Tag Archives: videogame

Sword Art Online Alicization, Episode 2

Lifesong:

Kirito in Underworld works a lot better after hearing an explanation of the Fluctlight. I liked the flow of episode two; this place now has enough nuance to create a mysterious atmosphere. Kirito rediscovering it bit by bit was much more interesting than our introduction.

I found it interesting to note that Kirito can’t immediately spot the tell-tale signs of a digital world. You’d think he would know immediately based off the look and feel of it, but It takes seeing a digital menu to convince him that he’s in a virtual world. It isn’t hard to guess why someone might want to make a seemingly perfect virtual utopia like this. It makes the question of why they want to hide it from testers a more compelling mystery.

Connecting directly to the fluctlight in someone’s head gives digital worlds new options. The concept of transporting those light signals into a computer makes for good science fiction. Kirito’s theory that the NPCs in this world are too realistic is the clue. Imagine that as a company, you can offer a sort of digital afterlife. I’m sure that would find a market. The implications are fascinating.

Time passes faster in the virtual world than it does in reality. That means increasing the experiences one person can have during their life. Not only can you experience life longer, but you can potentially live forever inside the machine. That’s speculation to some degree, but it seems to be the general direction this arc of Sword Art Online is taking. If the company that made Underworld can copy a human soul and then host it in a human world without a human body… That’s basically immortality.

One last thing I found worth commenting on is the way Kirito is able to use a sword skill from Aincrad. Perhaps the base for this world is similar, but I suspect it’s more than that. Fluctlight is someone’s soul, right? It contains their memories and personality from real life. Wouldn’t it also contain their memories from time spent in other digital worlds? It may be more than sword skills Kirito that can use in Underworld. How long will it be before Kirito is flying around with magical imp wings, cursing himself for never learning any magic in Alfheim Online? Or you know, never bothering to fire a gun in GGO? I’m sure he’ll figure out a way to cope, but the implications are fascinating to think about.

Karen:

Though this arc is playing around with a lot of really interesting ideas, this episode was rather dull. Since Kirito doesn’t remember his original trip to Underworld, we’re stuck watching Kirito relearn all the things that we already know from Episode 1, which is a little frustrating. Watching Kirito put his deductive reasoning to work to figure out what’s going on keeps things from getting too boring, but I have to wonder if there wasn’t a better way to do this.

Speaking of boring, there’s poor Eugeo’s calling: hacking the same tree with an axe 2,000 times every day. I don’t know the significance of the Demon Tree to Underworld yet, but I took this as a commentary on the mind-numbing repetition of the kind of tasks you tend to take on in virtual worlds; daily quests you can repeat for years, killing the same monster over and over again in the hopes of snaring that .01% drop, and so on and so forth. One of the premises that the isekai genre is based on is “living in a world with video game mechanics would be hella fun”; here, we’re getting the opposite view.

And yet, Underworld isn’t supposed to be a game, as far as I can tell; there are no goals for the player. Yet it’s clearly based on games, and I would bet money it uses some of the same code from SAO, which is why Kirito’s sword skills seems to work in Underworld. It seems like Kayaba Akihito was the only one in the world who could program virtual reality worth a damn, so even years after the SAO incident, people are still ripping off his work. Kind of depressing, but certainly not unrealistic.

The most important thing we learn here is that Underworld is likely populated by Artificial Fluctlights– newborns that had their souls “cloned,” then raised from birth in this virtual environment. Huh. In Ordinal Scale, there’s some talk that the programmers have had enough with the “top-down” approach to AI; raising artificial souls from birth would definitely seem to be more of a bottom-up approach. It is a bit jarring that actual people are involved– I would have assumed that to make an Artificial Fluctlight, they would have just used algorithms or whatever to make a fake personality. Copying existing people’s personalities adds a whole ‘nother layer of ethical wtf-ery on top of everything.

I wonder about the role of the Church in this story. Unless the show does something really unexpected, wouldn’t the Church in Underworld be 100% right about everything? Their world really was created by a superior being (or beings), who watches over everything they do, and so on and so forth. Oddly, Kirito is a non-believer in the sense that he doesn’t have to believe; he knows. I’m kind of hoping that Kirito starts using prayer as a means to communicate with the developers, because I’m always interested when fiction explores inside-out religion; it’s one of my weird hang-ups.

Hopefully we’ve gotten all the (slightly painful) exposition out of the way and can move on to more exciting things now. There’s a lot of potential here, but it’s hard to be properly excited by it when most of the episode is taken up by two dudes talking under a tree.

First Look: Conception

Karen:

There are a lot of worthy shows we have yet to write up this season, like Bloom into You and the surprisingly delightful Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny-Girl Senpai, but I just had to write about Conception immediately. It’s terrible, but it’s terrible in a way that’s just hilarious to me personally.

I guess you could say it’s “so bad it’s good,” except for a lot of people, I think it’s really just going to register as normal-bad. And that’s fine, but if I’m getting some enjoyment out of it, no matter how perverse, I gotta give it credit for that.

We start out with a bunch of oh-so-sexy female silhouettes, letting us know immediately what kind of show this is. But there’s something wrong with these illustrations; I can’t figure out what it is, but these women’s bodies look weird to me. Like everyone looks kind of sinewy and detailed in the wrong places. This isn’t the OP, is it? This better not be the OP. That would just be sad.

What is going on with this poor girl’s body? I think that’s supposed to be her butt in the foreground, but it looks more like her knees, doesn’t it? Maybe she’s a zombie and she can twist her pelvis a complete 180 degrees around? Curious.

We open with our protagonist, Itsuki, learning that his cousin (and close friend) Mahiru is pregnant. Who’s the father? No one, apparently; Mahiru just up and became pregnant, without ever having sex. See, this is where the show wastes a perfectly good plot, because I was so ready for her baby to be Jesus Mark Two, and then that doesn’t happen. I mean, think about it; imagine a normal high-school based anime, except the main girl is magically pregnant, and you don’t know if the baby is going to be Jesus 2.0 or the Antichrist? And all the other characters are trying to figure out whether or not her baby is going to bring about Armageddon based on her pregnancy symptoms? That could be a quality show. Alas, we are not so lucky.

Itsuki and Mahiru then get sucked into another world (update your “Number of Official Isekai shows this season” lists), then Mahiru basically vomits up a demon. We later learn that this is what Star Maidens do to clean out impurities in their systems; expel badly-animated monsters. I hope that if I expel a monster to purify my uterus someday, it looks cooler than a villain out of the 1980s My Little Pony cartoon.

This is the “monster.” Was the guy who normally does the lighting and shading out sick that day? Because the entire scene with this dude looks unfinished. Maybe it would be understandable if the show wanted to put the emphasis on the sex scenes, but seeing as how there are NO actual sex scenes….

Itsuki manifests a magic sword, because he is a magical hero sort of fellow, and vanquishes it. Some exposition later, we learn that this world relies upon visitors from other worlds to fight evil for them, for some reason. So Itsuki and Mahiru are the latest pair pulled from Earth to help fight the monsters of the labyrinth.

Wait a minute…if the monsters are in the labyrinth, can’t you just leave them there? Is it really necessary to fight them? I mean, I guess we have to assume that the monsters of the labyrinth will break out eventually if they aren’t dealt with, but we don’t know that; for all we know, there’s no need to fight these monsters at all and the Powers that Be just want something shiny at the bottom of the dungeon.

Itsuki flirts with a doctor examining him, who seems to reciprocate his feelings, and we get a lot of lewd camera angels of her. Of course,  if Itsuki and the doctor hooked up, that would just be regular, consensual sex without any morally reprehensible element of coercion, so of course this show wants nothing whatsoever to do with that.

To save this world (or fight the monsters in the labyrinth to get the shiny thing located in the chest on the bottom floor, who knows), Itsuki must impregnate 12 “Star Maidens,” of which his cousin Mahiru is one. The magical Star Children that result from these, err, encounters, will fight the monsters. Why can’t Itsuki just fight them off himself? He already has a magical sword, which is usually 95% of what you need to defeat JRPG monsters, so I’m a bit unclear if this whole baby factory is really necessary.

