Koe no Katachi Anime Review

Title: Koe no Katachi

Other Titles: A Silent Voice, The Shape of a Voice

Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Slice of Life, Drama

Studio: Kyoto Animation

Based on: A Silent Voice manga by Yoshitoki Ōima

Length: 2 hours 9 minutes

Release Dates:

Theatrical Japanese release: September 2016

Theatrical world-wide release: June 2017

DVD Blu Ray Japanese Release: May 17, 2017.

(no date announced at time of this blog post for an English DVD / Blu Ray Release).

Koe No Katachi a Silent Voice Review

Geeky: 4/5 Gorgeously animated and very true to the original story within the manga. It does lack action and move at a sometimes slow pace and deals with heavy and unpleasant themes at times.

Sweetie: 5/5 The transformation of the characters and values of friendship, love, redemption, and need for connection, are all highlighted in a tale that shows the coming of age of a group of adolescents.

Overall: 48/60 80% B- “Very Good Anime For Girls”

Story: 9/10 Koe no Katachi is a coming of age story wherein we witness the growth and life changes which shape and change the nature of relationships between a group of friends, enemies, and lovers. The story centers heavily around 2 youths, Ishida Shoya and Nashimiya Shoko, and their classmates. When the film starts, they are in elementary school, and by time the film ends they are seniors in high school.

Koe No Katachi a Silent Voice Review

Shoko is a deaf student who transfers in to the class. Everyone else is normal, Shoko is the only student with a disability, and none of the staff, students, or teachers are prepared or equipped to deal with her. As a result, Shoko becomes the victim of bullying, with Shoya largely being the ring leader behind her tormenting.

When it is discovered that Shoko has been bullied by her classmates, the other students and staff all blame Shoya which results in then his being bullied. The bullying continues throughout highschool as well, leaving Shoya with zero friends, and afraid to get close to anyone. Shoya even considers committing suicide to escape the bullying.

He runs into Shoko in his senior year of high school and immediately begins a plan to befriend her, having felt guilty for bullying her when they were younger. Shoya has been studying sign language and is now able to easily communicate with Shoko. He asks if they could be friends, the same thing she asked of him when they were little.

Koe No Katachi a Silent Voice Review

Shoko has grown stronger and has many friends already, but she blames herself for breaking up Shoya’s group of friends and for Shoya’s years of being a victim of bullying. The two forge an unlikely friendship, both hating and blaming themselves for their past interactions.

Shoya has grown and matured, and not just out of his feelings of guilt towards Shoko. Early in the film he befriends a male classmate who is also being bullied. This leads to Shoya’s first friend since elementary school.

Even Shoko’s sister who is very over protective of her, comes to accept Shoya when she realizes how much he has changed, and encourages him to date Shoko.

Shoko wants to help repair the friendships of Shoya’s childhood friends so she begins gathering the other students, some of which still resent Shoko and Shoya. There’s even a bit of a love triangle when Shoya runs into an old classmate, Ueno, working at a cat cafe.

Koe No Katachi a Silent Voice Review

However, everyone is still haunted by their pasts. Shoko and Shoya both struggle with thoughts of suicide and guilt throughout the entire film. Eventually though, the two begin to develop feelings of love for one another as a result of their newly formed friendship, but even that love may not be enough to save them. (You should watch it for yourself if you want to know! 🙂 )

It is a touching and moving story. School bullying is a huge problem in both Japan, as well as North America, and it does often lead to an increase in child and teen suicide. Therefore, these themes and characters feel real, raw, relateable, and brimming with emotions.

The manga goes a little bit further than the anime by showing what happens after high school to most of the friends in this story. However, the movie is a faithful adaptation of the manga given the time constraints of the format (taking several volumes of manga and condensing down into a 2 hour film).

Koe No Katachi a Silent Voice Review

Characters: 7/10: It can be difficult to watch a show as “heavy” as this at times. Almost of the characters are bullies and/or the victim of bullying. The main character and his friends are not “nice”. Even after they mature, many of the characters remain self-interested and shallow.

However, seeing Shoya’s transformation, and character development throughout the film from a bully to being bullied, and then to finding love and friendship is really the highlight of the film. Well that, and just how cute and unique of a character Shoko is.

It does a good job of showing both the home life, school life, and recreational life of the group of friends. Even the minor characters, such as Shoko’s sister and grandmother are well fleshed out.

Koe No Katachi a Silent Voice Review

Art: 10/10 – the anime is gorgeous to look at, especially some of the lovely backgrounds such as the koi pond, fireworks festival, or starlit skies. The character designs are cute and distinctive, from Shoko’s utter adorableness, to Shoya’s unkempt “I don’t care” attitude (messy hair, tag always sticking out of his collar, etc). Even the supporting cast has unique well defined designs, from their height, weight, hair, or fashion, all making them more memorable.

But perhaps the most interesting thing here is that they have actually animated some sign language scenes between the characters. Unfortunately I don’t sign, so I can’t comment how accurate the animations were, but it was still an interesting touch none the less.

Music: 4/10: I felt the music was very hit or miss for me. The opening theme song is an old (70s or 80s I think) American rock n roll song, which isn’t to my taste and didn’t seem to fit the theme or characters. The other music was not very memorable.

Koe No Katachi a Silent Voice Review

Voice Acting: 9/10: I dunno if Shoko’s voice actress is actually deaf or suffering from hearing loss, but the actress definitely has a speech impediment – whether that is real, or fake, I can’t tell. Other films and TV series, such as Switched at Birth have used deaf actors and actresses before. If she is not deaf, then that’s even a higher testament to her acting ability since she is able to keep the speech impediment consistently throughout the film.

This does make her hard to understand at times. The version I watched was likely fan subbed and not the official translation. The writers tried to characterize Shoko’s speech impediment even in the subtitles, and at times, I found myself feeling as frustrated and confused as the other characters trying to understand what she was saying lol. She still sounds cute, and her speech impediment plays an important part in the story.

The other characters are equally as well cast and really bring the characters from the manga to life on the big screen.

Overall: 48/60 80% B- “Very Good Anime For Girls”

Koe no Katachi Anime Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

Pusheen 2017 Spring Box Opening Review

Pusheen box continues to impress with large, big ticket items, and tons of exclusives. Pusheen 2017 Spring Box marks one year of my receiving this quarterly subscription crate, which first debuted in Winter 2015 (I missed out on the first box, boo). Ever since I joined in Spring 2016, I’ve never once been disappointed by the contents of my box, making it by far, the best subscription box for girls.

I received my box in May, which happens to be my birthday, and inside, there’s tons of birthday / party related goods – awesome coincidence. I could throw myself a Pusheen party, but don’t have anyone to invite except for my cats lol.

It came packaged in a cute Bunny / Easter themed Pusheen faced box.

Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box

It included things like Photo Booth Props (some assembly required):

Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box

Also some cute banner decorations and party balloons. 🙂

Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box

You can already see the next item in the above pics, a Pusheen Tshirt, here’s another look. Mine is a wee bit big. I think it will probably shrink though when washed? lol. The colors are so cute and the lil birthday hat Pusheens kill me lol.

Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box

This month’s exclusive vinyl figure is an Easter bunny Pusheen with a spring chick on her back.

Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box

The next big ticket item is the adorable and useful Pusheen Bento Box and Utensil set. Perfect to pair with the Pusheen thermos from the Pusheen 2016 Winter Box.

Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box

All that food is going to make you super thirsty, so they’ve given you a bottle opener shaped like our favorite feline.

Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box

What party would be complete without some tunes? Enter this adorable Pusheen Wireless Speaker to solve all your party music needs.

Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box

Last, but certainly not least, a cute Pusheen selfie stick to capture memories of your party with your friends!

Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box
Spring 2017 Pusheen Subscription Box

My phone case doesn’t really fit too well in here, and it was a lil difficult to operate, it didn’t seem to support the weight of my phone (or case) too well. Did slightly better when I removed the case. Maybe I just don’t know how to use a selfie stick lol. It seemed “loose” and wanted to flop “forward” from the “square” part that holds the phone… Still cute, but dunno if I’d trust it to hold my expensive Iphone lol.

Also speaking of things flopping forward, Some of the Photo Booth Props seemed floppy – but maybe I’m just a derp and didn’t assemble them correctly. That is about my only complaint in this month’s box.

As always is the case with my Pusheen Box reviews, this is in no way a paid review. They do not even have a referral program. I’m merely sharing photos of all the cuteness because I know it will appeal to my readers.

If you’re interested in getting your own Pusheen Box you can sign up at PusheenBox.com

Final Score:

Packaging: 10/10 – The box is even shaped like Pusheen, the bottom of the box even has jelly bean toes – can’t handle the cuteness.

Quantity of Items: 10/10 – Packed to the top with tons of Pusheen stuff

Quality of Items: 7/10 – this month had a lot of “cheap” “paper goods” such as the photo booth props, banners, balloons, etc. While I was still happy with those (especially given that my birthday is next week lol), I am not used to seeing these lower quality items. Also as mentioned the selfie stick didn’t seem very sturdy to me. — The other items are all super high quality though. And compared to other boxes where you get mostly “cheap” plushies and stationary items, this box still feels higher quality overall.

