News from Ashlora – July/2017

Chapter 3 is out last week and oh boy the pacing sure picked up a lot. The release schedule, though, slowed down significantly. I took last month off weekly releases. It’s just me being lazy, no excuse here, and I apologize for my procrastination.

BLOGGING SCHEDULE CHANGES

Starting from next chapter, White Destiny will be released on Saturday instead Thursday. The time will be around 6 PM (UTC+0). That is…if I could fight the urge to get the story out as soon as it is done. I added a handy countdown to the sidebar that tells the time and content of upcoming releases. This way, when I cannot publish the weekly update in time or when there is no upcoming update scheduled, the timer will be updated to reflect the changes in real time.

In addition to the usual seasonal anime review, monthly novel commentary and weekly scene releases, I’ll be doing some writing prompts now and then. In these writing prompts, I’ll pick three random items and write a short story around these three items (props to Bungaku Shoujo novel for the idea). The writing prompts are intended to replace some of the weekly scene releases whenever I feel stuck on the novel.

There are already to short stories in this format, please check them out here

https://fujihita.wordpress.com/tag/writing-prompt/

DEATH BY RANDOMIZATION

I have a confession to make on the events unfolded in chapter 3. I had no plan whatsoever. Past Leo’s conversation with Thomas, I flipped a coin to see if anyone else would interrupt the conversation and rolled a dice to see who would it be. I only knew that I needed to get the dragon to Ironheart and pitch the witch against the dragon at some points.

It just so happened that when the world’s mechanics have been sufficiently fleshed out, the story will begin writing itself, sometimes against the will of  the author. I deeply wanted Steve the Ironsmith to survive the ordeal, I really did. But, he was the kind of person to jump into the way of an attack, knowing that he would come out unscathed, confident of his fortitude and of the strength of his steel.

Unfortunately for him, the lightning pipe (formally notated in writing notes as “McGuffin”) is just that much stronger. It is the equivalence of nuclear weapon in Ashlora and whichever nation possessing the weapon will be condemned and purged by the ruling Archbishop and his crusaders.

And so, he died, along with captain Joshua who was destined to be killed anyways, and half of Rosenberg district, and Brown’s Boulder tavern. I rolled a dice for the inventor to successfully intervene but he failed.

In hindsight, using randomization is not exactly the brightest idea ever. The entire Steve x Katherine ship just sank to the bottom of the ocean, the royal selection plot line is going down with it as well and the geopolitical changes after this “terrorist attack” will spell disaster for the secession plot line.

GOING FORWARD

One good thing came out of all this turmoil is the inventor. He now has a solid agenda moving forward. Alexander D’Amore is his new enemy, Sir Richard is no longer his ally, and for a short time Lilia Silverflow will be his new best friend. His goal will be the remainder of the baron’s lightning pipe stockpile Alex has stolen and he plans to use them to gain leverage on Azeth during the secession.

So far in the story, the inventor has taken the role of a passive narrator. From the next chapter onward, he will play a more active role in the events. We’re now back to the original premise of the book, that is to gain political influence and start a war, and the core cast for this purpose: the inventor, the baron and the princess.

Other than that, I have to iron out some inconsistency I noticed. The knight captain’s unique marker is an arm guard, not a gauntlet as stated in scene #7. Also, I’ll need to reconsider the reactions of Silverflow Council in chapter 1 to the news of a dragon sighting now that it is revealed that the dragon can be tamed by the princess.

I didn’t plan for the dragon to be obedient but at some point in writing chapter 3, I came up with some hilarious and epic traits for the dragon and I decided to make it less of a plot device and more of an actual character.

Saturday Night Out #1

About this writing prompt

See: Character-Driven Fiction Writing Prompts

Saturday Night Out is a character development prompt for White Destiny. The prompt will feature characters from the novel in casual daily conversations that explore the personalities and world views of these characters. The prompt’s name is inspired by the following cheer between the Baron and the red helm knights from revision 2, chapter 4:

“…Ha’lly willy boos! Tonight is Saturday night. Who stays home on Saturday night?”

“Dead people!” the knights answered in unison and threw their fists in the air.

“What was that again? I can’t hear you”

“Only dead people stay home on Saturday night!” they shouted again.

These short prompts will consist of only dialogues.

~ ~ * ~ ~

The lazy master and a good friend

“Sir Richard is going to revoke my funding next week. That is, if I were to remain a lazy master.”

“A lazy master?”

“One that fails to meet his daily quota.”

“Which daily quota? Oh, you mean that daily quota. Isn’t it really simple though? It only took me two moons to finish mine.”

“I envy you.”

“Yup, I know I’m the best.”

“Clevandi finished his before getting the quarter though.”

“…”

“I have no idea he had a quarter…or that he had a daily quota.”

“He has neither.”

“That doesn’t count. I’m still the best.”

“Growing arrogant aren’t you?”

“Heck yes, I am a master now. I earned the right to brag…Don’t tell anyone I said that okay?”

“What is in it for me?”

“I’ll buy you ale.”

“These lips are sealed. So, what will you buy for my hands?”

“Your hands?”

“I can still write about this, you know?”

“…”

“Go work on your daily quota.”

“Touché.”

