Off on Pilgrimage

My first day of vacation starts tomorrow.  I put pilgrimage in the title because Montreal includes part of this vacation, and I cannot imagine that we shall visit that fascinating city without stopping by St. Joseph’s Oratory.  This oratory was made famous by the miracles produced there and its association with St. Andre Bessette, who might have called himself St. Joseph’s doorkeeper.  He was famous for thousands of miraculous cures, which he attributed to the intercession of St. Joseph.

Since it is late, and I do not want to spend too much time writing (I wake at 3 AM on the morrow–four hours from now!), I decided to briefly list some highlights of my anime hobby and spiritual life.  I hope you find some of them interesting.

  • Watched Girls und Panzer: This is the Real Anzio Battle.  I greatly enjoyed it.  It felt like a longer TV episode but still had a great tank battle.  The following is my favorite quote from the OVA:
Only in a perfect world!

Only in a perfect world!

  • Akame ga Kiru stands as a faithful adaptation of the manga.  Things will really pick up once Esdese appears.  (I prefer the fan naming system and will stubbornly stick to that until the official naming system becomes more universal.)  The great thing about Akame ga Kiru is that it essentially turns shonen on its head: we have the same kinds of happy-go-lucky and quirky characters, but they’re thrown into a really corrupt, dark, and bloody world.  This is why so many people like myself enjoy the show.
  • The first three episodes of Aldnoah.Zero really took the cake in terms of the setting and action.  I hope that the quality of the characters catches up soon.
  • I’m somehow still finding the motivation to fit in an episode of El Cazador de la Bruja here and there.  It’s a rather mediocre show, but the characters are enjoyable enough that I find myself continually drawn back to it.  It will probably take me as much time as I took for Bodacious Space Pirates for me to complete.
  • Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is one of the best comedies this season.  The oddball characters are splendidly amusing to watch, and I like the fact that the hero is a shoujo manga artist, which makes many of the episodes’ plots revolve around him finding material for his comics.

No law Breaking

  • Gintama is one of those shows which I can put down for a while and then pick up again.  The quest to capture the aliens who were running amok turning people’s bodies and body parts into screwdrivers didn’t grab me, but the arch where Shinpachi gains a pen pal was more hilarious.  This show goes everywhere from toilet humor to maudlin to boring to hilarious to epic.  One just needs to wait for the best stories.
  • Many bloggers loved the first season of Hamatora, and I’m enjoying the show thus far.  Episode four, where the desire to own a gun was portrayed as rooted to evil desires, irked me to no end.  Cannot people get that some people love tools?  Especially men?  Guns are tools and a lot of fun to shoot.  People enjoy shooting at paper targets, cans, bottles, abandoned houses, cardboard boxes, etc.  Wishing to have a gun by itself in no way means a person is inclined to violence.  Just watch this video if you don’t believe me.
  • For some reason, I’m really enjoying Hanamayata.  I suppose my identification with Hana (she’s also from NJ) goes a long way, but somehow I find this slice of life comedy still a lot of fun.  I have a an article in the works for it.
  • Did you know that Mushibugyo has an anime adaptation?  I didn’t, and this decently animated adaptation is a lot of fun to watch.  Perfect for a lover of samurai shows.

Jinbee strikes

  • I’ve kind of stalled Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water.  At this point, Nadia, Jean, and Marie have met back up with Senora Grandis and company, which means the action should improve.  Man, the Island arc was exhausting!
  • I don’t exactly know how, but a friend of mine finagled me into watching Nisemonogatari.  I couldn’t even finish episode one of Nisemonogatari the first time around, despite being a fan of Bakemonogatari.  But, I find myself at episode four and wanting to know more.  (By the way, Nisemonogatari essentially decided to put Holo in its story via Shinobu.)
  • Many bloggers like despising Rail Wars!  But, I’m enjoying how the characters deal with the obstacles each episode.  It reminds me a lot of You’re Under Arrest, and even if it doesn’t hold a candle to season one of You’re Under Arrest, it’s certainly better than season two thus far.
Aoi losing her gun has to count as one of the saddest moments in the show thus far.

Aoi losing her gun has to count as one of the saddest moments in the show thus far.

