OreImo, Episode 1 Rant

This isn’t a series written poorly enough that I can write entire essays on why miniscule details or single lines are the greatest affront to creative thought like I did with SAO. With that out of the way, I figured I’d at least enjoy myself by writing my comments as I watch this anime.

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That isn’t to say this anime doesn’t have moments that utterly enrage me. Foreword done.

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This is Kyousuke, the protagonist of the story. He’s your typical unassuming dude just trying to get by in life. Fortunately for all of us, he’s not some closet otaku or pervert or anything of the sort. In fact, as we go along on this series, you’ll see that he’s actually the most normal, level-headed character in this universe. Well, him and the girl who’s got the hots for him.

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This is Manami, said girl who has the hots for Kyousuke. She’s cute, she wears glasses, and she’s about as normal as Kyousuke. You’d be forgiven for thinking this anime will focus on their budding relationship as they grow even closer throughout the rest of their high school career. Sadly, this isn’t the case. I wish it were, but it isn’t. Because OreImo isn’t about Kyousuke or Manami. It’s about another character, one I don’t want to bring up quite yet, because once I do, she will be the focal point of nearly EVERYTHING wrong with this series.

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So in a rather lazy exposition dump, we are informed of Kyousuke’s sister, her accomplishments and what poor Kyousuke has to suffer because of it. All he wants is a simple, quiet life. And he shares this while simultaneously hitting on Manami. This is why I like Kyousuke; he just does his thing, coyly casually complimenting the girl he secretly has the hots for just as much as she does. It would help if he just asked her out, but we cannot have a protagonist in a relationship. No sir; he must be single so the fandom can ship him with anyone they want.

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It’s contrived but funny how all the topics in class turned out to be about little sisters given the subject matter. It’s like if you didn’t realize what trash you were watching, this will hammer it home. The fact that even Kyousuke points it out highlights how self-aware the anime can be, but rarely does much with it.

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Enter Kirino, the little sister of Kyousuke and bane of my existence. Yes, more than my hatred of SAO, this character is a personification of everything wrong with both anime and this series and EVERYTHING in general. She may look unassuming now, but trust me, it will only go downhill from here.

Kyousuke politely announces he’s home, but the girl doesn’t even have the common courtesy to say hello. She just continues talking on the phone. Rude little bitch. But whatever, as long as she doesn’t disturb our protagonist, all is well. Kyousuke gets a drink and then leaves for his room. Half way up the stairs he realizes he left the (coffee?) out of the fridge and heads back to the kitchen to put it away.

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This is where all the problems of the anime begin. Kyousuke bumps into the girl, knocking them both to the floor. Kyousuke, being an educated young man with proper manners, apologizes to his sister and offers to help her up.

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Kirino the little cunt slaps his hand away! Fuck you then, bitch. This is but a taste of the kind of person this little brat is. Angered for no real reason, Kirino leaves in a huff. After she does, Kyousuke picks up a DVD of some cheesy kids anime from the floor, realizing it must’ve dropped from Kirino’s bag.

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At that moment his mother comes home and somehow Kyousuke ends up in this position. To hide the fact he had that DVD on him. What cracks me up is that his mother just shrugs off this bit of weirdness and leaves him on the floor. Does Kyousuke normally do stuff this outlandish?

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Kyousuke comments that his social life was nearly killed by being seen with that DVD. How? It’s clearly not yours, so there’s no guilt attached to it. If his mom had seen it, he could’ve told the truth and said “I found it under the table”. What’s so bad about that? If it’s not his, and it’s not hers, it has to belong to one of two other residents in the house.

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Got to love his mother’s ability to walk in on him like this though. Again, he should just admit he found the thing and be done with it, but I guess it would look bad on his part no matter what. Even if his folks checked the rest of his room and found nothing else like it. Whatever, contrivances to get the plot rolling.

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Mentioning the anime at the table was a good move. Love how Kirino just froze on the spot. I know that feeling, let me tell you. But Kyousuke knows now that it belongs to Kirino, so mystery solved. Not that it was a hard mystery to solve in the first place; it’s obvious his own folks wouldn’t be hiding a fucking children’s anime in their living room.

Kyousuke leaves the house to go to the store, when on his way out he notices his bedroom light turn on. This was expected, as going out was just an excuse to bait Kirino into his room to catch her looking for the DVD in question.

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Because this is what we needed to see as soon as Kyousuke walked into his room. This shot is way too pandering considering Kirino is like… 13?

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After essentially getting Kirino to confess the DVD was hers, Kyousuke gives up on torturing the girl and hands her the DVD. He doesn’t care anymore at this point, so whether she continues to deny it and “tosses it” or keeps it is entirely moot. And that’s really the best way to go about this mess.

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But unable to let this just be a one time thing, Kirino asks this question on her way out. And of course this was to be expected, because this anime isn’t about Kyousuke getting with Manami, but about cockteasing him with his younger sister. There’s a million disgusting, wrong things about OreImo, and this ranks high, and while it might be something of a spoiler to say this is where the anime is going, but I don’t care. This is an old series way past its prime and everyone knows why they watch this garbage.

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Kyousuke’s answer was the correct one and the incorrect one at the same time. Who is he to judge what his sister is into? But it’s also the way to allow someone to teach you all about their perversions. And that’s essentially what we’re building up to.

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And then out of no where in the middle of the night, Kyousuke is slapped awake by Kirino. Why the fuck? You couldn’t do this during the evening before he was sleeping? Kirino takes Kyousuke to his room just so she can talk about her disgusting hobby. I don’t know what it is yet “technically”, but I know what it is. She’s into perverted shit. Of course, she opens with her needing “counseling” to not make it immediately awkward that she’s about to share her porn collection with her elder brother.

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So it turns out Kirino has a massive collection of eroge (that’s porn games for the uninitiated) and merchandise of Meruru (the children’s anime she was trying to hide earlier). Immediately she goes into gush mode about all this stuff she owns. It’s how everyone is given the opening to be honest about what they love. Of course I understand Kyousuke’s hesitation given what she’s into is eroge. To the show’s credit they handle Kirino’s hesitation about it all quite well. At least Kyousuke isn’t an ass about it all. You like porn? Cool, so long as you pay for it. And since Kirino happens to be a middle school model, she’s apparently got money to burn. It’s a wonder her parents don’t keep an eye on her income and expenditures. But whatever, apparently in Japan you’re independent as soon as you’re out of diapers.

