The Burn, Rewrite, Reread Tag.

So It’s been a while since I’ve posted and in honor of me making it back heroically onto WordPress AND reading, I’m going to do a Book Blog Tag which is how Book Bloggers try and convince outsiders that their lives are the interesting and fun, which they are. As a quasi-book blogger, I would know.

So I found this tag on Emma’s blog, which I love scrolling through and reading and it’s the

Burn, Rewrite, Reread Tag.

It’s essentially the Kiss, Marry or Kill edition for books. You pick three books at random from all the books you’ve read and you assign one book for each category: Burn, Rewrite or Reread. I’m gonna go through my Goodreads book shelf and, while you only have to do three rounds as per the rules dictate, I’m going to *challenge* myself and do 5.

Round 1.

 Things Fall Apart   After Dark Swimming in the Monsoon Sea

As luck would have it, I drew three books I really liked. UGH.
Also, burning ANY book is too extreme, even if said books feature sparkling vampires and the like. But it is a challenge so:
I would reread Things Fall apart cause I kinda rushed through it the first time.
I would rewrite Swimming in the Monsoon Sea cause it kinda bored me
And I would burn After Dark because it creeped me out. But it’s an amazing book.

Round 4

  My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut The Intern

I would reread My Drunk Kitchen endlessly because it was such a fun book to read even though I don’t cook.
I would rewrite The Angle of Incidence because it’s written in a Scottish brogue and it made understanding it difficult (but I really liked it)
And I would burn The Intern because it’s shallow, cheap and downright gloriously and morbidly fascinating and a bit of a guilty pleasure.

Round 3

The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles, #1) The Giniralla Conspiracy ; Five Journals of Sujatha Mallika The Hungry Ghosts

Shit. This challenge is unfair.

I would burn The Red Pyramid because compared to the other two, it made the smallest impression on my life (but I still enjoyed it so much)
I would….rewrite The Giniralla Conspiracy to make it less of a one time read thing.
And I would reread The Hungry Ghosts over and over and over. C’est beau.

Round 4.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin Dragon Rider (Dragon Rider, #1) Kill Your Darlings

No I didn’t choose these ones because they’re blue. They were chosen at random by a goo ol’ session of close-eyed mouse wiggling.

I would reread Dragon Rider because it is so darn enjoyable and rereadable so much.
I would rewrite Kill Your Darlings because it gets tedious sometimes (but it was one of the best books I read last year)
And I would burn Captain Correlli’s Mandolin not because I didn’t enjoy it enough but because it made me so sad and happy and I want it to be MY book and not have anyone share in the glorious pleasure of reading it.

Round 5 aka, THE FINALE

The Goldfinch The Memory Keeper's Daughter Colpetty People

So this list is a little easier. But still doesn’t have any clear cut winners/losers.

I would reread The Goldfinch because it sorta went over my head due to its sheer size.
I would rewrite Colpetty People in that I would alter the sequence the short stories are ordered so it becomes more cohesive as a short story collection
And I would burn The Memory Keeper’s Daughter out of revenge because it made my stone heart die.

 


 

And that is that fellow bloggers/readers/people who found this on google due to some happy accident of a search.
The challenge is complete and while tagging others and forcing them to do something is always such fun, I leave this open to any and all (which means no one will probably take even the slightest interest in this post).

Bon Appetit! (I’m about to have dinner)

Oxenfree

Night School Studio’s Oxenfree is a marvel of genre mixing and innovative design. Narrating a touching story about a group of teenagers and their struggle to survive on a haunted island, this game is truly mesmerizing and quite honestly one of the best games 2016 has offered so far.

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Oxenfree, at its time of release in January 2016, generated a lot of buzz and hype. And even after playing it through completely, I can’t point to one singular reason why. It’s got so much going for it, it’s really hard to pinpoint one thing that makes it stand above other games for it truly does. Despite some glaring flaws, it does so well in other areas, it’s easy to fall in love with this one.

