Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Daring Dime

Okay, before you start expecting this to be a serious entry…it’s not. Don’t even bother. This is a very, very goofy, I-probably-haven’t-had-as-much-sleep-as-I-need type entry. But, hey, it actually has SOME barring to my topic manner! Really, it does! That’s why I’m not just putting it in my live journal.

See, I was reading Justine Larbalestier’s blog. (One of several author blogs I’ve recently been reading….all of which have been effective in making me determined to read their books….this is a sneaky, sneaky marketing move, let me tell you…) And one of her readers asked about book signing etiquette.

This post really doesn’t have much to do with her answer, but it’s worth reading anyway. That, and the Maureen Johnson blog post she links to. (I’m reading one of her books right now. Yes. Because of the blog. Sneaky, I tell you!)

But, anyway, it reminded me of a funny story.

See, last November, when this blog was merely a twinkling in my eye (that IS the right phrase, right?) I went to the Fantasy Fest. See, my county’s library system—the Douglas County Library system—has a Fantasy Fest every year in November that is a celebration of all things Fantasy and Sci-Fi. Last year, for example, they had (among other things) human chess, face painting, henna, and—the highlight of EVERY year—they have some fantasy authors come in to talk about their work and answer questions, as well as sign books. Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta were actually the authors last year. They signed my book. They took my check even though they normally don’t. I’m terrified they’re going to find this blog, see my not-quite-positive review of their book, and…remember who I am. ._. They used to live in Livermore, California and noticed my name, and then I [nervously] said something about how my Mom’s name being Rebecca, too, and how her maiden name was Haley, and that’s why my name is Haley, and…yeah, I certainly did everything I could to make sure they REMEMBERED my name, and now I desperately wish I HADN’T.

Anyway, where was I? Oh. Yes. Book signing.

Well, last year, I decided to go to the Fantasy Fest ahead of my friend and my brother—my brother was working that night, and I had missed the author Q&A the previous year, and I was desperate to make sure I didn’t miss it again. The year previously it wasn’t TOO bad that I had missed it, but that’s because I won the short story contest that year and nothing else really mattered in my mind at that point. (Yes. I’m tooting my own horn. It’s my blog, I can do that.)

They DID get there late, too. At one point I saw my friend Hannah outside of the door when someone had come into the room, and I was desperately trying to call her in without bringing attention to myself. (Impossible, I had decided to sit right at the front of the room. As I said, I somehow managed to make myself far, far too memorable to Mr. Anderson and Ms. Moesta.)

So, anyway, Jeremy (my brother) and Hannah were then left to their own devices while I was in the author Q&A. Most of you don’t know them…those of you that do know that it’s very, very bad to leave them alone together. They’re like-minded in many things. And neither of them have a possible future as a writer to maintain.

So, Hannah and Jeremy, unable to find me (even though I was RIGHT THERE), decided that I “must be dead.” Hannah thought it’d be funny if they went around the library asking if anyone had seen “our dead friend.”

Jeremy: I would give money to see that.

Hannah: Do you have any money?

Jeremy: *sadly* No…wait! *reaches into his pocket* One of the pairs of pants a tthe dry cleaner’s had a DIME in the pocket!

(At the dry cleaner’s he works at, they get to keep anything left in the pockets that’s worth less than $10. Including money. He always manages to have cash on hand, because people are always leaving cash in their pockets.)

So, Hannah asked the question, and Jeremy gave her the dime. They then decided that this dime was, in fact, the ‘Daring Dime’. Dare someone to do something, they do it, they get the dime.

As you can imagine, this just fostered their imaginations even more. (They also decided they were vampires, and ‘kidnapped’ me when I came out of the author Q&A—including dragging me into the stairwell.)

Then, they had a brilliant, brilliant idea. See, I had (nervously) joked to them that “They have tons of best sellers. Tons. I want to get a book signed by them to see if their skill and talent will rub off on me so I can become a Super Writer.”

That gave them an idea. They told me about the Daring Dime. And Hannah declared that she would do that dare—but she had the dime!

So, of course, I had to dare Jeremy to do something so he would get the dime. (They were trying to get me to do something, but I had gone there thinking in terms of being a WRITER, and I was NOT hurting my chances of getting into the industry. Oh no, I was going to do that by giving my name to a pair of popular authors and then giving their book a 7.5/10.) So, I dared him to hug a guy in a werewolf costume. (This, by the way, was worth my career. Maybe.)

So, now he had the dime. Hannah was now free to do their wonderful plan.

Hannah gets in line for the book signing...

Walks up to the authors…

And asks for a sample of their DNA so she can “fuse it with my own and become a Super Writer.”

Kevin J. Anderson: You mean like a strand of my hair?

Rebecca Moesta: Well…one more couldn’t hurt. [Mr. Anderson is, well, balding a little. That's what she was refering to.]

Kevin J. Anderson: Oh, well, that’s true. *takes out a strand of hair and gives it to Hannah*

The sad thing is, I think SHE LOST THAT STRAND OF HAIR. She could’ve started a collection.
Not that I would do that. Considering I might actually, you know, be doing this for my REAL job some day. But still, it’d be cool.

I should note that I don’t recommend this. I’d bet money (more than a dime) that if you asked Neil Gaiman that, he’d just call security on you. Or punch you. He doesn’t seem like the sort of guy that would do that, but those are the dangerous ones. Those British guys you don't EXPECT to be violent, but then suddenly are.

Wait, I just said something else that’s going to get me in trouble with the industry, didn’t I?


EDIT: Wow. I leave even MORE spelling mistakes and weird grammar stuff in my posts when it's in the morning. hopefully it should be a little better now.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Excuse me, do you have any Chevalier D'Eon?

...Sorry. I couldn't resist.

