White Destiny #6 (Rev 4)

It was moon twelve when Leo returned to the Academy. Once again, the only person who ever bothered to make an appointment to meet him was the bishop.

Father Felacia was displeased.

More than half of the plants he and the agriculturist planted the other moon had withered. Dead plants had to be dug out and replaced with new ones. They could then be left to dry in the wind and turned into hays.

The bishop could not see the point but Leo could.

Hays were scarce even when the barns were empty. The horses and oxen of caravans that passed by the city consumed hays. The roofs and flooring of poorer homes were still made of hays. And if selling was not his thing, the bishop could still make bed rolls, winter hats and winter coats for the homeless who sought refuge in the church.

If the brittle corpse of a frozen rat was of any indication, winter this year had been most cruel on all kinds. As such, demand for insulators like straw bale was at all-time high. There were all sorts of uses for hays and the listing only stopped when Father Felacia frowned upon “make-shift burial shroud” idea.

But the point stood. As little of a demand for animal feed, there was a demand for hays. As long as demand exceeded supply, there would be scarcity. Where there was scarcity, there would be profit.

Under the glass roof and oil lanterns of the greenhouse, the agriculturist and the bishop had started grafting the first batch of Midnight Virgin from the seeds they got.

For the first attempt, they planted the seeds and grafted the sprouts onto a variety of host plants. It had been five moons since and not a single one of the shoots grew into a full stem. The hosts were killed as well.

“Rotten to the core…Inventor, your seeds are demon hell spawns. Rotten to the core! Rotten to the core!” grumbled the old agriculturist as she crushed a seed between her nails.

Granny Annabel was the grumpiest woman in Ironheart. Perhaps she was so grumpy, neither Death nor a gentleman would take her away. Like the wines brewed from her harvests, she aged well with time. She still walked upright and tilled the land herself. Her body had gotten shaky, though, and she could not scoop up fragile sprouts herself.

That was why she had Father Felacia help her in the garden. With a brass trowel in hand, the bishop dug into a rectangular tray of dirt and carried Midnight Virgin sprouts over to their new home. In front of him was a walled garden of exotic plants, behind him, some more stacks of the same wooden trays.

Grafting frozen stems was no more than a shot in the dark. Therefore, the agriculturist decided to leave them alone for the time being. According to Annabel, the idea of growing more stems by grafting a stem is ludicrous. It was especially true for herbs as she explained.

“They die after flowering, you idiot. Grafting a stem is the same as praying for a split and harvest the stems before they flower and die. And that you froze them didn’t help”.

In the second attempt, she would replant half of the sprouts and graft the other half onto other herbs. She had plenty of “champion” breeds—those that could survive the most blighted farms in Ironheart—but she would run out of Midnight Virgin sprouts soon.

For this next batch, she had ordered a wagon of soil from the fertile lands in Merlock at her own expenses. Water used in irrigation was alchemically treated until they glittered in minerals. She had gone as far as having a priest bless each and every plant in the garden every moon already, might as well go all-out hereon, so she said.

And that blessing part left Father Felacia exhausted every moon while that water part would take up most of Leo’s day every other moon.

But she made those seeds sprouted outside of the Dark Forest and that in itself is a remarkable feat.

“You can try grafting a stem anyways. A chance is a chance. You still get back the stem in the worst case scenario so it doesn’t hurt going for double.”

Annabel hissed. “I’m not doing it. You do it”, she snapped at him.

Leo shrugged. If it was the case, he would just make potions out of the stems. He turned on his heel and headed to the nearest exit.

“Where are you going? You are supposed to treat the water. This is your problem I’m solving, don’t you forget that!”

What an annoying woman.

“I’m getting reagents and tools,” he said.

“Use the alchemist’s quarter next door.”

“I don’t have the key, granny. I’m not the alchemist this week.”

Granny Annabel snorted. Posing a sneer, she informed:

“Son, I know losers don’t get a key. But frets not, Lilia is in there. Ask her to let you in.”

News from Ashlora – Apr/2017

For this monthly News from Ashlora issue, I’ll provide an overview of Revision 4 and how White Destiny project is being crafted.

REVISION TIMELINE

Let’s talk about revisions. Revisions happen when a significant portion of the plot changes. Below is an overview of the timeline for each revision so far.

White Destiny timeline_rev4

For White Destiny, the first revision adapted the events from the original assassin games into story format. It still included a number of game elements such as Truth Serum, the Illuminati and the Vatican factions. The key conflict was between the witch plus Illuminati and the church. The “call to adventure” was the summoning of the horsemen of apocalypse and the unsealing of the seven Obelisks. The story in first revision started after angel summoning event and the early stages of Azeth’s rebellion.

