[Review] Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun

This game is phenomenal. It’s difficult to say when was the last time I played something of such quality. I’m not sure if I ever have.

In one line: Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun has design.

It’s something that doesn’t seem to exist in games anymore. Developers on one hand are selling RPGs saying “play your way!” and on the other hand are making automatically generated maps for “infinite replayability!”. We might not know how correct those statements actually are, but we know how empty they feel. Skyrim’s most popular playstyle is stealth archer because all things considered it’s the simplest way to fight the game’s mechanics by not even close, No Man’s Sky supposedly has some absurd number of planets but anyone who’s not kidding themselves knows the change from one planet to the next is both obvious and negligible. “You can do anything you want” is something only people who don’t haven’t paid any attention for the past ten years still believe.

In Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, you can’t do whatever you want, and there isn’t infinite replayability. But you can do quite a few exhilarating things, and for me it’ll be the first time I am going to replay a game for achievements and “better score”. If games were paintings, we’ve been sold a blank canvas and a few primary colors for so long we forgot what a piece of art really looked like. This game is a mural, and the 35$ I paid for it feels absolutely way too low for the greatness I’ve seen.

Each character has specific abilities, each mission is playable only to certain characters. Each character has certain strengths and weaknesses, and Mimimi’s amazing map design meets those strengths and weaknesses halfway to create an engaging experience that invites your mind to look into it further. If you want to not get sent back to your last save, you’re going to have to, and you’re going to have to do it constantly – there’s only 4 types of enemies (counting civilians), but in all 40 hours of my first playthrough I only encountered one situation where I was like “oh wait, I remember seeing this before”. That being said, I still had to say “what was the solution again?”, and it still came after trying something else completely ludicrous because I was at my wit’s end, before I forced myself to believe it was possible. “Not getting hit” is the baseline standard of the game; I never used the one-time-heal ability, and there was no need to because the quicksave/quickload really was really quick. But even then you have to think. There aren’t an infinite number of ways to play the game willy-nilly, there are a handful of ways which all require a lot thought about placements, timings, and surroundings. And boy does it feel good when you finally figure out where to start the break any particular system of guard vision cones and patrols.

And there’s usually more than one way to do it – including ways to avoid the guards entirely, if the badges of “Don’t kill anyone (except mission targets)” are to be believed. I find it hard to believe. I count two sections in the final mission only where I’m pretty certain there’s only one way to do it. But even then I’m not sure. In all but the first two missions, every level has two fair-sized chunks which you can basically ignore entirely in fulfilling the primary objectives, and for most of them I saw one of them as significantly more “reasonable” than the other. I didn’t use heal, and with a few painful exceptions I refrained from using the pistol, but there were a few times where I was using certain abilities quite a lot and I thought, “for people I think are noobs, the devs put in health kits, but since the speedrun badge is 20 minutes and I took 2 hours, this was probably the dev’s noob-friendly thing for me”.

The story is and ends as distinctly Japanese. The hijinks and wildy different and dorky characters portrayed by the official trailer and game description are, I am very, very happy to say, not anywhere to be found in the actual game. I had expected to have to put up with Borderlands / Big Bang Theory tier nonsense as a cost for a decent game at a decent price, but no, Mimimi did it all. They actually did it all. No Early Access, no Season Pass, no misleading gameplay trailers, free demo… except for maybe a hand of minor bugs (i.e. 5 or less), the trailer which actually doesn’t look as good as the game itself, and the same trailer’s portrayal of the characters as silly, they actually did it all. There’s a lot of games with fundamental problems which people defend as “but the publisher was meddling!”; this is one time where I think it’s legitimate. The story’s feel at any and every given minute is so vastly different from

“About This Game” on the store page::

The group is composed of very different personalities. Working together as a team seems impossible at first. Yet over the course of many missions, trust is won and friendships are made. The characters develop their own dynamic and each member will have to face their own personal demons.

that I can’t write it up as anything but meddling from sales and marketing thinking their pet focus groups know better. I won’t say the story isn’t generic, it’s not anything particularly special, but it’s good generic, and more importantly, it’s not Gearbox / Bioware generic.

I won’t go into the visuals or music, but suffice to say if they released an artbook and an OST and both were the same as the price of the game, I’d get both.

There’s a lot of care put into the game, from the big to the small. Yuki hums a catchy and endearing tune while she places her trap, which itself has a very satisfying sound when it clicks into place. When enemies fire their guns or call for help, there’s a split-second wave showing the radius of their sound and all the red exclamation points pop in at the same time. I didn’t like it when civilians pointed at me when they found me, but their whole package really made them feel like civilians. Roofs shine just the right amount at certain angles, the weather makes everything opaque just a little bit, and every color feels like it was chosen for its proper place. I have to wonder what I missed out on by not using health packs and not failing and alerting the guards more.

When the credits rolled I let it go while I checked my phone for a bit, until I realized I actually did want to know some names this time, at which point I thought “what if I could scroll up during the credits? why does it feel like, if anyone, it’d be these guys who’d have considered something like that?” And sure enough, they did. They ♥♥♥♥ing did. After 40 hours of suffering, quicksaving, thinking, and finally getting through, they just had to put a final smile on my face.

I can’t recommend this game enough.

Mimimi Production’s Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is outstanding in every respect.

Originally written December 13, 2016 in Steam

To 10 years ago

Without much reflection, the single most important consideration in terms of improvement to mental agility appears to be: “supposing this is true, what then?”

Contrast “but that’s wrong” and “why”, neither of which basically ever actually help anything. The former only works when you’re in power and probably isn’t optimal even then. The latter is only useful after-the-fact and is overhyped thanks to IFLS types, if you’re at all generally educated on your subject matter your initial judgement is going to be ~90% on the mark anyways; “why” is a self-inspection tool to grind out that last ~10%.

The second most important would be “Yeah nah go fuck yourself”.

Cutting Cards

In urban planning, a transit-oriented development (TOD) is a type of urban development that maximizes the amount of residential, business and leisure space within walking distance of public transport.