Anyway, IGN is streaming the first episode of the anime Le Chevalier D'Eon. I checked it out,'s a lot better than the other two anime that got this treatment recently, at least in my opinion. It is a bit violent (although it doesn't appear to be gratuitously so, at least from this first episode), and there's a few moments that are, to be blunt, WEIRD. But for the most part it looks like it's an excellent anime--solid animation (with very nice, atypical character design), a very interesting plot, and a solid dub. Interesting the way it mixes an historical setting with a bit of mystery and horror, too. I'm not quite ready to plunk down the money for it on DVD, but I'm definitely going to rent this one.

Oscar Nominees

Yeah, I know, it's been WAY too long since I posted. I'm sorry all.

There is, however, some interesting news to post today. The Oscars have announced their nominees. You can get the list from several places, I got mine from Ain't It Cool News.

I haven't seen most of the nominees this year, so I can't really comment on it. While I'm a film fan, I tend to lean more towards 'geeky' movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, which (sometimes understandably, considering that Dead Man's Chest wasn't nearly as good as the first movie) tend to get overlooked by the Academy. Generally, the only catagory I REALLY pay attention to is the Best Animated Movie catagory. Let's look at the nominees....

Happy Feet
Monster House

I was busy when Cars and Monster House came out, so I missed out on seeing them (Both are at the top of my netflix queue, so I'll see them soon), and I missed out on Happy Feet, too. So, I can't say if these are good films or not. They LOOK like they had quality animation, at least from trailers and clips I've seen. I can't say these are bad choices. I've heard people complaining about them, but these were mostly anime fans bitter that Paprika didn't get nominated (understandably, I haven't seen it but it's Satoshi Kon--it's high quality).

It is, however, a bit sad that the best animation of the year (according to the Academy) is....CGI films. At least we didn't get an onslaught of animal films (Happy Feet seems like it's a movie BEYOND animal movie. ....Well, except for the "humans are killing the pretty animals!" message the film appearantly has), but...I like computer-animated films...but that's not ALL animation has to offer. Compared to last year's list of out-of-the-mainstream, quirky, beautifully animated movies, this year is a bit of a disappointment.

Still, I'll reserve total judgement until I at least have a chance to see Cars and Monster House. I'll try to see Happy Feet, too.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I just started my new semester of school, so things have been pretty crazy for the last few days. The good news is, I've finished book 2 of my 50 book challenge this morning before class. I was going to write it tonight, but I'm pretty beat from the full day, and the book I read is by one of my favorite authors so I want to make sure to do it justice. I'll make sure to get a good night's sleep tonight, however, and then I'll have my thoughts about the book posted up sometime tomorrow morning. I'll also try to get a book review up either tomorrow or Friday--the author herself is actually waiting for my review on this one, so I really need to put it up soon. XD

In closing, I leave you with a strip from the webcomic 'Loserz'. My friend saw the cap and had to point it out to me.

I'm not sure if I'm amused, or feel unoriginal, but it is rather funny. XD

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Woman dies while trying to win a Wii

CNN has reported that 28-year-old Jennifer Strange died during a contest at a radio station to win a Wii. Titled "Hold Your Wee for a Wii", the contest was to see who could drink the most water without having to pee. Strange, who was trying to win the Wii for her children, complained of a headache and left the contest. She was found dead in her home a few hours after the contest.

The cause of death was water intoxication, which Wikipedia says is "a potentially fatal disturbance in brain function that results when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed outside of safe limits by a very rapid intake of water."

This is a really, really sad story. Very bizarre, as well, I've never heard of water intoxication before. There's not much more I can say on the matter. My heart goes out to her family.

Thanks to Jase on Namco's official Tales series forum, for posting the original thread.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

National Delurking Week

Guess what folks? There's a great holiday right under our nose that I didn't know about! It's National Delurking Week!

I doubt my blog has been up long enough to really have lurkers, but if any of you are reading this right now and want to say hi, please leave me a comment! I'd really like to meet the readers of this blog (if any), and know what you've all been thinking about it so far. Do you think I was too harsh to Happily N'ever After, for example?

Comment away! We can have a party. I'll bring the cream puffs.

Thanks to Jen Robinson's Book Page for making me aware of this.

Friday, January 12, 2007

REVIEW: Happily N'ever After

Happily N'ever After
Directed by: Paul J. Bolger
Written by: Robert Moreland
With the voices of: Andy Dick, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Wallace Shawn, Patrick Warburton, and Sigourney Weaver

Movie review format

In Fairytale-land, an all-powerful wizard keeps watch over the scales of good and evil. When the scales are in balance, the fairytales happen as they should. When the scale is tipped to the side of evil, things start to go awry.
When the Wizard goes on vacation (leaving his bumbling assistants to take care of everything), Cinderella’s stepmother discovers the scales and decides to take matters into her own hands. When her beautiful dress disappears, Cinderella decides to take matters into her own hands and find her prince without the help of a fairy-godmother—without realizing her prince might actually be the dishwasher. Will the lowly Rick catch Ella’s attention? Will the bumbling sidekicks set things right?

…Who cares?

That’s the feeling you’ll probably have if you go to see the movie. Fractured fairy-tales are fine when they’re done well. One of my favorite movies, Princess Bride, is one example of this. Shrek is another.
This movie wants to be a Shrek, but utterly fails.

The plot is….well. Barely there. The characters are shuffled from one scene to the next, saying jokes that aren’t funny. I laughed once—and it was mixed with a groan. The story doesn’t even try to be that interesting, it’s just begging you to please, please laugh at the jokes.
The actors playing the characters know it’s not funny, as well. Most don’t even try. The few who do—Sarah Michelle Gellar (who I feel sorry for, she really did try) and Sigourney Weaver (do you really need the money that badly, ma’am?)—are struggling with a dull, lifeless script.

The characters don’t help, either. In my last review, I said that Crystal Door’s characters had “very little unique characteristics” and were “unremarkable.” I feel like I owe Mr. Anderson and Ms. Moesta an apology. Their characters were outstandingly charismatic and interesting compared to these. The Prince is Patrick Warburton’s typical ‘lovable idiot’ without the lovable; the Stepmother is evil, but can’t even give an explanation why when asked in the movie; Ella is unsympathetic and just plain dull; the bumbling sidekicks are forgettable and unneeded; and Rick complains so much you can’t root for him to be with Ella, or to get…anything.

