February 2021 media round-up

What I played/read/watched in February 2021.

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I ended up reading a lot of manga because I discovered how much the library ebook/overdrive system had. The nice thing about manga for me, is that it reads a lot quicker than just text-based books. As usual, vague spoilers may be found below.

Yakuza 5

The theme of this game was very heavily focused on dreams (the aspirational type, not sleeping ones). I really wasn't sure how the baseball man's plot would link up to it all, but it was satisfying to see it come together. I laughed at random naked workouts...I am in disbelief at the secret marriage. I wonder if they ever made that fountain pen a limited edition item that fans could buy!?

Part 1: I think there's a new contender for biggest himbo in the series: Watase?! I'm much more into Kiryu's uniform. I am very bad at racing but laughed at the very obvious eurobeat music that comes with the minigame.

Part 2: Saejima's crop cut YEA! I laughed really hard at his fist pumping and injections during karaoke. Gross inmate sticking fingers into wound NO! Baba's volatile feelings...! I was very close to gameover-ing during this snowmobile scene. I can't believe the anti-social old snow man has clothing in Saejima's size and style by accident HAHA. I got trapped running away from bears.

Part 3: Haruka had some pretty hilarious ponytail physics going on, and her L-shaped bum wiggle dance move makes me laugh. I'm very bad at the dance battles because it requires another level of button coordination that I don't have. I got really into the idol part because I didn't want to lose to those other idols. I was really DNW about Park at the beginning but of course she makes me cry later...!!!!

Part 4: I recognize Aikawa Show from Odoru Daisousasen / Isseifubi SEPIA hahaha. I also unknowingly gameover-ed at because it was in the middle of a cutscene but then suddenly I had to push a very specific button to do a very specific thing that was critical to the plot...!

I thought that the plot twist at the very end was kind of unnecessary! I wanted an ended with old men cheering at an idol concert instead. The game tried (?) to be all stealth with secret characters, but I could tell who they were from their voices and overall appearance, haha. I feel like I can write autobio reaction zine about this series, but only after i play more substories and Y6 later in March...

Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

This book reads like an extended meandering rant, but I don't mean that in a bad way. I think it's more like if you had a meal with a friend you haven't seen in years, and the book is like the script of that what that friend told you. Much of it is relatable if you come from a background that overlaps with her. She makes a reference to Trinh T. Minh-Ha's "Speaking Nearby" which I didn't know about before, but found it to be a good articulation of how to still be a creative and include other experiences that you don't personally have.

Yuzu the Pet Vet vol. 1 by Mingo Ito

The comics were serialized in Nakayoshi and then compiled into a volume. I had a feeling that I would cry really bad since it's about a vet clinic, but I was also convinced that since it's targeted towards young girls maybe it would be more happy-go-lucky, but I was wrong. I was hit with pets dying of old age, cancer, dementia, etc. which ultimately made me cry, but they're all good tears. The stories aren't super deep, but they are indeed wholesome. A lot of cute animals too!

Behind the Scenes!! vol.1 by Bisco Hatori

The last time I touched any of Bisco Hatori's work was Ouran Host Club eons ago, so I thought I'd try this series out. There's a lot going on in the comic panels...so much freaking out. I find it hard to sympathize/empathize with these extremely low confidence characters with a lot of skill/talent. The setting of the series is interesting (university/college prop/setting/staging/art club for movies and films) but I wasn't sure where the series was going; specifically I don't feel "hooked" after reading one volume!

Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist's Journey vol.1 by Akiko Higashimura

I've heard great things about Akiko Higashimura's work (Princess Jellyfish, etc.). I even watched a Manben episode (hosted by Naoki Urasawa) with her in it, but haven't read any of her work until now. This is autobio about her artistic journey, starting from when she was in highschool, trying to apply to art colleges/universities. Her overconfidence was really surprising...but ultimately in reflection I can tell that she really valued her strict art teacher's lessons. I definitely want to continue reading this, to see her relationship and feelings evolve.

Crocodile Baron vol.1 by Takuya Okada

Like a lot of other food-related manga, there is always a trope where they eat a thing and then make an exaggerated comparison to something else. I was a bit weirded out about how the crocodile is very crocodile looking while a lot of the other mammals seem to be more...human/manga-eye-d? In particular the rabbit companion is a very unappealing leech-type character. The art is well done but I don't think there is much substance otherwise to keep me going on another volume.