“Wait, I’ve just realized something. If Clevandi doesn’t have a quarter, he technically cannot finish his quota before getting his quarter.”

“Don’t sweat the details. It is the point that counts.”

“Sure, Leo. Don’t sweat the details. Remind me of the time you told me “chicks love Silverflow masters”. The only “chick” I have seen so far is an old rooster named Annabel and she is…I don’t know where to start….”

“Apologize to the whole rooster-kind now.”

“I kneel.”

“I kneel as well.”

“The worst part of this is…I think she actually fancies me…”

“You two will make a great pair, Sleeping Beauty.”

“You’re giving me goose bumps…”

“Weren’t you really popular before, though? I sometimes see you with that daughter of…eh, the butcher, I think?”

“Her father is a potter. A cutie except she thinks I’m one of her girlfriends crossed a mule. Unless…you were talking about the butcher’s wife, then it’s not me she wanted, it’s Alex.”

“Alex…”

“Yep. I’m just a “good friend” to them.”

“That’s luxury. I’m not even a friend with one.”

“What about Katherine? Weren’t you guys like…really chummy back then?”

“Is this jealousy am I sensing?”

“…”

“No.”

“Rest assured. She’s not my type. I like someone smart; preferably a master of Silverflow but not necessarily, a candidate or apprentice will do just fine. Being able to hold a logical argument is the prerequisite and, she must not be an old rooster named Annabel.”

“Apologize to all roosters now!”

“I kneel.”

“You’d better be. Although…isn’t that Princess Lilia you’re describing?”

“Too young. I’m turning forty next year and she’s turning twenty next week. Frankly, I feel old looking at her. Just imagine what she can achieve in twenty-year time. What right to I have to be a part of her destiny?”

“Ah…yeah…I can see your point.”

“Sometimes, it does feel like I’m holding her back more than anything. But, what can I do? I cannot quit. What price does Leonardo di Price have without his influences?”

“Is influence why you pushed for the secession?”

“…”

“No, I want that from the start. All else are means and justifications.”

 

Short story: “Rain”, “Bottle”, “Bookstore”

A mother and her young son sought refuge from a sudden rain in the bookstore I worked in. They were not the only ones pulled from the busy torrent of city life by the weather. Half a dozen others were standing at the porch, a few drenched to the sole of their feet; all looking miserable, eyes gazed at the darkened clouds and the slow-moving street of even more miserable humans, slopping through knee-deep water.

The young boy, about seven years of age, was exhilarated. His eyes sparkled. His head turned left and right to survey colorful rows of books. He left the mother at the entrance and dashed to the kid’s toys section.

His mother, looking exhausted from a day’s work, walked slowly between “Foreign literature” and “Politics and History” isles. She cast an empty gaze, fixated at shoulder-level, at the bookshelves. At times, she would pause to catch a quick glimpse at a rusty bike she parked in front of the store and then at the other end of the story where her son was supposed to be.

The rain outside intensified.

A coworker adjusted the air conditioner and turned on the light. It was only five in the afternoon and the storm cloud already made it seemed like seven. In the store, we always kept the air dry and cold. The fluorescent white light was replaced with natural lighting at night; though not as pleasant to the reading eyes as daylight, it gave a modern, almost sanitary feel that was, supposedly, attractive to young adults.

And on that dark-blue-and-white, sharp-edged canvas smacked dab the smeared and soaked wet passersby who were not here for the literature, but here for the roof. Rich people had cars, middle income rode motorbikes home wearing composite ponchos, only those whose shabby nylon ponchos could not protect them from heavy rain and those who forgot to bring ponchos gathered here.

“Books sell like hotcakes in this weather, don’t they?” an office lady remarked as she put a few cookbooks and two desktop ornaments on the cashier. She was among those who forgot. Not quite. While there were more people in the store when it rained than when it didn’t, not all were potential customers, only a small portion was.

I smiled out of courtesy and made no comment, quietly scanning the bar codes of her purchase.

“They are presents”, she said holding up the ornaments side-by-side. The ornaments, two ceramic, pawn-sized statues of a boy and a girl hold two halves of the word “LOVE” were a matching pair. “Aren’t they cute?” she cheerfully asked.

“Is that so? Do you want me to wrap them, ma’am?” I asked.

“Do you take credit card?”

“Yes, here”, I answered and showed her the card reader. I assumed that was a no for gift wrapping so I started putting the items in common plastic bags. It was then that I took note of loud scolding at the end of kid’s toys section.

It was the boy from before and his mother. She smacked his hands repetitively and hurled curses at him. The boy began to sob and then cried aloud. She hit him even harder, ordering him to stop crying. She slapped his face several times, making loud smacks every time, and with that she finally stopped his cry.

My coworker came near with a dustpan and a broomstick. The woman bowed her head apologetically and asked for the dustpan and broomstick from my colleague. She insisted, forcefully taking the broom and then starting to sweep shards of glasses in the dustpan. I caught glimpse of the outline of a broken glass bottle as the coworker picked up the largest fragment and took a look at the price tag.

With just that one glimpse, I could already imagine what was going on.

“Where do I sign?” the office lady urged. I was sure she also saw the scene but chose to mind her own business.

“Sign here, ma’am. Thank you for your patron. Please come again.”

