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Blood: The Last Vampire was one the big anime movies of the late-nineties anime boom alongside other films such as Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll, and Akira. Since then, it has had a live action remake, a 52-episode anime series (Blood+), three games (four if you count Heroes Phantasia), and several manga adaptations. This weekend will mark the debut of its second anime feature film, Blood-C: The Last Dark. This film is not a sequel to the first movie, however, but rather the conclusion to the story arc started in last year's Blood-C—the second and most recent TV anime. So in preparation for the movie, let's take a look back at this twelve-episode series.
Good — CLAMP Designs Are Always So Pretty
The first thing you notice about Blood-C is how downright pretty it is. This is due to the involvement of CLAMP, a group of female artist and writers known for works such as Card Captor Sakura, xxxHolic, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles, Chobits, and many others. Even the heroine, Saya, has been remade from the ground up—now sporting long hair, glasses, and the most awesome-looking school uniform ever devised. Simply put, everything looks great—from the characters and locations, to the attacking monsters.
Good — Yokai Attack
While past Blood stories all deal with Saya fighting vampires, Blood-C pits her against a slew of monsters ranging from humanoid to eldritch abominations. What many Western viewers might miss, though, is the origin of these creatures. While the series itself gives only the briefest explanation for where they come from, it is apparent that they are based on Yokai—the monsters of traditional Japanese fairy tales. While not generally known outside of Japan, Yokai are as well known in Japan as Brothers' Grimm fairy tales are to Americans. The inclusion of these re-imagined Yokai not only gives a bit of insight into the Japanese cultural consciousness but also builds upon the Blood world as well. There are more than vampires out there going bump in the night, kiddies.
Good — Questions to Ponder
At face value, none of the characters—especially Saya—feel like they belong in the Blood series. Everyone seems like they are existing in the child-friendly world of Card Captor Sakura, and not one of vampires and monsters. However, this does raise a few questions. As Blood-C is in many ways more CLAMP than Blood, how does it fit into the world of the Blood series—if at all? And if it is an alternate universe from the other Blood stories, is it part of CLAMP's established multiverse? Trying to figure out these meta-mysteries is almost more fun than deciphering the mysteries Blood-C sets before you in the plot.
Mixed — A False Sense of Security
Blood-C starts out slowly. Overly innocent schoolgirl Saya wakes up, says goodbye to her father, sings a song about the weather, eats breakfast at a cafe, and heads off to school—rinse and repeat. Her friends all seem normal: a protective big sister type, a pair of fun-loving twins, an emo guy who's too cool for school, and a class representative whose attempts at hitting on Saya always pass way over her head. Sure, at night she fights monsters in the forests surrounding the town, but her two lives seems to barely connect. This duality of her lives seem far more suited to an innocent magical girl anime than Blood—and that's the trap. The first few episodes follow this formula to lure the unsuspecting viewer into a false sense of security; but just when the viewer starts to feel sure about what kind of show this is, Saya's two lives collide in the only way they could: a shower of bloody ultra-violence.
Mixed — A Little of the Good Old Ultra-Violence
When I say ultra-violence, I want to be clear. This is far more violent and graphic than any other story in the Blood franchise. This is Madoka Magica levels of violence. Blood-C is so graphic that the show had numerous scenes where over half of the screen was censored (shadowed out) in the original broadcast. The show's climax is so gory it almost becomes laughable.
The entire show is built around the juxtaposition of normal, boring life and horrendous, massive violence. Tension is the name of the game here, because every time there is a calm, peaceful moment in Saya's life, you know it's only a matter of time before the ultra-violence returns—bigger and badder than ever before.
Mixed — The Ending
By the end of the story, all the mysteries (both meta and otherwise) are resolved, but that's not to say everything is all tied up neatly in a bow. From its inception, Blood-C was intended to be a series and a movie. So while the story of Blood-C is wrapped up quite nicely, several plot threads are left hanging so as to be resolved in Blood-C: The Last Dark. If you go in expecting closure, you may be disappointed at having to wait for the movie.
Blood-C could not be more different from either Blood: The Last Vampire or Blood+ in tone. One was an action movie and the other was a long epic filled with mysteries, adventure, and even a little romance. Blood-C, on the other hand, is either boringly mundane or violent beyond belief—and nothing in between. Simply put, if you have a weak stomach, Blood-C is not for you. If, however, the violence doesn't bother you, you are in for a beautifully drawn show with excellent action and a legitimately compelling mystery.
Blood-C aired in 2011 at 2:25 AM on the Tokyo Broadcasting Station. There are currently no plans for a Western release.
May 31, 2012
Mecha game Zone of the Enders is getting an HD version. Check out its opening in full hi-def glory.
Zone of the Enders HD Collection will be out later this year.
May 31, 2012
Last week in China's Zhejiang Province, five people riding the same scooter were sideswiped by a sedan.