The animation for the movie is like something that was made five years ago. To be fair, characters don’t move quite as stiffly as some CGI films do, but they look like they’re made out of plastic. Ella’s hair looks like it’s painted on. The others look like their hair is made out of clay. Their eyes also have this weird shiny glint to them, like doll’s eyes. Were they trying to make them look like toys?

And as for the music? It sounded like a score for a bad Saturday morning cartoon. It was exaggerated and annoying. There was also one random musical sequence thrown in during the middle of the movie. I thought we had moved on from the days when every animated movie had to have a song tacked on! What’s worse is, the musical sequence was an unmemorable pop song what seemed to be the same scene being played over…and over…and over. It was like watching a bad AMV, only the animation and music is normally better in AMVs.

While sitting in the (empty) theater, I tried to come up with some redeeming qualities for this movie. Here they are: Some of the actors try to make the best of it. And the animation is better than Bratz. That’s about it. If you’re a teen or adult who likes animation, you’ll hate this for being a good example of everything that’s wrong with American animation today: reused plots, jokes that aren’t funny, and celebrity actors for the sake of having celebrity actors.
If you’re a parent looking for a movie to take your kids to…rent out Shrek and let them watch it at home. It’s cheaper, and your kids will probably enjoy it more.

I want my $7.75 back.

Story: 1/10
Art: 2/10
Overall: 1/10

More news about Death Note

ICv2 posted up a small explanation explaining some of the questions about Viz's license of Death Note. They also obtained the rights to the DVD and the article says "The Death Note DVDs, which have not yet been scheduled, will be the English dubbed version; the download will be the subtitled version."

Hopefully, what they mean is that "the DVD will include the dubbed version as well as the subbed version", because if they're going to release dub-only DVDs...that's going to cause some problems. For one thing, sub fans will probably want an actual, physical product as well. And dub fans…I don't know about everyone, but I actually like to watch both versions (normally I'll watch the dub first, then wait a bit and watch the sub version afterwards).

Hopefully this is just Viz not being very clear, because...they run the risk of ticking off a lot of fans (and not just the "anime should be free!!" ones).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

POTC 3 Publicity photos

And I thought today was going to be a light day of posting from me.

Ain't It Cool News posted up some publicity pictures from the upcoming summer film Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. These photos *may* be what's going to be on the posters for the film, but they may possibly be changed. The pictures show Barbosa, Will, Jack, Elisabeth, and an oriental character I don't recognize.

I wish I could see Elisabeth's outfit better...there's some sort of...pirate-y kimono she's wearing in the pictures. I really like it, looks like it would be fun to cosplay. (Hey, the Renaissance Faire here is in the summer, so I could wear it there AND the premiere. It'd be cool.)

The Saga of the American Anime Awards continues!

For those of you who haven't read my previous post, the American Anime Awards is the first of what hopes to be an annual event awarding the best in anime. Unfortunately, this first year has had a string of problems, including anime being listed under two different titles in one category and an actor in Akira being nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy.

Well, guess what? There's another problem!

According to Anime News Network, the AAA released a statement that two nominees for Best Manga (Tsubasa and Negima) were accidentally left off the ballot. They also said it was "an error which we deeply regret." I can imagine!

I know in my previous post about their troubles I was a bit snarky, but I can't help but feel bad for them in this situation. To have another mistake like this happen after all of the problems they've been having probably isn't giving the Awards the air of professionalism they obviously want it to have.
To be fair, they did catch it fairly quickly and the ballot has been fixed, so any Tsubasa or Negima fans who want to vote for it will be able to now.

I wonder if the Oscars had this problem when they first started?

50 Book Challenge #1: Stardust

For those of you who didn’t notice the meter, I finished my first book in the 50 book challenge! Only….49 more to go. Whew.

The book I read is Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I’ve heard it was originally released with illustrations by Charles Vess, but the book I got from my library is an edition published without the art (darn!).

I started reading this book because a friend of mine is a big fan of Gaiman. He’s been trying to convince me to read one of Neil Gaiman’s books for a while (often combined with trying to convince me with setences like “He worked on the dub script for Princess Mononoke!”), but I had been putting it off for a while because…well, the last time he suggested a book, I actually didn’t like it that much. (I’m not saying which book it was because I have a feeling I would be burned at the stake by sci-fi fans if it ever got out.) But then I saw MirrorMask, and I actually enjoyed it, so I figured I’d give him a try.

One thing I can say is...

I’m so, so glad I’m not reviewing this book.

It’s not that I didn’t like it. I actually did. But trying to define how I felt about the book with words is…confusing. It was odd…when I first started reading the book, I kept asking myself “When am I supposed to start really liking this? When am I supposed to run up to Patrick and say ‘THANK YOU FOR OPENING MY EYES’?” While I never quite went that far, all of the sudden, half way through the book, I said to myself (almost without thinking) "I really like this book."

"What? I like the book? When did I decide that? What's going on?"

I don't know if I can say it's my 'favorite book ever.' None of the characters in the book grabbed me like Gen from The Thief or Pippin from Lord of the Rings. I don’t think I’m going to start obsessing over every detail of Tristan Thorn’s life and try to search for the hidden details about the character’s back-story like I do at times with my favorite works. (I'm a stickler for characters with deep back-stories.) Although, this isn’t that sort of book anyway. It’s more of a fairytale, I suppose.

One with a faint…bitter mood to it? Overall it’s happy, at times almost innocent. (Well…maybe not innocent. Gentle? Yes, gentle sounds better.) But there’s this bitter, almost cynical undertone in the book. Even though the book has a fairly happy ending, the last emotion mentioned in the book (in the last sentence, actually) is sadness. Although I guess not all fairytales are completely happy. We just think they are since Disney movies generally are. (I’m a Disney fan, just so you know, so I’m not bashing them.)

Or maybe I’m just seeing things. Who knows? Overall, I liked the book, and will probably read another one of Neil Gaiman’s books.