That aside, when Itsuki “impregnates” someone, that’s not really what happens; we’re told that the baby just “pops out,” presumably through a portal or something, so there’s no actual pregnancy and no process of childbirth. Damn, where do I sign up? I’d become a Star Maiden if it meant I could have another kid without going through all that nonsense again. Okay, so maybe I’m not a Holy Virgin or whatever (TMI?), but my Star Child would have many useful properties! Primarily, any child of mine is guaranteed to love the absolute fuck out of mindless dungeon-crawling, and if the game this show is based on is any indication, that’s something a hero in this universe is definitely going to need. Vote for Karen for Aries Star Maiden this November, I won’t let you down.

Anyway! These two cousins need to get it on, stat! And here’s where things start to get really hilariously awkward. The two of them are led to a bed, and Itsuki is wearing handcuffs because…why? It’s never explained, he’s just handcuffed for no reason. Then he tries to take off Mahiru’s halter top, but not only has he apparently never seen this item of clothing before, he seems to be unfamiliar with the concept of clothing in general. He seriously tries for like 10-20 seconds, with his handcuffed hands, to take off Mahiru’s top by pulling down on one of her little spaghetti straps, and this is when I started laughing out loud. Why doesn’t he just take the shirt off over her head? How did he get this old without knowing how shirts work?

I don’t think I can really explain just how bizarre and unsexy this is. This poor kid is being forced, essentially at gunpoint, to have sex with his cousin, except he’s handcuffed, has a fear of shirts, and both partners are being harassed by a horny stuffed animal who seems to have no role in the plot other than to recite sophomoric euphemisms for sex, non-stop. I mean, I’m sure one of the main criticisms this show is going to get is that it’s “really just porn,” or something like that, but I find it hard to believe that anyone is seriously aroused by this.

I mean, hey, I don’t judge: if you find this kind of thing really sexy, more power to you, I guess? But it’s about as intuitive as finding a scuba-diving giraffe sexy, it just doesn’t seem like it’s meant for that purpose.

So we don’t get to see the sex, because if there’s one thing you never get to see on one of these “really just porn” shows, it’s actual sexy times. Considering there’s 12 Star Maidens and 12 episodes to the season, it seems like a safe guess that each episode of this show will focus on Itsuki courting a different girl…except it isn’t really courting, because they have no choice in the matter. These girls have been raised from birth to create magic kids, so I’m not sure why there needs to be any preamble to the sex. Itsuki’s going to be like “It is time to make a Star Child,” and the girl will be like “Yes, time to do our duty to the Fatherland,” and then it will fade to black, for the sake of all the sex we’re not seeing, and will never get to see. What are they going to do with the other 23 minutes of the episode? It’s mysterious.

There really isn’t a good reason to recommend this show, but personally, I just have to see how they continue to make this allegedly fanservice-centered show the unsexiest thing in the universe. If this show were competent, there would be a place to discuss the disturbing implications of the coercive sex inherent in the premise, and so on and so forth. But this show is just too ridiculous for that; in order to be disturbed by it, you’d have to take it seriously for at least five seconds, and I don’t believe that’s possible.

This is actually supposed to be Itsuki’s crotch, we think, but whenever they zoom out, there’s no bulge and it just looks really weird. 

Lifesong:

When I think of Conception the first thing that comes to mind is now red boxers. I felt like half the episode was spent panning around the protagonist’s crotch. He’s stuck getting “examined” by some nurse, tied to a bed.

Why does the protagonist spend such a long time tied to a bed, you might ask? Well, they had to info-dump the dungeon crawling stuff somehow. Why not explain the how and why of magical baby-making with slow pans over a nurse leering at the dude’s package? There was even reciprocal leering! The protagonist leers at the nurse in her tight, form-fitting outfit while she leers at his red boxers. The whole thing reminded me of one of the bathing scenes from the Monogatari, only it wasn’t over-the-top enough to clue anyone in on the joke.

This first episode is funny. It’s funny because it’s awkward. It’s also lame, and lame because the storytelling is awful. It wants to be taken seriously, but doesn’t deserve any serious thought. I want to stress that those are two different things. It’s bad, but not because the comedy is failing. The storytelling is just super dumb; It’s the method more than the content. And on a certain level, that’s pretty damn impressive. I’m basically telling you that the storytelling is dumber than the premise.

I actually enjoyed this episode a good deal and I’d be lying if I said otherwise. I was laughing the entire time. I’ll almost certainly watch another episode or two. It’s so awkward it’s hilarious. It’s like a nerdy teenage who just hit puberty singing I’m Too Sexy completely off-key and expecting to be taken seriously.

As far as info dumps go I’ve seen worse than slow pans and service shots, but there was something special about the animation here. The magic was in the way the camera gets too close for anyone to actually be sure of what’s supposed to be on the screen. One more element to make the whole thing funnier than it should have been.

If I felt like this episode had been attempting comedy I’d be giving the staff two thumbs up…but I’m fairly certain it wasn’t. Some other elements like the protagonist forgetting how shirts work may have been intentionally awkward… I think they were going for sympathy with the protagonist’s I’m-about-to-get-laid panic, but it didn’t quite work. The mascot character was probably intended to be funny, but is actually the most cringe-worthy part of the whole episode.

I enjoyed Conception for all the wrong reasons. I remember enjoying the game Conception 2 back when it released– at least the first 10 hours or so, which is all I played of it. Now I’m wondering if that game’s story was equally dumb, or if this anime version of the franchise is just in a class all its own.

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.

Tomb Raider II, Level 6: Diving Area

From the title, Diving Area sounds like it should be a fun little level. Imagine Lara set loose in some kind of lush waterpark filled with swimming pools, indulging in some underwater treasure hunting whilst taking in some of that gorgeous tropical sunshine. But no, that is not the delicious digital feast that has been prepared for us.

Instead, we’re still stuck on the inside of this claustrophobic, ugly-as-sin oil rig, filled with toxic waste, and whenever we’re not busy running from room to room to push buttons that should really be in the same damn room, some asshole keeps sneaking up on Lara from behind and setting her on fire. There’s room for improvement here, is what I’m saying.

If I can’t have idyllic underwater treasure hunting, I guess two packs of grenades stuck behind a giant fan will have to do. Seriously, this is a well-hidden cache of grenades, there should have been a Jade Dragon here or something.

I did come dangerously close to having fun with this level, because it’s usually pretty clear where you need to go next, plus the platform elements are fun. The experience was spoiled a bit by too many enemies, especially the new flamethrower baddies, who are just unfair. However, there was nothing about this level as singularly tedious as the second half of Offshore Rig, so I’ll take what I can get.

Have You Thought About Renewable Energy Today?

Why is there a pool of toxic waste in the middle of the oil rig? Are they also mining Uranium from the sea floor or something? I wouldn’t put it past Bartoli, I bet that guy wants a dragon AND a gun that shoots nukes.

One thing that I never got around to talking about last level was the fact that Lara’s stuck on an oil rig. I may not like the look of the location, but it’s kind of interesting thematically. Oil is made up of fossils, creatures from the past– plants, animals, who knows what else– that we dredge up from the bottom of the sea and use for power. From a certain point of view, it’s a kind of an exploitation of the past, although a kind of exploitation that Lara herself is guilty of; after all, I don’t recall seeing any solar panels on the roof of Croft Manor.

Mostly, this area is just a pit stop to fit in a few more levels before we get to the sunken ship area, and I don’t think it was meant to serve any larger symbolic purpose. However, the fact that this whole area is associated with the Bartoli cult and all the evils they do (plus the fact that it’s just generally inhospitable towards Lara), gives a pretty negative view of using fossil fuels for energy, whether or not that was the intention. You get the impression that after this little adventure, Lara’s going to seriously consider building a wind farm somewhere on her property…possibly because, after the body count she wracks up on this rig, there won’t be anyone left to process the crude oil anyway.

Puzzle Puzzle, Turmoil and Buzzsaw

This level doesn’t boast particularly impressive puzzles, but it does have functional (and reasonably intuitive) ones. Too much of the level is spent going back and forth between two rooms, because God forbid you ever be able to solve a puzzle in the same room you started in, but let’s be honest: if that kind of gameplay bothers you, you wouldn’t be a fan of Tomb Raider in the first place.

