ICYMI #2

-by Dylan DiBona

Welcome back to another “In Case You Missed It”. So yesterday I announced a brief hiatus taking effect tomorrow, but I don’t want all activity to cease on my blog, so I decided to list some recent articles that in my mind “under-performed”.

Nintendo DS Retrospective

Castlevania Aria of Sorrow Review [GBA]

The Confessions of a Save State Abuser

Censorship in Video Games: When is it Okay?

Emily is Away Review [PC]

Emily is Away Too Review [PC]

And with that I officially tap out of the ring for a little while. My first order of business: sleep! My second: laundry! My third: figuring out the future of this page!


Thank you all for the support yesterday, it means the world. As always, thanks for reading.

 

Advertisements

Fahrenheit 451 Review

-by Dylan DiBona

I know this is gaming website first, I’ll never forget that. Seeing as I’m trying to keep this site as a safe haven for more thoughtful and in-depth writing of video games; I decided that every now and then I’d like to talk about famous writing, more specifically books. Video games go well with books because both forms of entertainment take a certain level of imagination and energy.

Today we’ll be taking a look at the English classic, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.
Image result for fahrenheit 451

I like the concept of dystopian worlds almost too much. Something about a world turned upside-down, where everything seems so wrong, but to the inhabitants so right is just fascinating.

Fahrenheit 451 is the story of Guy Montag, a fireman. Everything seems to be going great for Montag; he has a good job, a wife, a nice house. Everything is okay, except for the entire world.

A fireman in Montags’ world is somebody who actually burns down houses instead of the opposite. They target books and cook them to ashes with kerosene. Not only that, but everyone who isn’t working is constantly staying inside their house watching TV, being fed nonsense constantly. One day a teenage girl named Clarisse moves next to Montag. In a matter of days she gets Montag to question every aspect of his life, driving him mad (or quite possibly to knowledge).

According to the preface of my edition of the book, Bradbury analyzed the world he lived in at the time (the 50’s), and asked himself “what will the world be like if this continues?”

It scary, especially considering that in the modern age, people are connected to screens most of the time. The themes of the novel are that of rebirth, going against the norm and knowledge. After over sixty years I’m glad to say they haven’t faded into obscurity.

I don’t like reading novels much older than Bradbury’s for the sake of my patience. The old language often confuses me but lucky Fahrenheit just makes it. This was my first Bradbury work and I was astounded by the details and descriptions. Paragraphs would feel like poems interrupted by lines of dialogue. And that’s not to say that the dialogue was bad either, it was actually my favorite part. The interactions between Guy and Clarisse made the book for me.

I’ll be honest, I’m one to start things and never finish (I’m looking at you 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) but Fahrenheit kept my attention constantly with it’s interesting yet short tale. I tried George Orwell’s 1984 and I found the lore, terminology and overall structure too dense for me. Bradbury kept his novel brief, and I appreciate that.

It’s not to say that I absolutely adored Fahrenheit 451; it’s a great story but oftentimes I hoped Bradbury would stop with the long-winded descriptions and get back to the characters at hand. It could be that Fahrenheit was trying to do two things; make a point and tell a story. I like the latter parts much more and whenever the books spent too long of the former, I grew weary.

Farenheit 451 is a good book.

If you like tales of people defying society and even going a little crazy, this book is for you. This is a book about books and it’s for readers of books. If you haven’t yet, you need to read Farenheit 451.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Hey guys! It’s my first time reviewing a book. I’m on vacation right now and decided to take a one day vacation from writing about games. Don’t worry, the games are back tomorrow! Did you like this breath of fresh air? Do you want more books? Less books? My original idea is one book review a month. Let me know down below and I’ll try to reply. As always, thanks for reading!

Death Note: Live Adaption Done Right?

-by Dylan DiBona

It seems that every three to five years we’re trapped in a cycle of scary impending live action adaptions of our favorite animated series. Usually there are three types of people in this situation:

A.) The one who “knows” it’s going to be terrible.

B.) The one who is so against it as a whole they refuse to even see it.

C.) The one who decides to give it a chance because it looks like it has a chance of decency.

I’m currently in the last group. When I woke up this morning I was greeted by a trailer for the new Death Note Netflix adaptation.

