Arby's Backlog Hell Arbiter Libera’s profile

~ Let's Get Some Games Done ~

An Ongoing Exercise in Clearing the Backlog Extraordinaire

Nothing special here for now, really. Just my updates divided for somewhat navigable lists using the artwork I used when updates were originally published with all now updated to current art assets fitting to match 2019 updates and also easier to click on if you're using mobile. Maybe I'll add more to the "homepage" at some point, but this is serviceable for now.

These reviews have actually been on Steam backburner for quite some time now as I waited for the right time to upload them here. That translates to “finally finishing a novel that took me quite a while to get through as it kept giving me migraines” so take that for what it's worth, btw. In any case here's another offering of FIVE (5) short reviews because sometimes there's really no need to go hog wild with the word count... or so I hear.

Riddley Walker ( Science Fiction, Adventure – 1980 – 256 pages ) + QUOTE

Part of me dreads talking about Riddley Walker, but six months after on and off reading I almost feel like I owe it to both the novel and myself.

Premise is pretty straightforward by itself - we follow the eponymous Riddley Walker after his old man has an accident and Riddley is poised to inherit his role of the "connexion man" aka someone who interprets prophecies and meanings as seen in traveling puppet shows' performances whenever they visit settlements. That sounds kinda silly until you factor in this is roughly two thousands years following a world ending event that more or less destroyed everything and society has slowly rebuilt itself to something akin to Iron Age technology except they don't really mine ore but rather remnants of now ancient material that they then deconstruct and re-purpose. This Inland territory with illustrious names for places like Arse Dead Town is seemingly organized and ruled by some weird amalgam of politics and religion riding in the same cart drawn by half-remembered science, folklore, whatever rolled into one with their influence propagated by already mentioned, you guessed it, traveling puppet shows adhering strictly to accepted stories and even puppets themselves are regulated. It's a world where creative thinking is called "clevverness" and highly discouraged because it could bring back whatever vague recollection people have of that which destroyed the world in the first place. But as our boy Riddley will soon discover there are plans afoot that could forever alter what Eusa Story preaches and warnings of Littl Shyning Man are all about it.

So that may even sound compelling, right? Let me just quote a brief paragraph from the book for you:

Belnot Phist wer stopping on at Widders Dump. That same day he put a crew to cutting timber for a new projeck of his. It wer going to be some kynd of a working. Where they gone for the timber it ben a special place of myn. Where the old track sydls the hy groun sholder. It wer woodit with oak there. Hy groun on 1 side of the track and on the other it sloaps off sharp tords Widders Dump. The track runs pas that holler they call Mr Clevvers Roaling Place it wer the track we all ways took going to and from the form. It wer the shape of the groun I liket and the feal of it. That fealing you get on hy groun over looking the low. Some times sydling that sholder youwd see crows be low you cruising. Looking down from there at Widders Dump it seamt so low and littl it lookit easy ternt a way from. Back then I never Ice ben on that hy groun sholder oansome. Never ben any where at all oansome. Never in my woal life put foot outside a fents without at leas 5 mor for dog safe. I ben saving up that hy groun in my mynd tho. Thinking may be some time there myt come a time Iwd chance it oansome. I dint want no woodlings cleart there I jus wantit that place lef the way it ben. I tol my self never mynd but I myndit.

Entire novel is written like this as it replicates a language that re-invented itself from nothing following civilization's collapse. Being an ESL individual I felt a migraine coming on after periods of extended reading and that's probably the reason why finishing this took so long. Eventually I realized reading out loud helped because I phonetically connected the dots, but it was continual effort regardless. That's without mentioning parts that come from earlier in history and were carried over orally EXACTLY as uttered back then and are barely understandable so you get a guessing game until the very last act. On the flip-side, I don't think I've been more engrossed in a work than I have with Riddley Walker. Glossing over lines will get you nowhere and paying attention is actually required which results in high retention. When you add that little HAPPENS in the story and it's more focused on twelve year Riddley surviving in this world you end having to sift through musings and opinions more than actual plot. Needles to say there are lessons here on everything from morality to history and how some things are doomed to repeat, but does it have to be that way if we can change it?

