Squall (FFVIII)

Welcome to Squallina's LJ (Semi-Friends Only)

My journal is 99% friends-locked.

Lovely banner by theproudpenguin!

About Me:
My name's Lina, I'm in my late 20s, and I've been working and living in Japan as an English teacher for over five years. I speak the language and can read magazines and some books, but I'm embarrassed by my pronunciations and my inability to read every Japanese character fluently.

I love video games (like Final Fantasy VIII, Metal Gear Solid 2, Devil May Cry 1, Devil May Cry 3, and Metal Gear Rising), anime (like Black Butler Season 1, D.N.Angel and Tegamibachi), Jpop (especially Arashi and Utada Hikaru), anime opening and closing theme songs (such as "Come" by Amuro Namie, "Endscape" by UVERworld and "Trust Me" by Matsushita Yuya), and Harry Potter (the series, not so much the character). My favorite animals include dinosaurs, snakes, sharks, rabbits, guinea pigs, and cats! I hope to have a pet kitty sometime later this year or early next year! My favorite movies are Jurassic Park, Galaxy Quest, the Harry Potter series, Aliens, and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. I'm super looking forward to Final Fantasy versus XIII (if it ever comes out!) I also love writing stories, be they in the form of fanfiction, novels, or movie scripts. Oh and I love internet hugs!

About This Journal:
Not so different from about 99% of the journals and blogs out there. I don't update anywhere near as much as I probably should, but when I do it's usually about either something I'm really excited about in one of my fandoms or about something IRL that's left me scared, surprised, or angry. I sometimes post about my dreams. I'll also post reviews and commentary about events, movies, anime, games, books or tv series I either encountered recently or fell in love (or hate) with all over again, and maybe some of my fail art/photoshop moments. Apart from this introduction post, I'll try to post all long or picture-heavy entries (I love animted gifs too much XD) under lj-cuts or spoilers. It's quite likely that these are the entries that will be unlocked.

I'll be active on certain communities around the place (especially gaming ones), so if you've arrived here from one of the communities I'm active on and would like to chat even more, how about a little friendship? ;)

Only a few entries here will be open to the public. Feel free to add me even if we haven't talked much before, but please comment here and let me know what we have in common if you'd like to be added back. :)
Squall (FFVIII)

Sexism, what sexism? - A Gamer Girl's Thoughts

Please note: This is just my opinion, and isn't a fully researched essay on the subject. I'm not including dating sims, adult games, or visual novels in the discussion. If you have any comments, corrections or counter-arguments, feel free to comment below or contact me via twitter.

I don't want this to turn into a rant, but I have a feeling it might because it really does frustrate me that the only place I go to enjoy videos and commentary about games makes me feel unwelcome for being a woman gamer. It makes my opinions feel invalidated because I "don't get the joke", I am "a minority" who should just shut up because games are "marketed for guys”, and most of the people playing games and making games are guys anyway.

Sexism is a non-issue in the eyes of a number of the loyal fanbase of GameTrailers. Most if not all the presenters at the site have a different view - they believe that sexism exists, that it is an issue, and that it's not something that people should just stop talking about. I go to GT and leave comments there saying well done to the presenters and that I agree with what they're saying. A large number of the other commenters there take this as a personal attack, and even tell the presenters not to talk about sexism anymore. (Because if you stop talking about the elephant in the room, it may just disappear.)

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Squall (FFVIII)

Kazoku Game Episode 1 Thoughts

Before I start, just wanted to thank everyone for their support and kind comments on certain posts and tweets of mine recently. I appreciate every kind word very much and hope not to disappoint. I know it'll take time and there are a lot of things about me that need to be fixed, but I hope to do my best over the next year or so.

Now back on topic!

(From the official FujiTV Kazoku Game site. Although Kazoku Game is based on a novel that has already had numerous TV and movie incarnations, I'm going to focus on this drama by itself.)

