Completing My First “Tales” Game! | Blogmas 2017 Day 7

Hey everyone, welcome to day 7 of Blogmas!

Another quickie today, but a celebration nonetheless! This past early spring, I completed my first Tales game. For those unfamiliar with the massive franchise, the title Tales refers to a sprawling series of games, most unrelated, created by the game company Bandai Namco in Japan. They’re known for their iconic and elaborate character designs, fantasy-inspired landscapes, Celtic-inspired soundtracks, and most of all, their deep, thought-provoking adventure stories that can take just as long as a Final Fantasy game to complete. We’re talking about clocking no less than 30 hours per game!

Anyway, the Tales franchise means a lot to me. Not because I am overly familiar with the gameplay (as you can see by the title of this post, I’ve actually played very little Tales in my life T__T), but because I get my roots as a fan of entertainment in general from the fantasy genre, the Tales franchise being rich in the source. I’m a kid born and raised on attending Renaissance Festivals and Madrigal Feasts, often loosing myself in the adventurous worlds of tabletop gaming like (our adapted version of) HeroQuest (anyone remember that), TCGs like Pokemon and Magic the Gathering, books like John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series, or even iconic films of the genre, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit to name a couple. I love fantasy—essentially, its themes of valor, honor, and justice compose my heart for entertainment.

Most importantly, Tales of Symphonia: The Animation is one of only a handful of shows to get me started on anime. If  didn’t come across the Japanese opening of the game, “Starry Heavens,” which I’ll link below, I would never have discovered the wondrous world of Japanese animation.

So here we go: to the best of my ablility, I will briefly discuss my experiences playing both Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Zestiria on the PS3 from the weak non-gamer perspective that I have!

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Loose Discussions on My Experiences Playing a “Tales” Game

(These will DEFINITELY NOT be formal reviews.)

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Tales of Symphonia

Looking back on it, Symphonia‘s anime does a really, really good job at sticking to its source material. It’s got all the major locations, major backstory elements pertaining to the main characters, and even some of the minor characters. Heck, even most of the theme songs for specific characters and towns were brought back for the anime! But this isn’t about the anime, I suppose. Back to the game.

One of the biggest problems I had with the game was the use of annoying side mazes that involved using a “magic ring” to properly traverse. It’s gimmicks like these that tend to ward me off of games—I JUST WANT TO SEE THE STORY. Some of those were really hard, too; as a beginner, I found myself referring to YouTube walkthroughs more and more as the game’s climax neared just to get passed these stupid little travel puzzles.

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OH MY GOD WELGAIA’S FREAKIN FLOORS SCREW THIS

Another beef I had with it was the English audio. As a who’s fan loyal to what I hear first, that being the anime in fansubs, I couldn’t stand the English voices for Lloyd or Zelos. This was easily fixed by changing the game’s audio back to the original Japanese, however, so it’s not so much of a problem as it was just a preference. Raine’s VA for both  was good though, so way to go Kari Wahlgren!

Where it has its minor issues, I found myself immensely enjoying all of the sidequests or story elements that were dropped in the anime adaptation; piecing together the events and locations, however major or minor, that were missing from the anime was tons of fun, as I learned many new things about Symphonia‘s two worlds and their peoples. And while I did think that the final confrontation with Mithos, the ultimate antagonist, was a bit lousy in game format (or at least it had way less of an emotional appeal to it, though movies do tend to resonate with me more), I much rather preferred the game’s handling of tying up all the loose ends—specifically, resolving the pact with Origin and the birth of the new World Tree. It had more time to fully explain itself, and now after all these years I FINALLY understand who Origin is! Woohoo!

All-in-all, finally getting around to playing (and actually finishing, holy shit) Tales of Symphonia (PS3) after six LONG years of putting it off, I can’t help but feeling so complete—the story has finally come full-circle, the adaption introducing me to anime as a media and the PS3 game engrossing me in JRPGs. Do I now despise the anime for excluding so many “crucial” plot points? Absolutely not. I still hold Tales of Symphonia: The Animation in the highest regard, as it’s still a beautiful, moving tale of the harsh realities of racism and revenge, and the hope that comes with uniting two fundamentally broken worlds—I love both iterations of the story, and I probably always will. I DO recommend both the anime and the game, so pick your poison and head out on your own adventure ASAP! (Or be like me and experience both! More Symphonia is a very good thing.)

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Ultimately, I was just so happy I could say I completed my first Tales game, but I immediately knew that It wouldn’t be the last. In fact, my second Tales adventure was awaiting me just around the corner—the end of a good school year, and the start of a brilliant summer!

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Tales of Zestiria

I remember seeing a promotional poster for the anime Tales of Zestiria the X circulating years back, and I do recall being excited for it despite not knowing anything other than that it was another Tales adaptation by the GOD STUDIO, Ufotable. After getting to see the English voice actor for Zestiria‘s MC, Robbie Daymond, in person at this year’s Naka-Kon, I knew the first thing to do as soon as I got home: purchase the PS3 game (I actually ended up doing it in the hotel room, tho >.<).