The game starts simple enough. Alex, our spunky protagonist, is travelling to Edwards Island on a ferry with her best friend, Ren, and her new step-brother, Jonas, to attend the annual year-end school bash. But they soon find out upon arriving that it’s just them two other people there: the school it-girl Clarisse and her faithful sidekick, Nona. So the five of them start exploring the island, playing a few teenage games and consuming some beers to boot. But boredom takes over and they split up. Clarisse and Nona remaining behind to drink some more and Alex, Jonas and Ren wandering into the caves to investigate some reported supernatural phenomena. And then all hell breaks loose.

It’s a riveting story. Sure, five kids on a deserted island sounds, quite frankly, so typical and boring these days but you’ve never seen a story like this. The story ties up war-era victims, an old lady who used to live on the island as well as several dead relatives and friends of our protagonists together in a devilishly twisted plotline that will leave you both exasperated and on the edge of your seat. As Alex, you wander all over the island with one or more of your friends in tow as you try to rescue your other friends while simultaneously solve the mysteries of the haunted island.

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Now normally I avoid the horror genre like it’s the devil children, which it usually turns out to be. After a disastrous viewing of The Exorcist at age 8 I’ve developed an inherent fear of all things supernatural so horror books, movies, TV shows and games are completely off the list for me. But then a game like Oxenfree comes around and it’s beautiful visuals and unique (for the genre) side-scrolling 2D game design tricks you into thinking “oh wait I’ll see things coming right?”.
Hell No.
Amidst all the beautiful, scenic backgrounds and amazing detail here, there are definitely some masterful JUMP scares and full on creep moments. Coupled with the eerie, suspenseful soundtrack and sound effects, this game will not let you relax. Ever.

But this game isn’t just about horror. This is also the kind of dramatic adventure game that Life is Strange and The Wolf Among Us is. As Alex, you not only have to uproot evil but also talk to your friends, build and maintain your relationships with them and even peek at their inner demons with them. For a horror game, this is a novel approach as the focus is not only your surroundings but also on the people you’re with. Why is your step-brother overly protective suddenly? Does Nona really want Clarisse alive? Questions like these pop up fairly regularly and depending on how you handle social situations, the game changes slightly. But the absolute best thing about this side of the game is how much it contributes to the overall experience. Without this part, Oxenfree would be just another horror game where all it requires is mindless explorations and puzzle solving.

In the instances where the creep factor is absolutely absent (and there aren’t many instances like that), this game is downright beautiful. The writing of the game is wondrous. It’s hard to write a teenager, much less five, but the geniuses at Night School Studios have done exactly that to wild success. Filled with all the angst, sexual frustrations and yes, even the pretentious know-it-all rants, these characters are bursting with life. It makes you care for them in a way that’s frightening, especially when your favorite character (it WILL happen) is possessed or about to die. And in the moments when our characters are just talking, the backgrounds really pop out and the music complements is just right so that instead of simply mindlessly reading out speech bubbles, you are actually experiencing the story with them.

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Oxenfree is one of those game where I could go on and on and on talking about it but I never could truly capture its true essence. It’s not quite complete horror but it’s also not quite complete adventure. It’s got a few issues here and there too: The controls are a little fidgety, especially if you’re using a game controller instead of a mouse/keyboard combo and the story’s resolution is patched up rather haphazardly. But overall, it’s an enthralling work of (dare I say it?) art that will have you both frightened out of your pants and feeling like the world just killed your best friend for no reason whatsoever.
Beautiful, mesmerizing, an impressive merger of two previously irreconcilable genres, Oxenfree deserves all the salutations it gets.

 

Perfect Blue

Once you get hooked on anime, it’s pretty easy to ignore the collection of occasional anime movies that get released each year. What with the huge numbers of series that airs, gets cancelled or gets picked up for more seasons, rooting for anime movies is actually like searching for needles in several large haystacks.

“Perfect Blue” is an anime movie released way back when in 1997 that got swallowed in the world wide “Akira” rage and sunk down into the depths of also-ran fame. Since its release however, it has gained a cult following and much like “Akira” details a story that critiques modern culture and society, holding up a mirror to celebrity life, pop culture and even consumerism.

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The story starts when Kirigoe Mima decides to quit as one third of pop group CHAM and transition into television actress. This irks many fans as a lot of them view her as innocent, sexy songstress destined to provide them happy tunes and entertainment. She soon begins work on a crime thriller TV show, starting out in a minor role and soon becoming the main character. But all isn’t well as her pop-idol days aren’t quite behind her and they begin haunting her. She soon falls victim to a stalker and begins to lose touch with reality, believing herself to have multiple personality disorder.

