Sunday, 25 October 2015

Christmas in Canada: Winnipeg

Oh gosh, I've put this off for way too long... I was originally going to publish this back in January, and then in March, and then I thought it would work well to publish it for Christmas in July, and then... you get the picture. But hey, I've finally buckled down and finished it off. That's right, the story of what I did at Christmas is coming some 10 months later. Enjoy!

Actually, once again for Christmas I didn't travel to any exotic locations. In fact, it's probably going to continue that way for the foreseeable future, because I don't have any trips planned at all right now, including this upcoming Christmas. I haven't had any trips since then, either. It's kind of sad, but maybe in a year or two I'll get to go somewhere. Goodness knows I love to travel!

So, instead of traveling far away, I went back home to Canada to get my yearly snow and cold fix, and while I was there I spent a couple of days in Winnipeg. I've always loved going to Winnipeg. It's probably the place I've visited the most, so the city has quite a bit of nostalgia value for me. Yes, there are plenty of reasons to complain about it (like the roads; no planning whatsoever!), but I still look at it through rose-coloured glasses. For the past several years a new museum had been under construction in Winnipeg: the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Last September (the one in 2014) the museum finally opened, and I decided that while I was in town, I was going to check it out.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Sports: Why Bother?

New post! Yay! And it's not even directly anime related! See, I can think about other things. Sometimes. This is actually the first post in quite a while that I'm writing kind of on the spur of the moment, without some sort of outline prepared in advance. The goal is to write, edit, and publish the whole thing all today, so we'll see how that goes. I'll try not to ramble too much, but as per usual, I make no promises.

As the NBC announcers have been reminding me for several weeks now, it's championship season in many sports. In tennis, the French Open is wrapping up this weekend. In horse racing, today is the Belmont Stakes, and we had our first Triple Crown in 37 years! Both the NHL and NBA playoff finals are swinging into gear. A little over a month ago, Mayweather and Pacquiao had their big fight. In soccer (football), the English Premier League just ended, the Champions League final was today (congratulations Barcelona), and the FIFA Women's World Cup started today as well (in Canada, and we won our first game!). Looking beyond championships, MLB, MLS, MLL, and NASCAR are all running too. There's a lot of others too, but way too many for me to keep track of. Heck, it almost seems like American football is the only sport out of season right now. With all these sports competing for viewers, it begs the question: who cares? Actually, let me rephrase that. Obviously there are a lot of people who care. Odds are that everyone who will read this cares. The real question is: why do we care?

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Baccano! Quality/Content Review

The logo of Baccano! and a selection of characters.
Baccano! isn't the easiest thing to assign a genre to, so I'm going to go ahead and call it a "period action mystery." I mean, it's set in Prohibition-era New York, there are crazy fight scenes in every episode, and you have no idea what the heck is going on for the first half of the show, so it seems fitting. This is one of the shows that I've heard about for many years, but just hadn't made the time to actually get around to watching it until now. It's a critical darling, for sure, and now that I've seen it, I think I can understand why.

The show aired in 2007, and was animated by Brains Base. This was really their first major work, though nowadays they're known for Natsume's Book of Friends and Durarara!! as well (the latter of which is often compared to Baccano! since both of them are adapted from light novel series by the same author, Ryougo Narita). The Baccano! novel series has 21 books, and the first 4 are covered by the anime. Sort of. There were 13 episodes that aired on TV, and those cover the first 4 books. An additional 3 episodes were released on DVD later, which cover the events of book 14, which was released after the anime. So maybe that book adapts the anime... These three episodes are basically a coda to the rest of the series; the main plot wraps up in episode 13.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

5000 Episodes Reflection: Managing Massive Character Counts

My goodness, I'm already to 5,000? It's barely been 6 months since the last one of these! In fact, I've barely published anything here since then, and almost everything that I have published was from Spring Break! I don't even know what I watched so much of to hit a thousand episodes so quickly. I guess finishing Inuyasha and Puchim@s! probably had something to do with it, but those only account for about a quarter. Ah well. I guess this just means that there has been a lot of good simulcasts lately.

So, what's changed since the last one of these? Well, I finally subscribed to both Crunchyroll and Funimation. I was originally going to go with just Crunchyroll, but then Funimation decided that The Heroic Legend of Arslan would be a 3 week delay for free users and The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan would be a 2 week delay, and I buckled. It was worth it though, since those shows are great. And now I get to watch more dubs if I so choose, which is fine by me. Side note: D-Frag! has a solid dub.

