Channel emotes

One of the cool features of Twitch is the chat — basically an IRC channel that runs along the stream. It allows you to interact with the caster — ask them questions, make remarks on the gameplay, etcetera. And it also allows you to interact with other viewers as well, of course.
One of the things that’s added fun are the emotes. You type in a short phrase, and the system translates it into a small picture. It’s a fun way to quickly make a statement. There are the global Twitch emotes (that anyone can use), but there are also channel emotes, which you can only get when you are a subscriber to that channel (that is, you pay a subscription per month to Twitch, which passes half of that to the streamer).
But there are also browser extensions that do this, separate from Twitch. BetterTTV is the most used of these, and as a channel owner (regardless of whether you are affiliated or partnered on Twitch), you can submit your emotes and after a review cycle, they are added to the store of emotes if approved. And of course, if you want more emotes or personal emotes that work on every channel, you have to pay the developers of the extension to get that — but in the base, you can get upto five channel emotes.

I have been streaming again, and I had an idea for an emote. I had been playing Ys: The Oath in Felghana, and I had been getting frustrated by some aspects of the gameplay that I could not completely master. I had been getting impatient with myself and the game, and that wasn’t fun. The Buddha teaches us that desire begets suffering: I was suffering because of my impatience. What better way to mark those situations with an emote?
My friend Hoothor made the graphics. He “cartoonified” a photo of the Daibutsu of Kamakura, making the head and the hands (in the perfect meditation position!) slightly bigger, and putting the word ‘GREED’ underneath it:

I think it took them about ten minutes to approve the emote, and it is now live on my channel! I’m quite pleased.

Glass pins

My sister’s newest hobby is glass fusing: she bought her own glass fusing oven and has been making glass objects (some intended for use, some pure art) for over a year now. You can find some of her work on her site (it’s in Danish, since she lives there). Sometimes she has tiny amounts of fusing-glass left, and since that’s kind of expensive stuff, it’s not a very attractive proposition to just throw it away. So she has been making little ‘drops’ of glass, often with more than one type/colour of glass mixed in.
She took some of that stuff with her last Christmas, and we took (almost) all of the glass drops to make pins out of them! All we needed was some ‘blank’ clutch pins to glue the glass on, and that was fixed with a cheap order on AliExpress and some patience!

The glass drops themselves! A wide variety of colours in different sizes.

The bag of clutch pin ‘blanks’. The pins themselves (the pointy bits) have to be glued to the glass drops. They were packaged in a separate bag, which was put inside the larger bag with the pin backs. That ensured that it was safe to handle and none of the pointy bits stuck out!

We used a glue that we had lying around — nothing special, but it listed glass and metal as surfaces it would stick to, and it worked. For the next time, we’ll make sure to put the pin a little more towards the edge for larger pieces. If the pin is in the centre, then the pin as a whole could ‘sag’ forward because of the weight of the glass. But if you have the pin secured somewhat towards the edge, then the weight will keep the pin from sagging.

And these are the results:

Really like those pins, and it’s fun to walk around with something ‘home-made’!

Why I like anime

A comment on my last post with anime reviews asked: “So… why do you like anime?” The more I thought about it, the more I thought the answer warranted its own entry.

Let’s say this upfront: Anime is a medium, not a genre. There are many different anime with many different subject matters and visual styles. And certainly not all anime is good: there’s a lot of mediocre and some abject bad stuff out there. But there are some real pearls to be found.
I do think that my tastes are outside of the norm for anime enthusiasts: there’s a lot of long-running series based on “battle manga”, with large fights and ever-escalating power levels. Series such as any of the Dragonball series, or Naruto or Bleach or Fairy Tail or One Piece are huge hits — and I have zero interest in them. So in this entry I’ll describe my personal preferences, which might lie outside of the norms.

