Monday, January 20, 2020

Anime Monday - Full Metal Panic!

Full Metal Panic! This is a series I've brought up time and time again here at NGR, and now I'm finally getting to properly cover it. It's one of my all time favorite series, and one I have a lot of fond memories from. I talked multiple friends into trying it out, actually sat down to watch it WITH them, and it's one I still come back to every now and then. Heck I even own the books digitally, and currently have the special edition collection on preorder. Yep I love the series, and I'm happy to see my random generator decide to let me cover it. That being said things weren't always this way, and honestly I almost dropped the thing back during episode one. So glad I didn't though. But anyway this is my story of how I discovered FMP, and what FMP is about.

The first time I heard about FMP was actually from a random guy online. Well, not random, but someone I have since lost contact with. His username was Abathee, and we met through an online Sonic fan game (any guesses?) We would eventually add each other on MSN and we would talk off and on. We lost contact years before I watched Full Metal Panic, but it was him who technically introduced me to the series. He was watching it at the time and would tell me about how good it was, but I just sorta blew him off each time. It seemed cool, but it didn't seem like it would be for me. (He failed to mention the giant robots and the comedy mixed in.) So I'd spend a few years or so never even considering watching it, and then Abathee vanished from my life.

Jump ahead to May of 2011 and my parents are asking me what I want for my birthday. I wasn't sure what to get for sure, but one day during a bad storm my cousin was over at my house looking at things online with me. (Remember the Joplin Tornado? This was a connected storm system to that.) During our search we came across this cool looking PS3 robot game called "Another Century's Episode R." At the time I needed more PS3 games, and this one was a crossover between multiple mecha anime series -- one of which being Code Geass! This was the main selling point for me, but seeing other series on the list had me interested in them as well. One of which being Full Metal Panic. I ended up having my mom order it for me that day, and afterwords I sat in wait hoping it would arrive on time. During those days of waiting is when I came across the newer "YouTube TV" and found Full Metal Panic had officially been uploaded by Funimation. So I started it.

It's funny, I wanted Another Century because of Code Geass, but after watching FMP it became my main focus. I loved that show, and I had so much fun playing as the main characters. I basically didn't touch any one else on the roster except for them! Despite already seeing the series to it's current end, it made me want to go back and rewatch -- so that's exactly what I did. But this time while bringing friends with me.

That summer was the summer of FMP for me. I watched it all the way through with one friend (Cat, who has helped out here at NGR multiple times in the past), only for us to then turn around and convince yet another friend to check it out (Nick, another fellow past NGR writer). Eventually I'd convince a few others to check it out as well (you know who you are!), and I'd discover many of my other friends had already seen it. It was strange, as it was really the first time I ran into this with an anime. Usually most shows I come across are only liked by a few people I know, but this time around it seemed like everyone enjoyed it. But why, just what made it so great? Well... There's a lot of reasons.

First of all before I explain the story, let me make one thing clear. I'm only going to focus on the first season of the anime -- or more specifically the first novel adaptation which makes up part 1 of season 1. This is to avoid spoilers, and to keep things from getting complicated. You see currently FMP is broken up into "four" seasons, and each one is quite a bit different from the last. While season 1 covers the first novels, Fumoffu is something entirely different. Then you have The Second Raid which continues the novels, but it's tone and setting is quite a bit different from what we see in season 1. Then we have the newer Invisible Victory which is even more different yet. Basically the story changes as it progresses to it's conclusion, so I'm only going to focus on it's beginning. (For now that is.)

The Story of the Soldier:

The story of Full Metal Panic is quite a bit different than most series. It begins with a young man named Sousuke Sagura carrying out a mission for the secret mercenary group he works for. Upon returning back to his home base however, he's quickly assigned a new mission. He must infiltrate a public high school, and protect a girl named Kaname Chidori. They have received intell that a terrorist group may be targeting her, and they must protect her at all cost. Sousuke isn't given the reason why she may be targeted, but it's not something for him to know. He has simply been given a job, and it's one he plans to carry out no matter the cost. So along with his teammates Kurz and Mao, he heads to Japan to assume his new identity as a high school student. The problem is, all he knows is war.

