Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Top 10 Best Game Series

NOTE: These are my favorite gaming franchises, and thus are ranked not simply by critical breadth but what the series mean to me personally. Furthermore, the standards I will rank the series by are the length of the series, the quality of the games in comparison to the series' length, and how well the series evolved over the course of its duration.

10) Megaman - this series is one that has its popularity gripped tightly in the nostalgia that comes from its NES and SNES games; however, Megaman has done a superb job at creating a presence for himself in the game industry. The Megaman series has grown to have its own mythos and memorable characters, and even its gameplay has become a timeless beacon in the industry. However, Megaman has not aged well over the years, and, as I stated before, most of Megaman's popularity comes from the nostalgia factor and not his continuing presence in the game industry.

9) Super Mario - this series is one rich in quality, but only in its flagship titles (Bros. series, World, Yoshi's Island, and Galaxy series); outside of the flagship games, the Super Mario games are either spin-offs, sports games, or spiritual successors to past games (such as the "New" series). Furthermore, while the Super Mario games have superb gameplay and memorable music, they've done very little else in the way of unique graphics or story. Thus, Super Mario may be an icon, but he's more remembered at face value than for his games.

8) Sonic the Hedgehog - similar to the Super Mario series, Sonic is remembered nowadays more at face value rather than for his games, which is thanks to the massive amount of merchandizing and product that has come from the character, and similar to the Megaman series, Sonic is more fondly remembered in a nostalgic way due to the quality of his past games over the newer ones. However, despite all of the ups and downs Sonic has had over the years, his presence shines very brightly thanks to the world that Sonic Team have created with Sonic and his friends. Many memorable characters, storylines, and events are paced throughout the Sonic series, thus giving him an even stronger lasting impression than Super Mario or Megaman. There may not be a whole lot of memorable gameplay moments, but its enough to warrant this position.

7) The King of Fighters - here's a series that has been treated with so much passion and care that it has the strongest presence of any fighting game series. Street Fighter was the fighter to go to for the tried-and-true gameplay, but KOF was the series to go to for over-the-top style and beauty (and the gameplay wasn't bad either). KOF is a brilliant series because of how it created its presence not only with gameplay, but characters, art, graphics, and music that were all its own. You can tell a KOF character just by looking at them, and you know your listening to a KOF song just by listening to it; there will be no question. That is the power of this series. While it may not have the strength it once had with its newer games, the Orochi Saga of KOF will forever have a place in the history of fighting games.

6) Donkey Kong Country - while this series may have only 4 entries, very few series defined their generation like the DKC games on the SNES. The graphics, the music, the atmosphere, and gameplay all combined into something unheard of during the days of the SNES, and that massive presence can still be felt to this day. The DKC games have aged very well, and still provide a unique experience even against today's modern technology. There may not have been much of a story, but the strength of the game's atmosphere made up for it. The only reason this series isn't higher is because it isn't a particularly long series.

5) Castlevania - a truly under-appreciated series. Castlevania created something truly amazing with its first installment on the NES and from there the series only grew grander and grander in scope, from graphics to gameplay to story, the series continued to expand itself. It is this growth in the series that gives it this spot. Castlevania also has a strong presence in gaming thanks to its impeccable style; the stylized-horror theme is truly its own, and it resonated with every game in the series, all accented by superb graphics and music; truly legendary music.

4) Final Fantasy - this series stands out not simply due to its high quality and popularity (which has expanded into many mediums and products), but simply how each installment is so different from the last. While they are all RPGs and retain the same style of role-playing, the FF series makes it a crucial part of its execution for each installment to be different than the last. This is a risky business decision on Square's part, but it has payed off by providing the world with a series so rich in diversity from characters and story to gameplay and design that everyone can find at least one installment in the series that they find interesting.

3) The Legend of Zelda - the Zelda series is one that has a truly powerful presence in the game industry; not only for providing tried-and-true action-RPG gameplay mechanics, but because of how revolutionary many of its titles were. Furthermore, the series has built itself with some of the most memorable graphics, music, stories, and gameplay mechanics of all time. The Zelda series is one remembered on many levels, and thus it has titles that stand the test of time, and yet it continues to forge memories into even modern gamers. The Zelda series is a rare gem in that its older titles have not lost their luster and its newer titles continue to forge new memories for players now. It is hard for a series to retain its original qualities and yet still succeed in modern day, but the Zelda series has truly succeeded. The reason its not higher on the list is because the same formula has been used for Zelda since Ocarina of Time, and while this formula still holds up to this day, the lack of change can be daunting, especially to older gamers.

