30 September 2011

Facepalm-Worthy Ignorance

Isn't it funny when you realize something and it bothers you to the point you immediately question and research, even if it is the wrong time to take out your netbook in the middle of a guest speaker's talk? That happened yesterday.

As I have stated in previous rants, I generally call myself a skeptic at heart. This strong sense of doubt, accompanied by cynicism, grows ever so mighty thanks to the institution I call a high school. Yes, religion has made me a bitter old woman trapped in the body of a teenager. Or perhaps it's all just the hormones that make me scream for attention.

Anywho. Yesterday two men in their twenties came into religion class from the seminary to talk about vocations. In order to ATTEMPT to guilt trip us by saying if you have any material security you are depressed like a suicidal maniac, one of the guys claimed that according to a Harvard study, the happiest country in the world is Nigeria. The least happy country? Russia.

Within seconds, a brain cell blew a bullhorn with all its might, commanding the universe to stop the tape and rewind. After letting the men go on about how to not deny the calling from "God," I asked where the source of this "information" is. They simply said something around the lines of... "A fellow priest told me it. I think the info is a few years old." Smooth move, dude, very smooth.

The rest of the day I spent time online searching for this study with no success. The closest thing I found to Harvard in any way was a popular course on happiness provided in 2006. Yet, I found a list similar to what the seminarian kid said... on The Happiness Show. Any surveys or studies I have found otherwise comes nowhere near close to what was said in religion class, often with any one of the Scandinavian countries ranking number one.

What is wrong with this picture?

First, we need to define "happiness." Just what is it? All I know is that I have my own wants, needs, and expectations that might make me think I am "happy" overall with life. Maybe you are in the same boat: happiness means something to the individual that cannot be objectively pinpointed to one standard or definition. They say one man's trash is another man's treasure, right? So what is "happiness" and how is it affected?

The red flag that came up initially in class was just that. These men took such a subjective and slippery concept and shoved it into an advertisement to serve the almighty Christian God. Going back to "The Happiness Show," we must ask why is Nigeria the happiest country in the world? How was the "study" conducted? What questions were asked? According to the site, it simply says:

"The University of Michigan's World Values Surveys (WVS) has compiled data on the happiest countries in the world for over twenty years. Their results are considered the most authoritative by happiness researchers.

WVS measures the happiness of individuals by two different means. The first is to simply ask them how "happy" they are. The second is to ask them how "happy" they are, and also how "satisfied" they are.  The results are then combined to arrive at a measure of their "subjective well-being," a term generally considered synonymous with happiness."

Let's see if I have this right. Your data is gathered by asking "How happy are you?" and you jot down the answer among the billions you gathered and produce a list? THEN you have the balls to claim your results are the "most authoritative by happiness researchers" WITHOUT giving any names?

The Happiness Show, here is my question to you, and please don't take too much offense. Do you think I am retarded? 

Your site looks shady, not just in the lack of professional images and layout, but the complete lack in having an extensive bibliography to back up your "most authoritative" findings. After exploring on other pages, you even make a bold claim on your "Ways to make our world happier" that "research finds that religious people are consistently happier than the non-observant." That statement is not an objective truth. Some studies show religion does relate to happiness; others find the connection indeterminable or pointless. But that is a controversy for another day.*

Problemo numero dos: Nigeria being "number one." Who was responsible for this work? What did you really ask? When was this conducted? Where in Nigeria did you ask? Why in the heck are they number one? On no other site have I found this list.

I think the greatest problem of all is that it all depends on the factors and standards placed under these studies. Not every one is conducted in the exact same fashion. Some factors may include data on economy, education, wealth, welfare and health, as well as responses to political, religious, and social ideologies. Furthermore, there is the human error. There might be incorrect information or a liar, creating inaccurate and contaminated results. Might I also add the bias that arises in how the information is released to the public?

