I can’t believe it took me two years to finish Erased

I watched the first episode of Erased on Crunchyroll when it first aired in January 2016. I’m fucked to believe that it took me two years to continue watching. Not just because I liked what I saw and wanted to keep watching, but because I didn’t realize this series was already two years old. I wish I had an excuse for why it took me this long, like my dog would die if I watched episode two, but I don’t.

Erased, or Boku dake ga Inai Machi (The Town Without Me), is a 12-episode anime series based on a manga by Kei Sanbe (Kamiyadoro). It premiered during the Noitamina block on January 8, 2016. Directed by Tomohiko Ito, who’s been balls deep in Sword Art Online ever since, Erased was very successful when it came out. At points, it even stood next to One Piece in Crunchyroll’s popularity rankings.

This is first demonstrated when he prevents a little boy from being hit by a truck, and again when–with the help of his mom, Sachiko — they prevent a little girl from being abducted from a park.  Sachiko makes eye contact with the would-be kidnapper and they recognize each other. This reminds her of when Satoru was in fifth grade and three of his friends were kidnapped and murdered.

Convinced that the man she saw in the park was the killer from the past, Sachiko contacts…uh…you find out later in the show. But before she’s able to talk to anyone else, the mystery man kills her and frames the murder on Satoru. While running from the police, Revival sends Satoru back, presumably to prevent his mother’s death. However, this time he travels back to 1988, a few weeks before the first child’s body was found.

Erased does a lot of things right. The premise of going back in time to change the future isn’t original–even in anime–but the writer’s approach feels fresh. Satoru is ten years old again. This puts him in a complicated position. He knows what’s going to happen, but he doesn’t have the power to stop it.

Even if he knew who the killer was, it wouldn’t matter. They haven’t killed anyone yet. A child going to the police and saying, “This guy I know is about to kill three of my friends, but I have no way of proving it,” is not going to produce favorable results. These limitations are to the viewers benefit, because Satoru’s creativity in working around these handicaps makes for a compelling story.

This show’s biggest strength is its ability to keep people coming back. I can not imagine trying to watch this week-by-week. With little exception, every episode ends on a cliffhanger. I started where I left off, on episode two at 10pm; at 2am I was bargaining with myself so I could keep watching.

“If we get an Uber in the morning instead of taking the train, we can watch another episode and still get four hours of sleep. They have unlimited free coffee at work, so we’ll be fine.” It wasn’t until I finished the ninth episode, appropriately titled “Closure” that I could comfortably stop watching.

One thing that Erased does poorly–especially considering this show is in the mystery genre–is hide the secret identity of the killer. He’s in the opening credits for fuck’s sake! It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the show, but I had solved the mystery three episodes before the big reveal.

Part of this is because there aren’t many characters in the show. And that’s fair. If the killer was a complete stranger, it wouldn’t have had the same impact. Some fans theorize that Sanbe made it obvious on purpose as a reverse red herring. But that still doesn’t excuse the multiple “HEY LOOK AT ME; I’M THE KILLER” moments.

The end of the series has serious issues with pacing. They spend the  first nine episodes to prevent the first murder. It’s a satisfying conclusion to the story arc, but this means we only have three episodes to save the other two children, officially unmask the killer, and prevent Sachiko’s death.

So much care goes into crafting the first 3/4 of the series, it’s anyone’s guess what happened. Maybe Sanbe felt he’d written himself into a corner and didn’t know how to get out. Maybe he thought it would be boring to keep doing the same thing. I don’t think these episodes ruin the overall experience, but I do think the final confrontation could have been better executed.

I was also bothered by the fact that they never explain why Satoru experiences Revival. It’s fine. I get it. It was the only way to tell the story, and it would have been impossible to explain it in the context of the show. But it bothers me that it’s what triggered the narrative and it magically went away upon its resolution.

There’s also a live-action television series and a film. The series is on Netflix, and I watched the first two episodes. They were nearly identical to the anime, so I’m hesitant to continue watching. The film doesn’t have an official English release, but according to Kotaku, it has a crazy ending.

Despite its flaws, Erased is one of the better shows I’ve seen in years. If you haven’t checked it out, or if you’ve only seen the first episode, I strongly recommend watching it. But make sure you set aside a few hour because you aren’t going to able to watch just one episode.

Newsweek article about fans not understanding Rick and Morty ironically misses the point

As a rule, I try to avoid writing about topics unrelated to anime, manga, or video games. But when I read this article last night on Newsweek, I decided I would make an exception.

Written by Emily Gaudette, the story is about the February 25th launch of the Szechuan Sauce at McDonald’s. Sort of. What it actually is, is an opinion piece on the Rick and Morty fandom.

It’s hard to tell whether she’s a fan of the series or not. And that’s fine. Love it. Hate it. I don’t care. The problem I have is the assumptions that she makes about people that watch the show and the lack of fact-checking.

