During my prolonged siesta I also invested some more time into Gran Turismo 5. It has been more than a year since I started, I'm now at around 122 hours played, and the "end" still isn't within sight. The maximum driver level of 40 is at least remotely close in A-spec (36) but as for my virtual B-spec driver currently standing at 29... I think he'll never become a legend. The quest for a thousand cars is at 708 with 8,812 miles driven. According to a bronze trophy, that's more than all of Germany's autobahns combined. The reason for all this effort is the usual: because it can be done :)
The upcoming weekend should be more active and versatile, though, thanks to the shopping pile of March. Perhaps a bit of classic platforming (Rayman Origins), aerial warfare (Ace Combat: Assault Horizon), zombie fun in Tokyo (Yakuza: Dead Souls), original indie action (Bit.Trip Complete), or 3D rhythm gaming (Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove 3D). Even manga as a hobby, mostly forsaken due to space constraints, was briefly resurrected courtesy of Excel Saga. It's a brilliant and totally bonkers series that still enjoys localization, even if on a pace of roughly one paperback per year.
All in all, March has been great and as spring slowly but surely wins over winter, I'm happy \o/
Another away weekend complete without further ado. If anything, I admitted to myself that I've been awfully lazy when it comes to movies, books, and manga. As important as those forms of culture are, I tend to enjoy them in such a fast fashion that it leads to digestion problems of sorts. Games, TV series, and anime are easy. It's quite natural to jot down a few lines about them along the ride but all those "instant meals" often end up in an unwarranted, unfair limbo.
When one experiences (or wolves down) something in an hour or two, it becomes that much more difficult to spend another hour or two to come up with an opinion, no matter how remarkable the experience turned out to be. Thus, at least when it comes to reading, I'll just be a coward and sum all the recent activity into an excellent (subjective) pile that I might eventually elaborate or not. A little bit of Banks, some good old Pratchett, Dick for sure, Kawabata even more so, and Kakifly's moe K-On! mini-series on top.
Blogging on in an awfully sporadic fashion as usual but just remember, all sorts of cultural aspects outside gaming are just as important!
Today's pleasant news consisted of Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom from Zavvi. It should provide some fun "boy and his beast" times while waiting for Team Ico's The Last Guardian. The more anticipated package was, however, the one from Archonia. Manga used to be a dear hobby of mine but high prices and long wait times kinda killed it. Approximately once a year I still stock up on a handful of worthy series, though, and today was the day.
Volumes 25-28 of Negima! Magister Negi Magi cover the fan service filled fantasy adventure front, Suzuka 13-15 delivers pretty powerful romance mush, hilarious comedy is served by Excel Saga 21 and School Rumble 14-16, girls with guns are courtesy of Gunsmith Cats Burst 5, and adorable observations of everyday life are the forte of Yotsuba&! 8. Thankfully Del Rey has published the three volumes of both Suzuka and School Rumble as one, helping to drive down the costs. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to burrow myself into the couch and indulge myself in some quality reading ^_^ Happy weekend, everyone!
Spent another weekend out of town which gave me ample time to catch up on some of the reading I've bought lately. Masamune Shirow's Appleseed was just as much a classic as I expected. Set in the future after WWIII, it follows the lives of two special forces members in Olympus, a utopian city-state governed by a massive AI and half-populated by organic androids in an aim to keep the destructive tendencies of mankind at bay. Shirow has meticulously created a fresh and vivid cyberpunk world where good old action featuring big guns and huge mechas is nicely in balance with more serious themes revolving around politics, sociology, and man vs. machine.
I also crawled through the entire 13-volume Hot Gimmick, which turned out to be a love rectangle involving the 16-year old Hatsumi Narita and her childhood friend, childhood bully, and brother who might actually not be related after all (ka-ching! -500 originality points!) Additional drama is delivered by the story taking place in a huge corporate housing complex where everyone knows each other, social status is everything, and housewives spread rumors with terrifying efficiency.
