The Otaku Judge – 2018 in Review

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An end of year recap in April? Talk about long overdue. It’s safe to say that 2018 will go down in history as the last year were I update this site on a regular basis. For those of you who are wondering, no I am not dead. My passion for blogging on the other hand is well and truly six feet under.

I’ll continue to post on here sporadically, and I’ll still visit the blogs I follow whenever time allows. No great loss in the grand scheme of things, as the internet is filled with anime/game critics who are wittier and more talented than I. Many thanks to all my subscribers for the support and kind feedback you have blessed me with, ever since I registered on WordPress back in 2013.

VIEWS: In total The Otaku Judge received 19,568 views in 2018. That’s a drop from the previous twelve months, where I attracted over 22,000 hits. No surprise given that I wrote thirty-two fewer articles. Another factor is that several of the site’s readers have since departed from WordPress. Curse those quitters. I hate it when people abandon the WordPress community without warning… oh wait never mind (hypocrite alarm sounds in the background).

TOP ATTRACTIONS: The most popular posts of 2018 were…

1. Review of Justice League: The poor man’s Avengers starring a team of DC heroes.
2. A Place Further than the Universe Review: Cute anime girls travel to Antarctica.
3. Review of Jurassic World: Hollywood reboots an extinct dinosaur franchise.

WHERE DID THEY COME FROM: For the fourth successive year the site’s highest source of traffic (in order of views) is United States, United Kingdom and Canada. Germany overtakes India and Australia to claim fourth place.

WHO ARE THEY: My most frequent readers were…

1. John Jr: A dreamer who occasionally writes about entertainment.
2. Man In Black: Pens detailed reviews of anime, wrestling DVDs and movies I have never heard of.
3. Raistlin0903: The movie buff from Holland, who is sadly on blog hiatus.
4. Krystallina: Focuses on manga reviews. Loves Final Fantasy 7 and a good bargain.
5. Jeffrey Botah: He writes things. I read them. Seems like a fair deal.

Okay, that’s it for this recap. Farewell for now. I’ll see you all whenever I get the urge to post the traditional top five anime/games of 2018. Until then, I wish you all a belated happy new year!

Omega Labyrinth Z Banned in the West

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Right now I am enjoying the Muv-Luv visual novels that recently got released on PlayStation Vita. The highly acclaimed trilogy came to the system courtesy of a successful 2015 Kickstarter campaign. Muv-Luv starts out as a high school harem rom-com, in the first title, before transitioning into a sci-fi mech adventure in the later sequels. If you are interested in downloading the games be sure to manually search for them in the PSN store. Sony’s inept European staff never bothered to list either VN on their New Release listings. Guess they really hate anything that publisher PQube brings out.

Case in point, earlier this week it was announced on PQube’s website that Omega Labyrinth Z won’t be getting a Western localization after all. A handful of prudish nations (including Australia the kings of censorship) refused to give the dungeon crawler an age rating, thus barring it from being sold in their retail outlets. The rest of the world was however expected to get the game at some point this year. Unfortunately for RPG fans Sony has scuppered those plans at the eleventh hour. A press release from PQube reveals that Sony has effectively banned the game in the US and EU…

“In the case of Omega Labyrinth Z, while PQube has worked with all relevant age rating bodies in their respective territories, PQube must respectfully comply with the wishes of the platform holder and have therefore withdrawn any future plans for Omega Labyrinth Z’s European and North American release.”

When I say Sony I mean their European and America branches, because the game came out last year in Japan without incident. Shame that said Asian version doesn’t carry English subtitles, because that would have allowed prospective buyers to import it. Thank you very much Sony Europe/America for policing what grown adults can buy. You are okay with profiting from games that revel in graphic murder (God of War) but heaven forbid that an eighteen year old gets to play something that features cute cartoon girls. Better not tell them that their Crunchyoll app already allows people to view ecchi content on their machine.

I feel bad for PQube because they must be out of pocket, after going through the expense of translating a game they can no longer sell. Meanwhile the folks at Sony have accelerated the death of their handheld with this decision. Banning games is not going to help the lifespan of a system that is starving for new releases. One thing that concerns me is the signal that Sony has sent out. Game publishers are hesitant to localize niche games because they aren’t big sellers. I suspect in future even fewer quirky titles from Japan will reach our shores. The risk is too great when the threat of a potential Sony ban hangs over their heads.

