Thursday, July 2, 2009

For Tress, everyone else disregard!

June decides to stay in Sanctuary, having no where else to do. Athena offers her a position training new Saints and she figures she can be closer to Shun. She’ll spend a few chapters getting used to Sanctuary and upping her confidence a bit. When she finally gets bold enough, the Gold Saints are revived by Persephone in apology for Hades’ actions.

She’ll see Aphrodite and remember the anger and pain at losing her home land. It makes her think of Shun, and she decides to grab her chance at being with him before she loses him too. When she tells him how he feels, he confesses that he loves her as a friend and sister, but nothing more. Heartbroken and angry, she runs off.

Shaina and Marin try to talk to her about it but they can’t quite seem to pull her out of her slump. It’s when one of her students gets hurt that she realizes she’s being rather selfish by being angry and not paying attention to her duties. She visits her student in the infirmary and promises to be a better teacher, then stops by to see Shun to apologize for how she treated him. They decide it would be best to keep their distance for a while so they can both concentrate on themselves.

Meanwhile, Aphrodite notices June being rather sad and reflective one night on a hill and wonders who she is and why she feels so sad even though he can’t see her face. He decides to ask Asterion since he’s psyhic and must know, and he tells him who she is. He figures that her sadness is due to his actions, which it partly is, and so he tries to approach her one night when he’s feeling particularly guilty and they’re both alone. She yells at him to stay away, telling him that she hates him. She stalks off, leaving Dite even more depressed.

He’ll see her training her students a few days later in the woods since she’s used to training in different environments cause she’s from Andromeda Island, and afterwards Dite approaches her to compliment her on her training. She tells him she has nothing better to do, as all she’s left with is the remnants of her past. He tells her he’s the same way, and ironically enough, they’re both trying to move on. He asks her if she’ll always hate him, and she replies that she doesn’t know, asking in turn if he’ll ever not hate himself. He replied that he has no answer for that either, and that they both have a ways to go, but he feels she can do it because she’s a strong woman, inside and out. He leaves her with that, her anger at him deflated.

Within the next few months, word spreads that Aphrodite began requesting to accompany Athena on her business trips, rumored to be his attempts at redemption. (I want him to possibly get hurt protecting her somehow but I can’t think of how.)

The crowds gather a few months later as one of June’s students, Apollo, is trying for the Lyra Cloth, which was also recovered by Persephone. Aphrodite is there as well, and sees June and Shun next to each other chatting and is glad to know that both of them have seemed to move on and grow in the past few months. After he wins, he approaches June to congratulate her. He tells her that he did his best to avoid her so that she could have her time, but he wanted to ask her some questions and talk about a few things with her as part of his own journey. She agrees to meet him in his temple for dinner one night.

She goes a few nights later, and he asks her what happened from her perspective and asks how she wound up at Sanctuary. He realizes she’s gone through a lot and begins to rather admire her for it. She asks him how he’s been and he begins to talk about how he’s been trying to make amends for his actions, that he only did it out of self-preservation, that in a way it was out of fear and that isn’t something beautiful, so he had to change that within himself. She find herself admiring that.

She says that to him, and it makes him smile. When he walks her out, he stops her and says that that she too has changed for the better, like a blossoming flower, and hands her a rose. He tells her to stop by whenever she wishes, and that he’d like to see her again. She tells him she’ll think about it.

She’s hanging out with Marin two days later and Marin asks why she went up the mountain. She tells her about her night with Aphrodite, and Marin suggests that perhaps her heart had softened for him more than she realizes. June doubts that and gets a little defensive, but it leaves her thinking. Meanwhile, Aphrodite is BSing with DeathMask when DM asks if he has anything new going on besides his prissy flowers. He says nothing, but the look in his eyes makes DM admit that he’s noticed his eyes on June. He warns him that she’s not going to go for him in the end because she’ll probably never get past what he did, but Aphrodite says it isn’t that easy. DM suggests that Dite has fallen for her, which Dite can’t really deny. DM tells him that he’s just going to hurt himself in the end, but Aphrodite can’t help but think that something big could come of it if he can make it work.

That night, June is walking and thinking about things, and Dite spots her. He asks her what’s on her mind and if she needs someone to talk to, but she tells him she can’t because she’s confused about a few things, one of them being him. He comes up behind her and puts his hands on her arms, telling her he feels the same way and he wants a chance to show her the real him, rather than the pretty-boy egotistical child everyone takes him for. She turns to him and asks how he’s going to prove that, and he runs a rose along her cheek and asks if she’d allow him to show her. She nods and he kisses her, sparking something both of them didn’t expect. June reflects in her mind that she’s amazed at how far things have come, and they both for the first time since Hades’ demise can’t wait to see what the future brings.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Thanks to my friend Jon, I have found a blog service that I feel has much more features, much more networking possibilities, and just looks and feels better to me.

So, everything here has been imported to my new blog, titled Chu*Blog, which can be found here:
My New Blog!

Please update all of your links, RSS feeds, and blogrolls! Thank you =D

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Wii MotionPlus Review

For Father's Day, my father asked my brother and I to get him Tiger Woods PGA '10 for the Wii. This particular game happens to come packaged with the Wii MotionPlus. I didn't think anything of it at first really, but when he started using it, I knew I HAD to write a review on it.

I'll start with the good parts of it.

First off, let's talk about how it's packaged. It DOES come with a longer Wii remote sleeve, and it's own instruction manual, which is just hilarious to me. Anyway, it's surprisingly easy to use and set up.

You just slide it into the bottom of the Wii remote and use the lock slide on the back of the MotionPlus to keep it in place. There's a flap on the back of the new, longer remote jacket to thread the wrist strap through, so there's no impediment there. It looks nice on the bottom of the Wii remote, and the jacket fits just as snug as the smaller one. Very nice. There's also a flap on the bottom of the new jacket to plug the nunchuck into the bottom of the MotionPlus, which fits nice.

The MotionPlus is very responsive, and gave my father nice, clean golf strokes, and his game play pretty much mirrored his normal golf game scores, which I'll take as a testament to the MotionPlus' accuracy. My only regret about this review is that I didn't get a chance to handle it myself, although my father really liked the way it handled, and he is a pretty fussy gamer, so that's a good thing coming from him.

Now, here's some criticism.

I don't really have much criticism. They pretty much thought of everything to make sure it's easy for someone to pick up and use, and it really is very accurate. I only have one or two problems with it.