Size of Items: 8/10 – Many nice larger items such as the Bento, Wireless Speaker, Vinyl Figure, Tshirt, and etc. Offset by a few cheaper/smaller items (mentioned above). Overall, compared to other boxes, Pusheen box consistently delivers more “big ticket” items. Compared to past Pusheen Boxes, the Spring 2017 box has a lot more smaller items as well. Hope this is not a continuing trend in the Summer box. Still mostly satisfied and surprised by the number of expensive, large, nice items. I feel it is well worth the cost of subscription and not just trinkets and baubles.

Variety of Items: 10/10 As always, a nice variety of items, ranging from fashion, to home goods, to toys, to stationary, to even electronics.

Rarity of Items: 10/10 The exclusivity of the items – being only available in this crate and not in any stores, makes this box one of my all time favorites for collector value.

Items Fit Theme: 9/10 Everything is 100% licensed Pusheen Goods. This month’s theme seemed to be a “party” theme and almost all of the items fit this theme, you have food and drink, party decor, music, and memories. It also seemed to have a vague easter theme with the box having bunny ears and the vinyl exclusive this month matching that. Perhaps a better match would have been a party hat Pusheen box and vinyl figure. But that’s a minor thing :).

Overall Value: 64/70 91% A- “Excellent Subscription Box For Girls”

Pusheen 2017 Spring Box Opening Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

Yume Twins May 2017 Unboxing Video Review

I signed up for Yume Twins in May, 2017. The May box had a cat theme with lots of cute (but ultimately “cheap feeling”) plushies. As a cat lover, and kawaii collector, it was too good to pass up.

I took a lot of pictures as I unpacked my May 2017 Yume Twins box. Facebook assembled this slide show for me from some of the pics I took. This gives you a good idea of the size, variety, and quality of the items inside the May Yume Twins box.

My favorite part of the May cat themed Yume Twins box was a plushie that’s also a purse. I didn’t realize at first, until turning it over. His tail is a zipper and his tummy opens to let you put items in. Super cute!

There was also a water bottle with cat decals.

One of the most popular items in this crate is the Yokai Watch plushie from the hit anime and video game.

It all comes neatly packed in a bright purple box and includes a several page book, not only highlighting the items in your box, but showing interesting places and things around Japan that tie directly into that month’s theme. This was a really nice touch, one of the nicest packagings I have seen for these sorts of things.

I think they need some larger/nicer items such as T-shirts, home goods, and other items, similar to Pusheen Box to make it worth the cost of subscription.

Next month’s theme is Studio Ghibli. I meant to cancel after the cat theme, but forgot — and still haven’t cancelled (and my Ghibli box has already been sent). So we shall see how that box goes. 100 lucky subscribers in June will receive a Studio Ghibli thermos and chopsticks featuring Jiji from Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Items like this should come standard in every box though. I mean if Pusheen can do it, why can’t they? I received Pusheen thermos, lunch box / bento set, and many other exclusive cute big ticket items. Pusheen box still makes all these other subscription boxes seem cheap to me.

I rather pay (approximately) $10 more a month (cost comparison of Pusheen Box vs Yume Twins) and get nicer items.

Perhaps they could start offering different subscription plans with larger items in the higher priced plans.

Still overall, Yume Twins is a very cute box – especially for plushie lovers.

I also really like that not everyone receives the same items. For example, the cat purse as well as cat charm that I received were black cats. In the book that came with the box, as well as on the tags, it shows different colors and styles, from spotted to striped to fantasy color kitties.

Overall will I keep or cancel the subscription? I haven’t cancelled yet, mainly because I do love Studio Ghibli and am interested in seeing what cute Ghibli plushies and goodies are in the June Yume Twins box. However, after that, I will likely cancel until a new theme comes along that piques my interest.

Japanese plushies are cute, and these are officially licensed goods, not counterfeit toys and plushies like many other boxes I’ve reviewed. That does add to their value. The large cat purse plushie probably retails for $15-20 alone. So the smaller plushies are just “bonus” items.

Therefore, I do think that the Yume Twins subscription is fairly priced and worth the cost in terms of the value of the goods you receive.

If Plushie Collecting is your thing, I think you’ll love Yume Twins. I just mostly rather put the $26 a month towards other things.. though I do love cute plushies – I don’t have a ton of room, and the plushies always seem to pick up cat hairs from my real life kitties lol.

Final Score:

Packaging: 10/10

Quantity of Items: 7/10

Quality of Items: 8/10

Size of Items: 3/10

Variety of Items: 3/10

Rarity of Items: 5/10

Items Fit Theme: 10/10

Overall Value: 46/70 66% D “Average Subscription Box for Girls”

Yume Twins May 2017 Unboxing Video Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

The Red Turtle Anime Review

I just purchased and watched “The Red Turtle” last night. The silent animated feature length film was done, in part, by Studio Ghibli, famous animators of feature length family favorite anime films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Ponyo, and The Cat’s Return, just to name a few.

I have to admit, I didn’t really do my research on this title (and didn’t realize it was a silent film until I began watching it), but every time I saw a preview, I just wanted to see it oh so badly. When I realized I could buy it for only $10 more than the “rental” price ($15 vs $5) I immediately purchased it.

For about the first 20 – 40 minutes of the film, I felt disappointed and disinterested; that quickly changed as the plot began to advance, and by the end I was so emotionally invested that I was crying.

Read on for the full review below.

Title: The Red Turtle

Studio: Studio Ghibli

Release Date (theatrical limited release) : January 20, 2017 (dvd / bluray) : May 2nd, 2017

Length: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Geeky: 3/5 – The beautiful artwork has a story book like quality while the musical score helps covey the feelings of the wordless cast of characters.

Sweetie: 5/5 – Without any voice, this movie still manages to tell an uplifting, wholesome, sad, touching, and romantic tale. This film reminded me of the Song of the Sea (which I also HIGHLY recommend and will eventually get around to reviewing). It also reminded me of a silent “Little Mermaid”. Or a little of the Tom Hanks “Castaway” film or Swiss Family Robinson.

Overall:  42/50 84% B “Very Good Anime For Girls”

Story: 8/10 If you’ve watched any of those films, you can guess some of the themes present in the Red Turtle, a story about a man shipwrecked on an island trying first to leave the island, then coming to accept his new life and live off the land.

There’s really several stories within the story here if you’re paying attention. At first, it is just the man and the sea and land and creatures there of. But a miracle occurs one day, turning a lonely devastated man, into a protector, caregiver, lover, and eventually father.

It’s a very circle of life tale. You watch all of the characters as they age, grow up, grow old, while witnessing their triumphs and struggles as they evolve and grow.

Although there are no words, and it takes some getting used to (at least for me; the only other silent film I’ve ever liked is Wall-e.), if you keep watching, you will eventually fall in love with the characters, and by the end it will leave you in tears, as it did for me.

It does start slow. I think the first 30ish minutes of the man being alone on the island could have been cut down to about 10-15 minutes and still conveyed the same point, that he is unable to leave the island, that he is angry, cold, bitter, and vengeful, etc. — Still after the appearance of other humans, we witness how their love for him changes the man into a much different and better person.

Characters: 8/10 : The characters have no names, and no real back stories. It’s never explained exactly how or why things happened the way they did; whether that was intentional to allow you to insert yourself into their shoes, or just the nature of the silent story telling format, it doesn’t matter because the characters are still incredibly real, raw, and full of emotion and personality even without back stories and without voices. I felt an immediate connection to the characters and felt myself emotionally invested and caring about what fates and circumstances fell upon them.

Animation: 8/10 – Although it’s not done in any kind of “traditional” anime style (big eyes, fantasy hair colors, etc), it still has charm. The sea, the starlit sky, the forests, the land, and even the characters. This film had to rely 50 / 50 on music as well as animation to tell the story. The characters’ movements had to convey their emotion. This is no easy task, yet it is one that this film excels at. Whether it’s capturing the curiosity of a small child, the desperation and isolation of a lonely man, the love and tenderness of a woman, or the animals who share the island with the small family, there is no shortage to emotion and charm in the animation.

Music: 10/10 – Think of this as basically Fantasia meets the Little Mermaid. The music score, when music is present, is vital in telling the story. Many times throughout the film there will be little to no music and only ambient noises and sound effects. This makes the power of the instrumental musical pieces even more powerful when it is used to convey the emotions of the cast or even the power of nature itself.

Overall:  42/50 84% B “Very Good Anime For Girls”

The Red Turtle Anime Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

Lady Popular – Review of Fashion Runway Dressup Game

Title: Lady Popular Fashion Arena

Genre: Dressup Game

Developer: XS Software

Price: Free to Play with Optional In-Game Purchases

Where to Playhttp://www.ladypopular.com

Lady Popular Play Now

Have you ever wanted to be a Top Model and walk down the catwalk in a Fashion Showdown between other beautiful and successful girls? Here’s your chance to be the best model, in XS Software’s Lady Popular Fashion Arena.