I think that I like anime because of the stories that can be (and are) told in the medium. Some stories could easily be done as live-action series, but end up as an anime instead. Anime seems to be more open to experimentation, and there is an ‘accepted’ route for a manga or light novel to be made into an anime, whereas the step from those to a live-action is much larger and convoluted — there are cases where it happens, but often there is an anime in between!
Just today, we finished watching ACCA, a political intrigue about an inspector for the government in a federal kingdom of 13 territories. It’s not flashy at all, there’s very little action, no improbable machines, but the story is very gripping.
Or take Fune wo Amu, about the multi-year project to create a new dictionary. Writing a dictionary, how boring can you get? And still, it’s interesting to see how the editors go about their business, the challenges they face and the (office) tactics they use to overcome them. Again, no action.

Other stories are too fantastic to turn into a live-action series, because it features things like mecha and space battles. For those kinds of stories, anime is an ideal medium. There is of course the Macross series, which would require a mind-numbing CGI budget if it were to be combined with live-action actors, but in an anime the bar is lower: you don’t need photo-realistic renderings to integrate with cell-animated characters.
The effects and the set decorations for something like Mushishi would make it prohibitively expensive to produce in a live-action series format (though there was a live-action movie made), and it started out as a manga, thus it ends up being an anime.
Or take something like Uchouten Kazoku, about shape-shifting tanuki raccoons in Kyoto. Either you’d have to shut down the city centre to take your shots and add lots of digital effects, or you just draw everything from the comfort of your studio!

And yes, anime has a certain visual style and a certain way to tell stories, which is different from live-action series. It’s different, and for some people that causes them to not enjoy watching anime — even though they would probably enjoy the stories being told themselves. I also happen to like the visual and storytelling style, which makes it easier for me to enjoy the stories being told too.

So this is the last of the new anime (that we watched the first episode of) for the Winter 2018 season!

Miira no Kaikata: Sora runs the household in the absence of his adventurer father. One day, his father sends him a coffin in the post, and in it is… a mummy. A really small, cute mummy. Of course, Sora is weirded out, but he warms up to the little fellow, who seems to have imprinted itself on him as its ‘owner’.
I’m not sure what the point of this setup is, but it’s not interesting in the least.

Hakumei to Mikochi: Hakumei and Mikochi are small humans, living in a house built against a tree in a forest. They have all kinds of adventures, like riding stag beetles to the top of a mountain to meet a bird that’s new in the area, or going on a shopping trip to the coast.
It is exceedingly cute and relaxing, but the change in scale and the existence of antropomorphic animals (of course the cloth merchant is a hedgehog, because she has needles to spare) adds an interesting twist. It also reminded me of the RPG Ryuutama in that the trip is more important than the destination. And it’s all rendered in loving detail too.

Hakyuu Houshin Engi: Engi is a ‘celestial’ and he is sent to Earth to battle other celestials who have manipulated themselves at the top of an empire that they have absolute control over. Engi gets a weird flying animal as companion and sets off, but his first plan misfires and countless people are thrown into a pit filled with alligators and venomous snakes…
Uninspired battle anime, and the plot is paper-thin. I guess if you really liked Dragonball Z but wished it incorporated more ancient Chinese mythology, then this would be right up your alley. For us it’s a total snoozefest.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens: The idea is that in Fukuoka, 3% of the people is actually a hired killer. A large supply generates demand, so there’s all kinds of dirty deeds that need doing — and get done. Not in the least by the current mayor. But of course there is a private detective who gets asked to look into things, and he’s the good guy. And there are some other plotlines with other people (most of them hitmen) who haven’t met up yet, but who undoubtedly will.
Fukuoka is a pretty city, we liked it very much. Some of the locations were familiar to us. But that’s about the only good thing that can be said about this series. The villains are really one-dimensional, and the plot is heavy-handed and convoluted. Meh.

Beatless: Humanoid robots exist, but they are regarded as mere tools by the humans. But Arato treats them with respect regardless. Then he meets Lacia, a masterless robot, who needs him to take legal responsibility for her actions, so she can save him from an attack by another masterless robot. She ends up staying with Arato and his sister.
Not too interesting on its own, but the philosophical ramifications are interesting to see. It’s quite pretty too.

