Hooked on Light Novels: The Amazon USED Blind-Buy Game! | Cafe Talk

Hey all,

I’m back with another “Cafe Talk” (woohoo it returns!), which is, for all my newcomers as of late, a free-flowing, comment-welcome segment that tends to lean towards anime “happenings,” or perhaps loose conversations related to my life and what’s new.

Today I wanted to discuss something that I’ve really been hammering down on in my updates (no, not my Danganronpa obsession). It’s reading, yup, I’ve gotten back into poppin’ open books and inhaling the words off of the pages. Specifically speaking, I’ve been getting into light novels more, partially to get to know them better (what they are, why they are so popular), but more so because I’ve been craving some light, short reads featuring our favorite anime characters. And what do you know? That’s exactly what a light novel is!

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I do not own this image.

Now, I have those couple series that I’ve been following on my own (Monogatari, Sword Art Online), but I was in search of something different at the time, a fresh tale featuring beautiful characters and all their cool adventures and mishaps. So I turned over to Twitter as a tool (and not just a place to retweet Yuri!!! On ICE artwork) to find out the kinds of light novels you guys are into right now. This way, I could also incorporate my Twitter with my blog more. Thank you to all who replied—it was very helpful, as I think I found some great contenders!

BEFORE I tell you the titles I plan to read, I want to let you know a bit about me: I’m a collector, a buyer of books, movies, and everything in between. This tends to put me at odds with libraries, as I find myself unable to simply rent/check out my entertainment—I NEED TO OWN IT, to hold it knowing that it’s MINE. Isn’t this terrible!? Gosh, I’m the worst, haha, but I might’ve found a remedy to my dilemma . . .

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Through Amazon’s USED books system (or eBay), if the volume I desire is available for, say, around $5 (shipping included), I’ll buy it, and hopefully review it, too! Doesn’t it kinda sound like fun? The idea just sorta came to me, and so long as I can get the books for cheap and have time to read them, well then, the more used literature, the better!

(I will ALSO be taking recommendations for single-volume/very short manga stories!)

AND SO, after weeding out the ones that didn’t intrigue me via synopsis, I present you with the following titles I picked up and the wonderful people who recommended them to me:

MelSeraph of the End—Guren Ichinose: Catastrophe at Sixteen

Simply GeeBook Girl and the Suicidal Mime

Lethargic RamblingsThe Empty Box and Zeroth Maria

MoonlitasteriaHarmony

MyselfA Certain Magical Index

As of right this moment, November 16, I’ve yet to actually purchase Guren Ichinose or The Empty Box, but I WILL, I promise!!

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So what do you guys think? Is this a great way to interact with the community, read the works that excite some of you, and give used books a nice home, or is it a terrible waste of money and a poor way to pick up new novels? You ought to let me know! If you see any improvements to this “game” that I can make, let me know those, too. And lastly, if you have a little spare cash, I encourage you to join in on the madness!

Should all of this go smoothly, look out for another spontaneous Twitter call, as I could end up reading one of YOUR favorites so long as it is daring enough to meet the requirements of the game! ‘Till next time, everyone!

– Takuto, your host

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The New World: Spirit Tracks | Zelda Project

Welcome! This is just a fraction of the reviews and reminiscent posts covering the expansive “Legend of Zelda” franchise in a project titled “The Legend of Zelda: A Blogger’s Journey,” which covers the many adventures of Link, from its creation in 1986 to its arguable magnum opus in 2017. This massive undertaking was started by fellow blogger NekoJonez (NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog), and though we had some rough-footing (what with aligning individual schedules to a project on this scale), I’m proud to be a part of the brave thirteen bloggers who were captivated by this memorable franchise, and wish to tell their own tales about the games they love. 

Here I have chronicled my experience playing “The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks” in Part 2 of 2. Part 1 over the game’s prequel, “The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass,” can be found here. 

This is only the third blogger project I’ve ever been part of, so an extended thank you to NekoJonez for recruiting me back in June of 2017—we’ve come such a long way, my friend!

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Awesome logo by zoef


New Hyrule, New Problems

A century has passed since the Hero quelled the Realm of the Ocean King (2 years in our world, now 2009). A mainland was found, and the kingdom of New Hyrule was established by a reincarnation of Princess Zelda. Standing tall in the center of the Overworld is the Tower of Spirits, a “lock” of sorts that binds a great demonic force within the land, and sprawling from that tower is a vast network of railroad tracks that act as “shackles.” Link, also reincarnated as a young engineer, lives a peaceful life within New Hyrule. But when the sly and greedy Chancellor Cole reveals his plans of reviving the great evil Demon King Malladus, Link, like clockwork, is called upon by his Princess once more.

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Before the two can take Cole down, however, the Tower of Spirits is broken up into giant chunks which float above the tower’s remains. Zelda is captured, and though Link cannot save her body, her spirit is extracted and placed into the armor of a phantom knight. Now a princess in spirit only, the two become entrusted by Anjean, a “Lokomo” or sage of the tower, with the great vehicle that once rode the rails to keep evil at bay: The Spirit Train. To save her kingdom, Link and Zelda embark on a quest to restore the spirit tracks to the land, in hopes of once again binding the Demon King to his eternal prison.

