Wednesday, August 8, 2018

ERASED: Life Gives Second Chances

Erased, Boku Dake ga Inai Machi


When we watch anime, common tropes are almost always used. The slice of life genre especially contains the same high school setting with the average protagonist. Of course, they're not carbon copies; they mix in new elements to change things up, but the formula is the same. Yet we don't ever get to see different settings, new experiences, and changes. Taking a chance at a new story is risky, but this kind of alternative experience is much needed. This is where anime such as Boku dake ga Inai Machi or ERASED, come into play.

ERASED tells a story about a unique individual and the mystery surrounds the world around him.  The main character is Satoru Fujinuma. He's somewhat of the average protagonist, but he's older at the ripe age of 29. His life isn't exactly going as planned, as he struggles to hit it big as a manga artist. The only benefit he has is that he has the ability to repeat certain events, going back in time to stop catastrophes. 

ERASED, boku dake ga inai machi

From the beginning I thought that the series would revolve completely around his powers, featuring everyday situations and being a small-time superhero. This expectation was completely blown out the water when he gets sent back in time, to solve a murder mystery that happened during his grade school days. 

It starts with the murder of his mother, with him being framed as the culprit. Becoming a fugitive and then forced back to the past, he then has to relive this point of his life with an adult mindset and a newfound drive to stop the murders.

ERASED, boku dake ga inai machi

Although we may not get the chance to redo our past, we can learn from it. In ERASED Satoru is literally given a second chance at life to fix his mistakes and solve mysteries. While he may be changing the past, ultimately he is changing the future. 

This I believe is a metaphor for how we as humans make mistakes in life, but need to reexamine them to do better in the future. The things that Satoru experienced in life, are things that we all deal with. Changing oneself to fit into the crowd, avoiding risks, and not believing that we are control of our lives and ourselves are common problems. For Satoru, it took him 29 years and a little outside help to realize this, but for everyone else, it's a change we can make now.

This moral is shown as Satoru relives grade school, discovering that a student in his class is the first victim. Her name is Kayo Hinazuki, the girl in school who keeps to herself and comes from an abusive household. She is linked to Satoru's past life. As a child, our protagonist wanted to make an effort and talk to her, but could never bring himself to. This time, he decides to interact with her, becoming close friends and forming an even child-like romantic relationship. Although he improves her life and tries his best to save the girl from abuse and murder, he is ultimately unsuccessful. 

ERASED, boku dake ga inai machi

He again is forcibly time-warped to the future, back to his unfavorable predicament. He is saved and sheltered by his co-worker, Airi Katagari, the girl who is linked to his future life. When things seem bleak he takes the time travel into his own hands and gets sent back to the past once again.

Beforehand, Satoru mostly tried to go at life alone. He corrects his mistakes of the past but finds it hard to cover all bases, especially in stopping the murder, by himself. He learned from his errors but also learns that he cannot do everything alone.

By taking influences from both the past and future, we learn that both are important, and getting too caught up in either can be detrimental. A very large lesson that is also shown is that life is a lot harder when you work alone, so finding trustworthy companions is the way to success. In Satoru's third chance in the past, he learns from this and puts his faith in his comrades. The rest is history.

ERASED, boku dake ga inai machi

ERASED may focus on the magic powers and seem unrealistic, yet it touches on very real topics. In reality, humans may not be able to relive their younger days and fix every single thing they've done wrong. However, this is not the point of the series. 

I believe the message is that change happens when you believe in yourself and the control of your destiny. When you're willing to have this kind of mindset, nothing can stop you, at least not forever. This means pulling yourself up from a hopeless situation and moving forward. In a sense, you can create your own second chances, similarly to how Satoru did.

This anime is chock full of things to write about that I can't fit them all into one post, but if you'd like to hear more about ERASED, please let me know! I'd definitely like to recommend the anime to everyone, and more information about it can be found at its MyAnimeList page

As always, thank you for reading!

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Key to Naruto's Success: Empathy

Naruto Empathy

What makes Naruto such a successful person? Many people have examined and discussed his different traits, his personality, and even the values instilled into him. Yet, I think that while we're looking at the core of Naruto's character, we've forgotten something really important.

Naruto, has the ability to understand others and their feelings. He can sense the malice of his enemies and the pain of others. Naruto can understand exactly what they went through and relate, enough to become friends with the people he once called foes. While this seems very simple and straightforward, I feel this sort of understanding isn't a normal thing that everyone has.

