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Guild Wars 2: The Lost Shores

After days of terror at the claws of the karka, the weekend-long event comes to an epic conclusion... Read More

Guild Wars 2: Fractals of the Mists Dungeon

A new dungeon system introduced during the Lost Shores weekend event... Read More

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Chu-2 leads us on a fun and entertaining adventure into the insane minds of eight-graders... Read More

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse.

The mech genre returns with a story that provides deep characters and interesting perspectives on the consequences of a world pillaged by war... Read More

Zetsuen no Tempest: The Civilization Blaster

A post-apocalyptic anime that takes us on a journey into the dark depths of of wizardry while hunting a murderer... Read More

Kids on the Slope


Last year, Tenzuka Productions brought us a lovable slice of life anime that followed the story of Kaoru, an honours student who suffers from Social Anxiety. When he moves to Kyushu and starts attending Higashi High School, he meets the notorious "bad-boy" Sentaro and together they form a bond through their mutual interest in music.

When Sentaro helps Kaoru loosen up and be more comfortable around other people, relax and start to enjoy life, Kaoru soon realises he has developed feelings for Sentaro's childhood friend, Risuko. Sentaro introduces Kaoru to the world of jazz where they play in the basement of Ritsuko's father's record shop. Going from classical to playing jazz turns out to be quite a learning curve for Kaoru, but determined to rise to the challenge Sentaro sets before him, he soon feels right at home playing music his family would be horrified to know he performed.

With friendships growing, Kaoru pursues his love for Ritsuko while Sentaro takes an interest in Yurika, a senior from a prestigious family they meet on the beach one day. But regardless of what feelings they may have towards the girls, winning their hearts would be anything but easy, especially when Ritsuko implies that her interest in Sentaro goes beyond childhood friends, and Yurika ends up falling for Sentaro's best friend and fellow jazz player, Junichi.

The anime is set back in the era when jazz was at its peak and vinyl was still a popular format, and if that didn't place the setting firmly in your mind, then mention of the Sound of Music being newly released during an episode of the show and the song, My Favourite Things, being all the rage at the time. I found it quite interesting to hear the famous song performed by the characters of the show, and was also pleased to see the mentions and tributes given to famous artists like Art Blakey, Bill Evans, Chris Conner, and even some rock slipping in there with mention of The Beatles. The setting and depth to the show is quite amazing. And so is the background to the characters, especially the support character, Junichi, who by the end of the show becomes quite the central figure in one of the story arcs.

While the protagonist, Kaoru, still leaves much to be desired in the ways of character development -- by giving us glimpses into the expectations placed upon him by his family, and the social criticism given by his sister, which is never really integrated fully into the story -- we see much going on in Sentaro's past and how it effects Ritsuko. By several episodes into the story, we start to see that Sentaro's reputation as the local "bad-boy" is misplaced, and in reality he struggles to take care of his big family in his father's absence, taking on the role of caring for his siblings while his father works abroad.

While the characters certainly act realistically in the show -- none of the over exaggerated shyness and comedy you would typically find in a romantic anime -- I couldn't help but feel a bit cheated on the outcomes of the story arcs, leaving me wanting more, and knowing I wasn't going to get it. While the show had a lovable ending, I felt that it could have done with an extra 12 episodes and gone much further with Kaoru and Ritsuko's relationship and how it effected Sentaro. I also couldn't help but feel sorry for Sentaro throughout the story when his interest in Yurika, and later, Ritsuko, met with complete rejection. There were also moments when Kaoru annoyed me, especially once Ritsuko realised her true feelings for him, yet his response to her advances ended up being quite bitter. Once again, the reactions and development of the story felt natural and well written but I wasn't satisfied with the way it ended. Saying that, I've yet to be satisfied by any romantic anime to date, and that appears to be an issue I'm never going to win.

Overall, Kids on a Slope is definitely one of the better anime of last year, and certainly worth watching. It also features one of those musical intros that are so catchy you can't help but listen to it all the way through every single episode.

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Say, I love you


There are a few anime music intros that have made me want to listen to the entire song every single episode. Say, I love you, is one of those intros. It's not often that a song and intro sets the scene so well and matches the characters and story of the anime perfectly. When the song first starts, and the intro does that blur effect, you get a real feel for the romantic tone of the anime. Unfortunately, that's where the positive side of the anime ends.

Say, I love you, is your typical clichéd teen romance drama, akin to the dreadful shallow characters that was Twilight. The story tries to delve into a plot revolving around school bullying and the troubles school kids face when dealing with social expectations placed on them by others, but unfortunately, the main couple of the show, Mei and Yamato, leave much to be desired in the way of character development. Thankfully, we see the supporting characters, Aiko and Megumi, filling in the gap and giving us a true glimpse into the horrible mentalities of the "popular" kids in school. Megumi's story is certainly the plot to follow for this show, rather than the protagonists.