A graphic of my anime watched stats, including total hours spent and ratings distribution.
This is no longer up to date, but the current one is always available at Anime-Planet.
Are there any significant changes to my stats compared to the 4,000 episode mark? There's really only three things that I'll bother mentioning: my "watching" count has jumped from 7 to 17, my "dropped" count has... dropped, actually, from 8 to 4 (they live in the "stalled" category now), and my ratings histogram has crept even closer towards the normal distribution. In fact, the 4 star rating is now so popular that the 1.5 and 1 star ratings don't even show up on this scale. Thankfully, this also means that I haven't watched any horrible shows in the past 1,000 episodes either. I do like to think that I'm pretty good at avoiding trash. Oh, and I started reading manga, but that doesn't really factor into this discussion.

Well, now that the recap is out of the way, I should probably start into what I promised in the title: how to deal with a large cast. Now, this isn't an "I have all the answers" type of article, since I most certainly do not. Instead, I'll be giving some examples of shows with large casts that I think get it right, and some examples that get it wrong too. I'll explain why I think they're worth mentioning and what they did that's notable. If you're looking for tips on how to manage a large cast for your own project, at the very least this article should give you some examples of shows with large casts that you can learn from on your own.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Spring Break J-Dramas: Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia's Case Files

This is Day 5 in a series. You might want to start at the introduction.

Alright, let's end this week on a strong note. The first J-drama that I watched knowing that I would like it was Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia's Case Files (gosh that's a long name...). By the time that it was added to Crunchyroll's catalog, I had become pretty familiar with how J-dramas worked, and what type of show I wanted to watch. I saw the description for Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia, and I was immediately hooked. I knew that this was the one. It would probably be my favourite of all the J-dramas covered this week if it wasn't for how open the ending is, as well as the incredible strength of the Galileo movies. It still could be my favourite, if a second season is ever made.

The show has one of the oddest premises that I've ever seen. Not odd as in crazy, but odd as in unexpected. Goura Daisuki is a man who is unable to read books. He's not illiterate; he just can't read books because they make him sick when he tries. One day, when trying to sell some of his grandma's old books, he goes to an antiquarian bookshop to get them appraised. The owner, Shinokawa Shioriko, notices something strange about one of the books: it was supposedly signed by the author, but the signature is inconsistent with standard practice. As they investigate why this happened, secrets are revealed, and the mystery is eventually solved. Daisuki decides that he enjoys spending time at the shop, even if he can't read, and starts helping out there. As the series progresses, more books arrive with more mysteries to be solved.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Spring Break J-Dramas: Liar Game

This is Day 4 in a series. You might want to start at the introduction.

Well, yesterday was the best of the week, so naturally today it's time for the worst. After finishing Galileo, I really wanted to watch another mystery focused J-drama, so I picked the one from Crunchyroll's catalog that looked the most like it fit that bill: Liar Game. I did a bit of research on it, and saw that some people had made some comparisons to Death Note, so I figured "what could go wrong?" and dove in. I did say that it's the worst of the week (and it is), but it's not really a bad show. Well, it kind of is, but only because it's so very over the top cheesy, in every possible way. Writing, acting, costumes, everything. But that also makes it a lot of fun to watch.

Liar Game is about a "stupidly honest" girl, Kanzaki Nao, who gets sucked into a "game" run by bored wealthy people that ends up destroying the lives of most of the participants, who are forced to play against their will (similar to CH:OS:EN, but without the murder). The game that is played is different each round (officiated by a masked man on a television screen, like in Saw), but they are all based around the idea of making money. Every player starts out with a certain amount of money (usually ~$1 million) which they are required to repay at the end of the game. Any money they win from other players that puts them over their initial amount can be kept at the end, so every game is designed to have some players deep in debt by the end, which is where the danger lies.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Spring Break J-Dramas: Galileo

This is Day 3 in a series. You might want to start at the introduction.

Alright, this is the big one. Objectively, this show is probably the best of the five I'll be covering, but it also happens to be my favourite. GTO was just winding down its second season, so I started looking around for a new J-drama to watch, just in time to see Galileo Season 1 get added to Crunchyroll. I didn't really know much about it aside from Crunchyroll's paragraph description, but it seemed interesting enough. There aren't really any anime that are police procedurals (like CSI or NCIS), so I was intrigued to see Japan's take on the genre.

Galileo is a police procedural that shares similarities with American shows like Monk and Bones. The series is named after Yukawa Manabu; or at least his university nickname. He is now a genius physics professor, who has been roped into helping his old university friend, now a police detective, solve exceptionally difficult cases where the impossible appears to have occurred (such as teleportation). Utsumi Kaoru is a brand new detective assigned to take the place of Yukawa's friend, and they begin working cases together. It's a fairly conventional setup for a show of this genre; the show's strength comes from its consistency.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Spring Break J-Dramas: GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka

This is Day 2 in a series. You might want to start at the introduction.

