May. 27th, 2015 @ 09:34 pm Finished series: Yurikuma Arashi
Current Mood: pensivepensive
We've finished watching Yurikuma Arashi. And it is weird.

The thing with anime that have a premise that is completely out there (meteor fragments fall to Earth, every bear starts attacking and eating humans, humans build a big wall to keep the bears out, but then the bears disguise themselves as humans to enter their world, because a court allowed them to) is that after a few episodes, you start accepting the weirdness as the way things simply are in that world. You stop questioning why something is the way it is -- you start finding it quite normal that girls turn out to be bears ("Kuma shock!") and move on with your life.
The series is deeply symbolic, and it reminded me of Revolutionary Girl Utena. Utena has only yuri undertones, but this series lays it on quite thickly -- but that distracts from the real message. I haven't really worked out what that message is, exactly, but to me it seems like it has something to do with being your own person and not going mindlessly with the flow (which is what the Invisible Storm seems to be about).

The art is gorgeous (especially the backgrounds!) and I really like the fact that through flashbacks, you get to see the same scene from multiple viewpoints. That's a storytelling technique that works really well with anime because you can revisit certain scenes or occurrences and see them in the light of your increased understanding of the plot.

All in all, if you like weird psychological/deeply symbolic stories, or you like to see girls falling in love with girls (seriously, there are no males in the series, except for the three bear judges) then you should watch this.
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Kashira? Kashira? Gozonji Kashira?
May. 27th, 2015 @ 07:43 pm (no subject)
Current Mood: happyfestive
Happy birthday, kishenehn!
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May. 18th, 2015 @ 09:58 pm Japan vacation
Current Mood: excitedexcited
We've decided to take another vacation in Japan! The last time we went there, in 2013, we ended our trip on Kyushu, the western-most island. While we were there, we visited Yufuin, a nice hot spring village, and Mt. Aso, basically a village within the crater of an active volcano. But we were dependent on the public transport (we had a JR Rail Pass), which was pretty much non-existent to get anywhere interesting. Mt. Aso had a various buses, but those busses went only twice per day. We spent a lot of time just waiting about instead of sight-seeing. Nicely relaxing, but not what we came to Japan for!

So this time around, we'll focus exclusively on Kyushu, and rent a car to get around. The program has been finalised, and now we're working out the details of what we're going to visit specifically. Really excited about it!
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May. 18th, 2015 @ 08:19 pm Denki-Gai no Honya-san
Current Mood: calmcalm
We've finished watching Denki-Gai no Honya-san, which shows a book-store (actually a manga store) in an 'electric town' (the most well-known of which is in Akihabara). The main characters are employees, and are nerdy otaku types as you would expect (except for Hio, the token 'normal girl'). And with four girls and three guys, there's a lot of potential for odd romances...
Sometimes, it falls in the trap of having to create more and more outrageous situations to keep the comedy flowing, but most of the time the characters and their relationships carry the show. It's like a otaku version of Working!, with one big difference: Working! had a normal main character, but such characters are nowhere in sight for this one!

We liked it. It's funny enough to be interesting, but watching this is far from life-changing -- if you're in the mood for light viewing and know enough about otaku culture to appreciate the puns, it's worth adding it somewhere in the middle of the to-watch list.
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Counting (Shuffle)
May. 16th, 2015 @ 03:19 pm The Rolling Girls
Current Mood: okayokay
Yesterday, we've finished The Rolling Girls. The setting is quite whimsical: there has been a civil war in Japan, and all the prefectures have turned into their own country. The peace is kept by vigilante squads, and the Twin Towers Declaration (referring to the two towers of the Tokyo Big Sight event space) regulates how the squads can interact. Squads have a 'best' -- a super-powered individual, and the rest are... 'rest', who assist with cleanup duty and mundane stuff like that.
The story follows Nozomi, who finds out that her older sister is actually Macha Green, the best of the squad she admires. But then her sister gets wounded, and Nozomi sets out to mediate in various conflicts, instead of her sister.

It reminded us strongly of Kyousogiga: the battles are really over-the-top, and the backgrounds are fantastic and colourful. And, like with Kyousogiga: there is an actual plot which is revealed gradually over the course of the series, with a satisfying finale.

I really liked it -- I kept being curious what whacky situations the girls would end up in next. Fast-paced and fun!
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May. 13th, 2015 @ 07:25 pm (no subject)
Current Mood: happyfestive
Happy birthday, isabelgou!
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May. 10th, 2015 @ 04:19 pm Shirobako
Current Mood: okayokay
Today, we've finished Shirobako. It's basically the anime side of Bakuman: five girls vow to work together in the anime industry to create their own anime.
After finishing high school, all five of them choose a different but anime-related path. The series focusses on Aoi Miyamori, who starts working as a Production Assistant at a middle-tier anime studio that has managed to land a big project. Through her work, we get to see all the steps of the production of anime. from scenario to storyboards, keyframes, color etcetera.
(And most of the works seems to be juggling schedules and begging the animators to work a bit harder to make up for a slipping schedule earlier in the chain. It felt a bit familiar...)