What’s kind of a shame is that there are some things about this level that could be really cool, but don’t really go anywhere. At one point, a helicopter takes off in the middle of the level, but you can’t interact with it in any way, and you’re usually too busy in combat to even see it take off. You do get the opportunity to battle frogmen (and with the acquisition of the harpoon gun, you can even duke it out with them underwater if you want), but the harpoon gun isn’t fun to shoot. Most of the time, even after you have an underwater weapon, you’re still better off picking off the frogmen from solid ground. There’s a giant, spinning buzzsaw on the floor, but you never get the opportunity to shove any enemies into it. C’mon Core, throw me a bone here.

The fact that Lara can’t reach this keycard without getting shredded by the buzzsaw is an amazingly frustrating little tidbit. It’s the fact that it looks like you should be able to just pick the damn thing up without touching the blade that does it.

A note on a particular puzzle: the burner hall puzzle, the one where you can get the M16 if you know where to look for it. I swear I remember from years ago that I could hit one switch (turning off the first burner) then do a side-jump and hit the other one, allowing me to run down the hall, retrieve the circuit board, and make it back with plenty of time. This time around, whenever I tried to make Lara do a side-jump in this area, she kept hitting the ceiling and refused to jump; while I didn’t have a huge problem with it, this made the timing a lot less forgiving. Is this a difference between the Playstation and PC versions perhaps? It’s not important, but it bothers me because I have pretty vivid memories of solving the puzzle one way and it didn’t work this time.

Can you imagine if this fire extinguisher was actually functional, instead of just being there to mock you? Granted, Lara would die from being on fire before you could make it to the other side of the room to use it, but let’s not sweat the details here.

The Unbearable Cheapness of Flame Dudes

I don’t have a screenshot of a flamethrower, since I was always busy shooting like crazy whenever they were on screen, but I admit that was an oversight. So instead of the picture of the Big Bad Flamethrower guy I should have right here, enjoy this screenshot of Lara about to jump on a crane.

The idea that any death in Tomb Raider is “cheap” might seem a little silly. The whole franchise is based on traps that kill you instantly, not to mention a million other ways for our heroine to meet her demise. Unless you’re a serious fan and have the level memorized, you expect to see Lara die a whole bunch of times during any given level, and that’s not cheap; that’s just the type of game it is. That said, I still think the Flamethrower baddies are cheap, and overall a bad idea.

With most traps, no matter how deadly,  you can see them if you look out for them, and plan how to pass through them unharmed. In contrast, unless you know where all of them are in advance, the Flamethrower-toting baddies can just come out of nowhere and flame you, and then it’s Game Over. It’s okay to get a Game Over when you know you made a mistake and how to fix it, not so much when it feels like there was nothing you could have done differently.

This could be easily rectified too, since the amount of water on these levels could provide an easy out. If Lara can get lit on fire, she should be able to jump in the water and recover (like in The Dragon’s Lair), and then you at least have a fighting chance. Yet somehow, despite all the pools of water on this level, you often fight the Flamethrower dudes with no H20 in sight. To me, this creates additional difficulty for all the wrong reasons.

Bizarre Cutscene Theater: The Monk

When you complete Diving Area, you’re rewarded with one of Tomb Raider II‘s incredibly bizarre, disjointed cutscenes. A monk who has been trying to stop Bartoli thinks that Lara is a spirit guide sent to send him into his next life, and rambles on about that a little bit. Now, Lara doesn’t look like my idea of a Buddhist Spirit Guide, but to be fair, the dude has been tortured and lost a lot of blood. He is lucid enough to tell Lara about the Seraph, the key that Bartoli needs for the next stage of his plans. Bartoli, lurking on the perimeter, shoots the monk before he can give Lara any more information.

Now I know what you’re thinking; why didn’t he shoot Lara first? He had the drop on her, and she’s way more dangerous to him than an unarmed, delirious monk. I will repeat what I’ve said before; Bartoli passes up obvious opportunities to kill Lara because he wants to save her to play the Maiden to his Dragon. Like, what’s the point of even being a dragon if you can’t have your minions tie a woman to a stake and threaten to eat her? There is none.

But all of that is of lesser importance, because look at this:

YEAH I GOT THE WETSUIT! MY FIRST NEW OUTFIT IN TRII! I’M BLOWING THIS POPSICLE STAND!!!!!!

In perhaps the riskiest plan she has ever tried, which is saying something, Lara glomms onto a minisub that’s heading toward the bottom of the sea. For all Lara knows the sub could take an hour to get there and she would die from lack of oxygen long before reaching her destination, but the promise of pocketing artifact that both narcissistic Italian mobsters and delusional Tibetan Monks revere is just too much temptation to resist.

I’m still getting all the secrets. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep this up.

Best: When you finally drop down through the central hub and gain access to the whole level, it’s very satisfying. There’s a nice “aha!” moment when you realize how everything fits together.

Worst: The darn flamethrowers. They tempt you to save every five seconds, just in case you get immolated from behind around the next corner.

Rating: Two Uzi Clips Out of Five. Still brought down by too much combat and less-than-inspiring environs, but there’s some fun to be had solving a lot of small puzzles, so it earns an extra clip over Offshore Rig.

Next Up: 40 Fathoms, because there’s nothing that says “fun!” like suffocating to death a whole bunch of times before the level even properly starts.

Tomb Raider II, Level 5: Offshore Rig

Lara starts off the next major chunk of Tomb Raider II without her weapons, yet mysteriously unharmed. Given that Bartoli is really not a very nice guy, one has to wonder why he lets Lara live. Yes, I know if he didn’t, there would be no game, but let’s try to use in-game logic here: Why didn’t he just kill her while she was unconscious?  She’s already killed about 80 of his henchman (and maybe 30 of his dogs), so you’d think he’d want some revenge.

My guess is that he was planning to wait until he was a dragon and then kill her with his fire breath, because that would be a nice, theatrical use of his new powers. Either that, or the Fiamma Nera payroll was starting to get a bit unmanageable, and Lara actually did him a service by weeding out under-performing cultists. Maybe he was thinking of offering a her a job as his body guard, which would be the smartest thing he could do, but Lara busts out of her cell before the B-man can broker a truce, and now we’ll never know.

And So My Troubles Begin

This burner trap looks really threatening at first, but the solution is incredibly simple and kind of lame.

I really don’t like this level set in general. It has it’s moments, but in general it feels like your regular Tomb Raider session has been interrupted by Metal Gear Solid. You would think putting TR and MGS together would lead to good gameplay, but alas, no. It’s the sterile, industrial environments of MGS without the stealth and intrigue of that series, and the occasional plodding tedium of TR without any of the grandeur and atmospheric magic. Things do pick up a bit once we get to the sunken ocean liner, but we’re not there yet.

And argh, the color-coded keycards. Any Tomb Raider level that has Lara collecting key cards instead of ornate keys or ancient sculptures is automatically suspect.

I tried to enjoy this level, really I did, but it’s full of so many things that are just a pain. In theory, it’s clever that you need to manipulate your armed opponents into shooting out the windows for you so you can progress in the level, but in practice, you’re standing there, waiting to be shot, then getting shot. Not fun.

And getting sucked into the underwater fan about 20 times before you realize you have no need to go over there, ever; not fun.

And climbing lots of ladders. Not fun.

And getting shot by frogmen with harpoons, only to pull up on dry land and nail those froggy bastards with your pistols…okay, I admit, that part is a little fun. The point still stands.

Please sir, can I have the windows shot out? I would be so very grateful!

The Rig that Never Ends

This level isn’t very large at all compared to some of the ones we get later in the game, but it just feels too long. I think after Opera House, I wanted a quick, refreshing little level to get me used to the new environs while I recollected my arsenal of weapons. Instead, by the time you get to the giant, water-filled room with tons of precarious cat walks, it’s like “you’ve got to be kidding me.”

I’m tempted to chalk it up to pacing, except I don’t really understand pacing very well. People will talk about “pacing issues” in books or film, and I’m often not sure I know quite what they mean. Everyone has a different intuitive sense of how things should be paced, so calling something “poor pacing,” as if that’s the kind of thing that can be quantitatively measured, just seems kind of iffy to me. That said, I wonder if my overall dislike of this level can be summed up as poor pacing; there are parts of it I like, but those parts tend to be incredibly short.

Running on top of the seaplane is cool. It’s a shame there isn’t more to do here.

I made things worse for myself by missing the exit of the water room, so I ended up navigating the catwalks about 3-4 times, completely; that’s not the game’s fault, and should probably be chalked up to me being dense sometimes. But still, it happened, and it’s partially Offshore Rig’s fault.

