This Week in Music: Mitchie M

Queenie, Art Director:

Hi people! I’m one of your art directors – Queenie! So this is my first time writing anything longer than my diary (besides assignments) and will be introducing (one of) my favourite vocaloid producer, Mitchie M!

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[Mitchie M] Freely Tomorrow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmvydnVTriE

Bet most people would’ve heard of Mitchie M’s “freely tomorrow”, one of his well known songs. Fun Fact:  In only 10hrs and 41 mins it has reached over 100,000 views and only 20 days to achieve 1,000,000 views – breaking the record as the most viral vocaloid song on NicoNico Douga!

Mitchie M’s tuning is top-notch – His tunes are amazingly vivid, which creates the best sounding of Miku in realistic voice imo. There are too many songs from him to recommend, here’s another commercial song of Miku which showcases his amazing skill of tuning vocaloids:

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[Mitchie] Suki Yuki Maji Magic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79N1O0lF0GY&index=10&list=PLDY0okbHnyaYMMa0_ya1ZS8oO5ZOCV028

This is the official song for snow miku in 2014 – his first time trying out miku in english rap by using English voice bank!  (2:18-)

Also, make sure to check out! This song relieves stress from end-of-sem – it’s just so… happy 😀

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[Mitchie M] Viva Happy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiUjG9fF3zw

To conclude, he is my favourite Vocaloid because of three things:

  1. He gives realism to the voice of Miku
  2. His songs have that nice retro feel
  3. He responds to comments on his Youtube videos

(which appears to be the same as the anonymous commenter on vocaloid wiki ._.)

This Week in Anime: Senyuu.

Tracy, Art Director:

Hi guys, one of your art directors, Tracy here! This is my first time doing this kind of thing so please don’t judge my really bad writing skills. I’ll be introducing one of my favourite (and seriously underrated) series, Senyuu.

Senyuu is easily one of the most hilarious series I’ve watched. It follows the adventures of Alba, hero #45 (of 75), and accompanying soldier Ross on their quest to find and defeat the Demon King to gain the title of “true hero”.

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Although the official summary of the anime is as such, after watching the anime, it’s actually pretty misleading, but I can assure you it’s all for the better ^o^b. The anime starts off with a lot of seemingly just slapstick comedy (and LOTS of tsukkomi), but actually leads up to waves of plot twists later, making the series surprisingly deep and well thought-out.

Also, you’ve got the (actually pretty weak) hero, who’s only strong point is his comedic comebacks, the sadistic soldier, who is really OP, and a range of other hilarious characters all in a really simplistic drawing style, making it a really easy watch.

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Not only that, Senyuu is one of those series where each episode is only about 5 minutes long, making it one of my favourite procrastination anime. The “I’ll only watch one episode” promise will in fact only be a five minute break instead of a usual thirty ;D

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The only disappointment is that the end doesn’t really feel like an ending, so I definitely recommend reading the original webcomic (which is complete btw!) for some this-anime-looks-dumb-but-BOOM-surprise-it-actually-has-a-really-deep-and-well-thought-out-storyline plot twists! (Yes, I love the plot twists.)

So I say give it a go, I might make it sound boring because of my writing, but it’s definitely worth what, five minutes to check out the first episode!

MyAnimeList link
Hummingbird link

This Week in Gaming: Tokyo Game Show

Hey guys! Jarrod here, one of your co-events execs. I’ve been tasked this week to do the newsletter feature thing and it’s probably the first time I’ve done anything like this so I’m kind of nervous that I’ll get something completely wrong and you’ll all hate me and anyway please enjoy.

I love following the games industry, so I’ll be talking about a few games shown off at this year’s TGS, or Tokyo Game Show. I’ll try to keep it short, since there was a TON of games featured.

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Persona 5 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvpOwQaqRXA

  • My personally most anticipated game of 2015 is now my most anticipated game of 2016. Delays QQ.

  • The environments shown off look incredible – from the real-world to the ‘Palace’ (which vaguely reminds me of Tartarus) and the dungeon design (with more platforming and verticality, and a greater sense of freedom in movement).

  • Persona designs for the other party members (Anne, Ryuji, Morgana) revealed! They look awesome. Also, a new character (possibly party member) was shown off. There’s also a bunch of illustration and developer stories released, check them out!

