Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hayate no Gotoku

Hayate no Gotoku is the stupidly funny, fourth wall breaking romantic comedy that somehow manages to follow one of my least favorite anime cliche's and still entertain me.

The story itself is about Hayate Ayasaki, a down on his luck young man with two good for nothing parents who don't work. After getting fired from his job he comes home to discover that his parents not only took his hard earned money to spend it on their dreams, but are also massively in debt and have sold Hayate off to a Yakuza gang. Through a series of events in which Hayate meets Nagi Sanzenin, tries to kidnap, then rescues her, Hayate ends up becoming a butler for Nagi in order to pay off his massive debt.

One of the first things you should know about this story is that it has MASSIVE fourth wall breakage. The Narrator constantly makes snipes and holds conversations with the characters. The characters are constantly making mentions to other anime or previous episodes. The poor wall is broken literally every time someone opens their mouth, sometimes even when they don't open their mouth. From episode 1 and onwards, there is literally no fourth wall to speak of because it's been turned into a pile of rubble.

As I've already mentioned, Hayate no Gotoku falls under one of my least favorite anime cliche's: Anime that Don't go Anywhere. This is an anime where 10 episodes can be about absolutely nothing, where the story can deviate in ways that have nothing to do with the plot, and where an entire episode can be about something that has nothing to do with the main storyline. In fact, I would say most episodes are like that.

Despite this anime falling under one of my biggest pet peeves in Slice-of-Life anime, it's one of the few where I can stand it. Hayate no Gotoku is just so stupidly funny that it doesn't always matter if the episode has no plot because I'm too busy laughing like a loon to care.

Something else to note about Hayate no Gotoku are its characters. While some feel like typical stereotypes, the main characters are all given well-crafted personalities that manage to exceed those archetype cliches... sometimes. Nagi Sanenzin is your classic example of a tsundere character right down to her violent temper. However, she's got more than just that going for her. She's also a super rich girl, which means she should have fallen under the rich ojou-sama trope, but didn't. She's also a shut-in Otaku who'd rather play video games and try to become a mangaka then go to school. In fact, she usually just skips school because she doesn't like being in crowds. This breaking of tropes is what makes Nagi an actually likable character as opposed to that annoying female who always beats on the main protagonist, like Naru Narusegawa from Love Hina.

This anime does have some issues--namely that it has over 52 episodes and only about 20 of those episodes actually has anything to do with the plot. It's incredibly slow and I sometimes feel like they don't go anywhere. That being said, it's still enjoyable and I would rate it a 6.5/10 with a recommendation of anyone who enjoy Japanese culture, romantic high-jinks and ensuing fourth wall breaking hilarity to watch it.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Devil Ninja, Chapter 10

Anonymous1.25.415: Can't the juubi use ying-yang release-(yin to create form from nothing, and then yang to breath life into it) to heal Naruto? After all, the juubi has the rinne sharingan-(not to be confused with what Sasuke unlocked in the manga, that's different) which has control over that. Infact, him being the juubi jinchuriki should be enough for him to awaken it, like Madara did, though you might be able to justify that, it was his chakra network being busted. I don't see a reason for not being able to create something out of nothing, even Naruto was able to pull this feet in the manga with just yang. After all, its really disappointing to Naruto weakened to such an extent, especially after he spent his whole life getting stronger.

Answer: Kurama could use yin-yang release to heal Naruto, but not until their chakra synchronizes. The problem at the beginning was two-fold. For starters, Naruto didn't have any coils left, they were destroyed completely, leaving Naruto as a normal human. The second is that Kurama's chakra is simply too powerful for Naruto's body to withstand. If Kurama flooded chakra through Naruto's body it would have killed him.

Hellfire44: Umm...Koneko? Naruto's not a pedophile is he?

Answer: Um, no... just no. Where did you get that idea? Just so you know, Koneko is 15. Naruto is 17. That's a two year age difference. I've dated girls who were two years younger than me back when I was in high school. Also, in Japan, the age of consent is 13 years old. If they wanted to, Naruto and Koneko could legally have sex and no one would have to legally do a thing about it.

Guest: No offence man but don't u feel your rushing the romance I mean not the feelings part but the intiment parts cause while I like the story and will keep reading regardless I can't see naruto sleeping with someone so soon even if he loves her, rias either for that matter anyway looking forward to more

Answer: Not really. While I don't focus much on the passage of time, Naruto and Rias have known each other for several months now. You also have to remember a few things about these two. First: they're teenagers. Teenager relationships can start off quite fast. I know several couples who started having sex less than a month after they dated. I know some that started BECAUSE the couple had sex. What Naruto and Rias are doing is no different from any other teenage relationship. Two: Rias has no compunctions against sex. She was willing to have sex with Naruto in order to try and keep from marrying Rizer. What makes you think she wouldn't have sex with Naruto because they're dating? And three: Neruto and Rias are devils. While it's not implicit, devils are creatures of desire. They grant the desires of others in exchange for power, and they also have strong desires of their own which, due to their inherent greed as devils, they do not bother denying themselves.

ArmorofGeddon: It took me a couple of days before I looked back and realized something rather odd. Koneko just outright admitted to Naruto that her race was subjected to near-total genocide by the Devils (and she herself was nearly executed as a small child) just because of a crime committed by one member of their race... and Naruto just glossed said fact over like it was nothing. You would think that would be the kind of crap that would normally piss him off big time, and yet he acts like it's not even something worth thinking about.

As much as I enjoy Highschool DxD, it's moments like that that remind me that the Devils, while not all as vile as they are often believed to be, are still, in fact, a rather evil race as a whole (heck, Rias is considered one of the nicer ones by far, yet she basically left Issei to die so he would have no choice but to join her peerage and she's never called out on that). And they are, by and large, massive Karma Houdinis, since, once the story finally ends, they'll almost certainly be the unquestionably strongest faction out of the three Biblical powers, if not the strongest faction in the whole supernatural world.

Answer: While you bring up a good point, I figured I'd nip this in the bud now. It's not that Naruto glossed over this fact like it was nothing, it's that he realizes there is nothing he can do. What happened to Koneko is in the past and getting angry over it isn't going to help anyone, least of all Koneko, who needs his love and support, not his anger. Naruto might be kind of dense, and he might even be an idiot, but he knows a lot about the effects of hatred to know what would happen if he got angry in Koneko's presence while she's suffering.

You do bring up a good point about the evils of the devil race. I actually plan on bringing this up later in the story, especially during the arch that features the devil faction of the Chaos Brigade.

Exanime Draco: Well that was quite interesting to read about Naruto's piece. A Fairy Piece huh? I'm actually curious however about this, and I was hoping you could at least bring this up be it in a pm or in the next update. But I was wondering if this Fairy Piece that you mentioned as something you came up with or a part of the dxd series itself, since if it is odds are that it hasn't been placed on the wiki just yet. Then again when you consider all the stuff not on the wiki despite being out and revealed it's ridiculous. I mean seriously there are characters who have apparently been shown and have their images revealed but not shown on the internet or the wiki. Somewhat annoying when your trying to find out what they look like without reading every chapter.
Still though that was rather interesting to learn about so if Naruto is knocked out of a game, then Rias loses huh? Interesting even more so since it seems that Naruto doesn't have any sort of benefits from this Fairy Piece at all. Or rather none that we are aware of at the moment so far. It will be interesting to see if he does get any or not in the future. Additionally I was a bit disapointed that Naruto didn't get any sort of familiar during the trip to the familiar forest, however, I think I know what your going to do about Naruto's familiar or at least I have a hint of your plans. In any case however, I enjoyed the chapter and I'm looking forward to the next update and I hope it happens soon!

Answer: The Fairy Piece that I used for Naruto is actually called Mann, an Inverted King piece, and is often used in a chess variant called Quatrochess, which is chess for four people. There are several Fairy Pieces in this variant:
  • The chancellor moves as a chess rook and knight.
  • The archbishop moves as a chess bishop and knight.
  • The mann moves as a chess king, but has no royal power.
  • The wazir moves one step orthogonally in any direction.
  • The fers moves one step diagonally in any direction.
  • A camel leaps in a (1,3) pattern like an elongated knight's move. It jumps over any intervening men.
  • A giraffe leaps in a (1,4) pattern like an elongated knight's move. It jumps over any intervening men.
DarkPirateKing: even if it's not really a major thing, i'm kinda happy that they can have sex without someone interrupting for the sake of comic relief... or making a huge fuss about it in the first place. they are teenagers/young adults in love and filled with hormones, so it's perfectly natural to have sex.

despite grown used to it long time ago while reading here (and not thinking about it too much).. it initially always feels awkward to read when protagonist has a boner (literally in this case) for a girl with a loli body, regardless of their actual age..

Ravel doesn't count, since her breast size in canon is inconsistent anyway.

well, those are just small things in the grand scheme of things that won't take away from the overall reading experience, at all.

Answer: Thank you! You're one of the only people who has realized this so far!--or at least one of the only people who's mentioned it. Naruto and Rias are teenagers. Teenagers have sex. It's a fact of life. I only know a few people in high school who remained celibate throughout it, and they were those really goodie two-shoes types who never did anything their parents didn't want them doing. They're also devils, which means they have more desires than a human does. I think Rias put it best when she was speaking to Xenovia about what it means to be a devil... which was actually what started Xenovia's whole "I want to have a child with Issei" spiel, come to think of it.