The thesis of her article is that Rick and Morty is profitable because its audience doesn’t understand the show.

“The problem was, a huge swath of the fanbase wasn’t really in on the joke. Instead of accepting the deeply flawed Rick as Harmon’s satirical take on himself—the writer has publicly battled with substance issues, his ego and depression—thousands of vulnerable fans began to follow Rick like a religious figure.”

I don’t fully understand what she’s trying to say here. Hyperbole aside, yes, some people do identify with Rick, and maybe that wasn’t the point of the series. But to make the claim that this was an elaborate way of Dan Harmon revealing to the world that he’s an asshole is a little nuts.

Even if that was true, and common knowledge, it wouldn’t change anything. This is hardly the first time people have enjoyed watching a show about despicable people; House and Always Sunny come to mind.

Emily also refers to Justin Roiland as an unknown voice actor prior to Rick and Morty. This seems a bit silly considering he was in several episodes of Gravity Falls and Adventure Time years before Rick and Morty came out.

She then spends an entire paragraph on how Adult Swim capitalizes on the fandom by making new merchandise every time a new episode airs. Besides the fact that this is a good business practice — let’s not forget that Adult Swim is a company, Rick and Morty is a project they invested in, and companies like to see returns on their investments — it’s also irrelevant because this article is ostensibly about Szechuan Sauce.

The episode the joke came from was aired April 1, 2017. McDonald’s held it’s Szechaun Sauce event October 7, 2017. Just over six months later! The article wrongly states that this happened weeks after the episode aired. The relaunch happened another five months later! That is not the same thing as releasing Pickle Rick shirt shortly after the episode airs. Not even close. Also, it wasn’t an officially endorsed event.

She also glosses over the fact that McDonald’s severely underestimated the popularity of the original promotion when they sent a mere 20 sauce packets to a handful of stores. Of course people were upset. Some took it too far, but that doesn’t make the fandom toxic.

When the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl this year, the fans literally set their own city on fire. Does that make football fans toxic. What about when people threatened to boycott Dorito’s for making a rainbow chip in support of the LGBT community?

People like to paint nerd culture as a group of weirdos that get too invested in their hobbies, but it’s no different than when people get invested in anything. The fandom isn’t toxic. People are toxic

Most people went to McDonald’s, found out the sauce sold out, and went home. I went to McDonald’s knowing that it was sold out, but I wanted to see the line for myself.

I’m really not sure why she wrote this article now. All she said was, “Rick and Morty is a show that makes money. The fans are crazy. Sauce exists.” This could have just as easily been posted back in October.

More than once, Gaudette says that we didn’t get the joke. That it was a dumb, one-off reference that never comes up again and that we’re making it into a bigger deal than it is. Are we, though? McDonald’s is the one that made it real. On their own. What did you expect? People weren’t going to check it out?

“The whole nasty PR Ouroboros has sealed itself, and a major corporation is profiting off the intellectual property of a different major corporation, all in the name of feeding petulant fans who didn’t get the joke.”

So…what IS the joke then, Emily?

Flyhunter Origins may only cost $7 on the Vita, but the self-reflecting it made me do is priceless

This article was originally published on Geek Party on December 25, 2014.

The last thing I expected to do when reviewing an “only okay” game about an intergalactic janitor/flyhunter was reflect on my life.

Flyhunter Origins is nothing special. The only thing it really does well is deliver on the visuals. And the company distributing the game, Ripstone, must know this, because every piece of copy I’ve read about it mentions the “top-class cutscene animation” and that someone from Pixar worked on it.

Because of the odd obsession with graphics that surrounds this game, I researched the team that worked on it. As expected, the Pixar connection checks out; however, the rest of the team is comprised mostly of animation graduates from Ex’pression College.

Reading about them made me think about my own career path.

I graduated college less than a year ago with a degree in audio post-production, and in that short time I’ve been lucky to work on a handful of independent films. Will any of those films kill it at the box office? Maybe, but most of them weren’t made with wide release in mind. Likewise, Flyhunter Origins is a low-cost portable title that most people will play on their phones.

The point I’m getting at is that when I’m hired to work on a film, I have two goals: Do the absolute best I can, and learn something from the experience. I’d like to believe the Flyhunter Origin team had a similar approach.

When I read about the people that worked on this game, I saw myself. If I was an animator fresh out of college, I would kill for an opportunity to work with someone from Pixar. Hell, I’d babysit their kids if it meant they’d look at my reel.

Does knowing this change my opinion of the game? No.

If I weren’t tasked with writing about this game, I would have stopped playing after a few levels — if not because of the repetitive and uninteresting (and sometimes frustrating) gameplay, then because of the multiple game-breaking glitches I encountered that forced me to restart levels. However, in the event that anyone from the team reads this, I want you to know that I’m cheering you on. And, for what it’s worth, the level design of the final stage is pretty cool.

