you will either love or hate. It is slow paced and lacking action but has a truly deep story for those that can give it time to show itself. Having additional knowledge of the .hack universe or a willingness to seek it out will also help further understanding of the overall story and characters involved – after all, this is but one anime and one part of the entire series so know going in that not everything is going to be fully explained. So step into The World and witness one of the first stories that trapped a player inside of their beloved game.

(My review was originally posted on Realm of Gaming…which seems to no longer exist. Here it shall live on!)

AssClass Title

Well, there is no better way to say it: the school year isn’t shaping up to be the most normal. It all started when an extremely powerful alien-octopus creature blew a hole through 70% of the moon leaving it forever in the shape of a crescent. The Earth is the next target, however, the creature offered up something of a deal: he will teach class 3-E (aka the End-Class) at the prestigious Kunugigaoka junior high school until the end of the school year; the students of 3-E have one year to assassinate their teacher, take the 10 billion yen reward and save the Earth from total destruction. Keeping up a normal study schedule for regular subjects is tough enough without adding in time for assassination training – welcome to Assassination Classroom!

The anthropomorphic octopus teacher, who the students oh so aptly name Koro-Sensei (a term born from the words korosenai meaning unkillable and sensei meaning teacher), is top secret to all but those who need to know – those being the Japanese government, the principle of the school and the students of 3-E (even other teachers and students in the school remain unaware). While it may seem insane to place such a powerfully dangerous creature in front of mere students, Koro-Sensei is not only true to his word to not destroy the planet until March but is quite an adept teacher in all subjects and does nothing but look out for his students (even as they attempt to kill him quite frequently). Additionally, the only weapons that actually land any severe damage on Koro-Sensei are completely harmless to humans: rubber knives and bullets to be precise. Unfortunately, Koro-Sensei has numerous tricks up his sleeve which makes actually killing him nearly impossible. He can travel up to speeds of Mach20, can regenerate lost limbs, can change forms, and is quite arrogant and smart as to various assassination techniques. If nothing else, it will certainly make for an interesting year!

AssClass Korosensei

The reason class 3-E was chosen to be the assassination classroom was mostly in part due to the infrastructure of the school itself as meticulously seen to by Principle Gakuhou Asano. His ideal is that having a class of low ranking flunkies, rebels and misfits would stand as a dismal example to the rest of the student body and motivate them to work harder so as to not join the ranks of the End-Class. Even their school house is separated a great distance away from the main campus to further alienate the class from the rest of the student body. All in all, the principle assumed that allowing Koro-Sensei to teach that class would not only keep him out of sight but also have minimal impact on the overall state of the school. Or so he thought! Never could he have anticipated the dedication Koro-Sensei would have towards improving his student’s grades, hobbies and overall self-worth even while actively dodging assassination attempts almost daily. These were students that were conditioned to think themselves failures for dropping from the higher ranks only to suddenly gain a newfound confidence and motivation to excel both in studies and in combat training.

AssClass Kill

Assassination Classroom offers viewers a fantastical, comedic school life anime with a twist. It isn’t every day that a tentacle shapeshifting creature becomes a teacher – and quite an impressive one at that – and his students are given a mission to eliminate him by years end. Despite having a fairly large cast, a majority of them become more than just nameless, faceless side characters used to fill classroom seats. Of course, there are certain students and teachers that stand out far more than others such as the androgynous, ever-observing Nagisa, the talented rebel Karma, the beautiful blonde assassin-turned-teacher Irina, government agent Mr. Karasuma and of course Koro-sensei; but even then, the other students of 3-E become easily recognizable after a few episodes and their own unique traits are made reference to and shine brightly. Really, all members of 3-E stand out in their own ways and never simply become part of the background only. Watching both the teachers and students interact and bond together throughout the series in order to kill Koro-Sensei while gaining the best school experience is truly enjoyable through and through.