Random Reviewer: This chapter feels like filler. Like nothing really important happened. Even the revelation of the kind of mutated piece Naruto has doesn't really mean anything, because it apparently gives no bonuses *and* also serves as a massive liability in rating games though I'm not sure how that works. Surely the people refereeing the match would recognize Naruto as a servant and not the "King" of the peerage. I honestly don't believe that "losing a match if defeated" is an inherent property of a King piece so much as it is a simple rule that was implemented in the games themselves. So the "he can force you to lose a match if he gets defeated" makes absolutely zero sense.

Next, the familiar forest. They went there and basically nothing happened. We didn't actually see what went on with the main group and Naruto/Koneko basically just sat down on their own and had a brief chat. After which Koneko fell asleep for a few hours, meaning they basically time-skipped strait through the entire event. Even the talk they had felt extremely nonsensical. Naruto isn't *that* oblivious, he can connect 22 to puzzle out that the reason Koneko is crying about him dating Rias is that *she* wanted to date him. Especially when he got an erection while she was sitting on his lap, pointed it out to him, and then stayed on his lap anyway. That's .. not subtle. At all. Naruto isn't a complete dunce, he'd understand what was going on.

Finally, the sex scene at the beginning. Aside from attempting to titillate the readers was there any point to it at all? It added nothing to the story or the narrative outside of the fact that they're having sex. That could have been told to the readers with a simple suggestion that they were sleeping together and going at it like newly-weds. Actually describing the scene on the other hand does nothing but clog the story with purple prose that 1) isn't terribly well written and 2) does nothing to progress the plot, nor establish any new information that is relevant to the plot *or* to the development of the characters involved. If you *really* needed to get across that Naruto was happy with his new relationship with Rias you could have had him reminiscing about it in bed, post coitus, without the need to actually be explicit about it.

Basically, it feels like the sex scene was added as nothing more than an attempt at pandering to the readers. Which was especially blatant because it was the very first part of the chapter, ensuring that anyone reading the chapter would see it first (and with no warning of an incoming lemon scene).

I have no real suggestions on how to improve this other than to edit the scene so that Naruto is reflecting on it, maybe while walking Rias to school or while he's in bed next to her after she falls asleep. Fade to black works for a reason, and right now I personally believe your story is suffering because it *isn't* doing the equivalent of a "fade to black" thing. And I think you're degrading yourself as an author by such obvious pandering to the people here on this site that think sex is the be-all-end-all of a relationship.

Answer: You clearly don't know anything about chess, then. Naruto's piece isn't a mutated piece, first of all. It's a fairy piece, which actually exists in chess. I'm not going into details because I've already put them in another answer, so I'll only tell you that it does make sense and you simply don't realize it, probably because you haven't played much chess. I don't use random cop-out plot devices without at least researching and making sure those random cop-out plot devices make sense.

And what part did the familiar forest episode play in the anime? None. Issei didn't get a familiar, and we haven't even SEEN Asia's familiar since she got it. The whole thing was pointless, yet they put it in there anyway. I put this part in here because it was an important character developmental point between Naruto and Koneko. Naruto learns of Koneko's tragic past and also temporarily fixes the problem between him and Koneko. That's called character development, and if you want a good story, you need it. Epic stories with bland, uninspired characters make terrible stories.

Not relevant to the development of the plot or characters? I'd assume that two characters being sexually active is pretty relevant to the characters if not the plot. Physical intimacy is an important part of any healthy relationship. It's statistically proven that relationships where the couple are physically intimate, aka having sex, are healthier and prone to lasting longer than relationships that don't. You might be uncomfortable reading it, and that's fine. If you don't like it, you can just skip it.

Also, I'm going to tell that I was not pandering to the audience. I was pandering to myself. I write for myself and no one else. If other people like my stories, awesome, I'm glad, but if they don't, that's not really my problem. An author has to love their own work first and foremost. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ashikabi no Shinobi, Chapter 39

SilverBladeStar: You are a great writer, very talented. Your fight and sex scenes are top-notch. One of your few flaws is that when you do great, long, complex fic like this one, you have trouble keeping you own details straight. It seems like sometimes you can't remember some of the things you have written.

Answer: Sad but true. I won't deny that I do have the occasional problem remembering something that happened in a story. The problem isn't that my fics are long and complex, but more that I'm just writing for so many stories that my facts get mixed up and jumbled together. It's difficult writing 9 fanfics at the same time, add in my original stories and you've got some serious problems.

anon1: Nice chapter. There were some minor grammatical errors but nothing too noticeable. The only glaring mistake was when you referred to Yukari as 'Yukari Sendo' whom is a character from an entirely different anime/manga, RosarioVampire, instead of Yuarki Sahashi which is her actually name. Other than that, wonderful job. Looking forward to the surprise and an update on any of your stories.

Answer: Thank you for catching that. While I would love to claim that I never make mistakes when writing, the truth is I do, I make quite a few mistakes, in fact, and it's impossible for me to catch all of them.

Nope: The sex scenes - they are awful. Also, if Matsu is not wearing panties how could Naruto have taken them off? Blergh, this fic could be an awesome study in the field of psychology, you know? Someone could write a nice paper on unfulfilled dreams and sexual desires.

Answer: If you don't like my story then how come you've read 39 chapters of it? Seriously dude, it's okay if you dislike my stories, but if you're still reading this after 39 chapters, then you've clearly got issues. Are you sure I'm the one who has unfulfilled dreams and sexual desires? Because it seems to me like this is the other way around.

DraconisVladisDrake: 'Death by sentai pose' 
Kudos to making me laugh my ass off.

I also liked the mixing of the plots with the Jinki and the Shinju. It does make me wonder about how your going to handle the relationship of the Jinki and the Sekirei?

I also like the hint at Naruto thinking of using the Jinki to give his Sekirei immortality. With all the changes to his personality I was afraid you had just gotten tired of his attitude and were trying to change him at the cost of the plot.

I would like to see some of his insecurities reappear intermittently when the plot allows, in order to show that he is human and make the story more believable. But I understand that it is difficult to make an 'organic' transition in personality that isn't 'forced', I look forward to seeing how you handle it.

I admit to being a little disappointed in the lack of attention Tsukiumi is getting, but I understand a lot is happening quickly and your trying to balance going to fast in the story and skipping important things, or going to slowly and making the reader loose interest.

Also I think Homura is feeling a little like a seventh wheel here, I'd like to see some kind of interaction between him/her and Naruto.

I also liked the 'Surprise' Minaka has coming up soon, it has felt like things are too easy for the protagonist and the lack of proper challenge does detract from the story. I liked how you smoothly inserted a new challenge with an action that is very 'Minaka like' and feels right. It is far too often that I see fan fictions 'bend' characters away from their established personalities and it was nice to see Minaka act in character and deal with the threat Naruto poses in a way that the original character would have done.

overall I rate this chapter a 9/10 the only reason I didn't give it a 9.5 was because the story is going a little fast and could stand to have certain interactions expounded upon. But overall very well done, I look forward to your special 'Surprise' in the Author Notes.

Answer: It is indeed difficult to make such a strong reversal in personality like this. Part of the reason I had Naruto struggle so much is so that his shift from angsty brooding jerk to somewhat decent human being felt a bit more natural. I had Naruto fight against his bonds constantly, always lamenting the past, until a catalyst (Musubi's death) forced him to acknowledge those bonds and allow for further development, however, even I'll admit that it's incredibly difficult.

Don't worry. Tsukiumi's time is coming. I have something special planned for her wedding night. It just takes some time and preparation. XD

ABitterPill: I have a question. Naruto has demonstrated incredible regeneration and has shown he can regrow his heart and stated he can regrow his head. So if he were bisected straight down the middle, would both halves regenerate and thus end up with two Narutos?

Answer: An excellent question, and the answer is no, the two halves would not regrow into two separate Narutos. The way I see it, Naruto only has one soul, therefore, there can only ever be one Naruto (not including clones) in the universe. You can't split the soul in two... unless you were to go the evil Naruto segregation route (which isn't happening), so if Naruto were separated into halves, only one part, his torso, would regenerate, while the other remained inert.

Guest: i like the story,
but why you make yume will merge with musubi?
i think, it will be better if naruto find a way to give yume a body.
so she can join into harem.

hope my review will not slowing down your update.
anyway, this story is very good . so i will wait for next update.

Answer: The reason I'm having Yume and Musubi merge is for several reasons. First: No one else has done it before, at least no one that I know of. Second, I only have room for 8 Sekirei in Naruto's harem: Akitsu, Kazehana, Homura, Matsu, Miya, Musubi, Tsukiuimi and Kusano. That's already Sekirei, so Naruto's harem is all filled up.

Digitize27: amn, Akitsu seems to have taken a bit of a backseat lately. Still, good chapter that definitely justifies the waiting _

Answer: It's unfortunate, but sometimes, certain characters are often delegated to the background. Because of how quiet Akitsu often is, it's difficult to give her a prominent position as a foreground character who's always given time in the spotlight. I'll try to give her some more time to shine.

