Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Value of Confidence in Anime

Anime may not always be a clear-cut representation of life, but there are many things we can learn from it. In certain genres, specifically shonens, we see the protagonist faced with a seemingly impossible obstacle to overcome. Somehow the protagonist blasts through the trials thrown at them. Some may call it luck and others may just call it skill, but their success is usually due to a personality trait that's a staple in many successful characters, confidence.

Although confidence can be viewed in many different ways, ultimately it can make or break a person. For one, over-confidence can lead to underestimating others and viewing oneself as all powerful and perfect, and is therefore blinding. On the flip-side, a lack of confidence is even worse than a lack of skills. If you do not believe in yourself or ignore the fact that you can improve, it doesn't matter how skilled you are, you may hold yourself back.

When it comes to anime, we see characters that embody both the positives and negatives of confidence, but overall it is  portrayed as an extremely valuable trait. Instead of going about a normal routine, I decided to take a look at characters from action-oriented anime series and the levels of confidence they possess.

Ryuuko Matoi

Ryuuko Matoi

Kill la Kill was a very popular anime. The main character, Ryuuko Matoi, is known for her signature theme song with the opening verse "Don't Lose Your Way!" Although the song is joked upon, the lyrics do a great job of portraying her as a character. For those who haven't heard the song, you can take a listen of Before My Body is Dry via SoundCloud. In my opinion, this song, and the opening portion of Kill la Kill lay the building blocks of Ryuuko's character.

In summary, Matoi is a high school girl, who travels from town to town, searching for her father's killer. The only thing she knows about her father is that her killer used a scissor blade, and that she possesses the other half of it. To this day, she has been unable to locate her father's murderer. That is, until she stumbles upon a towering school run by another important character, Satsuki Kiryuuin. 

In the anime, before she enters the school we get an impressive shot of it's gigantic size, along with Ryuuko standing before it, small in comparison. Let's pause and examine this one moment. 

Ryuuko Matoi Episode 1

Although it happens in a small frame of time, this scene still stuck in my mind and is one of the most powerful moments from the anime. Not only is the artwork amazing, but we see a perfect display of Ryuuko's undying (and later wavering) confidence. To have the ability to stand upon a civilization and to be outnumbered immensely without feeling fear is an impressive feat. Therefore, I think this moment defined Ryuuko from the beginning, alerting the viewers that she has a firm belief in herself and her path, without fail.

That is...until we continue throughout the rest of the episode. Ryuuko then faces her first foe of the anime, and proves to be no match for him. This fight obviously damages her pride in a way, and shatters her belief of being all powerful. We, the audience, see that she is not going to be a perfect character and that she still has a long way to go. In a sense, this could be another form of confidence, instead this time portraying the girl's overconfidence. She overestimated her abilities and thought that she could easily take on anyone in a fight and win, which had been the case from her background.

With this event taking place, I believe this is where Before My Body is Dry comes into play. Previously Ryuuko took on challenges on her own, walking a lonely path without any help or support. Again, this goes back to being overconfident with her abilities and thus lead to defeat. However, I believe her meeting with Senketsu, the talking school uniform, allows her to regain some of that confidence she had. The verse "Don't Lose Your Way" sums up his role, he is not just a source of power but a friend that can support her. He helps to keep her way intact. Her way is her belief in herself.

Matoi Ryuuko
Sharing some awesome artwork of her! Please support the artist!

Of course, this pattern somewhat continues over the course of the anime, but I feel the first episode is very defining for Ryuuko as a character and builds the road for her progression as a character. I could list numerous examples that occur, but that'd lead to spoiling the anime for many people, and I do not want to do that. So if you enjoyed what you read, please check Kill la Kill out!

Souma Yukihira

Souma Yukihira

Souma Yukihira, is the main character of a currently ongoing anime, Shokugeki no Souma. Souma is an interesting character, and is actually the main reason behind this post. At first he doesn't seem too different from a normal protagonist, but his balance of confidence along with his attitude really sets him apart from others. 

Souma although great, comes from seeminlgy humble beginnings. He mostly spent his childhood days helping his father cook and manage a small diner that they owned. Although he has constantly worked to improve his culinary skills and to someday surpass his father, this dream is cut short when their restaurant closes down. With his father moving to Europe to work, he enrolls Souma in one of the finest culinary schools.

As stated before Souma is really an interesting character. We see a good display of his skill in cooking throughout the majority of the anime. It's also easy to pick up that he's a little clueless or careless with his words. Which caused him to have a few rough relations with those around him. However, one thing I typically noticed is that no matter his outwardly appearances or social banter, he seems to have the best of intentions in mind. He's simply confident, but not overconfident.