Killing Bites: Japan is controlled from the shadows by four zaibatsu. They wage proxy warfare against each other by ‘killing bites’, fighting contests against people who have been gene-therapied to have animal characteristics. Yuya accidentally gets involved in this “sport” as a sponsor, and he gets saddled with one of the fighters as his bodyguard.
A totally absurd premise for bloody fights with plenty of ‘surprises’ when the fighters use a signature move from the animal they have DNA of. Fighting series are just not our thing.

Darling in the Franxx: Children are trained to synchronise with each other inside mecha called Franxx, to fight against the monsters that populate the deserts outside of the arcologies where humans in live. The adults are quite content to let the kids do all the dangerous work. Hiro failed the synchronization test, which automatically also disqualified his partner, and they are about to get sent back to the orphanage. But then Hiro meets ‘Zero Two’, a girl with two horns, and during a monster attack, the two of them sync up and kick monster butt.
This season’s mecha series, with some real echoes of Evangelion. It looks gorgeous, and there is a lot going on that will need some story development to explain all. I want to see more of that.

Dagashi Kashi 2: Second season of this series that showcases a different kind of traditional candy. It is framed against the fact that Kokonotsu has to look after his father’s traditional candy shop, while Hotaru is there to convince him to work for the candy company her family owns.
Somehow, this second season has only half-length episodes, but they’re pretty fun and interesting, if you have an interest in candy and snacks!

This is the second-to-last post with reviews of the new anime this season!

Ryuuou no Oshigoto!: Yaichi became the top shogi player while he still is in highschool. So now he is a professional, and he lives on his own, making his living by playing shogi and training in between. And then one day, a young girl turns up on his doorstep. She reminds him of his promise to be her shogi master — and she definitely has talent. But Yaichi is not equipped to deal with having a student like this.
It’s everything that Sangatsu no Lion isn’t: it’s whimsical and shallow, and it has a worrying amount of lolicon front and center. Best left untouched.

Karakai Jouzu no Tagaki-san: Tagaki sits next to Nishikata, who is always thinking of ways to get her into trouble with the teacher. But Tagaki, who obviously has a thing for Nishikata, is much too clever to fall into his traps — rather, she consistently turns the tables on him, much to his annoyance!
It’s kind of cute on one hand, but on the other hand, it’s a long sequence of two kids playing tricks on each other, and that gets kinda old fast.

Basilisk: Ouka Ninpouchou: Second series of a much older series. We’re introduced to many super-powered ninja, with the idea that we should know these people from before, so the introductions are very sparse indeed. A noble sets out to Edo, to see his dying mother one last time, and he is waylaid by a group of ninja. Luckily for him, our “hero” ninja are there to save his bacon!
At the end of the episode, I was left wondering who all these people were, and why we should care about them. The character designs are kinda weird too. And it has all that “fight in the rain because that makes us look edgy”-thing going on that I’ve grown tired of a long time ago.

Dame x Prince Anime Caravan: Ani, the princess of the small kingdom of Inaco, gets sent to the neighbouring country of Selenfalen, in order to sign the peace treaty with the kingdom of Milidonia. She meets the princes of these kingdoms and their knights, and they’re all super dreamy and… odd. She’s happy to be back home after all that, but then she gets sent out again…
Reverse harem anime with lots of pretty boys that all seem to have a few screws loose. The character designs are quite nice and I really liked how Ani is weirded out by the people she meets — she seems to be the only character in the whole series who has any kind of common sense. Other than that, it’s just like many other reverse harem series, only this time there’s a thin layer of fantasy setting.

Violet Evergarden: Violet was raised as a soldier, and the only person she looks up to is a major. But then she loses her arms during a battle, and the war is over while she is in the hospital getting cyborg arms. The major’s fate is not known (but it didn’t look to good), and one of his associates comes to get her. They quickly find out that Violet is not suited to play the part of a young well-to-do girl that is being adopted by the Evergarden family, and she ends up working as a mail sorter in the associate’s private mail company. In that role, she connects with people in a way that she never did.
Very high budget: everything is so detailed! And the setting is very interesting too, in a 1920’s kind of way. We don’t see much of Violet’s military life, but I am interested to see more of how she discovers to live like a civilian.