DarkPirateKing97: are you SURE you haven't read gabriel blessing's In Flight? last time i asked was pretty long time ago.. one of the 'Gift of Memories' chapters had In Flight in the title.

i mean the whole scene with Yukari calling Naruto and asking for 'life counseling'.. or maybe she was like that in canon (it HAS been a while)? and the whole thing with Musubi riding the protagonist while he's not aware of it at first thing seems eerily familiar too.

i don't know.. maybe great minds just think alike. doesn't make this any less awesome, but it's just something that started to nagging my mind while reading.

Answer: I have not read any of Gabriel Blessing's stories. I tried reading A Hill of Swords once, but couldn't get past the first chapter because it was written in 1st person and at the time I did not like reading 1st person POVs. I'll probably get around to reading his stories at some point, because I've heard nothing but good things about his writing, but it won't be until after this is finished. If there are any similarities between his story and my own, it's just a coincidence. Oh! And if you're curious, I actually got the idea of "life counseling" from the anime OreImo (My Little Sister Can't be This Cute).

NarutoDKurosaki: So a new chapter and this fic is at its end and I would really like to see your hypothesis in this fic about the jinki where they grow into a primordial god.
The next thing is your thoughts about the last chapter of naruto manga how did you like it? And as for your surprise is it the sequel to the harry potter fic of yours or an entirely new fic

Answer: To be perfectly honest, I'm not really into canon Naruto anymore, so my thoughts are sort of, bleh, in a way. There's a lot about the story I didn't like, some things I did like. I do admit that I think Kishi managed to end his story nicely... except for Gaara's hair, but my opinions are sort of, meh.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Here's an anime that gets a lot of love and hate. My Little Sister Can't be this Cute or OreImo for short, is an anime about a good-for-nothing brother who discovers his sister is an Otaku with a love of little sister eroge. This anime was... surprisingly good. I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting much of this anime, but for almost the entire two seasons of it, I actually enjoyed watching this a great deal.

The first thing I enjoyed about OreImo is the glimpse it gives us into otaku culture. Contrary to popular belief in America, Britain and other countries around the world, otaku is a derogatory term in Japan. It's basically an insult to be called otaku. If you're otaku in Japan, people are basically calling you a social outcast with no life outside of your obsession (which can be anything, not just anime).

I love how this aspect of Japanese culture is accurately displayed in this anime, not only making it entertaining, but actually adding a bit of educational value by teaching us foolish foreigners about what it really means to be an otaku.
The second thing I enjoyed about this anime was the characters. All of the characters in this anime actually feel like real people, not caricatures of archetypes. Even the tsundere of the group, Kirino Kousaka, feels like a real life person. In fact, I'd say she was the most well-created of the entire cast. I know a lot of people don't like her because she's annoying, belligerent and mean, but that's actually what makes her feel so real. She acts just like an obstinate little sister.

Another well-thought out aspect of this anime was the development between the main character, Kyousuke Kousaka, and the rest of the cast. Unlike most romance/harem genre anime, this one actually takes a more realistic approach to developing relationships. In fact, Kyousuke actually ends up dating one of the characters in the anime, something that you see surprisingly little of, even in romance anime.

One of the things this anime has that few don't is steady progress and development between the main character and the rest of the cast. You actually get to see how they develop further as a result of their interaction and watch them grow and become more mature. It is quite possibly the most enjoyable aspect of the entire anime.

And then episode 12 of season 2 came...

... and the entire anime was butchered with a rusty spork.

Something I feel everyone should know about this anime was that it had some serious potential. Despite the mixed reviews it got, this had all the makings of a great anime until episode 12 of season 2 came out. It had interesting characters, progressive character development, an interesting story, and a nice little romance. Episode 12 is where all this awesome was thrown down a garbage shoot because the author decided to let his little sister fetish get the best of him.

Honestly, I just don't understand why someone would ruin such a good anime by adding incest. Yes, I know, the anime sort of ran in that direction several times, and yes, I am aware that this anime is based off an eroge where the MC getting with his little sister is, indeed, a playable route, but I never really felt any sort of romantic potential between Kirino and Kyousuke in the anime. To me, it felt more like the bonds between an estranged brother and sister being mended, which is what this anime should have been about, and would have been about, if the creator had not decided to go the incest route.

What makes this route even worse is that the creators didn't go all the way through with it. No, instead of actually deciding to take this anime all the way, the creator did something I despise in anime, the Reset Button Ending. This is the ending where, after having gone through all this hardship to get to the point where they are now, the creator decides to make it all pointless by, essentially, resetting time. In OreImo, this is done by the end couple, Kirino and her brother Kyousuke, deciding to be a limited-time couple until Kyouseke graduates from high school and then returning to normal siblings. Now, I don't like this pairing at all. In fact, I hate this pairing. However, if you're going to go incest, then you might as well see it through to the end instead of playing the reset card, because allowing the characters to hit that reset button and pretend their relationship never happened pretty much invalidates the entire anime. It's like watching 24 episodes of an anime, and then realizing those episodes were nothing but pointless filler.

To be perfectly frank, this anime would have been a thousand times better if Kyousuke ended up paired with one of the other girls and Kirino was forced to confront her feelings for her brother and realize that the love she felt was never romantic in nature, but just deep-seated feelings of respect and admiration toward the brother she looked up to and admired when she was younger. The development derived from coming to terms with her feelings and realizing that, yes, she does love her brother but not in that way, would have been far more powerful than route they chose to take. As it is, I had a hard time taking this anime seriously after episode 12.

Now, here is the tricky part, my rating. This anime would have gotten a 9.5/10 due to the story, characters and development, however, because the creator screwed himself over this anime isn't getting that high of a rating. I probably would have given this anime a 7/10 if the creator at least decided to go all the way and force Kirino and Kyousuke to confront the hardships that came from having an incestual relationship, but since the creator decided to hit the reset button, I am only giving it a 5.5/10. It had potential, I enjoyed most of the two season series, but that ending just ruined it for me.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Top Five Anime Cliche's

I've finally hopped on the bandwagon and decided to list the five anime cliches, or tropes, that annoy me the most. I know what you're all thinking. "How could you, Brandon?" I'm sorry, but while I love anime and manga and light novels, even I will admit this particular entertainment media has even more cliches than Chuck Norris has people kissing his butt.

There are hundreds of cliches in the anime world. More than I can list in a single article. For the sake of keeping my word count below 9,000, I'm only going to list the five that bother me the most. If you agree with them, awesome, let me know. If you don't, cool, let me know why. Also, if you have any cliches you dislike, be sure to leave a post and let everyone know.

Number 5: Harem Conclusions.

One of the few things I hate about harem anime is the lack of a conclusive ending. The problem with harems is that they almost always end completely open. The main character almost never mans up and chooses a girl. The most you can expect from an anime like this is for everything to return to the way it was at the beginning, sans the fact that the MC now has several women chasing after his oblivious loser tush.

There are some anime that break this trope. Shuffle did an exceptional job of having the main character man up and pick a girl. The World God Only also ended with the MC not getting with the one girl he might have liked (or any of the other girls). These are great examples of how to properly use a standard trope and make it work. However, generally, most anime fall under this annoyingly open ended category that never ceases to leave me wanting.

Number 4: Overused Female Archetypes

The problem I have with this trope isn't the archetypes themselves, but the fact that directors use them as an excuse to be lazy. Rarely ever will you see these characters fleshed out. In fact, you'll be lucky if these characters get any development before the end of the season. And when the directors actually DO make a half-hearted attempt at giving them some development, it's always during the last one or two episodes, when I'm just so annoyed by how stereotypical their personalities are that I just don't care anymore.

There are, of course, anime that can take these archetypes and create well-thought out, meaningful and believable characters, but those are so rare that usually only maybe one out of every five anime will successfully take an archetype and make them into something more. A few examples of properly created archetype characters are: Rin Tohsaka from Fate/Stay Night, Kanade from Angel Beats, and Yuno Gasai from Mirai Nikki. Rin is a classic example of the tsundere archetype, but there's a lot more to her personality, desires, and traits than this simple title. She strives to be the best at everything, she hates losing to anyone, and she has responsibilities as the second owner of Fuyuki city that she takes seriously. Kanade, while a typical example of kuudere at first, eventually evolves as the story progresses, going from an emotionless girl to someone who can express her emotions more freely. And Yuno Gasai holds the title of Yandere Queen. However, she's not just a yandere, and as the anime progresses, we begin to learn more about her past and see how her actions and experiences shaped her into the person she became in the anime.

Number 3: Anime that Never Go Anywhere

Something I really dislike about some anime is the lack of plot progression for the sake of screwing around. One of my beliefs is that a scene should do something to either progress the plot or develop the characters. In a comedy, character development is done through ensuing hilarity. In romance, it's done by developing the relationship of the hero and heroine. In action, you have an enemy show up that needs to be defeated. In slice-of-life, you generally have people dealing with everyday problems that need to be solved. Excellent examples of these anime are Golden Time (romance), Susei no Gargantia (action/mecha), and ReLIFE (slice of life). Each anime is well-paced, develops their characters, has their characters overcome certain hardships, and gives us a generally satisfying ending.

