Assassination Classroom, Volume 8 by Yusei Matsui

As much as I enjoyed all of the volumes of Assassination Classroom up to this point, if there was one small criticism I had to give, it would be that Koro-sensei stops tensions from getting high. Sure, there’s his claims that he’ll destroy the planet in a year, but that’s in the future and in the meantime there’s a super human smiley face creature who’ll protect the children from any threats with his endless abilities. However, following Volume 7, Koro-sensei has been reduced to his Absolute Defense Form and so is unable to help or protect them in anyway (other than talking.)

The new dynamic in this volume creates some really intense drama. It’s just the kids up against some of the most skilled assassins in the world. Do they have what it takes? Well, I won’t spoil anything for you, but I was genuinely concerned for the characters’ lives – and not just the characters facing the assassins. Don’t forget that the previous volume ended with half the students being infected with a deadly virus!

You may wonder why it would just be the kids when the likes of Mr. Karasuma are around, but he and Ms. Jelavitch are soon otherwise incapacitated as well. Really, this volume documents an important learning experience for the children – they now have to put into use the lessons that their teacher has taught them with no safety net. Of course, Koro-sensei remains able to impart his wisdom, but that’s all. It is up to the children to listen to him.

Honestly, this was a fantastic read and a new height for this manga. There are some big revelations towards the end, but things still aren’t wrapped up neatly. You won’t be able to wait to read the next volume because the stakes are so high and at the end… the unbelievable happens. No spoilers, of course, but a lot of big things happen. The best volume yet.

Rating: 9.9/10

Buy it here.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Posted in Book Reviews | Leave a comment

R.I.P. Kate Sutton

Yesterday I was scrolling through Twitter to pass by an empty few minutes in my day. As I was doing so, I came across an old tweet talking about the untimely death of a blogger called Kate Sutton. I wasn’t quite sure why, but her name and face seemed kind of familiar to me. I did a little bit of investigating and found out that she was the author of the blog WitWitWoo. Again, very familiar.

In a previous job, I was responsible for a blogger outreach campaign and I had a feeling that she might have been somebody I’d worked with on that. A quick search around her site confirmed this for me when I found the blog post she’d written from the brief I gave her two years ago. Seeing the blog post brought back some memory of the collaboration and I recollect that she was easygoing and nice to work with – in fact, I commissioned her for two blog posts. I found the second one shortly after.

I always used to be a little envious of the bloggers who made a lot of money selling blog posts, because I could never do that with this blog. I really admired them for it though and it inspired me to always keep up with my own work. Looking at her blog now, there’s no indication that she is no longer alive and it’s quite bittersweet – on the one hand, her personality comes through in the blog posts, immortalising her in some way, which is nice. On the other hand, it’s kind of scary. With the tabs about collaborating with her at the top, it’s almost like a moment frozen in time. Her last blog post is just a normal blog post, with no indication that she suspected her life may soon be over.

In fact, it’s worse than that. Her last blog post is about online dating and she’s talking with somebody in the comments about finding her “forever love” a desire which can now never be fulfilled. Then there’s the fact that she was a single parent “Mummy Blogger” and it’s very upsetting to think of the children left behind. How many people do we cross paths with every day? A very large number, and most of the time we’ll always be completely unaware of their ultimate fate… how many people who left a brief, friendly impression on you may no longer be in this world? At very least, the impact they had on you and (doubtlessly) on many others will always remain in the back of your mind.

My relationship with Kate was a very brief and professional one. I don’t mean to ‘take’ the tragedy of her death and make it ‘mine’ as the real people suffering here will be her friends and family. But I wanted to write about this because the news of her death certainly had an effect on me – it made me want to honour her memory. She was somebody who made it as a writer and I have a great respect for all writers. I am glad that she had the opportunity to make money from her work and it’s nice that she was able to capture many aspects of herself and her life in her writing. If you’re looking for some lifestyle blog posts to read, why not check out her blog and help keep her memory alive?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Posted in Memoriam | Leave a comment

What Do You Do?

When you meet new people, the question that they tend to ask most commonly is “so what do you do?” and in the majority of cases, they are referring to employment. In a way, I think it’s quite sad that this is the first thing people ask, because it suggests that having a job is the most important thing anybody could do with their life. Or, at least, that a person’s job is the most important thing about them.