The Delinquent Housewife vol.1 by Nemu Yoko

Since I read The Way of the Househusband, I figured I could read the reverse situation, where a woman who sucks at housekeeping, becomes a housewife, and tries to hide her delinquent / bosozoku background from her soon-to-be-in-law family. I like how the little sister's nefarious acts are being countered by the seemingly innocent grandpa. I'll probably continue this series!

Ninth Floor (2015)

Mina Shum directed documentary film about the Sir George Williams event in Quebec, 1969, where black students and their allies occupied the 9th floor of a Sir George Williams university (now Concordia) building because of non-action from the university administration about racism charges against a white university professor, Perry Anderson. According to wiki it was the largest occupation in Canadian history! It's always embarrassing (and telling) how nobody ever teaches this stuff in Canada education system. I am also ignorant (hence why I've been trying to learn and listen more) so ultimately I'm glad to have watched this. Artistically, the shots were all quite interesting and purposefully chosen.

Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?! vol.1-2 by Yuu Toyota

The series was recommended by Kendra (though I suppose it might've been the live action tv show) so I decided to check it out at the library. It's pretty wholesome, cute, and guilty pleasure BL manga fluff hahahaha so no complaints!! I think Kurosawa's hidden train of thought is very similar to Austin's hahaha. The long-game persistent pining is strong with that one!

Witch Hat Atelier vol.7 by Kamome Shirahama

Ouuu more of Quifrey's background is revealed...! That part where he pulls down the hat...!!!!!! SO SNEAKY!!!

Today's music post: Sickboy by 카코포니(cacophony). I like the bond-esque drama in this song!

HWAnimation storyboard

Storyboard for HWAnimation snowy scene

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Spoilers for Here We Are chapter 9!

When I first conceived of the HWAnimation project, I confidently said to myself "I don't need a storyboard! The comic IS the storyboard!", but I was wrong. Ultimately I don't draw comics as if you're looking through a camera; at least, not all the time. Sometimes I do for specific panels, otherwise I tend to vary angles, layout sizes, and zooms, which would've made a horrible, nauseating viewing experience when translated to motion.

It took a little bit more effort to move from the comic to the animated sequence. I'm not convinced it is a good translation, since it looks very simple in storyboard (left). The scene itself has a lot of subtlety in expression and body language, so I kept shots pretty clear and static so viewers can focus their attention on the minute motion. Secondarily I kept angles simple because I'm a beginner who doesn't really know how to draw or animate properly.

In the comic (right), the subtlety is done through focused panels and close-up shots.

photo of storyboards for animation on the left, and the representative comic pages on the right photo of storyboards for animation on the left, and the representative comic pages on the right photo of storyboards for animation on the left, and the representative comic pages on the right photo of storyboards for animation on the left, and the representative comic pages on the right

I used these super loose storyboards and made the v2 animatic and then v2 was further refined into v3 animatic.

Some current stills from the next iteration, which I'm slowing working through.

Drawing of Austin in graduation garb, entering a snowy outdoor scene, surrounded by other graduates Drawing of Austin in graduation garb, looking around a snowy outdoor scene, surrounded by other graduates Drawing of various characters in graduation garb, except for an out-of-focus person in the middle of the frame, wearing a maroon/wine coat Drawing of various out-of-focus characters in graduation garb, except for an in-focus person in the middle of the frame, wearing a maroon/wine coat Drawing of Austin walking towards Jake, in a snowy outdoor scene, surrounded by other graduates and pine trees Drawing of Austin hesitating to reach out to Jake, in a snowy outdoor scene, surrounded by other graduates and pine trees

I've definitely learned a lot about drawing and workflow through this experience. Truthfully some of the later scenes are better than the earlier scenes because I learned some new tricks along the way, but don't have time to go back and futz with the earlier parts. I'm also trying to steer clear of Adobe in production; so far I've only used:

  • Clip Studio Paint EX for all the drawing and compositing
  • Audacity to crop up audio files into shorter bits. CSP's audio capabilities are pretty limited, so I will admit that I won't be spending too much time on getting fancy with the audio (I'm already very tired from DRAWING......let alone audio leveling and mixinggggggggggg ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh)
  • Affinity Photo to blur some bgs to make it more lens blur effect (instead of the gaussian blur effect I found in CSP, which are shown above)
  • Sometimes the default video editor that comes with Windows to quickly string together disparate clips (to see how it flows, preliminarily)
  • Handbrake for compression, though the file size and export quality straight out of CSP is pretty impressive though (it does take a while...).