The Top Five Anime I Reviewed in 2017

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I didn’t have time to finish any games or anime last week, as my schedule was disrupted by the news that I had been selected to serve as a juror. Rather ironic, given the name of my blog! Anyways, as I have nothing to review this Sunday I might as well get the long overdue Top Anime of 2017 out of the way. I think this might be the first year were none of the listed shows form part of my DVD collection. The year 2017 has pretty much seen me abandon physical media in favour of consuming anime online, via services such as Crunchyroll. Gone are the days of worrying about storage space and I get to watch newer shows to boot.

5th) Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: This hilarious series shows what happens when the titular Kobayashi ends up cohabitating with a draconic housekeeper, who she met during a drunken night out. Anime with goofy titles aren’t rare, but in most cases shows with a silly premise lose their charm after a few episodes. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid bucks that trend thanks to its cast of quirky reptiles, who have migrated over to our world from another dimension. The interplay between the characters is great, as is Kanna’s cuteness and Tohru’s weird laundry techniques (which involve gulping down unmentionables.)

4th) Recovery of an MMO Junkie: Romantic comedies aren’t usually my thing, as they have a habit of dragging things out. Recovery of an MMO Junkie won me over however, by delivering its sweet tale in a concise ten episodes. The series follows a thirty-year-old NEET who ends up finding love in an online RPG. Unbeknownst to protagonist Morioka, the female healer she has a crush on is in fact a dashing businessman whom she bumped into recently. Can the couple transfer their relationship from the virtual world into the real one? Of course! We already know from SAO how easy it is to get laid in MMORPGs.

3rd) School-Live: Spoilers are not always bad. If it weren’t for other bloggers telling me about the first episode twist I probably would have given School-Live a miss, as it looked like a generic “cute girls doing cute things” series. The reality is that School-Live is a zombie apocalypse show and a darn good one at that. Presented through the eyes of a traumatised schoolgirl, who uses her imagination to cope with the stressful situation, the series continually shifts between being funny and downright heart-breaking. A school where the halls are packed with brain-dead violent beings? Sounds like my old comprehensive!

2nd) Erased: I can’t comment on the Netflix live action adaptation, as I haven’t watched it, but I can at least verify that the animated series is exceptional. Akin to classic TV show Quantum Leap, Erased stars a character whose consciousness travels to the past with the aims of averting a tragedy. In this case pizza deliveryman Satoru Fujinuma is whisked to the time when he was a young lad. There he has the goal of apprehending the serial killer responsible for killing his mom in the present day. What’s the moral of the story? Your childhood sweetheart won’t wait for you, but a homicidal maniac will.

1st) Death Parade: Move over Saint Peter. The true arbiter, who decides where the deceased end up, is in fact an emotionless bartender named Decim. When the pasty mixologist isn’t busy collecting creepy mannequins, he judges who is worthy of reincarnation via contests of Twister and darts. Death Parade is a thought provoking series, which will leave you pondering what the criterion is for determining a worthwhile existence. Like the cocktails that Decim serves, the script contains a mix of ingredients. There are offbeat episodes, romantic tales and stories whose outcomes will make your blood boil. Death Parade is a brilliant anime and you would be a dummy (like Decim’s mannequins) to miss it.

So there we have it. My favourite anime from the titles I reviewed over the course of 2017. What were your favourite shows of the past year? Let me know in the comments section below. I am keen to hear suggestions on what I should watch next. Animated entertainment is just what I need to perk up my spirits, after participating in a tense court case. Four hours, in a tiny room, deliberating a verdict is no fun. We couldn’t even step outside for lunch and therefore had to make do with a free cheddar roll. Talk about cheesy compensation!

The Top Five Games I Reviewed in 2017

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The year 2017 was a great time for video games. It was a little too great in fact. The sheer quantity of excellent titles, which came out, was so vast that I only managed to play a small fraction of them. Many releases that other sites have named in their best of year lists remain in my backlog unopened. Still, who cares about my first world problems? Below are the finest games that I managed to complete and review in the past twelve months.

