That Zombie Girl with Twin MACs

Makina, wielding her MACs

With all my available time poured wholly into playing RIFT, I’ve pretty much neglected my other hobbies and haven’t worked on anything I wrote down on my achievements list for this year. So, last Sunday, I decided to slowly reach my quota to watch 30 anime series this year, choose Corpse Princess on Netflix, and planned to watch at least an episode of it every night. But the series turned out to be so good that I finished two of its seasons (26 episodes) in just 3 nights.

Corpse Princess (or Shikabane Hime) was just randomly picked by myself from a sea of anime series available on Netflix. I didn’t know anything about it –it’s setting, animation or themes. So, for the first few episodes, I did regret of choosing the series. I suppose I should’ve taken its cover –which depicts a school girl wielding twin sub-machine guns– as a bad sign. But I missed it. So, I have to will myself and suffer watching undead girls killing undead monsters in order to gain entrance into heaven.

But it wasn’t just will alone that made me stick to the series. Shikabane Hime’s animation was also the reason why I got through its uninteresting episodes. Its animation, in my inexperienced otaku’s opinion, is one of the best I’ve seen. The action, even though the sequences are fast, still remains detailed and flows smoothly. You’ll be able to savor every punch and kick, not missing anything. The characters are also gorgeously expressive in here. There were some quiet moments in the series that the characters expressions conveyed more than words.

Good animation is not a substitute for a good story, however. Fortunately, Shikabane Hime was able to pull itself out of the dark before my will got entirely sapped from watching the show. I’m not sure when it exactly happened. But, all of a sudden, its characters got interesting and its plot thickened. It was able to push beyond its cliched “girls with guns” theme and transformed itself into a mature show with a deep concept about life and death. Before I knew it, I was sleeping at 3 AM because I couldn’t stop watching the series.

There are many things to like about Shikabane Hime. But one thing I really love about it is its characters and their relationships with one another. The main protagonist, Makina Hoshimura, is one of my favorites. She’s quiet and angry, but not in an emo/loner way, which I think makes her adorable. The bond of the undead girls with their contracted monks (their partners) is also the selling point of the show for me. While the relationship varies in each team, it still remains complicated in general. Just think about it. A monk, holy and is sworn to celibacy, partnered with a hot, undead girl. That’s torture.

Shikabane Hime is definitely one of the best anime I’ve seen. The animation is excellent, the action is fast-paced, and the characters are interesting. The story, while it had a lame start, it picked up pace in the middle of the first season and went uphill from there. While it can still be labeled as a “girls with guns” series, it has some nosebleed concepts about death and life that separates it from your average anime with the same theme. Like I said earlier, there are many things to like about this anime. So, overall, I highly recommend it.

Score: B+


2011, I Challenge You!

Now, this is the part of my blog where I should post my New Year’s Resolution. But I won’t post it. Instead, I’ll list down a number of doable to impossible challenges that I want to take on this 2011. Nothing too dangerous though. No stuff like jumping from the Sears Willis Tower or eating 17 live scorpions. I know, I know. This sounds a lot like a resolution. So, I won’t refute it. But I’ll still deny it.

I will, however, admit that I borrowed this idea –of announcing a challenge to the whole world, in writing, sealing it in contract. This idea was, of course, from Julie Powell, of the Julie & Julia fame. I saw that movie yesterday with my mom (who’s a huge Meryl Streep fan), and I enjoyed it. While I never really cared about the food part of the film, I thought it was good because it’s the first film I saw that’s about a real-life blogger. And I really liked her challenge. That’s why I copied it.

But, anyways, here are some of the challenges that I want to trump over this year.

1 Song
I’m planning on being a bedroom musician again this year. I’m also hoping that, by the end of 2011, I’d be able to write a song. Nothing sublime though. I don’t have equipment to do that. I’m thinking an instrumental post-metal song, like Pelican, but only with cheap synths, would be doable enough.