Märchen Mädchen: Hazuki is a total bookworm, retreating into stories to escape her not-so-great life. Then she gets a magic book that allows her to enter through a bookcase in the school library, and she ends up at a magic school in the magical land inside!
There’s not much substance, apart from some gratuitous nudity… It’ll probably turn into some kind of magic academy series, but this bland first episode already lost us.

Death March Kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku: Ichirou is a programmer for a studio that cranks out those trashy, short-lived MMORPGs. He’s constantly overworked, needing to offer quick fixes to all kinds of issues etcetera. When he sleeps at the office, he finds himself in one of ‘his’ games — including the game menu. He uses the extra items that they put in that day to make the game easier for starting players, and the three super-powerful spells kill a large mob of monsters, increasing his level immensely. So now he’s quite powerful, and he starts off in the direction of the nearest town to see what’s going on.
So this is very much like “Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni”, which was, frankly speaking, bad. I don’t quite understand why we’re giving this one a chance since it’s so similar, but I guess we’re optimists.

Koi wa Ameagari no You ni: High-school student Akira works at a family restaurant after having to drop out of the track & field team when she hurt her ankle. The restaurant manager, an awkward middle-aged man, showed her compassion when she was at her lowest point, and she has fallen in love with him — even though he is a bit of a slob, and only Akira sees his good points.
This could turn weird and awkward and creepy, but so far the manager is oblivious, and the two main characters are portrayed with a lot of empathy and compassion. It’s funny at times too. The character designs have a bit of a retro feel to them too, which I find very attractive. It only takes half an episode to feel like you want the best for Akira, and I want to see how it develops.

So one of my friends was inspired by The Last Jedi to play through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. He’s streaming his sessions, so we’ve been (sort-of) following along. And the discussions about the Jedi morality and such inspired him to organise a scenario for the Star Wars RPG (the current iteration by Fantasy Flight Games). We’ve played with him before: he did a game for us that was set at the beginning days of the Rebellion.
This game would be set roughly in the timeline of SW:KotOR2, about a 1000 years before the events in The Phantom Menace. And where we were restricted to the professions in the Age of Rebellion sourcebook in the previous game, for this game we were allowed to pick from all three sourcebooks — and that includes Jedi characters!
I wanted to play a Jedi, and I came up with Chunlade, a young female Twi’lek Jedi Seeker — with the Ataru Striker specialisation, which means her style of lightsaber combat is one of relentless attacks, using athletics like leaps and somersaults to close the distance. It’s the style that Yoda preferred. Twi’leks are the aliens with the two ‘tentacles’ on their head — I think the first time we see them is as the slave girl dancing for Jabba the Hutt.

The GM wanted to make a cool “title page” for our game, using concept art for our characters. But it turned out to be quite hard to find a depiction of a female Twi’lek that’s not all boobs, thighs and exposed midriffs. Not something a Jedi explorer would wear — and certainly not how I’d want to play a character. I guess that initial impression of Twi’lek’s as female, exotic, submissive and accessible has left its echos in the way they are depicted. Meh.
But after some extra searching we did manage to find the right concept art!

Left to right: Balar Dash, the Toruga Pilot; Chunlade, the Twi’lek Jedi; IG-N0BL3, the assassin droid; and Sikh Sikh L’est, the Cerean Jedi. Click to embiggen: we look absolutely bad-ass!

Map fun

To give you a bit of a breather from all the anime reviews, here’s three articles about maps that I recently found, and that are very interesting to people who like cartography, language and technology.
Which lines of longitude and latitude pass through the most countries? An interesting read, with ample map diagrams to back things up.
How far ahead Google Maps is on Apple Maps, and how they achieved that. A thorough analysis of Google and Apple Maps, and some shrewd deductions on how Google has been combing (and combining) the data available to them to achieve their vast superiority in the online mapping space.
There are two words for tea, and depending on how you got your tea, you use one or the other. Tea was for very long a monopoly of China. So obviously you’d use the Chinese word for it back home, because there simply wasn’t a word for it in your own language. And the word you used depended on where you went to get the stuff!

Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion: Hayato is a total railway nerd — not that strange given that his father works at the Railway Museum. But when he finally gets to ride on a shinkansen bullet-train, his father is called in for an emergency! And Hayato ends up at the steering wheel of a shinkansen that transforms into the mecha Shinkalion, to battle a monstrous mecha made out of railway bits and bobs!
It’s a series for young kids, and it’s kind-of ridiculous. The mecha are hilarious, being transformations of actual shinkansen trains. It’s even sponsored by the railway company!

Sanrio Danshi: Kouta attends highschool, and he carefully hides his love for a particular cute Sanrio character ever since he got laughed at as a kid because he took his plushie of it everywhere. So when he finds part of a Sanrio-character keychain from a schoolmate, he is reluctant to return it in plain view. But he tells him liking Sanrio’s brand of kawaii is nothing to be ashamed of.
I can’t think of any way to explain this series other than that it’s a bit of propaganda to get more market traction among boys for Sanrio’s goods. I mean: if you like the cute characters, then by all means, go for it. But apparently in Japan, they need an anime series to tell them.

Citrus: Yuzu is starting her new school and wants to make quite the impression with her entrance. Unfortunately for her, her new school is a super-strict rich-girls school, and they react.. poorly… to her attempts to stand out. When she gets home, she meets her new step-sister, who turns out to be the school council president, granddaughter of the school board chairman!
Yuzu is clearly a fish out of the water, but I also felt bad for Mei: she is basically abandoned by everyone, and the only path left for her is to conform to the expectations others have for her. That includes her already having a fiancé, and all of her agency has been taken from her. That also explains why she reacts to Yuzu the way she does. But of course, Yuzu doesn’t know this and reacts accordingly. I do hope it gets better, because they deserve it.

Slow Start: Hana spent a year getting into the school of her choice, which makes her a year older than the others. And people know others from gradeschool or middle school, and she knows nobody… But during her first day, she manages to make some friends after all.
It’s cute and inconsequential, and manages to pull in some of the usual stereotypes. We thought it was nice, and the voices aren’t that squeaky either.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card-hen: Sakura is starting middle school, and meets up with her old friends (or talks to them over the phone). Everything seems to be ok, but then she has a dream that all of the magic cards turn transparent. And wouldn’t you know: they do! Now Sakura has to re-catch the cards!
As Tomoyo exclaims: it is the triumphant return of Cardcaptor Sakura! She is a bit older, and the setting is more modern (cellphone conversations with people in England are not something out of the ordinary), and yet it is still unmistakenly Cardcaptor Sakura. Yes, it’s probably derivative of the original series, but who cares, really?

Mitsuboshi Colors: Three gradeschool girls created the “Colors” club somewhere in Ueno Park to “protect the peace”. What it really comes down to is to be a nuisance to the police officer manning the koban, and the old man running a general goods store in the shopping street.
It reminded us of Ichigo Mashimaro, mostly because of the loud and super-energetic girl in the cast. Inconsequential, short-form, episodic fun.

Gakuen Babysitters: Ryuichi and his little brother Kotaro become orphans when their parents’ plane crashes. They are taken in by the chairwoman of a school — but she has a condition: Ryuichi has to join the Babysitting Club, where students look after the little kids of the teachers. Of course, they don’t have a choice, but in return, they now have someone to look after them.
A workplace with a daycare? That’s pretty progressive for Japanese standards. I’m not sure about this one: is this setup really enough to create a whole series of?

Kokkoku: When Juri’s brother and nephew are kidnapped, her grandfather reveals a magical artefact that stops time — except everyone who touches the artefact can still move normally. They go to rescue their kidnapped family, but what should have been really easy turns into a panicked situation when a group of attackers pops up who are after them!
Just… wow. So much mystery. What are the mechanics of the artefact? What are the rules? Who are the people that attacked them, and what are they after? How does this work out? At least Juri has a good head on her shoulders, so I have every confidence in her.

Let’s continue with the new anime.

Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san: Misa is very interested in her classmate Koizumi, an elegant beauty who just isn’t interested in socializing. But she really, really loves ramen. Misa tries to be a part of that, and Koizumi will lecture her about the different types of ramen and the ingredients used. But immediately after, she turns into her usual cold self.
It’s fun, and you’ll learn something about ramen. The food is rendered with special attention to detail, which is fun to watch. But in the end, while we did have a good time watching this first episode, we’re not convinced that you could make a whole series out of it. We’re not going to be around to find out.

Yuru Camp Delta: Rin cycles up a long hill to go camp all by herself somewhere in autumn, with a lovely view of Mt Fuji. It’s kinda cold, so she builds a campfire. And then she meets Nadeshiko, who also rode her bicycle but didn’t come as prepared. Rin helps her out, and then it turns out they both go to the same school.
It’s laid-back and cute, and it’s surprisingly funny: the talking pinecones had us snickering. The camping advice is good, and the scenic backgrounds are really great. It’s going on the list.

Toji no Miko: The aratama are monster that have plagued Japan since ancient times. Young girls who have an affinity with magic katana are the only ones capable of exterminating them. And of course, there is a tournament for the best swordfighter — like it’s some kind of after-school club. During the tournament, one of the girls attacks the head of the sword-fighting agency, instead of her opponent!
It has a surprising amount of sword-fighting techniques called out and demonstrated, which is kind of cool. But it’s also very bland: we couldn’t really care what happened to any of the characters. And supposedly the swords are for fighting monsters, but we don’t see any of that.

Ito Junji: Collection: “Horror” stories (more gruesome than horror, though). The first is about a deeply unpleasant boy, and the second is really short, about a girl turning into a doll. Unpleasant to watch.

Grancrest Senki: Chaos has entered the world, bringing demons with it. Lords with Crests can absorb the chaos and protect the land, and they can contract a magician to help them. The Lords have split into two factions, fracturing the fight against chaos — only by combining the two crests, one could make the Grancrest. Siluca is a young magician who manipulates the young Lord Theo to form a contract with her, and sets him up to shake things up!
It’s fun and action-packed. The setting is intriguing: I want to know more about the mechanics of chaos and how to prevent demon incursions, and what those crests exactly are. Siluca’s uniform raised my eyebrows, but otherwise it seems like an interesting fantasy setting with some tactical thinking thrown in.

Pop Team Epic: Anime based on a four-panel comic. It’s weird, odd and ugly, and I don’t think I can drink enough to find it funny. Oddest thing is that the characters are girls, but they are voiced by men. And then the whole half-episode is repeated, but with the characters voiced by women. I don’t think I can appreciate the mindset needed to enjoy this series.

The new season has started in Japan on January 2nd, and you know what that means: we’ll be watching the first episode of (almost) everything that we can put our grubby mitts on, and I’ll be typing up reviews! I’ll all tag them with ‘first episode review’ (like this entry), so if you have no interest in anime and don’t want to read about it, then feel free to mute that tag!

With that out of the way… let’s go!
Itsu Datte Bokura no Koi wa 10 Centi Datta: A highschool romance: a popular boy from the movie club, who even won some prizes with his work, and a girl from the art club. They always go home together, and they find it hard to see the other with others from the opposite sex, but they’re not official dating. Somehow, they can never bring themselves to being less than 10cm apart…
Technically not a new series: it started halfway the fall season, so we never watched that first episode. We really liked it: they’re kinda cute, and the art is pretty. I also like the character designs.

Uchuu yori mo Tooi Basho: Mari feels that her highschool life is slipping away from her without anything happening. But she is too risk-averse to even take an unplanned trip into the city for one day, so nothing actually ever changes. That is, until she meets Shirase, whose goal it is to travel to Antarctica, where her mother disappeared. She works a lot of side jobs, and saved up a lot to make her dream come true. Mari recognises her as the adventurous and driven spirit that she needs to latch onto to have the adventure she craves.
I really empathise with Mari, being risk-averse myself. I mean, how would a highschool student go about travelling to Antarctica? But I’m also certain that it can be done, with enough resources and determination. The series is also funny, and I want to see more.