As a serious fan of the original anime, I’m skeptical but hopeful of this new form of Death Note. See I thought that Death Note was the greatest story I’ve ever been told, until the final quarter of it’s run time. Most likely being the minority here, I’m anxious to see what changes will be coming to this tale.

People online have already cleverly spotted a handful of differences and they’re not ones I’m entirely against. At the end of the day, I’m curious- not bitter. However we have to ask ourselves why this keeps happening? Who’s asking for it? Does Netflix remember these:

Image result for dragonball evolution  Image result for airbender movie

Or most recently, the Assassins Creed live action movie that bombed last holiday season. Who knows why Hollywood is insisting on making these movie. Netflix has brought some quality original content to my brain and eyes (Bojack Horseman, Daredevil, Master of None and even Fuller House). Can they do it this time? Can they break the curse of bad live adaptations?

I believe they can’t, but I’m very hopeful, for Death Note’s sake.

If you haven’t yet; you owe to yourself to watch Death Note. Anime fan or not, it’s a story worth hearing.

_________________________________________________________________

So what do you guys think? Are we destined for another bad live adaption? Did you like the original Death Note? Leave your thoughts below! As always, thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pluto Review [Manga]

-by Dylan D

After a decade long absence from the manga world I decided to jump back in, and the first series I’ve completed is Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto. Quick note, Pluto is a re-imagining of a famous Astro Boy arc. I know nothing about Astro Boy so I may miss out on some key elements. Sorry!

Image result for pluto manga

Story:

Pluto takes place in a futuristic world where humans and robots coexist. Robots are still a fairly new form of life and the world is adapting by giving them rights through the Robot Laws and whatnot. The older model robots look like something from The Jetsons meanwhile the newer models are indistinguishable from humans. The story of Pluto is simple, there is a serial killer out there targeting one robot and one human at a time, and it’s up to Europol Detetive Geischt and his peers to solve the case.

My only gripes with the storytelling is the constant jumping around from character to character. It gave me more details on each characters motives but it also cost me my concentration on certain events. As far as I can tell, the perspective changes are a staple of Urasawa’s work.

Obviously being a manga series, the main appeal of Pluto is it’s story, so I won’t go into any details for the sake of spoilers. Instead, I’ll talk about why I liked Pluto personally.

Image result for pluto manga

Themes:

I really like philosophy and one topic that always crams itself into my mind is; “What is a person?” See, I know what a human is, but a person; that can be different, right? Pluto takes full advantage of the very concept in it’s first volume and throughout the rest of it’s series. You see the kid in the picture above? That’s Atom, the most advanced robot in the world. If you weren’t told, you wouldn’t be able to tell he’s a robot. He is programmed to think and feel. Is he a person? What about those older model robots that look clunky and inhuman? They are both robots and therefore equal.

I could go on forever…

Not only are there themes of personhood, the concepts of racism and antiwar ideals are prevalent through Pluto’s short 8-volume run. If you’re not interested in any of that deep stuff, there is still a good murder mystery here.

Image result for pluto manga

Art:

On a more simple and cosmetic level, Urasawa’s art is fantastic. The big cities or the landscapes you see above are amazing and almost feel criminal to be jammed into just on a single frame of a manga series. It never dropped in quality and looking back on it, it gave Pluto a very human feel, funny since most of the protagonists are robots.

Unfortunately I can’t say much more about Pluto without spoiling it. The art is stellar and the story, while sometimes convoluted for my simple mind, has many powerful messages. I would certainly recommend giving it a read, it’s one of the standout manga with no anime adaption.

_________________________________________________________________

I know it’s kind of short but this is my first manga review and wasn’t too sure how to go about it. Let me know what you guys thought and any recommendations for further manga reviews down the line!

My Top 5 Most Random Amazon Purchases

-by Dylan D

It’s 1:41am and I just purchased all of Part 1 of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (God I hope it’s good), and it sparked up a funny thought. How many times have we (I) been on the web and just said “I’m buying this.”? For me, far too many times. Most of my paychecks fade because of spontaneous purchases. So while I wait to see if I just wasted a good chunk of change, it’s time to look over my most random Amazon purchases. I won’t be ranking them by how worth it the item ended up being, just by how spontaneous the purchase was for me.

Side note: This could actually be really fun and hilarious if anyone else did this. So please, if you’re out of blog ideas, take this one!