At the beginning of the show, we are told of Mei's past, the bullying she suffered, and the betrayal of people she considered her friends, which drives her to give up on making friends altogether and cut herself off from the world. This seems to work well for her, and in the first episode we are shown Mei as a character who doesn't need friends, strong enough to go at things by herself and just get on with school life, regardless of what anyone thinks of her... until she kicks Yamato in the face and que "love at first sight" entrance. After this point, Yamato pressures her into being friends when she doesn't want to be, going so far as to give her his phone number. But when a stalker starts following her home from work, instead of calling the police, which would be the sensible thing to do she instead calls the guy she didn't want to be friends with to come save her, and in doing so, he takes liberties with her vulnerability by stealing her first kiss.

I would like to think that Mei gets stronger, and that she is able to deal with her issues that stop her from making real friends, but in the end we are treated to the typical plot of a female character who changes herself to suit the guy she likes for no explainable reason. Mei's love interest in Yamato is completely unfounded, no reason given, and comes across as the average YA "he's so perfect" trope that has many viewers shaking their head in dismay. Unfortunately for Yamato, he comes across as an inconsiderate emotional blackmailer. His character truly does reflect Edward from Twilight, and it is made worse when every mistake he makes is forgiven without any argument from Mei because he is just too perfect in her eyes to do any wrong. What happened to the Mei we met in the first episode? He has turned her into a weak character that lacks any mind of her own, instead deferring to other people's opinions on how she should act. Her character instead of growing, actually gets worse as the episodes go on, and even by the last episode she is still the awkward shy mess she was back in the second episode. One day, I'm ever hopeful I'll find a romance anime that actually progresses with the relationship beyond a kiss or heartfelt words. When the first episode started with a kiss, I thought this might be the anime to do that, but as the episodes came and went, and no more progress beyond that was made I lost hope. We saw more progress in Aiko's story than the main protagonists.

We can at least be thankful for Nagi and Kei, who come along to help Mei open up by sharing their own similar experiences with her, and for the most parts, their stories tend to be stronger than Mei and Yamoto, even though they are only minor characters. In fact, Kei's background is the only glimpse we get into Yamoto's character to make us think there might actually be something behind that superficial exterior he exudes, but it is gone within one episode and never mentioned again. Which is a complaint for much of the story; every problem is solved far too easily with none of the expected drama that should go alongside it. The anime was trying to be "lets all be happy" so much that it lost any credibility to the problems the characters faced.

The real depth to the show comes from Megumi, the amateur model who buys people's friendship with money. Her story provides insight into the true nature of the superficial-popular-girl-type character we often see on TV when her whole world implodes on her when attempts to win Yamato's affection away from Mei, as well as that of Yamato's friends who befriended her, backfires on her and she ends up loosing everything and discovering that she had no friends after all. The consequences of this story arc drive her into a psychological breakdown that ends up being far more interesting of a story than the romance between Mei and Yamato.

Overall, I was hoping this show would be better than it was. I still found it entertaining enough to watch the entire series, but was left at the end thinking, 'That's it?' when the outcome of the show was no real different to any other romance anime, and possibly in a way, worse.
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First Impressions of the New Season

The Winter 2013 season has begun and the first episodes of several shows are available for public viewing. While the season has shown a weak start so far, full of 5-min shorts that leave people desiring anime shows with more meat, we can be glad to see the return of Blast of Tempest and Psycho-Pass which are strong anime carrying over from the previous season. We can only hope that the season strengthens as it continues.

First up is Amnesia, which on paper sounds like it is going to have some considerable potential to become a good story this season. The concepts look promising, the animation is beautiful, especially the detail they have gone into with the clothing and eyes, but there is also something different about the world and culture the story is based in. With the introduction of a floating spirit creature and the mention of some kind of special ability using their unique eyes, I can't help but think we are going to be treated to a unique and refreshing twist on Urban/Contemporary Fantasy. The show is also a reverse-harem, which is a rarer genre than it should be. My only complaint so far with the show is the incessant telling. I felt like I'd slipped into an educational show preaching to me about mundane activities that I really had no interest in knowing in detail, or how the writers felt they needed to explain every emotion and detail to us as if they thought the audience wasn't intelligent enough to pick up on the clues themselves. I hope that as the episodes continue they learn to trust the audience more and tone down the telling.

Vividred Operation has us venturing back into the magical girl genre but with an added sci-fi twist that gives it a feeling reminiscent of Eureka Seven AO, just without the need for mechs. We are introduced to the main protagonist, Akane, who has a fear of heights, yet seems destined to take on a role that requires her to face her fears. While the flashbacks showing where her fears came from makes for a deep character background, I couldn't help but feel they threw away the chance to build upon her fears too easily; she appeared to get over it within the first episode. We can only hope that her fears relapse in following episodes and that it continues to be a struggle for her, making her character feel more real. This anime shows potential but I couldn't help but feel I'd rather have mechs than a spiritual successor to Strike Witches. Even so, I believe this anime will be a strong contender for the season. The characters are well designed and thought out, the animation is good, and the musical score suits the scenes perfectly, although they could do with focussing a little less on the characters' posteriors - they are only fourteen after all. I wouldn't go so far as to call it ecchi, but it is borderline and I feel quite unsuitable for the age the characters are representing, and it gives me the creeps a little each time one of those scenes screens. At least the clothing transformation scene typical of magical girl anime doesn't focus on the breasts, it's only saving grace. Overall though, it appears to be an anime well worth watching.

