Friday, April 27, 2018

Energetic one

I've been watching Barakamon on Crunchyroll for a while now -- maybe an episode or two a week. I'd seen the manga for ages in Forbidden Planet and kept thinking I wanted to try it out, but hadn't picked up any of the books. It sounded very unassuming and I suppose it is -- it's a slice of life type about a professional calligrapher who has to move to a very rural little island after losing it and punching a critic of his work (an older calligrapher). His name is Seishu Handa.

I really want to paint this picture. I might do it once I get my art stuff set up again. I figure I can go into Chinatown
and get some newspapers for the background. I already have calligraphy ink (somewhere, I just need to find it).
Handa (or simply "Sensei" as the kids on the island call him) is a bit of a man-child at twenty-three with very little life experience beyond calligraphy. Those types sometimes annoy me, but in this case, I don't mind. Love this show. The kids, especially Naru, immediately glom onto Handa. She is the "energetic one" of the title. Handa slowly loosens up and learns to take life more slowly and to find his own way/style.

I feel like I should have something more earth shattering to say about it, but I don't. I just like it. It makes me happy. I like the calligraphy/artsy bits. I like his developing relationships with the townspeople. I like the fish out of water stuff of the city kid out in the sticks. I like the art style. Love him in his calligraphy outfit. I like just about everything about this one. And I've only got two episodes left so I'm gonna space 'em out (though there's 16 volumes, so I suppose that's my next step...sigh...my bookshelf is getting full of manga).

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Shall We Date? Blood & Roses

Blood & Roses is another Shall We Date? mobile app and, at least for me, the jury is still out though I haven't given up on it. Yet. To be honest, I think my enjoyment level could be categorised as 30%. Let me start from the beginning. (Edit below)

Techically, I think this is the point where she was screaming in terror,
which isn't actually what this image conveys, now is it?
In this one, you actually have a choice of two characters. You can play a pink-haired vampire hunter OR a black-haired witch. The prologue bit seemed like the MC might be a decent one and I kind of figured that, given that she's either a witch or a freaking vampire hunter, she'd have to be reasonably strong. Anyway...I picked the witch. She goes wandering in the woods one day (I think after having a psychic dream) and finds herself at a mysterious and slightly foreboding castle. So, of course, she goes in. And is quickly captured at knife point, thrown in a dungeon, and then two vampires come in and basically make out with her neck. Violently. She does talk back a little at this point and wound herself trying to escape but...

...the next day...and BOOM she wakes up in one of the hotel/castle rooms. There's a talking cat (which is also a romanceable LI option in his human form) who informs her she has a limited amount of time before she transforms into a vampire unless she locates some hidden rose garden and drinks the dew. Because, yeah, sure, that makes sense...(sorry, my first two books had vampires in them and I've researched WAY too much about them in multiple cultures and...yeah, no, this is not a thing). And then she wanders around and the two vampire guys--remember them? the ones that completely and violently violated her the night before? -- show up and tell her she's working at the hotel and try to do some mind control thing on her to make her their personal love slave or whatever. And, while the love slave thing doesn't work on her (possibly because she's a witch or something hereditary), the rest of it she just goes along with like, oh, okay, this is my life now, taking orders from you, okey dokey, that's peachy...

I'd randomly picked Daniel as the LI, who is obviously a werewolf, and she gets assigned to be his personal maid. What happened to all her witch skills? And her gumption? Now she's cleaning toilets and changing bed linens and delivering food and searching for the rose garden in her spare time. Man, the more I type, the more I'm wondering why I haven't deleted this one. There's been a lot of days where I've logged in to get the daily reward thing but haven't actually done any of the story. So I guess that says something about my interest level.

It's also the standard 5 tickets, dress up an avatar, rival showdown thing too. And lots of events and jewel collection.

Pluses: Daniel is interesting and reasonably nice. It seems like there's a fair amount of (nonsensical) mythology plot-y things to the story. The art is decent, if a bit washed out. I like that you can choose between two different MCs (and a plethora of LIs).

Minuses: The very rape-y introduction to the vampires. How the MC just caves immediately. The story itself is slow. And every time those two stupid vampires appear I really want someone to stake them in the heart. And so many of the MC's decisions just don't make sense.

I'm thinking I'll probably struggle through to the end of Daniel's story and then give it one more go as the vampire hunter MC and see if she's got any more guts and common sense than the witch. If not, I'll be deleting it. I guess I could sum up by saying I'm disappointed. I thought the MC might actually be strong (witch! vampire hunter!) but that doesn't seem to be the case.

He looks like he needs to be in an
Alice in Wonderland story.
EDIT: A new route for a character called Cecil was released and I thought, what the hey, I'll try it as I'm not all that enthused anyway and I'll get some extra prizes and stuff. So I switched to it and so far (on chapter 6 now), it's quite a bit better. It's the vampire hunter character instead (though it doesn't actually seem like she was a vampire hunter before she went in the woods? so a little confused)...basically, the bloodless corpses of fellow villagers began appearing and the MC went into the woods with her faithful dog Bear to see if she could find out why.

The MC appears as more together and there wasn't the rape-y scene in the beginning. And she's learning magic and isn't afraid to butt into the middle of fights and things like that. So I'm liking it better in general. I don't particularly find the Cecil character all that enticing (what the heck is up with that hat??) but he's not terrible. And there are "bad" vampires and "good" vampires and there's basically kind of a war going on, the plot bits seem fairly interesting.

I'm actually finding the character of Finn (he's a wizard) more interesting, so if I'm not ready to burn the whole thing with fire by the end of the route, maybe I'll try him next. I'm guessing, perhaps, that the witch route is just a weaker one all the way around (from my perspective) and I probably won't even try that side of things again even though there are more love interests on that MC's side.

Hullo there, sparkly wizard man
EDIT 2: I finished the Cecil route (the moonlight/serenade ending) and found it fairly good. Not groundbreaking but not bad. I really wish they'd ditch the hat...anyway, the MC "vampire hunter" (I don't know why they label her that when she really isn't--in fact, she seems more of a "witch/magic user" than the witch does) seems much better than the witch one and definitely more proactive. I've now started the Finn route. He's the wizard.

This one starts off with her stumbling upon him in the forest after she goes searching for the lost villagers again, but there's no attack by a vampire this time to start things off. I thought I'd skip doing a walkthrough and so far I seem to be headed down the "moonbeam/serenade" route. I'm still not entirely sure what the difference is between the two types of endings (the other being sunlight/toccata). I've looked it up but no one seems to know. One blog thought toccata was more romantic but then someone else said the opposite. Another thought serenade you become a vampire. As I've only finished Cecil so far and you do become a vampire in the serenade ending, that might be true. Though so far the MC in Finn's route hasn't been bitten, so I dunno. I do know that you get a guy avatar outfit in one ending and the other you get an outfit for the MC. I guess I'll just let it go and if Finn's route is good (I can't help it -- I just find him more attractive in general than Cecil) maybe I'll do it again for the other ending.

Serendipity Next Door

This remains one of my fav of the Voltage stories in the app.
You're a hard-working but simple office worker living in a not-amazing older apartment building. But then you meet your neighbours...does love blossom as you sit on the balcony, just a simple screen between you? And who are these paragons? There's a rock/pop star on hiatus, a young veterinarian student, the flirty building manager, an older alpha male photographer, and...weirdly...this super effeminate guy that you're pretty sure is gay and possibly dating the building manager (? -- not pictured above, probably as he's the curve ball). 


Here, have some plum brandy, MC, because even though I'm clueless,
I paid attention and know that you like it.
I tried this one as a standalone app originally and did the Masaomi main route (he's the "cool artist/rock star") and his POV piece as well. I actually really enjoyed this one partly because, even though Masaomi is a "too cool for school" kind of guy that the MC's best friend fangirls over, he's also directionally and cooking challenged. He's also slightly socially awkward and not very talkative or expressive--he barely changes expression, though his blushing face is quite cute. I kinda like deadpan guys though.

He comes to rely on the MC, who is a pretty normal person. She works hard. She's not a brain surgeon, but she's smart enough and tries hard at her job. And she can read a map, unlike Mr. Rock Star. I liked that she treated him like a normal person and that he came to rely on her and thus to develop feelings. For both of them it was a gradual thing and therefore more believable. I was really worried she'd fall for him because he was a star, but that wasn't the case at all. Though Mr. Flirty (Byron aka Keiichi, the effeminate guy) totally fawns all over him.

 Completely don't get that guy -- he's constantly flirting with Masaomi and is possessive over the building manager so I don't get how or why you'd romance him? He comes across as very gay, not bi, so not sure what is up with that. It's a hard route to imagine when you think about Voltage's normal stuff. I might have to try it some day just to see what in the world they did!

I'm not sure if I'll do any of the sequel stories for Masaomi because the description seems to indicate that his brother barges into the picture and there's some kind of possible rivalry/love triangle thing and, meh, that's just not really my thing.

In his POV piece, he's got a bit of a complex about how old he is.
But recently, I decided to try out Jinpachi's route now that it's in Love 365. He's the older (40's) alpha male photographer. In Masaomi's route I really wasn't sure how he'd be because he comes across as very VERY alpha male and possibly a bit skeevy. But someone mentioned him in the reddit forum and I checked out the first couple of chapters of his POV piece and then went back and bought the main route AND the rest of the POV piece and OMG I kinda love him.

A) He's older. Like my age. Woot! B) Even though he says these borderline sexist things (in the beginning), he actually likes the MC from the start and is totally crushing on her the whole time. C) He tries to worm his way into her heart through her stomach by cooking for her and also by D) helping her out at work AND by protecting her (from yet another random Voltage stalker guy--seriously, stalking happens A LOT in these stories) but...I actually found it a rather refreshing take on it because Jinpachi, after chasing after the bad guy, literally runs himself out of breath like the 40's dude he is and falls flat on the ground.