Naruto and Sasuke

First, let's take a look at empathy. Most of us probably know exactly what sympathy is, when we feel sorry for someone else due to their problems. Empathy is a little different; it can be described as literally feeling other's pain or emotions.

While Naruto possesses sympathy, I feel he also has empathy. Sasuke, Naruto's life-long rival, also appears to possess some sort of empathy surprisingly. I think this contributes to the fact why Sasuke and Naruto are so similar, yet also very different. Having empathy for others can be a sorrowful curse or a beneficial power. By digging deeper, the comparison will be more clear.

Naruto is easily able to uncover Sakura's true feelings, due to his empathy.
I'm sure many would be surprised that Sasuke, the cool and collected individual has empathy. The answer is yes, he definitely does. Naruto and Sasuke both ended up hating the village. Naruto never had the chance to meet his parents, and was forced to carry around the Nine Tails within his body. Many of the villagers were hurt physically and emotionally from the demon's attack, thus creating hatred inside of them.

However, the Nine Tails is no longer free, but there was absolutely no one to blame for the pain caused. Therefore, the victim became Naruto, the closest thing to the sealed fox. Naruto, even at the mere age of a child has some sort of empathy, as we can assume that the hatred he received from the villagers bounced back. He felt their hate and negative feelings for him, therefore he had no reason to think highly of them.

Sasuke was a little different. He started off with a family and had them taken from him. Itachi Uchiha put on a mask and told Sasuke to hate and grow stronger, these emotions also were absorbed by him and in turn, shaped him into the person he is now. Even though he become reserved, arrogant, and gained a one-track mind, Sasuke deep down was still the old Sasuke. His experiences and the emotions he picked up from others shaped him.

Everything after this point came down to personality. Naruto was able to gain control of his empathy and use it protect his friends and others. Sasuke began to awaken this again, caring more about his comrades and less about revenge. However, with his meeting with Itachi, hatred was again pushed into his heart. Naruto had his moments of doubt, but continued to relate and believe in others, contrary to Sasuke's development. While Sasuke shut off his feelings for others, Naruto increased his. Despite this, Sasuke could not cut his bond with Naruto.

Sasuke takes a dark turn and Naruto takes the lighter path. What makes them different if they're so similar you might? The answer is the way they use their abilities they have been blessed with, and the choices they make. Sasuke and Naruto both have the ability to understand and inspire others. They aren't necessarily natural leaders, but their experiences have allowed them to gain the power to lead.

However, due to Naruto developing the gifts he was blessed with and using them for good, he's never alone. Being able to understand everyone allows anyone to open up to him. He can inspire even the coldest hearts with his compassion. These simple traits are the key to Naruto's success.

Naruto doesn't sacrifice others for the sake of his goals, he brings them with him and still does what he wants. Naruto doesn't look down on the people who are suffering, he understands their pain and helps them improve. The ninja doesn't change himself for anyone, even though he can feel emotions and share them with others. Naruto walks forward and follows what he believes in, but does it with respect for others. I believe these facts, are the reason why Naruto is so successful.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Honoka Kousaka Birthday Tribute

Honoka Kousaka Birthday Tribute

Today is August 3rd, 2018, which is Honoka Kousaka's birthday! I'd like to wish Honoka a happy birthday, and give her a tribute on Shooting Star Dreamer!

Honoka Kousaka is an idol from the series Love Live: School Idol Project. She's the driving force of the idol group and the focal character of the series. She's not necessarily the most skilled or intelligent, but she's willing to work hard for what she believes in. This inspires people of various backgrounds to follow her, making her a wonderful leader.

This isn't my first time making a post for Honoka, but I believe she deserves the spotlight because of how much I love her as a character. Her outgoing attitude and optimism is something that the world needs nowadays.

Below is a showcase from the community, expressing their love for Honoka!

Honoka Kousaka Shrine
Honoka Kousaka Shrine, from Reddit.

Honoka Kousaka Birthday Cake
Birthday cake from Emi Nitta, Honoka's voice actress/seiyuu.

Honoka Kousaka Tribute
A tribute from Reddit use DakinaMGF!

Honoka Kousaka Shrine
Another Reddit shrine, linked here.

Lastly, here the few Honoka figurines I have!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

RWBY: Amity Arena Overview

RWBY Amity Arena

RWBY Amity Arena Loading Screen
Hello everyone and welcome back to another post! Recently, I've been into all things RWBY and this led me to the upcoming RWBY game, Amity Arena. I was lucky enough to be a participant in the official Closed Beta Test, and I'd like to take some time to share my experience with everyone else!

