Ancient Magus’ Bride (Anime) Review

Acient Magus Bride

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’ll be talking about an anime I recently watched called Ancient Magus’ Bride! As usual, I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum, but I’m going to talk a bit about the premise, so let’s jump right in!

Our protagonist is a girl named Chise Hatori who, in the wake of her mother’s suicide, decides to just sell herself into slavery; nothing good happens around her, and she sees strange creatures few others can. She is bought for a fortune by an otherworldly-looking magus named Elias Ainsworth – who, upon taking her home, immediately frees her but asks her to be his apprentice anyway. He reveals that Chise is a Sleigh Beggy – someone who can see magical creatures and wield magic herself, but who is frail in exchange. With nothing else to do and nowhere else to go, Chise agrees to stay with Elias.

What follows is a series of escapades during which Chise learns more about the vast world and its mysteries while slowly coming to understand Elias. She meets Elias’ acquaintances and, often through them, encounters a wide array of creatures from dragons to faeries to a boy who is rumored to be the devil himself, all the while gaining a better understand of who she is of her place in the world.

I don’t want to spoil too much, so I won’t delve into further detail regarding the plot. I will, however, say that Ancient Magus’ Bride succeeds where many stories fail at making magic feel both awe-inspiring and deeply interconnected with the world. It presents magic in a way that centers it in how people relate to each other and conveys the sense that everything has a price, giving it a Fullmetal Alchemist-esque mystique, though it’s far less combat-centric.

Chise’s adventures feature overarching themes of love, loss, and how to cope with life’s trials. Each of the major characters struggles to fill some void, making them incredibly relatable. The focus is on nourishing acceptance, inner-strength, and on fully embracing those deserving to be your home, not concealing vulnerabilities. I found the whole journey incredibly touching, and, admittedly, even cried at times. I therefore rate Ancient Magus’ Bride 5/5. I recommend it to anyone seeking to view the world from a new perspective.

Have you watched Ancient Magus’ Bride, or read the manga? If so, what did you think? If not, which anime have you watched that you found most moving? I’d love to hear about them below; I’m a bit of a fan of tearjerkers. =p May your days be magical! I hope to see you again next week!

 

Tales of Xillia 2 Review

ToX2

Hiyo, everyone! Today I want to talk about a game I recently got to playing, and found myself spending hours on most days – Tales of Xillia 2, of course! It’s one of many games in the large “Tales of” series of which I have been a huge fan every since playing Tales of Symphonia, one of my favorite games ever. It’s also a direct sequel to the original Tales of Xillia, so in discussing the premise, I will have to touch on some spoilers from the first game. I’ll keep them to a minimum, though, as usual.

The story follows a man named Ludger Kresnik who, as of the beginning of the game, lives with his older brother, Julius, in an apartment in the world of Elympios. Having failed to pass the exam needed to work for the enormous Spirius Corporation alongside his brother, Ludger begins his new job working on a train. However, the train is quickly attacked by terrorists. Ludger meets with a strange little girl named Elle who seeks a mythical land, the renowned researcher Jude Mathis (who is one of the original Tale of Xillia’s protagonists) and Bisley Bakur, the CEO of Spirius Corporation. They advance through the train until they find the ultimate culprit – who appears to be Julius. He pulls Ludger into another dimension, where Ludger receives a powerful ability called Chromatus. Ludger defeats a version of Julius from that dimension; since alternate-Julius served as the dimension’s catalyst, the whole dimension is destroyed in the process and Julius returns to his world.

Ludger is greatly injured in the battle, but never to fear! The Spirius Corporation heals him, leaving him good as new – and with an enormous 20,000,000 Gald debt. However, having seen Ludger’s power, Bisley decides he ought to hire Ludger after all. The latter is tasked to enter even more alternate dimensions – called fractured dimensions – and destroy the catalysts within, thereby wiping out those dimensions in order to ensure the safety of the one he lives in.

Ludger’s journey then alternates between paying off his debt and destroying fractured dimensions. Along the way, he meets and joins up with several characters from the original Tales of Xillia, some of whom weren’t playable party members the first time around. They travel throughout the recently-joined worlds of Elympios and Rieze-Maxia, facing all sorts of foes along the way. I don’t want to spoil more than that, so if you like action RPGs, I suggest you play Tales of Xillia. (You gotta play them in order!)