Ha! I did NOT expect him to wind up being so adorably awkward and cute. Plus, he's shirtless a lot. Still with that Ken and Barbie no-nipples weirdness that exists in otome games, but it's cute, as he even does it on purpose once to freak out another one of the neighbours (Izumi, the vet student).

I also still like this MC a lot as she continues to stand up for herself and is refreshingly honest and straightforward and will admit to her mistakes AND learn from them.

Have also bought one of the "Special Stories" and will report back on it after I finish it (it's a Masaomi / Jinpachi dual one).

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

I can haz wheels

We bought a car for me this weekend. It's the first car I've had in nearly 8 years. We didn't need one in London (and didn't want one!) but now that we're just outside London -- beyond the M25, yo -- I need one. It's mostly because of the little dude. Cricket practice and school supply shops in different towns, away games, etc. etc. I've managed without one since July when we moved but it's not been easy. Well, no, it's just been inconvenient and I've had to rely on new friends to cart the little man around for playdates and parties. But now...car!

Found it at Car Giant, which was a horrific experience overall. Hadn't wanted to buy one at a place like that because the hubby has no patience for pushy salespeople OR crowds and it has both. I was very proud of him. He didn't kill anyone. And if they were annoying me, I KNOW they were annoying him. It took six hours. Six. HOURS.

But it was a good price on a four seater hardtop BMW convertible and I cannot complain at all. It's a really nice car. 2014 and 40K miles but man, it's nice. Nearly as fun to drive as my old SLK, but that car was pre-little dude and in Florida and on roads that aren't too small...unlike pretty much every road here. The things little dude wanted to make sure it had? Heated seats. Not even kidding.

I managed to make it home with it (first time on the motorway in this country). And have driven him to school now with his golf clubs instead of having to take an Uber. And today I managed to get to Bourne End to buy some of the cricket equipment that he needs this Friday. And on Friday...his first away cricket game somewhere in Maidenhead (gulp).

I know that, at some point, it won't stress me out to drive on the opposite side of the road or tackle roundabouts or dodge the cars parked randomly anywhere, but that day is NOT YET. Every time I drive I feel like I'm gonna have a heart attack. Oy.  It's so bad. I feel very useless.

Anyway. First world problems.

In other news, my new Windows laptop arrived. I used the money I earned from the last school visit + the money I made doing a freelance writing gig to get it (and was lucky that I left the webpage open for days while I was deciding because HP gave me a pop up of Hey, Buy Now! thing for a £100 off so it was only £299 (8 GB memory and a 1TB drive). I've installed Steam and all the games, though I haven't played anything in particular yet. So exciting. Though it's been so long since I really used a Windows machine that I don't know how to find anything on it anymore. Now I know how the hubby feels when he tries to use my Mac.

No word yet from my agent. I figure I'll give it until Friday and then ping him.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Be my Princess: Wilfred

Oh, don't you look like a princely prince.
So...I try to do all the free routes that Voltage posts in Love 365 because...well, they're free. And free is for me. Also, it gives me a chance to try out stories that I might not have otherwise even attempted. I've been on a "realistic" (if you can call ANY otome game realistic...) kick lately so I haven't really dipped into their fantasy offerings at all.

The latest free stuff is from Be My Princess and Be My Princess 2. I tried out the Prince Wilfred from the Kingdom of Phillip route. Why do most of the kingdoms have names that are more like normal names than the princes? I don't know. I don't know a lot of things. Like why this prince has the rudest effing butler (Claude) ever.

But let me start at the beginning...(warning, all the rest of this'll be spoiler-y, as are, to be fair, all of my reviews...because I write them for myself so I can remember things.)

Okay, so you are, apparently, an exchange student newly arrived in some foreign country. It never says (and you NEVER actually go to school or mention that you are a student again once you get out of the first chapter) whether it's a university or high school student, but I'm going to hope it's a university one. Though, given how passive the MC is, she might as well be in middle school. This is one of Voltage's Extremely Clueless Heroines. Anyway, so here you are, an exchange student in a new place enjoying wandering around and oohing and ahhing. You come across an old man who looks like some kind of crazy purple-robed wizard and are nice to him. So he gives you his card and says to call him if you need any help. Then you somehow proceed to run into not one, but two princes and get yourself covered in mud. Not that you realise that they are princes, even though you feel like you've seen them before in the news and they are wearing RIDICULOUSLY PRINCELY CLOTHING. Because you are useless and stupid.

One of the princes, who you still don't realise is a prince, invites you to a ball and arranges for a dress for you. Good thing, since you're covered in mud.

So, you go to this ball.  A BALL. Which is at a castle. And meet, like, four or five (I lost count) more princes AND STILL YOU DO NOT REALISE THAT ANY OF THEM ARE ROYALTY EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE IN AN EFFING CASTLE. Ahem. Seriously, this MC gives stupid a bad name. So, blah, blah, blah, you dance with Wilfred, who is strangely kind to you when apparently he's usually totally rude to everyone. You finally realise that they are ALL royalty once they are announced. Then you go home and BOOM your apartment building is on fire and burns to the ground (though none of the other surrounding buildings are affected at all). Oh no. Gasp. All of your things are gone. You are alone in a strange country far away from your family. Woe.