With a name like Amity Arena, many predicted this new mobile game to be a fast-paced fighting game. This guess wasn't too far off, as the app is packing the combat. However, the differences are clear with the end result being a card-based tactical game.

On the surface this may sound unappealing; being a clone of the usual mobile games. While the game does take certain elements from other games (such as mobage character enhancing and a stamina based system) the game pushes forward with a few new integrations.

Upon starting the game, players are directly thrown into a tutorial. This tutorial is definitely well-placed and not overbearing, as the game can be confusing without proper explanation. We play a practice match, learn the controls, learn the rules, and are given a few iconic RWBY characters to begin.

RWBY Amity Arena Game Play
In order to understand RWBY: Amity Arena, the game play elements must be explained. As a simple description, game play consists of:

A small arena that changes based on the player's ranking. These changes mostly seem to be aesthetic and feature settings from RWBY such as Beacon Academy.

Each player has one tower and two turrets that attack nearby enemies and take damage when attacked. The goal of the game is to destroy your opponent's tower. The main central tower is the most important, and destroying this one is an automatic win. Otherwise, the player who destroys the most structures wins.

In order to attack towers, players are given characters in the form of cards. These characters have different abilities and rankings which relates to how much aura (bottom blue bar) is used. Aura regenerates during the match at a set rate. 

Characters who are placed on the map attack whats closest to them, or proceed to the nearest enemy tower. Character's attributes vary; there are ranged and physical attackers, as well as characters with special effects based on their rarity.

RWBY LEVEL UP PENNYThus, these are the basic game play mechanics of Amity Arena. Playing the game is more complex, but the overall concept is simple. If you are familiar with games such as League of Legends, this RWBY game isn't too far off.

Lastly, a very important game play element is the upgrade and currency system. The characters of the game are displayed as cards, with various attributes. Like many mobile games, in order to make these warriors stronger, players need to collect more of them. Afterwards, they can be upgraded using Lien which is gained from quests and battles.

This sounds easy enough, but Lien was somewhat difficult to come by in large amounts. This is a big issue, since stronger characters require more money to upgrade.

The game of course allows purchase of currency with real-world money, which would solve this problem. Getting stronger and more powerful characters revolves completely around upgrading them. The design of this system is somewhat problematic and leads to pay2win game play as you can spend money to boost your character near-infinitely. More info on this will be discussed below.

Extra Facts About the Game

RWBY Amity Arena Models

The main RWBY characters have different versions/outfits. (Team RWBY has their new outfits while having versions of the original seasons.) The ability to use different characters is unlocked based on arena ranking. For instance, Arena 2 gives access to characters such as Penny that are unobtainable in Arena 1. Once the character is obtained they can be used regardless of rank.

Characters are gained through treasure chest drops which you receive after every battle. You can open these with keys. You are given 5 free keys a day. Other chests can be purchased using crystals, an alternative currency.

Leveling up increases your strength of towers and HP. So far this does not contribute to anything else.

So far there is no single player mode; the entire game is PVP. The opponents you are matched with are determined by your PVP ranking, which splits players into separate arenas. 

Last Minute Thoughts

RWBY Amity Arena Features

First of all, I'd like to say that I definitely enjoyed Amity Arena. As mentioned, I love RWBY and it's wonderful cast of characters. Regardless, as this game is still in the development, it isn't without it's issues.

One major problem that sticks out like a sour thumb, is the Pay2Win nature. While skill plays a part in game play, it can only get you so far. Upgrading characters is a major part of the game and is necessary to win. Pay2Win comes into play here, as upgrading is done by spending in-game currency which isn't attainable in huge amounts without outside resources. Therefore, players who aren't spenders will always be at a disadvantage compared to those who spend, which is a dire issue.

There also wasn't a moment where my battery wasn't being drained. Battery consumption was killer while using the application, which I hope is fixed. An option to lessen graphic settings would help in this regard.

Starting out is somewhat difficult. For each win you gain points, but you also lose points when things don't go your way. A string of losses can knock you back down to lower rankings, making it hard to get anywhere especially in the beginning. It's not always an even playing field as well, with matchmaking pairing you against higher ranked players with characters you don't have access to. This is another thing that needs to be worked on.

It's not all bad though! There are many pros, like the beautiful artwork, the wonderful music, the addicting and intriguing tactical game play and more. I also liked that most of the character retained their voices or had lines referencing the main series. This definitely adds character to the game.

With all that said, are you guys looking forward to the game? Is it a hit or a miss? Were you expecting something different? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!