Monday, 28 November 2011

First Look Reviews Vol. 3 Thrillers, a Widely Loved Manga, and a Wildly Hated One

ANIME
Boogiepop Phantom - My god this is a great series (so far). Every episode has been dark, hazy and addicting, and in some ways I'd say that this is really what Paranoia Agent should have been, but wasn't. More on this when I get round to watching more.
Paranoia Agent - Satoshi Kon has a rather inconsistent track record with me; Paprika I absolutely adored. That is one film I don't think I'll ever tire of watching (the soundtrack of course, helping a lot). Tokyo Godfathers, was a heartwarming, alternative, and overall solid film that I honestly didn't get bored of for one second - a rare feat for most films nowadays. But Perfect Blue didn't click with me at all. Not that it was a bad film, just simply, it didn't elicit much of an emotional response from me, other than maybe the ending scenes - though of course a rewatch is in order one of these days. Paranoia Agent, another of his, I felt really went off track past the fourth episode or so, when the criminal is 'caught'. Past that point the tension just broke for me. Even though the series hadn't come to any conclusion yet, I felt that at that point, it could no longer satisfy any need I had for the atmosphere of the first few episodes to come to its rightful end. Still an interesting series regardless, I think - I especially liked the suicide pact one. That episode, as a standalone story, is definitely worth watching, especially if you have ever thought of suicide, simply for its comedic value.


MANGA
I keep on doing these manga reviews solely on the vague hope that someone, somewhere, while google searching antinatalism and a manga, will find these reviews, and will say, hey, you know what estnihil, I thought either the same thing or something completely different, and that is my informed interesting opinion. Or well, not really solely. I also do them since oftentimes during the process of reading something I get the thought 'this is great because X', and X suddenly jumps from my brain down my hands onto my keyboard and onto the world wide web. But in any case, I will TRY to cover things that I think most people here will enjoy, such as literature, and (eventually) TV shows.

Black Jack - I have to admit, I really had no intention whatsoever of getting into Osamu Tezuka - none of his works really appealed to me, and I had a vague bias that his works, being somewhat dated, would not be up to standard. But upon wondering what a medical manga would be like (a completely medical manga - Monster was only partially like that), I started clicking away, and eventually found my way to Black Jack, and I have to say, it has not only completely changed my misconceptions about Osamu Tezuka, but it has also taken away some of my previous coldness towards episodic forms of media - that is to say, media with no overarching plot. What I see now instead is that it isn't so bad having a structure without a plotline that carries on through the series, SO LONG AS, like this brilliant manga, you manage to make each episode enjoyable to your audience.

Yu-Gi-Oh - The reviews of this manga are absolutely terrible, I should warn you. This is another one of those things that are special to me, as in, you will probably not enjoy this at all. But as for me, on the other hand, I grew up watching a censored, dubbed version of Yu-Gi-Oh on TV, and the neat, somewhat simplistic things going on in this manga appeal to my inner child greatly. The art is pretty good as well, if you're wondering. As for the antinatalist side of things, one could say that this card game springing up saps children and adults, real and fictional of their free time, meaning less time is spent upon courtship behaviour, less children are born, and the human population slowly and slowly dries up, until all that is left are ghost towns riddled with cards, blowing in the wind. An efilist dream!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

