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Pokémon: An Anime Review

pokemon

There are some anime that really need no introduction. It takes a very special kind of story to captivate audiences for over twenty years. It would have to be the kind of story that has a little bit of everything that makes a story great.

That is exactly what Pokémon is, an anime that came at the right time with all the right elements for a great story. The anime first aired in 1997 and hooked fans from the start. The story had an interesting group of “pocket monsters” who were inspired by real animals and creatures. While starting in Japan it also became a huge hit in the United States. The television series spawned spin-off movies, trading cards, stuffed toys, games and all kinds of toys. New seasons of the show are still going, helping to inspire new trainers everywhere. 

A young boy named Ash is on his way to make his dreams come true. His world is full of amazing creatures called Pokémon. Pokémon can be tamed and trained to fight with the help of their human trainers. Most trainers form a very strong friendship with their Pokémon. Each Pokémon has special abilities based on what type of Pokémon they are. They can also evolve into a more powerful version of themselves. Ash and his new friends have many fun adventures in store as they gain new Pokémon allies and, of course, try to fend off the sinister group called Team Rocket.

Pokémon utilizes the tools to make a great story. The character’s have wonderful and sometimes even whimsical designs that intrigue the viewer. The real design stars, though, are the Pokémon themselves. They are drawn from real creatures and myths so so they, like the show itself are both something we know but also something magically different. The music is perfect with what is happening with the story line. The characters are interesting. They, like their Pokémon, also evolve throughout the series. 

I, like many other anime fans, grew up with Pokémon. It is a great anime that showcases the power of friendship and learning. I would highly recommend it to anyone. It is kid friendly but also funny enough for anime fans of different ages. It also has a fantastic theme song. 

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Review: Just One

4-7 player
Age 8+
Designed by Ludovic Rody and Bruno Sutter
Published by Repos Production

Just One is a party game where, in true parlor game fashion, you get a card with a word on it and your friends have to communicate it to you. With Just One, the card is placed on a pleasing white board stand and you pick a number from 1-5, which will communicate the word to your group. The other players then secretly write something related on their white board stands, then compare words. Any repeats are discarded and then these clues are shown to the first player. You then have to work out the word from their brilliant, but obscure clues.

Now my family loves a parlor game. Our copy of Pictionary went on every family holiday with us, but we were rubbish at Just One. Maybe it was just us, we kept going a bit obscure on the clue in hopes that no-one else would pick it, which only led to the first player being utterly baffled.

I then played it at a dinner party and, again, rubbish score. Telestrations, on the other hand, we played endlessly over Christmas, to much hilarity. And this brings me to my point. For whatever reason, we did not find the normal joy in Just One that we do in Pictionary, Articulate or Telestrations, with the usual “I’m sorry that is NOT what a dog looks like” or “How could you not get Blue Tit!!”

There are some games which people struggle with in social situations, Spy Fall for example can reduce people to a mute confusion, while other people lie with such mendacity you worry for your own safety. Just One seems to fall, unfortunately, into the former category.

It was the 2019 Spiel Des Jahre winner, beating out the equally word based Werewords, and L.A.M.A, an Uno style card game. I’ve not played either of the other nominations, so can’t really speak to whether it should have won. What I can say is what my mum said, “its not really in the same league as King Domino, is it?”

As far as SDJs go, it does tick a lot of the traditional winner’s boxes; it’s an entry level, simple, family game with a fun/unusual component. As I said, the elements are all very pleasing, however for a party game it can be very isolating and thinky. Mostly you sit there pondering what a good clue would be (discarding words that you’ve forgotten how to spell) and hoping that no-one else came up with it.

Invariably, even if you come up with something lickety split, someone else will be sitting there for 5 minutes going, “I just don’t know what to put?” During this time you are just thumb twiddling. Maybe if there was a time limit, it might add an element of jeopardy lacking in this part of the game. Then again, the first player sits there with no time limit checking that they can read your appalling scrawl and then head scratching only to guess something totally unrelated.

In contrast, the big boys of the SDJ winners, Ticket to Ride and King Domino are arguably a lot less interactive in their mechanic, however there seems to be more fun interaction. We always end up having joking arguments about who is hoarding all the yellow cards or why you stole the route someone else was CLEARLY working towards.

Just One is a fine party game and for £20. There’s no reason not to own it if you like word-based parlor shenanigans. If your only experience of the SDJs is of Azul and Ticket to Ride, you might be a little disappointed or baffled, but its low price point is a massive benefit. If you find a group who can ace this game with minimal umming and erring then I see no reason why it shouldn’t be a family favorite, just maybe not my family.

Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files: An Anime Review

yu2Death is a difficult thing to deal with. Particularly if it is the premature death of a young person. Beyond the grief of the family and friends left behind is the question of  what is to happens next? Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files gives us one version of what could happen. 

In 1990, the manga version of Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files was released. The creator and artist behind the manga is Yoshihiro Togashi. The story took off and became gained popularity. Fans continued to show support as the manga was adapted into an anime in 1992. The show was successful enough to run till 1995. 

