Holiday memories and game reviews

Holiday Time…And Such

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
 

Wow. I can’t believe 2015 is already almost over! As with 2014, this year has been quite a struggle. But there have been many positive events. You might already know my brain is constantly developing ideas, and I’m happy to say I’m closing out 2015 in a better position to make the magic happen!

Since I’ve been absent for so long, let me tell you a little about my year, both the bad and the good. If you read my holiday post from last year, you’ll know my mother has been ill. This year, her health declined further, and she’s currently facing a life-altering decision. Also carrying on from last year are my financial worries, some mental and emotional strain, and a bit of melancholie hanging over me from being apart from friends and loved ones. And for the majority of this year I was still living in the same difficult situation. BUT! Unlike the previous few years, this year has brought some major changes for the better. I really feel like I can move forward and heal from the past.

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So what have I been doing all year? Well, perhaps the biggest news is that… I MOVED!! I won’t go into too much detail here, but let’s just say it was a most welcomed event! I’ve also been involved in a few artistic endeavors, such as the designs I created for a cool new board game, and an awesome Dr. Who themed wedding invitation designed for a close friend. I did manage to work on a few personal art pieces, as well as a couple blog posts, but none are finished. As I said, this year has been tough, and unfortunately art blocks and depression are part of that. Hopefully the artworks will be finished soon, though, as I’m feeling a bit better now.

There’s more! You may already know about my stationery shop Moxie Makery. This year I merged the shop with my existing Imaginate Designs shop, so all my handmade creations are now in one place. And more creations are in the works! If you’re signed up for my newsletter, you’ll get news soon about a few other projects in development…

Finally, I got to participate in an a Christmas Sock Exchange hosted by the awesome Kim Wedlock! It was a random match-up exchange. I was picked out of a hat to send gifts to her, while another cool blog by the name of Paper Lilly Leaf was randomly picked to give to me. You can check out Kim’s post to see what I sent her. Here’s what I got:

  • * awesome handmade Christmas card!
  • * cute Santa comfy socks (that all the following goodies were tucked inside of)
  • * Fanta Orange Lip Smackers chapstick
  • * Haribo Starmix gummies (sooo good!!)
  • * Blooming Gorgeous brand bath fizzies and hand lotion (smells lovely!)
  • * adorable little plush snowman!!
  • * mini candy canes!
  • * tiny woodcut reindeer decorations… such a nice touch!

 

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So, lots of positive experiences this year, despite all the downsides. Looking back, this year feels almost like a beginning in a strange way. A new start. Like I’ve begun tearing down walls that kept me from reaching my goals and dreams. I’m thankful to have had the opportunities given to me this year. Most of all, I’m thankful to have amazing friends and loved ones in my life, no matter where they are. They have helped me maintain a bit of sanity during the tough times, and shared in my joy in good times. I only hope I’ve been even half as much of a blessing to each of them as they have been to me.

I hope you and your family have a safe and wonderful holiday, and a happy new year. Looking forward to new opportunities and happiness in 2016!!

 

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Let Your True Self Shine

 

So, I wanted to share with you an uplifting message I came across today.  For those of you who are struggling with feelings of self-doubt, a seeming inability to rise above the deep, dark waters of harsh criticism or even rejection, you are not alone.  Many of us allow ourselves to be pulled into these depths without realizing we have a unique purpose that may not be in line with “normal” ways of thinking.  For some of us, the effects can be seriously damaging, causing us to bury our imaginative spirit, never to find our own voice.  I have experienced this personally, but I’ll leave that for another post.  Let’s be clear: it is NEVER ok to put someone down for being who they are.

 

Now, as a fellow creative/geeky-nerd I’ve had my fair share of raised eyebrows, criticisms, and downright rejections.  I’ve learned to take advice from the criticisms from those who actually care and use it to become a better person, and to ignore all the haters.  But it wasn’t always that way.  And I still struggle with feelings of self-doubt and ineptitude.  Thinking I’m just not good enough, or that I’m too…odd.  I think for all us creative people it kinda goes with the territory.  And that’s OK!  Even though it’s tough to go through, if you can take the positive from it you can build yourself back up and create something truly extraordinary.  So what’s the uplifting message I mentioned, you ask?