When I picked up the remote with the MotionPlus attached to it, it was surprisingly heavy, believe it or not. Now, for an 18 hole golf game on the Wii, this may not be bad, but let's take another game into account. Red Steel 2 for instance, which requires a LOT of remote swinging. I can easily imagine anyone's arm tiring rather quickly while swinging that extra weight around.

The other thing that I noticed is that, in some situations, it may be too accurate. While trying to create a golfer for himself, my dad seemed to have quite a bit of trouble centering on buttons long enough to click on them. Anyone with a shaky hand or who likes to blow through selection screens might find this a bit troublesome with the MotionPlus.

I only have two questions which were left unanswered.

Can you keep the MotionPlus connected even when playing games that don't support it? My father expressed quite a bit of annoyance at the idea of having to detach it and put on the other remote jacket every time he played a game that wasn't Tiger Woods.


How much battery power does the MotionPlus use up? Obviously since he only played one round of golf, I can't speak for the longevity of the battery life in this regard, but I imagine it pretty much has to use battery power, so it has to decrease the battery life to some degree. How big of a degree is really the question.

So, I hope you all found this informative, and I hope it helped you make a decision as to whether you want to pick up a game that uses the Wii MotionPlus. It works really well and I think it'd be worth it personally, especially since it's being bundled with many of the popular games that use the peripheral. The game was $60 though, so we had to pay an extra $10 for the MotionPlus in the end. Still, I don't think that's a bad price to pay for the extra accuracy it gives you in-game.

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts on this review and the Wii MotionPlus!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Why You Shouldn't Compare Vampire Diaries to Twilight.

Why You Shouldn't Compare "The Vampire Diaries" To "Twilight"

Now that the TV pilot for "The Vampire Diaries", based off of a book series of the same name by wonderful author L.J. Smith, has been picked up, it's gotten quite a bit of attention. Fan sites have been springing up everywhere, and since it is vampire fiction, fans of other vampire fiction series' have been checking it out. Now, believe me when I say that I am so happy for the continued success of Ms. Smith's work. She's been a favorite author of mine for many, many years and the attention is well-deserved. However, I've been noticing a trend that is upsetting me.

A lot of people have begun to compare "The Vampire Diaries" to "Twilight". Now, putting aside my disdain for the latter book series, this is just plain wrong. So, as a long-time fan of Ms. Smith and her incredible work, I decided to write a blog on why the two should never be compared. Ever.

First of all, let's discuss what is similar and different about each aspect of the stories. Here are a few points I think are particularly important:

  • The characters are completely different. The characters in "The Vampire Diaries" are much deeper and well-done than in "Twilight". Stephanie Meyer, author of the "Twilight" series, specifically gave no description or characterization to Bella so readers could imagine themselves as her when they read. This clearly makes the heroine of "The Vampire Diaries", Elena, rounder and more developed. Also, while most of the characters in "Twilight" are all vampires (with a few werewolves thrown in), the cast of "The Vampire Diaries" is mostly human, save for a few ghosts and evil powers, the two main vampires, and one werewolf.
  • The vampires are handled completely differently. I know i've discussed this in previous blogs, but it needs to be repeated. Besides the classic sparkling of the vampires in "Twilight", there are other key differences. The vampires in "The Vampire Diaries" are much more traditional; they burn in sunlight, need to be invited in to a home before they can enter, and are actually frightening and monstrous, something that I think Ms. Meyer left out in favor of making her vampires pretty to look at. Getting rid of the horror aspect of vampires really takes away a great pool of possible plot line with which you could really deepen and enrich a vampire story.
  • The purpose and focus of each series seem to be very, very different. "Twilight" is quite obviously meant to be a romance, designed for you to meet these two main characters, see the attraction between them, and then watch the action and see if their love will persevere. "The Vampire Diaries" does have a human/vampire romance, and it does affect most of what goes on in the story, but the books are also largely about the place in which the characters live, Fell's Church, and some of the ancient evils that live there. The town happens to be situated on top of a place filled with much evil, and the main vampiric character, Stefan, does mention that it wasn't just Elena, but the evil in Fell's Church that drew him to the town. The romance is not nearly as central to the story as it is in "Twilight", but in my opinion that really allows for more satisfying storyline, both for the main characters and the side-characters.

Hopefully reading the above is enough to show you why both of these series' should never be compared. However, what started my desire to write this blog was not what you see above, but what will you will see below. There are several ramifications to comparing both of these books, and here are some of them.

  • The crossover of fandoms could be very, very detrimental. We all have seen the stories about some of the more...passionate "Twilight" fans who go out of their way to hurt people, break things, or just plain torture people for not liking the series. Now before the "Twilight" fans reading this jump on me, I am very aware that not every "Twilight" fan is like this. In fact, I know a couple of fans of the series who are very intelligent and respectful of others' choice to not like "Twilight", and are even also fans of "The Vampire Diaries", although these fans are VERY rare. However, a great, big chunk of the "Twilight" fandom is immature, uncontrolled, and downright cruel and violent. I have spoken with Ms. Smith personally over MySpace a few times, and I am a subscriber to her blog, and from those brief encounters I can tell you that if these fans ever crossed over and became as destructive over her books as they are over "Twilight", she would be heartbroken. That kind of violence and negativity has no place in Ms. Smith's fanbase, and I think that comparing the two could lure these fans in and really do more harm than good.
  • You could very easily alienate potential fans by comparing the two. If people who dislike "Twilight" but have never read "The Vampire Diaries" hear the two being compared, that can instantly turn those people off, even though they really are not alike at all. Unfortunately, we live in a society where people judge books by their covers, and so many fans who would genuinely love and appreciate Ms. Smith's work would never get to even read it if they were turned off by such a thing. I also would like to think that those who love Ms. Smith's work but never read "Twilight" and want to because they're being compared would be horrified at the troubling themes that are involved in those books (relationship abuse and youth pregnancy to name a few), but the masses in general clearly have no problem with these themes, hence the series' huge success. I really wanted to elaborate on this point, but I think that, for the sake of balance in this blog, it is best left untouched.

I hope this made you aware of the ramifications and plain inaccuracy of comparing "The Vampire Diaries" and "Twilight". The two really are nothing alike, and I truly hope that when people pick up one or the other (or even both), they keep them separate in their minds so that they can form a full and accurate opinion of both pieces of literature as separate entities and not as one genre, because as I hope the above illustrated, they are simply not.