2) Kirby - if there is one game series that has been around since the NES and developed alongside the technology of advancing game systems while still retaining all of its charm and gameplay creativity, it is the Kirby series. Kirby games have spread across many genres and many systems, and yet each game has always been superb in terms of gameplay, graphics, music, and creative execution. This is due to Kirby being a series blessed with a talented developer that has never strayed from the development of its titles nor ever changed what Kirby is all about: fun. If there is one series that represents the fun and joy that comes from videogames, it is the Kirby series. Always creative, always trying new things, and always being superb experiences. Kirby stand the test of time.

1) Metroid - Quality. No other game series personifies quality better than the Metroid series. Every entry in the series, even the pinball game, is one of truly high quality. Like Kirby, the Metroid series is one that truly advances with the growing technology of videogame consoles, and the end results are games that are truly state-of-the-art. From graphical and musical direction to gameplay execution; the Metroid series is a thing of beauty, and as such, is a videogame series truly deserving of respect and admiration. If Kirby is the bright and radiant sun, then Metroid is a beautiful and solace moon. Never relying on over-the-top antics, bright colors, or gimmicky gameplay mechanics; Metroid is a class act through and through, and truly my favorite and most respected videogame series ever.

NOTE: To be honest, I would have Metroid and Kirby be a tie for the number one spot, as I believe they both represent two sides of the same coin when it comes to the best game series.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Kid Icarus: Uprising Review

Gameplay - (9/10): The gameplay of Uprising all lies on the foundation of the game's weapons. There are 9 different types of weapons (all of which have unique gameplay styles, some vastly different then others), with around a dozen individual weapons of each type, and each individual weapon has its own unique qualities, including special attacks, AND on top of all that, every weapon you get (even those of the same name) has unique passive abilities such as increased health, defense, and poison attributes. AND, on top of ALL THAT, the player has the option of combining their weapons in order to create more powerful weapons that combine the passive abilities of the weapons their combining. All of this combines to create a very customizable and player-unique gameplay experience.

Going off of the weapons, the levels provide a great playground to play with the weapons you earn/create. The ground levels provide a linear, but well-designed 3D-action experience. The ground controls have a pretty decent learning curve, and will probably take a few hours to get the hang of, but once the player understand the  controls, they feel great and become second nature. The flying levels are a bit disappointing because they have much less diversity than the ground levels; even so, they're still fun. The only glaring flaw in the flying stages is a lack of a easy-to-use quick-dodge maneuver; something that should have been one of the first control methods added in the game. Both types of levels are made even more unique by the weapons the player chooses to use; so the play experience can be that of a 3D-action shooter, or  an intense 3D-action weapon-based game; it's this type of diversity that makes replaying levels really fun. The only downside is that the game plays much how you would think a 3D-action shooter would play; so its nothing vastly unique, but its no less satisfying.

A unique element of Uprising is it's Heart Cauldron system, which allows the player to adjust the difficulty of the game. This is a very helpful system, for Uprising can be quite difficult. For the most part, this difficulty isn't a problem most of the time, but in the tougher flying sections and more difficult boss fights, the sheer amount of damage Pit takes is reminiscent of tougher NES games. The difficulty can be lowered thanks to the cauldron system, but taking on higher difficulties can be frustrating.

Overall, the gameplay isn't perfect, but the flaws are rarely frustrating except for when just starting the game out and when taking on higher difficulties.

Graphics - (10/10): Uprising is one of the best looking videogames on the market today, console or handheld. This is thanks to the perfect transition of concept art to game graphics and incredible execution there-of in terms of both art and tech. The incredible art team that has accompanied Sakurai on all of his games returns to provide their absolute best work yet, and the tech team has allowed the player to experience the incredible art first-hand. Pit flies into swirling tornadoes, fights massive monsters, and touches the stars in space. The ground sections aren't as impressive as the incredible flying sections, but they're still nothing to snuff at, especially during boss fights or the more impressive level designs. Uprising represents an incredible level of graphical execution; to the point where it's as if the developers didn't have to hold anything back; from the cinematic to incredible scale, Uprising is a sight to behold.

