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Sean Bires (Renzu)
Otaku hobbyist
Otaku hobbyist

Sean's posts

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Thank god there will be a Japanese voice pack. Video:

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Arguably the cause of many political problems, particularly the dearth of compelling candidates who focus on the present and future rather than the past. Young people may appear politically-minded on social media, and they may take part in protest events, but when the polls open, they simply don't show up. This trend has worsened over the decades.

"Many disillusioned youngsters regard refusing to vote as a way to express dissatisfaction with the choices on offer. But abstention traps them in a cycle of neglect and alienation. Politicians know that the elderly are more likely to vote, and tailor their policies accordingly."

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Sakuga Blog posted a negative analysis of Masaaki Yuasa's recent and upcoming forays into Adobe Flash. I left this reply:

Yuasa has used a vector-like aesthetic since his Vampiyan Kids pilot and that Cat Soup OVA. With Flash, he seems to have found a toolset that leans into that aesthetic, so the clinical look of these new titles hasn’t shocked me as much. And rather than using Flash as a computerized lightbox (webgen), Science Saru seems to embrace everything the toolset is capable of in terms of merging hand-drawn with computer animation, and from a different angle than the Flash-toons of the past. Whether that’s to the chagrin of fans who want to see a sakuga god’s divine linework preserved in the final composite may be irrelevant to the big picture, which is that automation allows a smaller team to pursue larger productions, and create previously difficult/impossible imagery with relative ease.

That these early results don’t look like the greatest thing since the Itano Circus is unsurprising, much like 4°C’s and I.G’s early forays into 3D animation within traditional anime, and the entire industry’s awkward shift to digital coloring & compositing. But why not let a visionary like Yuasa be the first to map this space, gradually develop a workflow, and set an example for an industry that has always sought to maximize limited talent?

Science Saru exploring the potential of an underutilized toolset at the scale of feature films & TV series is more exciting to me than if they remained a boutique animation house, producing a few neat, conventionally “sakuga” shorts before fading into oblivion. I never wanted the latter to be Yuasa’s calling.

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2017 is the year Masaaki Yuasa dies of overwork. Two new movies and also this Netflix Devilman thing.

Crunchyroll is engulfed in controversy. It has been their practice for a few months now to swap their okay-looking premiere versions of episodes with a lower-bitrate (lower quality) archival version after a period of time. That time period was, at one point, a week. Then it became 24 hours. And then, a certain episode of Rewrite premiered with an especially low bitrate, sparking an internet shitstorm.

CR's response: "[...] Going forward, you will see that we have updated the video experience for simulcasts and new episodes within the new infrastructure. This means you will experience an improved encode for future releases on the new infrastructure, which will no longer use the lower quality encodes after any amount of time."

When they roll this out, and when people verify the improvement, it'll be a win for consumers. Crunchyroll is now in a defacto monopoly position (within a certain niche), and like any company in such a position, they will pull shenanigans if their feet aren't being held to the fire.

All I'm watching this season is Demi-chan and Rakugo Shinjuu. Anything else good? Already tried Dragon Maid; ain't m'thang. 

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Trance, or something like it.

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I'm a Nintendo skeptic. Their titles tend to be overly nostalgic and insulated from modern game trends. Breath of the Wild appears to be the result of Nintendo recognizing how far behind Zelda is from modern touchstones of gaming like Skyrim and Minecraft, and doing something about the series' continuous slide into irrelevance. As a result, I am playing this game.

Far and away the best thing about it is the natural nonlinearity of its utterly massive world. Exploring every nook & cranny is a fool's errand. It shares a quality with Dark Souls (original) in that the myriad ways to approach and path through the game generates fervent conversations. A friend of mine also owns Breath of the Wild and we constantly trade notes and screenshots.

If you go here and look under this thing, you'll get this treasure. If you bring 100 rupees to this place, you'll unlock this new system. I found a guy who can dye armor in this town! I can't believe I played X hours of this game without knowing about Y!

Much of the game's content is off the beaten path of the main story quest. And not just sidequests, treasure and dungeons, but entire game systems. One gazes upon the distant horizon in wonder of what secrets are obscured by the trees, mountains and ominous ruins. Nintendo has made the joy of exploration a central concept, which is often lacking in its formulaic open-world contemporaries like Far Cry 3 and Horizon: Zero Dawn. In that way, it's qualitatively different.

Unfortunately, Breath of the Wild is fiddly, and not just a little bit fiddly. It is Metal Gear Solid 2 fiddly. It is getting tangled in a bunch of traversal modes fiddly. It is accidentally mountain-climbing while attempting to run from enemies fiddly. It is a lock-on system with a mind of its own fiddly. It is a button that puts up your shield only 30% of the time depending on what Link is doing with his hands fiddly. It is a non-existent cooking interface that takes 20 button presses and a jingle to produce a single dish fiddly. It is an autosave system that's reliable except for that one time you died which inexplicably set you back a whole 20 minutes, shaking your faith for the next hour as you manual-save every three steps fiddly.

The major problem is a fundamental one: It does not want you to have a play-style. You don't equip the things you need for the moment and stow the rest. The UI is designed around having all options available at all times, and as such, any toggle entails a game-pausing interface like, again, Metal Gear Solid.

The best moments of interactivity involve the whimsical collision between its many systems, but there are constant puzzles with fixed solutions that require the player-character to be undefined. In that way, it's not a meaningful RPG. The only control I have over "my" Link is my early min-maxing of his stamina bar, but someday, my Link will be like everyone else's Link. Though I may lay claim to his adventure, Link himself was never mine.

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Friend of mine stood in line for a Switch, bitch, and unboxed it here. The severely vertical button layout of the Joycons (pictured) make for iffy ergonomics, but compromises are to be expected in a handheld, and by those standards, it's fine; even a cut above with those raised thumbsticks. I can see why nobody likes the Joycon Grip though, as it places handheld ergonomics in a home console context and the result is unpleasant. I didn't play any games with the Pro Controller, but it seemed familiar enough in the hand as an Xbox facsimile.

It struck me during unboxing how many plastic shells are required to support Nintendo's disparate vision. The Switch supports so many dubious modes of play. Imagine huddling around a splitscreened 7" display on a desk with one half of a controller in hand. I suspect only the traditional modes of gaming will survive come next year.

The Switch is cool as a Nintendo platform convergence device, but the value proposition isn't there yet. Maybe come holidays, or an eventual Tegra P1 hardware revision, the case can be made to buy a Switch. But for now, the Switch and its suite of accessories entail a whole lot of price gouging for not very many new games.
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