Though, she would not be going anywhere in this weather.

The coworker brought the price tag to the cashier. The broken ornament was a miniature ship-in-a-bottle, an expensive one at that.

“I’m scared. I’m…so scared. I have never seen a mother like her before”, she confessed in shaking tone.

“I have but it is beyond my jurisdiction to obstruct their right”, I said.

Truth is, I would like to. But, all of us lived in a culture where parents owned the exclusive right to educate their children in however manner they wanted; however cruel they might seem to Westerners. It was also in this culture that we grew numb to the suffering of those around us.

The boy nervously approached the cashier, weeping in suppressed hiccups. His mother loomed behind him. She had this angry and worrisome expression as she drew a small nylon wrapped roll of crumpled cash from her pocket.

“Pardon me, madam, sir. But…this is all I have…for today”, she said.

From her hesitation, I realized it must have been difficult for her to lay the little money she had on her in front of us. That realization brought great awkwardness to both me and my coworker.

“I’ll bring the rest of the money tomorrow…and the day after”, she pleaded.

My coworker winced.

The young boy froze, his breaths hastened and so did his hiccups. He understood what was happening, didn’t he? He must have.

“Excuse me, I would like to pay for these too”, the office lady from before returned to the cashier with more books. Language learning and art books for the young man who was then with her.

From her conversations with this young man in his twenty, he must have been the office lady’s son. They indulged in idle chatters, about Franz Kafka’s memoir, about the magnum opus “No Longer Human” of Dazai Osamu on display at the highlight section near the entrance.

The weeping boy looked at the office lady and his son. His hiccups got louder and faster.

“Shut up”, his mother gave him a slap. He clammed up and shriveled.

This time, I was sure the office lady had noticed this woman who was so cruel to a kid. The lady’s expression barely changed, her gaze paused on the boy for a moment, but soon broke off and resumed the chatter with her son. The young man paid no attention to other people, seemingly in deep debate whether to purchase yet another classic book–Shouwa Anthology–now or order it later for online retail discount.

“I can’t watch this anymore”, my coworker said, discreetly gesturing toward the abusive mother, “You deal with her, okay?”

Then, she turned to the office lady and moved her books to another counter, informing: “This way, madam. Sorry for the wait. Do you have a coupon?…”

And so, I was left alone with the penniless mother and her weeping son.

“Dis-discount! Can you give me a discount?”

“This is a bookstore, not a flea market. We don’t bargain here”, I said.

She let out a long sigh.

Hesitantly, I looked through the coupons in my drawer. There was a glimmer of hope, expectant daze in her eyes for a moment as I did so. But, I found nothing of such natures. I shook my head and she let out another sigh. After that, she turned to her son.

“Look at what you have done, you son of a bitch. You’re just like your useless father”, she screeched and started beating her son again in front of everyone.

I noticed the office lady was watching in great discomfort. Her son had left to buy a cheap rain poncho from a nearby store. When he returned, the lady urged him to go home despite the rain continuing to pellet the windshield of cars on the street. They left in haste as though running away from a natural disaster.

My coworker also retreated to the end of toys section. No one wanted to have anything to do with this terrible woman. At this point, I too could stop pretending to be sympathetic. I was getting tired of her treatment toward her own son.

“Is that your bike?” I asked, pointing to the bike parked at the porch; the only one that was there, possibly because she did not want to pay the parking fee. “I’m afraid we’ll have to seize it until this–I motioned to the broken item–is fully compensated”, so I said.

Indeed this didn’t feel right. It felt terrible taking money from this woman. But, it was either her day’s worth of work, perhaps many days’ worth of work, or my shift’s worth of work.

“No!”

She snatched the money on the cashier and burst out onto the porch.

“Stop her!” I shouted.

But, despite the flood and the traffic, the woman was gone as soon as I got to the door. She disappeared into the rain like a phantom, leaving only the young boy behind as proof of her existence.

The boy waited alone till the bookstore’s closing hours. His mother did not return for him and his cry drew attention from passersby. As expected, these people were aware of the situation. After the woman ran away, they began to discuss openly about her abusive behavior. They comforted the boy, they gave him food and talked to him.

We turned the boy to the police along with the security footage of his deserted mother. I thought that would be the end of it. Yet, early in the morning of the next day that I received a phone call from the bookstore. It was not on the clock that day.

“Hello? There’s a crazy woman here asking about her son. Do you know anything about her?”

“…”

I was speechless.

“Tell her she doesn’t deserve to be a parent.”

“Wait! I have the money here. All of it. The money…”

“That is not the problem, is it?” I said.

“My baby girl…she was starving last night. I needed to get home and feed her. I couldn’t afford to walk. I know I don’t deserve to be a mother but…Look, I sold my bike, I have the money now. I want my son back. My children are all I have left…”

I could not speak. The words did not come out.

“Hello?”

“Stay right there, I’m coming”, I told her and hang up.

At the porch, she was waiting. In her arms was a baby wrapped in rags. She held the money in her hand, the same hand that pressed her daughter into a tender embrace. Her body swayed in the chilling morning breeze, her head rocked up and down as her bagged eyes fought off drowsiness.

“Hey!” I tapped her shoulder to wake her up.

“My son! Where is he? Here’s the money, take it! Take it!”

