Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Top Ten Favorite YouTubers (2016 Edition)

....and I'm back with an update of my old list of YouTubers. Granted, it's been only five months since my last YouTuber list, but in internet time five months is closer to the Jurassic Era than it is to today so it's time for an update. 

Since I've been taking more of a break from anime, I've been devoting that time to my other hardcore otaku hobby: Playing guitar. And YouTube is pretty helpful when it comes to helping poor schmucks like me know what to look for in the world of guitars and gear. It's not all just guitar wizards playing insane scales here, though. If anything, it's more about learning about effects and what goes into guitars and so on. So some of these recommendations may be boring as hell to you, but to me they are fascinating and educating. 

Of course, these YouTubers may not all be guitar-related since that isn't a criteria for my list, but considering the kick I'm on they pretty much are just to keep in the spirit of things. 

So let's kick things off with number ten:

10) Tina S - This girl is the definition of prodigy and she's a better guitarist at her age than most professionals are right now. Of course, her cover of Dragonforce's Through the Fire and Flames should be enough to cause a person to foam at the mouth out of envy. Just fantastic stuff. 

09) The Tone King - If you like learning about gear (and who doesn't?) then the Tone King is definitely a name to look up. One of his videos taught me how to change strings on my Floyd Rose-equipped Jackson. It's an informative channel, no frills. 

08) Phil Jakes - This guy plays fingerstyle versions of rock classics like nobody's business. His videos look a bit lo-fi, but he kills it on guitar. I'm still shocked that this guy hasn't had something go viral. He's really, really good. 

07) Jared Dines - Dines, the Lord of Djent, does guitar gear demos as well as comedic routines on his videos. He also plays guitar against himself sometimes. 

06) Rob Scallon - Perhaps one of the most insane men to ever pick up a stringed instrument, whether that be a shovel or a guitar, Rob Scallon really goes where few guitarists have gone before. Even going so far as to play heavy metal in a dentist's office. He also played Flight of the Bumblebee using only open strings. Fun stuff. 

05) Leo Moracchioli - Leo from Frog Leap Studios makes covers in different styles. His older videos have him covering rock songs in an acoustic style, but his newer ones have him converting pop and hip-hop into heavy metal goodness. He plays all of his instruments, shoots his own videos, edits them, and mixes them. The end product is always amazing. He literally makes pop songs better. Check him out. 

His cover of Adele's Hello is also one of the best covers I have ever heard: 

04) WillsEasyGuitar - This guy makes guitars by hand and he shows you how to make them by hand. If you order one he makes it in whatever color you want. You can always go to for more info. The amount of time he puts into his work is amazing. I don't plan on ever building a guitar, but I'd buy one of his. He truly cares about his work. So go check out his videos and learn a bit about the process of making guitars by hand. 

03) Rob Chapman - Rob Chapman is the lead singer of a band called Dorje and the founder of Chapman guitars. He got a sweet guitar model called the Ghost Fret that I really want. He's also got a YouTube channel where he demos gear for U.K.'s Andertons and he also spitballs about all sorts of stuff in his own vlogs. He once made a half hour video where he changed the strings on his guitar and just talked about random stuff the entire time. That might be boring to some, but to me it was just neat. 

02) 331Erock - The man otherwise known as Eric Calderone wears a smile in every video while killing it on guitar with his "Meets Metal" series. He even dresses up every now and then while he does it. Because, you know, real men can cosplay while play guitar. 

01) Ryan "Fluff" Bruce - The internet's guitar gear guy. At least as far as I am concerned. Anytime I want to hear about a new amplifier or a new pedal this is the guy I go to. He may be a bit too "techie" for some people, but he knows his stuff. He also mixes Rob Scallon's stuff and sometimes pals around with Jared Dines for some amusing videos. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

5 Centimeters Per Second (Byōsoku 5 Senchimētoru)

The standard for anime movies is Mr. Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. It's tough to get around that. 5 Centimeters Per Second is a movie that aspires to be a Miyazaki type of film. It isn't, but at times it comes close. Visually, the film is pretty stunning and in an animated film that is always a large part of the battle. Possibly even the largest. I've seen plenty of animated films that were fairly thin on story, but were lifted up by great visuals. Yet I've also seen plenty of animated films that looked a bit lacking on the visual front, but had such a great story that the visuals didn't even seem to matter.