 

5. Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy IX

Image result for chrono cross

I like collecting for my PS1 and I decided “why not pick up some awesome JRPG classics?” After hearing from one of my favorite YouTubers that Chrono Cross was severely underappreciated, and from multiple people that Final Fantasy IX puts of serious competition as the best of the series, I bought both! Both fairly cheap and hey, two more games to the collection.

Was it worth it: Nah. Not even close. Chrono Cross was cool with it’s scenery but I lost all interest in like the first dungeon. Everything about it felt so weird and somehow unimportant. Final Fantasy IX, not for me either. Shame. I’ll try them again someday. Maybe I don’t like JRPGS as much as I think I do…

4. Volumes 2-8 of Pluto

Image result for pluto manga

Pluto is a murder-mystery manga series written by one of the most beloved Mangakas of all time, Naoki Urasawa. Volume 1 was a fantastic read that had me intrigued and pondering upon deep questions like “what makes a person?” So like the dumbo kid I am I bought the rest of the series in one big order, not so cheap.

Was it worth it? Kind of, actually. Volume 1 was my favorite but Pluto had many good moments of interesting story. The moments leading up to the ending (not the actual ending) were good too. I didn’t enjoy it as much as other people, but seeing how it’s highly acclaimed, I think I might return to it one day to see if I like it better. A good and slightly complicated manga. (Please be better JoJo!)

3. Wacom Drawing Tablet

Image result for wacom tablet

“I’m gonna be the next Egoraptor” God. If only I could stop myself. I SWORE I would draw everyday and get good at flash animation. I wanted to make cool cartoons and liven up peoples day on YouTube. But damn, animating is hard. I give major props to anyone who does it. Here’s to giving up!

Was it worth it? Ha ha. No

2. Ready Player One

Image result for ready player one

I like video games. I stay inside too much. I wanted to read a book where somebody like me wins. It was like 2am (shopping hour I guess!) and I knew I wanted it. I had only just gotten a job and didn’t have much money- but I did it.

Was it worth it? Yeah! Ready Player One is a really fun book that references a ton of video games, TV shows, movies, anime and all pop culture. It’s a geeks dream. I won’t lie, it started getting tedious to read around the end because after like 150 pages of video game related stories and strategies, it felt repetitive, but the ending was perfect for the tale it told! Great book. Can’t wait for the movie.

1. Lighting Equipment

Image result for lighting equipment

In another attempt of being YouTube famous I decided to buy some much needed lighting equipment, like the “almost-pro” stuff. I was scared because I had just stopped working (still not…) and it was a big purchase.

Was it worth it? The first night I got it; I invited some friends over for a photoshoot and I had a blast. It was easy to set up and I felt like a damn professional, plus it was fun. It also helps with my videos. So yes. It was very worth it.

_____________________________________________________________

So there you have it! I’m very bad at money management but sometimes I get rewarded with something cool (PLEASE JOJO BE COOL). Thanks for reading, and like I said above, I would love to see others use this idea!

Top 5 Studio Ghibli Films

– by Dylan D

As we get older and older it’s harder to relate to the child still within us all. We’ll always be children at heart, but it’s pretty difficult to forget about school, work, bills, family and whatnot just so you can have the innocent fun of being a kid. My freshman year of college I was living away from home; never in my life did I feel like such an outcast. I’d bottle myself up in my dorm room whenever I didn’t have to go to class. There were a few rays of light in those dark times; one of them being Studio Ghibli.

If you don’t know who Studio Ghibli is, that’s pretty fair. Most of their movies are marketed by Disney in the United States, but they’re not actually the ones creating these animated adventures, it’s Ghibli. Anyway, for over a week in college every night I would bundle up in blankets and watch one Ghibli film of my choice. By now I’ve seen the majority and love the company for their amazing animation detail, magical feeling and grand themes. These movies made me feel like a kid again; they helped me smile during a time where that seemed impossible, and for that I love them.

And I know I’m three days late, but Hayao Miyazaki, Happy Birthday. Thank you for the endless inspiration.

 

5. Kiki’s Delivery Service

kiki-1

It’s hard for me to put Kiki down at the bottom of this list because it’s the first Ghibli movie I actually liked during my marathon. The main character Kiki is a kind young woman who sets out to find out her “skill”, like all witches do (told you there was magic).

What follows is a kind, gentle and thoughtful story wrapped around a beautiful setting and great cast of characters. The English voice cast of Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman (R.I.P) and more convey the emotions perfectly.

