Katawa Shoujo

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From eroticism to job ethics... thought´s and dillemas from an exiled artist wannabe.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Otome Youkai Zakuro

I'm not a frequent consumer of shoujo material, but here and there I indulge in some shoujo watching just to keep me out of monotony. I usually drift towards series with a decent amount of adventure or combat, on the likes of the classic and always remembered Utena. The anime i'm going to talk about is far from being a shoujo masterpiece as Utena, but will certainly entertain and bring some hours of laugh to any one giving it enough time.


Otome youkai Zakuro is set briefly after the Meiji restoration in Japan. The country is opening to foreign trade guided by the external influence of the european trade superpowers, and takes giant steps into modern era. Steam, charriots, architecture, even the calendar changes to meet the perceived ideal of progress as seen on the old Europe. But this modernity comes at the cost of tradition, as the Japanese forget their own cultural assets and traditions, neglet their gods and youkai (japanese spirits).

Their mission: getting down and dirty with the foxy ladies.
On this climate, a comission is born from the military to ensure a quiet trasition to the new era that does not neglet the past. A ministery of supernatural affairs is thus born, and three young soldiers are sent to serve on this new army division together with four ladies, born from the union of humans and youkai. Their mission, help citizens with troubles caused with rogue youkai and other supernatural incidents rising from the restless youkai population of the capital.
To ease the task, the minister and the tutor of the girls (an old kitsune lady) decide to tag the boys and girls in teams. And so, the short fused and tsundere Zakuro gets paired with Agemaki, a charming officer from a rich family, scared to hell by spirits and demons. The delicate and meek Susukihotaru teams with the big and silent Riken, and for desserts, the young prodigy officer Ganryu joins Hozuki and Bonbori, two cheerful and mischievous identical twins.

Zakuro is a high level tsundere proficient with edgy weapons.


Like every shoujo, the main plot focus more on the feelings of the characters than the events itself, which just act as catalizer. As chapters go by, the anime explores the relationship between them and how they cope with the acceptance of the occidental culture (in the case of the girls) and with ancient spirits of old (in the case of the boys).For this reason don't expect much of a deep plot but a sequence of situations.

My main objection to the comes from the final chapters though. When the major plot point starts to unfold, the main villain's motivations, despite clear, don't feel that convincing. Also, the need of finding a "good" ending for him makes him go through some personality inconsistencies wich in turn leave you with the feeling that he's made quite a fuss for something that in fact wasn't thaaaat important to him. Additionaly, for an anime that revolves heavily on the love relationship of each of the three couples, the end might dissapoint for being left open in this particular issue.

The bad guys are mostly cool but with a tendency to overdo things to much.


OYZ features a very clean and nice animation. Character designs are nice (I particullarly adore the twins) and even some secondary characters end up being quite nice and enjoyable. Boys design look more shoujo style, but girls retain general manga proportions, which makes the genre barrier more easily crossable for any guy wanting to venture into this particular anime. Also, the use of expressive background s full of flowers and the likes is cut to just the necessary leaving space for the backgrounds to delve deeper on the Meiji era japan scenery that recalls other series like Sakura Taisen.

One of the best chapters sees the girls dressed in occidental ball dresses.


Music is one strong point of this anime with tunes ambiented on ancient japan, and seiyuus play a major role on making it memorable. Special mention to the song the girls sing while in combat (Benibana no Otome Uta), heavily reminiscent of japanese child songs and that really helps you get on that old japanese mood.

The opening animation is pretty nice (despite being strange that the main character just gets 2 seconds of screen time), but the opening theme is a bit of a let down. Not that it is bad, it's just that the rest of the soundtrack is simply awesome and the opening feels a bit stereotype.

The secondary cast is kinda bizarre in the beggining but they end up charming you.
The series has 3 wonderful ending songs that play alternatively, each one focusing in one of the couples (or trio) and sung by their own seiyuus with still images of the couple. The 3 songs really really feel like a perfect match for the characters, and go from the slow ballad to the cheerfull song of the twins trio, going through Zakuro's theme itself featuring Agemaki smoothtalking the girl on the background.


Overall, Otome Youkai Zakuro is a series i would recommend, specially for fans of romantic comedies tired of school slice of life situations. And even if you are not, certainly the soundtrack is worth of some space in your mp3 player.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Working the brazilian way

Today i had a very bizarre deja vu at work: as two workers were performing an operation, 6 persons from different departments were supervising their work. Obviously the salary of the overseers is 5 or 6 times that of the operators (or even more due to brazil's absurd difference between class incomes).