Is the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening still relevant?

This article was originally published on Geek Party on October 30, 2014.

If it wasn’t for the fact that A Link Between Worlds was a perfect game, I would’ve given up on The Legend of Zelda.

I tried really hard to like Skyward Sword, I swear. Giving up on that game was like breaking up with a longtime girlfriend. I still found Skyward Sword attractive, but she was so boring that I often found myself texting Dark Souls every time we hung out.

And what’s the deal with people caring about Hyrule Warriors? Are you kidding me? Dynasty Warriors has always been a poor life decision, regardless of whether or not Ganondorf is a playable character.

Giving up on Zelda is not something I considered lightly. Zelda has played larger role in my life than any other franchise. It’s what made me a gamer. For over a decade, I purchased Nintendo consoles exclusively for Zelda. When I bought the GameCube, it wasn’t because they lowered the price to $99 — it was because it came with the Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition. The only reason I have a Wiimote Plus is because of Zelda.

I first contracted this disease when my grandma bought my sister a Game Boy for her birthday. It came bundled with Link’s Awakening, which was promptly handed off to me because she “got stuck.” Link’s Awakening was not the first time I enjoyed playing a video game, but it was the first time that I became truly engaged in one; Super Mario Bros. 3 is a classic, no doubt, but the story didn’t exactly evoke an emotional response in me.

This was the first time I actively searched for more information about a game, which was not an easy task considering the state of the Internet at the time. If I got stuck, I had to, like, talk to people at school (I know, gross). Long story short, I never gave my sister her Game Boy back.

One thing that makes Link’s Awakening (and A Link Between Worlds) different from a modern Zelda game is a metric a friend told me about called “Time-to-Sword.” It’s the time between starting a new game, and getting your sword. Historically, the lower the TTS, the more enjoyable the game is. Link’s Awakening’s TTS is less than five minutes. Skyward Sword has a TTS that’s closer to 45 minutes.

So would modern gamers enjoy Link’s Awakening? It’s hard to say.

The biggest obstacle is the presentation. The current generation is obsessed with HD graphics. The graphics in Link’s Awakening come in two colors — green and slightly less green. Sure, DX came out a few years later and added some more color, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a Game Boy game.

People probably also complain about how linear the game is, but those people can’t be helped.

Arcade Gamer Fubiki is weird but fun

Arcade Gamer Fubuki is a 4-episode OVA based on a manga by Mine Yoshizaki (Sgt. Frog). It was directed by Yuji Mutoh (Green Green) and released in America by Central Park Media (much to Justin Sevakis’ dismay). Anime News Network lists it as a spinoff of Game Center Arashi; however, it would be much more accurate to call it an epilogue fanfic.

When playing video games, Fubuki Sakuragasaki is a force to be reckoned with. At first she seems clumsy and meager, making amateur mistakes in her gaming. But when she unleashes her special attack, its time to give up — you’re already dead. Her special attack, of course, is showing you her underwear. More specifically, her Passion Panties.

Her abilities catch the attention of the evil Gulasic Group, who are hell bent on taking over the world. For no apparent reason, Fubuki stands in their way of doing this so they spend their time trying to destroy her. Where does Game Center Arashi fit in? He’s the one that gave her the Passion Panties, duh. The story is silly and predictable, but it gets the job done for a short OVA. There’s a beginning, middle, and an end, which is all I ask for from my anime.

It’s hard for me to hate an anime that concludes with a video game battle between [Space Adventure] Cobra and Violence Jack/Akuma. And there are plenty more video game references where that came from. It was like watching Comic Party: Revolution, except it didn’t suck. The only problem is if you don’t get the reference, you don’t get the joke. But even if all the tributes go over your head, you still get to see Fubuki play video games against a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The best part of the show is Mr. Mystery, a masked pro-wrestler that shows up at random points to give Fubuki gaming advice. He’s voiced by Dan Green in the dub, so whenever he was onscreen I pretended it was Yugi under the pink smiley-face mask. Even greater was that everything he said was totally ridiculous. It pains me to say the clip below is not from the dub, but it’s the best I could do on short notice.

There are a few things that I could have done without, namely the annoying perverted character. He doesn’t get much screen time, but when he does, its best to leave the room for a while and get a snack or something. There’s also the pointless bonus episode that focuses on all the female characters in bikini’s. It wouldn’t have bothered me as much if they would’ve at least animated it, but it’s just a camera panning over still shots to the pervert’s narration.

I find it strange that so many people dislike this show. Even Jellokun hated it, and he liked Dance in the Vampire Bund! Maybe it’s because Fubuki isn’t cute enough to masturbate to. Or it might be that the pervert gets his ass kicked, an indication that maybe the creator is using the fan-service as satire. Arcade Gamer Fubuki is not without its flaws, but I enjoyed watching it from start-to-finish and I’m unapologetic about having done so.