More on Berserk, and CLAMP again

Berserk is one of those things, I've decided now, that I continue to delve for extremely odd reasons - it seems to be just one of those things that are heavily intended for breeds of people who either enjoy greatly being reminded of the sufferings on the world, or on the other hand, people who enjoy the sufferings of the world on their own i.e. those people on the sadomasochistic spectrum. This manga is one that really does not bother at all with standard manga, or even media tropes at all. Instead of intending to make the reader feel good, as almost EVERYTHING IN EXISTENCE is intended to do, it instead could almost be said to intend to make the reader feel bad. Horrible, in fact. When you don't like it, you feel horrible at the horrors depicted on each page. When you do like it, you feel horrible at yourself for doing so. I really wouldn't recommend this manga for anyone simply because I do not currently know anyone who would actually enjoy feeling horrible, though rest assured, for the benefit of the readers I will continue with this manga - or so I say to cover up my own queer affiliation for this manga, that weak as it may be now seems to be growing by the minute.
     In other news my love affair with CLAMP has been rekindled in passion, as upon giving Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle a second chance I was absolutely blown away. CLAMP having made quite possibly one of the best shoujo manga out there, seems to now be trying to create one of the best shounen manga out there, and is doing quite a good job of it, as far as I can see. The general feel of things isn't really standard shounen-fare. I mean, there is, obviously an extremely prominent plot-driving goal in place, just as in almost every shounen manga that dares to call itself that, but it doesn't seem, at the point I'm at, to be a goal that the protagonists are grinding for. What I mean by that is, shounen manga typically behave like RPGs - the protagonists basically keep facing enemies stronger and stronger, or train, in order to become good enough to fulfill their dreams. Now I do think, though it may be too early to tell, that the protagonists WILL get stronger, but there isn't a huge focus on this at the moment. Rather, more emotional and intricate things are being focussed on, as would be standard for a shoujo manga - which is of course what you should expect from CLAMP anyway.
     As for the books I'm reading: I can't for the life of me get back into Speaker for the Dead. While the plot does seem to be coming on in the neat, intricate way I've come to expect from Card (as evil as the man is), I don't really feel much at all at this point for any of the characters. That's Card's main literary flaw I think - his characterisation is terrible. While Ender's Game was fast-paced enough to basically breeze through any characterisation necessary, in Speaker for the Dead I really feel that not painting every character as a disjointed annoying wreck would have served him a lot better. I don't mind that he portrays humanity as weak, but I DO mind that the plot is such that it calls for characters who don't exemplify that every second.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Bucket List

Upon reading this amazing article http://www.science20.com/alpha_meme/suicide_life_ends_six_meters_above_ground-78133, my priorities have really been mashed and swapped and generally tossed about. My initial reaction was quite simply elation - though after that in the post-"I can escape" haze, I realised something that I hadn't quite realised before: there are still things I want to do in this world. One of those things, the capture and acquisition of Japanese, is easily going to delay me about 5 years or so. AT LEAST. But, back on topic here, this whole experience has essentially resulted in me planning to create an autobiography, a bucket list (or a 'Fuck-it' list, as in, 'Fuck it, I'm going to die soon'), and to finish those quests I've been undertaking since my childhood - I want to become educated, I want to have sex, and I want to experience those things said to be the greatest among escapist outlets. After I've finished taking what I can from the world, I'll finally bolt away, as a thief, before the world can take anything more from me.

Another thing I've been thinking about: on what chance can you risk your livelihood on, provided you are in the same kind of situation as I am? Only on 100% certainty of escape (natural death) or on something a lot lower, such as 50% chance of finding the exit (say, slitting your wrists). Personally, what with a fall providing me with perhaps a 95-98% chance, and with the added bonus of a lack of pain, owing to imperfections in my mental apparatus (though similar ones are most likely the reason for me undertaking this operation in any case), I would wager my life (or, more accurately, my death) on that. But I'm not taking this lightly. I really do think you have to take count of outcomes as well as risks. The outcome of death 0.95 x the amount of good it does me (-0.7 of a life to 0 for no life = +0.7 utility), gives 0.665, while the outcome of, let's say becoming paralysed, with very conservative estimates - saying it happens the other 5% of times, gives 0.05 x (-0.7 to -1.0 =) -0.3 = -0.015. So since the good outcome is significantly better comparatively, based on my rough, amateur estimation, I'd easily stake my mortality on that. But there are a lot of factors to consider. If my life were significantly better, for example, say it yielded me an average of -0.2 utility, then that simple change would completely turn my way of thinking about these things around (0.95 x 0.2 (0.19) compared with 0.05 x-0.8 (-0.04)). The choices would not be significantly different, and as a result, I could basically make NO decision, and would simply live my life regardless, since it would take least effort to do so.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Full Reviews Vol. 2 - Time travel and robots

Sometimes I lament a little that I am not as well-read as I'd like. I have a stack of science fiction classics that I've been meaning to get into for months, but as things go, reading is a lot like exercise: hard to start doing, easy to keep doing. But just as social skills generally tend to slip my mind, so does reading books. But in any case, on with the reviews:
BOOKS
The Time Machine (H.G. Wells) - Unlike the Invisible Man (boring and too slow, in my opinion), I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Words cannot describe how remarkably before-its-time this was. The strangeness and sheer plausibility of the evolved humans isn't something you would find in many books these days. In fact, it's a common sci-fi trope to have humans NOT EVOLVE whatsoever - even though environments will change, some people will be more adapted and will breed more yadda yadda. The descriptions alone are enough for me to recommend it. It's in the public domain too, which is always a plus.

