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Anime Secret Santa Review: Psycho-Pass

PSYCHO PASSSorry for the late review – it has been an even busier holiday season than usual, with multiple work and family commitments leading up through New Years even. Really tried to get this posted before the end of 2015, but unfortunately I couldn’t manage that. But here it is at last!

For the past few years I have participated in the Reverse Thieves’ Anime Secret Santa project. This group blogging experiment pairs up bloggers who recommend anime for each other to watch and review, only it’s done Secret Santa-style, where you don’t know who your recommendation is coming from. Each year I’ve gotten really good picks that I have enjoyed watching and reviewing; however this year’s Anime Secret Santa choices were particularly hard to choose between – it seemed that my Secret Santa zeroed right in on my brainwaves (which is ironic given the series I chose to review, you’ll see why in a bit) and picked three really good shows that sounded really interesting to me but that I had somehow passed up. The first, Spice and Wolf, was a character-driven fantasy/romance that seemed perfect given my love of other shows with great character chemistry. But since I had recently been watching some more lighter fare I was ready for some hard-hitting action/thrillers. Fortunately my Secret Santa did not disappoint, as they picked two very action-oriented series, Psycho-Pass and Mirai Nikki. I literally could not decide which one to watch and review… so I left it up to chance and flipped a coin. Fortunately, Psycho-Pass won out.

Psycho-Pass is set in a near future, in a seemingly perfect world, where citizens are assured a safe environment and a bright future thanks to the Sibyl system. A person’s mental state can be instantly scanned and quantified, and such scanning is done routinely. If a person’s “hue” (mental health) becomes clouded this causes their “crime coefficient” — a measure of how likely they are to commit a violent crime — raises. Individuals with a cloudy Hue and a high crime coefficient are either incarcerated and treated or — if their values are particularly high — eliminated. However some latent criminals choose instead to work with the Ministry of Public Security as “Enforcers,” who work under “Inspectors,” and use their criminal knowledge and tendencies to help track down other criminals. Meanwhile the rest of the citizenry live a seemingly peaceful and secure life, with Sibyl managing every aspect of their lives, including education and career choice.

Continue reading Anime Secret Santa Review: Psycho-Pass

Sorry, but my Anime Secret Santa 2015 review will be a bit delayed…

First of all, sorry for not putting a cool image along with this post. All of the blogging how-to sites say you should always put an image with your post, to attract readers’ attention, blah blah blah. But I can’t figure out how to do that with the WordPress mobile app. Unfortunately I’ve been incredibly busy this holiday season, with either work (being stuck at remote job sites with extremely slow Internet isn’t fun) or family/social commitments (in fact I’m stuck at a family Christmas function right now.) So I haven’t had time to finish my Anime Secret Santa review. 🙁 I’ll be working on it the moment I get home today, but I might not be able to post it before Christmas Day ends. Rest assured that it WILL go up sometime over the next few days, probably sometime this weekend, but definitely no later than New Years’ Eve. Gomen nasai…

The 12 Days of Kurisumasu will be returning for 2015, albeit a bit late

Santa MakiThose of you who’ve been visiting this blog for some time are probably wondering where a certain something is. Namely, the 12 Days of Kurisumasu, that yearly tradition of ours that ostensibly is there to help give you gift ideas (either for other people or for yourself) but is in fact a thinly-veiled attempt to hawk our various affiliate advertisers.

Yeah, sorry about that…

Unfortunately things have been a bit crazier than usual for me this holiday season, and, well, I just didn’t have time to put it all together. But fear not, I’m not going to abandon this fine tradition of ours. The 12 Days of Kurisumasu will continue… it’ll just be a bit late this year. As I’ve explained previously there are actually two interpretations of the “12 Days of Christmas.” One interpretation (the one I’ve been adhering to so far) is that it starts 12 days before Christmas, with the 12th day falling on Christmas Day itself. The second interpretation is that the 12 Days starts on Christmas Day, and ends… well, 12 days after. And this is the interpretation that we’ll be going with this year. So, starting on Friday, December 25, be sure and check our Twitter and Facebook feeds to see what the Otaku no Podcast elves have chosen for you every day. (Of course, our picks can always be found on the 12 Days of Kurisumasu page as well.)