Kiki’s Delivery Service tackles themes of writers block and finding inspiration; it’s a movie that can teach both the kid and adult within you. And for something made in 1989, it still looks fantastic.

 

4. Grave of the Fireflies

grave-of-fireflies

I love Japanese entertainment because of how stark it is compared to American entertainment. Think of any American war movie. They’re usually about soldiers rising to glory, with a few tragedies along the way. Very rarely do you see the civilians side of war.

Grave of the Fireflies taught me to count my lucky stars and feel gifted to live where I do. Unfortunately for the siblings Seita and Setsuko, they live in Japan during World War II where it was pretty normal to be attacked on a daily basis. Seita being the older brother tries to provide something along the lines of a good life to his little sister, but it’s obviously a struggle with the war going on.

Lately Grave of the Fireflies has seem to be criticized in certain areas but if you’ve seen this movie and didn’t feel anything then I’d be genuinely shocked. The themes of love, survival and the entire concept of war are tackled wonderfully.

I know the director of the film, Isao Takahata, says that his film isn’t anti-war; but damn if it doesn’t feel like it. Hayao Miyazaki (director and writer of many Ghibli films) basically taught me throughout his movies that war is pointless. If I ever want to make that point to my friends or family, Grave of the Fireflies is going into the DVD player.

 

3. Princess Mononoke

princess-1

Human life isn’t the only life that Ghibli films teach viewers to respect, don’t forget about nature.

It may seem like blasphemy to not put this in the number one spot so I’ll explain. I love this film for it’s heroic and truly epic main characters Ashitaka and San; their motivations and dedication throughout the movie are always explicitly stated and felt. I’m putting all the chips on the table and saying that Princess Mononoke has the best scenery in any animated film ever. The dream-like forests, valleys and mountains are stunning even in it’s 1997 animation.

Ashitaka, the amazing landscapes and grand story make me feel like this is the closest we’ll get to an animated Legend of Zelda film. But beyond that comparison lies a cinematic masterpiece in its own right.

My only gripe with the film is the last third; everything seemed to get wrapped up too quickly and things didn’t work out the way I pictured. But besides that, the messages of protecting the environment scream even louder today when we live in a world of global warming. Miyazaki and Ghibli struck gold once again.

 

2. Whisper of the Heart

whisper-header

Yeah, say something! I like a corny love movie over a fantasy-epic like Mononoke, so what?

Let me explain. I live in New York City, and I’m at the time of my life where I need to soon figure out what I’m going to do with my life. Whisper of the Heart SCREAMS to me at the moment. It wasn’t until my second viewing that the messages really spoke out to me.

Yes it’s a little bizarre that middle school kids are so fixated on what jobs they’ll have for the rest of their lives and who they’ll marry. But if you can get around that and see that age doesn’t matter and they’re still people with the same problems as us, then it touches you.

Whisper of the Heart also speaks out to me because of the desire to create. The main characters all want to make something with their lives and inspire others, just like me and many others. I was absolutely captivated by the peaceful vibe this movie had and the messages it was sending to me.

It made me ask myself: “Have I ever met someone with a dream so strong they inspired me to chase my own?”

Beautiful. No other movie has done that to me. That’s why Whisper of the Heart triumphs over a fantasy-epic like Princess Mononoke in my eyes.

 

Now allow me to contradict that last statement.

 

 

 

 

 

1. Castle in the Sky

castle-in-the-sky-1024-none

It’s Sunday. You’re off of work. Rain drips down the gutters and bounces off your roof. There’s nothing to do and no reason to go outside. I’m sorry Princess Mononoke, but Castle in the Sky is the animated adventure movie in my eyes.

Where do I start? I’m willing to make the bold statement that Castle in the Sky is to movies as Treasure Island is to books; it’s a fantasy staple. The main character Pazu is selfless, his main goal isn’t as basic as Ashitaka saving his own life. No, Pazu wants to prove his dead father wasn’t a liar. Sheeta wants peace, and doesn’t contradict herself by fighting for that peace. Muska the villain wants power that he believes belongs to him. Dola and her gang grow maybe more than anyone in the movie. Each character has real and personal motivation, because of that each character (even the quiet robot) is almost addictive to watch.