Unlike most high school themed shows (although technically this isn't a "high school" show), Sousuke is not your normal student. In fact he has no idea how to act as one. He does what he can to watch Kaname and get close to her, but being the strong willed girl she is, she does not take too kindly to this. She doesn't want some creep hanging around her all the time, and she's not afraid to beat the crap out of anyone who gets on her bad side. Sousuke can't understand why she's so bothered by his presence, and doesn't see anything wrong with his actions. At one point Kaname catches him "reading" a news paper from the early 90s that has a peep hole cut into it. Actions like these convince her that he's nothing more than a pervert, and does whatever she can to get away from him. During one episode she gets off of her train early to get away from Sousuke, only to witness him jump out of the moving train's window and roll across the pavement. He passes this off as just being a "coincidence," and says that his actions were in no way influenced by her. He simply wanted off at that stop. Needless to say this freaks out Kaname even more, but she starts to wonder if there's something more to his actions.

The other thing about Sousuke is he not only causes trouble for Kaname, but for the school as a whole. During one incident where he thinks someone is going to harm Kaname, he pulls a gun and tackles their home room teacher, and knocks her down the stares. He gets into trouble for this, and thankfully they pass his gun off as being a "toy model." He refutes this by telling them exactly how real it is, but no one believes him. Instead he's passed off as being a military nut, and assigned the job as janitor for their school class. Eventually Sousuke does make a friend at the school, but he does so by stopping a "panty thief" who sneaks into Kaname's room. Rather than escaping from her room himself, he stays to talk to said thief about giant robots and other military technology. This is what leads Kaname to catch both of them, thus solidifying Sousuke's status as a pervert even further. It's situations like these that add comedy to the show, but in reality it isn't all that funny.

What makes FMP stand out is the fact that this "peaceful" time in these character's lives wont last forever. Kaname is being targeted, just as Sousuke's group suspected, and it's only a matter of time before their lives are torn apart. Even the show's opening theme song hints at what is to come, and it's something that will change everyone's lives forever. Season 1 isn't afraid to get serious with it's stories, but this story is still set within that time of peace. It's the middle of season 1 where you start to realize that things wont always be okay, and that things will take a darker turn as the series progresses. On top of that, the show is also self aware. Rather than just accepting the fact that this world has giant robots, the show questions why this is possible. While many do simply accept that technology has advanced far enough for this to be possible, those who actually work with said robots start to realize just how strange it actually is. One character even points out that these things are straight from science fiction, and that them existing in their life shouldn't even be possible. It's not normal, and other pieces of technology out there is just as mysterious. And this is where Kaname comes in.

It's clear from the very first scenes of episode 1 that Kaname is not a normal girl. But why is that? What makes her different? Well that ties directly in with why the terrorists are after her, and why Sousuke must protect her. It's a mystery that the characters will have to uncover for themselves, and something that will haunt them for as long as Kaname is still alive.

The Characters:

As good as a story might be, it's the characters that hold the plot together. Have a completely unlikable cast, and your story will suffer for it. Thankfully FMP doesn't have this problem. Not only is the main cast great, but every side character, and even those you are meant to "hate" come across as great villains. Full Metal Panic is one of those shows that will get you invested in the character's lives, and at some point you'll really start to care about them. It's what makes it so hard when you realize that no one is actually safe in this seemingly "light hearted" series, and you can't help but worry what their future holds. You don't want things to come to an end, but sadly it just might. Putting that aside however, the main cast really is great, and each character has his or her own quirks.

Like I mentioned above, Sousuke is the main character, and he has no idea what he's doing as he tries to live a "normal" life. He's a character who is always serious, but many have a hard time taking seriously because of his attitude. He often gets mixed up in crazy situations due to his lack of knowledge, and he applies his military training to everything. Of course he has a dark past, being a child soldier and all, but that's something that slowly gets uncovered throughout the series.

The second lead character, Kaname, is a perfect counter to Sousuke. While Sousuke is strict and awkward, Kaname is an upbeat girl who also has quite the temper to go along with her thick skull. She's set in her ways, and it's hard to convince her otherwise. Originally the main cast passes her off as a sweet innocent girl, but the moment they visit her school they quickly realize just how wrong they were. Despite her looks, she isn't afraid to beat the living daylights out of anyone who gets in her way, and she doesn't have a problem with taking charge when needed. She's very strong willed, and initially doesn't mix that well with Sousuke. Needless to day her character does change over time, but this is how she is when she first appears.