The real stars of the series are the characters. There's a big cast (making anime takes a lot of people!), but all of them have their own mannerisms and personality -- which keeps things really interesting. I liked two secondary characters the best: Honda-san, the Project Manager of the first series, who goes on to follow his dream. And Yuka Okitsu, the administrative lady who has several unsuspected tricks up her sleeve.

If you liked Bakuman, then you will love Shirobako. It's a refreshing look at a (dramatised) anime studio trying to deliver a great series.
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May. 4th, 2015 @ 05:36 pm Lootcrate
Current Mood: okayokay
Over at Facebook, I saw ads for Lootcrate, a subscription box with 'cool stuff'. A single box runs #30, and I found the concept intriguing. I mean, I try to simplify my life by not accumulating all sorts of 'stuff'. But this... Well, the theme was 'fantasy', and that's in my 'strike zone', so to say.
So as an experiment, I subscribed for the April box, and then cancelled my subscription so that I would only receive the one box.

So when the box finally came in, it was pretty exciting. The contents were kinda neat: I really like the D&D T-shirt, but the rest was kinda... meh. Sure, if you're a fan of all the things, then it's quite good. Though who would wear an inflatable crown that's too tight for even my small head? And the D&D bow tie? And even if you do an exclusive USB drive, which is of course quite cool, then why only 4GB? What is only 4GB these days?

So yeah, that was fun, but that's it for me. The excitement and pleasure of the 'unboxing' is fun and all, but it's just more 'stuff'.
(And now I get ads for Nerdblock, another subscription box aimed at... nerds. I'll skip that one too. And when I looked through that blog that I linked to, I found lots and lots and lots of other subscription boxes. I'm skipping those too. :) )
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Maid dance
May. 3rd, 2015 @ 03:40 pm Koufuku Graffiti
Current Mood: hungryhungry
Today, we've finished Koufuku Graffiti. As a fan of Japanese home-style cooking, this was right up my alley.

It's basically Hidamari Sketch for middle schoolers -- made by the same studio, so there are some stylistic things that carried over from one to the other. But in this series, the focus is on cooking -- every one of the 12 episodes focusses on one month in the year and the delicacies that are traditional for that month.
It's a good lot of fun, but by the end we were ready to be done with it -- talk about good gets you only so far, and there was not much else going on in the series.
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curry ga dekita!
May. 2nd, 2015 @ 03:13 pm New keyboard
Current Mood: nerdynerdy
The cool thing about having a long(er) running blog is that you can search back and can date all sorts of events up to the day. So when I was wondering just how long I had had my current Reclusa keyboard, all I needed to do was to search through all my entries, and I found this entry from 2007. So now I know that I had my keyboard for little under eight years.
(I use ljdump to get a dump of all my entries and the comments on those entries, and then simply use grep to search through it all. I've long considered cooking up something using Xapian and making use of the nifty IR features that library has, but so far grep has served me good enough, so there was no real incentive to really get it going.)

After those eight years, lots of crumbs, cat hair, toe nails and nose pickings had accumulated under the keys, making it more of a biohazard than a functional keyboard. It was time for something new -- something clean, and something that I could reasonably keep clean. For this reason, I was considering a chiclet keyboard.
So when I was at a computer shop to get new microSD cards for use in the tablets and camera, I took a little look at their selection of keyboards. They had the Razer Deathstalker Essential, and I liked the feel of the keys. They also had the 'normal' Deathstalker, which has illuminated keys. I liked having an illuminated keyboard (makes it easier to type in the dark), but it was not wrth the extra 40 euros to me.

So, one week in, I must say that I am really pleased with the keyboard. Obviously I am not much of a user of the so-called 'game features', but that's not why I bought the keyboard. I like the 'stiffness' of the keys and the spacing. The font used for the letters on the keys take some getting used to, and I need a bit of light earlier in the evening. Other than that, I really like it. We might get one for klik too later on.
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Apr. 25th, 2015 @ 08:50 pm The One Ring: Tales from Wilderland: Of Leaves and Stewed Hobbit
Current Mood: sicksick
After playing through "Don't Leave the Path", we moved on to "Of Leaves and Stewed Hobbit", the second scenario from "Tales of Wilderland". We play through Google Hangouts.
Warning: This report will spoil the adventure. I will also include my thoughts as the GM. (The aim of this report is to make it useful to other GMs who want to run this scenario for their group.)