The second revision expanded the universe, the character baron and priestess made their first debut in this revision. The city of Ironheart was introduced (previously, the entire scope was set within Azeth only). The main conflict and call to adventure remained the same from the first revision.  The story here started from before the bishop’s death event which set the stage for the princess and the witch’s encounter in God’s mercy (rev 2).

The third revision shifted the focus from the witch to the princess, with an attempt to exclude angel, demon and the likes from the plot. The main conflict revolves around the war for territory or “magic domain” between the witch and the archbishop, and the princess’s attempt to thwart the inventor’s Azeth-Ironheart war scheme. The story started a short while after the witch and the princess’s meeting and it was intended to last longer than the final battle between the witch and the archbishop.

Finally, the latest revision culled all cheese angel-demon-holy-war elements from the original game. Unlike all previous revisions, revision 4 is set on an entirely different timeline, starting with the dragon’s attack on the witch’s hut as the call to adventure all the way to the end of war and beyond. The focus of this revision is the inventor, his war scheme and the results of the princess’s meddling as established in rev 3.

I hope this recap clarifies the convoluted and confusing story excerpts I’ve been posting so far.

DRAFTING STAGES

This section explains the goals and purposes of each draft in my writing process. I intend to share this process as guidance for interested writer-to-be out there; by informing them the kind of serious business they’re signing up for. Who ever said editing a manuscript is only about proofreading and spellchecking? Plot doctoring and story crafting are serious business.

In the first draft, I’ll perform a number of revisions in order to determine a logical timeline for all events in the story, as well as a rough outline of the scenes. A viable example of a first draft scene can be as simple as…

The inventor wakes up in Steve’s forge. The place is unbelievably hot“.

First draft is guarantee to be flawed in one way or another. Plot holes can occur. Unexplained information can happen. While I write, I often move passages and change the way I introduce a given piece of information and then completely forget to put that piece of information back in before it’s needed. The prime example of this, I’ve only noticed recently, is the information on the three factions in Silverflow Council. I originally had a passage in scene #2 to explain how the votes in Silverflow Council were distributed among three factions:

“Born a woman of the prestige Silverflow family, she were given four permanent seats in the council—half of those given to the Ruby Garden—the moment her gender was determined. Within the Silverflow family, only female could succeed the crown.
In her twenties, she studied clergy under the Archbishop’s guidance and earned a priestess title in the Church of the Saint. When she returned to Ironheart, her clergy privileges were transferred to the local Church of the Spirit and this earned her two seats from to the church. Later on, she became more active in Silverflow Academy and had recently snatched the rank of master in Alchemy from Leo. She also claimed her eighth vote in the council in Wizardry in the same year. Not from Leo, of course, but from the old court wizard of Solaris Observatory who had gone missing recently”

The above passage did not make it to blog release. Without this explanation, some of the vote counting and name (title) calling in scene #3 can be hard to understand. I obviously know the purpose and reason behind all the interactions as I’m the author, but the readers won’t.

This is why in the second draft, I aim to address this information discrepancy and make appropriate changes so that readers can understand what they’re supposed to understand. This is also when I place foreshadows, hints and bread crumbs so that readers don’t feel I’m pulling a fast one on them. This step usually involves alpha readers who are willing to go in dry, focusing more on the character, world building and plot holes than on the presentation, storytelling and whatnot.

Third draft makes the second draft manuscript more pleasing to the eye. That means lots of purple prose, scenery porn and audio-visual. The sample line I mentioned in first draft would look a bit like the following after third draft

“Sometime after the council meeting, Leo found himself occupying the carpentry table at Steve’s.

In the air was the sizzling of blue steel in white water, the crackles of red flame on dark charcoals, and the rumble of hammer hoisted above the chestnut hair on black anvil. The building was crazy hot. Wood splinters dug themselves into his back. Yet, when he was dead-exhausted, they were surprisingly pleasant.”

And yes, the scenes I published in this WordPress blog do contain some third draft’s quality elements but the quality is not uniform across the board. Many elements are still at bare bone first draft’s quality, only a few easy ones I can come up with right away have third draft’s quality. The official third draft brings the quality of every element in the story up to a uniform degree, unlike the unevenness we have in blog releases.