It’s a harrowing story, made all the more tough to swallow due to several hard-hitting scenes that will have you squirming in your seats. Several reviewers and sites classify this as psychological horror and it’s easy to understand why. Kirigoe Mima’s slow progression from healthy sanity and mental wellness to paranoia and borderline multiple personality disorder is frightening to watch. As she stumbles down stairwells, shuts herself in bathrooms and talks to herself in mirrors, her emotions wash out almost tangibly. To add to the unnerving factor, no other characters really feel sympathetic to her troubles and her loneliness, despite her sudden popularity as an actress hits home, hard.
The movie does use several horror tropes of course to put the viewers on edge: reflections with lives of their own, foreshadowing glimpses of stalkers, narrow angles to depict isolation as well as fast cut flashbacks to jolt the viewers. But the way they’re handled, how they pop up when we least expect it, really makes them effective. The director has taken psychological-horror tropes that could have potentially diluted the movie and used them really beautifully to fully showcase the horror going on in Kirigoe Mima’s life.

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The visual direction is superb here. The movie’s first half looks very normal and ordinary, with long panning shots and scenes of everyday life filling the screen since there really isn’t anything wrong yet with the story. But as Mima’s life starts to crumble, the viewing angles get strange. Add onto this the gratuitous display of violence on show here, things get hectic, frantic and downright disturbing really fast.
The animation however isn’t that great. Sure, it is an old movie, released almost 20 years ago but considering the amazing animation in “Akira” ,which was released around the same time, “Perfect Blue” looks a little subpar. Several sequences look choppy and slow at best and some of the character details and animation really suffer too.

“Perfect Blue” is a gem of a movie, part buried in the annals of anime history. Overshadowed by its more popular and perhaps better looking counterpart “Akira” it’s not had its share of the limelight but really, its magnificent. Posing difficult questions about fandoms, societal pressure and consumer culture, it’s as relevant to today’s society as “Akira” is and boasting, in my humble opinion, a better soundtrack that really brings this tale alive. “Perfect Blue” is horrifying and disgusting. In the most perfect of ways it could be.

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The Wolf Among Us: Final Review

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When it starts, Telltale’s “The Wolf Among Us” can feel a lot like its fellow companion “A Game of Thrones: A Telltale Series”. They are both episodic, adventure games where player choices will have large consequences through out the game. But as “The Wolf Among Us” played on through, it set itself apart increasingly from fellow games in the genre. Which is a good thing.

“The Wolf Among Us” is based on the popular Fables comics which details the lives of fairy tale characters who were forced out of their homeland into the mean streets of New York City. Living in a small community called Fabletown, life is hard for the characters and they must use spells called glamours to disguise themselves as human. But glamours are expensive, crime is rampant and Fabletown is not safe anymore. Enter Mr. Bigby Wolf.

Given a second chance, Mr. Wolf is now the sheriff of Fabletown and also who you play as. And right from the get go, you get served up two, fleshed out murders to solve. With Snow White as your partner, you set out across Fabletown, interrogating and occasionally beating up bad guys left and right.

The world of Fabletown is grim. From the trash cans spilling out into the streets to the seedy bars and strip clubs littering the alleys, everything is dark and shady. The whole world of Fabletown has a certain look that at once sets you on edge. Glaring neon contrasts with pitch dark shadows. Stray trails of smoke appear and disappear from and into nowhere. Even the characters are bitter, and grim. They all carry a certain gritty, street-wise air that makes it apparent from the first scene that life isn’t easy. It’s not an easy look to pull of course but Telltale studios does it surprisingly well, mimicking a comic book style to pay homage to the source material. Cel-shaded graphics are rampant throughout here and it works surprisingly well.

