Thursday, 25 December 2014

Quality/Content Reviews Explanation

So, I've started actually purchasing anime now, not just streaming it on Crunchyroll or Hulu. It's exciting, I know. Now that I've started amassing a collection of titles (I say that, but I only have like, 5 shows), I thought "why not start writing up actual reviews of shows?" You know, the kind where you actually give a show some kind of number at the end. I've been wanting to do that for a while now, and this seems like a pretty good excuse to start.

Thus, I'm going to start writing reviews, with a couple of caveats. Firstly, I think I'm mostly going to stick to reviewing shows that I've purchased and actually own. That is to say, I'm going to try to avoid reviewing streaming-only shows. I'm sure there will be cases where I want to review a show but don't feel that it's worthy of my money, and in that case I'll review the online version, but only if it's available legally. This is going to have a few effects on my reviews, the most noticeable of which will be that I will try to review both the subtitled version and the English dubbed version (if it exists, it usually isn't available for free online). The vast majority of the anime that I've watched has been subtitled, but recently I've realised that if a dub is good, I actually like it more, so I want to make it a point to try every dub that I buy.

Because I'm so careful with my money, I'll usually only purchase shows that I've watched before and really, really liked. Usually when I buy shows, it's more to show my support than anything else (although the ability to share it with other people is nice too). Of course, this means that the usual score at the end of a review will tend to be unnaturally high. I dislike it when people give five stars to every show that they remotely enjoyed, and when I rate things I'll try to be fair and not ignore their flaws, no matter how much I enjoyed it. So just remember, if you see lots of fantastic scores, I'm mostly reviewing the shows that I already knew were good; everything I buy has been pre-screened.

Another, less exciting thing that mostly reviewing shows that I own will do for me is it will give me an excuse to release reviews at a pretty slow pace. Like I said, I only just started buying anime, so my collection is pretty small right now. You can check out a (probably) up to date list of everything that I own, sorted by purchase date here, if you're interested. It should give you some hints as to what reviews might be coming next. I don't purchase things very often, so don't expect too many reviews to come out, and don't expect anything even remotely close to a weekly or monthly schedule: reviews will come out when I write them, as I feel like it.

As for the actual content of the reviews, there are a lot of anime reviews and reviewers out there; Arkada from Glass Reflection is my personal favourite, as are the rest of the folks from Podtaku. In any case, I don't want to be just another anime reviewer because I don't think that we really need another person on the internet who assigns numbers to certain TV shows. Instead, I want to try and fill in a hole that I see and provide a slightly different type of review: a quality/content review. There are a lot of people who focus on the technical merits of a show (quality), but not really any that factor in what the show actually portrays (content) as well. Whether or not you agree with their belief system and biases, if you want to know what you're getting into when you go see a movie, I highly recommend that you check out Plugged In. That's the kind of review I want to provide: letting the discerning viewer know what they're getting themselves into. I'll try to make note of things that could offend any type of viewer, regardless of whether I am personally offended or not. Obviously, I'm prone to missing things that don't offend me, so if you happen to see that I missed something, just let me know in the comments and I'll try to fix it.

Doing a quality/content review for an entire TV series is significantly more difficult than for just a two hour movie, so we'll see how it goes, but I plan on doing my best to record all of the areas that anyone might be interested in. It's also important to note that content scores will be based off of the MPAA rating of the show. If the show is rated R (or TV-MA), I'll be a lot more lenient about what it can get away with than a PG-13 show (or TV-14), since its target audience is expected to be more mature. Of course, quality/content reviews have a section to look at the technical aspects of the show as well. I may change the format up a bit as I go forward and make more reviews, but for now here's an outline for what one of my reviews should look like:

I. Introduction
    A. Genre
    B. Year and Studio
    C. Source
II. Story - 5pts
    A. World Background
    B. Plot
III. Characters - 5pts
    A. Personality
    B. Story Role
IV. Visuals - 5pts
    A. Static Images
        1. Character Designs
        2. Backgrounds
    B. Animation
V. Sound - 5pts
    A. Music
    B. Sound effects
    C. Script
        1. Sub
        2. Dub
VI. Content - 5pts
    A. Violence
    B. Sexual Content
    C. Drug Usage
    D. Coarse Language
    E. Other
VII. Conclusion - 100pts ([Story+Characters+Visuals+Sound]*Content)
    A. Wrap-up
    B. Recommendation Level
    C. Where to Buy / Watch