There are some family tropes which have become borderline cliche in Japanese drama and film; the father is a very busy working man often enticed by a pretty young office woman, the mother cares about the opinions of other mothers in the neighborhood more than actually being a mother, if there are older children they are usually very bright at school but in reality hate school or want to dip their hands into something rebellious from time to time, the younger child is having problems at school which all the adults around them are completely oblivious to, and then there is the outsider (a doctor, maid, or teacher) with a mysterious or unknown past who has arrived to help these people face the fact that they're more like a train-wreck than a family. At least, I hope these are just entertainment tropes. It scares me to wonder how many Japanese families may actually be like this, especially considering the ratings and hype some of them receive.

Two dramas that stick out in mind are Ai Shiteru - Kaiyo (link shows scenes from episode one) and Kaseifu no Mita. Now Kazoku Game has joined the list. One episode in and Kazoku Game already has the above tropes in full swing, but lacks the emotional drama these two possessed from their very first episode. I'm happy to see Sho play the role of a crazed, unconventional home tutor - I've wanted him to do a role like this since watching him lose his mind in the short TV special Sainou Dama. I like Sho and I like to see him in over-the-top roles like this. But not everyone likes Sho or what he brings to the screen.

[Read on?]
To be fully honest he is completely stealing the show from the family in this drama. I was too focused on him and his moments of insanity to really feel anything for the family themselves, something Mita achieved really well with its titular and overly stoic protagonist. The interactions and wordless scenes that shout how broken the family is are definitely there, but there isn't enough balance between the presence of Sho's character and the presence of the family. In Mita, the housemaid was the main character even with her robotic nature, but the family also stood out - they were equally important. In this incarnation of Kazoku Game, you could have picked the same actors from Mita to play alongside Sho or dumped Mita into the household from Kazoku Game and I still wouldn't care much about the family. Either Sho is too hammy, his character is written too hammy or the family is not written hammy enough.

Don't get me wrong. I like this drama. It's a swift change from many of the roles Sho has been given in the past (people who are comparing it to his role in The Quiz Show probably need to rewatch that drama - the over-the-top craziness is there, but the evil isn't because Yokoyama was sucking it all up into his own hamfest). I like dramas that attack this idea of the perfect Japanese family. I like dramas that say adults should be paying more attention to the emotional turmoil of their children/students and what is causing it because they bloody-well should!

One of the things I really like about the drama are the moments of silent or situational creepiness it does; the scene where the home tutor meets the family (no one speaks for almost a minute), the home tutor taking stalker photos of the family, and the silent scene of violence in the empty nighttime classroom. I also think the home sauna scene was important, not because of the semi-nudity, but because the script had many comments on how "rich" the family are yet this was perhaps the only scene that truly showed it. I'm not sure how many large (by Japanese standards) and nice houses have their very own sauna, so it really added to the image of a well-off family. I also really like the ending credits roll, including its symbolism, Arashi's new song "Endless Game" that plays during it (which sounds a little bit like "Monster" crashed into "Circus"), and the filming techniques used to make it.

A couple of smaller things disappointed me. I've been comparing this drama to Mita a fair bit, but there's more than just the broken family + weird outsider aspect that is making me draw this comparison. Mita always wore the exact same clothes and carried the exact same bag. Her symbolic items were her down jacket, baseball cap, doctor bag, and chunky watch. There's a very good reason why she dresses like this and carries these items all year round and the drama did a brilliant job of exploring it. In Kazoku Game, Yoshimoto is always dressed in the same thing, carries a large women's (?) bag, and his symbolic item is a bloodstained doll phone hanger (which resides in his bag and does not hang off his smart phone). There is even a scene where a high school girl on a bus actually looks down at Yoshimoto's bag with an odd expression, implying that the bag isn't just slightly weird or a random costume piece, but that it plays a minor yet important role.

I may be nitpicking here or even be dead wrong, but I get the feeling at every turn that FujiTV is aware it's competing with NTV's Mita and is trying to out-write it with a lot of insanity. (Yoshimoto uses many violent, underhanded or outrageously expensive techniques to get his way, and his attitude is "Oh well, your family is dumb enough to let me do it", burping after he downs the dinner that was meant for the youngest son.) If that's the direction you're going with this FujiTV, please stop. I know it's going to be hard but don't make this your version of Mita because it won't work and it won't sell your drama either. Let the comparisons be just that and take this drama elsewhere.

