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2012: A Year of Inspiration December 31, 2012

Posted by coolmikeol in A Monthly Post Series.
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Happy New Year!

This post is my recollection of experiences from this passing year of 2012 that made it an inspirational year for me. It also makes up for my usual November and December Monthly Post Series posts.

This year of 2012 has really been one roller coaster for me. With me dealing with my fifth year of college, family issues, having a job, going to conventions, and having time for Coolmikeol Productions and its growth, I’ve done a lot this year that has inspired me to keep working harder for what I do and what I need to do for my future.

Coolmikeol Productions, the name I made up that encompasses all of my projects has been growing in popularity, measured in “Likes” on my Facebook fan page and subscribers on my YouTube Channel. I never expected to be at the level that I’m at now a year ago. Even though it’s not much, to me who is still pretty much a nobody doing things solo in terms of support from major known sources, it’s a lot. I’m glad and appreciative of all the support I’ve received from people all around the world who like what I do; from the piano videos that got me noticed, to my Let’s Plays that have been going on for little more than a year, to the photographs I take, to the blogs I write, and hopefully for the new projects I’ll undertake in the future as well. I know all I do is thank everyone every time I hit some sort of small milestone, but it’s my way to show that I am grateful to each and everyone of them. Hopefully I’ll become more capable and do more than just thank people when I hit larger milestones.

Going to anime conventions like Fanime and Anime Expo this year was awesome for many reasons. (You can read about my overall experience of the cons in their respective links.) For the few reasons that made this year’s anime conventions great for me: I met some really great people who I definitely would like to see again in future cons; worked hard to take photostory style photos of the cons to bring a overall perspective to people who saw my photos online who didn’t attend the events, that was then shared by Danny Choo which made me feel very accomplished as an amateur photographer; got to see some great guests of honor and attend concerts; but most of all became inspired to do things I want to work on, such as working on my Seiun Eiji Solar Marine cosplay or experimenting on new projects for Coolmikeol Productions.

School is becoming one of those things that gets worse the longer you stay, with this being my fifth year, that’s one thing that has been getting in the way of my projects with Coolmikeol Productions, even though technically I should be focusing on school rather than my own personal projects, especially if I want to get school done and out of the way. That’s why this Spring 2013 semester I’m going to try and take it a bit easy on working on things for Coolmikeol Productions, especially in terms of Let’s Plays as the time for recording it with friends, editing, and uploading take a lot out of me that I end of sacrificing time that I should be using for school. My November and December months in terms of school wasn’t too kind, as I wasn’t really focused on my school work but rather on my own projects which, in the end, made my grades suffer a bit. Since it’s my winter break I’m building up content that I’ll release slowly over January to March to fill in the gap between major LP projects so that I won’t have to use my time for it when school starts again in late January. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be working on other things for Coolmikeol Productions like my piano videos, I’ll have time for that at least.

Overall, through all the downs and ups, I feel that I’ve grown as a person who is still trying to find his place in the world. I’m glad of all the accomplishments reached and learned lessons from mistakes as well. I hope that 2013 will be the year that will bring me to new heights and to new places. Happy New Year to you and all!

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Sword Art Online December 27, 2012

Posted by coolmikeol in Anime, Otaku.
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Sword Art Online

 

Sword Art Online (ソードアート・オンライン) is a Adventure, Romance, Science Fantasy series created by Reki Kawahara who also wrote Accel World which takes place within the same setting universe. Here is a summary of Sword Art Online’s plot from Wikipedia which spanned for the fist two arcs. (SPOILER ALERT!):

In the year 2022, the Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG), Sword Art Online (SAO), is released. With the Nerve Gear, a virtual reality helmet that stimulates the user’s five senses via their brain, players can experience and control their in-game characters with their minds.

On November 6, 2022, all the players log in for the first time, and subsequently discover that they are unable to log out. They are then informed by Kayaba Akihiko, the creator of SAO, that if they wish to be free, they must reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss. However, if their avatars die in-game, their bodies will also die in the real world. The story follows Kirito, a skilled player who is determined to beat the game. As the game progresses for two years, Kirito eventually befriends a female player named Asuna with whom he eventually falls in love with. After the duo discover the identity of Kayaba’s avatar in SAO, they confront and defeat him, freeing themselves and the other players from the game.

Upon returning to the real world, Kirito learns that Asuna and a small group of SAO players has still not awakened yet. Following a clue about Asuna’s whereabouts in another VRMMORPG called Alfheim Online (ALO), Kirito also logs in there. Kirito soon learns the trapped players in ALO are part of a plan devised by Nobuyuki Sugō to perform illegal experiments on their minds to put them under his control including Asuna, whom he intends to marry in the real world in order to take over her family’s company. Helped by his sister Suguha, Kirito stops Nobuyuki’s plans and finally reunites with Asuna in the real world.

My Overview of SAO

I remember the first time knowing of Sword Art Online was looking at the Summer 2012 Anime Lists. At first glance it looked like a simple anime based on it’s description and image used for the anime list as shown.

