All posts by Karen

First Look: Between the Sky and Sea

Karen:

So, let me see if I understand the premise here. There are no fish in the oceans left on Earth, so the Japanese made giant water balls full of fish in space so they can still have fish for sushi. In addition to having the technology to somehow create these giant space aquariums, they’re also capable of going back and forth from space via rocket whenever they want. So far, it seems like we’re dealing with a pretty high level of technological achievement here, right? Go, future Japan!

However, in this glistening hi-tech world, somehow, all of the lore of fishing– including simple concepts like “bait” and “nets”– has apparently been lost. For some reason, the only way to procure a fish to make into a delicious Crunchy Tuna Roll is to beat it up; and not just beat it up, but beat it up in a mech. And not just beat it up in a mech, but beat it up in a mech powered by a deity you summoned from your smart phone.

Unfortunately, deity-enhanced-vehicular-fish-homicide is a man’s world, meant for manly men who don’t think twice about punching a Beluga whale in the face with a magical truncheon. Now a bunch of young girls, featuring lots of pluck and significant cleavage, want to prove that they can fuck up space fish just as well as any man, thank you very much. Except how can they prove their mettle in pitched tuna-to-mech combat when the completely untrained Haru hasn’t even installed the God app on her cell phone, and giant, bellicose crustaceans are on hand to crush the women’s empowerment movement ONCE AGAIN?

Jesus Christ, this show is ludicrous. From the beginning, I thought this might be a semi-serious sci-fi series, albeit a very optimistic one. Then we got to summoning Gods with your phone and I had no idea what this show even was anymore.

It’s pretty clear that we’re supposed to be feeling righteous indignation over the way the male fisherman treat the female cadets, but the old-fashioned sexism just seems so out of place in this setting. You mean, in a world where they have space travel, enabled by female mathematicians, and they still don’t realize that women can perform traditionally male jobs? Or does this anime take place in an alternate universe where women have done nothing but cook and have babies for the entirety of human history, but they somehow have The Jetsons-level technology anyway? If that’s the premise, in some ways that’s even more bizarre than the whole space fishing thing.

I can’t deny that this episode was entertaining, but mostly because I couldn’t believe the logic of what was supposed to be happening. The main character’s cluelessness annoyed me; I understand how that kind of character can be charming if handled properly, but her excessive ditziness just made me think that she really isn’t cut out for space fishing. The other characters didn’t make much of an impression, except for the female teacher, who just seemed overexcitable and unprofessional. Based on the way the female characters act, it’s almost like the men are right to assume that they can’t do an actual job.

Is it wrong if I watch this show rooting for the girls to fail, and hoping that the sexist oaf fishermen dudes end up being right about everything? Okay, I know that’s not how this works and the girls are going to end up being the very best space fishermen ever by the end of it, but wouldn’t it be kind of hilarious if it didn’t work out that way? Like, in episode 12, Haru was just like “Wow, space fishing is really hard if you’re a girl! My feminine little hands can’t even grasp the controls! I think I’ll just go back home and marry my cousin, that sounds easier.”

So yeah, I’m watching this show in the hopes that everyone fails miserably in their goals. This is usually called hate-watching, but you can’t hate a show where people fight space fish using magical spears; you just can’t. There is nothing hateful or hatable about this show, it’s just really bizarre that it exists and the fact that it’s based on a cell phone game doesn’t seem like a good enough reason for said existence. I will admit that the underwater environments are rather pretty, and that’s going to be my excuse for the 3-4 hours of my life that I will now waste on this series.

LB:

One thing I love about anime is that every time you think Japan has run out of ideas and is in a slump, something comes along to completely shatter that perception. In this series about grrl power, a group of young girls aim to go into space so that they can become space fisherwomen despite the odds stacked against them.

Right away, this series sets up the story and the challenges/sexism that these girls are going to face throughout the entire run of the series and it works. Within fifteen minutes I was cheering for these girls to show the boys what-for and give them a good space fishing whupping. Sadly, that doesn’t happen in this episode but I am absolutely dead set on watching these girls do their best to make the boys eat their words.

If the first episode is any indication, this is going to be a very fun series to watch this season and I can’t wait to see more!

Lifesong:

Fighting for equality against the patriarchy has never before been so filled with mobile game gimmicks. Taking on the force that kidnapped all the fish on earth and brought them to space is a rough job for a bunch of young women, but someone has to do it. It wouldn’t be fair to let the men have all the space mech fish fighting with mobile app fun to themselves. Fair warning, trying to follow this story requires a generous amount of suspending brain activity. Part of my mind is still in denial that this anime exists. Maybe it’s all just a hallucination? Nope! It’s still listed on Crunchyroll… And the episode still plays! Here we go…

Between the Sky and Sea felt like it was trying to capitalize on a popular political concept. Rather than attempt to make any kind of serious political statement, this anime exists to draw attention to a mobile game. The characters play the mobile game in space to power up their mechs and fight fish. The women are bad at it and that seems to be the story hook? I’m not sure. The sense of denial I’m dealing with here won’t be gone while writing this first episode is still relevant.

Oddest of all the bizarre elements at play is their teacher. She freaks out when one of her students uses a masculine pronoun to refer to herself. I get that she is sensitive because women have only recently earned the right to play mobile games in space, but… She needs to calm down. Patriarchal mobile games don’t justify freaking out at someone for referring to themselves with a masculine pronoun. More seriously, is that actually a problem in Japan or just a fantasy element added to this anime? I feel like heroines who use boku are common enough. I had to watch the scene a few times to make sure I understood why she was so panicked. I don’t know.

Despite all the ridiculous world building I did find Haru’s personality charming. She just wants to fish in space and seems to ignore all the nonsense going on around her. Can the politics go away and leave pure Haru alone to her mobile game fish-fighting in peace? I’m ignoring my suspicion that she isn’t smart enough to care and hoping the story isn’t planning to go there. It will, won’t it?

Maybe the message of this story will end up being politics suck, go fishing in space and play your mobile games. Don’t mind what others say even if people hate you and your stupid, worthless mobile game deity; Have fun and own it. If that’s the point this anime was trying to get at, then more power to it. I’m almost certainly giving it too much credit in an attempt to explain nonsense. I’m going to move on to something else before I spend more time looking to make sense of this anime, before my own sense of reality is harmed.

