April 29th, 2006

Bishoujo squad!

Finished series: Mai Otome

It's been ages since I've written an anime review. That doesn't mean that we stopped watching anime -- you know us better than that! I'll try to catch up over the next week...

Anyway, we've finished watching Mai Otome, a spin-off series of My Hime. My first episode review of Mai Otome is here.

On a far-away world, technology has been lost -- except the nanotechnology to create Otome, women who can use the nanomachines to fight. This technology has been locked away in the school called Garderobe (the materialised weapons and armor of the Otome are called 'robe', so that figures). At this school, girls from all over the world enroll to become an Otome. When they graduate and become a 'Meister', they are bound by a contract to a Master -- a person of noble or royal blood -- to guard them and to do their bidding.
The lives of the Otome and their Master are bound together: if one dies, so does the other. The Otome fight in ritualised wars -- and the ruler of the losers simply dissapears. The Otome have awesome power, so there is not much use for conventional armies. As a result, the world enjoys a certain amount of peace, and those conflicts that arise are quickly finished via Otome combat.
But not all is well in the world: there is a shady organisation called 'Black Valley' that want the power of the Otome for their own nefarious plans, and there is also the Aswald, a group of cyborgs who have their own agenda as well...

Our main character, Arika, travels from far away to the city of Windbloom, to enroll in Garderobe. Her grandmother told her that she was the daughter of an Otome, and she has a certain jewel that is somehow linked to her mother. When she arrives, she meets Nina Wong and her (adoptive) father Sergei, and she makes a nuisance of herself. But then she helps Nina fend off an attack of the Black Valley on the princess of Windbloom, and due to special circumstances, she is allowed to enroll into the school.
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All the old gang is present, but this time in different roles. Natsuki is the headmaster of Garderobe, Mikoto is a cat and Alyssia is a bird! But on the other hand, some characters retain their bratty, cautious or loud-mouthed behaviour of the previous series. It is fun to recognise the characters of Mai Hime and to see their new role in this series.
As with Mai Hime, the cast of characters is huge, but this time around there seems to be less time reserved for character development -- some characters have only a very, very minor role. The focus is definately on Arika and her companions and direct opponents, which gives the series sometimes a plot twist that feels quite like a deus ex machina.

Designs are attractive (they have to be, in order to maximise the moe), and the voice acting is pretty nice. The music is OK, with an opening and ending theme that are appropriately genki.

Good points:
- An interesting world and technology;
- An interesting look at the franchise;
- Looks good;
- Satisfactory ending.
Bad points:
- Some plot twists feel like a deus ex machine;
- Cast of characters is perhaps a little too large.

All in all, a quite enjoyable romp. An 8.

Finished series: Ragnarök the Animation

We've finished watching Ragnarök the Animation. It is an anime based on the MMORPG based on the manga.

Midgard, the world of Ragnarök, is a pretty standard fantasy world. In the manga, there are some definate Norse influences, but apparently those have all but dissapeared in the game. And the anime, which is based on the game and not on the manga, has no references to the Norse mythology whatsoever. It is, plain and simple, a standard fantasy world.
All the trappings of the game (which I have never played, I must admit) are in the anime: character classes, levels, the kefir service, etcetera. This might be fun if you recognise elements of the game, but it certainly gets in the way of watching the series for the story.

The story itself isn't anything special either. Yuufa, an acolyte and Roan, a swordsman, travel together in search of adventure. Somehow they find themselves involved in an escalating series of events that threaten the world! It also doesn't help that Yuufa's brother is in cahoots with the Dark Lord, and that she has an immense brother-complex.

The animation isn't too special either -- there's lots of stock footage of when certain characters execute a skill or spell. The character designs are uninspired, and the list goes on and on. It's just a very, very mediocre series -- towards the end we really had to force ourselves to keep watching.

Good points:
- If you enjoyed the game, you might enjoy the anime.
Bad points:
- The plot!
- The characters!
- Towards the low end of mediocre.

All in all, a 5. Or maybe even a 4.5.

Smallest footprint PWM

I have only worked one day with the Wisp628 programmer, and I've already fallen in love with it. I made a test-circuit with a 12F675 on my breakboard, and I could simply stick the connection wires in the breadboard and program the PIC while it is sitting in the ciruit.

Which was a good thing, because my initial attempts at porting the PWM code to the smaller PIC (only 8 pins!) were unsuccesfull. For some reason (which I haven't found out yet), the PICs GPIO register (which controls the outputs (i.e. which pin sources current for, say, turning a LED on) doesn't like bit-wise operations on it. If I set the 3rd bit in the GPIO register, all other bits are turned off -- so I could only get one LED burning at any time.
Very odd, something I will ask the various internet fora about. But setting the whole register all at once (copying the contents of the working register into the GPIO) did have the desired effect.

Pretty bizarre, but I 'solved' it by doing all bit-wise operations on a register, and copying the contents of that register into GPIO after all bits had been set. Works like a charm...
I got it working too late in order to use that new-found knowledge in the mini-andon we made for klik's grandmother, who will be celebrating her 93rd (!) birthday tomorrow -- but a 16F628A also did the job, so no problems there.