As you can tell, I disagree with this perspective. I’d even say that I think it’s quite unhealthy to consider your job the most important thing about you (in almost all cases, but not quite all). As a result, it’s never the first thing that I ask somebody, as an alternative, I usually ask “do you have any creative hobbies?” or “how do you spend your free time?” because the answers to these questions give me insights into people which I believe are much more useful.

At the moment, when I am asked, I am quite proud to say that I work for WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) because it’s an organisation with a cause I really believe in, so I will tell people about it – but I still don’t believe I am defined by my work. At times when I’ve had jobs I cared less about, I’ve responded with “I socialise with friends and visit different restaurants” or “I’m a writer” which is usually broad enough to answer the question, but which also encompasses a creative activity I enjoy in my free time. If I really don’t want to talk about work, I’ll say “I don’t know. I go to an office and sit at a desk or something.”

So just keep that in mind next time you’re making small talk with somebody. What can you tell them which really reflects something about you as a person? Does your job really reflect on who you are at all? I’m guessing it doesn’t and for that reason it will be healthy to try and thing of yourself in non-work related terms.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Posted in Thoughts | Leave a comment

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

Personally, I always prefer handheld games over home console ones. I’m not sure what it is. I just prefer the cosiness of having it in your hand and being able to play wherever you want. It’s simple and convenient. It’s not that I think that the quality of handheld titles is inherently higher though, because when a game comes out on a handheld for the first time, after being home console exclusive, I usually become more invested than I was when it was simply on a console. However, when Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D came out, I had barely just finished the original and wasn’t too keen to pay full price just to have it again. Fortunately, I recently bought it on sale and I loved it. Here’s a list of all the changes you’ll find in it:

The Good Changes

  • The control scheme now contains no motion controls. While I don’t really mind the use of the Wii Remote in the original, I can’t deny that simple button presses suit the gameplay much more. Rolling in particular is now a lot easier.
  • A whole new world has been added and it’s a good one. This means that you get nine new levels. Each one takes inspiration from one of the game’s earlier worlds (so there’s a new jungle level, a new beach level, a new volcano level etc.) and though I wish they could have been slightly more original, I also felt that these were some of the most enjoyable levels in the game. I may be biased, because I would have been excited to get some new Donkey Kong Country content (while earlier worlds didn’t have that factor) but there are some very nice level designs there. For example, one level has you going through a factory and assembling a giant robot, another has you launching yourself through the air with geysers.
  • A ‘New Mode’ has been added to the game. I didn’t feel that this was necessary, but what this does is makes the game a little easier and I’m happy to admit that this game can be awfully tricky sometimes. With New Mode, you get more hearts and new, helpful items in Cranky’s shop. I know some people have given up on this game because it’s too hard, so these additions will help make it more accessible.
  • From a historical point of view, it’s interesting to view this as the step between Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. The items introduced in New Mode and many of the concepts in the extra world would return in Tropical Freeze the following year and that’s something I find fascinating.

Bad Changes:

  • Overall, the visual quality has been noticeably diminished. Things are much blurrier and less detailed than they were in the original. If you play this version first, it won’t come across as bad, but if you played the original, you’ll notice the decline.
  • Loading screens are also less animated now, which makes them a little more boring to look at.

As is often the case with video game remakes, the good largely outweighs the bad. If somebody were to ask me which of the two versions they should buy (with the intention of only ever getting one) then I would advise them to get this one. The small ways in which it is inferior are ultimately quite inconsequential – but I really love the improvements. As it tends to be pretty cheap these days, if you have a 3DS, I recommend it!

Rating: 9.5/10

Buy it here.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Posted in Video Games | Leave a comment

Top Trumps

As a child, I was always very fond of the game Top Trumps. I used to really love collecting all the different packs, because for me, there’s something very satisfying about seeing different people listed and ranked based in different stats and figures. I guess I just love seeing information categorised. Especially when numbers are involved – especially when you’re encouraged to compare those different numbers. Oh my.

I think what also helped to sell me on the idea was that many things which I really liked had Top Trumps sets. For example, there was The Simpsons (which I was kind of obsessed with as a kid), Doctor Who (which I remain obsessed with as an adult) and lots of other pieces of popular culture from the early 2000s. Being a completionist, I bought a lot of the other ones too, like the dinosaur set and the shark set. The art and pictures in those ones were very nice as well.

