Friday, May 18

Denno Coil - Initial Review

Episodes watched: 3 of ?

A new and highly anticipated anime for the summer.
Interestingly weird, yet undenyably cute and charming. I can see myself watching this.
Idea's definitely a relatively fresh one. Reminds me of Serial Experiments Lain without the emo.

Initial review pending after I watch more.

No disappointments here.
After watching 2 more episodes I can confidently say this is going to be a promising series.

The setting in which the events of this series takes place is a pseudo modern world, looking identical to our own on the outside, but a closer look will reveal the technology behind what is really a world engulfed by computers and cyberpunk themes.

The story revolves around a schoolgirl girl named Yasako, and her adventures after returning to her childhood home.
As usual, not all is as it seems, and she begins to find that this place is far from your average city.
With her ability to see "augmented reality" using her special glasses (Denno Megane), Yasuko finds herself increasingly entwined with the stranger side of life in Daikoku city.
With the odd looking giant red antivirus softwares patrolling the streets, free roaming viruses known as illegals terrorising cyber pets that innocently wander the backalleys, and a mysterious group of youths who claim to hail from the Coil Denno Detective Agency, all this sets the premise of an anime that just refuses to blend in with the crowd. And this is just the beginning.

Animation is top notch, and as I mentioned before, theres something very charming about this anime.

Verdict: Excellent

Initial Rating: 9/10 - Recommended

Thursday, May 17

Halo 3 Beta Review (Completed)

The long awaited Halo 3 beta, after a short delay for Crackdown players, is finally out. You can almost picture the empty schools and offices across the globe as players of all ages flock to get a taste of Halo 3's multiplayer.
I'm not joking either, the number of kids I've met ingame today who were meant to be at school... well anyway.

Too tired from last night's celebrations to add in any more filler text, so let's get to the point.

My observations so far:

Not vastly different, first thing most people may notice is that it's made to appear slightly convexed outwards to simulate the feel of peering out through the Spartan helmet visor.
3 grenades types in the top left, the icons only showing up when you have grenades available, and a commonly disregarded shield bar top center.
Radar seems to have shorter range, most targets will be right on top of you before showing up. Weapon icons have been updated to make them easier to tell them apart with the new additions.

Fiddly to get used to, even if you're familiar with Halo 1 and 2. No major complaints apart from the use of the D pad being a bit akward for voice chat ingame, and the seemingly wasted X button since equipment is not deployed all that often, and the X button holds prime real estate on the controller as far as easy access is concerned.

Halo 2 looked great, so I imagine it was difficult to make the 3rd installation leaps and bounds ahead of it's predecessors. Effects are fancier, textures are sharper and everything looks a little bit more detailed. That aside, not much to comment on.

Not much to say; you move a bit slower, don't jump quite as high. Very impressed with the physics, particularly for grenade bouncing and vehicles (*cough* mongoose).
Shields seem about the same, hard to judge with the modifications to the weapons.
Health is what it was in Halo 2; the last few yards before the edge of the cliff.