For one, we see a good display of his confidence during the entrance ceremony. He casually and clueless states that he doesn't see the academy as more than a stepping stone, and that he'll be number one in no time. Of course, this angers majority of the crowd, which has him start his school career on everyone's bad side. 

Still, he doesn't take much notice to this and eventually is accepted by a good circle of friends. He has a few cook offs here and there, but still remains somewhat humble about his skills and appreciates the skills of others. Yes, that can sound somewhat weird, being humble but confident. They may seem like opposites but in order to be level-headed, you need a bit of both.

This is basically what sets Souma apart from many other confident characters in anime; he seems to have his confidence balanced out. He isn't overconfident to the point of misjudging his abilities. For instance, even though he had the guts to challenge others to a cook off, he was still open to learning, training, and improving his abilities. Even though he stands up for himself and his cooking, he still sees his father as inspiration and an obstacle to someday overcome. Although the anime is not over yet, Souma has developed very much so, as we see his humble side throughout the later episodes.

Shokugeki no Souma

I highly recommend Shokugeki no Souma to anyone who likes shonen, cooking, or wants a nice uplifting and interesting story. There is some ecchi present in the series, but that shouldn't stop you from giving it a try.

Aichi Sendou

Aichi Sendou

The last member of this post is Aichi Sendou, the main character from Cardfight!! Vanguard. If you've been a follower or avid reader of my blog for a long period of time, you probably have seen Aichi before. He's one of my favorite characters, and I relate to him immensely. Since we've focused on overconfidence and a balanced confidence, let's take a look at lack of confidence shall we?

Unlike other characters, Aichi's past hasn't been all that great. He was constantly bullied due to his small size and timid personality, which led to giving him a somewhat pessimistic view of the world. He felt like this for quite a while until he received a copy of the card, Blaster Blade, from a boy named Kai Toshiki. Kai told him to picture himself becoming big and strong like the warrior.

Moving forward a bit, an older Aichi is still somewhat timid and still bullied by those who have power over him. He still lacks confidence and doesn't believe in his own abilities at all. This changes when his precious card is stolen from him, and thus marks the turning point from Aichi. 

Aichi Sendou
Those eyes...are intense!

Now similarly to the other characters, I believe a certain scene influences and develops him greatly as a character. The Vanguard anime focuses heavily on eyes and eye powers. Certain characters have changed eye shape over time, and others have unique eyes. In the beginning, we see Aichi with timid eyes; unfocused and refusing to look straight towards his destination. When he finally gathers courage and confidence through challenging someone stronger than him, Aichi's eyes seemingly change.

Aichi finally gets the confidence he needs to accomplish his goals, and thus he begins to grow. As the series continues his confidence sometimes wavers, ranging from becoming overconfident to having a lack of confidence. However, most of his successful card fights occurred when he simply believed in himself, even when faced with adversity.

Not only is Aichi subject to this, but the theme behind Vanguard is that believing in oneself or having confidence in oneself, allows you to overcome all obstacles. In a way, Vanguard becomes more of a war of willpower than a simple card game. The characters grow through their fights, and we get to see their strengths and weaknesses. The winner is usually the one who could remain calm, composed, and retain their belief in themselves until the end.

Cardfight!! Vanguard

Again, Cardfight!! Vanguard is a wonderful anime and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes card games, but wants something a little bit different as well. 

With that being said, confidence is highly valued in anime. Although it comes in different forms and takes place in different ways, there is no doubt that it's a necessity for success in the anime world and our world. Does this mean characters or people without confidence are to be looked down upon? No, I don't think so at all. I believe that everyone has faults and weaknesses, and although these can be improved, we shouldn't demean others for them.

Thus, I would like to thank everyone for reading this post. It's very long, so if you enjoyed it please comment or share it with your friends. Thank you so much for sticking through to the end!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Thoughts on Evolution 2015 Championship Series


Social media was booming last weekend due to an event known as Evo 2015. What is Evo you may ask? Evo, or Evolution Championship Series, is one of the biggest fighting game tournaments in the world. Every year certain games are selected to represent the main tournaments. They feature hundreds of entries, and each part of the lower and higher level play is streamed for viewers at home. It is such a big event, that people do whatever they can to see it, such as taking days off from work and other efforts.

Before we begin, I'd like to clear a few things up.  No, I'm not going to be going over the numerous matches that took place and giving my commentary over them. Instead, I'm going to take a focus on the big picture, because that's how posts work on Shooting Star Dreamer. If that kind of post is not for you then, please accept my apologies.