Finally, I’ll go over the manuscript another time with a surgical knife to make the cut. The idea here is to trim the excesses so that the writing is more “show than tell”. Some of the explanations added in second drafts will also be changed or removed if I deem the implications are sufficient and the readers are smart enough to connect the dots themselves. In the third-draft passage above, my fourth draft’s cut is the line

The building was crazy hot

as all the audio-visual cues are already pointing to that idea, it’s excessive to repeat the point outright here.

Geez, I hope I didn’t scare any greenhorns…

We’ll have another News from Ashlora issue in the next two weeks (so soon!), in which I’ll stop being so meta and finally talk about what exactly is going on in Ashlora nowadays.

 

White Destiny #5 (Rev 4)

CHAPTER 2: THE FROG CAN’T FLY;

A few buildings down the same flint pavement of Steve’s forge situated a bakery famous for the cheapest white bread in town. This would be his last stop before he returned to the workshop beyond the city’s wall.

He and Steve had planned to visit Brown’s Boulder tavern this moon. Sir Richard went there every seventh moon and so did the majority of the masters. It would be just like another Silverflow council meeting, but better. There would be no prick cleric to watch their every move. There would be the common people, constituents from every district in Ironheart instead.

But for this moon, Steve was tied up in the aftermath of his awkward confession and Leo had his hands full with a seven-hundred-thousand-pris burden. The tavern would be less rowdy without them but it had to be done. The witch needed to get out of town before curfew. Ain’t anybody had spare money for a pet hydra to stay in town.

Ins and outs of the city had been tightened. It was unclear how but the church had informed the city guards that the witch had sneaked into Ironheart. Every mercenary, knight and soldier in town had their eyes peeled for the witch. They asked women on the street to remove their veil and answer questions; ones that the witch simply lied through her teeth.

She changed her disguise to that of an elderly woman nibbling a piece of bread. As they were exiting the southern gate, she lined up two persons behind the inventor. Leo got past the checkpoint without much hassle but Eliot was pulled to the side for questioning.

At long last, she emerged from the crowd trickling out from the partially opened gates. Out of sight of the guard towers, she assumed a younger appearance and donned a signature dark purple cloak on top of her frilly black robe. She liked frills, apparently, and she had them on her outfit in all forms.

There was a broom in her hat. She called it “Stardust” and she claimed it flew faster than the fastest lightning ray.

Nobody had seen these flying fish alive before. Leo remembered overhearing the naturalist and the mythologist bickered about these mysterious creatures. If memory served him well, the naturalist won the debate with a sample of dead lightning rays fused into a dragon scale. These rays, to dragons, were like flies to cows.

Or, like the witch to him.

For the time being, Eliot hovered slowly at the inventor’s eyes level, keeping in pace with his long strides. His body felt light thanked to a spell she casted.

When the city guards pulled her in for interrogation, they sent a priest to face her. She was forced to answer questions inside an Oath of Providence ritual. The all-seeing eye punished those who dared slip a lie in front of the Lord. Those who lied under the Oath would be cursed forever.

“What kind of curse?” he asked.

“Who knows? They didn’t say which one.”

From the look of it, she must have run into the local church’s deacon—Father Graham. He was the weakest but also the most zealous of the three mages in the church. Had it been the princess or the bishop, Eliot would have called them out in her recount already.

“Straight to the point, they asked if I was the witch.”

“And what did you tell them?”

“I beat up the priest with my half eaten bread, and I said to them: “My children died in her hands. Children! All my sons and daughters!—”

No matter how funny she made the situation out to be, a glimpse of her past always left a bitter aftertaste in his mouth. There, he saw her lips trembled again. A brief, mournful speechlessness before she yelled aloud:

“—Every-single-one-of-them—”

But she shed no tears. Her tears dried up long ago. And instead, she laughed, at the cruel hand of fate, at the irony of the exchange, and, she laughed at herself. Then it all stopped. Damming silence befell. She let the despair seeped in.

“—And here you morons asked me if I was the witch!?”

The illusion of an enraged old woman faded away. The young, indifferent Eliot took the stage for the curtain bow.

“And so I said. After that, they let me go.”

Standing upright on a broom in mid-air, she wrapped up the recap in nonchalance. Then she sat down. With her legs crossed and dangled in front of him, she pushed the inventor from a mere glimpse to a deep dive into her grim history.

There was not a single ending for her children. Her love for them—no, she amended—her interest in them had been decided in their conception.

A few of her descendants were the results of unwilling unions; “chanced encounters” in alleyways involving bizarre and confusing circumstances. These offspring, she got rid of after birth, sold to the highest bidders in West Rufus.