Sometimes all it takes is one selfless act to change the course of a life. Or to end it. When juvenile delinquent Yusuke saves a child’s life it costs him his own. Once in the underworld Yusuke’s actions are judged. His one selfless act puts his afterlife on a trajectory no one could have guessed. Now he must navigate the dangers of the afterlife. Along the way he meets new allies and some old friends. 

Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files was one of those great animes that I was able to watch as it had reruns America. My younger brother and I loved it. We watched every episode we could when they would air after school. It helped cement a bond between us and a lifelong love of anime that either of us have yet to quit.

The designs for the characters are interesting. They may seem a little dated to fans of more current animes. To be honest the style is very typical of characters from the 1990s. However the choice of hair and outfits does give the audience clues about the characters and their goals. The music is similar but fun. The scenery is well drawn and very different depending on where the characters are. 

The concept of the story is fascinating and evolves well. It is also just fun. The characters are relatable. Most of them are young and bold which makes for interesting decisions. They not only push the story but give the audience someone to root for. 

I would highly recommend Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files.
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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Digimon: Digital Monsters: An Anime Review

dmonWho hasn’t imagined having a really cool animal companion? Why stop there, though? What if you had an animal companion that was not only your friend but could also help you fight epic battles?  Oh, and they have a fantastical design because they are actually morphing creatures. I know that I would want in. 

Digimon: Digital Monsters was an anime that ran from 1999 to 2003. The creator of the series is Akiyoshi Hongo. The series first aired in Japan to much acclaim. When Digimon came to the United States, it was released by the 1990s powerhouse, Saban Entertainment. It was popular enough to have spin offs and games based on the series. 

A group of young teens are transported to a digital world. There, they are paired up with powerful morphing creatures. Together, they have to protect not only the digital world but also Earth from a growing evil. Through the series, the characters and the Digimons grow and become stronger. They find ways to be better through the bonds of their friendship. 

The character design is really interesting. All of the characters have very different outfit designs that match their personalities. The Digimon themselves also have very interesting designs. They are based on different animals or plants. The animators did a wonderful job on giving every character a different look that works well with the story line. The music also adds to the story. It has an overall happy feeling, as this show was geared more toward younger audiences, but also gave depth to different scenes. 

Digimon: Digital Monsters is an anime that I loved to watch as a kid. I would highly recommend it. The story lines were well written. The characters were multidimensional and multifaceted. It is a great anime for kids. I hope you will give it a try.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

A Trip Through the SNES Classic: A Link to the Past

From what I’ve seen in fandom circles, A Link to the Past is one of the most beloved games in the Legend of Zelda series, right up there with the all-time classic, Ocarina of Time.  By weird chance, I actually own three copies of the game: one for the GBA Advance, one for the SNES, and the one that came included with the SNES Classic. Yet I’m only just playing it now.

No, I don’t know why either.

A Link to the Past starts off with a bang, in a way that its fellow Zelda games typically haven’t.  Other entries, like Twilight Princess, Wind Waker, and Skyward Sword, ease you into the adventure, as Link interacts with the people in his home village just before the Inciting Incident happens.  A Link to the Past begins with Link receiving a telepathic message from Princess Zelda, begging for help.  So your first job is to break into Hyrule Castle, just in time for Link to find his dying uncle, who also tried to help the princess.  You get his sword, infiltrate the dungeon, and rescue Zelda before she can be used as a human sacrifice for an evil wizard’s scheme.

Once Zelda is safe, Link receives his next objective: find the three pendants that will allow him to gain access to the hidden Master Sword.  Only then will he be able to defeat the evil wizard Agahnim and restore peace to the kingdom of Hyrule.

But, of course, it isn’t that easy.

A Link to the Past fascinates me as a newer Zelda fan because it’s clear from the get-go how much it influenced the rest of the series, particularly Ocarina of Time. The story beats feel familiar: Inciting Incident, Find the Three Sacred Plot Devices, Big Twist Where the Villain Gains the Upper Hand, and Find More Sacred Plot Devices to Defeat Him for Real This Time.  Other elements that feel familiar include certain locations throughout the kingdom of Hyrule and musical cues.  It felt weird visiting Death Mountain without running into any Gorons, but they didn’t show up until Ocarina.

Link also suffers the death of his uncle early in the game, so he has a more personal reason to be involved in the conflict than before.  (Well, in theory.  His little pixelated self didn’t seem too broken up by it.)  Likewise, future Zelda games gave Link more of a backstory, with family members, friends, and neighbors that care about him.

I started playing A Link to the Past earlier this year, right after Kingdom Hearts III, and I’ve been playing it on and off ever since.  It’s not the first time that I’ve played a Zelda game right after a Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy playthrough, and there’s always a learning curve that comes with it.  You can’t really level grind with Zelda the way that you would with a JRPG.  When playing any video game, I have a kneejerk tendency to hunt down every last enemy in a given area so that I can gain more experience points, which translates to better health, stats, etc.  But that doesn’t work with a non-JRPG.