  • I can see the main character taking an anti-hero/people’s hero role (much like the idea of Zero in Code Geass; the protag of P5 is even voiced by Jun Fukuyama!).

  • ANIME SPECIAL! Don’t know if it’ll be a full series or just a prologue/one-off thing, can’t wait.

Odin Sphere: Leifdrasir (or Leifthrasir; names are hard) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0mTH7iTNvE

  • If you’ve played Muramasa or Dragon’s Crown, you’d know what Vanillaware are capable of. They developed Odin Sphere for the PS2 back in the day, and Leifdrasir is a complete HD remake of it for PS4/3/Vita.

  • New trailer, game looks amazing. Very vibrant and whimsical, coupled with Vanillaware’s sweet 2D designs.

  • Played very well back in the day, but was plagued with performance issues because of the fidelity of effects and graphics. This should be (hopefully) fixed in this version. Check it out in 2016!

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  • 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBNgTzhS6LY
    • MECHAS

    • Vanillaware x Atlus yet again (I’m a bit of a fanboy I know). The art style is similar to Odin Sphere, but with a much more muted, realistic tone.

    • Not a lot was shown other than the art and a few characters, along with a giant mecha (presumably) called the 13 Sentinel. Hopefully makes it to the West.

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    • Kingdom Hearts II.8 Final Chapter Prologue [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8BAG4FObdk
      • A new remix game for the Kingdom Hearts series was announced at TGS which will finally complete the handheld series’ transition into console.

      • New KH3 gameplay at the very beginning. The effects look really high fidelity *drool*.

      • Dream Drop Distance HD remaster; brand new chapter called KH 0.2, a Birth by Sleep sequel (which seemingly focuses on Aqua) and Kingdom Hearts χ (chi) Back Cover, which seems to be an HD release of cutscenes from the mobile game.

      • Not much else was said about KH 0.2 or chi, but keep a lookout over the rest of the year.

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      • Other games/announcements:
  • Final Fantasy XV [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zqxNNkSPa0(CHOCOBOS AND FISHING YEAH; Dawn 2.0 trailer with nothing really new; still super hype; Luna’s still pretty).
  • Gravity Rush 2 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMwmaxZc8WE(only on PS4; Gravity Rush 1 being remastered) – from what I’ve heard, one of the best things to come out of the Vita. Multiplayer/Co-op with Kat + Raven?
  • Project Setsuna (Ikenie to yuki no Setsuna)[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aK_uoWKvbI– Classic turn-based JRPG, obvious throwback to Square games of old (I loved the hell out of Chrono Trigger). That X Slash!
  • Danganronpa V3 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0hzjKoI0kk] – I haven’t played any DR games, but people seem to really love it. That tease at the end of the trailer, though.
  • Star Ocean 5 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzG6ig9nRxA– New trailer! Love me some Sakuraba. Also, Second Evolution (second game) getting re-release on PS4/Vita.
  • Ace Attorney 6 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqZOzoSEQa4and anime announcement, YES. Ghosts and spirits and junk (Mia pls).
      • Project Morpheus now named PlayStation VR and priced as a “new gaming platform” (better start reserving time for Summer Lesson!).

This Week in Visual Novels: World End Economica Episode 1

Chris, Gaming Director:

Hey guys! Your gaming director coming back at you for another sick gaming review. I’m not sure if I mentioned this at the start of my first review, but one game I was originally thinking of reviewing was World End Economica Episode 1. I finally got around to playing (more like reading) it, so now I can actually review it.

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So what the hell is this game? World End Economica is a visual novel written by Isuna Hasekura – most well known as the writer of the Spice and Wolf light novel series (if you haven’t heard of it, go watch the anime adaptation because it’s fantastic). Combined with the forces of certain artists – the Spicy Tails development team was formed!

Unlike traditional visual novels, there are no choices that the reader is able to make. In other words, the “player” just reads the story, takes in the visuals and hears the soundtrack. If you’re an avid visual novel reader this may seem weird/infuriating/etc., but you get used to it after a while.