“Calm down. Listen to me. Listen…”

“How can I calm down? Where’s my son? I want him back”, she cried.

The baby was waken up and started crying loudly.

“Shut up, shut up, you little bitch!” she shouted at the baby, shaking up and down violently.

“Stop it!” I gripped her arms and forcefully stopped the shaking, “They are your flesh and blood! Why are you treating your children like that?”

“That’s none of your business!” she snapped.

I gritted my teeth, “Then you have no right to know where your son is”, I said.

She gasps for air, then a few mournful hics and finally lowered her head.

I let out a long sigh.

Her husband was a big better on cockfighting. Whenever his cock lost a fight, he would go home and beat her up out of spite. Whenever his cock won a fight, he would go out drinking with his buddies till he ran out of money and then he would go home at three in the morning to beat her up. When he was drunk, he would try to kill his own children as well.

“I prefer him losing…if so, he would spare my son and daughter”, she confided.

“You should call the police when that happens…”

“I don’t have money to bribe the police”, she cracked a bitter smile, “I tried that”, she added.

I sighed again. Then, I took from my wallet a large sum of money and a business card.

“You have money now, and a lawyer”, I extended the items to her.

“I can’t take your money. You worked hard for it.”

“This is not my money”, I paused to consider my wording a bit, “This is your son’s money”.

“Eh?”

“After you ran away yesterday, some people in the bookstore donated food and money to help him. They already paid the compensation in full and this is merely the surplus. Your son is at the police station. You can have this money on one condition: that you will take good care of your children from now on.”

“I-I will. Of course, of course I will!”

I shoved the money into her hand, wrapped her fingers around it and parted ways with these last words:

“I know you will.”

 

White Destiny #12 (Rev 4)

Katherine did ponder in silence for a long time. She was given the captain’s arm guard and the reins of the princess’s horse and the instruction to retreat. The answer, “Yes, Your Highness”, could not have come any later.

The street of Ironheart was desolated. Not just in Rosenberg district but everywhere in the city. The moon had reached the end of its cycle and a new one had begun as the crackles of fire and the heavy footsteps of the dragon took the attention away from the flares of horn atop the Ruby Garden castle.

It was moon thirteen. There was no more whimpers in these parts of the town. There were only embers and burning corpses on the street.

“Tell me, Price. Who did this?” Lilia asked.

“Alexander D’Amore, Your Highness.”

“I see…so the witch did this too,” she concluded.

Father Felacia cringed but said nothing. He averted eyes when Leo tried to make eye contact.

“I can’t believe it! You are still going to cover Alex!? What must he do before you can start throwing up arms and say “I’m done with his crap, let him die now”?”

“Calm down, Leo. I’m sure she has an explanation–”

The inventor smacked the bishop’s hand away. His blood was boiling.

“Calm down? That bastard stole my sketches, beat me up, destroyed my favorite part of town and killed my best friend in an afternoon. How dare you tell me to calm down?”

“I have to agree with him. We have to draw a line somewhere. Alex’s behavior is inexcusable and he should face punishment for his deeds”, the deacon voiced his opinion.

“Thank you for having a shred of common sense, Father Graham.”

“Both of you, listen to me!” the princess clapped her hands to draw attention, “If words got out that Ironheart was in possession of lightning pipes, the problem would not end with just D’Amore. We all would be facing the wrath of His Excellency and I assure you, you do not want to go down the path Fa’el went.”

Her voice was solemn. This was no laughing matter.

“Pardon me, princess, did you just say lightning pipes!?” Father Graham gasped.

“This is insane!” Leo exclaimed.

“Is this for real? Father Felacia, do you know about this?”

Father Felacia hung his head, and then he began to speak:

“Sir Richard keeps a small arsenal of magical artifacts, including lightning pipes and some Fa’elin relics, for the day the witch attacks Ironheart. His Excellency would never agree to this but, the baron has his reasons.”

“Lord helps us all”, the deacon uttered.

“Lord helps us all indeed”, the princess nodded.

“I understand the reasons but I don’t agree with the approach. I believe it is better that we speak the truth and beg His Excellency–”

“If you are not going to trial Alex then get out of my way–”

“The dragon saw the pipe, how should we–”

“Quiet! Quiet! One person at a time!” Lilia smacked her hand across the inventor’s and the deacon’s chests.

“You hit me, you insolent woman!” the deacon reacted, grabbing her arm and throwing her off balance.

“Hand off the princess, Father Graham!” the bishop stepped in, trying to break them off.

Major repulsive.

Impervious. Major ponderous.

The situation escalated. The princess shoved her rosary in the deacon’s face and cast a spell. Father Graham’s body was catapulted into the air. But, he was quick to counter with a spell that made himself unbelievably heavy. His weight caused the pebble road under his feet to crack. Then, his pace hastened as he activated the third spell:

Nimble.

He dashed toward the princess for a flying kick, which failed spectacularly and he ended up in a sink hole caused by a wordless Crumble spell.

Obstreperous“, Lilia tossed a small stone into the sink hole and cast “Minor magnificent.

The stone quickly grew into a boulder.

Obstreperous“, Father Graham lifted the princess’s spell and the stone shrank to its original size. “Overflow“, the earth multiplied beneath him. The sink hole was filled to the brim and the deacon was on even ground again in seconds.