Next up is the ridiculous childishness that was the first episode of Da Capo III. I know the anime series is popular but I felt like I was watching an immature kids show that had drifted into the ecchi harem genre. Every chance the artists got, they had to include scenes with bouncing boobs. The sexual jokes were very overdone, even for an ecchi. While the mystery of the island was interesting, and might provide enough reason to watch another episode, I can't help but feel the story is lost beneath the stupidity of the characters and their childish dialogue. The dialogue especially grated on me when the writers felt the need to include a piece of dialogue from every character in the scene, skipping from one to the next showing their responses to a certain piece of dialogue from another character. The first time it happened was funny, but when they continued to repeat the pattern it just became annoying and stilted.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha yet. The concept of the story has the potential to be good, and the world design should certainly interest fans of Fantasy-themed anime, but the ecchi component that was made so prevalent in the episode felt completely out of place. I can understand the sense behind a political marriage between demons and humans, but professing it to be more than that, love at first sight even, and the childish reactions of the "Demon King" destroyed any sensibility and made it into a comedic situation that ruined the potential the anime has to take a good long look into the effects war has on nations and the motivations behind it. The story has a lot of potential, but I fear they are going to waste it chasing the naive and weak protagonist uncomfortable with becoming romantically involved with the excessively developed and attractive girl who likes him for no apparent reason trope. Saying that, we did get some glimpses into her past, and it showed the potential for there to actually be some depth to her character, but perhaps they would have done better to actually tell us her name first. I ended the episode seeing them agree to form a relationship to bond the nations together when they didn't even know each others names and instead just referred to each other as "Hero" and "Demon King". That along with the sexual jokes ruins any credibility the story could have had.

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited treats us to a dark action story that would suit fans of fighting-themed anime. I see it as Code:Breaker meets X-men, with characters that come across quite similar to those of Code:Breaker with very similar powers, yet their existence is common knowledge and just like with X-Men, it shows us the reaction the rest of the world has to their powers. The characters appear solid and well thought out, the story has potential, yet I found the abilities of the protagonist excessively overpowered. I do worry that the show will turn into the "lets get beaten up by the bad guy of the week until I am forced to release my full powers and instantly win" trope. The animation is well done, and the backgrounds of the characters might just well continue to surprise us as they did in the last few minutes of the first episode. The show certainly takes a much more mature and serious spin when compared to the original series that was released back in 2008. I believe though that the anime will be one worth watching.

Ninjas are back with Senran Kagura, and so are bouncing boobs. The combinations should be any ecchi fans dream anime. Unfortunately what makes ninjas great is lost beneath the childish portrayal of the characters, with the protagonist being made into a hopelessly ditzy girl who makes the early days of Naruto look like a master shinobi. With the exception of Yagyuu, the antagonists of the anime have more potential to be entertaining characters than the girls we are supposed to be rooting for. The script and plot leaves much to be desired, but the last few minutes of the episode hint at possible improvements to come, so this anime might need a couple more episodes chance before being dismissed completely. I just hope Katsuragi gets over her breast groping fetish already, it's incredibly irritating and out of place. I don't hold out much hope for Senran Kagura being any good, which is unfortunate, because I believe many anime fans would love to see an anime about Ninjas compete with Naruto. This won't be that anime.

In Hakkuden: A Strange Tale of Eight Dogs of the East we are introduced to three characters who are the sole survivors of a village that was burned to the ground, and each one of them gifted with some special ability that sets them apart from the other people in the community where they sought refuge, trying to hide from their past. The premise of the story is interesting and has some potential, but I found the episode too rushed, as if they were trying to fit several episodes worth of plot into one 25 minute slot. This served to make much of the episode feel like a series of random events. When the episode first started I was a bit put off by the talking animals, felt the Lord of the Lake and the frog a bit much. I didn't mind Murasame once I understood a bit more about him, but wondered why they even thought of including that algae eyeball creature. When this show was labelled as Shoujo, there was a big scare that, considering the protagonists are two male characters, that there would be a boy love theme as the main focus  of the story. Having watched the episode I found no evidence to suggest they would take that direction with the show, but not having read the manga it is adapted from, I cannot say for sure that it won't include anything like that at all. But at this point I'm certain you will find a stronger BL theme in Da Capo III than this. Overall I feel the anime is worth watching, but I just hope they slow things down a bit now that they have introduced the characters and background.

But the best episode of the week has to go to Kotoura, which has come out starting very strong with a heart-wrenching emotional plot, driven by deep characters that, in the style of last season's Chu-2, soften the darkness in the background with light humour. The anime takes a good long look into the effects having the ability to read minds has on the life of the protagonist and her family, the way it effects friendships, the harm knowing everybody's inner thoughts does. The animation style is a bit below-average, but the story should more than satisfactorily make up for it - although the style of animation does suit some of the very strange glimpses Kotoura gets from the mind of her hopelessly stupid friend, Manabe. So far, Kotoura is easily the anime of the season to watch out for, and I can only imagine the insane hilarity Manabe is going to get Kotoura involved in as the series progresses and he helps her to deal with the darkness of her past.