The story takes place on the moon 16 years after humans have finally colonised its surface. It follows the story of Yoshiharu Kawaura, a boy born on the moon aged 16 who has run away from his family in order to pursue his dream of exploring new frontiers for mankind and now spends his time holed out in various internet cafes in a particular outer district of the moon. He constantly trades on the Lunar Stock Exchange on his computer each day in order to make money to keep himself afloat – all the while keeping a lookout for authorities who have been trying to locate him since he disappeared from his family. One particular day our protagonist meets Lisa, a part-time worker at a local Chinese restaurant who ends up saving his skin in a close run in with the police. He then takes up residence at Lisa’s place, which happens to be a church, and gets given the nickname Hal. He meets another runaway girl living there around his age named Hagana, who despite being very cold, cares about those close to her and is an amazing mathematician. It is these mathematical skills, combined with Hal’s trading prowess, that hold the key to solving problems that these 3 face in the coming months.

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While the game obviously lacks in the choices department, it makes up for it in other ways. The plot itself is quite good – there’s a few twists and turns thrown in to keep the reader reasonably excited/anxious. The art overall is quite fantastic, although I feel it could have been used more since there are numerous scenes where there is text displaying for a long time but no visual to go with it except a black screen. Although this allows the readers imagination to come into it a bit, it is quite underwhelming. A big strong suit of this game (more like book amirite?) is the lovely soundtrack. Although not consistently good the whole way through, some tracks really shine and set the mood. This one’s probably my favourite of the bunch.

Now for the bad parts. First of all, the first 1-3 hours of the game is not very exciting. While it does set the background story nicely, I feel as though Hal’s character traits are exggerated and not particularly interesting – mainly in the way he looks down on others. I get that the author is trying to show Hal thinks he’s top shit and better than people from Earth – but some of his phrases just come out as completely unnatural, even if that person was a complete arsehole.

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As far other bad parts – there are so many typos in the script it is ridiculous. For a game 10 hours in length, it’s not hard to get someone to proof-read the script reasonably thoroughly to find these errors. When they keep popping up it is highly distracting and just annoys the crap out of you. Another thing that’s very annoying is in 99% of cases the background music doesn’t even loop properly! This is so annoying because it really affects the flow of your reading when music is constantly stop/starting instead of smoothly transitioning into a nice loop – especially when it happens every 2/3 mins over the space of 10 hours. Also the changing font functionality didn’t seem to work very well when I tried it.

Slightly irrelevant to this game as a standalone, but there’s also a few inconsistencies from episode 1 and its sequel.Because a different translation group are taking care of the sequels, various names are different. In the sequel, Hal is Haru, Lisa is Risa, Serrault is Cerrow etc. There’s a few others as well, which just take a while to get used to after 10 hours of reading the first episode.

Overall while the plot doesn’t start strongly it becomes quite an entertaining read. The music issue and the typos I talked about definitely detract from the experience however – hopefully Sekai Project fixes a lot of these issues when they go back and improve upon the release. I’d probably give this a 7.5/10, which is pretty generous given the issues stated above – but the story is definitely worthwhile at the end of the day, even if bits are predictable. Definitely recommend to anyone who is a fan of Spice and Wolf, because it is quite a similar narrative in many ways. If you’re interested, Episode 1 and 2 are available for purchase on Steam and aren’t too expensive.

Hope you enjoyed my review!

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This Week in Anime: Nanatsu no Taizai / The Seven Deadly Sins

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Jess, Co-Events Director:

Sooo another week, another anime review/recommendation. I’ll be introducing one of my favourite anime from the past few seasons. Nanatsu no Taizai or ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’ is an adventure type, shounen style, action packed storyline that fits perfectly into the word ‘epic’. To be honest, I never would’ve picked this series up if my friend didn’t so eagerly recommend it to me, probably mainly due to its unique art style (and yes I do judge by cover sometimes ._.”) Do bear with it I swear it gets better.

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The characters are a bit similar to those in Akame Ga Kiru in which they are all just downright OP. Nanatsu no Taizai has extremely well developed characters and animation, with very nicely thought out OTPs… except for the two main protagonists (I’m still not sure what kind of relationship they have). Also both of the opening songs for the anime have been my absolute favourite, and I would recommend you guys to have a listen to it.