5 Centimeters Per Second does not have a great story. At all. In fact, it barely has any story to speak of. Much of it comprised of inner monolog that convey the struggles of the characters while the movie shows us one nice scene after the other. Which is an approach I don't mind as long as the characters are appealing to me. 

This movie clearly has its fans. If you Google it you'll see almost nothing but positive reviews, but even the mixed reviews will praise how this movie looks.

I am just simply not much of a fan of this movie. It was neat, I suppose. At just an hour long, it won't feel like a waste of time and everything is pretty enough to look at.

However, I can think of quite a few romantic anime and slice of life stories that are just plain better. Typically, love stories only work as long as the melodrama is kept to a minimum and the main characters are interesting. There are exceptions, of course. The anime world is filled with main characters that are dense in some ways, but they otherwise seem likeable and that goes a long way toward winning an audience.

5 Centimeters Per Second fails in two ways. For starters, our male lead Tono Takaki is just a character that takes up space. He's certainly no Tenchi or Ryuji. His journey is somewhat sympathetic, though. Many of us have been there when we were young. We had crushes on girls we couldn't get over and it affected how we moved forward in life to some degree. So there is a door opened for the audience to really get Tono, but Tono himself is just not an interesting character and that makes it tough to get drawn further in by his struggles. He's a blank slate where something could be. 

We're stopped just short, watching a story we can understand and can even identify with, but can't quite run home with. Instead of being in the room with the characters we are stuck outside looking in and sort of wondering where everything is supposed to go.

And that leads to the way this story fails in a second fashion: The hour running time seems a bit too generous.

The second part of this three part story actually seems like it could be taken out completely and the impact of this story would remain unchanged. The story doesn't move forward one bit and we even get introduced to a different character that brings nothing unique to the established story. Again, such that it is.

The resolution part gets too flashback heavy and the overly emotional theme song that starts playing just doesn't quite make the story seem real.

Eh, for my money you should stick with Toradora or Colorful if you want a better feels trip.

For Want Of A Gibson

I made a vow at the end of last year that I would prevent stagnation in my life and so far I've done a good job of it. I've changed workplaces three times in the last three months and bought myself a whopping two guitars. I also haven't been blogging about any of the anime I've watched or manga I've read. Shocking. I'll get back in the spirit of it soon, but I've just been trying to change some things lately. 

Does this mean jack in the long run? Well, maybe not. Certainly not to anyone else.

But it means a lot to me. Granted, few of the changes I've made yielded immediate positive results and they weren't really supposed to. The changes themselves were necessary. I've always been a bit off the cuff, but it's only this time I worked on a larger scale.

The most recent and most important change has to do with the second guitar I purchased Saturday.

Changing jobs seems almost secondary. Jobs, it seems to me, are a means to an end with the end always being money. For a long time I was loyal to a company (and a building) despite not getting the results I wanted for a period of over three years and eight months.

Saturday I went back to that same building and just being there gave me the sensation of eating crow. It wasn't pleasant. I was there for an "interview" I had to do on the computer and nothing more. I'll be going to a different location, thank God. It was so awkward for me to just sit there, feeling like a failure. Feeling like I was going back to a company so soon after leaving like I couldn't do anything else on my own. It was miserable.

So it was in that mindset I went to Guitar Center afterward. I just wanted some picks and strings. In January I had purchased a Jackson JS32T (my second of that model although this one didn't have a Floyd Rose trem system like my other) and I wanted to put some strings on it that were more to my taste. However, while I was there I decided on changing the brand of strings I bought to something a bit different and hopefully better and I thought "that's my positive change for the day."

But then I decided to ask the register guy about a line of credit. All big stores have them, right? So why not ask?

I'm lucky enough to have good credit despite flipping burgers for a living so I figured I'd be a sure-win for some credit.

If you've never been to a Guitar Center then let me explain that every one of them has a wall of guitars on one side or the other and the further in one direction you move the pricier they get. I never looked at the wall that had the Gibsons and Fenders because I don't believe in masochism. There's no sense in trying to play a guitar I couldn't afford in years. Even with good credit there's no way I could pay for even a mid-range Gibson. Some Gibsons cost as much as 6 G's, but others can be as low as a grand. "As low as" being the operative phrase, of course. 

