Thoughts: Dishonored 2 and Kids on the Slope

In the course of a very productive weekend, my days went like this: Wake up, start watching Kids on the Slope (Sakamichi no Apollon) on Netflix, go to work around 5 in the arvo, work till 10-11, come home, play Dishonored 2, go to bed and repeat. Not a bad few days if I say so myself.

Kids on the Slope is a 12 episode anime series directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, he of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo fame, with music by noted composer Yoko Kanno. It’s a coming of age story set over a few years from 1966 onwards. The protagonist, Kauro, is a freshman high schooler who’s on the honour role and a gifted pianist. He ends up befriending the school bad boy, Sentaro and his childhood friend Ritsuko, forming the core group of oddball characters the series follows as they go through high school.

Don’t worry about all those anime tropes, this series is real quality. The portrayal of domestic problems, societal stresses and teen romance is spot on. The characters end up bonding over jazz, so if you’re a jazz lover then you’re in for a real treat here. The animation is so on point here, particularly the animation when Sentaro is drumming is so damn good. The music as well is amazing. The OP is so damn good, normally I don’t really care about anime OP’s, especially the ones with generic Asian pop songs, that I usually skip them, but I watched the opening damn near every time.

I was really surprised with Kids on the Slope. I rarely watch this type of show, let alone anime’s of this genre but I’m so glad I did because it was really amazing. The whole series is on Netflix and it’s only 12 episodes so I definitely recommend it. Also it’s a very Japanese anime, if that makes any sense, so I ended up watching it subbed just because the voice acting is really good and it felt more appropriate to the story.

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I’m probably close to the end of Dishonored 2, so my thoughts here will most likely be the final ones. I really enjoyed the first Dishonored as something new, the art design was phenomenal and you really had a tonne of options. So I was really looking forward to the sequel, I’ve been craving a really good single player experience after mainly playing the Modern Warfare: remastered and Battlefield 1 multiplayers.

To be honest, I was a bit let down initially. The visuals are noticeably dated, as in this looks far more like a good looking 360 game than an xbox one game. Also, the controls felt a bit clunky and it took me a while to get used to the sensitivity. It was like the look acceleration setting was off but there was no option for me to change it.

Thankfully, the game improves dramatically after the first couple of levels. The art design is still top notch and it feels like there are more options to how you approach things. You can play as either Corvo (royal protector and protagonist from the first game) or Empress Emily Kaldwin. I chose Emily with the plan to do a low chaos run and then a Corvo high chaos run. There are a lot of new powers but the overall number doesn’t seem that much higher than in the first game which is a bit of a shame. Apparently Corvo has different powers, so I hope they’re not just the same one’s he had in the first game.

The premise is basically this: there’s a coup involving a witch who may or may not be your sister, you get ousted, whichever character you don’t choose gets turned to stone and you have to take it all back. The story is pretty basic but it’s more about the world building and the little stories that inhabit the environment which are special.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with Dishonored 2, but I was let down by the visuals and initial clunky controls. It almost feels like this game deserved a bigger budget which it didn’t quite get. I remember liking the first game more after I finished it the second time because I discovered a bunch of things I’d missed, so I’m hoping that’s the case with this game as well.

*Also, Vincent D’Onofrio and Rosario Dawson voice characters in the game, plus Emily is voiced by the same person who voices Sapphire in Steven Universe!

The One Where I Gush Over The Witcher Books

You may be familiar with The Witcher series of video games by Polish studio CD Projekt. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is probably one of my favourite games of all time. The series is inspired by the books of Andrzej Sapkowski, chronicling the adventures of the witcher, Geralt of Rivia.

I picked up the first book in the series, The Last Wish in a fury of witcher love after finishing The Witcher 3. I was surprised to find that it is actually a collection of short stories, each one being a different contract that Geralt undertakes and what we learn about him and the world through those journeys. I knew that the books were popular in Poland but I kind of assumed they may not be that good because when you translate books into English, you usually lose some of the nuances of the original language because rarely do different languages translate word for word. However the language used is actually amazing, really descriptive and evocative and if you didn’t know, it would be extremely hard to figure out that the books had been translated into English.

I’m currently reading the second book Sword of Destiny (terrible name I know), which is also a collection of short stories. I just finished one of the stories called A Little Sacrifice, which is about halfway through the book. The contract in this story is not really that important because it mainly focuses on a romance between Geralt and a poet called Little Eye, one of Dandelion’s friends who he sees as a little sister. The complexity of Geralt’s relationship with Yennefer and the differences between who they are and what they do make it hard for them to be together. It’s really refreshing to see such complex characters within dark fantasy, where it is all too easy to be shoehorned into stereotypes.