A TOD typically includes a central transit stop (such as a train station, or light rail or bus stop) surrounded by a high-density mixed-use area, with lower-density areas spreading out from this center. A TOD is also typically designed to be more walkable than other built-up areas, through using smaller block sizes and reducing the land area dedicated to automobiles. […]

One criticism of transit-oriented development is that it has the potential to spur gentrification in low-income areas. In some cases, TOD can raise the housing costs of formerly affordable neighborhoods, pushing low- and moderate-income residents farther away from jobs and transit. When this happens, TOD projects can disrupt low-income neighborhoods.

 

Commies are so full of their own shit they actually believe that more public transportation is worse for the poor. Or at least some of them do. Those that’d cite such a statement would. I’m not sure about those who wrote it though.

I really wonder how many statements like these aren’t actually made with the overt topic in mind. Or rather, in obverse, how many statements were made with a different intent in mind but got cited in a different way because words can mean different things if cut different ways.

Sometime recently some HK bureaucrat was asked why he chose an existing apartment block to be demolished for a new one, rather than choosing nearby land that was only being used to house rusting vehicles and equipment. His answer was “it’s easier to move people than to move stuff”. Cue days-long grilling and laughingstock by public opinion, his true position was obvious given the situation, but that sort of thing generally isn’t recorded for the purposes of academia, because there, ad hominem is bad, and if you use it you should feel bad, while they simultaneously also admit that sources are important, and “irreputable sources” exist. No such thing as a irreputable researcher though, of course. Nevermind that researchers only get money if they publish and only get big if they get cited.

But I probably shouldn’t talk too much about that while I’m linking Wikipedia.

Seiren vs Amagami: Tsuneki vs Haruka

It feels like a mediocre copy rather than a spiritual sequel.

I can’t even remember what Tsuneki’s first name is after four episodes, but I had Morishima Haruka engraved in my mind by the end of one. This goes beyond the type of romance each series is aiming for, the expected stuff is just missing.

Amagami’s protag got stood up two years before the story. In its first 47 seconds, Amagami plays it dramatically – the color scheme, the music, the angles. It’s not the most jaw-dropping thing ever, but it’s competent for a first minute. He gets there an hour early for the special day, finds out he gets stood up, and this is a memory from two years ago – Tachibana Junichi is established as a character who takes things seriously.

Seiren also opens with the protag’s impetus: 50 seconds on how he has no plan for his future. It uses the works to paint a somewhat light-hearted and humorous picture, but nothing particularly strong in any direction. He’s talking with a teacher about his Career Plans form, and she does most of the talking, even when he has other opinions. ??? Shoichi is established as a character who easily relinquishes control of situations to others.

Ah, it’s Kamita Shoichi. I watched four episodes, then the first 5 minutes again of Seiren before starting to write this, and then had to go back yet again to find his surname. I know his given is Shoichi because it’s said enough, strange that no one refers to him as Kamita? I wonder why. I’d have to look deeper into it. Then again I’ve watched over 20 episodes of Amagami so I don’t know how long it took me to remember Tachibana Junichi. For reference, “Kamita Shoichi” is shown on screen in the first second of Seiren as a written field on a form; the first instance of “Tachibana Junichi” occurs 5:05 in Amagami and is said by the protag’s best friend.

I don’t remember Seiren’s first arc’s love interest’s name either. I know she’s called Tsuneki. She’s called Tsuneki by the protag the whole time so I presume it’s her surname. She’s introduced in the third scene and makes her first appearance 3:50, and just like with Shoichi I had to see it three times and pay specific attention before I caught it: Tsuneki Hikari.

Just like Shoichi, her first scene involves her talking about what her career plans are. She asks two friends what their goals are, but doesn’t say anything about her own, not before our protagonist enters the conversation and changes the topic – by virtue of his being there, rather than anything he says. He does say something, but that’s not why he’s noticed. Tsuneki’s reveal is in three separate shots: first of her crossed legs, then of her back as she’s stretching, and then of her face. They have the slightest additional detail in their drawing, but beyond that it’s not particularly noticeable. The first piece of music not in the opening scene or opening song plays, and it’s lighthearted – and not particularly noticeable. It all feels matter-of-fact, and the song more attributed to “this event again” rather than “the introduction of the love interest”. The first powerful image related to her comes 4:53 with a noticeable sound effect; she was sitting on our protag’s desk and it left a butt-shaped mark. The protag looks up, and she is not shown. What’s shown isn’t relevant and never again becomes relevant, what’s important is 1) it wasn’t the love interest, and 2) it showed the the protag being embaressed and wishy-washy. It feels like a romance genre story would have another shot of the love interest as part of the reaction. That it didn’t made it feel like a different genre. There might be a payoff for what happened in a different arc, but it didn’t happen in this one.

Showing the protag being wishy-washy is okay. We’re told in this scene that Tsuneki was the runner-up to the “Santa contest”, which both due to other anime and the way they talk about it is made clear to be some kind of school idol competition, so that’s great, but it wasn’t emphasized at all. Again, all matter-of-fact. It didn’t hit me until two scenes later and her second appearance at 6:58 that I consider that idea to make its first real appearance: a crowded cafeteria due to a certain limited meal, but Tsuneki has her own table because of that contest. But the embaressment and wishy-washyness of the other scene had to do with the butt mark on the desk, not that she was sitting on the desk at all, or that he had to approach the group to ask her to get off his desk. All of that other stuff was just whatever. Which means that he doesn’t actually feel anything about talking or being close to one of the most popular girls in the school. This is said explicitly two scenes later 10:35 when the best friend asks how he feels about her; he says “I find her hard to deal with I guess? She keeps messing with me all the time […] It’s like she’s a different species than us.” Her next important scene she doesn’t appear in; around 15:00 the idea floated is that she’s going on a summer vacation with a guy that isn’t her boyfriend, this time there’s stronger lighting, stronger music, louder (mental) voice, and interruptions for tension. The scene after this she does appear in but is more important for the protagonists’s impetus than her image; she appears as a part-timer and he doesn’t want to be left behind, “It’s like she’s far ahead of me in every facet of life”. So he decides to go on a summer trip to a cram school. Then she disappears from 16:45 to 20:53 where he daydreams about her in a swimsuit. Then she actually appears in something looking like a swimsuit, in a way the audience recognizes as her, but he doesn’t (he thinks it’s a ghost).

