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World of Keiko 2019/04/10

Here are the past week’s posts:

Okay, I guess the word “post” might be more accurate. I know that it wasn’t much but compared to the lack of reviews the previous week… Anyhoo, the series is really promising so far.
I was going to post this week’s update sooner but time got away with me and the internet went down whilst there were upgrades to our telecommunications infrastructure. I suspect that there might have been hamsters involved but the technicians are keeping it under wraps due to the pesky varmints being illegal in Australia. In any case, time will tell if the overall service improves. I hope so.

I didn’t watch much anime this week other than catching up on my weekly fix of The Rise of the Shield Hero. I did, however, manage to do some research on some promising anime and manga series via Youtube on top of my usual scan of manga fansubs for anything interesting. This was a motivating factor in me reading the first volume of After the Rain. Feel free to read my review (linked above) if you are interested in my take on the series.

I dived back into the book Story Structure Architecture this past week, going over story beats based on genres (and “situations”) I am currently working on. It is one of the best books on story structure I have come across in recent years. The use of examples and quotes provides further insight into the mindset behind specific structures. Another good book is 5 Secrets of Story Structure by KM Weiland. If you aren’t familiar with KM’s book catalog (fiction and non-fiction), podcast, vlog or articles on writing, then I highly recommend you check out her website for more info.
I also spent a lot of time watching more videos on writing this past week. It moved from structure to screenplay stuff as one of the things I got stuck on was geared toward this structure. A lot of the material can be easily translated to text-based fiction. Two videos by an acting coach John Windsor-Cunningham proved to be especially useful. Yeah, yeah. I know that the exercise mentioned in the first video is pretty standard, but sometimes you need to go over these foundational exercises every so often to get back to basics. If you can’t get inside the head of a character, how can you perform them or write from their experiences, fictional or otherwise.

I actually got quite a bit of world-building done this past week. Unfortunately, I hit a snag on one of the projects and have decided to give myself a break on it whilst I work on something else. The idea of hitting my head against a wall might appeal to some people but I figure that the answers will come to me later on. In the meantime, I can use some of my creative energy to work on something else. In this case, it is back to Wilhelm and the Elf with me. The amount of work that has already gone into the world and plotting the various series set within it has been monumental.

What have I been listening to this past week? A bit of electropop, sythwave, synthpop, electroswing and hard rock. I know that hard rock and electroswing might seem a bit removed from the sythn stuff, but… I have unusual tastes. In a single sitting, I can go from bubblepop to thrash metal. Music is a great way to artificially evoke moods, which makes it useful in the writing process. However, you need to mix things up a bit if you hope to manage those associated highs and lows.

Anyway, here are some of the repeats listens for the week:

  • Ultralife (album) by Oh Wonder: I heart the crap out these guys. They always manage to lift my mood.
  • Survival Sounds (album) by Rubblebucket: Quirky alternative band. They might have been abducted by aliens at some stage.
  • Meaning of Life (album) by Kelly Clarkson: Well, I am a sucker for her music…
  • Delirium (album) by Lacuna Coil: Evokes the darkness of Wilhelm and the Elf book 1.  I heart the crap out of Alyyri and Wilhelm, but necromancers suck ass.
  • Turbulence (album) by Monoral: Whenever I am reminded of the anime series Ergo proxy, I bring this sucker out. The song Kiri is one of my personal favorite intro/outro tracks. It perfectly evoked the unspoken connection between the two protagonists. The transition and build-up, then reflection after resolution… what you’d expect from a good story.
  • Come to Life (album) by Natalie Imbruglia: Another old album but it has so many lovely tracks on it. This album from 2009 delivers such lovely tracks, not overly surprising for Natalie Imbruglia, an artist I have been a fan of for over a decade.
  • Endless Summer (album) by The Midnight: Anyone that loves synthwave has likely heard of The Midnight. Even their sadder tracks have that element of hope within, the notion that the darker, sadder moments are not the end. They also collab with artists like Nikki Flores, with that trademark saxophone playing in the background.

