This desert life

My faux-Lenten retreat from the insidious snares of the online world has run into a few snags. Nothing apocalyptic but enough to besmirch the pure wall of restraint I was hoping to build. At least my few small indulgences were so replete with vestigial Catholic guilt that they didn’t absorb too much time. Which was the main thing I wanted to avoid.

Unfortunately this newly available time has been consumed by the oh so familiar combination of depression and insomnia. In between feeling sorry for myself and not sleeping (because it’s for babies) I didn’t really do much else. I played a little more Pillars of Eternity, but the more I think and discuss the reveal/twist in Act 4 the stupider it becomes so I think I’m done with the game until the expansion comes out which hopefully addresses some of the issues I brought up in my post on the game.

Despite my rage over the defaced copy of Excel Saga volume 2 I ended up with I pressed on (after finding a sub-par scanlation of those pages on-line) and finally read the entire thing. For those who are only familiar with the anime adaptation it may sound odd when I say that I only managed a few volumes a day as its pretty dense going. The anime is entirely its own thing, the manga is much more down to earth and while still comedic its a much darker and satirical kind of humour. I have to say after I bought the volumes I was missing I was struck with some serious buyers remorse, manga being rather expensive and me being rather broke. I think it was worth it, it was an interesting and engrossing read. I’m not sure if I’d re-read it (certainly not any time soon) as the mystery such as it is was the main appeal for me. I have mixed feelings on the final volume. Manga seems to have notoriously poor endings (and for once I don’t mean “Endings I don’t like”, I mean structurally flawed rubbish) and Excel’s ending certainly wasnt bad. It wrapped up a lot of stuff but at the same time some of the decisions in it felt very heavy-handed, in one way it was a happy ending and in another it wasnt. Not to the point where it would be classed as bittersweet, more that I’m conflicted over it.

The last volume was also pretty obtuse in places, I don’t think more clarity would have hurt it. I think the localisation effort may have had something to do with it as in one or two chapters it was more or less impossible to identify who was talking. Actually speaking of the translation, the translation notes at the end of each volume were interesting and there was clearly a lot of effort put into it. But at the same time it made some decisions which I generally find annoying. It didn’t translate the sound effects, instead referencing them in the back of the volume, as if someone is going to flip back and forth. It feels like a lazy way to avoid redrawing and generally annoys me. The decision to represent one of the characters local Japanese accents by translating it as “Northern English” (specifically out of Viz) grated as well. Though the most annoying thing was that (several of the main characters refer to each other with variations of Senpai in the original) they translated Senpai as Senior which just doesn’t sound right in English, I would have preferred they simply left it untranslated. But still, a solid sci-fi piece with a lot of interesting societal and political satire.

Now that the Winter/Spring anime season has finished I’ve been trying to gear myself up to watch some of it but I’ve been finding it hard going. So far I’ve watched Death Parade which I really enjoyed. Lots of nice psychological drama, ambivalent outcomes and characters and some touching pathos at the climax. The animation was also pretty high quality, as was the soundtrack (love the OP, especially how entirely out of sync it is with the show).

Unfortunately it remains a lone high point. A slight tangent, my anime “schedule” these days basically consists of using an anime chart (which has a picture and line or two summary) to pick through an upcoming season. If a show looks interesting I add it to my anidb watchlist. After a few weeks I check sites like Crymore (which is sort of useless due to lack of updates these days) to see which fansub group to go with and download an episode (and log it via anidb) to remind myself which group to go with. Then I forget it until a few months pass and the season and show ends. Then I download all the series’ that interested me. Unfortunately sometimes a two line summary and a picture doesn’t work out and the show is shit. This seems to be happening to an unprecedented degree with this season.

While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a genre piece simply being a genre piece, and I admittedly used to love them, either my enjoyment of “by the numbers” harem shows has faded or there’s a lot more shitty ones around these days. So far I have tried, and failed, to get into Absolute Duo (the budget for the animation in the first episode was so low I wondered why they bothered), Cross Ange (I might give this another go as I feel it could be a glorious mess), Juuou Mujin no Fafnir (this wasnt actually bad, just felt mind blowingly average) and Seiken Tsukai no World Break (while technically better than Absolute Duo I felt it was worse). Actually now that I listed them it doesnt seem like too many, maybe it was the fact they were all in a row that made it feel worse.

Not everything I watched was shite, as I said Death Parade was really good. I also enjoyed Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata / How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. It was quite clever and self-aware in a way that didn’t feel like it was being self-aware to pander to the viewer (or maybe it was and it was just very good at it). While it didn’t finish the storyline it left it in a good place so the season felt complete. At times the fan-service was a bit much, I don’t have a moral objection to fan service. However I don’t find it arousing so when there’s a lot of it (like there is in one or two episodes) it simply feels like its wasting time. Still, pretty enjoyable. One major caveat is, absolutely do not watch the “preview” episode first. It occurs chronologically after the end point of the series and would pretty much ruin most of the development in the series (so glad my spidey senses suggested I skip it until I’d watched the series). I also watched Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! / Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! which started out strong, the basic premise (high school boys forced into the role normally held by magical girls) was amusing and the first few episodes made good use of it. Unfortunately it never evolved and the same jokes episode after episode quickly grew stale. A pity really.

Oh and I read Amanchu! to unwind after Excel Saga. I could never get into Aria but I enjoyed Amanchu!, it’s a really nice slice of life series about friendship and the importance of enjoying life. Oh and I started reading Night Voices, Night Journeys, have to read an actual book with no pictures (and in this case its only available physically so it’s an actual actual book) I suppose. It’s very good so far. While distinctly Lovecraftian it feels fresh, sort of one step removed as it were. The book itself also feels lovely.

I’ve also been reading one or two RPG’s. As always I marvel that for a hobby I supposedly enjoy I spend so very little time actively playing it. I mean I’m certainly to blame to some extent, I’ve become the campaign equivalent of the boy who cried wolf. I really did want to run that D&D 5th edition campaign, but like with so many things the fact that we’re overly clever apes wasting time between birth and death robbed me of any impetus to get it off the ground. Also I’m lazy and putting together a campaign is time-consuming. I feel guilty enough about not getting anything done most days and getting stuff done for an RPG campaign always somehow makes me feel worse than getting nothing done. Which doesnt make a lot of sense I know. I need to get a job, if for nothing else then for a clear demarcation between what is work and leisure time so I can avoid self created mental traps like this. Who knows I may yet run that D&D 5th campaign, and then I’ll follow it up with that Eternal Lies campaign for Trail of Cthulhu, by which point the Dracula Dossier will be out for Nights Black Agents and I’ll move on to that. Hell maybe that Exalted 3rd edition Kickstarter might actually deliver something by that point (I mean its “only” nineteen months overdue at this point and I have lost any and all interest in it).

Apart from the unbearable lightness of being the fact that I know its basically impossible to get a long campaign going kills my interest in running a lot of RPG ideas that pop up. I was browsing through FFG’s new Star Wars game, the idea of a Jedi free Firefly-esque game of it does appeal. Having to buy its special dice does not. Lovely looking book though. Anyway this is getting a bit rambly and downbeat, time to draw it to a close (this is what happens without the clearly necessary release valve of random social network outpourings)

Listening to: Baader Meinhof - Baader Meinhof

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