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Horizon Zero Dawn

November 3, 2017

Took advantage of an interesting bundle sale to acquire the Playstation 4 Pro a few weeks ago, upgrading from the original Playstation 4 to this enhanced console. Before beginning a new game on the Playstation 4 Pro, wanted to complete “Tales of Berseria” first considering I was nearing the final chapters of this excellent jrpg.

While “Tales of Berseria” boasted decent graphics, they were rather typical for a jrpg and did not seem to take full advantage of the Playstation 4’s possibilities, especially in terms of background scenery. Games like “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” and even an older title like “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” provided a more remarkable immersive experience in part thanks to their breathtaking landscapes and environment.

After wrapping up “Tales of Berseria”, dove straight into “Horizon Zero Dawn” because was really looking forward to playing a game that really pulls you into its world and takes you on a great adventure full of thrills through stunning landscapes with wondrous yet dangerous creatures. Enjoyed the game from the very first minutes and like how its story takes you along with the main character on a journey of discovery through earth’s post-apocalyptic landscape.

Having progressed through “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” using a stealth archer character playing style, naturally grew into similar stealth oriented gameplay for “Horizon Zero Dawn”. Also enjoy how the game has players focus on planning each battle, use appropriate tactics and make suitable weapon choices for the foes and the battleground you will face them, much like in “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”.

Although have been most impressed with the environment in “Horizon Zero Dawn”, its gorgeous scenery ranging from snow covered mountains, luscious forests or desert landscapes, originally felt as if the dynamic weather was purely cosmetic and did not influence gameplay especially when facing machines. Until I noticed that I actually planned battles differently depending on the time of day, weather and location. Was surprised when realising the game does subtly influence players such.

Am keen on enjoying the game further and play through its intriguing story, considering a new chapter “Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds” DLC is due out soon, still have dozens of hours of exciting gameplay to look forward to.

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Dollfie Dream photo series: Tsukiko -1-

October 30, 2017

Want to share this selection of photos featuring Tsukiko, my Dollfie Dream Saber Alter version 2 from Volks, clad in garments that should give a sort of rock girl style.

Tsukiko is clad in a light grey MSD sized t-shirt from Nine9Style, along with a skirt from Dollmore and cropped pants from CoolCat. Always liked the look of black garments on Volks’ white skin tone bodies. This outfit also helps make the red hue of the Fender guitar and Tsukiko’s reddish ‘Dark Champagne’ colour wig from Leekeworld really come alive and pop.

Tsukiko

The guitar is a Fender Mustang 69 Candy Apple red model by Axe Heaven although it is 1/4 scale, making it slightly smaller than the default 1/3 scale of Dollfie Dream, which may be more apparent when displaying it with a DDIII type body like Tsukiko’s compared to the smaller DDS or MDD bodies.
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Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou

October 27, 2017

Also known as “Girls’ Last Tour”, this new autumn anime adapts the “少女終末旅行” drama manga by Tsukumizu. Was intrigued by “Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou” after seeing the promotional video because the cute, simplified character design style did not seem to match the serious, dramatic plot synopsis of Chito and Yuuri’s plight to survive while they ride around the desolate ruins of civilisation on a Kettenrad half-track motorcycle looking for food and supplies.

Knew I had to check this anime out and got hooked from the very first episode on. While the character design style may not be to everyone’s taste, it adds a childlike innocence, a simplicity to Chito and Yuuri which does help in successfully bringing the emotionally weighted story and themes across in a way that it does not become overbearing or depressing.

From the very first scenes where we are introduced to these two young girls who are left to fend for themselves, their interaction and the unique dynamic of their relationship as they struggle to survive in this abandoned, snow covered world is expertly well done. Their familiarity with each other, the depth of their bond is obvious, as is the fact their relationship is somewhat disjointed considering their traumatic past and current predicament.

Another main character of sorts in this anime is the scenery, the post-apocalyptic landscape is rendered in backgrounds with a quite rough painted look full of grey, muted colours that perfectly create an atmosphere of a cold, dark world that is near devoid of life. Any warmth, any sliver of colour instead will need to come from Chito or Yuuri themselves as they interact with each other or the world surrounding them.

Only rarely do shows succeed in conveying a dramatic story with such a light touch that still makes it a joy to watch, these stories are instead often told with dramatic gravitas that renders them too dark, making them feel overbearingly depressing. “So-Ra-No-Wo-To” also excelled at this thanks to its bright characters and slice-of-life elements, albeit it in a different way, especially considering it has key story dissimilarities to “Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou”.

If you’re looking for an interesting series to watch with strong themes and a somber atmosphere that offers a less used approach to the post-apocalyptic story and is still an enjoyable watch instead of an agonising drama, then you should definitely try “Girls’ Last Tour”.

Himouto! Umaru-chan R

October 23, 2017

After a first anime adaptation of the “干物妹!うまるちゃん” manga by Sankaku Head aired two years ago, its sequel “Himouto! Umaru-chan R” began this autumn. Tremendously enjoyed “Himouto! Umaru-chan” which proved to be an excellent if somewhat typical comedy anime, hence did not hesitate to pick up this second season.

