For those who might be interested, here you go:
That should link you to a nigh-exhaustive list of all the anime (and manga) I have watched and remembered to write down over the years. While I will continue to actually write reviews in the future, I feel like that list will be good enough for a lot of those shows, especially the older ones. In other words, if we have similar interests and you want some recommendations, just sort the list by Score and work your way down.
As far as the scoring system itself, I had an internal rubric going, but I’m realizing that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of my head. For example, is Serial Experiments Lain really a 9, above even Death Note? Well, Lain blew my mind back 2002 when I watched it, so that’s how I remember it. Chances are Lain would score lower if I rewatched it, or if I watched it for the first time after having seen Death Note. So just keep that in mind.
In light of that, it’s best to read my scores this way:
- 10-8: I really liked these shows, they made me feel something, go watch them.
- 7-6: These deserve a spot on your queue, even if you don’t watch them immediately.
- 5: It’s anime.
- 4-1: I wouldn’t bother.
So there you go. If you have a similar list you would like to share, or notice some glaring omissions in my anime resume, feel free to post them in the comments below. I prefer shows that are on CrunchyRoll, but I have access to FUNimation and even BakaMT.me for the older stuff.
Tablet Review: Asus Memo Pad 7
This past summer I was in the market for a tablet. Given how wide and deep the tablet market has gotten over the years, I figured I would go ahead and talk a little about what I was looking for and how I feel about my Asus Memo Pad 7 purchase, four months later.
Everyone will tell you that before you look at tablets, you should take a few minutes to outline what exactly you want to use it for. Do not skip this step. If you are looking for an eReader, getting an iPad is overkill. Chances are you will eventually start using the tablet for other things once you have it, but by that point you will have a better understanding of how one might fit your life, just in time for an upgrade.
My own goals were more temporary: I wanted a laptop replacement (mostly writing) for a series of vacations I was going on. But not an actual replacement laptop, mind you; I did not anticipate using it very much once I returned. My experience with the Nexus 4 phone also primed me to limit my choices to those that had microSD card slots. I had bought the smartphone to replace an old cell phone and iPod Touch with one device, but a 16gb limit basically meant I listened to the same music at work for nearly a year. I did not want to make a similar mistake again.
In the end, I went with the Asus Memo Pad 7, the latest version of which was released mere weeks before my July vacation. It was a ~$150 Android tablet with 16gb of space that nevertheless allows you to slot in a 64gb microSD card. It runs the latest Android software, has front and back cameras, and overall seems fast enough. My version is WiFi only.
These days I primarily use it as a musical device at work and as an eReader (including manga via Manga Rock) at home. During my vacation, I used a (wired!) rollable keyboard to write and it was technically powerful enough to run SNES/etc emulators if I hadn’t also purchased a PSP for that purpose. I absolutely feel that I got my money’s worth already from its performance on the two 14-hour flights I took, so it’s current extended use is pure bonus.
Are there some minor issues? Sure. As some reviews might have mentioned, the back is sloped weird, which sometimes makes reaching for the power/volume buttons a bit more awkward than strictly necessary. I also find it annoying that swiping down from the top brings up either the Settings menu or the Notification tray at random (when I always want the Notification tray). I have not investigated whether there is a setting I can change to fix this.
But, yeah, Asus Memo Pad 7. It is currently on Amazon for
$135 $124 and will likely drop further in time for Black Friday. It probably won’t replace your Apple Air or whatever, but I feel it’s an excellent, safe entry into the tablet market for neophytes like myself.
Micro-Reviews: Suzuka, Orange Marmalade, GE – Good Ending
Suzuka starts off as a fairly cliche high school romance manga, right down to the main male character transferring to Tokyo and living in an all-girl dorm/spa. In fact, you might recognize pretty much that exact premise right out of Love Hina. The curious thing about the manga though is that I was never really able to get a sense of whether it started this way intentionally, or if the gradual evolution of the story into something more meaningful was a happy accident. In either case, the character progression becomes much more interesting as time goes on, the harem and fanservice drops away, and many satisfying (and occasionally frustrating) developments are had by the end.
Basically, if you are looking for a more “realistic” romance manga along the same vein as A Town Where You Live, Suzuka is a good front-runner.
This is a Korean-style romance manga centering around high school girl Ma Ri, the “ice queen,” who actually happens to be a vampire in hiding. It has been 300 years since the last vampire has actually killed a human, but the discrimination and threat of exile is constant. In fact, her family has had to move around repeatedly any time people start to get suspicious, which has led to Ma Ri to make peace being alone forever. Despite her best efforts though, she is befriended by a group of girls and Jae Min, a boy who seemingly refuses to leave her alone once she accidentally nips his neck.
The pacing, art style, and overall quality of Orange Marmalade is extremely good. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I basically plowed through the entire series in a single day. It has angst, drama, and moments of extreme pathos, all without necessarily devolving into standard tropes. There are some vampiric shenanigans, but the story isn’t necessarily about vampires. In fact, beyond a few initial plot points, the vampire angle is more allegory than anything – and in that regard, it is extremely effective. I recommend it.
GE – Good Ending
GE – Good Ending is, as you might expect from the title, a high school romance manga. The story centers around Seiji Utsumi, a boy who has a crush on the tennis club president. Too scared to make a move and too unathletic to join the tennis club himself, he remains content with admiring her from afar. That is, until another tennis club member, Yuki Kurokawa, catches him peeking in the bushes, and seemingly makes it her duty to put them together.
