Kotaku Column, Podcasts, etc

It’s been busy for me lately! But not in a bad way. It’s all been fun stuff.

I’ve started writing a column on sex games at Kotaku! Which I cheekily named Come Yourself To Death (I’m very excited to cover Hadaka Shitsuji when that localization comes out). So far there are two pieces, the first on the yuri (girl/girl romance) game Kindred Spirits on the Roof and the second on a game jam game about explicit consent, Cute Demon Crashers. I have a list of interesting games I plan to play and write about, so please look forward to that!

And on the podcast front last weekend I was a guest on Idle Weekend! My friend Danielle and I talked about Mystic Messenger, Yuri!!! on Ice, and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. Meanwhile, a bit ago myself and Mattie Brice tentatively launched the first episode of our podcast, called Affection Points, where we discuss particular games. The first episode we have is on Style Savvy, a game we both dearly love and would discuss often at local bars.

Otherwise I’ve been helping out other journalists as “otome consultant”, providing guidance for this Mystic Messenger article on Vice and this Mystic Messenger article on Kotaku. Mystic Messenger is very popular lately!

New York New York

I’ve been quiet here lately because just recently I accepted a new job in New York City and I’ve been scrambling to coordinate a long-distance move this past month. It’s very exciting but doesn’t leave me much spare energy for blogging! I’m hoping after November I’ll be settled.

Meanwhile you can read a transcript of a candid discussion between Mattie Brice and I about our personal engagement with fandom over the years. It was a really fun talk with more entries to come as we get deeper in our drinks.

Anime — Pillow Boys

Lately I find myself having to explain Japanese drama CDs to people more and more often. It’s because a lot of the techniques used in these situation audio dramas, usually aimed at women, have been finding their way into other media that makes it over to Western awareness, most recently being the Fire Emblem if binaural voice over dialogues when getting intimate with your army (wear headphones for this).

The topic also came up when I was livetweeting the new anime Makura no Danshi, a currently airing show that can be watched via Crunchyroll. While this new anime doesn’t have the ASMR-inducing voice effects that the binaural recordings do, it has the same sort of scenarios that one-on-one drama CDs involve, basically dude talking at you and telephoning your character’s lines back. Each week a different animated guy will sit and pleasantly chat about your day for five minutes.

Once you break past the initial embarrassment factor it’s nice to chill and bask in the presence of a piece of media unabashedly catering to women.

If you’re curious about more stuff like this, many longer drama CDs exist. They range from transmedia tie-ins to existing properties, radio-style dramas, one-on-one situation CDs, BL dramas. There are even plenty of spicy 18+ offerings. Translations usually abound online thanks to Tumblr, if you don’t mind following along or being surprised after the fact about what the sweet Japanese guy was actually growling in your ear.

Or you can wait for Fire Emblem Fates to come out next year!

Anime — Gatchaman Crowds

I never expected to be watching Gatchaman Crowds back when it started streaming. I didn’t grow up with the original Battle of the Planets so I was lacking the nostalgia to initially draw me to it. But it turns out Crowds really has very little to do with the original Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, instead it’s a completely ground up rebuilding of the superhero team franchise.

What drew me in were the stylish animated gifs popping up on my Tumblr feed. The colors are so bright but not garish. All the characters looked expressive, unique, and endearing. I loaded up the first episode and found instead of the usual monster-of-the-week superhero action Gatchaman Crowds delved into questioning the place of a superhero team in a modern world, with nation-wide socialization via the internet and the crowd-sourcing of local labor. Definitely my kind of jam.

Character designer Kinako is now one of my favorite artists working in the industry. Her feel of colors, lines, and dynamic posing is beautiful to behold. I really recommend checking out her Twitter, where she happens to upload fanart and original character pieces often.

I was initially worried because the show had a plucky and outgoing female protagonist and I was dreading a harsh lesson-learning downfall being planned for her—but no, she gets to be a bright treasure through and through. I also had concerns because the show features a character who presents feminine in most instances but the story doesn’t make explicitly clear their preference on identification, so they can certainly be read as trans by fans. Through the whole rest of the season I was waiting for some kind of inevitable transphobic or trans-misogynistic element to rear its head. Luckily it never does! My trans friends who I’ve discussed the show with were all pleasantly surprised and thankful at the outcome.