So...you call the old dude you just met. Remember him? The wizard guy? And he sends someone to pick you up and sends you to...another castle. The one Wilfred lives at. Because, apparently, even though he too lives in a castle with more rooms than you can shake a stick at, he'd rather ask some random King & Queen to take you in. Because reasons.

Then it gets kind of weird(er). The butler (Claude) wavers between borderline psychotic hatefulness towards you and being helpful and wakes you up every morning hovering over your bed like some kind of Edward Cullen stalker with tea that I kept imagining was probably dosed with drugs because what else would explain how docile this heroine is?. And he doesn't let you leave the castle (except later, when he's being passive aggressive and only lets you leave if you dress up in a maid outfit and run his errands, which you do because YOU ARE SO GULLIBLE and PLIABLE. This MC is like putty.).

You apparently never attempt to go to school ever again or call your parents but instead content yourself with wandering around the palace taking care of plants and running into Wilfred. (Note to Voltage: if you're going to bother giving your MC some backstory, shouldn't it, like, actually be used within the story? Why say she's a student if it's never mentioned again?) Like, she just accepts the situation and even keeps thinking oh, how nice is Claude, I'm so glad I can help him out even as he is saying horrible things to her. And I mean, horrible. He doesn't even seem to think of her as a person. Actually, he kind of literally says that.

Anyway, the only saving grace of this story is that Wilfred isn't bad. Rather than being this tsundere type, which you might have thought from how everyone else describes him, he pretty much seems to like the MC right away. Why? I don't know. Really. She can't even get a complete sentence out of her mouth. All of her lines of dialogue end with  ...?

But he has a problem. You know, a fiancé. That's in love with his older brother (who is also in love with her). And parents that want him to be next in line for the throne (maybe) even though they raised his brother for the job.

Anyway, that's really all there is to say. It works out in the end. TA-da! The problem is resolved with very little fuss. Claude never gets any comeuppance for being a total ass, though Wilfred does tell him off a bit (not that it seems to stop him). You are apparently on track to be the next queen.

I pity the country.

But apparently it survives your rule because Be My Princess 2 (remember that there were two free stories this time?) includes Wilfred's GRANDSON. Your progeny! Who is supposed to be just like his grandfather!

Hopefully he isn't like his grandmother.

I haven't read it. Not sure if I will before it comes down because I don't think I can do another heroine that stupid right after this one and I'm guessing the new MC will be just as bad. But maybe not. Maybe I'll do just the prologue and see if it if is any better. But I don't think I'll attempt another one in Be My Princess because the MC is so mind numbingly dumb. For me to really like a story, I've got to like both the MC and the LI and this one only had half the equation for me, though it seems like other people must really like it as Google turns up fan fiction for Wilfred.

Sorry. I'm picky. Stupid MCs are my achilles heel.

EDIT: After hearing some feedback on reddit, I decided to give Be My Princess 2 a shot.

The genes are strong in this family...
or Voltage decided to re-use the artwork from the original game...
Okay. It was a LOT better than Be My Princess all the way around. Hayden is, indeed, the spitting image of his grandfather Wilfred. It was actually a little disconcerting, having just come off of Wilfred's route. I hadn't changed the MC's name either so it was really weird at first.

The character write up makes it appear that there's going to be some huge plot thing related to his grandfather, but there really wasn't. Who in Voltage writes these things? Have the read the story or do they just make it up based on the picture?

Anyway, this time you play an MC with a career and goals. She's a pastry chef in training and she actually has a backbone (I took a peek at the free chapters in some of the other routes and she even --gasp--turns down one of the princes at first). She's delivering some flour to the castle during an event and winds up meeting some princes and gets roped into helping out with the baking as well since they are shorthanded. But this isn't any normal event -- it's one where the princes are all gathered to choose some potential brides. She catches Wilfred's---er, Hayden's eye...er, stomach...with her cake and then later winds up getting his bouquet toss to the head (kind of a random way to choose a potential bride, but, okay, I'll roll with it because the image of a prince lobbing a bunch of flowers at the back of her retreating head appeals to me). The next day, one of the ubiquitous men in black (i.e. butlers) shows up to say she's been selected for a marriage interview. Whut?

Things progress from there, though she overhears Hayden proclaiming he doesn't want to get married and the interview was just a sham. But, methinks he doth protest too much because he keeps on finding excuses to bring her to the castle (bake some cakes here, bake some cakes there, etc. etc.).

Things I liked: the MC was SO much better. She's got goals and dedication and loyalty and...a brain. Their relationship is more gradual and built a bit more on mutual respect. The plot was more interesting too, with a lot of intrigue (though, at the same time, it's fairly predictable). Hayden's fairly believable, though his character arc is almost too similar to Wilfred's.