Yay or nay? Single most obstacle present is really the Riddleyspeak itself Hoban chose to write the novel in. Everything else is solid and even intriguing once you piece together what's going and understand it was mainly terminology that hobbled you getting there sooner rather than later, but you're so actively engaged taking in this foreign world told through the eyes of a twelve year old kid figuring out a large part of it for himself.

I've been on a spree of playing some short games with even shorter reviews, but at least half of that statement has now been invalidated with Wandersong because it got me busting out the usual long form review. Hey, it's only been... a month? Aww, shucks. I also wrote a brief take on a particular anime OVA from the 1990s. In case you really want to feel old and enjoy some occasional gore.

Hope you're staying safe and enjoy the read. ;)

A.D. Police Files ( Action, Cyberpunk – 1990 – 3 episodes ) + OPENING

What to say other than it really is perfect '90s anime - action and gore with some nudity here and there. It is a shame how it got cut down to only three episodes over some supposed legal disputes, though.

Show itself is set in the same world as Bubblegum Crisis, but taken at face values it definitely seems disjointed with three standalone cases that still end up featuring luscious tanned Jeena and her rookie partner as protagonists or side characters. Year is 2027 and we're in Mega Tokyo as technology has given birth to cyberpunk and all the madness that entails. Amusingly enough, fully synthetic humans are called Boomers [or Voomers, depending on translation] and as a response team to their existence we now have AD police alongside Normal police. In best Hollywood action movie fashion former leaves a wake of collateral destruction in their wake and aren't much beloved by latter. If you know cyberpunk you can already guess what you're getting here as everyone involved ponders about whether technology is encroaching on humanity's spirit, whether it's wrong to replace what you originally were or if it's just a path forward. There were chilling scenes when female Boomer model goes mental as she is recycled and only lingering memory she hangs onto, that of being shot to pieces, becomes her fetish as she seeks her "killer" to re-live it or when a full-on police cyborg realizes he's gone berserk as he internally screams for his comrades to kill because he can't help himself.

Basic yet short enough to recommend if you're not squeamish about some gore with notable effort in the presentation considering this is a '90s OVA. Perhaps even look into the setting with more works.

I guess it's kinda pitiful to say this is an impromptu update spurred on by another Steam Gifts event daring people to clear games included in Humble Monthly, now Choice, no matter when they were part of it. Which is neat because it gives me an opportunity to try out my “expanded minis” review format where I still hang onto vertical covers, but ultimately gives me more than double the word count previous one had. You decide whether it worked out or not seeing as three paragraph structure was what I gravitated to for clarity's sake. I already miss screenshots, though.

When it comes to non-video games stuff I've returned to some reading and posted a YA werewolf novel review. Pretty surprised by the outcome. This also marks my 50th Report proper and it only took me three years and some change to get here. Felt like hundred at times, but I'm glad to see you're still tolerating me. 😊

Mongrels ( Fantasy, Young Adult – 2016 – 300 pages ) + QUOTE

"Young Adult coming-of-age werewolf story" sounds like a recipe for disaster when observed through the lens of modern YA attempts, but if I had to describe Mongrels with a single word it would without a doubt, and in completely non-buzzword context, be visceral. Less due to gore and brutality, although there is both presented in almost casual manner, and more with how nitty-gritty it gets with some elements you don't really think about in most werewolf works.

To begin with, there's very little actual story here because meat of the novel is essentially seeing a child as he becomes this teenager who may or may not have the werewolf gene while being raised by his aunt and uncle, part of the triplet including his now deceased mother, with plenty of shenanigans to go along with the entire affair. Fact they both ARE werewolves means family is constantly on the move as that's how they see this life panning out. Or, well, that could just be because they're essentially what you'd call white trash aka almost social outcasts doing low end jobs, ditching disposable cars to hop from one state to another, etc. Adding the werewolf aspect simply reinforces this notion further because you can't stick around for a long time as someone will notice things going awry, you might "wolf out" at extremely inconvenient times meaning highly urban areas are very much off-limits and there's plenty of other stipulations a werewolf has to keep in mind. Interesting idea is that Libby and Darren both accept this lifestyle as something normal and necessary to keep the wolf nature within them alive. For example, in their view even finishing high school is an accomplishment unto itself because it means you were able to keep it together despite all the werewolf changes that come along by the time you're 12 or 13 and something like that takes a while to come to terms to with. Not to mention living on the outskirts of society means you want to start earning money as fast as possible and not entirely above board if payments are in cash.