Carbine rocks. Had to say it. It's been improved from Halo 2, and now has near perfect accuracy and decent rate of fire. Has more or less replaced the Battle Rifle in my books.
Battle Rifle is still great, but with it's burst fire as opposed to single shot and with reduced aiming aid across all weapons, it's less useful in long range and much better in mid-close.
Spiker also rocks. Much like the SMG, the Brute Spiker has a slightly slower projectile speed but makes up for it by quickly shredding opponents in mid range combat. In close range, it's great for smacking them to the floor with it's blade attachment, much akin to the Brute Shot. Best part is, it can be duel wielded.
Speaking of the SMG and Brute Shot, the former has had little change at all, while the latter has seen a complete make over. Forget the small bullet like grenades launched from the original Brute Shot, the new one feels and wields a lot more like a portable cannon. Damage is increased, blast radius increased, range improved and has the ever useful melee spike still intact.
Rocket Launchers have lost their homing, and have a slightly smaller blast radius. Still serves more or less the same purpose as the rocket launchers always have, but vehicles are less vulnerable as a whole.
Needler is definitely better, although that says little considering how useless it used to be. Projectiles move quicker but if you want to land your shots you'll still want to get up close. Damage on the other hand is lethal, little over half a clip will drop you and that's without duel wielding.
Human Sniper rifle has had a few changes made to it, but it's still generally the same old weapon. No more rapid firing though, as there's a short delay between each shot, forcing people to take their time aiming. Headshots also seem easier to achieve.
Beam Rifle, the counterpart to the Human Sniper, is much the same as it always was. You can rapid fire a few shots at the expense of overheating. In Halo 2 this was my sniper rifle of choice, but for some reason or other for me it's lost it's appeal in this new beta. As with the Human Sniper, headshots seem easier to achieve.
Plasma Rifle seems to have lost it's usefulness somewhat, with the slowish projectiles and the minimal damage to health still in place. Still good for the old fashioned SMG+Plasma combo though (or better yet, Spiker+Plasma).
Plasma Pistol has had a few nerfs and upgrades. It now screws up vehicle handling with an overcharged burst, but keeping it overcharged will slowly deplete it's ammo. As always, it drops shields instantly with a burst shot, but no longer seeks targets.
Assault Rifle, resurrected from Halo 1, is the new bread and butter weapon of Halo 3 it seems. Starting off with it in all match types except special weapon gametypes, it's a very average weapon. Average range, damage and small clip. It's far from useless but most people will want to trade it out as soon as possible.
Shotgun has been modified to emphasise it's role; short range and only short range. Now doing virtually no damage at all unless your target is in your face, it also has a smaller clip. I find it less useful as you'd have to sneak up on someone to avoid having them back away and mow you down while you're trying to get close enough.
Spartan Laser is a new fan favourite it seems. A railgun-esque weapon which takes a few seconds to fire, and the resulting blast is devastating. One shot kills and that's not limited to other players, I mean to vehicles too. You can force fire it without fully charging but the result isn't particularly useful. You can get off about 10 full blasts before having to dump it. Has partial zoom, although luckily we don't have to worry too much about big red bolts of death coming out of nowhere all the time, as the thing is rather large and unwieldly, emits a visible lasersight when charging and most of all is quite tricky to use effectively without time and patience spent mastering the weapon. There's also only ever one on each map.
Turret Machine Gun is quite literally the familiar Warthog/Stationary turret which can now be detached and lugged around. Great for defending key locations, but you won't want to carry it around too much due to the slowed movement restrictions and 3rd person view.
Missile Pod is similar, and carries a tracking device for anti vehicle use. Also impeding your movement, it acts much like a rapid fire rocket launcher with limited ammo and no reloads.
And... that's it for the beta weapons. That's right, no Energy Sword, and no Human Pistol. Yet.
On a side note, melee is particularly devastating, and with most weapons you're better off punching people that get close enough rather than continuing to fire at them. Momentum damage bonuses for melee attacks have been amplified.

Frag grenade is once again the staple grenade, and has had few changes made to it. One thing to note is how grenades and objects in general react differently depending on the surface they land on. For example, tossing a grenade on a metal surface will cause it to bounce, while throwing one in the river will result in it just stopping dead where it landed.
Sticky grenade, the original favourite, has had a few more changes. It has a less imposing smaller frame, so it's less noticeable when someone's trying to attach one to your face. Also launches faster, but is less likely to attach to someone unless aimed well, unlike in Halo 2 where skimming someone resulted in a stick.
Spike grenades, my new favourite grenade, require the most strategy to work. You can use them like sticky grenades to stick other players resulting in an instant kill, but their other uses are much more varied. They do not bounce at all, instead they cling to any surface it comes into contact with first, such as walls and ceilings. What's interesting though, is that the blast is cone shaped, emitting perpendicular to the attached surface. This makes it great for clearing out rooms and stopping would-be pursuers in tight passages.
All grenades can be thrown faster, but not as far. You can have 2 of each, which results in a current total of 6 grenades carried at any one time max. They seem more readily available to you on maps, and you'll rarely find yourself without grenades for long.