All of her offspring carried potent magical blood and hence even dead ones fetched a high price on the black market. “They are more profitable than the lion’s heart of a dying warrior, and their number does not decrease over time,” she revealed.

Leo recused himself from the details of her infants and a human heart’s pricing.

“But ugh…child birth…a pain as always…”

She cringed, expressing how inconvenient and risky the process was. Without a spouse, she could not invite a midwife. And without anyone to support in labor, almost all offspring born this way perished within the first hour.

“Those difficult times…I can only rely on Stardust to set off a Major Salubrious before I too die.”

She gently stroked the broom, “I’m very proud of her,” she said.

Leo wanted to throw up.

The origin of the infants she sold in West Rufus made them all the more disturbing. Good Lord! He had not told Princess Lilia about the infants. She would have rained sacred fires and doused the district in holy water for seven days. And even then, he doubted that could wash away the heresy Eliot had committed.

Nevertheless, behind these cruel and inhumane decisions laid a rationale he could not dismiss. He recognized the rationale. It was the same ideology he and other masters of Silverflow embraced. It was the idea that everything could be quantified in terms of gain, loss, and risk. That everything, including human lives, was quantifiable.

Eliot’s story did not end there. At times, she had fallen in love and had children with men who might or might not be aware of her true identity. She loved the ones from genuine romance the best as they were allowed to love her for who she was.

But o cruel hands of fate ever so twisted, none of these children was born immortal as she was. All of them, including the ones she had with the archbishop—the only other ancient in Ashlora—eventually aged and faded from memories.

Of her most beloved children, few lived on in legends as kings and queens. Fewer settled for a humble life. Most wound up dead, seeking riches and glories that matched the power they inherited.

For all those ever come out of her womb, truly, every-single-one-of-them, and regardless of who they became, she would always be there in the final moments. She would hold their fleeting souls in her tender hands and bid them farewell.

There were too many conflicting emotions in the ending for Leo to take in. So many that this ending whisked away any impression he would have had of her conscience, her rationale, and her marriage to the man who became her worst enemy.

“I’m sorry…” was all he could muster.

“Then I looted their corpses, in case there was anything valuable I could take. As you can see, they are profits one way or another.”

“I take that back. You’re a monster.”

White Destiny #4 (Rev 4)

Sometime after the council meeting, Leo found himself occupying the carpentry table at Steve’s.

In the air was the sizzling of blue steel in white water, the crackles of red flame on dark charcoals, and the rumble of hammer hoisted above the chestnut hair on black anvil. The building was crazy hot. Wood splinters dug themselves into his back. Yet, when he was dead-exhausted, they were surprisingly pleasant.

Next to him was a pig-tailed, red-head knight in full ironclad. She sat on the ground, one leg upright and the other rested on the hay floor. A large circular shield laid upside-down on her left. A sheathed sword she kept between her legs. Both her hands rested on its cross-guard.

The name was Katherine. Her hobby was crushing rocks and manhood. She came to pick up the gauntlets the master of Ironsmith promised. But, to her dismay, Steve was never one to work with a schedule. And so, there she sat, in the heat, glaring daggers at the forgetful new master.

Leo did not know Katherine well enough to strike a more personal conversation. She was not allowed to comment on the princess’s private matter but she could discuss her opinion on Count D’Amore.

The man was a molester. He would definitely go for the princess if he was given the chance. Katherine hated him. He treated women as trophies. The harder to get, the more valuable they were. The main problem was the princess. Lilia learned all about rulings from the baron…

Katherine cut short her exposition there. She realized she would be infringing the princess’s privacy if she continued.

So she turned to a different story about the time Alex declared he would never make an advance on her. She was too muscular, he said, and sleeping with muscular women felt like sleeping with another man. She had mixed feelings about his declaration. On one hand, she was glad he would not try to get into her pants. On the other hand, she was still a woman and she wanted to be treated as one.

Leo could argue that second point. Nothing good would come out of being treated as a trophy or a mindless, vicious pet hydra. But, to each his own, he supposed.

At one point during the conversation, the constant rumbling of Steve’s hammer came to an abrupt end. A thud erupted as the hammer fell followed by a soft voice calling “Inventor”.

Leo darted his glance at the ironsmith.

Steve lifted his head and slowly swayed to the door. Then, he froze. His hands trembled.

The forge’s wooden door creaked into closing behind a young woman. Her voice was familiar even though her appearance was foreign.

