About Me

I'm Phil! American living in Japan. Teacher. Ex-independent professional wrestler. Student of Japanese. Traveler. Article writer for Mythic Scribes. Also written four manga, novels, and various short stories and poems. For my fantasy-related blog, check out http://www.philipoverbyfantasy.blogspot.jp/.


Drill Bits: random thoughts, bloggy stuff
Japan Hammer: topics about Japan
Story Time: stories I felt like posting

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Japan Hammer: My Top 5 Anime

Japan Hammer will be my new sub-section of my blog where I discuss Japanese stuff. If there is something Japanese that interests you that you want me to talk about, comment and tell me. I'll scrounge up something.

5. Berserk: I watched this many moons ago and it still sticks with me. I mean the hero's name is Guts. I wish I could be named Guts. One day I want to write something as beautifully brutal as Berserk. Most of the series is Guts mutilating people in a glorious fashion. He has a frenemy in Griffith, who wears armor that looks like a bird. Get it? Like a griffon. Because it's like a bird.

I remember seeing the DVD cover for this. Even the DVD was bloody. I highly recommend it, even though the original series didn't finish apparently. So there is a really bizarre ending. I mean ape shit nutter-butter crazy.

4. Record of Lodoss War: Insanely epic and wickedly generic, it is a Dungeon and Dragon fanboy's wet dream. Sexy elves. Grumpy dwarves. Sexy sorceresses. Crafty thieves. Blood. Magic. Dragons. A generic looking swordsman hero. But for some reason the combination of Japanese aesthetic with Tolkien rip-off material worked. It takes forever to watch the whole thing, but it is worth it. Generic never felt this good.

3. Princess Mononoke: Miyazaki's a bad ass. No one can dispute that. This is my favorite of his movies I've seen though. However, please don't watch the English dubbed version. It is annoying to me for some reason.

The story is pretty original as far as I can tell. A warrior tries to heal his curse after fighting a demon possessed god. There are gods represented by each animal. Wolf god, deer god, boar god, etc. Classic combination of nature=good, technology=evil. But not done in an annoying hippie way. If Al Gore could make an anime, this would be it.

Guns are bad, mmmkay?

2. Fist of the North Star: I guess you are noticing a trend here. I like fantasy stuff. Fist of the North Star is a bit of fantasy but mostly inspired by dystopian futures and Road Warrior style characters. A stark landscape. A lone hero. He must save the wastelands from evil warlords who have used their power to enslave the masses. A man destined for greatness. A man driven by honor. A man who can punch people and their heads explode. Yes.

Here's a montage of people dying in gruesome ways. Mostly with their heads exploding.

1. Akira: "Neo-Tokyo is about to explode." No question. Akira is number one. It is awesome. Weird storyline involving weird crap I can't really explain. A psychotic telekinetic who can blow up tanks and make peoples heads explode (again with the head exploding...geez). Lots of cool motorcycle chases that are cooler than Tron. Cool epic sounding music. A laser bazooka. A big ass teddy bear that has milk leaking out of it. Wow, makes me want to watch it again.

I love Akira's style. Its crazed violence. Its political intrigue. Its bat shit story. Its moments of genuine emotion. To me it's the ultimate anime.

Well those are my top 5 anime in my opinion. If you have suggestions or other thoughts, let me know!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Final Fantasy Memories Part 4: Final Fantasy H8s You (Until FF14)

Final Fantasy 8. Oh, what to say...Honestly, I don't have much to say about this one. I remember I was hotly anticipating the next Final Fantasy after the fantastic FF7. I think I even went to Wal-Mart and got it on the midnight launch, as sad as that sounds. Poor me. I didn't know what I was getting into.

I actually remember playing a demo for FF8 and thinking how cool it would be. There was a cool looking guy with a leather jacket and a gun-blade. Take two cool weapons. A gun and a sword. Combine them togther? Gun-blade! The weapon was so cool, that they gave it to Lightning for FF13. Because 8 sucked and no one remembers Squall using one.

