Let’s interrupt the party to get mellow again. It’s been a while.
On November 17th, I welcomed my son Malcolm into the world. When my daughter Violet was born, I spent most of the first several months panicking. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I was sure I was going to mess it up. This time around, I felt more confident. From the first moment, I was just ecstatic to meet this little man. As time went on, however, I found myself facing some new concerns. I’ve done fine with my daughter so far, but she’s entering the age where she can interact with me a bit more. She can ask questions, she shows preferences daily, and I’ll have to worry about discipline more than I’ve needed to. In short, I need to teach her how to be a human. Furthermore, she has a little brother to look after now, and I have to teach her how to be responsible for those less capable than herself.
So today, I’m going to give you a peek into what it was like growing up in a lower-income, single parent home. With little supervision, I was left to fend for myself. With no male role model, I avoided a lot of stereotypical gender roles, but I also lost out on a lot of lessons my friends all know. And most importantly, I’d like to share some of the paralyzing terror of trying to be a father after being raised never seeing one in action.
After Haikyu!! revitalized my interest in sports anime, I started seeking out other series. I scoured top ten lists, read manga, and looked at reviews to find my next hit of sweet, sweet, animated sportsting. The Eyeshield 21 manga was a hit for me, even years after reading it the first time. Yowamushi Pedal has been a surprise hit with both my wife and myself. But one series seemed to dominate every list I saw. I noticed an overwhelming fanbase as it topped most lists and garnered rave reviews.
That series was Kuroko’s Basketball… and I’m not a fan. I’ve only watched fourteen episodes, which is hardly enough for a full review. It has, however, provided me with some context as to what I love in a sports anime. Rather than ripping apart a series I am still trying to give a fair shake, this gives me an opportunity to run down the things I love in a sports anime—and why Kuroko’s Basketball made me aware of their absence.
As readers of this blog might know by now, I’m a fan of both anime and RPGs. While I’m not a hardcore player, I’ve spent many hours on MMORPGs in particular. Games like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV account for quite a few missing days of my life, and it’s all time I willingly gave.
When I saw a free-to-play action MMORPG with an anime aesthetic pop up on the PSN, I figured I’d download it and get a few hours of laughs out of it. “What’s the worst that could happen? I waste an hour on some character creation and an off-brand Dynasty Warriors battle system?”
That was not the worst that could happen. The worst that could happen is Onigiri—the worst game I have ever played.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve thought a lot about where I can find happiness. The sudden change in worldview was unbidden, but it ‘s made me reconsider my life in a way I hadn’t had to up to now. It’s caused a change in perspective in all facets of my life, for both good and ill. I’ll never again feel the same highs, certainly not in the same way. The world has lost some of its innocence and charm, the gray is a bit more pronounced, and the minute-to-minute joys of a day have all but evaporated. I struggle to reconnect with things I once loved, and results are mixed. Days go by where I feel like my old self, where I can happily write about a show I loved or my favorite games from the past. Conversely, there are days where I have to write to work through my mind. I have to try to give order to the storm, to piece back the ground after the quake.
Today is one of the latter. Writing, above many other things, has granted me clarity. I have found the important parts of the rest of my life, of course. My family will always be the most important part of my life. My focus at work has shifted to a greater passion for teaching, for culture, and for community outreach. But even my love of writing feeds into the core of what can make me happy moving forward. I don’t write in the hopes of it ever paying the bills. I don’t have any guarantee my words will ever be read by more than a handful of people, nor even that those that read them will care for them. However, they’re all written with the same purpose, the purpose that drives any passion I have left in my life. I want to make those around me happy.
I am not a sports fan. This should surprise nobody. It’s not a lack of enthusiasm for the mechanics of most sports, but more a confluence of apathy around celebrity athletes, an absence of appreciation for any team’s history, and a decade-long lack of a cable subscription. Sports anime, however, has a bizarre hold over my affections. It offers a human story under the play-to-play excitement of a game. Unlike many action shows, it allows the protagonists to fail without the weighty consequence of death or serious injury behind it. As a well-travelled practitioner of failure, few things connect me to a character so much as seeing them trip. Many of the best series allow for a broad focus on a number of characters, bringing some of the best elements of a long-running shonen show into a more focused package.
While I’m usually willing to try a sports anime, I’d avoided Haikyu!! due it its focus on a sport I care little for—volleyball. Upon finally giving it a shot, I find myself looking at all the series I’ve skipped for shallow reasons over the years and kicking myself. Not only is Haikyu!! possibly the best sports series I’ve ever seen, it easily earns a spot among my favorite anime series of all time.
Minor spoilers for the first episode follow.
I’ve spent a few months filling my gaming time with newer games, especially MMOs and deeply involved action RPGs. While these are games I love playing, they often require a lot of time investment and often lack the ability to pause. That becomes a problem when you’re looking at an hour or two every other night, with any other free time necessitating regular stops to look after a child. This led me to go back in a time a bit, to find something I could play a bit more idly, and something that I could drop at a moment’s notice. It led to me going back to some older turn-based RPGs, especially those I had beaten before. It’s been over a decade since I last played the original Suikoden game, and after diving back in I started to realize what made the series so special. Konami, being a pretty awful company by most accounts, is unlikely to circle back to the series. However, it had a five game run with a handful of spin-offs and I’m rediscovering how well they hold up. I plan to burn through the series over the next few months (including the fourth entry, which I’ve never put significant time into) and having completed the first game, it’s a good opportunity to convince others to check out a classic series. We’ll start here with the first game, which is available on the PSN for PS3 and PSP/Vita as you read this.
Last Tuesday, we finally saw the release of the Steins;Gate visual novel on consoles in the west. Originally releasing in 2009, Steins;Gate tells the story of a self-styled mad scientist who stumbles across an actual technological advancement when he creates a time machine. The game was successful enough to see an anime adaptation in 2011, and the series has enjoyed mostly warm critical and fan reception both in Japan and overseas. With the visual novel fresh in everyone’s mind, it’s a good time to revisit the anime series and see what made it so special–and to check out some of the flaws that get lost in the praise.
I’m a little over two weeks since the one year anniversary of my brother’s murder. I’ve tried to write this a few times, but I hadn’t had time to slow down and really reflect. With family in town that weekend was more active than reflective, and that might be a blessing. We had a small get together with some of my brother’s oldest friends and had a chance to remember the good times and ignore the elephant in the room. A couple of weeks later, I’ve had time to look back. I’ve dealt with a few sleepless nights, a good cry or two, and come out with a feel for where I’m at.
If you want to see what grief looks like a year in, come on in.
I figure after being out of the world for a month, some explanation would not go unwarranted.
Twitter has been abuzz about Cards Against Humanity lately, primarily (though not entirely) spurred by the Shut Up & Sit Down review that hit yesterday. It’s actually something worth reading- a thought out and well written take down of controversial game. There is definitely discussion to be had regarding celebrating free speech vs using that speech to punch down at underrepresented and marginalized groups. I have never been easily offended (having lived a life where the worst I would get called is “nerd”), so it’s valuable to hear about things I have never had to experience. It makes me a more well-rounded person, and forces me to consider lives outside my scope of experience. That’s part of the reason for this blog- to expose readers to a life that has taken a different turn than their own.
I’m not going to talk about that, though. I’m going to talk about the hop-ons derailing an interesting discussion to put on their “I’m So Smart” cap and sneer down at the unfunny masses.