So by the end of the first episode my impression is: Shoichi is a wishy-washy pervert, except for the part where his opinion of the most popular girl in school is that she’s bothersome. Tsuneki is popular and may or may not be going out with multiple guys, and works part-time somewhere.

The scenes before we get to the love interest are:

00:00~00:50
lighthearted music plays. bright, somewhat washed-out colors, with good lighting. protag is wishy-washy with a teacher talking about his future. almost all of the scene is closeups of expressions. both sit throughout the scene, mostly face-level shots. only the room is shown.

00:51~02:20
(opening sequence)

02:21~03:46
no music. episode title displays. bright shot of school’s open gate, then scene gets dark, very dark in contrast to the gate. a can drops out of a vending machine, a figure starts talking, can is thrown over to the protag. protag talks about the same thing with this figure. they are outside, inbetween buildings. a group of people walk by, they talk about the leader of the group a little bit, then back to studying and grades. figure turns out to be someone who is less wishy-washy and is better at a ceratin subject. both are standing throughout the scene, mostly chest-level shots.

03:47~
no music. name of school is shown. back to the brighter colors, but no noticeable lighting and nothing is highlighted. love interest is talking with her friends about their futures. she sits on a table, the others are standing facing her. protag appears briefly, shot changes to the back of love interest stretching, protag appears behind her.

04:13
lighthearted music plays. same lighting and coloring. first shot of the love interest’s face.

~05:10
four-way conversation continues in various directions. 04:44 is another shot of love interest’s face. 04:54 has sound effect along with the butt-mark fading away on the desk. closeup of protag’s reaction (red-faced). one of the girls looks disgusted with him, he gets flustered and starts whistling and looking in various directions (no whistling sound). music ends, scene ends.

The scenes before we get to the love interest in Amagami are:

00:47~00:50
dramatic music plays. dark, muddy colors. protagonist talks about being excited for the important date. he runs up a long flight of stairs to a park with a view overlooking a city. music crescendos, protagonist realizes he got stood up. states this was two years ago.

00:51~02:17
(opening sequence)

02:18~03:51
more normal colors, lighting is noticeable. some girl is preparing for school in her room, she jumps down the stairs, 2:36 we learn her brother’s not up yet, she marches back up. 2:41 dramatic music plays, dark colors, protagonist is dwelling over the memory in the first scene. 2:58 music stops, colors return, the girl is the protagonist’s sister, she just opened a door on a closet he’s sleeping in and is jumping around saying he’ll be late. Music starts, they argue some more, and fight over the door. A couple of close-ups of their expressions occur during this time. Shots of the protag’s room also occur during this time.

03:52~05:13
music continues. colors are brighter, lighting less noticeable. they are walking outside to school. 04:23 someone puts a hand on his shoulder and talks about walking to school with a beautiful girl. music ends, protag pretends not to know him, mr. hand pulls out a swimsuit model photobook, saying he was bringing it for his close, close friend. protag is all over it in both facial expression and body language, sound effect plays, he “suddenly” recognizes mr. hand is his best friend! 5:02 we learn the protag’s name. chest shots, face shots, then they walk off together into the distance.

05:14~
tranquil music plays. lighting is somewhat brighter. incline with various students walking. various characters get shown. protag and best friend continue talking about the book. 5:39 love interest’s name appears for the first time as best friend says it and points. pan-up of love interest and a friend walking from behind.

05:45
first shot of love interest’s face. lighting is a bit brighter.

05:47~
best friend sings her praises. protag is lovestruck.

05:53
sound effect plays: brighter colors, textured, pan-up still of love interest. music crescendos slightly, protag’s voice gets closer as he sings her praises.

06:02
second still in same style.

~06:07
school bell rings, still ends, protag and friend run up hill. episode title displays, music ends, scene changes.

By 6:07 in Amagami I understand a few things about the protag and like him enough to root for him, it’s clear who the love interest is, I like the love interest, and I’m rooting for the guy to see how he’s gonna get the girl. The best friend seems like an interesting guy, the little sister is adorable, and there seem to be a couple of other interesting characters that may (do) appear in the other arcs. There’s been shots and color schemes of various kinds, and characters feel alive.

By 5:10 in Seiren the only interesting shots that have appeared are of the protagonist’s face, the teacher’s face, the butt-mark, and the throwing of a drink from mr. smarter-than-the-protagonist to the protagonist. There’s a few more angles when showing the love interest’s legs and butt, By the end of the first episode I still wasn’t sure if Tsuneki or the teacher was supposed to be the love interest. I knew she was because I’d seen her in the promo art, but that’s not what the art itself told me. The protagonist does not feel strongly about anything, and I don’t feel strongly about him. I don’t care about any of the characters introduced. The love interest acts a bit spicy, but she’s not very interesting either.

I’d go through Amagami’s first several minutes in more detail, but this is already pretty long, and if I had to expand what I wrote above I’d have to expand quite a bit. In other words – I was only able to write so much about Seiren because other than what I wrote, not much happened, and it doesn’t make me feel like a lot of things happened. Amagami makes me feel like I’m missing things constantly. I really want to know the layout of the protagonist’s house. Of his room. Of his sister’s room. Who are all those characters I saw? How is he going to get the girl? I don’t feel interested in anything in Seiren except how he’s going to get the girl, but that’s because that’s what I came here for, not because the series itself made me interested. I mean, I guess I’m interested in whether he gets some with the teacher. But that room felt like a closed room, the vending machine open-air hallway felt like a closed room, and the classroom where we’re introduced to the love interest felt like a closed room. Amagami used the excuse of the protag’s sister waking him up to show a great shot of their house and snuck in a couple of details about his and her rooms. Walking to school is an excuse to show off different characters. Seiren does it here and there, but they’re few enough that it feels calculated in the mass of boring shots. Amagami feels like it does it in almost every shot, if not every shot, and multiple times per shot.

This sort of difference continues for the 4 episodes of screentime for each heroine’s arc.

I feel Junichi’s pain, I’m mesmerized by Haruka, it feels like any guy with just enough luck and enough of the right attitude at the right time could find and fall in love with a great girl and live a happy life. He wants her, he tries hard, with some luck and some time together, they get a dynamic going and eventually she pins her hopes on a relationship too. It’s dramatic and romantic.

I don’t care about Soichi and I barely care about Tsuneki. The rest of the arc isn’t about their relationship, though it does build during that time. It’s about the time they spend at the summer cram school, which happens to be at some resort in the mountains. Circumstances bring them closer together, but their dynamic doesn’t really change. There’s a lot of explicit commentary, other characters will talk about how they’re close, or how she made a meal for him, or how she’s wearing his clothes, and maybe there was a line about how he’s close with the most popular girl in the school, but between them they don’t really change. She’s mostly focused on escaping the cram school, and he’s focused on how hot she is, and on the cram school. Then in the last episode we find out the time she spent with him and a few others at the cram school made her think seriously about her future, and she says this to him, though he doesn’t reveal that it’s the same back. It’s a bit melancholic though, which I like, and his inability to say it fits his wishy-washyness, which I also like.

But Seiren unfortunately is not a 5CM/S. There’s no buildup. There’s no aspirations or dreams which are met, or aren’t met. Soichi doesn’t have any dream, throughout the story he only does things because he doesn’t want to be left behind. Tsuneki doesn’t seem to have any particular motivation at all, until partway through the third episode she suspects Soichi for ratting her out about her part-time work, which in turn led to her being sent to this cram school. There’s no other conflict. There’s a few gratuitious shots of her body, and we get to see and hear his thoughts and reactions, but he never acts on these, and she never notices. In the final episode we find out someone else ratted her out in some sidestory which barely registers, she gives it up real easy with the takeaway “nothing can stop a girl in love”. The primary conflict. Given away. Just like that. To something that hasn’t been developed at all. Which is fine too, this still isn’t the killing blow, the killing blow is when Soichi asks her out to the beach later and they have an underwater kiss. Why? Where did this come from? We know he has feelings, and we might’ve suspected she had feelings too, but the only times we see her not put on a facade in relation to Soichi is when he compliments her for her work ethic / cooking / side of her he doesn’t expect.

There’s one obvious point of escalation that happens beforehand when she asks if he’d like to see her in a bikini, and then we do, but that scene opens with her already in a bikini, from a distance, they’re talking for a bit, and we get a pan-up of *the protagonist* before getting a pan-up of her, more than 30 seconds after we first see her in it. And when we do get it, it’s not special. Same lighting, same color, etc. Contrast to Amagami where the first time we see Haruka in a bikini is a much brighter and more colorful close-up of her ass, then her tits, then a pan-up of her, before returning to a (normalized color/lighting) reaction shot of the protagonist, with someone making a big splash coming off the waterslide to punctuate it.

Turns out Tsuneki “never had confidence in any of [her] skills”, that was her takeaway from the summer trip, and now she wants to study overseas to be a cook, which was part of her duties at her part-time job. Which, now that I look for it in the second episode, was probably the first time she showed an embaressed face. But like everything else it was very matter-of-fact. No close-up. No special lighting. No special colors. So in the end the underwater kiss was more like a business kiss, and the whole thing a business relationship. Soichi got the confidence to go to the summer cram school from Tsuneki, Tsuneki got confidence to pursue cooking from Soichi, she kissed him, no confessions, she actually turned it down because “I don’t want to half-ass anything, so let’s keep things as they are”, -he agrees immediately-, they don’t have any meaningful communication after that, Soichi follows in her footsteps again by aiming to become a nutritionist or something, works at her old place part time, and then after a timeskip she comes back and they meet again.

They meet again and they’re just standing there. Her with a big backpack and travelwear, him with an apron behind a counter. Side shot.

Flat.

I suppose it’s better than nothing that they bothered to airbrush in some lighting and stuck a additional colorful details in for that shot.

I never got the feeling that they were both deeply in love, but, due to the circumstances of where each of them were in life, how he wasn’t particularly talented and had a lot to work on while she had this one chance that required her to go far away, that it was a love that couldn’t be. If that’s what it was, I’d have loved it. Tragedies are great. But that’s not what it was. I was told she was the most popular girl and she developed feelings for this guy she always picked on, but I never saw her being popular, I barely saw her develop feelings at all other than simply spending time with the guy which could literally be explained as entirely circumstantial, and she seemed to just drop hard feelings at will anyways. The only hard feelings she didn’t drop were her feelings for her future as a cook. Seiren doesn’t feel like a highschool romance story grappling with the difficulties of modern working life realities, it felt like highschool students anticipating working life realities with some gratuitious shots here and there and a kiss thrown in.

Seiren’s art is worse, its music is worse, these are less important, it’d still be worse than Amagami if all of those things switched. For some inexplicable reason the opening song gets cut off rather than a nice fade-out, which brings me to something important that I forgot, the above tragedy-type story isn’t hinted at at all in the OP or ED. The final shot of Amagami’s OP is a snowglobe of a Christmas tree, reminding us that the goal of the protagonist is to have a date in time for Christmas. The rest of its OP are shots of the girls either by themselves or doing everyday things at school. So, makes sense. What does Seiren’s OP depict? Close-ups of the girls, a close-up of a pair of legs, love interests with a few shots each establishing their general character, and then the girls playing in a field. There’s no trick being played here either, the lyrics paint about the same idea. The final two shots are someone dropping their cell phone and reaching out for someone, and kissing behind a curtain in a classroom. So, you’d think, that Seiren is supposed to be able realizing working life difficulties, then overcoming them.