I hate this room. Granted, it’s nice of them to put a pool of water under you so Lara doesn’t die when you fall, but in some ways that just prolongs the agony.

Just when you think you never have to hear that stupid alarm again, you pick up this keycard and it goes off all over again. Goddammit.

At least the combat isn’t too bad. There are a lot of foes that you can take out from afar with your little plinky-plink guns, and I appreciate that sort of thing. No matter the level, conserving ammo for my big guns makes my stingy heart proud.

Yeah, I took a long time on this level. I spent a stupid amount of time playing with the underwater switch that leads to the Jade Dragon thinking it was critical to my progression or something (it’s not).

Best: Jumping around on the plane en route to get your pistols, then experiencing the euphoria of being armed again once you find them. I swear, you can almost hear a chorus of angels singing.

Worst: Uh, everything else? If I have to pick, I guess navigating the catwalks above the huge, water-filled room. It’s a good idea, but it just goes on way too darn long. Add in the fact that you end up traversing it a lot looking for the exit to the room, and it’s just annoying.

Rating: 1 out of 5 Uzi Clips. You’re supposed to start out hating this level, then feel awesome once you get your pistols back; unfortunately, the pistols only make me happy for about two minutes, and then I go back to hating the entire level. I’m sorry, Offshore Rig fans.

Next: Diving Area. Just give me my goddamned wetsuit already and let’s get this over with.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode 12

In the final episode, we learn that LLENN is an evil genius who’s just been hiding it well this whole time. The fact that she knew that mocking Sword Art Online was perhaps the one way to really push Pito’s buttons and get her to lose her cool shows just how good she is at manipulating people when she wants to. We can only hope that she continues to use her powers for good instead of evil, and the devastating loss of the second P-chan doesn’t drive her to a life of crime.

Just like the Elder Wand will not kill it’s owner, P-Chan II will self-destruct before shooting LLENN. Oh God, I just made a Harry Potter reference, please let this be a one-time thing.

I like the fact that the final battle was relatively short, giving the story lots of time to wrap up outside the game. There was one thing I didn’t understand: why did M bother to take Fuka hostage instead of killing her? I know he wanted Pito to lose, so he could have kept Fuka alive to support LLENN (which is ultimately what happened, of course), but that gives away the game to Pito. Yet when Pito shoots him as a traitor, she does so for other reasons, not because he left one of their enemies alive for no apparent reason. It’s just a little off.

Pito thought she had prepared well, but LLENN knew her one weakness; she had no defense against vampire munchkins.

I’m just going to choose to think that M’s reasoning was “Fuka is too awesome to kill,” in which case I must wholeheartedly agree with him. In this episode, we get to see more of Miyu, the player behind Fuka, and naturally, she’s great in meatspace as well. I know M has this all-consuming, twisted love for Pito, and nothing can change that, but there’s a sick little part of me that wanted him to drop Pito like a hot potato once Miyu started hitting on him.

Goushi: “Thank you for your sexual interest in me, but I only like crazy bitches.”

Miyu: “Have you SEEN me play GGO?”

Goushi: “Holy FUCK you’re right, you are everything I’ve ever dreamed of, you barely-restrained psychopath.”

In any case, I love how brutal the final battle is; it needed to be, or else Pito wouldn’t have believed that she had met her match in LLENN. As I predicted last time (not like it was hard to see), the other team comes in from offscreen and grabs the win at the last second, but do you really think they enjoyed it? You just know that no one discussing the second Squad Jam is going to talk about the winners at all; they’ll be talking about Pito, LLENN, Fuka, and those intense Amazon women.


“We won, but…it feels so hollow…*sniffles*”

I’ll admit, they had me for a fraction of a second; when they introduced the club owner as “Pito,” I actually thought, very briefly, that she really was Pito and all of the hints that Pito was really Elsa Kanzaki were false leads. Of course, the Karen on the show is smarter than this Karen sitting right here, and knew immediately who the real Pito was. I’m telling you: evil genius. Do we know what field Karen is studying in college? If it’s political science, the world is doomed to fall under the thumb of her adorable hegemony.

Hello, cute little girl. I bet Elsa’s rage comes from the fact that she’s saddled with an acoustic guitar; if she was allowed to shred with an electric guitar in a proper band, getting all that aggression out, this whole nasty business could have been avoided. Death Metal saves lives.

At first I thought it was a little convenient that Elsa’s obsession with death was “cured” by one battle with LLENN, but I think I get it now; the fact that there’s a player out there who can match her, and there may be others that she’s not even aware of yet, keeps life interesting enough that killing herself has lost its appeal. I think Elsa is just naturally talented at most things she tries, and she was getting really bored of a life with no challenge. The fact that LLENN can kick her ass was a revelation to her. I fear for what would happen if Elsa met Kirito; she’d probably become crazy-obsessed with him, and then everyone would bitch that the show was all about Kirito again.

Despite her evil genius, LLENN lacks the self-awareness to realize that she’s as feared in-game now as Pito is, and that’s comforting; we should all fear the day when LLENN becomes truly aware of what she is and what she can do. For now, she’s satisfied to run around shooting people with a deranged pop singer in the virtual world of GGO, and that’s a good time for everyone.

Onward, to another gratuitously violent adventure!

This show surpassed my expectations by just being really solid and fun all the way through. There was some food for thought, which I wrote about earlier in the season, but overall, this was a good rippin’ yarn with characters you liked rooting for and action that kept you on your toes. When mainline Sword Art Online returns this fall, it’s going to have some mighty big shoes to fill; well, technically, tiny little pink munchkin-shoes, but you get the idea.

Tomb Raider II, Level 3: Bartoli’s Hideout

A Note on Format

Oh TR fans, you have no idea what I’ve been through to bring you this post. What follows is a sordid tale of technical woe; if you don’t care about that and just want to read about the level (which is understandable), please skip to the next section.

As much as I appreciate being allowed to use Katie’s excellent screen shots, I decided it was time to buckle down and take my own. Sadly, the Playstation Vita doesn’t allow you to take screenshots of non-Vita games (why?), so I had to change systems. I bought Tomb Raider II for the PC, thinking this would make life easier; oh, how wrong I was.

First, I needed to set up a controller. I’ve never been a PC gamer, and the chances of my actually completing TRII with keyboard controls were about nil. Fortunately, we already had a Steam controller, except I couldn’t get the buttons to map right. If you’re using the Steam Overlay (which gives you access to general Steam features no matter what game you’re playing, and is on by default), the action button is reserved for Steam functions, so I couldn’t use it to have Lara grab and fire her weapons. Obviously, I was not going to fight about 20 years worth of muscle memory with a different button configuration, so I had to turn off Steam Overlay, then I was able to map the buttons to the classic Playstation configuration. Except, without the Steam Overlay, I lost the ability to take screenshots within Steam; more on this later.

I was doing okay with the Steam controller, until the lack of a dpad became a problem. Lara just kept getting stuck in corners, and the analog stick liked making her turn in circles instead of setting up for a running jump. So I had to get a separate USB controller, with a dpad…which would have been great, except the game didn’t know that the dpad was there. Eventually my husband resorted to what I can only assume was evil sorcery to get the game to realize that the dpad exists in this reality, and play resumed as normal. Except pressing “s” to take a screenshot, a feature of TRII, wasn’t working for some reason (no idea why), so I had to resume my general method of taking screenshots on this machine.

This wouldn’t be a big deal, except I happen to be running Windows via Bootcamp on a Macbook, so my screenshot command is the somewhat arduous shift+alt+F11. Three buttons, which makes it impossible to take a screenshot with one hand on the controller. This means that when I want to take a screenshot while holding the look button (or any other button), I have to keep one hand on the controller, one hand pushing shift+alt, and use my big toe to push F11. Most of the screenshots in this post were taken in this manner.

If you put aside the fact that I still need to do a gymnastics move worthy of Lara herself to take a screenshot, I have a workable system now, but uh…is it just me, or was this all a helluva lot harder than it should have been? It feels like I’ve taken all the frustration and tedium inherent in the early games of this series and tripled it, all in a uniquely personal way. For a moment during this whole process, I believe I began to hate Steam, Tomb Raider, and even Lara herself, but that’s all passed now. I think. Probably. Mostly I just hate the Steam controller. But hey, I can take screenshots now, as long as I don’t pull a muscle in my thigh!