A brand new feature, equipment is launched using the X button, and are typically very strategic in their uses.
Bubble Shield, perhaps the most infamous addition to Halo 3, does exactly what the name implies. Dropping this creates a temporary sphere which stops all explosions and projectiles from passing in or out. Great for matchtypes like territories, and has a lot of imaginitive uses. Also often creates the cat and mouse melee situation, as anyone is still free to walk in and out of the bubble.
Power Drainer, a rather odd addition, creates a forcefield which gradually depletes shields and then explodes when it expires. The forcefield is easily visible though, so users should be wary of where to deploy it, especially since team mates are also affected.
Trip Mine is just that; a trip mine. When deployed, anyone that strays too close will trigger it and end up with their corpse/vehicle hurtling through the air. The most interesting use is perhaps how it can latch onto vehicles, great for strategic booby trapping.
Gravity Lift is a temporary portable jump pad; and strategic deployment can make bases a lot harder to defend.

Mongoose is one of the three vehicles available in the beta, and it's main use is for getting around. Very fast and manoueverable, it can also carry a passenger which can shoot for you using their equipped weapon. As I said, it's main use it getting around, as running over someone with it seems rather impossible. You're also extremely vulnerable while driving it as there is no cover for your exposed torso whatsoever.
Ghosts should be familiar, only really noticeable changes being the slowed down strafing capabilities, making you more vulnerable to grenades.
Warthogs are the same reliable 4 wheel transports that we all know and love. Only the machine gun turret appears in the beta, and little about the vehicle itself has been changed.
Interestingly, I have yet to see a destroyed vehicle. They appear once again quite invulnerable as they were in Halo 1. Need to confirm that.

Of the 3 maps found in the beta, High Ground has become my favourite (perhaps an overall favourite infact). It's an asymetric map with a base in one half and an outside area. Various entrances to the base and a strategic gate switch (remember Zanzibar?) make defending and attacking quite interesting.
Snowbound is a... well, snowy map. Joint smallest map with High Ground, it's mostly made up of a fairly bland surface level, a few protruding bases and winding tunnels connecting them down below. Will make for some interesting CTF games to be sure. Especially with all the barriers in places.
Valhalla is the largest map, and

-Matchmaking: Gametypes
Being a beta, there's little to comment on in regards to variety, because they're obviously trying to gather test results for certain new game types over other, older ones.
Notable new matchtypes include Shotguns and Snipers (a terrible matchtype if you ask me), a new version of territories with attack and defend rounds and VIP, where you protect a designated member of your team while simultaneously trying to kill the opposing team's VIP.

-Matchmaking: System
Was a bit slow at first, they seemed to have ironed out the major bugs though.
Aesthetics aside, not many differences compared to Halo 2's matchmaking.
Veto is a welcome addition, allowing players to vote off a map/gametype during matchmaking one time per round. If the majority of players succeed in the vote, another map/gametype will be selected and put directly into play (no further voting).

You need to bear in mind that this is, of course, a beta. According to the folks at Bungie everything and anything is subject to change before release.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get to what it all boils down to. It's fun. So if you haven't already, go grab a copy of Crackdown and join us.

I personally think that the X button and B buttons should be swapped around, so you push X for melee and B to drop equipment. You melee a hell of a lot more often than you use equipment, and X is more accessible and easier to press with A (jump) for those tricky QCB situations. Who agrees?

Edit: Dear god, someone's made it to the rank of General during the beta.
Speaking of which, with one day left, the beta is about to draw to a close. Hope you guys had fun. I know I did.
Now to wait for the full release in September.

Tuesday, May 15

Lucky ☆ Star - Initial Review

Note: I usually screencap using raws, but in this instance I figured that without dialogue there was rather little to screencap. Credits to a.f.k., LC and WiND for subs.

Episodes watched: 5 out of ?

Many fans of Haruhi and Aya pounced on this new series to fill the gap left by the end of the first season* of Haruhi Suzumiya no Yuutzu but were left somewhat disappointed .

But that's not to say it's a bad anime.

Infact, far from in the opinions of many (mine included), but it's definitely served on a different platter.
Not that filling the shoes of Haruhi would be an easy task anyway, but while the two series' share the same studio and same lead voice actor they're arguably not even in the same genre, although comedy is the predominant theme in both.

Speaking of the animation, Kyoto Animation might have done both series' but if you hadn't noticed from the screencaps above, the artwork isn't even remotely similar.

The cutesy animation put me off at first, but I ended up actually quite enjoying the episodes I've seen so far.
As for Aya, one has to wonder when she'll eventually run out of unique voices.