I think Amagami made the right choice to open their omnibus with Haruka. The protagonist’s drive is for a date by Christmas, and what better goal than the school idol who doesn’t have any particular conflict or strong interest in anything, except by the end, the protagonist? If it started out with a couple of the other ones it almost certainly would’ve crashed and few people would be interested enough to watch the rest (which is terrible in terms of how anime gets funding), and the others even though doable would’ve required more work, since they all have activities which they’re associated with which require significant time investment. Haruka’s time investment is going to the library to find photobooks of puppies. It’s a romantic comedy with some drama, and Haruka is the ideal candidate.

I don’t know what Seiren’s about. It’s definitely not a comedy. It’s not really a romance. Not really a drama either. The protagonist here has no drive, but supposing it’s the one we’re told about, then Tsuneki isn’t really a good choice.

If the idea is that he needs to start taking his future seriously, and we’re trying to write a series where the thought of a future of work breaks apart budding love, the first girl should either be the class rep or a class rep type who has everything set in stone but finds out even for her there are things she can’t control:

The protagonist finds out about this summer cram session she’s going to so he decides to go to it too. Protagonist sucks, and sucks so bad publicly that she feels compelled to help him out privately, she finds out he’s absolutely atrocious in either skill level or work ethic, they talk about what it means to be productive and what it means to have something to live for. She trains him, short montage of progress and hijinks. Love interest gets a call, has to leave, cram session ends, summer ends, teacher explains empty desk, fall term is well underway before she gets back. She doesn’t look well. She doesn’t perform well. She loses public image after being called on one day and not having the answer. Protagonist pipes up to keep the lecture going, shot of the love interest not reacting to the situation. That day the protagonist finds her after school, he asks a lot of questions, hits the mark with one, she lashes out at him in public, he takes her hand and pulls her somewhere privately.

He pokes her some more, she spills the beans, worries about her future and what to live for, protagonist confesses his feelings, that he had nothing to live for, but now wants to live for her. Details about who initiates the kiss in what way depends on personality details about protagonist. Whoever initiates tries to move one step further, the other one breaks it off. They both come to the understanding that going further would cost both their futures. Since she’s still better than him academically he can’t help. It could end in various ways from here. The happiest way would be that she recovers enough to be good enough for her original plan rather than be a prepared ace, and he rapidly improves enough to join her on it.

What we get instead is a girl who’s also uncertain about her future, but doesn’t show it much, and is interested in the guy, doesn’t show that much either, and in the end gets her motivation from the guy, but she never finds out that she inspired him too. She has only the slightest of reasons to like this guy, her kiss doesn’t seem to mean much at all just like any of her other reactions, neither he nor she seems to feel too strongly about breaking it off, nor when meeting again by chance years later.

No close-ups, no lighting change, no music change, no voice change, no expression change, no body language.

I was originally suspect about Seiren because they’re only releasing half the planned heroines right now; 12 episodes for 3 love interests now and who knows when for the other 3. But now I think that whoever decided that made the right decision. I haven’t paid attention to the tastes of the anime market in particular, but I sure as hell wouldn’t buy DVDs of this.

I’m going to watch the rest of it eventually just because I am marginally interested, and because I’ve wanted to learn storywriting and this looks like a uniquely easy situation to learn it in: two professional versions, one a masterpiece and one which appears to be something even someone completely untrained could do better at.

Seiren: 3/8


Tsuneki Hikari, Seiren, first three face shots:
Morishima Haruka, Amagami SS, first three face shots:

I’ma start writing again.

Or at least using this place again, every once in a while.

I’m starting to get the idea that using Facebook for everything is a dumb idea. I need to have my own blog or website. Or at least, have a central place where I’d be pretty confident that it wouldn’t be taken down at random. Facebook isn’t the absolute worst at this, that’d be Twitter, but I already don’t use that because 140 characters and that interface only creates cancer, at least in English. But Facebook still isn’t that good, and I don’t like their interface much either. I’d like to have at least some control over the interface of something that’s presented as my image, to direct attention here or there as I desire, rather than having exactly the same as everyone else’s. That’d take some learning of coding, but I’ll deal with that later. WordPress is one of the few sites I have at least not heard of people’s stuff just randomly being taken down, and I prefer using something I’ve used before rather than something entirely new.

Gonna need to clean house a little bit. There’s a bunch of people on blogroll I don’t follow much closely anymore. The about page is terrible, the intro page’s content is neat but it’s too long and probably shouldn’t be called “intro”. The quotes are still pretty good, though today I could probably put together a much better one. I suppose I don’t mind too much my old posts too much; I remember going back around the time I graduated college or something and removed the really embaressing ones.

I have an anime review/comparison I’m working on at the moment. I’ve written a few reviews of anime and games after completing them these past few years, mostly just as an exercise for my head more than anyone to read them. I don’t know why I had a fetish for writing extremely long posts back in the day; I still prefer longer than “let’s write 500 words in 10-word paragraph-sentences and call it an article” garbage, but no more boners for wordcount or length. But those were always spread out everywhere; some went on MyAnimeList, some on Steam, some on Facebook, maybe a couple of other places I’ve forgotten.

Something I’ve learned a bit about the importance of is the importance of particular people. Having grown up on 4chan among other things I always had the idea that it didn’t really matter who did something as long as it was good – my little stint trying to get on the good graces of some blogger was purely a game to me about getting higher viewcount scores. Drawing, and something else which is more important but I’m forgetting, has taught me that if you want good stuff, you basically have to find good people. If it’s just trying to reach some goal once then sure, it doesn’t matter who does it. But if you’re trying to get something to be high quality over and over again for whatever reason, searching all of a population every time is a logistically terrible idea. I needed references for drawing; going back to the same great artists saved me tons of time. It’s not “big boobs” in particular I’m interested, or “character from a certain series”. I certainly am, but they need to be high quality. Searching the stack of the internet via “big boobs” rather than some artist name is basically a waste of time. It’s something that I needed to do when I didn’t pay attention at first, but if I don’t have to I won’t. People who’ve put out one great work tend to put out more great works than just “anybody at random”; the trending algorithms of big data have not changed this. I haven’t been naming the sources for each of my quotes on my quotes blog, but I’ve been keeping track mentally of where they’re coming from, because it’s true there too. I think it’s true everywhere.

