Sword Art Online – Season 1: Anime Review

The year is 2022 and a new virtual reality MMO has just been released called Sword Art Online, Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya is an introverted teenager who uses online games as a way of escaping from the real world. Only 10,000 copies of SOA and the accompanying “NERV” gear are sold, this includes the original 1000 beta testers of which Kirito was one.

Fiction set in an MMO isn’t exactly anything new, Piers Anthony did it with Killobyte in 1993, the .hack series of manga, anime and games (Which had you playing a single player game in which you were a person playing an MMO) did it extensively too, and there is even another current series called Log Horizon which plays with similar themes (I’ve not watched it but it’s on my to do list).

What sets Sword Art Online apart is that everyone is trapped in the game, all 10,000 players can’t log out, and if they die in game they die in real life.

It’s pretty dark, and a lot of the people playing the game unsurprisingly go a little nuts at the start. Although as time goes on they settle into the fact that this virtual world is their real world for now. A core group of skilled players fight on the front line trying to clear the 100th level of “The Tower” which upon completion will release all the players from the game. Other players set up shops, or just go fishing. The show explores what it might be like to live in an entirely virtual world and it does it fairly well.

The character progression is for the most part pretty good, the main two characters, Kirito and Asuna are quite strong, Asuna is even a “Strong Independent Woman“, although at times Kirito suffers from what I call Kakoii syndrome (Kakoii means cool in Japanese) where every female character he encounters falls madly in love with him.

That covers the first part of the show… This show could have, and possibly should have, ended on episode 14.

MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW

Everything was tied up, the will they wont they sub plot resolved, the game is completed and the players are freed, except some aren’t and Kirito has to venture into another MMO called ALfheim Online to rescue Asuna from a rather convoluted conspiracy.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about what actually happens because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who plans on watching it, but the show goes from being dark to being creepy. And Asuna who was a strong female lead turns into a plot device and a bit of a wet blanket. That to be honest is the saddest thing about the 2nd season, Asuna goes from being a really good and empowered female character to the stereotypical “Princess in the Castle”.

Also while the first half of the season had the odd gratuitous tits/ass shot, the second half is rife with fan service the low point of which is a shower scene with convenient obscuring steam which is just unnecessary (The shower scene is unnecessary not the steam, the steam is very necessary) especially when you consider the character and their age, I know Japan seems to be desensitized to this kind of thing but there is a line…

The second half of the season is watchable,  but it’s like watching another lower quality anime from the first half, arguably I’d probably enjoy playing the ALfheim Online more thatn Sword Art Online, because it’s more detailed and you can fly! but that wasn’t what this anime was about, it wasn’t about playing an MMO it was about being stuck in an MMO in which your life was on the line. I went through a brief phase of playing World of Warcraft, and I’m fairly sure I spent more time running towards my corpse as a ghost to reincarnate than I spent fighting monsters. To think that the first time I died would actually have killed me is terrifying.

All in all Sword Art Online is a pretty good anime series, the first half of the season is amazing the 2nd half is okay. There is a second season in production, and the manga apparently covers another two MMOs, I will probably watch it in the hopes that it goes back to being as good as the first half of season one, but I’m not entirely sure how they can do that.

You can watch Sword Art Online on CrunchyRoll or buy it on Amazon

Film Review: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)

I’ve been meaning to watch this moving for quite some time, so given I was in the mood for Anime after watching From Up On Poppy Hill yesterday I decided to give The Girl Who Leapt Through Time a watch.

This is a review of the 2006 Animated version of the film, the film is based on a 1967 book by  Yasutaka Tsutsui and there have been a number of adaptations of it (TV series, TV drama, live action movies and manga). Given that it’s been adapted so many times I’m going to assume the source material is pretty good and will have to look the original book up.

This film centres on 17 year old Makoto Konno who lives with her family and accidentally gains the ability to travel back in time. Her time travel takes the form of her rewinding the clock rather than her physically travelling back in time. This gives her the opportunity to relive events that have happened and in doing so alter their out come by behaving differently. If you seen “The Butterfly Effect” it’s a bit like that.

To start with this has comical effect Makoto goes back and has the “Perfect Day” having seen everything that went wrong with her day and fixing it, but of course events don’t happen in isolation and inevitably Makoto finds herself having to back track to “re-correct” the changes she’s made to get a better outcome as the net result of her time travelling escapades wreaks havoc on the lives of the people around her.

The characters in this are amazing, Makoto is brilliantly done and you will find yourself really connecting with her, less so with her slightly distant friends but they are still well written and well played and you learn that there is a reason that they are slightly distant.