I just hope I don’t have to review one for a while if they’re all going to leave me as befuddled as this one did.

( ======= )
1 / 50 : 2.0%

As for the next book I'm going to read? don't know, actually. I was going to read House of Leaves, but it's nearly due at the library and someone has it on hold. So today I'm going to go to the library to turn in my books (and pay off some overdue fines) and...well, I guess I'll just grab whatever looks good? (That almost amounts to judging a book by it's cover, doesn't it? Oi.)

Edit: The counter looks really...wonky in my main posts, doesn't it? But not on the side bar. Hm. I might have to fiddle with it.

Another edit: Oooookay. For some reason the graphical counter isn't working at all in the main body of the post...I think it's something with the layout of the blog and the transperency of the graphic, but I'm not for posts, I'm just going to use the text counter, and keep the nice looking counter on the sidebar.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I figured I should probably leave a quick note about the Amazon search box I just put on my sidebar.

While my main motivation behind the blog is to practice my writing and build up experience, I am unemployeed currently, and I consider this blog my 'job'.

I'll be straight with you--with the amazon search box, if someone searches for something from there, and then buys something from Amazon, I get a (very small) percentage of the sales. I don't really expect to gain much money from this (if any), and I CERTAINLY do not want to pressure anyone to buy from Amazon. There are other stores out there that have competitive prices as well (and, in fact, I'm planning on letting you all know when I hear about good sales or deals). But, if you are planning on making a purchase from Amazon, and you enjoy my blog, please consider using the search bar, or one of the other links to Amazon I'll be putting up soon.

Again, no pressure--it's just a way for me to (possibly) earn some money from this.

Fullmetal Alchemist on [as fix]

I just remembered there was another news event that I should probably shortly mention on here (it seems like today's been a big day for news--I'm not even covering half of the stuff that caught my attention).

Adult Swim's free streaming service, Adult Swim Fix, is streaming the first two episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist. If you haven't checked out this anime yet--or if you're trying to get a friend into the series--this is a great way to do it.

Of course, I think the first two episodes aren't nearly as strong as later episodes in the series--particularly the more dramatic ones, like the episode right after these--and the dub hadn't quite gotten to the high quality that it was further on in the series. They're still worth checking out.

source: Anime News Network

Death Note has been licensed!....Kinda

I wasn't planning on doing another post today, but this news is far too exciting to put off.

Viz Media has announced that they have obtained download-to-rent and download-to-own rights for the Death Note anime--while the anime is still airing on Japanese TV! No mention about any DVDs, or if the releases will be dubbed, subbed, or both, but it's still exciting news.

My guess is this is probably to curb fansubbing of the anime (although some anime companies have no problem with fansubs as long as the show isn't licensed for the US). Regardless, this probably means that most fansubbers will stop subbing and distributing the subs they have.

I'm not a big fan of downloading movies and anime...I'd much rather have a DVD. It's just something more solid. That being said, if the price seems reasonable, I wouldn't mind doing a download-to-rent deal to be able to keep up with Death Note. I've seen some fansubs of the show and it's an excellent, excellent show.

It'll be intersting to see if this takes off. I wonder if this is the future of anime?

source: Ain't it Cool News

REVIEW: Crystal Doors

Crystal Doors
by Rebecca Moesta and Kevin J. Anderson
Publisher: Little, Brown
Book Review Format

Gwen and Vic are fourteen-year-old “twin cousins”—that is, cousins who happened to be born on the same day—who have been living with Vic’s father since the tragic deaths of Gwen’s parents and the disappearance of Vic’s mother. When Vic’s father, a scientist, starts to fear that they may be in danger, he attempts to open a door to another world using mysterious crystals—but accidentally sends only the cousins, leaving him behind. Now stuck on the beautiful island of Elantya, Gwen and Vic try to figure out how to get in contact with Vic’s father and get back home—but before they can do that, they’ll be swept into a war between the island and an evil aquatic race known as the Merlons.

The first book of a trilogy (what else?), Crystal Doors starts out strongly. The protagonists are charismatic and entertaining. Also, while both have faint hints of archetypes in their personality, they have enough charm and personality to stand on their own. Gwen is an intelligent, strong female character who is the mature voice of reason of the cousins and has a tendency to get a bit too worried about everything being ‘logical'. Vic, on the other hand, is snarky, laidback, and gets by with a mix of luck and ingenuity that tends to kick in at the last minute. Their personalities bounce off each other well, and their unique skills and ways of thinking are proven quite handy in the adventures they encounter.

The pacing in the first half of the book also goes at a fast pace, urging you to keep reading with great word building and a good plot. Although Elantya is reminiscent of other island utopias that crop up in fantasy frequently (I don’t think it’s an accident that its name sounds like Atlantis), the country’s position as a gateway between worlds and a well thought out social structure helps it to stand out among other fantasy worlds. The magic system in the book is also well thought out—the crystals mentioned in the title not only serving to open the doors between worlds, but also being used for other magic in the book. I particularly liked how the crystals were used to make ink for magic scrolls, and how the scrolls were used throughout the books. Magic in fantasy has a can at times be almost all-powerful, so the carefully thought out rules about what can’t and can be done with magic in Elantya help to keep the question “why aren’t they just using magic??” from ever coming up, and keeps the action intense.

Ironically enough, however, that’s exactly what slows down the pacing about half-way through the book: the action. While the first half of the book has a few intense moments, most of it is spent on building the intricate world and magic system, so when the book suddenly ratchets up several levels in intensity, which feels incredibly jarring. Not only is it intense, it’s also nearly nonstop for the rest of the book—you barely have a chance to mentally collect yourself until the heroes are thrust into another battle or dangerous situation. Also, some of the battles serve little purpose in the plot other than to show what a threat the Merlons are, so it almost feels as though the plot has been put a standstill during the constant battling. It’s not that the battles aren’t exciting. They are. One particularly memorable passage is a desperate struggle against voracious flying fish appropriately called ‘flying piranhas’—which are probably one of the most impressively terrifying creatures I’ve read in a book. No, the problem is that there’s so many action scenes all at once that it bogs everything down. It probably would have been better to have the battles spaced out among the world building, or to shorten one of the battles.