Now go pick up some L.J. Smith and tune in for "The Vampire Diaries"' TV pilot debut this fall on the CW. Sometimes in September I think it will be. You won't regret it!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Book Review - "Night World: Daughters of Darkness" by LJane Smith

Night World: Daughters of Darkness

These girls are to die for...

"Daughters of Darkness" is part 2 in the 10-part "Night World" book series by LJane Smith. The Night World is the society of vampires, werewolves, witches, shapeshifters, and other creatures of the night all around the world. They only have two rules: never tell a human about the Night World, and never fall in love with them. These books are tales of instances when these rules are broken, culminating into an apocalyptic war that will change the fate of the world.

In the first Night World book "Secret Vampire" we are introduced to a rather villainous man by the name of Ash Redfern. He's a descendant of the most powerful vampire family in existence, and he plays with "Secret Vampire"'s main character, Poppy, as if she were a toy. At the end of the book, his cousin James warns:

"You know, you never really cared about anyone. But someday you will, and it's going to hurt. It's going to hurt--a lot."

"Daughters of Darkness" is, in part, an exploration of this statement and the foreshadowing it holds for our dear Ash.

The story stars a normal small-town girl by the name of Mary-Lynette Carter, who spends her free time gazing at the stars and planets in the sky. The other big part of her live is her little brother Mark. She desperately wishes on the stars above for two things; for Mark to find a girlfriend to help pull him out of his shell and give him happiness, and for herself to become 'one with the night', since she feels as if the night sky is one of the few things in the world that understand her.

The place she lives in, a small Oregon town called Briar Creek, is a boring and rather lonely place. That all changes, however, when her neighbor, a kind elderly woman named Opal, informs Mary-Lynette that her three nieces, Rowan, Kestral, and Jade Redfern are coming to visit. These girls happen to be Ash's sisters, and they have run away from home. When Ash discovers them and decides to scope out Mary-Lynette's family for some information, their cataclysmic meeting will change both of their lives, and the course of Night World history, forever.

This is one of my favorite books in the whole Night World series. The in-depth review below will show you why.


  • The characters in this book are beautifully crafted. Rowan, Kestral, and Jade are very different, yet work wonderfully together as sisters, and we really get a taste for their individual personalities. Mary-Lynette is an extremely relatable character as well, personifying the feeling of being ever-so-slightly out of place and yearning for a sign as to where she belongs, which is something that everyone goes through at some point in their lives. It is also very refreshing to see the return of Ash and to learn more about him. Rather than see his tough outside, we get to see him exposed to his sisters and learn a lot more about who he really is on the inside.
  • The town of Briar Creek is almost a character in and of itself. Minor characters such as the troublemakers Vic and Todd, the mysterious store clerk Bunny, and the handsome and friendly gas station worker Jeremy all add to the charm of the town and really make you feel as if you can envision walking around the town with the characters.
  • The relationship between Ash and Mary-Lynette is not the typical romance. Honestly, it isn't. I of course will not spoil the end, but not everything in the world can turn out perfectly.
  • The book itself is fashion very much like "Secret Vampire". I own two versions of this book. The first one is the original 1996 228 page soft cover print of the book. The cover shows off a beautiful piece of artwork featuring Ash looming over his three sisters and their pet cat, Tiggy. The other version I own, which you will be most likely to find in store nowadays, is the first Night World omnibus, which features the first three Night World books. This book is larger than the original version (as you may imagine), but with the two other stories inside of it and its easier availability, its a much better value than trying to hunt down the original version, as it is out of print.

Not only is this a must-read because it is such a fantastic book, but like "Secret Vampire", it introduces a few key concepts to the rest of the series.

The first concept is the different facets of vampiric society. Rowan, Kestral, Jade, and Ash hail from an actual island that is inhabited by nothing but vampires, and they describe the island as a place that is such very much in medieval times, with servants and castles and forced marriages. We learn that this is only one type of place that vampires can live, and we get to see how a hunting creature like a vampire can be effected by the pressures of such a society.

The second thing that is introduced in this story is the concept of werewolves. We get to see one in action for the first time and learn about the rules and rituals they must obey in the Night World.

The last (but not least) important thing that is introduced in the story is another fairly important character in this series, known only in this book as the mysterious and deadly vampire Quinn. I won't spoil what we learn about him, but I will say that his exit from the story at the end of the book will leave you wanting to know more about the poor boy (and trust me, you will, but that will come in another book).

So, "Secret Vampire" introduced us to vampires, and "Daughters of Darkness" had our first ever werewolf. What's next? Well, you'll have to pick up the next book in the series, "Spellbinder", to learn about another important group of people in the Night World.

Watch my video review and commentary on "Night World: Daughters of Darkness" below:

You can also visit my YouTube channel to view other LJane Smith book reviews and other videos.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Book Review - "Night World: Secret Vampire" by LJane Smith

Night World: Secret Vampire

He was her only hope...

This is my first ever book review, and I'm VERY excited to be writing it! The book in question is the first in the 10-part Night World series written by LJane Smith, called "Secret Vampire". This review contains VERY minimal spoilers, if any.

"Secret Vampire" is a wonderful introduction into the Night World series, not only because its a wonderful story, but because its a fabulous introductory story. Allow me to explain.

The main character is a normal, everyday girl named Poppy North. Her best friend, James Rasmussen, is a vampire, but Poppy has no knowledge of this. Why? Well, first, let me explain a bit about what the Night World is.

The Night World is comprised of all of the vampires, werewolves, and witches in the world. They generally are not fond of humans and prefer to live their lives in their own way, never letting society know what they really are. There are two rules to the Night World: Never tell a human about the Night World, and never fall in love with them. The Night World series includes several stories of these rules being broken, and this is one of them.

The trouble for James starts when Poppy is discovered to have a fatal illness, forcing him to make a choice: either he can save Poppy by admitting his feelings for her and turning her into a vampire, breaking both above laws, or he can stand there and watch her die. You can probably guess what he decides to do.

This story is such a brilliant introduction into the Night World series because we get to watch Poppy find out about the Night World and learn all about it, and we take the journey with her. The book leaves you with a sense that you have truly been introduced into the Night World, and is a great set-up for the rest of the series. It not only encompasses an enjoyable and exciting story, it also immerses you in information that you will carry with you throughout the rest of the series, yet it's gently given to you in each book as a reminder so that you can enjoy each book no matter what order you pick them up in.


