Saturday, July 22


Last night, an epiphany hit me as I sat down in The Sanctum and glanced at the corner of the room where I had my piles of anime VCDs.

It's been ages... perhaps even months... since I have just sat down and watched anime on the TV. My pace of living has changed so much that I don't seem to have the time, or even just the patience to just sit down and watch. These days, I just get my anime or even movies digitally from online, encode them in DIVX or XVID and load them into my mobile phone for viewing when the bug hits me. Seriously.

And so, I got up and started grabbing my VCDs, taking them out of their cases (which I can now reuse or sell at my leisure) and putting the lot into plastic bags for storing or disposing. It's kind of a waste, probably- I easily have dozens an dozens of VCDs (irritatingly enough, I have multiple copies of several titles)- but I guess it's good as well that from now on, I won't be buying anime from local dealers (who basically get them from online as well anyway). It's an end of an era, but something I am glad to be free of. No more dealing with irritating, anime-incompetent counter monkeys, and unresponsive geeky or smarmy anime shop owners. No more trudging all the way to an anime shop just to be told the title you're looking for is OUT OF STOCK.

Thanks be to Bittorrent, I can now get my anime and movies directly to my PC, and I couldn't be any happier.

In any case, I'll still retain my DVD collection and probably will buy the odd DVD, mainly for the rest of the household's viewing. I also will probably buy the occasional DVD from a dealer that sells anime in large quantities as DIVX files (which saves me on download times).

It's a weird feeling. Maybe I felt it before, when I got rid of the trusty Betamax and finally embraced VHS years and years ago. Gosh, who knows where technology will bring our entertainment in another decade or so. Direct-to-brain transfers? Wild, man. Simply Wild.
Perfect Killing Machine

I've decided that the next comic I'll be producing in the very near future will be another K.I.A. issue. Yeah, I know I said that The Last Angel Ace Story would be it, but I am not going to rush that one. I intend to have something ready for this year's KOMIKON, and realistically Angel Ace won't make it, given the time that remains.
In line with how the first K.I.A. book had a bit of a concept (anthology type with various creators/writers/artists), this one will have one as well. I'll be pitching the idea soon to the local comics gang and we'll see where this one goes.

On other things, I look to be quite busy in comics for the next few weeks. Project Kris is half done for me, so I'll hopefully be reaping rewards from that. Project HERO 2 is almost at hand, and this early I've already worked out the general storyline for my piece, which is another Samurai Sis story. The trick will be doing the art for another story that will be written by another creator.
Another comics project, where I will collaborate with Vin Simbulan, looks to start soon as well. The deadline's tight but I'm quite interested in the subject and title, so I'll probably jump into that.

Considering that I haven't really done any comics work for several months, this is probably pretty adventurous of me, but what the heck- in comics, I seem to work best under pressure so why not? Time to get back into the gutter again. Heh.

Wednesday, July 19

Return to Midgar

Happy Valentine's Day.

If you're a fan of the Final Fantasy VII game, you'll surely have watched FFVII Advent Children by now (if now, what are you waiting for? The english flub, er dub? It's OUT, by the way). Well, the other titles in the 'Compilation of FFVII' series that Advent Children is a part of are starting to come out. Dirge of Cerberus is the second title (the last one is Before Crisis) and, on a wild, out-of-left field direction, isn't an RPG but a SHOOTER. Well, a shooter with RPG elements, and a whole lot of CG cinematics. In fact, the game (which has been out in Japan for quite a while) has received quite a bit of flack from reviews. The gameplay, it seems, isn't up to par... really, the most this game has to offer are the lavish CG FMV's that Square of Japan has come to be known for. Still, if you're an FFVII fan, you'll probably want to check out the game simply for the story and the cinematics, simply because DOC gives fans once again a look into the lives of their beloved characters in the fantasy world of Midgar.

Dirge of Cerberus takes place a year after the events in FFVII Advent Children (which in turn happens about two years after the end of the FFVII game story). The main focus of the tale this time isn't emo-boy Cloud Strife, but UBER-emo boy Vincent Valentine- former Turk (Shinra special agent) and current shapechanging supermutant. All seems well in the world as the WRO or World Restoration Organization is working to bring the planet back to track without the use of destructive Mako energy that Shinra used in the past. One day though, the peace is broken when a new, mysterious enemy attacks the town of Kalm. These invaders are the Deep Ground Soldiers, a special corps of enhanced warriors created by Shinra during the war but buried underground when the Meteor came to the planet. Now released into a world unprepared for their attack, the DGS seek to reawaken powerful forces in their bid for conquest. And their key to their victory is one Vincent Valentine. Now our red-cloaked hero must take up his trusty three-barrelled pistol and take on the enemy, lay to rest ghosts from his past and save the world from destruction once again.

While Vincent is the main and apparently only playable character, ninja cutie Yuffie Kisaragi plays a vital role in the story, often helping out Vincent and appearing in the many cinematics. Also playing a big role is Reeve/Cait Sith, in one scene apparently being gunned down by enemy soldiers. Ouch! Anyway, all of the FFVII heroes (save perhaps Aerith) eventually show up as the big throwdown for Midgar gets underway towards the game's climax. Thanks the Square's CG mastery, the pre-rendered cinematics are pretty much the same quality as in Advent Children, with the same character models being used. This makes DOC pretty much a sequel to Advent Children and well worth seeing for fans of the world and it's characters. I've seen the cinemas and some of the big battle scenes bring to mind the large-scale battles from the Star Wars Clone Wars movies... that's a good thing, actually.