First Look: Run With The Wind

I tend to like sports shows where the main character has a kind of weird, sideways entry into the sport. If the guy or girl has been playing the sport since they were a little kid, and has been dreaming of making it to nationals the whole time, chances are I won’t like the anime much. I prefer the approach of Yowamushi Pedal, where Onoda only develops biking prowess because he keeps riding back and forth to Akihabara to indulge his otaku lust; or Eyeshield 21, where Sena never wanted to be a running back, but conveniently learned how to sprint after an entire school career of trying to outrun bullies. And then there’s Initial D, where Takumi is forced to develop crazy street racer skills because his Dad is too damned lazy to do his late-night deliveries himself.

So on my personal scale of “Unwilling sports anime protagonists,” a boy being caught shoplifting and then having a secret scout for the track team observe him and think “My, what excellent running form that purse-snatching bastard has!” ranks pretty high. It bodes well for my enjoyment of this season.

There’s some really clever writing here. Early on in the episode, when main guy Kakeru is introduced to his roommates in the (soon-to-be) track and field club, it’s one of those “look how zany everybody is!” sequences, which usually rub me the wrong way; it usually feels forced and artificial. Usually everyone will have one stock personality trait, and we’re supposed to find it hilarious that their stock personality traits rub one another the wrong way. Somehow, Run Like the Wind made the characters feel just fleshed out enough that this sequence worked the way it was intended to; the characters seem distinct, and funny in their own way without trying too hard.

Furthermore, not only is Kakeru pressured into joining the team in just the kind of weird way I like, the entire dorm gets tricked into becoming members of the track team. I don’t know why college student Haiji wants to reform the track team so badly (and his methods for doing so are very likely illegal) but gosh-darnit, I have to respect his commitment here. He is basically a vicious track-and-field predator, but since this is anime and not real life, we can enjoy this for the absurdity that it is and not get too bent out of shape out of it.

Another interesting feature of this anime is that it features an exchange student from Tanzania, Musa. It’s unusual to see black characters in anime, and even more unusual to see a black character who lives in Africa. I did find the show’s handling of Musa to be a tad uncomfortable; introducing him stark naked has some unfortunate implications, even though I get that it was supposed to be part of the ‘look at how zany everybody is!’ montage. Same with his roommates making a point of stating he’s “really smart!” as though people would naturally assume otherwise.

That said, I think anything they did with Musa was bound to seem racially charged in this situation. The whole introduction to the dorm kids has a tone of “look at this group of weird eccentrics,” and then they introduce the African character. Anything they did to make him “weird” could be read as racist, but if they avoided that by making him the straight man, that may actually have been more racist. I think it was a bit of no-win situation, and even though the show’s treatment of the character so far made me raise an eyebrow, I do think it’s overall a good thing that the show is trying to present a more diverse cast. I’m going to be very interested in seeing how the writers handle Musa’s character going forward.

Just about the only thing I didn’t like about this episode was the fact that Kakeru clearly has some kind of important history with running; likely he was a high school track star, then something happened to disillusion him, and he’s become the kind of down-on-his-luck guy who’s reduced to robbing convenience stores for food. I think I would have preferred it if Kakeru had no history with running and only developed his great running form due to his frequent shoplifting, but that’s just me and my weird taste; there is drama to be mined from his background, to be sure. Hopefully good drama.

It seems like this show is going to deal primarily with long-distance running, so that means we won’t have to deal with the annoyance of a 100-meter dash being drawn out for three episodes so everyone has time to have their proper mid-race epiphanies. Long-distance running is something that hasn’t really been covered in anime to my knowledge (please feel free to correct me in the comments if I’m wrong!), so I’m very interested to see how the show is going to make this not-very-TV-friendly sport compelling.

All that, and just watching this show inspires me to get on the treadmill and jog more often, so that’s a big point in it’s favor. I’m also slightly inspired to go rob a convenience store, but fortunately, as I live in the United States, our convenience stores suck, so it’s not even worth the effort. If I go to Japan though? Totally stealing some melon bread from a Lawson, and when I get arrested, I’m blaming Run With the Wind.

First Look: That Time I Got Reincarnated As a Slime

Lifesong:

Why is some robot voice granting special powers to a dying salary man? What kind of nasty stuff does he have on his PC? What exactly does it mean to be reborn in a fantasy world as a slime? That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime doesn’t attempt to answer the first two questions it throws at us; I fear it might cop out on the third.

Our protagonist isn’t an ordinary slime. If that’s what you wanted out of this anime, you had best give up now. Given the speed he is powering up I suspect he won’t be spending too much time as a blob- like object. Promo art and then the ED animation all but confirm a more humanoid form.

The pacing takes a slow approach to introducing us to our slime’s new home. The unique aspect of being reborn as a slime carries the episode and makes it into something funny. I’m glad the episode decided to focus in on the little details of what it means to be a slime. We don’t know why he is special exception to the general “slimes are mindless” rule, but the comedy makes it work. The implications of being a super powered slime are amusing to think about if nothing else.

How long it will be before Satoru has a reason to ingest a human and take on their form? Will he even keep the same name? Is he even still a he? I bet slimes are gender neutral and… Oh god, what is the appropriate gender pronoun for a slime?

To its credit and my surprise, none of the heroines show up in episode one. Instead, the first companion for our slime protagonist is Storm Dragon Veludora. I had a good laugh at his tsundere act. I’m not entirely convinced he won’t turn out to be a she and transform into a humanoid loli dragon form, but so far so good.

I expect this anime to have harem elements so it’s interesting the first episode didn’t feel a need to show any of it. We got a quick mention of wanting to “screw every girl I see” as he is dying, but that was it. It’s a safe enough bet the “predator” skill our slimy protagonist gets out of the whole dying deal will be the cause of harem antics. I liked the way episode one dodged around that for an episode and introduced us to dragon bro instead.

I’m not sure what I expect out of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, but episode one sold me on watching more. I felt like the storytelling both knows what it’s doing and feels confident about it. Those are good signs. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out as the implications of becoming a slime god in another world unfold.

Karen:

Funny, I had just been reading complaints about how the isekai genre was played out and creatively bankrupt, and then I saw this show. I don’t know if it’s going to prove to be all that innovative (time will tell), but it did an excellent job of reminding me why isekai stories are fun in the first place. It’s light and playful, but also goes into considerable detail about the kind of issues you might face if you suddenly found yourself reincarnated in another world. Questions like, can a slime see without eyes? And if you were reincarnated as a monster, how would you know what you were?

Probably the most interesting idea here is the notion that your “powers” in the other world are determined by your last words/thoughts in the human world. Granted, it seems like a lot of people would say some variation of “ow,” so pain nullification should be a common skill. Still, it’s intriguing to wonder where this system comes from. Is some benevolent, God-like creature trying to correct the injustices of life by giving good people another shot at existence, but kind of screwing up the finer details? Considering the way all-powerful dragon Verudora acts, I think powerful characters on this show may all be slightly confused and incompetent, which I dig personally.

I’m also really curious to find out what the deal is with the girl who apparently died during WWII. Maybe her last words were “Damn, I really hate fascism,” and her powerset involves being super-libertarian? Does that count as political humor, and if so, should I flog myself?

Just about the only thing I didn’t like about this show was the fact that the OP gives away the fact that Satoru, our slime-protagonist, eventually gets some sort of human form. You would think that would be a secret to keep under wraps for at least an episode or two, right? Of course, this may only bother me because I’m intrigued by the idea of the main character being stuck as a bouncing slime for 24 episodes, because it seems like it would be a nightmare for the writers. So basically, I’m a sadist who wants to see the staff of this show suffer, but you should probably ignore that and just focus on the fact that this show looks like it’s going to be some good, clean, JRPG-inspired fun.

Well, relatively clean; I don’t think we really want to know what was on Satoru’s hard drive.

LB:

I’m going to sum up why you need to watch this series in two words: tsundere dragon.

What? You need more? Alright, here goes… while I’ve said out loud in public that I am feeling “over” the isekai genre, this one caught me off guard with how downright cute it is. While the initial set up of Satoru getting stabbed out on the street and being worried about people finding out what porn he has on his computer during his dying moments is a little bizarre, the subsequent time that we spend with him in his slime form was absolutely charming.

While I didn’t like the change from his original gruff male voice to something much more high pitched and perky, that’s a minor complaint, since it ended up growing on me within a matter of minutes.

The only really frustrating thing about this episode is that most of it is spent explaining Satoru’s new basic slime skills rather than setting up the story and world that we’ll be spending the next 24 episodes in. With that much time to kill though, there is no real rush and while some people might find the pace to be a bit too relaxed, I have full confidence in what I’m now certain will be an enjoyable ride. Pick this one up early and get ready for two cours of fun.

Otakusphere (not) Weekly: Episode 28

After a slew of technical difficulties, thanks to Youtube Livestreaming, the podcast is back! LB was busy having a life this week (don’t know what’s up with that), but that leaves Karen, Sal and Lifesong to go through the Fall 2018 Anichart and pick out what we’re watching. Topics covered include Space Fishing vs. Soul Fishing, feline urban planning, and how we’ve become absolute anime studio partisans after swearing we would never, ever do that.

This is a different format for us, but one that’s probably going to be more workable long-term than posting the edited shows we were doing before. If you absolutely loved the edited shows, where I made an effort to remove some of the dumb nonsense that comes out of my mouth and most gratuitous “UM” sounds, speak now or forever hold your peace.

Finishing Up Steins;Gate 0

I chickened out.

As of halfway through the series, I was seriously considering writing up each episode of this show, but it didn’t feel right. I was often confused about what was actually happening, and each episode felt like a quick punch to the face; when the ED started playing, I usually felt more like I wanted to take a nap then sit down and try to analyze what I just saw. I think shows like Doctor Who are like Baby’s First Time Travel Story, and Steins;Gate is like, Eighth-Grade Honors level or something, and I’m just not ready for it.

That said, even though I’m usually confused by what’s happening (and in what order), I really do like the show quite a lot and didn’t want to let the season end without at least trying to do some justice to it.

So, as I predicted, a lot of S:G 0 was about watching Okarin get his Houiin Kyouma personality back; or rather, his acknowledgment that Kyouma is a necessary force in his world. Watching him put on that persona again, after trying so hard to bury it for about 20 episodes, was incredibly satisfying, but I’m left wondering why.

There’s the basic explanation that Kyouma is just a fun character to watch, but I think it goes a little deeper than that. Earlier in the series, Okarin tries to respond to massive challenges by being humble and aware of the limits of his resources, and Kyouma is all about doing the opposite of that. Kyouma is about being bombastic in the face of nigh-impossible challenges, and then somehow faking it until he makes it.

I guess you could boil it down to the power of positive thinking. Okarin thinks “I’m not powerful,” so he always reacts defensively and doesn’t truly believe he can change anything. Kyouma thinks “I am virtually OMNIPOTENT!” so by definition, anything he hasn’t done is just something he hasn’t achieved yet; he just needs to work out the minor details. He goes into situations thinking “of course there’s a way to solve this,” then finds one because he expected to find it.

I don’t think it’s that simple though. Kyouma’s “origin,” as it were, came out of comforting Mayuri after her grandmother died; at the time, they both knew full well that Kyouma had no power to bring her grandmother back, or anyone else for that matter. At that time, the whole Kyouma persona was really just a distraction; just as the Amadeus app was only ever a distraction from the real Kurisu being gone. In the case of Amadeus, the cast only makes progress when they rip that band-aid off and delete Amadeus; but in Okarin’s case, trying to “delete” Houiin Kyouma was the wrong approach.

On the scale of anime special attacks, Mayuri’s “BitchSlap You Back to Correcting the Time Stream,” should probably be up there with something that Goku does.

Ultimately I think the best way to look at it might be a criticism of humility as an approach. I mean, I hate it when people talk about how great they are (I don’t understand why anyone thinks that’s an attractive look), but from another perspective, humility is running away from your power, from your responsibilities. Okarin’s whole angle for most of the show is “I was too arrogant before, I am but a humble student now and will not meddle in affairs beyond my stature,” thus he accomplishes nothing. It’s when he throws humility aside, says “Fuck it, I can time-leap through 30 years of history if I want to, and if I want to call myself an all-powerful mad scientist, who the hell is going to stop me?”, then he makes progress.

Okay, so the verdict is that humility is bad, and we should all see ourselves as GODS WALKING THE EARTH! Well no, obviously not. That would be insufferable. But there’s a point where humility becomes as delusional as a childish mad-scientist persona; pretending you have no power over something, because trying to wield the power you do have is just too scary and it’s easier to run in the opposite direction.

Changing the subject, I wasn’t completely happy with the show. I thought Kagari’s character represented a bit of a wasted opportunity. As far as I can tell her resemblance to Kurisu was just a red herring, and her significance to the plot had nothing to do with it. That kind of bugs me, because I think of Steins;Gate as being above that sort of thing– maybe I shouldn’t, but I do. When Kagari showed up, I thought that someone in the future was trying to turn the Amadeus AI into a real human, hence her resemblance to Kurisu, and we were going to end up in some sort of cool Ghost in the Shell-esque cyborg tale. Not only did that not happen, but the show went nowhere near there. Kind of a bummer, or my fault for trying to write the show in my head while I was watching it? Probably the latter.

