My Current Editorial Dillema

Hey there everybody. Today is my 48th post since I started this blog. 2 more weeks and I will have hit number 50. And I have to tell you, every day I wake up and see more people have viewed my blog I think to myself, “Holy shit, they are still reading that shitty thing?” Just kidding, but seriously it has been a wonderful 48 so far and there will be more to come this year. I am hoping by the end of the year to have a few reviews of some Final Fantasy games up, and of course, expect a special post on December 18th to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Final Fantasy. That’s right, it has been 30 years since that shabby little game company that split from an electric power company was saved by a game that would become a legend of the video gaming industry.

But obviously as evidenced above, I am having a huge dilemma I need to solve. Going into this blog, I wanted it to be a unique showcase that shares who I am and what I am passionate about. A Blog about gaming and politics seemed awesome since those are my life. Then I had some life issues and had to take a Hiatus, and since I have come back my posts have been mostly about politics. I want more content about gaming though, as well as anime and technology.

Now, of course, you ask, “why this is so hard to achieve?” Well, I have explained some of this before. Of course, as I mentioned before part of the video game and anime reviewing is having to complete a video game or anime to review it. You also have to remember to take screen shots. I have plenty of games in the works right now and will hopefully be able to complete something at some point, but I have not been able to play as much as I would like due to life distractions. Some examples include health issues, issues with my sleep, and stress. These are obstacles to completing the games I want to review.

Another issue is this year itself. It is a politically charged year, and quite frankly there is not a month that goes by where I do not find 2 or more issues that I decide I need to write about. We have seen a lot this year that just needs to be written about because of its significance. There have been historical events, mass media lies, landmark court decisions, unfortunate scandals, roving gangs of politically driven bigots, and of course the left going totally unhinged. With all of this going on, it is hard for me to focus on finishing games and reviewing them. I mean there, of course, is stress from these events that plays a factor, but also the need to write about it. And I have been told by some friends who read the blog that they are glad I took the time to write what I have as it is informative.

Now I have been pondering for a while how to deal with this. The only conclusion I can come to is that there is only so much I can do as one person. I do not want to adjust my schedule again. So what I want to do is bring in another writer. And so I am adding a new page to the Blog.

On July 31st at noon a new page will show up on my blog entitled “Contribute”. Here I will outline my requirements for the job. If you fit these criteria just fill out the contact form with a small writing sample and some information about yourself, then submit it. I will review your writing sample and any other information that is relevant. A hint for you guys, if you have a WordPress blog/account already that will play in your favor.

Good luck guys, I hope I get a stream of interested individuals with bright ideas and sharp writing skills. Good luck to you all.

 

And here is last weeks really hot picture of Cloud again, cause damn. DX

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Cowboy Bebop

I really should kick myself for not doing a piece on this sooner. I really do ask the forgiveness of my non-political readers for the long string of political posts, this has really been a politically charged year so far and it has been hard to do a lot of other posts. I have been playing video games less so some posts on games that I was planning to complete are sort of on hold. I have been watching a lot of anime though and rewatching some of my old favorites, and at some point in the near future hopefully, you can look forward to between 12 to 15 back to back weeks of UC Timeline Gundam which I will soon review. But for now, I hope you enjoy my meager offering of this classic from the golden age of anime.

Before I get to the plot I want to cover some of the most remarkable things that made this series great. As a 90’s kid, I am proud that I grew up during the golden age of anime even though my only contribution was my viewership. Cowboy Bebop was one of the crowning achievements towards the end of that age, a mix of classic western and sci-fi space opera. Most remarkable was the use of music as part of the framing of the story. Each episode explored fringe music styles such as Metal (Heavy Metal Queen), Blues (Sympathy for The Devil), Funk (Mushroom Samba), and most frequently Jazz and Bebop. In the Golden Age Tradition of shattering every boundary, this show redefined many. That’s why it will always remain in my top 10 favorites, it is a hard show to top and only a few have ever topped it since its debut in 1998.

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The Bebop during Hyperspace Flight. Image from 1.bp.blogspot.com

In 2071 Humankind has inhabited the rocky planets, moons, and asteroids of the solar system with the help of a Hyperspace gate system. However, an accident with the gate exactly 50 years prior has left the Earth virtually uninhabitable. With mankind spread from Venus to Saturn crime has become a greater issue, leading to the Inter Solar System Police to push for the legalization of Bounty Hunters. With the task of bringing in criminals alive in exchange for money, Bounty Hunters are universally despised throughout the system by criminals, police, and everyday citizens. For them, space is a cold place to exist.

Nobody in their right minds would willingly live this kind of life, but nobody on the cruiser Bebop is really in their right minds. Not Spike Spiegel, a man who faked his own death and is on the run from the Red Dragon Syndicate. Not Jet Black, a former ISSP officer who quit in disgust over the general corruption in the organization. Not Ein, but he is just a genetically enhanced dog with super intelligence. Not Faye Valentine, she is just a con artist deep in debt who had been cryogenically frozen for over 50 years. And certainly not Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV, she is just a totally eccentric hacker from Earth who invented her own name. Together though these crazy beings are the best (well actually worst) Bounty Hunters in the Solar System.