Seeing as Mongrels is told from the point of view of the nephew, and story does bounce from present day and earlier years chapters, focus is almost entirely on the werewolf nature itself. Which is good because author has some interesting thoughts about it. It's important to point out these werewolves aren't hulking, feral man-wolves walking on hind legs stereotype, though. Not being above using humor to teach a lesson. Darren, bravado uncle looking to emulate his own father and his "war stories", imparts some knowledge to the kid as the book goes on. Ever wondered what happens when werewolves go to prison? Did you know your greatest enemy when shifting indoors are doorknobs? Yeah, yeah. On the other Libby is the straitlaced one keeping the trio together... and type to comment on how human and werewolf intestines are not the same. Eating some garbage as a werewolf might seem like a great idea, but if there's sharp tins in there they could just rupture your insides when you're human again. Book is filled with wisdom and anecdotes like these. Lest you get the impression this is a comedy it most assuredly isn't even with plenty of levity to go around because everyone is very casual about it and not bent on preaching to the reader. You'll also learn why werewolves tend to not mate with other werewolves and what may have given the rise to the werewolf stereotype. Not to mention why it's imperative to not leave anyone you wound survive. Ever.

All in all, werewolf existence is portrayed as rather miserable and ill-suited to wherever they go with, ironically, human side and their family keeping it all bearable. Making that whole "mate for life" quite the issue if your other half is an abusive werewolf who spent so long as a wolf he doesn't know how to shift back anymore. Being a YA novel you can see the big question answered from miles away and losing some of the suspense, though.

It's almost like I never left. Tends to be the case when you play short adventure games one step removed from playing themselves. Not that I'm complaining or anything. Glad to see The Walking Dead finally concluded or until they pull the “we never said it was over!” sequel card. Hell, I totally forgot Telltale actually went bankrupt and their resurrection may go a long way to explain why this is four episodes long rather than usual five I've become accustomed to. Looking forward to what they'll do next.

Here I am again and faster than last prophesied. That's one good outcome from when you mark a game as “finished” after just one successful playthrough, while said game was built for multiple ones. Not that I'm complaining or anything, mind you. Dodged a bullet by choosing not to commit to a general re-do of the game review format for two reasons; I'm too attached to covers on the side and because it would require more work on my end with dubious availability of the assets for each game. I at least brought the basic info section more in line with Multimedia style. Speaking of which I covered a novel decidedly out of my comfort zone.


How are newly introduced Steam awards treating you? Kinda surprised they went and tied actual money into it, but hey. I even managed to get a few for my reviews which means someone is reading them on Steam. ;)

Courtship Rite ( Drama, Romance – 1983 – 409 pages ) + QUOTE

Occasionally I aim to ambush myself and start reading a book as ignorant of what it's about as I possibly can be. Courtship Rite is one such case and I honestly don't know how to even makes the sales pitch.

Think civilization building within alien society where polyamory is default. Not to say latter is the primary focus of the novel, but when have you have a family with three husbands and two wives to start off, where they genuinely work as a unit to further their goals, it's a big part of the novel. Weirdest thing? That's the most normal aspect to come from this setting. Geta is a strange world without domesticated livestock with humans and Eight Sacred Plants serving as only familiar ties to good old Earth we know and love. Novel goes to great lengths to convey just how inhospitable Geta is to human life, in large part because there's, well, other life on it and all of it will kill you unless you know the tricks around it. What this has resulted in is perpetual food scarcity and cannibalism is not only NOT taboo, but also normal and expected at times. Bad harvest? Old will volunteer and everyone joins the Funereal Feast where the VIP prepared with plenty of meat strips to go around, bones to turn into broth and skin to be worn when tanned properly. You see, society on Geta isn't really familiar with concepts like countries and is more or less divided and ruled by priest clans. These sit on top of the food pyramid and govern in their own fashion. Two of such clans novel concerns itself with are Kaiel and Mnankrei as they inevitably come to blows in a world that does not know the meaning of war. Or even weapons.