The game does a good job of developing its characters; aside from Ludger, each playable party member has their own series of optional missions you can follow to learn more about them. Xillia 2 also touches on some surprisingly dark themes, such as what it means to obliterate another world and what people are willing to sacrifice to achieveĀ  their goals.

As is usual for Tales games, Tales of Xillia 2 looks great and has a strong soundtrack, though I didn’t find a single track I really loved as I usually do in Tales games. The combat system is engaging and diverse – you can control 9 separate characters – but, to me, felt a little bit bloated with mechanics. Others may disagree, though! I had lots of fun despite that fact, so it’s all good!

Tales of Xillia 2 reuses many of the locations from the original Tales of Xillia, and it builds on characters starting where the original left off, so I strongly recommend you play the original first. Admittedly, Tales of Xillia 2 is a bit grindy. There’s certainly plenty of cool fights and powerful story moments to keep the player interested, but you may often find yourself retreading familiar ground, especially if you do all the sidequests.

My best recommendation is to play Tales of Xillia and continue on to Xillia 2 if you find you want to learn more about that world. I did, so I had a great time. I therefore rate Tales of Xillia 2 4.3/5.

Have you guys played any of the Tales games? If so, which are your favorites? If not, are there other RPGs you’re into! Please let me know in the comments below, and have an absolutely lovely week! Ciao~

Successor’s Promise by Trudi Canavan Review

Successor's Promise

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’m going to review a book by one of my favorite authors, Trudi Canavan! I just finished reading Successor’s Promise and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I should note this is the third book in her Millenium’s Rule series. (If you Google that, you may see it referred to as a trilogy, but there’s another one coming, so I guess that label is outdated. =p ) The previous two entries are Thief’s Magic and Angel of Storms. Obviously, I recommend you check those out before reading Successor’s Promise; without having done so, a lot of the story won’t make much sense.

On that note, while I will avoid significant spoilers for Successor’s Promise, there will be spoilers for the previous two books. I’ll try to keep those to a minimum, too, but, without some, I can’t properly describe the premise.

Successor’s Promise takes place across many, many worlds; I don’t know whether the term ‘multiverse’ is appropriate here, but that’s the feeling I get when I read about them. Mages with sufficient power are able to travel between worlds quickly and freely as long as they possess enough magic. The story’s two viewpoint characters, Rielle and Tyen, are exceptionally strong mages. They can also easily read the thoughts of those who are magically weaker than they are, which makes for interesting interactions.

I’ll briefly discuss the backgrounds of our two main characters. Rielle comes from a world with little magic where use thereof is strictly forbidden. She is tricked into using magic and eventually cast out of society for it. She’s delivered to the angel Valhan, who takes her from her world and helps her master her strength – all so he can use her for his own purposes. At the end of the second book, she makes a decision that alienates her from Valhan’s faction.

Tyen’s world also has little magic, in his case, as a result of magical machinery consuming a lot of it. He discovers a book which contains the memories and knowledge of a woman named Vella. After being framed as a thief, he, too, finds himself up against the laws of his world. He flees and, eventually, he finds a way to travel to another world and later encounters the Raen – the ruler of worlds – who forces him to act as a spy for him by posing as a member of the Resistance trying to overthrow him. He does so while trying to protect as many people as possible all while hoping the Raen will find a way to create a body for Vella. In the end, however, the Raen is killed. Tyen’s role as a spy is suspected but not revealed to all, so others remain wary of him.

In Successor’s Promise, the Raen’s most loyal servant, Dahli, endeavors to find a way to resurrect his ruler. He manages to rope Tyen into playing a role using the potential of resurrecting Vella the same way as a bargaining chip. Rielle, on the other hand, feels responsible for the well being of Qall, a boy she saved from the Raen five years (‘cycles’, by in-universe terminology) ago. Dahli is searching for Qall, who has now come of age, and does her utmost to protect him.

I feel I’ve already said enough about the plot, so I’ll stop there. xD It’s quite intricate and is best experienced from the beginning.

As a reader who has been following the series since volume 1, I found it very satisfying to see how the characters have evolved. They’re constantly faced with difficult decisions with strong repercussions. I’m really eager for the fourth volume to arrive, to learn which paths they take and what they’re willing to give up as a price.

I found Successor’s Promise to be quite the page-turner due to its deep lore, introspective characters, thorough world-building, and strong momentum. The only part that seemed a little puzzling to me was an arc near the beginning of the book that served more as a way to bring Rielle and Tyen together than as an important part of the plot. Overall, the book was still excellent! I had a lot of fun watching the plot evolve and hidden truths be revealed. Therefore, I rate Successor’s Promise 4.8/5.