Sword Art Online Anime List Image

The artwork reminded me of Working!, expected as both animes were animated by A-1 Pictures, and that’s what put me off of planning to watch it initially. (Not that I don’t like Working!, it’s just that it looked plain like the respective anime.) Reading the description now, I don’t know if Kirito was a “genius programmer”, but I do remember in the anime mentioning how Kirito was good with computers so it could be true (which I found out he is due to his aunt). I have not read SAO’s Light Novel or manga so all my information is coming from the anime; well since it’s over I’ll probably start reading it when I have time.

What got me to start watching it was hearing the first opening theme song “Crossing Field” for the first time, not during the opening sequence of the anime, no. The first time I heard Crossing Field was at the live LiSA concert at Anime Expo 2012. Music from animes is one of the things I look for while watching it, if it has good music to me, it’s worth trying the watch. I should of recorded it when I had the chance as we were allowed to record from the concert, but oh well.

 The first arc of Sword Art Online comprised episodes 1 through 14 of the floating castle Aincrad which is like a traditional medieval MMORPG. I liked this arc because of how it implemented a MMORPG within an anime. Of course there are other animes that have come before SAO that have done the virtual reality theme such as the .hack series (which I haven’t watched), but this was the first anime I’ve watched with this kind of theme, so it’s kind of new to me. I liked to compare it a bit with how I played the MMORPG Guild Wars 2 with my friends.

Like I mentioned before, since I didn’t read any of the light novel or manga of SAO, I basically made my own experience of SAO wholly based on the anime. But still knowing that animes or any animated visual adaptation of a written source doesn’t fully cover everything was evident while watching the anime. The first several episodes felt a bit random as it jumped to highlight events of Kirito’s adventure. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, but I got a bit confused about the timeline as usually in the beginning of the episode they would show the date which I ended up disregarding as I forgot the date they started SAO (November 6, 2022) for reference. I figured that these events were from the Light Novel, and because of that, the between events were left out for obvious time constraints.

My favorite moments from the SAO arc comes from the dungeon fights and Kirito/Asuna scenes. I think that’s a lot of everyone’s favorite’s but who would say otherwise I guess. Kirito’s dual blades skill, especially with Starburst Stream, was the best scenes in my opinion. I just can’t get enough of watching Kirito pushing hard and fast with both swords in hand against a foe that seems tough.

Sword Art Online - Dual Blades

The ending of the SAO arc was enjoyable and climatic in my opinion. It wasn’t the best, as I felt that the direct explanation by Kayaba Akihiko about why he did all this was sort of stupid: “Why, huh? I forgot a long time ago. I wonder why…” Though after that statement he kind of explains it as creating a world that surpassed the laws and restrictions of our own world, which that Kirito managed to surpass as well.

Sword Art Online - Reason

The second part of Sword Art Online, the Alfheim Online (ALO) arc was not as great as the SAO arc. In this arc we incorporate the real world with the new virtual world of Alfheim Online. With Asuna trapped, Kirito arrives back to the virtual world a mere couple of months after the SAO incident to get Asuna back to the real world before Sugou can marry Asuna. What kind of lowers the bar for this second part is the obvious fan service. While having some in an anime is fine to me, having it come from Kirito’s supposed sister (actually his cousin) is a bit strange. While the backstory between the Kirigaya siblings is believable, it feels a bit forced in my opinion, making it almost an incest theme for this part. Why does most similarly aged anime sibling pairs I see have to have some sort of incest theme? Is it because it adds to the drama or plot? I don’t know, but I’m not going to argue against the author. I still think it’s ok but that’s why I felt the second part of SAO was not as good as the first. My second problem with the ALO arc was that it felt kind of empty in between towns or events. It was basically fight, town, fight, town, with almost no smaller scenes. Again, time constraints for the ALO which had only ten episodes to show the whole arc. I just wish they showed some of the returning SAO characters that was in ALO such as Silica or Klein, instead of some characters that only appeared briefly. To me it would of felt better to tie in SAO with ALO more in the anime.

Sword Art Online Ending

The conclusion of the 25 episodes of SAO was quite something. It reminded me of the ending for Final Fantasy 8, my favorite Final Fantasy; with Aincrad slowly floating into view next to ALO’s World Tree under the moonlight with the grand music playing right after, the way FFVIII’s Balamb Garden did too, and with the ending credits first showing the SAO Title and screenshots of scenes of the anime series with Crossing Field playing reminded me of how FFVIII’s ending credits played too. When Kirito was first presented with the World Seed, I thought at first that would be a precursor to a direct sequel anime. Since I haven’t read the LN, I guess it is part of the general storyline as the next arc probably runs off of the fact that now VRMMORPGs are now spread worldwide which means new games can be made such as GGO. Seeing as there is enough material around for another season of the Sword Art Online series, and with it’s popularity as well, I wouldn’t be surprised if a second season of SAO was announced for maybe 2014. We’ll have to wait and see.