Kurz is Sousuke's merc friend, and one of the two assigned to go on the mission with him. He's an ace sniper, but personality wise he's the guy who is always acting out and goofing off on the job. Sure he gets things done and is good at what he does, but if anything funny is going to happen, it'll happen to him. He has horrible luck at times, and tends to flirt with the wrong ladies. He spends much of the early episodes simply setting in his cloaking device enabled giant mech keeping an eye on Kaname from afar, but he's also there to give Sousuke advice. Unlike Sousuke Kurz actually has a real life, and he wants to see his friend succeed. And really, so does Mao.

Mao is the commander of the three man group, and she's a hard one to get an angle on. She can be very strict when she needs to be, but other times she'll be passed out drunk without a care in the world. She'll mock and make fun of others whenever she feels like it, but that doesn't mean she doesn't care about them. Her coworkers are like family to her, and she'll do anything to keep them safe. She's a great friend to Sousuke, and just like Kurz she's always there when he needs her. (Even if he doesn't realize just how much he really needs her help.)

As for the rest of the cast, they are a little harder to explain without going into spoilers. Tessa is the next major cast member who comes to mind, but her true self isn't seen until later. Up until then all that is known is she's in charge of Sousuke's secret group, and that she's roughly the same age as him and Kaname. At her right hand is none other than an older man named Kalinin, who is always there to support her every step of the way. Him and Sousuke appear to have some sorta history with each other even before joining Tessa's group, but that's a story for another time. There are quite a few other main characters and side characters involved as well (not to mention the terrorists), but again I want to avoid as many spoilers as possible. All I can say is the supporting characters from the school do a great job adding to Kaname and Sousuke's everyday life, and they are a nice break from the seriousness of later parts in the story.

Should You Watch It:

If you're into war stories, comedy, mecha, and school life... Then yes, you seriously shouldn't miss out on this one. Rather than being your typical "daily life" type show, Sousuke being a hardened soldier completely flips everything on it's head, and the result is something you will not find anywhere else. While there is a lot of comedy that branches off from Sousuke being so dense, that's not to say the show doesn't have it's serious moments as well. In fact a lot of the comedy is really just the calm before the storm, and once things get going there's really no going back. Full Metal Panic isn't afraid to dive into the darker side of things, and some of the events just might shock you.

So bottom line is, if any of the above points interest you at all, it's at least worth checking out. Just give the first episode a chance, and don't stop for any reason. I almost did, and I can't tell you how much I would've regretted it if I had.

Where to Watch:

The easiest way to watch this series is over at Crunchyroll. They have the full series uploaded, and were the ones who aired IV as the new episodes released.

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

That Strange Resident Evil Promo That's Become Forgotten

Resident Evil is a series that became an all time favorite of mine last decade. I went from avoiding these games at all cost and thinking they were stupid, to being a full blown fan who has beaten each entry multiple times. I like all of the games to an extent (yes, even 6), but there's one entry in the series that will always stand out to me the most. And no it's not 2. In fact it's not even one of the main numbered games! It's none other than Resident Evil Revelations on the 3DS. Yes the 3DS version specifically.

Revelations was one of the main games I wanted on the 3DS. Back then I was extremely active over at Capcom-Unity (and running this blog through it), and I would check constantly for any piece of news I could find about it. I liked the idea of the game being set on an old abandoned luxury ship, and I liked how it was "classic" Resident Evil with the RE4 gameplay. To make things even better it released when the Circle Pad Pro was coming out, which made it the very first Resident Evil to actually use standard 3rd person shooter controls. Gone were the days of being a human tank who could only stand still while shooting! Now we could aim (I preferred the first person aiming mode), shoot, move, and rotate all at the same time! It was perfect.

While the game is now pretty well known since it has been ported to nearly every console out there, the marketing of the original 3DS release seems to have been forgotten. It was a series of fake advertisements and videos leaked online, where Capcom did whatever they could to make it seem legit. Those who would stumble upon it by mistake wouldn't give them much second thought, and even Resident Evil fans might not have realized what it was they were seeing. My personal favorite of these promos is a video titled "strange animal on the beach," and is something that has slipped through the cracks for many years since. At the time of this writing it only has around 70,000 views, and I'm sure I make up at least 100 of them. It is however the most popular of the "set" as it's the only one to actually contain something interesting. That's what helps make it believable though.