Music/Sound - (10/10): Uprising's soundtrack is an incredible piece of work from 5 legendary composers, including Motoi Sakurabai and Yuzo Koshiro. The end result is a cinematic soundtrack that may not get stuck in your head, but will move your emotions when playing the game. The overall theme of the soundtrack is battle, and as such, the soundtrack is mostly high-energy battle themes; all of them superbly orchestrated and incredibly executed. The execution of the soundtrack is impressive in that it works right alongside the graphics. For example, as Pit flies up the side of a cliff-face the music is fast and intense, but when he reaches the top, the music suddenly calms down to a gentle violin as the player takes in the sight of an enormous moon over-looking a battlefield. The game is full of moments like this, and it really goes to creating a beautiful fusion of graphics and music. Also, the voice acting is excellent, which is great considering the game is full of it.

Story - (7/10): The story of Uprising is a mixed bag, or, rather, its execution is. Uprising has dialogue occurring constantly throughout the gameplay. This execution allows all character and story development to occur during gameplay, thus making there to be no need for traditional cutscenes. The end result is a unique and effective way to portray the story. Its this story execution that isn't the problem, but the dialogue itself. The story of Uprising is full of great characters, epic scenarios, and powerful themes. The story is one of a war between the gods and the humans caught in between, and its a very interesting story to go through. However, there is one x-factor: the comedy. Almost everything that comes out of a characters mouth in the game is a joke. At first, this isn't a huge problem, because the game comes off as a comedy, and the jokes are pretty funny, but when the heavy themes start to come into play, the jokes just feel forced and unneccessary. The comedy never ruins the story, because its not hard to tell when the characters are serious, even when they're joking, but it all comes across as a mediocre execution of a balance between comedy and drama. This is disappointing considering Nintendo has perfected the balance of comedy and drama with their Paper Mario series.

There is one more problem with Uprising's story execution: it goes by WAY too fast. Despite being a pretty lengthy game, characters come and go almost instantly, conflicts are settled very quickly, and incredible vistas are played through very quickly. It's not that recycling areas and bosses would have been better for the game, but longer missions and getting more dialogue from characters other than Pit and Palutena. In the end, despite having a large cast of characters and incredible vistas and scenarios, only a handful of characters and scenarios are truly memorable due to many just being sped over.

Overall, the story is pretty impressive for its genre, mainly due to the heavy themes it tackles and how it executes it with the setting of a world of gods and humans. However, poor dialogue and pacing execution keeps the story from being a timeless one.

Replay Value - (10/10): Dozens upon dozens of weapons, ability to create an endless amount of unique weapons, 300 different and challenging challenges to complete, a superb online multiplayer, and over two dozen unique stages makes for a game brimming with content. It'll be a long time before you run out of things to do.

Satisfaction - (8.5/10): Uprising is a very, very impressive game. The massive amount of content, the great gameplay, and incredible graphics and sound make for an experience that has a really powerful first strike. However, over time, Uprising's blows become weaker and weaker; a reaction from the game's quick pace and so-so dialogue execution, and while these flaws are things that comes with the territory as a 3D-action/Shooter, it still feels like Uprising could have been something grander.


The score I should give it - (9.5/10): When looking at Uprising from a purely professional perspective, it's nearly flawless. The gameplay has no major flaws, only small annoyances. The graphics and music are perhaps the best in gaming today. And the replay value is through the roof. The only "flaw" is the so-so execution of the story; however, in a 3D-action shooter, a great story is not exactly what one would expect; however, that doesn't mean the game can't have one, and Uprising's story, despite its comedic style, is still better than those found in other modern 3D-action games. Overall, the game really just speaks for itself.