You can play this amazing dressup game for free in your web browser without needing to download or install any software. You can register either by email, or by connecting your facebook account.

Overview: 10/10 Lady Popular Fashion Arena has a lot to offer. You start the game by choosing your hair, makeup, skin tone, outfits, and accessories. As you begin to complete quests within the game, you level up and gain access to new activities such as a photo shoot, new shops to explore, pets to dressup, or even find a boyfriend and dress him up too. It also has a dating sim element and wedding planning element. It’s the perfect game for young girls dreaming of falling in love, being beautiful, popular, and having an amazing career.

Lady Popular Fashion Arena

Gameplay: 8/10 – When you first start the game there will not be much for you to do in the early levels. This can be frustrating, but it does make leveling up and playing every day much more rewarding, as you will gain access to more features that help to mix up the gameplay.

Lady Popular Fashion Arena

Like most games in the Dressup Game genre, the main gameplay focuses on purchasing new outfits and accessories. To earn in-game currency you will complete your quest log, or face off against other real players in ultimate fashion battles.

In addition to dressing up, you also have to undergo extensive training to learn how to become a Top Model. You can choose from many different courses to improve your scores in Style, Beauty, Creativity, Devotion, Generosity, and Loyalty. All of which affect how popular your model is.

Lady Popular Fashion Arena

The user interface and tutorials in the beginning make this a very intuitive game to pick up and play without much of a learning curve. This makes the game great for young girls, even if they’re not experienced playing similar games of this nature.

The extra and unique features that begin to open up as you advance in the game, set Lady Popular apart from many other dressup games that focus only on fashion. As mentioned, Lady Popular also has a dating sim element later in the game and even allows you to plan your own engagement party.

Lady Popular Fashion Arena

Lady Popular also focuses more on social interaction and encourages you to play with friends, which is different from most dressup games that are more of a solo experience.

A recent update, totally revamped the questing system, making it much more exciting and rewarding to complete your quests which help you advance through the game. Once you begin to advance in the game, the sheer number of shops, outfits, activities, and little touches really hooks you in playing this game each day.

Story: 5/10  There is not much of a story, especially in the early levels. Your imagination becomes the story, and it allows you to choose your own path and determine what type of model you want to be.

Characters: 7/10 The characters in this game are all other models playing the game too. You can interact with your friends in real time, and compete against other players. On the downside, this also means there’s not much of a “story” behind these characters.

Lady Popular Fashion Arena

Customization: 10/10 The ability to customize everything about your avatar, from her hair, facial features, makeup, outfits, room, and the ability to customize pets and boyfriends, and then even customize your wedding and engagement, make this game a perfect 10 for customization options. You can be a cute, preppy, classic beauty, or rock out an alternative look with bright pink or blue colored hair or anything in between.

Graphics: 10/10 Lady Popular is a very brightly colored and attractive looking 2D game. The interface is intuitive, and the sheer number of clothes, accessories, and dressup items, make this game super cute.

 

Music: 5/10: Honestly, I usually play games like this on mute, or while watching tv or playing other games. If you’re playing with music on, like with most games of this nature, the music is fine, but nothing extraordinary, and due to the repetitive daily gameplay, the music can get annoying after you’ve heard it over and over again.

Replay Value: 10/10 What makes Lady Popular so much fun is the ability to interact with or against other players, as well as the mini games and other activities which open up later as you level up. To really appreciate this game you need to slog through the first few levels to get to the good parts. After that, you will be hooked by the number of things to do, and millions of different ways to customize your model and shape her life.

Lady Popular Play Now

Lady Popular – Review of Fashion Runway Dressup Game was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

ASUS ROG Strix – Asus – ROG GL502VT 15.6″ Laptop – My New Gaming Laptop and My Recent Experience at Best Buy

Please Note: This is not a sponsored post. I am not being compensated by Best Buy to write this. I did receive an email from Best Buy wanting me to complete a survey (for a chance to win a gift card) regarding my recent purchase. But then I thought, the comments I made in the survey, might make for a good Blog Post for my readers here, especially if supplemented with some info about the Laptop itself.

It’s tax refund time. Like most Americans, instead of saving, investing, or putting this money to good use, it’s time to go have FUN! (yes, I know, not smart or responsible of me lol.) My last laptop was purchased at Sam’s Club for around $750 back in 2013. It was just a “mid-range” “budget” laptop. In no way was it a “gaming” laptop, except that I researched and selected a model with a dedicated graphic card and enough RAM to play most games at the time back then on “medium” settings.

Prior to that laptop, I did in fact have an Alienware and it did last 7 or 8 years, compared to 3 to 4 years, being able to play newly released games on medium settings. However, I paid over $2000 for said Alienware. So then it occurred to me, that I could just buy “throw away” laptops, for less than half the cost, and just upgrade (to another “throw away” or “mid-tier” laptop every few years as needed.).

So when I got my tax refund, I set out to find just such a laptop. a mid-tier “throw away after 3 years” “gaming” laptop. My goal was to stay below $800. I was not expecting much in this price range. I was not looking for a “true gaming laptop”, just something that could “play without crashing” on medium settings.

What I got for under $800 is so much more than a “throw away” laptop. It’s actually a legit Gaming Laptop!! Not only can this system play a 2016/2017 AAA gaming title on “medium settings” without crashing; it can even play them on high settings.

I purchased this item as an open box (former store display) from my local Best Buy. Here is the same model available online – and where you can check to see if it’s available as an Open Box either online or at your local Best Buy. http://www.bestbuy.com/site/asus-rog-gl502vt-15-6-laptop-intel-core-i7-12gb-memory-1tb-hard-drive-black/5090905.p?skuId=5090905

I would say, keep an eye on Best Buy’s pricing even if you do purchase this item and after bringing it home. Here’s my little Best Buy story. I purchased the Asus ROG Strix on 3/28/2017. At that time, the price on the “Satisfactory” Open Box model at my local Best Buy store was listed at $806. When I went to checkout, the associate working at Best Buy told me that the price was actually $899 (still before taxes, etc. After taxes it was actually $960 (which yes, was over my expected budget.)

I still thought $899 was a good buy for a $1200 gaming laptop with great reviews all over the internet (some of which reviews I will share with you later in this article). So I didn’t give too much push back on that price and just accepted it as is.

The associate had tried to tell me it was the same computer / same model / everything, but that they had 2 or 3 in the store and had sold the one listed at that price. But my receipt still said “Satisfactory Open Box”, and that’s what the pricing on the website supposedly reflected – for my specific store location even. I felt somewhat jaded but still happy to save $300.

The next day, I was once again reading the reviews about the laptop on Best Buy’s website and I discovered the item was on sale now, and as such, the price on all models, new, or open box, had been lowered.

I called and asked if they would be willing to price match the newer pricing. I was told “yes” but I was still skeptical because they wouldn’t even honor the original supposed price on the website (it was not a website price; it was for my local store “In-store only” price for an open box model available at my store marked as being in the same condition as the one I purchased.)

It is a 45 minute drive to my nearest Best Buy, so after work, I made the journey back to my Best Buy. This was yesterday, on the 29th of March 2017, with hopes that they would in fact honor the new lower pricing. It did take a bit for them to lookup whatever they needed to in their computers, and I could sense some resistance, but overall, both the manager and cashier at customer service were polite and professional. And I walked out of it feeling respected and valued as a customer, and with a refund of $201.69 to match the new lower pricing.

Now today when I view the item, it’s up to $765 instead of $711.

So that’s why I’m saying, keep an eye out for this. I guess their prices change every day??? It’s strange to me, and kinda shady, but you can’t deny the awesome savings you get by shopping at Best Buy.

If you print out the website pricing for your local store, as well as show them your order history on their own website/app on your mobile phone, there’s little they can do to argue (IE they can’t tell you it’s a different model or part number, because it’s right in your order history on your phone, etc).

Overall, I would shop at Best Buy again, especially for Open Box products. I also was in a few months ago and snagged a Sony HDTV open box model for under $120 and have been very happy with that purchase.

One thing I absolutely love about Best Buy is their return policy. They let you take home any product in their store for 15 days, try it out as much as you’d like, and return it for a full refund within 15 days (or 14 days for cellphones). This is amazing when buying a gaming PC, because you can actually make sure your games are going to run the way you expect!

Per Best Buy’s description this model features the following gaming specifications:

Nvidia Geforce 970m Graphics Card

6th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-6700HQ mobile processor

12GB RAM

1TB Hard Drive to store all your games

And best of all, it weighs less than 5 lbs!

I know this laptop is NOT “future proof” — The Nvidia 970m graphics card now ranks at number 11 overall according to http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/ — making it well on its way already to becoming a “mid-tier” gaming rig. But for the price I got the open box Asus ROG Strix for, at just $711, it still blows anything else in that price range out of the water.