Season 2 of the series has just started, called Gatchaman Crowds Insight. If you haven’t watched then now would be a good time to catch up (the show can be found on both Crunchyroll and Hulu)! Unfortunately us poor fans in the West do not have access to the Blu-Ray only Director’s Cut of the final episode (though the Bluray and DVDs are available to buy here), which I hear is much better at tying up loose ends. But since season 2 has already started up you can just jump to the helpful set-up episode 0 of that.

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Anime — Love Live! movie in US theaters

I typically only get out to see anime movies in the theater when a new Ghibli film is released or back when Satoshi Kon’s works were being distributed (seeing Millennium Actress in Kendall Square near MIT years ago was amazing).

So when my new obsession Love Live! had a movie announced and a tentative domestic released slated I thought I was going to have to travel all the way from Boston to New York City in order to experience it with other excited friends, but that does not seem to be the case! It’ll be playing in convenient (for me) Harvard Square for one night in September! Awesome! Thank you, historic Brattle Theatre, where I have only gone before to see Indie Game: The Movie, Hausu, Trash Nights, and a wedding.

There’s quite a few other screenings in major metropolitan areas. You should check the full list out!

And maybe catch up on the anime before going to see it, since technically it’s a sequel.


Anime — I started Hunter x Hunter

 

Hunter x Hunter is one of those shows where all your friends are getting into it but when you go to start it up you become daunted by the high episode count. So for a long time it has been sitting in my Crunchyroll queue, 148 episodes waiting for a chance. I stood by as plenty of friends dove in and fell hard, witnessing them enjoy and suffer the emotional weight of later arcs. I wanted to catch up so I could feel feelings with them but never found the mood right.

Then a couple of weeks ago I was doing dishes and booted up episode 1 on my iPad. Later chores sessions had more episodes trickling in. Then I transferred to the TV and my boyfriend started getting into it. Now we consume episodes in multiples during dinner and beyond, finding it difficult to cut ourselves off. We’re up to a respectable episode 72, so halfway there!

At first glance Hunter x Hunter isn’t aesthetically my cup of tea, but Madhouse is the studio handling the animation for the more recent reboot and their use of weighted lines and perspective really make the show eye-catching when seen in motion. Every character has compelling motivations and I found myself falling in love with the entirety of the main crew (especially white-haired assassin boy Killua). And while it’s a Shounen Jump joint don’t expect the plot to move at a slow pace like Naruto or Dragonball Z. Hunter x Hunter bounces around all over the place on different adventures, never sticking to any theme or arc for what feels like overlong.

Hunter x Hunter was originally written and illustrated by Yoshihiro Togashi, who also did YuYu Hakusho. So if that was your jam when you were younger then you kind of know what to expect from this!

You can watch Hunter x Hunter on Crunchyroll. The manga is also published in English by Viz for print or digital (which I plan to start once I finish the anime).

Anime — MY Love STORY!!

 

I wrote about the My Love Story!! (Ore Monogatari!!) manga back in July and how much I was enjoying its cute and endearing quirky take on shoujo. Volume 4 has just been released this month (you can find volume 1 here).

Now in the latest season an anime adaptation of My Love Story!! is airing and the first episode is very promising! It’s being animated by studio Madhouse so you can bet on it looking pretty great. Also expect lots of bubbles and sparkles!

You can watch up to episode 2 on Crunchyroll right now with more episodes airing every week.

Anime — Death Parade

 

One show that took me by surprise this season but I’ve been painfully enjoying is Madhouse’s Death Parade. Based on the title alone you can probably gather it’s not going to be a happy, fun ride but it is supremely entertaining. Tomoaki Maeno (Juichi Fukutomi from Yowamushi Pedal, Camus from Uta no Prince-sama) plays a perfect dead-pan Decim and I’m loving the powerful, blue-haired Nona.