I thought I’d post here, the last part of the story because I thought it was really beautiful and sad. Minor Spoilers I guess if you’re set on reading, it but the ending isn’t the important part of the story. If you like the excerpt below, consider getting into the books and once again, props to Andrzej Sapkowski and translator David French.

Then Little Eye, smelling of verbena, lay down beside him, squeezed in under his arm, wriggled her head onto his chest, sighed maybe once or twice and fell peacefully asleep. The Witcher fell asleep, much, much later.

Dandelion, staring into the dying embers, sat much longer, alone, quietly strumming his lute.

It began with a few bars, from which an elegant, soothing melody emerged. The lyric suited the melody, and came into being simultaneously with it, the words blending into the music, becoming set in it like insects in translucent, golden lumps of amber.

The ballad told of a certain witcher and a certain poet. About how the witcher and the poet met on the seashore, among the crying of the seagulls, and how they fell in love at first sight. About how beautiful and powerful was their love. About how nothing – not even death – was able to destroy that love and part them.

Dandelion knew that few would believe the story told by the ballad, but he was not concerned. He knew ballads were not written to be believed, but to move their audience.

Several years later, Dandelion could have changed the contents of the ballad and written about what had really occurred. He did not. For the true story would not have moved anyone. Who would have wanted to hear that the Witcher and Little Eye parted and never, ever, saw each other again? About how four years later Little Eye died of the smallpox during an epidemic raging in Vizima? About how he, Dandelion, had carried her out in his arms between corpses being cremated on funeral pyres and had buried her far from the city, in the forest, alone and peaceful, and, as she had asked, buried two things with her: her lute and her sky blue pearl. The pearl from which she was never parted.  

No, Dandelion stuck with his first version. And he never sang it. Never. To no one.

Right before the dawn, while it was still dark, a hungry, vicious werewolf crept up to their camp, but saw that it was Dandelion, so he listened for a moment and then went on his way.

Movie Reviews: Arrival and Brazil

Last night, I went to the theater to see Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival and the night before that I watched Terry Gilliam’s Brazil on blu-ray. I do love my sci-fi and both of these are very different approaches to the genre. I’ll talk about Brazil first because I watched it first.

Brazil is a 1985 dystopian science fiction film starring Jonathan Pryce (played the High Sparrow on Game of Thrones), plus a slew of cameos from noted British character actors and – strangely – Robert De Niro. This is a strange film, really bizarre and surreal. If you know any of Terry Gilliam’s other works, like 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, then this shares many of the similarities of those films. I think the best things about the Gilliam films I’ve seen thus far are his skills in world building and the whimsical machines which exist in the dystopia.

The actual narrative itself feels somewhat bloated and there’s some ridiculous dream sequences which perhaps drag on for a bit too long. I did really enjoy the film overall and I can’t get the stupid song out of my head that the film is based around. I probably wouldn’t recommend this to your general viewer, but if you like dystopia, sci-fi, Terry Gilliam or just weird stuff from the 80’s then you’ll get a kick out of Brazil.

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My feelings were kind of mixed when I went to see Arrival, mainly because I knew the movie had been received well and Denis Villeneuve was a good director (from Sicario and Prisoners), but I can’t stand Amy Adams. Her role as Lois Lane in the new Superman films and whoever she was in American Hustle (which still stands as one of the most overrated movies ever) really put me off her. I don’t know what it is about her, the fact that she seems to play the same character every time, or I just don’t buy her acting. Anyway, I did really like her in this role so maybe I’ll come around.

So Amy Adams plays a linguist who’s haunted by flashbacks of her daughter who died young from some rare disease. Aliens…arrive (see what I did there) and the military sends after language experts to try and communicate with them. It gets a bit silly with the whole China thing, like ‘oh China is irrational and of course will be the first who wants to blow them up’. Then like the rioting and looting and stuff is dumb and the fact that there is always some dumb American soldier who does something rash because he needs to protect his family. Man am I getting sick of that trope.

The whole reason that stuff is dumb is because the Aliens literally do nothing. The ships just sit there, a door opens every 18 hours and they converse with whoever goes in for a bit. Then the world just loses their shit because aliens are here and the government seems to be doing nothing. Apart from those gripes, the film was quite good. Really smart sci-fi, that avoids alot of the dumb action stuff that often bogs down the genre. The film is so like a Christoper Nolan one in it’s structure that to say any more would spoil it.

Overall, would very much recommend Arrival, especially as a debut sci-fi film for the director that will have you thinking long after the credits role.

