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...enjoy everything...
So, I just bought a house.

Moving out of apartment by Feb 15.


Current Mood: happy

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A package was waiting for me when I got home from work last night.

Without further ado, SHAFT quality:

Right out of the box, even still in the bubble wrap, the Production Note looks impressive. The weight (almost 4.5lb) was not a surprise, but actually holding the thing in my hand, yeah, this is no cheap couple-dozen-page paperback here. From the outside, it looks like a very sturdy and well designed package up to par with expectations of something with this kind of price tag.
The grey and black contrast well and give the packaging a "tome" look, while the cutout in the grey slip case leaves a splash of maroon in the center, with a glittery Madoka sparkling when the light hits and Inucurry's "Madoka Runes" peeking out along the spine. The front and back "spines" share the same layout, with different colors. I'm not sure where I'll park this thing yet, but if it goes in my bookshelf like a normal book, this classy design will be a suitable forward face.
Taking off the grey sleeve (which is made of a sturdy cardboard stock about 1mm thick), you can see the rest of the black slip-cover thing (of the same cardboard material) and the rest of the text, including the runes spelling out 'Madoka Magica' down the length of the cover. Also, RUFFLES because you can never have too many RUFFLES!
Prying back the matte black encasing, we finally get to the actual book cover itself, a bold, glossy dark red hardback, and this time the runes are a reflective silver with white lettering below and inside. The cover seems to scratch very easily, as just unpacking and repacking the book a few times since yesterday evening has already left several hairline scratches that are not hard to see in lighting bright enough to be reading the book. I would recommend not lying the cover directly on surfaces such as wood or even rough cloth if you wish to keep the cover from being scratched up.
Flipping open the cover, two things immediately stood out. First, how the front inside cover of this book showcases what is one of the last frames in the entire show, though here we have silvery silhouettes. Secondly, as you can sort of see in the picture, the hardback cover is actually only attached to the back of the book binding. The spine and front cover are not attached, and the inner binding is actually more like a paperback. Perhaps the book was designed this way in order to preserve the hardback cover's spine; because it folds back without bending, the more flexible inner spine's binding is all that will be stressed while reading the book.
One soot black cover-page later, a thin sheet of trace paper containing a full page sketch of everyone's favorite Kyubey smiles its eerie, unblinking smile up at you, and under that page was one of the little limited edition goodies (or so they say), a little cutout of one of Ume's Kyubey drawings. It's kind of cute, in a creepy way. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. For now, I just left it in the book.
Now for the main attraction... It should be noted here that the ~350 pages advertised is a misleading figure because many of the pages are one-sided but still count as two pages for numbering. The first 40 or so pages are double sided like pictured here, but the remaining 300 pages are one-sided. The paper is pretty good quality; thin enough to feel smooth (and also thin enough for the line-work to show through the other side of the sheet) but thick enough to not feel fragile.
The remainder of the book is divided into several sections: Pages 49-150 covers character design sketches, pages 151-182 covers some Inucurry sketch work (mostly witches), 183-242 is prop design (weapons, jewelery, etc.), 243-310 covers art design which consists mainly of background art sketches, and the last few pages contain some earlier artwork from Ume, including such things as an alternate design for Homura's outfit and a sketch of Kyoko in a skirt (pictured on the wiki). Way too much to take pictures of everything, but here are a few more samples.
Next is the second of the two books in this set. The smaller of the two, this book of Inucurry's artwork makes up what it lacks in size with arguably the more interesting content in this collection. Similar to its larger counterpart, this book has a rune-strewn hardcover which is attached only to the back of the pages bound inside. The upper half glossy while the lower half is matte, and overall the cover is both more scratch resistant and uses a color scheme better at hiding scratches as well.

I love the inside cover.
Right inside this book, two of the other special goodies were tucked away: a Charlotte bookmark and a really strange and amusing postcard. I supposed here is as good a place as any to also mention that both of these books have a pretty tight binding that really does not lend itself to scanning or copying. I don't want to risk tearing them up by trying to flatten the pages.
Here's a closeup of the postcard. It amuses me. Especially WRYYYY Kyubey and mustache Homuhomu.
The first part of this book contains almost four dozen full color spreads of artwork mostly used as background in the witches' mazes, starting with the picture on the left here and ending with the one on the right. While it is cool to be able to examine the artwork on its own on a page, the artwork feels like it's lacking some of the vibrancy it had in the show. Perhaps because of the rougher, matte finish of these pages, rather than the glossier pages that some art books use, combined with the fact that there are a lot of blacks and dark color tones in this Inucurry art, the pictures kind of have an almost washed-out feel, like when the brightness is turned up too high on your TV or monitor; the blacks don't look black. Is it worth making a big deal about? I don't really think so, but it is worth mentioning.
Following the full color pages is another 90 pages of miscellaneous sketches, storyboards, and other reference art. A lot of it is concept art; much sloppier than the stuff in the first section of the book, but cool nonetheless. I wasn't really surprised to see that some of the concept art is even darker in tone than what made it to the show, but still find it pretty interesting to think about what might have been; like if the fight against Elsa Maria had been a little more like the storyboard found in this book, or like if creepy candy nurses performing questionable medial procedures had been a more prominent element in episode three.
And finally, one last bonus item was included in this set. This sketch of Madoka is... really nice. I wasn't sure my set, not being one of the ones from Comiket, was even going to include it, and I was glad to find it. Despite the fact that I bought this book set, I really don't care that much for the Madoka Magica character designs outside of the context of the show. I think they're great character designs for the show, but as fanart and character goods fuel, they really don't appeal to me. But this picture...something about it; somehow this sketch of Madoka falling through a cloud cover pierced by rays of light is just really beautiful. I'm tempted to frame it, actually...