My recent success with Symphonia set my passions ablaze for tackling the next big JRPG. Once you’ve played one JRPG, you’ve played them all, right? Or perhaps, you want to play them all. From the reviews alone, I already knew that this one was going to be the easiest-to-understand in the entire franchise so far, and that it was arguably the “not-very-smart one” in the series. The character designs charmed me too much, however, and the sparkling armitization sequences just blew me away! The real draw-in for this series, voice actor meeting aside, was the anime’s OP theme, “Kaze no Uta” by FLOW. It was just the smooth, crisp 60 fps display plus the ridiculously catchy tune that made this show a MUST for me. Anyone see a trend here?

That’s right, both Tales games that I have played drew me in through their gorgeous, catchy openings. I suppose that should speak volumes about their music choice and soundtracks, no? Easily some of the best stuff I’ve ever listened to. And I still jam to this song every time I’m working out (which is rare) or whenever I need something to lift my spirits (which is often).

Unlike Symphonia, however, Zestiria had yet another thing winning for it: the fandom. Oh the ships, all the ships, I tells ya!! I’m such a sucker for anything Sorey and Mikleo, Alisha and Lailah. They’re all just so pretty, AHH!!

EHERM. Tales of Zestiria, despite all my senseless fanboying, is a beloved game that, honestly, treads many of the same lines that Symphonia did: two races trying to coexist, one “chosen” person designated to heal the land, a loudmouth (yet adorable) MC and his reserved, intelligent best friend. “Best friend ;)” All of the parallels and similarities just make me glad that Zestiria, though argued as the “dumb one,” was my second Tales game.

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As a PS3 game itself, the reviews ARE true in that the game is likely one of the easier ones in the franchise. I had very few problems in it . . . as in literally none at all. Sure, the story isn’t as deep or intricate (or emotional) as I would have wanted it to be (AKA more like Symphonia’s darkness), but that in itself makes Zestiria‘s almost overwhelming optimism contagious, and fun to play regardless of whatever mood you’re in. The visuals are, holy god almighty, some of the finest I’ve ever seen in gaming (THOSE SKIES THO F*CK ME), and the orchestral soundtrack should be on EVERY tabletop gamer’s background music playlist. Like, shit, need something that sounds absolutely LEGENDARY for a whole freakin’ hour, here you go:

To recap the Zestiria (PS3) experience, it was easy, simple, fantasy fun at its finest. You don’t need to collect many bonus items (if any at all, I skipped most of them), and the fights themselves are, WOAH, WHAT’S THIS, the most FUN part of the gameplay! I’m no gamer, and I found swingin’ around Sorey’s massive armitized swords, bow, giant fists—what have you—to be greatly pleasurable. If you’re not looking for the deepest Tales game, but one that’s great for a first-timer, Zestiria is the one for you. I recommend it.

FUN FACT: After meeting Robbie Daymond, I played through all of the game in English and loved it—proof that once again, whatever you hear first is likely your favorite. I was also incredibly hyped for the anime adaption, as it looks like the best thing to come from Ufotable besides Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, and that’s one of the most top-tier anime you could ask for! I’m currently watching the anime, and while the inclusion of the Berseria *promotional episodes* were pointless and time-draining, it’s a pretty good show. I won’t make any judgement calls now, but I’d love to review it whenever I finish! Also, for all I know, Berseria could very well end up being my next Tales game to experience, as it, too . . . well, I bet you can already guess.

It had a rockin’ OP. 🙂

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What did you think of Symphonia or Zestiria? Any opinions on their anime adaptations, either? For the record, I have seen the Tales of the Abyss anime, but that was also very long ago, so want to rewatch that some day. Lastly, are there any particular favorites or recommendations from the Tales franchise out there? Let me know! I’ve heard that Symphonia is actually one of the bests, and though I haven’t played the others, I’m gonna probably call it as my favorite. Sorry, it’s just first-timer’s bias. This wrap up Blogmas Day Seven of the 12 Days of Anime! Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you all tomorrow!

– Takuto, your host

Double the Uniqueness! Keiko & Crimson’s Nominations | Blogmas 2017 Day 6

Hey everyone, welcome to day 6 of Blogmas!

So some good news and bad news for today:

The Good—In the past 24 hours, I have read over 45 OWLS posts from May, June, and July, and now I only have August, September, October, November, and December left. Wow, ok, so it sounds like I still have a long ways to go, haha, but it’s still progress! I’ve also, for the most part, kept up with the “12 Days of Anime,” and that’s been a blast!

The Bad—Due to prioritizing my OWLS binge (plus I have my December post coming out TOMORROW, woohoo!), today’s post will be pretty short. I’ll be falling back on the “personal” post option that I established in the intro’s guidelines, so it should still be a fun read. Plus, it’s an award—these are things to celebrate!

Without further ado, here are two very belated Unique Blogger nominations, but ones that I promised to fulfill! I’m always very thankful to be able to leave an impression of myself upon others, and that I get to be a part of such a loving community of anibloggers. It’s through these seemingly trivial awards and nominations that meet so many new faces, and I learn so much about my online friends. So thank you both, Keiko and Crimson!

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Keiko and Crimson’s Unique Blogger Award Nominations

The Rules:

#1 – Share the link of the blogger who has shown love to you by nominating you.

#2 – Answer the questions.

