One Month With My Nintendo Switch

One Month With My Nintendo Switch

I’m almost embarrassed to say that I wasn’t initially a believer in the Nintendo Switch. Rumors of Nintendo’s Wii U follow up being a console/handheld hybrid had been circulating for years before the official announcement, but I was never really too keen on merging those ecosystems.

All of that changed when the Switch was formally revealed, and doubly so when I finally got my hands on one about a month ago. Just to get this out of the way, I am over the moon in love with this system. It takes what worked about the Wii U, 3ds and even the Vita, fixes what they got wrong and wraps it all together in a sleek and stylish little tablet.

Outlook

One of the biggest compliments I can give the Switch is just how great it is to use. It’s the most elegantly designed system Nintendo has ever produced, and strips away pretty much all of the clutter that occupied the home screens of the Wii U and 3ds.

There’s no Mii Plaza, no augmented reality mini-games, and no confusing menus to sift through. Outside of your games library, the only options you’ll see on the Switch’s home screen are the eShop, standard system settings, screenshots, power options and the featured news tab.

Deluxe.jpg

 

The Switch has gotten a bit of criticism for the lack of applications such as Netflix, Youtube and a web browser. But as someone who has plenty of other devices to fulfill these needs, I couldn’t care in the slightest.

My Playstation 4 is loaded up with Netflix, Crunchyroll, Funimation and Youtube for all of my home entertainment needs, not to mention the fact that it can play my Blu-Rays. If I really need to watch something on the go, I’ve got a laptop and a great smartphone. The only thing I care about doing on my Switch is playing games, nothing more, nothing less.

Rabbids.jpg

Having only been out for about 6 months at the time of this writing, the Switch already has quite the impressive library. The system launched with Breath of the Wild, which set the bar pretty high, but there’s also Mario Kart, Splatoon, Arms and Mario + Rabbids. Not to mention the fact that Super Mario Odyssey is roughly two weeks away.

Beyond the great roster of first party titles, the Switch has also taken the Vita’s role in being a happy little home for indie games. Stand out titles include Fast RMX, Golf Story, Stardew Valley and Axiom Verge, and these titles and many more show just how tight Nintendo has become with indie developers.

Golf.jpg

So the Switch has great hardware and great games, but what about the controllers? Well, I’m happy to say that each of them gets equally high marks. While I still do think that both the Joycons and the pro controller are overpriced, they are all really comfortable to handle.

The pro controller feels almost as good as the controllers for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, and has a fantastic battery life to boot. And whether you’re playing with the single or dual Joycons, both iterations feel fairly comfortable in your hands for games like Mario Kart and Snipperclips.

Fast.jpg

In the month that I’ve spent with the Switch, I’ve noticed myself playing games in a number of ways. I’ll play games like Splatoon 2 and Golf Story predominantly in handheld mode, while Fast RMX gets played exclusively docked. Other titles like Breath of the Wild are 50/50, and sometimes I’ll even pop out the kickstand to play with the Joycons detached.

I’ve always had kind of a weird things with accessories and cases when it comes to handheld systems, and the Switch is no different. I’ve already invested in tempered glass, a set of blue Joycons, a dock sock, and I plan on eventually getting one of the premium Waterfield City Slicker carrying cases.

Splatoon 2

I love almost everything about the Switch, but there are a few things that still bug me. For starters, the system really needs a method for backing up save data. Cloud saves should be a standard in 2017, and it’s kind of a bummer to see Nintendo behind the times in this regard.

Secondly, I’m really hoping for Nintendo to finally adopt unified accounts and purchases across the board this time around. I really want to go mostly digital for my Switch games, but their current system makes me gun shy about doing so.

Odyssey.jpg

The few complaints I have aside, I believe the Switch is well worth its asking price. It delivers on the promise of seamlessly switching between handheld and home console mode, and I really feel that it’s going to cause a resurgence in couch multiplayer. If the Switch continues to receive the support it did in 2017, it’s going to have a very long and successful life cycle.

Advertisements

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Big Hero 6’

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Big Hero 6’

The follow up to 2013’s Frozen was a Disney film that was decidedly different than its predecessors, but still retained a bit of that classic Disney charm, and that film was an adaptation of Marvel’s Big Hero 6 comic book. After their acquisition of Marvel in 2009, Disney began researching a number of Marvel storylines for an animated film.