I really enjoyed this movie, I’d happily watch it again and I’d even debate looking up some of the previous incarnations of the story. In the west you will probably find this film sorted among the Studio Ghibli films, and although it’s not a Ghibli Film if you like Ghibli you will probably like this film too.

 

Film Review: From Up On Poppy Hill

“I was expecting more talking cats” was what one of the people I went to see From Up On Poppy Hill came out of the film saying. Studio Ghibli have become famous in the west for surreal fantasy Anime like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. What a lot of westerners don’t seem to know is that they are also famous for making emotionally charged films that are set in the real world.

There are no talking cats in this film, no sentient fires, no giant forest spirits just people. And that’s not a bad thing.

From Up On Poppy Hill is based on a Japanese serialized comic by Chizuru Takahashi  and is the story of a high school kid in 1960’s Japan, the Olympics are just around the corner and the school club house is being threatened with demolition. Also she’s fallen for a boy with whom circumstances arise that make her feelings a little awkward.

It’s a whimsical tale, heart warming at parts and laugh out loud fun at others, the incidental characters make this film as much as the leads, I think I could watch an entire movie starring the head of the philosophy club, or the bespectacled artist sister of the main character.

If you come into this film expecting talking cats, you are going to be disappointed, the only magic in this film is in the interaction between the characters. If you come into the film expecting character growth, good story telling and an insight into what it was like to be a kid in 1960’s Japan, then I don’t think you will be walking away from it in the slightest bit disappointed.

Neon Genesis Evangelion Themed DSLR

Pentax parades Evangelionflavored Q10s
EVA-1 Shinji Ikari

 

It’s not often I get talk about both anime and photography, Pentax are releasing an Evangelion themed Q10 DSLR in April, sadly it’s Japan only and they are only making 1,500 of each model so the chances of getting your grubby mitts on one is fairly low. But you can dream.

It’s going to clock in at 59,800 Yen ($660 or a little over £400)  for that that you get a 12.4 megapixel, mirrorless interchangable lens camera which can also shoot video in fill HD.

It’s apparently not just going to come in the above EVA-1 colour palette but will be available in the other EVA models as well.

TYPE00: Ray
EVA-00 Rei Ayanami
TYPE02: Asuka
EVA-02 Asuka Langley

Japanese Turn UK Into Cute Anime Girl

original (3)

 

Apparently a discussion thread on a Japanese website lead to them designing an anthropomorphic version of the UK as a cute anime/manga girl. There are a bunch of other designs inspired by this on this page, I’ve collated some of my favourites including the thought process behind transforming the UK in the gallery below.

Via Kotaku

Totoro Matryoshka Doll

I often find my self thinking of somthing cool and then Googling it in the vain hope that it exists, that’s how I foudn this lovely Totoro matryoshka doll by *Blackmago on deviantART.

It goes from Totoro all the way to the soot sprites, although strictly speaking Totoro should be inside the Cat Bus I’m going to allow for artistic liceence in this instance as Totoro is the main character of the film.

Studio Ghibli Meets Maurice Sendak

The rather whimsical image above is by Justin Hillgrove:

Studio Ghibli (Hayao Miyazaki) / Where The Wild Things Are tribute (Maurice Sendak)

Left to Right: Princess Mononoke, Totoro, the Deer God (from Princess Mononoke), No Face (Spirited Away), Howl (Howl’s Moving Castle), Automaton (Laputa: Castle in the Sky) (©2012 Justin Hillgrove)

via Imps and Monsters

Black Cat Clinging Earrings

These earrings by Kitty Azura aren’t currently available because she’s dealing with an order backlog, but I assume they will eventually become available on her Etsy page.

The cat is apparently based on the little cat in Trigun which makes them even cooler…

 

A Gigantic Totoro Sleeping Bag Bed

Totoro Bed

Words cannot describe how much I wish I had $280 to throw at E-Bay to buy one of these…. Looking at the photo’s on Laughing Squid there are several variants of this the one in the video on Laughing squid is a much smaller version with slightly rubbish looking feet and the one below seems to have stuffed feed and tummy things (What are those things meant to be on Totoro’s tummy?)

Double

 

If you are crazy enough to buy a Totoro sleeping bag/bed then you are probably crazy enough to want these Soot Sprite (Susuwatari) slippers too!

pixelated-poptart: “Soot sprite slippers? Yes please.”

I can’t find anywhere that seems to sell them but You can get them Can’t get them becuse they are sold out but PopAsia may stock them again at some point? for  €25.42 I have found an unboxing video of someone receiving a pair as a gift.

I’ve also found an odd Item on E-Bay, these Susuwatari leggings (also available in blue) allow you to dress up as a Soot Sprite…

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