Have you read any of Trudi Canavan’s work? What did you think? Who are some of your favorite authors? Please let me know in the comments below, and thank you for reading! I hope you all have a stellar week. Ciao~

Review: Fate/Apocrypha

Apocrypha

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’m going to review an anime I’ve been following through its two season run: Fate/Apocrypha. As usual, I will do my best to keep spoilers to a minimum, both for Apocrypha and the other Fate/ anime I’ve watched. But I’ll definitely cover the premise of the story!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Fate/ series, there’s a general structure to the conflict taking place. Seven mages, called Masters, each summon Servants – heroes from throughout time, but mostly from the past – to fight on their behalves. They battle each other until only one remains to claim the prize, the Holy Grail, which grants the winner a wish.

The catalyst for Fate/Apocrypha is a mage faction called Yggdmillenia, which breaks off from the rest of the Mage Association and claims ownership of the Grail. In their efforts to retrieve it, the Mage Association eventually manages to activate a scenario where Servants are summoned again – but, this time, there are fourteen of them. Two factions, each with a member of each of the following hero classes: Saber, Lancer, Rider, Archer, Assassin, Berserker, and Caster. The seven Servants of Black fight for Yggdmillenia, and the seven Servants of Red fight to regain the Grail for the Mage Association. Of course, this creates fourteen masters, too. However, due to special circumstances, the viewer never meets all of them.

I won’t list all the servants present in the battle, but just to give you a taste, let me name a few of the better known ones: Achilles, Frankenstein, Shakespeare, Mordred, Vlad III, and Jack the Ripper.

In addition to the fourteen Servants, the Grail summons a fifteenth spirit, Jeanne d’Arc, who is of the Ruler class and is to serve as an arbiter for the battle. There are rules to be followed; specifically, those who have nothing to do with the Grail War are not to be involved. Jeanne quickly finds herself in over her head trying to enforce that!

I won’t go deeper into the story than that except to say the primary protagonist isn’t a Servant or a Master, but a homunculus who the viewer meets in the first few episodes. If you like action, fantasy, drama, or mythological lore, I definitely recommend you check out the series, though I should mention that the Fate/ franchise isn’t afraid to interpret heroic spirits as the writers see fit.

I really enjoyed Fate/Apocrypha. The main characters undergo great development throughout the story, and there are plenty of intriguing characters to become attached to. The downside, in this case, is that there are so many characters that there’s no time for all of them to last very long. I became fond of several characters who died quite early, and that was a bummer!

One of Apocrypha’s themes is the salvation of humanity, like in many of the other Fate/ anime. The cast offers a varied selection of viewpoints regarding that topic, which makes Apocrypha fun to watch for me since I like delving into philosophical subjects. In the end, I wasn’t entirely certain which side to root for – a sign that the writers did justice to all sides of the argument.

Personally, I don’t really watch stuff just for the action scenes, but, for those of you who are into that, Fate/Apocrypha delivers spectacularly. There are many battles throughout the series – simultaneous battles of weapons, spells and ideas that kept me interested quite reliably.

Overall, I rate Fate/Apocrypha 4.7/5. It’s a super cool anime that gives you all sorts of reasons to get involved! The only caveat is I feel you’ll get the most out of Apocrypha if you watch Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works beforehand. The two are connected, and understanding how gives the viewer better insight into the characters.

Have you watched any Fate/ anime? (Or played any games?) If so, what did you think? I find the concept of writing a show involving a wide array of heroes from the past ultra intriguing. Please let me know what you think in the comments below! Ciao for now!

Series Highlight: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Light Novel)

Haruhi Cover

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’ll be talking about the series that got me into reading light novels – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, by Nagaru Tanigawa! Most people familiar with this series probably learned about it by watching the anime, but that alone wasn’t enough for me. I had to get all of Haruhi I could! So, I bought and read all the light novels, and those are what I’ll talk about.

The series follows Kyon, a self-described ‘average guy’ who, as of the beginning of the series, is starting as a student at North High. He finds himself seated in front of the notorious Haruhi Suzumiya, an incredibly eccentric girl who proudly declares during her class introduction that she wants nothing to do with anyone unless they have some link to the paranormal – ghosts, aliens, time travelers, whatever. Despite that, she and Kyon get into the habit of speaking to each other before class each morning.