That is what happens if you don't attempt to research by scratching the surface. That is why I was so upset over the speakers. For the sake of encouraging my classmates to serve the church, they carelessly relied on a random survey they heard from someone else that might have been misread. They used it as a tool to convince us that the poorer country is happier and, therefore, more religious. It is incredibly embarrassing and slightly disturbing. It happens all the time too...

So if your brain hurts from all of that junk, just remember one thing, dear readers. Have doubts. If something doesn't sound like it makes sense, question and research. These two tools will be your best friends for life. Do not be like those seminarians who gobbled up that vague information without consulting Ms. Question and Mr. Research.

But then again, these two had never heard of the term "Nordic" before and believed Luxembourg was in Scandinavia. Please, dear readers, do not succumb to this plague known as faceplam-worthy ignorance.

* Some sites I looked over breifly. Really, this research will go on forever...


24 September 2011

'Elfen Lied'

And no. It is pronounced "lēd" or "lead" in leader, not "lied" as in a lie. >.<
(CREDIT: to the mangaka and the poet who wrote "Elfenlied")
RANK: 1.9 out of 5 <-- frustrating="">

"Don't judge a book by its cover." Damn, that phrase irks me every time someone says it. It's thrown around so loosely to the point that you just judge for the sake of forming an opinion. This time, however, that phrase is the best way to describe Elfen Lied.

This series is a literal disaster zone. Buckets of blood and violence with cute little moe-styled characters having their heads and limbs fly everywhere. Tons of fanservice and nudity more disturbing than those in shows like Ikki Tousen or Master of Martial Hearts. Excessive exposition, unanswered questions, sloppy writing, etc. etc. ALL of these things plague and stain the reputation of this series.

So why did I put myself through hell to read the manga? The anime was made before the manga finished; thus, to experience the "true" story with the "true" ending, I read all 108 chapters online.

On one hand, Elfen Lied, despite the annoying writing style, has a decently endearing charm to it that can be liked or hated. Like an amateur "theater group" trying to perform Shakespeare, Elfen Lied has such a crude facade that only certain people can overlook to find the quality behind it. At its core, Elfen Lied is about the pain, loneliness, and rage inside of a girl who fights against it every day. No matter how hard she tries to not kill and to live at peace with humanity, her powers and years of abuse explode and create an unwanted bloodbath. Yet you might be surprised of how emotionally attached you might be to Lucy in the last few manga chapters. Easily she is the best thing in this series.

Other characters get backstory, and some relationships are heartwarming. Lucy and Kouta's relationship went down a very predictable path until the last quarter of the manga, which allowed their conflict to end on a bittersweet, but satisfying note. Besides the main character, Kurama, Nana, and Bando were some of the most memorable characters in the cast.

Now, about that theater troop...

Elfen Lied is a good tragic drama with some really cool sci-fi elements that are easy to understand. That being said, if someone on this planet could rewrite the manga and anime by eliminating all the - pardon my French - bullshit, maybe this series wouldn't make people cringe.

The anime might be notorious for being extremely bloody (like Hellsing Ultimate) and full of fanservice... BUT the manga has an inexcusably monstrous amount of both. There are so many pointless and revolting scenes of nudity that it might as well be porn. I think Marilyn Manson's face would turn green if he saw this.

I really wanted to like Elfen Lied, even in the "so bad, it's good" kind of way. Yes, I cried a billion times at the manga's end and twice at the anime's end, but this series has such a thick, nasty outside that it might not always be worth it when you get to the good stuff.

At least the anime has beautifully haunting music.

Elfen Lied had a very interesting premise, with elements of sci-fi, drama, and tragedy morphed and twisted into a gruesome but different creature. With some serious work on rewriting scenes, humor, and events this would have been a more sophisticated work. Plus, cut out the disgusting fanservice: some of the nudity in later chapters were fine, but early on it was still horrendously overdone.

I don't regret trying this out but...*cringes* I seriously need a shower.

