Skip to content

The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2v2 Test

Hey folks! After Gamescom this past week, Infinity Ward dropped us a surprise weekend test for Modern Warfare’s Gunfight mode. It’s a limited test, but there’s still plenty of look and feel stuff to talk about!

I was kicking myself moments after uploading this for not mentioning Super Sprint (silly name, yeah). We’ll get into that when the promotional beta proper hits in a few weeks.

Hey Spitz, What’ve You Been Watching? July 2019

Hello everyone! I apologize for the sudden disappearance, but it was a good break and I’m looking forward to getting things back to normal.
I wish I didn’t have to come back with bad news, and for most of you, I’m sure it’s old bad news at this point, which is worse, but it is certainly worth bringing it up nonetheless, and it’s about the horrible attack on one of Kyoto Animation’s studios which left 35 dead and many more injured.
It is a very sobering thing to hear. These are individuals who came together to bring countless smiles across the world through their medium – stories and characters which many of us, and many more of us will continue to hold dear, and to think that many of the men and women responsible have been removed from a world they’ve helped brighten, all by a single person, is a revolting thought to have.
Sentai Filmworks’ fundraiser has come and gone, and was very successful, and if you’re still willing to help, both Crunchyroll’s (link) and RightStuf’s (link) efforts are still ongoing among several others local and nationwide. Words and dollars will never bring the victims back, and will only hope to help mend the damage done to all of the families affected by the attack, but it is the least we can do for the people who spent the last months and years of their lives bringing such joy to the world through their creations, and for their families and friends who will feel the effects of this senseless loss of life for years to come.
No one is invincible, and life is precious. It is one of the disgusting truths of today’s world that terrible things such as this continue to happen.
Please be kind to one another.
 

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust-
In the far flung future, society as we know it has waned.
Humanity withers from within their villages as they defend themselves from the evil forces of the night – the chief threat among them being vampires.
However, thanks to the efforts of Hunters, mercenaries who track down and eradicate these creatures for a price, their menace is nearly overcome. Vampires are an endangered species.
When a young woman is taken in the dead of night, her family hire the services of a mysterious man, to track down her Vampire abductor. This man is known only as D, and has a reputation as being half vampire himself – a Dhampir.
As the silent man in black departs to track his new prey, the situation becomes a race against time, as not only does he have competition in the form of a band of Hunters, but a slumbering evil secretly plots against them all.

What I thought-
The first D film, which was covered (somewhat) recently here on the Soapbox was an interesting specimen. Though the action wasn’t great, nor was much of the artwork, nor was the narrative, that film had this sort of engrossing dread which enveloped you as the movie progressed. Whether it was intentional, or simply due to the shortcomings of the production budget, that film creeped along at a snails pace, often lingering longer than necessary on characters or locations. This worked for that film though, because it slowed things down and allowed you to soak in the atmosphere.
Bloodlust is in some ways the polar opposite of that first film by comparison. Here, the animation is fluid. The action, when it happens, is varied and exciting. There are numerous characters with different motivations and views and personalities. It looks and sounds modern, with outstanding character art and gorgeous environments brimming with detail. The voice work is also great, with English voiceover delivered with enthusiasm, even when the lines themselves are often clunky.
But the issue with this film is that while we have all of these wonderful, shiny things afforded by a more modern animation style and a higher budget, the overall narrative and accompanying tone greatly hinders its potential.
This is a tale of tragedy – of survival in a twisted world full of suffering and oppression, but because the cast of characters is as large as it is, and D himself has such little presence in his own film, the viewer is never properly let in upon the idea. Our heroes meander from one environment to the next with no sense of urgency, and the scenes which transpire at each stop do very little to add depth to the narrative. As the story progresses, new antagonists come out of nowhere, and pose a new threat to a love between characters we have barely spent time with. It’s easy to see the ideas at work behind the scenes, but even up to the climax of the film, there is never a driving force behind them, and while that worked for this film’s predecessor because its more limited scope left room for filler which ultimately ended up adding to its tone, Bloodlust feels like a movie which wants to be everything and manages to be very little.
If you can read between the lines, there is a narrative and world worth appreciating hidden beneath Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust’s stylish visuals, but this is a film largely incapable of presenting that narrative or that dark world in a compelling way.


 

WoW Classic is soon! Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (you know, the new one) is right around the corner! Video games are happening! October looms from afar, which means spooky stuff abound. Very exciting!
After the break, I’m also digging into several anime series, and I’ve accrued a nice collection of films to get to as well. I hope everyone has been getting their fill of the sun.
That’s all for now though. じゃ。
(Last year this month.)

