GINTAMA [Season 3]

GINTAMA [Season 3]

Season 2 of Gintama was an unprecedented improvement over its predecessor, in my opinion. So, how does the third season fare? Let’s find out.

The third season of Gintama picks up from where the second season left the show, and runs away with it. Even more extravagantly elaborate sub-plots show up throughout, and the humor hits an even higher level in this successful successor, if I might so add. The show retains all the features which made the second season awesome, and tries to improve on it. The effort is obvious in the amount of innovation that has gone into this season, with all the grandiose schemes and the unexpectedly hilarious outcomes of the actions of the protagonists and their friends[or should I praise the manga, actually?].

The effort pays off for the majority of the anime, although on rare occasions this attempt does backfire. Once in a while, the anime focuses on the side-characters, and the bumbling trio of Gintoki, Kagura and Shinpachi are absent for the whole of the episode. Although this effort to explore the side-characters is laudable, sometimes the anime goes for 2-3 episodes without even a glimmer of them, which dulls the experience somewhat. This experiment actually ends up exemplifying the pivotal importance of Gintoki & Co. Other than this minor blemish, the anime is brilliantly made.

But undoubtedly, the overwhelming highlight of this season is the godly parody of pop culture and anime. From Prince of Tennis to Dragon Ball Z to Saw[them slasher flicks] to its own self, nothing is safe from Gintama’s clutches. For instance, an episode where Gintoki helps out a struggling manga artist and points out the familiar tropes of shounen manga, is pure gold. And there is an episode where Hijikata…well, you really have to watch that one to find out, hehe.

Overall, if you have finished watching Gintama‘s 2nd season, do yourself a favor and don’t hold yourself back from watching the 3rd season.

RATING : 9/10

PROS :
– even better parodies than the previous seasons
– feels even more innovative

CONS :
– occasional absence of the main characters for extended times hurts

Daniel Polansky – Tomorrow The Killing (Low Town #2)

Daniel Polansky – Tomorrow The Killing (Low Town #2)

The first book of Daniel Polansky’s Low Town series was a refreshing change from what I’ve been reading these last few months. So, how does the second Low Town book fare in comparison?

Tomorrow The Killing is set about three years after the first book. The Warden is approached by his old commander, General Montgomery, to find his missing daughter. The daughter has made it her objective to find out the secret behind the death of her brother, Ronald Montgomery, a man who was well-celebrated and greatly popular among the soldiers for his actions during the war. About an year and a half after the war, Ronald was found dead near a brothel, but his sister believed that her brother was killed as a part of some cover-up. Now the Warden has to scour the streets of Low Town to find the girl, before Low Town lays claim to her life too.

This book excels in the same way the first book did; the dry humor and sarcasm are served to the readers in liberal doses. The novel is not so much about the mystery, but about Low Town itself. In this way, the sequel is similar to the first book. The narrative really flows, and there is no place where the book ever feels like a drag. But the greatest part of the sequel is the exploration of the Warden’s relationships with Adolphus and Wren. We are also treated to some slices of the protagonist’s wartime experiences, which are brutal and gritty.

All in all, a worthy successor to the first book. The bleak, oppressive atmosphere created by Daniel Polansky will truly grip you to the end of the book, and will most probably compel you to obtain the final book in the trilogy too. At least, it had that effect on me.

RATING : 9.1/10

GINTAMA [Season 2]

GINTAMA [Season 2]

Season 1 of Gintama did have its flaws, but it was still an endearingly good anime, one you could watch just for some good old laughs. So how does the second season fare, in comparison?

Season 2 continues with more of Gintoki & Co.’s misadventures, and introduces more characters to the show. The anime takes on a more mature style now. Don’t mistake it for lesser humor content, though; the hilarity never ends in Gintama. But some of the episodes are really serious and touching to the heart. Also, in this season, there are a few story arcs, mini-plots which play out over 3-5 episodes. Almost all of these are just awesome to watch, they have all the humor which Gintama is famous for, along with those heartwarming moments I talked of earlier. And the soundtracks along with the theme songs, are much more rad this time around. The background especially, it really gets you going, and always suits the occasion; whether it be a bad-ass action scene or a tragic event.

The main feature of the show, which is comedy and limitless parody, is at an even higher level than in S1, a huge plus. And the show pretty much takes off right from the first episode, as there isn’t any need to be introducing the main characters all over anymore. This introductory part was the reason I felt Gintama was a bit slow off the mark in S1.

