Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Anime Blog Thoughts: Personality and Blogging

Angel Beats Yuri and Kanade

When I started this blog, I didn't really think of it too much, in regards to me as the writer. I always thought that taking care of the blog mattered more than how I was feeling or the content of my thoughts at the time. When I look at my old blog posts, I notice differences in how I wrote, how I thought, and the lingering emotion behind my words. Sometimes it was great, sometimes it was bad, and other times it was just mediocre. Looking upon this now as an experienced anime blogger has really taught me a good amount of lessons.

One that always comes to mind is the realization that a blog's quality isn't always judged or altered by the blog itself. Sometimes, the quality of the blog depends on the one who is writing it. Since all of my words come from my head, unless I am quoting someone else or a specific source, this lesson might seen a little obvious. Funny enough, it took me until now to realize this.

So I feel that the best thing a blogger can do to improve their website, outside of the typical maintenance, is to work on themselves. Even though my blog isn't completely about me, I play a major role in it's success. Success for me, is basically providing interesting, involving, and inspiring content for you, as well as introducing more people to the positive side of otaku culture.

Many of my post ideas come from the things I've experienced in life, which usually involve watching anime, reading manga, and playing video games. However, other things have given me more insight on certain subjects. Examples of such are interacting with fans of anime and Japanese culture, reading on the opinions of groups of people. Even things such as learning Japanese and doing things completely unrelated to anime have given me some of my best blog ideas.

Whispers of the Heart

Of course I've picked up a few skills and have developed from my blog, but these other experiences allowed me to develop and grow as a person as well. All of this combined caused a change in my personality or to be more specific, a greater development of my current personality. So I see posts I wrote that don't even sound like me at this point, but I realize that it was probably during a time where I was going through changes that might not have been as pleasant.

You might ask if I regret putting out such posts at such times, but my answer would be no. For bloggers who are reading this, understanding that your growth changes the way you think and feel is very beneficial to your writing. If you're aware of this, you can know when you want to write, and how to avoid putting out bad posts that don't fit your style. Also, even if you do publish a bad or less satisfactory post at some times, you will know that it's okay, because it's not something that will go on forever. Every blogger has bad days, and good days, so it's good to get used to both, and find a way to work around the bad when it happens.

With this I ask bloggers a question, "What defines your personality? What makes you different from the rest of the crowd, and why?" I think this question is important for any person to ask, because when you know yourself and what drives you, you can use your strengths to your advantage. When you don't know yourself, well, it's a little harder.

This does not mean you should attempt to change your personality if you are perceived negatively by the online population. Many people have many different ideas and sometimes even if you are nice, you may receive dislike based on your position and morals. However, a person who states their opinions peacefully and accepts others gains more respect than one who does not state them at all. Although our personality is the driving force behind many of the things we do, I feel we should not be afraid of ourselves, and instead speak what we feel as long as we are not causing harm to others.

With that being said, hopefully this post was helpful to my fellow bloggers out there, or anyone who reads this. Please check out a few of my other posts if this is your first time reading, if not, thank you for always taking time out of your day to view my words! It means a lot to me!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Club Nintendo Members: Tomorrow Is the Last Day to Earn Coins

Good news and bad news Nintendo fans! If you're one of the lucky ones who own a Club Nintendo account, you're in for a potentially busy day. Tomorrow is officially the last day to earn coins and register products through the Club Nintendo service. After this, the program will be available until July 1st, which will be the official date of complete closure. 

So if you've been saving up a few of those codes that come with the games, it's time to break them out. If you've recently purchased any games that released before January 20th, you have time to complete the surveys for them as well. Downloadable games will not require a code, and newer games have codes printed on the back of the cover, so definitely don't forget them while searching!

For those who are wondering what rewards are in store, and don't really feel like checking out the site, I can say that there is a big variety. There are posters featuring Smash Brothers characters and other video game series. There are also a few Nintendo trinkets such as a greeting cards, messenger bags, and a nice pouch for a 3DS XL and games. 

Outside of physical merchandise, there are tons of download codes for many Nintendo games. Although a bulk of the selection consists of older and retro titles, there are a good amount of newer releases such as Kid Icarus: Uprising and New Super Mario Bros. 2. Downloads are both available for Wii U and 3DS, so if you own either you can pick up one for either of those. There's pretty much something for everyone in the wide list of rewards.