Keep an eye out for more detailed reviews of this seasons anime as the stories progress.
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From the New World

Saki and Soratou

Following the outbreak of uncontrollable psychokinetic powers that nearly destroyed the world, a secluded set of villages are recovering from the devastation by separating children from the rest of the world and teaching them to control their fledgling powers. When their powers manifest, they go through a trial to test their ability to use the powers referred to as 'Cantus'. If the child succeeds in passing the trial, they are reunited with friends and family who went before them in a special school designed to train them in how to use their cantus. On the surface, the village appears to be a normal, every day community, with people living out their ordinary lives with the assistance of their cantus, but in the background lies a mystery hidden behind lies and deceit, not the least being; what happens to the children who don't pass the trial, or the ones whose power never manifests?

Queerat LeaderMany rumours and tales surround the secrets of the villages - secrets that only the adults seem to know and are deliberately keeping hidden from the children. These rumours set our protagonist, Saki, and her classmates on an adventure with the sole purpose of discovering the truth behind the rumours. What they uncover will be far beyond what they ever expected.

I have one word that sums up this anime, and that is: strange.

Saki and Soratou with friendly queeratFrom the New World is a dark anime reminiscent of M Knight Shyamalan's The Village, driven by the series of clues that lead us through a deep and complicated mystery that keeps us wondering just what is going on until the very end. Half the reason for this is the random, completely implausible, and disjointed plot arcs that tend to make very little sense in the overall scope of the story.

Queerats negotiating terms of surrenderWe are first introduced to a worker race of ratmen who assist the adults of the village in menial duties, foraging and dealing with complicated matters discretely when the limitations of the adult's cantus doesn't permit - like the suspected murdering of innocent people. One limitation of the cantus is that they cannot use it to harm other humans. The first quarter of the show throws Saki and her friends right into the middle of a battle between queerat tribes for no apparent reason other than to show us a bit of the world outside their village.

One very strange creature
During their adventure that sees them caught up in the queerat war, they find one of the many creatures that the tales speak of, which appears to be some I-Don't-Know-What-Like glowing creature. The tales say that whoever sees one of them dies, but then, the question is raised; then how did the tale come to exist? Using their cantus to capture the creature, it is discovered they aren't just any normal animal, but some sort of cybernetic animal that acts as a computer AI  to access a library containing forbidden histories of the world. Not only is the creature one of the strangest things I've ever seen in anime, it's physical design is completely illogical when taking into consideration its intended purpose.

Amazing artwork of a imaginary house
Having learnt what they shouldn't have, the next major complaint I have with the show is when the children are taken captive by a mysterious man who has cantus powers far superior to their own. He seals away their powers, preventing them from using their cantus permanently. The only way to get their cantus back is to return to the village and recover their diaries, which have recordings of the process they went through in the trials when their powers first manifested. But by the time they return to the village to recover these diaries, Saki's older, narrators voice tells us their powers came back on their own, as if that part of the plot element was completely brushed aside. If their powers came back without the diaries, then why mention them in the first place? This is only but one of the illogical plot developments in this series.

Saki caught in the mind world of a karma demon
Following this narration scene that dismisses their sealed powers as nothing important, the story skips forward two years, totally dismissing the fact that they were scared out of their wits with what the adults of the village would do to them knowing they had discovered part of the forbidden knowledge; which ended up being nothing at all. No, in fact, the village council wants to reward Saki, who is constantly going out of her way to uncover truths and pry into things she shouldn't by making her the next in line to take over the head position of the village council. Why they would ever want such a rebellious child who is determined to destroy everything the village has worked towards I can't possibly understand.

The next strange plot development I can't understand in the show is after they have skipped forward two years and it shows the relationships Saki and her friends have developed. At the beginning of the show, we are given the hint that Saki is secretly in love with her male friend Shin, but come this stage in the story, it is revealed her other male friend, Setarou is actually gay, and in a relationship with Shin. I was completely surprised by this unexpected development which seems to serve no other purpose than being a complete shock tactics twist with the purpose of causing controversy, which becomes even worse when it is also revealed that Saki herself has formed a lesbian relationship with her friend, Maria.

These relationships appear to last only a matter of a couple of episodes before they are nearly forgotten about and Maria starts encouraging Saki to pursue a relationship with a newly introduced character even though they are supposed to be together. Scenes involving them walking through the school show practically every single student involved in some form of relationship with another student, over half of them being same-sex, which can only lead me to suspect there is some strange genetic bonding and manipulation of feelings going on behind the scenes. On several occasions it is referred to as animalistic relationships and compared to monkeys. I can only suspect this is some sort of political statement made by the writer to support such relationships and was completely unnecessary for the story - hence how easily they where thrown away. Either way, I found these developments hard to deal with because they destroy any potential romance story that could have developed as the episodes progressed. Honestly, before I found out that Setarou was gay, I was suspecting him and Saki might at one point end up falling in love, based on the way the first part of the story was going. No way that is going to happen now.

There are many other strange twists that seem to have no apparent reason, from killing off characters unexpectedly and then forgetting about them shortly after, to having characters running for their lives out of no fault of their own when they'd spent years prior in what appeared to be complete safety.