In a light blue blouse so spotless it seemed unreal, frills around the sleeves and smooth, waist-length hair; the noblewoman eyed Steve as she entered. Atop her head sported a brimless felt cap with a vibrant blue feather pinned to the side. Politely, she took off the hat and nodded to greet the forge’s owner.

Then, she walked past him. Her amber eyes drifted towards Leo. She came closer. Their eyes met. It was the most sorrowful gaze among the myriad he had encountered. And this unmistakable melancholy provided the last clue.

She was the witch; the saddest being in Ashlora.

Her warm breath, and cold, slender fingers touched his skin at the same time. Reclining her head to the right, her tender hand reached behind his neck.

“It’s me, the lover you need but never deserves. Why didn’t you come back to our love nest?” she said as her face was a palm-length away from his.

“Dear the pet hydra I don’t need, didn’t I tell you not to rummage my stuffs?”

He lifted the felt cap from her head.

“Please stop. What do you want now?”

Eliot hissed, averted her eyes and distanced from him.

“You’re no fun. I’m hungry,” she said.

“Feed yourself! I can’t take care of you forever.”

She leaned towards Steve who was standing agape behind a black anvil.

“He doesn’t want me. Do you want me?” she asked.

Amidst the steam and ember, the inventor caught glimpse of the ironsmith’s weakest moment yet. The man of fire and steel flustered when suddenly confronted by Eliot. She caught him staring at her in scrutinizing silence. His eyes were fixating on her every movement; almost as though wanting to eat her alive.

Turning to look at her own reflection in a polished armor on one of many racks lining along the grey brick wall, she followed up:

“Is there something on my face?”

“Nothing, miss—”

“Eliot,” she introduced.

“—Miss Eliot. The name is Steve, just Steve.”

“See, you’re interested, aren’t you?”

“I’m sorry to say this, but you’re not my type.”

“You’re lying. I can feel your lustful eyes all over my body. Now, now, don’t be shy…”

“He was making sure you wouldn’t steal anything,” Leo sighed.

“You’re out of luck”, the knight said, “There’s no use courting a Silverflow master. They are married, to their studies that is. Look at the agriculturist, eighty years of age and a virgin to boot.”

“Don’t lump me with them,” Steve pointed his red hot tongs at Leo, “She’s just not my type, that’s all”.

“Then, what is your type?” Eliot asked.

“Strong, eh, who is not too easygoing and who can take care of herself. Right, like Katherine here,” he said.

Leo could not tell which was redder: the knight’s face, or the tongs that were being pointed at her. A moment later, the ironsmith tried to retract what he had just blurted out.

No use. Spoken words could not be unheard. Written words could not be unseen. And the only thing Leo could do was tapping his knuckle on the carpentry table, raising his hand and proclaiming:

“I approve”.

Highlight: Winter 2017 anime season

RakugoShinjuu_header2.png
“This is what you want, isn’t it?” — Yurakutei Sukeroku

Winter 2017 plays all the right tunes for a fantastic year ahead of us. I’m very pleased with the selection this season; a great deal of above average and top-notch shows. There are no mediocre shows this season but there are two bad shows. But even the bad ones are entertaining in their own ways.

Before I go into the winners and losers this season. I want to give ufotable a nod for their efforts this season. They flood a poorly written material in production value and pull off a decent adaptation out of Tales of Zestiria. Kudos to the studio.

Without further ado, let’s get to the highlights.

Seasonal Selection
Show Expectation Rating
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen Cash cow Highlight (1)
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2 Cash cow Highlight (2)
Kobayashi-san chi no maid dragon Star Decent
Demi-chan wa Kataritai Star Decent
Gabriel Dropout Star Decent
Youjo Senki Star Decent
ACCA Kansatsu-ka Question mark Decent
Sangatsu no Lion Star Decent
Tales of Zestiria the X Old dog Decent
Rewrite ss2 Old dog Winning failure
Masamune-kun no Revenge Question mark Nope
Highlight: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu Sukeroku Futatabi-hen
(Shouwa & Genroku Era Lover’s Suicide Through Rakugo Descending Stories)

The winner this season is Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen (Rakugo Shinjuu). The name is a mouthful and it encompasses all the elements that make the show great. It is a historical story spanning across multiple eras, about a traditional Japanese storytelling art–rakugo. It is also about love, death and descendant; all the intricacies of a human’s life in the flow of time.

It is necessary to watch the first season in order to grasp the context of Rakugo Shinjuu. The story centers on the childhood, ascension and decline of eighth generation Yurakutei Yakumo. The first season covers his relationship with the art of rakugo and Yurakutei Sukeroku–a man of talent and a brother-in-trade to Yakumo. The contrast and conclusion of the first season lead up to the second season in which Yakumo in his dwindling age now have to deal with end-of-life regrets and traumas.