Thank you to those of you who have joined me for this sad tale of trying to play old video games in 2018; we now return to your regularly scheduled level write-up.

Raiding the Clubhouse

Ironically, considering everything I went through to take screenshots, there wasn’t much in this level that I wanted to take a picture of. Venice is a much prettier level, and a more iconic one t’boot, but I find this one more fun to play. We’re inside Marco Bartoli’s personal stronghold, so the “where are all the civilians?” concern no longer applies; besides, we see more than enough muscular henchman for the area to feel populated. The only really strong, memorable idea in the level is the chandelier-hopping sequence, but somehow, even when you’re solving typical, bread-and-butter Tomb Raider puzzles, there’s something appealing about this level to me.

Despite my enjoyment of this level, I think this might here might be the dumbest looking trap in all of  the Tomb Raider games. These sword-swinging robots just look totally out of place in Bartoli’s mansion. Makes me feel extra-stupid when I time it wrong and get Lara cut in half by one of them.

Maybe it’s because the difficulty balance finally feels right– we may still be fighting a ton of gun-toting baddies, but it’s a lot easier to take them on in this terrain than in the watery canals of Venice. I think TRII starts out a bit too hard, and this level is where the difficulty eases up a bit and allows you to get your bearings. The level also strikes a good balance of giving you decent-sized areas to explore at your own pace, while still having linear parts to move things along briskly.

When I first played this game as a teen I didn’t realize that you could totally bypass these blade traps by jumping into the water; now it seems very obvious. I hate this burner trap though, it’s like a redux of the Palace Midas burner trap only with no grandeur.

There’s also something kind of fun about knowing that you’re in Bartoli’s house, jumping on his furniture and taking his stuff. It’s like the guy posted a “No girls Allowed in Treehouse!” sign on his front door, and Lara just ripped it off and went through without a care in the world.

Library Raider

This game has a pretty sparse script, so we don’t get to learn a whole lot about Bartoli; we probably learn more about him from exploring his home in this one level than anywhere else in the game. I know he’s a crazy, power-hungry cultist dude who just wants to become a dragon, but I’m beginning to think the guy might have hidden depths; no one who has such an awesome library can possibly be all bad.

The whole sequence of climbing up library shelves, shooting out windows, frolicking in the garden and canal outside, then going back into the library to solve more puzzles is an example of the kind of thing that this game does really well; putting several different types of surroundings adjacent to each other, and letting you jump around between them before any of them have a chance to wear out their welcome. All of the TR games do that to an extent, but when TRII is firing on all cylinders, it’s really good at making you leave and reenter the same space about 40 times without even minding that you’re doing it.

At one point I screwed up the resolution and went to widescreen, making Lara look like she just gained 50 pounds. Lara dear, I know those Italian pastries are delicious, but please put down the cannoli! We have work to do.

There’s one thing I want to call attention to here, something that I’ve never understood: the uzis hidden in a pool of water towards the end of the level. Why is this not a secret? Like, you should pick up a dragon, hear a little “ding!” sound and then get the uzis, but no, they’re just there, lying on the ground, as if this is a totally normal pickup. Then when you get the actual Jade Dragon, all you get is shotgun shells or whatever. It’s like the uzis are openly mocking the entire concept of secrets, and I’m not sure how to feel about this. Respect the sanctity of the secret, developers.

One more thing: you know that last enemy, the guy who shoots you from the balcony right after you blow up part of Bartoli’s house? I think he owes us a pickup, at least some automatic pistol ammo or something, and it’s morally wrong that he doesn’t give you anything. Seriously, I shimmied all the way over to that dumb balcony for nothing? Lame.

I feel bad that I wasted a small medi-pack, but there are just too many of those gun-toting guys in the library and I haven’t memorized all the secret ways you can ambush them without taking damage yet. Hopefully I can get through Opera House without using every single medipack I have.

Best: The entire ballroom area, jumping from chandeliers and all. Obviously I’m keen on the library too, but the library is infested with an annoying amount of enemies; the ballroom has just enough opposition to keep you on your toes, but you can primarily focus on solving the puzzle. See, if they made the game nowadays they would probably make the chandeliers swing and stuff in accordance with the laws of physics, but I actually like it better this way.

Worst: That stupid burner trap. I know it’s actually quite easy if you know how you’re supposed to do it, but it plays on the seasoned TR-player’s desire to turn everything into a running jump, and that’s just not cool. Plus it’s just kind of plopped randomly in the middle of the level and doesn’t have a good reason for being there, as opposed to the similar fire trap in Palace Midas.

This is why no one comes to nice parties at your house, Marco. Because you have a fire hazard right in front of your ballroom.

Rating: Three Uzi Clips out of Five

A fun level to play, but it lacks the big ideas and beautiful views of the best Tomb Raider levels, landing it somewhere in the middle.

Up Next: Opera House

So named because completing this level always takes me longer than an entire opera, complete with Valkyries.

Summer 2018 Anime Season Preview

While last season was absolutely loaded with big-name franchises, this one only has a few; most of the shows listed here are new to anime. Because of that, anime fans seem a lot less excited for this season than they were in the spring, and maybe they’re right to be? I think a lot of people are secretly hoping for a severely sub-par anime season, so they won’t be watching much and can devote the time to catching up on their anime backlog.

You know what though? It’s never going to happen. Even if this season is horrible, I just don’t believe anyone is going to get around to finally sitting down to watch Tatami Galaxy, or the second season of Arakawa Under the Bridge. It’s probably just as well; I hear tell that if you ever finish watching everything in your anime backlog, you get transferred to another world with nothing but your smartphone and a box of Strawberry Pocky, and who needs that? I wouldn’t be caught dead in another world without Almond Crush Pocky.

I’ve used English names where appropriate; in most cases, these shows haven’t been licensed yet and do not have official English titles.

Attack on Titan, Season 3

The biggest name of the season, and consequently the show it would make the most sense to cover here at Otakusphere. Unfortunately, I jumped ship on AoT somewhere in the middle of season 2; I respect a lot of the things that it does, but I just don’t enjoy it anymore. When a story has a tone of not just darkness, but the kind of oppressive bleakness that AoT has, I think it benefits from being concise. This story has gotten dragged out past my capacity to care about this particular world.

If you’re psyched for the return of the show, hey, more power to you; I wish I could be on the same page. But unless I hear that the Survey Corps found a beautiful, Titan-free Utopian city with infinite food, where Eren and Mikasa can get some much-deserved chill time, I’m not watching this.

Free!-Dive to the Future (Season 3)

Yaay, a returning third season of a show that I’m actually up to date on!  This doesn’t happen often. Free! is really the perfect summer show. You could say it’s all pretty visuals and light on substance, but considering what a refreshing take on masculinity the show often displays, that may not even be true. What I particularly love about this show is that it makes me get off my ass and go swimming…like, I’ll be sitting around the house, about to be lazy all day, then I’ll think of how beautiful the water always looks in Free! and actually go outside. I don’t know if it’s even possible to watch Free! without jumping into the nearest pool immediately afterwards.

The thing is, much as I love it, it’d be a pretty boring show to cover episodically…unless I go to town commenting on the manservice. Then I’ll feel like a dirty old lady, but is that such a horrible thing? Is the anime blogosphere even ready for Dirty Old Lady coverage of Free!? Probably not! But now that the idea has occurred to me, I don’t think I can resist.

Everyone who isn’t a fujoshi, go hide. Find the deepest, darkest cave you can find, and hibernate. Make like Green Day and only Wake Up When September Ends, you don’t want to have to see this.

Gintama: Silver Soul Arc, Season 2

I mention Gintama out of a sense of obligation, because it’s a very major franchise that must have a whole lot of fans. However, it’s one of few big shounen franchises that I have no familiarity with whatsoever. I may not have seen every episode of Naruto, Bleach or One Piece, but I’ve seen a bunch; Gintama, not even one episode. Furthermore, I don’t even remember talking to another fan who was into Gintama. It’s always been weirdly invisible to me.