So Kagari disappointed me, but she allowed Okarin to get this one fantastic Charlie’s Angels-esque moment, so I guess she’s okay *grumbles.* I appreciate her busty design, by the way; that made it obvious at a glance that she looked like Kurisu, but wasn’t her. They could have had different haircuts or something, but this was smoother.

I’m also not sure I’m sold on this particular post-apocalyptic world Steins;Gate keeps trying to show us. Considering that the remains of humanity seem to be barely surviving in the ruins of cities, where does Suzuha go to obtain her ninja-level soldier training, which she has in every timeline? How are Daru and co. getting food when the food supply is presumably controlled by these Evil Military Organizations with seemingly unlimited foot soldiers? How is the resistance’s position stable enough that they can get away with keeping a comatose patient in the same place for over ten years? They’ve never had to clean house and hide from the authorities?

All of that falls under the category of minor nitpicking though; after all, the whole point of that future is that it’s so horrible, we don’t actually want to know more about it. But the Bad Future plays a bigger role in this show than it did in its predecessor, so I guess I was hoping it would get a little more development.

All in all though, this was a hugely impressive effort, and my hat is off to studio White Fox (who apparently made some changes to the original VN plot, so they didn’t just take the line of least resistance with the script). I said before this show aired that I wasn’t sure if I even wanted another Steins;Gate story, and this show pretty well convinced me that I did about thirty seconds in.

Also, this is maybe a trivial thing in the grand scheme of things, but needs to be said: this show has the absolute best version of the “Play the original opening theme at a critical moment towards the end” trick that I have ever experienced. I actually got chills when Itou Kanako’s Hacking to the Gate started playing. That’s one of those anime moments I wish I could experience for the first time, over and over again, but I consider myself lucky that I got to have it once.

Steins:Gate 0 is stellar. There is no God. Hacking to the Gate is playing. All is right with the world.

My Hero Academia Episodes 59 & 60

Episode 59

The final round of the exam is well underway, as Gang Orca makes his move. This episode does a couple of different things, and the first one it does properly is examining the thought process of the actual exam committee. You’d think watching something like “a board room meeting for the testing committee” would be dull, and it’s literally just a bunch of suits sitting around talking about balls, but we do learn what the committee is aiming to build.

All Might, societal pillar and symbol is no more, and despite being made of fire, Endeavor cannot hold a candle to him. So rather than rely on one dominant hero like in the past, the committee hopes to create a small army of competent heroes who work together well and can make up for their lack of overwhelming strength through teamwork. Interesting, and practical.

We also see how the kids are graded, each starting with a total of 100 points and gradually decreasing with every error made.  All the while, students are trying to take the (mock) injured civilians away while simultaneously holding off Gang Orca, and he’s a pretty badass whale! The scary looking Orca-in-a-suit takes Yo Shindo out in one hit, so Todoroki and Inasa face off against him, while the others rush Yo Shindo to safety. Now Inasa and Todoroki seem like a great combination: two of the strongest offensive players against someone like Gang Orca, right?

As it turns out,  not so much.

Both are more than a little hot-headed, and can’t resist fighting one another in the face of a dangerous villain. Todoroki’s fire and ice attacks keep getting blown aside by Inasa’s winds (they effectively cancel each other out) so Orca’s henchmen are able to take them apart. As the two keep foolishly clashing with each other, Inasa reveals his prejudice: he thinks that Endeavor is a shitty guy who’s arrogant and angry, the opposite of a proper hero. When Inasa first saw his rival at the entrance exam, Todoroki reminded him strongly of Dear Old Dad, and it was pretty much hate at first sight. They’re infighting gets so ridiculous that finally, Deku yells at them to snap out of it.

Despite all their talent, the two are being held back by personal vendettas: Inasa’s festering grudge against Todoroki, and Todoriki’s issues with his own father, Endeavor. Fortunately, the two of them are smart enough to realize their error before they’re completely incapacitated, and manage to pull off a fantastic tag-team Fire/Wind attack to trap Orca. Amusingly, since Orca is basically a whale in a suit, he’s vulnerable to drying out, so being caught in a fiery vortex is a really bad situation for him; even more amusing, his solution to this problem is to just dump some water over his head. How much water is even in that bottle? Is it enough to keep an adult whale hydrated? The mind boggles.

All the while, the other students are finishing the evacuations, and some of the students (including Deku) head back to Gang Orca to serve as reinforcements for Inasa and Todoroki. We even get to see Tsuyu fight, and she has a nifty new camouflage technique! It’s a nice upgrade for our favorite frog girl. Unfortunately for fans of hot-blooded action, before Deku can really lay into Gang Orca, the exam ends in mid-battle. Everyone lines up, awaiting the results, praying that they passed. The results of the test will be revealed….

Episode 60

…Right now! Pretty much everyone from Class 1-A succeeded in passing with the notable exceptions of two heavy hitters: Todoroki, and Bakugo. Todoroki clearly failed because of the huge stunt he pulled while fighting Inasa, and Bakugo probably failed for yelling at all the people he was saving. It’s interesting seeing some of the oddballs make it through (particularly Mineta and Hagakure), but it is what it is; sometimes, the people who pass any test are not the most talented or the most worthy. However, Deku and Tsuyu passed, so do we really care?

Fortunately for our underperforming prodigies, anyone that failed in the second round (which includes Bakugo and Todoroki) will have the opportunity to take a special course and then re-take the exam in three months. So Bakugo, Todoroki and Inasa can still obtain their licenses and become proper provisional heroes, but their out-of-control egos roped them into doing a lot of extra work.

It’s a big moment to see Deku and his classmates gain their licenses; they really have come so far, and we’re not even up to three-digit episode numbers yet. [Editor’s Note: Take THAT, frickin’ Naruto!] Meanwhile, Inasa apologizes to Todoroki while still admitting that he  doesn’t like him. The boy’s honest to a fault, but hey, there’s something to be said for being able to speak your mind…hopefully speaking his mind doesn’t usually involve going up to random people and shouting at them that he hates them, otherwise he’s going to be pretty unpopular on campus.

We then get a huge reveal about Camie, who apparently isn’t Camie in the first place. Himoko Toga, who has the ability to transform into someone by digesting their blood, has been posing as Camie. The real Camie’s fate is left up in the air, but we do find out that Himoko has snagged some of Izuku’s blood as well; that can’t be good news for anyone. Her shapeshifting ability is really menacing, and creates a huge amount of possible ways for the villains to screw with our heroes.