  • Sabagebu! stands as one of my favorite shows this season.  This is pure comedy gold.  The action can get rather nuts; but if you liked Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu, Azumanga Daioh, Excel Saga, or Pani Poni Dash, I can practically guarantee you’ll love this show.
  • Concerning ARGEVOLLEN, the show is nothing special, but I’m enjoying it, and there always exists the chance that it will get better.  Basically, if I drop anything this season, it will be this show.
  • Tokyo ESP‘s not bad.  It’s doing everything well so far, and it feels a little similar to Samurai Flamenco‘s first half so far in that we have ordinary people who suddenly conceive that they have a duty to repress the darker elements of society.  However, it still has a long way to go in order to surpass Ga-Rei Zero, in which series’ world Tokyo ESP exists.  And I love how Leonidas has a cameo role. xD

Tokyo_ESP_Manga_01

  • Somehow, I haven’t been able to get into Zankyou no Terror.  I loved how they referenced the Sphinx and the fact that there are two riddles according to mythology.  (Actually, I’m pretty sure “What walks on two legs, then four, then three?” was an invention of later writers.  Classical authors loved to mess around with mythology and add their own improvements on the canonical version.)  Yet, somehow, the story doesn’t grab me.  Like Sky Crawlers, it’s probably too intellectual for my tastes.

That sums it up for my anime watching.  I still owe you guys some manga reviews, so expect that around St. Edith Stein’s feastday (Aug. 9th).  Speaking of saints, I find St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea a constant source of inspiration.  There are almost four hundred pages of commentary on Matthew before I can move to the Gospel of Mark, but St. Thomas Aquinas’ ability to draw so many relevant Church Fathers on each passage of Scripture is nothing short of amazing.  Also, I’m reading George MacDonald’s The Seaside Parish.  George MacDonald is a genius of the spiritual life and every page contains something quotable.  Why don’t people read him anymore!!?  I’ll be right alongside C. S. Lewis in thanking George MacDonald for his works when I get to paradise.

Until August 9th, you’ll be seeing no more articles unless I am so lucky as to find a wi-fi hotspot.  But, I should be able to respond to commentary.

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My First Foray into a Con

Sorry that this articles is a little delayed, dear readers. My memory of events may be slightly fuzzy, but there’s enough left for me to write an amusing account of this trip. The dearth of anime paraphernalia disappointed me a little, and I felt somewhat lost among the various American comic books—but, I still enjoyed the convention.

A friend of mine drove me over in his car. I count it fortunate that he intended to become a comic artist at one time in his life. He actually spent a semester at college for the study of art. Among the comics he described to me, Valiant comics seemed to offer the most interesting stories. (The one concerning the Visigoth invasion of Rome in which aliens help the Romans in defeating the Visigoths particularly caught my attention.) With this tenuous background, I hoped to be able to navigate the convention to a certain extent.

When we arrived in Baltimore, we were chagrined to find that parking cost seven dollars an hour at both of the parking garages we found—at least, for the first two hours of parking. I was hoping that the Old Bay garage, being owned by a prosperous company, would be cheaper than the other one. And this was true after the first two hours, but we still wound up paying $17 for three hours of parking. After this experience, I began to understand how Dante could place usurers in hell.

Although I understood that my friend was unable to purchase a ticket online because he was uncertain whether he would be able to attend the convention, buying a ticket here turned into an adventure in itself. You see, even though I had a ticket myself, I did not desire to explore the convention floor on my own. (Another friend of mine was down there, but I possessed doubts whether I should find him among the throng of people.) So, I waited on line with my friend—at which decision, one of the staff marked on how good a friend I was. The magnanimous quality of my decision finally impressed itself on me after I waited forty-five minutes on line! (I believe I told some people that the wait was one hour and twenty minutes, but I’m convinced that this is an exaggeration. At least, I hope and pray that is an exaggeration, but it sure felt that long at the time.)

But, standing on line had certain benefits: several interesting cosplayers passed by, we discussed comics and anime some more, and Stan Lee himself passed right next to us! I think that might have been worth the price of admission alone. It has been several years since I found myself so close to a celebrity—unless Catholic bishops count as celebrities anyway. So, I enjoyed seeing the man responsible for Spider Man, the Hulk, the X-men, and others, even if I could not afford the ticket to attend the special panel he headed.