Like I said, I'm still playing around with the format, so it may change up a bit in the reviews to come, depending on how they go. If it does, I'll make sure to update this post. I'm hoping that adding a bit of structure to these posts will help them to feel more focused and be stronger overall than my others that I tend to write in a stream of consciousness style (like this post, actually). I don't even have notes beforehand sometimes; I just kind of wing it. In any case, we'll see how adding structure affects things. I may adapt this format for reviewing non-anime properties as well. It shouldn't be too much of a change.

You'll notice that the final score is calculated by adding all the quality components together and then multiplying them by the content score. I really like the effect this has on the final scores, and it basically reflects my opinions of how media should be viewed. If a show is a technical marvel, but is filled to the brim with content that people may take issue with, I can't recommend the show to everyone, so it can't be given a perfect score. On the flip side, if there's nothing in a show that no one can really object to but the show is a mess, it definitely shouldn't get a good score either. The multiplication allows both quality and content to appropriately scale each other.

At the very end of the review, I'll give each show a recommendation level. This will be based mostly on the final score, but it's also kind of subjective. The highest level is Universal Recommendation, followed by Reserved Recommendation, both of which are quite positive. Lower down is Cautious Recommendation, and the lowest level is No Recommendation. I'll also do a quick pros/cons breakdown, effectively summarizing the review in a few bullet points, and give a 5 star rating for the sub and dub where applicable. If the dub's rating is greater than or equal to the sub's rating, take that as a recommendation to watch the dub instead.

So, I hope you enjoy these reviews, however often I actually post them. This is just something that I'm doing for fun, so don't expect too much. Nevertheless, I'll do what I can to provide quality reviews for you and yours. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

4000 Episodes Reflection: The Key of Type-Moon

So, a couple of days ago my father sent me a link to a blog post about how modern dictionaries fail to live up to their full potential by one James Somers. It was a great read, so naturally I wanted to know if he was constantly that good, or if it was more of a one-off thing. Turns out, he's pretty consistent. One post in particular that stood out to me was about how people should write more, even if they never plan on showing it to anyone else. The next day, I happened to watch Julie and Julia, which is a movie about someone who decides to start a blog because she wants to be a writer. I think it's high time I updated this blog, don't you?

Actually, as a brief aside before I start explaining what a "Key of Type-Moon" is, let me just say that Jason Somers is, for lack of a better expression, everything I want to be when I grow up. He's a talented programmer (mostly web development, but I'll forgive him; somebody's got to do it), he has an excellent grasp of the English language, he writes articles for The Atlantic and TIME, and he just one day decided that he was going to learn how to fly an airplane... so he did. That's pretty much the coolest thing ever. Learning to fly has been a dream of mine for a long time, although I've never actually pursued it. I hope that one day I'll be as cool as he is. Or, better yet, as cool as I think he is.

Alright, back on topic. You know, I spend so much time watching anime, I could have sworn that more of my posts were about it. Apparently not; I haven't posted any anime related articles since January, when I hit the 3000 episodes watched mark. I just hit the 4000 watched mark, so I guess it's time to revisit the topic. On that note, 1000 episodes in 3/4 of a year? Goodness that's a lot...

A graphic of my anime watched stats, including total hours spent and ratings distribution.
I'm actually taking a screenshot this time, so I can look back at my stats later.
In Japan, there's a genre of video games called visual novels. The best way to describe them is kind of like choose-your-own-adventure books, but with pictures and sound. Visual novels aren't very big in North America, although that's starting to change. The two best known visual novel developers are probably Key and Type-Moon. Key tends to write romances with a hint of the supernatural that will end up crushing your soul (Kanon, AirClannad), while Type-Moon tends to write verbose action-adventures that wax philosophical (Kara no Kyoukai, Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Zero). Now, these two descriptions may not sound very similar, but that's mostly because they aren't similar; Key and Type-Moon stories are actually very different from each other. But even though their stories are almost nothing alike, there is one striking similarity between Key and Type-Moon properties: the anime adaptions.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

First Person Indie Wanderfests

You know, I don't seem to post very often. This particular one I've actually been meaning to do for quite a while; I started back in mid-June. I even finished writing it a week ago, but I just have had trouble making the time to post it. I actually have some 15 posts in various stages of completion right now, but I just cant seem to get around to finishing any of them up. Ah well. If you're reading this, that means that this one actually got posted, so I suppose that's a win for me.