All Might, despite no longer having a muscle form, decides to visit with an old “enemy” of his by having a chat with All For One in prison. The discussion establishes how scary and smart AFO really is, and the imminent threat of his successor. Even in solitary confinement, behind glass, with gun turrets trained on him, AFO still does a great job of picking All Might’s brain and pushing his buttons. Nothing like a bit of good ol’ psychological analysis to show that a defeated foe is still a force to be reckoned with. The fact that AFO plans to pass his legacy onto Shigaraki shows that while Deku is growing and evolving as a hero, Tomura will rise as a great villain soon as well. Will Deku be ready in time? Well, probably yes, otherwise there would be no show, but you know what I mean.

Probably the biggest revelation of this entire episode (outside the fact that Tenya Ida sleeps with a giant cartoony snot bubble) is the fact that Bakugo now knows that Deku’s quirk was given to him by All Might. When he confronts Deku about this and explains how he deduced this information, Bakguo shows that while he can be thick-headed and temperamental, he’s actually quite intelligent, and observant of his surroundings. It’s a great scene leading up to the two of them settling their conflicted feelings in the way they are contractually bound to do in shonen anime: beating the ever-loving snot out of each other to get their feelings out. Okay, so maybe it’s not the most original direction the world, but it feels earned, and we have a great battle to look forward to next episode.

 

Wrapping up the Summer 2018 Anime Season

I didn’t watch nearly as much summer anime as I planned to, so this post shouldn’t be 8 million words long (for once). The shows covered here are by no means the best or most significant of the season, they’re just the ones I happened to end up sticking with for the last three months. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to watch some of the more noteworthy shows that I missed (like Planet With and Revue Starlight) sometime between now and the heat death of the universe.

For the record, I did see some of Hanebado!Asobi Asobase, Chio’s School Road, and How Not to Summon a Demon Lord, but didn’t end up getting very far with them. Also, Steins; Gate 0 just wrapped while I was in the middle of writing this post, but I’ll deal with that show separately.

Note: Crunchyroll’s new video player makes taking screenshots an absolute chore, and it’s having an impact here. With the current player, whenever you pause you get a giant “play” icon over the screen, making the screen unusable. So you need to try to get a shot while the episode is playing, without being able to remove the subs. I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do about this, because trying to take multiple screenshots from different shows feels like stabbing myself in the face with a spoon, so for the time being, enjoy the one screen I successfully took from Phantom in the Twilight above. Maybe it’s time I started replacing screenshots with terrible MS Paint art anyway? It could be my new aesthetic.

Free! Dive to the Future

This was a really frustrating season. About two-thirds of it was taken up with an arc I didn’t really care for, and when we finally got to the good stuff towards the end, it wasn’t quite enough. I appreciate what KyoAni tried to do here by opening up the world of Free! so much; seeing the boys out in the world, attending different colleges (even on different continents), made it feel like the world of competitive swimming was much, much bigger and more colorful than the little town of Iwatobi. It was an ambitious effort.

However, as a result of making the scale so big, the cast became extremely large. And because it’s Free!, almost everyone is a blue or pastel-haired pretty boy with perfect abs, so it became hard to tell some of the characters apart. Maybe if I’d watched all the seasons back to back I’d know who all these different swimmers were, but to be honest, I started tuning out some of the supporting characters after a while: I didn’t remember where I was supposed to know them from, and nothing they did seemed important to the plot anyway.

Ikuya’s arc, however, proved to be a much bigger problem than the overstuffed cast. Ikuya is a character who has a bone to pick with Haru because he always felt like Haru abandoned him, a similar plot line to the first season of Free!, which dealt with similar feelings between Haru and Rin. This would be okay if not for the fact that a)Ikuya is a much less interesting character than Rin b)Ikuya does not have shark teeth like Rin and c)how many of these close childhood friends/swimming groupies does Haru have in his closet, anyway? It seems like everyone who so much as steps into the shallow end with Haru becomes obsessed with him for life.

When the show finally pushes Ikuya to the side and focuses on the characters we’ve known and cared about from the beginning– particularly Haru, but Makoto and Rei as well– it’s a much better use of everyone’s time. Haru has a fundamental problem where he enjoys swimming for it’s own sake, and doesn’t really want to be competitive, but he’s been so far above everyone (in terms of raw talent) for so long that he’s been able to get away with it. Now, at the college level, he’s encountering swimmers who can beat the pants off of him, and he has to decide if truly being competitive is something he wants for himself.

Unfortunately, since most of the season was taken up with Ikuya’s arc, we only get partial development on this; Haru seems to have decided that he is willing to play to win, but he’s not willing to sacrifice anything (or anyone) he cares about for the sake of winning either. Maybe this will be enough, but it seems to me like he’s just kicked the can down the road a little bit. Eventually, he’s going to have to accept the fact that winning will hurt people, and some of those people will likely be his closest friends. If Haru did win that last 100 meter freestyle heat at the very end (and thanks for ending in the middle of a race, show), how do you think Rin felt?

I guess it’s a pretty strong statement about how much I care about the original characters that I’m looking forward to Free! coming back in 2020, even though most of this season was yawn-worthy. I just hope the next season (or movie; it’s not clear what we’re getting in 2020 yet) focuses on the core characters and doesn’t try to chronicle the lives of 50 different lookalike pretty boys who like to swim.

Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits

This two-cour show was just quietly competent and pleasant all throughout, without ever stepping up a level and becoming something truly fantastic. There was a tease that we were going to get some kind of twist toward the end that would paint everything in a different light, but in the end, there wasn’t so much a twist as there was an admission that the thing you’d sort of guessed happened all along, did in fact happen. It’s a bit of a let down.

There are some interesting implications here. One of the things that was refreshing about this series is that even though Aoi is “engaged” to the Ogre Lord, it’s pretty clear he has no wish to force her into anything she’s not comfortable with, and the ball is in her court as far as their relationship progression is concerned. However, if the Ogre Lord had interactions with her during her youth, he begins to look less benevolent; maybe there was an element of wife-husbandry, or trying to magically raise Aoi to be his perfect bride from childhood. But honestly, the whole thing is so nebulous and vague it’s hard to say. All we know is that one time when little Aoi was starving because her mother abandoned her, the Ogre Lord (her future fiancé) and Ginji (her future best friend) appeared to her in spirit form and fed her. It’s not a lot to go on.