“You want me dead”, Father Graham remarked.

“Lese majesty is a crime punishable by death”, Lilia affirmed.

“Antique laws are not enforceable in a republic.”

“We shall see.”

“Both of you, cut it out!” Father Felacia cried.

“Uh…Felacia…”

“Not now, Leo!”

“The dragon is watching…”

The dragon was eyeing them from atop the obsidian obelisk. It was quietly spectating and letting out a few hisses when the bishop saw it.

The bad blood between the princess and the deacon had reached its peak. The two adversaries dashed head-on at each other and simultaneously chanted the combo:

Repulsive. Magnificent. Convergent

Both mages launched an enlarged stone as the base of their attack. The princess added an extra Crumble and Magnificent component to multiply the base stone into a meteor shower. The deacon reinforced his attack with Impervious and Magnificent. His boulder could easily resist the princess’s meteor shower but…

Obstreperous.

It was vulnerable to spell breakers.

Nimble.

Father Graham imbued his feet with the speed of the wind, he blazed through the incoming projectiles and snatched the rosary from the princess’s hand. His body withstood the debris field without a single scratch.

“Check, mate”, he declared.

Splendid. Fazegaid! Arc mul tasa, gondres faye!

The princess chanted in an ominous voice amplified by Splendid spell.

“What? Hand-free magic? Obstreperous.”

Fazegaid! Arc mul tasa, gondres faye!

The dragon perked its head and shifted its eyes toward Lilia. It let loose a ferocious roar and launched itself at the deacon. Its claws shattered a transparent barrier surrounding the deacon and scratched the deacon’s Impervious skin.

Father Graham was caught by surprise. He barely had any time to dodge but he barely managed it. The dragon opened its mouth and exhaled a stream of earth-scorching fire at close-quarter range.

Major Cryophilic“, the deacon and the bishop cried at the same time. Their combined magic kept the deacon safe but it was slowly being pushed back by the dragon’s fire.

Fazegaid! Raset guro! Raset imme!” Leo shouted, desperately trying to persuade the dragon to let the deacon go.

Splendid. Fazegaid! Raset guro! Raset imme!” Father Felacia repeated the same line. This time, the dragon listened to him and backed off.

The language the elder dragon of Azeth–the eater of realms Fazegaid–could understand was Gondrash. Gondrash was an ancient language that made up at least two thirds of the magic tomes in Fa’el’s Grand Library of Prism. The people of Fa’el worshiped a dragon-god that carried their kingdom on its back and Gondrash used to be their official language before Fa’elan, a modern language based on Ashlorian’s alphabet, was adopted.

After the fall of Fa’el, only a handful of people in the world could speak Gondrash. Two of them resided in Ironheart: the archbishop’s disciple, Lilia Silverflow, and the master of linguistics, Leonardo di Price.

But it seemed Fazegaid only took orders from mages.

“Stand down, Lilia. That’s far enough. By the power vested in me, I void your seat in the Church of the Spirit. You are to pack your belongings and leave the church before the end of this moon.”

The princess tried to open her mouth but the bishop gave her no chance to talk back:

“You should know better than anyone else that there is no justification for attempted murder. If you want to embrace the barbaric way, either join the red-helm knights or wait until after your coronation”, Father Felacia ruled.

“And as for you, Father Graham”, the bishop turned to the singed but not dead deacon, “You can stop attending Silverflow meetings starting today.”

“Fine, whatever…” Father Graham lay on his back and stared up the nose of a dragon many times greater than he was. He contemplated for a while, soaking from top to bottom in its healing saliva before he finally spoke his mind aloud:

“Hey, linguist! Come and teach me dragon-tongue sometimes.”

Highlight: Spring 2017 anime season

Tsuki ga Kirei header 2
“I want to tell her that no matter how far apart we are, my feelings for her will never change” — Kotarou Azumi

Two years of blogging seasonal reviews and I have yet to see any anime season as powerful as this season. Three shows made it to the top for their successful delivery of one awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping moment. It is always delightful to watch the story slowly building up to that decisive moment, and to see the climax being executed beautifully.

Erwin, you glorious bastard! Advance!

But not everyone can stomach eleven episodes of slow burns for that one explosive moment. Thankfully, Spring 2017 also features stories that deliver mini-climaxes every few episodes. Boku no Hero Academia (HeroAca), Sagrada Reset and Tsuki ga Kirei got this strategy nailed. In term of writing quality, I must say HeroAca and Tsuki ga Kirei are on equal footings. But, highlight goes to the latter because HeroAca is still ongoing and it is difficult to judge an incomplete show.

And then, there’s the nostalgia trio Clockwork Planet, Little Witch Academia and Tsugumomo whose character interactions and art styles are so dated, they give off the vibe of shounen anime in the 90s. I can’t complain, at least they fared the test of time much better than Warau Salesman did.