For their very first film, Studio Ghibli didn’t cheap out on the detail. The busy city streets are beautiful and contrast wonderfully with Laputa. Laputa is one of the best settings I’ve seen in an adventure film and hits the same level of quality as Princess Mononoke’s scenery.

The main theme here is preservation; just like Mononoke, saving nature and fighting for what you believe in is the definition of the film.

It may run a little long but each scene is jam packed with something to feel and something to enjoy. Castle in the Sky has it all: adventure, dreams, love, change, evil to triumph over, and most of all, meaning.

 

So there you have it, just five of many great films made by Studio Ghibli. If you haven’t seen any of their films, I’d recommend doing what I did and watch one a night for a week. It’s a fun way to unwind after a day of work/school.

Thanks for reading, let me know your favorite Ghibli movie down in the comments!

Erased Review: Nostalgia and Dread

I’ve always considered myself a light anime viewer, usually going for the more popular stuff like Dragon Ball, Cowboy Bebop, etc. I never got into the ‘winter anime season’ and usually don’t keep up with the most current shows. Last year in 2016 I kept hearing more and more about winter anime and why they were so good. While I was glad to see the medium getting enjoyed out of it’s homeland, I didn’t care too much. One title I heard much about in particular was Erased. Welp, after being a year late I can safely say no show has intrigued me quiet like Erased in a very long time. Let’s take a look why.

Image result for erased

*Light spoilers from the first of twelve episodes. This is a review but I’m also trying to get readers interested in watching this amazing show. If you want to go spoiler-free, do so because I recommend it. But if you need some convincing, keep on reading.*

Erased is a show that that should immediately relates to 99% of people. By that I mean our main character, Satoru Fujinuma is an adult man filled with regret and failure. He keeps on telling himself “if only I did this when I was younger”. Let’s face it, who hasn’t had that very thought echo in their head multiple times?

Satoru (for quite some time apparently), has an ability he dubs as Revival. Revival sends Satoru back just a few moments before a death that would occur near him; thus giving him time to prevent said death.

Without spoiling too much, Satoru experiences a Revival so strong and personal to him that it sends him back to 1988, thus making him eleven years old once more.

Image result for erased anime

Satoru gets what many of us had hoped for; a second chance, thus keeping the viewer immersed and most likely a little jealous. But it isn’t all sunshine and rose petals for our hero; he must interfere with a very long chain of events in order to prevent a death in the current day (2006). What results is a see-saw of nostalgic themes and moments of dread.

What really intrigued me is eleven year old Satoru still keeps his mind and emotional capacity of his twenty-nine year old self. Being a child is kind of like a colorful blur which is fun but at the same time you don’t really understand what’s going. One scene that illustrates this perfectly is early in the series when Satoru comes home from school and sees his mother feverishly cooking dinner. He realizes (through his adult mind) that he never fully appreciated his mothers hard efforts and love, so he thanks her unlike any other child. It’s a scene that I have no other words to label it but ‘beautiful’, and it’s not the only one.

Image result for erased

Satoru recites that in his previous childhood he was a bit socially-distant. He had friends but never opened up fully emotionally, thus preventing his relationships to grow. Not only does he change this but he gets involved with people he never did before, like one such Kayo Hanazuki. Satoru and Kayo’s relationship is quite heartwarming and made me smile more than anything in the past few shows I watched.

Even though there are only twelve episodes, characters change as more gets revealed about them and as Satoru “reroutes” his history with them. Kayo specifically changes and it’s very satisfying to see that unfold.

I’m keeping many elements vague in this article; there are many characters I’m not mentioning and for good purpose. Erased is an emotional show because it links two things not easily connected- present day and childhood. It’s something that anyone can relate to, especially through all the sheer detail and heart that went into crafting this animated wonder.

I freaking loved hearing the Japanese school children in the background talk about their progress in Dragon Quest III; which actually did come out in February 1988, the very month the show takes place in! In fact just like the Persona series of video games, it taught me some things about Japan, the school system and daily life.

Image result for erased

It’s the simple concept of the shows adventure which gripped me. I adore the fact that at one second I could be smiling like a giddy child, fist-pumping in the air because Satoru did something right- but at the next second be scared and pissed because of some surprisingly dark and intriguing themes. Like I said; nostalgia and dread.