The riders suffered injuries to various degrees, but thankfully, they were not life threatening and everyone survived.
The video went viral in China and appeared on Beijing TV program Traffic Light (红绿灯), which has a segment called "Accidents That Should Never Happen". Five people riding the same motorcycle should never happen!
They met through online games, the five of them. From there they allegedly hatched a plan. A plan to make money. A plan to sell drugs.
Japanese police arrested a group of five male and female cohorts for selling drugs over the country's most popular online bulletin board 2ch.
Three of those arrested lived outside of Tokyo in Chiba Prefecture, while the remaining two resided in Osaka.
Online in Japan, the group allegedly sold "ice cream" or "shaved ice" (Japanese drug lingo) and apparently offered customers samples for those who wanted to try before buying.
According to reports, the group used the procedes from their online stimulant sales to cover their daily expenses and support a habit of their own: playing online games.
Recently, 2ch has come under fire for drug dealers using the bulletin board as a way to sell illegal drugs online.
(Top photo: Sinisa Botas | Shutterstock)
Before the 128-bit era, many Japanese games, especially RPGs, never left Japanese shores. But over the years, many of these classic, never-before-localized games have been released in English on consoles and handhelds. Walk Over My Corpse (Ore no Shikabane wo Koeteyuke), however, remains one of the few great JRPGs unplayed by western audiences—despite a PSP remaster coming out in Japan late last year.
Good — A Novel Concept
Set in a feudal Japan filled with spirits, monsters and the supernatural, Walk Over My Corpse starts with the death of two warriors at the hands of a demon. Upon their defeat, the demon takes their newborn child and places a two-fold curse upon it. First, the child and all its descendants will live an entire life in just two years. Secondly, they cannot have children with normal humans. However, there is a loophole—no one said it was against the rules to mate with the gods. Thus the family must adventure across the world, building renown among the gods and growing stronger with each successive generation in the hopes of one day defeating the demon and breaking the curse.
Good — Sumi-e Brings a Supernatural World to Life
Walk Over My Corpse's feudal Japanese setting is enhanced through its beautiful art direction. Backgrounds and monsters both in and out of battle are illustrated in the traditional Japanese art style of Sumi-e (ink wash) which then has been colored with watercolors. The result looks more like a painting than a game. Moreover, using the Sumi-e style allows for a large and varied cast of enemy monsters, all derived from traditional Japanese folklore. In a time where polygons are king, it's nice to see the beauty that can come from 2D painted backgrounds and sprites.
Good — Class-Based, Strategic Battles
When the game begins you only have access to two character classes, a swordsman and a naginata-wielder (the classes of your deceased parents). As you defeat the bosses in each dungeon you will unlock new classes, each of which has a specific role. Swordsmen attack one enemy in the front row for massive damage, while naginata-wielders can attack an entire row with one attack. Bowmen can hit the back row as well as the front, and spearmen can hit one target in the front row and the enemy behind them at the same time. Building a balanced party among the game's six classes is necessary for victory.
The battles themselves are more than a bit different from your standard turn-based RPG. At the start of battle, a set of slots spin and stop on the items you will receive if the battle is won. Unlike most JRPGs, the battles in Walk Over My Corpse end not when all enemies are defeated but rather when the enemy commander is killed. Thus to get the maximum experience points in each battle, you must kill all the normal enemies and save the commander for last. Of course if you are just after the loot, killing the commander right off will make the battle faster. You will have to choose which way of fighting is best as your time in each dungeon is limited, and after 10 to 15 minutes, you'll have to leave (and return later) or choose to continue on with diminished stats. Falling in battle also diminishes your stats, and should they drop too low, your characters could die permanently, long before their two-year mark.
Good — Good Breeding is the Key to Victory
As you venture through the game's dungeons, you will gain special points after each battle. You spend these points to convince one of the game's many gods to create a child with one of your characters. Each of the gods is made of up of the four elements—water, fire, earth, and wind—but favors one element far more strongly than the others. On the surface level, the more expensive the god you choose, the better the child you get. However, certain gods will improve the bloodline's magic, while others will offer a better physical defense. What results is a balancing act to keep certain bloodlines in tune with what their class needs most—while keeping them at least somewhat strong in other areas.
However, despite your best planning, sometimes you breed a character who is worse than its parent. There is a fair amount of randomization in your characters' stats—as well as the gods'—and low stats from several generations back can rear their ugly heads when you least expect it. Of course, sometimes the opposite happens and you are blessed with a child far better than the sum of its parents. It's all a mixture of your good planning and genetic luck.
Mixed — Lacking story
Other than the game's back story (which you learn over the course of the introduction), the plot of Walk Over My Corpse is relatively straight forward. Other than your characters—whose entire personalities are left to your imagination—there are only three other characters in the game: the demon, your family maid, and a minor god who is interested in your progress. Granted there is one major plot twist in the middle of the game, but one single story element between beginning and end is hardly a plot.