The score I want to give it - (8.5/10): Uprising delivers the type of gaming experience that we have come to expect from Sakurai: a content-packed, simple-to-control, and beautiful experience. With Uprising, Nintendo has truly set the bar on how amazing a game can look and sound; the graphics and music really are the game's most impressive qualities. The other factors are no slouches either, but they are not as impressive. I truly wish the story execution was better; if it was, Uprising would probably have a more lasting impact. Regardless, the sheer amount of content the game has is incredible and a true testament to Sora's talent as a developer, and Uprising deserves to be recognized as one of the best games of recent times; however, I feel that the only reason Uprising stands out so much is because of the sheer lack of high quality titles coming out in recent years.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Thoughts on Soul Eater

Experience: chapter 1 - volume 9; with knowledge of mid-chapters; currently reading the later arcs

Soul Eater is a manga that I want to love, but just can't.

The most impressive aspect of SE is also its most obvious: the art. Ohkubo's art may not be impressive in terms of detail but its style is nearly unrivaled. The way Ohkubo tells his story through his stylish art is a site to behold and has always been what attracted me to the manga. Ohkubo's character and monster designs are also very cool as well as scary, and they have only improved as time has gone on.

The other impressive aspect of the manga coincides with the amazing art: the themes. SE's main theme is madness, and it is the central aspect of the story throughout the manga. In fact, one could argue that the manga is more about the theme of madness than the actual characters. Regardless, the focus of the story around the theme of madness really gives SE a very unique aura to it, and gives the story a really original flavor.

However, SE has one central problem: the characters. The characters in SE aren't very compelling or interesting, with Maka and Crona being the exceptions. Sure, character like Soul, Black Star and Death the Kid have unique quirks that make them funny at times, but when it comes time for them to be compelling and emotional, it isn't very effective, because we haven't really connected much to the characters. Then there's Tsubaki and the Thompson Sisters, who barely get any attention and just feel there to be weapons to the meisters and not much else. Ohkubo does try to take time to give every character some development, but it doesn't always work out. In the end, Maka and Crona are the main focuses of the story, which coincides with the theme of madness, as they both represent the two sides of madness.

There's a lot to enjoy in Soul Eater, but its mainly for the art rather than the story, but that's not to say the story is bad. As SE got into its latter volumes (14 and on) the story gets more and more dark; comedy is a rare occurance and the situations get more and more grim. The end result is a big contrast to the earlier, more balanced chapters. This can be seen as a good or bad thing depending on who the reader is, but I found it to be a poor choice, especially for the character of Crona, who began as a dark yet quirky character, but soon became a dark and depressing figure.

In the end, I'm thinking about dropping Soul Eater, as it is becoming less and less enjoyable to read with each coming week. It's still a manga to be respected, as the art is better than ever and the themes of madness are still in full effect, but the characters never really improve and the dark tones make reading the manga kinda uncomfortable (at least me, who prefers light-hearted stories).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

My Thoughts on Fairy Tail

Experience: Chapter 1 - middle of volume 10.

I don't get Fairy Tail. I always see very vocal fans and I see that it sells pretty well, but I just don't get where its popularity comes from. I find everything about the manga to be mediocre; nothing is terrible, but nothing is great either. My guess is that its popularity comes from people who want a shonen manga to read but don't like or either dropped One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, or Fullmetal Alchemist; thus, they find Fairy Tail and just kinda settle. I know that's pretty harsh, but after reading through 9 volumes, I just found myself unsatisfied by the content and annoyed by the fact that other manga do the shonen genre better.

Well, first off, let's begin with what I like about the manga. I like Erza. She is a great character. From her older sister attitude towards the other guild members, her awesome magic ability (and the cool armor designs there-of), to the fact that she is the strongest character in the guild, and her actually good backstory; Erza is leagues better than every other character in the manga, who are all just OK. And that's about it. Erza is the only great thing I have to say about the manga.

Everything else is mediocre. The art, the character design, the story, the backstories, the action, etc. FT can manage to have some emotional moments, but most just come across as trying too hard; Hiro doesn't take enough time to establish the characters for them to be really effective. The action is probably the best of the mediocre material, as it can be drawn pretty well; the only problem is that the action in FT revolves around magic, and it just never feels difficult for the characters, as they rarely put much of themselves into the combat, its mostly the magic; Erza is an exception to this rule due to her armor ability.