Conclusion:

Erased is a mystery/drama show at first glance, but at heart it’s about relationships with people, courage and living life. From beginning to end it’s a thrilling emotional roller-coaster that stimulates both the child and adult within us all. While I do believe there are a couple (two to be exact) plot points that could’ve been fleshed out more; it is a magnificent story I believe everyone should give a try. Erased single-handedly changed my level of appreciation for anime, and I won’t fall behind this winter season.

Thank you for reading and let me know your opinions on Erased and other anime down in the comments!

Top 5 Albums of 2016

-by Dylan D

I don’t think there’s any question that 2016 was a huge year for the music industry. Many beloved musicians who haven’t been seen in a while came out of hibernation and displayed new styles and even personalities; it’s the versatility that was so interesting. These are the five albums I just couldn’t keep out of my headphones this year.

 

5. Awaken My Love! – Childish Gambino

awaken_my_love

Truth be told, I’m not that huge of a Childish Gambino fan. When my friend told me that his newest and heavily awaited album departed from his past style of Hip Hop and Rap, I was interested. How do I describe “Awaken, My Love!”? Awaken is like a psychedelic funk album fused with soulful vibes.

The tracks can take to you to a peaceful place; or if you want you can just play them in background like I’m doing right now while writing this piece. Some of the sounds feel like sounds you’d hear in a 70’s or 80’s song and are pretty cool to hear. Gambinos new album wasn’t my favorite of 2016 but it was damn good. My only critique is his voice is almost always edited to a different pitch, it would be nice and less distracting to have him sing normally. Some great music on this album.

You’ll always be Troy Barnes to me Donald.

Favorite Track- Redbone

 

4. 4 Your Eyez Only – J Cole

4_your_eyes_only

Much like with Gambino, I’m not that big of a J Cole fan. But in order to prepare for Eyez, I listened to his previous work, 2014 Forest Hills Drive and I must say he has some good tracks under his belt.

4 Your Eyez Only started out as nothing special to me, but as I kept listening I kept hearing new things to enjoy. Cole has some interesting sounds here like pianos and violins mixed in with some good beats. But the real star of the show here is the lyrics.

Damn. Cole jumps from a variety of topics like the rapping world, his life and possible/probable(?) soon death. He talks of love and what the meaning of it is, consumerism and how the meaning of Christmas has been destroyed. Finally, the last track is for his daughter to listen to in the case of his death.

I’m not that huge into rap, I can only take so much talk of drugs and women, but I’ll make an exception for J Cole; 4 Your Eyez Only proved to me there’s more than meets the eye, or in this case, ears.

Favorite Track: She’s Mine Pt. 1 and 2

3. Starboy – The Weeknd

starboysingle

Obviously this would be here, my review of Starboy was the first article ever posted on PlayingWithThoughts. I won’t repeat myself so I’ll keep it brief. I guess for some weird reasons I want to dislike Starboy. The new hair, the new style and vibes of The Weeknd; it’s all so new. And I’m not afraid to call Abel a sellout either. Yet I’m still a fan of his; and I still like the sounds he’s created on Starboy.

Just like last year on Beauty Behind the Madness, The Weeknd had me absolutely addicted to some of the eardrum-pounding songs on this album. With Behind the Madness I listened to literally every song multiple times, with Starboy I listen to a majority. It’s a little less this time around, but the quality is still there. If you want my more in depth thoughts, check out my review.

Favorite Track: Party Monster

Blond – Frank Ocean

frank-ocean-blond-compressed-0933daea-f052-40e5-85a4-35e07dac73df

Not gonna lie, I wrote that bit on hibernation in the intro just for Frank. HE’S BACK!

Blond is not just an album, it’s an existential crisis. In fact, when I think of Blond I think of the good 20% of audio that’s not even conventional music, but conversations or just short and bizarre. I don’t know what the hell is going on in Franks life (who does?) but it all bubbled up into some of the deepest songs produced this year.

Frank covers themes of time and how it keeps on getting faster and slipping out of his hands. As always he speaks about nostalgia, being a kid. He covers the painful isolation he feels and how he cannot relate to his peers. He also speaks of one topic I don’t hear many musicians sing about: living an idea from another mans mind. The latter two topics really stuck with me and made me question love and my very self identity. Am I who I am because I want to be like this or other people shaped me as I grew up to be what they want? Don’t get me wrong, good entertainment doesn’t have to be so meaningful, but it’s so much more interesting when it leaves you with giant questions like that.

Frank has done it again; I personally can’t wait for his fourth studio album which is expected around 2023.

