The Times of Botchan v.1

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51g0 WHs0JL

Like my previous post, The times of Botchan is by Jiro Taniguchi, but this time it is written by Natsuo Sekigawa. Botchan follows a snippet of the life of famous Japanese author Natsume Soseki, known for some of the classic literature that came out of Japan after the Meiji Restoration.

The story starts pretty slowly and, after all, this is about the life an author, not a mountain climber or mech pilot. It's hard to tell where the story is going to go from here, and in what ways the author will explore Soseki's life and to what end. The manga is 11 volumes in total, so there's plenty of time to go somewhere with it.

The art is, as expected of Taniguchi, excellent, but it's also quite different from his work in the other books I've read by him (A Zoo in Winter, Summit of the Gods). It has the same detail, but the lines are just a bit more cartoonish and the facial expressions on the characters tend to be less subtle, more animated. A friend familiar with the source material suggested that the novel Botchan, by Soseki, has a tone that fits in with this art. It's interesting to see Taniguchi's art change a bit to fit the content while still staying his own.

There's only one real problem with the book, and that's the price. Fanfare/Ponent Mon's releases aren't exactly cheap, but in the cases of A Zoo in Winter and Summit of the Gods, you're getting either a hardcover one-shot book or at least a thick volume. While Botchan is nicely bound, it's $17 for a single volume, making it a tough sell unless you're specifically a fan of Natsume Soseki and post-Restoration Japanese Literature. I happen to be that, but I'm not sure that the $17-per-volume price tag is worth it. Despite enjoying the book, I think the series will fall down the priority list in favor of some of Taniguchi's more obtainable work.

Check it out on amazon.

The Times of Botchan v.1

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51g0 WHs0JL

Like my previous post, The times of Botchan is by Jiro Taniguchi, but this time it is written by Natsuo Sekigawa. Botchan follows a snippet of the life of famous Japanese author Natsume Soseki, known for some of the classic literature that came out of Japan after the Meiji Restoration.

The story starts pretty slowly and, after all, this is about the life an author, not a mountain climber or mech pilot. It's hard to tell where the story is going to go from here, and in what ways the author will explore Soseki's life and to what end. The manga is 11 volumes in total, so there's plenty of time to go somewhere with it.

The art is, as expected of Taniguchi, excellent, but it's also quite different from his work in the other books I've read by him (A Zoo in Winter, Summit of the Gods). It has the same detail, but the lines are just a bit more cartoonish and the facial expressions on the characters tend to be less subtle, more animated. A friend familiar with the source material suggested that the novel Botchan, by Soseki, has a tone that fits in with this art. It's interesting to see Taniguchi's art change a bit to fit the content while still staying his own.

There's only one real problem with the book, and that's the price. Fanfare/Ponent Mon's releases aren't exactly cheap, but in the cases of A Zoo in Winter and Summit of the Gods, you're getting either a hardcover one-shot book or at least a thick volume. While Botchan is nicely bound, it's $17 for a single volume, making it a tough sell unless you're specifically a fan of Natsume Soseki and post-Restoration Japanese Literature. I happen to be that, but I'm not sure that the $17-per-volume price tag is worth it. Despite enjoying the book, I think the series will fall down the priority list in favor of some of Taniguchi's more obtainable work.

Check it out on amazon.

Summit of the Gods v.1

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51l0WdfruPL

Each year at Anime Detour, Jessica Silver and I run a few annual panels. One that I've always meant to take more of a lead on but never has is the Manga for Grownups panel.

This isn't a panel about adult manga, but rather manga for adults. Any boners are coincidental.

I've started preparing early this year. For AD 2013, I read a book called A Zoo in Winter by Jiro Taniguchi and immediately fell in love with the art. The detailed, accomplished art did a great job of complimenting the very human story. I decided to seek out more of Taniguchi's work as a direct result.

The first book I picked up was volume 1 of Summit of the Gods, a book about mountain climbing. Once again, the art is incredibly detailed with excellent character art that does a good job of conveying subtle, realistic emotions.

Reading just the first volume, it's hard to explain exactly what it's about, but I know I'm in for the long haul. Yumemakura Baku's script is solid and as usual Kumar Sivasubramanian's translation is well written enough that it doesn't usually feel like a translation.

The story starts by following a photographer named Fukamachi. He finds an old camera with strong potential to belong to one of the first men to attempt Everest. The men disappeared on the climb, so any evidence of their fate would change mountaineering history.

As Fukamachi follows the trail, he runs into a man that just might the missing Japanese climber Jouji Habu. It seems like Jouji will be the center of the story, or at least the path through which the story is told.

If you're looking for a unique story and not the typical manga fare, definitely check this out. The art alone makes it worth the price of admission, but the story pulled me in quickly and I'm definitely looking forward to the next volume. I think the whole series is already out, too, so no waiting like so many of my other favorite series.

It's available on amazon.com.

Gears of War: Judgment Review

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judgment

Gears of War: Judgment has been as tough to judge as it has been for a lot of people to spell. It’s a prequel to a well-liked series, and the first time that series has been out of its original developer’s hands. It’s a new entry without the franchise’s main character, and it released well after the end of the main franchise.