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Image of a ship coming through the Warp Gate. Image from inetres.com

Shinichiro Watanabe initially coined the tagline “A new Genre Unto Itself” to promote Cowboy Bebop, however, he later said this was an exaggeration. I have to disagree though, he was about right as Cowboy Bebop was a one of a kind mix of multiple genres that nobody, not even Watanabe-san himself, has ever been able to repeat much less exceed. The beauty of the show for me lies within this hopeful yet a dystopian vision of the future. On the one hand, humanity seems lost after being forced to part with their home planet, searching for meaning and a place to belong. On the other hand, there is hope to be found in humanities expansion to the stars and their will to survive and return to some semblance of normalcy.

Of course, the music cannot be discounted either. The series was almost experimental with its choice of background, barely recycling any themes and always coming into each episode with a fresh set of tracks. Yoko Kanno composed the music for the series and even formed the “Seatbelts” exclusively to perform the soundtrack for Cowboy Bebop. Later on, Watanabe described how Kanno’s composing heavily influenced the actual creative direction of the scenes. Rather than taking Watanabe’s direction, Kanno would often follow her inspiration and come back to Watanabe with a musical piece he was not expecting, and even though he didn’t ask for the piece just listening to it would inspire him to write entirely new scenes. He described it as a back and forth between them, so both the writing and the music drove the direction of the series. This symbiotic back and forth process really does make the anime a new type of genre that is not driven by just the story or the music.

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The Crew of The Bebop. Image from cotygeek.com

I can’t really express how much I personally have enjoyed this series. It has actually gotten me through breakups and life failure with its deep and whimsical stories. Now approaching 20 years it has aged well and even today gets a late night run on Adult Swim. I highly suggest you buy a copy of this show. You’ll never regret it and never forget it.

Image from nocookie.net

The Irregular at Magic High School

Don’t let the title fool you, this show is full of things you will not expect. Take Tatsuya Shiba and Miyuki Shiba. On the surface, they look like normal students attending the prestigious First High School Affiliated with The Magic University, the younger sister a First-Course honor student or “Bloom” and the older brother a Second-Course remedial student or “Weed” with inferior magic ability. In reality, the younger sister is heir to the Yotsuba’s, A family that is part of the 10 Master Clans of Magic in Japan. And the older brother is a disgraced member of the family tasked with acting as his younger sisters bodyguard because of his unparalleled skill with magic, though his powers have been limited by a seal. Scratch the surface and there is a lot going on under it all. That is what I find most appealing about this anime that exceeds all expectations for the discerning anime connoisseur.

Image from nocookie.net

The Cast of the show and Tatsuya’s main group of friends. (Weeds to the left, Blooms to the right) From left to right: (Mikihiko Yoshida) (Mizuki Shibata) (Leonhard Saijo) (Erika Chiba) (Tatsuya Shiba) (Miyuki Shiba) (Honoka Mitsui) (Shizuku Kitayama) Image from nocookie.net

The show takes place in the year 2095. After a 3rd world war that altered not only the world’s political climate but the climate of the planet as well, many things have changed. The first is that as a result of wars sparked by the chaos of diminishing food supplies in the 2040’s the world’s countries have consolidated into 12 distinct nations, among them the USNA, the Federal Soviet Republic, and The Great Asian Alliance, with nations like Japan and Australia being the only recognizable countries. The second is that Magicians and Magic have become the greatest asset in warfare since the implementation of tanks, they are more lethal than any bomb or missile and more effective than commandos. This has led nations to encourage the study of magic as a science and to cultivate young magicians as valuable military assets.

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The Locations of the 9 High schools Affiliated with the Magic University. This map is apparently from the Manga as they do not really elaborate on the school’s locations in the anime. Image from nocookie.net

In Japan, magicians are identified and trained at 9 High Schools across the nation affiliated with the Magic University. Here young men and women who are so carefree and innocent are trained as weapons, barely aware of the fate of both glory and tragedy that awaits them. In this setting, we find Tatsuya Shiba and his sister Miyuki. Despite on the surface being a remedial student with mediocre magical ability, Tatsuya is, in reality, an extremely talented magic engineer who is employed by the JSDF in addition to his job at a well-renowned company that produces magic equipment. (CAD’s)

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First Course Students (Blooms) wear the school’s crest on the shoulder of their uniform, while the Second Course Students (Weeds) wear a field of gray. Image from pinimg.com

Despite his skills, however, he falls victim to the systematic discrimination of First-Course students towards their Second-Course peers. He also faces troubles at home as he is a disgraced member of the Yotsuba Clan. Not only is his power sealed as punishment, he is forbidden to garner praise or attention from the rest of the Magic Community. With the support of his sister and friends as well as some more intuitive First-Course upperclassmen, though, Tatsuya achieves the admiration of his peers and elders while shattering the stagnant status quo.