The studio would eventually land on Big Hero 6, and this comic was purposely chosen because of its obscurity. Disney’s version of Big Hero 6 borrows a handful of ideas from the source material, but is largely its own film with its own unique characters and story beats.

Nightlife.jpg

As always with Disney films, the team dedicated a lot of man hours to realizing the look of the film. They created unique rendering systems to convincingly represent foliage, city skylines, cars and buildings. Most notably, Disney created the Hyperion system, which allowed them to create realistic lighting effects across the entire film.

With the character of Baymax, Disney wanted to avoid creating a typical robot. Director Don Hall was inspired by a burgeoning technology known as “soft robotics”, which aimed to give safer and more flexible components to machinery. This tech would serve as the inspiration for Baymax’s non-intimidating “marshmallow” body.

Warm.jpg

As far as superhero film narratives are concerned, Big Hero 6 is pretty standard. Protagonist Hiro’s character arc is a simple, “great power, great responsibility” story, with some personal maturity thrown in for good measure, while the villain is just flat out seeking revenge.

Hiro is a 14 year old prodigy who graduated high school at 13, and spends his time participating in illegal bot fights. After some sly coercing from his older brother, Tadashi, Hiro decides to enroll in the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology.

Bros.jpg

Hiro and Tadashi’s relationship is the emotional throughline that carries Big Hero 6. Tadashi meets a tragic end pretty early on in the film, and Hiro’s journey with coming to terms with this loss is the motivation for every single one of his actions.

Big Hero 6 did a great job of making me care about Tadashi before he was killed. He served as a responsible mentor figure for Hiro, and did his best to keep him on the right path. Even after his death, he still provides support to Hiro when he needs it the most.

Group Selfie.png

Hiro starts out a bit rough around the edges, but he eventually matures into a young man reminiscent of the older brother that he looks up to. He went from being fully prepared to have Baymax kill the villain, to simply apprehending him like a model superhero, and I can really get behind character growth like this.

Aside from Hiro, Tadashi and Baymax, there are a few other characters that round out the film’s principal cast, namely, GoGo, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred. These four characters, along with Hiro and Baymax, make up the titular Big Hero 6.

Town.jpg

These characters are charming, but also a bit on the generic side. Taking a look at just about any still image of them will tell you most of what you need to know about their personality, Wasabi being the major exception. GoGo is the tough and edgy girl, Honey Lemon is the hyperactive and enthusiastic one, and Fred is the laid back, comic relief guy.

Although I found myself really liking these guys, they definitely needed more screentime. Hiro meets each of them when Tadashi shows him around the school’s lab, and this scene was a great introduction for them.

Villain.jpg

But one of the more jarring plot elements of the film is how quickly Hiro and the group become best friends. Aside from their introduction, the group doesn’t have a proper scene with Hiro for some time after Tadashi’s death.

In that time gap, there is one really bad montage that shows snippets of the group helping Hiro with his entrance exam project. Fast forward, and the gang behave as if they have been friends for years.

Big Hero 6.jpg

We also don’t really get to see the team as actual superheroes for very much of the film. I don’t have any real issue with this narratively speaking, as I felt it showed just how inexperienced they are when they take on their first mission, and it was nice getting to know them just a bit before they suit up.

The one plot element that I actively dislike is the villain’s daughter. Up until the reveal that she is alive, Big Hero 6 did an excellent job of subtly highlighting a parallel between Hiro and the villain, and I felt that bringing her back really cheapened the arc of an already simple villain story.

Pals.jpg

Big Hero 6 has some truly beautiful scenery. The film doesn’t do very much with the setting of San Fransokyo with it comes to narrative, but it does provide a backdrop for a few really well done scenes, the best of which is Hiro and Baymax’s flight through the city (though special mention goes to the trip through the portal).

Seeing the pair soar through the sky is reminiscent of many classic Disney films, and I really appreciate that the team let this scene breathe and just be visually impressive. It was also really cool how this scene fed into the story, as the whole purpose of them flying was to gain a higher vantage point for Baymax’s scanner.

Hello.jpg

Though a bit generic at times, Big Hero 6 still displays that Disney magic. The brotherly bond between Hiro and Tadashi, and by extension, Hiro and Baymax, is genuinely touching. The film has a lot of heart, with gorgeous visuals and cool action scenes to boot, and has a very unique spot in Disney’s line of animated classics.

