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Computer hardware upgrades & replacements

May 2, 2016

Took advantage of the yearly sale at computer hardware store Tones to indulge myself and purchase a few new parts, including a Samsung 850 EVO 1TB SSD and an additional 8GB kit of Corsair DDR3 memory.

Although I have been running the operating system and applications from an SSD for years, this Samsung 1TB SSD will replace the Samsung HD103UJ model 1TB 7200rpm drive that stores core data including my documents, music and raw photo files. Combined with settings optimization and the additional memory, am hoping storing the raw photo captures on this SSD will help improve performance in Adobe Lightroom.

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Noticed these past weeks that the cooling fans in my Antec P182 computer case began to exhibit annoying grinding noises when spinning up, so decided to acquire new Scythe Slip Stream models to replace the worn out Antec fans. Am rather keen on having a quiet computer, hence it was logical to opt for a brand like Noctua or Scythe who are known for their high-performance, silent cooling fans.

Removing the original case fans and installing these new Scythe fans was straightforward and near effortless. Even with the main components still installed, could easily access the fans to replace them. Although an older design, the Antec P182 computer case really is worth every penny I spent on it nearly a decade ago as it remains rock solid, its build quality is superb.

After tinkering with the hardware, took the opportunity to perform a clean installation of Microsoft Windows 10 as well to complete the ‘spring cleaning’.

Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge

April 29, 2016

Adapting the “田中くんはいつもけだるげ” manga by Uda Nozomi into anime, “Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge” is a lovely comedy that could be labeled as the ultimate ‘leisurely’ slice-of-life anime.

While there are plenty of terrific slice-of-life anime like “Aria” or this season’s “Flying Witch” that boast a leisurely pace and soothing atmosphere, “Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge” takes it a step further. It isn’t merely because the show’s protagonist Tanaka is so listless and always dozing off, but each episode makes you feel as if you’ve just taken a soothing, relaxing nap.

Silver Links’ work on “Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge” boasts an excellent combination of subdued, low contrast colors, and the studio perfectly balances the pace of each episode so it feels leisurely and relaxed, yet the show never comes across as boring, uneventful or too slow.
The comedy is handled similarly well, especially Miyano’s cute shenanigans and Echizen’s silly facial expressions are adorable, yet it is never the sort of slapstick comedy that makes you roar with laughter.

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Also noteworthy about the animation by studio Silver Links in “Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge” is the background artwork, specifically the architectural and interior design of the school building. A contemporary styling with lots of natural-looking materials and colors, make this look like a modern office space with plenty of open space and light, instead of the classic, plain Japanese school design usually seen in anime.

Originally omitted it from my to watch list for this spring season as the plot synopsis did sound like it would be the slice-of-life anime that I personally enjoy, am nonetheless glad I did pick up “Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge” after all as it is the type of lighthearted, soothing slice-of-life show that I adore.

Recommend this show to all fans of slice-of-life anime. Am certain that together with “Flying Witch” it will be one of the season's sleeper hits.
You can watch “Tanaka-kun is Always Listless” on Crunchyroll.

Good Smile Company Cheerful Japan! Kumamoto Earthquake Charity Products

April 25, 2016

In order to help raise funds for aid relief after the earthquakes that struck Kumamoto prefecture in Japan earlier this month, Good Smile Company announced they will release a new wave of the lovely Hatsune Miku: Cheerful Version figure as well as the Nendoroid Mikazuki Munechika: Cheerful Version.

For each Hatsune Miku: Cheerful Version figure and each Nendoroid Mikazuki Munechika: Cheerful Version sold, Good Smile Company and its partners will donate to aid relief efforts in Japan.

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Good Smile Company originally started the Cheerful Japan! charity project in 2011 to support relief efforts after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Had always fancied the Hatsune Miku: Cheerful Version but neglected to timely order her when she was originally announced. This time I did not hesitate and immediately made a reservation.
You can still order this new wave of Hatsune Miku: Cheerful Version at the Good Smile Online Shop until the 25th of May. The tentative shipping date of the figure itself is somewhere in December 2016.

Haifuri

April 22, 2016

Also known as “High School Fleet” or “ハイスクール・フリート”, “Haifuri” is a new military action series created by Production IMS. Had read the plot synopsis and watched the first promotional video of “Haifuri”, but neglected to do any further research into this spring anime which caused me to be quite mistaken about this show.

Expected that “Haifuri” would be a heart-warming slice-of-life anime focusing on cute girls their daily lives attending school with some science-fiction elements. Taking place on an alternate version of earth where rising water levels forced most coastal countries to build artificial islands, ambitious young girls strive to become ‘Blue Mermaids’, women serving in the naval force that protects the seas.

What I had not expected was that “Haifuri” would offer us a mix of “Girls und Panzer” and “Kancolle”, with the girls serving on Japanese WWII era ships like the Harekaze or Musashi. Was even more surprised when the first episode, which had all the traits of a silly, fun slice-of-life anime of girls doing cute military things like in “Girls und Panzer”, ends on a surprising cliffhanger that left me dumbfounded.

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Even though the second episode offered plenty of cute fluffy scenes of the girls’ silly shenanigans as they crew their warship, the few plot developments make me apprehensive that “Haifuri” will take a similar turn from moe to drama like “Gakkou Gurashi” or “So-Ra-No-Wo-To” did.
The underlying plot of the Harekaze crew being wrongfully accused and hunted for mutiny, with possible international political machinations in the background, holds plenty of promise, hence am curious how it will play out.