[Spoilers for "Of Leaves and Stewed Hobbit"]The characters are:
- Gain, the Dwarf scholar;
- Merian, the Hobbit wanderer;
- Asgard, the Beorning scholar; and
- Grigori, the Hobbit treasure-hunter.

After being paid by Baldor, the party packed up and went south, and after a day of travel they found The Easterly Inn. Lots of good roleplaying here while meeting Dody the Hobbit innkeeper, and it was fun to see the players unwind after the long trip. Agatha, Dody's wife, prepared rooms for them -- and there was some hilarity when she assumed that the two Hobbits in the party, Grigory and Merian, were a couple and put them in the Hobbit hole with the queen sized bed... They decided not to correct her and make do with it. Gain and Asgard would share a normal room.
The Hobbits were also offered a bath, which they gladly took. (Agatha didn't bother asking the Dwarf and Beorning, because they're rough folk who won't know how to appreciate a bath...)
Then, after the copious dinner ("...and this is your second main dish..."), there was some time to chat up the other patrons. Talk of Goblins on the High Pass over the Misty Mountains seemed to make Dody the innkeeper, quite nervous!
As the other patrons left or went to sleep, Dody befriended the heroes with just the right beverage, and then asked their assistance in finding his brother Dinodas ('Dindy') who had gone to Bree to buy provisions and additional finger bowls. With talk about Goblins at the High Pass, Dody was worried and wanted capable fellows like the heroes to see if they could find him. Gain the Dwarf needed some convincing to help, but with the promise that the group could set up a small trading post within the inn's compound, he saw the light and they decided to set off the next morning -- somewhere between elevenses and lunch.

Their route to the Old Ford took them along Beorn's house, and the group decided to pay their respects to him (and to get his permission to come back with their trade goods). Merian the Hobbit managed an Extraordinary Success on her Courtesy roll, and Asgard the Beorning's Awe roll also helped to make the local population take to the group. They spoke Beorn only briefly, and were allowed to sleep in one of the barns.
(Oddly enough, meeting Beorn and staying there for the night is a plot point only in the next scenario, so I had not prepared for this. But looking at the map, it's really obvious that player heroes would go there at this moment -- even if only to enquire as to Goblin activity or Hobbit trade caravans. It would have been better if the scenario provided some guidance for this. Sure, I can improvise (and I did), but still.)

The next day, they traveled on towards the Old Ford. the party paid the toll to cross the Ford and asked the guards about the trade caravan led by a Hobbit, but they had not seen Dody's caravan come back from the west. After one day of travel westwards from the Old Ford, the group found a grassy knoll -- much drier than the swampy surroundings, and judging from the traces of camp fires, a popular spot to spend the night. And so the group camped out.
During the first watch, Shanker approached the fire. Asgard the Beorning, who was on watch, saw him coming (thanks in part to the perception bonus from his newly acquired 'Brother to Bears') and hailed him. Asgard was satisfied that Shanker did not intend to harm the group. Shanker joined them at the fire and started smoking his pipe, which woke up Grigory the Hobbit. Shanker told them he had used the diversion the caravan created to slip by the goblin watchers unnoticed, and he was pretty proud of that cunning trick. They did not much like the way Shanker spoke of the caravan nor the fact that he did not warn them, but they left it at that. During her watch, Merian the Hobbit used her knowledge of herbology to created a scented powder from her herb stores to sprinkle over Shanker's feet and in his boots, to counter the smell...
The next morning, Grigory made breakfast (but not for Shanker), and when he told them again about the caravan, Merian told him she was not impressed with the way he handled that. He just shrugged, got up and with a theatrical bow was on his way to the east.

During the second day, Gain the Dwarf let his raven scout ahead in search for the caravan. Towards the end of the day, the raven returned to him to tell about the ruins of an old town that seemed like a likely camping spot, and that's where the group ended up. The town square was a popular camping spot: open and with enough space, and close to a small river for water. Everybody (except Asgard -- even Gain made his Awareness roll by getting a Gandalf rune!) felt uneasy in the town square, so Grigory scouted a different spot, and he found the remains of the inn -- the flagstones under the hearth would make a good spot for their campfire.
(And they'll return here in the fourth scenario when escorting the Elf, so that'll be cool!)