For those who’ve watched the first season of Gintama and liked it, you’ll watch S2 anyway. But even those who found the first season to be a bit of a drag, just try out at least the first 6-7 episodes of the second season. If that doesn’t hook you right back in, I don’t rightly know what will.

RATING : 9.3/10

 

PROS :
– better soundtracks and themes
– awesome story arcs
– cool new characters
– some touching moments

CONS :
– animation isn’t a great improvement over the previous season, if you still care about that sort of thing

GINTAMA [Season 1]

GINTAMA [Season 1]

I generally watch anime with the psychological aspect. So, it’s safe to assume that anime like Monster or Mirai Nikki are generally my cup of tea. But it isn’t like you can watch the same kind of anime all the time, right? So what did I do? Start Gintama, of course.

Gintama is set in a kinda-futuristic Japan. After a brutal war between the Earthlings and the aliens [called Amanto], the Earth has finally been colonized. Now the natives live alongside the Amanto, and Edo has now become a hub for commerce and pleasure on Earth. The anime follows a naturally wavy-haired out-of-job samurai, Sakata Gintoki, and his companions Shimura Shinpachi, a teenage who wants to restore his family’s dojo back to its former glory, and Kagura, an Amanto girl with immense strength and appetite. Together, the three of them battle against evil forces in an attempt to pay off their monthly rent, by working odd jobs at the accurately named Odd Jobs Gin.

The anime boasts of a barrage of colorful characters; ranging from the strict-but-fair Otose the landlady, Shinpachi’s sister Tae,  a hostess at a club and an ‘expert’ cook, to the all-awesome gang of police force, the Shinsengumi and Zura, I mean Katsura, the anti-foreigner faction leader who the Shinsengumi desperately want to capture. That is not all, there are many more characters in the show, but talking of all of them will fill up pages upon pages. And each of them have their own quirks; for example, there is a jobless guy named Hasegawa, who always gets fired because he just doesn’t want to take off his sunglasses during work.

 

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The plot in Gintama is more or less non-existent. The anime follows Gintoki and his companions’ misadventures and their tangled-up relations with the various other characters in the show. The show is more or less episodic, with occasional instances of a plot lasting for 2-3 episodes, or sometimes with the plot being dealt with in a span of half an episode, too.

But Gintama still manages to capture the viewers’ attention despite the lack of any main story, as such. How? By being rip-roaringly funny, of course. Each of the characters is hilarious in their own peculiar way, and the comical situations they wind up in all the time is just so funny. And the parodies throughout…Gintama never, ever holds back in parodying familiar tropes of anime, or mimicking the popular culture, or even better, parodying popular mainstream anime like Dragon Ball Z, Naruto etc.

The main weak point of Gintama is that it takes about 15-odd episodes to really pick up, and a few more for the viewer to actually get into the flow of the proceedings. Animation may feel a bit dated, but once the viewer gets into Gintama, he/she will cease to notice.

Overall, Gintama is a solid anime, and a good start to the series which is now in its 6th season. Or is it 7th? I don’t know. Enjoy the ride, either way!

RATING : 7.8/10 

PROS :
– hilarious throughout
– lovable characters
– amazing parodies
– brilliant soundtraks and opening/ending themes

CONS :
– animation is somewhat dated
– mostly episodic plots, which may be a turn-off for some
– somewhat slow at the start

 

Daniel Polansky – Low Town (Low Town #1)

Daniel Polansky – Low Town (Low Town #1)

It’s been some time since I’ve read the Broken Empire trilogy by Mark Lawrence, where the reader had the fun of following a delightfully amoral youth in his quest for vengeance and more. Ever since, I’ve been noticing the Low Town book creeping into my recommendations list in Goodreads. At last, I got to pick up the novel and delve into Low Town. So, is the book worth it?

The plot has a sort of low-fantasy setting, with the story being more of a grim noir-type stuff, than the regular fantasy series we often encounter in the course of our reading.  It is a sort of crime-mystery, but is not a conventional kind of book.

So, the story. The novel follows a middle-aged man called The Warden, a war-veteran and an agent of the Crown, now disgraced and making a living as a moderately successful drug dealer. One unfortunate day, he stumbles across the body of a little girl, who’s clearly been raped and tossed aside into a dilapidated section of the city. However, the issue was not just the rape, it was also the way in which the murderer covered his tracks; even the scryers[magic guys] couldn’t detect a whiff of evidence on the corpse. Circumstances force the Warden into performing an investigation into the matter on his own.