It’s struggled since the original announcement to find a purpose, and now that it’s on shelves, it’s finally clear: this is a treat especially for Gears fans. Almost everything about Judgment feels like it was created for hardcore fans of the series, rather than pulling in anyone new or bringing back those that might’ve wandered off.

Gears of War 3 ended on a pretty clean, clear note. When Epic wanted to go back for more, they had to really go back. Judgment takes place a full fifteen years before the events of the main trilogy, following a much younger Damon Baird and Augustus Cole as they lead Kilo Squad.

Check out the full review.

Moving SimCity Forward

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Sunrise in Sunbury Delta

SimCity sucks right now. The problems with the service surrounding the game are so great that they overwhelm anything the game itself has to offer. It’s hard to enjoy a game you can’t even boot up. To add insult to injury, Origin thinks you’re playing the game just because you’re staring at the loader. But this will pass, and we’ll be left with the new SimCity.

Check out the full article on TechnoBuffalo.

SimCity Review

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Region Play At Work

Maxis and EA have rebooted a classic and epic city management game with their brand new effort. Simply called SimCity, this title is a collection of old gaming principles and new gaming ideas.

Some of it works really well, some of it feels like a mistake and other parts of it don’t work at all. We’re moving past the server issues that met EA and Maxis at the launch gate, and we’ve finally seen a version of the game that, for the most part, is playable.

This is the new SimCity.

Check out the full review on TechnoBuffalo.

Aliens Colonial Marines Review

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AliensColonialMarines

Nearly everything about Aliens: Colonial Marines feels unfinished. Even the finished stuff just feels done, without being good or bad; like a steak at Applebee’s.

The best thing I can say about it is that it wasn’t a very long game, but from there it’s all downhill. What’s even worse is that at every turn, the game that almost was shows its ugly, toothy, alien face, and you know you’re missing out on something great.

Aliens: Colonial Marines picks up where one of the best movies, pretty much ever, left off. The 1986 film Aliens closed with Ellen Ripley and the few remaining survivors of the ordeal on LV-426 escaping aboard the U.S.S. Sulaco. Some months later, you and a band of U.S. Colonial Marines respond to a distress call from Corporal Hicks to investigate just what happened on the planet. As expected, things don’t go so well when the Marines come up against the Xenomorphs.

Check out the full review.

Dead Space 3 Review

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dead-space-3-review

The real horror of Dead Space 3 isn’t the necromorph hiding in the vent right above Isaac’s head. It’s all the concerns and preemptive criticisms fans had heaped on the game as it neared release last week.

Dead Space 3 is a departure for the series in a number of ways, and many of the concerns fans had are valid; co-op added to a game like this is almost never good, micro transactions are usually a bad idea, and moving away from horror seems to go against the very idea of the original concept.

With so many of the series’ core pillars at stake, how could Visceral possibly get it right, or at least right enough that it still feels like Dead Space? Incredibly, they did. Just about everything new to the game works, while the stuff we’re used to is as good as ever.

Check out the full review.

China to Lift Game Console Ban?

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12-25-08kirf-xbox-360According to China Daily, Chinese authorities are considering lifting a ban on game consoles put in place in 2000.

The ban was originally put in place because of "fears of the potential harm to the physical and mental development of the young," and was put in place collectively by seven different Chinese ministries.

According to an anonymous source from the Ministry of Culture, "We are reviewing the policy and have conducted some surveys and held discussions with other ministries on the possibility of opening up the game console market."

Lifting the ban will require approval from all seven of the aforementioned ministries.

Due to the sheer size of the Chinese market, this could be a huge source of sales for all three console makers, but a few factors could subdue any potential impact.

Piracy is rampant in China, as China Daily notes. Any Xboxes sold there currently are sold under the table and the gamers already used to playing the consoles are likely not importing the games. ArsTechnica notes that Sony released the PlayStation 2 in China in 2004 and quickly withdrew it as a direct result of widespread piracy.

PC gaming is also firmly entrenched in China. There's a whole theme park devoted to World of Warcraft, and the free-to-play movement we're starting to see in the United States started over there.

Neowin notes in their article that Microsoft may have a potential advantage: China doesn't exactly have the best relationship with Japan, so Sony and Nintendo consoles could face a tough audience, should the market open up. South Korea, whose relationship with Japan is similarly troubled, doesn't have a ban like this in place. Their gaming market, however, stays firmly on the side of PC gaming. The presence of professional Starcraft gaming is presence enough of that, coupled with Google searches yielding articles from 2007 at the latest.

The lifting of the console ban could be a big deal for any of the big three console makers, but the actual result will likely be harder to determine with so many obstacles for Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft to overcome.

SimCity Beta Preview: Joey & Eric Discuss

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SimCity Data Layer

The last few years have seen a number of revivals of beloved franchises: X-COM, Deus Ex, and Max Payne are only a few. Some of them went well; X-COM was loved by fans old and new, while Syndicate was panned across the board. The latest revival is SimCity, one of Will Wright’s first endeavors into gaming and a legend in its own right.

This weekend the closed beta opened to fans like myself and Editor Joey Davidson, and we went for it in droves, for better or worse. Joey and I talk about what works and what doesn’t, and whether or not we’re ready to journey back to the city.

Check out the full article on TechnoBuffalo!

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