Today's music post: Technology by Fatima.

Good animal content

Good animal doodles and inspiration.

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Happy Lunar New Year!

I like to intentionally surround myself with things that make me happy. This usually means funny animal things! I sometimes write/draw them in my journal so I can remember them later. Here's a sampling...

Drawing of Zuu, an exotic cat from Pechanko Bocco and Zuu

Pechanko Bocco and Zuu: flat-faced cats that never look pleased. If you're like me and don't have IG, there is an interview on Bored Panda.

Drawing of Muchkin, a calling duck, quacking

Munchkin the calling duck: she's quacking with her whole body here. I love her.

Drawings of blunt-headed burrowing frog in frontal view and dorsal view

Blunt-headed burrowing frog (glyphoglossus molossus): an absolute unit of a frog

Drawing of conger eels in maki sushi-shaped tubes

Conger eels resting inside maki-shaped tubes at the Sendai umino-mori aquarium: I love to see eels and fish nestled up in bunches in tubes.

Drawing of a guinea pig car from Pui Pui Molcar

Pui Pui Molcar: ultra charming felted guinea pig cars, animated via stop motion!

Drawing of an original character: a sheep named Pinkey. Unlike the real Pinkey, in this drawing, Pinkey has 3-heads like a cerberus

3-headed Pinkey: inspired by cerberus. Is this Pinkey friendly? Hmm...

Drawings of an original character: a sheep named Pinkey. The drawing is done in blue ink and features Pinkey sitting on his legs (loafing) but also a loaf of bread shaped like Pinkey.

Pinkey loaf: inspired by animal loaves

Photo of various plush animals near or inside of a plush drawstring bag. The drawstring bag is from the brand MilkJoy and is in the same of a friendly orange.

Various things in this orange-shaped Milkjoy drawstring bag: a moment of serendipitous genius

Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary: I love this website's aesthetic and charm. It's all very wholesome and I can feel the love radiate from every word and image.

Today's music post: No Good by Carmen Rodgers.

January media round-up

What my eyes saw Dec 2020/January 2021

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The Way of the House Husband 1-4 by Kousuke Oono (2019-ongoing)

This is a comic series about a legendary guy who quits yakuza to become a house husband. All the yakuza-adjacent men are very over the top and intense. Detailed well drawn funny comics...read extremely fast. It feels like a pity that it's so well drawn (nearly every panel has an amazingly detailed background that doesn't distract?!) but as a reader you move through the comedic panels so quickly that you don't really stop to appreciate the labour that goes into the visual part. The weird side cat comics were very amusing to me, haha. There's a part where there's a roach that climbs onto Miku's anime figure, and I felt that really hard.

The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power by Desmond Cole (2020)

I watched the CBC gem, a while back. I wasn't sure if the book was going to overlap the CBC gem documentary (?), but it doesn't. The CBC gem feels like it's exploring blackness and vulnerability in a different structure/timeline. The book itself is paced across a year in Toronto, presenting life stories about specific black individuals or communities in Canada. I appreciated more knowledge about policing and incarceration in schools and immigration system. It was written in a way that felt more personal and human. A succinct read that can be done in a few hours, but probably longer if you wanted to take notes and process and along the way. Ultimately I think reading this will help me develop a stronger opinion on several racial and judicial topics at a government level.

Witch Hat Atelier 1-6 by Kamome Shirahama (2019-ongoing)

A comic series about a girl who wants to become a witch! Ummmmmmm so cute wholesome beautiful relatable even if they're all children...I appreciate that these kids are feeling all their feels in a vulnerable and raw way and are allowed to do that without any adults hushing them. Also ridiculously beautiful drawn! I'll be following the series because there are many mysteries to be uncovered! I think this series would be great for many ages...