Instead, A Link to the Past forced me to experiment and try new strategies when I died over and over again.  I’d experiment with using different weapons, or figure out ways to avoid enemies altogether.  In a way, I was still “gaining experience,” except that I was the one gaining it, not Link.  That’s not to say that either Zelda or Final Fantasy is superior to the other in terms of gameplay.  They’re just different.

One thing that I do find frustrating- and this is something that applies more to the Zelda series as a whole and not Link to the Past specifically- is saving the game and starting over after dying.  Every time you die during a boss fight, you have to start over at the beginning of the dungeon and navigate through some of the minor enemies just to get back to the fight.  I’d rather just jump right back into the fight and try again.

But, all in all, I’ve found A Link to the Past to be a game that lives up to the hype.  The story is exciting and the world is fun to explore.  And now it’s available on the Switch for Nintendo’s online service subscribers.  So if you haven’t played it yet, now’s your chance!

Review: Little Witch Academia (2017)

little witch

Sometimes you need an anime that is a little bit more innocent. One might even say that it has a more childlike vibe. Where the music, animation and the story is just a little bit lighter. 

Yoh Yoshinari created a manga called Little Witch Academia that became a fan favorite in 2013. This, like with so many other animes, was able to help the story be told through a different medium. Little Witch Academia has been able to evolve into an anime. The show made its debut in January of 2017. Megumi Han and Erica Mendez are the voice actresses that help bring the protagonist to life.  

When she was a little girl, Akko Kagari saw a witch named Shiny Chariot perform at a magical show. Chariot inspired her to become a witch herself so that she could do magic and bring others joy. Akko is accepted into a prestigious girls magic school called Luna Nova Academy. It won’t be easy, though. Akko is the only girl who doesn’t come from a magical family. Also, it turns out that magic is, well, difficult. However, with her new friends, her can do attitude, and inspiration from her role model, Akko is sure she can become a witch. 

The animation is really interesting for Little Witch Academia. It is a mix of a few styles that give the anime its own look. The character designs are well done, particularly how the animators have tweaked the uniforms for each student. The music is fun and helps to set the mood for different scenes. The sets, particularly for the Academy, are really beautifully animated. The overall look of the anime is really well done. It easily gives the viewers a peek into a world where magic lives in the midst of the “real world.”

I enjoyed Little Witch Academia. I think it has a fun and fanciful feel. It also shows the power of sticking to your dreams. This anime also tells a story about how one action inspires one child to become something more, and how it gives them the courage to continue through adversary. I would recommend it to everyone. 

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Review: Moonflight (Tabletop Game)

Developer: Man o’ Kent Games
Kickstarter launch: 9/18/2019

What is it?

Moonflight is a tabletop deck building game with an interesting twist. While you spend a good amount of the game building your deck, the winner comes down to the person who can unbuild their deck as well.

Moonflight takes place in a mythical fay land called Moonflight. Moonflight only exists under the waxing of the Hunter’s Moon. Players take on the role of the leaders of Moonflight, a Jack, and must have the most powerful deck by the end of the night.

What did I think?

Moonflight has all the amazing qualities of a deck building game. You gain resources in order to buy playable cards. You try to build the most powerful deck you possibly can. I also really enjoy the twist of unbuilding your deck, which adds an extra layer to strategizing. Not only do you have to build the most powerful deck, but you have to weed out the cards that aren’t useful to you in order to win.

There’s also the concept of “the Turn,” which helps in unbuilding your deck. Each card has 2 sides, the black side and the white side. You start the game by using the black side. Once your marketplace is dried up, “the Turn” happens, flipping each card to the white side and changing their abilities. While the black side has deck building abilities, the white side has deck unbuilding abilities.

Another aspect of this game that I love is the fact that you can play by yourself. Not everyone has the ability to play with friends all the time, but you can still get that itch to play a tabletop game. There are two options for solo play: Score More or AI Mode.

In Score Mode, you attempt to get the highest score you possibly can, which can hone your deck unbuilding skills. In AI Mode, you can choose AI player cards to play against. You take the turns for these AI players based on what the card tells you to do. This gives you a more competitive feel for the game, while still playing by yourself.

The artwork is absolutely stunning. It really gives you the feeling of being in a fay land. Considering I’m obsessed with faeries, I am obviously in love with this artwork. The prototype cards were sturdy and comfortable to hold. They reminded me of my favorite tarot deck, which was extremely pleasing.

The instructions were easy to understand and broken up into manageable parts. They have a section for the more experienced players, but most of the rule book is for non-experienced players. The terms are clearly defined and the rules are laid out in a way that really helps new players to understand the game.

Do I recommend it?

I do! Moonflight is a fun, fantastic, and fascinating deck building/unbuilding game that will keep you entertained. Consider supporting Man o’ Kent’s Kickstarter for this game, it will be live tomorrow, Wednesday, September 18th, 2019.

You can print and play Moonflight now here. You can also play via Tabletop Simulator here.