I've come to like the rather odd wtf-are-they-seriously-just-gonna-talk-all-episode-omg-they-did sorta humour - you could just see a thought bubble surrounding an ellipsis hovering over my head during the entirety of each episode.

There's little to talk about when it comes to the story, as the plot follows the awesomely weird Konata Izumi (Aya's character) the quirky otaku game obssessed girl, and her assorted friends in their day to day school life.

The addictive opening is wonderfully warping, whoever came up with the obscure random list of words and phrases which make up lyrics must be an interesting person indeed.

Ending sequence consists of a new anime based karaoke song performed by one of the chracters each episode.

More or less completely dialogue based, it'll really depend on you in whether you'll find it funny or just plain boring.
If you're looking for an anime that's bit more direct in it's humour, you may be better off checking out Gurren Lagann.
Likeable characters and unusual humour are enough to make me follow this one for at least a little while though.

Verdict: Subjective. Recommended, but not a series for everyone.

Initial rating: 7/10

Edit: zomg an Initial D parody in episode 6 *stops himself from upping the rating*

A heads up for people who are bent on canonically accuarate subtitles.

Credits for the questionable yet quality entertaining fansubs go to a.f.k.

* 2nd season of Haruhi Suzumiya no Yuutzu has been confirmed and is currently slated for fall '07

Finally back on track, sorta

Right. So with all my Japan application stuff sorted until Auguest 20th, I should have a little more time.

Applied for Yoshida, can't afford to wait until next April to begin KAI's 2 year course. Time's a wastin'.

Well, maybe not this week, but after my birthday celebrations are over and done with.

Let's kick off with the long overdue anime shall we. Any longer and the series would have been over by the time I did the initial review. *coughs*

Sunday, May 13

Advice, if you please (deleted)

Nope screw it, they just told me they won't let me book an apartment more than a month in advance so all that was for moot.

Let's get down to business. Picking an apartment for my relocatiing to Japan.

Apartment choice A
Apartment choice B
Apartment choice C (4th floor, room 408)

At a glance, B is the nicer apartment. A is the better location. C is the largest apartment by far.
Cost at this point is negligible cause it's hard to work out, with A not covering any costs except the building rental and B/C having all expenses paid. This makes B/C less hassle.
With A I can get to school every morning with a quick simple walk to the train station and a 25min train ride, 1 transfer. A is also situated in one of the nicest semi rural yet convenient districts.
With B it's a trek to one of the smaller newer train stations, and from then on it's a 2 transfer 1 hour journey to school. B is in a nice more rural location, but less convenient.
With C it's somewhere between the two in terms of convenience, but in the worst location in terms of living. Don't like the district.

More to come as I continue my research.

A is no longer viable, given the lack of furniture, utility management and all that stuff.

Saturday, May 12

Gotta love widgets

The radio thing over there somewhere ---------------->
Does a pretty accurate job in terms of matching my music taste actually. Well, artist-wise at least.

Thanks goes out to the guys at for doing what they do.

Lemme know if it screws up, the formatting code is a bit patchy.

Anime reviews within the next few days, promise.
I'll make up for it with a temporary mass review spree to catch up.

I've also decided my blog layout is excessively... narrow.
Gone are the days of my navigating on the laptop with the odd multi window panel style browsing I got accustomed to in Safari, so gonna try and redo it all when I get a fresh new copy of Dreamweaver.
Then again god knows when that will be, and given my chronic laziness I wouldn't expect anything at all just to be on the safe side.

Thursday, May 10

to live is to create a mess

What she said.

Although arguably the quality of the photo is scarier than the contents. Haven't found my camera yet and my webcam didn't reach so I had to resort to my phone's VGA goodness.

Fear my awesome 5 year old doraemon pen holder filled mostly with inkless hollow pens and broken pencils.

If I didn't know better I'd think most of those cables on the floor were hooked up to each other in rings, since I don't have that many appliances, or at least I don't think I do.
Haven't looked under the table for a decade, who knows what electrical monsters might be growing under there.

On a side note, what the hell are the anime produces of Bleach doing to my favourite manga chapters. They even managed to get that half assed bount guy Kariya into them.
Can you say filler?