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The fact Kyousuke didn’t know about Kirino being a model is also outlandish to me, who grew up in a family where information about every member was essentially public knowledge. I guess we can chalk it up to Kirino being so estranged from her brother that she kept even this a secret from him. And he just didn’t care, which is also fair given how much of a cunt she is. Don’t take my soft approach right now to mean anything else, Kirino is still a bitch.

Kyousuke finally asks about the porn, and why Kirino is into specifically the objectification and sexualization of “little sisters”. Which is sick when you sit and think about it.

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Though her reasoning for liking is weird but hey no one really gets why people like things sometimes. How she started is also lazily glazed over. She HAD to have started liking them after trying one out at SOME point. Don’t see why they didn’t just say “it was because I saw it on this one site this one time”. It’s still a creepy thing to be into, sorry. And she has to be into them sexually, too. She’s old enough, no matter how much she claims she likes how “cute” they are.

In the end, Kirino asks if she should share this secret hobby with her parents, to which Kyousuke says no. Which again makes sense, never mind the fact she’s a middle schooler buying and consuming porn, her parents wouldn’t understand (as we’ll see later on with how utterly retarded their father is).

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And like the good brother he is, Kyousuke offers to keep her secret (not like he has much of a choice) and help her however he can. Though I don’t see why Kirino would need his help with anything given she’s kept it under wraps all this time. But fine, whatever. We need a set-up, right? Otherwise the narrative goes no where.

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But it doesn’t end there for today. Oh no, not minutes after Kyousuke says good night and goes back to his room, Kirino comes back to slap him awake again. This time? To get the boy to play some eroge in the middle of the night while she watches. Umm… disgusting?

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I like how Kyousuke’s answer to the question is to kick the little girl out of bed without question. It’s a prick move, sure, but it’s just a video game. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t do it in real life… or would he?

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The look on the little girl’s face in the game following the event is a bit heart-wrenching though. Kyousuke I hate to agree with Kirino but that was a heartless thing to do.

Their parents are heavy sleepers though. I’m pretty sure I’d notice if someone was kicked out of a chair and crashed onto the floor, especially on the second floor of a house. The noise is insane. And they’re practically screaming at each other. Are the walls soundproof? Apparently not given they were worried about the parents overhearing. Consistency is all I’m asking for.

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Thankfully Kyousuke finally told her to piss off because it was 3 in the morning. This seriously couldn’t wait? We’re in for another long series of angry Browny…

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OreImo, Episode 1 Rant

Sword Art Online, Episode 15 Rant

Yes, it’s quite a shame that after over a year of leaving behind my desire to rant about Reki Kawahara’s incomprehensibly popular trash anime and light novel series I have returned with a possible vengeance. What brought me back? Well, the fact that a THIRD season of this garbage is in the works. And will be adapting Book 9 and onward. Something I had once planned to talk about in a series of blog entries as I read them. Which I have been, for the most part. But alas, time marches on, and in my laziness I have allowed the anime to catch up with me. For the most part.

Why then have I decided to continue talking about the rest of the anime thus far? Well, because I’m rarely one to leave things half finished, you see. Now, while I could point everyone to Digibro’s phenomenal hour-long video on why SAO sucks on almost every conceivable level (and I shall: CLICK HERE), I like to offer my own take on this series. Because it’s what Browny does, share his opinion online. Don’t matter how insignificant I am in the grand scheme of things, I like doing this. So, without further ado, let us begin Sword Art Online’s second (and possibly worst) story arc.

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So we open with what appears to be a flashback to Episode 11’s events, back when Kirito and Asuna were enjoying their honeymoon on some low floor of Aincrad. While I am tempted to talk about how fucked up it is to be having fond memories of a time when they were essentially IMPRISONED within their own minds, the fond recollection quickly turns into a mildly unsettling nightmare for Kirito as he wakes up in his own bed back in the real world. Recall that he did manage to escape the “Game of Death” that was SAO in the previous episode.

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Fuck off. You’re a murderer and a sociopath you bastard.

On a minor note, the new opening music is not quite as catchy as the first story arc’s music. But what is taste?

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And right off the bat we’re being fed excuses to ship characters together in the future. This is Suguha, Kirito’s not-really-his-real-sister who has been mentioned briefly in the past. In the two years Kirito was trapped in SAO, she’s been living her life like normal, looking to be a rather well-adjusted young woman with a healthy hobby and social life. We’re treated to a few shots of her concern for Kirito, which I guess is normal. After two years the boy is suddenly brought back from the dead so to speak, and all Kirito seems to do is remain cooped up in the house. What gets me is that we see scenes of Suguha visiting Kirito back when he was trapped in the game, but never one of his mother? Did his mother not give a shit her son was potentially a turnip? I guess it makes no difference to her, he was a loser turnip before SAO, now he’s just a loser turnip in the hospital instead. I say score one for Kirito’s folks.

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Though to be fair, we do see like 2 seconds of his mother being happy he’s awake again, but that’s about it. She cannot be allowed back in the plot anymore lest she actually do MOTHERLY THINGS and keep the boy from the trouble he’s about to get himself into.

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Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I get the feeling Kirito is surprised his sister continued her life while he was in SAO. As if he expected her to just STOP until he came back. I say this in a mean spirited way, of course. I’ll take any opportunity to shit talk the protagonist I hate him so much, but I’m clearly reaching here. Episode 15 is one of the slowest, most boring episodes because almost nothing happens as we establish the stakes for this story arc.

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Okay, now this scene does bug me. Kirito is talking about how “light” the bamboo kendo sword is compared to the swords he used to wield in SAO. Thing is, he’s no longer in SAO, and he’s relying on his clearly diminished physique to carry the thing here in the real world. As “light” as the sword might SEEM to his mind compared to the fake metal weapons he used in the game world, he MUST be feeling the utter weight of the thing with his scrawny noodle arms. His sister claims its a heavier sword than normal too, and if she says this– a girl who routinely trains with the thing and has actual real muscle as a result– I just don’t fucking buy this idea that Kirito claims it’s light.

