[Manhwa Review] Catharsis: How to Literally Fight Your Inner Demons

Leon Mori is a stereotypical high school outcast, bored with life and bored with school. The only person he interacts with on a frequent basis is Ami, his middle-school tutor, stand-in guardian and current teacher, whom he also has a secret crush on. All very normal so far, except for a few niggling tidbits, like the fact that he is born with synesthesia and see sounds in colors. Or that he has been having a recurring nightmare for weeks, where he wanders in darkness running from disturbing laughter that paints his world in red. He sinks into the nightmare whenever he dozes off, and it is so vivid that it blurs his sense between dream and reality, turning his everyday life into something … monstrous. Soon though, Leon realizes his dreams may not be just dreams…

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[Manga] DICE: The Cube that Changes Everything Review

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The conclusion of the Liar Game Kdrama left me searching for another story like it, another world with a psychologically intense plot and interesting characters. That’s when I stumbled upon DICE: The Cube that Changes Everything. The written summary for this manhwa speaks of a game that can change a player’s life and a bottom-of-the-social-ladder main character who is given the opportunity to play this game. While DICE isn’t as intellectually intense as Liar’s Game, it does have some strong story elements that make it a good series in its own right.

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[Log Horizon 2] Episode 11: Cool Techniques, Demikas Redemption and Shiroe’s Final Showdown

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Overall. I’ve realized that life is pretty fair sometimes. Everything that failed to happen in Episode 10 went down like a dream in Episode 11  (except perhaps Shiroe’s grand revelation but I had stopped hoping for the impossible). Shiroe and party began what looks like the last and final try to finish up the raid, and the whole episode was basically an epic fest of second by second strategy, shiny equipment, and showy techniques. Demikas also reached the final stage of his redemption path by dragging Shiroe kicking and screaming into the final stage of the dungeon. No doubt this is my favorite episode of Season 2 to date.

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[Log Horizon 2] Episode 10: Chicken Soup for the Gamer Soul

Hey folks, apologies for being MIA for past 4 episodes as traveling took the month out of me. I’m back now though and ready to give a heartfelt review for episode 10.

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Overall. Unlike Episode 9, an action-packed episode that gave us all the Shiroe action we were missing while Akatsuki wrapped up the Akihabara murder arc, Episode 10 is the sort that haters refer to when they point out how slow the anime pacing is. The entire episode is basically a 22 minute motivational speech. Yeah I get that their whole party died, but half of episode 9 was basically Shiroe resolving his personal issues, which led me to optimistically believe that episode 10 will be when Shiroe reveals his awesome plan, do the impossible, and whoop the butts of the three raid bosses. Tragically, the rest of the party has issues as well, and William Massachusetts’ low self-esteem (“I just accidentally became guild master, but I really suck and don’t deserve it”) rears its head again. Damn. Guess the asskicking is postponed for another episode.

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[Light Novel] Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari Review

Iwatani Naofumi was summoned into a parallel world along with three other people to become the world’s heroes and save the kingdom from the Calamity. Each of the heroes were respectively equipped with their own legendary equipment when summoned. Naofumi coincidentally received the Legendary Shield as his weapon, the only defensive weapon of the lot. Scorned by everyone for his uselessness, Naofumi’s destiny in a parallel world begins…

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Overall Impression

Hands down, Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari takes one of the most unique approaches to the virtual video game genre I’ve ever read / seen. And that is, the light novel incorporates a very real emotional element in its storytelling. Having read many tales in this emerging genre, I am definitely not over-generalizing when I say that most virtual MMORPG stories are lacking in “dramatic complexity.” And that’s perfectly fine because audiences are buying into these stories for the vicarious experience of living a video game, becoming heroes / villains, and conquering the world. Even Log Horizon, which takes a more “slice of life” approach to the genre and explores the psychological difficulties of suddenly living a video game, has mostly one dimensional characterization in a mostly happy-go-lucky atmosphere. Well, Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari is definitely not happy-go-lucky, and characters are certainly far from one dimensional.

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[Anime] Tokyo ESP Review – A Fast-Paced Whirlwind of Cliches and Absurdity

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This past week, I was looking to de-stress with a mindless anime series, something simple, epic, and preferably violent. After reading a synopsis of Tokyo ESP, I thought it was as good a choice as any. I was wrong.

What’s it about?

One normal day in Tokyo, many heads turned to behold a strange phenomenon. A penguin and a school of glowing fish floated through the air, wandering across the city. Not everyone could see the fish, however, but for those who could, they would see a fish split off from the pack and swim into their bodies.