Another weak point of the book is the characters. Although Vic and Gwen are strong characters, almost all of the other characters populating the book feel like characters we’ve seen before. The snobby prince? Check. The quiet psychic girl? Check. The Amazonian warrior? Check, and complete with animal skins. The absent-minded professor? There are two!

The use of archetypes would have been fine if the characters had been fleshed out more, and there is some character development throughout the book, but the characters have very little unique characteristics that help them remain very remarkable. It’s quite possible that these characters will be expanded upon in the next book. In fact, Lyssandra (the psychic girl, and one of the first characters introduced) starts to be fleshed out more towards the end of the book, so it’s quite possible. But for this book, the character development for the characters is weak enough that it feels as though Vic and Gwen are two real people trapped on an island with the ghosts of literary characters that have come before.

There also are a few moments where the characters make illogical choices to further the plot, or the foreshadowing in the book is just too obvious. If a vessel that contained an important shipment was sunk mid-voyage by Merlons, would you put a class of beginning students and a few teachers out to sea on an ancient vessel, with very few weapons and a collection of (mostly) weak spells? If your answer is “yes,” I hope you’re not working in education. Also, a big secret behind one of the characters is actually fairly obvious if you’re paying attention while reading.

All in all, Crystal Doors is by no means a bad book. It doesn’t do anything that’s going to change the genre as we know it—nor do I think it tries to. It’s a fun fantasy story with a cleverly thought out world that seeks merely to entertain. If you’re looking for a deep, thought-provoking tale that’s the equivalent of a feast, you’ll probably be disappointed. But it makes for a fine literary appetizer.

Rating: 7.7/10

Fire nation, meet your greatest enemy--glasses of water!

According to, M. Night Shyamalan has signed a deal with Paramount pictures to write, produce and direct a trilogy of films based on Nickelodeon's popular animated show "Avatar: The Last Airbender." (You can also read about at on Anime News Network and Ain't It Cool News.)

I'm giving you two minutes to get any and all "TWIST ENDING!" jokes out of your system.


Okay, now that you've gotten that out of the way, I'll offer my opinion on it.

I actually like both Shyamalan (I genuinely liked The Village) and Avatar: The Last Airbender (it's not anime, but I like other animation, too, and it's a surprisingly deep show). But the thought of the two together?'s....interesting.

On one hand, if they're really serious about this, it could be an excellent series of films. I generally dislike most show-to-movie translations for cartoons (Powerpuff Girls was dull and Scooby Doo was absolutely hideous), so to have a bit of a change in the norm certainly couldn't hurt any. But Shyamalan? His movies are so....dark and supernatural. Not that there isn't any supernatural themes in Avatar, and the cartoon is pretty dark for a show aimed at children, but it still seems his style doesn't quite mesh with the show.

Still, it'll be interesting to see what happens with the films.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Why do anime villians have small eyes?

Sorry folks, the review isn't happening tonight. I'll make sure to get on it tomorrow.
However, to make up for not getting it done, here's a (very casual) explanation on why some anime characters have wide eyes, and why villians are portrayed with small eyes (which we see as being more Japanese).

Today I was browsing the Anime News Network forums when a user named philg asked why anime characters are often portrayed with large eyes and hair color that we typically associate with caucasian people. He also noticed that a lot of the villians are often portrayed with smaller eyes.

There's a lot of really good answers in the original topic, so I encourage you to take a look at it. But by the time I got done with my answer to the topic of the villian's eyes, it was long enough that I thought it might be worth posting here so you guys could see, as well.

I once read an anime drawing book that said that heroes tend to have wider eyes and clothing that looked more 'normal'--they aren't wearing a costume, just wearing clothes.
In contrast, it said, villains in anime tend to have narrower eyes, hair covering the face, and clothing that is more like a costume than actually wearing average, everyday clothes. (Unfortunantely, I can't remember which book this was. I want to say it was one of David Okum's books, but I can't say for sure. If anyone knows the correct reference, please let me know so I can give the author proper credit!)

The reason for the differences is because with wider eyes and hair away from the face, the character appears more 'open'. Your typical innocent, wide-eyed hero has nothing to hide. That being said, a villian (or anti-hero) has quite a bit to hide, so that shows in the narrower eyes and hair covering the face.

You can see this sort of principle at work in a lot of anime. For example, in Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji's character design is fairly open--short hair cut away from the face and wide eyes. As seen here:

In comparison, Gendo has comparitively smaller eyes, and they're often covered by a glint in his glasses.

(Although, Gendo could just have smaller eyes since he's an adult. Adults tend to have smaller eyes in proportion to their face than children and teens do, even in real life.)

Another example is in Princess Tutu (this is my favorite anime, so you'll see me refer to this a lot).
Fakir, a very mysterious and often threatening character, has extremely narrow eyes and large (VERY large) black bangs that sweep across his face. (this isn't the best angle--depending on how you see him the bangs might obstruct his right eye completely from view)

Compare Fakir to Duck, the heroine of the story. She has very wide blue eyes, and while she has a large clump of hair to the right of her face like Fakir, it stays almost completely off of her face. Even when she's squinting her eyes slightly in worry, they're rather large.

That being said, they DO have a tendancy to have 'western' features be on more attractive woman. But, like others have said, it's more just because of how atypical it is. We do the same thing, if you think about it--Twi'lek in the Star Wars universe are more often than not portrayed with asian or african looks, particularly when the characters they play are slaves or dancers. Why? Because it's 'exotic', I'd guess.

So, there you have it. A little explanation on why there's often a difference in eyes between heroes and villians in anime. Of course, this isn't always true, as every anime has a different style to it. To paraphrase Barbosa, it's more of a guideline than an actual rule.

So, what do you all think? Can you think of better examples than I gave? Do you know of an anime or manga that goes against this theory? And do you think that some anime characters look too "western?" Click the "comments" link at the bottom of the post and let me know what you think!