My Experience with Fighting Games

Jin Kisaragi Noel Vermillion BlazBlue

First and foremost, before I start talking about the fighting game community and all things that revolve around it, I should give a little background information about me. I am nowhere near a professional when it comes to fighting games, and I may even fall into the title of netplay warrior. Most of my experience comes from online play, although I have had experience in my casual offline scene.

I have played many fighting games over the years, getting into the genre pretty late outside of a few series. Although I played things like Super Smash Bros. and Soul Calibur 2, I didn't play them in a professional setting or learn the advance techniques like most players. Much later in life, I took an interest in an anime fighter known as BlazBlue, and instantly loved the characters and style of the game.

BlazBlue was very hard for me to pick up. Being my first 2d fighter of sorts, inputs seemed extremely complex and it took me a long time to get used to them. I wasn't even able to perform the simplest of combos. Eventually after a long time of practice I became decent enough at pulling off combos in training mode to go online. I got completely destroyed and had a very hard time getting a single win.

Persona 4 Arena Rise

After much fighting and practice later, I eventually began to improve with the help of friends who I encountered through the game. I even changed characters a couple of times until I found one that fit me well. Once I overcame the hurdle that was BlazBlue, getting into other fighting games was very simple, aside from understanding basic gameplay mechanics and refining my playstyle.

After BlazBlue I moved onto other fighters such as Arcana Heart 3, Persona 4 Arena, Chaos Code, Soul Calibur V, Tekken, DoA5, and the list just goes on.

Over the course of my fighting game career I have participated in a few online tournaments, but have yet to claim any outstanding victories in large ones. Evo was thus the dream goal for me to attend, but due to circumstances I have yet to have the time to practice, nor the means to get there. However, when playing I still have that goal in mind, so I hope someday I can actually participate instead of simply being a viewer.

So my experience with fighting games hasn't been an easy one; as it was not something that came easily to me. In a way, they taught me how to face challenges head on and overcome them, instead of simply finding an easier alternative.

Games at Evo

Evo 2015
The official Evo 2015 lineup!
Enough about me, moving onto the real topic at hand, Evo. Evo featured nine games this year, all pictured above. Being mainly into the anime scene I was somewhat disappointed that BlazBlue nor Under Night In-Birth made the main game list. Only one of the main games interested me at the time and that was Persona. With this at hand, I had pretty much determined that I wasn't going to pay that much attention to it this year. However, somewhere along the line I had a change of heart and decided to watch anyways.

What sparked that change, was when I learned about the joy of Evo side tourneys and how the side events can actually be a lot more hype and interesting to watch in comparison to the main events. Specifically, anime side events at Evo fulfill a lot of the problems that are left unchecked by the main stages. 

For one, a good number of people who don't attend the tourney don't have a game that they wish to play. Typically the one that they enjoy isn't as popular. They are probably right, they aren't that popular. Not because they aren't good, but because they don't get as much attention as other titles. One of my favorite anime fighting games, Arcana Heart 3, is an example of a game that doesn't get all the spotlight. 

Anime Evo
More importantly, the anime lineup!
Thanks to a conveniently planned Evo side tourney, not only was I able to see a lot of competitive, high level play for the game, but it actually made me wish I was there and gave me back the desire the play the game again. As many people say, playing alone isn't always fun, so a lot of passionate fans will drop the game due to a lack of hope for a decent community. Evo allows for a gathering of players, while allowing those at home to see their favorite games being played competitively.

Without the games, Evo wouldn't be a reality. Although side tournaments are not always supported, the players and the community always seems to make things happen, which brings me to another inspiring fact about Evo.

The Players

Evolution 2015 Cosplay
Seeing the passionate cosplayers at Evo was amazing!
With no games, it's true that we wouldn't have these awesome tournaments, but ultimately the players are part of the reason why they grow so vast and are so exciting. It's true that the fighting game community has downsides; we've witnessed a couple of them at the tournaments themselves. We had a few players abusing tactics that could be considered broken, and others who always pick the strongest characters in an attempt to win.

However, that's only a good half of the community. The other half is filled with a good amount of players who want to have fun, give it their best, and encourage others to do the same. While we should not completely ignore the bad in order to improve, its best to focus on the good. So while watching the streams I picked up a good amount of nice things from the community. 

For one, I love how the community knows how to take charge and get what they want. When games aren't featured, they make them side tournies. When side tournies aren't supported and given proper internet for streaming, they get their own internet. Whatever it takes, they do it to get things done. That's something that I admire about the fighting game community as whole.