Chill & Chat: Mortal Kombat 11

Hey guys and/or gals! It’s been a little slow, so I recorded some stuff with Mortal Kombat 11 talking about what’s good and what’s not so good about it. Enjoy!

Hey Spitz, What’ve You Been Watching? March-April 2019

皆ようこそ~!Evidently I wasn’t the only creature ecstatic to reunite with warmer weather, as my apartment building has been scrambling to fight off a Zerg rush of sorts over the past month.
Whether the issue is solved remains to be seen, but for what we can do on our end, all there is left is to wait and see.
 We’re here now though, so let’s do what we can do with talking about some anime.
 I happened to have the perfect lineup for booting Winter out the door and welcoming in the Spring:

 

Yuru Camp-
 Shima Rin is quite the hermit.
 She loves peace and quiet, and to a degree, simplicity, and it just so happens that her favorite pastime, camping, fully supports a personality such as hers.
 Enjoying one such outing, she is not prepared to cross paths with the energetic Kagamihara Nadeshiko however.
 Taking her in like a stray dog on a cold night, Rin begrudgingly sets the ground work for a friendship based around camping.
Nadeshiko, now jazzed about the pastime, eagerly joins her school’s Camping Club, but this club is hardly a club, housing only two other members.
Not to be defeated, Nadeshiko and her new friends do their best with what they have, while Shima Rin does her best to find the quiet she loves.

What I thought-
 When this series was airing a few seasons ago, I had instantly written it off as “that series that takes place in winter”. Cold weather? Not interested.
 Then, well after the fact, I come to find out that this series is based off of a manga penned by none other than Afro, who has previously written the hilarious Homura Tamura off-shoot of Madoka Magica. I changed course so hard that I’m lucky my neck didn’t snap from the force.
 I can’t say that I was as enamored with Yuru Camp as I was with the aforementioned series (I am a Madoka guy, after all), but I can say that for what this series is, which is yet another moe slice of life affair, it gets the job done just fine, and offers up a couple of truly hilarious scenes and some fantastic outdoor visuals for good measure.
 This series inhabits a similar mind-space as something like Non Non Biyori or especially Yama no Susume, in that it is a series about finding relaxation or enjoyment in the outdoors, alongside a cast of colorful characters. 
 Were I to voice a problem I had with the series, I’d say that it can sometimes feel a bit like an advertisement for campgrounds or camping supplies, similar to how Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club did for cycling awhile back. Numerous scenes are spent explaining how to procure or use different sorts of camping supplies, which leads to a few gags here or there, and can be informative and interesting to a degree, but these scenes sort of interrupt the flow a bit, and there are several such.
 When all is said and done though, I think Yuru Camp succeeds more than it falls short, and even as someone who actively detests the cold and wintertime, there is a certain allure to the idea of camping out during the winter months, and soaking in the silence only found during that time of the year.
 Yuru Camp has a spot right next to Non Non Biyori and Yama no Susume. It isn’t a new idea, but it’s still a good one, and Shiba Rin and her friends are an entertaining bunch. If you’re into the outdoors, but would rather stay at home, it’s a series worth a shot.

 


Koe no Katachi-
 When is someone undeserving of the life they’re living?
 Having participated in the act of bullying when he was younger, Ishida Shouya’s life has taken a significant turn for the worse over the years following. 
 Since back then, he has become more and more of a shut-in, becoming awkward and unpopular in school, and becoming racked with depression. This comes to a head when Shouya meets the one he and his classmates had bullied back then – the deaf Nishimiya Shouko. What Shouya begins to learn is that he and Shouko might share more between them than a bitter history.
Following their reintroduction to one another is a tale of rebuilding trust in others as well as in oneself, and the trials one must go through on the road to redemption.
 