So there was a Steam sale recently, and I decided to take that opportunity to pick up a couple of games that I had been meaning to for a while: Gone Home and The Stanley Parable. Well, I actually picked up Gone Home during a Humble Store sale, but let's not worry about the details...

As you may be aware, I absolutely love story-driven games (see Alan Wake), and one of the places that you can find an abundance of stories is in the indie game sphere (see To the Moon). A while ago, I heard rumblings in the video games community about this game called Dear Esther, and decided that it was the exact sort of game that was right up my alley. I picked it up, gave it a playthrough, and enjoyed it for what it was. A little while later, I heard about a Source mod called The Stanley Parable, which seemed like it fit into the same general category, so I downloaded that and ended up enjoying it immensely.

Now, a year or so after finishing those games, I've been hearing about Gone Home, another similar game (which I've now played). I've decided to label this style of game as a First Person Indie Wanderfest, because this is basically what the whole game is like: it's from a first person perspective, and as you walk around the carefully crafted environments, a narrator talks based on where you are and what you're looking at. That's... really all there is to it. I figured that this would be a good time to give my thoughts of these games, going through them in the order that I played them.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014


As you may be aware, the new Godzilla movie came out this weekend. It made a lot of money, so you're probably aware. I went to see it as well, and I actually really enjoyed it. I used to watch the Godzilla: The Series cartoon back in the early 2000's (based on the movie that no one likes), and so I have a fair amount of nostalgia for the franchise. When I first heard that a new movie was being made, I was interested, but then I saw the first trailer, and suddenly I was excited. Now that I've seen it, I can say that yes, it was worth it. Godzilla is a legitimately good movie.

It was made by Legendary Pictures, a company that I just recently realised is one of my favourite movie studios. They're the ones who were behind superhero movies The Dark Knight and Man of Steel, as well as movies like Where the Wild Things Are and We Are Marshall. But most of their stuff is science-fiction or fantasy, like Watchmen, Inception, and Pacific Rim. Actually, on the topic of Pacific Rim, I thought it was quite similar to Godzilla in many ways (with giant monsters being the main way, of course). Obviously I liked Pacific Rim, but did I like it or Godzilla more? I think the answer is that Godzilla is a better movie, but I liked Pacific Rim more. Godzilla wasn't quite as over the top, but it was better acted and had a better script.

Anyway, immediately after getting out of the movie, I was struck with the realisation that Godzilla was a very human movie. Just as a warning, to discuss this idea farther, I'm going to get into some late-movie spoilers. I mean, it's a fairly straightforward plot with no real twists or turns, so spoilers aren't really that big of a deal, but if you're sensitive to that sort of thing (like I am), then you may want to read this after you have watched the movie. I mean, it's not that big of a deal, but this will probably not make a lot of sense if you haven't seen the movie, just because I'll be referring to specific events.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Caddo Crunch Saga: Ludum Jam

Well that was a busy weekend.

I just spent the past three days making a video game, and it turned out better than I was expecting. This past weekend was the Ludum Jam (or Ludum Dare if you follow some different rules), a video game making competition. The rules are pretty simple: you have 72 hours to make a video game based around a theme that they supply. You can work on a team, and pretty much anything goes. My roommate and I are both graduating this semester and we have officially finished classes, so we we figured "what the heck, why not?" and just went for it.

Friday, 18 April 2014

The Ender Quartet

So this year I gave up anime for lent, which was actually a lot harder than I expected. I apparently spend quite a bit of time watching anime normally, because I suddenly found that I had time to do some things that had been on my to do list for quite a while. One of these things was to read the books that I had received for Christmas, Xenocide and Children of the Mind, which are the last two books of the Ender Quartet. They had been sitting on my desk for months, and so I decided that it was time to knock that off the list.