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[Chinese Movie] Tai Chi Zero

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Synopsis

Yang Luchan was born with a “horn” (a peanut potusion) on his head that destined him to be a martial arts prodigy. When his horn is hit, Yang turns into a berserker and crushes everything in his vicinity. However, the berserker mode severely depletes his life force, so Yang travels to far away Chen Village to learn a powerful form of Tai Chi that can slow down the progression of his illness. Though the Chen villagers are forbidden from teaching their martial arts to outsiders, Yang becomes their best hope for survival when a man arrives to build a railroad through the village.

Storytelling

Two phrases come to mind: unrepentantly cliche and wonderfully funny. This is not a kung fu film that is all gloom and doom – think less “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and more “Kung Fu Hustle” and “Shaolin Soccer.” Tai Chi Zero watches like a blend between a comic book and a video game adaptation (though it is completely original). The movie’s whooshing cinematography and chop chop editing slices to flashy bold comic book pages to transition between settings and preview the next “story arc.” Unknown places are colorfully annotated on screen with their titles, ranging from hard fact “Ancestral Hall”, “Windy Mountain” to witty commentary “Uh? A Side Door…?”. Opponents (and their epic skills) are introduced via character cut screens (cool pose and bold calligraphy titles like “SHEN SI, BROTHER TOFU, 12th generation Tai Chi Master” included). The face-off starts with a “X VS Y” panel and ends with a dramatic “K.O.”

It’s all very Street Fighter-ish, including an overused plot. So don’t go in expecting deep philosophy from Tai Chi Zero. The most serious topic, the fate of the village, romance, death, etc., that touches the main character turns comedic in five seconds. It’s a movie where you know the ending (MASSIVE SPOILER: …the good guys win) from the beginning, … but it’s still definitely worth it to watch how they get there. Just for complete disclosure, let me tell you the biggest wtf right here: there’s a foreigner in the movie. OMG. And she’s not just some minor background character. She’s a love interest of the villain. She gets lines. Chinese lines. *insert whistle here*

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Gasp! A Foreigner.

Also, Tai Chi Zero gets extra kudos for being a kung fu + steampunk movie.

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Steampunk. O.o

I picked up the movie without knowing it was a steampunk movie and was pleasantly surprised. Of course, the steampunk is like 20% based on reality and 80% fake science, and requires everyone to stop rationalizing and just believe to enjoy the movie. Be forewarned that 99% of the giant gears in machines are just there to look cool and only 1% is required to make it function. But that’s cool. I buy that.

Character Development

Character development can be summed up as “nonexistent,” which meshes quite well with a thoroughly cliche plot. But that… actually doesn’t matter. Who has time for character development anyways in a kung fu movie anyways?! The motto of Tai Chi Zero rings tried and true: they either come awesome, or not at all. Vice versa also applies. Once a loser, always a loser.

This last line is made to describe the sad pathetic life of the villain. He was bullied as a kid in a kung fu village because he was forbidden from learning kung fu. Cue huge inferiority complex. As an adult, he studied abroad in London, learned fake science, and came back to show his “backwards” village the might of Western technology and his newfound superiority. Unfortunately, he failed and thus, remained a loser for life. Sorry buddy. You tried, but it was never going to work.

I mean, technology vs. kung fu? Pfft. In Kung Fu Hustle, I saw some guy just nuke a huge complex with his hand and left a Manhattan-sized palm print on the ground. Obviously, Kung Fu > Technology, via the the Theorem of Boundless Imagination (what you envision as a kung fu power will always be stronger than fake science, which is crippled by a reliance on explanation). I say, therefore I am. While there’s no obvious overpowered cheating in Tai Chi Zero, this generous graciousness comes only because filmmakers had to make the villain at least somewhat threatening. The absolute dominance of kung fu can’t be too obvious (even though it kind of is). How do I know this? Soldiers armed with guns vs Chen village armed with fruit. Fruit won. QED.

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The West just can’t win… (in a kung fu movie)

The only thing that put a dent in my carefree enjoyment of Tai Chi Zero was the main character, which makes it hard for me to give this movie a super high rating. I don’t go into a kung fu movie expecting much brain action, but I was still taken aback when the main character is an idiot. This is not an exaggeration; he is legitimately born with cognitive issues and spends most of the movie getting manipulated by people who just use him for kamikaze missions. Main character literally spent a week getting beaten up by various people, but that experience of failing was just wasted on him. Despite being able to copy any martial arts moves he sees, the thought of using those same moves against the people he is challenging again and again never even passes his thoughts. This is a guy who, after failing to invent the lightbulb 10,000 times, will go on to fail another 1,000,000 times. His mentor literally had to tell him straight up to use his new moves and MC has to digest this information twice before applying it and finally winning a fight, proving once and for all that brains > brawn. No matter how strong you are, you can’t win at life if you can’t think.

Yet, in the end, the idiot hero defeated the smart villain. The moral of this development? Luck beats all. Continue reading