5th) Miitopia: Nintendo has discontinued the Miiverse, but at least we can say that the franchise went out on a high note, courtesy of this casual RPG. Players assemble a party of real life friends and celebrities to battle the wicked Dark Lord, who is responsible for nabbing the faces of innocents. The game’s lack of interactivity (you only have direct control of one character) will put off some hardcore gamers, but I was able to overlook that fault thanks to the title’s charm and humour. Goodbye cute Miis. You shall be mii-ssed.

4th) Last Day of June: From a pure gameplay perspective, Last Day of June is arguably the weakest entry in this list. It compensates for its shortcomings however with an emotional, short but sweet, story. Players take control of wheelchair bound Carl, who attempts to save his fiancé from a fatal car crash by using mystical portraits that transport him to the past. The game boasts some clever third person puzzles, a beautiful soundtrack and graphics reminiscent of a Tim Burton stop-motion movie. Well worth the three hours it takes to complete.

3rd) Sonic Mania: After a number of recent flops, Sonic the Hedgehog returned to prominence in 2017 thanks to Sonic Mania. Indie programmer Christian Whitehead ended up overshadowing Sonic Forces with this effort. Mania delivers the look and feel of vintage Sonic that veteran fans have been demanding for years. It plays just like the classic Megadrive trilogy thanks to its excellent music, multi-path 2D stages and retro pixel graphics. Brilliant stuff, even if the dizzying sphere collecting mini-game still makes me nauseous.

2nd) Danganronpa V3: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Danganronpa V3 once again features sixteen trapped juveniles who are forced to compete in a death game by a beary demented teddy. Recycling the same plot for a third successive occasion should feel stale, but thanks to a quirky cast and some unexpected twists V3 remains just as captivating as its predecessors. This anime themed murder mystery is easily the best visual novel I read in 2017. Even if the big reveal at the end is a tad polarizing, don’t let that put you off. V3 is one of those experiences were the journey is more important than the destination.

1st) Persona 5: The phantom thieves steal the top spot. Even if the cast aren’t as likable as their Persona 4 counterparts, I still loved this stylish RPG. It’s ironic that in a year were I moan about lack of gaming time, I ended up getting immersed in a game were time management is of the utmost importance. Should I dungeon crawl to advance the story or socialize to unlock new abilities? Those decisions are what make Persona so enjoyable. Work may limit my gaming sessions these days, but when something this good comes out it’s amazing how one’s schedule can be rearranged to accommodate a 100-hour tour de force.

So there you have it, my favourite games of 2017. The top three pretty much picked themselves, but I had a tougher time filling in the final two slots. Chaos;Child, Fire Emblem Echoes and Monument Valley are honourable mentions that narrowly missed the cut. But enough about my selection, what were your best games of the year? Let me know in the comments section below. It will be a big help in helping me prioritize what to play next from my enormous backlog.

The Otaku Judge: 2017 in Review

 

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There once was a time when WordPress would generate a report detailing a blog’s performance on the first day of every year. It’s a practice they sadly ceased in 2016, so it falls upon me to manually compile 2017’s statistics myself. To be honest I rarely check my site’s metrics, but it’s nice to look at the figures on an annual basis to see how The Otaku Judge fared in the past twelve months. Based on the comments I receive, readers seem to enjoy the yearly summaries so let’s keep the tradition going by crunching those numbers.

◙ Views: Last year my site received 22,741 hits. Not quite enough to beat the all time record of 22,846, but on the plus side it was over two thousand more views than I got in the previous year. During the course of 2017 the blog attracted the most visitors ever. Thank you to the 13,344 visitors who dropped by, be you long time followers, new subscribers or random perverts searching for cat girl porn (my most popular search term apparently.)

Top Attractions: If we only focus on 2017 posts and disregard things like the home page, the most popular reviews/articles of 2017 were…

1. Brave Dungeon: Just like last year, my most read post features the word dungeon.
2. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: One of the funnier anime I watched in 2017.
3. Five Flaming Hotties: I listed off my five sexiest anime ladies.