Here's the first video in the series. It's uploaded by an unknown user on YouTube, and basically shows nothing. It's a clip from a vacation video, and not something most people would even bother clicking on.

Again it's not much of anything, and there's no way of even knowing what we are looking at. Nothing to tip the viewers off, and still to this day it's just as hidden as it was back then. However it's the "strange animal" follow up video that did draw at least some attention.

(Just as a warning this video is age restricted by YouTube due to it's "graphic" content, but keep in mind that it's completely fake. The restriction most likely happened due to the supposed realistic nature of this, but whatever.)

It's this video that would finally tip off fans in the know, but still to this day it remains without context. (Putting aside the comment section.)

While it's really not much, the way Capcom promoted this 3DS game was actually pretty shocking. A lot of detail went into it, and they tried to treat it as more than just a game. We would later on see a similar "contest" of sorts for Operation Raccoon City, but since then Capcom has been pretty quiet with their promotions. Standard trailers, live streams, and demos -- which work out fine, but they miss the charm they had in years past. Back then Capcom was all about getting their community involved with projects, and their promos and events were a great way to do so.

But anyway just thought I'd share this with you guys. It's just a little piece of forgotten Capcom history.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

What is Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore?

After yesterday's Fire Emblem news, some of you may be surprised to hear it actually isn't over yet. Today marks the release of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore, a Wii U game that is finally seeing the light of day on the Switch. It was one of the last few Wii U games yet to be brought over to the system, so it's understandable why many would be excited by this. However, there are just as many who are still upset. Why? Well that goes back to what the original Wii U game was, and what happened to it.

What is TMS:

When TMS was first announced, we didn't know what it was going to be for sure. All we had was a small teaser showing characters from both Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei as they flew by on a slide show. The video ended confirming that it would be a crossover between the two series, but that's all that was ever said. In fact we didn't even hear about the full title until MANY years later! Up until this point many fans were expecting either a Fire Emblem game with SMT gameplay, or possibly a SMT game with Fire Emblem gameplay (which has technically been done in the Devil Survivor side series). Of course every fan had their own ideas of what this title might be, but no one expected what it would really turn out to be.

Instead of being a standard crossover game, Tokyo Mirage Sessions was announced as a completely new JRPG set in modern day Tokyo with Fire Emblem elements. Rather than taking a page out of the mainline SMT games, TMS (see what they did there?) had more similarities to the Persona series instead. Focusing on high school students living in Tokyo, who suddenly come across a strange dimension and make a pact with beings from another world. (These beings being Fire Emblem characters.) Similar as to what Persona 5 would eventually be, the characters in this world sorta "fuse" with their new friends which not only changes their outfits, but also grants them the power of said Fire Emblem character to call upon. While the game doesn't have the social elements of Persona, the modern day world focuses on the character's every day life, while diving into the other world is where you get to experience the game's dungeons and fight monsters with these new found powers. It's a very familiar setup to anyone who has played Persona, but it's also not exactly the same.

As for combat, it too is somewhat of a modified version of Persona, but in some ways is closer to what you see in SMT. Enemies have weaknesses you want to hit so you can pull off special moves and gain the advantage in battle, and weaknesses are based on the Fire Emblem weapon triangle. This means (like in both games) you need to set your parties up in a way that you always have the advantage over the enemy, and you failing to do so will result in your death. Overall the battle system is a lot of fun, and the two series' styles fit together perfectly. The story though is where the game may falter for some.

Rather than being a dark series story or war torn story like most would expect out of SMT or FE, this game focuses on music and the whole Japanese Idol craze. There's a lot of music in this game, and the main characters are all a part of a preforming arts group. This is what leads them to encounter a lot of the game's strange events, but outside of these events the story is pretty light hearted. In fact the main character exists only to help others and guide them to completing their dreams. He doesn't have many of his own, and despite having a speaking role, he actually has less personality and story than the Persona protagonists (who are typically completely silent). Overall this doesn't matter too much as the other characters make up for it, but it might turn some off. Even so, this game is more for the gameplay than the story, so it should be bought and played for that. Although there are some pretty nice moments in it.

So what's wrong with it, and why will some people be upset with this release? Well... Censorship. That's why.