Overall, I enjoyed this first episode and thought it was a rather strong pilot. If you like dramas and can get past the inevitable comparisons with Mita or previous versions of Kazoku Game, do give this one a go. Episode one is just edgy and interesting enough to make it worth a watch. Episode two will be the make or break of this new series.
Squall (FFVIII)

Arashi - Calling/Breathless

Finally opened my Calling/Breathless CDs. I got a bit excited when they were announced and I liked the snippets of them that I saw at the time so I do have all three versions of the single. Time to listen to them all the way through, watch the music videos and make some honest commentary. So here we go, song by song, MV by MV. If Arashi isn't your thing, you might want to wait until next time I post. Warnings: These are my personal opinions so they may be differ from everyone else's, I'm not the best at describing music or what I like about it, and I can't photoshop very well at all. Enjoy!

[Calling/Breathless commentary (click to open)]

Artist: Arashi - Lyrics: s-Tnk, eltvo - Composition: Andreas Johansson, youwhich - Arrangement: Tomoki Ishizuka

Everyone likes music, artists, groups, and idols for different reasons. I like Arashi because they take my mind off the bad things in my day and make me smile. Many of their songs do the same thing for me when I'm walking to work or catching a bus or train somewhere. Music that makes my mind wander, puts me in deep thought, or cheers me up is good music for me. Sadly, only one song on Arashi's last album, Popcorn, really did this for me and that was Waiting For You.

Calling has arrived to fill the gap left behind by Popcorn. I love the main guitar chords that carry the song, the powerful chorus and the echo that precedes it. Apart from the whispered and harshly spoken bouts of English, the verses are growing on me too, but nowhere near as much as the chorus has. Calling sounds very much like a song that could be used in the opening of an action/thriller/spell-caster anime (at least one anime mix has already been made using this song). It actually reminds me of the opening to Miracle Train, Montage. Since I love anime opening songs, or songs that fill me with similar sounds and imagery, Calling is my new jam.

The music video for it is a slightly different story. While I like the neon lighting of the close-up shots, I feel that the music video for Calling detracts a lot from the song itself. The quick flashes between cuts and the fast-moving camerawork do feel somewhat new for an Arashi music video, and it's great to see extras finally return to interact with Arashi (even if it's only to symbolically torment them while they're seated in chairs), but this song is so much stronger without the music video. It's a song for making your imagination race and soar, but the music video grounds you a bit.

Artist: Arashi - Lyrics: HYDRANT - Composition: Takuya Harada, Christofer Erixon, Joakim Bjӧrnberg - Arrangement: Hirofumi Sasaki

This song is upbeat and has me instantly bouncing along to it. I'm not as attached to it as I am with Calling, but it's still a powerful song that really hits me and keeps me along for the ride. That said, the dance beat track backing this doesn't feel like it's matching the song completely, like the music and the dance beat were forced to work together rather than complimenting each other. I guess the high-pitched thump-thump-thump just gets on my nerves a little. The chorus and the backing vocal tracks are the highlight of this song.

That said, I do love the music video for it. The gray and purple coloring works well, the set is full of grungy detail and reminds me of an 80s sci fi movie, the close-up shots taken from a camera that keeps moving in quarter circle turns feel fresh and original, and the dance moves are really awesome to watch and are a good match with the song. I like the music video for Breathless more than the actual song.

Artist: Arashi - Lyrics: Soluna - Composition: Fredrik "Figge" Bostrӧm - Arrangement: Trevor Ingram

The first thing I thought of when I listened to Alright, was the old Pocky commercial where everyone dances to the tune of Ikimonogakari's "Joyful". After listening to it on repeat a few times this song has grown on me too, but it does feel a little dated, like it's an older Johnny's song. (I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing - depends on the listener.) Alright will never complete for my favourite happy Arashi song (the list of which Happiness tops), but it's still a fun little number that has me bouncing around with a smile. I imagine it would be a lot of fun in concert, but as a B-side track released between concert seasons, I doubt we'll ever hear it live even if Arashi decide to do another request concert like Arafest.