Sword Art Online

The series overall was filled with action, science fantasy with the thought of putting yourself in a virtual world, romance, all wrapped up in an adventure called Sword Art Online. The music of the series; the theme songs by multiple artists and background music, composed by Kajiura Yuki, also helped create the proper atmosphere for the scenes of SAO, especially the now known battle music that plays anytime Kirito is about to do epic things. I give it a 9 out of 10, with hopes to see the series grow more in the future.

— A Short Message —

It’s really been a while since I’ve written an anime overview review. For some reason it’s a bit hard to start but once I do, it all comes together. What puts me off about writing these sometimes is the feel of having to explain everything from square one. If you’re here to read my review, then I should assume you’ve watched it before. What I’ll do from now on to make it easier and more enjoyable for myself to write these reviews, is to just include a quick synopsis/summary and my Overview/Review without having to go into extensive explanation of  characters or terminology of the series. I’ll leave Wikipedia and My Anime List for that.

J-Pop Summit Festival 2012 August 27, 2012

Posted by coolmikeol in Events, Otaku.
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2012 J-Pop Summit Festival 139

I went to this year’s J-Pop Summit Festival held in San Francisco’s Japantown during the August 25/26 weekend. This festival was a great way to end my summer vacation as the school semester starts tomorrow (or should I say today). The next Japan related event I plan to attend won’t happen until next year so it was also a way to end my con/event season as well. I enjoyed this year’s J-Pop Summit Festival, though a bit less than last year’s though.

I went both days, taking photos of the festival overall on the first day, though since there wasn’t much to see besides the street booths and the peace plaza, I got slightly bored towards the second half of the day. At that point I decided to focus on events happening on the stage area like the fashions shows and music performances. On Day 1 I was looking forward mostly to the Vocaloid Dance Contest as it’s cool to watch. I remember that last year Danceroid came to the J-Pop Summit Festival the kickoff the annual contest and I was glad that they came, well actually only two of them came last year, but the one Danceroid I’ve followed the most out of all is Kozue Aikawa. Anyways, I like watching talented dancers doing dance covers, and this year’s contest really had some great competition, everyone did really well. There was a few  things I found strange with this year’s contest. First, the judges. Most of the judges were OK, though there was one notable judge that to me was making things uncomfortable in a funny way. She is a professional dancer but with no knowledge of Vocaloid or the dance choreography that goes along with them, so her comments on the dances themselves were off sync. The first dance she judged was where she mentioned that she didn’t know what to expect to see in these dances and that she had no prior knowledge of anything Vocaloid. Well to me, to be a judge for this kind of thing, you kind of need to be knowing a little about the contest’s content before judging it. It felt like they just brought her in as a judge just because she is a professional dancer. The commentary she gave throughout the rest of the contest was very brief and general, which was funny at times as since she couldn’t comment on the Vocaloid aspect of the dance, she basically said things like “It was very good” and “I like the hips and hands moving” and so on. The second thing I found kind of awkward was the speaker host of the festival. He is a local radio host (I forgot from where) and during the contest kept asking the contestants right after their dance “So tell us about your outfit.” While that is not a out of subject question, it felt kind of unimportant to ask immediately after someone dances. Sure, the outfit does make a person, but the contest focuses on their dancing and their ability to perform well with energy, movements to music sync, and expression. I thought he should of been asking them about what they felt about their own dance performance, and then he could of asked them about their outfits, but maybe that’s just me. The third thing is what I think all contests need: A person like Simon Cowell, someone who gives constructive criticism. It’s kind of lame hearing the same feedback over and over again, the judges always just saying “like your dance and energy” with little variation of feedback between judges for each contestant. I know that each of them did well, but still there’s always room to improve, just saying that your good doesn’t help them to improve for the future. In the end, the Vocaloid Dance Contest was nice to watch, though it was getting cold out with the fog and all.

On Day 2 of the J-Pop Summit Festival, I got there at about 3:30pm or so as I already scouted the festival the day before, and so there really wasn’t much I wanted to see besides the events at the peace plaza. The lolita fashion contest was just finishing up when I arrived, managing to take a few shots before it was over. I happened to bump into a friend I met at Anime Expo this year and so we talked for a bit before the main event of Day 2 started, the Kylee music performance. Now prior to this festival, I’ve never heard of her before. She is a 18 year old half-American, half-Japanese musical artist signed with Sony Music Japan. Her music is a mix of pop and rock. She plans to focus her music on on Japan more than here to bridge the gap between herself and Japan. Her performance was good, and so was her band. If you want more information about her, check out her website at http://www.kylee.jp/ I stuck around for the final act which was a performance by DJ Amaya whose mixes I have on my iPod. It was cool but not too many people came down to dance and it made me feel that the festival ended on a good but weak note.

Overall the festival was OK. It didn’t have too much going on that I was really interested in. I did see some cosplay but not enough for me to try to take pictures of. I hope that next year’s will have more interesting stuff going on because it’s the first time in an event like this that I found myself waiting for something photo worthy to take pictures of.