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My point exactly, Sugu.

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Kirito is showing off even in the real world. “This real sword is too light compared to my fake muscles in the vidyagaem worldz!!” I swear Kirito would stop being so high and mighty if Sugu would just crack him over the head with that wooden sword. Swing a little harder than usual and she might even end his ass in one shot. GO ON SUGU, I BELIEVE IN YOU!

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Yes, MARVEL AT KIRITO’S STRENGTH! He can crush an empty plastic water bottle with only ONE HAND!!

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So we’re treated to a short fight scene between Kirito and Suguha, and I like how the girl starts off by laughing at Kirito’s stance. Old habits die hard, and he clearly looks like a dork adopting the stance from SAO. However, Kirito seems to move about as quickly and nimbly as he did in SAO, which again I must scream bullshit on. Remember that he was bedridden for the past 2+ years, and even after a few weeks in rehab to build up some muscle, there is NO WAY IN HELL he’s strengthened enough to do the kinds of moves he pulling against Sugu. At one point they even lock swords and SOMEHOW Kirito manages to hold Sugu back for a few moments! Considering how well-trained Sugu claims she is at swordplay, she must have far greater strength than scrawny Kirito, so how his bones didn’t snap under her weight is beyond me.

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Fortunately, Sugu does bonk the idiot. It’s a wonder the blow wasn’t enough to scramble what little brains Kirito has. Once the duel is over, Kirito mindlessly does the motion to put away his sword, same as in SAO. This is probably the most accurate thing yet depicted on this show, mind you. Suguha is naturally confused at this display.

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You hit him, Sugu. Dumbass.

Afterward, Kirito mentions that he might take up kendo again so he can spend some time with Sugu, and have the girl teach him. Naturally she’s ecstatic, as the girl exists solely to lap up any and all attention Kirito throws her way. I wish I were kidding, but honestly that’s the only reason Sugu has presence in this arc. She is a means to an end and the further along we go the more you will see this. Following this arc she will be no better than a background character. Not that she’s much of a good character anyway. At least Asuna had her moments (and later an entire arc), Suguha is trash filler meant to shiptease.

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Finally nine minutes into the episode we get some development on the plot. It turns out Asuna along with a number of other people remain trapped in a state of limbo despite the collapse of SAO. It’s been two months since that, and still these people are unable to wake up. Considering the game was deleted, why the doctors didn’t power down the Nervgear helmets and freed everyone is beyond me. I was under the impression the threat of death stemmed from the game itself sending the signals to the helmet. No game, no signal right? But what the fuck do I know, the show expects us to believe the helmet can magically kill a person in the half-second it takes to yank the thing off a person’s head.

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Now why they would believe this is beyond me. Again, Kirito has just informed us that he traded information with the government to locate Asuna. So he had to have informed them of what the AI version of Kayaba told him. And the government KNOWS the man is long dead and the only trace of him was in the game which has since been erased. I don’t think the anime even understands basic reasoning and logic.

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Meet Sugou, the villain of this arc.

What’s that? Spoilers? Oh you poor dumb fool. That’s hardly a spoiler. See?

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Sugou is clearly a creep because he’s sniffing Asuna’s hair.

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Basically, Sugou is set to marry Asuna. I mean, I know Kirito probably thought that they’d get to be together in the real world, but surely he couldn’t have been so dumb as to think the daughter of a company president wouldn’t be auctioned off in some way to secure business ties, right? I mean, that shit sounds disgusting to the average person but it’s all the rage in male-oriented countries like Japan. That, and it’s a cheap way to paint a female character as both a modern princess and damsel in distress. Reki my boy, you’re really pulling out all the stops here!

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And because subtlety doesn’t exist, of course Sugou would also lick his lips to further drive home the point that he will be marrying Asuna, making Kirito both jealous and himself horny as fuck.

Sugou goes on to share with Kirito that not only does Asuna NOT like him, she would outright reject his ass were she awake. So the fact she hasn’t woken up is beneficial to him because he plans to sucker Asuna’s father into authorizing the marriage while she’s comatose. And he shares all this with Kirito because Sugou is so cartoonishly over-the-top and thinks Kirito can do nothing to stop him. I mean, normally Kirito would be unable to stop this from happening. But this is anime, and somehow the “hero” must have his ass to tap.

And because Sugou exists only to be a cartoon villain, he continues to push the plot along by dumping a ton of exposition on us. Bad writing aside, at least we’re getting some much needed information. Turns out that the company that developed SAO went bankrupt following the incident (no fucking duh there), and maintenance of the servers fell an electronics company that JUST SO HAPPENS to be run by Asuna’s father. Well what a convenient coincidence. Why, it might even be called BAD WRITING!

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And to top it all off, Sugou is in charge of the Full-Dive division of the company. He’s basically telegraphing that he’s the reason why Asuna hasn’t woken up to someone he admits is considered a “hero” for ending SAO and could SOMEHOW– given a clue and chance– put a stop to this master plan of his. Talk about a complete asshat. But really, given how shit this whole arc is written, whatever keeps the plot moving forward is fine by me.

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So naturally, Kirito is fucking devastated that his piece of ass won’t be his after all. Normally, this is where the story would end, because what can a loser 16 year old do about a company president marrying his daughter to a business partner? ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY NOTHING. Finally, a dose of cold, hard reality.

But you know what? And you might think me a fucking loon for admitting this but…

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I actually, genuinely feel sad here.

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For once, and probably only this once, I am moved by a scene in this shitstorm of a show. Because this moment? Kirito breaking down in tears over the crushing reality that the person he loves will soon be stolen away from him? It’s probably the realest scene the anime will ever deliver. It’s heartfelt, and genuine, and by golly the voice actor nails that sense of utter destruction that’s gripping Kirito in that moment. Kirito as a character is a piece of garbage that should not be felt sorry for by anyone ever. But as a general plight of someone who fears losing the person they love most in the world?

Right in the feels, man.

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And just like that, the entire moment is shat upon by Suguha. Because we had to immediately slap the scene with a reminder that because Sugu and Kirito aren’t brother and sister but actually cousins, her wanting his dick is TOTALLY okay. Fuck off.