But what happens when a story has no plot? What happens when the characters are never developed? What happens when all you have are a bunch of characters doing nothing, where the story never progresses and the characters never grow beyond whatever archetypes they've been molded from? You get a horrible anime. That's what.

Number 2: The Boob Fall

Now, this is a cliche I'm on the fence about. I've seen some truly epic boob falls in my time, where the main character ends up falling into a girl's boobs and somehow finds their face planted directly into her notorious cleavage. That being said, a lot of anime seem to use this for no other reason than fanservice. And not the comedy type of fanservice. I'm talking the "let's give these Otaku some fapping material" kind of fanservice.

In my opinion, this cliche is rarely ever done well. To Love Ru can do it because that entire anime is just one big fan service, and they're boob falls are so over the top that they've actually started doing crotch falls now. NouCome also does it well, but they take a very different approach to boob falling. However, while this trope is fine to use in a comedy that relies on its fan service to deliver a story, it doesn't work in a more serious anime, especially if there's a heavy romantic element. Having the main protagonist fall face first into a girl's breasts does not make a believable romance.

Number 1: The Back of the Classroom

Why is it that every main character in every high school anime sits at the back of the main classroom? I just don't get it. Is it somehow symbolic with their rebel attitude? Is it to show how much of a loser they are? How anti-social they are? Why does every main character sit there?

Some of you might be scratching your heads wondering why this bothers me so much. I sometimes wonder that myself. I guess my biggest problem with this cliche is that it happens in EVERY high school anime setting ever conceived, and it's never explained! Just once I would like someone to make the character sit at the front of the class, where he's right up in the middle of the action. Is that too much to ask for? Granted, I understand that this cliche is actually used as a means of cutting cost by re-using the same scenes over again, but please, I just want something different.

This concludes my list of top five anime cliches. There are hundreds of cliches in anime. If any of you would like to add a cliche you dislike, feel free. If you'd like to defend a cliche posted up here, feel free. As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Toaru Majutsu no Index

Toaeru Majutsu no Index is another one of those anime that tends to follow along standard magical high school anime. However, this anime differs radically in that the high school setting isn't magical at all but one derived by science. Basically, where most magical high school settings deal with dragons or mages or vampires, this one deals with espers, people who've gained powers through science. Despite it's somewhat cliche'd setting, the story is actually highly entertaining.

The story itself follows Touma Kamijou, who follows along a sort of Lazy Genius trope--except that he's not a genius at all and just lazy. There isn't a whole lot about him that seems special. In fact, all in all I'd see he's pretty much your average magical high school hero: bottom of the barrel, zero talent at being an esper. The only thing special about him is his right arm, which can negate all forms of power be they magic or esper abilities.

The heroine of this story is Index, a girl who comes from the magical side of things. She's highly sought after by a number of people because she's managed to memorize 3,000-something grimoires, which are books that contain forbidden knowledge of incredible power. This puts her (and subsequently Touma) in constant danger. I think one of the things I like best about Index is that she's an extremely interesting character. Honestly, she's like the saving grace of the anime when it first starts. She's just so funny; I love her personality and how she's always hungry and always biting Touma because he did or said something she didn't like.

The anime itself is fairly average, all things considered. It follows what I like to call Arc Series, which basically means there will be 4-6 episodes per arc within a 24 episode season. Each arc tends to be about something different. One might be about a mage who wants to kidnap Index for her power, while another might be about a crazy psychotic esper on a power trip. There isn't any overarching storyline, but rather a bunch of different stories involving the same characters over again. This isn't really good or bad, but something that should be noted as not everyone will like it.

Like most anime in this day and age it does have a good deal of fanservice. Some of the characters are gorgeous, including one known as Kaori Kanzaki, an 18-year old woman with an incredible figure. Many of the other female characters range from being cute girls to gorgeous females with similarly bodacious bodies. While in many cases, ecchi in anime is overdone these days, I feel the fanservice in this one is actually done well. It's not overdone to the point it gets ridiculous, but they don't shy away from it either. They give just enough to satisfy people who like that stuff, but not enough that it'll detract from the story itself.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of the story are the powers each character possesses. The magic system and esper abilities are very well thought out. I had no trouble following along with the explanations given in the anime and could understand the powers each person used, even when they began getting into theories I didn't necessarily understand.

If this story had one weak point, then it would have to be the utterly ridiculous amount of random monologues and speeches. I'm being serious here. You think anime like Bleach, Fairy Tail and Naruto are filled to the brim with cheesy speeches? Just watch this thing. I mean, my god, I have yet to watch a single episode where Touma isn't giving some speech about protecting others and how harming people out of greed is wrong. It's like the dude's only purpose is to spill corny one-liners and then punch whichever villain he's fighting in the face.

If I had to rate this story, I'd give it an 8/10 because of how enjoyable it was. It's not the best anime out there, and the story isn't the most original. But it has more originality than some and was enjoyable to watch. For those who love action, comedy, ecchi and a little romance mixed in with a high school setting, this is definitely something you'd probably like.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Log Horizon

Log Horizon is another one of those MMO anime where the characters have suddenly found themselves stuck inside of a video game known as Elder Tale following a game update... Or so it seems. This is one of those anime that has many good points, but also a number of bad points. Much like SAO is loved and hated in almost equal measure, Log Horizon is one of those shows where you have to really love and understand MMO concepts in order to really get into it.

Before I get into the bad, I think I'll get into the good first. One of the best aspects of Log Horizon is its characters. The cast is honestly incredible. There are a lot of characters in here, and each one has their own unique personality complete with flaws that make them seem believable. Let's take the main character as an example. Shiroe is a ridiculously intelligent strategist whose ability to predict the outcome of any battle borders on omniscient. Some would say this makes him a Gary-stu, but I don't think so. Shiroe has many faults that make this more of a saving grace than an aspect of stu-ness: he doesn't do well with people, he's kinda manipulative and was even given the nickname of "the villain with glasses." He also has this annoying habit of unnecessarily pushing his glasses up his nose. There are at least three females after him but he's completely oblivious to their affection, and he's a work-a-holic. This makes him a much more down to earth and relatable hero than, let's say, Kirito of Sword Art Online, who is more of a Wish Fulfillment character.

Something else I also like about the anime is the intrigue. There's a lot going on in this anime, and it tends to get philosophical at times. It even takes the concept of "what happens to the NPCs when a video game becomes reality?" by giving the NPC characters their own society and individual NPCs their own unique personality. This is very much unlike other video game anime, where the focus is on just the players, and I feel it adds something to the overall story.

The romance is also kind of cute. It's more of a subplot than an actual plot of the story. It also follows along what I call the typical Shounen vein for romances, where it never really seems to go anywhere. This is as much a good point as it is a bad point. While it's very cute and adds more depth to the characters, it's also very annoying when you see romances develop and not go anywhere.

However, while there is a lot about Log Horizon that I like, there are also a number of things that I don't like.

The biggest issue with Log Horizon is it's plot... or to be more precise, it's seemingly lack of plot. While there are a lot of subplots happening all at the same time, this anime doesn't seem to have a major, overarching storyline. It's almost like a slice-of-life anime--except everyone's stuck in a video game. This has, at times, frustrated me a good deal and is one of the areas where I actually feel SAO beat them in. At the beginning of Sword Art Online, we learn that the players of SAO are trapped in the video game world and that players who die in the game also die in real life. We also learn that if they want to escape the game, they must defeat all 100 floors. While there is a lot about SAO that's bad, in this aspect, the story was excellent. We had a major problem, we knew what that problem was and how to solve it, however, the problem itself was so daunting that some people actually chose to commit suicide over attempting to beat all 100 floors. In Log Horizon there is nothing like that. There's no great enemy to defeat, no great goal that needs to be accomplished; all we get are a bunch of subplots mashed together with what almost feels like an attempt to make up for its lack of plot.

Now, for those of you are curious Log Horizon DOES, in fact, have a plot. I've read the light novels, so I know this. The problem is the plot itself isn't given to you right off the bat, but slowly revealed over time. In some ways this is actually kind of interesting, and in others it's just annoying--at least when it comes to the anime. Fortunately, the colorful characters and intriguing subplots make up for the incredibly slow pace. And if nothing else, I can say with all honesty that this story is nowhere near as bad as Game of Thrones, which I'm not even sure has a plot anymore.

Overall, I would rate this 8/10 with a suggestion to anyone who's a fan of MMOs to give it a shot. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance

I hope you guys appreciate what I do here. Honestly, if it weren't for my desire to help you find good anime and avoid anime, I would have never subjected myself to the torture of watching anime like this. Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance or Bladedance of Elementelars is quite possible the blandest anime I've ever seen.

What's so bad about it? Nothing. There isn't anything BAD about this anime. It's artwork is decent, it's story is okay and it's animations are fine. The problem isn't that it's bad. The problem is that it's BLAND. There is literally NOTHING about this anime that's original.

Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance takes the cliche'd Magical High School trope and runs it into the ground. Basically, the main character, Kamito, is the only male who can make contracts with spirits. He gets sent to what amounts to an all-girls academy where he meets the members of his harem, including Tsundere female #1, Tsundere Female #2, Tsundere-ish Female #3, the Kuudere and the Himedere. Now, I am sure you're all wondering why I'm giving them tropes instead of names. That's because these characters are tropes. They literally have no personality beyond their trope. What's worse is that each girl has a tragic past that's almost identical to the other 5 girls, making it impossible to differentiate between any of them. I literally can't even remember their names and I just finished watching this series this week. That is how unmemorable this anime is.

Really, the only thing this story has going for it is the massive amounts of fan service. Like this:

And this:

And dear god, let's not forget about this:

What bothers me about this anime isn't that they have fan service. I love fan service as much as the next hormonal male. My issue is how that's ALL this anime has. It's like they were so concerned about their story being a success with nothing but the story that they decided to shove as much fan service into it as possible, thereby taking most of the story out to make room for the boobs.

I guess my biggest issue with this anime is that I was actually really looking forward to it. I've read the light novels and they're actually really good. The characters are thoughtfully created and actually have a personality outside of Tsundere. Their tragic pasts actually have a purpose and not just to try and draw sympathy from the people watching. Even better, the story actually goes somewhere. Here, I'm not even sure what the story is beyond the fan service. We get bits and pieces of story thrown into the anime at random, but by and large, most of what we see are moments like those pictures I showed you above. Fan service, fan service and more fan service.

What's worse is that the main love interest is obnoxious. It's not that she's tsundere; I actually like tsundere when they're done right. The problem is she's a tsundere with no saving features. I think the animators tried to make her cute or something, but really, all they did was make her annoying. Her entire purpose seems to gravitate around trying to turn Kamito into her slave spirit, getting jealous when other girls show interest in him and trying to punish Kamito because apparently it's his fault other girls show interest in him. She's basically just one big flanderized tsundere without a hint of anything else. This makes her not only annoying, but also makes her a very flat character.

The others aren't much better. So far, the only character who's gotten any real good development is the Himedere, and she's still so lacking in presence and personality that I can't remember her name.

Overall, this anime gets a 5/10 rating. The only reason I'm not going lower is because despite it's overall blandness and lack of originality, it's not a terrible anime. It has some good points, and if you're into massive amounts of ecchi and fan service then you'll definitely like this. It's just that this anime doesn't have much beyond it's ecchi and fan service.

Friday, November 14, 2014

My Book Cover Unveiled!

What's up everybody! I'm here to finally unveil my book cover to you; aren't you excited?!

...No? Well damn. And here I got all excited for nothing. Poo.

For those of you who ARE excited, check it out. This is the full book cover, back and front, available for your viewing pleasure. I really love it, and I have to thank my super awesome cover artist for making it. She really is awesome.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Chapter 1: Arrival