Right so storyline, a team of seven OP irregulars are formed to make a group of knights that get framed for a crime they didn’t commit. They disappear, get separated and become the most notorious group hunted down by the kingdom. Each ‘sin’ has their own powers, weapons and secrets, in which you’ll always want to know more. It just keeps getting crazier, but it’ll give you good feels. Good nakama feels.

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Just look at that face ._.

The main character is like 150cm, nothing short of being cool (pun intended), and… a bit of a perv. The rest of them are a bit odd to be in a team, but they all hold together nicely. The manga is ongoing (I’m not too sure about having a second season for the anime), and the story follows directly chapter by chapter, but the animation is good for what its worth. Overall, I’d recommend giving this a shot if you’re in the mood for some good quality action.

MyAnimeList link

This Week in Gaming: Ys Seven

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Chris, Gaming Director:

Hey guys! Your gaming director here for a gaming review (surprise surprise, right?). Originally I wanted to stream my first run of Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim and write a review for it but unfortunately real life got in the way. I also tried to finish/read World End Economica Part 1 for a review since it is apparently pretty short, but again my plans crumbled before my eyes as time slipped away. ;-;

So I’ve decided to review a game I played a year or two ago, because why not? The game in question is Ys Seven.

For those unfamiliar with Ys folklore, Ys (pronounced “ees”) is a series of action RPG games developed by Nihon Falcom Corporation (Falcom) starting all the way back in 1987 on the NEC PC-8801. Since then there have been 7 numbered titles in the series and a whole crapload of remakes. If you thought Square Enix went over the top with all their FF remakes, Falcom has remade the first two Ys games a total of SEVEN times. To be fair though, unlike Squeenix, they have actually done some nice updates and added cool features – such as 3 soundtrack options in the latest remake, as well as graphical options.

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Although primarily developed for PSP/PS Vita these days, since the PSP died in the West a long way back (and with the Vita not doing fantastically either) the amazing folks at Xseed Games who translate/localise the games for us English-speaking folk decided to make an updated PC version of a few of the games for Steam, since some of them such as Ys: The Oath in Felghana received a PC release in Japan a decade ago. Interesting fact: the script used for their translations of Ys I&II Chronicles, Ys Origin and Ys: The Oath in Felghana were all actually purchased fan translations from the original fan translator himself! What’s even cooler is the fact said fan translator was then hired for a bigger translation project when Xseed localised The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky.

Anyway back to the game at hand. So Ys Seven is a PSP-exclusive title released in 2009 in Japan and 2010 in the West.  While it’s not outside the realm of possibility that we may see it on Steam one day, it’s highly unlikely since the only existing PC port of the game was done by a Chinese company renowned for being not amazing coders/porters of games – so don’t hold your breath! Ys Seven follows the famed red-haired silent protagonist Adol Christin and his long-time buddy Dogi in the continuation of their seemingly neverending journies, this time arriving by boat in the continent of Altago. As always in Adol’s adventures, some crazy thing is bubbling below the seemingly fine surface of this land/its people and stuff starts to gradually go amiss following his arrival. Long story short, he meets many other brave people from different factions of the continent works together with them to prevent the seemingly inevitable destruction of the continent.

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Story sounds a bit cliché huh? Well fortunately the story isn’t really the focus of this game. The main feature of the Ys Series which makes so great is the gameplay and battle mechanics. Being an action RPG there is a fair bit of repetitive button mashing at times, but the action is very fast paced and intense – none of this battle-system nonsense seen in many JRPGs, but rather just roaming around and hacking enemies to pieces in a continuous flowing game. The boss battles also tend to be extremely challenging (less so in this installment since you can heal yourself mid battle) which means you can’t just mindlessly spam buttons on harder difficulties.

Ys Seven also sees the introduction of the party system, which allows the player to quickly switch between the sword-wielding Adol, the barefisted fighter Dogi and many other companions, allowing for different physical attack/spell combinations rather than just one character just running the show. Minor spoiler, but the last boss battle also requires every single party member to beat, so you can’t just buff up one character’s level because otherwise your other characters will be utterly useless and not able to help you.