It got to the point that I started to look at the company’s past. I was amazed that Top Trumps appeared to be older than I was. Looking back as an adult, some of these older ones are the ones which impress me the most. Back then, they were much less focused on making film and television tie-ins, but instead on making their own unique creations.

Two older packs that I was most fond of were “Fantasy” and “Goblins & Faeriefolk” which included some really beautiful artwork. There’s that kind of pulp fantasy style to these ones and I love it. I was also fortunate enough to get my hands on The Ultimate Pack – which was a pack were each card represented another pack. I liked this, because it seemed to tie everything together as a kind of Top Trumps universe. Though I don’t really buy them anymore, I will always cherish my collection and am glad that I never sold them.

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Posted in Lovely Things | Leave a comment

Negativity in Fandoms

I’m a fan of quite a few things and involved in the associated online communities with a couple as well. There’s an unfortunate pattern I always seem to see in these groups though and that’s an excessively negative attitude towards later installments in bodies of work which have been going on for a long time.

On some level, I can understand this. Continuations of things we loved as children aren’t likely to feel quite as special to us, because they won’t have that added nostalgic factor. There also won’t be that long term comfort and familiarity… Not that newer things can’t outdo older things some times, as has certainly been the case with one or two things that I enjoy.

But the amount of venom and bitterness that some people hold towards the very body of work that they’re supposed to love is quite shocking. And, when I think about it, I think I might know why they behave in this way. The things which seem to attract fans like this seem to be somewhat niche or not quite mainstream. I imagine that the reason people respond so negatively to these things is because they probably don’t have much else in their life and they consider their appreciation of theses books/films/games etc. to be a part of their identity – which they feel like their losing, if the body of work changes. Their sense of self is so poorly defined that if more people start to like their favourite thing after the latest instalment, they’ll genuinely feel that they’ve lost part of themselves – or even that it has been stolen. It leads to a kind of elitism which reflects a kind of selfish fandom – most people would be happy if a work they like reaches a broader audience, while others prefer being one of a few.

That’s the only way I can make sense of it, anyway. Otherwise, it seems completely illogical for somebody to completely despise a work of fiction or, even worse, to despise the fans of a work of fiction. I’m not saying it’s wrong to be critical of the things you like, because constructive criticism will always help to make things grow and improve and I honestly enjoy discussing the quality of work I like with fellow fans. But there’s a very big difference between healthy discussion and an irrational hatred of a work of fiction.

What’s especially sad about this is that I am sure that it’s a minority. Most people don’t develop such extreme feelings about their favourite pieces of fiction, because that’s not normal behaviour, but because the ones who do are so vocal about it, they can make entire communities look bad to the average internet user. But don’t let the negativity get you down: focus on the positivity within fandoms and remember the only thing that truly matters is how much you enjoy something – even if a hundred people are saying it’s awful and terrible, this has no bearing at all on your appreciation.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Posted in Thoughts | Leave a comment

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

I’m sure you’ve heard of Wuthering Heights and I have a feeling that it may be on the list of books that you plan to read some day – as it had been on my very same list for some time! But once I heard that it was the favourite book of a good friend of mine, I decided to let it jump the queue, because obviously there was something special about it. I’ve read it now and while it didn’t become my number one favourite book, I can confirm that there is indeed something special about it.

The story covers two generations of people living in the titular Wuthering Heights and at Thrushcross Grange (another, nearby home.) That alone is fairly appealing to me, because I love stories which span across quite large periods of time, but at the centre of it all is the intriguing and enigmatic Heathcliff – a man brought into Wuthering Heights as a child, his past completely unknown. He develops quite an infatuation for Cathy, a girl he grows up with there. I wish I could say that they fall in love with each other and then go on to live happy and full lives, but that’s not quite how things turn out.

I don’t want to give anything away, because the shocking developments were so impactful precisely because of how unexpected they were, but if you think that that sounds like the setup for a generic and cliched love story, you’re completely wrong. This is a highly unconventional story and at its heart is a cast of very real people – even Heathcliff (who, I’ll be honest, is a bit of a scumbag sometimes) is somebody I had a great deal of sympathy for. Part of what makes it so moving is the fact that it highlights some genuine issues of the time, including gender inequality, limited understanding of mental health and limited access to healthcare in general.