Hope everyone out there has a safe, happy and healthy holiday season, and we wish you all the best for the New Year!

The Anime Secret Santa Project returns for 2015!

Santa MakiIt is Monday, October 12 as I write this, which means that we are, theoretically anyway, deep into fall, and will soon be thrust into winter. I say “theoretically” because, at least where I live, it sure as heck doesn’t feel like fall. We’ve been in a seemingly perpetual heat wave for the past few months, and it is showing no signs of letting up. Still, people are going about making preparations for Halloween and the holidays to come. And so are the retailers. Yes folks, I’m starting to see promotions coming up for Thanksgiving and — even worse — Christmas. GAHHHHHHH!!!!!

Well, at least there’s one good thing to come out of this holiday madness. (Well, that plus the actual fun parts of the holiday itself — giving (and receiving) gifts, eating delicious foods, catching up with good friends, etc.) Yes, you guessed it, The Anime Secret Santa project is back!

I can hear it now, some of you are probably staring at your screens yelling “WHAT YOU SAY !!. Well obviously you must be new around here, because if you’ve been hanging around this blog and podcast for any appreciable length of time, you would know about Anime Secret Santa. After all, I’ve written about it several times before, and we’ve even participated in it for the past few years as well.

Basically the Anime Secret Santa project involves a bunch of bloggers (and perhaps podcasters too) who get together and put their names into a virtual hat, which the Reverse Thieves then proceed to mix up. They then pair off bloggers, and ask each of them to recommend an anime for the other to watch. The trick is that they don’t tell them who the recommendation came from. Once you have your anonymous donors’ recommendations in hand, you then proceed to pick an anime off their list, watch it and review it. Yes, exactly like that whole Secret Santa thing, which you are undoubtedly familiar with. (After all it’s probably been used as a plot device in at least a few Christmas-themed anime episodes…) The idea is to get people to step outside their comfort zones if you will, and watch and review shows they may not have considered before, and to get to know your fellow anibloggers and maybe even get some cross-blog promotions/interactions going on. It’s a great way to find out about anime that, maybe you might not have considered before, but ended up liking a lot. (Or maybe you hated it, and then you can write a really scathing review. There have been some pretty hilariously epic ones.) Plus it’s a lot of fun.

Want to participate? It’s pretty simple. First, you’ll need to set yourself up on one of those “keep track of what anime I’ve watched” sites, such as Anime-Planet (my personal favorite) or MyAnimeList. They are all free to join, and are pretty useful in their own right. Then, once you’ve listed all the anime that you’ve seen, e-mail your name, blog/podcast’s URL and the URL to your anime listing site profile page to the Reverse Thieves (secretsanta [dot] rt [at] gmail [dot] com) with the subject line “Secret Santa Participant.” (Also, if for whatever reason you would prefer not to have to watch/review fansubs, be sure and mention that in your email.)

All entries are due by Saturday, October 17th (that’s in less than a week!) so you better hurry! Check out the Reverse Thieves blog post for full details and where to send in your entry. Naturally, if the fates allow it, Otaku no Podcast will be participating this year as well. And we hope that you will too!

Love Live! School Idol Festival Tips for New Players (Updated)

Love Live SuccessUpdate 10/11/2015: A few minor updates toward the end of the post.

Update: we’ve finally nailed down a time when we’re all able to get together and record our AX wrap-up of Doom. (Better late than never!) And I think (knock on wood) I’ve gotten to the bottom of my computer problems. So look forward to a new podcast episode soon!

By now, hopefully everyone has checked out our latest Cool Find, and are having fun with it. I sure am, as you can probably guess by my Twitter feed. (By the way, if you haven’t seen it yet, please do check it out.) I wanted to throw together a quick list of tips, tricks and techniques that I found helpful, and that I hope will help other new players as well.

This guide is meant primarily for beginners, though you might want to glance through it even if you’ve been playing for a while – you might learn something. (Or, at the very least, maybe you’ll spot a glaring error that I made, and you can correct me.) Also, some of these hints may seem obvious, but you never know, maybe there are things that some people find “blindingly obvious” that others don’t. Finally, some of what I say below may be repeats of what people have said in some of the other guides out there. Again I am doing this as a convenience for new players, so that you can get as much information as possible here in one (hopefully) easy to read place. (Plus some of the guides may seem kind of intimidating, especially to newbies.) I would definitely still read the various guides out there, once you’ve gotten into the rhythm of the game, if you’ll forgive the pun.