Kyon learns that Haruhi is bored with the mundane and aggressively seeking something new to spice up her life. She’s known for dating anyone who asks her out, but for breaking off her relationships very quickly. She has also tried out every school club and rejected them all, despite her talent for both academics and sports. Then, Kyon makes his decisive mistake. He suggests she start a club of her own. Haruhi loves the idea, and, of course, Kyon is instantly roped into membership.

After hijacking the Literature Club and assimilating its only member, Haruhi begins the hunt for more. She ends up with a total of five members – each of whom has their own extraordinary quirk. Her club is called the SoS Brigade and is basically focused on doing whatever she feels like doing, whether that be entering a baseball tournament, creating a film, or scouting town for signs of the paranormal.

Kyon soon finds himself in over his head with all of Haruhi’s demands – and the astounding phenomena that surround her to which she is completely oblivious. The story takes many twists and turns from there, which I don’t intend to spoil, so if you haven’t at least watched the anime, I suggest you do!

That said, this highlight is about the light novels, so I should mention some of the storylines that are exclusive to them. But, first, those of you who are veterans of the anime will be happy to hear that the hated Endless Eight takes up only a single chapter in the light novels – the anime’s nonsensical take on that story is its own. Anyway, some of the other circumstances Kyon and his friends deal with in the light novels are as follows:

  • Defending the SoS Brigade against the student council president
  • Kyon finding a duplicate copy of Mikuru Asahina in the Literature Club closet
  • SoS Brigade tryouts.
  • Solving a mystery involving the strange behavior of dogs at a certain location
  • Encountering a second cast of characters that reflect the SoS Brigade members under incredibly convoluted circumstances

I don’t want to delve too deeply into any of those storylines, ’cause spoilers are bad, but the light novels feature even more quirky situations than just those, and if you liked the anime, I suggest you pick up the light novels and read them, beginning to… well, to where the author stopped.

The unfortunate thing about the Haruhi series is that it remains incomplete, and Tanigawa hasn’t published anything in years. He’s on record promising a continuation of the series, but even if that really happens, there’s no telling how long it will take, and no one seems to be quite sure what’s up. Part of me wants to believe this is some crazy gimmick Tanigawa is using to eventually garner more interest (Maybe he’ll claim to have been pulled into an alternate dimension or something! xD), but, realistically, the cause is probably completely ordinary. Haruhi wouldn’t be satisfied at all!

Speaking of Haruhi, I just have to write a little bit about why she’s one of the characters I most look up to in any series. The reason for that is in her unbridled individualism. She knows what’s supposed to be possible and impossible in life, but strives for the impossible anyway. Her free-spiritedness and openness to trying all sorts of things legitimately inspires me. I love her willingness to ignore society’s expectations for her and instead follow a path she really believes in, no matter how unlikely success seems – and her unconscious ability to find magic in the ordinary. She has character flaws, of course, but I’m totally willing to overlook them in the face of her sheer determination to be herself.

Anyway, that’s all for this highlight! Have any of you read the Haruhi light novels, or watched the anime? If so, what did you think? Have you read any light novels at all? Please let me know in the comments below, and have an outstanding week!

Evi’s tips on writing characters who complement each other

Hiyo, everyone! Today I have a writing-related topic to discuss, though it’s broad enough to cover not just written media, but also the scripts for movies, shows, and all sorts of other things. I’m going to talk about how I make my cast of characters complement each other!

I’ll start with some brief clarification. I don’t intend on discussing how to make characters compliment each other, i.e. say nice things to each other. That’s a totally different topic! When you Google the word complement, used as a verb, the definition you get is “add to (something) in a way that enhances or improves it; make perfect.” That’s what I plan to delve into. How to make each of your key characters improve each other.

The above definition begs a question: “What exactly does it mean for a character to be ‘perfect’ (or ‘complete’) within the context of the story?” The answer certainly isn’t to make them without character flaws. In fact, doing that makes them less compelling as characters because flawless people aren’t relatable. In my eyes, the key is in what drives all stories forward: Conflict.

Any compelling story should have themes, or questions it provokes in the reader/viewer/player. Characters complement each other well when you’re able to compare and contrast them with regards to theme. To use the Harry Potter series as an example, Harry and Voldemort complement each other because they have opposite views on the series’ central theme of death; Harry risks his life for others time and again, whereas Voldemort goes to great lengths in his quest for immortality. Their underlying philosophies thematically clash with each other even as the characters fight each other magically, adding another dimension to their struggle.