This anime has been airing in different forms since 2005, so it’s not like I’m going to catch up between now and the start of the season. But I feel a sense of what I can only call Gintama Guilt; as an aniblogger, I should at least know what this show is. Maybe I’ll just watch the first episode of this season and then try to make sense of it. I’ll be like those movie reviewers who went to see Avengers: Infinity War and then complained that it made no sense because they hadn’t seen the previous 15 movies…only in a funny, self-aware sort of way? Maybe this is a bad idea.

Overlord, Season 3

This series is a member of the elite club of “Wilson’s shows,” AKA shows my husband will sometimes watch on Saturday morning while I’m still asleep. So I’m not that familiar with it, but I have woken up in the middle of it, and let me tell you: that’s disorienting. Plus, whenever the main dude says his own name, I always think he’s saying “Own goal” and for some reason find that hilarious.

This is another one I won’t be watching– well, I’ll probably see like 5-10 minutes of random episodes while I’m semi-comatose on the couch before coffee, but that doesn’t really count. I do think it’s worth noting that in a season swamped with isekai shows, Overlord stands out as having a clear identity; there just aren’t that many shows where the skull-headed leader spends half of every episode lecturing his legions of minions on the day’s agenda.

Marvel Future Avengers, Season 2

Buh, what? Before putting pen to paper to write this season preview, I had no idea Marvel Future Avengers existed period, let alone that it was returning. Apparently it’s a kids show that hasn’t been too well-received. I wonder: does it deserve all the bad ratings it’s gotten, or is it getting slammed in the reviews because a bunch of adult Marvel fans are trying to enjoy something aimed at 6-year-olds? No idea.

Thinking back to how the X-Men anime turned out, it seems like these Marvel-to-anime productions never go that well. I guess this might have some use if you’re still hyped from Infinity War and need to get your Captain America fix from something…or if you’re six years old. Do I have many six-year-old readers? Kiddos, if you’re out there, please do not read my upcoming posts on Free! S3, okay? Kindly avert your innocent eyes.

Banana Fish

This manga is an institution. I remember hearing about it as far back as the ’90s, although I never got around to reading it. Looking at the description, it really doesn’t look like my cup of tea, but…I kind of want to try it anyway. I think I’ve always been subliminally impressed at how cool “Banana Fish” sounds when you say it out loud; it’s euphonic.

Stories about ruthless teen-aged killers and their evil mob bosses usually don’t hold my attention for too long, but you never know; it all depends on how the story is told. Maybe there’s a good reason I’ve been hearing about Banana Fish for decades now; time to find out.

How NOT to Summon A Demon Lord

One of the aforementioned flood of Isekai shows hitting this summer, this one sounds pretty typical. I’m pretty sure we have a few light novels for this series, but I haven’t read them yet. I could actually read them, then talk about what changes they’ll make to the anime adaptation like a knowledgeable person, but let’s be honest: that’s not going to happen.

The premise involves an awkward gamer guy enslaving (albeit accidentally) two hot girls, so expect the usual suspects to be freaked out by the fact that male fantasies exist. I’ll give it an episode; it’s certainly not being made with me in mind, but it at least has the potential to be funny. If it’s not bringing the humor though, I can’t see why I’d continue. I guess it’s possible that it could have an incredibly interesting fantasy world or something, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Back Street Girls

I usually don’t do this, but this is one time where I think the capsule description should be included in its entirety:

A group of 3 yakuza failed their boss for the last time. After messing up an important job, the boss gave them 2 choices: Honorably committing suicide, or go to Thailand to get a sex reassignment surgery in order to become “female” idols. After a gruesome year long training to become idols, they successfully debut, with overwhelming popularity, much to their dismay. This is where their tragedy truly begins.

…Uh….

….where to start here….

It’s like you rubbed a magic lamp and said “Genie, please give me more representation of trans people in anime!” only to find out too late that this wasn’t a friendly, Disney-style genie; no, this was a true djinn, a proud and vengeful creature of fire and air that has existed since before the beginning of time, slumbering for strange eons, and now it’s insanely pissed at you for waking it up. So it grants your wish, but only in a way that’s more painful than killing you outright; that’s the only explanation for how this show exists.

It’s theoretically possible that this could plumb some interesting gender-bending territory, but most of the people who would be really interested in that sort of thing will probably be so put off by the premise that they won’t stick around long enough to find out. See, now I’m not sure if I want this to be good or if I want it to be terrible; defending a seemingly offensive show that actually has some redeeming value is my typical MO, but it this case….maybe it would be better if it was just God-awful from the getgo, and I never had to think about it again.

I have to try an episode of it though, because…because I just have to. Because otherwise, I’ll never believe that this was a real anime. What kind of whacked-out, fringe studio thought this would be a good adaptation to add to their catalog? It’s got to be some obscure, no-name, little…oh…oh, I see….

It’s J.C. Staff.

That makes a warped kind of sense, actually. J.C. Staff’s output is like a box of chocolates; a box of delicious chocolates that occasionally includes a sheep’s eyeball, for no reason.

Hyakuren no Haou to Seiyaku no Valkyria

One of the aforementioned torrent of isekai shows hitting this season, this one involves a guy who uses his “solar-powered smart phone” to help his allies. Geez, was In Another World with My Smartphone really that popular? Or just a harbinger of things to come?

This fantasy world appears to be Norse-flavored, so we’ll see if dipping into that rich mythology is enough to make this show stand out from the pack. The only anime that comes to mind that’s done a really good job with Norse mythology is Oh! My Goddess, which is a different genre entirely, so maybe there’s some room for them to do something new here.

Huh, now that I wrote that, now I’m sure there are probably about 30 famous anime that are heavily based on Norse mythology, and I’m just forgetting them all at the moment. If you know of any, remind me in the comments; I’ll feel stupid, but you’ll be spreading valuable knowledge.

Shichisei no Subaru

One of the absolute tsunami of isekai shows hitting this summer, except…I think this one may take place entirely in an MMO, without the MMO becoming “real,” so does that even count as an isekai show anymore? Who makes these rules?

Apparently it deals with someone who died in real life but still exists in the game, and I’m having serious .hack flashbacks. Hey, remember .hack//SIGN? Twenty-six episodes of characters saying “How is it that Tsukasa can’t log out?”, “What do YOU think of Tsukasa?”, “Is Tsukasa alive in the real world?”, “Are you waiting for Tsukasa?” “What does Tsukasa think about the fact that he can’t log out?”, oh my God, it was excruciating. But we all watched it for that gorgeous Yuki Kajiura score, didn’t we? Pretty sure Subaru doesn’t have that going for it.

I’ll give this a shot, although to be honest, I can’t be sure if I’m hoping it’s something like a new .hack or dreading it; like, I don’t want to go through another .hack//SIGN experience, but I kind of feel like it’s something we need every once in a while, like an annual physical or something? It’s hard to explain. I’m just going to have to try to get past the fact that every time someone says “Subaru,” I’m immediately going to think “Emilia-tan! Emilia-tan!”

For those not in the know, that last bit was an in-joke about the anime Re:Zero; yes, while talking about anime, I make dumb jokes about different anime. Because I feel the need to show off that I watch a lot of anime; just having this blog is somehow not enough.

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger

Vampires and werewolves fight each other in the 1930s; this could be fun. However, it’s being done by PA Works, which I do not associate with this kind of material. In fact, even though they just did Uma Musume and that should be my new association, I will always associate this studio with Hanasaku Iroha, a show that was as interesting as watching individual blades of grass grow. Like, they were beautiful pieces of grass, filled with morning dew and reflecting the sunshine and all, but you were still sitting there, watching grass grow.

It would be entertaining if PA Works applied that kind of languid pacing to supernatural creatures beating the tar out of each other, but they probably won’t; it’ll probably be paced appropriately, but just not that exciting. The best thing for this show would be if the vampires turned out to be crazy-ass Hellsing-type vampires, but then it would be so firmly in the horror camp that I wouldn’t want to watch it, so uh…yeah. Probably not one for me, but there’s potential here, at least.

Happy Sugar Life

LB called my attention to this one a few weeks ago, and I’ve been mildly afraid of it ever since. It’s about a teenaged girl who will do anything to protect her (underaged) love interest, including murder. These kinds of stories just don’t appeal to me, and I’m not entirely sure why.

I could say they make me uncomfortable, but it’s not like I’ve ever had an experience in real life that would give me a basis for being any more uncomfortable with this than any other story with a dark edge to it. I could say that I don’t like it because one of the lovers is underage, but a)age tends to be really arbitrary in anime anyway and b)the two girls may not even have sex, or get anywhere near having sex, so I’m not losing any sleep over that.