Wanting to know more about what was so 'wrong' about that place, the group scouted the river-side. Grigory got an extraordinary success, and he spotted something glinting in the mud. But after his unlucky episode with the Thing in the Well in Mirkwood, he was unwilling to go near anything that was glittering in mud. The raven was sent to check it out from above, and he reported seeing gems or silver.
Merian and Gain went to check it out, with Grigory and Asgard providing ranged cover. After poking around in the mud, Merian found the remains of the warrior that was killed by the Wight, as well as a silver torc set with three glittering jewels -- worth 3 Treasure Points. (And big enough for her to wear as a crown...) When she took it to the rest of the group, Grigory felt a pang of jealousy...
That night, they felt a menacing presence somewhere by the river (again with some great Awareness rolls), but as the night progressed, it faded.
(With the last of its victims being dug up, there was nothing to keep the Wight bound to this place. And the party needs to camp here again during the fourth scenario too, which they would be unwilling to do if there were still ghosts around.)

The next morning, they set off early: only one more day to get to the High Pass! Early in the afternoon they spot a wounded pony, with a goblin arrow sticking out of it's behind! They catch the pony, remove the arrow and leave it to roam the area. Perhaps they'll find it when they return, perhaps not.
Then, towards dusk, they find Dinodas' trade caravan! It's holed up at a ringfort on top of a hill, with a big fire in the middle for light. Dindy is frantic and useless, and his guards are either inexperienced or wounded from a poisoned Goblin arrow... They are alarmed when the heroes appear seemingly out of nowhere, but is relieved when they turn out to be friendlies, and especially when they are friendlies sent out to assist them! The caravan guards post themselves at the north entrance to the fort, and the party will take care of the southern end. Grigory sits in the middle, ready to offer supporting fire with his bow to either side, when necessary. After the Orc leader's challenge and the group's defiant roar in return, combat begins!

At first, the group cuts through the 8 Goblin Archers without too much problem. Gain the Dwarf thought of a new combat task: taunt, a sort of inverse intimidate. When in an Open stance, he rolled for Inspire to get the opposition to target him -- his chainmail and shield make him hard to hit.
Asgard the Beorning also made good use of the intimidate task, and even managed to score an extraordinary success when confronting the second wave, sending all four Goblin Archers fleeing in terror, leaving only the Orc Soldier. But after he got Wounded from a lucky Goblin knife, his effectiveness decreased markedly... He did manage to Wound two Goblins, the only character to do so in this fight.
Merian the Hobbit, who is the most courteous and popular character in the group, turned into a blood-craving maniac... again. I don't know what it is with her and fights, but she kept tearing into the Goblins in forward stance, with great effect. She also assisted Grigory the Hobbit when a Goblin sneaked past the allies and attacked him. Together, they offed the gob before it could do damage.
Meanwhile, the allies kept the north entrance relatively secure, and even managed to kill an Orc in the second round!

As the fourth wave was already marching up the path, Grigory the Hobbit kept close to the fire and provided covering fire with his bow. He kept an eye out on how things were going with the caravan guards who stood their ground at the north end -- luckily, no-one died and they did a good job in keeping the ringfort secure! Asgard the Beorning even managed to wound an Orc (his second this fight), but it was Merian the Hobbit who turned out to be the MVP of the battle -- like so many battles before. She went all-out on the Goblins, but then she got wounded by a lucky Goblin... This put Gain the Dwarf in a murderous rage (Merian is his Fellowship Focus), so he went beserk on that Goblin. This left him open to attacks (and that opportunity was seized!), so he cooled off really quickly!

Meanwhile, Grigory heard some scratching noises coming from a pile of stones in the middle of the fort. ("Quick of Hearing" and a Great Success on an Awareness roll will do that to you!) He flicked a burning branch from the pyre into the hole under the stones, and the scratching stopped -- but when the wood went out, the scratchings returned. This time, Grigory enlisted the help of the terrified Dindy to throw burning material down the hole and to keep it burning. Dindy, happy to have something to do to keep his mind off the terrible things that could happen -- even something that would help! -- then threw handsfull of tinder and wood from smashed-up crates in the hole. That fire kept the Goblins who would otherwise abduct him, at bay!
Again, a good roll and quick thinking ensured that my players did not get to experience a part of the scenario!

Then, just as there was still a single Orc of the fourth wave standing, Ubhurz climbed the low wall of the ringfort and announced his presence by bellowing a challenge! Gain sprinted to him and kept him occupied, while Asgard and Merian finished off the remaining Orc. (They both went for Forward stances to maximise their chances, and their gamble paid off.) Then they assisted Gain in his fight against Ubhurz. He proved no match to the combined might of the party: in the second round, he went down and the fight was won!

(The fight doesn't seem that hard to me. With careful management of who takes which stance, the group was able to whittle away the opposition without getting into a pile of Goblins. Having both Merian and Asgard wounded was just the result of a few lucky rolls, not because the attack was overwhelming.)