Our aforementioned family belongs to the former clan, who cull their children all year long and do not reserve cannibalism for famine which has earned them a certain sort of reputation, and they get a specific mandate from up top - they must forsake the current woman they were pursuing to be third-wife and instead marry an unknown, so-called Gentle Heretic, in a prelude move to the upcoming clan struggle as Kaiel leadership suspects Mnanekrei leadership may be causing a famine to up the food prices or extort higher "flesh tithe" from weaker clans. It's all part of the great global picture dealing with the fact Mnankrei have big ships and Kaiel are land-bound which limits trade capacity in comparison. If that sounds kinda dull that's probably because it starts off that way and takes a backseat before you get some basic know-how regarding how this madhouse operates. Let's just say that Gentle Heretic, herself opposing cannibalism and who may have an artifact concerning God in the Sky, a star denizens of Geta can see shinning bright, has a role to play. Only for Courtship Rite to backhand you across the room dropping a rather impressive revelation, one that seems to have been spoiled in most summaries I've read after the fact. Three brothers send their loudest and wanton to test the waters with their bride to be as well as expand Kaiel influence. One of the wives is sent with him to temper his fiery nature as they masquerade to hide overt meddling.

I realize I haven't exactly told you much about the book. That's because A) can't get into it without spoilers and B) it really IS more about the world itself and reader becoming accustomed to it. There are brief pieces of fiction opening every chapter that set the mood just right for my taste. People here adore their skin with decorative scars and tattoos, and as rare form of leather it is seldom abandoned. For a technologically agnostic nature of Geta important clans seem to have access to chemistry and genetics to a mental level of proficiency. What we would procure technologically they achieve through genetic tampering. Kaiel leader, for example, is called Prime Predictor and is chosen based on how accurate his "prophecies" were when observed years later. Of course, no good leader just waits for things to happen and always nudges with just enough force to set things in motion.

Entire thing is extremely bizarre and my only complaint is that romance probably takes a good 20% of the book. I lost count how many times everyone has sex almost like saying hello to one another or just sheer dynamics of a marriage five people can have and all the drama that entails when it goes wrong. Strong recommendation despite that, though. I was taken aback by how Kaiel clan interprets discoveries that could shake their entire belief system and seemingly temper it with wisdom. Then again out of all priest clans their shtick is bargaining.

Aww yeah, I'm back with a quickie. Only wish it was for a better game, but Divide is what we have so we'll make the best of it. It just so happens today is my last day off so who knows when I'll again have the time to pen a proper review. Checked out some additional demos on top of those I turned into earlier report and cleared up my wishlist even further. Wasn't the exact opposite supposed to happen?

I have learned two important lessons with this latest “saved by the bell” kind of intervention on behalf of Valve with Steam Game Festival (Summer Edition) bringing plenty of demos to try out – my wishlist needed some well-deserved pruning and there's an absolutely ridiculous number of RPGs out there, self-proclaimed or otherwise. Particularly in tactical domain. Making matters even worse I had more demos planned, but just gave up on writing summaries for quite a few of them. This is a nice way to raise awareness for all the indie projects out there, though. By the time this is getting posted there should still be few days left to try out your favorites.

In Multimedia related news I've knocked out another major anime show that has been on my mind since forever, but never had the time to sit down and watch properly. It did not disappoint. Now I'm just let wondering what to watch next.

Hyouge Mono ( Historical, Comedy, Drama, 2011, 39 episodes ) + ORIGINAL OPENING

How do you even begin talking about Hyouge Mono?

I guess if you really broke it down to bare bone essentials it would be about this 16th century eccentric samurai who's obsessively into art, tea ceremony-related paraphernalia specifically, who keeps making funny exaggerated faces whenever he comes across rare pieces as his samurai duties take him across various war campaigns. Needless to say that would be grossly simplifying a show that isn't afraid to question "must I choose between being a warrior or aesthete?" question and even make it fundamental to its narrative. Talking about story would probably be rather drab because it essentially follows history from a certain point before Nobunaga Oda was betrayed and killed, outcome he kinda laid his own bed for, to later on as his shadow looms large across Japan. It certainly helps if you're familiar with feudal Japanese history to a degree from other sources, like Samurai Warriors in my case, or it could be somewhat messy as names, titles and events are thrown at you without constant reminders you'd get in something like Legend of the Galactic Heroes or such. Character designs thankfully look distinct enough to be memorable as everything from bushy eyebrows and mustaches are not steered away from. Add to that fashion playing a very real role and after a while you'll recognize who's who at a glance. Seeing as HM falls firmly under "characters talking to great lengths" rather than being an action show this is certainly helpful.