While this manga starts out with the stereotypical dumbass protagonist who is incapable of doing anything, the beauty of GE is the character progression and, indeed, evolution. Characters grow up, pasts are revealed, feelings change, misunderstandings are had, and basically real shit occurs. In other words, the beginning of the manga bears little resemblance to what it eventually becomes, which is a rather compelling narrative. If romance manga is your genre, GE will definitely earn a spot on your list.
Micro Review: Usagi Drop (manga)
Usagi Drop is a straight-forward, endearing, and deeply compelling slice-of-life manga. It follows the travails of a 30-year old man named Daikichi whom notices a 6-year old girl wandering around his grandfather’s funeral. After asking family members, it appears that the girl, Rin, is actually his grandfather’s illegitimate daughter by an unknown mother, whom has all but abandoned Rin. As the relatives discuss putting Rin in foster care, Daikichi decides (almost on a whim) to take care of Rin himself.
As I mentioned above, this manga is slice-of-life and mainly focuses on the sort everyday considerations a 30-year old bachelor has to make in the context of raising a child. However, the scenes and scenarios presented are not being done solely for comedic effect or to evoke sympathy for Daikichi’s lost carefree lifestyle. Rather they are all the sort of mundane miracles of parenthood and self-discovery. And for any person interested in Japanese culture, Usagi Drop becomes an exceedingly intimate glimpse into everyday life over there (or at least an example thereof).
It is actually difficult for me to express exactly how amazing I feel Usagi Drop is. Perhaps it is because I am also a 30-year old bachelor without children that I identify so well with the primary character. But I feel like there is an undercurrent of brilliance to this manga that simply needs to be experienced. There is an inherent progression to the relationships amongst the characters, and as they grow up, you feel yourself grow up with them. I really cannot describe it any better than that.
Simply put, if you ever find yourself in need of an example of a manga to prove to someone that these aren’t all simply childish (or perverted) comic books, Usagi Drop is one that you should immediately feel comfortable offering.
Crossing the Streams
I am not going to talk about gaming today.
The Steam Summer Sale is in full swing, but all I am doing is buying games I am not going to play until months later. I mean, seriously, when am I going to play five Prince of Persia games? For $12.24, the answer is: probably someday at that price. The current routine is one farming circuit in Diablo 3, followed by probably ~2 hours of Battlefield 3, and capped off with a game I am actually trying to finish (Greed Inc). When I finish the latter, I will slot a new one in. Or maybe I will finally tire of one of the first two, and suddenly have 20+ free hours a week to rip through my growing collection.
By the way, it occurred to me that I have inexplicably not reviewed Fallout: New Vegas or Skyrim yet. Although I have plenty of material for both, I hate reviewing things months after I stopped playing them. Ergo, those are back on the table too. Eventually.
Anyway, what I really want to talk about is manga.
Cue exit stage left, if that is not your thing. Although if this isn’t your thing:
…then we can’t be friends anymore.
When I went on the beach vacation earlier this summer, I wanted to some light reading material. Not having a tablet or e-reader, I wondered if my iPod Touch would be enough to read something. Books? Kind of a pain. Manga? Surprisingly well. Rather than go through the hassle of uploading them as pictures and dealing with weird resolutions, I looked around for an app that did that. I found one: Manga Storm.
Like many apps, you can try it for free with an ad bar down at the bottom of the menu screen, or “unlock” it for $3.99 (which I recommend). It basically can search through five separate manga depositories – MangaFox, MangaReader.net, MangaEden, Batoto, and MangaHere – and pull anything in those catalogs for free. You can even download all the chapters, so you can read them later sans WiFi.
The really popular stuff like One Piece and Naruto cannot be accessed for some reason, but a ton of other quality manga can. My recent history includes:
- Berserk (current to Ch. 330)
- Gantz (current to Ch. 367)
- Chobits (complete)
- GTO (complete)
- Nausicaa (complete)
- Sekirei (current to Ch. 132)
- Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, e.g. YKK (complete)
By the way, if you never heard of YKK, I recommend it. It follows the deeply serene adventures of an android in the most relaxing post-apocalyptic setting I have ever seen. There is no violence or real drama, but it was pretty effective at evoking feelings of future-nostalgia. One of my favorite sections was this one:
I bring all this up for several reasons, but the biggest is as a means of soliciting manga recommendations. Do you guys have any? As my history list earlier hopefully demonstrates, I am fairly open-minded when it comes to the medium. All I am looking for is at least two of the following:
- Interesting plot.
- Good artwork.
Manga like Sekirei skews towards the ecchi side of things, but I have zero problems with that. The end-goal is filling in those empty minutes while waiting for a BF3 map to load or for me to get tired enough to actually sleep. Ordinary, or extraordinary; slice-of-life, or epic magnum opus; new, or old; juvenile high school comedy, or Grave of the Fireflies. I want them all, if they meet 2 of the 3 criteria. Or maybe even just one… I’m running out of Angry Birds: Rio levels and I’ll be damned if I go back to Tiny Tower.
P.S. Feel free to send an email (check the About page for the address) with your recommendations if you fear a comment will harm your gaming geek cred.