As far as the sequel is concerned, the main character remains the eighth generation Yakumo but the narrative is placed on his apprentice Yotarou. Season two mirrors many events in season one. The story forces both the viewers and the characters sit through one deja vu after another. In a true descending story fashion, old characters who are thought to be long gone take the stage in new, younger characters.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu snapshot
I know nothing about this person, not even after his death.

It truly highlights how little I actually know about these people; even the ones whose entirely life and even after death I have been showed. It is not a lack of character depth. No, it is quite the opposite. The characters here are simply too complex and too multi-dimensional. They are as real as fictional characters can get. This is definitely a strong point of Rakugo Shinjuu.

And don’t get me started on the bone-chilling voice acting, the amazing camera cuts, the masterful execution of the plot devices, or the craftiness of narrative, dialogues and audio-visual cues. There are so many things done right in this show, one post is not enough to cover them all. Hence, with bitterness of heart, I’ll stop here.

In conclusion, I highly recommend Rakugo Shinjuu for those who can appreciate a good, thought-provoking book. I advise against watching it for those who just want to sit in on the comedy, the action or the fanservice; there is none of these in Rakugo Shinjuu. Finally, romance lovers, be warned. While romance exists, it’s not very prominent and, naturally, the only things that come out of Shinjuu–a double suicide–are grieves and broken hearts.

Runner up: Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2
(KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! 2)

The runner up this season is another Studio DEEN’s show: Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2 (Konosuba 2). Yet another mouthful of a title, the show is a fantasy comedy that runs on adsurdity, quirkiness and the glorious Micheal Bay’s explosion meme (he’s not among the staff, mind you).

Konosuba 2 takes on the “new fantasy world adventure” theme in a cheerful, optimistic approach. There is no dark twist, no tragedy, no deep political powerplay. Everything here can be taken at face value. The new world is simply wonderful and it is one heck of a time to be alive. The plot is non-existent, plot devices are few and far between, characters are portrayed at gag level; they are walking satires of the cliches and archetypes they represent; and the jokes, oh the jokes, are taken to the next level.

Konosuba snapshot
Oh the things I’ll always remember about this world…

Unlike Rakugo Shinjuu, storytelling is not the focus of Konosuba 2. The entirety of Konosuba 2 hinges on its crazy, seemingly out-of-the-blue conflicts that have equally insane causes and over-the-top resolution. It is basically Gurren lagann on crack; ramping up the hilarity and toning down the insanity just slightly. Since there is little I can say about the storytelling other than acknowledging its damn funny jokes. I’ll focus more on the studio and their animation for this show.

It takes me a while to get used to Studio DEEN’s miraculous comeback this year. Their track record prior to 2016 has put them in the lower bracket; two knots below the likes of Madhouse, ufotable and KyoAni in production quality, and on the same level as J.C. Staff. I remember when Little Busters! came out, there was the rage from Key Visual Arts fanbase; oh how the adaptation would not stick without KyoAni’s all-star team. And the punchline of a bad joke at the time was:

“At least it’s not DEEN”.

Yes, this is to show just how negative the studio used to be perceived.

But behold! They have two highlight shows this season, raking in praises and critical acclaims everywhere I go. It is almost as if they’re trying to make a statement, that they are capable of greatness in both serious and non-serious shows. I believe after this season, they have successfully acquired the attention they sought.

There are a few things I notice that have been improved since Fate/Stay night (2006) and Sakamoto desu ga (2016). For once, the backgrounds are much more detailed these days. Camera angles and placements are also much more professionally done. CG effects such as blur, flare, soft light and fish-eye lens are now employed by the studio better than before. These elements are subtle but integral to the viewing experiences.

As an adaptation of a light novel, the credits for all the awesome pose and countless of meme-worthy reaction faces in Konosuba 2 go to the animators. They did a good job on the animation and poses there.

However, the quality of character art remains lackluster and so is the lighting. Compare DEEN’s art to any of the top-tier studios and the differences will become quite obvious. They have fewer stroke count, ergo, fewer strands of hair on the character’s head. The coloring for DEEN’s characters consists of base color and a shadow. KyoAni, in contrast, colors their characters in at least three tones: base, mid tone (or highlight) and shadow. Some shows will have even more tones for each color.

And those are just the basics.