Artist: Arashi - Lyrics: Shun, R.P.P. - Composition: Dr.hardcastle, Iggy Strange-Dahl - Arrangement: Taku Yoshioka

Full of Love is a nice new ballad for Arashi and it is great to hear them doing this style of song again, but I'm perhaps not as excited about it as many other Arashi fans on tumblr, twitter, and lj are. I can see myself listening to it on a bus as I'm staring out the window at a rainy day, but I can also see myself skipping it if I'm not in a thoughtful or relaxed mood. I'm not sure how long this gentle song will stay on my playlist and in our memories, but for now it's very welcome addition to this single.

Final word: Calling/Breathless is a great return to form for Arashi and well worth checking out for both Arashi fans and newcomers alike with its great tracks and varying range of song styles. It's a great sample of who Arashi are now and what they can do without the listener needing to dive into a full album. I dare say it far surpasses their entire last album even though it's only a single. I highly recommend the regular edition, but if you really want to have one of the limited editions that come with a DVD of the main track's music video, go for the one with the Breathless music video on it. Calling is the better song, but Breathless has the better music video.

Overall score: 8/10. Welcome back, the Arashi I know and love.

What did you think of the new single? Please let me know in the comments section below! I'd love to hear more opinions on it!
Squall (FFVIII)

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, are you for real?

So I was playing Order of Ecclesia on my DS, and I reached the Lighthouse stage, and since this game is so fond of putting boss fights near the beginning of the stage, I was subjected to an unusual fight with a ghost from Sony's disastrous E3 2006 Press Conference.

Granted Order of Ecclesia was only released around two years after the fact so maybe a few developers were still having giggles over it, but this game was made for an entirely different system. Then again, it is a lighthouse stage and what else is going to terrify you up a lighthouse tower other than a giant crab? It's not like Sony invented the things. As long as you attack it's weak point for massive damage, it's out of sight and out of mind pretty quick. But I still had to giggle upon its arrival.
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Squall (FFVIII)

Get Your Game On: Cyborgs, Robots, Zombies, and Dinosaurs!

Time for a gaming appreciation post! These are my current gaming obsessions and the reasons why I'm totally into them. Warning for a long post and graphic violence in the first section.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Once the wimpy, lovestruck pretty boy protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2, Raiden has since been turned into a cyborg against his will (his spine, upper face, and brain the only organic parts of him left), reappeared in Metal Gear Solid 4 as an angsty version of the series' iconic Cyborg Ninja, and is now the main protagonist of his own spin off game (which may yet turn into a series.)

I've always loved Raiden and the way Quinton Flynn voices him, so I couldn't wait for this game to finally come out. And it is crazy fun! Though short (with a main campaign at 5-6 hours), every moment is worth it, every boss fight amazing, and every cutscene a nice pay off. This entire game screams awesome and is an absolute blast to play. 10/10

[So what else am I playing? (Click to find out)]

Robot Unicorn Attack

The original flash classic with the fantasy visuals and the song that will get instantly stuck in your head has been rebooted for iPhone and iPad. The concept is simple - a robot unicorn is running along floating purple landmasses and you have to help it either jump across gaps or smash through stars. The longer you manage to succeed, the faster the unicorn will run.

Although the flash version is still available to play online (go check it out if you haven't already), the iPhone/iPad version is a major improvement visually, feels more at home in your hands than on your keyboard, and now has achievements you can unlock (or attempt to) which keep you coming back for more.

Believe or not, I've been relaxing to this game. It makes me feel creative somehow, awakening my writing muses with its beautiful high-speed fantasy romp. This is getting kinda dangerous though because I'm starting to see crossovers with this and Metal Gear Rising. Good thing I can't draw or you might actually be subjected to some fanart.