There’s a couple of anime reviewers who are great, and a couple of game reviewers who are great, but I always wonder what their opinion on other things is. If their opinion continues to be quality then that’s the best, but if it’s not then that’d be interesting too; why do I think highly of their opinion in one place but not another? Am I wrong? Even if I decide I’m not, that’s also something to learn from because it was unexpected. The most common path is that I find out someone whose overall personality or taste I already didn’t like turns out to be a commie, but there’s other things too. People who are somewhat prickly or harsh with certain things usually have very interesting stories to tell.

I think the most boring is if there’s nothing at all. There’s always connections to other things but they’re trivial. Oh boy, big retail company or fast food chain posted a meme on twitter! Artist posted a fanart of a series/genre they’ve never touched before! Celebrity jumps on the political #hashtag hypetrain! Never anything detailed. Disclaimer: I don’t watch livestreams.

Well, we’ll see. I’ve had the idea of coding my own site for about a month so even if I don’t use this site regularly in the near future there’ll definitely be some site a bit further in the distance. I’ll get back to that anime review for now.

だから誰もが夢を見てる

Haven’t written in a long time because there was nothing really happening. There was learning drawing, drilling Japanese, and occasionally getting addicted to a videogame for between a day to a week every now and again, but nothing really worth writing about. I tried something smaller scale too, a more traditional diary to dump anything up from the most trivial thoughts into, but instead of going to facebook statuses I started talking to friends instead, so there was no real reason to use it. The physical moving of a pencil across paper didn’t really do much either; typing is simply too fast for that to compete. Sometimes though there are things that I feel should be recorded in a more permanent state, perhaps I should be opening a text file instead, or at the very least go back through my blog and make local copies of all currently existing entries, but maybe I’ll get around to that eventually.

At the end of my wits reading and wading through HR-ridden garbage I decided after a particular job application I would stop, and my plan turned to going to the local community college to take some random course, and using that to get student access to literally who knows what part-time jobs. It just so happened that particular application got me an interivew, and a little over a week after that interview I got sent a job offer. I had no reason to refuse or negotiate, it read part time engineer intern and was quite close to home all things considered. So I accepted and spent the next week waiting and at the end of my wits in anxious anticipation, because I thought I had completely fumbled my way through their short practical test, and would shortly be kicked back out once I did anything for any non-insignificant stretch of time.

It’s been two weeks since then. I’ve gotten paid and there’s been no obvious indications I’ve noticed that I am doing a poor job, if anything they’ve basically taught me everything I needed to know from ground up and continue to do so, even asking on the first day if I could do full time and maybe even overtime instead. There are some suspicions I have; on a response to a question before the interview I wrote what would supposedly/conventionally be seen as very desperate things, and my supervisor has demonstrated that his positivity is a skill and has other opinions while the person not in question isn’t around. But if that happens I’ll think about that then. While on company time I have only not worked while going to the bathroom or casual talk that someone else starts first, so I have done my part.

Also on the first day I thought I didn’t want to work for the rest of my life.

Not particularly in relation to the job I was doing, but any and all jobs that are 9-5 doing the same task following someone else’s HR and whatever policies and ultimately making money for who knows who. After getting home I didn’t want to do anything except eat and sleep – and then I’d wake up the next morning, eat, and go to work. It got somewhat better after the first two days because I actually started sleeping decently, and it got better this past second week, but I’m sure it’ll never get as good as “8 hours work, 8 hours sleep, 8 hours free time”. Maybe 3-4 hours free time at most. 3-4 hours of being half-awake, exhausted, and really not able to concentrate on much.

For what I’ve had I’ve had it pretty good. Parents aren’t divorced, house is owned, savings exist, no completely crippling mental or physical disabilities, significantly lower than average college loans… but I want more. It sounds completely stupid to just throw your hands up and say “well we’re not children anymore, it’s time to suck it up and deal with it” and just give a third (lose a half) of your life to make someone else money. Obviously you’re making yourself some money too but it’s not much by a long shot. I once read that if you can get hired for 100k you are actually worth at least 200k and if you can’t find a way to get that other 100k then that is your fault. I took it as true, but there’s no use believing something as true unless you give it some weight to “how true it is” with some experience to back it up. The company I work at is small enough so that when the thing I’m supposed to work on gets passed to me, I see the second half of the supply chain – exactly how much we’re selling the product for, and exactly how much the customer is paying. Offhandedly asking one time, I found out that after production costs, we (read: owner[s] of the company) sell it for double. And by the time it gets to the customer at retail price, the price doubles or triples another time, to ridiculous numbers you’d never find in any major store visited by commoners. One time as I couldn’t help but be aghast at the numbers at the numbers I was seeing, a co-worked pointed out on top of all that – “How much are you making off of that specific order?”. And then I pointed out back to him, everyone here is working on top of some previous engineers’ work; how much are *they* making off of *any* of these orders? Money, IP, and middlemen issues aside, in the end the relation between a company and its employee in California 2015 is far different from being part of any sort of thing close to a community or a family. Apparently there used to be something like company loyalty and pensions and some other things, but today we are much closer to cogs in a machine, or maybe more like a line of code in an ever-growing ever-bloating program.