AssClass Math

Aesthetically, the art and animation is wonderful to look at from start to finish. Vibrant and unique colors adorn each character and landscape and even the ever changing and moving Koro-Sensei never loses a detail. Whether it is a conversation-heavy scene or an action packed combat escapade, the animation is quite well done in all aspects. The soundtrack that accompanies each episode is also fantastic and there is not likely an OP or ED song that will not grow on viewers. Even the voice acting is superb despite the large cast and many of the voices stand out and remain unique and recognizable throughout (personally, I watched this subbed; but in looking at the cast list, I have rarely ever been disappointed with the English voice actors named).

Overall, Assassination Classroom is a light-hearted, comedic, action series about a group of students attempting to kill their alien teacher before he destroys the world while learning valuable life lessons along the way. It will bring enjoyment and tug on heartstrings, as viewers bounce between wanting the students to succeed in killing Koro-Sensei and rooting for Koro-Sensei to survive based off of how amazing a teacher and mentor he is to his students. With a fun unique story, a diverse exciting cast, and excellent sound and animation, it is hard not to recommend this one.

 

(My review was originally posted on Realm of Gaming 02/22/2017…which seems to no longer exist. Here it shall live on!)

If you could go back and change something, would you do it?

Would you risk everything for simply a chance?

Is that truly your wish?

amnesia wall

What could be more difficult than waking up into a world where nothing makes sense? Your work, your school, your friends, your interests, your dreams – why can’t you remember? It seems like there is something you should not have forgotten, no matter what happened. What…or who…could it be?

Opening your eyes for the first time you come across a strange looking boy with horns – a spirit named Orion. Barely remembering your own name, Orion explains that he accidentally crashed into you – literally – and fused with your subconscious, knocking your memories and personality to the winds while doing so. How unfortunate, but luckily he vows to stay with you until your memories can be found and returned. Now, where to start ~

amnesia memories orion

Amnesia: Memories by Otomate and Idea Factory is a beautiful visual novel in which a young girl, the player, returns to her life after an uncanny turn of events and attempts to recover everything about herself that she lost. Reliving the month of August within 5 different timelines – the places remain the same and so do the people around her – but not everything is just as it used to be.

Although waking up with amnesia is certainly terrifying, staying locked inside is probably the worst possible scenario: no outward stimulation means no chance of triggering a memory returning. Only once these precious significant memories are recovered can Orion finally be separated from you and you can begin to live your life as you used to.

amnesia memories suits

Your apartment, your work, the hospital, the theater, the park – these are all places that mean so much to you for various reasons both past and future, yet they always remain static; it is the people you surround yourself with that have the biggest impact, and also provide the biggest danger. There is Shin (the harsh but caring suit of hearts) and Toma (the protective suit of diamonds) that have been your closest friends since childhood; Ikki (the compassionate playboy suit of spades) and Kent (the methodical suit of clubs) who you know from work and school; there is Sawa, who one of your best friends, and Mine who is a younger co-worker and occasionally a friendly rival; then of course there is the manager of your work, Waka, who has unique quirks of his own (military style run maid cafe? Sure, why not). Last but not least there is one other individual (the joker) – his appearances are rare and usually veiled in mystery, yet he almost seems the most important…but why?

amnesia memories others

So you must relive and relearn life as you once knew it five times over; but fear not, although the faces and locations remain familiar, the events that occur within each story arc vastly differ and are never easily overcome.

Each of the five arcs hold numerous bad endings, a normal ending and a good ending; which although may seem like a lot (26 endings in total) they truly leave you with a thorough understanding of everything around you. Initially, the first four arcs (heart, spade, diamond and club) may be played in any order; once completed, the final arc (joker) may be played. After viewing all the other stories, the final arc is almost a culmination of aspects the other four possess and represents the place where you truly belong.

amnesia memories heroine

Amnesia: Memories is truly a captivating experience and never seems like you are simply reading the same things over and over again. How you react and the answers you give to those around you can make a huge difference and change how the story plays out in drastic ways. Attempting to hide your amnesia but poorly masking it may lead others to become suspicious of you or even acting so off course to how you used did (which who really knows how that was until someone tells you) may become a good or a bad thing. However, even though you go to and from your apartment and work so often throughout the month, don’t think for a second that it is just an average slice-of-life playthrough. Each route holds its own suspense and in each one there are attempts on your life through various forms of dangers and harassment. Perhaps it is a jealous fan club that wishes you harm for dating their obsession or maybe it is being pushed by an unknown source into an oncoming train or traffic. Orion and those around you try to help as much as possible, but it is never easy to know the future or react fast enough when the time comes.