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The next morning, Kirito receives an email from Egil (one of the dumber characters if also coolest looking) with an attachment. It’s a low-res screenshot of a character from a game that happens to look JUST LIKE ASUNA! Why, what a lovely coincidence, huh?

But by now, I think we all get it. It’s just this shitty story’s way of getting us to move on from plot point to plot point without actually putting in actual effort.

Fuck Fairy Dance.

Sword Art Online, Episode 15 Rant

Silent Princess, A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there lived a pretty little princess in a small castle in the middle of a silent forest.

The princess had everything she could ever want in her castle, except for a friend to talk to.

Every day the pretty little princess looked out of her bedroom window, seeing past the forest to a road. And every day, the pretty little princess saw many people walk up and down this road.

But no matter how many people she saw, the pretty little princess was sad that no one ever came to visit her. She had never heard someone knock on her door.

One day, a stranger noticed the castle in the forest from the road. Curious, the stranger approached the castle door and knocked.

However, no one answered. Confused, the stranger left. From her bedroom window, the pretty little princess watched the stranger go.

The next day, the stranger returned. Again the stranger knocked on the door, but again no one answered. Confused, but still curious, the stranger once again left. And again the pretty little princess watched the stranger go.

On the third day, the stranger approached the castle for the last time. The stranger knocked on the door, but again no one answered.

Wanting to know who lived in the castle, the stranger forced open the door, which had been locked from the outside all this time.

“Hello?” The stranger called out. “Is there anyone here?”

But no one answered the stranger’s call.

Still curious, the stranger explored the rest of the small castle. The stranger found a messy kitchen, an untidy dining hall, and a cluttered hallway. Eventually, the stranger found a closed bedroom door.

“Hello?” The stranger called out. “Is there anyone here?”

But no one answered the stranger’s call.

Without hesitation, the stranger opened the bedroom door. Inside, he found the messy room of the pretty little princess. Surprised at the sudden company, the pretty little princess approached the stranger.

“Excuse me,” the stranger said. “I was knocking on your door, but you never answered.”

The pretty little princess said nothing. She had seen the stranger before from her bedroom window.

“Are you okay?” The stranger asked. “Why are you living all alone in this castle?”

The pretty little princess said nothing. She could tell the stranger was saying something, but could not hear what it was.

Finally, the stranger asked, “What’s your name?”

The pretty little princess recognized the phrase. Not from the sound, but from the movement of the stranger’s lips. The pretty little princess at last answered: she put her hands to her ears and began to cry.

The stranger finally understood what was wrong.

“You don’t have to be alone anymore,” the stranger said. “You can come with me.”

The pretty little princess did not hear what the stranger said. But when she saw the stranger’s hand, she understood as well. She took the stranger’s hand, and together they walked out of the castle.

The pretty little princess was no longer alone, and no longer afraid of what she couldn’t hear.

Silent Princess, A Fairy Tale

Time Spent =/= Challenge

One of the latest crazes to hit the mobile market is Magikarp Jump, a perfect example of the thought put into your typical game for smart phones.

In Magikarp Jump, you’re tasked with feeding one of the titular Pokemon with berries or training it with equally repetitive tasks as to raise its JP stat until it reaches the maximum level. You then bear witness to automated “league challenges” which require no real input from the player and require no skill whatsoever. If your Magikarp has a higher JP total than the opponent, you win. If you don’t, you keep feeding the fish, training it, or if it’s already maxed out you get a new one and start the whole process over again.

And all this is achieved with a single input: tap the screen.

You tap it to feed the fish. You tap it to have the fish flop against a punching bag or tree. You tap the dialogue prompts to move the “plot” along.

There is nothing to this game. Hell, I hesitate to even call it a game. There’s no fail state to speak of, either. While it’s possible to “lose” a league challenge, it means nothing. In fact, the “game” is designed in such a way that losing is a necessity to be done with your current Magikarp so that you can get a new one at the starting level and stuff it full of food and tree bark to reach the level of the previous fish.

It’s also possible for your Magikarp to be killed. By wandering bird Pokemon. By rogue Voltorb that explode and kill the fish. These instances are perhaps some of the funniest, darkest moments ever seen in Pokemon. Being a kids’ series of games and media, the mere mention of death is almost taboo; the earliest games touched upon it with locales such as Lavender Town’s Pokemon Tower, which was later converted to a radio tower. But having your Pokemon die and permanently removed from the team? Never.

Shame that here in Magikarp Jump it means nothing. The potential dozens of fish you choose to feed and throw against hard surfaces renders any attachment you have to a single fish moot. You’ll probably have a fondness for the first fish, or some random one you give a funny or meaningful nickname to. But once that one has either been devoured by a wild Pidgeotto or retired after reaching its highest attainable level, you’ll never get to interact with it again. At most it’ll be seen swimming in the background of the main screen.

Which brings me to the point I wanted to touch on: time as a substitute for challenge.

Mobile games I feel draw much of their inspiration from arcade cabinets of old: their job is to suck a few minutes of your time along with a few dollars from your pocket. In the olden days, the dollars were guaranteed, the time was not. After all, you could drop some coins into a cabinet, and not 20 seconds later you’d be slapped with a GAME OVER screen because these games were designed to be ridiculously hard for that very reason.

Nowadays, it’s been reversed. It’s the invested time that’s guaranteed, while dollars are a gamble at best. The mobile market’s one (arguably) positive feature is the public’s predisposition to cheap gaming. If your game costs anything more than free, you’d be hard-pressed to sell copies. So instead, microtransactions were born. The core game is free to play, but everything is slowed to a glacial pace, with cash incentive to speed the process up. And for most people I imagine, time is money is so hardwired into their heads that it becomes easy to loose some spare bucks just to push this “game” along.

And don’t even get me started on this cancerous “gacha” aspect that has infested most Japanese mobile games. Recent examples include Fire Emblem Heroes, but I’ll write a Browny Blog on THAT some other day. I’ll just say now that if you have ever spent even a single dollar on that game or anything like it, I not only pity you, I think less of you as a person.

But this is a bit of a tangent I feel. Obviously I have issue with microtransactions and the general seediness of mobile games designed solely to suck cash from weak-willed individuals. What I have most issue with however is the growing tendency to make these games so easy that it stops being a game.