Something that may be giving FT a decent edge with the competition is that it contains the most fanservice of the action shonen manga out there. It's everywhere, and its not played up for laughs, its there for the ecchi. Though, the fanservice content should come as no surprise to anyone who read Hiro's previous series: Rave Master. Personally, I find the fanservice to be quite unnecessary; it's also the type of fanservice I don't like where men are constantly ogling the women.

I also find the general content of the manga to be pretty childish. Most shonen manga I've read bring up serious and mature themes and messages in their stories, such as racism in One Piece, segregation in Naruto, and lawful evil in Bleach, but FT just never feels like it's stories have messages to tell, as they're more based around the characters and their feelings. The results are stories that feel very small in scope and effectiveness.

The end result is: Fairy Tail is a very casual manga. I can see how it can be popular, as it doesn't do anything poorly, but it really doesn't have any great strengths either.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Thoughts on Bleach

Experience: chapter 1 to middle of Arrancar Arc.

From the beginning of Bleach to the end of the Soul Society arc is some of the best manga I've ever read, and is a superb example of stylish, shonen action brilliance. After that, things were cool for a bit, but then the pacing of the story just got way to slow, and Kubo wanted you to care too much about the characters. The great thing about the Soul Society arc was that it was based in a strong foundation and grew in intensity over time until its strong conclusion. The Arrancar arc didn't build nearly enough foundation in its beginning and instead went pretty crazy right from the start. This combined with poor pacing results in my main problem with Bleach after the Soul Society arc: Bleach takes forever to say nothing.

It's easy to go through around 5 chapters without anything truly significant occurring in Bleach, and that;s what hurt it. The great pacing of the Soul Society arc where we were slowly introduced to new characters and showed who these characters were was gone, and instead, Bleach just became an action manga of mediocre caliber.

However, what I can say about Bleach that I have always held in high regard is its art. Tite Kubo is a very talented artist who creates some truly amazing character designs, and to make it even better, the characters Kubo creates are often very interesting. Kubo is also very good in displaying his art and story in a really stylish and poetic way; an execution only rivaled by Ohkubo's Soul Eater series. Kubo really shows manga as an art form in a stylish way; maybe not to the same effect as Vagabond's art, but in its own way.

Before I dropped Bleach, I found myself wishing that he would take a long break and really think his story through so that it wasn't so incoherent all the time, or perhaps have a partner do the story so that he could focus on the art.

Bleach has begun its fall from grace at this point, so I can only imagine that the series got worse after the Arrancar arc. It's a real shame, because its easy to see that Bleach had a lot of potential.

My Thoughts on Naruto

Experience: Chapter 1 - beginning of Sound Five arc. I know most of the story through friends and Naruto Storm games.

I'm going to start out by saying what I usually say when people ask me "what do you think of Naruto?": Naruto has it's moments. That's what comes to mind every time. There are many moments in the Naruto manga that I found to be pretty memorable and impactful; however, these moments were usually surrounded by less than stellar or boring moments.

To start off, I'll talk about the art. Kishimoto can draw some pretty cool looking and scary monsters, as well as some artistic splash pages, and can create interesting perspectives to battles. Aside from that, I have to the art is pretty mediocre. Character designs, while varied, lack detail and many characters look really similar to others. Overall, the art can be pretty distracting at first, but you get used to its quality. Its unfortunate the Kishimoto's never really improved over time, as I would've liked to see his art more refined and detailed.

When it comes to Naruto, my main problem with the series is how disappointed I am with Kishimoto for not utilizing the story to its potential. At its heart, Naruto has a great tale of acceptance and friendship, but it's muddled and basically ruined by the comedy and large cast Kishimoto employs in the first half, and the shift in focus to Sasuke in the second half. If Naruto's story was more focused on Naruto and the critical people around him, such as Jaraiya, Tsunade, Iruka, Pain, and Gaara, the story could be much more concise and effective, imo. That's not to say we didn't get some good moments out of the way the story is now, but if a lot of the fluff was cut out of it, I think Naruto could have been a much more emotionally impactful series with consistent emotional moments instead of one every other arc. Focus. It's focus that Naruto truly needed to be great, instead, it feels as if it was fueled more by the fanbase than Kishimoto's own input.