Hot Gimmick certainly had the ingredients, enough plot twists, and even the art style was pleasing but what ruined it for me were the characters. Hatsumi is probably the most timid, uncertain, and easily leadable heroine I've ever witnessed; a total wreck with a non-existent self-esteem just bouncing from one disaster to another like a pinball stuck between bumpers. That combined with manipulative, selfish, equally unstable wooers who think surprisingly little about the feelings of the one they're supposed to have feelings for, and it all turns into a bit of a mess. It's like watching a sad, sogging wet puppy getting kicked around and when there's no one to root for and no character growth to speak of, following the story becomes heavy and oppressive. Sure, there's a happy ending of sorts but I'd love to see where it leads in, say, five years. Then again, I suppose I'm not exactly in the target demographic of shōjo, anyway ^^;
Lastly, Eoin Colfer's And Another Thing... turned out to be a worthy successor to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. It starts off by trying a bit too hard to be funny and "in the zone" with too many article excerpts from The Guide and constant references to the events of the past but once the old gang is back together and Vogons show up, all is well and the book starts delivering genuine laughs and fluent story-telling all the way to the finish. Apologies for doubting you, Mr. Colfer; you do have the skills to jam in the universe Douglas Adams created :)
Returned home from another weekend away during which I read anew Harry Harrison's 1966 sci-fi novel Make Room! Make Room! Considering the author is more known for humorous, action-packed adventures, the gloominess and despair of this one is rather striking. Harrison conceives New York of 1999 as a 35 million inhabitant city suffering from overpopulation and nearly a total lack of resources of all kinds; water, electricity, living space, oil, and food. Followed through the eyes of three individuals – a police detective, the mistress of a murdered gangster, and a poor Chinese teenager – Harrison paints a dystopian image of people trying to survive their day-to-day life on Earth that can no longer support mankind.
The novel wasn't half bad but it's perhaps a bit too pessimistic and condescending, and definitely not Harrison's usual, more cheerful and lightweight style. Then again, perhaps it was simply set too early into the future - who knows if it might be reality not of 1999 but of, say, 2099? Apparently, the novel was later adapted into a movie, Soylent Green, but judging by its synopsis, it seems to have very little in common with its source.
Also, yet another trip to Jyväskylä lead to more stuff from second-hand bookstores. Grabbed Eoin Colfer's And Another Thing... for a tenner. That's a peculiar one, being the sixth part to Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. Colfer's a great, funny writer but it'll be interesting to see whether this one salutes or rapes the original works of Adams. I also found all 18 issues of Masamune Shirow's Appleseed in absolute mint condition despite being roughly twenty years old. €36 wasn't exactly cheap for those but hey, it's Shirow and a notable piece of comics history from when manga started to become popular outside Japan. Me happy ^^;
I did get started with Again, a DS adventure about Jonathan Weaver, an FBI agent, trying to unravel a case of murders that follow the exact same pattern as those committed by an uncaught serial killer 19 years ago. The catch is, Weaver has an uncanny ability to see into the past, so by linking the events of the past with the events of the present, he can not only catch the killer but also solve the mystery of what happened nearly two decades ago.
It's a pretty complex and intriguing setup but probably quite familiar to the fans of Cing – the developer known for its penchant for concepts of time and memories. The game is played by holding the DS sideways, just like in Hotel Dusk: Room 215, and involves both interviewing witnesses and recreating crime scenes to link the past and the present together. The gameplay so far has been a bit cumbersome, linear, and easy but the story is right on par with Cing's previous efforts. Now about five hours in and while I doubt the game lasts longer than eight, it's turning out to be an enjoyable journey.
I also read anew Charles Bukowski's Ham on Rye, the novel about the author's childhood and teenage years in Los Angeles during the Great Depression in the 30's. It's a tough, touching autobiography about growing up with an abusive father and a submissive mother, trying to find a place in a world that is going to hell and trying to express oneself without a chance to be heard. I'm not that much into his poems and short stories but his novels are just plain brilliant. He was dealt a lousy hand and ended up drinking and hopping from one shitty job to another but he never lost his self-respect, pride, and his passion to write, and that shows in his works. I'm happy his perseverance paid off and as for eventually being praised as "a laureate of American lowlife", no truer words have ever been spoken.
Lastly, a trip to Jyväskylä yielded a couple of deals. Grabbed the entire Hot Gimmick manga from a second-hand bookstore for €36, resulting in 2,000+ pages worth of emotional shōjo mush to enjoy :P Also, while I broke a gamer's commandment of "Thou Shalt Never Deal with Gamestop", they had a lone second-hand copy of Tales of Vesperia that I rescued for €24. I know I did wrong but a) Namco Bandai doesn't seem interested in releasing the enhanced PS3 version worldwide, b) no UK webstores seem to have any bargain bin copies left, and c) the prices on eBay seem to be on the rising side. I'm probably going to hell for what I did but at least I'm heading there with that game in my collection :D