Reviewing Games From Different Perspectives: The Expert And The Newcomer

Reviewing Games From Different Perspectives: The Expert And The Newcomer

Reviewing games is a profession that, while having a few generally accepted rules and guidelines, isn’t really an exact science. Compared to books and movies, games are an interactive form of entertainment, meaning different skill levels can leave players with wildly different experiences.

Every so often, a question arises: should reviewers be well versed in the franchise or genre that they are playing? For the longest time, my answer was yes, but thinking about the subject a bit differently has given me a new perspective.

Dark Souls.jpg

There are advantages and disadvantages alike to having a game reviewed by an expert and a newcomer, and I hope to shed some light on these differences here today.

The experienced player’s greatest advantage is being able to give an authoritative and informative analysis on their game of choice. They can go into minute and nerdy detail about the inner workings of a game, how it compares to previous entries in the genre or series, as well as what new mechanics it brings to the table.

Sonic Mania_20170816005554

A problem that can sometimes occur in this situation is a reviewer being almost too comfortable with a game. An example would be my review of Sonic Mania. I’m extremely knowledgable about the classic Sonic games, as well as the history of the developers. As such, I didn’t really consider how approachable the game is to someone who has never touched a classic Sonic the Hedgehog sidescroller.

The ability to give a fresh opinion is the biggest advantage of the reviewer who doesn’t have much history with any given genre or series. Since they are playing it for the first time, they’ll be able to gauge just well the game communicates its mechanics, and how easy it is to pick up and play.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy™_20170830005119

This reviewer’s disadvantage is that they may not be clued into some of the game’s finer points. They won’t be able to give a definitive overview of how true said game is to the genre’s tropes, and could end up giving a title a low score because of this.

As someone who reviews games from time to time, this situation can definitely be conflicting. The style of review I enjoy writing requires me to be at least somewhat familiar with the game I’m looking at, meaning I haven’t really reviewed anything outside of my wheelhouse.

Infinite.png

Most of what I’ve reviewed are platformers or action adventure games, two genres that I know very well. I’d have no problem reviewing games like Sonic Mania, Cuphead or Uncharted because I have no doubt that I’d be able to provide an informative opinion.

Having said that, I wouldn’t feel comfortable reviewing something like Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite. I could play the game and give some semblance of an opinion, but I would feel much better about doing so if I had a more astute knowledge of fighting game mechanics.

Doom.jpg

Like most things in life, this is a question without a real answer, as it all boils down to perspective. Do you want just a quick idea about the game, with maybe a few bullet points to cap off the review, or do you want to see somebody really dive in and size it up from top to bottom? Luckily, the internet has resources for both styles of game reviews, but it is up to the viewer to seek out a personality they really connect with.

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Alice In Wonderland’

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Alice In Wonderland’

Walt Disney was a man who never truly gave up on an idea once it came to him. He would simply shelve the thought until he could give it life in a meaningful way. Such is the case with 1951’s Alice in Wonderland.

Walt, like many other children, adored the original Lewis Carroll Alice novels during his early years, and the story was one of the first ones that spoke to him when he originally conceived the idea of a feature length animated film, even before Snow White.

Rabbit Hole.png

Funnily enough however, Walt’s original vision for the film was a hybrid of live action and animation. But by 1946, production on the film moved forward as a fully animated feature, with the most commonly cited reason being Walt’s dissatisfaction with Paramount’s 1933 Alice adaptation.

A rough version of the film was completed by 1939, but Walt had a number of issues with both the art direction and the tone of the script. Due to a combination of economic factors such as World War II, and the production of other Disney projects like Bambi and Pinocchio, Alice In Wonderland was once again put on the backburner.

White Rabbit.jpg

In spite of its on again, off again development cycle, Alice in Wonderland did eventually see completion. Out of all the classic films in Disney’s canon, this film is one of the more interesting ones to study from a story structure perspective.

The film opens with Alice casually ignoring lessons from her teacher, followed by her singing the wonderful song, In A World Of My Own. A hop, skip and a white rabbit later, and Alice is floating down a hole into the titular Wonderland.

Tea Party.jpg

Wonderland is a place where anything can happen. Everything that shouldn’t be, is, and nothing is impossible (though some things are certainly impassable). This gives the film the perfect excuse to just go absolutely crazy with its scenes and set pieces.