After watching Mischievous Kiss, I didn't end up watching any more J-dramas for several months. I was busy with school, and just trying to keep up with the various anime series that I was watching simulcasted. But then summertime rolled around, and I came up with the brilliant idea to marathon all of Bleach. It's not very good for very long stretches at a time (*cough* Bount arc *cough*), and I decided one day that I needed a change of pace. Crunchyroll had just started airing the second season of GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, so it caught my eye, and I started watching from the beginning. And thank goodness I did; it's way better than Bleach (though I did finish that too).

What happens when you take a former thug, and make him the head teacher of a class of troubled high school students? Good things, apparently. That's the basic premise of GTO. Eikichi Onizuka was in a biker gang during his younger days, and is kind of a scary guy. Then one day circumstances conspire such that he ends up hired by the director of a school to teach the worst class of students they have. Wacky shenanigans and heartwarming life lessons follow soon after.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Spring Break J-Dramas: Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo

This is Day 1 in a series. You might want to start at the introduction.

You may not be aware, but it turns out that I watch quite a bit of anime. And if you want to watch legal streaming anime, you're going to end up at Crunchyroll eventually, as I did. I'm not fully sure what the exact circumstances were, but one day in Fall 2013 I was probably really bored, and decided that I'd click on the "Drama" tab on Crunchyroll. That happened to be when Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo was airing, and Crunchyroll had somehow managed to get the simulcast rights for it, so they were promoting it fairly heavily. I thought "Eh, why not?" and checked it out, thus sealing my fate.

I have to say, Mischievous Kiss is a pretty great J-drama to start with. It can be really cheesy at times, in the best possible way, which is something that I've found is often the case with these dramas. There's a lot of overacting and hamming it up, and the costume design is glorious (though not the most insane of the J-dramas I'll be covering). It's fairly typical for a J-drama comedy, so if you watch it and end up enjoying it, you'll definitely like what else is out there. To clarify my previous statement, a J-drama does not mean that a show is necessarily dramatic; it just means that it is live action.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Spring Break 2015: J-Dramas

Well hello there! It's been a while, hasn't it? To be perfectly honest, I've been working on a post for quite a while, but just haven't been able to get my motivation up enough to finish it, so it's just kind of sitting there. But don't worry! It's Spring Break, so you know what that means: 5 posts over the next 5 days! I think that I shouldn't have any problems with posting this year, so I should get the full 5 out, hopefully on time. No promises, but that's the goal.

In previous years, I've covered video games, anime, and movies. So what's the topic this year? Television, in the form of J-Dramas! Yay! As a side note, this isn't actually the topic that I failed to cover last year and said I'd cover this year (or sooner). I still haven't finished the "research" for that one, and the earliest I'll be able to do so now seems to be this Fall, so don't expect it anytime soon. I also keep changing my plans for it, which hasn't helped it get done. Back to this year, for anyone who isn't familiar with what a J-drama is, it stands for "Japanese Drama," and refers to live action television shows produced in Japan. You may have heard of K-dramas, which are the equivalent for shows made in South Korea. I've seen a few of those too, but not as many, and I figured that I would focus on J-dramas this time around. It's actually kind of odd that I've seen more J-dramas, since there are so many more K-dramas available. South Korea has been very good about exporting their dramas to North America, but Japan has only started making it possible in recent years, and mostly through Crunchyroll, which is where I first bumped into them. Anime has had a very large presence for a while now, but dramas are just starting to really come onto the scene.

I guess if I had to explain what I enjoy about J-dramas, one of my major points would be the same as why I like anime: most shows (at least, most available here) don't run forever. Unlike American shows like CSI or Supernatural, all of the J-dramas that I've seen or heard about are tightly plotted shows that run for a season or two (sometimes nearly a decade apart) before ultimately resolving. On American tv, the goal for almost every show is to keep on the air for as long as possible, and just continue to pump out episodes each season until the show is finally canceled. All the J-dramas that I've seen take a different approach, where they try to tell a story (usually adapted from something), and once the story is over, the show is too. If you know me, you know that I love the plot being the focus, so these are right up my alley.

I'll be focusing on one J-drama each day this week. The order that I cover them will be more or less the order that I watched them in, not that it matters. I won't actually be covering the very first J-drama that I watched, which was the live action Death Note movies. I did really like them (I even think they had a better ending than the anime), but I decided not to cover them because they're movies and I wanted to cover tv shows, and also because it's been a while since I watched them, so my memory is kind of hazy anyways. I hope you enjoy this topic and maybe even find a show that you want to watch.

Full Series

Intro: J-Dramas
Day 3: Galileo
Day 4: Liar Game