50 Book Challenge

Recently, while I was on Live Journal, I glanced over at the community spotlights and noticed a community called 50bookchallenge. It's basically a community that challenges you to read 50 books in a year--about, oh, one book a week or so. While it's a stretch, since I'm basically unemployed at the moment (this blog is my job, and it doesn't pay all), I decided to go ahead and give it a go.

Actually, the person who created the challenge hasn't accomplished it yet, so obviously there's no pressure if you don't make it. But I'd certainly like to try it out. (Plus, I can count school books and books I review here in my total, AND it gives me extra blog post. I win!)

So, here's how it's going to work. As I said above, I'm counting books I read for school and books I read for reviews, as well as books of my own choosing. I'm not going to count manga--unless I get short for time, and decide I need it to help keep my running total going along.

For books I read that aren't reviews, I'll give you a summary of the book and my own personal thoughts on it--less professional than my real reviews, more chatty. I don't think there's much of a point to review a book that's been out for years (or even centuries!), but I thought you might find my thoughts interesting. (Plus, it helps me feel like I'm working!)

To help you (and me) keep track of where I am, I'm going to be using a meter:
Zokutou word meter
0 / 50

Right now it's "0" because i haven't finished any books this year. (I actually DID read some books at the end of last year that I was planning on reviewing--actually, I hope to have one review up tonight, but I'm not making any promises, just in case.)

Currently, I'm reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman, so I'll count that as my first book. After that, I have the ominous-looking tome that is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I have a feeling I'll be reading that book while I'm reading others because it's a bit notorious for being very...different. But, my friend Patrick said that if I read through it and finish it, I can force him to read a book of my choosing, so I'm determined to get through it ASAP.

I think I'm going to go see how much I can get done of Stardust now, since I'm starting a week into the year. Regardless, I'm going to take a break and post up a review for you all (unless some unforseen event happens that prevents me from posting it up).

Oh! And I almost forgot--if you have a suggestion for me of a book to read, by all means, leave a comment in my journal and let me know! I love discovering new books.

Wish me luck!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Is the American Anime Awards eligible for 'Best Comedy?'

First of all, sorry for this being out a bit late. I’ve already learned two things: (1) either Blogger is going through growing pains, or my computer is doing something odd that's preventing me from signing in at times and (2) don’t promise that you’ll do something over the weekend. I’m far too lazy for that.

But, considering that my future career is at stake here, I am going to get better. If I don’t stick to this, my dear (and hopefully not imaginary) reader, you can feel free to leave me nasty comments in the blog telling me to get my lazy rear in gear. ^_~ (Anime-style emoticons are so professional!)

So, on to my opinion on how the American Anime Awards are going.

For those who don’t know, a few months back there was a press release stating that the New York Comic Con was hosting the first ever “American Anime Awards”, which are being streamed live on IGN in February, and also being shown on ADV’s Anime Network. The nominees were decided by asking all of the major distributors of anime for their nominees, as well as a few independent sources. However, the winners are being decided by a fan vote.

Unfortunately, the voting process hasn’t been exactly smooth. For instance, Johnny Young Bosch was nominated as “Best Actor in a Comedy” for his performance in…Akira. Now, I haven’t seen Akira yet (I know, I should), but…Akira isn’t really known for being side-splittingly funny. To top it off, the dub Bosch was in has been out for half a decade. The movie itself has been available in the US since 1990. That’s right folks—anything readily available in the past year was eligible, even if it’s been out for years.

Also, I really want to know how the awards will handle non-union dubs. Cowboy Bebop, for example, is known as one of the best dubs ever created—but it’d be difficult to nominate it for something like this because, well, most of the actors were listed under pseudonyms. What happens if we get a non-union dub like that again? Ignore it in the awards?

And, of course, there’s the problem of the fans voting. For example, I’m a huge fan of Princess Tutu, one of the anime that’s nominated in several categories for this year’s awards. Of course, while I hope it does well, I wouldn’t be surprised if it loses out to something like Fullmetal Alchemist (which, for the record, is another favorite of mine). It’s not to say that FMA doesn’t deserve an award—I’d be thrilled if it got one—it’s just frustrating that I’ll probably get an award because of it’s popularity, not because of it’s quality.

To be fair, most of these issues were covered in an interview with Milton Griepp, who is one of the people in charge of the awards. For example, whoever nominated Bosch put him on the ballot as an actor in Akira--the Awards themselves didn't do that. Still, Griepp's answers fail to satisfy me. They're obviously working on things, but it's still a mess, no matter how you look at it.

Overall, I’m in favor of supporting the awards. It’d be a great, great thing if these awards did well, and I encourage everyone to vote in it. It’s just disappointing that this year has had so many issues. Here’s hoping that next year the awards will go much more smoothly.

…And that this doesn't become the fiasco that is Spike’s Video Game Awards.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Hello all, and welcome to l33t beat! In this blog, my goal is to bring you reviews, news and opinions on subjects relating to ‘geek culture’. What do I mean by that? Well, essentially anything that I think appeals to geeks (nerds, otaku, dorks, or whatever phrase you wish to use) like me. I’m mostly going to be focusing on video games, anime, manga, animation and fantasy fiction and film, although I may cover other topics I think would be of interest. (For example, I’ll probably write something for when the Colorado Renaissance Festival comes around again.)

Why do I want to start a blog? Well, I hoping that when I graduate from college (or even before) I can get started in a career in writing. With this blog, I hope to build up a portfolio, as well as to have it help me continue to practice my writing. Plus, there’s nothing quite like being able to say “I’m working” when you’re turning on your Nintendo DS.

Below this post, you’ll see an explanation for the formats of each sort of review you’ll see in this blog. I’ll also be linking to the appropriate one in each review. Please feel free to give me feedback on the review formats, or anything else you see in the l33t beat—either by posting a comment to entries, or by sending me an e-mail at I’d love to hear from any of my readers, even if you think I write like crap. I have to learn somehow, right?