Overall, I think Naruto is a decent series that started out pretty well despite mediocre art, a few weak characters (Sakura), and some inconsistant pacing, but after the superb Sound Five Arc, things just fell apart due to a severe loss of focus. The original heart of Naruto as a story of acceptance and friendship in a mystical world, just started trying way to hard to impress its fanbase and try to be something different. There's a mature story in the heart of Naruto, but we don't see it except for some brief moments throughout the series. Like I said, Naruto has its moments, but you have to rough it through a lot to get to these moments.

My Thoughts on One Piece

To start out this series, I'm just gonna go with convention and write my thoughts on the big three of One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach. And I'll start with my favorite of the three: One Piece.

Experience: Chapter 1 - current.

I love One Piece. It's easily one of the most influential stories I've ever experienced. This is really thanks to the sheer scope of the story OP tells, and that's really what I love most about OP: it's epic.

Eiichiro Oda has truly crafted an incredible world. What's great is just how believable the world is. Unlike many other shonen which tend to make up rules as they go along, OP sets its rules very early on and sticks to those rules throughout the story. The result is a world that is almost a character itself. The main cast interacts with this world and the rules it contains; in fact, much of the conflict of the story revolves around the main cast conflicting with the rules of the world.

I won't go deep into the main cast, because that would just take too long. Simply put, the cast is superb, and over the course of the series, they really become a family and you can see that camaraderie between them; after all, at its core, OP is a story of friendship. I really like the way the crew is like a family, as it creates a bond much stronger than those seen in other shonens where the characters are usually split into antagonizing positions like rivals, or just a love interest for later. In OP, each member can be described as a member of the family; for example, Franky is the eldest brother of the group, Chopper is the youngest brother, Zoro and Sanji are the bickering older brothers, and Nami is the wise yet rambunctious middle sister who gets annoyed by her brothers' antics and finds solice in the calm personality of her older sister (Robin). And it all revolves around Luffy in the middle as the middle brother. It all works out great within the confines of the story and makes the emotional moments of the story even greater.

And that's really what defines One Piece the best: emotion. OP is an emotional roller coaster where the reader will laugh, cry, and burn with passionate excitement. It's incredible how Oda manages to balance comedy and tragedy so well within the story. And, as of this writing, One Piece is the only manga/anime that has made me cry, and not just once but many, many times. Nami's backstory is forever burned into my memory because of how impactful its story was for me. I find Nami, Robin, Chopper, and Franky's backstories particularly powerful, but everyone's is superb, even the shorter ones like Zoro and Usopps.

What's great is how the emotion of OP isn't found only in the backstories of the characters, but rather we get a lot of emotion throughout the story, and this is mainly thanks to the strong subject material the adventures of the Straw Hats take them through. the Skypeia Arc dealt not only with segregation, but also the concept of God and what God means to people. The recent Fishman Island arc dealt strongly with racism in a very realistic and powerful way. At the end of the day, OP isn't interesting just for the main cast, but its surprisingly powerful story, which has many themes that reflect real-world problems. When all is said and done, OP will be remembered for its impactful story.

The art in One Piece is usually hit or miss with many people; I love it. I find it very expressive, which makes it superbly effective when portraying the powerful emotions from the characters, from sadness to happiness. A criticism that often pops up is how Oda draws women. Once again, I love it. Yes, all of the attractive women have the same general body type, but Oda does a great job at making them stand out from eachother with unique clothing, hair, and little touches, all while keeping them pretty sexy in appearance. This criticism doesn't come up too much mainly because there just aren't many women in One Piece, heh. As far as the other characters go; it's just superb. All the characters look very distinct from body type to clothing. Oda's monsters are also quite impressive, and the best I've seen since Dragonball.

OK. So what don't I like about OP? Well, it's actually only three things. The first thing is more of criticism: I wish Oda would give more attention to some of the other crew members more. Now, this isn't really a good criticism because the other crew members do continue to get face-time and battles, but its still not as balanced as I'd hope it'd be. Some more love towards characters like Franky, Nami, and Robin would be nice, but it could be difficult to do without hurting the story pacing, so its understandable. OP is very much Luffy's story, so he's the focus. In the end, it all works out, but for fans of specific characters, their favorite may not get as much spotlight as they want (like me with Robin and Franky). My second point my only complaint with the series: the fanservice. Oda cannot pull off fanservice without it coming across as forced and awkward. Personally, I think Oda is forced by his editors or pressure from the fanbase to include fanservice in the story, because, for one thing, there really isn't much fanservice in OP at all (maybe like 3 or 4 moments in the whole series), and whenever it occurs, its always breif and awkward, usually played for laughs. It's a small complaint, but its one that gets brought up whenever I think of things that annoy me in OP.