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Tatsuya being greeted by two Second Course upperclassmen after being forced to join the disciplinary committee. While initially skeptical of a “Weed” being allowed to join they immediately change their mind when the head of the disciplinary committee relates Tatsuya’s amazing ability to them. Image from littlecloudcuriosity.wordpress.com

So first off what I really love about this anime series is how they approach the concept of magic. Rather than the mushy gushy “wave a wand and anything is possible” bullshit, the magic of this world is a science. Just like in science there are things you can’t do with magic (for example sustained flight magic was impossible until Tatsuya solves the problems surrounding that magic concept), and unsolved problems (like the Cardinal Codes referred to on and off starting in the second story arc.) making this vision of magic very real and believable. Even the explanations behind the magic are scientific in nature. One example, Tatsuya’s friend Leonhard Saijo uses Convergent Systematic Reinforcement type Magic, a type of magic that reinforces the position of one physical object in relation to another allowing the user to do things like fortifying the integrity of an object by fixing the molecules in place or fixing the position of one object to another effectively binding the two objects till the caster releases the spell.

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Leonhard Saijo using the spell “Reinforcement” to prevent himself from being injured in a fight with terrorists while also effectively increasing the severity of damage his attack does. Image from mahouka-koukou-no-rettousei.wikia.com

There are also Ancient Magic Types that are stylized in the Shinto Tradition. These are used by Tatsuya’s friend Mikihiko Yoshida. In fact, I think he is the only one in the show who uses this style. I nonetheless enjoy it since I myself am Shinto (Not that I think there is any actual practice of what would be termed magic in actual Shinto.) so it excites me the way I imagine a Catholic would be excited to see a stylized rendition of an exorcism on TV. It adds to the cultural context of the show and is pretty cool to watch, my favorite spells are his Thunder based attacks which use Talismans as a point to concentrate electrons and then disperse them in the form of a Thunderbolt.

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Mikihiko Yoshida using the spell Thunder Child while competing in the 9 Schools Competition event Monolith Code. Image from mahouka-koukou-no-rettousei.wikia.com

So Magic Aside this show also tackles some pretty mature themes in a mature way. Take for example discrimination. A theme from the first story arc was the frustration of the Second-Course students over the First-Course student’s preferential treatment. Some Second-Course students choose to complain about it, ignoring the empathy of the few progressive first-course students who agreed with them. Tatsuya and his friends overcame this all though by demonstrating merit rather than complaining, this is a lesson that translates to real life.

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Student Council President Mayumi Saegusa giving a speech during a debate about discrimination at the school. She expresses her desire to do away with a rule that says Second-Course students cannot serve on the Student Council. Image from formeinfullbloom.wordpress.com

The series also deals with the role of soldiers as objects. Throughout the series, they break from the lighthearted theme and remind the viewer that these teenagers are being prepared as weapons, and some like Tatsuya and Third High’s Ichijou Masaki have already seen combat and have killed. To spare his sister from this fate Tatsuya’s goal is to solve the technical issues behind using Gravity Control Type Magic to create a sustained nuclear fusion reactor. Despite all of this it is very clear to the viewers that war has already started and that their fate as weapons is all but guaranteed. There are also a few underlying references to Genetic Experiments, Tatsuya not being able to feel emotions because of an experiment, Human Trafficking, and Using Body Parts of Magicians in experiments that really drive home the idea that many people view the magicians as an asset without taking into account that they are human.

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Ichijou Masaki covered in fake blood after target practice. Masaki uses the Dispersal Type spell “Rupture” to cause his enemies to explode from the inside out. He learned this in 2092 when despite being 13 years old, he volunteered with the armed forces to repel an attempt by the New Soviet Union to invade Sado. This garnered him the title “Crimson Prince”. Image from pinimg.com

It isn’t all high-tech magic, mature themes and war though. The show has a real Slice of Life aspect to it as Tatsuya and his friends go about a relatively normal High School life. There are also parts of the plot that monopolize awkward teen hormones and the social dynamic of high school to provide comic relief. Some examples are the obvious attraction between Mikihiko and Mizuki that causes them to be very awkward and clumsy around each other or the rivalry/friendship between Leonhard and Erika that also sometimes really feels like there is an element of attraction between the two. The funniest joke is the impression that Tatsuya and Mizuki give to others that their love may be more than just that between a brother and a sister. Of course, that doesn’t seem to be the case since Tatsuya doesn’t really have emotions. I dunno about Miyuki though, it’s hard to tell what she is really thinking about her brother.

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Miyuki might have a serious bro-con and Tatsuya is too dense to notice it.

There is currently one 26 episode season of The Irregular at Magic High School out right now. There is also a movie due to come out in Japan on July 17th, entitled “The Irregular at Magic High School: The Girl Who Calls The Stars.” It is unclear however when or if a second season of the show will come out. There is plenty of material for them work off of but as always in the anime industry, the decision to renew or a continue a project is determined by ratings and popularity. Let’s keep out fingers crossed though, this is an exceptional anime that is very smart with a story I feel is worth telling. I would love to see more and I am sure you will too. Enjoy the show guys!!