Month: August 2015

An act of sabotage. Well, almost.

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Today my husband saved me from deleting 30,000 words of a half written novel.

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For all you Japanophiles out there: 5 Non Fiction Books About Japan.

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I’m very excited to be going back to Kyoto for my honeymoon next week! Here are 5 non fiction books I would recommend reading about Japan, in no particular order.

A Geek In Japan

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The geek of the book is Hector Garcia whose original blog was called kirainet.com (it is now called ageekinjapan.com). His blog documented his move to Japan and the interesting things he found there.  His posts were often about Japanese popular culture and all things otaku. This book covers all aspects of Japanese culture, from a photographic explanation of ‘how to bow’ to a history of robots and Manga.  The final section of the book is very useful for making a trip to Tokyo as it explains the various shopping districts and sights that would interest anyone who calls themselves otaku such as the Ghibli Museum and Akihabara.

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CultureShock! Japan A survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette

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Did you know that blowing your nose in public in Japan is frowned upon?  Or that Kentucky Fried Chicken is a traditional meal on Christmas Eve in Japan? Or that buying an ill person a potted flower is a terrible faux pas?

What I love about this book is its honesty and humour.  It is full of lots of personal anecdotes as well as practical information about visiting Japan, whether short or long term.

Kawaii! Japan’s culture of cute.

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This is another gorgeous book, filled with colour photographs about all aspects of kawaii culture.  It is full of interviews with people such as the editor of the fashion magazine ‘Fruits’ and the creators of some of well known kawaii characters.  *Obviously*, it has a section on Hello Kitty but did you know about Gloomy Bear, who is guro-kawaii (grotesque cute) and looks like the love child of Hello Kitty and Hannibal Lecter?  This isn’t essential for travelling to Japan but is a fun book if you are interested in kawaii culture and Harajuku fashion.

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Hokkaido Highway Blues

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This is a travelogue that came about as the result of a drunken night out! During the celebration of the cherry blossom season, after too much sake, Will Ferguson decided to follow the blossoms as they came into bloom across Japan, hitchhiking all the way.  This chronicles the people he met and places he stopped off at and explains a bit of Japanese culture along the way.  I’ll be packing this to reread on the plane next week.

Tokyo On Foot

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This is more of an art book than travel guide.  It is a collection of the detailed sketches that Florent Chavouet made during his stay in Tokyo. Of course, one can’t help feeling that he should have Cultureshock! beforehand, as some of his stories such as the time he ‘borrowed’ a bike because it wasn’t locked up and unsurprisingly was arrested, reveal total ignorance of Japanese culture and etiquette.  But it does allow for interesting stories and sketches.

Hope you enjoy my recommendations.  See ya when I get back!

Review: Life Is Strange Episode 4 – *WARNING: SPOILERS OF GIGANTIC PROPORTIONS!!*

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If you want a spoiler free introduction to Life Is Strange then I wrote a review of Episodes 1-3 without any here.   If you haven’t played Episode 4 yet, come back to this review once you have and we can chat about it.  I would love to hear about other people’s experiences playing this game.

I had always intended never to give spoilers in a review, however, given the cliffhanger in the last episode and the tone of Episode 4, I fell it would be very difficult to write anything about it properly without spoilers to either what has happened previously, or what happens in this episode. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

So, given the cliffhanger at the end of Episode 3, I was really looking forward to seeing what life was like for Max and Chloe in the alternative timeline of Episode 4.  I felt guilty for having said how annoying I thought Chloe was in the first three episodes when I saw how my choices had affected her.  This is another brilliant move by Dontnod, in that you feel so invested in the characters, that they have been able to manipulate your emotions.  And they manipulate you further, making you consider the difficult issues of disability, euthanasia and whether your power to change time really is so great after all.