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Of course there are also some major flaws with this game. Firstly, the optional quests, particular the ones involving supposedly reasonably tough creatures in the wild, are a bit of a joke for an optional quest. Usually something optional like that you would expect to be reasonably challenging, but towards the end of the game these fights are an absolute joke. On top of this, midway through the game you have to “revisit” every location in the game again without a quick-travel device due to some thing in the plot I won’t spoil. While it’s not too bad since you go to a different dungeon in the same location each time, I think it makes it look like the scenario writers just ran out of ideas and were like “fuck it, send the player back to the dungeons again since there’s no other space on the map we have”. A minor gripe, but I feel there could have been a better alternative.

So good gameplay and a decent art style, what else is it that makes this game cool?

Now to my favourite part of the game: the music! For those unaware, Falcom have their very own in-house band that both composes songs for each of their games AND plays them live at various events around Japan. They cover every genre from sick rock band arrangements to moody piano pieces and orchestral arrangements. On top of this, the band releases millions of arrangement albums of songs from Falcom games. Here’s the full list of music releases for those interested.

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When the game intro sequence opens up with the ripping opening track Innocent Primeval Breaker, you know that shit just got real. There are so many good tracks in this soundtrack it is absolutely ridiculous. The folks at the Falcom Sound Team know exactly how to set the mood for particular plot points/environments in the game. You have the breezy/mysterious type tracks like this, to the happy go lucky type tracks such as this, and this. One of the highlights however is this jaw dropping track which serves as the prelude to the final boss sequence – gives me goosebumps everytime I hear it. I could spend all day just spamming links to good songs in this game, but this review is already long enough.

In conclusion, Ys Seven is not for everyone. While the gameplay, art and music are fantastic – the simple fact of being an action rpg will make the game boring for most people. Repetitive travelling sequences also dampen the experience, but if you love adrenaline-filled combat and reasonably challenging bosses – this is the game for you! If I had to give this game a score it would be around a 7.5-8/10.

If you don’t have a PSP or want to check out other Ys titles on PC – Ys I&II Chronicles, Ys Origin and Ys: The Oath in Felghana are all available on Steam and Good Old Games. You can play them in any order as long as you play Ys 1 before Ys 2, since they are direct sequels. If you despise the games and just like the music, you can check out al the Falcom Sound Team jdk on youtube just by typing it into the search bar. Or if you’re lazy, there’s a few unofficial fan-run channels like this with a fair bit of their music on there. There’s also many videos of their live performances online too.

Lastly, I’d like to give a massive shoutout to Tom Lipschultz and the team at Xseed Games who continue to translate/localise these Falcom titles for us English speaking people. They don’t have many employees and work their arses off with some titles. Special mention also goes to their programmer Sara who is basically the sole person responsible for porting a lot of these games to Steam. I encourage you all to support them by buying their translated games if you like them. If you’re looking for a more typical JRPG to play, you could also try The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky which is available on Steam (and also one of my favourite games!) and also published by Xseed in the West.

Well that’s it from me! Congratulations to the few brave souls who actually read this long arse review. Feel free to come up to me at any AnimeUNSW event to talk about Ys-related stuff if you’re a massive fan, or alternatively any game series in general! Hopefully next time I write a review it will be for Ys: Ark of Napishtim like I originally intended.

Remember, weekly gaming sessions start Week 5, so I hope to see you all then!

This Week in Manga: Blame! / Homunculus

Gary, Secretary:

Man I’ve been waiting a while to get in the limelight to try further promoting my crappy taste in anime and the time has finally come.  So, in celebration I’m just going to say right now that the two manga – yep not anime – I’m about to suggest are really unique and can be disturbing.  One has scenes of rape and the other really crudely drawn gore and themes of depression. OTHER than that I think both are incredibly engaging and interesting within the wide scope of manga!
First suggestion is a manga created by the same author as Knights of Sidonia (Sidonia no Kishi) and is one of their earlier works: Blame!  The art style is slightly more crummy and crude than even that of his more contemporary work but the cyberpunk genre really is quite interesting.  It’s story, unlike most other mangas is not as dialogue focused and strangely enough focuses much more on images and atmosphere and funnily enough, the unique art style truly emphasizes these characteristics.