The third point is a character: Boa Hancock. Now, Boa is a pretty cool character in many ways, and has a good amount of depth to her character despite being a side character; however, her crush on Luffy is probably the only thing in OP I'd say is poor writing. It just feels forced and makes Boa feel like a weaker character because of it. I know its mainly played up for laughs, but when she was going to sacrifice herself for Luffy during the war, that was just going too far, imo. Its not a huge story point, and, like I said, its mainly played for laughs, but I think its a trait that hurts a character that could've been very cool and respecful; not she just feels like a strange mix of annoying and cool.

So, with that out of the way, OP is a manga that only continues to impress as it continues. The story just gets better and better with each new arc, the art continues to improve, and world and characters continue to expand more and more. One Piece is an incredible manga, and one that I say truly deserves all of the sales it recieves and is not over-rated in the slightest. With that said, I can understand how some people can dislike OP, main for unique art style (which isn't "cool" like most manga these days), but I hope everyone can at least respect it for what it has accomplished as a manga.

Thoughts on Anime/Manga - Intro

OK. I'm going to try to start another series of blog posts where I give my thoughts on specific manga and anime. This post is an introduction to this series. To introduce this series, I will simply explain my tastes in manga and anime. Overall, I'm a very casual reader/watcher. I basically read/watch what catches my eye, and if I'm interested by the first chapter/episode, I give the series around 10 chapters/4 episodes before deciding if I'll read the series. Of course, this doesn't mean I won't drop the series later on. This is my basic process when approaching new manga/anime. Now, I'm going to bring up my specific tastes which dictate what I read/watch:

 - I'm a shonen lover, but I'm open to other genres. I love shonen manga/anime. I love the more simpler stories, focus on characters, over-the-top action, and cliches that come with the genre. I've got nothing against manga that try to eschew the cliches, but I've got nothing against the typical shonen heroes, or how they always come back after getting beaten down; it's a formula that's been effective for decades, so why change it? I will say that some of the cliches of shonen manga/anime do annoy me, however. For example, it's hard to find a strong female protagonist in shonen manga, and some of the fanservice in shonen manga can get annoying and feel childish. But, if there's one thing I've learned over the years of reading/watching manga/anime it's that you have to take the good with the bad, as there is no perfect series, especially for a picky consumer like myself.

 - I really don't like sex and violence in manga/anime. I'm 23 years-old, but that doesn't mean I like adult themes in my entertainment. Sex and violence are the two things I will not tolerate when choosing a manga/anime to get into. Even if I love the concept, the art, or the story; if it deals with too many adult themes, I just can't enjoy it. I read/watch manga/anime to have fun, first and foremost. I like a serious venture every now and then, but never dealing with risque, adult themes. I know I'm missing out on a fair amount of good series by feeling this way, but I can;t get past it, not do I want to. After all, I shouldn't have to grit my teeth and bear it if I don't want to.

 - Going off of the previous point: I like my manga/anime light-hearted and fun. Sure, I'll read the occassional Deathnote or watch Madoka Magica, but for the most part, I like my shonens and comedies. I have very few exceptions to this rule. Even if a series is superb, I just can't enjoy it if the subject matter is too serious or gratuitous (see Vagabond or Berserk). This is why I prefer shonens, comedies, and slice-of-life manga/anime.

 - Fanservice is a touchy subject with me. By that I mean there is fanservice I like and fanservice I hate; however, I don't need fanservice to enjoy a series (and to note, by fanservice I mean sexy female characters, beach episodes, etc.). To put it simply: the fanservice I'm OK with is the kind where the fanservice is for the viewer only; for example, in One Piece right now, Nami wears a bikini top all the time, but it's never really pointed out much, thus it is fanservice for the reader and not for the characters in the manga. The fanservice I don't like is the opposite of that, where the fanservice is continuously pointed out by the character(s) in the manga/anime; for an example, see every harem manga/anime ever. Now I am a hypocrite when it comes to this subject, as I have to problems with the latter example, if its a female character noticing another female character. This leads into my next point...