The Tales of the Wandering Ronin

Chapter I: Arrival

Nobunaga Sen's declaration of war against the Shogunite has left us in a bad situation,” said Sakamoto Ryūzen. “Already he has done the impossible and gathered an army of nearly two-hundred and fifty thousand men with no one being the wiser. They are currently fortified in Kyoto.”
Fukuzawa Keichii frowned as he looked up from his observations of the digitized map displayed on the newly acquired analog system situated on the middle of the war room. Though, calling the diminutive space a war room may have been stretching things. The interior space he and his subordinates found themselves in was not only miniscule in comparison to the war rooms of more prominent Daimyo's, but also contained within it far less technology. Off to his immediate left sat several copper computers situated into small alcoves along the wall, the only other piece of technology aside from the analog map, which hummed and thrummed as the cogs within it turned.
The Daimyo studied his second in command, Sakamoto Ryūzen, with intent. “Do we know how Nobunaga-dono managed to acquire such a large task force within so little time? Last I heard, his forces only consisted of one-hundred thousand.”
The alliance, otherwise known as the United Japanese Constituents or UJC, had been created when Japan had finally repealed its policy of isolation and began opening diplomatic relations with foreign nations. It's creation had been caused by necessity, the need to present a unified front to those foreigners who may try to take advantage of their countries lack of unified policies and laws. It was an alliance that had stood strong ever since its conception fifty years ago in eighteen sixty-five.
It looked like that alliance would be coming to an end now. With Nobunaga Sen seceding from the alliance due to an argument with the Shogunite, who ruled the entire northern half of Japan, and now declaring war, small nations were going to be caught in the middle of what could very well be one of the most vicious and bloody wars in history.
Misinformation, most likely,” Sakamoto answered. The sleeves of his traditional white Kimono ruffled as he held a hand up to his chin, absently scratching at the trace amounts of stubble growing there. “Nobunaga may not be much of a politician, but he is a cunning tactician. It would not surprise me in the least if he had simply kept the true number of forces at his disposal hidden until now.”
But to do such a thing as lie about the strength of his army is against the policy of the alliance!”
Keiichi, along with Sakamoto, turned to look at the third member of their meeting. Tanaka Hatsume, an old man with a weathered face and many wrinkles, sat within a chair that moved on wheels. Within the brightly lit room, the many cogs and gears that made up much of the chairs back visibly turned as the oldest of the trio used the joystick on the left hand-rest to control the movement of the wheels.
I think it has already been made clear that Nobunaga never had any intention of following the alliance's policies,” Sakamoto's dry voice responded. “There is no doubt in my mind that he has been planning this for a long time. It is the only way he could have fortified Kyoto so quickly. It's only a matter of time now before his forces begin marching towards Tokyo.”
Which means we'll soon be caught right in the middle of their war,” Keiichi said, his hands clenching into fists.
Indeed.” Sakamoto nodded. “Shiga is right on the border of Kyoto and Gifu, which is controlled by the Shogunite, Tokugawa Kirai.” Keiichi's attention was directed back towards the map, a topographical map that displayed all of the prefectures and who they belonged to. “Fukui and Tsu are the only other prefectures that do not owe allegiance to the Shogunite, and of the three of us, we are the weakest.”
You suspect that Nobunaga-dono will attempt to make his pass into northern Japan by traveling through Shiga?” asked Keiichi.
It's what I would do, were I in his shoes,” Sakamoto said, shrugging. “Though I doubt he will come here just to travel through on his way to meet the Shogunite's forces.”
Surely you're not suggesting he will try to conquer us?” Tanaka's voice of shrill surprise said.
Maybe not at first,” Sakomoto conceded, “but it would not surprise me if he endeavored to take over this nation at some point. Strategically speaking, it is much more sound than simply gaining permission of passage, especially as we are still part of the alliance. Nobunaga will not want any potential threats at his back.”
I doubt he would act in an overt manner, though, at least at first,” Sakamoto added. “While not much for politics, there are still formalities that he must obey. We will likely receive a missive within a few months time, or perhaps an envoy, asking for safe passage through our lands. If we agree with their demands, they will begin trying to negotiate a treaty, one that will likely end in Fukuzawa-sama being turned into a mere figurehead.”
And if we do not meet Nobunaga-dono's demands?” Keiichi, acceding the floor to the more experienced Sakamoto. “What do you predict he will do then?”
It is hard to say.” Rubbing his chin, Sakamoto thought about the question, trying to predict the most probable outcome. “There are many ways he may go about this. His ultimate goal would be to, undoubtedly, kill you and replace you with someone loyal to him and his cause. How he would go about this is another matter entirely, though I expect it will be covert. His attempt will more than likely be some kind of assassination designed to make it look like Tokugawa is the one who eliminated you.”
So either I become a figurehead or I wind up assassinated,” Keiichi mused, idly looking up at the ceiling. “Neither of those options seem very appealing.”
Perhaps we can ask for aid from Tokugawa-sama?” suggested Tanaka.
Out of the question,” Sakamoto said, swiftly cutting that idea down to shreds. “The Shogunite is no different from Nobunaga. No.” The middle-aged man shook his head, his gray hair, caught within a ponytail, swayed with the motion. “He's even worse. At least Nobunaga has a sense of honor, twisted though it is. There is a limit to what he will do in order to get what he wants. Tokugawa is a different breed altogether. He will do anything and everything, commit any atrocity imaginable regardless of how terrible, if it means getting what he wants.”
Sakamoto-san is correct,” Keiichi added, backing the older man up. “I have met him on numerous occasions. During alliance meetings to discuss trade and policies with other nations, he is always attempting to garner more power and wealth unto himself. That is the whole reason Nobunaga seceded from the alliance in the first place.”
Then what should we do?” asked Tanaka, his already wrinkled face creasing even more as he scowled. “We have neither the strength of numbers nor power to match either Nobunaga-sama or Tokugawa-sama.”
Hmm...” Keiichi looked back down at the map, his eyes settling on the two small prefectures that stood on either side of his own. “Sakamoto, what are the chances of Fukui and Tsu agreeing to support us?”
At the moment? None. By now, both Asano Nagotaime and Toyotomi Hideyome are already aware of the situation and know they have nothing to gain by helping us. At best, they will adopt a wait and see approach to the situation.”
I see,” Keiichi murmured, musing. The index finger of his left hand idly traced a path along the digital map. “Our own standing forces barely number ten-thousand. Should either Daimyo decide to use force, we would no doubt be slaughtered.”
Fortunately for us, neither will use force,” Sakamoto reassured his Daimyo. “With the eastern nations, especially Europe and the Americas, wanting to trade with Japan, they cannot afford to be seen so mercilessly crushing smaller prefectures such as ourselves. The easterners are surprisingly soft, easily horrified by acts of atrocity. Should either Tokugawa or Nobunaga be seen destroying us, the east will cut off all trade with our nation, and that will be the end of the influx of technology that we have been benefiting from for the past century.”
His military advisers words rang true. All of the technology they had at their disposal was due solely to their trade relations with foreign nations. And while many in Japan were scrambling to begin building the factories that were necessary to begin production of their own technology, and a few had even succeeded, progress in the department proved to be exceedingly slow. It would be another few decades before their own country had the means with which to build the many devices that had come to them from the east.
So then, they will be forced to rely on subterfuge to dispose of me?”
That is the most likely scenario. Neither side can afford to be seen as the aggressor in this, which is why, despite Nobunaga all but declaring war on Tokugawa, neither side has made a move. They simply cannot afford to. Any careless move on their parts will result in all trade with the outside being cut off.”
In that case, why not hire a bodyguard, Fukuwaza-sama?” suggested Tanaka. “Someone who can keep you safe at all times?”
Sakamoto snorted. “No single man is strong enough to keep a person safe from the combined might of two opposing Daimyo's. They may not be able to send their armies in, but that does not mean they have forces of incredible skill at their disposal. I know for a fact that Hattori Hanzo's shinobi forces are firmly under Tokugawa's rule. And Nobunaga has recently managed to hire a group of mercenaries specializing in alchemy. Who can possibly keep Fukuwaza-sama safe that our elite guards cannot?”
Actually,” Keiichi spoke up, directing all attention back towards him. “I do know of someone who has both the skill and the strength to do just that. A young man I met ten years ago.”
The Wandering Ronin
High above Japan, attached to a large, inflatable and over-pressured gas bag, sailed a rustic looking airship that appeared more nautical in nature than anything else. Built to resemble an old-fashioned pirate ship that once sailed the seas in search of booty, the vessel, made from a combination of wood and steel and copper, floated overhead, its single large propeller in the back pushing its body forward.
Many of the deckhands rushed to and fro on the ship, both inside and outside. Keeping a vessel like this, especially one so old, running, required a lot of work, more so than any sea faring vessel.
Hanzaki cared little for such things. How to keep a Zeppelin running were one of those few things he'd never really bothered to learn, since the idea of captaining or even piloting one held no appeal. And so while all of the deckhands ran apart, tightening valves, polishing pipes and swabbing decks, he merely stood near the edge of the ship, hands on the railing as he peered down at the world below.
From where he stood, Hanzaki could see much of the land below. They were traveling over a large body of water, Lake Biwa, he assumed. Vast plains stretched out across the eastern shore, while much of the rest was covered by cities and farmlands. One of those many cities, the one bordering the south of the lake was the ships destination.
As he stood there, gazing out at the landscape with a calm expression, the sound of clunking signified someone's arrival.
We'll be gettin' to Otsu soon, lad,” a deep, scratchy voice spoke to his back. Hanzaki's ears twitched.
He turned around and gave a pleasant smile. “I am aware,” he said, bowing his head politely. “Thank you for agreeing to take me on board, captain Ahab, de gozaru.”
Yer welcome, boyo,” the good captain said, his face set in a toothy grin. “After all the aid ye gave me when back when I lost me leg in the battle over Warrick. I would've been a goner had ye not found me.”
Captain Ahab, a man whose face looked weathered and worn by both time and battle, stood precariously, his left side lilting. Few men in this world had a visage as scarred as his. Missing his left leg, with a mechanical contraption made of coppery tubes, turning gears and three clawed phalanges, would be enough to frighten many. Add in the numerous scars covering his face and his missing left eye, which had also been replaced by a mechanical eye and you had someone who appeared every bit the boogeyman.
Which made his bright and cheerful personality all the more shocking.
A mere coincidence that I happened to be passing through at the time,” Hanzaki said, “still, you are welcome nevertheless, and may consider your debt repaid, de gozaru.”
I thank ye, lad.” The man, having said what he wanted to say, turned about and began shouting orders to his crew. “Alright ye sky faring lubs! We'll be settin' down soon! Man the valves and get ready to weigh anchor!”
Hanzaki turned back to the view as the captain's voice grew ever softer. The breeze from air travel caused the bangs of his dark red hair to rustle over his face. He frowned, just a little, his right hand coming up to keep his hair out of his eyes. He really should think about getting a haircut soon, at least in the front.
His cloak, a white and red cloak made from heavy fabrics that reached the floor, also whipped about him as the winds kicked up, the high collar ruffling against the lower half of his face, obscuring it from view.