Oh, and the butler, Loyd, was great. I didn't want to kill him. He was actually integral to the plot. I liked the glimpses of two of the other princes too (Seig and Oliver). I might even go back and do one of their stories some time.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Alone at Last

(Okay, so this is after Zen has saved Hae from Unknown & the bomb and he's brought her back to his place. And I changed my mind how I ended the previous bit -- I'd had him jump into a taxi with her but I actually think he'd have ridden over to Rika's on his motorcycle, so that's how they'd have come back to his place. As a writer, I think that works better anyway for the scene as they would not have been able to talk while on the motorcycle + Hae would have been somewhat fearfully clinging to his back -- after all, he's just saved her from a kidnapper and they are careening through the streets and it's her first time on a motorcycle -- and Zen would have been equal parts fuming mad at the situation but also desperately aware of her holding on tight to him, her body pressed against him, wind rushing at them--pressure all around. All of that works better than a taxi ride, yeah? But I'm too lazy to go re-write that now, so I'll leave that here and maybe I'll re-do it later. And I also know that I'm not going to write out every little thing nor am I going to exactly follow what the chats/visual novels lay out because a) ain't nobody got time for that and b) I find it unrealistic that Zen would be more concerned with controlling his "beast" than comforting the MC. I mean, come on. If she's asking him to hold her, I think he'd do it. That doesn't mean they'd wind up in a more, er, shmexual situation or anything because that wouldn't necessarily be totally appropriate for their second in person meeting, but even though he's "a guy" as Cheritz keeps reminding us, I'm sure he'd be thinking more about comforting her than anything else. Freaking scary kidnappers & bombs, yo. But that's just me. You could write it a different way and go totally off the deep shmexy end and it could be a realistic way to go as many people respond to trauma in that way -- hey, the birth rate goes up 9 months after tragedies -- but I'm not personally gonna write this particular bit that way. And I do see why Cheritz played it the way they did with Zen getting all flustered and staying away...in the app, that serves to up the tension a bit and, in general, they stay pretty tame anyway. But I can do what I want here so...)

The sudden silence when Zen cut off the engine made Hae open her eyes. She'd been clinging to his back, her eyes shut tight, her cheek pressed against him and hadn't even noticed that they had arrived. She'd been trying not to think. The wind had helped, and the noise of the motorcycle, but now that was gone. She climbed off the back carefully and that was when she noticed, as her feet made a crunching sound, that she was still wearing her house slippers -- and that the bottoms of them were full of shards of glass. She stood for a moment, silent, staring down at them.

"Are you okay?" asked Zen. He noticed what she was looking at. "Oh..." he said. She took a step. Another crunch, some left behind glass. He swept her up in his arms and carried her the few steps to his door and set her down. "Just leave them here," he said. "We'll take care of getting your things later, okay?" He awkwardly patted her head. "Everything is going to be fine, Hae, I promise."

(One of the things that bugged me about the story in the app -- obviously, the MC wouldn't have any of her things. Or shoes. It's not like they would have stopped to grab her stuff while running from the bomb. So, while I'm not gonna write it up, I think there would be a chat sometime later, perhaps while Hae was taking a shower, where Zen asks Jaehee -- as the resident RFA lady -- to buy a few essentials for Hae until they can safely collect her things from Rika's. And Jumin might volunteer to buy her a dress for the party, which is where the nice dress comes from, though Jaehee might not tell Zen that the dress came from Jumin as their friendship is still pretty newly minted at this point. And Seven would, perhaps, go to Rika's to look for clues and get Hae's things then and send them over to Zen's, though he wouldn't bring them himself as he'd be too worried Zen might wallop him.)

She nodded, and slipped her feet out of the shoes, leaving them behind as she stepped into Zen's apartment. She took a few steps in and then stopped, waiting for him to lock the door behind them.

(in progress...more later...)

Our Private Homeroom

When Voltage first announced the Our Private Homeroom collection, I didn't think there was any way I could play it as the idea of a teacher and a student (especially for me as a mom) generally sounds really skeevy. That's not to say that I'm always against that type of "forbidden love" storyline.

I'm not a huge fan of Lolita (bad English major, I know, I know) but take Garret Weyr's Stay with Me and yes, I buy it. Heck, in that case, the main character is only 16 and her love interest is a whopping 31 but it's a believable story. It invests you. And stays with you. It's been years since I read that and I still love it...even if Garret is SO much taller than me that pictures of us together look absolutely ridiculous. I don't hold it against her. Much.

Anyway, let's just say that I approach these types of stories with a healthy dose of skepticism. You've got to really talk me into it. I have to believe it. And I really wasn't sure that Voltage could do it because, as I've mentioned before, they only hit about 50% with me. A lot of their older heroines are ridiculously weak and if they'd gone that route with Our Private Homeroom, it would have been...well...just gross.

They're really pushing the forbidden aspect in this CG. Don't really like this image. Also, he's cuter than this.

But, for once, the MC is actually awesome. She's great. She's probably the best Voltage heroine I've read yet. She has sass. She has attitude. She stands up for herself. She's believable. She doesn't start out wanting to be with her teacher either (thank goodness) nor he with her.  At least in the Ryota Mochizuki route which is the main story that I played through...just a guess but the childhood friend one (Shuya Komaki) that isn't released yet may play into that.