20 September 2011

Uniforms, Prayers, and Textbooks... Finally

Starting eight weekdays later than desired, school officially started for everyone. Now I can no longer spend my bored days watching anime, reading manga, and talking to myself! I HAVE A LIFE AGAIN!!

That being said, today was actually pretty... fun. It still does not change the fact that my school is screwed up to the point that even the superior being(s) would have trouble describing how bad it is; but this was at least a 0.0000001% improvement. For once I, the most socially awkward individual you'd ever meet, found a place to sit at lunch, said hi to my Chinese friend from last year, AND meet a HIM fan in my art class. The last part really made my day.

The tiny baby optimist in me hopes that this go well this year. Still, being a realistic pessimist, I won't set the bar too high or else I'll be very disappointed. At least for the first time in ages, I am tired because I got out and did something today.

Now I need to get back on track with things with this abandoned blog. Hee, hee, oops. Better get back to work...

Music Mood

16 September 2011

Still Stuck...

Thankfully there are so many anime series out there or else I'd be bored during this strike. I haven't updated my blog in a few days since I'm going through some material I might review later. My rant on books is on the way, but I need to be in the right state of mind.

For the time being though, I just finished the manga release of Elfen Lied... and took a two hour bath afterwards. In a way, that was a step down after attacking Death Note. Once I get to finish the anime, I'll rip it to shreds. Now with my depression worsening after that one awesome long anime I praised the other day, maybe I need some decent humor. Like... Full Metal Panic!

Don't bother to smack me for my ramblings, I seriously need to get out of the house. Is it wrong to say that I envy everyone who is back at school? This ain't much of a healthy picnic here! >.<


11 September 2011

"And everyone wears a mask..."

To briefly break the anime mood that my blog has indulged in lately, I just found this and wanted to post it.

It's been a looooooooong time since I last saw it, but I love MirrorMask. I find movies where artistic and surreal (severe understatement in this case) designs are the main focus tend to be a hit or an unwatchable miss - for subjective reasons - but this is a really fascinating film. This song should have been in the movie because "Wake the White Queen" by The Crüxshadows really captures the spirit of the film beautifully.

Guess that's another band to research. Haha!

10 September 2011

'Death Note'

(CREDIT: to the two men who drew and wrote this series)
RANK: 2.3 out of 5
Tone down the "god" complex

Just as I wish there were mystic beads to put around one's neck and treat them like a dog, having a death note would be kinda cool. I'd wipe out assholes, criminals, and anyone who "deserves" to die. The first victims on my list are those who personify the pretentiousness of this series.

Don't get me wrong, here: Death Note is not terrible. If anyone got a taste of what anime is through this show, good for you! (Yes, that's for you, Tenebris.) This is a great gateway into what is Japan's great medium of entertainment and art. Death Note presents itself very well technically with beautiful animation, brilliant voice acting in English and Japanese, and darkly atmospheric music. Best of all, it brings a great discussion of the concept of justice and morality to the table, whether you agree with Light or L's principles.

But that is all Death Note is. I am no expert, but I can see why some otaku run away from this series in fear or disgust. To know where I stand, my opinion of Death Note is less grudging and more tolerant than my view of Evanescence. Both are overrated, feel cheap, and seem bigger than they really are.

When you take out the debate about justice, Death Note is simple and empty for a thirty seven episode series. Only one conflict stands dominant - the cat and mouse chase - and anything else lies around as spare string. Since Light and L are the main players, the rest of the cast are disposable pawns with very little influence and relevance. The prime example is Misa. 


Many fans have complained before, but Misa is so ****ing shallow, stupid, and fake I want to punch the "cute" and "blond" out of that chick. This might be nitpicking a bit too much, but for anyone who is or is not goth, does anyone notice how she looks like the poster child for a "spooky" Hot Topic advertisement? With her behavior, attire, and "air", she looks like a plastic doll with a billboard sign that says "I dress like a mallgoth, just to piss off the subculture!"

*sigh* Sometimes I seriously wonder why female characters are so detestable in shonen anime. 