  • The characters in this book are fairly well-developed. James is not developed as much as Poppy is, but that's okay, because Poppy is the main character and it is through her eyes that we are meant to see the Night World. Even the minor characters, from Poppy's over-protective brother Phillip to the deadly vampire Ash, have quite a bit of charm and presence in the story.
  • The atmosphere of the story is very unique. Although the vampires in this universe are painted as beautiful and powerful creatures, we are also exposed to the ugly, vicious side of being undead, proving that while vampires may look pretty, actually being one isn't as glamorous as it may seem.
  • The writing style of LJane Smith is something I have always enjoyed; no matter what book it is of hers that I'm reading, I can never seem to put it down. She is descriptive, but not overly so, and her vocabulary is approachable by readers young and old. Of course, preferences in writing style differ from person to person, but I happen to love hers.
  • The physical book itself is a its original form. I have it in two versions. The first one is the original 1996 228-page paperback, complete with art of Poppy and James on the cover. It even boasts a contest for a Night World flower pin which ended in 1997, and a sheet of glow-in-the-dark star stickers inside. It's small enough to fit into a pocket or a purse, so its easy to take around with you. The second version I have is the recently released omnibus of the first three Night World books. This book is, as you can imagine, much larger, yet still manages to fit into my purse. The cover is a black and white photo of a girl with curly hair and green eyes, whom I can only assume is supposed to be Poppy herself.

Although you can indeed pick these books up in any order you like, I do recommend reading "Secret Vampire" first, as it introduces two very important things into the story.

The first one is the Soulmate Principle, which simply states that every person in the world has a Soulmate, someone who they are meant to be with. Whether they find that person or even want to be with them once they do is a moot point this early in the series; however, we learned that something kind of funky has been going on with the Soulmate Principle that is putting the Night World on edge. What is it? Well, you'll have to read to find out.

The second is a character named Ash Redfern, who is integral to the rest of the series. He's a dangerous, devil-may-care ass with a serious superiority complex, and he's one of my favorite characters in the entire series. His introduction is something not to be missed.

Whenever I think of Ash, I think of a line that James says to Ash toward the very end of "Secret Vampire" that goes a little something like this:

"You know, you never really cared about anyone. But someday you will, and it's going to hurt. It's going to hurt--a lot."

Foreshadowing perhaps? Well, you'll just have to wait for the second book in the series, "Daughters of Darkness". That review will be coming soon.

Watch my video review and commentary on "Night World: Secret Vampire" Below:

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Possible Cure for the 'T' Virus?

Yes, it just might be possible, and it comes in the form of one of my favorite authors.

Her name is LJane Smith, and her possible cure comes in the form of a TV pilot.

Back in the early 90's, Smith wrote a book series called The Vampire Diaries, about a popular high-school girl, two vampire brothers, and a little town called Fell's Church that all wind up colliding with each other. Now, this is considered Teen or Young Adult Fiction, but it actually wasn't by choice.

You see, Smith started writing in the 80's, and so she had been writing YA fiction for years before she created The Vampire Diaries. Those around her encouraged her to stay in the YA fiction genre where she was popular, even though she wanted to make The Vampire Diaries more adult. She's even talked about re-writing them the way she intended now that her original fan base is all grown up. I personally am hoping that this TV pilot will reflect that maturity, but we will see how it goes.

Anyway, the point of this is that I have already seen many articles comparing The Vampire Diaries to Twilight, and I really have to take a stand before it goes any further. Here are some key differences in the stories that will hopefully help you separate these two book series' in your mind:

  • The main characters are a little different. The main character in Twilight, Bella Swan, is a pretty, perfect, popular girl who becomes so powerful and so amazing that she breaks the laws of the universe set by the author herself, Stephanie Meyer (we call this a Mary Sue). Smith's main character, Elena, is also a very pretty, popular high school girl, but she is far from perfect. We get to see that she is much more fragile than she let's on, and we get to see her change and mature throughout the series, something that Meyer's flat and stagnant main character cannot possibly achieve, since Meyer purposely did not develop her at all so that the reader could pretend to be Bella in their own minds.
  • The vampires are handled differently in each book. Meyer paints her vampires as gorgeous, pale, perfect creatures who sparkle in the sunlight (I'm sorry, I just can't move past that). Smith's view of vampires however is much more traditional. They burn to death in sunlight and must feed, whether it be on humans or animals (although human blood gives them more strength and power than feeding on animals). Smith's vampires are admittedly not fully traditional however. They actually do not burn in the sun (but certainly do not sparkle), and they do not require any coffins or anything of that sort. They also have no aversion to holy items or places. The differences however are seamlessly woven into the story's universe, and make logical sense, unlike sparking in sunlight. I swear, that just drives me nuts. Also, while Meyers' vampires can reproduce, Smith's vampires can only reproduce and age if they were born vampires; if they were turned, they are stuck at their age and cannot reproduce. You can argue that vampires being able to breed at all is ridiculous, but this fact isn't even mentioned in The Vampire Diaries, it is only brought up in one of her other book series that also contains vampires.
  • The storylines are completely different. While Twilight centers around the relationship between Bella and Edward, The Vampire Diaries gives all of its characters big and small some good screen time (or page time, if you will), and the story is not so much about the relationship between Elena and the two vampire brothers, Stefan and Damon, as it is about the town she lives in, Fell's Church, and some of the darker powers and creatures that dwell there. The town itself becomes a character in a way, making the story's universe rich and enjoyable.

I think the above illustrates my point pretty well. If you're a fan of vampire fiction, or are looking to become one, or have just been turned-off of the genre by Twilight, or even if, and I can't believe I'm saying this, you're a Twilight fan who is looking for something new to read (anyone can reform, right?), The Vampire Diaries is more than worth a look.

I urge everyone to tune in to the pilot (I have yet to see any information on when it is going to air) and give it a look. Even if you just leave your TV on for a half hour while the pilot is on to give it ratings, I wouldn't care at this point. Smith's work is amazing and deserves this wonderful exposure, and the world can use a refreshing break from Twilight.

tl,dr; The Vampire Diaries is the chemo that is curing vampire fiction.

Check out my vlog below on Vampire Diaries vs. Twilight to hear me talk about it in person and to check out my LJane Smith book collection.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Anime in America

Why is anime viewed negatively in America? Why is the American anime industry suffering? What can we, as anime fans, do to change things? Would we even want to?

Anime is something that is very much a part of my life, from 5th grade where I spent every morning sitting in my living with a bowl of cereal and watching Sailor Moon to hanging out with my friends last night watching Hayate no Gotoku!. It is something that I'm passionate about.