5 100% Games
Now, this is probably impossible to do. But I’ll break my back and try to get 100% achievements on 5 games. Those games would be Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect 2, Fallout: New Vegas, Red Dead Redemption, and Heavy Rain. I’ve already got some of the achievements in these games but I still have a long way to go.

10 Recipes
Back in 2009, I was cooking a lot. So, I’m a bit disappointed at myself because I didn’t learn a single recipe in 2010. I don’t know what I want to cook yet but I still have tons of recipes to learn on my Personal Trainer: Cooking for the Nintendo DS.

15 Games
In addition to having 100% achievements on 5 games, I also want to be able to finish 15 other games. To start with, I still got 8 games on my back log and 4 on my anticipated games list. The last 3 will be wild cards.

20 Anime
Last year, I’ve started to watch and love anime again. Thanks to Netflix and Crunchy Roll, which provided me with free anime to stream. So, this year, I’m aiming to finish at least 20 series.

25 Songs
This is the precursor to writing my song. Before I could write a decent post-metal song of my own, I need to learn and play 25 post-metal songs first. Because I don’t know the shapes or the flow of their riffs. Plus, my guitar skills is very rusty. So, I need practice to loosen my fingers.

30 Books
I used to read at least 20 books per year. That was when I still had two jobs. Last year, I only read 8 books. My budget just won’t allow me to buy new books. Hopefully, with my Kindle and cheap (even sometimes free) ebooks, I’ll be able to read a whole lot more this year.

100 Blog Post
I only made 71 posts in 2010. Vacation and a couple of hiatuses did that. So, this year, I’m gonna write a least 100 posts in this blog. Vacation or no.

5,000 Player Kills
I only made around 2,000 kills in Warhammer Online, and I spent about a year playing that game. But now that I’m better at player vs. player (PvP), I’m gonna try and kill 5,000 players in RIFT: Planes of Telara. I know that seems a lot. But, believe me, this is the most easiest challenge for me. After beta testing RIFT four times, I know I’ll be spending most of my time playing this game, and maybe getting 100 kills/day.

That’s it. It looks impossible. But, hey, what are challenges if not challenging? So, 2011, bring it on.

The Best of 2010

2010 wasn’t exactly the best year for me. But it wasn’t that bad either. There were deaths, all four of them I knew in high school. Two were batch mates, one was a classmate and one was a good friend. Then I also quit my second job. Without it, I don’t have enough money compared to previous years. But, actually, I’m doing fine. I still make ends meet, I have less stress and, for the first time in recent years, I feel like I’m control of my life. I don’t feel like a wage slave anymore.

I also have more time now to do what I’ve always like to do –listen to music, play games, read books and comics, and watch movies and anime. Of course, I wasn’t able to buy all the games and all the books that I really want this year. But I’m fine with that. I’ve read, played, seen a lot of good things this year, most of which will end up on my list below.

As for this list, I’m only including new releases in 2010. So no The Walking Dead comics, because it’s an ongoing series, or season 7 of The Office.

Now on to my definitive list!

Best Film

A Prophet

A Prophet is one of the best crime dramas I've seen.

Crime Drama isn’t really my thing. But when a friend told me about A Prophet, who then compared it to The Godfather and The Count of Monte Cristo, I got curious. The story in this film revolves around Malik, a 19 year old Frenchman of Arab descent, an illiterate, and a small-time criminal who was sentenced to prison for 6 years. While in prison, he learns how to read and write, studied the politics of prison and gangsters, and runs his own drug cartel. By the time of his release, he’s no longer a small-time criminal but a mob leader. The story is gritty and very gripping. It’s a coming-of-age story of the criminal kind.

1. Inception
2. Toy Story 3
3. Social Network

Best TV

The Walking Dead

The best Comics-to-TV adapation.