The Censored Release is now World Wide:

When TMS first came out on the Wii U it contained quite a lot of non kid friendly content to say the least. But that's to be expected really. Fire Emblem games are typically rated T, and SMT games are mostly rated M. Fire Emblem focuses on war and features death, while SMT is easily one of the darkest stories you'll ever experience in video gaming -- complete with strong sexual content, violence, and just flat out disturbing themes and elements. So why wouldn't TMS have at least some of the same content? Well it does, but nowhere near the extent one might expect. Even so, the Japanese release of the game had some "questionable" content, and even had a full story arc revolving around such things. This however was completely altered in the West.

The western release of TMS had multiple costumes modified, character's bodies were photoshopped during cutscenes, and the story mentioned above was altered to remove as many sexual elements as possible. Swim suits were taken out of the game and replaced with hipster looking outfits that fully covered character's bodies (which makes the obvious swim suit scenes odd), smoke was added to cover up the chest of a monster (yet the in game fight remained uncut for some reason), and even a full DLC story was taken out of the game. While this doesn't amount to too much of the content being cut, it was still enough to tick off fans. And now they've angered Japan as well. You see this new version of TMS on Switch is actually based off of this censored version, so now even Japan is getting to experience the version we did a few years back. And there are no plans to undo this.

What is Encore:

Putting aside what was taken out of the game, Encore does add some new features. New players won't realize these features, but those of you who played the Wii U version will notice a few things right off the bat. Just a few non spoiler things to note:

  • Much faster loading times (battles now start instantly!)
  • New costumes have been added to the game (including Persona 5's Joker)
  • There's an extra area you can access which has new side stories.
  • Extra non party characters can now tag into battles for extra attacks.
  • The original DLC is included.
  • Some new songs have been added.
  • When you start the game you can take off a character's glasses (this can be changed in the options too.)
  • And parts of the game have been reworked to use a single screen rather than the Wii U's game pad. This also means the game can now be played in handheld mode.
Overall it's not that big of a difference really, but that's perfectly fine. This is a game a lot of people didn't get to play because it was Wii U exclusive, and now it's on the Switch.
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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Fire Emblem News - 1/16/2020

I know this is old news at this point, but you know... Work and all. Anyway today Nintendo had a few Fire Emblem announcements ready for us, with the first being one for Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Yep as you might have already guessed (or heard), Byleth is being added! Now I'm sure some of you are already going "who the heck is Byleth" so let me explain who "they" are.

To put it simply, Byleth is the player's avatar in the Fire Emblem Three Houses. When you start the game you are asked to pick between the Male and Female versions of Byleth, and you then spend the rest of the game playing as him (or her). Unlike Robin and Corrin before him, Byleth is a silent protagonist who's personality you shape for yourself. While they do play a major role in the story, their role is mostly spent as a teacher to the "real" main characters -- which are grouped into three separate story paths. Of course there is more too Byleth's story, but that's all you really need to know if you are unfamiliar with this character.

That being said, Sakurai has once again released a full video detailing Byleth, which can be checked out below:

In other Fire Emblem related news, the Three Houses expansion details have been released! Since the game came out we knew it would be supported with multiple DLC packs, but what these packs would be remained mostly secret. So for the past half a year we've been getting these updates in chunks, and now we are finally getting the game's "major" expansion -- a side story called "Cindered Shadows." Now not much is currently known about this, but the story follows a "forth" secret house that has abandoned the surface world and is now living deep underground. This expansion sees you taking this group of students under your wing, and uncovering both their story and the story of the secret world they live in. That being said how long this expansion will be is still unknown, but it will be coming out on 2/12/2020 so it won't be long before we learn more. For more information check out it's trailer as well:

And that about covers it! There's a lot to watch today, but it's all great news if you're a fan of Three Houses.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis Trailer

Yesterday Capcom released a brand new trailer for the upcoming Resident Evil 3 Remake. In this trailer we get to see small glimpses of the game's revised story, as well as some of the things we can expect out of Nemesis himself. The thing is Nemesis is not quite the same as "Mr. X" in Resident Evil 2. While Mr. X would stalk you throughout the police station and get in your way, he honestly wasn't that much of a challenge. There were areas he couldn't get to, long periods of time where he wasn't even in the game, and all he could do was chase after you and grab you. Yes it added tension to the game, but once you got used to things he wasn't that big of a deal. Nemesis on the other hand? Well... Why not check out the trailer?