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But the look and feel of “The Wolf Among Us” isn’t all that’s great about it. The writing itself shines. Videogames are beginning to transition now from mindless pastimes to means of storytelling and even art. Screenwriters are now very important suddenly to game studios. “The Wolf Among Us” dazzles in this regard. Crisp dialogue and a fascinating murder mystery make for an enthralling experience. True, some of the characters blurt out some lines that sound vague and very blunt sometimes, especially our partner Snow White but all the characters are marvelously sketched out. Tying in their previous lives in the homelands to their troubles and worries in the present, Telltale studios has done a thorough job of making the characters seem very real with real problems. When you see even Beauty and the Beast going through marital and financial problems, you realize that this game isn’t going to hold itself back on the reality checks. Not even fairytales endings are immune to the bitter truths of a 21st century reality.

But the main point of difference “The Wolf Among Us” has with “Game of Thrones” is its plot and theme. Where “Game of Thrones” lost the plot completely following around the 3rd episode, “The Wolf Among Us” stays focused and clear. The player choices, which incidentally started to become irrelevant in “A Game of Thrones” as the game progressed, come increasingly into play and several revelations in the murder are dependent on the player’s previous choices. Because of their gravity, even little choices start to play on your mind and I found myself debating even minute details for several moments. And the ending card of each episode where your choices are broken down gives you a kick too, knowing that you picked just like everyone else who played the game or maybe went against the stream.

By the end of the fifth episode, the two murders get solved satisfactorily but even with rooting out the criminal, fighting off his minions and rounding him up, the game doesn’t rest. It still insists on you making choices and the criminal’s punishment is left up to you. With Fabletown floundering, its citizens distraught and divided between the Haves and Have-Nots, this decision is anything but easy.  Not to mention, several compelling arguments for and against mercy, democracy and forgiveness really tearing you up. But it’s not just at the end of the game these themes play up. These murders aren’t just murders, they’re also stark reminders of the difference between the upper and lower echelons of society and the corrupt government that rules Fabletown. Each episode makes you wonder whether the upper class citizens, whom as the sheriff you are a part of, could have prevented the murders by being more generous towards and observant of the lower class citizens. Needless to say, this is a very relevant conundrum to today’s world and the fact that a videogame with fictional characters had me debating whether to blame crime on the direct culprit or the ones who caused it indirectly is certainly amazing.

The Wolf Among Us starts its narrative, for it is a story as much as it is a game, strong and ends even stronger. It throws social issues, damaged characters and its fair share of gore in the player’s faces and by doing so, holds us spellbound. It holds a mirror up to society today and it forces you to figure a few things out about yourself too, which is no mean feat when it comes to video games. And when it ends on a cliffhanger as it does here, possible to leave room for a second season, it closes out the game it customary Telltale fashion: haunting.

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Blue Neighborhood

We can all remember Troye Sivan’s EP “TRXYE” right? That phenomenally amazing EP consisting of five beautiful tracks?

Well he’s done it again and released a new album.
Released in December 2015 (which would make this discussion several months old) his new album is called “Blue Neighborhood”.

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Listening to Blue Neighborhood all the way through, it’s easy to think that the whole album is one, long song. And I mean that in the best way possible. It’s filled with the soft-synth, melancholia filled distinctive dream-pop sound Troye captured so effortlessly in TRXYE.
And it’s not just the sound that stretches all the way throughout the album. The themes and the lyrics all merge effortlessly into one another to form a sort of snapshot of a story, told in a musical format.

This is Troye Sivan’s identity album. The album where he lays bare his soul and speaks about his identity, his sexuality, his childhood, his experiences growing up and of course as new post-teen, his teenage angst and heart aches. From “Wild” where he gushes about the exhilaration of young love, to “Heaven” where he tries to come to grips with his religion and his sexuality and even “Bite” a sensual soundtrack to first experiences, Troye Sivan has no reins. As one review said (I forget which), Troye isn’t afraid of pronouns and frequently uses “him” to describe his love interests. A brave step since despite the wide acceptance of homosexuality throughout the western hemisphere, there’s still not a whole lot of artists who address it.

Troye Sivan’s sound is sophisticated and mature, tailor made to appeal to youngblood generations raised on electronica and synth-pop. His lyrics ensure that the more mature audiences have some common ground too. It’s an amazing album with a catch for everyone. Go listen to it and revel in the genius that young Troye Sivan.

Things I did in the last 11 weeks. Mostly-ish.

So as of Friday (three days ago), my second quarter at Drexel came to an end. And Spring Break started.
Of course given that this is me, I’m not going anywhere for Spring Break. I am taking extended ME time.
But my plans for this staycation (urgh can’t believe I just used that word) isn’t the topic of this post. This post is concerned with what I did during this quarter.