I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead comics. But I have to say I’m a bigger fan of the TV series now. This survival zombie series wasn’t only faithful to the books but it also threw in some new elements, both of light and dark nature. Racism was played in the first episodes, which I never recalled in the books. A group of Latinos was also added into the fold, which will make you stereotype them as gang bangers, only to find out they were only caring for the elderly in an abandoned nursing home. This show has drama, suspense and moving moments. Unfortunately, this series only lasted 6 episodes. So, now, I’m craving for it like a zombie craves for brains.

1. Louie
2. Justified
3. Spartacus: Blood and Sand

Best Album

The Suburbs by Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire, the geniuses behind The Subrubs.

I didn’t really liked The Suburbs from the start. But the more I listened to the whole album, the more its lyrics got etched into my mind, the more it grew on me. It’s also one of the very few albums that I like for its lyrics because it’s honest, and I love it and hate it for being honest. It reminds me of my fleeting youth, of how I refuse to let go of it. I agree and laugh with the album for mocking modern city kids for using big words they don’t understand, only to find out that I’m also that kid. It’s a great album, a moving album. One that will certainly stay on my playlist for a very long time. The Suburbs, it’s a modern classic.

1. Diamond Eyes by Deftones
2. High Violet by The National
3. Brothers by The Black Keys

Best Anime

Angel Beats

The many characters of Angel Beats.

Being only at work three days a week, I was able to find time to watch anime this year. While I didn’t really watch a lot, I was able to see a couple of 2010 releases. Among those new releases, Angel Beats is my favorite. This anime is about dead teenagers, who had lived an unfair life, and is spending time in a “high school purgatory” for a second chance. This anime has everything. A roller coaster of emotions, it has drama, romance, action and comedy. You’ll be watching an awesome fight scene, then you’ll be laughing your ass-off on the next scene, and then it’ll try to make you cry. The animation and music are pretty sweet too.

1. Durara!!
2. Shiki
3. High School of the Dead

Best Game

Mass Effect 2

Commander Sheperd in his Blood Dragon Armor.

Even though Mass Effect 2 was released very early this year, I knew by then that I had a ‘Game of the Year’ at my hands. While Red Dead Redemption made me reconsider, as a BioWare and RPG fan, I have to go with this game. I love how this game reaches into the past of your character –the things you did in the previous game are carried in here. It certainly enhances your gaming experience. Besides that, this is also a well packaged game with a good cast of characters, great story and lots of instances that will satiate your trigger-happy self. Plus, in this game, you’ll also get a chance to have sex with Yvonne Strahovski (model and voice of Miranda Lawson).

1. Red Dead Redemption
2. Fallout: New Vegas
3. Heavy Rain

Best Comics

American Vampire

Skinner Sweet, the bad ass American Vampire.

When this comic book hit the newsstands earlier this year, I thought this was going to be another vampire themed book, riding the blood sucking pop-culture wagon. But, the good thing is, I was wrong. This is no contemporary vampire story that young adults would love to read. It’s a gritty, grimy and suspenseful book. What I love about this series is that it didn’t only gives us vampiric violence but also shows us, in the background, that American history was filled of blood. This is a great comics, a worthy addition to Vertigo’s excellent line up. Scott Snyder really did well in reminding me that vampires aren’t cute.

1. Parker: The Outfit
2. Orc Stain
3. Joe The Barbarian

Best Book

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Rebecca Skloot, author of the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, holding a copy of her book.

I bought this book only because its title sounded like The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which is one of my favorite books. Of course, it’s nothing like Junot Diaz’s novel. But once I started reading it, I had a hard time putting it down. This non-fiction book covers a lot of things, from science to ethics, and all of which are interesting. But the main topic is about Hennrietta Lacks, her family and her HeLa Cells –a cell line that continues to live on 60 years after her death and have been used in many researches. This a very beautiful book. Sad, yet inspiring. Its author, Rebecca Skloot, is also my new heroine. She is persistent and passionate, and she looks good in boot heels.

1. Packing For Mars
2. The Half-Made World
3. I Hotel

So that’s is my definitive list, the best of 2010. Happy New Year to all! Hopefully, 2011 will be good to us all. And no more deaths, please.