Why? Well, having grown up in America, I was very limited in what I was exposed to, simply because America is a country obsessed with political correctness. Japan however is so different creatively that, to me, anime is refreshing and awe-inspiring. It's a beautiful medium, but unfortunately the bulk of America does not agree with me, either because they tried it and liked it, or simply do not want to give it a try at all.

So, I decided to write an in-depth piece to answer some questions. Why is anime viewed in such a negative manner without many even being exposed to it at all? Why is the industry suffering in America? As anime fans, can we do anything to help the genre we love so much? Would we even want to deal with the ramifications of having something so precious to us be considered 'popular' by American standards? Whether you're an anime fan or not, you might want to stay tuned, there is plenty to learn.

Why is anime viewed negatively in America?

The truth of the matter is that we humans in general are wary of what we do not understand. Humans are creatures of habit; we form routines and stick to them, comforted in the knowledge that we know every part and step of it through and through. Americans are firm in their beliefs and how they were raised, and that, in my opinion, contributes largely to the anime industry's unfavorable reputation, even when most of the country has never even viewed anime, or, in many cases, never even heard of it. I have broken it down into two topics which I think cover a good bulk of the issue.

Cultural Differences
Any anime fan will tell you that anime is chock-full of references to Japanese history and culture. American programs are the same way, but because America is such a large and influential nation, a lot of shows, music, and books that we take cultural pieces from are available all over the world. This is not the case with Japanese shows, music, and books in America, and so a lot of the things you see in anime can seem very confusing at first, especially if you are not familiar with anime or are new to it. Here are some examples:

Nose Bleeds

Nosebleeds - Nagasarete Airantou

Mmm, tasty. (Nagasarete Airantou)

In anime, you may see a man's nose start suddenly spewing copious amounts of blood. It is rumored that the Japanese believe that when a man sees a woman he finds attractive, his heart begins to race faster and starts pumping more blood, resulting in a possible nosebleed. Whether this is true or not, when you see it in an anime, it means the man in question is seriously aroused. Seriously.

Head Veins

Headvein - Bleach

Oh, he looks pleased. (Bleach)

The red marks you see above adorning Ichigo's head have perplexed many a beginner anime fan. These marking are actually used to represent blood veins, and their presence on his head is meant to represent a vein about to pop in his head. In other words, he's angry and frustrated. You'll see this a lot in other anime as well.

Here's a few more:

  • A sweat drop hanging off of a character's head is an indication that they feel embarrassed, either for themselves or for someone in the area who's being an idiot.
  • Holding up your pinky while talking to someone in an anime means that you are referring to that person's significant other.
  • Those triangular white thingies with the green square on them are in fact food. It's called an onigiri, or rice ball. The green square on them is actually seaweed, and having one or two of them is considered a traditional on-the-go breakfast in Japan.

Like I said, there are many, many others, but these are just a few of the more common ones. Because these things are not commonplace to Americans, they can be seen as confusing, and too much confusion will inspire anyone to turn off the television and grab a bottle of aspirin. I know I have had several people refer to seeing these things and say that it turned them off to anime, and I'm sure they're not the only ones.

The American Cartoon Stigma
Americans tend to view animation as a purely children's medium. I find this very ironic, since shows like The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and Family Guy have been around for years and are very popular. Don't think that America is the first country to create an animated series driven towards adults; in fact, anime has always mostly been for adults and teenagers. Any genre of television program or movie you can think of in America, you can find in anime form in Japan. Here are some great examples of genres and an anime series that fits the criteria.


Sitcom - Itazura na Kiss

Naoki and Kotoko: Meant to be! (Itazura na Kiss)

Itazura na Kiss (The Mischievous Kiss) is about a girl, Kotoko, who is rejected by the man she loves, Naoki. Through certain events, she winds up living with him in his house, and being forced to live side-by-side begins to change the both of them as they prepare to graduate High School and start on their own paths.

This is the perfect example of a sitcom (which, lets remember, stands for situational comedy!). Many shows like Friends are based around the drama of friends and enemies living together, and that dynamic has always bred both serious, tender moments and outright hilarious ones. Itazura na Kiss encompasses all of this. The only difference is it's animated.


Drama - Welcome to the NHK

It's all a CONSPIRACY! (Welcome to the NHK)

Welcome to the NHK (which, by the way, stands for Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai, a major television broadcasting company in Japan) is a show about a man named Sato, who is a hikikomori (basically, a slightly agoraphobic recluse) who comes upon the kindness of a girl who is intent on helping him break out of his ways and gain control of his life back. This anime is a rather deep drama, exploring the dark sides of every character in the show and exposing how everyone, in some capacity, has a struggle of their own, and that nobody can truly make it through anything by themselves.

While I don't think there's anything quite like Welcome to the NHK out in America right now, many dramatic shows and movies explore the same set of themes, breaking down the human condition for all to see.


Horror - Boogiepop Phantom

Sort of like Heroes...if it were written by Stephen King. (Boogiepop Phantom)

Boogiepop Phantom is the story of an event that happened 5 years ago. A huge beam of light crashed down, and several murders occurred. This 12 episode series goes through the perspectives of several people involved in these murders who somehow gained mysterious powers from the beam of light, supposedly given to them by the Death God only known as the Boogiepop.

This story sort of mashes together many of today's popular supernatural television shows along with the overly-populated horror movie genre of America. Again, there's nothing exactly like this show in America, but its a combination of several popular genres.


Action - Cowboy Bebop

Epic. That's all there really is to say. (Cowboy Bebop)

Cowboy Bebop is an action story set in space. Spike and his friends roam around space catching bounties for money, just trying to fill their stomachs. However, as their pasts catch up to them, we get to see them change and grow, swirling into a shocking and emotional climax that shook the anime world.

This one of the most classic anime series' of all time, and a must-watch for any anime fan new or old. The high-paced action coupled with futuristic technology is reminiscent of some of the most classic American action films of all time.

These are just some examples of shows that are very much like some of America's most popular films and programs, they're just animated. Animation is great for these types of things because you can draw things that no amount of special effects could really muster, opening up a ton of creative opportunities. The fact that such an opportunity is lost on America is one of the saddest things about the bad rap anime has in America.

Why is the American anime industry suffering?

This is a topic that is probably the most vital to the anime industry. Like every other business in America nowadays, the anime industry is suffering from lack of money and support. However, I would like to explore some of the reasons why I think this is, starting with the most important and controversial topic of all.