Nvidia Laptop Graphic Cards April 2017 http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/
Nvidia Laptop Graphic Cards April 2017 http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/

Here is a look at the Nvidia 970m performance when comparing to the newer Nvidia 10xx cards. This information is from http://www.videocardbenchmark.net/compare.php?cmp%5B%5D=2981&cmp%5B%5D=3595&cmp%5B%5D=3548

Nvidia 970m vs Nvidia 10xx
Nvidia 970m vs Nvidia 10xx Comparison from http://www.videocardbenchmark.net/compare.php?cmp%5B%5D=2981&cmp%5B%5D=3595&cmp%5B%5D=3548

And according to Notebookcheck.net which I always heavily rely on when looking at new laptops, the 970m is still considered to be a “high-end” Graphics card. – So while it is in no way as powerful as the Nvidia 10xx cards, it can still hold its own on nearly any game out there right now. Interestingly enough, the benchmarks on Notebookcheck.net show the 970m performing on nearly equal footing with the Nvidia 1050 Ti.

Nvidia 970m Benchmarks
Nvidia 970m Benchmarks from Notebookcheck.net

Notebookcheck.net also lists the FPS (frames per second) for popular 2016 and 2017 games for the Nvidia 970m in the following chart. This chart shows that Nvidia 970m can play many 2017 games on high or even ultra graphic settings while achieving 40+FPS.

Notice on some games, you’ll want to lower the graphic settings to medium to achieve 40FPS. While on other games, you can play in high or ultra and attain 60+FPS. It’s subjective as to the type of game. Not all games “need” 60FPS.

For example, if you play a lot of First Person Shooters or Action games, especially ones with PVP against other players online, you will want higher Frames Per Second so you can out perform your competition. But, if you mostly play RPGs – which I assume is true for my readers here, 40FPS is a perfectly acceptable frame rate without any lag or choppiness. Anything below 30FPS will be noticeably laggy and possibly unplayable.

Nvidia 970m 2017 Review
Nvidia 970m 2017 Review

We all know that processors are not the main thing to consider when shopping for a Gaming PC. Intel is getting ready to launch their 8th generation of Intel Processors, deemed Coffee Lake later in 2017. This follows up Kaby Lake which was released last year. However, my ASUS ROG Strix has a chip from 2015 called Sky Lake. But according to Networkworld.com, “Intel’s new Kaby Lake processors: No performance gains The new chips are pretty much even with the last generation.”Source: networkworld.com http://www.networkworld.com/article/3155403/computers/intels-new-kaby-lake-processors-no-performance-gains.html

Still my ASUS came with the Intel I7 Quad Core, compared to the similarly priced Dell XPS that I was considering which had less RAM and only an I5 Processor (but a slightly better graphics card): http://www.bestbuy.com/site/dell-inspiron-15-6-laptop-intel-core-i5-8gb-memory-nvidia-geforce-gtx-1050-1tb-8gb-hybrid-hard-drive-black/5709801.p?skuId=5709801 

I actually would have bought this Dell instead of my ASUS, if it had more RAM. That said, the important thing to consider when buying a gaming laptop, is the graphic card. So I would’ve taken the I5 with the Nvidia 1050 over the I7 with the 970m.

I also really love Dell. I have had very positive experiences with their customer service — which began as a negative experience, but was made more than right for me, years ago when one of the first XPS came out, I had the highest level of protection/warranty, and after weeks of frustration, (and venting on blogs/social media), I was contacted by a customer advocate who worked at Dell and was upgraded to a newer iteration of the XPS. (This was probably 10-12 years ago now) But that experience stuck with me and made me very loyal to Dell for a number of years.

For the price point, or for those tech savvy enough to upgrade their own RAM this laptop at just $799 for a brand new (not Open Box like my Asus) gaming laptop is a great buy! I went into Best Buy with the intention that if my Open Box ASUS was already sold out, that I would be bringing this Dell XPS home instead. And both machines have great reviews!

According to this discussion over on Gamespot’s forums, there is absolutely no benefit (for gaming) of buying an Intel I7 over an Intel I5! https://www.gamespot.com/forums/pc-mac-linux-society-1000004/what-are-the-gaming-benefits-of-an-i7-over-an-i5-31603230/

However, the extra processing power is useful for video editing and other things that many games may be interested in (such as for editing youtube Let’s Plays, and so on.)

When it comes to deciding how much RAM you need in a gaming PC, most laptops in the “under $800 range” feature 8GB of RAM (such as the Dell XPS indicated above); and this may very well be enough for your gaming needs, as many popular titles from 2016/2017 list 8GB as the minimum required RAM that a laptop needs.

But my ASUS came with 16GB, and like I said, the RAM ultimately was the Tie-Breaker deal for me when it came to deciding between the Dell or the ASUS laptops.

PCGamer recently did a blog post about “How much RAM do you really need for gaming?”. They say 16GB is the “Sweet Spot” for PC Gaming right now. (Article published February 2017).

We consider 16GB to be a nice sweet spot for a solid gaming system. It should be more than enough to run your games and multitask as needed. You’ll also want at least 16GB if livestreaming is a priority for you. The ability to run and stream a game on one monitor while responding to chat questions, playing music, and doing whatever else in another is definitely the kind of task list that would benefit from an extra bit of RAM headroom.” – Source: PCGamer http://www.pcgamer.com/how-much-ram-do-you-really-need-for-gaming/

Some, but not many, games are also now starting to launch while recommending more than the “standard” 8GB of RAM. For example Quantum Break (recommends 16GB), Batman Arkham Knight (recommends 12GB), and Star Citizen (recommends 16GB). These certainly won’t be the last games to recommend an increased amount of RAM. So if you don’t know how, or just don’t want to, install more RAM yourself later, you may want to consider opting for 16GB now to help “future-proof” your laptop.

Having the laptop now for the past 2 days, and trying some of my own games in high settings, I am very happy with my purchase, especially at just $711 (almost 50% off the retail suggested price of $1159.)

I did a lot of research prior to, and after, purchasing my ASUS ROG Strix 15.6 Inch Gaming Laptop. Here are some interesting reviews. Please note some of these reviews reference different configurations than the one I reference in my own review. It is important to consider all of the above options: Graphics Card, RAM, and Processors when buying a gaming laptop. The most important thing to consider is the Graphics Card.

Asus ROG Strix Reviews

Best Buy’s reviews consistently mention “washed out” colors or “back light bleed” on the screen. In my opinion this is not true. To me, the colors look very vivid, bright, rich, and clear. There also a lot of reviews complaining about lack of an SSD (solid slate drive). I don’t mind waiting a few minutes for my PC to start, so I dunno if I’d really care whether it has an SSD or not. — On the other hand, Bestbuy’s reviews consistantly praise the performance, price, and gaming capabilities of this laptop. It currently has a 4.4 star rating out of more than 300 reviews. http://www.bestbuy.com/site/asus-rog-gl502vt-15-6-laptop-intel-core-i7-12gb-memory-1tb-hard-drive-black/5090905.p?skuId=5090905 

Tech Radar’s review praises the “vibrant” screen (a direct contrast to the above Best Buy complaints), Full HD Gaming Capabilities, and Speakers. Tech Radar says the Asus ROG Strix GL502 “strikes the perfect balance between portability and power”.  http://www.techradar.com/reviews/pc-mac/laptops-portable-pcs/laptops-and-netbooks/asus-rog-strix-gl502-1326519/review

Amazon User Reviews show 3.9 Stars out of over 400 Reviews once again complementing its powerful gaming performance. https://www.amazon.com/15-6-inch-GL502VM-GeForce…

Here is a Youtube User’s Review of the Asus ROG Strix:

PC Authority also praised the Asus Rog Strix, stating that “it’s hard not to recommend a gaming laptop that won’t break your wallet or your back.”  https://www.pcauthority.com.au/Review/431060,review-asus-rog-strix-gl502-gaming-laptop.aspx

Gadget Review has a nice in depth review of the Asus ROG Strix as well. The only things they critized were the “okay” speakers, and large bezels around the screen. (I do agree, it seems as if this laptop could actually fit a 17 inch screen in the amount of plastic used around the actual 15.6 inch one. Reducing this “edge” would make the laptop even more portable and lighter and less bulky. and it does seem like a poor design choice when many other competitors are offering edge to edge screens now.  http://www.gadgetreview.com/asus-rog-strix-gl502vt-gaming-laptop-review

LaptopMag.com Refers to the Asus ROG Strix as a “mini Behemoth” and praises almost every aspect of this laptop in a very detailed review at http://www.laptopmag.com/reviews/laptops/asus-rog-strix-gl502vt-ds74 

Shack News calls the Asus ROG 502 “Premium in Every Sense” http://www.shacknews.com/article/95859/asus-rog-gl502vt-ds71-review-premium-in-every-sense

You can also check out the product information for the GL502VT from Asus’ website here: https://www.asus.com/us/ROG-Republic-Of-Gamers/ROG-GL502VT/ 

Sticky Trigger gives the Asus ROG an 8 out of 10. http://www.stickytrigger.com/tech/review-asus-rog-gl502/ 

ASUS ROG Strix – Asus – ROG GL502VT 15.6″ Laptop – My New Gaming Laptop and My Recent Experience at Best Buy was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

My Nyan Place Cat Cafe Simulation Game Review

Title: My Nyan Place

Genre: Simulation

Release Date: 2016

Publisher: ESTGames

Official Website: http://www.mynyancafe.jp/main/

IOS: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id1080565581…

Android: https://play.google.com/store…

Geeky: 2/5 – not much to the game play really, but it does have some pretty graphics. Not as robust or as many features as other cafe simulation games such as I love pasta and I love coffee which I reviewed here.