MANGA
Chobits - Don't get me wrong here. Chobits is a good manga, it definitely is. But after reading CardCaptor Sakura, I just came to expect a lot more of CLAMP. The story is good, the philosophy is pretty good too. But everything is just good. There isn't enough there to warrant a re-read, and the story is a little too simplistic to extract anything out of it that you hadn't already gotten. But if you're a fan of CLAMP, I'd probably tell you to go for it, because it is plenty heartwarming, like most of their works.

Too tired to write anything more. Until next time, I'm out.

Monday, 14 November 2011

First Look Reviews Vol 2. Incredibly Vague Job Descriptions and Sword-wielding Maniacs

MANGA
Berserk - Berserk is one of those things I desperately try to like, but cannot really bring myself to do so, except when I'm in the right kind of mood. Simply put, I think this one would really benefit more from a re-read. The art is beautifully ugly, and the story is quite unique and delightfully misanthropic. The view of God as a being created out of the unfulfilled desires of man amuses me quite a lot, and I'm sure there are a hell of a lot more good things about Berserk. But as it stands, I'm either not in the right mood for it, or I'm not ready yet for something like this. As for the antinatalist take on things, there is really so much there. Gone are those ignorant 'good will always prevail', 'things will work out in the end' tropes, replaced by crazed continuous evil.
Claymore - Claymore is generally said to be a manga very like Berserk - in that it is probably one of the only so-called 'Dark Fantasy' type manga available. I'm not sure I really agree with that. While the visuals in both are stunning, and terrifying at the same time, Claymore isn't really much of a critique on anything at all, or at least, if it is, it's too deep for me to get. Not that there's anything wrong with Claymore for being this way, au contraire, it stands on its own two feet as a great manga without doing that. A warning however - it does really take a while to get into. It gets so much better, but you really do have to wait until it does. 
Hunter x Hunter - I began into this knowing of a few good reviews, somewhat hoping they were wrong, due to the sheer absurdity and vagueness of the premise. People who find rare things? Who cares, right? But as it turned out, a couple of chapters in, I was pretty damn captivated to say the least. It's one of those unique feelings that are quite unexplainable to onlookers - the bare bones of the manga is typical shounen fare. There are a lot of entertaining deviations from this, enough I'd say to place it as a quite a good manga, but there isn't actually enough bulk there to back it up. Of course, that's what it seems like from a rather harsh, critical viewpoint. The minimalism present, however, I find adds quite well to the setting, and even though the backstory isn't as adequately fleshed out as one would like, it doesn't have to be. It certainly goes towards proving that. Every shounen anime or manga I have fixed my eyes upon has had some sort of gimmick to both draw you in in the short term, and to addict you to in the long term. Hunter x Hunter, for me, as far as I have read, doesn't actually seem to have that. I really cannot pinpoint anything in it that I find particularly addicting, but still, the whole thing as it stands, is. This is in contrast to Berserk, which has many things within it that I adore, but that I do not, at the moment, like.

BOOKS
Speaker for the Dead - Ender's Game was by far the best science fiction novel I have ever read. Now it isn't like I'm exactly the go-to guy for that kind of thing, considering my relative inexperience with, uh, everything. But keeping that first statement in mind, I had really high hopes for this book. Now I wouldn't say they were dashed to the ground or anything, but I was a little, just a little, bit disappointed. I just think that the setting overall was a bad idea. Small catholic colony? Kind of boring, sorry. It took me such a long time to actually give a crap about anything going on that the first part of the book was just a blur for me. But now that I'm in the middle, I can judge this properly, and I can say that it's a good book, definitely, it's a well-thought out book, but it's not one of the best books.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Full Reviews Vol. 1 More Mechas, Demon Lords and the history of a drug-addled plumber