The more I think about it, the more I’m not sure how to feel about this series. It felt like it was always on the cusp of getting quite interesting and never really went there, but it was just such a happy, appetizing addition to my watch list for the past 25 weeks, clearly something went very right. It had the distinction of being a closet food show that included food porn without being overwhelmed by it, and took place in an interesting world that could certainly be explored further. I’d like to see more of this, but if we do get more, I hope we get more development on the main characters’ relationships and a little bit less focus on random spirit-of-the-week outings.

Phantom in the Twilight

This was a mess, but it was kind of fun in it’s own way. Pre-season, I thought this was going to be one of those episodic occult shows, where the cafe would serve as a hub where different supernatural creatures would come to hang out. Then, episodes would focus on these different beings at the expense of the show ever developing much of a plot. Well, I was totally wrong about that, because this show was very plot-driven; unfortunately, the plot just wasn’t interesting.

To best explain what was wrong with this show, rather than going through the plot in any great detail, I’d rather point out one detail of the world here. In Phantom, supernatural creatures (known as Umbra) are created by the human imagination. So the reason why there’s a vampire character named Vlad is because of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the reason why there are lycanthropes running around with wolf-ears is because people have always told stories about wolf-men, and so on. That’s interesting, right? Not original, to be sure, but a more interesting take not the supernatural than “supernatural stuff exists because, uh…I dunno, it just kind of does?”

And yet, this fact has virtually no effect on the story. Vlad could just be a random vampire, with no reference to Bram Stoker,  and everything would play out exactly the same. (Plus, I’ve read Dracula and Vlad is nothing whatsoever like the title character, which doesn’t help.)The power of human imagination to create monsters ended up being thoroughly irrelevant to the story. It was like the show put a bunch of different ideas together, some of them good, without ever really thinking about how they would interact with each other.

All that could perhaps be forgiven if the action was really cool, but it was generally talky and slow. Plus, main girl Baileu Ton is supposed to be a mage, yet she seems to do more physical stuff than the werewolves do, and I’m still not sure I understand anything about how her powers were supposed to work.

Look, it was a show that took place largely in a coffee shop and had a vampire named Vlad that loves serving tea, it had a sense of humor about itself, and so on; it wasn’t without redeeming value. It just didn’t really come together into something that I could get invested in.

Isekai Izakaya

At first, I wrote this show off as an inferior version of Restaurant to Another World, and it never did anything to disabuse me of that notion. That said, it grew on me a lot over the course of it’s run. The episodic plots were surprisingly compelling, especially towards the end, and it provided a nice hit of food porn in this sad lull between seasons of Food Wars! 

My favorite part was the live-action segments at the end, although they tended to remind me of the fact that Crunchyroll still hasn’t uploaded S3 of Wakakozake, my favorite live-action Japanese food porn show, and that is not okay. CR, what’s taking so long? You’re on thin ice with me: either upload more of my darling Wakako or I’ll do something drastic, like episodic blog posts on High Guardian Spice, and I’m pretty sure neither of us want that. Do the smart thing here.

Encouragement of Climb

Trying to write about Encouragement of Climb is a lot like trying to write about Hidamari Sketch; you want to write about why it’s so relaxing and charming, but then you just start thinking of butterflies wafting through the air on a gorgeous spring day, or drinking hot chocolate in front of an iced-up window on a cold night, and you get so relaxed that typing words just seems like way too much work.

To the show’s credit, they did add some drama without trying too hard and overselling it. The girls experience realistic growing pains in their friendships, but the show never gets depressing or melodramatic about it. Sometimes you want to slap the girls to get them to see sense, but to be fair, that is a very common reaction to real-life teenagers, and Encouragement should not be blamed for it.

This season was so encouraging, I almost called my Boy Scout leader Dad and asked if I could come along on a hike, so I could have that experience of drinking fresh-brewed coffee over the embers of a dying campfire in the crisp autumn air. Almost. One more season of this show and I’ll probably give up on this blog to go backpacking in Vermont for the rest of my life, so I’ll try to get in as much otaku stuff here as possible before the inevitable Encouragement of Climb Season 4.

 

Long Island Retro Gaming Expo 2018: Picks From the Dealers’ Room

This may shock you, but I spent too much money in the Dealers’ Room once again. I joked after Cradle Con that I wasn’t going to spend any more money on games or anime for the rest of the year and uh…yeah, I lied. I am a liar. I am setting a bad example for my family.

Nevertheless, I cannot go back in time and unspend all this money (not that I would), so I may as well take advantage of my fevered shopping spree by getting a blog post out of it. Seriously, if I go to Anime NYC (or any other con) anytime soon, I’m probably going to have to make a point of avoiding the dealers room, since I really can’t afford to do this. But enough realistic negativity, I have swag to show off!

I filled out my PS1 RPG collection with these two gems, which I’ve wanted for a long time. I’ve always been intrigued by the dating/weapon forging mechanics in Thousand Arms, and the job system in Star Ocean: The Second Story always sounded exactly like my cup of tea. There are PSP remakes of the early Star Ocean games, but from what I’ve read, I’m better off with the original here anyway. I wish I’d bought more of these games back when they came out, but back then, I only had so much babysitting money….

Speaking of RPGs, I needed this to fill out my FF collection so I can make good on my ongoing threat of Let’s Playing them all some day. Technically I do own these games already (Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls for the GBA), but I’ve decided recently that I’d rather have everything in Playstation format when possible. PSX discs are readily available, usually inexpensive, and easy to (legally) play on the computer with an emulator.

For the record, I’ve never actually finished FF1; I’ve played about 75% of the way through it several different times, but just never completed it for some reason. I need to fix that sometime soon. FF2 I have yet to even attempt.

Not JRPGs? There must be some mistake!

I wasn’t planning on buying these, but I’ve been hearing since the ’90s that the Legacy of Kain series is high-quality, and these were really inexpensive. As an Eidos series, Kain is kind of like Lara Croft’s brother anyway, right? It made sense in my head.

After attending Leonard Herman’s panel on video game history, I was really curious to read his book. Phoenix has been around since 1994, but the fourth edition covers games history through 2015, so there’s a lot to go through here. I’ve started reading it and find it quite addictive, even if a lot of it is dedicated to covering dodgy peripherals for obscure systems I never knew existed.

Mr. Herman was really nice and even offered to help me raid the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester to get at their JRPG collection, although I was kidding about that. Or…maybe he was kidding. Let’s assume someone was kidding.

