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Strip 574, Volume 4, Page 52


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< Piro >

Kirara, working purely on faith ^^;;

"parts and pieces"

Tuesday - June 22, 2004

[Piro] - 01:18:00 - [link here]

After finishing the comic last night, i sat down and foolishly watched the first two episodes of Samurai 7, a new anime series by Gonzo roughly based on Akira Kurosawa's classic film Seven Samurai. Sorta like Ghost in the Shell meets an old fasion samurai flick.

I'll be the first to tell you that this is not the kind of anime i generally drawn to. I'm not a big fan of big fancy swordfighting scenes, nor am I a big mecha fan. In fact, in my opinion you could pretty much remove mecha from my favorite anime that contains them and i don't think i'd really notice (makes note to put on flak vest - mecha fans are scary). Well, in my normal rounds of poking around at new stuff, and seeing a few particular screenshots, i decided to give it a try. Screenshots of what? Impressive fight scenes? Beautifully detailed animation? Intense, emotional heroism? Well... not really. What really got me was one of the character designs, specifically Kirara, more specifically, the look in her eyes.

"cute female characters" are about as common in anime as ketchup bottles are in burger joints. Just about every anime ever made has at least one cute female character in it somewhere (yes, yes, there are ones that dont, but it is pretty rare). If you decide to watch every anime that just happens to have a pretty girl in it, you're gonna end up watching a lot of anime (and, therefore, preclude your ability to meet real ones). Girls aren't so lucky, of course - anime with pretty boys in them are actually part of a sub-genere, not a standard requirement of all anime.

Anyways, i won't say i didn't enjoy watching Samurai 7, because i did, to a point. Honestly, i could care less about the story. I could care less about the samurai. I was pretty much only interested in Kirara's quest and her troubles. Even so, her character does fall a little flat - she's a little TOO much the good priestess. So what in the world made me stay up till 3:30 watching both episodes?

Maybe it was just the look in her eyes, the way she was animated. Sure, it is an element to her character that isn't strongly defined. In fact, i often found the way she looked and the intensity of her gaze to be drastically weakened by what she was saying.Having Fumiko Orisaka's voice didn't hurt either. I like her character design, the way her outfit looks on her, the way her headgear works with her facial design and not against it (as so many costumes do). I even like her silly hat. I like her character. Maybe not enough to watch the entire series, but then again...

Have you ever watched something because you liked just one little thing about it? that's pretty much the case here. I've suffered thru amazingly bad anime because there was one character i cared about, i've flipped past hundreds of pages of manga to get to the pages that focus on some minor character i liked. I've even valiantly endured horrifically boring books just to make sure a favorite character came out all right in the end.

I don't think this is necessarily unusual. In fact, i think that it is more unusual for me to like every element of an anime. Haibane Renmei was the last one i can think of that I really liked the show as a whole. Maybe that's the difference between shows you watch, shows you like, and shows you love. Shows you love are shows you like everything about it, the entire package. Shows you watch and shows you like you watch for parts and pieces that are important to you.

When the material is in a forign language like, say, Japanese, you are suddenly often faced with not having all the parts and pieces available for you to judge. I used to watch a lot of raw japanese anime, often having only the most basic idea of what is going on. I watched all of Escaflowne raw, and honestly, to this day i still don't really know what the hell was going on at the end :P The DVDs are on my to-watch-in-my-next-life list. Yet the anime itself effected me deeply.

Even if you don't fully understand the language, emotions usually require little translation. When watching raw anime, you may wonder why a character was reacting the way he or she was, but you usually don't have to worry about understanding the way the character is feeling. Watch a new anime DVD that you know nothing about with the subtitles off sometime and you'll see what i mean.

It wasn't unusual for me, really, to have a favorite anime that I barely understood. In fact, there use to be a lot of fan-sites run by people who had only a have minimal grasp on what their favorite show was about. Sometimes, the parts that you could see and understand were enough to make the show important to you.

Of course, these days most shows are fansubbed fairly quickly, and soon after released here in the English on nice little DVDs. Even a lot of manga is more accessible than ever, either via scantranslations or as one of the many hundreds of new titles seem to be released here every month. There is less of a gap these days in understanding the "why" of what you are watching.

This doesn't always make it better, of course. I knew what Kirara was saying in Samurai 7, but I don't think really had much impact in what i liked about her character. In fact, it really seemed to dull her character for me. I almost wish i didn't know what she was saying. The show would then have a far more exotic quality to it, and between her looks and her voice and her mannerisms, i would probably form my own thoughts about her as a character, which i think would be far different that what she seems to actually be.

I'll continue this line of thought on wednesday. :)

< Dom >

Ah, Independence Port...

"In the shadow of giants"

Sunday - June 20, 2004

[Dom] - 23:00:00 - [link here]

So I'm typing this rant with one hand (no jokes until you finish the sentence, please) because with my left hand, I'm playing City of Heroes. I have 89 more minutes to rescue a group of mystics from the nefarious clutches of the Circle of Thorns, and I haven't a moment to lose--if I dillydally even a moment, they may not survive the night.

Yes, I'm that addicted to the game. I can barely pull myself away from the Alienware long enough to write.

I mean, I've been talking about CoH since around 2002 or so, so it's only natural that I've been playing it a lot recently. But I didn't realize that it'd be so... so GOOD.

I know MMORPGs are time sinks, but good lord! Final Fantasy XI didn't suck nearly this much of my time! Well, more on that later.