Watching this show was almost as painful as watching Paranoia Agent. Although to Death Note's credit, the creators  might had some expendable plot points and characters but the overall story attempted to make them likable. Yet at the end of the day, I still cannot bring myself to finish this series. The first seven episodes instantly engaged me and held onto me; but very quickly everything felt stretched out to the point I often asked "is it over yet?" Sadly, the interesting premise began running into a dead end very quickly. Once everyone noticed this, the characters slowed down significantly as new "devices" fell from the sky to attempt to delay the ending.

Death Note should have been a short story, or better yet, a thirteen episode series. If the story went with a different angle, began in medias res, or stayed with one simple plot, this would have been a more solid and well executed story. However, this only serves as a fun anime gateway to the curious, an amateur eyesore to various otaku, and an overblown god to the diehard fanboys and fangirls. Seriously, the series is bad enough with it trying to be mature and "genius", a particular bunch of fans blow it up to epic proportions and give Death Note a bad name. This is just simply pure fun, not ground-breakingly deep.

A beautiful anime with a god-like status that deserves some credit but needs to be clobbered every now and then. I will recommend this only for the curious for the fine presentation, but good luck if you like the premise and story.

Geez... this is what I chose to watch after being amazed with Inuyasha? I need to readjust my high expectations...

BONUS: Just in case you want a different opinion from a superior reviewer and otaku, click here.

09 September 2011

Starting Off with a *BANG!* (kind of...)

Nearly everyone by now has returned to school with some spirit - positive or negative - and has begun to adapt to the busy hell all over again. I am the exception.

To keep it short, my teachers started a strike against our archdiocese over - what appears to be - job positions in the instance their schools close. In these lovely days of an unending limbo of economic stress, Catholic schools are suffering quite a good bit. So thanks to a long battle with no official end in sight, I have no idea when my school year will permanently begin. I had a half day yesterday, which was nothing more than administrators lecturing us for two hours and not providing us bus rides home. Nice community service, you good ol' Catholics.

On one hand this is nothing more than an annoyance. This is my final year of high school and I anxiously want all the crap done and over with. One more year of religion being shoved down my throat; one more year of classmates that I've known for far too long; and one more year of being trapped in suburban Pennsylvania. How I wish to spend time in the city... I need a serious change in environment. Still, being trapped in my house with no way of transportation gets incredibly old. Been there once and I don't want to experience it again. *shudders*

Well, I joked about this year going out with a *BANG!* As Bill Cosby once said, "God has a sense of humor." Funny indeed.

At least to pass the time I still have some things to keep me busy. I can finish my summer reading (and rant about it later), watch anime (currently crawling through Death Note), and start a few crafts. Speaking of which...

... I made this lanyard the other day. It's rather simple (having leather, metallic chains, and beads) but my keychains and dog tags aren't too heavy. So far so good.

As a bonus mood booster, Ben-chan's TRANS//LATION 2 arrived in my mail last week not long after Irene poked us. The only problem is where to put the picture. I don't want to damage it by hanging it on my wall, yet I can't let it sit and collect dust... Maybe I should make a scrapbook...

Music Mood
"What's up, People?"- Maximum the Hormone

01 September 2011


(CREDIT: to the owners... you know how it goes...)
RANK: 4 out of 5 <-- the alpha of long shonen anime

When Kagome discovers a well that transports her to feudal era Japan, she unwittingly frees a half-demon, Inuyasha, and shatters the sacred Jewel of Four Souls. Now they must work together to restore the jewel before it falls into the wrong hands...
(From an ad in a manga released by VIZ media.)

Another anime that goes on for what seems like an eternity? Oh, darn. Shonen anime and manga are zombies, products of an incurable disease in which there is no end. Poor direction, useless characters, humungous plot holes, horrendous development, cheap deus ex machina tricks, and insulting cliches plague these series. The Big Shonen Three, my nickname for Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece, are perfect examples: all doubters have been forewarned by this anime fan.