Film clips? Why the heck not?!!! Here goes:

Okay, that was a bit of a troll on my part. Tiny Tom was awesome, his comedic performances show just how well a performer can keep a straight face. The song, oddly enough, gained him quite a following back in the day. It is silly and fun, with the nice pairing of high 1920’s vocals and ukulele. Each time I listen to it, I find myself giggling. The ’60’s and ’70s saw quite a few comedy song releases, including Shuddupayaface by Joe Dolce. The idea that music isn’t just love and heartbreak is nothing new, but recent years have seen a steep decline in comedy songs. Tracks like What Does the Fox Say? give a glimmer of hope but not enough artists are up to the challenge. We need the Weird Al Yankovic’s and The Lonely Island to give us a semblance of what it is to get a Dick-in-a-Box whilst we are living in an Amish Paradise. We need

Time for some real clips. I’ve decided to embed several versions of SYML’s song Clean Eyes to show how much production and arrangement can change how a song sounds. I initially listened to the mix by The Midnight, then decided to check out of the original. Add the acoustic version to the collection and you have three completely different listening experiences.

I played a bit more Path of Exile this week. It felt a bit less of a chore but I still found my head wandering to writing-related matters. It is a little distracting when you are mapping and your brain decides it is a great time to deal with some world-building. Both avenues can be a lot of fun. And yet, I find myself wanting to play an otome or other visual novel game as far as my gaming is concerned. Some of the creators of these games have some interesting ideas as far as storytelling is concerned, which often translates into some entertaining, interactive storytelling. I won’t go into further detail, but suffice it to say that I really like the game format.

There have been noticeable signs that autumn frosts will soon be upon us. However, the pumpkin and cucumber vines perked up with a bit of run that we had halfway through last week. No, they don’t have any female flowers and likely won’t have any before the frosts arrive. The sweet potato vines have been consistently flowering, which is neat. I love those lovely purple flowers but I hear that they are poisonous to some animals.
I am still trying to decide whether to plant tomatoes in the garden bed under the front steps. I find myself annoyed with how much effort it has been to keep the weeds down. I really should place cardboard down to suppress them but even that seems like a chore. At least the worms seem happy. The wee worms have been digging the occasional watermelon skin I’ve been throwing into the Worm Cafe.

Well, that is it for this week. I hope that some of the links and subject matter has been of some interest to you. I don’t claim to be an expert on any of the subjects and highly encourage you to point out if I have said anything in error. I also encourage you to offer your own rebuttals and/or takes if they differ from my own as I am always up for a discussion. I suppose it is time to leave you with the word of the week. Which one to pick…? Okay, got it! The word for this week is… Vanner. Be sure to look that sucker up.

Here’s wishing you an awesome week!


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Manga Review: After the Rain Volume 1

Alternate Names: Koi wa Amaagari no You ni, Love is Like after the Rain, After the Rain (MAYUZUKI Jun), Koi wa Ameagari no You ni
Year: 2014 – ongoing
Author/Artist: Jun Mayazuki
Genre: Seinen, Romance, Drama, School Life, Slice of Life

Yes, I have finally decided to read this sucker, after circling this title for several weeks. What tipped the scales was learning that the series was recently adapted into an anime. Anyway, I liked the premise of this series and, shock-horror, the first volume was a delight to read.

Akira Tachibana’s life took a turn when she had an ankle injury. This forced the promising runner out of the sport and led to her working at a family restaurant. The seventeen-year-old has developed feelings for her fourty-five-year-old boss, Masami Kondou, a divorcee with a young son. We learn, over the span of the first volume how much his presence has impacted her life.
Masami Kondou is well aware that he is not a young man anymore. Whilst he doesn’t know that the mature young woman is in love with him, he is clearly attracted to Akira and spends a bit of time worrying and thinking about her. We also see Akira trying to decipher the meaning of his actions towards her, the product of her lack of experience in matters of the heart.
How will their mutual attraction for each other fair in the light of day. How will the two move forward?