#3 – In the spirit of sharing love and solidarity with our blogging family, nominate 8-13 people for the same award.

#4 – Ask them 3 questions.

About Keiko (nominated 10/26/17)

Seeing as how we only met recently, I admittedly don’t know too much about Keiko. I DO, however, know that she writes many, many detailed episodic reviews for the given simulcast season, and that though her blog is self-named “A bubble of crappy anime reviews and the likes,” her reviews are neither crappy nor average. She’s cynical at times, yet seems fun to talk to, so go give her blog some love! (Keiko’s Anime Blog)

Keiko’s 3 Questions

1. If you were stuck in an anime universe, which would it be and why?

Assuming I would have been allowed the choice, hmm, that is hard. You see, I always find myself swaying between two genres: science fiction and fantasy, my mind and my heart. Since I’ve been in the sci-fi mood lately, however, I’ll pick the world of A Certain Scientific Railgun. Functioning as a sister series to A Certain Magical Index, the main story, Railgun seems light-hearted when it in fact is rife with some of the darkest secrets within the entire franchise. Why Railgun then? In Academy City, which is home to 2.3 million, most of the populace are espers, beings capable of utilizing their brain to achieve their own realities via special powers. Plus, the city has such a chic, hopful, futuristic aesthetic that is to DIE for.

Should I be allowed to pick a second universe, I’d go with Ghost in the Shell, a franchise that fully embraces cyber enhancements and the free, vastly infinite nature of the internet. You can become anyone and do anything in the future.

2. What anime left the biggest impression on you?

Easy one. Steins;Gate. It started me on the path to exploring science fiction in anime , leading me to discover more dystopian sci-fis like Ghost in the ShellPsycho-Pass, and of course, Neon Genesis Evangelion , my favorite anime of all time. Steins;Gate is just bloody brilliant, and I consider all of these works masterpieces.

3. If you were an animal, what would you be?

Kind of an odd question, haha, but one that still leaves me torn. Cats seem to live such peaceful lives, but that of a dolphin is much more exciting, where it is free to explore the entire depths of the great sea. Then there are birds, which can fly freely and soar above the clouds. I’ve always wanted to fly. If I had to pick, birds are the way to go.

Thanks again Keiko! Now onto Crimson!


 

About Crimson (nominated 10/15/17)

If y’all didn’t already know, Crimson and I go waaay back. Heck, we’ve even met in person! While I’ve remained here the whole time, Crimson has gone through much more blogging experience, including owning multiple blogs at once. Currently, she writes at “Crimson Blogs” the most. Anyway, she’s very funny, down to earth, and she loves to both write AND read, which are essential for being a great blogger. She also loves her fandoms, frequently getting me sucked into them through her wicked ways (My hero Academia). I always love reading her posts, as she frequently throws a personal twist in them that makes me understand her a bit more each time. If you’re not already, GO FOLLOW HER. DO IT! Tell her Takuto sent you, too. 😛

Crimson’s 3 Questions

1. If you could turn into any mythical creature, which would you be and why? And what would you do as this mythical creature?

Oh no, back with the creature-transformation questions, haha. As for what I’d like to be . . . can I make up my own? Similar to Paprika (from, well, the film Paprika) or even Reina Izumi from Myriad Colors Phantom World, I’d like to be a dream-eater. No, NOT the stealer of good dreams, but of bad dreams—nightmares, visions that put one on edge, causing constant anxiety throughout the night. Does something like this already exist? Anyway, I’m no therapist in real life, but I do think that people should get good sleep. By hovering around troubled individuals in spirit form, I could enter their dreams and help them fight off the force of evil eating away at their precious rest time. Then I could ease them into the deep, healthy REM sleep that they deserve. Call me your Dream Healer, or your Prince of the Night. What do you think of that?

2. Oh no! It’s the zombie apocalypse! What are your weapons of choice (up to 3 that you can realistically carry around) and what 3 bloggers would be on your survival team? Yes I’m thinking something similar to L4D.

OH CRAP, NOT ZOMBIES. I know virtually NOTHING about them, other than what is common knowledge, or what could be grasped from anime like Attack on Titan or Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. Three weapons, hmm, can they be from games or anime LOL? If so, I’d pick the Portal gun, the Dominator from Psycho-Pass, and the thermoptic suit from Ghost in the Shell. Smart pick that last one is, no? Portal open—Dominator destroy—thermoptic effects on—Repeat. If you can’t beat ’em, RUN LIKE HELL.

Now for three bloggers? Hmm, Matt (Matt-in-the-Hatt) is too good of a Christian (bless your heart). Kausus (Otaku Gamer Zone) would just be inspecting my gadgets all the time, so he’s out too (sorry boo). Rocco B (In the Cubbyhole) is . . . actually, where have you been, buddy? We need to chat more!