Basically the only thing that’s of interest to me about this show is the use of the phrase “Happy Sugar Life,” which should win some kind of prize for Most Ironic Title of Summer 2018: Ezo’la, I may not enjoy your show, but as a fan of smart-ass titles, I salute you.

Grand Blue

Remember how I said I was happy to be done with Amanchu!? Apparently I’m not really done with Amanchu!, because this show sounds exactly like a gender-swapped Amanchu!; a scuba diving show featuring a boy who hangs out around his family’s eponymous, diving-based business.

It’s possible this show will hash out it’s own identity, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid that instead of bitching every week that Pikari and Teko aren’t going scuba diving often enough, I’m instead going to be bitching that this kid and his buddies aren’t going scuba diving often enough, and I don’t want to be that person; I don’t want to be the girl always complaining that an anime isn’t doing exactly what she wants. But, gosh-darnit, is it so much to ask for a show about scuba diving to heavily feature scuba diving? IS IT?

In any case, I’m going to do my best to put thoughts of other shows out of my head when I watch this and give Grand Blue a chance to prove itself. Plus, on another level I’m kind of happy there’s going to be another ocean-centric show; just like FREE!, this kind of stuff really belongs in the summer season, after all. But God help me, if they start pulling any magical realism shit mid-season, I’m going to be pissed.

Harakuna Receive

Another summery show, this one focuses on beach volleyball. Typically you would guess that this show would be full of fanservice, via tons of bathing-suit clad babes and convenient camera angles, but I wonder; that’s not a given these days. Lately these shows about female athletes seem to focus on the athletics more seriously than you would expect. How much fan service was there in Uma Musume? Scorching Ping Pong Girls? Keijo!!!!!!!!?…okay, forget Keijo for a second, but still. There’s definitely a trend of some shows being more subtle with the fanservice and leaving the “lewding” to the doujinshi, and I’m wondering if Harakuna Receive will be one of those.

See, now that I’ve said that, this show will probably be 99% bouncing boobs and I’ll feel like an idiot for suggesting otherwise. Still, if it’s all boobs I won’t watch it, but people who enjoy boob anime will have one show they’re into this summer, so it’s all good. I’ll give this a chance to see if they’re going to take the volleyball angle seriously, but I won’t be terribly disappointed if they don’t.

Hanebado!

Another girls’ sports anime, this one about badminton. You know, a few years ago I would have passed over this without a second glance, but now I’m looking forward to it. If Scorching Ping Pong Girls could make ping pong exciting for me, when I have no interest in it, this show can probably do the same thing for badminton.

Come to think of it, whether or not I care about the real-life sport seems to have no bearing on how much I like a sports anime. I couldn’t possibly care less about football, but Eyeshield 21 is one of my favorite series of all time. Hmm, now that I’ve made that connection, I’m kind of hoping Hanebado! will turn out to chronicle the adventures of a girls’s badminton team managed by Satan, but I’ll probably have to settle for a non-hellspawn team. I’ll manage, somehow.

Cells At Work!

Of all the things to anthropomorphize, now red and white blood cells are getting a cuteness makeover. It’s a clever premise, but I feel like it might be unhealthy for me to watch this show; I’ll over-identify with all the different cellular organelles and it’ll start seeping into my daily life.

“Wow, I feel so energetic today, thank you Mitochondria-chan! I’d better eat a good breakfast to keep White Blood Cell-kun strong!” No thanks, I have enough problems overthinking my biology as it is. I approve of the fact that this show is being made in a general sense, because it’s different, but I’m not watching.

Aguu: Tensai Ningyou

This is going to be a dancing anime, which is cool; we don’t get a lot of those. I haven’t seen Welcome to the Ballroom yet, but supposedly that’s basically a shonen sports anime with dancing, so Aguu: Tensai Ningyou may be more artistic. However, instead of just being about dancing, it’s also about little palm-sized spirits and some kind of civil war going on between them: the war between the “Seamstresses” who somehow create these little spirits, and the “Saviors” who…fight them? Dance the tango with them? It’s all a little vague.

I keep thinking about the fact that “seamstress” used to be a codeword for “prostitute,” and I should really put that out of my mind, because that slang hasn’t been used in like 100 years, but I can’t help it. Now I’m imagining all sorts of things that likely have no relevance to this show, and it’s making it hard to focus. I definitely want to give this show a try, but I really have no idea what to expect. If it seems like the anime is inspired Black Swan, it will trigger my deep-seated fear of all things related to Natalie Portman and I’ll have to bail. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro

A girl tries to get to school; mayhem ensues. This could possibly be really clever and fun, but it also could be really repetitive and stupid. It would be great if the obstacles that Chio encountered on her way to school started off mundane and became more and more elaborate over the course of the show, until there’s a full-fledged alien invasion or something getting in her way, but I’m not sure; the fact that one of the scenarios that Chio is going to have to fight is “a sudden urge to go to the bathroom,” does not exactly fill me with confidence.

I’m assuming this is a short, because it’s hard to imagine a full-length anime with this premise, but I’ve been wrong about that before; we’ll see. If if it’s not a short, it might be downright painful to watch; some things are charming in three-minute installments and should never break out of that mold.

High Score Girl

Hell yeah, an anime all about video games circa 1991! I’m excited for this one. I want to remember my childhood, but of course I didn’t grow up in Japan, so it won’t really be my childhood; still, it feels like a good opportunity to remember someone’s childhood.

Remember the ’90s, back when we thought Francis Fukuyama was on to something with his whole “End of History” theory, and we thought life (and video games) were just going to keep getting better and better forever? Well, we were kind of right about the video games part, but damn, things have just gotten dark since the ’90s. Granted, plenty of awful stuff happened during the ’90s too, but we weren’t aware of it at the time, so it sure seemed like the world was becoming a better, safer place every day….

Okay I’m getting too far afield of the anime preview, but I’m really interested in seeing what this anime does. If it focuses on the culture of ’91, that will be really interesting, but even if it only focuses on video game culture specifically, that too appeals to me. I just hope they don’t make the mistake of making a production that feels identical to 2018 shows with a thin overlay of ’90s era style. I want this to be so ’90s that I’m thinking about Pogs, Tamagotchis and the cool jacket that kid in the Crossfire commercials used to wear. Remember that game? I had that game. I bet you’re jealous now!

Phantom in the Twilight

A supernatural cafe in London, full of hot guys, that only opens at night; if you’ve ever read Otakusphere before, then you probably know that they had me at “cafe.”

Seriously, I’m cautiously optimistic about this one. This could be one of those classy occult shows that anime (and seemingly only anime) do so well, like Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits or Mushi-Shi, but that’s far from a guarantee. Studio LINDENFILMS has a kind of odd back catalog of work, but they did make Poco’s Udon World, a lesser-known show that I really liked, so they’ve got some cred in my book. My fear is that there’s going to be too much emphasis on all the mysterious, handsome men, and the show is going to try to get by on attractive character designs instead of good writing.

The thing with mysterious, handsome male characters that writers often screw up is that if you bring them too much to the forefront, they cease being mysterious. They they’re just handsome, which is boring on it’s own. If the hot guy characters remain enigmatic figures in the background, and the story focuses it’s energy elsewhere, this could be a good show. If.

Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes

It’s a mystery series that takes place in a coffee shop…oh wait, no it doesn’t. It takes place in an antique shop. Well then, fuck you and the horse you rode in on, show! I only watch coffee shop anime!

Okay, I am capable of watching things that take place in other places of business, I just don’t know if this series sounds that appealing. Whenever I’ve tried to watch an anime mystery show, it’s always been pretty poor– GoSick, God’s Memo Pad, etc. Then again, maybe this’ll be the one with good writing that will make me feel bad for my negative opinions toward mystery shows? The fact that the leads are chasing down the mysteries of these old antiques means that the show does have the potential to be interesting, and even poignant, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Tsukumogami Kashimasu

Another antique shop setting…not really antiques, but miscellaneous household goods, which is close enough. Except, this one is a historical taking place during the Edo period, and the household goods tend to be haunted. I kept getting confused between this show and Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes, trying to remember “Which is the show where the items are haunted, and which is the one where they’re worth a lot of money?”