amnesia memories group

You may think this sounds familiar, and perhaps it is; there is an anime of the same name that follows a similar premise (If you’d like to see my review of that, click Here). However, the downfalls of the anime are almost entirely replaced within the visual novel on so many fronts. For one, the visual novel requires self insertment meaning that you, the player, become the protagonist/heroine and you decide what is going to happen and how to answer; in an anime, the viewer has no input and therefore the heroine became a blank slate with no memories, no personality, no brain (or so it would seem) and was simply frustrating to watch at times. The VN also is able to place far more detail into the story – almost akin to how reading a book and watching a movie based on the book will be similar, but not the same. The VN explains that it was her personality as well as her memories that were pushed out by Orion fusing with her and it also goes into far more aspects of the other characters that simply could not be conveyed in a 12 episode series adaption.

An aspect of the anime that did transfer over from the VN would be the exquisite art style and the beautiful soundtrack. From the ornate and detailed outfits and look of all the characters to their multifaceted eyes, the art style is mesmerizing. The music adds its own opening and closing themes and the instrumental backgrounds that accompany the scenes simply meld perfectly – from gentle, unknown melodies to beautiful piano arrangements to suspenseful rhythms which all somehow never take away from what it actually happening on screen. The voice acting is also superb and really brings the characters to life no matter what change of atmosphere may occur.

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One thing that caught me off guard in a good way was how consistent the story remained in its finest details. Many games that have multiple endings will change them drastically and leave you wondering which is truly the correct ending – which one really adds up all the details and makes sense 100% and which ones don’t quite fit right. Within each arc there are 4-5 different endings, yet the story never deviates from its ultimate path. For example, in the heart world you are pushed off a cliff by someone and wake up in the hospital. Shin is suspected of having done so but was let off after many interrogations and your own support to the police claiming that he did not do it. As the story goes on and you, as well as everyone who was present that night, go back to investigate the incident the paths begin to diverge. However, even though all of the endings come to vastly different finales, the culprit who pushed you remains the same…although that may not necessarily be the same person who kills you or attempts to interfere or otherwise. On a larger scale, even throughout viewing the stories of the other worlds so many things remain the same. Each characters personalities never falter even if their type of relationship with you changes, who they are friends with, who you are friends with, the types of dangers and atmosphere at present – they all exist in all of the worlds, it is how they affect you and what you are involved with that changes the outcome.

In the end, Amnesia: Memories is a romance and mystery visual novel with dabbles of supernatural (I mean, you are fused with a spirit after all). I suppose something that should be explained for those who may not know is what a visual novel actually is: it is an interactive fiction game usually using anime style art and still images. For anyone who may have only seen the anime or is interested in this series, I would highly suggest playing the visual novel. It is not a game for everyone, but if it is you will certainly not regret it. Give it some time and let the story truly encompass you. Let the fear, the sorrow and happiness pull you in. Experience the journey. Remember the good and the bad. Simply, feel.

amnesia memories pretty

7 deadly sins

“Your eyes can see through evil, your mouth utters the truth, your heart is filled with justice and your sword shall crush evil. To stand by what you believe is right till the end…isn’t that the most important thing for a knight?”

Wrath. Greed. Sloth. Lust. Gluttony. Envy. Pride. The Seven Deadly Sins in which so many people either fight against with all their might or simply accept freely with open arms. Whether it is seen as weakness or strength, the true intent often becomes the greatest demon of all.

When stars streak across the darkened sky forming a cross, it is said that a great calamity will soon fall upon Brittania – but to what end? Are the country’s exalted Holy Knights truly as honored and noble in their positions as people seem to believe? What of the legendary group of criminals, The Seven Deadly Sins, who once attempted to overthrow the kingdom ten years ago? When surrounded by enemies and deceit on all fronts, how does one choose the lesser evil?7 deadly posters

The anime Seven Deadly Sins or Nanatsu no Taizai follows the third princess, Elizabeth, as she flees her home in search of the great warriors once called the Seven Deadly Sins. The only problem being that no one has seen or heard of any of them in ten years – ever since they were accused of attempting to overthrow the kingdom and killing a Grand Master.

