Emitown Vol. 1: A Review

September 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Emi Lenox’s Emitown is a hard work to review. Like Natalie Nourigat’s Between Gears, Emitown is a sketch diary. As such it’s difficult to evaluate it as a narrative piece because its focused on ‘real events’ that aren’t necessarily strung together. It’s just life as it is.

On that note, Emitown is a personal work. At times its vague and doesn’t explicitly state what is going on. It’s a measure of privacy deliberately used by the creator. Again, it’s hard to be critical of the narration of Emitown. While there is nothing specific in terms of narration, it is an enjoyable read and interesting to learn about somebody in a new form. Emitown, and other sketch diaries, are some of the most intimate memoirs out there.

The art in Emitown on the other hand is much easier to explain. Figures are varied and detailed to a necessary degree within their specific contexts. Everything is fun to look at. A lot of this comes from the strong ink work throughout the book. Like figure detail, it helps create a tone for the day, or part of the day, that it’s used in. The art is solid throughout.

As stated at the beginning, Emitown is a tough piece to review. The narrative follows the diary format and it is personal, but not explicit, and doesn’t really have an overarching feel beyond day-to-day life. The art is definitely a large appeal to the work. Though this has been a difficult review, I can say I enjoyed reading Emitown and if you like the idea of a sketch diary with good art, then I recommend it for you.

Emitown is drawn and written by Emi Lenox. It’s published by Image Comics.

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Categories: comics, review Tags: , , , ,

September Updates

September 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Hello all!

I wanted to make some quick updates. I know I have been posting irregularly in the past few months. I’ve been in a state of transition as I just finished my Bachelor’s Degree a few months ago and I’m starting grad school in a week, as well moving in a few weeks. But that doesn’t mean I forget about this site!

Things that will happen soon:

*Dropping the .wordpress.com bit. It’ll soon be nalvicreviews.com. Maybe a new layout soon.

*Several videos are in production.

*Lots of comics for me to review. 

*The ‘About’ section has been updated. You can find more detailed info there.

 

I’m looking for title card artists to produce a title card for my video series’. If you’re interested, or know somebody who would be, you can contact me at nalvicreviews@gmail.com. I can pay you!

 

Hope to get something out to you all soon!

Nalvic

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths – A Review

September 9, 2012 1 comment

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths holds a unique place in localized manga in North America. Mizuki Shigeru’s semi-autobiography details the settlement of an ill-prepared Japanese camp in World War 2, a suicide charge against U.S. soldiers, and the story of those who didn’t partake in the death charge. It’s a story often excluded from the Japanese narrative seen in localized manga. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is also significant for being a human drama by Mizuki Shigeru, an artist most associated with yokai art.

The narrative of Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths focuses on the experiences of the Japanese company of soldiers. Their challenges as assigned to them by the Japanese military brass, the struggles with the environment, and the general fatality and deprivation of war. Each individual met in the work, which there are many, are all distinct and human in their own way. To its simplest point, it’s about humanity, or lack thereof, during war. Specifically, there is a unique Japanese flavor to this. The death charge is something insane-sounding to an American aesthetic, but incredibly reasonable towards a Japanese wartime aesthetic.

My largest issue with Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths has little to do with the concept or the art of the work, but rather the localization given to it. Sound effects are converted from their original katakana (one of the written forms of Japanese, commonly used for onomatopoeia in manga) into English. Obviously, this is made for the simplification of the Western reader, but why change it? Many manga publishers in the West have adapted to maintaining the original language for sound effects and offering a translation section in the back, or use footnotes. In the same regard, many lines of dialogue are changed to be more familiar with a contemporaneous Western reader. While Drawn & Quarterly (who publishes only a select few manga titles) has made a commendable translation, I feel like the work should have retained a greater sense of its original Japanese.

On a stronger note, the art is incredible. Humans are given cartoon-ish features which contrast with a lushly detailed background. It boosts the sense of harshness of place given in the detailed illustrations. The human depictions allow for a more relaxed reading of the drama being told, often ironically contrasting with the trauma of war. The art style doesn’t directly depict the seriousness of the situations of the work, but it’s always there. And hey, Drawn & Quarterly maintained the original right-to-left printing, so kudos there.

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is an excellent manga. Both the narrative and art style are unique in the medium. While I have some issues with the cultural conveyance in translation, I’m sure there are many who will never notice it. And at the least this served as an introduction for Western readers of Mizuki Shigeru’s works. It’s something I highly recommend to both manga and comic fans.