Seasonal Selection
Show Expectation Rating
Tsuki ga Kirei Star Highlight (1)
Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii Desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii Desu ka? Question mark Highlight (2)
Boku no Hero Academia Cash cow Decent (Pending)
Shingeki no Kyojin ss2 Cash cow Decent (Pending)
Sagrada Reset Star Decent (Pending)
Eromanga-sensei Star Decent
Sekaisuru Kado Question mark Decent
Re-Creators Star Decent (Pending)
Clockwork Planet Question mark Decent
Little Witch Academia Star Decent
Tsugumomo Star Decent
Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records Question mark Mediocre
Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho Star Mediocre
Alice to Zouroku Old dog Mediocre
Warau Salesman Old dog Nope
Highlight: Tsuki ga Kirei
(As the moon, so beautiful)

Tsuki ga Kirei is a poetic romance novel set in modern time. The story revolves around two junior high students, Kotarou Azumi and Akane Mizuno, as they meet and grow attracted to each other. It is a slice of life story about growing up, seeking common grounds, supporting one another and pursuing dreams.

In a sense, Tsuki ga Kirei is the purest manifestation of classical literature in anime form. It retains the subtlety and intricacy of classical literature.

Characters are recognized by their personality traits and less obvious differences in body shape rather than princess Cotton Candy’s hair color, eye color or her over-saturated accessories. Plus, for once, common sense is actually common in anime and realism is actually…realism and not grim dark masquerading realism.

Tsuki ga Kirei snapshot
Body language says it all

Its greatest strength lies in its ability to capitalize on body language in storytelling. Strategically placed shots of minute changes in gestures and expressions speak louder than internal monologue, actions speak louder than spoken words; and where spoken words are called for, they are natural and casual.

Show, don’t tell” is a storytelling rule often forgotten in modern writing. It is all too easy to write a dialogue (internal or vocal) that says “I’m so nervous” but it is much harder to convey the same idea using actions. Tsuki ga Kirei managed to pull this off in its animation, its character interactions and voice acting: fidgeting, having stiff posture, conversational hiccups and becoming easily startled.

If I have to draw a parallel, Tsuki ga Kirei is the junior high version of Rakugo Shinjuu, with more focus on romance than death. Both shows use monologue device sparingly, both shows manage to capture real conversation (with all its flaws and hiccups), and both shows put great emphasis on body language.

It is not just the gut feeling that tells me the show is thriving to be a work of classical literature. The show makes explicit references to what it wants to be. The poetic title “Tsuki ga Kirei”, the quotes from classical author Dazai Osamu, the male lead is striving to be an author in “serious literature”, and the author’s not-so-subtle allusion to the dreadful distinction between serious literature and light novel.

TsukiKirei_snapshot2
How I feel when the credits roll.

In term of memorable scenes, I can’t put my finger on one particular in the show. There are simply too many of them: the night scene at the shrine, the one at the park, the one in the bookstore, the one under the rain, that one at the festival, that other one before the exam, that other other one by the riverside, and that last one on the train. They are all accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack for completion.

Studio feel. lived up to their name. Every week, I feel nostalgic as I watch a shy boy and a shy girl trying to start a conversation (there was a time, I was in their shoes, oh these times when just being there together would be enough, words did not matter). I feel the warmth rising in my heart as I watch Kotarou’s parents quietly supporting him chasing his dream. I feel joy when their relationship reaches a new stage. I feel frustrated when things did not go their way.

And, I feel sad that the show is over.

Highly recommended for those who want a good slice of life romance. Extra recommendations for those who are still recovering from the heart break that is 5 Centimeters per Second. This show is essentially the hopeful version of that depressing movie.

Runner up: Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii Desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii Desu ka?
(WorldEnd: What are you doing at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?)

Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii Desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii Desu ka? (SukaSuka) embraces a different strategy to remain competitive. The show bets everything on the finale. It has one climax, one big climax instead of lots of many small ones. The show in its entirety is a long build up for that one epic finale and, by the fact that this show made it on top of Shingeki no Kyojin season 2 so far, its bold investment paid off.

The show is about a post-apocalyptic world where child soldiers fairies are born to fight monsters and die in battle. One such a fairy, Chtholly, begins to develop feelings for her caretaker Willem and…well, like that is going to end well ever.

Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasuka Isogashii Desuka Sukutte Moratte Ii Desuka snapshot
Bombastic, graceful and grievous at the same time. Dammit, where’s my jaw?

Very similar to Narcissu‘s premise, SukaSuka, for all intents and purposes, is straightforward; painfully so. It has small twists here and there though these are rather predictable twists. The viewers are given the ending from the get go and they get exactly what they expected. Straightforwardness is an appeal, not a flaw, and I can name a good number of highly regarded shows in which the audience can see how things go down from miles away.

*cough*One Punch Man*cough*

Watching SukaSuka is like reading Narcissu all over again. The parallel is so great. Both shows start with the declaration that the main characters are not going to survive the ending. Both show draw inspirations from the conflict between the dying patient and the care taker. And…both shows have that one place where the residents all have their days numbered.

These kinds of story do one thing exceptionally well: turning innocent and joyful moments into melancholy and heart bleed.

Unlike Narcissu, however SukaSuka really did spend all its capital on the finale. It is a combination of heroic sacrifice, last stand ending, scenery porn, graceful yet badass animation and right-on-the-theme soundtrack. Right, I didn’t mention the poetic exchange between Cththolly and Willem in that last moment, which resonates with the story behind Scarborough Fair song, gives light to which memories these characters felt most endearing, at the same time contrasting their views on her sacrifice.