The argument the other way is that while you are working you are also getting marketable skills and a reputation so if something ever happens you can always find other work. Which I can definitely see, having work experience definitely is different from anything you do in school, but I don’t see it as my fault at all that there was nothing around for me to do except go to college after highschool, and I got a decent enough vaguely above average GPA in MUH STEM degree so that pile of trash doesn’t work either, nor is it my fault that schools are shit and don’t really teach you things OR prepare you for work OR train any sort of skills whatsoever. I guess it’s my fault that I trusted my parents and trusted society so much? Granted I was probably going to arrive here eventually anyways; I am not so interested in what is claimed as I am in what is actually there. People say things because it either makes them money or makes them feel good. What does it matter if it is inconsistent with anything else from reality to morality to their own word?

As far as my opinion goes, I don’t feel good working when I don’t think I’m really doing anything of value, when I’m doing things that don’t really interest me much, when there’s who knows how many people up and down this supply chain that are making more money than they “should”, and when I basically have no time to myself afterwards. I’m aware money makes the world go round and money is always needed to do anything, and I believe truly that I should do something that’s productive to society, but I’m pretty damn sure that does not necessarily full-time work after having been employed to work essentially full-time. The products I am helping make are completely ridiculous markups to me, but lots of people out there apparently pay for these things, and this company and its competitors have managed, all nepotism and incestual corruption whatever aside that allowed them to survive and rise up against all the bigger supply chains, to actually get money by doing what it does. I think every job everywhere is basically along the same lines. The economy in the end is moving of resources/goods, and what determines what is a resource or good is who and how many are willing to pay for it. I agree that there’s a bunch of things ranging from unnecessary to worse-than-unnecessary-because-it-takes-up-resources-others-could-use to completely wrong morally and otherwise that are done and sold, but if the criteria for “productive working member of society” is “holding a job”, then those things are not in the equation.

A long time ago I wanted to believe that engineers “made things” so they had a more “productive” role than those who do HR or PR or marketing or whatever, but now I see that such roles could at least theoretically exist as productive roles, and theres probably some companies out there who do it all in a ratio I’d agree with, so I don’t know what “productive” really means in relation to society anymore except for money. Should I have figured this out after learning conservation of mass? Miners only take things from the ground, Fishers only take things from the sea, factory workers only put together things from miners while eating things from fishers, and the people who buy from those groups and sell to them and others are what arises out of division of labor because engineers could spend more time engineering and so on if someone else took care of accounting, calling, etc. Obviously, if someone is responsible for seeing and interpretting the overall picture they will have more information and more power, and they can change the distribution of tasks and money to a fair degree before others start noticing – if they ever notice. I have no voice or power whatsoever so there’s no real point for me to think too much more about it, but it seems fairly clear that “full time work” is a requirement and is equal to being a “productive member of society” is basically a farce. At the top of the supply networks allowing the people to have “full time work” are people who, whatever they do, don’t do full time work. Certainly they are doing useful and important things, but it is inarguable that CEO types (and those above them) who are on vacation in Hawaii or wherever half the time are not doing “full time work”. They’re not even doing “part time work”.

The idea that productive members of society are possible due to the existence of nonproductive members of society does not fit with any popular narrative.

It doesn’t give any weight to full-time work being a necessity for any sort of moral high ground. It also completely takes out any wind of the whole “dream job” or “make your passion your work” idea, and along with it all the other nonsense in that painting like living in some single bedroom apartment in the middle of some downtown urban city center, with very few things in it, with the things actually in it being of “minimalist design”, not knowing your neighbors names, or the faces of anyone in the next building over, and all of this alone with only your doctor and auto insurance agent and lawyer to call up and hand over money first to help you if you ever get into any trouble.

I understand why people want to “work” – they want to “do something”. For a year and a half I was not in school and had no job, and it was fun enough for a while, but then it started getting boring. Part of it was I never went anywhere, and I never really did anything really new, but even if I had those I would simply run into the problem a little bit later. I stopped playing videogames as a constant activity because they didn’t get me anything. In the moment they could be fun, but after I’m done, what’s left? I don’t really care about my winrate or progression. I like pretty places and beautiful women, and reading the opponent and pre-empting his moves is fun, but the former can be captured in images, and neither require a big chunk of the day every day. I wanted to do something that would both be fun and had something to show for at the end. Something I could build on and get better at over time. There are some other qualities I looked for, but those ones I think are the basics of what people mean when they say they really need to “work” and can’t really just “sit around doing nothing”. Everyone always needs money, so obviously if this one thing that they enjoyed doing also got them money, it’d be great – the original “dream job”, the etymology of “if you love your work, it isn’t work at all”.

The reason why I thought all this was because the first day and the second day and every day I come home from work, the first thing I think is “I don’t have enough time to draw today, and as long as I have a full-time job, I will not be able to have enough time to really draw”. I do what I can when I can, but the amount of energy I have after coming home from work isn’t enough to do much, and even if I moved it backwards and had my free time before work it still wouldn’t be much time to study. Even if my occupation was to draw, so long as it was 9-5 every day with set vacation dates and all that other stuff, it would not be enough time. Forced time is not interchangeable with having time. I’d certainly enjoy it a lot more, and in the modern sense it’d certainly be my “dream job”, but I don’t have a dream job. I dream to not have a job.

My dream would be something closer to working off commission or something irregular where I have more choice in time. It’s probably inevitable that there’d weeks or months on end where everything is harder, and money flow is less predictable, but I think that’s a fair price for returning the entire day to my disposal. You can get any number of dollars per hour, but you only ever get 24 hours in a day. There’s also the whole thing about “multitasking” – I don’t believe that people can truly do more than one thing at a time, but I also don’t believe that people can truly do anything that requires any brainpower for 8 hours at a time. Whenever I’m doing anything on my own time, every five~fifteen minutes I do something else for a minute or five. Anything I do for long periods of time only ever goes up to about three hours, then I have to stop and fuck around with something for a bit. And then some days I stop entirely, because why not. Granted the system makes allowances for this with random office chatter, lunch breaks, weekends, paid vacation days, and probably some other things I haven’t thought or heard of. Of course, those who control the systems basically get to do whatever they want, so it’s fine for them: my first week the CEO wasn’t around because they were on vacation, they’re back for these two weeks, then they’re off for another week for something, then they’re out for thanksgiving vacation, and then after they’re back for another week it’s off for christmas vacation. The owner, who isn’t the CEO, was literally said to only come by every blue moon or so to pick up his check.