 

One word: Miku!  Yep, the adorable, blue-haired Vocaloid singer we all know and love.  Today I came across a new song featuring the digital diva herself, created by the totally awesome Japanese group Supercell.  This song called “Odds and Ends” was written by the group’s founder Ryo, and is said to be a personal account of his experiences with being ostracized for his own interests and passions, and how he found his voice.

 

To me, the song and video are a message of hope and encouragement.  In the video, a robot is shown sifting through piles of junk, which we can think of here as bits of negativity, and through hard work and determination, despite setbacks, ends up creating Miku, which we can think of as the positive outcome of our determination to keep going.  It shows that we can create something real and beautiful out of the junk pile, and that this creation can help us to see the beauty in ourselves again.

 

So what you can take away from this post is, no matter what people do or say, or how many times you fail at something, keep believing in yourself. Your inner light will shine through to the world.  Have you ever been criticized or outcast for your quirks or passions?  How did you overcome your hardships to find your own voice?  What did the song and music video mean to you?  Tell me below!

 

There are many English translations for this song available, but this one probably best captures the feel of the lyrics.  Go check them out and sing along!

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An Anime Life for Me

 I used to watch some anime when I was younger (Sailor Moon, Pokémon anyone? (God, I’m dating myself, aren’t I? (Don’t you just love thoughts within thoughts within thoughts?))), though I had no idea at the time of the term “anime.” They were just cartoons, right? But as I grew older and had more responsibilities placed on my shoulders, I got away from the 2D world.

Now, something-something years later, I’m finding myself drawn more and more to the wonders of what I now know to be ANIME!  There’s so much more available now than when I was a kid, especially with services like Crunchyroll and Hulu, but it was difficult knowing where to start.  After building a long queue of anime that either looked interesting, or that had been recommended to me, I finally made time to watch.

So, without further ado, my anime reviews (so far)!

  • Spice and Wolf – A sweet series about a traveling merchant who meets a wolf goddess, and then agrees to take her with him on his journeys as they make their way to her fabled homeland in the far north. It’s filled with adventure, danger, loads of witty humor (which I love), and hints of romance. The animation style is a bit off at times but it’s worth watching.

  • Code Geass – This one came highly recommended by my brother. To tell the truth, after watching some of the other anime here I got a bit bored with this one at times, but it’s still a good watch. The description is a bit more complicated than what I have room for here, but I will say the writers put a bit of effort into the storyline. Lot’s of “HUH?!” moments.

  • Ai Yori Aoshi – Another sweet comedy series, but not for kids! The two main characters meet by chance, not realizing who the other is. Just when they figure it out, and you think all is well, the woman’s family finds out and attempts to separate the two lovers, the reason why for which you’ll have to watch the series. They work it out, but the real comedy comes into play when other *ahem* “blessed” girls start appearing, all secretly infatuated with the lead male in the series, with one girl being an American transplant who is…quite interesting.

  • Vampire Knight/VK: Guilty – Yes, another show about vampires. This one puts an interesting spin on the whole vampire lore, however, and is set at a university attended by both vampires AND humans, with an ex-vampire hunter as the headmaster! There’s of course blood and violence (obviously), but also an intense love triangle with an unbelievable, weird (and slightly disturbing) twist. The opening theme is an adrenalin-pumping tune that changes time signatures at the end for an interesting slow-down, while the closing theme, and animation sequence, will haunt your dreams! (Cue evil laugh.) If you finish the series and want more, then you might check out Fanfiction.net.  I’ve found a few decent fan-written stories worth reading.