Downloading and Streaming
What a great idea, right? Anime fans can download and stream videos of anime online to check out what's new and to test out new anime before they buy it, and its a cheap way to get new people into anime. So, what could go wrong?

Simple. Nobody goes out and buys the damn stuff.

The possibilities listed above are great, but people are either too lazy or greedy to spend their money on the official products, or they simply cannot afford them. This greatly brings down the money going into the industry, and therefore causes anime companies to let people go or skimp on certain things. A great example of this is Media Blasters, who has lately been dropping the process of getting American voice actors to dub their work and instead simply putting English subtitles on their work and releasing it that way to cut costs.

The cycle goes like this: People download and stream, but don't buy. Because of that, companies lose money and they have to jack up the costs of anime DVDs to stay profitable. The prices get so high, nobody wants to buy them, and so they resort to downloading and streaming, and it goes on and on like that. Truly it is a destructive cycle.

Let's talk about fansubbers briefly. For those of you who don't know, a fansub group is a group of people who take it upon themselves to translate and subtitle an anime, then post it online for people to download and enjoy. So what are some of the things that go in to fansubbing? Well, I happen to be good friends with a fansub group, and these are just some of the things they have to go through to bring the anime to you:

  • Finding a good quality rip of an episode that will be pleasing to the eye, but not so large in file size that it will be inconvenient to the person downloading it.
  • Translate everything that is spoken, which involves finding someone fluent enough in both English and Japanese to be able to make sense of what is being said. They also have to reword it so that it makes sense to an American viewer, as the Japanese, like us, have terms and phrases they use that we would not understand.
  • Time the subtitles to fit with the spoken words and program them into the video file.

Obviously, this is a huge labor of love. Most fansub groups do this out of pure love and passion for the series in question, but some do try to put them onto DVD and sell them, which is (obviously) highly illegal. Adding that to the pot of everything else above makes the positives of anime downloading and streaming harder and harder to grasp at. Lack of funding will make any business collapse, and so this issue is very much the cornerstone of the troubles the American anime industry is having.

Like I stated in the beginning, the creative minds of the Americans and the Japanese are very different. While we are obsessed with not offending anyone, Japan is much more lax in this regard, specifically in violent and sexual content and how it is portrayed. While any American parent would be horrified to have their child exposed to such a thing, the Japanese find it to be a comical device, and it is often found, in small doses of course, in many children's programs.

However, here, it is censored. Because much of an anime series' magic can come from some of its more violent or sexually humerous scenes, a lot of the poignancy of a story can be lost due to censorship. Or, it can just be plain hilarious, confusing, and infuriating. Here are some great examples of censorship of anime in America.


Violence - Naruto


Everything from blood to guns is often cut out of anime. Here are some shows that have been a victim of this.

  • Yu-Gi-Oh!, believe it or not, is normally chock-full of guns, but they were all edited out in America. Instead, the bad guys do a lot of...pointing. Yeah.
  • Sailor Moon was also cut due to this. There was a scene where Rini, a.k.a. Sailor Chibi Moon, pulls a toy gun on Sailor Moon herself, but that was considered too naughty for the kids, even when a flag popped out of it after Rini pulled the trigger!
  • Saint Seiya is normally full of blood, but when it came to America, the blood was changed to a blue-green color, and was referred to as 'Mystical Energy'. Yeah, I'm totally buying that one.

Abusive Substances

Drugs - One Piece

Mmm, nothing like lighting up a good ol' lollipop to take the edge off. (One Piece)

Replacing things like cigarettes with random items is a very common type of censorship in America when it comes to anime. Here are some other examples:

  • Dragonball Z is the victim of this in many ways. Many DBZ characters are actually smokers, but you'd never know because they all got erased. There's also lots of nudity and peeing on people's heads in this show, but that's a whole different issue.
  • Sailor Moon herself had an episode in America where she got 'silly' after drinking too much 'punch'. Suuuure.


Sexuality - Pokemon

I feel pretty, oh so pretty~ (Pokémon)

Nudity, cross dressing, and homosexuality are big a big no-no when it comes to cartoons in America, and so the above episode of Pokémon was actually never aired. The other big instance of this is Sailor Moon. Here's what was censored:

  • Just about all of the Sailor Scouts' transformation sequences were censored in America, as they had nipples showing! The only Scout to actually have a chunk of their sequence cut out completely, though, was Sailor Jupiter; at one point, her skirt flies up, and so they cut that out completely.
  • Zoicite, one of Queen Beryl's henchwoman, was actually a henchmen in Japan. His relationship with Malachite was still in-tact in Japan, meaning, GASP, they were gay together!
  • Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus were portrayed as cousins in America, but in reality, they're lovers.
  • The Sailor Starlights were three women who were looking for their Princess. To do this, they masqueraded as a boy band singing group, and then transformed into their true Sailor Scout selves when in battle. Because of all the gender-bending, they actually cut the series off in America right before they were introduced.


Religion - Sailor Moon

Holy Crucifixion, Batman! (Sailor Moon)

Religion is a very sensitive issue in America, and so scenes like the one above were cut out completely. The last episode of the first season of Sailor Moon was in fact a two-parter, but they edited it so severely that it got truncated into one single episode, mostly because the dead bodies of the Scouts were hanging in a cross-like position for most of the time. Nice.

As you can see, a lot of censoring goes on in anime in America, and while it may be good for the kids, it pisses of the hardcore anime fans, and that turns them off to the point where they don't want to support the official releases. The past couple of years, however, have seen a rash of uncut anime DVDs being released, and many FUNimation shows are released in both TV edited and unedited versions.

Alterations of an Original Series
This not only angers anime fans, but its not even useful like the censorship sometimes is. A lot of names and storyline are simplified so that it can be easier for American audiences to understand, but it can also ruin the integrity of a series.

Here are some examples of some theme song changes.

  • Saint Seiya, aside from the censoring of blood mentioned above, got its ass handed to it in other ways. It was renamed 'Knights of the Zodiac' when it came to America, and its original opening theme, Pegasus Fantasy, got replaced with a sub-par cover of the Flock of Seagulls' hit I Ran. Makes me cringe just watching it.
  • Sailor Moon keeps getting mentioned, but it got screwed over that badly. It's original opening, Moonlight Densetsu, had its lyrics translated into English. However, the words in English have nothing to do with the original lyrics of the song.
  • Ronin Warriors, known in Japan as Yoroiden Samurai Troopers, not only got a whole new opening that was not really a song so much as it was a speech about how great they were, but they mixed up the armors and voices!