In the end, their poor character art quality is hidden behind the new background, atmospheric and animation techniques. The viewing experience is fantastic and I’m willing to put them on the same tier as the current White Fox. There are still rooms for improvement but for now, I’m happy with what I’m seeing.

So, the recommendations for this show. This is a fun, fun show in all regards. Anyone who can enjoy good ‘ol Tom & Jerry will enjoy Konosuba 2. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

Winning failure: Rewrite

Welcome to the part where I award a dunce’s cap to the worst of the worst writings in anime. The first winning failure award goes to….Rewrite!

This show panders too much to novel readers. Good luck understanding what is going on without reading the base novel. The main character is a Marty Stu by the book, who then, in moon’s arc, becomes God momentarily for no reason. Only thing good in earth’s arc is the side plot in a not-Afghan battlefield, the rest of the main plot devolves to circle-jerking.

Without spoiling the mind boggling mess of irrationality, I give my honest summary of the plot as follow: “This is a story of a young girl’s overly complicated suicidal, genocidal and selfcest turns twincest relationship involving the planet earth, the moon, and a harem of strangers.”

This anime seriously needs a rewrite.

White Destiny #3 (Rev 4)

Steve the ironsmith was sleeping at his desk in the Hall of Enlightenment. His hairy arm dangled on the red oak desk. Even though everyone in the Silverflow council knew the only kind of vote he would cast was “I abstain”, the meeting could not start on without his participation.

So, instead, they started a vote to boot the ironsmith out.

But, Steve was fast to react, raising the “I object” sheet before everyone else could vote. All other councilors abstained and the baron started a new repeal vote which passed on yet another full set of abstains.

Turn out, Steve was not entirely asleep. He grew an acute sensitivity to his name; one mention of his name across the hall, no matter how minute in volume, would wake him from deep slumber. And only his name worked, nothing else did.

In a nutshell, it was a useless skill that sounded more and more like an excuse he made up on the spot so that he could go back to sleep.

The naturalist dubbed it “Sleeping beauty” syndrome.

As soon as they started to compare calling names to kissing, the bishop and the deacon insisted only female councilors should wake him up; for it was blasphemy for a man to kiss another man.

They also ruled that it should be someone other than Lilia. She was, after all, a priestess of the church and she must remain chaste in servitude of the Lord.

So, since they only had two women in the council and the baron was against bringing outsiders in, it came down to the agriculturalist. The old woman licked her eighty-year-old lips twice before sending the ironsmith a figurative wake-up kiss.

“Steve, my handsome princess,” she mused.

Steve rolled off his bench and banged his head against one leg of the desk. He begged the council to just kick him next time.

And that was how they got the Ironsmith’s full attention for the rest of the meeting.

“I believe we can start the session now. First councilor today is, ah yes, thank you Lilia. The architect, please present your topic,” the baron called.

That was Leo. He went first.

The topic of the day was the dragon sighting over Ironheart and the ensuing havoc it wrecked in the witch’s domain.

“It is utmost important, councilors. A dragon appeared in Ironheart and there was no forewarning from the Solaris Observatory. I’m concerned. Is the instrument broken? Wizard, may I know who watched that shift?”

His question addressed the princess who also held the master rank in Wizardry.

“It was I who watched that shift, architect,” she answered.

“Is there any deviant? Were you able to see Azeth?”

“I saw Azeth, crystal clear.”

The astronomer rose up, “the alignment was still fine. I checked it myself the same moon the attack happened,” he said.

“Then it can’t be my fault, since the astronomer already checked the scope,” the mathematician added.

“Nor mine,” Leo said.

“Wizard, are you certain you did not fall asleep?” the merchant cut in.

“Hold it, how dare you Steve the princess?” the baron interrupted.

“Abstain!”

The ironsmith responded to the remark. Laughter exploded in the council hall. The discussion resumed after a brief reminder of objectivity from the baron. Questioning another councilor’s competency was strictly prohibited.

Albeit, Leo thought this ruling had been unusually harsh.

“If a dragon could fly from Azeth to Ironheart in the time I sleep, we wouldn’t need the Observatory. We would need a morgue. Unless I have slept for three days, which, as we all know, is equally absurd.”

“A dragon does not travel on the same vector as a horse, wizard. It can reach Ironheart in a day or less by air—”

The mathematician turned to confirm the world’s inner dimension with the geographer for a moment. The geographer nodded and the mythologist verified the dragon’s speed. Confident with his calculation, the mathematician continued:

“—In fact, it should be twenty-eight moons and six hours, give or take two. This is for the direct path, as for the path following the curvature of the planet, it is—”

His demonstration was cut short.