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Rebuilding Zelda One Force Gem at a Time

Rather than stand as another “save the princess” game, Spirit Tracks rebuilds the legend of Zelda herself from scratch by placing her on the battlefield next to the Hero. For the first time, Zelda can not only lead the attack but also be used as a character via the DS’s stylus; just draw her a path and she’ll act accordingly! Like with its predecessor, this cool function can also be a bit of a pain, what with the drawing and timing inaccuracies. But it’s still a great use of the device—I mean, who doesn’t want to control a giant armored phantom Zelda!?

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Exclusively for the DS, Spirit Tracks involves you in a way that no pocket console has before. While it has the same format as Phantom Hourglass (returning to one dungeon—Tower of Spirits—repeatedly throughout the game, though now you don’t have to re-explore floors), it has a couple different gimmicks. One is the Spirit Train itself. Like the ship in PH, you set your course by drawing on the map. What’s new this time is that you can’t trace your trail freely because, well, uh, a train has to sit on tracks. So once again, the titular concept ends up being a huge restriction on the player. At least you get to conduct a train, right?

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The Power of Music

One function that sees increased usage in the game is the microphone, to which we get THE MOST FUN ZELDA INSTRUMENT TO PLAY, PERIOD. Zelda bestows the Spirit Flute (gosh, these names) upon Link, which allows him to channel the power of the Spirits of Good. Like a real flute, you blow into the device’s mic, sliding the stylus to blow into the different pipes. It’s much more entertaining to listen to and play than the Ocarina, though less iconic. (Which is tragic considering how the tunes are so MUCH better.)

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Speaking of, Spirit Tracks holds some of the franchise’s best music to date, including the “Realm Overworld” theme, “Link and Zelda’s Duet,” and many more. Through the Spirt Flute, Spirt Tracks reinstates the power of song and the gift of music, providing some of the most compelling and underrated main themes written for Zelda.

Lastly, the Link x Zelda interactions are much more interesting than in PH or, heck, most of the franchise. This is because, unlike most games where Zelda is more of a “deity” watching over the game, she plays a critical role in all the action, all the time. I think we’re all rather fond of our Princess, and to have her accompany us all the way makes me love her presence more than I ever have before.

A Childishly Charming End to the Trilogy

And that’s about it. Like with Phantom Hourglass, you traverse the world, collect the right gems, forge the game’s titular sword, and slay the force of evil causing everyone a headache. This is the third game in the Toon Link Trilogy, however, and that makes its ending kind of special. Like how Ganondorf was bested in Wind Waker, the legendary Bow of Light is summoned forth in the finale, which, in a sense, feels like it completes the trilogy. No longer are we scavenging pirates at sea: Hyrule is safe, her Princess reigning proudly, and the spirit of the Hero’s courage lives on within us all—the board is reset, if you will, as we’re now back on “track” for future installments. If this isn’t the perfect way to end a trilogy, I’m not sure what is.

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Both The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass & Spirit Tracks are more childishly charming or casual takes on the franchise, but equally critical in forwarding the legend itself to newcomers of this fantastic universe. Take me for instance—I boarded the S.S. Linebeck in 2006 as a child, and now I’m saving up to dive into the immersive world of 2017’s Breath of the Wild. From then, to now, I’ve been a fan, and it’s all thanks to two of the most underrated games in the franchise.

I played Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks from beginning to end—from the Great Sea to the New World. And you know what? I enjoyed collecting every rupee along the way.

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End of Part 2. Go to Part 1 now if you missed it!

(none of this lovely artwork belongs to me)


Let me know your thoughts, memories, or nostalgia while playing Spirit Tracks! Many thanks again to NekoJonez for his hard work in putting this all together! PLEASE visit our hub article for “The Legend of Zelda: A Blogger’s Journey” HERE and reminisce on all the games that brought us joy, wonder, and excitement! We hope you enjoy it all! If you haven’t already boarded the ship in Part 1, go meet me over there, too! It’s been a lot of fun guys, it really has. Thank you so much for going on this journey with me!

– Takuto, your host

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The Great Sea: Phantom Hourglass | Zelda Project

Welcome! This is just a fraction of the reviews and reminiscent posts covering the expansive “Legend of Zelda” franchise in a project titled “The Legend of Zelda: A Blogger’s Journey,” which covers the many adventures of Link, from its creation in 1986 to its arguable magnum opus in 2017. This massive undertaking was started by fellow blogger NekoJonez (NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog), and though we had some rough-footing (what with aligning individual schedules to a project on this scale), I’m proud to be a part of the brave thirteen bloggers who were captivated by this memorable franchise, and wish to tell their own tales about the games they love. 

Here I have chronicled my experience playing “The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass” in Part 1 of 2. Part 2 over the game’s sequel, “The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks,” can be found here. 

This is only the third blogger project I’ve ever been part of, so an extended thank you to NekoJonez for recruiting me back in June of 2017—we’ve come such a long way, my friend!

abloggersjourney.png

Awesome logo by zoef


Bridging the Gap

When Nintendo’s Wii stormed onto the scene in late 2006, bringing with it a long-since-promised expansive world in epic HD realism now known as Twilight Princess, fans were not only shocked but a bit confused as to how the games all “linked” together. It had been four years since the Overworld was flooded in Wind Waker, and five years since Zelda was played on the small Game Boy Advanced console (unless you returned to beat Vaati again in 2005’s Minish Cap).