This is really a great set. Glad I snagged one of these when I had the chance. I put my order in when there were 10 left on CDJapan, and they sold out within the hour. Eternal thanks to a comrade over on ANN who tipped me off to the availability. I am interested to see if these get another print run in the future so those who missed out can add this to their collections (or shrines, if that's your thing, I guess). If they don't, I guess it'll have been my mistake to not buy more than one to resale later to fund a car or mortgage payment some day! You can find more info, some translations, and a lot more pictures over at the wiki.

Update: 5/10 - Used scanner at work to get a better scan of the sketch of Madoka.

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Someone broke into my car this weekend and stole all my tools and roadside emergency stuff. And this on top of being kept up until 6 AM by noisy neighbors. Oh yeah, and my PC's hard drive is dying, too.


Current Mood: annoyed

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So after 6 years of putting it off because I didn't want to buy something that would turn out to be another dust-collector, I got a PSP. I like it. :D

Average night's sleep has mysteriously dropped by about two hours this week. Hmm.

I just got these four games pictured so far. Anything else I should look for?

Current Mood: sore

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Well, since tenk's post had me thinking about it, and JSG did one, too, I figured why not throw in my ten cents?

Last fall, I posted a few recommendations but some of that stuff was brand new and didn't have room to talk about everything, so this is a good chance. Looking at this again, most of these commentaries turned out to be rather longer than I'd planned, so apologies in advance, but maybe you can get something out of my this. :)

I will borrow tenk's little disclaimer here before moving on: "Some entries might not be in a genre you're interested in, and that's totally expected. I'd be shocked if anyone was in full agreement with me about the merit of every title I list. You may choose to watch something and not like it personally, but I would hope that even if that was the case, you might say 'It's not my thing, but it does deserve some accolades.'"

I'm also borrowing tenk's guidelines, though I've made some minor customization.Collapse )

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So much for regular posting, huh.

I'm so out of whack this week I'm totally scatterbrained. When TMT ended I thought I'd get back to a normal schedule, but between following quake and tsunami news, a couple late nights out playing boardgames, and the worst headache in a long time on Sunday, that hasn't happened yet. I scared myself a few times driving to work this morning--felt like I was going to fall asleep at the wheel.

Speaking of quake and tsunami, well, I won't talk much about it here because I probably don't have anything to say that hasn't already been said. Except that I lost my FFXI penpal's email address some months ago (because my non-gmail webmail is retarded) so I haven't been able to check in with him. He lives in Sapporo, so I imagine he's okay since that's on the west coast.

I canceled my WoW account this week. If TMT showed me anything, it showed me that after a month long break from WoW, I didn't miss the game at all, really. I do kinda miss the weekly guild events, but we really hadn't been doing those since Cata came out, anyway. For a while I entertained the idea of going back to FFXI to see the new stuff, but even though people I know still play, I don't think I want to set aside the amount of time I'd need to do that. So, back to MMO-free Veers for now. I've already started putting the recovered free times towards studying Japanese and working on my backlog of other games I have sitting around collecting dust.

And, for now, today's work won't complete itself, so I'd better get back on that.

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Current Mood: tired

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Yes. Really. Okay, so picture this. You're a stowaway on a ship. It's sinking into the frigid Atlantic waters. You find a lifeboat. There's room for two more. The ship's passengers happened to be the human personifications of every magical girl anime ever made. You make sure to pick up Tutu, of course, but is there anyone else really worth saving? Before this January, I would have said no (well, maybe Arusu, maybe) and kept paddling. But now, I believe that spot belongs to Madoka, at least for the time being (we'll kick her out if the ending is bad).

If this is how we're starting off 2011, I have high hopes for the rest of this year. I haven't had this much fun following an anime in a while. Oh, sure, Madoka's boohooing is starting to grate a little, and the character designs feel totally out of place, but that's okay because the artwork is creative, the writing is doing unexpected things, the plot is going unusual places, and *spoilers*. This is not the kind of show you'd expect it to be from the promo art... unless, to you, this art implies a dark, violent, genre-subverting plot and character development presented with good, creative art direction backed by the familiar but not unwelcome sounds of Kalafina/Kajiura. Because if that's what you're getting out of that promo art, well, then it actually is exactly the kind of show you're expecting.