Most of you probably need some background in order to understand why I absolutely lost my shit when fell over this. Versus Books was a company that put out unauthorized game guides back in the ’90s, and they’ve been all but forgotten today. What a lot of people don’t know is that in addition to being very thorough, the Versus guides were also hilarious; reading the Metal Gear Solid book is almost as fun as playing the game itself. Years ago, my brother wrote to the company to try to get a copy of this guide, but they were out of business at that point and it seemed like there was no way to get it.

I don’t know if they used this book to take the piss out of FF7 the way they did for MGS and Resident Evil 2, but if there’s even a chance, I have to find out. Plus, maybe I’ll finally learn how to master all those stupid Gold Saucer minigames that I suck at.

One of the only early Tomb Raider guides that I didn’t already have. I like to collect the TR strategy guides because I need them to complete the damned things I like the extra stuff that’s often included in these books. Chronicles was the installment of TR that came with the infamously robust Tomb Raider Level Editor (TRLE), so I’m curious to see what the book has to say about that.

Apparently magazine ads for games have become collectibles, which makes sense; they often make nice mini-posters. I didn’t think this was something I was that interested in until I saw that they had an add for Ehrgeiz, then I just had to get it. I got a few more of these while I was there (see header). Sadly, they did not have any ads for Parasite Eve. I also picked up one for the original Advance Wars for my brother, since that’s one of his all-time favorites.

These were free, yaaay! Old School Gamer Magazine was kind enough to give away sample issues to anyone who signed up for their email list. I’m glad to discover another print game magazine, since all my favorite ones ceased publication long ago. This mag just started last year, but it has a very experienced team of writers. I’m definitely going to keep up with it and hope they keep publishing it for a long time.


This concludes my posts on LIRGE for 2018. I hope you all enjoyed getting a peek at this fun convention, and consider coming down in 2019 if you’re anywhere near the NY area. LIRGE also includes Tabletop Expo, which I did not cover because I had my hands full with the video game component, but I hope to spend more time there next year. Tabletop Expo might be spun off into it’s own convention next year, so definitely keep tabs on the LIRGE website if you’re interested in attending either or both.

Long Island Retro Gaming Expo 2018: Cosplay!

The Long Island Retro Gaming Expo may not be a cosplay destination in the same way that say, Anime Expo is. That said, there was some pretty impressive cosplay on display, and even the simpler costumes shined when their wearers went all-out with roleplaying. Since it was a gaming convention, obviously most of the characters depicted were from games, but there were also some costumes from anime and films. There was even a roving gang of Star Wars cosplayers, but I never got a good picture of them because they only seemed to show up when I was a)eating a sandwich or b)in the bathroom.

No one literally said, “You just missed them; the elusive Star Wars cosplayers!” but that was kind of how it felt. I hope that was the only group cosplay that I missed; if I find out there was a Final Fantasy VII troop somewhere that I just never ran into, I’m going to be upset.

A note on lighting: The Expo holds its cosplay contest in the Planetarium, which is a really cool venue in general, but it doesn’t have the best lighting for photography. I took a lot of these photos during the contest, meaning the photos are a bit dark. I’ve done my best to compensate, but there’s a limit to what I can do. Geek-E Magazine sponsors the cosplay contest, and they had a professional photographer taking pictures, so better pics will be available through them at some point.

Let’s start with a character close to my heart, a gorgeous Lara Croft. Man, I want to cosplay as Lara Croft now…maybe next year. Of course, if I was going to do that, I should have probably done it before I cut off nearly all my hair. Maybe I can cosplay Dora the Explorer in the meantime?

The only Star Wars cosplayer I was able to track down. Was he part of the roving gang of Star Wars people, or an independent agent? Not sure. I should have tried to follow him and see if he’d lead me to the Jedi or whoever, but I’m pretty sure that would have violated the con’s no-stalking rules….

A great Street Fighter group cosplay; so glad I caught these guys on my way out. Sadly, there was no group of X-Men cosplayers for them to fight with; I’ll have to wait for next year in the hopes of seeing an X-Men vs. Street Fighter reenactment. But it’s possible! Keep hope alive!

The judges for the Kids Cosplay contest. I didn’t take pics of the kids for the most part (as a parent, I feel weird about it), but this Little Sister from Bioshock 2 crept in there.

I’m going to level with you, I have no idea what’s going on here. Bunny Sailor Mercury hanging out with…The Riddler? Not a clue. Why didn’t it occur to me to ask them while I was taking the picture? I am an AWARD-WINNING journalist goshdarnit, you’d think I’d know better than to embarrass myself like this.

Awesome Breath of the Wild Zelda. Not to be confused with the Hyrule Warriors version of Zelda, who was also in attendance. It’s almost like this Zelda series is popular or something.

Ness from Earthbound. I’ve really gotta play that game one of these years….

Crash Bandicoot.

This costume is of a Clow Card from Card Captor Sakura, but I’ve been looking for a while and I can’t figure out which card it is. It sound like she said the “Fate” card, but I can’t find any reference to a Fate Clow Card on CCSak sites. Any Sakura superfans able to help me out here?

Your friendly neighborhood Tobi from Naruto.

Hyrule Warriors Zelda. It’s a shame I couldn’t get a better picture, because this was an awesome costume. She won Best in Show.

Cube from Jet Set Radio Future. Love the skates!

Finally, a Mario! Worth the wait.

It’s another Ness from Earthbound. Uh, I really need to play that game….

The Squid Sisters from Splatoon.

Awww, it’s an entire Mario family! I’ve never seen Peach in a cowboy hat before, but I’m sure that comes from somewhere. Their performance was hilarious; they split the Best Group Cosplay trophy with the Splatoon group.

This is a cosplay from the movie The Hangover 2. I haven’t seen the movie, so I have no idea what’s going on here, but it looks like a really good attempt at…at…at a costume. Way to think out of the box there, friend.

A lovely Princess Peach. Not that I have anything against “casual Peach” above, but this is what I think of when I think of the Princess of the Mushroom Kingdom. This cosplay won the Best Craftsmanship award.

Liu Kang from Mortal Kombat. He did not do any huge acrobatics (which are against con policy anyway), but he did a nice routine featuring Kang’s trademark kicks. I wonder: did he have a violent confrontation with the Street Fighter team above? The mind boggles.

Remember Breath of the Wild Zelda from alllll the way back at the beginning? She found herself a Link! Okay, obviously these two came together, but I like the idea that they just randomly found each other at the convention. Then it was love at first sight.