You know, I’m just gonna play it safe and call on the Owlets, a trio of female anibloggers who run the Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect, or OWLS (see, they’re already warriors, it’s only the best pick)! Composed of President Kat Sade (Grimm Girl) and the two lovely PR ladies, Naja (Nice Job Breaking It, Hero) and LitaKino (Lita Kino Anime Corner), these strong women already know how to fight the good fight, as they are constantly helping others overcome their insecurities while highlighting the good in the world. You three are my pick for the zombie apocalypse. And oh, if you’re not too busy Crimson, you can come too. ^.^

Seriously though, check out all of these wonderful people. 🙂

3. Related to Q2, what is your zombie apocalypse team survival playlist? Add as many or few songs as you’d like!

Since three seems to be the magic number here, I’ve got three hot tracks for ya:

AND OF COURSE . . .

Thanks again, Crimson! I won’t be nominating anyone due to these already being long-overdue, but they were tons of fun! Next time, hopefully I’ll be the one nominating you guys!


I’ve STILL got tons of catching up to do, what with OWLS posts and all the comments stacking up from the start of this holiday season, so this’ll wrap up Blogmas Day Six of the 12 Days of Anime! Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you all tomorrow!

– Takuto, your host

I’ve Finally Been Recognized as Lovely! (One Lovely Blog Award)

Hey guys,

THE NOMMIES RETURN upupuPUPUPU! It’s been so long since I’ve been awarded one of these—it’s my first “Lovely Blog Award,” in fact! I also just happened to find a 20-min pocket of time, so why the heck not. This’ll be short, and you might learn a thing or two about me here in the next minute, so that’s cool. Special thanks to Mel (Mel In Anime Land) who happened to grace me with this nomination a couple weeks back. (I told you I’d get to it!) Check her out!

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Ok, ok, here are the rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog
  • Add the One Lovely Blog Award to your post
  • Share 7 things about yourself
  • Pass this on to as many people as you like (max 15)
  • Include this set of rules
  • Inform your nominees

And sorry, I won’t be nominating anyone because let’s face it: I can hardly keep up with everything as-is, plus this thing has likely made its rounds by now, haha. If you follow me or are just stopping by, go ahead and take this one on—I’m awarding anyone who feels willing to share more about themselves, for if you are reading this, you likely have good taste (and a lovely blog for sure, hehe :P).

Alright, let’s go!!

1. I was high school Homecoming Royalty

The king, in fact, hehehe! Why bring up high school now though (I mean, wasn’t it “the worst time of everyone’s life)? Well, my high school years weren’t half bad, my senior year being the saving grace. I also mention it now because, just a week ago, I got to hand off the crown to my sister, who is now the ruling queen—isn’t that kinda neat?! [insert “My Little Sister Can’t Be Royalty Just Like Me?!” light novel series here] Makes me wonder where she got it from, certainly not me, right? Ahaha, I kid, but seriously, it was tons of fun. To my class, who I know will never read this but regardless, thank you for all the laughs and the memories—it was an honor serving as your king over the past year~!

Would you have ever guessed it? Now you can can say you are friends with royalty 😀

2. I’m a night owl

Like Mel, I get most of my work done once the moon comes out. This can be a real inconvenience considering how, well, most people play by the sun, but somehow I make it through . . . by staying up late, waking up early, and feeling exhausted 24/7.

3. I LOVE granola bars

No, it’s like, really, really bad. Breakfast, lunch, snack, repeat. I am OBSESSED. I also like all kinds, simple chocolate chip or some kind of yogurt ones being my favorites. In fact, I hate nuts, but eating granola bars with nuts has given me a slight appreciation for them. Guess there are pros and cons to every addiction.

4. I LIVE for mystery stories and survival games

This is probably why anime like Gosick, Hyouka, Future Diary, Another, Higurashi, Fate/Zero, and, holy god, Danganronpa, my most recent obsession (besides the granola bars). I’ve traversed the entire franchise, watching the first anime many years ago, a Let’s Play of the second game last summer, and more Let’s Plays/video summaries of the other entries just these past couple weeks. I’m still searching for SOMETHING to fill the Danganronpa 3 void, so if you’ve got any recommendations, now’s the time to share . . .

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5. I’ve done music all my life and honestly, it’s meh

Sad but true. I’ve dedicated at least 4/5 of my life to something that . . . well, I’m not sure why I’m still involved with anymore. I play the cello (in a symphony, a quartet, and a small trio), and I can’t help but wish, everyday, that I was doing something else: painting, drawing, reading, writing—anything! The only reason I’ve stuck with it is because of the pushy music staff here. If they weren’t so clingy and even rude sometimes, I would have wanted to stick around. But crappy people are everywhere, so for once, I don’t even know what the moral of this story is supposed to be. Call it wasted potential or a future regret like all the others, but I don’t think that’ll stop me from retiring. When I’M ready, I’ll start up again on my own time. Like, “Can I please just move on with my life?”

6. I’m trying to get into light novels more

From the little research I’ve done, Japanese light novels are designed to be affordable, dispensable, and easily digestible written works, either as standalone novels or for a much larger series. They are relatively easy to publish, and that’s awesome for budding authors. What I don’t like is that many, especially now (like all media), rely heavily on the infamous “light novel tropes” to sell copies and hook readers, and while on paper it’s like “whatever,” many animation studios as of late have decided to spend all of their time and manpower on adapting these often times cliche, poorly written books. That said, I want to get into light novels more (which is why on Twitter I asked for suggestions). I want to understand them better, and maybe see if I can, sometime down the line, craft my own.