After the battle, Iwgar wanted to move towards the valley as soon as possible, but the party insisted on treating Asgard and Merian first, and making some relaxing tea! Iwgar soon found out that he was no match for three very insistent Hobbits... Then, as dawn was breaking, they set off to the valley, and managed to reach the Inn unmolested!
(Again, officially you'd have to do Travel rolls here as well. But there's no dramatic reason to do so, so I skipped those.
I'm kind-of sad that we missed pursuing the abducted Dindy through the caves -- that would have been fun. But Grigory did excellent work to keep the goblins out of the ringfort. So again, a chunk of the scenario prevented by roleplaying and good rolls, which is not so bad after all. I might use the cave expedition in a later scenario.)

We're having a Fellowship Phase at the Easterly Inn. All the heroes will use that time for the "Open New Sanctuary" phase. I'll have them spend some Treasure to buy materials to build their own trading post on the grounds of the Inn. And of course there will be time to advance the characters. Asgard's player will be rebuilding him into a Slayer -- because that's what his role in the party is. And Grigory's player will be absent for two months due to work obligations, so Grigory will man the store while the rest goes out adventuring!
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the one ring
Apr. 23rd, 2015 @ 05:18 pm (no subject)
Current Mood: happyfestive
Happy birthday, luna_puella!
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Apr. 20th, 2015 @ 09:10 pm Spring season: the reckoning
Current Mood: okayokay
Looking through my notes, these are the series we'll be following:
- Arslan Senki;
- Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka?;
- Gunslinger Stratos;
- Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic;
- Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu;
- Ore Monogatari!!;
- Plastic Memories;
- Owari no Seraph;
- Hibike! Euphonium;
- Kekkai Sensen;
- Ghost in the Shell Arise: Alternative Architecture;
- Punch Line;
- Shokugeki no Souma;
- Re-Kan!;
- Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Zoku;
- Yamadakun to Nananin no Majo.

Not a bad haul, if you think about it... Not everything fits as well with us, so it might be that we drop a series if we start watching it and find out we don't like how it develops after all.
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Counting (Shuffle)
Apr. 19th, 2015 @ 12:02 pm More new anime
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Kyoukai no Rinne: Sakura can see ghosts, but mostly ignores them. Rinne, of her classmates is almost always absent, but then she sees him wearing a weird mantle -- and no-one else can see him. It turns out that Rinne is a spirit hunter who forces ghosts to the afterlife -- but he is always strapped for cash, since the implements needed have to be bought...
Mildly interesting, but the gag of having to keep putting in 10 yen coins in the coin slot of a tin can telephone to the afterlife gets kinda old really fast. The character designs are all very early 90's as well, giving the whole thing a dated feel.

Ghost in the Shell Arise: Alternate Architecture: The GitS: Arise OVA re-cut into a TV series. I have no idea what is happening (not having seen GitS: Stand Alone Complex (yet)), but man does it look gorgeous! Lots of stuff happening that I can't interpret because I don't have the background, but I am going to catch up and watch this too!

Ore Monogatari!!: Takeo is a soft-hearted giant, but girls are always afraid of him. Every time he wants to confess to a girl, she confesses to his handsome friend -- who is a total jerk instead who turns them down without fail. Then one day, Takeo saves a girl named Yamato from a groper on the train, and things turn around for him...
It's not special in any way: the story is kinda sappy, the visuals are nothing special... but we loved it. Takeo is really a kind-hearted guy, but a loser in matters of love, and you just want this to go right for him. Because he deserves it.

Punch Line: Yuta dies, and returns as a ghost. His body is taken over by someone else, so he needs to find a magical book to break that spell. It's somewhere in his apartment building -- and his neighbours are all kinda weird... He gets superpowers from glimpsing women's panties, but if he gets too excited, a meteor will crash into Earth and destroy all life! Luckily, he can travel back in time for a do-over.
I'm not sure that description makes sense, but it's true. And the series is hilarious in its weirdness. I also really, really liked the writing, which allows us to experience the same things happening from multiple viewpoints. That's hard to pull off, but this series seems to succeed there! (And it's this season's Noitamina slot, which means it's an original story written for animation, not a manga adaptation. That often means that the script is much more daring than other series. And that works out quite well, most of the time.)

Shokugeki no Souma: Soma wants to succeed his father as the cook in their restaurant, and trains hard to do so. But the yakuza want their restaurant to build an apartment building on the grounds! One night, when his father is away, he is challenged by the yakuza, but his cooking saves the day! However, his father closes the restaurant none the less, and Soma is sent to a prestigious cooking school.
Have you ever had food so great that it was an orgastic experience to eat it? Because the people in this series have that all the time... Amusing stuff, if you don't mind the sexy poses. I wonder if the series can keep up the pace, or if it will become a one-trick pony.