Continue reading Love Live! School Idol Festival Tips for New Players (Updated)

Poll: So, who’s your favorite µ’s member?

µ's MembersWell, it’s been something like over 9,000 years since our last poll, so I figured now would be a good time to have another one. And, in the spirit of yesterday’s Cool Find (which you really oughtta check out if you haven’t already) today’s poll is yet another one of those “Who’s your favorite (blah)?” polls… this time, we will be deciding which of the 9 μ’s members shall reign supreme! (coughUmicough) So vote away! Please, only one vote per human, no fancy browser/IP hiding/VPN/etc. tricks, etc. blah blah, you get the idea.

Cool Find: Love Live! School Idol Festival – a really cute (and fun!) rhythm game for iOS and Android

LLSIF Intro ScreenUnfortunately, due to further scheduling conflicts, and a suddenly-very-flaky computer (random spontaneous crashes, makes it really difficult to do stuff like record/edit audio and video) I still haven’t been able to get our AX 2015 coverage online. I’m hoping to have the computer problems sorted out soon, so that I can at least finish posting AX pics and video (not sure it’s worth it to do our usual audio recording at this point, since we’re now 2 months past the event itself, but I may change my mind.) In the meantime though, I have yet another Cool Find for you! So pull up a chair and stay awhile and listen as Uncle Donald spins another of his famous long-winded yarns before actually getting to the point of this whole article, as he is wont to do.

When the whole DDR craze hit, I was just entering my Second Wave of Anime Fandom, having recently come back from a (less than stellar) attempt at getting a higher education, and with very little to do except mope about town while taking computer classes at the local community college and working odd jobs. It was then that I reunited with some of my old disreputable friends from school (yes Scott, I’m talking about you 🙂 ) and where one day, as we were randomly shooting the breeze, I happened to start talking about my first love, he turned to me and said “So, you like that kind of stuff, huh? Well you really oughtta check out this ‘anime’ stuff… here, you can borrow these…” And the rest, as they say, is history.

(Man, less than a full paragraph in and I’m already rambling… Time to get back on topic… er, off topic… before getting back on-topic… whatever…)

Where was I? Right. Late 90s/early 2000s. I was pretty much locked into the anime fandom by that point, and had started branching out into other things like JRPGs and video games in general. I started going to anime cons right around this time as well. Back then I remember DDR machines popping up pretty much everywhere you went — arcades (those few that remained by then, that is… sniff), pizza parlors, bowling alleys… I think even my community college rec room had one at one point. And when the home release came out, it instantly became a staple at anime con gaming rooms across the land.

But I never really got into the whole DDR craze — but not for the reason you think. It’s true, I’m ordinarily not the kind of person to do something as embarrassing as gyrating wildly in front of complete strangers; but with enough persuasion (mixed with a little alcohol, and maybe a Klondike bar as well) even I could eventually be convinced to debase myself in such a manner. No, the real reason for my reluctance is an entirely practical one: I hate con funk — not just on other people, but especially on myself — and nothing does a better job at generating con funk than stomping around wildly and vigorously, as one tends to do when playing DDR. (This is why I almost never visit an anime con’s game room nowadays. Oh God, the funk. passes out and dies)

As for home-based setups, it’s true, a home-based DDR setup would eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) the con funk factor, since (A) there are generally less bodies around to cause con funk, and (B) when you’re in your own home, you can more easily control your own body odor (e.g. changing your shirt or taking a shower.) But I never really had either the money or the physical space to get a DDR setup (or any of its uber-popular spiritual successors like Guitar Hero and Rock Band.) (I also didn’t have enough friends to play it with… sniff… but that’s another story.)