For those of you who aren't familiar, the Ender Quartet was written by Orson Scott Card, and it consists of the books Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind. I had read Ender's Game for the first time a couple of years ago, and I enjoyed it enough that I gave my friend his copy back and I picked up my own, along with Speaker for the Dead and Ender's Shadow (a parallel version of the story that's not part of the Quartet). I read Speaker for the Dead last year, and it immediately became one of my favourite books (up there with The Silmarillion and The Stand). I had heard that the later books of the Quartet weren't quite as strong as the first ones, but I wanted to finish it anyways, so I got them for Christmas. It was totally worth it.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Spring Break Movies: The Winners

This is Day 3 in a series. You may want to check out the previous day, or start at the beginning.

Well lookie here! I actually got this one posted when I wanted to, rather than a couple of days late. Imagine that.

There aren't a lot of movies that are on this list, but the ones that are on here are absolutely fantastic. This list is The Winners of 2013.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Spring Break Movies: The Losers

This is Day 2 of a series. You may want to check out the previous day to start at the beginning.

Let me just start out by apologizing  I really wanted to get this post up on schedule, but circumstances foiled my attempt. My computer crashed yesterday, and when it restarted it got stuck in a loop that lasted for 8 iterations and a trip into my Windows 7 partition. I was seriously afraid that I had lost my computer for good, but thankfully it recovered (just not in time to still have internet access, so I lost my chance to post last night). So, here it is now.

There were a couple of movies last year that I was excited for that ended up failing to meet expectations. One of them I had waited for it to be made for years, and the other one I had seen a trailer for that made me think "oh, this looks promising." Unfortunately, they were not what they should have been. These are The Losers of 2013.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Spring Break Movies: The Ambivalent

If you've been following this blog for over a year (or if you've just looked back into the archives), I'm sure that you've noticed that I like to celebrate Spring Break by writing and posting every night of the week, with all of my posts following a common theme. I'm sure that you'll also have noticed that it is Wednesday of Spring Break and there have been no posts so far this year. I know, I'm disappointed in me too.

Basically, circumstances haven't been super conducive for writing posts this year. I currently only have an internet connection when I'm at the office during the day, so I don't usually have the ability to do research and post in the evenings when I'm free, which has been what I've done in previous years. To further complicate matters, I actually had a really cool theme picked out for this year but discovered recently that I wouldn't be finished my research in time (although hopefully I'll have it finished a little later in the year and I'll do a series then to make up). As a result, I've been scrambling to find a new topic that I can write about in the evenings (without an internet connection) and then post the next morning. So, let me present to you my thoughts on the movies I saw in 2013.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Indoor Skydiving

So, a couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to go skydiving. Inside. Weird, right? Well, it kind of was, but it was also super awesome, and a whole lot of fun.

How is it that I ended up on this excursion? It doesn't really seem like the kind of thing that I'd end up doing on my own, does it? Well, it's fairly simple: for his birthday, my friend's grandma payed for him and a friend to go do this, and I ended up being the plus one. The facility that we went to was iFly Dallas, the local site of a company that sets up these facilities all around the world. They've got sites all around America, in Australia, Singapore, the UAE, England, Russia, and a whole bunch of others. If it's something you want to check out, you can go to their website and see if there are any facilities near where you live. In any case, let's talk about my experience.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

3000 Episodes Reflection: From the New World

Wow. 3000 episodes of anime. That's quite a bit of time that I've spent on my hobby in the 3.5 years since I started; if I were to watch that continuously, it would take more than 1 month, 2 weeks, and 6 days (or so says my tracker website). Now, those numbers are kind of misleading, I'll admit. Most likely I didn't really just hit the 3000 episode mark. There are some series on there that I kind of guessed how many episodes I had seen (i.e. Pokemon), but the point is it's really close, and I've spent a lot of time getting there.

Actually, interestingly enough, the 3000th episode (and 200th watched or dropped show) that I watched was the Mushi-shi special episode that just came out. You have no idea how excited I am for the second season that's starting in April. As a result, I felt like having a bit of a celebration and taking a look back at a series that I just recently finished: From the New World.

Now, this won't be a review of the series necessarily. The point of this is not to go into detail about what the show did right and what it did wrong, but rather to look at some of the points that it tried to raise and some of the messages that I think it tried to give to the viewers. This was a show that made me think about the actions of individuals and the nature of humanity itself, so that's where I'll be focusing. As a result, this post will contain some amount of SPOILERS for the show, though I'll try to keep them as minor as possible.