The whole team together

To add salt to the wound, I am at a complete loss at the writers need to make the queerat races so childishly annoying in the way they act and talk. Their incomprehensible nattering continues to grate on my nerves.

Unfortunately for the writers, it is safe to say this anime is one that deserves to be passed by and forgotten about. The only reason that kept me watching as far as I did, was the intrigue of the mystery that, even though I know the answer to, continues to interest me enough to wonder what they are going to do about it. But seriously, this anime barely makes any sense at all and I'm afraid I have to rate it as one of the weakest anime I've watched this season.
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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Just want to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas. I hope you all got great gifts from Santa and get to eat lots of cake - just remember to sleep it off afterwards. And no late night baking, or you'll be too tired to eat it come meal time.

How sad it is to see the season come to an end, and all the great shows we've watched screen their finales. It has been a tremendous year for anime with some strong contenders like Fate/Zero, Guilty Crown, Chu-2 and Sword Art Online. My list could continue, and truly, I'd need a top 20, not just 10 to list all the quality shows we got to watch this year. I can only hope that 2013 will continue to provide us with the same calibre of entertainment.

In the Winter 2012/13 season, there are a few anime that I suspect will be the ones to watch for. The first of these being Da Capo III. The multi-series anime has made a big name for itself and has a large following. I'm sure there are many excited to see the show return in its third incarnation.

Another two are Amnesia and Vivid Red Operation. Vivid Red certainly is stealing a large chunk of the spotlight for the winter season, yet the story of Amnesia sounds very intriguing and will probably make for a serious and dark story - the total opposite of Vivid Red's light-hearted fun.

But most of all, Savannah Game sounds like it will take my interest the most. I've always been partial to anime based around virtual reality games, and we've certainly had a few come out this year, including the smash hit, Sword Art Online. Now we get a fourth game-themed anime for winter.

Of course, with the popularity of the first season of Chihayafuru, we are likely to see that continue in January with the screening of the show's second season. Maoyuu Maou Yuusha looks interesting, but I'm still a bit on the fence with it due to the poor sounding synopsis, but I've always been partial to anime with swords in them, and this one looks to be no different - I'll hold out until I've seen the first couple of episodes before passing judgement on it.

With that said, Merry Christmas fellow anime fans and keep on watching!
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Based in the year 2019, Robotics;Notes follows the story of Kaito Yashio and Akiho Senomiya who are the sole members of the Central Tanegashima High School Robotics Club. Akiho is determined to live up to the expectations of her older sister by finishing the large-scale robot her sister started back before she graduated from the school after founding the original robotics club. While Akiho seeks funding to continue her project, Kaito spends his days hanging round the club hanger, not helping in the development of Akiho's robot, but playing a popular mech fighting game, Kill-Ballad, which is based on the fictional anime, Gunvarrel. The fictional show itself serves as inspiration for Akiho, going so far as to codename her project, Gunbird-1 - a robot from the anime.

Aki testing out robot
While the robot looks very little like the real Gunbird-1, Akiho finds encouragement from the relucant Kaito's unexpected and heartfelt support, as well as that of her other friends who over time join the club to help finish the project in their own unique way. Her work is not without merit, which is soon recognised by the company behind the fictional lollies, Space Candy, run by a man who will come to coin the most catchy saying of the entire show: Impact! You only have to take notice of anime forums around the world to see that this word is on the tip of every robotics fan's tongue.

Aki and Kai as children with her sisterRobotics;Notes is the third anime to be adapted from the series of visual novels produced by 5pb Inc, and follows in the wake of the smash hit 2011 anime sensation, Steins;Gate. While not quite living up to the success of its predecessor, the anime has shown itself to be a much deeper story than previously expected. With its foreboding of apocalyptic disaster, we can surmise that what starts as a simple school robotics club might well be the only thing standing between the Earth and certain annihilation.
The creator of Gunvarrel
Robotics;Notes is full of humour and lovingly crafted golden moments which you would come to expect in what we thought was going to be a slice of life anime, but it has a serious side that is slowly creeping in from the background, directed by the artificial intelligence program, Airi, who reveals herself to Kaito, along with a secret NASA doesn't want the world to know. It doesn't seem surprising at all that an anime skirting around the possibility of a worldwide apocalypse would show its face in a year that is already full of doomsday, end of the world, predictions.

After coming second in the robot tournament
I have quite enjoyed the show so far, although I liked Steins;Gate better, but I am sure we are going to be in for a real treat as the story leaves behind character introductions and humour in favour of the real meat of the story.
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Seraphine and the Orphan of Castlepoint



The room drifted into focus; the Light locked away safely inside me again. My skin tingled, hot to the touch when I rubbed my arms. It was residue of the lashing heat that had washed over me only moments ago, a side-effect of my own powers. I hated it.

Rounded crystal lamps dangled from chains, forcing their dim light through gaps in the metal platform above my head. The heavy clamour of working machinery echoed from the upper level of the factory, and the dull thrum of an extractor fan throbbed through my ears.

The scent of scorched flesh permeated in the air. Seven bodies surrounded me, one of them the mother. I’d been too late to save her, just like I’d been too late to save the father. The truth is: I’d had no intention of saving them in the first place.