Makoto Fightstick
This makes me want to work on some more stick art!
I mentioned it before, but this led to the creation of Anime at Evo, which features numerous anime fighting games that are usually unrepresented. Although it's a little too late to tune into them this year, it's best to keep watch for now.

Lastly, another thing I loved was actually the love the players showed for their games and characters. We saw specially designed arcade sticks, t-shirts, even some funny cosplay along the way. The excitement and passion was definitely believable whether you were physically at the event or not. 

So to sum things up, yes the community has problems that need to be worked on. However, we should not ignore the strengths while addressing those issues, else we may not see the wonderful things at hand.

Final Thoughts and Improvements

Dengeki Fighting Climax

Although I did not watch everything that took place at Evo, I consistently viewed the events all three days to get a good grasp of the environment. I believe Evo is a wonderful opportunity for skilled gamers, and should be attended if possible. I also think Evo is a good source for bringing a community together, no matter how niche the game may be. 

Still, I think some improvements are necessary. For one, I believe that side tournaments need more support. I understand that this is hard, but watching others stream on a 3G/4G connection was a little saddening, especially when it's a hype match. Yes, the matches are recorded and usually posted later, but watching it live has a much nicer feeling.

Second, I believe that it would be great if more main games would featured. That might actually mean turning Evo into a four day event, but we have a lack of certain genres and types of fighting games. This will definitely be hard to accommodate, but if not more games, then a more refined selection. Certain titles were the main focus that have not yet released in American shores.

An example of such is Tekken 7, which is only available in Japanese arcades at this time. This drew a smaller crowd than the other streams, and also featured many contestants that were not up to date on gameplay mechanics and their characters, thus making gameplay less pleasing.

Lastly, I think the word needs to be spread a little bit more. There are many people who do not know of Evo or its existence, and there are others who love netplay but need a push to come to events. With more people comes better prizes for winning and ultimately more fun. I think the same goes for the side tourneys.

All in all, I have never attended an Evo series, but have watched from afar. So this is my perspective being an onlooker who has hopes of attending someday. Still, a lot of the community watches the tourney via streams and other aspects, so consideration of them is a must. 

As always, thank you for reading. Hopefully those who watched Evo 2015 enjoyed it, and if you didn't hopefully the next one will be better!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Things We Can Learn From Nintendo

Nintendo Lessons

With the shocking news concerning the death of Satoru Iwata, many fans of Nintendo and gamers have been expressing their love for the man and the company. There are numerous videos, blog posts, and other media resources that talk about the CEO. All in all, the whole situation is very saddening, but a comment I stumbled upon gave me another outlook on the situation.

Although I do not have the exact comments, I can provide a brief description of them. One comment stated that "Iwata would rather have us celebrating and having a happy time, instead of crying over his loss." Another comment reminded us of the fact that "Iwata left Super Mario Maker for us to make our own games, in his absence." Although its easy to feel sad, things like this we tend to overlook.

So using that as my inspiration, I decided to write a post about the positive things we can learn for Nintendo, in honor of Iwata's passing. For one, Nintendo has a very important place in my heart, and has played a role in my life since childhood. My first console and game system was a Nintendo SNES and GameBoy respectively, so its basically what made me a gamer. With that being said, what can Nintendo teach us, and what have we learned from them over the years?

Power Lies in the People, Not the Creator

Mario Party Nintendo

One of the main things that come to mind about Nintendo games is the constant emphasis of playing with others and teamwork. Games like Mario Party, Mario Kart, and other titles are most fun when played with others. When the Wii launched, the emphasis was not only on movement, but even more so about connecting the community with the use of the internet. With the creation of 3DS we even gained the ability to interact with others, simply by passing them on the street. 

Nintendo set the stage for their community. They created ways for us to interact and Miis to help us immerse ourselves into their games. The most astounding was probably the launch of Miiverse, allowing small messages and drawings to be shared across the world, by pressing a simple button. With all these things created, its hard to imagine them being so successful and intriguing without any form of community. Without the people, what would there be?

I believe that by allowing us, the gamers, to build our gaming world and communities, we are taught that there is a special power in people. We may not be game designers or millionaires, but we all have the power to become one through their games. Animal Crossing for instance teaches us how to make money, how to support ourselves, and how to establish lasting friendships while caring for our environment. Mario Maker allows us to create our own games, without the countless hours spent in education or training. Miiverse gives us the ability to make ourselves heard, and to connect with like-minded individuals regardless of our gender, race, or distance. The players have the true power.