7. I am a collector, not a renter

That’s right, I don’t go to the library, nor do I occasionally stream shows. Instead, if I can score big sales and [blind] buy a ton of crap I know I won’t get to for 7 years, I’m gonna do it!! It’s actually gotten really bad, haha, so much so that I went on a no-buy (that didn’t last) and realized that “OMG, if I actually watch and read the stuff I actually have, it wouldn’t just have to sit there!” A novel idea, I know. If it’s any consolation, I do buy my stuff at THE BEST price one could ever find it at, so I do know a good deal when I see one. Unfortunately, if I avoided shopping during sales, then that would save money, too.

But enough of that smart thinking stuff. Time to go blow $80 on Sentai DVDs of shows that I wouldn’t buy otherwise unless they were $10 a piece. 😛


That wraps up this award. Did you learn anything interesting about me? Did you sympathize with my problems or just find me to be a big whiner? Either way, I’m curious! Again, if you want an excuse to talk about yourself, I nominate YOU to do so! Just let me know if you did so I can read it and share it. Again, big shout-out and thank-you to Mel for the nomination—it was fun! ‘Till next time guys!

– 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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Yuri!!! On ICE Goes the Distance for Life & Love | OWLS “Flight”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s second monthly topic, “Flight,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard Yuri!!! On ICE review into this pep talk about ambition. Something different to mix things up, right?

An individual takes flight when there is a goal, a dream, or an ambition that he or she wants to achieve. For this blog post, however, we are going to look at “flight” through different lenses: the underdog’s dream, the possibilities that Yuri!!! On ICE allows viewers to think about, and also the dangers of greed and ignorance that can influence one’s dream.

Since last month’s interpretation of mine was a bit gloomy, I’ll be honing in on the wondrous joys of living in each moment–leaving it all out on the rink–and the ephemeral effects of social media.

I LOVE YURI!!! ON ICE so this’ll be fun! Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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A brief discussion of the 12-episode fall 2016 anime “Yuri!!! On ICE,” produced by MAPPA, directed by Sayo Yamamoto, based on the original story by Mitsurou Kubo. 

Unexpected Loss, Unexpected Arrival

At age 23, country legend Yuuri Katsuki nearly lost it all when he returned to his family-owned Japanese hot springs without the gold. In fact, he didn’t even medal, taking last in the men’s ice-skating Grand Prix Final. Even though his face still beams youthfully, Yuuri’s not as agile as he used to be–and he knows it. Just as Yuuri contemplates moving on from skating, however, a video of him performing five-time world champion Viktor Nikiforov’s previous routine during practice instantly goes viral.

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Scrambling to keep his life from further collapse, Yuuri finds himself in utter shock when Viktor, bearing himself in glistening full-frontal nude, unexpectedly shows up at his hometown’s Hasetsu hot springs. He jovially offers to mentor Yuuri and, being the BIGGEST Viktor Nikiforov fan ever to exist, Yuuri immediately accepts. His rekindled encouragement may blaze hotter than ever before, but Katsuki isn’t simply fighting against his past self! Everyone wants a piece of Viktor, including the competitive and fierce rising star of Russia, Yuri Plisetsky, and it quickly comes to both of their minds–and hearts–that there can only be one Yuri (!!!) on the ice.

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So how do our guys “take flight” in the show? We’ll look at 3 ways that all relate to the anime’s ending theme, “You Only Live Once”!

1. Leaving the Comfort Zone

From their first day of practice together, Viktor splits Yuuri and Yurio apart, assesses their basic personalities, and assigns them opposing labels and routines completely and clearly different from themselves. This was all in the hopes of giving the two what they lack or fail to understand. Born from this exercise were the two spiritual entities on love, Eros and Agape, which I covered previously post that, ironically, received lots of love from you guys–thank you very much! Anyway, life and love come as a pair of L’s that Viktor himself has neglected. By understanding love, you can live a fuller life, and vice versa. To achieve their goals of competing in the GPF, Viktor rips the boys out of their comfort zone so that they, too, could fully comprehend the bizarre nature of love and its many beautiful forms.

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2. Going the Distance

(In a post coming up soon I’ll be elaborating on my life-changing experience with sports, so for now you’ll get the truncated version.) Simply put, competitions like the GPF allow hardworking spirits from around the globe to come and put on a show for the world. They connect us. These boys all have their own origins: towns or cities that vary in atmosphere depending on the season; varying experience with languages and culture; the definition of a home-cooked meal.They are athletes, they are performers. And when they board that plane for the long flight ahead with determination to be the best in the world, they are ready  to put it all out there on the rink, no holds barred, no regrets. These boys want to do the best not only for themselves, their coaches, families, or nation, but for each competitor, too. THAT is the spirit of sportsmanship in competition: to do the best you can and make memories–make history–doing it with others!

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And then that’s it. They’ll part ways, maybe take a couple pics together, and then decorations come down. But the memories never fade.