Alice in Wonderland has scenes that are so distinct and drawn out that you could blink, and almost think you’re watching an entirely different Disney film. One scene in particular, the story that Tweedledee and Tweedledum recount to Alice, goes on for minutes without showing our cheeky, blonde heroine.

Other Twins.jpg

 

Speaking of characters, Alice in Wonderland has an almost staggering amount of them, but the film handles such a large cast in a masterful way. With the exception of the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat and Alice herself, no one character sticks around past their unique scene.

But each and every one of them manages to be memorable because of how interesting their segments are. One of the Wonderland denizens that Alice encounters is a hookah loving caterpillar with a strange habit of emphasizing his vowels, but she also comes across a doorknob who never really gives straight answers.

Alice and the Queen.png

The most notable characters are the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter, but even they pale in comparison to the infamous Cheshire Cat. Not only is he perhaps the most quotable (and cryptic) Disney character of all time, but he occasionally appears to chat with Alice, sometimes even giving her a bit of helpful advice.

Alice in Wonderland isn’t about some grand journey. Rather, it is the story of a curious little girl. With the nature of the story being simple curiosity, Alice doesn’t need to change or grow very much over the course of the story. Instead, she is the perfect vehicle for the audience to enjoy Wonderland.

Mad Hatter.png

The story aspect that fascinates me the most about Alice in Wonderland is her pursuit of the White Rabbit. This is what sets Alice on her journey to begin with, and also what convinces her to plunge deeper and deeper into Wonderland.

And what intrigues me so much is the fact that she never catches the rabbit. She goes through multiple tumultuous situations, but never claims the prize she was after in the first place. I’m sure there’s some really deep meaning behind that, but I’m not quite smart enough to figure it out.

Cave Painting.jpg

My only major problem with the film as a whole is Alice’s breakdown scene near the story’s end. She tearfully laments the fact that she is trapped in such an unsettling place, and desperately wishes to return home.

My issue with this scene is that it had no build up. Up to this point, Alice was an energetic young girl who longed for a place beyond the boredom of the real world, making her tears and sorrow feel forced. This scene was probably necessary to provide context for when she does eventually go home, but there still needed to be a more gradual emotional escalation.

Caterpillar 2.jpg

Alice in Wonderland was far from a critical darling upon its initial release. It was panned by fans of the original Alice stories, and Disney was accused of  “Americanizing” the source material. The film wouldn’t be celebrated for years after its release, and eventually gained quite the following with youth culture due to its association with psychedelic drugs (something Walt himself was unhappy about).

Beyond this fact, Alice in Wonderland was looked upon more kindly by general viewers in the years after its release, and I personally appreciate how bold the film was for how it handled set pieces, as well as the wonderful animation that accompanied them.

Cheshire Cat.jpg

Alice in Wonderland manages to be both whimsical, and stylistically different from its sibling films in a way that makes it almost unsettling at times. Wonderland is such a great setting to explore, and it amazes me that Disney’s team created a place where anything can happen, but nothing ever feels disjointed or out of place.

Alice in Wonderland is a great watch, even if just to see how insane a place like Wonderland can be. Mystery is around every corner, and you never know who or what you’ll run into next. If you ever decide to go, I’d recommend avoiding any cats with big smiles and wide eyes.

Anime Film Review: ‘Children Who Chase Lost Voices’

Anime Film Review: ‘Children Who Chase Lost Voices’

I went into Children Who Chase Lost Voices almost completely blind. The film’s director, Makoto Shinkai, was also responsible for 2016’s critically acclaimed Your Name. So in order to see the origins of his directorial skills, I turned my attention to this film.

His directorial debut was the film 5 Centimeters Per Second, which was out of stock on Amazon when I first searched for it. As such, I jumped straight to his second film, 2011’s Children Who Chase Lost Voices.

Asuna and Shun.jpg

Right from the beginning, Children Who Chase Lost Voices demonstrates the power of visual storytelling. The film centers on a young girl named Asuna, and there is so much you can learn about her without ever being told.

A typical day for Asuna involves going to school, cleaning the house, doing laundry, preparing dinner and studying, and all of these activities are conveyed without a single word. The only informative lines of dialogue are Asuna’s comment about her mother working late, as well as the prayer she says in memory of her father.

Guardian.jpg

 

Besides her daily household chores, Asuna makes a habit of visiting a cliffside that exists deep in the woods surrounding her home. She stocks a small cave full of books, snacks and other items that are important to her, and sits atop the cliff tinkering with a strange radio given to her by her father, claiming she can hear voices below the ground.