Wednesday, May 9

Why audiophiles are stupid

This folks, is a lovely picture of my semi typical "portable" music set up. Well, without perhaps the random cardboard box and the laptop.

Before I get stabbed with "lolz u sux ipod lolz0r" or "wtf is that plugged into the whatsit", just remember: I don't care.

Well I will address the ipod issue; I got it cheap, sue me.
Actually if I had known it would sound like the deflated car tyre that it does, I would have stepped on it instead of buying it (yes, through the display window, with my boot of leathery mass destruction).

The shiny Creative Xmod hooked to a battery powered usb socket is acting as a portable amp, because I am poor and my hair that was apparently untamable like the sea (thank you Katie) was tamed using the rest of my pocket change the other day.

Actually before you people start conjuring up images of a ball of hair lurking about the streets with all the above junk strapped to it, I tend to trade out the jumbo headphones for some discrete Westone UM2's, and the rest is neatly tucked away in little cases in my bag. Most of the time at least.

Speaking of stupid gear and people, I only just realised, after looking for my SLR to take a picture of my stuff (ended up using a webcam), I haven't seen it since I got back from Japan. This is probably not good.
If I've lost my camera I'm gonna go on a killing spree, any volunteers?

Help me think up more stupid topics so I can put off doing more reviews.

Tuesday, May 8

Studying in Japan: Progress Update

Well, it looks like I won't be able to leave till next April.

Mostly a visa problem, cause I probably need 2 years of studying Japanese before I'm fluent enough to take a university course taught purely in Japanese, but their university courses open in April.

This means I'd end up with a 6 month gap between language school and uni if I started this Autumn. Something of a quandary with a 2 year shuugaku (pre-college) visa or ryuugaku (college) visa due to the way the visas work when updating and converting them for continued study.
I'm also out of time to apply for a visa for later this year anyway.

If anyone is interested in doing something similar in Japan, I've compiled below a list of helpful stuff I've dug up these past months while doing my research.
Includes accomodation, schools and other info.

Useful Links:

Tokyo Life Guide
Decent site for everything you need to know about moving to Tokyo as a foreigner, with information about accomodation amoungst other useful topics.

Expatriates guide to Japan
A list of useful resources in the form of links, gathered by people who have made the move themselves.

Japan Student Services Organisation
Yeah I don't get how the acronym works either, but this is the website of the organisation which you want look to first if you're thinking about studying in Japan.

List of recommended language schools in Tokyo:

KAI Academy
Naganuma Language School
HJC - Hiroo Japanese Center
Yoshida Institute
Kichijoji Language School

Not a definitive list of every school, just the ones I looked into the most, bearing in mind I was looking for a school which best suited me ie. didn't cater specifically for students who were already familiar with kanji, for example students from China.
Not speaking from personal experience, but I don't think you can go wrong with any of the above.
I'm aware most schools will have a largely asian student body with the exception of HJC which is a school which aims at teaching westerners only. KAI looks promising, and Naganuma is very well established. Kichijoji is, in my opinion, situated in the best place. HJC is the smallest.
Just so you know, I'm probably going for KAI.

Edit: Went with Yoshida because they were more helpful with starting in Autumn

Other schools of note:

Yamasa Institute
Yamasa is probably the largest language school in Japan, although it wasn't situated in Tokyo so it didn't make it into my list of possible considerations.
Located in the quieter city of Okazaki, this place may interest you if you're looking for a well established school in a less distracting environment.

Stuff to keep in mind:

-Many schools will require a contact in Japan who will serve as a mediator and sometimes a guardian during your study. Without one it may be impossible (I found out the hard way).
Some exceptions are KAI, HJC and Yamasa.
-You will want to plan way ahead. Getting the appropriete visa can take over 6 months, and without one you'll be going nowhere.
-Cost. It won't be cheap, start saving.
-Backup plans. Don't throw away your university applications and whatever you have going in your home country just yet, you never know what may fall through.


I'll add to this post in the future as I gather more info. Check back every now and then for updates.

Another year down the drain

So if you didn't already know, I'm planning an organised poker night thing for my birthday.
Need to find a venue to hire cause of all the people who're looking to come, but this town blows so don't count on it happening at all unless anyone has any suggestions. (Whoever thought of Albrighton hall can die and/or pay for it in my stead.)

