Saturday, March 17

The Sounds of Gaming

8-Bit Tunes in Orchestral Sound.

How much have videogames grown from their humble beginnings? These days, the videogame industry makes more money than Hollywood, and the origins of the gaming world are currently the topic of Discovery Channel's I, Videogame series. Here's another way of showing how the kids of yesterday are now today's adults and videogames are part and parcel of their being. Here's a nice video of the Videogames Live Orchestra, which plays classic videogame music as part of their repertoire. Nice stuff!

Marvelous pianist Martin Leung performs a beautiful medley of the music from Final Fantasy.

Metal Gear Solid's epic score gets the Orchestral treatment.

Super Mario Brothers!!!

Friday, March 16


There are two kinds of local comics for me. One is the exceptionally good kind- those that are well-written, have great art and stories which push the envelope. Thankfully there are a lot of these- Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan is thoroughly unusual and refreshing. The recent issues of Cast impress with the gorgeous art of Arnold Arre greatly helping the long-running series along. However, for every well-written, well-illustrated and exciting piece of local grafiction, there always seems to be a counterflow- an antithesis. Comics that make your eyes pop and have you laughing for all the wrong reasons.

That's where Necomics Fables and Neocomics Epics fall under. I've posted about these titles before- and I wasn't very encouraging about them, since I found their art amateurish and inconsistent, the stories and titles of both anthology books as derivative of other anime and videogames as they come and the writing plagued by bad grammar and panelling. Well, I picked up the latest issues (Issue 3 of both titles) recently, and I have to say- THEY HAVE GOTTEN WORSE.

The art is still inconsistent and has the quality of fan art; which may be good for appearing in fan art pages but NOT for the whole comic. Production value is bumped up by full color pages, but the art is so bad, it just doesn't matter. But never mind that again, every character is derived from pretty much every manga/anime/videogame stereotype and cliche out there (androgynous bishonens with fur-lined jackets and girls (or cross-dressers!) in skimpy Japanese sailor outfits is the norm), the panelling and structure of every page is such that often you CANNOT FIGURE OUT WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON. Honestly, even reading slowly we just could not comprehend what the heck the stories were all about. Usually nothing is happening in any page of consequence- just seemingly random duels of both verbal and physical nature were blowing out for some reason, and characters were greeting and meeting here and there, spouting dialogue that tries to sound anime or manga-ish (lots of '...' ) but fails every time.

And the writing... My GOSH. A lot of pages are freaky displays of horrible grammar. It's so funny, it's fricking sad. You can't figure out what's going on, you can't identify or distinguish characters, you can't tell what they're trying to say or what's happening from one page to the next.

Okay, so they're bad. What can they do to improve?

First, never mind getting artists who can draw well- just get artists who can tell a visual story, since the current artists can't draw two panels which communicate coherent thought.

Second, get writers with good, or at least comprehensible stories because so far ALL the stories are cliched carbon copies of existing stuff. Worse, they're cliched copies that makes no sense, or waste tons of pages and panels without really saying anything.

Third, get an Editor because the sad excuse of one that they are using CAN'T DO HIS JOB FOR SHIT. This incompetence is leading to the proliferation of bad grammar in our youth. SERIOUSLY. Too many kids and young people can't speak or write straight english already. Let's not be part of the problem.

It's stuff like this that really gets my grain. BUT, on the bright side, as bad as they are, there is a positive in all this for me- nothing inspires me to make comics again more than badly-done comics. So if I produce a new issue sooner rather than later, I can thank the Neo Crew for that, at least.

Moving on... Moving on...

Thursday, March 15

True Asian Horror

Last night, I watched the second episode of the True Asian Horror specials on Discovery Channel. I think it's an offshoot of the series True Horror hosted by Anthony Stewart Head since Giles is also narrating this show. TAS focuses mainly on the recent wave of Asian horror films that are taking cinemas all over the world by storm. The first episode took up mainly Japanese films like Ringu, Ju On and Audition, with a smatter of Korean films like Phone and Tale of Two Sisters.
This week's episode took up the films from Southeast Asia, namely the creepy The Eye, Shutter and this Indonesian film about a cursed/possessed doll (forgot the name).

Lots of creepy footage and scary shit, but the most chilling thing that I took away from the show was the realization that while we, the Philippines, have a great wealth of scary myths, legends, beliefs and other creepy old wives' tales, we still haven't been able to produce a world-class creepy horror film like our nearby neighbors in Hong Kong, Bangkok or Indonesia. Perhaps the problem is with the current crop of directors and writers (and to an extent, actors)- apparently none of them have that vision or idea or concept of scaring people aside from piling on prosthetics, cheap CG and tired shock tactics.

A really creepy and scary horror film need not slather on the gore, nor does it require a big budget or anything we don't already have, as seen by how other Asian directors have gone about stuff. I won't venture to say that I know what needs to be done to make a good horror film- it's about the farthest thing from my stuff- but I do enjoy good horror flicks every now and then, and it just frustrates me that we don't have our own Ringu or Eye or Shutter. Just too bad. Let's see some good scares, people. Do we have what it takes or don't we?