Magikarp Jump is a prime example of this: there is no way to win or lose. You just keep tapping away mindlessly at it until you grow bored. There’s no takeaway from the experience, no sense of satisfaction from achieving anything. Because nothing is ever achieved. You getting your fish to Level 25 means nothing; it’s just digital proof that you have not only the patience but willingness to spend X amount of time tapping on your phone screen.

Would a game that is borderline unfair to play due to cheap difficulty be better than something like Magikarp Jump? I don’t know– probably not. But I feel that at the very least it would engage the player more on some level.

And at the same time, I just know that such a game would be universally hated by the ignorant masses who just want to turn their brains off for 100 seconds at a stretch as they wait for a bus, stop at a red light, or casually ignore friends and family at social gatherings.

And boy is that not a grim takeaway from all this.

Time Spent =/= Challenge

Metroid on Nintendo Switch

I like Metroid. I mean, if you read my Top 5 Games blog, you know that Metroid Prime holds an honorable mention there, if not a spot on the Top 5 (the why of this is a different matter entirely). The thing is, Metroid has fallen from grace in the eyes of Nintendo it seems. Following the lackluster Other M on Wii, Nintendo hasn’t really done anything with the series, outside slapping the name onto a crappy 3DS title that had little to do with Metroid at all.

But this isn’t a rant post about the mishandling of Metroid and how I’d do it better.

This is a post about a dream Metroid game I’ve been cooking up for the past month since I finished playing the spectacular Breath of the Wild. Bear with me readers; we’re about to dive headfirst into a fan’s pure fantasy.

Metroid on Switch would begin eerily similar to Metroid Prime, so much so that you’d almost be forgiven if you thought this was a remake of the GameCube classic. Our heroine Samus Aran responds to a distress signal and arrives at a seemingly derelict space station orbiting a planet we’d later learn to be Zebes. However, rather than this game being a first person adventure, it would be a wholly 3D action adventure, more in line with the recent Breath of the Wild.

This space station would be our Great Plateau: an expansive tutorial region where the player can get used to the feel of the game. Your ultimate goal on the station is to find the cause of the distress signal; just like in BOTW, you could finish this area in about an hour if you know where you’re headed. Otherwise, the labyrinthine station would allow players to dump several hours here just to toy around with the many tools in Samus’ arsenal.

This is probably where Metroid and BOTW would be a bit more different. From the start, Samus would have access to most of her arsenal, gear from previous Metroid games adapted to this new adventure. The path leading up to your goal on the station would introduce all of these tools in turn, but exploring beyond this path would reward players with just plain fun and lore. Unlike Zelda, there’s no need for stuff like money or food.

From the outset, Samus would have access to these items:

  • Scan Visor: With the tap of a button the view of the world changes to a blurry one, and a cursor in the middle of the screen that is moved with either analog sticks or gyro can lock onto aspects of the world to immediately bring up a wealth of info on them. This function is virtually identical to the one found in Metroid Prime, without the need to hold the scan for a couple seconds. A logbook feature would be present, but ultimately immaterial to the greater game, similar to the picture sidequest in Zelda.
  • Power Suit: Samus’ default armor. The option is available for show at first, but completing the adventure in full would grant the option to disable the suit entirely, leaving Samus in her famous Zero Suit. An option for expert players to provide themselves with additional post-game challenge?
  • Varia Functionality: An upgrade to the Power Suit, granting immunity to extreme temperatures and a boost to overall defense. While in past games this armor would change Samus’ appearance slightly, giving her larger shoulders for example, in this game turning the armor function on would simply change her suit’s color scheme from a yellow-orange mix to a red-orange mix. Mainly to show the player that the Varia Suit is functional.
  • Gravity Functionality: An upgrade to the Power Suit, granting you free range of movement while submerged in water or other liquid environments, as well as a boost to overall defense. In previous games this suit would color Samus purple, but this game would instead follow the Other M route by making Samus glow slightly in a purple hue while it is active. Easily visible in the dark.
  • Power Beam: The default weapon option, the Power Beam is the weakest of Samus’ offensive arsenal. Its energy based projectiles would be effective against nearly all kinds of foes, however.
  • Wave Beam: An electrically based beam weapon. Similar to Metroid Prime, it has a lower rate of fire than the Power Beam but can stun foes if charged. Limited by a regenerating energy pool.
  • Ice Beam: A freezing beam weapon. Similar to Metroid Prime, it has a lower rate of fire than the Power Beam but can freeze foes solid. Effective against Metroids. Limited by a regenerating energy pool.
  • Plasma Beam: A fire based beam weapon. Similar to Metroid Prime, it has a lower rate of fire than the Power Beam but is capable of instantly killing weaker foes if charged. Limited by a regenerating energy pool.
  • Missile Launcher: Samus’ stronger sub weapon, capable of concussive damage against foes. Missiles would be limited to an available supply similar to the other beam weapons, but these regenerate much slower over time.
  • Morph Ball: Samus’ iconic transformation ability. In Morph Ball mode, her speed is a bit higher and her size radically smaller, allowing for exploration of tiny nooks and crannies.
  • Spider Ball: A returning feature now faster than ever. Spider Ball would be the primary way of climbing around the many walls, cliffs and mountains found in the game world. Where Link would climb rather slowly, Samus would speed up and down using the Spider Ball function. Like Link’s ability to scale anything, it would be limited by a “Stamina meter”.
  • Morph Ball Bomb: Your primary means of offensive in Morph Ball mode, bombs inflict concussive damage to small areas. Not ideal as an offensive measure, it is great for exploring narrow passages.
  • Power Bomb: The strongest weapon in Samus’ initial arsenal, Power Bombs require a five second charge before use, exploding in a wide radius and heavily damaging anything caught in the blast with potent “nuclear” energy. Unfortunately, abuse of the Power Bomb isn’t possible, as it requires an extensive cooldown before another can be used.

These would be the tools available to the player right from the start of the game, introduced one by one as you explore the tutorial space station, but available as soon as the game begins without the need for introduction for more adventurous players.