Here's some examples of some name change issues:

  • Sailor Moon, for the last time I swear! The five main characters in Japan were named Usagi, Ami (Ah-mee), Rei, Makoto, and Minako. In America, they were Serena, Amy, Raye, Lita, and Mina. Some of these names do sound sort of alike. Interestingly enough though, in the Sailor Moon comics, Usagi was not known as Serena, but as Bunny, which is the literal translation of the word 'Usagi' (This all stemming from the fact that she's Sailor Moon and there's a custom in Japan involving a rabbit in the moon). Like I said, these changes make sense to a small degree, but changing the name Naru to Molly, or Mamoru to Darien? Come on now!
  • Names can also be horrible mispronounced. Ryu Hoshi of Street Fighter fame is known in America as 'Rhai-you', when it is meant to be pronounced 'Ree-yo'.

The way all of the above affects an anime as a whole is largely the reason, in my opinion, why the American anime industry is having so much trouble, which brings me to the last two parts of this whole beautiful thing.

What can we, as anime fans, do to change things?

Well, here are some ways I can think of for anime fans to help change what we've seen here.

  • Supporting the industry financially is probably the biggest. Buy the official releases! Feel free to show streams and downloads to your friends, but urge them to buy the official releases themselves, and don't make copies of your DVDs for them; you're only making it worse! Also, use your voice to spread the word about how downloading and streaming affects the industry!
  • Getting involved with the industry itself is another great idea. Attending anime conventions is a great way to not only keep up on the latest news, but to also purchase official merchandise you'd never find anywhere else. Also, if you want to see an anime you know of brought over to America, e-mail some anime companies such as ADV, Bandai, and FUNimation and tell them what you want! If they see the fanbase, they'll put forth the effort (we hope)!
  • Share the anime love with everyone! Invite friends over for a night of watching anime, and invite anyone who may be curious about anime. A nice big group of people is perfect for answering questions and giving opinions on the best way to start watching anime. If you see an anime that you think a friend may like, suggest it to them!

While these may not do much, they are some things we can do to improve the situation. However, that raises one final question.

Would we even want to change things?

On my Facebook, I started adding a bunch of my favorite j-pop and j-rock to my iLike application, then posted some of my favorite songs and videos with messages urging my non-anime loving friends to give the music a try. My friend Spyke then yelled at me, telling me to stop urging others to listen to it, because if it became popular in America, it would somehow be ruined. How can you blame him for being afraid of that, given what you've read above?

Because of the way anime is treated in America, many anime fans are reluctant to see new anime come over. However, by keeping active in the industry and supporting what you love, you can show these companies that we prefer the good ol' unedited, original stuff. Also, we should all keep in mind that the Japanese anime companies do make money off of the American releases, and so I believe that fact should also be taken into account in these matters. It's not as if anime will just disappear from America if we keep this up; it will also affect Japan's anime industry.

So, in the end, the decision is really yours. If you're not an anime fan, you can either try to get into it or just not bother. If you already are one, you can try to learn more about it and get involved in the industry, or you can just keep on being a casual watcher. Nobody can force anyone to do anything in this situation.

However, my choice is clear: I choose to be active and support the anime industry by informing others, buying my favorite titles whenever I have the financial ability to, and to just keep on enjoying it and sharing it with my friends.

Because in the end, anime is meant to be enjoyed. This is all just about preserving that enjoyment.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Brand New Kind Of 'T' Virus

So, Circuit City's gone out of business, I'm scrambling to find a job, and my pay and benefits are about to run out. So, what is this blog/rant going to be about?


Yes. Fucking. Twilight.

This godawful monstrosity of literature has finally pushed me over the edge. Allow me to explain what my thoughts have been on Twilight and guide you through how this built up and why I can no longer take the fandom and undeserved positive attention this book series is getting.

When I first saw the promos for the Twilight movie, I thought it looked really cool, and when I heard it was based on a book series, that immediately caught my interest. However, that didn't last long. A group of girls I role play with online were talking about the book series, and when I had told them it looked cool, they proceeded to show me summaries of the plot and blogs where people picked out certain parts of the story to examine, and I was completely and utterly horrified.

First of all, the main character, Bella Swan ('Beautiful Swan', oh TOTALLY a believable name!) is what we in the writing world call a Mary Sue. A Mary Sue is a character who is beautiful, popular, powerful, and all-around perfect, to the point where she is an unbelievable character and bends and breaks the laws of the universe set by the author themselves. The author of Twilight, Stephanie Meyer, has said herself that Bella was given very little personality and physical description so that the reader could place themselves in Bella's position and read the story as if they were Bella themselves. Self-insertion into a story and lack of personality are also two large symptoms of Mary Sueism, and in my personal opinion, it is a cheap way to get around giving your main character no development whatsoever.

Now, I have not read the books themselves, but I have heard several things about the plot which I would like to discuss so that you can see where I am coming from. Keep in mind while reading this that this is TEEN LITERATURE and that these stories are meant to be an influence on young girls.

To be fair, what is below are SPOILERS. Don't bitch at me if you read this and got spoiled.

  • The Relationship between Bella and Edward is a huge problem in these books. From what I understand, Bella is extremely dependent upon Edward, so much so that in the second book I believe it is, she realizes that when she is in trouble, Edward will contact her telepathically. So she JUMPS. OFF. A. CLIFF for no other reason than to simply hear his voice. While this is obviously extremely destructive behavior, it is also important to point out that Edward himself is rather cold to Bella at times, and orders her around to stay put so she'll be safe and let him do what he wants, to which, like a good woman should, she immediately listens to, stripping her of all integrity as a woman.

  • Vampires sparkling in sunlight is just unacceptable in my eyes. Now, I also have to play devil's advocate and point out that as an author, Meyer has the right to do whatever she pleases with her characters and story universe, and that most of her fan base will probably not care about this deviation, never minding that it goes against every single piece of vampiric literature ever written in history which that, up until now, always state that when a vampire goes into sunlight, they burn and die. Again, it is Meyer's prerogative to change this, but making a vampire sparkle in sunlight is not only just silly and nonsensical, it serves no story purpose whatsoever, other than reaffirming how damned pretty all her little bloodsuckers are.