What I thought- 
 I feel as though this film was announced ages ago. After a certain point, I had given up hope of it being released in the West outside of very limited theatrical screenings, but 2019 has had our backs so far, and here we are.
 And it pleases me beyond words to say that this movie has been every bit worth the wait, even despite its very minor flaws.
It’s a lengthy film, clocking in right around the two hour mark, but I would have been satisfied with a little more. The narrative works fine as it is, but it could have benefited from a few more scenes to flesh out Shouko a bit; you get a good sense for her character, but little sense for her personality, if that makes sense. As mentioned, this is a two hour film, so perhaps there wasn’t time for it, but what I was waiting for which never came was a scene with a nice, drawn out conversation with Shouko, to key us into what sort of person she is outside of her place in the narrative.
She’s only one such within a roster full of otherwise memorable characters though, with Shouko’s stalwart guardian Yuzuru stealing most scenes they’re in, and watching Shouya wrestle with his social insecurities while interacting with the progressively expanding supporting cast holds your attention nicely. 
The narrative is emotionally resonant and quite affecting without feeling manipulative. I fully expected some ham-fisted crescendo, as we’ve seen before in stories such as this, and there is admittedly some slight suspension of disbelief later in the film, but thankfully this isn’t a plot that builds and builds just to sputter out at the last second.
It’s a surprisingly dense narrative, told simply and elegantly, with smaller moments enunciated by subtle implication, some of which is never fully resolved. This leaves you to piece together the events yourself, which gives the film a nice tapering effect. For a lengthy film to sit through, Koe no Katachi is superbly paced to begin with, but touches like this keep you engaged, and let you inhabit Shouya’s shoes a bit as you’re left to interpret events he only catches bits of.
It’s KyoAni, so it looks stellar, with excellent attention given to the gestures produced by those speaking through sign language, and terrific voice performances are given all around as well. Particular praise must be given to Hayami Saori’s performance as Shouko. She doesn’t say much over the course of the film, but when it happens, it’s golden, and it thankfully isn’t a performance as distracting or even comical as it could have been.
Koe no Katachi is a film everyone should watch. A resonant narrative told by great characters, and sporting beautiful visuals, it’s a lengthy tale every bit worth your time.

 

 We’re already knee deep into a new season of anime, but admittedly I haven’t started anything yet. Did you know there’s already a third season of Attack on Titan hitting? Lord have mercy, where has the time gone?
 There was tremendous news (of a sort) recently with the announcement of Magia Record being localized for release in the West this summer, marking the first and very likely the last time I find myself anticipating the release of a phone game. Still waiting on that third season/film, but this works in the meanwhile, I suppose.
I hope everyone is dressing a little lighter and breathing a little better!
(Last year in March and April.)

Hey Spitz, Where’s That Anime Monthly?

Hey folks! My apartment building has come into a sort of epidemic, and as such I haven’t had much opportunity to write up the anime monthly (though finding the time is the only real issue at the moment). If I can’t get it out there in a day or two, I’ll just collect everything into next month’s article.
It’s a bummer. Everything’s a bummer.
See you on the flip side!

Hey Spitz, What’ve You Been Watching? February 2019

Spring forward, huh?
Hello, folks. I suspect my lateness is falling out of fashion?
Something which has struck me in recent months, as I’ve finally taken the time to check out some of the anime series currently exclusive for North American release through Netflix, is the idea of a series being locked behind a streaming service.
Little Witch Academia, which was covered recently, as well as (to tip my hand a bit) Violet Evergarden are currently unavailable for purchase on disc in the West.
While this isn’t a big deal as long as they are available in some form, it is nonetheless a bit disappointing to be unable to support the series in this way. To put it in unnecessarily dramatic words, it feels as though Netflix is holding these anime series hostage.
With the growth of digital services over the past few years and the slow but inevitable transition away from physical media, does this mean that there will be a day when there is no option for a physical collection at all?
There’s no guessing which series I’ve been working through:

 

Violet Evergarden-
In a region scarred by conflict, an unsteady peace has at last been found.
As the participating countries struggle to pick up the pieces following the end to a great war, there are countless voices seeking a means from which to channel their feelings.
Many people hire the services of Auto Memory Dolls, who are women armed with type-writers; part copyist, part delivery worker.
One such Doll is a young woman named Violet. After waking in a hospital and having been fitted with prosthetic arms to replace those lost in conflict, she works under CH Postal Services, and longs to find that which the war has taken from her.

What I thought-
This series managed to gather up a bit of excitement with a series of previews running up to its airing last year, with visuals best described as “luscious”, and a certain air of longing and loss expressed throughout.
I think those two attributes were held to for the most part.
Violet Evergarden is a series I would watch an episode of while I waited to clock in at work, until it became too abusive to do so.
While I don’t think the finished product achieved the fluidity and density of visuals showed in those previews, this is still a bit of a marvel from the production angle. Excellent original music and voice acting bring emotional weight to scenes, and the series not only exhibits an excellent overall style, with (in typical fashion for KyoAni) even minor characters sporting great character designs. The animation is a mixture of CG and traditional animation, though the CG is by no means overused or intrusive, and I laud the inclusion of actual, 2d animated vehicles, which have become a rarity nowadays. Something in particular which grabbed my attention with the visuals, was the attention given to the animation of character clothing. Rarely can you get a sense for texture or even how materials must feel to the touch as is the case here, with Violet’s Doll uniform being the obvious highlight. It’s a small thing, but it stands out, and it lends an extra tangible feeling to the characters on screen.
While I wouldn’t call the main narrative the primary draw, watching Violet grow over the course of the series was quite gripping on its own. What starts out as a fairly absurd character becomes one you sympathize and even relate to to some degree, and her growth feels organic and deserved given the experiences you as the viewer share with her.
These experiences are what I would consider the highlight. As Violet travels the land to carry out her services, she encounters a handful of likable characters with interesting problems. Their smaller stories range from encouraging to heart-wrenching, and watching Violet, who begins the story with limited emotional capability approach each, can be both funny and endearing.
This is a tremendous series, both in scope and thematically, and it stands as an example of Kyoto Animation’s range as a studio; capable of both airy moe comedy as well as weighty emotional drama.
Violet Evergarden is tremendous. While over-the-top at times, this is a tale rich in character and themes, with some of the most jaw-dropping visuals you will find in a 1-cour series.