Uta no Prince-sama - Maji Love Revolutions: Third season of Uta no Prince-sama. The cast has expanded to include even more dreamy boys who all pursue the absolutely colourless female lead. And when one group is chosen to sing the opening song for an Olympic Games-like tournament, the other groups revolt because they want their shot at world-wide fame too!
Five minutes in, and we were getting bored. We kept watching for the absolutely hilarious principal (Norio Wakamoto hamming it up to the max), but unless you're a total fangirl of the series, then give this a miss.

Triage X: A surgeon has taken it upon himself to operate on society! Criminals who are deemed malicious cancers to society are 'removed' by a team of specialists -- which of course consists of a broody young man and countless busty women in skin-tight outfits.
If you like violence and boobtastic character designs, then this is for you. There's not much else to it.

Show by Rock!!: Shian would love to play in a band, but she is too shy to join the music club at school. Then she is sucked into a music game on her mobile, and she is turned into a catgirl with a heart-shaped guitar. She has the power to defeat the empty souls with her music! And to top things off, she is then signed by a record company! (A poor record company with only one band in its portfolio, but still...)
Odd mix of cell animation and CGI stuff, simplistic designs and a story aimed to get young kids addicted to some mobile game, undoubtedly to get them to tap on those in-app purchase button... We'll give it a miss.

Yamada-kun to Nananin no Majo: Ryu Yamada is the toughest student in school, but he has no friends... What a contrast with Urara Shiraishi: she is the honour student of the school! And then one day they switch bodies, and Ryu finds out that she has her own problems. His personality gets the better of him, and he 'fixes' her problem...
Fun stuff, and it shows in a nice way that everybody has their own fight that others might not know about... The pairing of the delinquent and the honour student is a nice one too: I really like how Urara is rather matter-of-factly about the whole thing, while Ryu tends to freak out.

Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku: Eruna selects her high school based on the cuteness of the girls' uniforms. She dreams of staying in the dorms and romantic encounters with cute girls there, but reality is different. Your standing is based on the standing of the club you join, and its ranking in the frequent battles between the clubs. And since she is not a member of a club, she gets a sleeping bag in the hallway!
Really odd series. Eruna is not likable, and the weird rules seem to be a simple set-up for bizarre battles. (Because how would the gardening club fight the baseball club?)

Nisekoi:: The second season of Nisekoi. It picks up right where the first season left off. And while the first episode was fun enough, we decided we just couldn't be bothered because it seemed to become quite drawn out with the same jokes rehashed over and over. (The backgrounds are gorgeous, though...)

And that concludes the reviews for this season!
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Counting (Shuffle)
Apr. 18th, 2015 @ 10:39 pm Fifth session D&D, group 1
Current Mood: peacefulpeaceful
Warning: contains spoilers. The report of the previous session for this group can be found here.

[GM notes: Analysing the map of Cragmaw Castle]If you look at the map of Cragmaw Castle, you can see three 'zones'. The first zone is at the front of the castle (to the west), where the Goblins and one team of Hobgoblins reside. Noise (for instance from a fight) in one room will alert the monsters in the adjacent rooms.
The second zone consists of the defiled shrine and the room with the Grick. There's an empty store-room between the shrine and the first zone, so unless a fight breaks out right there, the Goblins in the shrine will not notice anything amiss in the other zones.
The third zone is the east side of the castle. There's an empty hallway (running from the side door at the south to the hidden entrance at the north), this is an area that nobody loiters around in. And given the fact that King Grol is a mean bully, I think it's safe to say that the Goblins at the west side of the castle are content to stay there! Again, a battle in this zone will not alert the residents of another zone.
This allows the characters to put in a short rest before continuing to the next zone.

[The adventure]With the party safely hidden in the bushes some distance from the castle, the Rogue went out to scout around the hill on which the castle stands. He is sufficiently stealthy to pass unnoticed, and he manages to identify the path leading up to the fake canvas 'wall' to the north tower. After making sure this is indeed a path into the castle, the Rogue returns to the party and they sneak into the castle.