As you can see Nemesis is more than just his fists. Guns, flame throwers, rockets, etc. He's not one to mess with. Capcom has also confirmed he'll be a much bigger threat in general, so we might not be hiding from him as easily as we did from Mr. X.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Final Fantasy VII Remake Delayed

Today we have a sad message from the development team over at Square-Enix. As quoted:
“We know that so many of you are looking forward to the release of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE and have been waiting patiently to experience what we have been working on. In order to ensure we deliver a game that is in-line with our vision, and the quality that our fans who have been waiting for deserve, we have decided to move the release date to April 10, 2020.

We are making this tough decision in order to give ourselves a few extra weeks to apply final polish to the game and to deliver you with the best possible experience. I, on behalf of the whole team, want to apologize to everyone, as I know this means waiting for the game just a little bit longer.

Thank you for your patience and continued support”

Yoshinori Kitase, Producer of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE.

FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE will be available for the PS4 on April 10, 2020.

And there you have it folks. It's a shame to hear we'll have to wait another month, but at the same time this isn't all bad news. Delays such as this are typically only made when the team has a very good reason for it (especially when it's this close to release), and the extra time allows them to fix issues the current version of the game may have. It's better than the whole "day one patch" approach that has become common in recent years, and gives them more time in general to release an actual finished product. So yes, we do have to wait longer, but it's a wait that will most likely be worth it.

On the flip side, March was already packed full of games. Animal Crossing will be out on the Switch, Team Ninja is putting out Nioh 2, and at the end of the month we have Persona 5 Royal's US release. Of course these are only a few of what March has to offer us, but with those alone the month is already packed. Giving us a little break for Final Fantasy VII might not be such a bad idea.
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Monday, January 13, 2020

Anime Monday - Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Gen Urobuchi is a name many anime fans will recognize. He's the one behind visual novels like Phantom, he co-wrote Fate/Zero, returned for the anime adaptation of both, and he's been behind quite a few anime originals like Psycho-Pass, Blassreiter, and even those new anime Godzilla movies. The guy's done a lot to say the least, but one of the most surprising things he was involved with is none other than the magical girl show Madoka Magica. You see, Gen's stories normally aren't so... Upbeat? To say the least? Most of his stories are dark, violent, and are filled with mature themes. Some of them can even be considered psychological horror! The fact that he'd work on a show that looks so kiddy just seems out of character for him. Yeah, I think that's why a lot of people realized it pretty quickly...

The first time I head of Madoka was actually from a friend. He sent me the link to the first trailer, and I honestly didn't think much of it. Back then I didn't realize who Gen Urobuchi was, and honestly nothing about the show's trailer caught my eye. All I saw was bright pink colors, with little anime girls going to school, and running around in funny outfits -- just like what I'd expect to see out of something like Card Captors. Mix in the happy up beat song playing during the whole thing, and I was completely turned off. "No! Give it a try!" He said to me, but nope I wouldn't listen. "But it's more for adults! Really!" Yeah, I think not. Anyway I ignored the show, and went about my day. Then after a few years passed and the thing showed up on Netflix, I finally decided to give it a go. By this point I realized who was behind it, and knew from the get go that it wouldn't be what I thought it was.

In reality Madoka Magica is not your standard magical girl show. Despite all the bright colors and kids running around, it is NOT a kids show. In fact this show is what nightmares are made out of. Now what do I mean by that exactly? Well... How about we start with the story?

Madoka Wants to be a Magical Girl:

The story of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is pretty straight forward. Anyone who has any experience with this genre will know what to expect from the get go, but that's not to say some things aren't different. Madoka is a normal middle school girl who likes to hang out with her friends, and cares very much about her family. One day when hanging out with her friend Sayaka, the two run into a strange cat like creature. In true magical girl fashion, it turns out the creature can talk and is actually named "Kyubey." Kyubey offers the two girls a contract, and tells them if they accept they will be transformed into magical girls. If they choose to do so, they will receive great power and be given one free wish, but in return they will also be required to use said power to fight monsters known as "witches" in order to protect the world.