So if I watch another ungodly long series again with such putrid garbage, and if I beat myself senseless a billion and one times over a little conflict, then - *pauses and leaves*

*returns after watching 167 episodes...* For the love of Oreos and milk, I have found a diamond amongst a sea of sewage!! Diamonds aren't exactly my thing, but I digress... Time to get to the point.

After spending many fun, wasteful years waiting for Naruto to actually progress, Inuyasha truly is a lifesaver. For everything the Big Shonen Three fail at, Inuyasha does it so well it takes the entire bakery instead of a slice of cake. For one thing, only one main villain of the show creates a huge spiderweb of schemes and no other characters ever replace him as the "big bad" *gasp!* At the same time, nearly every reoccurring character is caught in the web and is forced to deal with their situation in some way. Almost all the characters that develop are - dare I say it - NEEDED, even for a short while. Then, the adventures along the way contain some silly shenanigans, but each episode reveals even the tiniest piece of relevance to the overall story.

And the fight scenes? Say hello to straightforward battles with rare flashback moments, generally quick action, and occasional bickering. The average length of fights can be estimated to seven minutes, usually occurring at the end of each episode. But in the case of episodes split into multiple parts, many battles can occur at once and usually end in a modest amount of time. Even when flashbacks happen, they are short and sweet. Inuyasha succeeds by creating episodic adventures with good pacing in twenty minutes, leaving you satisfied in knowing you won't watch six episodes of nothing but a slow, painful battle.

Furthermore, unlike the Big Shonen Three, the main cast of Inuyasha is memorable, unique, relevant, and are not cardboard thin. Each character has a reasonable range of skills instead of possessing hundreds of abilities, and each person has a chance to prove themselves. Personalities vary greatly, especially with the main characters: Inuyasha, Kagome, Shippo, Miroku, Sango, and Kirara. This factor as well as the ever-changing environment provide various situations when they, as well as other friends and rivals, all clash. As a bonus, their running gags never seem to get old. I might never be able to tell my dog to "sit" ever again without a huge grin on my face. (Even now I can't help it: XD)

Additional praise goes to the music in the show. Though I found it annoying at first, I always knew "Change the World" long before I watched Inuyasha. Now I love it; however, there are even better opening and ending themes that are worth listening to. Other themes and background music are also very enjoyable, but most importantly, fitting to the scenes.

What ultimately brings down the series' quality is the length. Filler and fanservice might both be foreign concepts to the show, but some episodes have content seen as irrelevant, needed only to make the plot slow down or move in a circle. Sadly, Inuyasha does suffer with one "slow" quality the Big Shonen Three all possess. Some conflicts drag on for an extraordinary number of episodes, especially when a solution can be found in five minutes. The finest example is that one particular love triangle, in which most fans want Kikyo permanently, surely, and safely dead. The worst part of that painfully long drama is not that Kikyo is like a cockroach after a nuclear explosion, but that Inuyasha is indecisive and oblivious. Sure, the end of that conflict is predictable as hell and easy to tell in one look, but the race from start to finish can be torturous.

Perhaps the show's greatest flaw is that despite how well paced each episode is as a whole, the entire show still feels somewhat sluggish. The worst part is that at the final episode, Inuyasha is still not over and many conflicts are still unresolved. Oh, crap. I forgot that The Final Act is the last part of the series. Another 26 episodes ain't that bad. Now if only the dub will be released soon...

Yet, I cannot help but love this show. Ever since I first heard of it back in 2005, I always wanted to watch it when it aired on Adult Swim, but I was too young to stay up late. Just the other week I miraculously rediscovered this childhood dream during my ongoing anime phase. After the time I spent, throwing tantrums, screaming at my computer screen, and laughing until I cried, Inuyasha was absolutely worth the wait. This might have been the best long anime series I have ever seen... so far.

Inuyasha should have been more regarded in Japan for one reason: creators need to learn to not make stupidly long anime that go nowhere. This was probably the best effort they made at this point....
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