Interwoven into all these historical battles and politicking between famous figures lies the idea of imperfection or simplicity which permeates the artistic and merchant circles. Or maybe it's the other way around and martial stuff is just background to aesthetes debating the nature of art, comparing famous pieces and what they want for the future of Japan's culture identity. It is impossible to separate the two because HM treats them as equal in somewhat overblown fashion where people would trade a castle for a famous tea cup masterpiece, for example. Battle for unification of the land is fought both with armies and whether currently popular imperfect art can surpass the influences of perfection from China and alike. There's a funny scene when a Korean ambassador wonders why Chief Adviser is serving him tea in an uneven and broken cup, taking it as an insult and thinking Japan is so poor they don't even have adequate pottery. Needless to say tea ceremony itself plays a big role in the show, but it's not really obsessively dissected the way you might expect it to be. It's more of a medium to get myriad of characters' ideals across, and speaking of which...

Man, these characters. With 39 episodes to work with and tons of people you'd think they'd just get a mention only to end up forgotten, but shocking amount stick around through the years as story advances. Our protagonist Furuta Sasuke starts out as funny comedic relief due to his, well, otaku aestheticism, and I'm glad to say this aspect persists and is definitive pillar of his character, but at the same time he is a serious samurai as befitting the period. I have rarely if ever seen such duality realized to this degree because neither is really played down for the sake of other. He's not even alone at it because many other characters in the show exhibit developments and layers upon layers that would shame main characters in lesser shows. This is further helped by the fact there is no overt villain present and even the darkest of antagonists are only human beings trying to fit their beliefs into a rigid social systems. Hell, at some point Sasuke himself is pushed to distant tertiary role as we follow bigger fish in their own struggles that still relate to protagonist's own. Journey of unifying Japan ensures there's more conflicts and additions to character roster to keep things fresh. It generally airs on stoic wisdom. We learn why people will not actually follow a genuinely just man, but will one who cheats to get what he wants. There are characters arcs spanning from the very beginning to end with show relying on you to pay attention and getting invested.

Amusingly appropriate to how it treats such subjective works of art I would wholeheartedly say Hyouge Mono is a masterpiece in its own right, but one that will sadly remain unapproachable to most anime audience due to its very subject. There are introspections about self-worth and ambitions alike here accompanying what it means to be a samurai constantly aware of your own place in the world while serving as subject to your lord in his whims and demands. I had many laughs with just as many somber moments as people knowingly make wrong decisions or just end up victims of circumstances. Featuring one of the most outstanding endings packing a real emotional punch to the gut from someone you'd least expect it.

First of all – I hope you're all doing well with this craziness everywhere.

Much to my own embarrassment I'm digging out the ancient Ongoing category I thought would never see the time of day again... making me realize I haven't updated that layout specifically in two years. This is for games I've played enough to make an impression, that weren't demos or such, but I don't think I have enough material for a review. Sometimes this may also be for effectively endless games. So all in all, a light update for you and at least there are no reviews to post on Steam this time.

I also got around to collecting some Multimedia stuff.

There's a funny story to Exit the Gungeon and how I acquired it. You see, I bought the newly released title couple of days ago as a mistake. I saw “Gungeon” in the title and since Enter the Gungeon is on my wishlist I just assumed that was it. It never crossed my mind devs put out a spin-off title. Not being one to ask for refunds I decided to give it a go... and so began my Days of Troubles™.

Turns out I'm pretty damn terrible at the game. Probably not helped by the fact this is one of those “long term projects” kind of titles where dying, restarting with new characters and getting better is simply part of the equation with replay in-built replay value, but lack of manual dexterity can be laid entirety at my feet in every other respect. Weird part is I kinda knew it was gonna turn out this way the moment I realized there's a vertical platforming element to a bullet hell. Maybe I'd fare better with a gamepad although I can't see how analog stick could replace the mouse for targeting accuracy. Story? Eh, it seems to continue right after Enter ended and now you have to escape the collapsing Gungeon. Along the way goddess Kaliber bestows a blessing upon you so your weapon randomly changes every ten seconds or so. You can imagine the RNG fun to be had along the way.

Non-lift periods are cooldowns between intense action and where you're liable to get items.