Another show with the potential to fit into that “classy occult” category that I like so much, but it also has potential to be a bit of a snoozefest, I think. It might be entertaining to watch both this one and Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes and see which one comes up with better episodic stories about inanimate objects. I might make a spreadsheet.

Senjuushi

Oh no. Oh noooo. It’s a gun anime. It’s a post-apocalyptic dystopia where people are forbidden from owning firearms, and then the spirits of classic guns materialize to fight for the good of the world, or something.

I have to admit, sometimes I have trouble separating a show from how it’s going to be perceived in the Western fandom, which is unfair. Because all I can think about is the complaints this show is going to spawn about “conservative propaganda” and “alt-right talking points,” and I’m already tired of that discussion, and the show hasn’t even started yet.

Look, I’m not saying that the show is going to be any good, or that political criticism is automatically bad, but can we just remember one little thing here? That this show is Japanese, made from a Japanese perspective, and applying American politics to it (especially fringe American politics that aren’t that well known outside of the U.S.) doesn’t make a helluva lot of sense?  Can we let it exist in its own proper context without dragging it into a minefield where it was never meant to survive?

I don’t know, maybe this will actually be fun to watch, but the so-called “discourse” around this show is probably going to make me want to stay far, far away.

Ongaku Shoujo

It’s about c-level idols, and I’m sorry, but isn’t this called Wake Up, Girls!? I’d like to say that I liked Wake Up, Girls! enough the first time, but the fact is that no one liked Wake Up, Girls! the first time; it’s a show that keeps getting sequels despite having , seemingly, zero fans. It’s one of those anomalies of nature, like how bumblebees can fly when all the laws of physics say that they shouldn’t.

Maybe Ongaku Shoujo will stake out an identity of it’s own, but I have enough trouble getting invested in idol shows that are happy and optimistic from the getgo; I really don’t want to watch a show about sad, wanna-be idols who are living on instant ramen to get by. Only way I’m watching this is if I hear good things about it after a few episodes have aired.

Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight

This looks to be the more typically bright-and-happy idol show, as opposed to Ongaku Shoujo, so maybe try this if you haven’t had enough Love Live!/Idolmaster/etc. I mean, it’s hard to believe that there’s someone out there who hasn’t had enough of that, but I’m sure this person exists, and they too deserve to feel joy.

I might check out the first episode because one of the girls is named Karen and I like keeping tabs on my anime doppelgangers. But unless this show has something different to offer right out of the gate, I’m focusing my attention elsewhere.

Sunoharasou no Kanrinrin-san

This looks like it’s going to be a cute-girls-doing-cute-things show, except one of the girls happens to be a boy. This might end up being the show this season that does some exploration of gender identity, without being ridiculously offensive to 99% of the audience right out of the gate the way Back Street Girls is.

It’s hard to predict with this one; it all depends on how main-guy Aki’s issues with gender are treated. If they use them as a source of cheap jokes, that sounds pretty bad, but if it’s a CGDCT show, it’s hard to see how they could avoid those kinds of jokes even if they wanted to.

I’ll give it a shot, but if the pattern is Aki tries to act like a boy–> the girls treat him like a girl and giggle–> he gets mad, rinse and repeat, I’m not sticking around. Sadly, I think that’s the most likely scenario.

Yuragi-sou no Yuuna-san

Wow, there are a lot of haunted anime this season. This one is about a hot springs inn haunted by the ghost of a 16-year-old girl, and the poor guy who gets roped into helping her with her unfinished business. I might have skipped this one just on the basis of there being so much other occult stuff this season, but I’ve heard some good things about the source material, so I’ll at least give it a try.

It’s made by Xebec, who are largely known to the world as makers of fanservice anime, and largely known to me as makers of Softenni in particular. I doubt it’ll happen, but if this show takes the Softenni approach to broadcast censorship and covers the girls’ privates with pictures of adorable cows and sheep, this is going to rocket up to “must-watch” status.

Island

Man washes ashore on mysterious island, begins mad quest to save the island from its decline; cute girls are involved. My gut is telling me that this is going to be overly ambitious and boring, but hey, my gut has been wrong before. This was one of the first summer shows to air and the first episode is already up on Crunchyroll, so there’s no need to wait if you’re curious.

Jashin-chan Dropkick

Violent slapstick comedy where a deranged gothic-lolita type summons a demon girl, and the two beat each other up a lot or something. I have a weird feeling that this is going to be like the evil twin to Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid; a story about a relationship between a human girl and a powerful, non-human woman, only instead of warming your heart and filling you with hope for the future, it just makes you want to sit down and cry.

I have a bad feeling about this for some reason, but studio Nomad does have a pretty solid comedy track record with shows like Ika Musume and Ouran Host Club to their credit. So it could be very funny, I just can’t shake the sinking feeling that the jokes are going to get old halfway through the first episode.

SHORTS:

Cinderella Girls Gekijou, Season 3

I always forget if this is a spinoff of Love Live! or Idolmaster (*checks wiki; it’s Idolmaster.*) Considering I’ve never seen any Idolmaster proper, I’m certainly not starting with this, but I mention it here for an important reason: for idol fans, it seems like this is the anticipated show of the season, more than Ongaku Shoujo or whatever else is starting this year. Which is pretty impressive, considering that it’s a short.

You go, idol fans! Wallpaper the internet with your Cinderella Girls fanart, it’s all good. I don’t have to watch the show to share a tiny piece of your happiness.

One Room 2

The big debate with the first-person-perspective show One Room was whether it was really creepy, or just sort of mildly creepy; I found the first episode so boring that I never properly found out. But apparently some people really enjoyed contemplating that question, because One Room is back with another room…or maybe the same room? It’s probably the same room.

I wonder; if I decided I wanted to watch this season, do I need to watch the original? Like, is there serious One Room continuity? Or is it like “Yeah, he talked to this girl in his room, then they went down to the vending machine and got a soda, then they went back to his room, then she said ‘bye’ and that was the end of the season.” Now I want there to be a tremendously detailed One Room wiki so I can catch up on all the lore!

(I just checked…there is no wiki…I am sad. Someone get on that, please.)

BanG Dream! Girls Band Party Pico

I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what BanG Dream! was until just now. Apparently it’s a K-On-esque show about a bunch of girls who form a band, and Party Pico is it’s little chibi spinoff. If you like watching cute chibi girls do whatever, you probably can’t go wrong here.

See, I’m just mad because after finishing Sound Euphonium S2, I thought I had seen all these ‘girls in a band’ shows, but no, there’s more. I promised myself I wouldn’t watch Kids on the Slope (the boys-in-a-band show) until I finished all the girls-in-a-band shows, and now it looks like it’s never gonna happen. Damn you BanG Dream!, ruining my summer viewing plans!

Asobi Asobase

This isn’t listed anywhere as a short, but I’m putting it in the shorts category because I refuse to believe it’s a full-length show. It’s about girls who play hand games and…that’s it. They play hand games together.

Tonari no Seki-kun proved to me that a show about nothing more than kids goofing off can be great, especially if it’s a short. But unless Asobi Asobase is bringing Seki-kun levels of devious brilliance here, I find it hard to imagine this being entertaining for more than one episode. Hey, maybe I’ll be wrong; maybe Asobi Asobase will be the surprise hit of the season that we’ll all remember years from now. But right now, just thinking about it seriously makes me want to lie down and take a nap– not even kidding, I’m going to spend like two seconds writing something on Encouragement of Climb and then I’m taking a nap.

Encouragement of Climb, Season 3

FUCK YEAH MORE ENCOURAGEMENT OF CLIMB, BEST SEASON EVAH! CLIMB THOSE MOUNTAINS GIRLS, SHOW ‘EM WHO’S BOSS! AOI, TRY NOT TO GET ALTITUDE SICKNESS AGAIN, THAT SHIT IS DANGEROUS! SHOW THOSE LAZY YURU CAMP BITCHES WHAT IT MEANS TO BE OUTDOOR GIRLS!!!!!

…oh yeah, I went there, Yuru Camp fans. What are you gonna do about it, huh? I’d say COME AT ME, BRO! but I’m about to go lie down and take a nap for about three hours, so don’t come at me, that would be bad sportsmanship. Hey, have you ever heard that writing about shows you haven’t even seen for several hours can make you lightheaded and delirious? I just learned that today.