This is how the cookie begins to crumble, so to speak. The story is narrated in first-person from the POV of the Warden, and is it fun to read. The Warden is a person of no morals, and this could be no more evident in his actions and thoughts.  For a sample of the Warden’s thinking, look at this :

” I awoke with a headache that made my swollen ankle feel like a hand-job from a ten-ochre an hour hooker.”

Most of the book is sprinkled liberally with dry, oddball humor like this. Needless to say, you’ll grow to love the protagonist, what with his drug-peddling and pissing people off, and all. His companions are interesting characters as well, notably Adolphus his war-time buddy and present owner of The Staggering Earl, a bar and inn; and Wren, a street urchin the protagonist picks up on his visits to the seedy underbelly of Low Town. But the best of all, is Low Town itself; Daniel Polansky has not just set the story in a fictional town, but he has in effect created a sort of character altogether. A living, breathing place, is Low Town.

So, is the book worth it? Hell yeah it is. This is not a typical good vs evil type of fantasy. If you’re fans of Mark Lawrence’s works, or even dark crime-fiction in general, you’ll love this book. In reality, this is the kind of book I’ve been wanting to read for a long time, and am I glad at finding this…

A brilliant first book by Daniel Polansky. I’m going to rush through this series for sure, if the follow-ups are as good as this.

RATING : 9.2/10

Incidentally, the novel has released with the title ” The Straight Razor Cure” in Europe.

DARK SOULS 3

DARK SOULS 3

The hype was up for this game ever since the DS3 trailer was shown in the last year’s E3 conference, although it was overshadowed by the Bethesda’s Fallout 4 announcement then. But for the Dark Souls veterans, the release of the latest installment from From Software was one of the most anticipated games of the year. So, does the game match up to the hype it generated?

Well, yes and no. Just kidding, I meant yes AND MORE. Dark Souls 3 improves on its predecessors in many ways, and also incorporates some novel ideas, which transforms DS3 into what is not only the most polished game of the franchise, but is also one of the most unique.

Now the plot : the Age of Fire is definitely coming to an end now, though embers still remain. The protagonist is possibly the last one to come to the kingdom of Lothric to Link the Fire, so that the Age of Fire can last for a few years more. Slowly but surely though, everything is coming to a definite end. The protagonist is now referred to as the Ashen One, a testament to the fact that all the flames are dying out, with only ashes to show for their existence.

Or at least, that was my interpretation of the game’s story from whatever lore I found and experiences I encountered. The game delights in making the plot deliberately vague, so that each player can live (and die countless times) in his own story. Small tidbits are thrown to the player which explain about the lore of the Lothric kingdom. The lore is fed to the player in small pieces through item descriptions and conversations with NPCs, same as the previous games. This alone has led to the creation of countless Reddit pages and groups which try to explore the world of Dark Souls to the fullest, and give a most complete account of the worlds of Lordran, Drangelic and the latest addition, Lothric, combined.

The environments in Dark Souls 3 look gorgeous, way better than DS2 was. I can attest to this with the simple fact that I’m playing Scholar of the First Sin now, even though I’ve played DS2 before[because Fume Knight and the Scholar]. The way the light reflects off the ground during rainfall, the way the eclipsed sun illuminates the whole place with red light, or just the sheer magnificence of the structures, everything is sheer artistry. No other words for it.

The first time the player gets a glimpse of the Lothric Castle from the Cemetery of Ash area[the first area of the game] is an unforgettable feeling. That one look confirms you of the epicness in scope of DS3. I’ve always hated dungeon sections in all of the Dark Souls games[dunno if it was because of those rats or just a general aversion], but in DS3, this was not the case. I won’t say I actually liked them this time round, but at the very least I didn’t hate the experience.

Firelink Shrine is back to being the hub of all inter-bonfire travel again. But this time, a bunch of changes have been made. Firelink Shrine is now akin to being a stronghold of some type, all the main NPCs stay here. Andre the blacksmith is back, and now he’ll take care of all the reinforcements and weapon infusions you need, and all this without needing to go out of Firelink; just get him those Embers. Also, as the game progresses, another NPC, Ludleth the Exiled, will show up at Firelink; he is the guy you visit for making boss weapons. And of course our favorite person, the Firekeeper, hangs out at Firelink Shrine, so visits here will be all too regular for the players whenever they wish to level up. So basically, the player will not need to venture outside Firelink to upgrade their character in whatever way.