But when portable game consoles came on the market, and decent rhythm games started showing up there, that’s when I finally started getting in on the genre. True, you didn’t get the same kind of physical exercise as you did when playing DDR, but playing a rhythm game on a portable device was still just as fun, and the lack of physical exertion meant that there was little to no con funk potential involved. It also could be done solo — while most rhythm games had a multiplayer component (either using a console’s built-in wireless networking, or the tried and true “hand your console off to the next player” method) most games could be played single player, where your “opponent” is either the computer, or yourself (i.e. beating your own score.) One of my all-time favorites is the K-On! game for the PSP. I played the heck out of that thing, that is, until my PSP broke. I also discovered that, contrary to my beliefs, I was actually a pretty decent rhythm game player (which was another reason why I didn’t really feel like getting into the genre in the first place.) No, I can’t pull off those m4d 1337 Hard mode Full Combos you see on the YouTubes, but I have gotten to a point where I can consistently get high ranks on easy and (most of the time) normal, and have even managed to low-rank on an Hard level song every now and again.

Fast forward to today. Nowadays, just about everyone is carrying around a device just as powerful, if not more so, than most portable game consoles. Yes, I am speaking about smartphones and tablets. And developers have taken note. Even longtime mobile gaming holdout Nintendo has started putting out mobile titles. (a moment of silence as we mourn the passing of Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata) Mobile gaming is big business, and just about everybody wants in on a piece of the action. This brought about a huge explosion of mobile titles, including – yes, you guessed it – rhythm games. A rhythm game is a perfect fit for a touchscreen device like smartphones and tablets — tapping on-screen buttons is even easier than dealing with actual physical gamepads, plus the quick nature of rhythm game play sessions (most rhythm game songs are in the 1-2 minute range) fits perfectly with the short play sessions typical of smartphone gaming (e.g. you play in brief spurts when you have a few minutes, waiting for the bus, in line at the grocery store, etc.). Unfortunately many of these titles are only available in the Japanese app stores. But even if you could buy an app on the Japanese app store (which is certainly possible, there are companies that can help make that process (relatively) easy for both iOS and Android users) there is still that language barrier to overcome. We now have some great companies like JAST and MangaGamer that are localizing PC and console content. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for mobile games. Which is why we rejoice on those few occasions when a developer sees fit to bring their title to a wider audience outside of Japan. Such an event has happened recently, and it is based on none other than that über-popular multimedia franchise that has pretty much dominated the Internets lately, Love Live!

In case you’ve just woken up from a years-long coma, or been living in a cave in the Himalayas or something, Love Live! is a ridiculously popular multimedia franchise, consisting of manga and light novels, anime, a hit movie that recently came out in theaters, and a metric crapton of music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays. It tells the tale of high school student Honoka Kosaka who, when she hears the news that her beloved high school will be closing soon due to lack of applicants, decides to form an idol group, µ’s (pronounced “Muse” — and no, I’m not talking about these dudes) to try and generate interest in her school and attract new students — and maybe, just maybe, win the nationwide Love Live! idol competition. It’s pretty much the only thing the people I follow on Twitter have been talking about recently, and so I finally broke down and watched the anime — and I liked it! Cute, lovable characters, a down-to-earth and heartfelt story, pretty and shiny animation and above all else, some really catchy music. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you can be persuaded to step outside your comfort zone even a little, you should watch it — you might just like it.

Well the latest property to join the Love Live! franchise is none other than Love Live! School Idol Festival, a rhythm game put out by Bushiroad and KLab on both iOS and Android. And – good news for all us non-Japanese speakers — not only did they make the app available in non-Japanese app stores, they went one step further and localized (translated) the app into English, Chinese and Korean. So now everyone can play along!

As a rhythm game, it’s fairly typical of the genre. There are 9 spots on screen where you can tap (corresponding to the 9 members in the idol group µ’s.) As the song plays, circles will start flying down the screen towards one or more spots, timed to the beat of the music, and you must hit the corresponding button right when the circle hits the correct spot. If you timed it right, and hit it dead-on, you get a Perfect score; if you’re off by a little, you get a lesser score, and if your timing is way off (or you miss entirely) you actually lose points. You have a certain amount of Stamina which goes down every time you screw up. If your stamina goes to zero, you fail. But if you manage to plow through the entire song (accurately or not) without completely draining your stamina, you will clear the song and get a final grade, based on your performance, how accurately you hit the notes, how long your longest combo was, etc. Usually you’ll