After our friend and I were squared away, we on a short round of the booths, specifically looking for #1805, which contained the illustrious Scott Snyder. (My friend informed me that he was a very down-to-earth guy and everything, but one had to wait on line for over an hour before seeing him!) In this short round, I felt rather lost: very little anime or manga in sight besides the copies of Usagi Yojimbo. (Nevermind: I thought that this counted as a manga, but it seems to have been created in America. At least, it made me feel a little less lost.)

Due to my excellent navigation skills, we soon found the exorbitantly long line leading to Scott Snyder. Fortunately, my other friend was on a nearby line to another famous comic artist. So, I chatted with him for a little. He had purchased a poster of Batman from the aforementioned Scott Snyder, and I could not but marvel at the fineness of the detail. Rarely have I seen the musculature of a strong man’s back portrayed so perfectly.

This friend, being unable to guide me himself due to having to attend a previous engagement after getting some more signatures, realized that the thought of waiting on any of these lines was repugnant to me—especially after waiting on line for the ticket, so he directed me to the part of the con which contained the anime. The thought that somewhere there existed some anime products which I had missed delighted me. I hastened to search the area where he directed me only to find that I had been there previously, and, like everywhere else, it rather lacked the presence of anime. During my search, I did see a booth containing stuffed anime dolls, but I’m not into that element of the fandom. (I did consider purchasing a Kirara doll for my sister, though.) Anime was so lacking that the sight of a Naruto shirt made me happy—the only time that has happened.

I did enjoy seeing the variety of American comics. Somehow, I could never get into American comics, yet the artwork has always fascinated me with its attention to detail. There were also plenty of comics from which I had to turn my eyes. Among these, however, there was one comic which caught my eye: Freeloader by Sean Bishop. A strong urge to speak with this gentleman came over me, but my Nakajima nature prevented me. After looking this gentleman and his work up, I realized how silly I was: he’s a Rurouni Kenshin fan, from New Jersey, and his story contains two disparate bounty hunters who are forced to work together. I rather enjoy the humor that derives from such scenarios. If only I had spoken to him! I might have actually purchased a comic from the Comic Con.

Also drawn by Sean Bishop.

At some point, I consumed some food and sat around until my friend finally obtained an audience with the renowned Scott Snyder. At which point he returned to show me a poster stand were I found several anime posters. On our way there, I saw someone cosplaying as Yoko from Tengen Toppa Gureen Lagaan. She did a great job, but one doesn’t have to work very hard on putting together that costume. 🙂 So, posters of Trigun, Hetalia, and Neon Genesis Evangelion are now offering something more interesting to look at than my room’s white walls. In return, I showed him the booth selling stuffed anime characters, where he contemplated buying someone a joke gift. At this point, we were thoroughly exhausted by the convention and returned to our dormitory.

 

From Virginia with Beer

Well, the time spent at my brother’s was most enjoyable and productive in finding new beers.  There’s a splendid shop called Total Wine where he lives, and it stocks a great selection of American craft beer.  This visit, I was shocked to find some Goose Island and quickly snatched up their English Pale Ale and Matilda, a Belgian Style Pale Ale.  I also saw an English Pale Ale (So they say.  Tasted more like an IPA to me.) from the Shipyard Brewing Co. named after Joshua Chamberlain, one of my favorite heroes from the Civil War, and snatched that up immediately.  I shall also be reviewing Dogfish Head’s Sah’tea.  Plenty of other ales found their way into my hands, and it will be my pleasure to reveal their tasting notes later.

Yet, I would first like to recommend a wine which paired perfectly with the grilled meat in yesterday’s dinner: Block 303 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2010.  (By the way, I just learned something amazing: Amazon.com sells wine!  They’ve really branched out from being a simple bookseller!)  Some of you probably recognize the Rutherford shelf as the most prestigious sub-region of Napa Valley.  Unlike most wine from this place, Block 303 does not cost an arm and a leg, but still shows the quality one can expect from this region.  The wine is very full-bodied, shows great integration, and complexity with flavors of boysenberry and black cherry prominent, though one can discern other dark fruit flavors present therein.  (I forgot them, and I refuse to cheat by reading the label!)  These flavors blend marvelously with the tannins, which, as I mentioned above, make it a perfect match for grilled meats.  A beautiful wine.

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