My only criticism (at the time of playing) was that given the anticipation I had awaiting the episode’s release, I felt the time spent in the alternative timeline was not really long enough.  I would have liked to have seen how the butterfly effect had altered other areas of Max’s life too, but you never get to play out any part of that. The reason, is of course, that ultimately none of this timeline really matters, and by the time you get to the end of this episode, you will have forgotten how eager you were to play around as one of Victoria’s cronies at Blackwell.

And I am pleased to report that this first part of the episode did give me more sympathy for the character of Chloe when I returned to the previous version of reality.  The word ‘hella’ was music to my ears!

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In the rest of Episode 4, you are finally pulling all the clues together to try and solve the disappearance of Rachel Amber and the secrets of The Vortex Club which means that there is less roaming around looking at character’s CD collections and more meaningful issues to solve.  Max makes more than one reference to Sherlock Holmes during this stage as the episode moves at breakneck pace as you move from one location to the next, picking up clues and solving mysteries.  It feels as though there are fewer choices that you are in control of in this episode, and that it is all about storytelling and plot.  There are still the same issues with terrible dialogue, but at this point you are so invested in the characters that who cares about that!

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Then there is a notable shift in tone, about halfway through, when you find the barn owned by the Prescotts, or more accurately ‘The torture bunker’ hidden underneath it.  Even the lighting changes as you enter the passageway leading to this place.  And the game just gets darker from here when you finally find the body of Rachel Amber.  This, I felt was a real significant moment in that there is always a glimmer of hope in previous episodes that she might still be alive. When you find her, you know that whoever is responsible is not the sort of person to be messed with!

Of course, the impending doom of the apocalypse continues to hangs over Arcadia Bay throughout the episode.  There are beached whales, two moons in the sky, and you can’t help but wonder if all that playing around with time has somehow influenced it all. And of course there is the ‘End Of The World’ party as a big hint that there is still something worse to come but most of the time, you are more concerned with following the trail of Rachel Amber and the Vortex Club.

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One of the interesting aspects of this episode is that you start to view some characters differently.  For example, even though Nathan Prescott is clearly a disturbed individual (he has the psychiatric report to prove it) you can see how the overbearing relationship with his father is the influencing force.  Likewise, when you realise Victoria is most likely the next victim of the Prescott’s own brand of torture porn, you suddenly stop viewing her as your nemesis and desperately try to save her.  (Incidentally, because I had opted to taught Victoria about the spilled paint in an earlier episode, she now refused to believe my warnings about her intended fate. Once again, my choices came back to bite me.) Likewise, suspicions grow about other previously good characters.  I had Mr Jefferson as a suspect long before the final scene. He always seemed too involved with Kate and Victoria to be a completely moral character, but I know that some of my friends playing Episode 4, found this to be very shocking.  As one friend put it he trusted him because he ‘was blinded by his beauty.’

Once again, it is very clever plotting by Dontnod in that you are so busy finding evidence against Frank and Nathan that you don’t really consider him to be a threat and the game does not give you any opportunity to investigate him at all.

When the final scene in the junk yard arrived and Chloe was shot, I felt so sad.  Typically, it is impossible to rewind this event. She may have been annoying at times but having another character share the action with you, makes a difference.  And let’s be honest, Chloe is really the badass one.  Without her to encourage her, Max is unlikely to be much of a fighter.

So, I have mixed feelings about Episode 5.  I know, right from the word go, that the next episode is going to be very, very dark. Max is alone, presumably in the ‘torture bunker’ and I have a couple of theories about what will happen next:

I wouldn’t be surprised if the denouement is very much like the French horror film Martyrs, after all there have been characters referring to the Vortex Club as a religious cult a number of times.  My friend Karl thinks (and I think he may be right on the money here) that Max will die at the end of the next episode and that the entire game is Max trying to rewind time to prevent it happening a la Donnie Darko/the game Limbo.

Twitter has obviously been going crazy about this episode but I saw this tweet on twitter that for me, hits the nail on the head:

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How was it for you? What theories do you have about Episode 5?  Feel free to comment below.