The organic manner in which the relationship between Tachibana and Kondou develops over the span of the first volume is such a delight to watch. They are such relatable characters, and it is easy to root for them. The age gap is not a big deal because Akira is an adult, with a maturity well-beyond her seventeen years. She sees something in Kondou that others are too blind to see. Kondou has some mild flaws, but he is such a kind fellow that shoulders the burden of the entire restaurant. In this, he shows his sense of self-worth and responsibility.
In the background is Akira’s schoolmate and long-time admirer Takashi Yoshizawa. As adorable as he is, Takashi spends most of his time trying to mold himself into what he believes Akira likes to be in order to get her attention. The poor thing doesn’t stand a chance but I cannot help but wish for his happiness because he is such a good-hearted character. The introduction of several other female characters provides some hope for this energetic little bunneh. (Why on earth does he remind me of Tamaki Suoh?) 
The minimalistic nature of the storytelling so far works as reality isn’t just going from one disaster or drama to another. Those lulls in the chaos can tell us almost as much about one’s character as when they are dealing with family problems or trouble at high school. This is certainly the case with Tachibana, who spends a lot of time reflecting on her life now that she cannot run anymore. Whilst she is sad to see an end to that part of her life, her strong character dictates that she has to move forward rather than live in the past. It also gives her a chance to make sense of her feelings for Kondou.
Artwork? The linework and character designs are gorgeous. A lot of folks have commented on the design of Akira in particular. Whilst I concur that her design is awesome, we can’t overlook the wonderful contrast with that of Kondou. He is a little dorky, but I keep smiling when I see the two characters in a scene together. (so cute!!) In any case, the artwork does an excellent job of showing rather than telling us about the characters and the world that they inhabit.

I could go on with some other points about the series based on the first volume. However, I think that you guys should just dive right in. The first volume is a lovely read, with no “lewds” and some solid character development. My verdict? I am willing to give this sucker a rating of nine out of ten. I look forward to reading more of the series in the weeks and months that follow.

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World of Keiko 2018/04/02

Sorry for posting this entry a day later than the usual schedule. I spent a good portion of yesterday listening to hubby talking about PoE builds, which was mostly me humouring him. I suppose that makes me a kind waifu. Whilst this post was mostly drafted on Sunday, I didn’t get around to posting it until this afternoon.
Unfortunately, I didn’t post any reviews during the past week as I was busy doing research. It was time well-spent fleshing out characters and plot, on top of consuming new content. Whilst some of that content was complete and utter crap, it was still a learning experience in how not to do things.

I actually spent time reading text fiction this past week. It was mostly romance and erotica disguised as romance, which was a little disappointing given that I was looking for character-driven rather than sex stories Oh well. Anyway, the stories I read were as follows:

  • Chasing Sunset by Sami Lee (meh. a lot of missed opportunities due to the focus on sex scenes instead of character development)
  • Schooled by Piper Lawson (this romance novel was actually quite enjoyable, with some nice banter and chemistry between the male and female protagonists. a pleasure to read)

On the writing front, I have done a bunch of outlining for the project I mentioned last week. I had to move scene outlines around to fit the focus on Action, Reaction, and Action+Reaction chapters. A few online writing mentors have suggested separating chapters based on these elements, which makes sense given the traits of a good scene. Scenes need to be active rather than passive otherwise they tend to be boring. But “active” doesn’t have to be fisty-cuffs or running away from dragons. It can tell us something important about the characters.
Alas, I dived headfirst into outlining and fleshing out another project towards the end of the week. It is a different urban fantasy from the other series I discussed a few weeks ago. The structure is closer to a TV show with season-long arcs relating to a group of college students dealing with monsters. No, it is not Buffy. Yes, it will be a kissy series. (Most of my stories have a kissy element to them. I am not ashamed.) Let’s just say that the cast is already quite large due to the setting. I sort of like the idea of having the main conflict also reflecting some of the sub-plots as well. Jenna Moreci discussed the subject in one of her videos a few years back if folks are interested. Here is the link. I highly recommend folks also check out her other videos on writing if you are looking to either start writing or improve your own writing process.
Can both projects coexist? Yep. However, I will need to completely ignore one whilst I am in the midst of the drafting process. It seriously need to work on improving my willpower otherwise I won’t get anything done.