I don’t think people get to those kinds of positions by working 9-5 doing shitty jobs and working their way up. As far as I’m concerned, it’s theoretically impossible. Working harder at your current position has no guaranteed bearing on what the tasks and responsibilities of the rank superior to *you* at *your* company, and then assuming that your work is actually better than everyone else’s both in your company and literally every other person on the planet whose name your superior is able to lay their eyes on, it has to both be recognized by *your* superior and be seen favorable (two separate items) in order to get a promotion, and even then you have to wait until the position superior to *you* at *your* company in order to fill it. And that process repeats every single step of the way up, until you reach the point at which the founders or owners or CEOs are around and there is no further way up, and they’re not about to just fucking hand it over to you. If you plan on living forever and not getting to be CEO until you’re 250 then sure why not, but then again if everyone could live forever then you wouldn’t even be able to get in in the first place because the entry level requirements are 150+ years experience, and even if you did, well, the guys at the top are immortal too, and you run into the same problem again.

There is no way out of a full time job by doing more of a full time job, until you die, or are close enough to death that savings are predicted to cover what you need plus margins until you die.

I guess it’s theoretically possible to only work a real high-paying full time job for a few years and then retire for the rest of your life if it paid that much money, but no one’s about to pay that much. A job like that certainly wouldn’t be found through any of the regular commoner channels.

Actually on the topic of regular channels the more I think and hear about them the less sense they make. The job I got I got through craigslist, my responses on it were odd, my interview was terrible, and as mentioned earlier I was fairly sure I failed the practical section. After asking I was apparently the second best candidate, the first being rejected due to immigration visa problems. How could there be people more terrible than me? Or rather, did I really fit the bill better than others? If that practical was a test in a freshman level class, or if any other part of the hiring process was done in a way that anywhere near reflected any of the ten thousand conflicting philosophies all claiming they’re right on google, I would’ve most certainly failed. It’s not impossible that I was the best candidate out of the ones they received applications from, but it was highly “irregular”. Then again the claim is that there are lots of jobs out there, just look at the title page of Indeed.com: “814,541 new jobs in the last 7 days”. If someone believes bullshit like that, they probably also believe the number thrown around on how many hot singles are looking for a cute date tonight on OKCupid. But it doesn’t stop there either, because there are actually people that believe Indeed and OKCupid, just like how there are people that actually buy the magazines and candy at the cashier. One day someone from the office came in and started talking about some football game? or something, and said a line something like “I wouldn’t pay 200 bucks for a ticket, and then there’s parking, and food, so like 400 dollars a head, I wouldn’t pay 400 dollars a head, for what like two to four hours of entertainment, just to see my team get their asses handed to them”. And the first thing I thought after hearing that line was, “I would pay 400 dollars a head to go to a game if my team wasn’t getting their asses handed to them”.

There are people out there who pay out the nose for every kind of thing imaginable, from football game tickets to the product I am currently being hired to help make. And there are people out there who believe every kind of thing imaginable. And they all say and think they’re right, and for most of them I think at least to a fair degree on some level, think it’s probably the only way to live. There’s also a shit ton of them these days that are saying things because it’d make them popular or get them connections or make them money. And if some of the more popular narratives are to be believed, most people don’t really think about this sort of thing at all, and believe what they’re told on TV or wherever instead.

If I got a job straight out of college I don’t think I would’ve thought about any of this for a very long time. All I ever really did with my time when I wasn’t in class or doing class-related things was basically only along the lines of videogames or masturbation. Every now and again I’d pick up something commonly recognized as a hobby for a while, like weightlifting, or cycling, or piano. I never really cared for school (except for a few courses here and there, but mostly only due to a few interesting ideas presented by specific teachers), but I was told it was required and going into engineering would get me a job and then eventually a wife would come along and a house and a family and then that’s what life is, and everyone of any vague trust said this, and I didn’t have a reason to question it, so I did it, and played and masturbated when I wasn’t doing it. If I got a job, even my “dream job”s at the time at SpaceX or something else, I would’ve just replaced school with that, and my life would not be too different. Maybe I would’ve bought more things for videogames or masturbation, probably continue going into/back into another transient hobby. I can’t say I won’t end up dropping drawing, but starting seriously learning something that I found fun and have always found fun, getting better at it after never having seen any improvement my whole life, having results I can show to people and they actually like when I’ve never had anything to show and never had anything people liked, all in a time period which was completely colored by failure and waiting for nothing and death, a long seemingly empty period bookended by a complete failure of a narrative on one end and now a continued deconstruction on another… if I do end up dropping drawing, it and its successors won’t be in the same category as the other “transient hobbies”.

Perhaps I would’ve thought of this much earlier if I didn’t go to school.

If I thought of it later, it probably would’ve been written off as “mid-life crisis”.

I think I’ll stop here for this time. I’ve gotten lost a handful of times already and I’ve written the main points and then a few I originally wanted text to remember for me – though I unfortunately forgot to weave the whole family/children/community/dynasty angle in there, probably because I talked about that earlier twice at length already with laxeris and sightless (then again I chose a more individual angle than a societal angle so it wouldn’t really have fit anyways). I’ll continue with the internship/job I have for now, at least until something big happens or they get rid of me. Since I got a job and since getting through interviews and hiring is the hardest part for me, I’ll stick around until I’m good enough to get recommendations or connections so I can come back to something that isn’t being a retail ~sales associate~ if I need to. Everything needs money, and I have no way to get money with drawing or anything else yet, so I’ll do work well and do it right for now. Only thing I have to do is spend my time drawing, getting good at drawing, and getting good at not just figuring out how to get money by drawing, but actually getting good at getting money by drawing.

This is the great challenge for now.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa i want to play more bideogaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaames
i also dont want to work full time the rest of my life
maybe i should make a compromise and take a nap