Redline (2009)

What an interesting animation...? I wasn't really into the actual plot or characters at all (there isn't much plot or depth), but it did some very interesting and exaggerated animation shots and angles. I've read that it's a case of animation for the sake of animation (there's a lot of happening on screen, everything moves!) so it is impressive, from a technical point of view, how much effort and attention to detail was put into the movie. The character designs were really something else, as in, many of the non-human races weren't conventionally attractive and took a while for my eyeballs to get used to. Some of them reminded me of Macross' Zentradi. IMO the movie itself was squarely male-gazey, which is simply not my cup of tea, though it could be fine for others. I'm a bit shocked at how it ended (that font!) since I thought it was a ending that the in-movie broadcasting system made, but it was...not haha.

I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown (2018)

A memoir by Austin Channing Brown, a black woman who was given the name Austin for both familial reasons and broader systemic ones. I knew I was in for a good ride when the first chapter was titled "White people are exhausting" haha. Although the author calls out whiteness prominently in the book, I felt that it was also essential for non-black POC like myself to check on their own anti-black biases and behaviours. The book has many truth bombs that were familiar and validating to me (from my own observations and experiences with white people). There was an element of whiteness in faith and christian institutions that I didn't come across as prominently in some of my other readings, so it was interesting to learn about that perspective as. I have personally (but differently) felt oppression or injustice in organizations and have been "reprimanded" for speaking out about it. The tiredness and hopelessness is likely a universal feeling for many BIPOC, but I did find comfort in her description of living and loving in the shadow of hope—still engaging and showing up for justice, even when you have no idea if what you're doing is going to make a difference (i.e., keep working in the dark).

Doing nothing was no longer an option for me.

I finished reading the memoir in about 4 hours in one sitting, so topic aside, it was written very clearly and easy to move through the book at steady and interested pace!

Yakuza 3 and 4 (remastered, 2019-2020)

I blitzed through the plot in 4 days on easy mode. I only play easy mode. It was the first time I played with a gamepad (thanks Bea) so it took a lot of adjustment. I still can't click the right buttons to activate the correct moves because I don't have that muscle memory. I still play karaoke with keyboard because it's easier! I honestly don't know how people can play the series without starting from the beginning, since there is a lot of lore that you miss out on without the prior story (or substory) context.

There could be some vague spoilers below, so read at your own risk...

After playing more of these games I've come to notice the patterns in plot and fights, hahaha Naked men, rooftops, simultaneous matching punches/kicks/jumps, deception and betrayal, crying, conveniently timed yet selective gun shots, attempts to redeem bad guys, turning your back on the enemy and getting literally backstabbed, etc. All of these games need more MAJIMA GORO.

Yakuza 3

There was a literal and figurative "cop out" at the very beginning that was very disappointing, but I enjoyed the rest of the plot. I cried soooooo much, especially because of all the orphanage-related kid feelings (so raw!). The beginning is very much like a "dad" simulator, hehe. I spent a lot of time taking care of my kids. Tamashiro is the worst and I hate him!! I could've gotten more into Mine if he had more air time. The American's voice actor and pronunciation of "roof" as "ruff" was peculiar, as well as why anyone would tell a stranger that they have "beautiful eyes" when you just shot someone they knew?

Yakuza 4

I don't think I cried at all in Y4, but it felt like a longer game because of the rotation of playable characters. Akimiya's legs are so fast...I also feel like he is maybe the only one that really uses his brain, while Saejima and Kiryu have more bushido and gokudo-esque sense of "righteousness" which often results in brawn over brains. There was something about the distance between Tanimura's eyeballs that bothered me; he and Kiryu look more fake to me than Saejima and Akimiya! I wasn't convinced I could forgive Hamazaki after Y3 but he did the team a solid. I discovered that Katsuragi more or less is a Japanese-looking version of Lunge from Monster. Y4 resolves/brings together a lot of plot from Y0 and Kiwami 1-2. I thought Saejima's plot was the most interesting because of the historical nature of his story. I really despised the prison warden!

What's coming up next?

I have to slow down on reading/watching since I want to "finish" the HWAnimation snow scene in the next few months.