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Set in a post-apocalyptic world where the remnants of civilisation have been buried (or sunk) beneath layers of wiring, piping and metal, humans are slowly being replaced by cyborgs and the like.  Although cliche, the narrative is quite somber and disjointed – within reason – and often requires thought with the interpretation of the story.  Similarly to my second suggestion, this manga can’t be read like a crappy fanserviced action novel and you have to really use your brain to piece the puzzle together to form even a storyline.

So under all this fluff, why am I really suggesting this read?  Cause it looks cool – yeah I know it’s kind of hypocritical to say, no excuse can be offered.

Second suggestion is a manga called Homunculus – that was difficult to spell for some reason – and it’s is most certainly a disturbing read; the themes are even more disturbing and abstracted than Blame! and with good reason.  If this manga was to ever be pigeonholed into a genre, it would slot nicely into the psychological category.
I reiterate, this is not something to be read for the faint of heart.  Not only are there scenes of rape but there’s also scenes of masturbation as well as some things that should never be said on the internet; if you’re even more curious now that I’ve said that, first of all you’re weird (join the club) and second of all, just stop reading this and start reading the manga.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

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Homunculus really explores deeply into issues relating to one’s psyche and does so through the main character’s “ability” that blossoms as he goes through a primitive medical procedure known as trepanation – a process in which a hole is drilled into the skull without touching the brain.

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The story is interesting and the characterisation is quite enjoyable and surprisingly one of the few mangas I’ve read where no themes are over dramatised (looking at you Shingeki no Kyopoop) and the story doesn’t descend into the fifth layer of the Inferno (Naru”wo”to and “Kubo drank” Bleach).  I would also recommend reading this twice because a lot of underlying themes are most likely to be missed at first glance without the context of the ending.  OH, and did I mention AMAZING art?
Welp, I hope you enjoyed my suggestions and hopefully I can see you guys around university as the break finished and we can have a little chat about manga (and not my shit taste in anime).

This Week in Manga: After School Nightmare / Hokago Hokenshitsu

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Rena, Art Director:

I’m going to recommend a manga called After School Nightmare (Hokago Hokenshitsu). It’s an old one by Mizushiro Setona which finished in 2007, and admittedly it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve known a few people who have been repelled by the strange themes or the art style and couldn’t make it past the first chapter, but if you’re not afraid of a little controversy give it a go (yes this is a challenge, accept it).

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In a certain school there is a special class that must be passed in order to graduate. Held after school in the nurse’s office, classmates’ true identities are concealed behind canopy beds. Everyone falls into a deep sleep and meet in a connected dream where they must fight each other to find a ‘key’ that will lead them to graduation.

Dreamers take on a form representing their inner weakness, which may be as simple as putting on a skirt, or as abstract as just a hand with an arm. (There’s a giraffe at one point too :D) The result is an odd situation where your weakness is fully exposed to your classmates who basically become your enemies, but you can’t be completely sure who they actually are.

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By far one of the most intriguing aspects of the manga was figuring out who took on what form and why. The dream forms will even change depending on the decisions made by the characters. Essentially they have to overcome their weaknesses in order to graduate. However once a person graduates, their existence is forgotten by everybody else.

The storytelling is excellent and takes the concept of identity much further than one would expect. It is a psychological romance that is not afraid to explore issues of gender, incest, violence and more. I won’t tell you it’s a pleasure to read, but it is definitely captivating.

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Also, for those that do decide to pick it up, make sure to read the endnote after finishing the story. There’s some really interesting information that will definitely add a whole new sense of appreciation for the manga.

This Week in Anime: Natsume’s Book of Friends / Natsume Yuujinchou

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Catherine, Art Director:

Natsume’s Book of Friends follows the story of Natsume, a boy who is able to see youkai, an ability inherited from his grandmother, Reiko. Along with his inheritance came the Book of Friends, a book which contained the names of all the youkai Reiko crossed paths with in her lifetime.

Although fictional, Natsume’s Book of Friends contains many real life struggles with in its episodes that each and everyone of us would have experienced. Each story is wonderfully thought out and beautifully portrayed. An anime I think everyone can related to one way or another.

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Soothing animations and calm music, but do not let this fool you, it is by no means a slow paced and boring anime. (Although at times you wish that epic scenes could have been just a tad more dramatic because of how epic the situation is). Each episode is a gem in its own right and the storytelling is superb. Set into 4 seasons (they’re season season too 😀 how cool is that) they are easily the most easy going and entertaining 50+ episodes you’ll ever watch.