I have to say FF8 was one of the most divisive RPGs of all time. Some people liked the more realistic approach to character design. The romantic story line. The unique Draw system. But I didn't get it. I have the game now for PSP but I am still not very interested in playing it again.

I would say that FF8 and FF14 have probably come the closest to destroying the image of Final Fantasy. FF8 was so universally hated in fact, that in an attempt to satisfy fans, the next game was FF9, a complete throw-back to older and better Final Fantasies.

Square Enix says they are sorry. Here is the awesome FF9.

Some things I remember from FF8 (which goes to show how little I remember from it)

1. Squall is a complete buzz-kill loser. He just whines and complains . I guess Japanese gamers like those kind of protagonists? I don't know. In all fairness, Squall was one of the first emo characters in RPGs.

2. Seifer. Seifer was like Squall except he had a coat. And blond hair. They even had the same weapon. I remember thinking, "oh it's going to be bad ass when I finally get to fight Seifer!" If I recall, the final battle with Seifer is rather anti-climatic. He just goes away or something.

3. The last boss. Queen something or other. The last boss of FF8 is so unmemorable that no one probably knows her name without looking it up on Wikipedia.

4. The other characters. Who were the other characters? Rinoa, who was like Aerith and Tifa mixed together except not as interesting. Some guy with spiked hair and weird shorts. His name started with a Z. Um, some girl with a whip. Quistis I think? Uh...who else. Seriously, the game had no memorable characters.

5. Laguna. Yes, Laguna. In a sort of weird dream sequence deal, you meet Laguna. Who is he? I have no clue. A reporter or something. You get to play as him some. But I forget why. Seriously, the game had no direction whatsoever.

6. You go in outer space at some point. I guess.

You may think "Phil, it sounds like you didn't play this game." I promise I did. I really don't remember anything from it, it was so boring.

So Square sends out a love letter to the fans called FF9. I think because expectations were lowered from FF8, a game that many recall as one of the top 3 Final Fantasies is widely overlooked.

I will talk about the grossly underrated FF9 next go. Please send all FF8 hate mail to me via Facebook.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Final Fantasy Memories Part 3: The Playstation is Born (Mostly due to FF7)

Well, it wasn't Crash Bandicoot. Almost single-handedly selling millions of Playstation units was the RPG of RPGs, Final Fantasy 7. I remember thinking back then, screw getting a Nintendo 64, Mario sucks anyhow. My whole console buying experience was banked on where the Final Fantasy series went. Nintendo let it slip away for the moment. So Playstation it was.

Final Fantasy 7 marked the moment where the series took a controversial turn. It was abandoning its "fantasy" roots and embracing a more steampunk-ish, sci-fi stance. In retrospect, I am not sure why FF7 is widely regarded as the best in the series. It wasn't. Maybe top 3?

It was definitely a great game. Cloud Strife represented a long string of semi-mute, brooding anti-heroes in JRPGs that would come afterward. He wasn't the most sympathetic of main characters, but he had a ton of interesting characters around him that brought out the story. Most prominent being Aerith. Simply being, Aerith's existence in FF7 made Sephiroth, the white haired enigma with the black coat, one of the most hated villains in all of video games. SPOILER! Diving from the heavens, plunging his massively wicked Masamune through Aerith's back and through her stomach, he cemented himself as a calloused, despicable villain. And the scene where he burns the village and disappears into the flames is one of the most chilling, bad ass moments a villain can have. Geez...

Cloud, Sephiroth, Aerith, these are not just iconic Final Fantasy characters, these are iconic video game characters period.

So I would say Final Fantasy 7 brought the series to the mainstream for sure. Is that a good thing? I guess.

I remember being in junior high and hurrying home to play. The four discs were unprecedented in games at that time. Just made it seem even more epic. In retrospect, I vaguely remember finishing the game. I remember it being hard. Sephiroth being one of those transmogrifying multi-tiered bosses that wreck the most casual of players but give a genuine challenge to hardcore Final Fantasy enthusiasts.