Sweetie: 5/5 – cats, cats, and more cats coupled with cute anime graphics and a casual and easy to play family friendly game.

My Nyan Place Cat Simulation Game for IOS and Android Kawaii Game Review
My Nyan Place Cat Simulation Game for IOS and Android Kawaii Game Review

Overall: 49/80 63% D “Average Game for Girls”

Concept 10/10: My Nyan Place is the perfect IOS and Android game for all cat lovers. You will need a Japanese or Korean Itunes account to play the game. You can create a Japanese or Korean Itunes account for free which I cover how to do in depth in my review of Aikatsu Photo on Stage here.

My Nyan Place allows you to run your own cat cafe while collecting rare and cute cats, decorating the cafe, and playing fun mini games. You will need to feed, play with, and groom your cats. They need ample space to play, hide, climb, scratch, and sleep. And all of the accessories that come along with it.

My Nyan Place Cat Simulation Game for IOS and Android Kawaii Game Review
Decorate your cat cafe with tons of cute items

Guests will come to the cafe and play with the cats as well as purchase food and beverages which earn you gold which can be used to purchase new items for your cafe.

As you level up, you can begin adding more cats and even more floors or buildings to hold the cats which will then need more decorations and more items for your cats and attract even more guests and earn even more gold.

Gameplay: 5/10 – Gameplay is simple and intuitive enough that you can enjoy this game without knowing Korean or Japanese languages. There are some quests and tutorial items that can be challenging at first to get past without knowing the language, but luckily, you will clear many of these obstacles through the natural flow of the game.

You start with a completely empty cafe and are given a few items such as a table, feeder, and cash register to get you started. You also get to select one free starter cat from the old man’s shop to begin your game.

The old man’s shop refreshes once every 24 hours and gets lots of rare and unique cats. These cats cost a lot of bells, but give you the benefit of knowing exactly what type of cat you’re purchasing.

The alternate way to obtain more cats early in the game is with tickets or bells that can be exchanged for “blind box” type cats. With this method, you can exchange tickets or bells to receive one random cat. You may get a rare cat this way, but you’re much more likely to get a common cat. Different types of boxes have different cats, including rare event boxes and cats that appear only for a limited time.

My Nyan Place Cat Simulation Game for IOS and Android Kawaii Game Review
My Nyan Place Cat Simulation lets you create and manage a virtual kawaii cat cafe

Now you will need to add some important items to your cat cafe to make sure your cats are healthy and happy. With the cat feeder, you can cook your own food and treats for your cats. Each cat is a unique individual and has likes and dislikes when it comes to food. Feeding your cats food and treats that they like will boost their mood and earn you more gold from your guests. You can also grow your own catnip, which can also be used as a treat for your cats. The catnip can be harvested once a day.

Your cats need a place to sleep. Some beds can hold multiple cats, while others are only enough space for one cat. It’s better to select items for multiple cats because they take up less room on the “grid” layout of your cat cafe.

You can expand your cat cafe to hold one more row on the grid per each upgrade, but there are level blocks that prevent you from expanding too quickly. There are also level blocks that prevent you from holding more cats, or having more than X number of certain items (tables, feeders, beds, etc).

You can hire staff to help run the cafe when you need to go offline. Your friends can also help you by visiting your cat cafe and clicking on up to three items that need attention.

My Nyan Place Cat Simulation Game for IOS and Android Kawaii Game Review
My Nyan Place Cat Simulation lets you play with virtual cats

Cats love to play; there are a lot of items which the cats can interact with which help to boost their mood, which as mentioned, help make your cafe more profitable. These items range from scratching posts to exercise wheels to cardboard boxes and anything in between.

The cats in the cafe will play with these items on their own. When you see them playing, boost their mood by clicking on the pink hearts. You can also tap on a cat and interact with that cat directly to boost its mood by grooming, feeding, or playing with the cat.

Cats also like to sleep, but they won’t sleep on their own. You need to monitor their moods and if you see a bubble with a “Zzz” click it to make the cat go to sleep. You also feed cats in the same fashion. A bubble will appear with a blue food dish; click the bubble to feed your cat.

My Nyan Place Cat Simulation Game for IOS and Android Kawaii Game Review
My Nyan Place Cat Simulation Game – Tap the bubbles to feed, play with, clean, or put the cats to sleep.

When an NPC guest character visits your cafe, place one of your cats on each of your open tables. The NPCs will sit and pet, feed, play with, and take photos of your cats. They will also order food and drink for themselves to enjoy as well. You will need to restock, clean, and arrange the food and drinks several times a day.

Although the game is in Korean (or Japanese depending on the version you choose to download), the game sends me notifications in English, telling me “the food stand is strange and to hurry and come clean it”. As well as other notifications in English, which also help with figuring out the gameplay.

Be careful not to accidentally sell your favorite cats. I speak from experience. When trying to transfer from your apartment to your cat cafe, one of the buttons will let you sell the cats. Another screen will pop up asking to confirm, but since it is not in English it is easy to accidentally click the wrong button and accidentally confirm that you want to sell the cat. I recommend if you see the popup, and you think you may accidentally be selling your cat, to restart the app completely. (To do so on an IOS device you hold the power button for a few seconds, then release, and hold the home button for a few seconds, this will cause any IOS app to restart).

My Nyan Place Cat Simulation Game for IOS and Android Kawaii Game Review
My Nyan Place Cat Simulation Game for IOS and Android lets you collect cute cats

Each cat is an individual. While some may look alike, they have different personalities and also grant different stat bonuses such as increased gold, increased luck, better moods, and other status effects. Make sure you’re using your best cats on the best tables for the best results and keep an eye on their moods, sleep, and hunger levels.

That is the basics to the gameplay. As you level up there will be new features unlocked to you such as capturing stray cats in the wild to add to your cafe, you new minigames that allow you greater interaction with your cats.

Story: 0/10 – There might be some loose story, but since it’s not in English I dunno what it is. Story and dialogue boxes are not presented very often in game, so whatever story there may be, probably isn’t very detailed anyways.

Characters: 5/10 – The cats are cute, but just as with story, since it’s not in English, they have no substance to the characters, beyond being just cute pixels to collect. This means that there is no real character development or emotional attachment to any of the characters.

My Nyan Place Cat Simulation Game for IOS and Android Kawaii Game Review
My Nyan Place Cat Simulation Game for IOS and Android Kawaii Game Review

Graphics: 10/10 This game has super cute artwork and more than 50 different types of cats. There are new events added constantly which add more cute cats to collect. The decoration and dressup items are also incredibly cute.

Music: 5/10 The cats make cute meows and purrs, but the music itself is very simple and lacking.

Replay Value: 7/10 – The limited time events and cute cats keep you wanting to play again and again. The simplistic gameplay makes it a good game for some mindless cute cat interaction. The lack of story (at least one I can understand in English), and lack of some features common in other cafe simulation games, makes this a game best enjoyed in short bursts and not played too long at any one time.

Overall: 49/80 63% D “Average Game for Girls”

 

My Nyan Place Cat Cafe Simulation Game Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

Big Fish and Begonia Anime Review

Overview:

Big Fish & Begonia (also known as Da Yu Hai Tang) is not technically an anime since it is from China instead of Japan; however, it is a beautifully animated fantasy adventure with a lot of heart. The quality of the animation is on par with Disney or Studio Ghibli.

The story has a few plot holes and pacing issues, but overall, the emotional impact of the story telling makes this film a must watch. The story may feel familiar if you’ve watched Disney’s the Little Mermaid, or another Chinese animation from the 90s, Chinese Ghost Story. Despite the similar concepts, Big Fish & Begonia still manages to add its own unique twists and takes on concepts of forbidden love and reincarnation.

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review

Review:

Title: Big Fish & Begonia (Da Yu Hai Tang)

Release Date: July 2016 (China) (Not yet licensed for North America)

 

Production: Bejing Enlight Media

Geeky:  5/5 – The production values are top notch. The quality of the animation, music, and acting are all on PAR with Disney or Studio Ghibli. Many consider this film to be the “dawn of animation” in China. It took 12 years to complete, and the level of dedication, time, care, and skill that went into making this film really shows.