Full Reviews are essentially reviews of works I have seen through to their completion - and in this case, I shall be focussing on video games I have played somewhat recently.
VIDEO GAMES
Front Mission: Gun Hazard vs. Metal Warriors - While I am currently playing through the original Front Mission (and finding it quite good), I am looking back and comparing it quite a bit with a game I completed a few months ago that was something of a spin-off sequel to this one. Essentially, I would have to say, this game is remarkably deep, well-thought out, and most of all, incredibly fun. Now while I admit the levelling aspect of this made it a little too easy - especially near the end - I still managed to become almost completely immersed in the experience. The characters were a little aloof, or simply, a little bit too simple, and the plot 'twist' near the end as to the real motive behind the villains' manipulations was a little off, but not only would you make an allowance for this given that FM:GH is a Super Famicom game, but you would make an allowance for this given that it is a game at all - although I do not play most mainstream, new games these days, I would have to say that the ones I have played cannot compare to this, even though they are in 3D.

I wanted to compare both these games with Cybernator, but given that the SNES version was censored, and there remains no translation for the original (and my Japanese is still a work in progress), I cannot at this moment do so - despite the obvious similarities between all these games, being those in which you pilot mechas. The one thing I have to say about Metal Warriors is that what it lacks in story, it makes up for in gameplay. I think FM:GH really cannot compare to the amount of fun you can potentially have in Metal Warriors, though Metal Warriors in turn cannot really compare to the story and immersion in FM:GH. I also think that FM:GH was carefully calibrated to some extent to make sure that players would not find it hard enough to make them lose focus on the plot - while Metal Warriors had as little story as possible, so the fun element would be turned up to maximum. I'd say that Metal Warriors is not a game you should really attempt without savestates if you want to complete it, but then again, it still is fun enough that completing it isn't the thing most on your mind at the time, while FM:GH has the RPG elements in it that basically allow you to grind until everything is extremely easy, so completing it isn't really an issue. In summary, these games despite their similarities, appeal to entirely different audiences - but I'd recommend both to anyone who is a fan of mechas, war games and fun gameplay. As for the antinatalist aspect, I'd say that there is absolutely none. None at all.

Disgaea vs. Pokémon - I'm not sure whether I want to call Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness the best RPG I've ever played, but as it stands right now, my emotions tell me that it is. Not that there is anything wrong with it - simply, I can't shake off how it is often said that Chrono Trigger or the Persona series etc. are the best - and I loved Chrono Trigger in its own way, sure (haven't played Persona), but the only RPGs I have really played constantly for months on end are the Pokémon series and Disgaea. The fun I get out of these games is basically limitless - and with so much to do in them, I have often spent entire summer holidays, day after day after day playing them. But Disgaea holds a special place in my heart, moreso than Pokémon, simply because it is not only carefully made addicting to people such as myself, but it is innovative, it is funny, and it is immersing. Pokémon is more like junk food, really - I'll consume as much of it as I can, for as long as I can, but it isn't exactly adding anything to me. My antinatalist take on these games is that some monsters and classes in this game are too weak to use. Their lives are meaningless, and you should release them into the wild, or transmigrate them into better classes. Essentially, if the developers were antinatalist, they would have put them in to show us that nature is cruel, and that some people's lives are not worth living. It takes a broad stretch of imagination to see things that way though, ha.

Mario games - Is it me or do the Mario games just keep on getting better? From the original, to Super Mario World, to Yoshi's Island, and finally to New Super Mario Bros, I keep on having my expectations as to their value squashed, as their actual value is even greater in magnitude.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

