New month, new adventures~
Net-Juu no Susume ep. 8: FINALLY!!! But ok, early ep stuff out of the way first. So we learn a bit more about Yuta’s history and why he loves MMORPGs so much–he was adopted and bullied because of it, so games were an escape for him, and way back when, on another MMORPG, helping out Moriko’s character made him feel less lonely. So Moriko finally figures out who he is when they all make new characters for a day, and both Moriko and Yuta make new avatars that resemble their old ones from the previous MMORPG. At long last, they talk and flirt on the phone after figuring things out, but Yuta’s phone battery dies (WTF? How does anyone let that happen at home?) so they meet up IRL and they finally tell each other they’re Hayashi and Lily. Hooray! At long last! But the next episode preview says there might be some drama over that or something…argh, nothing can ever be simple. But yeah, I think Net-Juu is gonna be my fave anime of the season. It’s just so easy going and feel-good, the sorta thing I like these days.
Inuyashiki ep. 8: Urgh…This was kinda disappointing. As I expected the SWAT team guys kill Hiro’s girlfriend, setting him back on the path of destruction. Even Hiro’s powers couldn’t bring her back. What annoys me was that it was the same plot beat we saw earlier in the series–a few episodes ago, Hiro resolved not to kill, but went back to his evil ways when his mother committed suicide. Now, he resolved not to kill again, but went back to his evil ways when his girlfriend died. By the end of the episode, we see his girlfriend alive again, so it seems he did manage to heal her, but he’s still mad at the police, so he goes to a station and starts slaughtering them. Ugh. The other plot consists of a meteor about to strike the earth, and again, it seems very hasty and ill-conceived…We know Inuyashiki is gonna stop it, but still, the metepr just showed up now, in episode 8, with no foreshadowing whatsoever. Kinda lazy if you ask meh :p
Kekkai Sensen ep. 8: Not much to say about this one, but it was pretty fun. One of Leo’s friends, a skinny weak guy, makes a bargain with a villainous demon to get more power, and Leo himself has to help stop him. Since that villain is the size of a cell, and grants weenies like Leo’s friend increased power by increasing the size of their cells, the good guys need his super powerful eyes to find him! No real plot development, but as usual, some fun action by the end. A bit of character development, though…we get a better look at another one of Leo’s colleagues in Libra, a prisoner who turns out to actually have very civilized tastes in art (he’s a Cezanne fan). That was nifty 😀
Star’s still busy with a lot of stuff! I’mma help her out with some of it, maybe that’ll give her more time to work on Dragonar…
Got a bunch of games for the Steam autumn sale, and one of the was Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim. I marathoned and finished it last night, took me about 15 hours with 6 of those hours being grinding. It was released before Ys: Oath in Felghana, and its gameplay style of platforming and action set the stage for that game. Honestly, Felghana was better…Napishtim has a pretty standard Ys plot (Adol washes up on a beach, helps out the people he comes across and rescues a damsel in distress being forced to revive an ancient evil), but it lacks a lot of the features Felghana had, like a real magic system and a double jump function. Rather than a double jump. Napishtim has this ungainly “dash jump” function, which is really annoying to get the hang of. Also, a lot of the bosses are really, really frustrating, even when not playing Nightmare mode. For those of you better at action games than I am, this might not be so bad, but Felghana is much better.
I’ve also been playing Ys 7, and this is really fun. It’s on a different engine than Ys 6 and Felghana–complete 3d this time–but the gameplay is a joy! The plot is standard Ys–Adol and Dogi happen on a foreign kingdom (Altago this time, mentioned in VI) and help the locals with a monster outbreak/evil conspiracies, while rescuing damsels in distress. While the game and dialogue are generally kid friendly, there’s a lot of amusing winks and self-awareness, like how Dogi mentions how often Adol finds himself having to save the day XD Very fun. The only problems I had is that the playable kid characters are kinda annoying, especially their voices. But it’s rare to see a game with kid characters that aren’t annoying 😛
Also, in good news…Bloodstained update! 😀 Check it out:
Seems like there’ll be some nice customization and stuff. Looks good!
The Croning by Laird Barron. Oh man, this was great…I think Mr. Barron does Lovecraft better than Lovecraft himself did! This is such an expertly-crafted tale that I’m only going to provide a very vague summary, cause I don’t want to spoil things for anyone. It starts off with a retelling of the “Rumpelstiltskin” fairy tale that initially annoyed me because it seemed like one of those “grim and dark renditions of children’s stories!” that are so overdone these days. However, it ties in with the cosmic horror mythos Barron tries to create VERY well by the end. After that, we’re introduced to the main protagonist, Don Miller, and his wife Michelle. Both of them are academics but on a nice trip to Mexico, Don runs afoul of a strange cult, which shows up again when the story skips to the present day. Don, now an elderly man with two grown kids, is still madly in love with Michelle, but he fears his memory is going due to senility. As it turns out, the strange cult he witnessed so long ago has more to do with that than age, and his wife has more to do with that cult than he’d believe!
