Living the Good Life, Episode 137 (July 27, 2019): Productivity boost as things heat up!

All right! This is the sorta week I like, friends. Very, very good indeed! The lowdown…

WATCHAN:

No jojo this week either! Was 37 really the last episode?! I find that hard to believe, but…well, I guess I just gotta keep an eye out. Anyways…

I finally watched all of a DVD set I got a while ago: Zone of the Enders, Dolores, i! I gotta be honest and get this straight-up outta the way first: This is one of the best anime I’ve seen in ages, and I think one of the very best mecha anime released in the past 20 years.

This is a sidestory to the Zone of the Enders videogames, which were highly-regarded giant robot action games released for the PS2 under the auspices of Hideo Kojima, the Metal Gear Solid guy, though the artist Yoji Shinkawa had more to do with ’em. But don’t worry, you needn’t have played the games to enjoy the series. Essentially, by the 22nd century, mankind has colonized Mars and set up space colonies near Jupiter, and the Earth government maintains control of its holdings via giant robots called LEVs. However, the Mars colonists (and others), who are called Enders, suffer discrimination from Earthlings, and have set up many types of independence movements, including one band of fanatical terrorists called BAHRAM, the antagonists of both the games and this series. BAHRAM has constructed giant robots called “Orbital Frames,” which are much more advanced than LEVs because they use a material called Metatron in their construction, which can be used to generate faster-than-light travel, produce nearly infinite energy, and so on.

The story centers around one such Orbital Frame with a super-advanced AI that gives it a personality of its own. Its name is Dolores, and in a stroke of bizarre luck, it falls into the hands of the last person you’d expect to play a role in the conflict between the Enders and the Earth. Somehow, a drunken space trucker named James Links, who’s been separated from his wife and whose children hate him, gets assigned to haul it to its destination. As you can imagine, a whole lot of shady characters want to get their hands on such an advanced piece of technology, ranging from the space mafia to the Earth military to the BAHRAM terrorists who built it in the first place, and James and his family get caught up in the chaos–the series involves them trying to survive, patch up their bonds, find out what happened to their family matriarch after she left James, and take care of Dolores herself, who has the personality of a sweet eight-year-old girl rather than anything you’d expect a terrifying war machine to possess!

As you can tell, James Links isn’t one of your typical anime protagonists, who are almost invariably teenage boys. That really exemplifies what’s best about this series–despite being a mecha anime, it avoids almost all of the standard plot and characterization tropes and produces something that’s both really original, really funny, and really uplifting. I won’t give out any serious spoilers, but watching James trying to reconnect with his kids is absolutely hilarious, and not only that, but it really hits you in the feels if you’ve ever wanted a closer relationship with your own dad–or your own kids, if you’re a dad yourself. This series hammers home both the importance of family bonds and the importance of focusing on common humanity, no matter where you are or where you’re from, and the last few episodes are really inspiring and will make you feel like making the world a better place because of it. And due to the focus on a middle-aged family man rather than a young teenager who hasn’t made a family of his own yet, the conflicts and character growths stand out from almost all the other mecha anime from the 2000s and indeed, most mecha anime *period.*

Now, there are a couple of missteps. The animation isn’t always great, and at one point the daughter falls for a shady guy in a romance I thought was kind of forced and rushed. But the sheer amount of heart and positivity in this series outweighs all of those minor concerns. This show made me laugh a whole lot and I think even made me a better person by the time I finished it! I can’t recommend it enough.

EATAN:

TIMAN:

Nope, still nothing, cause Star has a lot of other stuff to work on.

PLAYAN:

You could say this is more reading than anything else, but I saw a visual novel, The Dandelion Girl, for free on Steam and decided to check it out. It seems like it was made by some 4channers from /jp/. I’m more of an /m/ guy, but I gave it a look.

It’s…okay, and certainly worth reading for the price–at 0 dollars, it’s not like it costs much for the 2 hours it takes to read. It’s based off of the short story of the same name by Robert F. Young, so I can’t really say anything about it without spoiling both; suffice to say that both the original story and this one are pretty nice and romantic. There’s no tragic ending, rather a very nice one that satisfies the sci-fi part of it (time travel) quite well, and it’s pretty feel-good. My main complaint is that the art won’t exactly win any awards. However, again, for something you can get completely for free, I suppose you get what you pay for 😛 I recommend it.

READAN:

In the Company of Soldiers by Rick Atkinson. I actually got this book a looooong time ago, in 2004, but never read it before now. As you might be able to tell from the timeframe, it’s a description of how the Second Iraq War played out in the early 2000s written by a journalist who was embedded with the American generals. I thought it was reasonably good–energetically written, and a penetrating but sympathetic depiction of General Petraeus. I only have a couple of caveats: First, despite the subtitle, “A Chronicle of Combat,” there’s actually not much combat described first-hand in the book. Atkinson certainly suffered along with the troops in the miserable heat and dust of the Iraqi desert, and he has a very smart description of a helicopter attack that went bad, but he was never really under direct fire, the closest we get to that is at the end, when he and Petraeus get caught in an ambush as they’re nearing an objective, and in that case Mr. Atkinson describes the sounds and sensations around him as he’s hugging the ground. That’s not a bad thing, as he was just a journo rather than a soldier, but keep that in mind so you don’t get the wrong idea from “Chronicle of Combat.” Second, a couple of maps might have helped the text–there are some pictures in the middle, but a map of Najaf would have been very useful in figuring out where the soldiers were going and what the overall plan was. Otherwise, this was a solid read that gives you a good impression of how tough fighting in the desert really is and the mental toll that comes with leading men (and women) in such an environment.

WRITAN:

Nothing much this week, just a ton of readan!

So yeah, very productive! I got through a whole book like I wanted, while watching a lot of anime too! That bodes pretty well, if I could complete a whole book while watching so much anime, I think I’m gonna be able to complete many books (textbooks, namely) when I really buckle down and concentrate entirely on working, no anime or games. So it seems like I haven’t entirely lost all my study skills, despite it being years since I was in college, and a couple years since I beat grad school ;D

Though that does remind me…when college starts I’m gonna be mad busy. So from this date to August 26, my living the good life entries are probably gonna be closer to monk mode, just getting a ton of reading out of the way. Then in August, I’m going from living the good life to Gunlord’s College Saga, Second Ignition! Wish me luck when that comes around…until then, time for more chillin 😀

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