While the idea sounds great, the two aren't sure if they want to go through with it just yet. The wish is a great insensitive, but is it worth it? They have time to decide, and understand that it will forever change their life. Meanwhile at school a transfer student named Homura, who for some reason seems to know Madoka. Apparently Homura is a magical girl herself, and she wants Madoka to avoid Kyubey at all cost, and to not accept the contract. This confuses Madoka and makes her choice even harder, but after meeting a girl named Mami, things start to become a bit more clear. Mami is a magical girl as well, and she decides to take both Madoka and Sayaka under her wing. She explains how witches are born from a type of seed, and even takes them into another world to fight said witch. Of course Mami wins no problem, and shows both of the young girls how great it is to have such power. They are helping keep the world safe, and to join her all they have to do is accept Kyubey's offer.

So, what should Madoka do? Should she become a magical girl and fight to protect those she cares about? Or should she listen to that weird girl's warning? Why should she stay away from something as "cute" as Kyubey? That's something she has to decide for herself, and what a large part of the show focuses on. Rather than just accepting her possible new powers like every other protagonist seems to do, Madoka doesn't find that answer so easily. Nor does Sayaka for that matter. She too has her own personal challenges to deal with, and becoming a magical girl just might help her find the strength she needs. But should she do it?

During the early episodes of the show, it doesn't seem too out of the ordinary for one in this genre. You see the girls hang out, fight off witches, and deal with different issues in their daily life. When not at school they dive into the strange world the witches create and live in, and when they're not living their secret life, they're at home with their families like nothing strange is going on. It's all pretty standard. And then it gets violent.

After a pretty graphic scene, Madoka realizes that being a magical girl isn't the happy go lucky life she thought it was. In reality it's a living Hell. Pain, suffering, violence, lies, and death. If she accepts that contract that is the world she'll be pulled into, and there is no coming back. She will forever be a pawn where fighting will only slightly delay her ultimate fate.

The Twisted Reality:

A few episodes in is where the show finally takes it's turn, and the truth comes out. Up until then it really seems like it'll be a standard show that is possibly aimed at kids. It falls in line with something like Sailor Moon, with characters younger audiences can relate to. However once that line is crossed, there is no coming back. The reality of Madoka Magica is that it's a dark show. A VERY dark show. Rather than fighting monsters and saving the day, it changes it's focus to being more on the characters, and the psychological impact the events have on them. These are middle school girls who are seeing death in all it's gory detail first hand, and they realize what will happen to them if they accept that contract. But on the other hand what will happen if they don't? If no other magical girls rise up to fight off the witches, what will happen? It might be a matter of either sacrificing themselves to protect others, or watching everyone die anyway. That is assuming they can believe what Kyubey tells them.

The thing about this series is that the anime itself is only one part, and it doesn't give you a clear picture the first time through. The first time you watch it you wont know what to make of things, but after seeing the ending you can no longer view the show as you once did. Watching it a second time is almost like seeing an entirely new show. While the animation doesn't change, your own perspective does. Seeing the same events unfold while knowing what the final episodes tell you will have you seeing everything in different light. What you once thought was one thing has now become something completely different, and you can't help but feel sorry for the characters involved. Sadly you do have to rewatch the entire series to see this, but thankfully there is a better alternative.

Madoka Magica has received three anime films since the original series ended, and it's with these first two films that things come together a bit more. Rather than being sequels, these two are retellings of the original series with some new scenes and other alterations made to it. While normally recap films are just to refresh you on what happened, due to the nature of the original series, Madoka's don't follow this standard. These movies allow you to see the "truth" of the series without having to rewatch the entire original anime, and they thankfully remove some of the dialogue that drug on a bit too long in said original. Then once the first two films are over, a third one serves as a sequel and brings the original series to a conclusion. (Putting aside the manga and mobile game.) In short, these movies are a great way to watch the series, but only if you've watched the original first.

Should You Watch It:

I'll admit it took me years to actually get through this series. It was something I would start and drop off and on for a couple of years, and when I finally made it to the end I still wasn't sure how to feel about it. It wasn't until I realized exactly what that ending was that I changed my mind about the series, and is the reason I can even recommend it to this day. So, yes. It is one that's worth watching, but only if you realize what you are getting into. Despite getting insanely dark and violent at times, the "cute" anime magical girl art style never completely goes away, and some of the issues these girls deal with might be hard for some people to relate to (including myself). However that doesn't mean it isn't a good show. Once you get past the first few episodes the series takes a turn for the better (worse for the characters), and after that it never stops. There are moments that drag on with too much dialogue and a bit too much back and forth between the characters, but it's not that bad. Again the recap movies cut most of this out, so thankfully there's that option for the future. That being said, this is a series that needs to be seen twice.

