Recommendation roundup June 2019

Hi everyone! It’s time for another recommendation roundup, where I tell you about all of the things I’ve been enjoying most as of late. Let’s dive in.

Octopath Traveler

This is a JRPG (Japanese Role-playing Game, think 8-bit Final Fantasy sorta) for the Nintendo Switch, in which you rotate through playing as one of eight different characters along their individual quests. Now, normally, I wouldn’t play this kind of game because you have to grind a ton (keep fighting the same kinds of bad guys over and over to get enough experience points to actually move forward), but I’ve got to say, this one is different. For one thing, the stories are tight, clear, and at least so far, make sense (which is not always the case. I’m looking at you, Kingdom Hearts).

Secondly, the game is absolutely gorgeous. The detail spent on the surroundings is off the charts, and some of the finer art pieces in it (such as the pictures on the cover/menu screens) are done in a really unique and beautiful style. Add to that the fact that the combat system isn’t insanely confusing (I’m looking at you, most JRPGs I’ve played), that the upgrade trees for the characters is straightforward and fun, the light and cheery attitude of most of the characters, and the amazing voice actors, and it’s no surprise that this one is getting listed first on my list. I highly recommend it (just make sure you pick a good character to start with off the bat, as they can’t leave your party until you finish all of their arcs. I picked Cyrus, and he’s been a gem).

Promised Neverland

One of the weird things I face with non-anime fans is the assumption that all anime is (because it’s animated) either made for children, simplistic, or otherwise frivolous. Next time that happens, I’m going to tell them they should watch this show. A story following (ironically) three crazy smart kids, it chronicles their plot to escape from Grace House, a supposed orphanage that they discover is actually a farm raising children to be eaten by monsters. What I love about it is several fold. First, the kids are so smart (while still being realistic. I’m looking at you, Ender’s Game), it’s amazing trying to watch them outsmart the adults. Second, the plot is super tight with a ton of really great twists and turns. I’m always in suspense. Third, the art style is really beautiful. While there is some graphic content in there (violence/horror, mostly in episode one so far), the rest is really gorgeous, and in a style that is just different enough from most anime to be especially charming. Fourth, Isabella, the “mom” who runs the farm, is an amazing villain. This show is a perfect example of just what anime can be, and is definitely much, much more than something for kids (who, honestly, probably shouldn’t watch it, haha).

Side note, the manga is really gorgeous too, with an even more distinct art style. The anime is only 12 episodes in, but I’m just about to outpace it in the books, of which I think there are 10 so far (in English).

This is Emma, one of the main characters (though she’s younger here since it’s a flashback). She’s adorable.

Deus Ex

Another video game, I am super late to the party on this one, but I think it still deserves mentioning. I remember playing it a long time ago, but because I didn’t have full access to it, I was only able to play the first story or so. Now that I own it ($5.99 at Half Price Books, w00t), I’ve started in on it again and well, let’s just say I stayed up way past my bedtime last night.

There are a few reasons this one made my list. First off, I just really like the ambiance. Action games with really unique worlds or moral questions in play (now I’m looking at you, Bioshock, Mass Effect, Horizon Zero Dawn) are pretty much my favorite kinds, so having one in a strange future version of Detroit with a fairly relevant moral question fits that mold perfectly. I also think the idea of upgrading your body rather than your suit (not an entirely new idea, of course) is really fun and well handled in this game. Like I said, I haven’t gotten super far into it yet, but I expect that based on what I’ve seen so far, I’ll continue to enjoy it.

Storm Writing School/Write by the Lake

This year I had the pleasure of attending Write by the Lake, an annual writers’ workshop and retreat. I took a class on story engineering with Tim Storm who runs Storm Writing School, and I have to say I learned a lot. Tim was a great teacher and the content we covered was both dense and immensely helpful, which, when learning, are two of my favorite things. I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back to WBTL again soon, because it is expensive (not overly so, I just have bills and limited vacation time, haha), but if you get the chance, and especially with Tim, I highly recommend it.

Diana Wynne Jones

Despite the fact that I’m a writer, I really don’t read as much as I should. Recently, I started asking myself why. What I realized, was that–outside of manga, which I typically only read for anime series I already enjoy–most of the books I’d been reading lately hadn’t been terribly enjoyable. Now, I could list some theories as to why that is, but to keep things short and positive, I’ll rephrase the problem, which was really that I wanted to read something I liked better.

Enter Diana Wynne Jones. I’ve been a fan of her since my middle school years, and while I don’t love every book she’s written (which is fair to say of anyone), I do always love her writing style. Her unique magic systems and worlds, the creativity of the characters and the names, and her voice in general have always drawn me in, and, having a four book series of hers waiting on my shelf, I decided to dive back in.

It has been well worth it. Though the first book of the Dalemark Quartet series wasn’t an exact hit with me, at least at first, I have been loving the second one, and when I’m done with the rest, I think I’ll be looking into rooting out more of her work (or repurchasing old favorites).

Attack on Titan season 3

Sorry non-nerds, this is a rough post for you, but I wanted to bring up the third season of Attack on Titan because honestly, it’s been, for the most part, amazing.

The reason this one makes the list, honestly, is partly because of how little I enjoyed the first season/how hot and cold my relationship with it can be. If I’m being strictly honest, the titans–especially in season one–are super gross and the premise of the show is violent/gory/creepy enough to be a little off-putting. Add to that the fact that I couldn’t tell the characters apart that much in season one and thought everyone was super annoying except for Levi and Mikasa (I’m looking at you Eren), and well, you can see why it was a rough start.

Which is why it’s been so refreshing to see the show get so much better with time. I’ll admit the titans are still super gross and there is a lot of blood and violence if that’s not your thing, but the storytelling itself (and the animation) have gotten a lot better.

I’d say the show is still hot when it’s hot and not when it’s not, and it definitely has its fair share of both epic strengths and weaknesses, but in some ways, that only makes it more fascinating (especially when I’ve been diving so deep into what makes stories tick this year). Anyway, fair warning to you all if you don’t like blood, violence, or creepy, anatomically skewed, giant, genitalia-less naked people, but if you can take it, I’d be interested to know what the rest of you think.

Captain Levi: One of the many reasons anime has ruined all fair expectations I have for human men.

Honorable Mentions

  1. My Roommate is a Cat. This heartwarming slice of life story is about an anti-social writer who adopts a cat when she inspires his new series and how his life opens up as a result. As a writer who has sometimes struggled to make connections herself, this spoke to me on a deep level and was at times a great comfort. And, since half of each episode is told from the cat’s perspective, it’s also hilarious.
  2. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. This anime about an abandoned prince plotting a rebellion against the empire that threw him and his sister away is a lot of fun. With a great combination of really terrible lines, some cheesy anime randomness, and some sincerely good storytelling, it’s been a blast to watch it with my roommate.
  3. Murder Falcon. If any of you follow me on Twitter, you all know I’ve been low key obsessed with this series. An eight comic series about a guitarist who helps fuel a giant falcon-man who fights evil via the power of metal, it is both one of the raddest comics you’ll read and one of the most heart-wrenching. I cannot recommend it enough.

So, how about you? What have you been reading, watching, or listening to? Have you had an experience with any of my recommendations or think you’ll give one of them a try? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content about what I consume, my writing, or my life, please feel free to follow me here on the blog or on social media using the links in the sidebar or below. Thanks for reading!

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