To begin at the beginning...the MC's mother is a doctor and has moved to the US for her job. The MC is in her last year of high school (and is 18, thankfully) and stays behind to live on her own. But there was a mistake and the apartment she was supposed to live in is already rented. Her teacher comes upon her as she's contemplating what to do and invites her to stay over. It winds up turning into more of a long term thing than originally anticipated (with the mother's knowledge) and they slowly grow closer as he tutors her in math (she needs to seriously improve her score if she wants to get into the medical program) and she slowly learns that his perfect image hides what he's really like.

Things I liked (other than the MC herself--she's got great snarky wit): a) Ryota cares about his students; all of them, and not just the MC, b) their banter back and forth, c) that neither of them were looking for anything deeper, d) that both of them gained something from their gradually growing relationship and e) while the relationship comes from an inherently unbalanced starting point, it was believable by the end that they BOTH offered something to it that the other needed.

Things I didn't like: a) that they went the stereotypical route and threw in the whole oh no, your job is in jeopardy because of our relationship (even though they didn't even technically have a relationship officially at that point as neither of them had admitted it to each other) and b) the bitchy villain girl who has no real motivation beyond moving the plot forwards...she was a one note character and c) the stalker dude that had no consequences for his actions...his redemption arc didn't do it for me.

I was also curious about the other teacher, Yohji Furuya, the one who is apparently a playboy type and the MC's music teacher. But I wasn't interested in him enough to do the main story....and having a fair amount of coins due to their login bonus thing now (thank you, Voltage), I bought his POV story. Glad I didn't shell out for the main story as, weirdly, THIS one turned out to be a childhood friend story! Bah!

Okay, it wasn't bad and at least they were both important to each other but I'd definitely say I prefer Ryota over Yohji. Yohji does say some skeevy things to her too in the beginning (though he doesn't mean them at the time and is just joking in a very inappropriate manner...but then, that makes you wonder what she's thinking later on when she remembers back...).

Anyway, thanks, Voltage for finally writing a MC I could get behind. Now, could you pretty please give that same attitude to a grown up woman character? That'd be great. It's not right that your 18 year old character has so much more character and backbone than your thirty-something ones. Seriously.

Monday, April 16, 2018

I can't be mean...

I can't be mean...to Zen. Like, I literally can't do it. I was earning some more hearts/hourglasses and playing through his route (partly because there was a free auto-save that was from Day 5 on his route and I didn't have to pay to load it) and I thought, hey, maybe I should try to get some of the other endings other than the good one and the normal one.

BUT I CAN'T DO IT.

I have tried. I have managed, a few times, to be a little rude to Jaehee. But I just. can't. be. mean. to. Zen. 

This makes me curious. Is it just Zen? Or is it any of them? I get the feeling I could be mean to Yoosung, especially in the early days of his route where he's whining about Rika all the time. But I'm not sure. I might have to try, just to see.

I am obviously not a completionist. There is no way I'll ever be able to get more than 2 endings for Zen. I probably could manage to get another ending or two for Jumin because it'd be totally realistic to be freaking out and trying to escape his penthouse. Hmmm. Might be a good experiment, though it isn't really being mean, per se...just reasonably trying to save yourself from bodily harm.

I've actually got a  bit over 100 hourglasses now and can skip the beginning and go right into Jaehee's route. I thought I ought to try it. She's grown on me. V, on the other hand, can go hang. 

I think about this stuff WAY too much. 

And...there's, like, three other scenes I'm dying to write up. I should work on something else though...

No sugar in my coffee

Don't want no sugar in my coffee.
It makes me mean, Lord, it makes me mean.
(I don't want no)
Well you can trace
Lines in your face
But it's the way that your spirit makes you walk.
Though you hate
To see it gone
This old world's just put days on your floor.
And all I've seen
And all you've done
All it means
We'll be sorry when you're gone.
 --- Caught a Ghost

I've been listening to this song wrong. Somehow I never caught the "don't want" bit and I've been singing it as No sugar in my coffee, makes me mean, Lord, it makes me mean...

Oh well. No sugar in my coffee today. For real. Trying to cut it out because going on holiday to visit family put another few pounds on me when I already needed to lose a bunch. Also ran home today after dropping Max off at school. That's the first I've run -- on purpose -- in a long time. I surprisingly managed to not barf and I ran nearly the whole way (so, like, a bit over a mile). Considering how out of shape I am, I'll take it. And I did 10 push ups. 

Not dead yet.

I really want to lose about 2 stone (about 28 lbs.). So I'm gonna start tracking that. Some kind of exercise a few times a week or maybe more...hopefully will be buying a car soon so I can get to a gym or maybe I'll just keep being cheap and try running. I've never been good at it. I run like a drunk baby calf. 

There's a gym not too far but just far enough that walking there and back after working out is a bit daunting. The closest thing is a yoga studio but I've never been good at yoga...mostly because once they start talking about "being one with the universe" and new age-y things like that I just get annoyed. It's like when the nurse wanted me to visualise a cottage in the woods while giving birth. That makes me stabby.

Well, we'll see. Gotta do something. 