Favorite Tracks –

Pink and White (purely for the AMAZING sound)

Seigfried (for the meaning, listen to those lyrics!)

1. Coloring Book – Chance the Rapper

chance_3

Chance is my newest favorite musician and I couldn’t have asked to get into his music at a better time. After being gone for three years I listened to all his music just a couple months before Coloring Book hit.

On 10 Days I listened to a whiny self-assured punk (no offense) sing of how he didn’t need school and being suspended would be to his benefit. Not only did I love the ‘F-ck you school’ lyrics but I absolutely adored most of the songs on the album for their sound.

On Acid Rap I listened to a now successful rapper who is doing collaborations with Childish Gambino and other big stars. He goes cray here, singing about drugs, drugs, success, and drugs. No but seriously Chance brings up serious topics like how his mother doesn’t look at him the same anymore due to his drug use. Damn.

And Finally on Coloring Book I listen to a man who’s grown up, who has a daughter now, who I’m assuming is cooling it with all the drugs. Like Frank, Chance speaks of time, but also of people changing and how many of his friends died due to street violence in Chicago. This album defined my summer and the freedom I felt after my first year of college.This album actually convinced the Grammys to allow free music to be eligible for an award! That’s impact. Every song on Coloring Book is jam packed with different vibes and I love each one. Chance has created a perfect trilogy and it only makes me wonder how he’ll continue.

Favorite Track: All Night (so short but phenomenal sound)

Here’s to more great music in 2017, thanks for reading!

 

 

Dragon Ball and Innocence [Essay]

-by Dylan D

Dragon Ball is easily one of the biggest anime franchises of all time, and for that one of the biggest franchises in the world. Goku’s adventures span multiple manga series, anime series, movies (sadly a live action one), action figures, posters and so on. While I’m constantly updated on the current happenings of the Z fighters thanks to one of my best friends; only one adventure in the series kept me hooked until the end, the original. Since the fourth anime series titled Dragon Ball Super is finally coming to the United States next month; I think it’s appropriate to look back on where it all started.

dragon-ball

I was twelve at the time. My parents argued a lot, screaming and the usual. I would hope for the best everyday. Not only that but I was bored with day to day life. School and tests, all that stuff seemed so irrelevant. I grew up on stuff like Pokémon and One Piece so I knew the world was huge and full of stuff to be explored, but here I was trapped in a desk doing times tables. Anyway, one day I was at Borders book store (it’s sad to say Borders is just a memory now). As a kid would normally do, instead of looking at boring old books I wandered off into the DVD section. There I saw a bright blue package holding Season 1 of Dragon Ball. I knew about Z, but not the original. In fact I thought it was a prologue made after Z. I begged my dad to get it for me and when we got home I locked myself in my bedroom, popping the first disc into my PlayStation 2. I was then absorbed into one of the best fictional worlds ever.

A charismatic deep-voiced narrator introduced me to Son-Goku, a kid not much older than me who lived in the world I wished I did. Living in the middle of the forest, Goku’s biggest worries were exploring and catching dinner. I guess my twelve year old self subconsciously imagined himself as Goku. So when Goku went on an adventure so did I.

The reason I prefer Dragon Ball to the other series is its simplicity and tone. There are no multiple deaths to be undone with the dragon balls, aliens aren’t the enemies until much later, and the fighting is slower paced with weapons and fists and the occasional energy attack. There’s also a lot of comedy, which is awesome. I think this is what hooked me in so much as a kid; the stories were easy to understand and I could laugh along the way.

dragonball-original-487038935

Where I live; the innocence of a child doesn’t last too long. Some of the other boys in my eighth grade class would talk about smoking, drinking and the sorts, meanwhile I just wanted to be a kid who watched cartoons and played outside. Everybody wanted to grow up so fast and I just wanted adventure. I guess that’s a con of living in New York; there are no green fields to run around in, just concrete.

I looked at Goku through my TV screen and saw the definition of innocence. There’s a scene early on where Goku is taking a bath with the help of his older partner Bulma. As if needing an assistant for a simple bath wasn’t enough, it’s revealed that Goku doesn’t even know what genders are. He also assumes that everyone would have a tail just like he does. The crazy thing is Goku has lived in isolation ever since his grandfather died; he embodies innocence with his lack of social awareness.