The quarter started out on a low note. Fresh from my winter break back home, I was feeling homesick (again) and down in the dumps and for the first week or so, I circled between going to class, depressively watching House and missing all the people back home.
But then salvation knocked on the door in the form of 30 Rock (I know it’s old but frankly, it was so good) and a few weekend parties so flash forward several seasons of aforementioned TV show and a couple of wild nights, I was as right as rain. (Why is that an expression by the way)

Now that I was no longer homesick, I threw myself into work but sadly reality caught up and I basically ended up ignoring Math and Anthropology which will sadly reflect in my grades at the end of the quarter. I’ve never been Math’s greatest supporter and Anthropology was such a difficult blip on my schedule and its class times didn’t help. It was a 3 hour class, once a week from 6.30 to 9.30 PM on Tuesdays. But no excuses, I let those classes slip by me. It’s all my fault.

Honestly speaking, my second quarter here hasn’t really been all that special actually. Missing all the shiny, jangly newness of things from my first quarter, a lot of things got tired really fast, including parties so I just spent most weekends in my room, in my bed Netflixing the night away. ‘Course I did end up going out once in a while but not as much.

Overall? It was alright. Sure I may have come inches close to failing two of my classes (I may have for all I know, jury’s still out as of 21st of March 2016) but I ended the quarter as best as I good: Standing up straight, enthusiastically flipping off all my misgivings about my future and insecurities. Yep, for reasons that shall remain murky on this blog (I can’t write about everything here. Some things are meant to never see the light of day, or computer screens), I found a great whopping dollop of confidence and self-awareness (the good kind, not the wishy-washy insecure type) which I am very happy about. I also managed to write more on my other blog (which you will find here) and also managed to make some actual decisions about my future at Drexel and my career.

On a bad note, my reading slump is still very much a slump. I’m hoping that the remaining seven days of Spring Break will help me change that. But I am definitely, very slowly, getting my shit together. Now if only I could survive without Netflix.

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Me everytime my brain decided to not function during exams last week.

Just some exams is all

And it’s back to another one of those lifetime posts.
It’s been such a hectic period of time since my last post. Mainly due to finals. Which started today and I finished my first final today. French 201. It went surprisingly well.

Of course due to my sheer luck, I end up with four classes that have actual final exams instead of projects, papers or assignments. I would much rather prefer working on projects to studying for exams. But c’est la vie and these courses are necessary Senura. Just grit your teeth, down another Monster and do it.

Gosh it’s been so long since I’ve rambled like this onto the internet that I’m actually having trouble formulating thoughts in an orderly manner. Or maybe not. I did just write all of this in less than 5 minutes so.

I’m back on Tumblr. After my very vocalized (digitally, on this blog here) protests against Tumblr’s reblog culture that irked me to no end, I finally ended up seeing its beauty and accepting it for the glory it is. I like Tumblr, it’s a distraction and I like it.

I’ve also been listening to an insane amount of the same music which I will talk about soon, I also bought a book to propel me from my reading slump and I will talk about it too later (mainly because I haven’t read it yet. I just got it today).

I will also do Quarter recap a la my previous one in which I went a little too deep personal. I will talk about the general things I did this quarter, all the mishaps, the mistakes and misunderstandings and basically all my screw ups. (It’s what I do, screwing up). But all that in good time, I have a whole week after my marathon of exams to take a breather and bring all of you up to date. Until then, I’m here in my bed, trying to study for my Anthropology final which I’m desperately underprepared for.

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Can this be me?

How to become a mangaka: not a guide.

 

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Anime rarely have in them the capacity to inspire their faithful watcher to do work. And I mean this in the nicest way possible. They are highly addictive, engrossing and due to their large availability online, through legitimate means or otherwise, it’s very easy to set aside your work and studies and go on a binge for 72 hours straight.

Bakuman: Season 1 isn’t so.

Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi are two middle school students on the verge of graduating onto high school. While Moritaka Mashiro is your average, angsty love-struck teenager, Akito Takagi is the smart, cool, good looking nerd whose dominating the exam results list each term. But one fateful afternoon, Akito convinces Moritaka to work with him to become a mangaka – A manga artist. Akito would write the manga – the story and the dialogue and the setting – while Moritaka would use his talent and experience, (his uncle also used to be mangaka) to draw the series.
And thus, one of the greatest mangaka duos are born and the rest is history.

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Moritaka on the left, Akito on the right

Working out of the old workshop that used to belong to Moritaka’s uncle, the duo soon begin submitting names (rough sketches of manuscripts) and their corresponding manuscripts to a big manga publisher.

Now I can’t lie, that right there sounds like the most boring premise for an anime ever but let me tell, the team behind Death Note (yes, that’s right this is from the same writers and artists behind THAT one) manages to pull it off. By basing the series on much of their own early experience of trying to get serialized and drumming up the drama (obviously) and comedy, Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata manages to make this one of the most compelling anime I’ve watched in a long time.

What’s great about this anime is how it avoids sugarcoating anything about the manga industry. From the get go, the audience is blasted with how incredibly daunting a task this serialization business and that’s just without mentioning the effort needed to draw a single page. The brief exposition scene in the third episode (I think it was?) about the various techniques and styles needed to put together a complete page actually cringe.  Of course its fascinating stuff, especially to an otaku like myself but then I can’t even imagine writing one single page full of sentences without cramping my fingers up. And then there are the critical editors, the public that’s (in my opinion) too into mass produced shounen style manga and rival mangakas who are churning out pages by the dozen everyday. What all of this means of course that each time our duo climbs one rung of the ladder to serialization, the audience climbs with them.

And what with the slow climb by this duo and our emotional investment in their fate, this anime is perhaps one of the most inspiring anime I’ve seen. Watching it made me want to actually do work so that I can achieve my dreams and goals. It makes me want to invest in my ambitions as much as the characters are in theirs and that my friends, is pretty rare for an anime. Instead of depressing you with how much they get done in a month, Moritaka and Akito makes you want to join them in their success. And that for me is a great accomplishment for an anime.

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But not all is right with this anime.  What would an anime be without a love story eh? And yep, we have a pretty hefty, meaty and frankly uber unrealistic one right around the corner. See our manga writer Akito Takagi wants to become a mangaka because he genuinely wants to be so. But our manga artist Moritaka Mashiro is only partially invested in this for the love of the medium. The other reason is his ‘love’ for a person.

He is in love with Miho Azuki whose dream is to become a voice actress for anime. And because they are both chronically enfeebled around each other and painstakingly shy to boot, they make this pact that they will only ‘date’ when Moritaka’s manga gets serialized, made into an anime and Miho gets cast as the lead heroine for the anime. They will then promptly get married. Until then, they will only communicate via 2-3 line text messages. And these messages will only be regarding their dreams. Ignoring the fact that this whole scenario is completely unrealistic and destroys the exact thing the anime has got going for it, it also ruined Moritaka Mashiro’s character. Instead of being driven and determined to become the next being mangaka in Japan, he alternates between the former state and a pathetic, lovesick teenager who spends his time pining and agonizing over wanting to see his love. And this whole idea of a ‘muse’ to an artist? I’m sorry but I refuse to believe we’ve regressed back to the 17th century. This romance side story derails the momentum of the story frequently and it was only respect for the anime’s integrity that prevented me from skipping through the romance parts entirely.

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Bonus: since this anime and its source manga are based on Ohba and Obata’s real life loosely, much of the anime have real life references in it. Popular manga series get mentioned several times (One Piece, Hunter x Hunter, Naruto to name a few) and the publisher that Moritaka and Akito work with is named Yueisha, which is a thinly veiled referenced to the actual company Shueisha. And the magazine that the duo aim to be serialized in is called Shounen Jack, while is a reference to the actual magazine Shounen Jump.

Throughout its 25 episode first season, Bakuman is a sparkling look into the intrinsic workings of the manga industry. From showing the process of manga selection to debating the importance of mainstream vs cult manga, Bakuman is definitely captivating stuff to the avid manga reader and/or anime watcher. But if anime/manga aren’t frankly your go-to entertainment and you’ve just watched one or two episodes of Naruto just to see what everyone’s talking about, this isn’t for you. Much of this anime’s draw comes from the details and the expositions in it and for someone like me, it’s beautiful.