Using their usual cautious routine, the party decides to check out the east side of the castle first. They pass the door to the king's quarters (I ruled that the king was too busy arguing with the Doppelganger to notice what happens outside of his room) and managed to surprise the Hobgoblins that are on guard to the south of the king's tower. After dispatching them (counting the beds to make sure they got every last one of the Hobgoblins), they doubled back and kicked in the door to the king's room, surprising the occupants.
A battle ensued. The Noble Fighter made sure that the wolf was taken care of first (after all these encounters with wolves, he has acquired an antipathy against them), which further enraged king Grol. However, the combined might of the party proved too much for him. Other party members had kept the Doppelganger occupied, so she could not escape with the map, and soon after Grol was felled, she was vanquished too.
Immediately after, Gundren was released from his bonds -- the first time in a week that he could move around freely. His ordeal had weakened him, but he was thankful to see the party again, and to find his map relatively unscathed. When the party asks him to join them in exploring the rest of the castle, he declines to take an active part: he is too weak, but he is in no shape to travel on his own either. He is given a light crossbow for defense and told to hang back (which he does -- the rest of the session Gundren does not take an active role).
The party takes a short rest before opening the door to the south-east tower, and the fight with the owlbear ensues. They take a beating, having to expend some resources. And they even fail to find the treasure in the room!

Then the party crosses the corridor and enters the kitchen. A chaotic fight ensues, with the Wizard making good use of his Flaming Sphere and the rest whacking Goblins left and right. However, some got away and ran towards their sleeping area, alerting the Goblins who were there. When the party pursued the fleeing Goblins, some of the Goblins in the sleeping area stayed to fight while other fled towards the hallway, alerting the Goblins and Hobgoblins in that area, and so on. In the end, the whole 'zone' was alerted!
The Noble Fighter took the door to the north of the dining area in order to cut off the escape of the fleeing Goblins, putting him in the trapped area. He did not move across the wire so he did not trigger the trap -- but when a passing Goblin saw him standing there, it kicked the wire in, triggering the avalanche on top of the Noble Fighter! When he went in pursuit, he walked into the Hobgoblins, and he was struck down. Luckily for him, backup was not far away and he was healed again by the Cleric.
In the end, only two Goblins managed to escape through the front door, and the rest was put to the sword!

After catching their breath and regrouping (because everybody pursued the Goblins left and right, the party had been spread thin, another factor that made the fights a bit more dangerous), the group then went on towards the Shrine, and slayed the Goblins there. The Grick ambushed them when they went into its room, but it too was soon dispatched.

And so the party cleared Cragmaw Castle. Gundren will want to go to Phandalin and rest up for a bit before the party is ready to tackle Wave Echo Cave! Maybe they'll run some of the errands still waiting for them in Phandalin, maybe they will simply wait for Gundren to recover enough.
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Apr. 18th, 2015 @ 10:36 pm New anime
Current Mood: okayokay
Etotama: There are twelve personifications of the Chinese Zodiac -- and a catgirl who aspires to become one. (There's this story about the cat being cheated out of a place in the heavens by the rat -- which is why cats still hunt mice and rats, obviously.) She lives in the damp spot below a tatami mat in the house that some bland guy rented, and she needs to keep him happy to get some sort of energy from him, which she uses during CGI fights in CGI arenas.
I'm not sure what the point of this series is. Yes, the designs are kinda cute, but the puns are bland and there is frequent breakage of the fourth wall ("I'm level three!"). Add the squeaky voices, and we're out.

Hibike! Euphonium: A girl who was in the band club at her middle school finds out that the band in her new high school is pretty bad. She is kind-of thinking of joining, but then she finds out that a high-strung girl from her middle school goes to the same high school -- and she is going to join the band club... But her new friends are going to join the band too...
The new series by Kyoto Animation, and it shows in the character designs and the quality of the animation. The plot seems to be pretty standard, but that's not a barrier to enjoying this series.

Houkagou no Pleiades: A clumsy schoolgirl who loves astronomy seems to have developed a knack for ending up somewhere other than school when she walks through a classroom door... She meets a group of girls who chase star-fragments on motorised brooms in order to catch them, and becomes one of them.
Originally, this was an OVA sponsored by Subaru-the-carmaker. ('Subaru' is the Japanese name for the Pleiades, which is also the emblem of the carmaker.) And now it's spun out into a TV series. And it left us feeling rather indifferent, because we're not sure why we should care about anything that happens during the episode.