With simple plots and an innocent fun loving character to project yourself into, it’s not hard to see why a kid yearning for adventure would love Dragon Ball. It has great writing, one of the best English dubs of all time and memorable music. Like a fine cheese or wine, Dragon Ball has aged into something that gets better every year. It reminds us through Goku that even the biggest legends start off in small footsteps; it’s an epic saga that shows us what it means to be innocent. Let’s be honest, it inspired us all to get into that trademarked pose and scream for a Kamehameha beam.

So yes, I will try watching Dragon Ball Super on Toonami this January. If by some chance I don’t like it enough to stick around; oh well, at least I have Dragon Ball

 

“Starboy” – The Weeknd [Review]

– by Dylan D

I’ve been following Abel Tesfaye on his journey as The Weeknd only a few months before his second studio album “Beauty Behind the Madness” released late last year. Though it hasn’t been too long, I’ve been endlessly fascinated with The Weeknd and his dark and personally engrossing style. The truth is Abel’s becoming one of the biggest celebrities in the world, many people love him. But there is vocal group stating that he’s betrayed his old style found in “Trilogy”. “Beauty Behind the Madness” launched the star into a sort of Dark-Pop vibe, and now with his third studio album “Starboy”, he seems to be doing it again. Just look at this quote from the title track:

“You talking ’bout me I don’t see the shade
Switch up my style I take any lane”

The real question is: did he once again successfully change styles?

starboysingle

After listening to “Beauty Behind the Madness” roughly twenty-five times (no exaggeration) I can safely say that “Starboy” isn’t as big of a change as advertised. If anything, Abel’s taken a step backwards to his original darkness.

The first song is the title track, “Starboy” which is a great song in reality, but because of the constant repetition of it on the radio I grew weary  quickly. Thankfully the next track, “Party Monster” is an utterly fantastic song describing the typical Weeknd lifestyle; partying with too much alcohol, drugs and regret. Then the second best transition of the whole album occurs, “Party Monster” blends wonderfully into “False Alarm”, which was released early with the title track. “False Alarm” is the essence of the entire album; it is dark, so dark that Abel literally screams louder than he has in any other song, but it also has a hyped-up pop vibe.

The best transition then brings us to “Reminder” a light song which feels like the aftermath of “False Alarm”. The transitions on the album are so fantastic it feels like one big song.

1280_theweeknd_album_twitter

I won’t go through every track individually, as the album is his longest in his career. Instead I’ll describe the overall feeling of the album as a whole and what the rest of the songs bring to it individually.

Unfortunately, if you’re an early Weeknd lover and hated “Beauty Behind the Madness”; I don’t think you’ll find more than a handful of songs to enjoy on “Starboy”. After the songs I listed above comes back the brighter pop-feel and some tracks actually seem like love songs which is the complete opposite of what The Weeknd was known for. One thing I need to note is that the pop isn’t like last time. The beats you hear in songs like “Starboy” and “A Lonely Night” feel 80’s inspired, like something you’d hear in “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”.

The album then fades back into a bit of darkness with appearances by Kendrick Lamar and Future, but by the very end of it comes quite possibly the nicest song Abel has produced: “I Feel it Coming”. This song defines the change of not just his style, but him as a person. No more is he socially poisoning girls like in “The Birds” (on Trilogy); here he is thinking beyond sex and into friendship, more specifically love. Abel has grown and quite possibly learned from his mistakes. With his inventive “Starboy” music video he shows the ‘new him’ killing his old self. I think it’s time we welcome him.

As a long time fan, I’ll admit The Weeknd has certainly changed lanes, but that’s no problem at all. Life wasn’t meant to be lived by doing the same thing continuously; Abel is having fun with his new found fame, wealth and values. As long as he doesn’t keep bragging or putting others down like he does in the title track, why shouldn’t we give him a chance? I need more time to think if I prefer it over last years “Beauty Behind the Madness”, but “Starboy” certainly didn’t let me down.

8/10

+ Exciting

+ A fusion of both his past darkness and pop

+ 80’s vibe

The Weeknd has done it again. While I think an album this long came maybe a little too soon after his previous, and that he should’ve spent more time on it; I can’t think of any real complaints here. It didn’t blow my mind like his previous albums, but every song is catchy in it’s own way and some definitely rank in my all time favorites. After “Starboy” I certainly look forward the Abel Tesfaye’s future work.