Overall animation quality by studio Production IMS is good, with most attention going to faithfully rendering the ships with lots of detail, as well as the putting plenty of effort in animating the girls, the ships and girls are the main stars of this type of show after all. Of course, with original character designs by Atto, the artist who created the “Non Non Biyori” manga, the girls would of course be adorably cute.

Am unsure what direction “Haifurui” will take, is it going to be a typical cute school girls overcoming obstacles with no doubt for the viewers that all will end well, or does heart-wrenching drama await ahead?

If you like crossover anime of cute girls and military themes like “Girls und Panzer”, “Strike Witches” or “Kancolle”, then I recommend you give “Haifuri” a try!
You can watch “Haifuri” on Crunchyroll.

Dollfie Dream snapshots: Atsuko -1-

April 20, 2016

Here’s a photo of Dollfie Dream Atsuko in her winter garb, a white once-piece dress from Nine9Style and a gorgeous knit poncho made by すずひこ which suits her well.

Actually made this capture a few weeks ago on a late afternoon but only recently uploaded them. Somehow always end up taking much more time to actually export a processed photo and upload it, as I mull over the changes applied and wonder if it is really worth to share.

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Processed the raw files in Adobe Lightroom using a preset that reduces sharpness, which in these images that have a strong dynamic contrast between light and shadows created an even more prominent glow effect around Atsuko. Did use a radial filter to reduce the highlights on Atsuko’s face, as reduced sharpness and blown highlights could have made it look unflattering else.

You can see more such photos of Atsuko here on my Flickr photostream.

Kuma Miko

April 18, 2016

First skipped “Kuma Miko” when going over the spring season line up, but knew I just had to watch this anime after coming across its promotional video which promised it would be a hilarious slice-of-life comedy set in rural Japan, not unlike “Non Non Biyori” or “Barakamon”.

Adapting the “くまみこ Girl meets Bear” manga by Yoshimoto Masume into anime form, the core story of young schoolgirl Machi working as a shrine maiden in an isolated temple up in the mountains with her guardian Natsu, a talking bear, might raise a few eyebrows at first. Was pleasantly surprised how well the show tackles Natsu’s character, creating an eclectic mix of making a talking bear seem like the most natural thing in the world , alongside with a few well placed -yet obvious- jokes about how absurd it really is.

Driving the story and making the most out of the interesting dynamic of Machi and Natsu’s heartwarming relationship, is Machi’s desire to escape from her sheltered village life and attend high school in the city, an idea Natsu is not in favor of. Plenty of silly shenanigans ensue as Machi throws tantrums or desperately tries to overcome silly trials to prove she can handle her own.

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The interaction between Machi and Natsu reminded me of the dynamic between Umaru and her older brother Taihei in “Himouto! Umaru-chan”. Although Machi is no clone of Umaru, they do share behavioral and character traits that trigger similar hilarious situations.

What I did not appreciate as much in “Kuma Miko” are the few unexpected ecchi jokes, especially in the latter half of the opening episode when they discuss the legend about the origin of Kumade village. The rendition of those scenes clashes with the overall cutesy slice-of-life atmosphere of this anime, as if the studio simply cut and pasted an ecchi scene from a typical perverted anime into this show.

Am unsure if the manga is able to successfully insert such ecchi comedy chapters in what seems like a leisurely rural-setting slice-of-life comedy where ecchi genre traits are unwarranted. Alas, in the anime it comes across as a skit that is taken too far and grates with the overall aesthetic of “Kuma Miko”.

Still, “Kuma Miko” has been a lovely slice-of-life comedy centered on a pair of endearing main characters who share a heartwarming bond. I hence highly recommend this show to all fans of slice-of-life anime.

Kuromokuro

April 15, 2016

One of the few action series that piqued my interest in the spring anime line-up was “Kuromokuro”. Advertised as an original anime project by PA Works to celebrate the studio’s 15th anniversary, hoped that “クロムクロ” would be a solid, refreshing, even daring mecha series that would reach the level of the best shows this studio previously created, like “Shirobako” or “Hanasaku Iroha”.

Unfortunately, the first two episodes of “Kuromokuro” failed to impress me. All its individual components from the characters, mecha designs, plot development and pacing, to the overall animation quality are simply average. Even the action driven plot twists it tries to inject in the opening episode are overused, typical science-fiction mecha genre tropes.

Suspension of disbelief is essential when watching any work of fiction, a sure sign that a series is failing to reel the viewer into the story for me is when I involuntarily begin to question everything that happens onscreen, be it characters’ dialogue and actions, or other events. This unfortunately prevented me from having a truly relaxing time and fully enjoying “Kuromokuro”.

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The fact they try to include so many different things in the first episode while also keeping some key plot points a mystery, made it feel that too many of the things thrown at the audience are left unexplained, which risks adding to an unpleasant sense of confusion.

Although some might argue that “Kuromokuro” may still throw a few curve-balls or surprising plot twists along the way, this show is likely to be a typical, average mecha anime of which there are a dime a dozen. While it could still be a decent, even good anime, it’s probably not going to be for me.

Do not wish to sound too harsh about this anime either, there are plenty of similar mecha shows that are far worse. But personnaly decided to not continue watching this series as it airs, but will use that time to watch “Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge” instead.

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