He watched as the Zeppelin he rode upon slowly descended towards the lake. He could see their destination, a large docking station on the lakes surface that allowed cargo vessels to dock in the lake instead of the landing strip several miles to the west. It was not long before the ship reached the station and the ship found itself properly docked. When this happened, the landing ramp on the opposite side of the ship from Hanzaki extended and the copper railing slid to the left on automated treds.
With the ship docked, Hanzaki decided it was time to make his exit. He looked over at Captain Ahab to see the man busy shouting out orders. A small trail of sweat running down the sight of his face at the sight, the young man decided not to interrupt just to say goodbye. They would surely meet again someday anyway.
The Wandering Ronin
Otsu, despite its small size, appeared to be a rather lively city. Hanzaki walked through the cobblestone streets, his eyes traveling across the cityscape. While the architecture remained traditionally Japanese, right down to the small vendor stands, there were a number of remarkable differences from the smaller villages he himself had traveled to when he'd last set foot on the island nation.
The largest difference were the newer buildings. While still few in number, there were a number of structures that were reminiscent of those found within Britania, only with an oriental touch. Made of copper and cement and brick, these constructs managed to retain much of the artistry found in Japanese architecture while also holding a distinctly foreign appearance.
Everywhere he looked, his eyes spotted signs of foreign influence. Vendors selling the newest gadgets: leather bracers, goggles, hearing aids that allowed people to pick up subatomic vibrations representing shifts in the earths atmosphere, all of it gleaming copper, and with dozens of spinning cogs and turning gears.
Hanzaki turned his head this way and that, observing the city.
In most cases, being back home, or as close to home as a person like him could get, would have brought joy to his heart. That day did not seem to be “most cases,” as an air of tension pervaded the city. He could see it in the people's eyes, the worry, the apprehension. Given the letter he received not several days ago, he had expected something like this.
Hanzaki's walk brought him to a large mansion built within the center of the city. Surrounded by high walls made from brick, with sloping roofs situated on top, the only entrance in was the large pair of red double doors that stood nearly three times taller than him.
He stopped in front of the gates as a pair of guards walked up to him, their armor glinting dully in the light. They wore the traditional segmented armor plates of the samurai. The two samura carried both a traditional katana in a plain black sheath, along with the recently invented rayguns, a powerful mid-range weapon that shot out high-intensity aether beams.
Smiling at the two guards, Hanzaki greeted them the way he would anyone else, with a polite smile. “How are you two doing this day?”
The two seemed taken aback by his friendly personality and smile. They shared a look, both clearly confused. After shrugging to each other, they looked back at him.
Um, this is the palace of our Daimyo, Fukuwaza-sama,” the one on the left said.
I'm afraid we cannot allow you entrance,” the other added.
Don't worry about that,” Hanzaki said, smiling. “I've got permission, de gozaru.”
Hmm, now let's see. I know I have it somewhere... no. Not it. Nope. That's not it. Oh, hey! I was looking for that.”
The two guards stared, their mouths agape. Hanzaki didn't pay much attention to them, busy as he was searching through his short-sleeved dark blue shirt and black hakama pants. That wasn't what they were gaping at, however, but rather, the many different objects the young man pulled out of his clothes. This included but was not limited to a rubber duck, several watches, a number of random cogs and gears, and several bands that he used to tie his mid-length hair into a ponytail with.
No. No. Not it. Uh, that's not it either. Hoo, um, eh. Oh! Here it is!” Smiling cheerfully, Hanzaki handed a small slip of paper that he pulled from within his shirt. “This should be enough to let me in, de gozaru.”
The two samurai crowded together, reading the small sheet of paper with increasingly wide eyes. They looked at Hanzaki, then at the paper. Back to Hanzaki. Back to the paper.
They eventually settled on Hanzaki.
Very well, um, Hanzaki...sama... you may enter.”
Hanzaki blinked, but never got to ask about the new suffix before one of the samurai went over to a level set into the wall next to the gate. He pulled on it, and the sound of cranking gears could be heard coming from within the mass of cement. The two large double creaked open, swinging back in a slow, ponderous motion.
Thank you very much, de gozaru.” Hanzaki waved at the two samurai and walked past the gate, humming a light tune to himself. He never noticed the looks exchanged by the guards as the gate closed behind him.
Behind the walls, a large mansion built in a traditional Japanese greeted him. A beautiful garden stood in front, complete with koi ponds and several small bridges. The structure itself, made of purple sloping roofs and mostly paper walls with intricate paintings depicting sakura trees in full bloom, appeared every bit the classic structure he'd expected it to be. While there were a few new additions, the clock situated near the entrance, its gears visible due to there being no outer casing, much of the original architecture remained intact.
At the front of the door, Hanzaki found himself greeted by something that was not human. Glinting in the afternoon sun with freshly polished metal, a bipedal construct made from a series of long pipes and tubes and cogs, stood an automaton, a robot. This particular automated humanoid had a thin chest, with several turning gears visible behind a glass panel in its front. Its head, shaped in the approximation of a humans, contained numerous cogs and gears and plates that spun about as its mouth moved. Its photo receptor eyes zeroed in on him.
Good evening,” it said, its voice containing a strangely metallic quality that, for some reason, reminded Hanzaki of a Britanian. “You must be Hanzaki-sama. I am autonomous unit MD-556341, but you may refer to me as Dee for short. Fukuwaza-sama has been anticipating your arrival most anxiously.”
Has he?”
Oh yes. He has been awaiting your arrival for days now.”
Dee” led Hanzaki into the mansion proper and the young man, his red hair swaying as his head turned left and sight, got his first look at the inside of the mansion.
The soles of his leather boots hit the wooden floor with dull “thunks” as he walked, creating a counterpoint to Dee's metallic sounding “tinks.”
As he expected of a traditional Japanese mansion, much of the interior consisted of long, open-air hallways that allowed a view of the interior gardens. Several buildings were connected by these hallways, each one leading to a different part of the mansion.
Seeing how Hanzaki had never visited this mansion before, he couldn't judge which rooms were wear, but he had a feeling the one Dee was leading him to, which also happened to be the largest, was most likely the receiving room, where the Daimyo, well, “received” his guests.
His guesstimation turned out to be correct. The room was, indeed, a receiving room. Large and spacious and open, the floors were made of lightly tanned tatami mats. All except for the center, which appeared to be composed of wood planks. The planks also served as a path, leading up to a set of steps where a figure sat on an ornately crafted, if slightly modest, throne.
The person who sat upon this throne looked to be a man of modest age, probably a few years older than Hanzaki himself. He had a head of full brown hair, partially concealed by a very tall Eboshi being kept tied together by a white chord. His outfit spoke of elegance and modesty. The man wore a kimono, one that looked far more intricate than the clothing Hanzaki wore. A white kimono traveled just a few feet past his thighs, along with a dark blue vest, both of which were held together by white obi with a chord the same color as the vest wrapped around it. Around his hips, covering his legs was a pair of dark blue hakama pants, finished off by a pair of European-style boots worn on his feet.
Ah. Hanzaki-san.”
The man stood up from his throne, or at least made an attempt. He didn't get too far before a hand was lightly placed on his shoulder by on his shoulder.
He froze. And then turned his head to see an older man giving him a disapproving look. When the older male shook his head, the younger of the two sat back down and gave Hanzaki an expression that contained half joy and mild embarrassment.
It is good to see that you again,” the daimyo continued, trying to regain his dignity. “How have you been since we saw each other?”
I have been well, Fukuwaza-sama,” Hanzaki said, stepping forward and performing a bow. “And how about yourself? How have the past ten years treated you?” he asked, curious.
I have been blessed, mostly,” Fukuwaza-sama said. “As you can see, I've become a Daimyo now. My father passed on a little over a year ago, and my older brother died of what we suspect is a heart attack, forcing me to take the reins. It has been a difficult time for me, as unlike Komachi, I have not received any formal training in how to rule a nation. Fortunately, I have these two to help me.”
Upon being directed by Fukuwaza-sama, Hanzaki finally paid heed to the two figures that stood off to the side by the foot of the stairs. One of them was a tall man with a lithe build that not even his long, plain gray kimono could hide. A red obi kept the traditional Japanese outfit closed. He had a long face, thin cheeks that looked almost hollowed out, and a sword held near his waist.
He was also glaring at Hanzaki, making him wonder if he had unknowingly done something to offend the man.
The other member of the duo was an old man. A really old man. Hanzaki could not determine his age, but his face, wrinkled and weathered from the passage of time, showed that he had to at least be over seventy. The old man's bald head shone slightly in the light―oil, the swordsman realized, and his wrinkles were so prominent in some places, especially over his brows, that the skin there sagged. His eyes, which could barely be seen, were practically forced close from the overhang of skin.
Unlike his traditional clothing wearing counterpart, the older man was garbed in an outfit more befitting someone of Britania. A pair of black pantaloons were fastened around his waist, a white long-sleeved shirt with a stand-up high collar could be seen beneath a black double-vested waistcoat. He also wore a black top hat, an eye patch made up of what looked like the gears to a clock, and a pair of dapper-looking black over white boots.
Hanzaki-san, please allow me to introduce my two advisers, Sakamoto Ryūzen, my military adviser, and Tanaka Hatsume, who adviser on foreign affairs and diplomatic matters.”
A pleasure to meet you two, de-gozaru.” Hanzaki offered both advisers a bow as well, though it was not nearly as respectful as the one he gave Fukuwaza-sama. He also offered both a pleasant smile, which he'd kept up throughout the meeting thus far.
Likewise,” the old man, Tanaka, said, his voice slightly high-pitched and scratchy.
Hmph.” Sakamoto narrowed his eyes at Hanzaki. “So you are the young man who Fukuwaza-sama claims has enough skill with a blade to defeat whole armies?” The skepticism in his voice was more than apparent. “I don't believe it. You look like nothing more than a scrawny brat barely out of his mother's bosom. Fukuwaza-sama,” he turned to the Daimyo, “how could you expect someone like him to adequately protect you? I assure you that our elite guard is more than capable of keeping you safe.”
The same way they kept me safe two nights ago?” Fukuwaza-sama made the statement sound almost like a question. Sakamoto looked away, clearly uncomfortable with the somewhat sly look his Daimyo sent him.
That... that was merely a small slip-up on our part. We had been too lax in our patrol shifts and someone managed to memorize when guards changed shifts to slip in unnoticed. We have since begun randomizing shifts to maximize the effectiveness of our guards and keep any unwanted trespassers from being able to figure out our shift changes.” Sakamoto narrowed his eyes. “It won't happen again.”
I am sure it won't,” Fukuwasa-sama agreed, nodding. “However, it could never hurt to have more protection, could it? I know Hanzaki-san from during my travels around Japan, and I know how skilled he is with a blade. While I am confident in your men and you, I would also like to have an added layer of defense, an ace in the whole, if you will.”
Ha...” Sakamoto released a gusty sigh. “I have already that I will not fight you on this, just that I strongly protest the decision to let this person, of whom I know very little about, see to your protection.”
So that is what you were asking of me in your letter, then?” asked Hanzaki, curious. “In the letter you wrote me, you only stated that you 'needed my help with an urgent matter and that I should come as soon as possible,' but you didn't actually inform me of what that matter is.”