Luckily enough, Nintendo responded to our calls in 2007 by continuing the adventure that had still left enough open waters out there worth exploring. Once again mounting the ship deck, we shove off the shores and set sail for what will be the next “brief 10 minutes” of Phantom Hourglass and glimpse into the future 100 years later in Spirit Tracks. Come 2009, with no other Zelda entries in between, the Toon Link Trilogy (or reign) will finally get its resolution from the day, long ago, when a valiant king sacrificed everything he had—including his own life—wishing for the creation of a new future.

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Back Out at Sea

Phantom Hourglass picks right back up where Wind Waker ended, even giving us a unique recap of the game via pirate Niko’s storyboard slates. Because of this, it marks itself as a clear successor to WW, a treatment that no other game in the franchise has received. Link, Tetra, and the gang are on a voyage to explore the endless oceans, one day hoping to finally settle down on a larger continent.

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But just as they begin their journey, the Ghost Ship, an eerie and haunting vessel whispered to cause other ships to disappear, catches the attention of our heroes. Tetra’s curiosity gets the better of her, and when she attempts to board the ship, the ghostly liner departs, causing Link to chase after her screams and, ultimately, fall into the dark water’s depths.

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He awakens washed up on a shore, and when a mysterious fairy named Celia and a kind old man named Oshus rehabilitate the boy, Link’s journey of once again returning the princess to the land of the living begins. He first visits the cursed Temple of the Ocean King, where destiny bequeaths him with the Phantom Hourglass, an artifact with sand that protects the holder from the temple’s toxicity. In the temple, he encounters the infamous treasure-hunter Captain Linebeck, and while the Capt.’s penchant for riches and fame frequently falls to his arrogant, scaredy-cat nature, he secretly admires Link’s silent charisma, and swears on his treasure-seeking hide to find the treacherous Ghost Ship.

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Introducing the Nintendo DS

Phantom Hourglass pioneered the Zelda franchise onto the Nintendo DS, returning the green-clad Hero to small consoles where he got his roots. As we all know, the DS’s bragging feature was its stylus/touch screen action, to which PH is worthy of the boast. Straying away from the D-pad (which now functions as the options menu), all the mechanisms are completely stylus driven: draw paths for weapons and movement, tap to attack, swipe and squiggle to perform a rolling dodge—you name it!

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While the drawing function for weapons like the iconic boomerang can cause some combat inaccuracies, you’re more likely to be using the DS’s key features for puzzles, riddles, and story events. Zelda was known for problem-solving in elaborate dungeons anyway, so this isn’t too big of a drawback. If anything, the idea of tracing on screen adds a whole new level of fun that just doesn’t exist anywhere else in the franchise.

An example of this would be that, for the first time, you can freely draw on the maps with your stylus, forever leaving behind tips, secrets, and memories for whenever you next visit the Isle of Ember or Mercay Island. Same can be said about sailing—draw a path on the map and the ship will follow. Some of my most fond memories, in fact, were merely cruising on the open waters for days on end, admiring the view of the colorful and creative islands both near and far.

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Another fond memory of my gameplay experience is again attributed to the unique involvement of one’s senses. Save for taste (please do not eat the game cartridges, looking at you BOTW freaks), PH used the DS’s capabilities to its fullest. In one scenario, you are required to “extinguish the flames to open the door.” I recall spending HOURS just trying figure out what the heck that meant. After finally succumbing to a game guide (my first one ever!), I learned that you were supposed to blow on the mic sensor located between the top and bottom screens. How inventive! In another situation, you had to “stamp the Seal of Courage onto the sea map.” That is, you would SLAM the DS lid shut, then gently fold it back open again. Now THAT is not only creative as hell, but very rewarding if you figure it out on your own. (I got that one, yay!)

It’s the Ocean Temple, But Worse

Where Phantom Hourglass is praised for its gameplay ingenuity, gorgeous cell-shaded graphics (which was practically begged for after Wind Waker), and fun, memorable characters, its most unfortunate drawback is the Ocean King’s Temple itself, which especially sucks since the name of the game—“Phantom Hourglass”—revolves around a crappy timed dungeon. That’s right, the main antagonist, a squid-like demon named Bellum, didn’t want just any old explorer making it to the 13th floor.

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Thirteen fricken’ floors, and that’s not even the worst part—when you first visit, only three floors are available. Between visiting each island’s temple, you RETURN to the Temple of the Ocean King—tediously starting at FLOOR ONE, mind you—and unlock the next set of floors. Oh yeah, and a reminder: it’s all timed. Once you run out of time, the temple starts sucking away your health. As an added bonus, phantom knights roam the floors, and unless you’re sitting on a safe zone, they’ll chase you down, slash you, restart you at the BEGINNING of the floor, AND cut time off your hourglass. It’s ridiculous, it’s challenging, and there are very few shortcuts as you go along. It’s even been dubbed “Doing your Ocean King homework before getting to the fun stuff.” I’ve gained so many gray hairs from this temple it’s not even funny.