But we all know that combat is the main reason why we’re fans of the series, don’t we? So how’s combat this time? I’m delighted to say the combat is way, way better than in the previous games. Combat is now closer to the first DS game[diving dodges are back!], and is much faster this iteration. Not Bloodborne-level fast, but faster than the previous DS games. Most importantly for us boss-fight lovers, the transitions from dodges to attacks is now near-seamless. As opposed to DS2 where there was a definite lag between giving the input, and the character actually executing the command; a source of frustration for all of us who died during boss encounters due to lag rather than our own mistakes. Also, while consuming them Estus Flasks, the character will no longer stand still, but instead walk in the direction of our inputs, which makes a whole lot of difference to the risk-benefit factor of using an Estus during a fight.

The introduction of the all-new Weapon Arts revolutionizes combat like never before. Most of the weapons you equip will have some special attacks attributed to them; you get into a Stance, then when you use an attack, the character will perform an empowered attack after some wind-up. Also, when you equip twin-weapons and use two-handed grip, you’ll equip a weapon in each hand; you’ll now have access to special attack combos which cause a bunch of damage and besides, look super-cool in action. For the best showcase of Weapon Arts, get to the Dancer of the Boreal Valley boss-fight, and get the Dancer to her second phase. It’s so very beautiful and deadly.

For those who haven’t played any of the DS games but like challenges, do yourself a favor and start playing them games, but in sequence. The story is hard to get into if DS3 is your first foray into the DS world, because the story-telling style is very much different from the regular, mainstream games we’re all so accustomed to. In fact, I think the only game that comes close to this kind of story-telling would be Divinity : Original Sin. But for those who want to start with DS3 and know how the main items work, and the concept of Souls, please refer to my Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 reviews.

Of course, a game as massive as DS3 will have some flaws; it’s only natural, if undesirable. Occasional frame-rate dips happen, and sometimes I experienced movement-related glitches, which can prove fatal depending on the situation. Other than that, DS3 is a stellar game.

Dark Souls 3 is not as large as its previous iterations, with the playthrough time for DS3 being about 35-40 hours, compared to the 60 hour-odd play time each for both the previous iterations. However, this is no cause for concern, as the gameplay is much tighter here in DS3. The boss-fights are much tougher now, and each boss has his own unique style. DS3 has less than 20 bosses now, but each of them is a pain in his/her own way. This game is more about quality than quantity. All these features combine to make this the most fast-paced and the toughest Dark Souls yet.

RATING : 9.8/10

PROS :
– plot progression
– faster combat
– all-new Weapon Arts
– beautifully rendered environments
– bosses are awesome

CONS :
– rare frame-rate dips
– occasional movement glitches

 

 

 

DARK SOULS 3 : How to get to Archdragon Peak

DARK SOULS 3 : How to get to Archdragon Peak

For those of you guys who want to explore the entirety of the DS3 world, but are having trouble figuring out how to get to Archdragon Peak.

To get to Archdragon Peak, first up you have to go to the Consumed King’s Garden. What you do is, once you defeat Dancer of the Boreal Valley,  you go up the ladder that drops down after the fight and go left, instead of straight ahead[going straight will lead you towards the main quest-line]. You fight a big-sized enemy here and then take an elevator which leads you straight down to the Consumed King’s Garden.

At the end of the area, you fight Oceiros, the Consumed King. After defeating him, open the double doors at the other end of the arena.

You now pass through a small corridor, at the end of which you fight a manserpent. The corridor opens into a huge hall with a few treasure chests to open. You’ll also see a statue/fallen soldier in a sitting position, and in his lap is an item to collect. This “item” happens to be the Path of the Dragon emote[courtesy Gamespot for the image].

[NOTE : Go down the hall, open the treasure chest at the far end, then hit the wall to open up a new path. This route will take you down to the Untended Graves, where a dark secret awaits your journey’s end.]

Now, from here, you need to go to the Irithyll Dungeon bonfire. Go through the prison area, passing the jailer guys on the top floor, and go down the stairs on the other side[where 3 of them jailer guys are waiting for you, along with a skeleton-filled cage]. After speedrunning/killing the enemies, go to your right and open the door. Go on and take the elevator; it’ll take you down. You’ll come to this place.

Now. go near the dragon-like thing, and use the Path of the Dragon emote. Sit for about 5 seconds or so; a brief cut-scene will play, followed by you getting transported to Archdragon Peak. Hurray!