At the moment i was looking at the scene, realization caught me: this same scene i had seen before. At a spanish website, drawn in the humour section where a lone construction worker, Paco, was being monitored by a bunch of people who'd just stand there watching.

Working:  the Spanish way.
It stroke how we suddenly had become a joke, a ridiculous representation of reality. Seems like Brazil suffers from the same cancer as Spain, sometimes, in an effort to control things too much we end up overreacting, draining unnecessary financial resources from the company that could be employed in perfecting the process instead.

Brazil also suffers from another serious cultural drawback. In Brazil things are not meant to last, but to be cleared fast so attention is drawn to other things, and to add insult to injury, the maintenance is not considered a priority in any case. This is visible on the cities itself, with beautiful areas degraded beyond recognition, left to rot through time with no one ever giving a damn.

Sao Paulo is the tragical example of such an abandon. A city nearly as big as Tokyo, with more than 8 million inhabitants to fund taxes and expenses. The city is in ruins... The city is in shambles. If you walk the city centre you will have to see beyond what your eyes can catch at a first glance: this city must have been beautiful to see. It has brilliant conception ideas, but no one to care for them after the turn politician cut the inaugurational rope.

Zen garden at the japanese quarter of Liberdade. Closed to public due to lack of maintenance.
The japanese quarter, the Se cathedral, streets, parks... All seems abandoned. Seems no one has ever even tried to keep things as they were... And when they do... Oh, how they do it! More like putting down fires! Lack of planning paired with lack of future thinking lead to one of the main words of the brazilian vocabulary: "gambiarra" that is, a job done however it is possible, just to make the cut and divert the problem.

Working: The Brazilian way.
This idea runs deep in the brazilian way of life and translates to business itself, with companies working to solve the problems with such urgency that they don't care if the solution provided will resist the flow of time. And when problems arise on the future, someone will be appointed to monitor the person monitoring the person monitoring Paco, to see that he is doing things right, while no one is actually caring if things are done right from the begging, as processes, materials and tools were meant to be a temporary solution.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I guess after the series of good anime i was watching lately i was bound to end in some dissappointing one. Today we talk about Kampfer, a series about school fighting and...

Oh forget that, it's just an excuse. It's a lame harem without story that it is not even ashamed to show it doesn't give a damn about not having one. Even when you start thinking something will happen, the series proves you wrong.

The characters are plain and boring. They don't serve any storywise purpose and are there just for the fanservice. Don't get me wrong, i love fanservice, but not when it comes in place of a plot. The character design are also stereotypical, so you could easily missplace them on any other anime. The only ones i found appealing where the disemboweled animal plushies the kampfers carry with them (which as many other things in this anime, are left unexplained).
Disemboweled animals are a girl's best friend...
Kampfer tells the story about Natsuru, a boy who one day wakes up as a girl and one talking disemboweled tiger plush trying to explain him he is now part of an unknown secret world were females battle to death. This is all the story behind it. Yes, there are supposed to be some guys called moderators who manage the whole thing, but no more info on the motives of the fight are given till the last chapter, and when they tell, the story is so absurd and fucked up you don't actually buy it (and i've seen lots of wierd shit already on anime).

From the moment the main characters are all gathered on chapter 4 or so, no action happens whatsoever. No combat until last chapter, in an anime supposed to be about fighting girls!! Seriously, this is sad. Even in the last fight, were you were expecting some, not epic, but let's say at least watchable fight, a 4vs4 fight is resolved with a single clash that beats all foes out, and beats out of you any chance of thinking watching all this was being worthy. But, I mean, it's a logical development: why people would fight if they have no reason too? So we end up again with the main villain: plot.

No reason to fight? Then let's get naked!!
See for example Deadman Wonderland, where the prisoners fight to death to be granted privileges and escape mutilation. They have one pretty solid reason to go all out on a fight. But if a plush tiger with his intestines showing asks you to kill someone for some people you don't even know... Seriously, you think i'm gonna burst from my room killing fellow classmates?
I mean, it's not like the main character even thinks that by fighting he will go back to be a boy by doing so. He doesn't frigging care!