Message in a Bottle

But as us Zelda fans should know, we shouldn’t let one bad dungeon ruin our experience. Beyond the Ocean King Temple is a simple story of heroism and doing what is right even if that scares you. Although Phantom Hourglass felt like a bottle episode, every bottle has a message in it:

It left us knowing that the goddesses who created the Triforce perhaps watch over many worlds, and that even in those worlds, the Hero can inspire courage in the most unlikely of cowards.

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I can proudly say that Phantom Hourglass was my first Zelda game (shoutout to the OG Gold Triforce DS Lite), and that despite my biases toward it, I’ll still recommend it to all the fans of the franchise, especially Wind Waker, and to those wanting to know if there’s hope in the future of the flooded Overworld.

To put it simply, yes, and it’s a world brimming with childish excitement and everlasting adventures.

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End of Part 1. Go to Part 2 now!

(none of this lovely artwork belongs to me)


Let me know your thoughts, memories, or nostalgia while playing Phantom Hourglass! It’s a game that took me places, and arguably brought me to where I am now. Many thanks again to NekoJonez for his hard work in putting this all together! PLEASE visit our hub article for “The Legend of Zelda: A Blogger’s Journey” HERE and reminisce on all the games that brought us joy, wonder, and excitement! We hope you enjoy it all! Now it’s time to board the train for Spirit Tracks, so go and meet me over there! Thanks for reading!

– Takuto, your host

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The Deadly Power of the Game | PART IV: In Defense of Fairy Dance

This is part four of the five-part series “In Defense of Fairy Dance,” a collection and comprehensive analysis defending the positive aspects of Reki Kawahara’s “Fairy Dance” arc in Sword Art Online. Research was gathered from the anime (sub and dub versions) and volumes three and four of the light novel series. This is in NO WAY written to justify all of the second half of the series, nor is it to say that it is particularly well-written. Instead, it is a half-full glass of the neat things the series did, and why I enjoyed myself with most of the content despite the glaring flaws. HEAVY SPOILERS EXIST.

Much like with PART III, this section will focus on the dramatic irony behind ALfheim Online itself, along with VR gaming altogether. Again, we’ll be analyzing many of the quotes from the light novels to bring the truth to light. The anime does a fair job at captioning the satire of the entire ordeal, so bringing in further clips would only clutter the analysis. There are pictures, though. Many pretty pictures.

“Land of the Fairies,” Eh?

Don’t worry, Kazuto thought the exact same thing. I mean, what’s a bunch of fairies doing in games anyway? After nearly dying in a world of knights and castles, nobody wants to be a dumb fairy – They’re just bloated pixies. But when Kazuto questioned Agil, apparently ALO isn’t just another laid-back, casual MMO. No, in fact it’s “actually pretty hard-core,” as the system is set up to be entirely skill-based so that player skill is rewarded. PK-ing is encouraged as a result. Where each VRMMORPG tests its players, Leafa believes that pride is what was being challenged in ALO. “How hard could you struggle? If you lost, how would you regroup and hold your head high? That was the test, (24, vol.4).” Also, imagine losing to a bunch of fairies. That’s dumb.

Right off the bat irony is up and ready for a home run. That should be every viewer’s first thought – What’s so tough about ALfheim? The second arc’s game is totally based on athletic abilities rather than keyboarding techniques, essentially meaning that if you lose in-game, it means that you literally weren’t strong enough. It’s also funny how they mention it’s basically SAO with magic. Magic. Doesn’t ALO feel magical? Everyone has glittery wings that allow them to fly higher than in any other MMO, and who doesn’t want that? ALO must be a DREAM COME TRUE, no flaws whatsoever. HAH! What a joke.

The Sad, Scientific Truth behind ALfheim

I don’t want to turn this already-way-too-long series into a summary, so let’s just jog our noggins. Sugou inverted SAO into ALO, kidnapping +300 entrapped minds as tools to further his research. That being, to study and prove that if the brain could be significantly controlled, then so could emotions.

“’Ha-ha! You won’t be singing that tune for long. Very soon, I will control your emotions in the palm of my hand. Look, Titania. Can you see them? Thousands and thousands of players, diving into this expansive world, enjoying the game. The thing is . . . none of them has any idea that the full-dive system isn’t just a tool for mere entertainment!’ (102, vol.3).”

Games are meant to be innocent fun, nothing more or less. But here, the grand Fairy King has rewritten the rules and taken control of all pawns on the board. He cheats, abusing the gift of the virtual world to benefit his own research – And at the extent of risking human lives, to which he casts aside! Sugou is a villain in both pixels and cold blood, and I’d say he’s a good one at that. He is, after all, a scientist, and furthering one’s knowledge of the world whenever and WHEREVER possible is sincerely worth pursuing. While you can only go so far to justify his motives, Sugou is still a creepy bastard who treats his soon-to-be wife without any regard, and he also kidnaps kiddos and pokes around their brain while they sleep. His jealousy over Kayaba’s success drove him to be even more passionate, yet he was outraged when the creator sacrificed himself.

“’Mr. Kayaba was a genius. But he was also a fool. How could he utilize that incredible potential just to create a stupid game?’ (103, vol.3).”