Sakura Dungeon topped the 2016 list and obscure 3DS game Brave Dungeon claimed the number one spot in 2017. I wonder if another dungeon crawler will keep this trend going in 2018.

Where did they come from: No change here. The United States, United Kingdom and Canada remain my biggest markets. For the first time ever India cracked the top four nations to visit my blog. Other places that my readers hail from include Australia, Germany, Philippines, Indonesia and Brazil.

Who are they: To finish off let’s mention my five most active commenters…

1. Raistlin0903: Reviews movies, TV and anime. He didn’t like the Last Jedi.
2. The Things I’ve Seen: A talented artist from Ireland who writes about movies.
3. Man in Black: Specializes in foreign films, anime and wrestling. Owns a pug.
4. Matt Doyle: An author who blogs about geek culture. Awesome cosplayer.
5. Jon Spencer: Aniblogger who covers games/movies too. Hat on question mark.

Happy new year to all my followers. Thank you very much for the support. In case you are wondering, I hope to release my Top 5 anime and games of 2017 in the not too distant future. A bit late perhaps, but it’s tough to write content when my job kicked off 2018 with twelve successive shifts!

My Top 3 Final Fantasy Games

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The Shameful Narcissist is currently running a poll asking readers to vote for the best Final Fantasy game of all time. As a response to that post I have decided to jot down my three favourite RPGs from Square-Enix’s legendary series. Just missing the cut are Final Fantasy 8 and Final Fantasy 14. Eight was a great game although the system of drawing magic from enemies, to boost stats, was far too easy to exploit. Fourteen deserves praise, as Square managed to salvage the game after a terrible launch. At the time of writing FF14 is one of the better MMOs money can buy… and I am not just saying that because the servers are populated with cat girls.

3rd) Final Fantasy 10: For many people this was the last great Final Fantasy game. It’s the title that convinced me to buy a PlayStation 2, which was the first console I ever purchased (all of my other systems were gifts from relatives.) Tidus wasn’t the greatest protagonist perhaps, but the rest of the cast was cool – particularly badass Auron. Aside from the story itself I sunk many hours into Blitzball, because I am a sucker for sport management sims. Heck, when I rebought FF10 for the Vita I never beat the last boss. Screw saving the world, I just want to grind for cash so I can play season after season of underwater soccer.

2nd Final Fantasy 6: Also known as Final Fantasy 3 in the States, as some of the earlier FF games weren’t localized (or perhaps because Yanks can’t count.) Final Fantasy 6 took a while to win me over. I originally played it on an SNES emulator and gave up on it after a few hours. Years later I gave the game another chance on the PlayStation One and got hooked once the ability to customize what spells your party can cast became available. It’s impressive how many playable characters you can recruit when you consider the game’s age. Easily the best of the retro Final Fantasies in terms of gameplay, story and quotable lines. If you think otherwise you must be more insane than a spoony bard.

1st) Final Fantasy 9: The top spot goes to the game that got me into the RPG genre. It’s one of my favourite games of all time thanks to its beautiful soundtrack and memorable cast of characters. Steiner the bumbling knight, Zidane the rogue with a Goku like monkey tail and Vivi the adorable black mage. If you don’t like Vivi you don’t have a soul. They just don’t make Final Fantasy games like this anymore. Now all Square cares about is fast paced combat, sci-fi worlds and photorealistic graphics. It’s technically impressive, but lacks the charm of FF9’s four man parties, medieval setting and chibi character designs. Modern day Final Fantasy has forsaken me, so I’ll have to rely on Bravely Default instead to satiate my hunger for traditional turn based RPG goodness.

So there you have it. Those are my three favourite Final Fantasy titles. Feel free to list your own picks in the comments section below. I look forward to reading how my opinions are wrong, just because I omitted a certain release that features a spikey haired cross-dresser and a flower girl slayer with mommy issues.