Not to mention the way Nyanko-sensei walks reminds me of a cockroach ._.

This Week in Manga: Kanata Kara and Kanyou Shoujo

Yu Jin, Events Director:

Compared to many others in AUNSW, I’m outdated. Clinging like a miser to my old favourites, I rarely venture out into the light to dip my toes in anything new – even with my beloved One Piece I’m about a hundred chapters behind.

Despite this I’ve managed to collect a few gems here and there, and although they’re old and worn, and perhaps only shine for me, I hope you’ll take a look at a couple of my favourite trinkets.

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Kanata Kara (From Far Away, 彼方から) by Hikawa Kyoko, 1993-2003

To me, Kanata Kara is a manga which puts to shame the rest of the fantasy shoujo genre. Even within tropes, there are some who just do it right.

Kanata Kara follows a popular 90s trend of ordinary Japanese schoolgirls suddenly being spirited away to strange fantasy worlds (in which they somehow end up playing key roles in saving said world, e.g. Inu Yasha, Red River), but please don’t just dismiss it for cliched nonsense; give it a go.

Not only does Kanata Kara manage to interweave a rich, multicultural world of complex political conflicts with traditional fantasy elements and landscapes reminiscent of Mononoke Hime, it contains what is possibly my favourite romance progression of all time.

The female protagonist Noriko is a formidable figure of prophecy known as the Awakening, who has the ability to unlock the apocalyptic power of the Sky Demon – but she’s also just a schoolgirl lost in an unknown world, ignorant of the language and her own role in its future. Found and saved by Izark, a young man of unknown history, she makes the choice to follow him – and begin the process of unravelling his (predictably) dark secrets.

The growing relationship between Noriko and Izark is gradual, subtle, and sentimental – I appreciate how it is founded not on physical attraction or the usual ‘ikemen charm’, but on shared hardships and empathy. Izark rescues Noriko several times throughout their journey – but Noriko also works hard to help and ultimately save him and many others, despite her lack of faith in her own abilities.

Kanata Kara is also significant to me for its array of female characters who refuse to fade into the backdrop. Both villains and heroes include key female figures – some beautiful, some rather the opposite, who have their own unique skills, motives and hopes. Gaya, a middle-aged master swordswoman from a disbanded tribe of fighters. Zena, her twin, a seer who helps smuggle hunted political figures to safety. Tazasheena, a prophetess of extravagant taste and hidden yearnings who is one of the main antagonists of the series. Geena, a blind seer child who worries about how much to reveal of her frightening visions.

Finally, Kanata Kara leaves you with some significant feels: no matter who you are or what you’ve done, you can always walk toward the light.

Go read it.

MyAnimeList link

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Kanyou Shoujo (Plant Dolls, 観用少女) by Kawahara Yumiko, 1995-1999

If you’ve ever read Petshop of Horrors (incidentally another of my old favourites), Kanyou Shoujo will appear to wander along some similar themes. Both series have somewhat episodic chapters, focusing on the customers of a bizarre shop of unusual products, and the consequences of their misjudged actions.

In the case of Kanyou Shoujo, the story revolves around Plant Dolls – animated dolls which choose their own owners and are  maintained by thrice daily waterings of milk and weekly administrations of cookies. When each charmed customer takes home his or her delicately beautiful doll, the doll starts echoing aspects of the owner’s personality in unexpected and sometimes disastrous ways.

Allegorical, dark and poignant, Kanyou Shoujo appeals with its fairy-tale elements and the moral questions it poses – is a doll a mere ornament, or a living creature which can experience its own loneliness and happiness? What are the consequences of overindulgence? Waning interest? Disappointed expectations?

Although the series is ostensibly about quirky little dolls, it invariably shows a portrait of humanity’s own dark (and light) traits.

Something worth mentioning is that this was originally published in a magazine called 眠れぬ夜の奇妙な話 (Nemurenu Yoru no Kimyou na Hanashi – Strange Stories for Sleepless Nights). I think this is quite fitting. Lingering, eerie, haunting – the best kind of bedtime story.

MyAnimeList link

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