Featuring a main character that appears to the outside world as the ideal student who is polite, reserved and hardworking, but at home turns into a slob who does nothing but play games, watch anime and have her older brother dote on her, “Himouto! Umaru-chan” expertly succeeds in striking the perfect balance between these contradicting sides for Umaru.

Characters like Umaru could easily come across as abrasive, cheeky brats who have little to no redeeming values, yet somehow still manage to be loved by the story’s other characters and the viewers. Luckily “Himouto! Umaru-chan” succeeds in walking the tightrope where some franchises have not succeeded, Kirino from “Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai” comes to mind.

Noticed in these first few episodes of “Himouto! Umaru-chan R” that there’s more skits or subplots that parody other anime or genres. They also seem to focus more on the four girls hanging out together as friends, making the build up from the first season where we saw Umaru befriend Ebina, Kire and Sylphyn well worth it.

Although “Himouto! Umaru-chan R” is an episodic series that seems to lack an overarching core plot, but instead features different skits or stories each episode, it is splendid to see that various events and character interactions from the first season were integral to build up the friendship between these four girls.

While it might not be the best comedy out there but instead a mere decent, yet forgettable series, “Himouto! Umaru-chan R” remains a solid show with reliable production values that any fan of comedy anime is most certainly going to enjoy.
You can watch the first season “Himouto! Umaru-chan” on Crunchyroll while this sequel is available on Amazon’s Anime Strike in the US.

Playstation 4 Pro

October 20, 2017

When Sony released the Playstation 4 Pro last year, initially opted not to upgrade my original Playstation 4 to this improved version of the console yet. Did take the plunge yesterday though, took advantage of a special bundle offer that included the Playstation 4 Pro with a second Dualshock 4 controller and the newly released Gran Turismo Sport game, all at a very competitive price.

Was pleasantly surprised how easy Sony made it to set up a new Playstation 4 and transfer all your data including settings, games and saved data files from your existing Playstation 4. Simply had to connect the new console, the transfer data option was automatically suggested during its initial set up and the process to copy all data from my old console took just over an hour.

Also grabbed a Playstation Dualshock 4 charging station from Sony to forego having to keep the cumbersome USB cable connected to charge controllers between gaming sessions, this helps reduce cable clutter and keeps the controllers more easily within reach.

Needed a more appropriate television unit without spending a fortune on some flashy design furniture so went to Ikea and purchased a simple tv unit from their Bestä line, along with two additional shelves for it and some of their Romma & Rabalder cable management products to tidy all the cabling in and behind the furniture.
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Dollfie Dream snapshots: Kyouko -3-

October 16, 2017

Another photo of Kyouko, my Dollfie Dream custom DDH03 head on a DDS body type, clad in a white open shoulder shirt from Nine9Style, skirt from CoolCat and striped underwear set from Volks.

Contrary to the previous photos of Kyouko, this time opted to capture her using soft, indirect lighting on a cloudy day, did use a reflector to reduce some of the darkest shadows and bounce some light back onto her face as the natural light available came from windows on one side only.

Kyouko

While am not thrilled about the quality of the shirt, its thin fabric does lend itself perfectly for this type of more daring photos where one can just about discern the colourful underwear worn underneath.

You can see more Dollfie Dream images on my Flickr photostream.

Blend S

October 13, 2017

Adapting the “ブレンド・S” four-panel comedy manga by Miyuki Nakayama into anime form, was keen on watching “Blend S” as its promotional material suggested it might be the type of workplace-centric comedy with oddball characters that I am fond of, like “Working!!” or “Servant x Service”.

If the first episode is a trendsetter, will undoubtedly love this show. Granted that the core plot premise is not entirely original, Maika is an innocent school girl starting her first part-time job at a cafe where the waitresses play a typical moe persona to appeal to customers. Nonetheless, the character chemistry seems excellent and especially lead character Maika’s typical Yamato nadeshiko archetype offset against the sadistic character she’s forced to portray is spot on.

While some may not be convinced by such a typical gap moe trope, it seems this show will execute it flawlessly, not only in Maika’s case but the first scenes featuring her colleagues Mafuyu and Kaho suggest they are well-balanced, with a convincing contrast between their actual personality and working persona in cafe ‘Stile’.
In fact, “Blend S” may use this as a core element of its appeal, yet somehow you get the feeling they also parody, even mock gap moe and the very nature of character themed series or maid cafe’s.

Visually the animation style used in “Blend S” is reminiscent overall of the look seen in “Working!!” and “Servant x Service”, which may come as no surprise considering studio A-1 Pictures created all three anime and some of the key staff working on “Blend S” was also involved in those other two workplace-centric comedies.

A fun side note for fans who relish in Maika’s sadistic work persona, one of the “Blend S” anime official website’s special pages is the calendar with audio messages from Maika as voiced by Waki Azumi. There you can listen to Maika verbally abusing you in a most rewarding in satisfactory manner for those who may have a penchant for being scolded by a sadistic loli.

If you like slice-of-life comedies set in the workplace filled with oddball characters that are a hoot to watch, or if you have a masochistic streak and are thrilled to be verbally assaulted by a cute sadistic loli, then I definitely recommend you give “Blend S” a try.
You can watch “Blend S” on Crunchyroll.