As luck would have it, Elizabeth ends up running into the former captain of the sins, Meliodas (the dragon sin of wrath) and after some untimely trouble and explaining that the Holy Knights have been corrupted and her plan in having the sins help, they end up traveling together in search of the others.7 deadly e and hawk

So begins the quest that takes Elizabeth, Meliodas and Hawk (the adorably heroic talking pig and scraps manager of the Boar Hat – Meliodas’ moving tavern) all over the land from the “haunted” white forest to a heavily fortified prison to a necropolis of the dead in search of the others. Of course, as if locating the other members and convincing them to come along wasn’t hard enough, numerous powerful Holy Knights show up to try and thwart their plans – their goals being to kill the sins, particularly Meliodas, and forcibly returning Elizabeth back to the castle. 7 deadly ban king

Seven Deadly Sins is an anime topped full of action, comedy and fantasy. It has an almost Full Metal Alchemist feel to it and keeps that spirit alive throughout its 24 episodes (and even has the sin name thing going). There’s also a fairly sizable nod to the original Dragon Age (whether intentional or not) that those who have experienced being a Grey Warden will almost instantly recognize once that point is reached. With  lovable and amusing characters, a fitting score, a story with far more depth, twists and turns and plenty of action – the episodes go by far too quick!

All of the main characters are so vibrant that there is never a dull moment to be had. They are so much more than just weapon wielders and pretty faces. They each have their own in depth stories, reasoning, races, abilities and personalities. From the happy go lucky kid who is captain of the sins for a reason to the most bubbly and adorable giant girl that ever existed – the cast simply never fails to impress.7deadly diane

It is a story of simple premise at start that gains momentum in leaps and bounds keeping shock and surprise around every corner. Characters that were hated will become loved while others backstab when least expected – it will play on emotions with the best of them! With no shortage of humor – and even tears on occasion – it is an anime that should not be missed.

Who would have thought teaming up with a bunch of criminals could bring on such an amazing adventure!?

“Even if you were to die, I would still fulfill the promise made with you.”

7 deadly group

The Gods Among Us ~ Noragami

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“Even if things are painful and tough, people should appreciate what it means to be alive at all.”

A lost cat, a strange encounter and a bus. This is how it all started for Hiyori Iki as she walked with her friends on what could have been any ordinary day. As the three friends stop to look at a small ‘lost cat’ poster of Milord, they joke of Hiyori’s closet martial arts obsession and shake their heads as she completely zones out into her own little world. It is then, as they pass by a beautiful stranger with dark hair and piercing blue eyes, that everything changes. Her friends don’t bat an eye at his passing, but Hiyori notices him and turns to watch as he calls for Milord at the top of his lungs. At sight of the small feline across the street, the young man jumps into oncoming traffic only to be knocked out of the way by Hiyori trying to save his life. Oh, what a day!

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After awaking in the hospital, Hiyori finds the young man in her room and he introduces himself as Yato, a minor god. It turns out, Yato is so minor that not only is his name hardly recognized but he doesn’t even have his own shrine and he works minor jobs (such as saving lost cats) in order to earn money and gain a reputation to match his large ego and dreams. The next time their paths cross, Yato points out that Hiyori is a little bit different since they saved each other at the accident: Hiyori has become a hanyou, a half phantom that on occasion will separate from her own body and walk among the realm of the far shore – the realm of phantoms and gods.

noragami Bisha

From that point on, Hiyori becomes entangled in the lives of the gods – beings that exist alongside humans, although most people do not have the ability to even notice them unless the gods allow it. While many gods remain at their shrines, others go out and seek to eliminate phantoms that have crossed onto the near shore, the realm that humans inhabit. These gods fight with weapons called Regalia – spirits who are found and named by the gods after their death and take on a weapon form to work in tandem with their masters. Yato names a new regalia Yukine, a young troubled youth who wishes only to be alive like everyone else and causes much pain to his new master through his reckless actions.  The three encounter other gods in the area as well as their Regalia which bring friendship, loyalty, vengeance and betrayal – with none more mysterious than the disowned and renounced Regalia, Nora.