Anyhoo, I also spent Tuesday and Wednesday watching and rewatching videos on the writing process. Going over content I’ve seen over the past few years was a great refresher and also allowed me to notice stuff I’d missed during previous viewings. I managed to come across a few YT channels that produce interviews with screenwriters, which I found quite useful. In any case, I decided to curate a playlist for videos on writing. For those interested, here is the link. The playlist is subject to change, as I will continually be going over more content in the future. In any case, I hope that you get something out of the playlist.

This week, I discovered The Wombats and Bleachers, whilst I rediscovered The New Pornographers and Two Door Cinema Club. My favorite jams of the week are the following:

  • Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons from Evolve (very positive and hasn’t lost its gleam in the year or two since the album was released. The entire album is awesome.)
  • Silhouette Palette by Agent Fresco from A Long Time Listening (reminds me of something that would be playing at the climactic final battle of an action-packed anime series.)
  • Turn by The Wombats from Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life (uplifting and lovey-dovey)
  • The Lost Souls by Asking Alexandria from The Black (I love a lot of their music. I think I love this track in particular due to how it relates to one of my characters.)

Time for a music video. Given that there was a recent Eurovision, which I have been following for over a decade, I decided to sift through some of this year’s contestants. There were a lot of strong contestants this year, making the choice difficult. We saw the energetic Miki’s La Venda, John Lundvik’s soulful Too Late for Love and Eliot’s emotional Wake Up. In the end, I settled on Belarus’s entry of Zena with her live performance of Like It. Be sure to check out the official Eurovision channel for some more videos from this year’s contestants as well as content from previous years.

I didn’t play a lot of Path of Exile this past week. It was a mix of being interested in doing other stuff and having to listen to nearly non-stop commentary on hubby’s characters as he was testing builds. It was very frustrating overall. Whenever he gets this obsessive, it often leads to me getting burnt out of a game because he never does things in halves. And this, people, is why it is a good idea to have multiple interests. 

We had three days of rain this past week. It was a welcome change but it took a while for the ground to dry out enough to use a ride-on mower without leaving large grooves in the lawn. Hubby made quick work of some long grass with a whipper snipper as well but surprisingly did not cackle while he did it. How on earth is he going to become a super-villain if he doesn’t practice his maniacal laugh whilst decapitating grass? Oh well, I will just have to enjoy indulging in some primate grooming exercises instead. I hear that all of the cool kids are doing it these days. Joke-joke… Or is it? Yes, it is a joke.

Well, that is it for this week’s update. Here’s hoping I have some more posts for you over the next week. I leave you with the following word: montivagant.

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World of Keiko 2018/03/25

I didn’t post a lot this past week as I have been a bit busy with other stuff. Anyway, here the past week’s posts:

I finished Kare wa Diablo this past week. As mentioned in the post reviewing volume three of the series, I will not be writing a review for the entire series. I also decided to call it quits with Butterflies, Flowers. Most of you saw it coming. However, I hate not finishing a series when I made it to the halfway point. However, I cannot justify spending time on it anymore. I am not a masochist and I doubt any of you want to read more rants about how much it sucks as a series. Here’s hoping that you are getting something out of my reviews for other titles.

