Monthly Archives:June 2014

No Game No Life

24 Jun , 2014,
Panther
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No Game No Life - Sora & Shiro

Our all-too-likely protagonists, Sora and Shiro. Siblings unrelated by blood, they represent the penultimate NEET gamer genome.

One of the stronger shows this season has been No Game No Life. By its name alone, it would have warranted at least a chance, but I would say that very few expected that a show which started strong actually got stronger. Indeed, it has gone past Knights of Sidonia to be the personal best of my spring season anime series. Unlike the previous post on Mahouka however, I agonized over what to actually say about this show, and then I realized – is there even a need? I merely need to show you what has caught my absolute attention for this show, and why I think it is well worth your time to watch and finish this series.

Some of the text in this post comes from my posts in my own personal Tumblr when I first wrote about the anime’s first episode. I believe they are worth reiterating here for emphasis.

The One True God, Tet. The very same one who brought the siblings to the world of Disboard because he lost to them at chess.

The One True God, Tet. The very same one who brought the siblings to the world of Disboard because he lost to them at chess.

No Game No Life, or Nogenora, the official Twitter hashtag for the show, has a rather generic-sounding synopsis. A pair of siblings, Sora and Shiro, are so good at gaming that even with cheats, no one can beat them. Known collectively as Kuuhaku (or Blank, in English), they have set records in games beyond the reach of others, but the reality is that they are both NEETs who have withdrawn from society. Into this background comes Tet, who challenges the siblings to a game of chess and loses. Using his divine powers, Tet brings them to Disboard, a world where everything is decided by games, and where murder, robbery and other similar crimes are not allowed.

Of course, in this world, magic also rules, and Sora and Shiro find themselves playing various kinds of games, starting out in the region where the Imanity, or humans, live. It is not just their fellow Imanity that they will face in the games to come, but also those who are able to use magic for their own benefit, and perhaps worse…

Sounds generic enough? Read on.

Stephanie Dola

Stephanie Dola, a major side character that assists Sora and Shiro in their quest…and also serves as one of the best comic relief characters this season.

At the very first episode, No Game No Life struck a deep chord within me when Sora puts reality in terms of a game. “The world is chaotic, unreasonable, and unfair. There is no way to know the rules or the goal, or even the genre, yet there are 7 billion people making whatever moves they want. The world is just a crappy game.” At the time, I wrote that:

This hits so close to home it hurts. It is also very true. But then again, is life also a game? This is but one of the many viewpoints with which to approach life. In the end, there is no one true viewpoint with which we can view life, because we all view our lives through our own subjectively colored lenses, and we will never know what another person is truly thinking, nor if the world was actually a gigantic game made by some bored omnipotent presence for (fun).

All is, indeed, not fun and games in life. Nor is it so even in Disboard. By allowing only games to decide everything, suddenly, the game is no longer something “fun” to play with, but a “battle” in which you might even have to stake your life on. Now that I think about it, this may even be an allusion to the way gaming has changed in the last decade or even less – many more people suddenly play to win, forgoing the old idea of “fun”, where you actually enjoy playing the game, for a newer concept of “winning is fun”. And when kids decide that paying to win is “fun” because it allows them to win…well, I digress, but you get the idea.

Disboard is, however, governed by a set of Ten Commandments. These Commandments are a good recurring theme throughout the anime, and are what determine how games can be started or played throughout the world of Disboard. This gets very important down the line, which you will be able to find out for yourself as you watch the series.

Clammy & Feel

Clammy Zell & Feel Nilvalen, Kuuhaku’s first real opponents. Yes they border on the yuri side of things.

You may assume that the games in No Game No Life would be rather uninteresting variations of what we might have. Chess, for example, was one of the games used in the series, and what could you do, really, to make such a game interesting?

You would be dead wrong.

Clammy and Feel, pictured above, used the concept of chess to make a different kind of game, one that strayed considerably away from the primary idea of chess, and used elf magic to insert a sort of “cheat” into the system. The game itself did not play out in the manner of chess, but more of a strategy game near the end. Further, the logic and means by which Sora and Shiro used to arrive at the solutions out of various situations, not just in the chess game but in others, add on to the flavor, variety, and most importantly, the realistic nature of the game itself. Kuuhaku not only knew how to play games, they also had the vast knowledge required to win a game before it starts. No game is ever fair, Sora argued in one of the episodes, because there is something called prior knowledge.

With regards to the cheating, one of the commandments mentioned that a game is only forfeited by a party if that party is exposed to be cheating during the game. In other words:

So according to the implications, this world is all about cheating in games without being found out. Even if that cheating meant making use of magic, apparently. There is a lot of possibly dark and shadowy stuff that might go on in games, and both Sora and Shiro are, of course, no stranger to such things.

This is perhaps what makes the anime interesting, and raises a good point – is it impossible to be good at games without cheating at something? The “cheat” might not be a tangible aspect of the game – we often hear gamers say “Koreans are automatically broken at gaming” (true almost half the time or more anyway). Is it something in their culture, something in their genes, or something else entirely? That is what the anime here seems to call into question – the concept of “cheating” as we look at it in our world. I like this particular point of view as a gamer, and I hope they expand on it a little more later on.

Jibril

Jibril, a character that first appeared in episode 6, is like the icing on top of an already delicious cake, but managing to somehow be the most delicious part of them all added last.

The knowledge that went into a game’s workings as well as how to play the game according to the different variations used in the anime series itself also lends a whole lot of charm. In episode 6, Jibril the Flugel, pictured above, made her appearance. As a weapon created to kill, she now held knowledge as dear to her, as much as her life. Sora challenged her to a game in order to win her abilities and the library she owned over to his side, and the game they played was Materialization Shiritori (see Wiki link regarding what shiritori is). One of the rules was that they could use words in whatever language so long as either party understood it, and Sora used it to immediately bring a hydrogen bomb first when he started.

The best part about this entire game was the completely well-meshed parts of both science and humor. Yes, there is a whole lot of anime humor to be had in this series, nothing that you would not have seen before, but the way they did it using references to other games and anime (Doraemon, for example, was referenced rather directly) is more than just admirable, bordering perhaps on sheer genius. Yet each game does not only have its funny parts, it also has its logical parts that the creator of the series has clearly done a lot of research on. As a fellow writer, I understand that anything you wish to write on requires research beforehand in order to write adequately about the subject, or you risk being called out for saying the wrong things. So when it comes science fiction or fantasy shows like this one, there is clearly quite a bit to be done with regards to studying up on the topic areas the writer would write on.

Shiro, Sora & Jibril

Jibril’s thirst for new knowledge thanks to the arrival of the outsiders Sora and Shiro sometimes makes her break out in a panting sequence. Voiced by Tamura Yukari, it may be Yukarin’s best work for me to date.

What I did not expect was to actually learn more from an anime series than I would think about taking away from it. Sora used the physics of the very small (collectively known as quantum physics) in his ultimate triumph over Jibril, calling into effect the result of his vast knowledge gleamed from reading widely just to be able to win at games. Specifically, Coulomb’s Force was something I never read about, and the result of the disappearance of this force brings about something even bigger than a supernova, a variation called the hypernova. This was the first time I heard about a hypernova, and I have read up on astronomy and dabbled in a little bit of basic astrophysics before, so this came completely as a great surprise. I never knew there was something even more powerful than the normal supernova. Who says you cannot learn things from anime?

This perfect blend of the serious and light-hearted sides of playing games, along with the deductions that each side in a game used to get their own advantage over the other, has resulted in a really strong anime series that has broken the norm. Even as it brings out the humor you often see in anime, it also manages to slip in a lot of critical thinking, reasoning and other kinds of skills you would definitely need not only in games, but also in real life. It goes to show that games are not just for “fun” sometimes, but even so, Kuuhaku manages to have a lot of fun in thinking through their opponents’ moves and winning with style, oftentimes in really close games. “Fun” is a secondary effect, and the people of Disboard are obviously short on it since the only real entertainment, games, has been made into a competitive arena.

Jibril

No Jibril No Life

Unfortunately, No Game No Life was only slated for 12 episodes. The last episode will air Wednesday night in Japan, and it will be an awesome finale to be sure. I am more than content to let it end on this note, but there is definitely a lot of awesome potential to be used for a second season, and I hope the series gets one. For now, I shall enjoy whatever remaining references it might have to give, both physical and mental action, and the game’s finale as it winds down to the very last climax of this season in what was surely among the better, if not the best, anime series of spring 2014.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Nanda Collection World Tour 2014

22 Jun , 2014,
Edric
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Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, former fashion blogger, DokiDoki fan and the international symbol of ‘Kawaii’, brings Harajuku to Singapore for the second time with her latest “Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Nanda Collection World Tour 2014” on June 21st, 2014 at The Star Theatre.