Indeed I did not,” Fukuwaza-sama said, turning to Hanzaki and therefore missing the mild glare Sakamoto sent the younger man's way. “What I have to tell you is not only too much information to put into a letter, but also highly confidential.” The young Daimyo coughed into his hand. “I am sure you've heard about the building conflict between Sen Nobunaga-dono and the Shogunitem Torune Tokugawa-dono, yes?”
Only a little bit,” Hanzaki said, his face scrunching. “I do know that Nobunaga withdrew from the alliance after some kind of dispute, and that he has put forces around the borders of Kyoto, but I know little more than that. While news travels across the globe fast these days, Japan's internal disputes tend to stay within Japan until they become explosive.”
Indeed they do, and this is one situation which might, as you say, become explosive.”
Hanzaki, now all ears at hearing that little tidbit, turned his full attention on the Daimyo, who began to explain the situation to the younger man.
The Wandering Ronin
I get it now,” Hanzaki said, his eyes narrowed in thought, a small frown marring his features. “With tensions between these two forces bordering your prefecture about ready to erupt, you are looking to acquire extra protection in case one of them tries to take you out via subtle assassination and supplant your position with a figurehead.”
Which made Hanzaki realize why Fukuwaza-sama had sent him a missive asking for aid. While Shiga did have its own standing army, it could not contain more than ten-thousand soldiers or so at most. Meanwhile, both Tokugawa's and Nobunaga's forces were within the one-hundred thousands. They would be crushed should either side decide to attack.
An army also could not stop assassins, especially ninja, such as Hanzo Hattori's shinobi clan, which served under the Shogunite. They were masters of stealth. It would take someone with a special training in a specific skill set to protect people from assassinations, which most guards, especially those from prefectures as small as Shiga, simply did not have.
That is the gist of my situation, yes. Precarious, is it not?”
It is indeed a trouble situation, de gozaru,” Hanzaki rubbed his jawline.
Will you help me?” asked a hopeful Fukuwaza-sama.
Of course,” Hanzaki said with a smile. “I always help out my friends.”
Fukuwaza-sama slumped in relief. “Thank you.”
There is no need to thank me.” Hanzaki shook his head. “You aided me plenty of times when we first met.”
I sincerely doubt that,” Fukuwaza-sama said, clearly remembering that time. “As I recall, you were always the one saving my life every time I found myself in trouble. Never once have I been able to return the favor, and even now, ten years later, it is I who must ask for your aid again.”
There are other ways of saving people that do not involve protecting them from harm,” Hanzaki told him.
I suppose.” Fukuwaza-sama shook his head and brightened. “In either event, why don't I have Dee show you to your room. I would take you there myself, but Daimyo's, I have discovered, are forever busy.”
That sounds fine. It was a pleasure meeting you again, Fukuwaza-sama, de gozaru.”
The Wandering Ronin
After the pleasantries were taken care of, Dee bade Hanzaki to follow as the robot led the young man out of the room and into one of the open-air corridors beyond.
Keiichi, Sakamot, and Tanaka all watched as the red-haired male left, following closely behind the automaton.
I do not like this,” Sakomoto said as the door behind Hanzaki closed. “That man is nothing more than a ronin. There is nothing special about him. He doesn't even have the walk of a trained warrior. Our own elite guards should be more than sufficient for the task of protecting you.”
You do not have like it,” Keiichi said, not expressing his annoyance with the way his second-in-command kept questioning his decision. Sakamoto did have a point. In most circumstances, ronin tended to lack the skills of a trained samurai from one of the prefectures, even small ones such as their own. “However, you will accept it. And don't let his appearance deceive you, he is far more skilled than you'd imagine.”
I'll believe that when I see it.”
Keiichi sighed, but realized he wouldn't be getting an answer better than that. Sakamoto could be incredibly stubborn when he wanted to be.
The Wandering Ronin
Here you are, Hanzaki-sama.”
The automaton, Dee, slid open the shogi screen door, and allowed Hanzaki to step in, which he did, with a grimace.
He really didn't enjoy getting preferential treatment. Maybe it was because he'd spent so the past seven years out of the country where no one actually knew him except for a rare few. Or it could just be due to how most countries outside of Japan don't use suffixes except during social functions, of which he never went to. But, regardless of the reasons, he'd never appreciated it when people (or machines) refereed to him with suffixes like “-sama” or even “-san.”
He still put up with it, though, if only because he understood Japanese customs well enough to know that telling someone to just call him by his given name would be seen as an insult to most.
Thank you,” Hanzaki replied graciously, even as his eyes trailed across the room. Light green tatami flooring, a shogi screen door that opened onto a veranda overlooking one of the several gardens, and walls with intricate paintings of dragons. The room was large, at least to him. It was also rather barren. A closet to his left, a small European dresser made of brass, copper and wood also too his left, were the only items contained within the room. This made the interior space feel larger than it really was.
You're welcome,” Dee said, and the robot's eyes lit up. “It is always a pleasure to be of assistance. If there is any other way I can be of assistance, please, do not hesitate to call upon me.”
Actually, there is something you can help me with,” Hanzaki said. “My journey to get here was quite long, and while the vessel I sailed on had facilities, they were rather lacking. I was just wondering if you would be able to direct me to where I can go in order to clean off.”
While he did not grimace, the desire to do so was there. Saying that the vessel he'd been on didn't have very good facilities would be akin to saying the palace's of Daimyo's were all lackluster. In other words, it was a complete lie. Not only had the ship only come with just one restroom, it hadn't even been installed with a shower, which had forced him to wipe off using cloth.
Dee's mechanical joints squealed a little as the robot's hips cocked and his hands came up in a strange thinking posture, left hand held underneath its right elbow, right up near its face. If it weren't for the small fact that Dee was a robot, the stance would have made it appear almost human.
There is indeed a place where you can to get washed up, Hanzaki-sama. The Daimyo has a hotspring near the back that I am sure he wouldn't mind letting you use. Simply go down this hallway until you reach the next building, then take a right to the building after that, followed by a left. That will lead you directly to the hotsprings.”
Really? Thanks!”
W-wait! I wanted to tell that there may be someone else in...”
Dee trailed off, its photoreceptor “blinking” as it watched Hanzaki walk off in the direction of the hotsprings, its left hand outstretched in a very human-like gesture, as if it were trying to grab a hold of the human male's clothing.
...The hotspring right now,” the robot finished.
In the stillness of the hallway, the hand went back down to Dee's side, the machine of copper tubes and turning gears affecting a posture of worry.
Oh dear.”
The Wandering Ronin
Hanzaki hummed a soft tune to himself as he stripped off his clothes, folded them up and put them in one of several baskets designated for clothes. Excitement coursed through his veins, along with a good dose of anticipation. How long had it been since he'd been in a hotspring? A true hotspring and not those shoddily built bastardized versions that littered Europe? Years. Seven years to be precise. Oh how he'd longed to feel the hot water soaking into his skin. There were many things in life that he had come to regret, and not being able to spend time in a traditional Japanese hotspring stood near the top of that list.
Perhaps it was due to his excitement, but as Hanzaki grabbed a towel and walked to the sliding door that led to the hotspring proper, he did not notice the extra set of clothes in a basket several feet from his own.
He walked into the hotsprings.
Like most hotsprings found in Japan, this one held onto the traditional appearance that made them so reknown. Lined with rocks along all sides, and with several large boulders jutting up from the waters surface near the center, much of the spring was obscured by steam. Even from where he stood, Hanzaki could barely make out the several dozen boulders that comprised of a water fall in the very back.
A glance around the front allowed him to find several wooden pales situated near a stool that had a bar of soap and some shampoo. He went over to them and began the bathing ritual that all Japanese men and women know.
Unlike in Europe, the Americas, and just about every other country, bathing in Japan was about more than just getting clean. An entire routine and process had been created in order to properly cleanse the body and soul of impurities. The first step was cleaning your body. Unlike other countries, where bathing and cleaning were one and the same, in Japan, you cleaned your body before ever stepping into the water. This was because the act of soaking in the bath had nothing to do with cleaning, and everything to do with relaxing. How could you relax if you were soaking in your own filth? That was why making sure you scrubbed every part of your body and rinsed thoroughly using the pales was so important. Only after your body was thoroughly cleansed could you step into the waters and truly enjoy the full experience of being in a hotspring.
The same etiquette applied to more than just hotsprings, but bathing in general. It was an important ritual in Japan, one that no one Japanese would dare neglect.
After Hanzaki finished cleansing his body, the young man, his red hair dripping wet and his towel wrapped around his waist again, slowly eased himself into the hot waters. He could feel the water as it caressed his body like a long lost lover, feel the relaxing heat as it wrapped him in a cocoon. The steamy mist that hung in the air conformed to his skin, and the smooth rocks felt wonderful against his back.
While he was relaxing, a splashing noise to his left alerted him to the fact that someone else had also decided to use the hotspring.
Thinking it was just Fukuwaza-sama, Hanzaki opened his eyes and greeted his friend.
I hope you don't mind me using your hotspring,” he started to say, smiling. “It's been a really long journey and I... uh... eh... what?”
Hanzaki's brain screeched to a stop upon having his eyes land on the person standing before him. Contrary to his initial assumption, Fukuwaza-sama was not, in fact, the person who'd made the splash. It was actually a girl.
A very beautiful girl.
Within Japanese culture, there is a term used to describe the idealized woman. Known as Yamato Nadeshiko, these women are considered the personification of the idealized Japanese woman, or the epitome of pure feminine beauty.
If you were to break the expression down, “Yamato” is one of the older and more poetic names for the Japanese people and culture, similar in some ways to the Celtic “Albion” used to describe the island that made up the heart of the Britanian Empire. Meanwhile, “Nadeshiko” is the Japanese name for Dianthus superbus, a wild flower found within the Japanese highlands that is related to the carnation.
Broadly speaking, then, a yamato nadeshiko is a “flower of Nipponese womanhood” or a woman with attributes that were considered desirable in the male-dominated Confucian Japan of the nineteenth century and beyond. This term was generally ascribed to noble women with traditional upbringings, but has sense broadened and taken on a somewhat new meaning.
With recent cultural developments, a yamato nadeshiko generally means a woman with porcelain pale skin, soft and smooth, long flowing hair the color of ravens, and a willowy figure that is both womanly and delicate. Basically, the term has become flanderized since its conception and taken on a more physical meaning, denoting a woman who is physically ideal to what men want. They are also polite, well-mannered, gentle, and soft-spoken.
Most of the time.
Hanzaki's eyes widened as his brain finally caught up with his vision. Out of instinct, really bad instincts, he stood up. This idea turned out to be the worst one possible because the moment he stood, his towel slid from around his waist. The beautiful young woman, who had been staring at him with wide “rabbit staring into a raygun” eyes, found those same eyes trailing down.
Her face began to boil.
KYA! It's a pervert!”
Her scream pierced the air.
N-now miss,” Hanzaki tried to reason with the young lady, even as his eyes struggled to stay on her face. He may consider himself a gentleman, but he was still a man. “This is all just one big misunderstanding. Let's just calm down and―”
Hanzaki would never get to finish that sentence.
Because the next thing he knew, something hard and powerful hit him right in the face and his entire world went dark.