  • Edward knocks Bella up. Seriously. Vampires' bodies are dead, therefore they have no ability to procreate. Even Meyer makes it very clear that her vampires are dead creatures. Now again, she can change what she wants, so let's say that she legitimately says that they can indeed have children, and Edward has gotten Bella pregnant. Fine. However, the birth of said child is the problem. The baby is born TWO MONTHS after conception, and the child not 'born' per say, so much as it breaks Bella's hipbones and claws its way out of her stomach. No, I'm not kidding. In order to save her life, Edward turns her into a vampire. Now, remember how I mentioned above that he protects her like the fragile little useless woman she is? Well, apparently female vampires don't have this stigma, because once she is turned, she starts kicking everyone's asses and becomes one of the most powerful vampires in the entire story almost instantly. Again, unrealistic and completely unneeded. To add on to that, this werewolf guy who was head over heels for Bella (as is every other man in the story, another Mary Sue symptom) takes one look at her severely premature daughter and decides that they are soul mates, meant to be together forever (whether its just as friends or something more is your call, I don't want to imagine the latter), and so he marks the poor baby. To add on to this, said baby becomes the equivalent of a 3-4 year old child in just a few months, and is just as powerful, pretty, and perfect as her mommy. Just great.

I hope the above helps you see things from my perspective. As a writer, the above points make the story unbearable to read about and honestly make me nauseous. As I stated above, this is supposed to be something that young teen girls look up to. Not only is the entire concept of sleeping with a creepy stranger who breaks into your house to watch you sleep at night and having his children being a GOOD thing just sickening, but the state of Bella and Edward's relationship is unhealthy in every way, shape, and form.

Now, I don't read the books and I avoid them at all costs, so it really didn't effect me. Even working at Circuit City it didn't really bother me; we're closed already, and so I never had to deal with Twilight being released on DVD or anything like that. However, its spreading.

Everyone I know that reads these books gets horribly addicted to them. My mother's boyfriend's daughter started reading them, and then convinced my mother to do so. While on the phone with her today, she began talking about how much she loves Edward, and how she doesn't understand why I don't like the books. I simply said to her 'Mom, they sparkle in sunlight. Sunlight is supposed to make them burn and die!', to which she replied, and I am not exaggerating in any way, 'Well Edward said its just a myth, so I'm going to believe Edward!'

Oh, my god. My own MOTHER has been sucked in!

Now, besides also seeing Twilight paraphernalia everywhere I go, its branching out into other mediums. What finally got me to snap and write this whole post was this article:

Twilight Director Hardwicke Hints At Anime Version

...I'm sorry, what?

Well, I read it right the first time. Apparently, the Twilight movie's director Catherine Hardwicke inferred in one of the DVD extras that Japan was working on a Twilight anime series. The mere thought of them animating this absolutely horrid and unrealistic pile of horrible makes my stomach turn.

However, in a way, it makes sense. I mean, considering what you read above, what other medium is going to be able to capture the true essence of a child boring its way out of its mother's womb besides anime? Only the Japanese would be bold enough to even attempt such a thing.

Honestly though, I think that this Twilight phenomenon has just gone too far. I of course can do nothing to stop it. I can only hope that the teenagers who pick these books up are smart enough to resist the messages being sent to them via this story. With all of the media and parents blaming video games and anime and music for inspiring kids and teenagers to do stupid, reckless things, why is nobody concerned that some depressed 13 year old is going to jump off of her roof to try and hear her boyfriend's voice, or that an 11 or 12 year old might think it would be cool to have a child with a mysterious stranger? It sounds preposterous wording it that way, but let's face it, we've seen people do stupider things in the papers and on TV.

I'm also curious as to how certain things like the birthing scene will be portrayed in the movies to come, but I suppose we'll all find out eventually.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

An Economic Bitchslap

For those of you who haven't heard about what's going on with Circuit City, let me explain it so I don't have to type it OVER 9000 times to explain it to all of my friends:

This is how retail works: A vendor, let's say Sony, gives Circuit City $1 million worth of product. Then they say 'okay, if you can sell it all in 30 days and pay us back, we'll only charge you 2% interest. If you can pay us back in 60 days, we'll only charge you 4% interest', e.t.c. It's basically like financing on a credit card. This is essential to a company's ability to afford selling products.

Because of the economy and because Circuit City is filed under Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection, vendors have pulled tight reigns on their financing and are now demanding money up-front rather than giving out financing. So now, Sony would be more like 'Here's $1 million worth of product. Now give us $1 million. Right now.' This is because they do not trust Circuit City (and other retailers too, we're not the only ones suffering from this) to pay it back.

Because of this, Circuit has had a decrease in product to sell, which means less money, and the cycle goes on and on. Because of this, the company has only one option left: to be bought out.

Now, we have two VERY good people looking to buy us out, one guy in particular is a huge electronic retail owner in South America and is already being called Circuit City's 'White Knight'. Both of these potential buyers have also expressed interest in keeping Circuit the way it is rather than turning it into a different kind of company.

However, there is a time constraint. Because of the rulings that went along with our bankruptcy filing, we have until January 13th to be bought, otherwise we go on auction to the public, which means anybody off the street could technically buy Circuit City at that point, not just these two potential buyers. If nobody buys the company by January 16th, the company will have no choice but to liquidate the entire company.

That means, in less than a week from now, Leigh and I will, most likely, be out of a job. You probably won't see or hear much from us from this point on, as we're now scrambling to find jobs in preparation for the worst. Now, it's not like we'll be booted out of a job on the 16th; we'll be there probably for a month to a month and a half afterwords working the liquidation, however there is something rather saddening that we have thought of.

If Circuit City goes down, then we will NOT be able to live in New York any longer; we simply won't be able to afford it. When I go down to North Carolina for my birthday, we will be looking at places to live down there. This is mostly going to affect me; Leigh's family has expressed interest in her staying up here in New York with them, which means we will most likely also be splitting up. Possibly not as a couple, but physically until she comes to a decision as to whether she wants to move down with me or not.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the harsh reality of the world we live in today. It angers me that people like my girlfriend and I, who work hard and honestly, are going to be the ones without jobs and possibly separated because we simply can't afford to be together. Every piece of what is going on right now breaks my heart, and I'm having a rather difficult time keeping my chin up right now.

So, I want to apologize for any future absences of both Leigh and I in the future, as we'll be too busy looking for jobs (we also cannot afford to attend AnimeNEXT this year now, sorry guys...). I also appreciate everyone's understanding that most likely, for the next few months, Leigh and I will be two very different people. We have to, in essence, shed all of the good things about us and become rather vicious about finding a way to make money for our survival.

Thank you guys again for your understanding.