“The math is irrelevant,” the princess dismissed, saying: “My point stands that a creature the size of a small village cannot remain undetected that long. Unless…Azeth created a new teleport or illusion magic we don’t know about. And at this scale, it is likely a ritual, a delayed one.”

“A delayed ritual? I think I might have something…”

The historian looked through his thick record book. He found an entry from an old council meeting. He brought the entry to the council’s attention.

The old wizard reported a strong burst of magical energy from Azeth during the eleventh eclipse. The event took place before he went missing and Lilia became the new wizard.

“Ah, yes, that reminds me…”

The astronomer remembered seeing a “residual” aurora distinctive to the Light of Azeth in the moon’s background at the time. His report overlapped the old wizard’s report. The council originally concluded both events described a Light of Azeth’s malfunction that had nothing to do with Ironheart.

“I’m afraid I can’t look into the matter anytime soon. Fathers, can you take this job?”

“Very well, priestess, I’ll take it”.

“I’ll help”.

That was the deacon and the mythologist.

“Thank you.”

“So, you—Leo gestured Lilia—call him and him—he moved his finger towards the bishop and then the deacon—“Fathers” but he calls you simply “Priestess”. Why is that?”

“What…do you propose then, uh…inventor?”

He could sense hesitation in her voice. He heard the deacon hissing in contempt; the none-of-your-business contempt.

“Mother? It is logical, no?”

“Tradition, tradition, inventor. Please don’t mind how we call one another in the church and focus on the task at hand,” the bishop said.

The second topic they discussed was about the cure. This issue was raised by Lilia as the alchemist. She congratulated Leo for the discovery of a cure. His discovery would put an end to the deadly plague that had been killing tens of thousands people and countless cattle in Ironheart over a decade.

The council tapped their knuckles on the long red oak desk to show approval.

“He’s low on an ingredient for the cure; a plant in the Dark Forest. So he approached me with a proposal. I’ll be working on a transmutation formula for the ingredient while he’ll be figuring out how to get into grafting.”

Grafting? That was it! Grafting!

He did not need to grow a new flower from seeds. He could graft a Midnight Virgin’s stem into another plant and grow more of them.

“Are you going to be me too, inventor?”

As he was celebrating the new idea in his head, the agriculturist spoke up. She appeared irritated that they left her out of their plan.

“Not if I can help it, prince charming. Say, how about you take care of this project instead? I do have a few other things to attend to as the herbalist, perhaps looking for an alternative recipe that uses a different ingredient.”

This was not the first time they feuded. He still would rather not get on the agriculturist’s bad side. He practically lived in her core support neighborhood and he could use fewer rocks wrapped in death threats.

“Ask, and it shall be given.”

The deacon smiled when he heard these phrases.

“What is the name of this ingredient?” she asked.

“Midnight Virgin. It’s a grass-like flower and I need the stem,” he answered.

“I have been growing all kinds of herbs for half a century. I swear I have never heard of a plant with a cheesier name. Well, since you said you need the stem, you must have spare stems lying around. I’ll need them for grafting. Where are they?”

“In the ice box at Brown’s. I have seeds in there as well. Here is the receipt.”

“Good, good, it shall be done.”

Camp NaNoWriMo, here we go again

Yes, it’s this time of the year. I’m currently in a cabin at Camp NaNoWriMo April, churning out scenes after scenes for yet another attempt at White Destiny. The new release schedule is working out quite well for me and for once I’m looking forward to sharing my writing every week. Thursday can’t come fast enough, can it?

And this is a heads up for prospective readers out there. The scene I’m releasing tomorrow is a Silverflow Council meeting so expect a lot of talking and not a whole lot of excitement. Perhaps, I’ll revisit this scene at a later day to make it more…confrontational. No real senate would be this cooperative. I’ll apologize for that first.

My plan for the current revision is simply getting a rough draft of the plot. There will be some storytelling; descriptions and purple prose; here and there but for the most part the writing would be very bare bone. It wouldn’t be very engaging to read I bet.

The placeholder food and drink for now are white bread and ale (or wine for the upper classes). That mysterious non-Newtonian bubbly blue drink with ice crystals I had in mind would have to wait for the next revision, in which I’ll focus on engaging the readers into the story world.

I need to cover all the holes and patch together a coherent plot first and this is what I set out to do this camp season.

Next week, I’ll take a break from writing for the seasonal anime review. There’s still one more episode of Kobayashi no chi maid dragon. That’s why I’m postponing the review to Monday. Please look forward to it.