◕ ‿‿ ◕


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Eternity: These Mortal Things finally is sputtering to a start! Drafting opened this weekend.

Darkken'll be at the wheel for the tale of this ship's adventure, while I man the cannons (aka handle the gameplay). I think Plas is in the crow's nest while TK is in a hammock below decks with a bottle of grog. We hope it will be a fun ride for everyone.

(For those not familiar, this will be a play-by-post role playing game with heavy emphasis on creative writing. If either element sounds interesting, we'd be happy to have more people participate.)

And on that note, some musings about designing TMT's system... This is long-winded but might be worth the read if you want to know where I'm coming from on this tournament.Collapse )

Current Mood: sleepy

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Even with the holidays, it never felt like things slowed down a bit; like a big bull with me in tow just crashed through the fence into 2011 like it was nothing special. And maybe it wasn’t...?

Work is still keeping my pretty busy, in a good way. I’m finally working on something where I expect to get a lot of mileage out of JavaScript so I have been studying some books on that since I’ve never done much with JS before. One day I’m designing a database, the next I’m giving a training class, the next I’m in meetings, the next I’m coding, and the next I’m studying something... maybe I have my sights aimed low, but it’s pretty fulfilling.

Been playing WoW most evenings when I’m not working late, going to bed early, or doing something else a little more productive than MMOing like cooking, reading, or working on some kind of creative project like a BlackBerry theme or TMT or something. Cataclysm is pretty awesome, though it does seem to have brought a lot of more-terrible-than-usual players out of the woodwork and I no longer enjoy pugging dungeons nearly as much as I did in LK days. It’s always fun to run into Gurren Lagann, Touhou, or other references when questing through all the revamped content! And now to explain this picture. It’s from the 2011 calendar I got at work with safety reminder artwork drawn by the kids/grandkids of other employees. I saw this picture and immediately knew this four-year-old was destined for WoW raiding.

Our board games nights also continue. Last weekend we played the Battlestar Galactica game which was a blast even though I knew nothing about the show/story. It was like playing the social/party game Mafia with board game component themed with BSG; really fun, and now I’m hooked on the TV series—gone through the 3-hour miniseries/pilot and half of season one in the past three days! (here's a pic from our session; I played as Cylon!Starbuck and the humans lost this game >:D)

And I know it may be hard to believe, but work on TMT is continuing behind the scenes. Maybe as soon as TK’s situation stabilizes we’ll get it cranked out for real. Though I’m not sure now what the plans are with spring semester and everything. I’ve been refining gameplay elements with Darkken recently, and the system’s complexity is being degraded with each revision. In a way, this saddens me, but I understand that until someone sits down and designs some sort of software to help automate tournament gameplay (which wouldn’t be impossible by any means, but would take time that I don’t think I alone have), we need to keep things designed in a way that works for a mostly-time-insensitive, mostly-manually-tallied post-by-post forum format. On that note(!), I was talking with Kyo the other day about putting together a program to handle tournament gameplay at some point. It’s a pipe dream at this point, but it’s a rather obtainable one, relatively speaking.

Well, I need to get back to work, but before I go... Just think of this the next time you munch on an apple. I'm not sure the famous saying applies to fruit coated with junk.

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Current Mood: creative

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A few weeks ago, darthhowie posted about Now and Then, Here and There. I'd heard of the show before, but like a lot of things (especially 10+ year old things), it was in the dark recesses of that "some day when I have time and need something to do" queue. However, said post promptly skipped NTHT to the forefront of my queue, and I watched up to the next to last episode while out of town for work a couple weeks ago, then finished it up when I got home. And I'm glad I did.

I guess I'm part of the target audience for this kind of story. Now and Then, Here and There really got to me.

I lost sleep over it. I couldn't finish the last episode in one sitting. The evening I finished the series, I spent about two hours sitting/wandering around my apartment just processing the whole thing. Almost two weeks later, scenes from the show are still popping into my head unbidden at random times in the day. Like this one pictured here...

Now and Then, Here and There is a powerful, powerful show.

Riveting, upsetting, sobering, and effective.

Well written, well acted, and well animated when it needed to be.

Brutally honest and, honestly, brutal.

I haven't had such an emotional response to a piece of fiction in I don't know how long. At least, as TK put it, the show is kind enough to kiss its knuckles before gutpunching you--its saving grace is that it's got an underlying current of optimism that is never completely snuffed out, but even knowing that doesn't really make parts of it any easier to watch once things get going after the first couple introductory episodes.

It's an exercise in imagination that might hurt.

You can watch it streaming on ANN.


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