Except for the romance.

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Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Part 1

Meet Telltale’s game “The Wolf Among Us”.

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The company is by now well known. It published the game of “The Walking Dead” (2 seasons in, one more coming), “The Game of Thrones” (1 season in, the 2nd one coming) and “Tales from the Borderlands”. All of them episodic, graphical drama adventure games where player choices makes the game. Choose right, you may make friends, escape a cliffhanger. Choose wrong, you end up a lone wolf and die an unsurprising death halfway.

“The Wolf Among Us” is like all the games above, an episodic graphical adventure game where players are deposited into the shoes of non other than Mr. Bigby Wolf whose name sounds uncannily like ‘The Big Bad Wolf’. Yup, he’s the big bad wolf who tried ingesting Red Riding Hood and ended up being gutted by the Woodsman and as him, your first assignment is to beat the Woodsman in a shady NYC apartment and protect a strange girl. Mr. Bigby Wolf is the lone sheriff in Fabletown NYC, a secret town home to all Fairytale characters, called Fables, who were driven there from their Homelands by some past event. Ichabod Crane has left Sleepy Hollow and is now the miserly Deputy Mayor of Fabletown, Ms. Snow White has divorced Prince Charming and is the assistant to the Deputy Mayor.

Of course what with “Once Upon A Time” and “Enchanted” fairy tale characters in the real world aren’t so much of a novel idea but the Fables comic which this game is based on was released way back when in 2004 and also presents a grittier, dirtier, bloodier version of fairytales than anything else does.

I just managed to complete the first episode of the five episode saga that is “The Wolf Among Us” and I have to say I’m impressed.
The visuals stay true to its source material: a comic book series. The art, full of heavy lines and obvious color paletting, it’s easy to believe you’re watching a visual novel but you’re not. You playing a game that will screw you up if you don’t pay attention.

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As the sheriff, the very first murder gets thrown in your face pretty quickly. The strange girl you saved before ends up dead outside your apartments and alongside the beautiful and snappy Ms. Snow White, you embark on your inevitable investigation as to who the girl is, why she was killed and who did it.

On your investigation, you meet a plethora of various characters from your favorite fairytales. And they’re not just the Disney ones. Grendel from “Beowulf” makes an appearance as well as a flying monkey from “The Wizard of Oz”. Not to mention aforementioned Ichabod Crane. And a member from our favorite Toad Hall. It’s interesting to see the kind of real world people each fairytale character has been reimagined as and for me, the mystery of the murder was only half the fascination with the set-up. The other was seeing the character’s I’d been used to seeing in a completely different element.

The direction of this episode was masterful. Playing it through, I was constantly struck with how good a movie it would make. Add in just a little touch of more expert direction, maybe some more experience voice actors and you could literally make it a movie.

With “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead” Telltale were imitating the look and feel of the respective shows. With “The Wolf Among Us”, the company is doing the opposite: creating a look and feel for the franchise that honestly, works pretty well. Oh who are we kidding? It looks amazing.

Of course, the voice acting is not all upto standard. Comparing this with the Game of Thrones from Telltale, this is quite sub-par. Snow White’s dialogue sometimes sound very much read and rehearsed.
And the plot, while engaging and full of surprises which will want you to keep playing, doesn’t seem too strong either. Telltale’s Game of Thrones started out strong and powerful on plot and character development in the first couple of episodes but lost its way on the last three episodes, tying up a lot of loose ends with a lot of unnecessary and frankly, unwanted and unforeseen deaths. Just because everybody dies in the books and the TV shows, it doesn’t call for making gamers feel helpless as they watch their hero die.

I hope The Wolf Among Us doesn’t disappoint later one. The set-up definitely has potential but it also has a lot of potential pitfalls.

P.S: Mr. Bigby Wolf, while very much the stereotypical gritty, cigarette smoking, messy, street-wise detective, he still manages to grow on us. Why? Because the players get to decide whether he’s cruel and harsh or understanding and caring.

For this, my first playthrough, I’m trying to keep him somewhere in the middle. Kind to the fair ladies and cruel to the ne’er-do-wells. Go get ’em Mr. Wolf. Go get ’em.

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