The Top 5 Anime I Reviewed in 2016

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It was sad to see that the celebrity cull of 2016 did not spare Japan, robbing us of several talented creators and voice actors. For the most part however 2016 was a good year for the anime industry. The sheer quantity of shows coming out on Japanese TV and local DVD stores is outstanding. Who knows if this boom period is sustainable, so let us enjoy it whilst it lasts. Over here in the UK, anime availability has received a shot in the arm thanks to the arrival of Funimation Now and their partnership with streaming site Crunchyroll. Great news indeed – although I hope Funimation’s expansion into Britain won’t drive local distributers out of business. A monopoly is never good… and I am not just saying that because the price of landing on Mayfair is extortionate. Let’s put the corporate speculation aside for now though and get on with counting down my top five anime of 2016.

5th) Log Horizon Season Two: For the second successive year my top five list opens with Log Horizon. Season two doesn’t quite match the quality of the first series, especially on the visual front due to a change of studio, but I still enjoyed it. This twenty-five-episode continuation reunites us with the titular guild as they raid for treasure, protect Akihabara from a serial killer, quest for satchel components and fend off a swarm of discount Mothras. If you are a MMO junkie or someone looking for a smarter Sword Art Online I can highly recommend giving Log Horizon a gander. Let’s hope a third season gets made eventually. Writer Mamare Touno could probably fund the project singlehandedly by using the savings he’s made through tax evasion.

4th) Orange: Much to my chagrin this series seems to have received a lukewarm reception with many viewers. I guess it really is true that people don’t like fruits and vegetables. This tale of a schoolgirl, who tries to avert an upcoming tragedy when she receives a warning letter from her future self, did however resonate with me. I enjoyed the slice of life moments in addition to the sweet romance between protagonist Naho and transfer student Kakeru. The series also does a commendable job of highlighting the dangers of depression, which is something I can relate to. Several people in my life have had to cope with bouts of despondency and even I feel low on occasion… although those spells only seem to manifest between the start and end of my work shift.

3rd) Planetrian: Speaking of depression, here comes a five part original net animation based on a decade old visual novel from the peddlers of feels that is Key. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Planetarian follows a scavenger who is forced to seek refuge inside a ruined planetarium after a run in with some hostile mechanical sentries. There he encounters a perky android named Hoshino Yumemi who pleads for his aid in repairing the establishment’s zodiacal projector. The two bond over the course of the ensuing maintenance work and then “stuff” happens. I won’t say what, but given that Key’s past works include the likes of Clannad it may be wise to invest in a box of tissues prior to watching this show.

2nd) Haikyu!!: What’s up with sport shows and exclamation marks? First we had Haikyu!! and not to be outdone Keijo!!!!!!!! followed suit at the tail end of 2016. Anyways, Haikyu successfully conveys to otakus why the jocks, who beat them up in high school, find sporting events to be so exciting. Despite having zero interest in volleyball (aside from the beachside female variety) I couldn’t put this series down. It’s a classic underdog tale, were a diminutive leaper and a talented setter team up to transform Karasuno High School’s minnows into tournament contenders. The cast (be they players, rivals or management) are all likable and the camaraderie they share is inspirational. Let’s hope that season two and three reaches the UK DVD market sooner rather than later.

1st) Mirai Nikki (Future Diary): Thanks to Kaze “our DVDs always get delayed” Entertainment I finally watched Mirai Nikki. It’s a show many of my pals have recommended and after finishing it I can see why. Packed with twists and turns, this psychological thriller pits reclusive Yuki Amano against eleven other competitors in a battle royale where godhood is the prize. Each participant is armed with soothsaying phones, which foretell the future, demanding that rivals resort to subterfuge in order to get the drop on their opponents. Things get chaotic real fast and aren’t helped by the fact that Yuki’s main protector is an unstable yandere girlfriend (making her only slightly more needy than your average love interest.) Mirai Nikki’s gore and dark subject matter won’t appeal to everyone, but as someone who enjoyed Death Note I lapped it up.

So there you have it, the five best anime that I watched in 2016. I only reviewed thirty-three shows in that period, so I must have missed out on a lot of stellar stuff. With that in mind I would appreciate any suggestions, which you consider to be essential viewing, in the comments section below. I’ll do my best to check out your nominations. Who knows, your picks could end up becoming a contender for my 2017 list. Don’t bother mentioning stuff like Naruto though. I have the attention span of a Ritalin starved fruit fly, so anime that runs for hundreds of episodes is unlikely to maintain my interest.