Gaming is for Everyone

Nintendo Miiverse

When we think of the term gamer, usually a certain demographic comes to mind. We typically picture a teenage to young adult male. However, for Nintendo, a gamer is anyone. Although they sometimes are given heat by those who feel their games are childish, Nintendo has still stuck with their belief of making games family-friendly. 

This does not mean they aren't good games. Many are well made and have a large community. One of the first that comes to mind is Super Smash Brothers. The series has maintained an ESRB rating that is pretty tame (from E-T), yet still features fast paced action and competitive play that has kept people coming back for more over the course of many years.

Possibly the most exciting aspect about such series is that anyone can pick up the controller and play, regardless of skill level. Yes, there are many skilled Smash players that can easily defeat newbies, but when it comes down to having fun, there's a mode or method for everyone. Starting with Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a story mode was introduced for more casual players and hardcore gamers alike, and Smash Bros. for Wii U features an option of choosing between For Glory and For Fun when venturing online. The fact that Nintendo tries to include everyone into the mix, is what really made me love them as a company.

The Purpose of Video Games is to Have Fun

Nintendo Fun

Potentially the most important thing we can learn from Nintendo, is that we are supposed to be playing to enjoy ourselves. How everyone enjoys themselves is different; some may enjoy the game by facing the challenge of achieving everything, while others enjoy just casually making their way through the levels and immersing themselves in the story. It doesn't matter as long as you are enjoying yourself.

While that's being applied to gaming in this sense, I believe its something that can go for any sort of medium that pushes our limits and tests our skill. Sports, video games, school, a career, if we can make it fun or if its something we enjoy, the better off we are. This is how I also look at anime, and its actually the mindset which got me into blogging, since writing posts like this is a blast!

So while this lesson is usually forgotten, we have to remember that games should be fun. For those entering the game development industry, it is important to keep this concept in mind, as this is the very reason why Nintendo has prospered for so long. One of the most memorable quotes concerning this from the late Satoru Iwata is this, "Above all, video games are meant to just be one thing: Fun for everyone."

So yes, I believe its okay to mourn the death of Iwata; as we have definitely have lost an important figure in the gaming industry. However, we still need to continue forward and take what we can from this situation, which in my case is examining the lessons that Nintendo can teach us. Sometimes, change is unexpected and unwelcome, but change happens and usually leads us to something better.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Anime Blogging: When is the Right Time to Post?

Hatsune Miku

When it comes to anime blogging, it's almost a necessity to ask many questions. When I first started blogging, I used to be quick to send posts through, without a second thought. I later found out that doing so wasn't always the best approach, because it led to posts that were riddled with errors. With that being said, I think one of the most important questions for an anime blogger to ask is "Should I publish this post now? Is this really the right time?"

From my perspective I struggle greatly when finding the right time to post. Due to differences in scheduling, I have time to blog only at certain odd moments such as 3:00 A.M. in the morning and other crazy times. Despite this, I never wanted to post at such moments or I never wanted to save a post for later and automatically set it to post at a different time. I've had a deep need to post my thoughts when they're fresh, which is somewhat detrimental.

Obviously though, this can lead to a good amount of complications that can halt the progress in a otherwise active blog. I feel like this goes all the way back to wanting things to be completely free of errors or faults before showing it to the world, which is sometimes not a decent thought process.

I have learned from many resources and other bloggers that the most accurate way to post is to either follow a set routine or to only post at specific times during the early parts of the day. However, this can also be kind of harmful especially if your blog has worldwide viewers, who read and view your posts at different times of the day. If you run a blog like that, then you'll be posting at a bad time for at least one person who views your blog, but I still don't think that should be a deciding factor.

Denpa Kyoushi Anime Blog
"When people ask why I'm so busy."

So when trying to determine the right time to post, it's best to learn about yourself and your readers first. I don't believe in focusing on one group, yourself or the readers, separately. Both groups are very important, and need to be taken care of. So when you know what your readers feel best with, and what you feel best with, its finally time to form a compromise. That compromise is your posting time.

Aside from that, for me I've realized that there really is no right time to post. Technically there is when it comes to optimization for blog views and all of that, but if you're not happy and you're readers aren't happy, then I don't believe all of that matters too much. I've met many bloggers who had very little amounts of views and are happy with what they have. Others are grateful for their large amounts and shower them with large amounts of appreciation. I believe that is alright as well!

However, I believe focusing only on raking in views is not a good way to post or to run your blog at all. So for anyone whose blog posting schedule has halted due to such reasons, this post is for you. There really is no sole right time to post; it is completely up to the blogger themselves. As long as your blogging is making you happy and your viewers happy, that is ultimately all that matters.