If you have an iPhone or an iPad, I highly recommend downloading the Robot Unicorn Attack app. 8/10

The Walking Dead - Episode 1: A New Day

Have I ever told you that I don't actually like zombies very much? I've got nothing against the genre, it's just never really been my thing. And I have tried to get into zombies. I really enjoyed Night of the Living Dead (it's a brilliant film), and I've tinkered briefly with the Resident Evil series (RE1, RE2, RE6), but otherwise I've pretty much avoided zombies and zombie games. I think it may be because zombie games make me feel powerless; I prefer the over-the-top action of games like Devil May Cry (DMC1, DMC3), Bayonetta, and Metal Gear Rising.

The Walking Dead too has that overpowering air of helplessness to it, but its gripping character stories and powerful choose-your-own-adventure style of storytelling keep you around while the living dead keep trying to eat you. Timed decision-making keeps you on your toes and constantly alters your future as well as who will be left in it.

Unfortunately I didn't always feel as bad for eaten characters as reviewers had promised. I stuck with saving children, women, and people who can shoot guns really well first and didn't feel as bad as I probably should have for the characters whose lives my personal motto cost. Then again my personal rule hasn't been tested yet either - what happens if I have to choose between two children? Four more chapters left to play, so perhaps I'll find out. Regardless, A New Day is the best zombie experience I've had in a long while. And it's currently free on the app store! 8/10

Jurassic Park Builder

To say I'm addicted to this game would be an extreme understatement. I'm constantly checking to see how all my little dinosaurs are doing and how many golden coins they've all stacked up for me. The game is free to download for iPad and iPhone. Starting your own Jurassic Park is quick and easy and the game uses actual characters from the movies to guide you through the initial tutorial and other missions. It has beautiful graphics and fluid creature animations, and is highly addictive if you're into resource management, dinosaurs and social networking games. It even has an underwater section of the park and a code red mode where you can earn extra golden coins for keeping the carnivores calm during a short storm.

While there's no Dennis Nedry here to screw this one up for you, the game does have money issues; you can either fork out some real money to buy some cooler things and/or make events like building, egg-hatching, or land-clearing progress faster, or you can wait the few minutes or even hours it takes for events to finish and for your dinosaurs to earn you some golden coins. Paying nothing and waiting around wouldn't be so bad except that John Hammond hates your guts so almost everything hikes up in price every time you want to pay for it.

There are also some prehistoric creatures like a "Brontosaurus" (really, guys?) that are only available for in-game cash, which is hard to obtain in large amounts unless you pay real money for it. That said, the roster of popular dinosaurs from the series (like Velociraptors, Dilophosaurus, Brachiosaurus, and Spinosaurus) available for golden coins is large enough to let you build the Jurassic Park of your dreams. 7/10

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair

I've only really dived back into the Castlevania series recently after downloading this amazing crossover gem from the PlayStation Store and giving the multiplayer a whirl with online friends. You'll want to sit down with a couple of buddies (either on the couch next to you or via Skype) and just go wild in this beautifully detailed re-imagining of the popular 2D adventure series.

Almost every lead character from every major Castlevania game is here for you to level up, equip with fancy weapons and spells, customise, and even give a new color scheme to. And they've brought enemies, bosses, and even levels along with them! The full version comes with seven levels but four more levels can also be purchased for even more fun. Unfortunately, no more levels have been released beyond the final two awkward trips back to the 8-bit era, but the number of different characters you can use to complete the game add to its replay value.

Another problem with the system is that there are no level caps when you invite people to play or when you are invited to join a game. Unless you're a really experienced player with a character who is carrying all the best equipment, chances are you'll be left behind by the rest of the crowd as they march straight for the final boss, often defeating it before you've even reached its chamber. Although Harmony of Despair is limited in many ways, it's still great fun to play with friends near and far. I really wish more games let you play side-by-side with your online friends as well as this game does it. 6/10

And that wraps it up for all my current game obsessions! If you have an iPad/iPod/iPhone and you have a profile on Game Center, please add me as a friend! My nickname is squallina. Jurassic Park and Robot Unicorn Attack are a bunch of fun, but I'd be more than willing to try out any game recommendations you have too.

Speaking of recommendations, what games are you playing? What games do you like to play? What are your favorite games of all time? Anything from Metal Gear to Minesweeper, I'm happy to listen. ;)