The arm of a massive machine crossed in front of the lamps, casting striped patterns again the steel wall. They flickered over the vent, drawing my attention to the frightened child hiding within; the only survivor of this bloodbath. How she’d survived through me releasing my power when all others had perished, I’ll never know, but honestly; I didn’t care.

She wasn’t my concern. Orphans were shard a dozen in this city. She’d be dead before long. Either that or she’d turn to prostitution, and then she’d die; charity had long ago ceased to exist in Castlepoint.

I turned away. My body tensed and I bunched my fists to try stop them shaking. What frustrated me most was that my prey had somehow managed to elude me. Maybe the shade provided by the vent had protected the girl, but there was no explanation for how Blackmantle had escaped. And I’d done so well to track him here to this bloody factory.

The girl’s whimpers reached me and for a moment there I contemplated putting her out of her misery. My hand rested on the pommel of the sword at my waist. It would be a kindness, the only one she’d be likely to get. I walked away instead. I’m not like them. I don’t murder children.

It was quieter in the hallway, easier to relax and not care about the mess I’d left behind me. My foot bumped up against the body of the father. His chest was bloody from the bullet holes. What had brought them here, why had they been running from the Royal Guard? I doubted I’d be getting any answers from a corpse, or that broken shell of a child. My curiosity wasn’t worth the effort.

Little feet padded over concrete behind me. They stopped. I refrained from cursing at her, instead squeezing the bridge of my nose between forefinger and thumb. Why me…? The girl stood a few paces away from me.

I didn’t have time for this. ‘Sorry kid, but I’m not giving hand-outs today.’

The dark pools of her eyes remained fixed on mine.

‘Scat. Go on now, get!’

The Four curse me. That lost puppy-dog look of hers was hard to ignore. A stuffed bear hung from her hand, stained red with blood. Her knees too; the skirts covering them slicked red, adding to the black stains that ruined her white dress.

I should leave her. My job didn’t spare me the room to babysit a kid. Yet why did I just stand there, listening to the distant throb of the extractor fan? A faulty crystal lamp flickered overhead. Damn it.

‘Come on then,’ I said.

The girl hugged her bear against her chest and kept her gaze fixed on me, avoiding the body at my feet. Smart kid.

I slipped the leather jacket off my shoulders and put it on her. There was no way she was going anywhere with me in her current state. The brown jacket fell to her ankles, but at least when closed it covered the blood.

I must be mad, taking her with me. How in the Four Circles of Hell I was going to explain this to Luca.
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Hunted: Season Finale Impressions

Sam Hunter walking through hedge maze

Hunted is a bond-esque television drama written by Frank Spotnitz for BBC One staring Melissa George as Sam Hunter, the butt-kicking espionage operative working for the private intelligence agency, Byzantium. Like a female version of Bond, Sam has the knack for getting herself into trouble, although nothing she can't fight her way out of with her to-be-expected incomparable training, but most of all the sex appeal we have come to expect from attractive and talented spy flick stars. Unfortunately, that same sex appeal is ruined by her petulant sulking and weak moments that betrays the tough character personality she is attempting to develop into.

figuring out who attempted to kill her
When Sam is betrayed by members of the very intelligence agency she works for, she goes into hiding in order to recover from the attempt on her life that cost her the life of her unborn child. During her recovery she gathers together any information she can find on Byzantium, looking for clues that will lead to the identity of those who betrayed her and why they'd made an attempt on her life, which as the story progresses, is apparently tied into a project called Hourglass, and a traumatic experience she suffered as a child.

The villian of the showHaving recovered from her injury and loss, Sam returns to Byzantium when she realises it is the only way she can find answers to the puzzle surrounding her. She is welcomed back into the team, although many surprised to see her, including her once boyfriend, and the father of her dead baby, Aiden Marsh. Knowing she is their best operative, they quickly throw her back into the action, assigning her to gain the trust of Stephen Turner. Rescuing his son from a staged kidnapping attempt, Sam is quickly brought into Stephen's home as a nanny for his son, Edward, when she takes on the persona of Alex Kent, a single woman desperately in need of a job. Sam uses the secret identity and position to get close to Stephen's father, Jack Turner, and discover the secret he is using to blackmail a large conglomerate organisation that has ties to Byzantium. The story escalates when she discovers ties between the attempt of her life, the mysterious Hourglass project, Byzantium and it's largest parent company, Polyhedrus.

Sam ustilising a lighter as a flamethrowerI had wanted to believe in the show that so much reminded me of a UK version of Alias without the cheesy acting. It was supposed to be the show that filled the gap left by the hit show Spooks, and clearly the network had dropped a huge ton of money into it. The production quality is high, although on occasions suffers from some below-average acting and scripts. On the whole though, the show appeared to have potential, and a decent amount of action and intrigue to keep me interested. Unfortunately, ratings slipped on the show and now it looks to be on rocky ground. BBC One is choosing to drop support for the show, but Cinemax hasn't given up hope quite yet. We will see a second season, but it might go the way of Strike Back and become a hugely different show. It will still feature the sexy Melissa George, although some may consider that a negative, rather than positive, based on her acting skills. But she has a pretty face, right? That always sells.