If you don't like the idea of rewatching what you've already seen, or watching recap movies, then that's fine. While you really do need to see it twice to fully understand what has happened, it isn't a requirement. It's a short series as it is, and if you want to just blow through it and not look back then that's fine too. It's just strongly recommended you don't do this. This is something you should go in to expecting to come back to it. Still it's up to you.

So yes, bottom line is you should watch it, but only if the style doesn't bother you. (Both the magical girl elements and the surreal horror.) It's definitely not a show for everyone, but it's worth at least giving it a try.

Where to Watch:

At this time Madoka Magica can be watched in a few locations. Mainly...

Netflix (Both sub and dub)
and Crunchyroll (Both sub and dub)

Crunchyroll being the free option.
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Saturday, January 11, 2020

Persona 5 Scramble - Trailer 02

Atlus has released another trailer for the upcoming Persona 5 Scramble, and it looks pretty insane to say the least. This time around we get to see multiple characters in action, mini games, special attacks, bike riding, social events, hub town exploration, Persona fusion, and much MUCH more. Check it out below, but be warned that this does take place after the original Persona 5.

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Pokemon Direct 1-9-2020

Today was Nintendo's latest Pokemon Direct, and with it came two major announcements! First of all we have the brand new expansion pass(es) coming to both Pokemon Sword and Shield. These passes will be sold for 30 bucks, and will introduce us to brand new areas to explore as well as new Pokemon to catch. The first area is an island called "The Isle of Armor" while the second is a snowy location titled "The Crown Tundra." From what little we've seen, both locations seem to be much more open, and more similar to the wilds area rather than being the linear paths the main game forced us down. These locations will bring not only new story content and rivals to fight, but also brand new Pokemon to catch which were not originally in the base game. Of course both Sword and Shield will have their very own expansion passes with differences between the two, which also means you'll need to rely on trading to collect all of the new Pokemon (just as always). On the plus side, even those who do not own the expansion passes will be able to trade for these Pokemon, so the passes themselves are not required if you only want to complete your dex. While the exact number of Pokemon has not been disclosed, the direct did confirm it is at least 200 returning ones. This will bring the total up to 601. For now.

For more information check out the trailer:

On top of this news a remake of the original Pokemon Mystery Dungeon was announced as well. The game features new and improved graphics over the original, and new features such as Mega Evolutions. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Mystery Dungeon series, or if you simply want to check out the remake for yourself, a demo version has gone live on the Nintendo eShop. It's a lot different than other entries in the series, but may be familiar to those of you who have played other games in the rogue like genre.

For the complete Pokemon Direct, see below.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne - Coming to PC Tomorrow!

It's finally here hunters! Monster Hunter World Iceborne comes out on PC tomorrow. The game is Monster Hunter World's first major expansion, and is basically what used to be known as the "G" version of the game (also known as "Ultimate" in the West). In the past G versions would be released to improve on the existing game, while also including new story content, and monsters to hunt. Iceborne follows this trend, but with a few alterations. The classic G Rank has now been replaced with "Master Rank," and a few other additions were made as well. Here's a spoiler free list of some of the things that have been added to Iceborne:

  • New story taking place after the original game's conclusion.
  • New Ice covered region.
  • Hot drinks are now required for colder areas to present stamina drain.
  • Some monsters can now be mounted for quicker travel across the areas.
  • New gem system where multiple skills are on the same gem (rather than being one skill per gem).
  • New flatter hub city which makes getting to everything you need access to a lot easier.
  • New co-op hub area which also includes a lot more resources than the previous one had.
  • New housing system with a lot more customization -- including changing furniture and how furniture looks.
  • New costumes to wear over top of your physical armor.
  • Master Rank versions of every past monster in the game (thus doubling the amount of monsters in the game nearly from the very start).
  • Completely new monsters and fan favorites that were missing from the base game have now been added.
  • New weapons and armor sets to go along with these new monsters and new Master forms.
  • Brand new claw mechanic which allows you to attach yourself to a monster to create new weak points, or even force them to run head first into a wall.
  • And much much more -- some of which I cannot speak of.
Overall Iceborne has much more content than the original base game, and is basically a game of it's own. Of course you need to finish Monster Hunter World to continue on to the new content, but some content can be accessed before hand.

Well that's it for me today. Have fun out there hunters!
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