In other words, the finale packs more layers of information than that meets the eyes. It blows every other scene in this series, and some in other series, out of the water and takes the cake for the best scripted finale this season. It is one of those franchise-defining moments that will linger in mind for a long, long time.

Although, other than the finale, I find the build up not so impressive. It is decent but not great. I recommend SukaSuka for those who seek a fond memory, not recommend for those who are looking for a great overall viewing experience.

Special mention: Sekaisuru Kado
(KADO: The right answer)

Sekaisuru Kado tried to be different. It’s been a long time since I last saw a story on friendly alien contact. For a change, the aliens would be the reasonable and civilized ones and humans are the true monsters. For a change, negotiation and the voice of reason would be mankind’s greatest weapon and not tanks, jets, nukes, laser cannons, power suits or giant robots.

That was the premise Sekaisuru Kado tried to sell at the start. A professional–the best there is–diplomat, Koujirou Shindo takes on an unknown anisotropic life form named Yaha-kui zaShunina whose goal is to remove the limitations of nature on the potential of mankind.

But turn out, this is just another case of misleading advertisement. There were power suits, there were evil alien overlord, there was no negotiation. As soon as a second “native” alien life form appeared to defend the traditional life and exposed the seemingly zaShuina’s hidden agenda to…(you guessed it!) destroy humanity in the most convoluted manner possible, I know the show is not salvageable.

Going mainstream is NOT the right answer.

In the end, despite the jarring, all CGI, art style and the broken writing in the later parts, Sekaisuru Kado did two things right: its soundtrack and its final plot twist. While I still have mixed feelings about the resolution, the twist did surprise both Yaha-kui zaShunina and myself. Do I recommend the show? No. I’m only mentioning this because I’m genuinely pained to see this much potential going down the drain.

At least Sekaisuru Kado has some redeeming qualities. Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho, with all of its lost potential, has zero.

White Destiny #11 (Rev 4)

The count’s hired swords knew there would be no easy victory against the red-helm knights. The two elite knights versus fifteen mercenaries, full-body plate armor versus overwhelming number, and a life time of training for war versus a life time of fighting for survival was the premise. Mallets smashed into sturdy bucklers, swords met unbreakable gauntlets and within seconds, first blood was drawn.

Two elite knights versus fourteen mercenaries was the new premise.

Steve the ironsmith charged into the fray, a tower shield in each of his hand. A morning star landed on his back, he flinched and paused to glare at the man at the handle-end of the spiked steel ball. His unarmored back shrugged off the hit; he got away with only indentations and no blood.

The man fumbled on his ass and dropped his weapon. His eyes widened, complexion turned pale as more and more of his friends were cut down all around him. Blood dripped and gathered in ponds around the knights’ feet. The mercenary, stuttering “monsters, monsters” in snorts and tears, crawled on all four and scrambled for the exit.

The fight had been brutal but it was far from over. Back to back, the knights fended off six assailants at once. The ironsmith stood his ground and prevented the remainder of the mercenaries from en massing the knights.

Amid the chaos, Alexander D’Amore drew from a leather pouch a brown gold cylinder, roughly half a fist-wide in diameter, and aimed the cylinder at the knights.

The inventor looked up. His lips felt the moist and saltiness of blood bleeding out from a glass cut across his cheek. But, the cold running up his spine did not come from blood loss; it came from the sight of a lightning pipe Alex was holding between his long, slender fingers.

Alexander D’Amore had his fingers wrapped around the side of a cylindrical artifact. Safety lid was off. His thumb curved on the trigger switch at the enclosed butt of the pipe. A lightning ray captured in a pipe was an instrument of war unique to Fa’elin civilization. It set forth a lightning force as mighty as a platoon of war mages. It was a terrifying weapon, the only known weapon capable of melting a dragon’s scale that could be wielded by anyone, even a toddler.

Electricity surged from inside the pipe. Magic runes sealing the lightning ray unraveled. Lightning arced from cracks on the pipe’s surface to metal objects nearby. An invisible hemispherical barrier protected the wielder and everything behind him from the leaking lightning force. Then, the barrier rapidly contracted, folding inward toward the business’s end of the pipe, concentrating lightning into a bubble of boiling power.

Leo knew he had to stop this mad man. He leaped and tackled Alex right after the lightning pipe was set off. He was a split second too late.

Steve dashed in front of the knights and put two layers of shields between them and the lightning ray. Mastercraft steel was no match for the bottled up force of nature. Like a hot knife through butter, the lightning ray melted clean through two tower shields, the ironsmith’s torso and all the way through the captain’s plate armor, chain mail, gambeson and flesh. It destroyed the brick wall behind them, continued punching through several market stalls and only stopped when it struck the jet black obsidian pillar at the central square three building blocks away.

The shock wave following the lightning wrecked further havoc. It swept everything in its path hundreds of meters away and turned debris into deadly projectiles.

There were screams of anguish but none could be heard.

Vertigo, deafness and shock set in as the loudest thunderclap ever struck a human’s ear erupted. Even the man who caused his scene was dumbfounded by the destruction. Never before had a lightning pipe been discharged in urban area and, as the dusts settled down, it became painfully clear why lightning pipe was banned even as a siege weapon.