Sam with her ex-boyfriend and partnerThe greatest problem I see with Hunted is the unresolved plot arcs. I believe, given the funding and support, the holes would have all been filled in time and answers given, but the show was surviving on a severely limited number of episodes for a story that easily needed double their allotment. The simple truth was, there were far too many stories going on in the show for it to possibly reach any satisfactory conclusion. The worst of this being the briefly visited, but unfulfilled relationship Sam develops with Stephen and his son. I was disappointed how easily they threw away all they'd worked towards regarding them in those last episodes, although I suppose his character was too weak to truly take her interest. On many occasions, Stephen frustrated me with his inability to stand up to his father, even after discovering all Jack's dirty, dark secrets. With the move away from BBC One, we should be worried that those questions we had by the end of the finale might very well be left unanswered. It is a shame, because the series did show a good level of untapped potential that I had hoped they would in time work their way into.

Overall, the series was intriguing, but ultimately an unsatisfying watch. I enjoyed watching it, but would have liked there to be at least a full season of episodes so they could flesh it out properly.
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Psycho Pass

About to shoot the dominator

Psycho-Pass is an anime that started off mediocre and uninspiring. But as the episodes have gone on, I've started to see something in it; a jewel that is slowly being polished into a series that just might be worth watching after all.

Physical training
The anime is based in the near future, following a similar story to the movie Minority Report, where it is possible to measure a person's mental state, personality and the probability that a person will commit crimes. This is called their "Crime Coefficent" level and is monitored by "Enforcers" working for the Safety Bureau's Criminal Investigation Division. Enforcers use weapons called "Dominators" that read the target's mental state and determine how serious of a threat the perpetrator is. The weapon has two modes, stun and lethal, and will automatically switch between the modes when the target's level gets too high.

Protagonist with a dominator
The anime follows the story of Akane Tsunemori, an inspector fresh out of training who is placed in charge of a group of Enforcers, ensuring they follow the rules and stay in control of their own mental state. She takes an interest in Shinkya Kogami, who used to once be an inspector, but when his own Crime Coefficent level grew too high while investigating a difficult case was demoted down to Enforcer and treated like a latent criminal - like the other Enforcers, who are all latent criminals, given the chance to redeem themselves by working for the police instead of committing the crimes they were predicted to do. If her curiosity develops into something more we can only theorise, but as the episodes continue, I wonder if Akane will turn out to really be the perfect, high-scoring, 'model citizen' they all believe her to be. It will be interesting to see if she goes the same way of Shinkya Kogami.

The police AI forceThe concept of this anime is brilliant, and is what made me start watching it. At first I was put off by the below-average anime quality. They could of at least made the characters look pleasing to the eye, but I suppose the artists were going for a more average, realistic look - which that did achieve. Animation style aside, the story has enough going for it to make me continue to watch.

Unfortunately, the gem I now see in it only became apparent about four episodes into the anime. The first two episodes were a real struggle, dealing with dark situations, weak characters, unexplained plots and ridiculous arguments that just ended up being a waste of time and over dramatisation. This was solved by the story starting to actually go somewhere productive and become serialised series from one episode to the next, forming a long story arc revolving around virtual reality hackers and crime bosses.

Avatars of Internet Celebrities seeking revenge on hacker

With the dominator again.

The strange, lackluster animation continues to grind on me but I suspect we are in for a very big surprise in the episodes to come that will leave us wondering just where this show came from - very much what happened to the hit TV Show Fringe - the first season barely had any story, yet halfway through the second season the viewers' eyes were opened to an amazing development in the characters and story. We might just be in for the same evolution with Psycho-Pass. I am very curious to see if the anime lives up to my hopes in the weeks to come.
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Nanowrimo Target Reached

A quick post to announce that today marked the halfway point for my second draft of The Maidenflower Dance, and as such I've reached the 50k words target set for Nanowrimo in November. Of course I'll continue to write, got another 50k words at least to go before the story is done.

My writing statistics

As you can see, nine days ahead of target. I'm pleased with the result and hope I can keep the rate of progress going and complete the novel before Christmas. I expect it will not be too hard to meet the deadline I've set.

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Guild Wars 2: The Lost Shores - GRAND FINALE

The Lost Shores: Grand Finale

Tension was thick in the morning hours leading up to the Lionguard's final strike against the karka threat. Only yesterday adventurers had fought alongside Inspector Ellen Kiel to wrestle the shoreline of Southsun Cove from the karka, securing a beach front and pushing through to establish roads further inland. While the Consortium investigated nearby ruins and collected karka egg specimens, the Lionsguard proceeded to establish a forward base on the edge of the Scoured Plains.

Big Cannon
Karka championAdventurers woke to find a new design of catapult, along with asura cannons constructed along the front lines, their sights focused on the karka hive where the Ancient Karka that had been terrorising Lions Arch slumbered. Yesterday the hive had been blocked off to all adventures by an indestructible webbing, taunting us with the points of interest and rich orichalcum veins within. Now it appeared the Lionsguard were making plans to break through that impenetrable wall and take the fight directly to the karka's home.