3. You Only Live Once

Tuning in to w.hatano’s “You Only Live Once” at the end of each episode treated us to an upbeat, happy-go-lucky firework show, not to mention a series of behind-the-lives-of-the-cast photos styled like an Instagram feed. The strong use of social media in this anime emphasizes a transient feeling, the romantic notion of fleeting emotions–of living in each moment–and living full and true to oneself. All of these characters are separated by their languages, styles, cultures, races, expressions, and location, but what binds them is love, love for one’s nation and the glorious joys that ice-skating brings.

The art they create doesn’t let them merely glide on the ice, but soar on the wings of life and love. Yuuri and the guys are just a bunch of kids from different countries coming together to make an ephemeral moment together. That’s why those last few episodes of touring Barcelona mean so much to the show as a whole and to us as viewers. They show us the boys out of their environment, or what they’d be like if we met them on the streets, and passing them by would be just that–evanescent.

So go out there and work hard, perform brilliantly, act courteously, be silly, laugh loudly, sing merrily, dance gracefully, pose triumphantly, speak clearly, learn intensely, ponder cleverly, play gently, dream wildly, write creatively, think positively, love passionately . . . and while you’re out there taking lots and lots and LOTS of pictures, never forget this: You only get one life. Live truthfully. 

It’s the only way those wings on your back will let you fly majestically. 

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There’s a place you just can’t reach unless you have a dream too large to bear alone. We call everything on the ice “love.” – Yuuri Katsuki


It’s no surprise that Yuri!!! On ICE has had a profound effect on my life recently, so regardless of its few shortcomings, flaws, or inconsistencies, the cafe will warmly welcome this anime as a “Caffè Mocha,” a proud rating for those shows that have touched my heart and are regarded as a must-watch from me. Watching YOI air throughout the cold, bitter wintry weather gave us all hope and anticipation for whatever excitement the next Wednesday would bring, and I’m seriously glad I joined Twitter when I did, otherwise I’d be missing out on the bountiful quantities of fan art, haha!

I strongly recommend watching Yuri!!! On ICE via Crunchyroll since you can boot up all 12 episodes for FREE! And OH MY GOODNESS, I didn’t even get to talk about the incredible soundtrack that accompanied each of our star performers! Not to mention studio MAPPA’s captivating and elegant animation–it’s on it’s own level in terms of representing sports physics in anime!! And then Dean Fujioka’s instant hit opening “History Maker,” oh how INSPIRING this entire ensemble is!!! I consider myself lucky each day that we honestly got a show like this one. It truly went out of its way to bring us something wonderfully unique and powerful. Emotionally touching, entertaining, comedic, inciteful, inspirational, full of good vibes all around . . . wow, it just means so much to me, and I could probably go on and on forever~!

This concludes my February 27th entry in the OWLS “Flight” blog tour. Please check out Hazelyn’s (Archi-Anime) post discussing how Viktor may have risked it all with his leap of faith! Next after me is . . . wait, did I just end our second blog tour? I DID, and what a pleasure it has been! Thank you so much for reading, and stay tuned for Arria of Fujinsei to wrap up this lovely month. Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Smiling Yuuri with long hair is everything. Go the distance to make yourself and others as happy as this kid!

Eros and Agape: Behind the Lovely Ice-skating Veils | Cafe Talk

A light analysis and comparison of, in regards to love, Eros and Agape, and how they are represented in the fall 2016 anime Yuri!!! On ICE (eps. 1-4).

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The struggle to find love, either in others, oneself, or both, remains one of life’s greatest conquests. When world-junior-class figure skaters Yuri Katsuki and Yuri Plisetsky faced-off against each other in a competition for the gorgeous and professional Viktor Nikiforov’s coaching attention, the two took on opposite personas assigned by Viktor himself: Eros and Agape. But what lies beyond the romantic nicknames, and how do these titles represent each skater on more than simply a physical level? Welcome to “Cafe Talk!”

“Love,”a How-To by the Greeks and Christians 

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There exist arguably six different interpretations of what exactly “love” translates into from original Greek texts (geez, leave it to those Greco-Romans to complicate matters). The four listed above are the famous ones, and all but Eros (the smexy one) can be found somewhere in the Christian Bible. We will only be looking at the two that matter under Yuri‘s light: the red and the blue, opposites in every way. We’ll also sort this out in performance order.

“On Love: Agape” – Yuri Plisetsky, a Lover Deflowered by Cold Submission 

Our Russian punk Yurio wasn’t too pleased when he was denounced “the unconditional lover.” The show translates agape love as follows: “God’s infinite love is self-sacrificing and uncalculating.” That’s actually a pretty good first impression.

Agape love mirrors the sacrificial giving of God to humanity. Graceful, unselfish, unbiased, and possibly unknowing to or of love. Agape lovers give freely and seek nothing. It still functions as active love, but it remains “spontaneous and unmotivated.” In other words, agape lovers seek love by giving in return. They’re typically submissive as well, and value the worth of love above all else. Nygren (see works cited) depicts their value as such: “Those who are loved become worthy because they are loved.”

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Since Yurio hardly embodies any of the agape traits, perhaps they represent aspects he is deprived up. He knows neither of innocent love nor of self-sacrifice, demonstrating only that he is passionate and fierce, hence his epithet the “Russian Punk.” While it’s amusing for us fans to watch his battle against the unselfish, Yurio truly is an unappreciated boy by his Russian coach(es). They respond to success, technique, and poise, not to sympathy and affection. By assigning the Agape costume to Yurio, Viktor has given him everything he could have wished for — to be loved unconditionally and embraced with care. Yurio, if only for a brief moment in the rink, became a lover deflowered by submission.