My goal is to have at least 3 posts a week here, although I should be able to do more, at least until college starts back soon. Expect my first main entry tomorrow—when I’ll give you my opinion on how the American Anime Awards seem to be shaping up. Hope to see you then!

Anime and Manga Reviews

In this entry, I’ll explain how my standard format for anime and manga reviews looks. Like my other review formats, these are subject to change as I see how things work (although I’ll always make sure to make a note of it if I do change my format). For anime and manga, I’ll be looking at the same basic qualities. My style for these reviews is borrowing heavily from Anime News Network’s rating system—partially because I really like their reviews, and partially because I TRIED to deviate from it, but found that their style works really well for expressing why I do (and do not) enjoy a series. However, unlike ANN, I’ll be using a 1-10 rating style, instead of letter grades.

What I’ll be looking for:

Story: This rating will show how I felt about the plot and characters. Does the plot hold your interest? Does it borrow heavily from clichés, or is it unique? If it does uses clichés, how well does it execute them? Are the characters memorable? Do they grow and change? And how about the pacing? That’s the sort of things I’ll be looking for in this category.
I should note that, for anime that focuses heavily on comedy, the ‘story’ rating will rely more on the characters and humor value, rather than the plot (which sometimes doesn’t really matter in a show along the lines of Azumanga Daioh).

Art: This rating will show how I felt about the overall style of the work, and the quality of it. For anime, this will include how smooth the animation is, the character design (can you tell the characters apart? Can you always recognize the characters?), how well the color used works, and how well the overall look is executed. For manga, this will cover the style, the quality of the art, the character design and how well the layout and drawings work together to tell the story. (Nothing bothers me more than being unable to tell what’s going on during an action scene because of how the panels are laid out, or because the art is angled confusingly.)

Overall: My overall opinion of the anime or manga. This won’t be an average of the scores, but both will be taken into account. Generally, I place more importance on the story than the art style, although the greatest plot in the world can be dragged down by horrible art. I’ll also split up my rating for the dub and the sub: good acting can raise a rating, and bad acting can lower a rating.

Also, please note: My reviews will mostly focus on one volume of the series (for example, Princess Tutu: DVD 1, or Fullmetal Alchemist: Manga 5), rather than the entire series. I will sometimes combine a review of two or more volumes if get them at the same time, though, and I also may review boxsets at times.

Now that you know what my general format is, a bit of a warning. While I will try to be objective as possible, I do have my own tastes in terms of anime and manga, and inevitably, these will probably sneak themselves into my reviews. So you know where I’m coming from, here are my…

Personal biases: I’m a big fantasy nerd (as you can probably tell), so stories that do a good job of telling a fantasy story are probably going to catch my attention. I’m also a huge sucker for good character development—if the characters are interesting and deep, and have a great character arc, I may be more willing to forgive a weak plot or setting. I tend to be more of a shoujo fan than a shounen fan as well, but not always.

My favorite anime: Fullmetal Alchemist, Princess Tutu, Paranoia Agent, Laputa: Castle in the Sky (and most of Miyazaki’s films), Azumanga Daioh

Favorite manga: Fruits Basket, Fullmetal Alchemist, Megatokyo (Megatokyo isn’t actually a manga, but I’m also planning on reviewing “World Manga” as well)

Book Review Format

Well, well, it looks like you just stumbled upon the entry that explains the format for my book reviews!

For this blog, almost all of the books I’m going to be reviewing are books that fit into the fantasy or sci-fi genres. These reviews are going to be a little tricky—unlike video games, anime, or even movies, you can’t really section out certain qualities that make the book good. There’s no animation, cinematography or music to assault your senses, no controls that allow you to effect what happens. It’s just you and the pages printed with the author’s words. In a sense, books are a much intimate form of entertainment.

Rather than muddle up my reviews with nitpicky ratings for stuff like “editing” or “characters” or “use of words”, I decided it’d be better to simply write out my review, and give you one ‘overall’ rating (from 1-10), that expresses my opinion on the book.

As for the sorts of thing I think makes a good book…Obviously the main thing that’s important is the plot. If you don’t care what happens, what motivation is there to keep reading? Pacing and characters also effect this too—I have a higher tolerance for slow pacing than some people (my favorite book is Lord of the Rings, after all), but a book that drags on and on will start to seem more like a chore than entertainment. Likewise, if you don’t find yourself interested by the characters (or if the characters are weak archetypes), you’re probably not going to care about learning more about them, or reading about their adventures. And, of course, writing style is important.

Also, while I try to be as objective as possible, I’m only one reviewer. My tastes in books are going to find their way into my reviews. So you know where I’m coming from, here’s a summery of my…

Personal biases: One of my biggest things is characters. I want to read about interesting, likeable characters and watch them grow. If, for whatever reason, I have a hard time connecting to the characters of a book, I have a more difficult time enjoying the book. For example, I can’t stand Gone with the Wind, no matter how much of a classic book it is. The only character I like in that book dies in the end, and I kept wishing Scarlett would be attacked by enemy soldiers.
Actually, because of my love for characters, I have a tendency to like fantasy books slightly more than sci-fi books—this isn’t an absolute rule, I just feel that at times, sci-fi books focus too much on technology, and not on people. When sci-fi has great characters, though, I LOVE it.

My favorite books: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, any and every Star Wars book written by Timothy Zahn, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Game Review Format

Being a gamer is an expensive (and often time consuming) hobby. Because of this, wasting your resources on a bad game often tends to feel more painful than the typical bad purchase. Gamers are well aware of this—it’s why there’s so many review magazines and websites, and the reason behind the flood of posts on gaming forums asking “should I get this game??”