Thank you to all the cosplayers for allowing me to photograph you. To those cosplayers at LIRGE that I missed (and I know there were some), my apologies; I was trying to get as many of you as possible, but I’m only one person and can’t be everywhere at once. I’ll probably be dressed as Dora the Explorer next year, so if I missed you this time around, you know where to look to get your picture taken.

Keep in mind I’m in my 30s though, if you see an age-appropriate Dora the Explorer cosplay, that is an actual child and you should probably leave them alone.

 

Long Island Retro Gaming Expo 2018

The Long Island Retro Gaming Expo is probably the warmest convention I’ve ever been to. I’m not referring to the ambient temperature; the AC was working fine (and in the Planetarium, arguably too well.) I mean it felt warm in the sense of being incredibly inviting and friendly. Part of this is no doubt due to the efforts of the con organizers (who deserve plenty of credit for putting together a great event), but I think it’s also due to what the gaming community looks like in 2018.

You had babies in strollers clutching beloved Pikachu plushies, little kids wearing Mario t-shirts, older men and women who vividly remembered playing their Magnavox Odyssey in the ’70s, and everything in between. It was really a family event, not just because there was all-ages programming, but simply because there were a whole lot of families walking around. You had hardcore game collectors, anime cosplayers, tabletop enthusiasts, professional game historians, indie game developers, and little kids who just wanted to play Sonic all day long, and everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time together. I know that this one convention does not represent the state of gamer culture in the entire world, but the attendance at this event couldn’t be further from the stereotype of the stand-offish, “toxic” gamer.

The whole second floor of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, NY was filled with dozens and dozens of consoles playing retro games. There were also plenty of classic Arcade cabinets. 

The main Freeplay arcade area, minutes before the doors opened at 10 a.m.; once the con was open, it was standing-room only in here.

Even though the con is primarily focused on the gaming of yesteryear, there was plenty of talk at panels about recent developments in the industry. About half the convention was in morning after the apparent Death of Luigi during Nintendo Direct; streamer Vinesauce even held a “moment of silence” for Luigi during his panel. (It lasted about one second, but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?) More importantly, everyone was talking about Nintendo’s aggressive targeting of ROM sites; in some cases, it came up because I asked about it specifically, but a lot of other congoers broached the subject during Q&A sessions as well.

While no one condemned Nintendo for shutting down emulation sites, many guests expressed concerns about how this move could effect the preservation of video game history.

“Taking such a broad approach to the issue does actual harm to the medium,” said Jeremy Parish of the Retronauts podcast. “As it is, it feels like they’re cutting off access to the past.” Parish went on to suggest that Nintendo continue taking down ROMs of their own games, but perhaps allow ROMs for more obscure titles to remain available.

From left to right: Jeremy Parish and Bob Mackey of Retronauts, and Kurt Kalata, Editor-in-Chief of Hardcore Gaming 101. Their panel covered the history of SuperJoe.

“This is a tricky topic….there are some games that are out of print, that the only people that would be making money from them are second-hand sellers– for like $400, for some of these games,” said @VinnyVincesauce, a popular streamer. “So you want a game that is, let’s say, from 1989, that you can’t get on the Virtual Console, that you can’t legally own. Now they’re making it harder for you to get it, so it’s just gone now.”

To Vinny’s surprise, the Vinesauce panel filled pretty much the entire Planetarium at the museum. This was about as close as I could get.

Leonard Herman, video game scholar and author of Phoenix IV: The History of The Videogame Industry, had a different perspective on Nintendo’s actions. “I’m for that…As a writer, you have copyrighted materials. The copyright lasts the life of the person who wrote it plus 50 years, and whether you’re making money on it–whether it’s available or not– those copyrights should be preserved. And I found my book, the earlier editions, on the internet for download, and it infuriates me…not that I’m losing a sale…I just don’t believe, unless the person who put it out agrees to it, I don’t agree with that.”

Right: Video game collector and educator John Hancock, and Leonard Herman, known as the Father of Videogame History. Their panel together covered not only milestones in video game history, but how to dispel misconceptions about videogames and disseminate the facts instead.

“I’m torn, because as a preservationist, emulators are the only way to play prototypes and hacks and all that stuff, and I think that’s awesome,” said game collector John Hancock, Herman’s co-panelist. He went on to say how frustrated he was as a collector to see Nintendo pass on the opportunity to allow people to legally purchase ROMs for individual games, and instead focus on “half-baked” options like the NES Classic. “It frustrates me to no end.”

Shawn Long, better known as RGT85 on Youtube, also lamented the inability to legally purchase older games directly from Nintendo, using the example of Mario Sunshine for the Gamecube. “This should be done more on a case-by-case basis,” said Long, echoing what Parish had said earlier in the convention.

Naturally, there were plenty of other things to talk about besides Nintendo’s recent shenanigans. Pete Dorr of Pete’s Game Room hosted a very entertaining panel about collecting games for older systems, speed-running, and finding underrated gems in older console libraries. He has also very nearly convinced me that I need to speedrun Ehrgeiz: The Forsaken Dungeon, so if you hear any tortured screaming coming vaguely from the Tri-State Area, know that it’s all Pete’s fault.

The guys from the Stone Age Gamer podcast used their panel to pit controller-against-controller in a no-holds-barred Best of 16, “The Best WORST Controller.” With the help of the audience, they picked the Dreamcast controller as their favorite “bad” controller; personally, I think the fix may have been in for the Dreamcast from the start, but I will give the SAG guys the benefit of the doubt here.

The Stone Age Gamer panel: Kris Randazzo, Dean DeFalco, and Marc Raimo.

I even got to attend a panel on NESMaker, something I didn’t know existed before this convention. Software that allows you to make videogames without coding has proliferated in recent years, but what makes NESMaker particularly special is that you can burn your creation to an actual cartridge and play it on an NES console; obviously, you need to invest in some hardware to be able to take advantage of that particular feature, but it’s pretty amazing to me that this is even possible. In terms of features, the program looks to me like it has a lot in common with RPG Maker, although with fewer options; however, that might be a good thing. Apparently you can knock out a game in NESMaker in a weekend if you feel like it, whereas RPG Maker can consume your entire life if you let it (believe me, I know this from experience.) I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to drop $36 on the software myself, but for hardcore NES-era fans, this looks like a dream come true.

I have some other stuff from the con to post for you: keep an eye out for cosplay photos and my pick ups from the dealers room (aka “The Reason Karen Can Not Afford to Go To Conventions Anymore). Now I’m going to go obsessively look up information on speedrunning, because surely I can find the time to fit that into my schedule, right? Don’t answer that.