However, after I was approved for a bit of credit I decided to look at "the wall" with intense scrutiny. The salesman more or less prodded me into looking around and I suppose that all I needed was just a bit of prodding.

At first he showed me a very nice Schecter model, but I didn't quite bite on that. Nothing against that brand, of course. It's just that... Well, why buy a guitar that's $700 on a payment plan when a wall of Gibsons is staring at me?

Admittedly, there wasn't much that caught my eye even as far as the Gibsons go. I suppose it is funny how things look completely desirable when they are hopelessly out of reach, but then come under intense scrutiny once they can be reached. And I suppose that's a natural mindset. Gibsons are expensive. Really expensive for a burger-flipper. So if I was going to get one of these "bargain" Gibson Les Pauls I was going to get one that was worth my while.

Salesman that he was, he pointed me toward "the one."  The Gibson Les Paul that wouldn't let me look away. I told the guy to take it down so I could play it.

I played it through a small Peavey amp that had a diverse range of sounds and tones. My current home amp is a small Acoustic brand and while the one I practiced on at Guitar Center is probably the better of the two it was still a closer way to judge than playing on a Marshall half stack.

What. A. Guitar. It's gorgeous and smells so good. That may sound funny, but the wood and finish make it smell fantastic. You can always judge a nice guitar by its smell, I think. 

It is my baby. Granted, it costs about as much as the down payment I put on my car (and it will be a while before I pay it off, too), but it's well worth it. 

To me, Gibson Les Pauls are the identity of the rock n' roll spirit. It can play some serious metal, too. You just gotta know how to find your tone. 

I am tremendously giddy to have one. It really is a dream come true for me to finally own one. I never thought I would ever get to play one. Let alone own one. 

I admit I do envy those guys that have multiple Gibsons. I hope they know how good they have it. 

But I finally got one.

After I bought the guitar I told the salesman "that I just came in today for some picks and strings."

Life is funny, isn't it?

Megadeth - Dystopia (2016)

So far I've bought a whopping two CD's to start the year. One of them being Abbath's killer self-titled release and the other being Megadeth's newest digital slab of goodness. Megadeth's recent releases have been a bit subpar and their previous Super Collider effort brought forth some of the harshest criticism I've heard against any release in quite some time. 

So did Megadeth "redeem" themselves with Dystopia

Hell yes. Granted they still managed to throw in an ill-advised cover song in there somehow (just like they did on their first three releases), but other than that I really can't find too much fault with this album. 

Of course, I should say that thrash isn't really my favorite style of music. I love it, but I don't think it should be the be all, end all of music. I haven't heard a lot of songs off of Super Collider, but I enjoyed the ones I heard, more or less. So perhaps I'm just easy to please. Maybe Dystopia isn't a great metal masterpiece I want to say it is. You certainly may disagree and perhaps even vehemently so. In which case I highly recommend you fill out this Butthurt Form. I'll get back to you, I swear. 

I do agree that Megadeth is at their best when they are fast and furious and there is plenty of that on Dystopia. The album does slow down a bit toward the end, perhaps in a purposeful effort to not lose fans of the "slower" period, but pretty much all of the songs seem built on a solid foundation. Although at times there's a bit too much of a "hey, this reminds me of another Megadeth song" going on with both the fast and slower stuff.

Then again Slayer (whom I love) have made a career out of rewriting the same songs so I can't fault Megadeth too much for recalling some of their classics.

Chris Adler and Kiro Loureio really bring some balls to this album. Perhaps that could even explain just why this album is as heavy as it is. There hasn't been a real sense of "shreddiness" since the Endgame album, but that's definitely back. While not quite up there with Rust in Peace, this could very well end up being remembered as one of their better "guitar hero" type of albums. While I'm not a shredder (despite owning a few Jacksons) even I feel like picking up a guitar and playing fast after hearing this. 

I do hope this lineup of Megadeth can hang around. Although with Chris Adler's Lamb of God commitments who really knows. And Megadeth guitarists rarely seem to survive too many albums. We'll see. 

But if this is all we get from this lineup then I think we hit some serious paydirt.

I've listened to this album multiple times on some long drives since it arrived at my door after it was released. It gets better each time.