Not long after the opening scenes, the film’s real narrative begins. There had been sightings of a strange, bear like creature in Asuna’s town, and the students of her school are advised to head straight home.

Tracks

As Asuna is making her way to the woods, she comes across the monster, and is almost killed by it until the intervention of a young man named Shun. Shun’s fight with the beast was more violent than I expected. I wouldn’t way it was grotesque, but I didn’t at all expect to see that level of blood and wounds.

After spending a brief period of time with Asuna, Shun is found dead in the town’s river. The loss of Shun, in conjuction with a story that Asuna hears from her substitute teacher, Mr. Morisaki, sets the pace for the rest of Asuna’s journey.

Asuna and Shin.jpg

Shun is from a land known as Agartha. Agartha exists under the surface of the Earth, and is home to the descendants of early humanity, as well as the guardian Quetzalcoatl. Mr. Morisaki believes that Agartha holds the power to revive the dead, and wishes to bring back his late wife, Lisa. After an encounter with Shin, Shun’s younger brother, both Asuna and Morisaki end up traveling through Agartha.

The adventure that follows is pretty enjoyable. Asuna and Morisaki encounter many interesting locales, and a handful of memorable characters. There is plenty of danger along the way too. Asuna and Morisaki must deal with a group of skeletal monsters, as well as the residents of Agartha, both of which want them dead.

Morisaki.jpg

Children Who Chase Lost Voices has a handful of plot elements that aren’t really explained too well. For starters, it’s never explained why Shun visits the surface world in the first place. The film does a great job of showing why Agartha’s citizens resent the top siders, which makes his decision all the more confusing.

Secondly, there is a strange issue with the strength of those from Agartha. They appear to have near superhuman level abilities, with even teenagers like Shun and Shin being able to leap from large distances and deal critical blows to the guardians. Again, the reason for this is never expanded upon.

Mimi.jpg

One interesting thing about the film is Asuna’s motivation. She’s caught between Morisaki’s desire to revive his wife, and the Agarthan’s desires to protect their home, all the while still mourning the death of Shun.

What I don’t like however is the fact that Shun seems to be her primary reason for going to Agartha. He’s a decent character, but the two only knew each other for maybe a handful of days, making the love that she feels for him less endearing. 

More Tracks.jpg

But to be fair, I do feel that Shun reminds Asuna of her father, which would make her actions a bit more understandable. For Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Shinkai aimed specifically to capture the elements of dealing with loss, and finding the strength to carry on.

This sentiment applies not only to Asuna, but to Shin and Morisaki as well. All three characters respond to losing a loved one in different ways, and they all need each other’s support to move forward with new resolve.

Center.jpg

Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a visual marvel. The characters look nice, and the animation is smooth and lively, but the backgrounds are the real star of the show. Agartha in particular is brimming with vividly detailed buildings and landscapes, and the skyline that accompanies the final scenes of the film was breathtaking.

The real world setting is just as visually impressive as Agartha. The autumn themed foliage is wonderfully crafted, but my favorite part was actually Asuna’s house. It’s so simple, but I found it really cool to look at all the little details that were applied to the refrigerator, the cabinets and the walls.

Ship.jpg

As a whole, Children Who Chase Lost Voices was an enjoyable film. It had a few plot issues, some that bother me way more than others, and I think a few scenes could’ve been shortened or cut for the sake of pacing. But the film’s highs are really high, and I’d say it is definitely worth the watch.

And oh yeah, the vocal track that plays over the credits, Hello Goodbye & Hello, is absolutely amazing.

Anime Series Review: ‘Sakura Quest’

Anime Series Review: ‘Sakura Quest’

I came across Sakura Quest almost entirely by accident. I remember seeing someone on Twitter comment on how great an anime called Hinako Note was, but I completely forgot the name by the time I tried to search it on Crunchyroll. The only think I could remember was the pink haired protagonist, and this happy accident led me to find what may be one of my favorite anime of all time, Sakura Quest.

Sakura Quest has a very unique and refreshing set up. It’s story centers on a college graduate named Yoshino Koharu. Yoshi thought that graduating from a university in Tokyo would set her on the path to accomplish great things, but the only things she’s managed to accomplish is failing dozens of job interviews.