As for the gameplay... well, awkward gameplay concerns just melt in the face of Yuffie Kisaragi's CG cuteness. Yes. Hehe.

The english version of Dirge of Cerberus is slated for an August 2006 release on the PS2. FFVII fans wanting one more adventure with their beloved FFVII heroes should keep their eyes peeled for this one.

Monday, July 17


My sister and her family came to visit over the weekend, and her husband brought along his new phone, my old XDA II Mini. I couldn't resist looking at it again... and found myself amazed at how small it felt in my hand, which was by now used to hefting the larger XDA IIi. I was enamoured in the colors of the screen, which was smaller but a more colorful than larger Pocket PCs. I tested it a few times and smiled at the snappiness of the response.

Darn, I miss it. I turned it over and noted with a wince several new scratches on the silver casing. I owned it for a year and never put a scratch on it. Sigh.

I put it back and said goodbye once more. There will be other mobiles, smaller or bigger, in the years to come. But I'll always remember that one.
The Empire Strikes Back (in the Caribbean)

Jack's back.

I have to admit that while I was initially excited back when I first saw the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Secret of the Black Pearl. But when I watched the actual movie, I found it a bit unnecessarily long, with quite a lot of iffy parts. But while it was uneven for me, I did find the character of Jack Sparrow... no, CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow, as one of the more interesting screen protagonists to come in a long time. Part scoundrel, part dirty rat, part reluctant hero, the flighty buccaneer is given more life than he originally was envisioned to thanks to offbeat cinema heartthrob Johnny Depp. And so, when the sequel was announced I was willing to give it a try. In any case, the trailer and the subsequent features and videos online and on cable convinced me that Dead Man's Chest just might be something special.

Bringing together almost every cast member and character from the original, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is a spectacular, wild ride. Well, at least it is after the first few minutes of setting up and reintroducing the characters. But once the players are assembled, it's a merry free-for-all of swashbucklers, sea monsters, sailing ships and... well, PIRATES. It gets a bit muddled as we go through... not horrible, mind you, but muddled in a Simpsons' episode sort of way. We all know the general direction- Both Jack Sparrow and the sinister East India Trading Company are after the Dead Man's Chest- which contains an object that just might it's possessor absolute power over the seas. Everyone else- from Sparrow's crew to the returning heroes Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is running in the same general direction, but with varying goals. It's a mess of double-dealings, betrayals, backstabbings and more of Jack Sparrow's prancing. But at least it's a fun mess which looks absolutely spectacular thanks to great casting, incredible settings, art direction and special effects.

A lion's share of the eye candy this time around belongs to the character of Davy Jones- the mythical old man of the sea and sailor's bane, given tentacled life by the effects wizards of ILM and actor Bill Nighy. Nighy's performance- on a par with Depp's Sparrow and Geoffrey Rush's Barbossa from the first movie- pays off with a living, breathing and malevolently fascinating villain. Jones' crew- a gang of barnacle-encrusted marine-monster brutes, are so ugly and creepy they're beautiful... it's hard to see where CG ends and real makeup or costumes begin.

Performances-wise, Dead Man's Chest lets Depp once again run wild as Captain Jack Sparrow, though this time letting more physical comedy and slapstick bag the laugh instead of clever banter (though he does have several fine lines). Sparrow is more scoundrel in this one, but the ending will lay to rest any doubts about his true character.
Bloom and Knightley are given more to do in this one, and thankfully grow more as characters (Knightley's Elizabeth more so than Turner), while returning cast members like a now-bedraggled and bitter former Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) get more screen time and importance. New to the franchise is the much-mentioned but now finally realized "Bootstrap" Bill Turner (Stellan Skaarsgard), Will's father and now-captive crewman on the Flying Dutchman.
As mentioned, Bill Nighy steals the show as Davy Jones, while new villain Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) is as smarmy as you can get. Returning cast members like Jonathan Pryce (Elizabeth's father, Weatherby Swann), Kevin McNally (Jack's loyal first mate, Gibb), Lee Arenberg (Pintel) and MacKenzie Crook (Ragetti) give the Caribbean universe continuity. Also of note is Naomie Harris as voodoo priestess Tia Dalma, who is probably gosh-darned beautiful since she's dreadlocked and dirty with black teeth but still looks strangely fetching.

Dead Man's Chest gives both laughs and thrills with some quite outrageous stunts and action sequences, like perhaps the longest and most complex three-man swordfight in movies, and several spectacular appearances by the massive tentacled horror known as The Kraken... a monster that would make the Watcher in the Water from the Lord of the Rings movies shudder. The cast and crew are obviously having fun, and it's pretty infectious.

The worst thing about this movie becomes clear during the last third of the film- when it becomes clear that Dead Man's Chest is simply a buildup for the next movie (called by some Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End). The film ends with HUGE Cliffhanger moments which will have you rabidly foaming at the mouth for the next movie. Unfortunately, we all have to wait a YEAR (POTC3 is slated for next summer) to see the next adventures of Jack, Elizabeth, Will and the rest of the crew.


Still, POTC:DMC is a rip-roaringly fun ride and watching this is absolutely necessary in any case. The best thing I can say is that at about 2 and a half hours, Dead Man's Chest moves fast and pays off with great action (Unlike a certain recent Superhero film)... easily a better film than the first movie, and well worth your money and time.

Oh, and about that scene after the credits- it's just a very short comedic scene which has NOTHING to do with the main story, so stay at your own peril... it's probably not worth sitting around ten minutes for.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is now showing in Manila Theaters. Watch it, now!