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Fans turned up dressed in various outfits from Cosplay, lolita and Pamyu Pamyu inspired dress code.

As the lights dimmed, anxious fans who had been waiting for more than an hour, whipped out their light sticks and exploded in cheers when Pamyu Pamyu, dressed in her unique Harajuku sub-culture inspired attire, began her performance with the catchy tunes of “Invader Invader”, her 6th single released in March, 2013.

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“Hello everybody,” screamed Pamyu Pamyu in English, “this is my second live in Singapore.”  causing more squeals from the fans. She talks about the various places she visited in Singapore. “Singapore is very very hot”, she commented as the audience roared with laughter.

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The highlight of the evening began after the interval where the audience were entertained by a mascot bunny. Pamyu Pamyu performed her recent releases from her Nanda Collection which includes “Mottai Night Land” and “Yume no Hajima Ring Ring”. Each performance was accompanied by an energetic and well executed choreographed dance which includes a mascot teddy bear for one track. We really have to hand it to Pamyu Pamyu and her dancers for pulling off the concert effortlessly.

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The night ended on a high note as Pamyu Pamyu performed her classic hits including “PonPonPon” and “Fashion Monster”.  Pamyu Pamyu may (yet) be the next queen of J-Pop, but, her over-the-top, cutesy and often thought provoking music is here to stay. Her concert definitely left fans craving for more!

This coverage is made possible thanks to Sozo, the organizer for Anime Festival Asia and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

Guest DJs and Artists announced for STGCC

12 Jun , 2014,
Crimson
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Be prepared to be wowed this year, as STGCC returns with fresh content and personalities set to appeal to pop-culture fans.

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Images courtesy of: Singapore Toy, Games and Comic Convention 2014.

In a press release yesterday, Reed Exhibitions announced three renowned DJs from Japan – Inu, D.watt and sasakure.UK, who will be spinning the latest hits from popular Japanese games and anime at a one-of-a-kind STGCC DJ Night. Fans can expect to be wowed by a combination of anime music, Touhou, and Vocaloid riffs for sure.

Additionally, three multi-talented artists, including one of our personal favorites – Humberto Ramos, who is best known for his anime style approach to Western comics such as Marvel’s Spiderman, The Runaways and several creator owned series, Alex Solis, the father of “The Famous Chunkies” featuring oversized superheroes, and Simone Legno, the creator of the popular tokidoki brand.

STGCC 2014 will take place on the 6th and 7th of September at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Marina Bay Sands, and STGCC tickets are up for grabs now at $19 for a one-day pass and $25 for a two-day pass from selected authorised retailers.

Be sure to check out the official STGCC page for ticketing information, and don’t forget to follow them on Facebook for more updates!

A Look at Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei (The Irregular at Magic High School)

11 Jun , 2014,
Panther
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Mahouka - Shiba Siblings 01

The Shiba siblings, Tatsuya and Miyuki.

A recent anime that has been turning heads since it started has a small mouthful of a title – Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, or in English, the Irregular at Magic High School. Commonly referred to simply as “Mahouka“, the anime has been drawing both good and bad reviews since it began in the spring season of this year. Exactly what about it might cause someone to dislike it so, and others to like it so? Before we begin to talk about that however, let’s have a little background information. All images used in this post are from Episode 7.

Read More…

Shopping at Akihabara

6 Jun , 2014,
Edric
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Akihabara, the holy ground for Otakus; a must visit for any true blue Otaku. Akihabara is well known for anime merchandises, electronics and exotic toys. Some establishments have several outlets along the same street selling different kinds of products.

Where to start?

Mandarake

mandarake

Mandarake sells everything Otaku. Figures, consoles, old manga, music CDs, cosplay stuff. The list goes on. The only item that isn’t second are Doujin-shi (they sell second hand Doujin-shi as well).

Besides the price, Mandarake is extremely honesty about the condition of their goods. The condition is clearly stated, using a grading system and notes describing the defects, on every Doujin-shi, Nintendo DS, Games, from it’s packaging, instruction booklet to the condition of the actual product. It is possible to find something in a mint condition at Mandarake.

