[2014] Fantastic Visual Storytelling: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a good movie that worked as a nice prequel to a classic film franchise while also standing alone as a sci-fi monkey drama.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was a great movie that kicked everything up a notch and went into far greater emotional depths while being a true blockbuster experience as well. However, it worked so well partially because of how standalone it was from its predecessor. The human cast does not return, and our cast from the original have character arcs independent of those they had in the original movie.

This opening scene, then, acts as a bridge between those movies, but also as its own standalone art piece of a pandemic growing and human society collapsing. The peaceful globe-spinning graphics mixed with the increased panic of the archival footage makes for an unnerving intro that firmly sets the tone for the rest of the film.

Sequels do these sorts of “recap the previous movie” intros all the time, but rarely do they succeed on an artistic level all their own. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is special.

[2018] Rhapsody for My Dead End-of-the-Decade Plan

There was a brief time where, due to confusing and failed life plans as a result of my tenuous position as an alternate for the JET Program, I was a NEET from July to November 2018. And because of that, for three months, I was getting no income, but I was also living rent-free with my parents and infinite free time… My dreams of being a Full-Time Writer came true. If I was going to be a NEET, I was going to be a NEET who accomplished great things…!!!

Then I got called to fulfill a position in the JET Program after all at the end of October and that all disappeared immediately. But I had set all of these lofty goals for myself… I really was gonna make this writing thing work… But, yeah, I definitely chose to actually make money doing a job I like instead of risking getting buried in accumulating debt.

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[2017] Fantastic Visual Storytelling: Night is Short, Walk On Girl

Listen, I’m not about to attempt to explain this movie to you because you won’t believe me even if I did. I’ll just say that Night is Short, Walk on Girl is a bonkers film, probably Masaaki Yuasa’s best work yet, and absolutely one of the most visually excellent films of the 2010s. Cinematic maximalism.

Also, can we just stop and reflect on just how prolific Masaaki Yuasa has been in the past ten years? He started off with a bang with The Tatami Galaxy in 2010, then two more series, Ping Pong in 2014 and Devilman Crybaby in 2018, plus the brand-new Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! that started just this January. Then he has released THREE theatrical films–Night is Short plus Lu Over the Wall and Ride Your Wave (which premieres in the U.S. next month in a one-night event; go see it!). Add in all the other weird stuff he’s been going and you have one of the most productive men in the realm of animation. And all of it is great, somehow. Let’s hope he keeps this up in the 20s!

[2010s] Best of the Decade: Music (Honorable Mentions)

This is a sequel to my previous article on my favorite albums of the 2010s. I had so much to write about that that list went on way longer than I wanted, and I was STILL unable to list all of my favorites. There’s a lot of amazing music out there!

So I wanted to make this second list just to feature everything else I wanted to feature, though without any writeups this time. Same rules apply last time, so no repeat artists/groups, and no soundtracks (sorry again Michael).

So here we go:

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[2013-2018] The Auralnauts Jedi Party Saga

2013 was the beginning of a renaissance for the Star Wars fandom. With the waning days of the post-Episode III Expanded Universe and the recent sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, things were about to change dramatically for the franchise and its massive fanbase. But in 2013, things were still simmering.

And with that simmering came the Auralnauts Jedi Party Saga…

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[2010s] Best of the Decade: Music

The best stuff of the decade for music… Okay, music is a HUGE genre and there’s no way I’ll have listened to most of the best or even the most popular stuff. In fact, pretty much everything I listened to in the 2010s was fairly “niche” and my repertoire of mainstream music is pretty low aside from a few key songs I loved.

But I still wanna talk about my favorite things from the past ten years. I have a lot, lot, lot of stuff here, too, so I need to lay some ground rules to limit myself:

  1. Full albums only, no singles (sorry about that, Augustus)
  2. No soundtracks (sorry John, sorry Eirik)
  3. Only one album per artist/group. (sorry Michael)

So let’s get to it! Time to talk about my favorite music albums of the decade. Keep in mind, though, my music listening was VERY weird and niche over the past ten years, and I have just one album on this list that cannot be purchased on Bandcamp.com.

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[2010s] Best of the Decade: Games

Video games may be super lame, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been a very important part of my life in the 2010s. So with that in mind, I’d like to feature some of the very best the past ten years had to offer. It won’t be comprehensive and it won’t be ranked, so don’t try and argue with me because I left off Dark Demon Hunter X 🙁 It’ll mostly be limited to one game per series/creator/whatever so that I can talk about many different types of games.

First, honorable mentions for very good games that I liked a lot: Mario Odyssey, the excellent adventure platformer; Shovel Knight, the superb adventure platformer; Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which could theoretically be a platformer; and Fire Emblem Awakening, Game & Wario, Stardew Valley, and Into the Breach, none of which are platformers in any shape or function.

As for the main entries:

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Newtype Coffee…?!

I was in Nagoya, a city with considerably higher vending machine diversity than my town back in Tohoku. You really never know when you’re gonna stumble on some weird limited edition drink in some back alley machine set up for the can collectors next door, or one really weird edition in one machine among a row of five different ones.

And on this day I stumbled on the Newtype Coffee. What does it mean? What could it be? It’s a Gundam drink with not one, but TWO can designs. And it’s sold exclusively as a warm coffee, so you can use it to heat up your hands in the blistering 12-degree-celsius mornings of absolute winter wasteland Nagoya.

I got three of them, because I have basically no impulse control and also because I wanted to tell you, yes you, exactly how this drink tastes so you can find it if you so want.

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[2012] Sburb OST: Sometime Fan Projects Succeed

Fan projects usually fail. They’re usually not very well thought-out, being too ambitious or too unfocused. They invite way too many people onto the project, with way too many people who don’t actually have any inclination to contribute beyond “ideas” or whatever. I’ve personally been a part of multiple projects that have failed in exactly this way, including ones where I was one of the people who dropped off quickly as an “ideas” person.

Because of all of that, I continue to be extremely proud of what the Homestuck fandom was able to accomplish at its peak, especially in the fan music community, and there’s no better representative of that than Sburb OST, the coolest fan album to have ever been made.

If you haven’t read Homestuck, this will make like 20% sense at best, but Sburb OST is the fan-made soundtrack to the Sburb “video game,” to a generic fit-all Sburb session. It tried to take listeners through a typical Sburb session and all its aspects. It makes genericized versions of the Homestuck leitmotifs, and introduces entirely new ones, all of which pop up throughout the album. The song art even takes us through a sort of story that features the same characters (stand-ins for the musicians I believe).

It’s really ambitious, and better yet, it actually exists. It was actually completed, mastered, and released. There was a bit of drama throughout production, and it took over two years to complete, but it actually came out, and that’s what matters.

Also, the music is good. Take a listen: