The 'Shroom:Issue 150/Critic Corner
Welcome welcome to the start of a new season! September brings to us Autumn (and to others, Spring), seasons known for being transitional and comfy. More importantly, it's the beginning of Halloween, which everyone knows runs from September 1st through December 24th! To mark this momentous occasion, we here at The 'Shroom have decided to make this our 150th issue! Feel free to send any letters of complaints checking my math to my secretary. Be sure to check out what special stuff we have for you to celebrate this nice round number of a milestone, but before you go check out all of the coolio sections our Critic Corner writers spent the last moments of their vacation time on!
To celebrate Issue 150 here in Critic Corner, I have set up a Movie Night! Well, nights! Be sure to check out that link to help figure out what time and date to get together and watch stuff, as well as what to watch. Now, the optional catch! With this being a celebration of The 'Shroom achieving its 150th issue, and part of Critic Corner's bit in celebrating this, I figured it would be neat that anyone who came and joined us in watching whatever we watch could write a little review to be put in a special section for Issue 151 or 152 (or others!). I don't expect people to do this, nor am I demanding that whatever is written be a whole fleshed-out section (although it can be if you want!), but just a little "hey we watched Mulan and I really liked all of the songs in it!" or something for a few sentences or paragraphs to show your support for our little monthly publication we work hard on year-round! I would really appreciate and enjoy anyone who takes the time to participate in this!! As of this issue's release date, the first group viewing will be on Monday the 23rd around 5pm EDT, so be sure to check out our thread on the forum to get involved!
Thank you all again for making Half-Baked Reviews Critic Corner's Section of the Month!! Be sure to give your love to all of our sections here, and give a shout out to our writers whether in chat or in their forum threads dedicated to their sections. Be sure to vote vote vote! This month we welcome Parakoopa144 (talk) and Smasher (talk) to the team! You can find PK144's section joining my own as the first new Opinion section in eons, and Smasher's allllll the way at the bottom, right near the poll you should vote in!
If you would like to help Critic Corner, we always have openings for more writers! You are free to write for sections such as Character Review and Movie Review, or really anything you'd like to do! There's no pressure to have a huge section; they can be shorter and concise! The application process is very simple, starting with reading the Sign Up page, and sending your application to LudwigVon, our Stats Manager on the forum. Any idea you have is welcome, and if you have any questions or need help signing up, please feel free to reach out to myself or other 'Shroom peeps!
Section of the Month
Visiting New York City: Part 4
For the final installment of my visit to NYC over a year and a half ago by now, I’m returning to what this section has been about for a while now: food. At the time of my visit, the focus of Half-Baked Reviews was just “try new stuff lol”, so writing these feels a bit underprepared and bare, especially given its unfortunate timing to land in Issue 150, but regardless this is a review of what I ate while I was there!
Fat Witch Bakery
This little baked goods shop was inside Chelsea Market, which I blabbed about in my review last month. Inside was what you’d expect from a little baked goods shop: some racks on the wall with brownies and gifts stuff, some displays in the center with more brownies, and then some counter space also with brownies. I’m a sucker for sweets, and particular dense, moist, chewy, delicious fresh baked brownies. I’m gonna go bake some right now while I write this to set the mood.
The brownies, which they call “witches”, are like $3, but are somewhat decent-sized, like the size of my palm. Certainly not anything I’d poo-poo too much about for one or two, but would certainly add up very quickly and leave me disgruntled. As such, I only got two: the Emerald City Witch and the Fat Witch Original. The original is what you’d imagine a brownie is, a thick baked chocolate fudgey treat. It has a strangely crunchy/firm exterior, almost like a cookie, but the inside is very chewy without being either too delicate and cakey or too goopy and fudgy. Considerably heavy for the size it is, too, which makes me feel better about my purchase. I wouldn’t say that the flavor it something remarkable or anything wildly different from a box of Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker, but the life-affirming weight and texture is something I rarely get from baked goods. The Emerald City Witch has mint chips rather than chocolate chips inside. The mint is not overpowering, just enough to get the point, which is honestly the superior form of mint flavoring. It came with green sprinkles on top which I could’ve done without, but that’s just because I don’t like sprinkles; it did give it a different kind of crunch that separated it and gave it some pizzazz. The actual brownie dough weight and texture remained the same as the original, and I can assume it is the trait of all Fat Witches.
Apparently they have more shops in Japan than they do in America; 3 to 1 to be exact. They seem to have a similar array of products, except the Japanese stores have matcha (green tea), hōjicha (also green tea), kinako (soybean flour), white bean paste, and brown sugar in lieu of nonsense like several different kinds of coffee brownies and a double chocolate that’s not really required to be any more chocolatey than the regular already is. The Japanese stores also have a few different kinds of puff pastries offered. Kinda peculiar that these overseas shops that exist with the purpose to emulate the “iconic” New York shop appear to be, well, better, but I’m glad they’re finding success.
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs
To make a long story short, meh. It would be an acceptable hot dog if it were July 4th and your uncle made them and you can have 8 of them for free plus a token idle conversation with some old person you see only twice a year, but it was like $4 for one on a dry bun with some plastic cheese topping. It was as close to being just air as a hot dog could be. Yeah it tasted like a hot dog, sure, had that classic texture and whatever, but it was just so disappointing and unfilling. I can see why there’s a Nathan’s branded hot dog eating contest with records soaring into 70+ hot dogs within 10 minutes. Absolutely no way this would be possible with a real hot dog like Hebrew National. Coming from a city with its own famous disappointment I can empathize in a way that such an iconic, groundbreaking, and culture-defining brand just can’t live up to its hype.
New York is also known for its pizza, in an eternal conflict with Chicago for supremacy. Being a former manager of a pizzeria, this is my field of expertise and I had to make sure I tried at least one slice while in Manhattan, regardless of where it’s from. Where I got it from is a little place near Blocky called Picasso’s Pizza. Definitely more expensive than the deli I worked at but not wildly so. Sells slices differently, too, by having a whole bunch of pizzas premade in the display case and then reheated when you select one. I've seen this at supermarkets before but not an actual pizzeria. I guess it’s the most efficient way to have plenty of options available right away for a populace known for its pickiness and impatience. What I did appreciate is that, while the menu was loaded with Italian words and stuff, it felt genuine and not like every other pizza shop I’ve been to that tries too hard to be an Authentic Italian Ristorante fine dining experience. I just want some saucy cheesy bread with extra grease. It also wasn’t as flat as I was expecting. Once again I either neglected to take, or lost, pictures of this place and the pizza, but luckily Google Maps has plenty of people that take care of this. It just tasted like pizza, I guess, nothing special any which way. The nature of it being cooked and then reheated, though, made the crust a bit more crispy and crunchy than what a more fresh pizza would’ve been like, and that’s not something I generally want to experience straight from the counter, and rather by my own doing in a microwave 3 days later. By no means did I get an adequate sampling of the pizza New York City has to offer, and most assuredly on my next visit I will try to find a wider range. Regardless, Buffalo’s pizza is superior. Gotta have that sweet sauce, plump crust, copious mozzarella, and, most importantly, crispy greasy cup-and-char pepperoni. Perfection, and I will never experience this again unless I make pilgrimage back home.
Additionally, this place was the scene of another incident of someone going out of their way to be inconvenienced and then get mad; this time directed at us as we were standing near the door to the side, not in the way. He said “it works better if you open it” despite the entire path being free and unobstructed, then proceeded to go through the door of which he just implied was blocked.
Still hungry after having fled from Stonewall, we frantically scoured the windows of each business we walked by to see if they sold food. Galway Hooker was the first one we saw. A traditional Irish pub, there were several rooms that on the website look sorta interesting I guess if you’re having a private party. Beyond that it was just pretty normal. Barely above average bar food, $15 drinks, what I’ve come to expect from any street level restaurant that you don’t need a tour guide and anthropologist to locate. Not really much else to say, aside from the fact that if you’re going to eat at a restaurant or bar somewhere in the city rather than just getting some grub at a sandwich shop somewhere, you’re going to feel like you’ve wasted just as much money as you will at a 5-star or Michelin-rated celebrity chef restaurant, so you may as well just blow all of your cash on something you can at least claim is a real destination of notable remembrance and value.
Big Gay Ice Cream Shopfood truck phenomenon and snob epicenters such as East Village. They use homebrew recipes and quality ingredients for all of their items, down to the chocolate syrup, which 🌈 magically ✨ doesn’t impact the customer-level cost of the product; if anything, they’re cheaper than a lot of the simple podunk ice cream parlors littered around the outskirts of towns. Now, don’t get me wrong, absolutely ALL ice cream shops are wildly more expensive than just getting it at the store, as you can buy half gallons of ice cream for the same price you’re paying for a cone and some toppings, so if your only goal is frugality then just go get one of those economy-sized 5 gallon tubs of vanilla-flavored freezer burn from the bottom shelf of your local grocery store’s fridge. With how gay the logo looked and how gay everything seemed, I was expecting to be blown back by a binary pulsar of pure rainbow homo drag queen energy, but it was honestly pretty muted; and take that as a gentle compliment. Inside it was just like...a regular ice cream shop, but with more rainbows than others, and felt welcoming and comfortable, aside from the severe lack of seating resulting in Blocky and I slamming our ischial tuberosities onto a glorified tile windowsill. The ice cream flavors were all gay-cultured themed in name and was more novel than just going to get a regular browniw sundae or something. The names are tongue-in-cheek, and probably tongue-in-elsewhere, as the sexual innuendos of a few are only candy-coating thin--Lunch Box, Salty Pimp, Blueberry Gobbler, let your mind run wild. When it’s all said and done, though, there’s only 7 unique flavor combos, with some classic vanilla/chocolate/twist and float options to pad it out for the unadventurous. I’m a little conflicted on that limitation as I’d like to see what more they can do with creative combos and the limitless lexicon of LGBT colloquialisms, but I’ve watched enough Hell’s Kitchen to know that a large menu will summon from the ether Gordon Ramsey to verbally abuse you. I got the American Glob because my eyesight zoomed in on “pretzel” and was hooked. $6 for a substantial ice cream cone, probably could be a meal in itself. Tons of toppings and the ice cream was very fluffy, almost like a whipped frosting, and gave it a heavier, more dessert feel and texture. Other reviews are either effervescent and overflowing with that’s pretty transparently destination visitor hype, or miserable cheapos who say that it’s not that good and there’s better around town; McDonald’s is a common. My judgment is somewhere inbetween and off to the side, in that yeah it’s just kinda above average and you can get cheaper elsewhere, but you can always get cheaper when you don’t care about supporting quality ingredients and an experience. Overall: ok. If you’re in the area, why not stop by?
Like Galway Hooker, there’s nothing special about our visit to this restaurant/bar/whatever other than we needed to eat and it was nearby. Blocky said he liked the place, so, sure. Seems like a pretty standard gastropub thing with draft beer and appetizers and basic sandwiches. Each table has on is board games so we played Jenga kinda. I got sliders which didn’t even come with sides and still cost $17. They tasted alright enough but weren’t anything that really wowed me and seemed pretty basic. Expensive food and drinks with expensive restaurant tiny portions, but pretty low enough quality to not warrant anything on par with Denny’s prices, sorry Blocky. There were some pinball machines there that I wasted a few more dollars on. The waitress was nice, though!$355 prix fixe menu which is pretty unheard of basically anywhere outside of where they film episodes of The Real Housewives. I live in a city that’s one of the hottest vacation destinations on the planet, with suburbs that are filled with retired celebrities inside their multi-million dollar castles, but even all of the $$$$ places around here are still within a believable range for even the average person just seeking a really nice night out for a special anniversary or something. Even our $$$ places that are still the favorite grazing spots of the rich and wealthy (as well as the hipsters and suburbitank owners) have prices that are at par or under what NYC considers $. Now I can understand why there’s different tax and income forms in New York for residents of NYC and the rest of the state. Perhaps this is the reason why all of the takeout sandwich shops and delis in town are so popular.
Some drink Blocky gave me to try and wanted me to review. I forgot which flavor it was but it sure tasted like flavored sparkling water!
Final Word: New York City’s food scene is remarkable in that it’s everything. Simply, everything, in large part due to its immigrant landing zone status having a substantial impact on the multicultural blending and ethnic influences, but burgeoned by being the biggest tourist attraction on Earth. If everyone from everywhere is coming here, gotta have something from everywhere to market and sell to everyone. That all being said, unless you’re a resident, you don’t really stand a chance at knowing where to find those authentic shops and restaurants and things to eat, and instead everything else is just either chains, pubs, bars, or trends, all of which are phenomenally overpriced. I will admit that my selection of food choices here was not that of some eclectic list of things-you-can’t-miss and must-tries, and instead just me surviving as a fleshy being in need of caloric intake, and it’s debatable as to which kind of review is more useful. Probably not as interesting as it could be, but this is what you’re going to get if you go.
Tune in next month for Halloween! Also, tell me what to review next! You can tell me to do can also be movies, shows, physical actions, trying new foods, music, literally anything and I’ll cover it eventually if it’s not too ridiculous. Just send me a message here on my talk page or PM it to me on the forum. Don't like what I have to say? That's fine, and probably bound to happen because I've been told about how much people like Super Mario 64 and how they feel about any criticism of it! We at Critic Corner will welcome your alternate review of it as a new section for the next issue!
Like a phoenix from the asses, I have emerged. Yep, we all need to pull an Arin Hansen every now and again for a shameless rebrand, because this isn't PK144's Course Corner no more, oh no no no, this is PK144'S CORNER. Why did I change it? I got bored of writing about levels, but now I can write about anything. Speaking of rebrands, what if there was a way to rebrand a game, with new things, fixes, a new title, or even onto a new console? Well that's what today is all about because we're talking PORTS, BABY. Ports is how Nintendo make easy money with minimal or no eff- I mean ports always have been and will be a part of Mario, but in recent times, I've noticed something with the newer ports. They're fucking shit. But were they always?
The Golden Era
Now when thinking of Mario ports, one thing comes to mind immediately. Super Mario Advance. This was a series of 4 ports, and these are the standard I hold all Mario ports up to, because these are brilliant. SMA was SMB2(USA), with new collectibles, a whole second campaign after the game was over, and also being portable. SMA added so much to that game, its the definitive version, the same goes for Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. SMA2 wasn't bad, but it wasn't as mind-blowingly cool. Fully playable Luigi, some cutscenes, but I'd also say its the best version of SMW because of the Records screen, it makes the game so much more fun to 100%. Then came SMA3, and this is my favourite of the lot, and probably my favourite GBA game. Yoshi's Island is one of my favourite games, and I've never even touched the SNES version, because the GBA version is so strong. Its the same game, but with 6 extra levels, and its portable. What's not to love? Also I think the music sounds alot better here.
The "What The Fuck" Era
This era is only two games long, so this'll be quick. Super Mario Advance 4 was undoubtedly the worst in the series, with no new features. It is really underwhelming. Now, Americhads might be saying "BUT PK (drool runs down mouth), WHAT ABOUT TEH EPIC E READEAR LEVELS!!!11??". To that I say, I don't care for a number of reasons. Point A: WHAT IS THIS FUCKING SKYLANDERS BULLSHI- Point B: Us UKucks never got them, and thats the version I'll write about. Point C: Making something so important to the games content locked behind a peripheral that no one owned is really dumb, because you're guaranteeing that most people aren't going to like it from the get-go, because they won't be able to enjoy what makes it unique. Granted, a lot of the E-Reader shit was crazy fuckin' cool, with Yoshi's Island enemies, the Cape Feather shows up, its wild, but its not worth tracking down all those cards for.
What? Apparently you can get all the E-Reader levels bundled in on some Chinese washing machine called the Wii U, but I don't know what that is, I don't wear clothes.
Moving on, we have the other 50% of the "What the Fuck" era, Super Mario All Stars. Yes, in a bombastically fantastical 20th anniversary celebration that cost almost as much as a can of Arabic orange juice out of PoundStretcher, Nintendo ported a SNES game to the Wii with a shitty music CD full of SOUND EFFECTS, for full price. Point A: YIKES Point B: YIKES Point C: YIKES Do I even have to explain this? Its a no effort emulation of a good game on a disc. Cool.
Now I like to have different names for the eras, so I got the help of a friend to create a name for this era. So introducing:
The Fucking Garbage for Poopoo Babies Era
This one is more recent. This era started with Super Mario Maker 3DS, and this is just a sad display honestly. Sure the new levels are cool and all, but having to beat the whole campaign for all the course elements is just unnecessary. The NSMBU theme looks like vomit because of the 240p resolution, the game doesn't even fill the whole screen on the top because that would be too hard, and the final nail in the coffin to this, the "you can check your report history", to this MundaneMatt, is there is no way to upload levels, or search for specific ones. A sad sight of a game, that's ranked even more obsolete now that Maker 2 has a Story Mode. Its just a dust collector on my shelf now.
Next is the last of the 3DS ones, and this is Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World. This isn't bad actually. It doesn't look great, but it runs at a nice 60 FPS for us NewChads, but a relatively steady enough 30 FPS for all you OldCucks. Its the whole game, give a bit of loading, but really no strings attached other than that. I don't actually own this one, but its pretty self explanatory really. It also has a few extra Poochy levels, but judging from Yoshi's Island, I'm guessing he's still bragging about his education...
Then came a total fucking surprise, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. This game is fucking wild, I don't like MK8 that much, but I know people who do, and they got a lot of mileage out of this. A revamped battle mode, 6 new characters, all the DLC tracks, new items, a dual items mechanic, this game is fucking bananas. This is right up there with the SMA series in terms of quality honestly. It runs at an untouched 60 FPS from what I've seen too. Great port. I'd make a joke about it, but its really just that fucking solid.
Then, we have the last Mario ports, and the first of these is Captain Toad. This was a great job, though sadly plagued by the Miyamoto trademark "MOTOIN CONTRWOL SO EPIC!!!111!". It runs at a butter smooth 1080p 60 FPS, and its the same, except with EPIC motion controls, some extra(?) content, and no need for a Toad amiibo for the Pixel Toad challenges. You can get used to the EPIC motion controls really quick, but its the new stuff which confuses me. I've already written about the Sand Kingdom level in this before, and I do think the Odyssey stages are some of the best in the game, but why remove the 3D World stages? Sure, they were pretty horrible, but I'd like to at least try them. You can also load the game into a randomise- I mean buy the DLC for £5 off the eShop, and as I wrote about before, it gets an " "Oh yeah I bought that." 2 days after I bought it" / 10. Really forgettable, but sorta fun nonetheless. Its worth it for Goomba Galleon.
Being the last hurrah so far of Mario ports, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe was somewhat of a let down. Now granted, the game is good, obviously it is, I even 100%'d it, but fuck me is it uninspired. Not even talking about the actual game here, the new stuff in this game is the same as SMA2. Whats bad about that you ask? That came out in 2002 for the GBA. This came out in 2019 for the Switch. It's stupid. All it is is an easy mode (yes, an EASY MODE FOR NSMBU), that is sorta fun I guess. Some revised art work and bug fixes is cool, but its not why you buy a port. Where's the extra world, or new game modes? If GBA ports could do this 18 years ago, why can't they do it now. A big disappointment.
And that's it so far for the port saga. Now through my letterbox I've got thousands of death threats, money envelopes covered in flour and tomato sauce, but every now and again beneath the weight of my accumulating debt (I HAD TO PAY 30K FOR THE WEBSITE I SWEAR), I'll get some mail from the readers(?), so take it away them:
Dr.Baby Luigi says:
Paper Mario says:
Doomhiker, stretching the subject matter a bit, but is interesting nonetheless, says:
Dr. Baby Peach says:
Dr Eggman, much like Doomhiker had something to say about the DK side of the plethora of ports:
Dr Peach, which I can assure you, confused the hell out of me when I saw two Dr Peaches in the thread (cmon just stick some numbers on it like its 2006), says:
And FINALLY, leaving the best until last, you know him, you love him YOSHI THE SSM SAYS:
Beautiful, truly touching words. In other news, I did a poll on the topic of "Whats the best Mario Port? Everyone had 3 votes, and it came out to this with 19 voters, the results were:
Worst port: Tied Super Mario Maker for 3DS, and Captain Toad 3DS (oops fuck I forgot that one.).
Best port: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, to the surprise of no-one.
You can find the results to the poll here.
Thanks for everyone who voted, and thank you for reading! This has been PK144's Corner!
Greetings, readers, and welcome back to Book Reviews! This month, I will be taking a look at the superhero novel Pinnacle City!
Anyone who has been reading my reviews since the beginning knows what my favorite books are: the Ordinary Boy series. I love them because I love superhero stories, the same reason I love Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Superman Adventures. And Pinnacle City is like those, only with a heavy dose of noir tropes: gritty detectives in the shady part of the city solving crimes. It's like Ordinary Boy, but for a grown-up audience. If you like superhero stories with a heap of mystery and angst, this is the book for you.
Pinnacle City tells the stories of two very different characters. Eddie Enriquez is a bitter ex-henchman who does detective work around the slums. His power is reading objects: seeing what they've seen and feeling what they've felt. Our second character is Kimberly Williams, a.k.a. Solar Flare. She's a young woman who's just graduated out of her own squad of young heroes with her friends, to the big time leagues: the Pinnacle City Guardians. Her powers include flight, invulnerability, all your basic Superman powers. She comes from a long family line of superpowered people, and her uncle was the previous Solar Flare in the Guardians. Naturally, our two main characters meet, and eventually have to work together to confront the evils lurking in Pinnacle City.
Pinnacle City is your average city: there's an upper crust elite and a lower class section of slums that the upper crust looks down on. The "Crescent", as the book calls it, is home to ex-cons, villains, and people of mixed species (think fish people, or alien-people), and it is an awful place to live. Henchmen and villains make life hard, and ruined buildings and homes are horrible to live in. Of course, these people are looked down on by the upper class simply for not being squeaky clean heroes, so nothing is ever done to improve these conditions.
Our heroes are brought together by the suspicious homicide of prominent non-human rights activist Quentin Julian. The police refuse to investigate and the supers don't want anything to do with it, so Eddie is persuaded to tackle the case by Julian's secretary, and Kimberly is roped in because Julian is her friend. Together, the two of them must unravel the mystery of what happened to Julian and who was behind it, all while juggling their daily lives in the process. Can they do it?
I'd give this book a definite thumbs up. The mystery was very good, and following the clues and learning the twists was satisfying. The only real criticism of the book I have, I unfortunately can't tell you, since that would spoil the entire plot. It's a problem I have with a lot of stories in the media today, and I want you readers to experience this book fresh and not spoiled. If you really want to know, you can ask me directly on the forums.
That's it for me this month, readers! I hope I added a new title to your reading list. See you next time!
Rising Sun Reviews
When you first learn about a tragedy in an industry you’re passionate about, it’s heartbreaking. When that tragedy is something that deeply scarred the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of people, there are only so many words you can say. It breaks your reality, it reminds you that your escape from life is still very much a part of this troubled world we live in. That’s exactly what I felt when I woke up more than a month ago to see that Kyoto Animation was intentionally set on fire by a crazed arsonist. 35 talents, both newcomers and legendary veterans, died in the attack, with 35 more injured and countless materials destroyed. I was absolutely gut punched when I learned that this happened, especially when it was over something completely petty like a made-up claim of plagiarism. If you don’t know already, Kyoto Animation is the studio behind beloved series such as Clannad, Haruhi Suzumiya, K-On, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and a work I covered in my last piece, Violet Evergarden. Even if I have some grievances with plenty of their work, anyone can see that not many studios are as consistent when it comes to putting passion into every one of their shows, as they all share a common theme of having beautiful animation, relatable characters, and heartwrenching emotions. Between this and being the highest standard for working conditions in an industry where studio employees are, frankly, treated horribly, Kyoto Animation is without a doubt one of the most beloved animation studios of all time.
Anyway, after he’s convinced to not kill himself by his mom (keep in mind that she doesn’t try to help him beyond this by making him see a professional or anything), we get our first glimpse of Shoya in high school, where nearly everyone’s face is crossed out, symbolizing his inability to look them in the eye out of guilt. I will give credit where it’s due and say that this imagery is a very unique way to describe depression. We see that he’s started learning sign language, in an attempt to make amends with Shoko, and after demonstrating it with her (also returning a notebook he stole from her, which she used to speak to her class in elementary), she...immediately becomes friends with him.
And then the rest of the movie is about Shoya and Shoko’s budding relationship and Shoya’s journey towards feeling better about himself. As the story went on, it became a bit easier to root and sympathize with Shoya, as despite a rocky first step it was easy to relate to his goal to become a better person, but it was harder to really care about Shoyo. For all intents and purposes, being deaf is her only character trait. The only hobby she has is feeding bread to koi fish. She doesn’t show any feelings besides being happy or sad. It could have made her more relatable if the film discussed the perspective or struggles of living with a lack of hearing, but for the most part, it seems her deafness is nothing but a reason for her to be bullied. There’s only so much investment I can give to the main relationship if one of the characters is giving their affections to a...plot device.
I guess now’s a better time than ever to segue into the animation, as it helps my case that a movie adaptation of this was sort of...unnecessary. Of course, the animation is very smooth and there’s some good moments of sakuga (the Japanese word for animation that’s used by the anime fandom to describe stunning scenes), but there’s nothing here that would have been better off with the naturally large budget that comes with a film production. In my opinion, anime movies are best for grandiose and spectacular moments that wouldn’t be done justice in a standard TV series. Films like Akira or Spirited Away are best with a large film budget because the vivid terror of Tetsuo’s transformation sequence or the magical wonder of Chihiro riding on a dragon soaring through the sky wouldn’t work nearly as well on a smaller TV budget, and even if those scenes if put in a series were extremely similar to how they would be in a movie, the rest of the series would go drastically downhill as a result due to how deadlines and general anime production works (think of a shounen anime like Naruto or One Piece where the fight scenes are beautifully animated but everything else is shoddy as hell at worst). The point of this long-winded tangent is that a down to earth romance story like A Silent Voice doesn’t really have any fantastical scenes like the ones I’ve mentioned that would warrant a high budget film. Normally, this would be completely fine, as there’s been plenty of more grounded films like Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya or 5 Centimeters per Second that are truly outstanding stories, but it’s a bit of a different beast with this movie when it’s covering a 7-volume manga. Overall, it would have been much more convenient if this were a TV series instead if it meant slightly sacrificing some parts of the animation for the better of fleshing out characters and plot points. Not that I would like it more, but it would just be more faithful.
Hot Pot Reviews
Greetings readers, and welcome back to another edition of Hot Pot Reviews! Zange here, and while I may have gone through a name change since last time, rest assured, this is still the same section you know and love. This month, we’re bringing some spook your way a bit earlier than you may be expecting. Since I don’t write in October, I figured now would be the next best time for the upcoming spooky season. To get in the mood for next month, I have decided to review one of my favorite mystery animes. So sit back, relax, and let me tell you all about the world of Another.
First published as a novel in October 2009, Another was adapted into a manga from May 2010 to January 2012, with an anime adaptation starting to air right as the manga ended. It follows the curse set upon class 3-3 of Yomiyama North Middle School. A popular student named Misaki in class 3-3 in 1972 suddenly died during the year, leaving many students devastated. However, students and the teacher in the class pretended like Misaki was still alive, resulting in class 3-3 being pulled closer to death and experiencing some odd happenings in the years after. Fast forward to 1998, a student named Kouichi Sakakibara transfers into class 3-3 of Yomiyama North from Tokyo. Almost right away, he is pulled into a messy situation after an encounter with the mysterious Mei Misaki: everyone else in class 3-3 claims Mei Misaki doesn’t exist. Not long after this encounter, the curse sets into motion, and students and their relatives begin to die. Kouichi attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery of the curse, but little does he know just what he’s getting himself into.
To start this off, I would like to point out the two things I enjoyed the most in this series: the art style and the sound design. The art style used in this show works perfectly. The color palette is very muted, which is nice considering this series is supposed to be more serious in tone than say, Love Live or Zombieland Saga. I also love the way the eyes are drawn on the characters. It’s really easy to be able to tell someone’s emotion with the eyes because of how they’re drawn here. With the sound design, the background music is used to great effect in this series. Even if a scene doesn’t end up bad, the use of certain pieces of music gives you that feeling that something bad is about to happen and to be on guard. For the kind of show that Another is, that is absolutely something you want your viewers to feel when they’re watching. Certain pieces of background music paired with what’s playing out on screen perfectly send out a feeling of uneasiness, and this series really excels at that.
Next, we have our two main characters, Kouichi and Mei. Starting with Kouichi, he’s kind of an idiot. I will not sugar coat that. He keeps talking to Mei after several warnings not to (including one from her!), and at one point goes back into a burning building after the librarian helps him escape from it. Like dude, are you asking for a death wish by doing that??? Idiocy aside, Kouichi has some rather interesting connections to the class 3-3 curse. His mother was in the 1972 class where it all started, his aunt Reiko was in 3-3 in 1983, and Kouichi himself is placed into 3-3 when he transfers from Tokyo. So beyond being in the class, he does have some pretty solid motivation for wanting to get to the bottom of the class 3-3 curse. Apart from those two things though, he’s not particularly notable in any way that I can think of. He’s basically just thrown into this whole mess unwillingly.
Mei, however, is a bit of a different story. She starts off as this very enigmatic character that we don’t know much about, particularly due to all of class 3-3 claiming that she doesn’t exist. Around halfway through the series though, we finally get to learn a bit more about her through her interactions with Kouichi. This series does a really good job of subverting your expectations of this character because of how much they build up her mysteriousness, and by the time you learn more about her, you have a whole new set of predictions and expectations. There’s really not much more I can get into here without spoiling things, but the way Mei’s character is explored works really well for this type of show.
Just as a quick aside before continuing on, I would like to point out how much this series references dolls and doll-making. One of the settings is a doll shop (where you can clearly see several dolls on display), Mei’s mother is a dollmaker, and even the episode titles are subtle references to the process one might go through when making a doll. I thought that was really charming, but I also know a lot of people can get freaked out by dolls, so your mileage may vary on this knowledge. I thought it was worth pointing out, at least.
Moving onto the plot, things move rather slowly at first regarding the discoveries of the curse. Around episode five or six, however, the pace really begins to pick up. Curse-related discoveries aside, none of the episodes really feel too rushed or too slow in their individual plotlines. I will say though, the constant use of cliffhangers does feel a bit cheap at times, but hey, it keeps people watching. Despite that, everything feels like it happens at just the right time. This includes the several character deaths that take place throughout the show. Oh yeah, did I mention people die as part of the curse?? And it’s not just one or two, there’s a lot. I lost track after about five on-screen deaths, but there are several more that affect many of the characters as well as how the plot plays out. These aren’t just small and clean either, some of them can get brutal (one of which involves something you really wouldn’t expect until it happens!). The deaths shown aren’t gory or super graphic, however, but if you’re not a fan of blood then I would stay away from this series.
Additionally, Another puts in a TON of foreshadowing of its two biggest twists. I really can’t explain any of it without spoiling the ending, but just know that certain things get brought up several times, and conversation ends up either getting interrupted or turning to another topic. I’m not entirely certain how many first time viewers were able to pick up on it (I certainly don’t remember being able to anyways, but my first watch was also years ago), but I remember being able to catch nearly every instance of foreshadowing when I rewatched the series for the sake of this review. Your mileage may vary here, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind.
And finally, probably my biggest gripe with this entire show: how much no one explains ANYTHING to Kouichi. Seriously, it runs rampant throughout the first half of the series until Mei FINALLY is the one to explain everything to him. No one will tell Kouichi any specifics of the curse, nor will they explain anything regarding Mei. Of course, the one person who is supposed to do all the explaining to Kouichi is gone his first day in school, and anytime anyone else tries to explain it before Mei does, they get interrupted somehow. One girl even claims that the curse began because Kouichi didn’t “understand the rules”, but… how can he understand something that was never explained to him?? But go off I guess, it’s not like a lot of misunderstandings could have been cleared up if someone actually bothered to explain things to him early on or anything. And something I remembered just as I was writing this: The person who was supposed to explain everything to Kouichi on his first day but was gone? She was one of the three classmates who visited him in the hospital in the first episode. She seriously couldn’t have explained it to him then???
...but I suppose they needed to have something to reveal during the course of the series. The whole thing still upsets me, though, and it probably will until the end of time!
While Another definitely has its negative points, it’s still an excellent pick for a spooky season watch. And as long as you look past the glaring issue of “no one will explain anything to the protagonist”, it’s a pretty enjoyable watch, too.
Hello there everyone! It's your current sub-director, Smasher, here to present my very first article of my own for The 'Shroom, ever! Truth be told, I've been looking for a way for me to write game reviews for a long time, and now I think I'm finally ready. I'll probably try to stick with mostly games available on Nintendo consoles given the website I'm on, but I'm not ruling out the possibility of covering others. Basically, whatever game I've been playing lately is what you'll see me cover! And recently I've been checking out the indie scene more, so I'm going with one of those first. So with that introduction out of the way, let's check out one of the most popular indie games of last year - Celeste!
Celeste is a sprite-based 2D platforming game made by Matt Makes Games, also known for their previous game, TowerFall. The game puts you in control of the troubled yet determined Madeline, who has decided to climb the mysterious Celeste Mountain. To accomplish this, you'll have to navigate your way past countless amounts of deadly obstacles, armed only with the abilities to jump, climb walls, and dash through the air to start with. As the game progresses, you'll meet a few other characters and learn more about everyone's stories - including Madeline's - and discover more of the secrets Celeste Mountain has for its explorers. There's also tons of strawberries to collect along the way! But they're optional - as the game says they won't do much besides impress your friends.
With the introduction out of the way, I'd like to give a warning. If you're someone who can't get into games with high difficulty no matter what, then you can go ahead and turn back now, because Celeste will not be for you. This game is brutal. From the very first chapter, you'll have to avoid carefully and deviously placed traps, and if you make a single mistake you have to start the room over. Almost every room you enter will be difficult to maneuver through, and there probably won't be too many times you escape on your first try. It's tough for me to make it sound too difficult in text, but when you play the game you'll see for yourself. And chapters just get harder and harder the further you get. And then there's a cassette hidden in each chapter, and if you find it you'll unlock that chapter's B-Side, which is even tougher.
However, while the game is extremely difficult, it rarely - if ever - felt unfair to me when I played it. It's just a genuinely challenging game. The chapters are all pretty well crafted, and they're never impossible as long as you keep at it. You'll learn from your mistakes and gradually grow better the more you play it, and with enough tries and patience you'll be able to clear it and move on to the next screen. And the controls are really tight, too. I always felt fully in control of Madeline, and when I died, it was on me and I knew instantly what I did wrong. You just need to stay patient until the end, and I think it's well worth it. Climbing Celeste Mountain is definitely one of my proudest gaming accomplishments. Also, there's new elements thrown in every chapter, and it keeps things fresh and challenging without getting too gimmicky.
As for the overall presentation, I think it's pretty spectacular. Graphics are really good. The game is very well sprited, and the character portraits and end of chapter artwork are very nice. The big map of Celeste Mountain in the chapter select screen looks cool as well. Then there's the soundtrack, which is absolutely stellar. I found pretty much every track in the game to be a pleasant and beautiful listen, and each one fits in perfectly with the current area you're in. But I feel like the game's strongest feature is quite possibly its cast and story. There's only a handful of important characters, but each and every one of them is unique and fascinating. The more you progress, the more you learn about and become interested in the struggles and personalities of the cast, and about Celeste Mountain itself. And Madeline in particular I have to say is honestly one of my favorite video game protagonists I've ever played as. As you play it becomes clear that she struggles from her own issues, but she's determined to overcome them and climb this mountain to prove something not just to others, but to herself. She's just a really strong character, and one I can relate to in a few ways.
There's a few other secrets to discover that I didn't mention, but I think I covered the basics of the game decently. All things considered, I think Celeste is a pretty excellent game. I kind of hate to have such a glowing review as my first, but I honestly don't really have much bad to say about this. The one thing I can think of is that it does focus a lot on just different versions of spikes as its primary obstacle, but even that's really not a big deal. Again, if you're not into extremely tough games, or platformers in general, it might not be for you. Otherwise, it's well worth checking out. It's very challenging but very rewarding, and if you're interested in tackling some extra challenges, things like collecting every strawberry or trying to conquer the B-Sides help give the game more replay value. Also, while I haven't tried it out yet, the game received a free update this month adding an extra chapter that's meant to be a final goodbye as the team works on new projects, so if you haven't looked into the game yet, now's a good time to look into it and see if it's something you'd be into. With that, thanks for reading, and I'll see you all later!