Hello Games should definitely be commended for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, even more so when you consider many, many developers would have rather taken the money and ran away with it, but unless you're already into what No Man's Sky is peddling I don't think that's really going be as important as it may seem.

What do I mean by that? Well, I can only speak for myself when I say I'm not exactly sold on “collect stuff so you can upgrade your gear so you can collect even more stuff faster” gameplay cycle game employs. Which becomes an issue because that's the framework upon which No Man's Sky is built. A lot of stuff has been added since launch and even some narrative, but that's not the selling point. It seems to be a bonus you uncover as you engage in former and explore/terraform/fight your way across the galaxy. Literally. This is also a kind of game where you wonder what more can developers add as they have more or less realized that (in)famous multiplayer feature promised at launch. There is fun to be had in occasionally jumping into the game before you're slowly pulled out as meeting basic needs to keep going piles on.

If having that third-person camera was a deal breaker it's been in the game for a while.

Kinda hard to believe last time I talked about ESO was in 2018. Also in an Ongoing update. Yet, here we are. A lot has changed in those two years with most notable additions two expansions further fleshing out the world. As of writing this I'm missing recently released Greymoor one, but that won't stop me.

On my own end very little has changed in that period, though. I even lapsed in logging for daily rewards and have only recently made an effort to try again. I created a new Necromancer character with whom I have yet to even get out of the [then] new Elsweyr tutorial area so that's a bust. As far as my old Sorcerer goes I've been spending my days just stealing from chests and pick-pocketing people wherever I can for no reason. I even put leveling aside, not that it matters much due to level scaling introduced with One Tamriel update, and just focused on fencing stolen goods for the gold. Can't say much about the performance update seeing as there's been no obvious change here. I really need to start playing ESO at least semi-casually if only for the stories.

Old staple of mixing different categories of armor is still in even if it looks silly. No reason why a spellcaster can't wear heavy armor.

Space Force ( Science Fiction, Comedy, Drama, 2020, 10 episodes ) + TRAILER

At a certain point, almost midway through or so, it actually becomes a drama about the newly formed Space Force with levity and humor, but journey to get there had to contend with shoehorning in a fictional take on modern politics and society that end up more detracting to overall package than adding. Basically, it has to constantly remind the audience Trump is seen as a crazy man who goes on Twitter tirades and even his opposition on the Left gets couple of characterizations. Best part is you have Carell taking the reins as a great comedic lead who has to deal with leadership as well as familial issues and is otherwise counterbalanced by snarkier Malkovich as his scientific counterpart. Their dynamic is great throughout, not to mention other characters I somehow ended up caring for more than I anticipated with their earlier introductions. Asian guy driving with a black woman and having a heated discussion about Fullmetal Alchemist came out of nowhere, for example. For all of my complaining about earlier references to real life politics, political figures and progressive bullshit, I rather liked how modern day grounded show felt otherwise in relatability. US space program being constantly one upped by other nations and pushing forward with more projects with comedic overtones as they content with espionage, oversight pressure, etc ended up being quite entertaining once it got rolling. That's also coming from someone who considered dropping the show after first few episodes. I would also to extent a big MIDDLE FINGER to Netflix for their cliffhanger endings in what is obviously just the first part of the planned script.

Moyashimon ( Comedy, Drama, 2007, 11 episodes ) + OPENING

Here we have Moyashimon, story about a college freshmen Tadayasu Sawaki who can see microbes with his naked eye and even communicate with them... or rather they communicate with him via their cutesy anthropomorphic forms. To make matters interesting he decides to leave his hometown to attend Tokyo's Agricultural University with a childhood friend Kei to expand their horizons seeing as they're heirs to yeast and sake makes respectively. What follows is equal part comedy and lessons about microbes. Former mainly comes from show's support cast, mainly featuring a pair of bumbling seniors and leather-bound assistant with her brusque attitude, but I was surprised by how Moyashimon actually makes an effort to explain the way this unique power could be used in research environment as it gradually expands the cast along the way for additional dynamics. Let's just say that for all the college antics and trying to get girls I sure as hell learned out more about fermentation than I expected, particularly when it comes to sake. Final quarter or so dips a bit because they introduce drama, and a cross-dresser out of nowhere, but even with that comedic relief characters come off as rather grounded with real problems wondering what to do with their lives. Expect light slapstick comedy with some life lessons from the wise old professor when he's not busy brewing alcohol on college grounds. For research purposes, of course.