I don’t want to describe too much since it was really fun going into the series completely blind. The first episode has an intriguing set-up and the second episode replays the events of the first from the perspective of different characters.

And the opening is delightful!

You can watch Death Parade on Funimation’s site or on Hulu.

Anime — Kamisama Kiss

 

Kamisama Kiss (known in Japan as Kamisama Hajimemashita) is one of my favorite anime series. But it doesn’t seem very well known so I try to recommend it to my friends who like shoujo series. Just getting screenshots for this post made me want to watch it again, for the third time.

The series is told from the perspective of Nanami Monozono, a high-school student who is made homeless thanks to her now-absentee gambling-addicted father. But she’s taking things in stride. While sitting in a public park thinking of what to do next about her living situation she happens upon a man stuck up in a tree who is being hassled by a small dog. She shoos off the canine and the man thanks her for rescuing him by offering her his old house.

It turns out his old house is a creepy shrine inhabited by will-o-the-wisps and a fox-demon familiar named Tomoe, and she has now inadvertently inherited the position of Land God.

While visually Kamisama Kiss looks to be taking a lot of cues from Inuyasha, thanks to school-girl Nanami and silver-haired fox-eared Tomoe, its narrative is extremely different. Inuyasha is a shounen fantastical action-adventure with romantic themes, Kamisama Kiss is a more modern shoujo romantic comedy with fantastical themes. The anime is directed by the same person who did Fruits Basket, if that gives you an idea of what kind of show to expect. The Kamisama Kiss anime has a short and sweet single season run (a second season has been announced and will start in early 2015) that is enjoyable to blow through on a weekend.

And it should be stressed that Kamisama Kiss is really funny. Nanami’s take-no-shit attitude when dealing with all these supernatural creatures in the guises of hot men, such as an idol rockstar crow-demon, who keep showing up in her life is very entertaining to watch. But she is also believably characterized as a vulnerable teenager that is working through a lot of stuff and trying her best given the circumstances. I like Nanami a lot. But I have to say, my favorite character is the bumbling yet cunning sacred snake familiar, Mizuki (he shares the same voice actor as Mikorin from Nozaki-kun, so that is a bonus).

The Kamisama Kiss manga is also very good. It extends quite a bit farther than where the first season of the anime ends and, from that the previews show, it also extends farther than what the second season will see, so if you enjoy the anime and want to follow more of the story you can buy up to volume 16 in English thanks to Viz’s Shojo Beat (print only).

All 13 episodes of Kamisama Kiss are currently streaming on Hulu in addition to FUNimation’s site and YouTube channel (first two episodes only), and it also has a domestic Blu Ray/DVD available for purchase.

Anime — Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun

I saw some people talking on Twitter about a new series whose first episode just aired and the premise sounded interesting enough so I gave it a shot. The show’s called Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun (Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun) and it’s about a high-school girl who attempts to confess her feelings to the guy she’s been crushing on but instead ends up becoming an art assistant on the serialized shoujo (girl’s) manga he draws professionally after school. I was really surprised by how genuinely funny the show was and I loved the characters introduced so far. Nozaki is a tall, deadpan airhead who utilizes his friends for story ideas, often to disastrous but humorous results (Nakamura does a really good job of voicing him). And Sakura is slowly learning how much of a doofus her crush is, and that doesn’t seem to sway her too much. The anime is based on a 4-koma style manga (4-panel gags) much like Azumanga Daioh was, and is written and drawn by Izumi Tsubaki (Oresama Teacher).

I’ve found all my comic artist friends who have taken up the show are really smitten with it. Having some professional insight into sequential art creation can help make some of the jokes pack a bit more of a punch but it’s definitely not a requirement to enjoying the show, they generally explain anything too obtuse and most of the humor is in the character interactions. It also has a lot of jokes relating to the shoujo manga genre so if you grew up on those kinds of stories (or still partake) then you will find the show extra endearing. You can watch the first episode right now with Crunchyroll Premium (free next week).