Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Beyond the Surface of Anime

Anime Blog Thumbnail
Artist Credit

Sometimes we tend to take things at face value without questioning what's going on behind the scenes. We may look at anime in the same light, as series are judged by their opening episodes, genre, and cast of characters. However, when examining anime that display questionable or controversial themes, we may find inspirational or positive messages hidden beneath their deceiving exterior. In order to further understand all the work that goes into creating an anime, a little bit of curiosity is necessary to unravel the mysteries within.

Now when I speak of mysteries I do not necessarily mean that there are hidden secrets or messages that no one has ever seen before. The things hidden beneath are usually not extremely complex things in most cases, but simpler life lessons that we tend to forget from time to time. This alone is one of the reasons why I love anime, because of how much work goes into it, and how much it relates to our life.

An Anime-Based Example

Denki-gai no Honya-san
Denki-Gai has quite the colorful cast!

So to make this topic more clear for my readers, I'd like to use an anime as an example. The first one that comes to mind is Denki-gai no Honya-san or Denki-gai for short. Denki-gai is a comedy, slice of life anime that revolves around a handful of characters that work at a manga-based book store. The anime follows their lives and interactions in and outside of the bookstore, which is usually filled with exciting antics.

Although I'm going deeper into the anime at this time, this isn't my first post concerning it. I gave a few thoughts on the anime after viewing the first few episodes, and posted about them here. Many people brushed off the anime as another comedy, but I quickly picked up a lot underneath it's facade.

Denki-gai no Honya-san Somellier's Recommendation
Somellier's recommended manga.

As I continued watching, even more lessons arose within the plot. For one, the anime addresses the issues of societies views affecting our decision-making process. Many characters refuse to read the manga they truly enjoy due to it being embarrassing, different from the norm, or unusual. The anime makes vast attempt to make it clear that doing what you find enjoyable is much more important than what society thinks. One of the main characters, Somellier, allows visitors to see him in order to accomplish this, since he has a gift in finding manga that readers will truly enjoy.

Hiotan Finding Manga
Hiotan (blonde hair) finds manga that she truly loves.

Later, this was addressed again when each worker has to fill a shelf with manga to sell.  All of them fill it with the things they truly love and enjoy. Unfortunately for Hiotan, she is unsure what to fill her shelf with, since she prefers to stick to what is mainstream. This causes the group to take her on a trip to their rival bookstore, in order to find a manga she truly likes. Her coworker Sensei, teaches her how to pick up manga on her own instead of following recommendations and reviews. Soon (and funnily enough) the books she is naturally drawn to begin to shine, and she proceeds to fill her shelf with similar series.

Although this played out in a comedic way, the lesson behind it is very real. There are people who go for things that everyone else watches or things that are easy to access. Although there is nothing wrong with this, it is much better to find something that speaks to you on a deeper level, rather than what others think is cool. This simple lesson is probably one of the main motivators behind this anime, and explains its unconventional ways. Not only beneficial for the person as they find more things they like, but also for the creators; which I will be addressing later.

A Personal Example

Ore no Monogatari
Sometimes I end up watching and liking anime that I wouldn't normally look for.

When it comes down to me, I have also dealt with this myself. Upon being introduced to anime and beginning my journey, I watched a wide diversity of series. While this was somewhat of a good thing, it also came with a few downsides as well. For one, I didn't really understand what kind of series I enjoyed. Naruto was my first anime I watched in Japanese, and I was actually lucky enough to pick one that stuck with me throughout my life, and instantly became one of my favorites. Other times the anime were a hit or a miss, and most anime I watched I probably wouldn't view at this time.

Moving forward a few years later, anime was no longer as easy to see on TV and I was now forced to pick and choose what I wanted. In order to find what I wanted, I really had to exploit some of my curiosity and go beyond the surface descriptions and reviews that others provided. Of course this ended up in some mishaps, leading to a couple of series that were completely horrible for me.

However, this was only momentary, as now I've become more adapt at being drawn towards things I love. If I had only judged by surface appearances when it came to anime, most of my favorite series would not have become my favorites. This isn't to say that I should sit through anime that I don't enjoy, but I  realized I have to be curious and try things out unless I know they are definitely not a fit for me.

So the moral of the story from my experience is that being real and finding things I enjoy, regardless if they aren't "dark" or "realistic" or any other standard, is much better than forcing myself to accept things I don't like. Again, if I had never gone deeper and searched for those series, they would have been lost to me, as most of them aren't the most popular anime.

Remember the Creators

Anime Girl Painting
They may not look like this, but they work just as hard.

Finally there's one other part of going beyond surface appearances. It goes all the way back to ones who make experiencing and enjoying anime possible for us; the creators. Without the creators we wouldn't have the amazing series that exist today.

Underneath famous ones like Masashi Kishimoto, Oda Eiichiro, and Akira Toriyama, we have many uprising and talented people who are not always in the spotlight. By supporting and giving light to their manga and anime, they could either reach the same levels of popularity or possibly be overlooked like many other skilled creators.