But first, I want to quickly evaluate how I see fanservice in manga and anime since it will no doubt come up when I present my thoughts on Queen's Blade and Strike Witches. Basically, I see fanservice as a stylish element in manga/anime. To me, fanservice is right there alongside giant lasers, long, flowing scarfs, and battle auras; it's there to be cool, assuming its pulled off well. I don't care if a female character is dressed provacatively or has large breasts, as long as it's all pulled off in a stylish fashion as opposed to a perverse fashion, then I like it. For example, in Strike Witches, none of the women in the world wear pants; it's a clear element of fanservice, but it fits into the world setting well and is something never even brought up by any of the characters in the anime male or female; as a result, the fact that the characters are basically providing infinite panty shots, it comes across as stylish as its part of the design. This is opposed by, say, Lucy Heartfellia in Fairy Tail, who constantly flaunts her breasts in order to get people to do what she wants; this type of fanservice isn't stylish, imo, because it comes across more as a perverse element in the story/world that hurts Lucy's character; the fanservice involving Lucy is there as a cheap way for the magaka to present fanservice, rather than providing fanservice in a more stylish way, such as the character of Erza who switches between different armors in a provocative fashion, but still in a stylish way.

Also, when it comes to general "sexy" female character design; I'm not one of the people who bring up things like: "oh, that body type is impossible", or "that's just ridiculous". Honestly, I don't care. These characters are fake, and very few anime try to portray real life in a realistic manner; thus, I say that artists can make characters as "ridiculous" looking as they want. From the enormous breasts of Cattleya in Queen's Blade to the bursting muscles of Kenshiro in Fist of the North Star. Artists can do whatever they want as long as they respect their subject material; by which I mean, don't turn an anime/manga, even an ecchi anime/manga, into porn. What happens in porn should stay in porn, don't bring it into entertainment. Of course, there can be poor character designs, like when a female character has large breasts just for the sake of having them, but Japan is usually good about their character designs, and it all works out in the end. Of course, this doesn;t necessarily mean I like the anime/manga, but I'm not going to go out of my way to complain about a busty female character. This thought pattern applies to videogames as well (it's getting annoying how many people are complaining about the Amazon and Sorceress' character designs in Dragon's Crown).

This all may come across as hypocritical or maybe just stupid to some, but that's just how I see fanservice. I actually hate how most is presented in manga/anime, but there are some series that have a lot of fanservice that I really enjoy. I don;t think I'm hypocritical, but I posted this reasoning so to hopefully clear up a few points that may come later.

- I am a yuri fanboy. I love yuri in all its forms: shipping, subtext, canon, etc. I will look into a series simply because it has the possibility of yuri subtext (see Soul Eater Not!). However, I don't read/watch anything with yuri, as many yuri manga are pretty serious in tone and often end in tragedy, and like I said before, I read/watch manga/anime to have fun, so if I don't leave a story with a smile on my face it's not worth my time, imo. I prefer light-hearted or comedic yuri stories. Also, a story doesn't need yuri for me to enjoy it; that's what yuri goggles are for anyway, heh. As for why I like yuri, it's simply because I find it to be beautiful both visually and thematically. Also, I feel that heterosexual romances severely lack emotion and believability in stories these days (manga, anime, movies, etc.) and often feel very tacked on and unneccecary. Yuri romances and relationships, on the other hand, feel much more believable and romantic, imo.

And those are all the main points I can think of at the moment; more of my specific tastes are bound to show up in my future posts. So, yeah, if my tastes are the opposite of your own, you probably shouldn't really bother reading my coming posts, which will almost all be on shonen/comedy manga and anime.

These coming posts will be short to medium length, and just psuedo-reviews of series I've read completely or enough to point that I feel I know enough to give my thoughts on it. The posts will just be my thoughts stated in a casual manner since I'm getting sick of the formal reviews I've been doing lately. I think my opinion will get across better in a casual way than a formal one.