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Noragami (meaning ‘stray god’) is a supernatural/action/comedy manga and anime that was recently aired running 12 episodes. Providing an entertaining premise and story mixed with a beautiful art style, the episodes keep audiences interested throughout their entirety. While the story line itself could easily be more in depth, the way different aspects and elements are strung together create a riveting and synonymous tale from beginning to end. For the length of the series it is very well done and gives an entertainment value that many fail to do quite so well. As the three somewhat unwilling strangers survive trials and grow ever closer, they all learn much about themselves and each other – even when the darkest of pasts come to light.

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Despite harrowing circumstances, people can sometimes change each other for the better. Friendships are bonded, loyalties remain, and even gods of war and calamity can find light in their irrefutable darkness.

The Devil’s Own ~ Blue Exorcist

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The forest looked down on her with gentle smiling leaves as her feet sank into the freshly fallen snow at each step. This place was only to be a temporary assignment but it somehow became the only place she cared to be. It was all a misunderstanding anyways. Humans and demons could learn to coexist and understand each other, she was sure of it. Perhaps one day that world without separation and hate would become reality…

It had been 15 years since Father Shiro Fujimoto had taken in twin boys to raise as his own. The monastery they grew up in was the only home they ever knew, but the boys could not have possibly been any different from each other. Yukio Okumura was always smart, calculated and studious; even though he was the younger sibling he always sought to be able to protect his older brother and those that he cared for. The elder brother, Rin, on the other hand was always a wild card; somewhat of a rebel and slacker yet always attempting to do things with the best of intentions – even if putting his own life at risk. The brothers always seemed to be a little bit different in some aspects, but it remained a deeply hidden secret until one fatal night when their lives would change forever.

blue exorcist groupWhen demons begin to overtake Assiah, the human world, Father Fujimoto has no choice but to finally reveal to Rin that he is the true Son of Satan and give him Kurikara, the demon sword that had sealed away his powers up until this point. When the gate to the demon realm Gehenna opens and Fujimoto is possessed by none other than Satan himself, he sacrifices himself in front of Rin’s eyes in order to save him. From that point on Rin vows to destroy Satan and eventually ends up enrolling in the elite True Cross Academy high school.

Admitted by the preceptor himself, True Cross Academy has a hidden curriculum that only certain dedicated students even have knowledge of called the Cram School: a school for exorcists. It is there that exorcists in training learn not only to combat demons and protect the world from a danger most people do not even see, but they also hone the exact methods in which they will repel the evil and learn to work as a team. Some exorcists become Tamers with summoned pets to do their will while other may choose to become an Aria and defeat demons through reading scripture. There are other categories as well that aspiring exorcists may enlist themselves as, but none so highly ranked as the Paladin. Rin soon finds himself among a small yet colorful cast of students and faculty that will take them up the ranks of becoming exorcists and closer to their goal of abolishing Satan. Of course, nothing ever goes quite so smoothly planned and as Rin attempts to keep his demonic looks and powers concealed, plenty of trials and trouble test the students up until their final showdown with the demon king himself.

Blue Exorcist is an action/supernatural manga and anime following the story of the brothers – in particular, Rin. Throughout the 26 blue exorcist rin and shiemiepisodes of the first season, the main story remains ever in tact while still including many side stories and character backgrounds that truly draw the audience in. From the goal oriented justice seeking Suguro, to the abandoned demon familiar Kuro who is quickly won over by Rin, to the gentle and quiet Shiemi who ends up becoming one of the strongest characters overall – the cast truly transforms into a solid unit of friends and allies by going through so many difficult trials together. With humor, emotion, and plenty of action throughout each episode it is one that will easily keep attention throughout the series.

Humans and demons have been at war for as long as texts have been written and stories have been told. Perhaps it only takes one person to change that fate for the future.

There are always dreams to be realized.

Lives to be lived.