Alex yanked his leg off Leo’s grip and disappeared into the alleyways. No one could stop him then.

Shortly after the thunderclap announced the massacre to the world, the elder dragon of Azeth emerged from the clouds and landed near the obsidian pillar. It sank its jaw into the pillar, carving out the dead lightning ray, tiny in comparison to its size, and eating the creature on the spot.

Those who were not killed by the lightning, debris, or concussion suffered deep cuts, broken bones, skin burns and severe paralysis. They badly needed help but no help would come when a dragon as tremendous as the Ruby Garden castle itself laid claim of the territory.

The city guards watched from afar a great flame set by the lightning ray spreading over the district, consuming house after house, survivor after survivor. They were powerless, insignificant dirt under the claws of a mythical presence.

The dragon’s snake-like, elliptical pupils instill a fear so primal, it was paralyzing to those who caught glimpse of these eyes. The titanic form of this winged creature could be seen all over Ironheart. Its shadow plunged three nearby districts into total darkness.

Leonardo di Price had witnessed death and destruction before; after all, he was an herbalist and war architect; but never had he witnessed death and destruction of this closeness and scale. His body trembled uncontrollably, hair straightened, vision blurred, head drummed the pain of a thousand pecking, and his ears, dysfunctional.

“Oh God…oh—”

He shoved a hand over his mumbling mouth. This was not the time to call God. He must find…his allies.

“Steve!” he shouted.

No response. And, he could not hear his own voice; it felt awkward.

“Steve!” he tried again.

If there were a response, he would not be able to hear it. But he pressed on shouting.

“Josh! Kather—”

He stumbled upon a detached left arm of a knight. The shredded arm guard embroidered in golden threads told him this belonged to the captain. A large chunk of the torso still clung to the arm though it was sizzling and smelled like roasted ham.

In the rubble across the street he spotted movements. His eyes, then cleared up and no longer blurred, darted to the source of the movements. There stood Katherine, lumbering away from a crumbling wall.

“Katherine!” he shouted.

She kept on walking across his field of vision, removing her red helm and cast it on the ground as she did. Then, she removed her gauntlets and hastened the pace.

His eyes shifted, he finally saw what she was seeing.

“Cap…captain…”

He saw her lips mumbled these words. He too dragged his feet toward the corpse of the knight captain.

Joshua’s torso was almost gone. His armor was glowing red hot around the edges. There was no blood; everything inside him was cooked alive.

Katherine must have realized this too when she touched him. Her hands retracted from the heat by reflex. Agony and desperation were her descriptive words; she kept trying to pry the plate armor off his flesh.

Finally, the inventor stepped in. He grabbed her hand before she hurt herself further. She lifted her chin to look at him. The terror on her face was indescribable.

For a moment, there was a glimmer of hope in her eyes. Now, it was her turn to grab him. She grabbed his wrists, her mouth moved as if telling him something. His hearing had yet to recover and he could not make sense of her stuttering mumble jumble.

Stuttering mumble jumble was the only classification he could tell from reading her lips.

But she was shoving his hands into the captain’s red hot armor. Her grip strength was tremendous; his wrists felt like they could snap like twigs and he could not break free. It was as bad as it looked.

“I am an herbalist, not a god! I can’t bring back the dead.”

Dammit. She could not hear anything he said. She kept pulling his hands into molten metal.

“Gahh! Let go! I say let go!”

His fists touched the hot surface. He yanked harder and harder. Suddenly, before he knew it, he was able to overcome the knight’s strength and she toppled on top of him.

Salubrious. Minor Inflammable.

He could hear again.

A female voice announced two magic spells; the latter he recognized burned the remnant of Captain Joshua to ashes. Then a male voice announced the third spell:

Cryophilic.

Leo knew these voices.

In the darkened backdrop of embers and smokes; the silvery rosaries the bishop, the deacon and the princess wore seemed bindingly bright in his eyes. The city had dispatched all their magicians; the ones whose wield the rare gift of magic. Each of these mages could take on a legion of knights and emerge victorious.

The captain was no more; only his armor remained. Katherine continued to cry, digging her hands in the ashes that used to be the knight captain.

“On your feet, Katherine Livingston!” the princess commanded, “I hereby name you captain of red helm guard and grant you permission to take my horse.”

Her stern voice resounded and bore grandeur similar to that of the baron. Princess Lilia descended to ground level and shoved the reins in Katherine’s hand.

“Take her and make sure she reaches the castle safely.”

Tree tower

So after 10 weeks, White Destiny’s weekly releases stopped. I took a week off to go on vacation and I never got down to writing the story again. Writer’s block happened and now I’m stuck writing filler short stories instead.

Anyhow, on my vacation, I finally decided to make a big purchase and bought a drawing pad home. Sort of like a special souvenir that will remind me of the trip every time I use it. I originally planned to surprise you guys with some illustrations of the novel, but I ran into some issues with drivers and pen pressure, and I ended up tossing that idea asides as well.

Today, I came back to the tablet and somehow made the pen driver works (hooray!). So, I just took a random photo lying around the reference folder and drew a sketch of it. Can anyone recognize where this photo is taken?

Treetower_sketch