I mean, I intended to write about other games I'm playing. I mean, I picked up Sakura Taisen Monogatari at E3. I've had D->A: Black lying around since I got back from Japan. My Tarutaru Warrior awaits his promotion to Samurai status. Hell, I still haven't finished Shining Force 3 part 3 and it's been years. And in a development that I knew would happen two years ago, I'm too stuck on City of Heroes to play any of them.

Lots of other webcomic people have already spent a lot of time and effort talking about the game, so I'll content myself talking about why I dropped FFXI like a ton of bricks and lifted City of Heroes like a certain famous car from the '30s. It's a simple explanation, really, but it illustrates a lot.

See, a week or two before E3, I was running around the Tahrongi Canyon in Final Fantasy XI, trying to get to Jeuno, where it's recommended that I'm supposed to level up. I ran my stubby little legs over to Meriph[tab], and about a half hour later, was through. And then came the Sauro(tab). I asked the Shirt Ninjas, "Hey, can anyone help me through this zone? It's probably going to kill me."

No one helped, so I said "okay, I'll just log out for a while then."

A day later, City of Heroes came out.

Now, I want to point out that in the three or four weeks that I played Final Fantasy XI, I partied with my friends exactly five times. Twice with Paco-Paco, twice with Dingoko and once with Pdac. I was never able to group with other friends because they were off crafting, farming, or levelling jobs that were wildly higher than mine. Just keep this in mind.

So Gamestop messed up my pre-order because of a snafu regarding my CoH order, which meant that I didn't get to play during the three days of head start that pre-order people got. I joined my friends (on the Justice server, in case you're wondering) and realized that they were about 8 levels above me.

I, still in my Final Fantasy XI mode, said "ach, I guess I'll have to level up a lot before I can play with you guys".

They, who mostly didn't drudge through FFXI (notable exception: Kuro), said "Don't worry about it, just get to level 5. It'll take about 20 minutes."

So I got to level 5, told them (they were about level 12 by this time), and they said "come on by!".

So I ran to Steel Canyon, and saw the words "[character name] invites you to join forces as a sidekick." After clicking the yes button, I was greeted with the words "You are now fighting at level 11."

And so began our adventures, which I'm starting to chronicle at Villain Hunter, our supergroup's official website. Almost daily, I'm out playing with my friends, shooting the breeze on TeamSpeak, and kicking righteous ass. "Almost" daily because thankfully, most of us maintain healthy social lives outside of the game. We've done task forces together, we've gone on missions, and that handy little "sidekick" button is always there to pick up whoever's lagging behind in levels.

On May 16th, something similar to the following was said on the Shirt Ninjas linkshell and my diseased imagination:

Dom: "Hey guys, can anyone help me through Sauro(tab)?"
Shirt Ninjas: (crickets)
Dom: "anyone? I don't know the way and it already took me like a half hour to get through Meripha(tab)"
Dom: "Alright, would anyone at least tell me what mobs are aggressive here so I can avoid them?"
Shirt Ninjas: "Goblins and Yagudo, both aggro on sight. That's it."
monkey: "Okay, thanks..."
Final Fantasy XI: Sauromogue Couerl hits Dom for 68 points of damage
Final Fantasy XI: Sauromogue Couerl hits Dom for 50 points of damage
Final Fantasy XI: Sauromogue Couerl hits Dom for 62 points of damage
Final Fantasy XI: Sauromogue Couerl hits Dom for 70 points of damage
Final Fantasy XI: Sauromogue Couerl scores a critical hit! Dom takes 97 damage
Final Fantasy XI: Dom has fallen.
* Dom pushes up daisies
City of Heroes: Come back to me, sweetheart... in Paragon City, the time between point A and point B is mere minutes, and you can avoid aggro by superleaping out of trouble. And you can party with all of your friends by becoming their sidekicks.
Dom: I love you, City of Heroes.
Final Fantasy XI: Wait! I'm not done sodomizing you yet!
Dom: I have a new sugar daddy now. Goodbye.

That illustrates the main point: Things are FASTER in City of Heroes. Teleporters cover 100 yards in the blink of an eye, superleapers hop from rooftop to rooftop as they hum the theme to The Tick (dup dweeeee dup dup dup dweee dow), fliers fly, and super speeders run really fast. You get these powers at level 14 (or later, if you don't plan right). In Final Fantasy XI, you spend about 6 hours getting a Chocobo pass, and then you have a long-ass way to go before you can ride the airship. Time passes sooooo slowly in FFXI... you can ask the Shirt Ninjas, whenever I got bored I would start making off-color jokes on the linkshell.

Then again, whenever I was having fun I would make off-color jokes on the linkshell, so I guess that's a bad example.

So City of Heroes doesn't have crafting. It doesn't have a significant economy at the high end. But you know what? It doesn't require a white mage to every team, either. It doesn't nail you to the "Seek Team" button after level 12, because every archetype has a chance on its own, and meshes fairly well with another archetype. It doesn't penalize you levels when you die, and when you die you don't lose hours upon hours of work--you just lose some future XP to debt. Sure, blasters are overpowering in groups... but my Storm Summoning/Dark Blast Defender sure dies a lot less than seiya's Fire Blast/Fiery Melee blaster when soloing. In groups, our death numbers are about even, but that's a tale for another time.

Anyway, I'd like to finish this off by saying... the next update includes evil clowns and giant robots. I'm SO there.

PS: I finally got to Jeuno a few weeks ago. I then logged out and haven't gone back since, because my supergroup needed me to help stop the 5th Column's nefarious plot to build an army of super robots. And yes, I just wanted to say "nefarious" again.


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