Wednesday, March 14

Bleach Blanched Part One

My current favorite anime, Bleach, has it all. This ongoing series about supernaturally-gifted humans caught up in a war between powerful forces in the spirit world has cool and likeable characters, exciting fight scenes, humor, drama, a bit of horror, a bit of romance, dashes of intrigue. What it doesn't have, however, is a clear reason WHY THE HECK IT'S CALLED 'BLEACH'. Well, there have been many speculations. One is that 'bleach' refers to the bright orange-colored hair of lead hero Ichigo Kurosaki. One of my favorite notions that the title actually means 'Breach' (Japanese don't have L's), which makes sense since this series is all about travelling through dimensions. But, in the end, the reason behind the title seems to be a pretty silly one. Apparently, manga-ka Tite Kubo noted in one interview that he is a big fan of the band Nirvana, and thus named the series after his idols' first album (and then later made up the thing about it all being about Ichigo's hair). So there. GYAH!

Anyway, moving on. One of the most important factors for me liking anime is, of course, characters. Bleach, to put it lightly, has plenty. There are, of course, the main heroes- Ichigo Kurosaki and Rukia Kuchiki.

Ichigo Kurosaki is the bad-ass, tough-talking, brawling hero. He's got a couple of standout features- one, his orange hair (which is natural, and which gets him often into fights with arseholes), and another, his ability to see ghosts (think, the Sixth Sense). There's a third feature- which isn't a standout- and that's his selfless kindness- something not everyone sees past Ichigo's often scowling face. But nope, Ichigo isn't just a warfreak- he's a warfreak with a heart of gold, always ready to go out of his way to defend anyone getting bullied, or to give a lonely ghost an offering of flowers. That coupled with a will that can break swords makes him the perfect warrior.
Scratch that- he's not at all perfect with his bonafide stubborn streak, but then who is? The fact is, Ichigo's a cool bad-ass and a great hero to follow through this series. Whatever doesn't kill Ichigo only makes him stronger- frighteningly stronger. And it doesn't look like he'll be kicking the bucket anytime soon.

Rukia Kuchiki is the lead heroine, and Ichigo's partner. A slim, petite girl with dark, moody eyes and trademark bangs running across her face, Rukia has a 'Goth' girl attitude which is a refreshing break from the usual genki anime heroine. She's most often serious and bossy, which is a natural fit to reign in the stubborn Ichigo. But aside from the wise and experienced shinigami (death god) warrior, there are goofy sides to Rukia- such as her affinity for cute things, and her insistence on explaining the workings of the spirit world using (badly-drawn) sketches of bunnies and teddy bears (Ichigo's reactions to Rukia's 'art' is a running gag in the series).

Contrary to most anime pair-ups, Rukia and Ichigo aren't romantically connected... at least, not yet. From the very beginning, it wasn't love at first sight (Ichigo's first act toward Rukia is kicking her in the butt). But as they become linked by fate and forced to fight together against the evil spirits of the afterlife, respect and a deep understanding of the other develops; and both are willing to die for the other because of that bond. Whenever one or the other is in a funk or a deep pit of despair, they can always rely on the other to headbutt, kick and slap them back to their senses. Now if that isn't a great partnership, I don't know what is.

Sado Yasutora or 'Chad' is a gentle giant from Mexico. Chad is physically impressive (able to walk away from being hit by a falling STEEL GIRDER), but is inversely as kind as a saint. Chad was taught by his beloved, late grandfather to use his strength to protect others, and he does so- even if it means getting hurt himself. Ichigo and Chad promised to watch each others' backs, and have been best friends ever since. Like Ichigo, he has supernatural powers which manifest themselves early in the series thanks to his continual contact with Ichigo and the growing number of evil spirits in the area. These powers take the form of a cool armored arm which can shoot energy blasts- a nifty power to have when battling evil Hollows.

Orihime Inoue fills in the slot for the upbeat, beautiful but ditzy heroine. Her odd imagination and taste in food are running gags in the show, but this lovely, kind girl is tempered by tragedy in her past. While initialy repelled by Ichigo's tough looks, something deeper evolves as her encounters with him and Rukia continue. Eventually, she gains her own powers- making her a bit of a magical heroine herself. While more of a healer and protector than a fighter thanks to her gentle demeanor, her will and inner strength would do any warrior proud. And damn, does she have a great rack. Heh.

Finally, there's Uryu Ishida, a snobbish intellectual who quickly reveals himself to be a Quincy, a race of humans who battle evil spirits and a rival to the shinigami. While at first at odds with Ichigo, he soon becomes a firm ally even if he is probably unwilling to admit it. Like everyone else, he has his serious side, that of a calm, calculating spirit-archer, and his goofy side- being the odd guy in the craft club who wields a damn fine needle and thread.

This is the main cast of Bleach, and you'll quickly grow to love each and every one of these guys and girls. Aside from them, there's a literal army of supporting characters whom you'll get to know in this addicting series, like Ichigo's oddball family and friends in Karakura High School, the weird crew at the Uruhara Shop and of course, the many Captains, Lieutenants and Warriors of the shinigami Gotei 13- easily the most diverse collection of bad-ass samurai death gods around. So try to get yourselves episodes from your favorite anime shop and get ready for action-packed, humor-sprinkled sword-slashing, ghost-fighting action.