So that's it for this short and sweet post. I know this message has been put out there for a lot of people, but I hope that I can reach a few who didn't know. If you're a Club Nintendo member and you're planning on getting something, let me know! Also, I would love to hear how you feel about the closing of the program and effects that may be in store for the company.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Anime Collages and Dreamboards

Anime Girl Dreaming

Have you ever seen people make collages of their favorite anime characters, and wondered, "How in the world did they do that?" Although these are usually addressed as such, they can also be called dreamboards, which is an image, board, or poster, that contains something related to your goals, personal values, aspirations, and dreams. Although these are usually just fun to create, they can be great providers of support and reassurance. If this kind of thing interests you, let's go more in-depth!

Now although many people love this sort of thing, sometimes it's not always so easy to make. There's three major ways to go about this, which I will explain in detail. The first way is basically to hop into a image editing program, such as Photoshop and GIMP. Although I know people can do amazing things with Paint, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for this. 

Photoshop is paid image software, but you can download a trial version for a free via their website. GIMP is free, and can do basically everything Photoshop can, but in a more complex way. Once you've chosen your program, open up a new document (which is usually done by going to File and clicking New) and make a reasonably sized working space. If you're looking to use the dreamboard/collage as wallpaper instead, try doing one that's 1920 x 1080 for a full screen image.

Here's a look at my Dreamboard! It would take forever to explain, so if you want to know more about it, just ask!

Once you've done that, the design is really up to you. For me, I added quotes, changed the background, and pasted a few pictures I found on the internet that represented things to me. This is specifically for a dreamboard, but for a collage you would probably look for good images of the characters you want to feature. I made sure to align the various images in a way that builds a rectangular or square like picture, and added drop shadows behind them in order to make them pop off the image. Although you can make the collage for other people, the important thing is that it means something to you. When I look at my Dreamboard for example, each picture has a strong meaning to me.

For those who aren't interested in downloading even more software or just don't have the graphic design skills, there's an easier alternative. I actually favor this method, compared to the one I mentioned before. Basically you can use a special software that easily makes the collage and resizes the images for you, allowing the creation of a beautiful work in a few minutes. 

Although there are many out there that can do this job, I prefer Fotor. Fotor is a website that contains numerous image editing aspects such as enhancing, enlarging and shrinking, and for this post, collage creation. To use Fotor you can do mostly everything online, but I have to admit that I've had a couple of problems with the website. So for my collage needs, I use the downloadable version.

A few long time readers may remember my favorite character pages. I plan to bring these back, but with a more updated list!

Once you have the software or if you're using the online version, you just upload the pictures you wish to use from your computer, internet, and other similar sources, and drag and drop them into the squares that the program creates for you. They are usually resized to fit the boxes, but you can enlarge and shrink them if you aren't happy with their orientation. Along with this, you can edit many features of the collage such as colors, borders, and more. I encourage you all to try it out and play with many different designs!

Lastly, there's something for people who don't want to do all sorts of design on the computer. Maybe you want something that is more physical to keep in your room or on your desk. Unfortunately, I'm not the best when it comes to arts and crafts, so this isn't my specialty. However, I can direct you to resources that give you a guide on creating a dreamboard in real life.

From doing a quick search using Google-san, I found a pretty simple guide here. She also gives a nice description on dreamboards and why you should have one. So even if you don't want to make one this way, it's a great way to find out more about them if my description wasn't sufficient.

I found this cool physical collage on DeviantArt. Shoutouts to the creator here.
Hopefully with these resources, you all find a way to make a collage or dreamboard that gives you a warm feeling inside! Or perhaps an image that motivates you to succeed and do your best every day! If you have any questions please let me know!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Three Inspirational Females in Anime

Inspirational Females in Anime

March 8th, 2015 was officially International Women's Day. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a post out on that day, containing a few of the amazing females present in anime. Although anime may be criticized for it's sexism and different stereotypes, you have to admit that anime appeals to many women, which means it's doing something right. So with that in mind, I felt today would be a good day to share three female characters that are progressive, inspirational, and most importantly, great role models for women.