First Look Reviews Vol 1: Magical Girls, Cyborgs and Mechas

What I mean essentially by a 'First Look' review is simply one that is incomplete - that is to say, one in which the subject matter has not been completely consumed by my brain, and hence cannot be completely reviewed. If that's not completely clear enough, I'd say for example that I've watched only X episodes of Y - therefore, I probably have the gist of the form of media, but cannot state anything based upon total knowledge. Note that in terms of foreign media, I will generally be commenting on subs, not dubs, and will try to find the least censored and most original form of the work possible. This applies immediately to Cardcaptor Sakura, my first entry, as this was so bowdlerised upon its dubbing and 'translation' that "Cardcaptors" is a show not only entirely different, but unwatchable in its mutilated state.
ANIME
Cardcaptor Sakura 
This doesn't completely count as a 'First Look', simply because I've already read the manga form of this work. But still, there are a few changes that I'm guessing could sway my opinion a little as to which adaptation was superior that I can't really express here, not having watched enough to do so. In any case, I'd say, Cardcaptor Sakura is probably only one of two anime that have left me with this really strange feeling. Happiness? Contentment? It's around about there. Now I really don't expect others to have my opinions on this, but I'd have to say that ARIA and Cardcaptor Sakura easily constitute a rebuttal of anyone claiming that Utopian fiction is impossible, because these works are devoid of any kind of evil at all. And yet, to me at least, they remain entirely interesting and engaging. But putting on my 'different person' hat, I would expect that some people could be a little bit bored by this - and really, a lot of people would be put off by its target demographic: preteen girls from the get-go. Regardless, it's one of those top anime that I will probably watch quite a few times in my life,I wager. As for the antinatalist side of things here, I guess one could say that Cardcaptor Sakura is so fundamentally utopian that it should act to show people how messed up our world really is.
Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex
I've watched the movies already, so I've got a good idea of where this is heading - and let me tell you that the first film was one of the best I have ever seen in my life. Still, it's too early to tell, I think, but the themes expressed already - the abundance of computers integrated into humans, the blurring of the lines between machine and human, and the strange nature of human and artificial intelligence - are enough to keep me engaged for a long time indeed. And don't think it's too 'cold' either. There is quite an abundance of comedic relief in this show, and not enough to hurt any of the plot. From an antinatalist perspective, this is really a show about the early stages of transhumanism, and as such, should bring up that battle again in your mind "Is it better to wait for the advent of the technological singularity and transhumanism, or is it better to simply end suffering now?". I'd definitely vote for the latter, but I don't really think it'll happen anytime soon - whereas the former might.
Mobile Suit Gundam
I've watched Wing and SEED before, so already it's hard to express to you how good this show is, simply because I have a huge bias in this matter, in that I like mechas, and I like war-themed shows - especially how suffering on both sides is often portrayed, along with the fragility of the human condition. So far, things seem pretty good. The morality is quite grey, which is nice, and it doesn't skip out on the detrimental effects of the war either. Regardless this really is far too early to say anything about it - while another war anime I've been watching, Saikano, I could give a definite opinion on in my next post. Suffice to say, it is a brilliant portrayal and deconstruction of every major theme in war fiction out there. As for the antinatalist take on things, I'd say that war-themed fiction really helps people see that this world isn't as ordered as they think. There isn't much meaning here, actions are hard to judge as moral or immoral, and your kids are going to get conscripted and mutilated if they're born during a time of war, which is why you shouldn't have them in the first place.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A few thought experiments for natalists and an announcement

It's pretty well-known, whether scientifically or not, that time passes by a lot quicker when we're having fun than when we, well, aren't - it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, as contributing more time and thought on risky or dangerous situations, or searching more actively for things to do when we aren't doing much could possess certain survival advantages. But that's not what I'm focussing on here. Couldn't any anti-euthanasia, pro-life natalist etc. etc. hold true to the notion that more suffering is better, because a longer (subjective) life is surely a better one? If someone cannot accept this, then they must instead accept that some forms of life are bad, and that a shorter lifespan is actually favourable to a longer one in certain cases (of course, the life=a gift from God belief probably overrides this for theists). This, to me, seems to be something of a step in the right direction. If non-suffering is preferable to (extra) life in at least this one case, then, although it may be a stretch to infer this, then maybe antinatalism isn't such a kooky idea after all. And that's not all, folks. If you can ask someone to imagine that their life, their precious little life, were replaced instead with a fiendish monstrosity in which they could feel neither joy nor love, then you might, again, get someone on the long and twisting road to antinatalism. And after that, just ask them, when they say they would not live such a life (and they really can't bite a bullet that big), whether they would allow their child to have such a life. At least, if nothing else, they might come away from things with the knowledge that there are certain situations where no life is in fact a better position than life. Not that that will necessarily lead to any kind of enlightened new persona in that individual, but you could sow the seeds of doubt. These are just thoughts I've been having, to be honest. No vendetta or bloodlust against pronatalists this time.

As for this blog: you may have noticed that I have not been posting for quite a while. This is because not only do I have nothing much left to say, but venlafaxine makes me, at least in the background and while not at school, happier, and thus less inclined to right about, unfortunately, depressing topics. But it's not dead yet! I'm planning on writing reviews of media I have currently watched here. It probably won't be entertaining, as while my interests are not quite obscure, they are not for everyone. But regardless, I'll carry on.