Sweetie: 4/5 – I did decide to deduct one point for a few major plot holes and pacing issues. However, the themes of love (often times unrequited), life, death, and reincarnation make this film very “sweet” indeed. I was not expecting to cry as much as I did by the end!

Overall: 47/55 85% B “Very Good Anime For Girls”

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Concept:

Concept: 10/10 I am in love with the concept behind this film. I am a huge fan of Chinese Ghost Story and also the Little Mermaid.

I even prefer the old 80s Japanese version of the Little Mermaid over the Disney one (blasphemous, I know, right?). Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney’s Little Mermaid too. But the reason I love the non-Disney version so much is because of how sad it is.

Spoiler for the Japanese Little Mermaid below:

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review

I know this sounds horrible to some people who always insist on watching movies with a happy ending, but I’ve always loved tearjerkers, even as a child. There’s just something so touching and sweet about this tragic tale. It also happens to follow the original story more closely as well.

So if we combine that 80s Little Mermaid with Chinese Ghost Story, we get something very similar to Big Fish & Begonia. Chinese Ghost Story is another beautifully animated Chinese film. (The animation was done by a Japanese studio). The story involves a young man who finds himself lost in a literal “Ghost Town”. All of the city’s inhabitants are spirits who have passed over. There, he meets a beautiful woman who also happens to be a ghost. Eventually the two of them fall in love; however, the only way for them to be together is for both of them to reincarnate back on earth.

Story:

Story: 7/10 The story of Big Fish and Begonia revolves around Chun, a young girl who has just become an adult in her society. Chun is from a mystical world. The movie describes the world by having Chun narrate that they are not gods, nor humans, but “others”.

In this mystical world, all adolescents become dolphins and journey to the human world for 7 days as a right of passage. During this time if they should come into contact with humans, they will not be allowed to return back to their own world.

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review

However, a sea squall occurs which traps Chun in a fisherman’s net on her last day on Earth. The past few days, she has spent observing the humans and their world, especially one young human who loves the sea. This human sees that Chun is trapped in the net and swims out to save her.

Although he is able to free Chun from the fisherman’s net, he drowns in the storm. Chun tries to save him, but is only able to retrieve his ocarina. Chun can’t forget the young man or his grieving family even when she returns back to her own world.

Chun discovers that there may be a way to revive the young boy and return him back to his world. She trades half of her life in exchange for his. In doing so, she also irreversibly links together their two souls. Should one of them perish, so shall they both. To complicate matters, his soul must remain a fish until returning back to the human world. In Chinese legends, there was a big fish who could fly through the skies. Thus Chun names him after the fish of legend, Kun.

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review

Many sad things happen along the way, but Chun resolves herself to complete her mission, even if it costs her her own life. As much as Chun cares for Kun, there’s another character who equally cares for Chun. He is her childhood friend named Qiu. With the same resolve that Chun takes to protect Kun, Qiu takes similar resolve to protect Chun, also willing if necessary to trade his life for hers.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film and loved the concept and story. My complaint with the story is the introduction of minor characters halfway through. They abandon certain concepts they have introduced, and create inconsistencies and plot holes. Here are a few examples.

1.) In theory, Chun should not have even been able to return back to her world. Contact with humans was forbidden. Yes, her world begins to suffer, and everyone turns against her. But, when the film starts, her mother warns her not to let the humans see her and tells her that another girl just took the journey and was unable to return for breaking this rule.

2.) At one point, a villain will escape into the human world. (You’ll know what I’m referring to if you watch the movie). After escaping into the human world, we never see or hear from this villain again. You would think it had some motive for wanting to go into the human world and that some consequences may occur in the human world as the result of introduction of this character. We’re never shown exactly what those consequences are.

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review

3.) When returning to the human world, all memories are supposed to be erased; however, that doesn’t seem to happen. There’s also the issue or significance of the necklace that Chun is wearing at the end, that I don’t recall being explained. It seems the creators want your attention to be called to the necklace from the swinging and shining animation and camera zoom and pan given to that scene. What significance exactly did the necklace hold?

This next bit might be a Spoiler for the end of Big Fish and Begonia

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Characters

Characters: 8/10 Qiu makes this film for me. He begins as a bit of a child-like impish, practical jokester. By the end of the film, he has matured so much, and sacrifices so much as a result of his love and desire to protect Chun.

Chun likewise grows as a character, with her resolve to protect Kun. She goes against her elders, her mother, the people of her village. She is shunned as a result of breaking the laws of her people. While it would be easy to harbor a grudge against the people who have cast her out of their tribe, she instead endeavors to help them when tragedy befalls their home.

Chun also realizes what she was warned, that we cannot ever truly atone for our sins. As a result of helping Kun, other people begin to suffer. She realizes the weight and consequences of her actions; however, it is too late to change course.

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review

Qiu learns a similar lesson. He asks how to save and help Chun, but the answer he receives eats away at him. He asks a shopkeeper if he has anything that can make him forget his sadness. The shopkeeper offers him a drink, but he warns it will also take away his happiness. He learns that in order to have happiness, you must also experience sadness.

The minor characters are also sources of wisdom and have a lot of heart, especially Chun’s grandparents who help her even after their own death.

I did deduct 2 points because there are some characters that are forgotten and abandoned, and even Kun himself feels underdeveloped as a character. It was hard for me to like the relationship of Kun x Chun because so much more development had been put into Qiu compared to Kun.

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Production Value:

Animation: 5/5 This is one of the most beautifully animated films I have seen, not just from China, but from anywhere. It blends beautiful 2D and some nice 3D animation techniques. The fantasy world and characters are all unique and mesmerizing.

Voice Acting 5/5 Big Fish and Begonia is a very emotional film, and to pull that off, it makes use of talented voice actors who can capture and convey their feelings of love, guilt, grief, and despair.

Music: 3/5 Music also has a Disney-ish feeling and helps tell the story. I especially liked the song during the ending credits. There a few Disney-ish feeling “song/dance” skits, which can sometimes detract from the mature and dark feeling of the film; these are brief, but not as well handled in my opinion as similar scenes in Chinese Ghost Story, which makes great use of music interludes to tell their story. The music also doesn’t feel that memorable in Big Fish and Begonia, but it is overall, quite lovely.

Overall: 47/55 85% B “Very Good Anime For Girls”

Big Fish and Begonia Anime Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

Fuuka Anime Review

Fuuka is a relatively new anime that is part of Crunchyroll’s Winter Simulcast lineup. You can watch Fuuka for free on Crunchyroll here.

Fuuka is very similar to other band slice of life anime such as Beck Mongolian Chop Squad or Nana. If you like either of these anime, I think you’ll also enjoy Fuuka.

Check out my “Early Review” for episodes 1 through 4 of Fuuka below, and catch Episode 5 on Crunchyroll Friday at 11:00am EST.

Title: Fuuka

Genre: Slice of Life, Romance, Drama

Length: 12 Episodes (so far only 4 have aired).

Related Media: Fuuka is a sequel to another anime called Suzuka. Fuuka is actually the daughter of one of the main characters in Suzuka. Both Fuuka and Suzuka also have manga adaptations, and Fuuka’s manga is currently still running with new material.

PS: You can enjoy this series without watching Suzuka – I had never heard of Suzuka until I was researching my blog post tonight – and only just started watching Fuuka tonight too and already in love with it. It’s definitely “my kind” of anime! Suzuka is similar but instead of a love triangle in a band, it’s a love triangle in a sports anime. I may marathon it this week while waiting for the next episode of Fuuka :).

Studio: Diomedia and Funimation

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

Geeky: 3/5 – The animation and music are both highlights in this series with extremely high production values; however the slow plot and short overall length of the series could alienate some fans.

Sweetie: 4/5 Awesome characters and story with love as a huge focus and slice of life about kids starting a band. Took away one heart for huge amounts of fanservice.

Concept: 9/10 – It’s not terribly original. (-1 point) It’s been done before, and probably done better before too… but Overall, I am in love with the premise of this series. Two childhood friends drift appear, reconnecting years later – One is well on their way to fulfilling their dreams and promises; while the other simply drifts aimlessly through life until a key event occurs which puts them also on the path to their destiny.

There is a huge love triangle/love rivalry at the center of this drama. There’s also huge  amounts of significant character growth and development. Already just within 4 episodes, we’ve witnessed the main character overcome his fears and shyness and learn to speak up, and we’ve seen already several relationship ups and downs.

As for the female lead whom is the namesake of this show, we’ve watched her, also like the male lead, go from wandering aimlessly, to having a purpose and a goal and a vision. We’ve also seen that although she can essentially be a tomboy, that she too gets shy and awkward at times, and has trouble expressing her feelings.

Also within just 4 episodes we’ve watched them find and recruit all of the necessary members for their band, and even put on an impromptu performance.

Story: 10/10 – If relationship drama and slice of life is not your cup of tea, you will not be too interested in this — However, for me, it’s my favorite genre; and yes, although there are similar anime dealing with “band drama” (Beck, Nana, Your Lie in April, and White Album to name only a very small few) — I still find the concept refreshing and enjoyable.