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is written and drawn by Mizuki Shigeru. It is localized in North America by Drawn & Quarterly.

Quick Thoughts: The Wii U Experience

September 7, 2012 1 comment

Last night, I got the chance to go event with loud music, a fair amount of people, free food, and Nintendo consoles on the horizon. The event was hosted by Nintendo for their new Wii U coming out ‘sometime this Holiday season.’ I went, as a guest, with a friend to test the gamepad, launch titles, and what else there was to see of the console. In the past, I’ve been skeptical towards to Nintendo products, particularly the DS and the Wii. Over time my skepticism has largely been undone. The DS is one of my favorite video game consoles, boasting, with what I think, one of the greatest game libraries ever. And the Wii really proving its innovations with games such as The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. This time around, I decided to give Nintendo a chance with the Wii U.

At ‘The Wii U Experience’ there were two things I really wanted to see regarding the system; the games and the gamepad:

Games:

Yet again, I’m not thrilled by Nintendo’s launch titles for the console. There wasn’t anything shown at the event that was horrible, but nothing really stood out. There wasn’t anything that made me want to rush out and get the console just so I can play one particular game. This is a problem that the launch of the 3DS suffered (and still does to an extent). Like the 3DS, I hope developers warm up to console soon. The issue is less on Nintendo to make great games (which is somewhat inevitable) and for the developers to do so.

Gamepad:

The gamepad was my main curiosity for the system. It’s the distinctive innovation for the console. And when I finally got to test it out I had no issues with it. It’s not heavy, is easy to hold, easy to reach all the buttons, and motion sensitive when needed. What I did notice with the games they had available was a lack of specific focus on the gamepad. It was something you could use in many cases. Only games like ZombiUNintendo Land, and Game & Wario seemed to have a specific focus on it. When used it felt like a nice mix of the touchscreen tech of the DS with good multiplayer activity (as in the case of Nintendo Land). The gamepad felt like it could be used for both interactivity, with the screen and others, or just as a controller. Nintendo was also highlighting the Wii U Pro controller, which worked essentially the same as the Classic Controller, currently available for the Wii. On that note too is the great use of being able to use prior console peripheral without any big investment. For those just updating to the Wii U, it means you don’t have to swap out all those controllers simply to upgrade. It’s great.

In the end, the Wii U appears to be a strong console. It builds off the Wii greatly, in the form of controllers, which is actually a positive. I would want to see greater innovation with the gamepad. The launch titles leave something to be desired, but I have hope it’ll come through in the end. I can honestly say I’ll probably pick up a Wii U ‘sometime this Holiday season.’

NARG: The Fuzzy Pickle Diaries #2

September 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Last time I posted, I discussed the idea of the journey sensed by the player in Earthbound. This time I wanted to be a little direct with my experience with the game. Again, here’s some Earthbound music while you read:

On the surface, the gameplay of Earthbound is nothing out of this world. The battle system feels standard for an RPG of the mid-90s, but at the same time it stands apart. While playing I had to reconstruct my methods of playing games so that I could be success within the game. This extends far beyond the ‘retro factor’ of Earthbound, but largely into the game itself and the ways it deliberately makes itself different from other RPGs.

It’s hard to stay mad at this guy.

In many ways, its easy to be frustrated with the gameplay of Earthbound if you’re not familiar with the style of games from 20 years ago. There is no quick guide to explaining how everything works, where to go, what to do, etc (well, there is if you bought it new). It’s very open-ended and challenged me to reconstruct how I needed to play the game. I very well understand that this is a turn-off for modern gamers playing retro games, but it’s a skill useful in accessing many games, retro or not.

It took me a while to reconstruct myself while playing the game. I continued on, streamlining my progression, missing the second ‘Sanctuary’ boss of the game-only discovering I had done so when I was well on my way to defeating the third ‘Sanctuary boss. What was my grand punishment for this mistake? Nothing. I repeat, nothing. In an era where games are driven by accomplishing goals before moving onto the next obstacle (or sometimes defying to have any or little goals whatsoever), all of which I am used to now, I had to change. This little mistake, of no major consequence, was a realization I had to play differently. With this experience it soon became easy to jump in.

THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE

Of course, this isn’t the first RPG I’ve played of the SNES era. Chrono Trigger is one of my favorite games, and I’ve put my time in Final Fantasy IV and VI. The games that served as the epitome for the console’s line of RPGs. Still, I was initially frustrated by Earthbound‘s gameplay. Battle system-wise was all familiar to other turn based RPGs of the era. The item inventory and menu system, while not identical, was still fairly reminiscent of other similar games. But what really got to me was the way that status ailments and item usage worked. Both of these are staples of the genre, but they played out so differently. When Ness got paralyzed or possessed for the first time I thought, “Hey, I’ll just heal him or use this item and–” Much to my dismay this did not work. Unlike other RPGs, in Earthbound it is far more difficult to treat status ailments in the game’s beginning. It requires a trip to hospital, as much as it would in reality, or very specific items (that aren’t given as freely as other RPGs). While this eases later on, it’s something you need to prepare for and rethink your strategy.

In this regard, Earthbound was a wake-up at how I play games. Well, it may simplistic by today’s ‘complex and superior’ gameplay, the style is something that must be accepted. It works splendidly in the own rules it sets for itself. It simply is what it is.

Am I missing a topic on Earthbound that you want to hear about? Let me know in the comment section or shoot me an e-mail at ‘nalvicreviews@gmail.com’

Top 5 Video Game Vocal Themes

August 28, 2012 Leave a comment

This video is far from my best, but I’m glad to have finally made another video:

Safe Area Goražde – a review

August 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Along with Palestine, Safe Area Goražde (pronounced go-raj-DUH) is considered the epitome of Joe Sacco’s comic journalism work. It chronicles Sacco’s time spent in Goražde (in eastern Bosnia) during the Bosnian War. There is a mixture of Sacco’s time there and the stories and experiences of those that Sacco met. Sacco uses Goražde as a case study for the whole Bosnian conflict, with a unique flavor of the region’s inhabitants and society. It’s an ambitious project and is incredibly successful.

I’ll get straight to the point; Safe Area Goražde is an amazing piece of not only graphic and journalistic work, but great-period. It’s a complex collection of narratives that shows the complexity and emotionally heaviness that make up the history and social structure of Bosnia. Sacco guides the reader from the lighter moments of everyday life, the political and military details of the conflict, very personal stories of those living through the war, and the grim specifics on the process of ethnic cleansing. The tone shifts very naturally between its different types of material. I never questioned the order and placement of the segments. The whole piece is incredibly informative and intimate in its emotions. There are moments that are hard to read. I personally almost started crying in the middle of reading this. Saying that Safe Area Goražde is intense would be a understatement.

As a piece of journalism, the piece is more subjective than it is objective. There is a far greater attention to the citizens of Goražde, primarily Bozniaks and Croats, than there is on Serbs. As such, one may be disappointed in that they won’t see a complete dissection of the Bosnian conflict. However, the fact that there is greater attention to a specific group allows Sacco to collect and show a focused collection of stories and experiences. The subjectivity of the piece works for the greater advantage.

Safe Area Goražde‘s art is strong throughout. Landscapes and the city of Goražde are all very detailed. Sacco himself is the only ‘cartoony’ bit of the art. (Sacco said in an interview that this was deliberate and something that carried over from his earlier, ‘more cartoony,’ Palestine.) The art coupled with the emotional stories of those Sacco make for a powerful combination. It is often difficult to work through a particular section of the book due either to graphic content or the strong emotions carried by the narrative (not mutually exclusive). Safe Area Goražde is incredibly successful in the ways it employs its art.

This whole review has essentially been an understatement itself. Safe Area Goražde is easily one of my favorite graphic works, as well as one of my favorite books I own. I found it more powerful than Sacco’s earlier Palestine (though Palestine is also really good). The narrative is intense, informative, and emotional all at once. The art fits the narrative and largely enhances the narrative. I find it impossible not to recommend Safe Area Goražde to anyone interested in what comics can do. Safe Area Goražde is an amazing piece and something I won’t forget.

 

 

Safe Area Goražde is written and drawn by Joe Sacco. It is published by Fantagraphic Books.

Note: Safe Area Goražde has both graphic violence and emotionally intense moments and may not be suitable for younger audiences.

There is also a special edition of Safe Area Goraždethat includes notes, photos, and interviews regarding the production of Safe Area Goražde that offer a lot of insight. I highly recommend shelling a little extra just for this.