During this tutorial phase, two other important things occur. The player will discover an Energy Tank, which increases Samus’ overall health reserves by 50 points, and acquire a new item for their arsenal: the Charge Beam. The discovery of these two will teach the player that expansions to their health can be found through exploration, as well as the potential to further expand your arsenal. Further exploration of the station can yield more Energy Tanks, and those not found prior to exiting the tutorial phase will be available to find elsewhere in the main game world.

The end of the tutorial space station comes when you face off against Ridley, the series antagonist. The fight would be similar to the true fight against Ridley later on, but missing a number of his attacks to make the fight slightly easier this time around. The end of the fight results in Ridley severely damaging Samus’ suit, followed by the traditional timed escape sequence.

While many players would expect to lose their arsenal, in fact what happens is that from this point on they will need to manage what aspects of the suit are active at any given time. Some of the gear will be always on, while others would require certain amounts of energy to remain active. Activating these tools would subtract the required energy from Samus’ overall total, lowering her effective health in the process. A risk-reward system, it would encourage players to seek out the elusive Energy Tanks to not only expand her available health reserves, but also equip more of her arsenal at once, returning her to her full strength.

Following the destruction of the space station, Ridley will flee to the surface of the nearby planet Zebes. Samus will follow, and touch down on the surface of the first major zone of the game world. This is where the game begins proper.

Zebes will be as expansive as Hyrule in BOTW, only divided into various zones connected by elevators similar to previous Metroid games. While it would be possible to find entrances to these zones outside the elevators, the elevators would serve as the primary means to ascend to higher levels. The transition down or up to different regions would serve to load the game if necessary, but also give a few seconds to scope out the land from a birds-eye view.

Taking cues from Super Metroid, the planet Zebes would contain the following regions:

  • Crateria, divided into two major zones. The first would be the opening segments of the game world, the second would be the crash site of the space station from the tutorial segment. The boss of the region would be Phantoon.
  • Brinstar, divided into a vegetative green zone and a partially subterranean red zone. The boss of the region would be Kraid.
  • Maridia, divided into the submerged ocean zone and the Space Pirate research facility zone. The boss of the region would be Draygon.
  • Norfair, divided into the superheated cavern zone and the Lower Norfair zone, modeled after the forgotten Chozo civilization. The boss of the region is Ridley.
  • Tourian, the final region of the main game accessed from Brinstar. Once located, players would be able to descend into the region freely to combat Mother Brain and her Metroid sentries.

But that’s not all. The defeat of any of the four major bosses (Phantoon, Kraid, Draygon or Ridley) would give the player access to second world altogether: Planet SR388. After learning of the Space Pirates’ intention to use Metroids as weapons, Samus would be able to return to her spaceship in Crateria and fly to the nearby Planet SR388, where the player can explore yet another world for the game’s primary subquest: hunting Metroids.

For SR388, inspiration would come from both the original Metroid 2, as well as the fan remake AM2R. The planet would include regions, though smaller in scale than those found in Zebes:

  • Golden Temple, remnants of the ancient Chozo civilization populated by Alpha Metroids.
  • Hydro Station, an abandoned facility for irrigation connected to a series of dark, moist tunnels populated by Alpha and Gamma Metroids.
  • Industrial Complex, a newly fashioned work zone created by Space Pirates to power their machinations throughout the planet. Populated by Gamma Metroids.
  • Distribution Center, an underground series of tunnels partially submerged where captured Metroid specimens are transferred back to the surface. Populated by Gamma and Zeta Metroids.
  • Experimentation Tower, a closed zone for testing various Metroid mutations. First instance of Phazon radiation is seen here. Populated by Zeta Metroids.
  • Acidic Depths, a series of labyrinthine tunnels flooded with vile acid and traces of Phazon. Populated by Zeta and Omega Metroids.
  • Genetics Laboratory, the center of Metroid research by the Space Pirates, fashioned from an ancient Chozo laboratory. The only thing here are dangerous Omega Metroids and classic sentry Metroids. Successful exploration will lead the player to the Queen’s Nest, where they face the Queen Metroid, the optional superboss of the game.

SR388 is entirely optional, and therefore the only unique item found while exploring the almost linear, stage-by-stage approach is the Phazon Suit. Energy Tanks can be found in these regions as well.

Other optional suit enhancements include:

  • X-Ray Visor: Easily discover hidden passages and secrets while in Scan Mode.
  • Phazon Suit: Grant resistance to Phazon radiation found in SR388, as well as a boost to defense.
  • Charge Beam: Found in the tutorial space station, it allows all beam weapons to be charged for greater damage.
  • Grapple Beam: Latch onto distant points to traverse large gaps. Also usable as a melee weapon.
  • Spazer Beam: Expands beam weapons, increasing their damage output.
  • Diffusion Beam: Grants an explosive radius to charged beam attacks, inflicting minor damage to surrounding targets.
  • Hyper Beam: A powerful beam weapon capable of the same damage type as Power Bombs.
  • Super Missiles: Enhanced missiles capable of triple the damage of regular missiles.
  • Speed Booster: Run at supersonic speeds, damaging foes as you run along.
  • Space Jump: Perform a second jump in mid-air.
  • Screw Attack: Capable of the same damage as Power Bombs, charges Samus’ jumps to become deadly to the touch.

Some of these enhancements would be guarded by the bosses of the regions, others would simply be hidden away somewhere in the expansive world map.

And that’s it, really. That’s the kind of Metroid game I imagine when I think of what’s possible on the Switch. A return to form for the Metroid series, a chance to become a series worthy of commercial success.

But sadly, this may never come to pass. And I guess that’s why I’ll always have my own imagination. I can dream, after all.

Metroid on Nintendo Switch

Persona 5 – Refined to Near Perfection

The wait for Persona 5 was long. I still remember asking myself how the sequel to Persona 4 would turn out, and whether it would arrive in the next two or three years following that game. Turns out I’d have to wait nearly a decade, and the wait was well worth it.

This isn’t a traditional review. I’m no good at writing those. This is merely one gamer’s blog on why I liked Persona 5, what I didn’t like about the game, and how overall it hopes to stand against my existing Top 5 Games of All Time.