But his methods are where I see the crowd diverge. His henchmen find it more humane than exposing test animals’ brains to open air and jamming electrodes into them. “I mean, all they’re doing here is dreaming.” Very true, it’s all one big farce, and the series mentions that research on the human brain is incredibly slow due to the, well, human subjects needed. It’s not like you can get folks to consent on the matter, though. Otherwise we’d be leaps and bounds ahead of what we know! His research is admirable, but Sugou’s methods cross the line of sanity. He’s also an ass, which adds to what makes pure villainy – hatred. He’s supposed to be unlikable, and I think we can all agree that he is without falter.

This is One Tree You Can’t Climb

After giving Kirito the info-dump as to the features in ALO, Kirito assesses that the World Tree – The Master Quest – is essentially unbeatable because the only indication to standing a chance involves guild cooperation. However, the prize is only awarded to a single race that completes the mission, and no one would compete if it just means forfeiting the prize to the other team.

A while later, Kirito truly understands the game’s irony. “’ALO’s a nasty game, testing its players’ greed like this. I’m guessing its designer is a real piece of work,’ (191, vol.3).”

Oh trust me, he is. He is the self-proclaimed “Fairy King.” He’s also a narcissistic fiend.

Even Leafa, while tackling the Tree at the end of the series, feels the unfairness in the omnipresent guardian knights. She’s starting to sense that this world isn’t built around the hopes and dreams that flying fulfills. Something’s amiss. I just love this quote:

“But now, for the first time, Leafa began to sense a kind of malice within the system. Some unseen force, which was supposedly keeping everything in a fair balance, was wickedly, cruelly swinging a bloody scythe at the players’ necks within this arena. There was no way to overcome this trap, (124, vol.4).”

And when Kirito finally resurfaces (because he’s too OP) he becomes speechless. He has some excellent mental grammar, though:

“The grand quest at the center of the game – to reach the city atop the World Tree and be reborn as true fairies – was nothing more than a giant carrot, endlessly dangled out of reach of the game’s player base? So not only was this battle’s difficulty set to the extreme, the door was locked by nothing more than the will of the game manager . . . ? (133, vol.4).”

THIS RIGHT HERE is the MOST SIGNIFICANT piece of DRAMATICAL IRONY found in the work. We’ve covered Suguha and Asuna, but this realization is the ultimate plot underlying Sword Art Online. Even the revelation to Kirito that Sugou – the nasty man trying to steal his girl IRL – is the mastermind doesn’t compare in shock value to this. The game is rigged. It was from the start to its game manager’s end. Those who fought for life in this world – to fly high among the stars and one day, a palace in the sky – is all for not. Hell, the option doesn’t exist. Just like you couldn’t log out of SAO, a freakin’ game, ALO’s master storyline isn’t designed to finish – EVER. What keeps players like Asuna and Kirito coming back to VRs if they only bring painful revelations and ironically cruel clickbait?

Treasures ALO Gave its Players

The irreplaceable positive memories and true friendships formed, that’s what. People form ideals off of scenarios like these. For Kirito, everything was just a game. “Kill what you want, take what you want.” After surviving SAO and enduring ALO, he’s seen enough to realize that “there are things you have to protect and uphold because it’s a virtual world, even if that makes you look stupid, (168, vol.3).” Paraphrasing from the novel: Though it sounds paradoxical, you can’t completely separate the player and the role-playing. Letting your inner greed run wild in the virtual world and that will come back to haunt your real-life personality. The player and the character are one in the same. That’s powerful; it’s an influential statement I’m sure actors, cosplayers, gamers, and the like can relate to.

For Leafa – No, for Suguha – she found true friendship along with hope and purpose through her wings of freedom. When rescuing Tonky from the three-faced giant, Sugu wasn’t going stand and watch the murder of something she’d labeled as a friend and given a name. There’d be no point to playing a VRMMO if it’s all fake! Even when they get out of Jotunheim, she reflects on the happy accident that arose from falling in the first place, and all of the rare experience and friendship they gained being side-by-side.

To think that Sugou can manipulate these emotions is catastrophic, and Asuna of all people knows this by heart. “The research being done here was one of the great taboos, like human cloning. It wasn’t just a simple crime. This was the destruction and desecration of the last vestige of human dignity: the soul, (59, vol.4).” Robbing humans of emotions doesn’t make them human anymore, yet the person reaping the souls of others is the most inhumane of all. It’s almost unfathomable, really, and I only wish the series took this issue more seriously.

Lastly, along with memories, friendships, and ideals comes initiative – the drive to take charge and change fate. In his final bouts, Kirito reflects that ultimately, a virtual world is just a game, and he thought it was all real. He ponders his desire to return to the deadly SAO just because he was that world’s strongest hero. This notion of might clouded his judgement upon landing in ALO to foolishly save the princess without professional help, and it sadly resulted in borrowed mental toughness, nothing more. “I must have been very happy regaining my imaginary power, crushing other players and satisfying my ugly pride and self-esteem, (151, vol.4).” And even though the hideous God of this world is in absolute dominance, Kirito still prays. To a God in the real world? To a system glitch? To fate itself?

The most logical choice is the one whom blessed him with strength in the first place. The God of that old world. And just like that, Kayaba shows up in disappointment at what has become of the ideals which blossomed from their duel – That the HUMAN WILL could surpass a COMPUTER. Kirito wins not because his stats were higher, or that his blade was sharper. He wins because his will overpowered Sugou’s corrupted vision. The God of Old indirectly causes the downfall of the New God by channeling his spirit into the knight that beat him in a past life. That’s golden irony.