I began mirroring posts from this freetalk, onto Pillowfort, but Pillowfort is down for a while! Thank goodness I have my own space...

Today's music post: Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar) by Flying Lotus.

Jake x Fountain pen

TA+d Fiber bamboo fountain pen

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Another edition of OC x Fountain pen HAHA. Previous one was Austin x Fountain pen...this time it's Jake!!

A photo of a fountain pen laying on top of an open cross grid notebook page full of character sketches

TA+D Fiber Bamboo Fountain Pen

The specific pen I paired with Jake is the TA+d (TreAsia-design, Taiwan) Fiber bamboo fountain pen with a Schmidt steel iridium point nib in F point.

I like the tag line on the box that says "Write like nobody's reading" which is precisely what I'm do for anything I make.

Photo collage of a fountain pen in its original box packaging, as well as close up shots of the nib, cap, and grip section. The pen is matte black aluminum

The pen comes with (I assume) a Schmidt converter and an international small cartridge. Looking at the interior barrel of the pen and size of the converter, I think it could fit a regular/long cartridge too.

Photo collage of a fountain pen in its original box packaging, as well as close up shots of the cap and back of the pen. The pen is matte black aluminum with a brown bamboo stub in the back

Everything about the pen is pretty understated and minimal, which is very much Jake's aesthetic from an apperance POV. There are some subtle striations on the aluminum pen body, a magnetic cap, and a little bamboo stub on the back-end. These choices seem to be both practical and for design aesthetic. The cap can't be posted, but its magnetic powers do allow it to function as a pen rest.

Photo collage of a fountain pen on a white background. The pen is matte black aluminum with a brown bamboo stub in the back

This is definitely a pen that has a risk of rolling away on your table...possibly plummeting to catastrophe (also very Jake-like HAHA). It is also quite weighted (~32g with ink + converter) compared to some of my other pens, so it feels durable from a functional POV. Jake is a sturdy seeming person, but also carries a lot of emotion weight inside of him (at this point, I'm making things up about how the pen pairs up with the OC).

I didn't have a Schmidt nib nor a minimal-leaning pen in my collection, so this pen is a fun addition to the roster. I stumbled onto this pen during excessive Pinkoi browsing. Compared to some of my other pens, this pen put down a FINE line and is on the dryer side. I'm actually able to get subtle hatching effects when doing fast strokes, like you would expect from a pigment/fineliner.

Photo collage of 2 closer-up shots of the nib and section of the pen, on a paper background with drawn patterns. The right photo shows the edge of the metal section where the black plating was worn off to reveal the original aluminum colour.

I have had ink drip/glob from the sides of the fin when uncapping quickly (sometimes flinging onto my paper), though it doesn't leak down via gravity when I'm writing. Maybe it's a cap suction/vacuum thing. Now I try to be slower with my uncapping to prevent this. After using it for a bit (~a month?) I also found some wear on the lip of the section that interfaces with the inner cap. I went through the stock cartridge. I usually clean out the stock cartridge and refill it with a syringe, but the holes on the cartridge seem to be extra small (compared to say, Pilot) so it is harder to clean out. Now I'm using Noodler's Ink eel cactus fruit loaded up in the Schmidt converter, which seems to perform similarly to the stock cartridge. Since this ink is lubricated and tends to write wet, I thought it could be a good pair with this dryer, finer, pen. Also, Jake is a Pinkey fan (haha).

The packaging was equally minimal, fully made of paper, and non-excessive, which I truly appreciate. I really don't like all the plastic and foam that comes with some of my other pen boxes...

Photo collage of the packaging box of a fountain pen. The box is entirely made of paper and is primarily textured matte black with some minimal golden foil accents and text. The box was designed to be slip case that reveals the bottom box that holds the pen.

Here's a comparison with Austin / FPR Himalayan v2 GT...very different vibes.

Photo of an orange and black swirled fountain pen on top (FPR Himayalan v2 GT), and a black matte fountain pen on the bottom (TA+d fiber).

Today's music post: Three Hour Drive by Alicia Keys feat. SiR (Colors Studios). A friend mentioned to me how Alicia sounds a bit like Utada Hikaru (and/or vice versa) in parts of this song.