Both its predecessors suffered from the same issues at the onset of the journey: long periods of build-up before we are allowed to dive headfirst into the combat of the game. P3 was especially bad about this, while P4 made an effort to hasten the process. P5 starts with the aftermath of a casino heist, letting you taste the movement, combat and stealth mechanics a bit before going back to the usual build-up. At first I thought I’d be in for a few days of regular school life before being allowed to get back into the combat, but P5 throws you right into the meat of the game from your very first day of school.

And that’s what I think P5’s greatest strength is. The story moves along at a brisk pace, rarely slowing down so much that you question “when will I get back to the Metaverse?”

That’s not to say the game doesn’t have periods of complete inactivity. Every single story milestone is buffered with a week or so of story cutscenes that severely limit your daily activity. At first this really upset me, as I felt that time was slipping away which I could be using to talk to my social links or beef up my character’s persona stats. But as the game progressed, I realized that there would be enough time to do everything in a single run if I so desired, even if I chose not to in favor of a New Game Plus run.

So by the end of the first palace you fall into a routine. A week or so of build-up that leads to the discovery of the next palace, about three weeks to tackle that palace and enjoy your school life, a few days to watch the efforts of your spelunking pay out, and repeat. Written out in this fashion, it’s easy to label the game as repetitive and dismiss it.

Persona 4 did something just like this, held together by its cast of characters who were just happy to hang around each other. Persona 5’s cast is just as tight-knit, this time bound by a shared distrust or outright hatred of the injustices they witness on a daily basis. It’s a bit on the nose how they blame “adults” for all the problems, rather than people in general, but it could just be me being one of the very same adults these high school kids distrust. I can’t exactly fault the story for viewing the world through the eyes of teenagers.

What I am at odds with is the framing of the plot. It begins with the aftermath of a casino heist that results in the capture of the main character (hereafter referred to as Akira Kurusu, the name I borrowed from the official manga adaptation). The story plays out in flashback as he’s interrogated by public prosecutor Sae Niijima, and it cuts back to this interrogation after every major plot development. Not a bad approach, but the fact that Niijima lays out the target for we the audience before every flashback  dulls the impact a bit. We the audience know ahead of time who the party will be targeting next, rendering a lot of the build-up to the heist superfluous if not outright frustrating. A better approach would have been to cut back to the interrogation after we unlock the palace, so that Niijima could reveal the folder with the target’s picture.

This is ultimately a minor issue, as the only time this approach makes the story feel contrived is with the second palace. The lead in to each new palace feels natural overall, just a group of kids that shift from one target to the next with no real semblance of design outside chance. This ultimately pays off with the fifth and sixth palaces, which turn out to be traps for the party that tie into the interrogation we’ve been viewing since the outset of the game.

Which takes us into the palaces and combat of the game proper.

Gone are the series “staples” of randomly generated dungeon fare. Except for Mementos, but we’ll discuss that later. Now, each palace is designed with forward progression in mind, feeling more robust and worthwhile as a result. The downside here is that each dungeon also feels much shorter than those found in P4, but one could easily make the argument that P4’s dungeons weren’t long so much as they were just padded and tedious. Hand crafted palaces are also a necessity given the stealth approach to exploration P5 has donned. The party act as thieves in the night, so sneaking around demands something other than randomly generated dungeons. It’s also quite thrilling to sneak up on shadows, and the animation of Akira ripping the shadow’s mask off to reveal the demons within never gets old.

Mementos, which acts a lot like Tartarus from P3, shows just how poor the randomly generated approach feels compared to palaces. Its place in P5 is central to an endgame story development, but also acts as the player’s means to grind for EXP or cash as revisiting palaces becomes impossible after completing them.

The streamlined combat is also a welcome change from previous games, assigning actions to specific buttons as to save the player a press or two here and there. Over time this equates to tens of thousands of button presses so its quite a welcome feature. The far more powerful hardware also allows the combat to look far more stylish than its predecessors, and Atlus poured lots of time and effort into the little details. From transitions to loading screens, everything oozes style and production value, to the point that it’ll be hard to ever go back to P3 or P4 and feel impressed ever again.

Unfortunately, this is where the game starts to slip up for me. While the return of demons as foes is welcome, as is the negotiation aspect from P1, P2 and the main series Shin Megami Tensei, the game overall feels considerably easier than its predecessors. P4 was notorious for its first main boss being a brick wall many inexperienced players ran into head first, so I was honestly expecting that with P5. While the first palace (a castle) is oddly similar to P4, it was much harder than P4 at first. But the boss turned out to be a pushover, and after that point the game never quite reached that same level of challenge again. Part of it stems from lack of options and resources which nags at you throughout the first palace, but becomes a non-issue after that. With the exception of the second palace’s boss, the challenge remains low until you reach the (faux) final palace towards the end of the game. And this was on Hard Mode.

At this point I’ll be discussing the end of the game. There will be spoilers, lots of them, so DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT if you haven’t seen the true end. You have been warned.

Long story short: great game, best of the bunch, but it had a few hiccups toward the end.

STORY SPOILERS INBOUND DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT

That’s not the only places where the game starts to falter towards the end. The story ramps up well throughout the game, but by the time you’re about to enter the true final dungeon, the plot is derailed as you seek to do battle with a surprise antagonist that is responsible for everything. This isn’t unlike P4’s final moments, which reveal that the mysterious gas station attendant was responsible for giving the protagonist and antagonist their Persona powers. The reveal of Igor as the god Yaldabaoth, who set up the whole game as an experiment of sorts for his own amusement, has punch. While I’ve heard it said that it was obvious given the drastic change in voice, I never once questioned Igor on the simple premise that his voice was changed due to the passing of the original Japanese voice actor. I figured changing the voice even in English to match the new Japanese one was a sign of respect. That they’d use it for a plot critical reason was brilliant, to say the least.

For the less savvy, I figure the only tip off Igor wasn’t the real Igor is that he calls the Velvet Room his, which the original Igor never does.