In a way, it’s a horrible novel – because so many awful things happen to people who did not deserve to have such things happen. But by the end, things are wrapped up in a way that I found quite satisfying so while it may be a distressing and disturbing ride, it’s still well worth going on! And which might have a lesson for us all about the dangerous of obsession and over romanticising…

Rating: 8.9/10

Buy it here.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Posted in Book Reviews | Leave a comment

Reflecting on 2018

I’m writing this within the first few hours of 2019 and as I look back on the year behind, I am pleased to see that I am in a better place than I was at this point last year. With this in mind, I have to consider this year, overall, a good one.

I came into 2018 with no money and with only a part time job in a call center as a source of income. This would be fine, of course, if I had a solid personal life to back it up, but at the time I didn’t really have many friends around to see on a regular basis. A couple of my closest friends had even moved away to far off countries.

To be honest, I was getting a bit disillusioned. I was finding it very hard to find copywriting or digital marketing-based work and I was weary of making new friends, because I didn’t want to invest emotionally in people who I knew I’d end up separated from sooner or later. I thought it best to just keep to myself, make enough money to live from the call centre and not expect any more from life.

Thankfully, thoughout the year, I ended up making quite a large number of new friends – more than I normally meet within a year. I felt that I had become quite a bit more cynical and, for me, it was obvious that I was not engaging with people in as much of a positive way as I had been before. So what was comforting for me, was that I still found that new people I met would compliment me for being positive and upbeat – what really motivated me to make more effort to be friendly and positive again, was when a new friend confided in me that they were having a hard time and needed more positivity in their life. It served as a call to action and made me feel that my positivity had a purpose. Meanwhile, I’ve also regained contact with some friends I was worried I was drifting away from, which is something I’m very glad about.

Career-wise, I now work for WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) as the Digital Fundraising Officer. Though my role is only secure until April, it is a job I like very much and I hope that I will be able to remain there beyond the fixed term contract I am currently on. I’ve also been tweaking and editing the first draft of a novel I wrote – who knows if anything good will come of that.

There are a lot of things I hoped to have achieved by now, but have not and a lot of areas for improvement in my life – but for this post, I wanted to write about the positives because 2018 was ultimately a good year for me.

(I wrote something like this about 2015 and 2017 too. I should make this a tradition…)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Posted in Thoughts | Leave a comment

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

I’m a big Christmas fan and I really love all of the classic stories associated with the season, such as Earl Hamner’s The Homecoming and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but there’d always been on conspicuous gap in my Christmas appreciation: the Grinch.

Now, like many of you, I was already familiar with the general story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! which is that of a negative person who steals people’s Christmas presents to stop them from being able to enjoy Christmas, but what I didn’t know was that there’s a fair bit of depth to it all.

What the Grinch hates about Christmas is the fact that it’s all so loud and people are all so over the top about it. It annoys him and he just wants to sit quietly in his cave. The fact is, he doesn’t truly understand what Christmas is. To him, it is simply a day for over indulgence and I can understand why he would take issue with it.

But when the Grinch realises that the thing that’s important to people is being together and they’re not really bothered about all of the trappings, he changes his perspective. He sees the good in humanity (or in the Whos of Whoville, which are the creatures in this story) and he wants to be a part of it. When he gets that its about love and not excessive consumption, it elicits some change in him.

It’s a simple story, but I think it’s quite a beautiful one. The Grinch lives by himself and is, presumably, very lonely. He doesn’t understand people and there reasons for doing things, simply because he does not understand them. Sure, stealing everybody’s Christmas presents is a bad thing to do, but when people hate, they do so only out of ignorance and it’s definitely true of the Grinch. Loneliness always brings out the worst in people, but when he gets a chance to be a part of community again, he cannot resist.

All I knew of the Grinch was that he was a villainous character who stole presents from people. I thought it might be a fun little Christmas romp – and it was, but the additional layer of significant meaning was greatly appreciated. And, of course, it’s all wrapped up in the beautiful bow that is Dr. Seuss’s usual lyrical writing style. If you’ve not read it, I strongly recommend it!

Rating: 8.5/10

Buy it here.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Posted in Book Reviews | Leave a comment

Devil World games:

1984: Devil World
2006: Tetris DS ¹
2008: Super Smash Bros. Brawl ²
2014: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS ³

Connected Series:

Footnotes:

  1. Characters from the series appear in the game’s Standard Mode.
  2. The Devil appears as a non-playable character.
  3. The Devil appears as a non-playable character.
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Posted in Video Game Reviews | Leave a comment