Sad.jpg

After having a happy accident of her own, Yoshi ends up in the cozy little town of Manoyama, the type of place where everybody knows each other. Yoshi was contracted to work as a member of Manoyama’s tourism board, and to serve as the town’s queen. But as it turns out, Yoshi’s contract was for an entire year, as opposed to a single day.  

Manoyama isn’t necessarily in dire straits, but it could definitely use the boost in revenue that typically comes from tourism. In order to make the town rich and prosperous, Queen Yoshino is joined by four other young women, namely, Manoyaman native Shiori, the quiet and reserved Ririko, internet enthusiast Sanae and aspiring actor Maki.

Queen and Cabra.jpg

One of the things that makes Sakura Quest so special is, weirdly enough, its normalcy. A college graduate being charged with bringing in revenue to a small town may not exactly be a common occurrence, but it’s something that I probably wouldn’t think twice about if I saw it on the news.

Even the characters themselves feel like normal people. In most other anime, Yoshi would be a happy go lucky girl with tons of charisma. But in Sakura Quest, she’s a normal, twenty something year old girl. This statement holds true for every other character in the show, and gives Manoyama a genuine sense of community.

Cafe.jpg

There are a number of locales and shops that make appearances throughout the show’s 25 episode runtime, and what’s really interesting is the differing reactions to the tourism board’s plans. Though Yoshi always has the best of intentions at heart, her efforts don’t always reflect the desires of the citizens.

At times, the board’s plans are at odds with the traditions of Manoyama, while at others the citizens are being a bit too rigid and unwilling to accept any kind of change. This is the biggest source of conflict in Sakura Quest, and one that the show does a great job of resolving.

Television.png

Characters never attempt to force their ideas upon others. Rather, things only get done after thoughtful conversations from every party involved, giving the show a great feeling of maturity. Overall, Sakura Quest is a show that should be very enjoyable for adults. You should know an anime is mature when the most unusual thing about it is Yoshi’s pink hair.

Beyond the efforts to restore Manoyama, one of the central plot elements for Sakura Quest is Yoshi’s personal arc. She describes herself as never having any real talent for much of anything, so the job of queen is very important to her.

3.jpg

Seeing her struggle to succeed made me really feel for the poor girl. If one of her plans failed or stepped on the toes of the citizens, she would feel deeply sorry, and blame herself for not being able to understand the feelings of a native Manoyaman.

It is only through the support of her friends and the grumpy old Kadota that she is able to pull herself back up. By the end of the show, Yoshi felt like a much bolder and more confident young woman, one with the power to accomplish anything she sets her mind to.

Mocking.jpg

This is also true for a number of other characters. Maki has to come to terms with the future of her acting career, while Ririko must learn to gain independence. One of the show’s best episodes is about a middle school aged girl named Erika, and her struggles with wanting to leave her small town life.

Much like Yoshi, who also grew up in a rural town, Erika yearns for the opportunities that she believes only exist in Tokyo. As much as this is an important event for Erika, it is equally important to Yoshi’s development, as it is much like looking in a mirror at her younger self.

Yoshi and Shiori.jpg

Another aspect that stuck out to me is it’s amazing soundtrack. The general songs you hear in the show have a very “country town” vibe, while the openings and endings are catchy and upbeat.The show’s first opening and ending, Morning Glory and Lupinus respectively, have actually become two of my favorites of any anime.

One last kind of weird thing that I love about Sakura Quest is the girls’ outfits. I don’t even mean this in a fan servicey way, I genuinely adore just how nice their clothes look. Each girl has almost a dozen outfits that they rotate throughout the show, and many times even in the same episode.

Yoshi at home.png

 

I particuarly love Yoshi’s outfits, as she always looks so gosh darn cute. I’m partial to her blue shirt and white dress combo, as well as her denim shorts and yellow button up. But my favorite would have to be her blue overalls, mostly because I love the way she styles her hair when she wears it.

In many ways, Sakura Quest is an anime that has at least a little bit of everything that appeals to me. I love the character driven narrative, I love how refreshingly normal everything is, I love the animation and I especially love the soundtrack. It’s become one of my favorite anime of all time, and I hope future viewers will have just as much fun with Yoshi and Manoyama as I did.

Stars

 

Anime Series Review: ‘Danganronpa: The Animation’

Anime Series Review: ‘Danganronpa: The Animation’

Danganronpa: The Animation is just that, an animated adaptation of Spike Chunsoft’s Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. The Danganronpa franchise focuses on the themes of hope and despair, and Trigger Happy Havoc centers on a group of prodigious high school students being forced to learn the truths of said hope and despair. 