This is the good part of the ending, mind you. The bad part is that we never get a true resolution to the Metaverse abusers. Following the change of heart in Shido, who’s treated as the big bad, we hear that his conspirators know of a way to use the Metaverse to sway public opinion. This is never followed up on, and we jump right into the conflict with Yaldabaoth as the party decide– rather hastily– to erase the Metaverse completely. I get the reasoning behind this choice, but given the small timeframe of events here, it feels rushed. Mere days after the change of heart in Shido, you’re thrown into Mementos, expected to finish the dungeon, and without a chance to breathe or replenish supplies expected to tackle the final dungeon. All in the span of a single day. Considering the wealth of time you’re given to prepare for every other dungeon, this screams rushed and is quite a shame. P3 was given until January 31 to finish its plot, and P5 demands it be completed before Christmas.

That’s not to say you won’t have time to finish everything, but considering how robust the rest of the story was, this is quite a letdown. Even if the surprise revelation is well-delivered.

All in all, Persona 5 was fantastic. I played through it twice essentially, and loved every minute of my 160 hour romp. I’ll gladly go back for a third run, and soon. If I could stomach P3 nine times, and P4 five times, surely this considerably greater journey could hold up for three.

And that was a rushed end to this discussion. Sucks, doesn’t it?

Persona 5 – Refined to Near Perfection

Accepting Critical Truth

Sit around, friends. And let me tell you a tale.

A tale of Browny– yours truly, and a young woman whom I contacted for a commission.

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The story began back in November, when I contacted an artist who goes by MochaMofu on Twitter. Because of the incoming holidays, she informed me that any requests would have to wait for the new year (2017). Accepting this, I approached her again nearly three months later on February 11. Four days later, she responded, accepting my inquiry for a commission.

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Later that same day, I provided Mocha with a link to a Google Drive folder containing a document with my request, as well as reference materials she’d need for the task. What I wanted were six icons of various characters, my only special request being that she ease up on the visual flourishes she favored in her shared work.

As you can see here, she agreed to the request without issue, giving me the price she deemed fair without my need to haggle. So confident was I in her ability to deliver, I chose to pay the entire commission up front.

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Mocha hadn’t even delivered the current commission and already I was eager to hire her again. It was at this point she gave me her estimate on the delivery of the icons I’d just commissioned: 1-2 weeks on account of other ongoing commissions.

Sounded fair to me; my icons were small, relatively easy items to do, but given an unknown workload on her end I was perfectly fine with the timeframe. In fact, I was happy, since it was much sooner than I originally anticipated.

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I also took the time to ask her policy on sharing the images I’d commissioned, namely if it was okay for me to keep some of them private.

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Nearly two weeks later, Mocha updated me. Technically, she only had a couple days after this to deliver the completed product, but I ignored this and was happy with the rough drafts she supplied in a Google Drive link. After giving her the OK to wrap the commission up, there was silence.

For three weeks.

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Having finally tired of the silence, and on top of the fact she was now three weeks overdue, I sent the response seen above. Naturally I was rather upset, she had failed to even inform me of the delay, and I did not resist the temptation to let her know I was no longer confident in her ability to deliver on her promises.

The update she claims here was hardly substantial, mind you. At this point in time, the images had hardly changed since the March 1 link; not a single one was colored in, so what this “progress” was I could not say. I sadly do not have proof of this, as I never expected to be making this very post you’re reading now.

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Immediately following her response, I sent these three messages. I felt the need to apologize, as I may have stepped out of line in my anger. She never responded to this.

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Two days later, that is to say today, March 22, I finally received the finished product. It took her 35 days to complete the commission. A commission she said would take 1-2 weeks.

Delays happen. I understand this. But the fact she took three weeks longer than planned and did not inform me was unprofessional. But you know what? Who cares? I got the icons, they’re fabulous work, and I’m happy.

So happy was I, I was in the process of sending Mocha another private message to ask once again about the sharing of the images, and to let her know I was about to tag her in a tweet showing some of the icons. That’s when Twitter let me know that I would be unable to send that private message.

Because this happened:

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Confused, I wondered if my earlier messages had in some way offended Mocha. I figured the apologies I gave sufficient, but in any case I wasn’t about to stress this.

Until a friend of mine shared something else.

01

0203

So… let’s break this down individually, shall we?

You admit fault in not contacting me sooner. That’s good, it was your mistake, especially with a commission that was already more than double the initially estimated time overdue. And yes, I did say I wasn’t confident about hiring you a second time. That wasn’t a threat, and I’m sorry a plain statement like that offended your delicate sensibilities so much you perceived it as a threat.

The nasty customer bit? Yeah, I said that. Why? Because I wasn’t so upset as to cause a stink. I did want to point out however that she was in the wrong by failing to update me. Nevertheless, I apologized for my outburst, because I admitted I was in the wrong and meant no ill will by it.

Next: the money was not important to me. I paid you what you asked for, and I did so entirely up front as a show of my faith in your ability.

March 24 EDIT:

I made a mistake here, Mocha did quote me a price in November prior to taking on the commission. I honestly forgot this exchange, which I will provide here:

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In light of this information, I will apologize for the statement (which follows this paragraph in bold italics). However, I maintain that if your prices went up, you should have told me up front. Keeping it to yourself and then using it against me as though you did me a favor wins you no points. You gave me a price, and I paid it.

And no, you did not quote low before. You only ever gave ONE quote, that was on February 15 when you finally saw what it is I wanted drawn. You never gave me a quote before that, so this fantasy you’re spinning about low-balling me and then feeling bad about raising the price on me? Not gonna fly.

Never mind the fact that once you give a price and that price is paid in full, asking for more looks bad on your part without valid explanation. And considering you were already running late?

The last bit shows my friend Ashley tossing some truth at Mocha after I shared the story with her. Mocha’s response? Ashley was softblocked as well. Seems the truth is toxic to the girl.

Mocha’s work is quality stuff. I would never say otherwise. I’m happy with it.

But if this is how she responds to fair criticism? To being told she was late in delivering a product she promised? A time table she set herself? Well, it speaks volumes.

A little “friendly” advice: in the real world, if you’re late with the job, you get called out. Throwing a fit and painting me the villain might have made you feel better, but you got a long way to go before I’d ever consider you a true professional.

Learn from these mistakes. And next time, don’t immediately run to your followers looking to shit talk the very person who was trying to thank you for the work you’d just completed.

Oh, and insults are unnecessary. That’s just juvenile.

Article Edit: Ashley was softblocked, not blocked. Correction was made.

Accepting Critical Truth