Thoughts: Finished Inside and FMA:Brotherhood

So I finished work, got home around 10ish and started playing Inside by Playdead, the developers who made Limbo, with this game sort of being a sequel to that. Roughly 3 and a half hours later and I finished the game and holy shit was it good.

Firstly it seems a little short, but I have to mention that I’ve finished Limbo a few times and gotten all the secrets and that stuff. This is a very similar platformer to that – basically just run, jump and interact – so if you haven’t played Limbo then it would probably take longer. Furthermore the pacing is so goddamn on point, in the sense that I was never like ‘oh I wish this section was over’ that I didn’t mind. There was only one section where I had to look up how to c0mplete the puzzle, and I realised I’d already tried that method but didn’t execute it properly so forgot about it and spent ages doing the wrong thing.

The amount of new areas and mechanics and ideas that the game throws at you is just phenomenal. I’m already thinking about replaying it and getting all the secrets to unlock the secret ending. I only found the first one and apparently there’s like 10 which is crazy because it’s not like I didn’t know they were there. In Limbo, they were hard to get but you accidentally stumble upon them by going a certain way or doing a certain thing.

tldr; Play both games they’re great, the order doesn’t matter but if you play Inside before Limbo then you may feel let down a bit just because of the advancement in production quality, although the art style on Limbo certainly holds up.

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I smashed through the last three seasons of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood in the last week after finishing uni for the semester. Boy does that show pick up speed after the first couple of seasons. There’s so much going on and it seems like the internal logic of the show makes sense but there were a couple of things I didn’t understand at the time. I’m sure it’d be like one of those things where you watch it again and pick up on a tonne more stuff…but I rarely rewatch things unless I’m crazy about them.

Would highly recommend, if you’re finding the first season a bit slow then I reckon you can just wiki plot summary the first couple of seasons and blitz through the last three seasons. They’re only 24 minutes episodes so it’s not hard. One thing which bothered me about the show was that the two main love interests finally get together but they never kiss! The whole goddamn, five season, 60 whatever episodes and they never kiss. Now I gotta go OVA hunting, what a pain.

That’s all for today, Have a good one!

ONE OTHER THING! I was flicking through tv late the other night and I started watching Peep Show. I recognised the show but I never really got it, probably because I’m not the biggest David Mitchell fan. Anyway, it’s this unique British comedy which is shot entirely (or almost) from the point of view of the characters, with their inner monologues narrating the scenes as they go. In the episode, the two guys go to this party, end up going bowling and then back to their place with their respective women they hook up with. The sex doesn’t go well for one of the dudes and is interrupted. Later he thinks about going back in for another try and then gets put off by the sound of his mate doing it in the next room. So he leans over and grabs a tissue box, on the nightstand next to the bed the girl is on, as we watch him from her eyes. The unapologetic face that he makes as he shuffles off was the funniest shit.

Here’s a link to the episode, I thoroughly recommend watching the whole thing but if you want to skip to the part I mentioned, it’s right at the end (23 min). It may be somewhat NSFW also. I can’t speak for the series as a whole but this episode was great.

Cheers,

Intro to JK Pimento’s Personal Blog: Writing, Video Games, Film, TV, Comics, Books + Life!

Hello anonymous reader, you are reading the first ever post in the blog of JK Pimento; aspiring writer, media student, and general swell guy. First things first, I am a 22 year old male and I live in Sydney, Australia. I am studying media at university, I work as a cook at a restaurant and I hope to be able to write fiction for a living one day. I have worked as a writer for a sports website, pets magazine and film website. This blog is essentially procrastination from actual writing as well as being practice in a sense.

I will be sharing my thoughts and opinions about various things; from nerdy stuff like video games and comics, to more serious stuff like life, relationships and politics. I don’t know where this blog is going to go but hopefully I can document some of my adventures along the way, share a slice of my life with you guys as well as being able to do something creative on a regular basis. Assuming I keep up with the posts, I will probably open up about my personality a bit more as I go but at my core I’m a liberal atheist but I probably won’t go on too much about that. Anyway thanks for reading, I’m gonna end my first post with a summary of all the media I am currently absorbing,

Cheers.

Books:

  • Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski (Book Two in The Witcher series)
  • Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison (cutting edge speculative fiction anthology from the 1960’s)
  • Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams (Book three in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy)

Games:

  • Modern Warfare Remastered
  • Battlefield 1

TV:

  • Westworld
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4
  • Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood Season 4
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 3
  • The Walking Dead Season 7 (sorta on the fence about continuing watching after that first episode…jeesh)
  • Gravity Falls Season 1

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