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By Charles On 1 Mar, 2013 At 09:15 PM | Categorized As Animation, Editorials, Featured, Reviews, Reviews | With 0 Comments

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Amaterasu_by_GENZOMAN

and’s she’s quite the looker too…

In Japan, there is a certain goddess. A pillar of righteousness, she sits high in the heavens, casting her light down upon everything beneath her. Countless other gods, enraptured by her splendor and majesty, hurry about trying to cull favor from this radiant maiden of unearthly beauty. Her name is Amaterasu, the embodiment of the sun itself, ancestor of the imperial family, and possessor of the supreme power of all kami: ready to defend her people at a moment’s notice against evil and ever vigilant in her watch over all those beneath her.

At least until her favorite anime comes on. Then, you’re s-o-l.

A playful entry into the winter 2013 anime season, SHAFT’s Sasami-san@ganbaranai (Ms Sasami @ Unmotivated) is an alternate take on the legend of the sun goddess, told from the point of a cute, hikikomori schoolgirl and her faceless brother. But while the legend of Amaterasu is a tale of bullying, retreat and the eventual emergence of the brilliance of the sun, Sasami’s story is a little more…relatable? Typical? Expected? Actually, it’s hard to put into words.

sasamiBy day, the spunky Sasami Tsukuyomi is content to lounge around, taking time out of her busy schedule of gaming and sleeping to spy on her elder brother while he works his job at the local high school she should be attending. By night, she demands that he profess his love to her, feed her, wash her and put her to bed, so the following day she can repeat the process. Punish his supposed ecchi moments, act aloof until he’s swooning, and deflect his advances continuously.  Not too different from any pampered princess living out her daily dreams of not doing anything.

But Sasami is different. Unlike a mere mortal royal, she is the heir to the power of the sun itself, and with it has the ability to force anyone – god or human alike – to do her “bidding,” those wishes she has in her heart that she rarely vocalizes. These “transformations” come back to haunt her time and again, but still she resists, preferring the life of a shut in to that of a responsible person. For shame, denying the obligations of the mighty sun goddess- she would never do such a…oh…OH!, I get it now. Clever girl…

From the outset, Sasami-san@ganbaranai borrows liberally from the legend of the “original hikikomori,” Amaterasu. In the legends, the maiden of the sun is driven underground by her brother, the “vile” Susano-o. Taking refuge in a cave, she refuses to come back out, depriving the world of her radiance and allowing for monsters to run rampant. Some clever and enterprising folks manage to use her own envy against her, convincing her (through the use of several well-placed mirrors) that they have chosen a new sun goddess, and luring her back out. From then on her, place remains in the sky, driving off ghostly spirits and giving light to the people. All that’s missing here is the computers.

Sasami-san-Ganbaranai-01

kawaii…and not a little reminiscent of Chobits…

Sasami, the heir of this cosmic power, lives her life indoors. Every time she attempts to leave the house, a powerful wave of nausea and disorientations overtakes her. She retreats back inside. She finds amusement in petty things. She can’t take care of herself. And her brother, kami bless, him, dotes on her unceasingly. Continue along this path until forced to leave, in order to protect the brother she realizes she loves, from sacrificing himself for her. Not a word-for-word updating of the original tale, but close enough to provide a cute, modern insight into the source material. (Even cuter when you realize her faceless bother Kamiomi is Tsuki-yomi, the “faceless” god of the moon- ever present, ever mysterious, ever-doting…well, maybe that last part is a stretch.)

Of course, her brother is “assisted” in his duties by three “sisters,” the Yagamis, who are themselves human incarnations of the three regalia of Japan – the mirror, the sword and the “jewel” – tasked with assisting in Sasami’s “upkeep” and making sure the transformations she seems to throw around like proverbial candy don’t come back to take a bite out of HER. Each sister, from the innocent, yet still oddly busty, Tama, to the almost mecha-musume Kagami, to the slightly skewed Tsurugi (also a teacher at Sasami’s high school), play important roles in maintaining a balance between the real world and Sasami’s whims. Each one also plays a deeper role than even Sasami realizes, though saying anything else would be spoilers.