In the Danganronpa universe, there exists a prestigious high school known as Hope’s Peak Academy. Hope’s Peak only accepts the most gifted of students, and their definition of the word means that you must have an extremely high skill level with a particular talent. Naturally, those admitted into Hope’s Peak are known as Super High School Level Talents.

Students.jpg

These talents can range from simple things like baseball, programming and writing, all the way to some really obscure ones such as being an idol, gambling, clairvoyance and royalty. In the case of our protagonist, Makoto Naegi, he has Super High School Level Luck.

Danganronpa’s story starts with a select few students being trapped inside the academy by a charismatic teddie bear named Monokuma, who presents himself as the school’s headmaster. Monokuma thrusts a sadistic goal upon his fledgling students. If they wish to escape from the confines of the academy, they must successfully murder one of their classmates, and get away with it.

Monokuma.jpg

Monokuma’s killing school life feeds directly into the aforementioned themes of hope and despair. At times, the student body is hopeful that no murders will occur, and take solace in the strides they are making towards uncovering the truth. But the despair that they feel from being right at the peak of hope and falling is crucial to the narrative’s thematic elements.

As is to be expected, murders do happen in Danganronpa. After each murder, the students are to hold a brief investigation, followed by a class trial. If the students successfully deduce the killer’s identity, then the guilty party will be executed. But should they choose wrong, the “blackened” student will go free, while the rest of the class is executed.

Sayaka.png

One area in which the anime falls short compared to the game is the culprits of the case. Almost from the start of the trial, their reactions and expressions make it extremely obvious that they are guilty, especially when they are talking way more than they usually do.

Danganronpa’s biggest issue is its 13 episode runtime, a runtime that needed to cover 20 some odd hours of gameplay. To its credit, the anime does hit all of the important story beats, but much of the character development is left out. What probably suffered the most however are the investigations, as they are paced lightning fast, and don’t always give the clues a thorough enough explanation.

Bros.jpg

 

Another point I want to make about the anime, and one that isn’t necessarily a point of contention, is the difference between Funimation’s English dub, and the game’s English dub. In the game dubs, things are changed to be more suitable for an English speaking audience. An example would be the term Super High School Level Talent being shorthanded to Ultimate Talent (less of a mouthful).

Funimation’s dub seems to be more faithful to the original, right down to the fact that student’s address each other by their last names, a custom in Japanese culture. In the case of a character named Genocider Syo, they had their name outright changed to Genocide Jack in the games.

Asahina.jpg

Another thing of note between the two versions is the voices. With the exception of Makoto, the entire game cast has been replaced by Funimation’s in-house talent (feel free to call them Ultimate Voice Actors). Certain characters like Asahina, Sakura and Kyoko sounded mostly the same to me, while others like Togami and Mondo (voiced by Vegeta) were noticeably different. This isn’t a bad thing, as I actually found Funimation’s voice actors to have the  better performances.

The one voice that initially threw me off was Monokuma’s. He has such a whimsical and distinctive voice in the games, and I was really hoping that they carried the same actor over to the anime. To give credit where credit is due, the anime’s Monokuma sounds really great. His tone of voice is totally different from the game voice, which I think was a smart choice. In addition, he still manages to perfectly capture the bear’s personality and character traits.

Makoto and Kyoko.jpg

As I said before, the one constant between the two mediums is Makoto Naegi, voiced by Bryce Papenbrook. Papenbrook actually has a bit of history with Funimation, with his most famous role likely being Eren Jaeger in Attack on Titan. Because of his experience with the company, and the fact that he was likely given much better direction, his anime Makoto sounds so much better than his game counterpart.

 Danganronpa: The Animation does get tons of points with me for being extremely faithful in mimicking the aesthetics of the game. Almost all of the music returns for the anime, the art style is near identical and even the various elements of the user interface pop up when necessary, right down to the iconic truth bullets and class trial minigames.

Girls.png

Danganronpa: The Animation presents probably the best possible adaptation it can given its small number of episodes. The best way to experience the story and characters is still the original game, but I wouldn’t say the anime is a terrible entry into the series for newcomers. As someone who played the game earlier this year, I found the anime to be a serviceable refresher course of sorts. It may fall flat in some areas as an adaptation, but overall, Danganronpa: The Animation is a well done anime.