Still, you might be asking, why anime? Why not focus on female characters in all media? The answer is simple, anime portrays females a bit differently than other parts of fiction would. For many creators, the path to creating a strong female character, is to make them more masculine. 

We've seen it in many series, girls who can fight and get rough like the males. There are girls who aren't afraid to make use of foul language, and some that even resemble a man. While I cannot say that this isn't a good way to empower women, I feel that it isn't always the best way.  To prove this, I have a couple examples of characters that aren't tough and manly, but ones that aren't limited to the role of damsel in distress.

The following list is in no specific order, all the characters are just as important as the one before or after. This list is also taken from my knowledge of anime, where characters I don't know are not featured. A lot of this is based on what I've gathered from my experiences of anime, so it is okay if you do not agree with my descriptions and opinions. 

Hinata Hyuuga

Hinata Hyuga

Hinata wasn't the loudest or most outgoing person, in fact, she isn't even part of the main trio of Naruto. Despite this, Hinata is very popular among fans, not only for her personality but for her actions in the series. She's quiet and reserved, but she can speak up when need be. She's dressed in clothes that aren't flashy and she isn't even one to try to flaunt her looks for other guys.

People might say she's boring, weak, or somewhat similar to the typical Japanese female, but I believe there's a lot about her that stands out as well. A specific trait is one that she shares with Naruto, the guts to never give up. Even though she was one of the underdogs of the group, she continues to work hard, while still maintaining a kind and helpful attitude towards others. This has impressed characters that are considered clueless such as Naruto, leading to her respectively gaining much of his respect.

I feel Hinata is a really unique character. Unlike most characters that fit into the shy stereotype, she develops in a much different way. For females of this group, usually they end up facing a situation that pushes them out of their quiet nature, as they undergo a transformation that may be favorable or unfavorable. Others simply change their personalities for certain reasons, such as simply cutting hair. 

Hinata, however, retains her base personality throughout the series. This does not mean she doesn't develop, but she instead builds on her basic self  instead of taking on a new persona. I feel this is a better way to go about characterization, as changing personalities completely is somewhat unrealistic, and implies the stereotype that extroverts are better the introverts.

From this I can say that Hinata is a very inspirational character, not only as a female, but in general. She breaks many stereotypes, and proves that a strong female does not have to be masculine, burly, and rough. She also stops the hair-cutting trend in anime, which in my opinion is a little overused. So I feel that Hinata is an inspiration the underdogs out there, or even the quiet people like me.

Super Sonico

Super Sonico

No she's not Sonic the Hedgehog, but Super Sonico, a popular character from Nitroplus. Unlike a good amount of anime characters, she's not too thin or frail. Instead, she's more on the chubby side, while still maintaining a good appearance. She also is known for her headphones that she keeps on literally all the time. With these traits, Sonico has captured the hearts of both males and females. 

However, physical appearance is only the start for Sonico. She also represents a lot more than just a heavier anime character, as she is also one of the few that are actually depicted in college life. What's even more inspiring, is that fact that she balances all kinds of activities as well. 

Sonico at this time is a singer and guitarist in her own band, and she's also a gravure idol as shown in many of her video game titles. When she's not busy doing those things, she's helping out her grandmother's restaurant in order to repay the kind deeds she's done for her. Although she has mishaps, it takes a lot of skill to have a balanced life.

Despite all these things, people can say that Sonico is not inspirational, due to her gravure idol career and the fact that she makes money using such methods. However, I feel that there's nothing wrong with being an idol, model, or any similar profession. I think that it lets us know that Sonico is comfortable with her appearance, and has a healthy self-esteem. 

With this being said, I greatly feel that Sonico is also an inspirational character. Similarly to Hinata, she isn't very masculine and could even be considered girly, but she doesn't let these traits stop her from fulfilling her goals and dreams. She is also very content and happy with her bodily appearance, even though she does not fit society's "perfect size." I think she's a very good role model for anyone struggling with self-esteem or body image problems, no matter their gender.

Honoka Kousaka

Honoka Kousaka

Honoka, the most recent character of the group, is probably one of the most inspirational characters I've seen in my life. Few people I know can maintain their optimism and drive to succeed, despite being faced with obstacles that are seemingly impossible to conquer. Especially when they lack the support of those around them.

This explains Honoka's beginnings in the anime when she told her friends and family that she wanted to become an idol, in order to keep her high school from closing. They felt that the idea was ridiculous and refused to take her seriously. Others thought it was a joke. It was somewhat sad watching Honoka in this light, as I could greatly relate to her.

However, Honoka was serious and she was determined to make her dream of becoming an idol a reality. So she worked hard on her own and eventually gained the support of her friends and family, although there was still a bit of opposition along the way, they were able to work through it without many problems. Many of the other characters consider her to be the driving force of their idol group.

So what can we learn from Honoka? Well, there's many things. For one, never give up on what's important to you and never let go of your dreams. Even if someone else doesn't agree with them, you have to do what you feel is right. When you're headed in the right direction, I think you'll know it in your heart. However, when we're doing this we have to maintain respect for those around us. Honoka never treated those around her in a mean fashion when they didn't believe in her, but she made her point firm and clear.

Most importantly, I think that although Honoka isn't as unique or special as the other two characters mentioned in this post, she's probably one of easiest to relate to. She's just a normal high school girl, with no special talents or skills, but what sets her apart is the attitude that she possesses. If she lacked her optimism, drive, and helpful nature, she would not nearly be as successful as she was in the Love Live anime. So I think the ultimate lesson to take away from Honoka, is to maintain a good attitude and personality. You may not be an optimist, but continue to have a strong will that helps you fulfill your dreams, and even when you reach your dreams, you have to continue to be kind to others.

I hope you all enjoyed reading about these three anime characters, that I believe are extremely inspirational. Anime really does a good job of portraying successful women, so I thought it would be a perfect tribute to International Women's Day! 

I also know everyone has different tastes when it comes to role-models, so let me know in the comments who your anime role-models are. Also, please tell me if you like representation of females in anime compared to other forms of media, or do you prefer more masculine or rougher female characters as a form of empowerment?

As usual, thanks for reading!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Introduction to Kantai Collection

Kantai Collection Destroyers Inazuma

With the release of the new anime, many people are wondering what's all the rage about this series called Kantai Collection. One could relate it's popularity to something like Touhou, a game series featuring many diverse characters. Like Touhou, the catch is that they're all female. So what separates this series from all the others?

Well, there's a lot to talk about when it comes to Kantai Collection, so first I think a brief summary is a great way to explain the concept. Basically, during World War 2, many Japanese ships (and a few German) were used in battle. Kantai Collection (or Kancolle for short.) takes these ships and turns them into a massive cast of anime girls. Each girl is based on a ship, and usually their design takes bits and pieces from the ship's history and aspects.

The Basis

Kantai Collection Yamato Battleship

For those who have seen or heard of Strike Witches, it's a similar concept. In Strike Witches, the girls are based on the pilots, and their Striker Units represent the planes. With KanColle, the girls embody the warships, and share the same name. So you might be asking now, what ships are present in KanColle, and what are the properties behind each one?

The first and most vast type, are Destroyers. They're small and fast, but unfortunately not too good at dishing out and taking hits. This isn't true for every single one, but most of them follow this pattern. The girls who embody this type are usually petite and small, usually similar to lolita characters in anime. Similar to Destroyers are Light Cruisers, but a step up. They're a little better than Destroyers when it comes to taking hits and fire power, and are also pretty good at combating submarines. They're represented similarly to Destroyers, but are usually less petite.

Next up are the Battleships. These are probably some of the strongest ship girls, and of course, the most well-known when it comes to the series. If compared to Touhou, they're like your Reimu and Marisa, as almost everyone has seen them at least once in their lives. They have a large amount of firepower, are pretty bulky, but may be very costly. Similar ships consist of Heavy Cruisers, which is somewhat like a Battleship, but smaller, weaker, and less costly.

Kantai Collection Ship Types
From the left corner to the bottom: Heavy Cruisers, Carriers, Battleship. From the right corner to the bottom: Light Cruisers, Destroyers, and Aviation Cruisers.
Then we have a few that stand out from the crowd. These consist of Aircraft Carriers, Submarines, Seaplane Tenders, and other various creations. They vary in strengths, appearances, and purposes, but each one is useful. They usually have a central trend behind their designs. Examples of such are the bow and arrows that Carriers possess and the fact that almost every Submarine girl dons a school swimsuit.