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But you have to be devoted to the agape all the way . . . That is why Viktor picks Yuri.

And this piece, oooh, this heavenly chamber voice overflows with an innocent, perfect love! Can you feel “someone who doesn’t know what love is yet?”

“On Love: Eros” – Yuri Katsuki, a Lover Instilled with Fiery Passion

Our home-team Pork Cutlet was left stuttering “It’s enough to make even me, a man, pregnant! Such eros!” when the fabulous Viktor crowned him “the sexual lover.” The anime depicts eros love as follows: “Pleasure followed by pleasure. One just drowns in it.” This, too, hits the mark of a passionate lover.

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In stark contrast to the tender and giving apage love, eros love is not found in the Bible’s purity, tracing origins more closely to Greco-Roman antiquity. Nygren notices a sharp reflection of love “to Plato and to Plato’s heirs and followers.” Plato treated love as two different forms of the same “eros,” one being vulgar and the other “heavenly.” Yuri interprets this more on the raunchy side as a vigorous, demanding, and sexual love. It is seeking pleasure for oneself, not necessarily for others (though that is a plus, *wink wink*).

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The differences between Yuri and this controlling love honestly mirrors his relationship with others. Unlike Yurio, Yuri follows the orders of his friends and coaches, causing him to have weaker self-esteem and a poor sense of leadership in the art of skating. He doesn’t want to disappoint others, which is why Yuri lets his coach pick out an earlier song to skate to when he notices the coach’s lack of care for the tune a friend of his created.

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Yuri also tends to hide behind his appearance: longer bangs and glasses, both which shield the face. Just as how Yurio performs at the skate-off with a surprising sense of calm and devotion, our Pork Cutlet slicks back his hair, tosses aside the glasses, and makes passionate love with his footwork on the ice. Viktor has given him bold confidence and sexiness with the eros title, and to that, Yuri expends this energy in his fiery tango.

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And this one, ooh la la, the snappy guitar and sassy violin shine with passion!  To see him take the persona a step forward and declare himself the most beautiful woman seducing the playboy goes to show how much Viktor’s teaching has truly given him.

“On Love: Eros and Agape” – A Tale of Two Lovers

Neither of the boys have given love much thought, which is why the episode carries so much emotional weight in the grand scheme. Episode three (if it wasn’t apparent from the start) firmly presents us with the case of two lovers in search of filling the holes that occupy their minds and hearts. One desired confidence, the other pursued innocence. If I had my wish, Viktor would be teaching them both. But alas, the competition must go on and tear our lovers apart! If Twitter’s given us its two cents on the subject, it’s “Get a man who can do both.”

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“You have to do the opposite of what people expect. How else will you surprise them?” – Viktor Nikiforov, the perfect blend of power and grace

Yuri!!! On ICE claims a hot spot (oh the irony) as one of fall 2016’s bests, and I wholeheartedly agree! Catch it streaming over on Crunchyroll.com for FREE, or check out FUNimation Entertainment’s rockin’ English dub (complete with Russian accents), though you must be a subscriber to access the dub. And where would we be without the incredible music to accompany the performances? Fantastic, I say!

For our “Cafe Talk” conversation down in the comments, I ask, “What do you align with more – are you an Eros or an Agape Lover?” Also, “Who do you feel won the skate-off?” I wish I was more of a “go get ’em guy,” but I digress with my agape language. For the match, my eyes yearned for Yurio, but my heart and body told me Yuri. Let me know, and hey, glide over to that “like” button for more content like this, or the”follow” to keep up with me (OR BOTH)! Don’t forget to share with the other Yuri!!! On ICE fans! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Intrigued by the topic? Here are the works I used compile this post:

Crunchyroll – Yuri!!! On ICE

The Ancient Greeks’ 6 Words for Love (And Why Knowing Them Can Change Your Life)

Agape and Eros Summary – Anders Nygren

The Four Kinds of Love – Greek Agape, Phileo, Storge, Eros, 3 are in the Bible

The More Excellent Way, Four Greek Words for Love: Agape, Phileo, Storge, Eros

EDM Difference between Eros and Agape

Cowboy Bebop, A Journey of the Blues

A brief, spoiler-free review of the 26-episode spring 1998 anime “Cowboy Bebop,” produced by Sunrise, based on the original story by Shinichiro Watanabe.

Come 2071, planet Earth is not the only home for humans. Most of the solar system has been colonized leaving a densely polluted Earth left behind. With a series of space gates that facilitate quick n’ easy cosmic travel, criminals cower to the deepest corners of space while mafias run rampant in the back alleys of distant planets. The Inter Solar System Police can only extend its justice so far, and as a result outlaw bounty hunters AKA “Cowboys” are deployed to muddy their hands with a huge cash reward dangling in front of their noses.