Anyway, back to normal this week. The school break is over and little dude is back in school. Family visits over. No guests scheduled for a while. Still waiting to hear back from my agent, but this time it is on two different manuscripts, both hopefully out at two different publishers for consideration. So same old debate about working on something or waiting. 

Have had some Zen stuff I kind of want to write up. Maybe...but gotta go to the store first or there's no dinner tonight...


Friday, April 13, 2018

Midnight Cinderella

Midnight Cinderella is an otome from Cybird that I'd actually tried a while back and gave up on, but have picked up again after someone on the board in Reddit recommended I try a different route. But let me start over.


This is by the same developer that produces Ikemen Sengoku and like our favourite warlords from the Sengoku period, this one also features a plethora of handsome guys. However, this one is set in a made up fantasy fairy-tale like world. You're a teacher and a commoner but through a very bizarre (!) tradition in the kingdom of Wisteria, you are chosen to be the new princess elect who will succeed the ailing king. It's not a job you were looking out for, even though you went to the royal palace on the choosing day (you went for one of your students -- searching for some possibly magical flower in the garden that you don't find and never seems to come up again in the story). You've got to learn how to do princess-y things and pick your prince consort to help you rule the land.

You are woefully unprepared for this task.

I had high hopes in this one as it is also from Cybird and their writing is generally pretty decent (see the heretofore mentioned warlords...) and the MC is a teacher with a kind heart. She was, however, rather monumentally annoying and dense in the first route I tried. Alyn. He's a knight. He's handsome (he's the one in the lower left corner of the picture). And you put them together and...bleh. I thought he'd be the safe route. I mean, a princess and a knight, right? Instead it's nothing but frustration for no good purpose and unrequited pining and whining and grandstanding. I wanted to whack both of them upside the head. Sure, romance can be hard and it shouldn't come out of nowhere but here it was more like treading water in pudding. And after awhile you just wanted both of them to drown already and put you out of your misery.

I got maybe 60% of the way through his route and finally ditched it when she spent most of a chapter with dialogue like this: "Um..." and "Oh!" and "..."

Pity. He was the most attractive one as far as I was concerned.

But, anyway, someone convinced me to pick it up again when they told me he was one of the most frustrating routes and that a good route to try was for Nico.

To be honest, I would never have picked him out myself. He's got pink hair. I hate pink. He looks like a confection. And he's the MC's attendant. Which, seriously, what? What princess has a MALE attendant to do her hair and help her get dressed and make her tea? Um, NONE? But, okay. Whatever. They had to fit this frothy sparkly boy with fey eyes in there somehow. Anyway.

I'm currently in Part 5 of 12, so nearly half way there. And, yes, it's definitely better than the Alyn route. I haven't wanted to kill her nearly as much, though she's still so incredibly weak-willed and tentative. I don't see how this girl could ever be a successful leader of a country. She's barely got a spine most of the time. The MC in Ikemen Sengoku is SO MUCH BETTER. How are these the same writers? Different team, maybe? But when comparing this version of the MC to the one in Alyn's route, she's definitely the winner. Of course, it was a low bar. It's a shame though -- the set up really provides an opportunity to create a strong MC--leader of a whole frickin' country, yo--but they decided to go another way.

There's more intrigue-y bits and danger here -- Nico's obviously hiding something behind his crumpet serving skills and he's got ties to a neighbouring country that the MC figures out fairly quickly BUT she chooses NOT to ask him about it. See what I mean? She's a crappy world leader. And Nico's got a bit of a hard edge underneath his kawaii-ness. This comic someone drew sums it up pretty well.

So, I think I'll finish his route though I'm taking my time. One of the bad things about these Cybird games is that they go really slow. And I mean that in a literal sense. The words type out across the page and you can't really hurry it along much. It's literally slow to read and takes lots of clicks/taps. And it's the standard 5 tickets a day thing and princess lessons and dressing up an avatar and them trying really, really hard to get you to buy these ridiculously priced packs of dress up clothes for your avatar. Most of which are pink. Because, you know, princesses.

I'm not here for the dress up game. Just FYI.

I might try Sid's route next based on this recommendation though I don't normally go for guys that look like they will be assholes. I just want to see the MC actually do something instead of being the one that things are done to. She needs a LOT of saving in Nico's route.

Well...that's depressing.

Yeah. So I got an email from OpenDiary saying they were reopening the website. Honestly, I didn't even know it had closed. I hadn't been on it since 2011. Before that, I'd had a diary/blog there some years before (but it got lost at some point, possibly when they had a big server crash). They said hey, come reclaim your diary if you want, won't that be fun. And I thought I would, if only to see what I had written because I couldn't remember at all.