  • Howl’s Moving Castle – This one’s actually a movie, but it’s one of my favorites! It has magic, adventures, a quirky fire demon, a hot wizard, and, of course, romance (see a trend here?). It also boasts an all-star voice cast with big Hollywood names such as Christian Bale (the hot guy doing the voice of the hot wizard), Emily Mortimer, and Billy Crystal (love this guy!). The animation is awesome, and the story rather touching, as is any other of Hayao Miyazaki’s works (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke). You have to watch it! Again, some decent stories can be found on Fanfiction.net.

  • Rosario + Vampire – Another one recommended by my brother. It seemed interesting, but I’ve only actually made it through 3 episodes. I may try to sit through the rest of the series to see if it gets better. Way too many panty shots for my taste, but it’s probably geared more towards the male audience anyway…

  • Kaze no Stigma – Another one with an abundance of panty shots, but more tolerable. The story progression actually isn’t that bad, and the animation I’d say is above average. There’s a crazy plot twist near the end, and the banter between the two leads will have you on the floor!  
  • RahXephon – This is my second favorite of all the anime I’ve seen so far! It’s a beautiful yet heartbreaking story about a love lost in time, and the fight against the odds to change the world and gain back what was meant to be. The animation is awesome and it’s filled with amazing mecha battles. But the most interesting thing about this unique series is the music. The whole plot revolves around music; it truly is “a world suffused with sound.”

    And beautiful sound at that! Composed and performed by the incredibly talented Japanese jazz singer/pianist Ichiko Hashimoto, the series boasts three companion soundtracks (two of which I own). There is also an OVA, with another great accompanying soundtrack, that attempts to re-tell the story from different points of view, but I’d definitely watch the entire series first or you will be confused.
  • Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo – I absolutely LOVE this series!! I just can’t say enough about it! The actual book it’s based off of also just happens to be one of my favorite stories, so when I learned of this anime I HAD to watch it. And it did NOT disappoint!

    Set in the far, far future, where space travel is common, and Paris is apparently the political center of the “country” of Earth, the series follows loosely the actual book (here’s a summary if you haven’t read it (seriously, go read it!)), but with a few major changes. In this version the man wrongfully imprisoned so long ago, now disguised as the charming and mysterious Count of Monte Cristo, is also inhabited by an evil entity called Gankutsuou. While this being enables and empowers the Count in his quest for revenge against those who betrayed him, it is also destroying him, mind and body.

    The series expertly and elegantly captures the essence of the story, while also creating an engaging and original setting. You will be on the edge of your seat with every episode all the way up to the final showdown! The animation style is completely unique in that it uses various overlaying textures for the surface and color detail, which only adds to the beauty of the anime. The music is also very lovely, with a few classical pieces thrown in at key scenes. I don’t have it now, but I fully intend to purchase the soundtrack soon!

    Here again, you can also find alternate fiction stories written by fans of this awesome anime series on Fanfiction.net. Now, apparently the general consensus is that a large portion of stories written by fans are generally crap. But every now and again you happen upon a…precious gem. The Redeemer, a fan-fic by my friend and lovely writer ThePenWieldingRose on Fanfiction.net, is just that. She has masterfully incorporated her own characters and backing story into the Gankutsuou universe while staying true to the anime. The ending, however, I believe to be even better than the anime, and wish that she had been on the scriptwriting team when Gankutsuou was made! I highly recommend reading The Redeemer once you have finished the anime. And don’t forget to follow and leave reviews; show Rose some love!!

Wow. That last one was so good I had to devote three whole paragraphs to it! Anyway, so there you have it: my reviews for some of the anime series I’ve seen so far. Some other anime on my queue to watch are: Trinity Blood, Shattered Angels, Mushi-Shi, The Sacred Blacksmith, Steins Gate, Black Butler, Ouran High School Host Club (started but didn’t finish), Level E, Fate/Zero, Hetalia, Angel Beats! (yes, the exclamation mark is included in the actual name), Fairy Tail, Martian Successor Nadesico, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere, and Love Hina. That’s a lot of watchin’! 

Do you have any anime suggestions? Have you seen any of the above-reviewed series? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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