 

Boy, that stream idea sure didn’t pan out, did it. There are issues seemingly related to my pc setup which cause gross artifacting during streams, seemingly regardless of what settings I use. Frustrating. We’ll keep trying different things until hopefully something works.
There is another gaming related thing I’m interested in doing should the streams fail to work out, but it may require more editing than I have time for at the moment. I’m trying, I promise!
That’s it from me for now though. Are you as amped for Springtime as I am? Enough with this cold weather..
(Last year this month.)
じゃ。

Hey Spitz, What’ve You Been Watching? January 2019

 It’s time once again.
Winter goes on and on, and it takes its toll as it does every year.
Good news at least: After two years of waiting, Koe no Katachi has a planned disc release in the West! I’ve personally been looking forward to seeing that film since I saw the theatrical trailer for its initial run in Japan, and being not much of a theater-goer myself, I haven’t jumped at the opportunity to see out its limited screenings here in America. The blu ray release has an early April release date. 2019 has been bringing the goods so far!
As far as the backlog, I was on a tear for a bit there but fell behind thanks to a couple other notable releases.
I did finish (?) the first season (?) of a series I’ve had an eye on for a bit though:

 

Little Witch Academia-
Having been exposed to the wonders of magic at a young age, Kagari Atsuko quickly developed the desire to learn the trade herself, and to become a witch of the caliber of the magical stage performing star Shiny Chariot, who has been her idol since back then.
To achieve this dream, Atsuko enlists in Luna Nova Academy, which is a school for young witches, and which happens to be the very academy from which Shiny Chariot herself learned the craft.
Being not especially gifted in witchcraft herself though, Atsuko has a winding road ahead, and she’ll need peerless grit and the support of her new friends to achieve her dreams.

What I thought-
(Because of the way this series was distributed in the West, exclusive as far as I can tell to Netflix streaming, I was unclear what the stopping point should be. The series is divided into two seasons with the first ending with episode 13, so we’ll cover that batch for now.)
This is a series I wish I loved more than I do.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think Akko and friends are a lovable bunch, and the early scenes of Akko’s early experiences with magic work tremendously and instantly draw you into the character. It’s the stretch beyond that point though, which lacks direction.
In a way, this series reminds me a bit of the sort of morning cartoons we had in the west back in the 80’s or 90’s; there is an overarching narrative of sorts, and there are moments of character growth and world-building sprinkled here and there, but the structure greatly consists of a series of one-off narratives which don’t serve much purpose to the overall plot of the series. This doesn’t make Little Witch Academia bad, but it does mean that you’re presented with a goal early on which is ignored almost entirely for the vast majority of the series.
Smaller, episode-specific narratives can be enjoyable enough, too, but save for a few in particular, they all go through the same sorts of motions, with Akko dragging her friends into mischief and somehow coming out clean (more or less) at the end.
I’m very likely being overly harsh, but the series truly does an exceptional job at filling you with the same wonder as Akko in its introductory moments, and leaves a great early impression, but follows those early minutes with a series of sort of whatever gags and pointless one-off narratives.
This is a Studio Trigger production, so there is a traditional sort of look about it. The character designs are varied and quite nice, and there aren’t many fancy modern effects distracting you away from them. As far as the visuals and sound go, this series has everything it needs to be a modern classic, but it’s missing the solid narrative it needs to achieve that. I’m hoping the second half of the series brings more by way of plot.
If you’re in the mood for some lackadaisical fantasy slice of life comedy antics, Little Witch Academia has enough character to satisfy, but those looking for an unpredictable or memorable overarching narrative, it will likely leave you wanting.

 

January was an unsuspecting knockout month for video games, between Ace Combat 7 (which will no doubt, depressingly enough, fly under many people’s radar despite how great it is) and the superb Resident Evil 2 remake. I’ve even been getting into Final Fantasy XIV a bit, too, after the recent expansion announcement promising a gunblade wielding job option.
Keep an eye on Twitch, as I’d like to do some impromptu gaming streams in the near future!
次回までね。