A Hunger Like Fire ( Horror, Drama, 2004, 284 pages ) + QUOTE

I could've sworn I read A Hunger Like Fire already, but considering it happens to be roleplaying game fiction there's a possibility I've read about it or characters were features in Vampire: the Requiem material proper. Being familiar with the source material this is one of those cases where I'm seeing the author translate game terminology or mechanics into fluff terms everywhere I look. What's it about? Well, it's about two newly made vampires coming from drastically different backgrounds as they go through their nights - one barely piecing together what's happening to him and other enjoying a position of privilege as she was made by Chicago's vampire Prince. Circumstances have them interact more and more towards the end of a brief story, but for the most part they each get their individual first person POV chapters so reader can see both sides of this vampire society. Real kicker is we also get a few chapters dealing with much better established elders engaging in plans within plans schemes that incidentally involve these new bloods seeing as everyone is looking for that leg up. Contrast between someone who has played the game for two centuries and really misses scented grease in his hair to keep the bugs away versus nightmare made manifest eating dogs in back alleys because he doesn't want to hurt anyone is rather compelling. Could have done without the cliffhanger just after having the antagonist's fate up in the air, though.

I'm back and it only too me two weeks this time. There was a different game in the pipeline for this update, but it being a JRPG put a stopper on that. Those tend to take a while. Devil's Hunt was my idea of taking it easy. A diversion, if you will. Not one to disappoint a review had to be written regardless of game quality. As if to freshen things up I also finally go through an overlooked anime series, though.

Enjoy the read and stay safe.

Mushishi ( Fantasy, Mystery, Drama, 2005, 26 episodes ) + TRAILER

I remember watching bits and pieces of it over the years, but I only recently saw Mushishi to completion.

Show's episodic anthology format lends itself well to watching random episodes yet seeing it as intended really made me realize what a gorgeous show it is. Not just from the visuals point of view, even though its picturesque landscapes with moody atmosphere absolutely deliver on that front, but more due to manner in which this entire package is presented. We follow Ginko, a Mushi-shi in semblance of the 18th-19th century Japan where backwards villages in the shadows of mountains are still aplenty while some technology has started to creep in, as he endlessly travels the countryside dealing with Mushi related problems. What are Mushi? This very question is raised about half dozen times in the show and definitive answer is never given, but they're a sort supernatural "basic life" on a different level from what we know. Mushi-shi are primarily scholars dealing with situations occurring when Mushi interact with the world; be it with humans, animals or just plain nature. It's given a folk beliefs and traditional Japanese legends outlook and how many seem to have come from unexplained Mushi that most people cannot see so strange things are just happening randomly as far as they know. For example, a young girl's voice causes rust to appear in her entire village or there's a secret price paid for a good harvest while everyone else is having a bad year. Lots of confused villagers making bad decisions out of superstition and refusal of good advice.

Major point Mushishi likes to lean on is that Mushi aren't really evil, they just do what they do because it's their incomprehensible nature which is the reason Mushi-shi have dedicated themselves to cataloging and understanding the unknown. Ginko himself is somewhat special in that he believes outright killing the cause is rarely a solution to problems and will endeavor toward amicable resolutions as he draws on his font of knowledge and huge box he carries around. While very few episodes are actually CENTERED on the protagonist I'd say he gets strong characterization over the course of the series - Ginko is someone who will always go out of his way to help if he can, almost in spite of his laid back personality. Show even sheds some light on backstory and some questions I wondered about. Like how someone traveling on foot keeps in touch and knows where to go urgently. Well, Mushi-shi found practical uses for all the varied Mushi out there. If there's a single defining characteristic of the show it's how, well, subdued and grounded it is. I assume this is the kind of thing that lead people to dismiss it as dull, but in my opinion it's simply not a spectacle meant to dazzle you but rather be a slow burn designed to entice you in with outlandish mysteries. Fact each episode is book ended by a brief summary of what happened after the fact, sometimes even months and years later, is that perfect cap I want on a story that anime almost never deliver on in this obsession to keep the status quo intact. Many are bittersweet, some tragic, but those just make the heartwarming endings stand out all the more for it.