And...there's one entry. From May 2011. And I literally could have written it today. I was sad and unhappy that my husband was annoyed/mad/angry/mean nearly 90% of the time and worried that my career as a writer would never be enough to support me and my little dude on my own and it was too late to go back to my old career (and now, that's even worse-- there's no way I could go back as I'm so out of date as to be a veritable dinosaur). I was feeling a little lost about having moved to a foreign country, more for the fact that I wasn't sure how to support myself than for the being far away part. At least that part is better -- not the supporting myself bit, as writing is still about the iffiest effing career ever as clearly evidenced by the royalty statement I just received on my third book, but at least on the comfort level. I'm happier here than in the US, at least. But the rest is mostly the same. Lately, since the job stuff has settled, he's been better. Before that was getting pretty miserable where I felt like I was walking on eggshells all the time. But he still has his days where he's just mad all the time. And  I just want him to say something nice every once in a while. To make me feel like he actually, you know, likes me.

Treading water, man.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

I gave up...

So...one of the very first otome I tried (based on a number of reviews I found online on various blogs) was Shall We Date? Niflheim. It sounded promising. Kind of a mythical fantasy set up. Basically, you are awakened and totally confused. You don't remember anything. It appears you are now in the land of the dead and have been resurrected (kind of) because the King of the land (who is a very enthusiastic but douche-y kind of guy and, quite frankly, dumb as a post...maybe the worms ate his brains) wants to take a new queen. You.

And you? You're...um...sweet. And not the sharpest tool in the shed either. And don't appear to have much free will...you kinda go along with everything that everyone tells you and you don't question anything. Like, who were you? Why were you picked? Why does he need a queen? Who are these other guys? What connection do they have to you?

And the other love interests...(I'm doing this from memory, as I deleted this one)...there's a literal skeleton guy named Bones or Mr. Bones. A Victor Frankenstein type that runs hot and cold. A writer/poet type who may or may not still be alive and may or may not have some connection with your old life that you can't remember. And a zombie guy.

It's pretty, I'll give it that. The art is nice. It didn't work for me because the MC has no agency or backbone (hey, maybe it rotted before they resurrected her). And the love interests...I had a hard time imagining it. A skeleton? A zombie? And the zombie-ish guy was kind of sad. Well, I guess I would be too... The route I tried was the writer guy. And he was nice enough but everyone (other than the King) was so wishy-washy I just gave it up.

I can admit I have a bit of a love/hate thing with the Shall We Date apps. I keep trying them and I keep getting frustrated for the most part. The two in this review also had the whole dress up / ticket-y kind of set up and the princess/queen/tea lesson mechanism.

The Shall We Date? Lost Alice one was no exception.


It's pretty obvious what this one is about. Alice. In Wonderland. Even though the art in this one is really lovely, I gave up on this one almost immediately because the text was horribly translated and so, so awkwardly clunky. And the MC was like a space cadet. I mean, I love Alice in Wonderland. I've studied it at university. I can quote the poems at the drop of a hat. But that, if anything, made me enjoy this one less because I was all WTF is going on here anyway? It didn't make any sense. I did like the Hatter character but the scenes just went on and on without any real resolution or progress and the translation was so UGH I just gave up. Pity. The art was really nice.

So, nothing great to report on either of these. I can SEE why people like them, because they are pretty. But that wasn't enough for me.

Um...Incubi and Demons...oh my

So...there was a free otome on Steam that I'd read some good reviews of, so I tried it out even though it had the very dubious name of Seduce Me. It's billed as a comedic romance. You play the character of a high school girl who is also the heir to her grandfather's mansion. She's got a dishrag of a mother and a total jerk of a dad who sends her off to live on her own in the mansion literally right after they bury his dad. It's a weird set up. Even weirder is that when she arrives there, there's a bunch of (supposed to be)  handsome guys there that are all wounded from a big battle. But, uh, yeah, she lets them stay even though one of them basically assaults her (kissing) as soon as they meet. Well, it turns out that they are incubi and were sort of friends of her grandfather's, who had been studying magic.

Yeah, there's a lot going on there to unpack.

The Incubi dudes. Somehow, I thought they'd be better dressers.
Okay, first, the good points. It's free. There seems to be a lot of content. It's decently written without any glaring spelling or grammar issues. I think there's also a sequel to it (which is cheap). There's voice acting. The heroine is pretty strong and has some guts (even fighting back in some scenes with some demons). She also picks up magic like her grandfather and you get the feeling she won't be a pushover.

But...I gave up fairly early on this one. The voice acting annoyed me. The art just wasn't my style at all. The plot very quickly went convoluted and muddled -- too quickly, so I didn't care enough to try and unravel it because I didn't care about the characters enough to bother. And I wasn't really that interested in any of the potential love interests. Two of them were quite jerky. I dunno. I played it for a total of 1.4 hours. I was on the youngest one's route even though he was too much of a puppy for me because at least he was nice.

I can see why it has it's fans -- it has a lot of content for a free game and it's not badly done. It just wasn't for me. And I didn't find the shmexy bits all that shmexy. Maybe it was partly discomfort on my part that she's a girl still in high school and they are incubi from another plane of existence and all older than her and have designs on her body. It's probably why I wound up with the young one. He seemed the least skeevy. Like, the oldest one was probably the most attractive to me personally (even with his smarmy voice) but for that MC it just seemed wrong. To be fair, I probably wouldn't have felt that way when I was a teenager. I probably wouldn't have even thought about it. But I'm not anymore and I do. So...yeah.