That’s as much of a spoiler-free summary as I can give ya. Aside from that, if you like horror you should really read this book. I said he did Lovecraft better than Lovecraft, and I meant it! Don and Michelle feel like real people and despite the intrusion of the monstrous cult, you really get a sense of how much they love each other. That’s one area where Barron outdoes Lovecraft, as one of the old master’s failings was the fact that all of his protagonists were pretty much the same guy (nondescript New England intellectuals prone to fainting) and very difficult to remember. His writing and descriptions are also top notch, while the prose isn’t as rich as Lovecraft’s, it’s very focused and the way it’s understated really adds to the feeling of subtle horror, where something is amiss underneath the surface but you can’t say what.
In terms of the plot, well, again, I’ll try not to say too much, but I’ll just say that the “Lovecraftian” appelation is very well chosen. Just like Lovecraft’s cults worshipped alien gods also worshipped by alien races and who will almost certainly end the world someday (Cthulu and his friends were worshipped by the Mi-Go and Innsmouth fishies, and they’ll all rise up someday and eat humanity), the cult in the Croning is also the same way. I think it’s not a spoiler to say that the cosmic deity in Barron’s book is called “Old Leech,” anyone reading this has probably heard of Barron’s “Old Leech Mythos,” also called his Pacific Northwest mythos. Anyways, Old Leech and his friends are similar and also equally cosmic in their unfathomable power and the inevitability of their victory, and those Gods also have a race of aliens serving them, the Children of Old Leech. However, I would say they’re even *more* evil than Cthulhu was, since Mr. Leech seems to take particular pleasure in harrying humanity. So yeah, in every sense (unfathomable alien gods, the looming destruction of Earth) Barron has told a Lovecraftian tale, but his deities are even scarier than Lovecraft’s! Very good work.
My main critique of this book is that it’s a very slow burn…after the intense horror of the first two chapters, it settles into a very (seemingly) sedate depiction of Mr. Miller and his married life, broken only by a few instances and episodes of unease, and only really picks back up at the end. I confess when I was 3/4ths of the way through the book I skipped forward to the last parts, because I was so eager to see the truth behind the cult! But that’s not much of a critique, more of a compliment to Mr. Barron, really, if he was so good at buildup that I literally couldn’t contain myself, haha. So yeah, definitely pick this up! I know I’mma check out his other books now.
I also read The Ritual by Adam Nevill. Essentially, 4 old friends have gone on a trip into the Scandanavian woods hoping to rekindle the camaderie they used to share, but when they get lost the stress drives them apart rather than together. Even worse, they find a brutally slaughtered animal hanging in the trees above, and soon figure out that some supernatural force seeks to send them to the same fate! That’s pretty much the first half of the book…
The second half involves one of the protagonists learning more about the true nature of the beast hunting him…as well as more about the strange people living in the woods, and their relationship to the beast. I’ll not spoil the ending except to say I was surprised, and it wasn’t as bleak as I expected, though not exactly “happy” either.
Anyways, the first half of the book is very good. Scary descriptions of the monster, a sense of unease as the characters encounter the old, old secrets hidden in this section of untouched forest, and most of all, a very perceptive depiction of their alienation from each other. Nevill deftly explores how and why four formerly close friends can grow apart over time, and the reader is led to feel sympathetic to all of them and their circumstances even as the guys themselves are at each other’s throats. But then we get to the second half and…well, it wasn’t what I was expecting. Again, no spoilers, but some “contemporary” issues, particularly involving the Scandanavian black metal culture, come to the fore. It wasn’t bad, I suppose, but it was so strange I couldn’t help but feel somewhat dissatisfied. So I gave it three stars, but people who are in the mood for surprises might give it four or even five.
Also checked out The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss. This little novel is about a couple and their children living in a sinister apartment complex where it seems some unnatural force is after the residents of the place, and that their two cute kids, angered at having their Halloween celebrations denied, are at the center of it all!
This was…alright, I suppose. The narrative framing device–an interview after the events of the story with the husband, and diaries from the wife–worked reasonably well, and the portrayal of their differing approaches to parenting is believable and affecting. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but the plotting was reasonably effective as well. The relationship of the couple’s children to the bizarre happenings around the apartments are slowly but steadily laid bare, culminating in a scary but ambiguous conclusion–I guess it’s up to the reader to decide how much of it was hallucinated by the narrator, how much of it was a non-supernatural crime, and how much of it actually had to do with demons and other supernatural Halloween-type spooks. I’m not especially fond of that sort of ambiguity, though, and the writing and characterization, while competent, aren’t as excellent as some of the other novels I’ve read recently. Thus, I’ll give it 3 stars, but other folks might find it a 4.
Grr, not much besides this entry…been quite busy recently. Hopefully next week will be better…
And that’s my feelings for this week, on to the next…