I find the best antagonists challenge the protagonist of the story in every way, especially thematically. But enemies aren’t the only ones who should have a thematically inspired relationship. Ideally, all major characters should have their own thoughts regarding central themes. Often, the protagonist’s allies in large part agree with them , but interactions between them are more interesting if they at least disagree regarding something related to the themes. Two perfectly harmonic viewpoints won’t come into opposition with each other, and conflict is everything.

Goals are another key factor to keep in mind. What are each of your characters trying to achieve? If your ‘good guys’ are teaming up, it’s quite possible that they have very similar goals, but, still, it’s important to make it clear why they have those goals. Two people can arrive at the same conclusion for very different reasons, and by delving into those, the reader/viewer/player gains a better understanding of not only the characters, but the theme itself.

As I mentioned above, your characters should have flaws. One way to make them work well together is by having them challenge each other’s weaknesses. By forcing them to acknowledge their own shortcomings, you create an inner struggle in each character that naturally leads to character development. To use a vaguer example, you may have one character be too merciful towards defeated foes and another be completely merciless. By making them butt heads over that difference, you can move both characters’ story arcs forward.

Of course, it’s important to write a cast of characters that is diverse in all sorts of ways, including personality traits. While all the main characters should have thoughts regarding the central themes, there should be more to them than just that. Be careful not to focus so much on character synergy that you forget to make each character a thoroughly fleshed out individual! If two different characters look at the same painting (just a silly example), they will probably have non-identical thoughts surrounding it. As with goals, clashing viewpoints can be used to paint a larger picture of the themes at hand and, in doing so, really help tie the novel together.

What do you guys think? Do you disagree with me, or think I missed any important points? What sort of themes do you find most compelling? I bet, if you analyze your favorite works, you’ll find a lot of examples of synergy throughout. Please let me know if you notice anything! Until next time, enjoy, and have a wonderful week!

 

Why I love Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age

Golden Sun 1

Hiyo again, everyone! Today I’ll be talking about two of my favorite video games growing up – games that, sadly, now seem largely forgotten. Golden Sun and its sequel/continuation, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, both for the GBA. These games form two halves of the same story, so I kind of view them more as a single game; playing either alone is much less satisfying than playing them both. Back when they were new to me, I went through them over and over. In fact, they were basically my gateway to fantasy-heavy jRPGs. As a result, the nostalgia factor for me is through the roof, so I’m gonna totally fangirl over them. xD

The series begins when a storm hits the village of Vale, which sits at the base of a mountain. During the storm, our main protagonist, Isaac, and his friends, Garet, Jenna, and Felix get separated, and Isaac encounters two malicious and mysterious strangers who you quickly come to realize were involved in the catastrophe. A giant boulder falls from Mt. Alpeh, killing Isaac’s father, both of Jenna’s parents, and Felix, who is her brother.

Three years pass, and Isaac is training under an old man named Kraden to use Psyenergy, a sort of magic close tied with the four traditional elements: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. Isaac, Garet, and Jenna seek to test their abilities and ill-advisedly decide to breach the village shrine, Sol Sanctum, where they meet the same two strangers from before and more. The encounter leads them on an incredibly dangerous journey spanning their entire world.

I now know that sort of premise is pretty typical for a jRPG, but, still, Golden Sun stands out from the rest. It features a strong combat system, excellent music, and extremely extensive world-building. Exploration is meaningfully rewarded, which I love to see in an RPG; there are expansive optional areas to be found, adding depth to the world. On top of that, the characters are well developed and the plot is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing what will happen next. I should acknowledge that Golden Sun is extremely dialogue-heavy; it puts story at the forefront, which works wonderfully if that’s what you’re looking for but may deter those most interested in action.

I won’t spoil more of the story, since I recommend you experience it for yourself if you haven’t already, but to this day, Golden Sun remains one of my favorite jRPGs, up there with Tales of Symphonia. Golden Sun later received a DS sequel, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. I found that to be a solid game, but it fell short of the first two, and ever since, there has been no word of further sequels. It’s always sad to see something you loved growing up decline!

Since this is a “Why I love” post, it basically goes without saying that I rate Golden Sun 5/5. =p

Have any of you played any of the Golden Sun games? If so, what did you think? I’d love to hear your nostalgic stories! If not, which jRPGs are among your favorites? Please let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!