For this very reason, I like to see works of new people starting out, or those that are more unpolished. I find them more interesting compared to something that is already read/watched by most of the world. Even if I may be the only one who knows of it.

These are pretty much my thoughts on  the secrets that exist beneath a seemingly simplistic plot or controversial themes. I would like to thank you all for sitting through this post, as it's a long read! Feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions on this topic below!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Most Important Aspect of a JRPG

Tales of Graces Pascal
Artist Credit
Japanese Role-Playing Games (JRPGs) are usually wonderful tales, filled with diverse characters and wide open worlds waiting to be explored. However, sometimes these games can be a hit or a miss for the general populace. Many companies highlight on different features that make each game unique to it's publisher, which attracts a certain community to each one. Still, a key feature that is usually best in any JRPG is often overlooked. This is simply the act of giving the game an immersive feel, one that is suitable for a JRPG.

So you might ask what exactly do I mean when I say "immersive feel?" An immersive feel is one where the person takes over the persona of the character. They aren't simply an outsider viewing the world from the comfort of their home. Instead, they are a part of the story, they are friends with the cast, and they feel the need to progress further in the game. This seems like a common trait that would go into designing a game, but I feel that it is sometimes overlooked.

The main part of this that is overlooked is the act of giving power to the player. Even though the player is controlling some of the character's actions and gaining experience or levels throughout the story, is the player really making the core decisions? There is much more to a role-playing than simply beefing up our characters and beating down the bosses. This may have been the case in older systems, but we aren't limited to such things now.

Retro Roleplaying Game

I believe that what makes some games extremely popular is giving the player the gift of choice. Not necessarily meaning control over everything, but control where it counts. The series known as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona. Specifically speaking, Persona 3 and Persona 4 has some of the most immersive experiences that I've ever seen in gaming.

Although there is no such thing as character creation, the protagonist's story and interactions with the cast directly relies on the player. Unlike other characters, the protagonist has the power to change their Persona, which somewhat relates to how we can control how we act, but not necessarily those around us.

The game goes further to let us set the personality of the main character, going as far as to form romantic relationships which characters, control our responses and respective stats/abilities, and even detour the game's ending. With the creation of a portable version of Persona 3 for the PSP, even female players have the opportunity to take on this role.

Persona 4 Choices

So in a way, not only are you playing the game, but you are building it as well. This allows for one person's play-through to never be alike to another, unless the same choices are deliberately made. Although this is much harder to build and create for the company, I feel that in the long-run the extra effort pays off. As of now, Persona is an immensely popular series and is well known in both Japan and the United States. The series also has a good amount of games, an anime, and most recently a movie.

Even with all this success, it doesn't mean that other approaches are incorrect in JRPGs. I just feel that Persona's take and inclusion of the immersive experience is great for the genre, and should be at least considered when making a JRPG. Having control over the story and the protagonist can separate a good video game from feeling like an extravagant movie, to an adventure one can take from home.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Anime Android Phone Layout May 2015

Anime Android Phone Layout

Hello and long time no see everyone! I'm back today with a different post than the usual. This time we'll be focusing on my current phone layout. I do a lot in terms of Graphic Design and Layout Design when it comes to the computer, that I've decided to pursue such hobbies on mobile devices as well. Without further adieu, please take a look at the layout!

This layout features one of my absolute favorite characters when it comes to anime; Gemini Sunrise. She's an optimistic cowgirl from Texas who originates from the game known as Sakura Taisen, or Sakura Wars in the United States. Strangely, I didn't meet her through her normal game, but from another called Project X Zone. Upon playing as her I liked her more than any other character in the series!

Gemini Sunrise Android Phone Layout

I've always liked using an android device, but sometimes the way apps are positioned is somewhat troublesome. So an idea came to my mind. "What if I make shortcuts that redirect me to the place I need to go without the hassle of a little icon?" Thus, I found a nice little app by the name of Desktop Visualizer, which makes an android more similar to a computer.

This app allows you to transform pieces of a wallpaper, pictures, and text into a shortcut to almost anything. I used it to make shortcuts for my most used applications and it makes using my phone a whole lot easier.

Other than that, I used a minimalist text app in order to make a lite version of a clock for time and titles for each page. I love the way the app reads off the title, because it's easy to tell to anyone else who asks for the time. The Gel Icons used at the bottom were just an added touch. With normal phone use I rarely have to open up the app drawer, because everything I need occupies the main three screens.

This is my first time ever designing something like this, so to some it may seem like amateur work. Despite this, I want to get better at making such layouts and making the phone easier to use for myself and maybe for others in the future.

I hope anyone who is interested in this type of thing can use the resources provided as a way to make their own layout or as an inspiration in design. Any questions are welcome and if you like to see posts like this, let me know and I'll definitely do more. Thank you for viewing!


Character - Gemini Sunrise

Focus - Functionality and Ease of Use