The only person on this whole anime that seems to have a sane neurone to see this whole plot disaster is the class rep: the only character that makes this watchable. In the end you will be more interested in her that in anyone else. She is the only one thinking, she is the only one with guts, and she is the only one wich does not spend all the anime complaining in a high pitch voice about how the main character doesn't love her.

Shizuku: The only girl in the show that has at least one neurone focused on the plot.

The animation is nice overall, but being the characters so plain it doesn't manage to transmit much except on very few specific scenes, usually fanservice ones. Shame is they didn't put the same effort on the fights.

The music is generic, nothing memorable, but i must confess the ending kinda got on me and sometimes plays in my head, despite only having seen it 2 times (the ending animation is not that good).

Shizuku goes for the kill. One of the most daring kisses i've seen in anime.
I know there are some OVA called Kämpfer fur die liebe, I might even grab it in a manly act of masochysm just because i can't satisfy myself thinking the writer of this actually sells it as a light novel. I mean, the novels don't have plot either? Does no one care? You can't see the fanservice on the novel, so there has to be something good on it to have sold, right? Right?

Overall... watch only if bored or you are desperately in need of fanservice, but even then i would point you to Ikkitousen, Seikon no Qwaser or Queen's Blade, which at least have a plot and some cool characters.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ano Hi Mita Hana - An anime review

First of all, here goes a fair warning. If you ever ever think to watch this anime, watch the last chapters on the solitude of your home. You are going to cry. No matter how manly you are, no matter if you are made of pure concentrated steel and ice, you're gonna cry like a baby. So at least don't be an idiot like me and watch it in the bus (i can only be thankful for it to be pitch dark -_- else i would be hearing from this tomorrow on the job).

Ano hi no mita hana (the title is even larger, but we'll call it Ano Hana from here), is the story of a gang of 6 childhood friends who called themselves the Chou Heiwa Busters, split apart by the tragical death of one of them, a girl called Menma. All of them have continued with their lives as they could, but the causes that left to their separation have had a deep emotional impact on all of them.

Old and new Chow Heiwa Busters

Yadomii, the leader of the group, reduced to an antisocial hikikomori, one day awakens able to see the spirit of the deceased Menma, and decided to fulfill her wish to allow her to go to heaven, he starts reuniting (kinda involuntarily) the Chou Heiwa Busters. But it will not all be fun and games: Through the process of reuniting back the gang he will end up finding their friendship has been long gone, as regrets and old hates have grown deep between them with the pass of years.

Anjou has become a mindless gal, drifting through life with her newfound bad companies, and both Yukiatsu and Tsuruko now study at an elite highschool and look down on the other members of the gang as low hopeless individuals.

You will feel sorry for Anjou... especially when you know her nickname was Anaru (Anal)

Even though they end up getting together, it's more like they feel sorry for Yadomi for having lost her mind, but soon Menma's presence will pull them all to the starting point of the story: the base of the Chou Heiwa Busters, and the events that lead to Menma's passing.

Each member ends up having some deep connection with that past, so of a matter of a tribute everyone decides to contribute for accomplishing Menma's wish... A wish that she can't even recall. So as the gang tries on a trial and error basis to find Menma's wish, the past is digged from the insides of everyone, stirring more than one commotion.

Tensions arise between the group as the guys struggle with a way to straighten their lives before they can even start to help others. And on to this spiral they will pull  Menma's family aswell, trapped forever in the sadness of having lost her eldest child at an early age.
Menma's spirit visits her family. Not a single fuck is given...
The animation is soft and smooth, and the music is nice to help you get in the mood. The 12 chapters lenght is just good enough to maintain the climax without the story getting tedious: in fact, the intensity level on the last 3 chapters goes up in a spike that climaxes on a series of emotive tearjerking scenes.

The opening animation is pretty good despite the music not being all that memorable, while the ending on the other side seems careless, with just a few animation frames before a static image that goes for the full lenght of the so-so song.

Speaking more than this would be a crime, so if you like drama, trust my judgement: this is one of the best you can get. Now go get your handkerchief and watch it!

Monday, March 5, 2012

ARES - Extinction Agenda - Small Review

Born from a group of indie developers, this megaman wannabe of a shooter caught my eyes on steam some time ago, but watching the videos on steam still didn't convinced me to pay full price for it. Well, like Bastion, i managed to get my hands on it for a low fraction of the original price. Sadly, unlike Bastion, this time i wasn't surprised for the good.