To put it simply, the story revolves around a love triangle between “music geeks” who are pursuing their dreams of becoming either solo artists or rock band musicians. I’d like to say “pretty sure we know how the triangle will end” given the name of the show… but that is not necessarily true you know~!! Similar Manga such as Nana have had a lot of failed relationships and couples that you’d think should be together, but aren’t.

It could just be that Fuuka goes on to become an idol and fulfill her dream (which is to sing). She could go on to become a strong, independent character — she already is so much stronger than the more emotionally weak (but successful already in her singing career) love rival that she’s pitted against.

Though we do witness weak, tender, and vulnerable sides of Fuuka as well. At this point it’s anyone’s guess how the story will go. Who will Yuu choose? Or perhaps none of those relationships will pan out.

Aside from the love triangle, you witness the day-to-day struggles of performing music, and see the characters at school, work, and home, typical slice of life stuff here.

Fuuka anime review
Fuuka anime review

Characters 10/10: The story begins by introducing the male lead, Yuu, who will become the bass player for the band. He is a very shy and awkward soft-spoken boy who finds escapism online and has difficulty connecting with others face to face.

One day he meets the namesake of the series, Fuuka, as she’s dashing across the street and bumps into him, because he is so busy looking at his phone. This creates a misunderstanding about why he was using his phone, and it won’t be the last misunderstanding between them either.

Fuuka is an extremely energetic and bright young girl who has a strong tomboy streak and acts very unlady-like at most times. Like a lot of young people, she wonders what she should be doing with her life. One day, she gets free concert tickets to a live event. As they’re walking home, she begins to sing, and finds encouragement and feedback from Yuu, which causes her to impulsively want to form a band. She pretty much forces Yuu to go along with her idea, and Yuu can’t say no at this point, because his personality is weak, and Fuuka is very dominant at this point.

They also enlist the help of a classmate who is charming and good looking but “not interested in girls” as he himself says lol. He becomes the keyboard artist for the group.

Lastly, they recruit an upper classman who has been pestering Fuuka to join the track and field team oneday when he lets it slip that his big brother used to be a drummer; thus, he too becomes a drummer like his brother.

As mentioned, there’s also a very prominent love rival in the form of a childhood friend of the main character.

The main character also lives in a house full of females (enter more copious amounts of fanservice). And a cast of side characters consisting of teachers and advisers who also happen to be former band-mates who have taken the new members under the wing.

Anyways, most of all, I can’t explain but the namesake of this show is just so darn cute sometimes (in her actions and facial expressions). And there are some truly cute moments between both “couples” in the series… It’s definitely the cute characters that make this series for me, especially Fuuka!

Artwork: 4/5 I love the artwork in this series; they way their eyes are drawn and the detail and light in their eyes is especially pretty. However — could do without the huge amounts of blatant fanservice.

Music: 5/5 – Thankfully this is really, really good; I mean it’s an anime about music, so it’d better be good right? lol. Crunchyroll for some reason doesn’t have subtitles on the opening or ending theme which is a bummer, but no fault of course of this anime and just a fail on Crunchy’s part.

The music is fast paced, and more “J-Rock” infused. Once again similar in ways to Beck and Nana with the same “vibe”. There are also a few tracks (from the love rival) which are definitely more soft and Pop inspired.

Voice Acting: 5/5 They have to be able to both sing and act, so I once again give this a 5 out of 5.

Overall: 50/55 91% A- “Excellent Anime For Girls”

Fuuka Anime Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

Stardew Valley Review

As mentioned in another post here, I spent much of this past weekend playing Stardew Valley on the PC. Stardew Valley is a game that harkens back memories of popular retro games such as Harvest Moon and Rune Factory. The game is fun and relaxing… however, like most games in this genre, the gameplay can get tedious and repetitive at times. Stardew Valley also suffers significant development delays and setbacks, which is not surprising considering the entire game, from the graphics, to music, to programming, was all made by just one person. It doesn’t get anymore “indie” than that. Despite these few small flaws, the game is one of the highest rated Steam games of all time with nearly 50,000 Overwhelmingly Positives since its release in February 2016. If you’re still wondering if Stardew Valley is worth playing, read my Stardew Valley Review below.

Title: Stardew Valley

Developer: ConcernedApe

Publisher: Chucklefish

Platform: PC (also recently released for Xbox One, PS4, and soon to be released for Nintendo Switch)

Genre: Farming Simulation

Where to Buy: PC Version on Steam Here.

Release Date: February 2016

Geeky: 2/5  –  This is a low budget indie game, so you won’t see triple A graphics here. And given the genre and nature of farming simulation games there isn’t much action going on. I also feel the controls and UI are clunky, to the point of detracting from the gameplay (read more about that later in this review). However, given that 1 man made everything in this game, that’s pretty impressive and worth an extra star at least for effort!

Sweetie: 4/5  – Everything about this game exudes charm and cuteness. However, the characters feel impersonal and the story a bit lacking, costing it to lose 1 heart for “sweetie” factor.

Overall: 60/80 75% D- “Average Game for Girls”

Concept: 8/10 It’s hard to believe this game has been out for less than a year; it’s so wildly popular and became an instant fan classic, that even games by fully staffed development teams have not made nearly as successful games or seen as many sales or positive reviews in years worth of time. And day by day new fans come to experience Stardew Valley for their very first time and fall in love, and continue to share their experiences. I was somewhat late to join the party, starting back in maybe July of 2016.

At that time, people were growing restless with lack of progress made on features that had been promised such as multiplayer. Here we are another 6 months later, and there’s still no word on when multiplayer will be added, just simply that it is in the works. The game has received several updates and improvements, including finishing “routes” for “new” characters (The characters were already present, but now you can date more of them).

And that’s important because really… the game of Stardew Valley is like the game of your life. Stardew Valley’s open sandbox environment and multiple choices and decisions that you will make, all shape what will happen. Will you get married? have kids? Choose a life of adventure exploring dungeons, fishing all day, or focus on rebuilding your grandfather’s farm? Or maybe just sit at the tavern, playing games, and wasting your virtual life – the choice is yours.

Although the game starts slow, once it picks up, there will be numerous choices you must make (which you’ll start to notice around maybe Fall of the first year or so)… Things such as deciding if you want to let fruit bats live in the cave near your farm or if you want to use the cave to grow mushrooms. Hopefully by Fall of the first year you’ve had time and resources to upgrade your house or add new buildings that let you craft new recipes and add new gameplay elements such as making pickled vegetables, fruit preserves, wine, cooking meals from your crops in your new kitchen, etc. Characters at times may also ask you questions which may impact the game or change their friendship towards you, such as asking you what types of books you like to read, etc. Lil bit by lil bit you will begin to see how YOUR farm in Stardew Valley differs from that of your friends’ farms. (Or how it will differ for you on subsequent playthroughs).

There are also numerous in-game events held throughout each season such as festivals, cooking contests, dance parties, and more. If you’ve been working on your social skills in the game and making friends, or even romances, these special events will be even more special, having someone to share them with.

You start with little in way of resources to begin the game and with little to do. When I first started playing, it was tedious. It felt like work, like real life. It was made somewhat worse by bad controls and UI… However now, as my first year in Stardew Valley draws to a close, the game has me firmly hooked. I couldn’t believe I stayed up until 1am playing it lastnight, and I want nothing more than to go home and play it again as soon as possible. — Soon you will be able to take Stardew Valley with you everywhere you go with the Nintendo Switch! For many, this means starting all over from scratch though and replaying through these tedious first few hours of gameplay as I seriously doubt it will sync your game saves — though it would be awesome if it did!

Stardew Valley is slow paced, and definitely not for everyone. There is some combat; however, at least on the PC, the combat is simple and basic at best, and involves no strategy, and just mindless clicking. The controls also make any actions, from combat, to fishing, to farming, a real pain at times. However, despite these flaws, Stardew Valley shines because of the charming retro vibe and relaxing gameplay mechanics. It’s one of the best casual games around and guaranteed to make you feel warm and fuzzy. It is just simply a “Feel Good Kind of Game”.

Gameplay: 6/10 If you’ve ever played a Harvest Moon or Rune Factory game then you will be right at home in Stardew Valley. The basics of gameplay include planting, watering, and harvesting crops, conversing with townsfolk, dating/marrying a townsfolk, upgrading/decorating your home, exploring dungeons, collecting and crafting items, and joining in various events. — It was also marketed as an “Online or Multiplayer” farming game (which drew many fans who have long dreamed of an Online Harvest Moon — however, that feature, which arguably is the game’s MAIN feature, is still no where to be seen and with no estimated release date a year later.

I’m critiquing the gameplay for the PC version right now since it’s the only version I have played as of time of review. While the features of the gameplay would get high marks here in terms of the vast amount of things to see, do, choices and consequences, and customization, the score ultimately suffers due to terrible controls and UI. Please note for this review I play on a laptop and do not use a mouse. I am a keyboard only user. As such, there are some things that just DON’T work. Period.