On the surface, Sasami-san@ganbaranai feels a lot like a certain other moe-style show from a few years ago: a light novel series about girl seeking something more from life, subconsciously gains the power to influence reality to meet her desires, then needs to be “saved” by a cadre of fellow students brought together because of her existence and affect on cosmic balance…we’ve heard all this before…

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The difference between Sasami and Haruhi, however, lies in the fact that unlike the latter, she isn’t an arrogant (at least not too much), relatively unlikable tsundere forcing her interests on others. In fact, Sasami is more innocent, perhaps even sweeter, than Haruhi Suzumiya ever could be. And that innocence makes her character far more interesting and relatable. When she makes a mistake, she tries to fix it. When she realizes how her actions impact those she loves, she attempts to make amends. And unlike Haruhi, she eventually gains a full understanding of what she is, and grows from it.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Sasami-san@ganbaranai is the moe show I’ve been looking for. More fun than Jintai, a better use of folklore than Inu X Boku and at times sillier than Haiyore!, this is the kind of show I’d expect from SHAFT: nothing groundbreaking, but a better use of tropes and narrative than simply cute girls doing cute things. A solid entry for winter season, and enough to tide one over until the spring.

By SarahTheRebel On 11 Nov, 2012 At 01:51 AM | Categorized As Featured, PlayStation, Reviews, Reviews | With 1 Comment

No GravatarOkami was a gorgeous game that came of for the PS2 in 2006. I still remember buying it at Gamestop: my best friend and I couldn’t afford the game, so we split it, 50/50 and shared the game until we both beat it. Then it just… ended up… at my house. Okami was known for its gorgeous design and beautiful blending of Japanese folklore with an original tale and it is one of my favorite games of all time.

Imagine my delight when I heard they would be making the HD version for PS3! I’m happy to report that after playing the HD version of Okami, I am still in love with this game!

Plot

The player is Ammy, the wolf avatar of Amaterasu, the sun goddess. Ammy and her pal Issun must journey to find all of Ammy’s lost brush techniques while destroying the evil darkness that threatens the land of Nippon (historical Japan). Along the way you will play puzzles, solve mysteries and meet hilarious characters with silly things on their heads. The game is an action/platformer puzzle game with RPG elements in the fact that you can customize your weapons and stats.

The story is fun and interesting, with some strange (but not in a bad way) twists. There are also numerous callbacks to Japanese folklore and culture, which I loved. There are even some easter eggs. Here’s a hint: go get some Cherry Cakes from Mrs. Orange for an awesome surprise.

Graphics

For those who played the game on the PlayStation 2, the question you most likely want answered is: how does it look? For some games, the HD upgrade makes a world of noticeable difference, but to me, I can’t really see a difference in the HD version. The originaly game was already polished and pretty. There were no dim colors or edgy polygons in the land of Nippon. I showed off a gameplay video of Okami HD in action, and what I mentioned there still holds true.

Is the game lovely, a feast for your eyes? Bottom line: yes, yes, yes.

Gameplay

The gameplay is pretty addicting. You have the main quests and sidequests which follow the standard format of running around and doing things, but there are also mini-games that are more like puzzles and some that are more like oldschool 2D games. There are also  secrets all over the place, prompting you to spend hours in certain areas just to be sure you found them all. The game isn’t actually open world, but the skills you gain and hidden pathways will make you feel like it is as you gain more and more abilities.

Much of the story hinges on your use of the celestial brush, a tool with which Ammy draws symbols that cause actual changes to game world. For example, drawing a slash mark on a tree will cut it down. That this game was developed before motion controls came into popularity is rather amazing.

This is an easy game to get into, although younger children may not have the attention span for all the text at the beginning of the game.

New for HD

Trophies! Yay! Now everyone will know that I beat Hayabusa at turnip pickin! I don’t know why you trophy lovers need them so much, but they are there and they are not all based on things you have to do to progress the story, which I appreciated.

 

You can also use the Move to play. Some of you may remember that a version of Okami was released for the Nintendo Wii a few years back. Quite a few folks complained that it was actually too hard to play the game with the Wii, although a game involving drawing should be right at home with our motion controllers. Unfortunately, I don’t have a Move, so I couldn’t test it out.

I asked my good friend how he felt about it, and he found one of the hardest parts to be making straight lines. Other than that he said it seems simple enough.

Bottom Line:

I heard one or two people grumble that this game is $20. Please do not grumble, this game is worth every penny. Gorgeous graphics, great characters and a beautiful story: what more do you need?