Ares features some nice graphics, this is something i have to concede, and one of the things that draw me almost instantly to the game. The main character is nicely designed and the enviroments look pretty and convincing. The downside is that there are only 5 stages, (yeah, that's not a misspell) and they are not longer than a megaman stage. So if you paid full price for it you will surely be feeling ripped off.

Graphics and music are quite charming...
My opinion on the control is mixed up. The pc version targeting system plays nicely controling the target with the mouse and shooting with both buttons, the downside on the other hand is that Ares movements are clunky at the best, and the platforming parts often become a harder challenge than the bad guy beating. In fact, in some areas i was forced to leave the mouse alone, and do the platforming with my right hand because my left wasn't managing it. In my opinion this is an unforgivable flaw.

The story is nothing to write home off, but it gets the job done, and the ilustrations and sounds are pretty good as is the soundtrack. Overall feels like a game with a lot of game designers and very few game developers.

... but try to jump and fire simultaneously. I dare you!
Even the new weapons being acquired during the story or the new suits from either stroy mode or dlc don't manage to give the game an extra replayability. When i finished my first playthrough (in difficult, that feels more like normal), with my weapons upgraded i breezed through level 1 and 2 in less than 6 minutes, so i guess that you can speed run the game without bugs on 25 to 30 minutes.

Overall, the game is enjoyable, but won´t give you more than an evening of fun. Buy it only if it really appeals to you, but wait for it to be on sale or you will feel scammed. If you have an xbox go play Hard Corps Uprising instead!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hanako's path review at Katawa Shoujo

"Can you face your fears?"

Next after the explosive and expressive Emi is time to go for the quiet and elusive Hanako.

If Emi's personality was as straightforward as a truck with broken brakes, Hanako proves to be an asocial and unmovable rock, and stablishing a relation with her becomes a long and slow paced effort, having Hisao to play every move like if it was dealing with an unvaluable china porcelain that can break down at any moment.

Hanako is the epitome of broken doll. Despite being the one with the least impairing physical disability (Hisao even points the fact of her being from the few Yamaku students which would ever be able to drive), Hanako's mind is a fragile balance fruit of years of bullying, regret and self-loathing. Even if she shares a common past with Emi, the way they faced life after their respective accidents and losses is completely the oposite, and the player will have to be delicate managing Hanako's acceptance.
"You should know that seclusion is not happiness!" - Ky Kiske

The path in this route is heavily supported on secondary characters, but unlike Emi's route, where they are playing paralel stories and just helping ocasionally, on Hanako's route every single movement orbits around the scarred girl. Hanako is like a shadow that lingers over every one of Hisao's movements and every conversation, despite being one of the paths so far where he spends least time with the heroine. For this reason even her lack of physical presence during the first acts is rarely noticed at all.

Also, this path features Miki, a pretty cool secondary character that was to have a route on the original design, but was left aside (you will find her also running against Emi during the athletic events at Yamaku).

Out of the cage

The main point of the story is to make Hanako gather courage to face again the world: be it their classmates or the completely anonimous denizens of the nearby cities. Thus any real romance kinda gets sidestepped on the pursue of this objective.

Early on the story her effort to team up with her fellow classmates ends up tragically as she is struck with panic and completely paralyzed by fear, in one of the most shocking scenes in the game so far (in my opinion just loosing to Rin's mind breaking on the atelier). This puts a very real fear over the player of the consequences of letting Hanako face the world alone unprepared.
Oh...here we go again...
As story unfolds, you can feel the satisfaction of every single little step Hanako does to leave her bubble of isolation, to the point when the banal thing of her leaving alone to the city feels to the player like an enormous achievement.

Down and dirty

I must say that the lone sex scene on this path doesn't seem right at all. It looks forced into a situation that was not to end like that, and kinda broke a scene where the focus was supposed to be Hanako's acceptance of herself. It is so badly timed that not even Hisao seems confident on the motives that led to them having sex and even feels like Hanako used it a last resort move to keep him by her side. It is good that they get to clear things later but it doesn't lift that feeling that you have been doing something more regretful than enjoyable.

Overall Hanako`s is a cute story, featuring my favourite Raita´s opening animation from the whole game, and with some pretty high climatic points. Those with a thing for cute fragile girls, eastern style, will sure find on this path some things to their liking. I myself find Hanako cute, but kind of hollow, and feel her story more like i'm caring for a pet that pursuing a relationship.
Pat, pat. - Good girl...