As far as negatives go I'd say there's almost surreal level of sameface going on in a way I actually thought some were returning characters at first. You get used to it and based on what I've seen after the fact it's more or less staying true to manga, though. Trailer is also the very definition of misrepresentation and show is almost its exact tonal opposite. Definitely not a show for everyone, but I loved it.

Looking back on it I'm embarrassed to admit to myself just how long it took to cover Metro 2033 Redux with a proper review I wanted it to have. This is also where I'm unable to blame the virus craze, though. Here it is finally... and luckily for me I'm no completionist so one playthrough will suffice. Just to rub some salt into the wound I also had time to watch some anime and coincidentally they covered about 30 years of the industry.

You Are Under Arrest ( Comedy, Action, Drama, 1994, 4 episodes ) + OPENING

Saw You Are Under Arrest and I can definitely say they don't make anime like they used to anymore. Sure, it's a four-part OVA with more budget to go around which definitely shows in exquisite detail and animation, but I think it's more due to sheer effort that went into chase and vehicles scenes in general as well as entire team doing their research. That's not to say our two female police officer protagonists are slouches, though. Is it weird that I'm impressed by the fact anime could seamlessly merge and bounce between action, comedy and drama while integrating all three in equal measure? Maybe it goes back to how Natsumi and Miyuki aren't just color-coded archetypes and instead come off as genuine people in their own right with nuances to their personality. They take well mannered jabs at each other, but at the same time they're consummate professionals when it comes to their job. I can't help but imagine how in modern version they would be exaggerated comedic reliefs who somehow still held onto their jobs as it was pushed into the background to allow more hijinks. Not here. Second half of the OVA is somewhat weaker due to contrived drama otherwise light-hearted drama could have done without, though. Would recommend as relic of bygone days... and Yoriko is best girl.

Drifting Dragons ( Fantasy, Action, 2020, 12 episodes ) + TRAILER

Replace whales with dragons, whalers with drakers and Drifting Dragons is what you get as story soars high into airship territory. Story uses new recruit Takita as POV for the audience as she learns the ropes and play straight man to everyone's antics, but isn't limited to her alone because you really get to know what dozen or so crew members are about and some even get their own story bits for characterization's sake. Which is good because while draking makes for interesting premise it's the slice-of-life and what these people do between hunts which is really the main focus. Couple of story arcs are introduced and resolved to vary things up along the way as we see how and why they do what they do. I think characters themselves could have benefited from more background information, but you could argue they all left their old lives behind and that's the point. It would perhaps spice up their otherwise one-note nature, though. One more take I got from Drifting Dragons is I wish Japan would finally get over their notion that 20-ish frames-per-second looks good with 3D. CG used in the show ALMOST looks right, but it's this intentionally choppy animation that drags the entire affair down which is a shame because we have some pretty damn expressive characters, facially and body language-wise, compared to traditional approach where animators have to be content with only the barest of essentials. At the end of the day it feels like we got a look into regular lives of these drakers and there's no moral preaching about them being evil for what they do or anything.

Strait Jacket ( Science Fiction, Fantasy, Action, 2007, 3 episodes ) + TRAILER

Imagine if you will an alternate turn of the 20th century where magic was proven to be real and implement as a force alongside technology in every walk of life from medicine to engineering. This magic also brought forth a kind of curse where people who use it too much turn into body horror monsters dubbed Demons and lose their minds. Eventually so-called “Mold suits” were devised and using them guaranteed safe use of magic. That is, before your casting limit was reached or suit malfunctioned. Enter Sorcery Management Bureau and elite unit of Mold suit wielders who are called to action when Demons appear in kickass power armor knight suits and guns to channel their attack magic. They are called Strait Jackets and these are their stories. Sadly, I think setting and backstory, both of which OVA delivers in bare essentials, are the best part here while the actual “stoic outlaw doing the right thing regardless” is kinda worn out. Rayott Steinberg fits the role as unlicensed Tactical Sorceror at odds with SBA staff as we see three cases over the course of just as many episodes. There's personal drama involved and sort of predictable finale, but I still think Strait Jacket falls flat overall due to uninspired direction or possibly highly limited budget. Suits look great, but I think this may be a case where reading the LN in question may be a better choice due to a lot of elements simply left unexplored. Like the left-wing Ottoman terrorist group or how this variety of magic actually works, for example.