Unfortunately, a video game is also more time-consuming than reviewing any other type of media I’m reviewing on my blog. It’s not as easy as going to the theater to see a movie, or picking up a book at a library. Even short video games take a good 10 to 20 hours to complete, and RPGs—my favorite genre—can take 50 hours, or even longer. Since I’m a full-time college student, I don’t have the time to dedicate to gaming reviews as much as I would like to. So, I have a (reluctant) solution: often, I will not have a game 100% completed when I write my review. However, I will always do my best to play as much of a game as I can, and will take good care to play through all the modes. Plus, I will always preface all of my gaming reviews with a note of how far I’ve progressed through the game, so you’ll know exactly where I’m coming from with my review. Of course, if you’ve progressed farther in a game than me, you’re free (and invited!) to offer your own opinions in the comments of my blog!

Now that I’ve waxed philosophical about the hazards of being a gamer, let’s skip the wordy paragraphs and get straight to the explanation of the review format, shall we? This is how you can expect the typical game review in this blog to look. I might be changing my format at times, to make sure I really nail down a good style for my reviews.

Ratings: For video game reviews, I’m going to be doing a numerical rating system, borrowing from Gamespot’s formula. Why Gamespot? Well, I have an account on that site and plan to be posting my reviews there as well—so it’s just easier if my reviews match their rating format. For more indepth details on how Gamespot rates game, click here.

For a brief overview: Ratings are from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest. The games will be rated on individual components, and then given an overall score.

The components:

Graphics: Both the technical quality of the graphics, as well as the artistic quality. How smoothly the game’s graphics run factor into this score, as well.

Sound: Covers sound effects, voice acting, and music.

Gameplay: In essence, how fun the game actually is to play. This covers things like the controls, difficulty level, design of levels, etc. For games that come from genres that rely heavily on their story (particularly RPGs), I may adjust this score slightly to reflect how well the story is executed, as well. (Of course, this isn’t always going to be the case—a music game is NOT going to get a low score in this category just because there’s no story to speak of!) Obviously, this is the most important component.

Value: Covers things like replay value, the length of time it takes to go through the game, the price the game is going for in retail stores, etc. For example, if a game has a solid multiplayer mode, lots of unlockables, and several modes to play through in single player as well, expect to see a high rating here. Also, if the game is solid, and comes out with a lower-than-normal retail price, it will also earn a high score in this category.

Overall: My overall impression of the game. Note that this will NOT be an average! Gamespot uses a weighted average to figure the final score for their reviews—but, to be honest, I’m not sure exactly how the components are weighted. Rather than take a blind guess and mess it up, it’ll be much easier for me to simply take a look at my scores and then give an overall rating based on that. (This means my reviews may sometimes be scored slightly differently on my blog, compared to my review on Gamespot’s website. There shouldn’t be too much of a difference, however.)

Also, since my Overall score will not be an average, I will not be including a ‘tilt’ rating.

Oh, and before I forget: since I’m just one gamer (as opposed to a team of gamers), it’s hard to be entirely objective. I’m probably going to rate RPG games higher than, say, a shooter—that’s just my personal taste. So you know where I’m coming from, here’s my…

Personal Biases: My favorite games tend to be RPGs and quirky Japanese games. This doesn’t mean I’ll always rate games made in America lower, I just enjoy the style these games bring to the table. I also have fond memories of Nintendo games from when I was a kid, so I have a tendency to get nostalgic about games like Mario and Zelda.

Favorite Games: Tales of Symphonia, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Riviera: The Promised Land, Super Smash Brothers Melee, Soul Calibur III, Animal Crossing

Movie Review Format

Here, in this entry, you’re going to get my explanation of my format for movie reviews. In my blog, most of the movies I’m going to be reviewing are movies that have a particular ‘geek’ quality to them—animated films, fantasy/sci-fi films, and the occasional independent film. You’re probably not going to find a review of a political drama or a romantic comedy in here (unless it has some element of magic or time travel or…something along those lines). If a movie has ‘cult hit’ potential, don’t be surprised if I review it here. (Or if it’s just animated—I’m an animation geek.)

In my reviews, I’m going to be reviewing both films that have just been released to theaters, and movies just released to DVD. Why both? Well, while I prefer to see movies in a theater (my home theater system is, uh, nonexistent—just a normal SDTV, or my laptop), sometimes I might not be able to catch a movie in a theater soon enough to make it worth reviewing. Plus, sometimes a movie that I think would be of interest might be released on DVD several years after its release, or given some sort of “special edition” release.

The ratings: Like most of my other reviews, my movie reviews will be scaled based on a 1-10 rating in certain areas, and then given an ‘overall’ rating.

Story: Covers the overall plot of the movie. Among important qualities here is the dialogue, pacing, and characters. How I felt about the acting in the movie is included in this rating, as well.

Art: An all-encompassing rating that means different things to different movies. For animated movies, this is covering the quality of the animation, coloring, and character designs (similar to my anime reviews). For a high-budget film—particularly movies in the fantasy or sci-fi genres, which are often heavily visual—this will look at elements like the effects (computer or otherwise), costumes, and cinematography. For films that are lower-budget or more mellow, this will mostly be about the cinematography, although elements like costuming and any effects the movie might have will be included in here as well. For all movies, this score also includes how I felt about the score.

Overall: My overall feelings about the movie, not an average of the scores. Generally, a high rating in story matters more than a high rating in the ‘art’ category—although there are at times a movie that’s so visually impressive it’ll have the rating go up at least a bit.

In addition, while I try to be as objective as I can, I’m only one reviewer. My own tastes when it comes to movies are naturally going to seep in a little into my ratings. So you can see where I’m coming from with my tastes and opinions, here’s a look at my…

Personal Biases: As I said before, I’m an animation geek. Excellent animation—either used in conjunction with live action, or in a purely animated movie—is something that catches my attention. Also, I have a tendency to tire of clichés—if a movie does a good job of parodying clichés, or does a good job of remaining unique, I’ll rate it higher than I would a movie that is just the same old, same old. I’m a stickler for good characters, too—well written, deep, likeable characters will make a movie worth seeing in my mind.

Favorite movies: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the original Star Wars trilogy (IV-VI), The Incredibles, Toy Story 2, Beauty and the Beast, A Little Princess, The Princess Bride, It’s A Wonderful Life, Stranger Than Fiction