If you’re not convinced, when buying a new Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita or something behind their glass cases, you could ask the staff to open the product to have a look. It not strange to find unopened set at second-hand price.

Mandarake at Akihabara is mostly staffed by Japanese speaking staff. They employ foreign students at their establishments, especially at Akihabara. If Nihon-go doesn’t work for you, try speaking English, slowly, clearly, and pray they start running for their Gaijin part-timer.

Start with Mandarake! Be warned, it is possible to spend an entire day rummaging their building at Akihabara for loot.

http://mandarake.co.jp

Comic Toranoana

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Manga is common in Japan, but Doujin-shi aren’t and not every establishment carry what you want. Comic Toranoana is one such establishment that specialize in helping Doujin circles sell their works to Otakus. You don’t have to rush for Comiket or other Doujin events to grab a Doujin-shi when you can buy them directly from Comic Toranoana.

Comic Toranoana have several shops along Akihabara, all of them caters for every fetish. Hentai materials are always at the highest levels. Remember to bring your passport if you want to buy anything NSFW, their staff will check for identification if they suspect you’re below 18.

Take it as a compliment if someone of the opposite gender asks for identification.

Other than Doujin-shi, they also have a collection of games, illustration books, manga.

http://www.toranoana.jp

IMG_1605NTPEKYellow Submarine

If TCG like Magic The Gathering, Weib Schwarz or Pokemon is what you seek, head down to Yellow Submarine. Not only an Otaku theme retailing figures and merchandises, they sell TCGs. TCG shops sells a lot of rare cards, prominently displayed on the cabinets.

Some outlets provide tables and chairs. If you’re really good with your Japanese, you could join their in house tournament or find someone who would gladly play a game or two with you.

On top of figures, merchandizes and TCGs, some of the outlets stock a huge range of model kits. Not only mecha, but tanks, battleships, guns, trains, including the various accessories to give them more bling.

Yellow Submarine also specialize in board gaming. Sadly, most of them are in Japanese. But, they sell weird dice like an extra large D20 to hurt your DM with.

http://www.yellowsubmarine.co.jp

Electronics Shops

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Other than the Otaku stuff, Akihabara is also the hardware zone in Tokyo. If you want to build your own customized PC, Gundam or your personal Dethcube, you will need to get the materials here. Laptops are expensive and often below specifications. On the other hand, peripherals, like keyboards and mice, are competitively priced.

Nothing moe here.

Traders

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Games, console, DVDs and Eroge. Traders is the place to go. They carry second-hand products. Mainly consoles and console games and gamepads. They are very honest about the condition of the products they sell. If you could master some words of Japanese, you could ask them to have a look at the product you want.

Trader’s selection of games range from localized western titles, PC games. Eroge are on the top floor.

http://www.e-trader.jp

IMG_1576NTPEKKimidore

Kimidore at Akihabara specialize in selling illustration books, A4 size folders and tapestries. Not just the normal run-of-the-mill ones, but beautifully illustrations by famous artist like Tony and CoffeeKizoku.

Kimidore is one shop you don’t want to miss if you are looking for something to fill up that empty space on your wall, or souvenir ideas for your friends back home.

It’s illustration books makes perfect coffee table books and they are not always available at second-hand shops.

If you’re an art collector, Kimidore sells paintings by famous illustrators — at a price.

Don’t miss the wall graffiti along the stairwell.

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http://ameblo.jp/kimidore-akihabara/

Mottainai Flea Market

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The Mottainai Flea market is always held outside UDX Building on selected weekends. At Akihabara, vendors sell their second figures, folders and plushies. If you’re on a mighty quest in search of epic loot at low prices, the Flea Market is the best place to start the weekend morning. They close by late afternoon or bad weather.

Check out their website to find out when they will organize their next Flea Market at Akihabara.

http://mottainai.info/fleama/schedule.php

Street Performers

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There’s no better way to end the evening than to find a cozy spot at Akihabara Station to listen to street performers singing to Anime music. They are not professionals or idols but damn, they do have good voices.

Some of them sell their own CDs. Many like Rinka, don’t, and the only payment is your appreciation and support.

Akihabara is generally for the guys, although they do carry materials fujoshi will love too. However, Ikebukuro is the true fujoshi playground and holy land of BL, and that’s coming up in our next article.