I didn’t read any text-based stories this week. I should probably rectify that. If any of you know of some podcasts featuring fantasy short stories (I am aware of CastlePod already) and/or romance (I read a lot of Harlequin’s Online Reads), then let me know as seeing how other people address the various themes and craft a story.
Whilst I made the declaration last week that I had settled on a series to work on next, it seems that I was over-zealous. Looking over the material that I have written up already, it requires a lot more work than I originally thought. As such, I have decided to work on something else in its stead and look forward to working on it in the not-so-distant future. I do, however, you guys check out the webtoons I mentioned in last week’s update post.
So, what will I be working on? Well, it is another series that I started working on recently. It is a series that I’ve also started writing scenes and have quite a bit of the worldbuilding done for. Genre? Fantasy+Action+Romance. I started working on it before I began reading the manga series Okobore Hime to Entaku no Kishi, a series that shares some elements in that the central character is a female royal. The themes of my own project will be quite a bit different, incorporating religious themes, more magic, human experimentation, and other stuff. It also features sex scenes.

In Path of Exile, my main character in Synthesis league is now at end-game. Whilst I haven’t made much headway in the Atlas content, I have done a bit of delving. At some point, I need to spend more time with the Memory Nexus content for some of the league achievements. It is, however, one heck of an undertaking and I also have other stuff I want to do with my time.

I harvested the pumpkin I grew yesterday, which had a few peck marks in the side. It is the final fruit of the season as the rest have either died or been attacked by critters. Still, I look forward to eating my first home-grown pumpkin. There is a level of pride that comes with growing your own produce. I didn’t spray herbicides or pesticides, and just let the plants do their own thing. Whilst the lack of ground preparation hurt production, I still managed to grow quite a few vegetables. It was a great learning experience.
In lieu of the reduced rainfall, the bush turkey has started digging things up again in search of food. Ahead of winter, I need to think of ways to cover any plants I grow. I might also mulch with cardboard and compost. If my budget allows, I will try to get bales of hay and whatnot to cover and amend my growing spaces.

Well, that is it for this week. Here’s hoping that I make more headway with my various endeavors. I wish you the best with your own goals this week. With that in mind, I leave you with the following word: jasperated.

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Manga Review: Kare wa Diablo Vol. 3

Alternate Names: He is Diablo!, Kare wa Diovolo
Year: 2010-2011
Author/Artist: Kayoko Shimotsuki
Genre: Shoujo, Urban Fantasy, Comedy, Romance, Drama

Reviewers Note: Volume 3 covers consists of chapters 9-12 with a bonus chapter at the end. This review is based on the S2 Scanlations English translation. >insert spoiler warning here. No, seriously…<

In the third and final volume of Kare wa Diablo, Meiko and Lucifer (with the help of a “Shiba Inu”) play doubles tennis with manga-otaku Uriel and Johan; Lucifer engages in some shenanigans at the school play; and Lucifer’s sister Michael pays a visit (Homicidal SisCon, anyone?) ahead of a battle between a transformed Meiko and Michael. Queue a rooftop kissy scene between our two main characters after the destruction wrought by Michael has been fixed by God.

Whilst the final two chapters of this series redeemed it slightly, the whiplash caused by the story going from over-the-top humor to very serious material has been a bit of an issue throughout this series. This all-or-nothing approach takes weakens a series that began with an interesting premise. There is no getting around it.

Herein lies the corpse of Kare wa Diablo. No longer shall I gaze upon your pages. No longer shall I see Meiko occasionally gaining superhuman strength from eating Anpan whilst random stuff happens around her. You promised so much but fell headfirst into a pit trap. You shall not be missed.

With this in mind, I have decided to not do a review of the entire series as originally intended, as I think that I have gone over the strengths and flaws of the series in sufficient detail already. I will, however, say that this series began at an eight and ended at a six out of ten. Well, at least it isn’t the abomination that is Butterflies, Flowers… 


Manga Review: Okobore Hime to Entaku no Kishi Vol. 2

Alternate names: The Leftover Princess and the Knight of the Round Table, The Leftover Princess and the Round Table Knight
Year: 2013
Author / Artist: Kaori Katsuki and Rinne Ishida
Genre: Shoujo, Fantasy, Romance, Reverse Harem

Reviewer’s Note: Volume one consists of chapters 6 – 10 of this 17-part series. This review reflects the Aqua Scans English fan translation.