Like for example, I read that to put bait on a fishing pole you left click the bait then right click the fishing pole, but nothing happens when I do this. Luckily, you can fish without bait, but with some tools you aren’t so lucky. I assume that loading the slingshot with stones also works in the same fashion but can’t figure out how to load it with ammunition either which makes it completely useless to me. At the fall grange faire, the controls for fishing were different than fishing on the main map too! In the main map I can use my button shortcode which is C as opposed to mouse clicking, — this for some reason does not work at the fall grange faire and you have to use the mouse (in my case keep in mind, I’m using my laptop’s “touchpad” which you can click/scroll/operate like a mouse.) —

I have read that PS4 controllers will now work in Steam so I may have to try that and hope they are supported in Stardew Valley. I also do have a usb mouse – but given that I play largely from my bed, it makes finding a place to put the mouse a challenge. I am surprised because quite simply, this is a casual game. If I were expecting to smoothly play a triple A title without a mouse, from my bed, well that would be my own fault for having unreasonable expectations… but the truth is, there’s nothing here that should require finesse or skill.

And it’s not just a little bit cumbersome, it’s that things completely don’t work in some cases as illustrated above at worst. At best, I find myself constantly turning away from my target while fighting in the dungeon, or watering an empty square next to the plant I’m trying to water. Or I’ll forget I have an axe equipped and accidentally kill a crop I’m trying to work with (OK so that last one is my fault 🙂 lol).

The gameworld is not that large, but you walk really slow, which makes it seem a bit larger (Please note for this review, I’m critiquing the default map, not the new ones added in after release). You will also find that you get weak from exhaust and/or injuries easily when you first begin playing, and that even adding new weapons, armor, and accessories, doesn’t seem to speed up combat as much as you might hope.

Despite these weaknesses, the gameplay is actually fun and enjoyable with a wide variety of things to do and see. In fact, there’s often not enough in-game hours in a day to do everything. I love rainy days in the game so I can go fishing or explore the dungeons without wasting half a day tending to my crops. I also love that as you continue to do something in game, such as fish or fight monsters, you gain levels of proficiency with different skills and at certain levels, these skills branch off and force you to choose a path, with different pros and cons, which further customizes your experience from that of your friends – and also greatly adds to replay value.

There could be some other features added that would further enhance gameplay, difficulty and challenge, such as making certain foods expire – would also create need to use the preserve machine — or making for example icecream melt after so many in-game hours. As it stands right now you could buy or grow an item in year one, and eat it 5 years later without risk of getting sick, etc. They could even add a temporary debuff “Food Poisoning” that would wear off after so many in game hours.

Story: 6/10 – Well the story is that you write your own story. You decide exactly what you want to do, who you want to be with, and shape your own virtual life. It offers a ton of customization and the story does branch and reveal different routes based on who you date and other decisions you make within the game, but largely, by the end of the first year, the story has felt weak and bare bones at best. The in-game events do help to spice things up however, I suspect that after the first year they will be less exciting since you’ve already seen them. — However, it makes up for this in the amount of customization, freedom, and exploration that these open world sandbox games are best known for. Watching slowly as your farm takes shape and beginning to set a path for yourself and discover how to make your farm uniquely your own is truly the best aspect of this game, and that will become even more of a big selling point once multi-player finally gets implemented so you can visit friends’ farms.

Characters: 6/10 – Well, there’s a lot of them, but none of them are terribly interesting… They will recycle through the same dialog over and over. In the beginning, as to be expected, many of the characters are distrustful of you (You’re a stranger afterall!), and so they do not talk about anything meaningful or overly deep. Getting close to people, just like in real life, takes time. Relationships take work, and Stardew Valley is no exception to that rule… I have yet to see if the characters, or story for that matter, get more interesting past the first year, but with well over 30 hours of real life put into the game, that’s more time than one should be expected to “wait and see” if things improve.

Right now my highest relationship, according to the fortune teller at the fall grange fair, is with Shane, one of the newly added routes in a recent update. He is sorta the Tsundere type. Rough on the outside. He often plays guitar in the tavern. He likes Hot Peppers, Spaghetti, and Pizza for presents, and he is a cold unfeeling jerk lol. At least initially. I think there may be more to him, which is why I was curious to pursue him. I think his route shows the most promise for “character development” if written correctly. It will be nice to see him warm up and hopefully be less of a jerk over time lol.

Other characters seem to pay homage to various Harvest Moon games, there’s a guy named Linus (not dateable) living in a tent who reminds me of Gustafa from Harvest Moon on the Gamecube. There’s Harvey who is a doctor, Demetrius a scientist (who at time of this review is not dateable), Sebastian who is a stereotypical Emo/Goth guy, Alex a fitness nut,  a Magician (I don’t believe he’s dateable either), Clint who is a Blacksmith, and Elderly couple. The tavern workers, a Museum worker, a Carpenter (female), Goth girl, Librarian (female), and a handful of others.

Despite not having much “depth” to the characters (at least after almost a whole year of time passing in game), the characters themselves are charming, and always busy and on the move. They breathe life into the game and keep it feeling active and bustling year round. Not only these human characters, but the animals on your farm, the monsters in the dungeon, and even just little touches like birds and butterflies randomly flying or a squirrel quickly climbing a tree, or a rabbit running through the bushes, they all make the game seem… living. It seems as if every character has a mind of their own and a life of their own. This is a big plus and part of the game’s unique charm.

Graphics: 8/10 – Keep in mind, this is an indie game that wanted to go for a retro-vibe. If you’re not a fan of “outdated” graphics, RPG Maker style games, and Isometric Top-Down view style games, then this is not the game for you. — That said, Stardew Valley is for you if you grew up with the 16 bit Harvest Moon games, don’t mind “indie-retro” games, like to customize the appearance of your character, and like “cute” bright graphics.

Everything about Stardew Valley is exceptionally charming. And there is a lot of work that went into everything from the tile sets used in town or your farm, to the dungeons, character portraits, or animations. As mentioned above, the environment really feels almost like it’s alive somehow, with so many small details and little touches, falling leaves, wind, rain, animals, and background animations that really add to the charm and little extra love that was poured into this game.

I’d like to see maybe a tad more detail on the character sprites, and even more options added for character customization and more interior decorating items, or more various monster designs and not just recolors – but that’s just a wishlist, already, the artwork is pretty great if you’re a fan of pixel style games.

I did take off a few points for the following:

  • It gets pretty hard to see where I’m going at night. I dunno if it’s my monitor settings – and I am well aware you can craft items like torches and etc to brighten things up, but I get pretty lost.
  • Also some items can be hard to see if they’re behind trees, or other tall graphic items, and this too, can at times cause you to feel “stuck”.
  • Lastly, back to the UI again, it is just a lil bit clunky and could use some refinement.

Music: 10/10 – The soundtrack is one of my favorite things about this game. It is infectiously catchy. Not only does it feature great music, but sound effects are skillfully used to further create immersion and once again give rise to a game world that feels bursting with life. Sound effects for weather effects, animals, monsters, and machines and tools all help paint a picture of what life in Stardew Valley is all about.

Replay Value: 10/10 – Despite myself criticizing many things in this game such as terrible controls and user interface, lack of promised features and development setbacks, and a rather barebones story and characters who are dull and cliche, there’s just something indescribable about the gameplay itself. It is just a fun game. It’s not a perfect game… but it is one that I would recommend. I can seriously see myself sinking hundreds, or even thousands, of hours into the game, a single playthrough takes probably a hundred hours or more, and if you want to try a different profession or pick a different husband or wife, you’ll be starting a new farm, as the game autosaves every night which takes the freedom of creating multiple save files from a single playthrough out of your hands.

When I play Stardew Valley, I feel like I’m living a second virtual life, I come to care about my character, her friends and relationships, the farm, the city, and everything that’s going on in the game world. It offers me a challenge with several aspects being only discovered later in the game, and that too keeps the experience feeling fun and fresh and wondering what will happen each time I play.

Stardew Valley is a game that pulls you in with all of its charm — However, it could do with some fine tuning to greatly improve certain gameplay and story aspects.

Would I play it again? Absolutely. Given the sheer amount of things to see and do, it is impossible to accomplish everything on a single playthrough and no two farms are exactly alike.

It is that feeling, that my farm, my village, my animals, my crops, my house, my little virtual family, that they are unique and truly unlike anyone elses’ that is the driving force that makes me want to sit down and invest my precious time and energy into this game. That and the kawaii cute graphics and charming nature of the game that seem to just suck you right in.

And once Multiplayer gets implemented, kiss your real life goodbye, as the 50,000 people who think “Overwhelmingly Positive” things about the game, as well as thousand of new players, will be busy visiting their friends’ farms and experiencing brand new gameplay elements.

Stardew Valley is constantly evolving with new maps, new characters, new skills, new recipes, and new fun!

Overall: 60/80 75% D- “Average Game for Girls”

Stardew Valley Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News