Thank you for reading! Please, share any thoughts below and stay tuned for PART V & FINALE!

(I own neither the anime nor the light novel series of Sword Art Online. All images and videos belong to A-1 Pictures and Reki Kawahara.)

Log Horizon Review

Log Horizon is the newest “stuck in a video game” anime since Sword Art Online. Rather than try to escape as the main goal, however, one brave geek steps out of his cloak and glasses to answer “Who’s gonna do what, what we’re up against, when things are going down, where we’re going next, but interestingly, not why we’re here” – and that could be Log Horizon‘s biggest fault.

Eight-year Elder Tales Veteran Shiroe among 30,000 Japanese players (700,000 worldwide) are suddenly transported into game that they all love upon installation of the “Novasphere Pioneers” expansion pack. Most everyone quickly realizes that the game is not quite as friendly when you’re actually in it: all of the food taste like the same mush, combat with the menus spinning around your head is difficult, and if you made your game avatar a little taller or shorter than in real life, well, now you have to adjust to it!

But here’s the most intriguing bit: when you die in the game, you simply revive at the cathedral, just like normal so no big deal . . .

That means you are trapped in the game.

With no known way out, no sense of order, player killers running about, and the CPUs (now “People of the Land”) acting strangely personal, the level 90 enchanter Shiroe picks up that you can’t just play in Elder Tales anymore – you have to live in it. Partnered with the faithful ninja Akatsuki and the beefy guard Naotsugu, Shiroe takes on his own quest of restoring order to Akiba, even if it means becoming a “Villain in Glasses” instead.

What’s best about this anime is the way it handles situations. Covering food to personal qualms to economics to ethics to community issues -all of these critical points in structuring modern civilization are hashed out with incredible detail and with consideration of the characters’ emotions. For instance, sparking the industry with the invention of the Crescent Burger was not only creative but it mattered in the context. The people wanted flavorful food and Shiroe need more money to execute his plan, so what a better way than that? It’s probably one of the best examples of world building I’ve ever seen.

Acting as the mastermind behind all operations is Shiroe, a socially awkward young man who is an expert strategist. To the kids, he’s a savior and a teacher, but to adults he’s a creepy guy with mysterious intentions. I’d say Shiroe’s a good mix of both; he means well, but the way he performs maneuvers could be considered rather extreme. He’s willing to make himself look like the bad/strict guy if it’s to better the people, which aggravates the ones that love him. Regardless, Shiroe’s best feature is that he values progress. He is the most achieving character I’ve seen in a long time, but often times, the plot just uses Shiroe as a means to convey this progression rather than developing his character.

Also, instead of the frontline swordsman, he’s the man pulling all the strings and gauging the stats, and makes for a really fresh, enjoyable point of viewa view not usually popular with this kind of story.

Though the majority of characters in the series lack any real development, there are several characters that I enjoyed because of their quirks: Akatsuki’s loyalty and shyness is super cute; Marielle and Henrietta (the playful Crescent Moon gals) are not only hilarious to watch, but a hardworking team, too; RUNDEL HAUS CODE and Isuzu are quarreling lovers that receive the best development; and finally Lenessia, a straightforward, lazy, cowardly princess who makes a few damn good speeches despite her lack of attention. Log Horizon‘s cast may be large and unremarkable, but it’s well-balanced and enjoyable as you’re watching.

Animation by Satelight is by far the show’s weakest point. Characters can look really botched at times, though during some of the fights scenes you’re sitting on the edge of your seat! The luscious green background of Akihabara is also standout artwork in itself. I guess the word is inconsistent.

Driving the fantasy story and installing bravery into the characters is the wonderful soundtrack composed by Yasuharu Takanashi, now a music genius in my book. The grand main theme “Log Horizon” is the most notable for carrying out Shiroe’s plans. “Daisaigai” welcomes players to foreign, mysterious lands with an eerie tone. “Akiba no Machi” celebrates with festivals, food, and friends. Finally, the “Elder Tale Waltz” elegantly reminds adventurers of their love for the game. While the story is inventive and the characters are fun, to me, the surely overused music is the best feature!

The obvious big problem for this series is that it’s only a small portion adapted from the books as well as not explaining the reason they were trapped there in the first place. Wouldn’t you be dreading to know what was happening to your body in reality? Why are we here? Apparently, the adventurers don’t seem to care, but hey, I’m glad they just didn’t drain episodes into this cause – there are a lot more interesting factors to consider besides whining to go home.

I was never much of a hardcore gamer, just glazing the surface when it tickled my fancy, and that was part of another problem as I watched this show. Terminology such as battle positions and skills/combos glazed past my ears, but the approach is what gripped me most. The show takes a very economic and political approach to a usually action-dominated premise, which is something that I am slowly starting to love. Rather than sword and shield being the issue, it’s supply vs. demand that we have to fight! Start stocking those shelves, boys! 😀

Log Horizon is a very peculiar show, as rather than acting with the laws of the land, characters like Shiroe constantly challenge the rules. He rebuilds the world with all things considered and frankly, it’s just fascinating to watch! Yes, the pacing can be slow with the kids arc, and yes, a lot of the opening dialogue is quite cheesy, but beyond that is Shiroe, a thinker, an enchanter, a teacher, a gambler, and a villain. If you understand the concept of RPG styled gaming and also love anime, drop what you are doing right now and check this show out! If not, well then, it’s completely up to you. Just know that all of us “gamer geeks” will be enjoying the ride.