For cowboys Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, a single woolong (a dumb penny) is enough elicit risking their lives in chasing bounties and hauling dinner. Born as men for the good of the cause, life aboard the Bebop goes south when the ship recruits three new members that will eventually detour its steady course: Ein, the last purebred Welsh Corgi; Faye Valentine, a formidable and seductive cowgirl in her own right, yet currently searching for her elusive past; and Ed, a bizarre lil’ fella’ who knows how to use a computer quite well . . . scary well, actually.

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As the eccentric crew aboard the Bebop get themselves into all sorts of mayhem, we gradually uncover the shady events that brought them all together.

There are two reasons Cowboy Bebop has withstood the test of time. One is that the animation by Sunrise is stunning and artistic, encompassing more meaningful symbolism and well-choreographed action scenes in the first episode alone than what I’ve seen in entire shows as of late! Two is the fact that its episodic rhythm followed up with its smooth flow of fragmented “memories” detailing the characters’ bygone lives is more than well-written. It’s brilliant, mostly because it doesn’t feel artificial; by the halfway point, we feel the passionate weight these characters are dragging with them, and how their past influences their present choices. Though the story doesn’t get kickin’ until episode five, the action-packed opening episodes are an amusing gateway to the show’s darker themes.

Bebop is not, however, a mind-blowing series of bleak revelations, but a journey cram packed with themes that jive with the soul. It is much more light-hearted, with enough emotional weight to rub the heart in a melancholic way—much like warm chicken soup or a deep blues tune would do—yet not enough turn off the viewer. You can feel this impact with the leads themselves, the subtle placing of the classic jazz-inspired episode titles, or the bluesy soundtrack masterfully composed by Yoko Kanno. All three work together to provoke sorrow, joy, regret, reminiscence, and wonder, in a futuristic world driven by detached hearts and jazz music.

Bebop‘s ending, which perfectly captures the nature of the show.

Most of the light-hearted nature of Bebop comes from the goofy or sassy interactions shared among the crew. Spike (dubbed “Cabbage Head” by my sister) is a way-too-lax and easily irritable man with a particularly complex history that frequently bumps heads with the present. His roots to the mafia come back to haunt him (like the mafia typically does), and his development is found in the monumental decisions he’ll be forced to make regarding the safety of the crew—and that of his own life.

Jet is an ex-cop now bounty hunter. ‘Nuff said. If Spike is the ill-tempered dad who always leaves the house for personal biz, then Jet is that mom who A) won’t tolerate your shit, and B) will cook dinner each night if YOU buy the ingredients. Rough around the edges, yet the one with the biggest heart, Jet serves the plot by being restrictor of reckless actions, even though he occasionally loses his temper. He holds Spike and Faye back from doing stupid stuff that could get them all killed, and as such plays a necessary role for this ragtag crew.

Lastly are the two sisters, one a troublesome teenager, the other a weird child. They are the tough-on-the-outside/terrible gambler Faye and the noodly Edward, and are mainly aboard to service the fans (Faye brings the sexy, Ed brings the laughs). While Faye will go on to have a much darker, richer past, Ed is pretty much there for the ride. The two share one thing in common, however, that being this common question burning the at back of their brains: “Why am I here, and where am I going?” It’s a romantic notion of growing up and dealing with acceptance. And that’s why they both work so well in Bebop—it’s the story of finding your place in this huge, cruel world.

Watching Cowboy Bebop is equivalent to revisiting an old website that you used to frequent back in the day, yet haven’t seen in ages. Does it feel nostalgic? Euphoric? A bit melancholic? Perhaps a bit of all three, but one theme Bebop enjoys feeding us is that internet is more than a tool—it can be a place for some, putting literal meaning to ‘home’ page. For me, this online café has given me a place to chat with and meet new friends. For the characters in the anime, the web is a place for an old man to play one last game of chess before giving his last breath, or for a disabled kid to vent his faith by becoming a God himself. It sounds a bit odd, but seriously, how much does the internet mean to you?

You should watch Cowboy Bebop because, in one way or another, it’s the story of our lives. Everything that challenges the Bebop crew and everyone they meet along the way represent a fragment of our deepest worries and regrets. Should you merely enjoy this anime for the comedy, then hey, that’s awesome, it’s got a lot of funny moments! But Bebop sure does have this genuine way of letting you know you’ve reached the end when it comes. With all of the interlaced light-hearted moments, it’s as if the show is reminding us that “Nope, sorry, this wasn’t the show you signed up for—and you know that.” Instead, you’re probably like myself and most Bebop fans, in that once it’s over, you’ll find yourself detached from the solar system, solemnly jiving to The Real Folk Blues.

“Life will challenge you to do things . . . sometimes, you just have to let go!” – Spike Spiegel

However you watch this anime, here’s advice straight from the Host: DO NOT string your viewings out for THREE months! It’s terrible! I endured this journey with my family, and being like all families, it’s hard to squeeze in quality movie time. But we did it, and now who knows what we’ll watch together, if anything. Rated a “Caffe Mocha” here, did you enjoy my review of this classically-acclaimed space western? Also, what’s your favorite aspect of Cowboy Bebop? Should it have lasted longer? I barely scraped the surface to avoid spoilers, but let’s talk about it in the comments! Thanks for reading and until next time, SEE YOU SPACE COWBOY . . .

– Takuto, your host