Manchester was good, didn't expect to stay all the way through to Sunday but it killed some of my boredom at least. Prolly some of my soul and a large chunk of my wallet too.

Sometime between the alcohol and the toothpaste (what) some of us went to see Spiderman 3 at the Odeon. I'm not gonna talk about it much cause I figure it was prolly a good film, I was just disappointed cause I had overly high expectations for this chapter.
Also saw bits of 300, sandwiched between a snoring corpse and someone playing C&C. Now there's a good film, probably.

*yawn* I really need to get those reviews done.
And where the hell are all the things I ordered off ebay *grumbles*

Noir OSTs

Someone happened to remind me recently of these classic Yuki soundtracks, and subsequently I had an odd random urge to upload the album cause I hear it's getting hard to find out there, what being 6 years old and all.
It's good stuff; a perfect example of Yuki's earlier work, and one of the OSTs that really fed her current popularity.
Anime wasn't half bad either.

I didn't check if every single track is there cause my music library is more of a mess than my hair, but it should be fine.

Note: Rapidshare links, if you don't have an account you might have to wait a bit after each download if you want them all.
All files are in .rar archives.

Direct Download:
Noir OST 1 56.0mb
Noir OST 2 64.6mb
Noir OST 3 CD 1 47.7mb
Noir OST 3 CD 2 21.9mb
Links finally up. My connection blows like a legless donkey in the breeze.
An alternative to the above links would be poking around bittorrent sites, as there are still a few active torrents around as of this post.

-1. Kopperia no Hitsugi (Ali Project)
-2. Les Soldats
-3. Snow
-4. Canta Per Me
-5. Corsican Corridor
-6. Ode to Power
-7. Solitude by the Window
-8. Romance
-9. Silent Pain
-10. Lullaby
-11. Melodie
-12. Chloe
-13. Whispering Hills
-14. Zero_Hour
-15. Lair You Lie
-16. Sorrow
-17. Salva Nos
-18. Kirei na Kanjou

-1. Le Grand Retour
-2. Secret Game
-3. Fake Garden
-4. Les Soldats II
-5. In Memory of You
-6. Colosseum
-7. Salva Nos II
-8. Maze
-9. In Peace
-10. Despair
-11. Power Hungry
-12. Black is Black
-13. Canta Per Me II
-14. At Dusk
-15. Premonition
-16. Killing
-17. A Farewell Song
-18. Kirei na kanjou - Piano Version
-19. Indio

OST 3 (Noir dans blanc Noir)
-1. Red and Black
-2. Prelude
-3. Canta Per Me - Japanese Version
-4. Lullaby - Japanese Version
-5. Em More
-6. Himitsu Secret
-7. Salva Nos Dialogie - Remix
-8. Love
-9. Gensou Rakuen - Garden of Illusion

-1. Guest B
-2. Melody Salva Nos Version
-3. Jealousy
-4. At Dawn
-5. Black Society
-6. Family Affection
-7. Church
-8. At Ease

Wednesday, May 2

Yummy Yusical

I don't know. I really dont. Blame Miss. Quyen.

And to think I actually planned to make a post every day, so much for that.
So what have I been up to recently... hmm.
Well with my friends mostly at uni, Fi sucking as usual and Rach being rach (yeah, no capital R for you), I'm just staring blankly out the window most the time. Alright maybe not quite.
I hope Dan's comp explodes. The other Daniel too, that way I don't have the inclination to smash my face against the screen everytime I see your msn window with 'help me' messages in it. Yeah you know what I'm talking about.

Mum's got a new pc, won't leave me alone cause she can't work it. As of today, she's still bent on thinking that the computer would go faster if it was the same colour as the keyboard/mouse. Shoot me.

(I think) I've applied for a job as a medical lab assistant thing, which pays well but the post has a ton of responsibilities. Guess we'll see how that goes.
And... that's about it. No really.
At least my pc's working again *tosses his laptop aside*.

Alex's birthday on friday, going up to Manchester. Should be fun.

Lucky Star, Gurren Lagann and Kaze x Stigma intial reviews to come soon... probably.

Now back to your drifting.