However, in some ways this makes every action you take more memorable. Upon family members' deaths, the game presents a chronicle of their lives by showing bosses they defeated, children they bore, and tournaments they won. In this way you make your own story through your characters' actions. And after 20 or so generations, a simple glance at the family tree floods you with memories of your time as each of your many characters.
Bad — Easy to Import, Hard to Play
Simply put, Walk Over My Corpse is nigh unplayable to anyone without a very high skill level in Japanese. While most games use modern Japanese and thus have many words from its two phonetic alphabets, Walk Over My Corpse is filled with as many old words and kanji as possible. The result is like having an American game that uses nothing but Shakespearean era English. While this is troublesome for many prospective importers, this negative exists solely because the game must be played in the original Japanese and not because of any inherent flaw in the game.
The PSP remaster of Walk Over My Corpse is a real gem of a game. The game now has difficulty settings (for more casual players) and a beautiful new coat of paint. Everything else remains the same as it always was, for better or worse. Those looking for an epic story along the lines of most JRPGs will probably find themselves disappointed with Walk Over My Corpse. But for anyone who loves dungeon crawling and wants to experience one of the most complex turn-based battle systems ever—or just wants to call up a god for a bootycall—should give Walk Over My Corpse a try. Just beware of the language barrier.
Walk Over My Corpse (Ore no Shikabane wo Koeteyuke) was released on June 18, 1999, on the PSX; February 22, 2007, on PSN; and November 10, 2011, on the PSP. There are currently no plans for an international release.
Walk Over My Corpse (Ore no Shikabane wo Koeteyuke) is one of the great Japanese RPGs of the PS1 era that was never released outside of Japan. With its Sumi-e style graphics, complex class-based battle system, and in-depth breeding mechanic, missing out on it is truly a loss for RPG fans the... More »
While playing the remake of classic JRPG Walk Over My Corpse on the PSP, I couldn't help but be dazzled by its traditional Japanese "Sumi-e" art style. More »
May 31, 2012
The best toilets in the world are Japanese. Pretty much every house has a john with a heated seat and a bum washer, and there have even toilets sold with embedded music players and spotlights so you don't miss. Heck, Sega even recently released a pee-powered game. Japan's toilet tech is world class.
No wonder this land of wonderful W.C.s is now home to the world's biggest outdoor toilet (even though, honestly, anywhere is conceivably a rest stop, making the entire outdoors the world's biggest bathroom...but whatever).
The city of Ichihara is home to a 200 square meter landscaped women's restroom that allows ladies to do their business in a scenic outdoor garden. The bathroom does have a privacy curtain for those who need it.
It costs approximately US$125,000 a year to care for this bathroom (and another much smaller one nearby). Initially, the idea was to renovate the existing toilets near the city's train station. The end result was this bathroom garden.
The huge toilet is causing an increase of interest in Ichihara, a city that isn't exactly a tourist mecca. "It's not the kind of place that has an amusement park that draws thousands of people every day," Eichi Kirikae, an official at Ichihara city tourism department, told The Wall Street Journal.
Next year, the city will showcase "the world's largest toilet" as an art piece, aiming to increase visitors eager to see the throne, take pictures with it (see above) or just do their business on it. Whether or not more Japanese tourists will give a crap remains to be seen.
(Top photo: 八重子)
May 31, 2012
Spotted near the Mongolian border, this Chinese yogurt drink features characters that look like Mario and Yoshi. It's like Super Mario World in a can—er, plastic bottle—in creamy liquid form.
The Mario looks less like Mario, while the Yoshi looks pretty much like Yoshi, but with antlers on his head.
So how does it taste? According to website Rocket News, "more like condensed coffee creamer than the yoghurt we're used to". Makes sense, this isn't the Mario or Yoshi gamers are used to.
Ai Shinozaki is one of Japan's most popular pin-ups. Like so many young Japanese idols, she's released photo books and DVDs of her prancing about in swimwear on some exotic beach. She's also paid her dues by appearing in swimwear (of course!) at fan meet-and-greet events in Tokyo geek paradise, Akihabara.
But the 20 year-old isn't just a bikini lady. She's a talented singer.
She will be appearing in a Samurai and Dragons promo vid dressed as the game's curvy sorceress, while belting out a theme song for PS Vita game Samurai and Dragons. Shinozaki was selected after Sony asked its community site who should play the game's sorceress. Shinozaki was the overwhelming favorite. The big plus for her is that she also gets to show off her vocal skills.
Artist Yokusaru Shibata did the game's illustrations, which are, to be kind, horrid.
Samurai and Dragons will be available as a free to play PS Vita title. Check here for more info about the game.
Yesterday, it was revealed that the PC version of Dark Souls is Steam bound, while home consoles will also be getting the added PC content with a Dark Souls with Artorias of the Abyss Edition.
Here's a look at the elegant, dark packaging for both the PC and console versions. Stunning stuff.