Adventurers from all over Tyria gathered in those last moments leading up to the final battle, converging on Canach's Folly to witness the grand finale, summoned by a mass-delivered letter from Inspector Kiel. Upon arrival at the forward camp they found a group of demolitionists just itching to get into that hive and blow it into the mists. Kicking off the final push, the Lionguard fire the cannons, ripping a hole in the webbing. Adventurers and demolitionists alike swarmed through the gap, overwhelming the young karka. Enraged by our attack, veteran egg-layers rose up from the depths of the hive, led by their champions.

Inside the Karka Hive

The fight was severe and bloody, and many lost their lives, but after much effort, the demolitionists placed their charges, ending at the top with a grand battle confronting another champion karka and several veteran egg-layers.

Still inside the Karka Hive
Our mission complete we escaped from the hive, racing across the Seashell Hills and back to the safety of Canach's Folly and the asura cannons. There we met with Inspector Ellen Keil, who was preparing to use the cannons against the karka still remaining in the hive, triggering the explosives in the process, except her plans are foiled at the last moment. The Ancient Karka was never in the hive. We were now required to force it back into sight of the cannons so that the Lionsguard could finish what we started.

We found the Ancient Karka in the Driftglass Plains, stubbornly refusing to budge an inch. The tree we felled changed its mind though, but not the way we had hoped. Instead of heading towards the hive, the creature retreated further away and proceeded to summon waves of veteran karka to fight back.

The Ancient Karka Arrives

Wave after wave of karka attacked us, and for the next hour we fought tooth and nail to keep the upper hand. When victory seemed close, we were confronted with a wave of veteran egg-layers, followed by a champion karka. Suffering through the severe latency issues we were dealt at this point, the adventurers struggled to win the fight against the karka and drive the boss back towards the Scoured Plains.

Using steam vents to fight the Ancient KarkaAt the end of the hour long battle, we made headway, chasing the Ancient Karka into a region full of geothermal fissures. Ripping the webbing off the fissures, we used their pressure to launch boulders at the Ancient Karka, driving down its will to fight on.

The creature at last gave up the fight, retreating into the Scoured Plains, but it was not over yet. Regaining courage, the beast summoned more veteran karka, along with egg-layers and their babies. The battle was fierce, and the adventurers were pushed back onto the bridge to Captain's Retreat, but after much toil and pain, we succeeded, only to be confronted by three champion karka. The battle raged on, and eventually we forced the Ancient Karka back into the Seashell Hills.

Chasing the Ancient Karka back to the hive
The battle was not over yet though, we still had to drive the Ancient Karka back into the hive where the trap we'd set waited for it. We achieved this by destroying gas nodes around the area that had been blocked by karka webbing. Each exploding node forced the creature further and further back, until it retreated within the confines of the hive.

Fighting the Ancient Karka outside the hiveSensing her eminent victory, Inspector Kiel ordered the Lionsguard to charge the cannons, preparing to fire again. It was up to the adventurers to keep the Ancient Karka busy until the cannons were ready to fire once more.

The creature fled to the top of the hive, and we followed, free to run up the path previously cleared of young and veteran karka. At the top we found the Ancient Karka hiding amongst the webbing, which had covered the previously placed explosives, leaving us with no other option but to destroy the webbing in order to reset the trap for him. With the webbing destroyed, the karka fled back down to the bottom of the hive, using a rolling move to crush all opposition in its way, but little did the karka know, but that was where we wanted it.

The final battle against the Ancient Karka inside the hive
Fighting the Ancient Karka inside the hiveCornered, we at last launched an all out offensive on the Ancient Karka itself, paying it back for all the terror it had unleashed, for the citizens of Tyria it had murdered and the damage it had done to Lions Arch. The creature was helpless against our fury and it fell to our blades, weakening. The time had come, the cannons were charged, the explosives set, ready to blow. Inspector Ellen Kiel gave the final command, and the cannons fired, striking the Ancient Karka and explosives. The ground beneath it ruptured, revealing the lava below, and the creature was swallowed whole, consumed by the fires.

Making one last effort, the Ancient Karka rose up again, emerging from the lava to struggle onto the land, but its burns were severe, its wounds fatal. The karka took its last breath and died, the adventurers and Lionsguard standing triumphant before it. Victory was ours.

The Ancient Karka is defeated!

Having defeated the karka threat once and for all, the adventurers were rewarded with an enormous event chest containing unique and exotic treasures. Every adventurer was given a 20-slot karka themed bag, an exotic earring that gave +25 to all stats as well as +5% magic find, two random exotic items, and a handful of other, lesser rarity, random items.

Treasure!Satisfied with the outcome of the three-hour long event, latency issues forgiven, the adventurers returned to Canach's Folly, which now stands as a Lionsguard outpost, to stay until the remaining karka are found and the island is freed of their terror for good. Players left happy, thankful that the final day of the event had not been a complete disaster like the second day had been. Now all that remains is to explore every inch of the island, complete the jumping puzzles, gather the karka shells used to create newly added items, and explore the very depths of the Fractals of the Mists. Already there are reports of players reaching difficulty level 4 or 5, and who knows what awaits them as the dungeon continues to get even more dangerous.
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