In volume 2, Leticia ventures to the nearby kingdom of Illstra to attend her airheaded cousin’s wedding to Third Prince Severio. On the way, her father has arranged to have her servants poisoned in order to “test her nature”. She requests her father’s estranged former knight, Craig, to accompany her and Duke Barchet on the visit. However, when she arrives, she learns that her idiot cousin has run off with a scam artist and that Severio has left in search of her. She sends Duke Barchet to deal with the search whilst she runs interference at the castle. In the process, she moves ever closer to becoming the “heartbreaker queen” that was mentioned in earlier installments.

After the introduction of the major arc in volume one, this series mixes things up a bit with a short story arc set in another country. We see Leticia and her associates bring to bear the various tools at their disposal to deal with the current political situation. It plays out nicely and shows that they are more than capable of solving problems away from home.
There is also less of a supernatural element this time around, focusing more on politics. Whilst we don’t get to see everything that is happening in the background, we do, however, get to see the results in spectacular fashion. We got a taste of this in volume one but it is even more prominent in volume two of the series. It works well, making me like this series even more.

HAREM Observations: I find it curious that this series isn’t categorized as a “reverse harem” for many manga searches even though all of the necessary elements are there. As such, I’ve decided to change the genre section for the series to reflect this. Feel free to offer rebuttals if you disagree with the reasoning I offer below.
On numerous occasions during the first two volumes, Leticia shows her poker-face during various moments with Duke Barchet, the leading man of the series. However, there are numerous other suitors vying for her affections as well, ranging from knights to noblemen. On top of that, Queeny keeps pretending that her round table knights are her lovers to give herself wiggle room to deal with her own investigations. Each of these scenes moves the story forward as well, giving them a point in the overall plot rather than simply being used as fan service. Whilst fan service elements are quite common in harem and reverse harem series, a good writer makes good use of scenes to fit multiple purposes.

Verdict: This is quickly becoming one of my favorite series. I knew that I liked it after the first volume, but it somehow managed to get even better. Alas, there are only two volumes to go before the series is completed. I was predicting that I would grow attached to the series… I am really glad I have a bunch of other titles lined up after I am done because I will need a rebound manga. *sniff-sniff*

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Manga Review: Mission of Love Vol. 2

Alternate Names: Love Mission, Missions of Love, xx Me!
Year: 2009-2015
Author/Artist: Ema Toyomo
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Comedy, Drama, Slice of Life

Reviewer’s Note: Volume Two of this manga covers chapters 5-8 of the series. Beware of possible spoilers.

In volume two, we see Yukina’s expert manipulation of Shigure after he attempts to use her weakness (the removal of her glasses) to get back at her again. As Shigure grapples with his own growing affections for Yukino, her cousin Akira is dealing with his own jealousy at their growing connection.

This week’s four chapters showcase yet again how focused Yukina is with her writing, especially in lieu of her archnemesis Dolce overtaking her in the cellphone novel popularity ladder. We also see a bit of a eureka moment, wherein she learns the value of the unexpected in developing tension in literature. Whilst we saw her ability to turn the tables on Shigure in the first volume, this time around, we see her growing more and more impatient to figure things out. She wants to understand what love is, something that Shigure points out in the fifth chapter that she has to figure out for herself.
We also see Akira featuring more prominently in volume two. Whilst I like Shigure and Yukina, Akira is becoming a more interesting character to me. He offers a pleasant, innocent contrast to the male and female leads. It is easy to empathise with him as well, given how close he is to Yukina. However, I am well aware of how best friend characters are often treated in shoujo series. They are rarely the focus of the story. Instead, that honor usually goes to bad boys and/or ice queens.