I am by no means a Final Fantasy completist. I am happy just finishing the game. FF7 was well known for epic summons such as Knights of the Round and the hard-as-balls Weapons who caused many a headache for my friends who were more into that kind of thing.

Big ass swords, Mako reactors, tragic characters, planet destroying summons, weird dream sequences, a talking cat robot that rode on top of a big stuffed animal that looked like a deformed polar bear. This game had it all.

It was so popular in fact that it bred spin-off titles. The critically panned Dirge of the Cerberus featured vampiric gunslinger Vincent Valentine in a sort of 3rd person action game. It wasn't very good from what I remember. A better 3rd person action game came later in the form of Crisis Core, which in involved super-duper minor character Zack, who is barely in the original FF7 for 2 minutes. But the big super duper Buster Sword came from him and you get to swing the bastard around so that is kind of cool.

Since living in Japan, I have found that the most available game related Final Fantasy merchandise seems to be from FF7. I have several FF7 post cards and even a Barrett key chain (yeah, it is massive as well). The Japanese love FF7 that's for sure.

What would follow were two more Final Fantasy titles for the Playstation. The misunderstood and possibly better than I remembered FF8 and the dark horse of the series even though it is awesome, FF9. I'll cover them next time. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Bunch of Books in a Bunch of Days-Book 1: Snuff by Chuck Palahnuik

WARNING: If you don't want to read about anything that might offend you, then go watch cat videos on Youtube or update your Facebook page or go play with your pet bird or something.

Did you leave yet? Oh, you're still here. Poor you.

I am doing this new thing where I am trying to read a bunch of books I have been hoarding. I have not read these books primarily because:

a. I am lazy
b. I am too busy doing other shit such as writing my own stuff for my own amusement and trying to produce a manga
c. I play too many video games

So in an effort to stop myself from showing up on the TV show "Hoarders" I have concocted a plan to rid myself of these bothersome books. Fahrenheit 451 style. I'm going to burn them.

But first I guess I'll read them. And memorize them. In case in a future lifetime, some poor soul wants to hear the story of Cassie Wright, who intends to break the record of the world's largest gang bang. "Well, sonny, sit down here by the fire and I will tell you this wondrous tale..."

The first book on my randomly chosen list is a book I just bought a week ago at the local Book Off (discount book chain in Japan). It was only 300 yen, so it was quite a buy! I am a pretty big fan of the author, Chuck Palahnuik, best known for Fight Club and Choke, both of which were made into movies of varying popularity. I have yet to read a book of his I didn't like, so I picked it up.

Snuff. The title itself kind of draws me into the old world of standing next to the dirty curtain of my local video store, peaking through to see if I could catch a glimpse of "something nasty." You know the place. And you know you looked. Maybe you even went in there. You did? Wow, gross. Well, with a world so slathered with death and porn, it is surprising more books like this haven't been written. And this book is literally about death and porn.

I have decided to not really review the books I am reading but just list some stuff that I thought was interesting or cool that happened. So there are mild spoilers ahead.

1. Lots of fake tan
2. Buffet of greasy snacks also caked in fake tan fingerprints
3. Various anecdotes about people throughout history that killed themselves or died in pursuit of some ideal version of themselves. The most interesting was a tale about Messalina, some Roman empress who moonlit as a whore just because she was a whore.
4. Marilyn Monroe liked to use the name Zelda Zonk to try to appear normal. Huh?
5. About everything you could imagine being said about graphic sex is mentioned. "But what about...?" Yes, that is mentioned too. "Even...?" Yep.
6. The phrase "pink ghost."
7. Ever wonder what porn actors and actresses think about? Now is your chance, I guess.

In closing, this normally isn't subject matter I am so much interested in, but Palahniuk weaves together a story that makes you care about even the scummiest of the scum.

I don't see this one getting green-lit anytime soon. A good, fast read. Enjoyed it.

The end.