Shelf Review | Final Fantasy X HD Remaster

It feels wrong for me to say that Final Fantasy X gives me nostalgia. For a majority of my life, I’ve never considered myself someone who played a lot video games. When I was young, besides Mario Kart and a few other party games, I was never a big fan of the medium and often avoided it due to my lack of skill. But in my teenage years, I discovered JRPGs and games have since become a permanent part of my personal interests. Still, even though it’s been over a half a decade since then, it feels wrong for Final Fantasy X to be a game that takes me back to my adolescence. Playing this remastered version was, in many ways, an exercise in relaxation. Over the course of the past few weeks in between classes and completing assignments, I’ve found just about any excuse to sit down a play an hour or two, de-stressing as I re-experienced a familiar and comforting tale.

This may sound strange to some, considering Final Fantasy X’s story isn’t calming by any means. In fact, what struck me the most on this second playthrough was how intense this game actually is in comparison to my memories of it. During its 35-40 hour runtime, the game dives into some heavy subject matter: corrupt state religion, the idea of sacrificial tradition, abusive fathers, etc. Really, the game’s bright and colorful oceanside setting is quite deceiving. There is nothing vacation-like about the journey these characters take toward saving the world. Continue reading

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Shelf Review | Flowers & Bees Vol. 1-7

CW: Flowers & Bees is a mature manga with a ton of sex and some rather uncomfortable scenes. Reader discretion is advised.

For a while now I’ve been searching for ways to get into Moyoco Anno’s work. Throughout the years, I’ve seen many people praise her manga as daring and feminist, and I couldn’t help but be intrigued by her marriage to the idiosyncratic Hideaki Anno. So after being prodded by a recommendation on my Twitter timeline, I decided to take the plunge and read one of her longer running series. This resulted in a brief and confusing encounter with Happy Mania, one of the first mature rated josei series published by Tokyopop in the early 2000’s, and also Moyoco Anno’s longest running manga. I say confusing, because in many ways I found Happy Mania to be a difficult read. Continue reading

Shelf Review | Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

I have a long and complicated history with Final Fantasy XII. Despite owning the 2006 PS2 release for a good five years, I could never get into the game. I sat down and restarted it multiple times, leveling grinding harder, attempting to be more strategic, but each run ended with me reaching a certain plateau where I would just sigh and give up.

Part of this was admittedly due to my lack of skill. When I first tried to play the game back in 2012 I had only just become accustomed to JRPGs. But even without considering my ineptitude, I had a lot of problems with the game’s core design. The license board was an unwieldy upgrade system that left each of my character’s without any real focus in battle, the battle system could be slow and confusing, and in general I found it hard to get a grasp on the game’s mechanics. It was a game I wanted to appreciate as a fan of the franchise, but couldn’t.

So with that in mind, it may come as a surprise that I was immediately excited upon hearing the announcement of the Zodiac Age PS4 remaster. After all, with so many failed attempts to enjoy the game beforehand, you’d think I would have given up on it a long time ago. But really, the main selling point for me wasn’t the improved graphics or the fact that I had another chance to try out the game again, it was the Zodiac Job System. Continue reading

Shelf Review | Welcome to the Ballroom Vol. 1

welcome-to-the-ballroom

If any of you have looked at my MAL page, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not the biggest fan of shonen manga/anime. One Punch Man wasn’t one of my favorite shows that aired last year, and while I do have favorites in the genre, I can’t say my affection for them is all that strong. However, that isn’t to say I dislike shonen either! My Hero Academia won me over instantly with its lovable protagonist, I think Hunter x Hunter is genuinely complex and multilayered, and I’m a moderate fan of Haikyuu!! It isn’t that I don’t like shonen material, it’s just that in order for it to really grab me it’s got to stand out in terms of character or tone.

Which brings us to the topic of today’s Shelf Review, aka Welcome to the Ballroom Volume 1, which I bought in order to expand on my small manga library. The story starts off with all the typical plot points you’d expect from this kind of venture: a young protagonist who doesn’t know what he wants to do, a cute girl with a secret passion, and a lot of intense practicing. However what makes Welcome to the Ballroom work is its unique subject matter. Dancing is an often disregarded sport, and to see it portrayed in a competitive environment is refreshing. Continue reading

Shelf Reviews | Kizumonogatari: Wound Tale

Kizucover

Introduction:

Originally I wasn’t going to even write an introduction for this new post series, but I figured I should explain what’s going on here. You see, I’ve been pretty annoyed in the past months because the other two review series I had going were incredibly difficult to maintain. Gonzo Hell would have involved me buying a majority of the shows I listed for coverage, and Journey through Gundam was much the same. So instead of continuing those, I decided that it would be better to review the anime and manga that I actually own.

And so here we are! In each of these Shelf Review posts, I’ll be covering a light novel, book, or anime series that I have personally bought. This will not only force me to use the things that I buy, but it also will hopefully make my review output on this site more consistent. Anyways, that’s been enough stalling; on with the review! Continue reading

Critical Reviews 2015

Hey guys! I’ve recently finished up another semester of school, and with that all over and done with, I figured I might share a little something extra on this site. During the last semester I took a Poetry class, but we didn’t just write iambic pentameter! In fact throughout the semester I got to take pleasure in writing some 100 word reviews. Yes, 100 words exactly.

These reviews have been some of the most editing intensive pieces I’ve worked on– And this is coming from someone who actually tries to finish his short stories! I spent hours cutting words out of these things, and while I can’t say I always enjoyed the process (Or got good results for that matter), it was a great critical exercise. My posts tend to run at about 1,200 words long at their shortest, so condensing what could have easily been long essays into a few sentences was quite the challenge.

Overall, I’m proud of the work I did, and I think it’s really helped me better understand myself as a critic. I wrote four reviews, each of focused in a different medium, and while one of them is not very good, the other three are pretty great in my opinion! Of course it also helps that I had some good material to review (Except the crappy review. That one is, ironically, is the most negative out of the bunch). Anyways, I hope you enjoy the post! Continue reading

Gonzo Hell | Romeo x Juliet

Romeo X Juliet Title

If there were ever an anime that I didn’t think I would like from my selection of Gonzo shows, it probably would have been Romeo x Juliet. I mean just look at it. Anime adaptations of classic literature have always weirded me out, especially ones that incorporate fantasy or sci-fi elements (Which Romeo x Juliet has in spades). It just seems kind of like a fanfiction. The title certainly doesn’t help either. The “x” between the Romeo and Juliet reminds me of the days when my friends would ship school teachers and their classmates, and I shipped Johnlock while watching Sherlock on PBS Masterpiece… Those were dark times.

Strangely enough though, I enjoyed Romeo x Juliet. In spite of some glaring flaws, it consistently kept me watching with its strong heart. Romeo x Juliet feels like it was made by people who cared, or at least were interested in the source material. And considering what most other Gonzo shows are like (I’m looking at you Witchblade), I’m very pleased that this show feels like it had some thought and effort put into it. Continue reading