The Game

Kantai Collection Web Game

Much of Kantai Collection's success comes from the popular web browser game. The game is only available to the Japanese audience at this time, and requires participation in a lottery just to access the servers. While this stops a lot of people from playing, there are methods that can be used in order to play from any region. I won't discuss it here, but for more information check out the Kancolle Wiki.

Unlike a lot of games, you don't really do any fighting yourself. Instead, you take the role of the admiral and command your ship girls in order to safely complete battles. To be successful, mostly strategy and character setups are important, instead of learning complicated inputs or having a high skill level. The ship's properties also take part in the battle, and carry over to the characters. For instance, Destroyers have low hp and can't hit very hard, while Battleships can handle most enemies with ease but take a lot of resources to maintain.

Of course, since a lot of the game is based on real world activities on naval forces, things like ship construction and repairs are present. When your girls battle and take damage, you have to dock them to repair. This is a simple process, but depending on the condition and level of your ship girl, the amount of time they must stay docked increases. For new admirals, repair times can start at a mere five minutes, but later you may have to wait a full day for a ship to be brand new. Luckily, buckets are an alternative to this, and instantly repair your ship. However, they're a little rare so it's best to stock up on them when you get the chance.

The video below is a great example of basic gameplay, so please take a look as it's very short and will only take a few minutes of your time. Remember to support the uploader!

With repairing, construction, and almost everything else in game requires materials. You start the game with a decent amount, and there are four different types that are used. They consist of fuel, ammo, steel, and bauxite. (Bauxite is usually used for Aircrafts.) These are consumed when you build a ship girl, repair them, restock them, and even for remodeling. The upside is that they regenerate on their own with time, and you can even gain more through quests or expedition.

A daily day in the game consists of completing quests, battling other admiral's fleets, doing missions, building and remodeling ship girls, and more. Although the game is pretty simple once you play for a bit, it's highly addicting and a lot of fun.

The Anime

Kantai Collection Kongou Sisters

Most recently, Kantai Collection has an anime adaption that brings everyone's favorite characters to the big screen. The anime is a representation of the game and highlights many of the central features, but doesn't go as in-depth. Instead, the anime takes note of jokes and laughs among the fanbase, and puts them into a more visual form, which is really refreshing to see.

In summary, the anime is more for people who know the series well already, and it probably isn't too good of an introduction. It tends to focus mostly on certain characters, and as of now, a few have not even been seen in the anime. Still, for the characters that are present in the series, their personalities and aspects are really explored and fleshed out.

For one, every single character present in the game and anime has a voice. Although some are voiced by the same person, at times it's really hard to tell. A trait that many of the characters have when it comes to voice is that many have a unique verb tick, or catchphrase of their own. Alongside the changing of tone and pitch of voice by the seiyuu, certain traits set the characters apart from each other. If anything, the presence of a voice make the characters seem more diverse than they really are.

Other such traits that separate the cast are appearances. Although some members of the cast may look somewhat similar due to being sisters, almost each one has a distinct look of their own. We also have a wide cast of roles the girls end up playing, such as an idol girl, ninjas, and a couple that tend to resemble a few K-On! characters. No matter who you are, there is a character for everyone.

Similar to Touhou, many fans have created songs and music related to the characters, such as the one below.  This one is a play on the Destroyer, Inazuma's famous catchphrase "nanodesu."

Hopefully this covers a lot of the general questions regarding Kantai Collection, and makes it a lot easier to understand. As a recommendation, most people should start with the game first if they have the opportunity to play, in order to get a grasp on the series and characters. Once you've done that, watching the anime might be the next best thing to do. If you don't like one or the other, it's okay, because both are a good representation of the series. So you don't necessarily have to watch the anime or play the game to enjoy it.

With that, thank you for reading! I tend to enjoy the game a bit more myself, because I have more control and interaction with the characters, but the anime is also a good watch! Regardless, hopefully many of you find a ship girl that you like, and find something that you enjoy about this series!