Kekkai Sensen: One day, a portal to different worlds opened up in New York. Now all sorts of creatures walk around there, and the various interactions with them causes all sorts of large-scale destruction... Amidst this all, a group of humans tries to defend the human's interests using some sort of blood magic. A Japanese boy, who had been living in the city only days before the portal opened, gets sucked into their struggle.
Absolutely wild action series with a high weirdness quotient. It's a rollercoaster ride that just keeps going and going and going. Just when you think you'll be coasting for a bit, it accelerates again! Lovely animation. For some reason, it reminded me of Eden of the East -- that also starts of completely bonkers.
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hand-eye coordination
Apr. 12th, 2015 @ 04:40 pm My first RPG and my first PbF
Current Mood: excitedexcited
One of the things that I really like about RPGGeek are the PbF's: Play by Forum games. In RPGs, players take turns to describe what they want their character to do, and so it's pretty well suited to be played through an online forum. Sure, it'll slow -- much slower than if everybody sits around a table. But it allows you to play with people outside of your circle, and you could try stuff that you would otherwise not get to play.
I have been playing PbF's at RPGGeek since August, and they have all been really great (so far). So I thought I would like to run a PbF too. I chose The One Ring, because that's the system that most of my attention has been turned towards these days. As for the scenario, I thought it would be fun to re-write an existing Middle-Earth RolePlaying module to The One Ring -- MERP was more of a clone of D&D, with lots of monsters and magic and magical artefacts, making it a really poor adaptation of the source material. And that shows in the modules: they're set in Middle-Earth, the names are proper Sindarin, but what happens in the adventures is (often) more geared towards the D&D 'accumulate loot'-mindset than in line with the themes of the works of professor Tolkien.
The One Ring, on the other hand, has embraced those themes and made them an integral part of the rules and the background for the characters. The adventures in the published scenario anthologies all emphasise the feeling of lost glory and the desperate struggle against a rising tide of darkness -- good stuff.

The first roleplaying session I played, we set out to have an Adventure at Minas Anghen, the first scenario in Haunted Ruins of the Dunlendings. Bandits in abandoned tower, ghosts and some really neat magic tricks -- everything a good adventure should have! But the scenario-as-written is set only a few years after the Great Plague of the 1600s in the Third Era, whereas the setting of The One Ring is set towards the end of the Third Era, somewhere in the 1900s... And the location of the scenario is the Dunlendings, at the west-side of the southern Misty Mountains, whereas the locations for The One Ring are set in Wilderland -- basically everything east of the Misty Mountains and north of Lorien.
So I did a bit of rewriting, turning it into "The Secret of Minas Anghen". I'll see where it (and the players!) takes me. Recruiting six players only took 12 hours to fill all the 'seats', and I have posted the IC ('In Character', basically the game proper) thread today.

If you want to follow along, you can find the OOC ('Out of Character') thread here, the list of characters here and the IC thread here.

If you want to follow along and have an account on RPGGeek, you can Subscribe to the threads, so that the updates will appear in the stream of your subscribed threads. And if you have an account on BoardGameGeek (the RPGGeek sister site devoted to boardgames), you can reach those threads from that site too, and subscribe from there.
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the one ring
Apr. 11th, 2015 @ 02:46 pm (no subject)
Current Mood: happyfestive
Happy birthday, cissa!
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Apr. 11th, 2015 @ 09:38 am (no subject)
Current Mood: happyfestive
Happy birthday, coronanl!
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Apr. 8th, 2015 @ 09:58 pm New anime
Current Mood: tiredtired
More series watched, more reviews to write!

Arslan Senki: Arslan is the crown prince of a vaguely persian empire. He is pampered, but his parents mostly ignore him. He is soft-hearted, but when a slave escapes which takes him hostage, he learns that there is more going on in the world than what happens in the palace or the capital.
Interesting fantasy set-up -- I wonder how the soft Arslan is going to deal with becoming king in the next episode. Should be epic.

Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic: Straight continuation of Kiniro Mosaic, about Shinobu and her English friend Alice. Again, not much happens.

Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu: Set in the same world as 'The Dissapearance of Haruhi Suzumiya' (watch for her cameo!), the series focusses on Kyon and Yuki, who are in the Literature Club -- but they don't do many 'club-like' activities, it's mainly babysitting the very shy Yuki (who obviously has a thing for Kyon, and he knows it).
It might get good later, if they up the weirdness a bit. The first episode is not much more than a rather standard bishoujo plot, with characters from the SOS brigade swapped in.

Owari no Seraph: A virus wiped out everyone over 13. The children were then rounded up by vampires(!) and kept as cattle. Then a 'family' of orphans decides to escape to 'outside', but that turns into a bloodbath. Only one boy makes it out, and he is collected by a bunch of people who talk about a 'prophecy' and ask him if he wants to help them take out the vampires. You bet he does!
Pretty brutal, the vampires really regard the kids as something on the level of insects and play cruel games with them. There's probably quite a bit of violence coming their way when the kid grows up...

Re-Kan!: which means 'sixth sense'. The main character is a slightly unfocussed girl who can see (and interact) with ghosts. Her new classmate doesn't like spooky stuff, and is creeped out by it, but is also fascinated by her.
This could be really good if some dramatic plots are developed, or fall flat in only a few episodes because it relies on a gag that will become really tired really soon.
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net zombie!