“If you can’t do something, then don’t. Focus on what you can do.” – Encouraging words of Shiroe himself

+ Classic concept with a very different yet much more interesting viewpoint and approach

+ Story always seems to have some things kept secret, Shiroe’s world building experiments and rule-challenging offer engaging twists

+ Fantastic fantasy-appropriate OST with game theme included in story

– Filler episodes and slow pacing during times without Shiroe drag on

– Does not answer “why” they are there, does not end (more to come)

Presently Collections 1 and 2 of Sentai Filmwork’s Log Horizon English dub release stand fantastically on my shelf awaiting my next login to the hearty world of Elder Tales. The dub by the way is outstanding, new actors and actresses all around, my only problem being Nyanta the cat chef – what happened there?? *shakes head with disapproval*

Thanks for reading my review of a “Caffé Mocha” worthy series I absolutely love! Have you seen this anime? Comment below with your thoughts because I want to talk with you all! Want more Log Horizon? Check out my season two review here! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

No Game No Life Review

I have this system that allows me to recommend anime even if they have this “read the manga” bull-sh*t ending. After all, it’s usually the ride that counts for me. No Game No Life is a quizzical anime adaptation based on Yuu Kamiya’s light novel series, and its lack of an animated ending hurts the series the more I think about it.

Bro and sis Sora and Shiro are gifted NEETs who form the notorious “blank” across the gaming world. Together they are an unstoppable force: pulling all-nighters, eating junk food, and learning all of the ins and outs of various games just to achieve victory – but they never cheat. They both find the real world to be harsh and even crappy, donning it as just another game. When challenged to a complex game of chess supposedly designed by God himself, Tet emerges upon their triumph, and the two are warped to another world.

In this world, God has outlawed war and violence, so instead of physical brawls, everything is decided by games. Want all the money from a bank? Beat its owner. What about living in a castle? Simply defeat the king – and that is exactly what “blank” does. With the humans or “Imanity” chased to the board’s edge by other races, is it up to Sora and Shiro to save the Imanity and conquer the gaming world – but in real life this time.

No Game No Life’s basic premise can be carried out in many ways, yet “beat the boss, next floor” format doesn’t flow in this anime, and that can be appreciated – to a certain degree. While you know Sora and Shiro will win all of exciting and intriguing games (cause if they lose there wouldn’t be a show), it’s the ride to that final draw that make 12-episode anime worth it. The games are wacky and chalked full of weird rules, however, that makes them so much fun to watch!

On the other hand, the slight lack of explanation in each challenge often results in seemingly impossible feats. The games can be confusing and drawn out to two episodes at a time. As such this show is a binge watch – you’ll lose track if you try to space your viewings out.

Sora overwhelmingly takes the lead as the perverted-older-brother-mad-hatter type of character. He’s clever and brainy, desiring to win a library for knowledge of the world that he and his adorable sister were thrown into. Logging it in their phone, Sora immediately makes it his top priority to challenge the God of this world. Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Kirito from SAO, Arata from TRINITY SEVEN) performs with such strong lust in his voice acting that makes for quirky dialogue. He certainly plays the role well!

For a female lead, Shiro is not that interesting. She’s cute, quiet, and relies on her onii-san. There is a much more intellectual side to her, unlike her brother, that makes for quick-witted comebacks and in contrast respectful monologues. While Shiro gets a couple of great episodes to herself – literally by herself – there isn’t really much else to say.

The only other mention is Stephanie Dora, an emotional young Imanity girl who is the daughter of the recently dead king. She is stubborn, whiny, and expressive, yet has an intelligent side regarding the Imanity. Because she flips from being a genius to a dimwitted casual – just to make Shiro and Sora seem smarter, might I add – she was poorly treated by the writer(s). Stephanie is easily likable, but only when she has her dignity intact.

NGNL’s animation by Madhouse is rather . . . how’s to say, bright? The effective use of reds, blues and other vibrant colors as outlines instead of the usual black adds to more eye-appeal. Everything else is also energetic in color; these upbeat hues help to bring the world of games alive! It’s fun J and not like your average anime!

Sound-wise, I wasn’t too impressed. There are a few “Aha!” tracks for the intense gaming climaxes, but the more emotional bits are supported, yet without memorability. I can recall the epic challenges that Sora and Shiro surpass, but I can’t remember any of the characters spewing out their passion, and part of that is because the actual-game-sounding music just wasn’t on-par with the anime. Besides “Predawn,” it’s not bad by any means, but could have been more.

The show gives off this foreboding vibe, as if Tet foreshadowing the darkness behind the gaming world is where the series would end, however, we never get down to the heart of things. That disappointed me most. A perfect reflection of my thoughts are in the opening, “This game” by Konomi Suzuki. The piano introduces us to a mysterious and devious land, yet past this rich piano solo, the song turns into your average anime opening, revealing its sense of playful trickery.

I have troubles recommending No Game No Life particularly because it just ends with another game. Upon release of a second season, which is most likely, then I will 100% recommend this anime to anyone, despite the mild nudity. The characters can drag the anime down a little bit with their ecchi playing, but when the boobs are put away, No Game No Life functions as a great piece of entertainment, and I enjoyed its cleverness thoroughly.

“’Checkmate’ doesn’t mean you’ve simply cornered the enemy king. It’s a declaration that the enemy king is yours. That’s why I said it the first time I met you. ‘Checkmate.’” – Sora

The anime has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks, so we can expect a dub release sometime soon hopefully. Thanks so much for reading my review over this fun gaming anime! If you had similar thoughts, hit that like button and follow me for more material like this. Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Sword Art Online II (Phantom Bullet) Review

It’s funny that I do this review before the prequel, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen the first season and I didn’t want to half-ass a review. Enjoy ~

It’s been one year since Kirito escaped the deadly game that is Sword Art Online. Meanwhile, ALfheim Online has gained much popularity, for it serves as a peaceful outlet for Kirito and his friends to escape from real world troubles.

Evil doesn’t die so easily, though. Roaming around another famous VRMMORPG by the name of “Gun Gale Online” (GGO) is “Death Gun,” a cloaked man rumored to kill individuals in real life through the game’s avatars. Kirito once again risks life and limb through virtual means to apprehend the mysterious assassin, but he’s not alone – the best sniper in the game, Sinon, with her highly destructive PGM Ultima Ratio Hecate II, proves worthy of battle herself in this world of guns. As the world tournament Bullet of Bullets commences, Sinon, Kirito, saber in hand, and Death Gun enter the arena among many other foes, guns locked and loaded.

After the events of last series, SAO had a little repairing to do, and GGO was the best tool to do so. This arc in the light novel series by Reki Kawahara made up for the lack of action and strength in the first season’s Fairy Dance arc. Phantom Bullet reminds us of the quality characters and themes that the SAO series was famous for; a powerful sequel that matches the strong will and survival feel of the first arc, Aincrad. Sword Art Online II is engaging and thrillingly eerie through to the end of the arc.

Kirito logs into GGO as a . . . girl? Yep, and it’s just great. His particular model possesses long dark hair, and his breastplate, well, yeah, adds emphasis. While he continues his unwavering badass style, he crumbles when he finds out that Death Gun must be a member of the “Laughing Coffin” guild, a player-killing group from SAO. The vibe from the first season returns as Kirito realizes that he could actually die in this harsh, cold, foreign world. He starts to recall haunting memories of the PK-ing he committed himself when fending off the Laughing Coffin members. This new revelation builds on past his one dimensional superb fighting skills.

Asada Shino is weak, quiet, and had shot someone when she was very young, and that terrifies her. She can’t even hold a weapon without trembling and then vomiting. But in GGO – a virtual world, she’s not actually killing anyone, so she masks her fears through Sinon, the cerulean-haired, lime-armored heroine. In the gun world, she’s stronger, faster – better. She doesn’t have to worry anymore, because Sinon protects her and fights for her. Sinon puts a new spin on “the will to fight” that makes her my favorite character. When she meets Kirito, she thinks they are both girls, and acts in a friendly manner, but quickly goes tsundere when she finds out the truth.

Kirito and Sinon balance each other out very well – I couldn’t have asked for better pairing besides maybe Asuna, who supports Kirigaya Kazuto on the other side of the amusphere. Sinon does, however, fall to Kirito’s irresistible charm when she becomes weak, but hey, that’s just her real-world self breaking through, not a whole new and sudden change.

I would tell anyone to watch SAO for the character costume designs alone because holy sh*t this is where it’s at! Match these colorfully crafty armor and weapon designs with fluid visuals pumped with action and A-1 Pictures really has something going on! As mentioned previously, there are many more battle scenes in this sequel, and quality never dipped once. The landscape of GGO is give a desolate color palette to that of a ruined desert city. Graphically and artistically, the anime does take me to the mature and virtual world of GGO.

Yuki Kajiura adds to this unique universe by providing an adventurous soundtrack. There’s not really much to say, as it is still just as amazing as the first season’s. She did, however, take the “Survive the Swordland” track, the epic main theme, put it on flute, and up the tempo to add a new sense of glory to the Kirito and Sinon action. Nice 🙂

While the opening “Ignite” by Eir Aoi was befitting for a show with this quality of animation, the true delight is in the lovely ending, “Startear” by Luna Haruna. It features Asada Shino young and old along with her avatar, Sinon, providing a reminiscent feel of childhood and maturation.

Sword Art Online II is a strong follow up to its first season, as it contains much action, brilliant music along with fluid animation, and reminds us of the themes the very first arc held. I recommend all of the SAO series to young viewers because of its genuine romance and characters. While more mature viewers might get bored of the concept , I still recommend this season for its high quality animation and soundtrack. This second series definitely lives up to the hype, so I’d get aboard the SAO train before it’s long gone.

You can watch all of the anime for free at Crunchyroll! Sword Art Online II continues to cross the bridge between the virtual and real worlds, proving to us that they might not be as different as people think. “The virtual world is just a different form of reality.” – Asada Shino
It has been tons of fun following this thrilling adventure! Till next time ~

– Takuto, your host